Nicholas a 2016 calendar boy

ONE DAY AT A TIME: Nicholas with his big sister Kaitlin. Proceeds from the sale of Nicholas’ calendar will go towards his therapy expenses.VICTORIA Point’s Nicholas Randall is a little boy with big needs, and his mother Kim Braddock has produced a 2016 calendar to help raise funds for his therapy.
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Nicholas is all smiles.

Born 10weeks premature, Nicholas has quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which affects his limbs, breathing and vision.Just after his fifth birthday, he suffered his first seizure and was also diagnosed with epilepsy.

Ms Braddock said her sonrequired intense therapy, some of which had been undertaken overseas, and he neededthe community’s help to keep up his treatment. She said next year, funds raised by the calendar would go towards his speech therapy.

Ms Braddock thanked the many local businesses that had supported thecalendar,which has photos of Nicholas enjoying life like any little boy wants to, only with the aid of multiple pieces of equipment, including standers, walkers, wheelchairs and more.

The calendar ($5) is available from Victoria Point businessesDrift In,Sharks Sporting Club andRay White,or by calling Ms Braddock on 0422 025 931.

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PM pledges $300m for drug treatment

Former addict Jake has got his life back on track through residential rehab. Photo: Wolter PeetersAlmost $300 million will be invested in the drug treatment sector as part of a new national plan that shifts focus from policing to prevention.
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will unveil the federal government’s National Ice Taskforce report on Sunday, rolling out a four-year strategy of improved treatment, aftercare, education, prevention, support and community engagement to tackle the crystal meth issue.

The new prevention focus marks a significant shift away from the hardline law-and-order strategy that has long failed to stifle supply.

The minister responsible for drug and alcohol policy,Fiona Nash, said that after “significant investment” in policing borders and streets to combat ice supply, work was needed to “reduce demand” for the drug.

In April last year, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a new taskforce which, headed by former former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay, united state and territory authorities in the ice strategy.

The response is a $241 million “boost” to the alcohol and drug treatment sector, with funding to be managed by the 31 Primary Health Networks set up by the Abbott government last year.

Asked if the funding was all new money, the minister’s spokesman said there was $297 “odd million” in fresh funding plus $15 million for advertising.

Matt Noffs, who as chief executive of the Noffs Foundation was part of the consultations, paid tribute to taskforce head Mr Lay, who he said was given “oxygen” by Malcolm Turnbull to take a “giant step forward.”

As the taskforce toured ice-ravaged communities starved of rehab services earlier this year, Mr Abbott’s own battle plan saw him announce the now infamous ‘dob-in-a-dealer hotline’ estimated to cost $1 million a year.

“It is my belief that Tony Abbott expected Ken Lay to say ‘we need more police’,” said Mr Noffs who added: “With Mr Turnbull as a conduit, Ken was far braver than that.”

Mr Lay has previous said: “Ice has been on the scene for over a decade and we’ve had a really strong law enforcement approach and it hasn’t resolved the problem. The time’s right now to look at the other options.”

“For social problems like these, law enforcement isn’t the answer. Unless you get into the primary prevention end, unless you stop the problem occurring you simply won’t arrest your way out of this.”

Almost $25 million will be set aside to arm families and communities with resources, information and support when ice issues emerge. A “key priority” of the plan will ensure that “indigenous-specific” and “culturally appropriate” mainstream treatment services are more widely available.

The action plan also includes significant investment in rural and regional areas, where the taskforce found specialist treatment services were few to non-existent.

Dr Lynne Magor-Blatch, executive officer of the Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association, expressed concern that the Government had chosen to distribute money through the PHNs which she described as “incredibly patchy”.

“Many are still in a changeover state from medicare locals and not properly developed,” she said, adding: “How are those resources going to flow through the PHNs when many would not even have relationships with the community organisations that are doing alcohol and other drug work?”

Drug treatment the key to young lives at crossroadsA fortnight ago, a Melbourne-based father was advisedthat if his 15-year-oldice-addicted son wanted professional treatment, he would be better off committing a crime in NSW – where a judge could at least offer him options.

“David has always suffered terrible anxiety issues and the drug issue became a way of self-medicating,” said Adam, whose real name has been withheld along with his son’s to protect theiridentities.

“This year, he stopped coming home. It started off as one night. Then became a week, two weeks. The police would locate him but as long as he claims he is OK, they are not permitted to bring him home. Even though he is still a child whose drug abuse is escalating.”

In recent times, David has been charged as an accessory to car theft, accessory to serious assault and broken police bail on 13 occasions.

“If there was any sort of mandatory treatment system in Victoria, Davidwould already have been directed to a facility tailored to help him. Instead, he is trapped in a cycle of abuse. This federal government funding announcement is fantastic news.”

Adam is currently trying to find a way of funnelling his son to an interstate residential treatment centre such asthe Sydney-based Program for Adolescent Life Management (PALM) run by the Matt Noffs Foundation.

In the coming years, government spending will be ploughed into a host of such programs tailored not only to youngsters hooked on ice, but across-the-board drug addiction.

Under an announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,almost $300 million will be invested in the drug treatment sectoras part of a new national plan that shifts focus from policing to prevention.

On Friday,The Sun-Heraldmet Jake, an indigenous teenager whose life is back on track after two stints of residential therapy at PALM.

“I was in DOCS as a child because my mum and dad couldn’t look after me. I was exposed to smoking, alcohol and domestic violence. It wasn’t a great upbringing. By year 8, I wasn’t having such a great time. I experimented a little too much with drugs and fell into addiction.”

Like most kids in that position, he had “no real understanding” of what rehab was before he arrived.

“I pictured a white hospital with white corridors and beds, that type of scenery. It could not have been more different. It felt like a home.”

Jake, whose real name has been withheld,completed a three month stint at PALM last year. After falling back down the same path, he returned to the centre in early April. While he is the first to admit that rehab is no magic wand, he is proud of the changes and “improvements” in himself. Now 18, he has found a passion for public speaking and volunteering with indigenous children in primary schools.

“You learn a lot about yourself in therapy,” said Jake who added: “It’s given me a big boost.”

“When I’m about to fall into old habits, I have a reason to control it. I recognise the triggers. I also realise what my addiction was doing to those around me.”

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Quirky contest to decide names of new Nowra waterslides

The new slides are expected to open within the next three weeks. Picture: contributedShoalhaven council is offering a year’s worth of free rides to whoever can come up with the best names for Nowra’s new waterslides.
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Councilconstructed the slides as part of an upgrade toNowra Aquatic Park. They are due to open before Christmas.

MayorJoanna Gash has called on the community to put forward names foreach of the slides.

“The redeveloped Nowra Aquatic Park has proven to be extremely popular with the local communitysince being re-opened in September,” Cr Gash said.

“The new open tube and closed tube waterslides will provide yet another level of enjoyment.

“We are looking for original and fun names to help capture the vibrancy of the new slides.

“The winning entry will receive free slides for a year, giving the local community plenty of reasons to enter.”

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Fairgrounds Festivalphotos

The inaugural Fairgrounds Festival was held over the weekend at Berry Showground.
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Crowds were treated to a spectacular carnival of world class musicians, outdoorcinema, market stalls, classic field games,artisan food, locally sourced wines, boutique beer and children’s entertainment.

There was something for everyone at Australia’s first Fairgrounds Festival.

Fairgrounds Festival | photos Clare Cameron and Carolyn Frewer.

Andy Bishop, Paul Morrow and Lennox Morrow.

Aaron and Philippa Crinis.

Elke Baun and Isla Pay.

Anouk and Ava Starling.

Summer Rosskelly and Leila Durante.

Krista Huebner and Maria Wahlberg-Rosskelly.

Yi Ding and Lei Su.

Gabrielle Warden.

Savita Bishop and Tess Wilkin.

Cassie Cavanagh, Emma Cavanagh and Sophie Lee.

Meg Panucci, Joey Panucci and Lys Bird.

Finn Campbell, Carlos, Lily and Georgia Clarke.

Jack Fishpool, Elle Craig and Tamika Tuckley.

Amber Jackson, Mikayla Nangle and Mandy Lett.

Ashlee Marano and Shane Byrnes.

Jared Pescud and Alex Chapple.

Anna Wales, Lauren Williams and Esther Van Groll.

Joey Watson and Sophia Semnler.

Lance Carr and Victoria Ross.

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Elton John rocks the vineyards

MUSIC legend Sir Elton John performed the first show of his Australian tour in the Hunter Valley last night.
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Billed as the All The Hits Tour, the 68-year-old delivered exactly that during the two-and-a-half hour set at Hope Estate which featured classic songs including Bennie and The Jets, I’m Still Standing, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Bluesand Candle In The Wind.

Backed by a five-piece band which included Nigel Olsson (drums) and Davey Johnstone (guitar), who have both played alongside John for much of his 47-year long career, the show also featured heavily on the British star’s 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Elton John rocks the vineyards TweetFacebookYour Song which delivered one of the set’s highlight moments.

The audience sang along with John to anthems Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, the latter of which he dedicated to Newcastle country music star and personal friend of John’s, Catherine Britt.

The hits kept coming as the show came to a close asJohn encouragedthe audience to get on its feet to dance along to Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), The Bitch Is Back and Crocodile Rock, proving that even after nearly 50 years in the game, Sir Elton still knows how to rock.

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Writing as therapy: how blogs and memoirs can help the sick and traumatized

Natasha Agafonoff​ – industrial chemist, selective secondary school graduate, anorexic, bipolar, divorcee – first started blogging to communicate with her then-husband.
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“To bring him into the picture and give him a bit of an understanding of what was going on inside me,” Agafonoff says of a period when she was struggling with infidelity, an eating disorder, and a chronic sense of worthlessness – despite her apparently shiny, happy life. “I feel much more confident writing about something than I do speaking about it.”

But Agafonoff also wrote because she “wanted to understand myself”, she says of the blog that ended up with more than 500 email subscribers and many more occasional readers, and which she is now revising and hopes to publish. Writing became a form of therapy that helped her get well.

Writing cure: Natasha Agafonoff blogged about her life, marriage and anorexia and found that it worked as therapy for her and others. Photo: Penny Stephens

“If I don’t write for a while, I feel like I lose my voice and then I lose my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “Things start to go round and round in my head, then spiral into anxiety, and it’s very easy to tumble back into familiar behaviours and patterns. Writing is a good way of getting things out of my head [so] I don’t have to ruminate as much – they live there, on the page.”

Writing also gave her a remedy for her anorexia, which had dogged her teens and 2os.

“Having an eating disorder is a brilliant way to numb feelings; it makes negative experiences extraordinarily tolerable,” Agafonoff says. “But you can’t say ‘I just want all the bad stuff to go away but I’ll still be happy and have joy’ – it tends to numb everything. And I got to the point where I wanted to start feeling things again.”

Blogging gave her a way to explore her feelings about present and past events. “I had a lot of assumptions and stories about who I was and wasn’t. [Writing made me] go through the process of evaluating what was true.”

Whether the inky cousin of selfie culture or long tail of the creative writing mania, writing as therapy is having a moment. Melbourne counsellor Bernadette Brown recently started a “life stories” service in which she uses her professional listening and guiding skills to “help people explore their histories in a self-determined way.” The results are transcribed, edited into a narrative and produced as a booklet with photos.

Meanwhile, the School of Life – the Melbourne branch of a global organisation that encourages people to use literature, philosophy and art in their day-to-day lives, a kind of cerebral CAE – has been offering popular “writing as therapy” and “storytelling as therapy” workshops. Demand is so strong for author and broadcaster Sian Prior’s three-hour writing workshops, a three-week intensive will be offered for the first time in January.

In an age often characterised by our enthusiasm for pills to treat our angst – our Prozac (Zoloft/Paxil/Lexapro) nation-status – could the pen or keyboard really be mightier than the Big Pharma hoard?

Prozac Nation, by Elizabeth Wurtzel, became emblematic of the zeitgeist of medicating Western depressionPhoto: Book cover

In June, psychologist Jane Turner Goldsmith published an article on how writing as therapy actually works, in the journal of the Australian Psychological Society. It’s an area she has a personal interest in, having written the well-received novel Poinciana, a fictionalised account of her husband’s death in a car accident 15 years before.

In the InPsych article,Turner Goldsmith cites 30 years of research showing writing about traumatic events boosts the immune system, reduces the symptoms of illness, and improves mood and psychological wellbeing (compared to control groups who wrote about trivial matters). Some studies suggest it is not mere venting that works – although that can be cathartic, she says – but framing events and experiences in a narrative arc that resolves at the end. Writing in the third person (he/she) is also key to a therapeutic result. (Curiously, writing in the first person or using less conventional narrative forms, including poetry, correlates with poorer psychological outcomes.)

This suggests writing can be a form of mastery over trauma, Turner Goldsmith concludes.

She stresses, however, this therapeutic effect only occurs if the writing is voluntary.

Therapeutic writing can be hazardous as well as healthy – there’s the potential to invade others’ privacy, and the small matter of defamation.

“If you’re writing for public consumption, you have to be very careful about considering the consequences and being as ethical and honest as possible,” says Sian Prior, who published the critically acclaimed Shy last year (an examination of the psychology of the condition and an “insanely revealing” memoir that included details of her life and break up with “Tom”, a musician who was in reality Paul Kelly).

“It’s not going to be therapeutic for you if you wind up in court or lose all your friends or family as a result of what felt like therapeutic writing at the time,” Prior says.

Shy but never retiring: the multi-talented Sian Prior. Photo: Simon Schluter

Agafonoff, whose original public blog was anonymous, says after their divorce her former husband asked her to stop writing about him.

“I said no, I can’t,” she says. “I don’t want to be vindictive and over-exaggerate what transpired or paint people in a bad light, but if something happened and it had an impact on me, I want to be able to write about it in an honest way that feels authentic.”

Agafonoff writes, she says, with a quote from United States activist and novelist Anne Lamott in the back of her mind: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Prior says she secretly hoped Shy would cure her of the condition. It didn’t, but the huge response from readers (the shy, and those mystified by the condition) has changed her attitude to it.

“What I discovered was it’s not something I can magically get rid of, but by understanding and writing about it what I did manage to eradicate was a lot of the shame and embarrassment I felt about it,” she says. “I’m shy and proud now.”

So will the “writing cure” take over from the “talking cure” any time soon?

Psychoanalyst Dr Peter Ellingsen​ says the way people tell their stories on the shrink’s couch is different to writing them in a memoir. Both share a certain relief in confessing what’s on your mind and unburdening yourself – but there’s always more to the story than you’re telling, he says.

“In psychoanalysis, patients have to say more than they know,” Ellingsen says. “We listen very carefully to what patients say and we hold them to their word. You get things like slips of the tongue – that’s a formation of the unconscious, so there’s something coming out that’s being repressed or hidden. Marking this can be a way of them waking up.

“In very simple terms, what psychoanalysis will do is help someone stop fooling themselves.”

Psychiatrists can read patients like a book; Shrink Billy Crystal (left) and patient Robert De Niro in Analyze That.Photo: Phillip V. Caruso

But Ellingsen does not dismiss the therapeutic possibilities of writing. “Everyone’s got their own way of working – people help others in all sorts of ways.”

School of Life Melbourne director Kaj Lofgren says he thought there might be blowback on appropriating the term “therapy” in the centre’s courses. “I’m fully aware of the professional integrity aspects of using this sort of language,” he says. But there’s been no backlash from the community or mental health professionals.

“For too long, good ideas, particularly good ideas in the humanities, have been really scared of presenting themselves in a way that is deeply accessible. There was an institutional assumption that if you popularise something you must dilute it. I think that’s flawed,” he says.

“We should be normalising the concept of therapy and the therapeutic. Not keeping it for those with significant mental health concerns, but treating it more like an everyday activity.”

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Gunn, Behrens dig in to give Redbacks a chance

Bendigo United’s Ben Gunn cracked 117 against Strathdale-Maristians on Saturday. Picture: DARREN HOWESATURDAY SPORT | PHOTOS
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WITH its season tetering on the brink, skipper Ben Gunn and Heath Behrens have given Bendigo United a chance of upstaging Strathdale-Maristians at Harry Trott Oval.

A century to Gunn and 80 from Behrens helped the Redbacks to 275 against the undefeated Suns on Saturday.

Gunn looked in ominous form from the outset for the Redbacks –who have won just one of their first five games -and by tea had already posted his eighth career BDCA century.

Gunn cracked 16 boundaries in making 117 off 141 balls, before he was out shortly after the tea break when caught by Cameron Taylor off Jacob DeAraugo (1-45).

Behrens’ fine form for the Redbacks continued with what was his third-consecutive score above 50.

The veteran left-hander faced 178 balls and hit nine boundaries and one six in his 80, but that elusive century against the Suns that he is yet to make again went begging.

Gunn and Behrens put on 150 for the second wicket following the early dismissal of Mark Di Fede (4).

They were the only batsmen to make more than 20 for the Redbacks, who having one stage been 4-244 lost 6-31.

The leading wicket-taker for the Suns was leg-spinner Cameron Taylor (4-77), while Jayden Hicks (2-40) and Ryan Haythorpe (2-38), who dismissed Behrens lbw, took two each.


Another bag of wickets from Kangaroo Flat leg-spinner Chris Barber –eight this time –and a century to Eaglehawk batsman Anthony West highlighted theclash at N8 Health Oval.

The Hawks compiled 274 after winning the toss and batting.

Barber’s breakout season for the Roos continued with a haul of 8-88 off 23.4 overs that took his tally of wickets to 29 at an average of 12.2.

At this rate, Barber is on track for a 62-wicket season.

Barber’s eight wickets –which came on the back of hauls of 5-64 and 5-45 in his previous two games –featured four modes of dismissal: caught (5); bowled (1); stumped (1); and lbw (1).

While Barber was the star with the ball, West was the standout with the bat for the Hawks as he made his third career century.

Batting at No.3 and coming in with the score at 1-10, West scored 120 off 211 balls.

West struck 10 boundaries in his ton.

The cornerstone partnership of the Hawks’ innings was the 97 West and Brodie Hawke (32 off 79) put on for the fifth wicket.

West’s innings came to an end when he was Barber’s fourth wicket when caught by stand-in Roos’wicket-keeper Brent Hamblin.

Earlier, Josh Collinson had again looked in damaging form for the Hawks when he raced to 34 off 32 (six fours) before being stumped by Hamblin off Barber, while Cobi Hansen later contributed a valuable 25 n.o. off 28 (two fours).


For the sixth time in as many games this season, Bendigo bowled first, but at least this time has a manageable score to chase against Strathfieldsaye at Provincial Home Loans Oval.

Coming off a pair of losses, the Goers bowled Strathfieldsaye out for 167 in 75 overs.

The Jets were never able to build any momentum during their innings and will again need to rely on their bowlers to deliver if they are to improve to 5-1.

The Goers spread their wickets around.

Nathan Fitzpatrick picked up an economical 3-23 off 19 overs, including nine maidens, in the Goers’ best bowling performance of the day.

Alex Pearson and Ryan Tricky both took an identical 2-20 off 10 overs, with both also bowling four maidens.

Teenager Bailey Goodwin (1-11) on debut claimed his first wicket in the first XI when he had Pat Felmingham (7) caught by Mark Ryan.

Coming off a pair of ducks, Strathfieldsaye skipper Ben Devanny top scored with 63and shared in the best partnership of the innings of 46 for the eighth wicket with Jack Stubbs (18) after the Jets had been 7-107.

Bendigo went to stumps at 1-21, with Marcus McKern (14) the batsman out.


SamStagg and Gavin Bowles both scoredcenturies for White Hills on a dominant day with the bat by the Demons against Sandhurst.

The Demons continued their strong batting formby plundering 6-340 as Bendigo Door Centre Weeroona Oval again proved a batting paradise.

Saturday was the third-consecutive first XI game where the team batting first at Weeroona Oval has made more than 300.

Opener Stagg’s 109 was his maiden first XI century for the Demons, surpassing his previous highest score of 58.

Stagg scored 76 of his runs in boundaries, striking 19 fours.

Bowles’ 128 n.o. was his second unbeaten century in as many games after making 115 n.o. against Bendigo last round.

Bowles –who now has 368 runs at an average of 122.6 –cracked 15 boundaries and one sixin his seventh career ton for the Demons.

Bowles and Stagg put on 168 for the second wicket, taking the score from 1-72 to 240.

Demons’ captain Mitch Winter-Irving chimed in with 49 (four fours, three sixes), while Dragons’ skipper Craig Howard (5-114 off 33) took five of his side’s six wickets for a season tally of 21.


Teenager Zane Keighran led the way with the bat for Golden Square as it made its highest score of theseason against Huntly-North Epsom.

Keighran’s 80 was the top score in Square’s 253 against the Power at Poyser Motors Oval.

The 15-year-old started his innings with Square under pressure at 3-36, but he showed plenty of maturity in scoring his maiden half-century in his fourth first XI knock.

Keighran spent 181 minutes out in the heat and faced 161 balls, belting eight boundaries in his 80.

Opener Luke Baird batted 182 minutes and 119 balls in making 22 and putting on 60 for the third wicket with Keighran.

Square also had Scott Trollope (41 off 54, seven fours) and Liam Smith (38 n.o. off 43) as its leading contributors with the bat.

Travis Russell and Ben Manning, both playing their first games in the first XI for the Power, combined for six wickets.

Russell claimed 4-25 off 12 overs, while Manning finished with 2-37 off 9.5 in the first time this season the Power has bowled its opposition out.Square was all out with one ball remaining in the last over.

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Two hurt in unprovoked Bronte assault, police say

Two men require surgery after being assaulted in the middle of an eastern suburbs park on Saturday night.
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The 22-year-old and 28-year-old were in Bronte Park for a Christmas party  about 8pm when they separated from the rest of the party.

They were in the middle of the park, police said, when they were approached by three large men of Pacific Islander appearance. A female with a baby was also with the three men.

According to police, one of the three punched the 28-year-old in the face. Another punched the 22-year-old, who fell to the ground and lost consciousness. The assaults were unprovoked, police said.

The 28-year-old, who was taken to the intensive care unit at St Vincents Hospital, requires surgery on a fractured jaw. The 22-year-old has a dislocated pelvis requiring surgery, and a chipped front tooth.

The three men, woman and child were seen to leave the area in a dark blue Honda Civic hatch, driving west on Bronte Road. Police from the Eastern Suburbs Local Area Command are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

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Siberian sinkholes – a bang or whimper?

Aliens used ray-guns to blast giant holes in Siberia! Say what?
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This was one theory when giant craters were found in the Siberian permafrost in the northern summer of 2014. Stray missiles, meteors and explosions caused by leaks from nearby gas fields were also blamed. In fact, the craters – reportedly 30 to 70 metres across, and with striated edges reminiscent of rifling grooves – looked like immense bullet holes. How were they discovered?

First by helicopter pilots and then by reindeer herders. And then on YouTube. Over a number of days in July 2014, a number of competing posts titled “THE GIANT HOLE IN THE GROUND IN RUSSIA!!!” and more modestly “Giant hole in Siberia” and “Mystery of Siberian crater deepens” were uploaded by people named Strange Mysteries, UFOs on Tiamat, and Innovative Rays. Soon after scientists got involved. Despite the hype, was this just another boring sinkhole event?

To forestall public panic that Martians had unleashed their death rays, the catch-all explanation of “sinkhole” was evoked. But a sinkhole is made when a weakly supported surface layer collapses – as in poorly made roads and badly surveyed residential areas. But the Siberian craters were more than surface events. They are deep. When one group of scientists tried to measure the depth of a crater, they ran out of rope. One has since been measured at more than 60 metres using echo-technology. Also, sinkholes feature much broken up collapsed material. Most of what existed prior to being cratered was blown outward – or had simply vanished. Blown outward? Like an explosion?

Sort of. Perhaps more of a sudden rushing-out … as people sometimes experience when they’ve been eating bean soup. According to Nature, tests conducted by the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, found high concentrations of methane gas in one of the craters. Air ordinarily contains only 0.000179 per cent of methane; air toward the bottom of the crater was nearly 10 per cent methane. Methane is explosive at concentrations of between 5 and 15 per cent. But, as a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, it’s also politically explosive. So this is a climate change thing?

Looks like it. The Siberian summers of 2012 and 2013 were unusually hot – an average of 5 degrees hotter. Meanwhile, underground temperatures have risen steadily by two degrees in the past 15 years. This led scientists to believe the summer heat spike had caused a profound melting of the permafrost. Without a solid layer of ice holding it back, buried banks of methane gas leaked or even blew out. That theory has since been modified. The gas build up, in some of these craters, is thought to have occurred in small hills called pingos. Doesn’t Pingu live in the southern hemisphere, like Antarctica?

Pingu is an animated penguin who plays fish tennis and cooks pancakes. A pingo, also called a hydrolaccolith, is a big mound of ice covered by earth-covered ice. It looks like a small hill and can reach up to 70 metres in height and up to 600 metres in diameter. They are formed when winter ice piles up. In summer they thaw, collapse and form lakes.

Given they have an in-built fragility, it’s thought that methane from deep underground was released during the pingo’s crash phase, causing an eruption. Two of the craters have since formed gigantic lakes. Since then, pingo-like formations have been found embedded within the shallow continental shelf of the South Kara Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. It looks like these mounds are formed by a sudden upsurge of methane and are prone to blowing out down the track. So the world is going to end with a bang and not a dehydrated over-heated whimper?

Dunno. Australian scientists says it would take 20 million pingo eruptions to generate a methane apocalypse. So far there have been several dozen at most. Moscow scientist Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky says the eruptions are a danger to the region and require further investigation. So, can we be sure aliens aren’t involved?

According to, a team of researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences found an “unidentified object resembling a space capsule” at the bottom of one of the craters. Shortly thereafter, the team’s satellite telephone link “disconnected and they have not been heard from since”. So there’s that.

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Where to take the budget-conscious family? Club Med and other all-inclusive resorts

There are no nasty checkout charges at Club Med Nusa Dua in Bali. Photo: SuppliedWhat type of travelling family is yours? Sporty? Adventurous? Perhaps bookish?
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Well, we’re another type of family altogether – scabby.

No, it doesn’t mean we’re covered in half-healed wounds: we’re, well, tight. Don’t like spending too much. Count our pennies.

This strategy rates highly with economists but not so highly with psychologists.

During the summer holidays you need to relax. Really relax. So you should not find yourself sitting by the pool worrying about whether you should have that second drink.

This is tough for those who steal fruit from breakfast buffets, count sheets of toilet paper and make their kids share soft drinks: “He had one more slurp than me. That’s not fair!!!”

There’s a simple solution to this problem: the all-inclusive holiday.

Whether it’s a cruise, resort or package deal, the saving and budgeting is done before you go.

Nikki Hills, from the website Mouths of Mums, has just returned from a week at Club Med Nusa Dua in Bali with her husband and three kids, aged 14, 11 and nine.

“In any other resort summer holiday that’s not all-inclusive I’m always worrying about how much we’re spending and end up being the ‘boring mum’ who limits the number of poolside drinks and tries to get the family to eat breakfast in the room,” she says.

“At Club Med Nusa Dua, I get to say ‘yes’ to the kids every time, we don’t ever have to worry about finding the closest supermarket and we can genuinely relax. And there are no nasty room charges at checkout.”

It also gives your brain a much-needed break.

We make so many decisions in our day-to-day lives.

At all-inclusive resorts, you don’t have to worry about where or what to eat: it’s all there.

This is priceless, if you have fussy children.

“Mum, you know I don’t like ham any more. I only want salami, mild salami, not too spicy,” our nine-year-old intones, as I pack her lunch.

“In the chaos of modern life it’s easy to understand why Aussies are seeking sanctuary in holidays where they don’t have to worry about a thing,” Club Med Australia and New Zealand general manager Madeleine Clow says.

“This is the driving force behind the growth in popularity of our unique luxury all-inclusive holiday model, with 19 per cent uplift in Australian bookings over the past two years.”

According to Club Med’s #ThoseHolidayMoments study of more than 1000 Australians, resorts are the most popular type of holiday for families (70 per cent).

Parents say the key to keeping kids happy on a summer holiday is access to fun activities or sports (68 per cent), plenty of entertainment (61 per cent) and, not surprisingly, treats (53 per cent).

An all-inclusive holiday ticks these boxes, whether you’re a sporty, adventurous, bookish or, like us, scabby family.

It’s not too late. Check out my travel survival guide for the summer holidays in this issue.

And, yes, you CAN have that second drink by the pool. Perhaps a third…

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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