(Australian Associated Press)
AUSTRALIA’S TOP NEWS STORIES IN 2015
They were the stories that got everyone talking in 2015 shocked us, stirred our fears, lifted our hearts and broke them.
1. BALI NINE RINGLEADERS EXECUTED
No one condoned the crimes of drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran but the collective anger and dismay at Indonesia’s execution of the two Bali Nine ringleaders was immense. Chan and Sukumaran spent 10 years in Bali’s Kerobokan prison with a death penalty hanging over their heads. Legal efforts and appeals for mercy failed, and Indonesia rejected pleas for mercy. On April 29 at around 12.30am Indonesian time, Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 34, were killed by a firing squad. Then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the executions “cruel and unnecessary”.
2. MALCOLM TURNBULL ROLLS TONY ABBOTT TO BECOME PRIME MINISTER
Tony Abbott was determined not to be like the Labor Party but he met the same fate as his prime ministerial predecessors Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – three unpopular PMs rolled by their own parties. A stalled spill motion in February shook Abbott and was followed in September by a ruthless stealth attack by Malcolm Turnbull as Abbott foundered in the polls. On September 14 Turnbull fulfilled his destiny. The new PM had a honeymoon in the polls but the pressures of terrorism, the budget and internal party politicking are dulling some of his electoral lustre. Mr Turnbull faces an election in 2016 where he will try to become the first PM to be re-elected since John Howard held power.
3. TERRORISM IN AUSTRALIA
Australia started 2015 still in shock from the December 2014 Sydney Lindt Cafe siege. In April, police foiled a plot to unleash a terror attack in Melbourne during the Anzac centenary commemorations. In October another terrible incident unfolded: a 15-year-old boy, allegedly linked to local Islamic extremists, shot dead 58-year-old NSW Police force accountant Curtis Cheng, outside police headquarters. The boy was killed by security officers. The fight to defeat Islamic State abroad – and the debate over how overcome home-grown terrorism – continues.
4. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Attitudes to domestic violence shifted in 2015. No longer is it nobody else’s business – it is everybody’s business. Rosie Batty, whose son Luke was killed by his father in 2014, campaigned hard to make family violence a headline issue in Australia. She was named Australian of the Year. Addressing the issue sparked debate, with some commentators saying the discussion “demonised” men. But a royal commission in Victoria, moves towards a national domestic violence order scheme and a warning from PM Malcolm Turnbull that violence against women is a “national disgrace” are signs change has begun.
5. MICK FANNING AND THE SHARK
Three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning was competing at South Africa’s Jeffreys Bay in July when he “felt something behind me” – a huge shark. Fanning punched out at the monster. “It just kept coming back,” he said later. Aussie surfer Julian Wilson paddled to help as Fanning, separated from his board, screamed for him to flee. Fanning was rescued by jetski crews and the footage went around the world. Despite the happy ending to that story, Fanning’s year was destined to end on a tragic note with the death of his older brother, Peter, in December.
6. JARRYD HAYNE MAKES IT IN THE NFL (THEN DOESN’T)
Aussie hearts swelled with pride when rugby league star Jarryd Hayne succeeded in his audacious plan to dump his rich Parramatta Eels contract and try out for American football, aka NFL. Hayne was picked by the San Francisco 49ers, beating US hopefuls and becoming a sensation at home and in the US. Then he dropped the ball in his first big game. After two more drops over five more games, Hayne was put on the bench. He remains hopeful of a return to the field.
7. BONES IN THE SUITCASE MURDER
It was a bizarre heartbreaking story: a suitcase found beside a highway near remote Wynarka, South Australia, in July. Inside, the bones of a child. After months of public pleas, a call to police helped detectives identify the remains of two-year-old Khandalyce Kiara Pearce. Khandalyce was identified as the result of DNA from another body found in NSW’s notorious Belanglo State Forest, more than 1,000km away, in 2010. That body was Khandalyce’s mother, Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, last seen alive in South Australia in 2008, aged 20. Mother and daughter have been laid to rest together in their home town, Alice Springs. Daniel James Holdom, aged 41, is charged with both murders.
8. THE FIRST WOMAN JOCKEY TO WIN THE MELBOURNE CUP
Local interest in the Cup has been challenged by hordes of foreign raiders in recent years but in 2015 the Race That Stops The Nation was glorious. Michelle Payne, the battler jockey riding a battler horse took Australia’s biggest race at odds of 100-1. Payne cemented a place in history as the first woman jockey to ride a Cup winner – Prince of Penzance. She then added a stirring, stinging post-race speech: “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything.”
9. MURDER OF AFL ADELAIDE CROWS COACH PHIL WALSH
It was another grim, horrific incident of domestic violence in suburban Adelaide. The shockwaves expanded when police announced early on July 3 that the victim was Adelaide Football Club Coach Phil Walsh. The his murder shook Adelaide and beyond. It was a family tragedy but also had an enormous impact on the AFL, the Crows and sporting fans across the country. The grieving team abandoned its scheduled clash with Geelong that week but finished the season seventh on the ladder. Walsh’s son Cy, 26, has been charged with his murder.
10. RELEASE OF JOURNALIST PETER GRESTE FROM EGYPTIAN JAIL
Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste was arrested with two colleagues in Egypt while covering demonstrations following the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Greste was sentenced to seven to 10 years’ jail for “spreading false news”. Greste spent 400 days in jail as his parents and Australia’s foreign minister pushed tirelessly for his release. Greste emerged from prison in February, returning to Australia and a role as press freedom advocate. Greste’s colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were pardoned in September. Greste is hoping his in-absentia conviction will be repealed.
AND ONE MORE …. THE ANZAC CENTENARY
Any list of big stories cannot miss April 25, the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli in World War I.
Ten thousand Aussies and Kiwis crammed into the dawn service held below the rugged Turkish cliffs that became the final resting place of about 130,000 men during the eight-month Gallipoli campaign, including 8700 Australians and 2779 New Zealanders.
In Australia hundreds of thousands turned out at dawn services and Anzac Day marches.