Home' Greymouth Star : April 29th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, April 29, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1587 - English admiral Sir Francis Drake
enters Cadiz harbour and sinks the Spanish
fleet, an action he referred to “as singeing the
king of Spain’s beard”.
1770 - British navigator Captain James Cook,
aboard the Endeavour, lands at Botany Bay
(originally named Stingray Bay) in Australia.
1916 - The Easter Rising in Dublin collapses
as Irish nationalists surrender to British
1945 - Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler
marries Eva Braun in a Berlin
bunker, and designates Admiral
Karl Doenitz his successor.
1965 - Australia decides to send
troops to South Vietnam.
1970 - Q ueensland students claim
a new world car-carrying record when 25 of
them lug a Mini Minor more than 90m along
Queen street when police ordered it to be
removed after it had stalled.
1975 - In the closing hours of the Vietnam
War, US task force evacuates foreigners and
Vietnamese by helicopter from Saigon.
1980 - Death of Sir Alfred Hitchcock,
British-born film director best known for his
suspense thrillers, notably Psycho.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Arbuthnot, English physicist-satirist
(1667-1745); Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of
Wellington, English soldier and politician (1769-
1852); Alexander II, tsar of Russia (1818-1881);
William Randolph Hearst, US publisher (1863-
1951); Sir Thomas Beecham, English conductor
(1879-1961); Sir Malcolm Sargent, English
conductor (1895-1967); Duke Ellington, US
band leader (1899-1974); Japan’s
Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989);
Fred Zinnemann, Austrian-born
film director (1907-1997); Lonnie
Donegan, Scottish entertainer (1931-
2002); Otis Rush, US blues musician
(1935-); Bernie Madoff, former
American investor turned criminal
(1938-); Phillip Noyce, Australian film
director (1950-); Jerry Seinfeld, US comedian
(1954-); Daniel Day-Lewis, British actor (1957-
); Michelle Pfeiffer, US actress (1958-); Andre
Agassi, US tennis player (1970-); Uma Thurman,
US actress (1970-).
“ If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is
still a foolish thing.” — Anatole France, French
author and critic (1844-1924).
“ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptised
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
so that your sins may be forgiven’; and you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ” —Acts 2.38
“It took me a long
time to drink my cup
of coffee and rum, the
longest it ’s ever taken
me,” said Mr E C Thompson yesterday. He is
one of the Anzac veterans and because of the
Anzac Day reception here is full of praise for
a “memorable” day. “I was too scared to take
a sip in case I missed something,” he told the
After the dawn parade on Sunday, seven
Gallipoli veterans gathered in the RSA
clubrooms and talked over the old days:
running up beaches, sitting in trenches all
day... incidents which were just memories
but which many of them had forgotten, said
Mr Thompson. “ It was a truly memorable
experience to meet, once again, mates with
whom you had ser ved and had not seen since
the campaign finished those many years ago. ”
Today, a Greymouth waitress will meet a man
in Wellington for the first time in her life. And
on Sunday week the couple are to marry. The
waitress, 25-year-old Efthalia Kalitsounaki left
Greymouth yesterday delighted at the prospect
of meeting her husband-to-be.
The man, George Levendakis, a 27-year-
old farmhand is to set foot on New Zealand
soil for the first time this evening. And there
waiting for him will be Efthalia. Both are
Greek and arrangements for the marriage were
carried out in Greece by Efthalia’s parents.
Dark-haired Efthalia came to New Zealand
two years ago and has worked as a waitress
at Revingtons Hotel since. On marrying, she
hopes to return to Greymouth and already
arrangements have been made to secure a job
here for George as a carpenter’s labourer.
uFood for thought
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stock whip wielded by a
young man paints bloody
stripes across a small
boy ’s bare back while
several nuns and dozens of
children watch on.
Another boy is locked in a cramped
cupboard for an entire day without food
His crime? Wetting the bed.
A nun drags another child to the priest ’s
quarters and tells him to be a “good boy ”,
before the man who has supposedly
committed his life to God forces him in
to unspeakable acts.
These are not scenes from a film, but
the reality for Queensland children who
attended St Joseph’s Neerkol orphanage,
Former Queensland governor Leneen
Forde’s 1998-1999 inquiry into
institutional child abuse exposed the
Neerkol nuns’ decades-long reign of
terror, which was only brought to an end
by the orphanage’s 1978 closure.
Now, the Royal Commission into
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual
Abuse public hearing has revealed
the full horror of what went on in the
dormitories, the yards, the dining halls
and the priests’ quarters not so long ago.
“Neerkol was a place where only the
strong sur vived and the fortunate ones
escaped the daily onslaught,” 64-year-old
former resident Mary Adams told this
“It was a hard lesson in survival.” O ver
more than three days of testimony former
residents graphically recounted a litany
of cruel and sadistic punishments meted
out by the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the
Public floggings. Walking on children in
high heels. Beating a boy on the genitals
with a ruler while telling him his penis
was “the Devil”. Forcing bed-wetters to
stand hungry in the dining room with
their urine-soaked sheets draped over
their heads while the other children ate
In a Rockhampton court room 13 men
and women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s
entered a witness box one by one and
shared their heartbreaking tales last week.
Almost none of the 13 remained dry-
At Neerkol, it seemed the process of
breaking childrens’ spirits began on
Siblings were separated; new arrivals
were stripped of their possessions and
referred to by their last name or just a
Birthdays were recognised only by
depraved priests, who used the milestones
to give their favoured children a ‘special
The nuns not only turned a blind eye to
the predators, but they facilitated them,
and punished children who reported the
Attempts to blow the whistle always fell
on unsympathetic ears.
Ms Adams once confided in a relieving
priest who seemed friendly.
He raped her and swore her to secrecy.
Seventy-six-year-old David Owen
was brought before a State government
inspector at age 15 or 16.
The farmer he had been sent to work for,
Mr Paterson, had not liked the blood on
the back of his pants — caused by being
repeatedly raped by chaplain Father John
“He told me I was a good worker but I
couldn’t go out to service until I stopped
bleeding from the backside,” Mr Owen
“He said that he knew Fr Anderson was
abusing me but I wasn’t to tell anyone,
and that if I was caught bleeding I was to
say that it was piles.
“Mr Paterson and Fr Anderson
were friends.” About 4000 children,
mostly State wards, passed through the
orphanage over its 93 years of operation.
The institution was cash-strapped and
Former sister Di-Anne Rowan testified
that the nuns may have decided ‘another
level of discipline’ was needed to keep the
crowds of children in line.
Their scars — both physical and
emotional — remained long after they left
the orphanage as teens.
Illiteracy, mental illness, suicidal
thoughts, rotted teeth, deafness from
being repeatedly hit over the ears, the
inability to form intimate relationships —
these are the legacies of Neerkol.
When Mr Owen and others began
coming for ward with their stories in the
1990s they were met with disbelief and
“Scurrilous and scandalous”, was how
then-Rockhampton bishop Brian Heenan
responded publicly to the allegations;
“astounding and dismaying” was then-
Sisters of Mercy congregational leader
Berneice Loch’s opinion.
Both Bishop Heenan and Sister Loch
were later forced to publicly apologise,
and the diocese and Sisters settled a
compensation claim made by 72
former residents with a $790,910
Many victims say it was not enough.
“No amount of money can ever give my
back my childhood, my loss of confidence,
my lack of formal education, dignity,
self-esteem or self-worth,” Ms Adams
Only one of those alleged to have
abused children at Neerkol is still alive —
former groundsman Kevin Baker.
In the late 1990s D urham and Baker
were each charged with dozens of child
However the passage of time and the
structure of Queensland’s then-child sex
laws made prosecution difficult.
Only Durham, now deceased, was
convicted and jailed.
He ser ved just a few months, while none
of the Neerkol nuns were ever charged.
A final report on the matter is due to be
delivered by the royal commission later
At least one former Neerkol resident has
found some solace in the public hearing.
“I feel as though through the royal
commission that I am finally being heard
after this process has taken over 20 years,”
said 62-year-old Diane Carpenter.
“I realise I can’t change history but want
to prevent similar things happening in the
“Children desperately need to be
The experiences of children at the
Neerkol orphanage as told by former
residents at the Child Abuse Royal
A 67-year-old woman said she was
sexually abused and raped more than 100
times from age 11 by priest Reginald
Durham, who forced her to confess her
“sins” and gave her absolution.
Children who ran away were publicly
flogged with whips as an example to
Girls were forced to eat ‘ant
sandwiches’ under super vision to ensure
Altar boys were routinely raped by a
priest during Latin lessons.
Bed-wetters had to stand with the
toilet sheet draped over their heads during
Alternatively they were locked in
storerooms or cupboards without food or
water for up to a day.
Nuns used rulers to beat boys on the
genitals, which they referred to as ‘the
Girls who became friendly were
forced to fight each other in boxing
Children were referred to by their last
name or a number. — AAP
David Owen, a victim of abuse, holds a photo of himself when he was at Neerkol Orphanage.
Nepal’s record of earthquakes dates to
at least the 13th century, with significant
temblors striking every 75 years or so. And
through all that time, in Nepal as in most
seismically active areas, there has been one
constant: people in the path of destruction
have had no idea when the shaking would
Even after decades of research, “our
ability to predict earthquakes is still non-
existent,” said seismologist Peggy Hellweg,
of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
at the University of California, Berkeley.
The area around Kathmandu suffered
damaging quakes in 1934 and 1988, but
when disaster experts met in Nepal’s
capital earlier this month, all they could
forecast was that the next one would
probably come in the next couple of
Policy makers have, in at least one case,
reacted harshly to seismologists’ limited
foresight. In 2012, an Italian court found
six scientists guilty of manslaughter
because they failed to predict and warn
residents in advance of the 2009 L’Aquila
earthquake, which was preceded by
months of minor rumblings and killed
just over 300 people. The verdict was
overturned in 2014.
But if predictions, meaning alerts days
or weeks ahead, are still a distant goal,
progress has been made on early warnings
of earthquakes, giving precious seconds
that can save lives. But the world is
divided into haves and have-nots.
Earthquake early-warning systems have
been deployed in only a handful of the
world’s seismic hot zones, Hellweg said.
They can warn of quakes as much as a
few minutes before they strike. Countries
with such systems include Mexico, Japan,
and the United States, where the most
advanced system is California’s State-run
They consist of stations housing
seismometers that can detect P waves,
non-destructive waves produced by an
earthquake, that travel through Earth’s
crust faster than S waves, the ones that
shake the ground.
Once P waves reach a seismic station,
the information is transmitted via phone
lines, modems or satellite to labs. There,
computers deploy advanced algorithms to
calculate the origin and magnitude of the
earthquake that generated the waves.
Shake Alert gave the San Francisco Bay
Area five to 10 seconds notice when the
2014 Napa earthquake hit.
“If Nepal had a seismic network
that operated as the seismic stations
in Northern California did in the
Napa quake,” Hellweg said, “people in
Kathmandu would probably have had 15
to 20 seconds warning.” That could have
been enough to take cover under tables or
even escape some collapsing buildings.
The systems do not come cheap.
Capital investment costs for an early
warning system for the entire west coast
of the United States would total $38.3
million, the US Geological Sur vey
(USGS) estimated last year, with annual
maintenance and operations totaling $16.1
Since 2012, Bay Area Rapid Transit
(BART) in the San Francisco area has
been tied into Shake Alert. A signal
from the earthquake warning system
automatically decelerates BART trains
before a quake of magnitude 4 (if local) or
5 (if distant) arrives, averting potentially
The system is not perfect, however. If the
epicentre of a quake were actually in the
San Francisco Bay Area, BART would
have no warning: the P and S waves arrive
Japan’s early-warning system, operated
by the Meteorological Agency, is more
Designed to send alerts to computers,
municipal agencies and others when an
earthquake will be powerful enough to
crack walls, Japan’s system has issued
public alerts since 2007. Bullet trains,
nuclear reactors, and factories are tied into
the system, and shut down automatically
when the 2011 Tohoku quake struck,
triggering a tsunami that caused a nuclear
accident at Fukushima. Cellphone alerts
told schoolchildren to take cover.
The system saved “thousands of lives,”
Berkeley seismologist Richard Allen told a
recent scientific conference. — Reuters
Scientists unable to predict earthquakes
PICTURE: Getty Images
Volunteers and emergency workers search for bodies buried under the debris of the temples at Basantapur Durbar Square, in Kathmandu.
More than a third of American babies
are tapping on smartphones and tablets
even before they are walking or talking,
according to a new study.
And by their first birthday, one in seven
infants is using devices for at least an hour
The results of the First Exposure and
Use of Mobile Media in Young Children
sur vey was presented to the Paediatric
Academic Societies annual meeting in San
Diego on the weekend.
The American Academy of Paediatrics
discourages the use of entertainment
media such as televisions, computers,
smartphones and tablets by children under
Parents of children aged six months
to four-years-old who attended a
hospital-based paediatric clinic ser ving a
low-income, minority community were
asked to fill out the sur vey.
It was completed by 370 parents, with
97% of them having tvs, 83% tablets, 77%
smartphones and 59% internet access.
Lead author Hilda Kabali said children
younger than a year were exposed to the
devices in surprisingly large numbers.
Fifty-two per cent had watched tv, 36%
had touched or scrolled a screen, 24% had
called someone, 15% used apps and 12%
played video games.
Most children were using mobile devices
by the age of two.
“ We didn’t expect children were using
the devices from the age of six months,”
Ms Kabali said.
“Some children were on the screen for as
long as 30 minutes.”
— New Zealand Herald
Toddlers using tablets before they can talk
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