Merrigong theatre brings world closer

Children’s book character Tashi will feature in Merrigong Theatre’s 2009 season.The world of Shakespeare and children’s book character Tashi are far removed. But they will both take to the stage in Wollongong as part of the Merrigong Theatre’s 2009 season.Launched last night, the program also brings three international productions to the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC), as well as one pure-bred, locally born show, 4 Plays About Wollongong.Merrigong CEO and artistic director Simon Hinton said many of the shows were worlds apart in scale and location.But he said they shared an intimate connection with their audience.Mr Hinton spent 18 months scouring the world to bring the shows home. Merrigong will also take United States performer Kahlil Ashanti’s one-man show, Basic Training, to Darwin, North Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne. Ashanti’s show was honed during his time in the US Air Force’s entertainment troupe.From the other side of the world comes the Icelandic production Metamorphosis, which features the music of Nick Cave, and next wave French Canadian circus troupe, The Seven Fingers. “Cirque du Soleil with their big hype was the first sort of resurgence in circus,” Mr Hinton said. “But The Seven Fingers are the young rebels of that – they are kind of a reaction to that overblown stuff. “It is amazing contemporary circus with a bit of melancholy about it. “But, at the same time, it is very funny and has an incredibly high skill level. It is breathtaking.”To celebrate IPAC’s 20th birthday this year, Merrigong commissioned four playwrights to write a short play about Wollongong. They will appear on the stage in a year’s time.”They are four short plays,” Mr Hinton said. “All are totally different and covering things like miners’ strikes in World War II to the Dapto dogs to drug dealing and dodgy development – very topical.”
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Miss World hopeful gives suitcases a workout

Miss World entrant Katie Richardson, of Albion Park, will be taking a taste of Wollongong with her to the competition in South Africa. Picture: KIRK GILMOURWhen Australia’s Miss World hopeful, Katie Richardson, leaves on Friday for the competition in South Africa, she will be carrying two suitcases packed full of dresses, artworks and souvenirs from Wollongong.The Albion Park beauty has even wrapped everything in cling wrap to squeeze it all in.Yesterday Ms Richardson told the Mercury she wasn’t feeling nervous about the impending trip – she was too busy preparing. “I have been going to the gym in preparation, but I haven’t been going as much as I’d like to,” Ms Richardson said.”And, I haven’t practised my public speaking – I will probably write my speeches on the plane.”But I have an event every day pretty much, so I am speaking and getting up there all the time.”Before Ms Richardson leaves, one of her biggest priorities is to thank the Illawarra community for its support. In her bag she will carry souvenirs from Tourism Wollongong (gifts for the other contestants), frocks by Elaine Jackson, Michael Challita and North Beach Boutique, and an artwork by Chris McGregor. She was also helped on her way by patrons John Akeile, Maria Danic and Donny Gallaia. Ms Richardson will compete against 120 women from around the world for the prestigious title, with the winner announced at the Nelson Mandela Convention Centre on December 13. She will arrive in Johannesburg on the weekend and will spend the following fortnight travelling around the country with the other hopefuls and a film crew. Then it’s another two weeks of serious competition as the women contest various sections, including evening wear, speaking and “beauty with a purpose”, a portfolio detailing the contestant’s charity work.In less than a year, Ms Richardson has raised $16,500 for her favoured charity, Ronald McDonald House.Miss World is the oldest surviving major international beauty pageant.
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Govt sharpens knives

Premier Nathan Rees’ mini-budget, due to be delivered today, is expected to contain gloomy news for the Illawarra region.The Illawarra is bracing for bad news today with Premier Nathan Rees’ mini-budget expected to slash billions of dollars from state expenses.Minister for the Illawarra David Campbell has admitted some people won’t be happy with the cuts, which have been brought about “by a unique economic situation”.”There have been some very tough decisions made,” he said. “I have no doubt there will be some disappointed people, but I hope there is understanding that this has to be done.”Illawarra community leaders have warned that, with all past government commitments now up for grabs, the region’s economy could take a battering from any poorly considered cost-saving measures.The Government is expected to formally announce two changes – already revealed by the Mercury – that could affect 700 Illawarra jobs, namely the imminent closure of the Keelong Juvenile Justice Centre and privatisation of superannuation administration business Pillar.With the combined Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama unemployment rate at 5.7 per cent and the NSW rate at its highest level in eight years, unions say the region cannot afford any subsequent job losses.”Businesses like Pillar were set up in regional areas doing it tough, to help reduce unemployment,” South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said. “The Government will say the jobs will be protected … but these promises are often hollow and short term.”There is Opposition speculation that the Government will take advantage of the resources boom by introducing a 10 per cent royalty rate on coal worth more than $100 a tonne.Opposition ports and waterways spokesman Duncan Gay believes coal mining industries at Port Kembla will suffer if new charges and royalties are introduced.”These royalty charges may create more economic stress for the local communities,” he said.Mr Rees has promised the payroll tax reductions from this year’s budget will remain, but land tax is expected to rise for property valued at more than $1.8 million.Illawarra Business Chamber president Les Dion feared the extra costs would be passed on to renters and said any tax increases, or any cuts in infrastructure funding, could also cost jobs.”We understand this Government needs to tighten its belt,” he said. “But they need to understand many of these projects we have been advocating are important in terms of creating employment.”The Government has already flagged cost-saving measures to the school travel scheme, the abolition of the $50 back-to-school allowance, cuts to funding for three Illawarra disadvantaged schools, public sector job losses and the watering down of its pledge to reinstate 24-hour mobile mental health teams in the Illawarra.Plans for an acute respiratory ward at Wollongong Hospital have also reportedly been scrapped, while Mr Rees has indicated projects like the WIN Stadium western grandstand and Maldon-Dombarton rail link are unlikely to receive state money in the near future.NSW Police Association concerns that the new $17 million Oak Flats police station could be a victim of the cuts seem to have been allayed by a Government source.”There will be no frontline police cuts or changes to election promises,” the source said.But union spokesman Detective Senior Constable Gary Chetcuti still believes the Government’s mid-2010 target completion date is doubtful.The Department of Environment and Climate Change says half of the $962,000 funding for improved water quality in Lake Illawarra promised in August has been spent, but won’t “rule anything in or out” in regard to the rest.Today’s mini-budget is also expected to reveal the funding future of the $800 million Princes Hwy upgrade between Gerringong and Bomaderry.Mr Campbell said the Opposition’s decision not to approve the sell-off of electricity assets, and the economic downturn, meant changes in Government policy announced today were needed to better prepare for the future.
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Cavaliers look torebound into final

Cavaliers will play the Kingston Blues in tomorrow’s preliminary final at the Silverdome.
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The Blues will be high on confidence after last week’s semi-final win against Devon.

The Blues have been performing well and have been working better as a unit in recent weeks, which should serve them well tomorrow.

Both teams match up fairly evenly on court and the contest between Bullman, of Cavaliers, and Mitchell, of Kingston, should provide a lot of interest.

The Blues’ defence of Mitchell, Rimon and Millar is a strong combination and they have proven they are capable of blocking any attack in the league and this was the case when they recently downed Waratah.

Krista Dennis and Katie Harris have been solid performers of late in the circle for Kingston and there is no doubt they will create opportunities for the Blues.

Claire Nitschke and Danni Carstens are reliable defenders for Cavaliers and will have to work overtime to stop the strong Kingston attack of Jasmin Stevenson. Stevenson played brilliantly on the wing last weekend using her advanced high skill around the circle, to place the ball in the circle for Kingston.

The 19s-and-under preliminary final is also creating a lot interest and a talking point in netball circles.

Cavaliers again face Kingston at the Silverdome at 4.30pm tomorrow in what should be another close match.

The Blues will line up without regular defender Jade Glover who suffered an ankle injury in the match against Karana Flames, and Jennifer Aplin’s return to the courts after illness is in doubt for this important match. The young Blues team struggled against Karana Flames last week and are keen to regroup.

State 17s player Julia Barry was their main drive through the midcourt against Flames, but often her efforts were dismissed as the Kingston shooters were not able to work together to capitalise, for the Blues.

NETBALL FINAL FACTS

WHAT: Aurora State Netball League preliminary finals.

WHERE: Silverdome.

WHEN: Tomorrow: 19s: 4.30pm: Cavaliers v Kingston Blues; Open: 6.30pm: Kingston Blues v Cavaliers.

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BRIEFS

Salvador jail riot: 26 killed
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SAN SALVADOR – At least 26 prisoners died yesterday when an uprising broke out in Salvador’s largest prison, officials said. The revolt started after a group of detainees refused to return to their cells and tried to escape by climbing a prison wall, said National Civil Police deputy director Pedro Gonzalez.

Police said early reports indicated that a group of guards fired shots in the air to control the revolt at La Esperanza prison, which has 3200 prisoners and is six kilometres north of San Salvador.

US poll shows torture approval

WASHINGTON – More than two in five Americans say torture can be used to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a poll released yesterday.

But the Pew Research Centre poll showed that a majority, 53 per cent, believed violent interrogations should rarely or never be applied, while 43 per cent said such tactics were often or sometimes justified.

The poll comes four months after US media showed photos of US prison guards humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The survey showed a gap in opinion between men and women.

Train crash drill starts panic

CALCUTTA – A drill to test the preparedness of emergency staff of Indian railways sparked panic and forced officials to issue a public apology yesterday after they reported a head-on collision between two trains near the eastern city of Calcutta.

“It created confusion among (railways) officials,” Southeastern Railways official spokesman Robi Mahapatro said after inquiry centres, acting on an official message sent to their computer network, announced an accident had occurred near the town of Kharagpur.

Mr Mahapatro said a corrective message explaining that the “accident” was merely an exercise was now being relayed to officials dealing with panic- stricken people.

“Many people were misinformed because of the (computer) glitch,” he said.

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