Inbox and Environment News Issue 245 

 December 20, 2015 - January 9, 2016: Issue 245

 How Digital Records Change Lives

15 December, 2015: National Library of Australia

Ivan Owen's design, Questacon printed 3D prosthetic hand

A chance finding in Trove has helped change the life of a young boy born without fingers – and thousands more people with similar special needs around the world.

Trove, the award-winning free discovery service driven by the National Library of Australia, was used by American designer Ivan Owen, during his research into the construction of the world’s first 3D printed, body-powered partial hand prosthesis for a young boy called Liam.

While searching the Internet, Mr Owen uncovered, via Trove, the Health Museum of South Australia’s records about the Coles Hand – a prosthetic hand made for one Corporal Coles in 1845 out of whalebone and metal pulleys. (

‘Mr Owen told us his research via Trove led him to find crucial details about the pulley mechanism needed for Liam’s prosthetic hand,’ Assistant Director-General , National Collections Access Division at the National Library of Australia, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres said. ‘He has generously made his designs freely available as open source, so they can be used, and adapted, by anyone.

‘Whilst talking to him we discovered that a large community had built up around his initial work for Liam, and now his design has spread internationally.’

The University of Washington heard about Mr Owen’s work and has since offered him a job – and now he has a team of students designing such practical 3D projects.

‘This is such a wonderful example of the power that can be unleashed through the digitisation of cultural collections found in Trove – and of the remarkable social, health and economic benefits that result,’ Dr Ayres said. ‘It also shows the importance of being innovative – of using the latest technology for the best of reasons.’

Today, as a result of this collaboration across the world, more than 1,600 people have received a 3D printed hand, at low cost.

The National Library of Australia has embarked on further collaboration closer to home with experts from Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre, who helped assemble a copy of the hand via 3D printer.

Round Four of Green Army projects focus on protecting heritage sites and threatened species

Media release: 17 December 2015 - The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment

Protecting our national and world heritage icons and key threatened species is the major focus of hundreds of new Green Army projects to be rolled out across the country in coming months.

I am delighted today to announce 397 new Green Army projects under Round Four of the programme.

This brings the total number of approved Green Army projects to 1,145 since the programme began in 2014.

Many of the new Green Army teams will work to support the delivery of targets set out in Australia's Threatened Species Strategy.

Participants will carry out recovery actions for priority threatened birds and mammals or take action to reduce the impact of feral cats.

Overall, 311 of the new projects will support threatened species recovery, including 119 projects that will address priority threatened species under the Threatened Species Strategy.

Feral cat eradication will be a special focus of 93 of the projects.

Working on national and world heritage sites will be the focus for 106 new Green Army projects, including 32 that will directly benefit the Great Barrier Reef.

In Sydney, a Green Army team will work with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust at North Head and Cockatoo Island, restoring 1.8 kilometres of 1930s stone wall and pre-WWII military tunnels.

In Melbourne, gardens at Rippon Lea Estate will be restored to their former glory with plantings of the period.

Other heritage icons that will benefit from a Green Army team include Victoria's Great Ocean Road and Castlemaine Diggings, Parramatta Park in Sydney, Wodonga's Bonegilla Migrant Camp and the Woolmers and Brickendon estates in Tasmania.

A total of 145 of the projects will be undertaken in remote Australia, many hosted by Indigenous groups.

In the Kimberley, Green Army participants the Nyul Nyul Women's Rangers will expand an existing nursery in Beagle Bay to propagate native bush foods and bush medicine and revegetate National Heritage listed Monsoonal Vine Thicket sites on the Dampier Peninsula.

In Queensland, Green Army teams will work with the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation on a range of projects, including feral pig eradication on Hinchinbrook Island and water quality sampling and weed eradication in the upper Burdekin catchment.

The Green Army programme not only benefits the environment, but also provides participants with skills and experience they can use elsewhere the workforce.

The Green Army participants I've met around the country are impressive young Australians who are proud of the positive work they're doing for the environment and their communities.

I look forward to meeting the next round of Green Army participants as these new projects are rolled out across the country.

A full list of approved Round Four projects is available

Round Four projects: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park Protecting Natural and Cultural All through: NSW Office Of Environment And Heritage

Protecting Natural and Cultural  Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 1 Western Tracks: This project will rehabilitate habitat and tracks in the western park, delivering significant ecological improvements, extensive weed control and regeneration, bush 

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 2 Rock Art Sites:  This project will carefully remove some of the current threats to multiple key rock art sites as well as improve native habitat in the surrounding areas

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 3 Eastern Habitat:  This project will deliver significant ecological improvements in eastern sections of the park, undertaking extensive weed control and habitat regeneration, bush track construction and repair to minimize visitor impact, visitor infrastructure maintenance, and stabilising erosion created by increasing intense storm events.

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Kuring-gai Chase National Park - Project 4 Barrenjoey: This project will consolidate the work and significant ecological improvements of the earlier teams, undertaking extensive weed control and native bush habitat regeneration, bush track repair to minimize visitor impact, visitor infrastructure maintenance, and stabilising erosion created by increasing intense storm events

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 5 Consolidation A: This project will consolidate the work and significant ecological improvements of the earlier teams, undertaking extensive weed control and native bush habitat regeneration, bush track repair to minimize visitor impact, visitor infrastructure maintenance, and stabilising erosion created by increasing intense storm events.

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 6 Consolidation B:  This project will consolidate the work and significant ecological improvements of the earlier teams, undertaking extensive weed control and native bush habitat regeneration, bush track repair to minimize visitor impact, visitor infrastructure maintenance, and stabilising erosion created by increasing intense storm events

Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Project 7 Consolidation C: This project will consolidate the work and significant ecological improvements of the earlier teams, undertaking extensive weed control and native bush habitat regeneration, bush track repair to minimize visitor impact, visitor infrastructure maintenance, and stabilising erosion created by increasing intense storm events.

Have your say on a new sand quarry in Williamtown

Date: 04.12.2015:  Departmental Media Release -Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to construct a new sand quarry in Cabbage Tree Road, Williamtown will be on exhibition from today for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the application which seeks to:

construct and operate a sand quarry to extract up to 600,000 tonnes per year from a total amount of 3.32 million tonnes

clear 53.9 hectares of vegetation

carry out mobile screening and dry processing on site

construct associated infrastructure including:

roads for site access; an office; amenity buildings; weighbridge; staff and visitor parking; maintenance shed; transport processed material off-site via public roads; progressively rehabilitate the site.

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 and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“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 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), visit

Submissions can be made from Friday 4 December 2015 until Monday 1 February 2016.

Written submissions can also be made to:

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

The application and EIS is also available to view in person at:

Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

Port Stephens Council, 116 Adelaide Street (Old Pacifica Highway), Raymond Terrace

Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown.


Direct link:

 Wildlife corridor severed if Mt Owen mine approved

15 December, 2015: Nature Conservation Council NSW

Koalas, quolls, and squirrel gliders in the Hunter Valley will lose another piece of critical habitat if mining giant Glencore is permitted to expand its Mt Owen coal mine and sever a vital wildlife corridor between bushland remnants.

The NSW Government’s Planning Assessment Commission will conduct a public hearing into the company’s plans at Singleton Diggers Club from 12.30pm today, at which the NSW Nature Conservation Council will make a presentation. [1]

“Half of Ravensworth State Forest, a wildlife hotspot in the Hunter Valley, has already been destroyed by Glencore when it cut it down and dug it up for the original Mount Owen open-cut coal mine,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“Now Glencore has come back to take more of the little that is left. This project would destroy a large part of one of the few remaining areas of significant remnant native vegetation in the central Hunter Valley so mining giant Glencore can mine polluting coal that the world doesn’t need.

“The Mount Owen mine expansion will destroy endangered woodlands and grasslands that provide vital habitat for 29 threatened species, including spotted-tailed quoll, koala, squirrel glider, several species of micro-bat, the swift parrot, and the masked owl.

“Quolls will be particularly hard hit. Glencore’s new proposal will divide the local population of spotted-tail quolls into two smaller groups, which will result in inbreeding that will risk dooming these populations to extinction.”

The 92 million tonnes of coal that Glencore wants to extract over 15 years will, when burnt, produce emissions equivalent to 7 million Australian households.

“It is absolutely shameful how Premier Baird’s government is allowing coal companies to trash our natural heritage – our unique Australian bush animals and pure water supplies – while the rest of the world is moving away quickly from fossil fuels,” Ms Smolski said.

“At today’s hearing, we’ll call on the Baird government to preserve the natural heritage of the Hunter and develop a just transition plan that gives the Hunter community a more sustainable and less destructive path to prosperity.”

[1]  PAC Decision

Baby fish will be lost at sea in acidified oceans

December 16, 2015

The ability of baby fish to find a home, or other safe haven, to grow into adulthood will be severely impacted under predicted ocean acidification, University of Adelaide research has found.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers report the interpretation of normal ocean sound cues which help baby fish find an appropriate home is completely confused under the levels of CO2predicted to be found in oceans by the end of the century.

"Locating appropriate homes is a crucial step in the life cycle of fish," says Tullio Rossi, PhD candidate with the University's Environment Institute. "After hatching in the open ocean, baby fish travel to reefs or mangroves as safe havens to feed and grow into adults.

"Baby fish can find those places through ocean noise: snapping shrimps and other creatures produce sounds that the baby fish follow.

"But when ocean acidity increases due to increased CO2, the neurological pathways in their brain are affected and, instead of heading towards those sounds, they turn tail and swim away."

Mr Rossi conducted experiments with barramundi hatchlings, an important fisheries species. The study was in collaboration with other researchers including Professor Sean Connell (University of Adelaide), Dr Stephen Simpson (University of Exeter) and Professor Philip Munday (James Cook University).

He and his collaborators also found that high CO2 makes baby fish move slower and show more hiding behaviour compared to normal fish. This could make it more difficult for them to find food or habitat and to avoid predators.

Research leader Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken says marine researchers know that ocean acidification can change fish behaviours. But it hasn't been known how high CO2 would affect such crucial hearing behaviour as finding somewhere to settle.

"Such misinterpretation of sound cues and changes in other behaviours could severely impact fish populations, with the number of young fish finding safe habitats dramatically reduced through their increased vulnerability to predators and reduced ability to find food," Associate Professor Nagelkerken says.

There is still time to turn around this scenario, Mr Rossi says. "We have the capacity to steer away from that worst-case scenario by reducing CO2emissions," he says. "Business as usual, however, will mean a profound impact on fish populations and the industries they support."

Tullio Rossi, Ivan Nagelkerken, Stephen D. Simpson, Jennifer C. A. Pistevos, Sue-Ann Watson, Laurene Merillet, Peter Fraser, Philip L. Munday, Sean D. Connell. Ocean acidification boosts larval fish development but reduces the window of opportunity for successful settlement. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 282 (1821): 20151954 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1954

 Government report confirms damage to Sydney’s water catchment, but more coal mines loom

17 December, 2015: Nature Conservation Council NSW

A large stretch of a major stream in Sydney’s drinking water catchment has stopped flowing because of damage caused by South32’s Dendrobium longwall coal mine near Wollongong.

The NSW Planning and Environment Department discovered almost 90 instances of negative environmental impacts from the development of Longwalls 9-11.

Impacts ranged from cracked and drained river beds to drying and probably dying wetlands that used to provide a steady flow of water into Sydney’s water supply, even during drought.

The department’s investigation found:

• 89 impacts from Longwalls 9-11, including damage watercourses (52%), swamps (18%) and other features (30%)

• 600 metres of a tributary of Wongawilli Creek was permanently drained

• Other “significant” impacts on a tributary of Wongawilli Creek 

• More rapid draining and drying of swamp

“The report found that every water-storing swamp undermined by these new longwalls has been harmed,” Ms Smolski said.

“Given the vital role swamps play, particularly in times of drought, it’s madness to continue to let this happen.

“Every time coal companies apply for a new longwall in the catchment, they assure us they can manage the risks. But time and again, their predictions prove wrong and we are left with dry streams and dead wetlands.”

Ms Smolski said today’s report cast doubt on the predictions of environmental impacts of new longwall mines proposed at Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale Colliery, which the government is currently assessing.

“We have no confidence Wollongong Coal can manage the Russell Vale expansion to avoid the same sort of damage to sensitive areas as have occurred at Dendrobium,” Ms Smolski said.

“The Baird government should reject that proposal and show the leadership that people expect by making sensitive natural areas and our water supplies no-go zones for coal and gas projects.”

Today’s report was commissioned by Planning Minister Rob Stokes in July 2015 after the community blew the whistle on the damaging that was being done.

Ms Smolski said it was shocking that South32 was going to get way with the Dendrobium damage scot-free because the rules are so weak.

“The project should never have been signed off, but the Baird government gave BHP the go ahead to mine even though the company predicted the Dendrobium expansion would fracture rocks, reduce water levels and divert the flow of water beneath the creek bed.

“What could possibly be more important for the Baird government than protecting the drinking water supply of 4.5 million people in our growing region?”

Northern Rivers  to be Gasfield Free 

December 16, 2015:  Our Land, Our Water, Our Future

Metgasco shareholders have today decided to accept the NSW Government CSG licence buyout offer which means the Northern Rivers will remain gasfield free and protected by the community. The official announcement is here

Photo credit: David Lowe.

 Innovative wave energy device lands at Port Fairy

16 December 2015: ARENA Media Release

Ocean energy company BioPower Systems (BPS) completed the deployment of its 250kW bioWAVE pilot demonstration unit off the coast near Port Fairy, Victoria.

The $21 million project has been in development by BPS for three years, with $11 million funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and $5 million funding from the Victorian Government.

BPS CEO Dr Timothy Finnigan said the usually powerful swell at this site abated enough for the installation to be completed smoothly and successfully.

“Installation of the bioWAVE in the Southern Ocean marks the culmination of an intensive development phase, and the beginning of a testing and demonstration phase for bioWAVE. We will now turn our attention to commissioning the plant for operation, and we aim to be delivering electricity into the grid very soon,” Dr Finnigan said.

The bioWAVE was deployed by a crane-equipped ship, which transported the device to the site and lowered it into the water. The structure was angled slightly, piercing the surface like a diver to avoid any impacts from the waves, before being levelled out and landed on the seabed. Divers monitored the process from below to ensure accurate placement.

Acting ARENA CEO Ian Kay congratulated the team at BPS on successfully deploying the device.

“This is a major achievement for Australia’s emerging wave power industry and represents another ARENA-supported breakthrough in renewable energy innovation,” Mr Kay said.

“BPS has overcome a range of logistical and technical challenges over the better part of a decade, taking BioWAVE through extensive research, design and testing phases. Developing new technologies takes considerable time and resources and government support is crucial for enabling this process.

“The device will be tested and monitored throughout its operation to produce an independent performance assessment that will be shared with the energy industry in line with ARENA’s knowledge sharing agenda.”

The unique bioWAVE device is a 26-metre tall oscillating structure designed to sway back-and-forth beneath the ocean swell, capturing energy from the waves and converting it into electricity that is fed into the grid via an undersea cable. The design was inspired by undersea plants and the entire device can lie flat on the seabed out of harm’s way during bad weather.

About BioPower Systems

Ocean energy company, BioPower Systems, is commercialising wave and tidal energy products that incorporate revolutionary designs based on the concept of biomimicry. BioPower Systems is designing its ocean energy products to naturally avoid extreme forces, using light-weight construction, resulting in significant cost savings. The proprietary bioWAVE, bioSTREAM and O-Drive products are intended for use in scale-able multi-device arrays, and are well-suited for supply to remote or isolated grid

About bioWAVE

The bioWAVE is a bottom-mounted wave energy system that sways back and forth beneath the swell waves. Energy absorbed by the pivoting structure is transformed into grid-quality electricity inside a serviceable onboard module, called O-Drive. When large wave events or storms occur, the bioWAVE is automatically triggered to cease operating, and the pivoting structure assumes a horizontal position against the seabed to avoid damage. This improves structure economics, leading to lower generation costs. 

About O-Drive

The O-Drive is a standardised self-contained subsea module that converts irregular or reciprocating motion into smooth grid-quality electricity. The current version has an output capacity of 250kW. It was developed in Australia by BPS, and is intended for use in any wave or tidal energy application. The O-Drive is designed to be retrievable and replaceable, allowing for convenient onshore servicing.

O-DriveTM, bioWAVETM and bioSTREAMTM are registered trademarks of BioPower Systems Pty Ltd

About the Victorian Government – Energy Technology Innovation (ETI)

ETI is working with industry to support the development of a variety of pre-commercial energy technologies through the research and development, pilot and pre-commercial demonstration stages, so that they are ready for market-uptake.

 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

 7000+ submissions call for marine sanctuaries to be restored in NSW

15 December, 2015: Nature Conservation Council NSW

The vast majority of the 7000 public submissions made to the NSW Government’s review of marine sanctuaries support restoring full environmental protections to these areas, according to the NSW Nature Conservation Council.

“The NSW community has overwhelmingly called on the Baird government to restore the state’s marine sanctuaries,” NCC CEO Kate Smolski said.

“People clearly understand that marine sanctuaries are essential for protecting marine life and the coastal lifestyles that make NSW such a great place to live.”

The submissions were in response to the Baird government’s proposal to permanently revoke sanctuary protections at 10 beaches and headlands across four marine parks in NSW, including Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Port Stephens-Great Lakes, and Batemans.

“The results of the submission process reflect polling that has consistently shown more than 90% of the public, including recreational fishers, support marine sanctuaries,” MS Smolski said. [1]

“Australia’s leading marine scientists have also called on the government to restore full protections to our marine sanctuaries.

“The Ocean Science Council of Australia published a statement of concern urging the Government to act to restore marine sanctuary protections. [2]

“The Premier is known for his strong support for the marine environment and we are calling on him to honor the public process and the strong support of the scientific community and restore our marine sanctuaries.

“These zones improve biodiversity in the ocean and support activities people love, like fishing, snorkeling and diving.

“If you want to go fishing this summer you need fish, and sanctuary zones are the best way to ensure we have fish for the future.”

[1] January 2014 Galaxy poll of 1007 residents across NSW.  93% of respondents supported marine sanctuary free from fishing including 91% of recreational fishers.

More information:

The following beaches and headlands are proposed to have sanctuary protections removed:

Cape Byron Marine Park:

Tyagarah Beach

East Cape Byron

Solitary Islands Marine Park (near Coffs Harbour):

Minnie Water Back Beach

Bare Bluff to Diggers Point and Moonee Beach

Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park:

Celito South

Fiona Beach

Bateman’s Marine Park:

North Head

Congo Point South Beach and Mullimburra Point to Bingie Beach

Brou Beach

Bullengella Beach and Bogola Head Beach to Loader Beach

 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 

 50 ground-breaking research grants awarded

16 December 2015: Media Release

Fifty new research projects can get underway immediately, the Turnbull Government announced today, as part of $38.6 million worth of funding through the Australian Research Council.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Future Fellows will help the nation innovate, invent and apply new ideas across key research areas, forming part of the Turnbull Government’s Innovation Agenda.

“These 50 Fellows will build on the nation’s innovation efforts and deliver research outcomes that will improve the lives of everyday Australians.

“Like Dr Timothy Dargaville from Queensland University of Technology, whose $812,460 Future Fellows funding will help him develop a 3D moulding process that could be used for tissue transplants.

“We know the important value of the Future Fellowships scheme but the previous Labor government left a funding cliff for this vital research program. This Government is committed to making Future Fellowships an ongoing program by awarding 100 four-year fellowships a year.”

“To be an innovative nation we must support our outstanding researchers to ensure we retain a strong research workforce for many years to come,” Minister Birmingham said.

This announcement builds on the $2.3 billion of funding for national scale research announced in the Turnbull Government’s Innovation Agenda.

Some of the other 2015 Future Fellows and their four-year funded projects include:

Dr Mark Waters from The University of Western Australia who will receive $689,052 to investigate new ways to improve crop productivity.

Dr Qiaoliang Bao from Monash University who will receive $824,960 to engineer novel two-dimensional nanomaterials, with the potential to help with high-power conversion efficiency for the electronic and energy industries.

More information on the 2015 Future Fellowships announcement is available on the ARC website.

Administering Organisation Total number of projects Total ARC funding

New South Wales                             13                                $10,385,527

Macquarie University                           5                                  $3,683,068

The University of New South Wales 1                                  $903,625 

The University of Newcastle               1                                  $690,352 

The University of Sydney                     3                                 $2,477,935 

University of Wollongong                    3                                 $2,630,547 

 First 1,000 homes on FTTN connected in just 51 days

16 December 2015: Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government, Manager of Government Business in the Senate

The nbn rollout achieved yet another milestone this week, with the first 1,000 homes connected to the Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) network in just 51 days since its launch.

The nbn network—in which FTTN plays a vital role—is essential for Australia's digital evolution. Everyone will benefit from faster, more reliable internet connections, no matter how many people within the household are using it—using the broadband network to be more productive, more creative, more efficient and more connected for years to come.

nbn's faster and more reliable broadband also means businesses such as Hunter Water Sports, a kayak and water sport accessories retailer in Newcastle, enjoys a seamless switch-over to the nbn network.

See James Kilpatrick of Hunter Water Sports talking about his nbn broadband service gere

From February 2016, nbn is aiming to offer faster broadband to between 60,000 and 100,000 premises each month on the FTTN network. The only additional equipment required is a modem suitable for the super-speed vectored VDSL which internet providers can send to their customers on request for free.

2015 Prime Minister's Literary Award winners

The 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners were announced by the Prime Minister and Minister for the Arts at an event in Sydney on Monday 14 December 2015.


The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House Australia)


Poems 1957-2013 by Geoffrey Lehmann (UWA Publishing)


Charles Bean by Ross Coulthart (Harper Collins)

The Spy Catchers –The Official History of ASIO Vol 1 by David Horner (Allen & Unwin)


John Olsen: An Artist’s Life by Darleen Bungey (Harper Collins)

Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall by Michael Wilding (Australian Scholarly Publishing)


The Protected by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)


One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen and illustrated by Michael Camilleri (Allen & Unwin)

 Skip Ahead: Film development workshop In Sydney February 2016 Applications Now Open

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Screen Australia and Google will host two 2½-day workshops for leading YouTubers seeking to develop films and series pilots.

The workshops are aimed at content creators who are active on YouTube, make regular short-form content that finds a significant audience, and who want to apply their filmmaking skills to longer stories. Applications should be for projects that are at least 30 minutes, but no more than 90 minutes, in length.

A small number of individuals or teams who have a great idea for a feature film, short feature, or series pilot (encapsulated in a one-page outline) will be selected to participate. A maximum of 10 projects will be chosen.

The workshops will help content creators understand some of the key tools for writing a screenplay, from creating compelling characters, to structuring an engaging story, and the expectations of different genres.

The workshops will not only provide the big picture principals of developing a film or series pilot from a concept, but will also drill down into each participant’s project, making them relevant to each YouTuber’s idea. The workshops will respect the essence of what makes each YouTuber participant special, and will explore how to translate those qualities into a longer-form story that will not only engage their existing audience, but also grow their fan-base.

Preference will be given to content creators with demonstrable skills in making engaging narrative-driven short form content, with a proven track record in creating online buzz, and experience building audiences. Factual entertainment-based YouTubers can apply but applications must be for a narrative fiction project.

This initiative presents an opportunity for Australia’s top YouTubers to grow their skillset and be empowered to take the next step in their screen careers. The workshops will be interactive and collaborative, fun and engaging. The first workshop, which will take place from Tuesday 23 February to Thursday 25 February 2016, will focus on big picture principals, but will explore individual projects enough to enable to participants to get writing. The second workshop, from Wednesday 30 March to Friday 1 April 2016, will delve more deeply into each of the specific projects. Both workshops will take place at the Google HQ in Sydney.

The workshops will be led by Mike Jones, a multiplatform writer who has lead script development programs including Platform X for AWG and Digital 360 Lab for SAFC, and teaches story and writing at AFTRS, and Samantha Jennings, who has held numerous senior roles, including executive positions at Screen NSW and Screen Australia, and is a script advisor to agencies, producers and companies across Australia, including Porchlight, Werner and Goalpost. Samantha is a partner at Causeway Films with Kristina Ceyton (The Babadook), developing a slate of features with international partners.

Applications close Thursday 7 January 2016. Find more information about how to apply

 'Freak' ocean waves hit without warning, new research shows

December 16, 2015

Graphic showing linear vs non-linear wave groups. Credit: Thomas Adcock

Mariners have long spoken of 'walls of water' appearing from nowhere in the open seas. But oceanographers have generally disregarded such stories and suggested that rogue waves -- enormous surface waves that have attained a near-mythical status over the centuries -- build up gradually and have relatively narrow crests.

New research from the University of Oxford in collaboration with the University of Western Australia, however, shows that the anecdotal evidence may not be so far from the truth. Rather than coming at the end of a series of increasingly large waves, rogue (or freak) waves emerge suddenly, being preceded by much smaller waves.

The mathematical modelling also demonstrates that the crests of these rogue waves are longer than the smaller waves that surround them.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Professor Thomas Adcock, of Oxford's Department of Engineering Science, said: 'The waves we're dealing with here occur in deep water in the open ocean -- very different from the waves you'll see if you go to the beach, which is what most people are familiar with.

'In deep water, where waves are much less regular, you expect a larger wave from time to time. Our paper shows that, in contrast to what was previously thought, if you're the observer on a ship, rather than seeing a gradual build-up of waves, the rogue wave will come seemingly out of nowhere.

'This happens because large waves tend to move to the front of the wave group.'

The research made use of mathematical modelling based on non-linear physics. The investigators used hundreds of simulations of random waves to analyze the differences between linear and non-linear wave dynamics.

Professor Adcock said: 'These findings fit the anecdotal evidence you hear from mariners. They often describe "walls of water" coming at them in the open ocean that are impossible to steer around -- an observation supported by our modelling, which shows that rogue waves tend to have a much broader crest than traditionally predicted by linear theory.

'All of this means that in a very rough storm, you can't simply assume you'll get a warning before a freak wave hits. Seafarers need to be aware that a large wave may appear out of nowhere.'

Thomas A. A. Adcock, Paul H. Taylor, Scott Draper. Nonlinear dynamics of wave-groups in random seas: unexpected walls of water in the open ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science, 2015; 471 (2184): 20150660 DOI:10.1098/rspa.2015.0660

 Lindt Café tribute unites human and civic dimensions of tragedy

16 December, 2015   Fran Strachan: UNSW

On the first anniversary of Sydney’s Lindt café siege, renowned architect and UNSW Professor of Practice Richard Johnson has unveiled his “quietly reflective” memorial design for Martin Place.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced the chosen design, saying the memorial would pay tribute to the survivors of the siege as well as those who were killed.

The design features 400 flower symbols encased in glass cubes that will be laid into the granite pavement at Martin Place. Scattered across the plaza in a starburst pattern, the flower cubes will light up at night.

UNSW Built Environment's Professor Johnson said he wasn’t in Sydney at the time of the siege but was was impressed by the public and personal response of the floral tribute.

“The aim of the design is to express personal and public sentiments. To be both human in scale and have a civic dimension,” Professor Johnson said.

The award-winning architect is renowned for his understated work, and has previously designed the Museum of Sydney, National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the refurbishment of the Sydney Opera House in collaboration with Jorn Utzon, and most recently, the award-winning refurbishment of an historic bank at 50 Martin Place.

Professor Johnson said he hopes the work will be “quietly reflective”.

NSW Premier Mike Baird told The Sydney Morning Herald, “It is appropriate that the memory of community spirit lives on in Martin Place. Professor Johnson has created a symbolic commemoration of our shared grief which recalls the courage of those involved in the siege”.

Professor Johnson studied Architecture at UNSW, graduating with First Class Honours in 1969. He was admitted to the degree of Master of Philosophy following study in town planning and urban design at University College London. A recipient of more than 50 awards, including the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture’s Gold Medal, he is now a Professor of Practice in Architectural Studies at UNSW.

 New biosecurity regulations out for comment

11 December 2015

Another milestone in implementing more modern and flexible biosecurity legislation was reached today, with a range of significant draft regulations under the Biosecurity Act 2015 released for public comment.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, encouraged all interested parties to have a say on the draft regulations for approved arrangements, the Inspector General of Biosecurity and infringement notices.

"These three regulations will form an important part of the new Biosecurity Act 2015, and are key to how the Australian Government will manage our biosecurity system in the future," Minister Joyce said.

"Approved arrangements provide an opportunity for businesses to enter into a voluntary arrangement with the Commonwealth to manage the biosecurity risk associated with their activities; the Inspector General of Biosecurity is an important statutory position to provide independent oversight of our system; and infringement notices are one of the tools we have to punish wrongdoers.

"So these are incredibly important regulations that we want your feedback on. The government has engaged in meaningful consultation throughout the development of our new biosecurity legislation and listened to feedback about how we can modernise it.

"I am pleased to continue in that commitment, and invite all interested people and organisations to have their say—all comments received will be considered in final drafting of the regulations."

Minister Joyce said the biosecurity system was at the heart of a profitable agriculture industry and strong farmgate returns.

"As an island nation Australia is free from so many of the damaging pests and diseases that affect other parts of the world—but with increased movement of people and goods across the world, comes increased risk of exotic pests and diseases reaching our shores," Minister Joyce said.

"Not only does our biosecurity system protect our agricultural industries, environment and economy from pests and diseases that could affect our local plants and animals, but it also underpins our favourable trading status.

"Our strong market access to a range of countries is built on freedom from many exotic pests and diseases—and with a serious biosecurity incursion we could stand to lose access to these markets.

"This is why it's so important to get these new biosecurity regulations right—because biosecurity does underpin so much of what makes Australian agriculture profitable. When agriculture prospers, our whole country and economy benefits."

Consultation is open for a minimum of 60 days. For more information on the exposure draft and the consultation process, please

The Biosecurity Act 2015

Public consultation is now open for the following draft regulations:

• Approved Arrangements

• Inspector-General of Biosecurity

• Enforcement (Infringement notices)

• Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses (BIRA)

The department will continue to engage with staff and stakeholders on the delegated legislation and supporting policies and procedures in preparation for commencement.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting legislation received royal assent from the Governor-General on 16 June 2015 and has now become the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Biosecurity Act).

The Biosecurity Act will commence on 16 June 2016, 12 months after royal assent, replacing the Quarantine Act 1908 (Quarantine Act). Just as with the Quarantine Act, the Biosecurity Act will be co-administered by the Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Water Resources and Health.

Until commencement of the Biosecurity Act, the Quarantine Act 1908remains the primary piece of biosecurity legislation in Australia.

The 12 month delay is to ensure clients, staff and stakeholders understand their rights and responsibilities under the Biosecurity Act and there is a smooth transition to the new regulatory arrangements. Some parts of the legislation have transitional arrangements and further delayed commencement dates.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) will continue to consult with staff, stakeholders and clients to develop delegated legislation and supporting policies and procedures under the Biosecurity Act.

Why has the Biosecurity Act been introduced?

The Biosecurity Act represents a comprehensive modernisation of Australian biosecurity legislation. It was developed through consultation with staff across the department as well as with industry, state and territory governments, environment groups, health professionals, trading partners and the general public.

The Biosecurity Act has been designed to be flexible and responsive to changes in technology and future challenges.

 Getting Australian students and teachers ready for the future

Friday 11 December 2015 Media Release: Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Education ministers have endorsed a national approach to improving the teaching and take up of science, mathematics and information technology in Australian schools.

Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government will work with state and territory education ministers to implement the key goals and actions agreed to in the National STEM School Education Strategy.

Minister Birmingham acknowledged the significant work and commitment of the Education Council and all state and territory ministers in the promotion of STEM and said the decision recognises the interest all education ministers have in promoting STEM studies in schools and the need to better prepare school students for the digital age.

“While good education starts with a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy, STEM subjects are essential to the development of critical and creative thinking, and analysis and problem solving skills,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Developing an early interest in subjects like science, maths and IT will help school students prepare for life and work beyond school.

“We need to do more and we need to do it differently to encourage more young students to engage with science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

“Three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations in Australia require skills in science, engineering, technology and mathematics,” Minister Birmingham said.

“We need more school students to be studying maths, science and information technology so they can develop the skills they will increasingly need by the time they complete school and are looking to next step into higher education or the workforce.”

New South Wales Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said the development of a national strategy would build on the significant steps all governments are taking to enhance the teaching of STEM subjects in Australian schools.

“STEM is on the radar internationally as the key to unlocking innovation potential - it’s seen as a critical pathway to securing Australia’s future,” Minister Piccoli said.

“The NSW Government wants to see improved participation and achievement in maths and science, and we know that teachers must be supported in developing the confidence and skills to help deliver this.”

The national strategy sets clear goals and includes five areas for action:

• Increasing student STEM ability, engagement, participation and aspiration.

• Increasing teacher capacity and STEM teaching quality.

• Supporting STEM education opportunities within school systems.

• Facilitating effective partnerships with tertiary education providers, business and industry.

• Building a strong evidence base.

Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda this week committed around $51 million in new funding to help Australian school students embrace the digital age, and to engage students at an early age with science and mathematics.

“The Inspiring all Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM package includes $48 million to improve STEM literacy, and $14 million to expand opportunities for women,” Minister Birmingham said.

The strategy is published on the Education Council

 Higher rate of women giving birth than a decade ago, but this has slowed in recent years

Canberra, 14 December

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that the rate of women aged between 15-44 years giving birth is higher than a decade ago.

The rate was 63 per 1,000 in 2013, compared with 59 per 1,000 women in 2003. But during this time, the birth rate has slowed after peaking in 2007 at 66 per 1,000.

According to the report, Australia's mothers and babies 2013-in brief, almost 305,000 women gave birth to over 309,000 babies in 2013, with 97% of mothers delivering in hospitals.

'The proportion of mothers aged 35 years and older who gave birth in 2013 was 22%, compared with 19% in 2003. Conversely, the proportion of mothers aged less than 24 years decreased from 19% to 17%,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

The rate of women giving birth by caesarean section has continued to rise, from 28% in 2003 to 33% in 2013, with rates being highest among older mothers. Mothers older than 40 years were around 3 times as likely to deliver by caesarean section as teenage mothers (51% and 18%).

The report also examines the use of antenatal care, and shows that 62% of women who gave birth in 2013 accessed antenatal care during the first trimester of their pregnancy and 87% had 7 or more visits.

'Early and regular antenatal care is associated with better maternal health outcomes during pregnancy, fewer interventions in late pregnancy and positive health outcomes for the baby.'

The report also shows that fewer women are smoking during pregnancy-12% in 2013, down from 15% in 2009.

'Tobacco smoking during pregnancy is the most common preventable risk factor for pregnancy complications, and is associated with poorer perinatal outcomes including low birthweight, pre-term birth and perinatal death,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

Smoking was more common among teenage mothers, mothers living in Very remote areas, mothers living in the lowest SES areas, and Indigenous mothers.

'Some positive changes were seen in smoking behaviour during the antenatal period, with around one-fifth (22%) of women who smoked quitting in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.'

Overall, around 6% of live born babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) in 2013. The rate of low birthweight was twice as high among babies of women who smoked during pregnancy (12%), and babies born to Indigenous mothers (12%).

'Despite higher rates of smoking during pregnancy and low birthweight babies, most Indigenous mothers and their babies are doing well and there have been some recent improvements in areas such as in antenatal visits, and smoking during pregnancy.'

Today's report is accompanied by the release of a new online module on labour and birth, allowing users to explore perinatal data and information.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Full publication: Australia's mothers and babies 2013-in brief 

 How music, language shape the brain

December 14, 2015

Northwestern University professor Nina Kraus shed light on one of the brain's most complex tasks -- making sense of sound -- during the recent Falling Walls conference in Berlin.

The annual gathering features significant discoveries or "breakthroughs" by 20 of the world's leading scientists and social leaders across a wide range of fields.

During her 15-minute talk, Kraus explained how she was able to solve a major problem in the field by devising a new way to measure what happens in the brain when it's processing sound.

"The sounds of our lives change our brain," said Kraus, an inventor, amateur musician and director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Lab in the School of Communication. "In our lab, we investigate how our life in sound changes the brain, and how different forms of enrichment or decline influence how our brain processes sound."

To measure the brain's response to sound, researchers play speech or music directly into the ears of study volunteers. The scientists then measure the electricity created by the brain as it translates sound through sensors attached to participants' heads.

Results from a series of studies involving thousands of participants from birth to age 90 suggest that the brain's ability to process sound is influenced by everything from playing music and learning a new language to aging, language disorders and hearing loss.

Studies indicate that across the lifespan, people who actively play music (as a hobby) can hear better in noise than those who don't play music. Kraus' work also suggests that poverty and a mother's education level can affect a child's ability to process the essential parts of sound.

"We're able to look at how the brain processes essential ingredients in sound, which are rooted in pitch and timing and timbre," Kraus said at Falling Walls. "A mixing board is a good analogy. It's very fine tuning."

The newfound ability to measure sound processing in the brain has led to other important discoveries in neuroeducation by Kraus and her team. Moving out of the lab, they have conducted studies in schools, community centers and clinics.

Other findings:

• Kraus lab discovers biological approach to measure an individual's sound processing with unprecedented precision.

• The way a pre-literate child processes the ingredients of sound -- pitch, timing and timbre -- can predict future reading ability.

• Sound processing disadvantages can be partially offset by making music as well as speaking another language.

• Engagement matters. The brains of children who were more actively involved in Kraus lab studies saw more robust changes.

• Sound processing in the brain can be a neurological marker for issues such as autism, dyslexia and learning delays.

"Making sense of sound is one of the most computationally complex tasks we ask our brains to do, because we process information in microseconds," said Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences.

"It's not surprising that one of the first problems we encounter with so many disorders -- you get hit in the head, have a psychiatric problem or simply get older -- is understanding sound in a complex environment, like hearing a friend's voice in a noisy place. Sound processing in the brain really is a measure of brain health."

The above is reprinted from materials provided by Northwestern University. The original item was written by Julie Deardorff.

 Antarctic Division appoints first female Chief Scientist

11th December 2015

Dr Gwen Fenton is the Australian Antarctic Division’s new Chief Scientist.

Dr Fenton has been acting in the role since August and said she was honoured to be offered the position and to be the first woman in the role.

“This is an exciting time for the Australian Antarctic Science Programme and I am looking forward to ensuring that we maximise our opportunities to deliver world class research,” she said.

Dr Fenton succeeds Dr Nick Gales as Chief Scientist, after his recent appointment to Director of the Australian Antarctic Division.

Dr Gales said Dr Fenton brings to the role a depth of experience from marine research, environmental policy and managing Antarctic science.

“I have no doubt that Gwen will be an outstanding Chief Scientist; her depth of knowledge of Antarctic science, excellent judgement, positive people-skills and passion for the role will ensure that,” he said.

Dr Fenton has been employed at the Australian Antarctic Division since 2003, managing science planning and coordination for all projects within the Australian Antarctic Science Programme.

Prior to this she spent seven years with the Tasmanian Government, managing the state’s marine environmental policy issues within the Marine Resources Division of the Department of Primary Industries Water and the Environment.

In her early career Dr Fenton gained her PhD in marine zoology from the University of Tasmania and subsequently spent 11 years conducting post-doctoral marine research.

“My previous research used innovative technologies to study issues of practical importance, such as stable isotope analysis of marine coastal food webs, and radiometric ageing of deep-sea fish such as orange roughy, blue grenadier, oreo dories and deep-sea sharks,” she said.

“I also conducted ecological research on krill and mysid shrimps."

Dr Fenton is perhaps best known for the research she led to determine the age of orange roughy. This work revealed that the fish live to over 100 years old.

Top: Dr Gwen Fenton is the Australian Antarctic Division's new Chief Scientist. (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)

 Updated online service to help non-English speakers find interpreters

11 December 2015

Non-English speakers can find information on how to access interpreting services in Australia more easily thanks to TIS National’s new website update.

TIS National, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Translating and Interpreting Service, publishes content in the top 10 high demand languages in Australia on their

The 10 languages are Arabic, Dari, Farsi (Persian), Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Tamil, Traditional Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese.

This service, known as TIS Multilingual, will help non-English speakers in Australia connect with businesses and government.

TIS National’s Acting Director, Rockiya Pirova said TIS Multilingual helps non-English speakers to access information, in their preferred language, on how to find and use TIS National interpreters.

“This facilitates improved access to vital government and non-government services and will enrich non-English speakers’ experience living in Australia,” Ms Pirova said.

TIS Multilingual also has the ability to convert web content to speech. This will improve accessibility for all visitors to the TIS National website and make it easier for the entire community to access information about TIS National services.

Text to speech is currently available in Arabic, English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese and Turkish.

To find out more about TIS Multilingual or to access content in your language please visit the TIS National website

TIS National is an interpreting service provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients. TIS National provides a variety of interpreting services, including a 24-hour immediate phone interpreting service for any person or organisation in Australia who needs an interpreter for the cost of a local call.

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.