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- World-class vet hospital
Gippsland Veterinary Hospital has spent more than $1 million in upgrades to its Maffra centre, with the local animal healthcare provider now boasting a world-class, 24-hour veterinary clinic. Six months ago, Gippsland Veterinary Hospital, also known as Fur Life Vet, located on Johnston Street, Maffra, completed the bulk of its most recent upgrades, which has since doubled the centre’s size, now offering animal healthcare services unheard of in regional areas. The improved 24-hour veterinary hospital is now equipped with a CT machine, hydrotherapy pool, pathology and diagnostic laboratory, x-ray machine, surgical facilities, ICU and hospital ward, dental unit and a medical warehouse. Gippsland Veterinary Hospital’s upgrades have been a long time coming as growth and demand for veterinary services in the region have continued to rise. The COVID pandemic led to more households adding ‘fur members’ to the family. Gippsland Veterinary Hospital veterinarian and clinical lead Katherine Snell said they faced a substantial increase in client base and workload. “We had already outgrown our existing clinic prior to COVID; it had been outgrown for years,” Dr Snell said. “It had been a long-term process to get this building planned and underway, but during COVID, the growth was exceptional. That has led us to increase renovations during renovations to service the increased demand we hadn’t expected.” While Maffra’s Gippsland Veterinary Hospital has long been known for its demand in dairy surgery and medicine, Dr Snell says there has since been a shift towards smaller animals. “Maffra has been renowned for its dairy medicine and dairy surgery, but even in my ten years, I have gone from a 70 to 80 per cent dairy caseload to what now is a 70 to 80 per cent small animal caseload,” Dr Snell said. “We still are servicing quite a large number of farms, and we still have significant growth in that area, which is where our Pro Dairy offerings come into play, being able to develop herd-health protocols, preventative herd-health. “But it really has been our small animal family that has grown, in terms of the number of pets people own, but also the level of care they expect their pets to receive. “No longer do they just get sub-standard medical; it is as good or even better than human medical care these days.” Clinical coordinator Tanya Lowe said that offering services not typically available in regional areas, such as a CT machine, state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and a hydrotherapy pool, enables the Maffra animal healthcare facility to fulfil people’s expectations. “You go to the hospital, and you wait for blood results for four hours; here, you’ll have them in half an hour,” Mrs Lowe said. “You go for an ultrasound, you’ll have results next week. Here, you’ll have an ultrasound, and you’ll know what’s the plan straight away. “We are very much about if there is an issue, that issue will be solved in-house as soon as possible.” Renovations at the Maffra Gippsland Veterinary Hospital have not only allowed the staff to provide clients with unmatched animal health care, whether that be general check-ups, vaccinations, dental services, surgery, or emergency care, but they have also greatly benefited the community in Maffra and the surrounding area. The Maffra Gippsland Veterinary Hospital has hired eight new veterinarians in the past year, bringing the total number of employees to more than 55, with all 35 support staff from the local community. “What has come into the community has been considerable,” Mrs Lowe said. “A lot of our new vets, who have come from interstate and overseas, have purchased properties in the local area,” Dr Snell said. Maffra Gippsland Veterinary Hospital is one of the few clinics in Australia unscathed by the current vet shortage, boasting a full-staffing roster with a total of 15 veterinarians and still growing. Dr Snell believes the clinic’s success is a testament to the Maffra and surrounding community. “We’ve got a really welcoming community that just embraces new vets and new nurses to town, get them involved in sporting clubs,” she said. “Plus the environment we live in – the beaches, the rivers; if there is an interest they have, there is generally something within our local environment that fills that. “Housing prices are generally affordable; like I said, most of our vets now own houses within the district. Thanks to that, we’ve got a really happy team that is backing the trend.”
- Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club serving again
Everyone said she was crazy, everyone said she couldn’t do it, but Olivia Sclater is the one who’s laughing now. The kitchen at Seaspray Surf Life Savings Club (SSLSC) has been dormant since the beginning of COVID. What once was the place to be, drawing folks from far and wide, helping transform the streets of Seaspray into a bustling coastal getaway, quickly became desolate – until now. Twenty-five-year-old Olivia Sclater, a hospitality veteran with extensive local and international experience, with fond memories of summers in Seaspray, took on the challenge to reignite the magic at the SSLSC despite persistent misgivings from those around her. “I started working here [SSLSC ] last year, just to make some extra dosh while I’m still studying,” Ms Sclater said. “Normally, the bistro is rented out to someone, and essentially the surf club couldn’t find anyone to do that. “I WENT AWAY, TRAVELLED OVERSEAS FOR A BIT, AND WHEN I CAME BACK, THEY WERE STILL STRUGGLING.” Ms Sclater returned from her travels earlier this year and was told of the bistro’s ongoing difficulties, particularly in recruiting chefs, after speaking with SSLSC president Chris Fleming. Call it a twist of fate, divine intervention or perhaps a good old-fashioned stroke of luck. It just so happened that on her recent international venture, Ms Sclater befriended two English chefs, Sam Valentine and Kevin Douglass Ortega. “When I was living overseas, we worked together, and we talked about how they wanted to come over to Australia,” Ms Sclater explained. “Kevin has been here for about two months, and Sam got here a week before we opened the kitchen – that was super stressful. “As much as we’ve done everything in hospitality, we’ve never launched a business before, so it was like we know what we’re doing, but we kind of don’t.” Ms Sclater, SSLSC general manager, Mr Valentine and Mr Ortega, the newly appointed head chefs, officially opened the kitchen on September 23, serving 210 meals in their first weekend. “Getting it all together, bringing staff on, understanding ordering and how much you need to cover 200 odd people was a lot (to organise),” Ms Sclater said. “I THINK WE DID ALRIGHT IN THE END THOUGH.” Friday, October 14, through Sunday, October 16, was the first weekend the SSLSC was not completely booked out since the kitchen’s reopening. With the SSLSC struggling to recruit members, Yips and Nippers, which is impacting patrols and causing beach issues, the club is banking on the success of the newly-launched kitchen to reconnect the 66-year-old club and the local community. “Now that they have decided to do this themselves as opposed to renting the business out, it means that all the money does filter back into the surf club,” Ms Sclater said. “Having us [Miss Sclater, Mr Valentine and Mr Ortega] here is about bringing some money in for the club but also breathing some life back into the place, with us being quite young. “We have brought a lot of people back in. “There has already been a lot of interest and a lot of young people, like all our staff are 21 and below, which is what the club really wanted. “They are really struggling to get lifesavers, nippers, people through the ranks to essentially take over and look after the club. “So what we wanted was to put some life back into it, put some youth back into it, get some kids in here, get the locals in here and really open it back up again.” SSLSC’s success is just as meaningful to Ms Sclater for other, more personal reasons. “This is only temporary as I am about to change my career completely, I am about to become a teacher, so this is my last gig in hospitality,” she said. “So this has been such a nice ending to 12 years in hospitality. “Me, Kev and Sam walked out of the pub we worked at in England because it was so horrific, they were so horrible and nasty to us. “And I love that I now get to have this last hoorah that is this business I get to make myself and set the tone for,” she said. “Really set a culture and dynamic where everyone comes in and is happy and comfortable.” Not only is Ms Sclater’s latest hospitality gig her last, making SSLSC’s success all the more special, but proving all the cynics who told her she couldn’t do it is like the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae. “When I started it, so many people were like, ‘you’re crazy, it’s not going to work, it’s going to be awful’”, Miss Sclater said. “THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE WERE SAYING ABOUT IT WERE PRETTY MUCH LIKE, RUN. “I was like, no, there is something here that definitely can be done; there is a community here that is like tough and beautiful in the same way. “I have such a soft spot for this place; I have always had a soft spot for Seaspray because I am such an ocean girl, I just always want to be by it, and having made something out of this venue after so many people said I couldn’t, I’m just a bit like ‘hell yeah’.” Summer is just around the corner, and SSLSC management team has lots installed for Seaspray throughout the season of sun. December welcomes the arrival of a hypnotist, the commencement of band rotations, boasting live music from either a band or DJ every Saturday night with a shuttle bus to and from Sale in the works for ease of transport, and Sunday sippers with live acoustics to really set the atmosphere. “It is a sick venue”, Ms Sclater said, “Summer here could be amazing”. “When I was a kid, and the caravan park was along the foreshore, we used to stay here for like a month or so, we were a Seaspray caravan park family, and they used to do all of this stuff, put bands on, they would run buses, it was mayhem, and now there is just nothing. “It is time to get that back in.”
- IBAC failures in handling complaints about police
FAMILY violence complaints allegedly perpetrated by Victorian police officers should not be investigated by Victoria Police, parliament was told last week. A report by public integrity monitor, the Victorian Inspectorate, highlighted failures by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission in handling complaints about police. The report, IBAC's referral and oversight of Emma's complaints about Victoria Police, detailed an account of a woman named Emma reporting violence perpetrated by her then-partner, a Victoria Police officer, being referred back to Victoria Police. It highlighted severe risks to complainants from such procedure. Victoria Police responses included leaking the victim's escape plan back to the perpetrator on the grounds of 'member welfare', which resulted in serious and brutal retaliatory violence against her and her children. The Victorian Inspectorate has made four recommendations detailing how IBAC could improve its handling of police complaints, marking only the second time it has tabled a public report since its formation 10 years ago. Lauren Caulfield from Flat Out, a state-wide advocacy and support service for women, trans and gender-diverse people, coordinates Beyond Survival: The Policing Family Violence Project and says sweeping failures are a shocking indictment of a system that continues to see police investigating themselves. "These sweeping failures, and the harm they cause to the victim-survivors – mainly women and children – experiencing family violence by police officers, are a shocking indictment of a system that continues to see police investigating themselves; It's a system that provides impunity to violent officers," Ms Caulfield said. "IBAC, Victoria's anti-corruption watchdog, says they will prioritise investigating and exposing harmful police responses to family violence, including violence and predatory behaviour by police, but their record so far shows serious delays, investigative mishandling and a pattern of referring the overwhelming majority of complaints back to Victoria Police. "Knowing that most complaints will be sent directly back to Victoria Police for investigation makes complaining about police responses to family violence incredibly risky for victim-survivors," she said. "Most victims we work with avoid complaining at all, leaving many harmful police responses unreported and beyond any public accountability. "For family members of police officers who are using family violence against them, the risks of making a complaint are even greater. "This is not about resourcing; it's about a system that continuously prioritises police over the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors and justice for communities," Ms Caulfield said. "The violence and harm that victims are experiencing require skilled family violence and sexual assault response, and one that is both robust, independent and specialised. "Rather than ever-more funding to police responses, and to IBAC investigations that have continued to endorse these – regardless of the harm to victim-survivors – it's time for a system overhaul." Victorian Inspectorate's special report slammed IBAC for disputing the "soundness" of its inquiry and describing the commission's approach to its review as undermining the state's integrity system, detailing a litany of issues with the police-complaints system, posing an ongoing risk to survivors of domestic and family violence. IBAC Deputy Commissioner Kylie Kilgour was quick to release a statement saying, "IBAC recognises that Emma and her children are victims of family violence perpetrated by a Victoria Police officer, and their welfare should be a priority". "Family violence is unacceptable, and there is no place for perpetrators in Victoria Police," Deputy Commissioner Kilgour said. "Victims should feel safe to come forward to both Victoria Police and IBAC. "We acknowledge Emma's frustration with the inadequate investigation by Victoria Police and the delays in handling the complaints IBAC referred to Victoria Police in 2018 and 2021. "IBAC completed a thorough review which enabled it to correct several issues with Victoria Police's investigation of Emma's 2018 complaint," Deputy Commissioner Kilgour said. "Victoria Police is still investigating elements of the 2021 complaint, and this will also be subject to review by IBAC." IBAC made clear that it supports the intent of the Inspectorate's recommendations, which relate to policies and procedures aimed at better recording of decisions, noting that these recommendations will likely require additional resources from the government to implement. "IBAC is committed to a strong Victoria Police oversight system, which ensures complaints are addressed with both transparency and accountability," Deputy Commissioner Kilgour said. "Victoria's police oversight system is a mixed civilian model, in which Victoria Police are resourced to conduct the majority of the investigations of complaints. "Without government reform to IBAC's jurisdiction and funding, which we would welcome, IBAC has little choice but to refer matters such as Emma's to Victoria Police," she said. "Through the government's current review of Victoria's police oversight system, IBAC has advocated for stronger powers to respond to and support victims of police misconduct." Deputy Commissioner Kilgour said the commission "does not wish to detract from Emma's important story, but IBAC is concerned about the process the Inspectorate followed in conducting its review. "The Inspectorate's report does not accurately or adequately reflect IBAC's role and the limitations of the police oversight system in which we operate, and it, therefore, misses an opportunity to make meaningful recommendations for reform," she said. IBAC ultimately accepted all recommendations made by the Victorian Inspectorate after examining how Emma's complaint was dealt with detailed in the report.
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