Two beloved children: Kaden Griffin-Wilson, 3, and his sister Georgia, 8, who lost their lives in the horrific Dunkeld house fire last week. GRIEVING parents Tanya Griffin and Aaron Wilson were comforted by hundreds yesterday evening at a Dunkeld community tribute to their two children who died in a house fire last week.

“They were the sunshine and light of our lives and we loved them deeply,” the parents said in a brief written statement describing their anguish over the loss of Georgia, 8, and Kaden, 3.

“We cannot convey to you the deep pain and overwhelming feelings of grief, sadness and sorrow at the loss of our two beloved children taken from us tragically on March 23.”

Tributes flowed from the primary school and kindergarten where the children attended as well as the wider community.

A formal funeral service is yet to be arranged. It is expected to be held next week after the Coroner’s Office releases the bodies.

Georgia and Kaden were last seen in their bedroom as fire quickly engulfed the 80-year-old weatherboard farm workers’ house on the historic Devon Park property, about 11 kilometres south of Dunkeld, early Friday morning. Their parents tried frantically to break in through a side door and window but were driven back by the inferno.

Police investigators determined the cause was accidental.

Community groups from the district and as far as Mildura have rallied with offers of support.

Georgia’s classmates at Dunkeld Consolidated Primary School expressed their feelings and memories in writings and drawings, which were compiled into a bound book and presented to her parents.

Principal Pat Gleeson encouraged yesterday’s community gathering to continue helping through tough times.

“I know there is nothing I can say that will fill the hole torn in your hearts, but please know that the support of a strong community is here with you,” he said.

“We all know what hurt feels like, we all know how hard it is to deal with that hurt and we all know how to help each other heal the hurt.

“We all have arms, they are very useful for hugging, we have a shoulder for someone to cry on and we all have a smile like Georgia’s that could brighten someone’s day.”

He described Georgia as a happy, balanced, chatty and gorgeous child — a reflection of a loving family.

“Georgia loved her little brother and spoke of him often,” Mr Gleeson said.

The school community will plant a tree of remembrance in the school garden near Georgia’s classroom and kitchen.

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CORANGAMITE Shire councillor Chris O’Connor has questioned the value of the National Broadband Network, saying most of the traffic on the internet was pornography.

Cr O’Connor was referring to Cr Makin’s mayor report which was presented at the council meeting on Tuesday night in Timboon.

In his report Cr Makin noted the NBN would drive the Corangamite Shire economy and facilitate growth and productivity but Cr O’Connor said he was bemused by the claims. “The $36 billion could be spent on a fast train or dual highway to Warrnambool,” he said.

“I thought your view was a bit over the top.

“It’s my understanding that half the traffic on the internet is porn and the rest is kids playing video games.

“I’m not against the NBN as such.

“What makes you so confident though the NBN is such a good thing?”

Cr O’Connor said he didn’t believe the NBN would benefit medical centres and hospitals because they were already well served with internet infrastructure.

“The reason I ask is the government hasn’t handled major infrastructure projects very well.”

Cr Makin said the NBN would provide important economic growth for the shire.

“A lot of services in the future will not be delivered in person but via the internet,” he said.

Cr Makin said there was no question of the gap between rural and metro areas in terms of health and education and the NBN would help bridge that gap.

The council also supported a two lot subdivision for Port Campbell, which it is hoped will open up development opportunities in the town’s commercial precinct.

Cr Steve Cumming said one of the objections to the planning application was raised on how it would eventually impact on views.

“It’s important to note there are quite a few VCAT battles within the Port Campbell precinct,” he said.

“It’s quite odd to object to a view. You don’t own a view and you can’t choose your neighbours.”

The planning application, at 28 Lord Street, was backed unanimously by the council and any future proposal for development on the site above one storey will need a planning permit.

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AS experts and social workers meet tonight in Warrnambool to tackle the issue of homelessness, the city council’s first policy document on affordable housing is filtering into the community.

It sets a framework to achieve a sustainable housing supply and better designs.

One of the first steps towards achieving the goal will be to help organise a regional forum this year with a wide range of stakeholders sharing ideas on how to make housing more affordable.

It is hoped the forum will guide development of an advocacy and action plan on future commitment to finding solutions.

The median residential property price in Warrnambool rose 250 per cent between 2000 and 2010 and rental prices are among the highest in regional Victoria.

Mayor Jacinta Ermacora said the new policy would look at how to continue to make Warrnambool housing affordable for new residents, young families and people with disabilities and on low incomes.

“It allows us to be creative and play a role in demonstrating innovative design and social housing models,” she said.

The policy says the impact of unaffordable housing is unevenly distributed across the community, with lone parents and their children, single people, young people and older people experiencing the worst outcomes.

“Affordable housing also has significant impact on the liveability and economic prosperity or the community.

“A lack of affordable housing has a negative impact on workforce attraction and is a barrier to attracting tertiary students.”

Policy objectives include advocating for sufficient supply of social and public housing, support best-practice urban design and ensure residential housing maintains a liveable community.

Cr John Harris said the policy would help the council put pressure on governments to address issues affecting country people.

“People have a right to affordable housing and government has a duty to make that happen,” he said.

Cr Peter Hulin said the council also had a responsibility to work with developers on reducing land holding costs, which would result in lower prices.

Tonight’s forum on homelessness will be at the Archie Graham Community Centre in Timor Street, and is scheduled to run from 6pm to 8.30pm.

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Food share operations co-ordinator Liz Field and volunteer Luke Carter at work. MORE than 85 tonnes of donated food was distributed to the needy in Warrnambool and district last year through a community food bank, but there are fears the service could crumble without renewed support.

A special meeting will be held today to form a new leadership group to steer Warrnambool and District Foodshare to a more secure future, with a better chance of securing funds for expansion.

Every weekday a team of dedicated volunteers working from a shed at the Worn Gundidj Co-operative packs hampers for disadvantaged individuals and families who would otherwise struggle to enjoy wholesome food.

It also provides relief in times of emergency situations.

Foodbank Victoria provided goods worth $607,439 last year to the Warrnambool-based group, which was established in 2010.

It is supplemented by a local food “rescue” program using surplus products from Aldi and Woolworths supermarkets, Materia Brothers, Peaches and the community garden.

However, the service is floundering through lack of support from stakeholders, according to Community Southwest Ltd executive Allan Bassett.

“We were approached by Foodshare to help get it some strength and direction,” he said.

“The service is only surviving through the generosity of Worn Gundidj.

“It’s probably drifting because they don’t have the dedicated staff to take it to the next level.

“Our challenge is to progress the good work already done by calling for additional support for the committee, developing a business plan and adopting a revised constitution more appropriate for the business being undertaken.

“It’s not within our ambit to take over. We want to work with other organisations to provide support.”

Today’s meeting will be held at the Southern Way offices in Fairy Street at 12.30pm.

It will kick-start an application for charitable status for Foodshare, which will enable it to receive more financial assistance, particularly from philanthropic funds.

Another date will be set to elect and appoint seven stakeholder representatives for a committee of management.

Guest speaker, Dr Jane Stanley, a United Nations consultant, will speak today on regional food shares as hubs for social innovation.

Mr Bassett said other food share organisations had been able to expand with support from a strong local committee and board which enabled them to develop infrastructure and administration and training programs.

“In Warrnambool it would give rise to funding for buildings and transport,” Mr Bassett said.

“There’s a huge need for this service in our region.

“I hear about kids going to school hungry, who are assisted.”

Community Southwest is an alliance of not-for-profit organisations.

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VICTORIA Police say the homicide investigation into the deaths of two Portland’s women is ongoing but will not comment on whether they have spoken to a mystery woman who claims to know who committed the crime more than 20 years ago.

Homicide Squad Detective Inspector John Potter said police had spoken to a number of people as part of their investigation in the murder of Claire Acocks and Margaret Penny.

“The investigation is active and ongoing,” he said.

Detective Inspector Potter encouraged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.

Mrs Acocks, 49, and Mrs Penny, 58, were murdered in a Portland hair salon between 3.05pm and 4.35pm on May 3, 1991. Last week Port Campbell author Leonie Wallace told The Standard that while researching her book on the murders she received a text message from a woman who claimed to know who committed the crime and that her story had never been told.

“We have shared various text messages and telephone conversations since then, with our last contact only a few weeks ago,” she said.

“Despite initial scepticism, I think she is genuine.

“Paranoia and concerns for her own family have so far fuelled her reluctance to reveal the full extent of what she allegedly knows.

“I am clinging to the chance this woman does hold that final vital piece of information and am optimistic she will soon find the courage to speak.

“Surely the killer shared what occurred with at least one other person, perhaps a trusted relative, a partner or a friend. Over time loyalties can change and people mature, so after close to 21 years, it would be incredible if these factors could align.”

Police suspect the women were murdered at about 3.30pm when two screams were heard at the Old London Coiffure hairdressing salon on the corner of Julia and Bentinck streets, and when the screen door at the back entrance was apparently opened violently.

Anyone with information about the crime can contact CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.

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