Former Comment News editors, reporters, look back at memorable stories

Comment News-February 8, 2011, the Kelmscott bushfires.
Comment News-February 8, 2011, the Kelmscott bushfires.

FOR more than four decades, the Comment News has provided residents of Perth’s south-east corridor with their local news.

For the paper’s last edition, five former editors and journalists have shared some of the memorable stories they worked on during their tenure.

Kay Hawley: 1984-2001

Without doubt my most vivid memory is the ill-fated police helicopter crash (1992) on Kelmscott Primary School oval.

We happened to have a photographer there at the invitation of the principal for what should have been a routine PR job.

There were 300 kids on the oval to see it land but it crashed in front of them.

It was a great story, made national TV and the dailies were ringing me for days asking to use our pics.

The follow-up story the following week won me a Press Club award for the best news story in a suburban paper and the photographer won several awards for his brilliant pictures.

May 12, 1992-The Kelmscott helicopter crash.

Lucien Wilkinson: 2008-2011

My most notable memory from my time was the Kelmscott ‘Black Sunday’ bushfires of 2011.

I was at the WACA enjoying a day of cricket when from my vantage point in the stand I noticed a huge plume of grey smoke rising up in the distance, which I could tell was roughly in the vicinity of Kelmscott.

Photographer Jon Hewson attended the scene that day and got some great shots of the blaze and the destruction it caused, which we hustled to get into the next edition, and over the next few editions the coverage continued of what was a dark day in local history – all started by the careless use of a grinder by a local resident.

Kelmscott bushfire

Karen Valenti: 2011-2013

There are two stories that will always stay with me.

One was about a couple who was desperate to get married, before the groom-to-be was unable to stand because of his multiple sclerosis.

They could not afford a wedding because the groom-to-be had just lost his job.

After the Comment News ran a story about the couple’s plight, many came forward to help, a celebrant, limousine driver, hairdresser and even a dressmaker offered their services free of charge.

In the end, the couple enjoyed a beautiful beach wedding; the bride looked spectacular and the young groom was able to stand up at his wedding.

Local couple celebrate a wedding thanks to the generosity of strangers.

Another story that will always stay with me is the one about Lisa Eades.

What happened to Ms Eades was traumatic, but it was her quiet, determined grace that has stayed with me.

In 2011, the then 33 year old was supervising at a niece’s party when it started to get out of control.

She was hit in the face with a brick and was lucky to survive.

Instead of seeking retaliation, she used the Comment News as a vehicle to call on the Noongar community to stay calm and let police officers do their jobs.

I ended up interviewing her at her home in Armadale and via the power of social media, I have witnessed her long journey back to physical and emotional recovery.

I spoke to her this week to ask for permission to use her latest photograph and she had this to say about her recovery.

“Give your pain a voice that helps you recover in a positive way. Broken crayons all colour the same, in one way or another we are all a little bit broken. It’s ok to not be ok but don’t let your spirit stay that way. At the end of the day violence ends with me and I made it through it all.”

Lisa is now the Coordinator at the Wirrapanda Foundation for the Deadly Sista Girlz Program in Katanning at Katanning Senior High School and for the Katanning District.

She has always been thankful that Comment News ran her story and she has expressed it many times.

I’m grateful to have met this inspirational woman and have been able to follow her recovery.

Lisa’s story-November 22, 2011
Lisa today.

Rick Lee: 2013-2017

We helped a young single mum with terminal cancer get a disability pension – with back pay – after she was initially denied the benefit.

She had two young children and was gravely ill.

Reporter Sarah Waters uncovered the story and worked closely with the relevant government department to the benefit of a local family.

Shayna Baldwin’s story in Comment News-June 3, 2014.

Jessica Warriner: 2017

One of my favourite memories would have to be going up to the orchards in the hills.

Whether it was blossom season or golden leaves were fluttering down from the trees, it was a sight to behold and a pleasure to meet the people behind the businesses.

There was a photo of a young boy at Raeburn Orchards in June 2017 on the front of Comment for a story about the increasing visitors dropping by for social media snaps, and it’s still one of my favourite front pages.

Comment News June 6, 2017