Inbox and Environment News - Issue 243 

 December 6 - 12, 2015: Issue 243

Wave Of Funds For Coastal Dune Restoration

3 December 2015

Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes today announced NSW Government funding to restore and protect Pittwater’s coastal dunes.

Pittwater Council has been allocated $100,000 under the NSW Government’s Coastal Management Program to undertake weed eradication, upgrade fencing and plant new native species.

“Pittwater’s beaches are a defining feature of our community and must be properly protected,” Rob Stokes said today.

“Dunes play a key role in limiting erosion and preserving our invaluable coastal habitats.

“Without proper maintenance and management these key coastal features can become destabilised and overrun with invasive and destructive weeds.

“Regenerating dunes and segregating foot traffic significantly improves their resilience and functionality.

“I’m delighted the NSW Government is able to support Pittwater Council with this vital initiative,” Rob Stokes said.

 Funds For Improved Floodplain Management

4 December 2015

Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes today announced NSW Government funding to help improve local floodplain management.

Pittwater Council has been allocated $220,000 to assist with the preparation of floodplain management strategies and the development of warning and information systems.

Key locations identified for upcoming projects include residential areas surrounding Narrabeen Lagoon and Great Mackerel Beach.

“Floodplain management is an ongoing challenge for our community,” Rob Stokes said today.

“Over recent years Pittwater Council has done considerable work identifying and limiting flood risks and it’s important this work continues.

“There’s often no single solution to addressing flood risks - but forward planning and strategic management can make a huge difference.

“Unfortunately floods and natural disasters are inevitable and all communities must be as well prepared as possible.

“I’m pleased the NSW Government is continuing to support Pittwater Council with its endeavours and I look forward to the overall benefits for our community,” Rob Stokes said.

 Almost $5 Million In Floodplain Management Grants 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Environment Minister Mark Speakman today announced $4.93 million in grants for 10 councils and a local land service to address flood risks throughout NSW.

Mr Speakman said the funding for councils was another way the NSW Government was supporting communities to prepare for extreme weather events well in advance of them occurring.

 “Floods and natural disasters are an inevitable reality in Australia and it is important we support our councils to consolidate the safety of people and property in our communities,” Mr Speakman said.

“The projects are funded under the State Floodplain Management program that works to ensure landowners, businesses and local economies are prepared to meet the challenges of floods and natural hazards.

“Losses from flooding in NSW can be high. Floods can cause irrevocable damage to not only the physical but the emotional wellbeing of our communities.”

The grants will help councils to be better equipped to implement floodplain risk management plans and to prepare the regions that are affected by flooding.

Examples of new projects to be funded include:

• $3.66 million to Murrumbidgee Shire Council to continue the Darlington Point Levee, which once completed will protect the town from most flood events;

• $140,000 to Dungog Shire Council to develop a flood risk management study and use information from the April floods to review its existing studies and determine suitable mitigation strategies.

For more information and project descriptions

Pittwater Council

Great Mackerel Beach Entrance Management Strategy (SFMP)              

The Great Mackeral Beach residents experience periodic flooding which has been attributed to the closed entrance. This study will assess the entrance processes at Great Mackeral Beach and examine any environmental impacts associated with cyclical dredging being incorporated into an ongoing entrance management strategy. An Entrance Management Policy will be developed and will enable a timely and effective response to better assist affected residents.

North Narrabeen Lagoon Overland Flow Flood Study (SFMP) 

Council will undertake a flood study to identify the overland flow paths within the Elanora Heights and Ingleside area, as well as look at how the overland flow paths interact with the mainstream Narrabeen Lagoon flooding.

Northern Beaches Flood Warning and Flood Information Network (SFMP)         

This is an ongoing project that provides a strategic regional approach to the management of rainfall, flow and water level gauges. This information is essential to Council and the public in managing lagoon and flash flooding. The program will keep the website up to date with flooding information and add an additional flood gauge to the network.

Newport Flood Study (FRMGS)   

Council will update the existing Flood Study to ensure overland flow paths entering the mainstream catchment are appropriately identified and mapped. It will look at the interactions of the mainstream flooding and the many overland flow paths within the study area.

Gosford City Council

Gosford Voluntary Purchase – Pearl Beach – Stage 1 (SFMP)

The Green Point Creek, Pearl Beach Flood Study identified a property that would be suitable for purchase to mitigate risk of harm to life. The property in Crystal Avenue is the only principal dwelling built within the floodplain of Green Point Creek.

Gosford Voluntary Purchase – Erina (SFMP)      

The review of the Erina Creek Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan recommends voluntary purchase and demolition of four properties located in Erina. The aim is to eliminate risk to life and continuous property damage by offering voluntary purchase to eligible owners.

Ku-ring-gai Council

Blackbutt Creek Catchment Flood Risk Management Study and Plan – Stage 2 (FRMGS)                  

Council recently completed a flood study for the Blackbutt Creek Catchment.  The study confirmed that the Blackbutt Creek catchment is one of Ku-ring-gai's most significantly flood affected areas where steep terrain and ridge-top development has led to major flood risk arising from flash flooding along headwater streams and drainage depressions. The Flood Risk Management Study and Plan will examine appropriate management actions with the aim of reducing flooding risk for current and future development.

 Greenpeace Japan condemns departure of Japanese whaling fleet

Press Release: Greenpeace Japan

Tokyo, 1 December 2015 - Greenpeace calls on the government of Japan to cancel the whaling fleet heading to the Southern Ocean under the guise of “research whaling”, and condemned the expedition as both unnecessary and in violation of the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Japanese government released a statement announcing the fleet would depart for the Antarctic today. 

“It is completely unacceptable for the Japanese government to ignore the International Court of Justice. It’s time to cut the charade. This is not ‘scientific research', this is straight up commercial whaling, ” said Junichi Sato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.

“In 2014 the fleet was able to conduct scientific research that didn’t cause any whales to be killed, and there is no reason that this should not be the case this year. Greenpeace Japan and 15 other Japanese NGOs are demanding that the government of Japan reverse this decision, and abide by international law.”

In 2014, the ICJ ruled that Japan’s research whaling program was not, in fact, designed for scientific research and refused the government a permit to go ahead. Japan, however, proposed a new program called “NEWREP-A” which will target 3,996 minke whales over next 12 years.

In May 2015, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission stated that the new programme “contained insufficient information” and demanded that the Japanese government provide more information to prove the new programme is serving scientific purposes.

However, in October the Japanese government announced to the United Nations that they will not accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ, and said that that they will not accept any finding or lawsuit pertaining to any dispute over use of ocean resources. This is a significant reversal of the Japanese government’s previous position, which had accepted and endorsed the need to abide by international law and legal findings.

The link to the NGO join statement can be found found here (PDF - 88KB)

WET A LINE THIS “GO FISHING DAY” Sunday December 6, 2015

NSW residents are being encouraged to wet a line this Sunday as part of the NSW Government’s inaugural “Go Fishing Day”. 

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said “Go Fishing Day” was a celebration of recreational fishing, which contributes more than $1.6 billion each year to the NSW economy, is a fun pastime for the entire family, and supports regional communities.

“Go Fishing Day” events will be hosted by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) at six locations across the State, including: 

• Kurnell, Sydney, Kamay Botany Bay National Park (at end of Captain Cook Drive)

•  Nowra, Greys Beach on Shoalhaven River (Fairway Drive)

•  Coffs Harbour, Boambee Creek Reserve

•  Narrandera Fisheries Centre, Narrandera (Buckingbong Drive)

•  Jindabyne, Gaden Trout Hatchery (off Kosciuszko Road)

•  Ebor, Dutton Trout Hatchery (Point lookout Road) 

“We made an election commitment to designate a special day to encourage the community to get out there and fish, I’m proud to say that the “Go Fishing Day” delivers upon that commitment,” Mr Blair said. “The NSW Government is committed to supporting the recreational fishing sector and this year alone more than $15 million from the sale of recreational fishing fees has been invested into projects that directly benefit recreational anglers.” 

The NSW Government has removed the requirement to hold a recreational fishing license for one day only on “Go Fishing Day”, to encourage new participants to take up the pastime. Activities will include free ‘try fishing’ sessions for beginners, adults and children (five years and older), goodie bags with lots of ‘fishy’ giveaways, casting competitions and expert advice from DPI Fisheries staff. 

Free local seafood tastings at Coffs Harbour, Kurnell and Nowra will also be available and educational fish hatchery tours will take place at Jindabyne, Narrandera and Ebor. 

If people cannot get to one of the six locations, they can still join in and be in the draw to win one of 50 high quality rod and reel fishing combos. 

To participate, just take a photo of you fishing or collecting litter from your local fishing spot in NSW on Sunday, 6 December and email it to More information about “Go Fishing Day” is available at

 Pittwater High School Scores Environmental Grant

 3 December 2015

Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes today announced Pittwater High School has been successful in securing a NSW Government grant to help improve its surrounding coastal ecosystem.

The $3,500 Eco-Schools Grant will support the school’s recently launched initiative to help prevent litter entering the Pittwater and restore and protect the coastal saltmarsh and mangroves surrounding the school. 

“This is a great initiative which helps protect the school’s natural surrounds and promotes environmental awareness among students,” Rob Stokes said today.

“Pittwater High School is situated in a unique location and is ideally positioned to expand its focus on coastal and marine sciences. 

“It’s fantastic to see students driving this initiative and recognising the importance of the school’s surrounding coastal environment. 

“Hands-on experience in coastal management is invaluable and Pittwater High School is exceptionally fortunate to have one of the world’s greatest waterways literally on its doorstep.

“This grant will support the school’s objectives and help deliver wider benefits to our whole community. 

“Congratulations to everyone involved in this exciting project,” Rob Stokes said.

 78 Schools Awarded Environmental Education Grants 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Seventy-eight primary and secondary schools have shared in over $270,000 in Eco Schools Grants for environmental education initiatives. Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the NSW Environmental Trust grants aimed to instil environmental awareness and appreciation in children. 

“These grants support environmental understanding and compassion in our students. They help educate students on the importance of protecting the environment for future generations,” Mr Speakman said. 

Schools will use the money for projects that help young people to learn and value the natural environment, such as rehabilitating marshland vegetation and building community gardens that supply vegetables to the school canteen. A northern NSW school plans to use the grant to install a stingless native beehive and bee attracting flora next to the school vegetable garden to encourage Australian native bees to settle in the school and pollinate its vegetable patch.

 “All of the primary and secondary school children participating in these innovative environmental projects will transfer their learning to peers, family and communities, which will generate an environmental legacy,” Mr Speakman said. “I encourage educators and members of school communities to consider implementing environmental programs, and to apply for future rounds of Environmental Trust Eco Schools grants.” 

To see the full list of recipients and project descriptions, 

Northern Beaches Secondary College *: Sustainability - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Pittwater High School

Pittwater High School marshland management: riparian restoration, litter and flood prevention

Pittwater High school is surrounded by a mangrove ecosystem and at high tide, part of the school floods with salt water.  Student representatives have volunteered as part of an environmental awareness campaign called Project Green Sea Turtle. These students have done litter surveys of the surrounding area and have identified four areas of the school that are large point sources for litter pollution entering our local waterways. The project has three goals:

1. to mitigate and prevent flooding of grass areas during king tides;

2. to restore marshland and provide habitat in the water course using the reestablishment of riparian vegetation, saltmarsh and mangrove plants; and

3. to prevent litter from escaping the school grounds, entering the adjacent mangroves and flowing out into the ocean on the outgoing tide.

There is a great need to prevent flooding of the school grounds where saltwater kills playing fields and to reduce litter from entering the surrounding waterways of Broken Bay. Students from the schools Marine and Aquaculture Technology program will conduct regular tide and litter surveys to measure the success of the program.

 Over $1.1 Million Provided To Six Leading Institutions For Priority Environmental Research 

Thursday, 3 December 2015 

Environment Minister Mark Speakman today announced over $1.1 million in research grants to fund eight priority environmental studies.

Mr Speakman said six leading institutions would undertake eight research projects across a range of ecological and environmental priority areas for up to three years.

“These NSW Environmental Trust grants will support scientists seeking answers to important ecological questions affecting NSW,” Mr Speakman said.

This year’s Environmental Research Program grants recipients include:

• CSIRO Land and Water Flagship $150,000: Estimating coastal values;

• Macquarie University $146,112: The ecological benefits of blackwater;

• Macquarie University $146,653: Developing a new cross-cultural environmental monitoring tool;

• University of Canberra $84,300: Are populations of key threatened NSW fishes native or introduced;

• University of Canberra $149,911: DNA based identification for routine aquatic bioassessment;

• University of New South Wales $149,133: Predicting swamp community persistence after underground mining;

• University of Sydney $149,435: Increasing landholder collaboration for landscape scale conservation; and

• University of Western Sydney $149,745: Rapid onsite identification of hazardous organics at fire scenes.

Grants were open for applied biophysical, social or economic research. For more details and project descriptions

 Climate change is killing Australian trees: New Report

November 30, 2015: Murdoch University

Climate change and extreme climatic events appear to be killing trees around the world.

In a report released by the Ecological Society of Australia, Dr Niels Brouwers from Murdoch University’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health (CECCWFH), and colleagues, suggest these changes in climate are also reducing tree growth and health.

“In Western Australia we found that more than 25% of mature trees across 7000 hectares of forest died in response to extreme drought and multiple heatwaves in 2010-11,” said Dr Brouwers.

“We saw similar numbers of trees dying in arid areas of Queensland in response to the 2003-07 drought, and there are similar reports from around the world.

“It is of enormous concern that more frequent extreme climate events such as droughts and heatwaves are projected for Australia and other parts of the world in the near future. We can expect to see further deterioration of our woodlands and forests.

“Tree declines also affect the animals dependent upon them,” added Dr Brouwers. “For instance, already vulnerable Australian Glossy Black-cockatoos have fewer offspring during droughts because food, such as she-oak cones, are harder to find.”

Climate change may also reduce the ability of trees to sequester carbon.

“The role of forests in sucking carbon out of the atmosphere is well known," added Dr Brouwers. "But if trees die more rapidly and are not replaced due to climate change, this critical ecosystem service is threatened.

“There is an urgent need for more monitoring of climate change impacts on the world’s forests.”

Dr Brouwers’ report was prepared in conjunction with Professor Giles Hardy and Dr Katinka Ruthrof from Murdoch University and the CECCWFH, Dr George Matusick from the CECCWFH and The Nature Conservancy (USA) and Dr Melanie Zeppel from Macquarie University.

Top: Forest dieback caused by an extreme drought and multiple heatwaves in 2010 and early 2011 in the Northern Jarrah Forest region in south west Western Australia. Photo: George Matusick, May 2011

 Independent planning review for Mount Owen Mine

30.11.2015: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

An application to extend mining operations at the Mount Owen Complex, located 20 kilometres northwest of Singleton has been referred to the independent Planning Assessment Commission for review.

Glencore’s proposal seeks to expand or deepen three existing mining pits to extract an additional 92 million tonnes of coal and to extend the completion date of the project by approximately 12 years until 2030. 

The application was exhibited for community feedback from 20 January to 6 March 2015 and received 233 submissions. 

“The Department has completed its assessment report and has sent its findings and draft conditions to the Commission,” a spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said. 

The Department’s preliminary assessment has found that the project could be approved, subject to strict conditions including environmental controls for:

• water resources

• biodiversity – including strict performance measures for the proposed offset and rehabilitation areas

• European and Aboriginal heritage and

• infrastructure.

The recommended conditions of consent also protect nearby residents from potential dust and noise amenity impacts and allow the owner of any nearby privately-owned land to request an independent review of the amenity impacts of the project on their property, if they consider the project is not complying with the consent’s relevant criteria.

The Planning Assessment Commission will now undertake its review of the project and hold public hearings as part of this review.

“The Planning Assessment Commission is an important part of the NSW Planning system, ensuring that major developments are subject to expert, independent review and assessment,” the spokesperson said.

 Jervis Bay communities to get a say on new residential and environmental land

23.11.2015: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

The Department of Planning and Environment has determined that Shoalhaven City Council can prepare a plan to rezone land in Culburra Beach, Callala Bay and Currarong for residential, commercial, industrial, recreational and environmental purposes.

The rezoning applies to almost 1,700 hectares of land that is rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage, high biodiversity values, threatened flora and fauna species and endangered ecological communities. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said there is the potential through the planning process that over 1,200 hectares could be given to the Jervis Bay National Park as part of the rezoning process is complete, so important cultural and environmental characteristics could be managed and maintained.

“This is a win-win situation as sensitive environmental areas will be protected while Jervis Bay communities can be expanded,” the spokesperson said. 

“Extensive land within the Lake Wollumboola catchment, including Long Bow Point, will be zoned for environmental protection purposes due to its recognised high environmental sensitivity. 

“The exact boundaries of the land to be zoned for environmental protection within the Lake catchment will be determined after biodiversity offset and water quality studies have been prepared. 

“The rezoning strikes the right balance – new communities can be built, there is potential for an expanded national park and South Coast jewels like Long Bow Point are properly protected.” 

Following the completion of studies, the planning proposal will be publicly exhibited by Council for a minimum of 60 days. 

A final decision will not be made on the plan until submissions and all matters relevant to the exhibited proposal have been thoroughly considered. 

More details on the proposal and the Department’s decision can be found here:  

 Reforms to Better Manage Our Coast

Planning Minister Rob Stokes today (13.11.2015) released draft reforms for consultation to make coastal management in NSW simpler, forward-thinking and easier to implement. 

“The NSW Government recognises the importance of our state’s saltwater economy and we want to see thriving, resilient communities living, working and playing on a healthy coast now and into the future,” Mr Stokes said. 

“We want to replace and improve on the outdated and complex web of laws managing our coast. The current Act is complex, difficult to navigate, and its one-size-fits all approach is no longer fit for purpose. 

“Since the original Coastal Protection Act was enacted in 1979 our understanding of coastal processes has improved dramatically. We know our coastline is not a fixed object, but a dynamic, ever-changing environment with a range of natural processes.” 

The reforms include:  

• A draft Bill for a new Coastal Management Act.

• Key elements of a new Coastal Management Manual.

• Proposals for a new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). 

The draft Bill redefines the coast as four distinct areas of coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests; coastal vulnerability areas; coastal environment areas and coastal use areas to identify each area’s unique management requirements. 

The manual will provide guidance to local councils and clear, step-by-step instructions to support them to manage their coast using the new Coastal Management Act. 

The new SEPP will help manage the legacy of existing coastal hazards and help plan to ensure new hazards are avoided. 

A three-month consultation period will run to ensure everyone has a chance to have their say. Go to 


Our future on the coast: NSW coastal management reforms

The public consultation package includes a draft Coastal Management Bill, an Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), and key elements of a draft coastal management manual.

Additional elements of the proposed new framework will be released later for public comment, including further components of the manual, maps of the coastal zone that will form part of the SEPP and proposals concerning the effects of coastal erosion on coastal boundaries.

Have your say

The public is invited to read the documents for consultation and provide feedback about the new approach.

Submit feedback by 29 February 2016 via consultation form or post to:

Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box A290 , Sydney South. NSW 1232

 Farmers, Traditional Owners, demand right to say "no" to mining: COAG meeting

December 02, 2015: Lock the Gate Alliance

Seventy-nine farmers, landholders and traditional owners from every state and territory across Australia have sent a letter to Minister Frydenberg and the state ministers calling on them to give landholders the right to say ‘no’ to mining.

In October, Minister Josh Frydenberg said he'd put the issue of a farmers right to say 'no' on the agenda of the next meeting of COAG Mining and Energy Ministers, which is due to be held on Friday (4 December).

Signatories to the letter call on Australians government to:

Reach an agreement at COAG to legislate the legal right for landholders and Traditional Owners to say ‘no’ to access by coal and unconventional gas mining companies.

Provide state and territory governments six months to deliver legislative changes to that effect, and if they are not forthcoming, create national legislation using relevant powers.

Immediately commission an inquiry by the ACCC, using powers it already has, to investigate whether the unconventional gas industry have engaged in unconscionable conduct in their dealings with landholders.

The signatories include beef graziers, wine-makers, landholders struggling in the centre of the Queensland gasfields and the coalfields of the Hunter Valley, and Traditional Owners from the Kimberley, the Northern Territory and New South Wales,.

Phil Laird, National Coordinator at Lock the Gate Alliance, said mining companies must not be allowed to bully and intimidate farmers and Traditional Owners, and to drag them through the courts.

“Many farmers and Traditional Owners feel isolated and powerless against mining companies and are suffering severe stress as a result,” he said.

“Our political leaders must do more to protect people from the worst excesses of the mining and gas industries, and they must do it now.”

Letter signatory Peter Martin has been forced into arbitration by a coal mining company seeking to access his land in the Southern Highlands of NSW, and knows how unfair the system is for landholders facing off against mining giants.

“I’ve experienced firsthand the severe bullying and unethical tactics employed by mining giants. The system hands them all the power and hangs us out to dry. It’s completely unacceptable in modern Australia,” he said.

“There has been enough talk about the rights that farmers and landholders ‘should’ have to protect their land, their water and their communities.

“What this COAG meeting needs to give is the right under law to say no to mining companies if we choose.”

Letter signatory, Dr Anne Poelina, a respected Nyikina leader, said mining companies only listen to Indigenous groups who support them – those who oppose mining on their land are not given a fair hearing.

“We are at a critical point in our history where some of the proposed mining and unconventional gas developments present a real threat to the land, water, food and energy security, as well as our Kimberley way of life,” she said.

“I am not against resource development if it can be done in an ethical and responsible way. However, if science and industry is not certain of the safety, and the cultural issues are not resolved; traditional custodians must have the right to veto mining on their land.”



North Narrabeen Aquatic Reserve

Saturday 12 December, 2:30 - 4:30pm

Come and join us on a low tide rock platform tour. Once the ocean retreats an amazing world becomes uncovered for us to enjoy. Investigate the amazing diversity of life that lives between the land and the sea and how creatures survive in such a unique and challenging environment. Sea stars, sea hares, limpets and crabs are some of the amazing creatures that call these rock platforms home.

The tour is a great opportunity to learn about the amazingly abundant life that exists in these special places. Guided by local experts it’s a great way to learn more about a world that is rarely seen. An amazing adventure for all the family!

When: Saturday 12 December, 2:30 - 4:30pm

Where: Meet point provided on booking.

What to bring: Sturdy covered shoes that can get wet, hat, sunscreen, water, camera (optional).

Bookings Essential! Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

 Building more resilient communities in the Pacific

Media release: 2 December 2015 - Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP

Today I announce the Australian Government will contribute to the Climate Risk Early Warning System (CREWS) initiative to help protect lives, livelihoods and property in least-developed countries. 

The $5 million investment forms part of the Australian Government’s $1 billion commitment to build climate and natural disaster resilience and reduce emissions over five years and comes ahead of my attendance at the Paris Climate Change Conference next week.

CREWS is a French-led initiative that will use information from existing regional systems to communicate early warnings about hazard events, such as floods and cyclones. 

Early warning systems and assessments represent one of the most effective investments to reduce the risk of natural disasters. They also form an important part of Australia’s support to mitigate the impacts of disasters in the Pacific. Our support to CREWS is consistent with the priorities agreed at the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting I hosted in July this year.  

The Australian Government also strongly supports local meteorological services and community disaster planning for enhanced early warning capacity in the Pacific. 

Australian scientists are working with Pacific countries to track climate trends, provide regional and country-specific climate projections, and improve understanding of ocean acidification and sea level rises. This helps the region become more resilient to severe weather events and natural disasters. 

 Saving our Species 2016 wall calendar

New South Wales is home to some of the world's most beautiful plants and animals, but we are at risk of losing some of our species from the wild forever. Don't miss this opportunity to help support NSW threatened species recovery by purchasing your 2016 calendar.

The calendar includes interesting stories about how community groups, individuals and expert scientists efforts' are contributing to saving species in NSW.

In New South Wales:

• critically endangered species are at extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future

• endangered species are facing a very high risk of extinction in the near future

• vulnerable species are facing a high risk of extinction in the medium-term future.

Saving our Species is a conservation program that aims to maximise the number of threatened species that are being secured in the wild in New South Wales for 100 years. To find out how you can support our threatened wildlife and help preserve it for future generations, visitSaving our Species

All profits from the sale of the calendar will be invested in Saving our Species through the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.

If you wish to make a donation directly to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife to support the efforts of Saving Our Species, you can make a donation at The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife .  

You can purchase your calendar online at Shop NSW 

 Launch of Pacific Humanitarian Challenge

Joint media release ; The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and The Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific- 30 November 2015

Today we launch the Australian Government’s first international innovation challenge.  The Pacific Humanitarian Challenge will look for innovative ways to prepare and respond to natural disasters in the Pacific.

We are inviting entrepreneurs, businesses, technologists, NGOs and scientists to help us rethink our approach to humanitarian responses in the region.

Through the Challenge, the Australian Government and our Pacific partners will find ways to respond to crises more effectively by gathering information on urgent needs, responding to those needs quickly and building financial resilience to help countries recover from crises. 

We encourage academics, entrepreneurs, scientists, communities and individuals from the Pacific to join the challenge and work together to develop ideas.

The winning submissions will be announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016. The winners will be awarded funding of up to $2 million to pilot their ideas in the Pacific.

For more information about the Challenge and to apply please visit the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge website  or DFAT’sinnovationXchange .  The Challenge is open until 7 February 2016.

 Australian Start-up Turns Superfood Into Superbug Fighter

December 1, 2015

Australian start-up Kayban has developed the world's first anti-microbial healthcare range made from organic flaxseed oil following a collaboration with CSIRO.

The company hopes the range of topical lotions and washes, called Bio3 Guardian, will provide the main revenue stream to take the innovation to the global healthcare market.

According to independent tests, the products are fast-acting and effective at killing golden staph (Staphylococcus aureus), a prevalent superbug that led to 1621 hospital-acquired infection cases in 2013-14.

Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid with known anti-microbial properties.

With the support of a Victorian Government Innovation and Technology Voucher, Kayban and CSIRO developed the method for extracting the crucial alpha-linolenic acid from organic flaxseed.

"The challenge was to come up with a cost-effective manufacturing technology that consistently produced excellent quality, highly enriched alpha-linolenic acid," CSIRO organic chemist, Dr Peter Duggan said.

"What we've achieved is a smarter, more efficient process that's been pivotal in Kayban's journey to commercialising a unique saleable product."

The technology has been transferred to Melbourne-based CSIRO spin out, Boron Molecular, to extract the flaxseed component for Kayban on a multi-kilogram scale.

Kayban will then work with another local manufacturer to formulate the end product.

"It's hugely rewarding that this research collaboration has led to new business and growth opportunities for three Australian SMEs.

"Here at CSIRO, we take pride in our role as a key player assisting local SMEs and manufacturers to bring their high technology products to the market," Dr Duggan said.

Kayban Director, Frank Palermo, said Bio3 Guardian was a better way for preventing the spread of infection.

"Our products contain a unique antimicrobial formula that uses natural flaxseed oil properties, instead of ethanol, to kill bad bacteria while leaving essential good bacteria intact," Mr Palermo said.

"It's a moisturising, all-natural alternative to ethanol-based products that can cause skin to dry and crack upon repeated use and increase chances of developing conditions like dermatitis.

"That's going to benefit nurses, doctors and patients in hospitals and aged care homes who regularly need to use sanitisers and disinfectants to maintain hygiene or care for wounds."

Read more about Bio3 Guardian and other health products CSIRO's helped develop.

Top: Frank Palermo, Director, Kayban with the Bio3 Guardian range. 

 Immune cells make appendix 'silent hero' of digestive health

November 30, 2015

Professor Gabrielle Belz has shown that a network of immune cells helps the appendix play a pivotal role in maintaining digestive health. Credit: The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

New research shows a network of immune cells helps the appendix to play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of the digestive system, supporting the theory that the appendix isn't a vestigial -- or redundant -- organ.

The research team, a collaborative partnership between the groups of Professor Gabrielle Belz of Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Professor Eric Vivier at the Centre d'Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, France, found that innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are crucial for protecting against bacterial infection in people with compromised immune systems.

By preventing significant damage and inflammation of the appendix during a bacterial attack, ILCs safeguard the organ and help it to perform an important function in the body, as a natural reservoir for 'good' bacteria. The research is published in today's issue of Nature Immunology.

Professor Gabrielle Belz, a laboratory head in the institute's Molecular Immunology division, said the study's findings show that the appendix deserves more credit than it has historically been given.

"Popular belief tells us the appendix is a liability," she said. "Its removal is one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, with more than 70,000 operations each year. However, we may wish to rethink whether the appendix is so irrelevant for our health.

"We've found that ILCs may help the appendix to potentially reseed 'good' bacteria within the microbiome -- or community of bacteria -- in the body. A balanced microbiome is essential for recovery from bacterial threats to gut health, such as food poisoning."

Professor Belz said having a healthy appendix might even save people from having to stomach more extreme options for repopulating -- or 'balancing out' -- their microbiomes.

"In certain cases, people require reseeding of their intestines with healthy bacteria by faecal transplant -- a process where intestinal bacteria is transplanted to a sick person from a healthy individual," Professor Belz said. "Our research suggests ILCs may be able to play this important part in maintaining the integrity of the appendix.

"We found ILCs are part of a multi-layered protective armoury of immune cells that exist in healthy individuals. So even when one layer is depleted, the body has 'back ups' that can fight the infection.

"In people who have compromised immune systems -- such as people undergoing cancer treatment -- these cells are vital for fighting bacterial infections in the gastrointestinal system. This is particularly important because ILCs are able to survive in the gut even during these treatments, which typically wipe out other immune cells."

Professor Belz has previously shown that diet, such as the proteins in leafy green vegetables, could help produce ILCs. "ILCs are also known to play a role in allergic diseases, such as asthma; inflammatory bowel disease; and psoriasis," she said. "So it is vital that we better understand their role in the intestine and how we might manipulate this population to treat disease, or promote better health."

Lucille C Rankin, Mathilde J H Girard-Madoux, Cyril Seillet, Lisa A Mielke, Yann Kerdiles, Aurore Fenis, Elisabeth Wieduwild, Tracy Putoczki, Stanislas Mondot, Olivier Lantz, Dieter Demon, Anthony T Papenfuss, Gordon K Smyth, Mohamed Lamkanfi, Sebastian Carotta, Jean-Christophe Renauld, Wei Shi, Sabrina Carpentier, Tim Soos, Christopher Arendt, Sophie Ugolini, Nicholas D Huntington, Gabrielle T Belz, Eric Vivier. Complementarity and redundancy of IL-22-producing innate lymphoid cells. Nature Immunology, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ni.3332

 New trial aims to 'virtually eliminate' new HIV infections in NSW by 2020

1 December: Laurie Legere - UNSW

A landmark clinical trial led by UNSW researchers aims to halve new HIV infections in NSW within two years and 'virtually eliminate' HIV transmission by 2020.

Researchers at UNSW’s Kirby Institute will lead a landmark clinical trial designed to reduce new HIV infections by half within two years and to 'virtually eliminate' HIV transmission in NSW by 2020.

The EPIC trial, announced today by the NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner, will see HIV negative people based in NSW and at high risk of HIV infection given a daily dose of medication. This strategy is known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, and is currently being used as a component of standard HIV treatment in Australia. A growing number of international clinical trials have established PrEP to be highly effective at preventing HIV infection among high-risk people.

A total of 3,700 high-risk mostly gay and bisexual men will be enrolled through the state-wide network of public sexual health clinics, potentially preventing almost 150 new HIV infections over a one-year period.

NSW will become the first state in Australia to implement such a rapid and large-scale trial of the HIV prevention strategy.

Professor David Cooper, Director of the Kirby Institute and principal investigator on the trial, said the trial presents an exciting opportunity to dramatically reduce HIV diagnoses in NSW.

“Rapid enrolment, high coverage and precision targeting are crucial to the success of this trial and if done properly, it will bring about the rapid reduction of HIV transmission in NSW, and the virtual elimination new HIV infections by 2020,” Professor Cooper said.

“NSW Health has committed crucial resources and drawn together key partners. I’m excited to be working with ACON, Positive Life NSW and the Australasian Society for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual health medicine. It is this partnership approach that is the principal strength of this trial.”

This announcement comes amid growing calls from gay and bisexual communities to increase access to PrEP in Australia. Currently people outside of clinical trials who want to access the drug need to import it using the TGA-approved personal importation scheme.

Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention program at the Kirby Institute, said PrEP is a game-changing, biomedical strategy for gay and bisexual men to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection.

"But PrEP does not protect against other STIs, so it is still important to use condoms and to have regular screening for STIs," Professor Grulich said.

EPIC-NSW brings together leaders from research, community, industry and public health sectors and if successful, will pave the way for the widespread use of PrEP. Drug supply for the trial is partially provided by Gilead Sciences. 

Recruitment is expected to commence in the lead up to Mardi Gras 2016. Read more about the trial here.  


Professor Ian Chubb AC

A few weeks ago the UK Government released its long-awaited Green Paper on higher education. It is an interesting read, if only for the novel proposition it advances that teaching is an important function of the university. 

The measures put forward have been described by Minister Jo Johnson as “a reshaping”, and by the sector as “the most disruptive changes to higher education for more than 20 years”. I leave it to others to decide on its merits. 

What intrigues me is how little of the underpinning logic is truly new.

Master teachers, engaging content, eloquent delivery – these were the foundation of the great universities of medieval Europe. If we have neglected the importance of great teaching in more recent times, our students are certainly still seeking it, and they need it as much today as ever before. 

Why is it, after all, that young people with access to ten thousand times the content that even a thorough university course could provide, at perhaps one ten-thousandth of the price, would pay for a degree and not just an internet connection?

Why would they want to pursue a course of study, for at least three years and maybe considerably longer, when the jobs it might prepare them for will probably vanish?

Why take on the certainty of debt for no certainty of useful knowledge or skills?

The answer has to be that university education gives us something our curiosity alone cannot; and that something has to have enduring value in rapidly changing times. However hard it is to define, surely it has people and the way they influence us at its core.

Content is undoubtedly important – when has it ever been easy for even the most capable of students to master a field efficiently without a logical sequence to follow? But good content comes about through great teachers, loses much of its value without them, and is ultimately just a fraction of what universities need to provide beyond the internet connection. Teachers contribute much of the rest, from experiences to attitudes to role models. We would do well to think about how we encourage and support them, if we expect them to help us make our twenty-first century workers in turn.

Of course, we have to persuade ourselves to take an interest first.

Dr Albert Rowe, one-time Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University, observed in his 1960 memoir that Australians, above all other nations, were supremely disinterested in what universities taught or how they went about it. As long as the graduates appeared to be ‘immediately useful’, and so armed with content that they would never be troubled to learn more, all parties were satisfied with their share of the bargain.

It formed a curious contrast to his observations of the United States, where, he noted, the ‘big men’ in industry were very clear in their expectations.

“They did not want graduates to be specialists crammed with factual material; rather they wanted men with a broad knowledge of cognate subjects, educated, trained in the fundamentals and able to adapt themselves later to a rapidly changing world.”

As a result, Rowe noted, they took a close interest in university teaching – not because they wanted to rigidify the curriculum but because they understood the limitations of a fossilised study program. Broaden ‘men’ to ‘people’, and acknowledge that some, perhaps many graduates will seek to be entrepreneurs as well as employees, and the words could have been written about the purpose of education today.

It is not just an imperative for university teaching staff. As I have observed in the past, if students come to university convinced that innovation and education are mutually exclusive options, the most outstanding university lecturer would struggle to change them. It might be very nice icing on an otherwise average brick, but it would not make the brick a Christmas cake.

So schools are part of the challenge. So too are the industries which rely on capable graduates but rarely think to engage directly with universities, as Business Council president Catherine Livingstone recently observed.

We all need to do a better job of articulating to students the value of education, in its richest and best sense. We cannot do it unless we remind ourselves of the value of teachers.

Professor Ian Chubb AC is Australia's Chief Scientist

Retrieved November 30, 2015 from Australian

 Tracking neuroscience's impact in the courtroom

1 December 2015: University of Sydney

A new resource provided by the University of Sydney and Macquarie University will aid research into the emerging field of neurolaw.

Neuroscience could reveal some of the mysteries of how humans think and behave but judges and lawyers are grappling with how it should be used in the courtroom.

Cases drawing on neuroscientific evidence have doubled in the United States between 2006 and 2009, but less is known about its impact in Australia. 

American prosecution and defence teams have called on the developing science as evidence in arguments about defendants’ responsibility and their competence to stand trial. In civil cases, brain scans are regularly being admitted to test claims of pain and suffering that have until now been difficult to prove.

Now the University of Sydney and Macquarie University have pooled their data on ‘neurolaw’ in civil and criminal cases to keep track of neuroscience’s impact in the courtroom.

Database a vital resource for legal community

Next week, Supreme Court Justice Monika Schmidt will launch the Australian Neurolaw Database, a collaboration between the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, who started the project in 2011.

In New South Wales, a recent judgment by Justice Schmidt treated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a bodily injury, challenging a longstanding legal distinction between ‘mental disorders’ and physical damage – where recovering compensation for purely mental injury has traditionally been heavily circumscribed. 

Meanwhile, in Victoria, a forthcoming challenge to the legality of poker machines is expected to draw heavily on gambling devices’ impact on the hard-wired rewards system in players’ brains.

What is neurolaw?

But neuroscience research is still in its infancy and the Australian legal community remains skeptical, says Dr Sascha Callaghan.

“Criminal sentences have been reduced because of evidence of the effects of brain damage caused by dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, for example. And end-of-life decisions have been informed by neuroscience evidence of consciousness, while others have turned to it to help prove the existence of injuries such as pain and the life-long effects of childhood trauma,” says Dr Callaghan. 

“But despite the hype, what people do is, for the moment, still more persuasive for courts than what we can see on brain scans.”

The Australian Neurolaw Database contains a trove of Australian cases using neuroscience evidence spanning sentencing outcomes, capacity to give testimony, and end-of-life decision-making. The project has now collected upwards of 100 fully coded cases and will be continually updated, with contributions from the research team, as well as students and members of the public via a wiki feature. 

“The emerging field known as neurolaw raises so many ethical and legal issues that it is important that we be aware of the direction the courts are moving in,” says Dr Allan McCay, a lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Sydney and senior researcher at the Centre for Agency Values and Ethics (CAVE) at Macquarie University.

The researchers seek to partner with overseas counterparts to develop an integrated international database for neurolaw.

 New report predicts connected devices in the Australian home set to triple by 2020

November 23, 2015: nbnco

Aussie homes are set to enter a new ‘app age’ of super connectivity spurred by our insatiable appetite for devices and universal access to fast broadband, according to new research released today.

Developed by Telsyte and commissioned by nbn, the ‘Internet Uninterrupted: Australian Households of the Connected Future’ report forecasts that the average household will go from using nine connected devices in the home to 29. At peak times, households are predicted to have 12 simultaneous applications connecting to the Internet over multiple devices in 2020, up from the current eight.

With everything from smoke detectors to hot water systems converting to the smart age, Australian households will increasingly rely on faster, more reliable broadband delivered by the nbn™ network to operate multiple devices and apps.

Managing Director of Telsyte, Foad Fadaghi said:

“As Australian households embrace high-definition streaming video, online games and working from home with the help of cloud-based applications, the need for fast and reliable broadband will increase, especially during peak times when multiple applications are accessing the Internet at once."

"Telsyte research predicts the average household will see a 50 per cent increase in the number of peak simultaneous applications connecting to the Internet by 2020 as more personal devices, white goods, health monitoring equipment and many more ordinary devices in the home get connected."

The report reveals five typical Aussie households of today and predicts their status in 2020:

The Hectic Household: Aussie parents who are career focused and have children living at home. They own many of the lounge room entertainment devices that inevitably bringing the household together. They consume and own technology that contributes to their home and work life alike, with dedicated spaces and devices for their work and heavy usage of cloud storage and related services.  In 2020, Hectic Households will have an average of 19 applications running simultaneously at peak times, up from 12 today.

The City Living Household: Highly social Aussie couples who do not have children, and have embraced technology to support their active and untethered lifestyles. With potentially two incomes and no children, they are in a good position to invest in new devices and are very reliant on mobile technology, which they access not only when they are out and about but also when they are at home. In 2020, City Living Households will have an average of 15 applications running simultaneously at peak times, up from 11 today.

The Shared Household: Aussies who co-habit with friends, family and other people who are heavy users of the Internet, but on a budget. They tend to own fewer devices than other Australians. However, what they lack in number of devices, they make up for in terms of Internet usage — especially their consumption of catch-up TV and streaming video. In 2020, Shared Households will have an average of 12 applications running simultaneously at peak times, up from eight today.

Suburban Dreamer Household: Parents with children living at home and who tend to leave work at the workplace. The few short hours between the time everyone gets and the time the children go to bed are the busiest for internet usage, with everyone often online for learning and play at the same time. In 2020, Suburban Dreamer Households will have an average of 13 applications running simultaneously, up from seven in 2015.

Empty Nester Household: Older Aussie couples or families without children in the home. They have embraced technology to get things done – although not always with the latest devices. While they may be the last to take up technology, this doesn’t mean they avoid it, and in fact they embrace it. The range of technologies they use is narrower than other households; however their use of the technology they do have is high. In 2020, Empty Nester Households will have an average of nine applications running simultaneously, up from six in 2015.

nbn recently announced a plan to start or complete construction to build the nbn™ network for more than 7.5 million homes and business in the next three years. The company aims to connect 8 million homes and businesses to the network by 2020.

Read the ‘Internet Uninterrupted: Australian Households of the Connected Future’ report HERE (PDF: 2.9 MB)

Get Ready for Summer

NSW Government: Published on 30 Nov 2015

Get Ready for Summer. With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above normal temperatures, the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service, Fire & Rescue NSW, and NSW Police are ready for a long summer season.

 ACMA Communications report 2014–15: 15.8 million Australians Have Internet Access at Home

December 2, 2015

Key insights into Australia’s rapidly changing communications and media market are contained in the ACMA Communications report2014–15, which was tabled in federal parliament today.

‘Australians are increasingly using the internet for more of their daily activities,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

New Australian Communications and Media Authority research shows that Australians are increasingly using over-the-top (OTT) communications services, including online subscription video services.

OTT service expansion continues apace, with the continued take-up of OTT communications services—such as Skype, Facebook Messenger and Facetime—compounded by the popularity of OTT content services, as seen with the recent launch of streaming services Netflix Australia, Stan and Presto.

Traditional free-to-air and subscription television continues to dominate Australians’ content viewing, but this year 34 per cent of Australian adults also watched online television or online professionally-produced video content in a given week.

‘Increased investment in communications infrastructure and ongoing innovation in the communication services and online video markets mean that consumers are able to access more services online than ever before, wherever they are, and the ACMA’s research shows they are taking advantage of this,’ Mr Chapman said.

Australians continue to look to OTT services for their communications. More than half (54 per cent) of online Australians aged 18 and over used an app to communicate with others online, with 49 per cent sending messages, 28 per cent making voice calls and 25 per cent making video calls.

The communications industry’s ongoing infrastructure investment continues to support this internet-enabled communications environment. More than 90 per cent of Australians can now access 4G mobile networks across the country. The rollout of the national broadband network (nbn) is moving ahead, with the switch-off of the existing copper network starting in 2014 in the nbn fibre footprint areas, and two companies announcing that they will cease to offer dial-up internet services in 2016.

Mobile services and use of mobile devices have continued the overall growth trends seen in the last five years. Mobile services (voice and data) in operation has increased to 31.77 million services (up almost three percent on the previous year), with increases occurring in machine to machine services in particular.

Now, almost 80 per cent of online adult Australians are accessing the internet over their mobile phone (up from 76 per cent last year) and 58 per cent are going online over tablet computers (up from 54 per cent). The number of fixed-line telephone connections continues to decline (by one per cent) to 9.08 million services.

The report also shows a significant majority of Australians continue to be generally satisfied with their communications services. Eighty-nine per cent of adults are satisfied or very satisfied with their fixed-line telephone services; 88 per cent with their mobile phones; and 81 per cent with their internet service.

ACMA Communications report 2014–15—‘Fast facts’

The ACMA Communications report 2014–15 confirms that Australians are engaging more deeply online through using multiple devices, performing a greater number of activities and going online more often.

Over-the-top (OTT) services

Over-the-top (OTT) communications are those delivered by an application that is run over-the-top of another carriage service, and can be accessed using any compatible internet access device. Common examples of OTT services are mobile phone or computer apps that provide messaging (for example, Facebook Messenger, iMessage), voice call services (for example, Skype, Facetime), and video or audio services not provided by the phone or internet provider (for example, Netflix, YouTube channels, Pandora and Spotify).

53 per cent of adult Australians (9.62 million people) watched professional online video content in the last six months at June 2015.

34 per cent of Australian adults watched online television or online professionally-produced video content in a given week (at June 2015).

11 per cent of Australian adults watched Netflix Australia in a given week, as at June 2015.

4.9 million adult Australians accessed a VoIP service at June 2015.

65 per cent of adult Australians used social networking and 42 per cent instant messaging, both increasing by four percentage points.

Downloading and streaming

Australians downloaded 1,460,269 terabytes of data in the June quarter 2015—a 41 per cent increase on the June quarter 2014.

The average mobile phone internet user downloaded 3.4 GB of data in the quarter ending June 2015, compared to 207 GB for the average fixed-line broadband user.

66 per cent of online adults accessed online video content, and 52 per cent listened to audio content online.

Going mobile

At June 2014, there were 31.77 million mobile services in operation in Australia, an increase of 2.5 per cent.

At May 2015, 13.41 million people used a smartphone, up from 12.07 million at May 2014.

79 per cent of online adults used the internet over their mobile phones at May 2015.

The volume of data downloaded via mobile handset increased by 85 per cent from the quarter to June 2014 to the quarter to June 2015.

Communications service and infrastructure developments

There were 1,539 carriage services providers (CSPs) at the end of June 2015, a net increase of over 10 per cent over the previous year, and 229 telecommunications carriers supplying network infrastructure.

At June 2015, 1,153,077 premises were serviceable by the nbn (up from 552,618 at June 2014) and 485,615 premises were activated (up from 210,628 at June 2014).

Mobile network operators have made significant progress in rolling out 4G mobile networks at June 2015:

Telstra’s 4G network covered 94 per cent of the population, up from 87 per cent from the previous year

Optus expanded its 4G metro population to just below 90 per cent

VHA’s 4G network reached 95 per cent of the metropolitan population.

Daily life

15.8 million Australians had access to the internet in their home at June 2015.

The percentage of Australians accessing the internet over five or more devices increased by three percentage points to 26 per cent at May 2015.

77 per cent of online Australians banked or paid a bill online, 72 per cent used social networking and 71 per cent accessed government websites.

The economic value of internet-related transactions

Revenue from the sale of goods or services online by businesses operating in Australia reached $266.8 billion during 2013–14, a $20 billion increase over 2012–13.

Expenditure on online advertising grew by 16 per cent to a total of $4.63 billion over the 2014 calendar year.

Telecommunications consumer safeguards

All qualifying CSPs met the Customer Service Guarantee Benchmarks for installing and repairing standard telephone services and meeting appointments for residential and small business customers.

In 2014–15, the number of new complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman declined by 10 per cent to 124,417.

The Do Not Call Register recorded a six per cent increase in the number of participants, up to 10.26 million numbers listed.

National interest issues

At June 2015 there was a small decrease (1.2 per cent or 104,076) in the number of calls to the emergency service numbers Triple Zero and 112.

Telstra again performed above emergency call answering regulatory requirements (the time taken to answer each call).

Internet security

There was an increase in the average number of computer infections reported under the Australian Internet Security Initiative, up from an average of 25,839 per day in 2013–14 to 26,645 per day in 2014–15.


All major metropolitan free-to-air commercial network licensees met the Australian content transmission quotas for overall content, drama and documentaries in 2014-15.

On average, around 85 per cent of Australians aged 18 and over in the five major capital cities watched at least five minutes consecutively of free-to-air television (live and time-shifted) each week. In the combined regional markets, the figure was 84 per cent.

Watching live free-to-air television represents the largest share (59 per cent) of average time spent watching television or video content amongst adults.

All regional commercial radio and television broadcasting licensees broadcast the required amount of material of local significance.

86 per cent of adult Australians listened to some radio in an average seven day period to June 2015.

The ACMA Communications report draws on a number of key data sources including:

the ACMA’s annual data request to carriers and carriage service providers and other information gathered by the ACMA as part of its day-to-day responsibilities

an ACMA-commissioned surveys of communication consumers conducted in May 2015 and June 2015

desk research undertaken by ACMA staff

Roy Morgan Single Source

data released by other agencies, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 Aboriginal languages in HSC 2016

Media release 30 November 2015

Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli today visited Menindee Central School where he announced that Aboriginal Languages will become a new HSC subject.

"There are approximately 35 Aboriginal languages in New South Wales, with 19 being taught across NSW, and more than 100 dialects. This new course will help maintain this critical part of Aboriginal cultures," Mr Piccoli said.

"Menindee Central School is a Connected Communities school and already teaches Paakantji. The new course enables students to continue their studies into Years 11 and 12 and I look forward to other schools joining them."

Teaching and learning of Aboriginal languages and cultures is a key component of the Connected Communities strategy.

All Connected Communities schools offer students cultural studies or activities with nine of the 15 schools currently offering the opportunity to learn Aboriginal languages.

Currently, 61 school campuses across NSW are teaching Aboriginal Languages using the K-10 syllabus.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams said the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government strongly believes that Aboriginal people have a right to learn their own languages, and our schools play a vital role in facilitating this.

"This course will aid Aboriginal young people to become the future custodians and caretakers of their languages and empower them to maintain a strong sense of identity. For non-Aboriginal young people it will provide them with a deeper understanding of the world's oldest living culture," Mrs Williams said.

"Partnership between the school and their local Aboriginal community will enable knowledge holders to provide expertise and guidance to classroom teachers."

The HSC Aboriginal Languages course counts towards the Higher School Certificate and appears on the student's Record of Achievement. It does not contribute to the calculation of a student's Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

 Super-absorbent material soaks up oil spills

November 30, 2015

This is a boron nitride nanosheet next to spike of a plant. Credit: Deakin University

In hopes of limiting the disastrous environmental effects of massive oil spills, materials scientists from Drexel University and Deakin University, in Australia, have teamed up to manufacture and test a new material, called a boron nitride nanosheet, that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in oils and organic solvents--a trait that could make it an important technology for quickly mitigating these costly accidents.

The material, which literally absorbs the oil like a sponge, is the result of support from the Australian Research Council and is now ready to be tested by industry after two years of refinement in the laboratory at Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM).

Alfred Deakin Professor Ying (Ian) Chen, PhD, the lead author of a paper, recently published in Nature Communications, said the material is the most exciting advancement in oil spill remediation technology in decades.

"Oil spills are a global problem and wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems, not to mention cost billions of dollars in damage," Chen said. "Everyone remembers the Gulf Coast disaster, but here in Australia they are a regular problem, and not just in our waters. Oil spills from trucks and other vehicles can close freeways for an entire day, again amounting to large economic losses," Chen said.

The Australian Research Council supported the development of the boron nitride nanosheets, because, according to Chen, current methods of cleaning up oil spills are inefficient and unsophisticated--taking too long and causing ongoing and expensive damage.

The nanosheet is made up of flakes, which are just several nanometers (one billionth of a meter) in thickness with tiny holes. This form enables the nanosheet to, in effect, increase its surface area per gram to the size of five and a half tennis courts.

According to lead author, Weiwei Lei, PhD, an IFM scientist and an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Awardee, turning the powder into a sponge was a big challenge--but an essential step in the process.

"In 2013 we developed the first stage of the material, but it was simply a powder. This powder had absorption capabilities, but you cannot simply throw powder onto oil -- you need to be able to bind that powder into a sponge so that we can soak the oil up, and also separate it from water," Wei said. "The pores in the nanosheets provide the surface area to absorb oils and organic solvents up to 33 times its own weight."

Researchers from Drexel's College of Engineering helped to study and functionalize the material, which started as boron nitride powder, commonly called "white graphite." By forming the powder in to atomically thin sheets, the material could be made into a sponge.

"The mechanochemical technique developed meant it was possible to produce high-concentration stable aqueous colloidal solutions of boron nitride sheets, which could then be transformed into the ultralight porous aerogels and membranes for oil clean-up," said Vadym Mochalin, PhD, a co-author of the paper, who was a research associate professor at Drexel while working on the project, and is now an associate professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The Drexel team used computational modeling to help understand the intimate details of how the material was formed. In the process, the team learned that the boron nitride nanosheets are flame resistant--which means they could also find applications in electrical and heat insulation.

"We are delighted that support from the Australian Research Council allowed us to participate in this interesting study and we could help our IFM colleagues to model and better understand this wonderful material, " said Yury Gogotsi, PhD, Distinguished University and Trustee Chair professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, and director of the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute.

The nanotechnology team at Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials has been working on boron nitride nanomaterials for two decades and has been internationally recognized for its work in the development of boron nitride nanotubes and nanosheets. This project is the next step in the IFM's continued research to discover new uses for the material.

"We are so excited to have finally got to this stage after two years of trying to work out how to turn what we knew was a good material into something that could be practically used," Chen said.

Weiwei Lei, Vadym N. Mochalin, Dan Liu, Si Qin, Yury Gogotsi, Ying Chen. Boron nitride colloidal solutions, ultralight aerogels and freestanding membranes through one-step exfoliation and functionalization. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 8849 DOI:10.1038/NCOMMS9849

 $1.2 million to improve arts access in regional Australia

30 November 2015

The Australian Government is announcing funding of more than $1.2 million for 85 arts and cultural projects across regional and remote Australia through the Regional Arts Fund.

"This funding will provide opportunities for regional artists and arts workers to exercise and grow their creative practice through engagement with established and new local arts audiences," Minister Fifield said.

"The Australian Government is committed to providing access to high quality arts and cultural experiences for all Australians and through the Regional Arts Fund, these projects will provide local communities with an opportunity to participate in, and access arts and cultural activities across Australia."

Projects will commence from January 2016 and explore multiple art forms including music, theatre, dance, writing, visual arts, crafts, digital and screen media and community cultural development.

Some of the projects funded through the latest round of the Regional Arts Fund include:

If These Halls Could Talk, New South Wales: $25,000 for a multi-arts initiative designed to revitalise and celebrate the significance of the humble community hall and the role they play in regional communities. At its core this is a place-making project that will empower communities to reengage with their community hall, to raise the roof and discover what's inside, to listen and then to follow the history and document a unique narrative.

The T.A.R.C. – Temporary Amateur Radio Club, New South Wales: $25,550 for collaboration between artists and members of the Wagga Wagga and Orana Amateur Radio Clubs. T.A.R.C. will explore local and global aspects of communications and radio culture and will provide for a participatory work that gives audiences experiential exposure to digital and analogue modes of communication via the world of radio. This project will be presented at the Regional Arts Conference/Festival – Artlands in Dubbo, October 2016.

Marcia: The Musical, Queensland: $19,500 to deliver a musical that explores the impact of natural disaster in a regional community. This project will engage local songwriters and performers, directors and production technicians to develop creative material and celebrate the spirit and resilience of a community.

The Regional Arts Fund is funded by the Australian Government and delivered nationally by Regional Arts Australia through its member organisations. The Fund supports arts and cultural development projects in regional, remote and isolated communities across Australia.

Find out more about the Regional Arts Fund at the Regional Arts Australia website

 Dead-easy test to tackle parasites

November 30, 2015

Science has a new weapon in the global war against parasitic worms that kill hundreds of thousands or people annually: xWORM.

While testing various drugs, parasitologists spend interminable hours staring down microscopes, checking whether the worms are dead or alive after being exposed to the drug.

xWORM is the result of collaboration between researchers at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia, ACEA Biosciences and George Washington University.

"The easiest way to check the drug's effectiveness is to see whether the worms are still motile -- moving," Dr Michael Smout from JCU's Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine said.

"Like many parasitologists, we've been looking for an accurate and efficient way to do that on a large scale."

Inspiration stuck when Dr Smout was using another piece of laboratory equipment, an xCELLigence E-Plate® commonly used to monitor cell proliferation in cancers.

"While I was working with the E-Plate I could see a student in another section of the lab staring down a microscope doing this time-consuming and tedious task of counting how many worms had survived exposure to a drug we were testing," he said.

"I looked back at the E-Plate I was using and I thought, if these can count cell proliferation, maybe we can find a way to use them to count wiggling worms."

Dr Smout worked with scientists from ACEA Biosciences and George Washington University where the E-Plate® and the xCELLigence system were originally developed.

"An E-Plate is an electronic plate containing gold microelectrodes and a number of wells. With some adaptation, we found we could place parasitic worms into the wells, add a drug, and then use the xCELLigence system to measure the motility, or amount of worm wiggle," he said.

"It's a drop-dead easy solution for speeding up the search for new treatments for eliminating parasitic worms that have a devastating impact on human health, infecting more than one billion people worldwide."

Despite containing gold microelectrodes, E-Plates have proven cost-effective because they can be cleaned and re-used, meaning it costs only US$0.05 to perform each test.

"If you consider the time involved in manual counting under a microscope, it's a significant saving," Dr Smout said.

Working with the ACEA Bioscience team, the JCU researchers have tweaked their xCELLigence system for parasites and dubbed it xWORM -- which stands for xCELLigence Worm Real-time Motility Assay.

Dr Smout said the system was widely applicable to parasitic worms.

"It's easy to learn and simple to use. My lab is using it as part of our investigations of the different life cycle stages of the blood fluke parasite Schistosoma mansoni, which is also known in tropical tourist hotspots as bilharzia or snail fever," he said.

"In regions including Egypt, Brazil, and many parts of Asia this parasite and related species can infect humans and animals exposed to slow-moving or stagnant water that contains specific snail species," he said.

Although this was not a use envisaged for the E-Plates®, ACEA's Vice-President Yama Abassi has welcomed this innovative application.

"It is further evidence of the sensitivity and flexibility of this technology to easily and cheaply study phenomena that were previously inaccessible or very laborious, costly and inefficient to study," he said.

Gabriel Rinaldi, Alex Loukas, Paul J. Brindley, Jeff T. Irelan, Michael J. Smout. Viability of developmental stages of Schistosoma mansoni quantified with xCELLigence worm real-time motility assay (xWORM). International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance, 2015; 5 (3): 141 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpddr.2015.07.002

 New Colombo Plan scholarship awards announced

November 30, 2015- UWS

Second year Bachelor of Natural Science (Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security) student, Justin Whittle, has been named the New Colombo Plan 2016 Thailand Fellow at the NCP scholarship presentation dinner held in Canberra last night.

Justin was awarded the prestigious fellowship by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honorable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC (ret'd), and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP.

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship provides opportunities for Australian undergraduates to undertake semester-based study and internships or mentorships in participating Indo-Pacific locations.

Justin is one of 100 New Colombo Plan scholars who received their awards for study commencing in 2016.

Justin notes that finding innovative solutions to feed a hungry world will be one of our biggest challenges in the future. He has an overriding interest in the potential for edible insects as a food source – one of the reasons he was so keen to study in Thailand.

He notes that over two billion people around the world eat insects as part of their diet yet it's something no one really talks about.

"In Thailand, they are the largest consumers of edible insects in the world so that's why I'd like to do my research there," he says.

The NCP program is open to Australian undergraduates aged 18-28 currently studying at Australian universities.

NCP Scholars study in an approved program destination in the Indo-Pacific for up to a full academic year.  In addition to this, the experience can include internships or mentorships for up to six months, and language study.

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.

 Researcher honoured by Geographical Society

December 1, 2015: UWS

The Director of the Centre for Western Sydney Professor Phillip O'Neill has been awarded the 2015 McDonald Holmes Medal for Geographical Education at a special ceremony in Sydney.

The Geographical Society of NSW awards the MacDonald Holmes medal biennially to a person deemed to have made a distinguished contribution in the field of geographical education in Australia.

Professor O'Neill was recognised for his role as a geographical educator in both the tertiary and secondary sectors.

During his career, Professor O'Neill has been a Chairperson of several Syllabus Committees, a Chief Examiner at HSC level, and a member of NSW Board of Secondary Education.

At Western Sydney University, Professor O'Neill was the Foundation Director of the Urban Research Centre, a Fellow of the Institute of Australian Geographers and Editor-in-Chief of Geographical Research.

He is currently the Director of the Centre for Western Sydney, a new initiative to forge partnerships with government and the local community to address the region's growing research and policy needs.

 NASA Earth Art Australia from Space International Space Station ISS

Published on 31 Oct 2015

A collection of images taken by ISS Astronaut Scott Kelly as the Space Station passed over Australia.