Cycling New Zealand’s Great Taste Trail

Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland

Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland

Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland

“That’s not a hill, it’s a wrinkle,” says John with trademark understatement as we survey the ominous incline ahead. The rest of the group have sensibly chosen to remain in the van and start today’s ride at the summit. I, fuelled by male bravado and three Weet-Bix, have decided to keep him company, blissfully unaware that next month he heads to France to cycle 2000 kilometres of the Tour de France route.

I quickly realise trying to keep up is futile so instead relax and enjoy the view. We’re cycling along a quiet country back road, through the sort of idyllic rural scene that dominates much of New Zealand’s South Island. Rolling pastures dotted with sheep, weather-beaten wooden sheds with rusted iron roofs and an impressive backdrop of undulating hills in shifting shades of green.

We collect the rest of the group and continue on tranquil country lanes to the village of Wakefield, where Evan has laid out an extravagant morning tea of fruit, shortbread, tea and plunger coffee. We all tuck in heartily even though it’s less than two hours since we ate breakfast and there’s still lunch at a winery, afternoon tea and a hearty dinner to come. I suppose there’s not much point in cycling the Great Taste Trail if you’re not going to taste.

New Zealand’s cycle network has grown rapidly over the last few years, fuelled by government investment and the success of the original cycling prodigy, the Otago Central Rail Trail. There are now 23 routes that are classified as Great Rides, predominantly off-road trails that showcase the best of the country’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage. The Great Taste Trail is one of the most recent, a 175-kilometre loop around the top of the South Island that passes through Nelson.

The route focuses on the abundance of fresh produce and wineries in the region so unless you have monk-like restraint you’ll be consuming more calories than you expend.

Our five-day trip started in Christchurch where we were kitted out at PureTrail’s depot with comfortable 27-speed hybrid bikes, helmets, panniers and sexy fluorescent high-vis vests. This departure is slightly unusual because there are only four of us, compared to the normal 10-14 guests, and we have two guides rather than one (Evan is in training).

Bikes safely loaded on the trailer, we leave Christchurch, heading north and then west over the scenic Lewis Pass to Saint Arnaud, an alpine village on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. After a spot of sightseeing and a gentle 16-kilometre orientation ride, it’s back to the more pressing issue of eating. Clinker Cafe may not sound like the most salubrious of dining spots but the braised pork belly in apple cider I have for dinner is not only excellent, it’s enormous. “Heartland portions,” explains John.

Fast forward a day and our convoy of four leaves Wakefield full of coffee and shortbread and heads towards lunch. It’s easy, delightful riding – a mixture of roadside paths, quiet back roads and gravel tracks that meander past vineyards and skirt orchards bursting with apples, berries and kiwifruit. On one section we cycle along a riverbank through fragrant bursts of fennel and flickering clouds of butterflies.

Lunch is at Waimea Estates, a family-run winery where our not-very-hard-work is rewarded with generous bowls of plump, creamy, Chardonnay-steamed green lipped mussels in a sun-drenched courtyard overlooking the vines.

We’re only eight kilometres from Nelson so this afternoon’s ride is a gentle 30-minute cruise along a dedicated bike path next to the Waimea Estuary. We arrive at our accommodation, the charming mews-style Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco at 1:30pm, leaving us plenty of time to explore.

In an effort to work up an appetite for what I know will be another heartland-sized dinner, I eschew Nelson’s museums and boutiques in favour of a walk along the Maitai River to the Botanical Reserve. After a mildly strenuous climb up Botanical Hill, I arrive at what is allegedly the geographic centre of New Zealand. I later discover that several places claim this accolade but either way the 360-degree views over the harbour and the rolling hills of the surrounding national parks are sensational. And I’m pretty sure I’ve burned off a mussel.

That evening we reconvene in the garden of the pub opposite our hotel and over a sunset glass of sav blanc our merry band of six gets to know each other. Husband and wife Gerry and Penny live in Newcastle and are cycling converts after doing the Otago Central Rail Trail with PureTrails last year. Margaret is from the Gold Coast and is clearly a PureTrails fan given this is her sixth trip with them. Guides John and Evan are both diehard, shorts-in-any-weather Cantabrians and expert exponents of the region’s trademark dry sarcasm. The South Island is the “mainland” and John confesses he’ll “barrack for anyone over Auckland”.

We retire inside for dinner where I feast on a tender Angus steak washed down with a glass of Roaring Meg pinot noir. Given PureTrails also covers the cost of a dessert, it seems rude not to sample the lemon cheesecake with cream and lemon sherbet. In the distance I hear my cycling shorts crying in protest.

While superlative food and wine are the trip’s main attraction, the scenery comes a close second. The next day we cycle back along the estuary, passing through a protected wetland before crossing onto Rabbit Island for morning tea by a deserted white sand beach. A winding pine tree-lined track leads us to a tiny cove where a ferry takes us and our bikes across an inlet to the buzzy township of Mapua for lunch.

Subsequent days deliver similarly beguiling landscapes – an early morning cycle along the Motueka River, the sun filtering through the haze of a freshly limed field; vast fields of hops, their carefully trained branches resembling dancers around a maypole; orchards full of berries swathed in dew-soaked nets.

We spend two nights at the comfortable Equestrian Lodge Motel in Motueka, cycling in the mornings and sightseeing in the afternoons. Excursions include a scenic cruise from Kaiteriteri that skirts the bays and furrows of the Abel Tasman National Park and a visit to the Riwaka Resurgence, a sacred Maori site where the Riwaka River emerges from a network of caves underneath Takaka Hill.

On our final day we head back inland to complete the loop. The trail here is still being completed so John and Evan improvise with a 13-kilometre ride along a quiet valley flanked by fields of curious cows. It’s knuckle-numbingly cold when we start at 8:30am and a brisk headwind (or a “gentle cooling breeze” according to John) drags tears from our eyes. After 40 minutes we’re all happy to jump back in the van and begin the long trek back to Christchurch.

The cycling portion of the trip may be over but the tasting part isn’t. Our last lunch is a fitting finale, a lazy feast of tapas-style shared plates washed down with crisp glasses of riesling at Forrest Estate Wines’ stylish cellar door in Marlborough.



The original “Great Ride”, this 150-kilometre route through Central Otago follows a disused railway line. The perfect introduction to a multi-day cycling trip.


Starting at Rotorua, this 66-kilometre trail passes through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers. Expect rare flora and fauna and a rich vein of Maori folklore.


This 70-kilometre off-road track through the heart of the Marlborough Sounds offers pristine wilderness, spectacular views and thigh-burning ascents.


The longest continuous cycle trail in New Zealand, this 300-kilometre jaunt starts from the country’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, and finishes in the coastal town of Oamaru. The best bit? It’s all downhill.


Beginning in the otherworldly Tongariro National Park, this four to six day route uses bike trails, public roads and a jetboat to deliver riders to the coast at Wanganui.

For a complete list of NZ’s Great Rides, see nzcycletrail杭州龙凤419m.


The writer travelled as a guest of PureTrails and Air New Zealand.




Air New Zealand flies direct from Sydney and Melbourne to Christchurch. Phone 13 24 76; see airnewzealand杭州龙凤


PureTrails offers regular departures of its guided five-day Great Taste Trail cycle trip between October and April, from $1400 including accommodation, meals and excursions. See puretrailsnewzealand杭州龙凤

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RSL Clubs could be the next victim of Sydney property boom

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

The RSL Club used to be part of the social fabric, a place to go for a special occasion or a cheap meal when mum or dad couldn’t be bothered cooking or for a few quick drinks after work.

Many are now fighting for their financial futures due to a combination of falling patronage, outdated facilities, demographic changes and competition from modern alternative entertainment options.

But where many see an outdated and tired business model and board members heavy with age property developers see large, well-located freehold sites, ideal for residential redevelopment.

Take the current saga surrounding South Hurstville RSL and Hurstville RSL.

South Hurstville RSL is a financially strong club with an upward trajectory.

Hurstville RSL on the other hand been in the red for the past few years, with growing losses, declining revenues and dwindling net assets.

As a result, both have voted in favour of an amalgamation . However those decisions are being challenged by a group called “The Friends of Hurstville”, who prefer a plan for a mixed use redevelopment being put forward by property developer Will McDonald of Skye Pacific Properties Pty Ltd.

Mr McDonald  leads a consortium that includes Parkview Constructions and Dickson Rothschild Architects.

The chairman of the pro-development Friends of Hurstville group, Ed Mason, said a meeting held at Hursville RSL on August 10 (to vote on the decision to amalgamate) was a “farce” and that some members of Chinese background were unhappy.

When asked specifically about the vote, Mr Mason couldn’t confirm any actual numbers as he is not a member of Hurstville RSL. He was issued a membership card when he applied but said he then had his application refused at the board level.

Mr Mason did confirm there were about 120 people, all of which he said wanted to vote at the meeting, at a lunch meeting of the Friends of Hurstville group which was paid for by the property group led by Mr McDonald.

Hurstville RSL general manager Rod Bell, and the CEO of South Hurstville RSL, Simon Mikkelsen, refute Mr Mason’s and Mr McDonald’s claims and say that all votes have been conducted correctly and have been validated by a separate NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) investigation.

“Everything has been done by the book to allow both clubs’ members’ wishes to proceed,” Mr Mikkelsen said.

Mr Bell said Hurstville RSL has looked over and rejected a number of property development proposals submitted for their site because the board considered they did not have the members’ best interests at heart and risked rendering the RSL insolvent.

“Our only and best chance of surviving as a community club is by joining with South Hurstville RSL,” Mr Bell said. “Club members should realise that if the developer gets control of this club it will be closed for up to two years and may never reopen.”

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has adjourned their decision on the amalgamation to assess the claims made by the warring factions. Mr Bell feels this gives the development proposal an unfair advantage.

“We now need the Minister Troy Grant to instruct ILGA to support the wishes of both clubs’ real members and not a bunch that are more than happy to see another RSL disappear in this Anzac centenary year,” he said.

The ILGA said it deferred its decision on December 17 “so it could receive further detailed submissions about claims it received questioning whether the correct steps had been followed in the merger process”.

A final decision is expected by March.

Two highly publicised  property development deals where financially stricken clubs have been “rescued”  by property developers are the proposed Balmain / Rozelle Village development deal and the Souths on Chalmers development deal.

Souths on Chalmers was put into administration and then closed, with significant debts, and Balmain Leagues have borrowed millions for lead time costs (to continue operating at a temporary venue) and still have no formal resolution.

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More to be caught in tax net on surging Sydney land values

More property investors will be caught in the property tax net with the resurgent Sydney property market pushing up residential land values at a double-digit pace in the wake of historically low interest rates and the revived NSW economy.

Land values across the state rose 11.2 per cent in 2014, which was led by a strong 13.1 per cent rise in residential land values, according to data released on Friday by the NSW Valuer General.

Willoughby, Bankstown and Hornsby led the gains in residential land values across Sydney, with Mosman, Camden and Ryde witnessing the lowest rise in values among Sydney council areas.

The eastern suburbs regained the crown from the lower north shore as the area with the most expensive median land values in the state, with median residential land values in Woollahra, which takes in Double Bay, Point Piper and Vaucluse, reaching $1.4 million, eclipsing Mosman’s median of $1.39 million.

“The past 12 months has seen a significant increase in large parts of the market – particularly the middle ring,” said the NSW Valuer General,  Simon Gilkes.

“There were not the large increases at the high end of the market and in the outer areas, but rather the inner west and areas close to transport, such as Chatswood and the Hills district, partly due to the new rail link.”

Low interest rates has brought both owner occupiers and investors into the market, he said.

The values are based primarily on property sales data, with more than 43,000 sales assessed.

The year was market by a “ripple out effect” from gains in the inner ring of the city’s suburbs, he said.

Median land values in areas such as Leichhardt and Marrickville continued to rise strongly – up 17.4 per cent and 19.9 per cent respectively – but this was outpaced by gains a little further out such as Canterbury – up 21.4 per cent – and Bankstown (up 29.4 per cent).

The updated valuation data will have a direct effect in broadening the land tax net, where it is applicable, and is also used by councils when assessing rate variations, Mr Gilkes said. At the top end of the market, the rise in land values have been more restrained which is due in part to the already high level of prices in those areas.

“The increases were not as strong in the highly valued suburbs since fewer people may have been able to raise the money needed” to buy into these suburbs, Mr Gilkes said.

Slavko Romic, the principal of Elders Double Bay, said the new year has started where last year finished.

“It’s been strong since the start of the new year. Inquiries are running at peak levels, and we’re not alone with other agents reporting the same level of activity,” he said.

“There is not a lot of stock available, so over-demand and under-supply, along with low interest rates, is keeping interest high.”

A year ago, only Mosman and Woollahra had land values of more than $1 million. Now, they have been joined by Willoughby, Manly, Hunters Hill and Waverley, with North Sydney and Lane Cove just falling short of this figure.

The updated valuation data are used by about one third of councils each year when revising rates. This year, Blacktown, Liverpool, Ku-ring-gai, the Hills, Maitland and Leichhardt will use the updated data when setting rates.

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Health leader brings experience, commitment to role of facilitating change

It’s really heartening when you discover health professionals who are passionate about their career. Jacqui Allen’s career as a nurse spans over three decades, yet her passion for nursing remains ubiquitous in her latest role as a redesign facilitator at Eastern Health.
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“I’m so passionate about leadership, improving patient care and improving systems for staff to work within,” says Allen. “I think any opportunity you have to broaden your knowledge or experience, why not lap it up?” Allen’s aptitude for change and development has acted as a guiding principle. Moving through the ranks from general nurse to educator to nurse manager, she’s continually embraced new challenges and thrived on opportunities to improve workplace practices. In her role as nurse manager at Box Hill Hospital, she successfully transformed a staffing shortage into a situation where people were drawn to the environment.

The quote, “leadership drives culture and culture drives strategy and improvement” is so true,” says Allen. “When I left this role, there were people waiting for a position and that was achieved simply by improving the work culture.” The skills and knowledge Allen has acquired from nursing have provided the quintessential framework for this role, the objective being to facilitate improved performance and quality patient care across Eastern Health.

“It’s about increasing the capability of staff across the whole system, so that they then have the knowledge and skills to do the improvement work themselves,” says Allen. “It’s really a coaching and support role.” Improvement methodology informs much of Allen’s work. The methodology is used to structure improvement work by identifying the core problem, isolating issues and wastes in the system, and formulating an ideal state and process for accomplishing better outcomes.

“You need to have a really clear problem statement upfront,” says Allen. “And you can’t do improvement work without measuring it to know if you’ve made a difference. This is critical.” Allen was drawn to her role as a redesign facilitator to expand upon an already impressive resume and to explore new challenges. Working across more than sixty different wards and programs, she’s grateful to have gleaned a broader perspective of health outside of the emergency department where she’s spent much of her career.

One of the larger programs of work that Allen has been involved in is the productive ward program, which focuses on improving the direct nursing care time for patients. The wards are highly organised with patient journey boards that snapshot every patient’s journey from admission through to discharge. There are also performance boards, visible to both staff and patients, which contain each ward’s performance data. The redesign team is also involved in leadership walk-rounds to ascertain what’s working for staff and where support might be needed.

“As a result, nursing teams have improved the quality of patient care and patients’ overall experience of care”, says Allen.

Allen acknowledges that without the input of key stakeholders the improvement work couldn’t be achieved and sees firsthand how beneficial the support and coaching is for staff.

Allen never planned for her career to take this pathway but revels in the opportunities serendipity has offered.

“What I find really rewarding is that I can influence at both a strategic and an operational level,” says Allen.. “I love to learn and develop, and in redesign work you can always do that.”

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Week in picturesphotos

Week in pictures | photos ORANGE: Orange Mountain Wines co-owner Terry Dolle is expecting to start picking grapes earlier this year following plenty of rain and warmer-than-average temperatures. Picture: STEVE GOSCH.
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ORANGE: Rohanne Tiefel with her twins Dominic and Lucas who were born at Orange Health Service last month. Picture: STEVE GOSCH.

PARKES: Jacques Labuschagne, Parkes Shire Mayor Ken Keith, Bridgette Johnston and Angus Whyllie disembark from yesterday’s Elvis Express.

PORT LINCOLN: Eight ball player Dylan Vonderwall has been selected to represent South Australia in the junior eight ball national championships and will compete in the Gold Coast from January 11 to 14. Picture: HARRY FISH.

TASMANIA: Members of the Burnie Highland Pipe Band play at Music Among the Tombstones, a unique musical event at the Penguin General Cemetery. Picture: STUART WILSON.

WIMMERA COPPING: Horsham Rural City Counil parks and gardens worker Brodie Mines cools off while watering plants in Horsham Botanic Gardens. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WIMMERA: Matt Adlington inspects burnt banksias on his Mt Talbot farm as fire rages behind. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WIMMERA: NSW crews from the Albury area arrive to fight Little Desert fire late on Saturday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER.

WIMMERA: The Mt Talbot fire on Wednesday, as seen from Toolondo. Pictures: PAUL CARRACHER.

BATHURST: Bathurst Woodies’ John McMahon said the group is cashed up thanks to grants which will allow the club to expand its premises in Dorman Place. Picture: BRIAN WOOD.

BATHURST: Tamsyn McCabe had a ball at Bathurst PCYC’s school holiday activity workshops yesterday while receiving instruction from Bathurst Fire and Rescue NSW senior firefighter Peter Worrad. Picture: CHRIS SEABROOK.

CARRIETON: James Fels bit the dust, was swept off his feet and thrown into the dirt again in the Second Division Bull Ride at Carrieton Rodeo. He picked himself up and walked away. Picture: CHELSEA ASHMEADE.

CESSNOCK: Japanese football star Keisuke Honda holds Ally the Wombat from Hunter Valley Zoo at the Samurai Blue’s farewell function in Cessnock on Thursday. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CESSNOCK: Japanese football star Keisuke Honda holds Ally the Wombat from Hunter Valley Zoo at the Samurai Blue’s farewell function in Cessnock on Thursday. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CESSNOCK: The Japanese national football team, the Samurai Blue, contested a pre-Asian Cup friendly against Auckland City FC at Cessnock Sportsground on January 4. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CLARE: Enjoying the school holidays and warm summer days are Molly McMurray, Nikita Morgan, Alice McMurray, Jazmine Liddy and Rosie McMurray at The Valleys Lifestyle Centre, watched by pool lifeguard Carl Whitehead.

DUBBO: A car suspended on a guy wire after a car crash on Thursday morning. Picture: HANNAH SOOLE.

DUBBO: Quest property manager Steve Hornby at Wylde Fire Indian Restaurant, which has been left empty and abandoned by owners. Picture: HANNAH SOOL.

TASMANIA: Tankers from Rubicon, Port Sorell and Wesley Vale fighting the fire with assistance from a helicopter on Browns Creek Road. Picture: JASON HOLLISTER.

LAKE MACQUARIE: Australia day Citizen of the Year nominee Grace McLean. Picture: GEORGIA OSLAND.

LAKE MACQUARIE: BMX at the Lake Macquarie BMX Track.

LAKE MACQUARIE: Joseph Powell of the US sailing at Belmont. Picture: DARREN PATEMAN.

LITHGOW: Motorists were proceeding with caution through flash flooding in western Main Street.

TASMANIA: Devonport Cup runner Second Dozen and trainer Adam Trinder, of Spreyton, are all smiles ahead of the big race. Picture: MEG WINDRAM.

NEWCASTLE: Tamara Gazzard, Lucy Shepherd and Sarah Coffee ready for the Paper Cut’s latest free interactive performance.

NEWCASTLE: Chris Plain, Sarah Morrison and Jodie Plain at Uluru with The Star. Picture: DEANO MORRISON.

NEWCASTLE: Nobbys Surf Life Saving Club Ducks 4 Dollars Breanna Blick of Broadmeadow, and Kylie Rolston of Stockton. Picture: MARK CONNORS.


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Asian Cup match between Australian Socceroos and Kuwaitpictures, photos

Asian Cup 2015 | pictures, photos MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates after he scored the opening goal during the match. Picture: Getty Images.
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MELBOURNE: Tim Cahill of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match between the Australian Socceroos and Kuwait at AAMI Park. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ivan Franjic of Australia heads the ball over the top of Sultan Alenezi of Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Tim Cahill of Australia celebrates scoring his first goal in the first half. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Australia’s Massimo Luongo (right) is congratulated by teammates Robbie Kruse (centre) and Tim Cahill (right) after scoring against Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia is congratulated by Tim Cahill after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of the Socceroos is congratulated by Tim Cahill and his teammates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia heads the ball through for a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait beats Tim Cahill (right) and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan of the Socceroos to score the first goal during the match. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Mile Jedinak of the Socceroos is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Mile Jedinak of Australia celebrates after he scored a penalty. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Kuwait’s Amer Almatoug Alfadhel fights for the ball against Australia’s James Troisi (left) and Izaz Behich (right) during their Asian Cup Group A soccer match Picture: REUTERS.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of the Socceroos celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: James Troisi of the Socceroos celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Australian coach Ange Postecoglou celebrates after Australia defeated Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match between the Australian Socceroos and Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.


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Shark feeds on whale off South Coast beach: Video

SOURCE:Illawarra Mercury
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RELATED CONTENT:Shark sighting closes Warilla beach

Shark attack on beached whale closes Broulee Beach: PHOTOS/VIDEO

Diver dodges sharks to rope whale

Rare footage has been captured of a shark feeding off a dead whale just metres from a popular South Coast holiday beach.

Sharks had been circling South Broulee and three neighbouring beaches after a humpback whale died near the coast this week.

The whale drew sharks, which in turn drew hundreds of onlookers who gathered on the rocks around the beach to catch a glimpse of some of the ocean’s apex predators in action.

Michael James captured footage of one tearing into the whale by attaching his waterproof Go-Pro camera to a Go-Pro rod and submerging it next to a bobbing shark tail.

The South Broulee sighting is just one of several in NSW this summer.

Chris Neff, a shark management policy researcher and lecturer at the University of Sydney, said it was unlikely more sharks were about and instead attributed growing concerns to recent sightings in Sydney, which meant more attention was being paid to shark incidents.

Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach was closed twice this week and three times in November after sightings of sharks several metres long.

In December, a fishermanfilmed a 2.5-metre great white shark in Lake Macquarienear Newcastle.

On Thursday, Wollongong lifeguards spotted three mature hammerhead sharks off the coast near the Wollongong Golf Club, just metres from the popular surf beach.

Surfing instructor Nick Squires was teaching a group of children including his own eight-year-old son to surf when he saw the shark doing laps of the beach.

“I had just pushed my son on to a wave, and probably about three metres away from me on the inside of me, it was at least seven foot, a little shark just cruised past me,” Mr Squires told ABC Radio.

“I yelled out to the kids and, as soon as it sensed I’d seen it, it went really fast out to sea. If it was there to be sinister it had every opportunity to be.”

Similar sharks were also spotted this week around Shellharbour, near Warilla Beach and the Windang-Port Kembla bight.

Dr Neff said it was important to keep in mind that most interactions between humans and sharks did not result in a shark attack, and that most shark attacks were not fatal.

He recommended anyone who saw a shark while swimming should maintain eye contact while trying to get back to shore as quickly as possible.

“Sharks are opportunistic biters so you don’t want to do anything that gives them the opportunity, like turn around and swim away,” Dr Neff said. “You want to keep eye contact and let it know you’ve seen it.”

He said it would take less than a week for swimmers to be back at beaches even after an attack.

“In 2009, Sydney’s shark summer, even with a bite at Bondi, beach attendance was up 23 per cent on the year before.”

South Broulee and neighbouring beaches were expected to reopen at 9am Saturday.

SOURCE: Illawarra Mercury

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Charlie Hebdo terrorist crisis comes to dramatic climax as special forces kill gunmen in Dammartin and Porte de Vincennes

Live coverage of the terrorist attacks’It’s a war!’: bloody end to terror crisisAl-Qaeda directed Paris attackFrance terror attack timeline
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Dammartin-en-Goele, France: Three gunmen and four hostages are dead after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist crisis came to a dramatic climax on Friday, with simultaneous special forces raids ending two sieges amid explosions and sustained gunfire.

The men believed to have carried out the sieges were killed by police, including the Kouachi brothers behind Wednesday’s Hebdo massacre, and a man believed to be their close friend, Amedy Coulibaly, who shot dead four hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, Coulibaly’s girlfriend, took part in the grocery store siege in east Paris but escaped and is still at large, the BBC reports.

Coulibaly and Boumeddiene are suspects in the killing of a policewoman earlier this week, which authorities had denied was linked to the Hebdo killings.

Barely 48 hours after the Charlie Hebdo massacre Paris had faced two hostage sieges involving Islamist terrorists.

The Kouachi brothers were pinned down for most of Friday by police at a family-run printing business in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele 40km north of the French capital – after reportedly taking a hostage on their way into the building.

Then around lunchtime Coulibaly, an associate of the Kouachis, attacked the  kosher store in Paris’ inner east wielding an assault rifle, and taking up six hostages including a young child.

Four hostages were killed reportedly shot dead by Coulibaly before police ended the siege.

The four people were “likely” killed by the gunman at the start of the hostage-taking, the prosecutor leading the investigation said.

Pointing to the “state of the bodies” and Coulibaly’s own remarks in an French television interview from the scene, prosecutor Francois Molinssaid it seemed “no hostage was killed during the assault” by police that ended the siege.

A member of Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch has said the terror group directed the Hebdo massacre.

The Dammartin raid

At sunset, about 5pm, explosions and shots rang out over the fields around Dammartin.

Fairfax was told that there was a loud detonation from the building then a series of 30-40 gunshots, followed by another big explosions, a flash of light and smoke.

An army helicopter flew in and dropped special forces at the building, and there were small flashes of light visible on the building’s roof – either small arms fire or torches.

A few minutes later there was another detonation, more flashes – and then it was over, within a minute, with army, police and special forces moving around the building without apparent urgency.

According to early reports, the Kouachi brothers died in the attack and the hostage was rescued alive.

The Dammartin siege

Earlier, on Friday morning, Said and Cherif Kouachi had reportedly hijacked a woman’s car in a town to Paris’ north-east, and she alerted police.

Police chased the car down a motorway towards the capital, until it reached a roadblock, where gunfire was exchanged.

The men then left the motorway and turned onto an industrial estate on the edge of the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele.

They stopped at a small family printing business and according to several reports took one of the employees hostage.

However, one TV station reported that the Kouachi brothers didn’t have a hostage, but that the employee hid inside a cardboard box and communicating with police.

Other reports said that the employee was a hostage first before managing to escape and then hide.

The details are yet to be confirmed with police.

At 9.25am three helicopters including a large army helicopters hovered motionless over the town.

Armed and flack-jacketed police blocked all access to the town, waving vehicles away from access roads off the adjacent highway.

Fairfax was warned by one officer not to approach the town.

“It is very dangerous here,” we were told.   Post by Farid Bara.

The small town of Dammartin-en-Geoele, population 8500, is set among picturesque green fields.

A string of emergency vehicles sped through the roadblock into the town, including an ambulance and convoys of police.

An army tank was also spotted on the road leading to the town, which is only a few kilometres from Charles de Gaulle airport.

Flights into the airport were restricted for fear the men might be carrying weapons capable of hitting low-flying aircraft.

Police told locals to close their blinds and stay away from windows.

According to one media report a police negotiator had made contact with the gunmen and they expressed a desire for martyrdom.

Deputy mayor Thierry de Chevalier said there were more than 1000 students in three schools in the town, who were being kept in their classrooms until they could be evacuated to safety.

He said the printing plant where the hostage had been taken was a small family business, whose employees included the company director, his wife and adult child.

The Porte de Vincennes siege

Meanwhile, as the Dammartin siege developed, Coulibaly, 32, armed with two guns took hostages at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris after a shootout.

He was armed with an automatic weapon, one eyewitness said. “He immediately went into the supermarket and began shooting,”

Four hostages were killed.

Authorities told local residents to stay indoors and police went from shop to shop telling them to close their shutters.

The attacker reportedly told police “you know who I am”.

Police had named him as a suspect in the killing of a policewoman in the south of Paris on Thursday.

They also named his accomplice as Hayat Boumeddiene, 26.

Coulibaly was said to be a “close friend” of the Kouachi brothers.

There are reports he made phone calls to friend during the siege to urge them to carry out further attacks.

He was reportedly, like Cherif Kouachi, a member of the so-called Buttes Chaumont network, based in a northern Paris neighbourhood: petty criminals, usually Muslim, who had been radicalised by Islamic preachers to recruit jihadists and fight against US forces in Iraq. The group regularly met in parks in Paris.

The Porte de Vincennes raid

At sunset, at the same time as the action in Dammartin,  explosions were heard at this site of the Porte de Vincennes siege.

Police raided the building.

AFP was reporting that the raid left five dead, including the gunman.

Two police were also reportedly injured.

President Hollande is expected to address the nation at 8pm, local time.

More to come

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Sydney shootings: Michael Ibrahim peace talks failed in the days before attack

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Relatives of a known Sydney criminal had tried to peacefully resolve an ongoing dispute he had with Michael Ibrahim in the days before the brother of Kings Cross tsar John Ibrahim was shot in Sydney’s CBD.

Michael, the youngest of the six Ibrahim siblings, had been enjoying a party lifestyle in the four months since he was released from jail having served more than six years for manslaughter.

He’d recently been enjoying Sydney’s bar scene at Cafe Del Mar at Darling Harbour and the “floating-beach club” The Island and had started a new relationship.

But sources connected to the 36-year-old say he had also been using his freedom to “catch-up” with a number of previous associates, some whom he believed owed him money from before he went to jail.

They say the relationship with one former ally, a south-western Sydney crime figure who has done significant jail time, deteriorated rapidly to the extent that his family had intervened to try and broker peace last weekend.

However a series of messages sent between Ibrahim and the other man are said to have inflamed tensions even further before Ibrahim was hit once in the shoulder by a shot fired at 10.30pm on Macquarie Street in the city last Sunday.

The attack has been the most high-profile in a spate of public shootings in Sydney in the past five weeks.

There was a shooting every three days in December but it came at the end of a year in which gun crime declined. Non-fatal shootings fell by 17 per cent and charges for unlawfully discharging a firearm fell by 24 per cent in the two years to September.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy said police had made a concerted effort to seize more guns in 2014, with a 29 per cent increase in firearms charges.

“Like any offence, there are peaks and troughs in the number of shooting offences throughout the year,” he said. “Anecdotally, we often find a spike in shooting offences will be linked to conflict amongst criminal groups.”

Police do not believe most of the shootings are linked and instead are isolated incidents fuelled by domestic disputes and drug deals.

However Fairfax Media understands that the crime figure in dispute with Ibrahim has also previously clashed with another victim of the recent gun violence, former Comanchero and construction industry figure Bilal Fatrouni.

Fatrouni, 38, walked himself into hospital on December 27 after allegedly being shot twice in the back by Mahmoud Dandachli outside Dandachli’s home in Greenacre.

Police do not believe it was linked to the fatal shooting of construction industry figure Bilal Taha, who was executed on the driveway of his Condell Park home the next day.

It was retaliation attack in a feud between members of two local families, police said. The rival family have a history of extortion and drug crime and had tried to shoot Mr Taha weeks earlier, Fairfax Media understands.

It was the third time the families had shot at each other following two drive-bys on homes in Condell Park in October.

A relative, Aasiya Rose, said Mr Taha was “a victim of other people’s bad choices”. In a tribute to Mr Taha online she said: “you stayed away from trouble but it found you regardless”.

More than 60 police from Operation Talon, the team of officers tasked with ending Sydney’s gun violence, saturated Fifth Avenue and Ethel Street on Thursday night as a show of force against those involved in the Taha shooting and the nearby shooting of a 34-year-old man two days later.

Police searched homes to ensure a handful of known criminals in the area with Firearm Prohibition Orders were abiding by them.

Bankstown commander Superintendent Dave Eardley said police would keep returning to the area until the Taha family’s conflict was suppressed.

“Police will keep returning in numbers, as often as is required, to ensure this conflict is suppressed and to reaffirm our commitment to the community,” he said.

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Mixed feelings for family after Jessica Small reward announced

WAITING: Ricki Small and her daughter Rebecca Small after the announcement of a reward in the Jessica Small case. Photo: PHILL MURRAY 010915pjess2THE confirmation from police that a reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Bathurst teenager Jessica Small’s killer was a double-edged sword for her family Friday.
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Jessica’s mother, Ricki Small, said while she was pleased that a reward had finally been announced more than 17 years after her daughter went missing, the amount of $100,000 was disappointing.

Deputy state coroner Sharon Freund recommended, at the conclusion of an inquest last year into Jessica’s death, that a sum of not less than $500,000 be offered.

Speaking in Bathurst, Mrs Small said she was hopeful it would be enough to entice someone with information about the case to come forward.

“Yes, I’m disappointed that it’s not a bigger amount, but nonetheless it is a reward and I’m hoping it’s enough to flush someone out,” she said.

“After 17 years I’m grateful that it has been announced.”

Asked if she thought $100,000 was enough, she said she was praying so.

“I’m praying it will make a difference. I need help from the public [to find out what happened to Jessica],” she said.

Jessica was just 15 when she was abducted from Hereford Street after she and her friend Vanessa Conlan accepted a lift with a man they did not know.

Vanessa made it out of the car to raise the alarm, but Jessica has not been seen since.

It is now well known that the initial police investigation into her abduction was seriously flawed.

Police failed to take statements from critical witnesses, including a man who was possibly the last person to see Jessica alive.

Mrs Small said she had no option but to keep fighting for her daughter.

“It’s a fight that I’ve always wanted to win. I didn’t want to let Jess down – she has already been let down – but at this point I would just like some answers.”

Mrs Small said she also had to keep going for her other children Matt and Rebecca. She said the family just needed some closure.

“This has been going on and on. At the inquest we thought we may have been getting close [to finding out whathappened], but that went out the window.

“I’m just now hoping this reward might bring someone forward.”

Police described the reward as significant. Mrs Small disagreed.

“I don’t see it as significant; this has been going on for 17 years. Obviously I would have preferred it to be higher,” she said.

Jessica’s sister Rebecca Small agreed.

“The coroner recommended no less than $500,000. Why wasn’t that offered?” she asked.

“It’s a kick in the teeth.”

NSW Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, who announced the reward, said while he was not able to comment on the figure, it was in line with rewards in other similar cases.

Superintendent Willing said he supported the application from Detective Sergeant Peter Smith – who led the investigation into Jessica’s disappearance – for a $500,000 reward, but said it was the Reward Evaluation Advisory Committee which decided the amount.

He said he was well aware of the flaws in the initial investigation, but commended Detective Sergeant Smith for his work on Strike Force Carica II.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Screen grabs

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work. Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.
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The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.

Charming: Fantasy Life.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.



It’s been an awfully long dry spell for 3DS fans, with very few games of substance released in the past six months, and several of those (notably Pokemon and Alex Wright: Ace Attorney) are just spruced-up versions of titles from older Nintendo consoles. Fantasy Life, then, is one of the few bright spots, a role-playing game that will feel familiar if you’ve played Harvest Moon or Legend of Zelda. You start by choosing from one of 12 professions, which range from the glamorous (alchemist) to the mundane (tailor, blacksmith); then you set about fulfilling little quests (build a table, darn a cloak) to level up, earn money and unlock new goodies, along the way chatting with Fantasy Life’s many odd characters and fighting the odd monster. Outside your own career, there’s a narrative involving the royal family and the impending end of the world, which you’ll need to help with at some stage, but there’s no rush. What’s not to like? Well, there’s an awful lot of talking to get through when you meet significant characters, the mini games can get repetitive and the fighting is similarly basic. Overall, though, it’s a charming addition to the genre. AH



British actor and comedian Simon Farnaby (perhaps best known here for his work in The Mighty Boosh and Horrible Histories) has long been fascinated with superheroes and people with “superhuman” abilities. In this new series he travels the world seeking out real-life super humans, ordinary people with seemingly extraordinary abilities. In this first episode, Superhuman Force, he sets off to meet people who can claim to control nature’s most powerful forces. For some reason Eastern Europe is a hub for people claiming magnetic powers, and tonight Farnaby travels to Georgia, Serbia and Croatia to meet a nine-year-old boy with apparent powers, a local legend whose chest can apparently hold huge metal weights and, the most compelling of all, the ‘human battery”: Serbian man Biba Struja, whose body can conduct electricity. Be genuinely freaked out as we watch him withstand a million volts and even cook sausages with his bare hands. KN



Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig (Undead, Daybreakers) reunite with their Daybreakers star Ethan Hawke in an elegant, painstaking adaptation of a Robert Heinlein time-travel story about an undercover agent who criss-crosses time seeking to avert a crime. There’s not a budget for splashy effects; instead, the Spierigs and their collaborators concentrate on ambience, imaginative production design and carefully constructed performances. The film is more about the mystery of human identity than the ramifications of science fiction; Hawke seems to relish the transformative challenges of his character; Noah Taylor, in a cameo, is quietly enigmatic; and Sarah Snook, in a role of constant twists and turns, is a revelation. PH



Bob Marley’s influence on popular culture, through his music and spirit, is much greater than one may have ever expected when he was alive. Filmed on June 13, 1980, in Dortmund, Germany, this live performance for the TV show Rockpalast is one of the last to capture Marley before his death in May 1981 from cancer. The set list is a reminder of his legacy, including all his classics: I Shot The Sheriff, Is This Love, Jamming, Get Up, Stand Up, Could This Be Love, Redemption Song and No Woman, No Cry. It’s an indoor concert at night, and the groove is Marley all the way. Great for chilling out with Bob on your mind – and a fabulous insight into why the godfather of reggae’s work resonates to this day. JK



Orson Welles’ reign as cinema’s boy genius was ending when he shot this 1947 film noir – an astonishing wreck of a movie, mingling grotesque black comedy with delirious romantic fatalism.  Even before the climax set in a literal hall of mirrors, there’s a sense that the Hollywood dream factory has been blown to smithereens, with Welles as war correspondent wandering dazed through the wreckage.  Besides writing and directing, he plays the unlikely role of Michael O’Hara, an Irish sailor with an anti-fascist past, a poetic turn of phrase and a mile-wide streak of gullibility, drawn into a convoluted murder plot by a woman of mystery (Welles’ soon to be ex-wife Rita Hayworth) who’s either the ultimate victim or the spider at the centre of the web.  It’s the movies multiplied by themselves, liberated from the need to make rational sense.  Impossibly beautiful or vivid faces loom at us in close-up, reciting phrases like those we’ve heard a thousand times before: “I’m not what you think I am, I just try to be.”  “Keep trying, you just might make it.”  Yet the film is more than a stylistic tour de force; not far beneath the dazzlement there’s the tang of a personal bitterness, a knowledge of what it means to have gambled and lost. JW

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Sydney Festival 2015: The Famous Spiegeltent

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
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Portable: The Famous Spiegeltent takes 12 hours to erect. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

For over a decade The Famous Spiegeltent has been a landmark venue for Sydney Festival, and it’s a fair bet that few who have set foot inside haven’t paused for a moment in genuine awe before the gorgeous interior of polished wood, antique stained glass and cunningly positioned mirrors.

Australian producer David Bates has owned The Famous Spiegeltent since 2000, the first year he brought it Down Under for the Adelaide Fringe. “I had been using it as a venue at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1996, but this was the first time anyone had seen it in Australia.”

Bates had first played in it as a jazz musician in 1987, and immediately fell under its spell. “I loved it as a performance space, but also the intimacy of it means that the audience falls in love with the experience.”

If you’ve not encountered Spiegeltents before, some explanation is in order.

Also known as “mirror tents” they’re a unique Belgian invention, originally designed in the late 19th century as a portable dancehall to be transported around towns that did not have their own permanent venue.

Hence they are cleverly designed such that no piece is too heavy for a single person to carry: an achievement that not even IKEA can match.

“There’s about 3000 pieces, it’s like a big jigsaw puzzle,” Bates says. “But when you’re in it, it feels like a permanent building.”

When it’s not at the Sydney Festival it travels all around the world in two 40-foot shipping containers before being erected wherever required. “It takes about 12 hours to assemble, and then it takes a day or two to put in the lights and sound and get it ready for the productions it’s going to house.”

The venues has done a lot of road miles too. The Famous Spiegeltent was constructed in 1920 and spent its formative years travelling around dances and festivals in the Flanders region of Belgium as recently as the 1960s.

In fact, if you were living in Antwerp in those pre-Tinder days, the intricate glasswork of a Spiegeltent was your best bet for unobtrusively checking out the local talent.

“They’re bevelled mirrors, so you can see angles,” Bates explains with a chuckle. “When they were used as travelling dancehalls you could check out people in the mirrors without being seen. In fact, someone recently told me that there was a Belgian expression for them as a result: a tickle or flirting-garden.”

In fact, that flirting had a direct influence on this year’s Sydney Festival. Were it not for The Famous Spiegeltent, the Sydney Festival Director may not even exist.

“My grandparents actually met in this very Spiegeltent,” Belgian-born Lieven Bertels reveals with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Famous Spiegeltent!”

It sounds almost too good to be true, but he’s done his research: “This tent was from the northern part of Flanders and we know my grandparents met in a Spiegeltent, and this is the only one that toured,” he explains. “Thus it must have been this one!”

Future festival directors aside, it’s a space that’s also particularly beloved by artists. After all, how often can one stand on the same stage that has supported everyone from festival mainstays like La Clique, the Cat Empire and Amanda Palmer to global legends like Marlene Dietrich?

“There’s a sense of mystery in the tent, it asks you to go a bit further than just performing a regular gig,” says actor/performer Brendan Maclean. “And because it’s usually housing three shows a night there is always a little community of artists waiting just outside the exit door, all from different backgrounds and often different countries. Whole new projects have started from that camaraderie.”

“It can be very hot playing them in summer, but excellent because the stage is low and the audience is close and you can see everyone’s faces,” enthuses singer/songwriter Holly Throsby. “Plus wood and mirrors and painted flowers!”

With The Famous Spiegeltent approaching its first century as a working venue, there are still a few performers that Bates would love to see on that historical stage.

“Tom Waits or Nick Cave would be perfect,” he enthuses. “Of course they’re too big to be in venues like this, but their music is so intimate: they would be perfect.”

The Famous Spiegeltent is located in the Sydney Festival Village, open until January 26.

2015’s Spiegeltent must-sees:

Camille O’Sullivan: Changeling The Irish-French singer, a favourite of many local musicians, brings her passionate touch to music by Arcade Fire, Nick Cave and Radiohead. $50-$65. 8pm. Until January 18.

Black Cabaret A subversive, hilarious take on black-white relations in Australia – with song and dance. $45-$55. 8pm. January 20-25.

Jessica Pratt It’s not all circus and cabaret: this San Francisco singer-songwriter has a soulful voice that will grip you. Making her Australian premiere. $39. 5.45pm. January 10.

The Wau Wau Sisters: As Naked As the Day They Were Born This New York burlesque duo are festival favourites, and for a reason: expect nudity, energy and belly laughs. $41-$55. 10.30pm. January 20-25.

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Charlie Hebdo shootings: Paris has changed

While 12 people were being murdered in my neighbourhood, I was safely tucked away in a classroom on the other side of the Seine. Only a chance glimpse at a news website warned me that France’s worst terrorist attack in decades had unfolded just a couple of blocks from my apartment.
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Many Parisians would have been enjoying similar states of oblivion as they left their workplaces on a typically grey winter afternoon in Paris. Instead, they emerged to images of police all over the city, hunting down those responsible for the killings.

The 11th arrondissement in Paris’ east has been my home since I moved to France 18 months ago to study. It is a thriving neighbourhood, the streets lined with beautiful old buildings and dozens of boulangeries, cafes and shops.

On Wednesday morning, it became the site where 12 people were slain with chilling efficiency at the home of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Despite the gunmen not having been captured, the streets were brimming as I walked home that afternoon. My neighbourhood appeared as untainted by terror as it had when I left it that morning. Outraged at the attack on their city, thousands of Parisians gathered at Place de la  République, bereft of anger and pens raised respectfully.

Many of those chanting “Je suis Charlie” had probably never read the controversial publication. But that wasn’t the point; it was the violation of the values that the French have held dear since the 18th century storming of the Bastille – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

As France observed a day of mourning on Thursday, the traumatised capital tried to get on with la vie normale. But it was different. Friends told me their usually chaotic peak-hour metro was so serene they were able to get a seat – a minor miracle in Paris.

Not far from the shootings, the market at the Place de la Bastille – the great icon of the French Revolution – was open as usual, but unusually quiet. So, too, was the normally busy Rue de Rivoli in the adjacent 4th arrondissement.

At the Louvre, the threat of terrorism deterred neither the tourists in long queues, nor the vendors selling miniature Eiffel towers. The sobering appearance of armed police was the only sign that something was amiss.

Among the tourists walking along Rue de Rivoli headed for the Louvre were Steve and Kathy from Sydney. The couple had also been in the Sydney city centre when the terrorist attack occurred at the Lindt Café.

Unlike that situation, they said, Paris was not in full lock-down, although the police presence was palpable. While the Sydney attack seemed more random, the attack in Paris was more eerily calculating.

“It is an attack on free speech,” Steve said.

While the crowd at République delivered a strong message to terrorists – “Not Afraid” – this defiance masks a deep sadness and vulnerability. Perhaps it was perpetuated by French President Francois Hollande’s troubling revelation that several terror attacks had been foiled in recent weeks.

Could the city’s people continue to take the metro, walk the dog, go for a run late at night, in the naïve belief that faceless people weren’t plotting to inflict harm?

“Paris a changé,” says a waitress at a café a couple of blocks from the shootings. Paris has changed.

“Yesterday I was shocked. Today I am sad. Tomorrow I will be more engaged,” she says. She did not join the vigil at République; she has two small children and was afraid.

At another café, Parisian couple Nathalie and Sebastien discuss the attack on their city. “I don’t want to be afraid, because then they win,” Nathalie says. “Anywhere in Paris is dangerous. These acts are not isolated any more. Even if we find these men, it’s not going to stop these attacks. But they will not make us shut our mouths. And I encourage journalists not to shut their mouths.”

Carol Nader is a former Age journalist completing a Master of Public Health in Paris. 

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