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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Max Castor.ON Sunday it will be seven years since Swedish backpacker Max Castor seemingly vanished into thin air.

He was 20 at the time and travelling around Australia.

After being seen in Warrnambool, there were several unconfirmed sightings along the Great Ocean Road and into the Otways, and his last known contact with his family was on April 21, 2005, when he sent an email.

On the same day his brother in Sweden received a parcel containing Max’s personal belongings, money and a letter.

He was last seen wearing a blue windcheater, white T-shirt, jeans, carrying a light blue backpack and a multi-coloured clutch bag.

Detective Senior Constable Dannielle O’Keefe led the investigation into his disappearance in Warrnambool at the time and said she wished she could report a happy ending.

She said police had asked for DNA from Max’s family but it was a procedural process undertaken in missing person cases to ensure an efficient match.

“At this point in time we’ve exhausted all avenues in terms of leads,” she said.

“I keep in regular contact with Max’s father Rolf and his family. We’d love for information that would lead to something more.

“For the family it’s extremely difficult. They have no control over their environment and are relying on someone to provide information.

“They’re a delightful family and they’re desperate for their son to come home.

“We would love a happy ending but it’s not the case unless there is more information that comes forward.”

For Max’s family life goes on despite a sadness hanging over them.

Next week his father Rolf will undergo heart surgery.

Speaking from Sweden, Rolf said he kept in touch with Max’s friends, who were now starting their own families.

“It’s like a type of sadness that is always there,” he said.

Rolf said there was a strong belief that Max was still alive and living in Australia.

“My hope that is that he has a good life in your country and that maybe when he has his own family he will make new contact with us,” he said.

Mr Castor said Max had nieces and nephews who were asking about him and revealed he had inherited money, which may be of use to him.

He pleaded that if anyone knew where Max was or saw him to ask him to call home.

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Reece MastinTELEVISION talent quest stars will dominate this year’s Fun4Kids Festival line-up.

Buoyed by the enthusiastic response to Australia’s Got Talent winners Justice Crew at the 2011 event, organisers have signed up X Factor winner Reece Mastin, Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, Australia’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance contestant Timomatic, and Australia’s Got Talent runner-up Cosentino.

The TV-friendly roster has led organisers to label it “the biggest line-up in the event’s history”.

Festival director Luke Cann said the presence of Justice Crew — a hip-hop dance troupe — at last year’s Fun4Kids expanded the type of acts at the festival beyond the usual children’s entertainment seen there in the past.

“Fun4Kids has always had fantastic entertainment for the younger crowds and this will continue,” Mr Cann said.

“But by adding a new genre of performers to the mix we are catering for a bigger audience and it’s really helping the festival reach new heights.

“This line-up ensures Fun4Kids offers brilliant entertainment for all age groups.”

Reece Mastin won the third season of X Factor as a 17-year-old. His debut single Good Night went to number one in Australia, selling more than a quarter of a million copies.

Jessica Mauboy placed second behind Damien Leith in the 2006 Australian Idol competition. She has since released two studio albums, starred in the film Bran Nue Dae, and had 10 top-20 singles in Australia.

Timomatic — real name Tim Omaji — finished seventh in So You Think You Can Dance Australia in 2009 and third in Australia’s Got Talent in 2011, capitalising on a growing profile by signing a record deal with Sony, supporting Salt-n-Pepa on their Australian tour, and releasing a number-two single Set It Off.

Cosentino finished just ahead of Timomatic in Australia’s Got Talent but has been a hard-working illusionist for many years, regularly touring Australia with his magic show.

Tickets for Fun4Kids go on sale May 1. The festival runs from July 1-8.

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SARAH Bullen’s little finger hasn’t kept her from the big stage.

After being sidelined from the semi-final with a broken finger, the Hampden White player will return to Western Regional State League tonight for the 17 and under decider against Hampden Green.

The 15-year-old caught her finger in an opposition player’s arm in a contest for the ball a couple of weeks ago.

“I broke it and couldn’t play in the semi,” she said.

The North Warrnambool Eagles netballer tested out her injury in last Sunday’s Hampden league pre-season cup and got through unscathed.

It means she will feature in tonight’s 17 and under state league grand final, which is a showdown between the two Hampden sides for the second consecutive year.

“I played in it last year and we lost,” Bullen said.

“This year we’ve really worked well together as a team and everyone’s improved so much compared to the start of the year.

“I think we’re pretty even across the whole court.”

White has only dropped one match, which was a two-goal loss to Hampden Green in round three.

“Then we won every other game and in the semi-final, we won against Green,” she said, referring to the 58-34 victory. “We had a game strategy and we stuck to it. Everybody just played so well together and it was probably our best game of the season.”

While Bullen was one of several Hampden players from both sides who were confined to the sidelines for the semi-final, she is hoping to have an impact in the midcourt tonight.

Coach Kate Kearney has used the Emmanuel College student in both wing attack and wing defence during the pre-season competition, with the latter an unfamiliar role for the teenager.

“The coach has been really good and helped me (learn the position),” Bullen said.

“Because I’m a wing attack, I’ve found it easier because I know where the person wants to go.”

Bullen described state league as an ideal pre-season. “I think it’s a real physical competition too, which has been good,” she said.

“It’s a good lead-up for the normal season.”

Bullen, who lives in Timboon, played one season at Camperdown before crossing to North Warrnambool Eagles.

She said her netball had benefited under the guidance of Eagles junior coaches Jackie Smedts and Dot Jenkins, who is in charge of Hampden Green tonight.

Green is coming off a preliminary final tussle with Warrnambool City, which it edged out by a goal.

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SEVEN footballers appear to be in limbo a week before their opening games of the season as District league clubs appear reluctant to challenge Port Fairy’s tough stance on contracted players.

After Dennington’s failed appeals against clearance denials for Chris Vickey and Rocky Miller, fellow Warrnambool and District Football Netball League clubs Allansford and Merrivale are unlikely to follow a similar path in the pursuit of 2011 Port Fairy players.

That leaves Hampden league representative Sam Dwyer and Scott Kelly (both Merrivale) and Louis Fary and Sam Burchell (both Allansford) in limbo ahead of next week’s first round matches.

Terang Mortlake, which is hoping to secure Seagulls ruckman Robbie Hare, is yet to decide its course of action.

Dwyer is still aiming to play with Merrivale, but he is not confident he will be cleared after Dennington’s unsuccessful appeals.

If he doesn’t get a clearance, he said it was likely that he would have a season off football. “But I haven’t made a definite decision yet,” he said.

Kelly, who wanted to make it clear he had nothing against the Seagulls, said he wanted to play alongside his brother Brad and cousin James, who captains Merrivale.

“I played all my juniors at Merrivale and I just want to come back to play with my brother and my cousin Jimmy,” he said.

“I had five great years at Port Fairy and I have a lot of friends there. I don’t want this to be a ‘me against them’ thing.”

Kelly said he had been in regular contact with Port Fairy and would continue to talk with the Seagulls in the hope he could get to the Tigers this season.

Allansford football manager Glenn Byron said the Cats had ruled out appealing against the clearance knockbacks for Burchell and Fary.

He said the club had met the Seagulls and would continue discussions in the hope of reaching a solution.

“We are fully respectful of their position on the matter,” Byron said.

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Former national player Anna McIlroy with the Warrnambool Youth Girls football team. 120327DW26 Picture: DAMIAN WHITEBRING it on.

That’s how the Warrnambool Youth Girls’ squad is feeling about its debut in the V/Line Cup, which kicks off on Sunday.

Co-coach Ken Radley, who is taking charge of the team with Daryl Mahoney, said the inaugural side could not wait to compete in the cup.

“They’re extremely excited and they’ve been fantastic to coach,” he said.

“They take instructions, they’re willing to listen and they really try and implement what we’re asking them to do.”

The group had a training session and jumper presentation at Reid Oval on Tuesday night, with top south-west female football export Anna McIlroy making a special visit. McIlroy, from Port Fairy, has retired after a decorated career that included representing Victoria five times and playing for Australia in the 2006 women’s international rules series in Ireland.

“The girls were just blown away by her,” Radley said.

“It was good for them to see just how far they can go with their footy, to play at international level.”

The co-coach said that McIlroy, who was itching to train on Tuesday but forgot her boots, spoke to the girls at the jumper presentation.

The side will have its final training session at Reid Oval tonight before its cup campaign starts on Sunday with a match against Geelong Youth Girls in Geelong West.

“They’ve been going for four or five years and obviously they’ve got a bigger catchment area,” Radley said of the first-round opponent.

“But we’ll show a good account of ourselves.

“The girls aren’t daunted about who they’re coming up against. They just think ‘bring it on’.”

Warrnambool Youth Girls have been training twice a week for more than a month, with numerous players travelling from the east of the Hampden region.

“Most of the girls are quite elite athletes already and have a high fitness level, so (training is) just about them getting used to the football and moving it up and down the ground,” Radley said.

He was pleased that the squad started training with a natural team mentality.

“There’s no big egos and everyone is thinking about everyone else,” he said.

“They’re a real team and everyone’s playing for each other, which is really refreshing.”

Radley applauded the south-west for embracing girls’ football.

“There’s been great support from the broader community,” he said.

Following Sunday’s clash with Geelong, Warrnambool will take on either Bendigo or Ballarat on Monday.

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