Inbox and Environment News: Issue 490

April 18 - 24, 2021: Issue 490

The Sooty Oystercatcher pair are back at Turimetta Beach and North Narrabeen rock platform - photo by Joe Mills, April 7th, 2021

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.

Offshore Petroleum And Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment Bill: Have Your Say

April 8, 2021: The Australian Government
The Australian Government has considered and endorsed an enhanced framework for decommissioning offshore oil and gas infrastructure.   

We are now preparing to implement the framework through legislative and policy changes. An implementation plan is expected to be released soon.

As part of the implementation, the government is seeking feedback on the draft Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Titles Administration and Other Measures) Bill 2021.

The Bill aims to strengthen and clarify Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulatory framework.  

The proposed Bill will:
  • expand existing trailing liability provisions
  • increase oversight of changes in titleholder ownership and control
  • increase regulatory scrutiny of the suitability of companies operating, or looking to operate, within Australia’s offshore petroleum regulatory regime
  • expand information gathering powers to enable scrutiny
The Bill makes the legislative changes necessary to give effect to the enhanced framework. The Bill also gives effect to the relevant recommendations of the independent review into the circumstances leading to the administration and liquidation of Northern Oil and Gas Australia (the Walker Review).

Consultation closes on Friday 23 April 2021. 

Ant Lion

About 3cm long, this is an adult Ant Lion, near Avalon Beach. In its earlier life in its pitfall trap it fed on ants and other small insects. Using its strong jaws it could grip the prey, suck out its vital juices and fling the carcass up out of the trap.

The pitfall trap: cleverly constructed with very fine sand at the angle of repose. As soon as an ant steps onto it, down it slides into the jaws of the antlion, invisible jaws open at the bottom of the pit.

Photos and text courtesy Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)

Mona Vale Village Park Trees Now 'Unwired'

April 11, 2021 follow up
Wires on Mona Vale trees: going, going, GONE!!

Mona Vale Dunes Bushcare Restoration Update + PNHA Autumn 2021 Newsletter

April 15, 2021: Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)
The first to be planted on our Mona Vale Dunes Australian Government Communities Environment grant project site: White Correas on the cleared area.  These were desperate to get out of their pots and into the sand. Lovely foliage and starry white flowers. Our big planting day on this site is coming up soon - May 2021 - watch this space if you want to help out.

White Correa

The most challenging weed here is Green Cestrum, a poisonous shrub with tufts of yellow flowers and then berries. It suckers when cut down, and is deep rooted. A real survivor but gradually disappearing here. The project has to be completed by end of June this year.

On the south side of the track to the beach from Golf Avenue, Northern Beaches Council and PNHA are providing funds for maintenance weeding. This is where in June 17 2006 PNHA and other volunteers planted 775 tubestock of local coastal natives donated by PNHA to the project (a NSW Environmental Trusts grant) to restore native vegetation on the dunes. The planting was a great success, but weeds now here are Turkey Rhubarb and Coastal Morning Glory.

Autumn Edition of PNHA Newsletter - Issue 87

PNHA Newsletter 87 is now on line. News: Grant projects and more, Caterpillars on Native Grape, (Pale Brown Hawkmoth Theretra latreillii is one),  more Trad biocontrol released along Narrabeen Creek. 

Our famous PNHA Cards are now available at Avalon's Beachside Bookshop shop 24, 11 Avalon Pde. Thanks very  much to Libby for kindly stocking these for us at only $2.00 each. Blank cards for every occasion, with photos of Pittwater landscapes, flora and fauna. Example: Plateau Park Waratah by Ken Hughes.

Membership of Pittwater Natural Heritage Association Landcare Group is open to all who share our aims of caring for the natural environment of the Pittwater area and working to enhance and protect it. You can find a Membership Application form on our website or contact us on for one to be sent to you.
Cost $20 per year, $10 unwaged.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Next Forum + May Activities

Zoom Meeting- 7pm May 31st, 2021
Aboriginal Art and Occupation Sites of the Northern Beaches
Eric Keidge (Field Officer, NPWS) and Bob Conroy (formerly with NPWS) will be giving a presentation on their knowledge and experience in identifying, recording and protecting some of the Aboriginal art and occupation sites in the Northern Beaches area, including the Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment.

With due respect to those Aboriginal people past and present (and future) who identify with this area, the presentation will make reference to collaboration and special projects undertaken with the Aboriginal Heritage Office and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council\, There will also be information given about site dating and significance.

Register to participate in this Zoom session and you might find your future walks in Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment more interesting than before because you can see evidence of the rich Aboriginal heritage located here. When you register, you will be emailed a link by which you can join the Zoom session at 7pm on May 31. Don’t miss it! Register now by emailing:
Find out more about FoNLC in: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment

May Activities
Paddle: Narrabeen Lagoon's Secret Creeks - Sunday May 9
From the Western Basin to the outlet to the sea, you'll see it all. On this leisurely paddle you can swim the lagoon from a clean, sandy beach or take a plunge in the ocean or nearby rock pool. Discover the unexpected creeks that flow into the lagoon, including astonishing Deep Creek, with its migratory birds from as far away as Russia. Visit an island, experience the exotic wildlife - pelicans, black swan, maybe a fish will jump in your boat! Hear about the Aboriginal history and what's being done to protect the remaining bushland.
Led by former president of Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Tony Carr. Kayak hire $108pp.
Full day. Easy, with lots of stops. Suit first timers, tuition given. Location Northern Beaches - good public transport connections. 45 mins from the CBD.
To register: Phone 0417 502 056 (Tony Carr)

Explorative Walk in Catchment: 10am Saturday May 15
Meet at 10am in Morgan Road and walk from there to the corner of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment.
Bookings essential: Contact Conny on 0432 643 295

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Update

March 28, 2021 Clean at Narrabeen: 
The Narrabeen lagoon crew today picked up over 2000 items from the lagoon, including a lobster cage, a vacuum cleaner pipe, a bunch of plastic flowers, two sandwich board signs, ones petrol leaf blower, one battery charger, three chairs, one kayak paddle, one tennis racket, two bricks and lots of plastic bottles, glass bottles, food wraps, straws, plastic cutlery, Styrofoam and cigarettes. Thank you to everyone who came and gave up their Sunday morning to make this world a little nicer place to live in for all beings. We're forever grateful to all of you. We're all "The Crew".

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!

Next Clean: 

Sculptural Trees: 100 Year Old Angophora Kept In Local Park

Here's an idea spotted during our Autumn School Holidays break while visiting Lane Cove/Greenwich. This tree is now Art as well as an adventure playground for local children. 

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.

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.

Four Corners Reveals Morrison’s Gas Plan Driven By Ideology Not Logic

April 13, 2021
Lock the Gate Alliance has renewed its call for the Morrison Government to stop wasting public money to prop up polluting and dangerous gas projects following criticism of the plan by energy experts aired overnight.

Four Corners, in its April 12th edition 'Fired Up' has reported Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor and his department not only ignored the advice from the likes of the Australian Energy Market Operator, but that the independent experts may have been pressured to fall into step with the government’s ideologically driven gas-fuelled agenda.

“It is extremely concerning our elected politicians are not listening to the energy experts, and are instead pushing outdated and polluting gas and fracking onto the Australian public,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Naomi Hogan.

“It’s galling that without an ounce of independent justification, the Morrison Government wants to sacrifice so much country to new gasfields, fracking, and pipelines, laying waste to farmland, water, and rural communities. 

“It’s high time Federal Government politicians dumped their flawed plan to waste public money on paying for the gas industry’s pipelines and fracking rigs, and they should start by dropping the proposed changes to NAIF that will enable public funds for gas.” 

Coonamble farmer Anne Kennedy said it was a travesty the Morrison Government was willing to sacrifice food and fibre growing land and the water beneath it for the polluting, temporary gas industry.

“The Morrison Government had so many other industries it could have funnelled money into if it wanted to help the nation recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Unfortunately, it chose one that harms our rural communities and our ability to produce food and access secure water, while actually harming our economy,” she said.

“I have given the government so much science and evidence over 12 years - really solid reports, and I naively thought they’d listen.

“Australians will be rightly shocked and appalled to learn there was not a shred of evidence supporting the Morrison Government’s ideological obsession with polluting gas.

“The government must back down from its diabolical coal seam gas and fracking plans before it is too late.”

Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said “Farmers in our region are now being approached by a gas pipeline company who has stated publicly they are after federal funding in order to proceed to development.

“This pipeline is a threat to hundreds of properties across the region, and there is no way that we can accept the Federal Government throwing away public funds on a project that will do so much damage.

“We have suffered enough after years of drought. We are now experiencing the first good season in many years. We would like to be able to enjoy that without the constant threat of high pressure gas pipelines and coal seam gasfields being superimposed on our agricultural businesses. It is a direct threat to food security as it would hamper our ability to grow food and fibre for the nation and earn valued export income."

Barilaro Can’t Blow Smoke Over Upper Hunter Eyes As Mangoola Tries To Expand

April 12, 2021
The latest planned coal project expansion to come before NSW's Independent Planning Commission is symptomatic of the State Government’s failure to address unacceptable cumulative impacts on the region’s air quality, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The IPC recently reopened submissions concerning the Mangoola Continued Operations Project, located in the Wybong Valley, in response to information received from government agencies about the cumulative trend of air quality and mounting community complaints in Muswellbrook.

The pending decision on the project comes at a time when numerous politicians from other regions of the state are descending on the Upper Hunter and making inaccurate and unhelpful comments as parties jostle for votes at the upcoming by-election.

Wybong Valley local and ex-coal miner Michael White said he was extremely disappointed by Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s comments dismissing Upper Hunter Valley locals’ concerns over air quality.

“It was like seeing someone deny the existence of climate change. The data is there, but Mr Barilaro is simply refusing to accept it,” he said.

“When you look at the data for 2018, before the bushfires temporarily made air quality worse, there were already eight locations in the Hunter, six of which were in the Upper Hunter, that had annual PM10 readings exceeding the national environmental standards for ambient air quality. 

“Coal mines have clearly contributed to this.”

Mr White also said, in its submission to the IPC the Department had to rely on an air pollution inventory from nine years ago when discussing PM2.5 levels and that no more characterisation studies had been undertaken despite several new mine expansions since. 

“Since 2012 there have been many new and expanded coal mines in the Upper Hunter, yet the department still expects us to believe the primary driver of air pollution in the region is woodsmoke for heating.

“The NSW Environment Protection Authority in 2015 found off road diesel emissions associated with coal mining to blame for a significant portion of PM2.5 in the Hunter Valley. 

“It is a great scandal that we do not have a federal or state off-road diesel emissions standard.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “Asthma rates are higher in Muswellbrook than the rest of the Hunter, and adolescent asthma and deaths from respiratory illness are significantly higher in the Hunter than elsewhere in NSW. 

“Is Mr Barilaro ignoring the health data because he’s shying away from taking a tough line with multinational mining companies?  

“We’re calling for the IPC to reject the proposed Mangoola expansion given the added air pollution it will produce, and for the government to overhaul its Draft Clean Air Strategy to clamp down on air pollution by coal mines.”

Draft NSW Clean Air Strategy: Public Consultation

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is seeking public comments on the draft NSW Clean Air Strategy until April 23rd 2021.

The aim of the draft NSW Clean Air Strategy is to support liveable communities, healthy environments and the NSW economy by reducing the adverse effects of air pollution on NSW communities.

Extensive consultation has previously been carried out including the Clean Air Summit in 2017 which was attended by more than 300 stakeholders. The Government is already delivering on actions to support clean air such as those announced at the summit.

What is the NSW Clean Air Strategy?
The draft NSW Clean Air Strategy presents the whole of NSW Government approach to improving air quality and minimising adverse effects on human health. The priorities in the draft Strategy are better preparedness for pollution events, cleaner industry, cleaner transport, engines and fuels, healthier households and better places. Under the Clean Air Strategy, the NSW Government will continue to lead by example.

Actions in the draft Strategy reflect the substantial and growing body of evidence on air pollution and its health impacts and costs in New South Wales. 

When will the NSW Clean Air Strategy be finalised?
At the close of the public exhibition period, we will consider all submissions on the draft Strategy and recommend changes to the Strategy as necessary. We will provide the Minister for Energy and Environment with the final strategy, all the submissions and the submissions report.

NSW Government will then consider the final strategy. Once approved, the final strategy will be published on this website, and stakeholders, including those who made a submission on the draft strategy, will be notified.

How can I comment on the draft NSW Clean Air Strategy?
Have your say
Public exhibition is from 18 March to 23 April 2021. 

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

Make a submission online by using the online form here.
Post your written submission to:
Manager Air Policy, EES-CCS
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124
Email your submission to:
Make sure you include the following information at the top of your email or written submission:
  • first name
  • last name
  • organisation you represent (if applicable)
  • email address
  • postcode.
Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (the Department) is committed to transparent processes and open access to information. The Department may draw upon the contents of submissions and quote from them or refer to them in publications. The Department will treat submissions as public and may publish copies on the Department website (contact details will be redacted), unless you indicate that you wish your complete submission or certain content to remain confidential.

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

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

Sydney's disastrous flood wasn't unprecedented: we're about to enter a 50-year period of frequent, major floods

Tom HubbleUniversity of Sydney

Last month’s flood in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River region of western Sydney peaked at a staggering 12.9 metres, with water engulfing road signs and reaching the tops of many houses.

There hasn’t been a major flood on the Hawkesbury-Nepean for more than 30 years, with the last comparable one occurring in 1990. Long-term Sydneysiders, however, will remember that 12 major floods occurred during the 40 years before 1990. Five of these were larger than last month’s flood.

So what’s going on? The long-term rainfall pattern in the region and corresponding river flow is cyclic in nature. This means 40 to 50 years of dry weather with infrequent small floods are followed by 40 to 50 years of wet weather with frequent major floods.

As river and floodplain residents take stock of the recent damage to their homes and plan necessary repairs, it’s vital they recognise more floods are on the way. Large, frequent floods can be expected to occur again within 10 or 20 years if — as expected — the historical pattern of rainfall and flooding repeats itself.

Living In A Bathtub

Many of the 18,000 people who were evacuated live in and around a region known as the “Sackville Bathtub”. As the name suggests, this flat, low-lying section of the floodplain region was spectacularly affected.

The flooded Hawkesbury-Nepean River last month. Brown floodwater is evident between Penrith (right) and the Pacific Ocean (top left). The Sackville Bathtub is located left of centre. Digital Earth Australia Map, Geoscience Australia, Tom Hubble

The Sackville Bathtub is located between Richmond and Sackville. It’s part of the Cumberland Plain area of Western Sydney and formed very slowly over 100 million years due to plate tectonic processes. The bathtub’s mudstone rock layers are folded into a broad, shallow, basin-shaped depression, which is surrounded by steep terrain.

Downstream of Sackville, the Hawkesbury-Nepean River flows through sandstone gorges and narrows in width. This creates a pinch-point that partially blocks the river channel.

Just as a bath plug sitting half-way over a plughole slows an emptying bath, the Sackville pinch-point causes the bathtub to fill during floods.

How the bathtub effect in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley causes floodwaters to back up and lead to deep and dangerous flooding.

Will Raising The Dam Wall Work?

The NSW state government is planning to raise the wall of the Warragamba Dam to help mitigate catastrophic floods in the region. But this may not be an effective solution.

Typically, somewhere between 40% and 60% of the floodwater that fills up the Sackville Bathtub comes from unimpeded, non-Warragamba sources. So, when the Hawkesbury-Nepean River floods, the bathtub is already quite full and causing significant problems before Warragamba begins to spill. The Warragamba water then raises the flood level, but often by only a couple of metres.

Raising Warragamba Dam’s wall as a mitigation measure will only control about half the floodwater, and won’t prevent major floods delivered by the Nepean and Grose rivers, which also feed into the region. This represents a small potential benefit for a very large cost.

The timing of observed flood peaks during the August 1986 Hawkesbury-Nepean flood, in relation to the time when Warragamba Dam began to spill. The arrival of Warragamba water in the Sackville Bathtub increased the flood depth only by about a metre above the floodwaters delivered earlier during the flood from the Grose and Nepean rivers. Tom Hubble - Redrawn from data presented in Appendix One of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Flood Study; Infrastructure NSW 2019.

A Long Flooding Period Is On Our Doorstep

The idea of drought-dominated and flood-dominated periods for the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system was proposed in the mid-1970s by the University of Sydney’s Robin Warner. Since the late 1990’s, it hasn’t been the focus of much research.

Read more: What is a 1 in 100 year weather event? And why do they keep happening so often?

He showed a century-long cycle of alternating periods of dry weather and small floods followed by wet weather and big floods is normal for Sydney. This means the March flood may not have come as a surprise to older residents of the Sackville Bathtub, who have a lived experience of the whole 40-50 year flooding cycle.

As a rough average, one major flood occurred every four years during the last wet-weather period between 1950 and 1990. The largest of this period occurred in November 1961. It filled the Sackville Bathtub to a depth of 15 metres and — like the June 1964 (14.6 metres) and March 1978 (14.5 metres) events — caused more widespread flooding than this year’s flood.

A photo of a flood that occured in Maitland in September 1950. Sam Hood/NSW State Library/FlickrCC BY

We’re currently 30 years into a dry period, which may be about to end. Conditions might stay dry for another 10 or 20 years.

These cycles are likely caused by natural, long-term “climate drivers” — long-term climatic fluctuations such as El Niño and La Niña, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole, which are driven by oceanic current circulations. These global phenomena bring both benevolent weather and destructive weather to Australia.

Eastern Australia experiences decades-long periods of wetter weather when these climate drivers sync up with each other. When they’re out of sync, we get dry weather periods.

Read more: A rare natural phenomenon brings severe drought to Australia. Climate change is making it more common

These long-term cycles are natural and have been operating for thousands of years, but climate change is amplifying and accelerating them. Dry periods are getting drier, wet periods are getting wetter.

The Good News And Bad News

The bad news is that 12-plus metre floods at Hawkesbury River (Windsor Bridge) are not all that unusual. There have been 24, 12-plus metre floods at Windsor Bridge since 1799.

The good news is meteorological forecasters are excellent at predicting when the storms that generate moderate, large and catastrophic floods are coming. We can expect several days’ to a week’s notice of the next big flood.

We can also prepare our individual and communal responses for more large and frequent floods on the Hawkesbury-Nepean. Residents of the area need to think about how they might live near the river as individuals. Decide what is precious and what you will fit into a car and trailer. Practice evacuating.

As a community, we must ensure the transport infrastructure and evacuation protocols minimise disruption to river and floodplain residents while maximising their safety. It’s particularly important we set up inclusive infrastructure to ensure disadvantaged people, who are disproportionately affected by disasters, also have a fighting chance to evacuate and survive.

Read more: Not 'if', but 'when': city planners need to design for flooding. These examples show the way

Upgrading the escape routes that enable people to evacuate efficiently is absolutely vital. As is rethinking whether we should continue urban expansion in the Sackville Bathtub.

So remember, the next major flood is going to occur sooner than we would like. If you live in this region, you must start preparing. Or as a wise elder once said, “Live on a floodplain, own a boat!”

This story is part of a series The Conversation is running on the nexus between disaster, disadvantage and resilience. Read the rest of the stories here.The Conversation

Tom Hubble, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

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

Is Malcolm Turnbull the only Liberal who understands economics and climate science – or the only one who'll talk about it?

Darren England/AAP
Richard DennissCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Yesterday, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was unceremoniously dumped as chair of the New South Wales government’s climate advisory board, just a week after being offered the role. His crime? He questioned the wisdom of building new coal mines when the existing ones are already floundering.

No-one would suggest building new hotels in Cairns to help that city’s struggling tourism industry. But among modern Liberals it’s patently heresy to ask how rushing to green light 11 proposed coal mines in the Hunter Valley helps the struggling coal industry.

Coal mines in the Hunter are already operating well below capacity and have been laying off workers in the face of declining world demand for coal, plummeting renewable energy prices and trade sanctions imposed by China. The problem isn’t a shortage of supply, but an abundance.

The simple truth is building new coal mines will simply make matters worse, especially for workers in existing coal mines that have already been mothballed or had their output scaled back.

coal mine in the Hunter Valley
Turnbull has called for a moratorium on new coal mines in the Hunter Valley, such as the one pictured above. Dean Lewins/AAP

It gets worse. Once an enormous, dusty, noisy open cut coal mine is approved, the agriculture, wine, tourism and horse breeding industries – all major employers in the Hunter Valley – are reluctant to invest nearby. While building new coal mines hurts workers in existing coal mines, the mere act of approving new coal mines harms investment in job creation in the industries that offer the Hunter a smooth transition from coal.

The NSW planning department doesn’t have a plan for how many new coal mines are needed to meet world demand. Nor does it have a plan for how much expansion of rail and port infrastructure is required to meet the output of all the new mines being proposed.

Read more: Forget about the trade spat – coal is passé in much of China, and that's a bigger problem for Australia

That’s why my colleagues and I recently called for a moratorium on new coal mines in the Hunter until such plans were made explicit. Just as you wouldn’t approve 1,000 new homes in a town where the sewerage system was already at capacity, it makes no sense to approve 11 new coal mines in a region that couldn’t export that much coal if it tried.

But if there’s one thing that defines the debate about coal in Australia, its that it makes no sense.

Just as it made no sense for then-treasurer Scott Morrison to wave a lump of coal around in parliament in 2017, it makes no sense for right-wing commentators to pretend approving new mines will help create jobs in coal mining. And it makes no sense for the National Party to ignore the pleas of farmers to protect their land from the damage coal mines do.

Scott Morrison with a lump of coal to Question Time in 2017.
Scott Morrison took a lump of coal to Question Time in 2017. Lukas Coch/AAP

On the surface, Turnbull’s support for a pause on approving new mines while a plan is developed is old-fashioned centrism. It protects existing coal workers from new, highly automated mines, it protects farmers and it should make those concerned with climate change at least a bit happy. Win. Win. Win.

But there’s no room for a sensible centre in the Australian coal debate. And when someone even suggests the industry might not be set to grow, its army of loyal parliamentary and media supporters swing into action.

Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon said Turnbull “wants to make the Upper Hunter a coal-mine-free zone”. The Nationals’ Matt Canavan suggested stopping coal exports was “an inhumane policy to keep people in poverty”. The head of the NSW Minerals Council suggested 12,000 jobs were at risk.

But of course, the opposite is true. Turnbull’s proposal to protect existing coal workers from competition from new mines would save jobs, not threaten them. He didn’t suggest coal mines be shut down tomorrow, or even early. And, given existing coal mines are running so far below capacity, his call has no potential to impact coal exports.

Read more: Labor politicians need not fear: Queenslanders are no more attached to coal than the rest of Australia

Coal workers
Opening new coal mines won’t help save the jobs of existing coal workers. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Predictably, the Murdoch press ran a relentlessly misleading campaign in support of the coal industry and in opposition to their least favourite Liberal PM. But surprisingly, the NSW government rolled over in record time.

While the government might think appeasing the coal industry will play well among some older regional voters, they must know such kowtowing is a gift to independents such as Zali Steggall, and a fundamental threat to inner-city Liberals such as Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski and Trent Zimmerman.

The decision to dump Turnbull might have bought NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian some respite from attacks from the Daily Telegraph. But such denial of economics and climate science will provide no respite for existing coal workers in shuttered coal mines or the agriculture and tourism industry that is looking to expand.

No doubt the National Party are pleased with their latest scalp. But it must be remembered this is the party that last year wanted to wage a war against koalas on behalf of property developers. Such political instincts might help the Nationals fend off the threat from One Nation in regional areas but it does nothing to retain votes in leafy Liberal strongholds that deliver most Liberal seats.

Read more: Aren't we in a drought? The Australian black coal industry uses enough water for over 5 million people The Conversation

Richard Denniss, Adjunct Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

'Failure is not an option': after a lost decade on climate action, the 2020s offer one last chance

Will SteffenAustralian National University

In May 2011, almost precisely a decade ago, the government-appointed Climate Commission released its inaugural report. Titled The Critical Decade, the report’s final section warned that to keep global temperature rises to 2℃ this century, “the decade between now and 2020 is critical”.

As the report noted, if greenhouse gas emissions peaked around 2011, the world’s emissions-reduction trajectory would have been easily manageable: net-zero by around 2060, and a maximum emissions reduction rate of 3.7% each year. Delaying the emissions peak by only a decade would require a trebling of this task – a maximum 9% reduction each year.

But, of course, the decade to 2020 did not mark the beginning of the world’s emissions-reduction journey. Global emissions accelerated before dropping marginally under COVID-19 restrictions, then quickly rebounding.

Our new report, released today, shows the immense cost of this inaction. It is now virtually certain Earth will pass the critical 1.5℃ temperature rise this century – most likely in the 2030s. Now, without delay, humanity must focus on holding warming to well below 2℃. For Australia, that means tripling its emissions reduction goal this decade to 75%.

Young girl holds sign at climate protest
The 2020s offer a last chance to keep warming within 2℃ this century, and leave a habitable planet for future generations. Shutterstock

Aim High, Go Fast

The Climate Council report is titled Aim High: Go Fast: Why Emissions Need To Plummet This Decade. It acknowledges the multiple lines of evidence showing it will be virtually impossible to keep average global temperature rise to 1.5℃ or below this century, without a period of significant overshoot and “drawdown”. (This refers to a hypothetical period in which warming exceeds 1.5℃ then cools back down due to the removal of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere.)

The increasing rate of climate change, insights from past climates, and a vanishing carbon budget all suggest the 1.5℃ threshold will in fact be crossed very soon, in the 2030s.

There is no safe level of global warming. Already, at a global average temperature rise of 1.1℃, we’re experiencing more powerful storms, destructive marine and land heatwaves, and a new age of megafires.

Read more: Cyclone Seroja just demolished parts of WA – and our warming world will bring more of the same

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned, the consequences of breaching 1.5℃ warming will be stark. Heatwaves, droughts, bushfires and intense rain events will become even more severe. Sea levels will rise, species will become extinct and crop yields will fall. Coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, will decline by up to 90%.

And perhaps most frighteningly, overshooting 1.5℃ runs a greater risk of crossing “tipping points”, such as the collapse of ice sheets and the release of natural carbon stores in forests and permafrost. Crossing those thresholds may set off irreversible changes to the global climate system, and destroy critical ecosystems on which life on Earth depends.

An ice sheet in Greenland
Climate tipping points, such as melting ice sheets, may set off irreversible changes in natural systems. John McConnico/AP

Every Fraction Of A Degree Matters

The outlook may be dire, but every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters. Its value will be measured in terms of human lives, species and ecosystems saved. We can, and must, limit warming to well below 2℃. The goal is very challenging, but still achievable.

The strategies, technologies and pathways needed to tackle the climate challenge are now emerging as fast as the risks are escalating. And in the lead-up to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year, there’s widespread momentum for international cooperation and action.

Read more: Seriously ugly: here's how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century

Many of Australia’s strategic allies and major trading partners – including the United StatesEurope, the United Kingdom and China – are starting to move on climate change. But Australia is standing still. This is despite our nation being one of the most vulnerable to climate change – and despite us having some of the world’s best renewable energy resources.

We must urgently grab these opportunities. We propose Australia radically scale up its emissions-reduction targets – to a 75% cut by 2030 from 2005 levels (up from the current 26-28% target). Australia should also aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2035. Doing so by 2050 – a goal Prime Minister Scott Morrison says is his preference – is too late.

A coal plant
Polluting industries such as coal will have to give way to cleaner industries. Shutterstock

A Huge But Achievable Task

Such dramatic action is clearly daunting. There are political, technical and other challenges ahead because action has been delayed. But a 75% emissions-reduction target is a fair and achievable contribution to the global effort.

Australia’s unrivalled potential for renewable energy means it can transform the electricity sector and beyond. Electric vehicles can lead to carbon-free transport and renewably generated electricity and green hydrogen can decarbonise industry.

The emerging new economy is bringing jobs to regional Australia and building cleaner cities by reducing fossil fuel pollution. There is staggering potential for a massive new industry built on the export to Asia of clean energy and products made from clean hydrogen.

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

State, territory and local governments are leading the way in this transformation. The federal government must now join the effort.

The transition will no doubt be disruptive at times, and involve hard decisions. Industries such as coal will disappear and others will emerge. This will bring economic and social change which must be managed sensitively and carefully.

But the long-term benefits of achieving a stable climate far outweigh the short-term disruptions. As our report concludes:

The pathway we choose now will either put us on track for a much brighter future for our children, or lock in escalating risks of dangerous climate change. The decision is ours to make. Failure is not an option.

Climate Council researcher Dr Simon Bradshaw contributed to this article.The Conversation

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.

Seriously ugly: here's how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century

Ove Hoegh-GuldbergThe University of Queensland and Lesley HughesMacquarie University

Imagine, for a moment, a different kind of Australia. One where bushfires on the catastrophic scale of Black Summer happen almost every year. One where 50℃ days in Sydney and Melbourne are common. Where storms and flooding have violently reshaped our coastlines, and unique ecosystems have been damaged beyond recognition – including the Great Barrier Reef, which no longer exists.

Frighteningly, this is not an imaginary future dystopia. It’s a scientific projection of Australia under 3℃ of global warming – a future we must both strenuously try to avoid, but also prepare for.

The sum of current commitments under the Paris climate accord puts Earth on track for 3℃ of warming this century. Research released today by the Australian Academy of Science explores this scenario in detail.

The report, which we co-authored with colleagues, lays out the potential damage to Australia. Unless the world changes course and dramatically curbs greenhouse gas emissions, this is how bad it could get.

A Spotlight On The Damage

Nations signed up to the Paris Agreement collectively aim to limit global warming to well below 2℃ this century and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5℃. But on current emissions-reduction pledges, global temperatures are expected to far exceed these goals, reaching 2.9℃ by 2100.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent, and already has a highly variable climate of “droughts and flooding rains”. This is why of all developed nations, Australia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

The damage is already evident. Since records began in 1910, Australia’s average surface temperature has warmed by 1.4℃, and its open ocean areas have warmed by 1℃. Extreme events – such as storms, droughts, bushfires, heatwaves and floods – are becoming more frequent and severe.

Today’s report brings together multiple lines of evidence such as computer modelling, observed changes and historical paleoclimate studies. It gives a picture of the damage that’s already occurred, and what Australia should expect next. It shines a spotlight on four sectors: ecosystems, food production, cities and towns, and health and well-being.

In all these areas, we found the impacts of climate change are profound and accelerating rapidly.

Read more: Yes, Australia is a land of flooding rains. But climate change could be making it worse

Perth residents at an evacuation centre during a bushfire
Perth residents at an evacuation centre during a bushfire in February this year. Such events will become more frequent under climate change. Richard Wainwright/AAP

1. Ecosystems

Australia’s natural resources are directly linked to our well-being, culture and economic prosperity. Warming and changes in climate have already eroded the services ecosystems provide, and affected thousands of species.

The problems extend to the ocean, which is steadily warming. Heat stress is bleaching and killing corals, and severely damaging crucial habitats such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows. As oceans absorb carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere, seawater is reaching record acidity levels, harming marine food webs, fisheries and aquaculture.

At 3℃ of global warming by 2100, oceans are projected to absorb five times more heat than the observed amount accumulated since 1970. Being far more acidic than today, ocean oxygen levels will decline at ever-shallower depths, affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life everywhere. At 1.5-2℃ warming, the complete loss of coral reefs is very likely.

Read more: The oceans are changing too fast for marine life to keep up

A clownfish
Heat stress is killing corals and marine animal habitat. Shutterstock

Under 3℃ warming, global sea levels are projected to rise 40-80 centimetres, and by many more metres over coming centuries. Rising sea levels are already inundating low-lying coastal areas, and saltwater is intruding into freshwater wetlands. This leads to coastal erosion that amplifies storm impacts and affects both ecosystems and people.

Land and freshwater environments have been damaged by drought, fire, extreme heatwaves, invasive species and disease. An estimated 3 billion vertebrate animals were killed or displaced in the Black Summer bushfires. Some 24 million hectares burned, including 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and 50% of Gondwana rainforests. At 3℃ of warming, the number of extreme fire days could double.

Some species are shifting to cooler latitudes or higher elevations. But most will struggle to keep up with the unprecedented rate of warming. Critical thresholds in many natural systems are likely to be exceeded as global warming reaches 1.5℃. At 2℃ and beyond, we’re likely to see the complete loss of coral reefs, and inundation of iconic ecosystems such as the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

At 3℃ of global warming, Australia’s present-day ecological systems would be unrecognisable. The first documented climate-related global extinction of a mammal, the Bramble Cay melomys from the Torres Strait, is highly unlikely to be the last. Climate change is predicted to increase extinction rates by several orders of magnitude.

Degradation of Australia’s unique ecosystems will harm the tourism and recreation industries, as well as our food security, health and culture.

There are ways to reduce the climate risk for ecosystems – many of which also benefit humans. For example, preserving and restoring mangroves protects our coasts from storms, increases carbon storage and retains fisheries habitat.

Read more: Click through the tragic stories of 119 species still struggling after Black Summer in this interactive (and how to help)

orange-bellied parrot
Climate change will accelerate species extinctions. Pictured: the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. Shutterstock

2. Food Production

Australian agriculture and food security already face significant risks from droughts, heatwaves, fires, floods and invasive species. At 2℃ or more of global warming, rainfall will decline and droughts in areas such as southeastern and southwestern Australia will intensify. This will reduce water availability for irrigated agriculture and increase water prices.

Heat stress affects livestock welfare, reproduction and production. Projected temperature and humidity changes suggest livestock will experience many more heat stress days each year. More frequent storms and heavy rainfall are likely to worsen erosion on grazing land and may lead to livestock loss from flooding.

Heat stress and reduced water availability will also make farms less profitable. A 3℃ global temperature increase would reduce yields of key crops by between 5% and 50%. Significant reductions are expected in oil seeds (35%), wheat (18%) and fruits and vegetables (14%).

Climate change also threatens forestry in hotter, drier regions such as southwestern Australia. There, the industry faces increased fire risks, changed rainfall patterns and growing pest populations. In cooler regions such as Tasmania and Gippsland, forestry production may increase as the climate warms. Existing plantations would change substantially under 3℃ warming.

As ocean waters warm, distributions and stock levels of commercial fish species are continuing to change. This will curb profitability. Many aquaculture fisheries may fundamentally change, relocate or cease to exist.

These changes may cause fisheries workers to suffer unemployment, mental health issues (potentially leading to suicides) and other problems. Strategic planning to create new business opportunities in these regions may reduce these risks.

Read more: Australia's farmers want more climate action – and they’re starting in their own (huge) backyards

Farmer with sheep on dusty farm
Under climate change, drought will badly hurt farm profitability. Shutterstock

3. Cities And Towns

Almost 90% of Australians live in cities and towns and will experience climate change in urban environments.

Under a sea level rise of 1 metre by the end of the century – a level considered plausible by federal officials – between 160,000 and 250,000 Australian properties and infrastructure are at risk of coastal flooding.

Strategies to manage the risk include less construction in high-risk areas, and protecting coastal land with sea walls, sand dunes and mangroves. But some coastal areas may have to be abandoned.

Extreme heat, bushfires and storms put strain on power stations and infrastructure. At the same time, more energy is needed for increased air conditioning use. Much of Australia’s electricity generation relies on ageing and unreliable coal-fired power stations. Extreme weather can also disrupt and damage the oil and gas industries. Diversifying energy sources and improving infrastructure will be important to ensure reliable energy supplies.

The insurance and financial sector is becoming increasingly aware of climate risk and exposure. Insurance firms face increased claims due to climate-related disasters including floods, cyclones and mega-fires. Under some scenarios, one in every 19 property owners face unaffordable insurance premiums by 2030. A 3℃ world would render many more properties and businesses uninsurable.

Cities and towns, however, can be part of the climate solution. High-density urban living leads to a lower per capita greenhouse gas emission “footprint”. Also, innovative solutions are easier to implement in urban environments.

Passive cooling techniques, such as incorporating more plants and street trees during planning, can reduce city temperatures. But these strategies may require changes to stormwater management and can take time to work.

Read more: When climate change and other emergencies threaten where we live, how will we manage our retreat?

People photograph pool fallen onto beach after storm
Extreme storms will continue to violently reshape our coastlines. David Moir/ AAP

4. Human Health And Well-Being

A 3℃ world threatens human health, livelihoods and communities. The elderly, young, unwell, and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are at most risk.

Heatwaves on land and sea are becoming longer, more frequent and severe. For example, at 3℃ of global warming, heatwaves in Queensland would happen as often as seven times a year, lasting 16 days on average. These cause physiological heat stress and worsen existing medical conditions.

Bushfire-related health impacts are increasing, causing deaths and exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung disease. Tragically, we saw this unfold during Black Summer. These extreme conditions will increase at 2℃ and further at 3℃, causing direct and indirect physical and mental health issues.

Under 3℃ warming, climate damage to businesses will likely to lead to increased unemployment and possibly higher suicide rates, mental health issues and health issues relating to heat stress.

At 3°C global warming, many locations in Australia would be very difficult to inhabit due to projected water shortages.

As weather patterns change, transmission of some infectious diseases, such as Ross River virus, will become more intense. “Tropical” diseases may spread to more temperate areas across Australia.

Strategies exist to help mitigate these effects. They include improving early warning systems for extreme weather events and boosting the climate resilience of health services. Nature-based solutions, such as increasing green spaces in urban areas, will also help.

Read more: How does bushfire smoke affect our health? 6 things you need to know

Smoke shrouds Parliament House
Air quality in Canberra was the worst in the world after the Black Summer fires. Lukas Coch/AAP

How To Avoid Catastrophe

The report acknowledges that limiting global temperatures to 1.5℃ this century is now extremely difficult. Achieving net-zero global emissions by 2050 is the absolute minimum required to to avoid the worst climate impacts.

Australia is well positioned to contribute to this global challenge. We have a well-developed industrial base, skilled workforce and vast sources of renewable energy.

But Australia must also pursue far more substantial emissions reduction. Under the Paris deal, we’ve pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28% between 2005 and 2030. Given the multiple and accelerating climate threats Australia faces, we must scale up this pledge. We must also display the international leadership and collaboration required to set Earth on a safer climate trajectory.

Our report recommends Australia immediately do the following:

  1. join global leaders in increasing actions to urgently tackle and solve climate change

  2. develop strategies to meet the challenges of extreme events that are increasing in intensity, frequency and scale

  3. improve our understanding of climate impacts, including tipping points and the compounding effects of multiple stressors at global warming of 2℃ or more

  4. systematically explore how food production and supply systems should prepare for climate change

  5. better understand the impacts and risks of climate change for the health of Australians

  6. introduce policies to deliver deep and rapid cuts in emissions across the economy

  7. scale up the development and implementation of low- to zero-emissions technologies

  8. review Australia’s capacity and flexibility to take up innovations and technology breakthroughs for transitioning to a low-emissions future

  9. develop a better understanding of climate solutions through dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – particularly strategies that helped people manage Australian ecosystems for tens of thousands of years

  10. continue to build adaptation strategies and greater commitment for meeting the challenges of change already in the climate system.

We don’t have much time to avert catastrophe. This decade must be transformational, and one where we choose a safer future.

The report upon which this article is based, The Risks to Australia of a 3°C Warmer World, was authored and reviewed by 21 experts.

Read more: Climate crisis: keeping hope of 1.5°C limit alive is vital to spurring global action The Conversation

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor, The University of Queensland and Lesley Hughes, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University

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

Like the ocean’s ‘gut flora’: we sailed from Antarctica to the equator to learn how bacteria affect ocean health

Eric Jorden RaesDalhousie University

Aboard an Australian research vessel, the RV Investigator, we sailed for 63 days from Antarctica’s ice edge to the warm equator in the South Pacific and collected 387 water samples.

Our goal? To determine how the genetic code of thousands of different micro-organisms can provide insights into the ocean’s functional diversity — the range of tasks performed by bacteria in the ocean.

Our research was published yesterday in Nature Communications. It showed how bacteria can help us measure shifts in energy production at the base of the food web. These results are important, as they highlight an emerging opportunity to use genetic data for large-scale ecosystem assessments in different marine environments.

In light of our rapidly changing climate, this kind of information is critical, as it will allow us to unpack the complexity of nature step by step. Ultimately, it will help us mitigate human pressures to protect and restore our precious marine ecosystems.

Why Should We Care About Marine Bacteria?

The oceans cover 71% of our planet and sustain life on Earth. In the upper 100 meters, the sunlit part of the oceans, microscopic life is abundant. In fact, it’s responsible for producing up to 50% of all the oxygen in the world.

A whale breaches the ocean
Marine bacteria provide the energy and food for the entire marine food web, from tiny crustaceans to whales. Shutterstock

Much like the link recently established between human health and the human microbiome (“gut flora”), ocean health is largely controlled by its bacterial inhabitants.

But the role of bacteria go beyond oxygen production. Bacteria sustain, inject and control the fluxes of energy, nutrients and organic matter in our oceans. They provide the energy and food for the entire marine food web, from tiny crustaceans to fish larvae, whales and the fish we eat.

These micro-organisms also execute key roles in numerous biogeochemical cycles (the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and iron cycles, to name a few).

So, it’s important to quantify their various tasks and understand how the different bacterial species and their functions respond to environmental changes.

Fundamental Questions

Global ocean research initiatives — such as GO-SHIP and GEOTRACES — have been measuring the state of oceans in expeditions like ours for decades. They survey temperature, salinity, nutrients, trace metals (iron, cobalt and more) and other essential ocean variables.

Only recently, however, have these programs begun measuring biological variables, such as bacterial gene data, in their global sampling expeditions.

The author smiles in front of a blue and white ship, with 'Investigator' written on the side.
On board the RV Investigator, we departed Hobart in 2016, beginning our 63-day journey to sample microbes in the South Pacific. Eric RaesAuthor provided

Including bacterial gene data to measure the state of the ocean means we can try to fill critical knowledge gaps about how the diversity of bacteria impacts their various tasks. One hypothesis is whether a greater diversity of bacteria leads to a better resilience in an ecosystem, allowing it to withstand the effects of climate change.

In our paper, we addressed a fundamental question in this global field of marine microbial ecology: what is the relationship between bacterial identity and function? In other words, who is doing what?

What We Found

We showed it’s possible to link the genetic code of marine bacteria to the various functions and tasks they execute, and to quantify how these functions changed from Antarctica to the equator.

The functions that changed include taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, bacterial growth, strategies to cope with limited nutrients, and breaking down organic matter.

Read more: Marine life is fleeing the equator to cooler waters. History tells us this could trigger a mass extinction event

Another key finding is that “oceanographic fronts” can act as boundaries within a seemingly uniform ocean, resulting in unique assemblages of bacteria with specific tasks. Oceanographic fronts are distinct water masses defined by, for instance, sharp changes in temperature and salinity. Where the waters meet and mix, there’s high turbulence.

The change we recorded in energy production across the subtropical front, which separates the colder waters from the Southern Ocean from the warmer waters in the tropics, was a clear example of how oceanographic fronts influenced bacterial functions in the ocean.

Dark blue water meets light blue water under a cloudy sky.
An oceanographic front, where it looks like two oceans meet. Shutterstock

Tracking Changes In Our Ecosystems

As a result of our research, scientists may start using the functional diversity of bacteria as an indicator to track changes in our ecosystems, like canaries in a coal mine.

Read more: Half of global methane emissions come from aquatic ecosystems – much of this is human-made

So the functional diversity of bacteria can be used to measure how human growth and urbanisation impact coastal areas and estuaries.

For example, we can more accurately and holistically measure the environmental footprint of aquaculture pens, which are known to affect water quality by increasing concentrations of nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus – all favourite elements utilised by bacteria.

Likewise, we can track changes in the environmental services rendered by estuaries, such as their important role in removing excessive nitrogen that enters the waterways due to agriculture run-off and urban waste.

With 44% of the world’s population living along coastlines, the input of nitrogen to marine ecosystems, including estuaries, is predicted to increase, putting a strain on the marine life there.

Ultimately, interrogating the bacterial diversity using gene data, along with the opportunity to predict what this microscopic life is or will be doing in future, will help us better understand nature’s complex interactions that sustain life in our oceans.

Read more: Humans are polluting the environment with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and I'm finding them everywhere The Conversation

Eric Jorden Raes, Postdoctoral researcher Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie University

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

Marine life is fleeing the equator to cooler waters. History tells us this could trigger a mass extinction event

Anthony RichardsonThe University of QueenslandChhaya ChaudharyUniversity of AucklandDavid SchoemanUniversity of the Sunshine Coast, and Mark John CostelloUniversity of Auckland

The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life on Earth, with vibrant coral reefs and large aggregations of tunas, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. The number of marine species naturally tapers off as you head towards the poles.

Ecologists have assumed this global pattern has remained stable over recent centuries — until now. Our recent study found the ocean around the equator has already become too hot for many species to survive, and that global warming is responsible.

In other words, the global pattern is rapidly changing. And as species flee to cooler water towards the poles, it’s likely to have profound implications for marine ecosystems and human livelihoods. When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90% of all marine species died.

The Bell Curve Is Warping Dangerously

This global pattern — where the number of species starts lower at the poles and peaks at the equator — results in a bell-shaped gradient of species richness. We looked at distribution records for nearly 50,000 marine species collected since 1955 and found a growing dip over time in this bell shape.

A chart with three overlapping lines, each representing different decades. It shows that between 1955 and 1974, the bell curve is almost flat at the top. For the lines 1975-1994 and 1995-2015, the dip gets progressively deeper, with peaks either side of the centre.
If you look at each line in this chart, you can see a slight dip in total species richness between 1955 and 1974. This deepens substantially in the following decades. Anthony RichardsonAuthor provided

So, as our oceans warm, species have tracked their preferred temperatures by moving towards the poles. Although the warming at the equator of 0.6℃ over the past 50 years is relatively modest compared with warming at higher latitudes, tropical species have to move further to remain in their thermal niche compared with species elsewhere.

As ocean warming has accelerated over recent decades due to climate change, the dip around at the equator has deepened.

We predicted such a change five years ago using a modelling approach, and now we have observational evidence.

Read more: The ocean is becoming more stable – here's why that might not be a good thing

For each of the 10 major groups of species we studied (including pelagic fish, reef fish and molluscs) that live in the water or on the seafloor, their richness either plateaued or declined slightly at latitudes with mean annual sea-surface temperatures above 20℃.

Today, species richness is greatest in the northern hemisphere in latitudes around 30°N (off southern China and Mexico) and in the south around 20°S (off northern Australia and southern Brazil).

school of tuna fish
The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life, including large aggregations of tuna fish. Shutterstock

This Has Happened Before

We shouldn’t be surprised global biodiversity has responded so rapidly to global warming. This has happened before, and with dramatic consequences.

252 million years ago…

At the end of the Permian geological period about 252 million years ago, global temperatures warmed by 10℃ over 30,000-60,000 years as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from volcano eruptions in Siberia.

A 2020 study of the fossils from that time shows the pronounced peak in biodiversity at the equator flattened and spread. During this mammoth rearranging of global biodiversity, 90% of all marine species were killed.

125,000 years ago…

A 2012 study showed that more recently, during the rapid warming around 125,000 years ago, there was a similar swift movement of reef corals away from the tropics, as documented in the fossil record. The result was a pattern similar to the one we describe, although there was no associated mass extinction.

Authors of the study suggested their results might foreshadow the effects of our current global warming, ominously warning there could be mass extinctions in the near future as species move into the subtropics, where they might struggle to compete and adapt.


During the last ice age, which ended around 15,000 years ago, the richness of forams (a type of hard-shelled, single-celled plankton) peaked at the equator and has been dropping there ever since. This is significant as plankton is a keystone species in the foodweb.

Our study shows that decline has accelerated in recent decades due to human-driven climate change.

The Profound Implications

Losing species in tropical ecosystems means ecological resilience to environmental changes is reduced, potentially compromising ecosystem persistence.

In subtropical ecosystems, species richness is increasing. This means there’ll be species invaders, novel predator-prey interactions, and new competitive relationships. For example, tropical fish moving into Sydney Harbour compete with temperate species for food and habitat.

This could result in ecosystem collapse — as was seen at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods — in which species go extinct and ecosystem services (such as food supplies) are permanently altered.

The changes we describe will also have profound implications for human livelihoods. For example, many tropical island nations depend on the revenue from tuna fishing fleets through the selling of licenses in their territorial waters. Highly mobile tuna species are likely to move rapidly toward the subtropics, potentially beyond sovereign waters of island nations.

Read more: Tropical fisheries: does limiting international trade protect local people and marine life?

Similarly, many reef species important for artisanal fishers — and highly mobile megafauna such as whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles that support tourism — are also likely to move toward the subtropics.

The movement of commercial and artisanal fish and marine megafauna could compromise the ability of tropical nations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals concerning zero hunger and marine life.

Is There Anything We Can Do?

One pathway is laid out in the Paris Climate Accords and involves aggressively reducing our emissions. Other opportunities are also emerging that could help safeguard biodiversity and hopefully minimise the worst impacts of it shifting away from the equator.

Currently 2.7% of the ocean is conserved in fully or highly protected reserves. This is well short of the 10% target by 2020 under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Manta ray with other fish
Manta rays and other marine megafauna leaving the equator will have a huge impact on tourism. Shutterstock

But a group of 41 nations is pushing to set a new target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.

This “30 by 30” target could ban seafloor mining and remove fishing in reserves that can destroy habitats and release as much carbon dioxide as global aviation. These measures would remove pressures on biodiversity and promote ecological resilience.

Designing climate-smart reserves could further protect biodiversity from future changes. For example, reserves for marine life could be placed in refugia where the climate will be stable over the foreseeable future.

We now have evidence that climate change is impacting the best-known and strongest global pattern in ecology. We should not delay actions to try to mitigate this.

This story is part of Oceans 21
Our series on the global ocean opened with five in-depth profiles. Look out for new articles on the state of our oceans in the lead-up to the UN’s next climate conference, COP26. The series is brought to you by The Conversation’s international network.

Read more: Australia's marine (un)protected areas: government zoning bias has left marine life in peril since 2012 The Conversation

Anthony Richardson, Professor, The University of QueenslandChhaya Chaudhary, , University of AucklandDavid Schoeman, Professor of Global-Change Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Mark John Costello, Professor, University of Auckland

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

Climate change is a security threat the government keeps ignoring. We'll show up empty handed to yet another global summit

Cheryl DurrantUNSW

Climate change is a hot topic in Australian security circles, as it poses an emerging threat to our national resilience and way of life. As a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) last week warned, the federal government is unprepared to meet these challenges.

The report, authored by Dr Robert Glasser, said the government has largely overlooked the security threat posed by rising seas, climate-induced famine, extreme weather events, mass migrations and other climate change damage in Southeast Asia. Australia is sitting on the frontline of this vulnerable region.

Glasser’s report focuses on Southeast Asia, but in the bigger picture, climate security is an existential global risk which the Australian government is yet to fully grasp. It is this global aspect of climate and security which will be on the agenda in two weeks time at the Biden Leaders Summit in the US.

Why Should We Be Worried?

The global risk is broader than traditional security threats, such as the rise of China, terrorism and separatist movements. As the ASPI report emphasises, there is a relationship between climate security and other sectors such as food, health and environmental security.

Unlike traditional national security threats, climate threats have no respect for national or sector borders and cannot be solved with missiles.

The threat is urgent. With the end of the Donald Trump presidency, climate change is back on regional and international security action agendas. The penny has dropped on how little time is left to take action to prepare for the worst of consequences.

This is especially the case when there are long lead times to implement action, such as infrastructure development and military capability development.

Read more: Climate change poses a 'direct threat' to Australia's national security. It must be a political priority

ASPI’s key recommendations to the government include:

  • improving understanding of climate change risks through a broad whole-of-government process

  • building capacity in government agencies to assess ongoing risks

  • identifying opportunities for regional aid and investments.

These make sense, as the first step of preparedness is understanding the risk.

Security Risks Go Beyond Natural Disasters

The ASPI report notes Southeast Asia “has the world’s highest sea-level rise per kilometre of coastline and the largest coastal population affected by it”. The region is a hot spot for cyclones, with some nations vulnerable to catastrophic heat or fires.

The ASPI report notes:

Those hazards will not only exacerbate the traditional regional security threats […] but also lead to new threats and the prospect of multiple, simultaneous crises, including food insecurity, population displacement and humanitarian disasters that will greatly test our national capacities, commitments and resilience.

The report focuses on Southeast Asia and natural disasters, but the risks and the affected regions are bigger than that.

The Indo-Pacific region may see the displacement of millions of people due to climate change-related extreme weather events, heatwaves, droughts, rising seas and floods. We’re already seeing this occur in Bangladesh and small island developing states.

We could also see conflict arise as climate change affects global food or water resources. A particular concern is the potential geopolitical tensions between India and China over dwindling Tibetan water resources.

Australia Is Getting Left Behind

Urgency and risk are central to an executive order from President Joe Biden in January. The order requires a US national security estimate on the economic and national security impacts of climate change by June. The US Department of Defence must also complete an analysis of the security implications of climate change in the same timeframe.

Read more: Biden says the US will rejoin the Paris climate agreement in 77 days. Then Australia will really feel the heat

Most tellingly, the US is taking an integrated approach to climate security. Foreign policy, defence and economic risk analysis are being conducted in a joined-up, systemic way.

In contrast, the Australian Defence Strategic Update 2020 was conducted in isolation from foreign policy and economic reviews. Taking a narrow military perspective, it does mention climate change, but only once, as a subset of human security threats.

Australia risks being left behind as other countries follow the US lead. Across the Tasman, our Kiwi friends are already well advanced in turning risk awareness into action. The New Zealand government completed its first national climate risk assessment last year, with a national adaptation plan to be completed by August 2022.

What Are The Consequences?

Being left behind has consequences for Australia’s international standing, national resilience and economic position.

From a diplomatic perspective, Australia’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region is diminished, relative to other actors, especially in states where climate change risk is a top priority, such as Vanuatu or Kiribati.

Risks offer opportunities as well. For example, Australia has an abundance of critical minerals and rare earths needed for modern communications, space technologies, and renewable energy generation and transmission. These are key for business, as well as critical for defence forces.

Read more: Critical minerals are vital for renewable energy. We must learn to mine them responsibly

However, processing and manufacturing is largely conducted offshore — in countries vulnerable to climate risks such as Malaysia — before returning to Australia as finished products.

This puts Australian defence and space and energy sectors at risk of disruption, and Australian businesses at risks of economic loss.

What Needs To Happen Next?

ASPI’s report echoes the earlier recommendation from a 2018 Senate inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security. The inquiry also called for a coordinated whole-of-government response to climate change risks.

Three years later, the federal government has yet to act on its recommendations.

The Australian government now needs to have a greater sense of urgency to act on the growing national and international calls to act on climate risk. But first, our leaders need a changed mindset. They must accept that climate change is an immediate threat to Australia.

Read more: Senate report: climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia's security The Conversation

Cheryl Durrant, Adjunct Associate Professor, UNSW

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 -

Northern Composure Unplugged 2021: Voting Time!

Watch this year’s Northern Composure Unplugged entrants battle it out online during National Youth Week and vote for your favourite! Performances were filmed live at Glen Street Theatre and each participant had 1 song filmed and recorded.

Public voting has kicked off, sit back and tune into the playlist of the unplugged entrants. Once you're done, please vote for your favourite for the Audience Choice Award.

Vote for your favourite performance by Sunday 25 April 2021, 11:59pm via

Star Jump This Youth Week 

Northern Beaches Council Mayor Michael Regan is supporting the PCYC NSW Star Jump Challenge. Unfortunately Mr. Regan has a foot injury so he put his jumping on hold and instead is taking a star jump stance. Everyone in the PCYC Northern Beaches school holiday program had a lot of fun jumping around him with Star Jump Challenge mascot, Twinkle.

Star Jump every day of Youth Week this April 16 - 24 and raise much needed funds to support PCYC's brand new mental health program!

Join the challenge and sign up to jump or donate at

Balgowlah Boys Campus Videographer Wins Inaugural Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award: Congratulations Luke!

Luke O’Donnell, photographer and videographer from Balgowlah Boys Campus - Northern Beaches Secondary College  participated in the inaugural short film competition, run through the Excelsia and Sydney Film School.

The Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award is a Scholarship Film Festival for Australian High School Students.

Entrants had to submit a 3 minute short film expressing thematic content around the nature of morality, existence, spirituality, philosophy, reality and truth. His film "Until The End" has won the competition, and a scholarship to study the Bachelor of Screen Production. 

Excelsia stated; 

'Thank you to all our entrants and the creativity they have expressed through their projects. The team are delighted with the finalists for the inaugural Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award and have the bar set high for following years. We had a mix of narrative, animation, experimental and documentary films among our submissions. The emerging voices we have seen through these films brings exciting energy for the future of our industry.

Congratulations to Luke O'Donnell, the winner of the first Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award for his film 'Until the End'

Luke has written a blurb for his film on his You Tube page which reads;

''This year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a short film competition, run by Excelsia College and Sydney Film school. Entrants had to submit a 3 minute short film expressing thematic content around the nature of morality, existence, spirituality, philosophy, reality and truth. My film "Until The End" was lucky enough to win the competition, and a $60,000 scholarship to study the Bachelor of Screen Production, and I am so glad I can share it with you here :)'

“Until the End” is a film predicated upon a longing for the past. It recalls the fleeting nature of existence within the human experience and seeks to lament the true reality of relationships which often mean so much to us.

The film communicates the inherent desire for the restoration of human relationships, even when this desire may appear to be futile. The different cinematic techniques portray the emotions of the characters, and ultimately their position in the world. Through our identification with the characters, we develop empathy for their struggles, recalling the innocence of youth and its belief in the existence of a universal morality.

More holistically, the film reveals how deeper and more meaningful connections with others add richness and depth to human existence, even if it is fleeting, and attempts to deliver a simple yet meaningful didactic message that, despite the uncertainty concomitant in our relationships with others, human connection is essential to cognitive maturity and through it we grow.''

Cast and Crew:
Written and Directed by Luke O'Donnell
Audio recorded by Kyan Paltoft
"Sophie" played by Nicola Bartholomew
"Tom" played by Gordon Carroll

Congratulations Luke!  Everyone here is STOKED for you.

For those who haven't seen it yet:

Avalon Dancer Winner Of Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards: Congratulations Nathan!

The Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards are an important component of Telstra's partnership with The Australian Ballet. Each year they allow Telstra to spotlight and support Australia’s bright young talent and support them as they grow.

The Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards was created in 2003 to support the rising stars of The Australian Ballet.
The awards continue to be an incredible barometer for talent, with seven former winners progressing to eventually become Principal Artists of The Australian Ballet.

This year’s cohort of nominees included Soloist Nathan Brook; Soloist Imogen Chapman; Coryphée Jasmin Durham; Corps de Ballet Dancer Serena Graham; Coryphée Corey Herbert and Corps de Ballet Dancer Cameron Holmes. A nomination is a huge honour for these dancers as it recognises their hard work and huge potential as determined by their peers.

As part of an increase in Telstra's sponsorship, the winner of the Telstra Rising Star Award will receive a prize of $25,000. The Telstra People’s Choice Award was also be back this year, with an increased prize of $15,000. 

Winners of the Telstra Rising Star Award were selected by a panel of judges from both The Australian Ballet, the media and Telstra. The winner of both Awards was announced at the Sydney Opera House on the opening night of New York Dialects on Friday 6th of April. 

Telstra was proud to announce the winner for 2020, who took out both the People's Choice Award and the Rising Star Award, as soloist Nathan Brook. Congratulations Nathan!

Nathan was born and raised in Avalon Beach. He started dance classes at the age of seven after his parents recognised that, no matter what the music, Nathan was always dancing. He trained at Lamont Dance School in Avalon Beach, with Aryana Lamont, until the age of 14, when he moved to Melbourne to attend The Australian Ballet School. 

After graduating, Nathan joined Queensland Ballet’s Young Artist Program, where he had the opportunity to perform in George Balanchine’s Serenade© and Sir Kenneth McMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. He joined Queensland Ballet proper in 2015, touring with the company to Lausanne, London and Shanghai. Nathan joined the corps de ballet of The Australian Ballet in 2016; he was promoted to coryphée in 2018 and soloist in 2019.

Nathan is the youngest of three boys. Growing up on the beach, both his older brothers became competitive surf boat rowers; Nathan prefers to scuba dive.

Below is his response to being named the winner.


AUSSIES Wrap – Day 1 Youth Championships – 16 April

More than 700 young surf life savers from the U14 and U15 age groups gathered from across the country, with Maroochydore and Mooloolaba Beaches hosting the first day of competition.

In the U14’s it was Cooks Hills’ Alexander Walker who had the crowd on their feet, claiming the triple crown with gold in the U14 Ironman, Swim and Board.

“It’s incredible, it is so overwhelming it is such an amazing feeling to have completed the triple,” Walker said.

“The team at Cooks Hill and everyone is just so friendly, and we all work together at training to help each other improve as athletes and it is just a great atmosphere. It was great to come out here today and do it for them,” he said.

In the U15 Male Ironperson Newport's Conner Maggs has commenced his club's campaign with a bang securing silver and then following that up with gold in the U/15 Male Surf Race.

In the U14 Ironwoman final, a close run up the beach saw North Curl Curl’s Dominique Melbourn claim her first Australian gold medal after taking silver earlier in the day in the swim race.

“It’s such an unreal experience and I’m so lucky to have achieved the Australian title,” Dominique said.

“It’s surf and anything can happen, so I wasn’t confident until the end – but once I got down that last wave I got pretty excited.

“The club is really a team environment and we all work together so well, pushing each other through training. But nothing pushes us more than our coach Michael Clues.

“He’s such a determined coach and he just wants the best out of us and as it’s shown so far this weekend he’s definitely done that,” she said.

Former NSW Ironman legend and proud Wanda man Nathan Smith is helping usher through the next generation, with one of the Club’s stars Fletcher Warn taking out the U15 Ironman crown.

“Shout out to Nathan Smith and Greg Pierce for entering all the kids, none of this would have happened without you guys so thank you very much,” Warn said.

“To win it is just incredible. That was one of the scariest moments I have ever been in, I can’t, I pulled up onto the wave and I was like oh no cause I know he could run fast, so I had to get off and just run to get there.”

Jayda Kempton from Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park SLSC won the U15 Female Surf Race, a win that took her a bit by surprise.

“I’m a bit shocked actually – I went in to just have a go and I had no expectations to do as well as I did so I’m super happy,” Kempton said.

In the beach arena at Maroochydore the crowd was on it’s feet for the teams from Coogee, taking out both the U15 Female Beach Relay and the U15 Mixed Beach Relay Aussies titles and a Bronze medal in the U15 Male Beach Relay.

Eden Levitt from Coogee SLSC also took out a Bronze in the U15 Female Sprint and said she had no doubt in her mind that the two Beach Relay teams could get the Gold.

“Definitely two, I trust the relay team a lot, but it’s all experience it’s all new for all of us, there’s a lot to learn and A lot more to go,” Levitt said.

The local crew from Maroochydore took out the U15 Male Beach Relay ahead of Metropolitan Calounrda and Coogee with their coach saying the crew practiced changeovers multiple times to make sure they got it right.

“It’s exceptional for the young lads, they raced their hearts out and in such amazing competition awesome stringing a run together like that,” the Maroochydore coach said.

“The practiced over and over and over on the wrong side, upside down and forward and backwards and they’ve done it.”

The Australian Surf Life Saving Championships will be held on the Sunshine Coast from 16-24 April, with more than 5,900 competitors going head-to-head across three beaches and nine action packed days of competition.


For a full list of today’s results, click here.

Live stream

To watch today’s livestream, featuring the U14 and U15 Surf, Board and Ironperson Finals, click here.

Event Updates

For any updates and changes to schedules and timetables please download the Team App and join – Aussies 2021  to stay up to date with all the latest changes.

For further details about the Aussies and any other information head to –


Nine New Champions Crowned At The 2021 Billabong Oz Grom Cup

April 11, 2021 at Park Beach, Coff Harbour

Nine new champions were crowned today at the 2021 Billabong Oz Grom Cup pres. by Coopers Surf Australia following a giant day of action in playful two-foot surf. 

Lennix Smith (Barrack Point, NSW) wrapped up his final year in the 2021 Billabong Oz Grom Cup pres. by Coopers Surf Australia with a bang, taking out the 16-and-Under Boys division. Smith surfed impeccably over the course of the event, consistently posting mammoth scores for mature manoeuvres and the final was no exception with the Illawarra natural-footer finishing the final with a solid 15.67 two-wave heat total.

Lennix Smith (Barrack Point, NSW) wrapped up his final year in the 2021 Billabong Oz Grom Cup pres. by Coopers Surf Australia with a bang taking out the 16-and-Under Boys division. photo by Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW 

Charlotte Mulley (Burleigh Waters, Qld) surfed like a seasoned veteran who had honed their backhand on the long righthanders of the Gold Coast as she claimed victory in the 16-and-Under Girls division. Mulley nailed a chain of massive backhand snaps to finish the heat with a 17.23 two-wave total and take the win ahead of Oceanna Rogers (Shellcove, NSW) who claimed the runner-up position. 

Sierra Kerr (USA) capped off a stellar Billabong Oz Grom Cup campaign, taking victory in the 14-and-Under Girls division. Despite a slow start in the final, Kerr was able to maintain composure in the dying moments of the heat and notch up a near-perfect 9.33 wave score for a chain of powerful snaps and carves – that appeared eerily similar to the same style as her Dad (former Championship Tour surfer Josh Kerr) – to jump from third position into the winner’s chair. 

Following on Sierra Kerr’s victory, Samuel Lowe (Port Kembla, NSW) became the second child of a former WSL Championship Tour star to take a win. Samuel appeared to channel his father Michael’s performance at the 2004 Quiksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks as he found a handful of beautifully tapered righthanders to post a massive 9.00 wave score and gain the upper-hand against some fancied opposition, including perennial standout Fletcher Kelleher (Freshwater, NSW). 

Following the recent Rip Curl Newcastle Cup that wrapped up yesterday, Ocean Lancaster (Newcastle, NSW) made sure he did his best to continue representing Novocastrian surfing abroad, smashing the 12-and-Under Boys division. Lancaster dominated the impressive final, executing a barrage of gigantic snaps and carves to finish the heat with a 17.07 two-wave heat total. 

Ocean Lancaster. photo by Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW 

Pipi Taylor (Peregian Beach, Qld) did the Sunshine Coast proud as she took out the 12-and-Under Girls division. Taylor posted a respectable 9.10 total to take the win ahead of her fancied opponents. 

Lucas Deffenti (Miami, Qld) showed he is a star on the rise as he took out the highly contended 10-and-Under Boys division. Deffenti stood out in the final, effortlessly linking a chain of giant snaps and carves to post a 15.23 two-wave total and earn the top spot on the dais. 

Leihani Kaloha Zoric (Byron Bay, NSW) claimed her second Billabong Oz Grom Cup title, taking out the 10-and-Under Girls division. Zoric surfed well beyond her years in the final exchange, nailing an array of beautiful snaps and carves to finish with a giant 16.34 two-wave heat total. 

Pheonix Talbot (Yamba, NSW) will be heading back to Yamba with his head held high after an impressive victory in the 8-and-Under Mixed division with a heat total of 10.60. The victory confirmed Talbot’s nous in Coffs beachbreak conditions, with the young up-and-comer taking out the same division in the Woolworths Surfer Groms Comp event back in late 2020. 

The prestigious five-day event – now in its eighth year – ran from the 7th – 11th April and catered for over 200 competitors in nine different divisions. 

Former champions include 2016 World Junior Champion and current WSL World Championship Tour surfer Macy Callaghan who claimed her respective division in the event’s inaugural year. Since then, the event has been won by a range of Australia’s best and most promising junior surfers. 

In addition to all the action in the ocean, the final days of the event were webcast through Surfing NSW’s social channels. 

All event presentations were hosted at the Hoey Moey. 

Boys and Girls divisions for the event included 8-and-Under Mixed, 10-and-Under, 12-and-Under, 14-and-Under and 16-and-Under.  

The Billabong Oz Grom Cup pres. by Coopers Surf Australia is proudly supported by Billabong, Coopers Surf Australia, Coffs Harbour Boardriders, Coffs Harbour City Council, Park Beach Plaza, Hoey Moey and Surfing NSW. 

Locana Cullen. photo by Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW 

Event results:

16-and-Under Boys

1 – Lennix Smith (Barrack Point, NSW)

2 – Eden Hasson (Port Stephens, NSW)

3 – Ty Richardson (Palm Beach, Qld)

4 – Kyan Falvey (Cabarita, NSW)


16-and-Under Girls

1 – Charlotte Mulley (Burleigh Waters, Qld)

2 – Oceanna Rogers (Shell Cove, NSW)

3 – Holly Wishart (Gerringong, NSW)

4 – Imojen Enfield (Port Macquarie, NSW)


14-and-Under Boys

1 – Samuel Lowe (Port Kembla, NSW)

2 – Fletcher Kelleher (Manly, NSW)

3 – Joshua Marsh (Barrack Point, NSW)

4 – Landen Smales (Peregian Beach, Qld)


14-and-Under Girls

1 – Sierra Kerr (USA)

2 – Shyla Short (Austinmer, NSW)

3 – Juniper Harper (Lennox Head, NSW)

4 – Ruby Trew (Manly, NSW)


12-and-Under Boys

1 – Ocean Lancaster (Newcastle, NSW)

2 – Hunter Anderson (Moffatt Beach, Qld)

3 – Ben Zanatta Creagh (Dee Why, NSW)

4 – Caden Francis (Palm Beach, Qld)


12-and-Under Girls

1 – Pipi Taylor (Peregian Beach, Qld)

2 – Avalon Vowels (Scotts Head, NSW)

3 – Charli Hatley (Currumbin, Qld)

4 – Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW)


10-and-Under Boys

1 – Lucas Deffenti (Miami, Qld)

2 – Locana Cullen (Avalon, NSW)

3 – Luca Martin (Coffs Harbour, NSW)

4 – Jaggar Phillips (Maroubra, NSW)


10-and-Under Girls

1 – Leihani Kaloha Zoric (Byron Bay, NSW)

2 – Talia Tebb (Kincumber, NSW)

3 – Malia Watson (Tweed Heads, NSW)

4 – Henley Smith (Suffolk Park, NSW)


8-and-Under Mixed

1 – Pheonix Talbot (Yamba, NSW)

2 – Sage Lewis (Sandy Beach, NSW)

3 – Jaya Suhendra (Byron Bay, NSW)

4 – Bali Dobson (Byron Bay, NSW)

Phone wet and won't turn on? Here's how to deal with water damage (hint: soaking it in rice won't work)

Ritesh ChughCQUniversity Australia

If you’ve ever gotten your phone wet in the rain, dropped it in water or spilt liquid over it, you’re not alone. One study suggests 25% of smartphone users have damaged their smartphone with water or some other kind of liquid.

Liquid penetrating a smartphone can affect the device in several ways. It could lead to:

  • blurry photos, if moisture gets trapped in the camera lens
  • muffled audio, or no audio
  • liquid droplets under the screen
  • an inability to charge
  • the rusting of internal parts, or
  • a total end to all functionality.

While new phones are advertised as “water resistant”, this doesn’t mean they are waterproof, or totally immune to water. Water resistance just implies the device can handle some exposure to water before substantial damage occurs.

Samsung Australia has long-defended itself against claims it misrepresents the water resistance of its smartphones.

In 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took Samsung to Federal Court, alleging false and misleading advertisements had led customers to believe their Galaxy phones would be suitable for:

use in, or exposure to, all types of water (including, for example, oceans and swimming pools).

Samsung Australia subsequently denied warranty claims from customers for damage caused to phones by use in, or exposure to, liquid.

Similarly, last year Apple was fined €10 million (about A$15.5 million) by Italy’s antitrust authority for misleading claims about the water resistance of its phones, and for not covering liquid damage under warranty, despite these claims.

How Resistant Is Your Phone?

The water resistance of phones is rated by an “Ingress Protection” code, commonly called an IP rating. Simply, an electrical device’s IP rating refers to its effectiveness against intrusions from solids and liquids.

The rating includes two numbers. The first demonstrates protection against solids such as dust, while the second indicates resistance to liquids, specifically water.

Here are the various Ingress Protection ratings. The numbering changes based on the level of protection. Element Materials Technology

A phone that has a rating of IP68 has a solid object protection of 6 (full protection from dust, dirt and sand) and a liquid protection of 8 (protected from immersion in water to a depth of more than one metre).

Although, for the latter, manufacturers are responsible for defining the exact depth and time.

The popular iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 phones both have a rating of IP68. However, regarding exposure to water, the iPhone 12 has a permissible immersion depth of a maximum of 6m for 30 minutes, whereas the Galaxy 21’s immersion limit is up to 1.5m, also for 30 minutes.

While IP ratings indicate the water-repellent nature of phones, taking most phones for a swim will land you in deep trouble. The salt content in oceans and swimming pools can corrode your device and cost you a hefty replacement.

Moreover, phone manufacturers carry out their IP testing in fresh water and Apple recommends devices not be submerged in liquids of any kind.

Luckily, water resistant phones are generally able to survive smaller liquid volumes, such as from a glass tipping over.

Read more: Screwed over: how Apple and others are making it impossible to get a cheap and easy phone repair

Checking For Liquid Damage

Exposure to water is something manufacturers have in mind when designing phones. Most Apple and Samsung phones come with a liquid contact/damage indicator strip located inside the SIM card tray.

This is used to check for liquid damage that may be causing a device to malfunction. An indicator strip that comes in contact with liquid loses its usual colour and becomes discoloured and smudgy.

Samsung and Apple phones have Liquid Contact/Damage Indicators. Samsung/Apple

A discoloured strip usually renders your phone ineligible for a standard manufacturer warranty.

If you have any of the more recent smartphones from Apple or Samsung, then your device will be able to detect liquid or moisture in its charging port and will warn you with an alert. This notification only goes away once the port is dry.

New generation Samsung and Apple phones have a moisture/liquid alert notification. Samsung/Apple

But what should you do if this dreadful pop-up presents itself?

Fixing A Water-Logged Phone

Firstly, do not put your phone in a container of rice. It’s a myth that rice helps in drying out your phone. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the device immediately and don’t press any buttons.

  2. If your phone is water resistant and you’ve spilt or submerged it in a liquid other than water, both Apple and Samsung recommend rinsing it off by submerging it in still tap water (but not under a running tap, which could cause damage).

  3. Wipe the phone dry with paper towels or a soft cloth.

  4. Gently shake the device to remove water from the charging ports, but avoid vigorous shaking as this could further spread the liquid inside.

  5. Remove the SIM card.

  6. Use a compressed aerosol air duster to blow the water out if you have one. Avoid using a hot blow dryer as the heat can wreck the rubber seals and damage the screen.

  7. Dry out the phone (and especially the ports) in front of a fan.

  8. Leave your phone in an airtight container full of silica gel packets (those small packets you get inside new shoes and bags), or another drying agent. These help absorb the moisture.

  9. Do not charge the phone until you are certain it’s dry. Charging a device with liquid still inside it, or in the ports, can cause further damage. Apple suggests waiting at least five hours once a phone appears dry before charging it (or until the alert disappears).

If the above steps don’t help and you’re still stuck with a seemingly dead device, don’t try opening the phone yourself. You’re better off taking it to a professional.

Read more: Upgrade rage: why you may have to buy a new device whether you want to or not The Conversation

Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia

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

'Your government makes us go': the hidden history of Chinese Australian women at a time of anti-Asian immigration laws

Mrs Chan Harr, Marjorie Wong Yee, Annie Kwok, Norma Wong Yee, Ida Kwok, and Patty Wong Yee on their arrival in Sydney from Hong Kong on the SS Changte, 8 March 1938. ACP Magazines Ltd Photographic Archive, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (ON 388/Box 043/Item 035)
Kate BagnallUniversity of Tasmania and Julia T. MartínezUniversity of Wollongong

Chinese Australian history is primarily told as a history of men. Population figures suggest why — in 1901, there were almost 30,000 Chinese men in Australia, yet fewer than 500 women.

But despite their small numbers, emerging research reveals surprising and inspiring stories of Chinese Australian women’s lives.

Have you ever heard, for example, of Darwin-born Lena Lee — teacher, book-keeper and vice-president of the Chinese Nationalist Party in Darwin in the late 1920s? Or of Gwen Fong — activist, student Communist and doctor, who graduated from Medicine at Melbourne University in 1947?

What happens to our understanding of Australian history when we look at the lives of women like these?

By the turn of the 20th century, the Chinese community was an established, although marginalised, part of Australian society. For more than half a century, migrants from southern China had come to the Australian colonies in pursuit of new opportunities to support themselves and their families.

Tutoy Chinn and Charles Wong Hee with their wedding party, Launceston, Tasmania, 1904. Source: Frank Chinn Collection, Chinese Museum, Melbourne

Almost all of the Chinese who came to colonial Australia were men. Most were labour migrants who came to the colonies to work and send money home — often known as “sojourners”. Over time some established lives and livelihoods in Australia and saw a future for themselves there.

A comparatively small number of wives and children came out to join their husbands, while other men formed local families with white women or Aboriginal women.

Read more: Twelve charts on race and racism in Australia

Barriers To Migration

From the earliest days of Chinese immigration to Australia, Chinese men noted how the difficulties they faced meant that they would not, for the most part, contemplate relocating their families. As well as laws and policies that restricted the rights of Chinese, the day-to-day living conditions in the colonies could be harsh and isolating, particularly in goldmining settlements and rural districts.

Lula Chinn (seated) with her two eldest daughters, Tutoy (left) and Toogee (right), and her companion Leng Hen, Tasmania, c. 1891. Frank Chinn Collection, Chinese Museum, Melbourne

“Can it be wondered at?”, asked Louis Ah Mouy, Cheok Hong Cheong and Lowe Kong Meng in their famous 1879 treatise on The Chinese Question in Australia. Since Chinese were treated as “outcasts and pariahs” and “subject to be insulted and assaulted by the ‘larrikins’ of Australia”, why would they bring out their wives and families too?

From the Chinese perspective, there were also strong reasons for women to stay put.

Most Chinese in Australia came from the rural Pearl River Delta region in the southern province of Guangdong. In their home communities, life was centred around the ancestral home and village, and married women took on the role of caring for their parents-in-law, bearing and raising their husband’s children, and tending to the ancestral shrines of their husband’s family.

Few women had the autonomy to migrate overseas except as wife or daughter, or perhaps as a maid servant. The migration of women and girls to Australia mostly therefore took place within the context of the family.

Fanny Chok See, her husband James Choy Hing and their children, Dorothy May Choy Hing, James Choy Hing and Pauline Ah Hee, Sydney, 1912. National Archives of Australia: SP244/2, N1950/2/4918

Overlooked, Not Absent

Population figures show the comparatively small numbers of Chinese women in Australia over the 19th and early 20th centuries — but they also show that Chinese women and girls were, in fact, present.

The numbers of Chinese women and girls in Australia grew as the decades passed, through migration and, more significantly, through the birth of daughters on Australian soil.

‘A Chinese Lady at Home in Castlereagh-Street’, Sydney Mail, 15 February 1879. National Library of Australia

This was despite 19th-century anti-Chinese immigration laws and the continuation of discriminatory measures under the White Australia Policy after 1901. Keeping Chinese women out was central to the maintenance of White Australia. As Prime Minister Alfred Deakin remarked in parliament in 1905:

If we were to throw open the door to an influx of Chinese women and children we should reverse the policy […] and undo all the good we have accomplished.

Read more: Australian politics explainer: the White Australia policy

Researching the lives of Chinese Australian women in the past poses particular challenges, from the seemingly simple task of identifying their names to locating historical sources that tell us about their lives. The fragmentary traces of Chinese Australian women’s lives — particularly those in the 19th century — necessitate a creative approach. We need to use a diverse range of sources — from birth certificates to wedding photographs to interviews with descendants.

Locating Women In The Past

Photograph of Ham Hop, her husband Poon Gooey and their daughters, Lena (left) and Queenie (right), on their departure for China in May 1913, from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, 12 May 1913. National Archives of Australia: A1, 1913/9139

Our new book reveals the surprising, engaging and inspiring stories that emerge when we take the time to look for evidence of Chinese Australian women’s lives.

Ham Hop and Mary Chong are two examples.

Ham Hop was born in c. 1883 and came to Australia as the wife of a Geelong businessman in 1910. The couple had married a decade earlier in China but had lived apart ever since.

Arriving on a temporary permit under the Immigration Restriction Act, Ham Hop became a cause célèbre as her husband fought for her to be allowed to remain in the country permanently.

Despite widespread public support, particularly from the Christian churches, Ham Hop and her two Australian-born daughters left Australia in 1913 on the threat of deportation. Ham Hop was reported to have said on her departure:

It is your Government I don’t like. The people would let us stay. The people are very nice. But your Government makes us go.

Mary Chong, like Ham Hop’s two daughters, was born Australia, in Dubbo in 1908. Mary became the first Chinese woman to graduate from an Australian university (USyd, BA 1929, DipEd 1930). Fluent in English and Cantonese, after graduating she became English Secretary for the Consul General of China in Australia.

Mary’s career then took her to China, where she learnt Mandarin and worked in government and the media in the 1930s and 1940s. Later in life she returned to Australia with her Chinese American husband and their children.

By looking closely at the stories of Chinese Australia women and girls — like Mary Chong, Ham Hop, Gwen Fong and Lena Lee — we learn new things about our nation’s history and about its long connections with China.

We also see how, growing up in and between countries and cultures, Chinese Australian women’s lives were shaped — but not necessarily defined – by social, familial and political forces around them.The Conversation

Kate Bagnall, Senior Lecturer in Humanities, University of Tasmania and Julia T. Martínez, Associate Professor, University of Wollongong

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

'Smell like a woman, not a rose': Chanel No. 5 100 years on, an iconic fragrance born from an orphanage

Laura Chouette/Unsplash
Gary MortimerQueensland University of Technology and Rebekah Russell-BennettQueensland University of Technology

When Marilyn Monroe was asked, “What do you wear to bed?”, she famously replied, “Just a few drops of No. 5″.

Monroe was perhaps the most famous fan of the French perfume celebrating its 100th birthday next month. Since it was launched by Coco Chanel on May 5, 1921, Chanel No.5 has endured in popularity. Indeed, in 2019 an estimated 1.92 millon women purchased a bottle in Great Britain alone.

Already a successful fashion designer and businesswoman, Chanel became an icon at a time when women were mostly employed in agricultural or domestic duties. She trained as a seamstress, later working as a shop girl and cafe singer, and in 1910, opened her hat shop Chanel Modes at Number 21 rue Cambon, in the centre of Paris.

By 1913, she had opened stores in the resort towns of Deauville and Biarritz, selling hats and a limited line of garments.

Having been raised by nuns in an orphanage, the perfume she went on to create was inspired by their cleanliness and stark simplicity.

Fresh Linens And Yellow Soap

Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, France. After her mother died, Chanel was sent at the age of 12 to the Abbey of Aubazine Orphanage in Corrèze.

According to her biographers, her company logo, her signature colour of black, her minimalist style and, indeed, the number five (as one story has it, she would cross a series of five paths that led to the cathedral for daily prayer) were all inspired by life in Aubazine.

Chanel photographed in 1920. She was known for her simplicity and clean lines in her fashion. Wikimedia Commons

During the summer of 1920, on holiday on the Cote d'Azur, Chanel learned of a sophisticated perfumer called Ernest Beaux, who had worked for the Russian royal family and lived close by in Grasse, the centre of Europe’s perfume industry.

The fresh linens and the smell of the yellow soap used by girls at the orphanage had left an impression on Chanel. She asked Beaux to create a scent that would make "its wearer smell like a woman, and not a rose”.

Just like the fragrance, Chanel’s perfume bottle was as plain and minimalist “as a laboratory vial”. Since the 1920s, it has only been modified eight times.

An original 1921 bottle of Chanel No. 5. Christie Mayer Lefkowith Collection, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Up until the first half of the 20th century, fashion houses were not in the business of creating perfumes, but the launch of Chanel No. 5 inspired many. The English House of Worth launched Dans La Nuit in 1922. In France, Jeanne Lanvin launched My Sin in 1925, and Jean Patou launched Joy in 1930.

Today, couture and fragrances are nearly synonymous, with brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Guy Laroche, Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne all making perfume.

Iconic No. 5

An iconic brand has five key elements: it is aspirational, with strong visual identity and persona, it is omnipresent throughout society, and consumers feel a personal connection with it. Chanel No. 5 ticks all these boxes.

Such brands transcend simple purchases. Brand charisma has been described as “sophisticated, iconic and magical” - offering consumers a touch of magic simply through owning the item.

It is, of course, not just the power of the brand that makes No. 5 successful, but also the fragrance itself, with floral scents blended over what has been described as a “warm, woody base”.

Read more: Improving the fragrant harvest

Have you ever experienced the fragrance of Chanel No. 5 in a crowded shopping centre, or at a party, and immediately thought of someone who wore it? Studies have determined a clear link between smell and emotions and memories

A woman in a red suit leaves Chanel.
A Chanel store in Washington, D.C, during the 1980s. Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress

For iconic brands, such as Chanel No. 5, it isn’t just the perfume being sold: it is also the history — a history enhanced by the bittersweet quality of nostalgia in the ways our brains link scent and memory.

No.5 And Tomorrow

Coco Chanel’s focus remained on fashion, running Chanel Couture until her death in 1971. In 1924, she had handed control of the distribution and production of all Chanel cosmetics and fragrances to her business partner, the venture capitalist Pierre Wertheimer.

Wertheimer launched the company’s perfume branch, Les Parfums Chanel in that year. It has created many more scents – but none as enduring or popular as Chanel No. 5.

Chanel and Marilyn Monroe weren’t the only faces of the perfume. Celebrities such as Audrey Tautou and Brad Pitt were paid the promote No.5. In 2004, the brand spent US$33 million on a three-minute ad starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Baz Luhrmann — that’s roughly 300,000 bottles of perfume worth.

Today, the company Chanel started as a small hat shop is ranked 52 in the world on Forbes’ list of most valuable brands, valued at US$12.8 billion.

Through it all, No. 5 has lived on.The Conversation

Gary Mortimer, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Queensland University of Technology and Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Social Marketing Professor, School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology

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

The discovery of the lost city of 'the Dazzling Aten' will offer vital clues about domestic and urban life in Ancient Egypt

Khaled Elfiqi/EPA
Anna M. Kotarba-MorleyFlinders University

An almost 3,400-year-old industrial, royal metropolis, “the Dazzling Aten”, has been found on the west bank of the Nile near the modern day city of Luxor.

Announced last week by the famed Egyptian archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass, the find has been compared in importance to the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb almost a century earlier.

Built by Amenhotep III and then used by his grandson Tutankhamen, the ruins of the city were an accidental discovery. In September last year, Hawass and his team were searching for a mortuary temple of Tutankhamen.

Instead, hidden under the sands for almost three and a half millennia, they found the Dazzling Aten, believed to be the largest city discovered in Egypt and, importantly, dated to the height of Egyptian civilisation. So far, Hawass’ excavations have unearthed rooms filled with tools and objects of daily life such as pottery and jewellery, a large bakery, kitchens and a cemetery.

The city also includes workshops and industrial, administrative and residential areas, as well as, to date, three palaces.

Ancient Egypt has been called the “civilisation without cities”. What we know about it comes mostly from tombs and temples, whilst other great civilisations of the Bronze Age, such as Mesopotamia, are famous for their great cities.

The Dazzling Aten is extraordinary not only for its size and level of prosperity but also its excellent state of preservation, leading many to call it the “Pompeii of Ancient Egypt”.

The rule of Amenhotep III was one of the wealthiest periods in Egyptian history. This city will be of immeasurable importance to the scholarship of archaeologists and Egyptologists, who for centuries have struggled with understanding the specifics of urban, domestic life in the Pharaonic period.

Foundations Of Urban Life

I teach a university subject on the foundations of urban life, and it always comes as a surprise to my students how little we know about urbanism in ancient Egypt.

The first great cities, and with them the first great civilisations, emerged along the fertile valleys of great rivers in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), the Indus Valley (modern day India and Pakistan) and China at the beginning of the Bronze Age, at least 5,000 years ago.

Just like cities today, they provided public infrastructure and roads, and often access to sanitation, education, health care and welfare. Their residents specialised in particular professions, paid taxes and had to obey laws.

But the Nile did not support the urban lifestyle in the same way as the rivers of other great civilisations. It had a reliable flood pattern and thus the second longest river in the world could be easily tamed, allowing for simple methods of irrigation that did not require complex engineering and large groups of workers to maintain. This meant the population didn’t necessarily need to cluster in organised cities.

An etching of the Nile flooding by French artist Jacques Callot (1592 - 1635) National Gallery of Art

Excavations of Early Dynastic (c. 3150-2680 BCE) Egyptian cities such as Nagada and Hierakonpolis have provided us with a plethora of information regarding urban life in the early Bronze Age . But they are separated from the Dazzling Aten by some 1,600 years — as long as separates us from the Huns of Attila attacking ancient Rome.

One city closer in age to the Dazzling Aten we do know a little more about is the short-lived capital of Amenhotep’s III son, Akhenaten, known as the “Horizon of the Aten”, or Tell el-Amarna. Amarna was functional for only 14 years (1346-1332 BCE) before being abandoned forever. It was first described by a travelling Jesuit monk in 1714 and has been excavated on and off for the last 100 years.

Very few other Egyptian cities from the Early Dynastic Period (3150 BCE) to the Hellenistic period (following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BCE), have been excavated. This means that domestic urban life and urban planning have long been contentious research areas in the study of Pharaonic Egypt.

The scientific community is impatiently waiting for more information to draw comparisons between Akhenaten’s city and the newly discovered capital founded by his father.

The Magnificent Pharaoh

Amenhotep III, also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, ruled between 1386 and 1349 BCE and was one of the most prosperous rulers in the Egyptian history.

During his reign as the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Egypt achieved the height of its international power, climbing to an unprecedented level of economic prosperity and artistic splendour. His vision of greatness was immortalised in his great capital, which is believed to have been later used by at least Tutankhamen and Ay.

In 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of world’s inhabitants lived in the cities. Yet, with globalisation, the differences between the “liveability” of modern cities are striking.

As a society we need to understand where cities come from, how have they formed and how they shaped the development of past urban communities to learn lessons for the future. We look forward to research and findings being published from the ancient city of Amenhotep III to enlighten us about the daily lives of ancient Egyptians at their height.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Lecturer, Archaeology, Flinders University

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

Friday essay: what do the 5 great religions say about the existence of the soul?

Philip C. AlmondThe University of Queensland

A recent survey found almost 70% of Australians believed in or were open to the existence of the soul — meaning they believe we are more than the stuff out of which our bodies are made.

The soul can be defined as the spiritual or non-material part of us that survives death.

Western pop culture is currently bewitched by what happens to us after death with TV shows such as The Good Place and Miracle Workers set largely in the afterlife. And the Disney film Soul depicts the soul of a jazz pianist separating from his earthly body to journey into the afterlife.

Read more: Disney Pixar's Soul: how the moviemakers took Plato's view of existence and added a modern twist

The five great world religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism — all believe in some version of a “self”, variously named, which mostly survives death. But they imagine its origin, journey, and destination in some quite different and distinctive ways.

The Origin Of The Soul – Judaism, Christianity, And Islam

These three religions all believe there was a time when souls were not. That is to say, before God created the world, there was nothing at all.

Within Christianity, how the soul was united with its body was a matter of uncertainty. But all were agreed that the soul was present within the foetus, if not at the moment of conception, then within the first 90 days. When it comes to contemporary Christian debate about abortion, this moment is a crucial one. Most Christians today believe the soul enters the body at the time of conception.

Illustration of God measuring a soul, represented as a naked man, 14th century. British Library

Christianity adopted the Greek philosopher Plato’s view that we consist of a mortal body and an immortal soul. Death is thus the separation of the soul from the body.

According to Judaism, the soul was created by God and joined to an earthly body. But it did not develop a definitive theory on the timing or nature of this event (not least because the separation between body and soul was not an absolutely clear one). Modern Judaism remains uncertain on when, between birth and conception, a human being is fully present.

Similarly, in Islam, the soul was breathed into the foetus by God. As in Christianity, opinions vary on when this occurred, but the mainstream opinion has it that the soul enters the foetus around 120 days after conception.

For all three religions, souls will live forever.

The Origin Of The Soul – Hinduism And Buddhism

Within Hinduism, there has been never been a time when souls did not exist. All of us have existed into the infinite past. Thus, we are all bound to Samsara – the infinite cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Krishna Holding Mount Govardhan. Wikimedia Commons

Our souls are continually reincarnated in different physical forms according to the law of karma — a cosmic law of moral debit and credit. Each moral deed, virtuous or otherwise, leaves its mark on the individual. At the time of death, the sum total of karma determines our status in the next life.

Like Hinduism, Buddhism accepts there was no time when we were not bound to the cycle of birth and rebirth. But unlike Hinduism, it does not believe there is an eternal, unchanging “soul” that transmigrates from one life to the next. There is nothing permanent in us, any more than there is any permanence in the world generally.

Nevertheless, Buddhists believe our consciousness is like a flame on the candle of our body. At the moment of death, we leave the body but this flame, particularly our flame of moral credit or debit, goes into a new body. In Buddhism, this “karmic flame of consciousness” plays the same role as the “soul” in other religions.

Buddhists believe our consciousness is like a flame on the candle of our body. shutterstock

The Destiny Of The Soul – Judaism, Christianity, And Islam

Within Christianity, it is believed the soul continues its existence immediately after death. Most believe it will do so consciously (rather than in a sleep-like state). At the point of death, God will determine the soul’s ultimate fate — eternal punishment or eternal happiness.

Still, by the end of the first millennium, there was a recognition that most of us had not been sufficiently good to merit immediate happiness, nor sufficiently evil to merit eternal misery. Catholicism thus developed an intermediate state — purgatory — offering the slightly or moderately wicked a chance to be purified of their sins. All souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies on Judgement Day when Christ returns and God finally confirms their destiny.

William Adolphe Bouguereau, Soul Carried to Heaven (1878). Wikimedia Commons

Judaism remains uncertain about the consciousness of the dead in the afterlife, although the dominant view holds that, after death, the soul will be in a conscious state.

Orthodox Judaism is committed to the idea of the resurrection of the body on Judgement Day and its reunion with the soul, together with heavenly bliss for the saved. Liberal forms of modern Judaism, like modern liberal Christianity, sit lightly on the idea of the resurrection of the body and emphasise spiritual life immediately after death.

A Persian miniature depicting paradise from The History of Muhammad, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Wikimedia Commons

Within Islam, souls await the day of resurrection in their graves. It is a limbo-like state: those destined for hell will suffer in their graves; those destined for heaven will wait peacefully.

There are two exceptions to this: those who die fighting in the cause of Islam go immediately into God’s presence; those who die as enemies of Islam go straight to hell.

On the final Day of Judgement, Muslims believe the wicked will suffer torments in hell. The righteous will enjoy the pleasures of Paradise.

The Destiny Of The Soul – Hinduism

In the modern West, reincarnation has a positive flavour as a desirable alternative to the traditional Western afterlife. But the Indian traditions all agree it is the ultimate horror — their aim is to escape from it.

They do, however, differ radically in their views of the destiny of the soul beyond the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Within Hinduism, we can distinguish four different schools of thought on this.

In the first of these, known as Samkhya-Yoga, the aim is to realise the essential separateness of the soul from its material body, thus enabling us to live in the here and now without attachment to the things of the world. At death, the liberated soul will exist eternally beyond any further entanglements with the world. Modern Western postural yoga derives from this, although it is intended, not so much to remove us from the world, as to enable us the better to function within it.

The second view, known as the Dvaita Vedanta school, is completely focused on the soul’s loving devotion to God, which will help liberate souls beyond death. As George Harrison sang, by chanting the names of the Lord (Krishna and Rama) “you’ll be free”. This is the dominant philosophy underlying the Hare Krishna movement and of all the Indian traditions, most closely resembles Christianity.

Awaiting on You All by George Harrison.

The third view is that of the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta school. Here, liberation occurs when the soul enters into the oneness of God, rather as a drop of water merges into the ocean, while paradoxically maintaining its individual identity.

The final view of the destiny of the soul within Hinduism is that of the Advaita Vedanta school. Liberation is attained when the soul realises its essential identity with Brahman — the impersonal Godhead beyond the gods.

The Destiny Of The Karmic Flame – Buddhism

Although there are divinities galore in Buddhism, the gods are not essential for liberation. So, it is possible to be a Buddhist atheist. Liberation from endless rebirth comes from our realisation that all is suffering and nothing is permanent, including the self.

In Theravada Buddhism (present in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos), the realised person enters Pari-Nirvana at death. The flame of consciousness is “extinguished”. The “soul” is no more.

In Mahayana Buddhism (in Japan, Vietnam and China, including Tibet)), liberation is attained when the world is seen as it really is, with the veil of ignorance removed — as having no ultimate reality. This means that, although at one level the many gods, goddesses, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas can assist us on the path to liberation, they too, like us, have never really existed.

At the everyday level, we can distinguish between truth and falsity. But from the perspective of what is ultimately real, there is only Emptiness or Pure Consciousness. Liberation consists of coming to know that the idea of the individual soul was always an illusory one. In short, the individual soul never really was. It was part of the grand illusion that is the realm of Samsara.

Buddha statue, carved in six samsara styles, in Chongqing, China. shutterstock

The practice of Buddhist “mindfulness”, now becoming popular in the West in a secular form, is the continual attentiveness to the impermanence or unreality of the self and the world, and the suffering caused by thinking and acting otherwise.

The Meaning Of The Soul

Within the Christian tradition, the idea that each individual was both mortal body and immortal soul distinguished humans from other creatures.

It made humanity qualitatively unique; ensuring the life of each individual soul had an ultimate meaning within the grand, divine scheme. However, even without a belief in the transcendent, atheistic humanists and existentialists still affirm the distinct value of each human person.

The question of souls is still one that matters. It is, in effect, wrestling with the meaning of human life — and whether each of us has more ultimate significance than a rock or an earthworm.

This is why the belief in souls persists, even in this apparently secular age.The Conversation

Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland

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

How to actually fix a lost voice, according to science (hint: lemon and honey doesn't work)

Sandra RojasLa Trobe University

Losing our voice, having a hoarse voice, or having any difficulties with our voice can be challenging, especially for those who need to use it for work.

For centuries, and across different cultures, people have believed home remedies to be a handy solution for different illnesses. Losing our voice isn’t an exception.

Websites abound with proposed solutions including ginger, lemon, salt water gargles, and tea with honey.

However, put simply, there’s no evidence these home remedies work to recover a lost voice. And there’s a dearth of information out there on what actually works for treating voice issues.

As a speech pathologist and lecturer in voice disorders, I help people with voice issues every day. Here’s what actually helps you recover a lost voice.

Read more: Curious Kids: why might you wake up without a voice?

Why Have I Lost My Voice?

Research suggests up to 30% of us will develop some form of voice disorder in our lifetimes.

There are many reasons we can develop problems with our voice. Voice quality issues can be brought on by viral infections, overuse or misuse of our voice, damage to the vocal folds, or nodules and polyps which are benign, noncancerous growths than can form on the vocal folds.

An artist’s rendering of some of the main causes of voice issues. Shutterstock

Some people such as teachers, singers, actors, clergy and lawyers are at a greater risk of developing voice difficulties. This is because they talk a lot for a living, often very loudly.

More often than not, what you might call “losing your voice” is the result of laryngitis, which is inflammation of the voice box (larynx). It’s often caused by a virus or overuse, and will tend to resolve in a couple of weeks.

Most Home Remedies Don’t Work For Your Voice

Home remedies like salt water gargles and tea with honey are mostly harmless, although there’s no evidence they work for fixing laryngitis. If you have a sore throat, they might temporarily alleviate some of this pain. But they definitely won’t reduce the roughness, hoarseness or “breathiness” of your voice.

These remedies can’t improve our voice because our vocal folds are protected by the epiglottis, so when swallowing tea or honey (or anything!), the epiglottis comes down and covers the vocal folds. The epiglottis also prevents food and drink from entering our lungs. Nothing should have direct contact with your vocal folds — if something did, it could get into the lungs and cause aspiration and pneumonia.

A diagram of the throat
Your epiglottis stops food and drink from going down your windpipe, which means it prevents your lemon and honey tea from touching your voice box. Persian Poet Gal/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY

One thing to beware, especially if you have a reflux disorder, is consuming excessive amounts of tea and lemon. Lemon is acidic, and so are some teas, so having a lot of them could actually lead to acid reflux coming up the oesophagus and irritating your throat and vocal folds.

Read more: Explainer: what is gastric reflux?

What’s more, if you’re using home remedies, you might delay seeking professional medical attention, for example from a speech pathologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). Delaying treatment could have further negative consequences if your voice issues are due to something more sinister than a cold or flu.

If your voice takes more than a week or two to recover, or you’re worried about your voice, it’s good to seek medical advice. Make sure to visit your GP at first, who may recommend a speech pathologist or ENT specialist.

So What Does Work For A Lost Voice?

Research suggests using a humidifier might be an effective option. This can help by keeping vocal folds hydrated, helping with the vibration of the vocal folds and therefore reducing roughness and hoarseness. Because the tiny water droplets in humidified air are inhaled rather than swallowed, they can bypass the epiglottis and have direct contact with our vocal folds.

Drinking lots of water can also benefit our vocal folds. Even though water doesn’t have direct contact with our voice box, it hydrates the cells in our body.

A humidifier in a room
Some evidence suggests a humidifier might help moisten your vocal chords and therefore might help you recover from laryngitis more quickly. Shutterstock

You should also rest your voice, although it depends on what’s causing your symptoms. In a case of acute laryngitis caused by an infection, your doctor might suggest you completely rest your voice. Similarly, if you’ve had trauma or surgery to your voice box, your doctor might suggest refraining from talking at all for a certain period.

But some ENTs won’t recommend completely resting your voice in other instances. For some voice disorders, your specialist might recommend you start doing voice exercises. One example is “straw phonation”, where you put a straw into a glass of water and speak through it in various ways, depending on the desired outcomes of the treatment.

If you have a hoarse voice but cannot rest it, it’s better to talk at a low volume in a consistent tone — but don’t whisper! Whispering too much can put more strain on your voice box than regular speech.

So if you lose your voice, don’t forget: drink lots of water, use a humidifier if you can, rest your voice, and don’t worry about gargling salt water or drinking lemon and honey tea.The Conversation

Sandra Rojas, Speech pathologist and Lecturer in Voice Disorders, Department of Speech Pathology, Orthopedics & Audiology, La Trobe University

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

Woodland Babies – Special Scenes Of Six Bird Species In The Capertee Valley

Published April 12, 2021 by BIBY TV

These delightful woodland “babies” (aka fledglings or juveniles) of the species Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans), Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta), Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata), White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos), Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus) and Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus) were filmed during three visits (late November 2020, early January 2021 and early February 2021) to the stunning Capertee Valley (NSW). This geological marvel is not only Australia’s largest enclosed valley or canyon (in fact, widest in the world), it is also recognised internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Fragmented or remnant Box Gum Woodland (an EEC - Endangered Ecological Community) and adjoining wilderness areas provide refuge for several threatened or declining bird species. Moreover, decades of tree-planting (largely for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater) has extended or recreated woodland vegetation on various (often covenanted) private properties. 

The filming site is one such property and one of the first in the planting program. As such, it is reaping the benefits of maturing planted trees (1995 – 2013), original woodland and open forest bordering Wollemi National Park, a magnificent old paddock tree (Yellow Box) looming over its offspring, remnant stands (e.g. on a small hill) and natural regrowth of trees, shrubs and native grasses in once denuded paddocks. The retention of standing and fallen dead timber also contributes to habitat quality. Many BIBY TV productions showcase the success of this revegetation (enter “Capertee Valley” into the search function on this channel). Again, this video is just a small window onto the way birds survive and thrive at this location. It’s particularly heartening to observe that the six species here (and many others) forage and nest in both existing and restored woodland (and often in transition zones, such as the lightly-timbered house area). The opening photo and scene at the 3.14 mark give a glimpse of relatively natural woodland, while the final photo reveals a regeneration area. 

Except for the Speckled Warbler section, the footage includes parent(s) and/or carers (in the case of the communal breeders, White-winged Choughs). The starring “babies” range from recently fledged (see early Jacky Winter scenes, White-winged Chough and Noisy Friarbird) to an older juvenile that closely resembles its parents (i.e. Speckled Warbler). Most of the families had two visible offspring; only the Speckled Warbler and Noisy Friarbird seemed to be without a sibling. Five out of six families were filmed across one to three days during a specific visit (i.e. late Nov for choughs, early Feb for warbler, and early Jan for robins, flycatchers and friarbirds). Only the Jacky Winter section includes “follow-up” footage (i.e. early Jan and early Feb). We are quite sure it’s the same family because of the short walking distance between the second filming location and the nesting/fledging area. We can though happily report sightings of older juveniles of other species in subsequent months. Given the “Vulnerable” status of Hooded Robins in NSW, it was especially cheering to see at least one of the youngsters in March 2021.

Credits: Bird footage and editing – Darren Broughton; Landscapes and text – Thalia Broughton

Twelve Aged Care Consumer Peaks Propose Aged Care Reform Plan

April 12, 2021
Twelve leading aged care consumer organisations, led by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, have issued a detailed joint response to the Final Report of the Aged Care Royal Commission, identifying the key reforms the Federal Government must implement in the upcoming Federal Budget to ensure its response to the Royal Commission gets off to a flying start.

In their joint statement the consumer organisations set out the package of urgent reforms the Morrison government must deliver in the next 12-18 months to build a high quality aged care system that’s grounded in human rights and which treats older people with respect for their diversity and capacities, ensures greater control over their care and support, and delivers appropriate, safe and timely services, and fair value for their dollar.

Key among the suite of actions that the signatory organisations want to see initiated in the next year are increased transparency from aged care providers, minimum staffing levels, wage increases for workers, stronger powers and a more versatile toolkit for an independent quality regulator, and a new rights-based Aged Care Act.

“The last thing Australians deserve is the government kicking the can down the road on many of the key changes we need,” says Ian Yates AM, Chief Executive of COTA Australia, on behalf of the group.

“The Government cannot get away with cherry picking a few recommendations now but saying it will consider the rest later. That will not wash with the many hundreds of thousands of older Australians who are looking to this government to deliver them hope that they, and their families, will enjoy a radically better aged care system than the one we have today.

“The government must not delay reform. We are sending a clear message to the Morrison Government that older Australians expect action now.”

Drawing on the Royal Commission’s final report, the joint statement lays out new arrangements for the governance of aged care that will strengthen aged care’s independence, funding, quality control, provider integrity and accountability, while also securing greater consumer influence in the system by the wide diversity of older Australians. 

Critically, they recommend an Implementation Task Force to drive the reforms with an Independent Chair, and independent members as well as senior government officials.

“Much can be achieved in the next year to give older Australians genuine self-determination, hold providers accountable for failure to deliver quality care, to treat those who need support with dignity and respect, and to enable and reward excellence,” said National Seniors Australia CEO Professor John Mc Callum.

Other immediate actions called for in the Statement include:
  • Immediately increase home care and home support funding; ensure a maximum 30-day wait period for home care by no later than December 2022; and implement a single Care at Home program that provides individualized care by 2023.
  • Require providers to publish real-time data on staffing, quality performance, financial information, and consumer experience.
  • Abolish the Aged Care Approvals Round/bed licenses and give older people control of their residential care funding and put some competitive pressure on poor providers.
  • Establish an Independent Pricing Authority just for aged care.
  • Initiate a program of independent Care Finders to help navigate aged care, better information and more advocacy services.
  • Develop a comprehensive workforce development plan to ensure we have the right numbers and mix of better paid, better skilled, consumer-focused and continuously improving workers.
  • Provide much greater support for family and friend Carers including a major increase in accessible respite care and a network of Carer Hubs,
  • Require a commitment to respecting diversity throughout aged care - in standards, in training, in accountability and in access pathways and service design, inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, CALD, LGBTI and rural communities and people living with dementia, with a mandatory Diversity Framework and Action Plans.
  • Provide equitable access to health services including dental care, medication reviews, mental health services, allied health, and restorative care and reablement.
  • Legislate a commitment to ensuring the lived experience of older people using care services is given real weight in accreditation, reviews, quality measurement, recruitment and every aspect of the aged care system.
  • Develop a funding model that grows with needs and ensures sufficient taxpayer funding, balanced with consumer contributions that are fair, sustainable and simple to understand and administer.
  • Commit to a timetable detailing when reforms will be commenced and implemented, and to codesigning them with older Australians.
“In the coming year, the Morrison Government can give older Australians more choice, control and transparency in aged care than they have ever been allowed before,” says Mr Yates.

“We recognise that the government faces significant challenges in implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations in full, including the need for major budget funding and a major increase in workforce. But these must be met. This is Australia’s ‘line in the sand’ moment for giving us the aged care system we deserve and expect.”

The complete Joint Statement can be read here: 

Profound Loss Of Pleasure Related To Early-Onset Dementia

April 12, 2021: University of Sydney
People with early-onset dementia are often mistaken for having depression and now Australian research has discovered the cause: a profound loss of ability to experience pleasure -- for example a delicious meal or beautiful sunset -- related to degeneration of 'hedonic hotspots' in the brain where pleasure mechanisms are concentrated.

The University of Sydney-led research revealed marked degeneration, or atrophy, in frontal and striatal areas of the brain related to diminished reward-seeking, in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

The researchers believe it is the first study to demonstrate profound anhedonia -- the clinical definition for a loss of ability to experience pleasure -- in people with FTD.

Anhedonia is also common in people with depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder and can be particularly disabling for the individual.

In the study, patients with FTD -- which generally affects people aged 40-65 -- displayed a dramatic decline from pre-disease onset, in contrast to patients with Alzheimer's disease, who were not found to show clinically significant anhedonia.

The results point to the importance of considering anhedonia as a primary presenting feature of FTD, where researchers found neural drivers in areas that are distinct from apathy or depression.

The findings were published today in the leading neuroscience journal, Brain.

The paper's senior author, Professor Muireann Irish from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science, said despite increasing evidence of motivational disturbances, no study had previously explored the capacity to experience pleasure in people with FTD.

"Much of human experience is motivated by the drive to experience pleasure but we often take this capacity for granted.

"But consider what it might be like to lose the capacity to enjoy the simple pleasures of life -- this has stark implications for the wellbeing of people affected by these neurodegenerative disorders.

"Our findings also reflect the workings of a complex network of regions in the brain, signalling potential treatments," said Professor Irish, who also recently published a paper in Brain about moral reasoning in FTD.

"Future studies will be essential to address the impact of anhedonia on everyday activities, and to inform the development of targeted interventions to improve quality of life in patients and their families."

Siobhán R Shaw, Hashim El-Omar, Daniel Roquet, John R Hodges, Olivier Piguet, Rebekah M Ahmed, Alexis E Whitton, Muireann Irish. Uncovering the prevalence and neural substrates of anhedonia in frontotemporal dementia. Brain, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/brain/awab032

Better Housing Campaign

National Seniors is campaigning for better housing options for seniors.

Housing is an important issue and our research found that 36 per cent of people aged 50 and over live in a home that was not suitable for them as they age and that only 38 per cent of older people have taken steps to prepare themselves for getting older.

Join up to our campaign here and learn more about how you can help build a better housing future.

Glasscraft: Artisans Of Australia

Published April 12, 2021 by NFSA
From the Film Australia Collection.  Made by Film Australia 1984. Directed by Paul Humfress. 
Like his father and grandfather, Kevin Little works with stained glass. This film gives a detailed description of the process of restoring damaged glass panels in the East Window at the Garrison Holy Trinity Church, Millers Point, Sydney. Designed by Henry Ginn in 1844, the first official Garrison Church is a small Gothic Revival stone building. Kevin Little vividly displays the time-honoured skills required for the authentic restoration of an ecclesiastical window. He guides the viewer through damage assessment and removal of window, glass selection, painting, staining, firing, leading up, polishing and installation of the restored window.

Design makes a place a prison or a home. Turning 'human-centred' vision for aged care into reality

Jan GolembiewskiUniversity of Technology Sydney

The Royal Commission into Aged Care left organisations that provide housing for aged care wondering how they will put its recommendations into effect. Most of these recommendations relate to the models of care and levels of staffing in homes. Put simply, in the architectural rabbit warrens that typify aged-care facilities, there can never be enough staff to manage every nook.

Models of care are also difficult to change when the architecture is obsolete. Yet these difficulties aren’t detailed in the report. It barely mentions architecture. Only two of the 148 recommendations relate specifically to architecture, numbers 45 and 46: to improve the design of residential care accommodation; and to provide “small household” models of accommodation.

But don’t be mistaken. Architecture has a profound impact on how we live our lives, work and respond socially.

Read more: 4 key takeaways from the aged care royal commission's final report

If architects are able to work with some basic design rules – to design to a vision, with simplicity and a non-institutional design language – architecture can play a role in implementing the bulk of the recommendations. But, if the importance of design is neglected, obsolete architectural models will undermine the best efforts to reform the models of care.

We Can Design To Remove Restraint

Architecture is a critical element of “embedding a human rights-based and human-centred approach to care”, the focus of chapter 3 of the royal commission’s report. To understand the relationship between architecture and human rights, consider how human rights are taken away: look at prisons, detention centres, mental health facilities and even the residences where we care for our elderly citizens. Invariably, it’s architecture that stifles the freedom of movement, the dignity, the freedom of association, choice and other rights.

Read more: The bad buildings scream – lessons from Don Dale and other failed institutions

The commission estimates architectural solutions to seclusion and other forms of physical restraint are used on 25-50% of all residents of high-care residences. These restraints can look innocuous – including “seating residents in chairs with deep seats, or rockers and recliners, that the resident cannot stand up from”. But for residents who can’t get up on their own, deep seats restrict their freedom of movement and ability to make their own choices about as much as handcuffs do.

old women being helped to get out of a chair
When a person can’t get up from a seat unaided, it becomes a form of restraint. Shutterstock

The forms of restraint (including in high-care aged-care residences) are increasingly disguised, but a locked door remains impenetrable even if it’s made of clear glass. Along with fences and high walls, such features are designed to keep some people in and others out.

Read more: Retire the retirement village – the wall and what’s behind it is so 2020

Or We Can Design For Quality Of Life

If people fail to see how the design of a prison is the primary instrument for imprisonment, then it’s also hard to comprehend just how much good architecture improves people’s circumstances and well-being. But a well-designed aged-care building is replete with wholesome invitations to do such things as explore gardens without putting residents at undue risk.

In turn, spending time outdoors helps prevent “sundowning” – people with dementia may become more confused, restless or insecure late in the afternoon or early evening. It also improves the resident’s experience (personal well-being and satisfaction). Recent unpublished data (in review) shows time outdoors even protects against viral flu-like infections.

And that’s just one example of the benefits of good design. All good architectural choices have similarly positive effects.

3 Principles For Human-Centred Design In Aged Care

Principle 1: projects are driven by a vision that maintains and enables human dignity, even for people with cognitive impairment.

A vision includes a single, well-articulated concept that cannot be dismissed or ignored. The vision creates a hierarchy in which important things are valued more than anything else. A vision that makes human dignity a priority ensures other functional or pragmatic concerns do not lead to human rights being deprioritised.

A good vision isn’t just words or intentions. It involves concrete decisions that are armed with bravery and honesty. Bravery because a good vision always aspires beyond known benchmarks and guidelines. Honesty, because a good vision isn’t shy about speaking the truth.

The diagram below shows an example of a vision in which high-care aged-care residences were to be incorporated into a new precinct for the University of Wollongong. The vision prioritised human centredness – a human-centred workplace, a student-centred learning environment, patient-centred aged-care residences and a person-centred environment overall.

The above vision led to this conceptual diagram.

The conceptual diagram was developed as a masterplan.

In this concept, the educational, residential (non-aged-care) and health facilities make natural walls around a shared village. Car-free streets, cafes, shops, parklands and a distributed residential aged-care facility create a pleasant and safe environment for everybody. The exterior buildings are accessible from both sides for students and staff, but not for high-care residents unless they are accompanied.

Read more: Aged care isn't working, but we can create neighbourhoods to support healthy ageing in place

Principle 2: keep it simple.

As cognitive abilities decline, this reduces people’s capacity to deal with complexity. So keep design simple, with destinations that are visible and clear.

Think about turning all bedrooms inwards to provide immediate access to common spaces, activities and gardens. The reception, all offices and commercial facilities can face outwards, and be invisible to residents.

Simplifying the layout also aids staff. Hidden spaces and doors to unsafe places cause anxiety for residents and staff alike, adding to the staffing burden.

Simple design doesn’t mean plain. It means keeping plans simple - especially for the residents, who have all they might need (and all they want) immediately visible. All no-go areas are hidden.

Principle 3: Residential means non-institutional.

Much as they assist with routines of care, residences are residences. They are ruined by staff stations and institutional touches like vinyl flooring, strip lighting and furniture lined up against the walls.

Residents’ bedrooms must be customisable – meaning people should be able to hang their own art, listen to their own music, and have their own furniture and belongings. After all, these rooms are where people live. And how can people feel at home, unless they are allowed to feel at home with their surroundings?

The left image shows a relatively typical scene in an Australian residential-care facility. The details are institutional – the windows, the lighting, the residents lined up along a wall. The opposite (right) is a residential milieu. Which one would you choose?The Conversation

Jan Golembiewski, Researcher, University of Technology Sydney

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

Dementia Action Now – Call To Address Recommendations

The Royal Commission identified dementia as a core focus of the reform of Australia’s aged care system, but what’s it going to do?

That’s the understandable question being asked by dementia advocacy and education organisation, Dementia Australia.

At a Parliamentary Friends of Dementia event recently held at Parliament House in Canberra, Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe called on politicians to prioritise dementia when addressing recommendations in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Final Report.

“With 472,000 Australians living with dementia, 70% of them living in the community and of those in residential aged care 70% having a moderate to severe form of cognitive impairment, there needs to be a significant commitment to dementia care made by the federal government in words and in action,” Ms McCabe said.

“The frustrations and fears felt by people living with dementia and carers are valid. They have contributed in good faith, for many years to reviews and inquiries and now have entrusted their lived experience expertise to the Royal Commission.

“Dementia is a progressive, terminal disease. People living with dementia cannot put their symptoms on pause while waiting for change. They are devastated that to date little action has been taken.”

“Within the 148 recommendations are 14 key areas with a specific focus on dementia. We welcome these recommendations and now call on the federal government to demonstrate they are serious about making quality dementia care core business for aged care in Australia,” Ms McCabe said.

Recommendations broadly cover the need for clearer support pathways; assessing the impact of dementia-specialist support; introducing new regulations on chemical and physical restraint; calling for a review of aged care standards as they relate to quality dementia care; fast-tracking a national aged care worker registration program and specifying that, as a condition of approval of aged care providers; and all workers engaged by providers who are involved in direct contact with people seeking or receiving services in the aged care system undertake regular training about dementia care.

Other recommendations focus on the importance of carers, the impact of quality indicators and a need to clarify roles and responsibilities across the sector.

Ms McCabe adds, "If you get dementia care right you get it right for everyone.”

Dementia Australia says it has provided the federal government with a plan on what is needed to deliver quality dementia care and to respond to the Final Report:
  1. Dementia Support Pathways: An integrated and specialist service response with a single access point, that is a centralised, national telephone and online service that sits alongside My Aged Care.
  2. Transformed Dementia Workforce Capability: An integrated approach to build dementia capability and expertise of the aged care workforce by mandating minimum levels of dementia education. Developing dementia practice leaders will support the application of this learning as well as promote practice change. This will ensure the aged care workforce has the necessary skills, knowledge and capability to provide quality care and support to people living with dementia.
  3. Dementia-Friendly Design: Developing and embedding a set of robust, evidence-based and practice-informed dementia-friendly standards. This will enable physical environments that support people living with dementia to be as independent as possible.
“We urge the government to demonstrate their commitment to the 472,000 Australians living with dementia and the 1.6 million people involved in their care,” Ms McCabe said.

Creative Ageing Framework A Work Of Art

April 6, 2021
Painting for people living with dementia is one program highlighted in the NSW Government’s new framework to help boost health and wellbeing for older people.

Minister for Seniors Geoff Lee said the NSW Creative Ageing Framework promotes productive ageing and healthy lifestyles by tapping into seniors’ creativity.

“We’re encouraging seniors to undertake creative pursuits as a way to challenge themselves, stay socially connected and embrace lifelong learning,” Mr Lee said. 

“Whether it be joining a library, storytelling, painting, dancing or using digital media, creative activities like these help keep us mentally and physically healthy”.

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the framework assists with partnerships between the arts and culture sector and organisations that support older people.

“We want to connect seniors to the bold, rich and diverse experiences that can be enjoyed by audiences and participants of programs within the arts and culture sector,” Mr Harwin said.

“The framework will also raise awareness of the benefits of creative ageing programs and highlight the contributions of older artists”.

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MCA) creative ageing program ‘Artful’, aims to empower people living with dementia – the greatest cause of disability in Australians aged over 65 – by creating life-enriching experiences.

“Meaningfully engaging people living with dementia with contemporary art encourages mental and physical stimulation and self-expression,” MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, said.

The Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing (MACA) helped develop the framework and said it’s a timely addition amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Depression and loneliness are two of the biggest risk factors in older people’s lives, and we commend the NSW Government on this initiative,” MACA Chair, Kathryn Greiner AO, said.

The framework is a key initiative of the Ageing Well in NSW: Seniors Strategy 2021–2031. 

We asked two experts to watch The Father and Supernova. These new films show the fear and loss that come with dementia

Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father (2020) IMDB
Lila LandowskiUniversity of Tasmania and Fran McInerneyUniversity of Tasmania

Two new films explore the fear of forgetting, loss of control, and other complexities that accompany a dementia diagnosis. The Father and Supernova, both released this month, grapple with the challenges confronting people living with dementia and those who love them.

Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, and the second leading cause of death in Australia. The media has an important role in shaping public understanding of poorly understood conditions such as dementia, and it is pleasing to see it considered thoughtfully in both films.

We watched these films through our lenses as a clinician and a neuroscientist. The different causes and conditions that make up the umbrella term of dementia mean the experiences of people living with it — and their loved ones — can differ widely. These films illustrate this well.

Read more: Why people with dementia don't all behave the same

Marching Through The Brain

Because different parts of the brain control different functions, the type of dementia is defined by its pathology, origin in the brain and progression.

In Supernova, directed by British filmmaker Harry Macqueen and starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, we see a fairly accurate representation of frontotemporal dementia. Specifically, this is the type where certain language skills are impaired, known as semantic dementia.

The Father, meanwhile, directed by French playwright Florian Zeller and based on his play of the same name, centres on a protagonist, Anthony (played by Anthony Hopkins), with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Owing to the neurodegenerative nature of dementia, people with this diagnosis experience a progressive deterioration of memory, thinking and behaviour, and gradually lose the ability to perform daily tasks and other physical functions, ultimately leading to death.

‘I don’t need her or anyone else. I can manage very well on my own.’

Both films accurately reflect many of the key early features of these forms of dementia and provide insight into the varied presentations and issues associated with the conditions.

Whereas The Father focuses more heavily on the experience of the individual living with dementia, Supernova gives more attention to shared grief and loss.

Read more: Alzheimer's could be diagnosed and treated before symptoms occur

Caring And Sharing

In Supernova, Tusker (Tucci) and Sam (Firth) take a roadtrip through stunning northern England. We soon learn the journey is as much an adventure to visit Sam’s family, as it is an exploration of their own mortality.

“You’re still the same person, Tusker,” says Sam. “No I’m not, I just look like him,” his partner responds.

Unlike many other illnesses, those living with dementia frequently show no outward physical signs of their condition until late in its course, and Tusker appears in good physical health.

We witness Sam’s panic when Tusker and their dog Ruby go missing. Impulsivity and spatial disorientation are common phenomena experienced in dementia. Later, Sam masks his distress (as carers often do), attributing his tears to cutting an onion while preparing dinner.

‘Can you tell? That it’s gotten worse?’

Dementia is a condition that affects the person progressively and globally; we initially only see subtle symptoms of Tusker’s language loss, for example, when he can’t find the word “triangle”. Later we note his loss of instrumental function: needing two hands to guide a glass to his mouth, negotiating which arm goes into which sleeve while dressing. Sam tenderly maintains Tusker’s dignity while helping him dress.

When Sam finds Tusker’s notebook, the writing in it has deteriorated across the pages to an indecipherable scrawl. The last pages are blank.

Tusker declares he is dying — dementia is a terminal illness — but how long he has left is unknown. The median time from dementia diagnosis to death is five years. For a previously high-achieving person like Tusker, the loss of his cognitive ability feels more profound to the viewer.

Frightening Experience

While The Father may appear to be an imagined horror story, it masterfully presents the disorientating and frightening reality for a person living with dementia.

Anthony is a powerful and compelling character who draws us into his internal chaos – unaware that he is losing his sense of self in place and time. We learn he has been an engineer and father of two daughters, and lives in a comfortable dwelling in a leafy London suburb. He is by turns irascible and charming. Like Tusker, he appears physically fit, well-groomed and fed.

The early narrative tension revolves around Anthony refusing home help. He denies verbally abusing a recent carer and accuses her of stealing his watch; when this is shown to be false he shows no insight or remorse. Those living with dementia may strive to make sense of things they cannot remember by imaginatively filling in the gaps.

Older man
People with dementia are altered by the disease, but it’s important to remember that who they are as a person still endures. IMDB

Seeing the world through Anthony’s eyes is a masterful plot device as we the viewers are not quite sure of what is “real”. At some early points we wonder if Anthony is being abused or gaslighted as we are drawn into his perceptions; later we learn that the lens through which we see Anthony’s world is distorted, but a terrifying reality to him.

Like all of us, Anthony is capable of harshness and tenderness, of charm and cruelty. Those experiencing dementia often have diminished control over their emotions and behaviours and this can be exacerbated by stress.

A small weakness of the film is that we gain no real sense of Anthony’s earlier life. Anthony’s temper may indeed be an enduring part of his personality, though it’s more likely a consequence of his serious disease. This is an important point for carers to understand. When his son-in-law challenges him to stop “getting on everyone’s tits” we have some sympathy for Anthony, who we begin to realise is behaving fearfully rather than deliberately.

Eventually Anthony is reduced to sobs: “Lost all my leaves. Branches. Wind. Rain”. As he moves from the moderate to advanced stage of dementia, the need for tender and humane care is clear.

Two men stand by lake with campervan.
Dementia means a shared loss for couples like Supernova’s Tusker and Sam. IMDB

Read more: We all hope for a 'good death'. But many aged-care residents are denied proper end-of-life care

Still Inside

A key theme with many films exploring dementia, is the end — not just the end of the story, but the end of life.

In The Father we are drawn into Anthony’s agonising reality, the quiet chaos of tomorrow. In Supernova, we understand that Tusker chooses to write the end of his own story. Individuals living with dementia may be altered by the disease process, but it’s important to remember that who they are as a person endures.

The nihilistic vision of these films, while powerful and thought-provoking, is not the only possible construction of dementia. Though we must come to terms with the fact that dementia is a terminal disease, the end point does not negate the imperative to respond to the needs of the person; indeed, it highlights the need for empathy.

The Father is in cinemas now. Supernova opens in Australian cinemas from 15 April.The Conversation

Lila Landowski, Neuroscientist, Lecturer, University of Tasmania and Fran McInerney, Professor of Dementia Studies & Education, University of Tasmania

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

'I Was 44 Years Old When Diagnosed With Parkinson's Disease': Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April 12, 2021
Report by Emi Berry, UNSW
Darren's diagnosis took two years, but a new Parkinson's disease detection method developed by UNSW researchers could enable an early and accurate diagnosis. In its current form, the new detection method takes five hours.   

Darren Collins was 44 years old when diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease. It took almost two years of tests, doctor and specialist appointments before reaching a diagnosis. Image: Emi Berry

April is Parkinson’s (PD) Awareness Month.   

Every day, 38 Australians are told they have PD. Currently, 100,000 Australians are diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease which affects an individual’s movement and balance. Symptoms vary from person to person but may include impulse control disorder, hallucinations, fatigue, pain and sleep difficulties.   

While PD tends to be associated with elderly individuals, the sobering fact is, 20% of sufferers are under the age of 50 and 10% are diagnosed before they turn 40. It is the second most common neurological disease in Australia after dementia.   

As there are no specific biomarkers to definitively diagnose PD, clinicians rely on a combination of signs and symptoms which include tremors and responsiveness to specific treatments. This means that PD diagnosis can arrive late in the progression of the disease when motor neurons have already been damaged. When younger individuals present with symptoms and their specialists are not expecting PD, the diagnosis may also be missed or delayed. Up until now, the only way to definitively diagnose PD is at autopsy.   

Two years of testing 
Darren Collins was 44 years old when he was diagnosed with young-onset PD. His symptoms started to occur at least two years prior. It took almost two years of tests, doctor and specialist appointments before reaching a diagnosis. During this time, his condition gradually worsened.   

As a former army medic, Mr Collins had some understanding that PD could affect people at a younger age but was shocked to learn the percentage of young-onset PD sufferers.  

"Currently, my condition manifests itself primarily as an asymmetric, unilateral tremor on my right side. I first noticed the slightest of tremors in my right hand, mainly my ring and little finger in 2013. The tremors have increased in intensity and frequency. Also, I have developed an unusual gait when walking, as if I’m stepping over a log with my right foot. This is accompanied by an extended right arm swing," said Mr Collins.   

Mr Collins said apart from the physical manifestations of the condition, his greatest challenge is dealing with the psychological (depression) and social aspects (confidence and relationships).   

"I’m very conscious of my appearance in public and if I notice people staring at the tremors, it often exacerbates the condition through anxiety and causes the tremors to increase. This impacts my confidence in everyday situations, social interactions, work interactions and public speaking. I have developed an almost constant ‘tennis elbow’ pain in my right forearm due to my habit of sitting on my hand to hide the tremors in public.  

"I've been refused entry and service in pubs. In all instances, I have managed to convince the staff I have a condition, yet the need to explain myself and my appearance is both embarrassing and tiring," explained Mr Collins.   

UNSW breakthrough in PD research 
A recent breakthrough in PD research by a team at UNSW Sydney means early and accurate diagnosis for the disease, which will lead to better outcomes for PD patients.  

The research team that includes Dr Emma Sierecki and Dr Yann Gambin, have created a new diagnostic method for PD that combines a single-molecule counting technique with a rapid amplification analysis to detect alpha-synuclein – a promising biomarker for the disease. Alpha-synuclein is a sticky protein that clumps in the brains of people with PD. This diagnostic method will allow clinicians to detect PD at an early stage before the onset of clinical signs. The method requires five hours of amplification followed by 10 minutes of measurement time in its current form. 

“Our work follows on the recent developments in the field of PD detection. After years of unsatisfying results, the scientific community is finding evidence that the presence of alpha-synuclein aggregates actually correlates with PD diagnosis. This has reignited the interest in developing early diagnostic analysis as protein build-up occurs years before symptoms appear,” explained Dr Sierecki.   

"So far, we have results from cerebrospinal fluid, which is obtained following a lumbar puncture, a minor but not routine operation. Our current efforts aim at using blood as a sample to make it more accessible. Even though people may be prepared to get a lumbar puncture to have a definitive PD diagnosis, it is not a good protocol to follow clinical trials for example, where patients are required to provide samples often.  We are also exploring other samples such as urine or skin."  

'Having a biomarker for PD is an important milestone for PD research, but it is only the beginning' - Dr Emma Sierecki

Mr Collins said so far, his PD journey has been minor in comparison to other sufferers, and he feels fortunate. However, the research at UNSW provides hope for the PD community.   

"The UNSW research in developing an early and reliable test to detect and definitively diagnose PD is a massive development. The two years I spent between the tremors first appearing, to the appointment at Westmead Hospital when I was told I had PD was an extremely anxious and frustrating period. Quick, definitive diagnosis will lead to earlier interventions and peace of mind," said Mr Collins. 

Dr Sierecki said there is hope for people who have not yet been diagnosed with PD. Early diagnosis also means therapeutic intervention can commence sooner, delaying and potentially preventing the apparition of more developed symptoms.   

"Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that is not linked to a single, well-identified cause. There is still much to understand about the origin and progression of the disease and the diversity. Having a biomarker for PD is an important milestone for PD research, but it is only the beginning."  

This research is supported by a grant from the Shake It Up Australia Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.   

The full research paper is published in  Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Poor Air Quality In Australian Classrooms Detrimental To Kids' Wellbeing And Learning

April 14, 2021
Australian schools need better ventilation to improve student health and productivity, says new UNSW research.
Many Australian school kids could be learning in classrooms with poor indoor air quality that exceeds safety guidelines.

A team from the UNSW Sydney's School of Built Environment found concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in classrooms peaked significantly higher than the 850-ppm threshold prescribed by the National Construction Code due to a lack of proper ventilation.

The study also showed that low ventilation rates raise the concentration of other contaminants in a classroom environment, such as emissions from the building materials and furniture and particulate matter from indoor/outdoor sources.

Poor indoor air quality and high indoor air temperatures in classrooms are critical problems worldwide. This is only worsened when ventilation rates are insufficient to remove excessive heat or pollutants.

The lead author of the study, Associate Lecturer Dr Shamila Haddad, said children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality.

“Poor indoor air quality in classrooms is a critical problem given that students spend a substantial amount of their daytime in the classroom,” Dr Haddad said. “Pollutant exposure during developmental stages may produce lifelong issues such as respiratory infections and upper and lower airways disorders.”

Ventilation, not just air-conditioning
Poor air quality in the classroom doesn’t just affect student health and wellbeing but also learning capacity through concentration loss, tiredness and fatigue.

“High concentration of CO₂ released by the occupants of the classroom can lead to fatigue, concentration loss, and poor learning performance. Elevated CO₂ concentrations can cause headache, sleepiness, and tiredness.” Dr Haddad said. 

“If we want to improve productivity in the classroom, we need to revise the shortcomings of the building itself to enhance health, wellbeing and comfort.

“Improving indoor thermal and environmental quality is as important as improving the teaching material in the classroom.”

Previous research conducted by UNSW Professor Mat Santamouris found CO₂ levels of up to 4000ppm in classrooms, more than four times the recommended threshold.

“Under these conditions, both the teacher and the students are sleepy and tired, and their learning capacity is reduced tremendously,” Professor Santamouris said.

“School kids aren’t just little adults...they need specific environmental conditions to be comfortable.”

While each state in Australia has its guidelines for indoor air quality in schools, school classroom ventilation typically relies upon natural and manual airing, which is not always possible. Often, windows are closed to avoid discomfort caused by external noise from people, traffic and construction and extreme weather to prevent drafts. 

However, without adequate ventilation, high concentrations of pollutants build up inside the school, and microbes are likely to circulate the environment.

“Adequate ventilation and indoor air quality in classrooms cannot be achieved by split-type air-conditioners without the supply of fresh air leading to an accumulation of contaminants,” Dr Haddad said.

“A good ventilation system inside classrooms, on the other hand, can ensure good air quality and thermal comfort, which can enhance learning capacity and also protect students against the transmission of airborne diseases, like COVID-19.”

“Improving indoor thermal and environmental quality is as important as improving the teaching material in the classroom.”

During the study, the research team installed a demand-controlled ventilation system inside a classroom to monitor air quality and pollutants. The system uses real-time feedback to regulate indoor air quality in line with safe recommended levels by adjusting the ventilation rate in response to occupancy numbers and pollutant concentration.

Once the air quality exceeds the school classrooms’ recommended thresholds, the ventilation system supplies fresh air and flushes out polluted air based on measured air quality in the classroom.

“Demand controlled ventilation with air extraction removes excessive heat and stale air and allows fresh cool air to enter the classroom and maintain indoor air quality and thermal comfort,” Dr Haddad said.

“It utilises both natural and mechanical ventilation systems and provides an effective opportunity for controlling indoor air quality in school buildings by adjusting airflow rates based on indoor air quality measures such as CO₂, Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) and thermal comfort parameters.”

The demand control ventilation system is more reliable than natural ventilation and is more efficient and cheaper to run than other conventional ventilation systems that use open-loop controls with constant ventilation rates, Dr Haddad said.

Child-based design guidelines for schools
Dr Haddad said the study supports a growing case for developing specific health guidelines that consider the combination of indoor- based ventilation and thermal comfort needed specifically for schools.

“School kids aren’t just little adults, due to several reasons, namely age-dependent morphological, physiological, and psychological factors,” Dr Haddad said. “They need specific environmental conditions to be comfortable.”

“This study provides evidence-based findings, which can be taken forward to develop a new set of child-based design guidelines for future school buildings...where students’ thermal comfort and satisfaction, health and energy consumption measures are undertaken.”

North Shore Parole Officers Share Their Stories In Podcast

Parole officers from across Sydney reveal what it’s like to work with offenders one-on-one in a ground-breaking new podcast, Behind the Walls.

Hosted by crime author Michael Duffy, the six-part series features first-hand accounts from 30 correctional officers about what really happens behind the walls of prisons and doors of parole offices in NSW.

One such interview is with Grace Wong, who works at Hornsby Community Corrections where staff supervise parolees and offenders on community-based court sentences.

“We do get a lot of clients who walk through the door with histories of childhood trauma, sexual abuse, exposure to violence at an early age and domestic violence,” Ms Wong said.

“I think a lot of the trauma that clients go through and their abuse history contributes to the reasons why they end up in our system. There are some really sad stories that walk through the door.”
Community Corrections officers work one-on-one with offenders, helping them to address the reasons why they commit crime and how they can stop it. This includes developing management plans, regular monitoring and referral to necessary services and programs.

Grace Wong, Hornsby Community Corrections. Photo courtesy CSNSW

St Leonards Community Corrections officer Jessie Slattery-McDonald told the podcast that while interventions could assist a person to lead a more pro-social life, sometimes that wisdom only comes with age.

“I feel like we can do everything we can, but if someone is not ready to change in themselves, that's where it gets difficult,” Ms Slattery-McDonald said.

“Whereas you can have someone that has been repeat offending for 30, 40 odd years and they finally get to a point where they're like, ‘I don't want to do this anymore’. They're seeing that there's no benefit whatsoever.

“The 18-25 age group is hard because they tend to have a slight arrogance, they are a little bit invincible. They don't really see an issue, particularly if some of them are still living at home.

“So they're not working, they're just hanging out and they don't really see the consequences of their actions.

“It's when they've got more responsibilities, they're getting older, they're not achieving what their peers might be, and they kind of realise that there's no point doing what they're doing.”

Episode six, Behind the Walls: Parole was released on Thursday April 16 and is available for free on all good podcast apps. It is the final episode in the ground-breaking six part series about working in prisons and parole.

Jessie Slattery-McDonald, St Leonards Community Corrections. Photo courtesy CSNSW

World's Smartest Computer Recruited For Future NSW Transport

April 12, 2021
The world’s smartest computer could be used to tackle Sydney’s complex transport problems, including updating schedules in real time if there is crowding on the network.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said a new partnership between the NSW Government and Australian company Q-CTRL will look at how quantum computing technology can create and manage a more resilient transport network.

“This is a rare opportunity for some of our leading transport innovators and quantum computing experts to come together to tackle complex transport network management and congestion problems,” Mr Constance said.

“Future applications of the technology could include mapping all transport modes and crowd movements simultaneously in real time, and automatically updating the schedule to solve disruption issues.

“We could see all trains, busses, ferries, trams and motorways essentially ‘talking to each other’ to find out where customers are and deploy resources where needed. It could be used for massive public events, like New Year’s Eve or Vivid Festival.”

Q-CTRL Founder and CEO Professor Michael Biercuk said Quantum computers are an emerging technology that replaces the traditional ‘binary’ computing concepts used in most computers today, and instead uses quantum physics to tackle tough computational challenges in a fraction of the time.

“This technology could completely transform the computing tools available to Transport for NSW in the next few years. The possibilities are endless,” Professor Biercuk said.

The quantum computing research project is one of several initiatives being launched as part of the Future Transport Technology Roadmap.

Plastic Planet: Tracking Pervasive Microplastics Across The Globe

April 13, 2021
Really big systems, like ocean currents and weather, work on really big scales. And so too does your plastic waste, according to new research from Janice Brahney from the Department of Watershed Sciences. The plastic straw you discarded in 1980 hasn't disappeared; it has fragmented into pieces too small to see, and is cycling through the atmosphere, infiltrating soil, ocean waters and air. Microplastics are so pervasive that they now affect how plants grow, waft through the air we breathe, and permeate distant ecosystems. They can be found in places as varied as the human bloodstream to the guts of insects in Antarctica.

Understanding how microplastics move through global systems is essential to fixing the problem, said Brahney. Her new research focuses on how these invisible pieces of plastic get into the atmosphere, how long they stay aloft, and where in our global system we can expect to find hotspots of microplastic deposition.

Plastics enter the atmosphere ... not directly from garbage cans or landfills as you might expect ... but from old, broken-down waste that makes its way into large-scale atmospheric patterns. Roads are a big source of atmospheric plastics, where vehicle tires churn and launch skyward the tiny pieces through strong vehicle-created turbulence. Ocean waves, too, are full of insoluble plastic particles that used to be food wrappers, soda bottles, and plastic bags. These "legacy plastic" particles bob to the top layer of water and are churned by waves and wind, and catapulted into the air.

Another important source for the re-emission of plastics is dust produced from agricultural fields. Plastics are introduced to the soil when fertilizers from waste treatments operations are used (virtually all microplastics that are flushed with wastewater remain with the biowaste after the treatment process). Wind can also be a factor near population centres, whisking broken-down plastic particles into the air.

Once in the atmosphere, plastics could remain airborne for up to 6.5 days -- enough time to cross a continent, said Natalie Mahowald, co-author on the paper. The most likely place for plastic deposition from the atmosphere is over (and into) the Pacific and Mediterranean oceans, but continents actually receive more net plastics from polluted ocean sources than they send to them, according to the models. The U.S., Europe, Middle East, India and Eastern Asia are also hotspots for land-based plastic deposition. Along the coasts, ocean sources of airborne plastic become more prominent, including America's west coast, the Mediterranean and southern Australia. Dust and agriculture sources for airborne plastics factor more prominently in northern Africa and Eurasia, while road-produced sources had a big impact in heavily populated regions the world over.

This study is important, said Brahney, but it is just the beginning. Much more work is needed on this pressing problem to understand how different environments might influence the process ... wet climates versus dry ones, mountainous regions versus flatlands. The world hasn't slowed its production or use of plastic, she said, so these questions become more pressing every passing year.

Janice Brahney, Natalie Mahowald, Marje Prank, Gavin Cornwell, Zbigniew Klimont, Hitoshi Matsui, Kimberly Ann Prather. Constraining the atmospheric limb of the plastic cycle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (16): e2020719118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020719118

Introduced Honeybee May Pose Threat To Native Bees

April 8, 2021
A Curtin University study has found the introduced European honeybee could lead to native bee population decline or extinction when colonies compete for the same nectar and pollen sources in urban gardens and areas of bush.

Published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, the research found competition between the native bees and the introduced European honeybee could be particularly intense in residential gardens dominated by non-native flowers, and occurred when the bees shared the same flower preferences.

Under these conditions, it would appear that European honeybees, being very abundant, and effective foragers, with the ability to exploit a wide range of flowers, can outcompete native bees for nectar and pollen resources.

Lead author, Forrest Foundation Scholar Miss Kit Prendergast, from Curtin's School of Molecular and Life Sciences said the research was conducted over two years in urban gardens and areas of native vegetation on the Swan Coastal Plain at Perth, Western Australia and revealed a complex relationship between native and introduced bees.

"Not all native bee species were impacted, but when native bees preferred many of the same flower species as honeybees or were of larger body size, meaning they needed more food, this was when honeybees had a negative impact on native bees," Miss Prendergast said.

"This occurs due to resource competition, where honeybees were more successful at exploiting food resources from flowers, leaving not enough nectar and pollen to support native bee populations.

Unlike native bees, honeybees occur in colonies of tens of thousands of individuals, and are better at telling other colony members where flower patches are. This communication is done by using a combination of movement and vibrations known as the "waggle dance" and using scent.

Leioproctus on Calectasia narragara. Picture: Kit Prendergast

"Competition from honeybees was particularly fierce in residential gardens where there are lower proportions of the native wildflowers that our native bees have co-evolved to forage on," Miss Prendergast said.

"This impact of competition with a super-abundant, domesticated and feral introduced bee, when combined with pressures from habitat loss as a result of increasing urbanisation and agriculture, especially livestock agriculture, places some native bee species at risk of becoming endangered or even extinct."

Miss Prendergast said planting more flowering plants, particularly those preferred by vulnerable species of native bees, could help prevent them from declining in number. Controlling the density of honeybees would also be critical in reducing the pressure on vulnerable native bees.

"Native bees are an integral and important part of any ecosystem, including in the Southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot in which our research was conducted," Miss Prendergast said.

"European honeybees have been introduced around the world and pose an added threat to many native bee species already at risk of declining numbers or even extinction due to increasing urbanisation."

Kit S Prendergast, Kingsley W Dixon, Philip W Bateman. Interactions between the introduced European honey bee and native bees in urban areas varies by year, habitat type and native bee guild. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab024

Secret Genetic Switch In Zebrafish Key To Heart Regeneration

April 13, 2021
Scientists have discovered a critical new gene in zebrafish that helps them repair damaged heart muscle.

Researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI) and UNSW Sydney have identified a genetic switch in zebrafish that turns on cells, allowing them to divide and multiply after a heart attack and resulting in the complete regeneration and healing of damaged heart muscle in these fish. 

It’s already known that zebrafish can heal their own hearts, but how they performed this incredible feat remained unknown until now. In research published this month in Science, the team drilled down into a critical gene known as Klf1 that previously had only been identified in red blood cells. For the first time they discovered it played a vital role in healing damaged hearts.

VCCRI Scientist and UNSW Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Dr Kazu Kikuchi, who led this world-first research, said he was astonished by the findings. 

“Our research has identified a secret switch that allows heart muscle cells to divide and multiply after the heart is injured. It kicks in when needed and turns off when the heart is fully healed. In humans, where damaged and scarred heart muscle cannot replace itself, this could be a game-changer," Dr Kikuchi explains.

“With these tiny little fish sharing over 70 per cent of human genes, this really has the potential to lead to new drug developments and save lives down the track.” 

The gene works by making remaining uninjured heart muscle cells more immature and changing their metabolic wiring. This allows them to divide and make new cells.

When the gene was removed, the zebrafish heart lost its ability to repair itself after an injury such as a heart attack, which pinpointed it as a crucial self-healing tool. 

Professor Bob Graham, Head of the Institute’s Molecular Cardiology and Biophysics Division, says they hope to utilise this world-first discovery, made in collaboration with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, to transform the treatment of heart attack patients and other heart diseases.

"The team has been able to find this vitally important protein that swings into action after an event like a heart attack and supercharges the cells to heal damaged heart muscle. It’s an incredible discovery," says Prof Graham.

“The gene may also act as a switch in human hearts. We are now hoping further research into its function may provide us with a clue to turn on regeneration in human hearts, to improve their ability to pump blood around the body.”

Importantly, the team also found that the Klf1 gene played no role in the early development of the heart and that its regenerative properties were only switched on after a heart injury.

Professor Graham added:  "This is clear evidence that the regeneration you get after a heart injury is not the same as what happens during the development of the heart but involves an entirely different pathway; an issue that has been debated for years.”

The UNSW-affiliated authors on the Science paper include Conjoint Senior Lecturer Dr Kazu Kikuchi, Associate Professor Ozren Bogdanovic, Adjunct Lecturer Daniel Hesselson, and Conjoint Lecturer David Humphreys.

More kids are being diagnosed with ADHD for borderline (yet challenging) behaviours. Our new research shows why that’s a worry

Luise KazdaUniversity of Sydney

During my daughter’s challenging first year of school, we discovered how much effort it took her to sit and learn.

She was the youngest in her class, placing her at higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

While she struggled with attention and hyperactivity, her problems were always more frustrating than truly impairing. Still, constant battles over finishing tasks, the amount of time (and nerves) spent on a child that needs that extra bit of attention and the anger or sadness on her face made me wonder if we should try to get some support.

Maybe a diagnosis could be a straightforward fix to the problem?

What’s The Problem?

Increasing awareness of ADHD has led to consistent rises in the number of children diagnosed with and treated for it, both internationally and in Australia. This would be good if it meant we were getting better at finding, diagnosing and helping children impaired by inattention or hyperactivity.

However, my newly published study in JAMA Network Open finds these increases in ADHD diagnoses may be largely due to children like my daughter, whose behaviours fall within a normal (but frustrating) range. I conducted this research with colleagues from the University of Sydney and Bond University.

Our study concluded these children are unlikely to benefit from being labelled with ADHD and may, in fact, be harmed by it.

This surge in diagnoses also results in limited resources being stretched thinner among more children, ultimately taking away from those with severe problems who would benefit from more support.

Read more: How do I know if my child is developing normally?

What Is ADHD? And Why Is It So Controversial?

ADHD is a “persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”.

It’s one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting about 5-7% of children. Over the past decades, debate on the appropriateness of diagnoses has grown in line with the rate of diagnosis.

Anonymous child holding up ADHD label
Being labelled with ADHD has consequences, both positive and negative, so it’s important to get the diagnosis right. from

Allen Frances, a prominent American psychiatrist, has been one of the most vocal critics of the trend. He describes it as the medicalisation of “every day experiences that are part of the human condition”.

However, others suggest the increases in diagnosed children are largely due to improved detection in previously undiagnosed children.

Both sides of the debate claim to have proof. But we were surprised to discover no-one had ever summarised the scientific evidence for the key reasons behind increasing diagnosis rates.

So we reviewed the results from over 300 studies on ADHD over the past 40 years to determine which children are being newly diagnosed and if they benefit. Our study design allowed us to summarise a huge variety of studies in a way not done before.

What We Did And What We Found

We found that since the 1980s, increasing numbers of school-aged children and adolescents around the world have been diagnosed with ADHD and medicated for it.

We know ADHD-related behaviours exist on a spectrum with no or minimal hyperactivity and inattention on one end and severe ADHD on the other.

Many children can get distracted easily, are forgetful, find it difficult to sit still or wait their turn. In most children, these behaviours are mild enough to not interfere with a “normal” life.

However, there is no clear biological cut-off point above which someone just “has” ADHD. Ways of diagnosing ADHD also vary between countries and change over time, with criteria generally becoming less stringent.

Together, this ensures many potentially new cases could be discovered, depending on how low the bar is set.

Read more: Five warning signs of overdiagnosis

In the US, for example, almost half of all children diagnosed with ADHD have mild symptoms, with only around 15% presenting with severe problems. Only about 1% of all children in an Italian study had severe ADHD-related behaviours. And, in general, children today are no more hyperactive or inattentive than 20 years ago.

All this led us to conclude a substantial proportion of these additional diagnoses (children who would not have been diagnosed 20 years ago) are, at best, borderline cases.

For example, one study shows while diagnoses increased more than five-fold over ten years in Sweden, there was no increase in clinical ADHD symptoms over the same time. This means that with the lowering of the diagnostic bar, children diagnosed with ADHD are, on average, less impaired and more similar to those without an ADHD diagnosis.

As a result children like my daughter, who are the youngest in their class, are at risk of being labelled with ADHD because their relative immaturity can be enough to push them over the threshold into the zone of “abnormal” behaviour.

Why It’s Important To Get It Right

For children with mild symptoms

Children with mild ADHD symptoms are unlikely to benefit from a diagnosis. They (and their families) also incur substantial costs as well as potential harms from the diagnosis and treatment. That’s because:

  • instead of drumming up extra support, an ADHD label can have negative social, psychological and academic effects, when compared to similar young people without a diagnosis

  • medication reduces symptoms to a lesser extent in children with mild ADHD (however it is beneficial in many severe cases)

  • medication for young people with milder symptoms also has no positive, but a potential negative, effect on academic outcomes (such as maths and reading scores) when compared to unmedicated young people with similar behaviour. Also, medication doesn’t reduce the risks of injuries, criminal behaviour and social impairment as much as in those with severe symptoms.

Read more: Weekly Dose: Ritalin, helpful for many with ADHD but dangerous if abused by those without it

For children with severe symptoms

It’s also important children with more severe ADHD symptoms are correctly diagnosed so they don’t miss out on much-needed support.

With ever-increasing diagnosis rates of ADHD, schools are increasingly struggling to adequately support every child with a diagnosis: the slice of funding and support every child can receive gets smaller and smaller, the more children are included.

In turn, this often means those with the most severe problems get left behind.

Read more: ADHD prescriptions are going up, but that doesn't mean we're over-medicating

What Can We Do?

In light of the potential risks associated with diagnosing a child with milder ADHD symptoms, we recommend doctors, parents and teachers work together following a “stepped diagnosis approach”. This ensures swift and efficient diagnosis and treatment in severe cases. For those with milder symptoms, taking some time to watch and wait may mean many of them won’t need to be labelled or treated.

Not only will this avoid potential harm for individual children, it also ensures resources are allocated where they are needed most and will be most effective.

Co-authors on this article were: Alexandra Barratt, Professor of Public Health, University of Sydney; Katy Bell, Associate Professor in Clinical Epidemiology, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney; and Rae Thomas, Associate Professor, Bond University.The Conversation

Luise Kazda, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

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

Yuri Gagarin's boomerang: the tale of the first person to return from space, and his brief encounter with Aussie culture

Alice GormanFlinders University

Sixty years ago, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel in space when he completed his historic orbit of Earth on April 12, 1961.

It was an extraordinary achievement, but created a dilemma for a world embroiled in the Cold War. Gagarin’s spaceflight heralded a vision of a unified planet.

However, in the battle between communism and capitalism, space technology was also a weapon to demonstrate the superiority of one political system over the other.

The Soviet Union was winning the battle. In 1957, it orbited the first satellite with Sputnik 1. Two years later, the Luna 2 probe was the first human artefact to make contact with the Moon. In February 1961 the Russians launched the Venera 1 probe towards Venus.

As congratulations for Gagarin’s feat poured in from around the world, the vehemently anti-communist Australian prime minister Robert Menzies stayed silent.

His views were echoed by members of the Australian scientific establishment. Sir John Eccles, president of the Australian Academy of Science, said the flight was of little value to humanity. Nuclear scientist Sir Mark Oliphant described it as a stunt.

Physicist Harry Messel said:

scientifically I am happy, but from the cold-war perspective I am sad […] it could very well threaten the freedom of the world if Russia continues to triumph in space.

Sputniks And Vodka At The Sydney Trade Fair

The Australian public had other ideas. In August 1961, Sydney hosted an international trade fair with a large Russian pavilion.

Such was the buzz that Henry F. Jensen, the Labor Lord Mayor of Sydney, invited Gagarin to visit as part of his post-flight world tour. A request was sent through the Soviet embassy in Canberra, which passed it on to Moscow. Jensen said:

I am certain Sydney citizens will give him a very warm welcome if he comes here.

Throughout July and August, newspapers reported on whether the invitation had been answered. Anticipation was building.

The Russian pavilion had two life sized replicas of Soviet spacecraft and the public flocked to see them. It was the most popular pavilion at the trade fair (although the mini-bottles of vodka that were given away may have helped too).

Not everyone was happy about it. On August 12, an anonymous caller told police there was a bomb in the Russian pavilion. After evacuation, the bomb threat was proven to be a hoax.

It’s not known if the Lord Mayor’s invitation ever reached Gagarin. Over the next year the cosmonaut visited more than 25 countries on his world tour, but Australia was not among them.

The Space Boomerang

That said, Gagarin still had a close encounter with Australian culture. Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett and his British colleague Anthony Purdy were the first Western journalists invited to interview him privately.

Burchett was the first foreign war correspondent to enter Hiroshima in 1945, and had been hounded out of Australia by the government for his communist sympathies.

Burchett and Purdy met with Gagarin and his interpreters at the State Committee of Foreign Cultural Relations in Moscow, on July 9 1961. They wrote a book about it, contextualising the interview within the broader Soviet space program.

Burchett’s father George was on holidays in Moscow at the time. Just as Gagarin was leaving, George walked in with a boomerang he had in his luggage. He offered it to the cosmonaut, saying “please take this as a symbol of safe return”.

“It always comes back, and I hope you and your colleagues do too.”

George Burchett presents a boomerang to Yuri Gagarin, July 9, 1961. National Library of Australia, File 13, Box 3

Gagarin was delighted, examining the boomerang closely while the interpreters explained its use. They returned his thanks to George Burchett: “I shall treasure it. It’s a nice sort of symbol to have”.

The label on the back of the photograph, now in the National Library of Australia, says:

Label on the back of photograph. National Library of Australia, File 13, Box 3

In January this year, nearly 60 years after Gagarin’s epic flight, a boomerang carved by Kaurna and Narungga man Jack Buckskin was taken onto the International Space Station by astronaut Shannon Walker.

US astronaut Dr Shannon Walker with the boomerang on the ISS. NASA

Space Politics In The Global South

On one hand, Gagarin’s spaceflight was a symbol of unity and peace. On the other, it fostered the fear of Soviet aggression from space that started with Sputnik 1. The US also had to obscure its military objectives in space to create a public perception of peaceful intent.

The world tour was an important exercise in soft diplomacy, particularly when Gagarin visited countries such as Ghana and Brazil, which were not aligned with either the US or USSR.

Soviet technology’s promise of modernisation, as seen at the Sydney Trade Fair, was a powerful lure for nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

But many rejected the premise of the Cold War. In May 1961, a newspaper in Uruguay asked readers to imagine

the benefits to be gained if the American and Soviet scientists were to unite their efforts […] if these feats were intended to unite rather than divide.

Yuri Gagarin holds a dove presented to him by the Bulgarian Young Pioneers, in Sofia, May 1961. Uknown

The paradox is captured in one of the most famous photographs of Yuri Gagarin, where he holds a dove, an international symbol of peace, while wearing his military uniform and decorations.

This image is frequently displayed in the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

Gagarin never flew in space again. He was tragically killed in a jet crash in 1968. Around the world civil, revolutionary and international wars were being waged, the most well-known being the American War (also called the Vietnam War) which continued until 1975.

Perhaps no space traveller has ever returned to a world at peace.The Conversation

Alice Gorman, Associate Professor in Archaeology and Space Studies, Flinders University

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

Less than half of Australian adults know how to identify misinformation online

Tanya NotleyWestern Sydney UniversityMichael DezuanniQueensland University of TechnologySimon ChambersWestern Sydney University, and Sora ParkUniversity of Canberra

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine a media-free day.

Understanding what’s happening in the world, maintaining our social media profiles, staying in touch with family, being entertained, making new friends, engaging with governments, and with our democracy, are all activities that usually require media participation.

To do these activities regularly and effectively, we need to have at least a moderate level of media literacy.

Media literacy is about more than having a set of technical skills and knowledge about media. It is also about the ability to critically engage with media: to discern fact from fiction, decide which digital technologies and platforms to use and which to avoid, and to critique the power and influence media and technology companies have.

We carried out a national survey of 3,510 Australian adults to investigate their media literacy. We believe this is the first nationally representative survey to investigate the media literacy needs, attitudes and experiences of adult Australians.

We found most Australian adults have a low level of confidence in their media abilities including in areas such as checking if information online is true and checking if a website can be trusted.

Read more: There's no such thing as 'alternative facts'. 5 ways to spot misinformation and stop sharing it online

This is a problem because people who are less adept at critically engaging with media are more vulnerable to influence from manipulative actors. Lower levels of media ability will result in fewer opportunities to participate in society socially and economically.

Lack Of Confidence For Basic Media Tasks

Overall, we found Australian adult media literacy is low. Most adults had either no or a low level of confidence in ten out of 12 media abilities we listed.

While most people felt confident in their ability to perform a basic online search, far fewer were confident they could verify if information is true or not. And even fewer were confident they could create or edit media such as videos and photos.

Our survey also showed many people lacked the ability to safely navigate online environments: less than half (45%) of Australian adults had a high level of confidence in their ability to change the privacy settings on social media. And only 39% said they were confident they knew how to identify misinformation.

Even fewer adults (35%) were confident they knew what to do when they were harassed online and only a quarter (26%) were confident they could make sense of the terms and conditions of social media platforms.

Older Australians, people who have a lower level of education and people living in a low income household were far more likely to have a lower media ability. This is also true for people living with a disability or in a regional area.

Limited Sources Of Support

We also found 30% of adults had received no help from any of the eight sources of support we listed which would help them analyse, use or create media. This included help from schools, friends, family and libraries.

Read more: 3 ways to help children think critically about the news

Among those who have access to support, the most common source they turned to was online resources (45%) followed by friends (42%) and family (41%).

Those with a low level of education were the least likely to have had any support to help them with media participation.

Strong Support For Media Literacy Education In Schools

Four out of five Australians (81%) said children should receive media literacy education in school.

This significant level of support indicates people believe formal education should play a more central role in the development of media literacy.

But we found schools are not currently fulfilling this need. Only 14% of adults said they had received media literacy support in primary school, 22% received support in secondary schools and 25% received support via tertiary education.

Even for younger adults aged 18-24, schools were far from being a consistent source of media literacy support. Slightly more than half of this group (57%) reported having received media literacy support in high school, while 32% received support in primary school.

Thriving In A Digital World

Misinformation has become one of the great challenges of our time. We have witnessed misinformation influence elections, threaten public health and safety and hamper democratic processes.

Most Australians (67%) said knowing how to recognise and prevent the flow of misinformation was extremely important or very important to them.

Yet our findings suggest some Australians are more likely to be vulnerable to the harms associated with misinformation.

Read more: Fake news was a thing long before Donald Trump — just ask the ancient Greeks

While most Australians said it was important to think critically about the media they consumed, those with lower educational attainment and lower household income were less likely to believe this was important.

Those who have had access to more sources of media literacy support over their lifetime tended to place greater importance on critical thinking skills when using media (78% for those with two or more sources of support) compared with those who didn’t receive any support (55%).

A lack of media literacy will contribute to increasing levels of social, cultural and economic exclusion for individuals, families and groups. In addition, a lack of media literacy may exacerbate the potential for broader social divisions and threats to our democracy due to the influence of misinformation.

Despite this, there is no federal funding or a national policy to advance media literacy in Australia. Given what is at stake, the responsibility for being media literate should no longer be simply left for people to work out for themselves.The Conversation

Tanya Notley, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media, Western Sydney UniversityMichael Dezuanni, Associate professor, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of TechnologySimon Chambers, Research Assistant, Western Sydney University, and Sora Park, Lead Author of Digital News Report: Australia 2020, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra

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

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.