Inbox and Environment News: Issue 504

August 1 - 7, 2021: Issue 504

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment August Newsletter, Forum & 2021 AGM

Greetings to our supporters:
Here is our  August newsletter  for you to enjoy.
I hope you can join us to hear about the Environmental Studies being undertaken in preparation for the Northern Beaches Local Environment Plan.

This will be via Zoom from 7pm on August 30.  Reply to this email to book your place and receive the Zoom link information.

Our AGM will also be held on August 30 after the presentations have ended.  You are welcome to remain in the Zoom meeting and listen to it but you will not be eligible to vote.

The next Forum from Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment will be presented by Andrew Pigott and Yianni Mentis from Northern Beaches Council.
Andrew Pigott is Executive Manager of Strategic and Place Planning at Northern Beaches Council.
Yianni Mentis is Executive Manager of Environment and Climate Change at Northern Beaches Council.

They will outline the various environmental studies that are needed in Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment to inform the preparation of the new LEP and will update us on the progress of these studies.
This forum will be by Zoom. Book now and receive the link.

7pm  Monday Aug 30, 2021  
Bookings essential:   

photos by Margaret Woods

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA) Newsletter No: 88

PNHA Newsletter 88 is now on our website. Read about completing  our bush regeneration project on Mona Vale Dunes, Ingleside: what the latest proposal will mean for wildlife, bike tracks trashing bushland, keeping cats inside, more grant applications coming up. 

With urbanisation, there are continuing pressures that threaten the beautiful natural environment of Pittwater. Some impacts are immediate and apparent, others are more gradual and less obvious.

The Pittwater Natural Heritage Association has been formed to act to protect and preserve the Pittwater areas major and most valuable asset – its natural heritage.

PNHA is an incorporated association seeking broad based community membership and support to enable it to have an effective and authoritative voice speaking out for the preservation of Pittwater’s natural heritage. Please contact us for further information.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to benefit Pittwater’s natural environment go to the Pittwater Environmental Foundation ( 

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association at:

Photo: Waratah seedpods in Waratah Rd bushland, Ingleside. 

Discussion Paper To Encourage Views On Proposed Planning Controls

Northern Beaches Council is required by the NSW Government to consolidate four planning control documents into one and will release a discussion paper to collect community views.

Mayor Michael Regan said the preparation of a whole of Northern Beaches Local Environment Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) would be based largely on existing controls and was not seeking to increase heights in residential areas or increase densities in areas that have not already been identified.

He said the NSW Government requirement to review the documents provides an opportunity to introduce greater protection for our environment, raise the bar on sustainability and encourage local employment.

“To be crystal clear, there are no plans for increasing densities beyond what has already been identified – our housing strategy made clear we only need to find an additional 275 dwellings,” Mayor Regan said.

“No one wants to see our area overdeveloped or the local character destroyed.

“Our aim is to ensure we maintain our great lifestyle, protect the local character and environment we so value, provide green space, infrastructure to support growth, and local employment for the future.”

He encouraged members of the community to have their say during the six-week exhibition to inform the development of the draft LEP and DCP which will come back to the community for further consultation next year.

“Since amalgamation in 2016, the Northern Beaches has still been operating under four different planning instruments each with different planning controls,” Cr Regan said.

“We have an opportunity to use the government’s requirement to now consider ways to strengthen the protections for our environment, constrain development in inappropriate locations, incentivise affordable housing and support local job growth.

“The discussion paper considers these kinds of opportunities and asks the community for their ideas and input.”

To support local business and to provide an improved retail shopping experience and greater flexibility in the use of the space, Council’s Urban Design expert panel have suggested small height increases in business centres – no more than 1.5 metres.

And to meet the demand for floor space in industrial zones the community is asked to comment on a small increase of building heights in industrial areas.

“Our business centres and industrial areas are the employment heart of the Northern Beaches, providing an opportunity for residents to live locally and work locally.

“We are ruling out large height increases but asking the community for feedback on measures that could help rejuvenate industrial areas and support local jobs.”

Among other things, the discussion paper also asks for community response to:
  • improved controls for development near waterways, foreshores, wetlands and riparian lands;
  • more water sensitive urban design and greater tree canopy;
  • performance standards for net-zero carbon emission buildings;
  • reducing areas for permitted dual occupancy, boarding houses and seniors’ housing to reduce inappropriate development in sensitive locations;
  • provisions to restrict large scale retail in small retail centres.
Mayor Regan said the LEP and DCP is required to align with the State Government’s Greater Sydney Region Plan and North District Plan.

“This is the start of the process of creating a vision for a sustainable future for a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

NB: the Draft LEP and DCP is now available. Council documents/projects on display for feedback are stored HERE - Feedback closes Septmebvr 5th, 2021
At Warriewood - bees have been busy with these flowers for a few weeks now - Photo by Joe Mills, July 2021

Echidna Breeding Season Commences

This month, July, heralds the start of the echidna breeding season. From now until the end of September, echidnas will be on the move across our gardens and most treacherous of all, roads. 
Here are some important facts and tips on what to do when encountering wandering echidna and how to keep them safe from harm.

1. Echidnas follow an individualised scent trail with which they mark and find important locations such as their nesting burrow and familiar rangeFor this reason, an echidna on the move must not be picked up and relocated. 
Moving and relocating an echidna could ultimately cause it’s death as it will be in a foreign range without markers as to its food sources, it’s nesting burrow and its other significant points of reference. 
This is particularly relevant if the echidna is a female with a nest young. 
Puggles (yes, that’s truly what baby echidnas  are called!) spend the first 50 days of their lives in their mother’s pouch after which they remain in the nesting burrow while the mother goes foraging for food.
Moving and relocating a female will mean she will not find her way back to her burrow and this will spell certain death for the puggle and most likely for the mother echidna too. 

2. When encountering an echidna on the move, it’s essential to let it move in its own time and at its own pace
If the echidna is on the road, bring your vehicle to a stop and put your hazard lights on. 
Do your best to safely alert other drivers about the presence and location of the echidna and indicate to them that they need to stop and wait also.

3. If you find an echidna in your garden, leave it be.
The echidna will most likely be moving through on its way elsewhere. 
Echidnas do not have the capacity to seriously harm you, your dog or your cat. 
Echidnas are not aggressive, their spines do not contain venom and they do not have teeth of any kind.

4. When an echidna is alarmed or feels threatened it will dig itself into the ground, only emerging when it senses the threat has gone.
NEVER attempt to try and dig out an echidna. It’s impossible to determine where it’s body parts are located under the ground and many echidnas have been fatally injured by humans trying to dig them out and move them on from their gardens. Most common fatal injuries seen in echidnas that have been forcibly dug out, are a severed or amputated beak (the echidna nose). If an echidna digs itself in, leave it be, move well away and it will eventually emerge and move on.

5. If you find an injured echidna you will need to seek immediate veterinary assistance for it.
If you are in a position to transport the echidna to a vet yourself, cover it with a very thick blanket or towel, lift and place in a sturdy container such as a strong box or pet carrier. 
The underside of an echidna is covered in soft spineless skin so, rest assured, if your fingers make contact, they not be prickled. 
If you are unable to scoop the echidna up yourself or transport to a vet, call a local rescue group ASAP. Please take close note of where you have picked up the echidna from. A GPS reading or clear markings left and mileage to there from the closest town or obvious landmark will be fine.

6. If you find a deceased echidna, it’s vital to stop and check it’s underside for a pouch and the possibility of a puggle.
If a live puggle is in the pouch, call your local wildlife rescue group ASAP for advice and assistance. 
If you are unable to transport the puggle to a vet yourself where you can hand them over free of charge, a rescuer will attend asap and do so.

Please help us keep our Echidnas safe this breeding season.

Echidna - photo by Gunjan Pandey 

Reinstate The Marine Reserve From Rock Pool “Kiddies Corner” South Palm Beach: Petition

The undersigned petition is asking the legislative Assembly to reinstate the small area surrounding the southern internal headland of Palm Beach back to a Marine Park

This area is over fished from ‘offshore’ as is from ‘onshore’ from both fishermen, Spearfishing and lobster catching. This area has become overcrowded with spear fishermen and teenagers frequently visiting the area weekdays but more often on the weekend all day and public holidays everyday due to its easy access. 

This area has had beautiful marine life with protected gropers taking residence. Sadly most have been taken. 

A male Eastern Blue Groper (Achoerodus viridis) with escorts. Shelly Beach, Manly, Photo by Richard Ling.

Residents are finding fish still alive caught up on hooks and line. Fish are being cleaned next to the ocean pool with entrails and heads found floating in the pool. 

We would like to see the area used for snorkelling and sight seeing, swimming and kayaking or any other marine activity with out something getting killed. At the moment we have people jumping off jump rock enjoying a beautiful ocean aquarium only to be met with spear fisher men/women. 

Please help us with this cause as we see this area as one of Sydney’s most precious and ecologically endangered areas.

Let’s keep it alive so our kids can enjoy it in years to come.

Thank you.

Repeat Offender Banned From Fishing For 5 Years

July 29, 2021

Two men, a 49-year-old and a 58-year-old, were sentenced in Dubbo Local Court on Friday 2 July 2021.

The two men were apprehended on Saturday 27 June 2020 on the Macquarie River, downstream of Warren NSW following a covert surveillance operation involving NSW DPI Fisheries officers and NSW Police Rural Crime Unit officers.

Director for Fisheries compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty said that seven fish traps, nine Golden Perch, a Murray Cod, a grapnel and a boat, motor and trailer were seized during the operation from the men.

“Both men faced Court on charges under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 for unlawfully using traps, possessing fish illegally taken as well as using excess and unattended lines,” said Dr Moriarty.

“The 49-year-old Dubbo man was ordered to pay $3300 in fines and costs and issued two 7-month terms of imprisonment to be served by way of intensive correction order.

“He was also given a Prohibition Order preventing him from fishing in NSW inland waters west of the Great Dividing Range for a period of 5 years.

“The prohibition order also prohibits the man being in possession of any rigged hand lines, being in possession of specified inland fish species, being in possession of nets or traps and being on board any boat that has fishing gear or being used to carry out any fishing activities in inland waters over the five-year period.

“The 58-year-old Wongarbon man was ordered to pay $4900 in fines and costs.”

Dr Moriarty advised that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated, and Fisheries Officers will continue to crack down on illegal fishing activity.

“The blatant disregard for fisheries rules and regulations has serious consequences especially if you are a repeat offender. Not being able to fish for 5 years is a significant impost for anyone that likes to fish, plus there's the added deterrent of hefty penalties if these individuals are found breaching the prohibition order.

The maximum penalty for breaching a prohibition order is $22,000 and/or 12 months' imprisonment.

“Fisheries rules and regulations are in place to protect and conserve fish stocks and fishing opportunities for current and future generations, and this type of illegal fishing detracts from all the hard work fisheries officers, and the community do to ensure access to healthy fish stocks for the community of NSW”

To report illegal fishing, call the Fishers Watch phone line 1800 043 536 or report online via the FishSmart NSW app or at

Fisheries Officers Crack Down On Illegal Fishing During Lockdown

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Officers are cracking down on illegal fishing during the COVID-19 lockdown, after tips were received from the public through the Fishers Watch Phoneline.

NSW DPI Director Fisheries Compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty said that the tip received from the Fishers Watch Phoneline has led to the discovery of illegal fishing activities at the Fingal Island sanctuary zone by a group who travelled from an area that has been issued with stay-at-home orders.

“NSW Police assisted DPI Fisheries who attended Fingal Island sanctuary zone, which is part of the Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park on Saturday July 3,” Dr Moriarty said.

“There they found four people who had travelled from Sydney to fish at this location in breach of NSW COVID-19 Public Health Orders.

“Three of the men were also interviewed by fisheries officers regarding the harming or attempting to harm fish and, were in possession of fishing equipment in a sanctuary zone of the marine park.”

Following these interviews, the officers seized their fishing equipment (rods, reels and catch bags), together with their catch that had been unlawfully taken.

Dr Moriarty said that this behaviour is not acceptable, and that DPI Fisheries will continue to work with NSW Police during this lockdown period not only to protect the fisheries resource but the community.

“Both the COVID-19 and sanctuary zone breaches are serious offences and significant penalties apply, with a number of infringement notices to be issued to each of the offenders,” Dr Moriarty said.

“Only 3 of the people were found to be fishing in the sanctuary zone and each will receive $1000 in fines relating to the fisheries offences.

“All four in the group will receive $1000 fines from NSW Police Port Stephens Marine Area Command for their breach of COVID-19 Public Health Orders.”

The public are encouraged to report illegal fishing activity to the NSW Fishers Hotline on 1800 043 536 or via the online Report Illegal Activity Form

New Expert Analysis Reveals NSW IPC Has “Comprehensively Failed” To Mitigate Greenhouse Emissions

July 29, 2021
A new expert analysis reveals operational emissions produced from the eight major fossil fuel projects approved by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) since the authority was created will total nearly 90 million tonnes - the same amount the NSW Government's Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap is expected to abate between now and 2030.

The report, written by Griffith University Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, ultimately finds the Commission has “comprehensively failed to require mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions."

Professor Lowe finds that, based on the most generous overall assessment, the IPC has only implemented conditions that could lead to the abatement of 7.7 million tonnes out of a total of 1,387 million tonnes of all greenhouse emissions from the eight projects (Scope 1, 2 & 3).

While downstream (Scope 3) emissions constitute the lion’s share of greenhouse gases to be released from the eight projects, the report demonstrates that nearly 90Mt of operational emissions (Scope 1 & 2) will also occur as direct emissions of methane and carbon dioxide at mining operations and emissions arising indirectly from electricity use.

The report states: 
“Even if it were considered acceptable to overlook the huge contribution to climate change of Scope 3 emissions from these projects, the Scope 1 and 2 emissions add up to 89 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent; that is nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s total national emissions last year. Reducing or, ideally, eliminating those emissions would be a significant contribution to our obligation to help slow climate change."

Consideration of conditions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a requirement of all IPC decisions about coal mining and coal seam gas projects in New South Wales.  

However Professor Lowe’s report shows the IPC has recommended a hodgepodge of vague, mostly unenforceable, conditions that have done little or nothing to abate operational emissions despite measures being available to prevent them.

Professor Lowe said, “This report reveals the NSW Government is comprehensively failing to tackle direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in the mining sector.

“The downstream (Scope 3) emissions from burning coal mined in New South Wales is worsening the climate crisis and harming the interests of the people of this state. 

“Even if you accept the government’s argument that these emissions are not NSW’s responsibility, it’s utterly irresponsible to also do next to nothing to mitigate almost 90 million tonnes of operational emissions produced locally from these new mining projects. 

“As well, if Santos intends to sell its Narrabri produced gas domestically, as it claims, then that would add a further 94 million tonnes of scope 3 emissions to NSW’s emissions output.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde said, “It’s bizarre that the NSW Government is developing an Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap which aims to abate 90Mt of carbon emissions, while at the same time approving the release of almost 90Mt in operational emissions from new coal and gas mining in NSW.

“Positive initiatives like the Roadmap will be fatally undermined if coal mines and gasfields are allowed to pollute as they always have. 

“The NSW Government has nowhere to hide on this - they may eschew responsibility for downstream emissions, but they admit squarely that operational emissions are their responsibility to regulate, and yet they’re doing virtually nothing about it.

“We’re calling for the NSW Government to step up and urgently implement strict controls on all existing fossil fuel projects in NSW to limit operational emissions, using the abatement technologies that are available to do so.

“The people of NSW should not be left bearing all the costs of climate change in the form of devastating bushfires, droughts and heatwaves, while the mining industry pollutes and profits with abandon.”

“A cosy relationship exists between coal companies and the NSW Government where the government pretends to set meaningful conditions to reduce emissions and coal companies pretend to implement them.

“We urgently need real, measurable and enforceable action to drive down the huge volumes of greenhouse gases produced in NSW in the process of mining coal and gas.”

The report, Emissions from recently approved fossil fuel projects in New South Wales, is available to read here.

NSW Government Introduces New Mining Rehabilitation Rules

Monday July 26, 2021
Mining operators across NSW will be required to show their plans for progressive rehabilitation and to report annually on rehabilitation outcomes, with the NSW Government today introducing a series of new reforms. 

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources John Barilaro said several amendments have been made to the Mining Regulation 2016 to modernise the framework and to ensure that progressive rehabilitation is carried out throughout the life span of every mine in the state.

“After extensive public consultation, new standard mining lease conditions for rehabilitation will now be introduced on all mining leases, giving the industry a clearer and more consistent framework to comply with,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Previously, a mining operation may have been subject to several different rehabilitation and environmental management conditions, making compliance, monitoring, and regulation complex.  

“These changes will apply to all mining leases held in NSW, and will help drive rehabilitation outcomes that have communities, the environment and the mining sector at their heart.

“These reforms will strengthen the rehabilitation framework, encouraging best practice rehabilitation and ultimately ensure that mining lease holders progressively rehabilitate mine sites over the course of their project, and not just at closure.”

The new changes will require all mining leaseholders to:
  • prepare a management plan to identify and achieve rehabilitation outcomes
  • carry out rehabilitation risk assessments
  • develop a program to demonstrate an approach to progressive rehabilitation
  • make information about rehabilitation publicly available
  • report annually on rehabilitation performance.
Mr Barilaro said the changes build on the government’s commitment to improve regulation in the mining sector and the work of the NSW Resources Regulator to promote accountability and improve understanding of rehabilitation requirements. 

“Providing more detailed public reporting and case studies will help to improve the transparency and understanding of mine rehabilitation. These changes will provide peace of mind to many,” Mr Barilaro said.

For more information about the reforms visit Resources Regulator in NSW

Reckless Plans For Kosciuszko National Park Must Be Stopped  

July 28, 2021
The NSW National Parks Association and the Nature Conservation Council have launched a campaign to stop a massive intensification of commercial development within Kosciuszko National Park. 

The NSW Government is proposing to increase the cap on resort beds by more than 40% (up from 10,915 to 15,360), build new and expanded carparks, allow helicopter flights onto the ski fields, and open walking tracks to four-wheel drive vehicles.   

“These reckless proposals overturn more than 40 years of careful planning and management of the park,” NSW National Parks Association Executive Officer Gary Dunnett said. 

“These plans treat the park as a commodity and get the balance between nature protection and recreation completely wrong.” 

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said: “These changes will turn Kosciuszko National Park into a development site and cash cow for tourism operators. Frankly, it’s obscene. 

“Kosciusko is one of the oldest national parks in the state, created in 1967 by a Coalition government that recognised the need to protect its fragile ecosystems for future generations. 

“We call on today’s Coalition government to honour its own legacy by maintaining the highest level of protection for Kosciuszko National Park and keep the cap on development.” 

The proposed changes are outlined in the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct Masterplan and proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management.  

Key changes include: 
  • Increasing overnight accommodation in the park from 10,000 to 14,000 beds.  
  • Allowing helicopters flights into the ski fields.  
  • Expanding carparks and building new ones.   
  • Allowing vehicles onto iconic walking tracks.   
  • Artificially heating the waters at Yarrangobilly thermal pools.   
Development of the park will be coordinated by Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW. 

“The Snowy Mountains Masterplan hands control over the future of Kosciuszko National Park to the Deputy Premier,” Mr Dunnett said.   

The masterplan puts Kosciuszko National Park up for sale. It treats our precious national parks as nothing more than a private lot ready for development.   

“Only a few weeks ago, the Premier was saying that national parks contribute more than $18 billion annually to the NSW economy through visitation and jobs.  

“Why would you risk compromising that contribution through excessive development? 

“The Snowy is already under siege from bushfires, a feral horse plague and habitat destruction for the Snowy 2 hydro project. 

“Kosciuszko needs protection and recovery, not reckless development.”   


Government web pages on the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct Masterplan and the proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management.  
NSW National Parks Association campaign page.  


2021 - June 28 – Public Exhibition of Draft Amendment to the Plan of Management: Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct  

July 13 – Webinar presentation on National Parks Association on Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct.  

August 23 – Exhibition period closes. 

2022; Q1 – Master Plan finalised 

Drone Technology Keeping A Watchful Eye On Whales This Migration Season

July 29, 2021
A new whale monitoring program, that uses drone technology to monitor, track and ID southern right whales off the NSW coast, is delivering spectacular results during this year's whale migration season.
Environment Minister, Matt Kean said the Right Whale ID citizen science project program enables researchers to identify and track NSW's endangered southern right whales.

"We are seeing some truly spectactular images and vision of these precious and endangered animals, only this week we have been tracking two pairs of southern rights in Jervis Bay, south of Sydney," Mr Kean said.

"We can see from their behavior they use our city bays and estuaries as a kind of pre-school where they teach their calves how to breach and feed before heading off to Antartica for the summer."

Unlike humpback whales, south eastern southern right whales do not complete the 'humpback highway' and motor past us to Queensland waters. Instead they prefer to hang out in NSW's coastal bays and beaches to breed and give birth.

Every southern right whale, even the calves, have white hardened skin patches called callosities on their heads that create distinct, individual patterns. Analysis of the photos from the drones is then used to build up a library of images to identify individuals year on year and better understand their movements.

This new pilot program involves National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) sending out a CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) accredited drone operators who are trained to observe the safe legal marine mammal approach distances.

More information on southern right whales can be found at: Southern right whale.

Key facts
  • The Right Whale ID citizen science project will recruit skilled drone operators to take specific images of southern right whales (SRW) in NSW waters, to increase knowledge and understanding about this endangered species.
  • This project will be run as a pilot in 2021.
  • It will be managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
  • The Right Whale ID program is funded under the Marine Estate Management Strategy (MEMS).
  • Images will become available in the coming months at Threatened and protected species
  • This year the project aims to train 20 volunteer drone operators along the NSW coast.
  • These drone operators are members of the public, usually enthusiastic amateurs, some of whom have taken drone vision for NPWS in the past.
  • All drone operators involved in this project are CASA registered and accredited.
  • All operators must undertake training with NPWS Marine Wildlife Officers before joining the volunteer program to ensure they comply with Biodiversity Conservation Regulations (2017).
  • The South-eastern Australian population of SRW is estimated to be less than 300 individuals, with less than 30 mothers expected to give birth in either Victoria or NSW waters this year.
  • Unlike humpback whales, the endangered SRW uses coastal bays and beaches to breed, give birth, mother and rest before heading back to Antarctic waters to feed.
  • This closeness to the shore can make them more vulnerable to disturbance from on-lookers on or in the water.
  • The project will record details about individual SRWs, now endangered in NSW waters.
  • Understanding the patterns of habitual use at different locations along the NSW coast will lead to better management and planning for their benefit.
  • If you see a stranded, entangled, or sick whale, or a sighting of a southern right whale please report it immediately to NPWS on 13000 PARKS or ORRCA Whale and Dolphin Rescue on (02) 9415 3333 (24 hours hotline).

Dead, shrivelled frogs are unexpectedly turning up across eastern Australia. We need your help to find out why

Green Tree Frog Jodi RowleyAuthor provided
Jodi RowleyAustralian Museum and Karrie RoseUniversity of Sydney

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received a flurry of emails from concerned people who’ve seen sick and dead frogs across eastern Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

One person wrote:

About a month ago, I noticed the Green Tree Frogs living around our home showing signs of lethargy & ill health. I was devastated to find about 7 of them dead.

Another wrote:

We previously had a very healthy population of green tree frogs and a couple of months ago I noticed a frog that had turned brown. I then noticed more of them and have found numerous dead frogs around our property.

And another said she’d seen so many dead frogs on her daily runs she had to “seriously wonder how many more are there”.

So what’s going on? The short answer is: we don’t really know. How many frogs have died and why is a mystery, and we’re relying on people across Australia to help us solve it.

Why Are Frogs Important?

Frogs are an integral part of healthy Australian ecosystems. While they are usually small and unseen, they’re an important thread in the food web, and a kind of environmental glue that keeps ecosystems functioning. Healthy frog populations are usually a good indication of a healthy environment.

The stony creek frog is one of the species hit by this mysterious outbreak. Jodi RowleyAuthor provided

They eat vast amounts of invertebrates, including pest species, and they’re a fundamental food source for a wide variety of other wildlife, including birds, mammals and reptiles. Tadpoles fill our creeks and dams, helping keep algae and mosquito larvae under control while they too become food for fish and other wildlife.

But many of Australia’s frog populations are imperilled from multiple, compounding threats, such as habitat loss and modification, climate change, invasive plants, animals and diseases.

Although we’re fortunate to have at least 242 native frog species in Australia35 are considered threatened with extinction. At least four are considered extinct: the southern and northern gastric-brooding frogs (Rheobatrachus silus and Rheobatrachus vitellinus), the sharp-snouted day frog (Taudactylus acutirostris) and the southern day frog (Taudactylus diurnus).

A Truly Unusual Outbreak

In most circumstances, it’s rare to see a dead frog. Most frogs are secretive in nature and, when they die, they decompose rapidly. So the growing reports of dead and dying frogs from across eastern Australia over the last few months are surprising, to say the least.

While the first cold snap of each year can be accompanied by a few localised frog deaths, this outbreak has affected more animals over a greater range than previously encountered.

This is truly an unusual amphibian mass mortality event.

In this outbreak, frogs appear to be either darker or lighter than normal, slow, out in the daytime (they’re usually nocturnal), and are thin. Some frogs have red bellies, red feet, and excessive sloughed skin.

A browned, shrivelled green tree frog
A browned, shrivelled green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) Suzanne McgovernAuthor provided

The iconic green tree frog (Litoria caeulea) seems hardest hit in this event, with the often apple-green and plump frogs turning brown and shrivelled.

This frog is widespread and generally rather common. In fact, it’s the ninth most commonly recorded frog in the national citizen science project, FrogID. But it has disappeared from parts of its former range.

Other species reported as being among the sick and dying include Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii), the Stony Creek frog (Litoria lesueuri), and green stream frog (Litoria phyllochroa). These are all relatively common and widespread species, which is likely why they have been found in and around our gardens.

We simply don’t know the true impacts of this event on Australia’s frog species, particularly those that are rare, cryptic or living in remote places. Well over 100 species of frog live within the geographic range of this outbreak. Dozens of these are considered threatened, including the booroolong Frog (Litoria booroolongensis) and the giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus).

The giant barred frog is a threatened species that lives in the geographic range of this outbreak. Jodi RowleyAuthor provided

So What Might Be Going On?

Amphibians are susceptible to environmental toxins and a wide range of parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens. Frogs globally have been battling it out with a pandemic of their own for decades — a potentially deadly fungus often called amphibian chytrid fungus.

This fungus attacks the skin, which frogs use to breathe, drink, and control electrolytes important for the heart to function. It’s also responsible for causing population declines in more than 500 amphibian species around the world, and 50 extinctions.

For example, in Australia the bright yellow and black southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) is just hanging on in the wild, thanks only to intensive management and captive breeding.

The teeny tiny southern corroborree frogs have been hit hard by the chytrid fungus. Jodi RowleyAuthor provided

Curiously, some other frog species appear more tolerant to the amphibian chytrid fungus than others. Many now common frogs seem able to live with the fungus, such as the near-ubiquitous Australian common eastern froglet (Crinia signifera).

But if frogs have had this fungus affecting them for decades, why are we seeing so many dead frogs now?

Read more: A deadly fungus threatens to wipe out 100 frog species – here's how it can be stopped

Well, disease is the outcome of a battle between a pathogen (in this case a fungus), a host (in this case the frog) and the environment. The fungus doesn’t do well in warm, dry conditions. So during summer, frogs are more likely to have the upper hand.

In winter, the tables turn. As the frog’s immune system slows, the fungus may be able to take hold.

Of course, the amphibian chytrid fungus is just one possible culprit. Other less well-known diseases affect frogs.

The near-ubiquitous Austrlaian common eastern froglet is one species that seems able to live with the devastating chytrid fungus. Jodi RowleyAuthor provided

To date, the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health has confirmed the presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus in a very small number of sick frogs they’ve examined from the recent outbreak. However, other diseases — such as ranavirus, myxosporean parasites and trypanosome parasites — have also been responsible for native frog mass mortality events in Australia.

It’s also possible a novel or exotic pathogen could be behind this. So the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health is working with the Australian Museum, government biosecurity and environment agencies as part of the investigation.

Here’s How You Can Help

While we suspect a combination of the amphibian chytrid fungus and the chilly temperatures, we simply don’t know what factors may be contributing to the outbreak.

Why green tree frogs are dying en masse is still a mystery. Sophie HendryAuthor provided

We also aren’t sure how widespread it is, what impact it will have on our frog populations, or how long it will last.

While the temperatures stay low, we suspect our frogs will continue to succumb. If we don’t investigate quickly, we will lose the opportunity to achieve a diagnosis and understand what has transpired.

We need your help to solve this mystery.

Please send any reports of sick or dead frogs (and if possible, photos) to us, via the national citizen science project FrogID, or email

Read more: Clicks, bonks and dripping taps: listen to the calls of 6 frogs out and about this summer The Conversation

Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, UNSW, Australian Museum and Karrie Rose, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health - Taronga Conservation Society Australia, University of Sydney

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

You may have heard the ‘moon wobble’ will intensify coastal floods. Well, here’s what that means for Australia

Mark GibbsAustralian Institute of Marine Science

Extreme floods this month have been crippling cities worldwide. This week in China’s Henan province, a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days. Last week, catastrophic floods swept across western Germany and parts of Belgium. And at home, rain fell in Perth for 17 days straight, making it the city’s wettest July in 20 years.

But torrential rain isn’t the only cause of floods. Many coastal towns and cities in Australia would already be familiar with what are known as “nuisance” floods, which occur during some high tides.

A recent study from NASA and the University of Hawaii suggests even nuisance floods are set to get worse in the mid-2030s as the moon’s orbit begins another phase, combined with rising sea levels from climate change.

The study was conducted in the US. But what do its findings mean for the vast lengths of coastlines in Australia and the people who live there?

A Triple Whammy

We know average sea levels are rising from climate change, and we know small rises in average sea levels amplify flooding during storms. From the perspective of coastal communities, it’s not if a major flood will occur, it’s when the next one will arrive, and the next one after that.

But we know from historical and paleontological records of flooding events that in many, if not most, cases the coastal flooding we’ve directly experienced in our lifetimes are simply the entrée in terms of what will occur in future.

Flooding is especially severe when a storm coincides with a high tide. And this is where NASA and the University of Hawaii’s new research identified a further threat.

Researchers looked at the amplification phase of the natural 18.6-year cycle of the “wobble” in the moon’s orbit, first identified in 1728.

The orbit of the moon around the sun is not quite on a flat plane (planar); the actual orbit oscillates up and down a bit. Think of a spinning plate on a stick — the plate spins, but also wobbles up and down.

Read more: Predators, prey and moonlight singing: how phases of the Moon affect native wildlife

When the moon is at particular parts of its wobbling orbit, it pulls on the water in the oceans a bit more. This means for some years during the 18.6-year cycle, some high tides are higher than they would have otherwise been.

This results in increases to daily tidal rises, and this, in turn, will exacerbate coastal flooding, whether it be nuisance flooding in vulnerable areas, or magnified flooding during a storm.

View of Earth from the Moon
The moon’s orbit isn’t on a flat plane. It oscillates up and down, like a plate would when it spins on a stick. Shutterstock

A major wobble amplification phase will occur in the mid-2030s, when climate change will make the problem become severe in some cases.

The triple whammy of the wobble in the moon’s orbit, ongoing upwards creep in sea levels from ocean warming, and more intense storms associated with climate change, will bring the impacts of sea-level rise earlier than previously expected — in many locations around the world. This includes in Australia.

So What Will Happen In Australia?

The locations in Australia where tides have the largest range, and will be most impacted by the wobble, aren’t close to the major population centres. Australia’s largest tides are close to Broad Sound, near Hay Point in central Queensland, and Derby in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

However, many Australian cities host suburbs that routinely flood during larger high tides. Near my home in Meanjin (Brisbane), the ocean regularly backs up through the storm water drainage system during large high tides. At times, even getting from the front door to the street can be challenging.

Derby, WA, has one of the biggest tidal ranges in Australia. Shutterstock

Some bayside suburbs in Melbourne are also already exposed to nuisance flooding. But a number of others that are not presently exposed may also become more vulnerable from the combined influence of the moon wobble and climate change — even when the weather is calm. High tide during this lunar phase, occurring during a major rainfall event, will result in even greater risk.

Read more: High-tide flood risk is accelerating, putting coastal economies at risk

In high-income nations like Australia, sea-level rise means increasing unaffordability of insurance for coastal homes, followed by an inability to seek insurance cover at all and, ultimately, reductions in asset values for those unable or unwilling to adapt.

The prognosis for lower-income coastal communities that aren’t able to adapt to sea-level rise is clear: increasingly frequent and intense flooding will make many aspects of daily life difficult to sustain. In particular, movement around the community will be challenging, homes will often be inundated, unhealthy and untenable, and the provision of basic services problematic.

What Do We Do About It?

While our hearts and minds continue to be occupied by the pandemic, threats from climate change to our ongoing standard of living, or even future viability on this planet, haven’t slowed. We can pretend to ignore what is happening and what is increasingly unstoppable, or we can proactively manage the increasing threat.

Some coastal communities, such as in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs, may experience flooding, even if they never have before. Shutterstock

Thankfully, approaches to adapting the built and natural environment to sea-level rise are increasingly being applied around the world. Many major cities have already embarked on major coastal adaptation programs – think London, New York, Rotterdam, and our own Gold Coast.

However, the uptake continues to lag behind the threat. And one of the big challenges is to incentivise coastal adaptation without overly impacting private property rights.

Read more: For flood-prone cities, seawalls raise as many questions as they answer

Perhaps the best approach to learning to live with water is led by the Netherlands. Rather than relocating entire communities or constructing large barriers like sea walls, this nation is finding ways to reduce the overall impact of flooding. This includes more resilient building design or reducing urban development in specific flood retention basins. This means flooding can occur without damaging infrastructure.

There are lessons here. Australia’s adaptation discussions have often focused on finding the least worst choice between constructing large seawalls or moving entire communities — neither of which are often palatable. This leads to inaction, as both options aren’t often politically acceptable.

The seas are inexorably creeping higher and higher. Once thought to be a problem for our grandchildren, it is becoming increasingly evident this is a challenge for the here and now. The recently released research confirms this conclusion.

Read more: King tides and rising seas are predictable, and we're not doing enough about it The Conversation

Mark Gibbs, Principal Engineer: Reef Restoration, Australian Institute of Marine Science

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

Climate change is causing tuna to migrate, which could spell catastrophe for the small islands that depend on them

Katherine SetoUniversity of WollongongJohann BellUniversity of WollongongQuentin HanichUniversity of Wollongong, and Simon NicolUniversity of Canberra

Small Pacific Island states depend on their commercial fisheries for food supplies and economic health. But our new research shows climate change will dramatically alter tuna stocks in the tropical Pacific, with potentially severe consequences for the people who depend on them.

As climate change warms the waters of the Pacific, some tuna will be forced to migrate to the open ocean of the high seas, away from the jurisdiction of any country. The changes will affect three key tuna species: skipjack, yellowfin, and bigeye.

Pacific Island nations such as the Cook Islands and territories such as Tokelau charge foreign fishing operators to access their waters, and heavily depend on this revenue. Our research estimates the movement of tuna stocks will cause a fall in annual government revenue to some of these small island states of up to 17%.

This loss will hurt these developing economies, which need fisheries revenue to maintain essential services such as hospitals, roads and schools. The experience of Pacific Island states also bodes poorly for global climate justice more broadly.

Island States At Risk

Catches from the Western and Central Pacific represent over half of all tuna produced globally. Much of this catch is taken from the waters of ten small developing island states, which are disproportionately dependent on tuna stocks for food security and economic development.

These states comprise:

  • Cook Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Tuvalu

Their governments charge tuna fishing access fees to distant nations of between US$7.1 million (A$9.7 million) and $134 million (A$182 million), providing an average of 37% of total government revenue (ranging from 4-84%).

Tuna stocks are critical for these states’ current and future economic development, and have been sustainably managed by a cooperative agreement for decades. However, our analysis reveals this revenue, and other important benefits fisheries provide, are at risk.

Read more: Warming oceans are changing Australia's fishing industry

Climate Change And Migration

Tuna species are highly migratory – they move over large distances according to ocean conditions. The skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna species are found largely within Pacific Island waters.

Concentrations of these stocks normally shift from year to year between areas further to the west in El Niño years, and those further east in La Niña years. However, under climate change, these stocks are projected to shift eastward – out of sovereign waters and into the high seas.

Under climate change, the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean will warm further. This warming will result in a large eastward shift in the location of the edge of the Western Pacific Warm Pool (a mass of water in the western Pacific Ocean with consistently high water temperatures) and subsequently the prime fishing grounds for some tropical tuna.

This shift into areas beyond national jurisdiction would result in weaker regulation and monitoring, with parallel implications for the long-term sustainability of stocks.

Pacific Tuna: Feeling the Heat.

What Our Research Found

Combining climate science, ecological models and economic data from the region, our research published today in Nature Sustainability shows that under strong projections of climate change, small island economies are poised to lose up to US$140 million annually by 2050, and up to 17% of annual government revenue in the case of some states.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides scenarios of various greenhouse gas concentrations, called “representative concentration pathways” (RCP). We used a higher RCP of 8.5 and a more moderate RCP of 4.5 to understand tuna movement in different emissions scenarios.

Read more: Citizen scientist scuba divers shed light on the impact of warming oceans on marine life

In the RCP 8.5 scenario, by 2050, our model predicted the total biomass of the three species of tuna in the combined jurisdictions of the ten Pacific Island states would decrease by an average of 13%, and up to 20%.

But if emissions were kept to the lower RCP 4.5 scenario, the effects are expected to be far less pronounced, with an average decrease in biomass of just 1%.

While both climate scenarios result in average losses of both tuna catches and revenue, lower emissions scenarios lead to drastically smaller losses, highlighting the importance of climate action.

These projected losses compound the existing climate vulnerability of many Pacific Island people, who will endure some of the earliest and harshest climate realities, while being responsible for only a tiny fraction of global emissions.

Large tuna fish on the back of a fishing boat
Fishing access fees make up a large proportion of government revenue for these Pacific Island nations. Shutterstock

What Can Be Done?

Capping greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing them to levels aligning with the Paris Agreement, would reduce multiple climate impacts for these states, including shifting tuna stocks.

In many parts of the world, the consequences of climate change compound upon one another to create complex injustices. Our study identifies new direct and indirect implications of climate change for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Read more: The 2016 Great Barrier Reef heatwave caused widespread changes to fish populations The Conversation

Katherine Seto, Research Fellow, University of WollongongJohann Bell, Visiting Professorial Fellow, University of WollongongQuentin Hanich, Associate Professor, University of Wollongong, and Simon Nicol, Adjunct professor, University of Canberra

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

Artificial refuges are a popular stopgap for habitat destruction, but the science isn’t up to scratch

Darcy WatchornDeakin UniversityDale NimmoCharles Sturt UniversityMitchell CowanCharles Sturt University, and Tim DohertyUniversity of Sydney

Wildlife worldwide is facing a housing crisis. When land is cleared for agriculture, mining, and urbanisation, habitats and natural refuges go with it, such as tree hollowsrock piles and large logs.

The ideal solution is to tackle the threats that cause habitat loss. But some refuges take hundreds of years to recover once destroyed, and some may never recover without help. Tree hollows, for example, can take 180 years to develop.

As a result, conservationists have increasingly looked to human-made solutions as a stopgap. That’s where artificial refuges come in.

If the goal of artificial refuges is to replace lost or degraded habitat, then it is important we have a good understanding of how well they perform. Our new research reviewed artificial refuges worldwide — and we found the science underpinning them is often not up to scratch.

What Are Artificial Refuges?

Artificial refuges provide wildlife places to shelter, breed, hibernate, or nest, helping them survive in disturbed environments, whether degraded forests, deserts or urban and agricultural landscapes.

Nest boxes are a commonly used artificial refuge for tree-dwelling animals. Ed Reinsel/Shutterstock

You’re probably already familiar with some. Nest boxes for birds and mammals are one example found in many urban and rural areas. They provide a substitute for tree hollows when land is cleared.

Other examples include artificial stone cavities used in Norway to provide places for newts to hibernate in urban and agricultural environments, and artificial bark used in the USA to allow bats to roost in the absence of trees. And in France, artificial burrows provide refuge for lizards in lieu of their favoured rabbit burrows.

An artificial burrow created for a burrowing owl. AZ Outdoor Photography/Shutterstock

But Do We Know If They Work?

Artificial refuges can be highly effective. In central Europe, for example, nest boxes allowed isolated populations of a colourful bird, the hoopoe, to reconnect — boosting the local genetic diversity.

Still, they are far from a sure thing, having at times fallen short of their promise to provide suitable homes for wildlife.

Read more: DIY habitat: my photos show chainsaw-carved tree hollows make perfect new homes for this mysterious marsupial

One study from Catalonia found 42 soprano pipistrelles (a type of bat) had died from dehydration within wooden bat boxes, due to a lack of ventilation and high sun exposure.

Another study from Australia found artificial burrows for the endangered pygmy blue tongue lizard had a design flaw that forced lizards to enter backwards. This increased their risk of predation from snakes and birds.

And the video below from Czech conservation project Birds Online shows a pine marten (a forest-dwelling mammal) and tree sparrow infiltrating next boxes to steal the eggs of Tengmalm’s owls and common starlings.

The effects of predation should be considered when using artificial refuges.

So Why Is This Happening?

Our research investigated the state of the science regarding artificial refuges worldwide.

We looked at more than 220 studies, and we found they often lacked the rigour to justify their widespread use as a conservation tool. Important factors were often overlooked, such as how temperatures inside artifical refuges compare to natural refuges, and the local abundance of food or predators.

Alarmingly, just under 40% of studies compared artificial refuges to a control, making it impossible to determine the impacts artificial refuges have on the target species, positive or negative.

This is a big problem, because artificial refuges are increasingly incorporated into programs that seek to “offset” habitat destructionOffsetting involves protecting or creating habitat to compensate for ecological harm caused by land clearing from, for instance, mining or urbanisation.

For example, one project in Australia relied heavily on nest boxes to offset the loss of old, hollow-bearing trees.

But a scientific review of the project showed it to be a failure, due to low rates of uptake by target species (such as the superb parrot) and the rapid deterioration of the nest boxes from falling trees.

Read more: The plan to protect wildlife displaced by the Hume Highway has failed

The Future Of Artificial Refuges

There is little doubt artificial refuges will continue to play a role in confronting Earth’s biodiversity crisis, but their limitations need to be recognised, and the science underpinning them must improve. Our new review points out areas of improvement that spans design, implementation, and monitoring, so take a look if you’re involved in these sorts of projects.

We also urge for more partnerships between ecologists, engineers, designers and the broader community. This is because interdisciplinary collaboration brings together different ways of thinking and helps to shed new light on complex problems.

Some key steps arising from our research which suggest a way forward for artificial refuge science and implementation. Author provided

It’s clear improving the science around artificial refuges is well worth the investment, as they can give struggling wildlife worldwide a fighting chance against further habitat destruction and climate change.

Read more: To save these threatened seahorses, we built them 5-star underwater hotels The Conversation

Darcy Watchorn, PhD Candidate, Deakin UniversityDale Nimmo, Associate Professor in Ecology, Charles Sturt UniversityMitchell Cowan, PhD Candidate, Charles Sturt University, and Tim Doherty, ARC DECRA Fellow, University of Sydney

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

Pest plants and animals cost Australia around $25 billion a year – and it will get worse

Corey J. A. BradshawFlinders University and Andrew HoskinsCSIRO

Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. And the number one threat to our species is invasive or “alien” plants and animals.

But invasive species don’t just cause extinctions and biodiversity loss – they also create a serious economic burden. Our research, published today, reveals invasive species have cost the Australian economy at least A$390 billion in the last 60 years alone.

Our paper – the most detailed assessment of its type ever published in this country – also reveals feral cats are the worst invasive species in terms of total costs, followed by rabbits and fire ants.

Without urgent action, Australia will continue to lose billions of dollars every year on invasive species.

Feral cats are Australia’s costliest invasive species. Adobe Stock/240188862

Huge Economic Burden

Invasive species are those not native to a particular ecosystem. They are introduced either by accident or on purpose and become pests.

Some costs involve direct damage to agriculture, such as insects or fungi destroying fruit. Other examples include measures to control invasive species like feral cats and cane toads, such as paying field staff and buying fuel, ammunition, traps and poisons.

Our previous research put the global cost of invasive species at A$1.7 trillion. But this is most certainly a gross underestimate because so many data are missing.

Read more: Attack of the alien invaders: pest plants and animals leave a frightening $1.7 trillion bill

As a wealthy nation, Australia has accumulated more reliable cost data than most other regions. These costs have increased exponentially over time – up to sixfold each decade since the 1970s.

We found invasive species now cost Australia around A$24.5 billion a year, or an average 1.26% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The costs total at least A$390 billion in the past 60 years.

Increase in annual costs of invasive species in Australia from 1960 to 2020. The predicted range for 2020 is shown in the upper left quadrant. Note the logarithmic scale of the vertical axis. CJA Bradshaw

Worst Of The Worst

Our analysis found feral cats have been the most economically costly species since 1960. Their A$18.7 billion bill is mainly associated with attempts to control their abundance and access, such as fencing, trapping, baiting and shooting.

Feral cats are a main driver of extinctions in Australia, and so perhaps investment to limit their damage is worth the price tag.

Tasmania’s bane — ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) Adobe Stock/157770032

As a group, the management and control of invasive plants proved the worst of all, collectively costing about A$200 billion. Of these, annual ryegrassparthenium and ragwort were the costliest culprits because of the great effort needed to eradicate them from croplands.

Invasive mammals were the next biggest burdens, costing Australia A$63 billion.

The 10 costliest invasive species in Australia. CJA Bradshaw

Variation Across Regions

For costs that can be attributed to particular states or territories, New South Wales had the highest costs, followed by Western Australia then Victoria.

Red imported fire ants are the costliest species in Queensland, and ragwort is the economic bane of Tasmania.

The common heliotrope is the costliest species in both South Australia and Victoria, and annual ryegrass tops the list in WA.

In the Northern Territory, the dothideomycete fungus that causes banana freckle disease brings the greatest economic burden, whereas cats and foxes are the costliest species in the ACT and NSW.

The three costliest species by Australian state/territory. CJA Bradshaw

Better Assessments Needed

Our study is one of 19 region-specific analyses released today. Because the message about invasive species must get out to as many people as possible, our article’s abstract was translated into 24 languages.

This includes Pitjantjatjaraa widely spoken Indigenous language.

Read more: Australia’s threatened species plan has failed on several counts. Without change, more extinctions are assured

Even the massive costs we reported are an underestimate. This is because of we haven’t yet surveyed all the places these species occur, and there is a lack of standardised reporting by management authorities and other agencies.

For example, our database lists several fungal plant pathogens. But no cost data exist for some of the worst offenders, such as the widespread Phytophthora cinnamomi pathogen that causes major crop losses and damage to biodiversity.

Developing better methods to estimate the environmental impacts of invasive species, and the benefit of management actions, will allow us to use limited resources more efficiently.

Phytophthora cinnamomi, a widespread, but largely uncosted, fungal pathogen. Adobe Stock/272252666

A Constant Threat

Fall armyworm, a major crop pest. Adobe Stock/335450066

Many species damaging to agriculture and the environment are yet to make it to our shores.

The recent arrival in Australia of fall armyworm, a major agriculture pest, reminds us how invasive species will continue their spread here and elsewhere.

As well as the economic damage, invasive species also bring intangible costs we have yet to measure adequately. These include the true extent of ecological damage, human health consequences, erosion of ecosystem services and the loss of cultural values.

Without better data, increased investment, a stronger biosecurity system and interventions such as animal culls, invasive species will continue to wreak havoc across Australia.

The authors acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which they did this research.

Ngadlu tampinthi yalaka ngadlu Kaurna yartangka inparrinthi. Ngadludlu tampinthi, parnaku tuwila yartangka.The Conversation

Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University and Andrew Hoskins, Research scientist CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, CSIRO

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

More livestock, more carbon dioxide, less ice: the world’s climate change progress since 2019 is (mostly) bad news

Thomas NewsomeUniversity of SydneyChristopher WolfOregon State University, and William RippleOregon State University

Back in 2019, more than 11,000 scientists declared a global climate emergency. They established a comprehensive set of vital signs that impact or reflect the planet’s health, such as forest loss, fossil fuel subsidies, glacier thickness, ocean acidity and surface temperature.

In a new paper published today, we show how these vital signs have changed since the original publication, including through the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, while we’ve seen lots of positive talk and commitments from some governments, our vital signs are mostly not trending in the right direction.

So, let’s look at how things have progressed since 2019, from the growing number of livestock to the meagre influence of the pandemic.

Is It All Bad News?

No, thankfully. Fossil fuel divestment and fossil fuel subsidies have improved in record-setting ways, potentially signalling an economic shift to a renewable energy future.

The graph on the left shows an increase in fossil fuel divestment by 1,117 organisations based on data from, and the graph on the right shows a decrease in subsidies for fossil fuels based on the International Energy Agency subsidies database. The red lines show changes since our original publication in 2019.

However, most of the other vital signs reflect the consequences of the so far unrelenting “business as usual” approach to climate change policy worldwide.

Especially troubling is the unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters since 2019. This includes devastating flash floods in the South Kalimantan province of Indonesia, record heatwaves in the southwestern United States, extraordinary storms in India and, of course, the 2019-2020 megafires in Australia.

In addition, three main greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — set records for atmospheric concentrations in 2020 and again in 2021. In April this year, carbon dioxide concentration reached 416 parts per million, the highest monthly global average concentration ever recorded.

Time series of three climate-related responses. The red lines show changes since our original publication in 2019.

Last year was also the second hottest year in recorded history, with the five hottest years on record all occurring since 2015.

Ruminant livestock — cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats — now number more than 4 billion, and their total mass is more than that of all humans and wild mammals combined. This is a problem because these animals are responsible for impacting biodiversity, releasing huge amounts of methane emissions, and land continues to be cleared to make room for them.

There are now more than 4 billion livestock on Earth. Flickr

In better news, recent per capita meat production declined by about 5.7% (2.9 kilograms per person) between 2018 and 2020. But this is likely because of an outbreak of African swine fever in China that reduced the pork supply, and possibly also as one of the impacts of the pandemic.

Tragically, Brazilian Amazon annual forest loss rates increased in both 2019 and 2020. It reached a 12-year high of 1.11 million hectares deforested in 2020.

Ocean acidification is also near an all-time record. Together with heat stress from warming waters, acidification threatens the coral reefs that more than half a billion people depend on for food, tourism dollars and storm surge protection.

Map of land-ocean temperature index anomaly in June, relative to the 1951-1980 baseline. Oregon State/NASA

What About The Pandemic?

With its myriad economic interruptions, the COVID-19 pandemic had the side effect of providing some climate relief, but only of the ephemeral variety.

For example, fossil-fuel consumption has gone down since 2019 as did airline travel levels.

But all of these are expected to significantly rise as the economy reopens. While global gross domestic product dropped by 3.6% in 2020, it is projected to rebound to an all-time high.

So, a major lesson of the pandemic is that even when fossil-fuel consumption and transportation sharply decrease, it’s still insufficient to tackle climate change.

There is growing evidence we’re getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system, including warm-water coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

Warming waters are threatening West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Flickr

OK, So What Do We Do About It?

In our 2019 paper, we urged six critical and interrelated steps governments — and the rest of humanity — can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change:

  1. prioritise energy efficiency, and replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewable energy

  2. reduce emissions of short-lived pollutants such as methane and soot

  3. curb land clearing to protect and restore the Earth’s ecosystems

  4. reduce our meat consumption

  5. move away from unsustainable ideas of ever-increasing economic and resource consumption

  6. stabilise and, ideally, gradually reduce human populations while improving human well-being especially by educating girls and women globally.

These solutions still apply. But in our updated 2021 paper, we go further, highlighting the potential for a three-pronged approach for near-term policy:

  1. a globally implemented carbon price

  2. a phase-out and eventual ban of fossil fuels

  3. strategic environmental reserves to safeguard and restore natural carbon sinks and biodiversity.

A global price for carbon needs to be high enough to induce decarbonisation across industry.

And our suggestion to create strategic environmental reserves, such as forests and wetlands, reflects the need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue.

By stopping the unsustainable exploitation of natural habitats through, for example, creeping urbanisation, and land degradation for mining, agriculture and forestry, we can reduce animal-borne disease risks, protect carbon stocks and conserve biodiversity — all at the same time.

A kangaroo in burnt bushland
There has been a worrying number of disasters since 2019, including Australia’s megafires. Shutterstock

Is This Actually Possible?

Yes, and many opportunities still exist to shift pandemic-related financial support measures into climate friendly activities. Currently, only 17% of such funds had been allocated that way worldwide, as of early March 2021. This percentage could be lifted with serious coordinated, global commitment.

Greening the economy could also address the longer term need for major transformative change to reduce emissions and, more broadly, the over-exploitation of the planet.

Our planetary vital signs make it clear we need urgent action to address climate change. With new commitments getting made by governments all over the world, we hope to see the curves in our graphs changing in the right directions soon.

Read more: 11,000 scientists warn: climate change isn't just about temperature The Conversation

Thomas Newsome, Academic Fellow, University of SydneyChristopher Wolf, Postdoctoral Scholar, Oregon State University, and William Ripple, Distinguished Professor and Director, Trophic Cascades Program, Oregon State University

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

A wet winter, a soggy spring: what is the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, and why is it so important?

Nicky WrightUniversity of SydneyAndréa S. TaschettoUNSW, and Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne

This month we’ve seen some crazy, devastating weather. Perth recorded its wettest July in decades, with 18 straight days of relentless rain. Overseas, parts of Europe and China have endured extensive flooding, with hundreds of lives lost and hundreds of thousands of people evacuated.

And last week, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology officially declared there is a negative Indian Ocean Dipole — the first negative event in five years — known for bringing wet weather.

But what even is the Indian Ocean Dipole, and does it matter? Is it to blame for these events?

What Is The Indian Ocean Dipole?

The Indian Ocean Dipole, or IOD, is a natural climate phenomenon that influences rainfall patterns around the Indian Ocean, including Australia. It’s brought about by the interactions between the currents along the sea surface and atmospheric circulation.

It can be thought of as the Indian Ocean’s cousin of the better known El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific. Essentially, for most of Australia, El Niño brings dry weather, while La Niña brings wet weather. The IOD has the same impact through its positive and negative phases, respectively.

Positive IODs are associated with an increased chance for dry weather in southern and southeast Australia. The devastating Black Summer bushfires in 2019–20 were linked to an extreme positive IOD, as well as human-caused climate change which exacerbated these conditions.

Negative IODs tend to be less frequent and not as strong as positive IOD events, but can still bring severe climate conditions, such as heavy rainfall and flooding, to parts of Australia.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index, used to track the variability of the Indian Ocean Dipole. An event occurs after the index crosses the threshold for 8 weeks. Bureau of Meteorology

The IOD is determined by the differences in sea surface temperature on either side of the Indian Ocean.

During a negative phase, waters in the eastern Indian Ocean (near Indonesia) are warmer than normal, and the western Indian Ocean (near Africa) are cooler than normal.

Read more: Explainer: El Niño and La Niña

This causes more moisture-filled air to flow towards Australia, favouring wind pattern changes in a way that promotes more rainfall to southern parts of Australia. This includes parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Generally, IOD events start in late autumn or winter, and can last until the end of spring — abruptly ending with the onset of the northern Australian monsoon.

The negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole. Bureau of Meteorology

Why Should We Care?

We probably have a wet few months ahead of us.

The negative IOD means the southern regions of Australia are likely to have a wet winter and spring. Indeed, the seasonal outlook indicates above average rainfall for much of the country in the next three months.

In southern Australia, a negative IOD also means we’re more likely to get cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nights. But just because we’re more likely to have a wetter few months doesn’t mean we necessarily will — every negative IOD event is different.

Rainfall outlooks for August–October suggest that large parts of Australia will likely experience above-median rainfall. Bureau of MeteorologyCC BY

While the prospect of even more rain might dampen some spirits, there are reasons to be happy about this.

First of all, winter rainfall is typically good for farmers growing crops such as grain, and previous negative IOD years have come with record-breaking crop production.

In fact, negative IOD events are so important for Australia that their absence for prolonged periods has been blamed for historical multi-year droughts in the past century over southeast Australia.

Negative IOD years can also bring better snow seasons for Australians. However, the warming trend from human-caused climate change means this signal isn’t as clear as it was in the past.

A negative IOD may mean a better snow season in the High Country. Shutterstock

It’s Not All Good News

This is the first official negative IOD event since 2016, a year that saw one of the strongest negative IOD events on record. It resulted in Australia’s second wettest winter on record and flooding in parts of NSWVictoria, and South Australia.

The 2016 event was also linked to devastating drought in East Africa on the other side of the Indian Ocean, and heavy rainfall in Indonesia.

Thankfully, current forecasts indicate the negative IOD will be a little milder this time, so we hopefully won’t see any devastating events.

The number of Indian Ocean Dipole events (per 30 years) based on climate models. Modified from Abram et al. (2020)

Is The Negative IOD Behind The Recent Wet Weather?

It’s too early to tell, but most likely not.

While Perth is experiencing one of its wettest Julys on record, the southwest WA region has historically been weakly influenced by negative IODs.

Negative IODs tend to be associated with moist air flow and lower atmospheric pressure further north and east than Perth, such as Geraldton to Port Hedland.

Outside of Australia, there has been extensive flooding in China and across Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands.

It’s still early days and more research is needed, but these events look like they might be linked to the Northern Hemisphere’s atmospheric jet stream, rather than the negative IOD.

The jet stream is like a narrow river of strong winds high up in the atmosphere, formed when cool and hot air meet. Changes in this jet stream can lead to extreme weather.

What About Climate Change?

The IOD — as well as El Niño and La Niña — are natural climate phenomena, and have been occurring for thousands of years, before humans started burning fossil fuels. But that doesn’t mean climate change today isn’t having an effect on the IOD.

Read more: Why drought-busting rain depends on the tropical oceans

Scientific research is showing positive IODs — linked to drier conditions in eastern Australia — have become more common. And this is linked to human-caused climate change influencing ocean temperatures.

Climate models also suggest we may experience more positive IOD events in future, including increased chances of bushfires and drought in Australia, and fewer negative IOD events. This may mean we experience more droughts and less “drought-breaking” rains, but the jury’s still out.

When it comes to the recent, devastating floods overseas, scientists are still assessing how much of a role climate change played.

But in any case, we do know one thing for sure: rising global temperatures from climate change will cause more frequent and severe extreme events, including the short-duration heavy rainfalls associated with flooding, and heatwaves.

To avoid worse disasters in our future, we need to cut emissions drastically and urgently.

Read more: You may have heard the 'moon wobble' will intensify coastal floods. Well, here's what that means for Australia The Conversation

Nicky Wright, Research Fellow, University of SydneyAndréa S. Taschetto, Associate Professor, UNSW, and Andrew King, ARC DECRA fellow, The University of Melbourne

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

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

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.

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

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 -

Backflip Threatens National Standards

July 28, 2021: National Seniors
The NSW government has delivered a blow to national agreement on accessible housing design. What does it mean?

Earlier this year the nation’s building ministers agreed to include accessible design on the National Construction Code (NCC), creating better housing options for older Australians in the future.

However, what should have been a national approach to ensuring building accessibility, especially for seniors, has unravelled with NSW confirming it won’t adopt or implement the Code’s mandatory minimum accessibility standards.

The NSW Housing Minister says they would increase the price of housing, making it even less affordable. The government also says its standards exceed those of the NCC ‘Silver Code’.

NSW says under the agreement governments are free to determine whether and how the new provisions would be applied in their jurisdictions.

What did they agree to?
Governments, including NSW, agreed that seven minimum accessibility features from the Silver standard would be mandatory under the NCC:
  1. A safe, continuous and step free path of travel from the street entrance and/or parking area to a dwelling entrance that is level.
  2. At least one, level (step-free) entrance into the dwelling.
  3. Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces.
  4. A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access.
  5. A bathroom that contains a hobless shower recess.
  6. Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date.
  7. Stairways designed to reduce the likelihood of injury and also enable future adaptation.

It was hoped these minimum design features, which were previously a voluntary standard to improve the accessibility of housing for older people and people with disability, would make future housing safer and better.

So, what does this mean for better housing for seniors?
The NSW decision is a major disappointment to National Seniors and other groups advocating for better housing for seniors and others across the nation.

National Seniors has long advocated that the National Construction Code include accessibility standards enabling people to age in their homes. Our Better Housing campaign calls on governments to implement practical measures to support housing for seniors and address the growing preference of older people to stay in their homes, supported by aged care and health services.

It appears counterproductive for the NSW government to oppose these changes, given they have a proposal to replace stamp duty with a land tax which would reduce one of the key financial barriers to downsizing. Removing stamp duty without having appropriate housing available, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

National Seniors will continue to lobby the NSW government and all governments to commit to implementing the accessible design in the National Construction Code.

What is accessible housing?
The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended funding for seniors to modify their homes to allow them greater independence, and to prevent “inappropriate admission to long-term residential care.”

The commission also recommended as a matter of priority, that “governments should work together to increase accessible housing, including private rental housing and social and affordable housing, for the ageing population”. Australian social enterprise organisation ProBono says 80% of Australians aged over 55 want to live at home, according to recent research.

The COVID-19 lockdowns show how important it is for seniors to, in the words of the commissioners, “remain in their own homes for as long as possible."

Designing better age-friendly housing
Disability advocacy organisation, the Summer Foundation, and La Trobe University recently concluded a study of different accessible design features in new homes.

The study found a lack of accessible features in homes makes the process of discharging patients from hospitals slower, as lengthy home modifications are needed.

Equally, the lack of basic features such as a step-free shower entrance also makes it harder for the elderly to live at home for as long as possible, rather than moving to aged care prematurely.

National Seniors Better Housing campaign
Our campaign aims to improve housing options for older Australians, enabling them to age safely and comfortably in the place of their choice.

Mandating accessibility in the national building code is a major priority, as is ensuring the accessibility provisions are implemented nationally. Another priority is improving options to enable people to downsize should they need to. Read more about our campaign and join up to support what we’re doing.

Overcoming Adversity: Tess Lloyd's Insight For Year 12s

No stranger to adversity and overcoming unexpected challenges, Olympic Sailor Tess Lloyd recently penned a letter to Australian Year 12 Students as a message of support to all those in lockdown.

I'm reaching out because much like me trying to compete at the Tokyo Games, your year 12 is filled with uncertainty and unforeseen challenges due to Covid-19.

Things just aren't going the way we planned, and while your teachers, families and the government are doing all they can to keep school as normal as possible, it doesn't stop us all from feeling a little wobbly at times and isolated from our friends and what is normal.
Hey, I know what it's like. When I was your age, I was involved in a serious sailing accident, one which turned my life upside down and altered my plans for year 12.

I'll save you the gory details, but in short: our boat was hit by a windsurfer, my crewmate pulled me from the water unconscious, I was taken to hospital – things were pretty dire – I underwent brain surgery, had nine screws and plates put in my head and was put into a medically induced coma.

After the accident I had to learn to walk, talk and sail again. I ended up having to do my year 12 over two years, so while all my friends had graduated, I was still left studying. Not fun. As you can imagine, this brought with it great uncertainty.

It was a tough time. So much uncertainty made me questions myself – it got me down from time to time.

You are living through historic times, we are all, and while there is uncertainty, I know from my experiences that great things can come from adversity.
Would I be the athlete I am today without the accident that changed my Year 12? Would I have achieved my childhood dream, and would it have been as special, if I hadn't gone through what I did?

I don't know, but what I do know, is we all have greatness in us. We are all tougher than we imagined, and I want to encourage you to embrace adversity and adapt in times of uncertainty.

I have no doubt you all will be incredibly successful in all you do, but as you live through the day to day, remember you are sharing the journey.

Adversity adds to the triumph and brings out courage we never imagined we had. 

Tess Lloyd, Australian Olympic Sailor via

Tess waves for the camera on her first day of Olympic racing. Photo: World Sailing/ Sailing Energy

More Time To Prepare For HSC

By NSW Dept. of Education
HSC students will be given more time to work on their major projects and to prepare for exams to reduce the impact of the current COVID-19 lockdown.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) COVID-19 Response Committee has announced additional changes to the 2021 HSC timetable to give students additional time to prepare for upcoming HSC exams.

In recognition of the evolving COVID-19 situation and in line with health advice, NESA will:
  • Extend the hand in date for all major projects by two weeks. The hand-in date for Industrial Technology has been extended by four weeks
  • Reschedule Drama performance exams to run from 6 to 17 September
  • Music performance exam continue as scheduled, running from 30 August to 10 September
  • Reschedule the written exams to begin one week later on 19 October with HSC results out on 17 December.
Committee chair Professor Peter Shergold said students could still receive their results, ATAR and university offers this year despite written exams being delayed by a week.

“We know students want certainty about their exams, our priority is to limit disruption to HSC students,” he said.

“Our aim is to give students as much clarity as possible so they can focus on their studies, their goals and their personal wellbeing.

“We recognise that students and schools across the state are operating under a variety of different circumstances. We will outline a special illness and misadventure process and any other contingency arrangements needed to ensure equity and fairness for all students.”

NESA chief executive officer Paul Martin said the priority for NESA and the school sectors was providing considered advice to students that aligned with the health advice and was fair to the whole cohort.

“The changes to the exam timetables mean all students have some additional time to prepare for exams or complete their project,” Mr Martin said.

“We learnt a lot about our processes in the HSC last year and I am confident that we can apply those lessons this year.”

Earlier this week, oral language exams were rescheduled to start on 14 August.

COVID safe exam practices, including minimising school groups mixing, mandatory masks for everyone except the student during the exam, and Perspex screens will be in place at the oral language exams.

“Markers, many of whom are teachers, have an enormous undertaking ahead of them. I want to thank the teaching profession for all that they have done this year to support students,” Mr Martin said.

“I can assure markers and exam supervisors that their safety, as well as the students, is our priority.”

For regularly updated advice about the HSC see NESA’s COVID advice:

Teachers, students and parents can also contact the NESA COVID-19 support team on 1300 138 323 or

HSC Online Help

REMINDER: there's a great Practical Guide for Getting through your HSC by Sydney Uni at:
Just do your routine like you normally do and remember school finishes at 3-4pm!

Stay Healthy - Stay Active: HSC 2021

Stay active, keep connected and look after yourself during the HSC this year! 
Find helpful study tips, self-care resources and guides for students and parents at

Updated Advice For HSC Students

Following the NSW Government’s announcement to extend learning from home in Greater Sydney by two weeks, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is reassuring HSC students that arrangements are in place to ensure no student is disadvantaged by COVID restrictions.

NESA CEO Paul Martin said NESA is supporting HSC students and schools as COVID impacts NSW particularly those in Greater Sydney.

“Right now, our attention is on plans for the HSC oral language exams on 31 July and dance exams which are due to start on 2 August and we will issue further advice about these exams mid next week,” Mr Martin said.

“At this stage, we are planning for the drama, music and written exams and the marking of major works and projects to go ahead on schedule in a COVID safe way.”

NESA is continuing to work closely with NSW Health and the school sectors to plan contingencies for HSC exams, and will always follow the Health advice to prioritise the safety and health of students, exam staff and school communities

While HSC trial exams are a school-based assessment activity that are not conducted by NESA, NESA has made some changes to their rules to help schools respond to the evolving COVID situation.

These changes mean schools can postpone trial exams by a few weeks or provide an alternative assessment task suitable for the learning from home context.

NESA will publish further advice to support schools to determine suitable alternative assessment tasks and to estimate marks should the health advice require rescheduled trial exams to be cancelled.

“I want to say categorically that students will have the opportunity to receive the HSC this year,” Mr Martin said.

“Students should continue to focus on their studies and prioritise looking after their wellbeing.”

Teachers and schools are absolutely focussed on supporting HSC students whether they are learning from home in the Greater Sydney region, or at school in regional NSW.

Current advice for HSC students includes:
  • Your school will advise you about arrangements for trial HSC exams.
  • HSC students in Greater Sydney continue to be able to access school to prepare for the HSC where they cannot do so from home, including to use specialist equipment to work on major projects or rehearse for performance exams.
  • As per broader NSW Health advice, HSC students in Greater Sydney are asked to learn from home where possible.
  • All HSC students must follow COVID safe practices at school, including wearing a mask.
  • The COVID illness/misadventure process is available for students whose ability to work on their major project or performance has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
NESA is regularly updating the advice for HSC students. For more information visit Teachers, students and parents can also contact the NESA COVID-19 support team on 1300 138 323 or

After Dark Photo Competition: Northern Beaches

Here's a great new photo competition just for locals.

The Northern Beaches are one of the best places in Sydney to view the night sky and appreciate this wonderful asset.
Enter your image of the Northern Beaches taken between sunset and sunrise, go in the running for prizes, and share the beauty of the Northern Beaches LGA in a way not done before.

Proceeds from the event, go towards supporting the charity the Australian Dark Sky Alliance to support the ongoing conservation of the night time environment.
Entries close 1st September, 2021.


There will be three categories of entry for the General section;
  1. Land – manmade and/or natural formations, wildlife, flora or fauna
  2. Sea – waterways, beaches, or marine areas, sea life
  3. Sky – aspects of the night sky, moon, starscapes, clouds or wildlife
  4. Junior – under 16 years featuring any one of these categories.
All entries must be taken within the Northern Beaches LGA.
Images may be taken within the past 2 years, but must be taken between sunset and sunrise.

There is a limit of six (6) entries per category per photographer.

Still images must be submitted as JPG files with the longest side having a dimension no greater than 4,950 pixels in Adobe 1998 colour space, and no larger than 5Mb file size.

Entry Fees
  • Entry fees are $20 for the first category entered and $10 for each subsequent category entered.
  • Up to six entries per category are permitted.
  • Fees should be paid by the PayPal gateway on the entry website. Credit and debit cards can be used on this gateway.
  • If entry payments are not received by the deadline, then the submitted entries will not be accepted for judging.

Conditions of Entry
Still images must be submitted as JPG files with the longest side having a dimension no greater than 4,950 pixels in Adobe 1998 colour space, and no larger than 5Mb file size.

  1. Entries will be accepted only from Australian residents of the Commonwealth of Australia and its Territories.
  2. There will be two sections of entry – General and Junior (18 or younger)
  3. There will be three categories of entry for the General Section; Portraying the night time environment featuring Land, Sea or Sky.
  4. The Junior Section is for photographers 18 years old or younger and will have one open category.
  5. All entries must be taken within the Northern Beaches LGA and must be taken between sunset and sunrise.
  6. Images can be taken at any time of the year on or after 1 September 2019.
  7. The top 5 images of each category will be judged by the organising committee and will be hung at the Studio, Careel Bay Marina for general public display.
  8. Photographers represented in the top 5 images of each category will be notified that they are in the top 20 images (15 September 17:00 AEST).
  9. There is a limit of six (6) entries per category per photographer.
  10. In the case of images with multiple authors, the instigator of the image will be considered to be the principal author and the one who “owns” the image. The principal author MUST have performed the majority of the work to produce the image. All authors MUST be identified and named in the entry form along with their contributions to the production of the image.
  11. Entries must be in digital form and will be accepted ONLY through submission via the dedicated website at:
  12. To preserve anonymity, the submitted image files should not contain identifying metadata.
  13. For judging purposes, still images must be submitted as JPG files with the longest side having a dimension no greater than 4,950 pixels in Adobe 1998 colour space.
  14. All photographs must have been taken no more than 2 years before the closing date of entry.
  15. Entry fees are $20 for the first entry and $10 each subsequent entry. Fees should be paid by the PayPal gateway on the entry website. Credit and debit cards can be used on this gateway.
  16. If entry payments are not received by the deadline, then the submitted entries will not be accepted for judging.
  17. Photographers of the top 20 images (5 in each category) will be notified 15 September and images printed, framed and hung by the organising. Artists may choose to pay $55 for this service to be undertaken on their part or undertake printing and framing at their own cost. Images must be ready for hanging 17:00 (AEST) 29 September 2021.
  18. Images will be listed on sale during the exhibition at the artist’s discretion. $100 of the sale will be donated to the charity the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance.
  19. Winners for the Land Scape, Sea Scape, Sky Scape and Youth entry will be announced Thursday 30th September 2021.
  20. People’s choice will confirmed by popular vote throughout the exhibition and will be announced on Saturday 30 October, 2021.
  21. Submissions close at 24:00 (AEST) on Wednesday, 1 September 2021. No entries will be accepted past this date.
  22. All winners should make an effort to attend the presentation of the awards on 30 September 2021
  23. The winning entries will be exhibited for the entire Exhibition After Dark, at the Studio, Careel Bay Marina between 30 September and 2 November, 2021.
  24. Permission to reproduce entries for publication to promote the competition and exhibitions and dark sky-related events and activities on the northern beaches will be assumed as a condition of entry. The copyright of the image remains with the author, and we will try to ensure that the author is credited where the image is used.
  25. All entries must be true images, faithfully reflecting and maintaining the integrity of the subject. Entries made up of composite images taken at different times and/or at different locations and/or with different cameras will not be accepted. Image manipulations that produce works that are more “digital art” than true astronomical images, will be deemed ineligible. If there is any doubt about the acceptability of an entry, then the competition organisers should be contacted, before the entry is submitted, for adjudication on the matter at the following email address:
  26. If after the judging process, an image is subsequently determined to have violated the letter and/or the spirit of the rules, then that image will be disqualified. Any prizes consequently awarded for that image must be returned to the competition organisers.
  27. The competition judges reserve the right to reject any entry that, in the opinion of the judges, does not meet the conditions of entry or is unsuitable for public display. The judges’ decisions will be final.
  28. Submission of an entry implies acceptance of all the conditions of entry and the decisions of the competition judges.

Key Dates
  • Entries Open: 24:00 (AEST) Sunday, 11 July 2021
  • Entries Close: 24:00 (AEST) Wednesday, 1 September 2021
  • Top 20 announced: 17:00 Wednesday, 15 September 2021
  • Photography bump in: Midday Wednesday 29 September 2021
  • Exhibition Launch and Presentation of Awards: Thursday 30 September 2021
  • Bump out – 2 November 2021

The Overall Winner: To be judged by David Malin, Fred Watson
  • Category Winner: An image deemed to be the best in that category as judged by the judging panel.
  • “The People’s Choice”: This will be judged by gathering votes obtained in the exhibition venue, and online.
  • Category Winner: $200 – to each of the image deemed to be the best in each of the four (4) category.
  • “The People’s Choice”: $200 – will be judged by gathering votes obtained in the exhibition venue, and online.
There will be three categories of entry for the General section;

Land – capturing manmade and/or natural formations, wildlife, flora or fauna associated with the night
Sea – capturing waterways, beaches, or marine areas, sea life associated with the night.
Sky – capturing aspects of the night sky, moon, stars capes, clouds or wildlife associated with the night sky.
There is a limit of six (6) entries per category per photographer.

All entries must be taken within the Northern Beaches LGA.

The Junior Section is for photographers 18 years old or younger and feature any one of the categories.

More Information and enter at:

2021 Crikey! Magazine Photography Competition

Now in its fifth year, Australia Zoo’s Crikey! Magazine Photography Competition encourages photographers from around the world to contribute their work to celebrate and illustrate the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action to conserve it.

Judged by award winning photographers including Robert Irwin, Georgina Steytler, Dudley Edmondson, Gary Cranitch and Kate Berry, this competition welcomes high-quality nature, wildlife and conservation images for a chance to win prizes and be exhibited at Australia Zoo and the Queensland Museum’s iconic Whale Mall right outside Queensland Museum in Queensland’s Cultural Centre, South Bank.

Entries open on World Environment Day, 5th June 2021, and close 31st August 2021.

Category One: Crikey! Magazine Cover
Our original category, the winning image will be featured on the cover of Crikey! Magazine. The image must be portrait orientated and have space for the magazine title (either above or below focal subject). The image should be captivating and feature an animal, photographed anywhere in the world. Images may include terrestrial or aquatic wildlife.

Category Two: Crikey! Kids
Our original category, the winning image will have a full-page featured in Crikey! Magazine. The image must be portrait orientated and should be captivating and feature an animal, photographed anywhere in the world. Images may include terrestrial or aquatic wildlife. To qualify for our Crikey! Kids category, entrants must be under the age of 15 year on 1 October 2021.

Category Three: The Natural World
This is the culmination of the three exciting categories introduced for our 50th Year celebrations. Images submitted to this category can showcase the natural world, depict the complex relationship between humans and nature, or illustrate threatened wildlife. It is through these images, that we can raise awareness and advocate for the conservation of wildlife and wild places!

Great Prizes
Five finalists will be selected from each category, along with a winner and highly commended. The finalists will all have their images exhibited within Australia Zoo and at external events. The images will also be featured in the Summer edition of Crikey! Magazine and all finalists will receive a personalised certificate.

There is a variety of exciting prizes to be won from each category, including vouchers, gift packs and Australia Zoo passes! Woo-hoo!

Crikey! Magazine Cover

Winner – Inclusion as the cover photo of Crikey! Magazine Summer edition, a CameraPro voucher to the value of $1,000.00 AUD and a signed Robert Irwin canvas print valued at $99.95 AUD.
Highly Commended – A choice of either an Australia Zoo family admission (2 adults, 2 children) including giraffe encounter; or an Australia Zoo signed gift basket to the value of $220.00 AUD.

Crikey! Kids

Winner – A CameraPro voucher to the value of $500.00 AUD and a signed Robert Irwin canvas print valued at $99.95 AUD.
Highly Commended – A choice of either an Australia Zoo family admission (2 adults, 2 children) including giraffe encounter; or an Australia Zoo signed gift basket to the value of $220.00 AUD.

The Natural World

Winner – A CameraPro voucher to the value of $1,000.00 AUD and a signed Robert Irwin canvas print valued at $99.95 AUD
Highly Commended – A choice of either an Australia Zoo family admission (2 adults, 2 children) including giraffe encounter; or an Australia Zoo signed gift basket to the value of $220.00 AUD.

How to Enter!
Step 1: Take your most creative wildlife photo that matches the theme of the category you are entering.

Step 2: Read the terms and conditions via the below link for clear guidelines of this competition.

Step 3: The photograph must be in portrait format for the Crikey! Magazine Cover category. Consideration needs to be taken to allow for the ‘Crikey!’ mastheads which will be positioned over the top quarter of the winning photo.

Step 4: All photographs must be provided in high resolution, 3:2 aspect ratio, JPG format and a minimum of 300 DPI. No borders, watermarks or signatures are allowed. Entries not meeting these requirements will not proceed to judging.

Step 5: Each photograph must be labelled with your name, category, subject of the photo and if required, a number for multiple images of the same subject. For example, an acceptable file name is JaneSmith_CrikeyKids_Lion or JaneSmith_CrikeyKids_Lion2.

Step 6: Enter via the links below from June 5 2021 to August 31 2021 to be considered. Age qualifications are – Under 15 Years on 1 October 2021 for Crikey! Kids entry and 15 Years & over for all other categories.

Step 7: A panel of judges consisting of expert photographers will choose the winners.

Step 8: Wait until 1 October 2021 to find out if you are one of our winners!

Entries close on 31 August 2021, so snap to it!

A $10.00 entry fee applies for each category excluding the Under 15 Years “Crikey! Kids”. The entry fees cover the majority of the competition administration costs to allow the proceeds from Crikey! Magazine to continue to provide essential support to Wildlife Warriors and make an immediate impact in the world of wildlife conservation.  Entry fees are non-refundable.

Time To Dance!

John Newman: Love Me Again + Rudimental - Feel The Love ft. John Newman
John William Peter Newman (born 16 June 1990) is an English singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. He is best known for the track "Love Me Again" which peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart in July 2013 and appeared in FIFA 14, as well as co-writing and singing on Rudimental's 2012 singles "Feel the Love" and "Not Giving In", which peaked at number one and number 14 on the chart, respectively. In 2014, he featured in the Calvin Harris single "Blame", which also topped the UK charts.

Newman has twice been diagnosed with brain tumours, undergoing surgery in 2012 and again in 2016. He married his Danish girlfriend, Nana-Maria on 18 August 2018 in London. 

His older brother James Newman is a singer-songwriter and won the Brit Award for British Single of the Year during the 2014 Brit Awards for co-writing Rudimental's hit "Waiting All Night". James was due to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 with the song "My Last Breath", before its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. James returned to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 with the song "Embers".

In July 2019, whilst being interviewed by the BBC about his upcoming tour, Newman opened up about his personal struggles with mental health. He went on to explain that he found himself comparing himself to other musicians around him that had seen more success both musically and financially. To prevent himself experiencing the same struggles again, much smaller venues were chosen for his 2019 tour and he was to travel between venues in a campervan with his band.

From colonial cavalry to mounted police: a short history of the Australian police horse

Stephen GappsUniversity of Newcastle and Angus MurrayUniversity of Newcastle

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains names and/or images of deceased people.

Images of mounted police contending with anti-lockdown protesters on the weekend have now gone viral around the world. In fact, mounted police have a long history in Australia.

They have certainly been used as a method of crowd control at countless demonstrations in living memory — from anti-war protests to pro-refugee rallies and everything in between.

But the history of mounted police in Australia goes much deeper.

Read more: Enforcing assimilation, dismantling Aboriginal families: a history of police violence in Australia

Mounted Reconnaissance And Messengers

In early colonial Australia, horses were at a premium. In the 1790s, policing of convicts and bushrangers in the confined region of the Sydney basin was conducted on foot by night watchmen, constables and the colonial military.

By 1801, the then Governor King formed a Body Guard of Light Horse for dispatching his messages to the interior and as a useful personal escort.

By 1816, at the height of the Sydney Wars of Aboriginal resistance, the numbers of horses in the colony had grown.

Their importance as mounted reconnaissance and for use by messengers was critical to Governor Macquarie’s infamous campaign, which ended in the Appin Massacre of April 17, 1816.

Mounted police, gold escort guard/ sketched on the spot by S.T. Gill.
Along with firearms and disease, the horse was a key element in occupying Aboriginal land and controlling the largely convict workforce on the frontier. NLA/Trove

The Horse As A Key Element Of Occupation

Along with firearms and disease, the horse was a key element in occupying Aboriginal land and controlling the largely convict workforce on the frontier.

In the early 1820s, west of the Blue Mountains, the use of horses in the open terrain of the Bathurst Plains was critical in capturing escaped convicts and bushrangers, as well as defending remote outstations against attacks from Wiradjuri people.

Early intrusions into Wiradjuri land were not so much by British colonists, but by the animals they brought with them. In what is now recognised as “co-colonisation”, cattle and sheep did a lot of the hard yards for the British, often well before they arrived in Aboriginal lands.

In 1817, Surveyor General John Oxley thought he was well beyond the limits of settlement when, as he wrote:

to our great surprise we found the distinct marks of cattle tracks [that] must have strayed from Bathurst, from which place we were now distant in a direct line between eighty and ninety miles.

From A Colonial Cavalry To Mounted Police

During the first Wiradjuri War of Resistance between 1822 and 1824, calls were made to the colonial authorities for the formation of a civilian “colonial cavalry” to assist the beleaguered and overstretched military forces. My (Stephen Gapps) forthcoming book, developed in consultation with Wiradjuri community members in central west region of NSW, The Bathurst War, looks in deeper detail at this period.

It was hoped colonial farmers would be their own first line of defence against Aboriginal warrior raids on sheep and cattle stations.

Governor Brisbane wrote to London that in 1824 a mounted force was becoming “daily more essential [for the] vital interests of the of the Colony”.

But by August that year, heavily armed and mounted settlers, overseers and their armed convict workers had decimated Wiradjuri resistance before a formal cavalry militia was established.

After possibly hundreds of Wiradjuri people had been massacred by heavily armed and mounted settlers, a “Horse Patrol” was created in 1825, which soon formally became the Mounted Police.

The Mounted Police were critical during a spree of bushranging soon after — a largely unanticipated side-effect of arming of convict stockworkers to defend themselves against Wiradjuri attacks in 1824.

Mounted Police and prisoner, 1840-1872, Samuel Thomas Gill
The Mounted Police were critical during a spree of bushranging. Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales

By the 1830s, the force had proved useful as a highly mobile quasi-military unit in combating Aboriginal resistance as well as bushranging.

As the colony continued to expand with an insatiable desire for running cattle and sheep on Aboriginal lands, three regional divisions were based at Bathurst, Goulburn and Maitland.

After conflict between colonists and Gamilaraay warriors on the Liverpool Plains, commander Major Nunn led a Mounted Police detachment on a two-month campaign around the Gwydir and Namoi Rivers, resulting in the Waterloo Creek Massacre on January 26, 1838. Armed colonists soon followed suit, ending in the Myall Creek Massacre in June that year, where colonists killed at least 28 Aboriginal people (possibly more).

The Mounted Police’s military functions came with heavy expenses, which included uniforms, equipment and barracks. During the 1840s, a Border Police force of ex-convicts equipped only with a horse, a gun and rations was created and attached to Commissioners of Crown Lands.

It was funded by a tax on squatters (whose interests they protected) and proved a much cheaper policing option for the frontier.

The Native Mounted Police

By 1850 the “Mounted Police” were disbanded. Another relatively cheap and what proved to be a tragic, if remarkably successful, option had been found — the creation of a “Native Mounted Police” force of Aboriginal men with British officers.

The troopers were provided with uniforms, guns and rations. By the 1860s, particularly in Queensland, the main problem on the frontier was not policing colonists but stopping Aboriginal resistance. So arming Aboriginal fighters was part of a tried and tested British method of exploiting existing hostilities by rewarding those who collaborated and punishing those who resisted.

As Bogaine Spearim, Gamilaraay and Kooma man, activist and creator of the podcast Frontier War Stories has noted, the Queensland Native Mounted Police (NMP) were not only feared by bushrangers such as Ned Kelly, but known for their violence toward the Aboriginal population of Queensland.

The NMP united incredible bush skills with military capability. Their legacy has been the focus of a recent project by Australian researchers Lynley Wallis, Heather Burke and colleagues.

The Role Of Animals In Colonisation And Policing

From 1850, the colonial police force (and then from 1862, the NSW Police force) incorporated mounted police as mobile units in mostly remote locations.

But they also found them useful in urban areas, especially with growing numbers of strikes, political disturbances, protests and riots in the rapidly industrialising cities in the late 19th century.

The use of horses in crowd control has a long history in policing, which itself has a long history in warfare. Among the other issues this presents, we might also consider horses’ long suffering histories of being placed in the front lines of conflict.

Like the inexorable march of sheep and cattle as part of the invasion of Aboriginal lands, understanding the role of animals in colonisation and policing is crucial to a broader understanding of Australian history.

Read more: Make no mistake: Cook’s voyages were part of a military mission to conquer and expand The Conversation

Stephen Gapps, Conjoint Lecturer, University of Newcastle and Angus Murray, PhD student, University of Newcastle

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

Choosing your senior school subjects doesn’t have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind

Professor Nan BahrSouthern Cross University

This is the first article in a series providing school students with evidence-based advice for choosing subjects in their senior years.

From about August each year, young people in year 10 go through a round of interviews to close in on their subject selections for years 11 and 12.

They’re given a portfolio full of reading materials. They may also attend vibrant careers markets to get helpful information. The principal and heads of the year give presentations, and occasionally a VIP guest speaker will arrive.

Somewhere at this point, my sobbing daughter had cried: “I’m growing up too quickly!” She’d been told a complex story about ATARs, prerequisites and options for her career path, all with the solemn authority about the importance of making wise decisions.

Studies have shown students experience anxiety around choosing subjects that relate to their desired career path. Nothing as serious as this will have happened in most children’s lives before now.

What if they don’t know what they want to do? Or worse, what if they make a mistake in their subject choices?

The good news is, there is not much need to worry. Choices you make now about your subjects don’t need to have a severe impact on your future.

There are some myths about senior schooling all kids and parents need to know. Here are six of them.

Myth 1: You Need An ATAR To Go To University

There are several pathways to university — an ATAR is only one of them.

The federal education department reports there are significant intakes for courses that don’t require an ATAR. A 2020 report says the share of university offers for applicants with no ATAR or who were non-year 12 applicants was 60.5% in 2020. This was up from 60.1% in 2019.

Some courses, like engineering, normally require an ATAR of somewhere around the mid 80s. But you could also get in through having done a VET certificate or diploma. RMIT, for instance, offers up to two years of credit to transfer from TAFE into an undergraduate degree.

Read more: Your ATAR isn't the only thing universities are looking at

There are many alternative pathways described by most institutions on their websites. Curtin University has a helpful journey finder for students without a competitive ATAR.

Girl with backpack sitting in front of a road that splits into two.
There are several pathways into university. Shutterstock

A year 12 student, expecting not to gain an ATAR, who is not studying English or doesn’t expect to gain a 50 scaled rank for English, has at least three pathways into Curtin — sitting the Special Tertiary Admissions Test, doing a course at Curtin College, and using a portfolio for assessment.

Curtin also has a UniReady Enabling Program. This is a short course of 17 weeks. Completing the course means you will fulfil Curtin’s minimum admission criteria of a 70 ATAR. Many universities have similar types of preparatory pathways.

Myth 2: Your Senior Subjects Majorly Influence Your Career

With all the disruption we’re experiencing, technical and social, we actually don’t have any idea what types of careers will be available in the future. Industry advice bodies, like the National Skills Commission, recommend students choose subjects that suit their interest and skill set, rather than to prepare for a specific future career.

Reports show today’s 15-year-olds will likely change employers 17 times and have five different careers through their working life. Many of their career may have very little, if any, connection to the senior subjects they took at school.

Read more: Can government actually predict the jobs of the future?

A 2018 report by industry body Deloitte Access Economics showed 72% of employers “demanded” communication skills when hiring and that transferable skills, such as as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, innovation and emotional judgement, “have become widely acknowledged as important in driving business success”.

People working together at a desk. New team member reaching over to shake the head of collaborator.
The ability to work in a team will be an important skills for future employers. Shutterstock

This can include subjects like music, dance, debating and theatre will teach the exact skills employers value the most.

Myth 3: You Should Do ‘Hard’ Subjects To Get A High ATAR

All subjects are hard if you lack interest or ability. Students are unlikely to do well if they are unhappy and unmotivated.

Research shows being motivated will improve how well you do in something. But academic performance is better associated with internal motivation (such as liking something) than external (like the drive for an ATAR).

Read more: Five tips to help year 12 students set better goals in the final year of school

So, if a student only values a subject for what it might get them, like a high ATAR, they’ll do better than if there was no purpose at all. But they won’t do as well as if they are internally motivated by it.

Myth 4: Your ATAR Will Stand As The Measure Of Your Ability Into The Future

The ATAR is simply a profile of achievement on a limited number of tasks over a defined period. A person at the end of school, aged 17 or 18, hasn’t reached the end of their development.

Studies show there is an interaction between gains in knowledge and expertise, and losses in the speed of cognitive processing as we age (meaning we learn less as we get older, to some extent).

You will keep learning from experience. Shutterstock

But these losses are offset by an older person’s access to a rich base of experience which can inform their understanding of things and their actions. Also the older a person is, the better developed their self-regulation and motivation.

Our abilities are shaped and reshaped by experience across our lifespan.

Myth 5: Year 12 Will Be Demanding And Stressful

Year 12 can be demanding and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. The most common source of distress in the senior years comes from anxiety, specifically test anxiety, and the pressures that come from selecting subjects for reasons not driven by interest and ability.

These years should not be devoted to self-flagellation for a high ATAR.

Students with a range of subjects types will have variety in their day and week. They are likely to have the best experience in their senior years.

Artist's palette with lots of colourful paint.
Variety in your day can help you enjoy your senior years. Shutterstock

Research suggests a balanced life underscores success and general achievement, and setting the tone is vital during these formative years.

Myth 6: Taking A VET Subject In Year 11 Or 12 Will Affect Your ATAR

Taking a VET subject reduces the opportunity to take another ATAR subject. It could be argued this puts greater pressure on achievement in the remaining ATAR subjects. But taking a VET subject also reduces the ATAR subjects on your dance card, so they may well be easier to manage.

Including a VET subject is also likely to provide a balanced education in senior years, which may actually improve a student’s chances for a high ATAR.

So here’s what you should think about when making your subject choices:

  • what do you like?

  • what comes easily to you?

  • will the selection give you variety in your day?

  • in which subjects will you have the most fun?

Read the other articles in our series on choosing senior subjects, here.The Conversation

Professor Nan Bahr, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students), Southern Cross University

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

Confused about which English subject to choose in year 11 and 12? Here’s what you need to know

Kirsten LambertEdith Cowan University

This article is part of a series providing school students with evidence-based advice for choosing subjects in their senior years.

English (or an equivalent literacy requirement) is a compulsory subject for all secondary students in Australia. In years 11 and 12 there are several types of English subjects to choose from.

There are different versions of “English” in different states, with various titles and levels of difficulty.

There’s EnglishEnglish studiesgeneral Englishfoundation EnglishEnglish standardEnglish advancedEnglish languageEnglish and literature extension and literature. It is important to choose the right version of English to reach your desired destination.

Different Types Of English

The Australian Curriculum is the base for the development of state and territory senior secondary courses. It breaks English down into four broad categories: English, literature, EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) and essential English.

Literature is known as the most challenging of the four and focuses on literary texts such as poetry, prose and drama. Literature explores the creative use of language through in-depth study of culturally important literary works.

Book cover
In a literature course, you could be asked to explore representations of race in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Drümmkopf/FlickrCC BY

For example, students may explore colonial representations of race in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, the beauty and unsettling nature of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or Australian cultural identity in Jack Davis’ play No Sugar.

Literature is more like philosophy or history than what we think of as English from NAPLAN (grammar and comprehension).

Literature used to be a popular subject in some states, but its popularity has been falling. Recent figures from Victoria show while literature was the 15th most commonly studied subject in 2015 in the senior years, it tumbled to 19th in 2019. In 2020, it fell off the top 20 list entirely.

In Western Australia, some schools have dropped literature because of low enrolments. A report in 2018 noted the percentage of year 12s studying literature fell from 26% in 1998 to 11% in 2017.

Theories about this fall include the fact literature is seen as an elitist subject, that you have to be someone who reads all the time to take it, and you have to love great 19th and 20th century literature.

These things aren’t true. Anyone interested but willing to challenge themselves should and can take literature. And some examples of recent texts include Breath (Tim Winton), The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) and The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak). There are many “fun” texts students can study and while literature is challenging it can also be enriching, and can cultivate a love of reading.

Read more: 5 Australian books that can help young people understand their place in the world

Also, my research showed some students found studying literary texts to be an empowering experience. One year 12 student said:

I’m the black sheep in my household. I identified with Rose (a character from Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet) quite a bit as the strong girl who was being resilient and was trying to break out of where she was. I do performing and everyone else does engineering or chemistry.

English develops analytical and creative skills through studying a range of literary and non-literary texts (including oral, multimedia and digital “texts” such as documentaries, graphic novels and feature articles).

If you’re not in love with reading or writing but want to study subjects such as commerce or engineering at university, this may be the course for you.

Girl lying on the couch reading magazine
In English, you can study a range of texts, such as magazine feature articles. Shutterstock

Although it’s seen as easier than literature, not everyone finds it that way. One Victorian student who had taken both literature and English wrote actually found the latter harder. This is because she felt she had more freedom in literature while English “wasn’t really compatible with tangents”. She found it harder to be more concise in her expression.

English as an additional language is designed for students with English is their second language. This is an ATAR subject in some states such as Western Australia and Victoria.

Essential English develops students’ use of language, but it is not an ATAR subject. Essential English and general English are tailored to students who would like to graduate from high school but don’t want to go to university.

How Do I Decide Which To Take?

The first question you can ask is: “Do I want to go to university?”. If the answer is “yes”, you are likely to choose an English subject that will go towards your ATAR.

It’s worth noting you can still get into university without an ATAR, or without a very high one, but it does give your more options.

Read more: Don't stress, your ATAR isn't the final call. There are many ways to get into university

ATAR subjects are traditionally seen as more difficult than non-ATAR ones, although for anyone who has ever studied non-ATAR subjects, this is debatable.

So, let’s take an example student, Mia. She is tossing up between medicine, mechanics or music teaching.

If Mia wants to become a mechanic, she does not need an ATAR to get a school-based apprenticeship. She may be better off studying general English, which focuses on the skills students need to become competent communicators in everyday life, or at work.

A woman mechanic.
If Mia wants to become a mechanic, she doesn’t need to do an English subject that contributes to an ATAR. Shutterstock

But if Mia wants to be a music teacher or doctor, she is better off choosing an English subject that contributes to an ATAR. If she would like to be a teacher, she could choose something like English standard or English advanced and will need an ATAR score over 70 (but more than likely around 85). If she would like to study medicine, she will need an ATAR closer to 99.

What About Scaling?

Some English subjects are scaled higher, while others lower.

Scaling uses an algorithm to make subject scores more or less comparable to each other. This also makes sure if a student takes a difficult subject, they aren’t disadvantaged. It’s easier to get an A in an easier subject than a harder subject, so scaling generally adds more points to students doing harder subjects.

ATAR literature, a traditionally more difficult course, is usually scaled up. In Western Australia in 2020, for instance, English was scaled down about two points and literature was scaled up by nearly seven.

Read more: Choosing your senior school subjects doesn't have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind

But students shouldn’t just take a subject like literature because it’s scaled up. Because it’s harder, they may get a lower mark and the scaling won’t make much difference. You should do what interests you, and what you think will contribute best to your future while ensuring a good senior school experience.

What Could I Do With English?

English is compulsory because you need it for everything in life, from social communication to employment.

Studying literature, which isn’t compulsory, can be useful for occupations that require an advanced command of language such as journalism, research, law, public relations, philosophy and politics.

Read the other articles in our series on choosing senior subjects, here.The Conversation

Kirsten Lambert, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

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

History made the world we live in: here’s what you’ll learn if you choose it in years 11 and 12

Temple of Edfu temple, Egypt. Shutterstock
Heather SharpUniversity of Newcastle and Debra DonnellyUniversity of Newcastle

This article is part of a series providing school students with evidence-based advice for choosing subjects in their senior years.

History is for students curious about the world. It involves discovery, evaluation and imagination.

Around 40% of Australian senior students chose to study year 11 and 12 history in 2016. It was more popular than other humanities subjects such as geography and psychology and more girls chose to enrol (23%) than boys (18%).

Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering taking history in the senior years.

What Kinds Of History Subject Are There?

There are a variety of history subjects offered across Australia. For example, Victoria’s history subjects include Australian history20th century historyancient history and revolutions.

Australian history is only available in Victoria. It investigates Aboriginal history and contact with colonialists, through to Federation and 20th century nation building. But the subject is losing popularity. The number of students who completed Australian history almost halved between 2014 and 2019, from 1,245 in 2014 to just 632 in 2019.

Teachers are aiming to make it more interesting and the structure of Australian history will change next year. Instead of learning the entire span of Australian history chronologically, Victorian students will conduct two semester-length investigations of themes including creating a nation, power and resistance, and war and upheaval.

Old map of Australia with Nouvelle Hollande written across the landmass.
Australian history explores how we got to the present, from Aboriginal history to building the nation of Australia as we know it today. (Map of Australia published in Le Tour du Monde journal, Paris, 1860) Shutterstock

Ancient history and revolutions explores societies such as Ancient Egypt, classical Rome and Greece with a focus on politics, military and social history. Revolutions includes an in-depth study of French, American and Russian revolutions.

Year 12 student Taylah told us she took ancient history because:

I always had a fascination with the ancient Egyptian civilisation. I was especially interested in how civilisations have or haven’t learned from the past.

Modern history is available in New South Wales and Queensland. This generally focuses on prominent topics and events from the French Revolution to the present. It covers major conflicts such as the world wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam war, international race relations and peace initiatives such as the beginnings of the United Nations.

Modern history was the most popular course in NSW in 2020, with similar numbers of boys and girls choosing it.

Uniquely, NSW offers an extension history course, which examines historical theory and the uses of history today. This course features a major research project that places students in the role of a historian, extending learning beyond content to communicate conceptual understandings.

What Will I Be Learning?

History is for students interested in understanding the origins of the present and who like to see beyond simple, right-or-wrong answers.

Samantha who is studying teaching at university told us she chose history in years 11 and 12 because:

It always fascinated me how history made the world we live in. I also thought it was interesting how in Australia we are so tied to the Western world, considering geographically we are quite removed.

History isn’t just about learning facts like names and dates. Senior history opens up knowledge to be questioned and explored in depth. For example, students can compare and contrast the revolutions of France and Russia and investigate whether and how the first world war was a precursor to the second.

Russian men marching in the street with banners.
Students can compare the Russian the French revolutions. (Funeral of people killed by Czarist police on Feb 26, 1917 St. Petersburg, Russia) Shutterstock

Jack who has a bachelor in business studies told us he:

enjoyed the combination of skills involved in studying history: writing, critical analysis and assessment of a range of different sources such as books, film and interviews.

A major skill students learn is historical inquiry. This means finding out about the past by researching information from different perspectives, locations and times. Students synthesise information to form a historical evidence-based argument.

Let’s take competing perspectives on Aboriginal civilisation before the British arrived in Australia. For years, our history textbooks told us Aboriginal people were hunter gatherers moving from place to place. But more recent evidence claims many Aboriginal people cultivated the land for farming and aquaculture.

Read more: Secondary school textbooks teach our kids the myth that Aboriginal Australians were nomadic hunter-gatherers

There is still debate about this in the media and in the classroom. Students could research the topic for themselves, read up on the different types of evidence and present their own conclusions.

History is best suited to students who enjoy research as well as reading and writing an argument in response to a question. Students need to be prepared for assigned reading and extended writing tasks.

Where History Takes You After School?

Many careers are open to those who study history in senior school and later at university. Some careers that come directly from history study include:

  • historian, genealogist (family history researcher) or archaeologist

  • school teacher

  • museum guide, curator, or education officer (someone who develops education materials and experiences in museums and other public history sites)

  • research officer for a policy institution, a member of parliament or industry think tank

  • librarian or archivist (including in conservation and preservation).

Senior curator at a rail museum, Jennifer, told us:

History was the only subject I liked. I chose modern and ancient history for senior because I hoped to have a career in history. I loved learning, analysing and evaluating, finding different sources and opinions, and deep discussions in class. Still choosing history today.

But you don’t just have to take history for a career in it. History also helps develop a range of employment-related skills.

Many employers appreciate skills such as being able to write and communicate effectively and persuasively, to think critically, to consider multiple perspectives and to logically consider consequences based on evidence.

Read more: If the government listened to business leaders, they would encourage humanities education, not pull funds from it

These skills are vital for careers such as in journalism, law, human resources, policy, diplomacy, and other jobs that require critical thinking and clear communication skills.

Rebecca, who studied modern and ancient history in school in Brisbane and then at university told us:

Studying social sciences gives a greater understanding and interest of the wider world […] I work in the UK public service now, and history provides you with excellent analytical, investigation and communication skills. Lots of people in my office have history degrees.

Woman taking books down from a shelf in the library.
You can use the research and analytical skills you learn in history in careers like archiving, being a librarian or a researcher in parliament. Shutterstock

When selecting subjects for senior school, there is one important consideration that is often overlooked or set aside. The senior years are hectic. Students should choose at least some of their school subjects for themselves, because they like them and they think the subject is valuable for them.

Read more: Choosing your senior school subjects doesn't have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind

For many students, history is one of these subjects. By investigating the past, students discover insights about humans and the world they have inherited. These can help them find the paths they will take beyond school.

Read the other articles in our series on choosing senior subjects, here.The Conversation

Heather Sharp, Associate Professor, History and Curriculum Studies, University of Newcastle and Debra Donnelly, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

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

Thinking of choosing a health or PE subject in years 11 and 12? Here’s what you need to know

Brendon HyndmanCharles Sturt University and Vaughan CruickshankUniversity of Tasmania

This article is part of a series providing school students with evidence-based advice for choosing subjects in their senior years.

From kindergarten to year 10, all Australian students follow the national health and physical education (HPE) curriculum. This expands in years 11 and 12 with a range of health and physical education selection options.

Depending on which state you live in, you may be able to do year 11 and 12 health and physical education subjects such as physical education (by itself), sport science, health studies, personal development, athlete development, food and nutrition, outdoor and environmental studies, and sport and recreation. These subjects include a variety of practical and theoretical options.

When deciding which subjects to do in years 11 and 12, it is important to consider your interests and study load, as well as what you want to do after year 12.

Do you want to embark on university study, enter the workforce, learn a trade or something else? Sport and recreation is a common choice for industry preparation, with ATAR and higher education pathways also available. But there are other options, too.

What Subjects Can I Do?

In recent decades a number of reports have indicated studying health and physical education in year 11-12 is becoming more popular.

In 2016, almost 40% of students aged 16 to 17 across Australia elected to enrol in health and physical education subjects in years 11 and 12. The PE subjects were slightly more popular among males, and health education among females.

Similarly, in New South Wales, trends show the proportion of senior secondary students studying health and physical education rose by almost 10% over the decade from 2008.

Read more: Choosing your senior school subjects doesn't have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind

Many subjects are available under the health and physical education umbrella – depending on where you live. Alongside the combinations of HPE or PE (by itself), these can include:

  • health studies and well-being are available in states such as Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Here you will learn about personal care and well-being and about where to find accurate health information. You can explore different dimensions of health such as physical, mental and emotional health — all of which can help you navigate busy and often stressful years at college

  • food and nutrition is available in states such as Tasmania and South Australia. This will teach you how to analyse nutrition and food information, food advertising and dietary trends. You will also explore what influences food choices, analyse how nutrition affects health and consider how secure and sustainable our food supply is

  • sport and recreation studies are available in states such as Queensland, Victoria and NSW. This subject can make you more aware of the many local organisations and experiences you can access for fun. It can also teach you how to get engaged in physical activities with your friends and family, and work with a local council to organise community sporting events

  • athlete development is available in states such as Tasmania. This can allow you to develop in your chosen (team or individual) sport through specialist coaching. You can learn about things like how to train effectively and prevent and recover from injuries

  • outdoor education is available in states such as Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. This will give you exposure to many different activities, such as rafting, kayaking and climbing, that you probably would not be able to normally access. Experience in adventure activities is useful if you want to work as a recreational guide, with skills to lead and manage outdoor groups

For students who want to continue studying health and physical education at university as part of training to be a teacher, subjects that relate to sport science such as biology, chemistry and physics are highly recommended and scaled well towards ATAR scores in 2020.

They are also a great foundation for courses in exercise science, health promotion, nutritional sciences and physiotherapy.

What Else Will I Learn?

Studying health and physical education in senior secondary school can give you an insight and appreciation of how our psychology, social networks, culture, environments and bodies all connect to influence our activity behaviours and overall physical performance.

For instance, when planning how to get people moving and performing well, you might consider a person’s motivation, the type of people to train with, the types of facilities available and levels of training preparation.

Physiotherapist helping someone do an exercise using a TheraBand.
Doing subjects related to sports science could lead to a career in physiotherapy. Shutterstock

Many students choose senior secondary health and physical education for future careers relating to movement and the body. These include coaching, teaching, sport science, nutrition and recreation. Others may simply want to better understand how to plan and promote active and healthy lifestyles.

Read more: Thinking of choosing a science subject in years 11 and 12? Here's what you need to know

Studying health and physical education can lead to improved confidence in your movement, ability to make decisions and to develop teamwork and leadership skills that will help across life. These skills are transferable across a range of other professions such as management, policing and the defence forces.

Keeping Active In The Senior Years

Across Australia, schools are expected to deliver at least two hours of planned physical activities each week to students until year 10.

But there is no time requirement for schools to deliver physical activity in the senior years.

Global reports indicate physical activity reduces through adolescence and to some extent into adulthood. Researchers suggest the decline is most often due to a lack of time, followed by the amount of resources available and the level of school support to get students moving.

Physical activity is vital to buffer stress in senior schooling. Even a few brief periods of four to eight minutes of intense activity such as push-ups in class each week can help senior students’ mental health, learning engagement and overall fitness.

Read more: How much physical activity should teenagers do, and how can they get enough?

Although taking health and physical education in years 11 and 12 does not have the same requirements to get you moving regularly as in the earlier stages of school, you will have the opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation of what you need to do to get moving on your own.

If physical education is just not your thing, still make sure you get at least one hour of activity each day that “makes your heart beat faster” to weather the stress of the final years of school and the evolving pandemic and to set up healthy habits for adulthood.

Read the other articles in our series on choosing senior subjects, here.The Conversation

Brendon Hyndman, Associate Dean (Research), Charles Sturt University and Vaughan Cruickshank, Program Director – Health and Physical Education, Maths/Science, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania

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

Australia badly needs earth science skills, but universities are cutting the supply

Kate SelwayUniversity of South Australia

Earth science is vital to Australia’s economic and environmental future but we are dramatically decreasing our earth science capability. Earth scientists work not only in mining and mineral exploration (which contribute 11% of Australia’s GDP) but also in fields such as environmental science, groundwater monitoring for the agricultural and environmental sectors, geotechnical work for the construction industry, and satellite remote sensing. These skills will be increasingly important to meet the challenges of climate change, particularly as renewable energy sources require new discoveries of minerals for batteries, electric cars and wind turbines.

Already in short supply, geologists, geophysicists and earth science technicians are on the skilled occupation list for immigration. Despite this need, Australian universities have recently made huge cuts to earth science teaching. In the past year, the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University have closed entire earth science departments.

Read more: 'Devastating': The Morrison government cuts uni funding for environment courses by almost 30%

Earth science jobs have also been lost at other universities including ANUUNSWTasmania and Melbourne. Almost every university in the eastern states has cut undergraduate courses in earth sciences.

Federal government policies bear significant responsibility for this loss of earth science capability. The lack of JobKeeper support for universities during the pandemic has been widely discussed, but the unhelpful policies run much deeper.

Funding Changes Hit Earth Science Teaching Hard

Despite its importance, earth science undergraduate enrolments in Australia are modest. Most years only about 200 students graduate with an honours degree (the minimum generally required to be employed in the field), while over 15,000 people work as geoscientists in Australia. Commonwealth funding for university teaching is based on student numbers, so earth science departments receive little teaching income.

The stated aim of the 2020 Job-Ready Graduates Package was to address this by “better preparing students for jobs that reflect Australia’s expected economic, industry and employment growth”. The package did reduce fees for earth science students. However, it did not increase funding to cover the resulting fee shortfall.

As a result, university income was reduced by 16% for science students and 29% for environmental science students. At a time when universities are deciding which courses to cut, these suddenly less profitable courses have risen to the top of the list.

Read more: The government is making ‘job-ready’ degrees cheaper for students – but cutting funding to the same courses

Research Lacks Funding Too

Australia excels in earth science research. In the 2020 QS World University Rankings, nine Australian earth science institutions were in the top 100 in the world, compared to five in biology, three in physics, one in chemistry and none in mathematics. However, research funding policies have hit earth science departments particularly hard.

Most Australian government research funding does not cover the full costs of doing research, including academic salaries and university overheads. This funding system essentially punishes earth science departments for their research excellence because there is no money to cover the required laboratory facilities or academic salaries that come with research success.

Universities had increasingly used international student fees to bridge the research funding gap. But revenue from those fees has been falling since our borders closed to these students. Earth science departments and academics are again on university chopping blocks.

Read more: Big-spending 'recovery budget' leaves universities out in the cold

Research Excellence Offers Little Protection

Responsibility also lies with the universities that ultimately decided to cut earth science departments and jobs. Not all these cuts were made in response to COVID-19. For instance, Macquarie University began earth science redundancies in 2019, well before any COVID-19 budgetary crisis.

However, the pandemic has accelerated the loss of earth science teaching. With Macquarie again as an example, in the past year the university has made most academic positions in earth science redundant, while announcing plans to build a A$60 million law school.

Earth science had been an area of research strength at Macquarie University. The department hosted an Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence and produced six ARC Future Fellows in the past ten years. The university is clearly making strategic decisions on the basis of undergraduate enrolments rather than research excellence or Australian skills needs.

How Can These Problems Be Solved?

A solution to this problem requires Commonwealth funding to be restructured. For a start, research funding should cover the costs of research.

If the Australian government is serious about producing graduates for jobs in areas of need, it should design policies that encourage universities to invest in those areas rather than punishing them for doing so. Universities, as public institutions that seek the support of the public, should commit to supporting areas of importance to Australia, even if these are not the most profitable for the universities themselves.

Read more: The government linked the cost of university teaching to funding and student fees, but the numbers don't add up

The immediate problem that must be solved to protect our remaining earth science teaching is low undergraduate student numbers. An easy step for the Australian government would be to boost the small amount of earth science content in the school curriculum. Yet current proposals are to reduce it.

The government should also mount campaigns to show school students the variety of exciting, important and impactful careers they could have as geoscientists. Without immediate changes, the future of earth sciences in Australia looks grim.The Conversation

Kate Selway, Senior Research Fellow, Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia

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

If I could go anywhere: Greek cake shops, the Athenian countryside and the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron

Konstantinos Livadas/Shutterstock
Alastair BlanshardThe University of Queensland

In this series we pay tribute to the art we wish could visit — and hope to see once travel restrictions are lifted.

In Book Two of the Republic, Plato famously describes the “fevered” city, a town bustling with artists, musicians, actors, butchers, barbers, courtesans, and … confectionery!

Plato was clearly talking about the Athens of his day, but, over 2,000 years later, he could have easily been talking about modern Athens.

The city remains just as hectic and sweet treats remain just as much a part of the city’s landscape.

Sweet Retreat

There are few words more wonderful in the Greek language than zacharoplasteio, the Greek word for a cake shop.

Literally meaning “a place of sugar sculpture”, these shops treat the subject of cake-making with the seriousness it deserves. How I miss the great piles of silver and gold foil-wrapped chocolates, the baklava and kataifi pastries dripping in syrup, and, most of all, the trays of halvas farsalon caramelized on top and studded with almonds quivering in amber unctuousness.

greek cake shop
Towers of sweet treats on offer in Athens. Shutterstock

Yet, as much as I love all the chaos of modern Athens, it also a place that can quickly become overwhelming. This is especially the case in summer when crowds clog up the streets and the baking heat extends well into the evening.

Fortunately, a trip to the countryside of Athens allows you to escape the pandemonium. It is also home to a wide variety of fascinating archaeological sites.

Read more: Unearthing Falerii Novi's secrets in the hot Italian summer: an archaeologist reports from the dig

Ancient Wandering

Within an hour’s drive from the centre of Athens, you can wander among the extensive remains of an ancient town at Rhamnous, or stroll among seas of wild flowers bursting with colour on the plains that witnessed the battle of Marathon.

Nearby you can visit the shrine of the Greek hero Amphiaraos, where Greeks would sleep in the hope that the hero would visit them in their dreams and provide them with oracular visions.

South of Athens you can explore a cave devoted to the wild god Pan and nymphs. The sanctuary was built by a passionate devotee called Archedemus, literally the world’s first nymphomaniac. Alternatively, you can visit one of the oldest surviving stone theatres at Thorikos or watch the sun set into the sea by the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.

One of my favourite sites is the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron. Like many sanctuaries to Artemis, it is located in a marsh. The Greeks were always fascinated by places where fresh water turned salty. It seemed a great mystery to them why fresh water rivers kept running into the sea, yet the ocean remained permanently undrinkable.

A sunny day to walk the site.

Read more: If I could go anywhere: Florence's San Marco Museum, where mystical faith and classical knowledge meet

A Goddess Of Puberty And Fertility

Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt. Yet, this sanctuary acknowledges another aspect of the deity, her strong connection with childbirth.

statue head of goddess
A statue head thought to depict huntress Artemis at the Brauron archaeological museum. Wikimedia Commons

Artemis was particularly associated with puberty and the transition to fertility. Women worried about issues of fertility or the dangers of childbirth would make offerings to the goddess. These were particularly grave concerns in a culture where women were primarily valued in terms of their ability to produce children, and where every woman would know someone who had not survived their pregnancy.

The nearby Brauron museum preserves many of the gifts made by these women. These include numerous statues of children. Many survive intact.

The museum also features cases of disembodied children’s marble heads and limbs. Depending on your feelings towards children, it is one of the cutest or creepiest exhibitions on display in Greece.

The sanctuary played an important role in the lives of young Athenian girls. It was here that an important coming of age ritual was staged. At some point, around the age of ten, young girls came to the sanctuary and “became bears”. The precise details of this ritual remain unclear. The most plausible suggestion involves the young girls dressing up in bear costumes or wearing bear masks as well as taking part in naked races and dances.

Scholars looking for a metaphorical explanation of the ritual point to the way that “becoming a bear” symbolises the wild, dangerous, untamed nature of pubescent girls. Parents with teenage daughters might be able to relate.

ancient greek statues
Statues of children in the Archaeological Museum of Brauron. Wikimedia Commons/tomistiCC BY

Read more: If I could go anywhere: Japanese art island Chichu, a meditation and an education

Working Up An Appetite

Only the foundations of the temple to Artemis survive. The most intact remains are a row of columns associated with dining rooms that would have housed the feasts of visitors to the sanctuary. Standing in an open field, below a rocky outcrop, they make a picturesque sight amongst the reeds, the croaking of the frogs, the humming of the cicadas, and the occasional banging sounds of amorous tortoises.

There is also a shrine to Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon, who was offered as a human sacrifice to Artemis by her father in order to get fair winds to allow his fleet to sail to Troy and begin the Trojan War. Fortunately, Artemis swapped Iphigenia with a deer at the last moment and whisked the girl to safety.

After a number of adventures, Iphigenia was eventually rescued by her brother Orestes and came to Brauron, where she spent her remaining days as a priestess of Artemis.

The site makes a wonderful day trip from Athens. Close to the sea, the nearby tavernas are replete with local seafood. Perfect for a late lunch of fava, ouzo, and octopus or fried fish and a Horiatiki (Greek) salad or, better yet, horta. Just make sure that you leave room for a slice of karidopita.The Conversation

Athens view
Sometimes you can have too many cakes and need a retreat from bustling Athens. Shutterstock

Alastair Blanshard, Paul Eliadis Chair of Classics and Ancient History, The University of Queensland

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

The policing of Australian satire: why defamation is still no joke, despite recent law changes

Jacci BradyThe University of Melbourne and Andrew DawsonThe University of Melbourne

Changes to Australian defamation laws that came into effect this month in several states could provide some respite for political satire as a mode of political communication.

In recent years, the defamation lawsuit risk for Australian comedians has been real.

The treatment of YouTube personality Jordan Shanks and his producer Kristo Langker is a case in point. FriendlyJordies, Shanks’ popular YouTube channel, had mockingly depicted NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro as Mario, the fictional video game character who wins races by cheating. Shanks’ satirical stunts and commentary included content about alleged incompetence and corruption.

In response, Langker was arrested by no less than the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit of the NSW police, which is normally concerned with rooting out extremists and terrorists, and subjecting them to psychological assessment. Furthermore, Shanks is now being sued by Barilaro for defamation.

Read more: NSW deputy premier threatens to sue FriendlyJordies, reminding us that parody hits in a way traditional media can't

How Will New Defamation Laws Protect Satirists?

The reformed defamation laws came into effect on July 1 in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. They will become nationally uniform by the end of this year.

The reformed laws now include a public interest defence and a serious harm provision, both of which promise room for manoeuvre for political satirists.

The changes mean more protection for satire highlighting matters of interest to the public. The only exception is that representations can’t make accusations without factual basis. And the new serious harm provision means that satirical insult does not automatically equate to reputational damage.

Read more: Why defamation suits in Australia are so ubiquitous — and difficult to defend for media organisations

How this will be tested in law remains to be seen, particularly as it relates to the implied right to freedom of political expression. These legal reforms may be welcome relief, reducing some risk to satirists.

But in terms of power relations, the defamation issue may still come down to who has the money to mount a defence. For grassroots and citizen satirists without the funds to access legal advice, this is still problematic.

Limits To The Modern Court Jester

Whether or not one approves of Shanks’ potentially racist depiction of Barilaro, the actions against him and his producer do seem to be disproportionate and a far cry from the past.

For example, back in 2004, in a stunt that resonated with the satirical series The Chaser’s War on Everything, a man named Patrick Coleman distributed pamphlets in Townsville with the words “Get to know your local corrupt type coppers”. He was arrested and convicted under vagrancy laws for use of insulting language in a public place (among other charges).

Read more: Friday essay: why is Australian satire so rarely risky?

However, the High Court overturned the charge of insulting police, saying the police should be expected to resist the sting of insults directed at them.

Indeed, tolerance for even more risqué political satire stretches a long way back, from the no-holds-barred comedy of The Big Gig and The Comedy Company, to the rogue and surreal inversion of Australian politics and culture in the series DAAS Kapital.

In the past, many politicians have even supported or engaged in satire themselves, such as former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner’s self-mocking performance on The Late Show in 1993.

Joan Kirner singing Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll’ on the Late Show.

There have also been notable instances of resistance, too. In the late 1990s, Pauline Hanson mounted legal challenges against the work of satirist Simon Hunt, aka Pauline Pantsdown. ABC’s The Glasshouse was also cancelled in 2006 — some say at the request of John Howard — arguably because the political commentary got too pointed for the prime minister’s office.

Attempts To Criminalise Impersonations Before

In recent years, the concerns of increasingly sensitive politicians seem to have found greater weight in law.

In 2017, Attorney-General George Brandis fired a serious warning shot at those who may dare to satirise government officials.

The government’s proposed legislation would have replicated existing laws that already made proper impersonation illegal and was an extremely broad-brush approach to defining impersonation. In his submission to the parliamentary inquiry reviewing the changes to the law, Melbourne Law School professor Jeremy Gans warned about legislative overreach.

He pointed out the draft legislation could have led to the criminalisation of satirical conduct as political expression,

and to say otherwise is silly, confusing and (perhaps) ambiguous as to which party will bear the evidential burden on this issue.

While those reforms didn’t get up, they may be reflective of a broader desire on the part of government to sanitise public political comment.

Comedian Max Gillies impersonating former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Continued Risks To Satirists, Despite The Changes

Attempts such as this to regulate satire are concerning in multiple ways. First, they enhance the powers of already powerful governmental officials relative to more vulnerable actors.

Even with the new changes to defamation laws, many up-and-coming satirists without the legal backing and expertise of media or production companies will still face challenges to safely practice their craft.

And satirists will almost certainly continue to experience heightened pressure to self-censor due to the risk of lawsuits. This undermines a key medium for articulating legitimate political critique and protest.

Comedian, writer and broadcaster Wendy Harmer once observed that what we see on TV and in other media “tells you where your society is at”.

If media artists are too afraid to express what our communities feel through satire for fear of government or legal reprisal, then surely we come to know less about who we are.The Conversation

Jacci Brady, PhD Candidate, School of Political and Social Sciences, The University of Melbourne and Andrew Dawson, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, The University of Melbourne

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

How a bee sees: tiny bumps on flower petals give them their intense colour — and help them survive

Scarlett HowardAuthor provided
Adrian DyerRMIT University and Jair GarciaRMIT University

The intense colours of flowers have inspired us for centuries. They are celebrated through poems and songs praising the red of roses and blue of violets, and have inspired iconic pieces of art such as Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

Vase with Three Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gough
Vase with Three Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh.

But flowers did not evolve their colour for our pleasure. They did so to attract pollinators. Therefore, to understand why flowers produce such vibrant colours, we have to consider how pollinators such as bees perceive colour.

When observed under a powerful microscope, most flower petals show a textured surface made up of crests or “bumps”. Our research, published in the Journal of Pollination Ecology, shows that these structures have frequently evolved to interact with light, to enhance the colour produced by the pigments under the textured surface.

A flower of Tibouchina urvilleana observed under a powerful scanning electron microscope shows a typical bumpy petal surface (left). In comparison, the opposite (abaxial) petal side, rarely seen by an approaching pollinator, shows a less textured surface (right). Author provided

Sunshiney Daze

Bees such as honeybees and bumblebees can perceive flower colours that are invisible to us — such as those produced by reflected ultraviolet radiation.

Plants must invest in producing reliable and noticeable colours to stand out among other plant species. Flowers that do this have a better chance of being visited by bees and pollinating successfully.

However, one problem with flower colours is sunlight may directly reflect off a petal’s surface. This can potentially reduce the quality of the pigment colour, depending on the viewing angle.

You may have experienced this when looking at a smooth coloured surface on a sunny day, where the intensity of the colour is affected by the direction of light striking the surface. We can solve this problem by changing our viewing position, or by taking the object to a more suitable place. Bees, on the other hand, have to view flowers in the place they bloom.

Bumblebee on a smooth blue surface, where the colour is affected by light reflection.

We were interested in whether this visual problem also existed for bees, and if plants have evolved special tricks to help bees find them more easily.

Read more: Our 'bee-eye camera' helps us support bees, grow food and protect the environment

How Bees Use Flower Surfaces

It has been known for some time that flowering plants most often have conical-shaped cell structures within the texture of their petal surfaces, and that flat petal surfaces are relatively rare. A single plant gene can manipulate whether a flower has conical-shaped cells within the surface of a petal — but the reason why this evolved has remained unclear.

Past research suggested the conical petal surface acted as a signal to attract pollinators. But experiments with bees have shown this isn’t the case. Other explanations relate to hydrophobicity (the ability to repel water). But again, experiments have revealed this can’t be the only reason.

We investigated how bumblebees use flower surfaces with or without conical petal shapes. Bees are a useful animal for research as they can be trained to collect a reward, and tested to see how they perceive their environment.

Bumblebees can also be housed and tested indoors, where it is easier to precisely mimic a complex flower environment as it might work in nature.

Flowers Cater To A Bee’s Needs

Our colleague in Germany, Saskia Wilmsen, first measured the petal surfaces of a large number of plants and identified the most common conical surfaces.

She then selected some relatively smooth petal or leaf surfaces reflecting light from an artificial source as a comparison. Finally, blue casts were made from these samples, and subsequently displayed to free-flying bees.

In the experiment, conducted with bumblebees in Germany, a sugar solution reward could be collected by bees flying to any of the artificial flowers. They had to choose between flying either towards “sunlight” — which could result in light reflections affecting the flower’s coloration — or with the light source behind the bee.

The experiment found when light came from behind the bees, there was no preference for flower type. But for bees flying towards the light, there was a significant preference for choosing the flower with a more “bumpy” conical surface. This bumpy surface served to diffuse the incoming light, improving the colour signal of the flower.

The results indicate flowers most likely evolved bumpy surfaces to minimise light reflections, and maintain the colour saturation and intensity needed to entice pollinators. Humans are probably just lucky beneficiaries of this solution biology has evolved. We also get to see intense flower colours. And for that, we have pollinators to thank.

Read more: Plants use advertising-like strategies to attract bees with colour and scent The Conversation

Adrian Dyer, Associate Professor, RMIT University and Jair Garcia, Research fellow, RMIT University

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

Is the truth out there? How the Harvard-based Galileo Project will search the skies for alien technology

Ray NorrisWestern Sydney University

Can we find alien technology? That is the ambitious goal of the Galileo Project, launched this week by Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb with substantial private financial backing.

The project is far from the first attempt to detect signs of civilisations beyond Earth. Loeb has been criticised in the past for his dismissive approach to previous efforts to find extraterrestrial life and his argument that an alien artefact passed through our solar system in 2017.

So why do Loeb and his collaborators think they have a chance of finding something where others have failed? There are three triggers that suggest they might.

Exoplanets, ‘Oumuamua, And UFOs

First, years of painstaking observations have shown that many stars host Earth-like planets. There is a real chance these “exoplanets” might be home to alien civilisations.

Second, five years ago, an interstellar visitor, dubbed 'Oumuamua, tumbled though our solar system. It was a skinny object about 400 metres long, and we know from its speed and trajectory that it arrived from outside our solar system. It was the first time we had ever seen an interstellar object enter our neighbourhood.

Unfortunately it caught us on the hop, and we didn’t notice it until it was on its way out. So we didn’t get a chance to have a really good look at it.

Read more: No sign of alien life 'so far' on the mystery visitor from space, but we're still looking

Scientists were divided on the question of what 'Oumuamua might be. Many thought it was simply an interstellar shard of rock, even though we had no idea how such a shard might be produced or slung our way.

Others, including Loeb, thought there was a chance it was a spacecraft from another civilisation. Some scientists felt such claims to be far-fetched. Others pointed out that science should be open-minded and, in the absence of a good explanation, we should examine all plausible solutions.

Today, the question is still hanging. We don’t know whether 'Oumuamua was a spaceship or merely an inert lump of rock.

The third trigger for the Galileo Project came from the US military. In June, the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence announced that some military reports of UFOs, or UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) as they are now known, seem real.

Specifically, the report said some UAPs “probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors” and there was no known explanation for them.

In other words, they aren’t meteorological phenomena, or faulty instruments, or weather balloons, or clandestine military experiments. So what are they?

Again, the question is left hanging. The report seems to rule out known technology, and suggests “advanced technology”, but stops short of suggesting it is the work of aliens.

Science To The Rescue

Loeb takes the view that instead of debating whether either 'Oumuamua or UAPs provide evidence of alien intelligence, we should do what scientists are good at: get some reliable data. And, he argues, scientists are the people to do it, not politicians or military staff. As the US report says, the sensors used by the military “are not generally suited for identifying UAP”.

Few subjects divide scientists as much as the existence of aliens. On one hand, there are serious SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) projects, such as Project Phoenix and Breakthrough Listen, that use the world’s largest telescopes to search for signals from some extraterrestrial intelligence.

At the other extreme, few scientists are persuaded by the fuzzy photos and dubious eyewitness accounts that seem to characterise many UFO reports.

The Galileo Project is very different from SETI searches or collections of UFO sightings. Instead, it will explicitly search for evidence of alien artefacts, either in space or on Earth.

But Is It Science?

Is this science? Loeb is convinced that it is. He argues the Galileo Project will bring scientific techniques and expertise to bear on one of the most important questions we can ask: are we alone? And the project will build purpose-designed equipment, optimised for the detection of alien artefacts.

Will it find anything? The odds are poor, as Loeb admits. In essence it’s a fishing expedition. But if there is a prima facie case for the existence of alien technology, then science has a duty to investigate it.

But suppose they do find something? Will we get to hear about it, or will it be locked up in some future Area 51?

The Galileo Project has promised all data will be made public, and all results will be published in peer-reviewed journals. Indeed, one of the reasons it will not use existing military data is because much of it is classified, which would restrict the project’s freedom to make the results public.

Or perhaps the project will find natural explanations for 'Oumuamua and UAPs. But even that will be a new scientific discovery, perhaps revealing new natural phenomena.

As Loeb says:

Whenever we look at the sky in a new way, we find something new. We will find something exciting no matter what.

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

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

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

The forgotten Australian veterans who opposed National Service and the Vietnam War

Jon PicciniAustralian Catholic University

On July 26 1971, a top secret cabinet meeting ended what was then Australia’s longest conflict. The public would hear about it for the first time in August, when Prime Minister William McMahon announced the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam.

Eighteen months — and a change of government later — Australia’s Vietnam War was over. Alongside untold Vietnamese, some 521 Australians had died in conflict, including 202 national servicemen.

The end of Australia’s war also saw the wrapping up of a novel and now largely forgotten organisation. The Ex-Services Human Rights Association of Australia was founded in October 1966 by former servicemen and women who “oppose militarism” and “believe that National Service […] should not involve conscription for foreign wars”.

The final issue of the group’s newsletter, Conscience, in February 1972 paid special tribute to Martin Leslie (Les) Waddington, a World War II veteran and leather goods manufacturer, and the group’s “spiritual leader, and greatest workhorse”.

Fifty years since Australia officially began withdrawing from Vietnam, my forthcoming article reflects on how Waddington exemplified an undercurrent of anti-war citizen soldiery in Australia.

Australia’s Anti-Militarist Tradition

The Ex-Services Human Rights Association of Australia emerged out of a long Australian tradition of opposition to compulsory national service, perhaps best exemplified in the famous struggle against conscription during the first world war.

Pre-war national service schemes had proven unpopular: 27,000 court cases were filed against non-compliers between 1912 and 1914.

During the war, two plebecistes defeated Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ attempts to conscript Australians for overseas service.

Read more: It's time Australia's conscientious objectors of WW1 were remembered, too

This subversive legacy continued. Ex-serviceman and communist Len Fox used a 1936 pamphlet, The Truth About Anzac, to suggest:

[the] heroism of the Conscientious Objector, the Militant Anti-War Fighter, and the Anti-Conscriptionist, [be] give[n] its place besides the heroism of the Anzacs.

While the Menzies government’s National Service scheme of 1964 was initially widely supported as citizen building, the return of “Nashos” in body bags saw the tide of public opinion slowly turn.

From Sydney To A National Movement

The Returned and Services League was established in 1916, and by the 1960s the “political pressure group” used its authority to support anti-communism, national service and the Vietnam war.

Waddington was still an active member of his local Cronulla RSL sub-branch when he spearheaded the Ex-Services Human Rights Association of Australia’s founding meeting in 1966.

Attended by both current and former RSL members, and including doctors, academics and “leading lay churchmen”, the Australia reported the 60 attendees were “well-tailored, well-fed and, to all appearances, essentially middle class”.

The Sydney-based group began actively participating in the city’s anti-war movement, including the December 1966 protests against visiting US President Lyndon B Johnson.

Sign reads 'wanted: President Johnson for crimes against humanity'
Anti-Vietnam War demonstration outside United States Consulate-General, Sydney, New South Wales, February 1966. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy SEARCH FoundationCC BY

Waddington believed the Anzac tradition should venerate war resisters as much as battlefield sacrifice. These beliefs saw him expelled by the RSL’s State Executive in late May 1967 for “conduct subversive to the objects and policy of the League”.

The resulting controversy meant “there must be hardly anyone left in this country who has not now heard of our Association”, Waddington happily reported in Conscience. Membership exploded to over 500, with branches across the country.

Fellow RSL members came forward to defend Waddington. One resigned his membership, writing the league displayed “a hardening, intolerant attitude”, while another accused it of “deprivi[ing] members of the right to […] express political opinions”.

An editorial in the Canberra Times stated if the Vietnam war was “the be-all and end-all” of RSL policies, then “there would be great gaps in the ranks”.

Anzac And The Heroic Resister

Amid the outcry, Waddington was reinstated — but changing the RSL was not the Ex-Services Human Rights Association of Australia’s main priority. Its primary interest was supporting conscientious objectors.

The number of young Australians who refused to serve in Vietnam, while always small, rose quickly after the widely publicised case of Sydney school teacher Bill White in late 1966. The association took on his case, as it did other non-compliers like John Zarb.

Man wears a placard reading 'No Aussie troops for Vietnam'
Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators protest outside Central Police Court, Liverpool Street, Sydney, 1965. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy SEARCH FoundationCC BY

What the association had — and the wider anti-war movement lacked — was their status as ex-servicepeople. Members wore service medals conspicuously at demonstrations to undermine the image of protesters as “long haired radicals”.

To refuse service was not an act of cowardice, the association claimed, but rather the highest form of bravery. As Waddington, protesting the ongoing imprisonment of objectors, remarked in a 1971 letter:

Two years in jail is the price for national heroes to pay to avoid murdering on a foreign field.

Waddington and his fellow anti-war veterans were convinced it was as brave to face prison for your beliefs as it was to face death on the battlefield.

This example highlights how, contrary to popular opinion, the ex-service community has always been far from monolithic in its politics. Equally, it shows Anzac is not an uncontestable mantra, but a pliable tradition that could, rhetorically at least, include proud soldiers and brave resisters.

Today, Australia reflects on the withdrawal from Vietnam as we face the aftershocks of another overseas war. Perhaps we should also reflect on those war resisters and their allies who believed, as the Ex-Services Human Rights Association of Australia put it, “war is a crime against humanity”.

Read more: Anzac Day is also about the right to democratic dissent and those who fought for it The Conversation

Jon Piccini, Lecturer, Australian Catholic University

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

Record Infrastructure Funding And Aged Care Boost

July 30, 2021
Senior Australians in regional and remote areas will benefit from the single largest investment in residential aged care infrastructure in Australia’s history.

A total of $150 million in capital grants has been allocated following the conclusion of the competitive 2020 Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR).

This substantial investment by the Australian Government has funded 72 infrastructure projects worth, on average, $2.1 million each.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck, said the investment reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to greater respect, care and dignity for senior Australians no matter where they live.

“Investing in aged care infrastructure means we can improve the quality and safety of residential aged care from the ground up,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Safe, secure and comfortable residential care homes, designed around the needs of residents, provide the foundation for our five-pillar, five-year aged care reform plan.”

The 2020 ACAR also includes the allocation of over 4000 residential care places and more than 1000 short-term restorative care places worth a combined $380 million a year.

Minister Colbeck said most of these new places will take effect immediately or within the next 18 months.

“I’m delighted with the response by providers that demonstrated their capacity to fast-track the delivery of quality care to senior Australians,” Minister Colbeck said.

“As a result, twice as many residential care places have been allocated than were made available for allocation”.

Priority locations were also a focus, with more than half of the new places allocated to areas most in need, including in regional and remote Australia.

Information about the 2020 ACAR outcomes, including details of the successful providers is available on the Australian Government Department of Health website

Innovative Researchers Encouraged To Find Breakthroughs In Dementia

Thursday, 29 July 2021
Experts and talented emerging researchers have an opportunity to access almost $4.8 million in funding for Project Grants, Fellowships and Innovation Grants though the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

As part of the 2021 grant round, the ‘Race Against Dementia – Dementia Australia Research Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship’ programme is again supporting an early career researcher in the field of dementia prevention or treatment.

Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE is the founder and Chairman of the charity, Race Against Dementia. Sir Jackie is also a Patron of Dementia Australia. Sir Jackie said that he was delighted that Race Against Dementia and the Dementia Australia Research Foundation had been able to partnership to support another fellow. This demonstrates Race Against Dementia’s global commitment to funding dementia research.

“Since my wife, Helen, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2014, I have tried to encourage more and better research into dementia. This disease kills so many people – we need to find more effective ways of dealing with it. One in three of people born today will live with dementia – unless we find a cure. For every one researcher into dementia there are more than four cancer researchers. We need more action and more financial support now” Sir Jackie said.

“The charity I founded, Race Against Dementia, is currently supporting ten fellows in their post-doctoral research. I am truly delighted that this joint programme with Dementia Australia will allow us to support another fellow.

“The race is on – we must beat this terrible disease before even more people, and their families, have to face dementia. This is the greatest challenge of my life.” 

The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, said with an estimated half a million Australians living with dementia and the disease being the second leading cause of death of Australians and the leading cause of death of Australian women, research into dementia is now more urgent than ever.

“By supporting up-and-coming researchers, we will be able to target the brightest new minds whilst at a critical crossroads for choosing a research path,” Mr Samuel said. 

“This means that we are not only supporting them to solve another piece of the dementia puzzle now, but hopefully cementing their career-long focus on dementia research.

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation is also pleased to announce funding for The Faye Williams Innovation Grant. The Grant presents an extraordinary opportunity for high calibre researchers, including those from outside the field of traditional dementia research, to offer new approaches and collaborations. Funding for two research projects that could transform the landscape of dementia research in particular research into Alzheimer’s disease in older people, are available.

Applications for Project Grants, Post-doctoral Fellowships and Mid-Career Research Fellowships close 23 August 2021; Innovation Grant applications close 13 September 2021. For more information and to apply head to 

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation is the research arm of Dementia Australia, which provides funding to support new and emerging dementia researchers. Since 2000, over $21 million in funding has been awarded for more than 300 grants, scholarships and fellowships. Details of funding opportunities are available at

Race Against Dementia, founded by Sir Jackie Stewart, raises and allocates funds to research in the race to find a prevention or treatment for dementia. 

The Race Against Dementia Fellowship Programmes draw from the most promising early career scientific talent around the world. Collaboration with forward-thinking organisations in Formula One and other innovative high-tech companies brings the dynamic attitude, dedication, and agility of Grand Prix teamwork to drive results in dementia research. The programme not only accelerates the Fellows’ personal research agendas, but also aspires to catalyse a change in dementia research culture globally. 

For more information, please go to or follow @racingdementia. 

Harmful Body Fat Not Only Increases Your Waistline But Also Your Risk Of Dementia

July 26, 2021
It’s the global epidemic that affects two in every five adults, but as obesity continues to expand waistlines worldwide, researchers at the University of South Australia are warning that harmful body fat can also increase the risk of dementia and stroke.

Examining grey brain matter of about 28,000 people, the world first research showed that increased body fat incrementally leads to increased atrophy of grey matter in the brain and consequently higher risk of declining brain health.

Grey matter is an essential part of the brain responsible for execution control, muscular and sensory activity as well as learning, attention, and memory.

Obesity is a major issue worldwide, with numbers nearly tripling since 1975. Data from the World Health Organization shows that more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight, with 650 million being obese. More than 340 million children (aged 5-19) are overweight or obese, with 39 million children under the age of five also falling into this category.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Anwar Mulugeta, says the findings add to the growing issues associated with being overweight or obese.

“Obesity is a genetically complex condition characterised by the excessive body fat,” Dr Mulugeta says.

“Commonly linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic inflammation (a marker of dementia), obesity currently costs Australia’s economy about $8.6 billion dollars each year.

“While the disease burden of obesity has increased over the past five decades, the complex nature of the disease means that not all obese individuals are metabolically unhealthy, which makes it difficult to pinpoint who is at risk of associated diseases, and who is not.

“Certainly, being overweight generally increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and low-grade inflammation, but understanding the level of risk is important to better direct supports.

“In this study, we investigated the causal relationships of individuals within three metabolically different obesity types* ­– unfavourable, neutral and favourable – to establish whether specific weight groups were more at risk than others

“Generally, the three obesity subtypes have a characteristic of higher body mass index, yet, each type varies in terms of body fat and visceral fat distribution, with a different risk of cardiometabolic diseases.

“We found that people with higher levels of obesity especially those with metabolically unfavourable and neutral adiposity subtypes had much lower levels of grey brain matter, indicating that these people may have compromised brain function which needed further investigation.

“However, we did not find conclusive evidence to link a specific obesity subtype with dementia or stroke. Instead, our study suggests the possible role of inflammation and metabolic abnormalities and how they can contribute to obesity and grey matter volume reduction.”

The study used Mendelian randomisation to examine the genetic data of up to 336,000 individual records in the UK Biobank, with self-reported information and linked hospital and death register records to connect dementia and stoke.

It found that middle to elderly age groups (37-73) grey brain matter decreased by 0.3 per cent for every extra 1 kg/m2, which is equivalent of an extra 3 kg of weight for person of average height individuals, (173 cm)

Senior investigator, Professor Elina Hyppönen, Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health based at SAHMRI, says maintaining a healthy weight is important for general public health.

“It is increasingly appreciated that obesity is a complex condition, and that especially excess fat which is located around the internal organs have particularly harmful effects on health,” Professor Hyppönen says.

“Here, we used the individuals’ genetic and metabolic profiles to confirm different types of obesity. In practice, our findings very much support the need to look at the type of obesity when assessing the type of likely health impact.

“Even in a relatively normal weight individual, excess weight around the abdominal area may be a cause of concern.”

The three obesity subtypes are:
  • ‘unfavourable’ – people who tend to have fat around their lower torso and abdominal area, including around their These people have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
  • ‘favourable’ – people who have have wider hips but a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
  • ‘neutral’ – people who have relatively low or very low risk of the cardiometabolic diseases.
In Australia, there are 472,000 people living with dementia and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care

An estimated 387,000 people – 214,000 males and 173,000 females – have had had a stroke at some time in their lives.

Friday essay: how ‘Afghan’ coats left Kabul for the fashion world and became a hippie must-have

Making Afghan coats for sale in Herat, 1974. Shutterstock
Tim BonyhadyAustralian National University

The London launch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in May 1967 was a musical and fashion landmark. While the clothes worn by all four Beatles startled the journalists and disc jockeys, John Lennon stole the show. He wore a green, frilly, flowered shirt, maroon corduroy trousers, canary-yellow socks, corduroy shoes with two particularly unusual additions. One was a leather sporran, the other an Afghan sheepskin coat, worn with the fur inside and the skin outside, which was tanned yellow and embroidered with big red flowers down its front and sleeves.

man in front of fireplace
John Lennon wore an Afghan coat and a sporran at the press launch for the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, held at Brian Epstein’s house in May 1967. John Downing/Getty Images

These coats became a craze with extraordinary longevity. “Afghans”, as they were often called, were worn by many celebrities through the late 1960s. Then, for the best part of a decade, they became standard youth clothing — an archetypal hippie garment and emblem of the counterculture.

They had a resurgence inspired by Penny Lane’s character in the 2000 film Almost Famous and remain a favourite among lovers of bohemian fashion on Instagram.

Their embrace internationally transformed where and how the coats were made and what they looked like. Yet the craze for these coats could only happen because Afghanistan’s relationship with the rest of the world was changing.

Read more: The politics of the necktie — 'colonial noose', masculine marker or silk status symbol?

Short, Medium Or Very Long

Afghan coats traditionally came in three forms — sleeveless or short-sleeved hip-length vests known as pustinchas; knee-length, long-sleeved coats known as pustakis; and ankle-length cloaks called pustins.

In a gendered division of labour, men cured the skins, tanned them yellow with the rinds of pomegranates, cut them into pieces and sewed them together, while women and girls embroidered them with geometric and floral designs, usually in red or yellow. Their skins were occasionally bear, fox or goat, but usually karakul (a long-haired breed of sheep).

Although often written about as if only men wore them, women did too, and they were such ubiquitous winter-wear they were considered Afghan national dress.

man in long coat
Wearing a traditional Afghan coat, circa 1923. Wikimedia Commons

The poor could typically afford only the smaller pustinchas or pustakis. If they bought the bigger pustins, these coats were usually plain which made them cheaper.

Senior government officials, successful merchants and wealthy clerics bought lavishly decorated pustins that demonstrated their status. In 1946, Maynard Owen Williams — the National Geographic Society’s first field correspondent — considered the pustin to be “the ultimate in masculine chic”. The archetypal Afghan man, he wrote, was “clad in red-embroidered sheepskin”.

Their prime source was Ghazni, south of Kabul. In 1955 British archaeologist Sylvia Matheson found “one shop after another offering nothing but pustin” there.

While entranced by those with white fur, Matheson rejected them as impracticable for her fieldwork that winter. Instead, she opted for a brown-furred pustincha that was still “enchanting, the yellow skin entirely covered in closely stitched flowers of pillar-box red, with here and there a spot of periwinkle blue”.

Karakul sheep fur proved warm and fashionable. Shutterstock

Read more: Friday essay: mom jeans and nostalgia in a time of uncertainty

Hippie Commerce

Many more foreigners visited from the early 1960s as Afghanistan embarked on a program of modernisation which saw significant numbers of women in the country’s cities unveil and find new forms of paid work.

A small number of westerners, typically older, arrived by plane, with lots to spend, prompting the Afghan government to build Kabul’s first five-star hotel.

In 1969 it opened, under lease to the Intercontinental Group, with rooftop dining and dancing facilities, a cocktail lounge, brasserie coffee shop, tennis courts and swimming pool. Most western visitors were hippies who, as English poet J. C. E. Bowen put it, travelled overland “in every imaginable kind of clapped-out motor vehicle […] through the bottleneck of Kabul on their way towards the imagined Elysium of Kathmandu”.

Their prime destination was Chicken Street in the Shahr-e Naw, a garden suburb close to the city centre, which was the most westernised part of Kabul. Once a domain of poultry vendors, Chicken Street became a tourist strip lined with antique shops, clothing, embroidery and jewellery stores, and carpet dealers. In Across Asia on the Cheap, the first Lonely Planet guide, published in 1973, Tony Wheeler described Chicken Street as “the freak centre of Kabul”.

The Beatles in 1967
Ringo Starr wears a sleeveless Afghan jacket at a recording session with The Beatles, London, June 1967. AP

Hippie capitalism became commonplace. As some travelled, they looked for local products to sell back home in the West and, if they made a good profit, imported more.

Richard Neville, the Australian of Oz Magazine fame, who bought a pustincha for himself while travelling overland from Sydney to London in 1965, encouraged this commerce.

In Play Power, his 1970 manifesto and manual for hippies, Neville recognised the larger exchange of dress occurring in Afghanistan and other countries on the Hippie Trail. He advised:

Sell your western-styled jeans in Nepal, and your long leather boots in Morocco. Once you could make 500% profit bringing back sheepskin jackets from Kabul, and you can triple your money with antique robes.

girl in sheepskin jacket
To recreate the aesthetic of the early 1970s for Almost Famous, costumers put the central character of Penny Lane in an Afghan coat. IMDB

Read more: With energy, ideas and cheek to spare, Richard Neville was the boy of OZ

Rock ‘N’ Roll

Craig Sams, a young American who also travelled through Kabul in 1965 before settling in London, became a supplier.

His prime outlet was Granny Takes a Trip — London’s weirdest, most extreme, most exotic, hippest boutique — on the King’s Road in Chelsea, which soon eclipsed Carnaby Street as London’s fashion centre. At first, Granny Takes a Trip sold Victorian clothes, often modified to create a slightly modern feel. By 1967, when it began stocking pustinchas, its range included Charleston dresses of the 1920s, Victorian bustles from the 1880s, Boer War helmets, African fezes, Arab headdresses and Chicago gangster suits from the prohibition era.

Granny Takes a Trip was the London mecca of hippy chic.

The pustinchas were bought by men and women as Granny Takes a Trip was one of the first boutiques not to differentiate male from female dress. But it was men, particularly rock and pop stars, who brought Afghan jackets and coats to public attention.

Jimi Hendrix wore his orange-red, brocaded, sleeveless pustincha over an iridescent purple shirt with huge flared sleeves in one of the first all-star rock events in England, at the Kensington Olympia in London. Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Pete Townshend of The Who also wore them on stage. Eric Burdon, of House of the Rising Sun fame, got married in his.

All four Beatles wore pustinchas inside-out in their film of the Magical Mystery Tour and on the album’s cover. When the Beatles tried their hand at retail, their Apple Boutique had shelves of them. From across the Atlantic, it appeared to Life in 1968 that pustinchas had been “launched last season in England by the Beatles and their followers”.

The Kinks wore sheepskin Afghan coats in their Apeman video circa 1970.

Read more: Friday essay: why traditional Persian music should be known to the world

Global Appeal

Abracadabra, Manhattan’s first psychedelic boutique, soon followed. Its interior was lit by fluorescent tubes set on a flicker-flash sequence, which had particular impact since Abracadabra was filled with mirrors like a penny arcade. Its shop window featured a motorised hanger that made the clothes on it “rock ’n’ roll”.

When one hippie traveller returned from Afghanistan with five pustinchas at the start of 1968, Ira Seret of Abracadabra put them in its window where they were spotted by designer Anne Klein, who had just made leather fashionable for the New York outfitter Mallory’s. When Klein asked Seret to secure more and his original provider failed to deliver, Seret went to Afghanistan himself.

That summer and autumn, pustinchas were in Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and all the glossies. Vogue reported that Afghan “coats and weskits beautifully embroidered in silk floss colours” were being “shovelled out the door” by Limbo, a boutique in New York’s East Village. Life magazine featured pustinchas sent by Ira Seret to Mallory’s, worn by five female models “over bright silk jump suits and slung about with yards of Mideast jewellery”. Harper’s Bazaar devoted two pages to Mallory’s embroidered and braided vests, again presented as womenswear.

Peak Pustinchas

The coats were cheap compared to most fashionable western clothes, even after Afghan makers more than doubled their prices in response to international demand. The one complaint was that they smelled foul when wet, due to a skin curing process more akin to pickling than tanning. This lead to Kabul’s first drycleaners to offer “exclusive no-smell treatments”.

By 1969, many more pustinchas were being worn outside Afghanistan than within it, as they maintained their appeal with the most beautiful people and became part of youth’s uniform.

hippie drawing
Ronald Searle’s 1971 cover. The New Yorker

The enduring audience for the pustincha was, however, downmarket — their iconic status confirmed in 1971 by artist Ronald Searle in a cover drawing for the New Yorker of a long-haired, bearded, barefoot hippie with flared trousers, shoulderbag, headband and pustincha.

Their international embrace fuelled new enthusiasm for Afghan clothing among some of Kabul’s elite who accepted that women should unveil but wanted Afghans to fight against foreign influences and keep Afghan customs alive.

Kabul also replaced Ghazni as the Afghan centre of pustincha production.

In 1968, the biggest sweatshop employed 30 workers. In 1970, when demand surged not only in the United States and Europe but also, for the first time, in Japan, one company employed 160 embroiderers who completed 30 to 40 coats each day. Another company built a hostel for its 250–300 embroiderers, primarily widows and young women from the provinces where there were many skilled needleworkers.

boy makes afghan coat
Sewing the embroidery. Afghanistan, 1974. Peter Loud/Shutterstock

As these coats spread round the world, they fuelled awareness of Afghanistan, even if not quite as much as one Kabuli dealer boasted to the New York Times “Before no one remembered Afghanistan,” he said. “Now everybody remembers.”

This essay is an extract from Two Afternoons in the Kabul Stadium: A History of Afghanistan Through Clothes, Carpets and the Camera, to be published August 3 by Text Publishing.The Conversation

Tim Bonyhady, Emeritus professor, Australian National University

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

Study Shows Why Beer Mats Do Not Make Good Frisbees: A Very Important Discovery!

July 27, 2021
Beer mats protect tables from unsightly condensation rings. However, they are sometimes also misused as projectiles. Usually with little success: after just a short time, the cardboard coaster leaves its path, spins off to the side, and falls to the ground. But why is that so?

Physicists at the Helmholtz Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics and the Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn have now investigated this question. According to them, the behavior of the beer mat is inevitable, at least when employing the usual throwing technique: it unavoidably begins to drift off after 0.45 seconds at most. Playing cards go awry after just 0.24 seconds, CDs after 0.8 seconds.

The reason for this is the interaction between gravity, lift, and the conservation of angular momentum: the mat tips backwards shortly after being thrown due to gravity. This gives it an angle of attack, similar to a landing aircraft. This angle creates lift in the airflow. "However, the lifting force is not applied in the center of the mat, but rather in the front third," explains PhD student Johann Ostmeyer, who came up with the idea for the study.

This would normally soon make the round cardboard flip over. And it actually does -- but only if it is thrown in a rather unconventional manner. "A beer mat is usually rotated when thrown, similar to a frisbee," says Ostmeyer's colleague Christoph Schürmann from the Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn. "This turns it into a kind of spinning top." This rotation stabilizes the flight and prevents flipping over. Instead, the lifting force causes the mat to drift off to the side -- to the right, if it is rotated counterclockwise; otherwise to the left.

Beer mat throwing machine designed
At the same time, it straightens up -- so it is no longer parallel with the ground but instead stands upright in the air like a rotating wheel. In this position, the mat has a backspin -- if it were to actually stand up like a wheel on the ground, it would thus travel back to its starting point. While in flight, it quickly loses height and falls to the ground. This process is characteristic of all flat, round objects.

The idea of the study arose during an excursion by the physics show team from the University of Bonn to Munich. The event regularly captivates several hundred visitors with its fascinating physical experiments. While the participants were visiting a bar together, they wondered why flying beer mats behave the way that they do.

On their return, the physicists tackled this question systematically: They specially designed a beer mat throwing machine and recorded the flights with a high-speed camera. This allowed them to verify whether their theoretical predictions corresponded to their practical observations. "There is no application for the project," explains Prof. Dr. Carsten Urbach from the Helmholtz Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics, an institute of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Bonn. "However, the problem is clear for laypeople and physicists alike. And it wonderfully illustrates the entire process by which the natural sciences acquire knowledge -- from the observation to the theory and its experimental testing, right through to its adjustment and further development."

Playing cards travel distances of up to 60 meters
Incidentally, beer mats travel most stably, and thus the furthest, if they rotate very quickly -- a trick that has also been mastered by the world's best playing card thrower Rick Smith Jr., whose record throwing distance is over 60 meters. However, quickly rotating beer mats do not travel straight for more than 0.45 seconds. "Those who want to throw really far and precisely should place the mat in a vertical position and apply backward rotation," explains Ostmeyer -- and then, in the same breath, warns about possible injuries.

It is not without reason that there is a precautionary apology at the end of the publication: "Our sincere apologies to everyone hit by a beer mat, be it through inaccurate aim or due to us instigating others to perform silly experiments."

The study was supported with funds from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

Johann Ostmeyer, Christoph Schürmann, Carsten Urbach. Beer mats make bad frisbees. The European Physical Journal Plus, 2021; 136 (7) DOI: 10.1140/epjp/s13360-021-01732-1

Coral Bell: the ‘accidental academic’ who wanted to stop armageddon

ANU Bell School
Melissa Conley TylerThe University of Melbourne

This piece is part of a new series in collaboration with the ABC’s Saturday Extra program. Each week, the show will have a “who am I” quiz for listeners about influential figures who helped shape the 20th century, and we will publish profiles for each one. You can read the other pieces in the series here.

When Australian international relations scholar Coral Bell died in 2012, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said “no other commentator” had been as perceptive on United States policies.

Three years later, the Australian National University named its school of Asia-Pacific affairs after Bell, with former foreign minister Julie Bishop describing her as

one of the great international relations scholars of Australia and the world […] highly respected by policy makers nationally and internationally.

Clearly she was a superstar in her field. But why, outside specialists, should Bell be remembered and celebrated?

An Academic Who Thought About The Real World

Bell has been called an “accidental academic”.

She began her career as as a diplomat in 1945, and was in the room when the ANZUS Treaty was signed. But her time in the Department of External Affairs ended after she refused to join a Soviet spy ring — as ANU colleague Desmond Ball sensationally revealed after her death.

However, this early experience of government and diplomacy set her up well for a life of scholarship. Former head of the ANU Bell School Michael Wesley thinks her diplomatic role had a lasting impact on her work, which

always showed the practitioner’s sensitivity to the often galling realities of policy-making.

She believed the behaviour of leaders and diplomats mattered in foreign affairs, leading her to be variously described as a “classical realist”, “optimistic realist” and “realist optimist”.

She Focused On The Big Issues And The Big Picture

Bell’s work focused on power politics, the Cold War, diplomacy, defence and foreign policy. The titles of her extensive publications give a sense of the questions she wanted to answer: “politics of power”, “diplomacy of detente”, “conventions of crisis” and “living with giants”.

Checkpoint Charlie in 1961
Bell worked at the height of the Cold War, and wanted to prevent further conflict. Museum Checkpoint Charlie/ AP/AAP

She acknowledged it was difficult to show direct causal connection between academic analyses and the choices of decision makers — but saw herself as influencing the climate of opinion within which policy-makers operate, and in turn helping shape countries’ behaviour.

Because of her historical knowledge and focus on big trends — demographic, economic, technological and political – she had an uncanny knack of previewing debates and controversies. Her 2007 forecast that Western domination of global politics was drawing to a close has held up well.

She Left An Intellectual Legacy

Bell also had an important influence on the growing discipline of international relations.

Concepts she created in the 1960s are still being used in the context of US-China rivalry. This includes the “shadow condiminium” — or temporary power-sharing arrangements between two dominant powers. Her work Dependent Ally also remains relevant to Australia-US relations, including its discussion of independence within an alliance.

Read more: Diplomacy and defence remain a boys' club, but women are making inroads

More broadly, she influenced later scholars with her focus on careful factual research, beginning with the evidence, rather than abstract theories. Griffith University’s Ian Hall describes this as an interpretive approach, which forefronts the beliefs of policy-actors and the thoughts shaping those beliefs.

Based on history, law and political philosophy rather than quantitative methods, this has arguably become a distinctive feature of Australian international affairs scholarship.

She Was A Woman In A Profession Dominated By Men

Born in 1923, Bell’s gender was always going to be a factor. When she entered the foreign service she was paid less for the same work and faced the marriage bar. As she recalled:

In my day you were told that if you married you were deemed to have resigned from the diplomatic service. So I gave up the idea.

Bell chose the life of the mind and excelled at it, showing gender was not a bar to being a leading authority.

As security studies academic Sheryn Lee explains, Bell’s success made it easier for other women to forge careers in the field of international relations.

she was a woman who was a leading authority […] and who forged a path for others through her practice and scholarship.

An Australian In A Field Dominated By Overseas Scholars

Australian scholars with Bell’s international impact have been rare in international relations. Her intellectual contributions enhanced Australia’s standing in policy and academic communities in the US and United Kingdom.

As Minh Bui Jones memorably observedof Bell:

For the rest of the world, she brought an antipodean temperament and perspective to the great questions of our time; she was our George Kennan in thick glasses, blue floral dress, white sneakers and a string of pearls.

A significant portion of her career was spent advancing the study of Australian foreign and defence policy and she spoke up for bringing an Australian approach to questions of international security.

She Focused On Issues Of Human Survival

Bell described herself as having a “preoccupation with armageddon”, especially how to avoid it. She saw her vocation as the “preservation of human life and human society”.

Coming to adulthood during the second world war, she knew what was at stake when great powers went to war. All her life, she remembered the pattern of the rug she was standing on when she heard an atomic bomb had destroyed Hiroshima.

In our time, the nuclear threat continues, along with existential threats of climate change, uncontrolled artificial intelligence and pandemics. In the face of such challenges, how countries interact becomes a question of survival of the species. That’s something worth dedicating a career to.

Bell lives on in her ideas and in the minds of those she has influenced. If you’d like to hear her voice, you can listen to her in 2008, speaking to Geraldine Doogue.The Conversation

Melissa Conley Tyler, Research Associate, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne

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

Australia shouldn’t ‘open up’ before we vaccinate at least 80% of the population. Here’s why

Stephen DuckettGrattan Institute and Will MackeyGrattan Institute

Earlier this month National Cabinet released a four-phase COVID response plan. It wasn’t so much a plan – it had no dates and no thresholds – but more a back-of-the-napkin thought bubble. It was sensible, but vague.

National Cabinet now faces the hard task of converting vagueness into a real plan. To do this it must answer the question: what proportion of the Australian population needs to be vaccinated before we can open our international borders?

This means allowing stranded Australians to return, letting footloose people travel overseas, and welcoming international tourists and students again.

Read more: Australia has a new four-phase plan for a return to normality. Here's what we know so far

Well qualified experts differ on the requisite threshold for vaccination partly because there are so many unknowns, such as how quickly the Delta variant of COVID would spread through Australia if we open up, and how effective the different vaccines will prove to be in preventing transmission.

But new Grattan Institute modelling shows it would be dangerous for Australia to open up before at least 80% of the population is vaccinated.

Here’s what we found, and how we came to the 80% figure. Let’s start with the good news.

Vaccines Offer Substantial Protection

Both vaccines on offer in Australia – Pfizer and AstraZeneca – are effective at preventing infections from the Delta strain. Two doses of Pfizer offers about 88% protection against infection, while two doses of AstraZeneca offers about 67% protection.

Vaccinated people can still catch COVID, but those that do pass it on to about half as many others compared to the unvaccinated.

Read more: Yes, you can still get COVID after being vaccinated, but you're unlikely to get as sick

Evidence from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union – areas with higher vaccination levels than Australia – also suggests both vaccines offer substantial protection against hospitalisation and death from COVID. A vaccinated person is about 95% less likely than an unvaccinated person to end up in hospital with COVID.

Now for the bad news.

The Delta Strain Is Far More Infectious

Researchers estimate the Delta variant is 50% to 100% more infectious than the Alpha variant, which itself was more transmissible than the variant that was dominant throughout 2020.

The effective reproduction number, or Reff, tells us how many people one infected person will spread the virus to, taking into account behaviour and public health measures in place designed to reduce transmission, such as masks and physical distancing.

A masked supermarket check out operator scans products.
The Reff changes according to the public health measures in place, such as mask mandates. Shutterstock

If the Reff of the Delta variant in Australia is around 6 without vaccination, having 50% vaccination coverage will reduce the Reff to 3.

But the national goal must be to bring the Reff down to below 1, which would mean each person who was infected would infect less than one other person – and the virus would eventually peter out.

The higher the vaccination rate, the lower the effective reproduction number. Each person vaccinated offers a chance of breaking a chain of transmission that might lead to an outbreak.

Not only are vaccinated people less likely to become infected, they are also less likely to pass the virus onto others if they are.

The higher the vaccination rate, the lower the effective reproduction number

Effective reproduction number (Reff) by population vaccination rate. Grattan Institute

So Why Do We Need 80% Of People Vaccinated?

Grattan Institute’s model simulates the spread of COVID within a partially vaccinated population, and helps us peek into the future.

It uses age-based hospitalisation and intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates from more than a year of COVID data from Australian ICU units. It also assumes children under 16 are about one-fifth less likely to get COVID, and children over the age of two are able to be vaccinated.

In most of our simulations, older people have higher rates of vaccination, and no age group has more than 95% vaccine coverage.

Read more: When will we reach herd immunity? Here are 3 reasons that's a hard question to answer

We ran thousands of simulations of different vaccination rates, and different estimates of the Reff. The outcomes for 12 distinct scenarios are shown in the table below.

You can see why we recommend Australia not open up until at least 80% of the population is vaccinated – it is the only scenario where the virus is managed, with hospitalisations and deaths kept down to reasonable levels, even if the Reff is high.

Made with Flourish

Let’s Break It Down

Our simulations show that opening up at 50% vaccination rate (scenario 1) is a very bad idea, with many, many thousands of deaths.

Scenarios 2 and 3 are the optimist’s and gambler’s scenarios. If you are lucky and the Reff of Delta in Australia is 4 (with 70% vaccination rate) or 5 (with 75% vaccination rate), deaths and hospitalisations would not rise above moderate levels, and lockdowns could end and the borders could reopen.

But if you gambled on the wrong Reff, our hospitals would be overwhelmed and deaths would be unacceptably high. Opening the borders is a one-shot gamble: if you make the wrong call, the virus will quickly spread and all the good work and hard yards of living through lock-downs over the previous two years will have been wasted.

Public health decision-making is often risk averse, for the best of reasons. The difference in virus spread, hospitalisations and deaths between opening at 75% and at 80% are big, but the wait between the two thresholds may only be a month or two. This is why we recommend an 80% vaccination rate (scenario 4) as the threshold for opening up.

Even if the Reff of Delta is 6, our hospital system will not be overwhelmed, and deaths will not rise above the number of deaths in a moderate flu season, such as 2010, when there were 2,364 flu deaths.

Read more: 80% vaccination won't get us herd immunity, but it could mean safely opening international borders The Conversation

Stephen Duckett, Director, Health Program, Grattan Institute and Will Mackey, Senior Associate, Grattan Institute

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

Chronic Pain Might Impact How The Brain Processes Emotions

July 27, 2021: UNSW
More than three million Australians experience chronic pain: an ongoing and often debilitating condition that can last from months to years. This persistent pain can impact many parts of a person’s life, with almost half of people with chronic pain also experiencing major anxiety and depression disorders.

Now, a new study led by UNSW Sydney and NeuRA shows that people with chronic pain have an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions.

This imbalance could be making it harder for them to keep negative emotions in check – and the researchers think persistent pain might be triggering the chemical disruption.

The findings are published today in the European Journal of Pain.

“Chronic pain is more than an awful sensation,” says senior author of the study Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin, a neuroscientist and psychologist at UNSW and NeuRA. “It can affect our feelings, beliefs and the way we are. 

“We have discovered, for the first time, that ongoing pain is associated with a decrease in GABA, an inhibitive neurotransmitter in the medial prefrontal cortex. In other words, there's an actual pathological change going on.”

Neurotransmitters help communicate and balance messages between cells. While some amplify signals (called excitatory neurotransmitters), others weaken them (inhibitive neurotransmitters). 

GABA, or γ-aminobutyric acid, is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Its role in the medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain where emotional regulation happens – is to help dial down our emotions.

“When there’s a decrease in this neurotransmitter, our actions, emotions and thoughts get amplified.”

The research team used advanced neurological imaging to scan GABA content in the medial prefrontal cortex of 48 study participants, half of which experienced some form of chronic pain. A/Prof. Gustin says this relatively small sample size is typical for neurological imaging studies, which are costly to run. 

The results show that participants with chronic pain had significantly lower levels of GABA than the control group – a pattern that was consistent regardless of their type of chronic pain. 

“A decrease in GABA means that the brain cells can no longer communicate to each other properly,” says A/Prof. Gustin. 

“When there’s a decrease in this neurotransmitter, our actions, emotions and thoughts get amplified.”

While the link between chronic pain and decreased levels of GABA has previously been found in animal studies, this is the first time it’s been translated to human studies. 

A/Prof. Gustin says she hopes the findings are encouraging for people with chronic pain who may be experiencing mental health issues. 

“It's important to remember it’s not you – there’s actually something physically happening to your brain,” she says. 

“We don't know why it happens yet, but we are working on finding solutions on how to change it.”

A chain reaction
GABA is one of many neurotransmitters in the medial prefrontal cortex – and it’s not the only one behaving differently in people with pain. 

In a previous study, A/Prof. Gustin and her team found that levels of glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, are also lower than average in people with chronic pain. These low glutamate levels were linked to increased feelings of fear, worry and negative thinking.

“Together, our studies show there's really a disruption in how the brain cells are talking to each other,” says A/Prof. Gustin, who has been researching chronic pain for over 20 years.

“As a result of this disruption, a person’s ability to feel positive emotions, such as happiness, motivation and confidence may be taken away – and they can’t easily be restored.” 

A/Prof. Gustin says chronic pain is likely to be the culprit behind these neurological changes. However, this theory could only be tested by scanning participants’ brains both before and after they develop chronic pain – and as brain imaging is expensive to conduct, it’s unlikely such a large-scale project would be possible without major funding.

“Everything starts with stress,” she says. “When someone is in pain, it increases stress hormones like cortisol, which can trigger massive increases in glutamate. This happens during the initial, acute stage of pain. 

“Too much glutamate can be toxic to brain cells and brain function. We think this disruption to normal brain function may cause the GABA and glutamate levels to change – and impair a person’s ability to regulate their emotions.” 

A/Prof. Gustin, who has been researching chronic pain for over 20 years, is developing a non-pharmaceutical program to help people with chronic pain self-regulate their emotions. Photo: Supplied.

A new form of treatment 
Medication is often used to help treat chronic pain, but there are currently no drugs that directly target the GABA and glutamate content in the medial prefrontal cortex. Instead, medication affects the entire central nervous system, and may come with side effects. 

A/Prof. Gustin and her team have recently developed an online emotional recovery program, specifically targeted at people with chronic pain, as a non-pharmaceutical option for treating the neurotransmitter disruption. 

The findings will be presented in a paper later this year, but the initial results are encouraging.  

“The online therapy program teaches people skills to help self-regulate their negative emotions,” says A/Prof. Gustin, who welcomes people interested in learning more about the program to contact the team.

“The brain can't dampen down these feelings on its own, but it is plastic – and we can learn to change it.”

To learn more about the online emotional recovery program, please email A/Prof. Gustin at 

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, you can find support through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Australian Bushfires, Not Pandemic Lockdowns, Had Biggest Impact On Global Climate In 2020

July 27, 2021
When a team of scientists began analysing events that influenced the world's climate in 2020, they made sure to consider the pandemic-related lockdowns that reduced emissions and led to clearer skies over many cities.

But their research found that an entirely different event had a more immediate impact on global climate: the devastating bushfires that burned through Australia from late 2019 to 2020, pumping plumes of smoke that reached the stratosphere and circled much of the southern hemisphere.

"The main climate forcing of 2020 wasn't COVID-19 at all," said John Fasullo, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the lead author of the new study. "It was the explosion of wildfires in Australia."

The study is being published online today in Geophysical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union journal.

An image from NASA's Landsat 8 satellite shows smoke billowing from major fires on Australia's Kangaroo Island in early 2020.

Fasullo and his NCAR co-authors used advanced computer modelling techniques to quantify the climatic influence of the reductions in traffic and industrial activity related to COVID-19, as well as the smoke emitted by the fires. They found that the pandemic-related lockdowns of 2020 had a relatively modest and gradual influence that will result in an average warming worldwide of about .05 degrees Celsius by the end of 2022. In contrast, the fires had a briefer but more significant impact, cooling the planet within months by about .06 degrees Celsius.

The study illuminates the surprisingly wide-ranging effects of major wildfires on the world's climate system. Although it may seem counterintuitive that fires, which are associated with hot weather, can have a temporary cooling influence, their smoke tends to block sunlight and modify clouds.

Scientists have conducted a number of studies into the potential effects of warming temperatures on wildfires, which have become increasingly destructive in recent years, as well as the localized impacts of fires on weather. But they have devoted less research into what the blazes may portend for large-scale temperature and precipitation patterns.

The NCAR research indicates that major fires inject so many sulphates and other particles into the atmosphere that they can disrupt the climate system, push tropical thunderstorms northward from the equator, and potentially influence the periodic warming and cooling of tropical Pacific Ocean waters known as El Niño and La Niña.

"What this research shows is that the impact of regional wildfire on global climate can be substantial," Fasullo said. "There are large-scale fingerprints from the fires in both the atmosphere and ocean. The climate response was on par with a major volcanic eruption."

He and his co-authors cautioned that a range of caveats applies to the study, largely because of uncertainties about the full extent of emission reductions during the lockdown and the exact climatic effects of wildfire smoke.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor, as well as by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Disparity between hemispheric temperatures
To detect the climatic influence of the pandemic and wildfires, the research team turned to estimates of emissions from both these events. They then used the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model to run a series of simulations to recreate global climate -- both with the actual emissions and without them -- as well as under various atmospheric conditions and over a time period from 2015 to 2024. This allowed them to capture the difference that the emissions made to the world's climate and to glean more insights than would be possible from observations alone.

The intensive simulations, more than 100 in all, were performed on the Cheyenne supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

As they expected, Fasullo and his co-authors found that the lockdowns associated with COVID-19 had a slight warming influence on global climate. This effect, which other scientific studies have shown on a regional level, has to do with the clearer skies that resulted from fewer emissions, which enabled more of the Sun's heat to reach Earth's surface.

In contrast, the Australian bushfires cooled the Southern Hemisphere to such an extent that they lowered Earth's average surface temperatures. This is because sulfates and other smoke particles interact with clouds to make their droplets smaller and reflect more incoming solar radiation back to space, reducing the absorption of sunlight at the surface.

At their peak, the pandemic-related lockdowns led to an increase of solar energy at the top of the atmosphere of about 0.23 watts per square meter, which is a measure used by climate scientists to quantify the amount of solar heat entering and leaving Earth's atmosphere. In contrast, the Australian fires temporarily cooled the globe by almost a watt per square meter. (For perspective, the average intensity of solar energy at the top of the atmosphere directly facing the Sun is about 1,360 watts per square meter.)

By circling the Southern Hemisphere and lingering in the atmosphere for months, the smoke particles disproportionately cooled the southern half of the planet. As a result, the disparity between hemispheric temperatures displaced tropical thunderstorms farther to the north than usual. Fasullo said that further research is needed to determine if the smoke had additional impacts, such as affecting El Niño and La Niña.

"We've theorized that the climate system responds this way to major volcanic eruptions," Fasullo said. "But those tend to happen every 30 years or so. In contrast, major wildfires can occur every couple of years and therefore have more recurring impacts. We clearly need to learn more about how they affect global climate."

J. T. Fasullo, N. Rosenbloom, R. R. Buchholz, G. Danabasoglu, D. M. Lawrence, J.‐F. Lamarque. Coupled Climate Responses to Recent Australian Wildfire and COVID‐19 Emissions Anomalies Estimated in CESM2. Geophysical Research Letters, 2021; DOI: 10.1029/2021GL093841

Excess Coffee: A Bitter Brew For Brain Health

July 22, 2021
It's a favourite first-order for the day, but while a quick coffee may perk us up, new research from the University of South Australia shows that too much could be dragging us down, especially when it comes to brain health.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that high coffee consumption is associated with smaller total brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia.

Conducted at UniSA's Australian Centre for Precision Health at SAHMRI and a team of international researchers*, the study assessed the effects of coffee on the brain among 17,702 UK Biobank participants (aged 37-73), finding that those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day had a 53 per cent increased risk of dementia.

Lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate, Kitty Pham, says the research delivers important insights for public health.

"Coffee is among the most popular drinks in the world. Yet with global consumption being more than nine billion kilograms a year, it's critical that we understand any potential health implications," Pham says.

"This is the most extensive investigation into the connections between coffee, brain volume measurements, the risks of dementia, and the risks of stroke -- it's also the largest study to consider volumetric brain imaging data and a wide range of confounding factors.

"Accounting for all possible permutations, we consistently found that higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with reduced brain volume -- essentially, drinking more than six cups of coffee a day may be putting you at risk of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke."

Dementia is a degenerative brain condition that affects memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. About 50 million people are diagnosed with the syndrome worldwide. In Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death, with an estimated 250 people diagnosed each day.

Stroke is a condition where the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, resulting in oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function. Globally, one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. Data suggests that 13.7 million people will have a stroke this year with 5.5 million dying as a result.

Senior investigator and Director of UniSA's Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says while the news may be a bitter brew for coffee lovers, it's all about finding a balance between what you drink and what's good for your health.

"This research provides vital insights about heavy coffee consumption and brain health, but as with many things in life, moderation is the key," Prof Hyppönen says.

"Together with other genetic evidence and a randomised controlled trial, these data strongly suggest that high coffee consumption can adversely affect brain health. While the exact mechanisms are not known, one simple thing we can do is to keep hydrated and remember to drink a bit of water alongside that cup of coffee.

"Typical daily coffee consumption is somewhere between one and two standard cups of coffee. Of course, while unit measures can vary, a couple of cups of coffee a day is generally fine.

"However, if you're finding that your coffee consumption is heading up toward more than six cups a day, it's about time you rethink your next drink."

Note: *International research partners include: Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; University of Cambridge, England; University of Exeter, England, Alan Turing Institute, England.

Kitty Pham, Anwar Mulugeta, Ang Zhou, John T. O’Brien, David J. Llewellyn, Elina Hyppönen. High coffee consumption, brain volume and risk of dementia and stroke. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2021.1945858

A Naturally Inspired Reusable System That Purifies Water And Builds Itself

July 27, 2021
In nature, the interaction of molecules at the boundary of different liquids can give rise to new structures. These self-assembling molecules make cell formation possible and are instrumental to the development of all life on Earth.

They can also be engineered to perform specific functions -- and now, a team of Penn State researchers has leveraged this opportunity to develop a material that could remove persistent pollutants from water. The researchers recently published their findings in Advanced Functional Materials.

"We took inspiration from biological systems to see if we can get similar phenomena to emerge with non-biological molecules," said Scott Medina, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and corresponding author on the paper.

For their experiment, the researchers opted to incorporate fluorine, an element not commonly found in nature, into an amino acid and mix it with a fluorinated oil to guide its molecular organization. The team added the fluorinated oil to water, where it formed a bead comprised of the fluorine droplet surrounded by an amino acid coating. When the researchers inverted the vial to expose the bead to air, the bead's components rearranged to form a film. Composed of a thin layer of fluorinated oil surrounded by two layers of microscopic amino acid crystalline structures, this film could rearrange itself into the bead when agitated -- and take other fluorinated molecules with it.

"Fluorines don't play well with others, so if you put them together there are very strong interactions," Medina said. "Fluorinated contaminants in water want to separate themselves from the water and find other fluorine-rich matter."

This phenomenon, and the compound's capacity to switch between a film state and the bead shape, sparked the researchers' interest in possible pollutant capture. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are artificial chemicals containing fluorine typically used in manufacturing of water- or grease-repellent products. Their molecular structure allows them to accumulate in environments and the human body -- permanently.

"Nature hasn't evolved ways to break down fluorine-containing molecules efficiently, so these compounds stick around for a long time," Medina said. "They enter wastewater and soil, make their way into drinking water and food, and we consume them -- and our bodies don't degrade them very well, either."

To test the new compound's potential for PFAS capture, the researchers added contaminated water to a plastic container coated with their fluorinated amino acid film. The film captured PFAS substances within two hours and was able to hold them for up to 24 hours. From this stage, the film containing PFAS could be agitated to reform itself into a cohesive bead that could be easily collected from the now-purified water.

The researchers plan to further explore these pollutant extraction capabilities, investigating not only water purification but also the potential to harvest compounds from air. With further research into its applications, the fluorinated compound could become a multi-use contaminant removal tool for use in a variety of settings.

"There's a lot of effort being placed into investigating the toxicology of PFAS and how to regulate them," Medina said. "This material could be implemented to remove PFAS from drinking water -- and we think it could have a lot of utility in other areas as well."

Other paper contributors include Janna Sloand, a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate; Enrique Gomez, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering; Tyler Culp, a chemical engineering doctoral alumnus and Gomez's former student; and Nichole Wonderling, a staff scientist and X-ray scattering manager with Penn State's Materials Research Institute.

The National Science Foundation supported this research.

Janna N. Sloand, Tyler E. Culp, Nichole M. Wonderling, Enrique D. Gomez, Scott H. Medina. Mechanomorphogenic Films Formed via Interfacial Assembly of Fluorinated Amino Acids. Advanced Functional Materials, 2021; 2104223 DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202104223

Cultural Biases Impact Native Fish

July 27, 2021
From art to religion to land use, much of what is deemed valuable in the United States was shaped centuries ago by the white male perspective. Fish, it turns out, are no exception.

A study published in Fisheries Magazine, a journal of the American Fisheries Society, explores how colonialist attitudes toward native fishes were rooted in elements of racism and sexism. It describes how those attitudes continue to shape fisheries management today, often to the detriment of native fishes.

The study, led by the University of California, Davis, with Nicholls State University and a national team of fisheries researchers, found that nearly all states have policies that encourage overfishing native species. The study maintains that the term "rough fish" is pejorative and degrading to native fish.

"That has bothered me for a long time," said lead author Andrew Rypel, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and the Peter B. Moyle and California Trout Chair in Coldwater Fish Ecology at UC Davis. He and others have been disturbed by images of "glory killings" of native fish that periodically pop up on the internet, as well as the lump categorization of less preferred species as "rough" or "trash" fish.

"When you trace the history of the problem, you quickly realize it's because the field was shaped by white men, excluding other points of view," Rypel said. "Sometimes you have to look at that history honestly to figure out what to do."

The study offers several recommendations for how anglers and fisheries managers can shift to a new paradigm that's more inclusive and beneficial to all fish and people.

A 'rough' start
The term "rough fish" dates to commercial riverboat fishing in the mid-late 1800s. Slow, heavy boats would lighten their loads by "rough-dressing" -- removing organs but not filleting -- less desirable species and discarding them. Biologists came to use the term to describe an unsubstantiated idea that native fish limit game fish species historically desired by Europeans. That attitude posed a major threat to many native species, which were killed in large numbers.

For instance, the alligator gar, an ancient species that can grow more than 8 feet long and weigh 300 pounds, was particularly persecuted in the past century. Called a "wolf among fishes," poison, dynamite and electrocution were used to greatly reduce its population. But now some fishers spend thousands of dollars for the opportunity to catch and release a giant gar. In 2021, Minnesota changed its statute to describe gar as a "game fish" rather than a "rough fish."

This spotted gar in the Louisiana Bayou is an ancient and native fish species. Photo: Solomon David/Nicholls State University

Co-author Solomon David has helped fuel renewed appreciation for gar and its relative, bowfin. He runs the GarLab at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where he is an assistant professor. He said many native fishes, such as suckers and gars, have long been valued by Indigenous people and people of colour.

"European colonists heavily influenced what fishes were more valuable, often the species that looked more similar to what they're used to," David said. "So trout, bass and salmon got their value while many other native species got pushed to the wayside."

Limited view
The study authors conducted a survey of fishing regulations across the United States to compare policies and bag limits on "rough fish" with those of largemouth bass, a ubiquitous sport fish.

"When I was a kid fishing, you might go to the river with a worm and catch all these interesting species," Rypel said. "The guidebook would just say 'rough fish, bag unlimited.' Not much has changed since I was kid."

The study found that no states had bag limits rivalling those for the bass. While black basses were often managed at five fish per day, regulations for most native fishes were extremely liberal. Forty-three states had unlimited bag limits for at least one native species. In the remaining states, bag limits were between 15 and 50 fish a day.

Freshwater ecosystems are threatened by pollution, habitat loss and climate change. Up to half of fish species globally are in some form of decline, and 83 percent of native California fish species are declining. Native fishes help ecosystems in many ways, including nutrient cycling and food chain support for other native species. The authors pointedly call for a "rewrite" in managing them.


The study's recommendations for that rewrite include:
  • Stop saying "rough fish." They suggest "native fish" as a simple alternative.
  • Integrate Indigenous perspectives into fisheries management.
  • Revisit species bag limits. Lower bag limits for native species until the science is conducted to confirm they could be higher. The study takes particular note of the fast-growing bowfishing market that has contributed to removing native species.
  • Support science on native fishes. Game fish receive 11 times more research and management attention in American Fisheries Society journals than do "rough fish." To learn the true value of native fishes, more research is required.
  • Co-manage species that have co-evolved, such as freshwater mussels and fish that host them.
  • Correct misinformation and enhance science education through outreach and education for all ages.
"We have a chance to redirect fisheries science and conservation and expand it with respect for biodiversity and diversity," David said. "It's been a long time coming. Change is slow, but we have an opportunity here, and we should take advantage of it."

The study was funded by the Peter B. Moyle & California Trout Endowment for Coldwater Fish Conservation and by the California Agricultural Experimental Station of UC Davis.

Andrew L. Rypel, Parsa Saffarinia, Caryn C. Vaughn, Larry Nesper, Katherine O’Reilly, Christine A. Parisek, Matthew L. Miller, Peter B. Moyle, Nann A. Fangue, Miranda Bell‐Tilcock, David Ayers, Solomon R. David. Goodbye to “Rough Fish”: Paradigm Shift in the Conservation of Native Fishes. Fisheries, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/fsh.10660

Pedestrians Should Get The Green Light On Traffic Signal Prioritisation

July 27, 2021
Whether you’re driving behind the wheel, cycling on a bike or a pedestrian at a junction waiting to cross, it may feel like traffic lights are never working in your favour.

Transport expert Professor Vinayak Dixit, from UNSW School of Civil and Environment Engineering, says while traffic signals prioritise pedestrian safety, there is still a lack of understanding about the exact ways pedestrians move around and use junctions with traffic signals.

“If we look at the history of the road network, they were originally built for motor vehicles. Then over time, traffic lights were developed to help vehicles safely navigate the conflicting streams of movements.

“Now, with the rise of groups of people with very different mobility needs, from walking, cycling and even riding scooters, it’s important that traffic lights provide clear priority rules to improve safety for not only cars, but all road users. 

“However, in terms of pedestrians, traffic lights do not know exactly how many people are waiting at the crossing once the button has been pushed.”

Professor Dixit says the time allocated for the pedestrians to cross the road is subsequently the same – irrespective of the number of people using the crossing.

“This can be inefficient, and in some cases unsafe, for all users at the intersection waiting to cross,” he says.

“We could get the flow of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic moving quicker if we have the right technologies.

“There is a huge gap that needs to be addressed because people are moving differently.”

On-demand changes to traffic signals
Traffic lights can be programmed to signal differently based on the movement of vehicles and people in that intersection. For example, for most roads, signals prioritise streets with more vehicles.

But how do traffic lights sense movement if not all road users travel on wheels?

As Director of the UNSW Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI), Prof Dixit says there are different technologies, such as sensors and cameras, which help determine when the traffic lights should change.

“You may notice at intersections, there are small cuts on the road – these are called loop detectors. They detect anything metallic such as motor vehicles, motor bikes and buses,” he says.

“The road network can also use cameras to capture and analyse how big queues are at junctions on certain roads. But again, what both these technologies lack is the ability to detect is how pedestrians, or people, are using a particular intersection.”

While some state transport agencies are exploring technologies based on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to detect human mobility, safeguarding of data should be considered, he says.

“Sensing technologies are effective but if you have to do it, you need to ensure that people’s privacy is protected at the same time.”

Why slow traffic lights can save drivers time
Prof. Dixits says that although it can be annoying for drivers, they should sit tight at a red light – because waiting longer at the traffic light will actually get you moving faster.

Signals are programmed to calculate lost time during each traffic light cycle where vehicles are either slowing down or stationary during the amber and red phases. At busy periods, the signals will increase the length of each cycle in order to help improve the flow of traffic.

Prof. Dixit says although drivers feel that shorter cycle times may feel more efficient, it’s quite the opposite.

“A cycle is the time between the moment the traffic light turns green to when it changes back to red.

“Hypothetically, for example, let’s say you lose 10 seconds of traffic time per cycle. So, if you have 10 cycles per hour, you have lost 100 seconds of not being able to move traffic – which adds up quickly,” he says.

“If you have another scenario where you only have four cycles per hour. While the cycle lengths are much longer, you would only be losing 40 seconds of traffic movement within that hour.”

During times of high congestion, therefore, the traffic light cycle times increase to move traffic more efficiently.

“If you reduce the cycle times, the driver will probably be inching forward more frequently, but the overall delay will increase - it’s a little counterintuitive, actually,” Prof. Dixit says.

“It may feel like it takes a long time for the traffic signal to turn green but there’s a good reason for it.”

What’s on the radar
While a world without traffic signals may sound like an accident waiting to happen, it’s not impossible. And we don’t need to wait for fully autonomous vehicles for it to be a reality.

Towns in the Netherlands have already trialled transport methods which involved removing traffic lights and, in some cases, even road markings.

Prof. Dixit says these towns demonstrated that road users become more careful and, overall, safety improved.

“Fundamentally, traffic lights are ultimately a dynamic priority assignment – it’s assigning who gets to go where first. As a society, we’ve agreed to adhere to the different coloured lights to tell us when to go, when to stop and when to slow down. 

“When you take that way, people need to interact differently to get around. The driving experience may be different, but I believe we can still manifest our own system.

“We may think that it won’t work, but it’s been proven it can.”

Public protest or selfish ratbaggery? Why free speech doesn’t give you the right to endanger other people’s health

Hugh BreakeyGriffith University

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in major Australian cities at the weekend, to protest the rolling lockdowns that have formed a central part of the government response to the COVID pandemic.

In some cases, the protests were illegal and in breach of lockdown orders. More seriously still, the protests in Sydney took place even as the Delta variant spreads ominously across New South Wales.

Commentators and political leaders called out the protesters, asserting they were “selfish boofheads” engaging in “ratbaggery”.

But what are the ethics of protesting lockdowns in a time of lockdowns? There are several issues to unpack: free speech, science denial, and the health threat the rallies pose to the public. And it’s the last of these three that presents significant ethical problems.

Why Should We Protect Protests?

There are three important arguments in favour of giving people the right to free speech, especially when it takes the form of protesting government policy.

First, free speech is a human right. Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the respect we are owed as humans includes being able to speak out and share our ideas with others.

Second, speaking out and protesting are important parts of living in a democracy. Just as we must all be allowed to vote, so too should we be free to come together in open and honest debate.

Third, as the philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill famously argued in On Liberty, if we don’t allow dissenting and unpopular views to be heard, we lose the opportunity to challenge and hone our own beliefs.

Read more: Is protesting during the pandemic an 'essential' right that should be protected?

Do Wacky And Unscientific Views Also Deserve Protection?

These three arguments are at their strongest when people are doing their best to think carefully and rationally. In fact, being “endowed with reason” is invoked in the very first article of the Universal Declaration, to support human freedom and dignity. As such, we arguably have a duty to think responsibly, alongside our right to speak freely.

So should views that seem to spurn rationality and scientific evidence be tolerated? There’s good reason to think the answer is still “yes”.

Even if we agree that science provides an extraordinary mechanism for unearthing truths about the world, scientists are still human beings, and their institutions remain vulnerable to mistake, bias, groupthink, corruption and (yes) even conspiracy. Indeed, scientific progress occurs precisely because its findings remain open to challenge, and are rigorously reviewed before they are published.

Read more: Coronavirus anti-vaxxers aren’t a huge threat yet. How do we keep it that way?

Moreover, public policy is never purely about science. Science can only tell us what is, not what we should do. Justifying lockdowns is also a matter of moral judgements about the importance of life and health, freedom and rightslivelihoods and fairness, and more. Reasonable people can disagree about these matters.

What About When Protest Is Harmful?

The above arguments imply we should be wary of outlawing political protest. But at the same time, they don’t imply speech can’t be limited to prevent harm.

The most ethically worrisome part of the protests in Melbourne and Sydney (apart from specific instances of violence, against both people and animals) was the danger they presented to the community.

By defying lockdown orders, and masking and social-distancing requirements, the marchers created an opportunity for community transmission of COVID. In Sydney, in particular, there is every chance some protesters were infectious with the virus.

Besides risking serious harm to others, further outbreaks might force the NSW government to extend the current lockdown — the polar opposite of what the protesters wanted.

Still, there may be cases in which harmful protests are justified. Many ethicists argued this was true of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, where the need to respond to racial injustice arguably outweighed the risks of spreading COVID.

Several commentators observed the conceptual whiplash when public health officials who had been decrying lockdown protests suddenly encouraged the Black Lives Matter marches.

Perhaps the difference simply comes down to some grievances being more genuine, informed, and socially important than others. But even if this rightly shapes how we morally judge the protesters in each case, it remains unsettling if official responses and arrests are based on how ethically worthy political leaders think protesters’ grievances are.

Harm, Belief, And The Rule Of Law

There is one key difference between the Black Lives Matter protests and Australia’s anti-lockdown protests that is worth considering. At least some of the anti-lockdown protesters seemed to behave as if they were entitled to decide what was or wasn’t harmful to the community at large, and to proceed on that basis. Many of the protesters evidently don’t believe the coronavirus is a serious danger, so they felt free not to worry about spreading it.

But this isn’t how democracy or the rule of law works. Citizens can’t act on their own opinions about the harms they are happy to inflict on others, precisely because we will all have different views on such matters. That’s why we need laws, and democratic processes to create them.

If that’s right, the problem isn’t just that protesters were “selfishly” putting their interests ahead of other people’s. The deeper concern is that they acted as if their beliefs could rightly determine the harms they were willing to visit on others. And that is a much more serious charge.

Read more: Many anti-lockdown protesters believe the government is illegitimate. Their legal arguments don't stand up The Conversation

Hugh Breakey, President, Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics. Senior Research Fellow, Moral philosophy, Institute for Ethics, Governance & Law, Law Futures Centre., Griffith University

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

A wet winter, a soggy spring: what is the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, and why is it so important?

Nicky WrightUniversity of SydneyAndréa S. TaschettoUNSW, and Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne

This month we’ve seen some crazy, devastating weather. Perth recorded its wettest July in decades, with 18 straight days of relentless rain. Overseas, parts of Europe and China have endured extensive flooding, with hundreds of lives lost and hundreds of thousands of people evacuated.

And last week, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology officially declared there is a negative Indian Ocean Dipole — the first negative event in five years — known for bringing wet weather.

But what even is the Indian Ocean Dipole, and does it matter? Is it to blame for these events?

What Is The Indian Ocean Dipole?

The Indian Ocean Dipole, or IOD, is a natural climate phenomenon that influences rainfall patterns around the Indian Ocean, including Australia. It’s brought about by the interactions between the currents along the sea surface and atmospheric circulation.

It can be thought of as the Indian Ocean’s cousin of the better known El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific. Essentially, for most of Australia, El Niño brings dry weather, while La Niña brings wet weather. The IOD has the same impact through its positive and negative phases, respectively.

Positive IODs are associated with an increased chance for dry weather in southern and southeast Australia. The devastating Black Summer bushfires in 2019–20 were linked to an extreme positive IOD, as well as human-caused climate change which exacerbated these conditions.

Negative IODs tend to be less frequent and not as strong as positive IOD events, but can still bring severe climate conditions, such as heavy rainfall and flooding, to parts of Australia.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index, used to track the variability of the Indian Ocean Dipole. An event occurs after the index crosses the threshold for 8 weeks. Bureau of Meteorology

The IOD is determined by the differences in sea surface temperature on either side of the Indian Ocean.

During a negative phase, waters in the eastern Indian Ocean (near Indonesia) are warmer than normal, and the western Indian Ocean (near Africa) are cooler than normal.

Read more: Explainer: El Niño and La Niña

This causes more moisture-filled air to flow towards Australia, favouring wind pattern changes in a way that promotes more rainfall to southern parts of Australia. This includes parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Generally, IOD events start in late autumn or winter, and can last until the end of spring — abruptly ending with the onset of the northern Australian monsoon.

The negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole. Bureau of Meteorology

Why Should We Care?

We probably have a wet few months ahead of us.

The negative IOD means the southern regions of Australia are likely to have a wet winter and spring. Indeed, the seasonal outlook indicates above average rainfall for much of the country in the next three months.

In southern Australia, a negative IOD also means we’re more likely to get cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nights. But just because we’re more likely to have a wetter few months doesn’t mean we necessarily will — every negative IOD event is different.

Rainfall outlooks for August–October suggest that large parts of Australia will likely experience above-median rainfall. Bureau of MeteorologyCC BY

While the prospect of even more rain might dampen some spirits, there are reasons to be happy about this.

First of all, winter rainfall is typically good for farmers growing crops such as grain, and previous negative IOD years have come with record-breaking crop production.

In fact, negative IOD events are so important for Australia that their absence for prolonged periods has been blamed for historical multi-year droughts in the past century over southeast Australia.

Negative IOD years can also bring better snow seasons for Australians. However, the warming trend from human-caused climate change means this signal isn’t as clear as it was in the past.

A negative IOD may mean a better snow season in the High Country. Shutterstock

It’s Not All Good News

This is the first official negative IOD event since 2016, a year that saw one of the strongest negative IOD events on record. It resulted in Australia’s second wettest winter on record and flooding in parts of NSWVictoria, and South Australia.

The 2016 event was also linked to devastating drought in East Africa on the other side of the Indian Ocean, and heavy rainfall in Indonesia.

Thankfully, current forecasts indicate the negative IOD will be a little milder this time, so we hopefully won’t see any devastating events.

The number of Indian Ocean Dipole events (per 30 years) based on climate models. Modified from Abram et al. (2020)

Is The Negative IOD Behind The Recent Wet Weather?

It’s too early to tell, but most likely not.

While Perth is experiencing one of its wettest Julys on record, the southwest WA region has historically been weakly influenced by negative IODs.

Negative IODs tend to be associated with moist air flow and lower atmospheric pressure further north and east than Perth, such as Geraldton to Port Hedland.

Outside of Australia, there has been extensive flooding in China and across Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands.

It’s still early days and more research is needed, but these events look like they might be linked to the Northern Hemisphere’s atmospheric jet stream, rather than the negative IOD.

The jet stream is like a narrow river of strong winds high up in the atmosphere, formed when cool and hot air meet. Changes in this jet stream can lead to extreme weather.

What About Climate Change?

The IOD — as well as El Niño and La Niña — are natural climate phenomena, and have been occurring for thousands of years, before humans started burning fossil fuels. But that doesn’t mean climate change today isn’t having an effect on the IOD.

Read more: Why drought-busting rain depends on the tropical oceans

Scientific research is showing positive IODs — linked to drier conditions in eastern Australia — have become more common. And this is linked to human-caused climate change influencing ocean temperatures.

Climate models also suggest we may experience more positive IOD events in future, including increased chances of bushfires and drought in Australia, and fewer negative IOD events. This may mean we experience more droughts and less “drought-breaking” rains, but the jury’s still out.

When it comes to the recent, devastating floods overseas, scientists are still assessing how much of a role climate change played.

But in any case, we do know one thing for sure: rising global temperatures from climate change will cause more frequent and severe extreme events, including the short-duration heavy rainfalls associated with flooding, and heatwaves.

To avoid worse disasters in our future, we need to cut emissions drastically and urgently.

Read more: You may have heard the 'moon wobble' will intensify coastal floods. Well, here's what that means for Australia The Conversation

Nicky Wright, Research Fellow, University of SydneyAndréa S. Taschetto, Associate Professor, UNSW, and Andrew King, ARC DECRA fellow, The University of Melbourne

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.