Traffic: No major incidents reported on Hunter roads.
Trains: Good service on the Newcastle and Hunter lines.
Weather: Possible shower in Newcastle (22 degrees), Toronto (22 degrees), Wallsend (23 degrees), Nelson Bay (23 degrees) and Raymond Terrace (23 degrees).
Beachwatch: Partly cloudy with light and variable winds.Surfs starting to drop and some clean waves on offer during the mornings low tide. Swell from the South to S/E at 1.5m.Wind starting off West tending East for the afternoon. The banks are handling conditions better with Cliff,Dixon and Pogos popular early.Reefs off Nobbys and Merewether on low.One Mile and Birubi up at Port Stephens.Dudley,Redhead,Frenchmans and Birdie to the south.Afternnon high to suit Cowrie. Waters still quite mild in with slight sweeps.Swim in flagged areas and water temp 19C.
WHEN the first two police officers were called to reports of shots being fired at a remote Hunter property late on Tuesday night, they put on their bullet-proof vests before walking towards the front door to investigate. Read more.
The meeting was a long way from parliament house – in a corrugated shed on a Wiliamtown cattle farm. But Defence Minister Marise Payne has promised the message will travel back to Canberra, after she met with about 20 residents caught in the fallout of the RAAF base contamination scandal on Wednesday. Read more.
The Hunter driver is racing in Europe but would love to be part of history back home. Read more.
THIS year is the 20th anniversary of the Newcastle Knights’ 1997 premiership victory. The thrilling last-second triumph over Manly in the grand final remains the greatest sporting moment in the city’s history. Read more.
THE question for Dungog ratepayers after Tuesday’s decision to avoid pursuing a merger with Port Stephens at least before the September election is: what happens now? Well, depends who you ask. Read more.
Defence Minister Marise Payne heard stories from Williamtown so harrowing you would think you were in a “third world country”. Read more.
VOCAL executive director Robyn Cotterell-Jones is taking a step back after decades as a victims' advocate. Read more.
It’s known as one of the Hunter Valley’s biggest food and wine events of the year, and it’s back again this weekend. Read more.
All the party shots of the year so far. Read more.
“I’m not asking for a million dollars like all these other guys,” Ross said. “I’m not even asking for half of that. I don’t operate like that. I just want what is fair, and to set my family up. In November I can talk to other clubs. I hope it doesn’t get to that. I had some interest from England before I recommitted to the Knights and have some bigger clubs looking at me now.” Read more.
State of the nation
Need a national news snapshot first thing – well, we have you covered.
► NEW ENGLAND, NSW: A former New England priest accused of indecently assaulting young boys has appeared in open court for the first time, two weeks after he was extradited from Queensland by detectives. David Joseph Perrett was flanked by his brother, Ron Perrett, also a retired priest, in Armidale Local Court on Wednesday morning. He is facing nine counts of indecent assault on a male after a lengthy investigation spearheaded by Armidale detectives.
► WIMMERA, VIC: A champion blade shearer has been banned from working with sheep for six months after he beat a lamb with a hammer. Naracoorte’s James Edward Barnett, 59, is the fifth shearer to be charged with animal cruelty offences this year.
► NORTH-WEST TAS: A North-West policeman heard a distressed female before officers smashed their way into a cabin where a woman was allegedly being raped, a judge was told. Heath Lance Chatters allegedly raped a North-West worker in September 2015 after robbing her at knifepoint.
► BEGA, NSW: An orthopaedic surgeon whose contract was not renewed – precipitating a damning review into the culture of his hospital – says he was not told about a second, secret review into his own performance when he believed he was contributing to the inquiry. Dr Chris Phoon had been summonsed to an interview for what he thought was a review of surgical services at the hospital, but only learned later through a freedom of information request that it was an inquiry into his own clinical practice.
► BENDIGO, VIC: News the privately operated pathology services provider at Bendigo Health will close its microbiology lab at the hospital next month has been met with disbelief from health workers and the pathologists union. Australian Clinical Labs told staff last week the company reviewed its regional laboratory sites and made the decision to centralise all routine microbiology testing currently performed in Bendigo to its premises in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton.
► NORTH MACLEAN, QLD: When Kaycee Bentley purchased her home on Beryl Parade at North Maclean 18 months ago, she was assured it would never go under in the event of flooding. The Logan River borders Kaycee’s land, yet from her current temporary accommodation – a caravan next to her uninhabitable home – there is no sign of the water. Seven weeks ago it was another story.
► WODONGA, VIC: Wodonga Council is under fire for bullying after stopping its visitor info centre volunteers from talking to the media about the demise of the city’s tourism office. Maggie Reid, who has been an unpaid visitor centre helper since 1998, quit in disgust on Wednesday following the council deciding this week to close the Hovell Street site.
► PORT MACQUAIRE, NSW: A Port Macquarie resident has met with an unusual beach resident while combing the ocean shoreline. Kathy posted a photo of the spider on Instagram. She said she had never seen a spider like it and wondered what it was doing on the beach. A spokesperson from the Australian Museum said the spider pictured was a type of water spider from the family Pisauridae.
► Enrolments in NSW Catholic high schools have dropped for the first time in almost 20 years and are down overall in Catholic schools for the first time since 2008 as struggling families are forced into overcrowded public schools.
► Cardinal George Pell maintains he is innocent of historical child sexual assault allegations as police decide whether to charge the senior Catholic figure. Victoria Police received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about its investigation into Cardinal Pell, days after fresh details of the claims were aired. Police and the DPP would not comment on the advice, but is understood the brief suggests that there is sufficient evidence to charge Cardinal Pell.
► Skyrocketing profits for insurers have been branded "obscene" by sections of the health industry, coming just months after health funds secured another government-approved increase in premiums well above inflation. Health funds made post-tax profits of $1.3 billion in the year to April 1, an annual increase of 18 per cent.
► About a dozen residents are yet to find a place to go when the notorious Gatwick Hotel shuts its doors at the start of next month. The hotel, St Kilda's destination of last resort for the homeless and drug-addicted, is to be bought by Channel Nine for around $15 million for renovators show The Block. But with only two weeks until The Gatwick closes down, a small group of residents remain unwilling – so far – to accept a place to stay as part of a government-sponsored relocation program.
National weather radar
► An Indonesian man gasped in horror after learning he and another man had been sentenced to 85 lashes for gay sex in the first conviction for homosexuality in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province. The punishment - imposed under a new sharia-inspired code implemented in the province two years ago - is five lashes more than demanded by the prosecution.
► A young Australian facing jail on terror charges in Bulgaria had vehemently rejected Islam more than a month before his arrest, according to evidence seen by Fairfax Media. Former Sydney schoolboy John Zakhariev, 21, could be sentenced to up to eight years' jail for allegedly training in Bulgaria with the intention of joining Islamic State. Though no verdict has yet been reached, his lawyer said on Tuesday he was "not hopeful" of an acquittal. A Bulgarian judge has refused to consider the evidence, saying on Tuesday she had heard all she needed to reach a verdict.
► A woman who alleges she was groped by Australian entertainer Rolf Harris was reduced to tears in court on Wednesday, as she rejected suggestions made to her by Mr Harris' barrister that she had tried to "manipulate" potential witnesses. Harris, aged 87, is facing four counts of indecent assault with three separate women accusing him of groping them at different events dating between 1971 and 1983. He is pleading not guilty to all charges.
On this day
332: Constantine the Great announces free distributions of food to Constantinople citizens
1652: Rhode Island passes the first law in English-speaking North America making slavery illegal
1953: Jackie Cochran breaks the sound barrier - the first woman to do so
1994: Israeli troops finish retreating from the Gaza Strip after occupying it, giving the area to the Palestine to govern
Faces of Australia: Noel Bye
FROM the moment Stawell’s Terry Dunn wakes up, he “staggers” to the door and battles through 15 minutes of muscle pain, before his body finally “limbers up”.
This has been Mr Dunn’s regular morning routine since he was diagnosed with Ross River virus in 2011 and then diagnosed with a re-infection in 2014.
“It was early September in 2011 when I became aware something was not right health wise,” he said.
“I woke up one morning and my feet were so sore, the soles of my feet, I couldn’t walk without a walking stick.”
The symptoms dissipated, but then reappeared two weeks later when Mr Dunn got out of bed to attend a family event in Port Fairy.
“As soon as I got up I knew I could not go,” he said.
“Not only my feet, but my legs were hurting, my shoulders were hurting, the muscles in my neck had seized up and i’ll never forget my hands and wrists.” Read more.