Inbox and Environment News: Issue 448

May 3 - 9, 2020: Issue 448

Seal At Avalon Beach

North Avalon Beach has been visited by an Australian fur seal in recent days - this great video by Mike Stanley Jones of Avalon Beach SLSC, shares one of the wonderful aspects of living here.

New Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:


Ella: Green Turtle Rescued From Manly

Ella was discovered at Shelly Beach in Manly looking extremely unwell and was rescued by Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast on April 18th, 2020. The rescue at Shelley Beach was by ASRCC volunteers Silke and Paul who brought this sick turtle in for care after a photo was seen on a diving page. 

Under water photo credit - Ian Donato

Ella has been examined and it has been discovered that she is suffering from a severe case of pneumonia and septicaemia. She is currently in care with Australian Seabird Rescue. 

Ella is lucky to actually still be alive - imagine being only 47cm long and having a balloon with 2.5mtrs of streamer attached but also a plastic bag in your stomach! Ella excreted the plastic bag on April 28th, while the balloon and tie attached was passed on April 25th. 

Please help Australian Seabird Rescue rehab Ella back to health, so she can be released back to the wild. Green sea turtles are listed as an endangered species.

If you want to see an end to balloons and plastics in our environment, make a submission on the NSW Government's 'Cleaning Up Our Act' paper - details below.

Balloons are in the top three most harmful waste items to wildlife. Birds and turtles not only ingest balloons, they actively select them as food. This is because a burst balloon often resembles a jellyfish, the natural food sources of many marine species like turtles.

Ingesting balloons, and the clips and strings attached to them, can cause intestinal blockages and results in a slow painful death through starvation. Marine animals don’t have the gastrointestinal pH levels to breakdown a balloon and for turtles, it may also cause floating syndrome. Trapped gases in the gut can cause a turtle to become buoyant, unable to dive for food—making them vulnerable to boat strikes and leading to starvation and severe dehydration.

Wildlife, both terrestrial and marine, can also become entangled in balloon ribbons or strings, causing injury or death through drowning, suffocation, or an inability to feed and avoid predators.
Even if balloons are disposed of "safely" they go to landfill where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching potentially toxic substances into the soil and water.

Extra photos by and courtesy Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast

Council Has Native Plants For Your Home

Council's Backyard Habitat program is focused on helping you create a native habitat garden that attracts birds, bees, butterflies and other native species.

To launch the program they’re giving away plants that have been caringly propagated by our Bushcare volunteers from locally sourced seeds at our community nurseries at Manly Dam and Curl Curl.

Due to COVID-19, bushcare volunteers are at home and we are not able to use these plants as intended – new plantings to help regenerate public bushland and as gifts for new Australian citizens – so council wants them to go happy homes.

Growing these in your backyard will help create wildlife corridors for our native animals to move safely between our bushland reserves, whilst maybe grabbing a bite to eat along the way!

The team will match the right plants with the right homes and will also hand deliver the plants to each home. To help the plants thrive specialist bush regeneration staff will offer ongoing advice on how to care for them too.

This program will initially be offered to the first 600 households with backyards to apply.

How do I get involved?

Follow these easy steps to get involved:

  1. Register by completing the online form
  2. Provide accurate details about your garden so that we can offer the most suitable plants. Include details of those areas where you would like to plant natives, how much sun/shade there is, type of soil (if known), if it's dry or damp, on the north/south/east/west boundary, etc.
  3. Wait for one of our team to contact you to arrange delivery.
  4. Plant, water and care for your plants. 
  5. Share pictures of your plants with us once they’re established and thriving, and then again after six and 12 months.

More information

Contact council for more information. 

Eurobodalla Koala Enthusiasts Back Wild Koala Day: Sunday May 3

Wild Koala Day is this Sunday 3rd May. A group of Eurobodalla enthusiasts is keen to mobilize the local community for a koala population revival. They are celebrating Wild Koala Day by launching a new website

Wild Koala Day was the brainchild of Janine Duffy, President of Victoria’s Koala Clancy Foundation a few years ago. It is celebrated annually by koala support groups and koala businesses especially in Queensland and NSW where wild populations are declining dramatically.

Coordinator of our own volunteer Eurobodalla Koalas Project Dr Keith Joliffe said “There are still wild koalas in the Eurobodalla but they’re very scarce.”

“Since the fires there have been two sightings, one at East Lynne and one in Bodalla State Forest,” he said

“Before that we hadn’t heard of one since 2013 at Nerrigundah village. We’d like the local population revived to the point where it no longer teeters on the edge of extinction,” he said.

Dr Joliffe explained that his group is conducting a Commonwealth-funded ground-truthing project, a public awareness exercise and is revising a published local recovery strategy.

“We also want to encourage land managers, businesses and the general community to adopt an entrepreneurial approach to the Eurobodalla’s koala story and continuing habitat for commercial, cultural and biodiversity reasons,” Dr Joliffe said.

Local residents can report sightings directly to National Parks and Wildlife Service at Narooma, or to Dr Joliffe and his helpers through

Go to for more ways you can help koalas from home.

About us – the charity groups behind Wild Koala Day

We are a group of koala charities, not for profit organisations, wildlife carers and concerned individuals that fight for wild koalas. ​ ​ We come from all over Australia, and around the world.  ​ Please read about us and feel welcome to connect with us.

You don’t have to be a koala charity to be involved – we welcome anyone and everyone to become a supporter of Wild Koala Day.


  • Eurobodalla Koalas Project
  • Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown
  • Port Stephens Koalas 
  • Hunter Koala Preservation Society
  • Koala Gardens at Tuckurimba
  • Animal Link Foundation ​
  • Bangalow Koalas Inc

Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting The Future Of Plastic In NSW

The NSW Government are seeking your feedback on the Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW discussion paper. The discussion paper provides details of the proposed comprehensive action plan to reduce plastic use and manage plastic waste and pollution in NSW.

Your views on the targets and priority directions proposed in the discussion paper are highly valued and will inform the development of the NSW Plastics Plan.

Our discussion paper, Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW lays the ground work for making NSW a national and global leader in the management of plastics. It sets targets to reduce the amount of plastic we generate, increase recycling rates, reduce plastic pollution and make NSW a global leader in plastic research and solution development.

The NSW Government is consulting with the community and stakeholders before finalising the NSW Plastics Plan. Your views on the targets and priority directions proposed in the discussion paper are highly valued and will inform the development of the NSW Plastics Plan.

We want to get your feedback on proposals to:

  • Phase out key single-use plastics
  • Triple the proportion of plastic recycled in NSW across all sectors and streams by 2030
  • Reduce plastic litter items by 25% by 2025
  • Make NSW a leader in national and international research on plastics

Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW
We are seeking feedback on our discussion paper. Have a read and tell us what you think.

Have your say
Public consultation on the discussion paper is now open.
Provide your feedback by completing one or both surveys here. You are not required to answer every question.
If you would prefer to provide feedback by email, send your submission to
We are seeking feedback on the issues paper until 5.00pm Friday 8 May 2020.

20-Year Waste Strategy For NSW

The NSW Government are seeking public feedback on the future of waste and recycling in New South Wales.

Why it matters
The management of waste and recycling is one of our most pressing environmental and social challenges. It is a service we all rely on each and every day. The sector is undergoing significant change due to shifts in domestic and global markets, as well as community expectation about what happens to their waste. There is an opportunity for NSW to lead the way in waste reduction, recycling and protecting our environment.

A conversation on the future of waste and recycling
The NSW 20-Year Waste Strategy is a whole-of-government initiative to provide a long-term strategic direction for communities, industry and all levels of government to work together to build resilient services and markets for waste resources.

The Future for Waste and Recycling
An issues paper Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future for Waste and Resource Recovery in NSW has been released for public consultation, to help shape the development of the 20-Year Waste Strategy.
Drawing on the evidence and stakeholder engagement to date, the issues paper sets out the case for action and outlines a range of options that could support the shift towards a circular economy.
We want to get your feedback on options to:
  • Generate less waste
  • Improve collection and sorting
  • Plan for future infrastructure
  • Create end markets
Have your say
Public consultation on the issues paper is now open.
We are seeking feedback on our issues paper. Have a read and tell us what you think.

Provide your feedback by making a submission here. You are not required to answer every question.
If you would like to provide feedback by email, send your submission to
We are seeking feedback on the issues paper until 5.00pm Friday 8 May 2020.

Snowy River High-Flows To Commence In June

April 28, 2020

The first of four planned high-flow environmental water releases during winter and spring to the Snowy River are set to commence in late June, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Acting Director Water Planning Implementation, Allan Raine, said today.

Snowy Rivers at Pinch Falls

‘These high-flow water releases are designed to better mimic the natural flow characteristics that are seen in Snowy Mountain rivers, with the aim of improving the long-term health of the iconic Snowy River,’ Mr Raine said.

‘The release of environmental water into the Snowy River over a series of high-flow events has been successfully trialled over a number of years.

‘This year there are two scheduled releases in winter and two in spring, to reflect the natural timing of likely high-flow events, while the amount of water being released this year is less than previous years as a direct result of the drought.

‘Downstream landholders and visitors to the area are being encouraged to make appropriate plans ahead of the water releases, including moving stock or pumps and infrastructure to higher ground and being aware of flows.’

The planned 2020 high-flow releases are:

  • Monday 29 June 2020 – equivalent peak flow 3,500 megalitres (ML)/day (d) for eight hours
  • Monday 27 July 2020 – equivalent peak flow 1,600 ML/d for eight hours
  • Thursday 3 September 2020 – equivalent peak flow 4,500 ML/d for eight hours (largest flow)
  • Wednesday 28 October 2020 – equivalent peak flow 1,500 ML/d for eight hours

‘This flow pattern includes a higher degree of daily and seasonal flow variability which assists the river to re-establish stream function, including scouring and improve in-stream habitat.’

Mr Raine said the results from previous studies show the Snowy River is responding well to these seasonal high-flow events and this continuing approach had received input this year from the Snowy Advisory Committee.

‘This year’s high-flow events consist of four smaller release events over winter and spring as a result of the limited water availability due to the severity of the drought, which reflects the natural cycles of the Snowy system.

‘This series of winter/spring releases will help to promote channel function within the remnant bed of the Snowy River, wet the riparian zone and promote the establishment of aquatic and riparian vegetation,’ said Mr Raine.

Environmental water releases to the Snowy River are mandated under the Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed 2002, a tri-government agreement between the Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments, to achieve improvements in Snowy River health.

View further information about the Snowy River environmental releases.

Water Compliance Increasing: NRAR Triples Prosecutions As It Hits Its Second Anniversary

April 30, 2020

Water compliance is increasing in NSW, thanks to the actions of the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) who this week marked its second anniversary, and tripled prosecution for water theft and lack of compliance earlier this month.

Since its formation, NRAR has commenced 20 prosecutions in court, undertaken 1,119 regulatory actions and cleared a backlog of 483 cases it inherited from previous water management agencies.

NRAR Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said NRAR as played a vital role in helping NSW communities deal with the worst drought on record.

“NSW communities needed to know they could rely on a strong water compliance authority to make sure water was shared fairly and protected. NRAR has become a world-class regulator and will continue to ensure lawful water use into the future,” he said.

As a modern regulator, NRAR is adopting new technologies to ensure water compliance. It now uses satellite imagery analysis and drones, and is an advisor behind the scenes on the government’s new telemetry system.

These technologies helped NRAR run 16 compliance and/or investigative campaigns since inception, four of those this year. A small number of these have been running for many months or in staggered phases as they target known hotspots of non-compliance.

Compliance campaigns are run alongside investigations of suspicious activity reports by the public. Reports are prioritised so that those with the potential to cause the most harm to waterways, water users or the environment are targeted first.

“We are building a compliance regime that protects the value of water from those who seek to obtain it unlawfully. Each action we take goes towards building and maintaining public trust and confidence in water regulation,” said Mr Barnes.

“We require the highest ethical standards of our people, with accountability, integrity, service and trust, as we resolutely commit to act transparently in the public interest at all times, and protect our independence.”

Chair of NRAR’s Board, the Hon. Craig Knowles AM, said the NRAR Board was proud of NRAR’s performance and its high standards of service and integrity.

“NRAR’s second anniversary results show a regulator targeting those causing most harm to our river systems and constantly seeking out the best way to do so. I congratulate Grant Barnes and all of the NRAR team for showing such solid results in only two years."

NRAR’s investigators and compliance officers travel all over the state’s 58 water sharing plan areas, inspecting properties and assessing compliance with water users’ licences and the Water Management Act 2000.

The regulator has continued its vital work during the COVID-19 lockdown period while observing NSW Health recommendations to ensure the safety of water users and staff.

To see the work NRAR does, go to its public register on the NRAR website.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 or email For more information about NRAR and what it does, visit

Air quality near busy Australian roads up to 10 times worse than official figures

Hugh ForeheadUniversity of Wollongong

Air quality on Australia’s roads matters. On any given day (when we’re not in lockdown) people meet, commute, exercise, shop and walk with children near busy streets. But to date, air quality monitoring at roadsides has been inadequate.

I and my colleagues wanted to change that. Using materials purchased from electronics and hardware stores for around A$150, we built our own air quality monitors.

Our newly published research reveals how our devices detected particulate pollution at busy intersections at levels ten times worse than background levels measured at official air monitoring stations.

Read more: These 5 images show how air pollution changed over Australia’s major cities before and after lockdown

Our open-source design means citizen scientists can make their own devices to measure air quality, and make the data publicly available.

This would provide more valuable data about city traffic pollution, giving people the information they need to protect their health.

Air pollution can have serious health consequences. Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Particulate Matter: A Tiny Killer

Everyone is exposed to airborne particulate matter emitted by industry, transport and natural sources such as bushfires and dust storms.

Particulate matter from traffic is a mixture of toxic compounds, both solid and liquid. It’s a well-known health hazard, particularly for children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and people working on or near roads.

Particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, referred to as PM2.5, is particularly harmful. To put this in context, a human hair is about 100 micrometres in width.

When inhaled, these fine particles can damage heart and brain function, circulationbreathing and the immune and endocrine systems. They have also been linked to cancer and low birth weight in newborns.

Do-It-Yourself Air Monitoring

Highly reliable equipment to measure air quality has traditionally been expensive, and is not deployed widely.

Official air quality monitoring usually takes place open spaces or parks, to provide an averaged, background reading of pollution across a wide area. The monitoring stations are not typically placed at pollution sources, such as power stations or roads.

However there is growing evidence that people travelling outdoors near busy city roads are exposed to high levels of traffic emissions.

An air quality monitor built by the researchers and painted purple, attached to a light pole in Liverpool, Sydney. Author supplied

Air quality monitors can be bought off the shelf at low cost, but their readings are not always reliable.

So I and other researchers at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility made our own monitors. They essentially consist of a sensor, weatherproof housing, a controller and a fan. Anyone with basic electronics knowledge and assembly skills can make and install one. The monitor connects to the internet (we used The Things Network) and the software required to run it and collect the data is available for free here.

The weatherproof housing cost about A$16 to make. It consists of PVC plumbing parts, a few screws and small pieces of fibreglass insect screen, which can be bought at any hardware store.

Sensors can be bought from electronics retailers for little as A$30, but many are not tested, calibrated or overseen by experts and can be inaccurate. We tested three, and chose the Novasense SDS011, which we bought for A$32.

A controller is needed to run the monitor and send data to the internet. We bought ours from an online retailer for under A$60. A fan, needed to circulate air through the housing, was bought from Jaycar for A$14.

Accounting for wiring and a few other parts, our monitors cost under A$150 each to make - ten times cheaper than mid-grade commercial detectors – and produce reasonably accurate results.

What We Found

Following community meetings, we deployed our sensors at nine key locations and intersections around Liverpool in Western Sydney, a region which has traditionally suffered from poor air quality.

Our monitors have been in place since March 2018, placed close to pedestrian height on structures such as light poles, shade awnings or walls.

Read more: Australia needs stricter rules to curb air pollution, but there's a lot we could all do now

They have detected roadside measurements of PM2.5 at values of up to 280 micrograms per cubic metre in morning peak traffic. This is more than ten times the readings at the nearest official monitoring station. The severity of the pollution and how long it lasts depends on how bad the traffic is.

These findings are comparable to other studies of busy roads.

Pollution from vehicle emissions can have serious health consequences. Dean Lewins/AAP

Breathing Easier

Our experience of roadside air quality can be improved in a number of ways.

Obviously, exposure to air pollution is worst at peak traffic times, so plan your travel to avoid these times, if possible.

Pollution levels drop quickly with distance from busy roads and can be at near background levels just one block away. So try to detour along quieter back streets or through parks.

Barriers, such as dense roadside vegetation, can shield pedestrians from pollution. Children in prams are more exposed to traffic pollution than adults, as they are closer to the level of vehicle exhaust pipes. Pram covers can reduce infants’ exposure by up to 39%.

Of course, the best way to reduce air pollution from traffic is to have fewer vehicles on our roads, and cleaner fuel and engines.

In the meantime, we hope our low-cost technology will prompt citizen scientists to develop their own sensors, producing the data we need to breathe easy in city streets.

Read more: Even for an air pollution historian like me, these past weeks have been a shock The Conversation

Hugh Forehead, Research Fellow, University of Wollongong

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

Can't go outside? Even seeing nature on a screen can improve your mood

Damon Hall/UnsplashCC BY
Cris BrackAustralian National University and Aini Jasmin Ghazalli

Are you feeling anxious or irritated during the coronavirus lockdown? Do you constantly want to get up and move? Maybe you need a moment to engage with nature.

Getting into the great outdoors is difficult at right now. But our research soon to be published in Australian Forestry shows you can improve your mood by experiencing nature indoors. This could mean placing few pot plants in the corner of your home office, or even just looking at photos of plants.

Our work adds to a compelling body of research that shows being around nature directly benefits our mental health.

Virtual images of nature have similar effects to being in the physical presence of nature. Kishoor Nishanth/UnsplashCC BY


Public gardens and parks, street verges with trees and bushes, and even rooftop gardens bring us a broad range of benefits – boosting physical health, reducing air pollution, and even lowering crime rates.

Read more: Biodiversity and our brains: how ecology and mental health go together in our cities

But inside, in your hastily constructed home office or home school room, you may be unable to take full advantage of urban nature.

Natural products such as wooden furniture can also improve working conditions. Noemi Macavei Katocz/UnsplashCC BY

Embracing the notion of “biophilia” – the innate human affinity with nature – while locked down inside may improve your productivity and even your health.

The biophilia hypothesis argues modern day humans evolved from hundreds of generations of ancestors whose survival required them to study, understand and rely on nature. So a disconnection from nature today can cause significant issues for humans, such as a decline in psychological health.

In practice at home, connecting with nature might mean having large windows overlooking the garden. You can also improve working conditions by having natural materials in your office or school room, such as wooden furniture, natural stones and pot plants.

Indoor Plants

Our research has demonstrated that even a small number of plants hanging in pockets on along a busy corridor provide enough nature to influence our physiological and psychological perceptions.

These plants even caused behavioural differences, where people would change their route through a building to come into contact with the indoor plants.

We surveyed 104 people, and 40% of the respondents reported their mood and emotions improved in the presence of indoor plants.

They felt “relaxed and grounded” and “more interested”. The presence of indoor greenery provides a place to “relax from routine” and it made the space “significantly more pleasant to work in”.

Our study showed the benefits of indoor greenery. Author provided

As one person reported:

When I first saw the plants up on the wall brought a smile to my face.

Whenever I walk down the stairs or walk past I mostly always feel compelled to look at the plants on the wall. Not with any anxiety or negative thoughts, rather, at how pleasant and what a great idea it is.

Looking At Wildlife Photography

Our research also explored whether viewing images, posters or paintings of nature would make a difference.

We photographed the plants from viewpoints similar to those the corridor users experienced. Survey responses from those who only viewed these digital images were almost the same as those who experienced them in real life.

While we can’t say for sure, we can hypothesise that given the importance of vision in modern humans, an image that “looks” like nature might be enough to trigger a biophilic response.

Read more: We know contact with nature makes you feel better. Can virtual contact do the same?

However, physically being in the presence of plants did have some stronger behavioural effects. For example corridor users wanted to linger longer looking at the plants than those who viewed the photographs, and were more likely to want to visit the plants again. Maybe the other senses - touch, smell, even sound - created a stronger biophilic response than just sight alone.

So the good news is if you can’t get to a nursery – or if you have a serious inability to keep plants alive – you can still benefit from looking at photographs of them.

Looking at photos of nature can improve your mood. Bee Balogun/UnsplashCC BY

If you haven’t been taking your own photos, search the plethora of images from wildlife photographers such as Doug GimesyFrans Lanting and Tanya Stollznow.

Or check out live camera feeds of a wide range of environments, and travel to far-flung places without leaving the safety of home.

While we haven’t tested the mood-boosting effects of live videos, we hypothesise their physiological and psychological effects will be no different than digital photographs.

Here are seven places to help you get started.

  • The Bush Blitz citizen science app launched a new online tool today. The species recovery program encourages children to explore their backyard to identify different species.

  • “From the bottom of the sea direct to your screen”: watch this underwater live stream of Victoria’s rocky reef off Port Phillip Bay

  • The Coastal Watch website offers live camera feeds on beaches around Australia.

  • Watch the running water, trees and occasional fauna in California’s Redwood Forest River.

  • In pastoral Australia, go on a four-hour drive through the country side along tree-lined roads.

  • Zoos Victoria has set up live cameras that show its animals in natural (and nature-like) environments from Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo.

  • Yellowstone National Park may be closed right now, but webcams are stationed in various locations throughout the park.

Read more: The science is in: gardening is good for you The Conversation

Cris Brack, Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University and Aini Jasmin Ghazalli, Graduate student

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

The government's UNGI scheme: what it is and why Zali Steggall wants it investigated

Laura SchuijersUniversity of Melbourne

Independent MP and barrister Zali Steggall recently drew public attention to a federal government program that supports gas, hydro and coal power projects through underwriting.

Writing to Auditor General Grant Hehir, Steggall called for an investigation into the “underwriting new generation investment” (UNGI) program, saying it lacks transparency at a time when visibility of public spending is crucial.

Read more: The government's electricity shortlist rightly features pumped hydro (and wrongly includes coal)

“Underwriting” is when a degree of financial risk associated with a project is taken on by the government, rather than the project’s proponent.

Amid an economic crisis and a pressing need to transition to lower-carbon energy, people are understandably interested in where government money is being invested within the energy sector, and on what grounds.

As we face mounting job losses and stranded assets from the transition away from coal – and from the COVID-19 pandemic – taxpayers have a right to anticipate that the government’s investments will be strategically sound.

But the UNGI program lacks the important detail needed to assure the public that smart decisions are being made.

UNGI Explained

The UNGI program was introduced in 2018. It followed the collapse of Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee and an Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) inquiry, which found competition in Australia’s electricity sector needs to be stronger to reduce prices.

The federal government describes UNGI as “technology neutral”. This means the government’s focus is on supporting “best and lowest cost” energy generation options to get off the ground – whether coal, gas, or renewables.

What’s unclear is the extent to which a costs analysis under UNGI will consider long-term and indirect costs, such as by using social costing metrics.

A holistic analysis like this is important in the context of the climate crisis, which could set the Australian economy back more than A$762 billion in damages by 2050. Only considering short-term and direct costs is a recipe for long-term damage when it comes to energy and the impacts of climate change.

Read more: It's clear why coal struggles for finance – and the government can't change that

Half the projects currently shortlisted for potential support are fossil fuel projects. The other half are renewables-powered pumped hydrogen projects.

But as Steggall has written, the government hasn’t been transparent about how they decide on which projects to underwrite.

These 12 shortlisted projects were chosen without any final guidelines published informing the public on the selection process. Preliminary criteria, identified in the request for proposals, hasn’t been converted into a decision-making mandate, despite an indication this would happen.

Does The UNGI Program Have Legal Support?

Steggall’s letter to the Auditor General referenced research by the Australia Institute think tank, which has criticised the UNGI program as having no legal foundation.

The institute published advice from barristers Fiona McLeod SC and Lindy Barrett, which outlines hypothetical ways UNGI could proceed. These include via an agreement with states, existing legislation, or new legislation. They concluded that there was no identifiable support mechanism in place at the time of the advice.

More than a year later, there hasn’t been any new legislation. And the government has flagged the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s Grid Reliability Fund as the existing mechanism to support the UNGI program.

So Why Might That Be A Problem?

There are restrictions on the types of financial instruments this fund can support, as well as on what types of projects. While the Clean Energy Finance Corporation can provide loans, it may not be able to support the types of contracts envisaged by the early UNGI documents.

As the name suggests, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation could not support a coal project. And yet a coal project has been shortlisted.

The Grattan Institute’s energy program director Tony Wood also expressed concern, saying last year that UNGI appeared “quite different” to what the ACCC inquiry called for: a scheme to provide certainty for debt financing and facilitate new entrants into the wholesale market.

Read more: Scott Morrison's gas transition plan is a dangerous road to nowhere

And the CEFC is apparently not on the same page as the government that has designated its role in supporting the UNGI program, either. Although it welcomed the funding, CEO Ian Learmonth noted there was no investment mandate, and the Grid Reliability Fund was separate to UNGI.

No Transparency

Steggall and the Australia Institute’s main concerns voiced over the past couple of days seem spurred by an unwillingness or inability of the government to provide information around how UNGI is proceeding.

Transcripts from parliament both last year and earlier this month reveal a number of important questions into the program are repeatedly bookmarked.

Still, several of the shortlisted projects, particularly the gas projects, have been promised support. This includes two already the subject of preliminary agreements and one that’s all but guaranteed funding through an agreement with the NSW government. This suggests the government is ploughing ahead with UNGI despite the lack of clear process or identifiable support mechanism.

Do We Really Need To Support More Gas?

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has noted growth in gas supply could emerge from natural competitiveness flowed from the effects of COVID-19.

Whether we need to underwrite more gas at this stage is questionable, given the oft-touted role of gas as a transition fuel is not clear-cut. And in any case gas will not have long-term viability in a net-zero emissions context.

Post-COVID-19 recovery stimulus must be focused on markets, industries and technologies that need support, but which also, as Steggall puts it, “have a future”.

Read more: 5 big environment stories you probably missed while you've been watching coronavirus

Yes, competitive pricing is important, as is reliable energy supply. But how that’s achieved must not frustrate the ability to address climate change, or compound current economic concerns by locking in future costs.

At the very least, clearer information about how projects are meeting the “best and lowest cost” criteria, and what financial and legal mechanisms are supporting UNGI as it proceeds, is what we require – and deserve.The Conversation

Laura Schuijers, Research Fellow in Environmental Law, University of Melbourne

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

Cutting ‘green tape’ may be good politicking, but it’s bad policy. Here are 5 examples of regulation failure

The eastern tributary in the Woronora drinking water catchment Ian WrightAuthor provided
Ian WrightWestern Sydney University

Debate about how Australia will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic is heating up. As part of the economic recovery, business groups have renewed calls to cut “green tape” – environmental regulation that new projects, such as new mines, must follow.

In response, federal environment minister Sussan Ley wants to introduce new legislation to cut green tape and speed up project approvals.

Read more: When it comes to climate change, Australia's mining giants are an accessory to the crime

However a major ten-yearly review of the federal government’s key environment legislation is not due to be finished until October.

Cutting green tape is a long-held aim of the Morrison government, which claims excessive environmental regulation unfairly stifles businesses.

But this isn’t the case. In my 30 years of experience researching water pollution, “green tape” has not translated into effective environmental regulation of industry. In fact, I’m yet to see a coal mining operation that’s effectively regulated after approved through the NSW and federal environmental assessment processes.

Here are five examples that show how existing environmental regulations have done little to prevent pollution and toxic chemicals from entering the environment.

1. Closed Mines Pollute For Decades

My research on water pollution from coal mines in the Sydney basin routinely reveals inadequate environmental regulation. I’ve repeatedly uncovered long-standing environmental issues the industry doesn’t seem to learn from, such as pollution continually leaching from active and closed mines.

Read more: What should we do with Australia's 50,000 abandoned mines?

As part of my PhD research in 2002/3, I studied Canyon Colliery – a coal mine deep in the Blue Mountains that closed in 1997. The mine constantly releases large volumes of toxic zinc and nickel contaminated water from the flooded underground workings into an otherwise pristine mountain stream.

This caused ecological damage in the Grose River, including a steep reduction in species and numbers of river invertebrates below the entry of the mine wastes into the river.

Contaminated drainage washing out of the closed canyon mine in Blue Mountains National Park. Ian WrightAuthor provided

It’s now 23 years since the mining stopped, but the pollution continues – testimony of weak and ineffective environmental regulation. And it will probably last for centuries.

The Canyon Mine is just one of thousands of contaminated, derelict mining and industrial sites dotted around Australia lacking environmental controls.

2. Wollangambe River

Environmental regulation has become more stringent in the last 25 years thanks to legislation introduced by the Howard government in 1999, and NSW’s Protection of the Environment Operations Act introduced in 1997.

But despite this legislation, many new and active mines that lead to environmental damage have been assessed and approved.

Research by my team at Western Sydney University has documented pollution from an active Blue Mountains coal mine, Clarence Colliery.

The mine caused severe metal contamination and ecological damage to the Wollangambe, a World Heritage River. Our research led to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in 2017 imposing more effective restrictions on the release of toxic pollutants from the mine.

The author sampling water in the contaminated Wollangambe River. Author provided

Despite approvals from both the NSW and federal governments, it seemed no one had noticed the magnitude of pollution from poorly treated mine wastes until our research was conducted. This caused ecological degradation to more than 20 kilometres of the highly “protected” Wollangambe River.

The Conversation contacted Centennial Coal, which owns Clarence Colliery, for comment. They directed us to their statements in 2017, when the EPA finished a five-year review of Clarence’s Environmental Protection Licence (EPL). Then, the company said:

As a result of this review Clarence will operate under a new EPL which will include agreed reductions in metal concentration limits for all water discharged to the Wollangambe. Salinity targets will also be set at 100 EC (electrical conductivity).

Clarence will also be required to comply with a Pollution Reduction Programme (PRP), also issued by the EPA, which will result in Centennial formalising options to address all water quality issues and to meet specific water quality milestones.

3. Georges River

In 2010 I made a submission as part of the environmental assessment for an extension of BHP Billiton’s Bulli Seam coal mining operations (now owned by South 32).

This involved reading thousands of pages of consultant reports explaining how the expanded operation would attempt to avoid or minimise impacts to the environment.

The mine extension was approved. Despite the many “green tape” hurdles, the approved mine was allowed to discharge wastes which our research discovered contained pollutants that were hazardous to river life in the Georges River. These included salt, nickel, zinc, aluminium and arsenic polluting the upper Georges River.

Environmental groups took the coal mine owner to court in 2012, and I provided my evidence for the court case to the NSW EPA.

The EPA has since worked with the coal miner to reduce pollution from the mine.

4. Coal Mining Under Sydney’s Water Supply

Many were stunned on March 16 this year, when the NSW government signed off on new coal mine “longwalls” directly under Woronora Reservoir, part of Sydney’s drinking water supply.

Longwall mining is the continuous mechanical removal of coal in underground mines that allows the roof of the mine to cave in after the coal is removed.

So what can they do to a river? Redbank Creek near Picton – 65 kilometres southwest of Sydney – provides a sad testimony.

Redbank Creek no longer flows normally, but has isolated pools of contaminated water. Ian WrightAuthor provided

For nearly a decade, I documented damage where falling ground levels (subsidence) caused by longwalls led to extensive damage to the creek channel.

The land surface fell more than one meter. This caused cracking, warping and buckling of the creek channel. It now rarely holds water in many stretches. Isolated stagnant pools in the creek now accumulate saline and metal-contaminated water containing little aquatic life except for mosquitoes.

The mine responsible for this damage, Tahmoor Colliery, is seeking to extend its operations and the NSW government is currently considering the development.

This mine also disposes of about four to eight megalitres of poorly treated wastes each day to the Bargo River, a popular freshwater swimming river for south-western Sydney.

5. PFAS Contamination

Despite the existence of “green tape”, unforeseen problems have left Australia with many contaminated sites that may never be fully cleaned up.

We’ve seen this in the dozens of locations across Australia where toxic PFAS chemicals have contaminated land, water, ecosystems and people.

Read more: A blanket ban on toxic 'forever chemicals' is good for people and animals

These were previously regarded as safe chemical additives, for example in fire fighting foam, particularly at military bases.

Such contamination is very expensive to remediate and in February this year landholders near three defence bases reached a financial settlement for the PFAS damage to their property.

“Green tape” is an emotive word implying unnecessary and slow environmental regulation that delays major projects.

Given my own direct experience involved poorly regulated coal mines, I shudder to imagine the environmental degradation “fast-tracked” environmental regulation will lead to.

The Conversation also contacted SIMEC, which owns Tahmoor Colliery. A spokesperson said:

Mining in NSW is governed by stringent state and federal laws enforced by a number of government departments and regulators. SIMEC Mining acquired the Tahmoor Coking Coal Mine two years ago and takes its environmental, compliance and social responsibilities seriously.

Tahmoor Mine has been operating for well over 40 years. We acknowledge that historical mine activity did impact Redbank Creek and that this was self-reported to the regulator. Since then, SIMEC has worked closely with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to enact a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate the creek. Recent rainfall has demonstrated the success of this work and we are confident that the rehabilitation works will restore the creek.

While our operations do produce water as part of the mining process, this is treated and monitored in accordance with our licence conditions. The quality of this water is mandated by our environment protection licence issued and monitored by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Typically, the water monitoring results are well below those limits allowed by the licence. To further improve water quality, SIMEC Mining has committed to the installation of a new water treatment plant.

Water management has been a key focus for SIMEC in the planning of the proposed Tahmoor South extension. We have commissioned extensive specialist assessments to understand any potential impact on ground and surface water. If our extension is approved, these water assets will be carefully monitored throughout the life of the mine to ensure that should any issue occur, it is detected early and resolved efficiently.The Conversation

Ian Wright, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, Western Sydney University

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

Snowy 2.0 threatens to pollute our rivers and wipe out native fish

John HarrisUNSW and Mark LintermansUniversity of Canberra

The federal government’s Snowy 2.0 energy venture is controversial for many reasons, but one has largely escaped public attention. The project threatens to devastate aquatic life by introducing predators and polluting important rivers. It may even push one fish species to extinction.

The environmental impact statement for the taxpayer-funded project is almost 10,000 pages long. Yet it fails to resolve critical problems, and in one case seeks legal exemptions to enable Snowy 2.0 to wreak environmental damage.

The New South Wales government is soon expected to grant the project environmental approval. This process should be suspended, and independent experts should urgently review the project’s environmental credentials.

Native Fish Extinctions

Snowy Hydro Limited, a Commonwealth-owned corporation, is behind the Snowy 2.0 project in the Kosciuszko National Park in southern NSW. It involves building a giant tunnel to connect two water storages – the Tantangara and Talbingo reservoirs. By extension, the project will also connect the rivers and creeks connected to these reservoirs.

A small, critically endangered native fish, the stocky galaxias, lives in a creek upstream of Tantangara. This is the last known population of the species.

Read more: Snowy 2.0 is a wolf in sheep's clothing – it will push carbon emissions up, not down

An invasive native fish, the climbing galaxias, lives in the Talbingo reservoir (it was introduced from coastal streams when the original Snowy project was built). Water pumped from Talbingo will likely transfer this fish to Tantangara.

From here, the climbing galaxias’ capacity to climb wet vertical surfaces would enable it to reach upstream creeks and compete for food with, and prey on, stocky galaxias – probably pushing it into extinction.

The stocky galaxias. Hugh Allan

Snowy Hydro has applied for an exemption under NSW biosecurity legislation to permit the transfer of the climbing galaxias and two other fish species: the alien, noxious redfin perch and eastern gambusia.

Redfin perch compete for food with other species and produce many offspring. They are voracious, carnivorous predators, known to prey on smaller fish.

Redfin perch also allow the establishment of a fatal fish disease – epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus – or EHN. This disease kills the endangered native Macquarie perch, the population of which below Tantangara is one of very few remaining.

If Snowy 2.0 is granted approval, it is likely to spread these problematic species through the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Murray rivers.

The climbing galaxias, which threatens the native stocky galaxias. Stella McQueen/Wikimedia

Acid And Asbestos Pollution

Four million tonnes of rock excavated to build Snowy 2.0 would be dumped into the two reservoirs. Snowy Hydro has not assessed the pollution risks this creates. The rock will contain potential acid-forming minerals and a form of asbestos, which threaten to pollute water storages and rivers downstream.

When the first stage of the Snowy Hydro project was built, comparable rocks were dumped in the Tooma River catchment. Research in 2006 suggested the dump was associated with eradication of almost all fish from the Tooma River downstream after rainfall.

Read more: Snowy 2.0 will not produce nearly as much electricity as claimed. We must hit the pause button

Addressing The Problems

The environmental impact statement either ignores, or pays inadequate attention to, these environmental problems.

For example, installing large-scale screens at water inlets would be the best way to prevent fish transfer from Talbingo Dam, but Snowy Hydro has dismissed it as too costly.

Snowy Hydro instead proposes a dubious second-rate measure: screens to filter pumped flows leaving Tantangara reservoir, and building a barrier in the stream below the stocky galaxias habitat.

The best and cheapest way to prevent damage from alien species is stopping the populations from establishing. Trying to control or eradicate pest species once they’re established is far more difficult and costly.

The ConversationCC BY-ND

We believe the measures proposed by Snowy Hydro are impractical. It would be very difficult to maintain a screen fine and large enough to prevent fish eggs and larvae moving out of Tantangara reservoir and such screens would be totally ineffective at preventing the spread of EHN virus.

A six metre-high waterfall downstream of the stocky galaxias habitat currently protects the critically endangered species from other invasive species threats. But climbing galaxias have an extraordinary ability to ascend wet surfaces. They would easily climb the waterfall, and possibly the proposed creek barrier as well.

Such an engineered barrier has never been constructed in Australia. We are informed that in New Zealand, the barriers have not been fully effective and often require design adjustments.

Read more: The government's electricity shortlist rightly features pumped hydro (and wrongly includes coal)

Even if the barrier protected the stocky galaxias at this location, efforts to establish populations in other unprotected regional streams would be severely hampered by the spread of climbing galaxias.

Preventing redfin and EHN from entering the Murrumbidgee River downstream of Tantangara depends on the reservoir never spilling. The reservoir has spilled twice since construction in the 1960s, and would operate at much higher water levels when Snowy 2.0 was operating. Despite this, Snowy Hydro says it has “high confidence in being able to avoid spill”.

If dumped spoil pollutes the two reservoirs and Murrumbidgee and Tumut rivers, this would also have potentially profound ecological impacts. These have not been critically assessed, nor effective prevention methods identified.

The Tumut 3 scheme, part of the existing Snowy Hydro scheme. Snowy Hydro Ltd

Looking To The Future

Snowy 2.0 will likely make one critically endangered species extinct and threaten an important remaining population of another, as well as pollute freshwater habitats. As others have noted, the project is also questionable on other environmental and economic grounds.

These potential failures underscore the need to immediately halt Snowy 2.0, and subject it to independent expert scrutiny.

In response to the issues raised in this article, a spokesperson for Snowy Hydro said:

“Snowy Hydro’s EIS, supported by numerous reports from independent scientific experts, extensively address potential water quality and fish transfer impacts and the risk mitigation measures to be put in place. As the EIS is currently being assessed by the NSW Government we have no further comment.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that water pumped from Tantangara will likely transfer fish to Talbingo. It should have said water pumped from Talbingo will likely transfer fish to Tantangara.The Conversation

John Harris, Adjunct Associate Professor, Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW and Mark Lintermans, Associate professor, University of Canberra

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

Using lots of plastic packaging during the coronavirus crisis? You're not alone

Daiane ScarabotoUniversity of MelbourneAlison M JoubertThe University of Queensland, and Claudia Gonzalez-ArcosThe University of Queensland

In eight years, US environmentalist and social media star Lauren Singer had never sent an item of rubbish to landfill. But last month, in an impassioned post to her 383,000 Instagram followers, she admitted the reality of COVID-19 has changed that.

I sacrificed my values and bought items in plastic. Lots of it, and plastic that I know isn’t recyclable in NYC (New York City) recycling or maybe even anywhere … why would I go against something that I have actively prioritised and promoted?

Singer wrote that as the seriousness of COVID-19 dawned, she stocked up on items she’d need if confined to her home for a long period – much of it packaged in plastic.

Her confession encapsulates how the pandemic has challenged those of us who are trying to reduce our waste. Many sustainability-conscious people may now find themselves with cupboards stocked with plastic bottles of hand sanitiser, disposable wipes and takeaway food containers.

So let’s look at why this is happening, and what to do about it.

Sustainability Out The Window

We research how consumers respond to change, such as why consumers largely resisted single-use plastic bag bans. Recently we’ve explored how the coronavirus has changed the use of plastic bags, containers and other disposable products.

Amid understandable concern over health and hygiene during the pandemic, the problem of disposable plastics has taken a back seat.

For example, Coles’ home delivery service is delivering items in plastic bags (albeit reusable ones) and many coffee shops have banned reusable mugsincluding global Starbucks branches.

Read more: For decades, scientists puzzled over the plastic 'missing' from our oceans – but now it's been found

Restaurants and other food businesses can now only offer home delivery or takeaway options. Many won’t allow customers to bring their own containers, defaulting to disposables which generate plastic waste. This means many consumers can’t reduce their plastic waste, even if they wanted to.

Demand for products such as disposable wipes, cleaning agents, hand sanitiser, disposable gloves and masks is at a record high. Unfortunately, they’re also being thrown out in unprecedented volumes.

And the imperative to prevent the spread of coronavirus means tonnes of medical waste is being generated. For example, hospitals and aged care facilities have been advised to double-bag clinical waste from COVID-19 patients. While this is a necessary measure, it adds to the plastic waste problem.

Many cafes will not accept reusable cups during the health crisis. The Conversation

Cause For Hope

Sustainability and recycling efforts are continuing. Soft plastics recycler Red Cycle is still operating. However many dropoff points for soft plastics, such as schools and council buildings, are closed, and some supermarkets have removed their dropoff bins.

Boomerang Alliance’s Plastic Free Places program has launched a guide for cafes and restaurants during COVID-19. It shows how to avoid single-use plastics, and what compostable packaging alternatives are available.

As the guide notes, “next year the coronavirus will hopefully be a thing of the past but plastic pollution won’t be. It’s important that we don’t increase plastic waste and litter in the meantime.”

Old Habits Die Hard

In the US, lobbyists for the plastic industry have taken advantage of health fears by arguing single-use plastic bags are a more hygienic option than reusable ones. Plastic bag bans have since been rolled back in the US and elsewhere.

However, there is little evidence to show plastic bags are a safer option, and at least reusable cloth bags can be washed.

A relaxation on plastic bag bans – even if temporary – is likely to have long-term consequences for consumer behaviour. Research shows one of the biggest challenges in promoting sustainable behaviours is to break old habits and adopt new ones. Once people return to using plastic bags, the practice becomes normalised again.

In Europe, the plastic industry is using the threat of coronavirus contamination to push back against a ban on single-use plastics such as food containers and cutlery.

Such reframing of plastic as a “protective” health material can divert attention from its dangers to the environment. Prior research, as well as our preliminary findings, suggest these meanings matter when it comes to encouraging environmentally friendly behaviours.

Read more: Stop shaming and start empowering: advertisers must rethink their plastic waste message

Many people are using their time at home to clear out items they no longer need. However, most second-hand and charity shops are closed, so items that might have had a second life end up in landfill.

Similarly, many toolbook and toy libraries are closed, meaning some people will be buying items they might otherwise have borrowed.

Once consumers go back to using plastic bags, it will take time to break the habit again. Darren England/AAP

What To Do

We can expect the environmental cause will return to the foreground when the COVID-19 crisis has passed. In the meantime, reuse what you have, and try to store rather than throw out items for donation or recycling.

Talk to takeaway food outlets about options for using your own containers, and refuse disposable cutlery or napkins with deliveries. Use the time to upskill your coffee-making at home rather than buying it in a takeaway cup. And look for grocery suppliers offering more sustainable delivery packaging, such as cardboard boxes or biodegradable bags.

Above all, be vigilant about ways environmental protections such as plastic bag bans might be undermined during the pandemic, and voice your concerns to politicians.

Read more: We organised a conference for 570 people without using plastic. Here's how it went The Conversation

Daiane Scaraboto, Associate Professor of Marketing, University of MelbourneAlison M Joubert, Lecturer in Marketing, The University of Queensland, and Claudia Gonzalez-Arcos, Lecturer in Marketing, The University of Queensland

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

Here are 5 ways to flatten the climate change curve while stuck at home

Sky CroeserCurtin University

After the horrors of the last bushfire season, climate action in Australia seemed to have new momentum. But then coronavirus struck. All of a sudden, the public was preoccupied by a different catastrophe.

But one positive has emerged from the devastation wrought by coronavirus: our ability to radically shift social and economic systems when needed. It shows real action on climate change is possible, and should encourage us to work towards that even as we stay at home.

Read more: From the bushfires to coronavirus, our old 'normal' is gone forever. So what's next?

I must note here that for some people right now, the focus is on simply surviving. Increased domestic violence riskhousing insecurityunemploymentmental health issues and other forms of marginalisation means many have little energy for activism.

But for those of us with time and resources to spare, there’s plenty to do now to support climate action. My research focuses on how people around the world use digital technologies to create change. So here are five ways to make a difference without necessarily leaving the house.

Words by Hugh Goldring and art by Nicole Marie Burton of Ad Astra ComixCC BY-SA

1. Create Or Join Local Coronavirus Support Networks

A huge number of community mutual aid groups have recently formed - try joining one.

Mutual aid is about helping each other and realising that we all have something to offer. Participating can do more than help us get through the pandemic – it can also strengthen the community ties we need to cooperate on climate action.

Read more: The community-led movement creating hope in the time of coronavirus

The lack of effective climate leadership by many governments - including the Australian government - means working for change at the local level is vital. The Transition Towns movement, which began in 2006, is built on the idea that community resilience can create new possibilities in times of crisis.

Recently, Extinction Rebellion UK released the Alone Together resource pack, to help people meet the challenges of coronavirus through compassion, creativity and mutual aid.

Working together can shift our ideas about what is possible, so keep talking to your neighbours once the pandemic has passed.

2. Put Pressure On Government And Industry To Take Action

Climate change advocacy campaigns are achieving significant successes in Australia and there are plenty of ways you can contribute from home.

For example, the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is currently under review, and public input is being sought. This legislation has not done a great job of protecting the environment since it was enacted 20 years ago, and the effects of climate change mean strong environment laws have never been more needed.

If you want to make a submission and need ideas, Friends of the Earth have outlined how the laws must change. Or just write about what matters to you when it comes to protecting the environment.

Now might be also a good time to check whether any of your money is invested in fossil fuels, and move it if it is: Market Forces will walk you through the process.

You could also give time or money to support organisations working for climate justice, such as Seed Mob or the Climate Justice Union.

3. Keep Learning

The pandemic has highlighted problems with our political and economic systems. The crisis has affected everyone, but in different ways. Racial disparities put some groups at increased risk and there are claims that policing of the lockdown is harsher in some areas than others.

Also, people in low-paid work such as childcare and retail are at additional risk of exposure to the virus, while many in better-paid professions can work from home.

Learning from the disparities we see during this crisis can help us build a broader and more inclusive environmental movement. If you have time to read, consider books about Indigenous connection to land, such as Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Victor Steffensen’s Fire Country, and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass.

4. Use Time At Home To Reconsider Your Lifestyle

Making changes as individuals will not in itself solve climate change. The impact of driving less and skipping an international trip pales in comparison to the effect of, say, Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

But you can link the changes you make at home to broader structural change.

For example, if you’re using time at home to evaluate your water use, find out which industries near you use the most water - and whether there’s a fair distribution. How much are households paying compared to mines, for example, and do any restrictions that your household faces also apply to industries that use a lot of water?

If you’ve shifted to getting groceries delivered, learn more about how to support regenerative agriculture in your area. Can you buy fruit and vegetables from farms that are improving soil health, supporting biodiversity, and paying workers fairly?

The crisis will pass – and may leave us with more hope than before. Andy Rain/EPA

5. Reconnect With Nature

Connection with nature can be soothing. It can also help to spark and sustain environmental action. Connecting to nature might mean growing your own food, paying attention to city plants and wildlife on your walk to the grocery store, or simply letting the breeze blow through your apartment.

Together While We’re Apart

Finding ways to participate in climate action from home can connect us to our communities, and help us find meaning and agency during a difficult time.

One day this crisis will pass, and we might find we’ve laid the groundwork to come out of it stronger, and with more hope than before.

Read more: Here's what the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about tackling climate change The Conversation

Sky Croeser, Lecturer, School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University

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

Birding At Home In Pittwater

A reminder that BirdLife Australia is continuing its fight to stop extinctions and protect nature, even if many of us are doing this from our own homes. They need you now more than ever.

Thank you to everyone for staying at home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. We know self-isolation can be challenging and stressful at times so what we need right now is nature.

We can be so grateful that no matter where you live, you can still see birds and take comfort from them. 

Please visit their new Birding at Home page to find out how you and your household can continue to enjoy the beauty of our feathered friends.

You'll find activities to occupy kids while our movements are restricted, links to our Autumn Birds in Backyards survey and Bird Finder, and information on how you can act to protect birds forever.

To help everyone who is now Birding at Home, they are also kicking off a regular live series on Facebook where our bird experts will be taking questions and talking about what we love best - birds.

Even if you are an expert birder, we encourage you to join in for a chat – and please spread the word to all the bird and nature lovers in your life. 

BirdLife Australia Facebook

P.S. They'll be having new bird experts every week to talk about a new topic, including Amanda Lilleyman in the NT on shorebirds and Holly Parsons to talk about bird friendly gardens. Make sure you have liked them on Facebook to get notifications and join in the talks.

Bird of the Month photography by Michael Mannington of Community Photography and Pittwater Online News Features Photographer.

Weed Cassia Now Flowering: Please Pull Out And Save Our Bush

Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals. You may be seeing this bright burst of yellow everywhere as it is currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden.

Please Help Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Donate Your Cans And Bottles And Nominate SW As Recipient

You can Help Sydney Wildlife help Wildlife. Sydney Wildlife Rescue is now listed as a charity partner on the return and earn machines in these locations:

  1. Pittwater RSL Mona Vale
  2. Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Centre NBISC Warriewood
  3. Woolworths Balgowlah
  4. Belrose Super centre
  5. Coles Manly Vale
  6. Westfield Warringah Mall
  7. Strathfield Council Carpark
  8. Paddy's Markets Flemington Homebush West
  9. Woolworths Homebush West
  10. Caltex Concord road Concord West
  11. Bondi Campbell pde behind Beach Pavilion 
  12. Westfield Bondi Junction car park level 2 eastern end Woolworths side under ramp
  13. UNSW Kensington
  14. Enviro Pak McEvoy street Alexandria.

Every bottle, can, or eligible container that is returned could be 10c donated to Sydney Wildlife.

Every item returned will make a difference by removing these items from landfill and raising funds for our 100% volunteer wildlife carers. All funds raised go to support wildlife.

It is easy to DONATE, just feed the items into the machine select DONATE and choose Sydney Wildlife Rescue.

Bushcare In Pittwater 

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

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

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

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

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

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

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

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

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

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

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

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

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

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

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

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

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Launching – Backyard Species Discovery – A Virtual Citizen Science Bush Blitz

April 29, 2020
Join our first virtual citizen science Bush Blitz!

With expeditions on hold due to COVID-19, the Bush Blitz team has organised a virtual expedition to continue adding to our knowledge of Australian biodiversity while keeping everyone busy at home.

While we can’t promise you’ll find a new species, you will discover some amazing plants and animals living in your own backyard, learn to identify them with the help of Bush Blitz scientists and contribute valuable data to the Atlas of Living Australia.

Check out the links below on how to join Australia’s largest backyard species discovery program and discover your backyard.

Come back soon as more videos and fact sheets will be added in the coming weeks or, if you can’t wait to get started, join the Backyard Species Discovery project on iNaturalist any time.

How Does It Work?

In a nutshell, we want you to photograph organisms in your local area and show us what you’ve found then our scientists will help identify your discoveries. 
What you need to do:

1. Record your observations:
         - Look around your house, garden or other local area for an organism you’d like to know the name of—perhaps you think it is special or you just want to share what you’ve found with others. It can be anything that is/was living e.g. an insect, spider, frog, plant, fungus, lichen, or even an animal footprint or bone. It must be living in the wild (not a pet or something you planted) but can be an introduced species like a fox or a weed.
       - Take a photo, video or sound recording of the organism, noting the date, time and location (if this isn’t automatically recorded by your device). You can also use photos you’ve taken previously if you remember when and where they were taken.

2. Show us what you’ve found:
       - Post your favourite photo/s on our Facebook or Instagram channels. Make sure you include the hash tag #speciesdiscovery and tag us @bushblitz, and don’t forget to give your location (region or nearest town) to help with identification.
       - Sign up for an iNaturalist Australia account at
       - Join the Backyard Species Discovery project. Under the Community tab, go to Projects and search for ‘Backyard Species Discovery’. At the top right of our ‘About’ information click on the ‘Join’ button.
       - Upload your photos to iNaturalist. Click Upload, drag or drop your image, and enter details for Species name, Date and Location. Your observation will be identified more quickly if you can narrow down what you think it is e.g. plant, lizard etc. Add your observation to the Backyard Species Discovery project. This means that our Bush Blitz team and scientists will be able to see what you’ve found.


Bush Blitz is Australia’s largest species discovery program—it takes expert taxonomists on expeditions to remote locations to record plants and animals. Now anyone can join the Bush Blitz team on a virtual expedition, from anywhere in Australia!

With expeditions on hold due to COVID-19, we have organised a virtual expedition to continue adding to our knowledge of Australian biodiversity. While we can’t promise you’ll find a new species, you will discover some amazing plants and animals living in your own backyard, learn to identify them with the help of Bush Blitz scientists and contribute valuable data to the Atlas of Living Australia.

To be part of the virtual expedition, join this project and remember to add each observation to the project as you upload it so we can see what you’ve found. We’ll keep track of all observations and will highlight the most amazing discoveries, plus our favourite images, on our website and social media channels - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’re on social media, we encourage you to post your favourite observations with the hashtag #speciesdiscovery and tag us using our handle bushblitz (Instagram & Facebook) or bushblitz2 (Twitter).

With three-quarters of Australia’s biodiversity still to be discovered, we expect this expedition to be around far longer than the pandemic so please join anytime you like.

We can’t wait to see what you discover!

Number of putative new species found since Bush Blitz began:
  • 1635 new fauna species
  • 41 new plant species
  • 33 new lichen species
  • 4 new fungi species

If You Can Read This Headline, You Can Read A Novel. Here’s How To Ignore Your Phone And Just Do It

by Judith Seaboyer, Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland

Public anxiety about the capacity of digital-age children and young adults to read anything longer than a screen grab has come to feel like moral panic. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest we must take such unease seriously.

In 2016, the US National Endowment for the Arts reported the proportion of American adults who read at least one novel in 2015 had dropped to 43.1% from 56.9% in 1982.

In 2018, a US academic reported that in 1980, 60% of 18-year-old school students read a book, newspaper or magazine every day that wasn’t assigned for school. By 2016, the number had plummeted to 16%.

Those same 12th graders reported spending “six hours a day texting, on social media and online”.

American literacy expert and neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf describes the threat screen reading poses to our capacity for “the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are all part of deep reading”.

She asks:

Will the mix of continuously stimulating distractions of children’s attention and immediate access to multiple sources of information give young readers less incentive either to build their own storehouses of knowledge or to think critically for themselves?

But rather than taking up defensive positions on either side of the digital-analogue reading divide, Wolf encourages us to embrace both. As parents and teachers we can help our children develop a bi-literate reading brain. There are several ways we can do this.

Reading pathways

Reading is a learned skill that requires the development of particular neural networks. And different reading platforms encourage the development of different aspects of those networks.

Screen-reading children, immersed from toddlerhood in the pleasures and instant gratification of skimming, clicking and linking, develop cognitive skills that make them adept power browsers, good at the useful ability to scan for information and analyse data.

But Wolf suggests this kind of reading “can short-circuit the development of the slower, more cognitively demanding comprehension processes that go into the formation of deep reading and deep thinking.”

Unless the cognitive skills required for deep reading are similarly developed and nurtured, new generations of readers – distracted by the ready availability of digital information – may not learn to venture beyond the shallows of the reading experience.

Along with others concerned with early childhood education Wolf advises encouraging paper literacy from infancy. She doesn’t recommend forbidding devices. Instead we should regularly turn them off and make the time and space to read books on paper with children.

We can model our own reading practices by setting aside our own smart phones to lose ourselves in a book.

But how can secondary and tertiary teachers help inexperienced readers? The problem is likely to be aliteracy, meaning students can read but they choose not to because they don’t see it to be important for learning. And because they haven’t read much, it’s hard work. The problem can seem intractable. But it can be done.

Turn off the phone and read

My first venture into helping tertiary students read better was a 2011-2013 cross-university government-funded project that set out to foster what we termed “reading resilience”. We found if students were persuaded to prioritise reading as they did a test or an essay, they would invest the time to get into the zone that is the other world of the text.

We complemented complex texts with a guide that encouraged students to think critically as they read and to keep going when the language seemed impenetrable, the narrative incomprehensible (or dull) and the length endless. Or when the siren call of the smart phone became irresistible.

They experimented with switching off their devices for blocks of two hours while they simply read. And they did read.

Students prioritised this difficult work because we rewarded pre-class reading with marks. Some classes uploaded one-page, carefully argued responses; others answered complex feedback-rich quizzes.

I surveyed a large first-year introduction to literary studies at the University of Queensland in 2013 before testing a version of the same “reading resilience” course in 2014. The rise in reading rates was exponential.

The number of students who completed all ten primary texts (including the poem Beowulf and Toni Morrison’s Beloved) more than tripled, and the number who completed the ten accompanying secondary texts (selected chapters from an introduction to literary theory and criticism) went up by more than six times.

Reported student satisfaction for this course from 2008 to 2012 had ranged between 64% and 75%. Once reading resilience was introduced, many complained about the reading load yet the level of overall satisfaction jumped to 86%.

We can all do it

It’s not just readers raised in a digital-age who have difficulty with long-form text. Have you have lost the skill of deep reading? Are you finding it increasingly difficult to stay with, say, a literary novel? You are not alone.

Wolf, who despite having two degrees in literature, confesses to the shocking discovery that recently she found herself struggling to stick with a beloved Herman Hesse novel.

We too can switch off our devices and set aside a space and time to revitalise the neural pathways that once made us immersive readers.

As Wolf argues, the skills of “deep reading” that involve “slower, more time-consuming cognitive processes […] are vital for contemplative life”. Deep readers are likely to be more thoughtful members of the community at a time when good citizenship may never have been more important.

This article was published first in The Conversation, click here to read the original - republished under a Creative Commons licence.

Vale Robert May, the legendary scientist who helped us understand ecosystems, chaos theory and even pandemics

Royal Society
Hamish McCallumGriffith University

Lord Robert “Bob” May, Baron May of Oxford, who has died aged 84, was one of the greatest Australian scientists of the past century.

He was awarded virtually every honour the British establishment could offer: a professorship at Oxford, the presidency of the Royal Society of London, a knighthood, a seat in the House of Lords, a role as chief scientific advisor to the UK government, and membership of the Order of Merit, a personal gift of the Queen restricted to only 24 living members.

Nevertheless, he remained a quintessential Australian, with a strong Australian accent and larrikin streak – he claimed to be the first person in the 350-year history of the Royal Society to get a swearword into its minutes.

Read more: Robert Hooke: The 'English Leonardo' who was a 17th-century scientific superstar

May was born in Sydney in 1936 and originally trained as a physicist, becoming professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sydney in 1969. But in 1973 he shifted both continents and disciplines, becoming a professor of zoology at Princeton University, before moving to Oxford in 1988.

He brought the mathematical insights of a physicist to the then largely descriptive field of ecology, transforming it into a theoretical science with a firm mathematical basis. Nevertheless, he recognised the complexity of ecology in comparison with physics. I recall him saying “ecology is not rocket science – it’s much harder than that”.

His legacy is particularly important in the current crisis. The basic reproductive number of a disease, R0, is a statistical concept that permeates much of the discussion on how to manage the coronavirus pandemic. If we can reduce it to below one and maintain it there, we can eliminate the disease.

With his long-term collaborator, Professor Roy Anderson from Imperial College, May brought this concept to the management of infectious diseases more than 40 years ago. This distillation of a complex ecological process into a simple mathematical concept was typical of his scientific insight.

Read more: 6 countries, 6 curves: how nations that moved fast against COVID-19 avoided disaster

May made many other major contributions to ecology. One of his earliest insights, which remains crucially important today, is that complex ecosystems are not necessarily more resilient than simple ones.

Ecologists had assumed that diverse and complex ecosystems such as coral reefs and tropical rainforests were better able to resist disturbance. But May’s mathematical models showed this was not the case. As we enter an era of unprecedented human impact on the natural world, we would do well to remember this key insight.

May was also one of the leaders in developing chaos theory, showing that simple ecological systems can show extraordinarily complex and unpredictable behaviour.

More recently, he brought his ecologist’s perspective to bear on another type of complex, dynamic system, by analysing the behaviour of financial markets.

Robert May (front row, second from right; the author is second from right in the back row) loved walking in nature as well as studying it. Hamish McCallumAuthor provided

Although he was in no way a field ecologist, he had a longstanding enthusiasm for nature. Until the final few years of his life, he organised annual walking trips to the European Alps with his ecological colleagues. Fit and wiry, not to mention intensely competitive, he was a hard man to beat to the top of a mountain.

Compared with his huge success in the UK, May remains comparatively unknown in his native Australia. However, he did receive our highest honour, a Companion of the Order of Australia, in 1998.

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, using the modelling methods he had a hand in developing, we should remember and appreciate his world-class contributions to science.The Conversation

Hamish McCallum, Professor, Griffith School of Environment and Acting Dean of Research, Griffith Sciences, Griffith University

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

Probably Tomfoolery

U.K. Performance Artist Tomos Roberts is sharing some great spoken word (poems) creations via videos in current weeks, some of them being seen and shared millions of times within hours of being released. Working under the handle of 'Probably Tomfoolery' he is giving many a reason to smile and expressing what so many are saying - universal-consciousness-wise!

Worth checking out if you haven't seen his stuff yet - below is the latest video but more is available via: - which shares links to his other platforms.

Monowai’s Captain Recalls Forty Years Of City's Progress

Published April 30, 2020 by NFSA

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1959. Directed by Loch Townsend. Forty years of Sydney’s progress as seen by the captain of the ship Monowai.

Armchair Antarctica | The Voyage South

Published April 27, 2020 By the Australian Antarctic Division
Stuck at home, dreaming of escape? Enjoy our new series ‘Armchair Antarctica’, and experience the raw and rugged beauty of the icy continent from the comfort of your living room.
The first episode takes us on the journey south…

Heroes Help NSW School Students Stay Connected

May 1, 2020

Prominent Australians have donated their time to help students kick start their day while learning at home.

Prominent Australians, including musician Guy Sebastian and TV foodies Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and Manu Feildel, as well as the Department of Education’s Eddie Woo, have donated their time to help students kick start their day while learning at home.

Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott, today announced a series of 15-minute wellbeing classes to be live-streamed at the start of each school day until May 8.

“School resumes on Wednesday for Term 2, and most students in NSW will continue their learning from home for the next few weeks,” Mr Scott said.

“We’re encouraging parents to follow the staged return to school so that we can manage face-to-face teaching with appropriate safeguards. During this time of unprecedented change, it is important our children still have the routine of schoolwork and learning from home to maintain a sense of normalcy.”

NSW Education LIVE will connect students with expert presenters across the fields of music, art, food, gardening, technology, and sport.

Mr Scott said the series also features other high-profile identities including the host of Gardening Australia Costa Georgiadis, artist Ben Quilty, Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva, Rugby League hero Alan Tongue, and Sydney Swans player Ollie Florent.

“Our live streams are a unique and exciting way to support parents, students and teachers with additional resources to help with learning from home,” Mr Scott said.

As a father of two primary school-aged boys, Guy Sebastian said he understood the challenges of this period of self-isolation and was excited to be involved in NSW Education LIVE.

“I was keen to be involved with these live streams to do what I could to help kids stay positive and happy through this, while also giving them the mental wellbeing to stay focused on their learning,” Mr Sebastian said.

NSW Education LIVE will be streamed direct to the 2200-plus public school websites and the 1400-plus school Facebook pages for students to access at home. Students will also be able to watch a broadcast on-demand after each episode streams.

Mathematics teacher Eddie Woo said this unprecedented situation has given us all an opportunity to connect and learn with people all over the country.

“To everyone who’s trying their best to support their children as they engage with learning at home, I’m delighted to be part of Education LIVE and hope that lots of people can tune in to join us!” Mr Woo said.

You can follow the conversation on social media using the hashtags #EducationLIVE and #learnfromhome.

Curious Kids: why can't people hear in their sleep?

Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock
Gorica MicicFlinders University and Branko ZajamsekFlinders University

I am wondering why people can’t hear when they are asleep? – Joanna

This is a fantastic question, Joanna!

During sleep, our body can decide to ignore sounds, movements and smells happening around us which might otherwise wake us.

This decision-making mostly happens in our brain.

Your brain decides whether to wake you or let you keep sleeping when sounds occur. Sudowoodo/ Shutterstcok

Although our ears continue to work as usual, our brain acts as a filter and decides whether we should respond to the sound and wake up or continue sleeping.

Read more: Curious Kids: why don't people fall out of bed when they are sleeping?

If we wake up, then we can form a memory of having heard the sound, but if we don’t wake up then it’s as though we didn’t hear anything.

This is an extraordinary tool as it protects our sleep so we don’t wake up to everything happening while we sleep.

But it also doesn’t completely shut us off from the outside world which would be terrible for our survival.

Our Brain Responds To Loud Sounds

Louder sounds are more likely to wake us up than quieter sounds.

For example, a loud bang from someone dropping something in the middle of the night is likely to startle and wake us.

But we’ll probably sleep through the sound of a mosquito quietly buzzing nearby.

The loud ringing of an alarm is more likely to wake up than a quiet whisper nearby. LeManna/ Shutterstock

The Type Of Sound Matters Too

Sounds that are either unusual or important to us are also more likely to wake us.

Our brain interprets unusual sounds as a threat and alerts us to that danger. This allows us to decide if we need to protect ourselves or run away if necessary.

Just imagine how useful and protective this would have been for our ancestors who likely slept in the wild surrounded by dangerous predators, such as lions and tigers!

Read more: Curious Kids: What happens in our bodies when we sleep?

Luckily, we don’t have to worry about sabre-toothed cats anymore, but it’s still useful to be aware of loud bangs or strange noises while we sleep so we or parents can respond.

Our brain is also more likely to wake us to sounds it considers important like our name.

You’re more likely to wake up if your brain interprets the sound as important, such as your name being called. Cookie Studio/ Shutterstock

We will more readily wake when our name is called compared to someone else’s name being called out.

What About Depth Of Sleep?

When we sleep we go through cycles consisting of light and deep stages of sleep.

We have about five to six sleep cycles each night, depending on how long we sleep.

During light sleep you will be woken more easily than during deep sleep.

Read more: Curious Kids: why are some people affected by sleep paralysis?

We have more deep sleep in the first half of the night and more light sleep in the second half of the night.

This means that the sound of a crowing rooster that instantly woke us at the break of dawn, may have have been ignored by our brains early in our sleep period.

Everyone’s Different

Finally, people have very different sensitivity levels toward sounds.

Background chatter in your house while you are napping might not wake you if you’re not sensitive to noise.

Read more: Curious Kids: Why do we always fall asleep in cars?

However, someone who is very sensitive to noise might find it unbearable to keep sleeping in this noisy environment.

If we are more sensitive to sounds, then our brain is more likely to make the decision to wake us.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Conversation

Gorica Micic, Postdoctoral research fellow, Flinders University and Branko Zajamsek, Research associate, Flinders University

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

Anniversary Hopes For A United Future

April 29, 2020
Two Sydney students connected to the Endeavour’s landing site reflect on the 250th anniversary of first contact between Europeans and local Aboriginal people.
True histories need both stories

True Histories Need Both Stories
Tristan Simms, Year 11, Matraville Sports High School

April 29, 2020, marks 250 years since the HM Bark Endeavour sailed into the sheltered waters of Kamay, commonly known as Botany Bay.

This event is perceived by many as a moment when invasion occurred and our culture and way of life, which had existed since the beginning of time, was changed forever. Although British occupation was technically 18 years later, when the First Fleet arrived to establish a new penal colony, it was Cook’s expedition that adjoined Australia to the British Empire.

For families in my community, the La Perouse Aboriginal community who are descended from people that were present when the Endeavour sailed into Kamay, it is a time of mixed emotion.

Some see the anniversary as a time to protest, some as a time to celebrate our survival, and some as a time to reflect and heal. Some senior people within families look at those events that occurred through a cultural lens; they see the events that took place 250 years ago as a part of the local culture, a part of the local Dreaming which has stories, songs and dances associated with it and, therefore, take a neutral stance.

The arrival of Cook at Kamay in 1770 and the extensive story of how Cook “discovered” Australia has been told repeatedly from a European perspective. It has taken this long for my community to be given the opportunity to tell our story, our way. A prime example is the first Aboriginal words spoken to the British and the meaning of those words which have been misunderstood for 250 years.

The British heard the words ‘warra warra wa’ being projected towards them as they were approaching the shores of Kundell (the Dharawal name that was adapted for Kurnell). Those words were accompanied by threatening gestures with raised spears by two Gweagal warriors. It is clear from the Endeavour journals our old people did not want the British to land and it is quite simple to assume that the words being spoken simply meant “go away”.

It wasn’t until recently that our community’s language, culture and research group decided to confront this assumption. The group determined the phrase ‘warra warra wa’, from a Dharawal language perspective, literally translates to “you’re (they) all dead”.

In Dharawal ‘warra’ sometimes spelt ‘wara’ means dead and when the words are repeated it is highlighting its significance or suggesting large numbers of the dead. This perception is linked to a Dharawal Dreaming story that explains how spirits of the dead come back from an easterly direction. Our old people were seeing the British through a spiritual lens and seeing them as spirits of the dead.

There are other cultural linkages between the word ‘wara’ and objects that are associated with the colour white. This includes the iconic Australian flower, the waratah (‘waradha’ in Dharawal). In a Dharawal Dreaming story, connected with Dharawal women, the ‘waradha’ was originally white and was tainted red with the blood of the wonga pigeon.

So when we go beyond the British (or outsiders) interpretations about the events such as the landing of Cook and his crew at Kundall and we recognise the information from those that are best placed to give it, a different and more genuine picture emerges. If our people are able to share our story and perspective, views of these events are balanced. Perhaps at the 300th anniversary of the Endeavour in Kamay we may see a more united remembrance.
Tristan Simms stands on the edge of Botany Bay at Bare Island with Kurnell in the background. Credit: James Alcock.

The Stone At The Heart Of Our History
Gus Kohu, Year 11, Cronulla High School

A little more than 21 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD is a nine-kilometre stretch of road named after a certain lieutenant in the British Royal Navy. At the end of this road is a small village with a sign that reads “Welcome to Kurnell, the birthplace of modern Australia”. This town is my home and 250 years ago Lieutenant James Cook landed here leading to the foundation of the country we know today.

It’s hard to ignore the effect James Cook would have on this country, but even more so in the town I call home. The aforementioned Captain Cook Drive is not particularly subtle and neither is the sign you’re greeted with upon stumbling into the entrance of the town.

Numerous streets are named after famous explorers such as Luís Vaez de Torres and Abel Tasman. Other streets are named after the crew of the Endeavour with Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander having stretches of asphalt named after them as well. Avoiding these references is impossible; even our local park, Marton Park, is named after the town in which James Cook was born.

Perhaps if you wished to escape the colonial homages, Kamay Botany Bay National Park would provide solace. But you would be incorrect. Among the amazing Australian flora and beautiful hiking tracks lie big blocks of stone inscribed with the names of important men who played a significant role in the “discovery” of this new land.

There is one stone in particular, which you might not even notice if it weren’t for the tourists who frequently leap across the rock pools to read its inscription, marking it as the landing place of the first Europeans.

As a child it never truly occurred to me how significant that stone was. I was fixated on the taxidermy animals and European artefacts in the discovery centre. But over time as I traversed the bike tracks and rode past the monuments I had a thought. This place wasn’t always like this. There was no city skyline, there were no modern houses or docks, but there was a people.

In primary school it was always about the Endeavour, James Cook and the First Fleet. Yet before them, for thousands of years the Dharawal people had enjoyed this stretch of land. While Cook’s landing alone did not lead to the loss of these people and their culture; there is no doubt it was a case of cause and effect. It was the events that stone in Kamay Botany Bay National Park recognise that led to the later massacres post-white settlement of many of our First Nations’ peoples and the attempt to destroy the ancient cultures and traditions of the people who lived on this land.

It was my ancestors who colonised this land and devastated the lives of thousands of people. But it is also because of what that stone represents that I am here today. I have no doubt that this stone commemorates a moment that led to many terrible things.

You only need to take a glimpse at the horizon to see what future good this stone can represent. I cannot take back what my ancestors did and I do not condone the atrocities that have been committed. But it is through this stone that we can recognise these atrocities and reconcile. It represents more than where someone simply set foot. It shows us how far we have come and how far we still have to go.
Gus Kohu visits the stone plinth in Kamay Botany Bay National Park that marks the site where the first Englishman stepped on the shore of NSW on April 29, 1770. Credit: Dani Cooper.

Curious Kids: have people ever seen a colossal squid?

Robson, 1925, collected 2008, Ross Sea, Antarctica. Gift of the Ministry of Fisheries, 2007. Te Papa (M.190318)CC BY-NC-ND
Culum BrownMacquarie University

Have people ever seen a colossal squid? – Aubree

The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is the stuff of nightmares ripped straight out of the mind of a sleeping pirate. Picture the giant kraken wrapped around a ship and dragging it to the bottom of the sea!

People have seen colossal squid, but not very often. Colossal squid live in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, and it was not until 1981 when the first whole animal was found. It was captured by a trawler near the coast of Antarctica.

A drawing from 1810 of the kraken sinking a merchant ship. Wikimedia Commons

Since then a few more have been captured by fishermen. You can see one today in a New Zealand museum, but they do not preserve well.

Colossal squid are the heaviest squid on the planet (but they’re not actually big enough to sink a pirate ship). The ones that have been found whole weighed nearly 500 kilograms – that’s almost the same as a grand piano.

Read more: Curious Kids: why is the sea salty?

But judging by the size of the squid beaks that have been found in the stomach of sperm whales, they can get a lot bigger. It is estimated they can weigh up to 700kg!

A close-up of the colossal squid specimen. Robson, 1925, collected 2003, Ross Sea, Antarctica. Te Papa (M.160614)CC BY-NC-ND

Colossal squid might be heavy, but they may not be the longest squid in the world. They likely grow to around 10 metres long, which is still less than the giant squid, which can grow to more than 12 metres long. The giant squid has a smaller body and really long tentacles, so it doesn’t weigh as much.

They have huge eyes which can be 25 centimetres or more in diameter (as big as a soccer ball). That makes them the biggest animal eyes on the planet. Their eyes have built in headlights that help them see in the dark.

They are set slightly forward-facing so the colossal squid has “binocular vision”. This means it can judge distances when capturing prey. Their tentacles are armed with rotating hooks that allow them to grasp their prey.

Read more: Curious Kids: Do sharks sneeze?

Colossal squid are thought to feed mostly on fish and other squid in the deep parts of the Southern Ocean (more than 1,000 metres deep). At that depth, there is no sunlight and they might use light that can shine from their body (bioluminescence) to lure their prey.

Like all squid, they have a hard beak like a bird, which they use to munch their food. The beak is the only hard part of the squid’s body.

Would such a big animal actually be afraid of anything? Sperm whales are their major predator. It has been estimated that more than 75% of the diet of sperm whales is made up of colossal squid. That is a LOT of calamari!

Many sperm whales have scars on their bodies, caused by epic battles with colossal squid.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Conversation

Culum Brown, Professor, Macquarie University

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

Valuable Research - Children’s Shoes Given Tough Test

Published May 1, 2020 by NFSA
From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1962. Directed by Jack S Allan. The Australian Consumers Association tests children's school shoe brands to help consumers buy wisely.

New Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

Glorious Bar-Tailed Godwits Are Here To Go – Sydney

Published by BIBY TV
These wonderfully vocal Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri) were filmed in late March 2020 at Hen and Chicken Bay (Sydney, Australia). This bay on Parramatta River is only about 8km from Sydney’s CBD. Despite the densely populated suburbs surrounding it and the area’s industrial past, the tidal mudflats are frequented by several bird species. Efforts to clean up the river have resulted in rich pickings both in mud and in water. Nonetheless, there are big challenges in such an urban habitat, including degradation or disturbance of roosting and feeding sites through inappropriate development, human recreation, dogs and boats. No bird is more vulnerable to these threats than the Bar-tailed Godwit, which is indeed listed as Vulnerable by the Commonwealth Government. Thankfully, Hen and Chicken Bay is recognised as an important location for the survival and success of this special shorebird. 

A previous production filmed at this bay between October 2017 and March 2018 - - has up-close scenes of Bar-tailed Godwits vigorously foraging for invertebrates. Their mission is to fatten up for an amazing journey to Alaska to breed in the insect-rich Arctic summer. Their departure from Australian “vacation zones” or non-breeding grounds mostly occurs in March-April, with their return (often to the same feeding/roosting sites) noted from August.  During their time here they not only prepare their body for the next arduous trip, they also undergo moulting into breeding plumage. This change is more noticeable in (now rufous) males, but can also depend upon age, breeding location (e.g. how north or south within range) and individual differences. Note that Bar-tailed Godwits can be sexed throughout the year on their bill length and overall size; females are larger birds with longer bills.

The current video has a mix of adult males and females and presumably immature godwits who stay in Australia for at least two austral winters before joining the annual migration. As you can probably see, they are rather impressive birds in size and appearance. But they also deserve the descriptor of “glorious” because of their special ability. There are many migratory shorebirds who embark on heroic journeys across our planet, but a female Bar-tailed Godwit holds the world record for non-stop flight (about 11,600km from SW Alaska to northern NZ). Moreover, non-stop flights of great distance are standard in this species. For us, the most exciting aspect of the footage was capturing their pre-migration vocalisations. In all our previous filming of this species, even when some males look very rufous and ready for departure, we have missed this aspect of their behaviour. Too busy eating to say much perhaps? (As for that flying around the bay, it’s probably part of their within-area movements or in response to a disturbance, rather than the final farewell.)   

Seniors Synchronise In Workout On The Web: Sessions To Continue

April 30, 2020
Thousands of NSW seniors worked up a sweat in the Biggest Online Seniors Workout yesterday proving age is no barrier to fun, fitness and finding new interests.

Acting Minister for Seniors Geoff Lee congratulated over 7000 seniors who took part in the free 30-minute exercise program streamed live across three online video platforms.

“Our seniors have shown remarkable strength in the face of COVID-19, completely changing their regular routines which kept them active and socially connected,” Mr Lee said.

“The Biggest Online Seniors Workout is a fantastic initiative which aims to keep seniors fit and in touch with the wider community while staying safe indoors.”

NSW Seniors Card partner and Active Seniors Health Centre owner Taylor Harrison hosted the Biggest Online Seniors Workout, streamed on platforms including Zoom, YouTube Live and Facebook Live.

“I am thrilled with the response to this workout on the web,” Dr Harrison said.

“Seniors have really embraced the technology and the opportunity to maintain their balance, strength and flexibility from their own living rooms while also helping them to feel less socially isolated.”

Kuljit Hunjan from Gordon loved the experience of working out with fellow seniors.

“I never thought I would be doing stretches and squats online with thousands of other seniors but the pandemic has provided an opportunity for us all to adapt and learn new skills,” Ms Hunjan said. 

Active Seniors Health Centre will continue to provide daily free exercise sessions for seniors across NSW. Visit:

New Tool Measures Quality Of Life In People With Dementia

April 27, 2020
University of Queensland researchers say a new tool to measure the quality of life of people with dementia will result in better targeted care for those living with the condition.

The method assesses five key domains that contribute to quality of life -- physical health, mood, memory, living situation and ability to do fun activities, and importantly, takes into account the views of people with dementia.

Associate Professor Tracy Comans said the tool revealed that physical health was considered the most important contributor to quality of life, followed by a person's living situation.

"We found the priorities of people with dementia and their caregivers differed from the general population, with their living situation and the ability to do fun things being valued as the most important contributors to quality of life," Associate Professor Tracy Comans said.

"However, people with dementia, their caregivers and the general population all valued memory as least important to good quality of life."

Dr Comans said nearly 2000 people in the general population completed an online survey, while people with dementia and their caregivers were interviewed in person.

"The views of those with dementia were given priority as we developed the tool," she said.

"The five domains were validated by three focus groups, confirming activities that impact the quality of life for people with dementia could be mapped to one of the domains.

"Study participants individually rated each of the key domains before adding them together to gain a total quality of life score."

Researchers said the tool could now be used to ensure the perspectives of people with dementia and their caregivers are included when considering interventions for improving quality of life.

Dr Comans said this was a more equitable method than relying solely on the perspective of a proxy.

"Both caregivers and people with dementia were very willing to share their stories and experiences with us, which provided valuable insights into what it's like to live with dementia.

"These personal stories reaffirm the value of involving people with dementia and their caregivers in research that relates to their quality of life."

Tracy A. Comans, Kim-Huong Nguyen, Julie Ratcliffe, Donna Rowen, Brendan Mulhern. Valuing the AD-5D Dementia Utility Instrument: An Estimation of a General Population Tariff. PharmacoEconomics, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s40273-020-00913-7

GEN Aged Care Data: Government Spending On Aged Care

April 29, 2020: AIHW Web Report
This GEN Aged Care Data release uses data from the 2020 Report on Government Services (RoGS) to report on Government spending on aged care services. The data has been updated for the financial year 2018–19. Analysis of Commonwealth and state funding on aged care services are included, with interactive graphs providing a breakdown of spending on different types of services.

At a glance:
  • There was a 27% increase in government spending on aged care services between 2013–14 and 2018–19
  • 98% of spending on aged care services comes from the Australian Government
Please note: this information is published on GEN Aged Care Data, which is managed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Aged care services in Australia are funded by governments (federal, state, territory and local governments), non-government organisations (charities, religious and community groups), and personal contributions from those receiving care. Governments subsidise the cost of care and recipients contribute through fees and payments. Time series data in this topic are adjusted to 2018–19 dollars.

Government spending referred to in this section combines that of the Australian Government and state and territory governments. Around 98% of spending comes from the Australian Government. The data have been sourced from the Report on government services (RoGS 2020).
  • In 2018–19, governments spent over $20 billion on aged care, with the majority—approximately 66% of this—for residential aged care.
  • The expenditure on residential aged care ($13.3 billion) was 2.2 times the amount spent on home care and support ($5.9 billion).
  • Government spending on aged care services has increased each year since 2013–14, as is seen in the graph below.

Government spending has increased by 27% since 2013–14
Government spending on aged care services has progressively increased over the years. In 2013–14 government spending on aged care services was approximately $15.8 billion, and by 2018–19 expenditure had increased by 27% to $20.1 billion. These figures have been adjusted for inflation to the value of 2018–19 dollars.

Two-thirds of government spending on aged care is spent on residential services
In 2018–19, two-thirds of reported government expenditure was spent on residential aged care (66% or $13.3 billion), followed by community-based care where 29% (or $5.9 billion) was spent on home care and home support services.

Spending is shifting to home care and support
Between 2013–14 and 2018–19, there were changes in spending patterns on aged care services. Looking at the national figures, (and after adjusting for inflation), there was:
  • a 45% increase in spending for home care and home support services, compared with a 24% increase for residential aged care services
  • a 73% increase in spending on assessment and information services
  • a 53% decrease in spending on workforce and service improvement (noting that this is a small proportion of total spending)
  • a 7% increase in spending on flexible care.
Growth in Australian and state/territory government spending on aged care services over this period varied moderately among the states and territories. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest increase in spending for home care and support services between 2013–14 and 2018–19 (71%), followed by South Australia (60%) and Queensland (53%). The Northern Territory had the highest increase in spending for residential aged care (50%), followed by the Australian Capital Territory (44%).

A stacked bar graph shows that government spending on aged care services has increased for each state and territory between 2013–14 and 2018–19. The graph also shows the spending on different types of aged care services by each state and territory over this time period. Almost all states and territories spent most of their total aged care spending on residential aged care, with the exception of the Northern Territory which was the only state to spend more on home care and support services than on residential care.

Per-person government spending on aged care services highest in South Australia
Australian and state/territory government spending varies across Australia. Government recurrent expenditure on aged care services in 2018–19 was $4,874 per person in the target population (that is, all people aged 65 years and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 50–64 years). The rate of spending per older Australian was higher than the national rate in South Australia ($5,370), the Australian Capital Territory ($5,216), and Victoria ($5,142). This can be seen in the graph below.
The amount spent on aged care services per older Australian differed by spending type and state and territory:
  • Overall, the rate of spending on aged care services in Australia was highest for residential aged care ($3,198 per older Australian). Government spending on residential aged care was highest in South Australia ($3,597), followed by Victoria ($3,485).
  • The Australian Capital Territory had the highest rate of government spending for home care and home support ($1,960 per person in the target population), closely followed by the Northern Territory ($1,888).
  • The rate of government spending on flexible care (which includes a specific program for Indigenous Australians)  was highest in the Northern Territory ($434 per person).

SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2020. Report on government services 2020, Part F, Chapter 14. Canberra: Productivity Commission.

ESafety Courses To Keep Senior Australians Connected During COVID-19

by Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care
Free daytime webinars are now available to help improve the online skills of Senior Australians as they increasingly turn to the internet to access online services and connect with loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These online courses are being delivered by the eSafety Commissioner as part of the Federal Government’s “Be Connected” initiative, aimed at empowering all Australians to develop the skills needed to thrive in a digital world.

Hosted by professional eSafety Commissioner trainers, the courses will offer participants guidance to help build basic online skills and confidence required to carry out video chats, telehealth, shopping and banking.

Minister for Communications,  Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck said the online training is available to around four million older Australians aged 65 and over, providing the opportunity to improve their digital skills and knowledge of how to avoid common online risks.

The classes commence today and feature key topics specifically for remaining connected while social distancing measures are in place, including:
  • Video chatting with family, friends and health professionals;
  • Ordering groceries and other shopping essentials online for home delivery;
  • Carrying out everyday tasks online, including accessing essential services; and
  • Accessing Federal Government information updates from and the Coronavirus Australia app
The eSafety Commissioner has worked closely with Scamwatch to integrate information and advice about current scams into the webinar materials.

Minister Fletcher said the eSafety webinars would reinforce skills and prepare users for problems they may encounter.

“The online world can often be daunting for senior Australians but it needn’t be,” Minister Fletcher said.

“These online courses offer practical advice to empower users to navigate online services that support their daily needs.”

Minister Colbeck said the training was a vital tool as more Senior Australians switched to online services.

“With the Federal Government urging people aged over 70 to stay at home and limit face-to-face contact, the internet can be a lifeline,” Minister Colbeck said.

“But many Australians in this age group are not always confident using digital technology.”

“Older Australians don’t need to leap into the digital world by themselves. Family members can be their digital mentors, using Be Connected and joining in the webinars.”

Those interested in participating can register via the dedicated website.

For help setting up, there’s also the Be Connected support line on 1300 795 897.

These webinars are part of the Morrison Government’s $47 million Digital Literacy for Older Australians initiative that was launched in 2017 to increase the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology.

GEN Aged Care Data: Services And Places In Aged Care

April 29, 2020: AIHW Web Report
This GEN Aged Care Data release reports on the services that provide aged care and the number of places provided. The data has been updated through to 30 June 2019. Interactive graphs and maps provide data at the national level and by state and territory, Aged Care Planning Region, Primary Health Network and SA3.

Australian aged care services offer a variety of care in different settings. Home support and home care services provide care in the community for people living at home. Residential aged care services provide care in residential facilities, both for permanent and short-term respite stays. Flexible care services deliver care in a range of settings.
  • Across Australia on 30 June 2019, there were 873 organisations providing residential aged care through 2,717 services. There were 928 organisations providing home care services.
  • 1,458 organisations were funded to provide home support during 2018–19 through 3,717 service outlets. Almost three quarters (72%) of Home Support organisations were not-for-profit.
  • Residential aged care is delivered across Australia through an allocation of places. The number of places has increased from approximately 184,600 on 30 June 2012 to 213,397 on 30 June 2019.
  • Not-for-profit organisations manage more than half of the places in residential aged care (55%).
  • From February 2017, government funding for home care is no longer attached to a place in a particular service. This affects some of the time series data for this topic.
Where are aged care services based?
The map below shows where Australia’s aged care services are located. Each dot represents an aged care service, and the colour reflects the type of care it offers (see the next section for a description of these types of care).

Generally, at 30 June 2019:
  • Residential aged care services are concentrated in more densely populated urban areas, with around 3 in 5 (62%) facilities located in Major cities.
  • Transition care services tend to be located near hospitals, so are also based mainly in urban areas (53%).
  • Flexible care services focused on particular communities are often located in rural areas—for example, only 1 in 9 (11%) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program services are located in cities.
The location of the service is a base from which care is delivered, so services for home care and home support can deliver care some distance away from the physical location of the service marked on the map (please note: home support services on this map are shown if they were active during the financial year 2018–19, while all other services are as at 30 June 2019).

What types of care are available?
Government-funded programs offer different types of aged care.
Mainstream types of care are:
  • Residential aged care, which offers long- (permanent) or short-term stays (respite) in an aged care facility
  • Home care (Home Care Packages Program), which provides different levels of aged care services for people in their own homes
  • Home support (Commonwealth Home Support Programme), which provides entry-level support at home.
Flexible care consists of:
  • Transition care, which provides short-term care to restore independent living after a hospital stay
  • Short-term restorative care, which expands on transition care to include anyone whose capacity to live independently is at risk
  • Multi-purpose services, which offer aged care alongside health services in Regional and remote areas
  • Innovative Care Programme, which includes a range of programs to support flexible ways of providing care to target population groups
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program, which provides culturally-appropriate aged care at home and in the community.
How is aged care delivered?
Aged care services are managed by not-for-profit, government, or private organisations. In most cases, the Australian Government contributes towards the costs of care—you can read more about this in the Spending section. Each organisation can operate a number of different services, sometimes across different aged care programs.
  • There were 873 organisations that operated 2,717 services in residential aged care, with an average occupancy rate of 89% across 2018–19.
  • 928 organisations that provided home care services at 30 June 2019.
  • In 2018–19, 1,458 organisations were funded to provide home support services.
Where are aged care places located?
Some aged care programs are allocated a set number of government-funded places. An allocated place becomes operational when it is made available for someone to take it up.
  • There were over 213,400 places in residential aged care at 30 June 2019. The 3 largest states—New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland—collectively accounted for about four-fifths of these places (79%).
  • Short-term restorative care was introduced in 2017 with 400 places, which increased to 825 places at 30 June 2019. The transition care program offered 4,060 places at 30 June 2019, with the 3 largest states accounting for just over three-quarters of these places (77%).
  • Multi-purpose services delivered care through 3,646 places and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program through 1,072 places. Around 2 in 5 places in this program were operational in the Northern Territory (43%).
With the introduction of consumer-directed care in home care in 2017 government funding is no longer attached to a place in a particular service. As a result, places information is only available for residential-based care and flexible care. To find out more about the delivery of home care, see the quarterly Home Care Packages Program data reports. Home support also provides services to a large number of people—more than 840,000 in 2018–19—but as a grants-based program, information on ‘places’ is not available for reporting. 

Residential aged care services are concentrated in Australia’s urban areas
The map here shows residential aged care services in Australia. The size of the circle reflects the size of the service, with a larger circle representing facilities with more places.

The colour of the circle indicates the type of organisation that manages the service.

  • Services run by private organisations are concentrated in major cities
  • Rural and remote regions of Australia only have residential services managed by government and not-for-profit organisations.
On 30 June 2019, nearly two-thirds (61%) of residential aged care services were run by not-for-profit organisations, with for-profit organisations accounting for 26%, and the remainder managed by government.

The type of organisation differs by remoteness:
  • On 30 June 2019, 60% of residential aged care services located in Major cities were managed by private organisations. Only 4% of these services in urban areas were managed by government organisations.
  • With increasing remoteness, the proportion of residential aged care services managed by private organisations decreases. Government organisations managed over half of the services in Remote and Very remote regions of Australia (52%).
  • Not-for-profit organisations managed a significant proportion of all aged care services in all regions of Australia.

States and territories with more places in aged care services do not necessarily have more capacity 
On 30 June 2019, Australia had over 220,000 places in residential aged care and flexible care. This included those places that people were currently using, as well as those that were available to people but not in use. The number of places in aged care has increased over time.
Highly-populated states and territories have larger numbers of aged care places; however, the aged care system is designed to provide capacity for the population who might need those services. This is achieved through a ratio of subsidised aged care places for every 1,000 people aged 70 years and over—an estimate for the demand for aged care. The national target provision ratio was 79.6 aged care places at 30 June 2019 (now excluding mainstream home care).
  • The ratio for residential aged care places varies somewhat between states and territories, from 46 in the Northern Territory to 79 in Victoria and South Australia.
  • The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program is a prominent part of aged care service provision in the Northern Territory, providing an additional 38 places per 1,000 older people.
  • Transition care places have remained at around 4,000 places nationally since 2012. The short-term restorative care program began in 2017 to extend transition care services to anyone needing short-term care to improve their independence (rather than just for people leaving hospital). Since then, there have been 825 places allocated across Australia.
  • In residential aged care, places managed by private organisations have seen the most growth. Between 2012 and 2019, private organisations have seen a 34% increase in the number of residential aged care places that they are funded to deliver. Government-managed residential aged care places have decreased by 22% over the same period. Residential aged care places managed by not-for-profit organisations have seen a smaller increase of 9%.
Large residential services tend to be managed by private organisations
Privately-run residential aged care places are more likely to be delivered in larger services, while government-run services tend to be smaller:
  • More than half (56%) of places operated by private organisations were in a service that offered 101 or more places, compared with 42% of places managed by not-for-profit organisations and 11% of places managed by government organisations.
  • Only 0.04% of places managed by private organisations, and less than 1% of places operated by not-for-profit organisations, were in the smallest facilities (20 or fewer places). In contrast, 13% of places operated by government organisations were in these smaller services.
Residential aged care places in Major cities are more likely to be in larger services. With increasing remoteness, aged care services are more likely to offer a smaller number of places.

Explore how places in residential aged care and flexible care are distributed among Aged Care Planning Regions, Primary Health Networks, and SA3s
Some notable patterns in the geographical distribution of residential and flexible aged care places include:
  • Places per 1,000 of the target population were distributed across Primary Health Networks (PHN) broadly in line with the target ratio (79.6 for all aged care places).
  • Government-managed residential aged care places are particularly concentrated in Victoria (outside of Melbourne) and rural or regional areas of New South Wales and Queensland. Residential places managed by not-for-profit organisations are more prominent in the South-Eastern corner of Australia.

Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs In Australia

April 23, 2020: AIHW Web Report
The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is a major cause of preventable disease and illness in Australia. This report consolidates the most recently available information on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in Australia, and includes key trends in the availability, consumption, harms and treatment for vulnerable populations. Further, information on a range of health, social and economic impacts of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use are highlighted.

Older People

Key findings
  • In 2016, 57% of daily smokers were aged 40 and over, up from 44% in 2001.
  • Illicit drug use among people aged 50 and over appears to be more prominent in 2016 (22%) than in 2001 (11%).
  • The majority of daily smokers in 2016 consisted of people aged 40 and over (57% compared with 43% for people under 40).
  • Tobacco is the leading risk factor for the burden of disease among people aged 65–84.
  • Females in their 50s (13%) and males between 55–64 (28.8%) were the most likely age cohorts to exceed lifetime risk guidelines by consuming on average more than 2 standard drinks per day.
  • People in their 60s were most likely to exceed the single occasion risky drinking guidelines on at least 5 days per week (7.0% in 2016 up from 5.7% in 2013).
  • Recent use of any illicit drug has nearly doubled among males in their 50s (from 8.1% to 15.0% in 2016) and males aged 60 and over (from 4.0% to 7.9%), between 2001 and 2016.
  • There has been an increase in drug-induced deaths among older people since 1999.
Older people make up a considerable proportion of Australia’s population. In 2017, over 1 in 7 people were aged 65 and over and the number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow (AIHW 2018). Older people have unique health circumstances including pain, co-morbidities, and social circumstances such as isolation (DoH 2017). These contextual factors are important to consider in the context of alcohol and other drug use. Refer to Box OLDER1 for how ‘older people’ are defined in this report.                                      

Box OLDER1: How do we define ‘old’?
Most population data define ‘old’ as persons aged 65 and over to align with the qualifying age for the Age pension. However, this section will generally refer to people aged 50 and over in order to capture people who may be ageing prematurely due to alcohol and other drug use, and to include the ‘Baby Boomer’ cohort (AIHW 2016). The different older age cohorts are specified where relevant.

Tobacco smoking
Tobacco is one of the leading risk factors contributing to the burden of disease for older Australians. Specifically, tobacco is the leading risk factor for males aged 45–84 and females aged 65–84 (AIHW 2019b).

Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) showed that the smoking rate for older age groups is not declining at the same rate as that for younger age groups (AIHW 2017). 

Daily smoking
  • In 2001, daily smokers were more likely to be aged under 40 than aged 40 and over (56% compared with 44%). But as these cohorts have aged over time and as more young people are not taking up smoking, the majority of daily smokers in 2016 consisted of people aged 40 and over (57% compared with 43% for people under 40) (Table S3.24).
Number of cigarettes
  • In 2016, people in their 50s (109 cigarettes), 60s (117 cigarettes) and over 70 (111 cigarettes) smoked a greater number of cigarettes per week on average, than younger people aged 14–19 (58 cigarettes) and 20–29 (70 cigarettes) (Table S3.25).
  • In 2016, over one-third (37%) of daily smokers were smoking a pack-a-day. This was highest among smokers in their 50s with almost 1 in 2 (48%) smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day (Table S3.26).
Intentions to quit
  • In 2016, 1 in 3 (33%) daily smokers and 1 in 4 (26%) occasional smokers were not planning to quit smoking (Table S3.27)—and these intentions were highest among smokers aged 70 and over (49%) (Table S3.28).
  • Among those older smokers who do not plan to quit, the main reason was because they enjoy smoking (ranging from 52% for those aged 40–49 to 69% for those aged 70 and over not planning to quit) (Table S3.29).
Alcohol consumption
Data from the 2016 NDSHS indicated that older people drink more regularly than those in younger age groups. However, people from younger age groups were more likely to consume alcohol in excess of single occasion risk guidelines and to consume alcohol heavily (11 or more standard drinks on a single occasion) (AIHW 2017).

Daily drinking
  • Between 2013 and 2016, people aged 60–69 experienced a significant decline in daily drinking from 12.3% to 10.2%, while for most other age groups there were slight but insignificant declines (Table S3.32).
  • Those aged 70 and over continue to be the age group most likely to drink daily, for both males (19.5%) and females (8.7%) (AIHW 2017) (Table S3.33).
Lifetime risk
  • Among females, those aged in their 50s (13.0%) are now the most likely to drink at levels that exceed the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) lifetime risk guidelines by drinking on average more than 2 standard drinks per day. This age cohort has replaced females aged 18–24 (12.8%) who were previously the most likely to drink at risky levels.
  • Among males, those aged 55–64 (28.8%) were the most likely age cohort to drink at levels exceeding guidelines for lifetime risk (AIHW 2017). This is consistent with data from the National Health Survey (Table S2.27).
Single occasion risk
  • People aged 70 and over were the least likely to exceed the NHMRC single occasion risk guidelines, with only 1 in 10 (11.0%) consuming more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion in the past year (Figure OLDER1). This is consistent with data from the National Health Survey (ABS 2018).
  • However, people in their 60s were most likely to exceed this guideline on at least 5 days per week (7.0% in 2016 up from 5.7% in 2013), suggesting that older people engage in risky levels of alcohol consumption more regularly (AIHW 2017) (Table S3.35).
High risk alcohol consumption
  • The proportion of people in their 50s (from 9.1% to 11.9%) and 60s (from 4.7% to 6.1%) consuming 11 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months significantly increased between 2013 and 2016, thus placing them at a high risk of alcohol-related harm. This was also the case for people in their 50s in the last month (from 4.1% in 2013 to 5.8% in 2016) (AIHW 2017) (Table S3.36).
Illicit drugs
Data from the 2016 NDSHS showed that a greater proportion of older Australians reported illicit drug use than previously, indicating that there is an ageing cohort of drug users (AIHW 2017).
  • There was a greater proportion of people aged 60 or older who had used illicit drugs in their lifetime in 2016 than in 2013—significantly increased from 25% to 30% for males and from 18% to 22% for females (Table S3.41).
  • Between 2001 and 2016, recent use of any illicit drug has nearly doubled among males in their 50s (from 8.1% to 15.0% in 2016) and males aged 60 and over (from 4.0% to 7.9%) (Table S3.42).
  • People in their 50s and aged 60 and over constitute a much greater proportion of illicit drug users in 2016 than in 2001 (increased from 6.1% to 11.5% for people in their 50s and from 4.4% and 10.9% for people aged 60 and over) (Table S3.43).
  • The difference in the proportion of recent illicit drug use between people aged 40 years and older and people aged under 40 years continues to get smaller (Figure OLDER2).
The 2 most commonly used drugs by older people are cannabis and pharmaceutical drugs when used for non-medical purposes.

  • Cannabis use is increasing among older people. Between 2013 and 2016 there was a slight but significant increase among people aged 60 and over using cannabis in the last 12 months (from 1.2% to 1.9%).
  • In comparison to 2013 there were more males aged 60 and over using cannabis in 2016 (significantly increased from 1.8% to 2.9%).
  • Recent use of cannabis among males in their 40s and 50s, and those aged 60 and over is at the highest rate recorded in the last 15 years (Table S3.45).
Non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs
  • In 2016, 8.6% of people aged 50 and over reported misusing a pharmaceutical drug (Table S3.46).
  • Data on cause of deaths in Australia shows that the age profile of those dying from drug-induced deaths has changed over the last 2 decades. While the rate of drug-related deaths among younger people has decreased significantly since 1999, among older age groups the rate of drug-induced deaths is now much higher. This is especially the case among people between 45 and 64 (ABS 2017).
 - From age 55, males are more likely to have opiate based painkillers present on toxicology than other substances.
- The age at which women experience the highest rate of drug induced deaths is in their mid to late-40s.
- Benzodiazepines are the most common substance in drug deaths for women from aged 20 to their mid-60s (ABS 2017).

Health and harms
Data from AIHW’s Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) and the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data (NOPSAD) indicates that in the last 10 years, an ageing cohort of Australians receiving drug and alcohol treatment has emerged. Specifically, NOPSAD data indicate that the proportion of clients receiving pharmacotherapy treatment on a snapshot day that were aged 40 and over increased from 42% in 2010 to 64% in 2019 (AIHW 2020). AODTS NMDS data show that the proportion of closed treatment episodes for clients aged 40 and over has increased from 28% in 2008–09 to 34% in 2017–18 (AIHW 2019a).

  • Principal drug of concern: In 2017–18, 68% of closed treatment episodes for clients over 50 years old were for alcohol as the principal drug of concern, 8.1% were for cannabis, 7.9% for amphetamines and 4.6% for heroin (Table S3.49).
  • Source of referral: For clients over 50, 46% of referrals to treatment came from self/family and 37% from a health service (Table S3.50).
  • Treatment type: The most common treatment type for clients over 50 was counselling (46%), followed by assessment only (16.5%) and withdrawal management (14.9%) (Table S3.51).
The AODTS data were matched with the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) collection to identify clients who use both services (matched clients) and compared characteristics between the groups (AIHW 2016). Older clients were identified as 1 of 4 vulnerable cohorts in the analysis (along with clients with a current mental health issue, clients who experienced family and domestic violence and young clients aged 15–24). The analysis found that matched clients aged 50 and over (when compared to the other vulnerable cohorts) were more likely to be:
  • male (68%) and living alone (69%)
  • receiving treatment for alcohol (68%)
  • Indigenous (17%).
Older clients had similar patterns of treatment type, regardless of whether they were in the matched group or AODT-only group, with counselling being the most commonly provided treatment type for all older clients (AIHW 2016).

Neglecting GP Research Risks Poor Health Outcomes

April 27, 2020: Medical Journal of Australia/UNSW
Australians may experience poorer health outcomes unless recognition and funding of general practice research is boosted with investment in training and funding, according to the authors of a Perspective published online today by the Medical Journal of Australia.

“Over eight in 10 Australians consult with their GP at least once per year, and 2 million people are seen each week in general practice,” wrote the authors, led by Dr Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis, an Associate Professor in General Practice at the University of Melbourne and involving Professor Teng Liaw at UNSW Medicine's School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

“General practice, a medical specialty, is the first point of access to the health system, providing longitudinal care for all.

“A GP must have a good working knowledge of 167 problems to cover 85% of the conditions that they see most frequently, and management of multimorbidity has become the norm.

“The number of general practices appears to be declining, practices are becoming larger, and the proportion of GPs who are practice owners is decreasing.

“General practice research is key to optimising health care in this evolving context, but needs to be supported by the profession, funders and our professional colleges.”

Despite the importance of general practice to health outcomes, the current Medical Research Future Fund 2019-2020 budget allows for only $5 million out of a total $392.5 million to be specifically invested in general practice research, according to Manski-Nankervis and colleagues.

“The proportion of National Health and Medical Research Council funding to primary care research has [also] been consistently low.

“Research in this setting is required as never before, with an ageing population, increasing rates of multimorbidity, and management continuing to move out of the hospital and into the community setting,” they wrote.

“There is no other academic specialty that will focus on generalist care in the community, and general practice is integral to research translation. Without general practice, the health outcomes of the population will be poorer and less equitable, and associated with increased health costs.

“A lack of focus on general practice research and academic opportunities will have a flow-on effect to the recruitment of new GPs. To build interest in general practice more broadly, attention needs to be paid to medical students who often believe there is little intellectual challenge in the profession and a lack of academic opportunities.”

Manski-Nankervis and colleagues concluded that “recognising and investing in the value of general practice research will require a systems approach that includes medical student training, vocational training, and support of research infrastructure and GP clinician-scientists to enable research and research training in general practice and translation into practice and policy.

“This investment in general practice research and infrastructure should reflect the size of general practice in Australia, the population it serves, and the proportion of the associated Medicare spend.”

Seven Positive Outcomes Of COVID-19

April 27, 2020
From recovering ecosystems to new ways of learning, there are silver linings to the global pandemic, writes Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal of Macquarie University's Business School.

COVID-19 has had undeniable and horrific consequences on people’s lives and the economy. With sickness, death and unemployment rates soaring almost everywhere on our planet, it is easy to despair.
Notwithstanding the gruesomeness of this situation, there are some outcomes that could have a long-term positive impact on the planet and humanity.

1. The Environment
The first positive aspect of COVID-19 is the effect on the environment.  Carbon emissions are down globally and with manufacturing and air travel grinding to a halt, the planet has had a chance to rejuvenate.

China recorded an 85 per cent increase in days with good air quality in 337 cities between January and March. With tourists gone from Italy, the long-polluted canals of Venice now appear clear as fish and other wildlife start returning. Elsewhere, wildlife is also reappearing in other major cities and the biodiversity is slowly starting to return in various parts of the world.

2. Peace
The coronavirus is also raising hopes of fewer battles and less conflict, resulting in increased levels of peace. The United Nations called to end all wars in the face of COVID-19 as the world confronts a common enemy: “It’s time to put armed conflict on lockdown,” stated Secretary-General António Guterres.
And according to the ABC, a ceasefire was declared by the Saudis fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Although there are many places in the Middle East where war persists, a stronger lockdown could lead to less violence in these countries too.

3. Connectedness
A third positive outcome is a rejuvenated sense of community and social cohesion. Self-isolation challenges us as social animals who desire relationships, contact and interaction with other humans.

However, people all around the world are finding new ways to address the need for interconnectedness.  In Italy, one of the worst-hit countries, people are joining their instruments and voices to create music from their balconies. People are leading street dance parties while maintaining social distancing.

People are using social media platforms to connect, such as the Facebook group The Kindness Pandemic, with hundreds of daily posts. There is a huge wave of formal and informal volunteering where people use their skills and abilities to help.

4. Innovation
COVID-19 is a major market disruptor that has led to unprecedent levels of innovation. Due to the lockdown, so many businesses have had to reinvent themselves with a new 'business as unusual' philosophy.

This includes cafes turning into takeaway venues (some of which also now sell milk or face masks) and gin distilleries now making hand sanitisers.

Many businesses have had to undergo rapid digitalisation and offer their services online. Some could use this wave of innovation to reimagine their business model and change or grow their market.

5. Corporate Responsibility
Coronavirus is driving a new wave of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The global pandemic has become a litmus test for how seriously companies are taking their CSR and their work with key stakeholders: the community, employees, consumers and the environment.
Companies are donating money, food and medical equipment to support people affected by the coronavirus. Others are giving to healthcare workers, including free coffee at McDonald’s Australia and millions of masks from Johnson & Johnson.

Many are supporting their customers, from Woolworths introducing an exclusive shopping hour for seniors and people with disabilities to Optus giving free mobile data so its subscribers can continue to connect.

6. Reimagined Education
The sixth positive outcome is massive transformation in education. True, most of it was not by choice. With schools closing down all around the world, many teachers are digitalising the classroom, offering online education, educational games and tasks and self-led learning.
We are globally involved in one of the largest-scale experiments in changing education at all levels. Home-schooling is becoming the new way of learning, exposing many parents to what their children know and do.

Similarly, universities are leading remote learning and use state-of-the-art solutions to keep students engaged. Some universities are using augmented and virtual reality to provide near real-life experiences for galvanising students’ curiosity, engagement and commitment and for preparing students for the workplace.

7. Gratitude
Finally, the seventh gift that COVID-19 is giving us is a new sense of appreciation and gratefulness. It has offered us a new perspective on everything we have taken for granted for so long – our freedoms, leisure, connections, work, family and friends. We have never questioned how life as we know it could be suddenly taken away from us.

Hopefully, when this crisis is over, we will exhibit new levels of gratitude. We have also learned to value and thank health workers who are at the frontline of this crisis, risking their lives everyday by just showing up to their vital work. This sense of gratefulness can also help us develop our resilience and overcome the crisis in the long-term.

All of these positive aspects come at a great price of death, sickness and a depressed global economy. As heartbreaking and frightening as this crisis is, its positive outcomes can be gifts we should not overlook. If we ignore them, all of this becomes meaningless.

It will be up to us to change ourselves and our system to continue with the positive environmental impact, peace, connectedness, innovation, corporate responsibility, reimagined education and gratitude. This crisis will end. We will meet again. We can do so as better human beings.

Debbie Haski-Leventhal is a Professor of Management at the Macquarie Business School. She is a TED speaker and the author of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Tools and Theories for Responsible Management and The Purpose-Driven University.

Smart Interventions Reduce Malaria Transmission By 75%

April 27, 2020: University of the Witwatersrand
Mass drug administration and vector control can help eliminate malaria. A vector refers to an organism that transmits infection, as mosquitoes infected with parasites transmit malaria to people.
The researchers published their findings in the journal The Lancet on World Malaria Day on 25 April even as countries the world over battle to contain transmission of the COVID-19.

The malaria trial conducted in northern Namibia demonstrates how malaria incidence can be reduced by up to 75% in settings where malaria transmission is mostly low but persistent, and plagued by sporadic outbreaks of higher numbers of malaria cases.

This scenario in Namibia is in many ways typical in neighbouring South Africa's malaria endemic districts.

In a Global South and Global North collaboration, scientists at the WRIM at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa; the University of Namibia with the Namibia Ministry of Health and Social Services; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; the University of California, San Francisco; and the University of Texas, Southwestern conducted this first ever randomized controlled trial of its kind.

"The reduction in cases was achieved using existing tools, namely anti-malarial drugs and insecticides, but deploying these in a 'smart' way, i.e., in close proximity of newly reported cases," says Professor Immo Kleinschmidt, one of the Principal Investigators in the project, Honorary Professor in the Wits School of Pathology and Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Infectious Disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"Our results are derived from a community randomised controlled clinical trial. This means that the effects of the interventions are compared between groups that are similar in all respects apart from the intervention they are receiving. The findings are therefore very unlikely to be due to chance, and the conclusions are more robust than they would have been from an observational study."

Co-authors Lizette Koekemoer, WRIM Research Professor and an honorary member in the Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable diseases, and Erica Erlank, WRIM Associate Researcher, provided training and support in entomology [the study of insects] during the trial.

In this study, researchers conducted a trial to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of two interventions: (i) reactive focal mass drug administration (rfMDA) and (ii) reactive focal vector control (RAVC), and their combination.

This trial is unique because it is the first randomised controlled trial of rfMDA and/or RAVC. Study communities were randomly assigned to receive either rfMDA, or RAVC, or the combination, or neither of these two interventions (the latter being the control group).

The study took place in the Zambezi Region, northern Namibia, and targeted people that were at the highest risk of malaria infection based on their proximity within 500 meters of malaria index cases that emerged during the transmission season.

In one arm of the trial, these neighbours of any new malaria case were offered a standard dose of the anti-malarial drug Coartem®, without first testing whether these neighbours carried the parasite that causes malaria. This drug clear them of parasites even if the level of parasites they carried were below the density that can be detected by the standard rapid diagnostic test. The drug would also provide a short period of protection against new infections.

In another arm of the trial, neighbours of index cases had the interior walls of their houses sprayed with a highly effective insecticide, Pirimiphos-methyl, irrespective of whether or not their houses had previously been treated in the annual spray carried out routinely in such areas.

In the randomised trial, communities received either the drug, the house spray, the drug and the house spray, or neither of these interventions.

Both the drug and the house-spraying interventions were shown to be safe and highly effective, either on their own or when administered together. Both the drugs and the house-spraying approaches significantly reduced malaria transmission in this low endemic setting.

Mass drug administration (MDA) is the administration of antimalarial drugs to target the parasite reservoir in humans, without necessarily testing if those people carry the parasite that causes malaria. The World Health Organisation recommends MDA for the elimination of the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. However, the effort and cost required to implement MDA on a large scale can be challenging.

The Namibian study reduced the 'mass' in MDA by targeting just the small ring of people around recent index cases -- the people at the highest risk of malaria -- and thus implemented an existing intervention more efficiently and economically.

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) and the use of long-lasting insecticidal nets have since 2000 significantly reduced malaria cases and deaths in target populations in sub-Saharan Africa. These interventions are normally administered in a 'blanket' style before the malaria season (October to May).

The Namibian study targeted a highly effective but expensive insecticide, pirimiphos-methyl, at the small ring of houses around recent index cases. The cost of the insecticide makes it more difficult to use in blanket spraying, but suitable in focal spraying as smaller quantities will be used. The cost of the insecticide is thus offset by its focal use of targeting only high risk populations.

"We found that reactive focal mass drug administration and reactive focal vector control, when implemented alone and in combination, significantly reduced malaria transmission among targeted populations in the Zambezi region of Namibia," says Koekemoer. "Furthermore, the two interventions, when used in combination, had an additive effect -- reducing rates of new malaria cases by 75%."

Although malaria still causes an estimated 230 million cases and over 400,000 deaths each year, dramatic success in fighting the disease over the last two decades has inspired many countries to commit to eliminating transmission altogether.

To date, the World Health Organisation has certified 38 countries and territories malaria-free. In southern Africa, eight countries -- including South Africa and Namibia -- have made the elimination of malaria a policy goal.

In recent years, however, progress towards eliminating transmission has slowed in many regions including Africa, highlighting the need for new approaches. Where malaria cases have been reduced to low levels, transmission still occurs due a reservoir of chronic, low density infections in people without symptoms. This means that these infections are largely undetectable through standard surveillance approaches.

Because the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite are still present, these infections may seed further infections in their immediate neighbourhood, potentially leading to outbreaks of malaria cases. To prevent such outbreaks from leading to wider epidemics, effective focal responses that target high-risk populations, such as those assessed in the Namibian study, need to be mobilised.

While additional studies will help determine the optimal scenarios in which these approaches could be implemented, the Namibian study suggests that reactive focal mass drug administration and reactive focal vector control can be applied in other countries that (i) have Plasmodium falciparum parasite-carrying mosquitoes (ii) are close to eliminating transmission and (iii) have good case reporting systems.

"These approaches can only be used if index cases are promptly and reliably reported and because South Africa has a responsive and reliable malaria case reporting system, the country is well placed to take advantage of these interventions," says Koekemoer.

The Namibian study shows how tailoring and targeting existing interventions can help improve their effectiveness and contribute to the elimination of malaria transmission permanently.

Michelle S Hsiang, Henry Ntuku, Kathryn W Roberts, Mi-Suk Kang Dufour, Brooke Whittemore, Munyaradzi Tambo, Patrick McCreesh, Oliver F Medzihradsky, Lisa M Prach, Griffith Siloka, Noel Siame, Cara Smith Gueye, Leah Schrubbe, Lindsey Wu, Valerie Scott, Sofonias Tessema, Bryan Greenhouse, Erica Erlank, Lizette L Koekemoer, Hugh J W Sturrock, Agnes Mwilima, Stark Katokele, Petrina Uusiku, Adam Bennett, Jennifer L Smith, Immo Kleinschmidt, Davis Mumbengegwi, Roly Gosling. Effectiveness of reactive focal mass drug administration and reactive focal vector control to reduce malaria transmission in the low malaria-endemic setting of Namibia: a cluster-randomised controlled, open-label, two-by-two factorial design trial. The Lancet, 2020; 395 (10233): 1361 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30470-0

New Understanding Of Asthma Medicines Could Improve Future Treatment

April 27, 2020: University of Manchester
New research has revealed new insights into common asthma aerosol treatments to aid the drug's future improvements which could benefit hundreds of millions of global sufferers.

Lung diseases such as asthma are a major global health burden, with an estimated 330 million asthma sufferers worldwide. The most effective treatments are through direct inhalation of medicine to the lungs. However, generating the aerosols for inhalation is a scientific challenge because of our limited knowledge of the microstructure of drug products before they are aerosolised.

In new research announced today University of Manchester-based scientists demonstrate how they have used x-ray CT scanning to quantify the tiny microstructures of individual particles from the drug product at the nano-scale.

This is the first time that the 3D microstructure has been revealed and gives scientists and pharmaceutical producers a better understanding of the behaviour of the drug product under aerosolisation.

Lead author of the research, Dr Parmesh Gajjar said: "We have been able to visualise a drug-blend in 3D, and see the interplay between drug and non-drug particles in the medicine. This is important for final quality control of asthma medicines to check the actual amount of drug and to help formulate improved asthma medications."

Due to the new technological innovation the findings was announced at the Respiratory Drug Delivery (RDD) 2020 conference. The groups work was selected to be a key presentation at the global conference, originally scheduled to take place in Palm Springs but now occurring in a digital format as a result of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The work was made possible through the high-resolution x-ray computed tomography (XCT) instruments in the word leading Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility (HMXIF) at The University of Manchester that provide the capability to analyse a sample at up to 50 nanometres in resolution.

This is particularly important for the inhalation medicines which require aersolisation to generate particles small enough to be adsorb via the lungs. In this project the particles measured less than 5 ?m to reach the deepest parts of the lungs.

P. Gajjar, I.D. Styliari, T.T.H. Nguyen, J. Carr, X. Chen, J.A. Elliott, R.B. Hammond, T.L. Burnett, K. Roberts, P.J. Withers, D. Murnane. 3D characterisation of dry powder inhaler formulations: Developing X-ray micro computed tomography approaches. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 2020; 151: 32 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2020.02.013

NSW: Accelerated Planning Projects To Deliver Jobs And Boost The Economy

Tuesday, 28 April 2020: Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW, Dominic Perrottet, Treasurer, Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces
Thousands of new homes, new industrial complexes and six schools are among the first wave of projects that will have their assessments fast-tracked to boost the State’s economy and create opportunities for thousands of new jobs in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet have today announced the first 24 projects to undergo a fast-tracked assessment process as part of the NSW Government’s new Planning System Acceleration Program.

“By fast-tracking assessments, we will keep people in jobs and keep the construction industry moving as we ride out the COVID-19 pandemic and set our sights on economic recovery,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The 24 projects identified in the first tranche of fast-tracked assessments have the potential to:
  • - Create almost 9,500 new jobs during construction and once complete;
  • - Inject $7.54 billion into the State’s economy;
  • - Deliver more than 325,000 square metres of new public open space, parks and environmental conservation lands; and
  • - Allow more than 4,400 new homes to be built, including more than 1,000 social and affordable homes.
Mr Stokes said decisions will be made on the first tranche of projects within the next four weeks.
“This will mean shovel-ready projects can get underway and the construction pipeline can continue to grow,” Mr Stokes said.

“If approved, these projects will be a win-win for NSW: delivering jobs for today, and local community and business benefits tomorrow.”

“It’s important to note that this is not a greenlighting exercise, the same stringent checks, balances and community consultation that ensures transparency, public benefit and merit-based assessment of projects remain.”

The criteria to identify and progress projects through a fast-tracked assessment  process has also been released.

To be considered for a fast-tracked assessment, the development application (DA) or rezoning must already be in the system, deliver a public benefit, demonstrate an ability to create jobs during construction and once complete, be able to commence construction within six months (for a State Significant Development application or State Significant Infrastructure application) or allow a DA to be lodged within six months (for a rezoning).

The criteria has been formulated by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in consultation with government agencies and key industry groups. A probity advisor will continue to oversee and report on the fast-tracked process to ensure it is transparent and robust.

Mr Perrottet said additional projects that fit the new criteria would go through the fast-tracked process, with further tranches to be announced.

“We know our planning system will be a key lever in driving investment in NSW as we come out of this crisis,” Mr Perrottet said.

“NSW already has the country’s biggest infrastructure program and we need to do what we can now to make sure that continues.”

Fast-tracking project assessments is one of the key pillars of the NSW Government’s Planning System Acceleration Program that will create opportunities for more than 30,000 jobs by the end of September 2020.

Other elements of the Program include a new one-stop shop for industry, clearing the backlog of cases stuck in the Land & Environment Court and investing $70 million to co-fund vital new community infrastructure in North West Sydney.

To view the fast-tracked assessment criteria and list of projects visit

Innovation Helps Build Social Housing Certainty

April 28, 2020
Community Housing Providers (CHPs) will have greater contractual certainty, to enhance the delivery of social housing outcomes, through a new initiative by the NSW Government.

A change in contractual arrangements offered by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) will open the door for CHPs to transition from existing three-year general social housing leases, to 20-year leases on their LAHC owned portfolio.

NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey announced the initiative today by opening an Expression of Interest process, calling for applications from interested CHPs.

A staged implementation process will initially focus on Tier One CHPs that express interest in taking-up the 20-year leases, for which LAHC will review and determine their eligibility to transition around 14,000 properties to 20-year leases.

Stage two will see a review of the suitability for Tier Two and Tier Three CHPs to transition to 20-year leases, covering approximately 1400 properties.

Minister Pavey said this significant increase (about 570 per cent) in the prescribed time-frame for leases will provide greater certainty in contractual obligations between LAHC and CHPs.

“During this difficult time we are creating greater certainty for our Community Housing Providers for rental income, by allowing them to carry out 10 year asset maintenance planning, which is essential in a life cycle maintenance approach,” Mrs Pavey said.

“A 20-year lease will enable CHPs to consider leveraging more secure longer-term revenue streams, to grow their portfolio, employ more people and engage with financiers and investors, to ultimately deliver higher quality homes.”

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said this initiative followed the successful transfer late last year of 14,000 properties to nine CHPs, under the Social Housing Management Transfer program.

“In partnership, our Government is strategically managing outcomes to deliver benefits for the community housing sector,” Mr Ward said.

Supporting a stronger community housing sector is all about supporting better options for tenants that deliver a wealth of opportunities and experiences.”

New Findings Suggest Laws Of Nature Not As Constant As Previously Thought

April 27, 2020
Those looking forward to a day when science's Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that have measured tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

UNSW Science's Professor John Webb says the fine structure constant is a measure of electromagnetism -- one of the four fundamental forces in nature (the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

"The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force," Professor Webb says.

"It's a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck's constant and the electron charge, and it's a ratio of those things. And it's the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force."

The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universe -- without it, all matter would fly apart. Up until recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

"We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite odd if it's correct...but that's what we found."

Scientists examining the light from one of the furthermost quasars in the universe were astonished to find fluctuations in the electromagnetic force. Picture: Shutterstock

Ever the sceptic, when Professor Webb first came across these early signs of slightly weaker and stronger measurements of the electromagnetic force, he thought it could be a fault of the equipment, or of his calculations or some other error that had led to the unusual readings. It was while looking at some of the most distant quasars -- massive celestial bodies emitting exceptionally high energy -- at the edges of the universe that these anomalies were first observed using the world's most powerful telescopes.

"The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us," Professor Webb says.

"So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you're studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets."

He says that in the current study, the team looked at one such quasar that enabled them to probe back to when the universe was only a billion years old which had never been done before. The team made four measurements of the fine constant along the one line of sight to this quasar. Individually, the four measurements didn't provide any conclusive answer as to whether or not there were perceptible changes in the electromagnetic force. However, when combined with lots of other measurements between us and distant quasars made by other scientists and unrelated to this study, the differences in the fine structure constant became evident.

"And it seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the universe, which is very weird indeed," Professor Webb says.

"So the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics -- one that is the same, statistically, in all directions. But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it.

"In one particular direction, we can look back 12 billion light years and measure electromagnetism when the universe was very young. Putting all the data together, electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look, while towards the opposite direction, it gradually decreases. In other directions in the cosmos, the fine structure constant remains just that -- constant. These new very distant measurements have pushed our observations further than has ever been reached before."

In other words, in what was thought to be an arbitrarily random spread of galaxies, quasars, black holes, stars, gas clouds and planets -- with life flourishing in at least one tiny niche of it -- the universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south. Professor Webb is still open to the idea that somehow these measurements made at different stages using different technologies and from different locations on Earth are actually a massive coincidence.

"This is something that is taken very seriously and is regarded, quite correctly with scepticism, even by me, even though I did the first work on it with my students. But it's something you've got to test because it's possible we do live in a weird universe."

But adding to the side of the argument that says these findings are more than just coincidence, a team in the US working completely independently and unknown to Professor Webb's, made observations about X-rays that seemed to align with the idea that the universe has some sort of directionality.

"I didn't know anything about this paper until it appeared in the literature," he says.

"And they're not testing the laws of physics, they're testing the properties, the X-ray properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and cosmological distances from Earth. They also found that the properties of the universe in this sense are not isotropic and there's a preferred direction. And lo and behold, their direction coincides with ours."

While still wanting to see more rigorous testing of ideas that electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality, Professor Webb says if these findings continue to be confirmed, they may help explain why our universe is the way it is, and why there is life in it at all.

"For a long time, it has been thought that the laws of nature appear perfectly tuned to set the conditions for life to flourish. The strength of the electromagnetic force is one of those quantities. If it were only a few per cent different to the value we measure on Earth, the chemical evolution of the universe would be completely different and life may never have got going. It raises a tantalising question: does this 'Goldilocks' situation, where fundamental physical quantities like the fine structure constant are 'just right' to favour our existence, apply throughout the entire universe?"

If there is a directionality in the universe, Professor Webb argues, and if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.

"Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions," he says.

"That standard model itself is built upon Einstein's theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics."

Professor Webb's team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the world's largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.

Michael R. Wilczynska, John K. Webb, Matthew Bainbridge, John D. Barrow, Sarah E. I. Bosman, Robert F. Carswell, Mariusz P. Dąbrowski, Vincent Dumont, Chung-Chi Lee, Ana Catarina Leite, Katarzyna Leszczyńska, Jochen Liske, Konrad Marosek, Carlos J. A. P. Martins, Dinko Milaković, Paolo Molaro, Luca Pasquini. Four direct measurements of the fine-structure constant 13 billion years ago. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (17): eaay9672 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay9672

Feedback Sought On Penrith Employment Lands

May 1, 2020: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
The NSW Government is seeking community feedback on plans to expand employment land, protect the environment and improve public space near Penrith Lakes.

Proposed amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Penrith Lakes Scheme) 1989 are on public exhibition that aim to extend the employment zone by 13 hectares, rezone 12 hectares of land for recreation and conservation uses and change requirements to ensure development is better protected against flooding.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said these changes would increase job opportunities in Penrith, provide certainty for the site’s future and benefit the environment and the community.

“These amendments demonstrate the Government’s commitment to providing certainty for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and put them in a position of strength once we’re on the other side of the crisis,” Mr Stokes said.

“These proposed changes are the next stage of the transformation of an old sand quarry into a vibrant commercial and recreational destination.”

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the proposed amendments would pave the way for thousands of jobs on the doorstep of Western Sydney residents.

“These proposed amendments signify the NSW Government’s strong backing of business and economic success for Western Sydney,” Mr Ayres said.

“The future Nepean Business Park will enable the creation of nearly 18,450 direct and indirect jobs and inject nearly $2 billion into the economy as well as great public space for the community to enjoy, including pedestrian and cycleways and wetlands.”

If approved, these changes will allow for development applications to progress to rehabilitate the site, safeguard it against flooding and subdivide the land, with construction of the building premises likely to begin within the next two years.

The proposed amendments are on exhibition until Monday, 11 May 2020. For more information and to provide your feedback visit our Penrith Lakes SEPP page.

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