Family holiday checklist: Legal requirements, expenses and tips

When going on a family holiday, make sure there are activities that the kids will enjoy. Photo: SuppliedIt’s that time of year when families are contemplating hitting the road as a unit. Family travel expert Leah Squires says there are some key points to cover off for successful family travel. The director of travel agency BYO Kids firstly recommends involving children in the planning stages, encouraging them to research and learn about the places they will be visiting so they understand and embrace any cultural differences ahead.

A common mistake she sees parents making is allocating all their holiday funds to accommodation and airfares. “Don’t forget if you are travelling as a family costs like food, drink, activities and attractions can total thousands over a week,” she says, recommending 30-40 per cent of the budget should be held for on-the-road costs.  “That way you’ll be able to enjoy the destination without stressing about money,” she adds.

Another common oversight is legal requirements.  “Passports are the most common one with people not realising that in most countries you must have at least six months validity from your return holiday date,” she says, adding it’s surprising how many people fail to check on visa requirements. “Using a travel agent who know the ins and out will cost you no more and you can sleep at night knowing your dream holiday will be exactly that.”

Once on the road, she recommends building downtime in for kids. “Find a local playground where they can explore at their pace or a nice garden to lay on the lawns or have a relaxing walk in between all the sightseeing and activities.”

And finally, “Ensure you have a destination and accommodation that appeals to everyone in the family.  Some families make the mistake of choosing a resort or hotel that might be perfect for the parents but boring and not suitable for the kids or visa versa.  Speak to a family travel specialist about what activities are on offer at the resort for every member of the family especially if you have a wide range of ages in your children.”

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Neighbours say they never saw 8-year-old boy allegedly locked in shed

A trapdoor led to three buried shipping containers where a large hydroponic cannabis set up was allegedly discovered. Photo: Supplied The trap door entry to the buried shipping shipping containers that allegedly stored 225 cannabis plants. Photo: Supplied

Some of the cannabis plants allegedly discovered at the property. Photo: Supplied

Elaborate hydroponic setup found in raid: police 

Neighbours of a family accused of keeping an eight-year-old boy locked in a tiny room within a farm shed have told how they rarely saw the child despite seeing his siblings getting on and off school buses.

The boy’s mother and fiance are facing a kidnapping charge as well as charges on serious drug matters after police raided their Elands property last Friday and allegedly found an elaborate underground hydroponic cannabis set-up, as well as the child locked in a nearby shed.

Fairfax Media revealed that the boy had told police he had been locked inside for more than three weeks, only allowed out to do chores, and the only comforts he had was a single mattress, a bucket and a stool.

It can now also be revealed that the police investigation kicked off because of concerns about the boy’s welfare after he had continually failed to attend school.

It is understood general duties police had visited the five-hectare property, north-west of Taree, in November but nothing made them suspicious that the child may have been mistreated.

However, they did see some evidence at the property that pointed towards cannabis cultivation.

By last week, police had secured a search warrant, and when detectives arrived last Friday they found the boy in a two-metre-square room in the back of an uninsulated tin shed, which was locked from the outside.

He appeared malnourished.

The boy had lived at the property along with three other children after the family had moved from North Gosford earlier this year, buying the property for $420,000.

A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said they had regularly seen the three other children get on and off the school bus.

“But not the boy, we hardly ever saw him,” the neighbour said.

“There was definitely the other kids, and I’m not saying I never saw him, but it was rare and it was never close by.”

The neighbour said the family were friendly but kept to themselves.

“There are a few outrageous people up this way and they were definitely not that bad,” he said.

“We are totally shocked about all of this.

“We never put two and two together about the boy.

“I actually had trouble believing it until I read it online this morning, that opened my eyes up.

“I wouldn’t say they were normal, but they were not as bad as some who live up this way.”

The NSW Police Force’s Child Abuse Squad has taken over the investigation into the treatment of the boy, while Manning-Great Lakes police continue to investigate who else may have played a part in the building and growing of the underground hydroponic set-up.

Newcastle Herald

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Coles and Woolworths slammed for Christmas supply shortage

Coles has faced a shortage of prawns. Photo: Edwina Pickles In hot demand: Ham Photo: Supplied

Woolworths has copped criticism on social media from shoppers. Photo: Louie Douvis

Furious shoppers have taken to social media to complain about missing Christmas hams, turkeys and seafood in their shopping orders from Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths.

The complaints have come from consumers in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania who had hoped to avoid the last minute rush on Christmas eve by ordering their groceries online.

“Thank you Coles for stuffing up my Xmas,” wrote Suzanne Keys from Tasmania on the Coles Facebook page.

“Ordered a turkey last week shopping online to be delivered today, thought I was smart and all sorted, but no. I find out at the 12th hour it’s not coming and we have no substitute. I will never rely on you again, thanks for nothing. Merry Christmas!”

Another disgruntled shopper, Gaby Whitley said that the situation was her “worst nightmare”.

“We are entertaining our family and I wanted to be sure nothing was missing. Low [sic] and behold my worst nightmare has just come true; the Christmas ham I ordered is now not going to be delivered and we have no ham at all for our Christmas day lunch. Thanks for nothing Coles.”

Many of those who had ordered online said they had hoped to avoid the crowds with their small children and had ordered their groceries up to a month in advance.

For Coles shopper Katrina Bricknell it was the second time in 12 months that online shopping system had let her down.

“I pre-ordered my Christmas ham and for the second year in a row it has been missing. I know they’re all luxury items. I wish I was able to face the Christmas crowds in the supermarket with my children (who happen to be autistic so crowds are a major issue) so I could find replacements, but that’s not going to happen.”

Courtney from Werribee in Victoria said that she was told by email that three key ingredients of her order were unavailable.

“So now it’s 12:40am and I can’t sleep as I’m so stressed,” the 28-year-old wrote.  “I’ve been informed that the items aren’t being delivered at all, no replacement.”

“No Turkey for Christmas dinner.”

“No Duck Fat for Christmas roast potatoes.”

“No Pudding for Christmas dinner desert.”

“And by the way who replaces Rosemary gravy with brown onion?? Who the heck has brown onion gravy with lamb?! Savages.”

Coles’ supermarket rival Woolworths has copped a similar volley of criticism. It has been accused of not including up to $150 of items from online orders

“So disappointed woollies,” wrote Kristin Auguszczak. “I made an online order for Christmas to be delivered today and received an email this morning that $150 worth of my order is out of stock and with a long list of groceries I now don’t have including staples such as ham, roast meat and turkey.”

Other Woolworths shoppers took more creative approaches to venting their complaints. ‘T’was the day before Christmas and all through the house was madness because our turkey from our online order, was sold out,” wrote Sitha Dim on the company’s Facebook page.

Supply shortages have also occurred in-store according to last minute shoppers.

The Coles Mount Hutton store near Newcastle ran out of fresh prawns within 20 minutes of opening according to a frustrated Kirsten Nelson.

“I asked staff last week if they would be getting enough to cater for later shoppers and was assured they would,” she wrote.

“I was there at opening time of 7am and left without prawns. Do you find this acceptable for your customers to have to do this?”

A Woolworths spokeswoman said the company was aware that there have been a small number of issues and the team have been working quickly to get those items out to customers.

“With thousands of deliveries today, our online team will be doing everything they can to ensure orders are fulfilled so our customers can have a great Christmas.”

A Coles spokeswoman said that the supermarket had experienced “unprecedented demand” this year.

“Coles will process a full refund for any item which is not delivered and we sincerely apologise to any customer affected,” she said.   

Ordered seafood 1st December to be collected 6.30am this morning. No scallops, whole fish not a side of salmon. Last…Posted by Carolyn Nott on  Wednesday, 23 December 2015This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.

Thai resort double murder: death sentence for two migrant workers

Killed in Thailand: British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. Photo: British Foreign OfficeBangkok: Two young men from Myanmar have been found guilty and sentenced to death over the murders two British backpackers on an idyllic island, in a case that raised questions about Thailand’s system of justice and treatment of migrant workers.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 22, strenuously denied murdering David Miller, 24, and raping and murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand last year.

The pair are expected to appeal the verdict.

David Miller’s brother Michael told reporters outside the court that justice had been delivered, saying the defendants had shown no remorse for what they had done.

“We believe what happened today represents justice for Hannah and David,” Mr Miller said. “The Royal Thai Police conducted a thorough and methodical investigation … evidence against the two was overwhelming.”

The mothers of the defendants, from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, sobbed as the verdicts were announced.

The brutality of the murders on the 2000-hectare island popular with divers and partygoers severely damaged Thailand’s tourist industry.

Witheridge, from eastern England and her friend David Miller from the Channel Islands were bludgeoned to death with a rusty hoe after attending a late-night beach party on September 14, 2014.

As dawn broke Witheridge was found with her face smashed in, her skirt wrenched up and showing signs of rape.

Miller was four metres away, face up, with a blow to the head and water in his lungs.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, who were working on the island, were arrested after weeks of intense pressure on police from Thailand’s military rulers, the media and diplomats to solve a crime which shocked the Thai public.

Police said the pair had confessed to the killings but both men later retracted their statements, saying they were tortured.

Allegations of police incompetence and evidence mishandling dominated a 21-day trial on the nearby tourist island of Samui which ended in October.

Rights groups said the case reflected a trend of low-paid migrant workers being blamed for crimes in Thailand, where the justice system is seen as being riddled with corruption.

One senior Thai police officer told journalists “no Thai could possibly commit such a crime”.

Prosecutors told a panel of three trial judges that DNA traces found on Witheridge’s body as well as the suspect’s being in possession of Miller’s mobile phone and sunglasses proved the guilt of the accused.

But defence lawyers disputed the forensic evidence, saying DNA on the murder weapon did not match either of the accused and that the evidence-gathering techniques did not meet accepted international standards.

Prominent Thai forensic expert Porntip Rojanasunan criticised the collection of evidence, testifying that it “contradicted the principles of forensic science”.

Authorities said initially that Witheridge was raped, then said she wasn’t, before finally saying she was raped twice.

The case was mired in controversy.

Thailand’s military ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha caused uproar when he commented on the killings, saying only ugly women were safe wearing bikinis in Thailand.

Police had Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun re-enact their alleged crime on the beach, with a television reporter roped in to play the parts of the victims.

As police linked arms to keep onlookers away, the men wielded a dustbin to supposedly demonstrate how they killed the tourists.

“The prosecution case was marked by an absence of significant evidence needed to prove the guilt of the accused for the crimes they are charged with,” defence lawyers said on the eve of the verdict.

The lawyers said the accused men had no lawyers present when they were interrogated, they were not read their rights and DNA samples were taken from them involuntarily. The prosecution did not present photographs of the crime scene, autopsy or DNA analysis processes and there was a lack of evidence on forensic laboratory procedures, they said.

Lawyers questioned why there was no evidence of forensic tests on Witheridge’s clothes, CCTV footage provided by the prosecution appeared to be incomplete and no fingerprint or footprint evidence was presented as part of the prosecution case.

A report by British detectives who travelled to Thailand to review the evidence has not been made public.

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Paramedics swamp police with allegations of criminal conduct by colleagues

“Some have been physically assaulted, some have had death threats”: Steve McDowell. Photo: Dallas KilponenPolice have been swamped with allegations made by paramedics about their colleagues following the ambulance commissioner’s invitation to staff to report criminal conduct to the police.

NSW Ambulance acting chief executive David Dutton wrote to a former paramedic who runs a support group for emergency workers last week encouraging his members to contact him with allegations of misconduct and police with allegations of criminal conduct.

The former paramedic, Steve McDowell, had raised concerns with Mr Dutton about systemic bullying within NSW Ambulance and allegations of criminal offences ranging from death threats to rape.

Mr Dutton encouraged paramedics to outline to police the specifics of their allegations.

But within hours of Mr McDowell posting to his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon the name of the police officer that ambulance workers were asked to contact with their allegations, Leichhardt Area Command was inundated with complaints.

The police constable who had been named as the contact point emailed Mr McDowell at 9pm asking that his name be removed from the page.

“I am a general duties constable and therefore I do not have the time or resources to deal with all of these cases,” the constable said.

A NSW Police spokesman said Leichhardt Local Area Command had received “a number of phone calls” from paramedics, but none had made a formal report.

“The NSW Police force encourages all victims of crime to report matters to their local police,” a spokesman said.

Mr McDowell said 30 paramedics had informed him that they intended to report criminal conduct perpetrated by their colleagues, including incidents that occurred decades ago.

“Some have been physically assaulted, some have had death threats to themselves and their families, there’s been rape at various locations in NSW ambulance stations and quite aggressive bullying and harassment,” Mr McDowell said.

“It’s unbelievable.”

Mr Dutton told Mr McDowell that NSW Ambulance took all allegations seriously but unless further details were supplied, such complaints could not be adequately investigated.

“Your emails raise serious allegations including ‘systemic sexual assault’ and threats of violence,” Mr Dutton wrote.

“Although you have provided scant information, I am obliged to report these matters to NSW Police and have made arrangements to do so today.

“However, providing allegations without detail has the potential to impact adversely on any subsequent assessment and investigation, spread misinformation, undermine confidentiality principles and to cause significant distress to staff who may be named or otherwise identified but unable to respond properly and in line with principles of procedural fairness.”

Earlier this month, Ambulance NSW advised a member of the support group that she was being investigated for misconduct over a comment she posted on the Facebook page, which might have breached the social media policy.

NSW Ambulance said in a statement that when it received allegations of a criminal nature against current or former paramedics they were referred to police, and if an allegation was referred to police the service was unable to comment.

“NSW Ambulance has a comprehensive suite of staff support options, including a Peer Support Program, non-denominational chaplains, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Grievance Contact Officers and a Health and wellness program,” the statement said.

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