30 July 2019

Page 19

NEWS DESK

Looters dive deep off Cape Schanck LOOTERS have stolen irreplaceable items from a shipwreck lying 80 metres under the sea about 10 kilometres south of Cape Schanck. The loss in 1893 of 16 of the SS Alert’s crew is one of the worst shipwrecks in Victoria’s maritime history. A 500-metre radius around the wreck was declared a Commonwealth Protected Zone within weeks of the discovery of the Alert on 3 July 2007. But thieves have now invaded the fragile archaeological site, stealing such things as navigation lights, bottles, plates and a lamp shade. The theft was discovered by specialist divers undertaking a routine inspection of the small iron steamer wreck. Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery said “it’s very disappointing to see such a unique and important part of Victoria’s maritime history plundered for personal gain”. Under the Commonwealth Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 it is an offence to damage the shipwreck or to enter the Protected Zone without a permit. Penalties of up to $168,000 or five years’ jail apply. “The [SS Alert] was lost for over 110 years until it was eventually discovered in 2007 near Cape Schanck, and a protected zone was put in place,” Mr Avery said.

“When discovered, the ship still contained the crew’s personal effects, enabling an understanding of life at sea on an 1800s coastal trading vessel. “With the shipwreck located at a depth of 80 metres, the removal of these valuable artefacts could have only been carried out by specialist divers trained in technical diving. “Of the 600 historic shipwrecks in Victoria, only nine are in protected zones. The remaining wrecks can be explored so long as they community don’t damage or disturb the wrecks or remove artefacts.” Built in Scotland in 1877, the SS Alert was a small iron steamer used mostly in Port Phillip to run general cargo between Melbourne and Geelong. The steamer foundered at sea during a storm on 28 December 1893 while returning to Melbourne from Lakes Entrance with a cargo of wattle bark. Heritage Victoria is working with the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy to investigate the breach of the protected zone and looting. Anyone with information of the looting or the stolen artefacts can contact Heritage Victoria on 9938 6894 or heritage.victoria@delwp.vic.gov.au. Keith Platt

Ulcer study ‘now a trial’ - mayor Keith Platt keith@baysidenews.com.au FEARS over the environmental effects of using chemicals to kill mosquitos have raised questions about the methods being used on the Mornington Peninsula to investigate the flesh-eating Buruli ulcer. The Beating Buruli in Victoria: Mosquito Control Study was launched on the back of a $2.4 million federal government grant announced by Flinders MP and Health Minister Greg Hunt in September 2017 to “get to the bottom” of the causes of the ulcer. Increasing numbers of Buruli ulcer cases are being reported, mainly on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, but also extending as far north along the coast of Port Phillip to Sandringham. Scientists suspect the ulcer is caused by a bacterium which infects humans bitten by a mosquito. However, there are growing fears

that the chemicals being used to kill mosquitos will poison other insects, including bees, and creatures that eat them. Shire councillors were told last week that there is a “paucity of information” confirming mosquitos were to blame for Buruli ulcers. The effectiveness of efforts to run trials to control mosquitos could be jeopardised by the number of residents deciding to opt out of the study being run by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Doherty Institute, Barwon Health, Austin Health, CSIRO, Agriculture Victoria, The University of Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula Shire. More than 10,000 signatures have been added to an online petition protesting at the use of chemicals to kill the mosquitos and the study managers say residents can choose not to be involved. “When the government money was made available it was called a study, now it’s more like a trial,” the mayor

Cr David Gill said last week. His comments followed confirmation that in March properties in three streets in Rye were sprayed with a chemical to kill mosquitos. Those streets were the first of 76 locations selected for the study. Cr Gill says the federal government is not keeping a close enough watch on how the money announced by Mr Hunt is being spent. On Friday he questioned whether the government normally makes large grants to other levels of government “without knowing how it is going to be used?” “I would find that very unusual,” Cr Gill said. He said councillors were not involved in any decisions connected with the study “and I’m very disappointed there has been no proper public consultation or an effort to carry out an environmental effects study”. Councillors last week called for a report from CEO John Baker on the impact of poisoning mosquitos in ar-

eas of Rye, Sorrento, Blairgowrie, and Tootgarook “on the community, flora, fauna and environment of such areas”. The motion moved by Cr Hugh Fraser said there was a “paucity of information that confirms mosquitoes are the vector or cause of the infections”. Residents were concerned that “the broad use of chemical sprays appears to be very drastic action and a disproportionate response…” On Saturday, Cr Gill circulated an email containing opinions he attributed to a scientist “who prefers to be unnamed for professional purposes”. The scientist called the study “an experiment” being doner outside of an “established protocol for dealing with infectious diseases problems”. Asked by The News if chemicals in water, sprayed or "fogged", to control mosquitos was the type of "research" he envisaged when announcing the federal grant, Mr Hunt said it was “vital” to find out about the causes of this “horrible and painful medical condition”.

"It is my hope that the Victorian government listens to the community to provide an effective study into the cause of the ulcer, as well as inform the local community on the scope of measures which will be undertaken, with appropriate measures taken to assist those who do not wish to participate,” Mr Hunt said. The unnamed scientist quoted by Cr Gill suggested [the shire] request “a technical paper suitable for peer scrutiny be produced … rather than a blanket statement to the general public”. “For ethical experimental work a real ‘opt out’ option should be in place, otherwise a research experiment would not be expected to pass the usual university research ethics committee approval. “This pathway seems to have been avoided with the involvement of health department powers over known infectious diseases processes, such as typhoid outbreaks, where overriding powers are approved.”

Help for ‘decision makers’ SARAH Cresp wants to hear about the experiences, stories, and perspectives of the people who make decisions on behalf of those with end-stage dementia. She says research in Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States shows that substitute decision makers can have rewarding and challenging experiences. A registered nurse, teaching associate, and Doctor of Philosophy candidate, at Monash University’s peninsula campus, Ms Cresp said the needs of substitute decision makers “are becoming increasingly apparent to clinicians, researchers, and policy makers”. However, not enough was known to design support and training programs for those who make decision

on behalf of others. “Therefore, wider research is needed to understand what they need and how they manage the challenges of the role,” Ms Cresp said. Health-care professionals who went “above and beyond their role for the person living with dementia” earned the trust of substitute decision makers and improved the quality of life for those with dementia. “Substitute decision makers can experience guilt, mistrust, and confusion; difficulty in translating quality of life; family conflict; and uncertainty and reactivity,” Ms Cresp said. “But by partnering with healthcare professionals, they find practical ways to manage these challenges, which can lead to an effective and satisfying outcome.”

Ms Cresp said about 250 people in Australia “are falling victim to dementia each day”, which meant a further 250 people needed to become their decision makers. The number of people with dementia was set to almost triple by 2056. For more information or to participate in the DeciDES (Decisionmaking in Dementia: Education and Support) project go to www.monash. edu/medicine/nursing/phd-decides or email sarah.cresp@monash.edu or call 0450 002 349. Experiences wanted: Sarah Cresp, right, discusses her project to find out more about the experiences of people who make decisions on behalf of dementia sufferers with Adeline Christie. Picture: Supplied Frankston Times

30 July 2019

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