Inbox and Environment News: Issue 322

July 23 - 29, 2017: Issue 322

Have Your Say On Marine Park Draft Plans 

21 July 2017: Media release - Australian Government, Director of National Parks
Australia is surrounded by magnificent oceans and a marine environment that is the envy of the world. Our marine parks are distinctive and diverse, home to marine life found nowhere else.
And from today you can have your say on how we will manage our marine parks into the future.

The Director of National Parks Sally Barnes has released five draft plans to manage 44 Australian Marine Parks over the next 10 years.
“Our marine parks protect important marine habitats and species,” Ms Barnes said.

“They also support people’s livelihoods and the Australian lifestyle. They provide places for people to watch wildlife, dive and snorkel, go boating, and fish. They create jobs in industries like fishing and tourism, and are a source of food and energy.”

Ms Barnes said Australian Marine Parks recognised our oceans as a shared resource -– protecting our environment and supporting the sustainability of our fishing industry and the communities whose livelihoods rely on it.

“I’d encourage everyone to take a look at these five plans my team at Parks Australia have put together,” she said.

“This is your chance to influence how we’ll manage a large area of our marine environment over the next 10 years. We want to hear from you, all of you. It’s your passion that will make marine parks work for everyone.”

Australian Marine Parks (also known as Commonwealth marine reserves) were established in 2012 to protect our oceans. This was a significant contribution to Australia’s marine parks which now cover more than 3.3 million square kilometres of ocean – that’s an area the size of India.

“Before creating these plans, my team and I met with many of you from across our country. We listened to many people, fishers, conservationists, tourism operators, traditional owners and coastal communities before writing these plans,” Ms Barnes said.

“These draft plans balance our commitment to protect the marine environment, while supporting a sustainable fishing industry, promoting tourism and providing cultural, recreational and economic benefits for coastal communities.”

Australian Marine Parks are located in Commonwealth waters that start at the outer edge of state and territory waters, generally no less than three nautical miles (5.5 km) from the shore, and extend to the outer boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from the shore. The draft plans cover Commonwealth waters off the coast of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Individual marine parks have been carefully zoned to include representative examples of Australia’s marine habitats and features. This builds the resilience of our marine environment to withstand pressures, including some of the impacts of climate change, cyclones, marine pollution, and invasive species.

Ms Barnes has considered comments from over 54,000 submissions providing feedback on the preparation of draft plans. She has also considered the recommendations from the independent review of Commonwealth marine reserves released in 2016; the best available science; the expertise of traditional owners on managing sea country; and experiences from those managing Australian and international marine parks.

“Finalising these plans makes us one of the world’s leaders in marine protection. Already our country’s marine parks cover 36 per cent of waters around this country. That’s more than comparable to many similar countries, like the United States, France, Canada, Mexico or Chile,” Ms Barnes said.

“I truly believe that we will enhance our international reputation as marine park managers with these plans. But I want to hear your thoughts on whether we’ve got that balance right. Doing nothing is not an option for anyone – we want to provide certainty to all. So please have a read of the plans, and let us know what you think.”
To reduce any impacts on commercial fishers, the Australian Government will make funding available to assist those directly affected by the new arrangements.

The draft plans can be found at .

We are seeking your feedback on whether we have the balance right in these draft plans.  Please send your feedback on these draft plans or the proposed renaming by 20 September 2017, by:

1. Filling in our feedback form, available at: 

3. Writing (free of charge) to: 
Australian Marine Parks Management Planning Comments
Department of the Environment and Energy
Reply Paid 787
Canberra ACT 2601
To help us to consider your feedback, please: 
• Say what you would like to see kept or changed in the plan/s and why
• Refer your points to a specific marine park or use, where appropriate
• Give sources of any information you refer to, where possible.
 Please note, comments sent after 11.59 pm AEST Wednesday 20 September 2017 or to an address other than those listed above cannot be considered.
 Comments may be made public. Personal information provided to us will be dealt with in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles. 

Further information and our privacy notice is available at Your personal information may be disclosed to the Minister, relevant government agencies, the Australian Parliament and where required by law. 

Your submission may also be published online by the Director of National Parks. Please tell us in your submission if you do not want it published. Your submission will still be considered in the Director’s Report on the Preparation of the Management Plans, and may be provided to the Minister and tabled before Parliament.

Important facts and figures
With 36 per cent of Australia’s waters included in marine parks, we are well ahead of both the international benchmark ‘Aichi target’ of 10 per cent by 2020, and a recent World Conservation Congress resolution calling for 30 per cent by 2030.

According to data from the IUCN’s World Database on Protected Areas, we compare very favourably with the United States of America (41 per cent), New Zealand (30 per cent), the United Kingdom (28 per cent), Mexico (22 per cent), Canada (less than 1 per cent), and France (15 per cent).

Under the zoning proposed in the draft plans, the portion of green (or no take) zones within all of the marine parks managed by the Commonwealth would be 25 per cent.

There is no reliable ‘league table’ against which we can compare this with other nations as methodology and reporting differ considerably, but we are among the closest nations to meeting the 2016 call by the World Conservation Congress four countries to designate 30 per cent of their marine parks to have no extractive activities.

Thanks to our carefully targeted approach to zoning, the same number of conservation features are protected in green zones in the plans released today as those in 2012.

Australia’s biodiversity hotspots and sites of ecological significance, including Coral Sea reefs and the Bremer Reserve are protected in these plans.

97 per cent of waters within 100 kilometres of the coast are open for recreational fishing.

By intelligently zoning conservation areas like this, we have halved the economic impact on commercial fishers compared with 2012, from $8.2 million to $4.1 million a year (that’s less than 0.3 per cent of total income generated by Australia’s wild catch fisheries). This zoning will also enable a continued Australian tuna fishing industry based out of northern Queensland.

The Australian Government has committed an additional $56.1 million over four years to fund the management of Australian Marine Parks.
Our more balanced approach means there is a significant increase in yellow zones – where the seafloor is protected, but activities like diving and fishing are allowed. Our green zones are based on the best available science – while minimising impacts on our important tourism and fishing industries.

Australia Strongly Opposes Japanese Whaling Plans

20 July 2017: Media Release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy

Australia is deeply disappointed by Japan's recent announcement that they have resumed another of their so-called ‘scientific’ whaling programs, this one in the North Pacific.

This comes despite the clear and unambiguous conclusions of the International Whaling Commission's review process that Japan has not demonstrated the scientific need for the whaling.

It is the second time Japan has issued permits for their so-called ‘scientific’ whaling programs after independent expert panels, established by the Commission in 2015 and early this year, concluded that lethal sampling is not justified.

But despite these expert findings and recommendations, Japan has again chosen to ignore the clear and independent scientific advice and decided to continue whaling in the North Pacific.

By continuing whaling in the Southern and North Pacific oceans, Japan is unilaterally disregarding International Whaling Commission resolutions from 2014 and 2016. These resolutions request that members do not engage in so-called ‘scientific’ whaling until the full Commission has the opportunity to properly discuss and review the relevant research proposal.

Japan has now, on multiple occasions, gone against the recommendations of the International Whaling Commission, its scientific committee and the independent expert panels it has convened.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Japan is ignoring the International Court of Justice's 2014 decision on whaling in the Antarctic. The court found that contracting governments have a duty to co-operate with the International Whaling Commission and the Commission's scientific committee. The court also declared that the decision on whether the killing, taking and treating of whales is for the purposes of scientific research cannot depend simply on the issuing state's perception.

The Australian Government is resolutely committed to the International Whaling Commission's global moratorium which bans commercial whaling.

We are also concerned to learn that the Japanese parliament has made a new law that entrenches long-term funding for Japan's so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. The law further states that Japan's so-called ‘scientific’ whaling is a path to the resumption of commercial whaling.

For its part, the Australian Government will continue in its tireless efforts to put greater pressure on Japan to end its so-called ‘scientific’ whaling.

It is Australia's hope that Japan will take its duty to cooperate with the Commission and the International Court of Justice seriously, and will abide by the findings of both authorities.

Another Leap Forward To Save A Rare Sydney Frog Colony

Media release: 18 July 2017 - NSW OE&H
The largest remaining Sydney population of a rare frog, found in the heart of the city's former Olympic precinct, is set to continue its gold-medal performance thanks to a new priority managed site status from the NSW Government.

The endangered Green and Golden Bell frog colony at Sydney Olympic Park has benefited from over twenty-years of ecological restoration work, initiated by organisers of the 'Green Games' and now driven by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA), transforming former industrial land into 120 hectares of prime frog habitat including seventy specially constructed frog ponds.

In the year 2000, the restoration project was awarded the Gold Banksia Award, Australia's highest environmental award, and conservation works have been ongoing since that time.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Senior Threatened Species Officer Deb Ashworth said thanks to the SOPA team's valuable conservation efforts, which have greatly increased the long-term survival of this species, the Park is now a priority managed site under the NSW Government Saving Our Species (SoS) program.

"The SoS program recognises the successful habitat restoration at this site and has committed $5k in funding for education programs and workshops," Dr Ashworth said.

"This site is by far the largest remaining population of the Green and Golden Bell Frog in the greater Sydney Region and joins only seven other Green and Golden Bell Frog priority managed sites across NSW.

"This species has suffered major declines particularly from the deadly chytrid fungus that has no known cure. To boost the population, we now have eight resilient populations that are protected and managed.

"The Authority's frog habitat creation and management techniques are pioneering. They have created a unique frog sanctuary with a network of purpose-built ponds and wetlands that the frogs now call home and where successful breeding has occurred," Dr Ashworth said.

Sydney Olympic Park Authority's Senior Manager Environment & Ecology Kerry Darcovich said her ecology team welcome the Park's new status as a priority managed site.

"We are delighted as it signals continued management for frog conservation at this site and recognises the importance of the site for the species," Ms Darcovich said.

"The Green and Golden Bell frog faces a number of other threats including predation by Plague Minnow fish which feed on eggs and early stage tadpoles, reduction in water quality and prevalence of pest plants and diseases.

"Sydney Olympic Park is a living case study of bell frog habitat management techniques and offers a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge. Educational workshops that bring land managers and scientists together will help conservation of this species across New South Wales.

"Sydney Olympic Park's habitats also play an important ecological role for other animals and plant species including over a quarter of all bird species found in Australia, ten species of insectivorous bats, extensive mangrove wetlands and critically endangered remnant eucalypt forest," Ms Darcovich said.

The Green and Golden Bell Frog is between 4.5 and 10 cm long and usually a vivid green colour with bits of gold, bronze and brown.

Australia Signs The International Solar Alliance

19 July 2017: Media release- The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy

The Australian Government has formally indicated its intention to join the International Solar Alliance, an important initiative to boost cooperation on new technologies and provide new opportunities for Australia’s world-leading expertise.

The Solar Alliance, led by the Governments of India and France, aims to deepen cooperation on solar research and development, financing mechanisms, and diffusion of solar technology amongst countries in the tropics. It will help broaden energy access, as part of a mix of affordable and secure energy sources, as nation’s work to meet emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

During a visit to India in April, the Prime Minister announced Australia would join the International Solar Alliance. On her visit to New Delhi this week the Foreign Minister signed a framework agreement while participating in the Australia-India Foreign Minister’s Framework Dialogue.

In sun-rich countries like Australia and India, solar energy has significant potential to help meet the energy demands of growing economies.

Australia is known for its leadership in the solar sector. As a continent rich in solar resources, Australia has significant expertise in remote electrification and developing innovative financing models.

Australia joins 34 other countries in signing the Solar Alliance framework agreement. In joining, Australia looks forward to collaborating with India, France and other members to play a leading role in the Solar Alliance.

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

Help Shape Waste Point's Master Plan

Media release: 18 July 2017
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is inviting people to have their say on the preliminary Master Plan for Waste Point to improve visitor enjoyment of this little-known precinct on the shores of Lake Jindabyne.

NPWS Director Mick Pettitt said the purpose of the preliminary Master Plan is to enable opportunities to take Waste Point in Kosciuszko National Park from an operational facility to a nature-based recreation precinct.

"We are exploring ways to revitalize this area, respect its history and encourage summer visitation to the Snowy Region," said Mr Pettitt.

"There are currently 16 cottages scattered across the site that were once used as staff accommodation, including a small research accommodation building and the historic Creel Lodge.

"There is a real opportunity to turn these cottages into sustainable nature-based accommodation that brings park visitors back into this precinct as a base for bushwalking and water-based activities," Mr Pettitt said.

The preliminary Master Plan outlines two accommodation-style options for the future of the site and NPWS welcomes comments from the community on both options.

The Plan also includes ideas on how to upgrade the day use area and boat ramp and ways to establish a network of walking trails, improve parking, toilet and picnic facilities.

The Plan represents NPWS' vision for the future of Waste Point.

"We invite anyone with an interest in the site to look at the preliminary Plan and provide feedback on the best way to utilise Waste Point as an ecologically sustainable and attractive recreation destination," said Mr Pettitt.

The preliminary Master Plan will be on public exhibition from Tuesday 18 July 2017 - Tuesday 29 August 2017.

NPWS will host an 'open-house' information session (Jindabyne Visitors Centre, Friday 11 August, 10am - 2pm) where people can drop in, view the plan, ask questions and provide feedback.

Copies of the Plan can be found at:
NPWS Jindabyne Office, Kosciuszko Road, Jindabyne.
Snowy Monaro Regional Council Offices in Jindabyne and Cooma.
NPWS Tumut Office, the Old Butter Factory, 7a Adelong Road, Tumut.
NPWS Khancoban Office, Cnr Alpine Way and Scammel Street, Khancoban.
NPWS Queanbeyan Office, 11 Farrer Place, Queanbeyan.
Office of Environment and Heritage, Level 14, 59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney.

Manly's Little Penguins Reunite For The Breeding Season With Help Of An Australian First Trial

July 18, 2017 - OE&H
Little penguins (Eudyptula minor) are the smallest of all penguin species. They stand approximately 33cm tall and weigh around 1 kilogram, with males weighing slightly more than females.

Sydneysiders are lucky enough to have a population of little penguins living right on their doorstep. This endangered population of little penguins, in a secluded cove in Sydney's North Harbour, is the only breeding colony on the NSW mainland and their breeding habitat been declared as critical habitat.

Each year, between May and February, the little penguins return to Manly to breed. For those who have been lucky enough to witness pairs of little penguins reuniting for breeding season, it is a very cute and amazing sight to be seen! But it can also be problematic for the endangered little penguins who are at risk of injury or death from fox and dog attacks, boat strikes, fishing lines, hooks and rubbish and deliberate destruction of their nests.

Efforts to protect the colony at Manly have been ongoing but recovery has been slow since a 2015 fox attack killed 27 breeding birds. The little penguins had previously bred in up to 15 nests within and below the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) near Collins Flat at Manly. The breeding population at this site was severely impacted by a fox attack in June 2015. The birds have not been returning to this site to breed.

Since this time two breeding seasons have elapsed with little indication of pairs re-establishing on site. Penguins have certainly visited the area, but not in sufficient numbers or at the same time for pairs to have bonded and bred. However, there is the potential to attract penguins to the site, and an Australian first trial is currently underway to help do this.

Sound equipment has been installed by Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Science on Collins Flat to encourage the little penguins to come ashore after dark for breeding in the particular location that was most affected by a fox attack two years ago. Sound attraction has been used in New Zealand and around the world to encourage burrowing sea bird breeding since the late 1980s, but this is the first time a sound system has been used to encourage little penguin breeding in Australia

Funded under the Saving our Species program, the sound system will broadcast nocturnal breeding colony calls of the little penguin at night during the courtship and egg laying period of the breeding season.

Erica Mahon, Senior Threatened Species Officers from OEH has also offered some tips for local Manly residents, or visitors to Collins Flat on what they can do to help support the little penguins during breeding season:

  • Responsible pet ownership is key. Dogs and other domestic pets are not permitted in the national park and should be left at home
  • Please don’t look for penguins – if you disturb then, including shining a torch, you can interrupt their breeding
  • Remember that fines apply for looking in the penguin nest boxes.
“We ask everyone to please respect that Collins Flat, Store Beach and Quarantine Beach are closed at sunset to allow safe passage for the penguins. The best place to see penguins is Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary or at a safe and respectful distance from Manly Wharf.”

It takes the whole community to protect this special colony and the dedicated NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service team extends its thanks to everyone involved in keeping the little penguins safe, including the 50 volunteer little penguin wardens, the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM), the Zoo, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, Northern Beaches Council, NSW Police and the local community.

For more information, please visit the Little Penguins Manly page.

Birds Avoid Crossing Roads To Prevent Predation

July 19, 2017
Roads can be dangerous to wildlife. Animals making the perilous journey against the traffic run the risk of meeting an untimely death. Until recently, it was widely believed, unlike other animals, birds were largely unaffected by the presence of roads and traffic, simply because they could fly.

A new study, published in the open-access journal, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, reveals this is not the case. Birds can find roads challenging too -- they are less likely to be found next to roads and are hesitant to cross them.

"We observed fewer bird species and individuals of each species near to roads. In addition, they were less likely to cross wide roads," says Christopher Johnson, who completed this research as part of his graduate studies at the Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. "We found the smaller-bodied, forest-dependent species were the most affected, avoiding all but the narrowest of roads.

A keen bird-watcher, Mr. Johnson spent many hours carefully recording birds seen next to and crossing roads of different widths around the southern suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. He made sure that the vegetation on either side of the road of his recording sites were the same, as it was more likely that bird crossings occurred between similar habitats. These results were compared to the number of birds seen and heard in the vegetation 100m in from the roadside, to see if the species and numbers of individuals differed.

"For this study, we decided to try something new, by looking at the influence of different road widths (two, four and six-lanes) on bird crossings. In addition, we analyzed the road-crossing ability of birds of different body sizes and whether the type of bird, for example, small forest dependent, large forest dependent, honeyeater or urban tolerant species, had an effect," explains Mr. Johnson.

The results were quite clear. The widest roads -- six-lane carriageways -- had fewer bird species and individuals of each species crossing them than the narrower two- and four-lane carriageways. When they looked at the different body sizes and bird types, it was the smaller forest-dependent species that showed the biggest difference.

The authors have suggested several reasons for these findings, such as birds choosing not to come out into the open for fear of predation and the creation of territorial boundaries, as breaks in vegetation can be used by birds to mark the edge of their territory. In addition, many highly aggressive, territorial bird species were seen to be taking advantage of the space near the roads, which would put off other birds crossing.

The findings of this study raises concerns, because bird species play an important role in the health of our natural environment.

Professor Darryl Jones, co-author of the study and Deputy Director of Environmental Futures Research Institute and the School of Environment at the Griffith University explains. "Birds perform a range of services that are of huge benefit to humans, from controlling pests such as mosquitoes and flies to the pollination and seed dispersal of many plants, including those of economic and medicinal value. By restricting bird movements through transportation networks, we are limiting their ability to perform these services and, ultimately, undermining the benefits we gain."

The authors of the study strongly advise that measures are put in place to connect fragments of forest across roads, allowing wildlife to move freely.

"People use the road transport system to get from point a to b. Unfortunately, this has a negative impact on wildlife movement, particularly within urban environments," says Daryl Evans, who also collaborated on this the research and is based at the Griffith University. "There are wildlife-friendly solutions to many of these issues, such as specially-designed overpasses, fauna underpasses and fencing so animals can avoid accessing the road, all of which need to be incorporated into the design of our road systems."

"Further studies should look at the impacts of man-made breaks in vegetation, such as forest tracks and park walkways on bird movements," adds Professor Jones. "We are currently using our data to identify the 'at risk' bird species within suburban areas, to assist with conservation management."

Christopher D. Johnson, Daryl Evans, Darryl Jones. Birds and Roads: Reduced Transit for Smaller Species over Roads within an Urban Environment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00036

Did Life Begin On Land Rather Than In The Sea?

July 18, 2017
For three years, Tara Djokic, a Ph.D. student at the University of New South Wales Sydney, scoured the forbidding landscape of the Pilbara region of Western Australia looking for clues to how ancient microbes could have produced the abundant stromatolites that were discovered there in the 1970s.

Stromatolites are round, multilayered mineral structures that range from the size of golf balls to weather balloons and represent the oldest evidence that there were living organisms on Earth 3.5 billion years ago.

Scientists who believed life began in the ocean thought these mineral formations had formed in shallow, salty seawater, just like living stromatolites in the World Heritage-listed area of Shark Bay, which is a two-day drive from the Pilbara.

But what Djokic discovered amid the strangling heat and blood-red rocks of the region was evidence that the stromatolites had not formed in salt water but instead in conditions more like the hot springs of Yellowstone.

The discovery pushed back the time for the emergence of microbial life on land by 580 million years and also bolstered a paradigm-shifting hypothesis laid out by UC Santa Cruz astrobiologists David Deamer and Bruce Damer: that life began, not in the sea, but on land.

Djokic's discovery -- together with research carried out by the UC Santa Cruz team, Djokic, and Martin Van Kranendonk, director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology -- is described in an eight-page cover story in the August issue of Scientific American.

"What she (Djokic) showed was that the oldest fossil evidence for life was in fresh water," said Deamer, a lanky 78-year-old who explored the region with Djokic, Damer, and Van Kranendonk in 2015. "It's a logical continuation to life beginning in a freshwater environment."

The model for life beginning on land rather than in the sea could not only reshape our idea about the origin of life and where else it might be, but even change the way we view ourselves.

The right conditions for life

For four decades, ever since the research vessel Alvin discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vents that were habitats for specialized bacteria and worms that looked like something out of a science-fiction novel, scientists have theorized that these mineral- and gas-pumping vents were just what was needed for life to begin.

But Deamer, who describes himself as a scientist who loves playing with new ideas, thought the theory had flaws. For instance, molecules essential for the origin of life would be dispersed too quickly into a vast ocean, he thought, and salty seawater would inhibit some of the processes he knew are necessary for life to begin.

Deamer had spent the early part of his career studying the biophysics of membranes composed of soap-like molecules that form the microscopic boundaries of all living cells. Later, given a piece of the Murchison meteorite that had landed in Australia in 1969, Deamer found that the space rock also contained soap-like molecules nearly 5 billion years old that could form stable membranes. Still later, he demonstrated that membranes helped small molecules join together to form longer information-carrying molecules called polymers.

Trekking to volcanoes from Russia to Iceland and hiking through the Pilbara desert, Deamer and his colleagues observed volcanic activity that suggested the idea that hot springs provided the right environment for the beginning of life. Deamer even built a machine that simulated the heat, acidity, and wet-and-dry cycles of hot springs and installed it in his lab on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

"I think, every once in awhile, you have to be brave enough and bold enough to try new ideas," Deamer said. "Of course, some of my colleagues think even 'foolish enough.' But that's the chance you take."

Rethinking the timeline

In Deamer's vision, ancient Earth consisted of a huge ocean spotted with volcanic land masses. Rain would fall on the land, creating pools of fresh water that would be heated by geothermal energy and then cooled by runoff. Some of the key building blocks of life, created during the formation of our solar system, would have fallen to Earth and gathered in these pools, becoming concentrated enough to form more complex organic compounds.

The edges of the pools would go through periods of wetting and drying as water levels rose and fell. During these periods of wet and dry, lipid membranes would first help stitch together the organic compounds called polymers and then form compartments that encapsulated different sets of these polymers. The membranes would act like incubators for the functions of life.

Deamer and his team believe the first life emerged from the natural production of vast numbers of such membrane-encased "protocells."

While there is still debate about whether life began on land or in the sea, the discovery of ancient microbial fossils in a place like the Pilbara shows that these geothermal areas -- full of energy and rich in the minerals necessary for life -- harbored living microorganisms far earlier than believed.

The search for life on other planets

According to Deamer and his colleagues, this discovery and their hot-springs-origins model also have implications for the search for life on other planets. If life began on land, then Mars, which was found to have a 3.65-billion-year-old hot spring deposits similar to those found in the Pilbara region of Australia, might be a good place to look.

For Damer, the new "end-to-end hypothesis" of how life began on land offers something else: that the origin of life was not just a simple story of individual, competing cells. Rather that a plausible new vision of life's start could be a communal unit of protocells that survived and evolved through collaboration and sharing of innovation rather than strict competition.

"That," he said, "is a fundamental shift that might impact how we think of our world, ourselves, and our future: as dependent on collaboration as much as being driven by competition."

Sitting in his fourth-floor office on campus, Deamer smiled as he recounted the letter Charles Darwin wrote to a friend in 1871, which speculated that life might have begun in "some warm little pond."

That's not far off the mark, Deamer said, "except we call ours 'hot little puddles.'"

Materials provided by University of California - Santa Cruz. Original written by Peggy Townsend.

Stromatolites. Credit: © Ints / Fotolia

Poor Mental Health Could Lead To Unnecessary Nasal Surgery

July 21, 2017: by Ben Falkenmire - UNSW
Patients electing for rhinoplasty may overestimate the seriousness of their condition due to underlying poor mental health or self-esteem, a UNSW study finds.

A total of 495 patients with breathing difficulties took part in the study published today in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, including patients who were undergoing evaluation for nasal surgery, considering surgery or who had previously undergone surgery.

The study shows that patients with poor mental health perceived their nasal airflow as significantly poorer than patients with good mental health, despite no objective difference in nasal function between both groups.

The findings underline that surgeons may not always be able to rely on a patient’s own report of their nasal function.

It is no secret that mental well-being has the potential to affect how a person sees themselves – in their capacity to work or study, their relationships, and their health.

UNSW Medicine sixth-year student Erika Strazdins, the paper’s first author, says it is an important study for rhinoplasty surgeons, who rely on patient self-reports and their “instinct” and “experience” to assess whether surgery is necessary for nasal function and cosmetic appearance.

“It is no secret that mental well-being has the potential to affect how a person sees themselves – in their capacity to work or study, their relationships, and their health,” Ms Strazdins says.

“This research is interesting as it provided evidence that the effect of mental well-being on perception may extend to physiological functions that the person has little control over - like their ability to breathe.”

Nasal function was perceived as "severe or worse” in 40% of those with poor mental well-being compared to 23% of those with normal mental well-being.

Even more significant differences were seen with self-esteem, with 100% of patients with low self-esteem perceiving nasal functions “severe or worse” compared to 59% with normal self-esteem. 

Asking patients to fill out a mental health survey during per-surgery consultations could help surgeons determine the need for surgery, the authors say.

For those patients who score poorly on mental health, surgeons could opt for further consultations, refer the patient for an objective nasal airflow assessment, or even suggest psychotherapy to further clarify the need for surgery.

This additional referral will also give patients a better understanding of their true nasal function and what surgery might achieve.

In the study, patients at two Sydney rhinoplasty centres in Sydney were asked to fill out the Short Form Health Survey, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire to determine their mental health status.

They then underwent nasal airflow assessment. The results for those with poor mental health were compared with those with good mental health.

Given cultural norms on appearance, rhinoplasty and mental health differ across countries, the results are limited to Australia. The study also acknowledges that further investigation employing larger samples would lend more confidence to these findings.

Ms Strazdins conducted the research during her honours program at UNSW Medicine, in conjunction with the Rhinology and Skull Base Research Group, St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research, UNSW.

International Conference To Focus On Veterans’ Mental Health

18 July 2017: Media Release - The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Ministers from five countries, including Australia, will meet in London this week to explore challenges faced by contemporary veterans, and how governments can improve support services to help them achieve a fulfilling post-service life.

Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan said the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ Issues would provide an opportunity to gain insights, in particular, into how our partner nations – Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States – deal with mental health issues and suicide prevention.

“As well as learning from the experiences of other nations, Australia will contribute significantly to conference discussions, with presentations on the topics of Barriers to effective mental health care and Current rehabilitation initiatives and proactive intervention for veterans,” Mr Tehan said.

“Ensuring we meet the mental health needs of those who have served our country, and their families, is a fundamental priority for the Turnbull Government.

“We recognise the importance of veterans seeking treatment as early as possible to achieve the best recovery outcomes, which is why in the 2016 Budget the Government expanded eligibility for non-liability health care for certain mental health conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance abuse to anyone with one day of full time service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).”

In the 2017–18 Budget the Turnbull Government expanded this to cover all mental health conditions.

These arrangements mean there is no requirement to establish a causal link between a person’s military service and a mental health condition. Treatment is available to anyone who has served one day full-time in the ADF.

Treatment is fully funded and uncapped – if an eligible veteran needs treatment, the Government will pay for it.

“One suicide is one too many and being transparent about the mental health challenges facing serving and ex-serving Australian Defence personnel is vital,” Mr Tehan said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 there were more than eight deaths by suicide in Australia each day. Tragically serving and ex-serving Defence personnel are not immune from this.

In seeking to further address this issue, the Government commissioned the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to provide the first accurate, robust data ever produced on suicide among the serving, reserve and ex-serving populations.

This work was done independently of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and has produced figures on ADF and veteran suicide based on information provided by state and territory coroners.

The Government also commissioned the National Mental Health Commission to review the suicide and self-harm prevention services available to former ADF members and their families. This helped inform the allocation of new funding of $58.6 million in the recent Budget for a range of new mental health initiatives.

Mr Tehan said that as a result of these studies we have a greater understanding of where and how to help those who are struggling, but as always there is more work to be done.

Statistics relating to Australia’s approach that will be shared at the conference, include:
  • Between 2001 and 2015 there were 325 certified suicide deaths among people with at least one day of ADF service. In 2015 there were 25 certified suicide deaths among ex-serving Defence personnel.
  • Between 2001 and 2015, there were 166 certified suicide deaths among ex-serving Defence personnel. Ex-serving men aged 18–24 were at particular risk—two times more likely to die from suicide than Australian men of the same age.
  • Service characteristics that may be associated with the higher rate of suicide in ex-serving men included: involuntary discharge—particularly medical discharge, short length of service (less than one year) and rank other than a commissioned officer.
  • 4,414 veterans had access to PTSD treatment under non-liability health care provisions as at 31 March 2017.
  • 1,599 veterans had access to alcohol dependence and abuse treatment under non-liability health care provisions as at 31 March 2017.
  • With regard to Australia’s longest running military conflict, the war in Afghanistan, DVA has accepted the claims of 1,590 veterans with service-related PTSD since 11 October 2001. The total number of claims determined was 1,634.
  • DVA has also accepted the claims of 543 veterans with service-related alcohol dependency and abuse since 11 October 2001. The total number of claims determined was 576.
Mr Tehan said continuing research and engagement across Australia with ex-service organisations, Defence organisations and with partner countries was an important part of the Government’s action on improving veterans’ mental health and reducing the incidence of suicide among current and former members of the ADF.

“The Government is committed to addressing suicide and the devastating impact it has on our community. We all have a role to play in encouraging anyone, including our ex-serving men and women, to seek assistance when they need it,” Mr Tehan said.

Note: An individual can submit a claim for more than one condition. There is an overlap between claims for PTSD and alcohol dependency.

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

Improving Education Opportunities And Outcomes For Country Kids

Wednesday 19 July 2017:  Joint Media Release - Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Bridget Chair of the Senate Education and Employment Committee, Chair of the Senate Education and Employment Committee
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the announcement was an important milestone in the Government’s efforts to ensure regional, rural and remote students not only achieve success at school, but go on to further study, training and employment.

“This independent review offers an opportunity to level the playing field between city and country students,” Minister Joyce said.

“Students living outside our major cities face unique challenges compared to their city cousins which can cause significant disparities between their education outcomes.”

“And the difference starts early. We know rural and remote students are more likely to have developmental vulnerabilities when they start school, such as lower language and cognitive skills. Their NAPLAN results are generally lower and they go on to be under-represented in higher education.”

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the discussion paper, prepared by the reviewer Emeritus Professor John Halsey, identified the key issues and challenges faced by rural students and posed areas of focus to stimulate ideas about possible solutions.

The paper identifies nine themes:
Curriculum and assessment
Teachers and teaching
Leaders and leadership
Information and communication technology
Entrepreneurship and schools
School and community
Improving access
Transitioning beyond school

“We want to hear from the people on the ground living the experiences of regional education,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Having now delivered a true model of needs-based funding for Australian schools - which results in an average annual rate of per student funding growth for students in regional and remote areas of 4.9 per cent compared with 4.1 per cent for all students - we are determined to ensure schools are armed with the best information to put this record funding to the most effective use possible.

“The inquiry is particularly keen to hear from members of the education community, families, employers, government agencies and the philanthropic sector about how best we can support regional, rural and remote students to succeed in school and beyond.

If you have firsthand experience on what’s working, fresh ideas or innovative solutions to improve regional, rural and remote education, we want to hear from you.”

Chair of the Senate Education Committee Bridget McKenzie said the public submissions would highlight issues to be further explored by the review through face-to-face consultations from July to October.

"Liberal and Nationals backbenchers have long championed the importance of a specific focus on the unique challenges and needs of regional students, which this inquiry is delivering," Senator McKenzie said.

“The inquiry will be pounding the pavement in our regional areas, speaking to a wide range of affected communities in order to find solutions that will assist our young people succeed in the education and training so that they can find better jobs and better opportunities.

“The final report and recommendations of the independent review will be provided to Government by the end of this year and will be considered concurrently with the findings of the new Gonski review into achieving excellence in all Australian schools.”

Submissions will close at 5pm, AEST 29 August 2017. For more information visit:

NSW Health Legionnaires’ Disease Regulation Report Released

20 July 2017: by NSW Health
NSW Health today released a report into the proposed further regulation of building cooling towers to help reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the report is based on the recommendations from the Legionella Expert Panel and feedback received from public consultation in early 2017. The report considered whether any new measures are needed to strengthen current prevention and control activities.
“NSW already has a strong regulatory system for preventing Legionnaires’ disease, and the report recommends strengthening it by applying risk management plans for the operation of cooling towers,” Dr Chant said.
“This would include owners developing an individual monitoring and control plan for each cooling tower system with regular testing, inspection and auditing.
“This report includes feedback from 53 stakeholders, and further consultation with a steering group comprised of representatives from local government, public health units and independent experts.
“NSW Health supports the recommendations in principle and is working with stakeholders to implement the report’s proposals.
“In the next phase of work, NSW Health will provide further details on how the regulatory amendments will be carried out; provide clear roles and responsibilities for occupiers and industry; and continue to consult with stakeholders on training, education and ongoing support,” Dr Chant said.
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection of the lungs that causes pneumonia. It can develop after breathing in contaminated water droplets or dust. Outbreaks of the disease are most frequently linked to contaminated water cooling systems of air-conditioning plants in large buildings.
The Legionella Expert Panel was formed after two Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in Sydney’s CBD in March and May 2016 that resulted in 13 confirmed infections, including one death. In 2016 there were 93 cases of legionella pneumophila, the type of Legionnaires’ disease that is associated with cooling towers. There have been 44 cases of this type of Legionnaires’ disease this year.
The report, which includes proposed changes to the regulations and how NSW Health will support them, is available at:

Australian Assistance To Combat Dengue In Sri Lanka

20 July 2017: Media release - Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Today I joined Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Karunanayake to announce the Australian Government will provide life-saving support through the World Health Organization (WHO) to help combat a severe dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka.

Dengue is an insidious virus that emerges quickly when the conditions are right and in its severe form, it can be fatal. According to WHO, 50 to 100 million infections occur each year in over 100 countries – putting almost half the world's population at risk.

This year Sri Lanka has been hard hit by dengue, with over 90,000 cases reported. Tragically, more than 245 people have died.

Australia's $500,000 contribution to WHO will support the implementation of a comprehensive Dengue Prevention and Control Plan to enhance hospital triage and case management, cleaning, public awareness and surveillance systems.

I also launched the Australian Government's partnership between Monash University's Eliminate Dengue Program and Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health to reduce the incidence of dengue in Sri Lanka.

Monash University's Eliminate Dengue Program is pioneering the use of the Wolbachia bacteria to reduce rates of dengue infection.  Wolbachia prevents the dengue virus being transmitted between people, and it has a similar effect on other viruses such as zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The Australian Government's $1 million contribution to the Eliminate Dengue Program in Sri Lanka was brokered by the innovationXchange, established within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to improve the effectiveness and impact of the Australian aid program.

Further Action To Create A More Competitive Banking System For Australians

17 July 2017: Joint media statement with: The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Treasurer

More competitive loans and other financial products for Australians will be encouraged through new reforms announced by the Turnbull Government in the 2017 Budget.

The Turnbull Government is getting on with the job of implementing our Budget measures which will deliver a fairer and stronger financial system for Australians.

New entrants to the Australian banking market face a simple but significant obstacle – the prohibition on the use of the word 'bank'.

Currently, only authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) with capital greater than $50 million are permitted to use the term 'bank'.

This acts to discourage innovative new players from entering the market, as the use of the term ‘bank’ can be key to their business model at the critical early phase of their development.

The restriction on ‘bank’ may also lead the public to mistakenly believe that small banking businesses differ from the larger players in terms of regulatory protection.

The fact is that all ADIs are subject to the prudential regulator, APRA's, prudential framework.

Likewise, deposits at all ADIs are protected by the Government’s Financial Claims Scheme guarantee.

That is why the Turnbull Government has announced that it will lift the prohibition on the use of the word 'bank'.

The Government is today releasing draft legislation for public consultation that will ensure that any banking business with an ADI licence will be allowed to describe itself as a bank.

In addition, the legislation will reinforce APRA’s discretion over whether or not to permit the use of 'bank', ensuring that community expectations around the application of the term are maintained.

This is part of the Turnbull Government’s series of strong financial reforms aimed at encouraging greater competition in our financial system, which will ensure Australians and Australian businesses can get a better deal.

The exposure draft of the legislation and the associated explanatory material is available on the Treasury website.

Submissions are due by Monday 14 August 2017 and can be sent to: The Government encourages all interested parties to make a submission.

Artifacts Suggest Humans Arrived In Australia Earlier Than Thought

July 19, 2017

Ben Marwick, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, and other team members excavate the lowest reaches of the dig site. Credit: Dominic O'Brien, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation
When and how the first humans made their way to Australia has been an evolving story.

While it is accepted that humans appeared in Africa some 200,000 years ago, scientists in recent years have placed the approximate date of human settlement in Australia further and further back in time, as part of ongoing questions about the timing, the routes and the means of migration out of Africa.

Now, a team of researchers, including a faculty member and seven students from the University of Washington, has found and dated artifacts in northern Australia that indicate humans arrived there about 65,000 years ago -- more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. A paper published July 20 in the journal Nature describes dating techniques and artifact finds at Madjedbebe, a longtime site of archaeological research, that could inform other theories about the emergence of early humans and their coexistence with wildlife on the Australian continent.

The new date makes a difference, co-author and UW associate professor of anthropology Ben Marwick said. Against the backdrop of theories that place humans in Australia anywhere between 47,000 and 60,000 years ago, the concept of earlier settlement calls into question the argument that humans caused the extinction of unique megafauna such as giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises more than 45,000 years ago.

"Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn't be the central cause of the death of megafauna," Marwick said. "It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna. It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution."

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia's Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones. Following the more recent excavations in 2012 and 2015, a University of Queensland-led research team, which included the UW, evaluated artifacts found in various layers of settlement using radiocarbon dating and optical stimulated luminescence (OSL).

The new research involved extensive cooperation with the local Aboriginal community, Marwick added. The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirarr people, joined much of the excavation and reviewed the findings, Marwick said. Researchers had both a memorandum of understanding and a contract with the community, which gave control to the Mirarr as senior custodians, oversight of the excavation and curation of the finds. The Mirarr were interested in supporting new research into the age of the site and in knowing more about the early human occupants, particularly given environmental threats posed by nearby modern-day mining activities.

Noteworthy among the artifacts found were ochre "crayons" and other pigments, what are believed to be the world's oldest edge-ground hatchets, and evidence that these early humans ground seeds and processed plants. The pigments indicate the use of paint for symbolic and artistic expression, while the tools may have been used to cut bark or food from trees.

Labs in Australia used OSL to identify the age range, Marwick explained. Radiocarbon dating, which requires a certain level of carbon in a substance, can analyze organic materials up to about 45,000 or 50,000 years old. But OSL is used on minerals to date, say, the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight -- helpful in determining when an artifact was buried -- up to 100,000 years ago or more. That process measured thousands of sand grains individually so as to establish more precise ages.

The UW researchers worked in the geoarchaeology lab on the Seattle campus, testing sediment samples that Marwick helped excavate at Madjedbebe. One graduate student and six undergraduate students studied the properties of hundreds of dirt samples to try to picture the time in which the ancient Australian humans lived.

Using a scanning electron microscope, the students examined the composition of the sediment layers, the size of the grains of dirt and any microscopic plant matter. For another test, the students baked soil samples at various temperatures, then measured the mass of each sample, said UW doctoral student Gayoung Park, another author on the paper. Because organic matter turns into gases at high heat, a loss of mass indicated how much matter was in a given sample. This helped create a picture of the environments across the sedimentary layers of the site. The team found that when these human ancestors arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder.

"Together, we were working on establishing questions: What kind of environments did these people live in? What was the climate like? Were there any disturbances to the site, and were artifacts mixed up from different ages?" Marwick said. "I'm proud of being able to involve UW students in this research in a really substantial way."

One of the authors, Mara Page, was a senior double-majoring in archaeology and Earth and space sciences when she joined the project. She analyzed stable carbon isotopes found in sediment, which can reveal the types of plants present in the past and the kinds of environments they lived in. She determined that the vegetation at Madjedbebe remained stable during the time of human occupation, which suggests that there was no major environmental change that might have prompted humans to leave the area.

"I feel that I contributed something important by being able to rule something out of the story we were telling," Page explained.

By placing the date of Australian settlement at around 65,000 years ago, researchers confirm some of the shifting theories about when the first humans left Africa. A common view is that humans moved into Asia 80,000 years ago, and if they migrated to Australia some to 15,000 years later, it means those ancestors co-existed with another early human in Asia, Homo florensiensis. It also means that these early Australians preceded early Europeans, who are believed to have entered that continent 45,000 years ago. A related question is whether these early human species left Africa at one time, gradually spreading the population through Asia, Europe and Australia, or whether there were multiple waves of migration.

In recent years, new evidence, obtained through DNA testing of a 90-year-old hair sample of an Aboriginal Australian man, suggests Australia was settled as far back as 70,000 years ago.

Marwick believes the Madjedbebe results, because they rely on so many artifacts and intensive analysis of sediment samples, confirm that early humans occupied Australia at least 65,000 years ago and support the theory that Homo sapiens, the species of modern-day humans, evolved in Africa before dispersing to other continents. The findings also suggest Homo sapiens' predecessors, Neanderthals and Denisovans, overlapped with humans for a long period of time, and suggest a larger role for Australia, and the Eastern Hemisphere in general, in the story of humankind.

Marwick, who advocates for open science, particularly in data collection and the code used to analyze it, noted that the Nature paper is also pushing new frontiers because it combines three strands of reproducibility. Researchers examined a field site that has been excavated in the past; they've made available their raw data and code; and they consulted an outside lab for third-party OSL verification.

Chris Clarkson, Zenobia Jacobs, Ben Marwick, Richard Fullagar, Lynley Wallis, Mike Smith, Richard G. Roberts, Elspeth Hayes, Kelsey Lowe, Xavier Carah, S. Anna Florin, Jessica McNeil, Delyth Cox, Lee J. Arnold, Quan Hua, Jillian Huntley, Helen E. A. Brand, Tiina Manne, Andrew Fairbairn, James Shulmeister, Lindsey Lyle, Makiah Salinas, Mara Page, Kate Connell, Gayoung Park, Kasih Norman, Tessa Murphy, Colin Pardoe. Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago. Nature, 2017; 547 (7663): 306 DOI: 10.1038/nature22968

Government Welcomes New NDIA Chief

19 July 2017: Joint Media Release with: The Hon Christian Porter, Minister for Social Services  and The Hon Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services
The appointment by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) of a new CEO has been welcomed by the Turnbull Government.

Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, congratulated Mr Rob De Luca on his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA, announced today by the Chairman of the NDIA, Dr Helen Nugent AO. 

“Mr De Luca will guide the National Disability Insurance Scheme during this critical transition to full roll out across Australia over the next three years,” Minister Porter said.

“From 2012 until recently, Mr De Luca was Managing Director of Bankwest, a significant, demanding and customer-focused job. During Mr De Luca’s time as Managing Director, BankWest invested significantly in improving the experience for its one million customers. This included opening new store formats which made services available to customers seven days a week. As well as realigning the institution’s customer focus, under his leadership BankWest won the AIM WA WestBusiness Pinnacle Award for Corporate Social Responsibility Excellence in 2016 and WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality. 

“Mr De Luca has the depth and breadth of experience required to ensure the NDIS realises its full potential for all Australians.

“It is encouraging that a leader in our community of Mr De Luca’s standing and ability is committed to leading the NDIA during this critical transition to full scheme. Mr De Luca deeply understands the importance of improving social and economic outcomes for participants in a way that delivers a quality participant experience.”

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Jane Prentice, said Mr De Luca would no doubt make a significant and lasting contribution to the NDIS’s goal of improving the lives of participants, while ensuring its financial sustainability.

“Mr De Luca’s appointment by the NDIA Board sees the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer with the specialist skills to successfully roll out this ground-breaking reform as it moves towards full implementation over the next three years,” Minister Prentice said.

Mr De Luca will commence his three year term on 28 August 2017, following Mr David Bowen’s retirement as CEO that was foreshadowed in March this year. 

Minister Porter paid tribute to outgoing CEO, David Bowen.

“I would like to acknowledge the enormous and significant contribution over the past five years of David Bowen as the inaugural CEO of the NDIA,” Minister Porter said.

“David’s dedication, professionalism and leadership of the NDIA have been critically important in helping to deliver on the promise of the NDIS to change the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.”

“The Government greatly appreciates David’s unwavering commitment to establishing and implementing the best possible NDIS of which all Australians can be proud and we wish David and his family all the best for the future,” Assistant Minister Prentice said.

The NDIA led an open and merit-based selection process to identify a suitable candidate to be appointed the new CEO. The selection process identified Mr De Luca as the pre-eminent candidate for the role of CEO and he has been appointed by the NDIA Board in accordance with section 160 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013.

Moon Fire Shortlisted For The 2017 Art Music Awards

Wednesday, 19 July 2017
A composition commissioned by the National Capital Authority (NCA) for carillon, called Moon Fire, has been shortlisted in the 2017 Art Music Awards.

In 2015 the NCA commissioned up and coming composer, Jessica Wells, to create the piece and a recording was premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival in May 2016.

Composer, Jessica Wells, said “My career has taken me in amazing directions as an orchestrator, and arranger for concerts, films, theatre, and album recordings, and it was such a privilege to be commissioned by the NCA to create a unique piece for the National Carillon.”

“Working with the NCA’s Lead Carillonist, Lyn Fuller, I recorded fragments of carillon music and used time stretching, reverbs and delays to warp the sound of the bells to indicate an other-worldly feeling and echoes of the past,” Jessica Wells said.

“When the electronic backing track was ready, I then worked with Canberra-based sound designer, Kimmo Vennonen, to finish the recording and the mixing of Moon Fire for its premiere.”

“It’s really exciting to have such an innovative and unusual piece like Moon Fire shortlisted in the Instrumental Work of the Year category of the 2017 Art Music Awards.”

The NCA’s Chief Executive, Malcolm Snow, said the piece is very different to what is usually heard from the National Carillon, as it doesn’t have a melody, instead, a picture is painted by the sound of the Carillon bells combined with a digital backing track.

“The audio system in the National Carillon was upgraded late last year to allow carillonists to incorporate recordings of other instruments into live performances, and it was then possible for Moon Fire to be played live at the Special Carillon Concert in December,” Mr Snow said. 

“Our carillonists were recently at the World Carillon Congress 2017 in Spain where Moon Fire was performed by our Lead Carillonist Lyn Fuller in front of 14 international carillon societies.” 

The 2017 Art Music Awards will be held on Tuesday 22 August at the City Recital Hall in Sydney.

Background to Moon Fire
Moon Fire is inspired by a famous tale about a Belgian cathedral tower. Legend has it that on the 27th January 1687, in the town of Mechelen, a local looked up at St Rumbold’s tower and thought it was on fire. The townsfolk called the alarm and ascended the tower with buckets of water and anything they could muster to extinguish the blaze. Upon reaching the top of the tower it was discovered that there was no fire, but the blood red moon shining through the fog had created a mirage!  

Hence the Mechlians were jokingly referred to as Maneblussers (“Moon Extinguishers”) and even named a local beer after the legend. Moon Fire is inspired by the imagery of the blood moon, shining through the fog to create a sensation of an eerie sky lit by vaporous flames. Alarm bells are heard, and a panic of the people, but descends into an eerie fog-like mystical trance.

Photography Competition Open - Prize Worth $600

Wednesday 19 July 2017
The Australian Human Rights Commission is once again running its photography competition, with a $600 prize up for grabs for the most outstanding image!

For almost a decade, the Commission has been holding photo competitions every couple of years. Our last competition attracted a record 450 entries.

Photography is a powerful medium with a long history in the promotion and advancement of human rights around the world. Photos foster empathy for the suffering and experience of others, community engagement and positive social change. No one can forget the impact of photos such as Nick Ut’s famous photo The Terror of War of child Kim Phuc after a napalm attack during the Vietnam War.

The theme for the 2017 competition is Home, inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home..."

The shortlisted and winning photos to be displayed at the 2017 Human Rights Awards on 8 December in Sydney.

So, what are you waiting for?

About the competition
  • Enter at
  • There will be two categories for entries: Under 18 and 18 & over.
  • Overall winners will receive their prizes at the 2017 Human Rights Awards on December 8 in Sydney. A selection of photos from the Competition will also be on display.
  • Main prizes worth $600.
  • The competition will close on 30 September 2017.
If you have a query about the competition, please email

More Australian Students To Benefit From New Funds For Financial Literacy

19 July 2017: Media Release - Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP,
The Turnbull Government has announced a further commitment to support the states and territories to expand the delivery of the ASIC MoneySmart Teaching program for a further four years.

By building teacher capacity, the program provides teachers with the skills and resources to develop stronger financial capabilities in young people.

“We want more students to develop essential knowledge and skills to prepare them to make sound financial decisions now and into the future, including in relation to saving, borrowing and investing,” the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, said.

“To achieve this, teachers must have the necessary skills and understanding to deliver and embed this knowledge in young people.”

This funding continues the Government's commitment to working with the states and territories to deliver the MoneySmart Teaching program. A new agreement will help train significantly more teachers and have a positive impact on a greater number of students and school communities across Australia.

To date, more than 30,000 teachers have undertaken MoneySmart Teaching Professional Development. Teachers that have engaged with the program report increased capacity to teach financial literacy education and their students show improved financial literacy knowledge.

“MoneySmart Teaching program resources have already been accessed by over 50% of all schools, but we are aiming to reach an even greater percentage, and embed financial literacy learning in all our schools,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

All Australians benefit from understanding how to manage money day-to-day and how to make informed financial decisions. Financial literacy education in schools lays the foundation for these decisions and provides an essential life skill for young Australians.

The continuation of ASIC's MoneySmart Teaching program in schools complements the additional funding of $16 million over four years for ASIC’s financial literacy program announced in the 2017-18 Budget.

The Government encourages all stakeholders to be ambitious in their deliverables under the program to support better financial literacy outcomes for all Australian students.

Life On Earth - And Mars?

Published on 16 Jul 2017 by UNSWTV
The discovery of a piece of geyserite found in hot springs environment has changed our thinking our thinking about the origins of life on earth - and has implications for the search for life on Mars.

Fossils discovered by UNSW scientists in 3.48 billion year old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia have pushed back by 580 million years the earliest known existence of microbial life on land.

Previously, the world’s oldest evidence for microbial life on land came from 2.7- 2.9 billion-year-old deposits in South Africa containing organic matter-rich ancient soils.

The findings don't just extend back the record of life living in hot springs by 3 billion years, they indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to about 580 million years, says study first author, UNSW PhD candidate, Tara Djokic.

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.