Inbox and Environment News: Issue 293

December 11 - 17, 2016: Issue 293

Koala Sighted In Kosciuszko National Park

Media release: 5 December 2016 - NPWS
A koala has been spotted in Kosciuszko National Park for the first time in more than 70 years.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Area Manager Matt White said the koala was spotted near the Snowy Mountains Highway last month.

“The koala appeared to be a healthy male casually crossing the road in the Blowering section of the Park,” Mr White said.

“It continued towards a stand of eucalypts and was seen climbing up one of the trees where it stayed looking quite content.

“Actual recorded sightings of koalas in this area are very rare with one record from Batlow in 1940 and an unconfirmed record from Talbingo.

“We’re not sure if the sighting is an isolated individual who has wandered in looking for suitable vacant habitat or marks the discovery of a previously unrecorded wild population.

“Even more exciting was that the animal was spotted in an area of the park that has been the subject of a major revegetation program.

“The Blowering Foreshore Revegetation program has seen more than 800,000 trees planted on land that was once cleared for farming.

“The trees that have been planted are suitable food and habitat and the sighting is proof that the project is doing exactly what it intended, restoring a healthy natural ecosystem,” Mr White said.

NPWS has undertaken an integrated pest management program in and around the site for the last 20 years targeting wild dogs and foxes so this sighting could indicate that predators are being controlled to the point where vulnerable species are able to exist in the landscape again.

NPWS officers have been back out to the area to try and locate the animal to confirm its health.

“Our next step is to survey the immediate area for further individuals and possibly extending the survey further afield.

“If anyone comes across a koala in the area we would love to hear about it and ask people to please contact the NPWS Tumut office on 02 69 477000,” Mr White said.

The sighting comes as the NSW Government launches public consultation on a state-wide Koala Strategy that aims secure and eventually increase koala numbers in NSW.

Koala sighted in Kosciuszko National Park - November 2016, photo courtesy OEH

New Approach For Assessing The Social Impacts Of Mining

08.12.2016: Ministerial Media Release  - The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning
The assessment of the social impacts of mining projects will be strengthened following the exhibition of draft social impact assessment guidelines.

The guidelines have been developed to improve the quality and utility of social impact assessments, which in turn will drive better project design and provide greater certainty to local communities and proponents.

Examples of positive social impacts may include increased employment opportunities and support for local businesses and organisations, whilst examples of negative social impacts may include community dislocation and amenity loss.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the new guidelines reflect the important principle that people are at the heart of planning decisions.

“It’s critical that impacts on communities are thoroughly considered and addressed in the assessment of mining projects,” Mr Stokes said.

“These guidelines will support consistency and fairness in decision making, while driving greater accountability and transparency with respect to the social impacts.”

The draft guidelines have been informed by:
  • meetings with local groups in eight locations across rural, regional and remote NSW;
  • advice on current leading practice from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, a respected leader in the field of social impact assessment; and
  • consultation with peak community, environment, industry, local government and Aboriginal groups via the Department of Planning and Environment’s Resources Advisory Forum.
The draft guidelines have been released for an extended public exhibition and submission period of 12 weeks from 8 December 2016 until 3 March 2017. The Department will also conduct community workshops and stakeholder briefing sessions.

To view the draft guidelines or to make a submission, please visit

Independent PAC To Make Final Decision On Bulga Underground Mine Modification

06.12.2016: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment
The independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) will now make the final decision on an administrative modification application for the Bulga Underground Mine near Singleton.
The Department of Planning and Environment has recommended approval of the administrative modification, which proposes to provide greater consistency between the noise and biodiversity conditions for the open cut and underground operations at the Bulga Mining Complex, which have separate project approvals. 

The new conditions require the company to increase the number of noise monitoring reports and be subjected to independent environmental audits on both the open cut and underground mine operations. 
The Department found the conditions could be modified without any adverse environmental impacts and provide greater consistency between the open cut and underground mine approvals.
A spokesperson from the Department said modifying the conditions would also clarify the mining complex’s Biodiversity Management Plan and compliance commitments.
“The Department carefully considered noise and biodiversity, nearby residences and the environment finding the conditions could be modified with no extra impacts,” the spokesperson said.
“Consistent conditions will allow for better coordination of noise monitoring reports and independent environmental audits between the open cut and underground operations. 

“The PAC is an important part of the NSW planning system ensuring major developments are subject to expert, independent review and assessment. 

“The PAC will now consider the Department’s report and recommended conditions to make a final decision.”
Bulga Coal Management Pty Ltd’s modification application was published on the Department’s website in July 2016 and relevant government agencies were also contacted for feedback.
The PAC will determine this project due to a reportable political donation disclosure received from the company.

$10 Million To Protect Koala Habitat 

Sunday 4 December 2016: Hon. Mark Speakman, Minister for the Environment 
The NSW Government will invest $10 million over five years to acquire vital koala habitat and will embark on a whole-of-government koala strategy to secure NSW koala populations, Environment Minister Mark Speakman announced today.

The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane AC’s Report of the Independent Review into the Decline of Koala Populations in Key Areas of NSW, released today, recommended developing an overarching strategy and investing in key areas of koala habitat.

Mr Speakman said the NSW Government commissioned the independent review in March.
“The independent review proposes 11 recommendations to help develop a strategy that can secure and eventually increase NSW koala numbers,” Mr Speakman said.

“The strategy will also complement the koala conservation work already being done under the NSW Government’s flagship $100 million Saving our Species program. This work will include projects, which improve koala habitat and trialling artificial water sources for koalas to mitigate heat stress.

“The $10 million investment follows the creation in March of flora reserves totalling 120 square km on the South Coast, run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to protect the last known local koala population.”

A three-month consultation program will include regional community information sessions, stakeholder meetings, webinars and information/feedback via a web portal.

“We want communities to look at the independent review and provide input to help direct the NSW Government’s strategy so we can preserve this iconic species for all generations to come,” Mr Speakman said.

To comment on the strategy’s direction
and to find out more about the NSW Government’s koala conservation
efforts through the Saving our Species program

Public exhibition for the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project is from 4 December 2016 to 11:59pm 3 March 2017. You are invited tocomment on the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project by sending a written submission during this time. Visit: HERE

An important finding of this review is that it may not be possible to ensure all koala populations continue to persist in all locations. There are some populations where government and community action can help secure ongoing viability but there are also areas where the historical land use decisions, current competing land uses, as well as risks from road strike, dog attack and, in some areas, drought and bush fire events mean that it will be much more difficult to secure those populations. Government will need to make clear choices and invest resources where it is most likely to make a difference.

Critical to this are data. We need more and better quality data and more information to prioritise investment, to get the most out of the various regulatory and management tools we have available and to know if we are making progress towards the overall goal. New sensor and data analytics technology can make data gathering more efficient and cost effective.
Key elements of a whole-of-government koala strategy should be to:
  • prioritise data gathering and research about populations, habitat and threats, including the cumulative impacts of multiple threats, to inform better planning and management decisions 
  • review and align the various legislative and management arrangements to ensure
  • improved outcomes for koalas across different land uses and tenures
  • work across tenures to identify and implement on-ground actions that improve connectivity and resilience against threats 
  • identify incentives for best practice new development and ongoing land use in all cases where koala populations may be adversely affected across tenures, industries and land users 
  • establish a framework for on-going coordination and cooperation of land managers, policy makers, researchers and the community to deliver the defined actions.
While many of the recommendations in this report aim to understand and address threats to koala populations, it is also important to support those who respond when the threats cannot be mitigated. Fauna rehabilitation groups play a critical front-line role in assisting the recovery of individual koalas, most commonly injured by car strikes, dog attacks or fire.
Successful implementation of a NSW koala strategy should lead to the following outcomes:
  • we will know which koala populations have the potential for long term viability 
  • we will have evidence that threats to these populations have been identified and mitigated 
  • the community will feel confident that new development and ongoing land use will not threaten key koala populations 
  • our scientific knowledge of koala populations, dynamics and health will be substantially increased 
  • the number of koalas will become stable and then start to increase.
A NSW koala strategy should provide clear benefit to key koala populations in NSW.

However, in identifying and protecting koala habitat and managing key threats, this strategy will also benefit other native species and NSW landscapes more broadly.

This review makes 11 recommendations to inform the development of a NSW koala strategy.

Recommendation 1
That Government adopt a whole-of-government koala strategy for NSW with the objective of stabilising and then starting to increase koala numbers.
Recommendation 2
That Government initiate a program to improve data on the number, location and occurrence of koalas in NSW, including trends over time, taking advantage of new sensor and communication technologies and data analytics within 12 months of receipt of this report.
Recommendation 3
That Government publish a state-wide predictive koala habitat map within three years of receipt of this report, with immediate priority given to improving coverage of the north coast.
Recommendation 4
That Government improve outcomes for koalas through changes to the planning system.
Recommendation 5
That Government improve outcomes for koalas through the Biodiversity Conservation Bill and associated Regulations.
Recommendation 6
That Government investigate models for guiding and incentivising collaborative best practice for new development and ongoing land use occurring in areas of known koala populations across tenures, industries and land users.
Recommendation 7
That Government agencies identify priority areas of land across tenures to target for koala conservation management and threat mitigation.
Recommendation 8
That Government, through the Office of Environment and Heritage, convene two symposia within 12 months of receiving this report: one for scientists active in koala research and land managers to develop a koala research plan; and one focussed on koala rehabilitation to identify actions to optimise the delivery of and support for the network of koala rehabilitation
groups and carers.
Recommendation 9
That Government establish the Australian Museum as a preferred repository for koala genetic samples in NSW, and all data and metadata associated with these samples should be deposited into the SEED Environmental Data Portal (extended if necessary to include
flora and fauna).
Recommendation 10
That Government facilitate the exchange of information among land managers, local government, the research community and the broader community.
Recommendation 11
That Government draws on knowledge and shares information with local community members through a program that supports localised engagement between liaison people and residents and industry.

Source: Report of the Independent Review into the Decline of Koala Populations in Key Areas of NSW

Environmental Future Funding Package

The NSW Government has released a new NSW Climate Change Policy Framework(External link). The policy provides important context for the government’s approach to climate change. It sets two aspirational objectives:
  • achieving net zero emissions by 2050
  • NSW being more resilient to a changing climate.
The government has also announced a $500 million funding package and released two draft climate change and energy savings plans for public consultation:

To ensure that the community is part of this important process, the government is seeking feedback on the two draft plans.

The submission form and information on how the community can have a say is available on the Make a submission page. Public submissions are due by 16 December 2016.

Information briefings
The NSW Government will run webinar briefings to provide more information about new funding opportunities under these two draft plans, the public consultation process and the new climate change policy framework.

To register for a webinar briefing, click on the relevant date 

Date                                                  Time
16 November 2016                        11am – 12:30pm
23 November 2016                         11am – 12:30pm
1 December 2016                                11am – 12:30pm

Detective Work Across Dingo Fence Reveals New Factor In Woody Shrub Invasion

December 5, 2016: University of New South Wales

The dingo fence -- a 2-meter tall, 5,600-kilometer long fence erected more than a century ago to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia.
Credit: Ben Moore
Extermination of dingoes and the consequent loss of small mammals -- not just overgrazing by livestock -- have led to a rapid spread of woody shrubs across semi-arid Australia, a new study shows.

Re-introduction of small mammals to desert areas could help prevent further invasion by the woody weeds, the researchers suggest.

The study in outback NSW compared conditions on either side of the dingo fence -- a two-metre tall, 5600-kilometre long fence erected more than a century ago to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia.

Dingoes are common on the western side of the fence, but rare on the other side, due to intensive control measures including poisoning, trapping and shooting over many decades.

"Woody shrubs pose a major problem for farmers and their abundance in semi-arid areas has risen dramatically in recent decades," says study senior author UNSW Associate Professor Mike Letnic.

"These weeds reduce the availability of feed for livestock and hinder access for mustering. But removing them is contentious, because they are classified as native vegetation."

To measure the encroachment of woody shrubs into grasslands, the researchers, led by PhD candidate Christopher Gordon from Western Sydney University, examined aerial photographs of far western NSW and eastern South Australia spanning a 50 year period.

They assessed four sites in the Strzelecki Desert, two on either side of the dingo fence. The results are published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

"The fence provides a rare, large-scale natural experiment to examine the effects that a top predator such as the dingo has on ecosystems," says Dr Gordon.

"We found that shrub cover had increased on the dingo-free side in both areas, one that had been used for livestock grazing and one that had not been grazed since the 1970s. This suggests overgrazing by livestock may not be the main cause of shrub spread, as had been thought.

"There was also a negligible increase in shrub cover in comparable areas on the other side of the fence, which suggests dingoes help reduce shrub spread," he says.

This led the team to investigate the activity of small mammals and they found they were more common in areas where the shrubs were sparse. They also looked in detail at the feeding habits of one small mammal, the dusky hopping mouse, and found it consumed significant amounts of woody shrub seeds.

The rate of survival of shrub seedlings was greater in areas where dingoes were rare and the rate of removal of seeds was lower there.

"Taken together, our results suggest a cascading effect. A loss of dingoes allows foxes and feral cats to thrive and prey on the small mammals that eat the shrub seeds. Fewer small mammals means the shrubs can spread," says Gordon.

"This is the first study to link shrub encroachment to loss of an apex predator like the dingo, and it could explain shrub spread in many other areas around the globe.

"Rewilding initiatives that aim to conserve or re-establish small mammal populations could help stop the invasion of these pervasive weeds in Australia," he says.

The aerial photographs were collected by government agencies in 1948, 1972, 1983 and 1999. Shrub cover was 26-48 per cent greater in areas where dingoes were rare compared with areas where they were common.

Christopher E. Gordon, David J. Eldridge, William J. Ripple, Mathew S. Crowther, Ben D. Moore, Mike Letnic. Shrub encroachment is linked to extirpation of an apex predator. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2016; DOI:10.1111/1365-2656.12607

Have Your Say On A Modification To The Mandalong Southern Extension Project

01.12.2016: Departmental Media Release  Author: Department of Planning and Environment
A proposal by Centennial Mandalong Pty Ltd to extend two longwall mining panels at the Mandalong Coal Mine Southern Extension Project near Morisset will be on exhibition from today for community consultation.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the proposed modification, which seeks to extend underground longwall mining panels 22 and 23 by 582 and 761 metres respectively in order to extract approximately 1.4 million tonnes of additional coal.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive,” the spokesperson said.

“This feedback is taken into consideration as part of the assessment.
“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.” 

To make a submission or view the Modification Application and accompanying documents,

Submissions can be made from Thursday 1 December 2016 untilThursday 15 December 2016.

Written submissions can also be made to: 

Department of Planning and Environment
Attn: Director – Resource Assessments
GPO Box 39 
Sydney NSW 2001 

The Modification Application and accompanying documents are also available to view in person at: 
  • Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney
  • Central Coast Council: 2 Hely Street, Wyong
  • Lake Macquarie City Council: 126-138 Main Road, Speers Point
  • Nature Conservation Council: Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Have Your Say On The Container Deposit Regulation

November 30, 2016: NSW Government
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority is seeking feedback on the draft container deposit scheme (CDS) regulation. Submissions are due by 5pm on 23 December 2016. 

The draft Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery (Container Deposit Scheme) Regulation 2016 sets out the operational details for the day-to-day running of the NSW scheme and annual reporting requirements.

The draft regulation covers topics such as:

  • the types of containers that will be accepted
  • the amount that will be refunded to consumers at collection points
  • the circumstances in which a container may not be accepted at a collection point.
NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said finalising these operational details would be another key step towards rolling out the NSW container deposit scheme in 2017.

"The CDS is the single largest litter reduction initiative in NSW so it's fitting that community members can have their say on these important details and I encourage them to do so.”

View the draft regulation and have your say by 23 December 2016

Climate Change Review 2017

Media release: 5 December 2016 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government is today releasing terms of reference for its review of climate change policies to be led by the Department of Environment and Energy in 2017.

It delivers on a commitment by the Federal Government to undertake a review when it set Australia's 2030 emissions reduction target.

Australia's approach to climate change policy is to meet our international emissions reduction commitments while at the same time maintaining energy security and affordability. The Government is committed to adopting a non-ideological approach to emissions reduction to ensure we secure the lowest cost of abatement.

The Turnbull Government recently ratified the Paris Agreement and has an ambitious and responsible target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

The target will halve our per capita emissions making it one of the largest reductions in the G20 on that basis.

Australia's effective climate change policies are working.

We beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and are on track to beat our second Kyoto 2020 target by 78 million tonnes.

The Emissions Reduction Fund has successfully conducted four auctions to date securing 178 million tonnes of emissions reductions at an average price of $11.83 per tonne.

This is in direct comparison to Labor's $15.4 billion carbon tax hit, which increased power prices for households and businesses with little emissions reduction.

The Government is also committed to a Renewable Energy Target of 23.5 per cent by 2020 which was legislated in the Federal Parliament in 2015.

The 2017 review will build on the success of the Government's approach and ensure policies remain effective in achieving Australia's 2030 target and Paris Agreement commitments.

The review will also build on other important work underway, including the Finkel Review into the reliability and security of the National Electricity Market, and the National Energy Productivity Plan.

The Government will consult with business and the community throughout the review and a discussion paper will be released in early 2017 seeking public submissions.

The Terms of Reference and further information on the review are available at:

Clean Air For NSW Consultation Paper

Have your say on how we can improve air quality across NSW
The Clean Air for NSW Consultation Paper presents a proposed approach and actions for government to meet its goal of improving average air quality results across NSW. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is seeking community and stakeholder feedback on whether you think NSW is proposing the right actions to improve air quality.

Your submission can assist us in finalising Clean Air for NSW and improving air quality and public health.

Key questions to consider:
  1. Do you have any comments on the proposed actions in the Clean Air for NSW Consultation Paper to improve air quality? (Please use headings to identify each action)
  2. Are there other issues and actions that Clean Air for NSW should cover?
  3. How do you want to be informed about and involved in improving air quality?
  4. Do you have any other comments or ideas on improving air quality in NSW?
Please include headings for specific actions where appropriate throughout your submission.

Make sure you include the following information at the top of your submission:
  • First name 
  • Last name
  • Organisation you represent (if applicable)
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Postcode
Submit your feedback by Friday 20 January 2017

Email your comments to: 

Post your submission to:
EPA Air Policy
PO Box A290
Sydney South, NSW 1232

The EPA is committed to transparent processes and open access to information. The EPA may draw upon the contents of the submissions and quote from them or refer to them in publications. The EPA will treat the submission as public unless you indicate that you wish your submission to remain confidential.

The EPA will email an acknowledgment of submissions received by email within 72 hours of receipt.

Toxic Dredging Costs Soldiers Point Marina Operator $220,000

Media release: 8 December 2016 - EPA
The operator of the Soldiers Point Marina will pay $220,000 in fines and clean-up costs after the NSW Environment Protection Authority took action for illegal dredging which disturbed toxic sediment.

EPA Regional Director North, Adam Gilligan, said that the timeliness of a tip off to the EPA’s Environment Line by a member of the public was vital in catching out the Marina operator.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to water pollution incidents and when EPA officers arrived on site they were able to take samples of the water and sediments,” he said.

Following the investigation which began in May, the EPA issued Clippers Anchorage Pty Ltd with fines for two separate offences, a Clean-Up notice and an official caution.

1. $15,000 fine for pollution of waters: Clippers dumped dredged material onto their boat ramp which was observed spilling back into the Marina waters, part of the Port Stephens Marine Park. Water samples and dredged sediments had high concentrations of the compound tri-butyl-tin, a toxic anti-fouling paint chemical used on boats in Australia until it was banned 10 years ago.

2. $15,000 for contravening a licence condition: Clippers did not carry out their licensed activities in a competent manner by failing to have adequate controls to prevent pollution from the dredging.

3. Clean-Up notice requiring Clippers to lawfully dispose of the sediment: The transport, pre-treatment and disposal of the waste at a specialised facility in Sydney is estimated to have cost Clippers $190,000. The EPA have also issued an official caution in relation to the poor handling of the waste.

“The EPA has put Clippers on notice. They need to take immediate action to improve their environmental performance and we’ll be keeping a close eye on them to ensure they act responsibly,” Mr Gilligan said.

“Although we don’t believe that there has been any long-term environmental harm, it’s vital that companies have the appropriate controls in place to protect the community and the environment.”

Clippers have been previously fined by the EPA for environmental offences at the Soldiers Point Marina. In April 2014 the EPA fined Clippers $1,500 following a diesel spill. In May 2016, the EPA fined the company $15,000 for releasing pollutants into the Marina waters while undertaking maintenance on a large vessel.

The EPA encourages members of the community with knowledge of a pollution incident to contact the EPA’s 24 hour Environment Line on 131 555 and report the matter.

Penalty notices, official cautions and prevention notices are a number of tools the EPA can use to protect the environment and achieve environmental compliance. The EPA takes in a range of factors into account to determine its regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, potential health impacts, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy

Deua Catchment Parks Plan Of Management

The Deua Catchment Parks Draft Plan of Management is on exhibition until 13 February 2017. The draft plan of management covers Berlang and Majors Creek State Conservation Areas and Frogs Hole Nature Reserve.

Parks and reserves established under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 are required to have a plan of management. The exhibition of the draft plan provides members of the community with the opportunity to have a say in the future management directions for Berlang and Majors Creek State Conservation Areas and Frogs Hole Nature Reserve.

Submit your written feedback on the draft plan by 13 February 2017 by:

using the online submission form on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website
writing to–
NPWS Planner
Deua Catchment Parks PoM
PO Box 707
Nowra NSW 2541

Risky Fish-Ness: Sydney Harbour Chemical-Soaked Microplastics Don’t Change Fish Personalities, But Could Accumulate In Our Sea Food

December 2nd, 2016: Macquarie University
  • Animals often first respond to pollution by changing their behavior, so researchers tested whether microplastic pollutants changed fish risk-taking behaviour
  • The gobies didn’t increase their risk-taking behaviors with accumulated microplastics throughout their bodies
  • The researchers warn that more research needs to be done to see whether microplastic contaminants are accumulating in other sea creatures, including the ones that we eat
Increasing levels of microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic – in marine environments is of great concern to scientists, particularly in terms of how these pollutants accumulate in the food chain and their impact on fish behaviour. However, a new study from Macquarie University has found that while pollutant-coated microplastics can accumulate in fish, the ingestion of these pollutants does not appear to influence the personalities of these animals.

“Animals often first respond to pollution by changing their behaviour. When we fed contaminated crustaceans – which were fed microplastics soaked in polluted Sydney Harbour water –  to gobies, a small coastal fish species, for an extended period they didn’t show any changes in personality compared to gobies that were fed on microplastic-free crustaceans,” explained lead-author Louise Tosetto.

“There have been no previous studies that have examined the transfer of polluting microplastics through the food chain in an ecologically relevant setting, making this the first study to investigate the effect of this type of pollutant on how an animal functions in its natural environment,” she added.

The findings suggest that microplastics are not providing additional chemicals above those that are already present in the environment and diet of these fish. However, while the findings indicate that the ingestion of contaminated microplastics may not have a great effect on these animals, the researchers warn that this may not be the same for us.

“Animals at the base of the food chain eat these plastic particles and scientists are concerned that microplastics provide another route for chemical pollutants to move through our food chain, with implications not just for marine ecosystems but also for human health,” said Associate Professor Jane Williamson.

“We still need to find out whether microplastics and contaminants are accumulating through the marine food web, which could have huge implications for the types of sea creatures that end up on our dinner plates,” she added.

By observing potential personality changes the researchers hope to learn more about how these contaminants impact the survival and structure of fish communities, with traits such as boldness (the inclination to take risks) and exploration, which can affect how an animal finds food and avoids predators, affecting how well these species survive in the long run.

“Personality is a sensitive tool in assessing pollution. Given that hormones can influence behavioural traits and the chemicals associated with microplastics can disrupt hormones, it was a surprising result to find that this form of pollutant didn’t affect the personality traits of these fish,” said Associate Professor Culum Brown.

Tosetto  Louise; Williamson, Jane E; Brown, Culum. Trophic transfer of microplastics does not affect fish personalityAnimal Behaviour. December 2016.

Coastal Reforms

NSW Department of Planning & Environment
The NSW coast provides a multitude of values and uses for the community. This competition for use and enjoyment places our coast under increasing pressure. The environmental and lifestyle benefits of coastal living continue to attract new residents and tourists.
Planning for coastal communities must carefully balance the need to provide jobs, housing, community facilities and transport for a changing population whilst maintaining the coast's unique qualities and managing risks associated with developing along our coastlines.
Coastal reforms - Planning for our future on the coast
We are improving the way we plan for development and natural hazards along our coastline.
The Department of Planning and Environment, together with the Office of Environment and Heritage, is developing a new coastal management framework. The framework responds to existing and emerging coastal challenges and opportunities, with the aim of having thriving and resilient communities living and working on a healthy coast now and into the future. 
The Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) will establish a new, strategic land use planning framework for coastal management. It will support implementation of the management objectives set out in the Coastal Management Act 2016.
The Coastal Management SEPP will integrate and improve current coastal-related SEPPs and ensure that future coastal development is appropriate and sensitive to our coastal environment, and that we maintain public access to beaches and foreshore areas. Once published, the Coastal Management SEPP will be the single land use planning policy for coastal development and will bring together and modernise provisions from SEPP 14 (Coastal Wetlands), SEPP 26 (Littoral Rainforests) and SEPP 71 (Coastal Protection).
The Coastal Management SEPP will also better equip councils and coastal communities to plan for and effectively respond to coastal challenges such as major storms, coastal erosion and climate change impacts, through more strategic planning around coastal development and emergency management.

Community information session
Monday, 5 December: 5.30 – 7pm Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club, Corner of East Esplanade & Stuart Street, Manly, 2095

Please RSVP to attend one of this session by contacting We are also keen to hear any questions you may have, or specific topics of interest for your local session, so please let us know when you RSVP.
Have your say on the draft Coastal Management SEPP
Consultation is now underway on the draft Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and draft maps of the coastal management areas that make up the coastal zone. The public consultation period for the draft SEPP and maps is from 11 November 2016 to 23 December 2016. We encourage our stakeholders and interested community groups to take a look at the reforms and have a say:
online using the submission form below; and by mail to:
Director, Planning Frameworks
NSW Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001
The Department is also seeking feedback from the public on the draft Ministerial (‘section 117’) direction relating to rezoning land in the coastal zone and amending the coastal zone maps. The documents for consultation can be accessed below:

How we are progressing coastal reforms
The release of the draft Coastal Management SEPP is the next step in finalising the Government coastal reforms program.
Documents previously released for public consultation include:
Thank you to all who have taken the time to provide feedback on various aspects of the coastal reform program to date.
Taking into account public submissions, the new Coastal Management Act 2016 was passed by Parliament on 31 May 2016 and will commence following consultation on the draft Coastal Management SEPP.
The Office of Environment and Heritage is currently finalising the Coastal Management Manual and a Toolkit of technical resources and advice for coastal managers.
More information about the NSW coastal reforms, including analysis of public submissions from the previous consultation round, can be found on the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Coastal reforms webpage.
The Department of Planning and Environment has recently issued a Planning Circular (PS 16-003) on the Coastal Management SEPP. This advice clarifies that where land is partly or wholly mapped by the draft Coastal Management SEPP, a planning certificate issued for that land should record that the draft SEPP applies to that land. PS 16-003 can be accessed here (PDF 266KB).

Coastal SEPP Mapping Tool Instructional Video

NSW Beaches Safer With 20 Listening Stations Deployed 

Sunday, 4 December 2016: Media Release - Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Lands and Water
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair announced the NSW Government had deployed its 20th VR4G shark listening station off the NSW coastline.

“Just over a year ago, we said we would deliver 20 listening stations and now we have a line of protection right along the NSW coastline,” Mr Blair said.

“We have 14 VR4Gs operating north of Sydney, one at Bondi, and five on the south coast. This technology is one component of the NSW Government’s suite of shark attack mitigation measures. Our strategy is leading the world in testing new technologies with the use of SMARTdrumlines and research into sonar technology and personal shark deterrent devices.”

The satellite-linked VR4G receivers record the presence of tagged sharks swimming within 500 metres of the listening station.

Information on the movement of these tagged sharks is then instantly sent to mobile devices via Twitter and the SharkSmart App – available at

The NSW Government’s $16 million shark strategy includes helicopters and drones, listening stations and observation towers for surveillance to better protect beachgoers.

In the past twelve months, there have been 114 white sharks and 88 bull sharks tagged by either NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or CSIRO that will now register when they swim near the VR4G listening station.

Locations where VR4G shark listening stations are deployed off the NSW coastline:
Kingscliff, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Ballina, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, Forster, Crescent Head, Old Bar, Bondi, Hawks Nest, Redhead, Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Batemans Bay and Merimbula.

Sea Ice Hit Record Lows In November

December 6, 2016

This is the Arctic sea ice extent: November 2016. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NASA Earth Observatory)
Unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.

"It looks like a triple whammy -- a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic," said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.51 million square miles) for November, 1.95 million square kilometers (753,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Although the rate of Arctic ice growth was slightly faster than average, total extent actually decreased for a brief period in the middle of the month. The decrease in extent measured 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) and was observed mostly in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, Finland, and Eastern Russia.

NSIDC scientists said the decrease in extent is almost unprecedented for November in the satellite record; a less pronounced and brief retreat of 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) happened in 2013. November 2016 is now the seventh month this year to have hit a record low extent in the 38-year satellite monitoring period. The November extent was 3.2 standard deviations below the long-term average, a larger departure than observed in September 2012 when the Arctic summer minimum extent hit a record low.

Arctic sea ice is still in the early stages of winter freeze-up and is expected to continue expanding until it hits its maximum extent around March next year.

NSIDC scientists said unusually high temperatures over the Arctic Ocean, persistent winds from the south, and a warm ocean worked together to drive the record low Arctic extent. Extending from northeast of Greenland towards Svalbard and Severnaya Zemlya, air temperatures at the 925 hPa level (about 2,500 feet above sea level) were up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Sea surface temperatures in the Barents and Kara Seas remained unusually high, up to 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) above average around Novaya Zemlya and Svalbard, preventing ice formation. These high temperatures reflected a pattern of winds from the south, which also helped to push the ice northward and reduce the ice extent.

NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve was in Svalbard during November and noted the lack of sea ice. "Typically sea ice begins to form in the fjords at the beginning of November, but this year there was no ice to be found," she said.

In the Southern Hemisphere, sea ice surrounding the continent of Antarctica declined very quickly early in the month and set a record low. The average extent for November was 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), 1.81 million square kilometers (699,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This was more than twice the previous record departure from average set in November 1986 and was 5.7 standard deviations below the long-term average.

NSIDC scientists said that higher-than-average temperatures and a rapid shift in Antarctic circumpolar winds appear to have caused the rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice.

Air temperatures 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, or 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average and an earlier pattern of strong westerly winds worked to create a more dispersed sea ice pack in the Antarctic. A rapid shift to a more varied wind structure, with three major areas of winds from the north, rapidly compressed low-concentration sea ice around Wilkes Land, Dronning Maud Land, Enderby Land, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Moreover, several very large polynyas (areas of open water within the pack) have opened in the eastern Weddell and along the Amundsen Sea and Ross Sea coast.

"Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time," said NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos. "There are a few things we can say about what happened, but we need to look deeper."

NASA scientist and NSIDC affiliate scientist Walt Meier said, "The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us."

Materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. 

Nature Conservancy Writing Prize 2017

Enter The Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize today!
Calling all writers! The Nature Conservancy Australia is delighted to open the fourth biennial Nature Writing Prize. 

$5,000 will be awarded to an essay of between 3,000 and 5,000 words in the genre of ‘Writing of Place’. The prize will go to an Australian writer whose entry is judged to be of the highest literary merit and which best explores his or her relationship and interaction with some aspect of the Australian landscape. The competition’s judges are award-winning journalist, author and editor Jo Chandler and novelist and critic James Bradley. The winning entry will be published in Griffith Review online as a multimedia essay.

The prize has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from the McLean Foundation, which promotes and celebrates the art of nature writing in Australia.

The deadline for submissions is January 27, 2017Click here to learn more about the prize and review the terms and conditions of entry.

CSIRO Animates: What Is A Light Year?

Published on 8 December 2016
Space is so extraordinarily vast that our regular 'common sense' units of measurement — metres, millimetres — don't quite cut it. In their place, we have 'the light year', but what is a lightyear? Here's a helpful animation to explain.

Next Generation To Name Antarctic Ship Of The Future

7 December 2016: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Children across the country will get the chance to be part of Australia's Antarctic future, with a school competition to name the nation's new state-of-the-art icebreaker to be held in term one of 2017.

The competition will coincide with the start of construction of the vessel in February, with the ship scheduled to arrive in its homeport of Hobart in 2020.

The Australian Antarctic Division's school's resource, 'Classroom Antarctica' will include six new units about Antarctic icebreakers tailored to the Australian curriculum. These will complement existing learning units that focus on the significance of Antarctica, science, wildlife and the Australian Antarctic Program.

This is an important opportunity to educate and inspire the next generation of Antarctic scientists and expeditioners.

The Coalition Government has committed a $1.9 billion package to cover the design, build and 30 year operational and maintenance lifespan of the ship.

The current icebreaker Aurora Australis, which has served the Australian Antarctic Program since 1989, is scheduled to depart for the continent tomorrow (8 December) to resupply Casey research station then undertake a marine science voyage.

Scientists on the ship will undertake important climate research along the coast of East Antarctica, seeking to understand changes in the largest glacier in East Antarctica, the Totten Glacier.

The Totten Glacier is a key focus for scientists this season, with research taking place above, on, below and in front of the glacier. The visit to the Totten, which depends on favourable ice conditions, will be the second in the history of the Australian Antarctic Program. The first oceanographic voyage in modern times that has reached the front of the glacier was conducted in early 2015.

A team of around 30 scientists on board the Aurora Australis will monitor the ocean for changes that may be influencing the ice sheet and deploy an array of instruments that will track changes in the ocean in front of the glacier. These oceanographic observations will be combined with measurements made by scientists working on the glacier, to help improve understanding of how a melting Antarctic ice sheet may impact sea level rise.

Details regarding the 'Name our Icebreaker' competition, to be led by the Australian Antarctic Division will be released early next year.

A graphic of the new icebreaker in the ice (Image: Damen/DMS Maritime/Knud E Hansen A/S)

More information
Frequently Asked Questions: Name the Icebreaker competition

When will the competition open?
The competition will be held in the first term of the new school year in 2017 and will coincide with the start of construction of the vessel in February.

Who can enter?
The competition will have a Junior and Senior category and will be open to students between grades 3 and 10.

How will the name be selected?
The Division will shortlist entries, with a judging panel (yet to be selected) to then select the winning entries and make a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg, MP.

What is the prize?
All the details of the competition, including the prize, will be announced in early 2017. 

Where can I find more information about the icebreaker?
This website provides information about the design specifications, scientific capabilities, cargo capacity and the procurement process for the icebreaker.

Early in 2017 the Australian Antarctic Division’s school’s resource, ‘Classroom Antarctica’ will include six new units about Antarctic icebreakers tailored to the Australian curriculum. These will complement existing learning units that focus on the significance of Antarctica, science, wildlife and the Australian Antarctic Program. 

Permaculture Northern Beaches

Want to know where your food is coming from? 

Do you like to enrich the earth as much as benefit from it?

Find out more here:


Newport Community Gardens

Anyone interested in joining our community garden group please feel free to come and visit us on Sunday at 10am at the Woolcott Reserve in Newport!

Keep in Touch with what's happening on Newport Garden's Facebook:

Pittwater's Environmental Foundation

Pittwater Environmental Foundation was established in 2006 to conserve and enhance the natural environment of the Pittwater local government area through the application of tax deductible donations, gifts and bequests. The Directors were appointed by Pittwater Council. 


About 33% (about 1600 ha excluding National Parks) of the original pre-European bushland in Pittwater remains in a reasonably natural or undisturbed condition. Of this, only about 400ha remains in public ownership. All remaining natural bushland is subject to encroachment, illegal clearing, weed invasion, feral animals, altered drainage, bushfire hazard reduction requirements and other edge effects. Within Pittwater 38 species of plants or animals are listed as endangered or threatened under the Threatened Species Act. There are two endangered populations (Koala and Squirrel Glider) and eight endangered ecological communities or types of bushland. To visit their site please click on logo above.

New Funding To Improve Road Safety

MEDIA RELEASE: 05 December 2016
The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon. Susan Ley MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care
The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
In the lead up to Christmas and the summer holidays, the Turnbull Government is urging people to keep safe on our roads as hospitals and families deal with a climbing number of fatalities and serious injuries.

While the Coalition Government is concerned about the number of Australians killed on our roads, we also need to get a clear picture on a hidden toll—those Australians who are severely injured in road crashes.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today announced new funding for the Australian Trauma Registry to allow it to determine this national figure and also to accurately track the national progress of severe injuries on our roads.

This data will lead to improved medical practice, with better outcomes for patients and to our health system.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the number of deaths on the roads throughout Australia has hit 1,271 over the past 12 months, and this is up by 5.2% compared to the same time last year.

Today's announcement will mean measuring serious road injuries will help governments make better decisions around how to reduce road trauma.

This improved data collection, our $50 billion infrastructure investment program, and our measures to encourage safe driving means we are changing and saving lives.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley said it had been estimated that the cost of road trauma to the whole community was $27 billion in a report undertaken by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in 2014.

The Bureau has worked closely with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to develop arrangements which will detail the number and characteristics of injuries of people severely injured.

The Australian Government is providing $450,000 over three years. This complements a total in-kind contribution of $1.85 million from participating hospital sites, and a $50,000 contribution from The Alfred Foundation.

The Registry currently tracks major injuries in Australia—road trauma (including motor vehicles, pedestrian and cyclists), major falls, gunshot wounds, and stabbings. The data is from Australia's major hospital trauma centres.

Have Your Say On New Integrated Carer Support

7 December 2016: Media Release - Hon. Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Disability Services
The Hon. Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, is reminding carers, peak bodies and service providers to have their say on future services to support and sustain the work of unpaid carers, by providing feedback on the draft Service Delivery Model.

Mrs Prentice, said the focus of the draft Service Delivery Model is to provide more services to more carers, with a focus on supporting carers earlier.

“Continued public consultation is important to ensure the community has their say on the best way to deliver carer services and support,” she said.

“We have had significant interest in the model, with more than 2000 hits to the website in the first week of consultation; however I encourage any individuals or organisations that have not yet had their say to share their views.”

As part of the 2015-16 Budget, the Coalition Government announced the development of an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services (the Plan).

The first phase of the Plan commenced in December 2015 with the implementation of CARER GATEWAY which helps carers access information about support available through a website, national phone service and interactive service finder.

The second phase of the Plan involves developing a new integrated carer support service system through a co-design process.

The draft Service Delivery Model sets out a new integrated carer support system and outlines the types of services and how they are proposed to be delivered in the future.

Feedback on the draft Service Delivery Model can be provided by participation in an online survey, or through making a written submission. The survey and submission process will close on 16 December at 5pm.

Once finalised, the draft Service Delivery Model will form the basis of a proposal for Government consideration.

To have your say, please visit DSS Engage at

New Driver Fatigue Research Set To Drive Policy Decisions

MEDIA RELEASE: 07 December 2016 - The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
Driver fatigue is one of the main causes of road accidents involving heavy vehicles, contributing to approximately 22 percent of all recorded incidents across the country.

As Federal Transport Minister I cannot, and will not accept, this situation.

That is why I am today committing more than $800,000 towards research which will give policy makers a greater understanding of truck driver fatigue, and to find solutions to reducing heavy vehicle fatigue related road incidents.

Although we've seen significant improvements in safety since the introduction of fatigue regulations, the fact remains that fatigue kills.

The Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Research Project will investigate driver alertness, sleep patterns and the safety risks associated with reduced concentration in a bid to better inform future fatigue policy.

The data collected through this research will be crucial in assessing the effectiveness of our current framework and will help us deliver a more contemporary risk-based approach.

My Department will collaborate with the National Transport Commission, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, universities and industry on this research to give us a clearer picture of our road safety challenge.

This collaborative approach is essential in delivering the safest road network possible, with the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity providing oversight of this project.

This research is expected to be finalised and available to transport Ministers in 2018, and I have committed this funding for the next two years.

Australia has traditionally been a world leader in road safety, thanks to measures like compulsory seatbelts, speed limits and random breath testing.

But we can't become complacent by not continuing to invest in new initiatives to reduce the frequency and severity of road accidents.

I have seen first-hand the impacts of a road crash and I, along with many other Australians, have heard stories from our friends, colleagues and neighbours of a road crash they have experienced.

The annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated to be around $27 billion, and that doesn't even begin to touch on the grief and pain suffered by families.

Research such as this will ensure we have the right policy settings in place to minimise the loss of life from road crashes.

I am looking forward to seeing the outcomes of this research and delivering a much safer road network for all motorists.

Obesity And Smoking Rates Higher In Regional Australia

Canberra, 8 December 2016 
Australians living in regional areas are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

A second report, also available today, reveals a similar pattern in relation to daily tobacco smoking with adults in regional areas more likely to smoke daily than their city counterparts.

The Healthy Communities reports look at local-level variation in obesity and smoking rates across Australia's Primary Health Network (PHN) areas. PHNs are organisations that connect health services over local geographic areas.  There are 31 PHNs across Australia.

The first report, Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2014–15, shows that the highest rate of overweight and obesity in adults was 73% in Country South Australia, while Northern Sydney had the lowest rate at 53%—still over half the adult population in that area who were overweight or obese.

When looking at just obesity (a body mass index of 30 and above) a wider variation was seen in adults across PHN areas.

'With obesity we see even wider variation with 16% of adults who were shown to be obese in Central and Eastern Sydney, compared with 38% in Country South Australia. Again, the highest obesity rates were recorded in regional areas,' said AIHW spokesperson Michael Frost.

Today's second report, Healthy Communities: Tobacco smoking rates across Australia, 2014–15  shows that while daily smoking rates in Australia have continued to fall, they remain relatively high in some PHN areas—particularly regional areas.
'Northern Sydney had the lowest rate of daily smoking at around 5%, while Western NSW had the highest rate of 23%,' Mr Frost said.

'Overall, regional PHN areas had higher smoking rates than city-based PHNs.'

Today's reports highlight local areas where efforts can be targeted to reduce rates of smoking, overweight and obesity.

The results are intended to assist local communities in defining their priorities for improvements in health care and to better target and drive health system improvements specific to their local community's needs.

Both reports are available on the MyHealthyCommunities website (

Winter Crop Production Forecast To Hit Record High Of 52.4 Million Tonnes

6 December 2016: Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Total Australian winter crop production is forecast to increase by 32 per cent in 2016–17 to a new record high of 52.4 million tonnes.

Acting ABARES Executive Director, Peter Gooday, said above average rainfall in September, followed by mild spring conditions, had ensured good soil moisture for the critical grain development period.

“Wheat production in 2016–17 is forecast to rise by 35 per cent to a record high of 32.6 million tonnes,” Mr Gooday said.

“At the same time, barley production is forecast to rise by 24 per cent to a record high of 10.6 million tonnes, and canola production is forecast to rise by 22 per cent to 3.6 million tonnes—which would be the third-highest on record.

“Chickpea production is also forecast to reach a record high of 1.2 million tonnes this year—a rise of 21 per cent that reflects an estimated increase in planted area and a forecast rise in the average yield.”

Mr Gooday said that some cropping regions had been hard hit by seasonal conditions this year.

“Across the nation, however, total production is forecast to be higher in every state,” Mr Gooday said.

Mr Gooday also said that total summer crop production was forecast to increase by 21 per cent to around 4.6 million tonnes in 2016–17, with the total area planted forecast to increase by 15 per cent to around 1.4 million hectares.

“Among leading summer crops, cotton production is forecast to increase by 64 per cent in 2016–17 to around 1.0 million tonnes of cotton lint and around 1.5 million tonnes of cottonseed.

“The area planted to rice is forecast to increase almost fourfold in 2016–17 to 90 000 hectares in response to an increase in the supply of irrigation water available to rice growers.

“However the area planted to grain sorghum is forecast to fall by 31 per cent in 2016–17 to 471 000 hectares, the lowest in 24 years.”

The winter crop forecast released today represents a 14 per cent upward revision from the forecast ABARES published in the September 2016 edition of Australian crop report.

The December edition of the Australian Crop Report is available atABARES Publications.

The Winner Of The Digital Portraiture Award 2016 Is...

2 December 2016

Charles (still from video) by Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Today, at the National Portrait Gallery, the winner of the Digital Portraiture Award 2016 was announced. Congratulations to Amiel Courtin-Wilson for his submission titled Charles.

Amiel receives $10,000 cash and a residency at The Edge, State Library of Queensland, valued at $15,000.

Gillian Raymond, Digital Manager at the Portrait Gallery and one of the judges for this year’s Award, was moved by the depth of Amiel’s portrait and the outstanding use of the digital medium to convey a story.

‘The Digital Portraiture Award enables the National Portrait Gallery to actively challenge conservative notions of portraiture. Indeed, this is as much an exhibition about the genre of portraiture as it is about digital art,’ said Gillian.

‘This year’s finalists explore the boundaries between performance and portraiture, biology and portraiture, advertising and portraiture. They riff on themes of artistic disillusionment, self-discovery and the development of identity. In the end, the judges were won over by the technical mastery of the winning work combined with the empathetic and poignant depiction of its subject.’

Amiel was extraordinarily touched that his work has been recognised by The National Portrait Gallery and is honoured to be a part of the group exhibition.

‘The portraiture I find most inspiring takes seed in your body and creates a visceral response before the intellect can take hold,’ said Amiel

‘I look forward to being able to continue to create images borne of simple but profound human interactions with this very generous amount of prize money.'

‘I have been making films and working with the moving image for over twenty years and my cinematographer Germain McMicking has been creating work with me for over fifteen years so this award is for Germain as well. I want to thank Charles, the producers Kate Laurie and John Baker as well as everyone who helped contribute to the work.’

‘I am also excited to take part in an upcoming residency at The Edge in Queensland and look forward to a new fertile environment in which to create and forge new creative relationships.’

Amiel’s winning work will be on display with six other finalists in the Digital Portraiture Award 2016 exhibition which is open to the public from Friday 2 December 2016 until Sunday 9 April 2017.

The finalists' works are available to view on the Gallery's vimeo page.

New Telescope Chip Offers Clear View Of Alien Planets

December 6, 2016: Australian National University
Scientists have developed a new optical chip for a telescope that enables astronomers to have a clear view of alien planets that may support life.

Seeing a planet outside the solar system which is close to its host sun, similar to Earth, is very difficult with today's standard astronomical instruments due to the brightness of the sun.

Associate Professor Steve Madden from The Australian National University(ANU) said the new chip removes light from the host sun, allowing astronomers for the first time to take a clear image of the planet.

"The ultimate aim of our work with astronomers is to be able to find a planet like Earth that could support life," said Dr Madden from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

"To do this we need to understand how and where planets form inside dust clouds, and then use this experience to search for planets with an atmosphere containing ozone, which is a strong indicator of life."

Physicists and astronomers at ANU worked on the optical chip with researchers at the University of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

Dr Madden said the optical chip worked in a similar way to noise cancelling headphones.

"This chip is an interferometer that adds equal but opposite light waves from a host sun which cancels out the light from the sun, allowing the much weaker planet light to be seen," he said.

PhD student Harry-Dean Kenchington Goldsmith, who built the chip at the ANU Laser Physics Centre, said the technology works like thermal imaging that fire fighters rely on to see through smoke.

"The chip uses the heat emitted from the planet to peer through dust clouds and see planets forming. Ultimately the same technology will allow us to detect ozone on alien planets that could support life," said Mr Kenchington Goldsmith from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

The innovation builds on over 10 years of research on specialised optical materials and devices that has been supported through CUDOS, a centre of excellence funded by the Australian Research Council.

The research is being presented at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress in Brisbane this week.

Medicinal Cannabis Trial Recruiting Patients

December 5th, 2016: NSW Government
The clinical trial will involve 80 patients in the first stage and could expand to another 250 patients across NSW.
Doctors are recruiting patients in a world-first medicinal cannabis trial in NSW for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

One-third of patients continue to suffer from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting after being prescribed conventional anti-nausea medication.

Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward said this was the largest and most definitive trial ever conducted in the world of a plant-derived cannabis medicine for the prevention of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.

“The trial will play a critical role in developing a better understanding of how cannabis products may provide relief for cancer patients,” Ms Goward said. 

The trial is part of the NSW Government’s commitment to support medicinal cannabis clinical trials and reforms.

The trial will be using an oral plant-derived, pharmaceutical-grade capsule containing equal amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), developed and supplied by Canadian company Tilray.

Christmas Can Be Dangerous, NSW Health Warns

01 December 2016: NSW Health
Stay alert and stay out of hospital this festive season – that’s the message from NSW Health which aims to see less people unnecessarily in hospital emergency wards this Christmas.
As families break their regular habits for the holidays, it is often a momentary lapse of concentration that results in people being hurt or injured.
Falling off chairs and ladders while decorating for Christmas, eye injuries, poisoning and bites are high on the list of reasons many land in hospital. 
Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Health’s Chief Health Officer, said a simple slip from a ladder while placing Christmas lights up on the roof could result in devastation or death for families over Christmas when, really, they should be celebrating.
“Always make sure you have someone with you and don’t stand on things which aren’t stable enough to hold you.
“Definitely don’t do anything that requires your full attention while you are under the influence of alcohol,” Dr Chant said.
Parents are also warned to be aware of what their children are up to, as small toy parts, liquid from glow sticks, batteries and even high-pressured hoses and water guns could seriously hurt children.
Parents are also advised not to ride their children’s Christmas toys.
“If you don’t know how to ride a skateboard, it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground,” Dr Chant said. 
For the elderly and those with chronic conditions, the message is: don’t overdo it, as heart attacks are more common after an enormous Christmas lunch. They are also advised to make sure they have enough medication and an up-to-date copy of relevant prescriptions if travelling. Health care providers such as GPs and Chemists may also have reduced hours. Make sure you check and have sufficient medications on hand for the entire Christmas period.
Elderly relatives may also not cope well with the usual heat over Christmas. If you are going away, make sure someone is available to check on them and help them if you are away. 
Dr Chant said people shouldn’t be fooled into thinking injuries and illness can’t  happen to them at Christmas.
“During the festive season, people do more than they normally would, consume more than they normally would, and take more risks than they normally would. 
“It’s important to be mindful of yourself,  your family and your loved ones as it is often that momentary distraction when people suffer a fall, a burn, or something worse,” Dr Chant said.
“A trip to the hospital emergency ward is not how anyone should spend Christmas.”
Here’s a list of common – and avoidable – reasons people end up in hospital. 

  • Trauma – Falls from dirt bike riding and outdoor activities, accidents and injuries in swimming pools. Also broken bones after falling off children’s Christmas presents such as skateboards, scooters and mini segways.
  • Alcohol related issues and intoxication – Watch your intake and drink plenty of water.
  • Heart attacks – Particularly in the elderly and those with chronic conditions after a big lunch.
  • Bites – From insects, spiders and snakes.
  • Mental health – Christmas can be stressful and can be a trigger for depression and an increased risk in self harm.
  • Slips and falls – Be careful when placing decorations in high places.
  • Food poisoning - Salmonella and Campylobacter can be an issue if cool storage temperatures are not maintained. Keep raw and cooked foods separate and wash hands before and after handling food.
  • ​Choking – Small/easily broken parts on toys stuffed in mouth or nose. Be careful of beads and detachable eyes or noses on stuffed toys, also be mindful of erasers, broken crayons and other small items.
  • Strangulation – From strings/cords on toys. Try to keep them under 22cm long.
  • Ear and eye injuries – Loud toys and high-pressure water guns shot too close to eyes and ears and small items in eyes and ears. Liquid leaking from glow sticks getting in the eyes.
  • Poisoning – From batteries and liquids in toys and poorly maintained food. 
  • Burns – Pay attention while you are cooking and be aware when children are around. Don’t leave children unattended near hot stoves, grills, barbecues and cooking appliances
  • Sunburn – Use sunscreen, a hat and protective clothing and stay in the shade during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Animal bites – Be aware of children playing with pets, as even usually well-behaved pets may fear bite in situations they find overwhelming.

Sydney University Alumni From The 1930s To 1960s Share Their Memories

December 5, 2016: Sydney University
A rare glimpse into four decades of student life at the University of Sydney, from the 1930s to the 1960s, has been captured in a publication of alumni memories.

The Golden Yearbook brings together the fond recollections of 397 alumni together with their achievements and hopes for the University’s future. 

The value of education, the critical influence of certain academics, the lifelong friendships, including many marriages, and the importance of contributing to society remain constants throughout these generations’ reflections. 

Ann Wilson (BA ’62) speaks for many when she describes her fondest memory of the University of Sydney as “That enquiring, learning, scholarly atmosphere…I loved being challenged, and in turn challenging those around me.”

The Golden Yearbook would not have been possible without the efforts of alumni volunteers.

The Yearbook demonstrates how alumni shape our history. You can help shape the lives of future students by giving to the Student Support Fund.

We are always keen to hear from our alumni. Update your details and shareyour story with us.

To celebrate the release of the book, we invited some of our golden graduates back to campus to reflect on their student days in this short video. 

The Golden Yearbook (PDF: 10.9MB) 

PNG Fisheries Expresses Great Satisfaction With Progress Of Aquaculture Initiative

December 5, 2016: ANTSO
Members of a collaboration from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia and the National Fisheries Authority of Papua New Guinea (PNG) met recently at ANSTO to discuss progress on a major project to improve inland aquaculture in PNG.

After a warm welcome by the Head of Research at ANSTO, Dr Suzanne Hollins, and Dr Henk Heijnis, Leader Environment, the Australian Project Leader, A/Prof Jes Sammut of UNSW Australia, gave an update on the project’s progress. Some members of the group also took part in a series of training sessions to introduce them to nuclear techniques that are applicable to aquaculture research.

The main focus of the four year project, which is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the National Fisheries Authority of PNG, is to resolve constraints on the growth and sustainability of the aquaculture industry in an effort to improve food and income security as well as increase the social benefits from aquaculture in rural areas in PNG. 

The ANSTO activities under the project are led by Dr Debashish Mazumder, Senior Research Scientist, who specialises in the use of isotopic techniques on environmental and aquaculture research. 

He has been investigating technological bottlenecks associated with food and nutritional requirements for farmed fish that are important for the growth and sustainability of the aquaculture industry in an effort to improve food and income security. In addition the work is expected to increase the social benefits from aquaculture in rural areas in PNG. 

The participation of representations from the Department of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture and Livestock, University of Technology, Lae and other institutions in PNG has been a crucial aspect of the undertaking, which includes post-graduate training for project members. 
The partnership model also includes the UNSW, ANSTO and other organisations. A number of students are making a contribution. 

Ms Lina Pandihau, Aquaculture Officer with the National Fisheries Authority, who represented the PNG Project Coordinator, Jacob Wani, expressed PNG’s appreciation to UNSW and ANSTO for their collaboration and opportunity to learn from other countries to develop the aquafarming industry while avoiding environmental impacts.

Justin Narimbi, a Lecturer at University of Technology, who completed his Master’s at UNSW with the joint supervision by UNSW and ANSTO, will be introducing isotopic techniques in PNG and working with team members to develop feeding strategies for aquaculture in PNG. 

A/Prof Sammut, Australian Project Leader, said the project has completed its first year, during which strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to inland aquaculture in PNG were identified.

“In partnership with ANSTO scientist Dr Mazumder, we are moving to a series of trials comparing fertiliser and formulated feed combinations as well as the use of agricultural by-products as ingredients to reduce production costs,” said Sammut.
PNG Aquaculture project group 

The project is also scoping the potential to assess the human health benefits from consuming farmed fish in collaboration with the PNG Institute for Medical Research. 

Sammut is optimistic that the capacity building, training, high standard of research that have been demonstrated so far will lead to further projects and collaboration in this very important rural industry. 

Fish is an important source of animal protein for millions of people worldwide. The longer-term goal is to improve food and nutrition security of the rural population in PNG, whose dietary protein deficiency leads to malnourishment and growth problems. Around 80 per cent of the population is unemployed and live on less than $2 a day. 

Sustainable fish farming, in harmony with other rural activities, is expected to provide opportunities for self-employment as well as support the growth of associated industries. Fish farming is also generating significant social impacts, including improving tribal cooperation, and assisting disadvantaged individuals. 

Read more about the project:

Reparations To Stolen Generations Survivors

December 2nd, 2016: NSW Government
The reparations scheme offers one-off payments to survivors, a healing fund to address intergenerational trauma and direct financial support for survivors’ groups. 

The NSW Government is providing a reparations package worth more than $73 million to Stolen Generations survivors.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams, who delivered an apology to the Stolen Generations in June, said the NSW Government’s response went beyond words to deliver a comprehensive package of support.

“The NSW Government officially acknowledges the real and heartbreaking trauma caused by historic government policies and practices of removing Aboriginal children from their kin and country,” Mrs Williams said.

The Stolen Generations reparations scheme will offer one-off payments to survivors without a lengthy and arduous legal process and a $5 million Stolen Generations healing fund will seek to address the impacts of trauma for survivors, their families, descendants and communities.

The NSW Premier and Minister Williams will establish a Stolen Generations advisory committee to ensure the government’s response is implemented swiftly, effectively and respectfully, in partnership with Aboriginal people.

 “It is my sincerest hope that by acknowledging the wrongs of the past and providing enduring and meaningful support for the future, we can avoid such a tragedy ever being repeated.”

Learn how the NSW Government is working with Aboriginal communities to improve social, economic and cultural wellbeing

ABC Exits Shortwave Radio Transmission

6th December 2016: ABC
The ABC will end its shortwave transmission service in the Northern Territory and to international audiences from 31 January 2017.

The move is in line with the national broadcaster’s commitment to dispense with outdated technology and to expand its digital content offerings including DAB+ digital radio, online and mobile services, together with FM services for international audiences.

The majority of ABC audiences in the Northern Territory currently access ABC services via AM and FM and all ABC radio and digital radio services are available on the VAST satellite service.

ABC International’s shortwave services currently broadcast to PNG and the Pacific. Savings realised through decommissioning this service will be reinvested in a more robust FM transmitter network and an expanded content offering for the region that will include English and in-language audio content.

Michael Mason, ABC’s Director of Radio said, “While shortwave technology has served audiences well for many decades, it is now nearly a century old and serves a very limited audience. The ABC is seeking efficiencies and will instead service this audience through modern technology”.

The ABC, working alongside SBS, is planning to extend its digital radio services in Darwin and Hobart, and to make permanent its current digital radio trial in Canberra. Extending DAB+ into the nation’s eight capital cities will ensure ABC digital radio services can reach an additional 700,000 people, increasing the overall reach of ABC digital radio to 60% of the Australian population.

ABC Radio is also investigating transmission improvements to address reception gaps in the existing five DAB+ markets. It aims to ensure a resilient DAB+ service in every capital city, with enhanced bitrates and infill where necessary.

“Extending our DAB+ offer will allow audiences in every capital city in Australia equal access to our digital radio offering, as well as representing an ongoing broadcast cost saving owing to lower transmission costs,” added Michael Mason.

ABC International’s Chief Executive Officer Lynley Marshall said the reinvestment from closing international shortwave services would maximise the ABC’s broadcast capabilities in the region.

“In considering how best to serve our Pacific regional audiences into the future we will move away from the legacy of shortwave radio distribution,” Ms Marshall said. “An ever-growing number of people in the region now have access to mobile phones with FM receivers and the ABC will redirect funds towards an extended content offering and a robust FM distribution network to better serve audiences into the future.”

Once international shortwave ceases transmission, international listeners can continue to access ABC International services via:

Audiences can access further information via the reception advice line 1300 139 994 or via ABC Local Radio (Darwin & Alice Springs).

Minister Urges Cooperation To Address ‘Worrying’ Education Results

Wednesday 7 December 2016: Media Release - Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training
A leading international education snapshot released overnight shows Australian science students are now seven months behind where they were in 2006, an Australian maths student is a year of schooling behind where they were in 2003 and Australian students’ reading abilities have also dropped by a year since 2000.
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said Australia continued to perform above the OECD average in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report but despite Australia’s many “dedicated and hard-working” teachers and record levels of federal funding for our schools, the results also highlight clear trends of declining real and international performance of Australian Year Nine students.
Minister Birmingham said the respected PISA report provides an “international snapshot” into mathematical, reading and science literacy levels of OECD countries and had continued to paint a worrying trend for Australia. He said this once every three-year report would be a key part of his discussions with states and territories next week about the Turnbull Government’s school quality reforms that focus on how best to target Australia’s record levels of investment in schools and improve student outcomes.
“Today’s PISA report goes further than last week’s Trends in Maths and Science report, this year’s NAPLAN results and the OECD Education at a Glance report in terms of not just showing a plateauing of results in Australia but that it shows a clear decline from year to year in Australia’s education performance,” Minister Birmingham said.
“While our school systems remain above average among developed economies we must acknowledge the reality that our performance is slipping. Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard. We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here.
“This is a complicated policy area that must have all of the facts on the table and while some try and paint this genuine conversation that I am having on all matters of education policy as ‘distractions’, it would be naïve to look at it through overly simplistic terms.
“Commonwealth funding for schools has increased by 50 per cent since 2003 while our results are going backwards. I’m not suggesting that adequate funding is not important, of course it is vital, but as the OECD notes Australia ranks as spending the fifth highest amount on education in the OECD and once you get to that level there is little value in just increasing spending, the harder task is to invest in the areas that the evidence says makes a difference.
“That is why the Turnbull Government, while still growing our record levels of school funding, is most importantly focussed on implementing evidence-based measures that will get results for our students. We must back the evidence and focus on how our record and growing funding can be invested to best help this and future generations of students.
“It is unacceptable to see Australia declining in our maths, reading and science performance at a time when growing competition makes high educational outcomes ever more critical to the job prospects and economic prospects of our nation.
“The Turnbull Government’s Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes reforms outlined in May includes more than a dozen initiatives backed by experts that evidence shows will help Australian young people to get more out of their schooling.
“Many of the Turnbull Government’s quality reforms are designed to directly tackle Australia’s falling mathematics, reading and science skills, including a ‘back to basics’ focus on more teachers specialising in literacy and numeracy and qualified to teach science, technology, engineering or maths subjects, ensuring aspiring university students complete a maths or science subject to attain an ATAR, setting minimum literacy and numeracy standards for Year 12s and the introduction of a ‘light touch’ phonics assessment for year one students to identify those students struggling earlier."
Minister Birmingham said the Commonwealth’s already-record levels of investment in schools would grow from $16 billion in 2016 to $20.1 billion in 2020 and that every tax dollar paid by hardworking Australians needs to be used as effectively as possible.
“We will tie our record and growing levels of funding for schools to initiatives that evidence shows lift student results and outcomes and that will turnaround our declining international rankings,” Minister Birmingham.
“Everyone agrees that funding needs to be distributed according to need and we all want to help boost student outcomes. I’m looking forward to working with my state and territory colleagues to iron out the problems with the current distribution of funding and to implement reforms in our schools that are proven to lift student performance.  I call on the states and territories to put the politics aside and seriously engage with us to deliver the reforms Australia's school system needs.”

Anti-Racism Project Hosts International Expert

December 5, 2016: Western Sydney University
A new antiracism project at Western Sydney University is hosting a workshop headed by an internationally renowned expert this week to showcase how new media engagement is crucial for modern day academics seeking to raise the standard of civil discourse. 

The Digital Anti Racisms project has been designed to evaluate new antiracism apps and their impact, as well as the implications of big data for measuring and combating racism in wider society.

As part of its mission to expand collaboration among antiracism activists and organisations, it's hosting a workshop for academics to showcase how to use digital media to combat racism online.

Presenting at the workshop will be Professor of Sociology from Hunter College, New York City, Jessie Daniels, a widely published expert who researches how racism is displayed and propagated across the internet.

Professor Daniels will draw on her experience and research into digital cultures to provide a vision for how academics can continue to work towards the common good in the digital era.

Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis Dr Justine Humphry says the project will evaluate how digital technologies are being used to address racism.

"The aims of the workshop are to investigate and analyse how mobile app and social media antiracism initiatives are being used to combat racism, highlighting the tensions and problems associated with the digitisation of antiracism," she says.

Dr Humphry says it's important to understand how to combat racism online due to its prevalence, particularly on social media.

"The lens has been on social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, who are scrambling to respond to claims their platforms were used to harvest and circulate racist chatbots, white supremacist memes and fake news," says Dr Humphry.

"To date, there has been little published research dealing with the visibility and frequency of online racialised discourse and events and the application of new forms of social and mobile media to combat racism."

About the Digital Anti Racisms project:
The Digital Anti Racisms project aims to provide an international comparison of social media antiracism initiatives.

It will broadly analyse and evaluate new antiracism apps and their usage and impact, and the implications of big data for measuring and combating racism and datafication.

The project will develop research collaborations and international networks to inform research and policy initiatives on antiracism and provide antiracism organisations with capacity-building opportunities.

Open For Ideas: Try, Test And Learn Fund

7 December 2016: Media Release - The Hon. Christian Porter MP, Minister for Social services
Innovative ideas that help move people from welfare to work will be funded by the Turnbull Government, with the opening of the $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund on Friday.

Using insights from the Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare, the Try, Test and Learn Fund will initially target and invest in groups of young people who are at-risk of long-term welfare dependency.

Speaking at Mission Australia’s Campsie site in western Sydney, Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, encouraged new and forward-thinking ideas on how we can support people to have better lives through work and independence from the welfare system.

“This is an innovative Government initiative; from Friday 9 December until late-February, we want your ideas on how we can help people who may be at risk of being on welfare for the long term to find, retain and flourish in long-term employment,” the Minister said.

“Our priority groups for this first round of the Try, Test and Learn Fund are young carers, young parents and young students at risk of long-term unemployment.

“Mariam and Rola are fine examples of parents taking initiative and utilising programs offered by the Coalition Government, in conjunction with services providers like Mission Australia.

“Existing programs such as ParentsNext and the Empowering YOUth Initiatives are already supporting innovative new service approaches. Through the first phase of the Fund, we want to build on these approaches by trying and testing scalable, efficient initiatives that help young people establish themselves in the workforce.

“At the end of the day, the Fund isn’t about kicking people off welfare and saving money. Nor is it about replacing programs that are already doing great work across Australia, or expanding existing programs. It is about investing in people who may need some extra help.

“The evidence from the Baseline Valuation Report tells us that what we’re currently doing isn’t helping people as it should be. That’s why we need your ideas to do it differently. We need your ideas to better help people at risk of welfare dependence, and better help their children.”

From Friday 9 December, ideas for the Fund can be submitted using a simple online form on the Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Engage website.

Ideas will be published on DSS Engage for everyone to see, to encourage collaboration and innovation. A discussion forum will run alongside the ideas generation phase, to encourage people to share views about how to help people in our priority groups, through the Try, Test and Learn Fund.

“We expect proposals to come from industry, the not-for-profit sector, NGOs – any group with ideas about how we can help improve lives through self-reliance and employment,” Mr Porter said.

“The most promising ideas will be selected for development into possible policy initiatives, which will involve refinement and co-design of the idea in preparation for funding.

“Our aim is that by May 2017, the first handful of successful ideas will have been selected by Government, and we will be on our way to on-the-ground implementation.”

The Fund itself is the product of innovation. Over thirty key stakeholders—representing service providers, academia, social enterprise and business—helped design the Fund, including how ideas are published online for public review and collaboration.

“I’m absolutely committed to making sure that the Fund operates in a way that fosters innovation and collaboration, while minimising the burden of red tape,” Mr Porter said.

More information about the Try, Test and Learn Fund and the Priority Investment Approach is available on the Department of Social Services website—

To submit an idea for the Try, Test and Learn Fund,

Introducing The OVENTUS O2 Vent™ Oral Appliance

Published on 6 Dec 2016: CSIRO
CSIRO and Oventus first worked together to develop the O2VentTM device in 2013. The Oventus additive manufacturing facility at Clayton uses 3D printed titanium technology to produce their customised product that treats sleep apnoea. The successful collaboration between the two organisations has resulted in innovation in computational modelling, and 3D design and production processes. 

To learn more about our work in additive manufacturing, go to
Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.