VICTORIA’S liquor licensing authority is investigating a nightclub promoter who told several schoolgirls via social media to ”kill yourself” after they asked to have provocative images removed from the venue’s Facebook page.
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The young women had attended the Pens Down party at CBD nightclub Roxanne Parlour, where students celebrated the end of year 12 before VCE exams began last week.

Pens Down promoter Christian Serrao posted 262 photographs on the event’s Facebook page, which included about 30 images of schoolgirls posing provocatively and kissing each other.

Some of the girls were embarrassed by the photographs, while others were under 18 and not legally permitted to enter licensed premises.

Other images taken on a river cruise promoted by Mr Serrao showed a young man in school uniform vomiting from the side of a boat.

When several students asked Mr Serrao to delete the images, he posted the following response: ”I just love how these year 12s are happy to get their tits out for photos, then send threatening messages if they’re not deleted off our Facebook page. Kill Yourself.”

Yesterday, Mr Serrao defended the post and said the expression ”kill yourself” was an internet meme that was not meant to be taken literally.

”It’s a comedic thing that’s all over the internet,” Mr Serrao said. ”Some people won’t understand it but you can Google it and see for yourself.”

He said all requests to delete the images had been complied with, after some of the young women expressed concerns that their parents would find them or they were unhappy with their appearance.

The practice of using provocative images of young women to promote functions was widespread across Melbourne’s nightclub industry, Mr Serrao said.

”There’s always girls kissing and doing sexy little things,” he said. ”You get 1 per cent who wake up the next day and aren’t happy and ask us to take them down.”

He said Roxanne Parlour required proof of age and scanned identification before entry but conceded that some under-aged patrons ”fall through the cracks”.

A spokesman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed it was investigating the Pens Down event held on October 24.

Liberty Victoria chairman Spencer Zifcak said the abuse of Facebook sites reinforced the need for privacy legislation.

”This would seem to be a situation where everyone is behaving badly,” Mr Zifcak said. ”These young women have been foolish, while the promoter’s response is a disgrace. But these students are vulnerable and if they, or their parents, ask for the images to be removed, they should be taken down immediately.”

Last year, The Sunday Age revealed that parents from several prominent private schools had considered suing St Kilda’s Prince of Wales hotel, after images of their daughters, some just 16, had been used to promote the venue. Promoter and music industry figure Frank Cotela was sacked by the owners of Prince of Wales two weeks after the legal threats were made. At the time, St Michael’s Grammar principal Simon Gipson said he was deeply concerned by the exploitation of the students on social media sites.

”We deplore the manner in which young women are commodified and sexualised in this way,” he said.

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A BACKLOG of cases prompted Victoria’s ambulance service to activate an emergency response plan normally reserved for mass-casualty accidents on Monday night, for the second time in three months.
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A spokesman for Ambulance Victoria confirmed the service called a ”code-orange” alert for about an hour from 11.30pm to help manage a high caseload.

The code is the second-highest level of alert in the state’s Health Emergency Response Plan and puts doctors on notice that they can be called in to help. It was designed to manage healthcare for disasters such as bushfires and mass-casualty accidents.

A source said the code-orange call came as about 40 patients were waiting for an ambulance, including a code-one emergency case that had been waiting for 45 minutes.

Code-one cases are critical, life-threatening situations that the ambulance service aims to treat within 15 minutes.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said the code-orange call showed the service could not cope with normal demand.

”This is just day-to-day business, it shows they can’t cope because they haven’t got enough resources,” he said.

”You’ve got up to 42 cases waiting at 11.30 at night, they resort to code orange to stop ambulance crews having meal breaks and force them to work after the end of their shifts when they’ve already done 12 or 14 hours. It’s a misuse of code orange.”

The ambulance service also called a code-orange alert on July 18, between midnight and 8.30pm, due to high levels of winter illness.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Danny McGennisken said the calls were ”part of normal business processes and the emergency response plan was developed to help us manage these circumstances.

”It allows us to manage caseload as required and call in additional resources if they are needed.”

Opposition parliamentary secretary for health Wade Noonan said the ambulance service was in crisis.

”Response times are getting longer, ambulances are being parked up for hours outside emergency departments and now the service is having to implement emergency response plans to cope with normal business operations,” he said.

”There is nothing routine about this. The emergency response plan is reserved for incidents involving mass casualties, such as natural disasters.”

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With much of Melbourne’s attention focused on Derby day yesterday, auction activity was somewhat subdued. But among the 160 properties up for grabs, some good sales were still made – particularly for period property.
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In Carlton North, a three-bedroom Edwardian at 928 Drummond Street sold under the hammer for $1,064,000. Put on the market by Nelson Alexander at $990,000, it had attracted interest from three bidders.

Four parties competed for an entry-level two-bedroom Victorian property at 1 Richardson Street in Albert Park, quoted by Maher & Co at $700,000-plus, which eventually sold for $775,000.

The lower number of auctions proved to be a trump card for some vendors. Woodards attracted a crowd of about 55 to its auction at 110 Mackie Road in Bentleigh East of a two-bedroom 1950s property. Quoted at $480,000-$520,000, it sold for $570,000 – well above the reserve of $510,000.

In Mitcham, a three-bedroom unit at 2/51 Deep Creek Road, quoted by First National Real Estate Lindellas at above $500,000, sold under the hammer for $580,000 after competition among three bidders.

There were also some post-auction sales. In Northcote, an Edwardian family home at 6 Membrey Street, quoted by Jellis Craig at $1,250,000-$1,350,000, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.25 million before selling for an undisclosed price after interest from three parties.

A three-bedroom property at 19 Empress Avenue in Kingsville – pitched at first home buyers – sold for $485,000 after it was passed in on a genuine bid of $460,000. Barry Plant had quoted $460,000-$490,000.

Another property that did not see an immediate result was 80 Clarinda Road in Moonee Ponds. While the auction of the renovated four-bedroom home drew a sizeable crowd, the property, quoted by Nelson Alexander at $1.37 million$1.47 million, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.38 million.

CALL AUCTION ACTION with your auction results, tips and comments on 8667 2647 between 1pm and 5pm on Saturday.

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THE state government will revive Victoria’s only remaining sign language diploma course as it moves to stem the damage of Ted Baillieu’s TAFE cuts.
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From the middle of next year, anyone who wants to learn Australian Sign Language will be subsidised by the government in a newly revamped Auslan training program.

The decision to reinstate the course comes after Kangan Institute — which now runs the state’s only sign language diploma — told students in May that it could no longer offer Auslan beyond 2013 as a result of the government’s budget cuts. GippsTAFE also withdrew its Auslan program last year.

Kangan’s decision sparked a backlash against the government, which subsequently commissioned a review into how Auslan is delivered in Victoria. The review’s findings, to be released today, suggest previous courses were not commercially viable, hard to access, and failed to keep pace with the needs of the deaf community.

“There is a general agreement from participants that current Auslan course delivery has, on the whole, not kept pace with the needs and requirements of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community or the learning needs of current and future student cohorts,” says the report.

Skills Minister Peter Hall said that, given the economic and social importance of Auslan, the government would undertake a competitive tender process to ensure a capped number of places could be delivered from mid-2013.

Students would be able to enrol in a certificate or diploma program, and training is expected to cost less than it has in the past (Kangan’s diploma, for instance, cost students up to $2000 in fees under the current funding system).

Labor spokesman Steve Herbert described the tender process as a wasteful “bureaucratic exercise.”

“Clearly there’s a need for this training, and the government should simply fund a TAFE to provide it from the start of next year,” he said.

Other problems identified in the government’s report include:

■ The lack of access to Auslan programs for people living outside of Melbourne.■ The need to improve career pathways for students of Auslan, including for secondary school students.■ The shortage of Auslan teachers, trainers and interpreters, particularly in rural and regional Victoria.■ The need for a new funding model to ensure courses were commercially viable in future.

The decision to reinstate Auslan comes as the government continues to take a hit over its $300 million cuts to TAFE, particularly in regional Victoria.

Australian Education Union TAFE vice president Greg Barclay said he supported the decision to reinstate the course, but questioned how the new program would be funded.

Kangan spokeswoman Yvette Bockisch also welcomed the government’s decision.

“The Auslan course provides a very important course to the deaf community. The majority of our students are hearing students and are learning the language to become interpreters at RMIT,” she said.

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