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Clarence Valley News

ALP reveals its candidate for Clarence



ALP reveals its candidate for Clarence

 By Tim Howard

 The head of an agency that has been working on the front lines of disaster recovery in the Northern Rivers has nominated as the ALP candidate for Clarence in next year’s State election.

The CEO of Anglicare North Coast, Leon Ankersmit, has just been endorsed as the ALP as its candidate for the March election.

Mr Ankersmit, who has a PhD in social work concentrating on developing partnerships and collaboration with people working in child protection, believes a Labor government was the best way for the Clarence speed up its recovery from recent setbacks.

He has found his studies have been beneficial to his work with Anglicare helping people recover from the fire, flood and pandemic disasters which have hit the region in the past three years.

He has been dismayed at the slow response from government agencies and their approach and this dismay was his tipping point to get into politics.

Mr Ankersmit said he was not your “typical Labor” candidate.

“I don’t have a union background,” he said “I’ve never been in a union and I don’t go into the socialist stuff.

“Coming into politics I will listen to the voices of the community,” he said.
“Those voices could be individuals, groups, chambers of commerce, councils or large employers.

“Each category will have a voice which will I will listen to. I don’t come with all the answers, but I will represent the voices of the community if I am elected to represent this electorate in Sydney.”

He said one of the most pressing needs in the Clarence electorate was to rebuild the flood ravaged road network.

“Roads are in an atrocious state after the floods and councils are too cash strapped to deal with them,” he said.

“More money has to go to councils to allow them to fix the roads. This is a clear role for an incoming Labor Government.”

He said roads were not the only infrastructure in a bad way in the region.

His work with Anglicare daily brought home the lack of affordable housing in the region.

He said politics “as normal” cannot improve the situation for people struggling with the cost of housing.

“In Australia there used to be a permanent rental population of around 25%,” he said.

“In the past few decades that’s grown to 40%. The problem has been we relied on the private rental market which is subject to the forces of supply and demand.

“As the demand rose and supply didn’t match it the results were high rentals.”

He said there needed to be long and short term changes to turn this trend around.

Long term he would like to see governments support initiatives like Build to Rent, where superannuation funds and corporates were encouraged to invest in community housing.

“In the short term there needs to be change in tenancy laws to give tenants more say,” he said.

“I understand landlords need protection from problem tenants, but tenants need protection from having rents raised so much it forces them onto the street.”

He said fixing the housing crisis would have a massive flow on into other problem areas.

“Families with roofs over their heads are stable and have fewer domestic issues,” he said.

“Kids from stable homes go to school, they’re not as exposed to domestic disputes, they live healthier lifestyles.

“Todays kids are tomorrow’s adults. They will be the ones shaping the future.”

Mr Ankersmit has also been dismayed by the LNP ambivalence toward climate change.

“There are not too many farmers or people working on the land who would say climate change is not happening,” he said.

“The Nationals have got caught up in climate change scepticism and can’t bring themselves to do what’s needed.

“We’ve had major bushfires followed by major floods. We need to plan for events that are going to happen, but The Nationals don’t want to cause too much agitation.”

He said the government response has been far too slow.

“I’ve Just been to Hobart where I was talking with people who had got through the fires in Cobargo,” he said.

“People are still living in tents and temporary accommodation three years later.

“Here the people living in pod cities after the floods are facing living there for years unless things change.”

He said there were some tough decisions facing people in flood prone areas.

“With fires you build to resist fires, but floods you have to decide whether you re-build or move away,” he said.

“We’re not having that conversation. We don’t need to panic, but we need have a conversation and ask those hard questions.”

Mr Ankersmit, whose family lives in Maclean, has been in the Clarence for the past 15 years, with 10 of those working for Anglicare.

“I’ve only joined the Labor Party a few years ago and people ask me why,” he said.

“They say Labor’s wedded to the unions and with union memberships low it has undue influence.

“I would say the other side is wedded to business interests and ask is it reasonable that one side can have collective representation while the other is criticised for it.”

He said his decision comes from a different place.

“When I look at what’s needed to energise the vulnerable and those left behind, Labor has the most to offer them,” he said.

“I have worked for faith-based organisation and people ask me how I justify joining Labor. I see Christianity as fighting for the underdog.

“I’m not a rusted on ideologue, I’ve never been one for unions or socialism.

“Philosophically with my faith I’ve worked with helping people struggling and when I look at politics and ask whose policies best reflect that, it’s Labor.”

Mr Ankersmit’s main opposition is likely to be former Clarence Valley Mayor and radio personality Richie Williamson.

Mr Williamson and current Clarence Valley Councillor Allison Whaites were in a battle for pre-selection for The Nationals, after incumbent Chris Gulaptis announced he would retire at the end of this term in parliament.

Mr Ankersmit said Clarence Valley residents should take heed of polling which showed the LNP Government was on the nose.

A recent poll showed support for ALP at more than 43% and support for the government plummeting 12% to 30%.

“It would be better for Clarence to have a member in a new Minns, ALP government than an inexperienced member in a beaten party transitioning into opposition,” Mr Ankersmit said.

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Clarence Valley News

Our Seniors Are Tops!




Seniors Achievement Award

Our Seniors Are Tops!


State Member for Clarence Richie Williamson has shown his appreciation for the invaluable contributions of seniors in our community by presenting the inaugural Seniors Achievement Award in Lawrence today.

During this year’s Senior’s Week celebrations, Mr. Williamson called upon the community to nominate individuals and groups who exemplify dedication and commitment to enhancing the Richmond and Clarence valleys.

“I was thrilled to receive numerous nominations showcasing the remarkable efforts of seniors and senior’s groups,” Mr. Williamson said. “These individuals and organisations consistently go above and beyond, supporting various aspects of community life, from maintaining community halls to providing essential transport services.”

The first Seniors Achievement Award was awarded to Connect You Too, a not-for-profit community-based organisation dedicated to enhancing the lives of residents in the Clarence Valley. Connect You Too offers a vital range of services, including transportation for people of all ages, meal delivery in Iluka, Maclean, and Yamba, non-emergency medical transport, shopping excursions, and social outings. With a team of 60 volunteers and staff, Connect You Too plays a pivotal role in fostering community well-being.

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the board, volunteers, and staff of Connect You Too,” remarked Mr. Williamson. “Their outstanding commitment to serving seniors and the broader community is truly commendable, making them deserving recipients of this prestigious achievement award.”

Mr. Williamson anticipates presenting additional achievement awards across the Richmond and Clarence Valleys in the forthcoming weeks, further acknowledging the exceptional contributions of seniors and senior’s groups.


For more seniors news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Mayor to “eyeball” AG over courthouse hours cut




Attorney General

Mayor to “eyeball” AG over courthouse hours cut


By Tim Howard

Clarence Valley mayor Peter Johnstone is brushing up on his diplomatic kung fu, after his fellow councillors voted to have him “eyeball” the NSW Attorney General over a state government decision to cut service hours at Maclean Courthouse.

At its March meeting, the council indicated it was not satisfied with the government’s response to a letter to the Attorney General, Michael Daley, in December 2023, advocating that face to face services at Maclean Courthouse, remain the same.

Instead the parliamentary secretary to the Attorney General, Hugh McDermott’s reply, indicated the cuts to services would remain.

“The Attorney General has asked me to respond on his behalf, Mr McDermott wrote.

“I’m informed that in May 2023, court services in the Department of Communities and justice initiated a change in the level of face to face service delivery at Maclean based on the low level of demand for this service.

“The service was reduced from five days per week to five days per month.”

Crs Debrah Novak and Ian Tiley combined to provide a motion to stiffen the council’s opposition to the decision.

After fine tuning of the wording, the council settled on the motion: That council:

  1. notes the report.
  2. makes direct representations to the NSW Attorney General, seeking support of the Member for

Clarence, Hon Richie Williamson, objecting most strongly to the service hours reductions at Maclean Court House, and the mayor seek to meet the minister to convey these concerns.

Cr Novak said the decision was clearly not in the interests of Clarence Valley people.

“We have the key issues here in front of us in black and white,” she said.

“So this motion now is to go back to the NSW Attorney General and the minister with Richie on one side, the mayor on the other side to the minister saying we’re not happy with what you’ve determined.

“What you think is in our best interest because at the end of the day, it is not in our LGAs best interest to have this service downgraded.

“It’s in the state government’s best interest because it’s a cost saving measure.”

Cr Tiley said the council had little to lose and a lot to gain.

“It’s a matter of great concern, especially to the people of the Lower Clarence, as Cr Novak has well articulated that yet another important service will be lost,” he said.

“Perhaps the next one’s Ulmarra Ferry if we meekly acquiesce on this. What next will we lose?”

The approach was not to the liking of all councillors, including unlikely allies on this matter, Crs Karen Toms and Greg Clancy.

Attorney General

Cr Debrah Novak is leading the charge to keep Maclean Courthouse open five days a week, moving that the council confronts the NSW Attorney General Michael Daley over plans to cut hours of service.

Cr Toms worried the motion made it seem the council was throwing a “tanty” when a ruling didn’t go its way.

“I find this a little interesting that we’ve actually been there done this,” she said.

“We’ve got a letter back which tells us the reasons, but we as the local government council have decided we don’t like the reasons and we’re going to have another go and we’re going to get up face to face with the Attorney General.”

Cr Clancy said he was more concerned that continued opposition was “pushing a snowball uphill”.

“Are we  just putting our finger in the dyke?” he said. “Because unfortunately, the modern world is moving in the direction of less face to face, more phone or internet connection.

“The response is fairly straightforward.

“And it’s to do with the demand and the cost of keeping it open when there’s no demand.

“It would be nice to keep everything opened forever. But I really think that we’ve taken this far enough.”

Other councillors showed more fight.

Cr Steve Pickering said cutting courthouse hours was just a start to further cuts.

“It’s to cut to cut the courthouse hours from five days a week to five days a month is the start,’ he said.

“Obviously, the next step will be zero days per month and then everybody in Yamba and Maclean will be traveling to Grafton to use the courthouse there, while it’s still open.

“Who knows? In two years time will we still going to have a courthouse in Grafton?

“Maybe we’ll be traveling to Coffs Harbour, but as a council we need to stand up for our community it’s not about having a tantrum.

“It’s about it’s about doing what our community would expect us to do.

“And when we receive a response that we’re not happy with, we need we need to challenge it.”

But Cr Alison Whaites disputed that Grafton could lose its courthouse, because of the presence of the new jail at near South Grafton.

“Because we’ve got Serco here and it’s busy every day I drive past and it’s packed,” she said.

‘So anyway, so I want to vote against his motion and I really don’t see the point of moving forward with this and the mayor going down and speaking to that person.”

Deputy mayor Jeff Smith said he supported the motion because he believe the community expected its leaders to fight for them.

“I was I was voted in to be an advocate for the community,” he said. “And  there’s often complaints around the LGA that are were very Grafton centric.

“Well, in this case, we’re fighting for something that’s in Maclean.

“And I’m sick of this valley losing out all the time. It loses out to Coffs and it loses out to Lismore and seems to lose out to Byron Bay constantly.

“Let’s just fight it. Let’s have another go.”

The mayor made a rare foray into debate, arguing the council needed to stand up for the region.

“I think we should go for it, shouldn’t we? he said. “I need to brush up on my martial arts skills.

“We should be fighting for our community and we need to fight for our community because otherwise we’ll be seen as a soft touch.”

Summing up, Cr Novak said in the past decade the region had lost many services to Coffs Harbour and Lismore.

“What that actually means to those people because we’ve lost those services, is people now have to travel,” she said.

“So there is a cost imposed to those people who need to access those services.

“We have a high rate of people who don’t have access to computers, who don’t have access or the skills to access computers. All that sort of stuff.

“That just pays puts the onus back on to the potential clients and I think that’s unfair.

“And and we just need to be out there fighting for what we believe is a service that should remain here in the Lower Clarence Valley.”

Council voted for the motion 6-3 with Crs Toms, Clancy and Whaites against.


For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Alstonville News

Seniors encouraged to get moving this April Falls Month




April Falls Month

Seniors encouraged to get moving this April Falls Month


Older Australians in Northern New South Wales are being encouraged to get physically active this April, to help build their strength and maintain their independence.

Better Balance for Fall Prevention is the theme of this year’s April Falls Month, an annual event held throughout April supported by the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network to encourage older adults to become more active and reduce falls.

Locally, exercise and dance classes for people aged over 50 are underway in Alstonville, Casino, Grafton, Lismore, Tweed Heads, Wardell, Yamba and across the Northern Rivers.

Health Promotion Manager, Elayne Mitchell said staying physically active is the single most important thing we can do to stay independent as we age.

“As we get older, our bodies lose muscle strength and coordination, so the more active we remain, the better chance we have of maintaining our physical function,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Improving strength and balance in our legs allows us to complete regular daily activities more easily, including getting up and down stairs, in and out of cars, negotiating uneven surfaces and reducing the risk of falling.

“Older people benefit from regular tai chi, group exercise programs, gym sessions, community-based falls prevention programs such as Stepping On, or simple exercises at home to improve muscle strength and balance.

“Research has also shown that regular exercise can reduce falls in older people by 23 per cent, but slowly building up high-challenge balance exercises can increase the effects of exercise by up to 40 per cent.”

NNSWLHD is partnering with Rotary Clubs across the District to provide pop-up Falls Prevention Awareness information stalls, where you can find out about falls prevention and healthy ageing.


  • Friday 5 April, 10am-4pm, Lismore Square, Uralba and Brewster St, Lismore
  • Sunday 7 April, 8am-midday, Iluka-Woombah Community Markets, Middle Street, Woombah
  • Thursday 11 April, 9am-2pm, Alstonville Plaza, 93 Main St, Alstonville
  • Friday 12 April – Sunday 14 April, 9am – 3pm, Bunnings, 2 Bruxner Hwy, Lismore
  • Friday 12 April – Sunday 14 April, 9am – 3pm, Bunnings, River Street and Horizon Dr, West Ballina
  • Friday 19 April, 10am-4pm, Lismore Square, Uralba and Brewster St, Lismore

The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) has collaborated with the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network to produce a range of April Falls resources for patients, families, carers and health staff.

Fall Prevention information is also available on the CEC website.

To find local physical activity and healthy lifestyle programs, including fall prevention programs, visit the Active and Healthy exercise directory. Information and advice to support older adults to be more active is also available on the Active and Healthy website. This includes home-based exercise circuits designed for beginners to follow along at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.


For more seniors news, click here.

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