A NOT so wild but certainly woolly cast member in Portland’s Living Nativity gets a hug from Josh Holman, 8. The Living Nativity and Christmas Carols are a traditional part of the festive season in Portland, involving all the churches and many schoolchildren. For more pictures, read Wednesday’s Portland Observer.
VICTORIAN Legal Aid barristers who argue their clients’ cases every week in Portland Magistrates’ Court will learn this week just how severely the VLA’s looming budget crisis will impact their ability to assist local defendants. Victoria Legal Aid reported a $3.1 million deficit for 2011-12 after two years of surplus. An extraordinary meeting of lawyers has condemned proposed cuts to legal representation as a result of funding pressures on VLA, which has advised the Law Institute of Victoria that it is facing a budget blow-out and will have to consider cuts throughout the state. A VLA spokeswoman confirmed the board will meet this week and “will consider the full range of options,” one of which could be substantial funding cuts that would include the south-west. “This is across all our services,” spokeswoman Slavka Scott said, “including criminal law, civil law and family law.” On a typical Monday session of the Portland Magistrates’ Court, more than half the defendants are represented by attorneys who are funded through VLA. Barristers and solicitors at the Law Institute are campaigning to oppose any proposed cuts. Read more in Friday’s Portland Observer.
PORTLAND businesses have been given three years to make compensation claims in relation to the Telstra outage. A small group of business operators attended the Portland Arts Centre yesterday at 11am to hear from Telstra spokesman Bill Mundy, who encouraged business with substantial claims to take their time calculating the damage. “You don’t have to worry about getting in before Christmas or before New Years or after New Years for that matter… we understand the impact it’s had on businesses,” Mr Mundy said. So far 60 claims under $1000 have been made across the south-west and 30 have been processed, while one claim has been made for more than $1000. Mr Mundy said small claims will take between 24 and 48 hours to process while claims of more than $1000 will take up to 15 business days. One of the biggest concerns for businesses is trying to come up with a figure that can be substantiated. Accommodation operator Peter Keem said many potential customers in the last month have just gone elsewhere. Another accommodation operator said when their internet came back, they received 269 emails, most of which were requests for accommodation over the Christmas period but they’ve since made plans to visit other towns. Read more in Friday’s Portland Observer.
THE man who held up the Portland Domino’s Pizza outlet and threatened to slit an employee’s throat with a knife has been jailed for four years. Robert James Balcke, 32, ofBlackwood Court, faced the Warrnambool County Court on Wednesday when, represented by defence counsel Pat Howman, he pleaded guilty to one charge of armed robbery. Judge Julian Leckie sentenced Balcke to four years imprisonment, with a minimum of two years and eight months to serve before he will be eligible for parole. The court heard that the brazen daytime crime occurred on January 31 of this year at 1.45pm when Balcke rode his motorbike to Domino’s Pizza onPercy St,Portland. Detective Sergeant Steve Brown, of Portland Criminal Investigation Unit, confirmed that Balcke entered the store wearing a motorbike helmet and goggles and, while holding a large knife, threatened to kill the employee if he didn’t give him all of the money. Read more in Friday’s Portland Observer.
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