Inbox and Environment News - Issue 250 

 February 7 - 13, 2016: Issue 250

Bushcare in Pittwater Begins Again

Welcome to our official start to the 2016 Bushcare Season!  

The warmth and rain have provided perfect growing conditions for the hundreds of native tubestock planted out late last year throughout our reserves, and the young plants are off to a great start. Having said that, it was also great weather for weeds, and we would love your help again this year! Listed below are our Bushcare sessions for the weekend and throughout the week for everyone to help our beautiful bushland. Please join us and enjoy a morning (or afternoon) doing something wonderful for our local environment. Wear enclosed shoes, a hat, comfortable protective clothing, and bring along a bottle of water. Council will provide tools, training, and a legendary morning or afternoon tea!

If you are planning to join a Bushcare group for the first time, or are currently a member of a group and wish to join a different Bushcare session, please call me on 0408 164 235 to ensure your supervisor knows to expect you!

Thanks for your amazing efforts and continued support!

Bushcare in Pittwater 

January - February 2016 Pittwater Council Cooee Newsletter HERE

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                       8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                      1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                            1st Friday                          8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                      9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                     8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                      8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                   8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday+3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     3rd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                            9 - 12noon

 Restoring Bilgola - Newport Escarpment Project: 2016 

Have you noticed all the bamboo being removed just past The Serpentine as you travel north along Barrenjoey Road? These works are part of the planned removal of environmental weeds and restoration works within this catchment. Large areas that are severely degraded such as this location, will be replanted with local native species that enable a healthy natural system to respond and adapt and support the full range of our native plants and animals.

Before bamboo removal

Works in progress after bamboo removal

Bush regeneration and weed control is being undertaken within the upper and lower areas of this escarpment from South Bilgola Headland down to Bilgola Surf Club and on the upper and lower bushland areas to Old Barrenjoey Road! The project is enabling major restoration works to be carried out throughout the Bilgola Newport Escarpment. The overall project has a budget of $160,000 and aims to be completed by 30 June 2016.

Two endangered native plant communities are located within the escarpment, Littoral or Coastal Rainforest and Themeda Grasslands on Coastal Headlands, as well as three other vegetation communities, making this location rich with a wide variety of native flora species. Over 1725 local native tubestock have been grown from seed and will be planted by volunteers and bush regeneration contractors under the guidance of Council.

Would you like to help with this project?

Community residents and volunteers work at the Bilgola Beach Bushcare site on the 3rd Monday of each month from 9am – 12 noon.

Can only help on the weekend?

There are several planned community planting events to be held on weekends in March and April at South Bilgola Headland and at the Bilgola Bushcare site (dates to be confirmed). Please call the Bushcare Officer if interested in participating in any events or for further details on this project call the Bushland Management Officer on 9970 1363.

Live locally? Want to help?

Simply remove all noxious and environmental weeds on your property as this will help to stop the spread of these species into our bushland areas. If you need some help to identify the weeds then call Pittwater Council or visit the website to find out more information –

Pittwater Council’s ‘Bilgola Creek biodiversity’ project is supported by the Sydney Coastal Councils Group through funding from the Australian government.

EPA Statement on AGL Review of Gas Assets

Media release: 4 February 2016: EPA NSW

Today, AGL announced it will not proceed with the Gloucester Gas Project and that it will cease production at the Camden Gas Project in South West Sydney in 2023.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will play a vital role in ensuring that the decommissioning of the Gloucester Gas Project meets all relevant legal requirements including strict environmental rehabilitation standards. 

As the lead regulator for Gas activities in NSW, the EPA will continue to oversee production at the Camden Gas Project in South-West Sydney until the project’s completion. Once production has come to an end, the EPA will also oversee AGL’s environmental rehabilitation of the site.

For information about the EPA’s role in gas regulation see our FAQs here

More information about AGL’s announcement is available here 

EPA directs Hawkesbury Council to audit Windsor sewage treatment plant

Media release: 2 February 2016: EPA

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has directed Hawkesbury City Council to undertake a mandatory environmental audit of its sewage treatment plant at Windsor, following two incidents breaching its Environment Protection Licence, in July and August 2015.

Both pollution incidents were reported to the EPA by Hawkesbury City Council, and the July 2015 incident was also reported by a member of the public.

EPA Director Metropolitan, Greg Sheehy, said the pollution incidents related to the discharge of sewage sludge and effluent to the environment.

“It is crucial that the sewage treatment plant operates in compliance with the licence at all times. Sewage sludge and effluent need to be properly managed to safeguard the environment and human health,” Mr Sheehy said.

“This audit will look at the adequacy of the systems, procedures, practices and training in place at the sewage treatment plant.

“It will also identify any deficiencies in the current operations that may have contributed to the incidents, and make recommendations for how things should be improved.

“Hawkesbury Council will have six months to submit a copy of the auditor’s report for the EPA to review, and a summary of the final report, including conclusions or recommendations, will be made available on the EPA Public register.”

The audit will be carried out by an independent qualified environmental auditor approved by the EPA.

Following the delivery of the final report, the EPA may undertake further regulatory action as its investigations into the incidents continue.

Mandatory audits are just one regulatory tool the EPA uses to achieved environmental compliance and improve a licensee’s performance. Others include penalty notices, formal warning, additional licence conditions, notice and directions, enforceable undertaking, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions.

For more information see the EPA Compliance Policy

Endangered Southern Bell Frogs back at Yarradda Lagoon

Media release: 2 February 2016

Leaping into World Wetlands Day 2016 is the endangered Southern Bell Frog, turning up for the first time in nearly 40 years at Yarradda Lagoon following successive environmental water delivery events.

The discovery at the lagoon west of Darlington Point in the Riverina, was made by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Charles Sturt University (CSU) staff who were monitoring the wetland’s response following five years of environmental flows.

James Maguire, OEH’s Environmental Water Manager said hopes were raised in finding the frog when staff heard the very distinctive, low-growling call of two Southern Bell Frogs among a chorus of nocturnal wetland sounds.

“The next morning around 10 tadpoles and one bright green and bronze-striped adult Southern Bell Frog were found in the nets specially set up for monitoring the wetland’s aquatic life,” said Mr Maguire.

“While their call is unmistakable, to actually see the frogs and tadpoles was astounding.

“Tadpoles can take 3 months to fully form and to see some nearly at the adult stage was proof of successful breeding.

“At the moment conditions at the lagoon are ideal and successive watering events have created a place where these frogs want to live and breed.

“They have most likely returned to the area because for the first time in a long time, the lagoon’s vegetation is thriving and in some places emerging from the water creating favoured little spots for the frogs to call and breed.

“This particular Bell Frog is highly sensitive to changes in water regimes so this find is a great sign that the lagoon’s hydrology and aquatic habitats can support this endangered species.

“The ideal outcome is for a population to establish here and we have the ability to support this by continuing to monitor water levels and natural flows and ‘topping up’ the lagoon with environmental water if need be,” Mr Maguire said.

 Neighbouring landholders have been working with OEH over the last 2 years to help pump water into the lagoon to maintain the ideal water level.

“Without their assistance, the lagoon would have remained dry and we would not see the diversity of species we see here today,” said Mr Maguire.

The Yarradda Lagoon project is co-funded by the Riverina Local Land Services with environmental water supplied by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

David Papps the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder said he was excited to hear about the monitoring findings and breeding of the Southern Bell Frog.

“This is a great outcome for this species and it has been made possible by local landholders and irrigators, our state partners and scientists.

“Yarradda Lagoon is the subject of Long Term Intervention Monitoring, a five year program in which teams of experts throughout the Basin are assessing the impacts of environmental water use on behalf of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder,” Mr Papps said.

First celebrated in 1997, World Wetlands Day is marked internationally each year on 2 February. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention ) in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971.

Top: Young southern bell frog at Yarradda Lagoon. Photo C Amos OEH - Office of Environment and Heritage

Adani’s latest approval reveals a disregard for the Great Barrier Reef

Tue 2 February 2016: Australian Marine Conservation Society

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has today expressed deep concern about the Queensland Government’s environmental approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, which will adversely impact the Great Barrier Reef.

Imogen Zethoven, the Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director said today that the decision demonstrated that the Queensland Government is putting the interests of the coal industry ahead of the interests of the Reef and a sustainable economy.

“The mining and burning of coal is the leading cause of global warming. It causes the waters of the Reef to warm and coral to be bleached. Global warming is the greatest threat faced by the Reef.

“The Queensland economy and the tourism industry rely on a healthy Reef. It provides 70,000 jobs and billions to the state’s economy.

“Approving this mine is madness. There’s hardly a profitable coal mine in Queensland. Workers are being laid off. The mines can’t pay for their rehabilitation bonds.

“Adani has failed to secure finance. Banks think this is a project that doesn’t offer viable returns.

“But it is the Reef that will be hardest hit. The Reef’s waters will be dredged, there will be hundreds more coal ships and damaging port infrastructure will be built along the coastline.

“Top coral scientists are saying quite clearly, you can have the Reef, or you can have coal but you can’t have both.

“Economically, environmentally, rationally or emotionally, there is no choice. The Reef should be here for future generations. And future generations power should come from renewable sources,” said Ms Zethoven.

Petition email Queensland's Coordinator General today and urge them to deny approval for Adani to build their port at Abbot Point.

 NSW Container Deposit Scheme: Have Your Say

On 21 February 2015, the Premier, the Hon. Mike Baird MP, announced the implementation of a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 1 July 2017.

A container deposit scheme (CDS) uses rewards to encourage people to return their drink containers to a collection point. CDSs are a way to reward environmentally responsible behaviour, reduce drink container litter and increase recycling.

The NSW Container Deposit Scheme Discussion Paper is your opportunity to tell us what kind of CDS you would like to see in NSW.

This discussion paper has been prepared by the NSW Environment Protection Authority, on behalf of the Container Deposit Scheme Advisory Committee, appointed by the Minister for the Environment.

Have your say

Submit your feedback on the discussion paper by Friday 26 February 2016.

For more information, visit the EPA website.

Online Consultation

Date: Dec. 18, 2015 - Feb. 26, 2016, Time: 10:30pm — 12:00pm

More Information or  (02) 9995 5555  Agency Website

WetlandCare Australia and Conservation Volunteers Australia invite photographers of all ages to enter the Wetlands in Focus photography prize.

Join us in celebrating and sharing Australia’s wonderful wetlands and waterways!

It’s easy and free to enter and get involved – just capture your favorite Australian wetland flora (plant), fauna (animal) or landscape on camera, and submit your shot in the easy to use form on the Wetland Care Australia website.

There’s even a category for photos of wetland volunteers in action, the perfect way to showcase the hard work and dedication of wetland carers around the nation.

All entries will be publicly displayed, with Entrant’s Name, Entry Title, Artists Statement and category entered into, on the WetlandCare Australia Facebook page where you and all your friends can vote for the People’s Choice Prize by liking your fave photo.

Wetlands in Focus is dedicated to spreading the word about Australia’s amazing wetlands and the fantastic people like you who care about them.

Entries are open right up to the end of February 2016, which will be a month of wetland celebrations and events, marking World Wetlands Day.

Entries close February 29 2016, voting for the People's Choice closes March 3 2016.

World Wetlands Day falls on February 2nd each year and commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance on the 2nd February 1971.

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2016 is Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods

There will be wetland themed events happening in locations around Australia during February 2016, watch this space for more details!

For Prize Details and to Enter visit the Wetland Care Australia website

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

Support the ban of Microbeads

The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee is holding a public hearing in Sydney on Thursday, 18 February 2016 at The Portside Centre – 207 Kent St, Sydney. 

Surfrider is invited to appear before the Committee at this hearing to support legislation via a private members bill introduced by the Greens, to ban the use of microbeads in personal care and laundry products. 

We will call on ALL members of parliament to endorse this bill so Australia can remove this significant source of plastic debris from our waterways. Plastic pollution of our waterways and oceans is a major environmental and human health issue requiring urgent attention. Please share and ask your friends to support us and sign our petition. For more information on the banning of microbeads, please click here.

 Small Bits of Plastic washed in by Tides onto the beaches of Pittwater: Feb. 2016


Would you like to know more about our local birds and explore our bushland reserves? Then join us on one of our bird walks:

28 February, Warriewood Wetlands

17 April, Deep Creek Reserve, near Narrabeen Lagoon

21 August, Chiltern Track, Ingleside (birds and wildflowers)

25 September, Irrawong Reserve, North Narrabeen

27 November, Warriewood Wetlands

Most walks start at 7.30 or 8am and last a couple of hours. Bring binoculars and morning tea for afterwards if you like. for details of each walk.

Avalon Boomerang Bags 2016 Workshops

It was great to see some of our regular volunteers yesterday at our first workshop of the year - thanks everyone for showing up and kicking off the year in style. There will be no workshop next Tuesday 26th January due to Australia Day, however, we look forward to seeing you all at the next workshop on Tuesday 2nd February 11:30am- 5pm.

For those of you unable to come to workshops there are many other ways to get involved, just let us know you're willing by leaving a comment or sending us a message.

Pictured is a Boomerang Bag Box as will be provided around Avalon Shopping area full of our Boomerang Bags to "Borrow and Bring Back" Workshops are every Tuesday in Avalon Rec. Centre.

Facebook page

New Traps have Arrived: Pittwater Indian Myna Action Group 


We have traps available now for would-be trappers in Pittwater to join the Campaign. It's very simple to become a trapper and if you want to do something positive in controlling this introduced species please contact us NOW!! 


That's right - we have access to traps for all Northern Beaches residents who want to do their bit. Please message us and we will give you details how to acquire your own trap.

We are looking for people to get involved with our trapping program in Pittwater. We now have 18 traps out in Pittwater!! So if you would like to do something positive about ridding our community of this pest bird please contact us. We will also be rolling out our monthly update program to record trapping numbers and generally making sure you are all happy trappers!


Create a Habitat Stepping Stone!

Over 50 Pittwater households have already pledged to make a difference for our local wildlife, and you can too! Create a habitat stepping stone to help our wildlife out. It’s easy - just add a few beautiful habitat elements to your backyard or balcony to create a valuable wildlife-friendly stopover.

How it works

1) Discover: Visit the website below to find dozens of beautiful plants, nest boxes and water elements you can add to your backyard or balcony to help our local wildlife.

2) Pledge: Select three or more elements to add to your place. You can even show you care by choosing to have a bird appear on our online map.

3) Share: Join the Habitat Stepping Stones Facebook community to find out what’s happening in the natural world, and share your pics, tips and stories.

What you get                                  

• Enjoy the wonders of nature, right outside your window.

• Free and discounted plants for your garden.

• A Habitat Stepping Stone plaque for your front fence.

• Local wildlife news and tips.

• Become part of the Pittwater Habitat Stepping Stones community.

Get the kids involved and excited about helping out!

No computer? No problem

Just write to the address below and we’ll mail you everything you need.                

Habitat Stepping Stones, Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University NSW 2109

This project is assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust

Communities demand Baird end NSW’s war on trees

February 4, 2016: Nature Conservation Council NSW

Hundreds of people at community meetings in Crows Nest and North Narrabeen this week unanimously supported a motion opposing the Baird Government’s plans to ease tree-clearing controls across the state.

“People are outraged that Premier Mike Baird is allowing the Nationals in the Coalition to dictate environment policy to the whole of the state,” said meeting organiser Corinne Fisher.

“Our communities do not want the laws that have defended bushland and wildlife for more than a decade to be scrapped.”

A motion calling on the Baird government to halt species extinction, biodiversity loss and vegetation destruction in city and country areas was unanimously supported at both meetings (see below).

“Clearly the new law is all about facilitating development rather than protecting biodiversity and acting to mitigate damaging climate change impacts,” Ms Fisher said.

“People are fed up with losing precious bushland. They are looking to Mike Baird to show some leadership on this issue by standing up to the radicals in his government who are driving these damaging changes.”

Ms Fisher pointed out that Sydney had been rocked by the loss of trees due to the unpopular 10-50 code in 2015, then the heritage trees in Randwick sacrificed supposedly for light tail, and now the new Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The government plans to abolish the Native Vegetation Act and theThreatened Species Conservation Act and replace it with a new Biodiversity Conservation Act that will:

put landmark trees and bushland in towns and suburbs at risk

renew broadscale land clearing across the state

add extinction pressures to the state's 1000 threatened species

threaten clean, reliable water supplies

degrade fertile farmland through erosion and salinity; and  

undermine Australia's ability to meet its carbon pollution reduction targets

“This is a plot to let landholders trash our precious rural woodlands and urban bushland by replacing the Native Vegetation Act with weaker tree-clearing controls,” Ms Fisher said. 

“Thousands of koalas, quolls and gliders will be killed each year if Mike Baird’s Liberal-National government scraps our tree-clearing laws.

“The Baird government is on notice. These meetings are just the start of a grassroots campaign that is spreading fast across Sydney and the rest of the state.”


This meeting calls upon the Baird Government to act as a matter of urgency, in order to halt species extinction in NSW; stop further loss of biodiversity; and protect vegetation for the present and future wellbeing of NSW communities, city and country.

Accordingly, this meeting calls upon the Baird Government to: 

Ensure that the new Biodiversity Conservation Act does not lead to broadscale clearing (as defined in the Native Vegetation Act) or any further clearing of bushland.

Ensure that the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy:

prescribes a like-for-like requirement for any offsets;

provides clear protection for environmentally sensitive areas; and

does not allow supplementary measures such as cash payments.

Recognise and comply with federal policies to protect biodiversity and combat climate change.

Pittwater Council Environment Events and Workshops February 2016

Detox your home!

13th Feb 2016: 10am - 11:30am

Save money and reduce the number of chemicals in your home

Get inspired to clean your home without the nasty chemicals. With a range of different options this workshop will give you advice on how to choose the right products and how to make your own green cleaners. Get expert advice on how to keep your home clean and green. 

Where: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen.

Bookings Essential!  Online  In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen  Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Birding Morning

14th Feb 2016: 7am - 9am

Come for a morning with the birds.

We will take you for a fantastic guided walk to learn more about our feathered friends. Our birding mornings are guided by local experts and are a great opportunity to get a better look at out local bird life. A great activity for those people interested to learn more as well as passionate birdwatchers. 

Where: Deep Creek Reserve. Meet point provided on booking (select Birding Walk).

Bookings Essential!  Online  In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen  Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Ingleside Escarpment Walk

21st Feb 2016: 9am - 12pm

A stunning bushland reserve with a beautiful waterfall.

Come and join us for a walk through Ingleside Chase Reserve which is Pittwater's largest continuous piece of bushland. It contains many beautiful plant communities and threatened fauna. 

The walk will commence at Irrawong-Epworth Reserve and climb to Ingleside Park. At the park we will have a morning tea break and then head back down. The track is 1.5km one-way and is a little steep in parts so although we will be taking it at a gentle pace a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Where: Irrawong and Ingleside Chase Reserve. Meeting point provided on booking.  

Bookings Essential!  Online  In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen  Phone: 1300 000 232 (Reception - Option 1)

Draft Joint Management Agreement for the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program - Have Your Say

February 1, 2016

What's this about?

The Department of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have reviewed the 2009 Joint Management for the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) program and drafted a new agreement, which is now on public exhibition.

In accordance with the Joint Management Agreements, those agreements from 2009 have been reviewed after five years, which recommended numerous amendments to the agreements, including consolidating the two agreements into one draft agreement  and updating the Management Plan.

Before entering into a Joint Management Agreement, the Minister for Primary Industries and the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage must give the public an opportunity to make submissions on the draft agreement. All written submissions received before the closing date must be considered prior to finalising the Joint Management Agreement. The draft agreement may be amended to take into account any submissions received.

For more information visit the NSW Department of Primary IndustriesShark Meshing Page

Have your say

Submit your feedback by 5pm Thursday 31 March 2016 via email or post to:

JMA Review Submissions, NSW DPI, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay NSW 2315

Over 3,100 Hectares Added To Narran Lake Ramsar Site 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Environment Minister Mark Speakman today marked World Wetlands Day by announcing an extension of more than 3,100 hectares to the Narran Lake Nature Reserve Ramsar Site in northern NSW. Mr Speakman said the Ramsar site, an internationally listed breeding area for water birds from across the world, increased to 8,447 hectares from 5,343 hectares. 

“The expansion area equates to almost the same size as Norfolk Island. It captures the existing nature reserve’s full floodplain and includes more breeding and feeding habitat for water birds,” Mr Speakman said. 

“Many of the beautiful water birds that gather in Australian wetlands such as Narran Lake fly up to 15,000 kilometres from countries as far away as Siberia in their annual migration. The birds need protected habitat on a global scale to maintain their breeding cycle.” 

Mr Speakman thanked the Narran Lake Nature Reserve Co-management Committee for ensuring the wetlands remained protected. Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said Narran Lake Nature Reserve provided habitat for numerous water bird species listed under international migratory bird conservation agreements. 

“Ramsar listing gives the expanded area additional protection under national environment law and the Ramsar convention,” Mr Hunt said. 

Narran Lake Nature Reserve Co-management Committee Chair Jason Wilson said the Ramsar site and nature reserve have historically been significant meeting places for Aboriginal people and they continue to be today. 

“We are pleased to see these wetlands being recognised internationally as a special place in the world,” Mr Wilson said. 

The Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries welcomed the announcement. 

“The Ramsar site extension will further protect the area’s rich environmental value and ensure it continues to be a place of cultural importance to local Aboriginal people,” Mr Humphries said. 

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Youalaroi Traditional Owners will continue to manage the site.

Better seasonal forecasting for farmers on the way

4 February 2016

Progress is well underway on a $3.3 million Bureau of Meteorology project under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to provide better seasonal forecasts.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said the project was delivering on the government’s Ag White Paper commitment to give farmers more accurate, localised and frequent forecasting information.

“Accurate, detailed and frequent climate outlooks are a vital tool for our farmers in managing risk and informing business decisions, supporting better returns at the farmgate. It’s been estimated that the potential value to the agriculture sector of improved seasonal forecasts is more than $1 billion each year,” Minister Joyce said.

“The new seasonal forecasting service will deliver more localised forecasts, improving the modelling resolution from 250 kilometres down to 60 kilometres, and will also provide more frequent forecasts, updated weekly instead of monthly.

“It is expected that improvements in outlook accuracy from the project will give our farmers access to the world's best seasonal outlooks for Australia.

“The development of this new model involves extensive consultation with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure that the service will give farmers the information they need in a format that is clear, concise and easy to access.

“Implementation of the new model and design and testing of the online user interface will commence in 2016, with the new service expected to be incrementally released and fully operational by 2018-19.”

"This is one of the first projects to leverage off the power of the Bureau's new supercomputer which was funded by the Australian government in 2015. The supercomputer is on track to be operational from later this year and will have 20 times the current power,” Minister Hunt said.

"The supercomputer allows higher resolution and the models will be more frequent and more sophisticated.  Ultimately this means more accurate forecasting.

"The Australian climate is more variable than almost anywhere in the world. Thanks to this important work farmers and other users will be better prepared to manage the fluctuations and extremes."

Minister Joyce said the project was just one of a range of measures under the Ag White Paper to help farmers manage climate risk, prepare for and recover from drought.

“The Ag White Paper is further strengthening our approach to drought and risk management with $250 million in drought concessional loans in 2015–16; over $9.5 million in projects so far announced under the Drought Communities Programme; $15 million for tackling pest animals and weeds; $20 million to expand community and mental health support; and a dedicated hotline to provide advice to drought-affected taxpayers that has so far received more than 13,000 calls.”

For more information on the Australian Government’s range of drought support measures, visit

To read the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper,

Community feedback sought for the Wilpinjong Extension Project

27.01.2016: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to expand the Wilpinjong Coal Mine located approximately 40 kilometres northeast of Mudgee 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 proposal which seeks to create a new open cut pit to the east of existing operations, extend various existing open cut pits and extend the life of the mine by seven years (to 2033). 

The project will be subject to a comprehensive merit assessment process and will include reviews by State government agencies and the Commonwealth Independent Expert Scientific

Committee. The Department of Planning and Environment will also be engaging a number of experts to provide independent advice on the project. 

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. 

Submissions we receive are 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.” 

The Department will hold a community information session in the local area to assist residents in preparing their submissions and understanding the development assessment process.

Further details about the meeting will be provided shortly.

To make a submission or view the EIS, visit

Submissions can be made from Wednesday, 27 January 2016 until Thursday, 10 March 2016. 

Written submissions can also be made to: Department of Planning and Environment, Attn: Executive Director – Resource Assessments and Business Systems, GPO Box 39. Sydney NSW 2001

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

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

• Mid-Western Regional Council, 86 Market Street, Mudgee

• Mid-Western Regional Council, 109 Herbert Street, Gulgong

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


Direct link: 

Project Summary – retrieved from EIS:

ES3.2 PROJECT SUMMARY The main activities associated with the Project would include: • open cut mining (Plate ES-1) of ROM coal from the Ulan Coal Seam and Moolarben Coal Member in Mining Lease 1573 and in new Mining Lease Application areas in Exploration Licences 6169 and 7091; • open cut extensions (Figure ES-3), including: - approximately 500 hectares of incremental extensions to the existing open cut pits in areas of Mining Lease 1573 and Exploration Licence 6169; and - development of a new open cut pit of approximately 300 hectares in Exploration Licence 7091 (Pit 8); • continued production of up to 16 Mtpa of ROM coal; • extension of the approved mine life by approximately seven years (i.e. from approximately 2026 to 2033); • a peak operational workforce of approximately 625 people; • continued use of the approved Wilpinjong Coal Mine CHPP and general coal handling and rail loading facilities and other existing and approved supporting mine infrastructure; • rail transport of approximately 13 Mtpa of thermal product coal to domestic and export customers (within existing maximum and annual average daily rail limits); • relocation of a section of the TransGrid Wollar to Wellington 330 kilovolt electricity transmission line to facilitate mining in Pit 8; • various local infrastructure relocations to facilitate the mining extensions (e.g. realignment of Ulan-Wollar Road and associated rail level crossing, relocation of local electricity transmission lines and services); • construction and operation of additional mine access roads to service new mining facilities located in Pits 5 and 8; • construction and operation of new ancillary infrastructure in support of mining including mine infrastructure areas, ROM pads, haul roads, electricity supply, communications installations, light vehicle roads, access tracks, remote crib huts, up-catchment diversions, dams, pipelines and other water management structures; • ongoing exploration activities; and • other associated minor infrastructure, plant and activities.

Motorboat noise gives predators a deadly advantage

05 February 2016: AIMS

The rate that fish are captured by predators can double when boats are motoring nearby, according to pioneering work led by a University of Exeter marine biologist.

Dr Stephen Simpson and his international research team found that noise from passing motorboats increases stress levels in young coral reef fish and reduces their ability to flee from predators. As a consequence they are captured more easily and their survival chances are halved.

This is the first study to show that real-world noise, in this case the common noise of motorboats, can have a direct consequence on fish survival. The team hope the findings will inspire better environmental noise management in coastal areas.

“We found that when real boats were motoring near to young damselfish in open water, they became stressed and were six times less likely to startle to simulated predator attacks compared to fish tested without boats nearby,” said Dr Simpson, a senior lecturer in the University’s Biosciences department, whose work is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“Juvenile fish become distracted and stressed when exposed to motorboat noise and predators capitalise on their indecision”, said collaborator Professor Mark McCormick, James Cook University.

The team of scientists, which included Australian and Canadian researchers specialising in predator­–prey interactions and bioacousticians from the University of Bristol, combined laboratory and field experiments, using playbacks and real boat noise, to test the impact of motorboat noise on survival of young Ambon damselfish during encounters with their natural predator the dusky dottyback.

Rather than being despondent, the team is optimistic about the possibilities for management of noise and its potential impact. “If you go to the Great Barrier Reef, there is a lot of noise from motorboats in some places. But unlike many pollutants we can more easily control noise. We can choose when and where we make it, and with new technologies, we can make less noise. For example, we could create marine quiet zones or buffer zones, and avoid known sensitive areas or times of year when juveniles are abundant,” said Dr Mark Meekan, a collaborator from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

“At present there is limited policy guidance to support decision-makers in their efforts to determine the level of risk that underwater noise presents to the Great Barrier Reef’s species and habitats. Our findings may prove useful for the development of better standards for noise management in reef environments.”

Managing local environmental stressors such as noise is an essential first step in protecting the marine environment. “You might argue that climate change is a bigger threat to reef life, but if we can reduce the effect of local noise pollution we build greater resilience in reef communities to looming threats such as global warming and ocean acidification,” Dr Simpson added.

Anthropogenic noise increases fish mortality by predation.Stephen D. Simpson, Andrew N. Radford, Sophie L. Nedelec, Maud C. O. Ferrari, Douglas P. Chivers, Mark I. McCormick, Mark G. Meekan is published in Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms10544

Robb Signs historic Trans Pacific Trade Pact (TPP) in New Zealand

Media release: 4 February 2016

The historic Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – which will see the elimination of 98 per cent of tariffs among 12 countries – was formally signed today in New Zealand by the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb.

The TPP is the world’s most significant trade and investment agreement finalised in more than two decades with member countries accounting for around 40 per cent of global GDP.

Australia’s exports of goods and services to these countries were worth $109 billion last year – a third of Australia’s total exports. In 2014, Australian investment in TPP countries was 45 per cent of all outward investment.

Tariffs will be eliminated on US$9 billion of Australia’s dutiable exports to TPP countries, including $4.3 billion worth of agricultural goods with new levels of access for beef, dairy, sugar, rice, grains and wine. A further $2.1 billion of Australia’s dutiable exports will receive significant preferential access through new quotas and tariff reductions.

Mr Robb said this agreement brings enormous promise across both traditional areas of trade and investment and so-called 21st century areas like e-commerce and increasingly important global value chains.

“The tariff cuts will deliver material gains for our exporters across the board and place downward pressure on the cost of imported goods for households and businesses, but the benefits that will flow from the creation of a more seamless trading environment are not well understood,” he said.

“The embrace of paperless trading, streamlined customs procedures and trading rules, assistance for SMEs, more seamless data flows and greater flexibility with data storage, are all features of the TPP. The agreement also contains provisions to help stimulate new investment and as experience shows, when you deepen trading relations increased investment inevitably follows.”

The TPP sets in place common rules for labour, the environment and for the first time in a trade treaty, rules to combat bribery and corruption. It will also ensure private companies and businesses are able to effectively compete against State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Significantly, Mr Robb said, the agreement will promote the expansion and diversification of Australia’s world-class services sector by liberalising key barriers, providing more transparent and predictable operating conditions, and it will capture future services sector reforms.

Some of the services areas that will benefit include Mining Equipment Services and Technologies (METS), professional services such as legal, architectural, engineering and surveying services; financial services, education, telecommunications, IT, transport, health, hospitality and tourism. Australian companies will also have new opportunities to deliver government procurement services.

Mr Robb said the TPP – which was open to other countries to join in the future – offered a pathway to a free trade area across the entire Asia Pacific region. “Given its reach and potential this is an agreement we simply cannot afford not to be part of,” he said.

Each TPP country will now follow its own domestic treaty making process before the agreement can enter into force. In Australia this will include a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) inquiry and the consideration by the parliament of any implementing legislation or amendments.

TPP members include: Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

Signing of TPP a significant milestone for agriculture and food exporters

4 February 2016: Media Release

Today’s signing of the agreed text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the next step forward towards advancing opportunities for Australian agriculture and food exporters in a landmark regional trade agreement covering some of the world’s largest economies.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the gains solidified today could drive stronger profits to Australian agricultural and food producers. 

“Today we’re a step closer to the benefits that will flow from the world’s largest ever regional trade agreement—an agreement including five of our top 10 trading partners,” Minister Joyce said.

“These countries represent 25 per cent of world trade, 36 per cent of the global economy and around a third of our agriculture exports—and this agreement gives us preferential access that will have real, tangible outcomes for exporters of most of our main export commodities. 

Minister Joyce said the TPP was the latest in a string of trade deals signed by the Australian Government that were cutting tariffs and opening new opportunities for agricultural and food producers. 

“The agreements with Korea, Japan and China are delivering real returns and we’re now working toward bilateral agreements with India and Indonesia—two important trading partners where demand for agricultural and food products is set to boom in the coming decades,” Minister Joyce said.

“At the same time, we are working hard to pursue improved technical market access. Tariff reductions and eliminations are essential but we also need to achieve technical market access to translate FTA outcomes into real opportunities.”

The Coalition has also delivered on its $30.8 million Ag White Paper commitment to establish five new overseas agricultural counsellors to give Australian producers better access to premium overseas markets, tackle technical barriers to trade and expand into emerging markets while maintaining and strengthening Australia’s position in existing markets. This takes the total number of overseas agricultural counsellors from 12 to 17.

The five new agricultural counsellors have now commenced their postings in Vietnam, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China and Thailand, and substantially strengthen Australia’s existing overseas agricultural counsellor network in key markets based in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Jakarta, Bangkok, New Delhi, Washington, Rome, Brussels and Dubai. 

The 12 TPP parties comprise: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, NZ, Singapore, USA and Vietnam.

Key TPP outcomes

Beef: Japan’s tariff on both chilled and frozen beef imports will be reduced from 38.5 per cent to 9 per cent over 15 years, and Canada (currently 25.6 per cent), Mexico (25 per cent) and Peru (17 per cent) will eliminate all tariffs on beef over 10 years.

Lamb: Tariffs on exports to Mexico—a $22 million market in 2014—will be eliminated within 8 years. Any tariffs on sheepmeat in other TPP markets will be eliminated on entry into force.

Grains and cereals: Tariffs on wheat (currently 67%) and barley (115%) into Mexico are being completely eliminated over 5–10 years.   

Dairy: Tariffs reduced or eliminated on yoghurt into Mexico, and on a range of dairy products into the US and Canada. For Japan, TPP eliminates or reduces a range of tariffs (over 10-15 years), and with new quota allocations for cheese, butter, skim milk powder, ice cream, condensed milk, yoghurt and more, there are good prospects for our dairy exports to grow.

Wine: Existing high tariffs in Canada, Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico and Peru to be eliminated either on entry into force or shortly after. Exports of wine to these countries are significant already, with Canada taking $174 million worth in 2014. In total we export almost half our $1.9 billion worth of wine exports to TPP countries.

Horticulture: All tariffs on horticulture products entering Canada, and most tariffs going into Peru and Mexico will be eliminated on entry into force or shortly after.

Seafood: All Japanese, Vietnamese, Canadian, Peruvian and Mexican seafood tariffs will be eliminated on entry into force, or shortly after. Exports of rock lobster forecast to rise to $819 million in 2015–16—a rise of 123 per cent since 2010–11—a big portion of which goes to TPP countries like Vietnam and the US.

Cotton: All tariffs on Australian cotton exports to TPP countries—valued at $251 million in 2014—will be eliminated, most on entry into force.  Tariffs on cotton to the US will be eliminated by 2023, in accordance with the timelines under AUSFTA.

Sugar: TPP delivers the first new quota access for sugar to the US in 20 years, with 65,000 tonnes added to our existing WTO quota of 87,000 tonnes plus a greater share of unallocated quota. There were also some positive outcomes into the important Japanese market with reduction of the levy on high polarity (raw) sugar.

For more information on the TPP Agreement visit

Special Coins Issued to Celebrate the Year of the Monkey

As the Chinese Lunar Calendar ushers in the Year of the Monkey, the innovative tetra-decagon series continues with its fourth annual release. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a twelve-year cycle. Each cycle is represented by a different animal each with its own distinct personality. People born within each year are believed be naturally quick-witted and able to solve complex problems with ease. 

2016 50c Tetra-decagon Monkey - Lunar Series

2016 50c Tetra-decagon Year of the Monkey Lunar Series

Available here

2016 $1 Uncirculated Monkey Coin - Lunar Series

Available for Pre Order- Due late February

2016 $1 Al Br Uncirculated Coin Lunar Series Year of the Monkey

Available here 

Mathematics to become a prerequisite for University of Sydney admission

1 February 2016

The University of Sydney will lead the charge to address the national crisis in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by introducing mathematic prerequisites for a number of its courses from 2019.

Amid growing concerns over falling standards in subjects requiring mathematics, the University of Sydney will become the first university in NSW to require year 12 students to have completed at least two-unit mathematics for 61 of its courses in order to meet requirements for admission.

The changes, which apply from 2019 in order to allow sufficient time for current year 10 students to select senior subjects which fulfil the new entry requirements, will impact a range of courses, including economics, commerce, engineering and IT, psychology, pharmacy, vet science and science.  

"Our research shows a large gap between students who arrive at university with only a general mathematics background and those who have studied more complex two-unit mathematics and above," said Professor Tyrone Carlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Registrar).

"We want to encourage students, particularly female students, to engage with mathematics at a level higher than general maths, and so lift the marked decline in enrolments across Australia and our declining national performance in the subject on global leagues tables.

"If Australia is to fully embrace the opportunities afforded by the innovation agenda we must lift mathematics as the cornerstone of STEM fields. Our graduates will be ready to tackle the challenges of the industries of the future thanks to this higher-level mathematical knowledge and will attain the necessary skills to thrive in their STEM-related degrees."

The changes were passed by the University of Sydney's Academic Board in December 2015. The full list of courses affected by the new prerequisites is available online.  

The new prerequisites will be listed in the 2016 Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) Year 10 guide, distributed to schools in May 2016, and are set to apply to admissions for 2019.

ASIC releases guidance on new protections for small businesses against unfair contract terms

Tuesday 2 February 2016

ASIC has today released an information sheet about new protections for small businesses from unfair contract terms in standard form contracts. These protections already apply to standard form consumer contacts and will apply to standard form small business contracts from 12 November 2016.

The information sheet provides guidance about the new provisions, including how the law defines a standard form contract and ASIC's expectations that prior to 12 November 2016, businesses will review their standard form contracts.

ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said, 'small businesses, like consumers, have limited market power and a reduced ability to vary 'take it or leave it' standard form contracts. The consumer unfair contract term protections get positive outcomes for consumers and ASIC anticipates being able to do the same for small business, once the protections are extended to them.'

ASIC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory offices of fair trading are responsible for enforcing the law. ACCC's guidance can be found


The unfair contract term protections will apply to all standard form contracts entered into or renewed on or after 12 November 2016, where, at the time of entering into the contract, at least one party to the contract is a business employing less than 20 people and where the contract is worth up to $300,000 in a single year or $1 million if the contract runs for more than a year. The new protections will also apply to any term of a standard form contract, which is varied on or after 12 November 2016.

The protections do not cover:

• insurance contracts regulated under the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (e.g. home insurance, car insurance etc)

• the constitutions of companies, managed investment schemes or other kinds of bodies.

The protections also do not cover:

• terms that define the main subject of the contract (i.e. the goods or services that are acquired under the contract, or a term that is necessary for the supply of goods or services to occur)

• terms that set the upfront price payable

• terms that are required or expressly permitted by a law of the Commonwealth, or a state or territory.


• Information sheet Unfair contract term protections for small businesses (INFO 211) Here

Hundreds of STEM opportunities in the new school year

4 February 2016

Principals and teachers now have access to a list of over 250 STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – programmes to benefit students across the country.

The 2016 STEM Programme Index details initiatives that support teachers and students to improve their skills through professional development, mentoring and curriculum resources.

Assistant Minister for Science Karen Andrews said ensuring students had comprehensive STEM skills was essential to Australia’s future economic and social wellbeing.

“Strong STEM skills across the community underpin an innovative future, and the development of these skills starts in schools,” Mrs Andrews said.

“With participation rates in year 11 and 12 science subjects at the lowest levels in 20 years, and surveys of primary school teachers showing many do not feel adequately prepared to teach science, technology and maths, it’s an ideal time to distribute this Index .

“Released by the Office of the Chief Scientist last month, the Index will help teachers develop their skills and bring new ideas into the classroom, inspiring students to pursue STEM subjects and careers in the new school year."

The Index was compiled by the Australian Industry Group with funding from the Office of the Chief Scientist and included consultation with teachers’ groups, state education departments and industry.

The initiative complements the National Innovation and Science Agenda’s commitment to shoring up the country’s future skills base through a $84 million investment in programmes to boost digital literacy and STEM skills amongst young Australians.

For details go to: 2016-stem-programme-index

One step online registration to increase organ donation

2 February 2016

Australians will soon be able to register as organ donors in less than ten minutes online, the Minister responsible for organ donation Fiona Nash has announced.

Eight years after the Australian Government announced a programme to increase organ donation and transplantation, seven per cent of Australians are registered organ donors – 1.8 million people. A further 4.3 million have at some stage signalled intent to become a donor but have not completed the paperwork required under the current system.

“Just 1.8 million of 24 million Australians are registered organ donors,” Minister Nash said.

“Almost all Australians would like to be able to receive a donated organ if it was required to save their life. Yet the vast majority of Australians are not registered as organ donors. Every Australian can help improve Australia’s organ donation and transplantation rate – they can register as an organ donor. If we increase the number of registered organ donors, we will save more lives.

“As of May, registering to become an organ donor will be a one-step, online process able to be completed in less than 10 minutes - no paperwork necessary. The Coalition Government will run awareness campaigns including distributing the link on social media, but government alone can’t increase the number of donors – we need Australians to register as organ donors.

“If this change results in the 4.3 million people who have previously signaled an intention to become an organ donor completing registration, we could quickly triple the donor pool and save more lives. However I hope far more people than that will register, and importantly, tell their families about their decision.

“In Australia, we worship our sporting stars and we rightly honour our war heroes, with memorials bearing their names. 

“Organ donors are real heroes who save lives. Donor families give an amazing gift. Let’s admire our organ donor heroes with the same passion we admire our stars in sport or music or whatever our particular interest is.

“Just one per cent of people die in circumstances which allow them to become an organ donor. An obvious way to increase organ donation is to increase the donor pool.

“I’m a registered organ donor and you can be too.”

There are 1600 Australians on the waiting list for some sort of organ at any one time. Tragically, 50 Australians die every year waiting for an organ. The DonateLife audit from September 2015 shows family consent rates to allow donation to go ahead are 91 per cent when the deceased had registered as an organ donor, but are only 42 per cent when the deceased has neither registered nor discussed their wishes with their family.

The independent review into the organ donation and transplantation sector, which will be released soon, praises the initiative, which was already in train when the review was commissioned by the Australian Department of Health.

Minister Nash releases independent organ donation and transplantation review

2 February 2016

The Coalition Government today welcomed the independent review into the organ donation and transplantation sector.

Work is already underway to implement some recommendations and the Federal Government will continue to work with all stakeholders to save more lives through organ donation and transplantation.

Releasing the review today, Minister responsible for organ donation Fiona Nash said the Review by Ernst and Young found the existing strategy to increase organ donations was “sound; however there is still significant room for improvement of donation rates” which requires “effective implementation and monitoring of the strategy nationally”.

The review makes recommendations around governance, transparency and accountability.

The review recommended:

• New governance arrangements - a new Board of Governance to provide stronger oversight and support for the work of the Organ and Tissue Authority

• The publication of the breakdown of State and Territory funding on the OTA website

• Organ and tissue donation data to be made public on a hospital by hospital and a state by state basis

• Minimum standards for the auditing of organ donation practices to be defined

• The Donate Life Network to monitor the proportion of ICU specialists, staff and trainees in each hospital who have been trained in having the donation conversation with families

• States and Territories to clearly define who is responsible for organ donation rates in their jurisdiction

• Proceeding with a one-step online donor registration process (which the government has been working on, expected to launch in May), supported by a social media awareness campaign.

Minister Nash called for cultural change around organ donation and transplantation.

“In Australia, we worship our sporting stars and we rightly honour our war heroes, with memorials bearing their names. 

“Organ donors are real heroes who save lives. Let’s admire organ donors with the same passion we admire stars in sport or music or whatever our particular interest is.

“Donor families, who consent to the donation going ahead, need to be recognised for the amazing gift they give. Intensive care clinicians who retrieve and implant organs need to be recognised for the life changing work they do day in and day out. Donor nurses should also be acknowledged for the life-saving work they do.

“Hospitals need to see organ donation as a key priority. I look forward to fostering a friendly competitive rivalry between the states and territories and individual hospitals as to who has the better organ donation rate through publicising their results.

“Almost all Australians would like to be able to receive a donated organ themselves to save their life, or for their child or parent, if it was required to save their life. Yet the vast majority of Australians are not registered as organ donors. Every Australian can help improve Australia’s organ donation and transplantation rate – they can register as an organ donor. If we increase the number of registered organ donors, we will save more lives.

“As of May, registering to become an organ donor will be a one-step, online process able to be completed in less than 10 minutes. The government will run an awareness campaign but government can’t increase the number of organ donors on its own – it’s up to Australians to register as organ donors.

“Further, the report notes ‘defensiveness’ in the sector and calls for ‘open and transparent dialogue’,” Minister Nash said.

“I hope more transparency helps foster open dialogue. However, let me be clear: I’m not interested in personalities. I’m interested in saving lives through organ donation. I ask all parties to join with me as we try to achieve the goal we all share – increasing organ donation and transplantation in Australia.”

Donor Families Australia Chairman Bruce McDowell congratulated Minister Nash for her commitment to increase organ donation and transplantation.

“With the combined efforts of all involved hopefully more recipients will be the beneficiaries of an increase in organ and tissue donation rates,” Mr McDowell said.

Transplant Australia Chairman, Jason Ryan, said the review should give those on the transplant waiting list confidence that the Federal Government was doing everything possible to ensure Australia maximised its donation rate.

“Transplant Australia welcomes the release and recommendations of an independent review into the performance of the organ and tissue donation sector in Australia. We are committed to working with Federal and State governments to implement all necessary changes.”

The review also confirmed the extra $10.2 million over two years in the 2015-16 Budget was well targeted. 

The Review of the Implementation of the National Reform Agenda on organ and tissue donation and transplantation, is available at theDepartment of Health's website

Australia Council Supports First Nation Arts Exchange at APAM

04 February 2016

First Nations artists and arts workers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada will come together to share knowledge and networks this month as part of the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) in Brisbane.

APAM 2016 will be held from 22 to 26 February and will feature 43 outstanding Australian and New Zealand companies presenting 28 exciting showcases, including full-length productions and excerpts, as well as 15 work in development pitches.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander companies taking part in APAM 2016 include Western Australian dance company Marrugeku, Northern Territory dance group Djuki Mala, performing arts company Black Arm Band, and Melbourne’s ILBIJERRI Theatre Company.

Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski said the Council would this year host two development programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts workers alongside APAM 2016 – the inaugural First Nations arts exchange and a skills development “boot camp” program.

The two-day exchange will enable knowledge and ideas sharing between First Nations’ delegates working in all three countries and build strong connections, while the day-long boot camp will equip artists and arts workers with limited experience of APAM with the tools they need to get the most out of the four-day market.

“The Australia Council established APAM in 1994 and it continues to be the only industry event in Australia to provide international and national presenters, agents and influencers with access to live works by Australian and New Zealand artists across genres and cultural backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts,” Mr Grybowski said.

“It is extremely important for our artists to make strategic international connections.  APAM provides Australian artists and arts organisations a unique opportunity to perform live to an international and national industry audience, introduce the artistic creator and increase awareness for their company and body of work, with the ultimate aim of securing national and international tours.

“The First Nations exchange and boot camp are initiatives of the Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts strategy and builds on the success of other Council-managed initiatives at other industry events, such as APAM 2014, Australian World Music Expo 2014, BIGSOUND 2015 and the 2015 Australian Performing Arts Centres Association conference.

“We are delighted that several state arts agencies, the Canada Council for the Arts and Creative New Zealand have partnered with us to support artists and producers from their region to attend the APAM boot camp and First Nations exchange.

“The aim of these programs is to help the First Nations arts community engage in and access markets, form partnerships and collaborations, and enable more national and international presenters, programmers, producers and buyers to see export-ready works and creators.

“The importance of this investment has been confirmed by recent international arts activity research that highlighted the key role played by Australia Council expertise, networks and introductions in connecting Australian artists and arts organisations with international markets.”

The inaugural First Nations exchange will bring together 18 First Nations artists and arts workers from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, while the boot camp will involve 17 participants.

The exchange is the second in a partnership between the Australia Council, Canada Council for the Arts and Creative New Zealand after a similar event was held for First Nations curators at the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) at QAGOMA, Brisbane in November. This is the second time a boot camp has been held at APAM with support from state arts agencies.

APAM 2014 saw 19 Indigenous artists and arts workers participate in boot camp, including Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival Creative Director and ILBIJERRI Associate Producer Jacob Boehme.

Mr Boehme said at first he found boot camp a struggle as he wasn’t familiar with the language used to promote an artists’ work.

“Most artists don’t know sector or industry speak, but once you get past that and realise there’s nothing to fear about that side of the business, it was really empowering,” Mr Boehme said.

“The boot camp gave us the tools to create a life beyond a premiere and advice on where my work would be a better fit – your livelihood depends on knowing that stuff.”

Mr Boehme said networking was also an important part of the boot camp and APAM experience.

“I made a number of connections and the boot camp gave me the confidence to do that and to view people as friends and colleagues,” Mr Boehme said.

Mr Boehme said Australia Council initiatives, such as the APAM boot camp, were important for artists.

“Knowledge is power and it leads to more informed choices and it gives you choice,” Mr Boehme said.

Mr Boehme advised this year’s participants to remember to breathe and relax during boot camp.

“Take everything in, and take on what your gut tells you to do, as you know what’s right for you.”

The Australian First Nations exchange participants are: Jacob Boehme, Kyle Morrison, Alison Murphy-Oates, Rachael Maza, Liza-Mare Syron, Lily Shearer, Diat Alferink, and Merindah Donnelly.

The boot camp participants are Ghenoa Gela, Ian RT Colless, Mariaa Randall, Nathan Maynard, Jermaine Beezley, Fred Leone, Getano Bann, Angela Flynn, Coby Edgar and Pauline Lampton.

To see more about this year’s participants, go to here 

For more information about APAM, go to:

Prostheses reform a priority for cheaper health premiums

05 February 2016

The Australian Government will look to make thousands of medical devices ranging from pacemakers to pins and plates more affordable and accessible for patients in a move that will also reduce pressure on private health insurance premiums.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced that, as part of the Turnbull Government’s private health insurance consultation, prostheses reform would be made a “priority” through the establishment of an industry working group compromising health insurers, device manufacturers, hospitals, clinicians and consumers.

Currently, the Federal Government sets a fixed-price benefit that private health insurers are required to pay on behalf of their members for over 10,000 internal medical devices through the Prostheses List Advisory Committee (PLAC). 

This in stark contrast to the public system, where there is no set price and greater competition around purchasing, meaning private health insurers are often paying twice as much for medical devices, which is then passed on to patients through higher premiums. 

Ms Ley said her number one priority remained improving value for money for consumers and the Government was listening to industry concerns about the need to address this area of private health regulation if premium prices were to improve long-term. 

“When it comes to medical devices, the first priority always needs to be ensuring they are accessible to patients and safe. But a key part of ensuring they are accessible is also making sure they’re affordable.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the hospital or the insurer purchasing these devices, the cost will always ultimately fall to the consumer and I want to take unnecessary pressures off premiums.”

Ms Ley said there were examples where the current Government pricing process meant the same pacemaker cost double the price – or $26,000 more – if it was delivered through the private system rather than public. 

Similarly, the price of key components for a common hip replacement cost as low as $4000 in the public system versus $6000 for private patients – a $2000 difference. 

Ms Ley said the Government also wanted to ensure the current pricing for prostheses was not unnecessarily holding up new innovative devices and technologies being made available to patients, or preventing new manufacturers from competing in the market. 

“That’s why I will be asking all players involved in the medical devices supply chain to sit down together and provide me with a clear, mutually-acceptable model for prostheses reform that will maintain strict safety requirements whilst delivering better access and affordability for consumers.

“This is a further example of the Turnbull Government demonstrating to the private health sector we are serious about long-term structural reform. I sincerely hope insurers will be taking this into consideration as part of current premium calculations.”

Minister Ley recently wrote to private health insurers asking them to resubmit their premium increases for 2016 based on their full financial position, not just the amount of member claims and benefits paid out.

Ms Ley said the Government was already hearing “positive noises” from a number of insurers wanting to help reduce premium increases in 2016 for consumers to coincide with the Turnbull Government’s commitment to reform.

“Consumers have made it clear they don’t believe they’re getting value for money from their private health policies and we’re simply working with insurers to see if there is room to lower premiums based on their full financial position.

“A big problem at the moment is the current premium approval process focuses on how much insurers pay out to their members through claims and benefits, when we know insurers are holding an additional $5.1 billion capital in their pockets. 

“The question I am therefore now asking insurers is: Do they have some capacity to use this excess capital to deliver premium relief for their customers this year while we work with them to deliver longer-term structural reform?”

However, Ms Ley said insurers who tried to maintain high premium increases in the face of the Government’s request and consumer dissatisfaction over their current policies risked “missing the boat and leaking customers elsewhere”. 

Ms Ley said the industry working group on prostheses would be established as a matter of priority and would inform the Turnbull Government’s broader private health insurance reform package. 

Protecting Indigenous culture and heritage for future generations

Friday 5 February 2016: Media Release

The Turnbull Government yesterday passed legislation to set up the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) for the future so it can continue to collect, preserve and promote Australia’s Indigenous culture and heritage.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Bill will help AIATSIS better focus on the management, preservation and expansion of its internationally significant collection by removing outdated governance processes by:

reforming the appointments process for its governing council and repealing outdated admin requirements

refining how resources are targeted so the collection is the key focus

reflecting more culturally-appropriate terminology in the collection to bring AIATSIS in line with contemporary language and values.

“AIATSIS holds more than a million items of historical and cultural significance which is why it’s important the organisation is set up for the future,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Maintaining a collection of this size and significance is a great challenge, and this legislation will mean AIATSIS can exercise its national leadership role in research, ethics and the use of the collection.

“These reforms support the additional $8.3 million the Coalition has invested since 2014 to preserve AIATSIS’ unique cultural materials.”

AIATSIS has used this additional resourcing to better protect its current collection, and to increase its capacity to recover and preserve privately held materials at risk of being lost.

“I would like to thank the Chair of the AIATSIS Council, Professor Mick Dodson, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Russell Taylor, and all AIATSIS Council members for the support and leadership they’ve shown in pursuing this important reform,” Minister Birmingham said.

Australia's use of painkillers increases four-fold in 10 years while most of the world lacks access to pain relief

3 February 2016:  Marion Downey and Dan Wheelahan -UNSW

UNSW researchers say cancer-related pain in the ageing population and chronic pain have driven a 400% increase in the use of common opioid painkillers in Australia over the past decade.

A report published in the Lancet journal has found while the use of painkillers including codeine, morphine and oxycodone, has increased in high income western countries, developing and poorer regions continue to have little or no access to basic pain medication.

The International Narcotics Control Board research team, led by UNSW Professor Richard Mattick from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, calculated the daily use of opioid analgesics for countries and regions globally over the period 2001 to 2013.

The team compared the data against the prevalence of health conditions requiring pain relief and surveyed 214 countries about any impediments to availability of the medications.

The authors found the bulk of the increase in use occurred in high income western countries and regions including North America, Western and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand, which together accounted for more than 95% of global opioid use.

In Australia use of the medications increased more than four-fold from 3,287 doses per day per million (22 million doses annually) to 13,440 doses per day per million (106 million doses). As there is no recognised level of appropriate prescribing, it is not known if this use is excessive or appropriate.

By contrast, the majority of poorer and less developed nations including Central America and the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, South East Asia and Eastern Europe had little or no access to opioid pain relief and there had been no significant increase in use in these regions over the period. Over five and a half billion people are estimated to have little or no access to essential pain relief.

Barriers to use in poorer and developing countries included affordability, lack of awareness and training among medical professionals, fear of dependence, limited financial resources, problems in sourcing, fear of misuse and onerous regulations.

Professor Mattick, senior author on the paper, said the correct level of opioid use was unclear.

“The ageing populations and greater care for chronic non-cancer pain are likely drivers of increased use in high-income countries,” he said.

“However in lower income developing countries it was clear the low levels of prescribing did not reflect the need for the medications.

“The lack of availability of these medications in low-income countries for the management of cancer pain is a terrible situation causing massive suffering."

Use of and barriers to access to opioid analgesics: a worldwide, regional, and national study.  Dr Stefano Berterame, PhD, Juliana Erthal, MA, Johny Thomas, BSc, Sarah Fellner, MA, Benjamin Vosse, MSc, Philip Clare, MBiostats, Prof Wei Hao, MD, David T Johnson, BA [Econ], Prof Alejandro Mohar, ScD, Jagjit Pavadia, LLB, Ahmed Kamal Eldin Samak,  Werner Sipp, LLM, Prof Viroj Sumyai, PhD, Prof Sri Suryawati, PhD, Prof Jallal Toufiq, MD,Raymond Yans, MA, Prof Richard P Mattick, PhD Published Online: 03 February 2016. The Lancet. DOI: 


Spending on mental health services hits $8 billion in Australia

Canberra, 2 February, 2016

Expenditure on mental health-related services in Australia has increased in recent years, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Mental Health Services in Australia, shows that over $8 billion was spent nationally on mental health services in 2013–14 in Australia—equivalent to $344 per person across the population. Of this $8 billion funding, 60% was provided by state and territory governments, 36% by the Australian Government and 4% by private health insurance funds. This distribution has remained relatively stable over the past five years.

Adjusted for inflation, the funding from the Australian Government for mental health-related services increased on average by 4.7% annually over the period 2009–10 to 2013–14. Funding from state and territory governments also increased over the same period, but by a smaller average annual amount (2.6%).

Spending on state and territory specialised mental health services totalled $4.9 billion for 2013–14.

‘The largest proportion of this state/territory government recurrent expenditure was spent on public hospital services for admitted patients ($2.1 billion), followed by expenditure on community mental health care services ($1.9 billion),’ said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

In 2013–14, the Australian Government spent an estimated $971 million in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health related services—this equated to 1 in 20 (5%) of all Medicare subsidies. There was also an estimated $753 million spent on subsidised prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme/Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (making up 8.1% of all PBS/RPBS subsidies). 

‘Expenditure on psychologist services made up the largest component of mental health-related Medicare subsidies (43%), and prescriptions for antipsychotics and antidepressants accounted for the majority of mental health-related PBS/RPBS expenditure during this period (57% and 36%, respectively)’ said Mr Beard.

Specialised mental health services for admitted patients were provided by 159 public hospitals during 2013–14. These facilities had 6,791 specialised mental health beds available, and provided care to admitted patients for over 2.1 million patient days. In addition, 63 private hospitals delivered specialised mental health services, providing 2,593 specialised mental health service beds.

There were 2,427 residential mental health service beds available during 2013–14, with almost two-thirds provided in government operated services. 

There were over 30,500 full-time-equivalent staff employed in state and territory specialised mental health care services in 2013–14, equating to 131 FTE staff per 100,000 people, with over half of these (51%) being nurses.

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 web update: 

UNSW, King’s College London and Arizona State University announce global alliance

3 February, 2016 -  UNSW

Arizona State University, King’s College London and UNSW Australia have come together to form the PLuS Alliance, a new partnership to help find research-led solutions to global challenges and expand access to world-class learning.

Combining the cutting-edge research capabilities and innovative education approach of three universities in different parts of the world, the PLuS Alliance will undertake cross-border research collaborations to address significant issues related to health, social justice, sustainability and innovation. The research will be supported with a suite of related learning programs to be delivered online. 

Our combined scale, international reach and expertise will enable us to deliver innovative solutions to grand challenges, which are beyond the scope of our individual organisations - Ian Jacobs

“This partnership represents both a significant commitment and unique opportunity to create impactful solutions for a sustainable future. The PLuS Alliance will bring together some of the best minds on the planet and tackle many of the big questions facing our societies today, which would simply not be possible for one institution working alone,” said Professor Edward Byrne, President and Principal of King’s College London.

To be officially launched on February 9 in London, the PLuS Alliance will announce more than 60 inaugural PLuS Alliance Fellows from across the three universities with plans to have 100 Fellows in total this year.  

"Key to solving the challenges facing humankind will be greater access to education so that talented men and women around the world can acquire the training and knowledge needed to join a workforce that operates across cultures and borders," said Dr Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University. “The PLuS Alliance will deliver an exceptional international learning experience that builds on our established record of innovative online course delivery.”

The international partnership will collaborate on projects to make world class education and research accessible locally, helping communities globally make a direct and positive impact.  

“The PLuS Alliance brings together three world-leading universities that share an ambition to improve lives by working together on ambitious educational and research initiatives. Our combined scale, international reach and expertise will enable us to deliver innovative solutions to grand challenges, which are beyond the scope of our individual organisations," said Professor Ian Jacobs, UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor.

PLuS Alliance programs 

More than 20 programs will be available from September 2016. Degrees to be offered through PLuS Alliance universities will initially include:

• BA/BS in: Sustainability, Global health, Community Health, Whole Person Care, Business & Global Logistics Management

• Masters in: Science of Healthcare Delivery, Infectious Diseases Intelligence & Sustainability Leadership

Launch event

To mark the establishment of the PLuS Alliance, a high-profile launch event will be held in London on February 9, 2016, which will be attended by senior representatives from all three institutions. The event will reveal plans for the first joint research initiatives to be developed on sustainability.

Peter Greste on journalism in the age of terror: Full speech 

Published on 31 Jan 2016 by UNSWTV

Award-winning journalist Peter Greste delivers UNSW’s 2016 Gandhi Oration.

The annual oration commemorates India’s Martyrs’ Day, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on 30 January 1948, and is delivered by a person whose life work exemplifies Gandhian ideals. 

An acclaimed campaigner for freedom of the press, Greste addresses the topic "Journalism in the Age of Terror".

The Australian-born foreign correspondent was jailed for 400 days in 2013 on confected terrorism charges along with two colleagues while working in Egypt for Al Jazeera English.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison after a trial that was widely dismissed as a sham, but in February 2015, after intense international pressure, he was deported to Australia under a presidential decree. He was later granted a full pardon by the Egyptian government.

Bee virus spread is humanmade, driven by European honeybee populations

February 4, 2016

Varroa on pupa. Credit: Professor Stephen Martin, University of Salford

The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is humanmade, and driven by European honeybee populations, new research has concluded.

A study led by the University of Exeter and UC Berkeley and published in the journal Science found that the European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is humanmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread.

Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when theVarroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly, and has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades. Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees, a devastating double blow to colonies. The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health.

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship. It involved collaborators from the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Salford and California, as well as ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Lead author Dr Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: "This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely humanmade -- if the spread was naturally occurring, we would expect to see transmission between countries that are close to each other, but we found that, for example, the New Zealand virus population originated in Europe. This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroaor not. It's also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroa in their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators."

Researchers analysed sequence data of Deformed Wing Virus samples across the globe from honeybees and Varroa mites, as well as the occurrence of Varroa. They used the information to reconstruct the spread of Deformed Wing Virus and found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand. They found some two-way movement between Europe and Asia, but none between Asia and Australasia, despite their closer proximity. The team also looked at samples from other species suspected of transmitting the disease, including different species of honeybee, mite and bumblebees, but concluded that the European honeybee was the key transmitter.

Professor Roger Butlin, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.

"Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers."

Senior author Professor Mike Boots of Exeter and UC Berkeley concluded: "The key insight of our work is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is humanmade not natural. It's therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems."

The report, "Deformed wing virus is a recent global epidemic in honeybees driven by Varroa mites," is published in Science on Friday February 5, by L.Wilfert, G Long, H.C. Leggett, P Schmid-Hempel, R. Butlin, S.J.M Martin and M Boots.

L. Wilfert, G. Long, H. C. Leggett, P. Schmid-Hempel, R. Butlin, S. J. M. Martin, M. Boots. Deformed wing virus is a recent global epidemic in honeybees driven by Varroa mites. Science, 2016; 351 (6273): 594-597 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9976

 Australian Cancer Drug Licenced in $730M Deal

1 February 2016: CSIRO

A promising new cancer drug, developed in Australia by the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), has been licensed to US pharmaceutical company Merck in a deal worth $730 million.

The drug, which was developed with support from the UK-based Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research Technology (CRT), has potential clinical applications in both cancer and hemoglobinopathies (non-cancer blood disorders).

According to Dr Tom Peat from CSIRO, one of the key research partners in CTx, the drug is designed to inhibit the protein PRMT5, which is associated with a range of cancers, including mantle cell lymphoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

"Patients who have these types of cancers often have high levels of this protein, which is unfortunately also linked to poor survival rates," Dr Peat said.

"Using our recombinant protein production facilities, we were able to produce samples of these proteins, crystallise them for structure based drug design and support the consortium's pre-commercial investigations and trials.

"Access to high quality protein is absolutely critical in structural biology approaches to drug discovery, and CSIRO is pleased to be able to contribute this key capability.

"The CTx consortium was able to develop a drug that binds to this protein, allowing it to target the cancerous cells.

"We're thrilled to be part of this development, which has the potential to make a real difference for patients here in Australia and around the globe."

Under the terms of the license, Merck US will now further develop the drug, taking it to clinical trials, with a view to worldwide commercialisation.

"This is a great result for Australian science and further demonstrates what can be achieved when science and commercialisation capabilities unite," CTx chief executive Dr Warwick Tong said.

In addition to applications for cancer, PRMT5 inhibitors switch on important genes in the development of blood, which could provide disease-modifying treatment options for patients with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.

The deal provides potentially significant financial returns, which will be shared between CRT, CTx and the Wellcome Trust, with the majority being returned to CTx and its Australian research partners including CSIRO, Monash University, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Head OnAwards 2016: Open For Submissions  Categories: 

Portrait Prize - Landscape Prize - Mobile Prize - Student Prize

Over the years, Head On Photo Festival has awarded over $500,000 worth of photography equipment and cash prizes through the Head On Awards and exhibited 170 finalists overseas.


Ancient extinction of giant Australian bird points to humans

January 29, 2016

An illustration of a giant flightless bird known as Genyornis newtoni, surprised on her nest by a 1 ton, predatory lizard named Megalania prisca in Australia roughly 50,000 thousand years ago. Credit: Illustration by Peter Trusler, Monash University

The first direct evidence that humans played a substantial role in the extinction of the huge, wondrous beasts inhabiting Australia some 50,000 years ago -- in this case a 500-pound bird -- has been discovered by a University of Colorado Boulder-led team.

The flightless bird, known as Genyornis newtoni, was nearly 7 feet tall and appears to have lived in much of Australia prior to the establishment of humans on the continent 50,000 years ago, said CU-Boulder Professor Gifford Miller. The evidence consists of diagnostic burn patterns onGenyornis eggshell fragments that indicate humans were collecting and cooking its eggs, thereby reducing the birds' reproductive success.

"We consider this the first and only secure evidence that humans were directly preying on now-extinct Australian megafauna," said Miller, associate director of CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. "We have documented these characteristically burned Genyornis eggshells at more than 200 sites across the continent."

A paper on the subject appears online Jan. 29, in Nature Communications.

In analyzing unburned Genyornis eggshells from more than 2,000 localities across Australia, primarily from sand dunes where the ancient birds nested, several dating methods helped researchers determine that none were younger than about 45,000 years old. Burned eggshell fragments from more than 200 of those sites, some only partially blackened, suggest pieces were exposed to a wide range of temperatures, said Miller, a professor in CU-Boulder's Department of Geological Sciences.

Optically stimulated luminescence dating, a method used to determine when quartz grains enclosing the eggshells were last exposed to sunlight, limits the time range of burned Genyornis eggshell to between 54,000 and 44,000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating indicated the burnt eggshell was no younger than about 47,000 years old.

The blackened fragments were likely burned in transient, human fires -- presumably to cook the eggs -- rather than in wildfires, he said.

Amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -decompose in a predictable fashion inside eggshells over time. In eggshell fragments burned at one end but not the other, there is a tell-tale "gradient" from total amino acid decomposition to minimal amino acid decomposition, he said. Such a gradient could only be produced by a localized heat source, likely an ember, and not from the sustained high heat produced regularly by wildfires on the continent both in the distant past and today.

Miller also said the researchers found many of the burnt Genyornis eggshell fragments in tight clusters less than 10 feet in diameter, with no other eggshell fragments nearby. Some individual fragments from the same clusters had heat gradient differences of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions virtually impossible to reproduce with natural wildfires there, he said.

"We can't come up with a scenario that a wildfire could produce those tremendous gradients in heat," Miller said. "We instead argue that the conditions are consistent with early humans harvesting Genyornis eggs, cooking them over fires, and then randomly discarding the eggshell fragments in and around their cooking fires."

Another line of evidence for early human predation on Genyornis eggs is the presence of ancient, burned eggshells of emus -- flightless birds weighing only about 100 pounds and which still exist in Australia today -- in the sand dunes. Emu eggshells exhibiting burn patterns similar to Genyornis eggshells first appear on the landscape about 50,000 years ago, signaling they most likely were scorched after humans arrived in Australia, and are found fairly consistently to modern times, Miller said.

The Genyornis eggs are thought to have been roughly the size of a cantaloupe and weighed about 3.5 pounds, Miller said.

Genyornis roamed the Australian outback with an astonishing menagerie of other now-extinct megafauna that included a 1,000-pound kangaroo, a 2-ton wombat, a 25-foot-long-lizard, a 300-pound marsupial lion and a Volkswagen-sized tortoise. More than 85 percent of Australia's mammals, birds and reptiles weighing over 100 pounds went extinct shortly after the arrival of the first humans.

The demise of the ancient megafauna in Australia (and on other continents, including North America) has been hotly debated for more than a century, swaying between human predation, climate change and a combination of both, said Miller. While some still hold fast to the climate change scenario -- specifically the continental drying in Australia from about 60,000 to 40,000 years ago -- neither the rate nor magnitude of that change was as severe as earlier climate shifts in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, which lacked the punch required to knock off the megafauna, said Miller.

Miller and others suspect Australia's first inhabitants traveled to the northern coast of the continent on rafts launched from Indonesian islands several hundred miles away. "We will never know the exact time window humans arrived on the continent," he said. "But there is reliable evidence they were widely dispersed across the continent before 47,000 years ago."

Evidence of Australia megafauna hunting is very difficult to find, in part because the megafauna there are so much older than New World megafauna and in part because fossil bones are easily destroyed by the chemistry of Australian soils. said Miller.

"In the Americas, early human predation on the giant animals in clear -- stone spear heads are found embedded in mammoth bones, for example," said Miller. "The lack of clear evidence regarding human predation on the Australia megafauna had, until now, been used to suggest no human-megafauna interactions occurred, despite evidence that most of the giant animals still roamed Australia when humans colonized the continent."

Gifford Miller, John Magee, Mike Smith, Nigel Spooner, Alexander Baynes, Scott Lehman, Marilyn Fogel, Harvey Johnston, Doug Williams, Peter Clark, Christopher Florian, Richard Holst, Stephen DeVogel. Human predation contributed to the extinction of the Australian megafaunal bird Genyornis newtoni. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 10496 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10496

 Small Bits of Plastic washed in by Tides onto the beaches of Pittwater: Feb. 2016

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.