Sydney news: ‘Overwhelming evidence’ will clear mother’s name, says peak body of scientists

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Scientists confident Folbigg will walk free from jail

Patrick, Laura, Caleb and Sarah Folbigg
(Clockwise from top left) Patrick, Laura, Caleb and Sarah Folbigg, who were killed (manslaughter for Caleb, murder for Patrick, Laura and Sarah) by their mother Kathleen Folbigg in the NSW Hunter Valley.(ABC News)

A peak national body of scientists has expressed confidence a new public inquiry into the convictions of NSW woman Kathleen Folbigg over the deaths of her four children, will see her walk free from jail.

Folbigg remains behind bars over the murder of three of her children, and the manslaughter of a fourth.

Various court appeals since then have failed, and an inquiry in 2019 reinforced her guilt.

On Wednesday, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said another inquiry was needed to examine evidence suggesting a genetic mutation could be responsible for the deaths of two of the children.

Australian Academy of Science chief executive Anna-Maria Arabia said at that inquiry the public will hear that Folbigg’s children died of natural causes.

“The overwhelming scientific and medical evidence which is beyond reasonable doubt will see Kathleen Folbigg freed from jail,” Ms Arabia said.

Ms Arabia said the NSW Attorney-General was provided with sufficient scientific evidence a year ago to justify a new examination of the case.

Earlier this year, a group of 90 scientists and doctors signed a petition calling for the convicted child killer to be pardoned in the light of new medical records.

They said the medical evidence showed that her two daughters had the mutation that was known to cause heart problems.

A date has yet to be set for the new inquiry.

Inquiry into water trading announced

Photo of water spraying on vineyard.
An inquiry will be held later this year into water trading in NSW. (Landline)

An inquiry will be held in NSW into water trading and its impact on the environment, the economy and communities.

Chair of the upper house select committee and leader of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Robert Borsak said there had been significant changes since NSW first began trading water allocations in 1983.

“This inquiry represents an opportunity to scrutinize whether the current system of water trading is providing the best outcomes for the state,” he said.

“This is particularly timely given the droughts, floods and bushfires in recent years, which have devastated the NSW agricultural industry.”

Mr Borsak said the inquiry was particularly interested in looking at whether the market is open to abuse or fixing.

Submissions can be lodged online until July 3.

Catholic schools to strike for better conditions

More than 17,000 teachers and support staff throughout NSW and the ACT are set to strike later this month.

They are asking for five conditions to be approved, including to end staff shortages and increase pay.

“Schools have been running on goodwill, but it is rapidly evaporating,” said Independent Education Union of Australia branch NSW secretary Mark Northam.

The rally will be held on May 27 at Sydney’s Town Hall.

They will ask for:

  • Pay increase of 10 per cent to 15 per cent over two years
  • Give support staff a fair deal compact with colleagues in public sector schools
  • Cut paperwork
  • Allow two hours release from face-to-face teaching per week for planning
  • End staff shortages.

Old jail to be transformed into hotel

An old style building in a picturesque garden
Berrima Correctional Facility is set to be transformed into a hotel and entertainment precinct. (Supplied)

A former jail at the Southern Highlands is set to be given a new life as a refurbished hotel and entertainment site.

The Berrima Correctional Center, which opened in 1839, was a German prisoner camp during World War I, a training center and a minimum-security prison.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said the $ 7 million sale to the Blue Sox Group, after retiring the heritage center in 2020, was an “outstanding result”.

The government praised the company’s proposal, which promised a wide range of social, economic and cultural benefits for Berrima and the Southern Highlands, including collaborations with Indigenous communities to preserve and celebrate the wider site’s heritage.

The building is state heritage-listed, with protections in place to preserve and protect the building.

Flood volunteers thanked for hard work

Group of people wearing orange uniforms stand in front of Sydney Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House turned orange to mark the work of SES volunteers during the recent floods.(Seven Network )

The Sydney Opera House turned orange last night to thank SES volunteers for their work in the recent floods.

Premier Dominic Perrottet joined a group of orange-clad volunteers at Circular Quay to witness the light show.

NSW Flood Recovery Minister Steph Cooke and NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York were also present for the occasion.

There are almost six million SES volunteers across Australia.

Call for more funding for sexual assault services

A woman wearing a black jacket over a blue shirt.
Hayley Foster from Full Stop Australia said one in three calls to the helpline goes unanswered due to underfunding. (ABC News: Jerry Rickard)

Advocates are calling on both major parties to give a commitment ahead of Saturday’s federal election to increase funding for sexual assault services.

Full Stop Australia chief executive Hayley Foster said in some cases survivors of sexual violence were having to drive for hours to access medical and psychological support services.

Even then, some were forced to wait for hours or even turned away.

Ms Foster said the number of reported sexual assaults had increased by 110 per cent in the past 25 years, while support services had received no real funding increase to meet the demand.

“We are hearing from survivors across the country that they are being turned away from sexual assault services, told they have to wait up to 12 months to access a service,” Ms Foster said.

“Sexual assault services are not a luxury. They are an essential service.”

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