Defence boss Richardson resigns

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The boss of the Defence Department, Dennis Richardson, will step down next month after a five decade public service career.

He will leave his Canberra office on May 12, two days before his 70th birthday.

Respected former Communications Department chief Drew Clarke has also drawn the curtain on a distinguished public service career with his resignation as Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Richardson has led the mammoth department since 2012. His tenure at Defence was part of a 48-year contribution to public service and national security, Mr Turnbull said on Wednesday morning.

Before he took the helm at Defence, Mr Richardson was secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2010 to 2012, ambassador to the United States from 2005 to 2010 and director-general of ASIO from 1996 to 2005.

He also worked in Immigration and Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was principal adviser to prime minister Bob Hawke in the early 1990s.

The 69-year-old broke the news to his 17,000 staff in an internal announcement on Wednesday morning.

“Brendan Sargeant, associate secretary, will be acting secretary pending the appointment of my successor,” he wrote.

“I thank everyone for their professionalism, commitment and achievements since October 2012.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my 48 years in the public service.

“I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work in the Department of Defence and, in particular, to have met many of you personally around the country and overseas.”

Malcolm Turnbull paid tribute to the career public servant on Wednesday.

“In this near half century of service, Mr Richardson has served 12 prime ministers with consistent professionalism,” the Prime Minister said.

“His commitment to public service, his strategic insight, his candour and integrity have made him a trusted adviser to governments from both sides of n politics.

“On behalf of the government and the n people, I thank Mr Richardson for his leadership and service and I wish him and his wife, Betty, all the very best for the future.”

The praise for Mr Richardson came from across the political divide with Labor Defence spokesman Richard Marles and his portfolio colleagues in paying tribute to the retiring mandarin.

“Dennis’ advice and insight has helped governments of both stripes make decisions which have shaped our country’s place in the world,” Mr Marles said.

“Dennis’ personal integrity and judgement meant his advice was always given heavy weight in Labor’s national security considerations, whether in government or out.”

The commercial sector also expressed its respect for the veteran public servant with the n Industry Group publishing a statement praising Mr Richardson’s contribution.

“The decision by Dennis Richardson to resign from Defence will see the departure of one of ‘s most dedicated, long serving departmental heads,” AIG chief executive Innes Willox said.

Mr Clarke worked as Secretary of the Department of Industry and Resources from 2010 until 2013 when he was appointed as secretary of the Communications Department.

Mr Turnbull picked Mr Clarke as his chief of staff soon after seizing the prime minister-ship in 2015 and the public servant was credited with restoring a more traditional cabinet-process style to the Coalition government.

He will be succeeded by former ambassador to Iran and Defence adviser Greg Moriarty.

All Chinan states abandon online NAPLAN plagued by technical problems

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File photo: iStockAll n states and territories have now abandoned a trial of online NAPLAN tests this year due to technical glitches that could disadvantage students.

A pilot of the online literacy and numeracy test is in disarray, with the Victorian, Western n and ACT governments announcing on Wednesday that they would withdraw from the trial and South n and Queensland ditching it earlier this month.

NSW, Tasmania and the Northern Territory had always planned to roll it out at a later stage.

The online trial was due to start next month, but Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said technological issues had not been resolved.

“Recent testing indicates that this could affect students’ ability to complete the tests,” he said.

“We want NAPLAN Online to be a positive experience for students and schools. With three weeks to go, we don’t have enough time to be confident of this happening.”

“The last thing we want is students being unable to demonstrate their numeracy and literacy skills because of technological faults.”

All Victorian students will instead sit pen and paper tests this year.

Mr Merlino said that the state government would work with Education Services and other states to ensure that the online test was successfully rolled out from 2018.

Power failures, freezing, browser issues and broken internet connections plagued initial trials of the online NAPLAN tests, according to a report by primary school principals who were involved in administering the online tests.

The online test will be gradually rolled out over a three-year period, and about 10 per cent of schools were initially expected to take part in its trail this year.

The n Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chief executive Robert Randall said it was disappointing that the five states and territories were no longer moving to online NAPLAN in 2017.

“I respect the decision of states and territories to delay transition to allow more time to gain a greater level of confidence for the move online,” he said.

He said states and territories were determining which schools would take part in a separate readiness trial in August/September.

The switch to online testing will mean speedier results for parents and schools.

Schools currently have to wait about 12 weeks before receiving results from the pen and paper tests.

The online test will also be adaptive, with questions adjusted according to students’ skill levels.

When Queensland announced that it was pulling out of the trial, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he hoped that other states still took part in the online tests.

n Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said NAPLAN online would be a “useful tool” for schools, but there was no use rolling out a product if it was not going to work.

“You can’t afford to waste time in schools, principals and teachers work hard enough … so let’s ensure it is 100 per cent right before we roll it out,” she said.

President of the Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals Judy Crowe said principals participating in the trial said they were disappointed by the news.

They looked forward to receiving faster feedback on students’ performance on the test – a key advantage to the online model – but they accepted the test has “technical issues”, she said.

“The platform has to be absolutely workable,” said Ms Crowe. “There have to be minimal risks that things will go wrong.”

Ringwood Secondary College principal Michael Phillips, whose school was set to take part in the online test in May, said the news was “disappointing”.

“In 2017 we have all this technology that kids are using all the time and yet we can’t get it right,” he said.

The state school in Melbourne’s east had a positive experience when it experimented in a smaller trials of online NAPLAN last year.

It has invested time in making sure the tests ran smoothly, and just yesterday, ran a briefing for 100 staff.

Brian Bell’s end date tolls Lake Macquarie council debatepoll

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“HELD IN HIGH REGARD”: Retiring Lake Macquarie council general manager Brian Bell, with former mayor Jodie Harrison.A SPLIT has formedbetween Lake Macquarie councillors over the treatmentofretiringgeneral manager Brian Bell, anda push to have his leaving date brought forward.

Liberal councillor Jason Pauling wants Mr Bell to depart a “mutually agreed”four weeks after Monday’s council meeting, despite the general managerof 11 years announcingplans to leave at the end of June.

Supporting “a quick clean break” from Mr Bell’s tenure, Cr Pauling will also move for an acting interim general manager to be appointed forsix months.

During that time, Cr Pauling wants twopanels of four councillors – including mayor Kay Fraser –to recruit apermanentgeneral manager and reviewMr Bell’s performance in the near-$400,00-a-year job.

“This is pretty much a once-in-a-decade appointment. We needsix months to do this, and that’s why I think we needan interim GM,” Cr Pauling said.

“My issue is there’s this drawn-out,Brian Bell sunset celebration period. The quicker and cleaner we get on with it, the better.”

The comments drew an impassioned defence of Mr Bell fromthe mayor.

“I am extremely disappointed by councillorPauling’s mean-spirited response to our general manager’s retirement,” Cr Fraser said.

“Brian is held in high regard by all at Lake Macquarie City Council and throughout the Hunter, and deserves to be treated with more respect.”

Labor councillor Brian Adamthwaite said Mr Bell deservedcredit for keeping the council clearof the NSW government’s forced council merger calculations.

Allowing himto leave at the end of June would ultimately aidthe transition to his successor, CrAdamthwaite said, because it would free him to hand over the job.

CrAdamthwaite’s Labor colleague, Cr Barney Langford, said he thought the council wouldappointan interim general manager.

“But given the service that he’s given to the council, he should be able to choose the time of his leaving.”

MrBell, who declined to comment, received a Public Service Medal in last January’s Day Honours Awards.

Adam Sandler’s new Netflix film surprises with rare good reviews

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Someone might want to check the thermostat in hell, because Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix film is getting good reviews.

Sandy Wexler, directed by Sandler’s longtime collaborator Steven Brill (Little Nicky, Mr Deeds), stars the actor as a washed up ’90s Hollywood talent manager who mounts his comeback after discovering an aspiring singer (Jennifer Hudson) at a theme park.

It features cameos from a slew of Sandler’s famous friends, including Jimmy Kimmel, Judd Apatow, Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live honcho Lorne Michaels, and period-setting ’90s stars such as Vanilla Ice, Jason Priestley, Pauly Shore, Lisa Loeb and Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish.

After a string of flops that saw him highlighted as a box office pariah, the film has earned positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth since launching last week – although not without the requisite caveats.

“Maybe it’s a question of drastically lowered expectations finally working to Sandler’s advantage, but Sandy Wexler is disarming in its charms,” wrote AV Club critic Jesse Hassenger.

“Once you get past the annoying voice and some of the dreadfully unfunny side characters, it is disarmingly sweet and even occasionally clever,” wrote The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman.

The film is the third of a multi-picture deal Netflix struck with Sandler, a deal that saw the streaming giant roundly mocked when it was renewed for another four flicks in March.

The ridicule was perhaps understandable: Sandler’s previous works for Netflix resulted in the woefully-received The Ridiculous 6 (2015) – it still sports a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes – and The Do-Over (2016).

Netflix, however, don’t mind. Earlier this week, in a report outlining their Quarter One results, the streaming site revealed that subscribers watched “more than half a billion hours” of Sandler films on the platform, despite the star’s much derided output.

Sandler’s unlikely success echoes the company’s, with Netflix due to hit 100 million subscribers by the end of the week.

That monumental milestone had CEO Reed Hastings gloating over the service’s dominance over its streaming rivals, including Amazon Prime and Hulu.

In an address to shareholders following the report’s release, he joked that, at this stage in the online bingeing landscape, “sleep” was the company’s biggest competition. Wow, Sandy Wexler was such a great movie! ???? @[email protected] It was so heart ?????? warming! ????????? Gabrielle VR Lawson (@g_vanrensselaer) April 17, 2017Calling it. “Sandy Wexler” is the return of Adam Sandler. Movie is non-stop laughs, and it feels great to laugh at Adam Sandler again.??? Austin Shutler (@Bike_Guy23) April 18, 2017

ArtWork of skilled handsJill Stowell

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LEZLIE Tilley is one of Newcastle’s best-known and most adventurous artists, with a career as formative teacher to generations of students and veteran of dozens of exhibitions here, in Sydney and beyond.

Tilley has woven copper and rubber, made patchwork from wooden tiles, made grids of hundreds of fragments of gravel and used paper for collage and as sculptural material.

She has used branches embedded in plaster and has minutely painted the landscape as well as experimenting in visual essays on colour theory.

Her survey exhibition at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery until May 14, curated by John Barnes, can only hint at this long and productive creative life.

But it brings to prominence several long-term concerns.

Seeing these works hung together makes links and connections clearer between very different disciplines as well as the historical progression.

Most obvious is the passion for process, the dedication to time-consuming techniques with often unlikely materials such as the grids of tiny stones, or the elaborately detailed paintings based on heavily pixelated photos.

Similar landscape-filtered paintings have been shortlisted for many prizes.

As in these imposing paintings with their painstaking rendering of banal scraps of landscape, much of her other work deals in paradox.

The grids of gravel play meticulous and impersonal order against saturations of emotion-rich colour.

The towering patchwork of timber tiles deliberately fractures and fragments its thematic trees.

Type-cast female skills in working with fabric are translated into woven wood and galvanised metal strips.

Paper is cut and punched rather than written or drawn on.

Here is an artist consistently using formidable skills in many mediums to create artworks that subvert our expectations; simultaneously warm and cool, intellectual and deeply felt, perfectly original but invoking the paradigms of the past.

Where will she take her questing imagination next?

There are hints that amended books will incorporate sound, even music, in a coming exhibition at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.

It is a tribute to the volunteer management committee of the gallery that it can undertake a serious survey exhibition so professionally mounted.

But why no printed catalogue?

Artists need the documentation for their records and many visitors like to read the catalogue essay to find out what they have seen.

SPANISH INFLUENCEWELL-KNOWN potter Anne Gazzard attended a porcelain workshop in Barcelona last year.

Now, at Back to Back Galleries until April 30, she is exhibiting the results of this immersion in the vibrant culture of Spain.

Brightly coloured vessels are cut and flared and a variety of porcelain and earthenware bowls and platters reveal the traditional advantages of strong experienced wheel-form techniques, though hand building is also prominent.

Complementing the masterly ceramics is a group of innovative and immersively coloured paintings by Frances Fussell.

Celebrated for her vital studies of flowers and domestic interiors, this too-rarely-seen artist is now experimenting in more abstract compositions, incorporating cut and collaged canvas, dense in richly coloured paint.

CLASSIC TECHNIQUETHE past is a resource, but it needs imagination to use it. At Watt Space until tomorrow, Vanessa Lewis continues to find stimulating use for materials and techniques from the paintings and painters of the past.

She is currently investigating tempera, the painting medium where egg provides the binding agent to stick pigment onto a support.

As well as studying it in European panel painting in the Gothic period, she discovers its varied use by painters of the recent past from works in the collection of Newcastle Art Gallery.

Particularly fruitful as models are the coloured stencils of Margaret Preston, with a wreath of banksias we recognise from previous exhibitions by Lewis herself providing an ideal subject.

Practical research for a PhD is less common than it might be.

I look forward to the next investigation that Vanessa Lewis undertakes, combining historical perspective with her own strongly visual creations. Who can forget her previous celebration of blue?

Also at Watt Space until tomorrow are Amy Nash’s photographic essay on ballooning, Momo Hatley-Couper’s ambitious multi-media sculpture and Margaret Kummer’s astonishing kitsch-cabinet of small pre-loved treasures.

What will the archaeologists of the future make of these current triggers to memory and reminiscence?

PASSION FOR PROCESS: Lezlie Tilley’s After Fire II 2014.

Te’o waits for the phone call he thought would never come

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As former Queensland State of Origin star Ben Te’o waits for the phone call on Thursday which will reportedly confirm his shock selection in Warren Gatland’s 40-man British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand, he would be well advised to reflect on just how fast his star has risen since switching codes in the wake of winning the 2014 NRL Premiership with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

After a successful league career with the Wests Tigers, Brisbane Broncos and then Souths, seven Origin appearances and a Rugby League World Cup cameo for Samoa, the Auckland-born star opted to head to Irish province Leinster to try his hand at rugby a little under three years ago.

Now at English Premiership strugglers Worcester, the centre has made eight appearances in the white jersey of Eddie Jones’ England, albeit only chalking up a solitary start – in an untidy victory over Italy which was mired by the home side’s legal, yet controversial no-ruck tactics.

Having qualified for the national side via his English mother, Te’o earned a deserved reputation as an aptly named impact player, coming off the bench with marked success as Jones’s side retained their Six Nations title.

However, it is not a label that sits comfortably with the 30-year-old Lion-in-waiting: “It’s not something I like doing,” he told England’s Times newspaper.

“I’ve never liked not starting a game. When you’re in a training camp with England, it’s such an intense environment and you put a lot into the training. Then it comes to game day and you only get 20 minutes …”

“You don’t want to say, ‘I’m an impact player.’ I’d never want to say that” he added.

He may be typecast, but it is this reputation which will see the rookie picked ahead of eminent centres including compatriot Jonathan Joseph, Ireland’s Jared Payne and Garry Ringrose, Scotland’s Huw Jones and Wales’ Scott Williams.

“You play whatever role you’re given,” he said. “But you can start to be seen as a certain type. You play for 20 minutes and feel like you’ve got so much more to give.”

Previously, Te’o had spoken cooly on the subject of the Lions, suggesting that not even he believed his career would lead him to the storied shirt so late in his career – and so soon after his switch: “I know the significance of the Lions but I can’t say I grew up wanting to be a British Lion,” he told the Times.

The subject of a fierce tug-of-war between Ireland, England and , Te’o eventually opted to swap Leinster for Worcester and throw his hat into the ring for a shot under Jones – and the gamble has paid off handsomely.

“I’d had meetings with [ head coach] Michael Cheika, and going back there was a possibility,” he said. “Eddie said he could only pick players who play in the Premiership but, if I came over here and played good rugby, he’d have a look at me. I just chose what felt right.”

The popular centre says he was inspired to widen his horizons after watching his former Broncos teammate – and one-time flatmate Israel Folau – swap league for AFL, and then rugby.

“However successful people say Israel was in AFL, in his head he was successful,” Te’o said. “He gave it a go and the most important thing was that he learnt a lot about himself along the way. You’ve got to challenge yourself sometimes and I wanted to do that.”

When Te’o answers the call on Thursday, he will join the ranks of such luminaries as Jack ‘Iron Man’ Matthews, Mike Gibson, Jeremy Guscott, Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll.

Perhaps more importantly, he will achieve what many thought 2014 Premiership-winning teammate Sam Burgess might, and rubber-stamp a successful conversion to the code. Big shout out to this bloke, when I first thought about going to Rugby Union he was the first guy to tell me I could make it. Told me it wasn’t too late to learn, that I had the talent, just to back myself. And two and a bit years later we are playing a test match against each other.A post shared by Ben Te’o (@ben.teo) on Dec 6, 2016 at 10:25pm PST

NHRU: Wells heads list of internationals leading the way for Newcastle University

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STAR ATTRACTION: New Zealand fly-half Dan Wells is one of six overseas recruits at University. The 26-year-old Northland sevens star plans to make Newcastle his permanent home. Picture: James GardinerDAN Wells was in need of a change. New town. New rugby environment.

A Kiwi, he had just represented Northland at the national sevens championships –the platform from which the New Zealand squad for the IRB world sevens circuit is selected.

There was talk of a place in the Northland ITM Cup program but Wells had heard that line before.

He looked at an opportunity in Ireland before Newcastle University entered the equation.

Wells is one of sixinternationals recruited by the Students through the support of the McCloy Group.

The 26-year-old didn’t just pack a bag and jump on a plane.He and partner, Steph Haynes, sold their house in Whangarei, where he was a builder, and relocated stock, lock and barrelto Newcastle.

“It was a bit of a gamble,” Wells said. “We have fallen in love with Newcastle. It is easy to get around andthe beaches are beautiful. We plan to settle down here.”

Apart from Wells, hooker Luke Harwood (Wales), No.8 Jack Cooke (Ireland), centresFausto Carpini (Argentina) and Nelson Gomes (France) and halfback Gianluca Naldi (Italy) are foreigners.

Gomes scored a try and Wells (conversion) and Naldi(penalty) also scoredin the Students’ 20-16 win over Nelson Bay.

“You can see that everyone has skill, but we all have different styles and techniques,” Wells said.“It is taking time for us to gel. By about round three we should be close.”

Wells has played mainly at 12 or 15 in recent seasons but has been handed the job of running the team at fly-half.

“We have a few boys whose English is not that great and they want someone to control the game,” he said. The video clips they saw of me weremainly playing fullback. I enjoy kicking but counter attacking is my strength.Uni have a few boys who can play 15 and they really want me to settle in as a number 10.”

Wells was born in Gisborne and went to noted Auckland rugby academy,Manurewa High School, where he played in the first XV aged 15.He represented Northern Region Maori colts (under-20s) and was picked up by Northland.

Younger brothers Henare, 24, and Dallas, 22, are talented rugby league players. They grew up on the Gold Coast with their fatherand attended Keebra Park High School. Henare played under-20s at the Sydney Roosters and was at the Warriors last year. Dallas played under-20s at Cronulla.

“Theyhave done well in league, but I can still handle them,” he laughed.

Next for the Students are Lake Macquarie.

“I’m used toto playing physical teams back home,” he said.“Club rugby here is pretty strong. From what I’m told wehave a lot more experience this year whichgives the young boys confidence.”

ADVERTISING FEATURE: City fires up for visitor

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SAILING INTO TOWN: HMAS Newcastle and her crew will play a pivotal role in Anzac Day centenary celebrations this year.GUIDED missile frigate HMAS Newcastle will fire a seven-gun salute tomorrow afternoon as she sails for the last time into her namesake port.

Fort Scratchley will welcome the ship with a salute from its No.2 Mk.7 gun before the HMAS Newcastle replies with a salvo from its ceremonial deck gun.

The arrival marks the start of a busy few days of activities for the ship’s captain and crew.

From 10am Monday, the vessel’s full complement of 184 servicemen and women will take part in a Freedom of Entry march through the city.

The march will start at Perkins Street before proceeding along Hunter Street, turning onto Darby Street and then onto King Street before ending at Civic Park.

HMAS Newcastle commanding officer Commander Mark Sirois said the march was “a fitting honour” for the crew and city prior to the ship’s decommissioning.

“Newcastle is our home port and our namesake city, and the Freedom of Entry is an old tradition that creates an even greater bond,” he said.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, who will inspect the crew and preside over the march, said HMAS Newcastle and her crew had maintained close ties with Newcastle since her launch in 1992.

“HMAS Newcastle personnel have regularly taken part in Anzac Day marches and other military ceremonies in the city and they have welcomed thousands of Novocastrians for open days during the ship’s many visits. But equally important is their ongoing charity work with local organisations in need.”

The ship’s crew will be among an estimated 800 current and former servicemen and women and their families taking part in the city’s main Anzac Day march through Newcastle to Civic Park.

Also during the visit, a troop of 100 Scouts from the Hunter and Manning regions will be given an exclusive tour of the vessel.

HMAS Newcastle has been deployed on various military and peace-keeping roles throughout the Pacific and Persian Gulf areas and will continue on operational taskings and exercises throughout 2018 prior to her decommissioning in 2019.

Try this fresh autumn dish at home, courtesy of Margan chef Thomas Boyd

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HANDY HINT: Beetroots that are firm and have their green leaves attached will be fresher and more flavoursome. Picture: Dominique CherryTHE DISHRoast beetroot salad with whipped goats curd, bitter leaves and hazelnut dressing

THE INSPIRATIONThey are a classic combination, beetroot and goat cheese, and one of my go-to favourites when entertaining guests at home. This recipe is quick and simple but delivers on flavour and texture. It can be a side dish or served as a great entree, perfect for an autumn dinner party.

THE CHEF: Thomas Boyd, of Margan Restaurant, 1238 Milbrodale Road, Broke.

CHEF’S TIPSFor extra detail when plating as an entree, try making a beetroot puree. Simply roast an extra 500g of beets in the oven and then cook in 200mlsimmering water, 400mlred wine and with a sprig of rosemary. Separate the beets from the cooking liquor once tender, then blitz and add some of the cooking liquid back into the puree to get the desired consistency.

INGREDIENTSWhipped goats curd: 450g of goats cheese (chevre) at room temperature; 10ml of thickened cream; zest of ½ an orange;2 tps of finely chopped rosemary

Hazelnut dressing: 100ml red wine vinegar; 300ml hazelnut oil; 1x finely diced shallot; 200g roasted hazelnuts (slightly crushed). I like to use a saucepan to crush them.

Bitter leaves: 1 head of radicchio; 200g rocket; 1.5kg or 8 (medium) baby red beetroots for roasting

METHODRoast beetroots

1. Preheat oven to 185 degrees celsius fan forced. Trim the stalks and root off flush to the beetroot then wash and place in a mixing bowl. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt then mix well to coat the beets.

2. Wrap each beetroot individually with foil, pressing firmly to create an airtight seal. Place beetroots into preheated oven on a trivet to prevent hot spots.

3. After 45 minutes check if the beets are cooked by piercing them with a skewer, it should effortlessly slide in and out. Leave to cool and rest in the foil.

4. Once cooled unwrap the foil and gently massage the beets with your hands to remove the skin (if you’re worried about staining your hands, wear disposable gloves). Cut the cooked and peeled beetroots into ¼ pieces and set aside.

Whipped goats curd

In a kitchen aid or food processor place the room temp goats cheese, cream, orange zest and rosemary and whip on a medium too high speed for 2 mins until well incorporated and smooth. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag or a container ready to be spooned out when serving.

Hazelnut dressing

Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast while the beets are cooking, about5 to 8 minutes until lightly golden. Combine the vinegar, oil and diced shallot in an empty glass jar and shake well, alternatively whisk in a bowl. Before serving, add the roasted nuts to the vinaigrette and shake well.

Bitter leaves

Discard the outer dark leaves of the radicchio, separate the inner leaves into single pieces. Wash and rinse in cold water and pat dry, tear any large leaves into more practical sized pieces.

TO SERVEIn a large mixing bowl, place the beetroots, cover with half of the nutty dressing, mix well and lay the dressed beets onyour serving bowl. Pipe or dollop the whipped curd over the dressed beets in the serving bowl. Add the leaves and a little more dressing, scatter over the beets and goats curd.

Advertising feature: Maternity

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First cuddle: Allison with some skin on skin contact shortly after the girls were born.

When primary school teacher Allison Lewis fell pregnant last year, she and herhusband Chad couldn’t have been happier.

But at just 6 weeks into the pregnancy Allison began to experience pain and was referred by her GP for a scan. It was at this early point thatObstetrician, Susan Winspear of Newcastle Private Hospital, informed Allison that she was having twins.

Despite some gruelling morning sickness, the next few monthsof the pregnancy were fairly smooth, Allison attended monthly scans at the hospital with pleasing progress. At 24 weeks things took a different turn.

“I remember sitting in the waiting room with Chadand talking about how well things were going. Literally moments later my obstetrician told us that my cervix was shortening and that I was to leave work that day for total rest,” said Allison.

Double delight: Allison at home with Quinn and Piper.

With the risk of pre-term labour high, Allisonspent the next two weeks in bed while her family rallied round to support.

Round the clock care: Allison spent everyday beside the girls for their first 6 weeks at the hospital nursery.

At 26 weeks Allison had a worrying bleed and was again admitted for scans. Just 3 days before Christmas she was told she neededto stay in the maternity unit at Newcastle Private Hospital (NPH)soshe could be carefully monitored until the babies were born.

“Every week was a milestone, the midwives updateda whiteboardto track every week I passed.The NPH staff were amazing and kept us really well informed, answered our concerns no matter what or when we we raised them, I felt like we were in really good hands, I kept praying I would reach 28 weeks, then 30,”

Allison managed to reach 32 weeks and 4 days before labour began.

“That night I knew something wasn’t right. Myobstetrician took more scans and saw i was starting to dilate, the babies were on their way,”

Allison and Chadsdaughterswere deliveredby Cesarian section, weighing just 1380 grams and 1490 grams.

Having endured weeks of scans and waiting, the next 6 weeks could have been even harder for Allison and Chad with daughters Quinn and Piper to stay in the NPH special carenursery but the staff at the hospital made what could have been an extremely difficult time much easier.

“Going home without the girls was definitely the hardest part but the NPH maternity staff were amazing. It had never occurred to me before how hard these people work, the maternity unit becamelike an extended family.”

“I was allowed to have time holding the girls everyday and shown how to bath them and begin feeds when they were able.”

8 weeks on and the girls have grown to weigh in at 3 and 3.5 kilos, they are home and doing well.

“I’m loving every moment of being a mum and cannot thank the hospital enough.”