Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews spent time campaigning at a school in Cranbourne.Buoyed by two positive poll results, it was a confident Daniel Andrews who hit the road for a final day of campaigning before D-day in the Victorian election.

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Flanked by wife Cath, a familiar face late in the campaign, the Labor leader seemed relaxed in the company of happy children as he made another school-related promise.

If re-elected, he would double the amount of schools taking part in a free breakfast scheme plus throw in lunch too as part of a $58 million promise.

“We will not only double the number of schools that are part of the breakfast club program from 500 to 1000, we’re going to include lunch club, a second meal each and every school day, for those kids who without this program, would go hungry,” Mr Andrews told reporters at Cranbourne West Primary School.

The incumbent premier said about 10 per cent of children being served breakfasts through the program also do not have lunch and the participating schools would be selected according to need.

With Friday being White Ribbon Day, Mr Andrews also promised to continue working on the recommendations of the family violence royal commission.

In a separate announcement, Labor has promised to invest $4.6 million to provide another 10 full-time financial counsellors to help family violence victims negotiate with creditors and debt collectors, protect assets from repossession and access financial hardship programs.

Mr Andrews was in a calm and reflective mood on Friday, coinciding with the release of a uComms/ReachTEL poll, published by The Age, pointing to the government being returned to power with 54 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Labor is also ahead of the Liberal-Nationals coalition in a second poll published by the Herald-Sun and conducted by YouGov Galaxy, with a 53-47 per cent two-party preferred split.

Mr Andrews even paid respect for Opposition Leader Matthew Guy and the role of the press during the campaign.

“The leader of the opposition and I, we are away from our families like many people across Victoria. This can be a bruising business,” he said.

“Anyone who stands up in politics or in any other way for the things that they believe in, I have nothing but praise for them and all of us are involved in a process.”

More than 1.1 million people have voted early in the election.

“I would ask Victorians to vote for a local Labor candidate so we can continue to keep delivering for all Victorians,” said Mr Andrews, recommitting to a full term if voted back in to power.

“A handful of votes in a handful of seats can make the difference between getting things done or returning to a time when hospitals and services were cut.”

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IN sharing the deeply personal and tragic story of the disintegration of her family, of the devastating impact domestic abuse had on her mother, and the trauma witnessing that horror caused her, Maddison Passarelli has opened wide a wound that many would dare not touch.

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Roger Yeo. Picture: Simone De Peak

And she is determined to keep that wound in plain sight because, she argues, there is no justice in silence.

Another person touched by domestic violence is Roger Yeo, whose daughterRachelle was murdered in her home by a former partner. He said violence against women by men was a“national human rights disaster”.

Mr Yeo and Ms Passarelli will both speak at the Hunter White Ribbon Breakfast at Wests New Lambton on November 30.They are two strangers, linked by the woundsof domestic violence. In both cases they were not the intended victims of that violence, but they carry the scars.

Alarming statistics from the nBureau of Statistics show onein three women hasexperienced physical violence since the age of 15, one in five hasexperienced sexual violence and one in six has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner.

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, a figure Mr Yeo, Ms Passarelli and a growing chorus of fed-up ns say should be causing a national outcry.Indeed it should.

And there are signs the anger is registering. NSWpolice chief Mick Fuller on Friday called for domestic violence killers to be locked up life, as the state government ordereda review of sentences.

Calling for the 20-year standard non-parole period for murder to be raised,Commissioner Fuller said: “Dying in your own home at the hands of someone that’s supposed to love you has to be one of the worst crimes.” While any increase in sentences would be welcome, there is also a seismic cultural shift that needs to take place.

In an interview with theNewcastle Herald, Mr Yeo shared his passion for White Ribbon, the organsation tasked with creating a nation that respects women, in which every woman lives in safety.While much of the rhetoric around violence against women is about educating adults, Mr Yeo is looking further.He wants to reach today’s boys to change tomorrow’s men.

“I’m not going to change the behaviour of a 45-year-old man that’s beating his wife,” he said.“But it’s the next generation of kids and the one after that.”

Domestic violence most certainly is a national tragedy. It most certainly is a human rights disaster and it most certainly has to change. Both Ms Passarelli and Mr Yeo recognise that silence is not the answer. And if keeping painful wounds open for all to see will make people stop, listen and act, then that is what we need to do. We need to raise our voices. We need to be heard.

For support: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)Lifeline:13 11 14ISSUE: 39,065.

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Rohan Dennis has received another accolade after winning the road world championships time trial.Winning his second n cyclist of the year award caps a dream year on and off the bike for Rohan Dennis.

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In September, the road time trial star won his elusive first world championship in the event.

He also won time trial stages at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana and led the two Grand Tours.

That made him only the third n after Bradley McGee and Cadel Evans to hold the overall lead in the three Grand Tours – the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta.

He won the Sir Hubert Opperman medal as the cyclist of the year.

But it’s also been a massive 2018 away from cycling for Dennis.

He was unable to attend Friday’s cycling awards lunch in Melbourne because Dennis and wife Melissa have had their first child, a boy, and are in Europe.

In February, Dennis married Melissa Hoskins, the retired world champion track cyclist.

Dennis, whose long-term project is to become an overall contender in the Grand Tours, overcame several years of frustration to win the time trial world title in Innsbruck, Austria.

A perennial favourite in the event, he was thwarted at the worlds and other major events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games by bad luck.

Dennis crashed out at last year’s world titles and at the Rio Olympics, a broken aero bar robbed him of a probable silver medal.

Apart from being named overall cyclist of the year, Dennis also took out the men’s road category.

World championship silver medallist Amanda Spratt won the women’s road honour.

The world record-breaking team pursuit squad narrowly beat world sprint champion Matthew Glaetzer to take out the men’s track section, while three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Stephanie Morton won the women’s track category.

Olympic gold medallist and Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur was among four n cycling Hall Of Fame inductees honoured at the awards function.

Track greats Danny Clark and Michelle Ferris and mountain bike course design guru Glen Jacobs round out this year’s inductions.

MAJOR AUSTRALIAN CYCLING AWARD WINNERS

The Sir Hubert ‘Oppy’ Opperman Medal – Rohan Dennis

Elite Para-cycling – Alistair Donohoe and Emilie Miller

Elite Track – Men’s Team Pursuit (Alex Porter, Sam Welsford, Leigh Howard, Kelland O’Brien) and Stephanie Morton

Elite Road – Dennis and Amanda Spratt

Elite MTB – Sam Hill and Tracey Hannah

Elite BMX – Logan Martin and Saya Sakakibara

Coach of the year – Tim Decker

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OUT IN FRONT: Scott McLaughlin leads championship rival Shane van Gisbergen into a corner opposite Newcastle beach during practice on Friday. Picture: Mark HorsburghThe crowd was down, but Ford driver Scott McLaughlin looked up to the task of defending his Supercars lead on the opening day of the Newcastle 500.

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Last year’s inaugural Supercars race in Newcastle drew a bumper Friday turnout, but the novelty appeared to have worn off this time as a relatively modest crowd filtered through the gates.

A howling north-west wind which gusted up to 87 kilometres an hour at Nobbys also might have had something to do with the thinner crowd.

Prime viewing spots such as Watt Street and Nobbys Road were fouror five deep with spectators on Friday last year but not nearly as busy this time.

Supercars representatives said practice-only days typically drew smaller crowds, and this year’s turnout was a more realistic long-term figure for Fridays in Newcastle.

Many traders in the race circuit reported numbers were down on last year, but they were still predicting a busy weekend for the two 250km races that will decide the championship.

McLaughlin, who is looking to atone for a horror Sunday race last year which cost him what would have been his first title, powered through the gale to top the time sheets in Friday’s second practice.

His main rival, Holden driver and fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen, finished well down in seventh before Saturday’s qualifying session and first race.

Crowd down, wind up as McLaughlin blows away title rival in practice SMILE: The wind spoils Michelle Plain’s selfie with retiring Holden legend Craig Lowndes. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

BLOWN AWAY: A near-empty grandstand facing the howling gale at the start of pit straight on Friday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

LEADER: Scott McLaughlin powers up Watt Street during practice on Friday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The crowd in Foreshore Park this year.

The crowd in Foreshore Park on Friday last year.

MAKING A STATEMENT: Scott McLaughlin at the top of Watt Street. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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123456789101112131415 – McLaughlin, who leads the championship by just 14 points entering the final weekend of the season, stopped the clock at one minute, 10.47 seconds, ahead of seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup and Ford’s Cameron Waters.

Van Gisbergen was 0.35 seconds off McLaughlin’s pace, andretiring Holden great Craig Lowndes was 12th fastest.

A last-minute decision to cover the new light rail tracks in Scott Street did not appear to hamper the drivers, though workers performed some running repairs on the temporary covering midway through the day.

McLaughlin said the tracks had not affected his car at the start of the Watt Street straight.

“We’re half airborne there, anyway,” he said.

Whincup, who snatched the championship from McLaughlin in Newcastle last year, said he believed the covering had been added “so we don’t rip up the tracks” rather than to protect the cars.

The Holden driver said the strong wind had brought deposited dust on the track, increasing lap times.

Cameron Waters

Waters joked that he had run over“two hats and a palm tree” blown onto the seaside circuit.

McLaughlin’s teammate, Fabian Coulthard, described the Newcastle street circuit as a “tough little joint”.

“It’s a bit of a bull ring,”Coulthard said after the second Supercars practice session.“It’s bumpy and you’ve got to have a car set up for all elements.

“You can drive down the front straight and you feel the gusts of wind restricting the car a little bit.

“I’ve never felt that in a Supercar before.”

Lowndes said he had been busy meeting corporate commitments and was satisfied with a time only 0.4 seconds off pole in his special gold-coloured Commodore.

Newcastle’s Aaren Russell missed out on a drive in the premier Supercars class this weekend but topped practice in his SuperUtes debut.

He piloted his Mitsubishi Triton around the 2.6km circuit in one minute 31.3215 seconds, about20 seconds slower than a Supercar but a positive result nonetheless.

“It’s awesome to be racing at my home track and topping the time sheets today,” he said.“Hopefully I can stay there in qualifying.”

The wind is expected to drop on Saturday, giving the drivers no time to adjust their car set-ups to calmer conditions.

Saturday’s qualifying session is at 11.35am before the first 250km race at 3.45pm.

Off the track, many parents appeared to have heeded the warnings of doctors and covered their children’s ears with headphones while the cars were running on Friday.

A Newcastle ear, noseand throat surgeon, who asked not to be named, said on Friday that he would wear ear protection when he attended the race this weekend.

“I will be, for the same reason I don’t smoke,” he said.

He said the car noise had the potential to cause internal cochlear damage.

with AAP

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Former prime minister Tony Abbott (left) is seen with his Davidson Brigade as NSW Rural Fire Service crews battle a bush fire burning near houses along Lemon Tree Passage Road, in Salt Ash, NSW, Friday. Photo: AAP/Dan HimbrechtsFormer Prime Minister Tony Abbott is on the fire ground at Lemon Tree Passage Road, where he is working as a volunteer with the Davidson Brigade to fight the fires burning at Salt Ash.

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More than 180 firefighters were on the ground Friday working to bring the blaze under control.

The Davidson volunteer brigade was called up to Port Stephens at around 3.30pm Thursday.

LIVE: Immediate updates and fire warnings from the ground at Salt Ash

A firefighter attacks the blaze at Salt Ash on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

RFS Inspector Rolf Poole was on the fire ground and said crews were battling challenging, windy conditions to bring the fire to heel.

The fire was pushed toward Lemon Tree Passage and Rookes Road in the early morning under dry and windy conditions, prompting an escalated fire danger warning around 6.30am.

Crews have since been working in the area to control hotspots and to prevent the fire flaring up at the edges.

Firefighters have also taken positions along Nelson Bay Road where they were ready to protect properties as required.

Fire news:Residents say “you never get used” to the threat of fire

Meanwhile, a second fire has broken out to the north at Twelve Mile Creek.

Multiple crews and aircraft responded quickly to the grass fire, which was burning close to the roadside near the intersection of the Pacific Highway and The Buckets Way.

A NSW RFS spokesperson said they did not expect the fire to escalate, but that it would prove a “minor disruption” for crews as they work to contain the larger blaze burning at Salt Ash.

Traffic has been affected in both directions on the Pacific Highway, with smoke over the road and crews working near the road to bring the fire under control, the spokesperson said.

All northbound lanes were reopened around 2.40pm, but one of two southbound lanes remained closed due to the fire.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott (left) is seen with his Davidson Brigade as NSW Rural Fire Service crews battle a bush fire burning near houses along Lemon Tree Passage Road, in Salt Ash, NSW, Friday. Photo: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Drivers have been urged to take care travelling in the area.

Meanwhile, to the south, both Richardson and Medowie roads have remained closed as the bushfire burns, and Nelson Bay Road has been closed after it opened under a reduced speed limit for a number of hours earlier Friday.

The closure of Nelson Bay Road means road access to Nelson Bay has been cut off.

Newcastle Herald

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Diego Castro could return from a hamstring injury and make his A-League season debut for Perth.Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic has a headache – and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Popovic has some big selection calls to make ahead of Sunday’s A-League match against Central Coast, with Diego Castro the biggest of the lot.

Castro hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring during the pre-season, but the veteran is now back in full training and pushing for selection against the Mariners at nib Stadium.

Veteran striker Brendon Santalab (hamstring) is also available to play his first game of the season, while centre back Tomislav Mrcela will be hoping to slot straight back in after serving a one-match suspension.

Glory sit on top of the ladder with three wins and one draw, but Popovic said he wouldn’t be afraid to change an unbeaten side if he saw the need for it.

Popovic wants to put Castro through his paces on Saturday before making a final decision on the 36-year-old.

“I’m just weighing up where he’s at physically,” Popovic said.

“The last 10 days he’s been training with the team, doing all the sessions with the group.

“We want to make sure that if we do use Diego, he will make a difference.

“But we also don’t want to throw him in there for the sake of one match if he’s not ready.”

Socceroos defender Matthew Spiranovic will miss at least another match as he continues his long recovery from hip surgery.

Santalab is likely to have to bide his time on the bench given the hot form of striker Andy Keogh, who has scored four goals in four games.

Central defender Dino Djulbic performed well in the 2-0 win over Adelaide, but he could be forced straight out given that Mrcela is available to return.

“It’s a great headache,” Popovic said of his selection options.

The last-placed Mariners will be without star midfielder Tommy Oar, who strained a knee in the 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory.

However, veteran striker Matt Simon is available to play after recovering from injury.

The Mariners have just two points to show from their opening four games, and will be desperate to post a win in Perth.

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Jeff Horn says it’s the element of unknown that will interest punters most about his fight with Anthony Mundine next Friday.

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It’s not an opinion shared by his trainer Glenn Rushton though, who a week out from the Suncorp Stadium bout has already seen it play out in his head.

“I’m predicting a KO win … I actually had a dream he’d knock him out in round seven and I’m visualising the headline on the next morning saying ‘Mundown’,” Rushton said on Friday.

“Joshua (Clottey) got him down five times (in a 2014 loss), how good would it be if we could get him down six times.

“But it’s a dangerous fight, we have to be careful if we get too carried away and get him too early it could be to our detriment.”

Mundine has typically pulled no punches ahead of what is said to be the former rugby league star and boxing world champion’s farewell from the ring.

But former teacher Horn was full of complements following a promotional sparring session in downtown Brisbane on Friday.

“Definitely (he can knock me out); I think he’s in good shape from what I’ve seen of him,” Horn said.

“He wants to go out on the big bang, I’m expecting the best Anthony Mundine out there.

“It’s a real unknown with this fight, with Mundine and his boxing skills.”

Horn lost his welterweight title belt in what was his first professional defeat to Terence Crawford in June.

“Hopefully I can learn from my mistakes,” Horn said.

“Mundine has that similar style and he’s saying he’s coming to upset me with that.”

Horn admitted to some nostalgia as he skipped around a makeshift gym at the top of Queen Street, having done the same before his memorable upset of Manny Pacquiao last year.

He hopes those good vibes continue against an opponent he thinks may be underestimating him.

“I think that last fight (against Crawford) he saw me in, he saw a lot of chinks in my armour, which there was,” Horn said.

“This time it’s going to be a lot different.

“His greatest weakness will be if I clip him nice and clean in the head he’ll be wobbled and I’ll be able to get him down.”

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Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas sThe men vying to be in charge of Victoria’s purse strings have spent election eve battling over each other’s budget black holes.

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Treasurer Tim Pallas on Friday launched an online attack advertisement against the Liberals’ plan to lease off Melbourne’s sewage treatment system to pay for projects.

Meanwhile, shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien seized on comments made by Mr Pallas on radio refusing to rule out new taxes.

“We don’t think essential services should ever constitute part of a government’s privatisation agenda, economic assets (like the port) we think fall into a different category,” Mr Pallas told reporters.

“How cowardly has this been to try and drop this into the public domain at the last minute, when quite frankly I would relish the opportunity to talk about the Liberal Party’s privatisation plans.”

Mr Pallas also accused the Liberal-Nationals of having a $43 billion shortfall in costings for major projects and minor works projects promised over multiple parliament terms.

Most budgets only deal with four-year periods.

Mr O’Brien for his part counterattacked over the revelation Labor plans on borrowing $25 billion to fund three major infrastructure projects and Mr Pallas’ refusal to promise no new taxes.

“If Daniel Andrews is re-elected tomorrow, Victorians can bet their house on him introducing even more new taxes to pay for his unfunded election promises,” he said in a statement.

He promised no new taxes under a Liberal-Nationals government.

“These are the people who said no new taxes before the last election – they introduced 12 new or increased taxes. We’re now the highest-taxed state in the country,” Mr O’Brien told 3AW.

Premier Daniel Andrews defended Labor’s planned debt as roughly equivalent to one years’ worth of the state’s income.

“Most Victorians would be pleased to have a mortgage that’s no bigger than a year’s income,” he told reporters.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy echoed Mr O’Brien’s attack while on the hustings.

“There is either going to be more tax or no new taxes I think we know the answer. If Labor is elected, there will be more taxes,” Mr Guy told reporters.

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PROCESS: Procedural fairness is a key consideration in any unfair dismissal matter.The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has made it clear in its decisions on unfair dismissals that there are two main considerations:whether there was a valid reason for termination or not; andwhether procedural fairness was provided.

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Procedural fairness looks at the process that the employer adopted in effecting the dismissal of an employee. Procedural fairness is a primary factor for consideration in any unfair dismissal matter. A valid reason for termination on its own will not be sufficient for an employer to successfully defend an unfair dismissal case.

Failure of the employer to apply procedural fairness before an employee’s dismissal will usually result in a finding that the dismissal was unfair, resulting in either the reinstatement of the employee (when considered appropriate) or payment of compensation (up to the equivalent of six months’ pay).

Many will recall the publicity surrounding the decision of Gosek v Illawara Coal Holdings where Mr Gosek directed foul language at fellow employees and supervisors. Up until this decision, the accepted view was that once an employee swore at a workplace and directed the offensive language at a fellow employee or a supervisor, it was a justified termination of employment.

But, in this case, not only did the FWC find that Mr Gosek’s termination of employment for this type of behaviour was unfair, it ordered the employer to reinstate Mr Gosek within seven days.

The employer did not follow procedural fairness. The employee was summarily dismissed and was told not to return to work. Instead, the FWC said that procedural fairness must still be applied. The employer should have allowed the employee to settle down then should have invited the employee to a meeting and given him the opportunity to explain his behaviour. If he had that opportunity, the evidence that he would have put forward would have been:

Mr Gosek had an unblemished employment record in his 11 years’ service at Illawarra Coal, which rendered his behaviour “out of character”;he immediately apologised for his behaviour; andthe explanation Mr Gosek gave for his conduct including:the severe impact of his mental illness on his family which led to his excessive drinking and his difficulty adjusting to the effect of increased medication.The decision was appealed this year, and the employee was once again successful. The Full Bench of the FWC is not saying that anyone can swear in the workplace to their colleagues and get away with it ‒ indeed, if faced with a different set of circumstances it is entirely possible a different conclusion would have been reached. It does mean employers really need to pay attention to the circumstances of each misconduct case before them.

So, in this case, we had a valid reason for dismissal but the procedure undertaken was not fair and therefore the employee was reinstated.

When effecting a dismissal, employers must askhave they given the employee a fair go all around? And, importantly, has the employee had the opportunity to have their say?

Christie Howson is Solicitor Director, Employment and Litigation at Osborn Law

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‘Tsunami of fire’: relief in Salt Ash after bushfire fury eases Firefighters at Salt Ash on Friday. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

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TweetFacebook Friday’s Salt Ash bushfire threat Pictures by Simone De Peak and AAP+92Pictures by Simone De Peak and AAPfacebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsMORE GALLERIES

1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344454647484950515253545556575859606162636465666768697071727374757677787980818283848586878889909192 – A SECOND day of horror conditions kept firefighters guessing at Salt Ash on Friday, with properties constantly under threat from a capricious bushfire amid howling winds.

Firefightersincluding former Prime Minister Tony Abbottcovered an area from Rookes Roadto the Williamtown RAAF base on Friday as fast-moving fires and pockets of flame demanded a high degree of caution.

Thin smoke would quickly become impenetrable before clearing altogether within minutes asstrong winds forced even some water-bombing aircraft to the ground for safety reasons amid “severe turbulence”.

NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector RolfPoole said fire investigators would continue to seek out the cause of the blaze, which spent the best part of two days at an Emergency warning level and pushed firefighters from the moment it flared.

Crews were forced to seek out “small pockets of fire” that lurked amid inaccessible bush, often erupting to put homes under direct threat.

‘No smoke to just flames’: Salt Ash, Weston fires roar“The size of the fire is not the issue, it’s the fact that each of these pockets is driven by the winds and they can go running for houses,” Inspector Poolesaid.

“It has been challenging all day …normally a fire like this would make hard fast runs.”

Relief from the powerful winds that prevailed on Thursday and Friday is predicted to arrive on Saturday.

Inspector Poole said a change in the weather would be needed before crews could genuinely attack the fire rather than simply defend homes.

“I guess the analogy is that you wouldn’t expect a surf lifesaver to go down during a tsunami and stop it at the beach.In the same way, we can’t stop the tsunami of fire,” Inspector Poole said.

“[Friday was]very much about steering the fire around the assets and then [we will be]attacking it when those conditions improve.”

BURNING BUSH: Firefighters tackle a pocket of flame across the driveway from a secluded Lemon Tree Passage Road property. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Rookes Road resident Brendan Thomas’ fence line divided the green of his lawn and trees from the blackened trunks of neighbouring bushland devoured in the early hours of Friday.

Mr Thomas, who spent part of the day spraying water over the smouldering black land next door to his home, said maintenance of fire trails in the area was essential

“It’s not maintained enough,” he said.

“They had a dozer come out in August and that really made an impact this morning.”

Mr Thomas said he woke about 5.30am as the fire moved east, and a short time laterTilligerry firefighters stood in his yard and kept the flames at bay.

“I gave them some gear like gloves,” he said. “They needed it and it was surplus to my needs.”

The stresses of moving house only got worse for Rachel Bailey when the truck hauling her family’s belongings from Tanilba Bay to Maitland got caught in Salt Ash amid the fires, which fell to Watch and Act level about 4pm as conditions eased.

A quick stop to collect items from Ms Bailey’s mother, Robyn Langley, at Salt Ash instead became a brush with the blazes that lasted until mid-morning.

Adding to the pressure, Ms Bailey said she feared a flight out of Williamtown on Saturday morning for a family holiday was also under a literal cloud ifsmoke kept pouring over the area around Newcastle Airport.

Ms Langley, who has lived in the area 33 years, said Salt Ash residents were familiar with the fear, destruction and suspense bushfires delivered.

“You get aware, but you don’t get blasé because you can’t, she said.

“We’ve had some bad ones, we’ve had loss of life and loss of houses, and we’ve had some that came awfully, awfully close.”

A LITTLE ANTSY: Robyn Langley with daughter Rachel Bailey and grandson Robert Bailey watching on at the smoke along Lemon Tree Passage Road. Picture: Simone De Peak

Across the road, Marilyn and Rob Sanderson said the ordeal never changed.

“You never get used to it,” Mr Sanderson said. “It still tightens the sphincter muscles.”

Mr Sanderson said their property was fitted with pumps and generators to withstand a potential loss of electricity.

“When you live here everything works off power because there’s no town water,” he said. “Without electricity, we don’t have water.”

“We’ve spent a lot of money fire-proofing as much as we can … if you don’t, honestly you’re a mug.”

Despite the risk of fires, with Friday’s threat the second this year so far, the Sandersons said it was simply part of life in Salt Ash.

“It’s a great place to live,” Mr Sanderson said.

Choppers and planes looped over the land near Rookes Road and Lemon Tree Passage Road, with horses in front paddocks as residents hosed down roofs and fire crackled at the back fences of large, rural blocks.

Major roads including Nelson Bay Road, Lemon Tree Passage Road, Richardson Road and Medowie Roadre-opened by about 5pm, making planned evacuation centres for displaced residents at Tilligerry and Raymond Terrace unnecessary.

Rookes Road’s Matt Mitchell, whose property sits at the opposite end to Mr Thomas’ and faces black trees scorched as August’s fires closed on his family home, said 12 years in the suburb had steeled him.

Mr Mitchell calmly ran sprinklers on trees in his yard, his children playing nearby.

“That bit there’s a risk, so I’m watering it,” he said.

His land also offered firefighters a thoroughfare through to the Lemon Tree Passage Road properties in the path of the blaze, many sitting back deep from the road nestled inbush.

Asked if the fires worried him, Mr Mitchell was unequivocal.

“Not at all, because we are prepared,” he said. “The premiums worry me.”

Bree Mitchell said she left her husband and family to head to work, getting caught outside the area for the second time since the blaze began on Thursday.

“Today I went into work and pretty much turned around,” she said

Caught in the road closures, it was mid-morning before she returned.

The Mitchells’ neighbour, Dale Wenham said he was comforted by the huge contingent of firefighters.

“They’re bloody good,” he said. “It’s a good road, this, because everyone helps each other.”

Having been in Salt Ash five years and facing his second fire in a few months, Mr Wenham admitted to a bit of nervousness.“They do worry me, I’d be lying if I said they didn’t,” Mr Wenham said.

Looking at his neighbour, he couldn’t resist a bit of humour.

“Move to Salt Ash, they said. It will be fine, they said,” Mr Wenham joked.

PROTECTIVE: Mark Gilson on the roof of his Salt Ash property about noon. Firefighters were stationed in Mr Gilson’s yard as a precaution. Picture: Simone De Peak

Pauline and Mark Gilson used garden hoses and tank water to douse their Lemon Tree Passage Road property as the fire neared around noon.

A fire crew from Weston, an area that had its own fire emergency on Thursday, stayedparked in their front yard for hours.

Many houses had a similar guard, firefighters clumped in adjacent drivewayswhile the Gilsons and their neighboursworked to dampen the fire’s prospects on their land.

Ms Gilson said her son Ben returned from work at Mount Hutton along the beach after reaching Anna Bay on Thursday.

She had sent him updates on the fire as it approached on Friday while the family moved their horses down the road where the air was clear.

“Even the chooks put themselves away,” Ms Gilson said. “They’re not silly.”

Crews slipped between the Gilsons’ property and the Rookes Road one adjoining at the rear.

Helicopters lapped overhead intermittently, filling their buckets in Tilligerry Creek to elicit huge gasps of smoke as they poured it over the blaze hidden in scrub.

As firefighters waited near the family’s pool, hoping to anticipate a dash from the unpredictable fire towards the house, Ms Gilson said the wait for a bushfire to approach to extinguish never got easier.

“You say this is bad, but you forget how scary they all are,” Ms Gilson said. “It doesn’t get easier, but you do get better prepared.”

“I think you learn not to go [as fire approaches]. If you have animals or anyone at home, you’re still beside yourself. At least here you know, and you’re all together.”

Mr Gilson said he was in awe of the firefightersstanding vigil near his pool.

“They give up their day jobs to come and do this, to keep us safe,” he said. “You can’t thank them enough.”

GUARDED: Firefighters set up in numerous Rookes Road and Lemon Tree Passage Road properties on Friday due to the fire’s unpredictability. Picture: Simone De Peak

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