Inbox and Environment News: Issue 457

July 5 - 18, 2020: Issue 457

Pittwater Powerful  Owl Nesting Site Razed: Chicks No Longer Present

Sad news as another action of bad land management in the Northern Beaches LGA causes one Powerful Owl family to abandon the nest hollow on Friday June 26th, along with the chicks that would have been inside the hollow. This pair are known to be regularly having chicks at this time of year (Winter is breeding season for Powerful Owls) and the site is in Pittwater.

There are 30 registered with Council Powerful Owl sites across the northern beaches. It has been suggested a process whereby landowners are notified they are buying or have bought a block in a sensitive area, with endangered species present, form part of Council’s processes. This site was cleared not only of weeds but native species and all understorey as well parts of the council and community owned reserve adjacent to it. 

Although Council officers ordered a stop work, the contractors ceased then returned the very next day to complete their razing of the site. 

The Council Reserve cleared by contractors employed by private landowners - photo supplied

Pittwater Online News will run more on the Powerful Owl Project and what we can do to help look after these other local residents after the Winter School holidays.

If you are noticing the loss of your resident POs through fire, nest site vegetation removal, dog-walking, bike riding or visitation/photography, you are not alone. This season the Powerful Owl Project have already recorded three owl families moving away from nest trees in response to these activities. In one case the first nesting was early enough that the owls have made a second attempt at breeding, but for our Pittwater owl family - there will be no chicks that survive this year. You may have read about them here in December 2019: 

Powerful owls: the reason to protect remnant bushland in our cities by Andrew Gregory. Australian Geographic, December 29, 2019.

Powerful Owl at Clareville - photographed by Paul Wheeler in June 2014


Australasian Grebe Photographed In Pittwater Wetlands

The Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae - Podicipedidae) is usually confined to freshwater wetlands, and can often be seen swimming singly or in twos on farm dams. This one, photographed last weekend, June 28, is a current Pittwater resident and one of a few birds usually seen more frequently inland, that has moved to the coast for water and food. A report from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment this week (runs below) shows that many of our inland areas are still suffering from drought.

These birds build floating nests —a platform made from green aquatic vegetation — into which bluish-white eggs are laid, sometimes by two females. When the young hatch they have striped down and proportionally oversized webbed feet, and are able to swim almost immediately. Not becoming independent for eight weeks after hatching, they follow their parents about, and they sometimes nestle onto the back of a swimming adult to rest.

The non-breeding plumage of both the male and female is dark grey-brown above and mostly silver-grey below, with a white oval patch of bare skin at the base of the bill. During the breeding season, both sexes have a glossy-black head and a rich chestnut facial stripe which extends from just behind the eye through to the base of the neck. At this time, the eye becomes darker and the patch of skin at the base of the bill becomes pale yellow and more noticeable.

The Australasian Grebe has a lobed or paddle flaps feet - this one, shown stretching, makes this clearly visible.

Almost all aquatic birds, ones that swim, have webbed feet - Grebes and Coots have evolved an alternative solution to webbed feet to augment the paddle power of their feet - the lobed foot.

Photo by Margaret Woods, Artist of the Month in June 2020.

Rainbow Lorikeets are feasting on Swamp Mahogany gum blossoms all over Pittwater at present - photo by A J Guesdon, July 1st 2020


Bushcare Is Back!

Protocols are now in place so you can get involved in your local bushcare group again or sign up to help out to see your investment in your community grow - literally!

Find out how in: Bushcare is Back

Careel Creek - Careel Bay Bushcare Group on the first Saturdayt back for them.

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park Precinct Closures Update

Many COVID-19 restrictions have now been lifted from visitor precincts and facilities In Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. However, several tracks and trails will remain closed while upgrades and remediation works are completed. These closures include:

  • Bobbin Head playground
  • Warrimoo walking track - public access may be restricted on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 June. 
  • The Basin trail
  • The Basin campground and picnic area
  • Mackerel service trail
  • Salvation Loop and Wallaroo trails 

Berowra track, between Apple Tree Bay and the intersection of Mount Ku-ring-gai track, has now reopened. However if you plan to visit, walk with caution as some sections of the track remain uneven. 

Closed areas: The Basin campground, Basin trail and Mackerel service trail closed

The following areas will be closed from Monday 1 June until Monday 3 August 2020 while upgrade works and maintenance are underway:

  • The Basin trail
  • The Basin campground and picnic area
  • Mackerel service trail

No public access is permitted. There will be no access to The Basin Aboriginal Engraving Site, Mackerel Beach to The Basin trail, West Head Road or The Basin campground.

For further information call 02 9451 3479 or 02 9472 8949.

Closed areas: Salvation Loop and Wallaroo Trails closed for maintenance.

The Salvation Loop Trail and Wallaroo Trail at West Head will be closed from 2 June 2020 until early July 2020 for maintenance. Machinery will be on the trails so no public access is permitted for safety reasons.

For further information contact; (02) 9451 3479 or (02) 9472 8949

Please remember to practice appropriate social distancing requirements and good hygiene. From Saturday 13 June, the maximum group size for an outdoor gathering will be increasing from 10 to 20 people. Groups are still expected to maintain social distancing. If you arrive at a national park or other public space and it is too crowded to practice social distancing, it is your responsibility to leave the area. Do not wait to be instructed by NPWS staff or police.

The closure of toilets and other facilities will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Necessary site assessments will take place to consider the management of health and safety risk to visitors and staff, and available resourcing to maintain facilities. Access to sanitation products and running water cannot be guaranteed. We recommend bringing hand soap, hand wipes and toilet paper with you to maintain good hygiene as advised by the NSW Government.

If you're visiting the park, please bring a card to pay vehicle entry fees.

For more information about closures, call the NPWS Contact Centre on 1300 072 757, the NPWS North Western Sydney area office on 02 8448 0400 or the NPWS Sydney North area office on 02 9451 3479.

Penalties apply for non-compliance.

Stopping koala extinction is agonisingly simple. But here's why I'm not optimistic

Christine HoskingThe University of Queensland

On Tuesday, a year-long New South Wales parliamentary inquiry revealed the state’s koalas are on track for extinction in the wild by 2050, without urgent government intervention.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry has been the number one koala killer since European occupation of Australia. This is compounded by the unabated impacts of climate change, which leads to more extreme droughts, heatwaves and bushfires.

Read more: Scientists find burnt, starving koalas weeks after the bushfires

Koala populations in NSW were already declining before the 2019-2020 bushfires. The report doesn’t mince words, saying “huge swathes of koala habitat burned and at least 5,000 koalas perished”.

The report, ambitiously, makes 42 recommendations, and all have merit. The fate of NSW koalas now relies on a huge commitment from the Berejiklian government to act on them. But past failures by a federal government inquiry into koalas suggest there’s little cause for optimism.

First, let’s look at the report’s key recommendations and how they might ensure the species’ survival in NSW.

Leadership Needed At The Local Level

Real, on-ground koala conservation actions take place at the local level. “Local” is where councils give development approvals, sometimes to clear koala habitat. And it’s where communities and volunteers work on the front line to save and protect the species.

Recommendation 10 in the report addresses this, suggesting the NSW government provide additional funding and support to community groups so they can plant trees and regenerate bushland along koala and wildlife corridors.

Read more: A report claims koalas are 'functionally extinct' – but what does that mean?

Another two recommendations build on this: encouraging increased funding from the NSW government to local councils to support local conservation initiatives, and suggesting increased resources to support councils to conduct mapping.

Mapping, such as where koalas have been recorded and their habitat, is a critical component for local councils to develop comprehensive koala management plans.

Stop Offsetting Koala Habitat

One recommendation suggests a review of the “biodiversity offsets scheme”, where generally developers must compensate for habitat loss by improving or establishing it elsewhere. It is embedded in the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and other state and territory governments commonly use offsets in various conservation policies.

Read more: The Blinky Bill effect: when gum trees are cut down, where do the koalas go?

But the report recommends prohibiting offsets for high quality koala habitat. Prohibiting offsets is important because when a vital part of koala habitat is cleared, it can no longer support the local koalas. Replacing this habitat somewhere else won’t save that particular population.

Build The Great Koala National Park

It’s of paramount importance to increase the connected, healthy koala habitat in NSW, particularly after the bushfires.

One tool to achieve this is laid out in recommendation 41: to investigate establishing the Great Koala National Park. Spearheaded by the National Parks Association of NSW, this national park would see 175,000 hectares of publicly owned state forests added to existing protected areas.

It total, it would form a 315,000 hectare reserve in the Coffs Harbour hinterland dedicated to protecting koalas – an Australian first.

Read more: What does a koala's nose know? A bit about food, and a lot about making friends

It would be a great day if such a park was established and replicated throughout the NSW and Queensland hinterlands. Research shows that in those regions, the future climate will remain suitable for koalas, and urbanisation, agriculture and mining are not currently present in these parks.

The Great Koala National Park.

But it’s worth noting Australia’s national parks are under increasing pressure from “adventure tourism”. Human recreation activities can fragment habitat and disturb wildlife, for example by constructing tracks and access roads through natural areas.

Humans must not be allowed to compromise dedicated koala conservation areas. Intrusive recreational activity is detrimental to the species, and can also reduce the chance quiet park visitors might spy a koala sitting high in a tree, sleepily munching on gum leaves.

This rule should apply both to existing national parks, and a new Great Koala National Park.

Failures Of Past Inquiries

The tragic fate predicted for koalas in NSW depends on the state government’s willingness to act on the recommendations. Developing wordy, well-intentioned documents is simply not enough.

We need look no further than Australia’s key environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, to realise this.

Habitat destruction is an existential threat to koalas. Shutterstock

After a 2012 Senate inquiry into the health and status of koalas, the species was officially listed as “vulnerable” under the EPBC Act. But since then, tree clearing and declines in koala numbers have continued at a furious pace across Queensland and NSW.

One of the shortcomings of the federal listing for the koala is in its Referral Guidelines, which recommends “proponents consider these guidelines when proposing actions within the modelled distribution of the koala”. In other words, informing the government about clearing koala habitat is only voluntary. And that’s not good enough.

Read more: Environment laws have failed to tackle the extinction emergency. Here's the proof

The failure of the 2012 inquiry and the EPBC Act to protect koalas should serve as a wake-up call to the NSW government. It must start implementing the recommendations of the current inquiry without delay to ensure Australia’s internationally celebrated species doesn’t die out.

Koala conservation must take priority over land clearing, regardless of the demand for that land. That principle might seem simple, but so far it’s proved agonisingly difficult.The Conversation

Christine Hosking, Conservation Planner/Researcher, The University of Queensland

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

Let there be no doubt: blame for our failing environment laws lies squarely at the feet of government

Harley Kingston/Flickr
Peter BurnettAustralian National University

A long-awaited draft review of federal environment laws is due this week. There’s a lot riding on it – particularly in light of recent events that suggest the laws are in crisis.

Late last week, the federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir tabled a damning report on federal authorities’ handling of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Incredibly, he found Australia’s premier environmental law is administered neither efficiently or effectively.

It followed news last month that mining company Rio Tinto detonated the 46,000 year old Juukan rock shelters in the Pilbara. The decision was authorised by a 50 year old Western Australian law –and the federal government failed to invoke emergency powers to stop it.

Also last month we learned state-owned Victorian logging company VicForests unlawfully logged 26 forest coupes, home to the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum. The acts were contrary both to its own code of practice, and the agreement exempting VicForests from federal laws.

As relentless as Hehir’s criticisms of the department are, let there be no doubt that blame lies squarely at the feet of government. As a society, we must decide what values we want to protect, count the financial cost, then make sure governments deliver on that protection.

Destruction of the Juukan caves drew condemnation. Richard Wainwright/AAP

Shocking Report Card

I’ve been involved with this Act since before it began 20 years ago. As an ACT environment official reading a draft in 1998 I was fascinated by its complexity and sweeping potential. As a federal official responsible for administering, then reforming, the Act from 2007-2012, I encountered some of the issues identified by the audit, in milder form.

But I was still shocked by Hehir’s report. It’s so comprehensively scathing that the department barely took a trick.

Overall, the audit found that despite the EPBC Act being subject to multiple reviews, audits and parliamentary inquiries since it began, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s administration of the laws is neither efficient nor effective.

Read more: Mr Morrison, you can cut 'green tape' without harming nature – but it'll take money and gumption

While the government is focused on efficiency, the lack of effectiveness worries me most – especially findings concerning so-called “environmental offsets”. These are measures designed to compensate for unavoidable losses, such as creating a nature reserve near a site to be cleared.

In the early years of the law, offsets were rare. By 2015 they featured in almost 90% of decisions, dropping to about 75% last year. In effect, we now rely on offsets to protect the environment.

The Auditor-General found that the absence of guidance and quality control for offsets has led to “realised risks”.

the department accepted offsets for damage to koala habitat in 2015 that did not meet its offset standards. WWF Australia

For example, offsets must be mapped and disclosed publicly, to ensure their integrity. But not only did the department fail to create a public register, in 2019 it stopped loading offset data into its systems altogether. This makes it likely offsets will be forgotten and so either destroyed later, or put up a second time and thus double-counted.

Hehir cites one example where the department accepted offsets for damage to koala habitat in 2015 that did not meet its offset standards. After negotiations with the developer and involvement from the Minister’s office, the department accepted the offsets. Worse, the developer secured a futher non-complying offset for a second development in 2018, arguing for consistency with the previous decision.

Apart from politicisation and failure to protect the environment, this case reveals a significant legal issue. Under administrative law, a decision is invalid if it has regard to an “irrelevant consideration”. An offset in one development in 2015 is surely irrelevant to an offset in another development in 2018.

Read more: Environment laws have failed to tackle the extinction emergency. Here's the proof

Offsets aside, the Auditor-General higlighted key risks such as high volumes of unapproved land clearing for agriculture, and non-compliance in residential and mining developments. The department had proposed actions to address the issues, but made no progress on them.

And the report found arrangements to monitor whether approval conditions had been met before work started on a project were inadequate, which “leaves the department poorly positioned to prevent adverse environmental outcomes”.

At the end of the day, the federal department doesn’t have the tools to distinguish whether an environmental effect is the result of its own regulations, or other factors such as state programs or extreme weather. Essentially, it doesn’t know if the Act is delivering any environmental benefits at all.

The corroborree frog, which is critically endangered. Taronga Zoo

How Did This Happen?

The EPBC Act itself remains a powerful instrument. Certainly changes are needed, but the more significant problems lie in the processes that should support it: plans and policies, information systems and resourcing.

As I wrote last month, between 2013 and 2019 the federal environment department’s budget was cut by an estimated 39.7%.

And while effective administration of the Act requires good information, this can be hard to come by. For example the much-needed National Plan for Environmental Information, established in 2010, was never properly resourced and later abolished.

Read more: Our nature laws are being overhauled. Here are 7 things we must fix

Officials are constrained here. The audit scope does not extend to the government decisions shaping departmental performance. And the department loyally refrains from complaining that government decisions leave it few options.

So while the audit office and the department might believe extensive government cuts are the underlying problem, neither can say so. I’m not excusing the department’s poor performance, but it must manage with what it’s given. When faced with critical audit findings, it can only pledge to “reprioritise” resources.

Vicforests illegally logged Leadbeater’s possum habitat. D. Harley/Flickr

A National Conversation

There is a small saving grace here. Hehir says the department asked that his report be timed to inform Professor Graeme Samuel’s 10-year review of the EPBC Act. Hehir timed it perfectly – Samuel’s draft report is due by tomorrow. Let’s hope it recommends comprehensive action, and that the final report in October follows through.

Beyond Samuel’s review, we need a national conversation on how to fix laws protecting our environment and heritage. The destruction of the Juukan rock shelters, unlawful logging of Victorian forests and the Auditor-General’s report are incontrovertible evidence the laws are failing.

I don’t believe we can lock nature up. But we must look after the things that enable nature to provide not just life, but quality of life. This includes a stable climate, our Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage and the resilience that comes from nature’s richness and diversity.The Conversation

Peter Burnett, Honorary Associate Professor, ANU College of Law, Australian National University

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

NSW Water Allocations Reflect Some Easing After Record Drought Conditions

July 1, 2020

Today’s water allocations announced by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for licensed water users reflect some improvement in resource availability, particularly for towns and high priority entitlements.

“While supplies for towns and stock and domestic and other high priority uses are secured for the coming year, new allocations for general security water users on regulated rivers will again be low or zero across much of the State,” Vanessa O’Keefe, Executive Director Policy, Planning & Sciences, said.

“While the coastal catchments are much better placed for the coming year, water availability across the entire Murray-Darling Basin remains seriously depleted.

“Total storage levels for WaterNSW operated dams, excluding the Snowy, are about 6,118 gigalitres, which is 34.5 per cent of total storage capacity.

“While this is about 3.5 per cent higher than this time last year – unfortunately the situation for many water users is still grim. Despite some rainfall in recent months, and recovery of soil moisture for croppers, major storages have missed out on inflows meaning there is little resource improvement to allocate.

Ms O’Keefe said that while many parts of the NSW coast had received decent rain at the start of the year, inland rainfall in most cases had failed to boost storage levels in most places, resulting in small initial allocations for many licenced water users.

“Today’s commencing water allocations reflect a slow recovery from record dry conditions affecting much of inland NSW.

“In the far west of NSW the situation for water users on the Lower Darling has taken a turn for the better, with Menindee Lakes currently at 29 per cent of capacity.

“This means that water can be run along the entire length of the Lower Darling for the first time in almost two years.

“Based on current storage levels in the lakes – there should be enough water to run the river for at least the next 12 to 18 months.

“While this is wonderful news for the people and communities along the Lower Darling, I remain hopeful that winter rains may bolster dam levels across the state and provide much needed water for NSW towns, irrigators, industry and the environment,” she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast wetter than average conditions for much of NSW during August to October.

“The department will continue to monitor conditions closely so that any possible increases to water allocations can be announced if further water becomes available,” Ms O’Keefe said.

Additional information on available water determinations can be found on the department’s Water website.

Temporary Water Restriction For Upper Lachlan Groundwater

July 2, 2020

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment today announced a temporary water restriction for the Upper Lachlan groundwater management zone 1 in the Upper Lachlan Alluvial Groundwater Source.

The temporary water restriction is required to address a severe decline in groundwater levels in the management zone in order to prevent irreversible damage to the aquifer and protect groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Licensed water users who draw from this management zone are restricted to 0.3ML per unit share of their access licence. Trading of water is restricted to ensure that no more than 0.3ML per unit share is extracted within the management zone.

The restrictions on both water take and trade are designed to decrease demand sufficiently to allow the aquifer to recharge above the critical threshold.

These restrictions will remain in force up to and including 1 July 2021, unless that date is amended or the order is repealed before that date.

For more information visit the department's temporary water restrictions webpage.

Temporary Water Restriction For Mortons Creek Applied

July 2, 2020

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment today announced a temporary water restriction which applies to the Mortons Creek Water Source.

A temporary water restriction was in place for the Hastings Unregulated and Upriver Alluvial Water Source and the Hastings River Coastal Floodplain Alluvial Groundwater Source to control unregulated river and aquifer access licence extractions in the Hastings water source.

The Hastings restriction was necessary to maintain water supply for Basic Landholder Rights, Stock and Domestic and Local Water utility licence holders, including supply for Port Macquarie, during the switch to updated cease-to-pump licence conditions under the new water sharing plan. This restriction expired 30 June 2020.

The revised licence conditions for water users covered by the Hastings unregulated and alluvial water sources water sharing plan have been completed for all water access licence holders. However, water sharing plan amendments are needed, impacting on those who draw water from the Mortons Creek water source.

The department is currently working through the necessary administrative procedures to up-date the rules in the water sharing plan that will apply to water users on Mortons Creek.

The restriction on Mortons Creek Water Source will remain in place until 11 December 2020. However, it can be repealed once the water sharing plan has been amended, new licence conditions are imposed and licence holders have been notified.

For more information visit the department's temporary water restrictions webpage.

Water Regulator Commences Prosecution Of Mine At Maules Creek

July 2, 2020

The state’s independent water regulator has commenced prosecution in the Land and Environment Court of a mine operator at Maules Creek near Boggabri in the state’s north west.

The state’s independent water regulator has commenced prosecution in the Land and Environment Court of a mine operator at Maules Creek near Boggabri in the state’s north west.

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is charging the Whitehaven Coal-owned Maules Creek Coal Pty Ltd with two alleged breaches of section 60A(2) of the Water Management Act 2000 for taking water without an access licence over a three-year period between 2016 and 2019, or in the alternative section 60C(2).

The alleged breaches relate to the failure to divert clean water from major streams on the site, instead capturing the water on the mine site.

The maximum penalty for a breach of section 60A(2) for a company is $2,002,000.

NRAR Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said the alleged failure to obtain licences for the water taken impacts on other water users and the environment – especially during severe drought.

“As this matter is now before the court, NRAR cannot comment further on the case.”

To see the work NRAR does, go to its public register on the NRAR website Go to ‘Reports and data’, then ‘NRAR Public Register’.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, go to or contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 during business hours.

Companies Held To Account By Water Regulator

July 3, 2020

The state’s water regulator is holding two companies to account in separate prosecutions for alleged breaches of the Water Management Act 2000.

A macadamia nut nursery company, its manager and the property owner from the Ballina area received a total of $16,000 in fines for breaches of the NSW water laws in Ballina Local Court yesterday.

In a case brought by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), the company pleaded guilty to two alleged breaches of section 60A(2) of the Water Management Act 2000 for taking water without an access licence, and two alleged breaches of section 91B(2) for using a pump, tank and pipes to take and use water without a water supply work approval. The company received a fine of $10,000 and was ordered to pay legal costs of $7,000.

The breaches took place between June 2016 and July 2018.

The property owner pleaded guilty to one alleged breach of section 60A(2) of the Water Management Act 2000 for taking water without an access licence which covered several alleged instances. The property owner received a fine of $1,000 and was ordered to pay court costs of $2,000.

The manager of the business pleaded guilty to one alleged breach of section 60A(2) of the Water Management Act 2000 for taking water without an access licence and one alleged breach of section 91B(2) for using a pump, tank and pipes to take and use water without a water supply work approval. The manager received a fine of $5,000 and was ordered to pay legal costs of $3,000.

A company from Lithgow operating a property in the Narrabri Shire Council area is the subject of another prosecution by NRAR, this time in the Land and Environment Court. The company has been charged with an alleged breach of section 60C of the Water Management Act 2000 - taking water for which they did not have an allocation.

The company is also the subject of separate proceedings begun at an earlier date for alleged breaches of section 91I of the Act, regarding bores on its property.

NRAR’s Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said the public had higher expectations of companies than of individuals.

“Companies should have adequate systems in place to comply with the law; the community expects nothing less,” he said.

“It is critical for the integrity of the state’s water management system that users of water hold licences and approvals, as failure to do so can harm other water users and the environment.”

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. NRAR officers follow all NSW Health COVID-19 guidelines when making site visits.

To see the work NRAR does, go to its public register on the NRAR website Go to ‘Reports and data’, then ‘NRAR Public Register’.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, go to or contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 during business hours.

National Parks And Wildlife Service On A Mission To Recruit 125 New Staff

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is hiring 125 new staff across NSW. These staff will play a vital role in managing a world class network of 870 national parks including through effective fire management and feral animal control.

Atticus Fleming, Deputy Secretary of NPWS said the focus of this recruitment drive is to enable an increase in hazard reduction activity in national parks and to ensure more NPWS firefighters are in place before the 2020–21 bushfire season.

"Field officers are at the frontline protecting our national parks and threatened wildlife – fighting fires is a key priority, as well as delivering feral animal control and maintaining walking tracks and other infrastructure and supporting threatened species conservation projects," said Mr Fleming.

"We are on the hunt for problem solvers who have a passion for the Australian bush, who can use initiative and think on their feet and who will bring a good practical approach to their work," Mr Fleming said.

"The work is varied and will be well supported with training opportunities. Importantly, this is a chance to make a difference as one of the team protecting 7.2 million hectares of national parks, from the islands of Sydney Harbour, to the desert country in the north west, the forests along the Great Dividing Range and the alpine country in the Snowy Mountains" he said.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and NPWS is an equal opportunity employer, so I encourage everyone to apply," he said.

Applications are invited from people of all genders and many of the roles are targeted for employment of Aboriginal people.

"As one of the State's 4 frontline firefighting agencies, NPWS works closely with other agencies to manage fire both inside and outside national parks," he said.

This recruitment is supported by $22.9 million in funding committed by the NSW Government as an interim budget boost ahead of the next bushfire season. This funding will also be used for an additional helicopter to ensure rapid response teams are well placed to protect people, property and the environment. Further information is available online.

Recruitment is open until Monday 6 July 2020. Further information about the roles is available at I work for NSW, where applications may be submitted.


First Confirmed Underwater Aboriginal Archaeological Sites Found Off Australian Coast

July 1, 2020

Ancient submerged Aboriginal archaeological sites await underwater rediscovery off the coast of Australia, according to a study published July 1, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and colleagues.

Aboriginal artefacts discovered off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia represent Australia’s oldest known underwater archaeology. The discoveries were made through a series of archaeological and geophysical surveys in the Dampier Archipelago, as part of the Deep History of Sea Country Project, funded through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project Scheme.

An international team of archaeologists from Flinders University, The University of Western Australia, James Cook University, ARA – Airborne Research Australia and the University of York (United Kingdom) partnered with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to locate and investigate ancient artefacts at two underwater sites which have yielded hundreds of stone tools made by Aboriginal peoples, including grinding stones.

In a study published today in PLOS ONE, the ancient underwater sites, at Cape Bruguieres and Flying Foam Passage, provide new evidence of Aboriginal ways of life from when the seabed was dry land, due to lower sea levels, thousands of years ago.

At the end of the Ice Age, sea level was much lower than today, and the Australian coastline was 160 kilometers farther offshore. When the ice receded and sea level rose to its current level, approximately two million square kilometers of Australian land became submerged where Aboriginal peoples had previously lived. Thus, it is likely that many ancient Aboriginal sites are currently underwater.

The submerged cultural landscapes represent what is known today as Sea Country to many Indigenous Australians, who have a deep cultural, spiritual and historical connection to these underwater environments.

“Today we announce the discovery of two underwater archaeological sites that were once on dry land. This is an exciting step for Australian archaeology as we integrate maritime and Indigenous archaeology and draw connections between land and sea,” says Associate Professor Jonathan Benjamin who is the Maritime Archaeology Program Coordinator at Flinders University’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

“Australia is a massive continent but few people realise that more than 30% of its land mass was drowned by sea-level rise after the last ice age. This means that a huge amount of the archaeological evidence documenting the lives of Aboriginal people is now underwater.

“Now we finally have the first proof that at least some of this archaeological evidence survived the process of sea level rise. The ancient coastal archaeology is not lost for good; we just haven’t found it yet. These new discoveries are a first step toward exploring the last real frontier of Australian archaeology.”

The dive team mapped 269 artefacts at Cape Bruguieres in shallow water at depths down to 2.4 metres below modern sea level. Radiocarbon dating and analysis of sea-level changes show the site is at least 7000 years old.

The second site at Flying Foam Passage includes an underwater freshwater spring 14 metres below sea level. This site is estimated to be at least 8500 years old. Both sites may be much older as the dates represent minimum ages only; they may be even more ancient.

The team of archaeologists and geoscientists employed predictive modelling and various underwater and remote sensing techniques, including scientific diving methods, to confirm the location of sites and presence of artefacts.

“At one point there would have been dry land stretching out 160 km from the current shoreline. That land would have been owned and lived on by generations of Aboriginal people. Our discovery demonstrates that underwater archaeological material has survived sea-level rise, and although these sites are located in relatively shallow water, there will likely be more in deeper water offshore” says Chelsea Wiseman from Flinders University who has been working on the DHSC project as part of PhD research.

“These territories that are now underwater harboured favourable environments for Indigenous settlements including freshwater, ecological diversity and opportunities to exploit marine resources which would have supported relatively high population densities” says Dr Michael O’Leary, a marine geomorphologist at The University of Western Australia.”

These findings demonstrate the utility of these exploratory techniques for locating submerged archaeological sites. The authors hope that these techniques can be expanded upon in the future for systematic recovery and investigation of ancient Aboriginal cultural artefacts. They further urge that future exploration will rely not only on careful and safe scientific procedures, but also on legislation to protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage along the Australian coastline.

The discovery of these sites emphasises the need for stronger federal legislation to protect and manage underwater heritage across 2 million square kilometres of landscapes that were once above sea level in Australia, and hold major insights into human history.

“Managing, investigating and understanding the archaeology of the Australian continental shelf in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional owners and custodians is one of the last frontiers in Australian archaeology” said Associate Professor Benjamin.

“Our results represent the first step in a journey of discovery to explore the potential of archaeology on the continental shelves which can fill a major gap in the human history of the continent” he said.

In Murujuga, this adds substantial additional evidence to support the deep time history of human activities accompanying rock art production in this important National Heritage Listed Place.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation CEO Peter Jeffries says the discoveries will help the community add to the story of Aboriginal people in the Pilbara.

“Further exploration could unearth similar cultural relics and help us better understand the life of the people who were so connected to these areas of land which are now underwater.

“With this comes a new requirement for the careful management of Aboriginal sea country as it’s not automatically protected by current Heritage legislation, however plans are progressing to lead this change and protect our sea country land and heritage.”

Deep History of Sea Country Project with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation

Jonathan Benjamin, Michael O’Leary, Jo McDonald, Chelsea Wiseman, John McCarthy, Emma Beckett, Patrick Morrison, Francis Stankiewicz, Jerem Leach, Jorg Hacker, Paul Baggaley, Katarina Jerbić, Madeline Fowler, John Fairweather, Peter Jeffries, Sean Ulm, Geoff Bailey. Aboriginal artefacts on the continental shelf reveal ancient drowned cultural landscapes in northwest Australia. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (7): e0233912 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233912

Westward facing aerial view of Cape Bruguieres Channel at high tide (Photo: J. Leach); (below) divers record artefacts in the channel (Photos: S. Wright, J. Benjamin, and M. Fowler).

45,000 renewables jobs are Australia’s for the taking – but how many will go to coal workers?

Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Chris BriggsUniversity of Technology SydneyElsa DominishUniversity of Technology Sydney, and Jay RutovitzUniversity of Technology Sydney

As the global renewables transition accelerates, the future for coal regions has become a big worry. This raises an important question: can renewables create the right jobs in the right places to employ former coal workers?

According to our new research, the answer in many cases is “yes”. Renewable energy jobs provide a good match for existing coal jobs across a range of blue and white-collar occupations, including construction and project managers, engineers, electricians, site administrators and mechanical technicians.

But about one-third of coal workers, such as drillers and machine operators, cannot simply switch over to renewables jobs. So as our economy pivots to renewables, planning and investment is needed to help coal regions survive.

Some renewables jobs could be filled by coal workers. Tim Wimbourne/AAP

Renewables Jobs: A Snapshot

Our research, commissioned by the Clean Energy Council, is the first large-scale survey of renewable energy employment in Australia.

We surveyed more than 450 Australian renewable energy businesses, covering large scale wind, solar and hydro, rooftop solar and batteries. We wanted to find out how many people were employed, and in what jobs.

Read more: Australia's devotion to coal has come at a huge cost. We need the government to change course, urgently

We then projected employment until 2035 using three scenarios for the future of the electricity market, developed by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

Our results suggest renewable energy can be a major source of jobs in the next 15 years. But the trajectories are very different depending on government COVID-19 stimulus measures and wider energy policy.

Policy Crossroads

We found the renewable energy sector currently employs about 26,000 people. Temporary construction and installation jobs now comprise 75% of the renewable energy labour market, but as the sector grows, this will change (more on that later).

Australia’s renewable energy target was reached last year, and has not been replaced. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia this caused renewables investment to fall by 50% last year compared to 2018. Under a “central” scenario where these policies continued, 11,000 renewable jobs would be lost by 2022.

Under the right policies, there could be an average of 35,000 renewables jobs annually in Australia until 2035. Michael Buholzer/Reuters

We then examined a “step change” scenario where Australian policy settings were in line with meeting the Paris climate agreement. This would create a jobs boom: renewable energy employment would grow to 45,000 by 2025 and average around 35,000 jobs each year to 2035. Up to two-thirds are in regional areas.

Under all scenarios, job growth is strongest in rooftop solar and wind. Most are in the construction and installation phase, comprising both ongoing and project-based jobs in trades, as well as technicians and labourers. But by 2035, as many as half of renewable energy jobs could be ongoing jobs in operation and maintenance.

Read more: People need to see the benefits from local renewable energy projects, and that means jobs

Renewable energy jobs will be higher than our projections. We excluded employment areas such as building electricity transmission networks, bioenergy, professional services, renewable hydrogen, growth in minerals needed for renewable energy, and jobs in heavy industry such as “green” steel.

Renewables Vs Coal Jobs

All up, coal mining in Australia employs about 40,000 people. As mentioned above, renewable energy jobs could grow to 45,000 by 2025 – and more once other sectors are included.

Australia’s renewable energy industry already employs considerably more people than the 10,500 working in the domestic coal sector – mostly thermal coal mining and power generation.

About 75% of coal mined in Australia is exported. About 24,000 people work in thermal coal mining for both domestic use and export – slightly fewer than the current renewable energy workforce.

Employment in renewable energy and coal. Author supplied

New Renewables Jobs In Coal Regions

Around two-thirds of renewable energy jobs could be created in regional areas. These would be distributed more widely than coal sector jobs.

The leading coal mining states, NSW and Queensland, have the biggest share of renewable energy jobs under all scenarios.

AEMO has identified “renewable energy zones” where most large-scale renewable energy is expected to be located. In both NSW and Queensland, some of these zones overlap with the coal workforce. In NSW, the Central West zone could also create employment in the Hunter region. In general, though, many renewable energy jobs will be located in other regions and the capital cities.

Read more: Really Australia, it's not that hard: 10 reasons why renewable energy is the future

In terms of occupations, there is overlap between coal and renewable energy. These include construction and project managers, engineers, electricians, mechanical trades, office managers and contract administrators and drivers.

The timing and location of these renewables jobs will influence whether they can be a source of alternative jobs for coal workers. Re-training of coal workers would also be required.

But there is no direct job overlap for the semi-skilled machine operators such as drillers, which account for more than one-third of the coal workforce.

Renewable Energy Zones and coal mining employment in Queensland. Author supplied
Renewable energy zones and coal mining employment in NSW. Author supplied

Planning For The Decline

Renewable energy can meaningfully help in the transition for coal regions. But it won’t replace all lost coal jobs, and planning and investment is needed to avoid social and economic harm.

Coal regions need industry development plans and investment to diversify their economies to other industries, including renewables. Almost half our coal workers are aged under 40, so Australia will not be able to follow Germany and Spain’s lead by relying on early retirement schemes.

At some point, demand for our coal exports will collapse – be it due to the falling cost of renewables, or policies to address climate change. If we don’t start preparing now, the consequences for coal communities will be dire.The Conversation

Some coal workers can be retrained to work in renewables, but others cannot. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Chris Briggs, Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology SydneyElsa Dominish, Senior Research Consultant, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, and Jay Rutovitz, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

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

The world endured 2 extra heatwave days per decade since 1950 – but the worst is yet to come

Sarah Perkins-KirkpatrickUNSW

The term “heatwave” is no stranger to Australians. Defined as when conditions are excessively hot for at least three days in a row, these extreme temperature events have always punctuated our climate.

With many of us in the thick of winter dreaming of warmer days, it’s important to remember how damaging heatwaves can be.

In 2009, the heatwave that preceded Black Saturday killed 374 people. The economic impact on Australia’s workforce from heatwaves is US$6.2 billion a year (almost AU$9 billion). And just last summer, extreme temperature records tumbled, contributing to Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season.

What are heatwaves?

Our new study – the first worldwide assessment of heatwaves at the regional scale – found heatwaves have become longer and more frequent since 1950. And worryingly, we found this trend has accelerated.

We also examined a new metric: “cumulative heat”. This measures how much extra heat a heatwave can contribute, and the new perspective is eye-opening.

What Is ‘Extra Heat’?

In southeast Australia’s worst heatwave season in 2009, we endured an extra heat of 80℃. Let’s explore what that means.

For a day to qualify as being part of a heatwave, a recorded temperature should exceed an officially declared “heatwave threshold”.

And cumulative heat is generally when the temperature above that threshold across all heatwave days are added up.

Let’s say, for example, a particular location had a heatwave threshold of around 30℃. The “extra heat” on a day where temperatures reach 35℃ would be 5℃. If the heatwave lasted for three days, and all days reached 35℃, then the cumulative heat for that event would be 15℃.

Another Decade, Another Heatwave Day

We found almost every global region has experienced a significant increase in heatwave frequency since 1950. For example, southern Australia has experienced, on average, one extra heatwave day per decade since 1950.

Read more: Anatomy of a heatwave: how Antarctica recorded a 20.75°C day last month

However, other regions have experienced much more rapid increases. The Mediterranean has seen approximately 2.5 more heatwave days per decade, while the Amazon rainforest has seen an extra 5.5 more heatwave days per decade since 1950.

The global average sits at approximately two extra heatwave days per decade.

The Last 20 Years Saw The Worst Heatwave Seasons

Since the 1950s, almost all regions experienced significant increases in the extra heat generated by heatwaves.

Over northern and southern Australia, the excess heat from heatwaves has increased by 2-3℃ per decade. This is similar to other regions, such as western North America, the Amazon and the global average.

Alaska, Brazil and West Asia, however, have cumulative heat trends of a massive 4-5℃ per decade. And, for the vast majority of the world, the worst seasons occurred in the last 20 years.

In the heatwave before Black Saturday, 374 people died. Shutterstock

We also examined whether heatwaves were changing at a constant rate, or were speeding up or slowing down. With the exception of average intensity, we found heatwave trends have not only increased, but have accelerated since the 1950s.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Maths

Interestingly, average heatwave intensity showed little – if any – changes since 1950. But before we all breathe a sigh of relief, this is not because climate change has stopped, or because heatwaves aren’t getting any warmer. It’s the result of a mathematical quirk.

Read more: Climate change: 40°C summer temperatures could be common in UK by 2100

Since we’re seeing more heatwaves – which we found are also generally getting longer – there are more days to underpin the average intensity. While all heatwave days must exceed a relative extreme threshold, some days will exceed this threshold to a lesser extent than others. This brings the overall average down.

When we look at changes in cumulative heat, however, there’s just no denying it. Extra heat – not the average – experienced in almost all regions, is what can have adverse impacts on our health, infrastructure and ecosystems.

The Amazon has endured 5.5 more heatwave days per decade since 1950. Shutterstock

Like Nothing We’ve Experienced Before

While the devastating impacts of heatwaves are clear, it has been difficult to consistently measure changes in heatwaves across the globe. Previous studies have assessed regional heatwave trends, but data constraints and the spectrum of different heatwave metrics available have made it hard to compare regional changes in heatwaves.

Our study has closed this gap, and clearly shows heatwaves are on the rise. We are seeing more of them and they are generating more heat at an increasing pace.

Read more: We've learned a lot about heatwaves, but we're still just warming up

While Australia may be no stranger to heatwaves in the past, those we see in the future under these accelerating trends will certainly be foreign.

For example, a 2014 study found that depending on where you are in Australia, anywhere between 15 and 50 extra heatwave days will occur by 2100 compared to the second half of the 20th century.

We can still abate those trends if we work collectively, effectively and urgently to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.The Conversation

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow, UNSW

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

Giant sea scorpions were the underwater titans of prehistoric Australia

Dimitris Siskopoulos/Wiki commoncCC BY-SA
Russell Dean Christopher BicknellUniversity of New England and Patrick Mark SmithAustralian Museum

Let’s turn back the hands of time. Before extinction knocked dinosaurs off their pillar, before the “Great Dying” extinction wiped out 95% of all organisms – we had the Paleozoic Era.

During this age in Earth’s history, between 541 million and 252 million years ago, arthropods (animals with exoskeletons such as insects, crustaceans, scorpions, and horseshoe crabs) were exploring the extremes of size, from tiny to huge.

In fact, some Paleozoic arthropods represent the largest animals on Earth at the time. If you were to take a swim in the Paleozoic oceans, you may have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to find one of the most fearsome of these extinct arthropods: the sea scorpions, Eurypterida.

Our new research, published in Gondwana Research, is the most comprehensive collection of information on these fascinating creatures that once roamed Australian waters.

Eurypterus remipes fossil. This sea scorpion existed more than 400 million years ago and was usually less than one foot in length, but relatives are believed to have reached up to eight feet. H. Zell/Wiki commonsCC BY-SA

A Sight To Behold

Although Eurypterida looked broadly like scorpions (with a similar body shape, albeit built for swimming), they were not. They were more like the cousins of modern scorpions.

An exceptional part of the sea scorpion evolutionary story is how they fit into the narrative of Paleozoic gigantism.

Read more: Fossils of huge plankton-eating sea creature shine light on early arthropod evolution

Sea scorpions include the largest marine predators to have ever arisen in the fossil record, including one species thought to have been more than 2.5 metres long, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae. Back then, some of these giants were effectively in the same place in their food web as the modern great white shark.

These likely agile swimmers would have used their large front limbs, armed with claws, to grab their prey, which they would then crush between the teeth-like structures on their legs (called gnathobasic spines).

While we’re not sure exactly what these large animals ate, it’s likely fish and smaller arthropods would have been on the menu. And if humans had been around swimming in the sea, maybe us too!

The size of the largest extinct sea scorpions, relative to a human. Slate Weasel/Wiki commons. Modified.

A Fascinating (But Murky) History

Australia is famous for its array of curious animals, including unique modern species such as the platypus. And this uniqueness extends far into the fossil record, with sea scorpions being a case in point.

But the scientific record and study of Australian sea scorpions has been patchy. The first documented specimen, published in 1899, consisted of a fragmented exoskeleton section found in Melbourne.

Prior to our new research examining the completeness of the group in Australia, there were about ten records – and only one other attempt to pool everything together. As such, the diversity and spread of these fossils was fairly uncertain.

For us, revisiting these amazing fossils resulted in a few trips to different Australian museums. We also had specimens sent to us at the University of New England to examine in person.

Read more: The mighty dinosaurs were bugged by other critters

This journey of palaeontological discovery uncovered many sea scorpion fossils than hadn’t previously been noted. As a result, we now have evidence of a possible six different groups that existed in Australia.

Collating these specimens together in our most recent publication, we illustrate the Pterygotidae (the family of sea scorpions that reached 2.5 metres long) dominated the group’s Australian fossil record. Although this had been noted before, the abundance of material from different locations and time periods, especially from Victoria, was unexpected.

Examples of Australian sea scorpion fossils, their two groups and the time range. Blue represents the family Pterygotidae and orange represents the family Adelophthalmidae.

Back To The Source

Besides showcasing the largest number of Australian sea scorpions, our paper also outlines the overall lack of information on these animals.

Despite there being much fragmented material, there is only one (mostly) complete specimen, Adelophthalmus waterstoni, measuring just 5.7cm long.

Future research will involve revisiting the sites where these specimens were originally collected, in the hope of finding more complete specimens. Not only will this help document Australian sea scorpion species better, it will also allow for a more complete understanding of the environments in which they lived.

Ultimately, one thing is clear – there is much left to uncover about these titans that swam through Australia’s prehistoric oceans.

The authors thank Natalie Schroeder of the Commonwealth Palaeontology Collection for her help with this project.The Conversation

Russell Dean Christopher Bicknell, Post-doctoral researcher in Palaeobiology , University of New England and Patrick Mark Smith, Technical Officer - Palaentology, Australian Museum

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

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. Bondi Campbell pde behind Beach Pavilion 
  11. Westfield Bondi Junction car park level 2 eastern end Woolworths side under ramp
  12. UNSW Kensington
  13. 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. The SW initiative runs until August 23rd.


Rat Poisons Are Killing Our Wildlife: Alternatives

BirdLife Australia is currently running a campaign highlighting the devastation being caused by poison to our wildlife. Rodentcides are an acknowledged but under-researched source of threat to many Aussie birds. If you missed  BirdLife's rodenticide talk but would like to know more, share data and comment on the use of rodenticides in Australia please visit:

Owls, kites and other birds of prey are dying from eating rats and mice that have ingested Second Generation rodent poisons. These household products – including Talon, Fast Action RatSak and The Big Cheese Fast Action brand rat and mice bait – have been banned from general public sale in the US, Canada and EU, but are available from supermarkets throughout Australia.  

Australia is reviewing the use of these dangerous chemicals right now and you can make a submission to help get them off supermarket shelves and make sure only licenced operators can use them.   

There are alternatives for household rodent control – find out more about the impacts of rat poison on our birds of prey and what you can do at the link above and by reading the information below.  

Let’s get rat poison out of bird food chains. 

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) – is currently asking Australians for their views on how rodent poisons are regulated. 

Have your say by making a submission here

Powerful Owl at Clareville - photo by Paul Wheeler

Pesticides that are designed to control pests such as mice and rats cane also kill our wildlife through either primary or secondary poisoning. Insecticides include pesticides (substances used to kill insects), rodenticides (substances used to kill rodents, such as rat poison), molluscicides (substances used to kill molluscs, such as snail baits), and herbicides (substances used to kill weeds).

Primary poisoning occurs when an animal ingests a pesticide directly – for example, a brushtail possum or antechinus eating rat bait. Secondary poisoning occurs when an animal eats another animal that has itself ingested a pesticide – for example, a greater sooty owl eating a rate that has been poisoned or an antechinus that had eaten rat bait. 

Rodenticides are the most common and harmful pesticides to Australian wildlife. Though no comprehensive monitoring of non-target exposure of rodenticides has been conducted, numerous studies have documented the harm rodenticides do to native animals. In 2018, an Australian study found that anticoagulant rodenticides in particular are implicated in non-target wildlife poisoning in Australia, and warned Australia’s usage patterns and lax regulations “may increase the risk of non-target poisoning”.

Most rodenticides work by disrupting the normal coagulation (blood clotting) process, and are classified as either “first generation” / “multiple dose” or “second generation” / “single dose”, depending on how many doses are required for the poison to be lethal. 

These anticoagulant rodenticides cause victims of anticoagulant rodenticides to suffer greatly before dying, as they work by inhibiting Vitamin K in the body, therefore disrupting the normal coagulation process. This results in poisoned animals suffering from uncontrolled bleeding or haemorrhaging, either spontaneously or from cuts or scratches. In the case of internally haemorrhaging, which is difficult to spot, the only sign of poisoning is that the animal is weak, or (occasionally) bleeding from the nose or mouth. Affected wildlife are also more likely to crash into structures and vehicles, and be killed by predators. 

An animal has to eat a first generation rodenticide (e.g. warfarin, pindone, chlorophaninone, diphacinone) more than once in order to obtain a lethal dose. For this reason, second generation rodenticides (e.g. difenacoum, brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone) are the most commonly used rodenticides. Second generation rodenticides only require a single dose to be consumed in order to be lethal, yet kill the animal slowly, meaning the animal keeps coming back. This results in the animal consuming many times more poison than a single lethal dose over the multiple days it takes them to die, during which time they are easy but lethal prey to predators. This is why second generation poisons tend to be much more acutely toxic to non-target wildlife, as they are much more likely to bioaccumulate and biomagnify, and clear very slowly from the body.

Species most at risk from poisons

Small Mammals

Small mammals including possums and bandicoots often consume poisons such as snail bait, or rat bait that has been laid out to attract and kill rats, mice, and rabbits. Poisons such as pindone are often added to oats or carrots, and lead to a slow, painful death of internal bleeding. Australian possums often consume rat bait such as warfarin, which causes extensive internal bleeding, usually resulting in death. 

There is a very poor chance of survival. Possums are also known to consume slug bait, which results in a prolonged painful death mainly from neurological effects. There is no treatment.

Small mammals can also be poisoned by insecticides. Possums, for example, can ingest these poisons when consuming fruit from a tree that has been sprayed with insecticide. Rescued by a WIRES carer, the brushtail possum joey pictured below was suffering from suspected insecticide poisoning. Though coughing up blood, luckily the joey did not ingest a lethal dose as he survived in care and was later released.

Large Mammals

Despite their size, large mammals including wallabies, kangaroos and wombats can also fall victim to pesticide poisoning. Wallabies and kangaroos have been known to suffer from rodenticide poisoning, while poisons often ingested by wombats include rat bait from farm sheds, and sodium fluroacetate (1080) laid out to kill pests such as cats and foxes.

Australian mammals are also impacted by the use of insecticides. DDT, although a banned substance, has been reported as killing marsupials.


Birds have a high metabolic rate and therefore succumb quickly to poisons. Australian birds of prey – owls (such as the southern boobook) and diurnal raptors (such as kestrels) – can be killed by internal bleeding when they eat rodents that have ingested rat bait. A 2018 Western Australian study determined that 73% of southern boobook owls found dead or were found to have anticoagulant rodenticides in their systems, and that raptors with larger home ranges and more mammal-based diets may be at a greater risk of anticoagulant rodenticide exposure.

Insectivorous birds will often eat insects sprayed with insecticides, and a few different species of birds may be affected at the same time. Unfortunately little can be done and death most often results. 

Organophosphates are the most widely used insecticide in Australia. Birds are very susceptible to organophosphates, which are nerve toxins that damage the nervous system, with poisoning occurring through the skin, inhalation, and ingestion. Organophosphates can cause secondary poisoning in wild birds which ingest sprayed insects. Often various species of insectivorous birds are affected at the same time as they come down to eat the dying insects. After a bird is poisoned, death usually occurs rapidly. Raptors have also been deliberately or inadvertently poisoned when organophosphates have been applied to a carcass to poison crows.

Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) are persistent, bio-accumulative pesticides that include DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor and chlordane. OPC’s have been used extensively in the agriculture industry since the 1940s. Some of the more common product names include Hortico Dieldrin Dust, Shell Dieldrex and Yates Garden Dust. Although no OCP’s are currently registered for use in the home environment in Australia, many of these products still remain in use on farms, in business premises and households. OCP poisons remain highly toxic in the environment for many years impacting on humans, animals, birds and especially aquatic life. They can have serious short-term and long-term impacts at low concentrations. In addition, non-lethal effects such as immune system and reproductive damage of some of these pesticides may also be significant. Birds are particularly sensitive to these pesticides, and there have even been occasions where the deliberate poisoning of birds has occurred. Tawny frogmouths are most often poisoned with OCP’s. The poisons are stored in fat deposits and gradually increase over time. At times of food scarcity, or during any stressful period, such as breeding season or any changes to their environment, the fat stores are metabolised, and with it, the poison load in their blood streams reaches acute levels, causing death.

Although herbicides, or weed killers, are designed to kill plants, some are toxic to birds. Common herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) will cause severe eye irritation in birds if they come into contact with the spray. Herbicides also have the impact of removing food plants that birds, or their insect food supply, rely on. Birds can also readily fall victim to snail baits, either via primary or secondary poisoning.

Reptiles and Amphibians

As vertebrate species, reptiles and amphibians are also at risk of pesticides. Though less is known about the effects of pesticides on reptiles and amphibians, these animals have been known to fall victim to pesticide poisoning. Blue-tongue lizards, for example, often consume rat bait and die of internal bleeding. A 2018 Australian study also found that reptiles may be important vectors (transporters) of rodenticides in Australia.

How to keep pests away and keep wildlife safe

Remember, pesticides are formulated to be tasty and alluring to the target species, but other species find them enticing, too. It is safest for wildlife, pets and people for us to not use any pesticides, and prevent or deter the presence of pests practically, rather than attempt to eliminate them chemically. 

Tips to prevent and deter wildlife deaths from poisoning:

  • Deter rats and mice around your property by simply cleaning up; removing rubbish, keeping animal feed well contained and indoors, picking up fallen fruits and vegetation, and using chicken feeders removes potential food sources.
  • Seal up holes and in your walls and roof to reduce the amount of rodent-friendly habitat in your house.
  • Replace palms with native trees; palm trees are a favourite hideout for black rats, while native trees provide ideal habitat for native predators like owls and hawks which help to control rodent populations.
  • Set traps with care in a safe, covered spot, away from the reach of children, pets and wildlife. Two of the most effective yet safe baits are peanut butter and pumpkin seeds.
  • To control slugs, terracotta or ceramic plant pots can be placed upside down in the garden or aviary. Slugs and snails will seek the dark, damp area this creates, and can be collected daily. They can then be drowned in a jar of soapy water. You can also sink a jar or dish into the soil and fill it with beer. The slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer, fall in and then drown.

If turning to pesticides as a last resort:

  • Use only animal-safe slug baits.
  • Place tamper-proof bait stations out of reach of wildlife.
  • Avoid using loose whether pellets or poison grain, present the highest risk, the latter being particularly attractive to seed-eating birds and to many small mammal species.
  • Read the label and use as instructed.
  • Avoid products containing second generation products difenacoum, brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone, which are long-lasting and much more likely to unintentionally poison wildlife via secondary poisoning.
  • Cover individual fruits when spraying fruit trees with insecticides.

Poisons kill dogs too

Because of their poisonous nature, pesticides pose a risk to animals and people alike, including pets and children. Roaming pets like cats and dogs are most at risk of being poisoned, with one 2016 study at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences finding that one in five dogs had rat poison in its body, and a 2011 study by the Humane Society in the United States finding that 74% of their pet poisoning cases are due to second-generation anticoagulants such as rat baits. 

It is best to avoid the use of all pesticides, or otherwise use them sparingly, carefully and only after researching each poison and its correct usage. Always supervise pets and children, keep poisons locked out of their reach, and be vigilant in public spaces where pesticides may have accumulated, e.g. poisons can accumulate in streams or puddles where herbicides have recently been sprayed. 

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, seek veterinary help immediately.

If you suspect your child or another adult has been poisoned, do not induce vomiting and call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for 24/7 medical advice, Australia-wide.


Lohr, M. T. & Davis, R. A. 2018, Anticoagulant rodenticide use, non-target impacts and regulation: A case study from Australia, Science of The Total Environment, vol. 634, pp. 1372-1384.

Lohr, M. T. 2018, Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in an Australian predatory bird increases with proximity to developed habitat, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 643, pp.134-144.

Lohr, M. T. 2018, Anticoagulant Rodenticides: Implications for Wildlife Rehabilitation, conference paper, Australian Wildlife Rehabiliation Conference,

Olerud, S., Pedersen, J. & Kull, E. P. 2009, Prevalence of superwarfarins in dogs – a survey of background levels in liver samples of autopsied dogs. Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, Department of Sports and Family Animal Medicine, Section for Small Animal Diseases.

Healthy Wildlife, Healthy Lives, 2017, Rodenticides and Wildlife,

Society for the Preservation of Raptors Inc. 2019, Raptor Fact Sheet: Eliminate Rats and Mice, Not Wildlife!,

W.I.R.E.S. Poisons and baits don't just kill rats.

Barking Owl (Ninox connivens connivens)- photo by Julie Edgley - this nocturnal animal will eat mice and so become a victim of poisons through them

Echidna Season

Echidna season has begun.  As cooler days approach, our beautiful echidnas are more active during the days as they come out to forage for food and find a mate. This sadly results in a HIGH number of vehicle hits.

What to do if you find an Echidna on the road?

  • Safely remove the Echidna off the road (providing its safe to do so).
  • Call Sydney Wildlife or WIRES
  •  Search the surrounding area for a puggle (baby echidna). The impact from a vehicle incident can cause a puggle to roll long distances from mum, so please search for these babies, they can look like a pinky-grey clump of clay

What to do if you find an echidna in your yard?

  • Leave the Echidna alone, remove the threat (usually a family pet) and let the Echidna move away in it's own time. It will move along when it doesn't feel threatened.

If you find an injured echidna or one in an undesirable location, please call Sydney Wildlife on 9413 4300 for advice.

Lynleigh Greig, Sydney Wildlife, with a rescued echidna being returned to its home

The Extraordinary 1919 Torres Strait Cruise Of The RSYS Yawl 'Stormy Petrel'

Published by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron - more Talks available here

Marine Algae From The Kiel Fjord Discovered As A Remedy Against Infections And Skin Cancer

July 2, 2020
Healing with the help of marine organisms is no utopia. Already 12 life-saving drugs, e.g. against cancer, have been developed from marine organisms and their symbiotic microbiota. Their high potential for drug development is hampered by the lengthy and costly discovery process. The research group of the Marine Natural Product Chemistry Research Unit at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, supported by computer-aided automated approaches, has now successfully discovered marine molecules as potential remedies against infections and skin cancer in an alga and its fungal symbiont originating from the Kiel Fjord.

The search process for marine active ingredients starts with the extraction of marine macro- and microorganisms, followed by the purification and characterisation of their novel and bioactive chemical constituents, which are intended to be used for the development of new therapeutics. "One of the biggest pitfalls in drug research is the isolation of already described natural molecules, using the 'classical' bioactivity-guided isolation process," explains Prof. Dr. Deniz Tasdemir, head of Research Unit Marine Natural Product Chemistry at GEOMAR and GEOMAR Centre for Marine Biotechnology. "This approach is complicated and often prone to failures," Dr. Tasdemir continues.

In her research group, she addressed this problem through automated, computer-based approaches in combination with bioactivity screenings. In a one-year study, it was found that the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus (bladder wrack) from the Kiel Fjord, inhibits the pathogenic bacterium Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes hospital infections.

"Algorithm-based bioinformatics strategies and machine learning tools have enabled us to map the massive metabolome of brown alga and at the same time predict the molecular clusters responsible for their antibiotic activity," said Dr. Larissa Büdenbender, a former postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Tasdemir's group and first author of one of the two articles now published in the journal Marine Drugs. The algorithms applied in this study group together the molecular families in complex networks based on their chemical similarity scores in mass spectrometry analyses, and together with in silico machine learning tools, help us to chemically identify the known and new compounds already in the extract. After the first rapid chemical fractionation step of the extract, a bioinformatic programme is used to predict the bioactivity score of molecules according to their relative abundance in the fractions. These bioactive compounds are isolated. "The classical discovery approach from extraction to characterization of bioactive ingredients of the alga would normally take 3-4 years. These automated tools helped us to accelerate the targeted discovery of new natural antibiotics down to some months," emphasizes Prof. Tasdemir.

"In nature, bladder wrack is often under strong pressure from fouling and biofilm formation by millions of microorganisms found in seawater. Therefore, membrane-bound compounds, as we identified in this study, are of high ecological importance for self-protection of the alga. Such molecules, which perform a critical function in natural space, often display related activities against human pathogens. Since bladder wrack is an edible seaweed, such activities make it an attractive candidate not only as a source of drugs, but also for food supplements or food protection," says Prof. Tasdemir. Next, we will be investigating the application potential of bladder wrack in food industry.

Many fungi also live in symbiosis on the surfaces and inside of seaweed. These are also promising sources for the discovery and development of new drugs. Bicheng Fan, a PhD student of Professor Tasdemir, has isolated more than 120 symbiotic fungi from bladder wrack and has studied the fungus Pyrenochaetopsis sp. in detail, as it efficiently kills melanoma-type skin cancer cells with low cytotoxicity and has a very rich chemical inventory. Bicheng also used computer-aided automated approaches to isolate special molecules with a rare chemical scaffold. The study was also recently published in Marine Drugs.

According to Prof Tasdemir, this is only the second chemical study on the previously completely unexplored fungal genus Pyrenochaetopsis. "Fungi, which we isolated from bladder wrack and fermented in optimized laboratory conditions, are an established source of natural anti-cancer agents. We have found several novel natural products here, which we named as pyrenosetins A and B, that have a high potential for fighting skin cancer," the chemist continues.

"Nature is the source of more than half of all modern medicines that we use today. Access to the revolutionary genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics and machine learning tools will enable, in an unprecedented way, new and rapid discovery of marine compounds, and more rational and efficient use for subsequent drug development with industrial partners"," Professor Tasdemir concludes.

Larissa Buedenbender, Francesca Anna Astone, Deniz Tasdemir. Bioactive Molecular Networking for Mapping the Antimicrobial Constituents of the Baltic Brown Alga Fucus vesiculosus. Marine Drugs, 2020; 18 (6): 311 DOI: 10.3390/md18060311

Olive And Mabel - Behind The Scenes

BirdLife Australia 2020 Photo Comp

The BirdLife Australia Photo awards are now open! Special theme this year is Fairy-wrens, Emu-wrens, and Grasswrens. The Comp is open til August 3rd.
⁠For more on our judges, categories
This stunning image is of a pair of White-throated Grasswrens, by Laurie Ross. 

Snowy Waters

Published July 2, 2020 by NFSA
From The Film Australia Collection.  Made by The National Film Board 1952. Directed by Bern Gandy.
Original synopsis: Australia’s greatest engineering undertaking, the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme, in the Southern Alps, is changing the geography of an area as big as Switzerland by completely altering the course of streams and rivers, and is intended to bring into agricultural production double the area now served by irrigation, and to provide double Australia’s present output of electrical power.

AVPALS Online Seminars

Avpals are pleased to announce the development of our online training programs. These commenced in April 2020. A variety of subjects are covered and are entirely free. 

Seminars Online 2020
9 June 1.30pm Peter Marshall iPhone as Navigator.
Where are you? Where have you been? Where do you want to go?

16 June 1.30pm Sue Martin Your digital legacy in Covid19 times.
Taking the opportunity of self-isolation to organise your digital assets.

23 June 1.30pm Paul Purvis Irfanview - the world's most popular free app! It has been installed on more than 50 million computers since 2003. Described as the Swiss army knife of image viewers. Learn how to get the best from this brilliant free program.

30 June 1.30pm Tricia Clifton Facebook - how use the popular social media while staying safe
30 June 2.30pm Saskia Zaitzieff Get Social - the 4th in Saskia's group of seminars introduces social media, cooperative, games, etc.

7 July 1.30pm Jim Carmichael Which Cloud services should you use?
7 July 2.30pm Jim Carmichael Set up One Drive on your Windows PC

14 July 1.30pm John Dickson Sing To Your Computer
See a music notation editor in action using a few bars of “O Sole Mio”.
We will input the notes and lyrics, save, print and playback.

21 July 1.30pm Jim Carmichael Set up Google Drive on your Windows PC
21 July 2.30pm Jim Carmichael Get more from iCloud on your Apple devices.

Most courses run for 20 minutes, with 10 minutes Q&A at the end. Notes and a video are available at the end of the seminar. All courses are free.

You are invited to be part of our ‘live’ audience! 
For more information or to enrol please fill in the form here: Please mention the course(s) you are interested in. No charge.

Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN)

Older Persons Advocacy Network offer free, independent and confidential services that focus on supporting older people and their representatives to raise and address issues relating to accessing and interacting with Commonwealth funded aged care services.

Older Persons Advocacy Network  seek to ensure that aged care consumers understand and exercise their rights and participate, to the maximum degree possible, in the decisions affecting their care.

Older Persons Advocacy Network achieve this through the delivery of individual advocacy support, information and consumer and service provider education.

Nine State and Territory based organisations form the OPAN network. Older Persons Advocacy Network is funded by the Australian Government to deliver the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP), providing a national voice for aged care advocacy.

Older Persons Advocacy Network organisations offer free aged care advocacy services that are independent and confidential

Older Persons Advocacy Network organisations provide free information about aged care service provision, referrals and the rights and responsibilities of consumers

Older Persons Advocacy Network organisations offer free information and education sessions to consumers and providers of Commonwealth funded aged care services

Our Regular Reviews May Increase Your Payment Rate

July 3, 2020: Services Australia (Federal Government)
On 1 July 2020, our income and assets tests for Age Pension will increase. The Department of Social Services (DSS) regularly review and update the income and assets test limits. We use these tests to work out how much Age Pension you can get.

The income and asset test limits are updated to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). These updates happen several times each year.

When the CPI rises, the income and asset limit amounts also rise. When this happens, you may see an increase to your regular payment amount. The amount you get depends on your individual circumstances.

You don’t need to do anything. When DSS update the income and asset test limits, your payment rate will also be updated.

Read more:

Self-Funded Retirees Act Now – Don’t Miss Out On Final $750 Stimulus Payment

July 3, 2020
Over the last month, National Seniors Australia has publicly gone to bat for older Australians, alerting them to the fact they may be eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) and not realise it.

For those who are still unsure or unaware, The CSHC is for self-funded retirees who do not receive the pension and are not eligible for the Pensioner Concession Card.

The CSHC gives you:
  • access to cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,
  • the chance to be bulk billed by a GP (at their discretion),
  • a bigger refund on medical costs when you reach the Medicare Safety Net, and
  • access to some state and territory concessions
If you are an eligible cardholder and you apply by the 10th of July – next Friday – you will also be paid the government’s final $750 economic stimulus payment.

To find out if you are eligible, you will need to head to Service Australia’s website here.

If you apply and Services Australia notifies you that your payment won’t be assessed or approved until after 10 July, you will still receive the $750 payment.

To put it simply: If you have lodged a claim for the CSHC by or on 10 July 2020, and the claim is subsequently granted from a date on or before that date, you will receive the payment.

If you already have a CSHC and would like information on how to claim a payment online, find out how more here.

How To Make Watercolour Postcards With Jumaadi

Published July 3, 2020 by the Art Gallery of NSW
Jumaadi wants to see your art! Together In Art Kids and Jumaadi are inviting primary school aged children to create artworks inspired by someone, something or somewhere special to them. Entries must be received by 5pm, Sunday 12 July – see for how to submit. 

Step inside the studio of Sydney artist Jumaadi and be inspired to make watercolour postcards for your friends and loved ones. Filming from Eora Country, Jumaadi shares his tips and techniques for using watercolours to record memories of special people and special places. 

What Do Seals Eat?

Published by Taronga Zoo

Live streaming of animals still available visit:

Curious Kids: what does the Sun's core look like?

Artist’s interpretation of the inside of the Sun. James Josephides, CAS Swinburne University of Technology
Sara WebbSwinburne University of Technology

What does the Sun’s core look like? Sophie, aged 8, Perth

What does the Sun’s core look like? This is a fantastic question Sophie, and one we will need to go on an adventure to answer!

We are about to take a journey to the centre of the Sun. The action begins about 148 million kilometres from our planet when we arrive at the Sun’s surface in our space ship.

It’s hot here at the surface, about 5,700 degrees Celsius, and the light is brilliant and blinding. As we look closer, the surface appears to bubble, just like boiling water. Some of the bubbles look darker than the others. The darker bubbles are slightly cooler than the rest, but every inch of the surface is still blisteringly hot.

Read more: Curious Kids: how are stars made?

From Zone To Zone

We continue on our journey, diving through one of these giant bubbles on the surface, and head towards our first stop: the convective zone.

Surrounding us is a hot fluid called plasma, filled with bubbles by the constant movement of hot gases rising and cool gases falling. The bubbles are moving, growing and shrinking. Some are even popping as our space ship travels down further, rocking from side to side like a boat in a high sea.

After travelling down for 200,000 kilometres (that’s about 15 times the width of the whole Earth!) the rocking finally stops. We’ve made it to our second stop, the radiative zone.

This part of the Sun is very hot. It is now 2 million degrees outside our space ship. If we could see individual light particles, called photons, we’d see them bouncing between the tiny particles, called atoms, that make up the plasma.

These bounces forwards and backwards and from side to side make up a dance scientists call a “random walk”. It can take one photon hundreds of thousands of years to randomly walk its way out of this layer.

Our spaceship is going full speed ahead, so we move through it much more quickly.

The weight of all the plasma above us pressing down means the plasma around us is denser than gold, and the temperatures are soaring up towards 15 million degrees! We have almost reached the final stop on our tour, the Sun’s core.

Read more: Curious Kids: Why do stars twinkle?

Welcome To The Core

Before we enter the core, we’re going to have to shrink down to the size of an atom. It is the only way we will get to see what is happening in here, because what we are trying to see in here is atoms, millions of times smaller than a grain of sand!

The core of the Sun is home to billions and billions of atoms of hydrogen, the lightest element in the universe. The immense pressure and heat pushes these atoms so close to one another that they squish together to create new, heavier atoms.

This is called nuclear fusion. The hydrogen atoms that get squished together form an entirely different substance called helium.

A hydrogen plasma in a fusion experiment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US glows with a pink colour. Marilyn Chung / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

So now that we are in the core of the Sun, what does it actually look like? Not only is everything blindingly bright, but it just might have a pretty pink colour!

We can’t be entirely sure what the core would look like to human eyes, but we have seen in labs here on Earth that hydrogen plasma has a pink glow. So we can make an educated guess that hydrogen plasma in the core of the Sun would look about the same.

When atoms merge together, they release large amounts of energy in the form of light. The light works its way up through the core, into the radiative zone where it bounces around, until it finally makes it into the convective zone. Then the light travels up to the surface of the Sun through massive bubbles of plasma, and from the surface it is free to travel uninterrupted through the sky.

It’s time to leave the hottest place in our solar system and head back to Earth. Our journey has taken us 700,000 kilometres deep into the interior of the Sun, past the bubbles of the convective zone, through the billions of the light rays in the radiative zone and into the mysterious atom-fusing core.

As we land back on Earth and look towards the Sun in the sky, it’s almost like looking back in time. We know now the light we are seeing was created hundreds of thousands of years ago, in the hottest place in the Solar system!The Conversation

Sara Webb, PhD candidate in Astrophysics, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Book Of The Month: July 2020 - Once Upon A Time In The Kitchen: Recipes And Tales From Classic Children's Stories

by Carol Odell, Publication date 2010

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

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:

How To Make A Photo Mosaic With Artist Khaled Sabsabi

Published by the Art Gallery of NSW

What's the meaning of life? These students have some answers

John O'RourkeEdith Cowan University

Research has found people who have clarity around what provides meaning in their lives tend to be happier, healthier, more satisfied with life and resilient in the face of adversity.

Given the dramatic growth in mental health issues, particularly in young people, researchers have recently tried to more deeply understand what gives young people’s lives meaning.

We conducted a research project with 174 students in year seven, where they used photographs to show what was important to them. We found relationships – with friends, family and pets – were what they most believed gave meaning to their life.

Using The Mind’s Eye

A 2013 study in the US explored the meaning of life for college students using what the researchers called “the mind’s eye” technique.

Researchers asked college students to take photos of things that made their lives meaningful and write a short narrative to describe them. The photographs became a record of meaning-in-life sources. The most common photos were of relationships, hobbies and activities, and nature.

The research method also provided a personalised view on why students chose these images.

We used the same approach in an Australian secondary school to determine what gave 174 year seven students meaning in life – at school and outside of it.

The students took two photos each – of what provides meaning in life at school and out of school – and wrote why they had chosen these images.

Meaning In Life, At School

Friends were overwhelmingly what gave children meaning at school. Author provided

Students took a variety of images. But overwhelmingly they identified friends as the main source of meaning in life at school, followed by their own learning.

This word cloud highlights the most commonly used words in the students’ narratives, and shows how important friends are in young peoples’ school lives.

Photo by a student who said friends gave her life meaning. Author provided

Students suggested their friends not only provided meaning because they were fun to be with and shared common interests, but because they provided support as they tackled the challenges of high school.

Of the 151 images devoted to friendships, 31 of the accompanying narratives used the term “they’re always there for me”, suggesting these friendships were built on commitment and emotional support.

One student said friends

give my life meaning because if I didn’t have them I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Friends are people you learn from, they’re like fun teachers. They teach us what to do and what not to do.

Another student described her friends as inspirational

[…] they give my life meaning because they are always there to help me and inspire me to do great things. They are positive people who don’t bring me down – they make me feel better about myself.

Meaning In Life, Outside School

Students continued the theme of relationships when talking about the sources of meaning in their lives outside school. Their three main sources of meaning were sport, family and pets.

The selection of sport for both boys and girls appeared based more on the friendships in these settings, rather than the sport itself.

For example, this student took a photo of her trophies to represent netball, but said it was “the people you get to meet and the things you get to do that make it meaningful”.

Sports gave this girl meaning, but it was the friendships she made that meant more than the sport. Author provided

Students also found meaning in life from their families. They consistently expressed the importance of being cared for and supported. It was clear that love and togetherness gave their young lives coherence.

Simple things were telling. One student wrote of their family:

[…] they give my life meaning because they love me, accept me and help me thorough the tough times.

Students also saw pets as part of the family and a strong source of meaning in life. Given students’ desire for loyalty and consistency from their friends, it was not surprising the uncomplicated relationships with pets were so important.

One student wrote:

This is a photo of my dog[…] She gives my life meaning because I love her, and love walking, playing and taking care of her. She is like a sister to me.

‘She is like a sister to me’ Author provided

Others enjoyed creative pursuits. One student took a photo of herself singing and said:

It gives my life meaning because I love to do it, it’s fun and helps me to dream big for the future ahead.

While schools keep a careful eye on their students’ learning, it’s important they ensure academic growth is aligned with meaning and purpose.

Practical research interventions such as the minds-eye can provide schools with a sense of what gives their students meaning. This can direct programs and tailor support around nurturing these sources, and let students “dream big for the future”.The Conversation

John O'Rourke, Senior lecturer, Edith Cowan University

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

Portrait of Hemi Pomara as a young man: how we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Māori

Elisa deCourcyAustralian National University and Martyn JollyAustralian National University

It is little wonder the life of Hemi Pomara has attracted the attention of writers and film makers. Kidnapped in the early 1840s, passed from person to person, displayed in London and ultimately abandoned, it is a story of indigenous survival and resilience for our times.

Hemi has already been the basis for the character James Pōneke in New Zealand author Tina Makereti’s 2018 novel The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke. And last week, celebrated New Zealand director Taika Waititi announced his production company Piki Films is adapting the book for the big screen – one of three forthcoming projects about colonisation with “indigenous voices at the centre”.

Until now, though, we have only been able to see Hemi’s young face in an embellished watercolour portrait made by the impresario artist George French Angas, or in a stiff woodcut reproduced in the Illustrated London News.

Drawing on the research for our forthcoming book, Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: the global career of showman daguerreotypist J.W. Newland (Routledge, November 2020), we can now add the discovery of a previously unknown photograph of Hemi Pomara posing in London in 1846.

This remarkable daguerreotype shows a wistful young man, far from home, wearing the traditional korowai (cloak) of his chiefly rank. It was almost certainly made by Antoine Claudet, one of the most important figures in the history of early photography.

All the evidence now suggests the image is not only the oldest surviving photograph of Hemi, but also most probably the oldest surviving photographic portrait of any Māori person. Until now, a portrait of Caroline and Sarah Barrett taken around 1853 was thought to be the oldest such image.

For decades this unique image has sat unattributed in the National Library of Australia. It is now time to connect it with the other portraits of Hemi, his biography and the wider conversation about indigenous lives during the imperial age.

‘Hemi Pomare’, 1846, cased, colour applied, quarter-plate daguerreotype, likely the oldest surviving photographic image of a Māori. National Library of Australia

A Boy Abroad

Hemi Pomara led an extraordinary life. Born around 1830, he was the grandson of the chief Pomara from the remote Chatham Islands off the east coast of New Zealand. After his family was murdered during his childhood by an invading Māori group, Hemi was seized by a British trader who brought him to Sydney in the early 1840s and placed him in an English boarding school.

The British itinerant artist, George French Angas had travelled through New Zealand for three months in 1844, completing sketches and watercolours and plundering cultural artefacts. His next stop was Sydney where he encountered Hemi and took “guardianship” of him while giving illustrated lectures across New South Wales and South Australia.

Angas painted Hemi for the expanded version of this lecture series, Illustrations of the Natives and Scenery of Australia and New Zealand together with 300 portraits from life of the principal Chiefs, with their Families.

In this full-length depiction, the young man appears doe-eyed and cheerful. Hemi’s juvenile form is almost entirely shrouded in a white, elaborately trimmed korowai befitting his chiefly ancestry.

The collar of a white shirt, the cuffs of white pants and neat black shoes peak out from the otherwise enveloping garment. Hemi is portrayed as an idealised colonial subject, civilised yet innocent, regal yet complacent.

Read more: To build social cohesion, our screens need to show the same diversity of faces we see on the street

Angas travelled back to London in early 1846, taking with him his collection of artworks, plundered artefacts – and Hemi Pomara.

Hemi appeared at the British and Foreign Institution, followed by a private audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From April 1846, he was put on display in his chiefly attire as a living tableau in front of Angas’s watercolours and alongside ethnographic material at the Egyptian Hall, London.

The Egyptian Hall “exhibition” was applauded by the London Spectator as the “most interesting” of the season, and Hemi’s portrait was engraved for the Illustrated London News. Here the slightly older-looking Hemi appears with darkly shaded skin and stands stiffly with a ceremonial staff, a large ornamental tiki around his neck and an upright, feathered headdress.

An idealised colonial subject: George French Angas, ‘Hemi, grandson of Pomara, Chief of the Chatham Islands’, 1844-1846, watercolour. Alexander Turnbull Library

A Photographic Pioneer

Hemi was also presented at a Royal Society meeting which, as The Times recorded on April 6, was attended by scores of people including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and the pioneering London-based French daguerreotypist Antoine Claudet.

It was around this time Claudet probably made the quarter-plate daguerreotype, expertly tinted with colour, of Hemi Pomara in costume.

The daguerreotype was purchased in the 1960s by the pioneering Australian photo historian and advocate for the National Library of Australia’s photography collections, Eric Keast Burke. Although digitised, it has only been partially catalogued and has evaded attribution until now.

Unusually for photographic portraits of this period, Hemi is shown standing full-length, allowing him to model all the features of his korowai. He poses amidst the accoutrements of a metropolitan portrait studio. However, the horizontal line running across the middle of the portrait suggests the daguerreotype was taken against a panelled wall rather than a studio backdrop, possibly at the Royal Society meeting.

Hemi has grown since Angas’s watercolour but the trim at the hem of the korowai is recognisable as the same garment worn in the earlier painting. Its speckled underside also reveals it as the one in the Illustrated London News engraving.

Hemi wears a kuru pounamu (greenstone ear pendant) of considerable value and again indicative of his chiefly status. He holds a patu onewa (short-handled weapon) close to his body and a feathered headdress fans out from underneath his hair.

We closely examined the delicate image, the polished silver plate on which it was photographically formed, and the leatherette case in which it was placed. The daguerreotype has been expertly colour-tinted to accentuate the embroidered edge of the korowai, in the same deep crimson shade it was coloured in Angas’s watercolour.

Read more: Director of science at Kew: it's time to decolonise botanical collections

The remainder of the korowai is subtly coloured with a tan tint. Hemi’s face and hands have a modest amount of skin tone colour applied. Very few practitioners outside Claudet’s studio would have tinted daguerreotypes to this level of realism during photography’s first decade.

Hallmarks stamped into the back of the plate show it was manufactured in England in the mid-1840s. The type of case and mat indicates it was unlikely to have been made by any other photographer in London at the time.

‘New Zealand Youth at Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly’, wood engraving, The Illustrated London News, 18 April 1846.

Survival And Resilience

After his brief period as a London “celebrity” Hemi went to sea on the Caleb Angas. He was shipwrecked at Barbados, and on his return aboard the Eliza assaulted by the first mate, who was tried when the ship returned to London. Hemi was transferred into the “care” of Lieutenant Governor Edward John Eyre who chaperoned him back to New Zealand by early December 1846.

Hemi’s story is harder to trace through the historical record after his return to Auckland in early 1847. It’s possible he returned to London as an older married man with his wife and child, and sat for a later carte de visite portrait. But the fact remains, by the age of eighteen he had already been the subject of a suite of colonial portraits made across media and continents.

With the recent urgent debates about how we remember our colonial past, and moves to reclaim indigenous histories, stories such as Hemi Pomara’s are enormously important. They make it clear that even at the height of colonial fetishisation, survival and cultural expression were possible and are still powerfully decipherable today.

For biographers, lives such as Hemi’s can only be excavated by deep and wide-ranging archival research. But much of Hemi’s story still evades official colonial records. As Taika Waititi’s film project suggests, the next layer of interpretation must be driven by indigenous voices.

The authors would like to acknowledge the late Roger Blackley (Victoria University, Wellington), Chanel Clarke (Curator of the Maori collections, Auckland War Memorial Museum), Nat Williams (former Treasures Curator, National Library of Australia), Dr Philip Jones (Senior Curator, South Australian Museum) and Professor Geoffrey Batchen (Professorial chair of History of Art, University of Oxford) for their invaluable help with their research.The Conversation

Elisa deCourcy, Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow 2020-2023, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, Australian National University, Australian National University and Martyn Jolly, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Art and Design, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

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

Across Five Decades - Photographing The Sydney To Hobart Race

Published by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron - more Online Talks available here

The kids are alright: young adult post-disaster novels can teach us about trauma and survival

Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010). AAP/Paramount Pictures
Troy PotterUniversity of Melbourne

COVID-19 is changing the way we live. Panic buying, goods shortages, lockdown – these are new experiences for most of us. But it’s standard fare for the protagonists of young adult (YA) post-disaster novels.

Text Publishing

In Davina Bell’s latest book, The End of the World Is Bigger than Love (2020), a global pandemic, cyberterrorism and climate change are interrelated disasters that have destroyed the world as we know it.

Like most post-disaster novels, the book is more concerned with how we survive rather than understanding the causes of disaster. As such, we can read it to explore our fears, human responses to disaster and our capacity to adapt.

The Day After

Kelly Devos’s Day Zero (2019), and the soon to be released Day One (2020), use cyberterrorism as the disaster. Like Bell’s novel, Day Zero focuses more on how the protagonist, Jinx, maintains her humanity when she must harm or kill others in order to keep herself and her siblings alive.

The cause of catastrophe is sometimes obscured in YA post-disaster fiction. Natalya Letunova/UnsplashCC BY

A form of speculative fiction, YA post-disaster writing imaginatively explores causes and responses to apocalyptic disasters. (Some readers categorise YA juggernaut The Hunger Games – and the recently released prequel – as dystopian rather than post-disaster – others think it’s both.)

Many YA novels in this genre explore issues of survival and humanity following a catastrophe. In YA post-disaster novels, teenage protagonists must learn to exist in a fractured world with little support from elders.

When they are explained, the fictional causes of catastrophe can illustrate social concerns of times they were written in. Because of this, YA post-disaster books allow us to reflect on our current beliefs, attitudes and fears.


Davos’s Day Zero can be read as commenting on contemporary concerns about cyberterrorism and political corruption. Bell’s The End of the World Is Bigger than Love expresses similar anxieties, but is also prescient given the current pandemic.

War is the cause of disaster in Glenda Millard’s A Small Free Kiss in the Dark (2009) and John Marsden’s Tomorrow series. While Millard’s novel raises questions about homelessness, Marsden’s series expresses an anxiety about invasion from Asia. The author has expressed regret about this aspect of the books since their publication.

A latent xenophobia is also present in Claire Zorn’s, The Sky So Heavy (2013), in part because the nuclear disasters are attributed to “regions in the north of Asia”. Passive ideologies of racism that pervade some YA post-disaster novels are problematic, as are other underlying ideals that promote any form of discrimination.

Read more: Young adult fiction's dark themes give the hope to cope

Us Against The World

Literary texts that reinforce fear about Asia, particularly China, are especially problematic in the context of coronavirus, which reportedly saw an increase in racist attacks.

Panic buying and the stockpiling of goods during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak established an “us against them” dichotomy in our “struggle to survive”, reminiscent of YA post-disaster fiction.

Not everyone hoarded food and items for themselves though. Others showed compassion, donating toilet paper and food to those in need. Because of this, we were confronted with questions about how we want to survive.

YA post-disaster novels allow us to explore similar questions of humanity. In these fictional worlds, teenage characters are faced with moral dilemmas about who to help and who to harm. How does someone look out for themselves while still expressing empathy and consideration for others? How can characters maintain their humanity if their survival means another’s suffering or death?

Speculative fiction can help us think about our responses to disaster. Will it bring out our best – or our worst? Andrew Amistad/UnsplashCC BY

Who To Save

Tied up with the question about how we survive, then, is who survives. The protagonist, Jinx, in Day Zero is continually faced with this dilemma. As she flees the corrupt government, Jinx must decide who to help, and how.

While Jinx readily uses violence to overcome her aggressors, she eventually must shoot to kill to save her stepsister. Doing so, Jinx loses a part of herself and becomes “something else”; she must now reconcile her actions with her sense of self.

Read more: Friday essay: why YA gothic fiction is booming - and girl monsters are on the rise

It’s not so far from the choices medical professionals in Italy, the United States and elsewhere have had to make about who to treat due to limited ventilators and a rapid influx of patients.

No matter the cause of catastrophe, the literary exploration of questions of survival provides opportunities for teenagers, parents and teachers to discuss a range of contemporary issues, including humane responses to disaster.

Given the current crisis we are in, perhaps it is time to critically read more YA post-disaster novels. If they hold up a mirror to our current attitudes and behaviours, they can help us reflect on our humanity, and on what and who we think matters.The Conversation

Troy Potter, Lecturer, The University of Melbourne, University of Melbourne

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

Snowy Waters

Published July 2, 2020 by NFSA

From The Film Australia Collection.  Made by The National Film Board 1952. Directed by Bern Gandy.

Original synopsis: Australia’s greatest engineering undertaking, the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme, in the Southern Alps, is changing the geography of an area as big as Switzerland by completely altering the course of streams and rivers, and is intended to bring into agricultural production double the area now served by irrigation, and to provide double Australia’s present output of electrical power.


Exploring Your Options: Information Sessions Available In Further Study

LIVESTREAM UNSW Undergraduate Info and Insights Week

23 to 25 June

Designed for Year 11 and 12 students, we'll cover everything from scholarships and admissions to the UNSW student experience through a series of short livestreamed presentations. At the end of each session, you'll have the opportunity to participate in a live Q&A, where you can get all your questions answered.

Southern Cross Uni - Virtual Gold Coast Careers Festival

To 31 July

Want to discover your career pathway? We can help you explore your options at the virtual Gold Coast Careers Festival.

Engage with our educators, gain advice from qualified professionals, discover insights in engaging webinars, and obtain up to date advice through online live chat.

A world of opportunity awaits you. Whether you have no idea what career you want to pursue or you know exactly what you are aiming for, we can show you how to achieve your dream career.

Register your attendance.

ACU Open Days are Moving Online 

ACU Open Days give students the opportunity to ask questions about their dream course, the application process, pathway options, entry schemes and more. There will be three 2020 ACU Open Days shared across NSW and ACT on the 29th of August, and the 5th and 12th of September. Students can follow this link below to keep up to date with the 2020 Open Days. 


UOW College Australia Now Accepting applications for 2021

UOW College provides pathways to the University of Wollongong. We offer uni preparation courses to support students and progress to university studies. We also provide VET courses for students seeking work-ready qualifications in Nursing or Fitness. These can also be used for a direct pathway to a bachelor level study. Find out more at below. 

ACU - Talk with Exercise Scientists and Physiotherapists

1 July. 6pm

Join us online to hear from ACU alumni about their experiences working as exercise scientists, clinical exercise physiologists, sports scientists and physiotherapists. Take part in a Q&A session with our graduates to learn what a career in exercise science and physiotherapy is like.

CSESoc CompClub

CompClub is an organisation under UNSW CSESoc that promotes computing to high school students through free workshops.

2020 Virtual Winter Workshops

This year we will be providing 3 free workshops in an online format instead of in person! We will have a series of videos covering three workshops:

  • Game Development (HTML/CSS)
  • Cyber Security
  • Web Development (Javascript)

There will also be a livestream covering an introduction to Python during the holidays (date TBD), where students can take part and ask questions in real time! We will be releasing the workshop videos on a schedule, starting on Monday 6th July.

There is no cost or registration needed and is open to all high school students of any ability. We will be releasing the virtual workshop site closer to the Winter School Holidays, and will update the link here once it is ready!


But Wait - There's More! Everything From Trains To Tractors Is Knocking On Your Door

Top Gun Apprenticeship Program 

Applications now open for 2021 Apprenticeships with Land HQ top Gun program.

Whether you’re a school leaver or someone looking for a change in career path, our TOPGUN apprenticeship program could give you the start you’re looking for with LandHQ. We have apprenticeship opportunities available in Nowra, Penrith and Bowral. Go to the site below or to find out more contact Matt on 0428 613 284 or email


Sydney Trains Apprenticeships - Join the team that keeps Sydney moving!

We advertise apprenticeship positions in July on: and our apprentices commence in January of the following year.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in a boom industry, there’s never been a better time to join the rail industry. Sydney Trains is the biggest passenger rail operator and maintainer in Australia and is the training ground for the NSW rail industry.

Sydney Trains offers a range of apprenticeships (PDF, 1.05 MB) in the electrical, telecommunications and mechanical engineering trades.

As a Sydney Trains apprentice, you’ll have access to a wealth of experience, a workforce that takes pride in its work, and a culture of collaboration and innovation. You’ll gain nationally recognised trade qualifications with opportunities to further develop your career post trade. Visit:

For further information please contact Rhonda Moore on 0428 166 359 or email


Electrical Pre-apprenticeship Program for Women

Sydney Trains has a genuine commitment to workforce diversity and has introduced some targeted recruitment programs to attract more women to apply for its apprenticeships.

The Electrical Pre-apprenticeship Program for Women (PDF, 1.2 MB) is a 3-week program in collaboration with an external training organisation that offers participants three national units of competency from the Certificate II in Electrotechnology. This program has proven to be very effective in assisting women interested in gaining an electrical apprenticeship.

The 2020 Program is on hold at present, but we are accepting expressions of interest and applicants will be contacted when  confirmation is available -

Work Experience Program

Our Work Experience Program (PDF, 41.71 KB) offers opportunities for students to experience the world of work at Sydney Trains and gain a better understanding of the career options available in the rail industry.

You can spend a week with us and learn about:

  • Diesel/Plant mechanics with our Heavy Plant team, which repairs and maintains a large fleet of track maintenance machines 
  • Our Business Studies program which will provide opportunities to gain experience at our training facility at Petersham in a range of office procedures and tasks
  • Electro-technology apprenticeship options across our rail network including theory and practical training on rail signalling, rail substations, rail traction and everything you ever wanted to know about trains at one of our fleet maintenance depots. 

Contact us

For further information please email us at:

Apprenticeships R Us – Keep an eye on the Apprenticeship Job Vacancies with Cars

The positions indicated below are our current vacancies that we are recruiting for right NOW. If you are a job seeker looking for an immediate start to your automotive apprenticeship and you see an apprenticeship that is right for you then don't delay and start an apprenticeship with us.


Get a Dynamic Career with the TAFE NSW Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care (Birth-5)

Have you shown a keen interest in working with children? You may have a genuine desire to help our next generation grow and develop. A TAFE NSW degree in this career area is designed to develop early childhood teachers who can integrate theoretical knowledge into practical education and care skills. More info here:

TAFE Bachelor of Applied Commerce

Designed in consultation with industry, the Bachelor of Applied Commerce provides you with the skills and knowledge you need to be a successful financial professional. Complete your major in either accounting or financial planning, or do a double major. As well as developing knowledge and skills in accounting and financial planning, you will study management, marketing, law, economics and business statistics, as well as doing an industry placement.

Alternatively, you can complete a Diploma of Applied Commerce by completing all first year subjects in the degree. Visit:

Australian Patisserie Academy

250 Blaxland Road Ryde

Established in 2014, the TAFE NSW Australian Patisserie Academy was designed to give food enthusiasts, culinary professionals, businesses and individuals the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of patisserie. Utilising the professional kitchens of TAFE NSW, the Academy team alongside international guest chefs, ensure you emerge with a dream patisserie skill set. From perfecting the art of cake decorating to baking the perfect sourdough, pulling exquisite sugar ribbons to creating one-of-a-kind chocolate show pieces, the Academy is dedicated to preserving the art of patisserie.

Classes are short, flexible and constantly changing to reflect industry trends. So whether you’re a passionate weekend baker or master chocolatier, there’s a course that’s your perfect mix. 

Phone: 02 9448 6222 or Visit: 

Health and Fitness Careers - TAFE Career Snapshot

Which occupations in this industry are likely to have the largest employment growth over the next three years?


Tourism Hospitality and Events - TAFE Career Snapshot

Which occupations in this industry are likely to have the largest employment growth over the next three years?


Automotive Trades and Services TAFE Career Snapshot

Which occupations in this industry are likely to have the largest employment growth over the next three years?


Where Can Students Find Out More About Tocal College

Take a tour on any area that takes your interest. Dairy, beef, sheep, horses, eggs, property, natural resources, bees. Other sources include our Website, Facebook, Careers Markets, 2019 AgVision or school tours. 02 4939 8888 or 1800 025 520. Visit: 

The Tocal Beekeepers Field Day

Saturday 10th October from 9am

Without bees we have no agriculture. Get along to this great event. There will be a full program of informative presentations, a large trade show to buy beekeeping supplies and more, live demonstrations, honey tasting and sales, and food and coffee available all day. Entry is free!

The Tocal Beekeepers Field Day has been running for 40 years, and is run by the Amateur Beekeepers Association, NSW Apiarists Association, NSW Department of Primary Industry and Tocal College.


Reminder - Tocal Farming and Agriculture Open Days

Friday 10 & 17 July

Friday 2 & 9 October

Our College Open Days are a wonderful opportunity to visit Tocal and experience first hand all that it can offer students who are eager for a rewarding career in agriculture, agribusiness or horse breeding and training.

The Open Days are held on the Fridays of the winter and spring school holidays and provide prospective students, their families and carers an ideal forum to visit the College and get a feel for what life as a student is really like. Should you require accommodation while attending the Open Days, Tocal College has a range of excellent and affordable accommodation options. These include motel rooms, flats and cottages. Please contact our accommodation booking team for further information at


Stay Healthy During The HSC

In any ‘normal’ year the HSC requires dedication and focus as well as the support of friends and family.

This year hasn’t exactly panned out to be a ‘normal’ year, with announcements about changes to the HSC due to COVID-19.

Despite all the goings-on, students across NSW are continuing to study for their HSC with focus and determination, and we at NESA are here to help.

This year we are partnering with mental health organisation ReachOut to deliver news, information, guidance and advice to support all HSC students.

You’ll hear from experts, teachers, parents and other students as well as some inspiring spokespeople. This year we are planning to lighten your mental load with practical tips and tricks for staying active, connected and in charge of your wellbeing.

ReachOut’s Study Hub has heaps of info about taking a proactive approach to your mental health or where to go if you need more support. ReachOut’s Forums are great for sharing what’s going on for you and get ideas about the best ways to feel happy and well.

So follow and use #StayHealthyHSC for regular health and wellbeing updates and information.

View our range of social media images, posters and flyer to help you get involved and share the Stay Healthy HSC message with your community.

Fever-Associated Seizures After Vaccination Do Not Affect Development

July 1, 2020
A seizure associated with a fever is called a febrile seizure. Now a new study has found there is no difference in developmental and behavioural outcomes for children who have febrile seizures after vaccination, children who have febrile seizures not associated with vaccination and children who have never had a seizure. The new study is published in the July 1, 2020 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Febrile seizures are also known as febrile convulsions.

"This is reassuring news for parents," said study author Lucy Deng, MBBS, of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) in Sydney, Australia. "A febrile seizure can occur following vaccination and understandably can be quite distressing to parents. It can also cause parents to lose confidence in future vaccinations. Now, parents will be relieved to hear that having a febrile seizure following vaccination does not affect the child's development."

The study compared 62 children who had a fever-associated seizure within two weeks after a vaccination with 70 children who had a fever-associated seizure from another cause and 90 children without a history of seizures. All of the children who had seizures were younger than 2-1/2 years old at the time of the seizure.

The children's cognitive, motor and language functions were tested by certified developmental assessors who did not know the child's seizure history. Their behaviour was also assessed through questionnaires completed by their parents. The children with seizures were tested within one to two years after the seizure.

The researchers found no differences in development, thinking skills or behaviour between the children who had febrile seizures following a vaccination and those who had febrile seizures at other times or those who never had a seizure.

"At a time when there is a global resurgence of measles and new diseases are emerging, our findings are particularly important in reassuring parents and providers on the safety of vaccines," Deng said.

Deng also pointed out that several other factors were not associated with having developmental problems: fever-associated seizures before the age of one; a febrile seizure lasting for more than 15 minutes; or more fever-associated seizures after the first seizure.

Limitations of the study include a relatively small number of participants. Also, further studies should follow children for longer periods of time.

The study was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

Lucy Deng, Nicholas Wood, Kristine Macartney, Michael Gold, Nigel Crawford, Jim Buttery, Peter Richmond, Belinda Barton. Developmental outcomes following vaccine-proximate febrile seizures in children. Neurology, 2020 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000009876

Geologists Identify Deep-Earth Structures That May Signal Hidden Metal Lodes

June 30, 2020
If the world is to maintain a sustainable economy and fend off the worst effects of climate change, at least one industry will soon have to ramp up dramatically: the mining of metals needed to create a vast infrastructure for renewable power generation, storage, transmission and usage. The problem is, demand for such metals is likely to far outstrip currently both known deposits and the existing technology used to find more ore bodies.

Now, in a new study, scientists have discovered previously unrecognised structural lines 100 miles or more down in the earth that appear to signal the locations of giant deposits of copper, lead, zinc and other vital metals lying close enough to the surface to be mined, but too far down to be found using current exploration methods. The discovery could greatly narrow down search areas, and reduce the footprint of future mines, the authors say. The study appears this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"We can't get away from these metals-they're in everything, and we're not going to recycle everything that was ever made," said lead author Mark Hoggard, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "There's a real need for alternative sources."

The study found that 85 percent of all known base-metal deposits hosted in sediments-and 100 percent of all "giant" deposits (those holding more than 10 million tons of metal)-lie above deeply buried lines girdling the planet that mark the edges of ancient continents. Specifically, the deposits lie along boundaries where the earth's lithosphere-the rigid outermost cladding of the planet, comprising the crust and upper mantle-thins out to about 170 kilometres below the surface.

Up to now, all such deposits have been found pretty much at the surface, and their locations have seemed to be somewhat random. Most discoveries have been made basically by geologists combing the ground and whacking at rocks with hammers. Geophysical exploration methods using gravity and other parameters to find buried ore bodies have entered in recent decades, but the results have been underwhelming. The new study presents geologists with a new, high-tech treasure map telling them where to look.

Due to the demands of modern technology and the growth of populations and economies, the need for base metals in the next 25 years is projected to outpace all the base metals so far mined in human history. Copper is used in basically all electronics wiring, from cell phones to generators; lead for photovoltaic cells, high-voltage cables, batteries and super capacitors; and zinc for batteries, as well as fertilisers in regions where it is a limiting factor in soils, including much of China and India. Many base-metal mines also yield rarer needed elements, including cobalt, iridium and molybdenum. One recent study suggests that in order to develop a sustainable global economy, between 2015 and 2050 electric passenger vehicles must increase from 1.2 million to 1 billion; battery capacity from 0.5 gigawatt hours to 12,000; and photovoltaic capacity from 223 gigawatts to more than 7,000.

The new study started in 2016 in Australia, where much of the world's lead, zinc and copper is mined. The government funded work to see whether mines in the northern part of the continent had anything in common. It built on the fact that in recent years, scientists around the world have been using seismic waves to map the highly variable depth of the lithosphere, which ranges down to 300 kilometers in the nuclei of the most ancient, undisturbed continental masses, and tapers to near zero under the younger rocks of the ocean floors. As continents have shifted, collided and rifted over many eons, their subsurfaces have developed scar-like lithospheric irregularities, many of which have now been mapped.

The study's authors found that the richest Australian mines lay neatly along the line where thick, old lithosphere grades out to 170 kilometres as it approaches the coast. They then expanded their investigation to some 2,100 sediment-hosted mines across the world, and found an identical pattern. Some of the 170-kilometre boundaries lie near current coastlines, but many are nestled deep within the continents, having formed at various points in the distant past when the continents had different shapes. Some are up to 2 billion years old.

The scientists' map shows such zones looping through all the continents, including areas in western Canada; the coasts of Australia, Greenland and Antarctica; the western, southeastern and Great Lakes regions of the United States; and much of the Amazon, northwest and southern Africa, northern India and central Asia. While some of the identified areas already host enormous mines, others are complete blanks on the mining map.

The authors believe that the metal deposits formed when thick continental rocks stretched out and sagged to form a depression, like a wad of gum pulled apart. This thinned the lithosphere and allowed seawater to flood in. Over long periods, these watery low spots got filled in with metal-bearing sediments from adjoining, higher-elevation rocks. Salty water then circulated downward until reaching depths where chemical and temperature conditions were just right for metals picked up by the water in deep parts of the basin to precipitate out to form giant deposits, anywhere from 100 meters to 10 kilometers below the then-surface. The key ingredient was the depth of the lithosphere. Where it is thickest, little heat from the hot lower mantle rises to potential near-surface ore-forming zones, and where it is thinnest, a lot of heat gets through. The 170-kilometre boundary seems to be Goldilocks zone for creating just the right temperature conditions, as long as the right chemistry also is present.

"It really just hits the sweet spot," said Hoggard. "These deposits contain lots of metal bound up in high-grade ores, so once you find something like this, you only have to dig one hole." Most current base-metal mines are sprawling, destructive open-pit operations. But in many cases, deposits starting as far down as a kilometre could probably be mined economically, and these would "almost certainly be taken out via much less disruptive shafts," said Hoggard.

The study promises to open exploration in so far poorly explored areas, including parts of Australia, central Asia and western Africa. Based on a preliminary report of the new study that the authors presented at an academic conference last year, a few companies appear to have already claimed ground in Australia and North America. But the mining industry is notoriously secretive, so it is not clear yet how widespread such activity might be.

"This is a truly profound finding and is the first time anyone has suggested that mineral deposits formed in sedimentary basins ... at depths of only kilometres in the crust were being controlled by forces at depths of hundreds of kilometres at the base of the lithosphere," said a report in Mining Journal reviewing the preliminary presentation last year.

The study's other authors are Karol Czarnota of Geoscience Australia, who led the initial Australian mapping project; Fred Richards of Harvard University and Imperial College London; David Huston of Geoscience Australia; and A. Lynton Jaques and Sia Ghelichkhan of Australian National University.

Hoggard has put the study into a global context on his website:

Mark J. Hoggard, Karol Czarnota, Fred D. Richards, David L. Huston, A. Lynton Jaques, Sia Ghelichkhan. Global distribution of sediment-hosted metals controlled by craton edge stability. Nature Geoscience, 2020; 13: 504-510 DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0593-2

Alarming Long-Term Effects Of Insecticides Weaken Ant Colonies

July 2, 2020
Scientists have shown how even low doses of neonicotinoid insecticides, as they may realistically occur in contaminated soils, adversely affect the development of black garden ants (Lasius niger). This study highlights the need to overthink current deployment and management of chemical pest control for more sustainable agriculture.

"Ants are one of the most important animal groups on our planet. However, they are also affected by the recently observed global declines in abundance and diversity of insects," says Daniel Schläppi of the Institute of Bee Health of the University of Bern, main author of the study. 

Evidence suggests that pesticides are among the factors responsible for the observed declines. "One problem of these substances is their persistence and the potential to contaminate soils and water, even in areas in which they are not applied," says co-author Gaétan Glauser from the University of Neuchâtel.

But so far, no data existed to show how exposure to low concentrations, which do not induce direct mortality, affect ants in the long run. The data, collected at the University of Bern in cooperation with Agroscope and the University of Neuchâtel, clearly demonstrate previously overlooked long-term effects, which are not detectable during the first year of colony development. The results are published in Communications Biology, an Open-Access Journal of Nature. According to the authors, this study highlights the importance to develop sustainable agricultural practices that incorporate reduced use of agro-chemicals to prevent irreparable damages to natural ecosystems.

Worrying long-term impacts
Thiamethoxam has a clear negative impact on the health of ants. Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid insecticide used to combat pest insects that threaten our harvest. Unfortunately, there is more and more evidence showing that thiamethoxam and similar agro-chemicals have negative consequences for other beneficial insects, including ants and honey bees.

"With our study we show that ants, which play a very important roles in our ecosystems and provide valuable ecosystem services such as natural pest control, are negatively affected by neonicotinoids too," says Schläppi.

In the present work, colonies of black garden ants were chronically exposed to field realistic concentrations of thiamethoxam over 64 weeks. Colonies were raised in the laboratory from queens that were captured in the field. Before the first overwintering of the colonies no effect of neonicotinoid exposure on colony strength was visible. However, until the second overwintering it became apparent that colonies exposed to thiamethoxam were significantly smaller than control colonies. Because the number of workers is a very important factor for the success of an ant colony, the observed effects are most likely to compromise colony survivorship. Considering the important role of ants in natural ecosystems, our results indicate that neonicotinoids impose a threat to ecosystem functioning.

The call for sustainable solutions
"Accumulating long-term impact of neonicotinoids on ants is alarming," says Prof. Peter Neumann of the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern. "This is an exemplary study showing how negative effects of an environmental contaminant only become visible after long monitoring, but with potentially far reaching consequences." Therefore, the authors stress the importance to include ants as model organisms and to fully incorporate long-term effects in future risk assessment schemes for more sustainable agriculture.

Daniel Schläppi, Nina Kettler, Lars Straub, Gaétan Glauser, Peter Neumann. Long-term effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on ants. Communications Biology, 2020; 3 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-1066-2

CSIRO Uses Lab-Grown ‘Lungs’ To Fight Respiratory Viruses

July 2nd, 2020
Scientists have found that human airway cells grown in a laboratory can reliably be used to study respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, which could help to minimise animal testing and fast-track drugs for human clinical trials.
Researchers at Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, found that lab-grown cells from the upper layer of the airway to the lungs – the human bronchial epithelium – reliably mimic a live person's airway's response to viruses.

CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Elizabeth Pharo is the lead author on the findings, published in the journal Viruses  .

"Clinical trials for new therapeutics can take significant time and money to establish, only for researchers to frequently discover that the treatment doesn't work in people," Dr Pharo said.

"We found that our lab-grown airway cells mimic the human airway response to viruses and can be used to quickly test whether antiviral treatments might work against a virus in a real person.

"This way we can 'fast fail' antivirals before they get to the clinical trial stage, helping streamline the more promising ones through to human testing."

Dr Pharo said the airway model could potentially be used to screen up to 100 antiviral compounds within three months, and CSIRO is exploring ways to further accelerate screening including the use of robotic technology.

The model could also be used to help study the characteristics of a virus and how it affects airway cells, helping reduce the need for animal testing. However, it cannot be used to study the more complex immune responses required to evaluate vaccine candidates.

The study was conducted at CSIRO's high containment facility, the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, and involved growing donated human airway epithelial cells on porous membranes exposed to air.

Researchers cultured the cells as they developed into the cell types found in human airways. These included goblet and club cells that secrete mucus to absorb inhaled foreign matter, and ciliated cells with hair-like structures that beat in coordinated waves to move particles and microbes away from the lungs.

"For many respiratory diseases such as COVID-19, the airways act as the 'first responders' to inhaled pathogens," Dr Pharo said.

"When we infected our airway epithelial cultures with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, the cells had the same innate immune response as in a live person's airway, with the production of cytokines and chemokines."

Dr Pharo said scientists at ACDP are now using this model to characterise how the virus that causes COVID-19 infects and damages healthy donor airway cells, compared to cells from donors with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or diabetes.

"It's hoped this work will help improve our understanding of how COVID-19 may affect people with pre-existing lung conditions," she said.

Ciliated cells stained green for visualisation- CSIRO image

First Confirmed Underwater Aboriginal Archaeological Sites Found Off Australian Coast

July 1, 2020
Ancient submerged Aboriginal archaeological sites await underwater rediscovery off the coast of Australia, according to a study published July 1, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and colleagues.

The discoveries were made through a series of archaeological and geophysical surveys in the Dampier Archipelago, as part of the Deep History of Sea Country Project, funded through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project Scheme.

An international team of archaeologists from Flinders University, The University of Western Australia, James Cook University, ARA – Airborne Research Australia and the University of York (United Kingdom) partnered with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to locate and investigate ancient artefacts at two underwater sites which have yielded hundreds of stone tools made by Aboriginal peoples, including grinding stones.

At the end of the Ice Age, sea level was much lower than today, and the Australian coastline was 160 kilometres farther offshore. When the ice receded and sea level rose to its current level, approximately two million square kilometres of Australian land became submerged where Aboriginal peoples had previously lived. Thus, it is likely that many ancient Aboriginal sites are currently underwater.

In this study, Benjamin and colleagues report the results of several field campaigns between 2017-2019 during which they applied a series of techniques for locating and investigating submerged archaeological sites, including aerial and underwater remote sensing technologies as well as direct investigation by divers. They investigated two sites off the Murujuga coastline of northwest Australia. In Cape Bruguieres Channel, divers identified 269 artefacts dating to at least 7,000 years old, and a single artefact was identified in a freshwater spring in Flying Foam Passage, dated to at least 8,500 years old. These are the first confirmed underwater archaeological sites found on Australia's continental shelf.

These findings demonstrate the utility of these exploratory techniques for locating submerged archaeological sites. The authors hope that these techniques can be expanded upon in the future for systematic recovery and investigation of ancient Aboriginal cultural artefacts. They further urge that future exploration will rely not only on careful and safe scientific procedures, but also on legislation to protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage along the Australian coastline.

Benjamin says, "Managing, investigating and understanding the archaelogy of the Australian continental shelf in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional owners and custodians is one of the last frontiers in Australian archaeology." He adds, "Our results represent the first step in a journey of discovery to explore the potential of archaeology on the continental shelves which can fill a major gap in the human history of the continent."

Jonathan Benjamin, Michael O’Leary, Jo McDonald, Chelsea Wiseman, John McCarthy, Emma Beckett, Patrick Morrison, Francis Stankiewicz, Jerem Leach, Jorg Hacker, Paul Baggaley, Katarina Jerbić, Madeline Fowler, John Fairweather, Peter Jeffries, Sean Ulm, Geoff Bailey. Aboriginal artefacts on the continental shelf reveal ancient drowned cultural landscapes in northwest Australia. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (7): e0233912 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233912
An image from the paper: Aboriginal artefacts on the continental shelf reveal ancient drowned cultural landscapes in northwest Australia - Views of subtidal lithic A23, showing photogrammetric view (A), neutron tomographic slice (B), digitally de-concreted 3D tomography (C) and digitally half-sectioned 3D tomography.

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