By Zoe Askew

Time really does fly by – it’s hard to believe that 19 months have passed since I began working at the Gippsland Times, and now I conclude my final week.

Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Although I resonate with this sentiment on multiple levels, I find that Mr Roosevelt’s words accurately summarise my 19 months at the Gippsland Times – it has not been without challenges, but it has been so worthwhile.

After 19 months, Gippsland Times journalist Zoe Askew is saying goodbye.

Navigating priorities has been a challenge for the small team of three journalists, becoming briefly more arduous with the departure of former Gippsland Times journalist Tom Parry before welcoming his replacement, Ben McArthur.

We, like everyone, have limitations in what we can accomplish, and although we desire to address everything, it is not always possible.

I am proud of the work done by Stefan Bradley, Tom Parry, Ben McArthur, myself, and our editor, Liam Durkin, who also holds the position of editor for the Latrobe Valley Express and Gippsland Farmer.

Reflecting on the past 19 months, there have been so many memorable moments for one reason or another.

The 2022 local football and netball finals series is definitely among the moments on the list.

It’s surprising how well I remember those finals, considering how little sleep I managed to get during that time.

Having never played a game of netball in my life and only writing my first-ever netball story at the beginning of the 2022 finals series, I did learn a lot.

By the time the North Gippsland Football-Netball League semi-final rolled around, I definitely knew netballers couldn’t take three steps when they had the ball. Okay, fine, it was after that, but I learned nonetheless.

Now I’m 90 per cent confident I know why a whistle gets blown.

While I quite enjoy watching AFL, it isn’t something I go out of my way to watch, perhaps a symptom of having spent the majority of my teenage years in Canberra.

It took me eight hours – I kid you not – to write my first footy yarn, which just so happened to be the 2022 East Gippsland Football Grand Final between Stratford and Wy Yung.

I had so many web pages opened that my tab bar looked like colourful dots lining the top of my screen, but 480 minutes, a snack break, and three phone calls to ensure I was using football terminology correctly later – the task was complete.

Unfortunately, this Sydney Swans supporter (me) was left heartbroken as the team failed to replicate the Stratford Swans’ victorious outcome in the 2022 AFL Grand Final.

Despite the lack of sleep and the added task of quickly developing my football-netball knowledge, I was rather pleased with my contribution to the 2022 football-netball finals series coverage. With just myself and Liam to cover all four football-netball leagues, it has been one of my biggest tasks here at the Gippsland Times, but also one of the most rewarding.

I am grateful for these past 19 months in which I have been able to grow as a writer and a photographer, but most of all, I feel honoured to have been trusted by those in the community to share their stories, even when it’s hard.

In a homage to my 19 months at the Gippsland Times, I have chosen 19 stories that have left a lasting impression on me to share with you.

19. Old station still Sale’s biggest eyesore – July 2023

Old Sale police station
The old Sale police station continues to be one of the town’s biggest eyesores. Photo: Zoe Askew

Another vandalism attack has propelled the old Sale police station into the spotlight yet again, stirring questions concerning the building’s current status and generating public health and safety concerns.

The old Sale police station, located on York Street, just a stone’s throw away from the ever-popular Lake Guthridge and Gippsland Grammar’s early childhood education centre and junior campus, has been vacant since 2015.

Click here to read the full article.

18. Remembering goodwill and heart – July 2023

Father and son volunteers Jim and Kyle Jensen with Marley Street Community Hub volunteers. Photo: File

Fifty-one-year-old Army veteran Kyle Jensen tragically died while on holiday in Bali last month, reverberating shock waves throughout various Sale communities.

Kyle’s untimely death has left a hole in the hearts of many, most heavily his father and best friend, Jim Jensen.

Click here to read the full article.

17. Local author adding to her awards – August 2023

Author Vikki Conley’s Where the Lyrebird Lives is based on the author’s childhood adventures through the Tarra Bulga National Park rainforest, the young Won Wron girl and her sister often in search of a lyrebird. Photo: Contributed

Gippsland-born children’s author Vikki Conley has been awarded the prestigious Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award for her captivating book, inspired by the rainforest area of Tarra Bulga National Park, Where The Lyrebird Lives.

Click here to read the full article.

16. 1.37 minutes of mayhem – July 2022

Trainer Paul ‘Turk’ Carroll with Stratford boxer Max Reeves and Will Tomlinson at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex after Reeves won his fifth Super Middleweight Professional boxing. Photo: Grant McKillop

The inside of the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex (GRSC) was unrecognisable, as the stadium was transformed into a world-class stage for Wildfighter Boxing Round 8.

Within hours, Stratford’s Max Reeves would enter the ring in the battle of the undefeated, taking on Queensland opponent Leo Grant. As quickly as you could count to 100 seconds, Reeves secured another Super Middleweight professional boxing title, defeating Grant in a first-round TKO.

Click here to read the full article.

15. Holidayers flock to Seaspray – January 2023

Summer at Seaspray
Sale teenagers kick back in Seaspray over the New Year’s break. Photo Zoe Askew

Thick fields of gumtrees gradually dissipate with every kilometre as you drive south-east along Seaspray Road; bright shades of white from sand dunes in the distance slowly but surely morph with the convoluted blur of green and brown outside the car window, creating an abstract artwork of bush meeting sea.

The month is December, Christmas has been and gone, and the otherwise sleepy town of Seaspray was buzzing with visitors from all walks of life.

Click here to read the full article.

14. Closure shock for Maffra’s families – September 2022

Queen Street Uniting Early Learning Centre, Maffra, will permanently close its doors in December. Photo: Zoe Askew

Queen Street Uniting Early Learning Centre in Maffra will permanently close its doors after 60 years of providing care and education to children in the Wellington Shire region.

The unexpected announcement has sent local families into a spiral, leaving parents apprehensive, frustrated, confused and others scrambling with the nearly impossible task of finding alternative kindergarten arrangements for 2023.

Click here to read the full article.

13. Portside to close early next year – November 2022

Portside Food + Wine
Popular Sale hospitality business Portside Food + Wine will close its doors in January 2023. Photo: Zoe Askew

Popular hospitality business, Portside Food + Wine will permanently close after a lengthy tenancy dispute with Wellington Shire Council, sparking anger in the community.

The pending closure of the popular Sale café and cocktail-wine bar comes only months after Port Albert Wharf Fish and Chips was forced to close when its seven-year lease with the Wellington Shire Council expired.

Click here to read the full article.

12. Women’s sport thriving, but still some way to go – March 2023

More than $18 million has been committed to pursuit gender equality in sport through policies such as the Fair Access Policy Roadmap and programs like Change Our Game. Photo: Zoe Askew

Today, with the exception of Afghan women who have been banned from playing sport under the new Taliban government, equality for women in sport is historically the best it has ever been.

The state government’s Office for Women in Sport and Recreation (OWSR), established in 2017, delivers a wide range of policies and programs that level the playing field for women and girls.

Yet despite the recent advancement of women in sport and landmarks in gender equality, discrimination remains rife both on and off the field, in which the Australian media plays a big role.

Click here to read the full article.

11. Great Sale doctor calls it a day – July 2022

Dr Simon Williams has enjoyed a career spanning more than 50 years. Photo: Zoe Askew

After 52 years of dedicating his life to his patients and delivering over 1000 babies in Sale, Dr Simon Williams provided his final patient consultation on Wednesday, June 29, retiring as one of the longest-serving General Practitioners in Clocktower Medical Centre’s history.

Dr Simon Williams has devoted his life to serving patients and the community with incredible care and dedication. Through his work as a general practitioner, with a major interest in midwifery and obstetrics and interest in psychiatry, Dr Williams has helped shape the society we recognise and live in today.

Click here to read the full article.

10. Young life cut short – June 2022

Owen, Cal and Riley Wood. Photo: Contributed

Sale’s Callum ‘Cal’ Wood, 17, was killed in a car crash on May 21, leaving a hole in the hearts of many and becoming a grim warning to all about road safety.

Cal’s father, Paul Wood, endured the impossible task of burying his second-born son on Friday as brothers Riley, Owen, and Henry said their final goodbyes.

Heartbroken by the sudden loss of their boy, Mr Wood and his partner Maree Cramp are pleading for drivers to slow down and drive to the conditions, especially on rural Gippsland roads.

Click here to read the full article.

9. Zac praised for brave, heroic act – August 2022

Zac Kemp showed fearlessness throughout the ordeal. Photo: Zoe Askew

When Zac Kemp woke up for school on Tuesday, August 16, he believed it was going to be just like any other day.

Within just a few hours, he was rescuing an elderly couple from their smoking car.

Click here to read the full article.

8. Local brings home gold medal – May 2023

Longford wheelchair basketball para-athlete Will Firth has his sights on making the Australian Rollers, the men’s national wheelchair basketball team, and competing in the Paralympics. Photo: Zoe Askew

Don’t be fooled, there is more to Will Firth than those dazzling blue eyes and killer smile.

The 20-year-old Longford local, who lives with cerebral palsy, is also a talented and successful wheelchair basketball athlete.

Click here to read the full article.

7. Pride in our future for region – November 2022

LGBTIQ+ Victorians face greater levels of discrimination, stigma and exclusion and even more so for Gippsland’s queer community, where significantly fewer inclusive supports are available. Photo: Contributed

From regarding people as criminals for their identity to legalising same-sex marriage and outlawing ‘gay-conversion therapy’, Victoria has come a long way since it decriminalised homosexuality in 1982.

Pride in our future: Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ strategy 2022-2032 – Victoria’s long-term plan to drive LGBTIQ+ equality and combat discrimination – was released in February this year, committing all parts of the Victorian government to make laws, policies and services safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQ+ Victorians.

While the state continues to take steps towards equality, the prevalence of systemic discrimination and marginalisation of the LGBTIQ+ community persists, especially in regional Victoria.

Click here to read the full article.

6. Seatbelts save lives – November 2023

Seatbelt noncompliance is increasing across the region, raising concern among authorities. Photo: Zoe Askew

Police have expressed mounting concern about seatbelt non-compliance as authorities record a concerning spike in motorists failing to buckle up.

Seatbelts are one of the most fundamental car safety measures, pivotal in preventing deaths and serious injuries in a crash, yet a shocking number of Victorians are flouting the road law.

Wellington Local Area Commander Inspector Mel McLennan says this alarming new trend of increasing seatbelt non-compliance is contributing to serious injury collisions police are experiencing in the area.

Click here to read the full article.

5. Spotlight on woman’s tragic life – August 2022

Into the Darkness author Karen Collins
Author of Into the Darkness Karen Collins. Photo: Contributed

Karen Collins has shared the story of her great-grandmother, Minnie Eason, following a decade-long investigation, uncovering the historical brutality of the treatment of women and women’s health, finally giving Minnie a voice after many years of silence, cruelty, and violence.

Karen first learnt of Minnie Eason’s profoundly sad and disturbing mental health records in 2011, setting on a journey to uncover the truth and emphasise the wrongs of the past, giving acknowledgement to her great-grandmother’s untold suffering and powerlessness after her husband discarded her into the chilling world of mental institutions.

Minnie was eventually laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Rosedale Cemetery after 11 long years of institutionalised incarceration. A life seemingly erased from existence.

In July 2022, after 11 years on a dark and challenging journey, Karen published her book, Into the Darkness: The Story of Minnie and William Eason, giving Minnie Eason the voice she so deserves.

Click here to read the full article.

4. Harsh reality for wildlife shelters – August 2022

Stradbroke resident Theresa Matthews runs a wildlife shelter. Photo: Zoe Askew

Victoria’s wildlife shelters and rescues are crippling under financial strain and emotional pain, with a lack of funding available and an increase in horrific animal cruelty acts.

Cancelling private health coverage, coming out of retirement to keep the lights on and more than $60,000 in debt: this is the financial sacrifice Theresa Matthews and husband Anthony Matthews have made to care for kangaroos at their self-funded wildlife shelter, Our Haven Wildlife Shelter.

As difficult as financial struggles are, causing strain and emotional distress, it is not the cause of the warm, salty tears swelling in Our Haven founder Theresa Matthews’ eyes.

Click here to read the full article.

3. Warrigunya: making a change – August 2023

Warrigunya board of directors Jane Darling Sloyan, Chris McEvoy, Merryn Stevenson (second from right) and Uncle Alan Coe gathered on the Darriman site on Friday, alongside ACSO chief executive Vaughan Winther (centre), to acknowledge the milestone. Photo: Zoe Askew

From a conversation within the confines of four prison walls to a formulated project, Warrigunya is one step closer to providing safe, supportive, affordable accommodation for Aboriginal men exiting prison.

Aboriginal men are over-represented in prison and are at a higher risk of returning to prison following their release, largely due to a lack of housing, job and opportunities, research shows.

On a Darriman property encircled by towering gum trees just off the South Gippsland Highway, traditional owner project Warrigunya is edging closer towards completion.

Click here to read the full article.

2. Sale resident saves their neighbour from a burning unit – January 2023

Sale man saves woman from burning house
Kevin Tormey risked his life to save his neighbour from their burning unit. Photo: Zoe Askew

Kevin Tormey has been heralded a hero by his neighbours after saving a woman’s life from her burning home.

Kevin Tormey stood bashing on the bedroom window of a Futcher Court, Sale, unit where inside, the female resident lay sleeping as thick black smoke inundated the home.

Click here to read the full article.

1. Young family facing uncertainty – December 2022

Izabela Kupniewska and Virgil Tirris stand in front of their Loch Sport house with son Antonio. Photo: Zoe Askew

Heartbreaking for a young Loch Sport family, after spending close to $70,000 for renovations, their home is now facing demolition.

The future of a Sanctuary Road residence is yet to be determined following works by Darcy Wheildon of Wheildons Excavation & Home Maintenance, almost all of which allegedly violate the Building Act 1993 and associated regulations, including illegal building work from an unregistered or unlicensed practitioner.

Click here to read the full article.