Inbox and environment News: Issue 597

September  3 - 9, 2023: Issue 597

Trafalgar Park Newport: Playground Renewal - Feedback Invited

Comments close: Sunday 1 October 2023
As part of the 2023/24 Capital Works Playground Renewal Program, the council are proposing to undertake the replacement of Trafalgar Park Playground in Newport. 

The council propose to replace the existing play equipment and introduce rubberised surfacing, new edging, new retaining walls, new seating and new path connections (material for new paths not specified on plan). The council propose to change some of the shape and size of play areas as well.

The council now offers an opportunity to provide input on what you like and value about the park and playground before they finalise the plans now on exhibit and engage their contractor.

The council has stated they have already visited Newport Public School and spoke to Year 1 students about the playground and the upcoming renewal project. 

''We listened to a few ideas and answered questions to help with their learning project. As part of this session, we asked which style of senior play equipment (aimed at children aged 6 to 10 years) they preferred. Now we would like to ask the same question to the wider community.'' the council states

Please note that the outcome of this vote may not necessarily result in this piece being selected by the council for Trafalgar Park, but it will help guide their decision-making for Trafalgar Park or other upcoming projects.

Take a look at the concepts and share your thoughts by:
All comments in their entirety are made publicly available in the Community Engagement Report. Personal identifying information and inappropriate language are redacted.

Council state they aim to engage a playground contractor to carry out works in early 2024.

Trafalgar Park has been classified as a ‘neighbourhood’ playground and hence the current size is considered appropriate. The current playground size provides a good balance between the playground and open space that can be used for play or other recreational purposes.

The current project and budget only allow for the renewal of the playground and associated landscaping. Other facilities such as toilets and lighting and currently not planned or budgeted for. The council states 'these types of facilities would require further planning, investigation and thorough community consultation'.

The playground is located among established trees and open space of Trafalgar Park. The playground is used by school children from the neighbouring Newport Public School.

New Planting Along Careel Creek

September Is Biodiversity Month: Time To Repair, Restore, Respect Our Plants And Wildlife

September is a special month  – it’s biodiversity month.

Biodiversity helps our environment stay healthy and vibrant. From vast deserts to lush forests, Australia is home to a huge range of plants, animals, and ecosystems.

Every plant, animal, and microbe play a role. Together, they maintain balance and provide resources. This includes clean air, water, and food.

Recognise the unique and varied life on our beautiful country. Australia has up to 700,000 different species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

But human activity has put many of these unique species at risk. The Australian government have developed a Threatened Species Action Plan which it hopes maps a pathway to protect, manage and restore Australia’s threatened species and important natural places. By reading the plan and spreading the word, you can raise awareness of our threatened species and places.

It’s not just about threatened species. Biodiversity month is about protecting, repairing, and managing nature better. 

The government is working towards a Nature Positive Australia, through significant projects and reform, to support conditions where nature – species and ecosystems – is being repaired and is regenerating rather than being in decline.

This month, they are asking everyone to join in and help celebrate. There are many ways you can support biodiversity month:
  • go on a Bush walk in your area,
  • look out for and after our wildlife and plants
  • keep a nature journal or connect with nature,
  • share your observations with the iNaturalistAU community.
Share your love of nature on social media by uploading photos, videos and stories with the hashtags #GetIntoNature, #biodiversitymonth #ConnectingWithCountry 

The Powerful Owl Project:  It’s Fledging Time! 

Our favourite time of year is here. 
Powerful Owlets have taken that great leap of faith from several hollows in Greater Sydney and the delightful sound of trilling owlets is floating out from many more.
These gorgeous balls of fluff are very vulnerable for the first few weeks after they fledge. They’re still learning to fly and they’re easily frightened. Frightened owlets might trill or flush from their roost and then be mobbed by day birds.

If you’re lucky enough to come across owlets, observe quietly and from a distance. 

If you take your dog with you when you go walking, please keep it on-leash, especially in parkland and in the bush, to help keep newly fledged owlets safe.

NB: Dogs are prohibited in Pittwater Wildlife Preservation Areas.
Photo: PO Project

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Newport Beach Clean Up - Sunday September 24

Time: 10am to 12.15
Come and join us for our Newport beach clean up. We'll meet at Bert Payne Park, just south of clubhouse. We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the beach as well as cleaning the beach, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. No booking required. Just show up on the day. We'll be there no matter what weather.

We will clean up for about 90 min (to about 11.30am, and then take a group pic with all the rubbish. We often go for lunch together afterwards (at own cost) - it's a great opportunity to get to know everywhere.
We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. Send us a message if you are lost. Please invite family and friends and share this event.

The Turimetta Beach Clean Crew- August 2023 - and what was recovered. Photo NBCUC

Chief Scientist Report On Mass Fish Deaths At Darling-Baaka River Near Menindee

In April 2023, the Hon. Rose Jackson MLC, Minister for Water and the Hon. Penny Sharpe MLC, Minister for the Environment requested that the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer (OCSE) conduct an Independent Review into the 2023 Mass Fish Deaths in the Darling-Baaka River at Menindee.

The report, 'INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO THE 2023 MASS FISH DEATHS IN THE DARLING-BAAKA RIVER AT MENINDEE - Findings and Recommendations' was released on August 31 and found that 'Mass fish deaths are symptomatic of degradation of the broader river ecosystem over many years'.

Further, among the Findings, it is stated that;
  • Explicit environmental protections in existing water management legislation are neither enforced nor reflected in current policy and operations. Water policy and operations focus largely on water volume, not water quality. This failure in policy implementation is the root cause of the decline in the river ecosystem and the consequent fish deaths.
  • Low dissolved oxygen in the water column was driven by a confluence of factors, including high biomass (particularly carp and algae), poor water quality, reduced inflows and high temperature. The area around the Menindee Lakes is particularly susceptible to fish deaths events.
  • Hypoxia – resulting from low dissolved oxygen in the water column - was the most likely proximate cause of fish death.
  • While limited, observations and monitoring data indicated compromised water quality and potential for fish deaths prior to the March 2023 event. However, the scale of any potential event was underestimated. 

The full report may be read at the link above.

Minister for Water Rose Jackson said ''the report confirms the disaster in March 2023 was likely caused by hypoxia and provides a range of findings and recommendations which we accept and will implement to reduce the likelihood of major fish death events in the future.''

“We have been listening carefully to the experts every step of the way, which is why we are taking these findings very seriously, Ms Jackson said.

“We are grateful for the work and insight the local community have put into this report and we remain committed to communicating with openness and transparency with the Menindee community.

“Now that we have the initial report, we can get on with the job of addressing gaps in the system that were left unresolved for years by the former government.

“We want to mitigate the risk of another catastrophic fish kill, prior to receiving this report the NSW Government have already made progress towards some of the recommendations but there is a lot of work to do.”

Work already underway to address the report’s recommendations includes:
  • continuing our active management of flows from the Menindee Lakes to maintain dissolved oxygen at good levels for fish;
  • upgrading water quality monitoring including additional remote dissolved oxygen sensors;
  • exploring funding options with the Commonwealth for fish passage projects;
  • improving river connectivity through actions identified in the Western Regional Water Strategy;
  • updated water sharing plans and
  • established an Expert Panel on connectivity in the Barwon Darling River (see below)
Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said all avenues were being explored to put NSW in a stronger position to improve the health of the river system and its native fish.

“My first action after being sworn into office in March 2023 was to get out on the ground in Menindee to hear directly from locals who had experienced this distressing event less than four years after the previous major fish kill,” Ms Sharpe said.

“We stood on the banks of the Darling-Baaka river and called for a robust, impartial and independent inquiry to ensure no stone was left unturned in finding out where we can do better, so I want to thank Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte and his team because that is exactly what has been delivered.”

Several state and Commonwealth agencies including the Department of Planning and Environment, the Department of Primary Industries and the Environment Protection Authority provided input into the Independent Review by the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer.

The NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer’s finding that mass fish deaths in the Darling-Baaka River was due to the failure of existing legal environmental protections in water law not being enforced or implemented should warrant an overhaul of the NSW Water Department, Greens MP and water spokesperson Cate Faehrmann stated.

“The Chief Scientist’s release of his findings and recommendations makes for grim reading. The NSW Water Minister must look at what changes are needed within her water department to ensure the river health is prioritised”, said Ms Faehrmann.

“These terrible fish kills, off the back of the carnage we saw in 2018/19, are clearly a manifestation of the overall degradation of the broader river ecosystem resulting from decades of wilful mismanagement of water in NSW.

“The NSW Government’s response to the declining health of the Darling-Baaka River system has been woeful for years. 

“The Chief Scientist is sending a very strong message that the Government is failing to uphold the water law of this state and the Darling-Baaka River is dying as a result.

“The first and foremost recommendation made by the Chief Scientist is that our water management laws actually be enforced by the Government. 

“This review makes clear that further mass fish deaths are likely. In fact, I’ve spoken with locals along the Darling-Baaka River this week who tell me that things are already looking grim at Menindee with stagnant water and some large cod dying again. 

“With increasing temperatures and the likelihood of reduced flows going forward, this isn’t going to be the last time we see a catastrophic environmental event like this,” says Cate Faehrmann.

As reported in March this year, this is not the first instance of fish deaths in this river system.

Video posted on FB by Graeme McCrabb, who stated; ''Unbelievable!! Menindee NSW! 17/03/2023. Nearly all native dead fish. - Bonnie Bream, Golden perch, Silver Perch, Carp but not many.

EPA Issues Stop Work Order On Forestry Operations In Tallaganda State Forest

August 30, 2023
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) an immediate Stop Work Order to cease harvesting in parts of the Tallaganda State Forest.

Following a community complaint, EPA officers inspected several active logging compartments in Tallaganda on Tuesday 30 August and located a deceased Southern Greater Glider around 50 metres from forestry harvest operations. It is not yet known how the glider died.

EPA Acting Executive Director Operations, Steve Orr said the discovery of a deceased glider was extremely concerning given their increased reliance on unburnt areas of the forest following the 2019/20 bushfires and its proximity to active harvest operations.

“Southern Greater Gliders are an endangered species and shelter in multiple tree cavities, known as ‘den trees’, over large distances,” Mr Orr said.

“Den trees are critical for the food, shelter and movement of gliders and FCNSW is required to protect them and implement 50 metre exclusion zones around identified den trees.

“While community reports suggest around 400 Southern Greater Gliders may be living in the Tallaganda State Forest, FCNSW has identified only one den tree and we are not confident that habitat surveys have been adequately conducted to ensure all den trees are identified.

“The EPA has a strong compliance and enforcement program for native forestry, and we will take immediate action where warranted, including issuing stop work orders for alleged non-compliance.”

FCNSW has been ordered to immediately cease all harvesting, haulage operations, and any road and track construction work in the areas of concern in the Tallaganda State Forest. The order is in place for 40 days and can be extended.

FCNSW must immediately comply with the Stop Work Order. Failure to comply with a Stop Work Order is a serious offence and can attract a maximum court-imposed penalty of up to $1,650,000 and a further $165,000 for each day the offence continues. Similar penalties apply in respect of a breach of the Forestry Act.

The EPA’s investigation is ongoing.

WWF has stated, ''It’s clear our nature laws are failing our already endangered wildlife.

''In response to this heart-breaking news, we have written to the NSW Government to intervene and stop the logging. We are also calling on the federal and NSW governments to scrap law exemptions for Regional Forestry Agreements - loopholes that enable the continued destruction of such critical native habitats.''

Wilderness Australia has stated it welcomes the Stop Work Order issued last night by the NSW Environment Protection Authority over logging operations in Tallaganda State Forest, east of Canberra.

Wilderness Australia submitted an urgent request for an investigation to the EPA, into the logging of seven compartments of core greater glider habitat in Tallaganda State Forest, on Monday 28 August. By Wednesday 30 August, the EPA had issued an immediate stop work order.

Bob Debus, Chair of Wilderness Australia, a former Labor state environment minister, said:

“We instantly knew that this was a make or break moment for the survival of the Greater Glider in the South Coast of NSW. Our complaint was vindicated yesterday when the EPA ordered an immediate cessation of logging. The EPA undertook a field inspection to verify Forestry Corporation’s success in protecting the greater glider during their operations. Instead, they found a dead greater glider right next to the logging area.”

“I would like to acknowledge the swift action to assert environmental protection laws and regulations by the NSW EPA and Environment Minister Penny Sharpe.”

“We’ve long been concerned at the apparent efforts of the Forestry Corporation to undermine environmental policy in NSW. As a publicly owned body, the Forestry Corporation should be attempting to minimise environmental damage during logging operations. Instead, they appear to be deliberately targeting the areas of highest conservation value within the State Forest estate for destruction.”

“The Stop Work Order is in place for 40 days while further investigations unfold. Wilderness Australia urges the NSW Government to extend this temporary reprieve into permanent protection for Greater Gliders. Without it, we fear that greater gliders may be headed for a local extinction event on the South Coast of NSW.”

Although Debus and the WFF applauded the EPA and NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe for the prompt enforcement action NSW Greens MP Sue Higginson said the incident was evidence that logging the public native forest estate was “broken”.

“The only reason the EPA has issued a Stop Work Order is because the community and I alerted them to the flagrant failure to afford proper protection for one of our most iconic and endangered species in NSW.

“Even under the forestry corporations loose environmental prescriptions there is a requirement to identify Greater Glider habitat trees prior to logging and then afford some protection to them.

“If it wasn’t for the us the Forestry Corporation would be continuing what can only be described as greater glider extinction logging. Greater gliders require hollow trees to survive. It takes around 80-120 years for trees to form hollows suitable for greater gliders.”

The Forestry Corporation issued a statement on August 31 2023 which is:

'The Environment Protection Authority has issued Forestry Corporation a Stop Work Order for forestry operations in Tallaganda State Forest.

Protecting Greater Glider habitat is crucial, and Forestry Corporation has spent many months preparing for these operations through intensive pre-harvest surveys to identify and map sensitive habitat and ecological features.

During the harvesting operation Forestry Corporation ensures the habitat for gliders such as hollow bearing trees and retention clumps are protected.

Forestry Corporation is fully complying with the Stop Work Order and its compliance team is on site investigating.

We are fully committed to investigating what has occurred and finding out what the circumstances are around the greater glider found dead in the forest.

Forestry Corporation monitors Greater Glider populations in Tallaganda State Forest and has completed over 40 kilometres of spotlight transects and identified almost 400 greater gliders across the whole forest.

The Greater Gliders are occupying the range of forest landscapes across Tallaganda - areas affected by the 2019-20 bushfires and the unburnt forest, plus areas of forest which are unharvested and areas which have previously been harvested for timber.'

Tree hollows are essential to greater glider survival, and can take up to 250 years to form. Yet their forest home is at risk of being further destroyed once the 40 days stop work order lapses.

Populations of the greater glider have declined by 80 per cent over the past 20 years due to logging, land clearing and bushfire. It was listed as endangered in 2022, having previously been declared vulnerable.

Logging Continues Within So-Called 'Great Koala Park' - 20% To Be Destroyed Before Koala Park Even Established Under RFA's That Run Until 2048 In NSW: Local MP's Visit, Call For Ban On Logging In NSW Forests

Mackellar MP Dr. Sophie Scamps and Wakehurst MP Michael Regan visited Wedding Bells State Forest, where logging is currently being undertaken by the NSW Forestry Corporation, and has been for quite some time, as illustrated in this Friendly Jordies film from October 2022 (language warning).

On March 20th 2023 Dr. Scamps issued a media release stating, ''Later today I will move a motion in Parliament calling on the Albanese Government to rapidly end the logging of Australia’s public native forests.

''Australia is facing an extinction crisis and the continued logging of our native forests is one of the major threats facing species like the koala, greater gliders and Leadbeater’s possum. 40,000 hectares of Australian public native forests were destroyed or degraded by logging in 2020 and each year logging releases greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to approximately 6% of Australia’s annual emissions.

Logging not only destroys crucial habitat for threatened species and contributes to climate change, but it also dries out forests leading to increased risk of bushfire, reduces water quality in rivers and dams, and threatens regional tourism.

While I welcome the Albanese Government’s commitment to reforming the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC Act), we can’t afford to wait until 2024 to act on logging. The Government can move now, for example, to remove exemptions within the EPBC Act for Regional Forestry Agreements (RFAs). The failure of state-owned logging companies to ensure ecologically sustainable forest management and protect threatened species means the Australian Government must rapidly remove the RFA exemptions. 

Importantly, I am not calling for an end to the logging industry, but an end to the destructive practice of logging our native forests. My motion also calls on the government to fund the transition to a plantation-based forestry industry, recognising the importance of forestry jobs in regional Australia and the need for sustainable wood products in the future. 

How many more court cases, forest blockades, community campaigns, scientific reports, bushfires made worse by logging, and listings of even more threatened species are needed before the Australian Government takes seriously its international responsibilities to respond to the nature and climate crises and lead the nation in ending industrial native forest logging?'' Dr . Scamps said

Michael Regan, Independent Member for Wakehurst , stated on September 1st 2023 - the first day of Spring 2023, ''My electorate office receives lots of community concerns about the continued logging of our native forests. Not surprising given where we live surrounded by bush and beach. We appreciate and respect it. So It was great to catch up with Dr. Sophie Scamps this week for an important site visit to Wedding Bells State Forest as we explored the situation with continued logging in that area.

''I was alarmed to learn that this logging is taking place within the proposed perimeter of the Great Koala National Park, which the NSW government committed to establishing during the election. This area is believed to be home to 20% of NSW koala population. It is critical this precious bushland is protected from logging.

''Dr Sophie Scamps and I (and many State /Federal MPs) are working hard to push the NSW and Federal governments to act now to protect our state’s native forests and koala habitats.

It is well and truly time to end the logging of our native forests and support transitioning the industry away to sustainable plantations.'' Mr. Regan said

Mackellar MP Scamps stated, ''On Wednesday (August 30, 2023) Michael Regan MP and I went on a fact-finding mission to the beautiful Wedding Bells State Forest to see the confronting extent of logging in our native forests and koala habitats. 

''Despite the NSW Governments commitment to establish a Great Koala National Park, logging continues to go on within the proposed protected boundary.

''The gut wrenching part of this is that the habitat is used for low value products such as tomato stakes, pallets and wood chips. This means the production of native forest trees are commercially unviable and loss making.

This is simply unacceptable. We must not stand for this. It’s time for the Albanese Government to show leadership on this issue and end the logging of native forests and help fund a transition to a sustainable plantation based industry.''

Mackellar MP Dr. Scamps and Wakehurst MP Michael Regan at Wedding Bells State Forest on August 30, 2023. Photo: via Facebook

Dr. Scamps and Mr. Regan are among thousands of individuals and community and environment groups who have been calling for a cessation of logging in NSW State Forests for years now. 

The previous NSW Government, despite widespread opposition, had already extended the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA) by 20 years in May 2018 when asking for community feedback.

Then Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole and Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said the Coastal IFOA remake was a vital step forward in the NSW Government’s forestry reform agenda.

“The NSW Government is committed to the long term and sustainable management of NSW’s forestry estate, for the benefit of the community, environment and our $2.4 billion forestry and product manufacturing industry,” Mr Toole said.

The NSW Conservation Council stated then, ''The Berejiklian government’s plan to “remap” old growth forest poses serious new threat to some of the best mature forests left in NSW.

''The government announced it would remap these high-value public native forests as part of a package of changes to forest protection laws (Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) unveiled today.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Logging is not permitted in old-growth forests because these areas have exceptional value for conservation. Removing old-growth classification through the remapping project could make thousands of hectares of previously protected high-quality wildlife habitat available to the timber industry.

“This is a major attack on our native forests and the conservation movement will vigorously oppose these changes at every opportunity.”

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin said: “The government plans to weaken forest environmental protections come just weeks after it declared it would protect 24,000 hectares of koala habitat by reclassifying state forests for wildlife conservation.

“We have been told that new protections for koala habitat will result in an annual shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres of sawlogs promised to the timber industry.

“We are very concerned the remapping project will result in high-quality forest losing high levels of protection and being made available to the timber industry to make up for the timber lost through koala protection.

“The government appears to be forcing the community to choose between protecting koalas or old-growth forest when we should in fact protect both.

Under the proposed arrangement, coastal forests between Grafton and Taree will be subject to a massive increase in harvesting intensity with patches of forest of 45ha open to clear felling.

“This is a new level of logging intensity not seen before outside of the Eden region on the south coast, where forests have been decimated to feed the woodchip mill.”

Dailan Pugh, from the North East Forest Alliance said: "It is outrageous that the intent is to undertake a discredited review process to open up large areas of currently protected old-growth forest for logging on the north coast in order to meet a sawlog shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres per annum. Our wildlife cannot afford to lose any more of these precious remnants."

From 'Proposed multi-scale landscape approach – download the Multi Scale Approach Factsheet here' Doc.;
 Includes all public coastal forests in NSW and consists of over 5.2 million hectares.
• Across this area of public forests is a patchwork of State Forests and forest protected in National Parks and State Flora Reserves.
• State Forests make up around 30% of the public forests in the Coastal IFOA area. Native timber production forests cover around 16% of this area.
Environmental protections include:
• An established network of protected public land conserving important habitat and ecosystems across coastal NSW.
• The broad landscape-based habitat protection network includes National parks, Flora Reserves and special management zones.
• Annual timber volume caps are also set to ensure a long term ecologically sustainable supply of timber.
• Reporting requirements apply and monitoring to evaluate and ensure environmental outcomes are being achieved.

• A defined geographic region with an average size of 50,000 hectares.
• Multiple timber production forests occur within each management area.
• These areas will be fixed and mapped at the commencement of the proposed IFOA.
• On average 50% of the management zone of state forests is protected.
Environmental protections include:
• Annual limits on the amount of harvesting in each management area to distribute harvesting across the landscape.
• A maximum of 10% of a management area can be harvested per year.
• If the management area is zoned for intensive harvestingthen a maximum of only 5% of that management area can be intensively harvested per year

• A defined area of timber production forests no larger than 1500 hectares.
• On average there are four local landscape areas in each State Forest.
• These areas will be mapped out progressively over time.
• An average of 38% is protected before the new wildlife habitat clump requirements are considered. This will increase to an average of 41%.
Environmental protections include:
• A minimum of 5% of the harvest area to be permanently protected as a wildlife habitat clump to maintain habitat diversity and connectivity.
• Rainforest, high conservation value old growth, habitat corridors and owl habitat will continue to be protected.
• Threatened ecological communities have been mapped and will be excluded from harvesting.
• Streams are more accurately mapped and exclusion zones apply to provide landscape connectivity and protect waterways.
• Distributeintensive harvesting across the landscape and over a minimum 21 year period.
• Improved koala mapping to retain koala browse trees to support movement between areas and food resources.

• A site is the area where harvesting is taking place. Sites vary in size from about 45 to 250 hectares.
• There are many sites, called coupes or compartments, within each local landscape area.
• An average of 41% of State Forests at a site scale will be protected, increasing to 45% with added tree retention clumps.

Environmental protections include:
• Areas will be permanently protected to provide short term refuge, maintain forest structure, and protect important habitat features.
• Additional areas no less than 5 – 8% of the harvest area will be permanently set aside as new tree retention clumps.
• Hollow-bearing trees, nest and roost trees and giant trees will be permanently protected to provide ongoing shelter and food resources.
• Some target surveys will be retained for unique species of plants and animals that require protection.
• Sites will now be measured, mapped and monitored with mobile and desktop devices.

Visit: Proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW's coastal forests - NSW Government; 'Once approved, the new Coastal IFOA will set the rules for how we use and harvest these forests so it’s important that you have your say.'
In November 2018 the National Parks Association stated Freedom of information documents reveal damning assessment of Berejiklian government’s proposed new logging laws.

''As the NSW and federal governments are poised to sign off on 20-year extensions to controversial Regional Forest Agreements, documents acquired by the North East Forest Alliance under freedom of information show deep concerns within the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) about the impact of new logging laws on protected old-growth, rainforest and koalas.'' NPA stated

''OEH’s concerns echo those of environment groups and illustrate clearly that the laws will destroy the natural values of our forests. Reminiscent of when Environment Minister Upton signed off on new land clearing laws despite departmental advice that 99% of koala habitat was at risk from clearing, the government is again ignoring OEH advice that koala deaths will increase and habitat quality decrease as a result of the new laws.

''Further, the documents reveal that the recommendation by the Natural Resources Commission to allow logging of  forest protected as oldgrowth forest, rainforest and stream buffers for the past 20 years was contrary to the recommendations of the Expert Fauna Panel and that the Panel’s considerations of required protections were based on the erroneous assumption that all these important fauna habitats would be protected. OEH recommends many of the panel’s recommendations for threatened species need to be revisited in light of the new logging proposals..

On top of recent revelations about the deep unpopularity of native forest logging in the broader community, the National Parks Association (NPA) and North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) are calling for the government to scrap the new laws (called Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) and chart an exit out of native forest logging.

“The documents show that a keystone of Premier Berejiklian’s draconian changes to the logging rules for public forests is that some 58,600 ha of High Conservation Value Oldgrowth and 50,600 ha of rainforest in north-east NSW may be made available for logging”, said Dailan Pugh of the North East Forest Alliance.

“These forests were protected over 20 years ago as part of NSW’s reserve system because they are the best and most intact forest remnants left on state forests. As logging intensity has increased around them their environmental importance has escalated.

“North East NSW’s forests are one of the world’s centres of biodiversity and now Premier Berejiklian wants to extend her increased logging intensity into the jewels that the community saved.”

Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist with the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) said: “It’s no wonder the public is sick of native forest logging and that it has lost its social license.

“Here we have clear warnings from OEH that more koalas will die and more koala habitat will be lost. Yet the government’s determined to plough on regardless.

“It’s past time the federal government intervened to stop NSW knowingly driving koalas further towards extinction.” 


Extracts from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Conservation and Regional Delivery Division North East Branch (NEB) ‘Submission to the NSW Environmental Protection Agency on the Draft Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval remake’ obtained through freedom of information

The Draft Coastal IFOA appears to enable boundaries separating the CAR reserve system and the harvest area to be amended by inter‐agency agreement with no public consultation. Further, amendments to the boundaries could occur at the scale of the local landscape or even individual compartment. Areas would be assessed in isolation, rather than at a regional scale, and thereby be susceptible to the incremental ecological impact that regional assessments were originally introduced to prevent. This is expected to significantly compromise the CAR reserve system over time.

The NEB therefore reiterates the recommendation from the Expert Fauna Panel for the ‘permanent protection of current exclusion zones’ (State of NSW and the Environmental Protection Agency 2018, p.8) and recommends that the Draft Coastal IFOA include specific provisions that protect all areas that have been protected by the FA, RFA and current IFOA over the last 20 years.

Intensive and selective harvest areas

The CAR reserve system was established in conjunction with selective logging regimes that maintained structurally diverse forest throughout the harvest area. The Draft Coastal IFOA appears to increase the area of public forests on the north coast that would be legally available for intensive harvest, with the risk that large areas of forest will be reduced to a uniform young age class that would take many decades for full ecological function to be restored.

In the intensive harvesting zone (the Coastal Blackbutt forests of the north coast hinterland), the Draft Coastal IFOA proposes to allow coupes of up to 45 ha to be logged with no lower limits on the number of trees retained in the harvest area.

This proposed minimum basal area retention of trees in the harvest areas is below the minimum threshold required to maintain habitat values advised by the majority of the Expert Fauna Panel.

The Draft Coastal IFOA proposes removing the existing requirement to protect habitat ‘recruitment trees’. Over time, this will reduce the number of large habitat trees retained for ecological purposes in harvest areas, as trees die and are not replaced. Recruitment trees identified previously will now be available for harvesting, further reducing the persistent availability of larger trees as a critical habitat element for threatened and protected fauna.

High Conservation Value (HCV) Old Growth

HCV old growth was identified for protection as part of the CAR reserve in 1998. It was comprised of older forest (mapped as ‘candidate’ old growth) that also scored highly for irreplaceability (a measure of significance to biodiversity conservation) and threatened species habitat value. Under the Draft Coastal IFOA, biodiversity values of harvest area will be reduced as the area becomes progressively younger (potentially 21 years old or less). For threatened species, this places greater significance on adequately protecting existing HCV old growth areas.

The NEB recommends that areas of HCV old growth that have been protected for at least 20 years (NRC 2018) are not made available for logging. This will minimise impacts on threatened species.


The concerns raised above in relation to the treatment of old growth under the Draft Coastal IFOA also apply to protected rainforest. Combined, HCV old growth and rainforest form the cornerstone of the CAR reserve system on State forest. Adequate retention of these vegetation types is considered particularly critical in the context of proposed increased logging intensities.

Specific threatened species conditions

Identifying the species that required species‐specific conditions was a major task for the Expert Fauna Panel. However, the Panel’s deliberations occurred prior to the proposals to allow logging access to HCV old growth and rainforest (NRC 2018). Therefore, many of the panel’s recommendations need to be revisited in light of the new logging proposals. For example, some of the old growth dependent species (such as those that require hollows) were considered not to require species‐specific conditions because the existing HCV old growth was protected. Similarly, for many rainforest‐dependent species, and those dependent upon riparian habitats, species‐specific conditions were not proposed on the assumption that the habitat of these species was considered sufficiently protected.

Koala protection

There appears to be a reduction in protections offered to koalas under the Draft Coastal IFOA. Koalas are selective both in their choice of food tree species and in their choice of individual trees. The scientific basis for proposed tree retention rates in the Draft Coastal IFOA is not clear, and the rates are less than half those originally proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel.

While Koalas will use small trees, research has shown that they selectively prefer larger trees. In our experience, the proposed minimum tree retention size of 20cm dbh will be inadequate to support koala populations and should be increased to a minimum of 30cm dbh. Many Koala food trees are also desired timber species, so there is a high likelihood that larger trees will be favoured for harvesting, leaving small retained trees subject to the elevated mortality rates experienced in exposed, intensively‐logged coupes.

Koalas require large areas of connected habitat for long‐term viability. The increased logging intensity proposed under the draft Coastal IFOA is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources. Animals will need to spend more time traversing the ground as they move between suitable trees that remain, which is likely to increase koala mortality.

At the same time this video was released:

These Two Koalas Lost Their Mothers To Deforestation

The 20 year extension was approved months before the July 2019 bushfires which, by January 2020, had consumed thousands of hectares of bushland and killed an estimated 2 billion native animals.

The licence to persist in logging habitat, until 2048, is now viewed as a licence for extinction.

However the new and current State Government has already signalled it has no intention of making any changes to logging practices in the state.

Forestry Corporation NSW plans show that over the next 12 months it intends to log 30,813 hectares of a total 175,000 hectares of state forests that fall within the boundaries of the proposed Great Koala National Park, home to one in five of the state’s surviving koalas.

This would include areas identified by the government as the most important koala habitat in the state at Wild Cattle Creek, Clouds Creek, Pine Creek and in the Boambee State Forests.

“[Forestry Corporation NSW] knows this national park is coming, and they are deliberately ramping up operations within its boundaries to extract as much timber from it as possible,” NSW Nature Conservation Council chief executive Jacqui Mumford said earlier this year.

“The NSW government committed to protecting koalas by creating the [Great Koala National Park], but before the assessment process even beginsForestry Corporation plans to log nearly 20 per cent of the park.”

The calls for a moratorium on logging by the state-owned enterprise come as Victoria announced it will bring forward an end to all logging in its state forests to 2024 from 2030, bringing that state into line with Western Australia.

“Victoria and Western Australia are now both ending native forest logging by 2024, while Queensland is stopping logging south of Noosa by next year. NSW is now the laggard in this space, and it’s time for the NSW government to step up,” Mumford said.

Both major parties in NSW have long resisted calls to end logging in native forests despite the industry running at a loss.

The proposed national park would link together and protect existing national parks and state forests and add other critical habitats from South West Rocks, north of Coffs Harbour, to Woy Woy, in the south, and areas inland over parts of the Great Dividing Range.

Responding to questions from the Sydney Morning Herald, NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe did not address calls for a moratorium but reiterated her government’s commitment to create the Great Koala National Park during its first term.

“We were very clear at the election that the process to establish the park will involve seeking scientific advice, consulting with all stakeholders, and will include an independent economic assessment of the park’s impact on local jobs and communities,” she said.

“The park will include 140,000ha of existing reserves and the assessment of 176,000ha of state forest for inclusion in the park.”

Mumford said it was “ridiculous” that the government was spending $29 million of taxpayers’ money to log koala habitat at a loss while spending additional taxpayer funds to protect the koala.

During the 2021-22 financial year, the hardwood division of Forestry Corporation NSW, which is responsible for native forest logging, ran at a loss of $9 million, following a loss of $20 million the previous year, according to an analysis by the Nature Conservation Council.

A report published in April by conservative think tank The Blueprint Institute also found native forest logging in NSW ran at a loss and said the government would save taxpayers $45 million by shutting down that sector of the industry in the forthcoming year rather than when current forestry agreements expire, or whenever there is no single tree left standing - whichever comes first.

It is a requirement of the NSW Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) that its performance is reviewed every five years. 

On 23 November 2022, officials from the Australian and New South Wales governments held their fourth annual meeting since the signing of the 20-year extension to the NSW RFAs. The governments issued the following communique:
  • Officials discussed the Long-term Ecologically Sustainable Yield review in response to the 2019-20 bushfires, the impact on wood supply, and the upcoming Sustainable Yield review due in 2024.
  • Officials discussed research priorities and recent developments for forest-related monitoring, evaluation and reporting in NSW. An update was provided by the NSW Natural Resources Commission on the progress of the NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program – 2019 – 2024. An update was also provided by NSW officials on the Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) Plan as required under the RFAs, as well as the development of a MER framework for PNF. Officials also discussed identifying future research gaps for RFA 5-yearly review reporting.
  • Officials discussed conservation advice and recovery plans, particularly for species listed as Matters of National Environmental Significance and an update was provided on federal koala conservation programs. Officials discussed compliance activities for a range of forest management matters including for the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals and for the PNF Codes.
  • Officials considered preparations for the five yearly review in 2024, as required by clauses 8A and 8B of the NSW RFAs. This included a proposed structure for the outcomes focused Progress Report, arrangements to finalise the draft Scoping Agreement, a draft Joint Communications Plan and a proposed timeline for the review through to the end of 2024.
  • Officials noted that the next annual meeting is required to be held no later than 28 November 2023 and agreed to meet before that date.

Investigation Underway Into Vandalism At Pelican Island Nature Reserve: Brisbane Water

September 1, 2023
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has launched an investigation into a series of disappointing acts of vandalism at the Pelican Island Nature Reserve.

NPWS Central Coast Area Manager Steve Atkins said the illegal activities, including camping, lighting fires, littering, damage to park signs and destruction of native vegetation, have raised concerns about the conservation of this vital natural habitat.

“Pelican Island Nature Reserve spans 40 hectares in the heart of Brisbane Water, protecting crucial estuarine vegetation, such as the swamp oak and the Saltmarsh Endangered Ecological Community,” said Mr Atkins.

“This island offers sanctuary to native animals and birds, including white-bellied sea eagles, which are a threatened species in New South Wales.

“We’ve faced repeated challenges at Pelican Island, with the park sign needing to be replaced 3 times since January 2023, due to repeated removals by vandals.

“A recent inspection revealed that over 70 casuarina trees have been cut down, and the ground is littered with broken glass bottles, rubbish and remnants of fires,” said Mr Atkins.

The nature reserve is only accessible by boat. NPWS will be installing surveillance cameras on the island and increasing patrols of the area.

Anyone with information about vandalism at Pelican Island Nature Reserve is asked to please contact the local NPWS Girrakool office on (02) 4320 4200 or email

NPWS Ranger and Field Supervisor inspect the damage in Pelican Island Nature Reserve. Credit: NPWS

$6.7 Million Tomaree Coastal Walk To Showcase Port Stephens' Natural Beauty And Boost Regional Tourism

September 1, 2023
The NSW Government is unveiling the Tomaree Coastal Walk, showcasing the magnificent coastline of Tomaree National Park and offering a 27-kilometre walking adventure in the heart of Port Stephens.

The $6.7 million project funded by the NSW Government will enhance tourist opportunities in the Port Stephens region beyond the traditional summer season and encourage visitors to experience new sections of Tomaree National Park.

Tomaree Head already attracts over 300,000 visitors per year and this upgrade will significantly improve the visitor experience, allowing more people to enjoy this spectacular area comfortably and safely.

The Tomaree Coastal Walk will offer these outdoor adventurers a multi-day experience, turning day-trips into overnight stays, and providing a boost to local tourism and hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants, and accommodation providers.

The Tomaree Coastal Walk is the latest in a network of national park upgrades being established in NSW national parks, as part of a plan to transform the state into a bushwalking attraction for domestic and international visitors.

The central focus of the Tomaree Coastal Walk project is to create a continuous track linking Tomaree Head to Birubi Point.

The walk has been carefully designed and constructed so a wider range of people can access and enjoy the beauty of the Port Stephens coast. The upgrades allow wheelchair and mobility restriction access to a spectacular lookout point near the Iris Moore Reserve.

Starting at Tomaree Head, with unparalleled views of idyllic Port Stephens and its coastline, the multi-day walk hugs the coastline of the national park, guiding visitors across rock ledges, along secluded beaches and through angophora forests via boardwalks and easy-to-navigate walking tracks.

Visitors can do self-guided walks of the entire route or tackle shorter sections of track in any direction, supported by expanded parking along the length of the walk.

The Tomaree Coastal Walk traverses the traditional lands of the Worimi people, an ancient volcanic landscape that has unique cultural, natural and historic values.

New lookouts offer panoramic views of the ocean, as well as providing ideal spots for whale-watching during the annual migration of humpback whales along Australia's east coast.

Upgraded visitor precincts include improved parking, seating, stairs and walkways, as well as signage and artwork celebrating the cultural heritage of Worimi Country. 

Premier of NSW Chris Minns said, "This new Coastal Walk add to the NSW Government's deep commitment to showcasing our state's spectacular natural beauty and boost tourism in our regional communities.

"This enhancement of Tomaree National Park adds another breath-taking experience befitting this region's fantastic landscape and our state's environmental character.

"The Coastal Walk will entice local and tourists to come and enjoy the natural surrounds while taking the opportunity to stay overnight at local accommodation, dine in local restaurants and stop by local cafes. It's a win-win for visitors and local businesses.

"We're excited to see this project boost the region's tourism economy and for visitors to enjoy this new iconic coastal experience."

NSW Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said, "The new Tomaree Coastal Walk will provide a first-class nature-based tourism attraction for Port Stephens, promote the natural and Aboriginal cultural heritage of Tomaree National Park, and build a valued legacy for future generations.

"This area is steeped in history, with ancient volcanic peaks, deep and on-going connection with Worimi people, rich WWII heritage, whales, wildflowers, and wildlife just waiting to be discovered.

"Offering a series of short, half- or multi-day walk options, walkers can choose their own adventure, with a range of accommodation options available in nearby coastal villages.

"As we enter spring, now it's the perfect time to lace up your walking shoes and hit the trails of the Tomaree Coastal Walk."

Minister for Families and Communities and Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington said, "Tomaree National Park is one of the most special places in Port Stephens, and on the planet!"

"From the iconic headland to the sensational sand dunes which are part of the culturally significant Worimi Conservation Lands, the Tomaree Coastal Walk transports you somewhere stunning at every turn."

"Locals and visitors alike, will absolutely fall in love with our amazing new Tomaree Coastal Walk."
Photo: Woman reaching Tomaree Head Summit, Mount Tomaree, Port Stephens. Credit: Destination Port Stephens

Water Careers Showcase To Lure Bright Minds

August 30 2023
The NSW Government is tackling skills shortages in the water industry, partnering with three regional councils for a fun-filled and hands-on career day to showcase water operations jobs to students, jobseekers and others pondering a profession change.

Minister for Water Rose Jackson said the NSW Government, Tamworth Regional Council, Liverpool Plains Shire Council and Gunnedah Shire Councils have joined forces to put on the event.

“We are under no illusions about the labour shortfalls facing our water industry, particularly in rural areas where populations are small, yet managing and delivering our most precious resource to the tap has never been more important,” Ms Jackson said.

“That’s why we’re throwing this event as a one-stop-shop to provide first-hand experience through practical, interactive water workshops, building professional connections and helping participants take their first step into a new career in water.”

Tamworth Regional Council Mayor Russell Webb said local water industry leaders will be on the ground to chat with participants and answer any of their questions directly.

“One of the main barriers to building up our workforce is simply a matter of low awareness about the sector as a great career choice and that’s what this showcase will look to address,” Cr Webb said.

“The beauty of the day will be the professional networking that comes from it and there will be plenty of opportunities for future work experience and traineeships in local water utilities for those who attend which is a major drawcard.”

Gunnedah Shire Council Mayor Jamie Chaffey said having the right personnel looking after town water supplies is essential with another drought knocking at the door.

“There are so many opportunities available in the water industry so if we can peak someone’s interest and it prompts them to seriously consider a career in this space, that’s a huge win already,” Cr Chaffey said.

“Water security is a major concern for people in this region, particularly with an El Nino looming, and this is part of our plan to ensure we’re equipped with the best and brightest minds to help operate our water and sewerage infrastructure in the future.”

Liverpool Plains Shire Council Doug Hawkins OAM welcomed the partnership between the three councils and the state government.

“It’s not every day you get three councils and the state government all in lockstep, which really emphasises the value of an initiative like this,” Cr Hawkins said.

“It’s a free event with lunch provided so we really encourage everyone to come along and explore a rewarding career in water that plays a vital role in supporting the local community.”

The Water Industry Careers Showcase will be held at the Calala Water Treatment Plant in Tamworth on Wednesday 6 September from 9:30am – 2pm for up to 70 people.

Panel To Review Barwon Darling Connectivity

August 30 2023
The NSW Government has set up an independent expert panel to provide feedback on work being carried out to improve connectivity and flows in the Barwon Darling.

Minister for Water Rose Jackson said the panel will provide certainty by putting an independent lens on work being undertaken by the Department of Planning and Environment to improve the health of the Barwon Darling after drought and low flows.

“This is about making sure that any rule changes we make to water sharing plans in the Barwon Darling, and its tributaries the Border Rivers, Gwydir, Namoi, and Macquarie, are informed and robust to deliver better outcomes for regional communities, “Ms Jackson said.

“With another El Nino just around the corner, it has never been more important to look at how we share and manage water before, during and after droughts.

“I have established a cross section of experts including an environmentalist, hydrologist, economist, water management expert and First Nations representative to look closely at the work being done to improve the health of the river and environment after dry periods.

“This includes how much water can be taken along the system during the first flows following a drought, as well as triggers for allowing floodplain harvesting to occur and access to supplementary water.

“The panel will also review flow triggers in upstream catchments to help support algal suppression and fish migration in the Barwon Darling.

“It is important we prioritise the environment and residents in the first couple of weeks after a drought when high flows return to ensure there is water in the Menindee Lakes for the downstream environment, town supply and basic rights.”

A replacement Barwon Darling Water Sharing Plan must be finalised by June 2025 along with amendments to the tributary plans.

The panel members include:
  • Ms Amy Dula - Chair (Director of Programs Natural Resources Commission)
  • Professor Phil Duncan (First Nations representative, Galambany Professional Fellow, Acting CEO, EPIC CRC)
  • Dr Mark Southwell (Principal River Scientist, 2rog Consulting)
  • Dr Phil Townsend (Senior Economic Analyst)
  • Mr Cameron Smith (Principal Water Engineer, Cleah Consulting)
  • Professor Fran Sheldon (Head of the School of Environment and Science at Griffith University).
The panel will meet three times this year, with their first meeting scheduled for Monday 4 September and will provide the final report to Minister Jackson by early 2024.

A Probity Adviser has been appointed to oversee the expert panel process.

Smoke In Air-On Horizon - Red Sunsets Already: August 23-24, 2023

NSW Rural Fire Service - Plan and Prepare
It's been another busy weekend for firefighters, as high fire danger and strong winds fanned several fires in the northern parts of the state. As of 3pm today, August 22nd, there are currently more than 300 firefighters working to contain over 60 fires burning across NSW.

There are also a number of Hazard Reductions taking place out west and closer to Sydney.

If you suffer from asthma please take proper precautions to protect your health at this time.
If there is a hazard reduction burn planned for your area, please take the following steps:
  • Keep doors and windows closed to prevent smoke entering homes
  • Keep outdoor furniture under cover to prevent ember burns
  • Retract pool covers to prevent ember damage
  • Remove washing from clotheslines
  • Ensure pets have a protected area
  • Vehicles must slow down, keep windows up, turn headlights on
  • Sightseers must keep away from burns for their own safety
  • If you have asthma or a lung condition, reduce outdoor activities if smoke levels are high and if shortness of breath or coughing develops, take your reliever medicine or seek medical advice
For health information relating to smoke from bush fires and hazard reduction burning, visit the NSW Health website or Asthma Australia.

With the fire season just around the corner, it's important you prepare your property for the threat of fire. For more information on how to prepare, visit the RFS website:

Photo: view west from Pittwater

Get Ready Weekend 2023: Know Your Risk This Bush Fire Season

The risk of bush fires is returning. With several years of wet weather grass and scrub has grown across NSW. Talk to your local RFS members about the likely risk of bush or grass fire in your local area.

In September every year RFS members are out in the community hosting Get Ready Weekend events. Contact your local brigade to find out when and where they are holding an event.

Get Ready Weekend is held across NSW in around 500 locations and its aim is to encourage residents and landowners to plan and prepare for the upcoming bush fire season.

In 2023, the majority of Get Ready Weekend events will be held on the weekend of September 16 and 17.

If you live in an area near grasslands or farms, recent rain has caused widespread grass growth. As this dries out the risk of grassfires increases. Grass fires can start easily and move quickly. Farmlands may be at increased risk.

Even if you live in an area affected by the 2019/20 bush fires, you may be at risk this bush fire season. Many areas are seeing new growth among grasses and shrubs. It takes only a few days of hot dry and windy weather for these to dry out. Fires may start quickly and move quickly.

If you live in an area near bushland that was not affected by recent fires you may be at higher risk this Summer. Recent wet weather has encouraged growth and has hampered efforts for fire agencies to reduce hazards.

With hot and drier conditions expected this Summer, you may be at higher than normal risk of bush and grass fire. Know your risk this bush fire season and prepare well ahead.

Get prepared now at

Murray Cod And Murray Crayfish Season Comes To A Close For 2023

August 31, 2023
Recreational fishers are reminded that the seasons for Murray Cod and Murray Crayfish come to a close this Friday, 1 September.

NSW DPI Fisheries Deputy Director General Sean Sloan said the Murray Cod fishery is subject to a three-month closure every year to protect these iconic native species.

“Murray Cod cannot be taken in inland waters from September to November inclusive, which is their breeding season, except in Copeton and Blowering dams, which are year around fisheries," Mr Sloan said.

“In Copeton and Blowering dams, DPI monitoring has confirmed that the majority of fish in those waters are stocked fish, meaning the breeding season closure would provide negligible benefit to Murray Cod.

“Murray Cod are a prized target for fishers in NSW’s inland fishery and are native to the Murray-Darling Basin.

“They are Australia’s largest freshwater fish, growing up to 1.8m in length and weighing up to 50kg.

“This three-month fishing closure is put into place to protect these iconic native freshwater fish for future generations.”

Murray Cod. Photo; DPI

Mr Sloan said in addition to the annual three-month Murray Cod fishing closure, there is also a closure in place for the fishing of Murray Crayfish.

“The Murray Crayfish can only legally be taken in specified waters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers from 1 June to 31 August,” Mr Sloan said.

“The fishery is closed for the remainder of the year, to provide protection for this vulnerable species.

"NSW recreational freshwater fishing laws are designed to protect, conserve and improve our fisheries resources for future generations.

”Murray Crayfish are endemic to the southern tributaries of the Murray-Darling Basin and are the largest freshwater spiny crayfish in NSW, growing up to three kilograms in weight.

Information on freshwater fishing rules can be found in the NSW Recreational Fishing Guide from DPI Fisheries offices, bait and tackle shops, fishing license agents or via our website

Suspected illegal fishing should be reported to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536 or via the online form located on NSW DPI Fisheries website here -

Australian Bass And Estuary Perch Open Season Now Officially Underway

September 1, 2023
Fishers across the State can now target Australian Bass and Estuary Perch in NSW waters from today, 1 September, as the annual three-month closed season comes to an end.

Deputy Director General NSW DPI Fisheries Sean Sloan said the annual fishing closure for these popular sportfish is important to protect these native species for future generations.

“These iconic fish have now completed their annual spawning and migration, which occurs each year over late autumn and early winter,” Mr Sloan said.

“A zero-bag limit is put in place each year in estuaries and rivers below impoundments between 1 June and 31 August, to allow the fish to form schools and migrate to parts of estuaries with the correct salinity, to trigger spawning.

“From today, 1 September, anglers can take both Australian Bass and Estuary Perch, however they are reminded that strict bag limits do apply.”

A bag limit of two and possession limit of four applies to Australian Bass and Estuary Perch, either for a single species or a combination of both species.

Mr Sloan said it's important for fishers to remember when fishing in rivers, that only one fish is permitted to be over 35 centimeters in length.

“The department enforces the annual four month zero-bag limit because during their spawning season, the schools of fish can be vulnerable to fishing,” Mr Sloan said.

“Now, in spring, most fish will have returned to their warmer weather feeding grounds higher up in the catchment.

“After the spawning season, we are expecting it to be a great fishing season for both species, so we encourage fishers to wet a line this spring and summer.

“The great news is the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will commence the stocking of Australian Bass during September and October in impoundments across NSW.”

Information on freshwater fishing rules can be found on the Fishsmart app or online at Fishing laws are designed to protect, conserve and improve our fisheries resources for our future generations.

Any suspected illegal fishing activity can be reported through the FishSmart app, the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or via the online report form here -

NSW EPA Invites Feedback On How Biosolids Are Managed

The EPA are seeking feedback on the Biosolids Regulatory Review Issues Paper until Tuesday 3 October 2023.
Not many people think about what happens to the wastewater that they flush away or send down the laundry drain, but the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is reaching out to stakeholders and the community to ask them to do exactly that.

We are consulting with stakeholders as part of the Biosolids Regulatory Review, which aims to develop new rules around the beneficial use of biosolids while ensuring human and environmental safety.

Biosolids are an organic waste product generated from sewage at wastewater treatment plants. Nutrient and carbon rich, biosolids can be applied to land to improve soil fertility. At least half of all biosolids in NSW are used on agricultural land.

NSW EPA Chief Executive Officer, Tony Chappel said that there was a growing body of evidence about potential risks associated with contaminants in biosolids.

“It’s essential that we continue to adapt our approach to accommodate new learnings,” Mr Chappel said.

“As our knowledge around quality requirements and risk grows, it’s clear that our regulatory settings need to evolve too.

“Our review includes assessment of known and emerging chemicals of concern. We’ve reviewed research from around the world and tailored it to be relevant for the NSW context.

“Biosolids are a valued resource, and the EPA will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure their beneficial, safe and sustainable use.”

The EPA commenced this review, in response to new scientific knowledge around potential risks associated with the application of biosolids to land, including new knowledge of emerging contaminants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other chemicals of concern.

Collaborative stakeholder engagement has been key to the review process, with both a Stakeholder Committee and a Regulatory Committee established to ensure that progress on the review was in partnership with industry and Government.

Now the EPA is inviting all stakeholders to have their say in developing the new regulatory approach.

The EPA is consulting with stakeholders, including local government, utilities, the farming/agriculture sector, the biosolids industry, technology and research providers, transporters, small business and community to build a modernised regulatory approach for biosolids.

Further information on the Biosolids Regulatory Review, including the various ways that stakeholders can be involved, is available here

Sydney To Host World's First Global Nature Positive Summit

August 28, 2023
The Australian and New South Wales Labor governments have announced that Sydney will be the host for the first Global Nature Positive Summit in early October 2024.
The Summit will bring together delegates from around the world including ministers, environment groups, Aboriginal peoples, business, scientists and community leaders, to consider how to supercharge investment in projects that repair nature.

The Global Biodiversity Framework agreed to by 196 countries at the United Nations biodiversity conference last year was described as the ‘Paris agreement for nature’. It set a target of US$200 billion per year of funding to be spent on nature repair by 2030.

Protecting and repairing nature is a big job. Government funding plays a critical role, but we can’t do it alone.

Recognising this, the Summit will focus on 3 key themes:
  1. transparency and reporting – you can’t manage what you don’t measure
  2. investment in nature – growing business demand
  3. partnerships and capacity development – increasing landholder participation
The Summit will highlight how clear and consistent rules will enable businesses to invest in and measure projects that repair nature.

Delegates will also consider how to support developing nations, boost First Nations partnership in nature repair and improve policies to increase investment in nature.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek stated, "Last year, the world came together in support of a nature positive future. That means protecting the places that matter, while also restoring environments that have been damaged in the past.

"Turning the tide like this, from nature destruction to nature repair, will require a mighty global effort. We need government leading way, but we also need the private sector, environmentalists and First Nations groups all pulling in the same direction.

"That’s why we’re convening the Global Nature Positive Summit here in Sydney. We’re bringing the best environmental and financial minds to Australia, to share our expertise, and discuss how we work together to protect this planet for our kids and grandkids".

New South Wales Minister for Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Heritage Penny Sharpe said, “Australia is a world leader in advocating net zero and nature positive initiatives and we are delighted Sydney has been chosen as the host city for this historic event.

“The Sydney Summit will attract businesses, environment groups, scientists and government ministers from around the world and put Australia at the centre of this global transformation.”

Integrating Displaced Populations Into National Climate Change Policy And Planning - Policy Brief

August 30, 2023: UN
There are now more than 100 million people overall displaced, around 75% of whom are hosted by low or middle-income countries and living in protracted circumstances. Host countries are struggling to meet the needs of internally displaced people and refugees, despite the efforts and support of UN agencies and humanitarian actors. 

This Policy Brief, produced under the auspices of UNEP NDC Action project - which supports 10 countries, including Bangladesh, Colombia, Jordan and Uganda - highlights the needs and opportunities to strengthen the strategic and operational bridges between the humanitarian, development, climate change and environment fields. It also showcases the importance of:
  • Integrating human mobility, including displacement, in the policies and plans of ministries and agencies responsible for climate, environment, energy and development.
  • Integrating climate, environment and development, in human mobility and displacement policies, planning and implementation.
The recommendations of the policy brief are aligned with and aim at supporting the work of the Task Force on Displacement, within the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage and the United Nations Secretary‑General’s Action Agenda on Internal Displacement. 

It is also in line with IOM’s Institutional Strategy on Migration, Environment and Climate Change, 2021‑2030 which calls to support “the mainstreaming of migration issues in regional, national, and local climate, environmental and related policies”.


‘Coastal Residents United’ Launched: New Alliance Of Community Groups Fighting Inappropriate Development 

Representatives from dozens of community groups campaigning to defend small coastal towns and pockets of sensitive and endangered coastal bushland from inappropriate development launched a new alliance on August 24 2023 at the NSW Parliament. 

The alliance, Coastal Residents United, also presented petitions gathered from community groups Dalmeny Matters, Friends of Coila, Voices of South West Rocks, Hallidays Point Community Action Group and Save Myall Bushland Incorporated, all containing over 600 signatures, calling for a moratorium on developments that these groups are fighting. The petitions were tabled in the Upper House today.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who released the report Concreting Our Coast: The developer onslaught destroying our coastal villages and environment last year following a coastal fact-finding tour, said: 
“Last year, dozens of communities fighting large, inappropriate developments in their small towns contacted me crying out for help. What I found was an onslaught of development planned that would destroy coastal NSW as we all know, and love it”, said Ms Faehrmann. 

“Many of the opposed developments are so-called ‘zombie’ developments. Approved decades ago, they’ve avoided any of the environmental, cultural and other impact assessments that would be required today. Many are planned for areas prone to floods and fires with just one road in or out in an emergency and in towns that already do not have access to critical services and infrastructure.

“Combined, these campaigns add up to potentially thousands of hectares of bushland lost along our precious coast. Much of it is habitat for threatened species on the brink of extinction that cannot withstand any further loss of habitat. 

“I’m proud to stand with community representatives today to launch Coastal Residents United - a powerful alliance of groups sharing information, resources and strategies to ensure developers cannot get away with destroying our precious coastal environment,” said Ms Faehrmann. 

Greens MP and planning and environment spokesperson Sue Higginson said:
“Our planning system is not fit for purpose and it is putting developers profits above local communities, their safety and our fragile coastal environments. Communities up and down the coast of NSW are fighting inappropriate developments as the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises worsen. The planning system is not working and developers are taking advantage of it,” 

“The petitions tabled in the NSW Parliament today are just some of the many communities on the frontline of a broken planning system who are taking on property developers in the name of protecting the environment and keeping communities safe. 

“For too long the planning system has been controlled and influenced by private developers and their profits. Local communities need to be at the centre of decisions that affect them and their local environments and they need a system that protects our natural environment and addresses the worsening impacts of fires, floods and climate change. 

“It is brilliant that the community groups who are part of Coastal Residents United have mobilised and are working collaboratively for change and have brought this important issue to Parliament.” Ms Higginson said. 

Some of the community groups fighting inappropriate development include:
  • Bonny Hills Progress Association
  • Broulee Mossy Point Community Association
  • Burradise - Don’t go changin’
  • Byron Bay Vision
  • Byron Residents’ Group
  • Callala Environmental Alliance
  • Chinderah District Residents Association Inc
  • Clarence Environment Centre
  • Clearency Valley Conservation Coalition
  • Clarence Valley Watch Inc
  • Concerned Citizens of Harrington
  • Culburra Residents and Ratepayers Action Group
  • Dalmeny Matters
  • Friends of CRUNCH
  • Hallidays Point Community Action Group
  • Iluka DA Have Your Say
  • Keep Yamba Country
  • Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association Inc
  • Lake Wollumboola Protection Association
  • Manyana Matters
  • Our Future Shoalhaven
  • Protect Coila Lake’s fragile ecosystem
  • Red Rock Preservation Society
  • Red Rock Village Community Association
  • Save Callala Beach
  • Stop the Fill Yamba
  • Tumbulgum Community Association Inc
  • Tura Beach Biodiversity Group
  • Tuross Head Progress Association
  • Valla Beach Community Association
  • Valley Watch - Yamba
  • Voices of South West Rocks
  • Yamba Community Action Network
  • Save Myall Road Bushland

Photo: Cate Faehrmann MLC and Sue Higginson MLC receiving a petition for a moratorium on coastal zombie developments by Jacob Shields, Tura Beach resident and Friends of CRUNCH.

NSW Government Adds Additional Housing Supply In Former Bega TAFE Site

July 29, 2023
The NSW Government has announced it is planning to transform underutilised government land at Bega’s former TAFE site into a new 97 dwelling diverse housing project with 30 per cent of the homes to include much needed social and affordable housing.

A new Bega TAFE facility was opened in late 2021, meaning there will be no impact on Tertiary Education in the area as a consequence of this acquisition. This is part of the government’s plan to help ease the ongoing housing crisis by unlocking surplus government land that can be repurposed to create more housing supply across the state. The NSW Government is today announcing:

Subject to planning approval, almost eight hectares of NSW Government-owned land at Barrack Street in Bega, already zoned for residential use will be redeveloped by NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) to provide about 97 new social, affordable, and private homes.

The mixed tenure development proposes to deliver approximately eight affordable homes, 65 private homes, and 24 social homes, including a 20-unit complex specifically designed for senior social housing residents to meet the needs of this growing cohort of the community.

It will create a modern, diverse community that is close to key amenities and deliver new infrastructure including, roads and footpaths that deliver positive social and economic outcomes for the Bega community.
Bega is currently experiencing a housing shortage with the social housing priority waitlist increasing 56 percent in the 12 months to June 2023.

Bega also has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in all of NSW at just 0.24 per cent.

''The NSW Government is committed to easing the housing pressures faced across NSW'' the announcement states, ''and have already taken immediate action including:
  • Implemented planning reforms to expedite the delivery of more housing as building more homes is essential to reducing homelessness;
  • Extended temporary accommodation from an initial period of two days to seven days;
  • Removed the 28-day cap ensuring vulnerable people are able to access support when they need it most;
  • Increased the cash assets limit from $1,000 to $5,000 when assessing eligibility for Temporary Accommodation;
  • Removed the cash asset limit assessment entirely for people escaping domestic and family violence;
  • Extended Specialist Homelessness Services contracts for two years, to 30 June 2026;
  • Appointed a Rental Commissioner to work with us in designing and implementing changes that rebalance the rental market, making it fairer and more modern; and
  • Put a 12-month freeze on the requirement for people in temporary accommodation to complete a Rental Diary, while the scheme is reviewed.
Premier of New South Wales, Chris Minns said, 
“We have a housing crisis in New South Wales and it is on all of us to work together to address the challenges. Part of that challenge is the lack of supply. Today’s announcement is an important step towards unlocking supply to deliver housing relief in regional NSW.”

Deputy Premier and Minister Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Prue Car said, “There is a shared responsibility across government to tackle our housing crisis and we will continue to identify government-owned land, including former TAFE sites, that help meet that demand. It is an opportunity to transform these sites into crucial housing. We would never reduce access to education facilities to deliver this. The NSW Government has already opened the Connected Learning Centre and a Multi Trades Hub in Bega managed by TAFE NSW.”

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson said, 
“The scale of the challenge to resolve the housing crisis across the state is massive so if there’s an opportunity to deliver more housing, especially social and affordable homes - we will take it. There are simply not enough houses for the people who live and work here. We welcome innovative solutions to deliver more housing and will continue to work across the board to find more opportunities just like this one.

“This development will also create a seniors’ living complex which will provide fit for purpose social housing for our aging community. These modern homes will include well-located 1- and 2-bedroom units, will be easier to maintain and more economical to run.

Member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland said, 
“Bega has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the state and as the social housing waitlist continues to increase we must do everything we can to support the Bega community and part of that work means delivering more homes.

“Not only will the development deliver more housing, it will also create 55 more local jobs during its construction.”

Have Your Say On Harbourside Redevelopment At Darling Harbour

August 31 2023
The NSW Government is seeking feedback on the next stage of the Harbourside Shopping Centre redevelopment at Darling Harbour, with plans for the public outdoor area now on exhibition.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment Executive Director Anthea Sargeant said community input was vital to inform the detailed design, construction, and operation of the open space element of the mixed-use project.

“This proposed redevelopment seeks to revitalise the broader Harbourside site to support the ongoing transformation of Darling Harbour,” Ms Sargeant said.

Mirvac's outdoor plan includes open space around the revamped Harbourside building, along with pedestrian connections through the site and between Pyrmont and Darling Harbour.”

Ms Sargeant said this State Significant Development Application (SSDA) represents the final phase in an extensive planning, assessment and consultation process completed to date for the wider proposal.

"Community feedback will play a role in how around 13 million visitors will eventually experience and enjoy the Harbourside precinct every year," she said.

The application for the fit-out and use of the open space area around the Harbourside proposal, includes:
  • Widening and upgrades to the Waterfront Promenade;
  • Embellishments to the building’s interface with Darling Drive;
  • Fit-out and use of public elements of the building, including the Bunn Street Steps through- site link, Waterfront Steps, Pyrmont Bridge Steps, and Waterfront Garden;
  • Embellishment of the North and South Walks;
  • Construction and operation of the new Bunn Street pedestrian bridge, and embellishments to the existing Murray Street pedestrian bridge; and
  • Opportunities for heritage interpretation and public art.
The broader redevelopment includes space for 290 new apartments, including affordable housing, and is expected to support more than 3,000 direct jobs during construction.

For more information and to make a submission by Wednesday 27 September, visit: Harbourside - Bridges and Public Domain

Mirvac has already held a 'break ground' ceremony at the development, as announced on July 31 2023;

'Construction has officially commenced at Mirvac’s Harbourside mixed use precinct, a significant milestone in the $2 billion revitalisation project which will deliver a critical missing piece of Sydney’s $15 billion Western Harbour rejuvenation that has been underway since the completion of the International Convention Centre.'

Due for completion from 2026, the new Harbourside precinct will reimagine the Darling Harbour waterfront for the 21st century, reconnect with the people and places of Pyrmont, and create a network of new public spaces that seamlessly bring together community, visitors, residents, and workers.

Mirvac’s CEO Development Stuart Penklis said: “Mirvac has partnered with the NSW Government and the community to plan for the redevelopment of this landmark new retail, commercial and residential precinct since 2016. A significant project in the heart of Sydney, the site will support more than 2,000 construction jobs and create nearly 4,500 further jobs on completion.”

“We have been on a journey to truly understand this site, starting with international group Snohetta partnering with Hassell and Djinjama winning the international design competition inspired by the natural landforms of Sydney Harbour. Our cultural commitment continues as we work with the community, and partner with Bila Heritage to continue to bring Harbourside to life in a way that is truly connected to Country.”

Subject to final approvals, the new Harbourside project deliver 10,000 square metres of public open space, including a new waterfront with restaurants, bars, national and international retailers, a new 3,500 square metre park and connections from Pyrmont to the waterfront, including $50 million in public domain funding and $7 million in public art and activation.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said this was a significant milestone in the $2 billion redevelopment project which will deliver an expanded open space and public realm as part of Darling Harbour’s $15 billion plan to revitalise the precinct. 

The announcement states 'The redevelopment proposal is also expected to deliver approximately 265 apartments, offering housing choice and diversity on the fringe of the Sydney CBD, and make Darling Harbour a more attractive and vibrant place to live, work, and visit.

“It’s a great example of the Minns Government working with the private sector to deliver world-class amenities to the people of NSW,” Mr Scully said.

Mr Penklis said: “This is another great example of the private sector working in partnership with the NSW Government to develop a world class new precinct to benefit the people of NSW and visitors to our State. This redevelopment demonstrates Mirvac’s integrated design, development and construction capabilities and our ability to partner with Government to unlock large scale complex mixed-use projects.

“Sites like this are incredibly rare when you consider the proximity to the CBD, the existing and future pedestrian linkages, access to public transport and other critical infrastructure. We are proud to be starting the development at Harbourside that will elevate this precinct as a legacy Sydney destination and a place to live, work, shop and enjoy.”

Mirvac’s CEO Development Stuart Penklis was joined at the official commencement event by Mirvac Group CEO & Managing Director Campbell Hanan, NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the Honourable Paul Scully MP, Acting CEO Placemaking NSW Susan Lee, and other guests, who marked the occasion by turning the first sod onsite.

The Harbourside redevelopment will deliver a total gross floor area of 87,000 square metres, including 45,000 square metres of commercial space, and 42,000 square metres of residential spaceincluding approximately 265 luxury apartments across 43 levels.

Mirvac Darling Harbour - residential - artists' illustration

New Immersive 'Digital Doorway' Makes The Border Ranges Accessible From Home

August 30, 2023
People can now experience some of Border Ranges National Park's most spectacular landscapes from the comfort of home thanks to four new immersive experiences which have been developed using innovative digital storytelling technology.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Conservation Team Leader Caroline Blackmore said the World Heritage-listed Border Ranges National Park protects untouched rainforest and unique plants and animals connected to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.

"Distance, accessibility, terrain – we know there are many reasons why people may not be able to visit the national park physically, but digital storytelling technology presents endless opportunities to welcome new visitors to this incredible place," said Dr Blackmore.

"We've developed four 360-degree interactive images which spotlight some of the park's most precious and significant landscapes, animals, and plants.

"As people 'explore' the landscapes, which range from rainforest to rocky escarpment habitat, engaging pop-ups offer quirky and interesting facts, images and audio about the endangered animals protected within these habitats," said Dr Blackmore.

Border Ranges 360 experiences are an inclusive experience for those with limited mobility, an interactive educational tool for schools, and a digital doorway for those curious to learn about places they are unable to visit.

Antarctic-beech-trees in Border-Ranges-NP. Photo: John-Spencer/DPE

Users can meet and learn more about threatened species, like the endangered Eastern bristlebird and Fleay's barred frog, that are protected within the park's declared Assets of Intergenerational Significance areas, as well as vulnerable species like the Albert's lyrebird and spotted-tailed quoll, or the incredible life of the fig tree wasp.

Eastern bristlebird. Photo: Leo Berzins DPE

Fleays barred frog. Photo: Peter Higgins DPE

"Through this dynamic content we are able to show visitors why places like the Border Ranges National Park are special and the irreplaceable natural values that they protect," said Dr Blackmore.

"Using technology to bring national parks into people's loungerooms is a fantastic way to raise awareness about these important natural assets and make them accessible to everyone.

"We are delighted to invite more people to share in the magic of these precious places," said Dr Blackmore.

The interactive experiences aim to drive awareness of the NPWS Assets of Intergenerational Significance (AIS) program. AIS areas have been declared to provide increased legal protections for the habitat of some of the most threatened and irreplaceable animals and plants in our parks.

To date there are 279 AIS areas declared across 127 national parks and reserves in New South Wales, protecting key habitat for 108 threatened plant and animal species.

Border Ranges 360 experiences can be accessed at

One-Year Ban For Bulk Coal Carrier For Appalling Treatment Of Seafarers

August 24, 2023
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier MSXT Emily from Australian waters for one year, after finding apparent serious issues of wage theft and seafarer mistreatment onboard.

Following a tip-off from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), AMSA inspected the ship at the Port of Hay Point, in Queensland, and found evidence of several violations of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

The vessel had been chartered by K-Line to load a cargo of coal for discharge in Japan.

Seafarers onboard the vessel had not been paid in accordance with their Seafarer Employment Agreements (employment contracts): four contained apparently-forged signatures from employees, and five seafarers appeared to have been coerced into signing new employment agreements which had lower salaries.

In one case, a seafarer had signed a new contract, while they still held a contract valid for a further four months, for 50 per cent less pay.

Inspectors found evidence that more than US$77,000 in unpaid wages had been owed to seafarers working onboard the MSXT Emilywith the ship’s operators (MSM Ship Management Pte Ltd China) attempting to pay the amount owed once they were aware that AMSA inspectors were onboard.

The vessel’s operator appears to have concealed this repeated wage theft.

AMSA Executive Director of Operations Michael Drake said this was a serious case of seafarer mistreatment.

“Wage theft, forgery and coercion are serious matters, and I have been deeply troubled to hear of the conditions on the MSXT Emily,” he said.

“The workforce conditions onboard this vessel are a disgrace, and AMSA will not tolerate this in Australian waters.

“I would like to acknowledge the role of the ITF in bringing this matter to our attention, and thank them for their continued advocacy for seafarer rights and welfare.”

Mr Drake said that a one-year ban was necessary to send the message that seafarer welfare should be a priority for every shipping operator.

“Our modern economy relies on the hard work these seafarers do, and when they are mistreated, the flow-on effects can be numerous,” he said.

“Seafarers are at sea for months at a time, and if morale is low or they are in poor physical and mental health, it can increase the risk of something going wrong.

“The supply chain, including vessel charters like K-Line, need to carefully consider which operators they engage to bring vessels to Australia.

“We’re imposing this lengthy ban as a clear deterrent and recognise that these essential workers deserve the dignity and respect of fair pay and good workplace conditions.”

Saving Native Species Grants

The Saving Native Species Program is providing $224.5 million over four years to support the recovery of our unique plants, animals and ecological communities.

The program includes commitments to save the koala, and tackle yellow crazy ants and gamba grass that are threatening our native species.

It will also strengthen conservation planning to better protect threatened species and guide on-ground action.

The plan maps our pathway to protect, manage and restore Australia’s threatened species and important natural places.

It also identifies 110 priority species and 20 priority places to drive action where it is needed most, and where it will have the biggest impact.

Available Grant Opportunities

Applications for this grant opportunity will close on Thursday 7 September 2023.

Apply now at
The grant opportunity seeks to improve trajectories for the priority species from the Threatened Species Action Plan: Towards Zero Extinctions 2022-2032. For this opportunity, $20 million is available until 2025-26.

This grant opportunity will not include projects that fund the koala. For information on koala specific conservation initiatives, refer to the Saving Koalas Fund.

Threatened Species Action Plan - 110 priority species
There are:
  • 22 Birds
  • 21 Mammals
  • 9 Fish
  • 6 Frogs
  • 11 Reptiles
  • 11 Invertebrates
  • 30 Plants

Supporting priority species
The Australian Government is funding more than $12 million in Priority Species grants through the Environment Restoration Fund. Community led projects are delivering a wide range of actions to directly benefit over 50 priority species on the ground, including weed management, feral predator control, habitat restoration, seed collection and propagation, captive breeding, and citizen science programs.

A full list of the successful projects can be found at Environment Restoration Fund.

Threatened Species Action Plan 2022-2032
110 priority species
22 Birds
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus
Black-eared Miner Manorina melanotis
Carnaby’s Cockatoo Zanda latirostris
Christmas Island Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster natalis
Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
Golden-shouldered Parrot, Alwal Psephotus chrysopterygius
Hooded Plover (e) Thinornis cucullatus cucullatus
King Is. Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla magnirostris
King Is. Scrubtit Acanthornis magna greeniana
Malleefowl Leipoa ocellata
Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis
Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus
Norfolk Is. Green Parrot Cyanoramphus cookii
Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster
Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus
Princess Parrot Polytelis alexandrae
Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (SE)
Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne
Regent Honeyeater Anthochaera phrygia
Swift Parrot Lathamus discolor
Western Ground Parrot Pezoporus flaviventris
White-throated Grasswren Amytornis woodwardia

21 Mammals
Australian Sea-lion Neophoca cinerea
Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Petrogale penicillata
Central Rock-rat, Antina Zyzomys pedunculatus
Chuditch, Western Quoll Dasyurus geoffroii
Eastern Quoll, Luaner Dasyurus viverrinus
Gilbert’s Potoroo, Ngilkat Potorous gilbertii
Greater Bilby Macrotis lagotis
Kangaroo Is. Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus
Koala (Qld, NSW, ACT) Phascolarctos cinereus
Leadbeater’s Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri
Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus
New Holland Mouse, Pookila Pseudomys novaehollandiae
Northern Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula arnhemensis
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Yaminon Lasiorhinus krefftii
Northern Hopping-mouse, Woorrentinta Notomys aquilo
Northern Quoll Dasyurus hallucatus
Numbat Myrmecobius fasciatus
Quokka Setonix brachyurus
Spectacled Flying-fox Pteropus conspicillatus
Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus orianae bassanii
Western Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus occidentalis

11 Invertebrates
Ammonite Snail Ammoniropa vigens
Cauliflower Soft Coral Dendronephthya australis
Eltham Copper Butterfly Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida
Giant Gippsland Earthworm Megascolides australis
Glenelg Freshwater Mussel Hyridella glenelgensis
Kangaroo Island Assassin Spider Zephyrarchaea austini
Lord Howe Island Phasmid Dryococelus australis
Margaret River Burrowing Crayfish Engaewa pseudoreducta
Mount Lidgbird Charopid Land Snail Pseudocharopa ledgbirdi
Pink Underwing Moth Phyllodes imperialis smithersi
Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Crayfish Astacopsis gouldi

9 Fish
Freshwater Sawfish Pristis pristis
Grey Nurse Shark (eastern) Carcharias taurus
Maugean Skate Zearaja maugeana
Murray Hardyhead Craterocephalus fluviatilis
Red Handfish Thymichthys politus
Redfin Blue-eye Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis
Stocky Galaxias Galaxias tantangara
Swan Galaxias Galaxias fontanus
White’s Seahorse Hippocampus whitei

6 Frogs
Growling Grass Frog Litoria raniformis
Kroombit Tinker Frog Taudactylus pleione
Mountain Frog Philoria kundagungan
Mountain-top Nursery-frog Cophixalus monticola
Southern Corroboree Frog Pseudophryne corroboree
White-bellied Frog Anstisia alba

11 Reptiles
Arnhem Land Gorges Skink Bellatorias obiri
Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Wollumbinia georgesi
Canberra Earless Dragon Tympanocryptis lineata
Collared Delma, Adorned Delma Delma torquata
Great Desert Skink, Tjakura Liopholis kintorei
Green Turtle Chelonia mydas
Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea
Pygmy Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua adelaidensis
Short-nosed Sea Snake Aipysurus apraefrontalis
Western Swamp Turtle Pseudemydura umbrina
Yinnietharra Rock-dragon Ctenophorus yinnietharra

30 Plants
Adamson’s Blown-grass Lachnagrostis adamsonii
Angle-stemmed Myrtle Gossia gonoclada
Arckaringa Daisy Olearia arckaringensis
Bolivia Hill Rice-flower Pimelea venosa
Border Ranges Lined Fern Antrophyum austroqueenslandicum
Bulberin Nut Macadamia jansenii
Carrington Falls Pomaderris Pomaderris walshii
Davies’ Waxflower Phebalium daviesii
Foote’s Grevillea Grevillea calliantha
Forked Spyridium Spyridium furculentum
Giant Andersonia Andersonia axilliflora
Gorge Rice-flower Pimelea cremnophila
Graveside Leek-orchid Prasophyllum taphanyx
Imlay Mallee Eucalyptus imlayensis
King Blue-grass Dichanthium queenslandicum
Lax Leek Orchid Prasophyllum laxum
Little Mountain Palm Lepidorrhachis mooreana
MacDonnell Ranges Cycad Macrozamia macdonnellii
Narrow-leaf Eremophila Eremophila subangustifolia
Native Guava Rhodomyrtus psidioides
Scaly-butt Mallee Eucalyptus leprophloia
Small-flowered Snottygobble Persoonia micranthera
Smooth Davidson’s Plum Davidsonia johnsonii
Stiff Groundsel Senecio behrianus
Stirling Range Dryandra Banksia montana
Tangled Wattle Acacia volubilis
Waddy-wood Acacia peuce
Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis
Wongan Eriostemon Philotheca wonganensis
Woods Well Spyridium Spyridium fontis-woodii

Bushcare Training Day At North Narrabeen

All volunteers new and experienced are invited to register for Council's Bushcare training day: 
Saturday 16th September 9:00am to 1:30pm - Lunch provided
Coastal Environment Centre, Narrabeen & Site Visit to Irrawong Bushcare Site

Council will be hosting a hands-on training day, with topics covering: 
  • Weed identification and best practice removal techniques
  • Native plant identification and weed species including lookalikes
  • Hands-on weed removal
  • Bring along your unknown plant species for identification
Site visit to Irrawong Bushcare site and meet some fellow bushcare volunteers
Please confirm if you would like to register for the day by replying to and let Council know if you would be interested in staying for lunch.

Palmgrove Park Avalon: New Bushcare Group Begins 

Palmgrove Park Avalon is a remnant of the Spotted Gum forest that was once widespread on the lower slopes of the Pittwater peninsula. This bushland’s official name and forest type is Pittwater and Wagstaffe Endangered Ecological Community, endangered because so much has been cleared for suburban development. Canopy trees, smaller trees and shrubs, and ground layer plants make up this community. Though scattered remnant Spotted Gums remain on private land, there is little chance of seedlings surviving in gardens and lawns. More information HERE

A grant to PNHA from Council in 2021 funded revegetation of a section between Dress Circle Rd and Bellevue Rd. The tubestock planted there late in 2022 by students from Avalon Primary and bush regeneration contractors is flourishing.

More tubestock was planted on National Tree Day on July 30 2023.

A new Bushcare group will now be working there from Saturday August 5, starting at 9am and working for up to three hours. Your help would be wonderful.

Contact Pittwater Natural Heritage Association on to find out more.

2023 Banksia Foundation NSW Sustainability Awards Open For Nominations

NSW Department of Planning and Environment: Do you know someone with a big idea to improve sustainability in NSW?
The 2023 Banksia Foundation NSW Sustainability Awards are now open for nominations! 

Individuals, businesses, large and small, and community and government groups are welcome to enter. 
Showcase your green credentials and receive recognition for your achievements.

Explore the categories and nominate now at
Entries close September 7, 2023

Stony Range Spring Festival 2023: Sunday September 10

Seen Any Glossies Drinking Around Nambucca, Bellingen, Coffs Or Clarence? Want To Help?: Join The Glossy Squad

If you've seen a black cockatoo with a red tail drinking at a watering spot in the late afternoon, please let the NSW Dept. of Environment know.
The threatened glossy black-cockatoo's peak nesting season is now, and the Biliirrgan Project's Glossy Squad is keen to protect glossies' nests.

Led by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's Saving our Species program with partners including BirdLife Australia, Landcare, and the Clarence Environment Centre, the project wants to hear of any sightings across the area.

Glossies are the only black cockatoo with red tails in northern New South Wales. The females have yellow on their heads and pairs mate for life.

Female glossies lay a single egg in a vertical tree hollow, then stay put for a month while it incubates. During that time, the female relies entirely on her mate to feed her. He eats for 2, gorging himself on she-oak (allocasuarina) seeds each day.

Late in the afternoon he drinks – again for 2 – before returning with food supplies to his nesting hen who can be heard 'begging' or calling for food. Only after the chick hatches does the hen leave the nest.

The Black Summer fires of 2019–20 burnt nearly half of the glossy habitat in northern New South Wales, resulting in a significant loss of feed and nest trees.

Protecting nest trees is crucial to conserving the glossy black-cockatoo, however at this stage there are only a handful of nests known across the whole of northern New south Wales.

The Glossy Squad needs eyes on the ground to find more active nests so the remaining birds can be monitored and protected.

Let the Squad know if you see glossy black-cockatoos drinking in the late afternoon, or any of these nesting signs:
  • a female bird (identifiable by yellow on her head) begging and/or being fed by a male (with plain black/brown head and body and unbarred red tail feathers)
  • a lone adult male, or a male with a begging female, flying purposefully after drinking at the end of the day.
Glossies only eat the seeds from she-oak (allocasuarina) cones and need to drink water each evening. They can be seen at watering holes, dams or other fresh water sources at dusk.

Please report any sightings through the online survey, which can also be accessed by the QR code below, or by emailing

Want to be more involved? Join the Glossy Squad and actively help find new nests of this important species. Just email to find out how.

The Biliirrgan Project aims to conserve the glossy black-cockatoo (Biliirrgan in Gumbaynggirr) on Gumbaynggirr, Yaegl and Bundjalung country in northern New South Wales. The project was initially funded through a Commonwealth Bushfire Recovery grant.

2 female glossies and a male. Glossy black-cockatoos tend to travel in small families of between 3 and 6. Photo: Laurie Ross

Glossy black-cockatoo id

Loss Of Antarctic Sea Ice Causes Catastrophic Breeding Failure For Emperor Penguins: 'There Is No Time Left'

August 25, 2023
Emperor penguin colonies experienced unprecedented breeding failure in a region of Antarctica where there was total sea ice loss in 2022. The discovery supports predictions that over 90% of emperor penguin colonies will be quasi-extinct by the end of the century, based on current global warming trends.

In a new study published today in Communications Earth & Environment, researchers from British Antarctic Survey discussed the high probability that no chicks had survived from four of the five known emperor penguin colonies in the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea. The scientists examined satellite images that showed the loss of sea ice at breeding sites, well before chicks would have developed waterproof feathers.

Emperor penguins are dependent on stable sea ice that is firmly attached to the shore ('land-fast' ice) for the majority of the year, from April through to January. Once they arrive at their chosen breeding site, penguins lay eggs in Antarctic winter from May to June. Eggs hatch after 65 days, but chicks do not fledge until summer, between December and January.

At the beginning of December 2022, the Antarctic sea ice extent had matched the previous all-time low set in 2021. The most extreme loss was seen in the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea region, west of the Antarctic Peninsula where there was a 100% loss of sea ice in November 2022.

Lead author of the study, Dr Peter Fretwell, said:

"We have never seen emperor penguins fail to breed, at this scale, in a single season. The loss of sea ice in this region during the Antarctic summer made it very unlikely that displaced chicks would survive.

We know that emperor penguins are highly vulnerable in a warming climate -- and current scientific evidence suggests that extreme sea ice loss events like this will become more frequent and widespread.
Since 2016, Antarctica has seen the four years with the lowest sea ice extents in the 45-year satellite record, with the two lowest years in 2021/22 and 2022/23. Between 2018 and 2022, 30% of the 62 known emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica were affected by partial or total sea ice loss. Although it is difficult to immediately link specific extreme seasons to climate change, a longer-term decline in sea ice extent is expected from the current generation of climate models.

Understanding emperor penguin colonies
Emperor penguins have previously responded to incidents of sea ice loss by moving to more stable sites the following year. However, scientists say that this strategy won't work if sea ice habitat across an entire region is affected.

Emperor penguin populations have never been subject to large scale hunting, habitat loss, overfishing or other local anthropogenic interactions in the modern era. Unusually for a vertebrate species, climate change is considered the only major factor influencing their long-term population change. Recent efforts to predict emperor penguin population trends from forecasts of sea ice loss have painted a bleak picture, showing that if present rates of warming persist, over 90% of colonies will be quasi-extinct by the end of this century.

The five colonies of penguins studied were all discovered in the last 14 years using satellite imagery -- Rothschild Island, Verdi Inlet, Smyley Island, Bryan Peninsula and Pfrogner Point. All five colonies had been shown to return to the same location each year to breed, with only one previous instance of breeding failure at Bryan Peninsula in 2010.

Scientists now routinely use satellite imagery to discover and monitor emperor penguin colonies, as the brown stains of the birds' guano stands out clearly against the stark white of ice and snow. The team used images from the European Commission's Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission, which has continuously monitored the area in Antarctica since 2018.
The impact of Antarctic sea ice loss

Over the past seven years, sea ice around Antarctica has decreased significantly. By the end of December 2022, sea ice extent was the lowest experienced in the 45-year satellite record. In the Bellingshausen Sea, the home of the penguin colonies in this study, sea ice didn't start to re-form until late April 2023.

Since then, the deviation from the norm has intensified: as of 20 August 2023 the sea ice extent was 2.2 million km2 lower than the 1981-2022 median (17.9 million km2) significantly surpassing the record winter low on 20 August 2022 of 17.1 million km2. This missing area is larger than the size of Greenland, or around ten times the size of the United Kingdom.

Dr Caroline Holmes, a polar climate scientist at BAS, said:

"Right now, in August 2023, the sea ice extent in Antarctica is still far below all previous records for this time of year. In this period where oceans are freezing up, we're seeing areas that are still, remarkably, largely ice-free.

Year-to-year changes in sea ice extent are linked to natural atmospheric patterns such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the strength of the southern hemisphere jet stream, and regional low-pressure systems.

We'll need years of targeted observations and modelling to know precisely how much the current conditions are being influenced by these phenomena and by natural ocean variability. However, the recent years of tumbling sea ice records and warming of the subsurface Southern Ocean point strongly to human-induced global warming exacerbating these extremes."

Climate models show a decline in Antarctic sea ice both under present and forecast human carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, a sea ice physicist at BAS, commented:

"This paper dramatically reveals the connection between sea ice loss and ecosystem annihilation. Climate change is melting sea ice at an alarming rate. It is likely to be absent from the Arctic in the 2030s -- and in the Antarctic, the four lowest sea ice extents recorded have been since 2016.

It is another warning sign for humanity that we cannot continue down this path, politicians must act to minimise the impact of climate change. There is no time left."

Peter T. Fretwell, Aude Boutet, Norman Ratcliffe. Record low 2022 Antarctic sea ice led to catastrophic breeding failure of emperor penguins. Communications Earth & Environment, 2023; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s43247-023-00927-x

$850,000 In Funding Open To Improve Fish Habitat

Keen local anglers, farmers, land managers and community groups are invited to apply for the latest round of the Habitat Action Grants to see their local waterways flourish with more than $850,000 available, Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty announced.

Habitat Action Grants are open from 8 August 2023 to 29 September 2023.

Ms Moriarty said that recreational fishing groups, community organisations, local councils and natural resource managers across the state would have until September 29 to apply for funding for their projects to improve habitat for native fish.

“These grants will see up to $40,000 awarded per project for both our inland waterways and our coastal systems,” Ms Moriarty said.

“The Habitat Action Grant program is a fantastic opportunity to improve your local creek, river, estuary or surrounding area to promote healthy waterways and to encourage more native fish, naturally.

“I encourage as many submissions as possible – so we can improve fish habitat to give our local fishers some great opportunities to make a difference in their area.

“As locals, you know your waterways better than anyone, so it’s time to float your ideas and come up with some fantastic ways to enhance our aquatic environments. We are particularly interested in your concepts for rehabilitating Trout cod and their freshwater habitats.”

Habitat Action Grants are supported by the Recreational Fishing Trusts, with funds being raised by the NSW Recreational Fishing Fees.

“This is your opportunity to put your recreational fishing fees to work to make more fish”

In the past, habitat rehabilitation projects which have been funded have included:
  • removal or modification of barriers to fish passage
  • rehabilitation of riparian lands (riverbanks, wetlands, mangrove forests, saltmarsh)
  • re-snagging waterways with timber structure
  • the removal of exotic vegetation from waterways and replacement with native plants
  • bank stabilisation works
  • fencing to exclude livestock.
“There are some long-term benefits for completing this work and ultimately, it’s about making sure we have functional fish habitat and happy native fish here in NSW.”

Since 2009, the Recreational Fishing Trusts have invested nearly $8 million into the Habitat Action Grants program, seeing significant improvement to fish habitat across NSW.

For more information and to apply for this round, visit

Blue Mountains National Park And Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Plan Of Management: Public Consultation

The Blue Mountains National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Plan of Management is on public exhibition until 26 September 2023.
Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for community members to have a say in the future management of the Blue Mountains and Kanangra-Boyd national parks. Once adopted, this plan of management will replace the existing plans for these parks, which were adopted in 2001.

The draft plan is accompanied by the Blue Mountains National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Planning Considerations report. It is recommended that readers of the plan refer to the planning considerations report for detailed explanations of the parks' values and management considerations.

These parks are a part of Darug and Gundungurra Country. The parks form the core component of one of the largest and most intact stretches of protected bushland in New South Wales. They are part of the Greater Blue Mountains Area World and National Heritage property, contain significant areas of wilderness, occupy a large part of the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment, and are one of the key attractions in a major tourism region.

Key management directions and new uses for buildings or new campsites proposed in the draft plan includes:
  • improving recognition of the parks significant values, including World and National Heritage values, and providing for adaptive management to protect the values
  • recognising and supporting the continuation of partnerships with Aboriginal communities
  • providing outstanding nature-based experiences for visitors through improvements to visitor facilities - including:
  • Opportunities for supported or serviced camping, where tents and services are provided by commercial tour operators, may be offered at some camping areas in the parks 
  • Jamison Creek, Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Leura Amphitheatre Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Mount Solitary Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Maxwell’s HuC Kedumba Valley Cabin/hut Potential new accommodation
  • Kedumba Valley Maxwell’s Hut (historic slab hut) - Building restoration in progress; potential new Accommodation for bushwalkers
  • Government Town Police station; courthouse - Potential new Visitor accommodation
Documents available at: HERE

Have your say
Public exhibition is from 28 July 2023 to 26 September 2023.

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

Email your submission to:
Post your written submission to:
Manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service Planning and Assessment
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124
All submissions must be received by 26 September 2023.

Our response to your submission will be based on the merits of the ideas and issues you raise rather than the quantity of submissions making similar points. For this reason, a submission that clearly explains the matters it raises will be the most effective way to influence the finalisation of the plan.

Submissions are most effective when DPE/NPWS understand your ideas and the outcomes you want for park management. Some suggestions to help you write your submissions are:
  • write clearly and be specific about the issues that are of concern to you
  • note which part or section of the document your comments relate to
  • give reasoning in support of your points - this makes it easier for us to consider your ideas and will help avoid misinterpretation
  • tell us specifically what you agree/disagree with and why you agree or disagree
  • suggest solutions or alternatives to managing the issue if you can.
Your submission will be provided to relevant National Parks and Wildlife Service advisory bodies. See our privacy policy at link above for information on how they will treat any personal information you provide.

Areas Closed For West Head Lookout Upgrades

NPWS advise that the following areas are closed from Monday 22 May to Thursday 30 November 2023 while West Head lookout upgrades are underway:

  • West Head lookout
  • The loop section of West Head Road
  • West Head Army track.

Vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians will have access to the Resolute picnic area and public toilets. Access is restricted past this point.

The following walking tracks remain open:

  • Red Hands track
  • Aboriginal Heritage track
  • Resolute track, including access to Resolute Beach and West Head Beach
  • Mackeral Beach track
  • Koolewong track.

The West Head lookout cannot be accessed from any of these tracks.

Image: Visualisation of upcoming works, looking east from the ramp towards Barrenjoey Head Credit: DPE

More at:

PNHA Guided Nature Walks 2023

Our walks are gentle strolls, enjoying and learning about the bush rather than aiming for destinations. Wear enclosed shoes. We welcome interested children over about 8 years old with carers. All Welcome. 

So we know you’re coming please book by emailing: and include your phone number so we can contact you if weather is doubtful. 

The whole PNHA 2023 Guided Nature Walks Program is available at:

Red-browed finch (Neochmia temporalis). Photo: J J Harrison

Report Fox Sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Group On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit:

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Summer is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

Possums In Your Roof?: Do The Right Thing

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

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                     2nd 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

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

We studied more than 1,500 coastal ecosystems - they will drown if we let the world warm above 2℃

Simon Albert
Neil SaintilanMacquarie University

Much of the world’s natural coastline is protected by living habitats, most notably mangroves in warmer waters and tidal marshes closer to the poles. These ecosystems support fisheries and wildlife, absorb the impact of crashing waves and clean up pollutants. But these vital services are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels.

Recent research has shown wetlands can respond to sea level rise by building up their root systems, pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Growing recognition of the potential for this “blue” carbon sequestration is driving mangrove and tidal marsh restoration projects.

While the resilience of these ecosystems is impressive, it is not without limits. Defining the upper limits to mangrove and marsh resilience under accelerating sea level rise is a topic of great interest and considerable debate.

Our new research, published today in the journal Nature, analyses the vulnerability and exposure of mangroves, marshes and coral islands to sea level rise. The results underscore the critical importance of keeping global warming within 2 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline.

A photo showing uprooted trees in tropical waters of the Solomon Islands.
Coral islands are contracting, causing habitat loss in the Solomon I re: photo, any other attribution?slands. Simon Albert

What We Did

We pulled together all the available evidence on how mangroves, tidal marshes and coral islands respond to sea level rise. That included:

  • delving into the geological record to study how coastal systems responded to past sea level rise, following the last Ice Age

  • tapping into a global network of survey benchmarks in mangroves and tidal marshes

  • analysing satellite imagery for changes in the extent of wetlands and coral islands at varying rates of sea level rise.

Altogether, our international team assessed 190 mangroves, 477 tidal marshes and 872 coral reef islands around the world.

We then used computer modelling to work out how much these coastal ecosystems would be exposed to rapid sea level rise under projected warming scenarios.

A photo of the eroding wetland at Towra Point in Sydney, showing the stumps and exposed roots of trees washed up on the beach
Eroding wetland at Towra Point in Sydney. Neil Saintilan

What We Found

Mangroves, tidal marshes and coral islands can cope with low rates of sea-level rise. They remain stable and healthy.

We found most tidal marshes and mangroves are keeping pace with current rates of sea level rise, around 2–4mm per year. Coral islands also appear stable under these conditions.

In some locations, land is sinking, so the relative rate of sea level rise is greater. It may be double this 2–4mm figure or more, comparable to rates expected under future climate change. In these situations, we found marshes failing to keep up with sea level rise. They are slowly drowning and in some cases, breaking up. What’s more, these are the same rates of sea level rise under which marshes and mangrove drown in the geological record.

These cases give us a glimpse of the future in a warming world.

So if the rate of sea level rise doubles to 7 or 8 millimetres a year, it becomes “very likely” (90% probability) mangroves and tidal marshes will no longer keep pace, and “likely” (about 67% probability) coral islands will undergo rapid changes. These rates will be reached when the 2.0℃ warming threshold is exceeded.

Even at the lower rates of sea level rise we would have between 1.5℃ and 2.0℃ of warming (4 or 5mm a year), extensive loss of mangrove and tidal marsh is likely.

Tidal marshes are less exposed to these rates of sea level rise than mangroves because they occur in regions where the land is rising, reducing the relative rate of sea level rise.

Let’s Give Coastal Ecosystems A Fighting Chance

We know mangroves and tidal marshes have survived rapid sea level rise before, at rates even higher than those projected under extreme climate change.

They won’t have long enough to build up root systems or trap sediment in order to stay in place, so they will seek higher ground by shifting landward into newly flooded coastal lowlands.

But this time, they will be competing with other land uses and increasingly trapped behind coastal levees and hard barriers such as roads and buildings.

If the global temperature rise is limited to 2℃, coastal ecosystems have a fighting chance. But if this threshold is exceeded, they will need more help.

Intervention is needed to enable the retreat of mangroves and tidal marshes across our coastal landscapes. There is a role for governments in designating retreat pathways, controlling coastal development, and expanding coastal nature reserves into higher ground.

The future of the world’s living coastlines is in our hands. If we work to restore mangroves and tidal marshes to their former extent, they can help us tackle climate change. The Conversation

Neil Saintilan, Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

They sense electric fields, tolerate snow and have ‘mating trains’: 4 reasons echidnas really are remarkable

Kate Dutton-RegesterThe University of Queensland

Many of us love seeing an echidna. Their shuffling walk, inquisitive gaze and protective spines are unmistakable, coupled with the coarse hair and stubby beak.

They look like a quirky blend of hedgehog and anteater. But they’re not related to these creatures at all. They’re even more mysterious and unusual than commonly assumed.

Australia has just one species, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), which roams virtually the entire continent. But it has five subspecies, which are often markedly different. Tasmanian echidnas are much hairier and Kangaroo Island echidnas join long mating trains.

Here are four things that make echidnas remarkable.

1: They’re Ancient Egg-Laying Mammals

Short-beaked echidnas are one of just five species of monotreme surviving in the world, alongside the platypus and three worm-eating long-beaked echidna species found on the island of New Guinea.

Our familiar short-beaked echidnas can weigh up to six kilograms – but the Western long-beaked echidna can get much larger at up to 16kg.

These ancient mammals lay eggs through their cloacas (monotreme means one opening) and incubate them in a pouch-like skin fold, nurturing their tiny, jellybean-sized young after hatching.

Scientists believe echidnas began as platypuses who left the water and evolved spines. That’s because platypus fossils go back about 60 million years and echidnas only a quarter of that.

Remarkably, the echidna still has rudimentary electroreception. It makes sense the platypus relies on its ability to sense electric fields when it’s hunting at the bottom of dark rivers, given electric fields spread more easily through water. But on land? It’s likely echidnas use this ability to sense ants and termites moving through moist soil.

It probably got its English name in homage to the Greek mythological figure Echidna, who was half-woman, half-snake, and the mother of Cerberus and Sphinx. This was to denote the animal’s mix of half-reptilian, half-mammal traits. First Nations groups knew the echidna by many other names, such as bigibila (Gamilaraay) and yinarlingi (Warlpiri).

2: From Deserts To Snow, Echidnas Are Remarkably Adaptable

There are few other creatures able to tolerate climate ranges as broad. You can find echidnas on northern tropical savannah amid intense humidity, on coastal heaths and forests, in arid deserts and even on snowy mountains.

The five subspecies of short-beaked echidna have distinct geographic regions. The one most of us will be familiar with is Tachyglossus aculeatus aculeatus, widespread across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. You can think of this as “echidna classic”.

Then there’s Kangaroo Island’s T. aculeatus multiaculeatus, Tasmania’s T. aculeatus setosus, the Northern Territory and Western Australia’s T. aculeatus acanthion and the tropical subspecies T. aculeatus lawesii found in Northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea.

You might think subspecies wouldn’t be too different – otherwise they’d be different species, right? In fact, subspecies can be markedly different, with variations to hairiness and the length and width of spines.

Kangaroo Island echidnas have longer, thinner, and paler spines – and more of them, compared to the mainland species. Tasmanian echidnas are well adapted to the cold, boasting a lushness of extra hair. Sometimes you can’t even see their spines amidst their hair.

3: Mating Trains And Hibernation Games

Remarkably, the subspecies have very different approaches to mating. You might have seen videos of Kangaroo Island mating trains, a spectacle where up to 11 males fervently pursue a single female during the breeding season. Other subspecies do this, but it’s most common on Kangaroo Island. Scientists believe this is due to population density.

Pregnancy usually lasts about three weeks after mating for Kangaroo Island echidnas, followed by a long lactation period of 30 weeks for the baby puggle.

But Tasmanian echidnas behave very differently. During the winter mating season, males seek out hibernating females and wake them up to mate. Intriguingly, females can put their pregnancy on hold and go back into hibernation. They also have a shorter lactation period, of only 21 weeks.

What about the echidna subspecies we’re most familiar with? T. aculeatus aculeatus has a similarly short lactation period (23 weeks), but rarely engages in mating train situations. After watching the pregnancies of 20 of these echidnas, my colleagues and I discovered this subspecies takes just 16–17 days to go from mating to egg laying.

4: What Do Marsupials And Monotremes Have In Common?

Marsupials bear live young when they’re very small and let them complete their development in a pouch. Despite this key difference with monotremes, there’s a fascinating similarity between Australia’s two most famous mammal families.

At 17 days after conception, the embryo of the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) hits almost exactly the same developmental milestone as echidna embryos. Both are in the somite stage, where paired blocks of tissue form along the notochord, the temporary precursor to the spinal cord, and each have around 20 somites.

What’s remarkable about this? Monotremes branched off from other mammals early on, between 160 and 217 million years ago. Marsupials branched off later, at around 143–178 million years ago.

Yet despite millions of years of evolutionary pressure and change, these very different animals still hit a key embryo milestone at the same time. This striking parallel suggests the intricate process has been conserved for over 184 million years.

In echidnas, this milestone is tied to egg-laying – the embryo is packaged up in a leathery egg the size of a grape and laid into the mother’s pouch. The baby puggle hatches 10–11 days later. In tammar wallabies, the embryo continues to develop in-utero for another 9–10 days before being born.

So the next time you spot the humble echidna, take a moment to appreciate what a remarkable creature it is. The Conversation

Kate Dutton-Regester, Lecturer, Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How a lethal fungus is shrinking living space for our frogs

Geoffrey HeardThe University of QueenslandBenjamin ScheeleAustralian National UniversityConrad HoskinJames Cook UniversityJarrod SopniewskiThe University of Western Australia, and Jodi RowleyUNSW Sydney

In 1993, frogs were found dying en masse in Far North Queensland. When scientists analysed their bodies, they found something weird. Their small bodies were covered in spores.

It was an epidemic. An aquatic fungus had eaten the keratin in their skin, compromising its function and leading to cardiac arrest. And worse, the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) had been quietly spreading around the world, from South America to Europe, killing frogs wherever it went.

It doesn’t look lethal – but looks can be deceiving. This is a chytrid zoosporangium, which will release zoospores that propel themselves through water in search of amphibian hosts. CSIRO/WikimediaCC BY-ND

Likely native to the Korean Peninsula, it was first detected in Australia in the late 1970s. As it spread, it caused the extinction of at least four Australian frog species and probably three others.

This lethal pathogen is a selective killer. As our new research shows, it effectively makes some areas a no-go zone for susceptible frog species. The fungus doesn’t like hot conditions. But in cooler environments – such as in southern Australia and higher up in mountain ranges – it flourishes. Mortality rates in these environments can approach 100% for some frog species.

Pushed From The Highlands

Australia is rich in frogs, with 247 surviving species at last count. Most are endemic to the continent – and many are spectacularly beautiful or, like the turtle frog, bizarre.

turtle frog
The turtle frog (Myobatrachus gouldii) is one of Australia’s strangest. Stephen Zozaya/WikimediaCC BY-ND

The gorgeous Australian lace-lid treefrog was once widespread across the rainforests of Queensland’s Wet Tropics, which run from Townsville to Cooktown, stretching from sea level up to Queensland’s highest mountain, the 1,622 metre Mt Bartle Frere.

Lace-lid treefrogs once lived throughout these forests, whether on mountains or down near sea level. But they have been driven from rainforests above 400 metres. Down lower, the heat makes it harder for chytrid to kill, and the frog’s higher breeding rate can outpace deaths from the disease.

No-Go Zones

Australians know full well about the damage introduced species can do. Cane toads kill native predators like quolls who aren’t used to their toxin. Cats and foxes have driven many small mammals to extinction.

But even when a species survives contact with an introduced species, it can be forever changed.

That’s because of less visible effects introduced species like chytrid fungus can have, such as shrinking the areas where native species can survive. When this happens, our species can be pushed into smaller parts of their original range, known as environmental refuges.

As our research shows, it’s not just geographic range that changes. It also changes their niche – the set of environmental conditions where species can survive. Introduced species can actually force much larger contractions to a native species’ niche than to its geographic range.

You might wonder how that can be. It’s because the damage done by introduced species can vary a lot depending on the environment. Introduced species have their own niche – climates and environments where they thrive, and areas where they don’t.

Frog species that survived the initial epidemics don’t just persist in random parts of their old range. Hotter, wetter areas or those with less temperature variability become refuges. Chytrid is still widespread here, but it’s less lethal.

Part of the puzzle is also the fact these refuge areas are naturally easier places for frogs to survive and reproduce. Where populations thrive, they have greater resilience and stand a better chance of surviving the fungus.

Pushed Into Refuges

The pattern we document isn’t just seen in frogs. Researchers suspect similar changes have been forced on many native species impacted by introduced species.

Consider the bush-stone curlew – a long-legged, endearing bird with eerie night cries. Many of us will have seen them haunting parks and beer gardens across northern Australia. But the same bird is now extinct or critically endangered in southern Australia, where it used to roam. Why?

bush-stone curlew
Bush-stone curlews are lanky, unusual birds with a distinctive call. Shutterstock

Habitat loss has played a role, but this species is highly susceptible to foxes. Foxes don’t much like the humidity of tropical and subtropical Australia. As a result, the curlew has been pushed out of the drier parts of its niche.

Niche contractions due to introduced species are likely to be widespread but little-studied.

If a species has a shrinking niche, it may change where conservationists direct their efforts. To give threatened species the best chance of survival, we might have to direct our energies to safeguarding them in their environmental refuges, safe from introduced predators or diseases.

When scientists assess how a species is going, we often look at changes in geographic range to gauge the level of risk to the species, from vulnerable through to extinct in the wild.

But this can have limitations. What our work has shown is that the survivable niche for species can shrink much more than its geographic range, reducing resilience to new environmental challenges. If frog species are forced out of upland areas, they may be at more risk from climate change, given higher elevations are likely to be most resilient to climate change.

There’s a silver lining here, though. Species can be more resilient than we assume in the face of new threats. Some populations may be hard hit, while others escape. Understanding why that is will be key to give our native species the best chance of surviving an uncertain future. The Conversation

Geoffrey Heard, Research fellow, Australian National University and, The University of QueenslandBenjamin Scheele, Research Fellow in Ecology, Australian National UniversityConrad Hoskin, Senior Lecturer, College of Science & Engineering, James Cook UniversityJarrod Sopniewski, PhD student, The University of Western Australia, and Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum, UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The humble spotted gum is a world class urban tree. Here’s why

Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

Most of us find it very difficult to identify different species of eucalypt. You often hear people say they all look the same.

Of course, they don’t. There are over 700 species of the iconic tree genus, and they can be very different in form, height, flowers and colours.

With all this variety, it’s nice to have a few species we can identify from metres away, just from looking at the colours and patterns of the bark on the trunk. The spotted gum is one of these instantly recognisable eucalypts.

You may well have seen a spotted gum growing happily on an urban street. These smooth-barked eucalypts have been planted up and down many suburban streets.

In fact, if the spotted gum has a secret superpower, it would be the ability to fit into our cities with a minimum of fuss. They’re big trees, and produce vast quantities of blossoms, attracting nectar-eaters like rainbow lorikeets in droves. They grow easily, grow straight and grow tall.

Why Are Spotted Gums Special?

Spotted gum used to be called Eucalyptus maculata. Now it’s officially Corymbia maculata after a name change about 25 years ago. Some people still debate this.

It was probably the trunk and bark of these trees which first caught your eye. These trees replace their bark seasonally, but not all at once. Instead, bits of the bark are shed and new bark grows at different rates. That leaves the famous spots on their trunks (maculatus is Latin for spotted).

Early in the growing season some of these spots can be a bright green before fading to tans and greys over the coming months. Many patterns can be stunningly beautiful.

These trees are loved by many. But there are sceptics. Some feel the trees can be a nuisance, and even dangerous because of the bark and branches they shed. There is some truth to it, as they can drop branches during droughts. Interestingly, these hardwood trees are actually considered fire resistant.

But there are very good reasons our city planners and councils turn to the spotted gum. Their wonderfully straight, light coloured and spotted trunks are impressive whether trees are planted singly, in avenues (meaning two rows of trees) or in boulevards (four rows of trees).

They often get to an impressive 30–45 metres in height. Old trees can get over 60m.

During profuse flowering, anthers (the pollen-bearing part of the stamen) shed from a single tree can cover the ground, paths, homes, roads and vehicles in a white snow-like frosting.

In nature, the spotted gum and close relatives, the lemon scented gum (C. citriodora) and large leafed spotted gum (C. henryii) grow along the east coast of Australia, from far eastern Victoria to southern Queensland. In New South Wales forests, you might be lucky enough to spot the pairing of spotted gums and native cycads (Macrozamia), ancient plants resembling palms.

spotted gum leaves and flowers
Every few years, spotted gums flower profusely. Shutterstock

Spotted gums are quick growing and hardy, if a little frost-sensitive when young. They can tolerate periods of waterlogged soil. These traits make the species well suited to urban use, where disturbed and low-oxygen soils are common due to paving, compaction and waterlogging.

Urban trees have to be able to establish quickly and with relatively little care. They need to cope with environmental stresses and very poor quality urban soils. They need tall straight trunks so people and vehicles can pass under them, and so our cities keep their clear sight lines.

But we also want street trees to have broad, spreading canopies with a dense green foliage, to give shade, privacy and beauty.

As you can see, it’s a tough set of requirements. The spotted gum meets all of these. In fact, it has the potential to be one of the great urban tree species, not just in Australia but internationally.

Resilient Trees For The Future Climate

Spotted gums are tough. On urban streets in many parts of Australia, they will endure as the climate changes – possibly for decades or even centuries. They possess both lignotubers, the protective swelling at the base of the trunk, and epicormic buds, which lie dormant under the bark in readiness for fire and other stresses. These let the trees cope well with the abuses urban life can throw at them.

spotted gum trunk
You might notice the mottled bark first. Shutterstock

Horticulturalists have been working to make the tree even better suited to urban use. Careful selection has created spotted gum varieties geared towards dense, spreading canopies and with reduced risk of dropping branches.

But not all spotted gums you see are like this. These varieties were uncommon or didn’t exist 50 years ago, which means old urban trees might be more likely to shed limbs or have less attractive forms.

These trees are survivors. Near Batemans Bay in New South Wales lives Old Blotchy, the oldest known spotted gum. It’s estimated to be 500 years old.

Some urban trees are already 150 years old and in fine condition. Planting good quality spotted gums in a good position is a way to leave a lasting legacy.

As climate change intensifies, city planners are looking for resilient street trees able to provide cooling shade in a hotter climate. They could do a lot worse than choosing C. maculata.The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Senior Research Associate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Indigenous rangers are burning the desert the right way – to stop the wrong kind of intense fires from raging

KLC/Ewan NoakesCC BY-ND
Rohan FisherCharles Darwin University and Boyd ElstonIndigenous Knowledge

Even though it’s still winter, the fire season has already started in Australia’s arid centre. About half of the Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park west of Alice Springs has burnt this year.

The spread of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) has been seen as a key factor. This invasive grass has been ranked the highest environmental threat to Indigenous cultures and communities because of the damage it can do to desert Country.

Widespread rains associated with the La Niña climate cycle trigger a boom in plant growth. When the dry times come again, plants and grasses dry out and become potential fuel for massive desert fires.

These fires often don’t get much notice because nearly all Australians live near the coast. But they can be huge. In 2011, over 400,000 square kilometres burnt – about half the size of New South Wales.

After three years of La Niña rains, we’re in a similar situation – or potentially worse. Fire authorities are warning up to 80% of the Northern Territory could burn this fire season.

That’s why dozens of Indigenous ranger groups across 12 Indigenous Protected Areas have been hard at work in an unprecedented collaboration, burning to reduce the fuel load before the summer’s heat. So far, they’ve burned 23,000 square kilometres across the Great Sandy, Tanami, Gibson and Great Victoria Deserts.

Indigenous Rangers
Yilka Rangers burning using drip torches. Rohan Carboon/Indigenous Desert AllianceCC BY-ND

Burning The Arid Lands

Australia now has 82 Indigenous Protected Areas, covering over 87 million hectares of land. That’s half of the entire reserve of protected lands, and they’re growing fast as part of efforts to protect 30% of Australia’s lands and waters by 2030. These areas are managed by Indigenous groups – and fire is a vital part of management.

This animation shows landscape burns conducted by Indigenous rangers in the Tanami Desert in 2023. North Australia Fire Information,

The goal is to protect against devastating summer bushfires, which are more destructive. Without Indigenous rangers expertly managing the deserts through landscape-scale fire management, these protected lands would be at risk of decline.

As Braeden Taylor, Karajarri Ranger Coordinator, says:

A big wildfire just destroys everything, it destroys Country. The first aim is to do a bit of ground burning and then aerial burning, that way we know everything is protected. Using the helicopter and plane, we can access Country that’s hard to get to in a vehicle. It might not have been burnt in a long time and we can break it up

It’s good working with other groups. Fires that start on their side might come over to us and fires on ours might go to them. Working together we protect each other, looking after neighbours.

Indigenous rangers
Ngurrara Ranger Regina Thirkall and Hannah Cliff from Indigenous Desert Alliance and Ngurrara Ranger Sumayah Surprise at Kuduarra preparing for aerial incendiary burning. Tom Montgomery/Indigenous Desert AllianceCC BY-ND

So how do the rangers cover such distances? These protected areas are extremely remote. There is often no or very limited road access. So rangers work from the sky – and, where possible, the ground. The ranger fire program relies on helicopters and incendiaries [fire starting devices]. This year, rangers have spent 448 hours in the air, covering 58,457 kilometres and dropping 299,059 incendiaries.

When the incendiaries hit the ground, they begin burning. Not every incendiary hits the right spot, so it takes time to guarantee a good burn is under way. These arid lands tend to have more grass than trees, so the fires move along the ground and don’t get too intense.

aerial burns
This image shows flight lines from aerial prescribed burns (APBs) in 2022 and 2023. Indigenous Desert AllianceCC BY-ND

Rangers couple aerial burning with fine-scale ground burning using drip torches around sensitive areas. That’s to ensure protection of cultural sites and threatened species like the bilby, night parrot and great desert skink.

This is vitally important, given about 60% of desert mammal species have already gone extinct over the last 250 years, while many others have seen their range reduce. Changes to fire regimes are a major factor in these declines.

helicopter aerial burn
View from a helicopter during an aerial planned burn on Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Land Trust. Indigenous Desert AllianceCC BY-ND

Fire Can Forge Community

These desert-spanning fire projects give Traditional Owners the ability to see remote Country, practice culture and transfer knowledge down the generations.

As Ronald Hunt, Ngaanyatjarra Ranger, says:

When we burn it cleans up all the spinifex grass and when the rain comes it all grows up fresh. It’s good for the animals, the bushfood and all. Its good using the helicopter, going places that it’s hard to get to. It’s good to work together with other groups, sharing stories and looking after the Country. They have their stories, and we have ours, and then we come together to work.

ground burning haasts bluff
Watching the burn from the ground with Anangu Luritjiku Ranger Preston Kelly on Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Lands Trust. Andre SawenkoCC BY-ND

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in Indigenous fire management – especially after the devastation of the Black Summer fires of 2019–2020.

The goal is to shift from wrong-way fire – where fuel builds up until large, damaging bushfires ignite – to right-way fire, culturally informed fire regimes led by Traditional Owners.

satellite burns
A Sentinel 2 satellite image of burns in the Great Sandy Desert on 21st March this year. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2023), processed by EO BrowserCC BY-ND

These fires are done regularly, with small fires of varying intensity producing a fine-scale mosaic of vegetation at different stages of recovery and maintaining long-unburned vegetation as safe harbours for wildlife and plants.

Recent research shows the return to these right-way fire regimes at a landscape scale is having a real effect. In areas where this is done, the desert landscape is returning to a complex, pre-colonisation pattern of mosaic burns.

These large-scale efforts should make Country healthier and bring reprieve from dangerous fire. The Conversation

Rohan Fisher, Information Technology for Development Researcher, Charles Darwin University and Boyd Elston, Co-Chairperson of the Indigenous Desert Alliance and a Regional Land Management Coordinator at the Central Land Council, Indigenous Knowledge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor’s new Murray-Darling Basin Plan deal entrenches water injustice for First Nations

Erin O’Donnell
Grant RigneyIndigenous KnowledgeErin O'DonnellThe University of MelbourneFred HooperIndigenous Knowledge, and Lana D. HartwigGriffith University

The federal government has struck a new deal with most of the states in the nation’s largest river system. The agreement, announced last week, extends the $13 billion 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan to rebalance water allocated to the environment, irrigators and other uses.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said the government has:

negotiated a way to ensure there is secure and reliable water for communities, agriculture, industry, First Nations and the environment.

But there is no mention of water for First Nations in the agreement. This follows a history of Indigenous peoples being shortchanged by Murray-Darling Basin planning. Yet again, this latest deal ignores First Nations’ interests, despite millennia of custodianship.

Shortchanged In Reforms

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was agreed in 2012 to try and improve the health of the largest and most complex river system in Australia.

It was a historic compromise that sought to address the often conflicting demands of states, irrigators and the environment. But the plan overlooked First Nations rights to own, manage and control water on Country. The plan’s current provisions include only weak requirements for governments to “have regard to” First Nations values and uses.

In 2018 the Turnbull government put $40 million on the table for First Nations. This deal offered a glimmer of hope as it saw the then water minister David Littleproud and Labor water spokesperson Tony Burke commit the funds to support Basin First Nations’ investment in cultural and economic water entitlements.

But despite Labor renewing the commitment as part of its 2022 election platform, the money remains with government and has not been spent. Last week, Plibersek said that when Labor came into government there was “very little work done about how this might happen”, and that “it is proceeding”.

A commitment of $40 million is also a paltry amount in the context of the wider river basin. Water research firm Aither’s 2023 Water Market Report estimates the total value of water entitlements in the southern basin as $32.3 billion, so the government commitment of $40 million is only 0.1% of the total.

Aerial view of Brewarrina historical Aboriginal fish traps on the Barwon River in the far north west of New South Wales.
The heritage-listed stone Brewarrina fish traps on the Barwon River, which feeds into the Darling River. John Carnemolla, Shutterstock

Shortchanged In The Market

First Nations organisations have maintained pressure on the federal government and attempted to hold successive ministers to account for unnecessary delays in delivering the funding.

These delays mean the committed funds are decreasing in value.

When Littleproud initially committed the $40 million, the money was equally split between the northern and southern regions of the basin. Aither analysis conducted for the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations shows at today’s prices, the $20 million for Nations in the southern basin can only buy two-thirds of the water that could have been acquired in 2018. In 2023, buying the same volume of water that could have been purchased in 2018 will cost almost $11 million more.

A Fair Go: Investment And Reform Needed

Limited government investment from other sources has supported some Basin First Nations to develop plans that could guide water use, to nourish their Country, maintain culture, and generate sustainable livelihoods.

However, realising these opportunities means they need water. In an overallocated river system, amid water scarcity and rising prices, this requires genuine political will coupled with necessary reforms and adequate funding.

As another drought looms, and water entitlement prices remain high, more than 40 Basin Nations must share very limited funding that can only acquire a tiny – and diminishing – fraction of their water needs. These deals demonstrate sustained and systemic bipartisan political indifference to First Nations’ inherent rights.

If Plibersek is sincere about delivering “secure and reliable water” for First Nations, she must listen to First Nations people, and actually deliver tangible outcomes. Governments must urgently commit adequate funding for First Nations in the basin to secure water that meets our needs, before future generations are priced out of the market forever.

Funding for cultural flows must be coupled with reform to transform the foundations of water governance and implement the Echuca Declaration. This declaration establishes cultural flows as the “inherent rights” of all First Nations in the Basin.

As a start, the Water Act 2007 needs to be strengthened to enshrine Basin Nations’ authority and ensure their voices are heard.

As the terms of the basin plan implementation are being reassessed and renegotiated, governments have an opportunity not only to listen, but also to deal First Nations in.The Conversation

Grant Rigney, , Indigenous KnowledgeErin O'Donnell, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School, The University of MelbourneFred Hooper, Indigenous knowledge holder, Indigenous Knowledge, and Lana D. Hartwig, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate change threatens the rights of children. The UN just outlined the obligations states have to protect them

Noam PelegUNSW Sydney

Climate change is not just an environmental crisis, it’s a human rights crisis. And the humans to be most affected by climate catastrophe are the youngest ones: children.

We have seen children directly impacted in the Northern Hemisphere’s unprecedented heatwaves this year. In Greece, 1,200 children were evacuated when a wildfire threatened their holiday camps.

In the United States, children were swept away by floodwaters in Kentucky after torrential rain, while an extreme heatwave swamped the West Coast. In Australia, this summer is expected to be hot, dry and dangerous but that’s nothing compared to what is to come.

So what are the responsibilities of governments to reduce the harm climate change will wreak on the lives of children?

A statement from the United Nations (UN) released today seeks to clarify this. It clearly stipulates why and how the rights of children are compromised by climate change – including the very basic right to life. It also details the steps necessary to mitigate this catastrophe.

A Practical Guide To Help Children

The statement comes from a UN body of 18 experts that monitors how national governments are implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is an international agreement on a broad range of human rights as they relate to children, including their health, education, development, best interests and living standards.

From time to time, UN human rights committees publish a new interpretation of the treaty they oversee. These are known as “general comments”.

General comments are significant because they provide authoritative guidance to the governments of the 196 countries that have ratified the convention, with Australia being one of them. They also provide a globally agreed standard against which governments and businesses can be assessed.

This new comment follows nearly two years of consultation with more than 7,000 children from 103 countries, as well as governments and relevant experts.

It’s not merely an aspirational statement. Rather, it’s a practical “how-to” guide to action. This document will help children, young people and their advocates hold governments and others accountable for their decisions.

So What Does The Document Say?

The general comment says governments have obligations to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights. It states the “adverse effects of climate change” on the enjoyment of children’s rights “give rise to obligations of states to take actions to protect against those effects”. It adds the committee overseeing the convention aims to:

i) Emphasise the urgent need to address the adverse effects of environmental harm and climate change on children;

ii) Promote a holistic understanding of children’s rights as they apply to environmental protection;

iii) Clarify the obligations of States parties to the Convention and provide authoritative guidance on legislative, administrative and other appropriate measures to be undertaken with respect to environmental issues, with a special focus on climate change.

The general comment also identifies children as agents in their own lives. By extension, this means children have a right to participate in the drafting of environmental policies or laws that will affect them.

Here are the committee’s points that are most relevant to Australia.

1. Best Interests Of The Child

A key principle of the treaty is the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when making decisions on their behalf. These decisions include laws, regulations, budgets and international agreements. The general comment expands on this, saying:

the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in the adoption and implementation of environmental decisions affecting children.

It says this process should take into account “the specific circumstances that make children uniquely vulnerable in the environmental context”.

This “best interests” approach stands in stark contrast to that taken by the full bench of the Federal Court in Australia. In 2022, the court accepted the federal government’s argument that it has no duty of care for children, and that the best interests principle is not something it ought to consider when making decisions about the environment.

2. Protecting Indigenous Children

Indigenous children and their communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

For example, a recent study found Indigenous communities in New South Wales were disproportionately exposed to a range of climate extremes such as heat, drought and flooding. They also experienced higher rates of climate-sensitive health conditions and socioeconomic disadvantages.

The comment says states are obliged to ensure the right to life, survival and development of Indigenous children. They are also expected to “engage with Indigenous children and their families in responding to climate change by integrating, as appropriate, Indigenous cultures and knowledge in mitigation and adaptation measures”.

In Australia, it means the state, territory and federal governments have the duty to listen to Indigenous communities – especially to their younger members – and to take their perspective into account when crafting any policy or law that might have an impact on their livelihood and culture.

3. Actions Of The Business Sector

The general comment says governments should require businesses to conduct “due diligence” to assess how their current and future actions might affect the climate and the rights of children.

Where the impacts of a business cross national boundaries, governments are expected to ensure businesses operate at “environmental standards aimed at protecting children’s rights from climate-related harm”.

The comment also expects governments to encourage investment in and use of zero-carbon technologies, particularly when the assets are publicly owned or funded. Governments should also protect the rights of children when implementing tax regimes and procuring goods and services from the private sector.

Facing Up To The Challenge

The general comment makes it clear states should no longer ignore the impacts of the climate crisis on children and future generations because they have legal duties to rectify it.

The UN committee articulates the responsibilities of states and details how children’s rights should be protected by all levels of government. Despite the fact the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted decades before environmental rights became a topic of discussion, the new general comment is a good reference for everyone from on-the-ground, grassroots local advocacy groups to international non-government organisations and UN organisations like UNICEF.

In this bold new statement, the committee has pushed the interpretation of the convention almost to the maximum, and like other international treaties, the real test will be in its implementation. The Conversation

Noam Peleg, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law and Justice; Associate, the Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Unsexy but vital: why warnings over grid reliability are really about building more transmission lines

Tony WoodGrattan Institute

“To ensure Australian consumers continue to have access to reliable electricity supplies, it’s critical that planned investments in transmission, generation and storage projects are urgently delivered.”

This week, we heard one of the strongest warnings yet from Daniel Westerman, head of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

So far, media coverage has framed his comments as a warning about the anticipated angry El Niño summer, which is likely to drive energy-intensive aircon use even as our coal plants become less and less reliable.

But this isn’t what the warning is really about. It’s about transmission lines and our sluggish pace of change. Australia’s emissions are falling much more slowly than we’d like to think, if we omit the sometimes controversial land use sector. We’re down just 1.6% below 2005 levels.

Solar and wind farm investment has slowed markedly. This is because we don’t have the right grid – yet. Building the transmission infrastructure needed to slash emissions by 2030 means acting much faster than government is used to.

These aren’t ordinary times. We can’t act as if they are.

The Grid Will Withstand Summer – But Bigger Threats Lie Ahead

It’s quite likely the grid will withstand this summer, as long as maintenance is done to keep the old coal clunkers running and to ensure gas peaking plants are ready for times of highest demand. We also have the reserve system, whereby big energy users can be paid not to consume electricity during the hottest days.

There’s no shortage of solar and wind resources in Australia. And there’s no shortage of solar and wind farm projects waiting to be built. But the great renewable build is stalling – not because there’s no demand for cheap power, but because regulatory approvals are too slow and there’s no way to get the power to the cities and heavy industries.

The real problem is we’re not moving fast enough to build the unsexy but vital infrastructure we need: new transmission lines. The old grid was built around big power stations, from hydro in the Snowy Mountains to coal plants near coal mines, with transmission lines connecting them to cities.

But renewable-rich zones are often in different places. What’s more, shifting to a grid full of renewables means building more interconnectors between states, so on a big day for Victoria’s mooted offshore wind farms, for instance, the surplus power can be sent to South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland too.

What’s the delay? After all, we were able to build transmission lines when the current grid was taking shape.

A big part of the issue is community pushback and process. Local farmers and communities are resisting many of the planned new transmission lines.

If we had the luxury of time, it might be possible to get strong community support. But we don’t. Our coal plants are on the way out and no one is going to build a new one. The barrier between us and a clean energy future is getting transmission and storage built, fast.

Labor went to the 2022 election with a $20 billion plan to build the transmission lines envisaged by AEMO in its latest integrated system plan.

Westerman last year listed the five most urgent transmission links:

  1. HumeLink to bring Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro power to the grid

  2. the Sydney Ring, designed to improve connections between New South Wales’ four largest population centres, Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong

  3. transmission links from the New England renewable energy zone

  4. the Marinus link to better connect Tasmania’s wealth of hydro with the mainland

  5. the KerangLink interconnector between Victoria and New South Wales.

Most of these projects have had their own issues, ranging from lengthy approval processes, to heated community calls to put lines underground, to cost blowouts.

One problem is the range of government agencies involved. There’s no single body responsible for making these nation-building projects happen as quickly and happily as possible.

transmission lines
Transmission lines are vital – but often unpopular. Shutterstock

How Can We Speed Up These Vital Projects?

Here are a few ideas:

  • compensate affected landholders. Farmers who agree to host transmission towers get paid. To smooth the build, governments could bite the bullet and expand whom they compensate. Or, as with many other major infrastructure projects, as a last resort, they could compulsorily acquire the easements

  • give one agency the responsibility and authority for making these essential projects happen

  • ramp up regional training centres to produce the skilled electrical workers we’ll need.

We’ve come a fair way down the road in our efforts to wean ourselves off coal, and, eventually, gas-fired electricity. But it could all be for nought if we don’t get transmission sorted as soon as possible. The Conversation

Tony Wood, Program Director, Energy, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Flood protection based on historical records is flawed – we need a risk model fit for climate change

Xinyu FuUniversity of WaikatoIain WhiteUniversity of WaikatoRob BellUniversity of Waikato, and Silvia Serrao-NeumannUniversity of Waikato

Despite countries pouring billions of dollars into “protecting” communities, flood-related disasters are becoming more frequent and are projected to become even more severe as the climate crisis worsens.

In fact, many areas that flooded during recent extreme weather events, from Auckland to Henan in China, were deemed to be relatively safe. This should raise an obvious question: to what extent is our existing approach fit for purpose in a changing climate?

Traditionally, managing flooding has relied heavily on building higher levees or increasing the capacity of drainage systems. But this can be a mixed blessing. While they contain water most of the time, when levees or drains exceed their original design capacity, we experience damaging floods.

These technical solutions have tended to operate on a flawed assumption that future flooding can be reliably predicted based on decades of historical flood data. They also create the “levee effect” – a false sense of security that encourages development in still risk-prone areas.

As climate change brings unpredictable rainfall patterns and higher intensities, these historic design assumptions are falling well short of the realities. And it means there remains a “residual risk”, even when infrastructure improvements have been made or planned for.

Red Tape And Risk

We can use the analogy of wearing a seat-belt to understand residual risk. The belt will reduce harm in case of an accident, but it does not mean you are entirely protected from injury.

Now imagine road conditions and weather are gradually worsening, and traffic volumes increasing. Some might look at the new risk and decide not to drive, but for those already on the road it is too late.

Most countries are still managing floods just like this: sometimes building higher levees or installing bigger pipes. But development often occurs incrementally, without the strategic investment needed or the room to safely store excess water volumes in urban areas when failure occurs.

Housing development is needed, but too often current (let alone future) flood risk is not adequately considered. Planning controls, or additional infrastructure costs, are routinely referred to as “red tape” that raises costs. As a result, recovery costs are ongoing and residual risk gradually rises.

Weather-related disasters in 2023, including Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand and wildfires in the northern hemisphere, have led to a new focus on understanding how residual risk is managed. But whether it is even acknowledged or incorporated in planning policy varies from country to country.

National Strategy Missing

Our research team from the University of Waikato recently undertook a survey with flood risk practitioners in New Zealand to shed some light on this.

New Zealand has little in the way of national-level guidance on managing flood risk. Despite this, survey responses suggest flood risk professionals are aware of the issue. They agree residual flood risk is increasing, mainly due to climate change and ongoing development in flood-prone areas currently designated as “protected”.

They also agree the current practice of flood risk management needs improving. But there are several barriers, with the lack of a clear national directive on managing flood risk being the most notable in our survey.

Several respondents noted that changing risk management practice is difficult, given the existing institutional framework. This includes the “build more levees” approach to flood planning.

Local governments also vary in their capacity and resources. Many small councils lack quality flood risk information, such as the likely impact of climate change, which is critical for making wise land-use decisions.

As a result, housing and other developments are continuing in risky places. And to keep development costs down, infrastructure is not being systematically upgraded.

Planning For Residual Risk

We expect the New Zealand experience reflects similar trends elsewhere. Practitioners are aware of the growing threat of residual risk and would like more power to manage it. But there is a lack of urgency and resources to upgrade infrastructure. And there is political pressure to enable more housing and reduce red tape.

If these patterns persist, not only will the impacts from future floods become more frequent and expensive, but the insurance sector will retreat further from offering flood policies.

This will eventually leave central governments as de facto insurers-of-last-resort for flooding events. And they will be picking up an increasingly big bill, as already evidenced by the US$20.5 billion deficit faced by the United States National Flood Insurance Program.

Internationally and in New Zealand, attention is shifting to the need to build “sponge cities” or create more “room for water” in flood risk management. But we argue that acknowledging and managing the growing residual risk from climate change is missing from the debate.

A better-informed approach would see stronger guidelines against ill-advised development in flood-prone areas unless the infrastructure investment reduces that residual risk. Development on floodplains can still happen. But land use and investment must account for an uncertain future and lower the overall risk profile, rather than increase it.

The reality of more frequent flooding demands a multi-faceted response that makes cities, towns and rural areas more resilient – and prepared for inevitable infrastructure failure. Residual risk needs to be central to planning if we are to avoid an endless cycle of mopping up, rebuilding and compensating for financial loss.The Conversation

Xinyu Fu, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Planning, University of WaikatoIain White, Professor of Environmental Planning, University of WaikatoRob Bell, Teaching Fellow, Environmental Planning Programme, University of Waikato, and Silvia Serrao-Neumann, Associate Professor of Environmental Planning, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Eco-friendly’ straws contain potentially toxic chemicals – posing a threat to people and wildlife

PFAS concentrations were discovered in almost all of the paper and bamboo straws tested. Sia Footage/Shutterstock
Ovokeroye AbafeUniversity of Birmingham

Drinking straws that are made from materials like paper and bamboo are often promoted as more eco-friendly than their plastic counterparts. However, a new study has found that these supposedly sustainable straws contain potentially toxic chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

These substances, commonly known as “forever chemicals”, are a large group of over 4,000 synthetic chemicals that are used in a wide range of products due to their water- and fat-repellent properties. They can be found in everyday items such as non-stick cooking pans and fast-food packaging.

PFAS can linger in the environment for thousands of years, and exposure to certain levels of PFAS has been linked to ill health both in people and in animals.

The study, conducted by researchers in Belgium, analysed commercially available drinking straws of various types and recorded PFAS concentrations in 39 separate brands. PFAS were discovered in almost all of the paper and bamboo straws tested. They were detected in plastic and glass straws too, but at a lower frequency.

Perfluorooctanoic acid was the most common PFAS detected in the straws. The manufacture of perfluorooctanoic acid has been banned in the European Union since 2020 on safety grounds. However, it can be found in old or recycled consumer products and persists in the environment.

The presence of PFAS in plant-based straws could, at least in part, be due to factors like unintentional contamination from plants grown in soil polluted by PFAS and from the use of recycled paper containing PFAS in the production of straws.

Two fried eggs in a frying pan.
PFAS are used in a wide range of everyday products. Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Detecting Forever Chemicals

The researchers used two methods to detect PFAS in the straws. First, they measured whether 29 types of common PFAS were present and quantified their amounts in the straws using a sensitive method called liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. They found 16 of the 29 target PFAS at detectable concentrations.

A screening approach was then used to detect any other PFAS compounds in the straws. This revealed the presence of two additional PFAS compounds – trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) and trifluoromethanesulfonic acid (TFMS).

TFA occurred in five of the eight paper-based straw brands tested and TFMS in six of them. Both compounds were measured in one bamboo straw.

Given TFA’s limited industrial applications, the researchers suggest that its presence in straws potentially stems from the breakdown of halogenated hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons are commonly used as industrial solvents, intermediates in synthesis and even as dry cleaning agents.

In contrast, the sources of the TFMS in straws are uncertain. However, they are known to be associated with sites where firefighting foams have been used.

Should We Be Concerned?

People could be directly exposed to PFAS in straws as they leach into our drinks during use. Discarded or recycled straws could also result in indirect exposure through contaminated soils, water, plants and other consumer products derived from recycled materials.

This is concerning. PFAS exposure poses considerable health risks to people, wildlife and the environment.

Research indicates that pregnant women who are exposed to these substances may experience reduced fertility and heightened blood pressure. Their children could face developmental effects like low birth weight, early puberty and even an increased risk of some cancers.

PFAS exposure has even been shown to compromise the immune system’s ability to fight infections. In 2020, research from Denmark found that the severity of COVID infections seemed to be aggravated by exposure to some PFAS.

Exposure to PFAS has also been linked to a reduced reproductive ability in birds, and the development of tumours and disrupted immune and kidney function in other species of animal.

For example, research on the Cape Fear river in North Carolina in 2022 revealed that all 75 American alligators (a protected species) tested had PFAS in their blood serum. The levels of PFAS in the alligators’ serum were associated with disrupted immune functions and autoimmune-type diseases.

A large American alligator sunning on a reed bed.
All American alligators (a protected species) tested had PFAS present in their blood serum. Denton Rumsey/Shutterstock

These chemicals are now so widespread in the environment that it is almost impossible for humans and wildlife to avoid exposure to them. Exposure to PFAS can occur in various ways, including breathing in contaminated air, to consuming tainted food and water, and even through skin contact with dust and particles.

However, using stainless steel straws might provide some protection from additional PFAS exposure. The Belgian study recorded no detectable amount of PFAS in this type of straw.

But it’s important to note that while stainless steel straws might reduce PFAS exposure, they could still expose people to other harmful substances like heavy metals. Some of these metals, including chromium and nickel, have been linked with serious health issues affecting the heart, lungs, digestive system, kidneys and liver.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for now is to avoid using straws altogether, where possible.

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 20,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Ovokeroye Abafe, Marie Curie Individual Fellow, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the UK government is relaxing rules for river pollution

New homes under construction in Rochester, Kent. Flyby Photography/Shutterstock
Peter CruddasUniversity of Portsmouth

The UK government has announced plans to enable the delivery of 100,000 new homes by 2030 that are currently being held up by a controversial EU law designed to protect water bodies from pollution.

This move will undoubtedly benefit the housing sector, delivering an estimated £18 billion to the economy and also helping the government meet its housing targets. But will it lead to further water pollution at a time when just 36% of the UK’s surface water bodies are in “good” or better condition?

Since 2019, all new housing developments in the UK have been required by EU law to demonstrate that they would not add additional nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to water bodies as part of their planning applications.

Wastewater from new homes, as well as run-off from construction sites, can cause nutrients to seep into nearby waterways. This can lead to eutrophication – a process where excessive algae growth degrades water quality.

Developers must calculate how much nutrient pollution the planned accommodation would create and demonstrate how that pollution would be treated or offset. If developers cannot prove that new housing projects are going to be nutrient neutral, planning application is refused.

A small river choked with algae growth.
The River Wantsum in Kent choked with algae growth. Muddy knees/Shutterstock

The main response has been “farmland offsetting” – a scheme where developers pay farmers for parts of their land, which are then rewilded to prevent future farming. The savings made by preventing future nutrient pollution on that farmland would offset the nutrients leaching into the environment from the new housing projects.

Natural England’s nutrient neutrality programme has expanded access to these offsetting schemes in recent years. Nonetheless, not all developers have access to offsetting schemes in their area. Thousands of applications – including many already in the system – have been suspended or rejected as a result.

To re-start many of those stalled applications, the government is proposing an amendment to the law, removing the requirement for developers to prove nutrient neutrality.

The government will instead take responsibility for nutrient offsetting itself – mainly by doubling funding for Natural England’s offsetting scheme. This would enable houses currently stuck in the planning system to be granted permission and begin building.

The government announced that it will also take additional measures to “tackle nutrient pollution at source” by upgrading wastewater treatment works and reducing nutrient pollution from farming.

The implementation of the nutrient neutrality guidelines, and the accompanying burden on developers, has attracted plenty of criticism. Hence, the change in approach in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there is justified concern that the new plans may be less effective if not implemented properly.

Taking Control

At a glance, the government’s proposal certainly seems a short-term reaction to a political issue. The government is falling well behind its own housing targets and removing nutrient neutrality from planning applications will release the current deadlock.

But it could also have the potential to do genuine good. By offsetting nutrient pollution itself, the government could deliver more sensible schemes overall than the piecemeal approach delivered by thousands of small planning applications submitted at different times.

A pipe releasing wastewater into a river.
Whether offsetting schemes achieve nutrient neutrality is murky. kizer13/Shutterstock

However, the long-term success of the offsetting schemes in genuinely achieving nutrient neutrality has been questioned. The calculations are based on a small scientific base. And even if these calculations are correct, offsetting schemes replace pollution that is spread across farmlands with pollution concentrated at the end of a wastewater pipe.

Questioning The New Approach

Any potential benefits of the new approach will also rely on it being delivered properly. There are already concerns that may not happen.

A lot of the new environmental measures mentioned in the government’s initial press release are already taking place. For instance, upgrading wastewater treatment works for nutrient removal was made a legal duty in 2022 and is already being planned and implemented by all water companies.

Another – looking at more sustainable drainage solutions – is part of existing planning policy.

Three of the eight actions identified by the government also target farming practices. Agriculture does cause more nutrient pollution than housing – in the Solent region of southern England the Environment Agency estimates that 50% of nutrient pollution can be attributed to agriculture and just 10% to wastewater releases.

However, the purpose of nutrient neutrality was to ensure housing developments dealt with their own pollution so they weren’t adding to the problems already caused by agriculture. Nutrient pollution caused by farming practices is already being addressed through initiatives such as catchment-sensitive farming – a scheme of training and funding to help farmers reduce nutrient pollution.

An aerial view of a wastewater treatment works.
Upgrading wastewater treatment works is already being planned and implemented by water companies. Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock

By taking nutrient neutrality off the “front lines” of the planning process, the concern is that the outcome – away from the same level of scrutiny and urgency – may not be as effective.

Building new homes is important. And it’s also true that new housing developments are not the largest contributor of nutrient pollution in the UK. So a more centralised plan to deal with nutrient pollution has potential benefits, if undertaken seriously.

However, the short-term benefits of building more homes must not overshadow the longer-term commitments the government will need to make in order to properly address the issue of nutrient pollution.The Conversation

Peter Cruddas, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What social change movements can learn from fly fishing: The value of a care-focused message

Fly-fishing in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Joseph/FlickrCC BY-SA
Brett CrawfordGrand Valley State University Erica CoslorThe University of Melbourne, and Madeline ToubianaL’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa

Summer and fall are prime times for getting outdoors across the U.S. According to an annual survey produced by the outdoor industry, 55% of Americans age 6 and up participated in some kind of outdoor recreation in 2022, and that number is on the rise.

However, the activities they choose are shifting. Over the past century, participation has declined in some activities, such as hunting, and increased in others, like bird-watching.

These shifts reflect many factors, including demographic trends and urbanization. But outdoor activities also have their own cultures, which can powerfully affect how participants think about nature.

As scholars who think about organizational theorymanagement and entrepreneurship, we are interested in understanding effective ways to promote social change. In a recent study, we analyzed the work of the nonprofit group Trout Unlimited, which centers on protecting rivers and streams across the U.S. that harbor wild and native trout and salmon.

We found that since its founding in 1959, Trout Unlimited has pursued a unique type of social change. Historically, people fished to obtain food – but Trout Unlimited has reframed the sport as a vehicle for environmental conservation. It did this by gradually shifting members from catch and keep practices to catch and release, with fish carefully returned to the water. In our view, this strategy offers a powerful example of energizing social change through care, rather than disruptive strategies that emphasize power, anger and fearmongering.

John McMillan, science director for Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative, walks through the proper technique to catch and release a type of coastal rainbow trout called steelhead.

A Sport That Inspires Devotion

Fishing is very popular in the U.S.: As of 2016, more then 35 million Americans fished, mainly in fresh water. Trout Unlimited was founded in 1959 on the banks of Michigan’s Au Sable River with the aim of building a strong conservation ethic among anglers. Today, the group has more than 300,000 members spanning hundreds of local chapters across the U.S.

Many Trout Unlimited members prefer fly fishing, a technique that uses a rod, reel, specialized weighted fishing line and artificial flies designed to mimic trout’s natural food sources. Trout generally thrive in beautiful, fast-flowing, cold-water streams and rivers; to catch them, fly fishers repeatedly cast a line so that their lure moves like a flying insect landing and floating on the water. It’s a sport that combines deep knowledge of a specific location with time-honored techniques.

In the 1653 classic “The Compleat Angler,” English writer Izaak Walton called fly fishing “an art worthy the knowledge and practice of a wise man.” Norman Maclean’s 1976 book “A River Runs Through It,” which recounts the author’s childhood experiences fishing Montana’s Big Blackfoot River, declares, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” Changing the practices of devoted anglers is no small feat.

Fly-Fishing And Stewardship

The first stage of change that Trout Unlimited pursued in its interactions with members was what we call mending – fixing aspects of a practice that are seen as problematic or damaging. For Trout Unlimited, that meant subtly removing harvesting practice from images of fly fishing, while simultaneously reinforcing anglers’ deep connections to rivers.

This reframing began in the late 1960s and continues today, as we learned by analyzing cover images and editorials from “Trout,” the organization’s member magazine, and interviewing staffers at Trout Unlimited and others throughout the fly fishing industry. Editors of “Trout” scrubbed away images of harvesting gear, such as creelsstringers and spears. Instead, they featured photos of trout being safely released and of caught fish remaining underwater in their environment.

These changes did not directly speak to or challenge anglers’ practices. Instead, they worked more subtly. “Trout” editors also began to describe old harvesting artifacts like creels as “something of a curio” and “relics of the past.”

In another editorial shift, the magazine increasingly featured images of vast river landscapes rather than close-up photos of people fishing. This approach elevated the experience of being in nature above that of catching fish.

Editors included poetry and sermonettes in the magazine that modeled normative values of conservation and catch and release practices. Here’s one example:

Carefully I reach out, and lift him in my net,

But I make sure not to touch him, until my hands are wet.

For not doing so would damage him, and that would not be right,

For this indeed I owe him, for such a noble fight.

As gently as I can, I remove the hook and set him free …

Using words and images, the magazine sought to trigger positive emotions and a sense of deep connection and love for trout.

Caring For Fishing Grounds

As Trout Unlimited built momentum in the 1960s and ’70s, the organization made river and stream restoration a major priority. This period marked the birth of the modern environmental movement. Americans were recognizing that industrial development was harming precious natural resources, including fishing grounds.

Logging had ravaged wetlands and stream banks along river corridors. Dam construction, particularly in Western states, was blocking fish passage, preventing trout and salmon from swimming upstream to their spawning grounds. Acid drainage from mining operations was contaminating waterways. And recreational and commercial fishers were over-harvesting many important species.

Trout Unlimited chapters organized events that ranged from local river cleanups to advocating for federal Wild and Scenic designation for free-flowing rivers and streams. This status protects them from overuse and in-stream development, such as dams and irrigation diversions.

Members also campaigned for dam removal to open up fish spawning habitat and for creating “no-kill” zones along stretches of rivers, where catch and release was required. Trout Unlimited framed these efforts as supporting fly fishing through positive change.

An Inclusive Message

Today, Trout Unlimited centers conservation in its mission of protecting, reconnecting, restoring and sustaining coldwater fisheries. We see the organization as an important model in a world driven by social media algorithms that amplify negative emotions. In our view, driving change through actions that represent love and care, rather than anger and shame, could engage more people in tackling major social challenges.

This approach does have limitations. It is useful when a practice can be altered to be more sustainable, as was the case with catch and release. However, as recent research shows, recreational fishing still has major environmental impacts, especially on marine species. And sometimes social change requires ending widespread practices altogether. Nonetheless, the key takeaway for us from Trout Unlimited’s work is that social change doesn’t have to vilify in order to succeed.The Conversation

Brett Crawford, Associate Professor of Management, Grand Valley State University Erica Coslor, Senior Lecturer in Management, The University of Melbourne, and Madeline Toubiana, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Organization, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Montana kids win historic climate lawsuit – here’s why it could set a powerful precedent

Amber PolkFlorida International University

Sixteen young Montanans who sued their state over climate change emerged victorious on Aug. 14, 2023, from a first-of-its-kind climate trial.

The case, Held v. State of Montana, was based on allegations that state energy policies violate the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment” – a right that has been enshrined in the Montana Constitution since the 1970s. The plaintiffs claimed that state laws promoting fossil fuel extraction and forbidding the consideration of climate impacts during environmental review violate their constitutional environmental right.

Judge Kathy Seeley’s ruling in the youths’ favor sets a powerful precedent for the role of “green amendments” in climate litigation.

The lawsuit, heard in Montana district court, was the first in the U.S. to rely on a state’s constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment to challenge state policies that fuel climate change. In light of the success in Held, it won’t be the last.

A young woman and two young boys listen as lawyers talk. Young people fill two rows of benches behind them in the small court room.
Rikki Held, the lead plaintiff in the Montana case, center seated, confers with the Our Children’s Trust legal team before the start of the trial on June 12, 2023. William Campbell/Getty Images

What Is A Green Amendment?

The U.S. Constitution does not contain a green amendment, but several state constitutions do.

Pennsylvania, Montana, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Illinois all amended their state constitutions during the environmental movement of the 1970s to recognize the people’s right to a clean and healthful environment. Because these green amendments are constitutional provisions, they function as limits on what government can do.

Early cases in Pennsylvania and Illinois testing these newly recognized constitutional rights saw little success. By the 1990s, the Illinois Supreme Court had eviscerated Illinois’ green amendment, concluding that the environmental right did not provide a basis upon which a citizen could bring a lawsuit.

In 1999, however, when green amendments were all but forgotten, a single case in Montana quietly vindicated Montanans’ constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

It was brought by local environmental groups over water quality concerns at a proposed gold mine. At that time, Montana’s environmental laws allowed the state to issue permits for projects that would discharge pollutants into Montana waters without conducting any environmental review. The Montana Supreme Court determined that such a law violated Montanans’ fundamental right to a clean and healthful environment and was unconstitutional.

A group of people hikes through a forest with dead trees on one side.
Montana’s forests are facing new threats as temperatures rise. Whitebark pine, a foundational species, are increasingly at risk from diseases and insects that previously couldn’t thrive in the high-mountain habitat. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The next green amendment success took 14 years and occurred in Pennsylvania. In the early 2010s, Pennsylvania enacted a state law that gave the oil and gas industry the right to commence hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, anywhere in the state. This law prevented local governments from making land use decisions to restrict or limit fracking in their jurisdictions. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down this state law as violating Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

That Pennsylvania decision ignited an explosion of interest in green amendments.

In Hawaii, public interest groups began challenging the state’s approval of carbon-intensive electricity generation on the ground that it violates Hawaiians’ right to a clean and healthful environment. The state now relies on its green amendment to reject new carbon-intensive electricity sources for powering Hawaii.

In 2022, New York became the first state since the 1970s to adopt a green amendment. Currently, ArizonaConnecticutIowaKentuckyMaineNevadaNew JerseyNew MexicoTennesseeTexasVermontWashington, and West Virginia are considering adopting green amendments.

Success In Montana

Based on the extensive scientific evidence presented at the trial in June, Judge Seeley found that the Montana youth are being harmed by climate change occurring in Montana and that those climate change effects can be attributed to the state law the plaintiffs challenged.

Seeley also determined that declaring the state law forbidding the consideration of climate impacts during environmental review unconstitutional would alleviate further harm to the youth. On these grounds, she struck down the state law as unconstitutional.

This result sets a groundbreaking precedent for climate litigation and demonstrates a new way in which green amendments can be invoked to elicit environmental change. It suggests that in other states with green amendments, state laws cannot forbid the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and their climate impact during environmental review.

A silhouetted family watches as smoke rises from the Robert Fire in Glacier National Park, near West Glacier, Montana
Wildfire smoke has become an unwelcome part of life during summer and fall in parts of Montana. Robin Loznak/Getty Images

However, Seeley made it clear long before trial that she does not have the power to order the state to create a remedial plan to address climate change.

Further, the Montana legislature repealed the state policies promoting fossil fuel extraction just two months before the trial began, and a judge cannot generally rule on the constitutionality of a repealed law. So, whether state policies promoting fossil fuel extraction violate the people’s constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment is a question for another day and another case.

A spokeswoman for Montana’s attorney general said the state plans to appeal Seeley’s ruling.

Impact On Federal Climate Litigation

It is unclear how the Montana youths’ victory will influence federal climate litigation. The federal youth climate case Juliana v. United States, which was recently revived, relies on the Fifth and Ninth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the common law public trust doctrine. Neither the Fifth Amendment nor the Ninth Amendment is considered environmental rights akin to a green amendment. However, the public trust doctrine has been relevant in some states’ green amendment jurisprudence.

In the states that have green amendments, climate advocates will certainly rely on the Montana youth case as they challenge state laws that promote climate change.

In recent years, we have witnessed an erosion of our environmental laws through politics and the courts. That has fueled new legal claims of environmental rights in the U.S., Canada and other countries.

This phenomenon is the focus of my research, of which green amendments are just a part. I believe we will continue to see cases, like Held v. State of Montana, invoke rights-based approaches to tackle environmental problems in the future.The Conversation

Amber Polk, Assistant Professor of Law, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Secrets of the Octopus Garden: Moms nest at thermal springs to give their young the best chance for survival

Female pearl octopus nest at the Octopus Garden off California. Credit: © 2019 MBARI
Amanda KahnSan José State University and Jim BarrySan José State University

Two miles below the ocean surface off Monterey, California, warm water percolates from the seafloor at the base of an underwater mountain. It’s a magical place, especially if you’re an octopus.

In 2018, one of us, Amanda Kahn, was aboard the research vessel E/V Nautilus when scientists discovered the “Octopus Garden.” Thousands of pearl octopuses (Muusoctopus robustus) were curled up into individual balls in lines and clumps. As Nautilus Live streamed the expedition online, the world got to share the excitement of the discovery.

We now know why these amazing creatures gather at this and other underwater warm springs.

Scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute take viewers on a journey to Davidson Seamount in a video narrated by Jim Barry, an author of this article. Credit: © MBARI.

In a new study involving scientists from several fields, we explain why octopuses migrate to the Octopus Garden. It’s both a mating site and a nursery where newborn octopuses develop faster than expected, giving them the best shot at survival in the deep, cold sea.

Life In The Octopus Garden

Female octopuses seek out rocky cracks and crevices where warm water seeps from the rocks. There, they vigilantly guard their broods. Subsisting off their energy reserves alone, these mothers will never eat again. Like most cephalopods, they make the ultimate sacrifice for their offspring and die after their eggs hatch.

The Octopus Garden, at the base of Davidson Seamount about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of Monterey, California, is the largest of a handful of octopus nurseries recently discovered in the Eastern Pacific. Many have been found near hydrothermal springs where warm water seeps from the seafloor.

Map showing Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the location of the Octopus Garden near Davidson Seamount, an inactive volcano off the Central California coast, at a depth of approximately 2 miles (3,200 meters).
The Octopus Garden is about 2 miles deep near Davidson Seamount, an inactive volcano off the Central California coast. It is inside the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Illustration by Madeline Go/MBARI, basemap created via ArcGIS Online, sources: Esri, USGS | Esri, GEBCO, DeLorme, NaturalVue | California State Parks, Esri, HERE, Garmin, SafeGraph, FAO, METI/NASA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS

We wanted to know what makes these environments so appealing for nesting octopuses.

To solve this mystery, we assembled geologists, biologists and engineers. Using Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s deep-sea robots and sensors, we studied and mapped the Octopus Garden during several visits over three years to examine the links between thermal springs and breeding success for pearl octopuses. We found nearly 6,000 nests in a 6-acre (2.5-hectare) area, suggesting more than 20,000 octopuses occupy this site.

A time-lapse camera that kept watch over a group of nesting mothers for six months opened a window into the dynamic life in the Octopus Garden.

Photo taken underwater shows a female octopus in a depression in the surface with her tentacles around several oblong eggs.
A female pearl octopus brooding her eggs at the Octopus Garden. Credit: © 2020 MBARI

We witnessed male octopuses approaching and mating with females. We cheered for the successful emergence of hatchlings, which looked like translucent miniatures of their parents. And we mourned the deaths of mothers and their broods.

When a nest became empty, it was quickly filled by a different octopus mother. We saw that nothing went to waste at the Octopus Garden. Dead octopesus provided a vital food source for a host of scavengers, like sea anemones and snails.

Warmer Water Speeds Up Embryo Development

A new generation of octopuses must overcome at least two hurdles before hatching.

First, they must develop from egg to hatchling. They start as opaque, sausage-shaped eggs cemented to the rocks. Over time, tiny black eyes, then eight little arms grow visible through the egg capsule. Second, crucially, they must not succumb to external threats, including predators, injuries and infections. The longer the incubation period, the greater the risk that an embryo might not survive to hatch.

A photo shows dozens of octopuses forming a line and clumps where heat seeps out.
A portion of a photomosaic produced following surveys of the Octopus Garden with MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts and the Low-Altitude Survey System sensor suite from the Seafloor Mapping Lab at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, or MBARI. The photo allowed researchers to count nests and estimate the total. Credit: © 2022 MBARI

For octopus species living in warm, shallow waters, brood periods are only days to weeks long. But a very different scenario plays out in the abyss. Near-freezing temperatures dramatically slow metabolic processes in coldblooded animals like octopuses. The longest-known brood period for any animal actually comes from another deep-sea octopus species, Graneledone pacifica, with a mother tending her nest for a remarkable 4½ years. An octopus nursery for this species was recently discovered off the west coast of Canada.

At Davidson Seamount, where ambient water temperatures are 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees Celsius), we would expect pearl octopus embryos to take five to 10 years, or possibly longer, to develop. Such an extended brooding period would be the longest known for any animal, exposing an embryo to exceptional risks.

Instead, temperature and oxygen sensors we were able to slip inside octopus nests documented a much warmer microenvironment around the eggs. On average, the temperature inside octopus nests was about 41 F (5.1 C), considerably warmer than the surrounding waters. We predicted that octopus embryos would develop faster in this warmer water.

A female pearl octopus brooding her eggs at the Octopus Garden.
Each octopus has distinctive markings that scientists quickly learned to identify. Credit: © 2022 MBARI

Distinctive marks and scars helped us identify individual mothers. Over repeat visits we tracked the development of their brood. Although we did expect faster growth in the warm water, we were stunned to find that eggs hatched in less than two years. Nesting in thermal springs clearly gives pearl octopuses a boost.

But nesting in thermal springs is a potentially risky strategy. Once eggs are laid, they’re cemented to the rock. We know little of the thermal tolerance of pearl octopuses or their embryos, but even a short exposure to overly warm waters could be lethal to developing embryos, wiping out any hope of successful reproduction for that mother. Indeed, one of the first recorded deep-sea octopus nurseries may have experienced unpredictable fluid flow.

Nurseries Highlight Risks To Seafloor Habitat

The thermal springs at the Octopus Garden are part of a ridge flank hydrothermal system. Here, water percolating beneath the seafloor picks up heat from Earth’s mantle before it’s channeled out from volcanic rock outcrops like Davidson Seamount. These systems have become an emerging focus in seafloor geology, though only a few have been discovered so far.

Unlike hydrothermal vents, which form at ridge crests and belch plumes of hot water that are detectable hundreds of meters above the bottom, thermal springs on ridge flanks are cryptic. These springs seep warm water that dissipates only meters above the bottom, making them exceedingly difficult to find and only visible by a slight shimmer in the water.

Our yearlong recordings from thermal springs at the Octopus Garden demonstrate these may be stable environments, with the potential to release warm fluids for thousands of years. Such stability benefits not only pearl octopus, but also the community of life that thrives alongside the nesting mothers.

A photo shows an octopus using its long arms to move across the seafloor.
A male octopus walks through the Octopus Garden. Credit: © 2019 MBARI

The recent discoveries of octopus nurseries off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, also near hydrothermal springs, suggests these areas may be more common than previously thought. It also highlights that hydrothermal springs may be vital biological hot spots.

The deep sea is the largest living space on Earth, and that expansive size can hide the importance of localized hot spots like these. Davidson Seamount and its Octopus Garden are protected as part of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but many more biological treasures like thermal springs may be at risk, especially as deep-seabed mining proposes to scrape large understudied swaths of seafloor. We hope the octopus mothers we’ve met at this nursery inspire everyone to rethink stewardship for the yet-undiscovered hidden gems that may be lost.The Conversation

Amanda Kahn, Assistant Professor of Invertebrate Ecology at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San José State University and Jim Barry, Marine Ecologist, MBARI, San José State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

To predict future sea level rise, we need accurate maps of the world’s most remote fjords

The 10km wide Petermann Fjord in northern Greenland. The author’s icebreaker ship is a small dot in the middle. The cliffs on either side are a kilometre high. In the distance is the ‘ice tongue’ of the glacier flowing into the fjord. Martin JakobssonCC BY-SA
Martin JakobssonStockholm University

Understanding how glaciers interact with the ocean is akin to piecing together a colossal jigsaw puzzle. And on various icebreaker expeditions to some of the most remote fjords in northern Greenland, colleagues and I have showed that the shape of the seafloor is one of the key pieces of that puzzle.

To understand why the seabed is so important, we have to look at the glaciers themselves and what is causing them to retreat or even disappear. The large glaciers that meet the ocean in Greenland and Antarctica balance their mass over time largely in pace with the climate. When it snows or rains they accumulate ice, and they lose ice to melting and calving – the process where chunks of ice break off and eventually melt away into the sea.

But over the past few decades they are losing mass at an accelerated pace, with more icebergs calving into the ocean and more ice being melted from below by relatively warm seawater.

Estimating how much mass will be lost is often highlighted as glaciology’s grand challenge as it constitutes a large uncertainty in our predictions of future sea-level rise. To hone our predictions, it is crucial to find the areas where warmer ocean water reaches the these glaciers.

Most glaciers in Greenland drain into fjords in which the waters near the surface are very cold, heavily influenced by meltwater from the glaciers. Some fjords also allow in warmer water of Atlantic origin, which is saltier and therefore heavier so it enters the fjords at a greater depth.

The shape and depth (or “bathymetry”) of the seafloor determines whether this warmer water can reach the glaciers and cause them to melt. These fjords may have particularly complex bathymetry as they themselves were formed by glaciers which also eroded the seabed. While the inner parts can be a kilometre deep, a shallower “sill” at the entrance (formed when eroded materials accumulate or from resistant bedrock) can act as a shield against inflowing warmer water.

diagram of fjord
Diagram of a fjord showing a sill that keeps out the warmer ocean water (note in Greenland the fjords are fed by glaciers not rivers). AMAPCC BY-SA

That’s why mapping these fjords is one of the most critical steps in assessing the future of the glaciers that flow into them. This is unfortunately easier said than done, since many of these glaciers flow into some of the most remote areas of the world.

Ireland-Sized Glacier, Manhattan-Sized Icebergs

The Petermann Glacier – the largest in the northern part of the Greenland ice sheet – drains an area of about 74,000 square kilometres, similar to the size of Ireland.

Annotated map of Greenland glaciers
Some of the most northerly and inaccessible fjords on earth. Martin JakobssonCC BY-SA

Petermann is one of a few glaciers around Greenland with a floating ice tongue extending tens of kilometres from where the glacier is grounded on the seafloor. These ice tongues may act as a brakes on the flow of ice into the sea, slowing down mass loss.

In 2010, Petermann made headlines when a huge chunk broke off and formed an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan island. This was followed by another huge calving two years later. While calving is a natural process, these unusually large events were likely influenced by warmer waters from the Atlantic melting the tongue from below, making it thinner and more prone to break.

In 2015 colleagues and I mapped the entire seabed of Petermann Fjord for the first time. We found the entrance was still very deep: 443 metres – as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. Deep enough for that warm, heavy, salty glacier-melting Atlantic water to enter.

Ship in front of huge cliffs
The icebreaker Oden in Petermann Fjord. The same ship appears as a tiny dot in the image at the top of the article. Martin JakobssonCC BY-SA

We next wanted to compare Petermann to the Ryder Glacier to its northeast, which has been more stable since at least the 1950s. Was it kept in place by a shallow fjord entrance keeping out warmer water?

At the time, no ship had ever entered Sherard Osborn Fjord where Ryder Glacier drains, because the sea ice in that region is the toughest in the entire Arctic Ocean. Therefore, nothing at all was known about the seafloor. Ryder Glacier became the target for our next expedition with icebreaker Oden in 2019.

Shielded From Warmer Water

Thick ice in the narrow passage separating Ellesmere Island from Greenland made it hard to even get to Sherard Osborn Fjord. And entering the fjord was a true challenge, as large icebergs that had calved from the ice tongue floated around and occasionally blocked the entire entrance.

It turned out the fjord has a prominent shallow sill in front of Ryder Glacier. This sill shields the glacier from warmer subsurface Atlantic water, which appears to explain why it has behaved very differently compared to Petermann.

Annotated image of glacier, fjord and seabed.
An underwater sill in front of Ryder Glacier shields it from inflowing warmer water from the Atlantic. Martin JakobssonCC BY-SA

The bathymetry of both Petermann and Sherard Osborn fjords has now been incorporated into the Seabed 2030 Project, which aims to completely map the world’s ocean floor before the end of the decade. Knowing more about the seabed, and the glaciers that flow into the sea, will in turn help us to sustainably manage the ocean and, ultimately, the planet.

The are more completely unmapped areas in North Greenland. In 2024, we are planning another expedition with icebreaker Oden even further north to Victoria Fjord, where C.H. Ostenfeld Glacier drains. This glacier recently lost its floating ice tongue and whether or not Atlantic water makes into the fjord remains to be seen.The Conversation

Martin Jakobsson, Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How do coral reefs thrive in parts of the ocean that are low in nutrients? By eating their algal companions

Coral reefs are hotspots of productivity in otherwise nutrient-poor parts of our oceans. Joerg Wiedenmann & Cecilia D'Angelo/University of SouthamptonCC BY-NC-ND
Jörg WiedenmannUniversity of Southampton and Cecilia D'AngeloUniversity of Southampton

Coral reefs thrive in parts of the world’s oceans that are low in nutrients. This mystery has puzzled scientists for centuries and has become known as the “Darwin paradox of coral reefs”.

Our new study adds the missing piece of the puzzle. We found that many species of coral cultivate and feed on the microscopic algae that live inside their cells. This vegetarian diet allows the corals to tap into a large pool of nutrients that was previously considered unavailable to them.

Stony corals are soft-bodied animals made up of many individual polyps that live together as a colony. They secrete limestone skeletons that form the foundation of reefs. The coral polyps acquire nutritious compounds rich in nitrogen and phosphorus by catching prey like zooplankton with their tentacles.

Many coral animals are also dependent on a symbiosis – a mutually beneficial relationship – with the microscopic algae that live inside their cells. These photosynthetic algae produce large amounts of carbon-rich compounds, such as sugars, and transfer them to the host coral to generate energy. However, as most photosynthetic products are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous, they cannot sustain the growth of the animals.

Our findings suggest that, while coral animals may survive brief periods of starvation by feeding on their symbionts, some coral reefs could face the risk of prolonged nutrient deficiency due to global warming. This is concerning. Coral reefs are important underwater ecosystems that provide a home and feeding ground for countless organisms, sustaining around 25% of the world’s ocean biodiversity.

Symbiont algae from a reef coral viewed under a microscope.
Symbiont algae from a reef coral viewed under a microscope. J. Wiedenmann & C. D’Angelo/University of SouthamptonCC BY-NC-ND

Vegetarian Diet

The symbiotic algae living within the corals are very efficient at taking up dissolved inorganic nutrients, like nitrate and phosphate, from the surrounding seawater. Even in nutrient-poor areas of the ocean, these compounds are present in considerable amounts as excretion products of organisms, such as sponges, that live close by. Ocean currents can also transport these nutrients to reefs.

The coral host, on the other hand, cannot absorb or use nitrate and phosphate directly. But, through a series of long-term laboratory experiments, we demonstrated that corals actually digest some of their symbiont population to access the nitrogen and phosphorus that these algae absorb from the water.

To provide evidence that the nutrients accumulated by the growing coral tissue originated from the symbionts, we supplied the corals with a chemical form of nitrogen that can only be absorbed from the water by the symbionts, not by the coral host.

This nutrient compound was marked by a technique called isotopic labelling, which uses nitrogen atoms that are heavier than normal. These “heavy” isotopes allowed us to track the movement of nitrogen between the partners of the symbiosis by ultrasensitive detection methods.

With this method, we could unambiguously demonstrate that the nitrogen atoms that sustained the growth of the coral tissue were derived from the dissolved inorganic nutrients that were fed to their symbiont algae.

Our data suggest that most species of symbiotic corals can supplement their nutrition through such a vegetarian diet.

From The Laboratory To The Ocean

Together with our colleagues, we also analysed corals growing around remote islands in the Indian Ocean, some with seabirds on them and some without. Our results show that corals have the potential to farm and feed on their symbiont algae in the wild too.

The reefs around some of these islands are supplied with substantial amounts of nutrients that come from “guano” – the excrement of seabirds nesting on the islands. On some of the other islands, seabird colonies have been decimated by invasive rats. The reefs surrounding these islands receive fewer nutrients.

We measured the growth of staghorn coral colonies both around islands with and without dense seabird populations and found that growth was more than twice as fast on reefs that were supplied with seabird nutrients. About half of the nitrogen molecules in the tissue of the coral animals from islands with seabirds could be traced back to uptake by the symbiont algae.

A group of seabirds above a tropical beach.
Reefs around islands in the Indian Ocean receive additional nutrients if the islands are inhabited by seabirds. N. Graham/Lancaster UniversityCC BY-NC-ND

Global Warming Could Complicate Matters

In the future, some coral reefs could face a decrease in nutrient availability due to global warming. Research suggests that warming surface waters are less likely to receive nutrients from deeper water layers. The reduced water productivity could result in fewer nutrients for their symbionts and subsequently less food for the coral animals.

Our study indicates that some coral reefs might become vulnerable to starvation as ocean temperatures warm. When we moved corals from water with ample nutrients to water with fewer nutrients, they continued to eat their symbiont algae. This behaviour allowed them to sustain their growth for a few weeks, even in the absence of feeding.

But once they had exhausted their population of symbiotic algae, the coral underwent bleaching (referring to the white appearance of the corals with low symbiont numbers in their tissue), stopped growing – and in some cases eventually died.

Two photos comparing coral growth in different environments.
Corals grew fast in nutrient-rich water despite the absence of food (top). Corals in nutrient-depleted water stopped growing and showed a bleached appearance (bottom). L. Mardones-Velozo, C. D’Angelo & J. Wiedenmann, University of SouthamptonCC BY-NC-ND

Our findings reveal that corals can not only acquire nitrogen and phosphorus by feeding on prey as other animals do. But, by eating parts of their symbiont stock, they can also efficiently tap into the pool of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus that is otherwise only accessible to plants.

Through this process, symbiotic corals gain an advantage over other animals in environments that are low in nutrients, explaining their prominent role in the formation of reefs in nutrient-poor water.

However, increasingly severe nutrient depletion will add a further threat to some coral reefs already experiencing bleaching caused by heat stress.The Conversation

Jörg Wiedenmann, Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory, University of Southampton and Cecilia D'Angelo, Associate Professor, Coral Reef Laboratory, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Worthless’ forest carbon offsets risk exacerbating climate change

Julia P G JonesBangor University and Neal HockleyBangor University

In early 2023, the Guardian published an article suggesting that more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets are worthless. These credits are essentially a promise to protect forests and can be bought as a way to “offset” emissions elsewhere. Verra, the largest certifier of these offset credits, said the claims were “absolutely incorrect” but the story still shook confidence in the billion-dollar market. Soon after, Verra’s CEO stood down.

The claims in the Guardian article rested heavily on analysis which had been published as a preprint (before peer review). Now the research has been fully peer-reviewed and is published in the journal Science. It shows unequivocally that many projects which have sold what are known as REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) credits have failed to reduce deforestation.

REDD+ projects aim to slow deforestation (for example, by supporting farmers to change their practices). They quantify the carbon saved through reducing deforestation relative to what would have happened without the project, and sell these emission reductions as credits.

Such REDD+ credits are widely used to “offset” (that is, cancel out) emissions from companies (who may use them to make claims that their operations are carbon neutral) or by people concerned about their carbon footprint. For example, if you were planning to fly from London to New York you might consider buying REDD+ credits that promise to conserve rainforest in the Congo Basin (with added benefits for forest elephants and bonobos). Offsetting your return flight would appear to cost a very affordable £16.44.

Smiling bonobo eats plant
Benefits for bonobos? Wirestock Creators / shutterstock

However, while previous analysis showed that some REDD+ projects have contributed to slowing deforestation and forest degradation, the central finding from the new study is that many projects have slowed deforestation much less than they have claimed and, consequently, have promised greater carbon savings than they have delivered. So that guilt-free flight to New York probably isn’t carbon neutral after all.

The finding that many REDD+ carbon credits have not delivered forest conservation is extremely worrying to anyone who cares about the future of tropical forests. We spoke to Sven Wunder, a forest economist and a co-author of the new study. He told us that: “To tackle climate change, tropical deforestation must be stopped. Forests also matter for other reasons: losing forests will result in loss of species, and will affect regional rainfall patterns. Despite the evidence that REDD+ has not been delivering additional conservation, we cannot afford to give up.”

Deforestation Could Simply Move Elsewhere

Carbon credits also face other challenges, one of the biggest being “leakage” or displacement of deforestation. Leakage may occur because the people who were cutting down the forest simply relocate to a different area. Alternatively, demand for food or timber that was fuelling deforestation in one place may be met by deforestation elsewhere – perhaps on the other side of the world. Another problem is ensuring that the forests are protected in perpetuity so that reduced deforestation represents permanent removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

Tree stumps in deforested area
For credits to be worthwhile, forests must be protected forever. Eleanor Warren-Thomas

Addressing these challenges is vital because selling carbon credits is an important source of finance for forest conservation. It is not too dramatic to say that unreliable REDD+ credits directly threaten forests.

However, this is an active research area and new approaches are increasingly available. Andrew Balmford is a professor of conservation science at the University of Cambridge who is actively developing methods to improve the credibility of forest carbon markets. He says the new study raises some important concerns but that more robust and transparent methods have been developed. Deploying these new methods, he told us, is “an urgent priority”.

Change is also needed to how certification operates. At present, there are incentives for verifiers to inflate estimates of the amount of deforestation that would have happened without the project, and therefore the number of credits that can be issued. Sven Wunder explains: “We need to move beyond vested interest towards independent governance employing scientifically informed, cutting-edge methods.”

Reasons To Be Cautious

Even if these problems can be solved, there are still reasons to be cautious about the role of carbon offsets in combating climate change. First, there is the risk that offsetting actually increases emissions because people or companies might feel more comfortable emitting carbon if they believe they can undo any damage by simply buying carbon credits. For this reason, some argue that offsets must only ever be a last resort, after all non-essential emissions have been cut (the problem being of course: who decides which emissions are essential?).

Second, keeping warming within 2°C will require most deforestation to be stopped and major reductions in fossil fuel emissions. There is a limit to which one can be used to balance out the other.

Cows in pasture without forested mountain in background
Cows in DR Congo: REDD+ projects mustn’t harm local farmers. Kiki Dohmeier / shutterstock

Finally, there are serious equity concerns with some forest carbon offsets. If forest conservation is achieved by stopping farmers in low-income countries from clearing land for agriculture, REDD+ may exacerbate poverty: your long haul flight would come at the expense of others being able to feed their families.

We don’t know how much it would cost to achieve genuinely additional offsets which avoid leakage and ensure equity but it is likely to be considerably more expensive than forest carbon credits currently sell for. A higher price would reduce the perception that offsetting is an easy option and should encourage more focus on reducing emissions.

So, should you buy those cheap forest carbon offsets when taking a flight? Unfortunately, there’s currently little evidence that doing so will really make your journey carbon neutral. If you want to contribute to tackling climate change, perhaps the only real option is to not take the flight.The Conversation

Julia P G Jones, Professor of Conservation Science, Bangor University and Neal Hockley, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Economics & Policy, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trees discovered at record-breaking altitudes highlight why we should restore Scotland’s mountain woodland

Sarah WattsUniversity of Stirling

The Scottish Highlands are celebrated for wide-open views of spectacular glens (valleys) and rugged peaks. After centuries of landscape change, particularly deforestation caused by humans, it is easy to forget how well trees can thrive there. But new discoveries of small trees atop Scottish summits are surpassing the expectations of plant scientists, and demonstrating opportunities for mountain woodland to make a comeback for the benefit of people, wildlife and fighting the climate crisis.

Forest clearance in Britain originally coincided with the introduction of agriculture. Since at least 3,000 years ago, trees and shrubs have been harvested for building materials, firewood and charcoal. Wildfire and controlled burning have also reduced their extent. However, the continuing decline of mountain woodland is mainly linked to overgrazing by domestic hill sheep (introduced in the 18th century) and increased numbers of red deer for sport shooting.

Woody plants, especially willows, are particularly appetising for these animals in the uplands where nutritious food can be harder to find. Overgrazing has caused an almost complete loss of the natural altitudinal treeline – the transition zone from the timberline, where trees grow upright and tall, to the upper boundary where they can establish in the harsh mountain climate.

A Perilous Decline

Some fragments have managed to cling on to inaccessible cliff ledges. The iconic Scots pine is a feature of remnant treelines, particularly in the Cairngorms. These refuges also include birchrowan and juniper, as well as arctic-alpine willows which are rare and endangered or vulnerable to extinction. Their habitat, montane willow scrub, typically forms at 600-900m above sea level, but has been reduced to a total area of approximately 10 hectares (15 football pitches) across the entire country.

The Scottish situation can be contrasted to southwest Norway, which is now more wooded because there has been less grazing and burning since the 19th century.

Reaching New Heights

Nevertheless, citizen science has recently led us to 11 new altitudinal records for tree species in Britain, including a rowan at 1,150m in West Affric in Inverness-shire, and a birch at 1,026m on Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain – near Fort William. Some observations were at least 200m above previous known altitudes. Our discoveries are attributed primarily to increased biological recording, which is valuable for expanding knowledge of the environmental tolerances of plants.

These record-breakers are pioneers, stunted from growing at the extreme limits of their ability to cope with low temperatures and high wind speeds. The trees are outliers existing far beyond where the treeline is expected to develop. They may only be knee- or even ankle-high, but their survival on our highest ground indicates huge potential for woodland and scrub to return across the slopes below.

Benefits For A Whole Ecosystem

Groundbreaking action in Scotland shows this aspiration is possible through tree plantingpropagating rare species and protection from overgrazing. Once a large enough seed source exists, the trees will also emerge on their own via natural regeneration. Montane willow scrub now flourishes on the Ben Lawers range in the southern Highlands, while Caledonian pinewoods are reappearing on higher ground in the Cairngorms.

And it’s not just the trees that are to gain. Mountain woodland restoration supports vibrant flowers and a unique community of rare bumblebees, flies, butterflies and moths, as well as birds that are scarce or declining elsewhere in Britain, including ring ouzelredpoll and grouse. Mammals such as hares, voles, deer and livestock also take advantage of the enhanced shelter and foliage.

Besides offering shade and a haven for wildlife, woodland and scrub stabilise steep slopes and give protection from the natural hazards of avalanchesrockfalls and landslides. Trees and shrubs also slow the flow of water over and within upland soils, holding moisture and facilitating a decrease in flooding downstream.

These benefits are called “nature-based solutions” because they are considered vitally important for reducing threats from escalating climate change, including warming temperatures, extreme weather and soil erosion.

Nature Recovery At Scale

For the rewards to be delivered nationally, we now need to be bold and ambitious, like the trees that broke the altitudinal records. Land managers, policymakers and funding bodies must move forward from focusing on small areas of mountain woodland held behind fences. Through wider collaboration we can aim to reinstate a much more connected treeline throughout our uplands.

Landscape-scale deer management for lower density populations is required to remove the pressure of overgrazing and enable a balance between sustainable numbers of animals and tree growth. Enhancing rural employment and retaining invaluable skills in deer stalking will be essential for meeting this goal. Those estates already taking such an approach are showing significant capacity for regeneration and nature recovery.

And the panoramic views for which Scotland is renowned? They will not be obscured by the return of our trees. Mountain woodland usually creates a patchwork mosaic together with open areas of grassland and moorland. Some soils are too wet and instead support peatlands and blanket bog.

Improving the health of all these habitats will allow our environment to nurture a high diversity of life and many associated benefits to people amidst the nature and climate emergency.The Conversation

Sarah Watts, PhD Researcher in Plant Ecology and Conservation, University of Stirling

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pulverised fuel ash: how we can recycle the dirty by-product from coal-fired power stations

The pulverised fuel ash from coal-fired power stations is typically stored in landfill. Sponner/Shutterstock
John KinuthiaUniversity of South Wales and Jonathan OtiUniversity of South Wales

The ash from burning coal in coal-fired power stations lies in thousands of landfills around the world. This waste material, generally considered a hazard, is now being put to good use in the construction industry.

More than 6,000 coal-fired power stations produce this powdery byproduct, which is properly known as “pulverised fuel ash” (PFA) or “fly ash”. Traditionally, it was released into the atmosphere from the smoke stack after the coal was burned, but, because of its effect on air quality, it is now captured and stored in landfills.

Our research focuses on how we can recycle and make best use of these types of dirty byproducts for the sake of the environment.

A small heap of a brown/grey ash.
Pulverised fuel ash or fly ash is a byproduct from coal-fired power stations. alegga/Shutterstock

The current demand for concrete worldwide is around 14 billion cubic metres annually. This is projected to increase by 43% to 20 billion cubic metres by 2050. The impact of the carbon dioxide emissions (8% globally) that is associated with this increase, against the backdrop of the current environmental crisis, is immense.

There is a dire need for a change in lifestyle and for tighter environmental regulation of industrial operations and processes. This should include a serious mitigation of the worsening environmental landscape. Increasing the use of industrial waste and byproduct materials is one such strategy.

Some of the most abundant global waste streams result from the many years of coal mining, so the role that can be played by re-using coal waste, including PFA, is significant.

And this idea is based on old technology if you consider how the Romans used ash. The dome of the Pantheon in Rome, built in AD128, as well as the Colosseum, are examples of successful structures built with volcanic ash-based concrete.

Portland Cement

PFA can be blended with Portland cement to make concrete. That’s the most common type of cement in general use around the world and is a basic ingredient of concrete, but also mortar, stucco and some grout. Portland cement is a hydraulic cement, which means that it reacts with water to form a paste that binds sand and rock together, creating concrete. Around 3.5 billion tonnes of Portland cement are produced annually.

The problem, though, is that producing Portland cement uses a lot of energy and also precious natural resources. You must quarry the raw materials, which not only damages the landscape but also results in emissions of up to 622kg of carbon dioxide per tonne of cement.

Lessening the impact of Portland cement on the environment is therefore vital. PFA is the most attractive byproduct for this purpose, due to its abundance and low cost. Also, if it is properly used in combination with Portland cement, it can result in stronger and more durable concrete.

However, as more coal-fired power stations are decommissioned and fewer come into operation worldwide, stockpiles of PFA become depleted. This means we will need to use the material more efficiently in the future.

A large industrial site featuring several buildings and chimneys
The now decommissioned Aberthaw power station in south Wales. On the right of the picture is the grass-topped ash mound. Ben Salter/FlickrCC BY

Attention will have to shift to different types of fly ash or unburnt colliery waste. But coal mining waste, either from current or past mining activities, will continue to feature in the construction industry for a long time.

And besides concrete, there are also other ways in which we can recycle PFA. This includes using it to improve the properties of soils, making abrasives such as sandpaper and grinding wheels, and using it in the manufacturing of a variety of products, such as plastics, paints and rubber.The Conversation

John Kinuthia, Professor and Manager of the Advanced Materials Testing Centre (AMTeC), University of South Wales and Jonathan Oti, Associate Professor at the Advanced Materials Testing Centre (AMTeC), University of South Wales

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
A Stroll Through Warriewood Wetlands by Joe Mills February 2023
A Walk Around The Cromer Side Of Narrabeen Lake by Joe Mills
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy photos by Joe Mills 
Angophora Reserve  Angophora Reserve Flowers Grand Old Tree Of Angophora Reserve Falls Back To The Earth - History page
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Boathouse In Governor Phillip Park  Part Of Our Community For 75 Years: Photos From The Collection Of Russell Walton, Son Of Victor Walton
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers 
Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham Beach by Barbara Davies
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Duck Holes: McCarrs Creek by Joe Mills
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Iluka Park, Woorak Park, Pittwater Park, Sand Point Reserve, Snapperman Beach Reserve - Palm Beach: Some History
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
Lucinda Park, Palm Beach: Some History + 2022 Pictures
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mona Vale Woolworths Front Entrance Gets Garden Upgrade: A Few Notes On The Site's History 
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden 
Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern, Wilshire Parks, McKay Reserve: From Beach to Estuary 
Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Resolute Track at West Head by Kevin Murray
Resolute Track Stroll by Joe Mills
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Seagull Pair At Turimetta Beach: Spring Is In The Air!
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
Stony Range Regional Botanical Garden: Some History On How A Reserve Became An Australian Plant Park
The Chiltern Track
The Chiltern Trail On The Verge Of Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Topham Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP,  August 2022 by Joe Mills and Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands - Creeks Deteriorating: How To Report Construction Site Breaches, Weed Infestations + The Long Campaign To Save The Warriewood Wetlands & Ingleside Escarpment March 2023
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Write A Love Letter To The Land

Junior Landcare ambassador Costa Georgiadis is calling on kids to share what they love most about the environment – and the steps they’re taking to protect it.

To help celebrate Junior Landcare's 25 years of opening children’s hearts and hands to landcare, we are asking you to join in our letter writing campaign.

“The more you engage with nature, the more you appreciate it; and the more you appreciate it, the more likely you are to want to protect it,” shares Costa.

The campaign also features:

  • * A curriculum-linked learning activity to help get you started 
  • * Special letter-writing templates for children of all ages 
  • * The chance to have your letters published in The Land 
  • * The chance to win a visit from Junior Landcare ambassador Costa himself (T&C's apply)!

Whether you write your letters as a class, school or youth group; individual, early learning centre or family – we want to hear from YOU!

Entries close October 20, 2023.


Lily Poulett-Harris: The Tasmanian Who Started Australia's First Women's Cricket Team

Lily Poulett-Harris (2 September 1873 – 15 August 1897) was an Australian sportswoman and educationalist, notable for being the founder and captain of the first women's cricket team in Australia. Ms Poulett-Harris continued to play until forced to retire due to ill health from Tuberculosis that would eventually claim her life.

Born Harriet Lily Poulett-Harris (but referred to in all subsequent sources as Lily) on 2 September 1873 in Hobart Tasmania, she was the youngest daughter of Richard Deodatus Poulett-Harris and his second wife, Elizabeth Eleanor (née Milward). Her father was renowned for being the head of the Hobart Boys' High School and a founding father of the University of Tasmania, so it is no surprise that she and several of his other children followed him into careers in education.

Her mother was 31 and her father was 57 when Lily and her twin Violet were born. As a young child Lily grew up in Hobart, where her father taught. Lily's father was also a part-time rector at Holy Trinity Church of England, Hobart. Lily grew up in this devout, resolutely high church environment.

Lily Poulett-Harris (left) and her twin sister, Violet, as children.

A "a bright, inquisitive, adventurous and active child", Lily was schooled by her father and received a Level II mark prize in December 1882. Lily was allowed to sit the major exams as a "trial of strength" in 1884 even though she was not eligible for a scholarship. She came second.

Lily also played the violin at school. She would go on playing this instrument, and also the piano, all of her life, giving occasional public performances at Peppermint Bay and Hobart. For instance, she gave a recital at a church choir fundraising event at her home parish of All Saints in South Hobart less than a year before she died.

When her father retired in 1885, he purchased a hotel at Peppermint Bay (Woodbridge) and converted it into a house which he named "The Cliffs". Lily was to spend her adolescence and young adulthood here.

The house at Peppermint Bay where Lily Poulett-Harris grew up. It was formerly a hotel but was purchased by her father and converted into a homestead in 1885. Unknown - Photograph taken late 1880s - Tasmanian Archives

Lily's older brother, Henry Vere Poulett-Harris (1865–1933) was a gifted footballer, runner and cricketer, and represented both Tasmania and Western Australia in first-class cricket in a career spanning the 1883–84 to 1898–1899 seasons. (He later owned a Western Australian gold mine.) One early news report described him as a "sterling cricketer and footballer" whilst another described him as a "sterling batsman and good field."

His obituary states that he was "one of the outstanding athletes in the State, winning great success as a runner, cricketer and footballer. He played cricket for the Wellington Club and was regarded as one of the most graceful batsmen in the State. He was a member of the State team when a youth, and toured New Zealand with the Tasmanian team under the captaincy of the late Sir George Davies. Later he met with success as a batsman on the mainland. He was also a champion footballer and a member of the Cricketers' Football Club, some of his contemporaries being Messrs. W. H. Cundy, L. H. Macleod, K. E. Burn, A. Stuart and G. Watt. As a runner he defeated many of the recognised champions of his day." It was his interest in sport that appears to have spurred Lily on.

Another influence would have been her father who, in 1882, was elected a trustee of the Southern Tasmanian Cricket Association. Furthermore, he encouraged the boys at the high school to compete at sports.

As her own obituary notice states, Lily "was a great admirer of athletic exercises, firmly believing that it was very necessary to develop the physical as well as the mental part of our nature. Cricket had her warm sympathy and support... she was a good horsewoman and cyclist. Fear, it is said, was a thing unknown to her."

Lily's cricket aspirations led her to found a cricket team for local women, the Oyster Cove Ladies' Cricket Club, in 1894. This was, according to a contemporary news report, the first female cricket club in the Australian colonies. She was unanimously elected captain and "she was remarkably successful in piloting her team to many a victory." The other teams that were then established in the league included Atalanta (Hobart Quakers), Heather (Hobart) and North Bruny. The following year, Green Ponds, Ranelagh and Huonville would join the competition. As well as playing each other, the Ladies' team supported male cricketers by providing luncheons for them and playing music at concerts. These were most often held at Kettering's Selby Hall. By the December of the following year, the ladies' competition had become well-established, a Hobart sports journalist noting that "[interest in cricket] seems to be growing, and extending to the weaker sex, who often have a quiet match upon a romantic little plateau on the Domain immediately beyond the upper cricket ground."

Her sporting career is well-documented in the newspapers of the time. She was generally either the opening or third-order batswoman. The early sports journalism of the era consistently praised her performances, with such comments as a "prettily played innings" on one occasion and, on another, "The feature of the match was undoubtedly the fine not out innings of Miss L. Poulett-Harris, captain of the winning team, who, going in first, carried her bat right through the innings for 64 runs."

In May 1894, a Tasmanian correspondent for a Melbourne newspaper reported that "The ladies' cricketing season was concluded at Oyster Cove on 6 May, with a match between the Oyster Cove and North Bruni [sic] clubs, resulting in a win for the local team by an innings and 41 runs. The past season has been very successful, consequently, the outcome has been good cricket and high scoring. The captain of the Oyster Cove C. C., Miss L. Poulett-Harris, heads the batting list with the remarkably good average of 32.6; her batting throughout the season has been very good. She has also the honour of having put up the record for Tasmania, making 64 (not out) in an innings (which included five fours), and 78 in a match. Miss K. Denne, North Bruni C. C., comes next with an average of 18 runs."

In 1895, Lily was described in one match as having "batted in good style, her contribution being well earned for the winners."

She also bowled. On one occasion her bowling was described by the Hobart Mercury's sports journalist as "very good indeed" when she got two opponents out for a total of one run between them.

Lily's older sister, Eleanor (known as Nellie) had taught at the Hobart Ladies' College before teaching at her father's home and then founding the Ladies' Grammar School and Kindergarten at 26 Davey Street in 1894 (opposite Franklin Square). Lily and Violet were both to teach there.

Lily left Peppermint Bay to teach there in December 1894. At the time that she and her sister Nellie left, a newspaper correspondent reported they were presented with a dinner and tea service by local inhabitants, including members of the cricket club. The reporter went on to state "There is a general feeling of regret throughout the district at the Misses Poulett-Harris leaving, as they have always taken a deep interest in the Bay and its institutions and inhabitants, and they carry with them the sincerest wishes of all that they will prosper in the new school life on which they are entering in Hobart."

The teams did not adopt the "rational dress" that had become popular in some women's sports overseas by that time. Rather, "they all appear[ed] in prim summer dresses, and present[ed] a pretty picture."

A fire in October 1896 destroyed most of the Poulett-Harris homestead at Peppermint Bay, including the library. As a result, most of Richard Deodatus Poulett-Harris' papers were lost, including any references to his youngest daughter's life. However, from her obituary and a few other sources, some insights can be gained into her personality.

The obituary states that "Miss Lily was of a mirthful and happy disposition, ever endeavouring to make those with whom she came in contact – and those not a few – cheerful and happy also."

The obituary also contains the following anecdote: "One old man tells how she stopped and obliged by cutting up some tobacco for him, and by many of such little acts and kindnesses, Miss Lily endeared herself to the whole community."

It goes on to quote a member of her cricket team who said that "Fear... was a thing unknown to her."

A memorial plaque dedicated to Lily can be found on the rear wall of All Saints' Anglican Church in South Hobart. Donated by the teachers and students of the Ladies' Grammar School and Kindergarten, it describes Lily as "bright and lovable".

There is also a plaque dedicated to her memory at Saint Simon and Saint Jude Anglican Church in Woodbridge.

Lily Poulett-Harris died on the evening of 15 August 1897 at the school's 26 Davey Street address after what her obituary described as "a painful illness". Her death certificate indicates it was tubercular peritonitis. 

TB went on to claim lots of lives in Hobart during the following years and decades until a treatment was developed in 1937.

Lily was just 23 years and eleven months of age. She was buried at 3:00 pm on 17 August 1897 in an Anglican service at Plot J80, Cornelian Bay Cemetery, Hobart. (Her father and her sister Nellie were later buried in the same plot.)

Although the Oyster Cove Ladies' Cricket Club no longer exists, today Australia has a thriving women's cricket culture, including a national team. Inspired by the success of the Oyster Cove Ladies' Cricket Club and the southern Tasmanian competition, clubs were quickly formed in other parts of Tasmania, such as those at Swansea and Cranbrook on the east coast and Oatlands and York Plains in the midlands.

At the same time as these newer clubs were being created in Tasmania, a Rockhampton Ladies' Club was formed in Queensland. By the end of the 1890s, cricket and rowing two of the most popular competitive sports for women in Australia.

Visit: Rockley Was Cricket For Girls 130 Years Ago - They Visited Narrabeen Too!

Following this, the Victoria Women's Cricket Association was founded in 1905 and the Australian Women's Cricket Association in 1931. The current competition is run by the Women's National Cricket League.

The Ladies' Grammar School and Kindergarten moved to Albuera Street, Battery Point, in 1898 and was run by Nellie Poulett-Harris until her retirement in December 1919, whilst Lily's twin, Violet, went on to become a relatively well-known actress on the Australian theatre circuit, under the stage name 'Mary Milward'.

from TROVE and Wikipedia

Morning At Turimetta Beach

August 29, 2023 - photo by Joe Mills

Narrabeen Stillness

August 29, 2023 - photo by Joe Mills

History Of The Harbord Beach Tramline

Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Youth Team In Germany

August 31, 2023

They have arrived! Our Youth Development Team are in Kiel, Germany and ready to compete in the SAILING Champions League Youth Final from 1-3 September.

Best of luck to Daniel K (skipper), Isabella H, Lachlan W, Louis T and Hayley F. 

You can follow our RPAYC team and other competitors at the official event webpage:

Avalon Beach SLSC Boat Crew Looking For Members

Peter Carter and Nathan Wellings are Sweeps and Surf Boat Captains for the Avalon Beach SLSC Boat Crew, a division of the club which has members from U19’s through to Masters. Currently Pete and Nathan are seeking new members to join the team and crews for the upcoming Season- anyone from Avalon to Newport is welcome to come and have a try rowing and see if they like it. After all, Summer sports are a great way to keep fit and with rowing a surf boat, you will also keep cool.

We spoke to ABSLSC’s Sweeps this week about what’s involved.

So Pete you’re looking for new members for the Boat Crew?
Peter: Always, always looking for new members to come and join in in this great sport.

It sounds as though you’re looking for young innocents to induct this Season?
Peter: Not necessarily. If we can get older members involved as well then they can tell their kids how good it is, and that brings the kids in as well.

Doesn’t Avalon Beach SLSC already have one of the larger Boat Crews in our area?
Peter: yes and no, we go through periods when members have other commitments they need to meet and as we try to keep it local – we were always taught by Rick (Millar) to keep the local kids involved so they can help build great boat crews. 

The sport has been good to us so we’re trying to give that back to the community by offering new spots for new members. There’s some details in that poster and they can just contact us via the numbers listed there and come and have a go and have some fun.

What are you two looking forward to this Surf Boat Season and Patrol Season?
Nathan: We’re looking forward to getting some new members involved and setting up the Avalon Boat Crew for a great future. Most years all the kids coming in either lived in Avalon beach, Bilgola, Clareville or Newport. So we do try to take members from the local community and get the kids here involved, give them that opportunity to have a go and be a part of it. 

What’s the best part about being involved in a surf boat crew or division within a surf club?
Peter: It’s a variety of things;’ the camaraderie, the getting top meet and spend time with people from different interests and all ages. Within a crew itself you  have a tight knit team – you have 4 people in a boat and you can’t let each other down and this really promotes a mindset where you have 4 people committed to a cause, to each other and doing their best. Then you have the community side of that where you become a member of a Volunteer Patrol where you become an integral part of a bigger team, all working together to fulfil their Patrols. There again you meet great people who are doing something for the community and building a community, even by each person doing their bit. You get to learn how to save a life, you get to learn how the water works, you get to meet and work with the people you see on the street in the village and be a part of what this community does. Just through giving back to the community a little bit you learn some self discipline and how you can apply that in every other part of your life. It’s great stuff. Come and have a row!

Pete Carter(centre) at Bilgola Surf Boat Carnival

Nathan with one of his women's crews - winning at Aussies

8 Student-Backed Study Tips To Help You Tackle The HSC

By University of Sydney: Last updated 6 July 2023

Our students have been through their fair share of exams and learned a lot of great study tactics along the way. Here they share their top study tips to survive and thrive during exam time.

1. Start your day right

Take care of your wellbeing first thing in the morning so you can dive into your day with a clear mind. 

“If you win the morning, you can win the day,” says Juris Doctor student Vee Koloamatangi-Lamipeti.

An active start is a great way to set yourself up for a productive day. Begin your morning with exercise or a gentle walk, squeeze in 10 minutes of meditation and enjoy a healthy breakfast before you settle into study.

2. Schedule your study

“Setting up a schedule will help you organise your time so much better,” says Master of Teaching student Wesley Lai.

Setting a goal or a theme for each study block will help you to stay focused, while devoting time across a variety of subjects will ensure you've covered off as much as possible. Remember to keep your schedule realistic and avoid over-committing your time.

Adds Wesley, “Make sure to schedule in some free time for yourself as well!”

3. Keep it consistent

“Make studying a habit,” recommends Alvin Chung, who is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws.

With enough time and commitment, sitting down to study will start to feel like second nature rather than a chore.

“Do it every day and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate because it’s part of your life’s daily motions,” says Alvin.

4. Maintain motivation

Revising an entire year of learning can seem like an insurmountable task, which is why it’s so important to break down your priorities and set easy-to-achieve goals.

“I like to make a realistic to-do list where I break down big tasks into smaller chunks,” says Bachelor of Arts and Advanced Studies student Dannii Hudec.

“It’s also really important to reward yourself after you complete each task to keep yourself motivated.”

Treat yourself after each study block with something to look forward to, such as a cup of tea, a walk in the park with a friend or an episode of your latest Netflix obsession.

5. Minimise distractions

With so many distractions at our fingertips, it can be hard to focus on the task at hand. If you find yourself easily distracted, an “out of sight, out of mind” approach might do the trick.

“What helps me is to block social media on my laptop. I put my phone outside of my room when I study, or I give it to my sister or a friend to hide,” says Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws student Caitlin Douglas.

While parting ways with your phone for a few hours may seem horrifying, it can be an incredibly effective way to stay on task.

“It really helps me to smash out the work and get my tasks done,” affirms Caitlin.

6. Beware of burnout

Think of the HSC period as a marathon rather than a sprint. It might be tempting to cram every single day but pacing out your study time will help to preserve your endurance.

“Don’t do the work for tomorrow if you finish today’s work early,” suggests Daniel Kim, who is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Commerce and Advanced Studies.

 “Enjoy the rest of your day and save the energy for tomorrow,” he recommends.

Savouring your downtime will help you to avoid burning out before hitting the finish line.

7. Get a good night's sleep

Sleep is one of your greatest allies during exam season.

“I’ve found that a good night’s sleep always helps with concentration and memory consolidation,” says Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) student Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage.

We all know we need to be getting around 8 hours of sleep a night to perform at our best, but did you know the quality of sleep also matters? You can help improve the quality of your sleep with some simple tweaks to your bedtime routine.

“Avoid caffeine in the 6 hours leading up to sleep, turn off screens an hour before going to bed, and go to bed at the same time every night,” suggests Yasodara.

8. Be kind to yourself

With exam dates looming and stress levels rising, chances are high that you might have a bad day (or a few!) during the HSC period.

According to Bachelor of Arts and Advanced Studies student Amy Cooper, the best way to handle those bad days is to show yourself some kindness.

“I know that if I’m in a bad state of mind or having a bad day, I’m not going to be able to produce work that I’m proud of,” she says.

For Amy, the remedy for a bad day is to take some time to rest and reset.

“It’s much more productive in the long run for me to go away, do some things I love, and come back with a fresh mind.”

Immerse yourself in a mentally nourishing activity such as going for a bushwalk, cooking your favourite meal, or getting stuck into a craft activity.

If you feel completely overwhelmed, know you're not alone. Reach out to a friend, family member or teacher for a chat when you need support.

There are also HSC Help resources available at:

Wednesday 11 October, 2023:  HSC written exams start.

School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some uncertainty. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at:

Word Of The Week: Concert

Word of the Week returns in 2023 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. a musical performance given in public, typically by several performers or of several compositions. 2.FORMAL; agreement or harmony. 3. in concert — acting jointly; arrange (something) by mutual agreement or coordination.

Verb;  concert; 3rd person present: concerts; past tense: concerted; past participle: concerted; gerund or present participle: concerting

From: late 16th century (in the sense ‘unite’): from French concerter, from Italian concertare ‘harmonize’. The noun use, dating from the early 17th century (in the sense ‘a combination of voices or sounds’), is from French concert, from Italian concerto, from concertare; "to contend with zealously, contest, dispute, debate" from assimilated form of com "with" (see con-) + certare "to contend, strive," frequentative of certus, variant past participle of cernere "separate, distinguish, decide"

‘So many things to consider’: how to help school leavers decide what to do next

Lucas WalshMonash University and Joanne GleesonMonash University

As we pass the half way mark in term 3, many students in Year 12 will be thinking more and more about their future.

Universities and TAFEs are having open days and no doubt, teachers, friends and family will be asking, “what are you going to do next year?”

As educators, parents and carers, we know these are difficult questions. But if anything, they are becoming more difficult for young people in an unpredictable and competitive job market

Our research shows young people are uncertain and worried about next steps after school. So we have also developed a questionnaire to help parents and teachers talk to school leavers and understand their thoughts and feelings about careers and life after school.

Our Research

We recently analysed survey data collected in 2018 from nearly 2,800 Victorian school students in Years 10 to 12. This asked about their career aspirations, decision-making processes and intentions following school.

More than one third (33.8%) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they “did not know what careers best suited them”. Another 40.5% often felt they “had no career direction”.

Just under half (41.5%) worried their studies would not lead to a “real” career, with 34.3% worried they would not be employable when they had completed their studies. Meanwhile 29% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they often felt down or worried about selecting a career. This increased to 59.3% of respondents when “not sure” responses were included.


To further understand these findings, we asked four young people who had recently finished school to explain their decision making around this time.

Riana*, who studied at university before working with a non-government organisation, said thinking about the next step beyond Year 12 “felt overwhelming”. She spoke of indecision about her career choice.

Meanwhile, Candice said she was aware of needing to make a pragmatic decision but also stay true to her interests.

[…] there were so many things to consider. I would like to pick a major I like but at the same time I need to consider whether it is easy to find a job after I graduate or will it lead to a well-paid job.

Andrew said he made a clear goal of getting into two, specific different degrees (and a certain ATAR) to combat his feelings of overwhelm.

I knew I needed to have a goal before beginning Year 12. Otherwise it would be too difficult to maintain momentum and motivation.

Andrew also told us he sought advice from parents, teachers, university open days and student recruitment officers at universities. Riana also spoke of the importance of getting advice, of exploring options and being “curious different career pathways”.

Reaching For The Familiar

But even when goals are in place, students grapple with uncertainty. This leads many students to reach for what is familiar.

After completing Year 12, Yasmin, lacked “a clear vision for my future career” and chose teaching “simply because it was a familiar job to me”.

Yasmin’s experience is echoed in OECD research, which shows teenagers tend to confine their choices to ten occupational fields (law, engineering, psychology, medicine, teaching, veterinary science, physiotherapy, nursing, business management, architecture). This is despite the emergence of new fields in the digital economy, as well as growth in areas such as health services.

Yasmin now said she would have benefited from “having a deeper understanding of what choosing a major and a career path truly means to me”.

How To Have A Supportive Conversation

Having supportive, thorough career conversations is important for young people. This helps them express their true feelings and make sense of all the information and choices.

When young people have these conversations with parents, teachers and career advisers, they have lower levels of career uncertainty and anxiety.

So we have developed the short questionnaire below to stimulate careers conversations and help teenagers become more aware of their feelings around next steps.

Made with Flourish

This can be the starting point of a conversation covering young people’s awareness of their own interests and strengths, career goals and preferences, knowledge of the requirements of different pathways, as well as their ideas about transitioning from education to work.

These conversations can be challenging. They might exacerbate personal issues, such as existing mental health conditions, that need to be considered.

If you work together with your child or student to create goals and plans, this will allow them to feel as if the conversations are both purposeful and productive.

The aim is for conversations to be safe and positive for young people, where their responses are respected, and they feel heard in the discussions.

*Names have been changed.

If you are a child, teenager or young adult who needs help and support, you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.The Conversation

Lucas Walsh, Professor and Director of the Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice, Monash University and Joanne Gleeson, Research Fellow in Education, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How ‘dad jokes’ may prepare your kids for a lifetime of embarrassment, according to psychology

Shane RogersEdith Cowan University and Marc Hye-KnudsenAarhus University

This Father’s Day you may be rolling out your best “dad jokes” and watching your children laugh (or groan). Maybe you’ll hear your own father, partner or friend crack a dad joke or two. You know the ones:

What is the most condescending animal? A pan-DUH!

Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything!

Yes, dad jokes can be fun. They play an important role in how we interact with our kids. But dad jokes may also help prepare them to handle embarrassment later in life.

What Are Dad Jokes?

Dad jokes are a distinct style of humour consisting of puns that are simple, wholesome and often involve a cheesy delivery.

These jokes usually feature obvious wordplay and a straightforward punchline that leaves listeners either chuckling or emitting an exaggerated groan.

This corny brand of humour is popular. There are hundreds of websitesYouTube videos and TikToks dedicated to them. You can even play around with dad joke generators if you need some inspiration.

Why Are Dad Jokes So Popular?

People seem to love dad jokes, partly because of the puns.

study published earlier this year found people enjoy puns more than most other types of jokes. The authors also suggested that if you groan in response to a pun, this can be a sign you enjoy the joke, rather than find it displeasing.

Other research shows dad jokes work on at least three levels:

1. As tame puns

Humour typically violates a kind of boundary. At the most basic level, dad jokes only violate a language norm. They require specific knowledge of the language to “get” them, in a way a fart joke does not.

The fact that dad jokes are wholesome and inoffensive means dads can tell them around their children. But this also potentially makes them tame, which other people might call unfunny.

2. As anti-humour

Telling someone a pun that’s too tame to deserve being told out loud is itself a violation of the norms of joke-telling. That violation can in turn make a dad joke funny. In other words, a dad joke can be so unfunny this makes it funny – a type of anti-humour.

3. As weaponised anti-humour

Sometimes, the purpose of a dad joke is not to make people laugh but to make them groan and roll their eyes. When people tell dad jokes to teasingly annoy someone else for fun, dad jokes work as a kind of weaponised anti-humour.

The stereotypical scenario associated with dad jokes is exactly this: a dad telling a pun and then his kids rolling their eyes out of annoyance or cringing from embarrassment.

Dad Jokes Help Dads Be Dads

Dad jokes are part of a father’s toolkit for engaging with his loved ones, a way to connect through laughter. But as children grow older, the way they receive puns change.

Children at around six years old enjoy hearing and telling puns. These are generally innocent ones such as:

Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine!

As children age and their language and reasoning abilities develop, their understanding of humour becomes more complex.

In adolescence, they may start to view puns as unfunny. This, however, doesn’t stop their fathers from telling them.

Instead, fathers can revel in the embarrassment their dad jokes can produce around their image-conscious and sensitive adolescent children.

Young woman looking annoyed
Dad jokes, funny? As if. Shutterstock

In fact, in a study, one of us (Marc) suggests the playful teasing that comes with dad jokes may be partly why they are such a widespread cultural phenomenon.

This playful and safe teasing serves a dual role in father-child bonding in adolescence. Not only is it playful and fun, it can also be used to help educate the young person how to handle feeling embarrassed.

Helping children learn how to deal with embarrassment is no laughing matter. Getting better at this is a very important part of learning how to regulate emotions and develop resilience.

Modelling the use of humour also has benefits. Jokes can be a useful coping strategy during awkward situations – for instance, after someone says something awkward or to make someone laugh who has become upset.

Dad Jokes Are More Than Punchlines

So, the next time you hear your father unleash a cringe-worthy dad joke, remember it’s not just about the punchline. It’s about creating connections and lightening the mood.

So go ahead, let out that groan, and share a smile with the one who proudly delivers the dad jokes. It’s all part of the fun.The Conversation

Shane Rogers, Lecturer in Psychology, Edith Cowan University and Marc Hye-Knudsen, Cognition and Behavior Lab, Aarhus University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Emu Men’: a new way to recognise and celebrate Indigenous fathers

Bhiamie WilliamsonMonash University

Father’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate men who have shaped and inspired us.

For many Indigenous peoples, this includes our biological father, adopted fathers, as well as our grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, and more.

Yet Indigenous fatherhood is a contentious topic in white Australia. Even today, mainstream perceptions often frame Indigenous men as dangerous, vagrant and neglectful.

These false representations can be deeply damaging to the psyche of Indigenous men, and potentially erode the fabric of our communities.

Indigenous fathering has emerged as a key priority in my research examining Indigenous men and masculinity. It is a topic of immense personal importance to me as a Euahlayi (Yuwaalaraay) man, a son, brother, uncle, husband and father.

Indigenous Traditions Of Fathering

Stories of fathers are as old as Indigenous societies. Many First Nations in southeastern Australia continue to hold and transmit stories of the Creator, or All-Father, known in different places as Bhiamie, Bunjil or Dharamulan.

Fathering traditions are also evident in some Indigenous languages and kin structures. It is common for some Indigenous children to have not one father but many. This was particularly the case for a child’s patrilineal uncle, who is also known to the child as father.

In the late 1700s, some European explorers observed and recorded the centrality of fathering in Indigenous societies. For example, New South Wales Judge-Advocate David Collins observed Bennelong, a senior Eora man, returning from an outing with his sister’s child on his shoulders before cooking fish while his sisters and their children slept and ate oysters in the sun.

In 1793, Bruny D’Entrecasteaux “witnessed the tokens of tenderness that these simple and kind men displayed towards their children” in Port du Nord, Tasmania.

The evidence of Indigenous fathering in historical accounts can be hard to uncover because it appeared to be so everyday and unremarkable to Europeans and anthropologists. Yet casting an eye over these various recordings of history, from both Indigenous and European records, reveals the existence of strong, consistent and widespread traditions of care, nurture and love between Indigenous fathers and their children.

Breaking The Bonds Of Fatherhood

Colonisation significantly impacted all Indigenous societies. The introduction of foreign diseases, violent frontier conflict, removal of people from Country, and removal of children are well established historical truths.

There were also colonial impacts on Indigenous families. Colonisation caused disruptions to Indigenous fathering in many ways.

Economic conditions meant many Indigenous men were forced to be away from their children for extended periods, such as when working in pastoral or pearling industries.

Legally, Indigenous fathers were replaced as agents of care and responsibility through various protection acts in Australia’s colonies. Discourses of “protection” broke apart Indigenous families, which affected mothers, fathers and extended family and their roles caring for their children.

Introducing rations removed important roles as hunters and providers. Notwithstanding some men who did continue to hunt, these traditional sources of food were supplementary to the rations provided by colonial and religious authorities.

Social And Political Assaults On Indigenous Men As Fathers

Last week, references to Indigenous men as “violent black men” and ‘woman bashers" were heard at the CPAC conference.

The racist cartoon by the late Bill Leake showed that even as recently as 2016, a mainstream media outlet such as The Australian considered it acceptable to ridicule and denigrate Indigenous fathers.

The 2007 Northern Territory Intervention demonstrates how demonising Indigenous men can be used as a political weapon. This was done by portraying Indigenous men as neglectful, violent, unsafe, and in need of heavy-handed government responses. “You’ve got to instil responsiblity,” said the then prime minister John Howard.

Positive Representations Of Indigenous Dads Matter

In response to Leake’s cartoon, #IndigenousDads trended on social media platforms. These intensely personal homages of Indigenous fathers presented an antidote to the tsunami of negativity towards Indigenous fathers.

Other important representation of Indigenous men have been through the publication of the book Dear Son by Thomas Mayo, as well as a range of children’s books by men including Adam GoodesMeyne Wyatt and Briggs. Indigenous performers such as Luke Carroll and Hunter Page-Lochard now feature regularly on the ABC’s Play School.

It is clear Indigenous fathering carries its own meaning and interpretation. Features such as sharing of fathering roles, transmission of culture, the making of young boys into men, and the public affection and displays of love fathers share with children.

I draw from the gendered patterns of Emus to describe these deep constitutions of fathering. Emus are unique in their gendered patterns. During nesting season female emus lay the eggs, but it is the male emus that sit on the nests to warm the eggs and keep them safe. After the eggs hatch, the male emu rears the chicks, raising them into adulthood.

Emus are especially important to some Indigenous groups across Australia. For many, they are creation beings and an important totem. They offer food and resources such as feathers, eggs, and ointments made from fat.

I suggest a new term – “Emu Man” – as an apt description of these deeply embedded Indigenous male roles. This unique and deeply Indigenous masculinity is highly valued and integral to healthy communities.

This Father’s Day, let’s all acknowledge and honour the unique place of Indigenous fathers, and celebrate their place in our families, and contributions to healthy communities.

Let the land blossom with Emu Men once more.The Conversation

Bhiamie Williamson, Research Fellow, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The curious history of London’s public drinking water fountains

Stephen Denness/Shutterstock
Geoff GoodwinUniversity of Leeds and Jon WinderUniversity of Leeds

Drinking fountains are a common sight in London today, but they’re a relatively recent addition to the city. Until the mid-19th century, Londoners quenched their thirst by supping beer in pubs rather than guzzling water on the streets. As temperatures heat up, it’s a good time to review the history and politics that lie behind a cooling swig of drinking fountain water in the UK’s capital city.

Our ongoing archival research, part of a project on London’s water history and politics, explores the movement that inspired the construction of public drinking fountains at a remarkable rate in the late 19th century.

Some 40 years after the first fountain was opened in Holborn in 1859, over 500 had been installed across the city. They supplied free drinking water to the masses, and reinvigorated London’s public spaces.

The rapid expansion of water fountains was connected to the limits of London’s privatised water network. Echoing criticism of water companies today, the private firms that supplied London’s drinking water in the 19th century prioritised profits over investment in infrastructure. As a result, the quality and coverage of water services suffered.

From the 1850s, pioneering medical research linked cholera epidemics to polluted water and demonstrated the public health risks of London’s water network.

The expansion of drinking water fountains was one response to these mounting concerns about London’s unequal and, as the cholera research showed, sometimes dangerous water supply. The fountains made it easier to access clean drinking water in the city, especially for the working classes, who often lacked reliable and safe water at home.

The thousands of homeless men, women and children who lived in desperate conditions on London’s streets also benefited.

Quenching London’s Thirst

The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountains Association was established in 1859 to erect and manage London’s new fountains. Samuel Gurney, a banker and politician, was the driving force behind the association and channelled significant sums of his own money into it. He was joined by a motley crew of politicians, doctors, lawyers and engineers, who helped run and promote the association in the late 19th century.

Funding for individual fountains came from various sources, including wealthy benefactors, local governments and multiple contributions from local residents.

Designs varied but one common, if not universal, feature was the name of the person who provided the bulk of the funding and some form of Biblical messaging. Building fountains thus became a popular way for philanthropists to gain social prestige while also showing religious piety.

The inclusion of religious scriptures and symbols indicates the moralising and evangelising mission of many members of the drinking fountain movement. If pubs were a corrupting force, drinking fountains were a way of purifying the souls of the working class.

The association also catered for animals by including dog troughs in fountains and building standalone structures for horses and cattle. In 1867, the association changed its name to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to reflect its wider remit.

While drinking fountains expanded rapidly in the late 19th century, London was slow off the mark and lagged behind several other UK cities, including Aberdeen, Derby and Chester.

Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister and founding member of the association, singled out Liverpool for special attention. In his 1859 essay “A Plea for Free Drinking Fountains in the Metropolis”, he noted that on one “fine hot day” in June 1855, a single fountain was used more than 3,000 times in Liverpool.

Once installed, London’s fountains proved to be even more popular, especially on hot summer days. Take one example: on July 4 and 5 1865, the association recorded 5,603 drinkers using the Royal Exchange fountain. There were more than 500 per hour during the early afternoon, and a steady flow throughout the day and night.

Drinking fountains clearly provided ample opportunities for Londoners to engage in one of their favourite pastimes – queuing.

Nevertheless, drinking fountains were not universally welcomed, perhaps because of their moralising tendencies. The association noted in its 1874 annual report that the structures were “peculiarly exposed to thoughtless or malicious injury”, and security staff were at times employed to prevent theft and vandalism.

Photo of an ornate public drinking fountain in a public park in London.
A public drinking fountain still standing in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields reflects the moralist attitudes of the time it was built. The inscription reads: ‘The Fear of the Lord is a Fountain of Life’. Photo by Geoff GoodwinAuthor provided

Public Water, Private Interests

If the public drinking fountain movement shows what is possible when people mobilise around water, it also points to the limits of philanthropic organisations; limits that became more pronounced at end of the 19th century.

The association lost much of its radical zeal, became more conservative in orientation, and struggled financially as donations dried up. The construction of new fountains slowed and the maintenance of existing fountains deteriorated.

A photo of a bottle filling station on a London street.
If you want to drink from one of London’s modern fountains, you’d better bring your reusable bottle.

It was not until private water companies were brought under public control in the early 20th century that London’s water crisis began to ease, indicating the need for decisive public interventions alongside more piecemeal social initiatives.

Victorian drinking fountains continue to adorn London’s streets and several have been restored to their former glory. Alongside them, a new generation of drinking fountains have emerged, many of which have been designed to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Rather than including the names of wealthy benefactors and religious inscriptions, these fountains are often emblazoned with the name and logo of the private water company that helped fund them. Once again, we see how providing public water can also serve private interests.The Conversation

Geoff Goodwin, Lecturer in Global Political Economy, University of Leeds and Jon Winder, Researcher in History, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jewish creators are a fundamental part of comic book history, from Superman to Maus – expert explains

Erik Mclean/Unsplash
Alex FitchUniversity of Brighton

Jewish writers and artists have been a fundamental part of comic book creation since the early days of the industry.

Comic books used to be formatted like books or newspapers, but in 1934 Max Gaines, a Jewish New Yorker, and his colleague Harry Wildenberg, created the first half tabloid-sized comic book – the format that became the standard.

Their Famous Funnies comic book sold 90% of the 200,000 printed copies. This led to numerous imitators, including New Fun Comics from National Allied Publications (later renamed DC Comics), which published its first issue in 1935.

Gaines was a former schoolteacher and channelled this into his work. He named his company Educational Comics, with such titles as Picture Stories from the Bible. However, when his son William took over E.C. Comics in the 1940s it became notorious as a publisher of horror comics and these were banned in the following decade.

In the 1930s, comic books reprinted comic strips that had previously appeared in newspaper humour sections. Famous Funnies, for example, included the popular serial Mutt and Jeff. But by the end of the decade, they featured entirely new content in a variety of genres, including superheroes.

The first, and most famous, of these was Superman. The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933 in a self-published comic. They tried to find a professional publisher to take on their character and – after Gaines took too long to reply to them – found a home for Superman at National in 1938.

Siegel and Shuster were sons of Jewish European immigrants, leading some modern comic book writers to compare Superman’s alien immigrant identity to other émigrés in America. The International Rescue Committee noted the importance of the character for the antisemitic era of the 1930s: “Superman’s story is the ultimate example of an immigrant who makes his new home better.”

Some researchers believe that Siegel and Shuster were specifically inspired by a famous Polish bodybuilder called “the Jewish Superman”, who toured America in the 1920s. Writer Roy Schwartz also sees elements of Jewish mythology in the character, as noted in his 2021 book Is Superman Circumcised?.

A superman comic and badge.
Superman was created by Jewish comic book writers. Daniel Álvasd/Unsplash

A year later, another iconic DC character, Batman, was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. They were also children of immigrants and were half of a quartet of famous Jewish comic creators who went to the same school in the south Bronx, including Will Eisner and Marvel’s Stan Lee.

While Batman doesn’t have any obvious Jewish characteristics, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane (aka Batwoman) was later depicted as a Jewish woman.

Known for working with Stan Lee, another Jewish creator is considered the “greatest storyteller” of superhero comics. Artist Jack Kirby was responsible for co-creating not only some of the most memorable Marvel characters – including The Avengers and The X-Men – but also had an acclaimed run as a solo creator in the 1970s, first on Marvel’s Eternals and then on DC Comics’ Fourth World titles.

Other Genres

Alongside superheroes, Kirby was renowned for his work on comics written by Sandman’s Joe Simon. Together, they brought romance to the medium in 1947 and made memorable monster comics in the 1960s. Another popular genre was mystery comics. Will Eisner’s The Spirit (1940) included elements of superheroes and horror. The main character was an undead private detective who wore a mask.

Eisner was also the child of Jewish immigrants and towards the end of his career, turned his upbringing into semi-autobiographical comics that depicted the downtrodden existence of people in poor Hassidic communities in New York.

Eisner’s works, including A Contract with God (1978) and several follow-ups in the 1980s, not only popularised the term “graphic novel”, but also added to the increasing trend of turning Jewish lives in comics.

In the 1970s, a number of notable female Jewish creators first had their work published in Underground Comix, including Trina RobbinsDiane Noomin and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

The only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer prize – Maus – tells the story of author Art Spiegelman’s father’s experience in a concentration camp, and started to be serialised in 1980.

The cover of Maus
Maus is the only graphic novel to have won a Pulitzer Prize. marhus/Shutterstock

Modern Jewish Comics

Today, many Jewish creators are making graphic novels and cartoons. Comics editor Corinne Pearlman drew a popular strip Playing the Jewish Card in the 1990s and now edits graphic novels. She and other creators were featured in the 2011 exhibition and book Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, curated by graphic novelist Sarah Lightman.

Lightman is one of the editors of a new follow-up anthology, Jewish Women in Comics: Borders and Bodies. Other British female creators include Karrie Fransman, who makes comics about refugees and victims of gender-based violence, and musician and cartoonist Danny Noble who has illustrated children’s books by Adrian Edmondson.

Until September 3, The Jewish Community Centre London in Hampstead has a solo exhibition of caricatures of Jewish celebrities such as Nigella Lawson and Daniel Radcliffe by Zoom Rockman. Rockman started his career as one of the youngest published cartoonists in the UK, with his own self-published comic, before going on to draw strips for The Beano and Private Eye.

Other creators have had their autobiographical comics animated, such as cartoonist and musician Carol Isaacs’ The Wolf of Baghdad and the life of Charlotte Saloman, author of proto-graphic novel Life? or Theatre?.

With attention being brought to the work of numerous Jewish comic creators through film adaptations, books and exhibitions like these, it seems that their contribution to the medium is finally being recognised.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Alex Fitch, Lecturer and PhD Candidate in Comics and Architecture, University of Brighton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What would an ancient Egyptian corpse have smelled like? Pine, balsam and bitumen – if you were nobility

Museum August Kestner, Hannover. Photo: Christian Tepper.
Nicole BoivinMax Planck Institute of Geoanthropology and Barbara HuberMax Planck Institute of Geoanthropology

In 1900 – some 22 years before he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen – British archaeologist Howard Carter opened another tomb in the Valley of the Kings. In tomb KV42, Carter found the remains of a noblewoman called Senetnay, who died around 1450 BCE.

More than a century later, a French perfumer has recreated one of the scents used in Senetnay’s mummification. And the link between these two events is our research, published today in Scientific Reports, which delves into the ingredients of this ancient Egyptian balm recipe.

Recreating The Smells Of A Disappeared World

Our team drew upon cutting-edge technologies in chemistry to reconstruct ancient scents from jars of Senetnay found in the tomb.

We used three variations of chromatographic and mass spectrometric techniques, which work by breaking samples down into individual molecules. Specific substances have different assemblages of molecules. Based on these characteristic compounds and through comparison to known reference materials, we identified the different ingredients.

After the excavation by Carter, two of Senetnay’s jars recovered from the tomb made their way to Germany. So, in 2020, we approached the Museum August Kestner in Hannover about the possibility of analysing the jars with these new methods.

These jars are known as canopic jars. They are made of limestone and were used to store the mummified organs of the ancient Egyptian elite. Somewhere along the way, however, Senetnay’s jars lost their contents. All that remained of the mummified organs were faint residues on the bottom of the jars.

Remarkably, chemical analyses allow scientists to take such trace remains and reconstruct the original contents.

An Ancient Ingredients List

Our analysis revealed the balms used to coat and preserve Senetnay’s organs contained a blend of beeswax, plant oil, fats, bitumen, an unidentified balsamic substance, and resins from trees of the pine family (most likely larch).

One other substance was narrowed down to either a resin called dammar – found in coniferous and hardwood trees in South-East and East Asia – or Pistacia tree resin.

The results were exciting; these were the richest and most complex balms ever identified for this early time period. It was clear a lot of effort had gone into making the balms. This suggests Senetnay, who was the wet nurse of the future Pharaoh Amenhotep II, had been an important figure in her day.

The findings also contribute to growing chemical evidence that the ancient Egyptians went far and wide to source ingredients for mummification balms, drawing on extensive trade networks that stretched into areas beyond their realm.

Since trees of the pine family are not endemic to Egypt, the possible larch resin must have come from somewhere further afield, most likely Central Europe.

This map shows the distribution of potential conifer resin sources in relation to the Valley of the Kings. You can see larches (which belong to the genus Larix, of the family Pinaceae) aren’t found anywhere near Egypt. B. Huber et al., 2023CC BY-SA

The most puzzling ingredient was the one identified as either Pistacia or dammar resin. If the ingredient was Pistacia – which is derived from the resin of pistachio trees – it likely came from some coastal region of the Mediterranean. But if it was dammar, it would have derived from much farther away in South-East Asia.

Recent analysis of balms from the site of Saqqara identified dammar in a later balm dating to the first millennium BCE. If the presence of dammar resin is confirmed in Senetnay’s case, this would suggest ancient Egyptians had access to this South-East Asian resin via long-distance trade, almost a millennium earlier than previously thought.

A Perfume For The Ages

Senetnay’s balm would not only have scented her remains, but also the workshop in which it was made and the proceedings of her burial rites – perfuming the air with pine, balsam, vanilla and other exotic notes. The vanilla scent comes from a compound called coumarin, and from vanillic acid, and in this case likely reflects the degradation of woody tissue.

Due to the volatile nature of scents, however, Senetnay’s unique scents gradually vanished once her remains were deposited in the Valley of the Kings.

Earlier this year, we began a collaboration with perfumer Carole Calvez and sensory museologist Sofia Collette Ehrich to bring Senetnay’s lost scent back to life.

The results of this effort will go on display at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark in October, as part of its new exhibition: Egypt – Obsessed with Life.

The new olfactory display will be like a time machine for the nose. It will provide a unique and unparalleled window into the smells of ancient Egypt and the scents used to perfume and preserve elite individuals such as Senetnay.

Such immersive experiences provide new ways of engaging with the past and help broaden participation, particularly for visually impaired people.The Conversation

Nicole Boivin, Professor, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology and Barbara Huber, Doctoral Researcher, Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Friday essay: traps, rites and kurrajong twine – the incredible ingenuity of Indigenous fishing knowledge

Anna ClarkUniversity of Technology Sydney

Standing on a ferry chugging across Sydney Harbour, it’s still possible to imagine the city as it was in 1788 – before the span of the bridge, before the marinas and yachts, before buildings were planted onto that sloping, rocky landscape. Pockets of bush still reach down towards the water, where gums and angophoras curl around sandstone coves carved out by the sea water.

Ferries stop at Mosman, Manly and Milsons Point, where fishers share the wharf with boats and commuters. They perch on folding chairs next to white buckets of bait, or they plonk down on the wooden beams, rod in hand, their legs dangling over the edge as they sit.

Yet these places were also occupied, named and fished, long before “Sydney” appeared on any charts. And it’s at one of these harbour places, at Kay-ye-my, or perhaps Goram Bullagong (present-day Manly Cove and Mosman Bay), that our first story of Indigenous fishing is set. (After all, Kiarabilli or Kiarabily – the site of present-day Milsons Point and Kirribilli – is believed to translate into English as “good fishing spot”.)

Malgun – the amputation of the joint of a young girl’s left little finger – is one of many Aboriginal fishing rites that took place and was practised along much of the east coast of what’s now known as Australia. Across the continent, diverse and adaptable fishing practices, recipes and rituals were a cornerstone of Indigenous life at the time of first contact – and many remain so to this day.

Like keeparra (the knocking out of teeth) and scarification, malgun is a custom rich with significance, an offering to the spirits. In this case, the little girl would be forever linked with the fish she had literally fed. And as these girls grew into women, that connection to the underwater world was thought to offer good fortune and prowess with a fishing line.

It’s thought that malgun was also about the practicalities of fishing, since a shorter left pinky could apparently wind a hand line in more nimbly. The practice was observed among Aboriginal communities along the eastern seaboard of Australia (and featured around the country in various forms). But its meaning was frequently misunderstood in early colonial encounters and is still open for speculation.

To make the line, or currejun/garradjun, Gadigal fisherwomen used the bark or the tender fibres of young kurrajong trees, which they soaked and pounded or sometimes chewed, scraping off the outer layers with a shell. The pliable strands were then worked into fine strong thread. The women cast out their handlines and quickly drew them back in on the strike, hand over hand, before the fish could shake off the hook.

I like to picture the women sitting on a beach or around a fire as they made their string, humming, singing and chatting. They rolled the fibres along their thighs methodically, slowly turning them into lengths of delicate but durable fishing twine. Even the name of this beautiful and distinctive tree provides a valuable historical link to a time when fishing dominated the physical, social and cultural life of coastal Aboriginal peoples. What they sang and nattered about, while swatting mosquitoes and shooing away curious children, we can only guess.

At the end of these lines, elegant fishhooks, or burra, made from carved abalone or turban shells were dropped over the side of their canoes, or nowies. In other parts of Australia, hooks made from a piece of tapered hardwood, bird talon or bone have also been found. These “nowies were nothing more than a large piece of bark tied up at both ends with vines”, described the British officer Watkin Tench in his account of early Sydney.

Despite the nowies’ apparent flimsiness, the fisherwomen were master skippers. They paddled across the bays and out through the Heads, waves slapping at the sides of their precarious little vessels. That mobility was essential for Aboriginal communities around the harbour – such as the Gadigal, Gayamaygal, Wangal, and Darramurragal – who needed to chase shoals and find new grounds if the fishing was quiet at particular times of the year. Small fires were lit in the nowie on a platform of clay and weed before the craft was launched into the water from a snug harbour cove.

Then the fisherwoman perched inside and paddled to a favourite spot or two, often with a baby cradled in her lap and an infant on her shoulders or crouched beside her. Out on the water, she chewed crustaceans and shellfish, spitting some out into the water before jigging her pearlescent hook up and down like a lure.

This sort of berleying was practised all around Australia in the hope of generating a bit more action – thousands of years before punctured tins of cheap cat food dropped off the back of a tinnie to attract fish became the norm. When the fisherwoman threw the line overboard, she waited for that strike and tug from a whiting, dory or snapper, which would be quickly hauled aboard and charred on the waiting fire. And she sang as she fished, as Grace Karskens describes in her wonderful book on colonial Sydney, her voice carrying across the bays and inlets and down through the water to the fish below.

Those fishing songs also captured the attention of colonists, such as the colonial judge advocate David Collins, who described seeing Carangarang and Kurúbarabúla (the sister and wife of Bennelong, respectively) return from a canoe trip “to procure fish” and they “were keeping time with their paddles, responsive to the words of a song, in which they joined with much good humour and harmony”.

Some, like the French explorer Louis de Freycinet, were so transfixed by the songs they overheard bouncing over the water they attempted to write them down in musical notation.

Fishing Archives

While women were the anointed shellfish gatherers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as line fishers in the areas where that was practised, spearfishing was largely the preserve of men – and this continues to be the case today. Hunters stalked the water’s edge or stood in a canoe, looking for the telltale shadow of a dusky flathead or the flash of silver from a darting bream.

When the water was calm and clear enough, Aboriginal men around Warrane-Sydney Harbour and Kamay-Botany Bay were frequently seen lying across their nowies, faces fully submerged, peering through the cool blue with a spear at the ready. “This they do with such certainty, as rarely to miss their aim,” wrote the painter and engraver John Heaviside Clark in 1813.

At night, Aboriginal fishermen took the canoes out onto the water with their flaming hand torches held aloft. The light lured the fish to the boat’s side, where they were speared by a barbed prong whittled out of bone, shell or hardwood. In the muddy mangroves of northern Australia, fires were sometimes lit on creek banks to attract barramundi, which swam towards the light and suffered the same fate.

Beautiful images from the early days of the colony demonstrate the country we can still see traces of today: folds in the landscape as it stretches out across the horizon, the bush reaching right down to the water’s edge, protected sandy coves perfect for camping and fishing. They also show us the centrality of fishing to First Nations communities. These sources depict how Aboriginal people fished and what they caught, like a juicy snapper flailing on the end of a spear, or a fisherwoman managing both an infant and a fishing line in her nowie. The skill of these fishers and the abundance of fish are lasting impressions from these visual records.

While early colonial sketches and paintings give wonderful snapshots of Aboriginal fishers, they do so from a European perspective. Written accounts are similarly revealing, and we can be grateful for the faithful record of fishing practices and winning catches they’ve produced. But we can’t forget that these people viewed First Nations societies through a distinctly colonial lens.

The early colonial view of Australia was mostly curious and enlightened, and colonists were often captivated by the extraordinary skills of Aboriginal fishers, as well as their depth of knowledge about their Country. Yet they were also people of their time, who saw the British expansion in Australia as inevitable, and viewed Country as a resource awaiting exploitation.

Sometimes, vital Indigenous perspectives creep in. Scars on the mighty trunks of river red gums, or canoe trees, along the banks and flood plains of the Murray River reveal an Aboriginal presence long before any European record. Enormous engravings of whales, fish and sharks etched into sandstone platforms around Sydney and into the rugged iron ore of Murujuga-Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia have a provenance thousands of years older than any colonial etching or journal entry. Elaborate fish traps across the continent and the Torres Strait demonstrate intricate knowledge of seasonal and tidal fish aggregations.

Paintings in smoke-stained caves across northern Australia show equally distinctive Aboriginal readings of fishy feats and feasts. And the remnants of literally millions of seafood meals can be seen in middens around the continent that cascade through dirt, sand and mud at the water’s edge.

These Indigenous archives give us a glimpse into fishing before European colonisation. They also reveal the ingenuity of pre-industrial First Nations communities, long before fish finders, weather apps and soft plastics.

Remnants of vast, curving fish traps, or Ngunnhu, made from river stones still lie near Brewarrina in central New South Wales. (There were even more Ngunnhu once, until they were pushed aside to make way for paddle-steamers taking the wool clip down to Adelaide in the late 19th century.)

In the early spring or during a large flow of fresh water after heavy rains, enormous numbers of fish would travel upriver, swelling the eddies and currents with a mass of writhing tails and fins. Aboriginal fishers – men and women from the Ngemba, Wonkamurra, Wailwan and Gomeroi nations – kept watch from grassy embankments above the river and, as soon as enough fish had entered the labyrinth of traps, they rolled large rocks across the openings, ensnaring them for a seasonal fish feast.

These traps and weirs were also an early form of fisheries management – well before government regulations and research organisations – and remnants can be seen right across central and western New South Wales. Juvenile fish were carried in curved wooden coolamons and released behind the barriers on the smaller tributaries as a way of boosting stocks and ensuring fish for seasons to come.

The Budj Bim eel traps at Lake Condah in southwest Victoria were designed, built and maintained by the Gunditjmara people, who operated the series of channels, locks and weirs. Built at least 6,600 years ago, the traps have been redeveloped several times over several centuries, and they demonstrate an ecologically sustainable management of this freshwater eel fishery that was adapted and lasted for thousands of years. What’s more, they can still be seen today.

Other traps were less permanent, but just as effective. When particular waterholes were low in the Baaka-Barwon–Darling river system in New South Wales, Barkindji people living along the river used wooden stakes, logs and sometimes stones to build shallow pens that trapped fish, yabbies and eels for easy pickings.

The ill-fated explorer William John Wills described a similar “arrangement for catching fish” somewhere north of Birdsville around the Georgina River, where he camped with Robert O’Hara Burke and the rest of their party in January 1861. The trap consisted of “a small oval mud paddock about 12 feet by 8 feet, the sides of which were about nine inches above the bottom of the hole,” he wrote. The “top of the fence” was “covered with long grass, so arranged that the ends of the blades overhung scantily by several inches the sides of the hole.”

Periods of drought and seasonal dry weather could change rivers from torrential, turgid flows to the most meagre trickle – a chain of muddy holes through the landscape. Across northern Australia, seasons of wet and dry charged the landscape with weather cycles that pushed water across the floodplains of the northern savanna in great sheets, and then inevitably dried them out again.

But even low water could mean good fishing, since the fish would be forced to aggregate in particular waterholes, where they could be readily trapped and caught. While the grass might be parched and brittle up on the banks, the water below was teeming with life; that was the time when Aboriginal people walked along the creek bottom, muddying the water and forcing the fish to rise and take in air where they were easily speared, clubbed or netted.

In the Kimberley, when the dry season came and the floodwaters finally receded, rolls of spinifex were used to entangle fish that had been trapped in the remaining waterholes.

Fishing Objects And Artefacts

Artefacts such as spears, hooks and nets also help reconstruct some of the changing ways and means of Indigenous fishing that predate European colonisation and continue to be used and modified long after it. These relics are as beautiful as they were effective.

Kangaroo tail tendon was used to bind fishhooks in northern Australia. The prongs of spears (fish gigs or fizgigs) were hardened and polished and then attached to the long shaft using pieces of thread daubed with resin.

Meanwhile, nets made from lengths of finely twisted twine were so carefully knotted together that when Governor Phillip showed them to the white women in the colony, the elegant loops reminded them of English lace. Those nets came in all shapes and sizes and were highly prized possessions. To strengthen the nets’ fishing powers, Aboriginal people sang to them: their music and words, literally singing in the fish, were like charms for the Dreaming that cascaded through the weave.

In the area of what’s now known as Sydney, coastal tribes used small hoop nets to pick up lobsters, which hid in underwater crevasses on the edge of the harbour and along the beachside cliffs. Catch-and-cast nets trapped small numbers of fish in creeks and waterholes near the coast and could also be used to carry a feed of fish as families walked back to their camps along the well-worn walking tracks.

Further inland, Aboriginal people made large woven river nets, which could be held by hand or propped up along the bank. Once fixed in place, groups of people waded through the murky water, loudly beating the surface and driving the startled fish into the mesh.

The nets were usually about four metres long and one metre deep – sizeable enough, considering every strand was gathered, spun and woven by hand. But one extraordinary account from the explorer Charles Sturt described how his exploration party on the Wambuul-Macquarie River in western New South Wales discovered a fishing net some 90 metres long in a Wiradjuri village they came across.

Other fishing methods have been recorded and described in oral histories, or they’ve been passed down and are practised still. These practices are a form of embodied or “living archives”, which is how we know about them today. Stories of women diving deep underwater for shellfish, walking out across the rocks at low tide pulling off abalone, or wading through billabongs to pick up turtles, are common in accounts from the time and these practices are still maintained by many Indigenous communities around Australia and the Torres Strait Islands.

Given such longstanding fishing connections, “sea rights” have been increasingly recognised by governments in legislating fisheries management. Back on the beach or riverbank, a fire is inevitably on the go in anticipation of a fresh catch. The fish is usually chucked on whole and eaten.

Some of the environmental knowledge used by Traditional Owners seems astonishing in today’s context of mass-produced fishing lures and frozen bait from the local servo. One account from northern Australia described a particularly large Golden Orb spider carefully killed to preserve its abdomen, which was then gently squeezed to milk its adhesive goo. Small fish, attracted to the carcass, would then get stuck to the dead spider before being delicately lifted ashore by nimble hands.

Fish poisoning, using various berries, roots, leaves and stems, was also common throughout Australia. In the Kimberley around the Goonoonoorrang-Ord River in Western Australia, Traditional Owners such as the Miriuwung, Kuluwaring, Gajerrabeng used crushed leaves from the freshwater mangrove (malawarn) to poison their prey, sweeping branches through the water until stunned fish started floating belly up.

Along the east coast it was wattle leaves that did the damage. The sunny, fragrant puffballs of two common acacias (Acacia implexa and Acacia longifolia) belie their potency as a fish poison. Once absorbed through the gills, antigens from the bruised leaves were quickly catastrophic for fish in little waterholes and billabongs. There are even accounts of eels gliding out of the water and into the bush along the Clarence River in northern New South Wales (known as Boorimbah to the Bundjalung and Ngunitiji to the Yaygir) in an attempt to escape poisoning from Aboriginal fishers.

Although these poisoning methods apparently had no effect on the edibility of the fish, the trick was to carefully manage the immersion of these toxic branches in the water – giving just enough poison to stun the fish , but not enough to knock out the whole waterhole.

That intimate knowledge and understanding of Country and its seasons wasn’t readily apparent to the early colonists. Watkin Tench was so perplexed by the unpredictability of fishing in Australia that he complained about spending all night out on Sydney Harbour for little result. The “universal voice of all professed fishermen”, he lamented in the 1790s in A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, was that they had “never fished in a country where success was so precarious and uncertain”.

It was knowledge that came slowly to the colonists, over several generations. William Scott, the New South Wales colonial astronomer from 1856 to 1862, observed how the Worimi people were able to anticipate fishing seasons around Port Stephens on the New South Wales Mid North Coast. “By some unerring instinct the blacks knew within a day when the first of the great shoals [of sea mullet] would appear through the heads,” he explained.

For the Yolŋu in Arnhem Land, flowering of stringybark trees coincides with the shrinking of waterholes, where fish can be more readily netted and speared, or poisoned. And when the Dharawal people of the Kamay and Shoalhaven region in New South Wales see the golden wattle flowers of the Kai’arrewan (Acacia binervia), they know that the fish will be running in the rivers and prawns will be schooling in estuarine shallows.

In Queensland the movement and population of particular fish species have their own corresponding sign on land. The extent of the annual sea-mullet run in the cool winter months can be predicted by the numbers of rainbow lorikeets in late autumn; if magpies are scarce in winter, numbers of luderick will also be low; and when the bush is ablaze with the fragrant sunny blooms of coastal wattle in early spring, surging schools of tailor can be expected just offshore. Although climate change may shift these fishing markers in the natural world.

This knowledge was acquired by Australia’s Indigenous peoples through generations of observation and practice. What’s more, that deep understanding was as much about the spirit world as the natural. Neither can be properly comprehended without reference to the other – although our own contemporary insights are often sketchy, since the sporadic observations of colonists are frequently the only available historical sources we have of Indigenous fishing practices, which had been developed over millennia.

Practical understanding was intimately entwined with spiritual readings of the land. First Nations Dreamings are systems of cultural values and observations: they created the world and are reflected in day-to-day observations of that life. These “spiritscapes”, as the archaeologist Ian McNiven has called them, infused Country with cosmology. The natural and spirit worlds were one and the same. Country wasn’t inanimate – it could feel and do. And for many Aboriginal people to this day, that knowledge remains a shaping, dynamic belief system.

There are accounts on the South Australian coastline of Aboriginal people ritually singing in dolphins or sharks to herd fish into man-made or natural enclosures on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas. In Twofold Bay, on Yuin Country in southern New South Wales, dolphins were similarly used to herd fish, and a totemic bond between killer whales and Aboriginal people was also observed and documented.

Why did Aboriginal communities around Sydney avoid eating sharks and stingrays? The water was full of them, but they were only ever eaten during times of food scarcity. William Bradley, a first lieutenant on the First Fleet, observed Aboriginal people catching “jew fish, snapper, mullet, mackerel, whiting, dory, rock cod and leatherjacket” throughout the summer, but they didn’t keep the sharks or rays. “There are great numbers of the sting ray and shark, both of which I have seen the natives throw away when given to them and often refuse them when offered”, he noted.

In Lutruwita-Tasmania, archaeological excavations of middens suggest Palawa people mysteriously avoided eating finfish altogether for the 3000 years prior to colonisation, hunting mammals and scavenging shellfish instead. Was it spiritual? A response to some sort of poisoning event? Or an economic decision to harvest easier resources (such as seals and abalone)? Did the community lose their knowledge of fishing, as some have argued? Or did they perhaps dispose of the bones somewhere else? No one really knows.

Some forms of Indigenous fishing inevitably became lost as Traditional Owners were dispossessed and disenfranchised of their lands and fisheries following the expansion of the colonial frontier post-1788. Many Indigenous practices were eventually superseded by new technologies. Other Indigenous fishers became active in the establishment of the commercial fishing industry in Australia, maintaining strong links to traditional knowledges, as well as adapting to modern fishing approaches and technologies.

Indigenous peoples have played and continue to play a prominent role in the history of Australian fishing.

Despite the ruptures of colonisation, the cultural and social cleavages wrought by disease, as well as frontier violence and dispossession, they remain a visible and vital part of Australian fishing culture as commercial and recreational fishers, industry partners and Traditional Owners of the vast natural resource that is Australia’s fisheries.

This is an edited extract from The Catch: Australia’s Love Affair with Fishing by Anna Clark (Penguin).The Conversation

Anna Clark, Professor in Public History, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Book Of The Month September 2023: Australia Circumnavigated : The Voyage Of Matthew Flinders In HMS Investigator, 1801-1803

by Flinders, Matthew, 1774-1814, author of Volumes I and II

As this is actually two books it will stay up for the first month of Spring 2023 too - enjoy!

This two-volume work provides the first edited publication of Matthew Flinders' journals from the circumnavigation of Australia in 1801-1803 in HMS Investigator, and of the ’Memoir’ he wrote to accompany his journals and charts. These are among the most important primary texts in Australian maritime history and European voyaging in the Pacific. Flinders was the first explorer to circumnavigate Australia. He was also largely responsible for giving Australia its name. 

His voyage was supported by the Admiralty, the Navy Board, the East India Company and the patronage of Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. Banks ensured that the Investigator expedition included scientific gentlemen to document Australia’s flora, fauna, geology and landscape features. The botanist Robert Brown, botanical painter Ferdinand Bauer, landscape artist William Westall, Pittwater and Broken Bay indigenous man Bungaree and the gardener Peter Good were all members of the voyage. 

On this long voyage Bungaree used his knowledge of Aboriginal protocol to negotiate peaceful meetings with local Indigenous people.

Years later, in A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), Flinders wrote that Bungaree's "good disposition and open and manly conduct had attracted my esteem". Flinders described the affectionate relationship between Bungaree and the cat Trim who sailed on Flinder’s ships: ‘If he [Trim] had occasion to drink, he mewed to Bongaree and leapt up onto the water cask; if to eat he called him down below and went straight to his kid, where there was generally a remnant of a black swan. In short, Bongaree was his great resource, and his kindness was repaid with caresses.

After landfall at Cape Leeuwin, Flinders sailed anti-clockwise round the whole continent, returning to Port Jackson when the ship became unseaworthy. 

After a series of misfortunes, including a shipwreck and a long detention at the Ile de France (now Mauritius), Flinders returned to England in 1810. He devoted the last four years of his life to preparing A Voyage to Terra Australis, published in two volumes, and an atlas. Flinders died on 19 July 1814 at the age of forty. The journals, edited, comprise a daily log with full nautical information and ’remarks’ on the coastal landscape, the achievements of previous navigators in Australian waters, encounters with Aborigines and Macassan trepangers, naval routines, scientific findings, and Flinders' surveying and charting. The journals also include instructions for the voyage and some additional correspondence. The ’Memoir’ explains Flinders’ methodology in compiling his journals and charts and the purpose and content of his surveys.

A Few Extras From The Pages Of The Past


On Thursday arrived His Majesty's Ship INVESTIGATOR, Captain MATTHEW FLINDERSshe sailed from hence in July last, to continue the survey of the coasts of New Holland. After being entangled among the reefs, and having grounded, owing to Capt. Flinders's anxiety not to leave any material part unexamined: He surveyed the East coast, as far as Cape Palmerston, and found two harbours, which the distance that Capt. Cook passed along that part did not allow him to observe.

The Investigator afterwards found a practicable and expeditious passage through the Strait between New Holland and New Guinea (for an account of which see the preceding Column); and then surveyed the Gulph of Carpentaria very minutely, finding many Islands and good harbours there. The decayed state of the ship obliged the Commander to return to this Port sooner than he otherwise intended; and after an unsuccessful search for the Trial Rocks, he passed on the South side of King's Island, through Bass's Straits, on the 1st instant.

The Officers and Ship's Company have generally been very healthy, until a short time before their arrival, when getting into cold weather, after being so many months in the Torrid Zone, they were generally attacked with a Dysentery, which we are sorry to say carried off Mr. Charles Douglass, Boatswain, a very good Officer; Serjeant James Greenhugh of the Royal Marine Forces, a very valuable Non-Commissioned Officer; W. Hilner and John Draper, Quartermasters; and C. Smith, a seaman; the loss of whom is much lamented by Capt. Flinders. Twelve sick seamen were landed on her arrival, of whose recovery there is every hope.

Capt. Flinders having thus far ascertained the existence of a safe passage for Ships through Torris' Straits, (which he performed in three days), will greatly facilitate and shorten the intercourse between this Colony and our Possessions in India: He is very particular in his cautions respecting the war-like disposition of the inhabitants of the Islands lying in these Straits, which will require vessels going this passage, to be in some measure armed and prepared for any hostile attacks.

We are sorry to add, that the future advantages expected from Capt. Flinders's Perseverance and Activity in his pursuits, are likely to suffer a delay, owing to the state of the Investigator's hull, which will be surveyed as soon as possible. His Excellency having given Captain Flinders Permission to take Eleven Seamen, Prisoners, on a Provisional Emancipation, we are happy to state, from Captain Flinders's authority, that their conduct has given him and his Officers great satisfaction; especially that of Francis Smith, who received a Free Pardon on the ship's anchoring in the Cove. 

At day-light yesterday morning sailed His Majesty's armed Tender Lady Nelson, Lieut. Courtoys Commander, for Risdon Cove, Van Diemen's Land. On board that Vessel were embarked, John Bowen, Esq. appointed to command and superintend the settlement in-tended to be formed at that place; also, Mr.  Jacob Mountgarrett, appointed Surgeon, with Three Privates, Ten Male, and Six Female Prisoners. The Porpoise was also to sail on the same service, with the remainder of the Soldiers, Settlers, Prison-ers, Provisions, and Stores; but the decayed state of the Investigator requires the Commander of the Porpoise being on the survey of that ship, which, when completed, the Porpoise will sail for the above destination.

SHIP NEWS. (1803, June 12 - Sunday). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from

HM Sloop Investigator: etching by Geoffrey Ingleton, 1937, courtesy State Library of New South Wales


June 10, 1803.
" SIR,

"Judging that it may be very useful to Ships bound to India from this Port to know that the TORRES' STRAIT is both practicable, and may be expeditiously made, I have to inform Your EXCELLENCY, that in His Majesty's Sloop under my Command I safely passed from the South Sea to the Indian Ocean by it in Three days, lying at anchor each night, in Tolerable safety. It is not in my power at present to furnish Your Excellency with a Survey, or with so much Information concerning this important Passage as I hope hereafter to do; but judging that such Information as we have collected may be of some immediate advantage, I inclose the heads of it under the form of Directions to a Vessel wishing to try the Passage and I have the honour to be

"Your Excellency's most obedient Servant,


Small reefs having been seen and many others probably lying some distance to the eastward of the Strait, it is necessary to run cautiously from the eastward for a day or two, before making the body of the reefs. Enter them by a Passage in latitude 9° 18' South, and longitude 145° 6' East; and which, according to the Pandora's Chart, is 3 leagues wide. Steer for Murray's Island, which lies in 9° 53' South, and 144° 18' East, and may be seen at from 6 to 10 leagues distance ; but as there is a Reef to the East-ward of the Island, it will be necessary to go round this. The Investigator passed to the North side, approaching the island from the North-East ; but it would be more direct to pass on the south side of the Reef, should it be equally free from danger. Pass on the North side of Murray's Island, and steer as straight for the North-eastern most of the Prince of Wales Islands in 10° 31' South, as the Reefs will allow ; a ship will, however, be obliged to run four or five leagues on a more Westerly course before this can be done, sometimes over strong ripplings of tide, and through Passages of not more than a mile in width. We were at first very cautious of these ripplings, but afterwards paid them little attention when the water was not dis-coloured. On making the Prince of Wales Islands, pass close to their North ends in 10° 31' leaving a Reef which is dry at low water, on the starboard hand ; Booby Isle, which is low and white will then be seen to the W. S. W. ; and except the two Reefs in Captain Cook's Chart, lying to the North-westward, I know of nothing afterwards to prevent a ship from steering directly towards Timor.

During the passage through the Strait, a trusty Officer at the mast-head should direct the ship's course ; the lead should be kept going, and in the first part of the passage a boat should go ahead with sounding signals, the ship following at an easy rate. At least two hours before dark, look out for an Island or Reef, under the lee of which the ship may be each night at anchor ; Murray's Island will usually be one of these, but it is necessary to be guarded against the Natives who appear to be numerous and warlike.

With these precautions I judge that a ship will pass from the South Sea, through Torres' Strait in Two, Three, or Four days, any time between the first of April and the end of October ; and it is likely she might pass the contrary way in as short a time, from the middle of November to the end February; but for this I know of precedent.

JUNE 10, 1803.

SOME DIRECTIONS FOR SAILING THROUGH TORRES' STRAITS. (1803, June 12). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from

On Wednesday last His Majesty's Ship Porpoise hauled along-side the Investigator at the New Moorings, when Mr. SCOTT was Superseded at his own Request in the Command of the Porpoise; and Lieut. FOWLER, of the Investigator, was appointed to command her. Captain MATTHEW FLINDERS put the Investigator out of Commission, by discharging most of that Ship's Crew into the Porpoise, for whom room was made by the greater part of the Porpoise's People being Discharged the Service at their own Request ; Seventeen of whom immediately shipped on board the Bridgewater ; and Five of those who come from England in the Porpoise were allowed to become Settlers, on the same Conditions as the Reduced Soldiers of the New South Wales Corps.

The Porpoise is now Fitting for her Voyage to England, and will probably sail about the 5th of next Month. 

Dr. BROWN, Naturalist; Mr. BAUER, Natural History Painter; and Mr. ALLEN, Miner to the Voyage of Discovery the Investigator was employed on, remain in the Colony, until it is determined whether another Ship is sent to complete the Object of the Investigator's Voyage. SYDNEY. (1803, July 24). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from


CAPTAIN FLINDERS, late Commander of His Majesty's Sloop Investigator, and Mr. PARK, Commander of the Ship Cato, arrived at Government House at half past 3 in the Afternoon of the 8th Instant, with the following disgreeable Intelligence, as communicated in the following LETTER to His EXCELLENCY.

Sydney, New South Wales,

Sept. 9, 1803.


"I have to inform you of my arrival here yesterday, in a Six-oar'd Cutter belonging to His Majesty's Armed Vessel PORPOISE, commanded by Lieut. FOWLER; which Ship, I am sorry to state to Your Excellency, I left on shore upon a Coral Reef, without any prospect of her being saved, in Latitude 22° 11' South, and Longitude 155° 13' East, being 196 miles to the N. 38° E. from Sandy Cape, and 729 miles from this Port : The Ship CATO, which was in Company, is entirely lost upon the same Reef, and broken to pieces without any thing having been saved from her ; but the crew, with the exception of Three, are with the Whole of the Officers, Crew, and Passengers of the Porpoise, upon a small Sand bank near the Wrecks, with sufficient Provisions and Water saved from the Porpoise to subsist the whole, amounting to 80 Men, for Three Months.

"Accompanied by the Commander of the Cato, Mr. JOHN PARK, and Twelve Men, I left Wreck Reef in the Cutter with Three Weeks' Provisions, on Friday, August 26th, in the morning, and on the 28th in the evening made the Land near Indian Head ; from whence I kept the coast on board to this place.

I cannot state the Extent of Wreck Reef to the Eastward, but a Bank is visible in that direction six or seven miles from the Wrecks. In a West direction we rowed along the Reef twelve miles, but saw no other dangers in the Passage towards Sandy Cape.---There are several Passages through the Reef, and Anchorage in from 15 to 22 fathoms upon a sandy bottom, the Flag-staff upon Wreck-reef Bank bearing South-East to South-South-West, distant from three quarters to one-and-quarter mile.

"After the above Statement it is unnecessary for me to make Application to Your Excellency to furnish me with the means of Relieving the Crews of the two Ships from the precarious situation in which they are placed, since your Humanity and former un-remitting Attention to the Investigator and Porpoise are Sureties that the earliest and most effectual means will be taken, either to bring them back to this Port, or to send them and myself onward towards England.

"I inclose to Your Excellency a Letter from Lieut. Fowler upon the occasion ; and as he refers to me for the Particulars of the Wreck, an Account thereof is also inclosed. 

I think it proper to notice to Your Excellency, that the great exertions of Lieut. Fowler and his Officers and Company, as well the Passengers belonging to the Investigator in saving His Majesty's Stores, have been very praiseworthy; and I judge that the precautions that were taken will exonerate the Commander of the Porpoise from the blame that might otherwise be attached to the Loss of His Majesty's Armed Vessel.

I have the honour to be 
Your Excellency's Obedient humble Servant, 

*** We hope to state the Particulars of this untoward Event in our next Week's Paper. 

POSTSCRIPT. (1803, September 11). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from

Perth - Garden City Shows Its Spring Creations

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the National Film Board 1957. Directed by Jack S Allan. A walk around King’s Park in Perth, looking at the spring flowers.

Cuts To Hospital System A Disaster For NSW Hospitals

AMA NSW President Dr Michael Bonning has slammed the NSW Government for announcing a Special Commission of Inquiry focused on cuts to hospital care. 

The Minns Government has announced a Special Commission of Inquiry into health funding. The Special Commission follows on from a number of other reviews and inquiries announced by this government and in the wake of similar inquiries in past decades which have done little to improve the state’s health system and in many cases the outcomes have been ignored by government.”

In announcing the inquiry, Minister Park indicated that its focus would be on diverting funding and resourcing away from emergency care in our public hospital system. 

Dr Bonning said “As a GP, I agree the health system needs to recognise the crisis in general practice. However, the primary responsibility of the NSW Government is to fund our public hospital services. Suggesting cuts to those services is dangerous and will harm patient care.”

Minister Park also doubled down on his government’s attacks on Visiting Medical Officers, continuing to compare them to locums despite being directly advised of the vital role of Visiting Medical Officers. 

“The VMO arrangement is just a different way of paying people. Unlike locums, who fill short term gaps, VMOs usually have five-year contracts and usually take back-to-back contracts, meaning they are essential parts of communities for decades.” Dr Bonning said.

“This inquiry, which is likely to cost $80-$100million, risks the NSW Health system’s status as Australia’s best performing hospital system, at a time when the state is struggling to keep doctors who are moving to other states with better conditions.’’

“The NSW Health system and all who work in it showed incredible resilience and capacity to meet overwhelming challenges in response to the biggest health threat in a generation. They are the ones who know what to do so why not listen to them.” Dr Bonning said.

“This is not what we need now. As the Commonwealth is negotiating the National Health Funding Agreement, the Minns Government should be standing up for NSW hospitals and demanding greater funding.’’

On Thursday August 24 the NSW Government announced the creation of a new Special Commission of Inquiry tasked with conducting a review of healthcare funding in NSW.

The Inquiry will also be tasked with identifying opportunities to deliver higher quality, more timely, and more accessible patient-centred care.

On the recommendation of Premier Chris Minns, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, has issued Letters Patent that establish a Special Commission of Inquiry into healthcare funding to conduct a holistic review of the funding of health services in NSW.

Mr Richard Beasley SC has been appointed as Commissioner of the Inquiry and will deliver a final report to the Governor on or before 24 August 2024.

Mr Beasley is a highly regarded senior barrister and has previously worked as Senior Counsel Assisting the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess as well as being appointed as the Commissioner for two Local Government Inquiries.

Health expenditure in NSW takes up more than any other part of the NSW Budget.

This will be the first time that a detailed independent analysis of that expenditure and its correlation to health outcomes is examined.

As part of the comprehensive review, the Inquiry will examine:
  • the existing governance and accountability structure of NSW Health;
  • the way NSW Health funds health services delivered in public hospitals and community settings; and
  • strategies available to address escalating costs, limit wastage and identify areas of improvement in financial management. 
While the Inquiry conducts its work the NSW Government will continue to focus on improving the services communities need and giving healthcare workers the recognition and support they deserve.

This announcement builds on the Government’s commitment, in the lead up to the September budget, to prioritise budget repair to rebuild essential services in New South Wales.

Minister for Health and Regional Health Ryan Park said:

“Our government is committed to making the right policy and investment decisions. To do that, we need to understand the complex issues and challenges faced by essential services and workers.

“This inquiry is about taking a once in a generation look at how our health system is funded so we can ensure patients and our essential healthcare workers are getting the support they need.

“The purpose of the Inquiry is to help us determine what steps we need to take to move forward and how we can continue to deliver the essential health services our community deserves.

“I want to acknowledge the 178,000 staff who work tirelessly each and every day to provide the best care possible to their patients and consumers.”

New Models Of Nursing Care Will Provide Solutions To The Ageing Population

The Intergenerational Report predicts that Australia’s population is expected to climb to 39.8 million by 2060-61, a million more than the previous projections for 38.8 million released in 2021, and pass 40 million by 2063. Additionally, Australians are expected to live longer with life expectancies forecast to rise to 87 years for men and 89.5 years for women by 2062-63.

The number of people over 65 is set to double, and the number of Australians over 85 will triple, according to the report. It is expected Australians will remain healthier to an older age, and have fewer children, which is expected to bring long-term economic challenges as more people rely on government-funded services for longer.

This coalition of peak nursing organisations, representing over 400,000 nurses states that these predictions call for innovative models of care, to support this healthier ageing population. These new models will increase health literacy and enable people to age in place, and support and teach people skills to self-care to keep well and healthy, thus minimising the impact on acute health services.

Nurses already form the single largest group of health professionals working in primary health care in Australia, but currently are under-utilised and under-funded to work to full scope of practice. However, there is strong evidence significantly internationally and also in Australia to demonstrate the efficacy of nurses working in partnership with consumers to maximise their independence and to enable them to live healthy and productive lives in the community.

Models such as the Buurtzorg model of care, developed by a social enterprise in the Netherlands in 2006, involve small teams of nursing staff providing a range of personal, social and clinical care to people in their own homes in a particular neighbourhood.

The emphasis is on one or two staff working with each individual and their informal carers to access all the resources available in their social networks and neighbourhood to support them to be more independent. The nursing teams have a flat management structure, working in ‘non-hierarchical self-managed' teams. This means they make all the clinical and operational decisions themselves.

Such models are proven to be both cost and health effective in a number of European countries, in the UK and in Canada, but to succeed in Australia would require a restructuring of funding models for primary health care. The peak nursing organisations are keen to continue their preliminary work with the Labor Government to progress innovative models of primary health care and funding.

Representatives from the Nursing Peaks have just attended the Northern Territory First Nations Primary Care Health Workforce Summit in Alice Springs this week, where the workforce is in dire straits.

Nationally in rural and remote areas there seem little relief in sight to improve workforce numbers. Sadly, we have recently seen five nurse practitioners sacked in Doomadgee in favour of employing doctors. The situation there had moved beyond serious. Those doctors never arrived, leaving the predominantly First Nations community exposed with no primary health care services. The Nursing Peaks are questioning whether our Government will allow this to continue.

Karen Booth, President of Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) says…’The population is growing whilst GP numbers are dropping, and health care is becoming harder to access. We need to forward focus and think smart about how we can maintain health services in primary care and keep people health and well. We need innovation in the types and models of care that use all the skills of our highly trained health care teams. There are already very successful models of care using nurses and nurse practitioners to run preventive health clinics and clinics for people with chronic health issues keeping them on track with their health and out of hospital. Registered Nurse prescribing would augment team care by giving patients immediate access to their regular medications, most importantly when they can’t access the doctor. Many people will seek health care, but they don’t always need medical care, so we need to look at how we meet their health needs and conserve doctor care for those more acute problems. We welcome to new Scope of Practice Review

We need to think big picture and better utilise the skills of allied health professionals, pharmacists and community based paramedics to meet immediate non life-threatening health needs and keep people out of hospital’

Leanne Boase, CEO of Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) says…’The ACNP is ready to work on the upcoming scope of practice review, ensuring a forward focus on access to quality health care. Nurses represent the majority of the health workforce, are underutilised in Australia, and need to be highly valued and supported as skilled health care professionals now and into the future. As part of that health workforce, Nurse Practitioners and registered nurses working in advanced practice roles must be fully enabled to work, utilising all of their knowledge, expertise and skills to improve health outcomes. Existing barriers to practice must be removed in the interests of better health, and as highlighted in the Intergenerational report, our demand for health care will only increase. It makes no sense to continue to underutilise our greatest resources in health care.’

Annie Butler, National Secretary Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says… ‘The ANMF welcomes the Federal Government’s scope of practice review, Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce, a recommendation of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, which must achieve its aim – to ensure all health professionals are full utilised. The Review will determine how health practitioners can be supported to work to the full extent of their skills and training, which will lead to greater satisfaction for those practitioners and, most importantly, better health outcomes for our communities.

Nurses and midwives, who comprise the majority of the healthcare workforce, have the capacity, expertise, and education to vastly improve health equity and access for people living in all areas of Australia. The review needs to recognise this and that nurse and midwife-led models of care are effective, feasible, appropriate, and cost-efficient.

The Review also needs to address the barriers that currently prevent nurses and midwives from working to their full scope and identify the policy and funding measures needed to ensure nurses and midwives, and all health practitioners, are utilised most effectively. Government must then implement these measures to guarantee a future healthy Australia. ‘

Maintaining Stable Weight Increases Longevity Among Older Women

August 29, 2023
Reaching the age of 90, 95 or 100, known as exceptional longevity, was more likely for women who maintained their body weight after age 60, according to a multi-institutional study led by University of California San Diego. Older women who sustained a stable weight were 1.2 to 2 times more likely to achieve longevity compared to those who experience a weigh loss of 5 percent or more.

Reporting in the Aug. 29, 2023 online issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, researchers investigated the associations of weight changes later in life with exceptional longevity among 54,437 women who enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative, a prospective study investigating causes of chronic diseases among postmenopausal women. Throughout the follow up period, 30,647, or 56 percent of the participants, survived to the age of 90 or beyond.

Women who lost at least 5 percent weight were less likely to achieve longevity compared to those who achieved stable weight. For example, women who unintentionally lost weight were 51 percent less likely to survive to the age of 90. However, gaining 5 percent or more weight, compared to stable weight, was not associated with exceptional longevity.

"It is very common for older women in the United States to experience overweight or obesity with a body mass index range of 25 to 35. Our findings support stable weight as a goal for longevity in older women," said first author Aladdin H. Shadyab, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego.

"If aging women find themselves losing weight when they are not trying to lose weight, this could be a warning sign of ill health and a predictor of decreased longevity."

The findings suggest that general recommendations for weight loss in older women may not help them live longer. Nevertheless, the authors caution that women should heed medical advice if moderate weight loss is recommended to improve their health or quality of life.

The data expands on the growing research linking the relationship between weight change and mortality. Notably, this is the first large study to examine weight change later in life and its relation to exceptional longevity.

Aladdin H Shadyab, JoAnn E Manson, Matthew A Allison, Deepika Laddu, Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Linda Van Horn, Robert A Wild, Hailey R Banack, Fred K Tabung, Bernhard Haring, Yangbo Sun, Erin S LeBlanc, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Meryl S LeBoff, Michelle J Naughton, Juhua Luo, Peter F Schnatz, Ginny Natale, Robert J Ostfeld, Andrea Z LaCroix. Association of Later-Life Weight Changes With Survival to Ages 90, 95, and 100: The Women’s Health Initiative. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 2023; DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glad177

Concessions Now Available To Pensioners For Council Rates

August 24, 203
Eligible pensioners across NSW can now apply for a rebate on their council rates to help with the rising cost of living.

An annual concession of up to $250 per property is available to pensioners for ordinary rates and domestic waste charges.

A further rebate of up to $87.50 is available for annual water rates and up to $87.50 for annual sewerage rates, where councils provide those services.

The NSW Government funds 55 per cent of the pensioner rebate, while councils pay the remaining 45 per cent. The Government’s share of the funding is provided to councils, which administer the entire rebate to eligible ratepayers.

Eligibility for the pensioner concessions is determined in accordance with the Australian Government’s policies on pensioner eligibility and income thresholds.

A range of further savings and support is available from the Government to help ease the cost of living for NSW pensioners.

Find out more on the Savings Finder page of the Service NSW website 

Applications for payment of the Pensioner Concession Subsidy to local councils are now open. Councils have until Friday 6 October 2023 to submit their claims covering concessions provided to pensioners for the 2023-24 year.

Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig said:

“The NSW Government understands people are doing it tough right now, with pensioners especially vulnerable to rising cost of living.

“The rate rebates provided each year by the Government and councils are an important relief measure to help ease the financial burden of day to day living expenses for pensioners.

“Councils also have the discretion to provide and fund further rebates for pensioners should they wish to do so.

“I encourage councils to submit their concession subsidy forms to the Office of Local Government before the October deadline and take full advantage of the funding available.”

Word games, wit and the pleasure of annoying people: a daughter’s memoir sheds new light on the notoriously private John Clarke

Matthew RicketsonDeakin University

Not long after John Clarke died in April 2017, his elder daughter, Lorin, attended a children’s birthday party where she found herself standing alone.

A woman came up to pass on her condolences. Another woman, a stranger, overheard and squealed. Your dad was John Clarke? “Are you serious? I love him!” Trying to go along with it, Lorin replied, “I love him too”.

The woman looked at her sharply and Lorin thought she was about to be admonished for her dark humour. Instead, the woman leaned in and said: “I don’t think you understand. I grew up with him”.

Review: Would that be funny? Growing up with John Clarke – Lorin Clarke (Text)

I know what she means. Along with countless others in Australia and Clarke’s birthplace, New Zealand, I fell in love with his humour, first in the form of Fred Dagg, a gumbooted clodpoll who commented on current affairs in the idiom of the agrarian sector and with a dust-dry, nasal delivery.

In the early 1980s, as part of The Gillies Report, Clarke created the mythical sport of Farnarkeling, featuring the very dextrous but disaster-prone Dave Sorensen who could “arkle from all points of the compass” even while inadvertently backing into a small ice-flattening machine during a lapse in concentration.

He then discovered numerous well-known poets had mythical antipodean counterparts such as Fifteen Bobsworth Longfellow, Sylvia Blath and R.A.C.V. Milne, who he wrote up in The Complete Book of Australian Verse.

Ahead of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Clarke and Ross Stevenson created The Games, a mockumentary about an Olympics organising committee forced to admit it had built a 100 metres track that was not actually 100 metres long.

He was perhaps best known for the mock interviews he did with Bryan Dawe. Begun in print in the late 1980s before running on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair between 1989 and 1996, they aired on ABC television from 2000 until his unexpected death aged 68 while bush-walking with his partner of 44 years, Helen.

Clarke never made any effort to impersonate the politicians and celebrities he satirised. Instead, he fielded questions from Dawe, as himself, while maintaining deadpan that he was someone else. The initial surprise at seeing a middle-aged, balding man wearing no make-up or wig speaking as if he was (then) Prince Charles or actor Meryl Streep was funny itself, especially when the latter engaged the interviewer in chit-chat about the “natural” colour of her/his hair and whether “Meryl” would wear a wig for her role as Lindy Chamberlain in the film, Evil Angels.

More importantly, though, the decision not to impersonate the subjects prompted the audience to focus on what they were actually saying. And that was when the mock interviews transcended pratfalls of the politician-slips-on-banana-peel variety to become a genuine satiric enquiry into the gap between what politicians say and what they do.

Clarke’s work was popular and so was he. His blue eyes and mischievous smile endeared him to many who had never even met him. Patrick Cook, a fellow writer on The Gillies Report, described him in a radio documentary as a living treasure who appeared to have been descended from dolphins.

Into this picture comes Lorin Clarke’s memoir. It’s a tall task to write about someone so beloved and she does it well. Cover blurbs can be puffery but the one provided by Kaz Cooke, a decorated cartoonist/writer herself, is apt: “This beautiful memoir honours love, grief and riotous fun”.

It does indeed. First there is Lorin’s shock at losing a fit, healthy father at such a comparatively young age and the quick realisation just how many people knew and loved him. When she went to pick up letters and periodicals from his post office box, “a drifting tide of Australia Post staff” moved toward her. They all knew him. “Dad knew the names of the woman at the next counter’s kids” and asked about them every time he went in.

Letters And Leckies

John Clarke was notoriously private, shunning the inanities of red-carpet theatre and giving away little in the media interviews he did over the years. Clarke’s memoir offers a portrait of what she acknowledges is an “almost offensively idyllic” childhood in the bush-fringe outer Melbourne suburb of Greensborough for her and her younger sister, Lucia.

They had a father whose work meant he was around a lot and was every bit as funny as you might imagine. Their mother was an art teacher, later a respected, boundary-pushing art historian, and through their house flowed a stream of interesting, creative people who sang and socialised late into the night. This enabled the sisters to talk in their bedroom after they’d been put to bed.

It was a family that loved words and games. Lorin Clarke reprints excerpts from the Clarke/English dictionary. A “leckie” was “the process whereby a (usually male parental) person holds court on a topic for an extended period” while “the Abe” was the ABC. No one in the family ever said the sea was cold, opting instead for James Joyce’s “snotgreen” or “scrotum tightening sea”.

They wrote each other letters deploying a range of argots. John might convert the lyrics of the Beatles song, “All you need is love”, into a news item while Lucia would send a legal letter from a Mr A Garfunkle in which he purported to be acting for his client, Mr Paul Simon.

I understand that you act for Cecilia. I am instructed that your client has broken the heart of my client.

By the time Lorin and Lucia were teenagers and the family had moved to the inner-city suburb of Fitzroy, they self-identified as The Sisterhood and began to notice how irritating it was when their father would launch into a surgically precise demolition of their favourite television program, Party of Five.

For Lorin, torn between wanting to enjoy her show and sensing the critique might have merit, this was infuriating. But Lucia had his number. Knowing that the Bledisloe Cup was an event before which her father genuflected, Lucia would look up from the couch and say, “faux-thoughtfully, ‘I didn’t realise the Bledisloe Cup was an intellectual pursuit’”.

John Clarke hated the “capitalist taste-makers colonising our television screens” while Lorin thought he couldn’t see grey areas or accept the show on its own merits. Later, she discovered he had sometimes listened to her when she overheard him arguing her point to someone on the phone. When she asked him once what he thought of Malcolm Fraser adopting more progressive political views as he got older, John Clarke replied, “Daughters. The man has daughters”.

Over the years several profile-writers have commented on the sparkle in John Clarke’s eyes. The Sisterhood were quick to remind him if was a bit grumpy round the house. “How’s your sparkle this morning, Dad?”

Beneath the sparkling eyes, Clarke railed about the absurdities of anything with a whiff of bureaucracy, an abiding theme in his life as well as his work. Lorin Clarke recalls a flurry of correspondence with the local council over the “final notice” for a parking fine when her father complained he had never received the original notice.

The council explained that since he could not prove that he did not receive the letters, there was nothing the council could do about that. He asked the council to prove they had sent the letters […] Finally, the council received a letter from Dad that included a cheque for the parking fine amount, plus the late fee amount, plus $17.90 ‘so that you can purchase a dictionary, in which I suggest you look up the word “extortion”. Also, please find enclosed my rates’. The council wrote back thanking him but saying they did not receive the amount for the rates. He then wrote back, assuring them he had sent it.

Once, though, Clarke found a bureaucrat with a sense of humour. He engaged in another lengthy bout of correspondence with the local council over its sub-contracted street cleaning company’s inability to actually clean the streets despite raking in plump annual profits.

He complained that he needed to clear the blocked drains in front of his house on numerous occasions and that he might need to request a new garden rake and broom as, “My own, which I have happily supplied along with my labour and time, are showing signs of wear and tear”.

Soon afterwards, the doorbell rang and a man in high-vis handed John Clarke an industrial-strength broom. “From the mayor,” he said cheerfully and left. As Lorin notes, no further correspondence was entered into.

Father And Son

All this is marvellous stuff. What Lorin also sheds light on is the unhappiness her father experienced as a young child after his parents’ acrimonious divorce. John’s father, Ted, appeared for no good reason to blame his elder child (John had a younger sister, Anna) for his unhappy marriage and tormented him psychologically as he grew up.

Ted’s politics were deeply conservative and he presented himself as a “posh British gentleman” even though his son later discovered he was actually “the bastard son of a socialist single mother in Ulster”, Ireland.

It is not clear whether Ted and Neva (John’s mother) were ill-suited or whether, like many, they had been affected by their experiences during the second world war. Ted did not like to talk about it with his granddaughters and only late in life did Neva reveal she had been sexually assaulted by soldiers.

Ted hated the character of Fred Dagg who was the polar opposite of how he presented himself to the world. He refused to attend any of his son’s performances even when the character became prodigiously popular in New Zealand in the 1970s.

“It doesn’t take Freud peering over his glasses to suggest this might not have been an accident,” notes Lorin Clarke. Her “conflict-avoidant” father didn’t think he’d invented the character to annoy his father, but John did admit, once, that he liked annoying certain people, “because if they didn’t like it, it was a sure sign it was working”.

Late in life, though, father and son reconciled. When Ted was incredulous that his son actually earnt a living from his “clowning”, John Clarke took him along to the filming of one of his mock interviews for television after which Ted said, “I get it now. I can see what you do”.

This is a memoir to be grateful for. Lorin Clarke is a talented writer. Well, der, look at her parents, you might say, but being the daughter of an almost universally admired writer is daunting and before this memoir she had already forged her own path. She has numerous credits as a children’s television screenwriter, script-edited a series of the comedy, The Librarians, and wrote an award-winning ABC radio series, The Fitzroy Diaries.

Apart from anything else, Would this be funny? sends you back to John Clarke’s comedy, much of which can still be found here. One of my favourites is a lesser-known series of newspaper articles from the late-1980s entitled “The Resolution of Conflict” about the never-ending negotiations parents engage in with their children.

They are written in the form of a news report, with headlines like “Industrial Unrest Crisis Point”. Here’s a sample:

Wednesday saw the dispute widen when an affiliated body, the Massed Five Year Olds showed their hand by waiting until the temperature had built up and management had about a hundredweight of essential foodstuffs in transit from supermarket to transport and then sitting down on the footpath over a log of claims relating to ice cream. The Federated Under Tens, sensing blood in the water, immediately lodged a similar demand and supported the Massed Five Year Olds by pretending to have a breakdown as a result of cruelty and appalling conditions.

The problem had been further exacerbated by a breakage to one of the food-carrying receptacles and some consequent structural damage to several glass bottles and a quantity of eggs, the contents of which were beginning to impinge on the wellbeing of the public thoroughfare.

Lorin Clarke confirms in her memoir that she was indeed a card-carrying member of the Federated Under Tens. As Fred Dagg would say, I’ll get out of your way now.The Conversation

Matthew Ricketson, Professor of Communication, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How cartoonist Bruce Petty documented the Vietnam War – and how his great satire keeps finding its moment

Robert PhiddianFlinders University

After seven decades as a visual satirist provoking Australia as it is and might be, Bruce Petty passed away at 93 on April 6 this year.

His career as a political cartoonist started with a trip to London in the late 1950s, then a stint at young Rupert Murdoch’s afternoon paper in Sydney, the Mirror.

He had a lead role as The Australian’s political cartoonist during the newspaper’s radical first decade, until it turned right during the Whitlam dismissal and Larry Pickering was promoted to favoured cartoonist.

Petty then moved to The Age in its glory days, where he was the acknowledged godfather of the troupe of brilliant cartoonists there at the time. He stayed until 2016, with Malcolm Turnbull his last prime minister, by which time the collapse of the broadsheet model was well advanced.

Throughout the decades, he moonlighted as an animator and author of books we might now call graphic essays or even novels, always at the cutting edge of thought and technology.

Inevitably, profiles stress he won an Academy Award for animation with Leisure (1976), but his deepest cultural intervention in the story of post-Menzies Australia came during the Vietnam War years. Australia changed and he was one of the major prophets of change.

With a handful of others like Les Tanner and George Molnar, he woke editorial cartooning from a sleepy period telling fairly anodyne jokes and turned it into a mode of serious – if also often hilarious – satirical commentary on politics and society.

In The Vanguard

Flinders University Museum of Art has a remarkable collection of 73 cartoon originals and sketches from Petty’s most formative period. They were a characteristically generous gift by the artist, for a university then only three years old, and solicited by inaugural fine arts lecturer Robert Smith.

Among them are these five particularly vivid cartoons published in The Australian between May 1966 and September 1967.

These fragile objects, sometimes stuck together with glue when he changed a line of thought, take us straight into the maelstrom of the Vietnam War before the moratorium marches, when Prime Minister Harold Holt won the 1966 election in a landslide.

Petty was in the vanguard of a small but vocal opposition, drawing the war as a deep tragedy for the Vietnamese and a reckless farce perpetrated by the West.

One cartoon, Getting there is half the fun, about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s imperial triumph of a visit to Australia, marks the contrast.

The jagged black blob, which covers about half of the box, colours the movement from farce to tragedy arrestingly black.

Petty’s busy line attracted more than its fair share of the “my grandchild could draw better than that” sort of criticism, but it was entirely deliberate and brilliantly expressive. He doesn’t aim to please visually. He wants to stop readers with a shock of the unfamiliar and make them think. He is also a humane but stern critic of fools and villains.

Look at Hospitals – regrettable, but in the name of democracy, don’t hit a polling booth.

Are Johnson and his adipose generals conscious villains, or merely fools being driven by murderous ideas and scarcely sublimated self-interest?

I think Petty gives them the benefit of the doubt, just. But then he drives home the fact that being venal fools does not excuse them from the crime of bombing innocent people.

Intimate Sympathy

Something similar happens with the privileged women under the hairdryers in the cartoon, Who says we women aren’t interested in politics?

Is this the moral fecklessness of consumer society projected onto women, or is it the dawn of concern for the people ravaged by a needless imperial war? As so often for Petty, it is both.

A large part of the power of these cartoons comes from Petty’s deep engagement with people forced to live with the war. His first book, Australian Artist in South East Asia (1962), is a graphic account of his journey through seven countries. He went to Vietnam again during the war as a cartoonist-correspondent.

He is drawing the Other – how could it be otherwise for a still White Australian audience? – but he is doing it with an intimate sympathy born of real knowledge.

I must say, I’ve found the first day of democracy a little disappointing is a wry and ironic cartoon about the debauched South Vietnamese election then under way, but it takes you to the people actually affected.

Finally, Peace Feeler, published in 1967.

Johnson talked peace with South Vietnamese generals in Honolulu, even while continuing to bomb the Viet Cong with huge and brutal firepower.

Publish this cartoon unchanged today, and everyone would see it as about the war in Ukraine. Sadly, great satire like Petty’s keeps finding its moment.The Conversation

Robert Phiddian, Professor of English, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wanderers Walking Monthly Walk - September: Warriewood Valley

Wednesday, 6 September 2023 - 09:30 am to 02:00 pm
Warriewood Valley. Easy walk.
Meet at 9.30am, Pittwater RSL Club, Foley St Mona Vale Car Park. Lunch at RSL Club optional. Easy walk.

Please contact Alice 0418 425 518 to confirm your attendance.

Pittwater-Narrabeen Parkinson’s Support Group

The purpose of our group is to support seniors (55yrs +) living with Parkinson’s, their carers, relatives and those who have lost a partner to Parkinson’s, who live on the northern beaches of Sydney.

This support Group has been meeting for around 30 years on the Northern Beaches. Our meetings aim to help reduce the social isolation, and increase community connectedness for our members. Through guest speakers, discussions, and group activities, our meetings will support and promote mental health, healthy lifestyles and well-being.

Our Facebook webpage will be used to store resources and links, and provide another way to safely keep in touch, for those who want to use Facebook. We also have a website that is regularly updated

We meet regularly and due to Covid we have been meeting at Jamieson Park, The Esplanade, Narrabeen.

Give Dot a call for more information: 0418 640 086 and join our Facebook group:

Over 75s Are Being Urged To Get Another Covid Booster Dose

September 1, 2023
The primary aim of COVID-19 vaccination continues to be to reduce the risk of serious illness and death. This is particularly important for older adults and those with risk factors for severe disease. ATAGI last issued recommendations regarding a 2023 dose of COVID-19 vaccine in February 2023.

Covid cases are still being recorded in the community. The latest NSW Health statistics record 1,917 have been reported this week, 612 people are in hospital and 14 in ICU from the disease. A further 15 lives have been lost in the last seven days to the disease. The week before records state a further 2,197 new cases for NSW.

There have been 304 new cases in the Northern Sydney Health District, with 87 of these stemming from the NB LGA.

The ATAGI advice released on Friday September 1 provides guidance on who should consider receiving an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in 2023, recognising that older age remains the strongest risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease.

This updated advice also reflects that much of the population, particularly younger individuals with no other medical conditions, are currently well-protected against severe disease from COVID-19 from a combination of their previous vaccinations (including those who have already received a 2023 dose) and additional immunity gained from a previous infection. 

ATAGI recommends that all adults aged ≥ 75 years should receive an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine dose if 6 months have passed since their last dose.

ATAGI advises the following groups should consider an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine dose if 6 months have passed since their last dose, after discussion with their healthcare provider:
  • All adults aged 65 to 74 years, and/or
  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years with severe immunocompromise.
  • Within the above groups, an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be of most benefit for people who:
    • Have no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection (and therefore are unlikely to have protection from hybrid immunity),
    • Have medical comorbidities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs, or
    • Reside in a residential aged care facility.
ATAGI continues to encourage all adults who were recommended to have a COVID-19 vaccine dose in February 2023, and who have not yet had one, to receive a vaccine dose as soon as possible.

For younger people or older adults without severe immunocompromise who have already had a dose in 2023, no further doses are currently recommended. Their baseline risk of severe illness is low if they have already been vaccinated, and particularly if they have also had prior infection.1 Therefore a further 2023 dose will offer little additional benefit even if it has been more than 6 months since their last dose.

ATAGI continues to note that while there is minimal benefit from having a COVID-19 vaccine dose too soon after infection, current SARS-CoV-2 testing rates have dropped significantly, so from a practical perspective it is challenging for many individuals to know if or when they last had an infection.  Where previous infection details are unknown, it is appropriate to proceed with a first 2023 dose, and an additional dose for eligible people outlined in this update.

A person may be vaccinated earlier than the recommended 6-month interval where considered appropriate, such as before starting an immunosuppressant, before overseas travel or if someone cannot reschedule vaccination easily (such as in an outreach or inreach vaccination program).

There are no additional safety concerns relating to the use of additional doses in older adults and people at high risk of severe SARS CoV-2.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said on Friday,  “The latest advice from our vaccination experts is that, if you’re aged 75 or older and it’s been at least six months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose, it’s time to top up your protections with an additional dose.

“And if you’re aged 65 to 74, or 18 to 64 and are severely immunocompromised, you should also consider the additional dose in consultations with your healthcare provider.

“For other people who were advised to get a 2023 booster but haven’t had one, it’s not too late to come forward and get one.

“It is really important people remember COVID-19 is still with us, so I encourage people to keep following the vaccination advice of the experts on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.”

You can get a COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, at locations across NSW including GPs and pharmacies. The healthdirect Service Finder is an easy way to find and book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online.

For help to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. Free in-language assistance is available (menu option 8). 

Or, you can SMS 'Hey Eva' to the Easy Vaccine Access (EVA) call back service on 0481 611 382 from 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week and be supported to book your vaccination appointment.

Big Tobacco & Social Media Receive Dirty Ashtray & Exploding Vape Awards

August 29, 2023
British American Tobacco (BAT) and Meta have been dishonourably distinguished with a Dirty Ashtray award and the inaugural Exploding Vape award at a ceremony in Perth this morning.
Presented by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH), the annual awards are designed to spotlight industry and organisations which undermine Australia’s tobacco and vaping control strategies.

British American Tobacco, the force behind Responsible Vaping Australia (RVA), received its award for initiating and financing a concerted astroturf * campaign to undermine public health policy on vaping in Australia.  

Meta, the owners of Facebook, Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp, won its award for failing to enforce its own policy which bans the promotion of tobacco or nicotine products on its platforms.

ACOSH Co-CEO Laura Hunter said RVA is a front for British American Tobacco which wants vapes available in retail settings.

“BAT, through the RVA, pretends to be concerned about the black market in e-cigarettes and the rise in youth vaping.

“Hiding behind RVA, BAT has lobbied governments and co-opted various community sectors and organisations who may be unaware big tobacco is behind their astroturf lobby campaign. For this reason they are the worthy winners of the 2023 Dirty Ashtray Award.

“The inaugural ‘Exploding Vape Award’ exposes those who support and further the message of the tobacco industry. Meta has an unparalleled reach across the virtual world, and with it, enormous power to influence.

“In a policy proudly displayed on its website, Meta expressly commits to disallow e-cigarette advertising or promotion on its platforms. It only takes a few seconds to see this is not being enforced.

“Meta’s platforms are being used to promote the use and sale of e-cigarettes, and making them easily accessible to a younger and younger audience,” Ms Hunter said.

AMA President Professor Robson said the government had taken important steps to ban nicotine vaping products, and only allow access to them with a doctors’ prescription.

“Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia, while the evidence of health threats from e-cigarettes continues to grow, hooking younger generations onto an addictive product.

“Big tobacco is still in big business and we saw its hand attempt to undermine the TGA’s recent vaping reform consultation. Hundreds of individual submissions parroted text from an astroturf campaign.

“The dirty ashtray and exploding vape awards illustrate the need to address unregulated advertising of nicotine products on social media and stop tobacco industry players from funding political and lobby groups. 

“We in health, and our colleagues in tobacco control, stand behind the government in their rollout of new tobacco and vaping reforms for the sake of the health of all Australians,” Professor Robson said.

Over one hundred representatives from the public health coalition fighting to reduce smoking and vaping in Australia attended the breakfast and were joined by Health and Aged Care minister, Mark Butler, and his state counterpart Amber Jade Sanderson. Minister Butler spoke about the government’s next steps for tobacco control legislation.

 * The World Health Organization defines astroturfing as the faking of a grassroots movement which in reality is controlled by a hidden multinational company or organisation, in this case tobacco and vaping companies

Older People And Work: Stop The Intergenerational Wars And Start Improving Systems For Australians Of All Ages

August 26, 2023
Australia needs to harness the benefits of older people remaining in the workforce, but those discussions need to be focused on the benefit for older people, the economy and people of all ages rather than be set up to pit one generation against the other, COTA Australia says.

Patricia Sparrow, Chief Executive Officer of COTA Australia – the leading advocacy organisation for older Australians – says it’s critical government and businesses don’t fall into the trap of framing the challenges, including employment challenges, as intergenerational disputes but rather an opportunity to address ageism in Australia and look at systems changes that benefit all generations.

“In many cases, systemic ageism forces people out of the workforce and into retirement earlier than they want, which isn’t just bad for older workers but is bad for every generation,” Ms Sparrow said.

“There are huge personal benefits to being able to work as well as benefits to the economy that way, if older people choose to work longer.

“This shouldn’t be about creating ‘sticks’ to force older people to work longer, it needs to be about ‘carrots’ by tackling the barriers that stop older people from working if they want to.

“Ageism is a key factor. We know that one in three recruiters say they won’t hire an older person. When they are employed, both older and younger people report not feeling like their team leaders know how to manage people at either end of the age spectrum.

“Government and business must make training to tackle the systemic ageism in workplaces an immediate priority, starting with those involved in the recruitment process.

“The Federal Government’s employment white paper is due to be released soon and we look forward to seeing how it intends to make sure older workers have choices and chances. If the Federal Government’s employment plans don’t include a plan to improve the rules and processes for age pensioners to work, it will be missing a big opportunity which will hurt every generation.

Ms Sparrow said looking at issues in silos also does everyone a disservice.

“Older people make a huge contribution to society in a myriad of ways, whether it’s through childcare support, volunteering, or countless other means. We need to be looking at this intergenerational report as a springboard for policy reform in a range of areas that will improve the lives of older people and everyone else.

“By treating older Australians like a problem to be solved instead of people with valuable experience and expertise that can and should be shared, we’re robbing every generation.

“We’re an ageing and population, which is fantastic because we’re living longer and healthier. That also obviously comes with its challenges, but framing those challenges as intergenerational disputes is simplistic, naive and doesn’t do anyone any favours,” Ms Sparrow said.

Act Now For A Dementia-Friendly Future This Dementia Action Week

Local councils, businesses and community organisations will be asked to consider the steps they can take to be more dementia-friendly during this year’s Dementia Action Week (18 - 24 September).

The Dementia Action Week theme is ‘Act Now for a Dementia-Friendly Future’ – because communities that take action to become dementia-friendly have less fear and a greater understanding of dementia.

It also results in less stigma and discrimination, as well as more support for people living with dementia to live well in their communities for longer.

During Dementia Action Week, which includes World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday 21 September, Dementia Australia is encouraging communities to think about and ask people living with dementia, their families and carers what they need to help them live well.

While two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community, Dementia Australia research shows 81 per cent of people with a loved one living with dementia felt people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said it was important for communities to be dementia-friendly, so people living with dementia could access the services, activities and spaces to which we are all entitled.

“So, ahead of Dementia Action Week, start thinking about the small steps you can take, to include people living with dementia and create a better experience for all in your community,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Action Week is a major leadership, awareness and advocacy campaign led by Dementia Australia as the peak body for people living with dementia, their families and carers. In the coming weeks businesses and local councils will have access to a digital toolkit full of resources with information on how they can act now to make their organisation more dementia-friendly.

For more information, visit: 

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and the more than 1.5 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit

Here’s what new 60-day prescriptions mean for you and your hip pocket

Andrew BartlettUniversity of Sydney and Nial WheateUniversity of Sydney

From today, there are significant changes to how some common medicines are prescribed and dispensed in Australia. This means you could walk away from the pharmacy with 60-days’ worth of your usual medicine from a single prescription.

Until now, most long-term medicines were only available for 30 days at a time. So the price of these medicines for some patients may effectively halve.

You would also need fewer trips to the GP for a prescription and fewer visits to the pharmacy to have your medicine dispensed.

But not all medicines are yet eligible for 60-day scripts and not everyone is prescribed 60-days’ worth of medicine at a time. Here’s what the changes mean for you.

Can I Get A 60-Day Script Today?

If you have a current prescription, you need to use this prescription first before you get a new one. To be eligible for a prescription that provides medicine for 60 days your medication needs to be on the approved list.

Your doctor also needs to assess if you are stable on it. This is to avoid wastage. We know new treatments can result in frequent changes to medication regimens, which would result in wasted medicines if they don’t end up being used.

Your doctor may also give you “repeat” prescriptions for 60-days’ worth of medicines at a time. Under the new rules, this could mean up to 12 months’ supply of medicine (the initial script plus five “repeats”). You would have to pay for each of these repeat scripts when your medicine is dispensed every 60 days.

Is My Medicine On The List?

The roll-out of 60-day scripts will be in three stages. The first stage, which begins today, includes medicines for cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke), heart failure, high cholesterol, gout, osteoporosis, and the gut conditions Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

This includes some of the most common medicines prescribed in Australia, such as atorvastatin for lowering cholesterol, and perindopril for lowering blood pressure.

Person adding medications to pill organizer
Not all your medicines may be affected by the changes. Laurynas Mereckas/Unsplash

The following stages, set to be rolled out over the coming 12 months, include medicines for diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, asthma and Parkinson’s disease.

When fully implemented, these changes will affect more than 300 prescription medicines available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

These medicines have been chosen because they are appropriate treatments for people living with stable, chronic health conditions, they meet clinical safety criteria, and are considered cost-effective.

Medicines not available for 60-day dispensing are those only for short-term use and medicines known to be at risk of overuse. These include pain medicines and some medicines for mental health conditions.

Will I Save Money?

The government has brought in these changes mainly to try to make medicines more affordable. We know people do not seek medical care or fill prescriptions due to cost.

The maximum price you pay at the pharmacy for a PBS script (known as the co-payment) is not changing. It’s still A$7.30 for concession card holders and $30 for non-concession card holders. But by having 60-day dispensing, you’ll only be charged this every two months instead of every month.

But not everyone will save money from a 60-day prescription because in some cases your pharmacy may already be discounting your medicine. If the price for 60-days’ supply would not take the price over $30, you may not be getting two scripts for the price of one.

For example, a commonly discounted medicine is atorvastatin. In Australia, a non-concession patient generally pays between $8 and $22 for 30-days’ supply. But it’s likely that a 60-day supply would cost between $15 and $30.

The amount you or your family need to pay to reach the PBS safety net is also not changing. This is the threshold you need to reach before medicines become free (for concession card holders) or discounted (non-concession card holders) for the rest of the calendar year. In some instances, 60-day dispensing may result in you or your family reaching the safety net threshold later, or not at all.

Older woman looking into purse, holding coin
The changes are meant to make medicines more affordable. Shutterstock

How Should I Store My Medicine?

If you don’t store your medicines correctly at home they can become degraded and not work so well. With a 60-day supply, correct storage is even more important.

As a general rule of thumb, never store your medicines in hot rooms or your car (even in winter) and don’t store them in direct sunlight. If your medicine needs to be stored in the fridge, your pharmacist will let you know.

One example is latanoprost, which are drops for the eye condition glaucoma. You can keep the bottle you are using in the cupboard but you need to store the unopened, second bottle in the fridge.

In A Nutshell

Remember, 60-day dispensing is only available for new prescriptions. When you next see your doctor, if your condition is stable and your medicine is suitable, you will be provided a 60-day script. Your pharmacist will then dispense a 60-day supply.

If you have any questions about the new rules, ask your local pharmacist. Information is also available from the Commonwealth health department and the Consumers Health Forum.The Conversation

Andrew Bartlett, Associate Lecturer Pharmacy Practice, University of Sydney and Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Mother and Son reboot has fresh things to say about adult children and their ageing parents

Michelle ArrowMacquarie University

Mother and Son has long been regarded as one of Australia’s greatest sitcoms. First airing in 1984, the tale of the ageing Maggie Beare and her hapless son, Arthur, was not only very funny, but revealed the pain, frustration and love that underpinned their relationship.

For anyone who has cared for an ageing parent – or faced the diminution of their autonomy as they have aged – Mother and Son still strikes a nerve.

As Australia’s population ages, and more of us grapple with the challenges of caring for ageing relatives, it is unsurprising that Mother and Son has been revived by the ABC. As our media and entertainment industries churn out remakes, franchises and revivals, refashioning a beloved program like Mother and Son makes some sense: a large portion of the ABC’s ageing audience will tune in, if only to complain that the remake can’t hold a candle to the original.

However, the revival has some fresh things to say about the fraught but loving bonds between adult children and their ageing parents in the 21st century.

The Original Mother And Son

Mother and Son premiered on the ABC in 1984 and ran for six seasons until 1994. Both critically acclaimed and widely loved by viewers, the series made Ruth Cracknell a beloved national treasure and allowed Garry McDonald, who became famous as Norman Gunston in the 1970s, to show a different set of comic skills.

The show’s premise was simple: 35-year-old journalist Arthur moves in with his mum, Maggie, who is showing signs of cognitive decline – or is she? Maggie’s absent-mindedness frustrates Arthur and generates much of the comedy, but her ability to emotionally blackmail her son and get her own way balances the power in their dynamic.

At the time Mother and Son was first broadcast, Australian sitcoms were thin on the ground. Australian television had long succeeded in the realm of topical, satirical sketch comedy, from The Mavis Bramston Show to The Gillies Report and Fast Forward. Mother and Son represented a significant departure from the sketch comedies, soaps and serial dramas that featured on 1980s television.

In many ways it resembled the British sitcoms that were a staple part of the ABC’s viewing schedule, with live audiences, a single set and multiple cameras.

Ageing Parents And Adult Children

Re-watching Mother and Son, (currently available on iView), I was struck by how well it captures the complex emotions of both ageing parents and their adult children.

The series never shied away from Arthur’s guilt and frustration, or Maggie’s loneliness and feelings of loss. It is a resonant depiction of the often-messy emotions that come with being a carer, while not losing sight of the feelings of the person being cared for.

In spite of everything, Maggie and Arthur still love each other. In an early episode, after a fight, Maggie is caught shoplifting a bottle of oysters – one of Arthur’s favourite foods. She’s arrested and when Arthur arrives at the police station to take her home, he asks her why she stole the oysters. Maggie replies simply: “because I thought it would make you like me again”.

Cracknell’s subtle, dignified performance gave moments like these a genuine pathos. The series showcased both a complex portrayal of an older woman (a rare thing on television) and also a male carer. In a society where care of children and the elderly was (and still is) typically regarded as “women’s work”, this was significant.

A New Mother And Son

Where the original series featured a baby boomer looking after his mother, in the new series, it’s a millennial looking after his boomer mum – a story being played out in homes across the nation.

In the 2023 Mother and Son, Maggie (Denise Scott) is a free-spirited eccentric who almost burned down the family home while cooking dinner for her grandchildren. Childless, unmarried Arthur (Daniel Okine), meanwhile, is attempting to start a web business.

In both series, Arthur’s return to the family home is seen as a product of his failure to establish his own family. In the revival, Arthur wants a wife and family but has neither, and spends much of his day playing computer games. This Arthur is caught in perpetual adolescence, unlike McDonald’s original character. His mercenary sister, Robbie (a gender flip from the original) wants to move their mother into aged care so they can sell her home: a very 2020s tale.

Scott’s Maggie has a more anarchic energy than Cracknell’s character. She is uninhibited (making her first appearance on the show naked) and rebellious: when Arthur takes her on a tour of an assisted living facility, a resident waves at her and she flips the bird in response.

Scott conveys the frustration experienced by older people who can no longer live independently – she is resentful about not seeing her grandchildren and angry about the ways her life is “shrinking”. Her spiky portrayal gives Maggie more agency and a likely point of connection with an older viewing audience.

The new Mother and Son is likeable, gentle comedy. It has a diverse, multicultural cast and the writing is largely well-observed. Yet in remaking a much-loved classic comedy, the creators have set themselves an impossibly high bar: Scott and Okine, while charming, are no match for Cracknell and McDonald.

While it can’t hope to match the brilliance of the original, this reimagined Mother and Son offers an sympathetic, honest portrayal of ageing parents and their harried adult children – something we don’t see enough of on our television screens.The Conversation

Michelle Arrow, Professor of History, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A 'Mini-Brain' Traces The Link Between Concussion And Alzheimer's Disease

August 29, 2023
How much time elapses between a blow to the head and the start of damage associated with Alzheimer's disease?

A device that makes it possible to track the effects of concussive force on a functioning cluster of brain cells suggests the answer is in hours. The "traumatic brain injury (TBI) on a chip" being developed at Purdue University opens a window into a cause and effect that announces itself with the passage of decades but is exceedingly difficult to trace back to its origins.

"We're basically creating a miniature brain that we can hit and then study," said Riyi Shi, lead researcher and the Mari Hulman George Endowed Professor of Applied Neuroscience in Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "We know there's a link between TBI and Alzheimer's; that's well established in clinical observation. But teasing out the basic essential pathway is not easy. With the TBI on a chip, we're able to test a lot of hypotheses that would be very difficult to do in living animals."

In a study recently published in Lab on a Chip, a research team led by Shi subjected functioning clusters of cultured neurons from embryonic mice to three blows of 200 g-force, each approximating the higher end of what a football player receives in a single hit. The trauma leads to an immediate surge in production of acrolein -- a molecule associated with oxidative stress and neurodegenerative disease -- and a rise in misfolded clumps of the protein amyloid beta 42 (AB42), which is found in masses called plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Additional experiments traced the links between impact, acrolein and AB42.

The device can also be used to test possible therapeutics, including drugs known to reduce acrolein levels. In the current study, Shi's team used the device to show that the drug hydralazine, a known acrolein scavenger that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for lowering blood pressure, reduces the amount of acrolein and levels of misfolded AB42 produced in the cluster of neurons after a hit. Shi, who has a long history of studying neurodegenerative disease, acrolein and hydralazine, said the TBI on a chip enabled a finding he's sought over two decades of study.

"Now that we know what's happening, is there something we can do about it? And the answer is yes," said Shi, who is also a member of the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience. "Acrolein is time-dependent; the longer it's there, the more AB42 aggregation it will cause. Here we show that if we lower acrolein with this drug, we can lower inflammation and AB42 aggregation."

The device, custom-fabricated at the Purdue Center for Paralysis Research, uses a pendulum to deliver a specific g-force to a small chamber housing a cluster of a quarter million neurons supported by a bed of nutrients. A microelectronic array embedded in the chamber measures the electrical activity of the neurons, which will sustain functional firing patterns for several weeks, while a clear viewing port allows microscopic observation of the neurons. Researchers remove the cluster of neurons from the chamber at intervals to take specific biochemical measurements.
"There's several unique things that we do here, but one of the biggest is that you can hit this chip without damaging it, so you can give an impact to a live model and continue to study it," Shi said.

Shi began working on the device in graduate school, incorporating over the course of several decades features that make it possible to study the aftereffects of an initial blow. A 2022 paper in Nature Scientific Reports used the device to show the surge in acrolein that occurs after a hit, and Shi said the most recent findings hint at the power of the model.

"Thanks to this device, people should know that when you get a concussion, you don't have 10 years before you will see damage," Shi said. "The clock starts ticking immediately, and if we want to do something about it, we need to act quickly."

Within the first 24 hours after a hit, results show elevated levels of acrolein in the neuron clusters and a 350% increase in production of misfolded AB42. Shi said acrolein deforms normal AB42 by binding to sections of the protein that contribute to structural stability. Indeed, when the team conducted a simple experiment by combining large amounts of acrolein with normal purified AB42 suspended in fluid, they found elevated levels of misfolded AB42. The properly folded protein is sufficiently fragile that even subjecting normal purified AB42 in fluid (without acrolein) to an impact was enough to provoke misfolding.

"This amyloid beta pathology started within hours, maybe immediately. That's never been heard of," Shi said. "It's like attacking the weight-bearing stud in a house wall. If you break that stud, of course the house is going to fall down.".

Moving forward, Shi said, he may be able to incorporate multiple additional features, which would allow the measurements of minute forces that cells experience during the blow, and biochemical testing -- like checking levels of acrolein -- without removing cells from the chamber.

Edmond A. Rogers, Timothy Beauclair, Jhon Martinez, Shatha J. Mufti, David Kim, Siyuan Sun, Rachel L. Stingel, Alexandra M. Dieterly, Nikita Krishnan, Jennifer Crodian, Riyi Shi. The contribution of initial concussive forces and resulting acrolein surge to β-amyloid accumulation and functional alterations in neuronal networks using a TBI-on-a-chip model. Lab on a Chip, 2023; 23 (15): 3388 DOI: 10.1039/D3LC00248A

Drug That Targets Scar-Like Tissue In Tumours Shows Promise For Aggressive Pancreatic Cancer: Garvan Institute

August 29, 2023
Findings from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research reveal a new Australian drug that targets scar-like 'fibrotic' tissue within tumours shows promise for treating pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, one of the most aggressive forms of pancreatic cancer with a five-year survival rate of less than 10%.

The research in mouse models showed that when given in combination with chemotherapy, the drug PXS-5505 increased survival time by more than 35%, compared to chemotherapy treatment alone.

"The preclinical validation of this first-in-class anti-fibrotic drug marks a major milestone in our quest to overcome the significant challenges in treating pancreatic cancer and brings hope to patients and their families," says Associate Professor Thomas Cox, head of the Matrix & Metastasis Lab at Garvan and senior author of the study, published in the journal Nature Cancer.

Potential to increase cancer survival
Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which means that chemotherapy is often the only treatment option available. Many pancreatic cancers develop chemotherapy resistance soon after treatment starts, which contributes to the poor survival of patients. Part of this resistance is driven by tumour fibrosis -- the formation of a mesh of scar tissue-like collagen -- within and around pancreatic tumours that in turn reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.

The new drug PXS-5505, developed by Sydney-based pharmaceutical research company Pharmaxis (ASX: PXS) and currently in Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of bone marrow cancer, works by blocking a family of enzymes that are critical for the deposition of collagen into the fibrotic tissue around tumours.

In collaboration with Pharmaxis, Garvan researchers found that the drug significantly reduced fibrosis in pancreatic tumours in mouse models.
The combination therapy also substantially reduced the spread of the cancer to other organs, such as the liver, by 45%.

"PXS-5505 returns the tumour microenvironment to a more 'normal' state by reducing fibrosis and decreasing tumour stiffness," explains Dr Jessica Chitty, Senior Research Officer at Garvan and first author of the study. "This allows chemotherapy drugs to penetrate the tumours more easily, work more effectively, and destroy more cancer cells."

"PXS-5505 shows real potential to improve chemotherapy for patients," says Associate Professor Cox. "We are now in the process of progressing this work toward clinical trials that will evaluate this promising drug combination approach for pancreatic cancer patients."

"Pharmaxis has already seen very promising early results in a Phase II trial with patients that have the bone marrow cancer myelofibrosis," commented Gary Phillips, CEO of Pharmaxis. "This groundbreaking research stems from a long collaboration with the team of high calibre researchers at the Garvan Institute and provides exciting new evidence that PXS-5505 may also have a role as a therapy to improve the effect of current chemotherapy drugs in solid tumours like pancreatic cancer and extending the life of patients."

Jessica L. Chitty, Michelle Yam, Lara Perryman, Amelia L. Parker, Joanna N. Skhinas, Yordanos F. I. Setargew, Ellie T. Y. Mok, Emmi Tran, Rhiannon D. Grant, Sharissa L. Latham, Brooke A. Pereira, Shona C. Ritchie, Kendelle J. Murphy, Michael Trpceski, Alison D. Findlay, Pauline Melenec, Elysse C. Filipe, Audrey Nadalini, Sipiththa Velayuthar, Gretel Major, Kaitlin Wyllie, Michael Papanicolaou, Shivanjali Ratnaseelan, Phoebe A. Phillips, George Sharbeen, Janet Youkhana, Alice Russo, Antonia Blackwell, Jordan F. Hastings, Morghan C. Lucas, Cecilia R. Chambers, Daniel A. Reed, Janett Stoehr, Claire Vennin, Ruth Pidsley, Anaiis Zaratzian, Andrew M. Da Silva, Michael Tayao, Brett Charlton, David Herrmann, Max Nobis, Susan J. Clark, Andrew V. Biankin, Amber L. Johns, David R. Croucher, Adnan Nagrial, Anthony J. Gill, Sean M. Grimmond, Lorraine A. Chantrill, Angela Chou, Tanya Dwarte, Xanthe L. Metcalf, Gloria Jeong, Lara Kenyon, Nicola Waddell, John V. Pearson, Ann-Marie Patch, Katia Nones, Felicity Newell, Pamela Mukhopadhyay, Venkateswar Addala, Stephen Kazakoff, Oliver Holmes, Conrad Leonard, Scott Wood, Oliver Hofmann, Jaswinder S. Samra, Nick Pavlakis, Jennifer Arena, Hilda A. High, Ray Asghari, Neil D. Merrett, Amitabha Das, Peter H. Cosman, Kasim Ismail, Alina Stoita, David Williams, Allan Spigellman, Duncan McLeo, Judy Kirk, James G. Kench, Peter Grimison, Charbel Sandroussi, Annabel Goodwin, R. Scott Mead, Katherine Tucker, Lesley Andrews, Michael Texler, Cindy Forrest, Mo Ballal, David Fletcher, Maria Beilin, Kynan Feeney, Krishna Epari, Sanjay Mukhedkar, Nikolajs Zeps, Nan Q. Nguyen, Andrew R. Ruszkiewicz, Chris Worthley, John Chen, Mark E. Brooke-Smith, Virginia Papangelis, Andrew D. Clouston, Andrew P. Barbour, Thomas J. O’Rourke, Jonathan W. Fawcett, Kellee Slater, Michael Hatzifotis, Peter Hodgkinson, Mehrdad Nikfarjam, James R. Eshleman, Ralph H. Hruban, Christopher L. Wolfgang, Aldo Scarpa, Rita T. Lawlor, Vincenzo Corbo, Claudio Bassi, Nigel B. Jamieson, David K. Chang, Stephan B. Dreyer, Lea Abdulkhalek, Tatjana Schmitz, Victoria Lee, Kym Pham Stewart, Mehreen Arshi, Angela M. Steinmann, Marina Pajic, Paul Timpson, Wolfgang Jarolimek, Thomas R. Cox. A first-in-class pan-lysyl oxidase inhibitor impairs stromal remodeling and enhances gemcitabine response and survival in pancreatic cancer. Nature Cancer, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s43018-023-00614-y

Vaping: The Health Effects And Harms

August 25, 2023
By Professor Emily Banks, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
Vaping is on the rise among young people and they are especially vulnerable to addiction. So, what does the most comprehensive review of the health impacts of e-cigarettes tell us about their effects, including on smoking uptake in youth, and whether they can help with quitting smoking?  

What is vaping? 
When a liquid is heated to create an aerosol by an electronic or e-cigarette, and that aerosol is inhaled, it is called ‘vaping’.  

Battery operated e-cigarettes or ‘vapes’ have been used by over two million people in Australia, despite being illegal unless on prescription. 

Use is more common among youth, particularly young males, and among smokers. 

What chemicals are in vapes? 
It is a falsehood that the substance inhaled through vapes is just water vapour.   

Vapes can contain a very wide range of e-liquids – the most common are propylene glycol (a synthetic food additive that belongs to the same chemical group as alcohol), vegetable glycerine, nicotine and flavours. There are currently more than 17,000 flavours available. This means that vapes can deliver hundreds of chemicals – some of them known to be toxic and many others with unknown effects.   

Nicotine is a key ingredient and one of the most addictive substances known. 

People using vapes are inhaling a complex cocktail of chemicals, including those from heating the e-liquid, those from the device and those from the chemical reactions between the e-liquid and the device.  

The main substances in e-cigarettes aerosol that raise health concerns are metals (such as chromium, nickel and lead), carbonyls (such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein and glyoxal), particulate matter and some flavourings.  

As outlined in the education campaign “Do you know what you are vaping”, some chemicals in vapes are also found in weedkiller, nail polish and insecticide.  

What are the health effects of vaping? 
The use of nicotine e-cigarettes increases the risk of a range of adverse health outcomes, particularly in youth, including taking up smoking and addiction.  

Almost all e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is extremely addictive. Addiction is common in people using vapes and young people are especially vulnerable to addiction, as their brains are still developing. For children and adolescents that can mean having difficulty sitting through a lesson or a meal with family. 

Addiction is a serious health issue and people addicted to vapes are going through repeated cycles of withdrawal, irritability, feeling bad and craving, until they vape to feel normal again.  

Other health issues include poisoning, especially in small children, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness caused by nicotine overdose, headache, cough, throat irritation, and burns and injuries, largely caused by exploding batteries.  

There is also indirect evidence of adverse effects on blood pressure, heart rate and lung functioning. 

Vapes also raise environmental issues. Most vapes used currently are disposable, creating environmental harms from complex e-waste, including lithium batteries and nicotine-contaminated plastic.   

While we know about some of the risks of vaping, the effects of e-cigarettes on major health conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease are unknown. 

discarded vape
Does vaping help to quit smoking? 
Smoking is extremely harmful and quitting is the best thing a smoker can do for their health. Most people who quit smoking successfully do so unaided.  

There is limited evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are effective to help people quit smoking. Currently the Royal College of General Practitioners recommends e-cigarettes only as a quit aid for people who have tried other methods unsuccessfully.  

More than half (53 per cent) of current e-cigarette use in Australia is by people who also smoke, 31.5 per cent is by past smokers and 15.5 per cent is people who have never smoked.  

E-cigarettes are likely to be harmful for non-smokers and for people who use them while continuing to smoke – the most common use pattern currently.   

They may be beneficial in smokers who use them to quit smoking completely and promptly.  

It is important to remember there is uncertainty about many of the health impacts of e-cigarettes and the overall balance of risks and benefits for quitting. 

Young non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are around three times as likely to go on to smoke regular cigarettes, compared to young people who do not use e-cigarettes. So vaping risks introducing a new generation to smoking. 

Is smoking worse than vaping? 
Smoking kills more than eight million people each year worldwide – in excess of 10 per cent of all deaths – and is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths annually in Australia.  

It is also responsible for around 50 per cent of deaths in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 45 and over.  

Even so-called “light smoking” of one to five cigarettes per day leads to a nine-fold risk of lung cancer, compared to never smoking.  

Given the extreme harms of smoking, it is likely that vaping is less harmful in terms of many important health outcomes, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and premature death.  

For some health outcomes, such as addiction in children and adolescents and poisoning, e-cigarettes pose risks that may be similar to or worse than smoking. 

The comparison of smoking to vaping really only applies to smokers and indicates that smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit completely and promptly may benefit.  

For non-smokers, the comparison should be between vaping and breathing air. Vaping is clearly more harmful than breathing air.  

This information is based on the findings of a major 2022 ANU report on e-cigarettes, with additional peer-review and evidence from more than 400 studies and reports. The lead author of the study was Professor Emily Banks and it is the most comprehensive review of the health impacts of e-cigarettes of its kind to date.

Australian Woman Found With Parasitic Roundworm In Her Brain Caught From Carpet Python

August 28, 2023
The world's first case of a new parasitic infection in humans has been discovered by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) and the Canberra Hospital after they detected a live eight-centimetre roundworm from a carpet python in the brain of a 64- year-old Australian woman.

The Ophidascaris robertsi roundworm was pulled from the patient after brain surgery -- still alive and wriggling. It is suspected larvae, or juveniles, were also present in other organs in the woman's body, including the lungs and liver.

"This is the first-ever human case of Ophidascaris to be described in the world," leading ANU and Canberra Hospital infectious disease expert and co-author of the study Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake said.

"To our knowledge, this is also the first case to involve the brain of any mammalian species, human or otherwise.

"Normally the larvae from the roundworm are found in small mammals and marsupials, which are eaten by the python, allowing the life cycle to complete itself in the snake."

Ophidascaris robertsi roundworms are common to carpet pythons. It typically lives in a python's oesophagus and stomach, and sheds its eggs in the host's faeces. Humans infected with Ophidascaris robertsi larvae would be considered accidental hosts.

Roundworms are incredibly resilient and able to thrive in a wide range of environments. In humans, they can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, appetite and weight loss, fever and tiredness.

The researchers say the woman, from southeastern New South Wales in Australia, likely caught the roundworm after collecting a type of native grass, Warrigal greens, beside a lake near where she lived in which the python had shed the parasite via its faeces.

The patient used the Warrigal greens for cooking and was probably infected with the parasite directly from touching the native grass or after eating the greens.

Canberra Hospital's Director of Clinical Microbiology and Associate Professor at the ANU Medical School, Karina Kennedy, said her symptoms first started in January 2021.

"She initially developed abdominal pain and diarrhoea, followed by fever, cough and shortness of breath. In retrospect, these symptoms were likely due to migration of roundworm larvae from the bowel and into other organs, such as the liver and the lungs. Respiratory samples and a lung biopsy were performed; however, no parasites were identified in these specimens," she said.

"At that time, trying to identify the microscopic larvae, which had never previously been identified as causing human infection, was a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

"In 2022, she began experiencing subtle changes in memory and thought processing and underwent a brain MRI scan which demonstrated an atypical lesion within the right frontal lobe of the brain."

The patient was first admitted to a local hospital in late January 2021 after suffering three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhea, followed by a constant dry cough, fever and night sweats. By 2022, the patient was experiencing forgetfulness and depression, prompting an MRI scan.

A neurosurgeon at Canberra Hospital explored the abnormality and it was then that the unexpected eight-centimetre roundworm was found. Its identity was later confirmed through parasitology experts, initially through its appearance and then through molecular studies.

Associate Professor Senanayake said the world-first case highlighted the danger of diseases and infections passing from animals to humans, especially as we start to live more closely together and our habitats overlap more and more.

"There have been about 30 new infections in the world in the last 30 years. Of the emerging infections globally, about 75 per cent are zoonotic, meaning there has been transmission from the animal world to the human world. This includes coronaviruses," he said.

"This Ophidascaris infection does not transmit between people, so it won't cause a pandemic like SARS, COVID-19 or Ebola. However, the snake and parasite are found in other parts of the world, so it is likely that other cases will be recognised in coming years in other countries."

Associate Professor Karina Kennedy said the important message from this case is about general food safety, particularly when gardening or foraging for food where there may be other wildlife in close proximity.

"People who garden or forage for food should wash their hands after gardening and touching foraged products. Any food used for salads or cooking should also be thoroughly washed, and kitchen surfaces and cutting boards, wiped downed and cleaned after use," she said.

The patient continues to be monitored by the team of infectious disease and brain specialists.

The researchers' findings have been described in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The research team included scientists and infectious diseases, immunology and neurosurgical doctors from ANU, Canberra Health Services, CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

Mehrab E Hossain, Karina J. Kennedy, Heather L. Wilson, David Spratt, Anson Koehler, Robin B. Gasser, Jan Šlapeta, Carolyn A. Hawkins, Hari Priya Bandi, Sanjaya N. Senanayake. Human Neural Larva Migrans Caused by Ophidascaris robertsi Ascarid. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2023; 29 (9) DOI: 10.3201/eid2909.230351

Flying under the radar: Australia’s silent and growing competition crisis

Dan AndrewsCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and Elyse DwyerMacquarie University

Australia has long had far less competition in consumer markets than the US.

New research from the e61 Institute finds that in all but one of 17 broad industry divisions identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian industries are on average more concentrated than their counterparts in the United States.

The measure used is “CR4” – the market share of the top four firms.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we could obtain comparable figures, Australia was far more prone to high levels of market concentration, with the top four firms accounting for 80% of some markets and averaging more than 60% across some industry categories.

Average concentration across industry groups, Australia versus United States

Market share of the top four firms, per cent

Importantly, we find market concentration in Australia increasing over time.

Between 2006 and 2020 Australia’s average CR4 measure of concentration increased 3 percentage points, with notable increases in industries that initially had a moderate level of concentration, such as retail and transport.

Concentrated Industries Don’t Welcome New Entrants

To be sure, concentrated does not always mean that competition is lacking, especially if there is credible threat of being displaced by dynamic upstarts.

But we found that in highly concentrated industries the four largest firms rarely got dislodged from their top positions over the 14 years between 2007 and 2021.

And those industries that experienced a rise in concentration over the seven years to 2014 recorded a decline in new firm entry over the following seven years.

This might mean we have as many as 6,300 fewer employing firms than we would have, giving Australian workers fewer employment options and suppressing real wage growth. And given that young firms are more innovative, it might mean lower productivity growth.

Concentrated Industries Break Rules More Often

Ranking Australian industries by their average concentration, we found the most concentrated had the most infringement notices and enforceable undertakings issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The airline industry, which is famously concentrated, has been hit with 12 such notices and enforceable undertakings over the past 30 years compared to only four for the accommodation industry.

ACCC infringement notices and undertakings versus industry concentration

Infringement notices and enforceable undertakings per 1,000 firms 1993-2023. Industry concentration is defined as the average sales concentration of the top 10 firms over 2007-2021. ABC, ACCC, e61

Concentration Means Higher Prices

To explore the impact of market concentration on prices, we examined margins between retail and wholesale petrol prices in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and their relationship to the number of competing petrol stations within three kilometres.

We found that where petrol stations faced less competition they tended to charge higher margins, and that when wholesale prices rose, they appeared to be quicker in passing on this cost to consumers to maintain margins.

Competitors within 3 kilometres versus average petrol margins

Concentration Is Happening More Quietly

Whereas in the US large mergers have to be reported to regulators, in Australia mergers are more like marriages.

Just as you don’t have to tell your family you are getting married, you don’t have to notify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission you are about to merge with a competitor.

Companies are encouraged to notify the ACCC if the merged parties make either substitutes or complements and the merged firm will have a market share of more than 20%, but that is a guideline rather than a requirement, and the guidance was relaxed in 2008.

If you are high-profile enough to be listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, the ACCC is going to find out anyway through the media (ASX companies have to disclose significant acquisitions), so in practice most companies planning large mergers ask for the ACCC’s blessing ahead of time to avoid embarrassment.

That means while voluntary notification works well enough for bringing royal-wedding-style mergers to the ACCC’s attention, Vegas-style elopements can go undetected.

Although these small transactions can seem innocuous, their collective impact can be significant. In the US, it is estimated transactions too small to be reported account for 28–47% of the increase in concentration between 2022 and 2016.

In Australia, there is a risk that many of these transactions are going undetected.

e61 has found the number of private mergers (not reported to public financial markets) reviewed by the ACCC has plummeted since the ACCC relaxed the reporting guidelines, from 55 in 2006 to just 12 in 2022

Number of private mergers reviewed by the ACCC per year

The head of the Competition and Consumer Commission Gina Cass-Gottlieb told the National Press Club this year she wanted Australia to move away from voluntary notifications to formal clearances of the kind required overseas where there was

  • a mandatory requirement to notify the ACCC of mergers above specified thresholds

  • a requirement for transactions to be suspended from completion prior to ACCC clearance

Parties proposing a non-contentious merger could apply for a notification waiver that, if granted, would mean they wouldn’t need to make a full formal application and the proposal could be dealt with quickly.

Cass-Gottlieb said businesses were increasingly pushing the boundaries of the informal system, giving the ACCC late, incomplete, or incorrect information, and threatening to complete their transactions before it completed its reviews.

At times overseas authorities knew about proposed transactions involving Australian companies before the Australian authorities.

Our research finds that not only are Australian industries concentrated and becoming more so, but mergers might be increasingly flying under the radar.

The government has announced a review of competition policy that will include a review of merger laws as well as non-compete clauses. Our research suggests there’s a strong economic case for taking action on both fronts.The Conversation

Dan Andrews, Visiting Fellow and Director – Micro heterogeneity and Macroeconomic Performance program, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and Elyse Dwyer, Researcher, Department of Economics, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

With one exception, the Intergenerational Report is far less scary than you’ve heard

Peter MartinCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

What if nearly everything that’s been written about this month’s Intergenerational Report is wrong?

I’ll explain. But first, here’s a sample of the headlines: “Young Australians at risk of a poorer future”, “Fewer workers to shoulder soaring income tax”, “Ageing population driving $140 billion blowout in spending”, and so on.

On radio it was worse. One ABC presenter referred to a “ticking tax bomb”.

The picture painted is one of a future in which (old) dependants have far fewer people of working age to care for them, in which tax climbs dramatically to pay for the care of the elderly, and in which the next generation is poorer than this one is.

And to be fair to the people who’ve said these things, some of the language in the Intergenerational Report is like that, but not the numbers.

Each Report Less Scary Than The One Before

Let’s start with the most fundamental problem identified in the report: that in 40 years’ time (each Intergenerational Report looks forward 40 years) there will be many fewer Australians of traditional working age for each Australian aged 65 and over – what the report calls the “old-age dependency ratio”.

Back in 2002 the government’s first intergenerational report found that whereas there were 5.3 Australians of working age for each Australian aged 65 and over at the time, by 2042 there would be only half as many – just 2.5.

This latest report finds that whereas there are now 3.7 Australians of such age for each of us aged 65 and over, by 2063 there will be 2.6. While not quite as dramatic as the fall projected in first report, and happening two decades later, this is still a big stepdown.

Except that ratio is not a useful guide to the ratio of people of working age to the people they’ll need to support. That’s because young people need support too.

Australia Will Be Older, But Also Less Young

Whereas old people need aged care workers, young people need child care workers; and they both need workers to make the goods and services they use. What matters is the total dependency ratio: old and young combined.

Examining only half the ratio (the half that look worse as the population ages) without also examining the other half (the half that looks better as the population ages) is hard to justify – unless the argument is that the Commonwealth is responsible for aged care and the states for schools.

But that ought not be relevant when talking about the supply of workers.

Less childcare, more aged care. Shutterstock

Australia will need more aged care workers as a proportion of the population in 40 years’ time, but it is also going to need fewer teachers.

What will matter is the ratio of potential workers to all people aged (say) under 15 as well as aged 65 and older, both old and young.

That total dependency ratio also told a dramatic story in the first report. The number of Australians of traditional working age to those aged either under 15 or 65 and older was set to slide from 2 to 1.55.

But the slide isn’t big as this time. The ratio is set to slip from 1.82 (which we are finding manageable) to 1.57, but over 40 years.

Old People Will Find It Easier To Find Jobs

One of the reasons why the “fewer workers to dependents” story has much less sting than it was going to is we have had many more migrants than we were going to, and the migrants and students we have let in are nearly all aged 15 to 64.

Another, and this would have happened regardless of migration, is that as people of traditional working age become more scarce, people of non-traditional age (65 and over) are taking up and staying in paid work. Back at the time of the first report, only 5% of Australians aged 65 and older were employed. Now it’s 11.5%.

Partly this is because of a rule change (the pension age is now 67), partly it is because work is less physically demanding (an awful lot of us have office jobs) and partly it is because employers are no longer as prejudiced – they’ve had to accept applications from older workers and have discovered they are not too bad.

On Present Projections We Will Be Much, Much Richer

As for the idea that young Australians face a poorer future, that’s unlikely to be the case if we do indeed run short of workers (and have to pay them more) and it certainly isn’t what’s projected in the Intergenerational Report.

The report has living standards, as measured by real GDP per person, an extraordinary 57% higher in 2042, even with lower-than-previously-assumed productivity growth.

That’s right, although things won’t be the same for everyone, on average the report has future generations better off materially than present generations, just as they are better off materially than generations 40 years earlier.

It ought to be noted that the first intergenerational report in 2002 predicted an even bigger growth in living standards, and this one says climate change could trim its projections, although the numbers in the report are woolly and the Treasury is still building up the capacity to properly model climate change.

But 57% – or even 50% or 40% – is still an enormous increase in living standards.

On the numbers in the report, intergenerational inequity will be the opposite of what’s usually claimed: the next generation will be so much better off financially it will be easily able to stump up a few more dollars in tax.

We Will Easily Be Able To Stump Up Extra Tax

And the extra tax the next generation is asked to stump up won’t be “soaring”, despite what the headlines say.

The projections in the report suggest we might have to pay an extra 3.9% of GDP in tax to fund the things we will need, but not all at once, and not the full amount until 2063. By that time (as mentioned) GDP per person will be much higher.

Most of the extra projected government spending (60%) is unrelated to ageing. A lot of it is to fund the cost of new and better health treatments, of the kind we’re pretty certain to want given our higher living standards.

I’ve read the 300-odd pages of the report pretty carefully, and (with the exception of the section on climate change) I’m yet to find anything particularly alarming.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New study highlights the brain trauma risks for young athletes

Stephen TownsendThe University of QueenslandAlan PearceLa Trobe University, and Kathleen BachynskiMuhlenberg College

The Boston University CTE Center today reported the results of the largest-ever study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in young athletes.

The study, examining autopsied tissue, found signs of CTE in 63 out of 152 young athlete brains. The subjects of the study competed in youth, high school and college competitions, and all died before the age of 30.

This case series includes the first American woman athlete diagnosed with the disease, just months after the Australian Sports Brain Bank reported the world’s first case of CTE in a female athlete.

The results of this study have major implications for sporting leagues around the globe. Like other dementias, CTE is often assumed to be a disease that develops later in life, but as neuropathologist and Boston University CTE Centre Professor Ann McKee says, “this study clearly shows that the pathology of CTE starts early”.

These latest findings come as Australia’s Senate is due to report the findings of its inquiry into concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sport.

This should push sporting organisations to do more to protect the brains of all athletes, especially in junior and recreational competitions.

CTE And Young Athletes

CTE is a devastating and currently incurable form of dementia which causes neurodegeneration of the brain. The disease has long been associated with contact sport participation.

Dementias like CTE are often thought of as diseases of the elderly. However, some high-profile cases of CTE have been identified among younger athletes.

In Australia, much-loved NRL player and coach Paul Green was 49 when he died and was later found to have CTE. Former AFL star Shane Tuck was 38 when he died with the disease. Former AFLW player Heather Anderson was only 28. A recent study in the United States also found CTE in the brain of an 18-year-old athlete.

The disease is known to cause mood disorders and behaviour changes. People with CTE may be at higher risk of suicide.

These cases and the latest Boston University study indicate the risk of developing CTE is not restricted to those in their middle or older years. Although there is some evidence developing brains are more vulnerable to trauma – it creates a chronic inflammatory response affecting brain development – the pathology of CTE is still being studied.

The risk factors for young athletes are complex and multifaceted but it is likely that playing junior contact sport heightens an athlete’s risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases as an adult.

The strongest predictor for developing CTE is cumulative exposure to repeated brain trauma, rather than the number of diagnosable concussions. Prolonged exposure to repeated low-level impacts appears to produce a greater lifetime volume of brain trauma when compared with athletes who sustain a small number of more forceful injuries.

Again, the reasons for this dynamic require further study. One potential explanation is that low-level impacts, which often do not reach the clinical threshold for a concussion diagnosis, are easier to ignore and play through.

For the athletes in the Boston University study to develop CTE before the age of 30, it is likely they were exposed to repeated brain trauma from an early age through youth sport.

Are Contact Sports Safe For Kids?

Public health advocates in North AmericaAustraliaNew Zealand Aotearoa and the United Kingdom have long expressed concerns about the risks of contact sport for children.

Improved oversight would go some way toward reducing the serious health risks of mild traumatic brain injury (concussion). These include post-concussion syndrome (where symptoms do not resolve within the expected time period of about one month) and second impact syndrome (where a young athlete who has previously been concussed receives a second impact either on the same day or up to a week later, resulting in catastrophic outcomes).

Although professional athletes are increasingly subject to monitoring for brain injuries, these practices are not consistently in place for participants in semi-professional, club or junior competitions. It is essential that sports bodies implement the same reporting, monitoring and exclusion protocols all the way through their competitions, especially in junior sport.

young players huddle on sporting field
Some codes have introduced restrictions to protect young players. Shutterstock

First Steps

Existing concussion guidelines are not designed to account for the types of sub-concussive injuries (where an impact does not result in observable symptoms) most strongly associated with CTE. To protect them from the disease, contact sporting bodies must reduce young athletes’ lifetime exposure to brain trauma. One way to do this would be to restrict contact in training and games for juniors.

Some sporting bodies have already taken the initial steps. Australian Rules football players are restricted to modified tackling until the age of 12. The National Rugby League will soon implement a ban on tackling until midway through under-7s competitions.

The US Soccer Federation prohibits children under 11 from heading the ball. The UK Football Association will trial a ban on deliberate heading before age 12 – a clear acknowledgement of the dangers of repetitive low-grade brain trauma.

The prevalence of CTE in this study from the US, where athletes routinely wear helmets to play football and ice hockey, is further evidence helmets do not protect young players from concussions or the risk of CTE.

Changes to tackling rules were met with resistance by those who fear they would “soften” the games. Further measures to protect athletes will require courage from contact sports administrators.

This new study shows CTE can develop in young brains and builds off previous research suggesting the origins of this pathology may lie in junior contact sport. To protect players from neurodegenerative diseases like CTE, sports must reduce cumulative exposure to brain trauma for all athletes, beginning with the junior leagues. In Australia, where children have at least four football codes to choose from, this message must be received with particular urgency.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. The National Dementia Helpline number is 1800 100 500.The Conversation

Stephen Townsend, Lecturer, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of QueenslandAlan Pearce, Professor, College of Science, Health, Engineering, La Trobe University, and Kathleen Bachynski, Assistant Professor, Public Health, Muhlenberg College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sahara space rock 4.5 billion years old upends assumptions about the early Solar System

Steve Jurvetson / WikimediaCC BY-SA
Evgenii KrestianinovAustralian National University

In May 2020, some unusual rocks containing distinctive greenish crystals were found in the Erg Chech sand sea, a dune-filled region of the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria.

On close inspection, the rocks turned out to be from outer space: lumps of rubble billions of years old, left over from the dawn of the Solar System.

They were all pieces of a meteorite known as Erg Chech 002, which is the oldest volcanic rock ever found, having melted long ago in the fires of some now-vanished ancient protoplanet.

In new research published in Nature Communications, we analysed lead and uranium isotopes in Erg Chech 002 and calculated it is some 4.56556 billion years old, give or take 120,000 years. This is one of the most precise ages ever calculated for an object from space – and our results also cast doubt on some common assumptions about the early Solar System.

The Secret Life Of Aluminium

Around 4.567 billion years ago, our Solar System formed from a vast cloud of gas and dust. Among the many elements in this cloud was aluminium, which came in two forms.

First is the stable form, aluminium-27. Second is aluminium-26, a radioactive isotope mainly produced by exploding stars, which decays over time into magnesium-26.

Aluminium-26 is very useful stuff for scientists who want to understand how the Solar System formed and developed. Because it decays over time, we can use it to date events – particularly within the first four or five million years of the Solar System’s life.

The decay of aluminium-26 is also important for another reason: we think it was the main source of heat in the early Solar System. This decay influenced the melting of the small, primitive rocks that later clumped together to form the planets.

Uranium, Lead And Age

However, to use aluminium-26 to understand the past, we need to know whether it was spread around evenly or clumped together more densely in some places than in others.

To figure that out, we will need to calculate the absolute ages of some ancient space rocks more precisely.

Looking at aluminium-26 alone won’t let us do that, because it decays relatively quickly (after around 705,000 years, half of a sample of aluminium-26 will have decayed into magnesium-26). It’s useful for determining the relative ages of different objects, but not their absolute age in years.

But if we combine aluminium-26 data with data about uranium and lead, we can make some headway.

There are two important isotopes of uranium (uranium-235 and uranium-238), which decay into different isotopes of lead (lead-207 and lead-206, respectively).

The uranium isotopes have much longer half-lives (710 million years and 4.47 billion years, respectively), which means we can use them to directly figure out how long ago an event happened.

Meteorite Groups

Erg Chech 002 is what is known as an “ungrouped achondrite”.

Achondrites are rocks formed from melted planetesimals, which is what we call solid lumps in the cloud of gas and debris that formed the Solar System. The sources of many achondrites found on Earth have been identified.

A small rock sitting against a ruler.
Achondrite meteorites like Erg Chech 002 offer clues about the early years of the Solar System. Yuri AmelinCC BY

Most belong to the so-called Howardite-Eucrite-Diogenite clan, which are believed to have originated from Vesta 4, one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System. Another group of achondrites is called angrites, which all share an unidentified parent body.

Still other achondrites, including Erg Chech 002, are “ungrouped”: their parent bodies and family relationships are unknown.

A Clumpy Spread Of Aluminium

In our study of Erg Chech 002, we found it contains a high abundance of lead-206 and lead-207, as well as relatively large amounts of undecayed uranium-238 and uranium-235.

Measuring the ratios of all the lead and uranium isotopes was what helped us to estimate the age of the rock with such unprecedented accuracy.

We also compared our calculated age with previously published aluminium-26 data for Erg Chech 002, as well as data for various other achondrites.

The comparison with a group of achondrites called volcanic angrites was particularly interesting. We found that the parent body of Erg Chech 002 must have formed from material containing three or four times as much aluminium-26 as the source of the angrites’ parent body.

This shows aluminium-26 was indeed distributed quite unevenly throughout the cloud of dust and gas which formed the solar system.

Our results contribute to a better understanding of the Solar System’s earliest developmental stages, and the geological history of burgeoning planets. Further studies of diverse achondrite groups will undoubtedly continue to refine our understanding and enhance our ability to reconstruct the early history of our Solar System.The Conversation

Evgenii Krestianinov, PhD candidate, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Does private health insurance cut public hospital waiting lists? We found it barely makes a dent

Yuting ZhangThe University of MelbourneJongsay YongThe University of Melbourne, and Ou YangThe University of Melbourne

The more people take up private health insurance, the less pressure on the public hospital system, including shorter waiting lists for surgery. That’s one of the key messages we’ve been hearing from government and the private health insurance industry in recent years.

Governments encourage us to buy private hospital cover. They tempt us with carrots – for instance, with subsidised premiums. With higher-income earners, the government uses sticks – buy private cover or pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge. These are just some of the billion-dollar strategies aimed to shift more of us who can afford it into the private system.

But what if private health insurance doesn’t have any meaningful impact on public hospital waiting lists after all?

That’s what we found in our recent research. Our analysis suggests if an extra 65,000 people buy private health insurance, public hospital waiting lists barely shift from the average 69 days. Waiting lists are an average just eight hours shorter.

In other words, we’ve used hospital admission and waiting-list data to show private health insurance doesn’t make much difference.

What We Did

Our work looked at data from 2014-2018 on hospital admissions and waiting lists for elective surgery in Victoria.

The data covered all Victorians who were admitted as an inpatient in all hospitals in the state (both public and private) and those registered on the waiting list for elective surgeries in the state’s public hospitals.

That included waiting times for surgeries where people are admitted to public hospitals (as an inpatient). We didn’t include people waiting to see specialist doctors as an outpatient.

The data was linked at the patient level, meaning we could track what happened to individuals on the waiting list.

We then examined the impact of more people buying private health insurance on waiting times for surgeries in the state’s public hospitals.

We did this by looking at the uptake of private health insurance in different areas of Victoria, according to socioeconomic status. After adjusting for patient characteristics that may affect waiting times, these differences in insurance uptake allowed us to identify how this changed waiting times.

Man lying in hospital bed with oxygen mask, holding hands of female friend or relative
We looked at all people waiting for elective surgery. Shutterstock

What We Found

In our sample, on average 44% of people in Victoria had private health insurance. This is close to the national average of 45%.

We found that increasing the average private health insurance take-up from 44% to 45% in Victoria would reduce waiting times in public hospitals by an average 0.34 days (or about eight hours).

This increase of one percentage point is equivalent to 65,000 more people in Victoria (based on 2018 population data) taking up (and using) private health insurance.

The effects vary slightly by surgical specialty. For instance, private health insurance made a bigger reduction to waiting times for knee replacements, than for cancer surgery, compared to the average. But again, the difference only came down to a few hours.

Someone’s age also made a slight difference, but again by only a few hours compared to the average wait.

Given the common situation facing public and private hospitals across all states and territories, and similar private health insurance take-up in many states, our findings are likely to apply outside Victoria.

Why Doesn’t It Reduce Waiting Lists?

While our research did not address this directly, there may be several reasons why private health insurance does not free up resources in the public system to reduce waiting lists:

  • people might buy health insurance and not use it, preferring to have free treatment in the public system rather than risk out-of-pocket costs in the private system

  • specialists may not be willing to spend more time in the public system, instead favouring working in private hospitals

  • there’s a growing need for public hospital services that may not be available in the private system, such as complex neurosurgery and some forms of cancer treatment.

Why Is This Important?

Government policies designed to get more of us to buy private health insurance involve a significant sum of public spending.

Each year, the Australian government spends about $A6.7 billion in private health insurance rebates to reduce premiums.

In the 2020-21 financial year, Medicare combined with state and territory government expenditure provided almost $6.1 billion to fund services provided in private hospitals.

There might be an argument for this public spending if the end result was to substantially take pressure off public hospitals and thereby reduce waiting times for treatment in public hospitals.

But the considerable effort it takes to encourage more people to sign up for private health insurance, coupled with the small effect on waiting lists we’ve shown, means this strategy is neither practical nor effective.

Given the substantial costs of subsidising private health insurance and private hospitals, public money might be better directed to public hospitals and primary care.

In addition, people buying private health insurance can skip the waiting times for elective surgery to receive speedier care. These people are often financially well off, implying unequal access to health care.

What’s Next?

The Australian government is currently reviewing private health insurance.

So now is a good time for reforms to optimise the overall efficiency of the health-care system (both public and private) and improve population health while saving taxpayer money. We also need policies to ensure equitable access to care as a priority.

When it comes to reducing hospital waiting lists, we’ve shown we cannot rely on increased rates of private health insurance coverage to do the heavy lifting.The Conversation

Yuting Zhang, Professor of Health Economics, The University of MelbourneJongsay Yong, Associate Professor of Economics, The University of Melbourne, and Ou Yang, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

More than a ‘disability person’. What finishing school is like for youth with intellectual disability

Lise Ludwig MogensenWestern Sydney University

Leaving school and figuring out what’s next is challenging for young people. For those with disability, it is even harder. It is often a time when supports are withdrawn as they leave the heavily structured school environment.

We asked young people with intellectual disability about their experiences of transitioning from school and starting adult life. Our newly published research suggests pre-transition planning for school leavers with disability is inconsistent or lacking. Most participants felt excluded from making decisions for life after school and needed support to access and navigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

After school, most participants longed to find a paid job, friends, and a life partner but felt they were missing out on these typical adult milestones. They told us it was difficult to find service providers to help them reach their goals. Many felt isolated and in a perpetual state of transition.

The Promise Of ‘Choice And Control’

Transition-from-school policies and guidelines exist in all states of Australia.

Shared characteristics between these guidelines include early planning, being person-centred, and ensuring collaboration between the family, school and services.

decade ago, Australia changed from a social welfare model of disability support to a consumer-focused, market-based system. The NDIS promised to be the cornerstone of this, offering participants increased “choice and control” over new skills, jobs, greater independence, quality of life and improved social participation.

We wanted to understand the lived experiences of today’s young Australians with intellectual disability in planning to leave school and transition into adult life.

Through individual and group interviews, 27 young people with intellectual disability (15 female and 12 male participants, aged 19 to 33) told us their views and experiences of leaving school in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Their stories highlight how much more work should be done to empower young people with intellectual disability.

What They Told Us

Firstly, many young people told us they felt left out of transition planning at school, with most decisions being made for them. There were limited, if any, opportunities for them to explore post-school options. As one participant said,

I don’t want people that are, like, like, you know, just making choices for me.

Secondly, all participants found accessing NDIS funding complicated. They relied on parents or other advocates to navigate the process, to ask the right questions, and help with difficult jargon – or, as stated by one young person, knowing how to “bark the right way”.

After leaving school, many felt lonely, lost and uncertain about their adult role and identity. Some felt “left behind” by friends and siblings without disability who had jobs and life partners, intimate relationships and were raising families of their own.

It’s hard to find a partner […] or to know someone and be with someone.

There was a shared sense among participants that most disability services did not prioritise activities to support reaching their goals. A young woman explained how finding a service with a good fit had been very difficult. She talked about how her first service provider had “tried to like take us for money” without providing a service.

Other participants felt “stuck” with a life in disability services locked into the role of “disability person”, while wanting to do and be more.

you know […] I want to do some more in life and […] I want to be out there. Know what I mean?

Participants felt they needed better support with finding and keeping employment, even from agencies that had been contracted to do so. Getting help with finding a paid job seemed especially frustrating and out of reach. One young man called it a “total nightmare” explaining,

So they’re basically, you know, not very well, um, structured […] you’re just waiting here for that lottery ticket to draw your name out.

The Same Goals As Young People Without Disability

This study shows transition planning processes remain inconsistent and there is insufficient collaboration between school systems, adult disability services and the workforce.

Participants in our study had the same goals as young people without disability for meaningful work, independence and social connection – but need better support to contributing meaningfully to their communities.

The sense of “feeling stuck” with life in disability services or in “perpetual transition” may be caused by conflicting beliefs and values between service providers and consumers.

Young people expect to take on adult roles after leaving school. But disability service providers often see these young people merely as service receivers. Standardised processes and procedures may create “institutionalised identities”.

The highly standardised nature of the NDIS leaves it inaccessible for people with intellectual disability, so the promise of choice and control in adult life is far from reality.

group of senior high school students
Young people with and without disability share the same goals when they finish school. Getty

How It Should Be

Australia needs nationally consistent policies backed by systematic actions and oversight that truly supports the transition from school into meaningful adult lives for young people with intellectual disability.

People with disability must be actively involved in developing transition and service plans, with goals for growth and for moving between or beyond disability services once milestones are met.

Strategies must include steps for fostering social identities through friendships, casual to ongoing employment, intimate relationships, parenting or caring for others.

Further shifts in the NDIS model are also needed to foster individualised and supported planning for people with intellectual disability.The Conversation

Lise Ludwig Mogensen, Associate professor, Medical Education, Research and Evaluation, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A battlefield for ants? New study on ant warfare shows we could manipulate their fights

Bruce WebberCC BY-SA
Samuel LymberyMurdoch UniversityBruce WebberCSIRO, and Raphael DidhamThe University of Western Australia

Humans are not the only animals that go to war. Ants do so too, and on a similarly catastrophic scale.

Battles play out daily – in human conflicts, among animals in nature, and across the virtual worlds of video games. How these battles progress depends on the combatants involved and what their battlefields are like.

In a new study published in PNAS today, we used mathematical models on video game simulations to test how battlefield dynamics change warfare outcomes. We then confirmed these concepts in the real world – using ant battles.

The Mathematics Of A Battle

Despite the horror of war, it occupies a prominent place in public imagination. In the early 1900s, English engineer Frederick William Lanchester developed a mathematical model that described the outcome of battles as dependent on the individual strength of each soldier in opposing armies, and on the size of each army.

To this day, Lanchester’s laws remain valuable tools for evaluating battles. Investing in a few strong soldiers should be more effective when battles resemble a series of one-on-one duels. On the other hand, investing in large armies should be more effective when they can surround their enemies and concentrate their attacks.

Later research by evolutionary biologists Nigel Franks and Lucas Partridge revealed it’s not just the soldiers. The complexity of the battlefield itself can also tip the balance in favour of one strategy over another.

When fighting in tunnels, alleyways, or difficult terrain, it’s harder for large armies to surround their opponents, so small forces of strong or savvy soldiers can succeed. Such tactics are the basis for the story of Spartans holding off hundreds of thousands of Persian soldiers at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE.

Age Of Empires II Versus Ants

In our study, we first used the video game Age of Empires II to assess the importance of battlefield complexity.

This game allows players to arrange different soldier types, build maps and fight against computer-driven enemies. In featureless battlefields, small armies of strong infantry units (Teutonic Knights) could defeat up to 50 weaker units (Two-Handed Swordsmen), but no more.

In a video game, a group of nine soldiers in blue are surrounded by a larger group of soldiers in red
A small army of Teutonic Knights (blue) are surrounded and overwhelmed by 60 Two-Handed Swordsmen in a simple battlefield in the strategy game, Age of Empires II. Age of Empires II

However, in complex battlefields, nine Knights could slay up to 70 Swordsmen. We found that video game wars, even though not explicitly programmed to do so, clearly followed Lanchester’s laws. But how relevant are these laws to real-world battles?

In a video game, groups of soldiers in red move down narrow alleyways of land between strips of water. Facing them in the alleyways are small groups of soldiers in blue
In a complex battlefield, the same army of Swordsmen are unable to surround the Knights, and are instead funnelled between barriers of water. Now, the Knights have fewer Swordsmen to face at any one time. Age of Empires II

Most animals do not engage in warfare on the same scale as humans. This is because there’s no evolutionary incentive in risking their lives for a cause in which they don’t necessarily have a direct stake.

Social insects such as ants are an exception, because through warfare, the evolutionary future of the sterile worker ants who do the fighting is invested in the greater good of the colony.

Testing Lanchester’s laws required two ant species that clearly differed in their fighting prowess. Our first combatant was the Australian meat ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus. These large and beautiful ants, with their conspicuous gravelly nests, are familiar to many people in regional Australia as they are dominant in undisturbed or remnant bushland habitats.

As their enemies, we selected the notorious Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. These aggressive invasive ants are comparatively tiny but live in extremely large, hyper-cooperative colonies.

Because of the size difference, meat ants always defeat Argentine ants in one-on-one duels. We formed small armies of 20 meat ants, and opposed them in the lab to increasingly large armies of up to 200 Argentine ants.

These battles took place either in simple arenas (featureless plastic containers) or complex arenas (the same containers with narrow wooden strips glued to the floor).

As predicted by Lanchester’s laws and by our video gaming, fewer large meat ants died in battle in complex arenas compared to simple ones.

A large ant is being attacked by two smaller ants, while another large ant stands to the side
A meat ant grapples with two smaller Argentine ant adversaries, while a fellow meat ant watches on. Bruce WebberCC BY-SA

Understanding Ant Invasions

Experiments like this can inform us about the dynamics between native and non-native invasive ants. Non-native invasive ants are some of the worst pests on the planet, costing the global economy tens of billions of dollars per year. Ecosystem managers are keenly interested in new ways to manipulate the competitive success of these invaders.

One of the unifying features of non-native invasive ants is that, like our Argentine ants, they are generally individually smaller than non-invasive species in the areas they invade, while living in extremely large colonies. It has also been observed that non-native invasives are particularly dominant in disturbed environments.

While there are many possible reasons for this, disturbed environments are often simplified at ground level, with the removal of undergrowth and natural debris creating open battlefields.

The fact that small but numerous non-native invasive ants are more successful against their large native competitors in simplified environments makes sense, in light of our experimental study of ant warfare.

It also suggests that adding ground-level complexity, such as natural debris, may tip the balance in favour of larger native species. Just like for humans (and in computer games), the outcome of ant wars depends on the nature of the battlefield.The Conversation

Samuel Lymbery, Postdoctoral Fellow in Biosecurity, Murdoch UniversityBruce Webber, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, and Raphael Didham, Professor of Ecology, The University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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.