MORNING RUSH: news, sport, weather, traffic, online buzz

8.58am That's it from me this morning! Emma Spillett will be rushing with you again tomorrow as people return to work from their three-day weekend. Enjoy the day off!

8.54am Here's a quick recap of some of the stories you'll find in today's Mercury

*Illawarra residents who go and above and beyond the call of community where honoured at Australia Day award ceremonies across the region. See who made the list and why here. 

*Check out all our pics from Australia Day Celebrations throughout the region. There was beaut fireworks at Wollongong Harbour last night, as well as activities throughout Kiama and Shellharbour.

*NSW mayors across the political spectrum have backed the O'Farrell government's controversial plan for lockouts and alcohol curfews in central Sydney. It would mean pubs and clubs in popular late-night districts such as Wollongong would bar entry to new patrons after 1.30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am. New licensed venues would also be banned.

*The only two companies vying for the contract to supply decorative lighting to the Crown Street Mall refurbishment quoted prices above the project's budget, it has been revealed. Wollongong City Council staff have recommended tenders be rejected on the basis both quotes exceeded the budget for lighting in the mall.

8.50am A big happy birthday to everyone lucky enough to score the day off work to celebrate! You share your day with Mozart, Alice in Wonderland writer Lewis Carroll, ballet dancer and former Sex and the City man Mikhail Baryshnikov and actress Bridget Fonda. Quite an impressive list

8.47am The cruise ship carrying the Sunrise team is anchored off Kiama this morning. Do you think if you wave from the shore, they'll be able to catch you on camera?

8.45am It's been nearly 90 years since the first demonstration of TV was given. I think they might have needed to adjust the aerial!

8.42am It's back to school in two days for all the kids, but teachers and principals head back tomorrow. Parents, how are we feeling? Relieved six weeks of planning entertainment are done, or sad the kiddies will no longer be at home?

8.38am There's only a few weeks left of Sunset Cinema in the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. This Thursday it's Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn, so grab your popcorn, a picnic and a chair and settle in to watch a movie under the stars.

8.33am The US has Coke and Bud, the Irish have Guinness, but what is Australia's national drink? Fosters (haha)? VB? Vote for your pick here

8.28am NATIONAL NEWS ACT Health has apologised for leaving a woman without teeth for 17 months after an administrative error kept her off the denture waiting list.

Donelle Collier had all her teeth extracted on August 21, 2012, after they started to rot as a side effect of her medications.

The 49-year-old made two calls to the department to check when she would get new teeth and two different staff members said they checked the waiting list and assured her she was moving up the queue. But she rang Health Minister Katy Gallagher's office in November 2013 and staff told her there had been a mistake and she was never put on the list - SMH

8.25am Did you whip up a bunch of delicious lamingtons yesterday? Merc resident baker Kate Shepherd made this giant lamington yesterday in celebration of our national day.

If you want to give it a crack next year, check out Good Food's tips for a top lamo.

8.20am Concrete Rainbow, a film about skateboarding around Warrawong, last week won Wollongong City Council's Australia Day youth short film competition.

The final four films were created by youths as projects with social agency Beyond Empathy, which produced multi-award winning film Rites of Passage.

8.15am NATIONAL NEWS Another one-punch incident over the weekend. An alleged one-punch assault in NSW’s central west has left a 19-year-old man in a critical condition after he fell to the ground and hit his head on the road. A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged over the incident at Orange, which occurred at about 11.55pm (AEDT) on Saturday. Police say the 19-year-old was asked to leave a house party and was followed outside by a man who allegedly struck him once to the side of the head.- AAP

8.12am TRAFFIC ALERT Anyone heading to Sydney for the day or to the airport should expect delays at the airport tunnel on General Holmes Drive. Two of four city-bound lanes are closed due to an accident between a car, a truck and a caravan.

8.09am Pop-up stores are becoming more and more popular as shopping centre landlords are joining their suburban strip counterparts by offering a larger range of ''pop-up'' stores to keep offerings relevant to customers.

The model of short-term leasing, while not new, is being reinvented due to the growth in the internet and need for online shops to connect with customers in the traditional mall - SMH

What do you prefer? Pop-up or permanent?

8.05am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

*Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to finalise by September a draft for amending the constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first Australians.

*Paramedic interns in rural NSW say they are being forced to respond to emergencies alone and without access to potentially life-saving medicine because they have not been trained how to use it. Fairfax recently identified two stations in regional NSW staffed exclusively by interns.

*Stan Wawrinka took out the Australian Open in four sets against Rafael Nadal last night, a game marred Nadal’s back injury

8.02am Here’s what’s in today’s Mercury:

*Illawarra residents who go and above and beyond the call of community where honoured at Australia Day award ceremonies across the region. See who made the list and why here. 

*Check out all our pics from Australia Day Celebrations throughout the region. There was beaut fireworks at Wollongong Harbour last night, as well as activities throughout Kiama and Shellharbour.

*NSW mayors across the political spectrum have backed the O'Farrell government's controversial plan for lockouts and alcohol curfews in central Sydney. It would mean pubs and clubs in popular late-night districts such as Wollongong would bar entry to new patrons after 1.30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am. New licensed venues would also be banned.

*The only two companies vying for the contract to supply decorative lighting to the Crown Street Mall refurbishment quoted prices above the project's budget, it has been revealed. Wollongong City Council staff have recommended tenders be rejected on the basis both quotes exceeded the budget for lighting in the mall.

8am A quick check of the latest weather, trains and traffic

WEATHER It’s another partly cloudy day today, but the top temp is expected to be 23 degrees - still warm enough for a trip to the beach! Winds will be light during the day before, increasing to 25 to 30 km/h in the late afternoon. Right now in Wollongong it’s just above 18 degrees.

TRAFFIC It’s looking clear from Nowra to Sydney for now - stay tuned until this afternoon when cars heading back up the coast are likely to cause delays near Kiama and Albion Park Rail.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast Line. Remember public holiday times apply.

7.58am If you're going for a dip in the North Gong ocean pool on your day off, take a moment to consider its amazing history. Read our write-up on the pool, the latest in our Saltwater Sanctuaries series

7.53am Shivering as weight loss? Apparently being cold will help you shed those unwanted kilos, burning 400 calories an hour as it increases the metabolic rate fivefold. I think I'd rather stay in my nice warm bed and venture out for a run once in a while than freezing my butt off indoors all day.

7.50am NATIONAL NEWS The Family Court of Australia has rejected an attempt by New Zealand authorities to secure the return of two boys who were unlawfully taken to Sydney by their mother after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, finding that the children would be further traumatised if they were ordered home.

The mother of the boys, aged 10 and 12, took them from the devastated city without telling their estranged father and built a new life in Sydney, according to a Family Court judgment published recently - SMH

7.48am "Garrawarra Cemetery is so covered by vines, broken branches and time, it's almost as though it never existed.

But it did. Read reporter Kate McIlwain's piece on the forgotten cemetery here.

7.37am It's easy to dream of travelling to New York or Rome or Paris, but it's worth visit the wonders on our own doorstep before trekking overseas. In honour of Australia Day the SMH compiled a list of reasons to holiday in Australia. The Illawarra even got a mention, as a great spot to cycle with the family while enjoying beautiful views.

7.34am NATIONAL NEWS A man has suffered a cut head in an unprovoked Australia Day attack on a street in Sydney’s east. Police said the 24-year-old victim was standing on the footpath on Campbell Parade at Bondi when an unknown man pushed him in the chest then punched him in the head, about 9pm on Sunday. The 24-year-old fell to the ground and struck his head on the pavement, police said in a statement. He was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital with a laceration on the back of his head - AAP

7.31am The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content

7.28am Would you pay $1800 for a pair of sneakers? The luxury trainer market is taking off, according to the owner of footwear store Sneakerboy. It seems a tad excessive...

7.25am Illawarra Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, parliamentary secretary for social services and from the Liberals' hard-right faction, told Fairfax Media that speaking English is not only a personal responsibility, it is ''an obligation to our country''.

7.19am This video makes me happy. Swedish marines re-enact Greased Lightnin' 

7.15am Dr Mafaz Ullah yesteday became an Australian citizen alongside 60 others at a ceremony at Wollongong's Town Hall.

In 2008, he left his six brothers, mother, father and the instability of his homeland Peshawar in Pakistan to pursue a PhD in dentistry at the University of Sydney.

At the time, Dr Ullah had a choice between studying in London or Sydney - he chose Australia because he liked our cricket team.

Read the full story here

7.12am LEGALLY Blonde is coming! Moonglow Productions is set to stage the musical for the first time in Wollongong on July 4-5 @ the WIN Entertainment Centre. Auditions are March 1 & 2. Head over to the website to book a spot!

7.08am Apparently some of our fave '90s songs actually tackle dark and depressing topics, including MMMBop! Who knew? See the full list here

7.05am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

*Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to finalise by September a draft for amending the constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first Australians.

*Paramedic interns in rural NSW say they are being forced to respond to emergencies alone and without access to potentially life-saving medicine because they have not been trained how to use it. Fairfax recently identified two stations in regional NSW staffed exclusively by interns.

*Stan Wawrinka took out the Australian Open in four sets against Rafael Nadal last night, a game marred Nadal’s back injury

7.02am Here’s what’s in today’s Mercury:

*Illawarra residents who go and above and beyond the call of community where honoured at Australia Day award ceremonies across the region. See who made the list and why here. 

*Check out all our pics from Australia Day Celebrations throughout the region. There was beaut fireworks at Wollongong Harbour last night, as well as activities throughout Kiama and Shellharbour.

*NSW mayors across the political spectrum have backed the O'Farrell government's controversial plan for lockouts and alcohol curfews in central Sydney. It would mean pubs and clubs in popular late-night districts such as Wollongong would bar entry to new patrons after 1.30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am. New licensed venues would also be banned.

*The only two companies vying for the contract to supply decorative lighting to the Crown Street Mall refurbishment quoted prices above the project's budget, it has been revealed. Wollongong City Council staff have recommended tenders be rejected on the basis both quotes exceeded the budget for lighting in the mall.

7am A quick check of the latest weather, trains and traffic

WEATHER

It’s another partly cloudy day today, but the top temp is expected to be 23 degrees - still warm enough for a trip to the beach! Winds will be light during the day before, increasing to 25 to 30 km/h in the late afternoon. Right now in Wollongong it’s just above 17 degrees.

TRAFFIC It’s looking clear from Nowra to Sydney for now - stay tuned until this afternoon when cars heading back up the coast are likely to cause delays near Kiama and Albion Park Rail.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast Line. Remember public holiday times apply.

6.56am Kangaroo sausages on Australia Day - thought? Un-Australian or delicious? Check out this comment piece on the practice of eating our nation's emblem the SMH.

6.51am Thousands of people who braved soggy, overcast Illawarra skies to attend the Kiama Show on Friday and Saturday. Show-goers were treated to several show traditions including cattle and horse competitions, woodchipping, a rodeo and the ever-popular end-of-show fireworks. Here's a heap of photos.

6.48am SPORT NEWS It seems to have been a weekend where a whole heap of sporting events wrapped up. A late England collapse and controversial video review decision gifted Australia a comeback five-run win in Sunday’s fifth and final one-day international in Adelaide, while Simon Gerrans became the first three-time champion of the Tour Down Under.

6.45am Several Illawarra youngsters pouted, primped and practised their prettiest pageant pose on Saturday as part of a new pageant boot camp.

The boot camp culminated with a ‘‘mini pageant’’ at which participants got to show off their skills – and practised pageant smiles – to their parents.

6.42am It's cute animal picture time. In light of the fact it is the Australia Day public holiday for all you lucky ducks not at work and probably still asleep, here is a picture of the quokka, the happiest animal in existence. He is found on Rottnest Island in WA

6.38am Shellharbour's senior residents are the focus of a photo competition to promote images of positive ageing to the community. This is the second time the annual competition has been run, with more than 50 entries submitted last year. Each submission needs to include a description of up to 50 words detailing how each image depicts a positive image of ageing. Entries close 5pm, Friday 14 February and selected photographs will be exhibited at Shellharbour Village Exhibition Space from 17-21 March. Winners will be announced at the launch of the exhibition. To enter, visit Council’s website

6.35am TRAFFIC ALERT: Remember roadworks begin on Mount Ousely tomorrow night between Bulli Pass and Picton Road. Southbound traffic will be affected tomorrow night as work begins to improve the intersection and on-ramp at Picton Road.

6.32am Little Muhammad Khattal was born at Wollongong Hospital without fuss three minutes past midnight on Australia Day. Rabha and Aimen, both from Libya, received a hamper from the Australia Day committee in celebration, including a night's accommodation at the Novotel and $100 to spend at My Baby Warehouse.

6.28am Have some time for an in-depth read today? Have a look at Angela Thompson's profile of Kangaroo Valley artist Hu Ming, who migrated to Australia from China in 1989 after spending 20 years in the People’s Liberation Army. There's a great gallery of her artwork too.

6.25am NATIONAL NEWS The WA government has faced a social media backlash against its shark culling program after the first one was killed on Sunday.

A fisherman contracted by the WA government to set and monitor baited drum lines was reportedly seen on Sunday morning shooting a large shark off Meelup beach, about 250 kilometres south of Perth.

People on Facebook and Twitter have expressed their disappointment and anger at the policy, calling it "barbaric" and "backwards" - SMH

6.21am Did our photographers manage to snap you at the Shellharbour Australia Day celebrations? Check out our gallery here

6.18am Speaking of music, yesterday's Sydney Big Day Out was apparently quite relaxed and there was plenty of room to move - quite a change from the sardine-like mosh pits of years past. Ticket sales for the annual event have been on the decline, but at least less people means less chance of getting someone else's sweat all over you! Check out the SMH's review of the festival here.

6.15am MUSIC NEWS Kiwi songstress Lorde was expected to take out the crown in yesterday's Triple J Hottest 100, but was beaten by Aussie Vance Joy with his catchy summer tune Riptide. He apparently won with a margin of less than 100 votes. 

What do you think? Was it deserving of the top spot?

6.11am LOCAL SPORT NEWS: First-timer Jacob Birtwhistle and 2013 women's champion Gwen Jorgensen took honours in yesterday's Australia Day Aquathon

Birtwhistle was first across the line in front of a healthy crowd at Belmore Basin, using a strong run leg to oust his rivals in 36 minutes 28 seconds, while Jorgensen took exactly 40 minutes.

Check out our gallery of the Aquathon here.

6.08am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

*Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to finalise by September a draft for amending the constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first Australians.

*Paramedic interns in rural NSW say they are being forced to respond to emergencies alone and without access to potentially life-saving medicine because they have not been trained how to use it. Fairfax recently identified two stations in regional NSW staffed exclusively by interns.

*Stan Wawrinka took out the Australian Open in four sets against Rafael Nadal last night, a game marred Nadal’s back injury. 

6.05am Here’s what’s in today’s Mercury:

*Illawarra residents who go and above and beyond the call of community where honoured at Australia Day award ceremonies across the region. See who made the list and why here. 

*Check out all our pics from Australia Day Celebrations throughout the region. There was beaut fireworks at Wollongong Harbour last night, as well as activities throughout Kiama and Shellharbour.

*NSW mayors across the political spectrum have backed the O'Farrell government's controversial plan for lockouts and alcohol curfews in central Sydney. It would mean pubs and clubs in popular late-night districts such as Wollongong would bar entry to new patrons after 1.30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am. New licensed venues would also be banned.

*The only two companies vying for the contract to supply decorative lighting to the Crown Street Mall refurbishment quoted prices above the project's budget, it has been revealed. Wollongong City Council staff have recommended tenders be rejected on the basis both quotes exceeded the budget for lighting in the mall.

6.02am For those of you on your way to work this morning (how unfortunate!), here’s the latest weather, trains and traffic

WEATHER It’s another partly cloudy day today, but the top temp is expected to be 23 degrees - still warm enough for a trip to the beach! Winds will be light during the day before, increasing to 25 to 30 km/h in the late afternoon. Right now in Wollongong it’s 17 degrees.

TRAFFIC It’s looking clear from Nowra to Sydney for now - stay tuned until this afternoon when cars heading back up the coast are likely to cause delays near Kiama and Albion Park Rail.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast Line. Remember public holiday times apply.

6am Good morning Illawarra! Hopefully most of you are getting to sleep in on this public holiday, but for those of you that are up and about early, welcome!

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