ROSE Witney spent about six months last year couch surfing from one friend’s home to another.

The 19-year-old now rents a unit and wants to help address homelessness in Warrnambool.

Together with her dad, Ricky Witney, Tarren Spinks and Jai Whitehead, a group of volunteers called Evolution 1 has been born.

Ms Witney said couch surfing staying temporarily with friends, perhaps for only one night was something a lot of her friends had experienced because of the difficulty in getting rental accommodation.

“It sucked. You find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if you can stay the night,” she said.

“You don’t want to overstay your welcome at people’s houses. You do what you can to pay them.

“I applied for a lot of places but it wasn’t until my parents went guarantor and that’s probably the only reason I got this place.”

Ms Witney said when she approached local organisations for help she found her situation was not a high enough priority.

“I wasn’t a mother with children needing somewhere to stay and I could sleep on someone’s couch,” she said.

“I had somewhere to crash so they could let me go again for another night.”

Evolution 1 has been meeting since August last year and is still in its infancy. It has brought a caravan which could eventually be used for transitional housing.

Mr Witney is the group’s chairman. He said its members want to learn what role they can play and will attend a homelessness forum on Thursday night.

“I’ve had kids couch surf at my place,” he said.

“The idea came about through what we’ve seen. We want to do up this caravan and hopefully it can be used for transitional housing. It’s to get them off the street.

“We’ve got a bus we want to do up and it can be used to get people to work or appointments. We’re going to start applying for grants. We want to learn from others at the forum.

“Our charter is to assist people in the community to lead better lives.

“This isn’t about a free ride. We want to help them help themselves.

“We can’t change the world but we can do our little bit.

“There is hope for plenty of other kids out there.”

The forum starts at 6pm at the Archie Graham Community Centre in Timor Street and will include a panel comprising members of state, regional and local welfare organisations.

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Australian Ballet dance presenter Alex McKinnon shows grade 6 pupil Monique English, 11, and grade 5 pupil Garrin Williamson, 10, how its done. WARRNAMBOOL East Primary School has formed a junior dance troupe following a visit from The Australian Ballet.

But there was surprisingly little talk of first, second or third positions, arabesques and pli s. Pupils instead learned how to use their bodies to create shapes and fill the space around them as part of the Melbourne-based company’s Out There tour.

Tour manager Donna Cusack said the pupils had been responding “wonderfully” to the dance movement workshops.

“They participate regardless of any pre-determined skill it’s all-inclusive,” she said.

“It is to raise awareness of dance as both a physical and expressive activity.”

The program’s dance education ensemble made up of Alex McKinnon, Abigail Oleivero, Hannah Beer and Chris Ead took six morning workshops for pupils in grades one to six in preparation for an afternoon presentation to the school.

Since the pilot sessions in 2006, Out There has given more than 40,000 children a chance to experience dance, visiting Warrnambnool East for the first time in 2008.

“It has been a full-time part of the Australian Ballet’s education program since 2010,” Mrs Cusack said.

The nationwide initiative spent a week visiting schools around the region including Port Fairy Consolidated, Woolsthorpe and Koroit and District.

“In 2012 we’ll hit every state and territory in Australia,” Mrs Cusack said. “We began here, our first stop was Warrnambool (district).”

Mrs Cusack said the workshops surprised many of the pupils, particularly the boys.

“Many come out saying ‘That’s not what I thought it would be like’,” she said.

“It was more fun or harder than they were expecting.

“There has been a real sense of enjoyment and discipline here a curiosity we don’t normally see in the metro schools.”

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MORE than 18,000 small businesses in the south-west will benefit from the federal government’s new mining tax, Treasurer Wayne Swan has claimed.

Mr Swan has started promoting the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) to regional Australia after legislation passed through Federal Parliament last week.

He claimed 18,900 small businesses in Wannon would receive major tax breaks, while a further 18,200 would gain similar benefits in neighbouring Corangamite.

However, the Coalition labelled the MRRT as ineffective and claimed it would instead drag the country deeper into deficit.

Mr Swan said local workers and small businesses in Wannon would get a fairer share from the mining boom thanks to the MRRT.

He said the new tax would lead to higher retirement savings for south-west workers and tax relief for small businesses

“People in Wannon know how important the mining industry is, but they also know that we can only dig up and sell the resources once,” Mr Swan said.

“The Gillard government believes all Australians should share in the benefits of the mining boom, not just a fortunate few.”

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the figures just did not add up.

“The problem with the mining tax is that the revenue does not cover the expenditure that goes with it,” he said.

“That puts the budget further into deficit and that is not good for Australia or the south-west.”

Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman said milk processors, abattoirs and a host of retail businesses would benefit from reductions in company tax. He said the Coalition’s failure to back the MRRT reform was a slap in the face to small businesses, which will gain tax concessions from the new measures.

The MRRT is on track to be introduced in July, with a levy of 30 per cent on “super profits” applied to the mining of iron ore and coal.

Mining magnates including Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest have publicly opposed the MRRT, claiming the tax will stifle prosperity in the mineral resource-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia.

Mr Swan said the MRRT would boost superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent for 38,800 south-west workers, which was projected to provide a 30-year-old worker on average full-time earnings with well over $100,000 in extra retirement savings.

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Actress Barbara Farrell portrayed Colgate spokeswoman Mrs Marsh. TO paraphrase a rather obnoxious television commercial: pester power — does it actually work?

Some out there in the world of marketing believe that if they can annoy you enough, then eventually you will cave in and buy their product.

Repetition of the same phrases. Monosyllabic jingles. Constant phone calls from international call centres.

All use the same method of rubbing you up the wrong way in the hope that pester power will persuade you to tear down your defences and give in to the message.

For me, it has the opposite effect. Whenever a television commercial, pamphleteer or call-centre telephonist starts to badger me, I actively go out of my way to avoid their product.

Taking a stand against pester power, if you will.

Only recently, I went supermarket shopping and was bailed up by a Greenpeace activist. I gave a polite “no thanks” and headed off but it made me reflect on the strike-rate of similar marketing campaigns.

It must work. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother showing up.

Head to any shopping centre and there’s every chance you’ll see a bloke in a cartoon tie trying to promote a line of credit cards/ life insurance/ herbal laxative.

I was once stopped in a Melbourne shopping centre by a salesman trying to sell air from an “oxygen bar”. For those unacquainted with this latest retail phenomenon, customers are given the opportunity to purchase oxygen and inhale it through tubes from a space-age desk.

If you think I’m pulling your leg, just remember that people have been buying bottled water for years when the stuff comes for free out of the tap. The only hitch is that the art of irritation is so effective. Maybe I’m in a minority but years of evidence suggests that the louder, bolder, brasher and downright annoying the advertisement is, the greater the likelihood of commercial success.

While we’ve seen a litany of bloody annoying 30-second ads during the past few decades, one figure stands out as the harbinger for the present approach to small screen success.

Actress Barbara Farrell (pictured) portrayed Colgate spokeswoman “Mrs Marsh” for more than a decade. At the time, her chalk-in-blue-ink was pilloried by comedians and her catch-cry “It really gets in” grated on viewers.

Surprisingly, a quick glance of internet sites now shows that the ad has found a special place in the collective memory of the Australian public. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The same recipe was applied to a recent Coles ad for the supermarket’s beef products. A worse-for-wear Normie Rowe and “celebrity chef” Curtis Stone (is it just me, or does any chef who appears on television suddenly turn into a celebrity?) belted out Rowe’s old cover of Shakin’ All Over in a deliberately off-tempo way.

Maybe the tune wasn’t successful but the public response to it certainly was.

As Rowe told News Limited this month: “I’d be glad to have a payday like that once a week, it’d be delightful.”

“It sold more meat products for Coles than in Coles’ history over that four-week period it was on air.

“It did its job.” It certainly did. The same method has been employed by Harvey Norman for more than a decade.

A yelling voice-over artist shouts about a Westinghouse fridge being “234 months interest free” and a rhythmic beat more akin to a jackhammer than actual music blares through the loudspeaker.

So, dejected and defeated, I have to admit that pester power must work.

As Mrs Marsh would say, when it comes to getting a message into the subconscious of your audience, an irritating catchphrase “really gets in”.

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THE death of former Melbourne footballer and Brownlow medallist Jimmy Stynes set off a flood of tears and tributes this week that is rare for a sportsman.

Perhaps the most touching came from his old teammate Garry Lyon on The Footy Show.

With great humility and honesty, he explained how he hadn’t thought much of Stynes when they first met at Melbourne FC and that Lyon had failed to grasp Stynes’ approach to both the game of footy and life itself, but inevitably they became best of friends and that Lyon was a better person for knowing the Irish-born ruckman.

Less touching was Jason Akermanis’ summation of Stynes on a Queensland radio station. Akermanis has since apologised and explained what he meant to say when he described the late Demon as “a nasty man in his day” and questioned whether he deserved a state funeral.

“My comments in regard to Jim have been taken entirely out of context,” Akermanis said in his apology.

Sorry, Aker, but they weren’t taken out of context — you may have worded your own words poorly, but they weren’t taken out of context. There’s a big difference.

But I’m not here to Aker-bash. What is interesting though is the age-old taboo regarding speaking ill of the dead.

The backlash against Akermanis was not about whether he really thought such things about Stynes or whether they were true or not, but instead focused on an indignant rage that trumpeted “You can’t say that about someone who’s just died!”.

Why can’t you? Why isn’t someone allowed to say such things after someone has died if you’re allowed to say them while the person is alive?

Is it purely because the person is no longer there to defend themselves?

Or does respect for the dead overwhelm free speech?

Or do a person’s flaws simply evaporate in death? Are all sins forgiven in the act of dying?

Obviously it’s a sensitive time, so is it best to adhere to the grandmotherly advice that if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all?

Akermanis doesn’t deserve applause for his comments, nor do I agree with him, but perhaps it boils down to an ideal attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The Chaser got in all sorts of trouble with their Eulogy Song back in 2007, which asked similar questions while taking satirical swipes at the likes of Steve Irwin, Peter Brock and Princess Diana. Of course, they took it to absurd extremes (which is where part of the humour lies).

But at the heart of that ire-raising ditty was a kernel of truth — the foibles and follies of people are forgotten as soon as they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Take Whitney Houston for instance.

Two years ago, when she toured Australia, fans stormed out of her concerts, demanded their money back, and labelled her washed up. Gossip mags got plenty of mileage out of calling her a drug addict and an irresponsible parent.

As soon as she died, that all disappeared into the background.

Ditto for Amy Winehouse. While plenty of obituaries mentioned both singers’ struggles, the issues went from headline to footnote. And let’s not even mention Michael Jackson’s dark past.

Death has a habit of making heroes and heroines out of all but the worst kind.

We didn’t look for Hitler’s good side or Saddam Hussein’s, I suppose, although I’m pretty sure gangland criminal Carl Williams became a “loving father and husband” in the end.

But why is it that we can fearlessly tell the truth about a person when they are alive, but we are expected to change our opinions of them in death?

Akermanis, in his typically idiotic and unsophisticated way, was simply trying to be honest.

He chose the wrong bloke at the wrong time, but at least he was was brave enough to be honest.

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