Life’s final act is handled with care

AMOUR (MA) ****
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Palace Electric, Greater Union Manuka


It won the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, scooped the European Film Awards and has been nominated for five Academy Awards – including best screenplay, film and director. It’s also one of Michael Haneke’s most intimate and painfully truthful films – an exploration of what love means at the far end of life, a place where loss, dignity and dying dominate the everyday concerns of an elderly couple.

The film opens with the discovery of a corpse – laid out beautifully on a bed and surrounded with flowers – and then moves back in time to allow us to witness the events that led to this inevitable end. There will be no surprises and no nostalgia here, and those familiar with Haneke’s work (Funny Games, The White Ribbon, Cache) will expect no less. In Amour, we meet Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), an elegant, professional couple in their 80s who live alone in a comfortable apartment in Paris, surrounded by the memories of their life together. One morning Anne imperceptibly – almost mysteriously – suffers a minor stroke and is diagnosed with a deteriorating condition that leaves her partly immobile. George adjusts his daily routine to care for his wife, and we watch as Anne slowly gets more and more bedridden, and less and less cognisant of reality. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) visits occasionally, alarmed and confused by her parents’ decision that Anne stay at home. And although deeply concerned, Eva’s distance from the everyday reality of her parents’ situation means she is unable to fully grasp why her father willingly endures what he must, and what we, as audience, witness. It is a profoundly moving and sometimes unbearably difficult story to watch.

Although Haneke’s precise and deliberate honesty is what sets this story apart, it is the performances of Trintignant and Riva that make it so riveting to watch. With just about the entire film shot in an apartment, this is not epic cinema but intimate two-handed drama, small moments and delicate interchanges between the two experienced actors adding up to Haneke’s unflinching examination of the kind of compassion required to deal with dying. It’s a rare approach to the subject matter – films about old age and death typically bathed in nostalgia or handled with careful avoidance – and it takes a master filmmaker like Haneke to pull it off with this much care.

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Ortensia to make late charge for glory

PAUL MESSARA believes Craig Williams must produce a ride the equal of his Caulfield Cup masterpiece on Dunaden for Ortensia to win the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on Saturday.
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Williams came from last on Dunaden to overpower a field of quality stayers carrying topweight to take Caulfield’s showpiece race in October.

“It is never easy around Caulfield because you have to spin off the turn and not lose momentum, especially in a race with as much speed as this one,” Messara said. “It will take a brilliant ride because she is giving everything weight and probably a little bit of luck but I think she is up to it. We just want a genuine speed.”

Favourite Barakey, Sea Lord, Adebisi, Mrs Onassis and Shamal Wind, from the inside gate, are all expected to push for the lead and it may make the race for backmarkers, like last year when Woorim flew home for victory.

Ortensia has drawn gate four, which Messara said could make her task harder given she will not be in the early speed battle.

“In some ways I would have liked to draw out because then you don’t have the worry of trying to get out to make your run,” he said. “With the big weight [Ortensia] can not get stopped because they will be going too quickly to overcome any bad luck. We have the right jockey in Craig to make sure things go right.”

Ortensia enjoyed a stellar globetrotting year in 2012, winning the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai before an English campaign, where she won the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and the Nunthorpe Stakes at the York festival to make it 13 wins in her 35-race career. The seven-year-old has a good record at Caulfield with two wins and a third from four starts after doing her early racing in Melbourne when trained by Tony Noonan.

Since joining the Messara yard she has an excellent record fresh, winning twice first-up from a spell. “She is up to the mark but we are looking at races further into the preparation,” Messara said. “She will come back to Sydney for the Challenge Stakes after this run and then we will take on Black Caviar in the TJ Smith, when she will be at her peak.”

Messara decided to wait a week and miss a first-up showdown with Black Caviar when he felt Ortensia was a gallop short.

Unbeaten West Australian Barakey remains a solid $3.50 TAB南京夜网.au favourite but punters have avoided the next couple in the market with Ortensia blowing from $7 to $7.50.

“Barakey has been the most popular runner but we really haven’t written a big bet for him,” TAB’s Glenn Munsie said. “The punters have backed those at double-figure odds like Woorim, Spirit Of Boom, Facile Tigre and Lone Rock looking for value.”

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Sunbury ‘not disadvantaged’ in Hume

A REPORT into services and infrastructure provided to Sunbury by Hume Council has found the town receives a similar or higher share of funding compared with the rest of the municipality.
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The report by accounting firm KMPG, commissioned by the state government, is the first stage of a process to determine whether Sunbury remains part of Hume.

The report, released last week, looks at whether Sunbury has been disadvantaged compared to other areas of the municipality by “strategic financial and asset management” decisions of the council.

The results are based on information from the council from 2008-09 to 2010-11 data.

The report was spilt into four categories: infrastructure, family and community services, parks and open space, and customer service.

Infrastructure included traffic engineering, footpaths and parking.

The report found roads in Sunbury were in better condition than the rest of Hume and, on average, more money had been spent on traffic engineering.

But the most recent 2010-11 figures show the amount of money spent in Sunbury on traffic engineering had declined from 2008-09.

In 2008-09, almost $3.5 million was spent on traffic capital works in Sunbury compared with about $1 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

In 2010-11, about $6.5 million was spent on traffic engineering in Craigieburn.

The report shows that despite 69 per cent of Sunbury residents saying there isn’t enough parking in the town, it has more council-owned parking spaces than the rest of the municipality.

Of the 1651 council-owned car parking spaces, 963 are in Sunbury.

In family and community services, the report shows there were fewer childcare centres, preschools and after-school-hours care centres in Sunbury, but residents have better access to services — though with fewer people requiring them. Currently there are only five people on the waiting list for council-run childcare services in Sunbury, compared with 218 across the rest of Hume.

Sunbury’s young people have better access to council-run youth programs than other towns in Hume. There are nine programs in Sunbury.

Sunbury’s elderly residents have access to two additional hours of home support services than the rest of Hume.

People wanting to access library services, however, receive fewer council services than the rest of the municipality.

The report found Sunbury well off for ‘active open spaces. Only Greenvale, with 860 hectares, surpasses Sunbury’s 535 hectares.

Sunbury had the most sports venues — over a third of the municipality’s total.

Bernie’s Diner back in business

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After Emmanuel Benardos opened Bernie’s Diner in Moss Vale in 1925, the Governor-General popped in for a milkshake. He soon became a regular.

On Sunday, March 3, Benardos’ grandson Ioannis reopens Bernie’s, part of a new local movement reinventing milkbars and diners.

He’ll even serve the same milkshake his grandfather did.

“We’ve got the original syrup recipe, no preservatives, fresh ingredients and organic sugar,” Benardos says.

Part of the new breed of uptown restaurant talent putting some gloss on lower end food offerings, Benardos joins US chef Dan McGuirt, who recently opened Jazz City Milk Bar at Republic2, and former Manly Pavilion head chef Tony Gibson who is opening a New York style deli in East Sydney.

Benardos’ partner at Bernie’s Diner, located at 402 Argyle Street, Moss Vale is Giuliano Colosimo, a graduate of the kitchen at Icebergs Dining Room & Bar.

“We’ll do pastrami and corned beef, but it was always a blackboard menu when my grandfather was here, and we’ll reproduce some of those Greek classics like braised lamb shoulder and spanakopita,” Benardos says.

“The family sold the business in 1957 after my grandfather died, but kept the building. It has had about five different sets of tenants since. When I wanted to do my own place it felt like a good spot to do it. We’ve gone for an old-school take with the interior, with elements of art deco from its early days with a 1950s-style update.”


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Sunbury secession vote ‘must be informed’

A VOTE on whether Sunbury should secede from Hume is expected before the end of this year.
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Visiting Sunbury last Tuesday, Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said the vote would occur following a second report into Sunbury seceding from Hume.

Ms Powell said the report, which she hoped would be concluded by the middle of the year, would undertake a feasibility study into the costs and impacts to Sunbury and Hume if Sunbury became an independent shire.

“We want people to have an informed vote with all the information available,” Ms Powell said.

“The report will look at how Sunbury is now and the requirements of it into the future.

“We don’t have a time frame on the vote and we don’t want to rush the process but hope to hold the vote by the end of the year.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should Sunbury secede from Hume? Post a comment below.

Ms Powell said if the vote, likely to include all Hume residents, found residents supported a new shire, an independent panel would be formed. It would then give a recommendation to the minister.

Northern Victoria MP Donna Petrovich said the issue of ‘Sunbury out of Hume’ was important for residents.

“Every time I’m in Sunbury, people are asking what is happening with Sunbury out of Hume. Everyone will have access to all the information and full knowledge of what impact it will have once they have a chance to vote.

Jacksons Creek ward councillor Jack Ogilvie said he wasn’t surprised by the results of the first report, saying Sunbury received its fair share of services. “Sometimes there has been a perception that Sunbury isn’t receiving as much money due to big projects in the rest of Hume.

“Many of those projects have received state and federal government grants.”

Cr Ogilvie said previous attempts at secession had been flawed.

“The community deserves the facts. This is the last time residents will have the chance to vote.”

Sunbury resident and long-time advocate of ‘Sunbury out of Hume’ Trevor Dance said there needed to be public involvement in the report.

“The whole process is flawed. There needs to be public scrutiny and debate. Let it be open to the Sunbury community.”

Facts and figures: Donna Petrovich and Jeanette Powell with copies of the KPMG report, released last week.

Stepping up for youth in trouble

EXCLUSIVE/VIDEO: A NEW team of peacemakers will soon be patrolling Greater Dandenong’s streets with Victoria Police.
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BJ Kour, an African youth outreach worker, is one of them. He doesn’t cop bad behaviour — from his peers or police officers. Mr Kour will be one of several ‘young leaders’ who are part of the south-east’s Police and Young Leaders Engagement Team (PYLET).

In a Victorian first, the leaders will be used as mediators to improve relations between police and young people of various cultural backgrounds.

It is part of a new “firm but fair” approach by the Safe Suburbs police taskforce, which covers Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia.

Mr Kour, who has been a victim of heavy-handed policing, is keen to help good people on both sides who want to improve relations. He told the Journal how he was threatened by a police officer on a “routine check” soon after walking from a friend’s house about 1am in June 2011.

He says on another occasion he was frivolously charged by police with hindering the course of justice as he watched two young Africans being arrested in Noble Park. The charge was dropped before it got to court.

Last week, the chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay acknowledged “some of our people have let us down”, after an out-of-court settlement between police and a group of African-Australians alleging “racial profiling” and over-policing against them. Mr Lay announced a review into police’s public relations and multicultural training.

On hearing the news, Mr Kour said he felt some relief that “things are going to change in the future”.

“The most important thing is that Ken Lay admits there is a problem. Now we can take this lesson and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Mr Kour said he would be joining police patrols at popular youth hangouts, as part of the PYLET program. He’ll be speaking to young African people, working as a mediator to build mutual trust with police.

If someone was arrested for public drunkenness, Mr Kour said he would be able to offer to drop them home as an alternative to a night in the cells. Community leaders may also be used to ease friction between police and revellers at large parties.

There were cultural things to learn on all sides, Mr Kour said. That young Africans dropped their gaze from authority figures was a sign of respect, not evasiveness, while four or five cousins together at a train station may not necessarily be a ‘gang’.


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Thorny issues: Victoria Police community liaison officer Endalkatchew Gage and BJ Kour during last week’s round-table discussions. Pictures: Rob Carew

United front: Dandenong police officers Tony Davies and Sam Knight, with Endalkatchew Gage and BJ Kour.

Bumi investors reject Rothschild plan

Bumi shareholders have voted against a plan by co-founder Nathaniel Rothschild to replace directors including chief executive Nick Von Schirnding and chairman Samin Tan.
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Mr Rothschild, scion of a centuries-old banking dynasty, had asked investors to back his proposals to oust board members, saying they’d failed investors. Shareholders also rejected his proposal to take a board seat himself.

The 41-year-old financier has been locked in a battle for control of Bumi with Indonesia’s Bakrie family, with whom he founded the company in 2010 in a $US3 billion deal that bundled Indonesian coal assets.

Bumi plunged 69 per cent in London trading last year amid boardroom infighting and financial probes in the UK and Indonesia. Both Rothschild and the Bakries are seeking to unwind their collaboration and the board is also pursuing a separation from the Bakries.

Liberum Capital said before the vote that a rejection of Rothchild’s plan to oust directors would make it easier to split Bumi from its Indonesian unit PT Bumi Resources and help the share price.

Rothschild had vowed to maintain pressure on the board and management to recover lost value for shareholders should he lose the vote.Shareholders did back Rothschild’s proposal to remove Bakrie representative Nathin Rathod from the board.


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Letters to the Editor, Dandenong Journal

Re: Questionable question time
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Removing a mechanism for public involvement at our most accessible level of government is a fundamental abuse of power. Insulting ratepayers and residents by saying they have an agenda is ignorant and an insult to our intelligence. The same councillor [Peter Brown] would not have had the same issue with questions being asked if they supported his ‘smart meter’ agenda, with his reference to himself as representing the “under-educated and ill-informed”. Clearly, he has a high opinion of his constituents.

Dkreid (via web)

So the meetings have gone from one hour to two hours long? Is that what the councillors are complaining about? In other municipalities it is not uncommon for debates to go for far longer than that. Some people have long felt that Dandenong’s council meetings were just rubber stamping decisions already made anyway. Answering the questions is the least our councillors can do in order for residents to have access to genuine participation.

Nina from Noble Park (via web)

If Cr Peter Brown does not want to listen to any community questions he is free to leave the chamber and go home.

Noble Gentleman (via web)

I viewed the February 11 meeting via webcast and although the aspect was quite limited, I again heard inappropriate comments made by councillors not holding the floor. I was also shocked that there was a large contingent of councillors who voted for a motion to restrict/vet public questions, with talk of turning off the webcast and requiring those asking questions to be in the gallery.

On February 11, I was unable to attend the meeting as I have a small child, who I feel it would be inappropriate to bring to a meeting (I’m sure you would not want a three-year-old in the gallery), so webcast is my only way of having access to meetings. I did not have a need to ask a question that meeting, but if I did, there would be no way for me to be there in person. I’m sure there are a number of residents who are in a similar situation.

I’m grateful that mayor Angela Long did vote against the motion to restrict public questions and [chief executive officer] John Bennie did not exercise his right to vet public questions to the full extent.

Kim Reid, Dandenong North

It’s not about free speech

I agree with Cr Peter Brown. There are numerous ways to find an answer to a concern. Use the council call centre, use email. It is not against any free speech to disallow your petty complaints at a public meeting. Use your free speech via the phone or email. The problem is entirely a part of a Greens agenda — it’s what the party representative told all residents to do during his campaign. The Greens seem to think that the louder and more public you make yourself, the more important you become. Not so.

Somerfield Lover (via web)

What do you think? Post a comment below.

The Journal welcomes letters no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing and must include a name, address and phone number. Post: The Editor, PO Box 318, Dandenong 3175, or email eastvoice@yourweekly南京夜网.au. Post a web comment to any story on this website.

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Now for the downside of fracking

Plump as a pumpkin, Bonnie Evans slides into a booth at the all-American diner she opened three years ago in the town of Smithfield, Pennsylvania (pop. 872) that sits slap-bang in the middle of America’s new shale gas boom.
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‘‘How’s business,’’ I ask, as a convoy of heavy trucks thunders down the main street, rattling the windows. ‘‘Pretty darned awesome,’’ comes the instant reply.

Mrs Evans only wanted to open a little place, but when the gas boom comes to town, it seems nothing is done by halves – just like the monster-sized, triple-deck, one-pound ‘‘frack burger’’ on her menu. It is named after the process – hydraulic fracturing – that is revolutionising world energy markets and helping make Mrs Evans a small fortune.

‘‘We went from $US270,000 in [takings] in the first year, to $US350,000 and then to $US473,000 this one just past,’’ she crows, with a roll of the eyes that says, ‘‘can you believe it?’’

But while Mrs Evans looks forward to an unexpectedly prosperous future, less than 10 miles away in this hard-scrabble expanse of fields and forests south of the old steel town of Pittsburgh, there is a much less happy story to tell.

After this week’s warning from UK regulator Ofgem’s boss, Alistair Buchanan, that the UK is ‘‘dangerously’’ close to an energy crisis – and with shale gas touted as one radical solution – it’s a story that British consumers should pay close attention to.

Every morning, when he opens his bedroom curtains, the first thing that David Headley sees is a gas well. It sits less than 200 yards from his front door and it is a constant reminder of what Mr Headley says is the ‘‘pure hell’’ of living with fracking.

The well, which was drilled and fractured last year, amounts to a small tangle of pipes and a pair of 15ft-tall collection tanks, of the sort that are now dotted all across rural Pennsylvania and, if the UK embraces the fracking revolution, could be seen across the British countryside, from Weymouth to Hull, Swansea to Edinburgh.

In Pennsylvania, some are tucked behind hedgerows and hidden away in copses and hollows, but many others – along with compressor stations and open ‘‘impoundment ponds’’ used to store toxic fracking solution – are situated within a few hundred yards of residential housing.

Mr Headley points to the well-head, which is submerged under a foot of murky rainwater that is bubbling gently, like a witch’s brew. ‘‘See. You can see the thing is leaking,’’ says the former car body-shop owner, who bought his farm in 2006 but chose not to purchase the gas rights – a move he now bitterly regrets.

‘‘What’s really coming out of that well?’’ he asks. ‘‘Is it safe? We just don’t know.’’

He shows photos of the creek beneath his house that was turned milky-white last year after a drilling accident.

There are pictures of dead fish and his son’s leg with a livid-red rash, of the well’s collection tanks venting plumes of an unknown gas into the air. A once-clear spring a few hundred feet below is now so full of methane that the water dances with flame when Mr Headley applies a match to its surface.

The drilling companies and the local environmental protection agency say that Mr Headley and his family are not in danger – or at least, none of the contaminants in the air or water can be traced directly to the well – but he is far from convinced.

‘‘Their tactic is to either refuse to talk to us, or make us out to be crazy and paranoid,’’ says Mr Headley, ‘‘but we are not.’’

Whether Mr Headley’s fears are real or imagined, he is far from alone in holding them. One pressure group, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, has collated more than 800 cases of people they say have been harmed by fracking nationwide – a body of evidence that environmentalists and local politicians contend is now beyond anecdotal.

Unlike in the UK, public fears do not focus on earthquake risk, which caused the British government to put a moratorium on fracking until last year, but on environmental pollution issues. They include contamination of drinking water with methane, air pollution from the gas wells and compressor stations, and possible radiation poisoning from elements such as uranium, thorium, and radium that occur naturally in the vast Marcellus Shale gas deposit that stretches for hundreds of miles from West Virginia to upstate New York.

As New York and Colorado debate whether to allow fracking, environmental groups and some residents in Pennsylvania argue that the long-term health impacts so close to residential communities are just too indeterminate to be considered safe, saying that two official studies on the impact of fracking on water quality and radiation build-up are not even due to be completed until 2014.

From a safe distance, the arguments for fracking in the US seem irresistible – abundant cheap energy, a million new jobs and a pain-free fall in carbon emissions – but for those who are unlucky enough to find themselves close to the drilling and processing sites, the experience can be miserable.

A study of air emissions from natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, just released by the Rand Corporation think tank, illustrated the gap between those macro- and micro-level experiences. It found that while the total emissions were less than that of a single coal-fired power plant, in areas where drilling was concentrated the emissions were ‘‘20 to 40 times higher’’ than regulations permitted for a single minor source.

The industry, understandably, prefers to focus on the bigger picture, rather than these individual cases. A statement this week by the industry umbrella group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, noted the contribution of the gas industry to lowering emissions nationwide and contrasted that with the ‘‘relatively minimal and short-term environmental footprint’’ of the local industry.

But even those local people with a substantial financial interest in the fracking business – the best wells can generate royalties of $20,000 a month – admit to having doubts and concerns.Thomas Rich, a local farmer, has 13 wells on his 1,500 acres but will not allow drilling on the 200 acres that immediately surround his homestead.

‘‘I want to keep that land ’pure’. The wells are unsightly, they can make noise and they don’t smell good,’’ he admits. ‘‘Everyone’s getting scared now. First it was earthquakes; then water contamination; and recently there have been all these reports about radiation in the newspapers. The truth is, the industry has a big, big PR problem.’’

Frank Martin, another major local landholder who is also the owner of a Chevrolet car dealership, sees both the upsides and downsides of the boom. The oil companies buy his Chevy pick-ups 10 or 15 vehicles at a time and last week an 83-year-old man walked in and bought his first-ever new car.

‘‘But I am a grandfather as well as a businessman, and we have to do this right or it will divide the community,’’ he warns. ‘‘There are environmental concerns about the air and the water, the impact on roadways and the community itself – not everyone has land to lease or a local business. What about schoolteachers or bus drivers, what does it do for them? Or what if you live next to one of these facilities?’’

Back down the road, in the nearby town of Point Marion, these same questions are being fired at a local senator, Richard Kasunic, who has agreed to meet a group of concerned residents.

Mr Headley and three other families who live within a few hundred yards of a gas compressor station tell stories of eye-watering emissions from the plant that one resident says stank ‘‘like someone dropped a bucket of turpentine on my porch’’. Another produces video evidence of the station emitting a deafeningly loud wailing sound – like an air-raid siren – that echoes down the valley to nearby houses.

‘‘When we first heard that sound, we had the children out of bed with the shoes on ready to evacuate,’’ says Phyllis Carr, a grandmother who breaks down in tears as she tries to explain the impact of the plant on her family.

The senator is surprisingly frank about the problems facing the Pennsylvania gas rush. He apologises for what he calls the apparently ‘‘cavalier attitude’’ of the oil and gas companies, and admits that the regulatory framework for the industry is a ‘‘work in progress’’ and that ‘‘we’re flying by the seat of our pants here’’.

And that, concludes Jesse White, a Pennsylvania state representative who has taken up the cause of those who say they have been affected by the shale gas boom, is the lesson that Britain should learn if and when it moves ahead to exploit shale gas reserves that – while unlikely to alleviate the short-term crunch warned of this week by Ofgem – could ultimately exceed those of the North Sea.

‘‘The problem in Pennsylvania is that we’ve reached a point where no one trusts anyone else’s science,’’ he says. ‘‘The politicians and some parts of the media appear to be in the pockets of the industry. The lesson is to be ’up front’ from the outset. Ask what practices you are going to allow. There is the right way of doing this, or the cheap way. Be very clear which one you want.’’

The Telegraph, London

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Good rapport with youth stems from a ‘fair approach’

AT the Dandenong-based Safe Suburbs taskforce, there’s a feeling that things have markedly changed since adopting its new firm but fair approach.
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Dandenong’s Acting Inspector Steve Wood, who has overseen the taskforce since August, said the team’s new stance was focused on procedural fairness.

If the person was committing a minor offence but was “co-operative, non-abusive and compliant, and understanding about the offence” they may be let off with a warning, he said.

“Every person we spoke to was explained the law and explained why the police are there. They are explained why offences have been committed and why they are being arrested.”

He said the change of approach had created “a good rapport” with young people.

Acting Senior Sergeant Sam Knight, who heads the enforcement arm of the taskforce, said her members treated everyone equally.

“We have quite a good rapport with the African community. You come across the same sort of people and same sort of issues regardless of background.”

The Safe Suburbs taskforce has been credited with reducing public drinking and public robberies and assaults in Greater Dandenong since late 2011. Protective services officers have also becalmed notorious railway stations such as Dandenong at night.

Springvale-Monash Legal Service director Helen Yendell said complaints of heavy-handed policing of African youth had “not completely gone away”. She was however pleased with the “positive” response by the chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay, to the issue last week.

“I think the instances have reduced but not enough for my liking. We’re hearing anecdotally that it’s still happening,” she said. “Youth workers are still telling me these stories, and they’re not dissimilar to our 2009 report.”

The report Boys, you wanna give me some action: Interventions into Policing of Racialised Communities in Melbourne, co-authored by three community legal services including Springvale-Monash, found African young people claiming “racialised” treatment by police.

Acting Inspector Wood said he had not received any recent complaints and would welcome the community to contact him if they had any concerns.

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