Inbox and Environment News: Issue 341

December 10 - 16, 2017: Issue 341

State Environmental Planning Controls(Draft Environment SEPP):Urban Bushland

The Berejiklian government has just announced changes that propose to repeal and replace the following State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) with a single Environment SEPP:

• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 19—Bushland in Urban Areas - [Manly, Warringah, Pittwater; pages 23 to 32]
• State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011
• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 50—Canal Estate Development
• Greater Metropolitan Regional Environmental Plan No. 2—Georges River Catchment
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan No. 20—Hawkesbury-Nepean River (No.2-1997) [*Pittwater and Warringah]
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005
• Willandra Lakes Regional Environmental Plan No. 1—World Heritage Property.

Aimed at reducing 'red tape' and 'streamlining' NSW's planning system, some changes are commended such as protecting Sydney Harbour's natural assets by prohibiting new canal estates.

However other changes will enable development in sensitive areas that are currently protected.

Designed to marry up with other planning instruments, such as the controversial Biodiversity Act 2016, the changes also give greater effect to Ministerial Directions.

The changes also propose to revise the term ‘bushland zoned or reserved for public open space purposes’ to ‘public bushland’. This includes all land that is zoned non-rural, and owned or managed by a council or a public authority, or reserved for acquisition for open space or environmental conservation by a council or a public authority, and that has vegetation which meets a clear definition of bushland.

From • Draft Environment SEPP (PDF: 6.215 MB):
State Environmental Planning Policy No 19 – Bushland in Urban Areas (SEPP 19)
  • The majority of the provisions of SEPP 19 will be transferred to SEPP (Environment). These provisions will be updated and some will be transferred to a Ministerial Direction.
  • Update council names to reflect recent council amalgamations and boundary changes.
  • Extend its land application to cover local government areas that are currently partly outside the application of SEPP 19 including parts of Hawkesbury and Central Coast local government areas.
  • Transfer plan making provisions in SEPP 19 to a Ministerial Direction.
  • A new circular on Urban Bushland is being finalised for consultation. It has been developed to provide further information and detail regarding the application of SEPP 19. This circular will replace planning Circulars No. B13 and No. 114. 
Creating a new Ministerial Direction – Urban Bushland
SEPP 19 contains provisions for the preparation of local environmental plans in clause 10. The clause ensures that when a council is drafting local environmental plan provisions for any land to which SEPP 19 applies, other than rural land, it considers the general and specific aims of the SEPP, andgives priority to retaining bushland unless significantenvironmental, economic, or social benefits arise which outweigh the value of the bushland. This should be transferred to a
new Ministerial Direction as it is the appropriate mechanism to guide plan making. No current direction adequately covers urban bushland in the same way. Urban bushland exists across many different zones, therefore Ministerial Direction 2.1 – Environmental Protection Zones, is not appropriate to address public urban bushland of the type protected by SEPP 19.

The new Ministerial Direction is intended to function largely the same way as clause 10 of SEPP 19. As currently, the direction will apply when a planning authority is preparing a planning proposal for land to which the Urban Bushland provisions of SEPP (Environment) apply.

Critically the current SEPP (no 19) SEPP 19 extends 'beyond the protection of environmental values of bushland by identifying 'the need to protect the aesthetic and community values as well as the recreational, educational and scientific values of this resource'.

The proposed SEPP also enables the Roads and Maritime Services, to undertake the subdivision of foreshore lands in order ‘to lawfully reclaim Sydney Harbour land’ and redefine the ‘heads of consideration for consent authorities when assessing Development Applications on Foreshore lands.

The changes also include amending the aim of the Harbour Regional Environmental Plan that ensures Sydney is a ‘working harbour’ to enable a range of recreational, transport, tourism and commercial uses. Greater flexibility to 'mooring pens' is also proposed, which are currently prohibited.

Other changes include transferring heritage provisions to the relevant local environmental plan, thereby reducing the protection of heritage assets.

In addition, concerns have been flagged that moving the prohibition of extractive industries in parts of the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment to the SEPP for Mining, Petroleum and Extractive Industries - and moving the Sydney Opera House provisions in the Harbour Regional Environmental Plan to SEPP (State Significant Precincts) effectively reduces the current protections.

The changes are on exhibition for public comment until the 15 January.

*page 26:
Provisions to be updated and moved to Ministerial Directions
Provisions within the Hawkesbury Nepean Regional Environmental Plan related to local plan making will be updated and are to be moved to a new Ministerial Direction.

The following current provisions contain plan making guidance suited to a Ministerial Direction:
• Clause 3 ‘Aim of This Plan’
• Part 2 ‘General Planning Considerations, Specific Planning Policies and Recommended Strategies’
• Clause 6(3) ‘Water Quality’
• Clause 6(10) (a) ‘Urban Development’ - rezoning or subdivision of land
• Clause 6(11) ‘Recreation and Tourism’.

Other aspects of Clause 6, such as water quality, total catchment management, biodiversity and environmentally sensitive
areas will be transferred to the proposed new SEPP.

Have your say on the Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed Environment SEPP until 31 January 2018 (NB changed date for submissions/feedback)
• Or write to:

Director, Planning Frameworks
Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39 
Sydney NSW 2001

From Issue 339

Newport's Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths: Celebrating Over 20 Years Of Community Volunteer Bushcare Results: The pathways wend through the Crown of Newport Reserve, Porter’s Reserve, Attunga Reserve and the Kanimbla Reserve. Includes link to March 2016 Amended Draft of 'North Ward' by NSW Government 'Planner'.

A Bright New Future For Commercial Fishing

December 4, 2017: NSW DPI
The biggest reform in commercial fishing in two decades kicks off today with the introduction of new quota and management arrangements.

​NSW Primary Industries Deputy Director General, Dr Geoff Allan, said today is ‘Day One’ of what will be a new and economically viable industry.

“The NSW Government has delivered what was promised last year – less red tape, linkages between shares and catch or effort and most of all, more certainty for fishers to grow their businesses,” Dr Allan said.

“We want to see a new generation of fishers coming into the industry because it’s now a place where people can invest with more confidence.

“After such a long process of trying to bring about change to commercial fisheries, it’s now time for the government to let fishers get on with the job of providing fresh NSW seafood.”

From today, share linkages and revised management arrangements in most share classes commence, as well as new minimum shareholdings.
This means, for example, a fisher out at sea has the opportunity to use more traps and unlicensed (unendorsed) crew to help them retrieve those traps. They will now spend less time at sea and it will be quicker and safer for them with the additional help on board.

Their reporting of quota landings will be done through a new online app instead of a paper logbook. They also have the opportunity to sell or lease out unused quota.

Additionally, there has been a waiver on boat licence fees and free transfers of shares online.

The NSW Government will now focus on modernising compliance, investing in programs that build community confidence, assist the set-up of a peak industry body and look at innovative technology that will help to reduce the costs for fishers and the impact of their operations on the environment.

More information

Eagle Eye On Illegal Dumping And Pollution

07 December 2017: EPA
The state’s environment watchdog is putting eyes in the sky to help respond to illegal dumping sites in remote areas, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said today.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority will use drones for a range of regulatory responsibilities, including to identify illegal dumping hotspots, better protect staff, to gain access to properties during investigations and to survey the size of potentially illegal waste stockpiles.

“Using technology to protect people and the environment from pollution where it is safe and respects people’s privacy, is a no-brainer,” Ms Upton said.

“When it comes to illegal dumping those people doing the wrong thing often attempt to hide their rubbish where they think no one will look. Using drones will change how we tackle these problems.”

The Interim Guidelines on EPA use of unmanned aircraft are now on public consultation. The Guidelines outline when, how and where the EPA may consider using drones, the legal frameworks that regulate the EPA’s use of drones and the systems the EPA has in place to ensure its use of drones is transparent, accountable and safe, with minimal impact on people’s privacy.

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said drones would be used appropriately, balancing safety and privacy.

“The EPA will also use drones to assess the extent of water pollution incidents in remote areas or capture footage of the site of an offence where having an officer attend the site will put their safety at risk,” he said.

The Interim Guidelines are on exhibition until 15 December 2017.

Call For National Heritage List Nominations

1 December 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Nominations are now open for places of outstanding natural, Indigenous or historic significance to the nation for possible inclusion on our National Heritage List.

“Our prestigious National Heritage List celebrates and protects places that reflect our unique landscapes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and development as a nation,” said the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy.

“The List currently includes more than 100 sites from across Australia and its territories, ranging from icons such as Bondi Beach, Fraser Island and Kakadu National Park to lesser-known gems such as the Dirk Hartog’s Landing Site, Darlington Probation Station, Mount William Stone Hatchet Quarry, Witjira-Dalhousie Springs and the High Court-National Gallery Precinct.”

“Each year, more places are added to the List as our national story unfolds and understanding of our heritage deepens.”

Nominations are open until 26 February 2016 and will be considered by the Australian Heritage Council before a final list of places to be assessed in 2018-19 is developed. As part of that assessment process, there will be further opportunities for public comment on each proposed listing.

Nominations of natural, Indigenous and historic places with significant heritage value for possible Commonwealth heritage listing are also being sought.

Exhibition Of Proposed Changes To Noise And Dust Assessment For Mining Projects

November 30, 2017: Departmental Media Release, Department of Planning and Environment
Proposed planning policy changes will help improve the management of noise and dust impacts on properties near proposed mining projects.
The Department of Planning and Environment’s Deputy Secretary for Policy, Strategy & Governance, Alison Frame, said the proposed changes to the NSW Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy respond to the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) recently updated policies for assessing noise and air quality.
"The NSW Government applies the Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy during the assessment of state significant resource proposals, such as mines, to address potential noise and dust impacts on neighbouring land," Ms Frame said.  
"We’ve based our revised air and noise assessment criteria on those developed through recent reviews conducted by the EPA, which underwent public consultation.
"In addition, we’ve also improved the language to explain terms and processes more clearly such as negotiated agreements, acquisition and mitigation processes, and valuation of land.
"We’re interested in hearing from any interested individuals, land-owners, and community groups wishing to provide feedback on the proposed changes.
"Public submissions provide important feedback to our Department, which we will consider as we finalise the policy.
"In the coming months, we will separately be consulting stakeholders across a range of sectors on the potential to provide more policy guidance on negotiated agreements and dispute resolution," Ms Frame said.
The proposal to revise the NSW Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy also requires amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007.
To view the proposed changes or make a submission between November 30 and 16 February 2018, visit the Department's website here.

Innovative Methods To Help Prevent Coral Bleaching On The Reef

7 December 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy and The Hon Warren Entsch MP, Federal Member for Leichhardt
World leading innovative methods will be trialled to mix warmer surface water with cooler waters from the deep in an effort to reduce the impacts of thermal stress on the Great Barrier Reef to mitigate coral bleaching events.

Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said the innovative research project by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) was supported by a $2.2 million investment by the Turnbull Government.

"Taking on innovative research project likes this, demonstrates the Government is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to protect the Reef," Minister Frydenberg said.

"Funded as part of the Reef 2050 Plan, the project will test whether water mixing technology, currently used in freshwater storages, can reduce coral stress at a local level.

"Limited modelling indicates the proposed intervention could reduce average surface water temperatures by 0.7°C during potential bleaching conditions."

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the proposal put forward by the RRRC would see eight water mixing units installed in a 1km2 area of the northern Moore Reef during the summer months over the next three years.

"The research will involve extensive monitoring and data collection to help improve our knowledge on how climate change impacts coral reefs," Mr Entsch said.

"If successful, this research project could play a pivotal role in ensuring the Reef is protected for generations to come.

"Whether it's tackling the crown-of-thorns starfish or reducing runoff, the Government is acting to improve the health and resilience of the Reef."

The research project will be subject to various environmental management plans being completed prior to deployment, such as a monitoring, decommissioning and cyclone contingency plans.

The Turnbull Government funding will be supported with significant in kind contributions from the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and the Queensland based manufacturer of the water mixing technology, WEARS Pty Ltd.

Have Your Say On Priorities For NSW Land Conservation

November 17, 2017: OE&H
Public consultation has commenced on continued planning for future NSW national park additions as well as the NSW Government's investment in private land conservation.

Draft Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy 2017-2037 
Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Chief Executive, Anthony Lean said he encouraged the community to have their say on the two important documents which will guide the establishment of an integrated and well planned protected area system across both private and public land in New South Wales.

"The draft Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy 2017–2037 will guide the government's $240 million investment in private land conservation while the draft National Parks System Directions Statement will guide the protection of high value conservation lands across NSW in the public reserve system," Mr Lean said.

"The draft strategy and the draft directions statement are being exhibited at the same time as they speak to each other in working towards the same broad objectives of improving outcomes for our State's biodiversity.

"The National Parks System Directions Statement will set the priorities for acquiring new high conservation value land as part of our State's national park and reserve system, which currently accounts for around 9% of the State.

"On the other hand, the Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy recognises that with over 70% of NSW land privately owned or managed it is critical that we support landholders to protect and manage important conservation assets on private land."

The Strategy is a key component of the government's comprehensive new framework for private land conservation established under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

The NSW Government established the Biodiversity Conservation Trust to manage a statewide private land conservation program that will invest $240 million over 5 years and $70 million per year ongoing, supporting landholders who commit to protect and manage areas of high environmental value on their properties.

The consultation period for both documents is open from 17 November to 5pm 15 December 2017.

For further information and to have your say, visit:

Salmon Experts Meet To Plan Ambitious 2018 Global Symposium

December 6, 2017: University of Tasmania
International and locally-based salmon experts have gathered in Hobart today (Wednesday, 6 December 2017) for a three-day planning conference to lay the groundwork for a major symposium on the salmon industry to be held in Tasmania next year.

Scheduled for late 2018, the Global Salmon Symposium is being developed with the ambitious goals of helping to make Tasmania’s salmon industry the most environmentally sustainable in the world and creating an industry that all Tasmanians can be proud of.

The symposium is being planned through collaboration between salmon companies Huon Aquaculture, Tassal and Petuna, the Tasmanian Salmon Growers Association, the Tasmanian Government, the Environment Protection Agency, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of Tasmania.

University of Tasmania Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Brigid Heywood said this week’s planning conference brought experts from Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England, Canada and the Netherlands together with Tasmanian-based scientists, companies and regulators.

“The University has a proud record of delivering research that brings tangible benefits to the Tasmanian community and economy, including a central role in the birth of the Tasmanian salmon industry 30 years ago,” Professor Heywood said.

“We are therefore delighted to be part of a partnership between industry, government and researchers that now aims to help take the salmon industry to the next level.

“Creating the world’s most environmentally sustainable salmon industry will require a clear focus on the development of both sea and land-based farming operations, utilisation of the best available technologies, and collaboration with researchers and aquaculture innovators.

“Next year’s symposium will review world’s best practices and future developments in farming systems, environmental management, biosecurity, science and policy.

“Today’s meeting is about setting a clear direction and building an agenda for the 2018 Global Salmon Symposium, to ensure we have the right people in attendance and address the right issues.

“To help with our planning we have brought together a who’s who of the world’s leading experts in salmon aquaculture, from scientists to financial analysts, and from regulators to corporate governance specialists and non-government organisations,” Professor Heywood said.

The planning session, which concludes on Friday, will include keynote addresses and an expert panel discussion, followed by workshops on future farming, biosecurity and the environment.

Draft Environment SEPP

October 31, 2017: NSW Dept. of Planning and Environment
• Draft Environment SEPP (PDF: 6.215 MB)
The Explanation of Intended Effect for the Environment SEPP is on exhibition from 31 October 2017 until the 15 January 2018.
The NSW government has been working towards developing a new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for the protection and management of our natural environment. These areas are important to communities in delivering opportunities for physical health, economic security and cultural identity.
This consolidated SEPP proposes to simplify the planning rules for a number of water catchments, waterways, urban bushland, and Willandra Lakes World Heritage Property. These environmental policies will be accessible in one location, and updated to reflect changes that have occurred since the creation of the original policies.
The Department of Planning and Environment is seeking your feedback on the proposed SEPP to update and improve the planning framework in regards to these environmental issues. This is discussed in the Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) for the proposed Environment SEPP.
Changes proposed include consolidating the following seven existing SEPPs:

• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 19 – Bushland in Urban Areas
• State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011
• State Environmental Planning Policy No. 50 – Canal Estate Development
• Greater Metropolitan Regional Environmental Plan No. 2 – Georges River Catchment
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan No. 20 – Hawkesbury-Nepean River (No.2-1997)
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005
• Willandra Lakes Regional Environmental Plan No. 1 – World Heritage Property.
Changes are also proposed to the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan. Some provisions of the existing policies will be transferred to new Section 117 Local Planning Directions where appropriate.
The EIE outlines changes to occur, implementation details, and the intended outcome. It considers the existing SEPPs proposed to be repealed and explains why certain provisions will be transferred directly to the new SEPP, amended and transferred, or repealed due to overlaps with other areas of the NSW planning system.

Have your say on the Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed Environment SEPP until 31 January 2018

We welcome your feedback on the Explanation of Intended Effect and encourage you to have your say.
• Or write to:

Director, Planning Frameworks
Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39 
Sydney NSW 2001

“We’ve Been Told A Heap Of Porkies"

Published on 4 Dec 2017 by The Wilderness Society
Deforestation is history. Sign the petition:

Shane Joyce is a QLD farmer with a strong message and decades of data to back it up.

Find out how letting trees grow back has restored natural systems and made his land more productive.

Integra Mine Complex
Integra Underground Modification 8

Realignment of main headings, extension of approved longwalls (LW15-17), development of up three additional longwalls (LW18-20) to the northwest in the Middle Liddell Seam and changes to ancillary surface infrastructure and water management.

Exhibition Start       07/12/2017
Exhibition End  21/12/2017

Bank Street, Pyrmont

MP 11_0001, Maritime facility (former Sydney Heritage Fleet) - Modification 3
Amended DGRs/ SEARs are requested for proposed Modification #3. 

Modification #3 will seek approval to modify the design of the dry land works (with the proposed buildings contained within the approved building footprint) and a change of use to that approved. This will facilitate the accommodation of harbour cruise businesses within Blackwattle Bay, space for which is limited in Sydney Harbour.

PPR Exhibition Start 30/11/2017
PPR Exhibition End 15/12/2017

Mine Rehabilitation Discussion Paper

The NSW Government is committed to ensuring major mining projects use best practice rehabilitation so that previously mined land can sustain other uses.
The Government is already implementing a number of reforms to strengthen operational rehabilitation requirements for all mining projects in NSW. As the next step in these reforms, we have released the discussion paper, Improving Mine Rehabilitation in NSW, to seek feedback on proposed improvements to the regulatory framework for rehabilitation of major mining projects. This feedback will be used to develop new state-wide policy and actions that provide certainty to industry and the community by clearly setting out Government expectations regarding rehabilitation and closure requirements for all major mining projects in NSW.
There are five proposed reforms set out in the discussion paper across the assessment, operational and closure stages of the mine life cycle. A key aim of the proposed improvements is to ensure mine rehabilitation is consistent with leading practice and delivers appropriate social, economic and environmental outcomes for communities.
We invite you to comment on the mine rehabilitation Discussion Paper until 16 February 2018

No Open Cut Mining For Drayton South

December 2017: Departmental Media Release, NSW Dept. of Planning and Environment
The NSW Government has announced there will be no open-cut mining at the Drayton South site in the Upper Hunter, bringing certainty to industry and community.
Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said the proposed amendment to state mining and planning policies would prohibit open-cut mining on the Drayton South exploration licence no matter who owns the land and would protect the valuable and world renowned horse studs in the area.
Mr Roberts said the project had been the subject of recommendations by the independent Planning Assessment Commission after merit-based assessment processes.
“The Commission has twice refused open-cut mining applications on the Drayton South exploration licence area and determined that open-cut mining is incompatible with the unique combination of existing land uses in the area,” Mr Roberts said.
“The NSW Government has now taken action to address this incompatibility by proposing that applications for open-cut mining cannot be made over the Drayton South exploration license.
“This will bring certainty to the community and local industry, including the internationally renowned equine operations in this area.”
Underground mining exploration will be permitted on the site, potentially providing jobs and boosting the local economy.
Minister for Resources, Don Harwin said, “Given the protections the NSW Government is putting in place I have renewed EL 5460 to permit exploration activity for underground mining only.
“As part of the renewal Malabar Coal has agreed to voluntarily relinquish all of the licence area south of the Golden Highway.”
The community can make submissions on the proposed amendments until 14 December 2017. 

NSW Government’s Drayton South Announcement Not Enough To Safeguard Hunter Farming And Horse Breeding

December 01, 2017: Lock the Gate
The NSW Government’s announcement today of limited protection from open cut coal mining only for a small parcel of Jerry’s Plains farmland at Drayton South is not enough to protect the region’s farmers and horse breeders, says Lock the Gate.

Lock the Gate NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, "This new regulation does nothing more than formalise the decision already made twice by the Planning Commission that open cut coal mining is not appropriate for this site. It falls far short of the reforms needed in the Hunter to restore balance between mining and other land uses.

"We’re disappointed with this narrow and weak gesture that condemns the farming and horse breeding industries of the Hunter Valley to continue having to fight for their survival against a Government that has ears only for the coal industry.

"Jerry’s Plains is rich and fertile farmland that needs broad and effective protection from all forms of mining, not just open-cuts.

"If balance is to be restored, the Government needs to make all critical industry cluster lands for the horse and wine industries of the Hunter Valley off limits to mining of any kind. It’s really not too much to ask.”

Details of the Government’s proposal, which is seeking public feedback until 14 December, are available here:

Arrow’s CSG Deal With Shell Leaves Farmers And Water Supplies At Risk

December 04, 2017: Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate has serious concerns with the impact of thousands of new coal seam gas wells proposed across productive agricultural lands and waterways of the Surat Basin in QLD.

Arrow's tenements extend from Wandoan in the north, Dalby in the east, to Goondiwindi in the south.  A gas supply agreement has now been struck with Shell’s gas export terminal for the gas to be brought to market.

"This massive expansion will cover thousands of square kilometres of QLD with coal seam gas wells and gasfield infrastructure," said Naomi Hogan of the Lock the Gate Alliance.

"The dewatering of the coal seams for Arrow's gasfields will lead to over a million tonnes of toxic salts being brought to the surface, with no plan for the waste.

“Scientists looking at this proposal have raised serious concerns that the impacts of groundwater and the risks of well integrity failure have been underestimated by the company.  

Arrow's gasfields would intercept some of QLD's best grazing and cropping land.

"This gas deal demonstrates the failure of the QLD Government to stand up and protect strategic cropping land and protect our most productive farming regions.

"It’s inappropriate to force gasfields onto hardworking Australian farmers, while Shell vacuums gas offshore.

"Farmers targeted on the Cecil Plains are clear that Arrow does not have a social licence to operate there.

"The gasfield areas are proposed across valuable cropping for cotton and grains, threatening the productivity of this rich agricultural region.

"Australians are concerned about damage to our prime agricultural areas and strategic cropping lands by polluting onshore gasfields.

"There has been and will continue to be a lot of landholder concern around this, you can guarantee it," she said.

Update On Baleen 2D HR Seismic Survey 

(The survey comprises 46 2D lines of total length 208km.) - 
NOPSEMA 'Not reasonably satisfied – opportunity to modify EP'
Decision date: 03/08/2017 
Titleholder action Resubmission due date 3: 02/09/2017
Extension of timeframe: 17/08/2017 Titleholder action: 15/10/2017
Extension of timeframe: 05/10/2017 Titleholder action: 31/10/2017
Resubmission of EP: 31/10/2017 NOPSEMA decision: 30/11/2017
Request for further information: 30/11/2017 Titleholder action: 21/12/2017

From Decision notification:
Basis of decision 
NOPSEMA has assessed the environment plan in accordance with its assessment policies and procedures. 

On completion of assessment, NOPSEMA has decided that it is not reasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria below as set out in regulation 10A of the Environment Regulations: 
(a) is appropriate for the nature and scale of the activity 
(b) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable 
(c) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be of an acceptable level 
(d) provides for appropriate environmental performance outcomes, environmental performance standards and measurement criteria 
(e) includes an appropriate implementation strategy and monitoring, recording and reporting arrangements 
(g) demonstrates that: 
(i) the titleholder has carried out the consultations required by Division 2.2A 
(ii) the measures (if any) that the titleholder has adopted, or proposes to adopt, because of the consultations are appropriate 

Titleholder requirements 
For OMR decision In accordance with regulation 10, the titleholder is required to modify and resubmit the environment plan. Upon resubmission of the plan, NOPSEMA will continue to assess the submission in 
accordance with its assessment policies and make a decision under regulation 10. After a titleholder has been provided with reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit an environment plan, NOPSEMA will 
make a final decision on whether to accept or refuse to accept the environment plan. 

Avalon Boomerang Bags 2018 Dates

Diary Dates

Last workshop for the year at SewCraftCook for the year - passed.
Huge thanks to Kate for providing such an amazing and creative space for us to make the bags and store our "bits".

And a huge thanks to all those who have volunteered making bags, stamping bags, screen printing, cutting, ironing, folding, providing yummy treats, making cups of tea and for all the laughs, chats and good times. Without you we wouldn't be the team that we are.

On that note, dear sewers - if any of you, including the "at home" sewers need more fabric during the break, please contact Robyn via this email and she'll arrange it - the cupboards are bulging.
Tuesday 31 January
Return to our regular workshops  from 11am - 4pm.
Come for a hour or two or come for the day.
SewCraftCook 20/14 Polo Ave, Mona Vale.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Spotlight Walk - 8pm Friday Dec 15
Spotlighting walk - meet at start of Slippery Dip Trail. Spaces limited to 20 people

Wildlife Walk - 7:30am Friday January 19, 2018
Meet at end of Deep Creek Carpark. Spaces limited to 30 people
Email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment to get a ticket and book a place for one of these fascinating Wildlife Walks led by Jayden Walsh.

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

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

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

Eco Paddle on Narrabeen Lagoon
1pm, Sunday Feb 11, 2018
Black Swan have returned to the lagoon after 20 years - come and see these majestic creatures! This paddle will visit the Western Basin, Deep and Middle Creeks. Beautiful Deep Creek attracts migratory birds from as far away as Russia and Middle Creek has been the subject of a substantial remediation programme. A relaxing 2 to 3 hour afternoon paddle. No previous kayaking experience required, tuition given. BYO boat or a hire kayak can be arranged for you at cost. 
Bookings essential.
Email or call 0417 502 056.

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Board Meeting In Public

06 November 2017 by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust
The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust invites the public to observe the next Board Meeting.
When: Wednesday 20 December 2017 at 3.30pm
Venue: Boardroom, SHFT offices, Building 28, Best Avenue, Headland Park, Mosman
Members of the public may submit a question/s (maximum of two) in writing prior to the meeting. Questions must be received by 15 December 2017. Questions may be emailed (link sends e-mail)
The Chair has the discretion to allow a question to be asked and/or answered at the meeting.
If you would like to attend, please RSVP by 15 December on (02) 8969 2100 or

Repeal Of Two Operational SEPPs

By NSW Dept. of Planning
Exhibition Commences 27/10/2017
Exhibition Concludes 22/12/2017
The Department of Planning and Environment is reviewing State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) to simplify and modernise the planning system by removing duplicated, redundant and outdated planning controls. 

The Department proposes to improve and simplify NSW development standards by repealing SEPP No. 1 - Development Standards and SEPP (Miscellaneous Consent Provisions) 2007 (MCP SEPP). The planning provisions contained in these two policies will be incorporated in local planning controls. 

Both SEPPs now only apply to lands which have been deferred from the Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan. Councils that have adopted the Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan already have the equivalent measures in place within their areas. This means local controls will essentially replace the function of the repealed SEPPs. 

The Department of Planning and Environment will work with affected councils to manage the transition of planning provisions into their Local Environmental Plans. 

The Repeal of two operational SEPPs package is currently on exhibition until 22 December 2017. 

Have Your Say On Construction Waste Management Reforms

Proposed minimum standards for managing construction waste in NSW and other miscellaneous waste reforms

The Environment Protection Authority would like to know what you think about proposed changes to NSW environment protection legislation concerning construction waste.

These changes build on the 2014 reforms of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation, by seeking to drive further resource recovery and address poor waste practices.

The EPA undertook consultation on proposed changes through a Consultation Paper (PDF 655KB) released in 2016. The EPA has prepared a Consultation Report (PDF 489KB), which provides a response to stakeholder submissions on the changes.

A draft regulation (PDF 290KB) has been prepared that takes into consideration the feedback received from stakeholders during the consultation period. The EPA has developed, with input from an industry working group, draft standards (PDF 270KB) for managing construction waste in NSW. This is a document that is referenced in the draft regulation, and will have legal force.

The proposed changes set standards to ensure appropriate management, production and use of materials recovered from construction waste. These changes seek to ensure that waste is appropriately sorted, the quality of recovered materials is maintained, and human health and the environment are protected.

Other changes proposed by the EPA relate to
  • improving performance at landfills
  • improving the handling of asbestos waste
  • transported waste deductions
  • new operational purpose deductions
  • clarifying how the waste contributions are applied at resource recovery facilities
  • monitoring of waste at licensed facilities
  • waste transport
  • changing the land pollution offence changing licensing requirements for a small number of activities clarifying resource recovery exemptions
  • providing for the issue of penalty notices for certain offences
  • updating references to local government areas
These proposed changes complement existing waste policy in NSW, including the NSW Government's Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2014-21, and the significant investment in grants and funding opportunities through the NSW Government's Waste Less Recycle More program ($802 million plus over nine years).

The Problem
Through compliance programs and regulation activities the EPA has become aware of a range of issues in the construction and demolition waste sector. The sector has potential to return large volumes of recovered material into the economy and into the environment. However, a number of operators in the sector have minimal environmental controls and poor processes that are not maximising the safe recovery of resources.

The NSW community and environment could potentially be exposed to significant risks from contaminated products, including asbestos waste. These poor practices can also lead to the loss of valuable resources from the productive economy. The EPA has a responsibility to ensure that recovered materials are produced with all the necessary procedures to protect the community and the environment.

What do you think?
Review the proposal in the explanatory paper (PDF 286KB) and the draft regulation (PDF 290KB) and tell us what you think by online submission via the below webpage form or email.

Email your submission to:
Submissions must be received by 5pm 12 December 2017.

Primary Production And Rural Development
Draft SEPP And Planning Reforms

The agricultural sector is vital to the NSW economy as it provides food and other products for local consumption and export, and is a major employer in regional areas. The NSW Government is proposing changes to the planning system to further support sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and rural development. These changes will help ensure planning proposals affecting rural land are properly assessed and provide greater certainty to farmers on the types of activities that will require development consent.
The Department of Planning and Environment is seeking your feedback on a package of reforms to update and improve the planning framework for primary production and rural development. These are discussed in the Primary Production and Rural Development - Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE).
The proposals outlined in the EIE will help industry and the community respond to existing challenges. Simpler and more streamlined processes will allow us to adapt to emerging economic opportunities as they arise. They also support commitments in the NSW Right to Farm Policy.
Changes proposed include consolidating the following five existing SEPPs:
• State Environmental Planning Policy (Rural Lands) 2008 (Rural Lands SEPP)
• State Environmental Planning Policy 30 - Intensive Agriculture (SEPP 30)
• State Environmental Planning Policy 52 - Farm Dams and Other Works in Land and Water Management Plan Areas (SEPP 52)
• State Environmental Planning Policy 62 - Sustainable Aquaculture (SEPP 62)
• Sydney Regional Environmental Plan 8 - Central Coast Plateau Areas (SREP 8)
The EIE outlines provisions to be included in a new SEPP. It also highlights proposals to transfer existing plan making requirements to the Ministerial Planning Directions under section 117 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and to amend the Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan.
• Part 1 – Executive summary
• Part 2 – The new SEPP
• Part 3 – Proposed amendments to other planning legislation
• Conclusion
• Attachment A – Planning framework
• Attachment B – Summary of key policy proposals
• Attachment C – Existing SEPPs
• Attachment D – Existing clause analysis and proposed action
• Attachment E – Outline of revised definitions and clauses
Download the whole EIE document
Download the FAQs
Planning guidelines for intensive livestock agriculture development
Draft guidelines have been prepared to support the proposed planning reforms. These are intended to assist applicants and planning authorities to understand the assessment requirements for new intensive livestock developments, such as feedlots, poultry farms and pig farms.
Download the draft guidelines

Have your say until 18 December 2017
We welcome your feedback on the Explanation of Intended Effect and draft planning guidelines and encourage you to make a submission.
• Or write to:

Director, Planning Frameworks
Department of Planning and Environment
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001
Published submissions will include your name and the organisation on whose behalf you may be writing. Contact details such as email and postal addresses, and telephone numbers are not published. The Department reserve the right to not publish selected submissions (in full or part).
Please read our privacy statement.

Where can I find out more about the Draft Primary Production and Rural Development SEPP reforms package?
• For further information please see the Frequently Asked Questions, or phone 1300 305 695.
• If you require translation assistance, please call 131 450.
You can also subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates from the Department.

Long Reef Walks 2017/18 Season

If you’d like to join us on a walk please contact me a couple of weeks before the walk date to make a booking. FREE GUIDED WALKS of Long Reef Aquatic Reserve with NSW Department of Industry & Investment Fishcare Volunteers will be held on the following date:

Dates for 2018
Sunday 14 January 2018                1:00pm – 3:00pm
Sunday 18 February 2018              4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sunday 18 March 2018                   3:00pm – 5:00pm
Sunday 15 April 2018                      1:00pm  – 3:00pm

~ Walks are held subject to weather conditions ~

Bookings are preferred.
Please email Wendy to book:

Phil Colman, who keeps us updated on the Fishcare Volunteer Walks, has said, when sending in these monthly dates for the new season walks;

"I am only too happy to take individuals or small groups of senior school students out when I might be able to help them with their studies, give them possible projects or whatever.  

Keep in mind that I am totally dictated to by tides, but am retired and basically available at any time.  I am not, by the way, looking for payment.  If I can steer someone in the direction of marine study, I’m paid enough!"

You contact Phil via email at: - ph; 9982 6142

Botanists Give New Hope To Rare Local Plants

December 7, 2017 NSW OE&H
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) botanists in Limpinwood Nature Reserve discover hope for several threatened plant species, plants so rare they are only known to exist along one escarpment within Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area on the NSW/Qld border.

Saving Our Species Project Officer Justin Mallee said the discovery of nearly 1000 rare Green Waxberry (Gaultheria viridicarpa) plants in high altitude rainforests of Limpinwood Nature Reserve was a pleasant surprise.

"We knew a handful of these very rare plants existed along the top of the cliff line but what we didn't know was how many plants were growing on the cliff faces or their condition," Mr Mallee said.

To survey the plants, NPWS engaged the skills of botanist Lui Weber, who got a special abseiling conservation permit, to abseil down the cliff face to conduct a threatened species assessment.

Green waxberry - Photo by Lui Weber - Office of Environment and Heritage.

Mr Mallee said nearly 1000 Green Waxberry plants were found growing along the escarpment on either side of a rocky summit.

"The mossy cliffs of Limpinwood Nature Reserve are the only place in the world where these plants are found, so the discovery of a bigger population is fantastic news for this threatened species and really boosts this plant's chance of long-term survival," said Mr Mallee.

The survey work, undertaken as part of the NSW Government's Saving Our Species program, also uncovered a large population of Lamington Eyebright, Euphrasia bella.

Mr Mallee said this species, was last known as a small population of only 5 plants recorded in 1982.

"Ninety-Four Lamington Eyebright plants were counted as part of this survey, a huge boost to our knowledge of this population," said Mr Mallee.

A further threatened plant, Wollumbin Dogwood Ozothamnus vagans was also re-discovered during the survey. Although known to exist in small populations in the Border Ranges area, 182 individuals were counted along the cliffs.

The aim of the survey was to document the extent of the populations of these threatened plants, assess their habitat condition and record potential threats. This information will be used by NPWS to undertake management actions needed to help care for the plants in the future.

What we found was that the plants biggest threat is climate change, due to their location in a fragile high-altitude environment.

NPWS will now actively manage the plants via regular population monitoring, ongoing weed assessment and control, monitoring for disease and disease prevention.

"We are now focusing on ongoing management to help protect these rare species. This type of survey work adds to our knowledge of exactly what's out there and how to best manage it," said Mr Mallee.

Bringing Nature Back – To Cities

1 December 2017: Media Release - Ecological Society of Australia
There are many benefits of bringing nature back into urban areas, but new research shows that besides using the right species for the local environment, their social acceptability, economic use and Indigenous significance need to be carefully considered.

‘Nature in all its forms provides a remarkable range of benefits in cities,’ said Dr Luis Mata, from RMIT’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group. ‘There is great enthusiasm to bring trees, shrubs, grasses, insects, spiders, birds and mammals back into urban areas. Nature-based solutions such as green roofs and pop-up parks are happening across the world.’

Dr Mata said benefits include improving people’s physical and psychological health, protection from future climate change, and conservation of threatened species. ‘Nature-based solutions re-enchant people with nature, which helps them appreciate and conserve nature outside cities as well. Also, nature in cities connects people with the local Indigenous culture and history.’

However, Dr Mata said that the theory of benefiting from bringing nature back is one thing, but landscape designers, architects, health practitioners and others need to incorporate all aspects of nature in deciding how to bring it back.

‘Broader planning is required before development. We’re in need of biodiversity-sensitive urban design, where developers specifically aim to deliver on-site biodiversity benefits.’

Dr Mata and his colleagues have developed a new decision-making tool that includes the ecological feasibility of each species, its conservation value, economic use, cultural significance in the context of Indigenous culture, and social acceptability.

‘We want to see all these things included in decisions about what nature to bring back into cities. For example, people deciding on re-naturing actions need to guarantee that the nature coming back is not harmful, and that the targeted species are charismatic and attractive to people.’

Dr Mata said that as cities grow globally, bringing nature back to them will be increasingly relevant for future generations. ‘Protecting and bringing nature back into cities is a major sustainability goal. Future generations of an ever-increasing population of urban residents are relying on it.’

Dr Mata’s work contributes to the National Environmental Science Program - Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub (NESP-CAUL). He presented his results to EcoTAS 2017, the joint conference of the Ecological Society of Australia and the New Zealand Ecological Society, held this week in the Hunter Valley.

Oceans Book Launches At Critical Time

CSIRO has launched Oceans: Science and Solutions for Australia (Oceans), a book bringing together the latest science to explain the crucial role oceans play in the lives of all Australians.

CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Director Dr Tony Worby said Australia faced several opportunities and challenges, with three of the world’s four major oceans in its marine estate.

"Australia’s oceans cover almost 14 million square kilometres, nearly twice the area of our land, and hold the key to our climate, weather, economy, international security, and social well-being," Dr Worby said.

"It is important that we strike a balance between our national economic and resource requirements, while ensuring long term sustainability of our marine estate and this is key research focus for CSIRO and the Australian marine science community.

"Our oceans do the heavy lifting with respect to carbon dioxide and heat absorption and their capacity to continue to do these things is one of many areas we are focused on through our climate research.

"The effects of ocean warming can be seen already as tropical fish are found further south from warming coastal waters, cold water species decline in some regions, and coral bleaching becomes more frequent.

"There has never been a more important time to focus on marine research."

Oceans editor and CSIRO Chief Research Scientist Dr Bruce Mapstone said national and international collaboration was essential, with Australia having stewardship of the third largest marine estate in the world and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. 

"The book focuses on Australia’s marine estate which includes the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, however many of the topics covered have global relevance because of the interconnectedness of the world’s oceans," Dr Mapstone said.

"Collaboration is the only way we can tackle the breadth of marine research Australia and the world need to fully understand our oceans.

"Indigenous coastal peoples have had cultural and livelihood connections with Australia’s oceans for thousands of years and their knowledge is extremely valuable.

"Importantly, this book takes complex and detailed research and translates it into clear English that can be understood by policy makers and just as importantly students, some of whom are Australia’s future marine scientists."

Oceans: Science and Solutions for Australia has been authored by scientists from CSIRO and other Australian research agencies and is available for free download: Oceans [PDF 21.5MB] or to order a hardcopy through CSIRO Publishing visit: Oceans.

NNTT Registration Of Contested Adani Land Deal To Be Fought Hard In Court By W&J

Brisbane, 8 December 2017: Media Release -  Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Family Council
Traditional Owners of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Family Council say they are troubled by the decision of the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) to register an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for Adani before a legal challenge to the ILUA scheduled for March 2018 can be heard in the Federal Court. 

W&J representatives say they have never given consent or signed the ILUA and are not bound by it. The ILUA was rejected by W&J again at a claim group meeting only days ago.

Representatives of the native title claim group have filed an application in the Federal Court for an injunction against Adani and the Queensland Government, to restrain them should they attempt to use the registration of the ILUA to extinguish their native title, under its terms, before their challenge is resolved in the courts.

Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council Spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “We expected the Native Title Tribunal to tick the boxes and register Adani’s sham land use agreement. It is still subject to a legal challenge in March 2018 and we will pursue this and seek to reverse any decisions that are made in the meantime.

“Our lawyers are immediately writing to the state government and are urgently pursuing an injunction. Our legal team have prepared for the eventuality that the tribunal would place the ILUA on the register.

“The tribunal knew this was not a clean process or an uncontested document, and despite receiving evidence this week that the Claim Group had de-authorised the ILUA, they proceeded to register it. We are looking at our options for judicial review of the Tribunal decision,” Mr Burragubba concluded.

Linda Bobongie, the Coordinator for the W&J Applicant, one of the convenors of the claim group meeting last weekend, and Chairperson of the W&J Traditional Owners Council, said, “It is a matter of justice that W&J’s court challenge to this ILUA be heard before the state acts to extinguish our native title for the mine. Our lawyers are seeking a response from the new Queensland Government that they will not act on any provisions of this ILUA document that will harm our rights or lead to the destruction of our country and heritage.

“We are contesting Adani’s purported land use agreement in the courts, and the Government would have its thumb on the scales of justice if it moved to support the mine and extinguish our native title before the trial. We have said no. The Government and Adani do not have our consent”, Ms Bobongie concluded.

On 2 December, for the fourth time since 2012, W&J Traditional Owners voted unanimously at an authorisation meeting of the claim group to reject an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani, underlining their sustained opposition to the mine.

The claim group meeting put beyond any doubt that the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council speaks for the claim group against the Adani mine. The authorisation meeting passed a resolution to confirm that the Council advocates for the traditional culture of the claim group, and supports the W&J people to remain connected to our country.

The Traditional Owners have filed an application for an injunction in the Federal Court against Adani and the Queensland Government, to restrain them should they attempt to extinguish their native title, under the ‘Adani ILUA’, before the Federal Court hearing of W&J’s litigation against the purported ILUA, set for March 2018.

The W&J Council will fight all the way to the High Court if necessary to defend their rights and protect their country from the destruction of the Carmichael Mine.

Resolutions of the W&J authorisation meeting on the Adani ILUA, 2 December 2017
This meeting of the Wangan and Jagalingou claim group:
  1. Does not authorise the Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the Wangan and Jagalingou People and Adani Mining Pty Ltd and the State of Queensland (“the Adani ILUA”).
  2. Does not authorise the Applicants to sign the Adani ILUA and to the extent that some Applicants have already signed it, determines that they no longer have the authority of the claim group to do so and declares that their signatures are to be treated as nullity.
  3. Do not consider the Adani ILUA to be binding on the Wangan and Jagalingou people.
  4. Determines that the Applicants are not to continue to seek to register the Adani ILUA and directs Colin Hardie of Just Us Lawyers to submit to the Registrar of the Native Title Tribunal and to the Federal Court that the Adani ILUA should not be registered and is invalid.
  5. Directs the Applicants to immediately communicate to the Registrar, National Native Title Tribunal and to the Federal Court the objection of the Applicant to the registration of the Adani ILUA purportedly executed by members of the Applicant.
  6. Abhors the provisions of the Adani ILUA that provide for the extinguishment and surrender of our Native Title.
  7. Objects strenuously to the Carmichael Mine.
  8. Considers that the Adani ILUA does not provide adequate compensation for the detrimental effect that the Adani Mining project will have on our culture and traditional lands.
  9. Deplores the degradation that the Adani Mining project will wreak on our culture, environment and our ancestral lands.
This meeting of the Wangan and Jagalingou claim group directs the Applicants not to further engage with Adani Mining Pty Ltd or any other entity on behalf of Adani to negotiate or renegotiate any ILUA relating to the Carmichael Mining project unless and until authorisation is given to the Applicants at a lawful authorisation meeting and express approval is given by the claim group for such further negotiations.

This meeting notes the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine ILUA assessment prepared by Economics Consulting Services and that it is an interim report. This meeting directs the Applicants to further engage Economics Consulting Services to obtain a full assessment of the benefits package proposed by Adani.

New Species Of Extinct Marsupial Lion Discovered In Australia

December 6, 2017
A team of Australian scientists has discovered a new species of marsupial lion which has been extinct for at least 19 million years. The findings, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, are based on fossilised remains of the animal's skull, teeth, and humerus (upper arm bone) found by University of New South Wales (UNSW) scientists in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of remote north-western Queensland.

Named in honour of palaeoartist Peter Schouten, Wakaleo schouteni was a predator that stalked Australia's abundant rainforests some 18 to 26 million years ago in the late Oligocene to early Miocene era. This meat-eating marsupial is estimated to have been about the size of a dog and weighed around 23 kilograms.

The new species is about a fifth of the weight of the largest and last surviving marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, that weighed in at around 130 kilograms and which has been extinct for 30,000 years. Members of this family, the Thylacoleonidae, had highly distinct large, blade-like, flesh-cutting premolars that they used to tear up prey.

The discovery comes just a year after the fossilised remains of a kitten-sized marsupial lion were found in the same famous fossil site in Queensland. The UNSW scientists named that miniature predator Microleo attenboroughi after broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough.

With this new find, the researchers believe that two different species of marsupial lion were present in the late Oligocene at least 25 million years ago. The other, originally named Priscileo pitikantensis, but renamed Wakaleo pitikantensis, was slightly smaller and was identified from teeth and limb bones discovered near Lake Pitikanta in South Australia in 1961.

This latest discovery reveals that the new species (W. schouteni) exhibits many skull and dental features of the genus Wakaleo but it also shared a number of similarities with P. pitikantensis -- particularly the presence of three upper premolars and four molars, previously the diagnostic feature of Priscileo. Further similarities of the teeth and humerus which are shared with W. schouteni indicate that P. pitikantensis is a species of Wakaleo.

According to the authors, these dental similarities distinguish W. schouteni and W. pitikantensis from later species of this genus, all of which show premolar and molar reduction, and suggest that they are the most primitive members of the genus.

Lead author Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia says that the latest finding raises new questions about the evolutionary relationships of marsupial lions: "The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family."

Anna K. Gillespie, Michael Archer, Suzanne J. Hand. A new Oligo–Miocene marsupial lion from Australia and revision of the family Thylacoleonidae. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1391885

Reconstruction of Wakaleo schouteni challenging the thylacinid Nimbacinus dicksoni over a kangaroo carcass in the late Oligocene forest at Riversleigh. Credit: Illustration by Peter Schouten in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology

Surprise In The Kangaroo Family Tree

December 4, 2017
Ironically, it is jumping genes that indicate the need for a reorganization of the kangaroos' phylogenetic tree. According to a new study by a Senckenberg scientist, published recently in the journal "Scientific Reports," the swamp wallaby is more closely related to the remaining wallaby species and the large red and grey kangaroos and wallaroos than previously assumed. Together with her Australian colleagues from QUT in Brisbane, the researcher was the first to examine the relationships within the kangaroo genus Macropus on the basis of retrotransposons, genes that literally jump across the genetic material.

Like their larger relatives, the kangaroos, the smaller wallabies are an iconic part of the fauna "down under." Even the Australian National Rugby Team is named after them. However, one wallaby stands out among the rest -- the swamp wallaby. It is the only marsupial that is able to switch to "turbo speed" during reproduction, becoming pregnant again before giving birth to the first set of offspring. The animal, which is widespread on the east coast of Australia, also differs from the other wallabies in its appearance, e.g., the shape of its teeth and its more crouched hop.

Until now, the swamp wallaby was placed in its own genus, Wallabia, which only comprises one single species. However, this outsider role is actually not justified -- as recently shown by the molecular-genetic studies at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre.

"At the genetic level, the swamp wallaby does not represent a sister genus to the other wallabies, but it belongs to the genus Macropus, like all remaining wallaby species. Thus, it is not only more closely related to the other wallabies than previously thought, but also to Australia's icons, the large red and grey kangaroos and the wallaroos," explains Dr. Maria Nilsson, head of the study.

Of all things, it was retrotransposons -- genes that literally jump across the genetic material -- that shed new light on the relationships among wallabies and kangaroos. These mobile genetic elements are able to make copies of themselves and reinsert these at a different location in the genome. If they occur in the same areas in different species, these species have a common ancestry.

Nilsson elaborates: "Therefore, such jumping genes are also referred to as molecular fossils, which allow inferences on the phylogenetic history. They occur in almost all organisms; due to their properties, they have gained an increasing importance in evolutionary research in recent years."

According to the analysis, the modern subgenera of the kangaroo genus Macropus as well as the swamp wallaby subsequently evolved from a common ancestor approximately five to seven million years ago. During this time period, the forests in Australia began to open up, many later being replaced by spreading grasslands. This habitat was colonized by new species of large red and grey kangaroos and wallaroos. "The wallabies and the swamp wallaby arose at a later date, and they inhabit woodlands," says Nilsson.

Even in this genetic analysis, the swamp wallaby retains a special status. Although it now falls within the genus Macropus, it constitutes a subgenus within it -- and, not surprisingly, this subgenus only consists of one lone species.

The research also still leaves some mystery to be solved as fellow researcher, Matthew Phillips, Associate Professor at the Queenland University of Technology points out in conclusion: "Although we show that the swamp wallaby clearly falls within Macropus, we also found some evidence for a small portion of it' s genome being a relic of an ancient, now extinct kangaroo. It might be interesting to investigate this further."

William G. Dodt, Susanne Gallus, Matthew J. Phillips, Maria A. Nilsson. Resolving kangaroo phylogeny and overcoming retrotransposon ascertainment bias. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16148-0

The swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) is more closely related to the remaining wallaby species and the large red and grey kangaroos and wallaroos than previously assumed.

Ice Core May Unlock Secrets Of Australia’s Wild Weather

4th December 2017
Scientists hope a deep field mission to recover a 2000 year old Antarctic ice core will shed light on the long-term influences that impact Australian weather and climate.

Preparations to set up an ice core drilling camp at Mount Brown, 330 kilometres inland of Australia's Davis research station, began over the weekend.

Five researchers and two deep field support specialists will spend 50 days drilling a core to a depth of around 350 metres this summer. 

The Australian Antarctic Program project is led by Dr Tessa Vance from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.

Dr Vance said there is little information on how weather patterns formed in the Indian Ocean have changed over time periods longer than a few decades, and how this then impacts Australia.

“The region is known as a ‘cyclone nursery’ as it’s where many storms are ‘born’ before they head from west to east across the Southern Ocean and impact both Australia and East Antarctica.”

“A new ice core record from Mount Brown South will provide us with a snapshot of the climate history of the Indian Ocean and hopefully an insight into climate variability in Australia over the last one to two millennia.”

Loading up the Twin Otter with gear for the field camp. (Photo: Paul Vallelonga)

The Mt Brown camp site. (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)

The chemical constituents in Antarctic ice cores including traces of hydrogen and oxygen, sulphur from volcanoes, and sea salts, along with the amount of snowfall per year, provide information on past climate and climate processes.

In 2015, scientists developed a 1000 year record of drought in eastern Australia from the existing Law Dome ice core.

“The Law Dome record showed us that prolonged droughts in eastern Australia are part of the natural climate cycle,” Dr Vance said.

“We hope an ice core from Mount Brown will provide us with another snapshot of climate variability in the Indian and south west Pacific Oceans, and more insight into long-term climate variability in Australia.”

The scientists have used satellite and continental surveys gathered over many years to find the best drill location in East Antarctica.

The ice cores will be brought back to Australia in March on the icebreaker Aurora Australis.

Ice cores including traces of hydrogen and oxygen, sulphur from volcanoes, and sea salts. (Photo: Tas van Ommen)

The team sailed to Davis research station on the Aurora Australis. (Photo: Martin Walch)

As Parks Become Backyards, Smart Street Furniture Essential

December 7, 2017: by Lucy Carroll, UNSW
An interdisciplinary team from UNSW will give parks and urban spaces in the Georges River area a makeover as part of the federal government's Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

Public spaces in south Sydney will be transformed by urban planners and industrial designers from UNSW Sydney as part of the first federal grants awarded by the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

The UNSW Built Environment interdisciplinary team was awarded more than $650,000 to work with Georges River City Council to install "responsive" technology such as smart sensors on street furniture and amenities to monitor and respond in real time to their use.

Senior Lecturer Nancy Marshall said the project, Smart Social Spaces: Smart Street Furniture Supporting Social Health, would respond to the pressures of high urban density and apartment living resulting in parks and plazas being used as urban backyards.

Marshall said the 18-month project would involve using social media and behaviour mapping to track foot traffic and movement patterns to capture data on how often public space was used.

"We are asking people to live in two-bedroom apartments with families so the need for healthy open local spaces is critical. There is so much opportunity for smart cities to improve efficiencies from council service providers so people do feel comfortable going to local parks with great facilities," Marshall said.

The team will install digital Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to measure sound, use and flow of water on picnic tables, bins, barbeques, seats, ash receptacles, bubblers and lights to get immediate data sent to the council.

"The aim is for the council to receive live messages, for example sensors on bins will detect fullness, register if ash receptacles are overheating or if a street bollard is damaged. This will help providers to know exactly which bins are ready to be emptied and when to send service teams out," Marshall said.

New-generation bins use fullness-level sensors and software to alert providers when collection is needed. Photo: Solar Bins Australia

The project's co-lead, Industrial Design Senior Lecturer Dr Christian Tietz, will design a range of public furniture prototypes for the local parks that will include cooking facilities, water, WiFi and shaded seating that asks users to log in or authorise them to use equipment via a unique identifier.

Marshall said the team would be mentored by the city of Tel Aviv, a hub for smart city technology that has pioneered personalised "digital cards" that give real-time notifications about what's happening in a neighbourhood and free WiFi across the city.

The project also includes Nancy Marshall, Kate Bishop, Linda Corkery, Christine Steinmetz, Susan Thompson, Miles Park and Homa Rahmat from UNSW Built Environment.

Green Talent Recognised With International Award

December 6, 2017: University of Tasmania
One of the world’s leading young environmental researchers has chosen to continue her ground-breaking work at the Australian Maritime College.

Pratiksha Srivastava, who was working at the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology, Bhubaneswar, India, is one of 25 winners of theInternational Green Talent Awards.

General Director Matthias Graf von Kielmansegg and Green Talent Pratiksha Srivastava. © DLR-PT / Hans-Christian Plambeck

Conferred under the patronage of the German Research Minister, Professor Johanna Wanka, the awards provide young researchers with a platform for sharing their views on green concepts to improve environmental sustainability.

A high-ranking jury of experts selected 25 up and coming scientists out of 602 applicants from more than 95 countries. Their prize is one of the coveted tickets to go to the Green Talents – International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development.

Raised in a small village in India, Ms Srivastava has drawn on her personal experiences to direct her career into wastewater treatment and sanitation technologies with the aim of improving the lives of villagers in her home country.

“Coming from a small village, I was aware of the villagers’ situation. Most of the time they and their cattle share the same water resources for drinking, bathing and other tasks,” she said.

“While pursuing my university education, I learned more about environmental issues and was fascinated to study these issues in detail to try and solve these problems for the villagers.”

Ms Srivastava identified a number of constraints to improving the quality of life in Indian villages including the lack of technical know-how, very poor infrastructure, a shortage of electricity and poverty.

She recognised the implementation of a low-cost solution for wastewater treatment and sanitation was likely to be one of the best options to improve the situation.

Ms Srivastava focussed on constructed wetlands, which is a low-cost and simple technology, appropriate for Indian conditions.

A series of shallow, densely-planted man-made ponds, constructed wetlands help filter water through physical and biological processes. They can run on solar energy without the need for any chemical and mechanical equipment, have almost no operation and maintenance costs and can be built with local resources.

But while constructed wetland technology has several advantages, it has a slow wastewater treatment rate and a high land-use footprint.

So to improve the performance and speed of treatment in constructed wetlands, Ms Srivastava and her supervisor successfully developed a novel technology named Integrated Constructed Wetlands Microbial Fuel Cell (CW –MFC).

Using this approach, the performance efficiency of the constructed wetlands almost doubled. The CW-MFC has a reduced land-use footprint and in something of a world-first, can generate electricity.

The new technology is gaining much interest at a global level from key constructed wetlands scientists.

Ms Srivastava and her research group also designed and built a unique zero-discharge water recyclable community toilet which is working in Bhubaneswar. It is integrated with constructed wetlands and innovative septic tanks.

Her research deals with biotechnology, microbiology, process engineering, electrochemistry, inorganic chemistry, botany and environmental science and engineering.

Ms Srivastava is now in the early phases of her PhD at AMC, where she is focussing on the development of marine microbial fuel cells for various environmental applications.

“Terrestrial resource based microbial fuel cell technology have limited applications, while marine resources are vast and have enormous potential. I wish to use this technology for marine applications and want to develop next-generation microbial fuel cells for various applications using marine resources like marine bacteria or marine sludge,” she said.

While it’s a long way from her home in India, Ms Srivastava is excited by the opportunity to study at AMC, after hearing about the institution through a colleague and then researching it on the internet.

“The University of Tasmania’s AMC is providing me with world-class facilities and expertise for doing and improving my work.”

Ms Srivastava’s PhD is supervised by Drs Vikram Garaniya and Rouzbeh Abbassi from AMC, and Dr Trevor Lewis from the School of Physical Sciences.

“My supervisors have vast experience and are very supportive. In fact, I cannot progress much further in the work without the significant support of AMC lecturers and staff,” she said.

Dr Garaniya is proud the AMC has attracted such a highly talented scholar and grateful for funding support through the Tasmanian Community Fund to enable Ms Srivastava to take up the PhD opportunity.

For Ms Srivastava, studying a PhD at AMC provides the chance to bridge a gap in her research and collaborate with experts, but perhaps more importantly, allows her to develop technologies that will significantly improve the lives of people around the world.

“I am really hopeful that our work will lead to innovative microbial fuel cells based technology which will solve some of the wastewater treatment and other environmental problems as it will be cheaper, faster and easily manageable.”

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!

Women In NSW Living Longer And Healthier Lives

December 5, 2017: Media Release - Minister for Women and Minister for Mental Health, The Hon. Tanya Davies
The latest snap shot of the health of women in NSW will be released today in the Women in NSW Report Series 2017: Health and Wellbeing.
Minister for Women and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies said while the health of women across the state is improving, the NSW Government and the community need to continue to work together to improve health education and access to services.
“Overall women in NSW are participating in physical activity more than ever, and the number of female smokers has now halved since 2002,” Mrs Davies said.
“However there are still factors such as where women live, Aboriginality and socioeconomic status that impact the overall health of women in NSW.”
The Health and Wellbeing Report revealed the current leading cause of death for women in NSW aged between 25-44 years of age is injury and poisoning, while for women 45-74 years of age it is cancer.
The report has been released by the NSW Government and examines health factors for women both over time and compared with men.
“Last year almost 20 per cent of women aged 16 years or older engaged in risky drinking behaviours, which is classified as two or more standard drinks a day, this is compared to over 40 per cent for men,” Mrs Davies said.
The full report will be launched at a forum in Sydney this morning, where a panel of experts will discuss health and wellbeing issues for women in NSW. Panelists include: 
  • Professor Julie Byles, Director, Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health
  • Pauline DeWeerd, Director, Aboriginal Health, St Vincent’s Health Network
  • Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, Director and Chief Scientist, Black Dog Institute
  • Dr Jo Mitchell, Executive Director, Centre for Population Health, NSW Ministry of Health.
The entire Women in NSW Report Series 2017: Health and Wellbeing will be available online at from 12.30pm today.
Other findings of the report include: 
  • A significant decline in deaths from coronary heart disease
  • Aboriginal women and culturally and linguistically diverse women are less likely to access breast cancer screening services
  • One in four women in NSW die as a result of cancer
  • Fewer teenagers are giving birth, falling from 3,099 in 2011 to 2,377 in 2015.
  • In the two years to December 2016, 55.9% of women aged 20 to 69 years received a pap test (cervical cancer screening)
  • Young women aged 16 to 24 years who were current smokers declined from 28.1% in 2002 to 14.1% in 2016
  • A total fertility rate of 1.8 children per woman in NSW, slightly lower in metro areas and slightly higher in remote areas
  • 13.6% of all women reported experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, with the figure increasing to 21.6% for women aged 16 to 24 years.

Recreational Drug Users Not What We Think

December 7, 2017: James Cook University
A researcher from James Cook University in Queensland has been investigating why Australians are among the top users of illegal drugs in the world -- and has uncovered some revealing new facts about the motivations of recreational drug users.

Professor David Plummer led a study by JCU and Griffith University that interviewed drug users.

"We weren't satisfied enough work had been done to explain why there was such a high level of drug use in Australia and we decided to do smaller in-depth studies to try and understand some of the drivers," he said.

Research shows almost 40% of Australians aged 15 years and over have used one or more illicit drugs at some stage in their life, and approximately 17% within the past 12 months.

The research team concentrated on recreational drug users rather than habitual users.

"We found recreational users viewed themselves as different from people who are habitual users. The recreational drug users used drugs because they valued the benefits that specific drugs seemed to offer while considering the risks to be manageable, worthwhile and/or minimal," said Professor Plummer.

The team identified two important drivers they believe lead people to take up recreational drug use: social networking and performance enhancement.

"A common reason is performance enhancement. Not only in the physical sense of giving users greater stamina but also in making them feel more attractive and more sociable," said Professor Plummer.

He said the popular view of all drug users as anti-social loners existing on the margins of society was wrong, with social networking another powerful driver of recreational drug use.

"Recreational users take full advantage of social networks. They report their drug use as being highly social in terms of face-to-face encounters -- recreational drugs are integral to the party scene and are often used to lubricate social interactions. They also depend on complex social networks for their distribution and use."

Professor Plummer said the findings presented a challenge for agencies trying to warn recreational users about the underappreciated dangers of illicit drug use.

"We have to rethink the preoccupation in anti-drug strategies with negative outcomes, as recreational users see their risks as different from those of habitual users. Current anti-drug campaigns seem to be disconnected from the actual experience of recreational drug users and this may result in a credibility gap."

Amary Mey, David Plummer, Shailendra Anoopkumar-Dukie, Amber Domberelli. What’s the attraction? Social connectedness as a driver of recreational drug use. Journal of Substance Use, 2017; 1 DOI:10.1080/14659891.2017.1409816

Out Of Window-Glass, Women And War: The Waterworth Optical Collection Goes Online

December 6, 2017: University of Tasmania
Our island ‘can-do’ spirit, secret wartime missions and reconnaissance flights are elements captured in a unique collection, featuring the work of Hobart’s World War II ‘Optical Munitions Annexe 9/101’ and its 25 year post-war manufacturing legacy.

The ‘Waterworth Optical Collection’ has been launched in preparation for the 2018 75th anniversary of the formation of the Optical Annexe.

Built on the University of Tasmania’s Domain campus, ‘The Annexe’ produced countless high quality lenses and over 17,000 prisms from ordinary windowglass - for reconnaissance cameras, gunsights, telescopes, bombsights, binoculars and other instruments for the war effort.

These products were designed by a dedicated team of University of Tasmania Physics students, led by Professor Leicester McAulay and local inventor Eric Waterworth. The beating heart of the Annexe was a 200 strong community workforce – most of whom were women – plucked from normal domestic life and trained as highly-skilled machinists, glass workers and lens makers. Secret missions to Britain and the USA advised military experts on expertise in optical munitions design, and covert RAAF flights over Hobart tested camera lenses created and built at the Annexe.

The Annexe became Australia’s first post-war optical factory, making the famed Waterworth projectors, lenses and instruments for mapmaking and education.

A ‘virtual exhibition team’ comprising a University Collections curator, historians, artists and scientists is developing interdisciplinary research projects, exhibitions, and installations using the objects in the collection. The developing collection already comprises more than 200 items, including lenses, magnifiers, slide projectors, instrument cases, stereoscopes, related optical artefacts, newspaper articles, photographs and advertising materials. Many of these were gifted to the University by the late Dr Peter Smith OAM.

Waterworth Optical Collection curator, Lynn Davies, said that the collection is a shared cultural asset that “showcases local ingenuity and passion and reveals a vital link between the university and our local community at a time of need”.

“This digital archive has been created as a virtual museum to share the stories and objects centred on these wartime and post-war activities,” she said.

“We hope the community might help us find missing objects, or photographs of Annexe staff and other stories of these wartime activities, and that some might be lent or even donated to add to our collection.”

Director of the University’s Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies Stefan Petrow said the online collection provides the chance to uncover important local, wartime and post-war Tasmanian history.

“This is an exciting opportunity to uncover a crucial role women played in Australia during World War Two,” he said. “In the post-war period, the Annexe showcased the entrepreneurial flair of which Tasmanians are capable”.

The digital collection is publicly accessible at

More information on how to contribute to the collection is available online.

PET Tracer Gauges Effectiveness Of Promising Alzheimer's Treatment

December 6, 2017
In the December featured basic science article in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Belgian researchers report on the first large-scale longitudinal imaging study to evaluate BACE1 inhibition with micro-PET in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. PET imaging has been established as an excellent identifier of the amyloid plaque and tau tangles that characterize Alzheimer's disease. Now it is proving to be an effective way to gauge treatment effectiveness.

The tracer makes it possible to image the effects of chronic administration of an inhibitor for an enzyme, called beta (β)-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), which cuts off protein fragments that can lead to amyloid-β development and is more prevalent in brains affected by Alzheimer's. It does this by binding to BACE1.

The study compared control mice with those genetically-altered to have Alzheimer's, and tested 18F-florbetapir (18F-AV45) along with two other tracers, 18F-FDG PET and 18F-PBR111. The mice received the BACE inhibitor at 7 weeks, then brain metabolism, neuroinflammation and amyloid-β pathology were measured using a micro-PET (μPET) scanner and each of the tracers. Baseline scans were done at 6-7 weeks and follow-up scans at 4,7 and 12 months. 18F-AV45 uptake was measured at 8 and 13 months of age. After the final scans, microscopic studies were performed.

While all three tracers detected pathological differences between the genetically modified mice and the controls, only 18F-AV45 showed the effects of inhibitor treatment by identifying reduced amyloid-β pathology in the genetically modified mice. This was confirmed in the microscopic studies.

The team of the Molecular Imaging Center Antwerp, Belgium, however warns, "This study clearly showed that accurate quantification of amyloid-beta tracers is critically important and that the non-specific uptake in the brain of subjects might be underestimated for some existing Alzheimer's tracers that have fast metabolization profiles. The aim of this translational research is advancing results discovered at the bench so that they can be applied to patients at the bedside."

The statistics on Alzheimer's are sobering. Approximately 10 percent of people 65 and older have Alzheimer's dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and that number could rise to 16 million by 2050.

Steven Deleye, Ann-Marie Waldron, Jeroen Verhaeghe, Astrid Bottelbergs, Leonie Wyffels, Bianca Van Broeck, Xavier Langlois, Mark Schmidt, Sigrid Stroobants, Steven Staelens. Evaluation of Small-Animal PET Outcome Measures to Detect Disease Modification Induced by BACE Inhibition in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer Disease. Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 2017; 58 (12): 1977 DOI:10.2967/jnumed.116.187625

Canola Oil Linked To Worsened Memory And Learning Ability In Alzheimer's

December 7, 2017
Canola oil is one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils in the world, yet surprisingly little is known about its effects on health. Now, a new study published online December 7 in the journal Scientific Reports by researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) associates the consumption of canola oil in the diet with worsened memory, worsened learning ability and weight gain in mice which model Alzheimer's disease. The study is the first to suggest that canola oil is more harmful than healthful for the brain.

"Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy," explained Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and Director of the Alzheimer's Center at LKSOM, as well as senior investigator on the study. "Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain."

Curious about how canola oil affects brain function, Dr. Praticò and Elisabetta Lauretti, a graduate student in Dr. Pratico's laboratory at LKSOM and co-author on the new study, focused their work on memory impairment and the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model. Amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which is responsible for the formation of tau neurofibrillary tangles, contribute to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration and memory loss in Alzheimer's disease. The animal model was designed to recapitulate Alzheimer's in humans, progressing from an asymptomatic phase in early life to full-blown disease in aged animals.

Dr. Praticò and Lauretti had previously used the same mouse model in an investigation of olive oil, the results of which were published earlier in 2017. In that study, they found that Alzheimer mice fed a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau and experienced memory improvement. For their latest work, they wanted to determine whether canola oil is similarly beneficial for the brain.

The researchers started by dividing the mice into two groups at six months of age, before the animals developed signs of Alzheimer's disease. One group was fed a normal diet, while the other was fed a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil daily.

The researchers then assessed the animals at 12 months. One of the first differences observed was in body weight -- animals on the canola oil-enriched diet weighed significantly more than mice on the regular diet. Maze tests to assess working memory, short-term memory, and learning ability uncovered additional differences. Most significantly, mice that had consumed canola oil over a period of six months suffered impairments in working memory.

Examination of brain tissue from the two groups of mice revealed that canola oil-treated animals had greatly reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40. Amyloid beta 1-40 is the more soluble form of the amyloid beta proteins. It generally is considered to serve a beneficial role in the brain and acts as a buffer for the more harmful insoluble form, amyloid beta 1-42.

As a result of decreased amyloid beta 1-40, animals on the canola oil diet further showed increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, with neurons engulfed in amyloid beta 1-42. The damage was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of contacts between neurons, indicative of extensive synapse injury. Synapses, the areas where neurons come into contact with one another, play a central role in memory formation and retrieval.

"Amyloid beta 1-40 neutralizes the actions of amyloid 1-42, which means that a decrease in 1-40, like the one observed in our study, leaves 1-42 unchecked," Dr. Praticò explained. "In our model, this change in ratio resulted in considerable neuronal damage, decreased neural contacts, and memory impairment."

The findings suggest that long-term consumption of canola oil is not beneficial to brain health. "Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy," Dr. Praticò said. "Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits."

The next step is to carry out a study of shorter duration to determine the minimum extent of exposure necessary to produce observable changes in the ratio of amyloid beta 1-42 to 1-40 in the brain and alter synapse connections. A longer study may be warranted in order to determine whether canola oil also eventually impacts tau phosphorylation, since no effects on tau were observed over the six-month exposure period.

"We also want to know whether the negative effects of canola oil are specific for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Praticò added. "There is a chance that the consumption of canola oil could also affect the onset and course of other neurodegenerative diseases or other forms of dementia."

The research was funded in part by a grant from the Wanda Simone Endowment for Neuroscience.

Elisabetta Lauretti, Domenico Pratice. Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-17373-3

Major $640 Million Investment In Australia’s World-Leading Medical Research

06 December 2017: Media release - The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Minister for Sport
The Turnbull Government will invest $640 million to support Australia’s world-leading health and medical researchers as they continue their work in the laboratory, clinic and the community to find the next major medical breakthrough.

Cancer research continues to be a major priority for the Turnbull Government with $109 million allocated to projects for research into better cancer detection, treatments, care and cures.

I am delighted to announce the funding today at the Australian National University (ANU) where researcher Professor Emily Banks will lead a project to examine the health and wellbeing issues facing long-term cancer survivors.

Medical research investment is driving an increase in cancer survival rates. It is estimated that more than one million Australians are living with cancer or have survived a cancer diagnosis.

A grant of $1.16 million will be provided to Professor Banks and colleagues to use data from 70,000 cancer survivors and 190,000 people without cancer to generate new knowledge to improve policy, clinical practice and health outcomes.

Also at ANU, Dr Leonie Quinn and colleagues will use their $940,000 grant to investigate new drug therapies for brain tumours. Dr Quinn will focus on glioma, the most common type of malignant brain tumour.

Her innovative research project aims to find new ways to diagnose and treat this disease.

Across Australia, 732 projects will receive funding to support research in National Health Priority Areas including (but not limited to):

Cancer - $ 109,372,127
Cardiovascular Disease - $ 96,807,391
Diabetes - $ 48,138,328
Mental Health - $ 53,357,755
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - $ 31,345,012
Injury - $ 28,487,333
Dementia - $ 14,278,383
Obesity - $ 13,078,741
Asthma - $ 12,335,400
Arthritis and Osteoporosis - $ 10,397,697

The funding announced today includes the single largest investment in HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) research by the Australian Government – with $16.1 million.

University of Melbourne researcher, Professor Stephen Kent, will lead the innovative research program that will bring together an outstanding team of Australian HIV researchers to tackle this health challenge.

The research program aims to advance the understanding of the biology of HIV, ultimately leading to significant clinical benefits for HIV-infected patients and those at risk of acquiring HIV.

Despite advances in management of HIV infection with antiviral therapy (the combination of several antiretroviral medicines used to slow the rate at which HIV copies itself in the body), there is still no cure and no effective vaccine, and several co-infections reduce life expectancy for those living with HIV.

Mental health is a continuing priority area for the Turnbull Government and we are leading a transformation in the way mental health care is delivered in Australia.

Over $53 million will be targeted through research projects that aim to help the four million Australians who suffer from a form of mental illness each year.

This part of the record funding for mental health research that the Turnbull Government is providing this year.

Prioritising the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is again a focus with an investment of over $31 million for research grants on Indigenous health issues.

And to support our most talented female researchers, the National Health and Medical Research Council is also introducing a new initiative to reduce the gap in funded rates between male and female lead investigators for Project Grants.

Every year the funded rates for Project Grants are higher for men than women.

Additional funding has enabled 34 more female lead investigators to be funded in addition to researchers funded through the usual allocation to the Project Grants scheme.

The funding announced today builds on the $202 million of medical research funding announced by the Prime Minister in October and the allocation of $70 million through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Next Generation Clinical Researchers program announced in November, $35 million through the MRFF to support biomedical sector and $100 for the Australian Brain Cancer Mission.

The Turnbull Government is committed to supporting Australia’s best health and medical research – and the $640 million investment announced today is a clear demonstration of that commitment.

A full list of grant recipients is available on the NHMRC

Private Patients In Public Hospitals Remains A Growing Concern

December 6, 2017: Media Release - The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Minister for Sport
The Australian Government is very concerned about the growing practice of private health insurance being charged by public hospitals for treatments that should be free.

Figures released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that state governments and hospitals are continuing to actively encourage patients to use their private health insurance to boost hospital revenue.

The number of privately insured patients in public hospitals grew by an annual average of 9.6 per cent between 2006-07 and 2015-16, compared with 4.9 per cent in private hospitals.

This practice is driving up private health insurance premiums and is blowing out public hospital waiting lists.

What we’re seeing across Australia is that private patients are being treated in public hospitals with shorter waiting times.

Some of the differences in wait times are shocking. On average, the wait time for public patients is more than double. 

And for some surgeries, such as a cataract extractions, public patients wait more than six times longer than private patients.

This inequity in the system between public and private patients is unacceptable and state and territory health authorities must stop this practice at the expense of their public patients.

All Australians are entitled to access public hospital services as a public patient, free of charge.

I have raised this issue with my state and territory counterparts on numerous occasions, including at the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council meeting. All agreed to consider the issue of private patients in public hospitals further, but this new AIHW report shows this needs urgent action.

The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring a sustainable balance between our public and private health systems and we will be considering further actions in the broader National Health Agreement context. 

Commonwealth funding for public hospitals is on track to significantly increase by 64 per cent between 2013-14 and 2020-21 from $13.8 billion to $22.7 billion. This is in addition to our funding for PBS, MBS, primary care and the Private Health Insurance Rebate.

The Commonwealth and states have agreed to negotiate a new public hospital funding agreement by the end of 2018, to take effect from 2020 and I will be expecting the issue of states harvesting privately ensured patients in their hospitals to play a role in these negotiations. 

Have Your Say On Palliative Care In NSW

17 November 2017
​The NSW community is being asked to participate in a palliative care survey to ensure everyone receives the support and services they deserve at the end of life.
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health Leslie Williams today also released a consultation paper based on feedback from community roundtables held across NSW earlier this year.

Mr Hazzard said providing quality palliative care services to every resident of NSW is a key priority for the NSW Government

“We are investing an extra $100 million over the next four years to provide more tailored, community-based palliative care services, on top of the approximately $210 million already spent each year,” Mr Hazzard said.

“We are listening carefully to the community’s views on where and how palliative care services can be improved so that we have a strong plan for the future.”

Mrs Williams said the consultation paper and feedback from the survey will inform a new palliative and end-of-life care policy in NSW.

“Getting the public’s feedback on palliative care priorities is vital if we are to produce better outcomes for everyone when the inevitable occurs,” Mrs Williams said.

“The survey will only take about 10 minutes so I strongly urge everyone to take this opportunity to have their say.”

The NSW Health Palliative Care Roundtables Consultation Paper and survey can be viewed at

The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and closes on 15 December 2017.
Please Visit:

Living On Thin Air -- Microbe Mystery Solved

December 6, 2017: UNSW
UNSW-Sydney led scientists have discovered that microbes in Antarctica have a previously unknown ability to scavenge hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from the air to stay alive in the extreme conditions.

The find has implications for the search for life on other planets, suggesting extra-terrestrial microbes could also rely on trace atmospheric gases for survival.

"Antarctica is one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Yet the cold, dark and dry desert regions are home to a surprisingly rich diversity of microbial communities," says study senior author and UNSW scientist Associate Professor Belinda Ferrari.

"The big question has been how the microbes can survive when there is little water, the soils are very low in organic carbon and there is very little capacity to produce energy from the sun via photosynthesis during the winter darkness.

"We found that the Antarctic microbes have evolved mechanisms to live on air instead, and they can get most of the energy and carbon they need by scavenging trace atmospheric gases, including hydrogen and carbon monoxide," she says.

Adams Flat, one of the two sites in Antarctica where microbes were collected. Credit: Phil O'Brien

The Australasian-based study, by researchers at UNSW, Monash University, the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland, GNS Science in New Zealand, and the Australian Antarctic Division, is published in the journal Nature.

Soil samples were collected from two coastal ice-free sites in different regions of eastern Antarctica. One was Robinson Ridge, 10 kilometres from Casey Station, in Wilkes land. The other was Adams Flat, 242 kilometres from Davis Station in Princes Elizabeth Land.

"Both areas are pristine polar deserts devoid of any vascular plants," says Associate Professor Ferrari, of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.

The researchers studied the microbial DNA in the surface soil from both sites and reconstructed the genomes of 23 of the microbes that lived there, including some of the first genomes of two groups of previously unknown bacteria called WPS-2 and AD3.

They found the dominant species in the soils had genes which gave them a high affinity for hydrogen and carbon monoxide, allowing them to remove the trace gases from the air at a high enough rate to sustain their predicted energy needs and support primary production.

"This new understanding about how life can still exist in physically extreme and nutrient-starved environments like Antarctica opens up the possibility of atmospheric gases supporting life on other planets," says Associate Professor Ferrari.

Most organisms use energy from the sun or the earth to grow. More research is needed to see if this novel use of atmospheric gases as an alternative energy source is more widespread in Antarctica and elsewhere, the scientists say.

Mukan Ji, Chris Greening, Inka Vanwonterghem, Carlo R. Carere, Sean K. Bay, Jason A. Steen, Kate Montgomery, Thomas Lines, John Beardall, Josie van Dorst, Ian Snape, Matthew B. Stott, Philip Hugenholtz, Belinda C. Ferrari. Atmospheric trace gases support primary production in Antarctic desert surface soil. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature25014

State Of The (Innovation) Nation

6 December 2017: Media Release - The Hon Craig Laundy MP, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science

There are more than 10,000 high-growth firms in Australia at any given time and these firms make a disproportionate contribution to the country’s jobs and growth, according to an Australian Government report released today.

Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy, said the latest annual Australian Innovation System Report found innovation is a key driver of high-growth firms.

“Since 2010, the Australian Innovation System Report series has been tracking the performance of core components of the innovation system,” Mr Laundy said.

“The 2017 report uses newly obtained data from the Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE) to analyse the phenomenon of high-growth firms in Australia.

“The report shows that innovation-active firms are more likely to report increases in sales, profitability, productivity, firm, size and other growth-related measures than firms which do not innovate. That is why the government’s innovation and science agenda is so important.

“Our successful adoption of digital technology is fundamental in boosting productivity growth and maintaining global competitiveness.”

Report key findings:
  • Innovation has a positive effect on firm growth. Across all firms, product innovation is estimated to lift turnover growth by 3.3 percentage points.
  • In 2015–16, an estimated 48.7 per cent of all employing firms were innovation-active. These firms are distributed broadly across all industries, with the highest proportion found in manufacturing.
  • High-growth firms make a disproportionate economic contribution to sales and jobs growth, compared to other firms.
  • High-growth firms are difficult to predict and rarely sustain high rates of growth for more than four years.
  • The proportion of high-growth firms in the economy has been in decline since the global financial crisis. However, the proportion of high-growth firms in Australia is still above average among OECD countries.
“The report provides new insights into the importance of business growth and innovation,” Mr Laundy said.

“The Australian Government is working to ensure we have the right conditions to ensure high-growth firms can continue to thrive.”

The Australian Innovation System Report is available online at

Cooling Climate Drove Evolution Of Tasmanian Devil And Its Relatives

December 5, 2017: University of Salford
A BIG drop in global temperatures 12-14 million years ago may explain the evolutionary success of Australia's unique marsupial carnivores, a new study has found.

Tasmanian Devils, the cat-like Quoll and several shrew-like species are among 80 species of carnivorous marsupials called "dasyurids" which still inhabit parts of Australia and New Guinea.

Now researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Salford in the UK have found evidence that while many rainforest-dwelling species died out as a result of the temperature drops, the Tasmanian Devil and its relatives adapted to the new drier woodland habitats.

The scientists combined genomic data from living dasyurids and other marsupials with evidence from the fossil record to analyse how the group has diversified through time.

"This is the first time we've directly analysed genomic and fossil data in combination to look at dasyurid evolution" said co-author Robin Beck of the University of Salford, "and the pattern we found was striking: three of the four major dasyurid groups diversified almost simultaneously, immediately after this big temperature drop."

The fossil record shows that many Australian marsupials went extinct during this period of intense climate change, with the environment becoming drier and colder, and wet rainforests being replaced by more open woodland environments.

One group of Australian marsupials that suffered were the thylacines, which were also carnivorous and may have been competitors with the dasyurids.

"The loss of many species may explain why the dasyurids began to diversify rapidly during this period" said Beck, adding that future work will test whether dasyurids directly competed with thylacines.

It is unclear what effect current climate change will have on Australian marsupials, but many living dasyurids are restricted to very small ranges and are threatened with extinction.

"If climate change leads to the loss of the kind of habitat these species need, then they may have nowhere else to go."

Shimona Kealy, Robin Beck. Total evidence phylogeny and evolutionary timescale for Australian faunivorous marsupials (Dasyuromorphia). BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2017; 17 (1) DOI:10.1186/s12862-017-1090-0

Long Tan Cross

Wednesday, 6 December 2017
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP 
Prime Minister
The Hon Dan Tehan MP 
Minister for Veterans' Affairs

An important piece of Australia’s military history will find a new home after the Vietnamese Government gifted the original Long Tan Cross to Australia.

Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam Craig Chittick received the Long Tan Cross from the Dong Nai Province People’s Committee at a small ceremony at the Dong Nai Museum in Biên Hòa last month. An Australian Defence Force member then travelled with the cross on its journey to Australia.

The Australian Government thanks the Government of Vietnam for its generous gift.

The Long Tan Cross was erected by Australian soldiers as a memorial to their fellow diggers who fought and died at the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966, Australia’s most costly single engagement in the Vietnam War. It was removed from the Long Tan battle site some time after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. It was reportedly used as a memorial for a Vietnamese Catholic priest until the 1980s when it was restored and eventually placed on display by the Dong Nai Province Museum in Biên Hòa in the late 1990s.

Approximately 60,000 Australian men and women served in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1975, including 521 who lost their lives and more than 3,000 who were wounded.

For many Australians, the Long Tan Cross has come to symbolise our involvement in the Vietnam War. It is a powerful memorial to the service and suffering of Australian soldiers.

Thanks to the generosity of the Vietnamese Government, the Cross will now remain in Australia for perpetuity where it will be honoured, as we honour the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. The Long Tan Cross will go on display at its new permanent home at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra from 6 December.

Australia Joins International Solar Alliance 

06 December 2017: Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Australia’s expertise in solar technologies and research will be shared globally with the formal creation of the International Solar Alliance today.

Led by India and France, members of the International Solar Alliance will deepen cooperation on solar research, reduce technology costs and harmonise international standards.

The ISA aims to promote the roll out of solar technology and solar energy uptake amongst countries that lie in the sun-rich belt between the tropics.

Over one billion people have no access to electricity. Harnessing solar energy will expand access to energy in developing countries, helping them to meet the energy demands of their growing economies.

Australia is a world leader in the sector, with significant expertise in remote electrification and vital supporting technologies such as batteries and pumped hydro storage. Around 17 per cent of Australian households have rooftop solar panels – the highest per capita rate in the world.

Joining the Alliance also supports the Australian Government’s commitment to clean energy cooperation and meeting our Paris Agreement emissions targets.

Australia joins 18 other founding members International Solar Alliance as it officially comes into force as an international inter-governmental body today.

We welcome the establishment of ISA headquarters at the National Institute of Solar Energy in India.

Improving The Native Title System For All Australians

29 November 2017: Joint media release - Attorney-General, Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator The Hon George Brandis QC and Minister for Indigenous affairs, Senator for the Northern Territory, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion
The Turnbull Government is today releasing an options paper considering how the native title system could be improved to better support all stakeholders involved with native title. 
The options paper considers reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) to make the native title system operate more effectively for all Australians. It includes recommendations from a range of reviews, including the:
  • Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth),
  • Council of Australian Government’s Investigation into Land Administration and Use, and
  • Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations’ Technical Review of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006.
In developing the options paper, the Government has engaged extensively with key stakeholders, including the states and territories at a Native Title Ministers’ Meeting on 13 October this year.

The paper considers how native title holders could be given greater autonomy to resolve claims more simply by providing claim groups with greater authority to make decisions, and more options to resolve internal disputes.

The paper also contains a number of proposals designed to improve the operation of Indigenous representative bodies which play a vital role in representing native title holders. 

While claims resolution continues to be a priority for the Government, as more claims are determined, the focus of the system must shift to how native title holders can make agreements with other parties and resolve disputes. That is why a number of the proposals relate to reducing the regulatory burden and cost of the process so that native title holders have greater flexibility in making decisions about their land and water. 

The Government is committed to wide consultation on native title reform and stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on the options paper by 25 January 2018. This feedback will contribute to the development of an exposure draft of legislation, which the Government expects to release in the first half of next year.

These proposals are further evidence of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to improving the native title system. In June, the Government successfully passed in Parliament key changes to the Act, restoring certainty to the native title system following the McGlade decision.

The options paper and more information on native title reform are available at

Submissions close on Thursday, 25 January 2018
Feedback from stakeholders will inform the development of an exposure draft native title amendment bill. It is anticipated that the exposure draft will be released for further public comment in March 2018.

Certainty For Maritime Safety

06 December 2017: Media Release - The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
Australia's maritime industries received a boost today with Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers committing more than $100 million to support operators during service delivery transition to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

From 1 July 2018, AMSA will be the sole service provider under the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said for the first time, Australia's domestic commercial vessel industries would benefit from nationally consistent delivery of safety services.

“We are committed to the national system delivering safety benefits for commercial boating, fishing and tourism operations across Australia, and importantly, the industry remains supportive of a national system of maritime safety regulation,” Mr Chester said.

“Following careful consideration of industry feedback and year-long negotiations, I have finalised the $102.4 million transition package with my State and Territory colleagues.”

“The Australian Government is committing $55 million to this transition package in recognition of the importance of the domestic commercial vessel industries to the Australian economy.”

“Changes to the national system will ensure consistent fees for vessel services across all Australian jurisdictions, and a cost recovery levy gradually phased in to allow time for industry to adjust and prepare for the changes.

“No levy will be charged to industry in the first year of AMSA's service delivery to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all operators as charging arrangements are standardised and services transition.

“Levy charges will gradually increase until our industries fund around 80 per cent of the national system, with the balance funded by the Australian Government.

“Importantly, AMSA will continue to look at ways to reduce the administrative burden and will engage closely with industry in the lead up to 1 July 2018,” Mr Chester said.

For more information on the changes, please visit:

Time For Action On Endometriosis

6 December 2017: Joint Media Release -  The Hon. Greg Hunt MP,Minister for Health, Minister for Sport and Nola Marino MP,  and Member for Forrest, Nicolle Flint MP, Member for Boothby

The Turnbull Government will create the first National Action Plan for Endometriosis, providing much needed support for women who face this often misunderstood medical condition. 

The Plan will seek to improve the treatment, understanding and awareness of endometriosis, which affects around one in ten Australian women. 

It will be developed in collaboration with the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis, and members of the Parliamentary Friends for Endometriosis Awareness. 

The Plan will focus on how to improve the lives of women who face this terrible condition. 

Diagnosis of the condition currently takes on average around eight to nine years, placing a significant toll on individuals, families and the community. 

This condition should have been better acknowledged and acted upon long ago but today we are taking action so the struggle that women face will no longer be silent or their battles private. 

We will work with the medical community and key stakeholders to look into what gaps might be present in training, support and care. 

Importantly medical research will be critical to uncovering new options for diagnosis, treatment, care and understanding of endometriosis. 

We will therefore issue a targeted call for endometriosis research under the Medical Research Future Fund. 

The Turnbull Government will also provide funding of $160,000, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, for Professor Grant Montgomery to use genomics to investigate better treatments for women with endometriosis. 

The Jean Hailes Foundation, supported by Turnbull Government funding, will also make endometriosis a key feature of next year’s Women’s Health Week, to raise awareness of the condition. 

All participants of the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis should be congratulated for the advocacy and voice they give to the thousands of women who suffer from endometriosis. 

We look forward to developing this new national approach with all involved in the battle against endometriosis. 

Aussie Steel On Track For Inland Rail

December 7th, 2017: Media Release - The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
  • Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks has been awarded the contract to supply steel for the first section of Australian Inland Rail infrastructure project
  • 14,000 tonnes of steel rail required for the first section—Parkes to Narromine
  • The Australian Government has committed $8.4 billion to build a dedicated freight rail corridor connecting Melbourne to Brisbane in under 24 hours
Another milestone for the iconic Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail has been reached, with the announcement that Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks has secured the contract to supply the steel rail for the first section of the track to begin construction.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the contract was significant with Australian produced steel rail to provide a direct investment to the national economy and secure Australian jobs.

“Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks will soon start rolling the approximately 14,000 tonnes of steel rail required for the Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail,” Mr Chester said.

“This order is the first of approximately 262,000 tonnes of steel rail needed to build Inland Rail—which is equivalent to five Sydney Harbour Bridges.”

Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann said the contract was worth up to $20 million and Liberty OneSteel will be producing the rail required for the entire length of the Parkes to Narromine section.

“This project will allow more freight to move by rail, providing benefits to motorists by reducing the number of heavy vehicles on our road network,” Mr Cormann said.

“Inland Rail will complete the spine of the national freight network between Melbourne and Brisbane, and allow a transit time of less than 24 hours.”

The steel rail is 60 kilograms of steel per metre, which will accommodate double-stack trains up to 1,800m in length, travelling at 115kph, with up to 30 tonne axle load.

The Parkes to Narromine section has been declared critical infrastructure for NSW and the entire project a priority project by Infrastructure Australia.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is currently considering ARTC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and responses to public submissions received about the EIS. Construction works will commence once all necessary approvals have been received.

Revising The Story Of The Dispersal Of Modern Humans Across Eurasia

December 7, 2017

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene. Credit: Bae et al. 2017. On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives. Science. Image by: Katerina Douka and Michelle O'Reilly

Most people are now familiar with the traditional "Out of Africa" model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, are revising this story. Recent discoveries show that humans left Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago, and that they interbred with other hominins in many locations across Eurasia.

A review of recent research on dispersals by early modern humans from Africa to Asia by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa confirms that the traditional view of a single dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 60,000 years ago can no longer be seen as the full story. The analysis, published in the journal Science, reviews the plethora of new discoveries being reported from Asia over the past decade, which were made possible by technological advances and interdisciplinary collaborations, and shows that Homo sapiens reached distant parts of the Asian continent, as well as Near Oceania, much earlier than previously thought. Additionally, evidence that modern humans interbred with other hominins already present in Asia, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, complicates the evolutionary history of our species.

New model: Multiple dispersals of modern humans out of Africa, beginning as early as 120,000 years ago
The authors brought together findings from multiple recent studies to refine the picture of human dispersals out of Africa and into Asia. While scientists once thought that humans first left Africa in a single wave of migration about 60,000 years ago, recent studies have identified modern human fossils in far reaches of Asia that are potentially much older. For example, H. sapiens remains have been found at multiple sites in southern and central China that have been dated to between 70,000 and 120,000 years ago. Additional finds indicate that modern humans reached Southeast Asia and Australia prior to 60,000 years ago.

However, other recent studies do confirm that all present-day non-African populations branched off from a single ancestral population in Africa approximately 60,000 years ago. This could indicate that there were multiple, smaller dispersals of humans out of Africa beginning as early as 120,000 years ago, followed by a major dispersal 60,000 years ago. While the recent dispersal contributed the bulk of the genetic make-up of present-day non-Africans, the earlier dispersals are still evident.

"The initial dispersals out of Africa prior to 60,000 years ago were likely by small groups of foragers, and at least some of these early dispersals left low-level genetic traces in modern human populations. A later, major 'Out of Africa' event most likely occurred around 60,000 years ago or thereafter," explains Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Multiple interbreeding events
Recent genetic research has resolved the question of whether or not modern humans interbred with other ancient hominins -- they definitely did. Modern humans interbred not only with Neanderthals, but also with our recently-discovered relatives the Denisovans, as well as a currently unidentified population of pre-modern hominins. One estimate is that all present-day non-Africans have 1-4% Neanderthal heritage, while another group has estimated that modern Melanesians have an average of 5% Denisovan heritage. In all, it is now clear that modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and perhaps other hominin groups likely overlapped in time and space in Asia, and they certainly had many instances of interaction.

The increasing evidence of interactions suggests that the spread of material culture is also more complicated than previously thought. "Indeed, what we are seeing in the behavioral record is that the spread of so-called modern human behaviors did not occur in a simple time-transgressive process from west to east. Rather, ecological variation needs to be considered in concert with behavioral variation between the different hominin populations present in Asia during the Late Pleistocene," explains Christopher Bae of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

In light of these new discoveries, our understanding of human movements across the Old World has become much more complex, and there are still many questions left open. The authors argue for the development of more complicated models of human dispersals and for conducting new research in the many areas of Asia where none has been done to date. Additionally, it will be important to review materials collected prior to the development of modern analytic methods, to see what more can now be learned from them. "Fortunately," states Katerina Douka, also of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, "there have been an increasing number of multidisciplinary research programs launched in Asia over the past few decades. The information that is being reported is helping to fill in the gaps in the evolutionary records."

"It is an exciting time to be involved with interdisciplinary research projects across Asia," adds Bae.

Christopher J. Bae, Katerina Douka, Michael D. Petraglia. On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives. Science, 2017; 358 (6368): eaai9067 DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9067