Golden staph declines in Australian public hospitals.

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

Unpleasant experience: Jade Gibson, 11, of Floraville, became ill and achy and fainted after a tooth extraction and was soon diagnosed with golden staph. Picture: Marina Neil.GETTING two baby teeth removed in November ended up being more than just a pain in the jaw for 11 year old Jade Gibson.
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The Floraville resident was recently diagnosed with a staphylococcus aureus infection –otherwise known as golden staph.

While it was impossible to identifyexactly when andhow it happened, Jade’s family believe the infection got inthroughthe wounds from her toothextractions.

“It’s common to find staph in your nose or on your skin …I’ve done a bit of reading on it since,” Mrs Gibsonsaid.

“But it’s in there for good now.”

Jade had gone to bed with “a bit of a headache” after getting two teeth removed.

“I gave her some Panadol and she went to school the next day,” Mrs Gibson said.

“But I had a call from the school saying that Jade was really distressed about a sore shoulder.

“When I picked her up, I’d never seen her so upset. She was in a lot of pain, and she was complaining about a pain in her leg as well.”

Jade ended up in John Hunter Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with golden staph.

An x-ray revealed the infection had “attached” to the growth plate in her shoulder.

“I had to have canulas in my arm, with my arm straight the whole time, and I had to stay in hospital for five nights and six days,” Jade said.

“I had one canula in for a long time and one night I cried because it hurt that much.”

Jade has since been on strong antibiotics and continues to be monitored.

While Jade’s case was likely to be more of a community-based infection, theAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare has just releasedits latest report into the incidenceof healthcare-associatedgolden staph in hospitals across the country.

The report showsrates ofstaphylococcus aureus infections in Australianpublic hospitals had decreased by 17 per cent from 2011-to-2012 to 1,440 cases in 2015-to-2016.

Hunter New England Health infectious diseases physicianDr John Ferguson saidthe Calvary Mater Hospitalhad shown the biggest improvement in the region, with rates of staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections improving from 2.8 per 10,000 bed days, to 1.3. The John Hunter Hospital also had a rate of 1.3.

“Our major trouble has always been the Calvary Mater, but they’ve really gotten on top of it now this year,” Dr Fergusonsaid.

He said better hand hygiene across all Hunter siteshad contributed to the decline in staph rates, with a staff compliance of 87 per cent.

The Australian public hospital report showed handhygiene compliance in public hospitals increased from 71.8 per centto 83.6.

Coalfields residents urged to stay vigilant following spate of deliberately-lit bushfires

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

DELIBERATE: The Abermain bushfire, which tore through 800 hectares last month, was the work of an arsonist. Picture: Marina Neil.RESIDENTS in known arsonist hot zones throughout the Lower Hunter have been urged to keep an eye on suspicious activity amid concerns that Friday’s forecasted heatwave could become a day too good for firebugs to refuse.
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Authorities are convinced it was “more than just mere coincidence” that bushfires have erupted around the Coalfields towns surrounding Kurri Kurri during “perfect” bushfire weather including high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.

There was a collective sigh of relief for investigators on Thursday when four fire experts from the RuralFire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW were able to confirm that the blaze which ripped through about 20 hectares near Luxford during the heatwave conditions on Wednesdaywas sparked by an earthing wire from a power pole in bushland.

But as firefighters got the upper hand on the Loxford fire on Wednesday night, some crews were forced to rush to the Hunter Economic Zone to put out a blaze believed to have started from fireworks.

It follows a series of blazes, including last month’s 800-hectare inferno which threatened properties around Abermain and Neath, being confirmed as deliberately-lit.

It is understood Central Hunter police have identified suspects but have remained unable to lay charges because of a lack of evidence.

And no one has ever beencharged with the spate of fires around Kurri Kurri five years ago, where an arsonist is believed to have sparked at least 60 blazes in one summer including several which threatened properties.

“We always ask residents to stay vigilant,’’ RFS Lower Hunter zone manager Superintendent Jayson McKellar said.

“And with the heatwave conditions predicted, we urge people that if they see something they think is suspicious, that just doesn’t look right, then contact authorities.’’

A total fire ban has been declared across parts of NSW, including the Greater Hunter area, on Friday with temperatures predicted to soar into the 40-degree celsius range.

Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector George Radmore said rural crime investigators were continuingto look into the spate of deliberately-lit blazes, including the massive Abermain fire.

“These fires do not light themselves,’’ Detective Inspector Radmore said.

Paying for the right to celebrate Anzac Day

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

Thousands of Australian servicemen and women gave their lives defending, among other things, the democratic right to assembly and free speech.
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Their sacrifice is commemorated in towns and citiesevery Anzac Day when generations of Australians gather to remember and honour the deeds of our Diggers.

It is hard to believe that a day as sacred and significant as Anzac Day could be threatened because RSL sub-branches cannot afford the cost of providing security for their marches.

But as much as we may shudder at the thought of an Anzac Day march becoming a terrorist target, the reality is that proud symbols of freedomhave become potentialtargets for those seeking to destroy our democracy.

Melbourne police foiled a plot in which a man planned to behead a police officer during a 2015 Anzac march.

The Islamic State terrorist attack on Bastille Day celebrations in France last year served as another soberreminder of the potential threat, even if it is small, on similar gatherings in Australia.

It is logical that extra security precautions may be needed in the present climate, particularly in large city gatherings, but how much is necessary and who should pay?

Four Blue MountainsRSL sub-branches have already indicated they are unable to pay the thousands of dollars required to install additional security barriers along their march routes this year.

In the Hunter, sub-branches around Maitland are calculating how much it may cost to protectAnzac Day services. They readily acknowledge that withoutassistance these costs may be prohibitive.

In Newcastle, the city council will continue to underwrite the cost of traffic management and security measures. This will allow the city’s mainservices to continue as they have in past years.

As much as the idea of providing extra security to protect Anzac Day services will be an affront to many Australians, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Hopefully any security measures that are needed will not take away from the tradition and spirit of the services. All levels of government can playa role in sharing the costs of providing the necessarysecurity.

One thing is certain though, RSL sub-branches should not be required to pay to hold Anzac Day services.

Issue: 38,439

OpinionBe brave and speak up for your rights

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

TIME TO BE BRAVE: Human rights advocate for people with disability – and the author of this article – Leigh Creighton.Human rights violations happen only in far away, mostly war-torn countries right?
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In Australia, our lucky, war-free country, virtually every person with a disability experiences rights violations at some point in their life. For many, these violations occur not just once, but daily.

I know what it’s like. Born with Down syndrome, I’m a passionate human rights advocate for people with disability. I have spent my days helping people with a disability know their rights and speak up for them as a peer pentor for House with No Steps since 2013. I also serve as a member of Community Disability Alliance Hunter and the Disability Council NSW, an official advisory board to the state government.

I know – only too well – how common human rights violations are for people with disability. Multiple forms of rights violations occur every day, in every state and territory, in aspects of life most people take for granted, such as housing, employment, and access to public transport. How would you feel if you struggled to find and keep a job, due to discrimination? Or if you weren’t free to choose where to live, and who you lived with?

Why are people with disability so much more likely to experience rights violations? For one thing, often they can’t be involved in decisions in their own life – from what they have for breakfast, to what they wear, to which doctor they see. This means they’re especially vulnerable to rights violations and abuse. Research has shown that more than a quarter of people who report sexual assault have a disability.

The fact that human rights violations still remain common in a lucky country like Australia is a tragedy. Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. Our country even has a Disability Discrimination Act, which is meant to protect people and promote equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal access for people with disabilities.

Despite these protections, in 2015 the United Nations Human Rights Council raised serious concerns about human rights violations against Australians with disability, in a periodic review of human rights in our country. As part of this review, local not-for-profits flagged a range of issues -including forced sterilisations, violence against people with a disability, and the indefinite detention of people with disability in the criminal justice system, as urgent concerns that need addressing.

It’s especially upsetting that, often people with a disability may not even realise that their rights are being violated, as they don’t know their rights. Worse,many do know but are too afraid to speak up, fearing they will get into trouble.

It’s time this changed. The tragedy of human rights violations in Australia must not be ignored. We need to be brave and speak up about the situations of abuse and neglect affecting some people with disability.

We need to help people with disability to know their rights, and give them the support they need to speak up, and make a complaint if they feel their rights are not being respected. People who can’t speak up, for whatever reason, can get someone to do so for them but unfortunately help isn’t always nearby. This is why we really need more advocates and self-advocacy groups, to make sure help is available for everyone.

Everyone has the right to speak up, speak loud and clear, no matter what the issue is.

Leigh Creighton is a peer mentor forHouse with No Steps

Strike Force Raptor: Sawn-off firearm and ammunition found during search of Telarah home of Bandidos associate

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

CRACKDOWN: The Hunter-based Strike Force Raptor has charged an associate of the Bandidos bikie gang after allegedly locating a sawn-off rifle during a search of a Telarah property as part of the region bikie gang operation. A MANwith close ties to the Bandidos hasbeen charged over a stolen sawn-off rifle allegedly found during a search of a Telarah property by the Hunter’s anti-bikie squad.
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Police said officers had issued a 48-year-old man with a firearms prohibition orderon Thursday before a search of the property allegedly uncovered the loaded shortened rifle and more ammunition at the Brooks Street address.

The man was taken to Maitland police station where he was chargedwith possessing an unauthorized firearm, possessing an unregistered firearm, possessing a shortened firearm, possessing ammunition without licence or permit, not keeping a firearm safe storage, and possessing a stolen firearm.

Police will allege the firearm was stolen during a break-in in 2011.

Strike Force Raptor police will allege the man was a close associate with the Bandidos bikie gang.

It came as officers also searcheda Barnsleyhome belonging to the Telarah man’s son, who is also suspected of having links with the Bandidos.

Police allegedly seized a .45 Colt revolver, ammunition, a BB gun, a replica pistol, cannabis and steroids.

The son, 24, was arrested at the location and taken to Belmont police station, where he was charged with possessing an unregistered firearm-pistol, possessing a prohibited drug, and possessing ammunition without licence or permit.

The searches were the latest in almost 30 firearms prohibition orders planned to be handed to bikiesand associates as part of a Hunter-wide crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Fairfax Media has revealed the Hunter-based squad had already seized at least 18 firearms from registered owners.

It also comes a day after the arrest of high-ranking Finks bikie Adam Luke Gould, who walked into Newcastle police station after being hunted by police investigating a wild brawl between the Finks and Nomads at Wallsend last month.

Mr Gould, 32, was charged with affray and using an offensive weapon after a baseball bat was allegedly used in the Thomas Street melee on December 9.

The brawl erupted after gang members coincidentally arrived at service stations across the road from one another.

At least one Nomads member, 26, needed treatment in John Hunter Hospital for his injuries.

Mr Gould, who was a high-ranking member of the Comanchero, had “patched over” to the Finks before becoming an office bearer with the gang’s Newcastle chapter.

In doing so, he had cut off a tattoo above his right eye whichhad read ACCA –Always Comanchero Comanchero Always.

Facial tattoos including “Fear None” remain across his cheeks.

Mr Gould was refused bail in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday on the charges.

He will also need to answer to an 18-monthgood behaviour bond he had received over his participation in a brawl in a Kurri Kurri hotel in 2015.

Police have also handed a court attendance notice to a second Finks member over the Wallsend brawl.

The Cessnock man will face a charge of being in custody of an offensive implement in a public place.

He will face court on February 23.

The Strike Force Raptor crackdown will continue across the Hunter for at least another six weeks.

Newcastle Anglican priest George Parker at centre of 2001 court controversy

10/12/2018 Posted by admin

Deceased: Former Newcastle Anglican priest George Parker has died only two weeks after he was charged with 24 child sex offences, including five counts of buggery, against two young boys in the 1970s.FORMER Newcastle Anglican priest George Parker has died only threeweeks after he was charged with 24 child sex offences against two young boys in the 1970s.
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Father Parker, 79, was first charged with child sex offences in 2000. But in a controversial Newcastle District Court case in 2001, four charges relating to the sexual assault ofthe young boys were no-billed after an Anglican church register was produced during the trial.

No-billed matters are withdrawn from court but can be resumed at a later date if there is further evidence.

Newcastle Police Strike Force Arinya-2 Detective Acting Inspector Jeff Little reinstated the no-billed offences and charged the priest with 20 fresh offences, including five counts of buggery, after travelling to Ballarat on December 23.

It followed extensive investigations and new statements from the two men about multiple sexual assaults by Father Parkerbetween 1971 and 1975, from when they were 10 and eight.

In 2010one of the men received a public apology from the then Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran for the diocese’s handling of the matter, including former Bishop Roger Herft writing to him in June, 2004 and incorrectly stating Father Parker had been acquitted of the charges.

In the apology Bishop Farran said the man and his family “were treated inappropriately over an extended period of time by members of the Anglican Church after he reported he had been sexually abused as a child by a member of the church”, Bishop Farran said.

“I wish to extend a sincere and public apology to him and his family for their situation, and the pain and trauma they have experienced.”

The man, a former Newcastle Anglican church employee, said he repeatedly warned the diocese, from as early as 1984, that a “network” of paedophile priests preyed on children, but the diocese failed to act on the warnings.

“I told them in 1984 that ‘You’ve got anetworkof these bastards preying on altar boys’, and I named names,”the former church employee said.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to ChildSexual Abuse into how NewcastleAnglican diocese responded to allegations heard evidence in August and November about extensive church knowledge of child sex offending by priests including Peter Rushton. Evidence included church files on 36 “sexual misconduct” cases, primarily child sex allegations.

Archbishop Roger Herft became the most senior casualty of the royal commission when he resigned in December, after admitting he “badly” let down abuse survivors.

‘You thought you got away with it’: Cousin claims to have overheard Samantha Kelly murder

10/12/2018 Posted by admin

The last independent and confirmed sighting of Samantha Kelly was on January 20 at an ATM.Related coverage:
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Day 1: Committal hearing begins into murder of Samantha KellyDay 2: Court hears Christine Lyons thought murder victim’s children were meant to be her ownDay 3: Housemates allegedly tried to drug Samantha Kelly to death on day of murderSAMANTHA Kelly’s cousin claims she overheard Peter Arthur murder the mother-of-four, but did not report the phone call to police for 11 months.

Michelle Enright gave evidence to the committal hearing of Christine Lyons, 45, and Ronald Lyons, 44, in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Ms Kelly lived in a bungalow at the rear of a Kangaroo Flatproperty shared with the three murder accused, including Peter Arthur, who has pleaded guilty.

The three were charged with her murder as part of a “joint criminal enterprise”.

Ms Enright claimed she was on the phone to Ms Kelly the moment Arthur entered the bungalow at the rear of the Kangaroo Flat property and used a hammer to kill her.

She was asked to recite the conversation to the court without referring to her second statement, made to police on December 5. She did not mention the conversation in her first statement to police on February 10.

“Sam said they have given her something funny to drink, they gave her fluid and she was feeling a bit drowsy, funny in the head,” Ms Enright told the court.

“I had to keep calm when she told me that they were planning to kill her.

“She knew.

“She said that she overheard them and they were arguing on how they were going to do it.”

Investigators uncover the body of Samantha Kelly in bushland west of Bendigo, after she was murdered in a Kangaroo Flat bungalow in January last year.

The alleged conversation occurred in the early hours of January 21, when Ms Kelly was murdered.

Ms Enright said she then heard Ms Kelly panic as Arthur came into the room.

“I said ‘where are they now?’ and she said ‘they’re out there now arguing on how they’re going to do it’, and towards the end she said ‘here they come now’.

“That’s when they’ve gone in and I heard it.

“And then she’s muttered and she’s dropped the phone and he’s picked it up and said ‘f*** she was on the phone’.

“And I said ‘you thought you got away with it, didn’t you’.”

When asked if she heard any noise, Ms Enright said she heard a “thump, thump”.

Chris Dane, acting for Christine Lyons, questioned why Ms Enright did not contact police straight away. Ms Kelly was missing from January 20 until February 11, when her body was found buried in bushland west of Bendigo.

Mr Dane said it was a significant conversation to overlook.

“I want to suggest to you that if that conversation took place as you claim, then it would be the first thingyou would tell a police officer,” he said.

“It’s not a case of remembering, it’s a case of one of the most significant things that has ever happened in your life.”

John Desmond, representing Ronald Lyons, also questioned Ms Enright about the 11-month delay in reporting the phone call to police.

Ms Enright said she “couldn’t cope”.

“I was going to…I just felt so upset and I cried and all I can remember, I woke up the next day just living life, and didn’t realise,” she said.

“I just started living normal, I just got up the next day.

“I forgot, and then things were just coming back to me.”

Ms Enright was the only witness called on the fourth day of the committal hearing in Bendigo. The hearing continues on Friday.

Fernleigh Track: Safety in numbers on popular pathpoll

10/12/2018 Posted by admin

Safe bet: Vicki Coughlan, of Adamstown, says the more people who use the Fernleigh Track, the safer it will be for everyone. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.
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A REGULAR user of the Fernleigh Track says the more people who use it, the safer it will be.

Vicki Coughlan hopedrecent reports about people fearing for their welfare on the popular pathway would not deter them from using it, as there was safety in numbers.

The Adamstown residentuses the busy track most days, and said it was never very long before a fellow runner, walker or rider appeared.

But she was concerned a recent story by the Newcastle Herald, where two women describedfrightening encounters on the track, mightdeter people from using it.

“If people don’t use it it becomesmore isolated, and therefore more dangerous,” Ms Coughlan said.

“The more people on there the better, and the safer, it will be.”

Ms Coughlan,who is also a director of theAustralian Cycle Alliance, recommended people using the track have some personal security measures in place.

She advised peoplelet loved ones know when they might be home from using the track, or gowith a friend, and totakea mobile phone.

Edward Hore, president of theAustralian Cycle Alliance, said there was enough usage on the Fernleigh Track to justify some solar lights and entry point security cameras to help people feel safer.

“The other thing that’s really good in Victoria now is we have buzzers on posts – so as you’re walking along, if you are feeling uncomfortable, you push a button and the police are immediately notified as to where you are,” Mr Hore said.

“It makes a buzzing noise as well,so the person who is following knows that someone has been notified.

“Those are three ideas that could help make the Fernleigh Track great. It is such a magnificent place for people to walk and ride and do all the things they want to do, and it’s away from cars.”

Mr Hore said if people did have frightening incidents on the track, they needed to report them to police.

“If they are not reported, they just become ‘anecdata,’ and nothing changes,”Mr Horesaid.

“People shouldn’t be alarmed, just aware.We’d like to see more people using the Fernleigh Track.”

Anthony Bell berths Sydney to Hobart winning yacht Perpetual Loyal in Newcastle

10/12/2018 Posted by admin

Super yacht’s new home clear as a Bell | photos PORT IN A STORM: Perpetual Loyal is moored in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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PORT IN A STORM: Perpetual Loyal is moored in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

IN HAPPIER TIMES: Anthony Bell with Sydney to Hobart winner Perpetual Loyal. Picture: Anthony Bell

TweetFacebookPerpetual Loyal, two words that didn’t exactly fill Waverley Local Court on Thursday as Bell’slawyers declared he would seek a divorce from former TV presenter Kelly Landry.

Look, it’s all a bit messy. There’s an AVO involved.Erin Molan’s in there.

The boat’s nice, though, and pretty fast, as its record runto Hobart’s Constitution Dock in the bigrace would suggest.

Bell put hissuper maxionthe market soon after its famous win, and it’s tipped tofetch $5 million.

He’s been coy about it, telling the AustralianFinancial Review in October Loyalwas undergoing “modification works”.

“We’ve got offices in Newcastle,” he told the Fin.

“Just supporting the locals.”

The locals,Bell Partners’office in Honeysuckle, politely told Topics on Thursday the boss’s boat really isn’t their department.

ButNewcastle harbour will be Loyal’s“semi-permanent home”, Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club chief executive Aaron Harpham confirmed.

“It is significant. It’s obviously a world class super maxi that’s earned a fairly prestigious reputation,” Mr Harpham said.

“We’re very pleased to see the boat here, and we’re pleased he’s chosen Newcastle.”

If you’re wondering whothese people are, it’s OK. This isone of those Sydney stories.

AnthonyBell isfounder and chief executive of the accountancy firm Bell Partners, and hisclients include former Test skipperMichael Clarke, Today hostKarl Stefanovic andMorning Show hostLarryEdmur.


RETURNING: Jane Goldsmith with son James and twins Elizabeth and Lucy.

YOU knowwhat’d be hardevery night?

Thebanter on the TV news. Like, the“thanks Mitch, the Knights certainly are mediocre, nowhere’s Gav”, small talkquotient of the broadcast. Topics’d be out of chat by night three.

One who makes it look easyis NBN’s Jane Goldsmith, who returns to the desknext Saturday and is in earnesttalks with her 10-month-old twins Lucy and Elizabeth abouta full night’s sleep beforehand.

Goldsmith will helm the weekend 6pm bulletins, before taking on an extra day’s reporting from April.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I’m really excited to see my colleagues again,” she tells Topics.

“I’m a bit of a news junkie;Iwatchthe 6pm news as much as I can. I’ll be feeding one of the girls and have a cheeky look atTwitter.”

The twins, as you’d expect,havebeenlife-changingfor Goldsmith, herhusband Neil Keene and their five-year-old son James.

Short of Big Dog minding the kids, Goldsmithsays NBN has been “really fantastic” and flexible about her return.

“I’ve been lucky they’veallowed me the time and I’m not rushing back, which a lot of women in the media tend to do.”

Shout-outs aredue both sets of grandparents, she says, as well as Keene, who apparently will be suitablyembarrassed to be outed as a “super dad”.


WE’VE been combingNSW Ambulance stats onbites and stings from marine creaturesforsomething to scare you with,dear reader, and it’s a bit underwhelming.

But we punch above our weight in thestingray department, with15 in the Hunterstung badly enough to needan ambulance.

Of four stings in the state on December 30,two werea woman,25,at Stockton and another, 19, atFingal Bay. So there you go.

All roads lead to Tamworth for country musicians

10/12/2018 Posted by admin

Country mile of dreamers Victorian country singer-songwriter Kayla Dwyer is ready to make an impact at the Tamworth Music Festival in 2017. It will be her seventh time at the festival.
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The Hunter Valley’s Kirsty Lee Akers, who began as a child busker on the streets of Tamworth, is aiming to win a Golden Guitar in 2017 for best female artist. Picture: Gareth Gardner

Tamworth’s Aleyce Simmonds will release her third album at the festival. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Tumut 10-year-old Rory Phillips, pictured in Wagga last year, will be performing and busking in Tamworth in 2017. Picture: Les Smith

Tasmania’s Jean Stafford has performed at Tamworth and Nashville. Picture: Brodie Weeding

Oberon country performer Mickey Pye will perform at the 45th Country Music Festival at Tamworth. Picture: TOMORROWSTRUTHS

Canberra’s Jason Webb sings Johnny Cash in the band Counterfeit Cash and has previously performed in Tamworth.

TweetFacebookTHE SHINING STARMOST four-year-olds are lucky to be able to sing nursery rhymes, but not Kirsty Lee Akers.

She hadn’t even started school when she was busking on the streets of Tamworth.

More than two decades on the 28-year-old from Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley will be a star attraction at this year’s festival.

Akers is a Golden Guitar nominee for best female artist for her album Burn Baby Burn.

“I think this year will be my 27th festival,” she says.

“I think I’ve only missed one or two. Country music just totally runs in my family. My Nan, my aunties, my Mum, they’re all singers. I’ve been going since I was a baby. We took my little sister [Kaitlin] when she was two weeks old.”

Akers’ childhood years playing on the “Boulevard of Dreams” in Peel Street, not only provided invaluable experience, the estimated earnings of $10,000 financed her debut EP at 16.

“It’s really embarrassing,” she says. “My parents would walk up to other people busking and make me take over their limelight and ask if I could get up and sing with them. They were so lucky there was nice people busking that would let me get up and sing with them. I’d sing for 20 minutes with my little hat out and move on to the next spot.”

Not surprisingly, Akers’ childhood idol was country legend Dolly Parton.

Her voice and songs – which include the light-hearted hits Knocked Up and In Spite Of Ourselves with Bob Evans – are imbued with Parton charm.

“My Mum and Dad listened to more traditional country music, so I was obsessed with Dolly Parton my whole life growing up,” Akers says.

“She was my biggest idol and I’ve been to Dollywood about eight times now. When I got older it was more about Shania Twain and wanting to be her and the Dixie Chicks.”

THE LAUNCH PAD READY: Aleyce Simmonds will release her third album More Than Meets The Eye during the festival. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

ALEYCE Simmonds has worn many hats, and those life experiences have helped shape a raw new album to be released at the festival.

The Tamworth singer-songwriter will release More Than Meets the Eye on January 20, followed by a launchshow on January 27.

More Than Meets The Eyecharts her emotional journey home to Tamworth, where she works as a live-in motel managerin betweenother jobs and her music.

The album is Simmonds’ thirdand she believes it is more personal than her previous work, Pieces Of Me (2011) and Believe (2013).

It was inspired by her role asambassador for the Tamworth Family Support Service and the scourge of domestic violence.

The album is quite a journey because to be honest I went from a place of darkness and I found someone who changed my life,” Simmonds says.

“I moved into the light, we went through the ups and downs of the relationship and spat out the other side when we broke up and into the darkness again –and finding my way back to Tamworth.

“I came home and was surrounded by family and friends so that album kind of describes the happiness, the pain and the heartbreak and the happiness again, so I’m really proud of it.”

THE VETERAN LEGEND: Jean Stafford has been performing at Tamworth for decades. Picture: Brodie Weeding

JEAN Stafford was officially crowned theQueen of Australian Country Music in 1989 by the legendary Smoky Dawson.Decades later, sheis packing her bags to go on tour again in America next month.

Staffordhas worked with the cream of musicians in Nashville where she was given the key to the city by the governor and was made an honorary citizen in Tennessee.

After living away from her Tasmanian home for 20 years, including a stint in Tamworth for five years, she moved back to Burnie in 2009 tobeclose to her children and grandchildren.

The glamorous Stafford believes a country entertainer should look the part and has the Stetsons, fringed outfits, wigs and gowns to maintain her immaculate stage image.

“On tour you’ve always got to have your hair and make-up done because you’re meeting people all along the road,” the 67-year-old songstress says.“We wear a lot of wigs because it’s a big expense to have a hairdresser at every show.”

Stafford says her American agent has booked a range of gigs for her to perform in US theatres, casinos and dance hall venues.The multi-award winning star has lost none of her passion.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love singing and didn’t love country music,” she says.“From when I was eight or nine I took my guitar to school and the kids would get me to sing for them in the shelter shed.I was very shy, still am, and my music and my guitar were my way into people’s hearts.”

Stafford started her career at 12 before gainingnational recognition with the hit singleWhat Kind of Girl Do You Think I Am?She claimedher first Golden Guitar for best female at 25 and has since won another two andbeen inducted into theAustralian Country Music Hall of Fame Roll of Renown at Tamworth.

THE KID SEAT BOOKED: Rory Phillips, 10, will make his second trip to Tamworth this month. Picture: Les Smith

RORY Phillips does not think of palm trees and sandy beaches when he imaginesparadise.He pictures being surrounded by music and the musicians at the Tamworth CountryMusical Festival.

“Tamworth’s a music paradise,” Rorysays.

The 10-year-old from Tumut in NSW is preparing to play 15 gigs and five busking sessions at his second festival.Rory has been given the chance to work with some of the biggest names in countrymusic and is honoured to be following in their footsteps.

“I’m very excited because all the people I support went to Tamworth 20 years ago andhave the same story,” he says.

Rory’s mum, Sam Phillips, has been busying readying her son for his hectic performingschedule.Rory will be making show appearances with artists, busking, speaking on radio andplaying on two of the festival’s public stages.

THE FUTURE COUNTRY BOY: Oberon’s Mickey Pye won the 2015 Star Maker award.

COUNTRY music has always been part of Mickey Pye’s life.

“I grew up on country music, living on a property at Oberon with trucks, horses and rodeos,” the 25-year-old says.“I had a lot of respect for Slim Dusty growing up, but over time I became inspired by contemporary country guitarists like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban.”

It was always Pye’s ambition to enter the country music industry andhe began playing guitar at nine.

Oberon RSL hostedBeccy Cole and Adam Harvey when Pye was young and it forgedhis love for country music and his aspirations to be a musician.

Those aspirations were given a dramatic boost when Pye wonthe 2015 Star Maker competition.

“It shows you that youcan achieve big things, by starting small and chipping away year by year at it,” he says.

Pye isinvolved with the Bathurst Academy of Music, where hepasses down his knowledge to the next generation.

THE OPPORTUNITY CAREER MOVE: Kayla Dwyer plans to record an album this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign.

IT’Snosurprise Kayla Dwyer hasTamworthhigh onher2017 agenda.It will be thesinger-songwriter’s seventh trip tothecountry music capital.In that time, the 25-year-old has learnt the value of continuity.

“I went a couple of years in a row and then had a break for a year,” Dwyer says.“The thing with Tamworth is it is all about the connections you make and missing that one year put me back in line a little bit. Now with this being my fifth year in a row coming up, I have developed a really strong network which allows me to play at some great spots.”

Originally from Warrnambool, Dwyer recently made a strategic moveto Melbourne.

“The move to Melbourne was very much about opening up more doors for my music,” shesays.

And it has. Dwyer will record an album this yearafter a successful crowdfunding campaignraised $20,000.

“I have worked hard, I have done the four or five shows a week on the pub circuit,” shesays.“I will keep working hard and developing my own style, which hopefully will give me a point of difference.”

THE FAN MAN IN BLACK: Jason Webb’s love of imitating Johnny Cash began on the karaoke circuit.

JASONWebb was helping a mate withkaraoke at Canberra’sCalwell Tavern 10 years ago and after listening to people wreck some of his favourite songs he swore he would never sing himself.

“I said to my mate you’ll never hear me speak on that microphone, let alone sing,” Webb says.“And sure enough, six months later I was up singing.”

Webb is happy to admit he doesn’t have a musical background, he doesn’t play an instrument, had only sung in the shower before going public at karaoke.

However, Johnny Cash alwaysintrigued Webb. The early stuff from his hey days tothe later music when he teamed up with rock producer Rick Rubin and covered the Nine Inch Nails’ song Hurt.

It was Webb’s love of singing Cash during karaoke sessions that eventually led to his big break.After getting in contactwith some experienced musicians who had played in bands across the country andshared a love of The Man In Black,Counterfeit Cash was born.

The band also features Vinny Hellen (guitar, harmonica, mandolin),Pete Redding (bass) and Noel Walker (drums).

Webb also performs with Brew’n, a country rock act based in Canberra, and has been to Tamworth the past four years with them.

He is working on an original single called 50 Years, about a Vietnam veteran still having dreams about the war, 50 years on. It was inspired by the Redgum song I was only 19.

“If I get that song up I’d love to head back to Tamworth next year with that,” Webb says.

And the idea of taking Counterfeit Cash there one day appeals too.

“You never know, we’d have to see how it all played out, but that would be a bit of fun.”

Our country correspondents: Josh Leeson, Haley Craig, Libby Bingham, Bradley Jurd, Nicole Barlow, Anthony Brady andKaren Hardy.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.