Inbox and Environment News: Issue 488

March 21 - 27, 2021: Issue 488

Captive Trees At Mona Vale

These Angophoras are in Village Park Mona Vale, near Pittwater Rd.  PNHA have asked NBCouncil to release them from the palings and wires so they can shed their bark and grow normally. Pittwater Online understands Council is looking at what's happening here and about to fix what is happening.

Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You

We're so short of helpers we've had to cancel for the time being. Meanwhile the weeds will go gangbusters. 
We used to meet on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month. Could you come if we worked on another day or time? say a morning, or on a weekend day? 
Contact Geoff Searl on 0439 292 566 if you'd like to help. He'd love to hear from you. 

We have fun using the Tree Popper, here with our supervisor from Dragonfly Environmental. We can lever out quite big Ochnas, aka Mickey Mouse plant from Africa.  We want to bring back the bush, not let the weeds win!

Ochna or Mickey Mouse plant has yellow flowers in spring, then lots of green berries that turn black when ripe. Seedlings come up in hundreds. Ochna has a very strong taproot but the steady pressure of the Tree Popper lifts the plant out of the ground easily. The alternative control is repeated scraping and painting with Roundup, very slow and time consuming. If you have an Ochna you cant remove, you can enjoy the flowers, then PLEASE prune it so that berries can't develop.

Earth Hour 2021: 8.30PM Saturday 27th March

Narrabeen Rockshelf

on Wednesday 17 March 2021 - 
A wet week!
photo by Joe Mills

Newport Community Garden A TV Star

The Newport Community Garden in Woolcott street Newport was chosen as the location for The Garden Gurus shoot for Soil Solver which turns sandy soil into beautiful loamy soil rich with necessary elements for a lush and plentiful vegetation crop.

This community garden is Newport residents creating sustainable gardens in public spaces; strengthening community, improving health, reconnecting with nature.
They meet every Saturday from 10am till about midday at Woolcott Reserve, Newport.
If you would like to join them please direct message their FB page or email :
Everyone is welcome!!!

Images - filming in Newport Community Garden, March 16, 2021 and Late Summer crop from Newport Community Garden

Avalon Community Garden

Avalon Community Garden’s primary purpose is to foster, encourage and facilitate community gardening in Pittwater on a not-for-profit basis.

The garden was started in 2010 by a group of locals who worked in conjunction with the support of Barrenjoey High School to develop a space that could be used by the local community, to grow

vegetables, herbs, plants and flowers, and practice sustainable gardening techniques to benefit its members and the community overall.

The garden has been very successful and has grown and developed since its inception, in terms of its footprint, infrastructure, variety of produce and diversity of members. The garden welcomes new members all year round. Levels of contribution range from multiple times a week, to once a month. Your contribution is always welcome, and it is acknowledged people will have varying levels of commitment. 

We encourage you to join and start enjoying the following benefits associated with community gardening:

They provide benefits for individuals and for the community as a whole. Community gardens provide education on gardening, recycling and sustainable use of natural resources.

They develop community connections and provide a means of engaging youth, children, the elderly and the disabled and otherwise marginalised individuals in mutually enjoyable and rewarding activities, thus helping to develop more functional and resilient communities.

People involved in community gardens say they improve wellbeing by increasing physical activity and reducing stress, providing opportunities to interact meaningfully with new friends, give time for relaxation and reflection as well as an opportunity to improve their interconnectedness with nature.

To get involved take a look around the site, join the Facebook group and come along and visit on a Sunday morning between 10 and 12 at the garden within Barrenjoey High School on Tasman Road, North Avalon.

THIS, Would Not Be.

Our Older Trees are so important and give us so much.
Beautiful Western Rosellas compliments of Nathan Watson Photography

BirdLife Australia Autumn Survey Time

Gazing at Gang-gangs, marvelling at Magpies or smiling at some Spinebills?

Join our Birds in Backyards surveys this Autumn and let us know who is visiting your garden. 20 mins and some information about your garden helps to understand our local birds and gives us invaluable insight into their daily lives.


Register here for a free webinar on Wednesday March 10 at 7pm (AEDT). We will take you through how to do a survey as well as how to explore Birdata to learn more about your local bird life. We will also give you some tips and tricks on identifying birds in your garden. 

How do I take part?

To do a Birds in Backyards survey, spend 20 minutes in one spot where you can view birds - your backyard, local park, school, or other favourite outdoor place. Simply count how many you see of each bird species you see using that space and tell us about what the outdoor space is like. Then to enter your survey data, register your free Birdata account, read the instructions for the web or app or watch the video. If you download the Birdata app you can take your smartphone or tablet outside with you to do your count. 

What if I don't know much about birds?

If you are unsure where or how to start, or even feel like you don’t know the first thing about birds only that you love to see them, then fear not! The Birdata web portal and app automatically gives you a list of 30 birds from your region to get you started. 

What if I only have super common or introduced birds?

That is really useful! We want to know about the birds you don’t see just as much as the ones you do. So if your list is only small, all introduced birds or full of birds you don’t think are very ‘exciting’, that is still important information for us. All surveys are important so please give it a go. 

Why do these surveys?

Your surveys are used by BirdLife  Australia and the Urban Bird team to track the health of our urban birds, and to monitor the impact of our gardens, outdoor spaces and even our own behaviours on bird populations. We can learn a lot from Birds in Backyard surveys, like how different types of gardens can attract different types of birds, and which features birds may be avoiding or are negatively affected by. In 2021 your surveys will also be used in the very first Urban Bird Index for BirdLife Australia's State of Australia's Birds Report.

Importantly, your surveys contribute to the on-ground conservation work we undertake with our volunteers, branches and partners – from local planting and habitat improvement projects up to national advocacy and campaigns. We also use the survey data in seminars and workshops conducted by staff, or for our projects such as the Powerful Owl ProjectRead about how the surveys you do in your gardens are helping in our post-fire conservation work here. 

How often should I survey?

Each quarter we launch a seasonal survey. By dividing the year up into seasons we can track changes in bird communities at the same four times each year. Our Autumn survey period runs throughout March and April - but you can still submit surveys at any time. You can do as many surveys as you like, as often as you like! Some people like to just participate once a quarter (or four times a year) in our seasonal surveys, while others like to count their birds more frequently. 

What else can I record?

There are a few important interactions you can share with us if you see them. Keep an eye out for:

  • Breeding behaviours - If you see a bird carrying nesting materials, sitting on a nest or feeding chicks, let us know. Select the option under 'Breeding Activity' that best matches your observation (remember to keep your distance though from birds who are breeding. We don't want to disturb any nests. Be sure to limit your observations and don't get close enough to scare a bird off it's nest.)
  • Aggressive interactions – Let us know if you have observed any species initiate interactions with other birds and whether this interaction could be classed as aggressive – you can do this in the sighting details tab using the specific species interactions option.
  • Have you seen any birds feeding on the native plants in your garden? If so – who was dining on what? – you can tell us in the notes section when you record the species you have observed under “sighting details”
  • Have any birds been dabbling in some Oscar-worthy acting? – tell us about the weird and wonderful things your backyard birds have been up to you using the notes section in the sighting details tabs.
Visit the survey instructions page for more info and FAQs.

Don't forget you can also win great prizes. We will be giving away Birds in Backyards prize packs and even some extra special goodies throughout 2021, but to win you have to enter your surveys. Follow us on social media for more details.

Narrabeen Lagoon Clean Up: March 28

Hosted by Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew
Berry Reserve, Narrabeen Lakes
Sunday, 28 March 2021 from 10:00 UTC+11-12:30 UTC+11
Price: free · Duration: 2 hr 30 min

Come and join us for our Narrabeen Lake clean up. We'll meet at Berry Reserve, close to the carpark by Pittwater rd. We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the lagoon as well as cleaning the lagoon, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. Send us a message if you are lost. Please invite family and friends and share this event. This is a Covid safe event so everyone must please stay 1.5 meters apart if you are not in the same household.

The Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew meets the last Sunday of every month to clean up a beach or lagoon on Sydney's northern beaches. See our event tab for our next clean up spot. It's a family friendly and welcoming group and feel comfortable coming by yourself too - many friendships have started in this group. (Please leave political, religious and business messages at home, so the group can stay inclusive and welcoming towards everyone.) We provide you with buckets, gloves, bags and sunscreen. Please bring water in a reusable water bottle if it's a hot day. Hope to meet you soon!

Inquiry Into Declining Numbers Of Macropods

Have your say now - submissions are now open for the Inquiry into declining numbers of kangaroos and other Macropods such as wallabies and wallaroos. 
Submissions close April 26, 2021
Make a submission here:

1. That Portfolio Committee No 7 – Planning and Environment inquire into and report on the health and wellbeing of kangaroos, and other macropods, in New South Wales, and in particular:
(a) historical and long-term health and wellbeing indicators of kangaroos, and other macropods, at the local, bioregional and state levels, including the risk of localised extinction in New South Wales,

(b) the accuracy with which kangaroo, and other macropod, numbers are calculated when determining population size, and the means by which the health and wellbeing of populations is assessed,

(c) threats to kangaroo, and other macropod, habitat, including the impact of:
(i) climate change, drought and diversion and depletion of surface water sources,
(ii) bushfires,
(iii) land clearing for agriculture, mining and urban development,
(iv) the growing prevalence of exclusion fencing which restricts and disrupts the movement of kangaroos,

(d) current government policies and programs for kangaroo management, including:
(i) the method used for setting quotas for kangaroo culling,
(ii) the management of licences to cull kangaroos,
(iii) temporary drought relief policies and programs,

(e) current government policies and programs in regards to 'in pouch' and 'at foot joeys' given the high infant mortality rate of joeys and the unrecorded deaths of orphaned young where females are killed,

(f) regulatory and compliance mechanisms to ensure that commercial and non-commercial killing of kangaroos and other macropods is undertaken according to the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and other relevant regulations and codes,

(g) the impact of commercial and non-commercial killing of kangaroos and other macropods, including the difficulty of establishing numbers killed by landholders since the removal of the requirement for drop tags, and

(h) current and alternative measures to provide an incentive for and accelerate public and private conservation of kangaroos and other macropods.

2. That the committee report by the first sitting day in September 2021. 

A J Guesdon photo

Design And Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP): Open For Feedback Until March 31

The new Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) is part of a broader review of all NSW  SEPP in line with the state government's aim to simplify and consolidate how to deliver good design in NSW. 
The consult introduction webpage states that
'The Design and Place SEPP puts place and design quality at the forefront of development. Our shared responsibility to care for Country and sustain healthy, thriving communities underpins the policy. The SEPP spans places of all scales, from precincts, significant developments, and buildings to infrastructure and public space. '

'The public exhibition will allow us to work closely with state government, local councils, industry peak bodies and communities. This process will inform the development of the Design and Place SEPP and safeguard our shared values for future development in NSW. We will draft the policy in 2021, following the review of the formal submissions and feedback. Submissions are open from now until 31 March 2021. '

The final Design and Place SEPP will go on public exhibition later in 2021 to provide more opportunities for feedback. We will also develop supporting guidance and tools alongside the policy. These include a revision to the Apartment Design Guide, improvements to the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) tool and the development of a new Public Space and Urban Design Guide. '


For more information on the Design and Place SEPP, see this brochurefrequently asked questions and the submission guide.

Elements of the document include (read in full at 'View the explanation of Intended Effect)
Options for revising guidance on car parking rates: The prescribed minimum number of parking spaces could be reduced for apartments in defined circumstances, such as:
—being in a specified location where there is an oversupply of parking; methodology for establishing oversupply to be confirmed, potentially a map, list of areas, or applicant-led analysis
—being in a measurable location (e.g. within 800 m of a train station with a service pattern of a number of services per hour or similar); any development that satisfies the criteria would be eligible.

Maximum parking requirements could be mandated for new apartments (possibly subject to criteria such as proximity to specified transport). Developers cannot provide levels above this threshold (but are free to provide spaces below this level).

Ownership of parking could be required to be separated from the housing (and therefore from rents or initial housing sale prices). Parking spaces could be centrally managed, or leased or sold separately to residents, thus spaces become a tradeable commodity. 

Proposed changes to the Apartment Design Guide in relation to urban design and site planning: 
-  Increase min. deep soil zones as a % of site area (a fixed minimum % within the range being considered below):
< 650 m2 min. 14–18%
650–1500 m2 min. 14–18%
1500–3000 m2 min. 14–18%
> 3000  m2 min. 21–25%

Allow a pro-rata reduction in the targets if retail, commercial and entrances on the ground floor > 85% of the building footprint
- Building Form; Introduce a new criterion for towers (including any part of buildings of nine or more storeys) of: —maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 700 m2. —adjust existing design criteria and guidance to a maximum eight units per core per floor.  Note: 8–12 units per core per floor to remain permissible below nine storeys.

Slender towers reduce building footprint to improve urban and public space amenity: open space; sky view; solar access; reduced bulk, scale, and wind impacts. Incorporation of tower footprints into design criteria provide clarity for a consideration that is already in the ADG but has no numerical criteria, and improves residential amenity, cross-ventilation, natural light, and reduces the number of singleorientation units.

Mixed use development and street activation:  Allocate 40% of ground floor space for non-residential use in R3 and R4 zones, and centres. 

Worth Noting: Australian Car Sales Statistics 2020

There were 1.06 million new vehicles sold in Australia during 2019.

Quick Stats
  • There were 1,062,867 new vehicles sold in Australia 2019
  • New car sales in Australia dropped 8% down from 2018, making it the lowest since 2011
  • Toyota was the top-selling car brand in 2019, with 205,766 total sales
  • SUVs accounted for 45.5% of new car sales in 2019

It is anticipated that new car sales will continue to decline. A new report shows that the number of Australians planning to buy a new vehicle in the next four years is down 19.1% on a similar report released the previous year1 around car buying intentions in Australia. The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries in Australia attributed the decline in sales to a tougher economy, a slowing house market, the drought and a tightening of money lending. One study10 suggests that for every 10 per cent drop in houses a corresponding 10 per cent drop in car sales could be expected, given that people will have less equity in their homes to refinance against.

New South Wales saw the most new car sales in Australia with 33.5% of all sales. Given that New South Wales is home to 31.9% of the population, on average, they are buying more cars than other states with 50.4 new car sales per 1,000 people, or 398, 010 new vehicles purchased in the reported period. The average age of motor vehicles in New South Wales is 9.5 years, below the Australian average of 10.1 years.

NSW Department Of Planning Projects On Exhibition: Open For Comment

'New Cobar Complex Project': Listed as a State Significant Development
Amalgamation of underground mining at New Cobar, Great Cobar, Gladstone, Chesney and Jubilee deposits to create the New Cobar Complex Project.
Application Number: SSD-10419
Exhibition Start: 25/02/2021
Exhibition End: 24/03/2021

The project involves the amalgamation of existing underground mining of the Chesney and Jubilee deposits and the development of new underground workings of the Great Cobar and Gladstone Deposits to form the New Cobar Complex. The project would be facilitated by existing surface infrastructure, with the exception of the construction of a new power line spur. There would be an increase in the number of haulage trucks between the New Cobar Complex and existing Peak Complex.

At the time of publishing this the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has not directed that a public hearing should be held.

Have your say
Anyone can make a submission about the development application during the exhibition period.

Web submissions: 
To make an online submission, please go to the Department’s Major Projects website at 
Search for this project under 

On the project’s webpage, click 'Make a Submission'. You will be required to log in or create a user account. Follow the online instructions.
If you cannot lodge online, you can post your submission to the address below. If you want the Department to withhold your personal information before publication, please make this clear at the top of your cover letter and do not include personal details in your attached submission. If you post your submission, it needs to be received by the Department before the close of the exhibition period.
Your submission must include the following:
  • your name and address, at the top of the letter only;
  • the name of the application and the application number;
  • a statement on whether you ‘support’, ‘object’ to the proposal or are only making a comment;
  • the reasons why you support or object to the proposal; and
  • a declaration of any reportable political donations you made in the previous two years.
Privacy statement: Before making your submission, please read the Privacy Statement at or call the number below for a copy. The Department will publish your submission on its website in accordance with our Privacy Statement.

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

Pittwater Reserves

Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Forest Harvesting To Recommence On South Coast And Eden

March 15, 2021: Forestry Corporation of NSW Media Release
Forestry Corporation of NSW (Forestry Corporation) will recommence renewable timber harvesting on the South Coast and Eden this week with additional environmental safeguards in place to ensure our commitment to sustainable forest management.

Daniel Tuan, Forestry Corporation’s General Manager of Hardwood Forests, said the recommencement of harvesting would allow the timber industry on the South Coast and Eden to stay in business following the 2019-2020 bushfires and avert job losses in local communities.

Mr Tuan said Forestry Corporation worked constructively with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the last 16 months to negotiate site-specific operating conditions for each harvesting operation in bushfire-affected coastal forests.

But no site specific operating conditions had been issued since mid last year and the industry has exhausted its log stocks and opportunities for harvesting on private property.

As a result, renewable timber harvesting on the South Coast and Eden will take place with additional environmental safeguards to further minimise any risks to fire-affected forests and supply much-needed timber to local industry. These new rules are above and beyond the existing Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA), which prescribes protections for wildlife, soil and water and enables sustainable timber to be produced and the trees regrown..

Forestry Corporation’s operations are independently audited by the EPA to assure compliance with the CIFOA regulations.

The additional environmental safeguards put in place in recognition of the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfires, include additional searching for plants and animals, retaining a greater number of hollow bearing trees and increasing the area of land to be excluded from harvesting.

“We believe these additional environmental safeguards provide the right balance which Forestry Corporation is required to strike between environmental considerations; the need to support the regional communities reliant on timber industry jobs; and meet its supply commitments with small family businesses and key local mills,” Mr Tuan said.

“We have put in place robust operating procedures to manage compliance with the additional safeguards and we will share the outcomes with the EPA. The EPA has also indicated that it will step up its oversight of our operations.” Mr Tuan said.

Plans are being prepared for four operations on the South Coast and Eden and these will be available on our website once approved. These initial forests include Nadgee, Mogo, Yambulla and Shallow Crossing.

“Forestry Corporation is open and transparent with the community publishing plans for all native forest operations on its website. Interested community members can subscribe to these plans and get alerted of any updates.

Operations will be conducted under this interim arrangement until the results of the review by the National Resources Commission, due later in 2021, are available. Forestry Corporation is actively participating in this review.

Timber is the most renewable building product available and on the South Coast and Eden is harvested and processed by a range of local businesses into a range of products including poles, bridge decking, floorboards, decking, fencing, landscaping timbers, pallets, and a range of other products that communities use and need, creating ongoing employment in the region.

Information about the locations of our operations is available via our Plan Portal at

Also In 2021:
Forestry Corporation Fined $33K For Failing To Keep Records, Endangering Parrots

March 1st 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) with two penalty notices for allegedly not including the critically endangered Swift Parrot records in planning for operations, and has also delivered three official cautions for an alleged failure by FCNSW to mark-up eucalypt feed trees, an essential source of food for the birds, prior to harvesting.

The EPA became aware in 2019 that records of the critically endangered Swift Parrot were not included by FCNSW in planning NSW south forestry operations in Boyne, Bodalla and Mogo State forests.

It is alleged that FCNSW had records of Swift Parrots in these forests during the planning of the operations but failed to compile and include them in pre-harvesting surveys, as required.

EPA Executive Director of Regional Operations Carmen Dwyer said the failure to consider all available records during the planning phases of forestry harvesting operations could result in environmental harm and potential impacts on threatened species.

“The harvest and haul plans for the three operations confirm the Swift Parrot records were not considered and therefore the marking and retention of eucalypt feed trees did not occur either.

“The Swift Parrot is on the Commonwealth’s critically endangered list and as the state’s environmental regulator, we are focused on protecting species that depend on the forest for their survival.”

Ms Dwyer said the EPA takes forestry offences seriously and investigates all alleged breaches.

“It is our duty to ensure forestry operations adhere to the standards and rules required and the EPA will not hesitate to take action if breaches are identified.”

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a $16,500 penalty for each of the two breaches.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website.

Forestry Corporation Fined For Failing To Mark Out A Prohibited Logging Zone

February 26 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two penalty notices and one official caution to Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) for allegedly contravening regulatory requirements, in the Ballengarra State Forest in the mid north coast of NSW.

EPA Officers conducting inspections of the area following a harvesting operation identified 10 freshly cut mature trees within the hard and soft protection zones of a second order stream; a significant amount of debris pushed into a stream bed; and evidence of machine access, and earthworks caused by harvesting machinery within a protected zone.

EPA Executive Director of Regional Operations Carmen Dwyer said riparian zones, important areas directly adjacent to streams and waterways, had boundaries around them to prevent waters and dependent aquatic animal and plant life from being polluted or affected during harvesting operations.

“By failing to mark up the physical protection zone boundary in the field, FCNSW contravened a condition of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval for the area where they were operating west of Port Macquarie,” Ms Dwyer said. 

“Riparian zones must be marked up prior to an operation commencing, so they are identifiable and protected from logging operations. This failure to correctly mark the location resulted, in turn, in further contraventions.”

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a total penalty of $30,000, comprising $15,000 for two breaches and an official caution for a subsequent breach.

Ms Dwyer said the EPA takes forestry offences seriously and investigates all alleged breaches.

“The EPA actively monitors forestry operations at all stages of logging operations – pre, post and during harvesting,” Ms Dwyer said.

“As the state’s environmental regulator, we are focused on ensuring forestry operations adhere to the standards required and will not hesitate to take action if breaches are identified.”

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, stop work orders, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website.

EPA Statement - Update On Forestry Regulation

February 16 2021
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been advised by Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) that they will shortly revert to operating under the standard forestry rules, meaning logging in new compartments will not use special site specific conditions put in place to protect burnt forests, following the 2019/20 bushfires.

Based on expert advice and the literature, the EPA is of the view that site specific conditions are the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.

The EPA has been working to negotiate updated site specific conditions based on current knowledge of the impact of the fires, and to identify and implement a long-term approach to manage the risks posed by timber harvesting in the post-fire landscapes of coastal NSW.

FCNSW has now withdrawn from those discussions around logging on the South Coast.

The EPA expects to receive advice from FCNSW regarding additional voluntary measures they intend to apply to manage the impacts of logging operations. These will not be enforceable by the EPA under the current rules.

The EPA’s site specific conditions previously applied in addition to the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA), maximise the protection of unburnt or lightly burnt forest and limit harvesting intensity to assist wildlife and biodiversity recovery efforts.

Designed following consultation with experts and government agencies, they aim to mitigate the environmental risks caused by the bushfires and are tailored for the specific impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways at each site.

The EPA has been working with FCNSW to ensure these controls are implemented and effective. 

The EPA has increased its regulatory presence on the ground at all stages of logging operations and is working closely with community, industry, Aboriginal and environment groups, concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, their communities and their regional economies.

In response to the decision of FCNSW, the EPA will further increase its regulatory oversight of future logging operations.

The EPA has a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where the EPA identifies non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action.

FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012, and must comply with the IFOA rules.

More information and updates as well as risk assessments here .

NSW State Water Strategy: Have Your Say

The NSW Government has commenced consultation on NSW’s first ever statewide 20-year water strategy to strengthen regional and metropolitan water services.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the recent drought, which followed on quickly from the Millennium Drought highlighted that water resources are coming under increasing pressure from a combination of population growth, changing industry and community needs and a more variable climate.

“The Government does long-term strategic planning for transport, land use and infrastructure, but this is the first time we’ve done it for water,” Mrs Pavey said.

“We have just come through one of the most extreme droughts on record, one many regional communities are still recovering from.

“Too many times in the past, once the drought breaks, the urgency and will to improve drought resilience and water security evaporates. We are not going to let that happen this time and will keep the momentum going as we continue to reform water management in NSW.

“We must manage scarcer water resources through diversifying supply, including the building of new infrastructure, use of recycling and storm water harvesting and the use of new technology and innovation.”

One in three people in Australia live in NSW, and the population is projected to grow by around 2.1 million over the next 20 years. The population in regional NSW is also projected to grow by more than 300,000 people with much of that growth in regional centres.

The draft strategy will help ensure a safer and stronger NSW.

Mrs Pavey said the draft strategy sets out the Government’s key priorities and guiding principles that will inform future decisions on water management, and work in tandem with 12 Regional Water Strategies and two metropolitan strategies currently being developed.

“We want to hear from the community on how we can better secure safer water for our cities, towns, industry and the environment.”

The draft NSW Water Strategy is on public exhibition from 15 February to 28 March for the community to have their say. All feedback will inform the final strategy which will include an implementation plan and will be released by mid 2021.

For more information, to provide feedback or to register your attendance visit for an online information session, please visit:

Sydney Water Convicted And Fined $175k For Significant Sewage Spill

March 16 2021
Sydney Water has been convicted and ordered to pay $175,500 by the Land and Environment Court, following the release of almost 3 million litres of untreated sewage into Toongabbie Creek and Parramatta River in October 2018.

Sydney Water pleaded guilty to two offences of water pollution following prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The offences occurred when the inner wall of Sydney Water’s Northmead Pumping Station collapsed on the morning of 21 October 2018 damaging and ultimately disabling the pumps. Approximately 2.8 million litres of untreated sewage then overflowed into Toongabbie Creek near the junction with Parramatta River and continued flowing several hundred metres downstream.

The Court ordered the penalties for the offences to be paid to City of Parramatta Council for multiple environmental projects including Parramatta River Fish Lift Refurbishment and Toongabbie Creek Riparian Restoration Project Proposal.

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Stephen Beaman said the volume of the raw sewage was significant and there was an impact, in the form of actual, potential and likely harm, on the environment, including changes to the chemical and biological condition of Toongabbie Creek and the Parramatta River.

“Untreated sewage can pose a risk to human health and can have significant environmental impacts on waterways and local ecosystems,” Mr Beaman said.

“Almost 3 million litres of sewerage is an extraordinary amount to overflow into a creek and then into the Parramatta River, a key Sydney waterway.”

Justice Robson found that the events leading to the discharge were foreseeable, environmental harm occurred, and that Sydney Water had control over the failure of the pumping station.

He was, however, satisfied that the penalties imposed against Sydney Water will help “contribute to the restoration and the enhancement of the environment.”

Sydney Water is required to publicise its convictions in print media including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph and to post details via social media online.

The Court also ordered Sydney Water to pay the EPA’s investigation costs of $22,893 and legal costs.

Including the above matters, since 2018 the EPA has prosecuted Sydney Water for nine offences against the environment protection legislation.

In handing down his decision Justice Robson said he considered that Sydney Water’s prior convictions “are suggestive of a continuing attitude of disobedience of the law, or a propensity to reoffend…”. His Honour also said that given Sydney Water’s prior convictions and the system it manages, Sydney Water is likely to reoffend in the future.

A Win For Menindee Lakes And Lower Darling-Baaka Communities 

March 18, 2021
The NSW Government’s decision to abandon engineering works that would have dried out Menindee Lakes is a win for the ecosystems, communities and businesses that rely on the lakes for their survival. 

“Minister Pavey deserves credit for listening to the local community, which has always opposed starving Menindee Lakes of water just to give more to irrigators at the top of the system,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Now the government needs to ensure enough water actually makes it all the way down the river some the lakes can fill rather than be syphoned off into private dams hundreds of kilometres upstream.

“That means buying back water licences, limiting floodplain harvesting to ecologically sustainable levels, and delivering cultural water so the Traditional Owners can continue their cultural practices.”

Scrapping the Menindee Lakes engineering works was a key demand of the Darling-Baaka River Delegation that came to Sydney earlier this week to lobby for improved river health. 

The delegation comprised landholders and Indigenous leaders from around Menindee Lakes and other parts of the Far West. 

Other demands that are yet to be met include:
  • Keeping the river running along its whole length by slashing water extraction for irrigation to ecologically sustainable levels that are realistic about the effects of climate change.
  • Limiting floodwater harvesting to ecologically sustainable levels by strictly limiting the issuing of new licences.  
  • Listing the Menindee Lakes under the Ramsar Convention for wetlands of international significance.
  • Putting Indigenous water needs ahead of irrigation industry demands.  
“Water policy is complex, but the problem is simple. There are too many straws in the glass —  too much water is being taken from the floodplains and rivers,” Mr Gambian said.  

“Today’s announcement is a great step forward, but a lot more needs to be done to stop the Darling-Baaka River dying.

“There is a very serious risk the government will issue licences for floodplain harvesting that take yet more water from the river, its ecosystems and the downstream users.

“We call on Minister Pavey must ensure volumes agreed in floodplain harvesting licences are measurable and ecologically sustainable. 

“The Darling-Baaka needs the small and medium flows to keep the system alive and connected.

”This means extraction for irrigation should only occur when connectivity from the top of the river system to the confluence with the Murray, is guaranteed.” 

Darling-Baaka River Delegation Puts Water Back On The Political Agenda 

March 16, 2021 
A delegation of landholders, Indigenous leaders and recreational river users from the Far West has come 1000km to Sydney to urge the NSW Government to urgently address mismanagement of the Darling-Baaka River and Menindee Lakes. 

Since the death of millions of fish in Menindee Lakes in 2019, the plight of the Darling-Baaka River, the lakes and the ecosystems, communities and economies that rely on them have slipped off the political and media agenda. But the problems highlighted two years ago are unresolved and new threats are emerging.

Darling-Baaka River Water Delegation has come to Sydney to put the spotlight back on the issue and prompt the government to restore the health of the river and hope for river people. The delegation’s key demands are spelt out in the Darling-Baaka River Action Plan (attached) and  include:
  • Keeping the river running along its whole length by slashing water extraction for irrigation to ecologically sustainable levels that are realistic about the effects of climate change.
  • Limiting floodwater harvesting to ecologically sustainable levels by strictly limiting the issuing of new licences.  
  • Keeping Menindee Lakes and the Great Anabranch alive. Abandon engineering works that will reduce their ecological, economic and community value, and list them under the Ramsar Convention.
  • Putting Indigenous water needs ahead of irrigation industry demands.  
The delegation is meeting MPs from all sides of politics, and will urge them to support the following key actions:
  1. Enforce laws that require Indigenous cultural, drinking and environmental water be delivered ahead of irrigation water.
  2. Install gauges at Wilcannia and Menindee to ensure promised water flows are actually delivered.
  3. Nominate Menindee Lakes as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.  
  4. Scrap the engineering works planned at Menindee Lakes that will limit the amount of water getting to the lakes and make the lakes empty faster than they do now.
  5. Stop irrigators at the top of the basin pumping if and when the river stops flowing along its whole length.
  6. Support voluntary water licence buybacks to reduce the amount of water extracted for irrigation. 
  7. Limit the issuing of floodplain harvesting licences to ecologically sustainable levels.
  8. Order the removal of illegal private dams, channels and levies that are trapping floodwaters and preventing water getting to wetlands, watering floodplains, recharging aquifers.
The delegation includes: 

Uncle Badger Bates, a Barkandji Elder from Wilcannia on the Darling-Baaka River. (Attending via Zoom due to COVID-19).
Derek Hardman, CEO of the Barkandji Native Title group. (Attending via Zoom due to COVID-19).
Rob McBride, owns Tolarno Station near Menindee Lakes, one of the biggest sheep farms in the world. 
Julie McClure, co-owner of Kallara Station, a sheep property.
Don Stewart, Treasurer of the Darling River Action Group, based in Broken Hill.

Only the lonely: an endangered bird is forgetting its song as the species dies out

Ross CratesAustralian National UniversityDejan StojanovicAustralian National UniversityNaomi LangmoreAustralian National University, and Rob HeinsohnAustralian National University

Just as humans learn languages, animals learn behaviours crucial for survival and reproduction from older, experienced individuals of the same species. In this way, important “cultures” such as bird songs are passed from one generation to the next.

But global biodiversity loss means many animal populations are becoming small and sparsely distributed. This jeopardises the ability of young animals to learn important behaviours.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of regent honeyeaters. In a paper published today, we describe how a population crash to fewer than 300 has caused the species’ song culture to break down.

In healthy populations, the song of adult male honeyeaters is complex and long. But where the population is very small, the song is diminished and, in many cases, the birds have adopted the song of other species. Sadly, this makes the males less attractive to females, which may increase the chance the regent honeyeater will become extinct.

A Soft, Warbling Song

singing honeyeater
Population decline is damaging song culture in regent honeyeaters. Murray Chambers

Since 2015, we have monitored the regent honeyeater – a critically endangered, nectar-feeding songbird. The birds once roamed in huge flocks between Adelaide and Queensland’s central coast, tracking eucalyptus blossom.

As recently as the 1950s, regent honeyeaters were a common sight in suburban Melbourne and Sydney but are now extremely rare in both cities.

Extensive postwar land clearing has destroyed regent honeyeater habitat and caused the population to plummet. Most breeding activity is now restricted to the Blue Mountains and Northern Tablelands in New South Wales.

Regent honeyeaters are most vocal during the early stages of their breeding season. Before the population decline, the birds were known for their soft, warbling song produced with characteristic head-bobbing. But with few birds left in the wild, their song is changing – with potentially tragic consequences.

Finding Their Voice

Birdsong is one of the most well-studied examples of animal culture. Young songbirds learn to sing by listening to, repeating and refining the songs of older flockmates.

Song-learning is often completed in first year of life, after which a birds’ song is “fixed”.

Despite the increasing number of endangered bird species, there is surprisingly little research into how declines in population size and density might damage song culture in wild birds. We sought to explore whether this link existed in regent honeyeater populations.

Male regent honeyeaters sing to secure breeding territories and attract mates. We classified the songs of 146 male regent honeyeaters between 2015 and 2019. We made or obtained high-quality recordings of 47 of these in the wild, and more in captivity. This included wild birds found by the general public and reported to BirdLife Australia. We quickly chased up these public sightings to record the birds’ songs before they moved on.

We noted the location of each male and tracked its breeding success. We also recorded the songs of captive-bred regent honeyeaters that were part of a reintroduction program.

Read more: Scientists used 'fake news' to stop predators killing endangered birds — and the result was remarkable

Changing Tunes

Our research showed the songs of remaining wild males vary remarkably across regions. For example, listen to the “proper” song of regent honeyeaters occurring in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, where most of the remaining population occur:

Regent honeyeater singing a ‘proper’ song. Author provided121 KB (download)

You’ll notice they sound noticeably different to the small number of males hanging on 400km to the north, near Glen Innes. Although these males still sound like a regent honeyeater, their songs are slower and have a different melody:

Regent honeyeater singing a slower song.

Across the species’ entire range, we found 18 males whose songs sounded nothing like a regent honeyeater. Instead, they closely resembled those of other bird species. Five male regent honeyeaters had learned the song of the little wattlebird:

Regent honeyeater singing the song of the little wattlebird.

Four males had learned songs of the noisy friarbird. Others sounded like pied currawongs, eastern rosellas or little friarbirds:

Regent honeyeater singing the song of a little friarbird.

There are isolated cases of individual songbirds mistakenly learning the song of a different species. But to find 12% of males singing only other species’ songs is unprecedented in wild animal populations.

We believe regent honeyeaters are now so rare in the landscape, some young males are unable to locate adult males from which to learn their song. Instead, the young males mistakenly learn the songs of different bird species they’ve associated with when developing their repertoires.

Evidence suggests this song behaviour is distinct from the mimicry common in some Australian birds. Mimicry involves a bird adding the songs of other birds to its own repertoire – and so, not losing its original song. But the regent honeyeaters we recorded never sang songs that resembled that of their species.

Read more: Look up! A powerful owl could be sleeping in your backyard after a night surveying kilometres of territory

Small honeyeater on a branch
Female regent honeyeaters avoid males with unusual songs. Shutterstock

Also, mimicry in other species has typically evolved because it increases breeding success. However in regent honeyeaters, we found the opposite. Even among males that sounded like a regent honeyeater, those whose songs were unusual for the local area were less likely to impress, and be paired with, a female. Females that did couple up to males with unusual songs were less likely to lay eggs.

These data suggest the loss of song culture is associated with lower breeding success, which could be exacerbating regent honeyeater population decline.

A captive-breeding program is a key component of the regent honeyeater recovery plan. However our research showed the songs of captive-bred regent honeyeaters were shorter and less complex than their wild counterparts:

The song of a captive-bred regent honeyeater.

This may affect the breeding success of captive-bred males once they’re released to the wild. Consequently, we’re teaching captive juveniles to sing correctly by playing them our recordings of “proper” songs from wild birds in the Blue Mountains.

The Honeyeaters’ Final Song?

Maintaining animal cultures in both wild and captive populations is increasingly recognised as crucial to preventing extinctions. These cultures include not just song, but also other important behaviours such as migration routes and feeding strategies.

The loss of the regent honeyeater song culture may be a final warning the species is headed for extinction. This is an aspect of species conservation we can’t ignore.

We must urgently restore and protect breeding habitats, protect nests from predators and teach captive-bred birds to sing. We must also address climate change, which threatens the species’ habitat. Otherwise, future generations may never hear the regent honeyeater’s dulcet tones in the wild.

Read more: Birds that play with others have the biggest brains - and the same may go for humans The Conversation

Ross Crates, Postdoctoral fellow, Australian National UniversityDejan Stojanovic, Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian National UniversityNaomi Langmore, Research Fellow, Australian National University, and Rob Heinsohn, Professor of Evolutionary and Conservation Biology, Australian National University

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

Mangroves from space: 30 years of satellite images are helping us understand how climate change threatens these valuable forests

Travel Sourced, Pixabay. Travel Sourced, PixabayCC BY-SA
Nicolás Younes CárdenasJames Cook UniversityKaren JoyceJames Cook University, and Stefan W MaierJames Cook University

Australia is home to around 2% of the world’s mangrove forests and is the fifth most mangrove-forested country on Earth. Mangroves play a crucial role in the ecosystem thanks to the dizzying array of plants, animals and birds they feed, house and protect.

Mangrove forests help protect coastal communities from cyclones and storms by absorbing the brunt of a storm’s energy. They help our fight against climate change by storing vast amounts of carbon that would otherwise be released as greenhouse gases.

In other words, mangroves are some of our most precious ecosystems. Despite their importance, there is much we don’t know about these complex wetland forests. For example, when does their growing season start? And, how long does it last?

Usually, answering these types of questions requires frequent data collection in the field, but that can be costly and time-consuming. An alternative is to use satellite images. In the future, this will allow us to track the impacts of climate change on mangroves and other forests.

Mangroves flowering and fruiting in Townsville, QLD.
Mangroves play a crucial role in the ecosystem thanks to the dizzying array of plants, animals and birds they feed, house and protect. Nicolas Younes

What Is Phenology?

Our research used satellite images to study the life cycles of mangrove forests in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales. We compared the satellite images with field data collected in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, and found a surprising degree of variation in mangrove life cycles.

We’re using the phrase life cycle, but the scientific term is “phenology”. Phenology is the study of periodic events in the life cycles of plants and animals. For example, some plants flower and fruit during the spring and summer, and some lose their leaves in autumn and winter.

Phenology is important because when plants are growing, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, trunks, roots, and in the soil. As phenology is often affected by environmental conditions, studying phenology helps us understand how climate change is affecting Australian ecosystems such as mangrove forests.

So how can we learn a lot in a short amount of time about mangrove phenology? That’s where satellite imagery comes in.

How We Use Satellites To Study Mangrove Phenology

Satellites are an excellent tool to study changes in forest health, area, and phenology. Some satellites have been taking images of Earth for decades, giving us the chance to look back at the state of mangrove forests from 30 years ago or more.

You can think of satellite images much like the photo gallery in your smartphone: you can see many of your family members in a single image, and you can see how everyone grows and “blooms” over time. In the case of mangroves, we can see different regions and species in a single satellite image, and we can use past images to study the life cycles of mangrove forests.

For example, satellite images depicted below, which use data from the Australian government’s National Maps website, show how mangroves forests have changed in the Kimberley region of Western Australia between 1990 and 2019. You can see how the mangrove forest has reduced in some areas, but expanded in others. Overall, this mangrove forest seems to be doing pretty well thanks in large part to the fact this area has a reasonably small human population.

Images: NationalMap/Data61

Our study of satellite images of mangrove forests in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales - and how they compared with data collected on the ground - found not all mangroves have the same life cycles.

For instance, many mangrove species grow new leaves only once per year, while other species grow new leaves twice a year. These subtle, but important differences will allow us to track the impacts of climate change on mangroves and other forests.

Mangroves at different growth stages in Bushland Beach, QLD
Satellite images of mangrove forests reveal not all mangroves have the same life cycles. Here we see mangroves at different growth stages. Nicolas Younes

How Climate Change Affects Mangrove Phenology

Climate change is changing the phenology of many forests, causing them to flower and fruit earlier than expected.

Science cannot yet tell us exactly how mangrove phenology will be affected by climate change but the results could be catastrophic. If mangroves flower or fruit earlier than expected, pollinators such as bats, bees and birds may starve or move to a different forests. Without pollinators, mangroves may not reproduce and can die.

The next step in our research is to figure out how climate change is affecting the life cycles of mangroves. To do this, we will use satellite images of mangroves across Australia and factor in data on temperature and rainfall.

We think rising temperatures are causing longer periods of leaf growth, a theory we plan to test by studying data from now with satellite images from the 80s and 90s.

A mangrove forest.
The next step in our research is to figure out how climate change is affecting the life cycles of mangroves. Shutterstock

Satellite Monitoring Can’t Do It All

Satellites can tell us a lot about how a mangrove forest is faring. For example, satellite images captured a dieback event (depicted below, using data from the Australian government’s National Maps website) that happened between 2015 and 2016, when around 7,400 hectares of mangroves died in the Gulf of Carpentaria due to drought and unusually high air and sea temperatures.

Images: NationalMap/Data61

But satellite monitoring is not enough on its own and cannot capture the detail you can get on the ground. For example, satellites cannot capture the flowering or fruiting of mangroves because flowers are often too small and fruits are often camouflaged. Also, satellites cannot capture what happens under the canopy.

It is also important to recognise the work of researchers on the ground. Ground data allows us to validate or confirm the information we see in satellite images. When we noted some mangrove forests were growing leaves twice per year, we validated this observation with field data, and confirmed with experts in mangrove ecosystems. Field data is crucial to understand the life cycles of ecosystems worldwide and how forests are responding to changes in the climate.The Conversation

A bird in a wetlands.
Wetlands, including mangroves, are some of our most precious ecosystems. Shutterstock

Nicolás Younes Cárdenas, Postdoctoral research fellow, James Cook UniversityKaren Joyce, Senior Lecturer - Remote sensing and spatial information, James Cook University, and Stefan W Maier, Adjunct Research Fellow, James Cook University

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

Wake up, Mr Morrison: Australia's slack climate effort leaves our children 10 times more work to do

Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Lesley HughesMacquarie UniversityJohn HewsonCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityMalte MeinshausenThe University of Melbourne, and Will SteffenAustralian National University

There is much at stake at the highly anticipated United Nations climate summit in Glasgow this November. There, almost 200 nations signed up to the Paris Agreement will make emissions reduction pledges as part of the international effort to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Many countries recognise the urgent task at hand. Ahead of the meeting, more than 110 governments have already pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. So where is Australia in terms of global ambition?

We, some of Australia’s most senior climate change scientists and policymakers, have come together to address these and other pressing questions, informed by sound science and policy.

Our report, released today, pinpoints the emissions reduction burden Australians will bear in future decades if our Paris targets are not increased. Alarmingly, people living in the 2030s and 2040s could be forced to reduce emissions by ten times as much as people this decade, if Australia is to keep within its 2℃ “carbon budget”.

Girl in mask raises fist at climate rally
Without policy change, people living in coming decades will have to reduce emissions by far more than the current rate. Dean Lewins/AAP

‘Manifestly Inadequate’

A “carbon budget” identifies how much carbon dioxide (CO₂) the world can emit if it’s to limit global temperature rise to internationally agreed goals. Those goals include keeping warming to well below 2℃ – and preferably below 1.5℃ – this century.

National emissions reduction targets are key to staying within a carbon budget. Australia’s target, under the Paris Agreement, is a 26-28% reduction between 2005 and 2030.

In a report released in January, we showed how that target is manifestly inadequate. To remain within its 2°C carbon budget, Australia must cut emissions by 50% between 2005 and 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

To remain inside the 1.5°C budget, we must reduce emissions by 74% between 2005 and 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2035.

Since that report was released, the Australian government has doubled down on its 2030 target. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to be inching closer to a net-zero commitment. Last month he declared his government’s goal was “to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”.

Our latest report set out to determine how the burden of emissions reduction would be spread after 2030 if Australia’s 2030 target is not increased.

Read more: Scott Morrison has embraced net-zero emissions – now it's time to walk the talk

Smoke stacks sends emissions to the sky.
The Morrison government is sticking with its inadequate Paris pledge. Shutterstock

What We Found

Our analysis used the methodology adopted by the Climate Change Authority. This statutory body was established by the Gillard Labor government in 2012, and was charged with providing independent expert policy advice.

In 2014, the authority identified the level of climate ambition required for Australia to do its fair share in the global effort. It recommended a 30% emissions reduction between 2000 and 2025, reaching 40-60% by 2030.

But the Abbott Coalition government ignored this advice. Instead, it pledged the far weaker target of 26-28% emissions reduction.

We wanted to determine what happens if Australia sticks to that inadequate target – and so delays substantive climate action until later decades.

To meet the weak Paris target, Australia need only reduce emissions by 1.2% each year from 2020 to 2030. If Australia persists with this target but still decides to stay inside the 2℃ carbon budget, that leaves just 1,329 million tonnes of greenhouse gases we can emit after 2030.

Keeping to this limit would be extremely challenging. If done in a straight-line trajectory, it would mean a 12.9% cut in emissions each year from 2030, until net-zero emissions were reached in 2037.

This represents an annual challenge ten times greater than what’s needed in each year this decade to meet the current 2030 goals. It would require an annual emissions reduction of 66.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than every car and light commercial vehicle on Australia’s roads emits in a year.

Author provided/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Second, we looked at the emissions trajectory if Australia was to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, while still keeping the inadequate 2030 Paris targets. We found people living in the 2030s and 2040s would have to reduce emissions by three times more than what’s required this decade.

Emissions include land-use, landuse change and forestry emissions. A drop in widespread land clearing creates the impression of overall reduced emissions. But underlying fossil fuel and industrial emissions have steadily increased since the 1990s - with the exception of brief moments when Australia had an effective price on carbon. Author provided/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Clearly, the inadequate 2030 target is the source of the problem. By requiring very little emissions reduction this decade, the Morrison government is kicking the climate can down the road for our children to pick up. It means Australia is also failing on its moral obligation to do its fair share in the global climate effort.

Australia Trails The World

This sad state of affairs is not news to the rest of the world. Australia is widely viewed as an international climate laggard. In the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, it received the lowest rating of 57 countries and the European Union. It also ranked second-worst on climate action, out of 177 countries, in the 2020 UN Sustainable Development Report.

The Glasgow climate summit, known as the 26th Conference of the Parties or COP26, seeks to hold governments to account for their climate pledges. Nations are expected to front up with ambitious short-term plans for emissions reduction.

Many nations have risen to the challenge. Countries to adopt a target of net-zero by 2050 include the United StatesJapanSouth Korea and the European UnionChina will aim to achieve this target by 2060.

Even more importantly, some governments have ramped up their 2030 targets. For example the European Union will now reduce emissions by 55% and the United Kingdom by 68% – both on 1990 levels.

Read more: Biden’s Senate majority doesn't just super-charge US climate action, it blazes a trail for Australia

Under President Joe Biden, the US will work towards net-zero emissions by 2050. Carolyn Kaster/AP/AAP

A Critical Decade

The importance of COP26 cannot be overstated. Under current global pledges, an average temperature rise of 3℃ or more is distinctly possible this century. This increases the risk of abrupt and irreversible changes in the Earth’s climate system - known as tipping points - bringing disastrous consequences for both human and natural systems.

The Morrison government is failing to protect Australia from this devastating future. It’s also ignoring a major economic opportunity that should - in a rational country - bring all sides of politics together.

Over the past decade, renewable energy costs have plummeted and significant advances have been made in electric vehicles and regenerative agriculture. This opens up vast new opportunities for Australia.

These days, few in the federal Coalition would deny climate science outright. But the government’s softer form of denial – failing to grasp the need for urgent action – will have the same tragic outcome.

Read more: Against the odds, South Australia is a renewable energy powerhouse. How on Earth did they do it? The Conversation

Lesley Hughes, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie UniversityJohn Hewson, Professor and Chair, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityMalte Meinshausen, A/Prof., School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, and Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

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

5 remarkable stories of flora and fauna in the aftermath of Australia’s horror bushfire season

hamiltonphillipa/iNaturalistCC BY-NC-SA
Will CornwellUNSWCasey KirchhoffUNSW, and Mark OoiUNSW

Around one year ago, Australia’s Black Summer bushfire season ended, leaving more than 8 million hectares across south-east Australia a mix of charcoal, ash and smoke. An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced, not including invertebrates.

The impact of the fires on biodiversity was too vast for professional scientists alone to collect data. So in the face of this massive challenge, we set up a community (citizen) science project through the iNaturalist website to help paint a more complete picture of which species are bouncing back — and which are not.

Almost 400 community scientists living near or travelling across the firegrounds have recorded their observations of flora and fauna in the aftermath, from finding fresh wombat droppings in blackened forests, to hearing the croaks of healthy tree frogs in a dam choked with debris and ash.

Each observation is a story of survival against the odds, or of tragedy. Here are five we consider particularly remarkable.

Greater Gliders After Australia’s Largest Ever Fire

The Gospers Mountain fire in New South Wales was the biggest forest fire in Australian history, razing an area seven times the size of Singapore. This meant there nothing in history scientists could draw from to predict the animals’ response.

So it came as a huge surprise when a community scientist observed greater gliders deep within the heart of the Gospers Mountain firegrounds in Wollemi National Park, far from unburned habitat. Greater gliders are listed as “vulnerable” under national environment law. They’re nocturnal and live in hollow-bearing trees.

A greater glider with shining eyes at night
A citizen scientist snapped this photo of a greater glider in the heart of the the Gospers Mountain firegrounds. Mike Letnic/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

How gliders survived the fire is still unknown. Could they have hidden in deep hollows of trees where the temperature is relatively cooler while the fire front passed? And what would they have eaten afterwards? Greater gliders usually feed on young leaves and flowers, but these foods are very rare in the post-fire environment.

Finding these gliders shows how there’s still so much to learn about the resilience of species in the face of even the most devastating fires, especially as bushfires are forecast to become more frequent.

Rare Pink Flowers Burnishing The Firegrounds

The giant scale of the 2019-20 fires means post-fire flowering is on display in grand and gorgeous fashion. This is a feature of many native plant species which need fire to stimulate growth.

Excitingly, community scientists recorded a long-dormant species, the pink flannel flower (Actinotus forsythii), that’s now turning vast areas of the Blue Mountains pink.

Pink flannel flowers are bushfire ephemerals, which means their seeds only germinate after fire. Margaret Sky/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

Pink flannel flowers are not considered threatened, but they are very rarely seen.

Individuals of this species spend most of their life as a seed in the soil. Seeds require a chemical found in bushfire smoke, and the right seasonal temperatures, to germinate.

Rediscovering The Midge Orchid

Much of Australia’s amazing biodiversity is extremely local. Some species, particularly plants, exist only in a single valley or ridge. The Black Summer fires destroyed the entire range of 100 Australian plant species, incinerating the above-ground parts of every individual. How well a species regenerates after fire determines whether it recovers, or is rendered extinct.

The midge orchid. Nick Lambert/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

One of these is a species of midge orchid, which grows in a small area of Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW.

All of the midge orchid’s known sites are thought to have burned in late 2019. The species fate was unknown until two separate community scientists photographed it at five sites in January 2021, showing its recovery.

Like many of Australia’s terrestrial orchids, this species has an underground tuber (storage organ) which may have helped part of it avoid the flames’ lethal heat.

Read more: After last summer's fires, the bell tolls for Australia’s endangered mountain bells

Don’t Forget About Insects

Despite their incredible diversity and tremendous value to society, insects tend to be the forgotten victims of bushfires and other environmental disasters.

Many trillions of invertebrates would have been killed in the fires of last summer. A common sight during and after the bushfire season was a deposit of dead insects washed ashore. Some died from the flames and heat, while others died having drowned trying to escape.

Dead insects washed up on the beach was a common sight in the fire aftermath. BlueBowerStudio/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

One dead insect deposit — one of hundreds that washed up near Bermagui, NSW on Christmas Eve — included a range of species that have critical interactions with other organisms.

This includes orchid dupe wasps (Lissopimpla excelsa), the only known pollinator of the orchid genus Cryptostylis. Transverse ladybirds (Coccinella transversalis), an important predator of agricultural pests such as aphids, also washed up. As did metallic shield bugs (Scutiphora pedicellata), spectacular iridescent jewel bugs that come in green and blue hues.

Some insects died from the flames and heat, while others died having drowned trying to escape the flames. BlueBowerStudio/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

The Unlikely Survival Of The Kaputar Slug

Creatures such as kangaroos or birds have a chance to flee bushfires, but smaller, less mobile species such as native slugs and snails have a much tougher time of surviving.

The 2019-2020 bushfire season significantly threatened the brilliantly coloured Mount Kaputar pink slugfound only on the slopes of Mount Kaputar, NSW. When fires ripped through the national park in October and November 2019, conservationists feared the slug may have been entirely wiped out.

Read more: Photos from the field: zooming in on Australia's hidden world of exquisite mites, snails and beetles

But park ranger surveys in January 2020 found at least 60 individuals managed to survive, likely by sheltering in damp rock crevices. Community scientists have spotted more individuals since then, such as the one pictured here found in September 2020.

But the slug isn’t out of the woods yet, and more monitoring is required to ensure the population is not declining.

Bright pink slug
A community scientist spotted this rare slug in firegrounds. Taylor/iNaturalistCC BY-NC

Continuing This Work

While community scientists have been documenting amazing stories of recovery all across Australia, there are still many species which haven’t been observed since the fires. Many more have been observed only at a single site.

The Snowy River westringia (Westringia cremnophila), for instance, is a rare flowering shrub found on cliffs in Snowy River National Park, Victoria. No one has reported observing it since the fire.

So far these community scientist observations have contributed to one scientific paper, and three more documenting the ability for species to recover post-fire are in process.

Recovery from Black Summer is likely to take decades, and preparing a body of scientific data on post-fire recovery is vital to inform conservation efforts after this and future fires. We need more observations to continue this important work.

Read more: Summer bushfires: how are the plant and animal survivors 6 months on? We mapped their recovery The Conversation

Will Cornwell, Associate Professor in Ecology and Evolution, UNSWCasey Kirchhoff, PhD Candidate, UNSW, and Mark Ooi, Senior Research Fellow, UNSW

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

Sea levels are rising fastest in big cities – here's why

Jakarta is sinking while sea levels rise. dani daniar / shutterstock
Sally BrownBournemouth University and Robert James NichollsUniversity of East Anglia

It is well known that climate-induced sea level rise is a major threat. What is less well know is the threat of sinking land. And in many of the most populated coastal areas, the land is sinking even faster than the sea is rising.

Parts of Tokyo for instance sank by 4 metres during the 20th century, with 2 metres or more of sinking reported in Shanghai, Bangkok, and New Orleans. This process is known as subsidence. Slow subsidence happens naturally in river deltas, and it can be accelerated by the extraction of groundwater, oil or gas which causes the soil to consolidate and the surface to lose elevation.

Subsidence leads to relative sea level rise (sea level rise plus land sinking). It turns croplands salty, damages buildings, causes widespread flooding and can even mean the loss of entire coastal areas.

Subsidence can threaten flooding in low-lying coastal areas, much more so than rising sea levels, yet scientists are only just realising the global implications of the threat with respect to coastal cities.

In fact, while the average coastal area experiences relative sea level rise of less than 3mm per year, the average coastal resident experiences a rise of around 8mm to 10mm per year. This is because so many people live in deltas and especially cities on deltas that are subsiding. That’s the key finding of our new research, where we analysed how fast cities are sinking across the world and compared them with global subsidence data including less densely populated coastlines.

Map showing relative sea level rise in 23 coastal regions around the world.
When weighted by population, relative sea level rise is worst in south east Asia, followed by south and east Asia, and the southern Mediterranean. Nicholls et alCC BY-SA

Our finding reflects that people often choose to live in river deltas, floodplains and other areas that were already prone to sinking, and in doing so will further enhance subsidence. In particular, subsiding cities contain more than 150 million people in the coastal zone – that’s roughly 20% of people in the world who live by the sea. This means relative sealevel rise will have a more sudden and more severe impact than scientists had originally thought.

Here are a few of the most affected cities:


The Indonesian capital Jakarta is home to 10 million people, and is built on low-lying land next to the sea. Groundwater extraction caused the city to sink more than three metres from 1947 to 2010 and much of the city is still sinking by 10cm or more each year.

Subsidence does not occur evenly, leading to uneven risks that make urban planning difficult. Buildings are now flooded, cracks are appearing in infrastructure which is being abandoned.

Jakarta has built higher sea walls to keep up with the subsidence. But since groundwater pumping continues, this patching-up policy can only last so long before the same problems occur again. And the city needs to keep pumping since groundwater is used for drinking water. Taking water, the very thing that humans need to survive, ultimately puts people at risk from inundation.

The battle against subsidence is slowly being lost, with the government proposing in 2019 to move the capital to a purpose-built city on the island of Borneo more than 1,000km away, with subsidence being one of many reasons.


Developing rapidly in the past few decades, and now with a population of 26 million, Shanghai is another sinker. The city has maximum subsidence rates of around 2.5cm a year. Again this is mostly caused by lowering groundwater levels, in this case thanks to drainage to construct skyscrapers, metro lines and roads (for instance Metro Line 1, built in the 1990s, caused rapid subsidence).

Body of water in front of lots of skyscrapers.
Shanghai is found where the river Yangtze meets the sea. John_T / shutterstock

If no additional protection is built, by 2100 this rate of subsidence and sea level rise mean that a storm surge could flood around 15% of the city.

New Orleans

In New Orleans, centuries of embankments and ditches had effectively drained the city and sunk it, leaving about half of it below sea level.

Map of New Orleans with shaded areas below sea level.
Much of New Orleans is below sea level (red) and relies on sea walls to stay dry. The Data Center, New OrleansCC BY-SA

When Hurricane Katrina breached the levees in 2005, the city did not stand a chance. The hurricane caused at least US$40 billion (£29 billion) in damage and particularly took its toll on the city’s African American community. More than 1,570 people died across the state of Louisiana.

If the city had not subsided, damage would have been greatly reduced and lives would have been saved. Decisions that were made many decades or more ago set the path for the disasters that are seen today, and what we will see in the future.

There Are No Simple Solutions

So what can be done? Building a sea wall or dike is one immediate solution. This of course stops the water coming in, but remember that the sea wall is sinking too, so it has to be extra large in order to be effective in the long-term. In urban areas, engineers cannot raise ground easily: that can take decades as buildings and infrastructure are renewed. There is no simple solution, and large-scale urban subsidence is largely irreversible.

Some cities have found “solutions”. Tokyo for instance managed to stop subsidence from about 1960 onwards thanks to stronger regulations on water pumping, but it cannot get rid of the overall risk as parts of city are below sea level and depend on dikes and pumps to be habitable. Indonesia’s bold proposal to move its capital city may be the ultimate solution.

Increased urbanisation especially in deltas areas and the demand for freshwater means subsidence will remain a pressing issue in the coming decades. Dealing with subsidence is complementary to dealing with climate-induced sea level rise and both need to be addressed. A combination of rising seas and sinking lands will increasingly leave coastal cities at risk.The Conversation

Sally Brown, Scientist, Bournemouth University and Robert James Nicholls, Professor of Climate Adaptation, University of East Anglia

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

When 1 in 3 users are tourists, that changes the bike-share equation for cities

Richard BuningThe University of Queensland

Bike-share programs have in the past been designed and operated with residents as the main focus. These shared bikes have mainly been regarded as a way to solve the “last mile problem” – the distance between the final destination and the closest public transport stop that’s seen as too far to walk and too close to drive.

My new research published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism challenges this position. The study findings from the Pacers Bikeshare program in the US city of Indianapolis demonstrate the incredible demand tourists can provide for bike-share programs. In turn, the community gains extra value from tourism and the overall enriched visitor experience. Visitors incurred more than twice the user fees of residents.

This all adds up to substantial revenue for the program and an economic benefit for the city. It changes the calculations about the viability and value of bike-share schemes, which provide wide economic benefits to cities.

Read more: Billions are pouring into mobility technology – will the transport revolution live up to the hype?

A COVID-Driven Bike Boom

Share bikes and other forms of micromobility such electric scooters (e-scooters) and e-bikes have emerged as an ideal means of transport and outdoor recreation for both residents and visitors in a COVID (and post-COVID) world.

Read more: Why e-bikes can succeed where earlier bike-share schemes failed

People are working from hometravelling less and have pandemic-related safety concerns. Public transport patronage has generally declined as a result.

Chart showing Apple routing requests for different transport modes
Public transport use (purple line) remains below pre-pandemic levels across Australia. Apple Mobility TrendsCC BY

Amid COVID-19 lockdowns and outbreaks, communities across Australia and overseas are experiencing a cycling boom. Bike shops everywhere are overwhelmed and used bikes are hard to find. Bike-share use has risen as people look for affordable alternatives to public transport and ways to be active outdoors safely.

Bike-share programs have their time to shine, not just as transport for residents but for tourism purposes too.

Read more: Coronavirus recovery: public transport is key to avoid repeating old and unsustainable mistakes

Tourists Are An Important User Group

This major shift in transport patterns includes tourists. We found they are a major and lucrative user group. In our study, tourists accounted for more than a third of all users of the bike-share system over more than four years.

Bike-share allows for freedom in exploring a city. Tourists use these programs to explore urban destinations in a leisurely way. They stop frequently at popular tourist attractions and at local retail outlets, restaurants and bars along the way.

This means the economic and social benefits of tourism activity can be distributed more widely throughout a community – into neighbourhoods and away from city centres and tourism hot spots – compared to cars and mass transit systems.

Further, when visitors use bike-share schemes, they get a more local, authentic and environmentally sustainable experience. The bikes allow for better access to local neighbourhoods, cultural areas, tourist sites and businesses than tour buses, ride-share operators and public transport can provide.

Read more: To bolster our fragile road and rail system we need to add a 'micro-mobility' network

Ensuring A COVID-Safe Ride

Share bikes provide a relatively contact-free and socially distanced alternative to buses, trains and ride-share cars.

Bike-share operators everywhere are responding to the increased concerns about the need for safe alternative transport. The range of strategies to ensure COVID safety include:

  • increased cleaning and disinfection
  • distribution of bikes at docking stations to allow for social distancing
  • contact-free transactions
  • promotion of public health guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing
  • even anti-viral handlebars.
disinfectant stand next to a row of share bikes
Bike-share operators have had to respond to public concerns about being COVID-safe. Shutterstock

Some programs have actually adapted to the shift from public tranport to bike sharing by offering essential workers and healthcare workers free or discounted memberships. In New York, as subway use has dropped, the city has constructed bike-share stations near hospitals.

The Future Of Micromobility

Bike-share schemes offer diverse community-wide benefits for city residents throughout the world. They are a flexible, convenient, cheap, active and sustainable transport option for both residents and visitors. These schemes help cut travel times, reduce carbon emissions, increase physical activity and connect people to their community.

Micromobility options including bike-share programs will continue to gain popularity well into the future as communities look to improve urban mobility in a sustainable and active manner. The rise of e-scooters and dockless bike programs marks a transition from government-based bike-share initiatives to entrepreneurial ventures. It has fuelled rapid growth in the industry worldwide.

Read more: Limes not lemons: lessons from Australia’s first e-scooter sharing trial

The challenge now is for cities to keep up with this upward trend by developing the necessary physical infrastructure such as bike lanes, bike paths and so on.

Reaping the full benefits of bike-share programs and tourism depends on encouraging visitors to use these bikes. Ways to do this include developing aids to increase ease of use, such as digital cycling guides, maps, apps and companion programs with local businesses.The Conversation

Richard Buning, Lecturer in Tourism, School of Business, The University of Queensland

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

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

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:

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 -

A Storm At Night.

Wailing comes the south breeze, heralding the gale,
The awning on my balcony is cracking like a sail,
Cracking like a topsail, while beneath the din
My heart is singing to the tune of "No, I won't go in!"

White-maned horses gallop in the bay beneath;
The trumpet blast has maddened them, the bit between their teeth;
Now the rain has caught them with a whiplash hiss—
And who would shut himself away from pageantry like this?

Watching drowsy-warm, 'twixt ranked verandah bars
The charging, massed cloud-cavalry come blotting out the stars,
Streaming manes and pennons swept across the sky—
I ponder, "Some would rather sleep, perhaps, but never I!"

Just beyond the rain's reach, safe I wait what comes
To shrieking bugle-blasts of wind and thunder's rolling drums,
Purring in my white bed, huddled soft and warm,
While on the whole horizon flares the splendour of the storm.

—Dorothea Mackellar, Pittwater, 1933

Dorothea Mackellar in 1918

Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition 2021 Entries Now Open


''Our poets are encouraged to take inspiration from wherever they may find it, however if they are looking for some direction, competition participants are invited to use this year's optional theme to inspire their entries."

In 2021, the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society has chosen the theme “Rich and Rare.” As always, it is an optional theme, so please write about whatever topic sparks your poetic genius.

For a copy of the wonderful theme poster, please click here.


*PLEASE NOTE: If you're registering as an individual student, put your HOME address in your personal details and not your SCHOOL'S address! The address you list is where your participation certificate will be posted!*


(primary school and secondary school, anytime during the competition period)

Teacher/parent - registration completed online (invoice will be emailed within 2 weeks of registration)

Log in to your page.

Enter student details and submit poem(s) (cut and paste or type in poem content direct to the webpage) PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD POEMS AS ATTACHMENTS AS THAT FUNCTION IS FOR POSTAL ENTRIES ONLY.

Repeat step 3 for every student/individual poem.



Have a read of the judges' reports from the previous year. They contain some very helpful advice for teachers and parents alike!

It is recommended for schools to appoint a coordinator for the competition.

Only a teacher/parent can complete the registration form on behalf of the student/child.

Log-in details: username is the email address and a password of your choice.

Log-in details can be given to other teachers/students for poem submission in class/at home.

Log-in as many times as necessary during the competition period.

Teachers can view progress by monitoring the number and content of entries.

Individual entries are accepted if the school is not participating or a child is home schooled. Parent needs to complete the registration form with their contact details. Please indicate 'individual entry' under school name and home postal address under school address.

Invoice for the entry fee will be sent to the registered email address within 2 weeks.

‘Participation certificate only’ option available for schools where pre-selection of entries has been carried out. Poems under this option will not be sent to judges, students will still receive participation certificate for their efforts.

Please read the Conditions of Entry before entering. Entries accepted: March 1 to June 30, results announced during early September.


Full Steam Ahead For Iconic Locomotive 3801

A defining part of Australia’s steam train history returned to the rails last weekend after more than a decade.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the widely adored steam locomotive 3801 is returning to passenger service after a $3.5 million dollar NSW Government funded overhaul, offering customers a unique view of our steam rail history.

“From this weekend, 3801 will offer customers the chance to go back in time with regular one-hour shuttle rides departing from Central Station,” Mr Toole said.

“No other steam engine in Australia has captured the imagination of rail enthusiasts and the public as much as 3801, so this is an exciting opportunity for people across NSW to take a trip on the State’s most iconic steam locomotive.

“This starts a new chapter in the life of the historic and much loved locomotive.

“I would like to thank the volunteers and staff who have worked closely with Transport Heritage NSW in the past decade to make this all possible.”

In the next few months 3801 will also make trips to the Southern Highlands, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Junee, the Blue Mountains and towns in western and northern NSW, sharing the magic of the steam era right across the state.

When 3801 first launched in 1943, it instantly changed the image of the NSW Railways with its streamlined art-deco style.

3801 made its first journey from Central Station in 1943 and operated as an express passenger locomotive and later as a freight locomotive until being formally withdrawn from service in 1962.

It became famous for being the only steam locomotive to have travelled to all mainland Australian states and territories. 

For more information on the 3801 and the regional tour visit HERE

World-Class Standard For Vocational Education And Training

March 18, 2021

The NSW Government will embark on a new reform as part of accepting and implementing all five recommendations from the Gonski-Shergold Review of the NSW Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. 

The NSW Government has committed to: 

  1. Establishing Careers NSW
  2. Establishing a new form of tertiary education known as NSW Institute of Applied Technology (IAT)
  3. Advocating for VET student loans, similar to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), to be established. Work will continue with the Federal Government on the scheme
  4. Improving the quality of vocational education made available in high schools
  5. Consulting with industry experts on VET course curriculums. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian thanked Mr David Gonski AC and Professor Peter Shergold AC who led the extensive review into the VET sector. 

“Mr Gonski and Professor Shergold have provided the government with new and innovative recommendations to ensure our training industry remains at the cutting edge and is relevant to a post COVID-19 economy,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“The government’s record $107 billion spend in infrastructure has created a huge demand for tradies but we also need to upskill the workforce for emerging industries like 3D printing, robotics and other technology industries.

“If we are serious about having the best skilled workforce in the world, we have to do things a bit differently.

“The exciting new model of education will see industry and universities partner with TAFE at Meadowbank and Kingswood campuses to ensure NSW is set up to take advantage of the changing workforce requirements.” 

The NSW Government will use the report’s findings to advocate for the Commonwealth’s VET Student Loan scheme to be expanded to put VET study on an even financial playing field with university studies. 

The IAT will be a new model of tertiary education that will fully integrate the theoretical study of university with the practical training of vocational education. Students will be able to study flexibly for example, a student can complete a Certificate IV in year one, progress to a diploma in year two and have the option of achieving a Bachelor in Applied Technology in year three.   

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the recommendations will elevate the NSW VET system to an enviable standard.

“Our VET sector has already led the way in training frontline workers who have safeguarded our economy from the effects of a global pandemic and today’s announcement will further bolster the sector to a world-class standard.”

“The report highlights the skills industry needs are evolving and our VET sector must continue to evolve and remain accessible to ensure the people of NSW continue to undertake vocational education to drive NSW forward.”

Mr David Gonski AC said the recommendations were developed with a number of stakeholders.

“Consultation was undertaken with academics, industry associations, government and non-government school sectors and training providers to provide a holistic review of the challenges the sector is facing,” Mr Gonski said.

Professor Peter Shergold AC said the recommendations will also seek to enhance the status and improve the quality and accessibility of vocational education in high schools.

“Furthering the relevance and breadth of VET available in high schools is a significant step towards getting students interested in pursuing a vocational career,” Professor Shergold said.

Today’s announcements are in addition to the establishment of Careers NSW announced yesterday.  

Access the full review into the VET sector

Support To Help Young People In Online Or Digital Employment Services Into Work

March 17, 2021

The Australian Government is providing more opportunities for thousands of young Australians to get into work and training. 

Until 30 June 2022, the Australian Government’s Youth Advisory Sessions initiative will help connect up to 15,000 young people with youth employment specialists.

This assistance will help them remain connected to the labour market and encourage them to stay motivated and resilient when looking for work.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, says these specialists will help young people aged 15 to 24 stay connected to the workforce.

“We know young people have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to help as many of them as possible to find work,” Minister Cash said.

“That’s why we’re providing access to free Youth Advisory Sessions to help young people stay engaged and supported.”

Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, the Hon Luke Howarth MP, said up to three one-hour advisory sessions are free for young people with a Transition to Work provider.

“We want to ensure that young people are supported, can access help to stay motivated, and are ready to take up job opportunities as the economy continues to recover,” Assistant Minister Howarth said.

“These sessions will also help young people identify jobs in industries locally, and who are expecting the most employment growth in the medium term.”

These sessions are part of the $21.9 million Faster Connections and Greater Support for Young People measure, which was unveiled in the 2020-21 Budget.

“The Australian Government is providing unprecedented support for young people who are looking for work, including the $4 billion JobMaker Hiring Credit and the $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement wage subsidy,” Minister Cash said.

Attending a Youth Advisory Session (YAS) can help you:

  • improve your job search skills
  • write a resume that will get you noticed
  • prepare for a great interview
  • connect with education, training and other support services

For more information on Youth Advisory Sessions, visit

New Skipper For Breakers In Fire Double

All-rounder Sammy-Jo Johnson has been named to lead NSW just six games into her Breakers career, taking the reigns from Alyssa Healy who is on international duty.

Johnson, 28, who is from northern NSW but had until this summer played all her senior cricket for Queensland and the Brisbane Heat, will captain a 13-player squad in crucial matches against her former side at North Sydney Oval on Friday and Sunday.

With Healy, Rachael Haynes, Ash Gardner and Hannah Darlington all part of the Australian squad in New Zealand, there are four changes to the Breakers contingent that beat the ACT in back to back matches earlier this month.

Experienced all-rounder Lisa Griffith, keeper/batter Maddy Darke and rising star Phoebe Litchfield all re-join the squad, while Dubbo’s exciting fast bowling prospect Emma Hughes is in line to make her Breakers debut.

Powerful hitting opening bowler Johnson becomes NSW’s 30th women’s captain and said she felt privileged to have been given the honour.

“I have played a lot of cricket in Queensland but I'm very proud to finally be wearing the Baggy Blue because that was a childhood dream," Johnson said.

"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to lead this team and it's something I will treasure.

“These next two matches against Queensland are really important and I believe this squad has the talent and belief to play the brand of cricket we as the Breakers wish to showcase.

"If we put that on the park the results will hopefully lead to us having the opportunity to fight for the trophy in the final."

The Breakers (17 points) currently sit third on the WNCL ladder with three consecutive wins, a tie, three bonus points and two losses from their opening six games. They trail second placed Tasmania by just two points but the Breakers have a game in hand.

Queensland are just a point adrift of NSW in fourth.

NSW Breakers squad for fixtures against the QLD Fire (Friday 19 March and Sunday 21 March) at North Sydney Oval:
Sammy-Jo Johnson (C)
Erin Burns
Stella Campbell
Lauren Cheatle
Maddy Darke
Lisa Griffith
Emma Hughes
Anika Learoyd
Phoebe Litchfield
Lauren Smith
Hayley Silver-Holmes
Rachel Trenaman
Tahlia Wilson

Support Staff:

Dom Thornely (Head Coach)
Ben Sawyer (Assistant Coach)
Mark McInnes (Assistant Coach)
Katie Ryan (Physio)
Sean Hardy (Strength and Conditioning)

Follow all the action via, with Sunday’s game also set to be available on Kayo.

Rorts scandals in politics are rife. So what exactly are the rules?

Anne TwomeyUniversity of Sydney

The sports rorts scandal has flared up again in the public consciousness with a scathing report by a Senate committee. It points to the many failures in governance and the political interference in what was supposed to be a merit-based grants program. It concludes that such behaviour “deepens public cynicism about the integrity of government decision making and expenditure”.

It is not hard to see why. The sports rorts affair was quickly followed by another controversy: the funding of the Safer Communities Program. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was accused of channelling funds to marginal Tasmanian seats during a contentious byelection.

These two programs don’t even scratch the surface of the massive government expenditure on discretionary programs with unimaginative (but suitably vague) titles such as “strengthening communities”, “stronger communities”, “strong and resilient communities”, “community development”, “national stronger regions” and “building better regions”.

Both sides of politics, when in government, use these programs to favour their supporters and influence voters, particularly in marginal seats, with scant regard to public need, fairness or responsible expenditure.

Every time another government rort is exposed, the response is always that the action was “entirely within the rules”. But what actually are “the rules” and does anyone ever enforce them?

Read more: The 'sports rorts' affair shows the need for a proper federal ICAC – with teeth

What The Constitution Says

The first rule is the Constitution. The Commonwealth government cannot spend public money on grants to third parties unless authorised by a law that falls within a subject allocated by the Constitution to the Commonwealth parliament.

Most of these subjects concern international matters (for example, external affairs, defence and immigration), or intergovernmental matters (interstate trade or interstate industrial disputes), or matters that need one common standard across the nation (currency, weights and measures). These are all things that need to be dealt with at the national level.

Local matters, such as resurfacing a football oval, installing street lighting or building swimming pools, are left to the states, which can deal with them through local government bodies.

The constitutionally valid way for the Commonwealth to fund sports programs and community safety programs is through making grants to the states under section 96 of the Constitution. But this is not popular with the Commonwealth because it is unlikely to buy any votes.

So the Constitution is ignored, on the basis that no one with the legal standing to do so is likely to challenge the constitutional validity of such grants. This is dressed up in government circles as addressing “constitutional risk”. It really means “breaching the Constitution because we are confident we can get away with it”.

Both major parties, when in government, have used publicly funded programs to their political advantage. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Financial Legislation

The next rule is section 71 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It says a minister must not approve a proposed expenditure of public money unless satisfied the expenditure would be a proper use of money. “Proper” is defined in the Act as meaning “efficient, effective, economical and ethical”.

Ordinarily, this is satisfied by an assessment made by public servants. But if the public servants advise that certain projects are unsuitable and not value for money (as occurred in relation to the Safer Communities Program), the minister can only overturn this if he or she makes reasonable inquiries resulting in evidence that supports a rational assessment that the projects are “efficient, effective, economical and ethical”.

Does anyone enforce these rules – even though they are imposed by law? It would seem not.

Rules About Commonwealth Grants

The Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines say that, before making grants, the minister must first receive written advice from officials, which sets out the application and selection process and assesses the merits of proposed grants against the guidelines.

This means a minister cannot approve and announce grants during a byelection (as occurred in relation to the Safer Communities Program), before the guidelines were made, applications opened, and any merit assessment was made.

The grant rules also say a minister may approve grants that are not recommended by public servants, but must report annually to the finance minister by March 31, giving reasons for the approval of each grant. The minister must record “the basis for the approval relative to the grant opportunity guidelines and the key principle of achieving value with relevant money”.

If the public servants advise certain grant applications are unsuitable and not value for money, and the minister overrides them, stating merely that the projects “will assist with the safety” of the relevant communities, is this adequate?

Well, no. At the very least, the minister must assess the project against the guidelines and should explain in writing why the grant was an efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of resources when the department had concluded it was not.

There are many rules that govern ministers’ abilities to allocate community grants, but most are neither followed nor enforced. Shutterstock

Administrative Law

Under administrative law, decision-makers must act within their legal powers and must not act for an improper purpose or in an irrational manner. They must behave in a manner that is procedurally fair to those affected by the decision.

This includes not acting in a biased manner or a way that might be perceived as biased. The courts look to whether a fair-minded observer might reasonably believe the decision-maker might not be impartial in making the decision.

Announcing the outcome of a decision weeks before the application was even made or assessed against the merit criteria, and then overriding the contrary assessment of public servants who had undertaken a merits assessment, would be strong indicators of “apprehended bias”.

While the courts do sometimes give deference to ministers in making decisions, a fair-minded observer is likely conclude in such a case that there was pre-judgment of the issues and a failure to exercise an impartial mind.

The Statement Of Ministerial Standards

The Statement of Ministerial Standards requires that ministers act in

the lawful and disinterested exercise of the statutory and other powers available to their office.

This standard would be breached if a minister broke any of the laws outlined above. It is also breached if the minister acts in self-interest or the interests of his or her political party, rather than in a “disinterested”, objective manner.

The standards also state:

Ministers are required to ensure that official decisions made by them as Ministers are unaffected by bias or irrelevant considerations, such as considerations of private advantage or disadvantage.

This requirement would be breached if a minister acted for his or her personal or political party’s benefit, rather than acting impartially in the public interest.

Are These Rules Enforced?

There are therefore many rules that limit ministers’ powers to approve grants. The real problem is that most of them are not enforced or enforceable.

The Statement of Ministerial Standards, for example, applies at the whim of the prime minister. There is no penalty for ministers breaching section 71 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 or the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines.

While legal proceedings can be brought to challenge the constitutional validity of the grants or the validity of the decisions under administrative law, it is generally not in the interests of those who could bring such proceedings to do so. All aggrieved grant applicants want the opportunity to get a grant in the future.

Ultimately, this means ministers can breach the rules and get away with it, undermining the rule of law and public confidence in governments.

So when politicians proclaim they have acted entirely within the rules, it may be more accurate to say that the rules cannot, in practice, be enforced against them, because they do their best to make sure this is the case.

The Senate committee clearly saw the consequence:

The failure to hold decision-makers to account gives rise to community anger and resentment about how governments conduct themselves in Australia. It also highlights the glaring disparity between how those in positions of authority are perceived to flout laws or rules with impunity, while ordinary citizens are required to strictly adhere to laws and rules or face severe penalties. This significantly undermines public trust in government and the political system.

Yes, it does, and both sides are to blame.The Conversation

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

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

Cave of Horror: fresh fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls echo dramatic human stories

Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea Scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem. AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner
Gareth WearneAustralian Catholic University

On Tuesday news broke of the discovery of fresh fragments of a nearly 2,000-year-old scroll in Israel. The fragments were said to come from the evocatively named Cave of Horror, near the western shore of the Dead Sea.

The finds were announced with attention-grabbing headlines that these were new fragments of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and some of our earliest evidence for the biblical books of Zechariah and Nahum.

But more than just remnants of ancient text, the discovery reflects the troubled history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and tells human stories of revolution, a desperate search for safety and archaeological ingenuity.

Read more: Dead Sea Scrolls: how we accidentally discovered missing text – in Manchester

People Of The Scroll

Information is still coming out, but unusually for ancient discoveries of this kind, we know something about the people who hid the scroll.

The Cave of Horror is one of a series of eight caves in the canyon of Naḥal Ḥever, which were used as places of refuge during a Jewish revolt against Rome (132–135 CE)in the time of the emperor Hadrian. The revolt was led by Simon bar Kochba (or Simon bar Kosebah, as he is also known in ancient sources), who was thought by his followers to be the Messiah.

The cave has been known to archaeologists since 1953, but it wasn’t until 1961 that it was excavated by a team led by the Israeli archaeologist, Yonahan Aharoni. The new fragments were found as part of a larger project to search for new manuscripts, which is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Caves and cliffs near the Dead Sea. Dave Herring/UnsplashCC BY

The cave is remote and difficult to access, which is doubtless why it was used as a hiding place. Aharoni describes the entrance as being 80 meters below the edge of the canyon with a drop of hundreds of meters below it. The team who first explored the cave in 1955 had to use a 100-meter-long rope ladder to reach the opening.

The nickname Cave of Horror was given to the cave because of a large number of skeletons, including children’s skeletons, that were found inside. Together with the skeletons were personal documents, a fragmentary copy of a prayer written in Hebrew, and the scroll to which these fragments belong, which was hidden at the back of the cave.

Remains of a Roman camp at the top of the cliff suggests the refugees sheltering there died as a result of a Roman siege. The occupants were determined not to surrender. There were no signs of wounds on the skeletons, suggesting the occupants died as a result of hunger and thirst, or possibly smoke inhalation from a fire in the centre of the cave.

They buried their most prized possessions, including the scroll from which these fragments come, to keep them safe.

Woman in lab holds up ancient items
Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday announced the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago. AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Our Oldest Biblical Texts

The photographs and reports released by the IAA indicate the fragments contain our earliest copy of Zechariah 8:16–17 and one of our earliest copies of Nahum 1:5–6. The fragments appear to be missing pieces of a scroll already known to scholars — the Greek Minor Prophets scroll from Naḥal Ḥever, or 8ḤevXIIgr to give it its official designation.

As the name suggests, the scroll is a copy of the Greek translation of the biblical minor prophets, containing portions of the books of Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Zechariah. The “minor prophets” or “the twelve” customarily describes the books spanning from Hosea to Malachi in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.

Among other things, the minor prophets include the story of Jonah being swallowed by a “great fish”.

Read more: The Dead Sea Scrolls are a priceless link to the Bible's past

Don’t Say His Name

The ancient Hebrew scriptures were first translated into Greek for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews who had begun to lose contact with their Hebrew roots. Ancient sources, such as the letter of Aristeas, indicate the work of translating the scriptures into Greek probably began in Egypt, some time around 200 years before Christ.

A fascinating feature of the Greek Minor Prophets scroll is the fact the name of God is written in Hebrew, not Greek. This practice stems back to the prohibition in Exodus 20:7 against “taking God’s name in vain”.

The Dead Sea Scrolls attest several practices for avoiding accidentally pronouncing the divine name while reading aloud. These include substituting dots in place of the letters and the use of an archaic form of the Hebrew alphabet.

This custom is the basis for the modern practice of writing Lord in capital letters in modern editions of the Bible.

Old papers rolled up in rubble
A photo of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the 1940s, before they were unravelled. Wikimedia Commons/Abraham Meir Habermann

Beating The Looters

Shortly after the discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 it became apparent the rare ancient manuscripts had financial value. This led to a race between archaeologists and local Bedouin to discover more scroll fragments.

Consequently, it can be difficult to verify the archaeological provenance of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls remnants.

More recently, fake scrolls have found their way into at least one modern museum collection. A new manuscript discovery with secure archaeological provenance, like the one announced last week, is immensely important.

Perhaps most excitingly, these new fragments leave open the tantalising possibility there are more scrolls out there, waiting to be found.

Read more: Fake scrolls at the Museum of the Bible The Conversation

Gareth Wearne, Lecturer in Biblical Studies, School of Theology, Australian Catholic University

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

These underwater photos show Norfolk Island reef life still thrives, from vibrant blue flatworms to soft pink corals

A big coral bommie in the lagoon at Norfolk Island. John Turbull Author provided
John TurnbullUNSW

Environmental scientists see flora, fauna and phenomena the rest of us rarely do. In this new series, we’ve invited them to share their unique photos from the field.

Two weeks ago, I found myself hitting the water on Norfolk Island, complete with a survey reel, slate and camera.

Norfolk Island is a small volcanic outcrop located between New Caledonia and New Zealand, 1,400 kilometres east of Australia’s Gold Coast. It’s surrounded by coral reefs, with a shallow lagoon on the south side that looks out on two smaller islands: Nepean and Phillip.

The island is picturesque, but like marine environments the world over, Norfolk Marine Park is subject to pressures from climate change, fishing pressure, habitat change and pollution.

I was diving in the marine park as a volunteer for Reef Life Survey, a citizen science program where trained SCUBA divers survey marine biodiversity in rocky and coral reefs around the world. We first surveyed Norfolk Island in 2009, then again in 2013, with an eight year hiatus before our return this month.

While the scientific analysis of our data is yet to be done, we can make anecdotal observations to compare this year’s findings with prior records and photographs. This time, our surveys turned up several new sightings and observations.

A wrinkly orange nudibranch nestled in algae
A red-ringed nudibranch (Ardeadoris rubroannulata). This beautiful little mollusc was a couple of centimetres long, nestled on the side of a wall covered in colourful algae. I had to look twice to notice it, but recognised it as a species I had seen before in Sydney. It had previously only been recorded in the Coral Sea, the east coast of Australia and Lord Howe island, so it was nice to get a record of it even further east in the Pacific. John TurnbullAuthor provided

What We Saw

Diving under the waves in Norfolk Marine Park takes you into a world of crackling, popping reef sounds through clear blue water, with darting tropical fish, a tapestry of algae and hard and soft corals in pink, green, brown and red.

In these surveys we record fish species including their size and abundance, invertebrates such as urchins and sea stars, and habitat such as coral cover. This allows us to track changes in marine life using standardised scientific methods.

Emily Bay is a sheltered swimming beach at the eastern end of the lagoon, great for snorkelling too thanks to the diverse corals just below the surface. John TurbullAuthor provided
An orange fish near a mound of orange coral
Banded parma are quite territorial — they charge you as you approach their turf. This one is guarding what it regards as its own personal coral clump. John TurbullAuthor provided

Given recent major marine heatwaves and bleaching events in Australia, we were pleased to see healthy corals on many of our survey sites on Norfolk. We even felt there had been increases in coral cover at some sites.

This may be due to Norfolk’s location. The island is further south than most Australian coral reefs, which means it has cooler seas, and it’s surrounded by deeper water. I’m a marine ecologist involved in soft coral monitoring at the University of NSW, so I particularly noticed the wonderful diversity and size of soft corals.

Healthy brown coral garden
This photo shows the structure corals provide for fish and other animals to shelter in. They are the foundation for the whole tropical marine community. The corals here are a healthy brown — which comes from the symbiotic algae in their tissues – with no signs of bleaching. John TurbullAuthor provided
Soft pink coral
The soft corals on Norfolk Island are some of the largest I’ve seen. Their structure is made up of soft tissue, often inflated by water pressure, rather than hard skeleton. John TurbullAuthor provided
Close-up of white, wrinkly coral
Hard corals come in a diversity of shapes and sizes, including this massive form growing on the side of rock wall. John TurbullAuthor provided

I noticed generally low numbers of large fish such as morwong and sharks on our survey sites. Some classes of invertebrate were also rare on this year’s surveys, particularly sea shell animals like tritons and whelks.

Urchins, on the other hand, were common, particularly the red urchin. Some sites also had numerous black long-spined urchins and large sea lamingtons.

These invertebrate observations follow patterns we see in eastern and southern Australia, where there are declines in the numbers of many invertebrate species, and increases in urchin barrens — regions where urchin populations grow unchecked.

The expansion of urchin barrens can threaten biodiversity in a region, as large numbers of a single species of urchin can out-compete multiple species of other invertebrates, over-graze algae and reduce habitat suitable for fish.

Red urchin beside coral
The abundant red urchin competes for space with other invertebrates, such as this one encrusting hard coral. John TurbullAuthor provided
Fat, black and white urchins beneath a coral mound
Lamingtons are an Australian cake (although there are claims they were invented in NZ!) and I love this descriptive common name for the Tripneustes gratilla urchin. The sea lamingtons on Norfolk appear particularly fat and happy, as they cluster in sheltered grooves during the day to avoid predators. They can also be different colours — I’ve seen them on the east coast of Australia in orange and cream, even with stripes. John TurbullAuthor provided
Two spindly shrimp beneath coral
A pair of banded cleaner shrimp, which grow to 9cm long. They advertise their fish cleaning services with their distinct banding and white antennae. John TurbullAuthor provided

A highlight of any survey dive is when you find an animal you suspect may not have been recorded at a location before, and I had several of those on this trip.

I recorded first sightings for Reef Life Survey of blue mao mao, convict surgeonfish, the blue band glidergoby, sergeant major (a damselfish), chestnut blenny, Susan’s flatworm, red-ringed nudibranch, fine-net peristernia and an undescribed weedfish.

While some of these sightings are yet to be confirmed by specialists, they gave a buzz of excitement each night as we searched the records to confirm our suspicions of a new find.

A school of large blu fish
This big school of drummer circled us for several minutes on our first survey dive at Nepean Island. If you look closely you can see one of the fish is different, in the top right. This is one of a few blue mao mao circulating in the school – and a first sighting for Reef Life Survey at Norfolk. You might also notice another species in the school, the darker spotted sawtail down the bottom of the photo. John TurbullAuthor provided
A vibrant blue ribbon-like worm with an orange stripe
Susan’s flatworm is a colourful invertebrate listed as living only in the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. This sighting from Norfolk Island is a new record in the Pacific Ocean. When I first saw this little worm at the end of a survey, I wondered if it was anything special. Just as well I took the photo anyway! John TurbullAuthor provided

Recruiting The Locals

Other highlights for me included the warm welcome we received from the local community on Norfolk and the great turnout we had at our community seminar. Everyone I spoke to was supportive and encouraging when they heard we were on the island as volunteers doing surveys, and several people expressed interest in getting involved.

This is great news, as the best outcome is for local people to be trained to conduct their own local surveys.

An underwater SCUBA selfie
Tyson, Sal, Jamie, Toni and me taking an underwater selfie on the west side of Phillip Island, 10 metres below the surface. It’s harder than on land, with your fins off the ground, everyone moving and bubbles to deal with. John TurbullAuthor provided

Ideally we will return for comprehensive surveys of our 17 sites every two years or so, allowing us to plot trends over time. Only then can we hope to understand what is really happening in our marine environment, and make evidence-based conservation decisions. Having a skilled local team would make this easier and more likely to happen.

In any case, our 2021 surveys in Norfolk Marine Park, conducted by our team of five dedicated volunteers and supported by many others, give us one more essential point in time in the Norfolk series, and gave me some great memories to boot.

You can view my full photo album from the Norfolk Island survey here.

Read more: Photos from the field: zooming in on Australia's hidden world of exquisite mites, snails and beetles The Conversation

John Turnbull, Postdoctoral research associate, UNSW

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

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

Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital. A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of Australia
Kerrie DaviesUNSW and Willa McDonaldMacquarie University

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

In 1886, a year before American journalist Nellie Bly feigned insanity to enter an asylum in New York and became a household name, Catherine Hay Thomson arrived at the entrance of Kew Asylum in Melbourne on “a hot grey morning with a lowering sky”.

Hay Thomson’s two-part article, The Female Side of Kew Asylum for The Argus newspaper revealed the conditions women endured in Melbourne’s public institutions.

Her articles were controversial, engaging, empathetic, and most likely the first known by an Australian female undercover journalist.

A ‘Female Vagabond’

Hay Thomson was accused of being a spy by Kew Asylum’s supervising doctor. The Bulletin called her “the female vagabond”, a reference to Melbourne’s famed undercover reporter of a decade earlier, Julian Thomas. But she was not after notoriety.

Unlike Bly and her ambitious contemporaries who turned to “stunt journalism” to escape the boredom of the women’s pages – one of the few avenues open to women newspaper writers – Hay Thomson was initially a teacher and ran schools with her mother in Melbourne and Ballarat.

Hay Thomson, standing centre with her mother and pupils at their Ballarat school, was a teacher before she became a journalist. Ballarat Grammar Archives/Museum Victoria

In 1876, she became one of the first female students to sit for the matriculation exam at Melbourne University, though women weren’t allowed to study at the university until 1880.

Going Undercover

Hay Thomson’s series for The Argus began in March 1886 with a piece entitled The Inner Life of the Melbourne Hospital. She secured work as an assistant nurse at Melbourne Hospital (now The Royal Melbourne Hospital) which was under scrutiny for high running costs and an abnormally high patient death rate.

Doctors at Melbourne Hospital in the mid 1880s did not wash their hands between patients, wrote Catherine Hay Thomson. State Library of Victoria

Her articles increased the pressure. She observed that the assistant nurses were untrained, worked largely as cleaners for poor pay in unsanitary conditions, slept in overcrowded dormitories and survived on the same food as the patients, which she described in stomach-turning detail.

The hospital linen was dirty, she reported, dinner tins and jugs were washed in the patients’ bathroom where poultices were also made, doctors did not wash their hands between patients.

Writing about a young woman caring for her dying friend, a 21-year-old impoverished single mother, Hay Thomson observed them “clinging together through all fortunes” and added that “no man can say that friendship between women is an impossibility”.

The Argus editorial called for the setting up of a “ladies’ committee” to oversee the cooking and cleaning. Formal nursing training was introduced in Victoria three years later.

Kew Asylum

Hay Thomson’s next series, about women’s treatment in the Kew Asylum, was published in March and April 1886.

Her articles predate Ten Days in a Madhouse written by Nellie Bly (born Elizabeth Cochran) for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.

While working in the asylum for a fortnight, Hay Thomson witnessed overcrowding, understaffing, a lack of training, and a need for woman physicians. Most of all, the reporter saw that many in the asylum suffered from institutionalisation rather than illness.

Kew Asylum around the time Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover there. Charles Rudd/State Library of Victoria

She described “the girl with the lovely hair” who endured chronic ear pain and was believed to be delusional. The writer countered “her pain is most probably real”.

Observing another patient, Hay Thomson wrote:

She requires to be guarded – saved from herself; but at the same time, she requires treatment … I have no hesitation in saying that the kind of treatment she needs is unattainable in Kew Asylum.

The day before the first asylum article was published, Hay Thomson gave evidence to the final sitting of Victoria’s Royal Commission on Asylums for the Insane and Inebriate, pre-empting what was to come in The Argus. Among the Commission’s final recommendations was that a new governing board should supervise appointments and training and appoint “lady physicians” for the female wards.

Suffer The Little Children

In May 1886, An Infant Asylum written “by a Visitor” was published. The institution was a place where mothers – unwed and impoverished - could reside until their babies were weaned and later adopted out.

Hay Thomson reserved her harshest criticism for the absent fathers:

These women … have to bear the burden unaided, all the weight of shame, remorse, and toil, [while] the other partner in the sin goes scot free.

For another article, Among the Blind: Victorian Asylum and School, she worked as an assistant needlewoman and called for talented music students at the school to be allowed to sit exams.

In A Penitent’s Life in the Magdalen Asylum, Hay Thomson supported nuns’ efforts to help women at the Abbotsford Convent, most of whom were not residents because they were “fallen”, she explained, but for reasons including alcoholism, old age and destitution.

Suffrage And Leadership

Hay Thomson helped found the Austral Salon of Women, Literature and the Arts in January 1890 and the National Council of Women of Victoria. Both organisations are still celebrating and campaigning for women.

Throughout, she continued writing, becoming Table Talk magazine’s music and social critic.

In 1899 she became editor of The Sun: An Australian Journal for the Home and Society, which she bought with Evelyn Gough. Hay Thomson also gave a series of lectures titled Women in Politics.

A Melbourne hotel maintains that Hay Thomson’s private residence was secretly on the fourth floor of Collins Street’s Rialto building around this time.

Home And Back

After selling The Sun, Hay Thomson returned to her birth city, Glasgow, Scotland, and to a precarious freelance career for English magazines such as Cassell’s.

Despite her own declining fortunes, she brought attention to writer and friend Grace Jennings Carmichael’s three young sons, who had been stranded in a Northampton poorhouse for six years following their mother’s death from pneumonia. After Hay Thomson’s article in The Argus, the Victorian government granted them free passage home.

Hay Thomson eschewed the conformity of marriage but tied the knot back in Melbourne in 1918, aged 72. The wedding at the Women Writer’s Club to Thomas Floyd Legge, culminated “a romance of forty years ago”. Mrs Legge, as she became, died in Cheltenham in 1928, only nine years later.The Conversation

Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW and Willa McDonald, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University

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

How young LGBTQIA+ people used social media to thrive during COVID lockdowns

Benjamin HanckelWestern Sydney University and Shiva ChandraWestern Sydney University

During COVID-19 lockdowns, a major concern for LGBTIQ+ communities, mental health professionals and academics was that young lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning, intersex and asexual+ people may suffer from being stuck in transphobic, biphobic or homophobic households.

But encouragingly, our research found these young people largely managed to navigate these spaces successfully, by increasing their social media use, exploring identity through digital channels and finding safe ways to maintain family relationships.

We spoke to 65 LGBTQIA+ people aged 16–30 from across Australia, with cultural backgrounds including Indigenous, European, South Asian, Middle Eastern and East Asian. For many, isolation provided an opportunity to reflect and build on their identity.

Surfing The Web During Lockdown

We spoke to queer people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual and demisexual — and with various gender identities such as cis male/female, intersex, non-binary, trans, gender-fluid, agender and questioning.

Our respondents expressed having generally increased their social media use during COVID-19 lockdowns, when they were forced to stay home. As a result, they reflected on and explored their gender and sexual identity online more than usual. One interviewee said:

It was definitely a big help just to have a chance to think about it on my own for a bit, instead of having to do other stuff.

The group reported using social mediums such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and Discord to find others like them — and to discover language that helped them make sense of their own feelings and desires (which is often absent from classrooms).

Read more: Pages and prejudice: how queer texts could fight homophobia in Australian schools

Maintaining Family Ties And Hobbies

During lockdowns, respondents had to actively decide what information to share with family and how to navigate these relationships online and offline.

This generally didn’t impede their identity work, however. Many said they blocked certain individuals, created multiple social media accounts or strategically shared content with only specific people.

Meanwhile, they also found ways to relate to and safely connect with other LGBTQIA+ people online. This is what experts call online “curation”. One young panromantic demiboy said:

I’m in a lot of private groups that are sort of other people from either Australia or across the world that just describe their experiences […] having a lot of other people around you that are in the same boat is just, you know, just really reassuring.

Online friends helped build an important sense of community, which then created space for discussions on gender and sexuality which may not have been possible with families.

Some respondents curated their online spaces with family in mind. For example, they would deliberately not be explicit about gender and sexual identity on certain platforms, due to concerns about repercussions for their parents. Thus, concern for loved ones shaped the way they used social media.

And while LGBTQIA+ communities were indeed important, this wasn’t all respondents looked for. Their online communities were made up of LGBTQIA+ people and others who enjoyed cosplay, gaming, art, baking, fandoms and anime.

Young queer people, like all people, are multifaceted and have a variety of interests, so identity work happens alongside hobbies and fun. One queer trans man we interviewed said his circles featured a strong mix of both queer and fandom themes:

I tend to find the queer community within the fandom really, really quickly.

Read more: How pop culture has become a refuge for queer children

But Social Media Has Its Downsides

Unfortunately, we found young queer people also dealt with negativity on social media during lockdowns.

They recounted seeing hateful comments that marginalised and denigrated queer people and expressed concern about social media sites censoring queer-related content more harshly than other content.

We know queer online spaces themselves can be prejudicial and have examples of transphobia and discrimination against bisexual individuals.

Our respondents mentioned their experiences teaching others (both straight and LGBTQIA+ people) about gender and sexuality online. Many valued an educative approach for people with prejudicial and discriminatory ideas.

We found the onus of this work often fell on them, while they emphasised it was a balancing act; they didn’t always want to engage with negative material about themselves or similar groups.

Supporting Young LGBTQIA+ People

Notwithstanding obvious differences in lived experience, our findings indicate LGBTQIA+ youth know how to find creative, resourceful and intelligent ways to thrive online.

Yet it’s imperative society at large continues to support LGBTQIA+ youth and help make sure their experiences are not negative. There are a few ways this can be done:

  • Introduce support resources to assist young LGBTQIA+ people with using online spaces to their advantage and as their circumstances require. Our respondents expressed this would be helpful as they frequently deal with stigma and fear online.

  • Advocate for better social media policies that support inclusion and diversity. Platforms must also be more discerning when LGBTQIA+ content is reported, as people may flag material due to their prejudices and not because something is wrong with it.

  • More broadly, we should all work to ensure fair representation and widespread acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in everyday life. This will help reduce day-to-day stigma. For a start, we can all share more diverse LGBTQIA+ content on our own social media profiles.

Read more: Friday essay: hidden in plain sight — Australian queer men and women before gay liberation The Conversation

Benjamin Hanckel, Senior research fellow, Western Sydney University and Shiva Chandra, Research Assistant, Western Sydney University

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

Cheerleaders are athletes. The NRL should pause on packing away the pom poms

Michelle O'SheaWestern Sydney UniversityPatrick van EschAuckland University of Technology, and Sarah DuffyWestern Sydney University

As the NRL competition ushers in its 2021 season, women waving pom poms while clad in figure hugging attire and white, knee-high boots will be missing from some games.

The Parramatta Eels are the latest and fifth team to cut their cheerleading squad, announcing in late January their 30 cheerleaders wouldn’t be employed this year. This decision also means nearly 80 junior cheer girls no longer have a home.

From a peak of 16 cheerleading teams in 2006, this year only 11 teams will still have cheerleaders on the sidelines.

In 2007, the then new owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Russell Crowe, said cheerleaders made spectators “uncomfortable”. They were replaced with a marching band. In 2017, the Canberra Raiders replaced their squad with a game-day competition for local dance schools.

In 2019, the Melbourne Storm replaced cheer girls with mixed gender hip hop crews.The Brisbane Broncos rebranded their cheerleaders as a “dance squad”, and toned down their uniforms to “desexualise” performers and celebrate their athleticism.

For many teams, the cheerleaders are now positioned as brand ambassadors, involved in community outreach, attired in more modest costumes. Their remit is fundamentally changing. Cheering on the sidelines is increasingly looking like a sexist relic.

But rather than remove cheerleaders from sport fields altogether, we should celebrate their athleticism, embracing cheerleading as a sport in its own right.

It Wasn’t Always Women Who Cheered

Although women are most often associated with cheerleading, it was once a male pursuit. Even as teams diversified, George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, and Franklin D. Roosevelt were all cheerleaders.

Black and white photo. Four boys squat in a cheer in front of bleachers.
Cheerleading was once a male pursuit, as in this photograph of Woodrow Wilson High School cheerleaders leading students in a yell at a football game. Library of Congress

Women first joined their American college cheer squads in 1923, participating in greater numbers in the 1940s as college-aged men went off to war. In this decade, cheerleading started to feature tumbling and acrobatics. Competitive cheerleading was introduced in the United States in the 1970s.

Today, both sideline and competition routines incorporate advanced tumbling, stunts and pyramid building alongside cheer and dance. The athleticism, skill and commitment is the same.

Cheerleading in Australia never reached the same mainstream popularity as in America. Female supporters banded together in the 1960s to form a cheer squad for the Carlton AFL club, but it never truly took off in the sport.

Cheerleading today has its Australian home in the NRL and the National Basketball League.

But as in America, Australian girls and women are increasingly becoming the team — not just cheering on the team from the sidelines.

Founded in 2016, Australia’s All Star Cheerleading competitions are gaining popularity and reach, now with over 60,000 registered competitors across the country, who show off their skills in complex routines featuring gymnastics, dance, pyramids and acrobatics.

In 2017, competition cheerleading was granted provisional Olympic status, putting it on the path to being an official Olympic sport as early as Paris 2024.

It’s Time To Rethink The Cheerleader Stereotype

In popular culture, cheerleaders continue to be cast as a trivial diversion to the real athletic performances on centre field. They are shown as two dimensional bimbos in pornography, and they are often portrayed as vapid and shallow in movies.

This reputation is slowly being recast, in part thanks to the popular Netflix docuseries Cheer. Following the co-ed team of a community college in Texas as they train for the national competition, the show highlights the sacrifices these athletes have made, and the high stakes for their physical health.

Cheer celebrates powerful images of the cheerleader by focusing on their athleticism, and their commitment to train, rehearse and perform to a competition level.

Cheerleading can reinforce the notion of sport as a masculine domain if the women involved are treated as a titillating sideline act. But cheer squads can also challenge gender ideals by celebrating women’s athleticism, skill and professionalism.

Cheerleading is a very physical – and potentially dangerous — activity, which requires both finesse and strength.

Don’t Cancel The Cheer

Rather than remove cheerleaders from the field, we should celebrate their athleticism and embrace it as a sport in its own right: moving away from the skimpy outfits and dancers, towards the physical athleticism of competition cheer.

Let’s challenge the status quo by dropping the eroticised messages that devalue cheerleaders but respect their contribution to their clubs, community and the game-day spectacle.

When cheerleaders are positioned as sexualised adornments alongside the “true” athletes playing rugby league, young boys and men are taught it is okay to treat women as objects.

When they are positioned as athletes, their physicality appreciated and respected, cheerleading can provide these women (and increasingly men) with paid work and a respected place on the sporting field.

As the football season begins, let’s not be too quick to cancel the cheer.The Conversation

Michelle O'Shea, Senior Lecturer, School of Business, Western Sydney UniversityPatrick van Esch, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, AUT Business School, Auckland University of Technology, and Sarah Duffy, Lecturer, School of Business, Western Sydney University

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

COVID-19 Is A “Serious Risk” To 80% Of Older Australians

March 16, 2021
At least 80 per cent of Australians aged over 70 years are at high risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19, according to a new study led by the University of South Australia.

People with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are more vulnerable to poor outcomes if they contract COVID-19 and having more than one of these conditions increases the risks. 

The study, published in the Australian Journal of General Practice, involved 103,422 Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) clients. It revealed that more than 80 per cent had at least one risk factor for COVID-19, half of them had two risk factors, and 20 per cent had more than three risk factors, including immune-related diseases and diabetes.

Of the older Australians living in the community – who comprised 88 per cent of the study participants – the most common condition was high blood pressure followed by heart disease.  Those living in residential aged care (RAC), had slightly lower rates of high blood pressure but had higher rates of heart disease, respiratory conditions, and kidney disease. 

Lead author Associate Professor Nicole Pratt, Deputy Director of the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre at UniSA, says the findings align with evidence from other countries where patients have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

“In the US for example, 70 per cent of older patients admitted for COVID-19 in the past year had high blood pressure, 43 per cent had diabetes and 29 per cent suffered from cardiopulmonary diseases,” Assoc Prof Pratt says.

“A quarter of the older Australians that we studied live with an autoimmunity condition like cancer or may be taking medicines that suppress their immune systems and one in five has diabetes.  These conditions carry a far higher risk for COVID-19 than some other conditions.”

The latest statistics released by the Federal Government show that of the 904 Australians who have died of COVID-19, 94 per cent of them are aged 70 years and older.

Since the study was completed, the Government has started rolling out the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia’s most vulnerable and frontline workers, including 30,000 aged care residents and staff across the country.

“Our findings highlight the urgent need for older Australians to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible,” Assoc Prof Pratt says.

COVID-19 vaccination eligibility dates are available from:

Ageism Is A Global Challenge: UN

March 19, 2021
Every second person in the world is believed to hold ageist attitudes – leading to poorer physical and mental health and reduced quality of life for older persons, costing societies billions of dollars each year, according to a new United Nations report on ageism.

The report released today by WHO, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), calls for urgent action to combat ageism and better measurement and reporting to expose ageism for what it is – an insidious scourge on society.

The response to control the COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled just how widespread ageism is – older and younger people have been stereotyped in public discourse and on social media. In some contexts, age has been used as the sole criterion for access to medical care, lifesaving therapies and for physical isolation.

“As countries seek to recover and rebuild from the pandemic, we cannot let age-based stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination limit opportunities to secure the health, well-being and dignity of people everywhere,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This report outlines the nature and scale of the problem but also offers solutions in the form of evidence-based interventions to end ageism at all stages.”

Findings from the report
Ageism seeps into many institutions and sectors of society including those providing health and social care, in the workplace, media and the legal system. Healthcare rationing based solely on age is widespread.  A systematic review in 2020 showed that in 85 per cent of 149 studies, age determined who received certain medical procedures or treatments.

Both older and younger adults are often disadvantaged in the workplace and access to specialized training and education decline significantly with age. Ageism against younger people manifests across many areas such as employment, health, housing and politics where younger people’s voices are often denied or dismissed. 

“Ageism towards younger and older people is prevalent, unrecognized, unchallenged and has far-reaching consequences for our economies and societies,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Together, we can prevent this. Join the movement and combat ageism.” 

Ageism has serious and wide-ranging consequences for people’s health and well-being. Among older people, ageism is associated with poorer physical and mental health, increased social isolation and loneliness, greater financial insecurity, decreased quality of life and premature death. An estimated 6.3 million cases of depression globally are estimated to be attributable to ageism.  It intersects and exacerbates other forms of bias and disadvantage including those related to sex, race and disability leading to a negative impact on people’s health and well-being.

“The pandemic has put into stark relief the vulnerabilities of older people, especially those most marginalized, who often face overlapping discrimination and barriers – because they are poor, live with disabilities, are women living alone, or belong to minority groups,” said Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund. “Let’s make this crisis a turning point in the way we see, treat and respond to older people, so that together we can build the world of health, well-being and dignity for all ages that we all want."

Ageism costs our societies billions of dollars. In the United States of America (USA), a 2020 study showed ageism in the form of negative age stereotypes and self-perceptions led to excess annual costs of US$63 billion for the eight most expensive health conditions. This amounts to US$1 in every US$7 spent on these conditions for all Americans over the age of 60 for one year (see note to editors).

Estimates in Australia suggest that if 5 per cent more people aged 55 or older were employed, there would be a positive impact of AUD$48 billion on the national economy annually. There are currently limited data and information on the economic costs of ageism and more research is needed to better understand its economic impact, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

“Ageism harms everyone – old and young. But often, it is so widespread and accepted – in our attitudes and in policies, laws and institutions – that we do not even recognize its detrimental effect on our dignity and rights said Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We need to fight ageism head-on, as a deep-rooted human rights violation.”

Combatting ageism
The report notes that policies and laws that address ageism, educational activities that enhance empathy and dispel misconceptions, and intergenerational activities that reduce prejudice all help decrease ageism.

All countries and stakeholders are encouraged to use evidence-based strategies, improve data collection and research and work together to build a movement to change how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing, and to advance progress on the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.

Read or download the The Global report on ageism.

'A lot of us can relate to struggling to keep on top of everything.' This is what mature-age students need from online higher education

Ameena Leah PayneSwinburne University of Technology

“I completed high school 20 years ago and wanted a ‘little break’ before furthering my study. That ‘little break’ was extended as my family grew. Life happened, and I never quite found the right time to keep my promise to myself to go to uni – until now!”

“This is my first teaching period in uni. I’m 36 years old. I live with my wife and two very active kids. When I’m not being a chef, cleaner and taxi driver (you know the list), I’m working as a learning support officer at our local school. I haven’t written an academic essay in over 15 years!”

These are common introductions of my mature-age students. They often share their family backgrounds, nervousness, excitement and responsibilities they have to juggle as they begin their uni journey. In sharing, they “feel a sense of solidarity seeing others post about their concerns”, as one student put it.

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

Students in general say a critical issue in the shift to online higher education has been a lack of adequate support, interaction and engagement with academic staff and peers.

More than 430,000 students are aged 25 years and older. That’s 39.1% of the total domestic higher education enrolment, and mature-age students account for 22% of first-year undergraduates.

Mature-age, online students are identified as the most vulnerable to not completing their degree. That happens to about 43% of them compared to 30% of those aged 20 to 24 and 21% for students who enrol straight out of school.

Given the inconsistent completion outcomes for mature-age students compared to younger and on-campus students, a different approach is needed. This means universities must take account of the particular needs and circumstances of mature-age students.

“I think a lot of us can relate to the idea of struggling to keep on top of everything.”

Who Are These Students?

Mature age” refers to adults who enter their course based on work experience or who have not studied recently. They are more likely to have responsibility for others and be in the paid workforce.

Growing numbers of students are entering fully online higher education. And students 25 years and older are more strongly represented in online studies than face-to-face studies.

2019 study of mature-age learners highlighted the following challenges of studying online:

  • uncertainty in abilities leading to a “narrative of disadvantage” and a feeling of stepping into a space where they feel they do not belong

  • first-year, mature-age students consider withdrawing from their studies at higher rates

  • enrolment in university may be rooted in previous negative educational experiences – traditionally, the status quo in higher education has not served students at the margins.

Chart showing diversity of higher education students
DESE 2019 Higher Education StatisticsCC BY

Online Teaching Compounds Existing Weaknesses

In the shift to online, many education providers are making the same mistakes by continuing with impersonal teaching methods. Students aged 25 and over rate engagement as the least satisfactory aspect of their online courses.

Active engagement tends to drop off as the teaching period progresses. (The proxy measures of “engagement” are active presence and involved participation.)

Further, education has commonly had an emphasis on subordination. Cue the “domineering teacher” portrayed by antagonist Terence Fletcher in the 2014 film Whiplash. One-way information transmission and an expectation of passive knowledge acquisition have overshadowed relationships between teaching staff and students.

The challenge, then, is to start off in a way that develops a culture of trust, collegiality, openness and contribution.

‘It Resonates!’ Recognising Experiences And Skills

Mature-age students are starting online higher education with a variety of aptitudes, knowledge, opinions and values. These backgrounds affect how students engage with and construe information. The online experience should encourage connectionactive participation and critical thinking.

The language of education is shifting to incorporate students as “stakeholders”, “co-constructors” and “active participants”. Such terms have a powerful effect.

In 1930, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey advocated for empowering learners by honouring their lived experiences and capabilities. Reforms of the 1960s and ‘70s began shifting education toward autonomy, allowing for reflection, independence and flexibility. More recent geopolitical movements, driven by social media, are, once again, prompting an upturn in education that emphasises discussion, openness and independent thought.

It’s essential that these themes be re-created in today’s digital learning environments.

“You made me feel like I am not alone in this. I was anxious and afraid that I won’t be able to keep up.”

Emerging from the 2019 study of mature-age students were several key recommendations:

  1. understand and value the circumstances and experiences of this cohort

  2. communication and personal contact are vital

  3. embed timely, proactive support.

In such environments, educators must be given the time to get to know their students’ situations and experiences. They can then reach out to support them. In essence, Dewey argued for educators to meet learners where they are, wherever that may be.

“I have felt I was always able to contact you and receive helpful advice. It means a lot – especially for newcomers like me!”

These suggestions are in line with the findings and recommendations of the recent Macklin Review of post-secondary education and training in Victoria. Times of growth and uncertainty call for greater adaptability, empathy and innovation. This will feed into student retention, progression and ultimately an undergraduate qualification.

To government and institutions: online education, and of mature-age students in particular, must be approached differently. Education can only act as the great social equaliser if the growing cohort of mature-age students are engaged and supported to reach their academic goals.

To current and emerging mature-age learners: well done to you! You are seen and being heard.The Conversation

Ameena Leah Payne, eLearning Advisor, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Warringah - Pittwater Headquarters Rural Fire Brigade Life Membership

March 17, 2021
At tonight's General Meeting, Headquarters Brigade awarded an outstanding 50 year continuous service to one of our HQ Life Members.

Allan Brett has been a member of HQ since he joined the Bushfire Service (Now NSW Rural Fire Service) in 1971. AB has been instrumental in helping Warringah/Pittwater RFD go from strength to strength and has had an operational role in every local, Statewide and Interstate emergency since joining. We as a brigade are lucky to have such a wealth of knowledge here to help us. 

Congratulations Allan and here's to another 50 years.

Assistance To Pay Your Aged Care Costs

March 19 2021
It’s now easier to get help if you need assistance to pay your aged care costs.
Services Australia have improved their Aged Care Claim for financial hardship assistance form and made changes to some evidence requirements. They’ve made these changes so it’s easier for you to get help.

You may get help if you can’t pay your aged care costs and you’re either:
  • in residential or respite care
  • getting a home care package.
You can claim for financial hardship assistance if all of the following apply:
If you get a Home Care Package, your care must have started on or after 1 July 2014.

Before you claim, you should update your income and asset details as well as your partners if you have one. You may also be eligible for other payments and services.

Next steps

Sleep Maximises Vaccine Effectiveness

March 16, 2021
With the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines now underway, University of South Australia sleep experts are urging people to reprioritise their sleep, as getting regular and sufficient sleep is known to boost your immune system.

In Australia, four in every ten people suffer from a lack of sleep. Globally, around 62 per cent of adults  feel that they don’t sleep well when they go to bed. 

UniSA sleep and fatigue researcher, Dr Raymond Matthews, says sleep is an essential factor for maintaining good health and wellbeing, especially during the pandemic.

“At the moment, we’re all very focussed on staying healthy – sanitising our hands and keeping socially distanced – but what many people forget is that sleep plays an essential role in our overall health,” Dr Matthews says.

“Sleep plays a vital role in our body’s immune system. When we get enough sleep, our white blood cells can more efficiently fight invading bacteria or viruses. But when we cut back on sleep, the reverse happens, our white blood cells are reduced, and we end up with a compromised immune system.

“For example, one laboratory study, restricted sleep of healthy participants to four hours a night for six nights before administration of an influenza vaccine. Up to 10 days later, the sleep-deprived individuals possessed half the number of vaccine antibodies than the non-sleep-deprived controls.

“Understanding the importance of sleep is critically important, especially now, as Australia starts to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’re urged to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, but with the daily pressures of work, school, and family life, it’s often too easy to sacrifice.

“If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, there are things you can do:
  1. choose light, rather than heavy meals in the evening
  2. keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet
  3. avoid bright light in the evening – especially light from phones and devices – and make sure you get enough sunlight in the morning
  4. exercise during the day
  5. avoiding cigarettes, caffeine, and alcohol.
“Having a relaxing a bedtime routine can help. This could include turning the TV off earlier, or reading a book in bed, but really, it’s whatever makes you feel calm and comfortable.

“Of course, if you find you just can't sleep, sometimes it’s best to get up and do something relaxing until you start to feel tired.

“These times are no doubt challenging, but sound sleep is something we should all prioritise, especially during COVID-19.”

WHO Global Report On Ageism Right At Home In Australia

March 19, 2021
COTA Australia says the WHO Global report on Ageism released today, which highlights the prevalence of ageism globally and makes key recommendations for how to combat it, is as relevant in Australia as it is anywhere else in the world.

The report finds that 1 in 2 people worldwide are ageist against older people and that this impacts on older people’s life span, income, poorer physical and mental health, slower recovery from disability and cognitive decline.

“This report also shows just how pervasive ageism is in our society. We see it in our workplaces, in our health care system and of course we’ve seen it rife throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia said.

“When older people are undervalued, we all miss out, as individuals, as communities, and as an economy. The hidden costs of ageism and age discrimination in employment, health care and other areas is enormous, and the WHO Report calls for more research, education and legislation to understand and combat this scourge.

“We would all benefit from living in a nation that fully harnesses the experience and contributions of all its people, including all older people. Our economy would grow significantly, and people’s health and well-being would increase across the lifespan.

“Making and end to ageism a global priority through the UN, WHO and other international agencies is overdue, but very welcome. It underscores the need for both cultural and policy change to put an end to ageism right across the globe.

COTA is a leading member of the Every Age Counts coalition, a national campaign which aims to tackle ageism against older people in Australia, which the is praised by the WHO Report..

“Every person has a role to play in stopping ageism. We need governments, businesses, civil organisations and every single person in the country to put an end to ageism, starting now.”

Viewpoint On Sydney

Published by NFSA March 15, 2021
From the Film Australia Collection. Made by Film Australia 1975. Directed by Arch Nicholson. 
The city of Sydney, New South Wales, as seen through the eyes of European migrants. People see cities with different eyes. While most cities in the world have big buildings and lots of people there are many facets of city life that may appeal or be repellents - especially to the newcomer. This series of films on Australian capital cities presents the views of migrants who have settled down to live in them. What they see and what they say about Australia's main cities is of interest and value to both the native born city dweller and to the intending migrant.

Aged Care Respite Services Bolstered For Culturally Diverse Groups

March 16, 2021
Older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities across the country are set to access more tailored respite care.

The Federal Government will fund an additional $9.67 million per year over two years through the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the funding would support culturally and linguistically diverse senior Australians to live independently and safely in their own homes and local communities and provide respite for carers.

“Forty aged and disability care providers will deliver the additional centre‑based respite services to older Australians from multicultural communities, including those from Chinese, Italian, Greek, Polish, Russian and Indian backgrounds, to name a few,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Importantly, the Government is directing the extra funding to those areas in most need across the country – where there are service gaps and the highest level of demand.”

Centre‑based respite services can include group activities to help ease isolation and encourage social interaction, group excursions, and meals. Carers and family members can take part in the activities or leave the older person in the care of the provider.

“Social isolation was – and is – a very real problem for older Australians during the pandemic,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Language barriers and cultural differences have made it even harder for people from diverse backgrounds.

“It’s important the additional services on offer focus on tailored support and programs that are suited to the needs of these seniors, and the needs of their communities.”

To access services, older Australians will need to contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 and arrange for a formal assessment of their care needs.

Service providers are required to be as responsive as possible to requests from older Australians and their carers for short-term or non-ongoing respite.

Phantom Of The Opera Coming To Opera House: Tickets On Sale In April

Sydney Opera House will be cloaked in the magic and mystery of Broadway’s longest running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, when it opens in September.

The NSW Government has secured an eight-week season of the global sensation for the Harbour City through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. 

The Phantom will be played by Australian star Josh Piterman who was playing the role in London when the pandemic closed theatres globally.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the musical would play an important role in the state’s ongoing road to recovery.

“Musicals and theatre productions are a major contributor to the NSW visitor economy, which is why we have been working with Health and the live performance community to get this important sector back up and thriving.

“The Phantom of the Opera is a cultural icon and we anticipate that this upcoming season at Sydney Opera House will attract more than 10,000 visitors who stay more than 25,000 nights and spend close to $6.14 million.

“We are delighted to have secured this significant coup for Sydney, which also reinforces our vision of positioning Sydney and NSW as the premier events destination of the Asia Pacific,” Mr Ayres said.

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said it would be the first time a professional season of the musical had been performed on an Australian stage since 2009.

“The Phantom of the Opera has captivated audiences worldwide since it opened in London’s West End in 1986 and then Broadway in 1988 - evidenced by the many accolades it has won including four Olivier Awards and seven Tony Awards.

“Whether you are a musical theatre fan or occasional theatregoer, The Phantom of the Opera is a must-see favourite, and we are incredibly excited to welcome visitors to Sydney for its sought after Australian return,” Mr Harwin said.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Producer Cameron Mackintosh said, “We are thrilled to be bringing this exciting new production to Australia. The show has already proved a sensational box office success on National tours across the UK and the US.

“It is a great delight to us both that a new production which has a totally original take on our beloved Phantom has been embraced with as much enthusiasm as the brilliant original.”

Opera Australia, in association with The Really Useful Group, will present Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, from 2 September to 29 October 2021Tickets go on sale in April 2021.

AvPals 2021 

Avpals are pleased to announce that our very popular group training seminars are resuming at the Newport Community Centre from the beginning of Term ONE in 2021. 

Details of these courses APPEAR HERE and we invite you to join up as soon as possible. You can also read much more about the term’s courses HERE. We now offer the option to reserve and pay online using our secure credit card facility. Due to the additional Covid 19 restrictions above and beyond the government’s requirements, we have severely rationed the numbers that can attend.

Find out more at:

World Frog Day Heralds Bumper Season For Local Frogs

This World Frog Day (Saturday March 20) it’s worth celebrating a bumper Spring and Summer for frogs. And now, with all this rain, you can still hear them croaking from every front yard or nearby creek

Doctor Joanne Ocock, Project Officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service said native frogs have a range of strategies to deal with dry and wet cycles.

“All the frogs in our area need water to lay eggs and allow tadpoles to develop into new frogs, but not all have the same strategy for surviving when the water starts to dry up.

“There is not one secret formula for surviving as a frog in the Central West and North West Plains, it is inevitable that the dry will happen and they all approach it in different ways.

“Frogs like the barking marsh frog or salmon-striped frog, lose water through their skin quickly so need to stay close to damp areas. They survive dry times by sheltering near remaining waterholes or creeks, down muddy cracks and in the middle of wetland reeds and rushes.

“Tree frogs are the ones people see more often around the house, like the Peron’s tree frog or green tree frog. These frogs have a slightly different skin type so don’t lose water as easily. They also make sure to shelter in places with low wind exposure and high humidity, like a drainpipe. This means they can roam further from water and survive for long periods until the rains come again.

“But the most extreme strategy is employed by the frogs who burrow underground and make a cocoon from layers of their own skin!

“Frogs like the water-holding frog and striped burrowing frog, then wait out the dry for up to two years in a type of hibernation called aestivation when all bodily functions virtually shut down. Once they sense the rains have returned, the frog will eat the cocoon and dig its way back out, ready to soak up some water have a feed and get back to business. Until it dries out again.

“The Central West and North West Plains are somewhat unique in the high numbers of each type of frog occurring here. This is due to the range of habitats from creeks and streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and temporarily flooded depressions, providing perfect habitat for all sorts of frogs.

“Get out and explore your local national park. Stop and listen for frogs, especially at dusk. You’ll hear a different chorus from those at your back window and will start to appreciate the variety of frogs in your local area,” Dr Ocock said.

Not quite sure what you are hearing? The Australian Museum runs a fantastic identification app

Images: Litoria caerulea Green tree frog, Limnodynastes salmini Salmon-striped frog by and Striped burrowing frog Litoria alboguttata - all by Dr. Ocock Perons Tree frog by A J Guesdon


Royal Easter Show 2021 Showcases A Whole World Of Animals

Have you seen all the great animals you can visit at this year's Royal Easter Show? This (apart from show bags and fairy floss) was always my favourite part of each year's show. I managed to get some tickets for my nieces and their cousins a bit over a week ago now - they like all the rides (and the show bags) - but they also love animals and even collect toy animals.

One of my favourite animal displays are the horses. Did you know that the Sydney Royal Horse Show is the largest of its kind attracting over 5,500 entries exhibiting the most prestigious horses in Australia and New Zealand?

There's a competitive event every day of the Show with classes including: Breeds, Hacks, Light and Heavy Harness, Showjumping, Campdraft, Polo, Rodeo, Pony Club, Tentpegging and Heavy Horse Obstacle Vaulting. You can see that every day of the Royal Easter Show in the big stadium and in the arena. Youngsters are getting involved in the Youth Polocrosse this year too. Originating in NSW in 1939, Polocrosse is an action-packed team sport enjoyed by all age groups. This year Junior Polocrosse teams will compete in four exhibition matches, combining the skills of polo with the speed of lacrosse. Using long-handled racquets, the aim is to scoop up the ball and get it into the goal. With only three players on the field for each team, the pace is fast.

Grand parade, Easter Show, circa 1925 to 1955, from album: Hood Collection part II : [Royal Agricultural Society Showground: Easter Shows, Sheep Shows, Highland gatherings, etc. (and including other agricultural industry scenes)] courtesy State Library of NSW, the Mitchell Library. Image No.: a359002h

Visiting the Pet Pavilion is pretty amazing too as it 'shows' you all the animals people keep as pets - everything from mice to birds and even frogs can be seen, however, it's the puppies and kittens we love.

For those who don't spend time on a farm there's the 10 Shake Farmyard Nursery. Here  you will find 10 Shake Farmyard Nursery - an open-plan indoor paddock with over 500 free-range animals you can pat. Here you'll see playful ducklings on their waterslide, piglets, geese, donkeys and much more or maybe have a go at feeding the friendly chickens, sheep and goats that come to visit you.

If you want to find out more about being on a farm you can visit the Junior Farm Hands. Here you can grind grain, dig for vegetables and move animals around your farm. RAS Junior Farm Hands activities give little ones the opportunity to try their hand as a farmer and even take a turn in the tractor - don't leave the Food Farm without collecting your very own tractor licence!

Follow the link to download your Junior Farm Hands Activity booklet.

While finding out all about farming you may want to pop into the District Exhibits - this is like a mini-tour through our very own countryside. These spectacular constructions of vegetables, fruit and other produce are one of the highlights of The Sydney Royal Easter Show. These giant displays are a cooperative work by growers that reflect the diversity and excellence of their regional produce. Each consists of more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce from five agricultural districts throughout NSW and South East Queensland.

Kids Street is designed for tiny tots to pre-teens, with a recharge spot for mum and dad too, featuring a selection of carnival games, hot food, coffee, and a specially marked pram parking zone. Located at GIANTS Stadium Concourse, all rides are available for only 4 coupons each (yes, I got them some rides coupons too - saves waiting around, we hope!). 

But, let's get to the showbags - did you know these began over 100 years ago as 'sample' bags?

Originating at the Sydney Royal Easter Show sometime between 1909 and 1914, possibly by kiddie-favourites Gravox, the bags were originally given away by brands hoping to launch their wares by providing free samples of products. Food samples were handed out, and these were to evolve into 'sample bags'. By the late 1920s (1927), as the cost of producing bags became too much for companies, they began being sold.

So - what's good value or just great fun this year?

There's some great samples in the lollies department of course - we like getting Bertie Beetles at the RAS as you often can't get them elsewhere. They have a good deal this year with 3 bags for $8.00, while stocks last. What’s included:

1x Bertie Beetle Red Showbag $2.90
1x Bertie Beetle Blue Showbag $4.00
1x Bertie Beetle Platinum Showbag $9.60

But the best deal is always the Ag Bag - Inside the Home and Lifestyle Pavilion, while available. This one is $25 but you get around $80 worth of stuff in it and after visiting the Farm, this one may appeal as it's filled with Australian made products. What's more, the RASF Ag Bag is a fundraising bag - All proceeds go back to rural & regional community projects. Australian-made contents donated by Australian-owned companies. For more information on the work of the RASF visit

What's included in 2021:

1x SunRice Microwave Brown Rice 250g $2.50
1x SunRice Brown Rice Chips (assorted Flavours) 150g $5.00
1x Selector Magazine 300g $8.50
1x Manildra - The Healthy Baker Flour 1kg $3.00
1x Manildra - Recipe Booklet $6.00
1x Manildra - "Stay Safe" Hand Sanitizer 50ml $6.00
1x Freedom Foods - Australia's Own Barista Almond Milk 1lr $4.50
1x Rinoldi - Vetta Pasta 500g $2.25
1x Kurrajong Kitchen - Lavosh Original Poppy & Sesame Seed Bites 100g $3.00
1x Carman's Kitchen - Brownie Cholc Aussie Oat Bar $0.84
1x Maxiblock - Kinder Sunscreen Lotion SPF50 100 g + Flyer $10.95
1x Karma Rub - Liquid Magnesium Rub 2.5ml x 4 & Liquid Night Cream 10ml x 1 Sachets $5.00
1x Slim Secrets - Protein Choc Fudge Brownie 100g $3.80
1x Royston Petrie Seeds - Spinach N.Z. Warrigal Greens $3.50
1x NSW Landcare - Everlasting Daisy Seeds Sticks $2.50
1x Seasol - Seaweed Concertrate Sachet 45g $1.00
1x Oz-Pet - Litter Scooper $5.00
1x Albury Enviro Calico Bag $5.00
1x "I Love Aussie Farmers" Sticker $0.60
1x "I Love Australia Made" Sticker $1.00
1x CanAssist Brochure & tea bags $0.06
1x RAMPH Mental Health Brochure
1x Birdsnest Voucher - get $20 off when you spend $75 or more online
1x Rich Glen Olive Estate Voucher - get a free Poppy's Favourite Dressing ($10) when you spend $60 or more online

Ok, so that one may not interest you as much as the ones for youngsters, BUT, isn't it great to see and know how many different foods and products are made right here?

We were looking at the 2021 Sydney Royal Easter Show Prizes for cheeses, just announced, and that too is a great insight into what wonderful tastes come from right here, where you live. I can tell you, having spent some time visiting other places far from Australia, nothing compares to the quality and great clean tastes we have here.

Apart from the lollies bags there's some good value for boys and girls in other bags, if you really really are sure you want or need one of these and don't already have all of this at home already. The Voltron show bag, until they all go, looks good for those who are fans of Voltron.  

Voltron - $20

Stand Numbers: BAG004, BAG009, BAG011, BAG014, BAG015, #18, #20, #21

What’s included:

1x Voltron Backpack $24.95
1x Voltron Cap $12.95
1x Voltron Drink Bottle $8.95
1x Voltron Sticker Patches $2.95
1x Voltron Playing Cards $4.95
1x Voltron Badges $4.95
1x Voltron Tote Bag $3.95
1x Voltron Lanyard $7.95
1x Voltron Flag $9.95
Total Retail Value: $81.55

Another good value one, which may appeal to little girls, is the Unicorn show bag. 

Unicorn $30

Stand Numbers: BAG004, BAG009, BAG011, BAG014, BAG015, #18, #20, #21

What’s included:

1x Unicorn Duffle Bag $19.95
1x Unicorn Coin Purse $4.95
1x Unicorn Hair Extension $4.95
1x Unicorn Jewellery Set $9.95
1x Unicorn Stationery Set $7.95
1x Unicorn Keychain $2.95
1x Unicorn Body Glitter $7.95
1x Unicorn Tote Bag $4.95
1x Unicorn Lipstick $3.95
1x Unicorn Trinket Boxes $6.95
1x Unicorn Stuffed Toy $9.95
Total Retail Value: $84.45

If you do get to go to the Show this year I do hope you will spend some time looking at the farm exhibits - this is one of the few opportunities city kids get to see what life is like on the land and the show itself is all about the country coming to the city, that's where it all began - as the Agricultural Society of New South Wales in July 1822 which means that next year, this great 'show' will be 200 years old.

Sydney Royal Easter Show - children with their Show Bags, circa 1938. Courtesy National Library of Australia

Curious Kids: why do elephants have tusks?

Tim – one of the last big tusker elephants – died last year at the age of 50, in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. From the authorAuthor provided
Graeme ShannonBangor University

Why do elephants have tusks and we have hair? From Valentina, 6 years old, London

Elephant tusks are actually teeth. They are elongated incisors. We have incisors too – they’re the teeth at the front of our mouths, which we use for biting food. In elephants, these incisors continue to grow throughout their lives, extending from deep within their upper jaw.

The tusks are one of the most noticeable features of elephants, along with their massive body size and long trunk (one of the most amazing and versatile appendages in the animal world – but that is another story). In African elephants both males and females have tusks, while in Asian elephants only the males do.

While our incisors are used only for biting food, elephants use theirs for a whole range of activities, from digging holes and stripping bark from trees to fighting. They’ll even rest a weary trunk upon their tusks.

An elephant seen from below resting its trunk on one of its tusks
Tusks extend from deep within the upper jaw. From the authorAuthor provided

Generally speaking, male elephants use their impressive size to intimidate rivals and impress females. Size is so important in attracting mates that adult males have evolved to be twice as large as adult females, reaching a whopping seven metric tonnes. This is the weight of four family cars – with passengers. As part of the package, male elephant tusks are often five to seven times as large as those of adult females.

Some of the largest tusks ever recorded belonged to an old elephant called Ahmed, who lived in Kenya until the ripe old age of 65. His tusks were 3m in length and weighed 67kg each. That is 5kg more than the average weight of an adult human. Ahmed’s tusks were so big that it was rumoured he had to walk backwards uphill – a great story, but unlikely to be true.

Thanks to protection from the president of Kenya at the time, Ahmed got to live out his life in full, dying of old age in 1974. Sadly this is not the case for many elephants.

The Cost Of Ivory

Humans have long been attracted to the beautiful tusks of elephants. Ivory remains one of the most highly prized materials in the natural world. Unfortunately, this demand has led to the deaths of thousands of elephants across Africa, because the only way that humans can get hold of the elephant’s tusks is by killing them. Those targeted are often the oldest and largest animals – because they have the biggest and therefore most valuable tusks.

Zoologists do not yet know how not having tusks will affect elephants’ daily lives.

This is not only tragic for individual animals, but also for the wider elephant population, as the oldest and wisest elephants play a key leadership role in elephant society. In fact, we conducted experiments showing that the oldest elephant matriarchs – the female leaders of the family groups – were much better than younger matriarchs at distinguishing more dangerous male lions from female lions using just the sound of their roars.

The killing of elephants for ivory has actually resulted in elephants having smaller tusks now than they did just a few decades ago (a 2015 study noted a 21%-37% decline). Plus, particularly in the areas where illegal killing has been most common, there is a huge increase in the number of elephants that don’t have any tusks at all. In a normal population you might expect two or three out of every hundred elephants to be tuskless, but in one population in Mozambique this has reached 32%.

Now, these elephants are likely to be at an advantage as they are much less likely to be targeted by poachers. A greater chance of surviving and breeding might explain why these tuskless animals have become more common in the population. (Studies are underway) to determine whether that is the case. What we don’t know is how not having tusks affects the day-to-day lives of these elephants when it comes to feeding and interacting with others in the population.

The good news, however, is that when protected and given space to roam, elephant populations can flourish. There are many excellent conservation projects across Africa and Asia working hard to ensure that elephants – and their tusks – are a part of the natural world for many years to come.

Indeed, by greatly reducing the number of elephants killed for their ivory, we can protect remaining populations, and potentially halt, or even reverse, the decline in tusk size. Who knows, maybe there is a young elephant in Africa who is destined to one day rival Ahmed and his mighty tusks.

As For Hair …

Interestingly, elephants and humans both have hair. In fact, all mammals have hair at some point in their lives, even whales and dolphins. It is just present in differing amounts, which generally depends on how useful it is to the animal for keeping warm.

Elephants for example, have a very sparse covering of wiry hair across their bodies, which is only noticeable from very close up. Compare this to sea otters, which have some of the most densely packed hair in the mammal world: 130,000 hairs per sq cm.

The human head, by comparison, has between 124-200 hairs per sq cm. For sea otters, the value of that dense fur is to keep them warm in chilly seawater. Elephants commonly face the opposite challenge of needing to stay cool in hot environments, and therefore have very little hair.The Conversation

Graeme Shannon, Lecturer in Zoology, Bangor University

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

Curious Kids: how do freezers work?

Stephen G BosiUniversity of New England

How does the freezer work? — Leon, aged 4

Hi Leon,

That’s a great question! But freezers are a bit tricky to explain, so we’ll need to talk about a few other things first.

Everything you can touch and feel (like air, water, rocks and mice) is made of tiny balls called atoms. When atoms join up into small groups moving around together, they are called molecules. Atoms and molecules are too small to see without very powerful microscopes.

Solids, Liquids And Gases

Most things come in three phases: solid, liquid or gas. Think of ice, water and steam. If a gas is not too hot, we can also call it vapour. (There are other phases too, but let’s ignore them for today.)

In solids (like ice), atoms or molecules are tightly stuck together and can barely move. They are usually lined up in neat rows called crystals. In liquids (like water) atoms or molecules are loosely stuck close together, but can move around. In a gas (like steam), atoms or molecules are far apart and free to float away from each other.

Most gases, including air, are made of small molecules. Some gases (like the helium inside floating party balloons) are made of single atoms moving around on their own.

A solid melts into a liquid then evaporates into a gas (or vapour) Stephen G Bosi

If I heat up a solid, the atoms or molecules start to bounce a little bit, but they still stay stuck in their neat rows. Now, if I add an extra burst of heat, the solid turns into liquid. This means the atoms and molecules bounce around so hard they start to move around, breaking up those neat rows. Although the atoms can now flow around, they still stay very close together. This is what’s happening if you put an ice block in a bowl and watch it slowly melt into water.

To turn a liquid into a gas (or vapour), the atoms and molecules must break away completely from their neighbours. This takes another extra burst of heat to give the atoms and molecules a kick to rip them away from their sticky neighbours and float away. (Scientists call this extra burst of heat latent heat.)

This is what happens when you put water into a kettle, turn on the heat, and watch the steam floating out of the spout.

These atoms or molecules carry that extra burst of heat away with them when they float away. This is why your face feels cooler if the wind turns your sweat into vapour and floats away from your face.

Read more: Curious Kids: Why can some cups go in the microwave and some not?

OK. Now let’s try it backwards. If you take enough heat out of a vapour (like steam), it will turn back into a liquid (like water). Whenever this happens, the vapour brings the extra burst of heat back into the liquid.

Now, finally, I can explain how your freezer works.

How The Freezer Works… At Last!

Hidden inside the walls of your freezer is a curly metal tube called a cooling pipe. It is full of a special liquid that evaporates easily.

The cooling pipe is connected to a pump that sucks in vapour from the cooling pipe. The sucking makes more liquid turn to vapour, and when that happens it takes some heat out of the freezer. Just like sweat floating away cools your face down, this vapour floating away makes the inside of the freezer cool down.

The cooling system inside a freezer. Stephen G Bosi

Next, the pump takes vapour from the cooling pipe and squeezes it into another curly pipe on the outside of the back of the fridge. When the pump squeezes the vapour, it pushes the molecules closer together so they start to stick together and turn into a liquid again.

When the gas turns back into a liquid, it gives off the latent heat energy it took from the freezer. So the pipe on the back of the fridge gets warm, and the heat escapes into the air in your kitchen.

Read more: Curious Kids: how does heat travel through space if space is a vacuum?

In other words, the pump moves heat from inside your freezer and lets it go into your kitchen, making the freezer colder and your kitchen warmer. If you feel the back and sides of your fridge, they should feel a bit warm. That’s the heat that used to be inside your freezer!

After releasing its heat energy, the liquid leaks through a little skinny pipe back into the cooling pipe where it started. Then the sucking from the pump turns it into gas again, and the whole cycle repeats over and over. And that’s what keeps your freezer cold.

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

Stephen G Bosi, Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of New England

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

'What are you afraid of ScoMo?': Australian women are angry — and the Morrison government needs to listen

Camilla NelsonUniversity of Notre Dame Australia

Thousands of women are gathering in cities across the country, angry about the allegations of rape, sexual abuse and harassment emerging from our parliaments and schools. They’re also furious with a prime minister who’s said he’s too busy to attend a rally in person to hear these concerns and would prefer a private meeting.

In Sydney, thousands of women gathered in crowds outside the town hall, spilling into the surrounding streets. They were dressed in black, waving placards: “What are you afraid of ScoMo?”, one read. “You will be held accountable,” said another. Another: “We shouldn’t need to do this.”

Lawyers were also conspicuous, some bearing the logos of prominent Sydney firms. “Lawyers for equality” their slogans read, and “We fight fair”.

Men of all ages were also there, together with First Nations sisters and members of non-binary, trans and queer communities.

Mounted police were making their presence felt at the edge of the crowd.

The mood was defiant, with the slow burning anger of women who were determined to fight for the long term. “We will not be silenced,” investigative journalist Jess Hill told the crowd. “The time for silence is over.”

“We’re marching for justice,” said another speaker. “We won’t stop marching until we have justice.”

A Moment To Listen

It shouldn’t be that hard for a prime minister to realise this is a moment to listen.

The powerful words of Grace Tame, Australian of the Year and a child abuse survivor, have been a catalyst for longstanding rage. The rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins demand attention and action. The online petition launched by former Sydney schoolgirl Chanel Contos, which triggered a string of sexual assault allegations against students from elite boys’ schools, underscores the depth of the problem.

NSW police are also investigating allegations women as young as 16 were harassed in MP Craig Kelly’s electorate office by an employee (who denies the allegations and remains in his role at Kelly’s office). Allegations of sexual harassment have also been tabled in the South Australian parliament.

The nation’s first law officer, Attorney-General Christian Porter, faces an allegation he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago. He has strongly denied the allegation, but many have continued to call for an open inquiry into the claim.

By refusing to step outside the parliament to answer women’s justified concerns, the prime minister has demonstrated callous indifference. It looks like he is prioritising media management — the risk someone will snap an unflattering photograph as he embarks on his next campaign — above humanity.

Minister for Women Marise Payne drew further attention to the government’s contempt by similarly signalling her intention to remain absent today.

This disregard builds on the prime minister’s already very public refusal to read the words of the woman at the centre of the Christian Porter case. Morrison said he discussed the claims with the accused, “who absolutely rejects these allegations”, and spoke to the Australian Federal Police commissioner and various senior public servants. Having done all that, he told reporters, “there are no matters that require attention”.

In responding this way, the prime minister has generated more of the anger he hoped would disappear.

Last week at his media conference, the attorney-general asked the media to imagine “just for a second” that the allegations are not true. The women gathered at the March 4 Justice are answering that we also have a moral obligation to imagine “just for a second” that they are. What then?

A Systemic Culture Of Sexism

In Australia, up to one in five girls will be sexually asaulted. Of women over 15, one in two report being sexually harassed. The aged care royal commission heard there are 50 sexual assaults a week in the aged care system.

I am no longer surprised to hear disclosures of sexual assault and domestic violence from my students or other women. I am only surprised when a woman claims she hasn’t been.

Workplace sexual harassment particularly affects women in their early 20s when they are too young to have gained access to inner circles occupied by slightly older women – the places where discrete warnings against certain male colleagues are issued, but only whispered for fear of defamation suits.

The wrongness of sexual abuse has only recently – and unevenly – been recognised. But there is a terrifying contradiction between the wrongness of rape and sexual assault and harassment, the sheer prevalence with which it occurs, and the inability for women to obtain redress from the courts via the so-called “rule of law” repeatedly invoked by the prime minister.

This moment is a reckoning well beyond the Christian Porter or Brittany Higgins allegations, or the findings made against former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon by a High Court inquiry.

Ending Canberra’s toxic culture is the rallying point, but women are also taking to the streets because these failures are intrinsically connected to a systemic culture of sexism in law, politics and policy-making.

Last week, a Grattan Institute report revealed women took the brunt of job losses generated by the pandemic. It also confirmed that women experienced a disproportionate share of the burden of unpaid work during lockdown, particularly the burden of home schooling. Female casual workers were also disproportionately excluded from government benefits such as JobSeeker. Meanwhile, plans for family law reform due to be tabled this week are likely to have dramatic impacts for survivors of domestic violence and their children.

The government’s apparent inability to adequately listen or respond to the serious concerns of women suggests a deep, underlying cultural reason for its policy failures.

The gains that older women, and women of my own generation thought we had won, seem to be evaporating. Or perhaps the real problem is that at a cultural level, they were never really won at all. And so the fight begins again.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, please call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor in Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

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

New Titles Added To TROVE

The titles listed below have recently been digitised and made available in Trove. The year range listed for the item is an indication of what's currently available in Trove, and not always the full year range the item was published.

To see what's coming up soon - take a look at our Newspapers & Gazettes coming soon and Magazines & Newsletters coming soon pages.

NSW Newspaper titles
  • NOTA - News Of The Area (Hawks Nest & Tea Gardens, NSW) 1970-1999
  • Nowra Colonist (NSW) 1899-1904
  • The Telegraph and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW) 1879-1881
  • Windsor & Richmond Gazette (NSW) 1888-1961
VIC Newspaper titles
  • Box Hill Reporter (Vic) 1925-1930
  • The Reporter (Box Hill, Vic) 1889-1925
  • The Brunswick and Coburg Leader (Vic) 1914-1921
  • Mildura Telegraph and Darling and Lower Murray Advocate (Vic) 1913-1920
WA Newspaper titles
  • Dampier Herald (Kununoppin, WA ) 1928 - 1937
  • Cathedral Chronicle (Geraldton, WA ) 1931 - 1954
  • Corrigin Chronicle and Kunjin-Bullaring Representative (WA) 1925 - 1943
  • Weekly Judge (Perth, WA) 1919-1931

New City At Aerotropolis To Be Named Bradfield

March 16, 2021
The NSW Government plans to call Sydney’s new ‘hi-tech’ city at Bringelly ‘Bradfield’, in honour of the engineer who helped shape Sydney.

The city centre will be built on the doorstep of the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport. It will grow into Sydney’s third city, to take its place alongside the other great city centres of Sydney and Parramatta.

Bradfield was selected after the community was asked to have a say, with a panel settling on the final decision to honour John Bradfield’s enduring city-shaping impact on Sydney, including his major contribution the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Bradfield will define Australia’s first 22nd Century City, which will be a key driver of economic growth and deliver up to 200,000 jobs across the Western Parkland City.

“Bradfield was a renowned engineer who designed and oversaw the construction of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney’s original railway network,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The name Bradfield is synonymous with delivering game-changing infrastructure and it sets the right tone for the area we have referred to as the ‘Aerotropolis Core’ until now.

“This area will be transformed into a thriving city centre, home to advanced manufacturing, research, science and education and we want Bradfield to be as iconic as the existing major city centres of Sydney and Parramatta.

“What are paddocks now will be a thriving, bustling city centre offering the best job opportunities anywhere in Australia.”

Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the area to be named Bradfield is more than 100 hectares and sits north of the existing suburb of Bringelly. It is at the heart of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and will eventually lend its name to surrounding areas.

“The number of suggestions the community put forward to ‘Name the Place’ was overwhelming and we are thrilled with the level of participation and interest this project attracted,” Mr Ayres said.

“We thank everyone for having their say and want to assure the community the remaining suggestions will be considered as names for streets, parks and other landmarks in the new city centre.

“I look forward to Bradfield being the first name that people think of when starting a new job, creating a new business, learning a new skill and investing in NSW.”

John Bradfield’s Grandson Jim Bradfield has welcomed the announcement.

"It is a great honour that my grandfather’s name continues to be associated with major infrastructure developments in and around Sydney,” Mr Bradfield said.

“We hope his achievements will inspire generations to come, and help shape the future of our urban landscape.”

The name Bradfield was a popular community suggestion in the ‘Name the Place’ process and will now be put to the Geographical Names Board of NSW.

The NSW Government has 18 Foundation Partner commitments, including with Suez, Siemens, Hitachi, Sydney Water and Northrup Grumman, and continues to formalise relationships with a number of other partners, including FedEx, Romar Engineering and Quickstep in the creation of the innovative ecosystem at the Aerotropolis.

Major Milestone For Prince Of Wales Hospital Redevelopment

March 15, 2021
Construction of the $780 million Prince of Wales Hospital Integrated Acute Services Building has reached its highest point, marking a key milestone for Randwick’s new health and innovation precinct.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new state-of-the-art hospital building is a key feature of the $1.5 billion Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct, which includes an investment of more than $1 billion from the NSW Government. 

“This new hospital building will deliver first class healthcare services to support the community as it grows, while opening up opportunities for ground-breaking health and education partnerships,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The community will also benefit from a real economic boost, with around 600 new jobs created through the building’s construction alone, and potential for thousands more flow-on jobs over the project’s lifetime.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government has partnered with the University of New South Wales to deliver contemporary clinical spaces to provide the best possible healthcare for patients into the future.

“This partnership will give the precinct a competitive edge on the global stage for health advancements, research and education,” Mr Hazzard said.  

“Together we will bring innovative treatments and medical advancements from the bench top to the bedside to improve health outcomes for our community.”

UNSW Chancellor David Gonski, Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health, Professor Vlado Perkovic, NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard and UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs attend the topping out ceremony for the new Integrated Acute Services Building.  NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state-of-the-art building will open up opportunities for ground-breaking health and education partnerships with UNSW.

Professor Jacobs said the physical and working integration which will take place in the new building is significant.  

“This is a monumental day for our shared vision with NSW Health. We are excited to see how our collaboration and expertise will create a research and innovation environment that will improve health care in Sydney and NSW,” he said.  

The building will include a new emergency department, extra inpatient beds, a new helipad, intensive care unit, aged care services, a new psychiatric emergency care centre and shared operating theatres for the campus when it opens in 2022.  

The Randwick Health and Innovation Precinct is the realisation of a 60-year objective of UNSW to bring the health and university campuses closer together – and it will be the largest co-located health precinct in NSW.  

The building will include a new emergency department, extra inpatient beds, a new helipad, intensive care unit, aged care services, a new psychiatric emergency care centre and shared operating theatres for the campus when it opens in 2022.

Under the next phase of the Randwick Campus Redevelopment within the precinct, Sydney Children’s Hospital Stage 1 and the Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre are on track to be completed in 2025 and UNSW Health Translation Hub is scheduled to open in late 2026. 

Standard Digital Camera And AI To Monitor Soil Moisture For Affordable Smart Irrigation

Researchers at UniSA have developed a cost-effective new technique to monitor soil moisture using a standard digital camera and machine learning technology. 
The United Nations predicts that by 2050 many areas of the planet may not have enough fresh water to meet the demands of agriculture if we continue our current patterns of use.

One solution to this global dilemma is the development of more efficient irrigation, central to which is precision monitoring of soil moisture, allowing sensors to guide 'smart' irrigation systems to ensure water is applied at the optimum time and rate.

Current methods for sensing soil moisture are problematic -- buried sensors are susceptible to salts in the substrate and require specialised hardware for connections, while thermal imaging cameras are expensive and can be compromised by climatic conditions such as sunlight intensity, fog, and clouds.

Researchers from The University of South Australia and Baghdad's Middle Technical University have developed a cost-effective alternative that may make precision soil monitoring simple and affordable in almost any circumstance.

A team including UniSA engineers Dr Ali Al-Naji and Professor Javaan Chahl has successfully tested a system that uses a standard RGB digital camera to accurately monitor soil moisture under a wide range of conditions.

"The system we trialled is simple, robust and affordable, making it promising technology to support precision agriculture," Dr Al-Naji says.

"It is based on a standard video camera which analyses the differences in soil colour to determine moisture content. We tested it at different distances, times and illumination levels, and the system was very accurate."

The camera was connected to an artificial neural network (ANN) a form of machine learning software that the researchers trained to recognise different soil moisture levels under different sky conditions.

Using this ANN, the monitoring system could potentially be trained to recognise the specific soil conditions of any location, allowing it to be customised for each user and updated for changing climatic circumstances, ensuing maximum accuracy.

"Once the network has been trained it should be possible to achieve controlled irrigation by maintaining the appearance of the soil at the desired state," Prof Chahl says.

"Now that we know the monitoring method is accurate, we are planning to design a cost-effective smart-irrigation system based on our algorithm using a microcontroller, USB camera and water pump that can work with different types of soils.

"This system holds promise as a tool for improved irrigation technologies in agriculture in terms of cost, availability and accuracy under changing climatic conditions."

Ali Al-Naji, Ahmed Bashar Fakhri, Sadik Kamel Gharghan, Javaan Chahl. Soil color analysis based on a RGB camera and an artificial neural network towards smart irrigation: A pilot study. Heliyon, 2021; 7 (1): e06078 DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06078

New Lease For Sydney Harbour Trust Sites

March 16, 2021: The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
Senator Andrew Bragg, Senator for NSW

With $40.6 million already being rolled out to restore historic Sydney Harbour Federation Trust buildings, the Federal Government has confirmed a future leasing strategy that will ensure the protection of public ownership and access.

The proposed structure will help ensure visitor access to more facilities as they visit the Harbour Trust’s historic sites and establish operating frameworks that support the future viability of the Harbour Trust. The leasing structure is contained within legislation being introduced in the house this week to establish the Harbour Trust as an ongoing entity.

Minister Ley said that following the Government’s landmark review of the Harbour Trust in 2020, there had been extensive consultation with the Harbour Trust Board, local stakeholders and the State Government to map an integrated approach that will maximise future public access.

“We are ensuring the ongoing future of the Harbour Trust and delivering on our commitment to keep its wonderful sites in public hands,” Minister Ley said.

“Under the proposed leasing arrangements, commercial leases for appropriate sites will have a maximum term of 35 years with leases of longer than 25 years subject to a disallowance by Parliament.

“This addresses both community concerns and allows the Harbour Trust the framework it needs to develop commercial partnerships that can enhance public access.”

Before proposing a lease beyond 25 years, the Harbour Trust must:
  • Develop a statement of reasons explaining why it considers the proposal is consistent with the objectives for Harbour Trust sites of public access and amenity, and the conservation of heritage
  • Consult with the community on the proposal, and seek advice from its Community Advisory Committee
  • Reflect community feedback in the statement of reasons submitted to Parliament.
Senator for NSW Senator Andrew Bragg said there was growing sense of optimism among all parties about the future of the Harbour Trust and the ongoing protection of its former Defence sites on Sydney Harbour.

“The local community is passionate about these sites and with very good reason,” Senator Bragg said.

“We have worked closely with all parties to reach a position that protects public access and ensures the Harbour Trust will be able to work with communities and the State Government’s master plan to encourage more people to enjoy its wonderful sites.”

Sydney Harbour Headland Preservation Group President, Jill L’Estrange, said that the new leasing arrangements represented collaboration with the community and a positive step for the Harbour Trust.

“The HPG Committee thanks the Minister for her willingness to engage with and listen to the community voice in respect of the proposed amendments. HPG is of the opinion that the Minister’s willingness to consult has resulted in an outcome which is both beneficial to the community and to the future of the Harbour Trust.”

Chair of the Harbour Trust Joseph Carrozzi said: “We welcome the Government’s strong engagement with the Harbour Trust and the community. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the legislation’s Royal Assent, this legislation reflects a terrific outcome which secures the future of our sites and their use for community’s benefit.”

Punishment For ‘Chip Tube’ Smuggler Of Native Species

March 17, 2021
The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Jason Wood MP, Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs
The Hon. Lily D'ambrosio, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment, and Climate Change

A brazen attempt to export lizards in potato chip tubes has resulted in a sentence of 3 years and 6 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 2 years and 4 months for a Malaysian national on an expired visa. 

26-year-old Chek Wei Javill Chin was this month sentenced in the NSW District Court after being arrested on October 9, 2019 for exporting and attempting to export regulated native specimens.

A joint operation between Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s (the department) Environmental Crime Investigators, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and New South Wales Police Force Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor between December 2017 and August 2018 found that Chin had attempted to export a range of regulated native species bound in socks and bags hidden inside containers with food, toys, clothing and shoes to Hong Kong.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the joint agency operation which led to the successful arrest and sentencing of Chin was another strong message for wildlife smugglers.

“We are focussed on bringing down smuggling syndicates and prosecuting individuals,” Minister Ley said.

“This is a cruel trade, one that inflicts pain and often death to the animals involved, and one which poses a real risk to biodiversity.

“My Department will continue to engage in joint operations with Australian Border Force, DELWP, and NSW Police to keep maximum pressure on those who engage in this trade.”

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood said that the sentencing should stand as a stark warning to those who wish to participate in the cruel trade. 

“This man was linked to numerous packages containing lizards and other native reptiles bound and hidden inhumane and harmful ways.” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“Illegal wildlife trade is a growing multibillion-dollar global trade that poses serious conservation and biosecurity risks for Australia, we will continue working together to bring it to an end.”

Through surveillance footage and fingerprints left on the parcels Chin was linked to the posting of 21 packages which contained an array of Australian native species such as  Leaf-tailed  and Knob-tailed geckos, Lace Monitors, Shingleback and Blue-tongue Lizards, King Eastern-water Dragons  and a Stimson’s python.

The Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio said this was a horrific case of animal cruelty which could not be tolerated.

“Wildlife smuggling is a lucrative crime and the Victorian Government, through the Conservation Regulator, places a high priority on investigating and prosecuting criminals who seek to profit from this cruel trade.”

“This investigation wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our partner agencies - Australia Post, Australian Border Force, RSPCA Victoria, Crime Stoppers Victoria, The City of Melbourne, Victoria Police - and information from the Victorian public.”

This sentence comes after a 35-year-old Malaysian national was deported last year after receiving a sentence of imprisonment for 12 months on four counts of attempting to export live regulated native specimens.

The woman was arrested and charged in relation to four of the seized parcels found during the investigation in to Chin.

She served her sentence in Western Australia before being released from custody into ABF detention and was deported on 11 September 2020.

Illegal wildlife trafficking has an immeasurable impact on Australia’s diverse biodiversity along with the animals themselves.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 it is an offence to export a regulated native specimen without a permit. Each wildlife offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $210,000 fine.

First World Report On Hearing Calls For Action On A Hidden Public Health Burden

March 3, 2021
The Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University’s North Ryde Campus has today launched the first ever World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Hearing.

Macquarie University researchers, in collaboration with members of the Australian Hearing Hub, Australian WHO World Hearing Forum members, and the Hearing Health Sector Alliance are encouraging policy makers and wider society to put the report into action.

The landmark report Hearing Care for All: Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate aims to raise awareness among policymakers and the public of the rising global prevalence of hearing loss to make ear and hearing care a key public health priority.

The World Report on Hearing estimates that a fifth of people live with hearing loss, making it the third ranked cause of years lived with disability. Hearing loss is expected to increase to impact a quarter of the global population by 2050 with growing and ageing populations.

The cost of hearing loss is high: $1,230 billion dollars is lost globally due to unaddressed hearing loss. In Australia, the cost is about $20 billion, mostly due to lost productivity and health system costs.

The WHO is calling for ear and hearing care to be a priority for policy makers to address with all age groups, with the report providing a framework of how to address key issues.

While Australia is regarded as a world leader in research and the development of implantable hearing solutions and support services for children and adults with hearing loss, there remain significant areas of ear and hearing care need among older adults and Indigenous Australians. Amongst these groups hearing issues are highest but access and uptake of, ear and hearing care remains low.

Professor Catherine McMahon, Director of the HEAR (Hearing Education Application Research) Centre at Macquarie University has worked closely with the WHO and brought the expertise of Australian leaders in this field to the forefront to develop the first World Report on Hearing.

“The WHO Report presents a once in a generation opportunity to bring national and global policy maker attention to the importance of detecting ear disease and hearing loss early and pathways to treatment, by ensuring this is included within national health plans and primary health checks,” says Professor McMahon.

Professor McMahon is due to present a summary of the World Report on Hearing to the Australian Government and highlight priority areas to address in Australia. 

Professor Cath McMahon from Macquarie University’s Department of Linguistics, and Cricket Legend Brett Lee at the launch of the World Report on Hearing

About the Australian Hearing Hub (AHH)

Macquarie University is a world-class research, treatment and innovation institution – a dynamic environment which drove the creation of the AHH. The AHH brings some of the country’s leading hearing and healthcare organisations together to collaborate across critical issues in hearing health. Pioneering partnerships unite researchers, educators, clinicians and innovators with expertise in linguistics, audiology, speech pathology, cognitive and language sciences, psychology, nanofabrication and engineering sciences.

Major partners in the AHH include Cochlear Limited, whose world headquarters are located adjacent to the AHH, and the world-recognised research organisation the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL). Other key partners included the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) and its associated cochlear-implant program, the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre (SCIC) and The Shepherd Centre. 

The AHH is an initiative of the Australian Government that was established as part of the Education Investment Fund.

World Hearing Forum Australian Members:
  • Audiology Australia
  • Aussie Deaf Kids
  • Centre of Research Excellence in Ear and Hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children
  • Cochlear
  • Deafness Forum
  • Ear Science Institute
  • HEAR (Hearing Education Application Research) Centre at Macquarie University

Devastatingly Pervasive: 1 In 3 Women Globally Experience Violence - Younger Women Among Those Most At Risk: WHO

March 9, 2021
reported violence of all kinds against women and girls,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Every government should be taking strong, proactive steps to address this, and involving women in doing so”, she added.

Though many countries have seen increased reporting of intimate partner violence to helplines, police, health workers, teachers, and other service providers during lockdowns, the full impact of the pandemic on prevalence will only be established as surveys are resumed, the report notes.

Inequities are a leading risk factor for violence against women
Violence disproportionately affects women living in low- and lower-middle-income countries.  An estimated 37% of women living in the poorest countries have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their life, with some of these countries having a prevalence as high as 1 in 2.   

The regions of Oceania, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49, ranging from 33% - 51%.  The lowest rates are found in Europe (16–23%), Central Asia (18%), Eastern Asia (20%) and South-Eastern Asia (21%).

Younger women are at highest risk for recent violence. Among those who have been in a relationship, the highest rates (16%) of intimate partner violence in the past 12 months occurred among young women aged between 15 and 24.

Violence against women must be prevented
Violence – in all its forms – can have an impact on a woman’s health and well-being throughout the rest of her life – even long after the violence may have ended. It is associated with increased risk of injuries, depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections including HIV and many other health problems. It has impacts on society as a whole and comes with tremendous costs, impacting national budgets and overall development.

Preventing violence requires addressing systemic economic and social inequalities, ensuring access to education and safe work, and changing discriminatory gender norms and institutions. Successful interventions also include strategies that ensure essential services are available and accessible to survivors, that support women’s organisations, challenge inequitable social norms, reform discriminatory laws and strengthen legal responses, among others.

 “To address violence against women, there’s an urgent need to reduce stigma around this issue, train health professionals to interview survivors with compassion, and dismantle the foundations of gender inequality,” said Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno of WHO. “Interventions with adolescents and young people to foster gender equality and gender-equitable attitudes are also vital.”

Countries should honour their commitments to increased and strong political will and leadership to tackle violence against women in all its forms, through:
  • Sound gender transformative policies, from policies around childcare to equal pay, and laws that support gender equality,
  • A strengthened health system response that ensures access to survivor-centred care and referral to other services as needed,
  • School and educational interventions to challenge discriminatory attitudes and beliefs, including comprehensive sexuality education,
  • Targeted investment in sustainable and effective evidence-based prevention strategies at local, national, regional and global levels, and
  • Strengthening data collection and investing in high quality surveys on violence against women and improving measurement of the different forms of violence experienced by women, including those who are most marginalised.
The report, Global, regional and national estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women was developed by WHO and the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP) for the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data.

The Working Group includes representatives from WHO, UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to strengthen the measurement and monitoring and reporting of violence against women, including for the purposes of monitoring the related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National data collection on intimate partner violence has increased significantly since the previous 2010 estimates, although challenges remain with data quality and availability. Sexual violence, in particular, remains one of the most taboo and stigmatizing forms, and hence continues to be vastly underreported.

Financial support for the analysis and report was provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.
Lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49 among the United Nations SDG regional and subregion classifications, the rates were as follows:

Least Developed Countries – 37%
Subregions of:
  • Oceania – 51% Melanesia; 41% Micronesia; 39% Polynesia
  • Southern Asia - 35%
  • Sub-Saharan Africa - 33%
  • Northern Africa – 30%
  • Western Asia – 29%
  • Northern America – 25%
  • Australia and New Zealand – 23%
  • Latin American and the Caribbean – 25%
  • Northern Europe –23%
  • South-Eastern Asia – 21%
  • Western Europe – 21%
  • Eastern Asia – 20%
  • Eastern Europe – 20%
  • Central Asia – 18%
  • Southern Europe – 16%

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.