THE Upper Hunter Electorate should feel extremely proud of its Higher School Certificate (HSC) Class of 2022 after the results were released last week.
HSC Merit Lists published by the NSW Education Standards Authority show that 25 of our students had results to qualify as Distinguished Achievers this year.
St Joseph's, Aberdeen had eight distinguished achievers; Dungog High School next with four; three each at Gloucester High, Singleton High and Scone Grammar School; two at Scone High and one each at Muswellbrook High and Quirindi High.
Muswellbrook's Will Rankin also made the All-round Achievers merit list with results in the highest band possible for five of his courses.
NSW Health continues to recommend a COVID-19 test if you have cold and flu symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever) to keep yourself and others safe.
The NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report for the week ended 10 December shows 39,761 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 and 56 deaths reported - Hunter New England LHD had 4,730 cases, up from 4,387 the previous week, taking the Year-to-Date total to 392,706.
PCR testing continues to be available in NSW without GP referral, with NSW Health advising that RAT tests will often not pick-up COVID in the early stages of the illness.
If you are at higher risk of severe illness, get a PCR test as they are more accurate and help you get faster access to medical treatment such as antiviral medicines, if you are eligible.
If you are not at higher risk of severe illness, do a rapid antigen test unless your doctor tells you to get a PCR test.
COVID-19 testing clinics in NSW will remain open over the Christmas period and into the New Year with locations available at: www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/testing-managing/clinics
The Double Demerits road safety campaign to encourage safe driver behaviour on our roads is in force from Friday 23 December until 2 January 2023 for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
The demerit point system provides an incentive for drivers to improve their driving behaviour, obey road rules and comply with NSW traffic laws.
Double demerits apply for offences including speeding, illegal use of mobile phones, not wearing a seatbelt and riding without a helmet.
Speeding, fatigue and alcohol are the three main causes of death and injury on our roads - so think twice before breaking the rules; roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/stayingsafe/index.html
The NSW Government's Industry Innovation Program has made a commitment to triple the number of women working on construction sites.
The government is working with industry to achieve a target of 15 per cent women on work sites by 2030, with a view towards reaching a more gender-balanced industry in the future.
A $10 million grant program will support industry-led initiatives with eligible organisations invited to apply for grants of up to $300,000 to deliver projects that ensure workplaces are safe, flexible and inclusive.
A dedicated website for women and girls interested in learning more about the industry has also been launched with further information available at Women in Construction; www.nsw.gov.au/employment/women-construction.
Parents can now access $150 worth of vouchers under the Premier's Back to School NSW program to buy textbooks, uniforms, stationery and other school essentials.
Parents, guardians and carers, including foster carers, can apply for three vouchers per child, for use at registered businesses until 30 June 2023.
Whether your child is about to begin kindergarten next year or is heading to high school, families of every child enrolled in a government or non-government school or registered for home-schooling is eligible.
Vouchers can be accessed using the Service NSW app, by calling 13 77 88 or by visiting a Service Centre, with more information at; www.service.nsw.gov.au/back-to-school-vouchers
High Risk Work Licences for construction workers, manufacturers and factory operators across a range of NSW industries can now be renewed online.
More than 5,300 renewals of the High Risk Work Licence every month can be done electronically via the MyServiceNSW Account on the Service NSW website.
Licence holders will receive email or SMS notifications advising them they can now renew through this new digital process.
In person renewals are still available as a non-digital option and customers can contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 to obtain a form.
More information at the Service NSW website; www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/renew-high-risk-work-licence
The NSW Environment Protection Authority is calling nominations for the Upper Hunter Air Quality Advisory Committee.
Community, environment and industry representatives are being sought to join the committee for its 2022-2024 term.
The Committee's role is to advise the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and the EPA on issues relating to the operation of the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network and the management of regional air quality.
Applicants should view the committee's terms of reference then complete and submit an online nominations by 13 January 2023 at; www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/community-engagement/community-committees/upaq-advisory-committee/nominations
The biggest changes to local government integrity measures in more than 30 years have been proposes by an independent review into councillor misconduct in NSW.
The review, undertaken by Gary Kellar PSM, contains 49 recommendations aimed at improving the integrity, transparency and accountability of the state's more than 1200 councillors.
The Misconduct Review examined the framework for dealing with councillor misconduct, and the effectiveness of penalties available to councils, the Office of Local Government and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Feedback on the Review of the Councillor Misconduct Framework 2022 closes 3 February 2023; www.olg.nsw.gov.au/councils/misconduct-and-intervention/review-of-councillor-misconduct-framework/
NSW Health is urging parents to be aware of the dangers of vaping among young people and warns that there is no such thing as a safe vape.
Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has encouraged parents to be aware of the dangers so they can have early conversations with young people to help discourage vaping.
Vapes contain dangerous ingredients which could cause irreversible damage to the health and development of young people, and that there are links between mental health concerns and vaping among young people.
If parents or young people are concerned for their mental health, they can call the Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for referral to the most appropriate service.
Quitline counsellors on 13 78 48 are also available to answer questions about vaping and provide advice and support for parents and young people.
Do You Know What You're Vaping? Check at; www.health.nsw.gov.au/vaping
Regional councils, schools, not-for-profit organisations and other eligible organisations can apply for funding under the Children and Young People Wellbeing Recovery Initiative.
The NSW Government program offers large grants between $10,000 and $50,000 and small grants for up to $10,000.
The large grants fund projects such as community events, peer support groups, cultural connection or partnership programs, while small grants are to enable initiatives like sporting programs and barbecues.
Applications for both large and smaller grants close on 31 December, or when fully allocated, with the program and eligibility guidelines at; www.nsw.gov.au/regional-nsw/regional-youth/children-and-young-people-wellbeing-recovery-initiative
Singleton, Paterson and Scone are among local locations to host NSW Government Holiday Break Program activities during the summer school holidays.
The Tantrum Youth Arts week-long workshop in making theatre for young people aged 12-17 is being held at Singleton Youth Venue, 9-13 January, 10am-4pm.
The Little Eggs Collective hosts a creating a small production in five days at Paterson School of Arts during 16-20 January, 9.30am-3pm.
Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre will engage children to enjoy a social day with a rock climb and trapeze, rock art and Aboriginal culture on 19 January, 9am-1pm at 89 Kelly Street Scone.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery has a Film Crew in my Pocket film-making workshop for ages 13-18 on January 19, 10am-2pm, and a Short Film Festival for 12-25 years on January 20 5pm-8pm.
For more on Holiday Fun for Regional Youth visit; www.nsw.gov.au/regional-nsw/holiday-fun-for-regional-youth
The make-up of the Upper Hunter Electorate will change when new electoral boundaries are applied for the NSW State Election on Saturday 25 March 2023.
Briefly, the changes include the addition of areas north of the Hunter River at Maitland such as Lorn, Bolwarra Heights, Largs and Luskintyre; Branxton; Broke; Milbrodale; Howes Valley; Garland Valley and Putty.
The Liverpool Plains local government area has been redistributed into the Tamworth Electorate.
I will be mailing out Postal Vote Application forms during mid-January with more information about next year's state election is available at; www.elections.nsw.gov.au.
To check the details of your current enrolment got to; https://check.aec.gov.au and to enrol to vote; www.aec.gov.au/enrol/.
As I close this final, bumper edition of State Matters for 2022, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a safe, Happy New Year.
Please enjoy the Reconnecting Regional NSW Community Events Program with almost $1 million allocated to local councils across the Upper Hunter Electorate to stage activities.
Events including the Gloucester New Year's Eve celebration and the Muswellbrook New Year's Eve Fireworks and Light Spectacular have received NSW Government funding.
The Upper Hunter Electorate Office will re-open on Monday 9 January 2023.
Dave Layzell is the Member for Upper Hunter