Inbox and Environment News: Issue 382

November 4 - 10, 2018: Issue 382

Living Ocean Join AUSMAP Program: Call For Volunteers

Living Ocean's No Plastic Please team attended a workshop to be accredited as team leaders for the AUSMAP program. Sensational work group with many attendants including Humane Society International Australia & Surfrider Foundation Northern Beaches.

Thanks to the brilliant dedication of Michelle Lemon Blewitt & Scott Wilson and Total Environment Centre for developing the program.

Please contact us here at Living Ocean if you would like to be part of our new 'citizen science' program for the northern beaches.

This will target certain areas for Pittwater/Broken Bay/Brisbane Waters and the ocean beaches.

We will be studying and monitoring certain beach and bay locations in these locations for micro plastics and the data will be peer valid for study as part of a global web to understand and control plastics in our marine environment.

This is great 'stuff' and huge move forward. Its fun, rewarding and empowering.

The Living Ocean Team.

Mandalong Coal Mine

Modification 6 to Mandalong Southern Extension Project
Modification of State Significant Development SSD-5144 to allow for the temporary controlled release of stored water from the Mandalong South Surface Site Sediment Dam following significant rainfall events. Additionally, Centennial Mandalong is seeking the ability to transport the sediment and material collected at the Mandalong South Surface Site to the Cooranbong Entry Site. 

Exhibition Start: 02/11/2018
Exhibition End: 16/11/2018

Pittwater Aussie Bird Count 2018: Lists Sent In And Birds Seen By Postcode

Bird lovers have spotted everything that flaps about in the water, soars above trees and scurries through the coastal range.
This year's count via BirdLife Australia for our area:

Checklists submitted 62
Species sighted 78 
Birds sighted 1,453 

Checklists submitted 24
Species sighted 55
Birds sighted 765

Checklists submitted 38
Species sighted 49
Birds sighted 1, 070

Checklists submitted 26
Species sighted 29
Birds sighted 443

Checklists submitted 13
Species sighted 23
Birds sighted 342

Checklists submitted 40 
Species sighted 46
Birds sighted 1, 005

Checklists submitted 72
Species sighted 63
Birds sighted 1, 474

Checklists submitted 11
Species sighted 31
Birds sighted 168

Seasonal Spring-Summer visitor the Channel-billed Cuckoo was a species counted among the Pittwater lists - A J Guesdon photo

Smashing Records

This was our largest count yet — together we counted 2, 774, 591 birds.

Now that the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is over for another year, what happens next? 

The app and website stayed open until Wednesday 31 October for you to submit any backdated checklists. You can edit the date and time on your checklists by clicking on the date and/or time and adjusting accordingly. After this date, we will be collating, vetting and analysing the data. We hope to have the results ready for you in November and we'll send you an email to let you know when they are ready.

The winners of our incredible prizes will be announced via email on 2 November.

And remember, if you have the app don't delete it! You can take advantage of the Field Guide function all year-round. You can also start getting prepared for next year's Aussie Backyard Bird Count which will be held from 21–27 October 2019 — mark it in your diary, or on your 2019 BirdLife Australia calendar.

We hope you enjoyed taking part and learnt to identify a new species or two. And if you're already missing the excitement of counting birds you might like to get involved in our Birds in Backyards seasonal surveys.

Thanks again for participating and for making every Australian bird count! 

BirdLife Australia

The Great Anti-Fracking Bus Trip 2018

The NT Govt has released half of the Territory for CSG - it's a toxic disaster! 

We are helping to get pastoralists and indigenous owners on a bus trip to SE Qld. and the Pilliga to see first hand what fracking does to farmland, water and country, and to hear from land owners and farmers there what a disaster it is. 

This Chuffed fundraiser is to help cover the cost of fuel and cabin accommodation for the 10 days they will be on the road. You can donate directly, and you can bid on stuff in some Facebook Auctions coming up. Any amount helps.

AND can you please invite your friends to the Facebook page HERE too. It's as much about raising awareness as it is about raising money. Tell everyone - NO FRACKING OUR LAND OR WATER!

Dick & Bron Clarke

Donate at this Chuffed secure link:

Decision On Polluting Adani Coal Mine A Major Test For Elected Representatives

November 1, 2018
In response to reports Adani is only weeks away from a final investment decision on its polluting Carmichael coal mine, Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, said:

“Today’s news is a direct challenge to our elected representatives, many of whom did not believe the Adani coal mine would happen – will you side with the millions of people who oppose it and want our Great Barrier Reef and precious clean water protected? Or will you back the profits of a billionaire coal company that has a long history of causing pollution?

“The Adani mine will open one of the world’s last untouched coal basins right when the world’s top climate change scientists are warning that we must urgently stop burning coal if we want to save the Great Barrier Reef and ensure our planet is a safe and harmonious place to live.

“The Adani coal mine will drain billions of litres of water from Queensland’s precious water aquifers and threaten the Great Artesian Basin. Top groundwater experts say the so-called ‘strictest conditions in history’ applied to this mine aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

“Queensland is suffering through a historic drought and other states have been ravaged by unseasonable bushfires and extreme weather. It is inconceivable that our federal politicians would continue to support a coal mine that will turbo-charge this climate damage.

“A few weeks ago, voters in Wentworth made it very clear that parties without strong climate policies will suffer electoral consequences. Strong climate policy means a commitment to stop Adani’s polluting mine and transition Australia from coal.

“The Stop Adani campaign is the biggest environmental movement in Australian history. Across the country, there are millions of people who are upset with their government’s negligent response and will oppose this mine every step of the way.”

Have Your Say To Protect The White’s Seahorse

Public submissions are invited during the consultation period for the proposed determination to list White’s Seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) as a threatened species.

The independent NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee (FSC) has reviewed information on White’s Seahorse and found that it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the near future, and is eligible to be listed as endangered.

FSC Deputy Chairperson Associate Professor Jane Williamson said the FSC found that loss of habitat, sand inundation and damage has led to the decline of the species.

“Currently the White’s Seahorse is listed as a protected fish under the Fisheries Management Act 1994,” Professor Williamson said.

“By listing White’s Seahorse as a threatened species it will provide additional protection, and priorities for supporting the recovery of the species will be established.”

White’s Seahorse is a small seahorse known to occur in estuaries from Lake Illawarra on the NSW South Coast to Hervey Bay in Queensland.

Professor Williamson said in NSW the species occurs in nine estuaries between Forster and Wollongong and in the Tweed River.

“It utilises a wide range of habitat types including soft coral, sponges and seagrass,” she said.

“It is also known to use artificial habitats such as enclosed protective swimming nets and jetty pylons in Sydney Harbour.”

The listing of White’s Seahorse as a threatened species will have no impact on recreational or commercial fishers in NSW as this species is already listed as a protected species and cannot be taken without a permit.

Following the public exhibition and analysis of submissions, the FSC will prepare a final determination.

Copies of the proposed determination are available at the Department’s head office, district fisheries offices, or on the DPI website

The proposed determination is on exhibition from Wednesday 24 October to Monday 26 November.

Written submissions can be emailed to or mailed to the Fisheries Scientific Committee, c/- NSW DPI Fisheries, PO Box 5106 WOLLONGONG 2520
White's Seahorse. Image courtesy of NSW DPI David Harasti

$55 Million Emerging Energy Program Is “Paltry”

October 31, 2018: Media release - Nature Conservation Council
The NSW Government’s $55 million Emerging Energy Program is a tentative first step towards transitioning the state’s economy to clean energy but it lacks ambition and still lags other states, according to the Nature Conservation Council.

The government today announced the program, which would provide up to $10 million in funding per project for projects that are grid-connected, at least 5 MW, and provide “emerging and dispatchable” technology.

An emissions intensity cap of 0.5 tonnes of Co2-e rules out coal, even so called “low-emissions” coal, which is still highly polluting.

“This is a welcome first step but the package lacks ambition and will not close the gap between NSW and other states that have acted more boldly to ramp up renewables and reduce their climate pollution,” said NCC Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner Dr Brad Smith.

“The $10 million being offered under this package is good but pales when compared with Victoria and SA where they invested $25m in the Ballarat 30 MW big battery, unveiled last week, and the Federal and South Australian government’s support of over $110 million for the 150 MW Port Augusta Solar Thermal power station.

“The $55 million being offer under this program is barely 1% of the of the $4.1 billion that was available to the NSW Government from the sale of Snowy Hydro.

“We are calling on the government to re-invest $2 billion, or half of the proceeds, into a regional renewable energy fund that will underpin dispatchable clean energy, create jobs in wind and solar farms, and support households to install batteries.

“The proceeds of the sale of Snowy Hydro was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest massively in clean energy and new technologies, but not a single cent from the Snowy Fund was reinvested in these areas.

“The Snowy Fund spending announced last week represented the biggest clean-energy divestment decision made by any government in Australia ever. Today’s announcement does little to redress that historic failure.”

Dr Smith said the O’Farrell, Baird and Berejiklian governments had all floundered in the energy and climate policy space.

“They have had almost eight years to develop a plan but have almost nothing,” he said.

“They released a draft Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan almost two years ago and it has still not been finalized.”

The Climate Council reported this month that NSW trailed Tasmania, Victoria South Australia and the ACT on renewables (excluding hydro-electricity). [1]

The Climate Council reported this month that that NSW trailed Tasmania, Victoria South Australia and the ACT in terms of how much of its power came from renewables (excluding hydro-electricity). [1]

State - % power from renewables

ACT 43.1%
South Australia 42.7%
Tasmania 11.2%
Victoria 10.4%
WA 6.5%
NSW 6.0%
Qld 3.7%
NT 3%

Nature Writing Prize 2019

Calling all nature writers!
The Nature Conservancy Australia is delighted to open the fifth biennial Nature Writing Prize.

The winner of the best essay (3,000 – 5,000 words) in the genre of ‘Writing of Place’ will receive a $5,000 award and will be published as an online multimedia essay by Griffith Review – Australia’s leading literary quarterly publication.

The prize will go to an Australian writer whose entry is judged to be of the highest literary merit and which best explores their relationship and interaction with some aspect of the Australian landscape.

Entry costs $30.00. The deadline for submissions is 1 February 2019 and the winner will be announced in May 2019. The prize is open to Australian citizens and permanent residents. 

These Two Koalas Lost Their Mothers To Deforestation

I call on you to urgently end the deforestation and land-clearing crisis by making potential koala habitat, threatened species habitat, and other high-conservation-value areas off limits to clearing, and by repealing the land-clearing codes.

I also urge you to invest in a restoration and conservation fund and deliver the world-class mapping, monitoring, and reporting the community expects.

Farmers Staggered At News That Carmichael Mine May Be On Finance Fast-Track

November 1, 2018
Queensland farmers have reacted with anger to news that Adani may be just weeks away from securing finance for their scaled-back Carmichael mega-mine.

Farmers for Climate Action CEO Verity Morgan-Schmidt said farmers have had enough of their future viability being put at risk. 
“Extractive industries like the proposed Carmichael mine threaten the precious groundwater supplies that underpin agriculture in central Queensland,” Ms Morgan-Schmidt said.

“Farmers in the region are already grappling with one of the longest droughts on record. It is time the Queensland and Federal governments stood up and defended central Queensland agriculture as the backbone of regional prosperity.”

Farmers for Climate Action has developed an advertising campaign calling on politicians to grapple with the challenges of climate change and support a sustainable future for regional Queensland. The campaign is due to begin airing on Channel Seven during the Melbourne Cup this Tuesday.

Garnant beef farmer Mick Alexander, who features in the advertisement, said he was staggered by the news, especially given federal scientists have identified massive gaps in Adani’s water research.

“This issue is about much more than the Carmichael Mine. If Adani does get a green light, then this will likely open up the whole of the Galilee Basin to extractive industries.

“There has been no cumulative impact assessment to determine the likely groundwater impacts as a result of these projects. Yet, Adani is set to steamroll ahead.

“We need our leaders to show that they have a vision to move Queensland beyond coal.” 

Farmers for Climate Action is raising funds to extend the reach of its campaign. In the first 24 hours, it had raised more than $5000 from supporters demanding government action on climate. The video and campaign can be viewed here.

NSW Must Heed Coal Decline Warning And Prepare For Structural Adjustment For Mining Communities

November 01, 2018: by Lock the Gate
70% of Muswellbrook and Singleton residents want plan for a post-coal economy 

A new report showing a terminal future for thermal coal demand globally demonstrates a critical need for the NSW government to introduce an economic transformation plan for the Hunter region, according to Lock the Gate.

Published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the report New South Wales Thermal Coal Exports Face Permanent Decline: Grim Outlook Prompts the Need for a Planned Transition examines NSW coal export markets and forecasts of coal demand with global action to meet the Paris climate agreement goals.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said: “With the world turning to renewables and abandoning coal, the Hunter can no longer rely on thermal coal to be the backbone of its economy.”

The IEEFA report points to forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing global thermal coal trade volumes dropping 28% by 2025 and 59% by 2040 under its Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

The SDS presents a picture of what global energy would look like if Paris Climate agreement goals are met and air pollution reduced whilst also ensuring universal access to modern energy.

“The NSW Government says it is committed to the Paris agreement, but if that is genuinely the case, it must start preparing for a major contraction in the coal industry,” she said.

“Planning for a decline in coal is most desperately needed in the Hunter Valley, where up to a fifth of people currently rely on coal mining for their livelihoods.

“The NSW Government must develop a strong restructuring plan with financial support to diversify the Hunter’s economy and protect our existing agricultural industries,” she said.

Public support for change in the Upper Hunter is demonstrated by recent polling commissioned by Lock the Gate showing 70% of Singleton and Muswellbrook residents believe the region needs to prepare for a post-coal future and diversify its economy (1).

“Politicians promoting the expansion of coal mining are out of touch with people in the Hunter who understand how important it is to plan for the future,” Ms Woods said.

“The Hunter has been the engine room of NSW for decades. Now it’s time to give back and that starts with planning, and with sensible protections for agricultural land, so sustainable industries can grow.”

The report comes as the Independent Planning Commission prepares to make its final decision about a new coal mine in the Bylong Valley, opening it up to coal mining for the first time.

“If the NSW Government approves this mine, they’ll be eating away food and water security for the sake of an industry that must contract if we are to address climate change,” Ms Woods said.

“It makes no sense to jeopardise water security and cut open productive farmland at a time when thermal coal is in permanent decline.”

South Australian Parliament Passes Fracking Moratorium

October 26, 2018
The South Australian Upper House has passed the 10 year fracking moratorium in the South East of South Australia into law, effective in 14 days.

The fracking moratorium follows a lengthy and sustained grassroots campaign from communities in the South East.

Angus Ralton, chairperson of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, said “This is a well deserved outcome for the community that has fought so hard.

“This was a long, hard fought battle and we are deeply appreciative of our local independent MP Troy Bell for moving this Bill and to Nick McBride for getting the Libs on board.

“Mark Parnell and fellow Greens in the Upper House as well as SA Best were equally pivotal in getting this Bill through.

“The Bill might never have made it to the floor without the heads of the primary agricultural bodies and local health professionals, who also pledged their public support in the lead up to tabling the Bill.

“While the community is very happy with this result, gasfields are still a threat to our region and the fight continues.

“Conventional gas is being actively pursued in the South East and we are very concerned that conventional gas exploration will begin to march across our landscape, with three wells scheduled to be drilled this December or January and the threat of more wells in the coming year."

Community Campaign Saves Cliefden Caves As Government Scraps Reckless Cranky Dam Proposal

October 30, 2018: Media Release - Nature Conservation Council 
The scrapping by the NSW government of the Cranky Dam proposal in the state’s central west is a victory for community environmental campaigning and for common sense.

“The Save Cliefden Caves group ran an excellent campaign against this damaging proposal, which should never have seen the light of day,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“Governments stopped building dams 30 years ago for a very good reason. Dams degrade river systems, cause a host of environmental problems, and fail to provide water security for local communities.

“An in the era of climate change and declining rainfall, new dams are unlikely to fill. The Berejiklian government has squandered thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on a feasibility study of a National Party pre-election thought bubble that was never going to work.

“Rather than wasting money on new dams, the government should be investing in water efficiency in towns and on farms.

“The Belubula flows into the Lachlan River, a major system in the Murray Darling Basin, which has significant wetlands in the lower catchment.

"Putting another dam on the Belubula would have added more stress to an already degraded system, with cascading impacts on the environment and landholders downstream.

“This proposal was not only environmentally reckless, it made no sense economically.

“The NSW Government would have spent millions on a dam to take water out of Murray-Darling Basin while the Federal Government was spending billions putting it back in.”

Ms Smolski said the NSW Government should be doing more to reduce climate pollution and embrace clean energy as a fundamental way to help farmers deal with water scarcity.

“Climate change is making large parts of southeast drier and hotter yet the Berejiklian government has done little to reduce our emissions.

“The coalition has had almost eight years to develop a plan but have almost nothing.

“They released a draft Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan almost two years ago and it has still not been finalised.”

Jair Bolsonaro Will Now Run Into Brazil’s Massive Grassroots Movements Of Resistance

November 1, 2018
In his acceptance speech, Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said he will “change the destiny of Brazil”. He may be right. For the Amazon and its indigenous residents, things will get worse before they get better, but this election may also be a tipping point for change. The staunchly anti-environment Bolsonaro may sow the seeds for radical environmental politics both in Brazil and worldwide.

When the night comes, I wonder what might happen, who will be next, and hope that the dawn will come soon.

With these words, Kum'tum, a leader of the indigenous Gamela people in the heart of the Amazon, shared his fear of being an environmental defender in Brazil. His community had been trying to occupy a portion of their ancestral lands claimed by farmers but, in April this year, they were attacked by men armed with machetes and firearms. Some had their hands cut off. Others like Kum'tum were shot.

Indigenous groups have good reason to be scared. Over the past decade, Brazil has been the most dangerous country in the world to be a land or environmental defender and 57 of these people were murdered last year alone. According to the NGO Global Witness, this kind of violence stems from sections of the agribusiness sector, in particular parts of the Amazon’s cattle industry which is the largest single cause of deforestation globally. The Amazon and its indigenous residents may now be persecuted with even more ferocity, as Bolsonaro promises a new alliance between the security state, agricultural interests and far-right political power.

Fortunately, where there’s hegemony, there’s resistance. NYU sociologist and theorist Steven Lukes famously broke power itself down into “three faces”: decision-making power, non-decision-making power, and ideological power. The Amazon’s future and that of its residents will be fought across these three key battlegrounds.

Resistance beyond borders
First, Bolsonaro’s government will have to win the visible battles of decision-making processes shaping Brazil’s environmental governance. For instance, Bolsonaro would have to break free from present institutional and legal frameworks tying Brazil to its environmental commitments, such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. And that’s tricky because of the global backlash. Perhaps this is why Bolsonaro has now scrapped his pledge to quit Paris.

Indigenous protest over land rights in Brasilia, April 2018. Joedson Alves / EPA

Other challenges to Bolsonaro’s decision-making power will come from below. While Brazil’s balance of power has historically favoured big corporations like those in the agribusiness sector, the country also hosts massive grass roots movements of resistance. These include the Marxist-inspired Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), with an informal membership of 1.5m people and, in the Amazon itself, the Cainquiama, a resistance coalition of tens of thousands of persecuted indigenous peoples and other communities.

Who sets the agenda?
In this case, the “non-decision-making power” concerns Bolsonaro’s ability to set the development agenda. The country’s new leader wants to reverse green agreements and return to a form of violent pro-growth neoliberalism which is blind to both democracy and environmental concerns.

The planet breathing in and out. Al'fred / shutterstock

But the Amazon acts as the world’s lung and is a globally shared priority. The existential threats it faces would be met in a similar combative spirit as those facing the melting Arctic – by environmental defenders, pro-sustainable development governments, global institutions and civil society. Collectively, these actors have the moral power to set the agenda and pressure for legal, institutional and economic sanctions and limits to stop the predatory march of Brazilian agribusiness further into the forest. If they can manage to frame actions against the Amazon as crimes against humanity and the planet, they could even be effective.

Hearts and minds
The third conflict is the invisible ideological battle to control Brazilian hearts and minds. By democratically electing a far-right candidate, Brazilians have sent a crystal clear message that they want radical change for the better. The problem is what people understand by “better” and what this “better” means for the environment.

The “Bolsonaro way” is ideologically powerful because it is ambiguous about what it is, but sharply clear on what it is not. Just like Trump, it is unashamedly pro-growth regardless of the collateral damage to the environment, but Bolsonaro’s vague development utopia lacks depth. It resurrects zombie ideas of dictatorship style governance and pro-growth violent neoliberalism, fuelled by popular disillusionment with corruption and a failure to lift people out of poverty.

Another ideological battle will concern the church, a powerful institution in the world’s largest Catholic country. In his 2015 encyclical message Laudato Si, Pope Francis attacked environmental degradation and climate change and called for “swift and unified” global action. That, and his later claim that to harm the environment is to sin, may prove a powerful ideological tool for environmental activism. The rising wave of Brazilian evangelicals may also question how Christian it would be to slay the Amazon and its people.

A final key ideological battle concerns the normalisation of indifference towards the environment. According to the World Values Survey and Latinobarometro, the largest opinion polls that have investigated what Brazilians value as important, the only topics ranking high in everyday life are corruption, the unstable political situation and the economy. The challenge is that too many Brazilians fail to see how crucial the environment, the Amazon and its indigenous inhabitants are to their own well-being and development.

by Carlos Salvador Zepeda Castillo
Research Associate in Development Studies, University of Portsmouth
This article first appeared in The Conversation

A Wilderness 'Horror Story'
World's Wilderness Is Going, Going ... Nearly Gone, New Paper Says

October 31, 2018
Producing the first comprehensive fine-scale map of the world's remaining marine and terrestrial wild places, conservation scientists writing in the journal Nature say that just 23 percent of the world's landmass can now be considered wilderness, with the rest -- excluding Antarctica -- lost to the direct effects of human activities.

These disturbing findings are particularly troubling as numerous recent studies reveal that Earth's remaining wilderness areas are increasingly important buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts. The authors note two upcoming gatherings of key decision makes will be crucial to stopping current rate of loss.

Said the paper's lead author James Watson of WCS and the University of Queensland: "These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet's last wild places. The loss of wilderness must be treated in the same way we treat extinction. There is no reversing once the first cut enters. The decision is forever."

The authors describe wilderness areas as those places that do not have industrial level activity within them according to the marine and terrestrial human footprint. Local communities can live within them, hunt and fish, etc.

Various analyses reveal that wilderness areas provide increasingly important refuges for species that are declining in landscapes dominated by people. In the seas, they are the last regions that still contain viable populations of top predators, such as tuna, marlins and sharks.

In addition, wilderness areas are also places where enormous amounts of carbon is stored and sequestered with intact ecosystems being at least twice important than similar degraded habitats when it comes carbon mitigation.

The loss of wilderness is not just a biodiversity conservation and climate issue. Many wildernesses are home to millions of indigenous people who rely on them for maintaining their long bio-cultural connections to land and sea. Their loss is eroding many cultures around the world.

As bleak as these recent finding are, the authors say there is still a chance for Earth's remaining wilderness can be protected. Incredibly, just 20 nations hold 94 percent of the worlds marine and terrestrial wilderness areas (excluding Antarctica and the High Seas), with five mega wilderness nations (Russia, Canada, Australia, United States and Brazil) containing 70 percent. The authors argue that these nations have an enormous role to play to secure the last of the wild.

Said John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Global Conservation at WCS and a co-author of the paper: "Wilderness will only be secured globally if these nations take a leadership role. Right now, across the board, this type of leadership is missing. Already we have lost so much. We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever."

The authors say the time is right to change international policy frameworks to act on wilderness conservation, noting two upcoming international meetings of particular importance:

At the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held from November 17-29, signatory governments, intergovernmental organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), international non-governmental organisations, and the scientific community will meet to work towards a strategic plan for the protection of biodiversity after 2020. The authors of the Nature paper and their organisations urge participants at the meeting to include a mandated target for wilderness conservation. In their view, a bold yet achievable target is to define and conserve 100 percent of all remaining intact ecosystems.

The second meeting is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Katowice Climate Change Conference from December 2-14. There, carbon sequestration and storage capacities of wilderness areas could be formally documented, and the importance of conserving them written into the policy recommendations. Such a move would enable nations to make the protection of wilderness areas an integral part of their strategy for reducing emissions.

James E. M. Watson, Oscar Venter, Jasmine Lee, Kendall R. Jones, John G. Robinson, Hugh P. Possingham, James R. Allan. Protect the last of the wild. Nature, 2018; 563 (7729): 27 DOI: 10.1038/d41586-018-07183-6

$434 Million For Redevelopment Of Shoalhaven Hospital

November 01, 2018: NSW Minister for Health
The NSW Government has announced Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital will be redeveloped to significantly improve healthcare services for residents of the South Coast.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock and Member for Kiama Gareth Ward, made the announcement at the hospital today.

“This $434 million investment in Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital is the result of the strong advocacy of local members Shelley and Gareth. I am proud to announce today that this record health investment for the region will now go-ahead,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We have a record hospital rebuilding program where we are creating world class hospitals and creating thousands of construction jobs across NSW.

“This incredible investment is only possible because of the strong economic management of the NSW Liberals & Nationals.”

The redeveloped Shoalhaven Hospital will see significant community benefits which are likely to include:
  • expanded elective surgery
  • more surgical, acute medical and aged care beds
  • expanded maternity services
  • more operating theatres
  • increased capacity in the Emergency Department
  • expansion of outpatient and ambulatory care zones.
Mrs Hancock said the $434 million investment will deliver new and upgraded health facilities so residents on the South Coast no longer have to travel for some services.

“It’s very important that we continue to invest in our regional hospitals to ensure patients can receive high quality health care closer to where they live,” Mrs Hancock said.

Mr Ward added: “Shoalhaven Hospital is my local hospital. I make no apologies for fighting hard  for  the  unprecedented  investment  for  our  patients,  doctors,  nurses  and  staff.

Shoalhaven Hospital is no longer a ‘cottage hospital’ and this investment will future-proof our region.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said planning for the new facility was announced in the recent budget, so the district is well advanced in determining the range of health services needed as part of the redevelopment.

“We want to ensure this facility and its staff can continue to deliver first-class care for patients well into the future.”

Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies said the NSW Government is committed to providing better access to mental health care.

“It’s crucially important to see mental health services integrated into modern hospital developments as part of NSW Health’s core business, which is why I am so pleased as part of this $434 redevelopment, mental health facilities will be expanded,” Mrs Davies said.

The redevelopment of Shoalhaven Hospital is in addition to the NSW Government’s $251 million commitment to rebuild Shellharbour Hospital.

Promising New Target For Immunotherapy

October 30, 2018
Following the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine, global attention is now more than ever turned toward the promise of immunotherapy in oncology. An international team's work has shed new light on a molecule called TIM-3 that might play a key role in the regulation of the immune response.

Scientists and physicians from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC (MCH-MUHC), and McGill University in collaboration with French teams from AP-HP, Inserm, Université Paris-Descartes and the Imagine Institute at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital, have singled out this protein as the next potential target for immunotherapy treatments in patients with cancer and other diseases.

These results are being published in the journal Nature Geneticson Monday, October 29.

Researchers found that when the TIM-3 protein is suppressed or inactive, the immune system becomes completely "unleashed" and T cells are uncontrollably over-activated, resulting in a rare form of lymphoma (a form of cancer that starts in the lymphocytes) called subcutaneous panniculitis T lymphoma (LTSCP).

The team of researchers has identified two founder mutations at the origin of this syndrome, which act directly on the TIM-3 protein, preventing it from expressing itself on the surface of the lymphocytes and attacking the cancer cells.

They also found that this form of lymphoma associated with over-activation of the immune response was more widespread than they first thought. Both mutations have been found in individuals of East Asian, Australian, and Polynesian origin as well as in patients of European origin.

This work was based on findings from the teams at the RI-MUHC and the MCH-MUHC, showing the same rare form of lymphoma in brother and sister. After sequencing their genomes, the researchers discovered that both patients carried the same mutation on a gene called HAVCR2 that codes for TIM-3 and that it was transmitted by their parents.

In discussions with colleagues in Australia and France, the team realized they too had similar cases of patients with the same mutation (Tyr82Cys) who seemed to be mostly of East Asian or Polynesian descent. Another mutation (Ile97Met), on the same gene, was identified in patients of European origin. A functional study of these mutations, conducted in Paris, confirms their responsibility in this new genetic disease. In all, 17 pediatric and adult cases were the subject of this scientific publication.

"The discovery of this mutation has shed light on a previously undescribed mechanism that allowed us to explain both the clinical presentation and the very particular evolution of these lymphomas under treatment," explains Dr. David Michonneau from the hematology-transplant service in the Saint-Louis AP-HP hospital.

According to Dr. Geneviève de Saint Basile from the laboratory "Molecular basis of immune homeostasis abnormalities" Inserm at the Imagine Institute and the center for the study of immunodeficiencies at Necker-Children's Hospital AP-HP, "The results of this collaboration demonstrate the regulatory role of the TIM-3 molecule in humans and they also provide strong arguments for reconsidering this entity as an inflammatory rather than a malignant pathology, and for promoting the use of immunosuppressive drugs in its treatment."

"For these patients with this rare form of lymphoma, our results reinforce the use of immunosuppressive therapies that will provide much better results and fewer side effects than cytotoxic chemotherapy," says Dr. Nada Jabado, who is a clinician-scientist from the Child Health and Human Development Program at the RI-MUHC and a professor of Pediatrics and Human Genetics at McGill University in Montreal.

Researchers are now trying to see if patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus -- a disease where the immune system turns against the body itself -- may have some TIM-3 dysfunction. There would also be promising avenues for the treatment and understanding of cancers, infectious diseases such as HIV or even malaria as well as multiple sclerosis.

This work was supported by a grant from the Fondation des étoiles, INSERM, CNRS, l'AP-HP, Université Paris-Descartes and Collège de France.

Tenzin Gayden, Fernando E. Sepulveda, Dong-Anh Khuong-Quang, Jonathan Pratt, Elvis T. Valera, Alexandrine Garrigue, Susan Kelso, Frank Sicheri, Leonie G. Mikael, Nancy Hamel, Andrea Bajic, Rola Dali, Shriya Deshmukh, Dzana Dervovic, Daniel Schramek, Frédéric Guerin, Mikko Taipale, Hamid Nikbakht, Jacek Majewski, Despina Moshous, Janie Charlebois, Sharon Abish, Christine Bole-Feysot, Patrick Nitschke, Brigitte Bader-Meunier, David Mitchell, Catherine Thieblemont, Maxime Battistella, Simon Gravel, Van-Hung Nguyen, Rachel Conyers, Jean-Sebastien Diana, Chris McCormack, H. Miles Prince, Marianne Besnard, Stephane Blanche, Paul G. Ekert, Sylvie Fraitag, William D. Foulkes, Alain Fischer, Bénédicte Neven, David Michonneau, Geneviève de Saint Basile, Nada Jabado. Germline HAVCR2 mutations altering TIM-3 characterize subcutaneous panniculitis-like T cell lymphomas with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytic syndrome. Nature Genetics, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0251-4

Study Finds New Avenue To Target Bacterial Infections

November 1, 2018: Australian National University
An international research team including ANU has found a potential new avenue to one day stop potentially harmful bacterial infections by switching off the bacteria's ability to replicate itself.

In this new study, led by Stockholm University in Sweden, the researchers discovered a new type of enzyme that is found in certain types of bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections and bacterial pneumonia.

All organisms - from humans to bacteria - have this enzyme, called ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), which makes the building block units used to create DNA. In most cases, RNR requires metals to function, but this new family of RNR enzymes does not use metals.

ANU researcher Dr Nick Cox said one general strategy that the immune system uses to fight invading bacteria was to starve them of metals.

"Many of the bacteria that use this newly discovered group of RNR are pathogens that invade mucosal surfaces in the respiratory system and genitalia," said Dr Cox from the ANU Research School of Chemistry.

He said the research into this enzyme was still in the early stages, and further work would need to be done to develop a potential new treatment for these types of bacterial infections.

"This discovery should, in the future, allow researchers to develop new drugs that target this new form of RNR - killing the bacterial infection by switching off the bacteria's ability to make DNA and, in turn, replicate," Dr Cox said.

He said these bacteria were often difficult to treat using current therapies. In particular, bacteria from the family mollicutes - which are very small bacteria (1/10,000 of a millimetre in length) - use this new type of RNR exclusively and lack a cell wall, which is a target for many antibiotics.

This study used several techniques to reveal the structure and function of this new RNR enzyme, including: x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, which creates a three-dimensional structure of a molecule. Dr Cox analysed the EPR spectroscopic data.

ANU is establishing a new state-of-the-art EPR facility, with support from the Australian Research Council (ARC), University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, University of Sydney and University of Wollongong.

"This new facility will operate at much higher magnetic fields than what is currently available, allowing more detailed measurements to be performed," Dr Cox said.

"The new facility will not only enable biochemical and medical research, as in the study described, but also research in the chemical and materials fields, along with industrial applications." 

This study was a collaboration between researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, ANU and Stanford University of the United States.

The study is published in Nature: 10.1038/s41586-018-0653-6

Researchers Recreate Ancient Climate From Neanderthal Teeth

November 1, 2018
Researchers from Griffith University and ANU have used the teeth of Neanderthal children from 250,000 years ago to reconstruct the ancient climate of southeast France, where the teeth were found.

The discovery - which involved an international team of biological anthropologists, archaeologists, earth scientists and public health specialists from Australia, North America and Europe - promises to open up a new field in the archaeological study of hominins.

ANU PhD scholar Hannah James, who was part of the study, said the teeth of the two Neanderthal children contained evidence of repeated exposure to high levels of lead, a metal known to have adverse effects on the development of the brain and nervous system.

"We have been able to show that the exposures took place in the coldest period of successive winters," said Ms James from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

"We now have a method for relating environmental signals recorded in the chemical composition of hominin teeth - in this case 250,000 years old - to both the age of an individual and the time of year when the signal was recorded."

The two Neanderthal children either ingested or inhaled lead, representing the oldest documented lead exposure in any hominins. This occurred multiple times during the cooler seasons, potentially happening in caves as underground lead sources have been found within 25 kilometres of the archaeological site. 

The team used the sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP SI) instrument at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences to collect information on oxygen variation during three years of tooth growth in each child.

Co-researcher Professor Ian Williams from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said the team showed that revealing a detailed seasonal signal in Neanderthal teeth was possible by measuring the oxygen isotopes in the teeth's successive growth layers.

"This has never been done before," he said.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Tanya Smith from Griffith University said using SHRIMP SI enabled the team to reveal that one Neanderthal was born in spring and weaned in the autumn 2.5 years later, and that both Neanderthal children were more likely to be sick during colder periods.

"At the time they grew up, 250,000 years ago, this region of southeast France was much cooler and more seasonal than it is today," Associate Professor Smith said.

Associate Professor Smith said the next step was to find out what the Neanderthals did in the depths of winter that resulted in exposing their children to high levels of toxic lead.

"This will give fresh insight into Neanderthal behaviour. Another step will be to push further back in time and study the teeth of hominins and early humans in the birthplace of the human species - Africa," she said.

The research is published in Science Advances.

Picture:  First molar teeth from a 250, 000 year old Neanderthal child. Yellow dotted lines indicate the beginning and end of nursing.  Red dotted line corresponds to an illness. Blue dotted lines indicate lead exposures. Credit Tanya M. Smith et al. 

Australia's Changing Relationship With Alcohol

October 29, 2018: La Trobe University
New research from La Trobe University has revealed that 30 per cent of Australians recently reduced the quantity of their alcohol consumption and a further 29 per cent reduced the frequency of their drinking, while six per cent kicked the habit for good.

Published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, the study found young adults aged between 24 and 29 were generational leaders in reducing alcohol intake, citing lifestyle reasons such as work, education and family as their main influencers for change.

Researchers analysed 12 years of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which included almost 120,000 participants. The data was collected in four stages, looking at the drinking habits of Australians in the previous 12 months.

Lead researcher Dr Amy Pennay, from La Trobe's Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, said the findings confirm the cultural status of alcohol in Australia is shifting.

"The research shows all age groups and sexes in Australia are reducing or quitting drinking, even older, more established drinkers," Dr Pennay said.

"Most surprisingly, we found that intoxication is not as acceptable as it once was, with more than a third of 14 to 30-year-olds who had quit drinking doing so because they dislike the impact alcohol has on their social experiences.

"They believe in moderation, they are concerned about violence and they want to avoid drunkenness or genuinely dislike how getting drunk makes them feel."

While health concerns related to alcohol consumption remained the greatest concern for Australians overall, Dr Pennay said the findings connected to socialising could influence future public health efforts.

"For example, health-related messages appear particularly salient for older populations, while a focus on the pleasures of moderation, avoiding violence and ways to enjoy leisure time without intoxication seem to resonate more with younger groups," Dr Pennay said.

"More and more Australians are choosing to have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

"It is important now, more than ever, that we use this research to maintain and sustain this movement."

Additional statistics:
  • Overall, rates of quitting drinking increased steadily between 2001 and 2013 from 4.3 per cent to six per cent, and rates of reducing either the quantity or frequency of drinking also increased from around 24 per cent to 30 per cent in both over the same time
  • Almost one in two drinkers (43.4 per cent) reported using at least one method to reduce their drinking in 2013
  • 14 to 17-year-olds were the group most likely to have recently quit drinking (13 per cent)
  • 24 to 29-year-olds were the group most likely to have recently reduced drinking (49 per cent)
  • Males (45 per cent) were more likely than females (41 per cent) to recently reduce drinking, while females (eight per cent) were more likely than males (four per cent) to recently quit drinking
  • People over 30-years were more likely to report health reasons for reducing drinking, while people under 30 years were more likely to report lifestyle, social or lack of enjoyment in drinking
  • Females were more likely to reduce drinking for health reasons, while males were more likely to quit drinking for the same reason
Amy Pennay, Sarah Callinan, Michael Livingston, Daniel I Lubman, John Holmes, Sarah MacLean, Rachel Herring, Paul Dietze. Patterns in Reduction or Cessation of Drinking in Australia (2001–2013) and Motivation for Change. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agy072

Integrated Quantum Chip Operations Possible, Tests Show

October 30, 2018: University of New South Wales
Quantum computers that are capable of solving complex problems, like drug design or machine learning, will require millions of quantum bits -- or qubits -- connected in an integrated way and designed to correct errors that inevitably occur in fragile quantum systems.

Now, an Australian research team has experimentally realised a crucial combination of these capabilities on a silicon chip, bringing the dream of a universal quantum computer closer to reality.

They have demonstrated an integrated silicon qubit platform that combines both single-spin addressability -- the ability to 'write' information on a single spin qubit without disturbing its neighbours -- and a qubit 'read-out' process that will be vital for quantum error correction.

Moreover, their new integrated design can be manufactured using well-established technology used in the existing computer industry.

The team is led by Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, a program leader at the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) and Director of the NSW node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

Last year, Dzurak and colleagues published a design for a novel chip architecture that could allow quantum calculations to be performed using silicon CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) components -- the basis of all modern computer chips.

In their new study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, the team combine two fundamental quantum techniques for the first time, confirming the promise of their approach.

Dzurak's team had also previously shown that an integrated silicon qubit platform can operate with single-spin addressability -- the ability to rotate a single spin without disturbing its neighbours.

They have now shown that they can combine this with a special type of quantum readout process known as Pauli spin blockade, a key requirement for quantum error correcting codes that will be necessary to ensure accuracy in large spin-based quantum computers. This new combination of qubit readout and control techniques is a central feature of their quantum chip design.

"We've demonstrated the ability to do Pauli spin readout in our silicon qubit device but, for the first time, we've also combined it with spin resonance to control the spin," says Dzurak.

"This is an important milestone for us on the path to performing quantum error correction with spin qubits, which is going to be essential for any universal quantum computer."

"Quantum error correction is a key requirement in creating large-scale useful quantum computing because all qubits are fragile, and you need to correct for errors as they crop up," says lead author, Michael Fogarty, who performed the experiments as part of his PhD research with Professor Dzurak at UNSW.

"But this creates significant overhead in the number of physical qubits you need in order to make the system work," notes Fogarty.

Dzurak says, "By using silicon CMOS technology we have the ideal platform to scale to the millions of qubits we will need, and our recent results provide us with the tools to achieve spin qubit error-correction in the near future."

"It's another confirmation that we're on the right track. And it also shows that the architecture we've developed at UNSW has, so far, shown no roadblocks to the development of a working quantum computer chip."

"And, what's more, one that can be manufactured using well-established industry processes and components."

CQC2T'S Unique Approach Using Silicon
Working in silicon is important not just because the element is cheap and abundant, but because it has been at the heart of the global computer industry for almost 60 years. The properties of silicon are well understood and chips containing billions of conventional transistors are routinely manufactured in big production facilities.

Three years ago, Dzurak's team published in the journal Nature the first demonstration of quantum logic calculations in a real silicon device with the creation of a two-qubit logic gate -- the central building block of a quantum computer.

"Those were the first baby steps, the first demonstrations of how to turn this radical quantum computing concept into a practical device using components that underpin all modern computing," says Professor Mark Hoffman, UNSW's Dean of Engineering.

"Our team now has a blueprint for scaling that up dramatically.

"We've been testing elements of this design in the lab, with very positive results. We just need to keep building on that -- which is still a hell of a challenge, but the groundwork is there, and it's very encouraging.

"It will still take great engineering to bring quantum computing to commercial reality, but clearly the work we see from this extraordinary team at CQC2T puts Australia in the driver's seat," he added.

Other authors of the new Nature Communications paper are UNSW researchers Kok Wai Chan, Bas Hensen, Wister Huang, Tuomo Tanttu, Henry Yang, Arne Laucht, Fay Hudson and Andrea Morello, as well as Menno Veldhorst of QuTech and TU Delft, Thaddeus Ladd of HRL Laboratories and Kohei Itoh of Japan's Keio University.

Commercialising CQC2T'S Intellectual Property
In 2017, a consortium of Australian governments, industry and universities established Australia's first quantum computing company to commercialise CQC2T's world-leading intellectual property.

Operating out of new laboratories at UNSW, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd (SQC) has the target of producing a 10-qubit demonstration device in silicon by 2022, as the forerunner to creating a silicon-based quantum computer.

The work of Dzurak and his team will be one component of SQC realising that ambition. UNSW scientists and engineers at CQC2T are developing parallel patented approaches using single atom and quantum dot qubits.

In May 2018, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) addressing a new collaboration between SQC and the world-leading French research and development organisation, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA).

The MoU outlined plans to form a joint venture in silicon-CMOS quantum computing technology to accelerate and focus technology development, as well as to capture commercialisation opportunities -- bringing together French and Australian efforts to develop a quantum computer.

The proposed Australian-French joint venture would bring together Dzurak's team, located at UNSW, with a team led by Dr Maud Vinet from CEA, who are experts in advanced CMOS manufacturing technology, and who have also recently demonstrated a silicon qubit made using their industrial-scale prototyping facility in Grenoble.

It is estimated that industries comprising approximately 40% of Australia's current economy could be significantly impacted by quantum computing.

Possible applications include software design, machine learning, scheduling and logistical planning, financial analysis, stock market modelling, software and hardware verification, climate modelling, rapid drug design and testing, and early disease detection and prevention.

M. A. Fogarty, K. W. Chan, B. Hensen, W. Huang, T. Tanttu, C. H. Yang, A. Laucht, M. Veldhorst, F. E. Hudson, K. M. Itoh, D. Culcer, T. D. Ladd, A. Morello, A. S. Dzurak. Integrated silicon qubit platform with single-spin addressability, exchange control and single-shot singlet-triplet readout. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06039-x

This photo shows from left to right Dr. Bas Hensen, professor Dzurak, Dr. Kok Wai Chan, and former PhD student Michael Fogarty, who was lead author on the paper. Credit: Paul Henderson-Kelly

New Instrument Joins The Hunt For Earth-Like Planets

October 30: UNSW - written by Lucy Carroll
A ground-breaking $3.8 million instrument, used by astronomers to discover and study Earth-like planets, has been launched by a team from UNSW Sydney, The Australian National University (ANU) and Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO) at Macquarie University.

The astronomical instrument, known as Veloce, has been built for the four-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), Australia’s largest on-shore optical telescope, which is located at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran in north-western NSW.

“Veloce will allow us to detect the tiny velocity wobbles that planets produce in their host stars. It is the first Australian facility able to deliver the extraordinarily high velocity precision needed to detect very small planets,” said Professor Chris Tinney, from Exoplanetary Science at UNSW.

“These planets are important, because it’s on these small, rocky and potentially habitable planets that astronomers will one day search for signs of life,” said Professor Tinney.

Veloce can detect planets orbiting the small, faint and red dwarf stars known to astronomers as “M dwarfs”. These stars are so dim that a potentially habitable planet must huddle close to its star to stay warm enough to support life. This makes the velocity wobble of these planets easier to detect, so that Veloce (which focuses on light at red wavelengths) can measure masses for planets down to the size of the Earth.

The Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) located at Siding Spring Observator, NSW. Photo: Angel Lopez-Sanchez

The launch comes just months after NASA’s planet-finder satellite, TESS, started a survey of the entire sky for planets that transit their host star, passing between the star and Earth and making the star get periodically dimmer.

In its first month of data, TESS has already uncovered 75 candidate planets. “There now is a global race on to be first to measure the masses of these planets, and to determine whether they are rocky like Earth, ice giants like Neptune, or gas giants like Jupiter. Or, even better, if they are something stranger,” said Professor Tinney.

“Veloce is one of just a handful of facilities available in the southern hemisphere that can transform those candidates into confirmed planets with measured masses. And it’s the only one working at the red wavelengths ideal for observing these faint, red, M-dwarf planet hosts.”

On its first night in operation, Veloce targeted an M dwarf that TESS had found to host a planet just 1.4 times the size of the Earth that is orbiting its star every 0.46 days. 

“This is exactly the type of object we built Veloce for. Our scientific understanding of how life gets started is minimal. The only place we know that it did start was on Earth: a small, rocky planet orbiting its star at just the right distance that liquid water can exist on its surface. Finding small planets, orbiting where water is liquid, is crucial for finding planets that could host life like our own home.”

The instrument saw its first photon from an astronomical source in September and is expected to deliver initial test results within the next month or so.

“With Veloce our first target was a nearby star called Tau Ceti. We then immediately switched to science targets and over the next 10 nights observed new candidate planets from NASA’s TESS mission, as well as a handful of known planets from previous work and stars known not to have planets to measure instrumental stability,” said Professor Tinney.
Chris Lidman, Director of Siding Spring Observatory and Associate Professor at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said Veloce is the first facility built specifically for this purpose in Australia.

“We have had the ability to do this sort of science for a long time and have used it to discover over 40 planets to date. Now, with Veloce, we can discover very small planets for the first time,” said Associate Professor Lidman.

“There are other purpose-built facilities in the south, based in Chile. But with Veloce we have a major point of difference - those facilities operate at yellow-green wavelengths, while Veloce operates in the red. Veloce is the only southern hemisphere facility optimised for the habitable planets that TESS is discovering.

“Veloce is a great example of how Australian scientists and engineers can work together to equip telescopes like the AAT, built in the 1970s, with instrumentation that enables ground-breaking scientific research,” said Associate Professor Lidman.

The Veloce project is being led by scientists from UNSW, with ANU designing and building the instrument, and fibre optics and software provided by AAO at Macquarie University. Other partners in the project are spread across the country, including the University of Southern Queensland, Macquarie University, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Sydney. The spectrograph was funded with a series of grants and funds from the partner universities and the Australian Research Council totalling $5.4 million.

Say It Out Loud: You’re Wonderful, Too

We are our toughest critics and can make judgements about ourselves that aren’t real.
But we can all promote safe, supportive and respectful relationships by valuing EVERY individual in a school – even ourselves.

Teenagers from Nepean Creative and Performing Arts High School involved in the ‘You’re Wonderful’ video that went viral with 3.3 million views to date said the experience had been “life-changing”.

The unscripted video featured students talking about how they perceived themselves, including their insecurities, juxtaposed with other students speaking in positive terms about their gifts and talents.

‘You’re Wonderful’  attracted national and international interest and has now been followed up with You’re Wonderful, Too.

Students said the success of the video had led to a greater focus on student mental health and a “complimented-based school culture” where giving a compliment was as uplifting as receiving one.

One of the students, Thomas Lenthen, said he was previously worried about what peers thought about him and he was surprised at the positive comments from other students.

“It’s really easy to point out faults in a person . . . but it’s nicer to have the opportunity to look at talents,” he said.
“I’ve been talking more to people and giving them the opportunity to say how they feel.”

Keira Hynes said it was “incredible to hear” the kind words of her peers, which had helped her overcome insecurity and anxiety.
Harrison Brennan said his school had a strong focus on student mental health, with the impact of positive language resonating with the local community. On Mental Health Day students sent teachers emails thanking them for their support.

“A lot of people are giving more attention to these topics . . . how we can create a positive and complimented-based culture,” he said.

Trinity Kitching said students today spent a lot of time on social media, which made the video particularly powerful because it had reached millions of students worldwide.

“Social media is infiltrating our homes and our phones,” she said.

And the students’ advice to other students:
Emily Johns: “Know that you’re wonderful. It just takes one person to make a difference, in your school, in your friendship group, in the world.”

Keira Hynes: “Give out compliments more, let people know what you love about them, and when they’re feeling down, try and bring them up.”

Both videos run below:

© State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2018.

You're Wonderful

October 2017

You're Wonderful, Too

October 2018

Dinosaurs Put All Coloured Birds' Eggs In One Basket

October 31, 2018: Yale University
A new study says the colors found in modern birds' eggs did not evolve independently, as previously thought, but evolved instead from dinosaurs.

According to researchers at Yale, the American Museum of Natural History, and the University of Bonn, birds inherited their egg colour from non-avian dinosaur ancestors that laid eggs in fully or partially open nests. The researchers' findings appear Oct. 31 in the online edition of the journal Nature.

"This completely changes our understanding of how egg colours evolved," said the study's lead author, Yale palaeontologist Jasmina Wiemann. "For two centuries, ornithologists assumed that egg colour appeared in modern birds' eggs multiple times, independently."

The egg colours of birds reflect characteristic preferences in nesting environments and brooding behaviours. Modern birds use only two pigments, red and blue, to create all of the various egg colours, spots, and speckles.

Wiemann and her colleagues analysed 18 fossil dinosaur eggshell samples from around the world, using non-destructive laser microspectroscopy to test for the presence of the two eggshell pigments. They found them in eggshells belonging to Eumaniraptoran dinosaurs, which include small, carnivorous dinosaurs such as Velociraptor.

"We infer that egg colour co-evolved with open nesting habits in dinosaurs," Wiemann said. "Once dinosaurs started to build open nests, exposure of the eggs to visually hunting predators and even nesting parasites favoured the evolution of camouflaging egg colours, and individually recognisable patterns of spots and speckles."

Co-author Mark Norell, the Macaulay Curator of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, noted that "Coloured eggs have been considered a unique bird characteristic for over a century. Like feathers and wishbones, we now know that egg colour evolved in their dinosaur predecessors long before birds appeared."

Jasmina Wiemann, Tzu-Ruei Yang, Mark A. Norell. Dinosaur egg colour had a single evolutionary origin. Nature, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0646-5

An assortment of paleognath and neognath bird eggs and a fossil theropod egg (on the right). Credit: Jasmina Wiemann/Yale University

New Species Of Swallowtail Butterfly Discovered In Fiji

October 30, 2018
A spectacular new butterfly species has been discovered on the Pacific Island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. The species, named last week as Papilio natewa after the Natewa Peninsula where it was found, is a remarkable discovery in a location where butterfly wildlife was thought to be well known.

The large Swallowtail was first photographed in 2017 by Australian ornithologist Greg Kerr, working with Operation Wallacea, an international organisation which supports school students in science projects.

The large Swallowtail, now named Papilio natewa, was first photographed in 2017 by Australian ornithologist Greg Kerr, working with Operation Wallacea. Credit: Greg Kerr

Specialists around the world were puzzled when Kerr's photograph was sent for identification. It was not until earlier this year, during a second field trip to Fiji, that it was confirmed as a species new to science by John Tennent, Honorary Associate at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum, London.

"For such an unusual and large new butterfly to be discovered somewhere we thought was so well known is remarkable," said John Tennant, who is a Pacific butterfly specialist. The species was named by Tennant and colleagues in Fiji and Australia in a paper published this month in Entomologischer Verein Apollo.

Tennant has spent long periods in the Pacific, including the Solomon Islands and eastern Papua New Guinea and has found and named over a hundred new species and subspecies of butterflies in the last 25 years. But he describes the new Natewa Swallowtail as "easily the most spectacular." The find is especially remarkable because there are only two Swallowtail butterfly species previously known from this part of the Pacific, and only one from Fiji.

"Because they are large, conspicuous and often beautiful in appearance, Swallowtail butterflies have been intensively studied for over 150 years," says James Hogan, manager of butterfly (Lepidoptera) collections at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

"To find a new species like this, not only in a small and reasonably well-studied area like Fiji, but also one which looks unlike any other Swallowtail is truly exceptional. For John Tennent, Greg Kerr and the rest of the team this really is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery."

The Natewa Swallowtail has remained undiscovered for so long perhaps due to its habits and the geological history of the islands. Unusually for a Swallowtail, it seems to be a true forest species, spending most of its life inside the forest at elevations above 250 metres, on land with restrict access rights.

"It does make you wonder what else awaits discovery in the world's wild places. The key to finding new and interesting things is simply to go and look," adds Tennant.

Materials provided by University of Oxford

Ask Gran Not Google

October 28, 2018: The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care

A ground-breaking, Morrison Government-supported program encouraging thousands of students to “Ask Gran, Not Google” and forge links with senior Australians is being rolled out across Australia.

Ask Gran Not Google is about young people turning off their digital devices and seeking answers to life’s questions from more worldly, experienced, and senior sources – grandparents, neighbours, family friends or residents living in aged care homes.

“This is a win-win innovation for young and old, focussing on the fun of generational sharing and the value of personal connections,” said Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM.

“Ask Gran Not Google is a touching reminder to young people and the wider community that the internet is far from the only source of valuable information in today’s world.

“It combines old-fashioned and high-tech methods to link young and old.

“While many questions are delivered via written postcards, the new Government-funded Virtual Seniors Centre offers the option of connecting the generations through video conferencing.”

To launch Ask Gran Not Google, Minister Wyatt and Assistant Minister for Children and Families, Michelle Landry, joined senior Australians in Canberra this week, for a live video link with students at Queensland’s Beenleigh State High School.

“This exciting project builds social inclusion and a sense of belonging,” said Ms Landry.

“By engaging more with older people, children and teenagers gain invaluable insights into the role seniors can play in their lives and in society.

“These types of projects inspire young people, enrich our communities, and promote wellbeing and safety,” said Ms Landry.

“Senior Australians in particular benefit from the social engagement and appreciation, while young students broaden their understanding and develop their communications skills.”

So far, more than 150 schools representing over 22,000 students across Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania have registered for Ask Gran Not Google. All schools, whether primary or secondary, public or private, are welcome to participate.

The Ask Gran Not Google concept is being driven by aged care provider Feros Care, through a $487,500 three-year Strong and Resilient Communities Grant.

Feros Care is also developing the Virtual Seniors Centre, through a $1 million grant from the Federal Government’s Dementia and Aged Care Services program.

“Both Ask Gran Not Google and the Virtual Seniors Centre are better connecting our communities and fostering a culture of respect that our senior Australians deserve,” Minister Wyatt said.

“They can meet people, share knowledge and have new experiences, all from the comfort of their homes.”

Feros Care hopes Ask Gran Not Google will reach 91,000 students in more than 950 schools during the next three years, with plans to further expand it to 3,600 schools and 246,000 students.

The 83 recipients of the Government’s Strong and Resilient Communities program were granted $36.6 million in March 2018 to help build social cohesion and address intolerance.

The Dementia and Aged Care Services grants program is supporting 42 innovative projects with $34 million over three years.

Ask Gran Not Google is being officially launched on Grandparents Day, Sunday, 28 October.

Ask Gran Not Google

Published on 20 Jun 2017  by Feros Care

New Funding Bid To Delay Dementia Onset By At Least Five Years

October 26, 2018: The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care
A concerted new bid to reduce the frequently fatal impact of dementia is underway, with the Australian Government launching a special fund aiming to delay the onset of the disease in Australia by at least five years.
Up to $15 million has been earmarked for Implementing Dementia Risk Reduction and Prevention Research Priority projects, with a further $3 million available to boost Australian dementia data and track prevalence and progress.

The outcomes of these two grants programs – which open today - could be critical, with the capacity to delay dementia’s debilitating and often deadly progression and help people living with the condition, their families and carers.

Dementia is deadliest among females, killing more Australian women than any other condition. It claims the lives of over 13,000 men and women a year.

Up to 250 people a day are developing dementia already and on current trends, that will almost triple by 2050.

This funding is about winning the race against dementia before it starts in individual people.

It cements our resolve to achieve the World Dementia Council’s international target of a five-year delay in average dementia onset by 2025 and reduce the burden of dementia within the our community.

This investment in the discovery of prevention methods that work for dementia and could be applied through comprehensive public health awareness campaigns is crucial.

We know modifiable lifestyle factors like reducing stress, stopping smoking, staying physically and mentally active, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure low, offer real opportunities to drive back dementia.

But we need to understand to what extent and in what circumstances they produce positive results.

Intensive reduction and prevention research offers new hope for lowering the incidence of dementia across coming generations and reducing the trauma and the social and financial costs, for the benefit of all Australians.

Since 2015, NHMRC’s National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR) has been targeting, coordinating and translating the strategic expansion of dementia research in Australia.

Dementia has been a priority since 2015, when our Government launched the National Framework for Action on Dementia and the 5-year, $200 million Boosting Dementia Research initiative, of which today’s $18 million announcement is the final tranche.

Three years in, the initiative has helped make Australia a world leader in many aspects of dementia research.

In July this year, we also launched the new $38 million Australian Dementia Network (ADNet), to accelerate the quest to find cures and prevent and better manage dementia.

ADNet is currently establishing a national network of memory clinics to speed assessment and improve specialist access for all Australians, through advanced imaging, genetics and lifestyle data. It is also registering and preparing volunteers for participation in clinical trials and other research programs, to speed research.

For more information on the Dementia Risk Reduction and Prevention Research Priority funding and the Improving Dementia Data and Methods Priority funding, go to the NHMRC website.

Aged Care Pricing Commissioner Annual Report

October 31, 2018: The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Minister for Senior 
The 2018 Aged Care Pricing Commissioner Annual Report has been released, providing information on trends over the past five years as well reporting on the Commissioner’s performance during the 2017-18 financial year.

In the past financial year the Commissioner received 539 applications, an increase of 85% on the previous year, and approved 386.

This included 220 applications for the renewal of lapsing approvals made on or before 1 July 2014, as approvals are valid for a four year period. 

The role of the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner is to review proposed refundable accommodation deposits for entry into aged care homes that are higher than $550,000.

The position of Commissioner was established to ensure that accommodation prices represent value for prospective aged care residents and that higher prices reflect the standard of accommodation rather than a resident’s capacity to pay.

The work of the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner contributes to the achievement of our Government’s aged care reform agenda, particularly its objective to improve transparency in pricing in residential aged care facilities. 

Commissioner John Dicer – who was appointed to the role in May - seeks to advocate and promote a collaborative approach with stakeholders to gain a broader view of the aged care industry.

He is planning new industry working groups to help obtain feedback from the sector, and will continue regular visits to aged care facilities and actively seek real engagement with providers, peak bodies, Government and financial institutions.

The report is available at the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner website.

Advocacy Group Offers Solution To Pension Processing Times

October 29, 2018: National Seniors
National Seniors Australia has called on the federal government to allow groups such as it access to the Centrelink online portal, so it could apply for the aged pension on behalf of retirees to speed up processing times.

CEO of the peak advocacy group for older Australians, Professor John McCallum, said urgent action was needed to improve waiting times for the aged pension. The average processing time was reportedly 49 days, but National Seniors had been contacted by members who had waited up to seven or eight months.

Prof. McCallum also welcomed a federal government commitment today to better publicise that retirees can apply to Centrelink for the aged pension 13 weeks before they leave the paid workforce.

According to Minister for Social Security Michael Keenan, Centrelink has adequate resources and processing times are improving. He told ABC Radio Gold Coast this morning the government became aware there was a backlog in July.

“It was unacceptable and shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Mr Keenan said. “It is now being rectified and providing people lodge all the necessary information when they make their application, they can be processed in a couple of weeks.

“But often it’s a case of us waiting for further information. So, we encourage people to apply early, look at the instructions very carefully and supply us with everything we need. Then the process should very quick and they can start getting paid as soon as they retire from the workforce.”

Mr Keenan said Centrelink made efforts to communicate that applications could be lodged 13 weeks ahead of retirement.

“If there is anything we can do to improve that messaging, we certainly will,” he said.

Prof. McCallum said with 5.8 million baby boomers aged 52 to 72, and roughly two thirds potentially eligible for a full or part pension, there would be four million applicants over the next 20 years.

“That’s about 200,000 on average a year, or about 4,000 per week,” Prof. McCallum said. “So, additions to Centrelink staff, which are welcome, will continue to be just papering over the cracks. The government can’t solve this problem alone or by pushing people to apply online, because many older people just can’t use computers, especially for complicated processes such as the lengthy application form for the pension.

“Currently, groups like us can only help by submitting the 38-page paper forms, which is not desirable for the applicants or the government. But if we could access the online portal and complete applications on behalf of retirees, we are confident processing times can be slashed.”