Inbox and Environment News: Issue 251 

 February 14 - 20, 2016: Issue 251

Vivid Sydney to illuminate Taronga Zoo

10 Feb 2016

For the first time ever, Vivid Sydney 2016 is lighting up Taronga Zoo, with a trail of spectacular installations including giant, luminous animal sculptures.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said Sydney’s world famous Zoo is turning 100 and Vivid Sydney is joining the celebrations, bringing its wondrous light, creativity and innovation to the iconic attraction for a special after-hours event.

“Visitors to Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo will be welcomed by a grand projection onto the façade of the heritage-listed main entrance building, which leads into a journey filled with thousands of lanterns including 10 magnificent, larger-than-life animal sculptures, illuminated to shine a light on the 10 critical species Taronga has committed to protecting,” Mr Ayres said.

“The captivating creatures ranging from the vividly coloured Corroboree Frog to the grand Asian Elephant will sparkle and feature interactive lighting, sound effects and moving parts. They will be among the largest and most technologically advanced lanterns featured in the festival, showcasing the innovation Vivid is known for.”

Minister for the Environment Mark Speakman said NSW school students would play an important role in bringing the festival to life at Taronga Zoo.

“As part of the centenary celebrations, NSW primary school students participating in Taronga’s education program are invited to construct their own mini-lanterns of the 10 critical species which will feature at Vivid Sydney,” Mr Speakman said.

“The program aims to engage students with the valuable conservation work of Taronga while inspiring creativity and getting students involved in Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo, with their lanterns to be displayed at the festival.”

Vivid Sydney is the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas and is owned, managed and produced by the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. It attracted a record-breaking 1.7 million attendees in 2015.

Vivid Sydney runs from Friday, 27 May to Monday, 13 June 2016.


An illuminated trail of amazing and endangered species will light up Vivid Sydney’s wildest precinct as part of Taronga Zoo’s Centenary celebrations.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo will include ten giant animal multimedia light sculptures, representing ten critical species from Australia and Sumatra that Taronga is committed to protecting.

Captivating creatures ranging from the magnificent Asian Elephant to the vividly coloured Corroboree Frog will sparkle at night to inspire visitors to support Taronga’s efforts to create a shared future for wildlife and people.

With interactive lighting, sound effects and even moving parts, these giant light sculptures by Ample Projects will be among the largest and most technologically advanced lanterns ever to feature in Vivid Sydney.

Taronga’s 10 Legacy Species light sculptures will be augmented by a supporting cast of echidnas, cicadas, chameleons and even funnel-web spiders, along with thousands of smaller lanterns made by NSW school students as part of the Zoo’s Centenary celebrations.

Food and beverage outlets will be open throughout the Zoo, as will Taronga’s retail outlets to purchase keepsakes and other wildlife memorabilia. Taronga is a non-profit organisation and every ticket and purchase helps support the Zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts.

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo is part of an exciting Centenary Program, which will celebrate Taronga’s first 100 years and launch a legacy for the future of wildlife conservation.


Government moves to reduce organic waste in landfill

Media release: 8 February 2016

Businesses can now seek support from the Australian Government for projects to keep greenhousegas producing organic waste out of landfill.

A method to benefit organisations that deal with food or garden waste is now available under the Government's Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

The Emissions Reduction Fund provides positive incentives for Australian businesses to adopt smarter practices that go beyond their business as usual to cut the amount of greenhouse gases they create.

Participants can earn carbon credits by setting up a project under an approved method, which sets out the rules for the activity including how the abatement is to be measured.

The Source Separated Organic Waste method will help to reduce the more than 6.6 million tonnes of organic waste, including food and garden waste, which goes to landfill each year.

Entities such as local councils, retailers, charities, hospitality businesses, manufacturers, waste processors and composting facilities will be able to take advantage of this new method.

It covers new projects that separate organic material from other waste types and divert it away from landfill to eligible alternative treatments such as composting.

In landfill, organic waste breaks down to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes considerably to climate change.

The Source Separate Organic Waste method joins a growing suite of opportunities for eligible participants right across the economy in the next Emissions Reduction Fund auction in April 2016.

Other recent innovative methods announced provide for projects in beef cattle, refrigeration and high efficiency commercial appliances to register under the fund.

This new method will build on the success of the ERF in helping to meet and beat Australia's 2020 target and in working towards our 2030 target to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent.

Under the ERF to date, 275 projects have been contracted by the Clean Energy Regulator through the two auctions in 2015, resulting in 92.8 million tonnes of abatement, including 51.3 million tonnes from vegetation projects, 20.4 million tonnes in the waste sector, 8.3 million tonnes from agriculture and 7.1 million tonnes in savanna burning projects.

There is no 'throwing money at big polluters'. All projects must be beyond business as usual. Another obligation of all projects under the scheme is to deliver the agreed emissions reductions on time. Payment is on delivery only.

The current list of methods is available on the ComLaw website . 

To apply for an for emissions reduction project, visit the Clean Energy Regulator

For more information about the Emissions Reduction Fund, visit  HERE  


Friday, 12 February 2016

The NSW Government has signed four conservation agreements with a North West Slopes landholder to protect critically endangered and vulnerable bird species habitats. Environment Minister Mark Speakman said 1,892 hectares of threatened Box Gum Woodland was now permanently protected under the agreements to provide secure sites for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater and vulnerable Diamond Firetails and Little Lorikeets to nest and breed. These conservation agreements cover three properties in the Bundarra-Barraba area near Tamworth, which is one of only two known Regent Honeyeater breeding regions in NSW, and one property near Coonabarabran. “Conservation agreements like these protect the biodiversity values of properties in perpetuity, which means the agreement and management guidelines remain in place if the landowner sells the property,” Mr Speakman said. 

Parts of these properties will remain farmland while the areas covered by an agreement will be managed for conservation, to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic potential. In this case, three of new conservation areas fall within the NSW Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) Regent Honeyeater conservation project area. Management actions for this SoS management site, which also happens to be within an internationally recognised Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, include preventing key habitat loss. 

“It’s fantastic to have such a large area of threatened species habitat on private land under a conservation agreement,” Mr Speakman said. People interested in protecting threatened species habitat on their private property by entering into a conservation agreement can contact the Office of Environment and Heritage or the NSW Nature Conservation Trust at

Vehicle Emissions Discussion Paper

Joint Media Statement: 11 February 2016 - The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment; Paul Fletcher, Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government; Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia

The Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions, established by the Turnbull Government to review Australia’s regulatory framework for vehicle emissions, has today issued a discussion paper which sets out the issues under examination and calls for comment.

Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher, chair of the Ministerial Forum, said the discussion paper outlines the benefits of reducing emissions, including lower fuel bills, better air quality and improved health outcomes for Australians.

“The issues are complex and interrelated. That is why we have established this Ministerial Forum, to bring together the perspectives of the transport and infrastructure, energy and environment portfolios,” Mr Fletcher said.

Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said that the Australian Government was considering potential options to reduce both noxious emissions and carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

“Around 17 per cent Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transport. In cities such as Sydney on-road motor-vehicles can contribute around 60 per cent of some noxious air pollutants. The paper examines options for improving standards for air pollutants and fuel efficiency (CO2) standards, ways to better educate and inform consumers, alternative fuels and electric vehicles, the use of incentives and bolstering emissions testing arrangements,” Mr Hunt said.

The discussion paper also takes stock of action on vehicle emissions in Australia to date and discusses ways to harmonise with international standards in this area.

Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg, emphasised the significance of better vehicle fuel efficiency in achieving Australia’s national energy productivity target.

“The release of this discussion paper recognises the importance of reducing vehicle emissions in reaching the Government’s target of increasing energy productivity by 40 per cent by 2030,” Minister Frydenberg said.

The discussion paper also looks at measures the Government can take to better inform consumers on the fuel efficiency and environmental performance of new vehicles sold in Australia.

The Ministerial Forum is supported by an interdepartmental working group to coordinate a whole-of-Australian-Government approach.

The Forum held an initial stakeholder consultation meeting in December 2015, and feedback from that meeting has been reflected in the discussion paper.

The interdepartmental working group will report to the Ministerial Forum in June 2016 on ways to address vehicle emissions.

The discussion paper can be viewed

Department takes court action on AGLs political donation disclosures

12.02.2016: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

The Department of Planning and Environment welcomes AGL’s guilty plea in response to an investigation into the company’s political donation disclosures.

Today the company pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court for failure to disclose a number of reportable political donations across 11 planning applications made to the Department. 

A spokesperson from the Department says allegations of reportable political donation disclosure breaches are taken seriously. 

“The Department’s legal proceedings against AGL conclude a thorough investigation process,” the spokesperson said. 

“Political donation disclosures are important to ensure transparency. 

“AGL has cooperated with the Department throughout the investigation. The Land and Environment Court has listed the matter for a one day sentencing hearing in late June 2016.” 

AGL is subject to a maximum penalty of $22,000 for each of these breaches. Due to legislative changes made by the NSW Government in October 2014, the maximum penalty for this offence has been increased to $44,000. AGL’s political donation disclosure breaches occurred prior to these amendments. 

A proponent is responsible for disclosing all reportable political donations when making certain planning applications under Section 147 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. 

More information can be found on the Department’s website 

Experts urge extreme caution on 'rewilding' to save wild places

February 8, 2016

European bison imported from Poland now roam Denmark's Baltic island of Bornholm in places where the animals haven't lived for thousands of years. Meanwhile, in a far corner of Siberia, scientists are attempting to reconstruct an ecosystem that was lost many thousands of years ago along with the woolly mammoth by introducing bison, musk oxen, moose, horses, and reindeer to a place they call Pleistocene Park.

These efforts to "rewild" the landscape have become increasingly popular in some corners, but researchers writing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 8 say that scientific evidence supporting the potential benefits of this form of restoration is limited at best. As history has shown, the introduction of species into new places is often met with unexpected, negative consequences for the environment.

"Implementation of rewilding in the field is already occurring," says David Nogués-Bravo of the Center for Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. "However, scientifically we are in the dark about the consequences of rewilding, and we worry about the general lack of critical thinking surrounding these often very expensive attempts at conservation. Practitioners mustn't assume that scientists are able to predict the full consequences of introducing novel species to dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystems."

Nogués-Bravo and his colleagues say that before implementing rewilding in the field as a major conservation approach, more basic research is needed about the consequences of modifying ecosystems. They argue that, for now at least, conservation efforts should focus instead on protecting biodiversity and on reducing major threats to the environment, such as deforestation, climate change, and invasive species.

"We don't know what the consequences of rewilding may be, and rewilding may also bring de-wilding in the form of local and global extinctions," says Carsten Rahbek, also a co-author. He and Nogués-Bravo note the potential also that rewilding might draw down already limited funds available for less splashy, but more scientifically supported, conservation projects.

Daniel Simberloff, a co-author from the University of Tennessee, says that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is often highlighted as a success story through its cascading effects on the landscape. But the influence of such reintroductions can be highly variable and hard to predict.

"Only in some cases do you find evidence of strong cascading effects of large mammals, while other examples show only weak effects or even unexpected, but dramatic, negative consequences," Simberloff says. "Therefore, we advocate caution and careful consideration both for the animals that are rewilded and the ecosystems they are placed into."

While hard work, vigilance, and creativity on the part of scientists, conservation practitioners, and policy makers are required to face the world's sixth mass extinction event, the researchers write, "our hope is that the hard work is grounded in detailed ecological theory and offers clear conservation benefits to all of biodiversity and not just the opportunity to see large, wild beasts roaming the landscape."

The researchers say that they are now exploring the feasibility, adequacy, and risks of rewilding by studying fossil remains and their DNA in museums around the world. Their goal is to understand changes in ecosystems that occurred in past "natural experiments" that resemble rewilding.

David Nogués-Bravo, Daniel Simberloff, Carsten Rahbek, Nathan James Sanders. Rewilding is the new Pandora’s box in conservation.Current Biology, 2016; 26 (3): R87 DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.044

Old trees reveal Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA) around 1,500 years ago

February 8, 2016

Studying old trees in the Altai mountains allowed reconstructing Eurasia summer temperatures over the last 2,000 years. (Photo: Vladimir S. Myglan Credit: Vladimir S. Myglan

WSL dendroclimatologist Ulf Büntgen and his fellow researchers were able for the first time to precisely reconstruct the summer temperatures in central Asia for the past 2,000 years. This was made possible by new tree-ring measurements from the Altai mountains in Russia. The results complement the climatological history of the European Alps, stretching back 2,500 years, that Büntgen and collaborators published in 2011 in the journal Science. "The course temperatures took in the Altai mountains corresponds remarkably well to what we found for the Alps," says Büntgen. The combined findings allow for the first time to infer summer temperatures for large parts of Eurasia over the past two millennia.

Tree-ring widths in old trees reflect the summer climate in any given year in the past. Looking at these, the researchers were particularly struck by a cold phase in the 6th century. It exhibited even lower temperatures, longer duration and larger expanse than the temperature drops in the Little Ice Age (13th to 19th centuries CE). "This was the most dramatic cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the past 2,000 years," explains Büntgen.

Climate and culture

In light of this, the researchers refer to the period from 536 to around 660 CE for the first time as the "Late Antique Little Ice Age" (LALIA). This was triggered by three major volcanic eruptions in 536, 540 and 547 CE[1], whose climatic impact was prolonged further by the retardant effect of the oceans and a minimum in solar activity.

According to the team of naturalists, historians and linguists, this period bore witness to a whole series of social upheavals. After famine, the Justinian plague established itself between 541 and 543 CE, killing millions of people in the centuries that followed and possibly contributing to the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire.


Proto-Slavic-speaking people migrated, supposedly from the Carpathian region, into the eastern areas of modern-day Europe that had been abandoned by the Romans, thereby forming the Slavic language area. According to the researchers, this period of cool temperatures may also have fostered the expansion of the Arab Empire in the Middle East. The Arabian Peninsula received more rain, growing more vegetation, which may have sustained larger herds of camels used by the Arab armies for their campaigns.

In cooler areas, various peoples also migrated east towards China, maybe driven away by a lack of pastureland in central Asia. As a result, hostilities broke out in the steppe regions of northern China between nomadic groups and the local ruling powers. Subsequently, an alliance between these steppe populations and the Eastern Romans conquered the Sasanian Empire in Persia, leading to its collapse.

Strategies for modern-day climate change

While the researchers stress, however, that potential links between this period of cool temperatures and socio-political changes always need to be treated with great caution, they write that "the LALIA fits in well with the main transformative events that occurred in Eurasia during that time."

Ulf Büntgen points out that their study serves as an example of how sudden climatological shifts can change existing political systems: "We can learn something from the speed and scale of the transformations that took place at that time," he says. Knowledge about the effects of past climatic fluctuations could maybe contribute to developing strategies how to deal with modern climate change.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL.

Ulf Büntgen, Vladimir S. Myglan, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Michael McCormick, Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Sigl, Johann Jungclaus, Sebastian Wagner, Paul J. Krusic, Jan Esper, Jed O. Kaplan, Michiel A. C. de Vaan, Jürg Luterbacher, Lukas Wacker, Willy Tegel, Alexander V. Kirdyanov.Cooling and societal change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 AD. Nature Geoscience, 2016; DOI:10.1038/NGEO2652

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

Fossil discovery: Extraordinary 'big-mouthed' fish from Cretaceous Period

February 8, 2016

An international team of scientists have discovered two new plankton-eating fossil fish species, of the genus called Rhinconichthys, which lived 92 million years ago in the oceans of the Cretaceous Period. Credit: Image by Robert Nicholls

An international team of scientists have discovered two new plankton-eating fossil fish species of the genus called Rhinconichthys (Rink-O-nik-thees) from the oceans of the Cretaceous Period, about 92 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the planet.

One of the authors of the study, Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University, said Rhinconichthys are exceptionally rare, known previously by only one species from England. But a new skull from North America, discovered in Colorado along with the re-examination of another skull from Japan have tripled the number of species in the genus with a greatly expanded geographical range. According to Shimada, who played a key role in the study, these species have been named R. purgatoirensis and R. uyenoi, respectively.

"I was in a team that named Rhinconichthys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed," said Shimada.

The new study, "Highly specialized suspension-feeding bony fish Rhinconichthys (Actinopterygii: Pachycormiformes) from the mid-Cretaceous of the United States, England and Japan," will appear in the forthcoming issue of the international scientific journal Cretaceous Research.

The research team includes scientists from government, museum, private sector and university careers. They include Bruce A. Schumacher from the United Sates Forest Service who discovered the new specimen. It also includes researchers, Jeff Liston from the National Museum of Scotland and Anthony Maltese from the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.

Rhinconichthys belongs to an extinct bony fish group called pachycormids, which contains the largest bony fish ever to have lived. The new study specifically focuses on highly elusive forms of this fish group that ate plankton.

Rhinconichthys was estimated to be more than 6.5 feet and fed on plankton. It had a highly unusual specialization for bony fish. According to Shimada, one pair of bones called hyomandibulae formed a massive oar-shaped lever to protrude and swing the jaws open extra wide, like a parachute, in order to receive more plankton-rich water into its mouth, similar to the way many sharks open their mouth.

A planktivorous diet, also called suspension-feeding, is known among some specialized aquatic vertebrates today, including the Blue Whale, Manta Ray and Whale Shark. The name Rhinconichthys means a fish like the Whale Shark, Rhincodon. Suspension-feeding in the dinosaur era is a new emerging area of research.

"Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe, each represented by a single skull," Shimada noted. "This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms through Earth's history. It's really mindboggling."

Bruce A. Schumacher, Kenshu Shimada, Jeff Liston, Anthony Maltese.Highly specialized suspension-feeding bony fish Rhinconichthys (Actinopterygii: Pachycormiformes) from the mid-Cretaceous of the United States, England, and Japan.Cretaceous Research, 2016; 61: 71 DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2015.12.017

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.

 Call to environmental groups for grant applications

3 Feb 2016

The NSW Environmental Trust is calling on peak environmental groups to apply for a grant to support them in working with communities to conserve the environment as the Lead Environmental Community Groups (LECG) Grants Program opens for applications.

The Secretary of the Environmental Trust Terry Bailey said a total of $1.8 million in funding is available under the 2016 LECG Grants Program.

“This program is offering grants to support new or existing education or capacity building activities that develop the community’s knowledge and participation in protecting the environment and undertaking sustainable behaviour,” Mr Bailey said.

“The grants will deliver long-term funding to eligible groups over a three year period - 2016, 2017 and 2018 - reducing the need for applicants to apply each year.

“This Government investment aims to utilise the community reach of peak environmental organisations to develop and widen community environmental skills and knowledge and help them deliver activities that work to improve our environment.

“In the 2015 round of LECG funding, 15 projects were awarded a total of $600,000. This included grants to such organisations as Landcare NSW, Keep NSW Beautiful and WIRES to deliver a broad range of community education and engagement activities across NSW.”

The program offers grants under two funding streams for organisations of different sizes:

• Stream 1 for larger non-government organisations seeking funding between $20,000 and $80,000 each year (maximum of $240,000 in total over the 3 year funding period)

• Stream 2 for smaller groups seeking less than $20,000 each year (max $60,000 in total over 3 years).

Organisations that are eligible to apply must be a non-government, not-for-profit organisation, with a full-time presence in NSW, and have the protection and enhancement of the environment as one of their primary objectives. These organisations are usually either the peak community representative of a specific field of environmental activity across NSW or an umbrella organisation providing the full spectrum of activities expected of a peak environment organisation within NSW.

Further information and applications forms are available at Lead Environmental Community Groups Program: Call for applications. Visit: 

Applications close on Friday 11 March 2016.

Review of Cockatoo Island Management Plan - Invitation for Public Comment

February 10, 2016

Cockatoo Island’s National and Commonwealth heritage values are protected by the Cockatoo Island Management Plan, which was made in 2010 in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

In accordance with Sections 324W and 341X of the EPBC Act, the Harbour Trust is undertaking a periodic Review of the Cockatoo Island Management Plan. The public is invited to provide comments which will be considered as part of the Review.

Comments are invited on:

Whether the Cockatoo Island Management Plan is consistent with the National and Commonwealth Heritage management principles; and

The effectiveness of the Cockatoo Island Management Plan in protecting and conserving the National and Commonwealth Heritage values of the place.

It is noted that following the current Management Plan’s gazettal in 2010, Cockatoo Island was subsequently inscribed as a World Heritage place, and this will be addressed in the Review.

Comments are invited until 5pm, 8 March 2016, and should be addressed to:

Cockatoo Island Management Plan – Review

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, PO Box 607, MOSMAN NSW 2088 or by email to: 

Hard copies of the Cockatoo Island Management Plan are available during office hours at:

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust office, Building 28, Best Avenue (off Suakin Drive), Mosman; and

Cockatoo Island Visitor Centre, Building 164, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour.

Electronic copies of the Cockatoo Island Management Plan areavailable here.

Persons with special needs (i.e. for whom English is a second language or who have vision impairment) may contact (02) 8969 2100 for assistance with accessing the documentation.

Urban experts embrace Indigenous perspectives on greening our cities

Media release: 12 February 2016

Green roofs, green walls and pop-up parks – and tools to help cities set urban greening targets – will be the focus of the new Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub under the National Environmental Science Programme.

Launched today at the Koori Heritage Trust in Melbourne, the hub will also conduct experiments in urban re-wilding and model carbon emissions from Australian cities under a range of different planning and transport scenarios.

As part of its work, the hub will forge groundbreaking research partnerships with the Indigenous community aimed at incorporating Indigenous perspectives into urban design and planning.

The hub is leading the way in establishing new pathways for scientists to work in partnership with Indigenous people to make cities better places to live.

One of six hubs established under the National Environmental Science Programme, the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub will focus on collaborative, practical and applied research that informs on-ground action.

The Australian Government has allocated $8.88 million to the hub over six years.

The hub is addressing a significant gap in the way we go about planning our cities. There are currently very few approaches to incorporating Indigenous perspectives into urban design or planning.

The hub is bringing together scientific, traditional and community values as they undertake research projects ranging from measuring air quality in western Sydney to urban habitats for threatened species.

The hub's research agenda for 2016 includes many projects that will deliver tangible results for Australian cities – new approaches, better data, and better methods for dealing with environmental challenges in urban spaces.

The Government's vision for productive, liveable and accessible cities will be underpinned by research and expertise from the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub.

Policies must be informed by robust science – and that is what the National Environmental Science Programme is all about.


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.

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

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

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.

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Secondary tropical forests absorb carbon at higher rate than old-growth forests

February 8, 2016

At the climate talks in Paris, all attention was focused on how humanity can reduce climate change by reducing carbon emissions, or by increasing carbon uptake. Forests are an important carbon sink. While most attention has focused on old-growth tropical forests, it turns out that secondary forests that re-grow after forest clearance or agricultural abandonment can sequester large amounts of carbon. Is this a forgotten sink?

A large international team of forest ecologists including U of M ecologist Jennifer Powers and University of Minnesota graduate student Justin Becknell sought to answer that question by analyzing recovery of aboveground biomass using 1,500 forest plots and 45 sites across Latin America. The researchers found that carbon uptake in these new-growth tropical forests was surprisingly robust. Their findings will appear in the print edition of the journal Nature February 11, 2016.

"Secondary forests are literally the forests of the future," says Powers. "Our study focuses much-needed attention on overlooked tropical secondary forests, which now comprise more than half of all tropical forests."

Lourens Poorter, lead author of the study, notes that after 20 years, these forests have accumulated enough biomass to an uptake 3.05 ton carbon per ha per year -- 11 times the uptake rate of old-growth forests.

Second-growth forests differ dramatically in their resilience; in 20 years between 20 and 225 tons of biomass has recovered. Biomass recovery is high in areas with high rainfall and water availability throughout the year, whereas soil fertility or the amount of forest cover in the surrounding landscape were less important.

"We also used these data to produce a potential biomass recovery map for Latin America," says co-author Danaë Rozendaal. "Regional and national policy makers can use this information to identify areas that should be conserved, for instance because they have a slow recovery and are more difficult to restore, or to identify areas with fast recovery, where forest regrowth or reforestation has a high chance of success and a high carbon sequestration potential."

"This study firmly establishes the potential role that tropical secondary forests play in the global carbon cycle, and underscores that policies aimed at mitigating climate change should both reduce deforestation and promote forest regrowth," Powers says.

Lourens Poorter, Frans Bongers, T. Mitchell Aide, Angélica M. Almeyda Zambrano, Patricia Balvanera, Justin M. Becknell, Vanessa Boukili, Pedro H. S. Brancalion, Eben N. Broadbent, Robin L. Chazdon, Dylan Craven, Jarcilene S. de Almeida-Cortez, George A. L. Cabral, Ben H. J. de Jong, Julie S. Denslow, Daisy H. Dent, Saara J. DeWalt, Juan M. Dupuy, Sandra M. Durán, Mario M. Espírito-Santo, María C. Fandino, Ricardo G. César, Jefferson S. Hall, José Luis Hernandez-Stefanoni, Catarina C. Jakovac, André B. Junqueira, Deborah Kennard, Susan G. Letcher, Juan-Carlos Licona, Madelon Lohbeck, Erika Marín-Spiotta, Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Paulo Massoca, Jorge A. Meave, Rita Mesquita, Francisco Mora, Rodrigo Muñoz, Robert Muscarella, Yule R. F. Nunes, Susana Ochoa-Gaona, Alexandre A. de Oliveira, Edith Orihuela-Belmonte, Marielos Peña-Claros, Eduardo A. Pérez-García, Daniel Piotto, Jennifer S. Powers, Jorge Rodríguez-Velázquez, I. Eunice Romero-Pérez, Jorge Ruíz, Juan G. Saldarriaga, Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Naomi B. Schwartz, Marc K. Steininger, Nathan G. Swenson, Marisol Toledo, Maria Uriarte, Michiel van Breugel, Hans van der Wal, Maria D. M. Veloso, Hans F. M. Vester, Alberto Vicentini, Ima C. G. Vieira, Tony Vizcarra Bentos, G. Bruce Williamson, Danaë M. A. Rozendaal. Biomass resilience of Neotropical secondary forests. Nature, 2016; DOI:10.1038/nature16512

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

NSW DPI supports growing nut industry

Media Release: 09 Feb 2016

With unprecedented growth in the last decade, an expanding NSW nut industry is set to benefit from ongoing research generated by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Newly appointed DPI research scientist based at the Yanco Agricultural Institute (YAI), Jacquelyn Simpson, supports almond, chestnut, hazelnut, pecan, pistachio and walnut industries fresh from completion of a PhD in ecophysiology and ecosystems at the University of Sydney.

Dr Simpson said the farm gate value of the Australian temperate nut industry reached $1.2 billion in the 2014-15 financial year due to global demand, strong local production and increasing market values for nuts and nut products.

Industry expansion is expected to continue with Australian nuts highly valued in international markets due to the high quality of local production and relatively low pest and disease issues,” Dr Simpson said.

In this statewide role I have met with producers across the country, on farm and at industry events, to build partnerships and discuss opportunities for collaboration and my Riverina base allows me to work closely with rapidly developing nut industries in the area.

A planting of more than one million hazelnut trees by Agri Australis in Narrandera is an indication of the rapid growth and confidence in temperate nut farming in the Riverina.

Walnut plantings are growing in the Riverina, pistachio production is increasing in the Murray Valley and pecans are set to expand in the state's north.

Dr Simpson said the popular tree crop grown across Australia and enjoyed world-wide in meals, snacks and treats can be grown in many areas of the state.

Growing high-yielding, profitable nut trees demands optimal climatic and agronomic conditions and identifying suitable regions for industry expansion is a major focus of my work at YAI,” she said.

DPI has produced new guides to areas which offer potential for nut crop expansion using bioclimatology modelling, which studied the effects of climate on nut trees - clearly specific site analysis must be undertaken before making a final decision to establish any orchard.

Information packages on regional suitability for expansion of temperature nut industries is available online  

Results from the project, a co-investment by DPI, Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited using almond and chestnut levies, Australian Nut Industry Council and NSW Government, with Australian Government funds, could guide selection of areas for sentinel plantings to determine those regions most appropriate for expansion of local nut industries.

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.

Melbourne University’s New device to get people with paralysis back on their feet

February 8, 2016

Australian Scientists have tested the world's first minimally-invasive brain-machine interface, designed to control an exoskeleton with the power of thought

This tiny device, the size of a small paperclip, is implanted in to a blood vessel next to the brain and can read electrical signals from the motor cortex, the brain's control centre. These signals can then be transmitted to an exoskeleton or wheelchair to give paraplegic patients greater mobility. Users will need to learn how to communicate with their machinery, but over time, it is thought it will become second nature, like driving or playing the piano. The first human trials are slated for 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. Credit: The University of Melbourne.

The brain machine interface consists of a stent-based electrode (stentrode), which is implanted within a blood vessel in the brain, and records the type of neural activity that has been shown in pre-clinical trials to move limbs through an exoskeleton or to control bionic limbs.

The new device is the size of a small paperclip and will be implanted in the first in-human trial at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2017. The participants will be selected from the Austin Health Victorian Spinal Cord Unit.

The results published in Nature Biotechnology show the device is capable of recording high-quality signals emitted from the brain's motor cortex, without the need for open brain surgery.

Principal author and Neurologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Research Fellow at The Florey Institute of Neurosciences and the University of Melbourne, Dr Thomas Oxley, said the stentrode was revolutionary.

Dr Oxley is currently based at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York.

"The development of the stentrode has brought together leaders in medical research from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. In total 39 academic scientists from 16 departments were involved in its development," Dr Oxley said.

"We have been able to create the world's only minimally invasive device that is implanted into a blood vessel in the brain via a simple day procedure, avoiding the need for high risk open brain surgery.

"Our vision, through this device, is to return function and mobility to patients with complete paralysis by recording brain activity and converting the acquired signals into electrical commands, which in turn would lead to movement of the limbs through a mobility assist device like an exoskeleton. In essence this a bionic spinal cord."

Stroke and spinal cord injuries are leading causes of disability, affecting 1 in 50 people. There are 20,000 Australians with spinal cord injuries, with the typical patient a 19-year old male, and about 150,000 Australians left severely disabled after stroke.

Co-principal investigator and biomedical engineer at the University of Melbourne, Dr Nicholas Opie, said the concept was similar to an implantable cardiac pacemaker -- electrical interaction with tissue using sensors inserted into a vein, but inside the brain.

"Utilising stent technology, our electrode array self-expands to stick to the inside wall of a vein, enabling us to record local brain activity. By extracting the recorded neural signals, we can use these as commands to control wheelchairs, exoskeletons, prosthetic limbs or computers," Dr Opie said.

"In our first-in-human trial, that we anticipate will begin within two years, we are hoping to achieve direct brain control of an exoskeleton for three people with paralysis."

"Currently, exoskeletons are controlled by manual manipulation of a joystick to switch between the various elements of walking -- stand, start, stop, turn. The stentrode will be the first device that enables direct thought control of these devices"

Neurophysiologist at The Florey, Professor Clive May, said the data from the pre-clinical study highlighted that the implantation of the device was safe for long-term use.

"Through our pre-clinical study we were able to successfully record brain activity over many months. The quality of recording improved as the device was incorporated into tissue," Professor May said.

"Our study also showed that it was safe and effective to implant the device via angiography, which is minimally invasive compared with the high risks associated with open brain surgery.

"The brain-computer interface is a revolutionary device that holds the potential to overcome paralysis, by returning mobility and independence to patients affected by various conditions."

Professor Terry O'Brien, Head of Medicine at Departments of Medicine and Neurology, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne said the development of the stentrode has been the "holy grail" for research in bionics.

"To be able to create a device that can record brainwave activity over long periods of time, without damaging the brain is an amazing development in modern medicine," Professor O'Brien said.

"It can also be potentially used in people with a range of diseases aside from spinal cord injury, including epilepsy, Parkinsons and other neurological disorders."

Thomas J Oxley, Nicholas L Opie, Sam E John, Gil S Rind, Stephen M Ronayne, Tracey L Wheeler, Jack W Judy, Alan J McDonald, Anthony Dornom, Timothy J H Lovell, Christopher Steward, David J Garrett, Bradford A Moffat, Elaine H Lui, Nawaf Yassi, Bruce C V Campbell, Yan T Wong, Kate E Fox, Ewan S Nurse, Iwan E Bennett, Sébastien H Bauquier, Kishan A Liyanage, Nicole R van der Nagel, Piero Perucca, Arman Ahnood, Katherine P Gill, Bernard Yan, Leonid Churilov, Christopher R French, Patricia M Desmond, Malcolm K Horne, Lynette Kiers, Steven Prawer, Stephen M Davis, Anthony N Burkitt, Peter J Mitchell, David B Grayden, Clive N May, Terence J O'Brien. Minimally invasive endovascular stent-electrode array for high-fidelity, chronic recordings of cortical neural activity. Nature Biotechnology, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3428

Harmful or helpful? Researchers urge caution on genetic testing for children

08 February 2016 -  Dan Wheelahan: UNSW

Study co-author Associate Professor Claire Wakefield from UNSW's School of Women's and Children's Health (Photo: Peter Morris)

Genetic testing for children should only be considered in cases where there are clear medical benefits, say UNSW researchers, who've found the potential harmful effects of testing on children’s mental health remains largely unknown.

Their findings have been published in the Nature journal, Genetics in Medicine.  

The UNSW researchers reviewed existing studies to assess the psychological impact on children who have a genetic test for a heritable condition or who learn genetic information because a family member has a genetic test.

Retinoblastoma, the most common malignant cancer of the eye in children, is a typical cancer for which a child would receive a genetic test if their sibling was diagnosed with the disease.

Despite more than 20 years of genetic testing, the review found surprisingly little data available, with only 13 studies of less than 1,000 children worldwide, affected by varied conditions.

Study co-author Associate Professor Claire Wakefield, from UNSW's School of Women's and Children's Health,  said while the review found anxiety and depression was rare and children’s wellbeing was fairly stable before and after testing, some children did experience serious difficulties, including discrimination, guilt, regret and family stress.

“One study we looked at showed that more than half the children surveyed were worrying about developing cancer in the future,” Associate Professor Wakefield said.

“Until more data becomes available, it is too early to declare genetic testing ‘safe’ for children."

Associate Professor Wakefield will this year conduct a small Australian-first study at the Kids Cancer Centre Sydney Children’s Hospital, with children who have been offered a genetic test to assess their cancer risk.

“Previous studies have focused on outcomes such as anxiety and depression and have not explored the unique experiences of learning genetic information in childhood,” she said.

“Also, given that the studies needed parental consent for the child’s participation, families experiencing problems might not have consented and wouldn’t be represented in the findings.

“We hope to gain a much deeper understanding of the effects of the genetic test on each child as well as the impact on the family unit, such as family distress,” Associate Professor Wakefield said.

Medicare Payment Technology Innovation

9 February 2015

The Federal Government remains committed to Medicare. 

However, 21st Century consumers now expect 21st Century technologies to manage their everyday payments and Government should be no exception. 

Between Medicare, Aged Care and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Commonwealth processes over $42 billion worth of payment transactions every year. 

Everyday Australians use cards to make ‘tap and go’ payments, and apps to make payments, and yet Medicare has not kept up with these new technologies. 

This is why the Department of Health is investigating ways to digitise its transaction technology for payments to a more consumer-friendly and faster format. 

This is part of our commitment to ensuring the Government embraces innovation and is agile and responsive to changes in the digital economy. 

This work will be undertaken with the assistance of business innovation and technology experts, to determine the best and most-up-to-date payment technologies available on the market for consumers and health and aged care service providers 

At this stage no decisions have been made, and the work continues. 

Roundtable Delivers NSW Hospital Security Action Plan 

Monday 8 February 2016: Media Release

Health Minister Jillian Skinner today endorsed a 12-point action plan to improve security at all NSW public hospitals following a roundtable of health stakeholders and union representatives in Sydney. 

“I am pleased health stakeholders, union representatives and management were as one voice on the need to address increasing aggression and violence in our hospitals,” Mrs Skinner said. 

“The roundtable came up with a comprehensive action plan and I am very happy to endorse it. “I am advised it was a very constructive meeting and I want to thank everyone who participated.” 

As part of the action plan, NSW Health will conduct a security audit of emergency departments which will include site visits to regional and metropolitan hospitals. A further meeting will also be sought between NSW Police and NSW Health, involving frontline hospital staff, within the next month. 

12 Point Action Plan: 

1. Deliver an intensive program of multi-disciplinary training of ED staff including nursing, security and medical staff in managing disturbed and aggressive behaviour and ensure each member of the multi-disciplinary team is clear about their respective roles. 

2. Improve workplace health and safety across NSW Health:  

• Deliver a program to engender a stronger workplace health and safety culture and ensure all staff, including junior doctors, nurse graduates and other rotating staff are adequately inculcated into the safety culture  

• Ensure clinical unit and hospital managers are specifically trained to understand and give effect to their Workplace Health and Safety 2 obligations and ensure their local workplaces have a zero tolerance to violence 

3. Undertake a detailed security audit of the following EDs:  

• Bankstown Lidcombe Hospital  

• Blacktown Hospital

•  Blue Mountains Hospital

•  Byron District Hospital

•  Calvary Mater

•  Cooma Hospital

•  Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital

•  John Hunter Hospital

•  Nepean Hospital

•  Orange (noting co-location with Bloomfield) .  

• Prince of Wales

•  Royal Prince Alfred

•  Royal North Shore

•  Shoalhaven

•  St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney

•  Tweed Heads Hospital

•  Wagga Wagga Rural

• Referral Hospital  

• Wellington Hospital

•  Wollongong Hospital

•  Wyong Hospital

The audit will cover compliance with policy and mandatory training requirements, adequacy of ED design in managing aggressive patients, adequacy of security staff numbers, hospital liaison with local police on incident response to acts of physical aggression in EDs, and handover by police of physically aggressive individuals requiring treatment. The audit will recommend any strengthening of policies and procedures needed for EDs, in particular to adequately respond to behaviours of individuals, affected by alcohol or drugs, including psycho stimulants such as “ice”, presenting at EDs. 

4. Establish a working group to recommend strategies to increase the professionalisation of NSW Health security staff and how best to integrate their roles in a multidisciplinary response to patient aggression. 

5. Partner with TAFE to train existing security staff in a security course purpose designed for the health environment. 

6. Sponsor the recruitment of a new intake of trainees to qualify as security staff through the health specific course and recruit and train further staff following consideration of the results of the security audit. 

7. Establish a Reference Group of expert clinicians to develop specific patient management and treatment pathways, including disposition and transport options, for patients presenting to EDs under the influence of psycho-stimulants such as “ice”, both for immediate management and longer term referral and treatment. 

8. Immediately examine availability of Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol resources including the use of telehealth options for rural and regional areas for patients presenting to EDs under the influence of psycho-stimulants such as “ice”, both for immediate management and longer term referral and treatment. 3 9. Work with NSW Police to ensure arrangements adequately and consistently cover liaison, firearms safety, handover and incident response involving aggressive individuals presenting at public hospitals including pursuing prosecution of offenders. 

10. Examine whether legislative changes are required:  

• to make clear that a victim’s status as a health worker, which is already anaggravating factor when sentencing an offender convicted of assault, covers hospital security staff.  to provide adequate legal protection to security staff who act in good faith and

• under the direction of health professionals, who require assistance in order to render lawful medical treatment or care of patient. 

11. Identify the circumstances in which security staff are able to exercise power to remove from public hospital premises individuals who are not patients and who are acting aggressively or who are otherwise causing disruption. 

12. Improve incident management reporting systems to ensure they are user friendly, well utilised and provide transparent management and feedback loops to staff making the reports.

Why not recycled concrete?

February 8, 2016

From paper towels to cups to plastic bottles, products made from recycled materials permeate our lives. One notable exception is building materials. Why can't we recycle concrete from our deteriorating infrastructure for use as material in new buildings and bridges? It's a question that a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame is examining.

"While concrete is the most commonly used construction material on earth, it is also the biggest in terms of environmental impact," said Yahya "Gino" Kurama, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, who is leading the research effort. "Coarse aggregates, such as crushed rock and gravel, make up most of a given concrete volume. The mining, processing and transportation operations for these aggregates consume large amounts of energy and adversely affect the ecology of forested areas and riverbeds."

A recent paper by a team of researchers in the journal Science questioned whether human's combined environmental impact has caused the planet to enter a new geological epoch, the "Anthropocene." The scientists note the problem of concrete in particular, pointing out that more than half of the concrete ever used was produced in the past 20 years.

"Through my research, I want to contribute to efforts towards reducing these demands on our natural environment by reducing the need for natural coarse aggregates," Kurama said. "Especially in the years to come, the renovation and replacement of our nation's aging infrastructure will result in both an increase in the supply of old concrete rubble and the demand for new concrete. We need to be better prepared to utilize this growing resource at a higher level, which is what my research is focused on."

The biggest barrier to using recycled concrete has been the variability and uncertainty in the quality and properties of the recycled material and how this variability affects the strength, stiffness and durability of reinforced concrete structures. Kurama's team is trying to develop an understanding of how using recycled concrete affects the behavior of reinforced concrete structures so that buildings using large amounts of recycled material can be designed for safety and to serve their intended purpose without undesirable consequences in performance.

"Much of the research to date and the state-of-practice pertaining to sustainable use of structural concrete has focused on the partial replacement of cement with industrial byproducts, such as fly ash, slag and silica fume," Kurama said. "In comparison, conservation of coarse aggregates has been largely ignored in the U.S., resulting in a big knowledge gap related to this material."

Kurama's research group was the first to investigate recycled materials from a large number of sources, thereby studying the inherent variability in material quality and properties. Their research also addressed the deflection behavior, or how much a structure would continue to deform, over a long period of use under normal day-to-day loading and environmental conditions for the first time, as well as potential for using recycled aggregates in the precast concrete industry.

"Our initial research studied the variability from 16 recycled aggregate sources in the Midwest and quantified ways to pre-qualify the material for structural applications," Kurama said. "Through a partnership with the University of Texas at Tyler and New Mexico State University, we are now expanding this study to many more sources from the eastern, southern, and southwestern U.S. We are also looking at durability and life-cycle cost, in comparison with natural aggregates, and effects of recycled concrete aggregates in pre-stressed concrete. Because of the knowledge gap to date, the use of recycled aggregates in the U.S. has been limited mostly to non-structural applications such as sidewalks and roadways, even though the quality of the material is generally significantly higher than is required in these applications. Our ultimate goal is to develop the necessary engineering background and methods for the wider utilization of recycled concrete aggregates in structural concrete, such as in buildings."

Their results could be used by engineers to design concrete structures that incorporate varying amounts of recycled concrete aggregates that have less environmental impact than concrete structures made with natural aggregates.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by University of Notre Dame. 

Inland fisheries determined to surface as food powerhouse

February 9, 2016

This is a charter fishing boat on Lake Michigan at sunrise. Credit: Sue Nichols, Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

No longer satisfied to be washed out by epic seas and vast oceans, the world's lakes, rivers, streams, canals, reservoirs and other land-locked waters continue a push to be recognized -- and properly managed -- as a global food security powerhouse.

In an article today by Environmental Reviews, authors, which include six either currently affiliated with Michigan State University (MSU) and/or are alumni, offers the first global review of the value of inland fish and fisheries.

"Inland capture fisheries and aquaculture are fundamental to food security globally," said Abigail Lynch, a fisheries research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and an adjunct professor at MSU. "In many areas of the world, these fisheries are a last resort when primary income sources fail due to, for instance, economic shifts, war, natural disasters and water development projects."

The article shows that although aquaculture and inland capture fisheries contribute more than 40 percent of the world's reported fish production, excluding shellfish, their harvest is greatly under-reported and value is often ignored.

Inland waters comprise about 0.01 percent of Earth's water.

Topping the list of the value of inland fish and fisheries is food and economic security. These fisheries provide food for billions of people and livelihoods for millions worldwide.

Inland fisheries, the review showed, support at least 21 million fishers, many of whom live in low-income countries and rely on these fisheries for both subsistence and their livelihood.

Other important benefits that inland fisheries and aquaculture provide include recreation, cultural and even spiritual values, and their contribution to species' and ecosystem diversity.

Michigan State has been working with other fisheries experts and advocates globally to push inland fisheries into the spotlight, especially in calling for better data to document inland fisheries' impact. The trouble, experts note, is that harvest amounts are vastly underestimated, particularly in remote areas and in developing countries. For example, only one-third of countries with inland fisheries submit catch statistics to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

"Fish always have been representative of how well humans are doing with their environment," said William Taylor, University Distinguished Professor of Global Fisheries Systems in MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). "It's time for us to make a move and speak for the fish to have them valued along with power, commercial, agriculture and other competition for water."

The current limitations to valuing the benefits that inland fish and fisheries provide make it difficult to incorporate them into resource planning on a national or global scale, Steve Cooke, second author from Carleton University, noted. "What is of great concern is that more than half of the inland fisheries' habitat is moderately or highly threatened, so populations may be lost even before they are documented."

A partnership between MSU and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) aims to identify opportunities and help develop strategy to bring freshwater fish to the global policy table.

In January 2015, Taylor helped MSU partner with the FAO in Rome for the The Global Conference on Inland Fisheries. That meeting brought 212 people from 45 countries to discuss ways to make fish a competitive part of global development.

Abigail J. Lynch, Steven J. Cooke, Andrew M. Deines, Shannon D. Bower, David B. Bunnell, Ian G. Cowx, Vivian M. Nguyen, Joel Nohner, Kaviphone Phouthavong, Betsy Riley, Mark W. Rogers, William W. Taylor, Whitney Woelmer, So-Jung Youn, T. Douglas Beard. The social, economic, and environmental importance of inland fish and fisheries.Environmental Reviews, 2016; 1 DOI:10.1139/er-2015-0064

Sign of early settlement in the Nordic region date back to the cradle of civilization

February 8, 2016

Excavation team in Blekinge, Sweden. Credit: Image courtesy of Lund University

The discovery of the world's oldest storage of fermented fish in southern Sweden could rewrite the Nordic prehistory with findings indicating a far more complex society than previously thought. The unique discovery by osteologist Adam Boethius from Lund University was made when excavating a 9,200 year-old settlement at what was once a lake in Blekinge, Sweden.

"Our findings of large-scale fish fermentation, a traditional way of preserving fish, indicate that not only was this area settled at that time, it was also able to support a large community," says Adam Boethius, whose findings are now being published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The discovery is also an indication that Nordic societies were far more developed 9,200 years ago than what was previously believed. The findings are important as it is usually argued that people in the north lived relatively mobile lives, while people in the Levant -- a large area in the Middle East -- became settled and began to farm and raise cattle much earlier.

"These findings indicate a different time line, with Nordic foragers settling much earlier and starting to take advantage of the lakes and sea to harvest and process fish. From a global perspective, the development in the Nordic region could correspond to that of the Middle East at the time," says Adam Boethius.

"The discovery is unique as a find like this has never been made before. That is partly because fish bones are so fragile and disappear more easily than, for example, bones of land animals. In this case, the conditions were quite favourable, which helped preserve the remains," says Adam Boethius.

The fermentation process is also quite complex in itself. Because people did not have access to salt or the ability to make ceramic containers, they acidified the fish using, for example, pine bark and seal fat, and then wrapped the entire content in seal and wild boar skins and buried it in a pit covered with muddy soil. This type of fermentation requires a cold climate.

Adam Boethius. Something rotten in Scandinavia: The world's earliest evidence of fermentation. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2016; 66: 169 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2016.01.008

Why termites don’t bite off more than they can chew

09 February 2016 -  Amy Coopes: UNSW

Termites might be known for their destructive powers, but it turns out they have innate restraint and an understanding of engineering that would make a master builder weep.

UNSW researchers have discovered that the termite, Coptotermes acinaciformis, is able to distinguish load-bearing from non-load-bearing wood.

According to Dr Sebastian Oberst and Professor Joseph Lai from the School of Engineering & Information Technology at UNSW Canberra, Coptotermes, the ‘tree-piping’ termite, will first gnaw through areas that don’t support weight before moving on to load-bearing timbers.

They usually eat the wood that is not load bearing first, such as door and window frames and floorboards behind cupboards and attack the strong load-bearing timbers such as joists and bearers later.

The UNSW team and colleague Associate Professor Theo Evans from the University of Western Australia also found the canny insect will buttress weight-bearing walls with clay to ensure it doesn’t collapse as they feast.

“The ability to determine weight bearing in wood explains some of the patterns of termite attack in houses,” says Oberst.

“They usually eat the wood that is not load bearing first, such as door and window frames and floorboards behind cupboards and attack the strong load-bearing timbers such as joists and bearers later.”

The clay walls are built progressively so if the termites are disturbed and forced to abandon the wood they haven’t expended more energy than is strictly necessary.

It allows termites to access wood that would otherwise be off-limits, offering 700 times more energy than they expend in erecting the scaffold.

It is thought to represent an evolutionary leap from foraging to nest building.

The ability to detect load bearing is likely to have evolved in response to the scarcity of readily accessible wood for Coptotermes, a ground-dwelling mainland Australian species that builds mound nests and eats eucalypts.

“The problem for ground-living termites is most wood is not available to eat because it is in tree trunks that support the huge weight of the tree,” Oberst says.

“Eating the wood at ground level would cause the tree to collapse, and so crush and kill the termites.”

Once a load is detected, the termite switches from feeding mode to transporting clay, and continues to periodically sample the wood until enough clay has been added to disperse the load before continuing to eat, the researchers say.

Though not proven, they believe the load bearing is detected via their acoustic or vibration senses rather than physical or chemical methods.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant. 

Tracing the nation's remarkable record of safety in the skies

5 February 2016: Sydney University

Dr Peter Hobbins to detail landmarks in key aviation era

An ARC-funded study will explore pivotal aviation developments between the years 1938 and 1968.

The pilots escaped after this biplane crash in Western Australia in 1929. Image: Charles Daniel Pratt/State Library of Victoria.

On a cloudy morning in October 1938, the Kyeema smashed into the western slopes of Mount Dandenong, killing 14 passengers and all four crew on board.

Prominent South Australian vintners and a federal politician were among those to lose their lives on the Australian National Airways DC-2 aircraft.

A Royal Commission into the Kyeema crash later revealed navigational radio beacons had been installed but left inactive at nearby Essendon Airport. They could likely have averted the disaster.

The government — still stunned by the loss of a young MP in the disaster — was forced into action and major technical and operational reforms soon followed.

The history of our skies

Now a new University of Sydney research study will explore the legacy of Kyeema and other pivotal aviation developments that eventually led to Australia’s remarkable modern-day flight safety record.

Dr Peter Hobbins (MMedHum '09 PhD (Research) '14) will spend the next three years researching Australian aviation technology and air safety between 1938 and 1968, the latter being the last time Australia experienced a major fatal aviation disaster.

“It's worth being clear that Australia is intrinsically one of the safest places in the world to fly. Despite long distances, we live on a largely flat continent, which minimises the risk posed by mountains, while we are not especially prone to extreme weather events, such as hurricanes or blizzards,” said Dr Hobbins, from the Department of History.

“Against this background, aviation technology has been a double-edged sword. Being able to carry more passengers, and to fly faster and higher, has helped reduce congestion and collisions, while avoiding much of the potentially dangerous weather and obstacles at low altitudes. On the other hand, flying at 1000km per hour means that human decisions can have rapid and dramatic consequences.”

Towards flight safety

While Kyeema is seen as a watershed moment, several air disasters between the 1930s and 1960s would result in industry-changing improvements.  

Dr Hobbins points to the 1940 crash of a Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Hudson bomber near Canberra, that killed its crew of four, along with two senior military officers, the chief of the general staff and three cabinet ministers — one of whom was the Minister for Civil Aviation.

And then there was the unexplained loss of a Trans-Australia Airways airliner near Mackay in 1960. The crash claimed 29 lives and is one of Australia's worst civil air disasters. But it led to the mandatory installation of cockpit voice recorders on all commercial airliners, making Australia the first country to impose this rule.

By casting an historian’s eye over a key era in Australian aviation safety, Dr Hobbins hopes his research will tease out the beginnings of public trust in flying.

“One of the most absorbing, but also the most vexing, aspects of aircraft crashes is that they are rarely caused by a single item or event,” he said.

“There is usually a staggering series of complex connections and mishaps that conspire to transform a minor 'glitch' into a tragedy. Like most events in history, you can offer a simple answer or one that fills a book.”

Dr Hobbins was the 2014 recipient of the Rita and John Cornforth Medal for PhD Achievement.

STEM head start for 350,000 pre-schoolers

Monday 8 February 2016Joint Media Release: The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister - Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham,  Minister for Education and Training - The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science

The Turnbull Government is equipping Australian children with the skills in maths and science for the jobs of tomorrow through a $14 million investment as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Today we announced $4 million each for the Little Scientists andLet’s Count training programs to inspire Australia’s next Howard Florey or Elizabeth Blackburn.

The nature of work is changing. Around 75 per cent of the fastest growing industries require skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The Turnbull Government is committed to helping Australia’s youngest minds develop an interest in these critical fields.

Both programs provide young students with a new way of engaging with STEM subjects which will help to underpin Australia’s competitiveness in the future.

The Little Scientists and Let’s Count programs will reach 350,000 young people across the country.

From seeing how to purify water to exploring and talking about numbers, these initiatives will give children access to fun and engaging ways to learn.

The $8 million for Little Scientists and Let’s Count builds on the $6 million the Turnbull Government has committed for the development of apps to engage children in STEM in their early years.

Find out more about Little 

Find out more about the Let’s Count 

CEFC creates $250m Community Housing Program to lower energy costs for low income families and residents

9 February 2016: Media Release - CEFC

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced a major new program to help drive the construction of market-leading energy efficient community housing in 2016. The program will deliver lower energy costs for low income families and residents while helping improve Australia’s cities and built environment.

The CEFC expects its new $250 million Community Housing Program to contribute to the construction of as many as 1,000 new energy efficient dwellings Australia-wide, via Australia’s network of Community Housing Providers. 

At the same time, Community Housing Providers will be able to access finance to retrofit existing buildings to improve energy efficiency for tenants. This could include measures such as switching to LED lighting, updating household appliances, installing solar panels and improving insulation.

The CEFC finance will fill a funding gap, providing Community Housing Providers with access to long-term debt finance aligned to their portfolio needs, according to CEFC Community Housing Sector Lead Victoria Adams. Finance provided under the CEFC Program can be used to complement funding or finance sourced from other state government initiatives or co-financiers.

“Community housing is already a substantial part of Australia’s overall housing stock, and is expected to experience strong growth in the years ahead because of high tenant demands,” Ms Adams said.

“Community Housing Providers have typically faced financing constraints which has limited their ability to invest for the long term. We see this finance program as an important way to help ensure new dwellings are built to meet this growing demand, and that new buildings have stronger energy efficient standards, so tenants can experience the benefits of lower energy costs over the longer term.”

As part of its new Investment Mandate, the CEFC has a strong focus on financing emerging and innovative renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency and cities and the built environment. Buildings with a seven-star NatHERS rating may use a range of measures to improve energy efficiency, such as using more energy efficient building materials in their construction, featuring double glazing on their windows, or including high quality insulation and ventilation to reduce heating and cooling needs.

The CEFC has also released its new Market Report: Financing Energy Efficient Community Housing. The Report identifies strong demand for new Community Housing over the next decade, requiring significant private sector investment. However it notes that community housing organisations have limited sources of revenue to fund new building and have generally faced challenges sourcing private finance.

Ms Adams said: “Over the next year, our goal is to help finance the construction of 1,000 new dwellings, built to an average seven-star rating under the Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). With this standard, energy use can be reduced by an estimated 25 per cent, delivering significant savings benefits to tenants and building owners.

“In our discussions with the sector there is widespread recognition that energy costs can be a substantial burden on low income tenants. By giving providers access to long-term debt finance, we are helping them unlock the benefits of energy efficiency through better construction options. This CEFC finance will work alongside other relevant government housing initiatives, delivering long-term benefits for our cities and the built environment.”

Learn more about our Community Housing Program

Young people in child protection more likely to also be under youth justice supervision

Canberra, 10 February 2016

Young people aged 10-17 who were in the child protection system in 2013-14, were more likely to be under youth justice supervision at some time in the same year, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Young people receiving child protection services and under youth justice supervision 2013-14, shows that young people who were the subject of care and protection orders in 2013-14 were 23 times as likely as the general population to be under youth justice supervision (either in detention or under community-based supervision) at some time in that year (although not necessarily at the same time).

Similarly, young people in out-of-home care were 23 times as likely as the general population to be under youth justice supervision in the same year, while those who were the subject of an investigated child protection notification were 13 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision.

'Research has shown for some time that children and young people who have been abused or neglected are at greater risk of engaging in criminal activity and entering the youth justice system,' AIHW spokesperson Mark Cooper-Stanbury said.

Correspondingly, young people in detention were 13 times as likely as the general population to be in the child protection system in the same year. Those under community-based supervision were 11 times as likely to be in the child protection system in the same year.

The report found that the younger someone was at their first youth justice supervision, the more likely they were to also be in the child protection system in the same year.

'Of young people aged 10 at their first youth justice supervision, one-third (33%) were also in child protection in 2013-14, compared with one-tenth (10%) of those aged 17,' Mr Cooper-Stanbury said.

 'We hope to build a better picture of what happens to these children and young people over time as years of data accumulate,' said Mr Cooper-Stanbury. 

The report uses linked de-identified data on child protection and youth justice supervision from Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Data for more states and territories will be available in future years.

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

Full publication: Young people in child protection and under youth justice supervision 2013-14

NSW Govt. Billion dollar social and affordable housing fund to deliver better outcomes

8 Feb 2016: Media Release

The NSW Government has officially launched its social housing fund, which in its first phase will deliver an additional 3,000 social and affordable homes and slash waiting lists for vulnerable families.

Premier Mike Baird called for expressions of interest from non-government organisations, landholders and the private sector to tap into the new fund and deliver better outcomes for the State’s most vulnerable.

“We made an election commitment to deliver more social housing stock and we’re making good on that promise,” Mr Baird said.

“This new fund will allow us to unlock new homes for those who need them most.”

At present, social housing developments face a funding gap between the rental stream they receive from tenants plus government subsidies, and the revenue required to sustain a commercially viable project.

The Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) will provide a long-term revenue stream to plug this gap and encourage private and non-government organisations to team up to develop housing projects.

The SAHF will be set up with $1.1 billion in seed capital from the Government and will provide much needed investment certainty to the sector.

The Government’s investment arm, TCorp, will invest the $1.1 billion and the returns will go towards social and affordable housing projects in the form of a stable 25-year income stream.

Proponents will be asked to put proposals forward that achieve social outcomes for tenants. These include:

• Improving employment and education prospects;

• Providing stability and support to women and children who have experienced domestic violence;

• Providing stability and ongoing support for people with mental health support needs;

• Improving connectivity with family, kinship and community; and

• Achieving economic independence for tenants.

This outcomes-focused model has been developed in consultation with the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) following a memorandum of understanding signed in March 2015.

Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said the SAHF was the latest example of the Government’s innovative approach to delivering better outcomes and infrastructure for the people of NSW.

“We want innovative, value for money, service-driven outcomes that are going to help those people who need it most,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Private investors, NGOs and landholders will now have more opportunities to work together to boost our social and affordable housing stock through this new fund.”

Minister for Social Housing, Brad Hazzard, said the fund will complement the recently announced Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW strategy.

“The fund will deliver on the NSW Government’s commitment to protect our most vulnerable and to provide a safer and stronger community,” Mr Hazzard said.

NCOSS chief executive Tracy Howe said that the fund is a step towards ensuring everyone in NSW has a place to call home.

“Secure, affordable housing that is connected to transport and jobs, to education and support services is a crucial piece of the puzzle for reducing poverty and disadvantage in this state,” Ms Howe said.

“The community sector stands ready to deliver innovative, collaborative projects that will provide a huge boost to access to social and affordable housing across the state.”

Brendan Lyon, CEO of IPA, said these projects will be life-changing for families.

“The SAHF will see thousands of people get stable housing and tailored support services, but it also begins to trial new ways to solve the public housing backlog,” Mr Lyon said.

“The key is finding new ways to ensure the long term funding of the sector, which is why we look forward to continuing to work with NCOSS and the NSW Government In the pursuit of better social housing outcomes.”

The closing date for Expression of Interest applications is Tuesday 15th March

Free Nicholson Museum exhibition presents the art of Cyprus

8 February 2016: University of Sydney

Cypriot art and design was influenced for thousands of years by surrounding Mediterranean cultures and made all the more unique because of them.

The Sky and the Sea: Ancient Cypriot Art brings together a beautiful range of objects from the museum’s Cypriot collection – the largest in Australia and the world’s fourth largest outside Cyprus - to demonstrate the evolution of Cyprus’ culture. 

Sgraffito bowl from the time of the Crusades

Cyprus was the first Mediterranean country where Australian archaeologists conducted excavations. Their first dig began in 1937 and University of Sydney archaeologists continue the tradition today at the ancient capital of Nea Paphos.

The influences on Cypriot art are myriad. In the 10,000 years since people started living on the Mediterranean’s easternmost island it been occupied or ruled by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Assyrian and Persian Empires, the Ptolemies, and the Roman and Byzantine Empires. In more recent centuries the Crusaders, the Franks, the Venetians and the Ottoman and British Empires controlled the nation.

“Each left their mark on the island archaeologically and artistically, helping the Cypriots develop their own material cultural identity,” says exhibition curator, Nea Paphos archaeologist and Sydney University Museums Manager of Education and Public Programs Dr Craig Barker. 

Cypro-Archaic period jug, c. 750-600BC

Birds are a common motif. Cyprus lies on a major bird migratory route between Africa and Europe; more than 200 species of bird migrating over the island annually and there are more than 370 local species. Their prevalence was an inspiration to the Cypriots.

“Birds were popular from the beginning of figurative art in Cyprus, with avian representations flourishing during the Cypro-Geometric and Archaic periods,” says Dr Barker. “Jugs, vases and bowls often captured the beauty of flight in a unique stylised form. This was more about art than science; there appears to be no attempt at accurate representation of species.”

Unsurprisingly for an island state, the sea was a lifeline for Cyprus and also a major influence on its art. Located on international maritime trade networks, its harbours became major trading emporia. During the Late Bronze Age (c. 1650-1050 BC), Mycenaean pottery from mainland Greece and local imitations became commonplace.  In later periods imported Athenian black and red figured pottery and other Greek vases reflected a growing connection with the Hellenic world. Then, during the Crusades, Cypriots showed a flair for making lead-glazed sgraffito pottery.

“This style was known across the Byzantine world, but no-one else produced it with the flair of the Cypriots,” said Dr Barker. “The creative design and exuberant colour displayed continued the island’s long decorative tradition.”

Exhibition details

What:  The Sky and the Sea: Ancient Cypriot Art

Where:  Nicholson Museum, Manning Road, southern end of the Quadrangle, University of Sydney.  

When:  From 8 February

Opening hours:  Monday to Friday, 10am-4.30pm; First Saturday of the month, 12-4pm

Contact:  Phone 02 9351 2812

Academy appointment for pioneering UNSW scholar

08 February, 2016 -  Amy Coopes: UNSW

By taking the dominant language and making it work for you, you create a form of resistance, says Professor Bill Ashcroft.

It's a quarter century since Bill Ashcroft published The Empire Writes Back, a wryly named text that launched the field of postcolonial literary studies. But in an era of refugees, race tensions and cultural conflict, the work is as relevant as ever.

Published in 1989, the landmark book was the first to systematically examine writings in English by colonised people, and the ways in which these writers had re-appropriated the colonising tongue as a form of resistance.

“By taking the dominant language and making it work for you, you create a form of resistance that becomes transformative; you transform that language to be your tool,” explains Professor Ashcroft from UNSW’s School of the Arts and Media.

Before he published Empire (in collaboration with fellow academics Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin) the study of postcolonial writers was fragmented across diverse schools of thought including Commonwealth literature and colonial discourse theory.

It allows us to see the ways in which people are still being colonised, not just territorially but economically and culturally.

Today it is one of literary studies’ most popular fields in its own right.

Now Ashcroft’s achievements have been officially recognised with his election as a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Fellowship of the Academy is the highest honour for achievement in the humanities in Australia, and Ashcroft – an Australian Research Council fellow – says he’s humbled.

“I was very gratified to get this great honour and I’m hoping that my career will only be stimulated,” he says. “I’m just warming up.”

Postcolonial literary studies still has much to offer, Ashcroft believes.

“In a sense it covers everything, the literature brings out issues such as race, oppression, justice, invasion, cultural clash – all subjects that are relevant today,“ he says.

“It allows us to see the ways in which people are still being colonised, not just territorially but economically and culturally. And that’s why it’s interesting, it’s continually adaptable.”

Beyond a mere study of literature, Ashcroft says his field also provides the tools to understand how individuals – the ‘local’ – can act on the global, and not just the other way around.

This analysis is important in globalisation studies and is key to understanding mass movements of people, including the current refugee crisis in Europe.

“There has never been a more relevant time to think about the mobility of peoples: the world is more mobile than it’s ever been in terms of migration, asylum-seekers and refugees,” he says.

“And that tension between the structures and borders of the state and the actual circulation and mobility of people, that’s a continuation of postcolonial insight and still extremely relevant today.”

Professor Ashcroft is author or co-author of 16 books, more than 150 chapters or papers and is on the editorial board of 10 international journals.

Read more about his work here.

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.


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.