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Grafton News

Staff recognised at STRIVE Awards

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The Northern Rivers Times Edition 76

Staff recognised at STRIVE Awards

Clarence Valley Council has acknowledged the contributions of some of its top-performing staff of 2021 in the STRIVE Awards ceremony.
The annual awards are held in recognition of staff members who are considered by peers to have performed outstandingly in line with the organisation’s STRIVE values through seven awards that reflect these values.
While the Award ceremony celebrates the specific achievements of a few staff, Acting General Manager Laura Black said it was important to acknowledge all staff working at Clarence Valley Council this year. For the first time staff from across the organisation were brought together in one location.
“As an organisation we cover a large geographical footprint and it’s fair to say the logistics of being in the one place at the one time, while maintaining essential services, is not easy. However, after 17 years of being an established organisation, I believe it was an essential element of operating as one organisation and I thank the staff working group who assisted me in making this happen”, said Ms Black.
“This has been another challenging year for our employees”, she said.
“Although unsurprisingly, they have shown amazing resilience and commitment to the purpose of the organisation and to servicing the community and it’s important to recognise them for their contributions in 2021.”
The end-of-year event was held at Clarence River Jockey Club in Grafton and blended staff development activities with celebrating success.
The event was opened with a Welcome to Country by Bundjalung staff member Chris Mitchell, and featured talks by inspirational speakers Michael Crossland and Jennifer Dowd from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Strive Champion of the Year, Leah Munro, said it was a career highlight to be recognised by her peers.
Leah received her award for stepping up into a project management role and in the Prince St office refurbishment, delivered her first major project.
“I would like to thank my project team and their enormous support during the build,” she said.
“The project was a huge learning curve for me, but I enjoyed the challenge and like all projects, came with many obstacles that the team overcame together.
“The most exciting part though was seeing the positive reactions of my workmates when they first entered the finished building.
“I sit back now and look around and say, wow we really did it.
“The awards today
have showcased some extraordinary people here at Clarence Valley Council, and I am proud to be celebrating their achievements with them.”
Through Council’s merit-based recruitment process Leah has now attained a role as a permanent Project Officer and will go on to add to her career highlights delivering major community asset construction projects across the Valley.

A full list of winners can be found below:

Award winners
Trainee – Apprentice Achievement Award: Kasey Shannon
Health & Safety – Safety Star Award: Lyndsay Carmichael
Innovation – Ideas Champion: Cliff Dredge, Josh Gorman, Zac Allen
Customer Focus – Above & Beyond Service Award: Louise Tyrie, Tracy Sowell, Jacqui Hinshaw
Community Engagement Champion: Shirley King
Cross Unit Collaboration: Lindy Johnson, Doug McKenzie, Vicki Marsh, Denis Banks, Ben McPhee
Strive Champion of The Year: Leah Munro

Clarence Valley News

Second death in custody at new jail

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Clarence Correctional Centre

Second death in custody at new jail

By Tim Howard

A 29-year-old inmate has died at Clarence Correctional Centre on June, the second man to die in custody at the jail in the past six weeks.
The man, identified as Dictor Mayen Dongrin, was due to front Coffs Harbour Local Court the following day on two charges of common assault, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two of stalking and intimidation. 
A spokesperson for the jail operator Serco said Mr Dongrin was found unresponsive in a medical holding room by staff around 1.30pm and was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after.
Serco, Corrective Services NSW and NSW Police were investigating the incident.
All deaths in custody are subject to a coronial inquest.
Mr Dongrin was also involved in a apprehended domestic violence hearing with another family member
The court has ceased all proceedings involving Mr Dongrin because of his death.
The spokesperson said Serco extends its condolences to the family and friends of the man.

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Clarence Valley News

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

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Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

By Tim Howard

A former Grafton school teacher jailed for 24 years for the murder of his wife nearly seven years ago, will serve out his entire sentence.
John Wallace Edwards, 65, was convicted of the murder of Sharon Edwards in December 2019 and jailed for 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.
On February 14 a panel of three Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Judges, Stephen Rothman and Hament Dhanji unanimously rejected Edwards’ appeal against his sentence.
At the October 20 hearing, Edwards counsel argued a four-point appeal that the trial judge should have directed the jury to the availability of a manslaughter verdict, and that the murder verdict was unreasonable and could not be supported with the available evidence.
But the Appeal Court was not swayed.
They found the trial judge, Robert Hulme, had provided the jury with sufficient direction on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.
In addition the defence, while aware of the possibility of a manslaughter verdict, had not argued for it until late in the trial.
Central to the four interconnected points of the appeal was Edwards post-offence behaviour.
Edwards counsel argued the judge should have directed the jury that this behaviour should be described as “intractably neutral”, that is, it was equally indicative of manslaughter or murder.
But the appeal judges found Edwards behaviour after the events of March14-15, 2015, was that of a murderer.
Although they disagreed Edwards had provided “13 different accounts” of what happened on the night of his wife’s disappearance and almost certain death, there were certainly a number of different stories.
They found the differing versions of events and other lies Edwards told indicated he had been prepared to inflict serious injuries that could have led to the death of his wife.
One of the accounts, told to two of his sons, was he had a physical altercation with this wife on the night of her disappearance.
“…yeah he said, ‘He’d, like he’d snatched the iPad, he’d wrestled with her’…he had her hand pinned behind her back or her side and he slammed her on the floor and she hit her head and then she got up and went to bed‘,” a son told the trial jury.
The appeal judges also said evidence he had broken a bone in his right hand, described by a doctor as a “boxer’s fracture”, around the time of the offence, indicated he had been capable of inflicting a blow powerful enough to cause serious injury leading to death.
In his finding Justice Dhanji noted: “There was no evidence of any disturbance consistent with an argument on the night of the deceased’s death. Nothing of this nature was heard by the neighbours. Nor was there any evidence that the applicant was intoxicated. Even if any assault was unplanned, these matters point away from an uncontrolled outbreak of violence. In these circumstances the possibility that the applicant struck the deceased with a blow sufficiently hard to break a bone in his hand suggests a level of force consistent with an intention to cause, at least, really serious injury.
“Further, if, for example the deceased hit her head as a result of falling on a hard surface after such a blow or otherwise, death was unlikely to have been instant. For the reasons discussed above, not seeking assistance and then disposing of the body suggest, a disregard for the deceased, and point away from an intention to do something less than inflict really serious injury.”
Edwards’ determination to withhold the location of his wife’s remains, despite the pain it caused the rest of the family was another indication his wife’s death had been deliberate rather than accidental.
Other indicators, such as Edwards realisation his wife was about to leave him for another man, and financial concerns about their jointly owned properties strengthened the case for a verdict of murder.
The murder of Mrs Edwards, who disappeared after a night out with friends in Grafton in 2015, shocked the Clarence Valley.
Initially treated as a missing person investigation, on April 1 it turned into a homicide case and Edwards and the couple’s three sons made impassioned pleas for people who knew anything to come forward.
The popular teacher had no enemies, but it emerged her marriage to Edwards was finished.
During the trial it emerged she had rekindled a relationship with an old flame, William ‘Billy’ Mills, who had been with her on the night of her disappearance and they had plans to live together.
By mid 2017 and despite no sign of her body, police were convinced Edwards had killed his wife and he was formally charged with murder.
At his trial, which concluded in December 2019, a jury found Edwards guilty of his wife’s murder. Son Josh said after the trial he no longer considered Edwards his father for what he’d done to his mum.
Edwards has never hinted at the location of his wife’s body.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence of 24 years with a minimum of 18 years non-parole from June 20, 2017. His earliest release date is June 19, 2035.

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Clarence Valley News

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

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Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

By Lesley Apps

FOR the first time in its 88-year history the Jacaranda Queen program will welcome kings and ambassadors into its entourage.

While the role of Jacaranda Queen is traditionally female, to honour the inclusive spirit that festival manager and the committee have been championing over the past few years, people of all gender identities are welcome to enter the 2022 event.

Reigning Grafton Jacaranda Queen, Hanna Craig said the committee decided the time was right to recognise the diversity of gender and update the festival’s program accordingly.

“We are an inclusive organisation and welcome everyone and support safe and diverse spaces, and this move is in line with this approach,” Miss Craig said.

She said accepting how someone identifies was the right step to take.

“Acknowledging this not only supports the Festival’s contemporary approach but paves the way for other (similar) events to do the same.”

Festival manager Mark Blackadder said all entrants will be referred to as Jacaranda candidates (junior or senior).

“Winners can choose whatever title they feel comfortable with, Queen, King or Ambassador.”

While the festival committee was looking forward to welcoming a more progressive competition this year it’s not the first time the format has deviated from its all-female tradition.

In 2003 two male candidates, Wayne Herbert and Scott Kelly, showed interest in entering, causing varying degrees of controversy as the local paper reported at the time before both pulled out of the competition.

It reported Mr Kelly had partnered two Queens vying for the title in the past but wanted to be called King, while Mr Herbert, then manager of the town’s Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre, was happy with the Queen title but withdrew his candidacy after challenging the festival’s fundraising rules after he wanted to nominate his own charity rather than support the annual event.

While the Jacaranda Committee at the time (almost 20 years ago) was supportive where possible, it generated plenty of press coverage and community conversation, prompting a former queen to write to the paper to say the behaviour of the male candidates was “inappropriate and distasteful” and made a mockery of the event.

Nominations for the 2022 Grafton Jacaranda Festival Queen, King or Ambassador are now open. A candidates information evening will be held at the Grafton District Services Club on Friday, March 18, 6pm. For more information on the Grafton Jacaranda Festival visit: www.jacarandafestival.com

Caption: Reigning Jacaranda royal party, from left: Junior Jacaranda Princess: Aaliyah Scarlet Roach, Jacaranda Princess: Breeze Paine, Jacaranda Queen: Hanna Craig, Junior Jacaranda Queen: Brooke Chapman. Change is in the air with a new gender inclusive Jacaranda Candidate program for 2022.

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