Aged care residents given days to move

Residents of an Essendon aged care centre linked to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit are looking for new accommodation after their families were informed the centre will close in nine days.
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The centre is believed to have capacity for about 75 residents.

Peter McCubbin, whose 96-year-old mother is a resident at Viva Care, said he was informed by telephone on Saturday that the centre would close on April 8. This gave him nine days to find new care for his mother. ”I don’t know if I can find accommodation for her in that time,” he said.

A Viva Care employee confirmed this date was accurate.

A spokesman for Viva management declined to comment.

Viva is part of the Cambridge Aged Care Group, controlled by Stephen George Snowden. Mr Snowden, a former bankrupt who was convicted in 2011 of obtaining financial advantage by deception, is being pursued by Westpac over $7 million the bank alleges he obtained by taking advantage of a payment error.

Westpac alleges that money from a deceased person’s account was transferred to a Westpac account belonging to the Berkeley Living Group. A system error allowed the money to be transferred to several ANZ accounts connected to Mr Snowden before Westpac realised the original transaction was questionable. Berkeley is now in liquidation. Cambridge owns five centres and at least two have been sanctioned over concerns about quality of care, and are in voluntary administration.

Mr McCubbin said that at two separate meetings at Viva, families were told ”all would be well” despite media reports of problems.

A Health and Ageing Department spokeswoman said the centre’s provider was told its accreditation had been revoked on February 22, effective April 8. The provider was obliged to make appropriate relocation arrangements.

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Tributes as wall claims third life

Alexander and Bridget Jones Alexander Jones, 19, of Montmorency, with his sister Bridget (left).
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Teenagers Bridget and Alexander Jones, who were killed when a wall collapsed in Swanston Street, were Carlton supporters on their way to meet their father for the Carlton v Richmond AFL game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Ms Jones, 18, died at the Royal Melbourne Hospital on Sunday morning after succumbing to severe head injuries.

Ms Jones’ 19-year-old brother died while trying to shield her from falling debris at the former Carlton and United Breweries site on Thursday.

Police believe the third person killed in the incident was a Mount Waverley woman aged in her 30s. She is yet to be formally identified.

The parents of the Montmorency siblings have described them as ”kind-hearted and respectful” in a statement.

Ian and Sue Jones thanked the bystanders who tried to help their children, as well as police and staff at the hospital.

”Alexander was planning on studying law and perhaps going into politics. Bridget was considering becoming a teacher.

”They loved sport, particularly tennis, which they played since they were five, and all different genres of music.”

WorkSafe and Victoria Police are continuing to investigate and police have renewed calls for witnesses to come forward.

More than 5000 people have joined Facebook pages dedicated to the former Montmorency Secondary College students.

On Sunday, friends and well-wishers gathered at the Swanston Street site.

Bricks from the 2.4 metre wall lay in piles of rubble behind a steel fence, adorned with cards, photographs of the teenagers and bouquets.

While the pavement was still stained red from the fallen bricks, colourful chalk messages paying tribute to the victims stood out.

”Together always and forever,” one message said.

A statement from Melbourne University, where the pair studied, said the university community was ”deeply saddened and distressed” by the tragedy and would offer to hold a memorial service.

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Strike threat over limits on research

Melbourne University academics are preparing for industrial action over concerns that their academic freedom could be limited under a new agreement.
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Academics fear the university is seeking the power to make them redundant if their research fails to match their department’s ”research direction”. The university has rejected the criticism, but the academics said the demand from the university, raised in negotiations over the new agreement, could restrict their ability to pursue innovative research.

Melbourne University law Associate Professor Beth Gaze said she was stunned when she saw the clause in negotiation items.

She said the university had a strong reputation for research, which should not be undermined.

”I just cannot imagine why we would change the research culture in this sort of way,” she said. ”If you want to have innovation and new discoveries you have to let the people who are expert in those areas follow the research where they want to go.”

Melbourne University Provost Margaret Sheil said the clause was a ”suggestion” made in discussions with the National Tertiary Education Union. It was designed for extreme situations such as the unlikely closure of academic departments. ”We’re a long way from even implementing this clause if it were to proceed,” she said.

Professor Sheil condemned the union for dragging out negotiations. She said the university had been ready since last March but it had taken the union until October to join ”serious” discussions.

She said the availability of government funding was the greatest influence on which research projects could proceed. ”That drives research, not what management says.”

Melbourne University is Australia’s top-ranked university and the country’s only institute inside the top 30 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The union’s Victorian secretary, Colin Long, said Fair Work Australia had issued a ballot order for industrial action. Staff would vote on whether to take action in coming weeks, which could range from strikes to withholding results and administrative bans.

”We just object to the university deciding what is appropriate research,” Dr Long said. ”Universities are becoming much more corporate and commercial. We’re worried universities will have a very narrow focus on research.”

He said the union would not accept restrictions on academic freedom.

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Some see red in yellow ribbon collar code

A local child safety organisation has criticised a global trend for owners to tie yellow ribbons on the leads of their dogs to warn they should not be approached.
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The concept is gaining popularity, with Facebook site The Yellow Dog Project attracting 18,000 Likes since it started six months ago. The site’s founder Tara Palardy, a dog trainer in Alberta, Canada, said she had received messages of support from more than 40 countries.

Downloadable posters from her website, theyellowdogproject苏州美睫培训, say dogs that might benefit include those that are sick, being trained or that are scared or reactive. Sydney trainer Pat Robards promotes yellow coats, bandannas and owner caps through her own Facebook site, Yellowdog Australia.

But Kidsafe Victoria warns the practice could encourage a false sense of security that dogs without yellow ribbons were safe to be near.

”The onus is still on the owner to be responsible for what their dog does,” chief executive Melanie Courtney said. She feared the ribbon could ”take that away and put responsibility on other people to recognise that that’s a dog that needs space”.

”It’s important that the owners of dogs who need space still do the right thing and protect other dogs and children by ensuring their animal is still properly restrained. In terms of reducing dog attacks on children, I’m not sure it will have much of an effect as these are usually caused by dogs who are known to them.”

Ms Courtney said parents should talk to the owner and verify it was safe for their children to approach a dog, and then supervise play between them.

Ms Palardy said ribbons were not an excuse to avoid getting your dog trained and socialised. ”It’s not a Band-Aid to fix something; you do still need to do the training.”

Kerri Bennett, of Sunbury, uses a yellow ribbon to protect her shih-tzu poodle cross Buddy.

Four-year-old Buddy was attacked, and blinded by another dog as a puppy and abandoned by his first owners. He is still skittish and cowers if dogs or people approach him too eagerly.

Mrs Bennett said most other owners didn’t know what a yellow ribbon meant. ”If people approach me about it, I’m happy to educate them. I say it’s to alert other people not to rush up to my dog.

”They’ve mostly said that’s a good idea. I think it just needs to become more publicised.”

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Loan fraud linked to drug houses

A rogue home loan broker obtained more than $17 million of fraudulent loans for clients, some of whom used the money to buy marijuana grow houses, police allege.
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Investigations are continuing into Kieu Thi Thanh Huynh, who has approved more than $100 million in loans in the past seven years, and her clients. The 43-year-old, also known as Kim Huynh, has been charged with 93 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, making false documents and using false documents.

A further 30 people have been charged with one count each of obtaining financial advantage by deception, making false documents and using false documents as part of the police operation code named Squid.

Those charged are of Vietnamese origin and range from 21 to 68 years old. They were arrested between February 25 and March 8.

The alleged scammers have been bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a committal mention on May 24.

A police spokeswoman said there may be more arrests.

”Inquiries are continuing in relation to a number of associates who investigators allege also purchased homes using false documents and gained financial advantage by deception.”

Police executed five search warrants at three houses in St Albans, Sunshine and Sunshine North on February 25, seizing computers, financial documents, phones and jewellery.

Grow houses bought with loans allegedly obtained by Ms Huynh were uncovered during Operation Taxa, which has resulted in millions of dollars worth of marijuana and property being seized from dozens of houses, mostly in Melbourne’s north-west.

Police will allege loan documents linked to Ms Huynh were found in several of the houses.

Officers from the Criminal Proceeds Squad and E-Crime Squad, along with forensic accountants, are involved in the investigation.

Fairfax Media reported last year that grow houses raided during Operation Taxa had mostly been linked to Vietnamese crime families, who were increasingly buying houses in new residential estates in Melbourne’s outer suburbs as opposed to renting them.

The trend had shown the increased financial clout of marijuana traffickers, police said at the time.

Head of the Criminal Proceeds Squad Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Kerr said the squad had seized $25.2 million worth of property linked to marijuana in 2012, an increase of about $700,000 compared with the previous year.

He said the squad had detected that a significant amount of money was being sent overseas by those involved in the marijuana trade in Victoria. ”This is money that is being sent overseas by people that would appear to have no legitimate sources of income in Australia.

”A lot of these people are on Centrelink benefits, yet somehow managed to send significant amounts of money overseas. How is that happening? And why is that happening?”

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