Monday, March 18, 2019
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Melburnians hold silent vigil for murdered student Aiia


A silent vigil was held Friday on the steps of Melbourne’s Parliament House following the death of 21-year-old Aiia Masarwe, who was allegedly assaulted and murdered on the morning of January 16.

The vigil did not have music or planned speakers although Aiia’s father Saeed addressed the attendees.

Hundreds turned up to honour the Israeli international student.

People, some holding candles, others brought flowers, while others sat on the steps of Parliament House as a way of paying their respects.

Attendees mostly wore black while a few held signs.

The vigil ran from 6-8 pm, but the people started to arrive earlier as early as 5pm.

Hundreds held vigil on the steps of Melbourne's Parliament house in support of slain international student Aiia Masarwe.
Hundreds held vigil on the steps of Melbourne’s Parliament house in support of slain international student Aiia Masarwe.
Attendees show protest with placards.
Attendees show protest with placards.
Some attendees brought flowers for Aiia.
Some attendees brought flowers for Aiia.
Saeed Masarwe held a candle while wiping off tears.
Saeed Masarwe held a candle while wiping off tears.

Aiia’s body was found on January 16 morning on Main Drive in Bundoora, less than 100 metres from a tram stop on Plenty Road. Police believe she stepped off the tram about 12.10am, bound for home after watching a comedy show in the city.

Aiia’s father Saeed spoke at the vigil at Parliament House and thanked the more than 1000 people who attended.

After that, he sat down on the steps next to a family friend and held a candle while wiping off his tears.

More photos available on Gregorio Images.

Huge boring machine to build West Gate Tunnel arrives in Melbourne


The first of the two massive tunnel boring machines that will build the West Gate Tunnel has arrived in Melbourne.

Acting Premier James Merlino joined Acting Minister for Transport Infrastructure Melissa Horne at the Port of Melbourne today as parts of the huge machine were being unloaded.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering this vital project. The main piece of equipment to build the West Gate Tunnel is now here and we’re getting ready to start boring,” Merlino said.

Bella, the tunnel boring machine (TBM) which arrived today, is 90 metres long, 15.6 metres high and weighs 4,000 tonnes – one of the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

The hundreds of pieces that make up Bella will be delivered over the next few weeks to the West Gate Tunnel’s northern portals in Footscray, and then assembled over the coming months.

Specialised training for the West Gate Tunnel Project has now also started for more than 30 tunnel workers with a hyperbaric chamber installed onsite so workers learn about operating in pressurised conditions.

Workers will work up to 35 metres below ground level and will need to spend up to two hours depressurising before returning to the surface. Up to 20 people will work in the TBM at any one time.

These next steps come as the Andrews Labor Government today also announced a $124 million contract to supply 92,200 tonnes of steel for the West Gate Tunnel Project has been awarded to Liberty.

The 92,200 tonnes of steel will be used across the West Gate Tunnel Project corridor from Docklands to Laverton to reinforce the lining of the project’s twin tunnels, bridge segments, noise walls and retaining walls.

To help meet demand for the West Gate Tunnel for the next four years, Liberty has now ramped up operations at their Derrimut facilities and employed 150 additional staff, including ex auto workers, to produce Australian steel.

“The West Gate Tunnel Project will be Melbourne’s alternative to the West Gate Bridge and create 6000 jobs – creating employment opportunities for apprentices, trainees and retrenched auto workers,” Merlino said.

“This contract will boost jobs in Melbourne’s west and our steel contract is already seeing more local jobs to help build this vital project,” Acting Minister for Transport Infrastructure Melissa Horne said.

Tunnel boring on the longest of the West Gate Tunnel twin tunnels will start by the middle of the year.

1.3 million Victorians now making car rego payment easier


Every Victorian car owner faces financial difficulty everytime they receive the annual vehicle registration of over $800. Paying it off all at once leaves a heavy burden on the pocket.

Over the past year, the Andrews Labor Government has tested and made paying car rego easier for 1.3 million Victorians by offering what it called short-term vehicle registration.

“The first year of short-term registration has been a huge success, helping more than a million Victorians spread the cost of car rego over the year,” Acting Premier Tim Pallas said.

“It’s clear from the first year of operation that Victorians appreciate the flexibility shorter registration periods provide,” Member for Williamstown Melissa Horne said.

Since the Labor Government launched short term registration on 1 January 2018, a quarter of all vehicle registrations have been processed using the flexible three-month and six-month registration options.

Instead of paying in full, the option would spread payment by four quarterly or two semi-annual instalments. An average three-month registration costs $200.20 while an average six month registration costs $400.40, compared to an average annual fee of $800.80.

“Having to find more than $800 once a year puts a lot of people under financial pressure – by introducing shorter term payments, we’ve given people a chance to factor more manageable payments into their family budgets,” Pallas said.

Three month registration was the more popular choice, with 770,743 registrations, compared to 542,693 for six months.

“Signing up for short term registration is quick and easy with a myVicRoads account – it’s just one of the ways that we’re trying to make life just a little bit easier for Victorian families,” Horne said.

More men opted for shorter registration periods, with the total take up of three and six month registration sitting at 54% males and 46% females. Overall, short term registration proved most popular with the 26-35 age group.

Short term registration allows people to pay less upfront and spread the cost of registration renewal across the year to better suit the family budget.

Customers taking up short term registration can return to 12 month payments any time their next registration is due allowing you to move the financial burden to a quieter time of the year.

“With shorter registration periods and the online services provided through myVicRoads, we are helping make life easier for Victorians,” VicRoads Chief Executive Michael Malouf said.

To find out more about short term registration, or to see if your vehicle is eligible, visit

Watch this video when it was introduced in January 2018

10th commemoration anniversary of Victorian Bushfire set


Victorians will gather for a commemoration service in February to acknowledge the significant impact of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires.

The anniversary will be a time for reflection as Victorians remember the catastrophic bushfires and the loss of 173 lives.

Many more were injured and lost their homes, with the memories of these events having long lasting impacts on a number of communities.

“These horrific events still impact on many communities and it is important we allow everyone to commemorate this anniversary in their own way. Holding this commemoration on this day allows individuals to have time for themselves or attend other community events during the week,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said.

“We need to honour those who died, those who lost homes and those brave men and women who fought to save lives and homes,” Neville added.

A State anniversary commemoration will be held on Monday 4 February 2019 at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens. The event is being held on this date to allow for communities to hold their own events during the week or spend time with themselves during what will be a difficult time.

This will be in addition to a number of community commemoration services organised locally with funding support from the Andrews Labor Government.

The Labor Government is providing funding for various 10 Year Anniversary projects including:

  • A Community Arts Grants Program
  • A Commemoration and Community Development Grants Scheme
  • Targeted teaching and learning support for schools
  • Expanded mental health and psychological support services.

Consultations have been undertaken with survivors and the bereaved community about the State anniversary commemoration, and full details about the event will be released shortly.

“Over the past few months we have been speaking with, and getting feedback from, family and friends of those who died, the bushfire-affected communities, and emergency services personnel about this commemoration service and other initiatives to ensure they meet community expectations,” Minister Neville said.

For updates about the State anniversary event, please visit

WATCH: Remembering what happened in 7 February 2009

Andrews government invites Victorians to participate in Mental Health Royal Commission


The Victorian government is inviting Victorians to provide input into the first ever Royal Commission into Mental Health, with public feedback now sought to help inform the scope of the wide-ranging inquiry.

Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said it was important to hear what every day Victorians had to say about what topics should be covered by the Royal Commission, to ensure future changes to the mental health system directly reflect what they want and need.

“Every year, one in five Victorians experiences a mental illness and the truth is we can do more to improve the system. This is our opportunity to find out what is working, what isn’t and what we need to change,” said Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley.

Over the next month, all Victorians are invited to submit their thoughts on the themes of the Royal Commission via an online portal, with feedback to be collated and used to inform the official Terms of Reference.

“This consultation is just the first step in the process. We need help from experts and everyone in the community to ensure people are at the centre of this Royal Commission,” said Foley.

Topics expected to be covered include prevention and early intervention, accessibility and navigation of the system, integration with alcohol and other drug services, and community, acute and forensic mental health.

Consultation with key stakeholders on the Terms of Reference has already started, with a series of targeted stakeholder roundtables happening over the next month.

The final Terms of Reference and Commissioners will be announced within the first 100 days of this term, before the Royal Commission commences in March 2019.

While this initial consultation will be limited to the themes to be covered by the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference, Victorians will be also able to tell their stories and offer suggestions for change as part of the Royal Commission hearings and submission process once it is up and running.

“I encourage anyone who has experience with mental illness or our State’s mental health system, to take this opportunity to have their say on the Terms of Reference and help us set the tone for this life-changing reform,” Foley said.

The Royal Commission is the first of its kind in Australia and is tasked with providing a comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best reform the current mental health system and support Victorians with mental illness, including those at risk of suicide.

Consultation will run from today to 27 January. To have your say on the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health visit

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.

Keeping our homes safe for the holidays


By Joel Reyes

The Holiday season, especially around the Christmas period, is one of the best times of the year. The children are on school holidays or university break. The company you work for or your business may decide to close for a few weeks. Regardless of your personal circumstance, you deserve to enjoy a stress-free break.

It is a break away from the hustle and bustle of work; a time when you can unwind, put your feet up and relax. In some cases, people may decide on an adrenalin adventure.

Whatever your choice will be, the festive season is about having fun.

In recent news articles, headlines discuss the overall decrease in crime figure in some areas of Melbourne thanks to the wonderful work of our law enforcement agencies.

However, the latest crime figures reveal, residential aggravated robberies have increased.

Wherever you live, unfortunately, the reality is that robberies during the holiday season are generally higher than at any time of the year. This is because thieves have a general understanding that a large number of people will be away from their houses or businesses to enjoy their time off. It is an opportunity to break into premises with little or no resistance. Knowing that, in or around Christmas, there are generally new presents at the houses by loving family and friends.

Before you leave your business and homes to start your well deserved Christmas/New Year holidays, make sure the valuables you are leaving behind are well protected.

Here are some tips and reminders to protect your home

1) Lock up all windows and doors.

This is the easiest and most obvious step to take. Unfortunately, in the rush to beat the holiday traffic, this is a task easily missed. Some robbers find easy passage through windows.

2) Leave a light on at night.

Passing by a house or business and seeing a light on would usually mean someone is inside. This is a simple, yet effective method, and an inexpensive security measure.

3) Have a family member or a neighbour you trust to check up on the premises once in a while.

Everybody needs good neighbours. A family member or friend who lives close can check on the house once in a while is also an effective and inexpensive measure.

4) Have someone collect any mail in your mailbox during your time away.

A mailbox full of letters or junk mail is usually a sign nobody has been home to check on the mail. Keeping your mailbox empty will have the house a “lived in” look.

5) Insurance

May this be a timely reminder to not only adequately insure your businesses, but to also make sure your homes and cars are properly insured.

Joel Reyes is a partner at Reliance Partners Insurance Brokers. If you have specific questions related to this article, call Joel on 0438 299 289 or email

Filipino-Australian Catriona Gray wins Miss Universe 2018


Australian-born Catriona Gray became the fourth Filipina to be crowned Miss Universe after she won the prestigious beauty pageant Monday, 17 December 2018.

The 67th Miss Universe pageant was held at IMPACT Arena, Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

Gray succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.

The pageant was hosted by comedian Steve Harvey and supermodel Ashley Graham. American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo performed before the announcement of the winner.

This year’s pageant hit a record of 94 contestants from all over the world.

Gray’s journey to becoming Miss Universe

Prior to winning the title of Miss Universe, Gray joined and won the following major Major

  • Winner, Little Miss Philippines 1999
  • Winner, Miss World Philippines 2016
  • Top 5, Miss World 2016
  • Winner, Binibining Pilipinas 2018

Watch: Catriona Gray’s videos leading to the coronation as Miss Universe

Up Close: Miss Universe Philippines 2018

National costume competition

2018 Preliminary Competition Full Show

Crowning Moment

The Pageant

Unlike in previous years, the Miss Universe contestants were trimmed down to 20 semi-finalists, compared to 16 in 2017 and 13 in 2016.

The initial semifinalists were selected through a closed-door interview and a preliminary competition held several days before the coronation night. The continental format, introduced in the 2017 edition, remained—consisting of five semifinalists from Europe, five from the Americas, five from Africa and Asia-Pacific and five wildcards, regardless of continental grouping.

A new section this year was when the top 20 were tasked to give an opening statement—a 15-second statement about the contestant—to the judges and viewing public.

The judges narrowed the semi-finalists down to the top 10 who then competed in both swimsuit and evening gown portions. Then, judges decided the top five to compete in the preliminary question and answer portion. The judges further cut down to the top three. The top three participated in the final word and final look portions, and the judges chose Miss Universe 2018 and her two runners-up.

This year, there was no online voting component for viewers at home.

During the national costume show presentation, Gray showcased a beaded tribal suit featuring the indigenous tribes of the ancient pagan Filipinos, alongside an oversized parol (painted Christmas lantern) pulled by a roller device. The costume was accompanied by a pre-Christian Shamanic dance of the historical Babaylan paganism.

In the pageant’s preliminary stages, Gray stunned netizens with her slow-motion turn on the ramp in the swimwear competition wearing a pink swimsuit, which gained praises from fashion commentators and viewers.

During the first question and answer round, host Steve Harvey asked Gray this question, “Canada recently joined Uruguay as the second nation in the world to make marijuana legal. What is your opinion on the regularisation of marijuana?” She responded:

I’m for it being used for medical use, but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people will argue then what about alcohol and cigarettes? Everything is good but in moderation.

In the final question and answer portion, the top three contestants were asked the same question by Harvey: “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned and how will you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?” Gray answered:

I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is poor and very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty of it and look in the beauty of the faces of the children and to be grateful. And I will bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this I think if I can teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children will have smile on their faces.

Gray’s answer in the final question-and-answer portion virtually clinched the title for her.

Clad in a fiery red evening gown by Filipino designer Mak Tumang, Gray gracefully walked into the pageant’s runway as she was named the new Miss Universe.

Gray is the fourth Filipina Miss Universe, after Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973) and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).

Personal life

Gray was born in Cairns, Queensland to a Scottish-Australian father, Ian Gray and a Filipino mother, Normita Ragas Magnayon, a Bicolana from Oas, Albay.

Gray studied at Trinity Anglican School in Cairns. She received a degree in Music Theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She also obtained a Certificate in Outdoor Recreation and a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do martial arts.

According to Wikipedia, Gray was the lead singer of her school’s jazz band and also starred in local productions of Miss Saigon. After finishing high school in Australia, she moved to Manila where she worked as a commercial model.

Statement of Premier Andrews on Sisto Malaspina


A State Funeral will be held for Melbourne restaurateur Sisto Malaspina, who was tragically killed in the Bourke Street terror attack.

A founding father of Melbourne’s coffee culture, Mr Malaspina was as much a local icon as Pellegrini’s, the espresso bar he co-owned since 1974.

Known for his welcoming smile and customary cravat, the 74-year-old holds a place in the hearts of all who knew him.

On behalf of the Victorian Government, I offer my sincere condolences to Mr Malaspina’s beloved family and friends.

The State Funeral service will be held early next week and will be an opportunity to remember Sisto’s life on Bourke Street, not his death.

Further details will be finalised soon.

— Premier Daniel Andrews

La Mama Theatre to rise from the ashes


The Andrews Labor Government is providing $1 million to help kick-start fundraising efforts to rebuild the iconic Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre.

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley announced the funding today, which will boost the theatre’s existing fundraising efforts and help attract further donations.

“La Mama has contributed so much to our creative industries and to our cultural life – backing artists, creative risk-taking and ideas since the 1960’s,” Minister Foley said.

Widely considered the birthplace of independent Australian theatre, La Mama’s Faraday Street home was devastated by fire earlier this year, leading to Australia’s arts community and others rallying behind the beloved theatre.

“La Mama, so devastated by the fire in May, has been given great heart by the Labor Government’s grant of $1 million to launch our fundraising campaign,” La Mama Theatre Artistic Director Liz Jones said.

“This very substantial contribution will indeed help us restore our beloved theatre to its vital role in the cultural life of Victoria,” Jones added.

The Labor Government provided a $150,000 rescue package to enable the company to employ additional staff and access expert heritage and project management advice in the wake of the tragedy.

WATCH: The aftermath of the fire that devastated La Mama Theatre

Since then, the small La Mama team has worked tirelessly to continue to provide opportunities for local artists and present performances, while dealing with the aftermath of the fire and planning for the rebuild. They are now based at the nearby La Mama Courthouse venue.

“The passion, commitment and resilience of this place, and the people behind it has shone through over the last six months and I hope this $1 million helps La Mama get back on its feet and return stronger than ever,“ Foley said.

The renewal project will respect the heritage and spirit of the site and restore and repurpose as much of the original building as possible. It also provides the opportunity to make La Mama fully accessible and ensure the building best serves the needs of future generations of artists.

La Mama has appointed Meg White as lead architect for the project. Meg has a long and close association with the theatre, designing multiple productions and was once the house manager.

Architecture and construction firm Cottee Parker is also on board alongside a team of highly experienced heritage and project consultants.

Work is expected to commence on the Faraday Street site next year and be completed by 2020.

Paint factory opens and generates new jobs in Victoria


The biggest paint factory in Australia and New Zealand has today opened in Victoria, the Andrews Labor Government announced today.

Minister for Industry and Employment Ben Carroll joined Member for Yuroke Ros Spence to officially open DuluxGroup’s $165 million paint factory in Merrifield,

“This new factory has created more than 60 new jobs and is a huge boost for our local economy,” Spence said.

“The Merrifield site is quickly becoming a leading manufacturing hub – thanks to the support from the Andrews Labor Government,” Spence added.

The new 22,000 square metre factory is bigger than the playing area of the MCG – and is one of the most advanced paint manufacturing factories in the world.

The company expects to produce 50 million litres of water-based decorative paint a year for the Australian market at the new factory.

It will be the base for almost all Dulux water-based paints and will enable the company to produce more advanced paint products using evolving technology.

The company engaged extensively with Victorian suppliers during the construction and fit-out of the facility, with nearly 80 percent of the project delivered by local companies.

The opening of the new facility coincides with the 100-year anniversary of DuluxGroup, which employs 1,000 people in Victoria.

“Victoria is the home of manufacturing and DuluxGroup’s decision to set up this new factory here is a vote of confidence in our strong advanced manufacturing capabilities,” Minister Ben Carroll said.

Victoria’s manufacturing industry contributes $27.7 billion to the Victorian economy, with more than 13,000 businesses employing more than 286,000 people.

Manufacturing in Victoria continues to go from strength to strength with the Australian Industry Group’s Manufacturing Index showing Victoria has recorded 15 months of consecutive growth – the longest run since 2001.

To date, the Labor Government has provided over $120 million in manufacturing support, creating over 5,000 jobs and is driving $1.4 billion in private investment from manufacturers.

“We are proud to have supported this project, which will bring jobs to Melbourne’s north – an area affected by the closure of car manufacturing,” Carroll said.