Inbox and Environment News: Issue 321

July 16 - 22, 2017: Issue 321

Avalon Boomerang Bags July Update

Sewing the seeds of change
Tuesday 18th & 25th - 11am - 5pm 
Plastic Free July - Drop into one of our Sewing workshops
Invitation to all our "at home sewers" and other interested people to come and meet the team of volunteers making the bags - make you own bag, enjoy a cuppa, share ideas, bring some friends.
Sew, Craft, Cook 20/14 Polo Ave, Mona Vale, no parking on site.

Council's Single Use Plastic Policy
Avalon Boomerang Bags has always been about tackling the plastic pollution at its source, one bag at a time. In the process of spreading the word we also start conversations within the community about more sustainable ways to live, and connect with other like minds. Together with organisations like Surfrider Foundation we have been working towards influencing meaningful change to reduce single use plastic pollution in our Northern Beaches area. 

We have been collaborating with Council, and we are thrilled that Council is taking the significant step of creating a specific Single Use Plastic policy.  The policy is up for public comment so please take a moment to submit your support.  Once the policy is adopted, it’s initiatives will go a long way towards lessening plastic contamination in our landfills, waterways and ocean.

Boomerang Bags @ The Craft and Quilt Fair - at the ICC Darling Harbour in June 
With the help of Berry, Kiama, Dulwich Hill, Shoalhaven, Culbura, and Hawkesbury Boomerang bag communities & Lane Cove Sustainability we pulled off a really successful campaign spreading the word about reducing plastics pollution one bag at a time.

Many had not heard of us before and the idea of "one bag at a time" was embraced by many sewers and crafts people, mum's with littlies &  older folk with more time on their hands; who said "I could do that". Using their left over fabrics they took flyers on 'how to make a bag", or flyers on "how to 'use' a boomerang bag' with the website directing them to their local community for drop offs. One lady even said she didn't sew anymore, but when cutting was mentioned she said "I can do that" and planned to contact her local group.

We raised a few dollars through a raffle, drawn Sunday by  Judy Newman from Expertise Events : 1st Mary Ellen Ryan, 2nd Chris Land, 3rd Julie (in the picture). All the winners got a choice of these fabulous recycled banner bags filled with various products such as Kleen Kanteen enviro dink bottle/mug set , Gutermann threads, shampoo gift pack, and others. Thanks everyone for supporting Boomerang Bags at the show.

Thanks too to Expertise Events for giving us the space, BERNINA for loaning us a new 215 sewing machine and Gutermann for the threads. And thanks to Alex from Tandy Leather for making us a leather Boomerang Bag to raffle. 
Plastic Free July - Parent / child sewing class 
Last week 25 sets of parents (or grandparents) and children learnt how to sew your own reusable shopping bags with Kate from Sew Craft Cook and the ABB team on Friday 7th July. Two delightful 2 hour workshops with lots of concentration mixed with giggles, fairy bread, donuts and fruit resulting in beautiful bags smiles all round from both the children and the adults.
Also coming up:
Saturday 29th July - Avalon Car Boot Sale 
Come along , grab some bargains and purchase your own "Bought to Support" Bag. We'll have other enviro goodies such as our fabulous coffee mugs, SS straws & bamboo toothbrushes.  

Need some volunteers for this, even an hour or two from 8am
- please email or phone 0412 314 754
Monday 31st July - Movie: The Clean Project @ Manly
For info visit Desire Books & Records

Saturday 9th September - Avalon School Fete
Another opportunity to buy a bag and spread the word.

We are excited that our bag share scheme has been enthusiastically supported by Avalonians, just remember the bags are called Boomerangs Bags for a reason, just like a good boomerang they should come back. The bags are part of a community bag share scheme - as asset for Avalon.
They are not for keeping, accumulating in your car or cupboard at home. Please help keep the scheme going by putting your Boomerang Bags back in the box after you have used them. 
If you would like to purchase a bag or 2 to keep , come see us at the Car Boot Sale or outside Woolies sometimes, or email.

As always we welcome help of any kind. Why not drop in and see us between 11.00am and 5pm at Sew Craft Cook, 20/14 Polo Ave, Mona Vale every Tuesday.
Avalon Boomerang Bags Celebratory morning tea!

Bushcare in Pittwater 

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

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

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

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

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

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

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

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

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

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

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     3rd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

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

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

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

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

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

Navigation Warning - NSW Coastal Waters: Whale Migration Season

June to December 2017

Migrating whales and whale calves are expected to be present in numbers off the NSW coast during this time.

From June to August whales will be in greater abundance generally moving north within about five nautical miles (nine kilometres) of the coast.

From August to December whales will be in greater abundance generally moving south within about 10-15 nautical miles (18-28 kilometres) of the coast.

From July to December Southern Right Whales with calves are likely to be present within 10 nautical miles of the NSW coast and within coastal estuaries.

Within this period it is expected that whale sightings may be common and mariners are advised to navigate with due care and appropriate caution around any whale activity, including reducing to an appropriate speed to maintain safe navigation.

The approach distance for whales in NSW and Commonwealth waters is 100 metres for whales without calves.  If calves are present the approach distance is 300 metres.

In the event of a collision with a whale, entanglement or whale carcass sighting please call:

National Parks and Wildlife Service Incident Duty Officer on: 02 9895 6444

Charts: AUS 806 to AUS 813 Inclusive.

RMS Coastal Boating Maps: 1-14 Inclusive.

Contact Details:

For further details please contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Team on 9585 6523 or (RMS Contact details 13 12 36)

Information regarding the current location of whales may be obtained at:

Further information about whale approach distances or whale behaviour may be obtained from the Office of Environment and Heritage website at:


Woolworths Group Announces Move Away From Single-Use Lightweight Plastic Shopping Bags Nationwide

Friday, 14 July, 2017: Woolworths Media release
Woolworths Group has today announced it will no longer offer single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags across its entire store network in Australia within the next 12 months.

Woolworths Group wants to play its part in reducing plastic bag usage and has taken this decision because it is the right thing to do as one of Australia’s largest retailers.

This approach will cover all stores across the Woolworths Group nationwide - including Woolworths Supermarkets and Metro stores, BIG W, BWS and Online. Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters are already single-use plastic bag free.

The phased approach will begin shortly with the expectation it will be fully in place across the entire Woolworths Group Australian network by at least 30 June 2018.

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said; “As a Group we are committed to listening to our customers and also doing the right thing for the environment, and we feel this is an issue we need to take a stand on.

“We currently give out more than 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags a year and hence can play a significant role in reducing overall plastic bag usage. Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously. 

“Whilst we know this is a major decision, we will work very closely with all of our store teams to ensure the transition for our customers is as simple as possible. 

“Our customers expect responsible retailing and they can be assured that this is just the start of further commitments by Woolworths in this space. Our team continues to work hard to minimise our impact on the environment through the minimisation of food waste, ethical and sustainable sourcing, and reduction in energy use.

“Our customers can also expect further commitments in reducing plastic use in all parts of our supply chain, especially in fruit and vegetables.”

Today’s announcement ensures stores in states that have not passed Government legislation in this space as yet - New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia - will come in line with stores in states and territories where this is already legislated. South Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania are already single-use lightweight plastic shopping bag free, with Queensland also legislated to join mid next year.

Customers will continue to have access to a range of alternative shopping bag options across the Woolworths Group network of stores. This includes thicker reusable versions at different price points to suit customer needs, with the exception of BIG W, which may provide re-usable bags to customers at no extra cost.

Coles And Harris Farms To Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Bags As Well

Friday, 14 July, 2017
Following the move, Coles has also announced it too will phase out single-use plastic bags over the next 12 months.
In a media release, Coles said the decision came after months of consultations with non-government organisations and environmental groups, on how to transition out of single-use plastic.

Coles Chief Customer Officer, Simon McDowell, said "(This decision is) part of our ongoing program to improve environmental outcomes throughout our business,".

The moves bring these businesses into line with state policy in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, where single-use plastic is already banned.

Harris Farm Markets
July 14, 2017
We are happy to announce that by 1 January 2018, we will no longer have plastic bags as an option at the checkout of any of our stores. By then, we will offer a range of small single use paper bags for free, cardboard fruit boxes for free or reusable paper bags sold at the cheaper of 15 cents or cost price.
Thank you to all of our customers for supporting our #BanTheBag campaign which saw our customers say no to plastic bags over 800,000 times since April. As a result of this, Harris Farm Markets will be donating over $40,000 to Clean Up Australia

Currently, Australians use five billion plastic bags each year. That’s about 10 million bags every day. Plastic bags require precious fossil fuels in production, they add an enormous amount of waste to landfill and are a threat to our birds and marine life.

We support a NSW and national ban on single-use plastic bags, and strongly encourage our government to #BanTheBag

Huge Antarctic Iceberg Finally Breaks Free

12 July, 2017: Media Release - British Antarctic Survey 
After months of ‘hanging by a thread’ a vast iceberg the size of Norfolk has finally broken off Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf.  Around 30 metres of this 190m thick block of ice sits above the sea surface.

Scientists now have opportunities to study the stability of the remaining ice shelf, as well as understanding how new biological communities might occupy the newly exposed ocean and underlying seabed areas.

At more than 6,000 km² in area, the new iceberg represents more than 10% of the ice shelf.  This calving is dramatic but normal in the life cycle of an ice shelf.  However, scientists will be looking to determine if loss of the iceberg will have any impact on the stability of the remaining ice shelf.

Throughout the Antarctic winter research teams, led by the University of Swansea and including researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), monitored the progress of a 170 km long ice rift in the ice shelf using the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites.

According to BAS remote sensing analyst Andrew Fleming, the satellite images have been critical for research planning.

He says: “This story has just got even more interesting.  Our glaciologists will now be watching closely to see whether the remaining Larsen C Ice Shelf becomes less stable than before the iceberg broke free, and our biologists will be keen to understand how new habitats formed by the loss of the ice are colonised.”

Professor David Vaughan, glaciologist and Director of Science at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said:
“Larsen A and B ice shelves, which were situated further north on the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively. This resulted in the dramatic acceleration of the glaciers behind them, with larger volumes of ice entering the ocean and contributing to sea-level rise.  If Larsen C now starts to retreat significantly and eventually collapses, then we will see another contribution to sea level rise.

The calving event has potential opportunities for new studies of open ocean and seabed habitats.  According to Drs Phil Trathan and Susie Grant of the BAS Conservation Biology team this calving event will provide unique scientific opportunities for understanding how new biological communities develop and how new species occupy the newly exposed area.

Dr Grant, a marine bio-geographer at BAS says:
“At the 2016 meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) there was international agreement that any newly exposed areas of ocean following ice shelf retreat or collapse could be automatically protected and designated as a Special Area for Scientific Research.”

Dr Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology adds:
“For this to happen the new environment must meet the specific criteria agreed by CCAMLR. If designated, this would restrict commercial fishing activities and provide a valuable opportunity for studying the new habitats created, including how species colonize the area and new communities develop.”

British Antarctic Survey scientists and their UK and international research collaborators have debated the cause of ice thinning on Larsen Ice Shelf for a decade.  In 2015 they published an international study in the journal The Cryosphere.  The research team combined satellite data and eight radar surveys captured during a 15-year period from 1998–2012. They found that Larsen C Ice Shelf lost an average of 4 metres of ice, and had lowered by an average of one metre at the surface.  The study revealed that the ice shelf is thinning from both its surface and beneath, suggesting warming air temperatures and warmer ocean currents play a role. This recent finding was an important step forward in assessing Antarctica’s likely contribution to future sea-level rise.

Researchers from the UK-based MIDAS project, led by Swansea University, have reported several rapid elongations of the Larsen Ice Shelf rift in recent years.

Satellite technology
Scientists knew the calving event was imminent because of developments in satellite technology which have enabled them to watch the rift even during darkness and bad weather. The European Union Copernicus programme has developed a new two-satellite constellation, called Sentinel-1, operated by the European Space Agency, which has become indispensable for watching ice movement in the Polar Regions.

This pair of satellites is equipped with radar, and routinely collects and delivers images of the coast of Antarctica. By contrast to optical instruments the Sentinel-1 acquire images of the ice sheet under all weather conditions, even when Antarctica is shrouded in darkness.

Satellite image of Larsen C ice shelf with iceberg

Is this calving event caused by climate change?
Professor Vaughan says: “There is little doubt that climate change is causing ice shelves to disappear in some parts of Antarctica at the moment. We see no obvious signal that climate warming is causing the whole of Antarctica to break up. However, around the Antarctic Peninsula, where we saw several decades of warming through the latter half of the 20th century, we have seen these ice shelves collapsing and ice loss increasing.

“There are other parts of the Antarctica that which are losing ice to the oceans but those are affected less by atmospheric warming and more by ocean change.

“Larsen C itself might be a result of climate change, but, in other ice shelves we see cracks forming, which we don’t believe have any connection to climate change.  For instance on the Brunt Ice Shelf where BAS has its Halley Station, there those cracks are a very different kind which we don’t believe have any connection to climate change.”

An ice shelf is a floating extension of land-based glaciers which flow into the ocean. Because they already float in the ocean, their melting does not directly contribute to sea-level rise. However, ice shelves act as buttresses holding back glaciers flowing down to the coast.

During the recent Antarctic field season, a BAS glaciology research team was on Larsen C using seismic techniques to survey the seafloor beneath the ice shelf.  Because a calving looked likely, as a precaution the team was unable to set up camp on the ice as usual. Instead they made daily field trips by aircraft supported from Rothera Research Station.

Antarctic Treaty – newly exposed areas through ice-shelf collapse
In 2010 an ‘Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on Implications of Climate Change for Antarctic Management and Governance’, made a number of recommendations, including:

Recommendation 26: The ATME recommends, recognising the responsibilities of and need to coordinate with CCAMLR, that the CEP consider, and advise the ATCM accordingly, as to means by which automatic interim protection might be afforded to newly exposed areas, such as marine areas exposed through ice-shelf collapse.

Work to take this through CCAMLR was undertaken and led by scientists from BAS.
Larsen C crack - photo NASA / John Sonntag

Berrim Nuru Steps Onto Mt Keira Ring Track

Media release: 12 July 2017: NPWS
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is working with Berrim Nuru, the environmental services branch of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council (ILALC), to restore a section of the Mt Keira Ring Track.

NPWS South Coast Area Manager Graham Bush said the northern section of the popular 5.5km walking track in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area is currently closed following a large rock fall.

“This project with Berrim Nuru is a step towards being able to eventually re-open the popular loop track to the public,” Mr Bush said.

“The work is challenging, due to the steep terrain and fragile environment on Mt Keira, but Berrim Nuru has completed construction of a new elevated part of the track that avoids permanent impacts on the rainforest.

“The new elevated section is just part of the work that is needed to ensure the whole loop track is once again safe for the public, but it is a very important start,” he said.

ILALC Chief Executive Paul Knight says he is delighted with the collaboration.

“Mt Keira is one of the Illawarra’s most important Aboriginal cultural sites, and the Aboriginal people have walked the Illawarra for over 20 thousand years,” said Mr Knight.

“This project has been a great opportunity to work together to provide sustainable access to traditional Aboriginal lands and to expand track building skills in our Berrim Nuru team,” he said.

Construction of several hundred new steps to complete the route will continue into the 2017-18 financial year, with work expected to be complete and the loop track re-instated during 2018.

The southern and western legs of the walk are still open, and other nearby walks include the Ken Ausburn, Dave Walsh and Robertson’s Lookout tracks.

Walkers are reminded, for their own safety, not to enter any track if signage indicates that it is closed.

NPWS and Berrim Nuru work on the Mt Keira Ring Track - IMAGE CREDIT: Office of Environment and Heritage

JCU Scientists Produce A Hit Love Song For Toads

July 14, 2017
James Cook University researchers say they now know exactly what makes horny cane toads boogie. And the toad tune could help sound the death knell for the pests.

JCU’s Ben Muller placed cane toad ‘audio traps’ with differing characteristics at various sites in the Townsville region.

“We varied the sound they were playing to have different combinations of volume, frequency and pulse rate,” he said.

The team were particularly interested in attracting reproductive female toads (those carrying eggs).

“A female cane toad may lay upwards of 20,000 eggs per clutch so removing a single female with eggs from the population is more effective for control than removing a single male,” said Mr Muller.

He said that male cane toads did not appear to care what variation of volume, frequency and pulse rate were used, but female toads were much choosier.

“We found we could manipulate the proportion of females, and reproductive females, that we trapped by changing the calls used as lures.”

The scientists found that approximately 91% of the females trapped using a loud, low frequency tone with a high pulse rate were reproductive.

“We think that low frequency calls indicate to female toads that they are hearing a large-bodied male and the high pulse rate means the male making the call has high energy reserves. These things combine to make them believe they have found a good breeding partner,” he said.

Mr Muller said the finding may help suppress toad numbers, but it was not a silver bullet.

“Large-scale eradication of cane toads from mainland Australia using traps is probably not possible; however, eradication of island populations could be achievable if the trapping regime was correctly designed and implemented,” he said.

The research will be used by Animal Control Technologies Australia to help create a commercial trap.

Benjamin J Muller, Lin Schwarzkopf. Success of capture of toads improved by manipulating acoustic characteristics of lures. Pest Management Science, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/ps.4629

Ben Muller and a cane toad

An Unusual Discovery Of The Endangered Glasshouse Banksia

Media release: 10 July 2017 - Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
A new population of the critically endangered Glasshouse Banksia has been discovered in Coorabakh National Park, north-east of Taree.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Data Support Officer, Andrew Steed said the discovery was made while conducting soil sampling and plant monitoring in the area, as part of the conservation work being funded by the NSW Government's Saving our Species program.

"We were extremely surprised and excited to find the Glasshouse Banksia in a remote and mountainous area in Coorabakh National Park, as this plant usually prefers a different type of soil and geology," Andrew said.

"The Glasshouse Banksia was previously only known to live in a small area within this park as well as the Glass House Mountains in Queensland - so this new population is great news for this rare plant.

"We haven't counted the exact number of plants in this population as yet but we think it could be in the thousands, which is why we will go back later in the year."

During the research expedition, the group also found extensive populations of two other vulnerable plants - Big Nellie Hakea and the beautiful weeping Dracophyllum macranthum.

"This trip was very encouraging as finding more plant populations fills us with hope of being able to secure these endangered or vulnerable plants in the wild into the future," Mr Steed said.

"And we can't wait to get back to Coorabakh National Park for further monitoring - who knows what else we could find," he said.

The Glasshouse Banksia is an interesting looking shrub growing to four metres in height. Branchlets can vary in colour from orange to red or brown and its individual flowers are yellowish-green to pinkish-brown in bud and golden when open.

For more information on the Banksia conferta subsp. conferta please visit: Banksia conferta subsp. conferta - profile

For more information on the NSW Government's Saving our Species program, please visit: Saving our Species program

The glasshouse banksia. IMAGE CREDIT: Office of Environment and Heritage

Avalon Boomerang Bags: An Idea That's Spreading To Stop Plastic Bag Use

Avalon Boomerang Bags - now at North Avalon shops - A J Guesdon photo, 25.5.2017

Avalon Boomerang Bags

11am-5pm @ sewcraft cook 
Unit 20/14 Polo Ave Mona Vale

Boomerang Bags is a bag-share initiative involving the installation of a number of ‘Boomerang Bag’ boxes throughout any given business district, shopping centre, street or market. Each box is stocked with re-useable bags for customers to borrow if they have forgotten to bring their own.

Unlike the traditional purchase-and-keep approach, Boomerang Bags are free, and local community members are responsible for returning the bags once they’re no longer required. The availability of free re-useable bags reduces the reliance of local businesses to supply bags to all customers, and encourages a mentality of re-use among local communities, thereby reducing the amount of plastic bag material entering our landfills and waterways.

So who makes the Boomerang Bags? Well, you do! Boomerang Bags are made by local communities for local communities, and are sewn from recycled and donated materials.

Get in touch if you'd like to donate materials, join us making bags, or implement Boomerang Bags in your own local area!

Department Seeks Community Input On Improving Environmental Impact Assessments

July 5th, 2017: Departmental Media Release, Department of Planning and Environment
The community has a chance to improve the way state significant projects are assessed during workshops to gather feedback on new draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines.

The draft guidelines are on exhibition until Friday,1 September 2017, and representatives from the Department of Planning and Environment will be holding community information sessions across NSW during the exhibition period.

Executive Director, David Kitto, said the new guidelines are an important initiative to drive better practice in NSW.

“While state significant projects such as large infrastructure, industry, mining and urban renewal developments are essential for NSW, they require a comprehensive triple-bottom line assessment with extensive community input,” Mr Kitto said.

“Last year we exhibited a discussion paper on improving the assessment process and received strong support for the improvements from industry and the community.

“After extensive consultation we developed draft guidelines and we’re undertaking workshops to hear what the community has to say about them.

“This is an important opportunity for the community to make sure we get the new guidelines right.”

Mr Kitto said key improvements include getting the community involved much earlier in the assessment process, focussing on the most important issues and improving the quality of all assessment documents.

“While assessment documents, such as environmental impact statements, need to be technically rigorous they also need to be easy to understand and clearly address issues raised by the community. This means everyone should be able to understand them, not just technical experts,” he said.

All public feedback gathered during the exhibition and roadshows will be considered and will assist the Department in finalising the EIA guidelines.

On exhibition are:
  • Guides for proponents covering all stages of the assessment process
  • A guide to help the community understand and participate in the assessment process
  • A guide on the Department’s approach to setting conditions for projects
To view the draft guidelines currently on public exhibition and make a submission, visit the Department’s website

To attend the public information sessions, people should call 1300 305 695 or visit the Department’s website at

Once registered, relevant information for the community information session will be provided via email.
Comment by September 1st, 2017

Visit a community information session

Tuesday 25 July Sydney
S1:  12:00pm - 2.30pm
S2:  4:30pm – 7:00pm

Thursday 10 August Sydney  
S1:  12:00pm - 2.30pm

Guideline 1
Overview of the EIA Improvement Project
This document outlines the proposed improvements. It will help you locate further details of the improvements outlined in each of the guidelines.
Make a submission

Guideline 2
Community Guide to EIA
This guideline outlines the opportunities to participate at each phase of EIA, what information the community can expect to receive and how the community’s knowledge and opinions will be used by the proponent and the Department.
Make a submission

Guideline 3
Scoping an Environmental Impact Statement
This guideline will help proponents identify the key issues for assessment in the EIS by providing guidance on how to scope a project and setting out the requirements for engagement with the community and other stakeholders in the early phases of EIA.
Make a submission

Guideline 4
Preparing an Environmental Impact Statement
This guideline will help proponents prepare a clear and consistent EIS with all the required information. It will also enhance understanding by the community and other stakeholders.
Make a submission

Guideline 5
Responding to External Submissions 
This guideline provides direction to proponents on how to address comments and issues and communicate to the community and other stakeholders who have made a submission in response to a proposed project during the exhibition of the EIS.
Make a submission

Guideline 6
Community and Stakeholder Engagement
This guideline encourages proponents to engage earlier with the community and other stakeholders by introducing a set of engagement requirements applicable to all projects. It will also help proponents to improve the quality of engagement by directing them to focus on meeting participation outcomes during the preparation of the EIS.
Make a submission

Guideline 7
Approach to Setting Conditions
This guideline outlines the Department’s approach to setting conditions of approval. It will promote understanding of the role of conditions of approval in decisions about the project and the management of environmental impacts during construction and operation.
Make a submission

Guideline 8
Modifying an Approved Project
This guideline will help proponents to understand if changes are permitted using the same development consent, if the consent needs to be modified or if a new application is required. It will also help them to understand whether community and other stakeholder engagement is required.
Make a submission

Guideline 9
Peer Review
This guideline sets out a methodology for independent peer review including criteria to determine the suitability of a peer reviewer, review practice, review reporting and post approval requirements. It will provide for greater consistency in peer review.
Make a submission

For further information, please call our Information Centre on 1300 305 695 or email

Bushcare’s Major Day Out At Mona Vale 2017

Mona Vale Bushcare and Pittwater Natural Heritage Association have been awarded a Stronger Communities Grant to continue the restoration of the coastal dune and littoral rainforest at the end of Basset Street. The Bushcare group will continue to remove weeds, replant native species and encourage natural regeneration. The $12,000 received will be used to support the group through contract bush regeneration and the purchase of native plants. 

This site has been chosen for Bushcare volunteers to come together and join in the nationwide “Bushcare’s Major Day Out” event to support all our local volunteers working to conserve and restore our unique natural environment. 

When: September 17, 2017 - 8.30 12p.m.
Where: Mona Vale Basin Beach Reserve, at the end of Bassett Street Mona Vale

Grants Of Up To $3 Million Available For Innovative Solutions For Organic Waste

Media release: EPA
Applications for grants up to $3 million are now open to councils, waste and/or organics processing companies and not-for-profit organisations who have plans for projects that can tackle the amount of food and garden waste that goes to landfill.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority and Environmental Trust are inviting applicants to submit their proposals under three different grant streams:
  • Organics Processing Infrastructure - up to $3 million for infrastructure process more source separated organics from households and businesses 
  • Food Donation Infrastructure – up to $500,000 for equipment to collect, store and redistribute surplus food to people in need
  • Product Quality – up to $500,000 for equipment to improve recycled organics product quality 
Previous rounds of these grants have already funded projects that have made a positive impact on local communities. Last year 3 Pallaettes was awarded a $295,600 Organics Processing Infrastructure Grant to provide the Central Coast with an open windrow composting system for organic wastes, that would otherwise be sent to landfill, to produce a premium grade humified soil conditioner.

With a $89,500 grant under the Food Donation stream, Settlement Services were able to purchase a van, cool rooms and freezer to run The Staples Bag program, supplying a bag of food staples to people in need.

EPA Unit Head Organics Amanda Kane said the grants gave councils and community groups the chance to fund projects that could make a real difference when it came to organic waste.

“From saving good food from being wasted and tackling food insecurity in our state, to increasing NSW capacity to process more collected green waste,  these grants are designed to tackle organic food waste from every angle,” Ms Kane said.

The Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) Director Grants Peter Dixon said the Environmental Trust was pleased to offer the new rounds of organics funding for organics collections under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

“This is a significant amount of money that will go to projects that will make a significant change to organic waste in our state.”

The grants are being delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the Environmental Trust (which is administered by OEH).

Applications close 5pm Thursday 10 August 2017. The EPA is hosting webinars to assist potential applications find out more about grant programs. More information on these webinars available here

For more information on the organics collections grants and webinar visit.

The Clean Bin Project Screening

Monday, July 31 at 7:30 PM - 9:45 PM
Desire Books & Records
3/3 Whistler Street, Manly

Is it possible to live completely waste free? 'The Clean Bin Project' tells the story of partners Jen and Grant who go head to head in a competition to see who can swear off consumerism and produce the least garbage. Their light-hearted competition is set against a darker examination of the problem that is waste and the environmental impacts of our 'throw-away society'.

Join the 'Convenient for who?' community, along with three Northern Beaches mums who are determined to bring awareness to waste reduction and the harmful effects single-use items are having on our environment.

• Enjoy complimentary popcorn from the Manly Food Co-op 
• Bring a little cash, along with  YOUR OWN CUP and have a drink to toast the end of 'Plastic Free July' 

Tickets: $15 HERE

All proceeds from the night will go to 'Living Ocean' - "a not for profit celebration of this special place and the people that shape it."

Please bring along any unwanted fabric you may have lying around and the 'Boomerang Bags' crew will gratefully take it off your hands!

COAG Energy Council Agrees To Significant Reforms To The Electricity Sector

14 July 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The COAG Energy Council has today agreed to a significant set of reforms which will deliver a more affordable and reliable electricity system as we transition to a lower emissions future.

At the meeting in Brisbane the Energy Council agreed to immediately act on 49 of the 50 recommendations of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (NEM) which was presented to COAG leaders five weeks ago.

Following the eight month review led by Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, these significant reforms have been agreed to in record time and will help to drive down power prices and ensure we have a more reliable system well into the future.

Key recommendations which the Energy Council agreed to include:
  • A new Generator Reliability Obligation which will require intermittent sources of generation to provide an appropriate level of backup to guard against blackouts;
  • The introduction of Energy Security Obligations to provide the necessary support services (Frequency Control and Ancillary Services and inertia) to intermittent sources of generation;
  • A new requirement for large generators to give a minimum three years notice before closing; and
  • The establishment of an Energy Security Board to oversee the health, security and reliability of the NEM.
Also at the meeting the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) outlined their comprehensive plan for this summer. As part of this plan the market operator will be able to contract for more supply to make sure there is no shortfall.

Following an update from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on its review into retail electricity prices the Energy Council agreed to provide greater transparency on the price and availability of long-term electricity retail contracts as well as to give consumers greater real time control over their energy consumption.

Importantly governments will be provided with greater visibility of retail electricity prices, retail margins and factors affecting price to ensure they are in a stronger position to respond to any inappropriate market practices.

Gas Exports The Culprit For Electricity Price Hikes: The Audit - Electricity Update

12 July 2017: The Australia Institute 
The Australia Institute has released the Electricity Update of the National Energy Emissions Audit (The Audit*) for July 2017.

The report, by renowned energy analyst Dr Hugh Saddler, reveals a stunning correlation between domestic electricity prices and gas prices, despite gas making up only 10 percent of electricity generation.

Australian gas prices have risen significantly, as predicted, upon the development of export terminals and the linking of domestic gas to the Asian market.

“The correlation between the two data series is striking, confirming that higher wholesale electricity prices, and hence higher retail prices in SA are almost entirely caused by higher gas prices,” Dr Saddler said.

“The launch of the NEM in 1998 was followed by a rush of construction of gas turbine power stations in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and even in Tasmania, accelerated in Queensland by a gas generation mandate policy introduced by the state Labor government. 

“So this is not a malfunction of the National Electricity Market, but precisely how it was expected to operate, when set up. What has changed is the price of gas, driven up by export contracts.”

The alternate narrative, that the electricity price rises is to do with increased renewable production, does not stand up to the data, where we see no correlation, even in the usual example given, South Australia.

The report also identifies the sharp reduction in emissions coming from a drop in brown coal generation – associated with the closure of Hazelwood.

“It seems that the decision to allow so much of the gas resources of eastern Australia to be exported was made without considering the likely effects on the electricity market.

“Household and business consumers of electricity are now paying the price for this policy failure,” Dr. Saddler said.

*About The Audit and Electricity Update
In June 2017 The Australia Institute has launched the National Energy Emissions Audit (The Audit), written by respected energy analyst and ANU Honorary Associate Professor, Dr Hugh Saddler, which tracks Australia's emissions of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels. 

The National Energy Emissions Audit will be published on a quarterly basis, in September, December, March and June each year. In each intermediate month the NEEA Electricity Update will report on changes to emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

National Energy Emissions Audit
Section: Energy - Goverment and Accountability - Mining
Download Publication: 
NEEA Electricity Update July 2017 final.pdf
Available at: 

Tapping Into Tidal Energy Technologies

13 July 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Harnessing the potential power of tidal energy to contribute to Australia's energy needs is the focus of a three-year mapping project being supported by a $2.5 million investment by the Turnbull Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The $6 million project led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania, in partnership with CSIRO and University of Queensland will provide a better understanding of tidal energy and its potential to feed into Australia's electricity infrastructure.

Tidal energy is created through tidal movement and the vertical fluctuations in sea level and the horizontal flow of the water.

This energy resource has the advantage of being potentially available for more than 18 hours a day, with only the 'slack' period between high and low tide when the water is not able to generate. Since the rise and fall of the tide is well known, this means that tidal energy is entirely predictable in terms of output for many years in advance, enabling other forms of generation and storage to be built around it.

As a reliable, low emissions form of energy, tidal generation technology could be integrated to enhance the country's grid stability, or to provide support to off-grid industrial sites and remote communities.

A hydrodynamic tidal model will be developed as part of the project to map the scale and distribution of Australia's tidal energy resources to the nearest 500 meters, with the results published in an online atlas.

The project will also encompass a feasibility assessment of potential sites as well as technical performance modelling of known tidal energy devices and environmental impact assessment.

With the project mapping a greater level of detail than previously seen, the project also aims to further boost investment in ocean energy technologies by addressing knowledge gaps to give investors more certainty in the technology.

The Coalition Government's investment in clean energy technologies will help to deliver reliable and affordable energy as we move to a lower emissions future.

First Bioregional Assessments Released

13 July 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The first full assessments of the potential impacts of coal mining and coal seam gas extraction on a bioregion’s water resources have been released as part of the Federal Government’s program to strengthen the science used to inform regulatory decision-making and build community confidence in the sustainable development of Australia’s coal and gas resources.

The completed assessments are for the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine (QLD/NSW) and Clarence-Moreton bioregions (QLD/NSW), two of the 13 areas earmarked for study by the world-class program in 2012.

The Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine assessment found that impacts of the New Acland Stage 3 coal mine expansion and The Range coal mine on water resources in the region will be limited to small areas near the mines.

The Clarence-Moreton assessment found that potential changes in water resources due to the withdrawn West Casino Gas Project would likely have been minimal at the surface.

Publication of these documents marks the culmination of an open, transparent process which saw a range of data, asset registers and other technical reports for the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine and Clarence-Moreton bioregions publicly released over several years.

The assessments draw upon expertise in ecology, hydrology, hydrogeology, geology, informatics and risk analysis and are the result of rigorous analysis by CSIRO and Geoscience.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas Extraction and Large Coal Mines provided advice on the assessments at key stages in their development and will draw on their results when providing advice to regulators.

In the May 2017 Budget, a further $30.4 million was allocated to expand the Bioregional Assessment program to examine shale and tight gas reserves and provide independent scientific information on where resources exist and how to access them efficiently while protecting the environment.

Further assessments with respect to the Gloucester, Hunter, Galilee and Namoi subregions will be released following their completion.

More information on the Bioregional Assessment program and the two completed assessments can be accessed


From completed assessment:

At a glance
The bioregional assessment for the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine subregion found that impacts of two proposed coal mines on water resources in the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine subregion will be limited to small areas near the mines. Most water-dependent assets in the region will be unaffected. Possible impacts on 15 percent of the Barakula State Forest, a small number of bores, and some areas of groundwater-dependent ecosystems and threatened species habitat may require more detailed local investigation, for example, as part of an environmental impact assessment.

Petition: Rescind Adani's Unlimited Water License And Support Aussie Farmers!

As Queensland farmers, water is crucial for our livelihoods. As our climate gets hotter and drier, our water resources are even more precious. We call on the Queensland Premier to rescind the unlimited, free 60-year water license they are proposing to grant to the Adani coal mine.

My name is Angus Emmott and I'm proud to be a third generation grazier from Longreach in outback Queensland. I'm committed to a sustainable future for farming in Australia and ask you for your support to protect our precious groundwater. 

In Queensland, the proposed Adani-owned Carmichael coal mine has been granted unlimited access to groundwater. The mine, the biggest of nine proposed for the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton, is expected to draw 26 million litres of water per day from its pits. Over its life this mine alone would total 355 billion litres of water and modelling already demonstrates that 2 springs will be shut down.

As farmers we are angry about the special deal struck by the Queensland government to give Adani free water for its proposed coal mine. I am launching this petition today to call upon Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to support Aussie farmers and to rescind the water licenses that allow Adani access to unlimited water for 60 years.

All over the country, farmers are battling to stop fossil fuel mining and fracking on their land. Nearly 90% of Queensland is currently drought declared, so why are we giving an Indian billionaire access to unlimited groundwater for a new coal mine?

I'm asking all Australians, to stand with me in calling upon the Premier to rescind this approval before irrevocable damage is done to our groundwater systems and the long term sustainability of Queensland agriculture. 

Angus Emmott with Farmers for Climate Action

Planning For The Future Of Royal National Park: Have Your Say

Tell us what you think about the future management of Australia’s oldest national park.

Plans of management guide what happens in our national parks, and how we manage them. The existing plan of management for Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area dates back to 2000.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is preparing a new plan of management for Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area.

The future management of Royal National Park, one of the busiest parks in NSW, involves some particularly complex and important issues.

NPWS has prepared six discussion papers to explore and generate discussion about these issues. 

These discussion papers are the first stage in the development of a new plan of management.

The discussion papers cover a range of issues, many of which have previously been identified as being of interest to the community.

Have your say
Read the discussion papers and send us your comments before 5pm, 28 August 2017 in any of the following ways:

By post: 
The Planner, NPWS
PO Box 144
Sutherland, NSW 1499.

There will be another opportunity to have your say when the draft plan of management is completed and put on public exhibition. If you'd like to be notified when the draft plan is available, please register your details at the Royal National Park community engagement portal.

Discussion papers
View the discussion papers below and tell us what you think about the issues raised in them. Your comments will contribute to the development of a draft plan of management.

Mountain Biking (PDF 3.8MB)

Related material

Have Your Say On Mallee Cliffs National Park Draft Plan Of Management

Media release: NPWS
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is calling for comment on the draft plan of management for Mallee Cliffs National Park near Mildura.

NPWS Director Mark Peacock said the draft plan is on exhibition until 28 August and outlines the park’s values and proposed management.

“Plans of management are legal documents that enable us to have a clear understanding of the values of the park and how we will manage them into the future,” said Mr Peacock.

“Mallee Cliffs National Park is nestled in the south-west corner of New South Wales on Barkandji Country and is an important area for wildlife conservation.

“As a part of the NSW Government’s flagship Saving our Species program, the plan includes the Reintroduction of Locally Extinct Mammals project to be developed on the park by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

“This ambitious project aims to reintroduce at least ten mammal species that have been extinct in the Mallee Cliffs for more than a century including the bilby, numbat and brush-tailed bettong.

“Mallee Cliffs National Park protects extensive areas of flat to undulating sandy red plains and linear sand dunes formed during arid periods from 350,000 to 500,000 years ago.

“The park is also home to 27 threatened animal species, including the endangered Malleefowl and Western Pygmy Possum,” Mr Peacock said. 

The draft plan of management for Mallee Cliffs National Park can be viewed at:

• NPWS Office, corner of Sturt Highway and Melaleuca Street Buronga, 2739, NSW
• Wentworth Visitor Information Centre, 66 Darling Street Wentworth, 2648, NSW
• OEH Customer Centre (Level 14, 59–61 Goulburn Street, Sydney)

Submissions on the plan must be received by 28 August 2017.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is calling for comment on the draft plan of management for Mallee Cliffs National Park near Mildura. Photo: Mallee fowl- courtesy OEH

Update: Review Of Environmental Factors: Proposed Use And Upgrade Of Access Trail In Royal National Park For Bundeena Coast Eco Lodge

July 5th, 2017
The Review of Environmental Factors is to be re-exhibited from 5 July to 4 August due to inconsistencies in the applicant's accompanying documentation to the Review of Environmental Factors in the previous consultation, and to allow a longer period for public comment.

Any submissions made as part of the previous exhibition must be resubmitted to be considered in the assessment of the Review of Environmental Factors. We apologise for any inconvenience and request that you resubmit your comments, taking into account the updated accompanying documents, by 4 August 2017.

Your submission:
The Review of Environmental Factors is a proposal for formal access to 60-70 Bournemouth Street (Bundeena) to construct and service an eco-tourism facility. Any submissions received that are outside the scope of the Review of Environmental Factors will not be considered in the assessment process.

Help us understand your ideas and suggestions for this requested trail access:
  • write clearly and be specific about the issues that are of concern to you
  • note which part or section of the Review of Environmental Factors your comments relate to
  • give reasoning in support of your points - this helps avoid misinterpretation and makes it easier for us consider your ideas
  • if you agree or support a particular part or idea in the Review of Environmental Factors, please tell us
  • if you disagree, please tell us specifically what you disagree with and why you disagree
  • it is very helpful to suggest solutions or alternatives to managing the issue if you can.
You can provide your written submission in one of the following ways:


By email
Email your submission to: 

By mail
Royal Area Manager
NPWS Regional Office
PO Box 144
Sutherland 1499

Hard copies of the Review of Environmental Factors and supporting documentation are available for viewing at:

Bundeena Public Library, Bundeena Public School
Royal National Park Visitor Centre, Royal National Park
Sutherland Shire Council Chambers

National Laws Needed As 5.5 Million Baby Boomers Retire

July 13, 2017: National Seniors
National Seniors will continue its campaign for national reform of the retirement village industry, following Queensland Government moves to toughen consumer protection for residents.

Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the Queensland Government was leading the way with its announcement last weekend that it would take urgent action to ensure fairness for seniors living in retirement villages and residential parks.

"Given that many of these retirement village companies operate nationally, we think it's only fair that people should have national laws," Mr Henschke said.

“You only have to look at the vast number of people who retire to live in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland. They may only live a few kilometers apart yet the laws and regulations can vary hugely. But why should there be different rules when the only difference is geography?

"National Seniors also believes it's very important to have an independent complaints commissioner who oversees these laws."

Mr Henschke welcomed the Queensland reforms, but said the problems confronting retirement village residents was broader, and had been the subject of ongoing lobbying by National Seniors for some years.

"It's a big problem and it's a growing problem because we have 5.5 million baby boomers moving into retirement," Mr Henschke said.

"Confusing and complex contracts that vary from state to state and ongoing fees and charges, as highlighted recently in the Fairfax Media/4 Corners television program, put great strains on people."

Mr Henschke urged the Queensland Government to talk to the Federal Government and state and territory counterparts around Australia to introduce a national system.

"Australians like to have national laws, especially when they cover and protect them in consumer legislation,” Mr Henschke said

“We want to ensure that older Australians living in other states and territories have the same protections and security being introduced in Queensland.”

The Queensland Government announced that it would introduce laws to:
  • Require simplified, standard contracts
  • Require ongoing fees and charges to be clearly declared upfront
  • Introduce a minimum 21-days to evaluate contracts before signing
  • Make exit fees and payments for preparing a unit for sale fairer
  • Implement dispute resolution processes
  • Introduce enforceable behaviour standards for village operators.
It has pledged to ensure the changes take effect before the end of the year.

Streamlined My Aged Care Improves Consumer Support And Access

11 July 2017: Media Release - Minister for Aged Care, The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM
New policies and processes have been implemented to make life easier for all consumers, particularly older people with diverse needs, and health professionals who use My Aged Care.

My Aged Care is the Australian Government’s one-stop shop for aged care support.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said one of the most important changes to My Aged Care was clarification of who can speak on a consumer’s behalf, and under what circumstances.

“If a person is capable of consenting to someone speaking and acting on their behalf in My Aged Care, he or she now has greater flexibility in appointing a regular representative, and who that person can be,” Minister Wyatt said.

“In those cases where a person may not be capable of providing such consent, the consumer will need to have an authorised representative appointed for them.

“The legal documents needed to establish an authorised representative, and the nature of decisions made in My Aged Care, have now been streamlined to make them consistent with State and Territory legislation.”

Specific consumers with diverse needs who cannot engage with My Aged Care over the phone, and who do not have a representative, can now be referred by a third party directly for an assessment.

“Health professionals will also benefit as they will be able to follow up on their patient’s progress when they call the My Aged Care contact centre,” Minister Wyatt said.

“This will enable them to provide continuity of care for their patients. There will be greater visibility on the progress of referrals, as health professionals work together with My Aged Care assessors in support of older people. 

“These changes will ensure that vulnerable consumers don’t fall through the cracks, and are able to receive the assessments and aged care services they need.

“Simplifying the system will better support people through their My Aged Care journey.”

For details, see the My Aged Care website.

NUW Alliance Seeks Community Input To Shape NSW’s Future

July 14, 2017: NUW Alliance

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the NUW Alliance launch in Sydney.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has officially launched the NUW Alliance, a partnership between the universities of New South Wales, Newcastle and Wollongong dedicated to finding smart solutions to the State's biggest challenges.

Ms Berejiklian witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the three partners at a ceremony held in central Sydney.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the NUW Alliance was a commitment by the three research-intensive universities to the future of the State.

“Universities have a leading role to play in the development of smart solutions,” Professor Jacobs said.

“The NUW Alliance will harness the combined power of the three institutions’ multidisciplinary research, education expertise and innovative thinking to explore and deliver ways to enhance equality of opportunity, create new jobs and generate economic growth.

“To date we have been looking at a number of areas where we believe we can make a difference, such as energy security, unlocking the benefits of big data, improving healthcare solutions and creating liveable communities. But we want to make sure we are meeting the needs of the communities we are aiming to serve.

“For that reason, we are opening up to communities for input on what they think the priorities of the Alliance should be.”

Front (L-R): Professor Ian Jacobs, UNSW Vice-Chancellor; Professor Carolie McMillen, UoN Vice-Chancellor; Professor Paul Wellings, UoW Vice-Chancellor. Rear (L-R): Mr Paul Jean, Chancellor UON; NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells; Premier Gladys Berejiklian; Ms Jillian Segal, Deputy Chancellor UNSW; Ms Jillian Broadbent Chancellor UoW.

University of Newcastle President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen said the NUW Alliance was keen to understand what the challenges for communities were and where gaps in research and knowledge might be contributing to those challenges.

“Each of the universities in the NUW Alliance has distinct strengths in education, research and innovation that contribute to the economic prosperity and social well-being of the cities and regions they serve.

“By combining those strengths and directing them toward the big challenges facing our state, we will make an enduring and transformational impact on the future for our communities.”

University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings said the Alliance, which had a geographical reach from the Mid North Coast to the South Coast of NSW, was calling on the business, industry, education and health sectors to contribute their time and ideas to help identify transformational projects.

“The NUW Alliance demonstrates that our universities not only help our students reach their full potential, but also our communities,” Professor Wellings said.

“This is why it is important for us to consult widely to identify priorities in our communities so we can get to work in delivering smarter solutions for New South Wales.”

The consultation period – expected to last up to six months – will identify areas where the combined higher education ‘firepower’ can make a lasting difference to the ability of individuals, businesses and communities to thrive and prosper.

The broad community consultation follows consideration of NSW State Plan priorities and initial discussions between the three universities, which have canvassed opportunities to:
  • develop skills in critically important new sectors such as cyber security
  • apply ‘Smart Cities’ technologies to improve the connectivity, productivity and liveability of our regional cities and coastal communities
  • create greater access to higher education for stuL:izadents in regional and remote communities – including Indigenous students
  • partner with health services to improve health outcomes for the community, including for some of the most disadvantaged groups in the state
For more information visit –

How to have your say
The NUW Alliance consultation paper outlines the goal, priorities and initial focus areas of the Alliance. We welcome your feedback on the proposed priorities and suggestions for areas of future collaboration.

Email your feedback to:

The initial consultation will be open until 30 November 2017.

  • Centred around the Mid North Coast, Hunter, Central Coast, Sydney, Illawarra and South Coast regions, the area covered by the NUW Alliance is home to more than 25 per cent of Australia’s population and 75 per cent of NSW’s population.
  • The Universities of Newcastle, New South Wales and Wollongong collectively teach more than 121,000 students in 25 campuses across NSW and overseas. Some 88,000 are domestic students and almost 33,000 are international onshore and offshore students.
  • They collectively operate 14 innovation and entrepreneurship hubs from the Illawarra to the upper Hunter.
  • In 2015, the three universities netted a combined research income of more than half a billion dollars, including more than $112 million from industry research partners.

Most Effective Individual Steps To Tackle Climate Change Aren't Being Discussed

July 11, 2017
Governments and schools are not communicating the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprints, according to new research.

Published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study from Lund University, found that the incremental changes advocated by governments may represent a missed opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beneath the levels needed to prevent 2°C of climate warming.

The four actions that most substantially decrease an individual's carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car-free, and having smaller families.

The research analysed 39 peer reviewed papers, carbon calculators, and government reports to calculate the potential of a range of individual lifestyle choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This comprehensive analysis identifies the actions individuals could take that will have the greatest impact on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Lead author Seth Wynes said: "There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies side-by-side gives us confidence we've identified actions that make a big difference. Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact. This research is about helping people make more informed choices.

"We found there are four actions that could result in substantial decreases in an individual's carbon footprint: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car free, and having smaller families. For example, living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.

"These actions, therefore, have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (which is 4 times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (8 times less effective)."

The researchers also found that neither Canadian school textbooks nor government resources from the EU, USA, Canada and Australia highlight these actions, instead focussing on incremental changes with much smaller potential to reduce emissions.

Study co-author Kimberly Nicholas said: "We recognize these are deeply personal choices. But we can't ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has. Personally, I've found it really positive to make many of these changes. It's especially important for young people establishing lifelong patterns to be aware which choices have the biggest impact. We hope this information sparks discussion and empowers individuals," she concluded.

Seth Wynes, Kimberly A Nicholas. The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, 2017; 12 (7): 074024 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

Ancient Plankton-Like Microfossils Span Two Continents

July 13, 2017

Lenticular organic microfossils in the Kromberg Formation, Onverwacht Group, Barberton Mountain Land of South Africa. Image shown is an optical photomicrograph of a polished thin section, taken in transmitted light. Credit: Dorothy Oehler on a sample provided by Maud Walsh (Louisiana State University)

Large, robust, lens-shaped microfossils from the approximately 3.4 billion-year-old Kromberg Formation of the Kaapvaal Craton in eastern South Africa are not only among the oldest elaborate microorganisms known, but are also related to other intricate microfossils of the same age found in the Pilbara Craton of Australia, according to an international team of scientists.

The researchers report that the "Kromberg Formation (KF) forms are bona fide, organic Archean microfossils and represent some of the oldest morphologically preserved organisms on Earth," in the July issue of Precambrian Research. They also state that the combination of morphology, occurrence and carbon isotope values argues that the lenticular forms represent microbes that had planktonic stages to their life cycles.

"We hoped to determine if, in fact, the South African examples could be linked with the Australian examples, as it would give us additional insight into the evolutionary history and significance of these unusual forms," said Dorothy Z. Oehler, senior scientist, Planetary Science Institute, Tuscon Arizona. "Maud (M. Walsh, professor of plant, environmental and soil sciences, Louisiana State University) first discovered the lenticular forms in the Kromberg formation and sent us some samples and we all collaborated on the interpretation. We did isotopic analysis along with comparison of the South African and Australian examples in terms of their morphologies and the types of rocks and geologic settings in which the fossils occurred."

These fossils all occur in sedimentary rocks -- chert -- in what was once shallow water. And, according to the researchers, it appears that the samples from two sites in Australia and one in South Africa are related.

"Many people believe that the Kaapvaal Craton of Southern Africa and the Pilbara Craton of Australia formed a single continent at that time," said Christopher H. House, professor of geosciences and director, Penn State Astrobiology Research Center. "But we really don't know."

These microfossils are unusual not only because they are so old, appearing in the geologic record about a billion years after Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago, but because they are large, complex, plankton-like and autotrophs -- organisms that can turn inorganic elements into organic material.

Familiar fossils such as trilobites were alive just 200 million years ago and first appeared 500 million years ago. The lenticular organisms appeared 3,450 million years ago, spread at least from where Australia was then to South Africa and then disappeared from the fossil record. They are larger and more elaborate than any other organism existing around at that time.

"These fossils don't appear to relate to anything on Earth that we know of," said House. "They seem to be an experiment in adaptation that does not leave a lineage."

The researchers analyzed the fossils to determine the isotopic relationship between carbon 12 and carbon 13, two isotopes of carbon that exist in everything but whose ratios can indicate organic material. They used Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy, a process where an ion beam kicks ions off the surface of a substance so that those ions can be identified.

"When the carbon isotope data came back we were excited," said Oehler. "It helped to confirm the biogenicity of the South African forms and told us that the organic microfossils from the three deposits were likely to represent organisms that were biologically related."

The researchers also note that the isotopic make up and morphology of these fossils set them apart from other microfossils found from the Precambrian -- 4,600 million years ago to 541 million years ago. These robust microorganisms existed for 400 million years and were abundant and widespread. Because they have thick robust walls and behave like plankton -- floating in the ocean surface waters -- they may have had an advantage for survival in the early Earth's higher ultraviolet radiation and sometimes chaotic environment, which was still being bombarded by large impacts.

Dorothy Z. Oehler, Maud M. Walsh, Kenichiro Sugitani, Ming-Chang Liu, Christopher H. House. Large and robust lenticular microorganisms on the young Earth. Precambrian Research, 2017; 296: 112 DOI:10.1016/j.precamres.2017.04.031

Income Directly Affects Children's Outcomes, Says New Report

July 12, 2017
Poorer children have worse cognitive, social-behavioural and health outcomes because they are poor, and not just because poverty is correlated with other household and parental characteristics, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Kerris Cooper and Kitty Stewart of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion(CASE) and the Department of Social Policy at LSE found the strong evidence of the causal effect between household income and children's outcomes after reviewing 61 studies from OECD countries including the US, UK, Australia, and Germany.

Ms Cooper commented: "There is abundant evidence that children growing up in lower income households do less well than their peers on a range of wider outcomes, including measures of health and education. We wanted to find out if money is important in itself, or do these associations simply reflect other differences between richer and poorer households, such as levels of parental education or attitudes towards parenting.

"Our conclusions are clear: there is a strong causal effect. Money makes a difference to children's outcomes."

The report, Does Money Affect Children's Outcomes: An Update, shows that income itself is important for children's cognitive development, physical health, and social and behavioural development.

Looking to explain why income matters, they found evidence in support of two central theories, one relating to parents' ability to invest in goods and services that further child development, and the other relating to the stress and anxiety parents suffer caused by low income. There is particularly strong evidence that increasing income is likely to reduce maternal depression, which is known to be important for children's outcomes.

In terms of how much money matters they found effect sizes were similar to spending on schools, however the effects of increased income are likely to be wider-reaching as income affects more household members and impacts children's outcomes across multiple domains as well as impacting the home environment.

They also confidently conclude that increases in income make more difference to families who have low income to begin with.

The report, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, updates an original review from 2013, with the most recently available evidence. The authors conclude that reducing income poverty would have "important and measurable effects both on children's environment and on their development."

It says: "Given rising levels of child poverty in the UK, and much steeper increases projected for the next few years, this conclusion could not be more important or topical, especially in light of stated government commitment to promoting social mobility. Certainly any strategy that seeks to improve life chances and equalise opportunities for children without turning the tide against growing levels of child poverty is going to face an uphill struggle and place an even greater burden on services that seek to alleviate various negative effects of inadequate family resources.

New South Wales To Benefit From Bushfire Mitigation Funding

12 July 2017: Joint media release - The Hon Michael Keenan MP 
Minister for Justice, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter Terrorism and The Hon Troy Grant MP , Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Police

Minster for Justice Michael Keenan and New South Wales Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant today announced $638,741 in funding for projects that will enhance bushfire mitigation in NSW.

Minister Keenan said the funding will be provided under the Commonwealth's $15 million National Bushfire Mitigation Programme, $4 million of which has been made available to NSW, to better prepare communities from the threat of bushfires.

"The Commonwealth Government is committed to ensuring New South Wales is disaster prepared and disaster resilient before the next fire season hits," Mr Keenan said.

"It's vital that we do everything we can to prepare communities and reduce the potential for harm to help make communities across Australia safer."
Minister Grant said this program enables NSW to identify projects that are essential to mitigating the severity and impact of bushfires.

"Our firefighters need to be able to get to the fires before they reach properties and threaten lives, and the best way to ensure they can do this is to have a properly maintained network of fire trails," Mr Grant said.

"Most of this funding allocation is directed to maintenance works on fire trails in some of the state's most difficult to access areas."

The projects to be funded include maintenance works on the following fire trails:
  • Waterview Trail, Albury ($41,877)
  • Majors Creek Gully Fire Trail, Queanbeyan-Palerang ($188,470)
  • Heidi Place Fire Trail, The Hills ($26,574)
  • Devil Creek Bank Trail, Balranald ($28,000)
  • Reserve Rd, Inverell ($30,000)
  • Kings Mountain Trail/Ghin-Doo-Ee, Mid Coast ($17,000)
  • Tank Trail, Port Stephens ($45,000)
  • Tongue Trail, Port Stephens ($45,000)
  • Beryls Trail, Richmond Valley ($30,000)
  • Griffins Fire Trail, Shoalhaven ($30,000)
  • Mount Kembla Ring Track Fire Trail, Wollongong ($44,820)
  • Hacking River Fire Trail, Wollongong ($28,000)
  • Blackjack Primary, Gunnedah ($10,000)
  • SC 1.1 Fire Trail, Campbelltown ($26,000)
  • Andrews Trail, Wagga Wagga x 3 sections ($37,000 total)
Funding of $11,000 has also been allocated to the Clarence Valley for the installation of a new in-ground water tank at the Diggers Camp.

The Australian and New South Wales governments are committed to working together to build on existing bushfire management practices and implement strategies to address risks to the safety of Australians.
For further information please refer to the Emergency New South Waleswebsite.

Ravens Can Plan Ahead, Similar To Humans And Great Apes

July 13, 2017

A raven uses the tool on the apparatus. Credit: Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath

Despite previous research that indicates such behaviors are unique to humans and great apes, a new study shows that ravens, too, can plan ahead for different types of events , and further, that they are willing to forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future. As ravens and great apes have not shared a common ancestor for over 300 million years, these results suggest that the cognitive "planning" abilities they share in common re-appeared, on a separate evolutionary path, in the birds.

The complex cognitive task of planning ahead has almost exclusively been observed in humans and great apes. Some corvids, a family of birds that includes ravens, have also demonstrated the ability to plan beyond the current moment -- but such findings have been confined to caching food.

Here, Can Kabadayi and colleagues sought to further explore the ability of ravens to plan ahead through a series of experiments. First, ravens were trained to use a tool to open a puzzle box in order to access a reward. The ravens were then presented with the box, but not the tool. The box was removed and one hour later the ravens were given the opening tool, as well as several "distractors."

Nearly every raven chose the correct, apparatus-opening tool; upon being presented with the box 15 minutes later, they used the tool to open it, with a success rate of 86%. A high success rate (78%) was also seen in similar experiments where ravens used a token to later barter for a reward. The ravens planned for bartering more accurately than apes, the researchers report, and they were on par with them in the tool-using tasks, despite lacking predispositions for tool handling.

Next, the ravens were presented with the correct, apparatus-opening tool, distractor tools, and an immediate reward, but were only permitted to select one item. The immediate reward was less appealing than the reward in the box, the researchers report, demonstrating a level of self-control in the birds similar to that seen in apes.

Markus Boeckle, Nicola S. Clayton. A raven's memories are for the future. Science, July 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8802

Why You Might Trust A Quantum Computer With Secrets, Even Over The Internet

July 12, 2017

It may be possible to control a quantum computer over the internet without revealing what you are calculating, thanks to the many possible ways that information can flow through a computation. That's the conclusion of researchers in Singapore and Australia who studied the measurement-based model of quantum computing, reported 11 July in the journal Physical Review X. Credit: Timothy Yeo / Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore

Here's the scenario: you have sensitive data and a problem that only a quantum computer can solve. You have no quantum devices yourself. You could buy time on a quantum computer, but you don't want to give away your secrets. What can you do?

Writing in Physical Review X on 11 July, researchers in Singapore and Australia propose a way you could use a quantum computer securely, even over the internet. The technique could hide both your data and program from the computer itself. Their work counters earlier hints that such a feat is impossible.

The scenario is not far-fetched. Quantum computers promise new routes to solving problems in cryptography, modelling and machine learning, exciting government and industry. Such problems may involve confidential data or be commercially sensitive.

Technology giants are already investing in building such computers -- and making them available to users. For example, IBM announced on 17 May this year that it is making a quantum computer with 16 quantum bits accessible to the public for free on the cloud, as well as a 17-qubit prototype commercial processor.

Seventeen qubits are not enough to outperform the world's current supercomputers, but as quantum computers gain qubits, they are expected to exceed the capabilities of any machine we have today. That should drive demand for access.

"We're looking at what's possible if you're someone just interacting with a quantum computer across the internet from your laptop. We find that it's possible to hide some interesting computations," says Joseph Fitzsimons, a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore and Associate Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), who led the work.

Quantum computers work by processing bits of information stored in quantum states. Unlike the binary bits found in our regular (i.e., classical) computers, each a 0 or 1, qubits can be in superpositions of 0 and 1. The qubits can also be entangled, which is believed to be crucial to a quantum computer's power.

The scheme designed by Fitzsimons and his colleagues brings secrecy to a form of quantum computing driven by measurements.

In this scheme, the quantum computer is prepared by putting all its qubits into a special type of entangled state. Then the computation is carried out by measuring the qubits one by one. The user provides step-wise instructions for each measurement: the steps encode both the input data and the program.

Researchers have shown previously that users who can make or measure qubits to convey instructions to the quantum computer could disguise their computation. The new paper extends that power to users who can only send classical bits -- i.e. most of us, for now.

This is surprising because some computer science theorems imply that encrypted quantum computation is impossible when only classical communication is available.

The hope for security comes from the quantum computer not knowing which steps of the measurement sequence do what. The quantum computer can't tell which qubits were used for inputs, which for operations and which for outputs.

"It's extremely exciting. You can use this unique feature of the measurement-based model of quantum computing -- the way information flows through the state -- as a crypto tool to hide information from the server," says team member Tommaso Demarie of CQT and SUTD.

Although the owner of the quantum computer could try to reverse engineer the sequence of measurements performed, ambiguity about the role of each step leads to many possible interpretations of what calculation was done. The true calculation is hidden among the many, like a needle in a haystack.

The set of interpretations grows rapidly with the number of qubits. "The set of all possible computations is exponentially large -- that's one of the things we prove in the paper -- and therefore the chance of guessing the real computation is exponentially small," says Fitzsimons. One question remains: could meaningful computations be so rare among all the possible ones that the guessing gets easier? That's what the researchers need to check next.

Nicolas Menicucci at the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and Atul Mantri at SUTD, are coauthors on the work.

"Quantum computers became famous in the '90s with the discovery that they could break some classical cryptography schemes -- but maybe quantum computing will instead be known for making the future of cloud computing secure," says Mantri.

Atul Mantri, Tommaso F. Demarie, Nicolas C. Menicucci, Joseph F. Fitzsimons. Flow Ambiguity: A Path Towards Classically Driven Blind Quantum Computation. Physical Review X, 2017; 7 (3) DOI:10.1103/PhysRevX.7.031004

Everyday Chemicals In Plastics Linked To Chronic Disease In Australian Men

July 12, 2017: University of Adelaide
Chemicals found in everyday plastics materials are linked to cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure in men, according to Australian researchers.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) investigated the independent association between chronic diseases among men and concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates.

The results of the study are now published in the international journal Environmental Research.

Phthalates are a group of chemicals widely used in common consumer products, such as food packaging and wrappings, toys, medications, and even medical devices.

Researchers found that of the 1500 Australian men tested, phthalates were detected in urine samples of 99.6% of those aged 35 and over.

"We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure increased among those men with higher total phthalate levels," says senior author Associate Professor Zumin Shi, from the University of Adelaide's Adelaide Medical School and the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health, and a member of SAHMRI's Nutrition & Metabolism theme.

"While we still don't understand the exact reasons why phthalates are independently linked to disease, we do know the chemicals impact on the human endocrine system, which controls hormone release that regulate the body's growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function.

"In addition to chronic diseases, higher phthalate levels were associated with increased levels of a range of inflammatory biomarkers in the body," he says.

Age and western diets are directly associated with higher concentrations of phthalates. Previous studies have shown that men who ate less fresh fruit and vegetables and more processed and packaged foods, and drank carbonated soft drinks, have higher levels of phthalates in their urine.

"Importantly, while 82% of the men we tested were overweight or obese -- conditions known to be associated with chronic diseases -- when we adjusted for this in our study, the significant association between high levels of phthalates and disease was not substantially altered," Associate Professor Shi says.

"In addition, when we adjusted for socio-economic and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol, the association between high levels of phthalates and disease was unchanged."

Associate Professor Shi says that although the studies were conducted in men, the findings are also likely to be relevant to women.

"While further research is required, reducing environmental phthalates exposure where possible, along with the adoption of healthier lifestyles, may help to reduce the risk of chronic disease," he says.

Peter Y. Bai, Gary Wittert, Anne W. Taylor, Sean A. Martin, Robert W. Milne, Alicia J. Jenkins, Andrzej S. Januszewski, Zumin Shi. The association between total phthalate concentration and non-communicable diseases and chronic inflammation in South Australian urban dwelling men. Environmental Research, 2017; 158: 366 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.021

Roundtables Reveal Palliative Care Needs

13 July 2017: Media Release - NSW Minister for Health, The Hon. Brad Hazzard 
The NSW Government will use feedback from a series of community roundtables to improve palliative care services across the state.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government today published reports revealing communities’ priorities for palliative care services which were raised at 10 roundtables across the state, including at NSW Parliament House in Sydney.

“The NSW Government committed a record $100 million over the next four years in the 2017-18 Budget to provide more tailored community-based palliative care services,” Mr Hazzard said.

“We’ve now listened to the communities’ views on where and how services can be improved and will be ensuring the best possible use of our $100 million boost to palliative care services to produce better outcomes for patients and their families.”

More than 80 medical personnel, advocates, community organisations and people with personal experience in palliative care attended the roundtable in Sydney to help shape new directions in palliative care for NSW. Roundtables were also held in Lismore, Orange, Kempsey, Broken Hill, Tamworth, Newcastle, Griffith, Queanbeyan and Kiama.

Priorities raised by participants include the need to improve access to services, ensuring a skilled workforce is linked with integrated care and support, and making palliative care more patient-centred.

“As a result of these roundtables we now have a deeper understanding of what is working well, what needs improvement and potential solutions,” Mr Hazzard said.

“I encourage members of the public to have a good look at the roundtable reports. We will soon be releasing a discussion paper, seeking further feedback.”

More than half of all deaths in Australia occur in hospitals but many people indicate they would rather die at home. About 50,000 people die each year in NSW and this will double by 2056.

The reports can be viewed on the NSW Health - Palliative care roundtables 2017.

Current NDIS Can't Provide Decent Jobs, Researchers Warn

14 July 2017: UNSW Media and Health and Community Services Union 
A research team led by UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) has examined the ability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide decent jobs for disability support workers and sounded a warning on the developing problem of NDIS pricing.  

According to their report, “Reasonable, Necessary and Valued”, the pricing system does not cover the full costs of disability support and will fail to provide high quality services.

Key findings of the report on NDIS pricing arrangements include:
  • Disability support workers are not allocated enough work time required to provide personalised, coordinated, responsive and safe services to people with disability.
  • The legal employment entitlements of disability support workers can’t be met.
  • Casualisation is contributing to financial insecurity for workers.
  • Pricing doesn’t include training or further skills development of the disability support workforce.
  • Disability support workers are accessing important training in unpaid time.
  • Unpredictable shifts are leading to poor work-life balance.
  • Physical injuries, exhaustion, stress and other negative psychological impacts arise from the combination of unsafe working conditions and high work intensity.
The report, which was prepared for Health Services Union, Australian Services Union and United Voice, found that the current NDIS pricing arrangements, set by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), fail to "recognise the time required to deliver quality services to NDIS participants ... resulting in lower quality support and increased risks for participants". 

The authors, led by the SPRC's Dr Natasha Cortis, identified that NDIS prices "incentivise cost cutting" and "are not fully enabling disability support workers to deliver services which are personalised, co-ordinated, responsive or safe; and quality is likely to diminish in the process of NDIS expansion".

To address the present inadequacies of NDIS prices, the report calls for an equitable restructuring of funding arrangements: "Fairer pricing arrangements would recognise that providers require access to resource levels which enable them to attract, train and retain high quality staff, and to employ staff in decent jobs that provide adequate hours and earnings, safe workplaces, job security, and a reasonable work-life balance," it says.

The problems of NDIS pricing are well known to the three unions representing frontline disability workers in Australia. Officials from the Australian Services Union (ASU), the Health Services Union (HSU), and United Voice say the NDIS is predicated on a system in which workers are under-valued and are forced to compensate for under-resourcing with unpaid overtime.

This report confirms that inadequate pricing structures of the NDIS do not allow for employment conditions that will attract and retain the necessary NDIS workforce.

Echoing the findings of the research report, the three unions submit that any review of NDIS pricing – including the Productivity Commission’s current review of NDIS Costs – must recognise that current funding models do not provide for high-quality services; and must engage in broad consultation with unions, providers, and participants to secure the sustainability of the NDIS now and into the future. The system must properly recognise and value frontline workers.

Lloyd Williams, National President of the Health Services Union says: "Chronic underfunding is creating real risks for the future viability of the NDIS. Hard-working frontline disability support workers on award-based minimum rates of pay are barely making ends meet. The current price settings are unsustainable for attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.”

Linda White, Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union says: “One in five new jobs created in Australia in the coming years will be NDIS jobs. How will we find workers to do these jobs when there are no career paths and inadequate funding for training? We need to attract and retain people for a career, so that people with disability get continuity of support and high quality support – that is at risk under the current NDIS pricing arrangements.”

Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice says: “This report confirms that inadequate pricing structures of the NDIS do not allow for employment conditions that will attract and retain the necessary NDIS workforce.  More than that without quality jobs NDIS participants will not receive the quality supports they deserve.”

Discovery Of Brain-Like Activity In Immune System Promises Better Disease Treatments

July 12, 2017: Australian National University
The Australian National University (ANU) has led the discovery of brain-like activity in the immune system that promises better treatments for lymphoma, autoimmune diseases and immunodeficiency disorders, which collectively affect millions of people globally.

Lead researcher Ilenia Papa from ANU said the research confirmed for the first time that human immune cells contain particles that have neurotransmitters including dopamine, which plays a crucial role in immune responses.

"These particles were previously thought to only exist in neurons in the brain and we think they are, potentially, an excellent target for therapies to speed up or dampen the body's immune response, depending on the disease you're dealing with," said Ms Papa, a PhD scholar at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), ANU.

Neurons rely on synaptic interactions and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which are small molecules transmitted across synapses to deliver signals from one cell to another that play a major role in reward-motivated behaviour.

"Like neurons, specialised T cells transfer dopamine to B cells that provides additional 'motivation' for B cells to produce the best antibodies they can to help to clear up an infection," Ms Papa said.

"The human body has developed an advanced form of protection against bacteria, viruses and other foreign bodies that relies on the immune system.

"Immune responses are essential for recognising and defending humans against substances that appear foreign and harmful to the individual."

The research, published in Nature, involved a collaboration with members of a Human Frontier Science Program consortium from the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, and with other researchers in Italy.

Co-researcher Professor Carola Vinuesa from JCSMR said the new findings opened the door to using available drugs to improve therapies for lymphoma, autoimmunity and immunodeficiency disorders.

"We hope to use these findings to make the immune response to vaccines and infections faster and more productive, and slower and less active for autoimmune conditions where the body attacks itself," Professor Vinuesa said.

The researchers analysed around 200 tissue samples from children who had their tonsils removed, observing the transfer of dopamine from specialised T cells to B cells through a synaptic interaction.

They also worked with a mathematician to model the immune system's brain-like activity in a human in response to vaccines.

Ilenia Papa, David Saliba, Maurilio Ponzoni, Sonia Bustamante, Pablo F. Canete, Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa, Hayley A. McNamara, Salvatore Valvo, Michele Grimbaldeston, Rebecca A. Sweet, Harpreet Vohra, Ian A. Cockburn, Michael Meyer-Hermann, Michael L. Dustin, Claudio Doglioni, Carola G. Vinuesa. TFH-derived dopamine accelerates productive synapses in germinal centres. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature23013

Lung Benefits Of Caffeine Therapy In Preemies Persists Into Mid-Childhood

July 14, 2017
Premature babies treated with caffeine have better lung function in mid-childhood than preemies not treated with caffeine, according to a randomized controlled trial published in the American Thoracic Society'sAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"Previous studies have shown that caffeine, which belongs to a group of drugs known as methylxanthines, reduces apnea of prematurity, a condition in which the baby stops breathing for many seconds," said lead study author Lex W. Doyle, MD, professor of neonatal pediatrics at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne and head of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council's Centre of Research Excellence in Newborn Medicine.

Dr. Doyle added that caffeine, one of the most widely used drugs in neonatal intensive care, shortens the time premature infants require help breathing after birth. It also reduces the chances that the newborn will develop lung injury or abnormal lung development, a condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which can lead to higher rates of breathing problems later in life.

In "Neonatal Caffeine Treatment and Respiratory Function at 11 Years in Children," Dr. Doyle and colleagues report on their study to determine if the lung benefits of caffeine in premature babies persist in mid-childhood.

At age 11, 142 children living in Australia who had been part of the international Caffeine for Apnea of Prematurity randomized controlled trial had their expiratory flow rates measured. Slightly more than half the children had been enrolled in the caffeine intervention; the others had been given a placebo.

The researchers found expiratory flows were significantly better in the caffeine group by approximately one-half a standard deviation for FEV1 (the maximum amount of air that can be forcefully blown out in one second), FVC (the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled after taking the deepest breath possible) and FEF25-75% (the average flow from the point at which 25 percent of the FVC has been exhaled to the point at which 75 percent of the FVC has been exhaled.) FEV1/FVC (a measure of obstructive lung disease) was better by a lesser amount but still statistically significant.

The researchers said that caffeine appeared to improve long-term breathing by reducing lung injury and abnormal development during the newborn period, "rather than the caffeine molecule having any direct effect on the lung itself."

Study limitations include the fact that respiratory function tests measured only expiratory flows and the children were from only one of the Caffeine for the Apnea of Prematurity trial sites.

"It would be desirable to repeat lung function more extensively later in life, and at more sites to identify those participants at highest risk of developing severe breathing disorders in adulthood," Dr. Doyle said. "If it were possible to repeat lung function at one time only, the best time would be around age 25, when lung growth peaks."

This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Centre of Clinical Research Excellence, the Centre of Research Excellence and the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

New Research Points To Treatment Breakthrough For Viruses

July 12, 2017: RMIT University
RMIT University scientists in Melbourne, Australia, have led an international collaboration that potentially unlocks better treatment of viral diseases, including the flu and common cold.

The results are published in the scientific and medical journal Nature Communications.

Each year the flu virus sends 13,500 Australians to hospital and causes more than 3000 deaths among those aged over 50.

The global burden is also staggering, with more than 5 million cases of infection annually with up to 10 per cent resulting in death.

The RMIT senior authors, Dr Stavros Selemidis (ARC Future Fellow) and Dr Eunice To (first author), collaborated with Professor Doug Brooks from University South Australia, Professor John O'Leary from Trinity College Dublin, Monash University's Professor Christopher Porter, and other scientists and clinicians to investigate how viruses cause disease in humans.

The researchers discovered that a 1.5 billion-year-old cell biological process found in plants, fungi and mammals enhances viral disease in mice and highly likely also in humans.

They identified a protein, Nox2 oxidase, that is activated by viruses, including influenza, rhinovirus (the common cold), dengue and HIV.

Once activated, Nox2 oxidase suppresses the body's key antiviral reaction and its ability to fight and clear the viral infection, which in turn results in a stronger or more virulent disease in mice.

The study also investigated a new prototype drug to treat these debilitating viral diseases.

The researchers found that the Nox2 oxidase protein activated by the viruses is located in a cell compartment called endosomes. They carefully modified a chemical that inhibits or restrains the activity of Nox2 oxidase.

Their customised drug was found to be very effective at suppressing disease caused by influenza infection.

Selemidis, head of the Oxidant and Inflammation Biology Group within the Chronic Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases program at RMIT, said: "Current treatment strategies are limited as they specifically target circulating viruses and have either unknown or very little effect against new viruses that enter the human population.

"We have identified a protein of the immune system that contributes to the disease caused by flu viruses irrespective of their strain.

"We also developed a novel drug delivery system to target this protein, which drastically alleviated the burden of viral disease.

"The strength of this work is the multidisciplinary approach taken and the degree of collaboration. It includes researchers and clinicians from eight universities across Australia, the United States and Ireland.

"This work attracted considerable interest at the NADPH Oxidase GORDON conference in the USA last year."

To said: "This work identifies a treatment strategy that has the potential to alleviate the symptoms caused by some of the most devastating viruses worldwide, including the flu."

Professor Calum Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President at RMIT, said the project held immense promise.

"The unique partnership between Dr Selemidis' laboratory at the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences at RMIT and his collaborators continues.

"Dr Selemidis' laboratory and his collaborators are pursuing further research to aid development of novel drugs for further trials and this is showing great potential," Drummond said.

Eunice E. To, Ross Vlahos, Raymond Luong, Michelle L. Halls, Patrick C. Reading, Paul T. King, Christopher Chan, Grant R. Drummond, Christopher G. Sobey, Brad R. S. Broughton, Malcolm R. Starkey, Renee van der Sluis, Sharon R. Lewin, Steven Bozinovski, Luke A. J. O’Neill, Tim Quach, Christopher J. H. Porter, Doug A. Brooks, John J. O’Leary, Stavros Selemidis. Endosomal NOX2 oxidase exacerbates virus pathogenicity and is a target for antiviral therapy. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00057-x

Sydney To Cement Its Place As A Global Startup Leader

July 13, 2017: Media Release - The Hon Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW
Sydney will be home to a world leading startup and innovation hub, creating up to 6,500 new jobs, thanks to a $35 million investment from the NSW Government.

Sydney Startup Hub will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and will allow entrepreneurs to develop innovative business ideas that will create job opportunities across regional and metro NSW.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today Jobs for NSW will fund the hub, which will be spread over more than 17,000 square meters and 11 floors.

“This is an unprecedented investment from the NSW Government, which will support businesses and drive jobs growth across the State,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“When Sydney Startup Hub opens it will be in a central location to help both local and international entrepreneurs flourish.

“More than 40 per cent of the nation’s start-ups are in NSW already and with the addition of this hub and the White Bay precinct we want to see that figure grow.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business, John Barilaro, today announced the NSW Government is backing the success of the Sydney Startup Hub, which will be located on York Street in the Sydney CBD.

“The Sydney Startup Hub will support businesses, turbocharge the start-up ecosystem, and drive job creation across the State,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The NSW Government is pleased to include a fantastic roll call of tenants including; Stone and Chalk, Fishburners, Tank Stream Labs and The Studio.

“We are leaving no stone unturned. In addition to the 2,500 residents, the hub will welcome regional entrepreneurs from the wider start-up ecosystem through the regional landing pad and community and events space.”

For further information visit:

Common Strength 'Genes' Identified For First Time

July 12, 2017
Common genetic factors that influence muscle strength in humans have been identified for the first time in a study led by researchers from the University of Cambridge and published today in Nature Communications.

The researchers used data on hand grip strength from more than 140,000 participants in the UK Biobank study, combined with 50,000 additional individuals from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia, to identify sixteen common genetic variants that are associated with muscle strength.

Dan Wright, joint first author on this paper and a PhD student at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology (MRC) Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: "The very large number of individuals participating in UK Biobank provides a powerful resource for identifying genes involved in complex traits such as muscle strength, and helps us understand their underlying biology and its relevance to health."

Many of these variants were located within or near to genes known to play a role in biological processes highly relevant to muscle function, including the structure and function of muscle fibres, and the communication of the nervous system with muscle cells.

Mutations in some of the genes highlighted are also known to be associated with severe monogenic syndromes -- conditions caused by a single genetic mutations -- characterised by compromised muscle function. This demonstrates that genetic variation in genes which cause serious muscular conditions may also influence differences in strength in the general population.

Dr Robert Scott, who co-led the study with colleagues from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, said: "While we have long suspected a role for genetics in the variation in muscle strength, these findings give the first insights into some of the specific genetic variants that underpin variation in strength.

"These could be important steps towards identifying new treatments to prevent or treat muscle weakness."

Hand grip strength has been reported to be associated with many health outcomes, including risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, and fracture -- although it has been unclear whether variation in strength actually causes these outcomes, or simply reflects underlying disease processes.

Using the sixteen genetic variants identified for strength, the researchers were able to investigate the hypothesised causal link between strength and these adverse health outcomes. Their study found no evidence that lower strength causally increases risk of death or cardiovascular disease, but they did find evidence that higher muscular strength reduces risk of fracture, supporting the use of strength training interventions as a strategy to reduce risk of fractures.

Professor Nick Wareham, director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit and a senior author of the study, noted: "This work highlights the importance of muscle strength in the prevention of fractures and the complications which can often follow a fall."

Sara M. Willems et al. Large-scale GWAS identifies multiple loci for hand grip strength providing biological insights into muscular fitness. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 16015 DOI:10.1038/ncomms16015

Census Data Takes A Different Look At NSW V QLD Rivalry

12 July 2017: ABS
With Queensland and New South Wales home to 52.1 per cent of Australia’s total population according to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Census), it’s no surprise the State of Origin always draws huge interest. 

Tonight, the New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons will settle the final grudge match of the series in the cauldron of Brisbane’s iconic Lang Park. 

In recognition of this year’s Origin decider, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has examined which state would win on a different battlefield – the battlefield of statistical dominance.

NSW certainly has the numbers on their side, outnumbering Queensland residents by close to three million people (7,480,228 to 4,703,193), but Queensland is making a strong play with a faster growth rate of 8.6 per cent, compared with 8.1 per cent for NSW. 

Queensland has owned the past decade of Origin football. Their dominance is made all the more impressive considering they have 38 per cent fewer NRL-aged males (18-35 years) residing in the State to draw from – Queensland has 567,954 males aged between 18-35 years, while NSW has 920,642. 

Looking at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, both NSW and Queensland have strong representations of Indigenous players and coaches. The 2016 Census tells us there are 28,864 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in NSW aged 18-35 years, just edging out Queensland with 25,053.

Between the two battling states, it seems the Cockroaches are the bigger earners, with NSW households earning a median income of $1,486 per week compared to $1,402 per week for a household in Cane Toad country. However, Queensland residents gain an edge with household costs – their median monthly mortgage repayment is $253 cheaper than it is south of the border, while the Sunshine State’s median weekly rent is $50 less. 

The Maroon State also tend to work more in the home, with a higher rate of people engaging in unpaid domestic work (71 per cent in Queensland to 68 per cent in NSW) and child care (28 per cent in Queensland to 27 per cent in NSW). However, the Blue State has a higher rate of providing unpaid care for a person with a disability (12 per cent in NSW to 11 per cent in Queensland).

With the contest going down to the wire, we turn to technology to settle the score – 64.9 per cent of persons in NSW embraced the digital Census, completing their Census form online (above national average), just edging Queensland, where 62.9 per cent of persons used the online Census form (below national average). 

In the end, after some tight competition, it’s very hard to determine which state comes out on top statistically. However one thing is for sure, thanks to the Australian public’s completion of the 2016 Census, everyone’s a winner. 

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