Inbox and Environment News: Issue 477

December 6 - 12, 2020: Issue 477

Parra'dowee Time


Goray'murrai—Warm and wet, do not camp near rivers

This season begins with the Great Eel Spirit calling his children to him, and the eels which are ready to mate make their way down the rivers and creeks to the ocean.

It is the time of the blooming of the Kai'arrewan (Acacia binervia) which announces the occurrence of fish in the bays and estuaries.

Acacia binervia, commonly known as the coast myall, is a wattle native to New South Wales and Victoria.

Eel in Warriewood Wetlands, October 2020 - photo by Joe Mills


PITTWATER PATHWAYS DATA: Local Flooding 9 February 2020

Published December 2nd, 2020 by Pittwater Pathways

Moderately severe local flooding at Bayview, Narrabeen, Wakehurst Parkway and North Narrabeen.

New Northern Beaches Hospital cut off  at Parkway.

This video made for data purposes.

More Trees Across Greater Sydney

December 1, 2020

New, green life will be breathed into Greater Sydney with more than 40,000 trees to be planted and a series of innovation projects delivered thanks to $10 million in NSW Government grants.

The Greening Our City program will provide grants to 30 councils and two partner organisations across two funding streams - Cooler Suburbs and Green Innovations.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the program would help reach her target to plant one million trees across Greater Sydney by 2022 and increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of quality green, open and public space by 10% by 2023.

“This fantastic program will result in more than 40,000 trees being planted in the ground and will also see exciting innovation projects that protect native species and help to green urban spaces,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said planting more trees would bring enormous environmental benefit while making public spaces more attractive.

“Our city is framed by parks – we know how valuable tree cover is for lowering heat, providing shade and enhancing our neighbourhoods,” Mr Stokes said.

“This program will see trees planted in more developed areas like Miranda and Parramatta and in growing areas like Camden, Blacktown, Campbelltown and Hawkesbury.”

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott welcomed the announcement and said the program was a great example of partnership between local and State Government.

“Councils take a lead role cultivating healthy and sustainable environments for local communities and funding support is always welcome,” Cr Scott said.

Under the Cooler Suburbs stream, 29 local councils will receive more than $8 million in funding, supporting 39 tree planting projects that will add more than 40,000 trees to Greater Sydney.

The 12 projects to receive funding in the Green Innovations stream include:

  • Planting 500 genetically diverse Camden White Gum within the Nepean River corridor at Camden South, a species listed as vulnerable;
  • Transformation of a Penrith carpark into an open, green space;
  • Revegetation of native trees and grasses across Randwick;
  • A new state-of-the-art research facility and demonstration site testing the growth and performance of 48 diverse native and exotic tree species in the Hawkesbury.

The grant program is being administered by Local Government NSW on behalf of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

A list of successful applicants is available at the website on the Greening our city page.

Stream 1 - Cooler Suburbs: Northern Beaches Council: Green canopy – Condamine St, Manly Vale - $121,000

Fledgling Kookaburra At Elanora Heights

photos by Selena Griffith

Watch Out On The Pittwater Estuary Water Zones & Beaches: Seals Are About

Residents have filmed and photographed the seals living at Barrenjoey as far south as Rowland Reserve and over at Clareville beach in recent days and ask that people keep an eye out for them and ensure they are kept safe from boat strikes and dogs are kept off the beaches they're not supposed to be on.

Can You Help Restore Our Environment? R&R Grants Open

If your community or government group could rehabilitate or conserve our natural environment, then apply for Environmental Restoration & Rehabilitation grant of up to $150,000.

NSW Environmental Trust Director Grants Tina Bidese is pleased to announce new program conditions.

“For the first time, all applicants will need to address at least one of these two new immediate priorities for the Environmental Trust: supporting threatened species recovery, and/or addressing climate change impacts on the natural environment – either mitigation or adaptation.

“Also, we’re now offering 2 grant streams – for new and experienced grantees – with new applicants eligible for up to $100,000, and experienced applicants for up to $150,000,” Ms Bidese said.

Experienced applicants are previous R&R grantees.

Additionally, for the first time this year a small amount of extra funding is available to each successful applicant to cover costs of a media and communications package (up to $4000), project monitoring (up to 10% of the grant value), and financial audit (up to $1000 for non-government and community applicants).

This extra support will help optimise and promote project outcomes, while also injecting money into the broader local community.

Potential project areas could be bush regeneration, weed management, capacity building, signage and educational resources, erosion control, fencing, ecological/cultural burning, formalisation of tracks, habitat creation structures, pest animal management, employment of project staff, revegetation, seed production areas/orchards and threatened species management.

Community organisations must be not-for-profits in order to apply, and could be community groups, incorporated associations, incorporated non-profit organisations, non-commercial cooperatives, companies limited by guarantee or non-government organisations. See guidelines for further detail.

Eligible government organisations include state government agencies and/or statutory committees, councils, regional organisations of councils, other local government-controlled organisations and universities (only eligible to apply for funding for projects on their own land).

Applications close 3pm on 14 December 2020More information available online.

Bushcare In Pittwater 

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

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

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

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

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

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

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

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

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

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

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

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

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

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

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

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

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Grants To Fund Innovative Re-Use And Recycling Projects

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is calling for innovative and new projects looking for ways to re-use discarded materials to make new products or for new uses, and for construction projects that want to re-use materials like construction waste, glass or plastic, to apply for new grants to help create a circular economy.

New intakes for the EPA’s Circulate and Civil Construction Market Programs are now open and aiming to divert valuable materials from landfill for re-use, recycling and industrial ecology projects.

The grant funding helps organisations including businesses, councils, not-for-profits, waste service providers and industry bodies, among others, design projects that promote the circular economy, instead of a disposable culture.

EPA Director Circular Economy Programs Kathy Giunta said these programs will provide grant funding to support industry to respond to the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) this year to ban the export of certain wastes that have not been processed into value-added material.

“One of the ways to mitigate the effects of China’s National Sword policy and to prepare NSW for the waste export ban is to invest in projects that demonstrate innovative uses of recyclables,” Ms Giunta said.

“The Circulate Program provides grants of up to $150,000 for innovative, commercially-oriented industrial ecology projects. Circulate supports projects that will recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill, and to instead use them as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes.

“The Civil Construction Market Program provides grants of up to $250,000 for civil construction projects that re-use construction and demolition waste or recyclables from households and businesses such as glass, plastic and paper.”

Previous projects in the Circulate Program include Cross Connections’ Plastic Police, which supplied soft plastics to the Downer Group’s Reconophalt project, the first road surfacing material in Australia to contain high recycled content from waste streams, also including glass and toner, which would otherwise be bound for landfill or stockpiled.

Previous projects in the Civil Construction Market Program include supporting Lendlease’s use of recycled glass from Lismore Council in pavement concrete on three trial sites as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade.

Applications will be open until Friday 12 February 2021

For details of the grants and how to apply, visit and


New Parks Protecting Ancient Culture

December 1, 2020

The NSW Government is handing back more than 15,000 hectares of land to Aboriginal owners in the State’s central west which will be reserved to form the new Mt Grenfell National Park and the Mt Grenfell State Conservation Area.

The new National Park and State Conservation Area will add 15,285 hectares to the existing Mt Grenfell Historic Site effectively forming a protective ring around some of the most significant Aboriginal art and cultural sites in Australia.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said these new reservations mean the protected area at Mt Grenfell now covers nearly 17,000 hectares.

“This area is home to the renowned Ngiyampaa rock art galleries and a rich cultural landscape of immense significance to the Aboriginal community,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Reserving these lands supports Aboriginal owners in maintaining their physical and spiritual connection to Country.“

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on site/on country

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the return of these lands to their traditional owners not only has immense cultural significance but an important environmental significance as well.

“These parks are irreplaceable and an important part of our commitment to add 400,000 hectares of national park to our network by the end of 2022,” Mr Kean said.

“The new parks build on existing protections, securing outback ecosystems including habitat for some 130 bird species and 12 threatened species.”

The new park will be Aboriginal-owned land held by Cobar Aboriginal Land Council and co-managed with the Mount Grenfell Board of Management and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Kultarr. photo credit J. Val DPIE

Key facts

The new Mount Grenfell National Park and adjacent Mount Grenfell State Conservation Area lies about 70 kilometres north-west of Cobar in the dry back Country of the Cobar Peneplain. They surround the Mount Grenfell Historic Site which was handed back to the Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan Aboriginal owners in July 2004 and leased back to the NSW Government for management as part of the national parks system.

In recognition of the Aboriginal cultural significance, ownership of these two new reserves is also to be handed over to the Traditional Owners and leased-back to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for co-management with the Mount Grenfell Board of Management.

  • Size: Mount Grenfell National Park is 9,189 hectares and Mount Grenfell State Conservation Area is 6,096 hectares.
  • Aboriginal heritage: The reserves are an important part of ngurrampaa (Country) for Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan. They provide resources which are of importance in people’s lives: spiritually, as a physical connection to Creation stories and Creation beings; culturally, through providing opportunities for cultural practice; and physically, through the provision of food, water, shelter and resources. All these facets of Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan life is found in the one location. The reserves are rich in the physical evidence of Ngiyampaa culture including rock art, campsites and hearths associated with a waterhole, quarries, ochre pits, grinding grooves, artefact scatters and scar trees. Many other sites are yet to be discovered.

Bioregional significance: Mount Grenfell National Park and State Conservation Area make a contribution to a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system by:

  • increasing the level of protection for the Cobar Peneplain bioregion from 2.61% to 2.82%
  • Increasing the level of protection for the Barnato Downs subregion from 3.3% to 4.14%.
  • protecting one landscape type (Mt Grenfell Ridges) that is currently not represented in any other reserve and another landscape (Barnato Wide Valleys) which is inadequately protected with only 20 hectares sampled in national parks system.

Ecosystems: The reserves:

  • increase the protection of eight vegetation communities, including two communities that were not previously sampled in Mount Grenfell Historic site (Belah-Rosewood Open Woodland and River Red Gum - Poplar Box Riparian Woodland).
  • support at least 234 native plant species, many of these traditional food and medicine resources for Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan. Those used for food include the seeds of a range of plants such as Yaama (kurrajong), Mithirr (miljee), nardoo, Kawanthaa (quandong), Wilkarr (wilga) and Yarrayipipan (rosewood), all of which were ground for flour and baked into johnny cakes.

Threatened species: The reserves provide a range of habitat types with varying structural complexity and floristic diversity which supports 195 bird and animal species. The most diverse groups of animals recorded are bats (13 species) and birds (134 species), including 12 threatened species. These include the kultarr, yellow-bellied sheathtail-bat, little pied bat, inland forest bat, Corbens long-eared bat. Other threatened mammals expected to use this habitat are the stripe-faced dunnart and bristle-faced freetailed-bat.

European heritage: The reserves provide an example of turn-of-the-century pastoral occupation in the Western Division of New South Wales.

Major Mitchells cockatoo - photo L. Copeland DPIE

Hooded robin - photo by H. Fallow DPIE

Rare Numbats Reintroduced To NSW National Park

December 3, 2020

The numbat, one of Australia's most unique marsupials and a species rarer than the giant panda, has been reintroduced to a NSW national park for the first time.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said the release of this incredibly rare marsupial into Mallee Cliffs National Park is part of a bold plan to save the species.

"Numbats had almost completely disappeared from NSW by the end of the 19th century and today the only remnant population not protected by predator proof fences are in south-west Western Australia," Mr Kean said.

"With this release we hope this will be a turning point in the right direction for this rare Australian native, and an important step to restoring biodiversity in our national parks."

With an estimated population of just 800 animals remaining, numbats are rarer than black rhinos or giant pandas, at one point their distribution stretched from south-western NSW to south-west Western Australia.

NPWS Deputy Secretary Atticus Fleming said the numbat had suffered a catastrophic decline, driven to the brink of extinction by foxes and feral cats.

"It is only by constructing large feral predator-free areas, using specially designed conservation fences, that species such as numbats can be returned to our parks," Mr Fleming said.

It is expected, with further reintroductions, this population is expected to grow to 270 and re-colonise the landscape, increasing the global populations by over 30%.

The release of numbats into Mallee Cliffs National Park follows the successful reintroduction of bilbies and greater stick nest rats, with further species to be introduced to return the landscape to resemble what it was like before the arrival of feral animals.

Numbat release (Myrmecobius fasciatus) Mallee Cliffs National Park Credit: DPIE

Volunteers Begin Sweeping Barrington Of 'Scotch Broom' Environmental Weed

December 3, 2020

Local volunteers have lent a helping hand to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) during a 4-day blitz of environmental weeds in a newly launched program at Barrington Tops National Park.

NPWS and volunteers from the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, local 4WD clubs and the local community, supported by Hunter Local Land Services, cleared roughly 35,000 square metres of Scotch broom, an invasive environmental weed.

NPWS Area Manager Anthony Signor said the removal of weeds from an area equivalent to almost five soccer fields will drive regeneration of native vegetation in the sub-alpine landscape after last season's significant bushfires.

"This invasive, noxious weed competes with native species and is compromising the post-bushfire recovery of native vegetation on Barrington Tops.

"We are thrilled and grateful for the response of the volunteers for this event. Despite very wet weather, more than 20 volunteers turned up to help us remove the weeds by hand. We couldn't have done it without them" said Mr Signor.

Hunter Local Land Services' Lyndel Wilson said the removal of these invasive weeds will also tip the balance in favour of native animals like the Tooarrana.

"Tooarrana is the Aboriginal name for the vulnerable broad-toothed rat. This chubby-cheeked native animal is restricted to wet alpine and sub-alpine heaths, and woodlands, and is a priority species for bushfire recovery," said Ms Wilson.

"The Tooarrana relies on the shelter of native snow-grass for food, nesting and protection from predators, so it's really important that our agencies work together to combat invasive weeds post-bushfire," said Ms Wilson.

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) was listed as a Weed of National Significance in 2012.

NPWS and Hunter Local Land Services are currently planning more volunteer weeding events in the national park, which will be advertised on the NPWS website.

This project is supported by Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program and NSW Government's State Bushfire funding.

Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius) Credit: Barry Collier/DPIE

Murray Cod Fishing Season Reopens

Recreational fishers will welcome the first day of summer by being allowed to cast their lines in search of the prized Murray Cod, Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has announced.

The season reopens following the annual three-month breeding closure, and Mr Marshall today said there was great Murray Cod fishing to be had in many river systems and impoundments given recent inflows after the drought.

“The Murray Cod is Australia’s largest freshwater fish and an icon of our inland waterways, so this news will be eagerly welcomed by anglers,” Mr Marshall said.

“We have seen recent inflows into our river systems, creating much healthier environments for our native fish species. These are some of the best conditions we have seen in many years.

“During the last three months, the vast majority of anglers have respected the breeding closure period, which shows an appreciation within our community in the importance of protecting our valued populations.

“Now that Murray Cod have completed their breeding, fishing for this prized fish, in line with the general rules, can begin again.”

Mr Marshall reminded anglers that Fisheries Compliance Officers will be out on the water to ensure that legal bag and size limits, and other rules are abided by.

“A daily bag limit of two Murray Cod per person and a total possession limit of four applies when fishing in any inland waters applies,” Mr Marshall said.

“Fishers are also required to release Murray Cod which are smaller than 55cm, or bigger than 75cm, with the least possible harm.

“These rules are in place to ensure sustainable populations into the future, so that our more than one million annual fishers can enjoy their favoured pastime for generations.”

More Murray Cod fishing tips and rules are available on the NSW DPI website.

Information on legal fishing and marine invertebrate collecting is also available through the free FishSmartNSW App.

Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local Fisheries office, call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online.

Level 1 Water Restrictions Lifted In Greater Sydney

December 1, 2020

From 1 December 2020, Level 1 Water restrictions for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra will be lifted and replaced with Water Wise Guidelines.

Drinking water uses

Under the Water Wise Guidelines, you can use drinking water to:

  • water lawns and gardens before 10am and after 4pm using a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, sprinklers or standard water systems
  • water new turf and gardens at any time for up to 28 days
  • water lawns and gardens with drip irrigation systems or smart water systems at any time
  • top up pools and spas to replace water lost through evaporation
  • fill new or renovated pools and spas
  • wash vehicles with a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or high-pressure cleaning equipment
  • clean buildings (including windows, walls and gutters) with a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or high-pressure cleaning equipment
  • cool down people or animals.

You will not be able to:

  • allow water to run off onto hard surfaces
  • leave taps and hoses running unattended
  • allow pools or spas to overflow when being filled.

Exemption permits for household and business water use will no longer be required.

Minister for Water Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said people across Greater Sydney have done an outstanding job during water restrictions, collectively saving 77GI of water – the equivalent of 31,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. 

"Water restrictions have helped curtail demand by around 65ML each day, taking pressure off the filtration plant to provide clean water from Sydney’s dams which have been impacted by bushfires and heavy rainfall,” Mrs Pavey said. 

Find out more about the Water Wise Guidelines


'Unjustifiable': new report shows how the nation's gas expansion puts Australians in harm’s way

Tim BaxterUniversity of Melbourne

Australia’s latest emissions data, released this week, contained one particularly startling, and unjustifiable, fact. Against all odds, in a year when emissions fell in almost every sector, Australia’s export gas industry still managed to do more climate damage.

A new Climate Council report released today, to which I contributed, sheds more light on the problem of Australia’s expanding gas industry.

It reveals in alarming detail how gas emissions are cancelling out the gains won by Australia’s renewables boom. It also shows how gas emissions are almost certainly under-reported, and uncovers the misleading claims underpinning the Morrison government’s gas-led economic recovery.

This is clearly an unsustainable state of affairs. Australia has this year been in the grip of a climate crisis: unprecedented drought, the Black Summer bushfires and another mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. The gas industry escalates this risk and puts more Australians in harm’s way.

The Jeeralang gas power station
The Jeeralang gas power station in Victoria. The gas industry is cancelling out gains won by renewables. Climate Council

Gas: Bucking The Trend

As is now well known, COVID-19 restrictions helped trigger a fall in carbon dioxide emissions globally.

In Australia, emissions from transport dropped by 24% compared with April–June last year, as people stayed out of cars and planes.

Emissions from electricity dropped by around 5% in the quarter, compared with the corresponding quarter last year. This was mostly due to continued wind and solar expansion; demand for electricity dropped only marginally.

Overall, industrial demand for electricity was roughly the same as last year. Meanwhile, although office blocks and shopping centres were shuttered, power was needed in the domestic sector to heat homes and charge iPads for homeschooling.

Overall, almost every sector, including gas, also produced fewer emissions in the June quarter than in the same period the year before. Across the economy, emissions for the quarter were 7% lower than the same period last year. This result is represented in the graph below.

While emissions from the gas sector declined in the lockdown months, the sector’s poor emissions performance over the full 12 months to June meant it managed to increase its emissions over the year – one of the few sectors to do so.

Bar chart showing Australia's quarterly emissions since mid-2013.
Australia’s quarterly emissions since the 2013 election, highlighting the most recent quarter in orange. Author supplied. Data source: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

How Did Gas Get This Bad?

Australia became the world’s largest exporter of liquefied gas in 2019. Our report shows almost three-quarters of gas extracted in Australia in 2019 was compressed and processed to send overseas, as shown below.

Remarkably, on top of this, in 2019 the Australian gas export industry was itself the second-largest user of gas in Australia for the first time. More than a quarter of gas consumed in Australia was used to liquefy and chill gas for export overseas.

So the Australian gas export industry uses or exports nearly 80% of the gas it extracts each year – four times the amount needed to service the country’s own needs. Clearly claims of a shortfall in domestic gas supplies, such as those used to justify the recent Narrabri Gas Project approval, are bogus.

Proportional representation of Australian gas use
Chart showing 72% of Australia’s gas is exported and 7.5% is used by the gas export industry to process exports. Climate Council

A Worse Problem Than We Thought

The reports shows rising gas emissions are cancelling out gains made by Australia’s record build of solar and wind generation capacity. Between 2005 and 2018, emissions from the electricity sector fell by 15 million tonnes per year. Emissions from the gas sector increased by 25 million tonnes per year in the same period.

Our report also highlights serious problems with official estimates of gas emissions along the supply chain. These estimates are based on decades-old research designed for the US gas industry.

Read more: Climate explained: methane is short-lived in the atmosphere but leaves long-term damage

Australia is also underestimating the harm caused by gas emissions. Methods used by the federal government to quantify the relative impact of methane are incomplete and ignore recent scientific advances. If methane’s effect was considered completely, this would further increase the assessed impact of the gas industry on Australia’s emissions.

Underpinning all this, the international gas market is in crisis as a result of a global oversupply. The drastic increase in Australia’s gas exports in recent years has left us dangerously exposed to international boom-and-bust market cycles, and subsequent job losses and power price volatility.

Most of Australia’s gas is expensive to produce compared to international competitors. The centrepiece of the federal government’s gas-led recovery, a stretch goal of A$4 per gigajoule for gas, has been described by the extraction industry’s own lobbyists as a “myth”. And several Australian export plants were recently declared by banking giant HSBC as “at risk”.

Cost curve highlighting the breakeven points for Queensland's APLNG, GLNG and QCLNG gas export facilities above projected gas market futures prices on the Japanese and European markets
Australia’s three east coast gas export facilities were recently declared ‘at risk’ by HSBC. Climate Council

Seizing The Opportunity

Fossil fuel extraction and consumption in Australia makes up 80% of our annual emissions. But as the Climate Council report shows, this figure is likely a gross underestimate. And of course, it does not account for the additional emissions produced when Australia’s gas exports are burned overseas.

COVID created a temporary blip in global emissions. If we don’t use it as an opportunity to consider a planet without coal, oil and gas consumption, the climate gains will amount to nothing.The Conversation

Tim Baxter, Fellow - Melbourne Law School; Senior Researcher - Climate Council; Associate - Australian-German Climate and Energy College, University of Melbourne

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


Victoria just gave 2 billion litres of water back to Indigenous people. Here's what that means for the rest of Australia

Troy McDonaldIndigenous Knowledge and Erin O'DonnellUniversity of Melbourne

For the first time in Victoria’s history, the state government has handed back water to traditional owners, giving them rights to a river system they have managed sustainably for thousands of years.

The two billion litres of water returned to the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) this month means traditional owners can now determine how and where water is used for cultural, environmental or economic purposes.

The decision recognises that water rights are crucial for Indigenous people to restore customs, protect their culture, become economically independent and heal Country.

The hand-back to Gunaikurnai people is the crucial first step in a bigger, statewide process of recognising Indigenous people’s deep connection to water. It also serves as an example to the rest of Australia, where Indigenous rights to water are grossly inadequate.

Water from the river has
Gunaikurnai woman Alice Pepper on the banks of the Mitchell River. Water from the river has been handed back to traditional owners. GLaWAC

Water’s Rightful Home

Gunaikurnai people hold native title over much of Gippsland, from the mountains to the sea.

The water hand-back comes ten years since this native title was secured, and since Gunaikurnai people entered into the state’s first Traditional Owner Settlement Agreement with the government. Under this agreement, GLaWAC is a joint manager, with Parks Victoria, of ten parks and reserves in Gippsland, including the Mitchell River National Park.

Victorian water minister Lisa Neville said the hand-back was a key milestone in her government’s 2016 Aboriginal Water Policy. That plan aims to:

  • recognise Aboriginal values and objectives of water
  • include Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning
  • support Aboriginal access to water for economic development
  • build capacity to increase Aboriginal participation in water management.

GLaWAC engages closely with government agencies that control how water is shared and used and these partnerships are highly valued. But it is only through owning water that traditional owners can really control how water is used to care for Country and for people.

For the moment, the water will be staying in the river. Its use will be decided after discussions between GLaWAC and Gunaikurnai community members.

The Mitchell River
Indigenous poeple must own water to control how they care for Country. GLaWAC

Barriers To Water Ownership

In 2016, the Victorian government committed A$5 million to a plan to increase Aboriginal access to water rights, including funding for traditional owners to develop feasibility plans to support water-based businesses.

There are significant barriers to reallocating water to Victoria’s traditional owners. Water is expensive to buy, hold and use. Annual fees and charges can easily run to tens of thousands of dollars a year in some locations.

Using water to care for Country supports well-being, the environment and other water uses, including tourism and recreation. But, unlike using water for irrigation, there may not be any direct economic return from a water hand-back. This means water recovery for traditional owners must include ways to cover fees and charges.

Read more: Australia has an ugly legacy of denying water rights to Aboriginal people. Not much has changed

Victoria’s water entitlement framework is also consumption-based – it is designed for water to be taken out of rivers, not left in. This can make it hard for traditional owners to leave water in the river for the benefit of the environment. So water entitlements and rules should be changed to reflect how traditional owners want to manage water.

Lastly, many traditional owners lack access to land where they can use the water. Or they may wish to use water in areas that, under natural conditions, would be watered when rivers flood, but which are now disconnected from the waterway. To help overcome this, traditional owners should be given access to Crown land, including joint management of parks. GLaWAC’s partnership agreements are a good example of how this might happen in future.

GLaWAC water team Uncle Lloyd Hood and Tim Paton.
GLaWAC water team Uncle Lloyd Hood and Tim Paton. Water rules should be changed to reflect how traditional owners manage water. GLaWAC

Change Is Possible

While significant barriers to water access remain, this hand-back shows how real water outcomes for traditional owners can be achieved when there is political will and ministerial support.

The water is part of six billion litres on the Mitchell River identified as unallocated, meaning no-one yet has rights over it. The remaining four billion litres will be made available on the open market, for use by irrigators or other industries. It can be extracted only during the colder months from July 1 to October 31.

The extraction and use of the water by Gunaikurnai people will be linked to specific locations, and the licence is up for renewal every 15 years. GLaWAC will work with state agency Southern Rural Water to ensure that the licence conditions match the water plans of traditional owners.

This step is crucial. There have been many instances in other states where traditional owners have obtained water, but been unable to use it due to barriers on how it can be used, and annual fees and charges.

Mitchell River scene
Water extraction form the Mitchell River will be limited to colder months. GLaWAC

Overcoming A History Of Injustice

Traditional owners across Australia never ceded their rights to water. Yet Aboriginal people own less than 1% of the nation’s water rights. Righting this wrong is the “unfinished business” of national water reform.

Even when political commitments are made, there has been little progress. For example, in 2018 the federal government committed A$40 million to acquire water rights for Aboriginal people in the Murray-Darling Basin, but no purchase of water rights has yet occurred.

This woeful and unjust situation is also reflected in Victoria. Before the Gunaikurnai hand-back, only a tiny handful of Aboriginal-owned organisations and one traditional owner, Taungurung, owned water rights in Victoria, and the volumes were small. In these cases, water recovery was not a formal hand-back from the state, and included a donation from a farmer.

Across Australia, Aboriginal people are watching the Victorian water reform process with great interest. The water returned to Gunaikurnai people builds momentum, and increases pressure on governments across Australia to take water justice seriously.

Read more: Aboriginal voices are missing from the Murray-Darling Basin crisis The Conversation

Troy McDonald, Chairman of Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous Knowledge and Erin O'Donnell, Early Career Academic Fellow, Centre for Resources, Energy and Environment Law, University of Melbourne

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


'Severely threatened and deteriorating': global authority on nature lists the Great Barrier Reef as critical

Jon C. DayJames Cook University and Scott F. HeronJames Cook University

The Great Barrier Reef is now in “critical” condition and the health of four other Australian World Heritage properties has worsened, according to a sobering report just released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUCN is the global authority on nature. Its third outlook report marks the first time the IUCN has declared an Australian property as critical, which means its values are severely threatened and deteriorating. The health of the Blue Mountains, Gondwana Rainforests, Shark Bay and the Ningaloo Coast has also been downgraded.

Read more: We just spent two weeks surveying the Great Barrier Reef. What we saw was an utter tragedy

The assessment, while chastening, is not surprising. The Great Barrier Reef has endured three mass coral bleaching events in five years, and last summer’s bushfires caused untold damage in the Blue Mountains and Gondwana Rainforests (not to mention the current fires at the reef’s Fraser Island).

Climate change remains the key issue for World Heritage places, not just in Australia but globally. In fact, the IUCN assessment found climate change threatens 11 of Australia’s 16 properties. This raises further questions over our national climate response.

World Heritage: The Best Of The Best

The latest report builds on previous reports from 2014 and 2017, and shows the status and trends of World Heritage properties identified for their outstanding natural values. As the report states:

our ability to conserve these sites is thus a litmus test for the broader success of conservation worldwide.

To qualify for World Heritage listing for natural values, a place must meet one or more of four criteria: exceptional beauty, geology, ecological processes, and species and habitats.

Some properties are also recognised for cultural values and, if they have both, they’re referred to as “mixed”. Across the world there are 252 natural and mixed World Heritage properties, of which 16 are in Australia.

The IUCN is the official advisor on nature to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. The IUCN Outlook report involves assessments by hundreds of international experts, who examine the conservation prospects of all natural and mixed World Heritage properties. It focuses on their natural values, the threats to these values and the effectiveness of actions to protect them.

Threats To Our Iconic Places

Climate change is now the most prevalent threat to natural World Heritage sites, and to many cultural sites.

Overall, the report assessed climate change as a high or a very high threat in 83 out of 252 global properties (33%). This rate is double in Australia, with climate change listed as a threat to 69% (11 of 16) of Australian properties.

And when considering the four natural criteria individually, climate change is the greatest threat to each. This is likely to get worse in future, as climate change is expected to affect more than three times the number of properties impacted by any other threat.

For many properties, the deteriorated conservation outlook is the result of accumulated threats. Impacts of climate change, like coral bleaching and bushfires, are often exacerbated by other threats. For example, the federal government’s 2019 Outlook Report for the Great Barrier Reef listed 45 threats including climate change. This included poor water quality from land-based runoff, coastal development and fishing.

Aerial view of seagrass meadows and headlands in Shark Bay
Seagrass meadows and headlands in the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay Conservation Area, now rated as ‘good with some concerns’. Shutterstock

At the time of writing, the website which provides the full rationale behind the IUCN outlook was not yet publicly available. However the threats facing the five downgraded Australian sites are well documented.

These include marine heatwaves, which lead to coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo. In Shark Bay, marine heatwaves also cause seagrass — critical habitat for a vast diversity of species — to die-off. Poor water quality, such as from urban and agricultural run-off, is another big threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

Read more: ‘Bright white skeletons’: some Western Australian reefs have the lowest coral cover on record

More frequent and intense bushfires are a problem for the Blue Mountains, Shark Bay, and Gondwana Rainforests. These ancient rainforests, along with Ningaloo and Shark Bay, also face threats of invasive species, diseases and storms.

Punching Below Our Weight

While there have been some successes globally, the threats facing our heritage places are escalating.

Since the 2017 assessment, of the 252 properties analysed globally, 16 (6%) have deteriorated and only eight (3%) showed improvement. Notably, Australia is punching below its weight, with 31% of properties having deteriorated (5 of 16) and zero with improvement.

Read more: Prepare for hotter days, says the State of the Climate 2020 report for Australia

All of Australia’s World Heritage properties are recognised as having “highly effective” or “mostly effective” protection and management activities.

But the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Mountains, Gondwana Rainforests, Shark Bay and Ningaloo Coast casts doubt on whether these actions are an effective response to threats, especially climate change.

A whale shark
Western Australia’s Ningaloo Coast, now downgraded to ‘good with some concerns’, is famous for its vast diversity of wildlife, including whale sharks. Shutterstock

Australia’s climate response has been widely criticised, most recently by Christiana Figueres, the former chief of the UN Climate Framework. In a keynote to open the Australian Emissions Reductions Summit yesterday, Figueres said:

I have been pretty vocal about my frustration for so many years of the completely unstable, volatile, unpredictable stand and position on climate change in Australia.

“Meeting and beating” Australia’s 2030 emissions targets has been the Morrison government’s catch-cry. But the target lacks ambition and the government hasn’t ruled out using Kyoto carry-over credits to help meet it. The government has also refused to commit to a target of net-zero emissions by mid century, in contrast to the policies of many of our international peers.

Management of non-climate stressors is, and will remain, essential to halt the decline of the values of our properties. But Australia must adopt more ambitious climate goals to avoid losing those values that make our heritage places special, preserving them for future generations.

Read more: NSW has joined China, South Korea and Japan as climate leaders. Now it's time for the rest of Australia to follow The Conversation

Jon C. Day, PSM, Post-career PhD candidate, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University and Scott F. Heron, Associate professor, James Cook University

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


Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say

Celia McMichaelUniversity of MelbourneIlan KelmanUCLShouro DasguptaUniversità Ca'Foscari, and Sonja Ayeb-KarlssonUnited Nations University

Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, and no country is immune, a major new report from more than 120 researchers has declared.

This year’s annual report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, released today, presents the latest data on health impacts from a changing climate.

Among its results, the report found there were 296,000 heat-related premature deaths in people over 65 years in 2018 (a 54% increase in the last two decades), and that global yield potential for major crops declined by 1.8–5.6% between 1981 and 2019.

We are part of the Lancet Countdown sub-working group focusing on human migration in a warming world. We estimate that, based on current population data, 145 million people face potential inundation with global mean sea-level rise of one metre. This jumps to 565 million people with a five metre sea-level rise.

Read more: Coronavirus is a wake-up call: our war with the environment is leading to pandemics

Unless urgent action is taken, the health consequences of climate change will worsen. A globally coordinated effort tackling COVID-19 and climate change in unison is vital, and will mean a triple win: better public health, a more sustainable economy and environmental protection.

Drought, Fires And Excessive Heat

The 2020 report brings together research from a range of fields, including climate science, geography, economics and public health. It focuses on 43 global indicators, such as altered geographic spread of infectious disease, health benefits of low-carbon diets, net carbon pricing, climate migration and heat-related deaths.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: 2020 report.

The five hottest years on record have occurred since 2015, and 2020 is on track to be the first or second hottest year on record.

The 2020 Lancet Countdown report found extreme heat continues to rise in every region in the world and particularly affects the elderly, especially those in Japan, northern India, eastern China and central Europe. It is also a big problem for those with pre-existing health conditions and outdoor workers in the agricultural and construction sectors.

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

While attributing heat-related deaths to climate change isn’t straightforward, rising temperatures and humidity will mean we can expect heat-related deaths to increase further.

Climate change is also an important contributing factor to drought. The report found that in 2019 excess drought affected over twice the global land surface area, compared with the 1950-2005 baseline.

Drought and health are intertwined. Drought can cause dwindling drinking water supplies, reduced livestock and crop productivity, and an increased risk of bushfire.

Mental health is also at risk, as Australian research from earlier this year confirmed. This looked at the declining mental health of drought-affected farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin over 14 years.

Smoke and fire in the understory of a eucalyptus forest
More than 445 deaths were attributed to the smoke from the Black Summer bushfires. Shutterstock

Further, the Lancet Countdown report found that between 2015 and 2019, the number of people exposed to bushfires increased in 128 countries, compared with a 2001-2004 baseline.

Read more: Climate change is bringing a new world of bushfires

Climate change worsens risk factors for more frequent and intense bushfires. We need only look to last summer’s unprecedented bushfires in Australia as a stark illustration. The number of people exposed to the bushfires was amplified by expanding settlements and inadequate risk reduction measures.

Sea Level Rise, Human Migration And Health

As the world warms and the sea rises, millions of people will be exposed to coastal changes, including inundation and erosion.

Sea-level rise has direct and indirect consequences for human health. In some places, water and soil quality and supply will be compromised due to the intrusion of saltwater. Flooding and wave power will damage infrastructure, including drinking water and sanitation services. And disease vector ecology will also change, such as higher mosquito densities in coastal habitats, potentially causing greater transmission of infectious diseases like dengue or malaria.

However, people and communities may adapt by moving away. In Fiji, for example, at least four communities have relocated in response to coastal changes. The Fijian government notes planned relocation will be a last resort only when other adaptation options are exhausted.

Read more: Climate change forced these Fijian communities to move – and with 80 more at risk, here's what they learned

Relocation might also lead to health threats . This includes physical health consequences from altered diets, as fishing and subsistence agriculture may be disrupted. There are also mental health impacts from people losing their attachments and connections to their places of belonging.

But sometimes, migration responses to climate change can have health benefits. Moving from vulnerable coastlines might reduce exposure to environmental hazards such as flooding, be an impetus to seek healthier livelihoods and lifestyles, and improve access to health services.

Our estimation of the number of people facing potential inundation is based on projections of global mean sea-level rise and on current population data.

In a high emissions scenario with warming of 4.5℃, seas could rise by one metre by 2100 relative to 1986–2005. This would see 145 million people face potential inundation.

A collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet could cause five to six metres of sea level rise. Under this extreme scenario, 565 million people may be inundated.

Read more: How many people will migrate due to rising sea levels? Our best guesses aren't good enough

It is important to note, however, that uncertainties constrain our ability to forecast migration numbers due to sea-level rise. These uncertainties include future environmental and demographic factors and potential adaptation (and maladaptation) responses, such as living with water or coastal fortification.

So Is There Any Good News?

The 2020 Lancet Countdown report notes improvements in some instances, as some sectors and countries take bold steps to respond to climate change.

We are seeing, for example, health benefits emerging from the transition to clean energy. Deaths from air pollution attributed to coal-fired power have declined from 440,000 in 2015 to 400,000 in 2018, despite overall population increases.

But more must be done: we need sustained greenhouse gas emission cuts, increased greenhouse gas absorption and proactive adaptation actions. Yet global efforts to address climate change still fall short of the commitments made in the Paris Agreement five years ago.

We cannot afford to focus attention on the COVID-19 pandemic at the expense of climate action.

If responses to the economic impacts of COVID-19 align with an effective response to climate change, we’ll see immense benefits for human health, with cleaner air, healthier diets and more liveable cities.The Conversation

Celia McMichael, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of MelbourneIlan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health, UCLShouro Dasgupta, Lecturer in Environmental Economics, Università Ca'Foscari, and Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Senior Researcher, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), United Nations University

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

Tick Population Booming In Our Area

Residents from Terrey Hills and Belrose to Narrabeen and Palm Beach report a high number of ticks are still present in the landscape. Local Veterinarians are stating there has not been the usual break from ticks so far and each day they’re still getting cases, especially in treating family dogs. 

To help protect yourself and your family, you should:

  • Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.
  • Wear light-colored protective clothing.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Avoid tick-infested areas.
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets daily for ticks and carefully remove any ticks using a freezing agent.
  • If you have a reaction, contact your GP for advice.

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:

Pittwater Reserves

Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecojoey Video

Published December 2nd, 2020 by Barrenjoey High School


Drowning Schoolie Saved In Brave Rescue By NASA Member- Avalon Beach SLSC Bronze Holder

Max Arnold - photo by Lachlan Arnold

“I didn’t think anyone was coming.”

Lachlan Arnold says it chills him to the bone to recall those words, spoken by the teenage girl lying on the beach waiting for the Ambulance to arrive.

Luckily for the young schoolie from Taree, Lachlan and his son Max happened to be on the unpatrolled Boomerang Beach that day and had the courage and the skills to save her life, reaching the drowning girl with just seconds to spare.

Max Arnold is just 16 years-old but has been involved with his local surf club since he was a six-year old Nipper and is a member of North Avalon Surfriders Association. Completing his Bronze Medallion just a year ago, he has been actively patrolling at Avalon Beach, yet his deep understanding of the ocean and ability to act quickly under pressure is a tribute to himself, his club and his family.

On Thursday 26 November Max and his dad Lachie were surfing and enjoying the sunshine at the southern end of Boomerang Beach on the NSW lower-north coast. The beach is a popular tourist destination – even more so in 2020 with traditional schoolies destinations out of reach due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Lachlan recalls the beach being busy that day with people on the sand and in the water right along the unpatrolled 1500m stretch.

South Boomerang Beach looking North, photo by Lachlan Arnold

“We were sitting on the beach and this young guy came running up yelling, ‘my girlfriend has been pulled out in a rip, can you help?’”.

When the boy pointed out his girlfriend, Lachlan was shocked to see she was over 150 metres from shore. In the rough conditions, the boyfriend recognised he was unable to help by attempting to rescue her himself.

“We watched as he ran towards us, asking people if they could help as he made his way down the beach,” said Lachlan “but no one he asked could help.”

Lachlan and Max were staying at a house just a couple of hundred metres from where they were sitting on the beach. Immediately Max ran up to the house to grab a foam surfboard. A strong swimmer and surf lifesaver himself, Lachlan began to swim out towards the girl.  

“Max and I got to the girl at about the same time. I was holding her up in the water and she was gone. She was probably 30 seconds from going under,” said Lachlan. “She was in the worst condition I’d ever seen anyone out in the water.”

Max had done an incredible job to sprint to get the board and complete the long paddle out so quickly to meet his dad. The pair were able to get the girl onto the board and Lachlan began paddling the girl back to shore while Max swam alongside.

“Miraculously we caught this wave that took us all the way to the beach – it really was the magic wave and the most welcome one I’ve ever caught,” recalls Lachlan.

Back on shore, the girl was completely exhausted so Max and Lachlan carried her up the beach where they called an Ambulance and performed checks of her condition.

“She could barely talk,” said Lachlan “and she said to me when she got her breath back, that she felt like she was breathing water.”

The proud dad said he had complete confidence in his young son throughout the rescue effort.  “He knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He’s only 16 and he was just so calm and just having done his Bronze Medallion, it’s amazing.”

Lachlan said the surf life saving training and the family’s love of the ocean meant he wasn’t once worried for his son’s safety. “Max paddled out on the board and the surf was rough, but I didn’t once think he couldn’t do it,” he said. 



Hidden women of history: Millicent Bryant, the first Australian woman to get a pilot's licence

Clipping from Woman’s World, January, 1927. Bryant Scrapbook. Courtesy of John R. H. Bryant. Author provided
James VicarsUniversity of New England

In this series, we look at under-acknowledged women through the ages.

Before the glamorous flyers of the 1930s like Amelia Earhart, “Chubby” Miller and Nancy Bird Walton, another woman opened the way to the skies — and were it not for a tragic twist of fate, her name might now be just as familiar.

Her name was Millicent Maude Bryant, and in early 1927, she became the first woman to gain a pilot’s licence in Australia. She was also first in the Commonwealth outside Britain.

Millicent Bryant c.1919. Portrait by Monte Luke.
Millicent Bryant c.1919. Portrait by Monte Luke. Author provided

Read more: Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson, the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

A Boundary-Pusher Who Met An Untimely End

Millicent was born in 1878 at Oberon and grew up near Trangi in western New South Wales. Her family, the Harveys, moved to Manly for a period after a younger brother, George, contracted polio (one of the treatments was “sea-bathing”). She met and married a public servant 15 years her senior, Edward Bryant. They had three children but the couple separated not long before Edward died in 1926.

Later that year, Bryant began instruction with the Australian Aero Club at Mascot in Sydney. At the time, the site of the current international airport was just a large, grassy expanse with a few buildings and hangars.

Bryant was accepted by the Aero Club’s chief instructor, Captain Edward Leggatt (himself a noted first world war fighter pilot), soon after the club had opened its membership to women.

Even then, though, she was unusual: here was a 49-year-old mother of three taking up the challenge of flying which, in the 1920’s, was still as dangerous as it was exciting and glamorous.

Millicent Bryant with a plane and other aviators.
Millicent Bryant (second from left) with other aviators beside her De Havilland Moth. Author provided courtesy of Mary Taguchi.

She quickly progressed, ahead of two other younger, women students, and made her first solo flight in February, 1927. By this time, newspapers all around Australia were following her story, and in late March she took the test for the “A” licence that would enable her to independently fly De Havilland Moth biplanes.

She passed, and with the issue of her licence by the Ministry of Defence, Bryant was acclaimed as the first woman to gain a pilot’s licence in Australia.

An image of Bryant's Aero Club training certificate.
Millicent Bryant’s training certificate from the Aero Club of Australia (NSW Section). Her ‘A’ Licence was issued by the Department of Defence in April, 1927. Author providedAuthor provided

Why, then, isn’t she better known in our day? While Bryant immediately began training for a licence to carry passengers and flew regularly in the months that followed, it was her particular misfortune to step onto the Sydney ferry Greycliffe on its regular 4.14pm run to Watson’s Bay on November 3, 1927.

Less than an hour later, she was among 40 dead after the ferry was cut in half off Bradley’s Head by the mail steamer Tahiti. It was Sydney’s worst peacetime maritime disaster. Bryant was still only 49.

Her funeral two days later was attended by hundreds of people and accorded a remarkable aerial tribute, as the Wellington Times reported:

Five aeroplanes from the Mascot aerodrome flew over the procession as it wended its way to the cemetery. As the burial service was read by the Rev. A. R. Ebbs, rector of St. Matthew’s, Manly, one of the planes descended to within about 150 feet of the grave, and there was dropped from it a wreath of red carnations and blue delphiniums … Attached to the floral tribute was a card bearing the following inscription:

5th November, 1927. With the deepest sympathy of the committee and members of the Australian Aero Club — N.S.W. section.

_Greycliffe_, lifting the wreck of the ferry. The heavy lifting gear of the SHT steam sheerlegs is used to bring the hull section to the surface. From the Graeme Andrews ‘Working Harbour’ Collection, courtesy of the City of Sydney Archives.
Lifting the wreck of the ferry, Greycliffe. The heavy lifting gear of the SHT steam sheerlegs is used to bring the hull section to the surface. Author provided. Image from the Graeme Andrews ‘Working Harbour’ Collection, courtesy of the City of Sydney Archives.Author provided

A Pioneer In Life As Well As The Sky

Bryant’s story quickly lapsed into obscurity. Fortunately, some 80 years later, the rediscovery in the family of a collection of letters and other writings has enabled Bryant’s life beyond her flying achievement to be rediscovered.

The letters were — and are still until they are added to the collection of Bryant’s papers in the National Library — held by her granddaughter, Millicent Jones of Kendall, NSW, who rediscovered them in storage at her home.

The main correspondence is a conversation with her second son, John, in England. It covers the period she was flying, though it only moderately expands on the flights recorded in her logbook.

However, her letters and writings reveal much more about Bryant herself, her relationships, her feelings and her leisure, business and political activities. And they make it apparent that she was as much a pioneer in life as well as in the sky.

For one, flying was not Bryant’s only unconventional interest. She was also an entrepreneur, registering an importing company in partnership with John, who went on to become a pioneer of the Australian dairy industry.

She opened a men’s clothing business, Chesterfield Men’s Mercery, in Sydney’s CBD. However, disaster struck when it was inundated with water mere weeks after opening, following a fire in the tea rooms upstairs.

Bryant then became a small-scale property developer, buying and building on land in Vaucluse and Edgecliffe. She’d been well tutored in this by her father, grazier Edmund Harvey (a grandfather of billionaire Gerry Harvey), whose own holdings eventually included a large part of the Kanimbla Valley west of the Blue Mountains.

An excellent horsewoman, Bryant was also an early motorist who had driven over 35,000 miles around NSW and who could fix her own car. She was a keen golfer and reader and even a student of Japanese at the University of Sydney.

A fragment from Bryant's letters
A key writing fragment by Millicent Bryant (c.1924). Author provided

Several fragments of a family saga she planned to write, based on her own life, are among her papers. One sheet, entitled “A Life”, summarises in a series of rough notes rather more than she might have told anyone about her inner world.

Marriage – mistakes – children – despondency. Ill-health. Great desire to “live” and create things…

She notes that a trip abroad was a complete success but

it furnished a heart interest which lasted for fourteen years until hope died owing to a marriage.

This fragment provides some background to her taking, in her forties, the unusual step at that time of leaving her marriage and family home to start life afresh with her sons.

This was not long before she took her first flight, probably with Edgar Percival, a family friend and later a successful aircraft designer whose planes won air races and were noted for their graceful lines.

Vigour, Values And Conflicts

Growing up in the NSW inland late in the 19th century, Bryant would have begun with a fairly traditional view of what it meant to be a wife and mother.

However, her early life was also “free-spirited” (as one newspaper described her upbringing) and her determination to make decisions and shape her own life put her on a collision course with gender role expectations common at the time.

In 2006 a new memorial to Millicent Bryant was placed in Manly (now Balgowlah) Cemetery. It was dedicated by the late Nancy Bird Walton, pictured with Gaby Kennard (left) the first Australian woman to fly a single-engine plane around the world.
In 2006 a new memorial to Millicent Bryant was placed in Manly (now Balgowlah) Cemetery. It was dedicated by the late Nancy Bird Walton, pictured with Gaby Kennard (left) the first Australian woman to fly a single-engine plane around the world, and (right) a great-great-granddaughter of Millicent Bryant, Matilda Millicent Power-Jones. Author providedAuthor provided

Learning to fly, especially in middle age, was a breakthrough she pursued perhaps even more keenly after being denied work with the Sydney Sun newspaper solely because she was married.

Bryant clearly came to hold strong ideas about what a woman could and couldn’t do, and her life shows a determination to make her own path, despite confronting obstacles that are still familiar in our own time.

Bryant is not just a figure in aviation history. Her life — spanning the colonial period, the newly-federated nation and the tragedies of World War I — came to reflect the vigour, values and conflicts of Australia in the early 20th century.

Read more: Hidden women of history: Wauba Debar, an Indigenous swimmer from Tasmania who saved her captors The Conversation

James Vicars, Sessional Lecturer, University of New England

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


'WTF?': newly discovered ghostly circles in the sky can't be explained by current theories, and astronomers are excited

Bärbel Koribalski / ASKAPAuthor provided
Ray NorrisWestern Sydney University

In September 2019, my colleague Anna Kapinska gave a presentation showing interesting objects she’d found while browsing our new radio astronomical data. She had started noticing very weird shapes she couldn’t fit easily to any known type of object.

Among them, labelled by Anna as WTF?, was a picture of a ghostly circle of radio emission, hanging out in space like a cosmic smoke-ring. None of us had ever seen anything like it before, and we had no idea what it was. A few days later, our colleague Emil Lenc found a second one, even more spooky than Anna’s.

The ghostly ORC1 (blue/green fuzz), on a backdrop of the galaxies at optical wavelengths. There’s an orange galaxy at the centre of the ORC, but we don’t know whether it’s part of the ORC, or just a chance coincidence. Image by Bärbel Koribalski, based on ASKAP data, with the optical image from the [Dark Energy Survey]( provided

Anna and Emil had been examining the new images from our pilot observations for the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) project, made with CSIRO’s revolutionary new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope.

EMU plans to boldly probe parts of the Universe where no telescope has gone before. It can do so because ASKAP can survey large swathes of the sky very quickly, probing to a depth previously only reached in tiny areas of sky, and being especially sensitive to faint, diffuse objects like these.

I predicted a couple of years ago this exploration of the unknown would probably make unexpected discoveries, which I called WTFs. But none of us expected to discover something so unexpected, so quickly. Because of the enormous data volumes, I expected the discoveries would be made using machine learning. But these discoveries were made with good old-fashioned eyeballing.

Read more: Expect the unexpected from the big-data boom in radio astronomy

Hunting ORCs

Our team searched the rest of the data by eye, and we found a few more of the mysterious round blobs. We dubbed them ORCs, which stands for “odd radio circles”. But the big question, of course, is: “what are they?”

At first we suspected an imaging artefact, perhaps generated by a software error. But we soon confirmed they are real, using other radio telescopes. We still have no idea how big or far away they are. They could be objects in our galaxy, perhaps a few light-years across, or they could be far away in the Universe and maybe millions of light years across.

When we look in images taken with optical telescopes at the position of ORCs, we see nothing. The rings of radio emission are probably caused by clouds of electrons, but why don’t we see anything in visible wavelengths of light? We don’t know, but finding a puzzle like this is the dream of every astronomer.

Read more: The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder finally hits the big-data highway

We Know What They’re Not

We have ruled out several possibilities for what ORCs might be.

Could they be supernova remnants, the clouds of debris left behind when a star in our galaxy explodes? No. They are far from most of the stars in the Milky Way and there are too many of them.

Could they be the rings of radio emission sometimes seen in galaxies undergoing intense bursts of star formation? Again, no. We don’t see any underlying galaxy that would be hosting the star formation.

Could they be the giant lobes of radio emission we see in radio galaxies, caused by jets of electrons squirting out from the environs of a supermassive black hole? Not likely, because the ORCs are very distinctly circular, unlike the tangled clouds we see in radio galaxies.

Could they be Einstein rings, in which radio waves from a distant galaxy are being bent into a circle by the gravitational field of a cluster of galaxies? Still no. ORCs are too symmetrical, and we don’t see a cluster at their centre.

A Genuine Mystery

In our paper about ORCs, which is forthcoming in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, we run through all the possibilities and conclude these enigmatic blobs don’t look like anything we already know about.

So we need to explore things that might exist but haven’t yet been observed, such as a vast shockwave from some explosion in a distant galaxy. Such explosions may have something to do with fast radio bursts, or the neutron star and black hole collisions that generate gravitational waves.

Read more: How we closed in on the location of a fast radio burst in a galaxy far, far away

Or perhaps they are something else entirely. Two Russian scientists have even suggested ORCs might be the “throats” of wormholes in spacetime.

From the handful we’ve found so far, we estimate there are about 1,000 ORCs in the sky. My colleague Bärbel Koribalski notes the search is now on, with telescopes around the world, to find more ORCs and understand their cause.

It’s a tricky job, because ORCS are very faint and difficult to find. Our team is brainstorming all these ideas and more, hoping for the eureka moment when one of us, or perhaps someone else, suddenly has the flash of inspiration that solves the puzzle.

It’s an exciting time for us. Most astronomical research is aimed at refining our knowledge of the Universe, or testing theories. Very rarely do we get the challenge of stumbling across a new type of object which nobody has seen before, and trying to figure out what it is.

Is it a completely new phenomenon, or something we already know about but viewed in a weird way? And if it really is completely new, how does that change our understanding of the Universe? Watch this space!The Conversation

Ray Norris, Professor, School of Science, Western Sydney University

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


Why there's a lot more to love about jacarandas than just their purple flowers

Gregory MooreUniversity of Melbourne

Every spring, streets across Australia turn purple with the delicate, falling flowers of jacarandas. This year, they’ll likely be flowering over Christmas.

The colour of the flowers is often debated – is it indigo, blue or purple? Well, it’s all of them and more as the colour ranges from deeper to lighter shades depending on the specimen, soils and season.

Read more: Spring is here and wattles are out in bloom: a love letter to our iconic flowers

Jacaranda is so well known to Australians and so well loved, that many of us think of them as a native. But the genus Jacaranda is actually native to South America, and the most common variety in Australia, Jacaranda mimosifolia, may be from an Argentine source.

For this reason, and others, there are many who don’t share the jacaranda love.

Jacarandas flowering near a statue in Buenos Aires.
Jacarandas are native to South America, but are celebrated all over the world for their stunning flowers. Shutterstock

Festivals And Local Lore

Jacaranda festivals are a highlight of the year in many towns across Australia, including in Grafton, Applecross, Goodna, Camden, Woodville and Ipswich, to name a few.

The trees are even part of local lore at the University of Queensland, with students knowing of “purple panic” as they associate end of year exams with flowering.

California, Texas, Florida, southern Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and India boast stunning populations of jacaranda, too. I have seen them in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, which is renowned for them, and in Gaborone, the capital of marvellous Botswana.

This is testament to how widely Jacaranda mimosifolia has been planted around the world. This is because, despite being a little frost sensitive, the tree is quite hardy when it’s young and copes with a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. And in hot climates, the trees provide an appealing, dappled shade — the flowers are a bonus.

Aerial shot of purple jacaranda canopies among green canopies.
Jacarandas grow across Pretoria and Johannesburg, and have been declared an invasive weed. Shutterstock

And yet, jacaranda is classified as threatened or vulnerable in its natural habitat. This is because the land it once and still occupies in South America is being rapidly converted for agricultural use.

It’s Not All About The Flowers

Jacaranda mimosifolia is known to attract some birds and insects such as the African honey bee and local and native honey-eaters. The species belongs to the family Bignoniaceae, and its members are largely distributed in tropical regions.

The Bignoniaceae family contains woody species alongside jacaranda, but many other members are “lianes”, the climbers you might associate with Tarzan swinging through the jungle.

Read more: Tree ferns are older than dinosaurs. And that's not even the most interesting thing about them

Jacarandas also have both soft and brittle wood and large, pod-like fruits which turn brown as they dry out.

These pods become almost woody and can rattle in the wind. This can be a bit disconcerting at first, but in mild wind it makes a soothing sound – a bit like a natural wind chime. And as Christmas approaches, some people gather the pods, decorate them and use them as ornaments.

Dried brown jacaranda pods hanging from a branch
When dry, you can decorate jacaranda pods and turn them into Christmas ornaments. Shutterstock

While the twigs and branches of the jacaranda break easily with an almost explosive crack, large pieces of wood can be used for wood turning, especially for bowls and handles. The brittleness of the wood also leaves jacaranda vulnerable to damage during strong winds, but usually only smaller branches and twigs are affected.

So What’s Not To Love? A Lot, Actually

Jacaranda has been declared an invasive weed in South Africa and parts of Australia, with the fine seeds within the woody fruits very easy to germinate. In Africa, it has proved very difficult to eradicate and can only be planted with official permission.

Its roots can be quite extensive and, depending on soil type, may damage paths and fences. This strong root system is one of the reasons jacaranda outcompetes local species, such as native grasses and wattles, and why very few other species can grow under it. In such situations, it can form dense seedling thickets.

Purple jacaranda flowers covering the ground.
When it rains, jacaranda flowers that have fallen to the ground can become slippery and dangerous. Shutterstock

When it sheds its fine, feathery leaves, they have an amazing capacity to get into every nook and cranny, under roofs and into ceilings. While the living tree is fire retardant, I have seen how the leaves can form thick, tinder-dry mats which can be a fire hazard, and can completely fill or block gutters and drains, causing major damage to homes after heavy rain.

What’s more, their beautiful flowers are almost filmy when they shed, and if you add a little rain they can become very slippery.

What Does The Future Hold?

Whether you love them or hate them, the future for Jacaranda mimosifolia in urban Australia is bright, as it’s one of the species likely to do well under climate change as it grows well in warmer and drier places.

But in rural and regional Australia, greater care must be taken in places where it has the potential to become weedy.

Jacaranda tree by Sydney Harbour
Jacarandas are sure to be part of urban Australian for decades to come. Shutterstock

Perhaps the nursery industry will come up with fruitless or seedless varieties to resolve the problem, as it has with white cedar (Melia azedarach), whose fruits are so hard they represented a tripping hazard in cities.

Fruitless or seedless varieties of jacaranda would eliminate its potential weediness, ensuring it grows only where desired.

Regardless, we are likely to see the purple haze of jacarandas in flower over the Australian summer heat for many decades to come.

Read more: White cedar is a rare bird: a winter deciduous Australian tree The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Doctor of Botany, University of Melbourne

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


Friday essay: the singlet — a short history of an Australian icon

‘Shearing sheep, Barcaldine District’, 1948. Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM1154347
Lorinda CramerAustralian Catholic University

There’s no denying the popularity of the singlet. The Chesty Bond, Australia’s best known singlet, has notched up more than 350 million sales. At last year’s Deniliquin Ute Muster, more than 3,970 blue singlets were counted.

Donned first as underwear, then for sport and later as the uniform of Australia’s working man, this simple garment has accrued complex cultural meanings over time.

Singlets have been famously worn by rock stars such as Jimmy Barnes and evolved into an item of gay dress.

The blue singlet featured heavily in Village People’s 1978 filmclip for Macho Man.

Now worn by men and women alike, for sport, labour or leisure, they have a long and fascinating history.

From Underwear To Sportswear: 19th Century Singlets

The first singlets were concealed beneath clothing. The Workwoman’s Guide, a pattern book and instructional guide for making everyday clothing, was published in London in 1838. Though it contains the details for an extraordinary range of undergarments, it makes no mention of singlets.

Two years later, however, Mr Samuel Lyons advertised an auction of 40 cases of slop clothing in Sydney. Among the slops (relatively cheap, ready-made clothing) were 13 cases of plaid and velvet vests, short fitted coats called coatees and flannel singlets. This may be the earliest reference to the undergarment in an Australian newspaper.

Read more: A brief history of briefs – and how technology is transforming underpants

Australian gold-rush guides of the 1850s advised adventure-seeking migrants on the ideal clothing in which to seek their fortune. One helpfully suggested a digger’s outfit include two or three shirts, three pairs of trousers, a warm jacket and “two or three flannel singlets”.

Axeman competing in an event at the Mt Gravatt Show, Brisbane, date unknown. State Library of Queensland,7708-0001-0142

These singlets formed a soft, warm, washable layer between men’s torsos and their outer clothing. However shirts, too, were considered underclothing at this time, serving a similar function.

In the second half of the 19th century, singlets emerged from beneath men’s clothes. Athletes, including pedestrians (competitive walkers or runners), wrestlers, wood-choppers and rowers, wore singlets openly for the first time.

This shocked some observers and intrigued others, who commented on the athletes’ magnificent physiques. Yet the benefit of wearing this simple, streamlined garment was clear. Singlets freed the shoulders and arms, enhancing movement.

An Australian Work Costume

Unsurprisingly, singlets were adopted by Australia’s working men shortly after.

Queensland’s colloquial term for the singlet, the “Jackie Howe”, takes its name from the shearer said to have bared his arms while setting new daily shearing records in 1892. In fact, it’s more likely he wore an undershirt. Later reports suggest he variously cut or tore the sleeves off his shirt, or perhaps did neither, merely inspiring another shearer to do so. At any rate, the name stuck, in Queensland at least.

A group of mates riding in a Model T Ford Double Island Point, 1931. State Library of Queensland, 34670

Over the following decades, singlets became a distinctive element of the Australian work costume. During the first world war, soldiers were issued two singlets as part of their kit.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, close-fitting cotton “athletic” singlets were donned by timber cutters, construction workers and others involved in outdoor labour, most often paired with trousers and leather boots.

By the second world war, singlets were worn for sport and physical training and at rest.

Artist William Dobell, working for the Civil Construction Corps, painted several wartime images of workers clad in singlets, shorts and little else. One such painting, Concrete consolidation worker, Sydney graving dock (1944), depicts a man in shorts and a loose, white singlet, his body protected by a hat, gloves and work boots.

AIF Physical Training School, circa 1940. State Library of Victoria, H98.105/4478

As this form of Australian masculinity took shape — strong, bronzed, well-built workers stripped down to their singlets — Bonds developed its Chesty Bond character.

He appeared in regular comic strips in Sydney’s Sun newspaper from March 1940. Slipping on a singlet exposed Chesty’s superhero-like form, but more importantly let his “great muscles work unimpeded”, as one cartoon put it. The image of Chesty Bond, with his distinctive jutting chin, powerful chest and rippling torso, still appears on the singlet’s packaging today.

Beyond The Working Man

The singlet’s symbolism had solidified as shorthand for the everyday working man by the mid-20th century. In the 1970s and ‘80s, pub-rock musicians drew on this connection, referencing the working-class roots of the music and their singlet-wearing fans.

Rose Tattoo favoured singlets in early promotional images to set off their tattooed arms.

Jimmy Barnes wore a white singlet in the film clip for Working Class Man (1985). Mark Seymour, front man of Melbourne’s Hunters and Collectors, was known for his high-energy, singlet-clad performances in hot, crowded venues.

At the same time, gay men began wearing singlets. The look, which first emerged in America, referenced tough, “macho” men. Combined with tight jeans and plaid shirts, singlets were an assertion of hyper-masculinity.

In the 1990s, singlets were recast again when underwear was embraced at gay clubs and dance parties. The singlet set off hard, smooth bodies, sculpted at the gym.

These examples point to the power of singlets to suggest a strong, rugged, muscular Australian masculinity. But singlets, too, have a darker side. Their ready association with hard-working and hard-drinking men has led to another particularly troubling, colloquial name: “the wifebeater”.

How you wear your singlet is a marker of class. White-collar workers wear singlets as often as their blue-collar counterparts, though theirs often remain unseen (at least at work), under business shirts and suits.

Labourers in their singlets posing with shovels and wheelbarrows, circa 1923. State Library of Queensland, 2563-0001-0011

Women In Singlets

Women’s sleeveless undergarments, including chemises and camisoles, were worn in the 19th century and “ladies’ singlets” were advertised in Australian newspapers by the 1880s.

It took longer for women, though, to bare their arms in the range of settings that men did. Singlets were dotted through the crowds — on both young men and women — at popular music festivals like Sunbury in the early 1970s.

Courtney Barnett rocks a black singlet in 2018. Bruce, from Sydney, Wikimedia Commons

Melbourne photographer Rennie Ellis, a prolific documenter of daily life and by extension daily dress, captured many singlet-wearing women in his images, particularly during the 1980s.

In 2005 Akira Isogawa, one of Australia’s most creative contemporary fashion designers, remade the humble Bonds singlet, stitching an extravagant panel of vividly embroidered red and purple flowers on its front. The singlet had become high fashion.

Singlets are popular with women too. shutterstock

Singlets are now as popular with women as with men. Our preoccupation with physical fitness and gym-ready bodies has seen a huge range of Australian and international brands enter the singlet market. Singlets made as active wear have special breathable, sweat-wicking properties.

For our Olympic athletes, singlets have been green and gold. The National Museum of Australia recently acquired 1969 silver medallist Peter Norman’s singlet, while other Olympic singlets appear in museum collections around Australia. But on the local oval or at the gym, in the pub or in the backyard, singlets of all colours reign.The Conversation

Lorinda Cramer, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Australian Catholic University

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


3 out of 10 girls skip class because of painful periods. And most won't talk to their teacher about it

Mike ArmourWestern Sydney UniversityKathryn HolmesWestern Sydney University, and Kelly Ann ParryWestern Sydney University

More than one-third of young women in a nationwide survey said they missed at least one class, either at school or university, in the past three months due to menstrual symptoms, including pain and fatigue.

More than three quarters of young women said they had problems concentrating due to their period. Around half said they didn’t feel like they had performed as well on a test or assignment due to their symptoms.

We used a nationwide online survey to collect information from 4,202 teenagers and young women in Australia, aged 13 to 25, who were either at school or at tertiary education like university or TAFE.

More than half (60%) of the women in our survey said they wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to a teacher or lecturer about how their period was affecting them.

How Period Pain Affects Education

Many young women experience menstrual symptoms. Almost three quarters report regular period pain, around half report fatigue, and more than one third report emotional changes such as mood swings. Studies show these menstrual symptoms can cause women to miss work or school and some previous studies in teenagers show it may potentially impact academic performance.

We wanted to understand how menstrual symptoms might be affecting young women in Australia with regard to their education, and how they manage these.

We asked young women about how often they got period pain and other menstrual symptoms, how it impacted their attendance or classroom performance, and explored how useful they found the sexual and reproductive education they had previously received.

In our survey, nine out of ten young women reported having had period pain in the past three months, and half reported pain every month. This is similar to previous findings in teenagers in Australia.

Read more: Period pain is impacting women at school, uni and work. Let's be open about it

Their pain scores, which tended to be moderate to severe for most, didn’t change as they got older.

More than one-third of young women said they missed at least one class in the past three months due to their menstrual symptoms. This was almost identical no matter if they were at school or at university.

The negative impacts of periods also included missing sport and social activities. But more than half (60%) of young women said they wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to a teacher or lecturer about how their period was affecting them.

Pain was the biggest factor in predicting how much their education would be affected, with higher pain scores having a much greater negative impact. This is a concern as it often occurs at a crucial time in their academic lives during their final schooling years. Absenteeism at this time can have long-term consequences due to exams and assignments in the senior years often determining which courses can be studied at tertiary education.

Many Accepted Pain As ‘Normal’

Most of the young women in our study didn’t seek medical advice for their pain, even when it was severe. This is similar to what has been found in the past.

As their pain got worse they were more likely to think it was abnormal but weren’t any more likely to seek medical attention. This is probably due, at least in part, to the fact most young women think pain is normal and they just need to put up with it.

Unfortunately, this belief can often be reinforced when they speak to a medical professional.

Read more: Health Check: are painful periods normal?

Only about half of young women at school had heard of endometriosis — a chronic condition in which cells similar to those that line the uterus grow in other parts of the body. It can cause significant pain, fatigue and reproductive issues.

Only about half of young women said they would seek medical advice if they had pelvic pain when they didn’t have their period. This is despite over half (55%) reporting they did experience pelvic pain (pain similar to their period but when not menstruating) at least once a month.

A teenage on the ground near lockers with her head on her knees.
Many young women think period pain is normal and they should just bear it. Shutterstock

Severe period and pelvic pain when not menstruating are very common early signs of chronic pelvic pain (such as endometriosis), and delays in diagnosis may worsen outcomes for young women.

Read more: 1 in 10 women are affected by endometriosis. So why does it take so long to diagnose?

Women Need Better Education

Education on menstrual health is incorporated into the Australian Foundation to Year 10 Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum. This positions health and physical education teachers as critical in providing students with evidence-based information in a relevant, timely and age-appropriate manner.

Yet the extent to which this is occurring in schools is unknown. Research reports Australian teachers are uncomfortable addressing menstruation. This often results in periods being taught as a negative and troublesome part of growing up.

The young women we surveyed highlighted their schools’ shortcomings in educating them on how to manage period pain. One 16-year-old Victorian student said:

There was no practical information such as relieving symptoms and the use of sanitary items, only the biological effect on the body such as how hormones come into play. Personally that was not useful and I can’t remember much about it.

The young women saw a lack of support for period pain during their education and the negative impacts this may have. An 18-year-old student from Western Australia said:

In particular, no advice was given on dealing with pain (mine ended up being extreme) or what the process (if any) was at school for having menstrual pain taken seriously and treated as a consideration in test writing or sport class.

Teachers need to be more aware of potential impacts of period pain on education outcomes. And the curriculum must be expanded to focus on mitigation strategies for period pain.

There are some promising menstrual education programs, both in person and online, that have been developed to tackle these shortcomings, including some that also include parents and boys. Currently these programs are often ad-hoc, and need to be adopted as a consistent part of the school curriculum.

It is critical menstruation and period pain transcend being a girl’s or women’s issue alone and include all genders, as well as parents and caregivers, who are often called on to support and inform young people.The Conversation

Mike Armour, Senior research fellow, Western Sydney UniversityKathryn Holmes, Professor of Education, Western Sydney University, and Kelly Ann Parry, Sessional Lecturer, Western Sydney University

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


Born to be wild — revelling in the design and desire of the motorcycle

Majestic c.1929 Collection: Bobby Haas and Haas Moto Museum. © Haas Moto Galleries LLC. Photographer: Grant Schwingle
Alasdair MacintyreAustralian Catholic University

Review: The Motorcycle — Art, Design, Desire at Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art

Motorcycles are such a guy thing, right? Think Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, Arthur Fonzarelli in television’s Happy Days and Daniel Craig’s James Bond. All blokes, exuding controlled coolness, astride impressively loud, throbbing engines.

Yet in Motorcycles — Design, Art, Desire, this summer’s blockbuster exhibition at Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGoMA), there is a mean red motorcycle that was ridden by the fastest Australian woman on two wheels, Kim Krebs.

How fast did she go? The numbers are hard to get your head around: 244 miles per hour. That’s miles. In kilometres that is a tick under 400 per hour. Think of the legal limit you can drive along the highway and multiply it by four … and she is still attempting to go even faster.

Kreb’s record breaking ride is one of a hundred motorcycles in the exhibition, drawn from collections all over the world by curators Charles M. Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle.

Very fast blue and pink motorbike
The need for speed in blue and pink. The 1991 Britten V1000 motorcycle. Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Christchurch. Collection: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Read more: Celebrating the feminist Holden

Motorcycles? In An Art Gallery?

This is a niche category exhibition that follows similar QAGoMA shows such as the fashion house Valentino Retrospective, Past/Present/Future (2010), California Design: Living in a Modern Way (2013-14) and Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe in 2017.

The Marvel exhibition drew over a quarter of a million visitors (I confess I had season tickets and still miss seeing Hulkbuster each week) clearly indicating such shows, however singular, have broad appeal.

QAGoMA director Chris Saines says the gallery runs with a broad definition of what constitutes modern culture. Accordingly, people who ordinarily would not visit art galleries beat a path to this one for specialised exhibitions. Niche shows appeal to specific demographics, who have a rusted on dedication to their passion.

With the opening of Queensland’s borders following coronavirus restrictions perfectly coinciding with this exhibition, there will surely be a steady stream of two-wheeled devotees making their way to Brisbane.

But this show will also educate and inform those with an interest in design, modern history, popular culture, and art, who are willing to learn something new, and like me, may start to see motorcycles in a different way.

Read more: What evolution and motorcycles have in common: let's take a ride across Australia

From Original Steampunk To Future Motors

Encompassing early models from the Victorian era (bicycles with an engine strapped to them, very steampunk), through the mid-20th century’s chrome muscle machines, to sleek concept bikes of the future powered by electricity, this exhibition covers the motorbike’s 150-year history.

All the big names are here: Norton, Triumph, BSA, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki. There are also a number of bespoke style designers, including Australia’s Deus Ex Machina, whose ultracool Drover’s Dog (2009) accommodates a surfboard on its side.

Motorbike with surfboard strapped to side.
From the road to the surf. The Drover’s Dog (2009) by Deux Ex Machina is an Australian bespoke design. Joseph Mildren/Deus Ex Machina

Exhibition designer Michael O’Sullivan has used the gallery’s expansive ground floor to great effect. The angular architecture reflects and amplifies the stars of the show, setting this exhibition apart from a mere motor show exposition.

Each item is treated like a fine art object, gleaming chrome lit to perfection, positioned just so. Information panels inform the curious lay person and digital projection screens show great motorcycle movie moments to seal the deal.

Handsome man on motorcycle from 1960s movies
Steve McQueen revs up for his 1963 Great Escape. IMDB

There are of course elements within the design of the motorcycles that reflect fine art values of their era, most notably German Bauhaus and Art Deco influences, when motorcycles morphed from the simple functionality of economical transportation to aesthetically pleasing status symbols.

Read more: Explainer: who owns the copyright to your tattoo?

Slow Riders And Low Riders

The oldest known motorcycle, and the first that exhibition visitors see, was developed by Frenchman Louis-Guillaume Perreaux. Steam-powered, the 1871 model had a top speed of 14 kilometres per hour and being mainly made of timber, would not have been a comfortable ride.

Contrast this with the cruiser motorcycles a century later, most notably by Harley-Davidson, when riders reclined on customised bikes, such as the almost impossibly elongated Chopper, just like the one ridden by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider (1969).

Antique motocycle
Louis-Guillaume Perreaux Vélocipède à vapeur c.1870 Département des Hauts-de-Seine. Musée du Domaine départemental de SceauxPhotograph: Olivier Ravoire

On the eve of the exhibition, land racer Krebs described what it feels like to ride in excess of 200 miles per hour. She spoke of feeling a kind of serenity, as she travels so fast across the salt plains that the roar of her turbo-charged engine is left far behind her.

“What are you aiming for?” a journalist asked her.

“I am aiming for forever”, she replied.

Just like something an artist would say.

The Motorcycle — Art, Design, Desire is showing at QAGOMA until 26 April 2021.The Conversation

Alasdair Macintyre, Associate lecturer visual arts, artist, PhD candidate, Australian Catholic University

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

Free General Admission To Upgraded Australian Museum

Visitors to the Australian Museum will soon be able to explore the $57.5 million renovation that has delivered an increase in floor space for exhibitions, the introduction of education facilities, a new museum shop open and a second café.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW Government has made general admissions free to the public until 30 June 2021 to celebrate the reopening of the museum. 

“The Australian Museum is the country’s oldest museum so it is only fitting this world class institution has an upgraded home in the heart of Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to explore the natural wonders of the world, learn about our history and be inspired by our culture.” 

The 15 month renovation, known as Project Discover, was delivered on time and on budget. It included repurposing back-of-house areas to more than 3000sqm of new public space, which will allow the museum to host one major travelling international exhibition or two smaller exhibitions at the same time.

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the Australian Museum was an important cultural home for the people of NSW and all Australians.

“Our cultural institutions come alive when we immerse ourselves in them, and the renewed and expanded Australian Museum is for everyone to enjoy. People can meet and spend time together, escape to a space of natural discovery, and explore,” Mr Harwin said. 

“The museum’s transformation has put it firmly on the world stage, yet it remains a truly Australian museum and an iconic part of Sydney’s own backyard.”

The NSW Government contributed more than $50 million to the Project Discover renovation.

The Australian Museum will reopen with free general admission to the public on Saturday 28 November 2020. Visitors will be required to register their contact details on arrival for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes. 

Find out more information on exhibitions at the Australian Museum

The Australian Museum, College Street entrance, Sydney - Photograph by and courtesy Greg O'Beirne

'Schoolies 2020 - But We Must Be COVID-Safe': Police Warn School Leavers Ahead Of End Of School Celebrations

‘This year is different, this is not schoolies as you know it’ – that’s the message from senior officers at Tweed/Byron Police District ahead of 2020 end of school celebrations.

School leavers from across NSW and interstate are due to arrive in Byron Bay and other parts of Northern NSW from today (Friday 20 November 2020), and are expected to stay into December.

While there are no formal events associated with ‘Schoolies 2020’ occurring in the Byron Bay area, police are expecting thousands of school leavers to descend on the coastal town to mark the end of their 13 years of schooling.

In anticipation for the large crowds, Tweed/Byron Police District will conduct an extensive and high-visibility operation for the duration of the ‘schoolies’ period, assisted by the Richmond Police District and other Northern Region commands, the Public Order and Riot Squad, Northern Operational Support Group officers, the Mounted Unit, the Police Dog Unit, Traffic and Highway Patrol, and the Youth Command and PCYC.

Tweed/Byron Police District Commander, Superintendent Dave Roptell, said this year’s celebrations must be conducted in a COVID-safe environment, with officers to enforce all current Public Health Orders and conduct regular business compliance checks.

“We know this has been an extremely tough year for HSC students, and we appreciate that school leavers want to have a memorable time. However, these are not normal times, so we ask anyone coming to the far North Coast to be respectful – we have come this far in managing COVID-19 in our regional communities, let’s not undo all our hard work now,” Supt. Roptell said.

“With the NSW and Queensland border now re-open to regional NSW, Byron Bay is included in that zone. And with the border between NSW and Victoria to re-open early next week, we are expecting thousands of school leavers to come to our area.

“The NSW Police Force continues to work closely with health officials and other government agencies, businesses and the community to manage the COVID-19 crisis and minimise the spread of the virus.

“In saying that, we have a very clear message to those choosing to come to Byron in 2020 – this year is very different, there will be no large gatherings, no dance parties in the park. Social distancing is the new normal, and we all have to do our bit to stop the spread.

“The risk of community transmission is still present here in Australia, and with people from interstate expected to come to Byron, school leavers need to be extremely aware of the dangers of COVID-19.

“Public Health Orders currently state that no more than 20 persons can be inside a home at any one time – this includes short-stay accommodation. The orders also state that up to 30 people can be gathered in a public space at any one time, this includes places such as parks, beaches, etc.

“While we will be enforcing the Public Health Orders, police want to remind school leavers that we aren’t here to ruin the fun – our officers are here to protect you and keep you safe; approach police or authorities if you are in danger, if you feel threatened or you are a victim of any type of crime.

“Not only will police be ensuring Public Health Orders are being followed, but officers will be targeting drug and alcohol-related crime, as well as anti-social behaviour.

“Drugs and alcohol impairs your judgement and can lead to risky behaviours or choices which can impact the rest of your life. Know your limits and look out for your mates.

“With the increase in activity in the Byron town centre, we are urging all visitors and locals alike to plan ahead; those not joining in the celebrations are asked to watch out for increased pedestrian activity and keep an eye out on the roads.

“As always, if you’re planning on drinking – you need a Plan B to get yourself home,” Supt. Roptell said.

The NSW Police Force continues to work closely with the Schoolies Safety Response agencies, which include Byron Youth Service and Red Frog volunteers, alongside all health officials and other government agencies, businesses and the community to minimise disruption and maintain a COVID-Safe environment.

For all information related to schoolies during COVID-19, visit the website:

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

Byron Bay Lighthouse, Beach and Hinterland Aerial Shot by K Pravin

Program Helps Skill Up School Leavers Over Summer

The NSW Government's Skilling for Recovery program offers fee-free training places for school leavers, young people and job seekers.

Hundreds of fee-free training courses are now available for school leavers, young people and job seekers, as part of the NSW Government’s Skilling for Recovery initiative.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the courses came from the $320 million committed to delivering 100,000 fee-free training places across the state.

“There are more than 100,000 fee-free training places available for people in NSW as the workforce looks to reskill, retrain and redeploy in a post-COVID-19 economy,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a school leaver or looking for a new career path, I encourage everyone impacted by the pandemic to see what training options are available to them.”

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said enrolments were now open for in-demand skills leading to career pathways in areas such as aged care, nursing, trades, IT, community services, logistics and accounting.

“We are not training for the sake of training, we are training for real jobs with real futures and equipping the people of NSW with the skills they need to thrive in a post-pandemic economy,” Mr Lee said.

“There are hundreds of providers right around NSW who are ready to deliver this important training.”

As part of this Skilling for Recovery initiative, school leavers have the unique opportunity to experience a range of skills to find out what suits their passions using the Summer Skills program.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said some Year 12 school leavers were still deciding what they wanted to do next.

“In designing the Summer Skills program, the NSW Government has ensured the training on offer is aligned to local industry needs,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We need to provide opportunities that help the 2020 Year 12 school leaver cohort to find their feet during these uncertain times. That’s why we’re delivering practical, bite-sized and fee-free training opportunities this summer.”

The Summer Skills offered will cover a range of industries including agriculture, construction, conservation, fitness, engineering, coding, communication and digital literacy.

You can find further details of the courses on offer as part of Skilling for Recovery and the Department of Education Summer Skills program on the respective websites.

Octogenarian Snapper Found Off Australia Becomes Oldest Tropical Reef Fish By Two Decades

December 1, 2020
An 81-year-old midnight snapper caught off the coast of Western Australia has taken the title of the oldest tropical reef fish recorded anywhere in the world.

The octogenarian fish was found at the Rowley Shoals -- about 300km west of Broome -- and was part of a study that has revised what we know about the longevity of tropical fish.

The research identified 11 individual fish that were more than 60 years old, including a 79-year-old red bass also caught at the Rowley Shoals.

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) Fish Biologist Dr Brett Taylor, who led the study, said the midnight snapper beat the previous record holder by two decades.

"Until now, the oldest fish that we've found in shallow, tropical waters have been around 60 years old," he said.

"We've identified two different species here that are becoming octogenarians, and probably older."

Dr Taylor said the research will help us understand how fish length and age will be affected by climate change.

"We're observing fish at different latitudes -- with varying water temperatures -- to better understand how they might react when temperatures warm everywhere," he said.

The study involved four locations along the WA coast, as well as the protected Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean.

It looked at three species that are not targeted by fishing in WA; the red bass (Lutjanus bohar), midnight snapper (Macolor macularis), and black and white snapper (Macolor niger).

Co-author Dr Stephen Newman, from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, said long-lived fish were generally considered more vulnerable to fishing pressure.

"Snappers make up a large component of commercial fisheries in tropical Australia and they're also a key target for recreational fishers," he said.

"So, it's important that we manage them well, and WA's fisheries are among the best managed fisheries in the world."

Marine scientists are able to accurately determine the age of a fish by studying their ear bones, or 'otoliths'.

Fish otoliths contain annual growth bands that can be counted in much the same way as tree rings.

Dr Taylor said the oldest red bass was born during World War I.

"It survived the Great Depression and World War II," he said.

"It saw the Beatles take over the world, and it was collected in a fisheries survey after Nirvana came and went."

"It's just incredible for a fish to live on a coral reef for 80 years."

Brett M. Taylor, Corey B. Wakefield, Stephen J. Newman, Mark Chinkin, Mark G. Meekan. Unprecedented longevity of unharvested shallow-water snappers in the Indian Ocean. Coral Reefs, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s00338-020-02032-3

Photo by Brett Taylor

Genes Unlock Clues To The Evolution And Survival Of The Great Barrier Reef

November 30, 2020
In a ground-breaking new study, scientists used innovative molecular techniques to explain how corals on the east coast of Australia survived previous tough conditions -- enabling the Great Barrier Reef to become the vast reef it is today.

"We sequenced the genomes of 150 individual colonies of the same species of corals and used this to find out which genes are important for survival in inshore reefs," said the study's lead author Dr Ira Cooke from James Cook University.

"Genomes are like a time capsule containing an enormous wealth of historical information," said co-author Professor David Miller from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE).

"Generally, single genomes are really useful in coral studies, but hundreds of genomes for the same species are a goldmine of information," Prof Miller said.

The team delved into the ancient history of reefs, back some one million years, to when inshore corals from Magnetic Island first diverged from their northern reef kin.

The scientists mapped the rise and fall of these two coral populations on the Great Barrier Reef, tracking which genes rapidly evolved to endure changing conditions, while measuring the flow of genes between locations.

They say the results are important for the current and future conservation of coral reefs.

Dr Cooke and his team already knew corals on the inshore Great Barrier Reef were able to flourish despite a disruptive environment of high turbidity and highly variable salinity and temperature parameters. By looking at the variation between genomes the team discovered exactly how the corals achieved this feat.

The survival strategies used by the reef's inshore corals include a set of genes that evolved rapidly during the past 10,000 years. This time period includes flooding after the last ice-age. Another strategy includes the assimilation of specialist strains of coral symbiotic algae. These were found in reefs with some of the toughest conditions -- often close to rivers.

"These two strategies deserve special attention in future studies, as possible keys to the survival of corals under similar conditions," Dr Cooke said.

"Losing these reefs is a future possibility as coral reefs currently experience unprecedented, drastic and rapid changes due to human influence," Prof Miller said.

"Coral reefs are threatened by climate change, over-fishing and pollution."

In addressing the latter, Dr Cooke says it's highly important to care for water catchments and water quality.

"As high-quality genome assemblies are derived from a broader range of corals and their symbionts, this and related approaches will become key tools," the authors said.

"These bring us closer to understanding the interaction between past climate conditions and the evolution of corals and coral reefs."

Ira Cooke, Hua Ying, Sylvain Forêt, Pim Bongaerts, Jan M. Strugnell, Oleg Simakov, Jia Zhang, Matt A. Field, Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty, Sara C. Bell, David G. Bourne, Madeleine JH van Oppen, Mark A. Ragan, David J. Miller. Genomic signatures in the coral holobiont reveal host adaptations driven by Holocene climate change and reef specific symbionts. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (48): eabc6318 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6318

Children With Dyslexia Show Stronger Emotional Responses

December 1, 2020
Children diagnosed with dyslexia show greater emotional reactivity than children without dyslexia, according to a new collaborative study by UC San Francisco neuroscientists with the UCSF Dyslexia Center and UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

In the study, published online in an early form November 20, 2020 in Cortex, children with dyslexia who watched emotionally evocative videos showed increased physiological and behavioral responses when compared to children without dyslexia. This higher emotional reactivity was correlated with stronger connectivity in the brain's salience network, a system that supports emotion generation and self-awareness.

The results broaden current conceptualizations of typical dyslexia and suggest the syndrome is much more complex than just a weakness in reading skills, adding support to the growing awareness that dyslexia is often associated with hidden interpersonal strengths.

"There are anecdotes that some kids with dyslexia have greater social and emotional intelligence," said Virginia Sturm, PhD, the John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation Endowed Professor in the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. "We don't want to say that all kids with dyslexia are necessarily gifted in this way, but we can think about dyslexia as being associated with both strengths and weaknesses."

The researchers recruited 32 children between the ages of 8 and 12 with the classic "phonological" form of dyslexia to participate in the study, as well as 22 children without dyslexia. The team tested the children with dyslexia to confirm that they all had difficulty reading, assess their comprehension of emotional terms and measure their performance on a range of cognitive tests. Children and parents also responded to questionnaires regarding their emotional and mental health.

At the UCSF Dyslexia Center, the children were fitted with sensors to monitor breathing, skin conductance, and heart rate, and their facial expressions were filmed as they viewed short film clips designed to elicit specific positive and negative emotions such as amusement and disgust. For example, they watched a baby laughing and a woman who was about to vomit.

The researchers found that the children with dyslexia displayed greater emotional facial behavior and were more physiologically reactive while watching the film clips than children without dyslexia. In addition, functional MRI scans of the children's brain activity revealed that the children who were most expressive had stronger connectivity between the right anterior insula and the right anterior cingulate cortex -- key structures in the salience network that support emotion generation and self-awareness. In the children with dyslexia, those with stronger emotional facial expressions also had greater parent-reported social skills but also greater symptoms of anxiety and depression.

These findings suggest that many children with dyslexia may possess strengths around social acumen, since stronger emotional responses can be a key element of successful social relationships. Some adults with dyslexia report that that they made it through school by "charming their teachers." This ability to make social connections, often interpreted as a purely compensatory strategy, could instead be a sign of enhanced emotional abilities at a neurological level.

Still, a dyslexia diagnosis is not a guarantee of social success. As the parent reports indicate, higher emotional reactivity and sensitivity can also be a risk factor for developing anxiety and depression, as these children could possibly be detecting emotional cues differently from neurotypical individuals. One more reason to make sure that these children are protected and appropriately served in schools, college but even in the work place as adults

"The message for families is that this condition may be defined by its negative effects on reading, but we need to look more deeply and broadly to all brain functions in dyslexia in order to gain a better understanding of associated strengths and identify effective remediation strategies," said Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini, MD, PhD, the Charles Schwab Distinguished Professor in Dyslexia and Neurodevelopment and co-director of the UCSF Dyslexia Center and the UCSF-UCB Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center.

"Our findings have implications for education for children with dyslexia," said Sturm, also an associate professor in the UCSF departments of Neurology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, whose work has previously focused on emotion processing in the aging brain. "We need to base teaching on strengths as well as weaknesses. For example, kids with dyslexia may do better in one-on-one or group teaching scenarios depending on how they connect emotionally with teachers or peers. But we also need to be aware of their vulnerability to anxiety and depression and be sure they have adequate support to process their potentially strong emotions."

The researchers have other questions that they hope to answer. In future work they will attempt to determine whether emotional reactivity leads to increased empathy. The researchers hope that in better understanding social and emotional processing and other strengths in dyslexia they will be able to develop more targeted interventions and decrease stigma towards this condition.

Despite some unanswered questions, the study is a major advance in our understanding of dyslexia, the researchers say. It also demonstrates the effectiveness of the growing integration of UCSF's clinical and basic neuroscience community across departments under the umbrella of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and across UC campuses through the UCSF-UCB Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center.

"It's novel for a medical institution to take on dyslexia because it's often considered an academic and educational problem. But dyslexia is based in the brain and we need an integrated approach between neurology, psychiatry, psychology and education to better serve these children and their families," said Gorno-Tempini, who is also a professor of neurology and of psychiatry and behavioral and director of the Language Neurobiology Laboratory at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. "Whenever I share these results with families they are astounded because it helps them understand that dyslexia is about far more than academic challenges -- it's about having a particular kind of brain with its own strengths and weaknesses, just like all of us."

Virginia E. Sturm, Ashlin R.K. Roy, Samir Datta, Cheng Wang, Isabel J. Sible, Sarah R. Holley, Christa Watson, Eleanor R. Palser, Nathaniel A. Morris, Giovanni Battistella, Esther Rah, Marita Meyer, Mikhail Pakvasa, Maria Luisa Mandelli, Jessica Deleon, Fumiko Hoeft, Eduardo Caverzasi, Zachary A. Miller, Kevin A. Shapiro, Robert Hendren, Bruce L. Miller, Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini. Enhanced visceromotor emotional reactivity in dyslexia and its relation to salience network connectivity. Cortex, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2020.10.022

Additional $132.2 Million For Aged Care Covid Response

November 30, 2020
The Australian Government will invest a further $132.2 million in its response to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s recommendations on COVID-19.

The Government accepted and is acting on all six recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety as previously announced in October 2020.

The $132.2 million package includes $63.3 million for a range of Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) measures including mental and allied health support, and additional allied health group services, $57.8 million to fund jurisdictions to support Infection Prevention and Control training within facilities and a further $11.1 million toward a Serious Incident Response Scheme.

These measures mark not only an improvement in access to mental and allied health services for senior Australians in aged care but also provides additional funding to GPs and allied health professionals delivering in-person care in facilities nationwide.

The Government’s progress on implementation and response to the Royal Commission report: 

Recommendation 1
The Australian Government should report to Parliament by no later than 1 December 2020 on the implementation of these recommendations.


Response tabled in Parliament on 30 November 2020 on the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Recommendation 2
The Australian Government should immediately fund providers that apply for funding to ensure there are adequate staff available to allow continued visits to people living in residential aged care by their families and friends.


The Government has delivered $217.6 million (as part of a $245 million and in addition to $205 million measures earlier in 2020) to support providers with COVID-19 related costs, including supporting visitation arrangements.

On 14 October 2020, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck wrote to all providers reinforcing expectations with regard to visitation.

In the letter, Minister Colbeck noted that the Government agrees with the Royal Commission’s focus on ensuring aged care residents are not isolated from their loved ones when there is an outbreak or heightened risk; and that the mental and emotional toll this takes is too high a price to pay.

As part of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Aged Care Financial Reports, providers will be required to report on all COVID-19 sources of revenue they have received, and then allocate the additional expenditures incurred including labour, extra staff costs, resident support, communication, visitation arrangements, infection control, and waste management.

Through the establishment of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre in July 2020, 56 Residential Aged Care Visitation Assistant positions were filled to support Victorian RACFs to support visits between residents and their loved ones.

The Australian Government has released three-tier guidance on actions aged care providers should take in response to a situation of escalating or de-escalating COVID-19 threat level in the local community including visitation guidelines. 

The Government has also prioritised the commencement of the Serious Incident Response Scheme from 1 April 2021, providing a total investment of $67.2 million including $11.1 million in additional funding.

Additionally, the Government is providing increased advocacy support investing a further $2.5 million in the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line.

Recommendation 3
The Australian Government should urgently create Medicare Benefits Schedule items to increase the provision of allied health services, including mental health services, to people in aged care during the pandemic. Any barriers, whether real or perceived, to allied health professionals being able to enter residential aged care facilities should be removed unless justified on genuine public health grounds.


The Australian Government has announced additional measures to support the mental and physical health of residents of aged care facilities.

This $63.3 million investment includes:
  • $35.5 million to provide access to Medicare subsidised individual psychological services under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative until 30 June 2022 and to evaluate Better Access. 
  • $12.1 million for additional individual allied health sessions under Medicare chronic disease management plans. 
  • $15.7 million for allied health group services for residents living in facilities affected by COVID-19 outbreaks.
From 10 December, 2020 until 30 June 2022, eligibility requirements for the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS will be expanded to permit aged care residents to access up to 20 individual psychological services where their general practitioner or psychiatrist determines they would clinically benefit from additional mental health support.

New chronic disease management Medicare items will allow aged care residents to receive twice the number of the current subsidised allied health services they can currently access. The extra services being supported can be from physiotherapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists. Additionally, in those facilities that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks and associated periods of extended lockdown, group allied health sessions will be provided to assist the care of residents.

Recommendation 4
The Australian Government should establish a national aged care plan for COVID-19 through the National Cabinet in consultation with the aged care sector.


The Updated National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan (7th Edition) was endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) and tabled at National Cabinet on 13 November 2020. The Plan presents a national approach to assist the aged care sector to be well positioned to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from COVID-19, acknowledging that flexibility is required to suit local situations occurring within jurisdictions. The AHPPC’s Aged Care Advisory Group has been made permanent – meeting another recommendation of the Royal Commission report.

The Australian Government continues to work collaboratively with the states and territories to develop and refine planning documents (linked to the National Plan) for COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care. The Commonwealth and states and territories are committed to further defining specific actions in the event of an outbreak, based on lessons learned from all outbreaks to date.

The Commonwealth has commissioned a national review to examine lessons learnt from the management of outbreaks, and identify critical success factors, which could increase the likelihood of rapid detection, and timely remediation or response from providers. The review will focus on services and relevant government agency support which may have mitigated broader outbreaks in residential aged care facilities. The review is expected to be completed by the end of March 2021.

To date, the Government has funded more than $1.6 billion in aged care specific measures to support the plan.

Recommendation 5
All residential aged care homes should have one or more trained infection control officers as a condition of accreditation. The training requirements for these officers should be set by the aged care advisory body we propose.


In August 2020 funding of $217.6 million (as part of a $245 million measure) was announced to assist aged care providers to support COVID-19 efforts to prepare and respond to COVID-19, including to support the costs of engaging an Infection, Prevention Control (IPC) lead. This was delivered in October 2020 to providers.

In a letter to all residential aged care providers on 14 October, Minister Colbeck noted that the IPC lead:
  • must be a designated member of the nursing staff which has completed (or initially is in the process of completing) an identified IPC course;
  • is employed by the Approved Provider and reports to the Approved Provider, which retains overall responsibility for IPC in accordance with its obligations under the Aged Care Act 1997;
  • observes, assesses and reports on IPC of the service, and assists with developing procedures/provides advice within the services; and
  • must be engaged onsite for each facility and dedicated to that facility; and may have a broader role within the facility and could be an existing member of the nursing staff.
The Government has also agreed that residential aged care providers will be required to demonstrate compliance with the IPC Lead requirement as a condition of accreditation via the Aged Care Quality Standards.

Recommendation 6
The Australian Government should arrange with the States and Territories to deploy accredited infection prevention and control experts into residential aged care homes to provide training, assist with the preparation of outbreak management plans and assist with outbreaks.


The Commonwealth is working collaboratively with the states and territories to ensure the extended delivery of high quality face-to-face IPC training to the sector. In particular, the Government has committed $57.8 million to fund jurisdictions to deploy accredited IPC experts into RACFs to provide training and assist with the refinement of outbreak management plans where needed.

The Australian Government has been working with state and territory governments to implement a decision of National Cabinet of 21 August, 2020 for three actions to boost preparedness at the provider, local, state and national level of:
  • Ongoing assessment of the preparedness of aged care providers.
  • Auditing of State and Territory emergency response capabilities and planning for the standing up of joint health aged care emergency responses.
  • Prioritisation of additional face-to-face infection prevention and control training for residential aged care providers.
All state and territory governments have established aged care emergency response centres and have confirmed that these Centres can be activated within 48 hours of an outbreak.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is also currently working with state and territory governments, and local health authorities across the nation to monitor and test preparedness of aged care services to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the response to the Royal Commission’s report and updated plan demonstrated the Government’s ongoing commitment to improving care for senior Australians, and keeping them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This investment directly addresses issues raised by the Aged Care Royal Commission and will improve and support the health and wellbeing of aged care residents most significantly impacted by COVID-19,” Minister Hunt said.

“For our aged care sector, the revised plan allows flexibility to manage individual situations in each state and territory. 

“It also builds on and consolidates the critical and successful work already undertaken by the Commonwealth Government.”

Minister Colbeck, said the aged care plan was developed in close consultation with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s Aged Care Advisory Group (ACAG) – which has been made permanent – meeting another recommendation of the Royal Commission report.

“While we hope there won’t be further COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities or in home care, if it does happen, key learnings will inform the future work of the ACAG and be shared with the aged care sector,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Wherever there are high rates of community transmission, the risk to older people and particularly those in residential aged care increases as demonstrated in Victoria and South Australia. It is a reminder of the need to be vigilant.”

“Residents have been affected by visitor restrictions, staffing pressures and operational changes. But the Australian Government has listened and acted to provide measures aimed at protecting facilities where there is significant community transmission.”

In recognition of the mental health impacts of COVID-19, aged care residents will be eligible to receive up to 20 individual psychological services, in line with the services available to the broader community.

A new chronic disease management Medicare item will also allow aged care residents to receive twice the number of the current subsidised allied health services.

The extra services can be from physiotherapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists.

Additionally, in those facilities that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks and associated periods of extended lockdown, group allied health sessions will be provided. Allied health services will be commissioned by Primary Health Networks (PHNs).

The PHN regions targeted initially include those across Victoria, Tasmania, Northern and South Western Sydney, the Nepean the Blue Mountains and the Hunter New England and Central Coast areas of New South Wales.

Group sessions will be available to residents in facilities affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, including people who need rehabilitation after recovering from COVID-19, and people who have lost condition or mobility because of restrictions put in place to manage the outbreak.

The introduction of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to provide additional protection for aged care residents will be prioritised with an additional funding of $11.1 million, taking the Government’s total investment in the scheme to $67.2 million.

Minister Colbeck said the measures met the Royal Commission recommendations, with investment to reinforce the sector and protect residents and staff totalling more than $1.7 billion.

“This includes specific measures actioned in advance of the report, including the placement of infection control officers across sites,” Minister Colbeck said.

“The Government is working closely with aged care providers and all states and territories to ensure the ongoing safety and care of senior Australians.”

The Government’s full response to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s report on the COVID-19 and progress on its implementation can be found here.

The Updated National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan–7th Edition can be found here.

Seniors Stories Volume 6 (2020) Now Available

December 2nd, 2020
The NSW Government has released the 2020 edition of Seniors Stories today with this year's theme being 'Resilience' and each story reflects this theme in its own unique and inspiring way.

Local contributors:
Rebirth by Vivien Thomas of Curl Curl, The Crop Sprayer by Robert Gilchrist of Cremorne, A Positive Trade Off by Janice Rowan of North Manly, Ally by Karen Conlay of Elanora Heights, Courage at Sea by Liam Kenny of Bayview, I was an MK by Beth Robertson of Davidson, North to the Sun by Ann Eyers of Narrabeen, On Being Forced to Part by Marianne Pauls of Mona Vale.

NSW Seniors Card introduced the Seniors' Stories writing competition in 2013 as a way of recognising and valuing the experiences of NSW seniors and building connections between the young and old.
For each edition the top 100 stories are selected and published by NSW Seniors Card and distributed to the authors and libraries across the state.

These stories illustrate the substantial contributions made by older people and emphasise the need to ensure seniors are afforded ongoing opportunities to participate in our community and impart their knowledge and wisdom to younger generations.

A Message from the NSW Premier:
I am pleased to introduce the sixth edition of Seniors’ Stories which is invaluable reading, both for its insights into lives of older Australians and the depth of creativity and literary talent in the NSW seniors community.

The theme of this edition, Resilience, is particularly apt for these times and, as the authors open up about their experiences, their true spirit, determination and adaptability shines through.
Storytelling has long been a means of passing knowledge from generation to generation.
Seniors’ Stories builds on this tradition, fostering connections between young and old.

Congratulations to everyone who contributed to this book. I encourage you all to read these stories and to write and share your own.

Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier

In the Foreword The Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP,  Acting Minister for Seniors, stated;
I am delighted to introduce the sixth instalment of Seniors’ Stories and would like to congratulate each writer for their contribution.

During the past year, seniors in NSW were invited to contribute an original story based on the theme Resilience. Little did we realise how appropriate this would be for our 2020 edition, in the context of the challenges we have all gone on to face.

To that end, I found reading this year’s stories particularly inspiring, and a real reminder of the remarkable strength of seniors in NSW.

We were once again overwhelmed by the sheer volume and the literary talent of seniors from across NSW. The 100 selected stories included in this book are truly extraordinary and we can all learn from the incredible tales of achievement, loss, creativity and connection.

This latest volume of Seniors’ Stories is just one way of celebrating the experience of older people and giving younger generations an opportunity to relate and learn from our seniors.

Whatever your age, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by the stories featured!
Download Volume 6 of Seniors Stories at: HERE

photo by Tayla Martin of Peter Driscoll b. 1935
Now in his 80’s, Pete says, “I don’t let getting older stop me, I just keep doing what I’m doing. It’s going to happen regardless.''

Most of the photographs in this edition are courtesy of past and present Art of Ageing exhibitions. These photographic exhibitions celebrate ageing and dispel the negative myths and stereotypes of getting older. NSW Seniors Card would like to thank the 100 authors whose stories are published in this volume, and the many other seniors who contributed to the overwhelming number and quality of stories we received. We would also like to thank Colleen Parker and the project team from the Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc., including those involved in the design and printing of the book. 

Hot Deals Keep Seniors Cool For Christmas

The countdown to Christmas is on and the gifts are rolling in for Seniors Card holders with fresh discounts on electricity, home and hardware, groceries, internet and more.

Acting Minister for Seniors Geoff Lee said keeping cool and connected will be at the top of the wish list for many people this Christmas.

“Many seniors are spending more time at home this year to protect their physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Lee said.

“Seniors have shown incredible resilience in a difficult year while still supporting their families and communities so it’s great to be able to team up with our Seniors Card partners to offer these super savings.”

Simply Energy is offering NSW Seniors Card holders 21% discount on electricity and 11% off their gas bills.

Aussie Broadband and Pennytel have lined-up some terrific dollar dazzlers on NBN and mobile phone plans.

“Gas and electricity discounts really help cut the cost of using home cooling systems and will keep heating bills down next winter as well. Mobile and internet savings help unite people online and on the phone during this festive period,” Mr Lee said.

“Cost of living can be a challenge for older people and we want our 1.7 million NSW Seniors Card holders to get the best possible benefits with discounts and special offers from over 7000 businesses across NSW.”

Member for Oatley Mark Coure joined Mr Lee at Mitre 10 Peakhurst and said seniors can grab a five percent discount on gift cards across all Mitre 10 stores in NSW.

“Seniors are so important to our State and this discount gets them a deal on everything from home and garden to timber and hardware so older people can stay active while getting outside to create happier, safer living spaces,” Mr Coure said.

“Projects bring people together whether it’s a chat in the shed over construction or while enjoying green space in the garden. This interaction is so important.”

CSIRO Solution Creates Smarter, Safer Homes For Independent Seniors

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has developed a new health monitoring solution that will enable older Australians living independently at home to send real-time data to their healthcare providers.

Licensed to Australian company HSC Technology GroupCSIRO’s Smarter Safer Homes technology is a sensor-based in-home monitoring system that will be integrated into HSC Technology Group’s TALIUS Smart Analytics platform, servicing the aged-care and supported-living sectors.

CSIRO Health Services Group leader Dr Mohan Karunanithi said technology can support greater quality and provide more informed continuity of care for citizens who choose to live independently, keeping their families updated remotely, while also providing 24/7 healthcare information to medical care teams and clinicians.

“Australians are choosing to live longer in their own homes. However, as we age, or as a result of [a] chronic condition, daily tasks can become increasingly difficult, putting our health and safety at risk,” Dr Karunanithi said.

“Numerous trials of our Smarter Safer Homes platform across Australia have shown technology-enabled systems and smart sensors can deliver a high-quality, in-home care model suitable for independent living and reducing these risks.”

The CSIRO Smarter Safer Homes Objective Activities of Daily Living algorithm will be one of the foundational technologies of the HSC TALIUS platform, turning collated sensor data into measures of an individual’s daily life activities such as meal preparation, mobility, hygiene and grooming. This information will offer users a secure way to self-manage at home, while simultaneously sharing medical information with healthcare providers and family members via a smartphone app and web portal.

Healthcare providers will be able to use the data to detect and assess changes to treatments or care support, intervene early if an emergency is predicted and create accurate reports for transparency and accountability.

HSC Technology Group Managing Director Graham Russell said CSIRO’s advanced technology is essential to providing accurate information for real-time care.

“Our mission is to help the sector shift from reactive to proactive care for those who need it. Our end-to-end technology solutions offer clients privacy but transparency and comfort to loved ones and healthcare providers with 24/7 access to information,” he said.

Safer Smarter Homes - CSIRO photo

Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline Within Days

December 1, 2020
Just a few doses of an experimental drug can reverse age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice, according to a new study by UC San Francisco scientists. The drug, called ISRIB, has already been shown in laboratory studies to restore memory function months after traumatic brain injury (TBI), reverse cognitive impairments in Down Syndrome, prevent noise-related hearing loss, fight certain types of prostate cancer, and even enhance cognition in healthy animals.

In the new study, published December 1, 2020 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers showed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells that could help explain improvements in brain function.

"ISRIB's extremely rapid effects show for the first time that a significant component of age-related cognitive losses may be caused by a kind of reversible physiological 'blockage' rather than more permanent degradation," said Susanna Rosi, PhD, Lewis and Ruth Cozen Chair II and professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.

"The data suggest that the aged brain has not permanently lost essential cognitive capacities, as was commonly assumed, but rather that these cognitive resources are still there but have been somehow blocked, trapped by a vicious cycle of cellular stress," added Peter Walter, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Our work with ISRIB demonstrates a way to break that cycle and restore cognitive abilities that had become walled off over time."

Could Rebooting Cellular Protein Production Hold the Key to Aging and Other Diseases?
Walter has won numerous scientific awards, including the Breakthrough, Lasker and Shaw prizes, for his decades-long studies of cellular stress responses. ISRIB, discovered in 2013 in Walter's lab, works by rebooting cells' protein production machinery after it gets throttled by one of these stress responses -- a cellular quality control mechanism called the integrated stress response (ISR; ISRIB stands for ISR InhiBitor).

The ISR normally detects problems with protein production in a cell -- a potential sign of viral infection or cancer-promoting gene mutations -- and responds by putting the brakes on cell's protein-synthesis machinery. This safety mechanism is critical for weeding out misbehaving cells, but if stuck in the on position in a tissue like the brain, it can lead to serious problems, as cells lose the ability to perform their normal activities, Walter and colleagues have found.

In particular, recent animal studies by Walter and Rosi, made possible by early philanthropic support from The Rogers Family Foundation, have implicated chronic ISR activation in the persistent cognitive and behavioral deficits seen in patients after TBI, by showing that, in mice, brief ISRIB treatment can reboot the ISR and restore normal brain function almost overnight.

The cognitive deficits in TBI patients are often likened to premature aging, which led Rosi and Walter to wonder if the ISR could also underlie purely age-related cognitive decline. Aging is well known to compromise cellular protein production across the body, as life's many insults pile up and stressors like chronic inflammation wear away at cells, potentially leading to widespread activation of the ISR.

"We've seen how ISRIB restores cognition in animals with traumatic brain injury, which in many ways is like a sped-up version of age-related cognitive decline," said Rosi, who is director of neurocognitive research in the UCSF Brain and Spinal Injury Center and a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. "It may seem like a crazy idea, but asking whether the drug could reverse symptoms of aging itself was just a logical next step."

ISRIB Improves Cognition, Boosts Neuron and Immune Cell Function
In the new study, researchers led by Rosi lab postdoc Karen Krukowski, PhD, trained aged animals to escape from a watery maze by finding a hidden platform, a task that is typically hard for older animals to learn. But animals who received small daily doses of ISRIB during the three-day training process were able to accomplish the task as well as youthful mice, much better than animals of the same age who didn't receive the drug.

The researchers then tested how long this cognitive rejuvenation lasted and whether it could generalize to other cognitive skills. Several weeks after the initial ISRIB treatment, they trained the same mice to find their way out of a maze whose exit changed daily -- a test of mental flexibility for aged mice who, like humans, tend to get increasingly stuck in their ways. The mice who had received brief ISRIB treatment three weeks before still performed at youthful levels, while untreated mice continued to struggle.

To understand how ISRIB might be improving brain function, the researchers studied the activity and anatomy of cells in the hippocampus, a brain region with a key role in learning and memory, just one day after giving animals a single dose of ISRIB. They found that common signatures of neuronal aging disappeared literally overnight: neurons' electrical activity became more sprightly and responsive to stimulation, and cells showed more robust connectivity with cells around them while also showing an ability to form stable connections with one another usually only seen in younger mice.

The researchers are continuing to study exactly how the ISR disrupts cognition in aging and other conditions and to understand how long ISRIB's cognitive benefits may last. Among other puzzles raised by the new findings is the discovery that ISRIB also alters the function of the immune system's T cells, which also are prone to age-related dysfunction. The findings suggest another path by which the drug could be improving cognition in aged animals, and could have implications for diseases from Alzheimer's to diabetes that have been linked to heightened inflammation caused by an aging immune system.

"This was very exciting to me because we know that aging has a profound and persistent effect on T cells and that these changes can affect brain function in the hippocampus," said Rosi. "At the moment, this is just an interesting observation, but it gives us a very exciting set of biological puzzles to solve.

ISRIB May Have Wide-Ranging Implications for Neurological Disease
It turns out that chronic ISR activation and resulting blockage of cellular protein production may play a role in a surprisingly wide array of neurological conditions. Below is a partial list of these conditions, based on a recent review by Walter and colleague Mauro Costa-Mattioli of Baylor College of Medicine, which could potentially be treated with an ISR-resetting agent like ISRIB:
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Age-related Cognitive Decline
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Down Syndrome
  • Vanishing White Matter Disorder
  • Prion Disease
ISRIB has been licensed by Calico, a South San Francisco, Calif. company exploring the biology of aging, and the idea of targeting the ISR to treat disease has been picked up by other pharmaceutical companies, Walter says.

One might think that interfering with the ISR, a critical cellular safety mechanism, would be sure to have serious side effects, but so far in all their studies, the researchers have observed none. This is likely due to two factors, Walter says. First, it takes just a few doses of ISRIB to reset unhealthy, chronic ISR activation back to a healthier state, after which it can still respond normally to problems in individual cells. Second, ISRIB has virtually no effect when applied to cells actively employing the ISR in its most powerful form -- against an aggressive viral infection, for example.

Naturally, both of these factors make the molecule much less likely to have negative side effects -- and more attractive as a potential therapeutic. According to Walter: "It almost seems too good to be true, but with ISRIB we seem to have hit a sweet spot for manipulating the ISR with an ideal therapeutic window.

Karen Krukowski, Amber Nolan, Elma S Frias, Morgane Boone, Gonzalo Ureta, Katherine Grue, Maria-Serena Paladini, Edward Elizarraras, Luz Delgado, Sebastian Bernales, Peter Walter, Susanna Rosi. Small molecule cognitive enhancer reverses age-related memory decline in mice. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.62048

$10m Gift Sees UNSW Launch Critical Health Engineering Institute

December 2nd, 2020
The Tyree Foundation Institute of Health Engineering (Tyree IHealthE) will support innovation in health.

David Gonski AC, Chancellor, UNSW Sydney; Dr Peter Tyree AM, Director and past Chairman, Sir William Tyree Foundation; The Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research; Robbie Fennell, Chair, Sir William Tyree Foundation; Professor Ian Jacobs, President & Vice-Chancellor, UNSW Sydney and Emeritus Professor Ian Webster AO, Director, Sir William Tyree Foundation. Photo: Richard Freeman.

UNSW Sydney has announced a $10 million gift from the Sir William Tyree Foundation which will help establish an institute focused on transforming healthcare by delivering commercially and clinically viable solutions to major 21st century health issues.

The establishment of the Tyree Foundation Institute of Health Engineering (Tyree IHealthE) exemplifies the ongoing commitment of the Sir William Tyree Foundation to support innovation in health.

President and Vice-Chancellor at UNSW Sydney, Professor Ian Jacobs, said Tyree IHealthE aims to be a global leader in development of leading-edge health technology, building on the University’s strengths in Biomedical Engineering and Medicine.

“UNSW is thankful for this generous gift from the Tyree Foundation which will allow us to develop and deliver innovative and cost-effective health technologies to meet patient and clinical needs,” Prof. Jacobs said.

“COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the critical need for innovative approaches to address health crises and improve health outcomes for people across Australia and the world. For example, remote monitoring and telehealth have rapidly become standard practice during the pandemic, and agile design and implementation of such solutions are required.

“One of Tyree IHealthE’s flagship projects – to use telehealth technology to help people with chronic diseases better manage multiple medications – will be piloted in the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct, a partnership between the University and NSW Government which is set to become the largest co-located health, innovation and education zone in the state.”

The Sir William Tyree Foundation has committed $10 million to establish and fund Tyree IHealthE over 10 years, supporting flagship projects to address the challenges associated with Australia’s ageing population, the management of chronic disease, and many other health conditions.

Tyree IHealthE will improve patient outcomes by reducing hospital admissions, offering earlier diagnoses, providing more targeted therapies, and delivering remote care and self-care.

“We plan to leverage UNSW’s partnerships with a number of local healthcare providers and industry collaborators to ensure Tyree IHealthE’s innovations are adopted into mainstream healthcare practice,” said Scientia Professor Nigel Lovell, Head of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, UNSW and inaugural Director of Tyree IHealthE.

To enable its mission to translate discoveries into clinical practices that can benefit patients, the institute will adopt a proven framework from the US and UK to establish the Sydney Consortium for Improving Medicine with Innovation and Technology (SCIMIT). SCIMIT will bring together clinicians, technologists, entrepreneurs and industry to ensure that all projects have clinical and commercial relevance.

“As longstanding supporters of UNSW, we are thrilled to support the establishment of Tyree IHealthE and join the global effort to generate sustainable and accessible solutions to burgeoning healthcare challenges,” said Mrs Robbie Fennell (nee Tyree), Sir William Tyree’s daughter and Foundation Executive Director.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues at the Tyree Group whose efforts make this possible. I want to acknowledge their hard work and successes that enable our Foundation to have this incredible impact.”

The gift will also support scholarships for exceptional students to advance their multi-disciplinary studies and make a vital contribution to healthcare innovation.

“My father’s philosophy was ‘an investment in education is an investment in Australia’, and we are also very proud to be able to honour his legacy and support deserving students with this gift,” Mrs Fennell said.

The Sir William Tyree Foundation has a longstanding relationship with UNSW, with a total philanthropic commitment to the University of almost $25 million. The Foundation has played a significant role in enabling engineering achievements that have helped make UNSW an epicentre of innovation, from establishing a Chair of Electrical Engineering in 1970 and funding a number of scholarships, to establishing the Tyree Energy Technologies Building, an education hub for expert engineers and a landmark in Australian building design.

A visionary engineer and technology pioneer, Sir William Tyree was one of UNSW’s most distinguished alumni. A graduate of the Sydney Technical College, Sir William was awarded a Doctor in Science, honoris causa, in 1986 for his contribution to the profession of engineering and UNSW.

New Chair Of Asia Society Australia Has Lasting UNSW Sydney Links

December 2nd, 2020
Stuart Fuller, UNSW Foundation Board Director, Law alumnus and member of the Law Advisory Council, now chairs Australia’s leading national centre for engagement with Asia.

Stuart Fuller is Asia Society Australia's new chairman.

UNSW Foundation Board Director, UNSW Law alumnus and member of UNSW Law Advisory Council, Stuart Fuller, assumed the role of Asia Society Australia’s chairman in late November. He is currently Global Head of Legal Services for KPMG as well as its Asia Pacific Regional Leader for Legal Services and was an Asia Society Australia board member for three years prior to his appointment.

“I am proud to accept the role of Chairman of Asia Society Australia as it has become the nation’s premier organisation for Asia engagement,” Mr Fuller said. “I look forward to leading the Board and shaping the strategy for the next chapter of Asia Society in Australia during this critical time of change for our region.”

Mr Fuller graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws from UNSW Sydney in 1990. He says lawyers underestimate their core skills – to read, absorb, synthesise and react, all in an articulate way, both in writing and speaking.

“These are core skills and fundamental capabilities for success in any career, and in life. UNSW Law School gave me these skills, but in a unique way of its teaching method, the human interaction and the broader focus on society. It is law in context, which creates life connections for your career and with your colleagues and friends.”

In his KPMG roles, Mr Fuller leads a team of more than 2700 legal professionals across 80 jurisdictions in the firm’s global legal network. Prior to joining KPMG, he was the inaugural Global Managing Partner of King & Wood Mallesons, based in Hong Kong. He led the combination of those law firms in a unique ‘east-west’ professional services firm business model.

Leading global legal organisations enables Mr Fuller to bring insights into business and industry trends, with a focus on cross-border investment and trade policy, and the global capital markets. His experience also brings perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for business and people in the developed, developing and emerging markets, and across their cultures.

For more than 60 years globally and 20 years in Australia, Asia Society has been building bridges of understanding between Asia, Australia and the United States across business, policy, education and the arts. It is a not-for-profit, non-governmental and non-political organisation empowered by leading Australian and regional business, government, education and cultural institutions. Former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister the Honourable Kevin Rudd will be appointed the first Global CEO of the Asia Society in January 2021.

Keyhole Wasps May Threaten Australian Aviation Safety

November 30, 2020
Over a period of 39 months, invasive keyhole wasps (Pachodynerus nasidens) at the Brisbane Airport were responsible for 93 instances of fully blocked replica pitot probes -- vital instruments that measure airspeed -- according to a study published November 30 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Alan House of Eco Logical Australia and colleagues. As noted by the authors, the results underscore the importance of risk-mitigating strategies, such as covering pitot probes when aircraft arrive and setting up additional traps to intercept the wasps.

Interactions between aircraft and wildlife are frequent and can have serious financial and safety consequences. But the risk posed by wildlife when aircraft are on the ground is much less understood, and specific threats posed by insects have not been quantified before. In the new study, House and his colleagues investigated the possible role of keyhole wasps in obstructing pitot probes at Brisbane Airport. A total of 26 wasp-related issues were reported at the airport between November 2013 and April 2019, in conjunction with a series of serious safety incidents involving pitot probes. In its native range in South and Central America and the Caribbean, the wasp is known to construct nests using man-made cavities, such as window crevices, electrical sockets, and of course, keyholes.

The researchers used 3D-printing technology to construct a series of replica pitot probes, which they mounted at four locations at the airport. All nests in these probes were made by keyhole wasps, and peak nesting occurred in the summer months. Nesting success (i.e., the proportion of nests producing live adults) was optimal between 24 and 31°C, and probes with apertures of more than 3 mm in diameter were preferred. The majority of nests were constructed in one area of the airport. The proportion of grassed areas within 1000 m of probes was a significant predictor of nesting, and the nest volume in pitot probes may determine the sex of emerging wasps. According to the authors, P. nasidens poses a significant risk to aviation safety, and further work is warranted to develop strategies for controlling or eradicating persistent populations of this adaptable, inventive, and highly mobile species.

The authors add: "We hope this research will bring attention to a little known but serious issue for air travel in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Having found its way across the Pacific Ocean, there is no reason to doubt that it could spread to other parts of Australia. The consequences of not managing this clever but dangerous pest could be substantial."

Alan P. N. House, Jackson G. Ring, Phillip P. Shaw. Inventive nesting behaviour in the keyhole wasp Pachodynerus nasidens Latreille (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in Australia, and the risk to aviation safety. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (11): e0242063 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242063

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