The Duchess of Cambridge has given a rare insight into her home life, describing motherhood as a “huge challenge”.
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The royal, who has two children, Prince George, three, and Princess Charlotte, 22 months, made the comments during a speech at an event organised by Best Beginnings, a UK children’s health charity on Thursday.

“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge,” she said.

“Even for me, who has support at home that most mothers do not. Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer, overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It’s full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together.”

Since the birth of Prince George, the Duchess of Cambridge has been assisted by a home help team.

The family’s current nanny, Maria Borrallo, joined the family when Prince George was eight months old. Dressed in a retro brown nurse’s dress, Spanish-born Borrallo travels everywhere with the children.

(Oh, and the dress isn’t just an aesthetic choice: it’s the uniform for graduates of Norland College, a prestigious nannying school in Bath where nannies-to-be are trained in everything from nappy-changing to self-defence.)

“There is no rule book, no right or wrong; you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family,” the Duchess continued.

“For many mothers, myself included, this can at times lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance. Sadly, for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with our very mental health.”

The candour is a rare move from the Duchess, who normally only divulges small tid bits about her private life in conversations with members of the public at charity events she attends (who subsequently tell the tabloids).

She went on to encourage women to seek assistance for their mental health during pregnancy and parenting in the same way as they would treat their physical health.

Along with her husband, Prince William, and his brother, Prince Harry, the Duchess is the founder of Heads Together, a mental health charity initiative that aims to reduce stigmatisation surrounding mental health diagnosis and dialogue. She was invited to speak at Thursday’s event in a partnership between the two charities. Watch The Duchess of Cambridge speak at the launch of the @BestBeginnings ‘Out of the Blue’ film series, with @Heads_Togetherpic.twitter南京夜网/1mMupReocK??? Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 23, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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SILVERWARE: Rival skippers Mark Littlewood and Josh Trappel with the first grade trophy before Friday’s grand final lunch. Picture: Marina NeilFor more thana decadeMark Littlewood has been chasing the prestigious player of the year award.
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But even thoughthe 32-year-old Belmont skipper has now joined the who’s who of Newcastle cricket, including the likes of Gary Gilmour, Greg Geise and Mark Curry, he would give it away in a second to be holding aloft the famed major premiership trophy again after this weekend’s first grade decideragainst Hamilton-Wickham.

“One hundred percent I would swap them,” Littlewood said.

“It [player of the year]has been on the list, it’s nice to be recognised and it’s nice to be in some elite company, but you want the main trophy.

“We had a little photo shoot with it before and it was nice to have a hold, but you want it afterwards. I’ve been lucky enough to do it once before so it would be nice to make it two from two.”

Who was named #NDCA1617 player of the year? #DeCourcyLunch#MerewetherSurfhouse#[email protected]@CtryCric_NSWpic.twitter南京夜网/hgfArWa4fb

— Josh Callinan (@joshuacallinan) March 24, 2017

Littlewood, who won a maiden title as captain in 2008-2009, received the individual prize at the annual DeCourcy Club luncheon which was held at Merewether Surfhouse on Friday.

The Newcastle representative leader and former NSW Country all-rounder finished on 21 points, seven clear of nearest rivals Mark Dries and Ben Woolmer (17), after scoringa competition-high 772 runs at an average of 59.38 and taking 31 wickets at 12.06 apiece.

Counterpart Josh Trappel was also on hand for the presentation along with Hamwicks teammates Sam Webber and Mark Dries, who have collected the same gong a combined four times in the last seven summers.

Former club skipper Darren Herbert attended as well, sporting the Pumas tie, over 10 years since experiencing grand final glory himself on multiple occasions.

“It’s great to have guys like that around the club thatstill get involved and still send you messages saying good luck,” Trappel said.

“I know the young guys really feed off that kind of thing.

“But we have our own experiencetoo with the Webber boys, Drisey and Andrew Maher –it all adds up.”

Both sides are trying to overcome play-offpain –Belmont having lost both the Tom Locker Cup and T20 finals this season while Hamwicks went down by a run in last year’s big dance.

Littlewood has named English import Chris Whittock in the Belmont XI despite him flying home next week, which means he would be missing ifthe game continued into the spare weekend on April 1-2.

Play at No.1 Sportsground is scheduled to start at 10.30am on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile,Wallsend product Jason Sangha has been named in the Australianunder-19 squad.

The boys in green and gold host Sri Lanka under 19s in a six-matchseries in Tasmania from April 8.

PREDICTIONS: Hamilton-Wickham favourites for grand final

FUTURE: Charlestown crowned under-21 champions

​Elsewhere, the Newcastle fourth grade decider between Hamwicks and Charlestown has been transferred to Hawkins Oval this weekend because Passmore Oval was declared unfit for play.

Second and third grade decidersremain as per program on Saturday and Sunday with Merewether meeting Toronto at Ron Hill Oval and University at University 1 respectively.

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Hurricanes brave harbour’s marine life | photos The Hurricanes’ Eliza Limn and Belle Humby test out the harbour last month. Picture: Marina Neil
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Work starts on assembling the water polo venue at Queens Wharf on Friday.

Work starts on assembling the water polo venue at Queens Wharf on Friday.

TweetFacebookJellyfish, oysters but hopefully not sharks will be an occupational hazard for the Hunter Hurricanes when they host National Water Polo League games in Newcastle harbour on Saturday.

An inflatable “field”and 120-seat grandstand will transform Queens Wharf into a water polo venue for women’s (3pm) and men’s (4.30pm) games against UTS Balmain Tigers.

Men’s coach Daniel Robinson said running the gauntlet of the local marine life was worth it to promote water polo to a larger audience.

“Everyone’s very excited. We’ve got all the precautions in order to keep us safe. I’m sure if someone catches a jellyfish, they’re going to get a bit excited. Other than that we should be OK,” he said.

“A local scaffolding company is helping us out with a ladder set-up at each end to keep us safe away from those overgrown oysters.We did a test run of the inflatable course the other day and we had to throw a pair of shoes down to get everyone out.

“We have an inflatable field attached to a shark net to keep everyone safe from any creepy crawlies, not just sharks.We might catch a few mullet hopefully by the end of the day.”

Robinson said the bar-side location could attract other interesting animals.

“It’s not a bad time of afternoon, so hopefully we won’t get too many drunken yobbos, but maybe a couple would be funny.”

The harbour pool has passed a water-quality test this week, despite two weeks of rain, and Robinson said the Queens Wharf matches would help motivate both Hunterteams, who are out of finals contention with four games to play.

“Sometimes it’s tough to get out bed to go and fight on when you haven’t got much to fight for, but something like this definitely revsthe boys up.”

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The multimillion-dollar Hillsong Church does not have a policy of offering financial compensation to people who have allegedly suffered child sexual abuse within the organisation, a royal commission has heard.
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Founder and senior pastor of the global church, Brian Houston, returned to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Friday to show how safety procedures have improved since he first gave evidence to the inquiry in 2014.

The commission heard Hillsong had adopted robust policies that cover improved training and screening of staff, complaints handling and response to alleged victims.

Hillsong has no financial redress policy but Mr Houston told the inquiry: “That doesn’t mean that we’re not open to it.”

Hillsong’s 2015 annual report shows its total revenue was $112,794,565.

The church offers non-monetary support to alleged victims such as counselling and psychological care, the inquiry heard.

Mr Houston told the inquiry Hillsong was waiting on more detail about the federal government’s $4 billion national redress scheme before making a decision about opting in.

“We will consider [it], absolutely,” he said. “It’s a little hard to know what you are signing up for when there is no information about it.”

Hillsong is the best-known organisation among Australian Christian Churches (ACC), the national umbrella body that includes more than 1000 Pentecostal churches.

The commission heard the bulk of the churches were small operations which may not be able to put money towards a national redress scheme.

“Many have very limited, if any, resources,” ACC national president Wayne Alcorn told the inquiry.

“Their capacity to contribute … in the area of finances is one that is in question.

“Our heart is towards the survivors, it’s just a matter of our capacity.”

Mr Alcorn told the commission ACC has improved child protection procedures, including better training, governance and the introduction of a helpline managed by an external specialist organisation.

“We did a lot of soul-searching,” Mr Alcorn said. “We needed to enhance our culture of responsibility.”

Mr Houston told the commission Hillsong had a “no-tolerance policy” banning convicted paedophiles but conceded it was impossible to completely weed out potential offenders.

“There is a degree of safeguard there [but] you never quite know, deep down in someone’s head or mind or heart, what might be going on,” he said.

“I can’t vouch that we would catch every single person who was unhealthy.”

A report released by the commission in 2015 found Mr Houston failed to tell police his father Frank was a self-confessed child abuser. It noted he had a clear conflict of interest in dealing with the case himself.

Hillsong has introduced a conflict of interest policy as part of its improved procedures.

“We’ve been very, very supportive of the goal to make sure our church is as safe as it could possibly be,” Mr Houston said.

The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan, has adjourned.

Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380.

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A day care owner who amassed a multi-million dollar fortune through bogus government benefit claims has maintained her innocence, telling a psychologist she has no idea how or why she was found guilty.
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Melissa Jade Higgins was last year found guilty by a jury of forging children’s attendance records at her Albury-based Aussie Giggles family day care centre to rake in more than $3.6 million in taxpayer funding.

The 29-year-old’s bank account was frozen and $2,250,000 was seized along with other property, including a $90,000 car, during an arrest by the Australian Federal Police.

Higgins was convicted of 81 offences, including 66 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, 14 counts of using a forged document and one count of dealing with the proceeds of crime in excess of $1 million.

Higgins, who was the sole director of the company, made fake claims for special childcare benefits, which cover the cost of childcare for children who are experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect.

The court heard Higgins claimed the subsidy at an inflated rate of up to $180 per hour for 14 children who were not at risk and others who did not attend the centre, netting her $225,000 a month over a two-year period between 2013 and 2015.

Higgins, who has been on bail since her conviction, now faces a period of imprisonment.

A sentencing hearing in the Downing Centre District Court on Friday heard that Higgins had maintained her innocence to a forensic psychologist.

The psychologist told the court that Higgins was experiencing “extremely severe” anxiety, depression and stress and would need to be very closely monitored if she was given a custodial sentence.

The court heard that Higgins had at first enjoyed operating the childcare centre but, when the centre started expanding, she “couldn’t keep up”.

Higgins, who was supported by her family in court, did not give evidence. Her mother told the court her daughter had become depressed and quiet since her conviction, and she was concerned she might harm herself.

But prosecutor Chris Taylor told the court that Higgins’ evidence could not be relied upon.

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Portrait of ACT Meteors player Erin Osborne Photo: Rohan ThomsonACT Meteors all-rounder Erin Osborne maintains elite cricketers are still committed to a revenue sharing model for all players that has propped up previous contracts.
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Osborne says Cricket Australia made some “really good improvements” in the offer tabled on Tuesday, but there remains plenty of room for negotiation with the Australian Cricketers Association.

Cricket Australia’s offer would see the average salary for a Southern Stars player shoot from $79,000 to $179,000, with the average for domestic female players to increase from $22,000 to $52,000.

The move has been hailed as a landmark moment for women’s sport, but the ACA ultimately see it as a slap in the face with only men’s players offered revenue share.

It is understood Cricket Australia would fund the proposal if it was signed off on, easing the financial burden on state associations like Cricket ACT.

Osborne says while Cricket Australia’s proposal is a big step forward, the revenue sharing model is something the players won’t go without.

The ACA have been conducting regular state visits to keep players in the loop about negotiations.

The offer remains a big step for cricket, which seems to have been a step ahead of rival codes for some time on the women’s front.

The Women’s National Cricket League began in 1996, and the Women’s Big Bash League catapulted the game into the spotlight during the inaugural 2015-16 season.

“I think it’s a fantastic time to be growing up in Australia if you’re a young girl who wants to play sport,” Osborne said.

“It’s really pleasing to see and it’s nice to know that the current players are trying to look after the game and leave it in a better position than what we found it.

“I think that’s really important to note, that the playing group really believes in the revenue model and giving back to the grassroots cricket, and ensuring that the future of cricket in Australia is well looked after.”

The day all elite women’s cricketers become professional is drawing closer and Osborne has lauded Cricket Australia for “taking the initiative” and identifying “room for growth”.

“It’s fantastic what they’re doing, and I know I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve received as a player,” Osborne said.

“Being able to play cricket professionally, full-time, I didn’t expect that to happen in my career. I always hoped it would and believed that would happen in the future but it’s wonderful for it to be happening now.”

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Treasurer Scott Morrison has urged financial regulators to crack down harder on loans to real estate investors amid revelations that foreign buyers are spending $8 billion per year on new homes in NSW and Victoria, locking out owner-occupiers.
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The call came as the Treasurer and his state counterparts met on Friday to find solutions to problems of housing affordability exacerbated by a return to the market of investors after earlier attempts to contain them had “worn off”.

“I have been concerned, over the last couple of months, that the measures that were put in place a few years [ago] have worn off and it is now for the council of financial regulators to determine what the next step is,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

Mr Morrison referred to “a sharp increase in the level of investor credit, particularly over the last couple of months”.

He said it was was no longer just a question of housing affordability, but “frankly, also an issue about household debt…and the need to make sure that is well-managed from a financial stability point of view”.

His comments highlight the federal government’s increasing concern about housing affordability and its determination to make it a focus of the May budget.

Within minutes of the Treasurer’s press conference the Commonwealth Bank raised its standard variable rate for investors by a quarter of a per cent to 5.8, while raising its rate for owner-occupiers just 0.03 per cent. Bendigo Bank also moved within an hour of the meeting, lifting its investment interest rate by 0.25 per cent while leaving its rate for owner-occupiers unchanged. Westpac and ANZ moved during the meeting to lift theirs rate on interest-only loans saying the changes reflected higher lending costs and a “range of regulatory and risk factors”.

Analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data by Fairfax Media shows the share of loans taken out by investors had climbed above 50 per cent for the first time since the Prudential Regulation Authority took action to slow down bank lending to would-be landlords and negative gearers in 2015.

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A separate analysis released by Credit Suisse on Friday finds that foreign buyers are spending $8 billion a year on new houses in NSW and Victoria, buying one in five new homes across the two states.

Pre-empting an official move against lending to investors and negative gearers, ANZ group executive Fred Ohlsson said the bank had pushed up its rate for investors in order to “closely manage” regulatory obligations and its own exposure to risk in a competitive environment.

“We believe this is a balanced decision that reflects the range of regulatory and risk factors, and the pressures on family budgets,” he said.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Managing Director Mike Hirst said the move would help “meet regulators expectations in dampening demand for investor lending.”

Housing affordability was a key subject of discussion in the treasurers’ meeting in Canberra. The Turnbull government is considering creating a new affordable housing finance corporation to lend millions of dollars to build community housing.

Mr Morrison said the proposed ‘bond aggregator’ model had been taken to “the next level” with agreement from the states.

Mr Morrison said the next meeting of treasurers would look at supporting housing associations “so they can play an even greater role in ensuring enough affordable housing is out there in the market.”

Mr Morrison would not comment on state requests for Commonwealth land to be released for housing, and appeared to rule out a Greens proposal to help the states replace stamp duty with a land tax, saying that changes to stamp duty were a matter for them.

“The government will iron out its package with the budget,” he said.

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It looks like an invitation you should not refuse. Inside pharmacies, a GP will question you about your risk factors for stroke, and if they add up refer you to have an ultrasound of key arteries free of charge.
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Given an Australian has a stroke every 10 minutes, the idea appears well-intentioned. An ultrasound could reveal a build-up of plaque or narrowing in the carotid artery in your neck – a sign you might be at risk of stroke and need to see a specialist.

The problem is, if you have no symptoms of carotid artery stenosis (narrowing of the artery), health authorities say this test is likely to cause you more harm than good. The ultrasound will also cost taxpayers hundreds of dollars through Medicare.

Leading vascular surgeons, the Australian Medical Association and the Stroke Foundation are all warning the public to avoid “Strokecheck”, a new charity that has partnered with Amcal pharmacies and workplaces to host GP consultations about stroke risks.

The group, which appears to be directed by people with no medical experience, is promoting its work on social media and has teamed up with a gym, university and a large company to promote its work.

An Amcal pharmacy spokesman, James Nevile, said Strokecheck was paying about 300 Amcal pharmacies a confidential “modest” fee to refer people with risk factors to them for GP consultations and for use of their facilities – a payment Strokecheck will not comment on.

But surgeons say they are seeing patients who have been terrified by the group because the ultrasounds produce many “false positive” results, meaning some people are being told they’re at risk of stroke when they’re not at significant risk.

President of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Vascular Surgeons, Dr Bernard Bourke, said he was concerned the group was disease-mongering and masquerading as a charity to make money out of Medicare.

“It’s a rip-off,” he said. “They’re putting the fear of God into people.”

He said there was no evidence that people without symptoms of stroke should be getting screened for their stroke risk and having ultrasounds, and said people should talk to their regular GPs about their health instead.

Dr Bourke said the highly regarded US Preventive Services Taskforce reviewed the use of ultrasounds to screen the general population for stroke risk in 2014 and concluded it does more harm than good.

The group’s report said approximately 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of the population has carotid artery stenosis and that there is no validated, reliable tool to determine who is at increased risk of the condition – or at risk of a stroke when it is present.

The taskforce said it therefore puts people at risk of harm because those who get a positive result on ultrasound may choose to see a surgeon and demand surgery to remove the plaque. Depending on the experience of the surgeon, the operation – a carotid endarterectomy – is associated with an up-to-6 per cent risk of stroke or death within 30 days. It also carries a 2.2 per cent risk of heart attack within 30 days.

A second procedure is carotid stenting which has been controversial. Up to 10 per cent of patients will have a stroke following it within 30 days.

Neurologist and spokesman for the Stroke Foundation, Associate Professor Tim Kleinig???, said his group did not endorse Strokecheck or support unnecessary medical tests.

“Carotid artery screening for stroke prevention is a highly controversial area and is not endorsed by national or international guidelines,” he said.

“While Strokecheck is referring to one of our stroke statistics, this should not be seen as an endorsement of its services.”

President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association and GP, Lorraine Baker, said if people were worried about having a stroke, they should discuss it with their GP, who is likely to know their family history, previous test results and other information relevant to the discussion.

Melbourne vascular surgeon Jason Chuen said it was important not to confuse the use of ultrasound for the general population with no symptoms of carotid artery stenosis with people who have a history of stroke.

“In patients who have had a stroke or ministroke then it is critically important that they have an ultrasound and we identify carotid artery stenosis, so we don’t want to discourage those patients,” he said.

Requests to interview Strokecheck’s directors – Michael O’Connor, David Boon and Darren Tappouras – were declined, but a PR firm and lawyers answered questions on email with sometimes conflicting results.

Last week, the PR firm said the group bulk-billed Medicare for consultations and had arrangements with external providers for bulk-billed scans.

But yesterday, lawyers for the group said Strokecheck does not bill Medicare.

Despite promotional material on the internet saying Strokecheck offers testing to assess plaque and stenosis in the carotid artery, abdominal aorta and peripheral arteries next to a picture of an ultrasound, a lawyer for Strokecheck also said it does not offer an ultrasound service.

The lawyer said the group’s purpose was to “educate the Australian public and raise awareness to lower the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and stroke” and that the “awareness program saves lives and lowers the cost burden of cardiovascular disease on the Australian community”.

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Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has cited the uncertainty about Donald Trump’s foreign policy as one reason Australia needs to bolster its home-grown defence industry.
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In a remarkably frank set of observations, linking the rapid changes in the nation’s strategic outlook to building a self-reliant industry for military hardware, Mr Pyne said the Trump administration was “not business as usual” and “we’re having to rethink how that relationship will work”.

“The last 12 months have seen the acceleration of strategic changes around the world: a more assertive Russia and China, Brexit, North Korea’s highly dangerous nuclear and missile brinkmanship, a new broom sweeping through in Washington DC,” he told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“These developments put a premium on the need for Australia to be able to act for itself, and make national security decisions that maximise our strengths at a time of unprecedented global strategic change.”

Asked to expand on what President Trump meant for Australia, Mr Pyne said that while Australia was one of the US’s closest allies, “every US ally ??? is considering how that will operate in the next four years”.

“It’s fair to say that many people did not anticipate the outcome of the US presidential election. Nobody did actually anticipate the way that it turned out.

“So we’re having to rethink how that relationship will work and the point I’ve tried to make ??? is that that is a new development.

“President Trump is not business as usual ??? President Trump’s presidency presents new opportunities but also challenges because we need to understand how he sees the United States’ place in the world.”

He also stressed that “we can and must strengthen our alliance cooperation with America”.

In the strongest articulation yet of what he called a “great national endeavour”, Mr Pyne linked a strong local defence industry to Australia’s clout as a so-called middle power in the world.

“In the past, we would buy defence equipment from overseas and take delivery a few years later. This can no longer be the approach we take,” he said.

“Australia needs to be able to better express itself as a middle power in the world. We should have the ability to stand on our own two feet. That means developing the ability to design, build, maintain and repair our own equipment. We need to grow our own defence industrial capability.”

Mr Pyne also flagged an expensive new missile defence system, apparently referring to a ship-based system on Australia’s three new Air Warfare Destroyers to shoot down ballistic missiles in a conflict.

“The missile defence for the future will obviously be extremely important, I can’t make announcements about the missile defence plan that we have because we haven’t necessarily decided that yet,” he said. “It is obviously very expensive, but there will be decisions being made about this in the very near future [and] announcements being made.”

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Dili: When invading Indonesian troops parachuted into Dili in 1975 Filomena Gomes fled into East Timor’s cloud-shrouded mountains and for four years scrounged food and cooked for guerrilla fighters.
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She remembers a tall, handsome fighter by the name of Xanana.

“He liked to eat a soup made from corn, pumpkin and papaya leaves,” she says of the man who became the hero of East Timor’s independence, and remains the most powerful figure in Asia’s youngest democracy.

But like many other Timorese survivors of 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation and a violent withdrawal of Jakarta’s troops after an independence vote in 1999, 57-year-old Gomes says her family’s life has barely improved.

“We have got little. Life is very hard for us,” Gomes says, as her husband chops wood on a hillside beside a road snaking into Dili, where she has lived since Indonesian troops arrested her four decades ago, and brought her down from the mountains.

Two of her sons and a daughter have died.

Like scores of others living in deplorable slums encircling Dili, Gomes’ family has no running water or sanitation and no money to buy medicines for her two daughters in their 20s and early 30s, or their children, when they become sick.

Gomes and her husband collect and sell wood and try to grow corn but the rains did not come and the latest crop failed.

“We have written a letter and tried to see Xanana [Gusmao], to tell him about us, but we have not heard anything,” she says.

From Gomes’ shack perched on the hill she can gaze to Dili, the town where she was born during an era of largely neglected Portuguese rule, which has been transformed since 1999 when pro-Indonesian militia and Indonesian security forces burnt, looted and rampaged, turning it into a wasteland.

In 1999, I was in East Timor covering the tumultuous events. “We drive in silence through mass destruction, past street after street of smouldering ruin,” I wrote with tears in my eyes on September 10, 1999, after I had scrambled onto a RAAF Hercules aircraft, the last evacuation flight from Dili.

Pot-holed tracks have become sealed roads. Instead of frequent blackouts there is power 24-hours a day.

Health officials have reduced malaria, which they aim to eliminate by 2020.

There is a shopping mall with an elevator, cinema, casino and even a Burger King’s and Gloria Jean’s, selling Timorese coffee.

The rustic waterfront Hotel Turismo, where journalists, diplomats and spies once huddled in the beer garden, speaking in whispers about Indonesia’s occupation, has been rebuilt into a posh hotel with waiters wearing vests.

There are cavernous Chinese-built government offices and statues of heroes of East Timor’s struggle.

A Timorese-Chinese consortium is planning two 17-storey office towers that include a restaurant that can sit 400 people.

Outside Dili, former president Xanana and other leaders – mostly former resistance fighters – are pushing ahead with multibillion-dollar projects, including a $US1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) down payment on an industrial complex on the southern remote coast designed to process gas from the $40 billion Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in the Timor Sea.

There are also plans for development of a special economic and free trade zone in the tiny former Portuguese enclave of Oecusse that includes highways, an international standard airport, marina, hospital, hotels, a water park and golf course.

Critics say the projects involve significant economic and political risks at a critical point in the resource-rich nation’s history.

Fifteen years after gaining independence, some observers and opposition politicians say it is time for East Timor to take stock and re-access how to empower ordinary Timorese to participate in nation building and tackle high unemployment, widespread preventable diseases and malnutrition, land rights issues, illiteracy, corruption and cronyism.

They argue optimism that utopian projects will in the short term reduce poverty and improve the lives of ordinary Timorese is unfounded.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has since 2008 ranked East Timor as the most democratic nation in south-east Asia.

But opposition politicians say Xanana and his ruling executive from a coalition comprising his National Congress for Timorese Construction (CNRT) and Fretilin, the party that led East Timor’s independence struggle, now have unfettered powers.

Sweeping authority and generous funding have been given to Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri to turn Oecusse, which is surrounded by Indonesia, into a business and tourist hub,

This elite group appears likely to hold on to power at general elections in July, after their candidate Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres, a former resistance commander, decisively won presidential elections last Monday, intensifying concerns East Timor has become a dominant one-party state without a viable opposition.

Around 78 per cent of the $US1.38 billion state budget for 2017 will come from oil and gas revenues and the country has failed to diversify to sustainable manufacturing and agriculture.

The country’s only producing gas field, which has provided about $US20 billion in revenue over the past 10 years, is drying up and output is expected to stop between 2020 and 2022.

Greater Sunrise has been shelved amid a bitter stand-off with Australia over sea borders, although there is renewed hope among East Timor’s leaders that the project will be resurrected this year by a consortium led by Woodside.

Seventy-year-old Xanana is insisting that gas from Greater Sunrise be piped to the southern coast, a gamble that could bring in $US25 billion over 25 years or send the country broke.

To be sure, without revenues from Greater Sunrise the country’s multibillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund will dwindle – or even be depleted within a decade – if spending patterns and plans progress, analysts say.

Woodside and its partners want the gas extracted from a floating platform.

Soon a floating platform that is the world’s biggest vessel and six times the weight of the largest aircraft carrier will sail past East Timor on its maiden voyage from South Korea to Shell’s Prelude field off the Western Australia coast.

Charles Scheiner from the Dili-based think-tank Lao Hamutuk believes the southern coast developments will not make back the money they will cost.

“And it will be a lot more – perhaps as much as $US10-$20 billion if Timor-Leste [East Timor] pays for all the infrastructure, including pipeline, LNG plant and refinery,” he says.

“Timor-Leste needs to invest its finite resources more wisely – in education, health care and local infrastructure which will benefit local citizens rather than foreign construction companies.”

Lao Hamutuk has also questioned whether the Oecusse projects should be funded from public funds and how they will benefit the enclave’s 70,000 population, some of whom face displacement.

Jose Ramos Horta, a former president and prime minister and still an influential figure in Dili, rejects what he calls doomsday predictions that his country is heading towards becoming a failed state or that the sovereign fund will dry up, and backs Xanana’s vision to prioritise the building of infrastructure.

But in an election year, the mega-projects have become a key issue.

More than 40 per cent of Timorese live below the poverty line, 30 per cent of adults cannot read and 70 per cent live in rural areas with limited health services.

American Dan Murphy, the head doctor at Dili’s Bairo Pite Clinic, says there have been improvements to the health of Timorese since he arrived in East Timor in 1998.

“But to be honest, the improvements have been so slow as to be almost not noticeable,” says the 73-year-old doctor, who is regarded as a saint-like figure by his patients.

“Severe malnutrition remains such a huge problem among children that even if many of them survive, they may not even be able to have a normal life,” he says.

“Higher population densities mean that diseases spread pretty much as they want to and women are still dying here in child-birth.”

Murphy says at least once a week his clinic saves a mother’s life.

Mario Carrascalao, a 79-year-old former Indonesian-era governor and former deputy prime minister, believes billions of dollars should not be allocated for mega-projects before Timorese have basic necessities like water, sanitation and improved health care and education.

“For me, the priority should be the small people. Then when you get to a certain level, you can go the bigger projects,” he says.

Out-going president Jose Maria Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, who is aligned with the recently formed People’s Liberation Party, has repeatedly spoken out against corruption, last year comparing Xanana and Alkatiri to the former Indonesian dictator Suharto, saying there is “widespread discontent” among the public that their families are benefiting from lucrative government contracts.

He said the men, whose families have extensive business interests in the country, had divided power among themselves while crushing any dissent.

The government denies the claims.

Some businesspeople complain they face seemingly endless bureaucratic hurdles, while other companies win dubious but lucrative contacts.

Estanislau da Silva, the minister for agriculture, fisheries and co-ordinating minister for economic affairs, has ordered an investigation into how a fleet of 15 Chinese vessels was granted a 12-month lease to fish in sovereign waters for a modest fee of just $US312,450.

The company Pingtan Marine Enterprises had previously boasted its vessels can each generate annual revenue of $US3 million.

Australian businessman Ed Turner says he has left the country after 10 years trying to build its only national airline, Air Timor.

The airline quit the once-lucrative Dili to Bali route in January after East Timor authorities had handed operating licences to Indonesian airline Sriwijaya and its budget subsidiary NAM Airlines.

Fares collapsed on the route and Air Timor could not compete.

The airline has sacked more than 20 Timorese workers and now only flies the Dili to Singapore route twice a week.

“It’s a third world country to do business in,” says Turner who has sold his shares in Air Timor but retains an interest through loans.

“Many people will tell you to get officials on side you have to give them girls and money,” he says.

“If you don’t do that you won’t succeed ??? even people who do that often don’t succeed anyway.”

East Timor’s former finance minister Emilia Pires, who is also an Australian citizen, was allowed to leave the country before a court last year sentenced her to seven years jail on corruption charges, which she is trying to fight through an appeal to a Portuguese court.

In January Xanana criticised the verdict and accused some court officials of corruption.

Former justice minister Lucia Lobato was also sentenced to five years jail in 2012 on corruption charges.

Ramos Horta says while he makes no judgment about the guilt of the two former ministers he believes they should have received suspended sentences.

The Nobel laureate says there is corruption but insists claims it is rampant at the highest levels of government are exaggerated because of the way the system is set up.

Xanana says East Timor is not yet ready for a transition to a younger generation of leaders in the country where almost two thirds of the population is under 30 years old.

But Ramos Horta is helping the government set up an institute to train future leaders.

On September 7, 1999, at the height of violence in Dili, a baby was born on a piece of cardboard next to where I was sleeping in the besieged United Nations compound in Dili.

His mother Joanna Remejio gave him the middle name of Unamet, the acronym for the United Nations mission that made it possible for 439,000 Timorese to vote for their freedom.

I find now 17-year-old Pedro Unamet Remejio painting portraits in his mother’s house in a Dili suburb, his passion.

“I am not worried about the future of my country ??? I plan to study to become an engineer and will find a job when I leave school, so I can help my family,” he says.

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Spaniard Jordi Samper-Montana is praying away the rain at the ACT Claycourt International so he can make his flight home on Sunday.
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The No.1 seed has just a few hours after Sunday’s final to make his 6pm flight in bid to get home and watch his little brother Sergi play against Barcelona FC.

Sergi has played in the Champions League for Barcelona but is on loan this season to rival La Liga club Granada.

“I was better at football than my brother,” Samper-Montata joked.

“He also plays tennis really well but if you play for Barcelona there is obviously no chance to play tennis too.

“I travel for tennis a lot so I wake up to watch him play, but it is strange because my parents are not so much into sports.”

Samper-Montana, 26, crashed out early in the first of two ACT Claycourt Internationals, but bounced back in the second instalment and won through to the semis on Friday.

“I was not playing so good last week but this week I’m feeling really good, I think my mentality has changed,” Samper-Montana said.

“I’ve been here since the Australian Open qualifiers and after losing in the first round last week I got a chance to relax for a week and chill out and now I’m playing better.”

The world No. 217 reach a career-high 179 last year and is gunning for his second grand slam appearance at the French Open next month.

“Clay is my favourite surface, we always play on clay in Barcelona and I’m only here because this tournament is on clay,” Samper-Montana said.

“I played really well in French Open qualifiers last year and I’m trying to play well this week because I need some points to play there again.

“I’ll try to win this weekend but the level is so high and I have a very tough match tomorrow [Saturday] but if I keep playing well then I have a chance.

“My goal this year is to be top-100, this is the dream. I’m always trying to improve and will take confidence out of my wins in Canberra.”

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Midnight blends trend and tradition. Facing both Northbourne Avenue and Mort Street, this mixed-use development has been designed to link the more conventional Canberra styles of Northbourne Avenue with the grungier tones of Braddon.
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“We think that it’s a pretty striking building,” Geocon general manager of development Peter Micalos says.

Micalos says it is a true mixed-use development with 237 residential apartments, 160 hotel rooms and 2500 square metres of commercial space, incorporating Soho units, bars and restaurants.

The design seeks to foster a vibrant environment that’s constantly in use, according to Fender Katsalidis Architects director of planning and design David Sutherland.

“What always intrigues us is the overlap between uses,” he says.

The design works to enhance this interactivity.

“We like to think the way we’re doing this will supercharge those characteristics and interactions,” Sutherland says.

Midnight’s fully glazed exterior shell leads into an internal layer built around a creatively designed mixed-use courtyard.

All residential units face the street, with floor-to-ceiling glazing creating a sense of “just standing in the sky”, Micalos says.

Hotel rooms face into the courtyard, looking onto features including sculptural facades embellished with planting, ponds and a waterfall.

As a public space, the courtyard “provides just a little bit of separation from what’s going on around you, while still being part of the life of the area,” Sutherland says.

The space will be an oasis of calm within the city, with options for art installations being investigated.

Braddon has guts, with urban renewal contributing to a sense of grittiness that separates it from the tailored suburban streetscapes of much of Canberra.

“It has a raffishness that a lot of Canberra doesn’t have,” Sutherland says.

He believes that this comes with “a character that you don’t get in the more controlled parts of Canberra”.

The design has been informed by the plans for a light rail stop close by, which creates the opportunity for the building to be both a dwelling and a destination.

Midnight, 92 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon ???$335,900-$899,000-plus Inspect at weekends, from 10am-4pm Geocon and Independent Projects, Paul Corazza 0418 632 217

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South Sydney general manager of football Shane Richardson has reignited the argument for independent doctors to be introduced by the NRL, saying that the Rabbitohs could not have withdrawn a concussed Sam Burgess from the field at ANZ Stadium any faster than they did.
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Richardson on Friday defended Souths’ management of a concussion suffered by their captain in the defeat to Sydney Roosters on Thursday night. After sustaining a head knock while tackling Isaac Liu, Burgess continued playing for two and a half minutes before the Souths doctor ordered him off and ultimately barred him from resuming after half-time.

The NRL will scrutinise the episode – as they do with all head injury assessments – but after a week in which three clubs were fined a combined $350,000 for concussion policy breaches Souths were adamant on Friday they could not have handled the matter any faster.

Souths’ doctor was already in the ANZ dressing room assessing Burgess’ teammate Siosifa Talakai for concussion when the Englishman went down, delaying him from viewing the impact on a sideline television monitor.

“In the circumstances with two concussions at the same time we conducted the process properly in consultation with the HIA official,” Richardson said. “We brought the doctor up as quick as he could to assess the video and once he assessed the video it was decided that [Burgess] should come off.

“If you’ve only got one doctor it’s very difficult if you’ve got more than one player [possibly concussed]. I don’t think we could have handled it any quicker than we did.”

St George Illawarra chief Peter Doust, whose club was fined $100,000 for a concussion guidelines breach last Sunday, revealed concerns on Thursday about the application of the NRL policy.

Richardson also insisted that “everything has got to be assessed in its own right” and added his voice to the call for the introduction of independent doctors.

“I just think that the only way you’re going to improve the amount of time involved is by having an independent doctor there,” he said. “You’re going to get two or three head knocks in a row sometimes. There will be circumstances where the protocol is delayed.

“I’m not knocking [the NRL] for doing it because they’re trying to make people understand the importance of it, but I think you’ve got to take into account the circumstances. If you want to make it perfect you probably would have an independent doctor.”

The Burgess drama comes on the back of Sharks coach Shane Flanagan lashing critics who accused the premiers of exploiting the concussion rule to gain a free interchange in the derby loss against the Dragons last Sunday.

Sharks back-rower Wade Graham, who on Friday finalised a two-year extension to remain with the premiers, was taken off the field for a concussion test after a bomb landed on the head of the unsuspecting NSW representative.

Graham was still suffering minor headaches 48 hours after the game having taken a knock in a tackle only seconds earlier.

“It was laughable [people accused us of exploiting the free interchange],” Flanagan said. “It was three tackles earlier he tackled Tyson Frizell and copped his hip.

“We only knew there was something wrong when he couldn’t co-ordinate himself to catch the ball and we got to him straight away. He went for the concussion test and passed. He had a break and wasn’t moving properly and our trainer went and saw him and he came off.

“I’ve said to my players many times I’m not going to make them stay out there and risk [injury] and leaving myself and my trainers in a position where players could say, ‘Flanno made us stay out there and I had concussion’. Where would I stand? If a player goes out there and has concussion and something happens later because of their first concussion then where does that leave us?”

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