Inbox and environment news: Issue 506

August 15 - 21, 2021: Issue 506

Kookaburra: Our Place, August 14, 2021 


August 4, 2021: The Clareville and Bilgola Plateau Residents Association
CABPRA has been contacted by Northern Beaches Councillor Alex McTaggart seeking the associations opinion of the current and future activities in the park.

Monitoring of social media platforms indicate some conflict between environmental damage to vegetation and recreational bike use.

Plateau Park is an important environmental and recreational area. Adjoining and local residents must be consulted before any changes are considered.

CABPRA seeks your feedback on the use and maintenance of YOUR local park.
CABPRA executives meet regularly with council officers so it is important to have a strong understanding of any issues regarding this park.

Please send any comments to by August 15.
More about CABPRA at:

Photo: Powerful Owl Release in March 2018; a Powerful Owl chick was released in Plateau Park following its recuperation in Taronga Park. Photo of of two youngsters and a parent by Liz de Soyres provided to PNHA for use.
Powerful Owl Release into Plateau Park in 2018. PNHA photo

Big Shift Podcast Hits The Mark

Greater Sydney Local Land Services has officially released the second series in its ‘Big Shift for Small Farms’ podcast series, with 11 new episodes now available online.

Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator Richard Stephens said the series had hit the mark with local producers, industry and the community alike.

“We’re thrilled with how well the series has been received to date and hope the next series is just as popular with audiences,” he said.

“It is currently ranked number 4 in the Australian charts for a natural podcast and has attracted great interest and feedback among listeners.

“It shows us there is a genuine desire for content designed with small farmers in mind.”

Mr Stephens said the new series covered a range of topics including building your farm brand, planning for emergencies, pasture and livestock flood recovery, weed management and more.

“The Big Shift is all about sharing and growing knowledge amongst all farmers with a focus on sustainable and regenerative land management practices,” he said.

“It features candid interviews with farmers, expert insight from industry leaders as well as practical, easy to apply tips and tricks focussed on best practice farm management and what it takes to make that next step, or big shift, to benefit both your land and your business.”

Podcast partner producer Edgars Greste of the Grow Love Project said the podcast aimed to strike a balance between farmers' lived experiences, practical tips and industry insights.

“It is a real privilege to capture farmers' personal stories. It gives me renewed hope for the future to see farmers building successful businesses that achieve great outcomes for their communities and environment,” he said

“It was very moving to hear new farmers Kirsty and Andrew Hambrook share their emotional experience of the 2020 bushfires and the really crucial advice that saved their farm.”

This series has been produced by the Grow Love Project with support from Greater Sydney Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Six Areas Begin Bush Fire Danger Period Early In NSW

August 2, 2021
The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) today announced six Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the New England and Northern Tablelands areas will commence the Bush Fire Danger Period (BFDP) early, due to prevailing local conditions.

NSW RFS Superintendent Chris Wallbridge said the six LGAs that will enter the BFDP on 1 August 2021 are Armidale Regional, Walcha, Uralla, Glen Innes Severn, lnverell and Tenterfield.

"During the Bush Fire Danger Period, landowners and managers are required to obtain a Fire Permit from their local Fire Control Centre before lighting any fires, including hazard reduction burns," Supt Wallbridge said.

"I strongly urge people to exercise extreme caution when carrying out these activities as we have all seen the devastation that bush fires can inflict on a community.

"Never leave a fire unattended and if a fire does escape, it is essential to call Triple Zero (000) immediately so that emergency services can respond and minimise the damage."

Fire Permit holders are required to let fire authorities and their neighbours know at least 24 hours before lighting up. You can notify your intention to burn by visiting or for Northern Tablelands residents phoning 1300 141 119.

"Bush and grass fires can strike at any time and it is vitally important for residents and land managers to be prepared.

"This means doing simple things like cleaning your gutters, removing combustibles from your yard, ensuring hoses can reach all corners of your property and updating and discussing your bush fire survival plan, so you and your family know what you will do in the event of a bush fire.

"Helpful information about preparing and what to do in the event of a fire are contained in the Bush Fire Survival Plan and Farm Fire Plan guides available on the NSW RFS website.

Information about hazard reduction burning, required notifications and obtaining fire permits is available on the NSW RFS website at

It’s Magpie Swooping Season Once Again

Magpies are often at the forefront of people’s thoughts at this time of year, largely because it’s magpie breeding season, and the tell-tale sign is that some of them begin to swoop people. 

Swooping is regularly recorded each spring, right across the mainland, virtually everywhere magpies occur.

The swooping season usually commences first in the northern parts of the magpies’ range, and then progressively moves southwards, with records in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales usually starting in July and August. This contrasts with southern Victoria, where the main swooping season occurs in September. However, earlier reports are not unknown throughout their range.

A glaring exception to this situation occurs in Tasmania, where magpies seldom swoop people. The reason for their relaxed attitude to people is unknown.

Swooping usually occurs when the magpies have young in the nest, or just after the young have fledged, when they are at their most vulnerable to predators. 

People often assume that swooping by magpies is aggressive behaviour, but experts agree that it is generally a defence strategy aimed to deter potential predators which may harm the young birds. Unfortunately, people fit into this category. 

It should be emphasised that most magpies don’t swoop, even on the Australian mainland, and of those that do, only a tiny minority actually make contact with your head, with most merely making a harmless (though often terrifying) near miss, accompanied by beak clicking. 

Because magpies are generally common in areas where there are people, whether it’s in the city and suburbs, regional centres or country towns, we need to coexist with them — Birds in Backyards has some great tips to avoid being a swooping victim this spring, click here to find out how:

Here are some tips, courtesy of BirdLife Australia to avoid being a victim this Spring:
  • The most straightforward solution is to avoid locations where you know a magpie is swooping. Swooping only lasts a few weeks, so it is a minor inconvenience that could save you some blood (literally), sweat and tears.
  • If you do get swooped, don’t panic and run away screaming (easier said than done, I know!). Instead, walk away quickly and calmly and maintain eye contact with them. They are less likely to swoop you if you are watching them. This also goes for cyclists—dismount and walk rather than continuing to ride
  • Protect your eyes! Have a pair of sunglasses on hand any time you are going for a walk and especially in a park (same for kids as well).
  • Pop an umbrella up if there is a swooping magpie around. Don’t wave it and antagonise the bird, but simply hold it above your head if a magpie is swooping.
  • And of course, there are the old 'googly eyes on the ice cream container' and 'bike helmet with cable ties' tricks. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
If there is a particularly aggressive magpie and you are concerned about it, report it to your local council so they can investigate and assess the threat that it poses.

Despite all these cautions, don’t approach magpies with fear. They are an amazing species and one that has truly found success living with us. Be vigilant during a few months of the year, but otherwise marvel at their antics and enjoy them in your local parks and gardens.

Birds in our Backyard, 2014 to 2021 - photos by A J Guesdon

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

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 September 5th, 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.

NSW Sustainability Awards Now Open For Entry

The NSW Sustainability Awards are now open and accepting entries from eligible NSW participants across a range of categories from biodiversity to net zero initiatives.

Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said the awards will allow New South Wales to showcase some of our best and brightest minds on a national stage with winners automatically entered into the prestigious Banksia National Sustainability Awards.

"New South Wales leads the country when it comes to generating ideas on sustainability, these awards will not only showcase those ideas but also celebrate the people that are making our world better," Mr Kean said.

"Entrants for these awards will join a community of sustainability champions who are reimagining the future of New South Wales and the world."

Inspired by the United Nations 2030 Global Goals and NSW's commitment to reaching net zero by 2050, these awards will salute individuals, communities and businesses for their innovation and excellence in environmental and social leadership.

The 8 awards categories include:
  • NSW Net Zero Action Award
  • NSW Biodiversity Award
  • NSW Circular Transition Award
  • NSW Clean Technology Award
  • NSW Large Business Transformation Award
  • NSW Small to Medium Business Award
  • NSW Youth as our Changemakers Award
  • Minister's Young Climate Champion Award
The awards will be presented and run by the Banksia Foundation in partnership with the NSW Government. Entries for the awards are expected to close on September 15 with winners announced by the end of this year. The winners of the National Banksia awards will be announced in March 2022.

For more information or for registration of interest for the awards can be made at NSW Sustainability Awards.

  1. NSW Clean Technology Award: Recognises outstanding initiatives by an organisation or organisations in collaboration that show- case efficient resources through renewable energy, low emissions technology, and appreciable pollution reduction (beyond compliance) of Australia's water, air, and land.
  2. NSW Biodiversity Award: Recognises outstanding initiatives by an organisation or organisations in collaboration that protect our habitat, flora and/or fauna to ensure Australia's ecosystems are secured and flourish for future generations.
  3. NSW Circular Transition Award: Recognises outstanding achievements in innovative design in waste and pollution systems and products, through to regenerating strategies. The award will go to a company that has adopted a technology, initiative or project that is helping the business move from a linear to a circular model.
  4. NSW Large Business Transformation Award: Recognises outstanding achievements that demonstrate business and values alignment with multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals and by integrating sustainability principles and practices across business activities.
  5. NSW Youth as our Changemakers Award: Recognises young innovators aged between 18-35 years, who bring fresh perspectives, bold ideas and compelling initiatives that align with any or the multiple UN SDG's.
  6. NSW Net Zero Action Award: Recognises organisations, (company, business association, NGOs) that can demonstrate a tangible program or initiative that evidences transition toward a 1.5-Degree goal, through a publicly communicated net zero commitment, plus data, disclosures and investments to support it.
  7. NSW Small to Medium Business Award: Recognises outstanding achievements that demonstrate business and values alignment with multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals and by integrating sustainability principles and practices across business activities.
  8. Minister's Young Climate Champion Award: The Minister's Young Climate Champion Award recognises young innovators aged under 18 years who bring bold ideas for a safe and thriving climate future that align with any of the UN SDGs. Young and passionate minds who have taken outstanding actions that benefit the sustainability of their communities and help address climate change will be showcased in this award, which is a celebration of young people with drive, commitment and a passion for sustainability and the environment.

Bandicoots Return To Sturt National Park After More Than A Century

Locally extinct bandicoots have returned to Sturt National Park after more than 100 years. The nationally threatened species – known by local Aboriginal people as ‘talpero’ – once ranged across inland Australia, including the area now managed as Sturt National Park. The small, native marsupials became extinct in the region after ecosystem changes caused by rabbits and predation by feral cats and foxes. 

Now, a founding population of talpero have been reintroduced to the area by the team at Wild Deserts, a collaboration led by UNSW Sydney ecologists and Ecological Horizons with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Their reintroduction is another major milestone in the Wild Deserts conservation project, which last year reintroduced bilbies and mulgaras into the national park. 

“The season has been tremendous out here with the rains we had last year and then again in March,” says UNSW’s Dr Rebecca West, an ecologist based at Wild Deserts. 

“These rains have helped create a highly productive system that is excellent for the reintroduction of this species.”

Up until recently, western barred bandicoots were considered one species with five subspecies, but this has recently split into five species. Only the Shark Bay species – the species translocated to Sturt National Park – survived. UNSW scientists acknowledge this important taxonomic work.

This remaining species has been moved to two islands and three fenced locations. The Wild Deserts conservation reintroduction came from one of these, a self-sustaining population at Arid Recovery near Roxby Downs. 

Supported by governments because of their conservation value, the Wild Deserts conservation reintroduction recognises the important role that this species complex played in ecological function, important for restoring desert ecosystems.

The Wild Deserts team introduced 10 talpero to the park as a founding population, but they hope to add more characters to the mix soon. Photo: UNSW Sydney.

The Wild Deserts team eradicated every last rabbit, cat and fox from two 2000 hectare feral-proof fenced exclosures within Sturt National Park, creating one of the largest feral-animal-free areas in Australia.

These exclosures in the wild work as ‘training zones’, where reintroduced vulnerable species can learn to live in the wild without dangers from predators like cats and foxes. 

When their populations start thriving, the animals will be released into a second training area with predators, where they will learn to become predator-smart. 

The ultimate project aim is to release a smarter generation of bandicoots and other locally extinct mammals back into the wild.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says: “The reintroduction of this important species to the Corner Country in Sturt National Park is another huge step in our battle to halt and reverse the tide of mammal extinctions.

“Our aim is to re-establish ecosystems as they were before feral cats, foxes and rabbits wreaked havoc on Australian native wildlife.”

Talpero are the smallest members of the bandicoot family, roughly the size of a guinea pig. They can be distinguished from other bandicoots by their fawn-coloured coat with pale stripes across their rump. 

The nocturnal marsupials dig for their food in sandy environments, making foraging pits to find seeds, tubers, insects and fungi. This process turns the soil and helps it catch water and nutrients, contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem.

The Wild Deserts team have introduced 10 talpero as a founding population, but they hope to add more members soon.

“If they keep doing as well as they are, then I think we will be able to add some more characters to the mix,” says Dr West.

“Hopefully that will re-establish bandicoots back into Sturt National Park into the future.”

The ultimate aim of the project is to release a smarter generation of bandicoots and other locally extinct mammals back into the wild. Photo: UNSW Sydney.

A recovering ecosystem
The founding talpero population are from Arid Recovery, an independent not-for-profit conservation and research project that manages a large feral-free safe haven near Roxby Downs in South Australia. 

The marsupials were released into Wild Deserts’ southern exclosure, called ‘Mingku’ – named after the word meaning happy in the Maljangapa language. The talpero joined two other recently reintroduced species, the bilbies and mulgaras. 

“This is an important step in restoring this desert ecosystem,” says Professor Richard Kingsford, leader of the Wild Deserts project and director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science. 

“We are already starting to see the beginnings of a transformation occurring in the landscape. The soil is starting to turn over, which gives great opportunities for lots of little invertebrates and catches water and nutrients. 

“We think that’s part of how we can transform these deserts back into what they were.” 

Dr John Read from Ecological Horizons, a major partner of the Wild Deserts project, says “These energetic little diggers at Wild Deserts are important culturally, historically and ecologically and will be great for restoring the desert.”

The Wild Deserts scientists will check in on the animals daily using radio tracking devices to ensure they’re adapting well to their new environment.

“We have deliberately designed the Wild Deserts project to allow us opportunities for scientific monitoring to assess our management and the success of the species,” says UNSW’s Dr Reece Pedler, the Wild Deserts project coordinator.

“We hope to establish talpero in other parts of the Wild Deserts site – and ultimately into neighbouring areas of Sturt National Park or beyond. We have already recorded recruitment of young that were translocated in pouch and other young that were born at Wild Deserts.” 

Wild Deserts is part of a major NSW Government initiative to protect threatened native mammals via the Reintroduction of Locally Extinct Mammals project and the Saving our Species initiative. 

Next, the team plan to reintroduce other threatened mammals into the Wild Deserts exclosures, including western quolls, stick-nest rats and golden bandicoots.

Ground Breaking Recycling Projects To Roll Out Across NSW

August 9, 2021
The Australian and New South Wales Governments have today announced 22 new recycling projects across metropolitan and regional NSW as part of a $600 million national rollout of recycling infrastructure.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the new NSW projects show how the Morrison Government’s $190 million investment in the Recycling Modernisation Fund is turbocharging the nation’s recycling capacity.

“The joint funding component between the Commonwealth and NSW for these projects is $24 million, generating industry investment of $59 million,” Minister Ley said.

“This is about easing pressure on our environment by recycling more materials including plastics, tyres, glass, cardboard and even coffee cups, and importantly it is about creating jobs and economic investment.

“We need to capture the economic value of waste, we need to create markets for recycled materials and this level of investment will drive jobs in key areas at a critical time.”

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said that the Remanufacture NSW projects in Western Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle, and regional NSW will create jobs and increase the state’s recycling capacity by an estimated 120,000 tonnes every year.

“We can’t keep sending our scraps to languish in landfill when there are huge opportunities to turn our trash into treasure,” Minister Kean said.

“This funding and these new projects will help to boost our existing recycling capabilities, supportive innovative re-use of recycled materials and boost NSW’s recycling capacity.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans said that the range of projects selected for funding cover the gamut of recycling materials and remanufacturing uses and introduce the latest innovations in recycling technology.

“We are investing in everything from new and upgraded material recycling facilities in regional areas, to mobile plastic from e-waste processing facilities,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“The materials to be recycled are those impacted by Australia’s world leading ban on the export of waste glass, plastic, tyres and paper which are gradually being phased in until mid-2024.”

A further grant round of RMF funding will open by the end of 2021.

The Australian Government is driving a $1 billion transformation of our waste and recycling industry to turbocharge domestic recycling so we can process Australia materials that were previously sent overseas.

The $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund investment, and measures to support Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan, will create approximately 10,000 new jobs all around Australia over the next ten years.

Key project outcomes:
  • Establishment of a new $40m regional Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to recycle waste glass, plastic, tyres and paper and cardboard in Newcastle.
  • A mobile plastic processing facility to process almost 1,000 tonnes of plastic each year.
  • New state-of-the-art infrastructure in Erskine Park to reprocess 3,200 tonnes of used Off The Road (OTR) tyres for use in road construction and manufactured rubber-based products.
  • Expand a Wetherill Park plant that turns paperboard beverage containers collected through container deposit schemes and coffee cups collected through the ‘Simply Cups’ recycling program into sustainable building products as a substitute for plaster and particle boards.
  • Upgrading glass processing in western Sydney to process an additional 50,000 tonnes of glass each year that will increase the kerbside glass recovery from 53 percent to 60 per cent.
  • Upgrading moulding equipment at Sulo’s Somersby facility to recycle old kerbside bins and bottle caps back into mobile garbage bins, creating circular kerbside bins.
  • Expanding Australian Recycled Plastics facility at Narrabri to allow both PET and HDPE/PP lines to run simultaneously and at full capacity, processing up 9,300 tonnes per annum.

Sustainability Of Energy Supply And Resources In NSW

August 13, 2021
NSW's coal-fired power generation system is ageing, and economic, environmental and social pressures are driving a transition to sustainable energy sources. Our energy infrastructure needs modernisation to transition to renewable sources, which are now the cheapest form of power generation. The Committee on Environment and Planning has today released a report that looks at how best to manage this transition.

The Committee makes 21 recommendations and 15 findings, covering support for communities, economic and employment opportunities presented by renewable energy, transmission infrastructure, energy management, and forecasts for domestic and export use of energy. The report also outlines Government initiatives and legislation introduced during the inquiry.

"We support the work being done by the NSW Government to begin addressing energy infrastructure and transition planning. While we welcome these steps, our report highlights further areas for reform to ensure both a just transition and a strong foundation for future energy supply in NSW," said Committee Chair, Alex Greenwich MP.

“This report is a call to action and a call to honesty. Domestic and global market forces have responded to the health and environmental damage that comes from coal-fired power generation, but for far too long, we have failed to plan for the transition and provide economic security through investment and skills diversification needed in coal dependent regions."

“This report provides a roadmap to renewables through a just transition for NSW, from guaranteeing new jobs in coal dependent regions, investing in new skills development, modernising energy infrastructure, removing barriers that prevent the Port of Newcastle becoming a container terminal, mandating the rehabilitation of mines, growing new renewable energy export markets and the NSW Government partnering with the City of Sydney to empower other Local Governments to move to 100 per cent renewable energy”.

"NSW must undertake locally-led, proactive, and detailed planning, to ensure the energy transition brings everyone along with it. We heard about transitions, like in Germany's Ruhr Valley, where communities participated from the early stages of transition planning. Badly-managed transitions with poorly-planned coal closures can have severe social and economic consequences, as seen in the Appalachian region in the US."

"Longstanding coal communities, like those in the Hunter and Illawarra regions, have powered our state for a long time. Lack of planning and economic diversification by government has delayed the energy transition, at a great cost to their health, and the environment. We must start planning now for our energy transition, to ensure no-one is left behind," said Mr Greenwich.

The Committee also made findings around forest biomass, which is facilitating deforestation for energy. Forest biomass is not a renewable, sustainable source of energy, and the Committee recommended that the NSW Government amends the definition of native forest biomaterial under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 to prevent the burning of wood from native forests to generate energy.

The Committee began the inquiry in 2019. The inquiry's terms of reference were updated in 2020 to include opportunities for economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provided by renewable energy. The Committee received 254 submissions, and heard from 59 witnesses during four days of hearings.

Whitehaven Fined “Chicken Scratch” For Environmental Vandalism At NW NSW Coal Mine

August 13, 2021
The Lock the Gate Alliance and north west farmers stated this week they are pleased Whitehaven has been held to account for crimes committed at its Narrabri Underground coal mine but disappointed at the fine which amounts to little more than “chicken scratch” for the company.

The company was convicted on 19 charges for breaches including the construction of unauthorised tracks, drilling of bores in contravention of approval conditions, and failure to rehabilitate drill sites.

The maximum penalty for each of the charges was $1.1M, however Whitehaven was today fined a total of only $372,500 in the NSW Land and Environment Court.

While Lock the Gate Alliance views the figure as a disappointing amount, the fine is the highest given to Whitehaven Coal so far for its numerous environmental breaches at its NSW operations.

Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said the meagre penalty would do nothing to stop Whitehaven committing similar crimes in the future.

“Whitehaven views this, and the many other fines it has received, as just the cost of doing business in NSW,” she said.

“Whitehaven would spend more than this on beer and Skittles.

“It is a reckless company that shows no respect for the law or the land on which it operates, nor for the communities that are forced to live next to its coal mines.

“However, it is encouraging to see the fines being handed to Whitehaven are increasing, and we hope the company is hit with a much bigger penalty when it is expected to reappear in court for stealing water later this month.”

LTGA thanks the NSW Resources Regulator for taking enforcement of environmental laws seriously and pursuing the investigation which led to this decision today.

NSW EPA Reminds Residents To Be Safe Around Lead In Homes And Gardens

August 10, 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is reminding Wollongong residents to be aware of the risks of exposure to lead and other heavy metal contaminants from a range of historical sources around the home, especially when renovating and gardening.

The safety message follows the publication of a comprehensive report examining legacy heavy metal contamination issues (in particular lead) in the Wollongong Local Government area.

The Literature review of the levels of lead and other heavy metals in soil and roof dust in Wollongong and measures to manage any associated health risks examines legacy contamination issues and recommends further testing, including of soil, in the Port Kembla area to provide more site-specific data.

“In response to the recommendations of the report, the EPA will undertake further soil testing to address any data gaps. The EPA will also offer voluntary soil testing for residents who may be interested,” EPA Manager Regulatory Operations Peter Bloem said.

“The EPA testing will complement other local contamination studies and help the community understand the risk of exposure from heavy metals, including lead and cadmium, and whether any other actions need to be taken.”

The report also recommended the development of a model to assess health risk exposure.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s Director of Public Health, Curtis Gregory, said blood lead level testing is the preferred method of assessing health risk exposure.

“Any elevated blood levels are reported to our Public Health Unit, and we work to determine the appropriate health response. Anyone with any concerns about risk of exposure to lead should discuss this with their GP,” Mr Gregory said.

A Wollongong City Council spokesperson welcomed the release of the Literature Review.

“As a member of the Lead and Other Heavy Metal Contamination Working group we welcome the release of the Literature Review, that will be of interest to many in our community,” the spokesperson said.

“We encourage residents to look through the detailed document and, if they’re keen to understand it in more detail or have questions, visit the EPA website.”

The EPA is sharing lead information factsheets with residents and, once the COVID situation allows, will host a community drop-in session to speak with residents about the report and answer any questions.

“The presence of lead and heavy metals around your home may be well known to some residents and new to others but there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent or minimise exposure,” said Mr Bloem.

“We will be sharing information on the actions that residents can take to help ensure we stay safe and healthy and where to get further advice, if needed. In the meantime residents can ring the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555 if they have questions.”

More information on lead safety and the Literature Review can be found on the EPA website.

Newcastle Community Committee Meets To Consider Environment Issues

August 13, 2021
Members of a group established to advise the NSW Government on environmental matters of concern in the Newcastle area will meet on Monday. The nine members of the Newcastle Community Consultative Committee on the Environment (NCCCE) will discuss the Hunter Estuary study, as well as the impacts of water pollution, ash dams and transport pollutants in the Newcastle local government area.

Representatives from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) will join the meeting, including the EPA’s Director Regulatory Operations, Adam Gilligan.

“Already this year, the Committee has provided feedback to the EPA about air quality, coal dust management on Kooragang Island, and ammonium nitrate manufacture, storage and transport in the Newcastle area,” Mr Gilligan said.

“At the meetings earlier this year, one of the key discussion points was the NSW Government’s Lower Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network newsletters, which are available online.

“These newsletters provide an overview of air quality in the Newcastle region and identify seasonal trends, which show that recent air quality has been generally good.”

The Committee meets quarterly and provides an important opportunity for community input and interests to be discussed and engagement between Government, community, industry, and environment representatives.

The Committee’s Chair John Tate said it gave the Newcastle community an opportunity to raise any environmental and impact issues associated with nearby industrial activities.

“Since 2011, the Committee has been advising the Environment Minister, the EPA and other relevant NSW Government agencies on matters of environmental concern to the Newcastle community. It also helps local industry understand the community’s concerns,” Mr Tate said.

“The Committee has members representing key interests in the lower Hunter, with community representatives Keith Craig, Chris Tola and Rick Banyard.

“These members are very active in Newcastle across community-led organisations, including the Stockton Community Action Group.”

Members represent a broad range of views to ensure there is balance, open and honest dialogue between members of industry, local government, environment, and positive environmental outcomes for Newcastle.

The full list of members is available on the EPA’s website, along with copies of previous meeting minutes and presentations.

Man Charged Over Threats To Fisheries Officer

August 12, 2021
A man has received multiple convictions and a hefty fine at Batemans Bay local court in relation to an incident at Depot Beach in 2018, including threatening a NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Officer and obstructing their duties.

NSW DPI Director Fisheries Compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty, said that serious offences such as this will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly by authorities.

“The man was convicted of 4 offences and fined a total $4500 dollars plus a 12-month community corrections order,” Dr Moriarty said.

“Threatening a fisheries officer and preventing them from completing their duties is a serious offence and we will not tolerate this type of behaviour.”

The man was convicted and fined for the following offences on the 27th of May:
  • Obstructing a Fisheries Officer in the exercising of function – failing to allow examination of fishing gear (Sequence 1) – fined $2,000.
  • Threatening a Fisheries Officer – with a weapon, being an axe handle with a metal spike on the end (Sequence 2) – convicted and imposed a community corrections order for 12 months.
  • Obstruction of a Fisheries Officer in the exercising of function – failing to allow seizure of a weapon used to threaten a Fisheries Officer (Sequence 3); and
  • Failing to comply with requirement to provide information – fail to state name and address (Sequence 4) - fined $500.
“This sends a strong warning to anyone behaving violently or threateningly towards Fisheries Officers,” Dr Moriarty said.

“There are hefty penalties for these actions and the man will now face the consequences for his actions.

“If any illegal or threatening behaviour is witnessed, the public are urged to contact their local police.”

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.

Reminder: New Yabby Net Rules Are Now In Place

August 11, 2021
With spring just around the corner, recreational fishers are being reminded that as of 30 April 2021, the use of Opera House style yabby traps are strictly prohibited.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Program Leader Stocking & Fisheries Enhancement Operations, Jim Harnwell said open-top, eco-friendly nets must be used in all NSW waters.

“These new, eco-friendly nets are not only great for catching yabbies but they will also help to protect our iconic native aquatic wildlife species,” Mr Harnwell said.

“Unlike the old-style Opera House traps, the open-top lift design of the new nets will allow non-target species such as platypus, birds and turtles to exit the nets if they inadvertently swim in while searching for food.

“Fishers should now only be using these open-top nets when targeting yabbies and penalties apply if fishers use the now-banned Opera house style traps.”

The new eco-friendly yabby nets are widely available in tackle stores and other fishing retail outlets across NSW.

Mr Harnwell has urged all recreational fishers to ensure they use the right equipment and familiarise themselves with the new rules that are now in place.

“It is important for fishers to understand the new rules surrounding the use of the open-top nets and are aware of the consequences for using the incorrect equipment when targeting yabbies.

“By following these rules, fishers can take the lead in fishing responsibly and catching a great feed of yabbies while making a real difference to our environment.”

More information about the recreational yabby fishing rule changes are available online at or by contacting your local NSW DPI Fisheries office.

Restrictions In Place To Protect Endangered Grey Nurse Sharks

August 10, 2021
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is reminding fishers about the critical habitat areas at Fish Rock and Green Island, where fishing restrictions are in place to protect the critically endangered Grey Nurse Sharks, that are vulnerable to bait fishing.

DPI Director of Fisheries Compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty, said it is important for fishers and divers to be aware of special zone arrangements that currently apply for Grey Nurse Shark critical habitat and aggregation sites in NSW.

“Special zones are in place around the two islands extending 200 metres in all directions from the mean high-water mark where live or dead bait is prohibited for commercial and recreational line fishing,” Dr Moriarty said.

“The mainland shoreline adjacent to Green Island which is 50m offshore is also exempt from this restriction.

“Lures including soft plastics and artificial baits that do not contain animal products can still be used in these zones.”

Dr Moriarty said fishing for other species is allowed in accordance with compliance rules.

“From August to December Yellowtail Kingfish are often abundant around these two islands and can be lawfully targeted within the zones using lures including artificial baits not containing animal products,” Dr Moriarty said.

“If you accidentally catch a Grey Nurse Shark, you must release it carefully causing the least possible harm to the animal. “Research into Grey Nurse Shark interaction with fishing gear has shown they are unlikely to interact with certain types of fishing gear such as artificial lures used while spinning, trolling and jigging.”

From August to December there will be increase in fisheries officers conducting operations at the islands using surveillance equipment, drones and patrol vessels to detect and apprehend offenders.

It is illegal to catch and keep, buy, sell, possess or harm Grey Nurse Sharks (or any other threatened species in NSW) without a specific permit, licence, or other appropriate approval,” said Dr Moriarty.

“For critically endangered species, these penalties can include fines of up to $220,000 and up to two years in prison.

“There can also be significant penalties for causing damage to the habitat of a threatened species without approval.”

Detailed information on fishing and diving rules at Grey Nurse Shark aggregation sites can be found at or by contacting your local DPI Fisheries Officer.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illegal fishing activity by calling 1800 043 536 or report online.

EPA Fines Dangerous Goods Transporter For Signage Breach

August 12 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Dangerous Goods transport company Days Logistics $4,000 for not appropriately supervising one of its drivers to ensure safe and lawful transportation of dangerous goods.

In December 2020 a member of the public observed a petrol tanker, operated by Days Logistics, on the Bradfield Highway without carrying the proper warnings in the afternoon peak and notified the EPA.

An EPA investigation found the tanker was carrying petrol at the time however, the driver had not used the correct warning signs. The tanker was instead displaying the words “combustible liquid”, indicating it was not carrying dangerous goods.

NSW EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Steve Beaman the company had not given their driver sufficient training or supervision. 

“Companies transporting bulk dangerous goods need to do everything they can to prevent high risk behaviour from drivers. It is not enough to hand a driver a manual and a delivery address and let them loose with a petrol tanker,” Mr Beaman said. 

“With incorrect signage on the vehicle, emergency services and the public have no idea of the danger of fire or explosion from the flammable liquid in the event of an incident.

“Transport companies need to ensure dangerous goods are transported safely and lawfully. Their drivers should also be trained to use the correct routes for the goods they are carrying.”  

Dangerous Goods transport companies can prevent their drivers from using prohibited routes by:
  • Using GPS monitoring which can include “geofencing” prohibited routes 
  • Reviewing toll records for the vehicles
  • Looking for drivers who achieve substantially faster delivery times (indicating the use of faster, more direct motorway tunnels which are not allowed vs surface roads)
  • Providing specific training on prohibited routes and what action to take if a driver has mistakenly found themselves on a prohibited route
  • Regular “toolbox talks” to remind drivers of the rules and an opportunity to ask questions
  • Having internal processes that require drivers to report if they have used a prohibited route
  • Undertaking random internal audits of driver behaviour and activities.
In addition to the $4,000 fine issued handed to Days Logistics, the driver was fined $400 for displaying false and misleading signage.

Members of the public are encouraged to report potential dangerous goods transport breaches to the EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.

This is the most sobering report card yet on climate change and Earth’s future. Here’s what you need to know

Pep CanadellCSIROJoelle GergisAustralian National UniversityMalte MeinshausenThe University of MelbourneMark HemerCSIRO, and Michael GroseCSIRO

Earth has warmed 1.09℃ since pre-industrial times and many changes such as sea-level rise and glacier melt are now virtually irreversible, according to the most sobering report yet by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report also found escape from human-caused climate change is no longer possible. Climate change is now affecting every continent, region and ocean on Earth, and every facet of the weather.

The long-awaited report is the sixth assessment of its kind since the panel was formed in 1988. It will give world leaders the most timely, accurate information about climate change ahead of a crucial international summit in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

The IPCC is the peak climate science body of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization. It is the global authority on the state of Earth’s climate and how human activities affect it. We are authors of the latest IPCC report and have drawn from the work of thousands of scientists from around the world to produce this new assessment.

Sadly, there is hardly any good news in the 3,900 pages of text released today. But there is still time to avert the worst damage, if humanity chooses to.

melting glacier
Escape from human-caused climate change is no longer possible. John McConnico/AP

It’s Unequivocal: Humans Are Warming The Planet

For the first time, the IPCC states unequivocally — leaving absolutely no room for doubt – humans are responsible for the observed warming of the atmosphere, lands and oceans.

The IPCC finds Earth’s global surface temperature warmed 1.09℃ between 1850-1900 and the last decade. This is 0.29℃ warmer than in the previous IPCC report in 2013. (It should be noted that 0.1℃ of the increase is due to data improvements.)

Read more: Monday's IPCC report is a really big deal for climate change. So what is it? And why should we trust it?

The IPCC recognises the role of natural changes to the Earth’s climate. However, it finds 1.07℃ of the 1.09℃ warming is due to greenhouse gases associated with human activities. In other words, pretty much all global warming is due to humans.

Global surface temperature has warmed faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2,000 years, with the warming also reaching ocean depths below 2,000 metres.

The IPCC says human activities have also affected global precipitation (rain and snow). Since 1950, total global precipitation has increased, but while some regions have become wetter, others have become drier.

The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased over most land areas. This is because the warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture — about 7% more for each additional degree of temperature — which makes wet seasons and rainfall events wetter.

people queue in heavy rain
The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased. David Gray/AAP

Higher Concentrations Of CO₂, Growing Faster

Present-day global concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂) are higher and rising faster than at any time in at least the past two million years.

The speed at which atmospheric CO₂ has increased since the industrial revolution (1750) is at least ten times faster than at any other time during the last 800,000 years, and between four and five times faster than during the last 56 million years.

About 85% of CO₂ emissions are from burning fossil fuels. The remaining 15% are generated from land use change, such as deforestation and degradation.

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

Concentrations of other greenhouse gases are not doing any better. Both methane and nitrous oxide, the second and third biggest contributors to global warming after CO₂, have also increased more quickly.

Methane emissions from human activities largely come from livestock and the fossil fuel industry. Nitrous oxide emissions largely come from the use of nitrogen fertiliser on crops.

Cows in a misty field
Methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, largely come from livestock. Shutterstock

Extreme Weather On The Rise

Hot extremes, heatwaves and heavy rain have also become more frequent and intense across most land regions since 1950, the IPCC confirms.

The report highlights that some recently observed hot extremes, such as the Australian summer of 2012–2013, would have been extremely unlikely without human influence on the climate.

Human influence has also been detected for the first time in compounded extreme events. For example, incidences of heatwaves, droughts and fire weather happening at the same time are now more frequent. These compound events have been seen in Australia, Southern Europe, Northern Eurasia, parts of the Americas and African tropical forests.

Oceans: Hotter, Higher And More Acidic

Oceans absorb 91% of the energy from the increased atmospheric greenhouse gases. This has led to ocean warming and more marine heatwaves, particularly over the past 15 years.

Marine heatwaves cause the mass death of marine life, such as from coral bleaching events. They also cause algal blooms and shifts in the composition of species. Even if the world restricts warming to 1.5-2℃, as is consistent with the Paris Agreement, marine heatwaves will become four times more frequent by the end of the century.

Read more: Watching a coral reef die as climate change devastates one of the most pristine tropical island areas on Earth

Melting ice sheets and glaciers, along with the expansion of the ocean as it warms, have led to a global mean sea level increase of 0.2 metres between 1901 and 2018. But, importantly, the speed sea level is rising is accelerating: 1.3 millimetres per year during 1901-1971, 1.9mm per year during 1971-2006, and 3.7mm per year during 2006-2018.

Ocean acidification, caused by the uptake of CO₂, has occurred over all oceans and is reaching depths beyond 2,000m in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic.

For low-lying islands in the Pacific, sea level rise poses an existential threat. Shutterstock

Many Changes Are Already Irreversible

The IPCC says if Earth’s climate was stabilised soon, some climate change-induced damage could not be reversed within centuries, or even millennia. For example, global warming of 2℃ this century will lead to average global sea level rise of between two and six metres over 2,000 years, and much more for higher emission scenarios.

Globally, glaciers have been synchronously retreating since 1950 and are projected to continue to melt for decades after the global temperature is stabilised. Meanwhile the acidification of the deep ocean will remain for thousands of years after CO₂ emissions cease.

Read more: We mapped the world's frozen peatlands – what we found was very worrying

The report does not identify any possible abrupt changes that would lead to an acceleration of global warming during this century – but does not rule out such possibilities.

The prospect of permafrost (frozen soils) in Alaska, Canada, and Russia crossing a tipping point has been widely discussed. The concern is that as frozen ground thaws, large amounts of carbon accumulated over thousands of years from dead plants and animals could be released as they decompose.

The report does not identify any globally significant abrupt change in these regions over this century, based on currently available evidence. However, it projects permafrost areas will release about 66 billion tonnes of CO₂ for each additional degree of warming. These emissions are irreversible during this century under all warming scenarios.

Close-up of frozen soil
Melting permafrost could release 66 billion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere. Shutterstock

How We Can Stabilise The Climate

Earth’s surface temperature will continue to increase until at least 2050 under all emissions scenarios considered in the report. The assessment shows Earth could well exceed the 1.5℃ warming limit by early 2030s.

If we reduce emissions sufficiently, there is only a 50% chance global temperature rise will stay around 1.5℃ (including a temporary overshoot of up to 0.1℃). To get Earth back to below 1.5℃ warming, CO₂ would need to be removed from the atmosphere using negative emissions technologies or nature-based solutions.

Global warming stays below 2℃ during this century only under scenarios where CO₂ emissions reach net-zero around or after 2050.

Read more: We've made progress to curb global emissions. But it's a fraction of what's needed

The IPCC analysed future climate projections from dozens of climate models, produced by more than 50 modelling centres around the world. It showed global average surface temperature rises between 1-1.8℃ and 3.3-5.7℃ this century above pre-industrial levels for the lowest and highest emission scenarios, respectively. The exact increase the world experiences will depend on how much more greenhouse gases are emitted.

The report states, with high certainty, that to stabilise the climate, CO₂ emissions must reach net zero, and other greenhouse gas emissions must decline significantly.

We also know, for a given temperature target, there’s a finite amount of carbon we can emit before reaching net zero emissions. To have a 50:50 chance of halting warming at around 1.5℃, this quantity is about 500 billion tonnes of CO₂.

At current levels of CO₂ emissions this “carbon budget” would be used up within 12 years. Exhausting the budget will take longer if emissions begin to decline.

The IPCC’s latest findings are alarming. But no physical or environmental impediments exist to hold warming to well below 2℃ and limit it to around 1.5℃ – the globally agreed goals of the Paris Agreement. Humanity, however, must choose to act.

Click here to read more of The Conversation’s coverage of the IPCC reportThe Conversation

Pep Canadell, Chief research scientist, Climate Science Centre, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; and Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIROJoelle Gergis, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, Australian National UniversityMalte Meinshausen, A/Prof., School of Earth Sciences, The University of MelbourneMark Hemer, Principal Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO, and Michael Grose, Climate projections scientist, CSIRO

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

With the release of a terrifying IPCC report, Australia must face its wilful political blindness on climate

Lukas Coch/AAP
Mark KennyAustralian National University

I remember the acute frustration of watching one of the US news feeds on September 11, 2001 — 20 years ago next month.

With the stricken twin towers smoking away in the background, the news anchors described the heroic rescue mission going on behind them, continuing for several excruciating moments after one tower had simply ceased to exist — a fact terrifyingly obvious to viewers.

“It’s gone” I yelled at the TV helplessly, “there is no rescue!”.

Read more: This is the most sobering report card yet on climate change and Earth's future. Here’s what you need to know

The other building would soon follow as the full horror went from unimaginable to undeniable in a single morning.

Many Australians feel a similar frustration – this time chronic - at the refusal of their government to “turn around” to face what’s clear to everyone else, a galloping climate emergency which portends death, suffering and species loss on a planetary scale.

Yet, as the evidence has accumulated, and the new IPCC report reinforces it, Australia has carved out a name for itself as a global laggard — grouped with denialist authoritarian states like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia.

And it has done so by re-interpreting the global climate evidence as just another domestic political argument – an opportunity for creating winners and losers and profiting from the electoral dividends yielded.

The 2050 Pantomime

Ever wonder why an Australian political class steeped in short-termism is so animated about 2050 — a date way beyond the horizons of those currently in power?

Partly it is because if an economy is to genuinely commit to emitting net-zero carbon by 2050, the hard work of adjustment needs to commence immediately. But mostly it is that 2050 has become a useful distraction from the here-and-now.

Barnbaby Joyce at the despatch box
Barnaby Joyce’s return to the Nationals leadership has not helped Australia’s progress on climate change. Lukas Coch/AAP

And it is on this faux battleground that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has excelled in restricting not just his own rhetorical manoeuvrings, but increasingly, those of his opponents. Indeed, Morrison has achieved a remarkable double by simultaneously reducing 2050 to mere symbol, while also framing it as the only battleground on which the climate contest can be fought.

This way, he either wins, or he doesn’t lose, because the stakes are rendered so distant and so low as to not affect voting preferences appreciably.

From Waving A Lump Of Coal To Glasgow

Since appearing at the National Press Club in February 2021, the man who once brandished a lump of coal in parliament has moved to assure voters he now wants Australia to get to net-zero “as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”.

Read more: Climate change has already hit Australia. Unless we act now, a hotter, drier and more dangerous future awaits, IPCC warns

Though intentionally vague, this putative hardening from merely “as soon as possible” was treated as progress by many in the press gallery, which is arguably too aware of Morrison’s partyroom arithmetic and thus overly inclined to see the climate challenge as his rather than the country’s.

(This is this same commentariat, by the way, that gave Morrison an unequalled level of authority inside the partyroom following his “miracle” election victory in 2019.)

Since that February address, most observers have assumed Morrison would find a way to get his government to the 2050 commitment ahead of the Glasgow COP26 summit in November. That would mean strong-arming climate-sceptic Liberals, as well as the much harder task of wrangling the Nationals.

The Joyce Factor

But if anything, that task has steepened in recent months with the election of Barnaby Joyce as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister.

As Joyce (speaking in the third person) told the Australian Financial Review in July:

The likelihood of Joyce getting endorsement from his party room to agree to net zero is zero.

And if Joyce was to come back to the party room and said ‘I had a really interesting conversation, I’ve just agreed to net zero’, then his prospects of getting out of that room as a leader would be zero.

That such unvarnished self-interest flies as a legitimate policy argument says everything about the vapid quality of the climate change debate in Australia.

Labor’s Retreat

In truth, Morrison is comfortable keeping the argument on 2050 anyway, knowing the date is as abstract and intangible to many voters as the dangerous build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide is visible to the naked eye.

And why not? Labor has already retreated from its last election pledge of a 45% cut by 2030, hounded into meekness by Morrison’s 2019 scare campaign alleging runaway job losses and lower economic growth from Labor’s rapid adjustment.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese.
Labor is set to reveal it’s new climate policy ahead of the next federal election. Lukas Coch/AAP

Labor’s new policy will be unveiled closer to the election, but it is not expected to be as ambitious, even though since 2019, the rest of the developed world has embraced targets at or beyond this scale.

In a sign a milder policy is in the offing, Labor insiders plead the previous 45%-by-2030 policy had been set in the middle of the last decade and that commencing that reduction from 2022 is unrealistic. Yet, the first IPCC report for seven years warns the 1.5℃ warming threshold will now be reached as early as 2040, which probably means Labor should, in fact, propose to go harder.

There’s no sign of the government going harder either. Asked on Tuesday if Australia would set out more ambition in light of the IPCC warning, Morrison said,

we need more performance, we need more technology, and no one will be matching our ambition for a technology-driven solution.

It was an answer perfectly consistent with his past mantra of “technology, not taxes”.

Thus, it was also an answer that was perfectly inconsistent with the facts set out by the world scientific community. Facts to which Australia is yet to turn its full face.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Professor, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

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

Australia Must Stop More Climate Damage

August 12, 2021
The world’s leading scientists have issued a “statement of fact”: the Earth’s climate is changing in every region at a rate not seen in potentially hundreds of thousands of years.

And as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report indicates, some of the changes already taking place will be irreversible for generations.

The report projects that the world will cross the 1.5°C global warming threshold within 10 years if the world fails to act now.

Indeed, the report’s summary for the world’s policymakers opens with an unambiguous statement:

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

Among the necessary actions are the immediate ending of new coal and gas projects - a global policy endorsed by the International Energy Agency.

Among the findings of the latest report are:
  • Since 1900, human activity has been responsible for 1.1°C of global warming.
  • If 1.5°C of global warming is exceeded, there will be more heatwaves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.
  • If 2°C of global warming is exceeded, heat extremes would reach “critical tolerance thresholds” for agriculture and human health.
  • Australia will experience more intense and longer bushfires, more heatwaves and greater ocean acidification and warming.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions remain the primary driver of climate change, along with other greenhouse gases such as methane (‘natural gas’).  
The climate report was produced by 234 of the world’s leading climate scientists, evaluating the findings of more than 14,000 climate research papers.

Other experts submitted almost 75,000 comments through the drafting stages of the report.

CSIRO Chief Research David Karoly reviewed one chapter of the report and wrote in The Conversation last week that the report reflects both the best science and the agreed consensus of the world’s governments.

“Comments from government representatives are considered, and changes must be approved by consensus of all governments,” Professor Karoly said.

“It’s clear the IPCC brings the best of global science together. It’s vital that governments keep the findings of this report front of mind in their decision-making, if the world is to avoid the worst-case climate scenarios.”

Australia’s government is still MIA
The Morrison Government has not committed Australia to a formal net zero target, and the release of the IPCC’s new report suggests that net zero must be achieved well before 2050 to avoid 1.5°C of global warming.

With cheap renewable power flooding the Australian market, the Australian Electricity Market Operator has called for the national electricity grid to be capable of handling 100% renewable energy by 2025.

“A combination of technical innovation, economics, government policies and consumer choice, is driving this energy transition faster than it ever has before,” AEMO chief executive Daniel Westerman said in July.

“AEMO will work closely and collaboratively with governments, industry and communities to design the affordable, reliable energy system that Australia needs… capable of handling 100% renewable energy, at any moment of the day, by 2025.”

With Australia’s abundant access to natural solar and wind-driven power opportunities, and a workforce in regional and metropolitan areas capable of transitioning to new energy industries.

Already, South Australia has achieved a world-first 100% renewably powered grid in October 2020, and increasingly, financiers are re-evaluating their investment in fossil fuel industries, with Australia’s largest superfund pledging to fully divest its investment in thermal coal.

It is actions like these, combined with dedicated and effective government policy that will be essential in achieving the necessary reduction in climate pollution needed by 2035 – around two-thirds of existing levels.

“Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy,” said Australian Conservation Foundation climate change program manager Gavan McFadzean.

“We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent to do the job, but we cannot delay any longer.”

Five policies Australia can implement now
The Australian Conservation Foundation has articulated five policies the Australian Government can implement to effectively reduce the nation’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Renew Australia policy agenda outlines achievable objectives, including:
  1. Becoming a global clean energy superpower by 2031 by replacing coal, gas and uranium exports with a green hydrogen, steel and aluminium industry.
  2. Powering energy independent communities with renewable electricity, and replacing coal and gas-burning power stations with renewable energy storage.
  3. Replacing carbon-emitting transport with more accessible, renewably-powered public transit, subsidised electric vehicles and nationwide electric vehicle charging stations.
  4. Moving bank and superannuation fund investments in fossil fuel projects to renewable industries and jobs, and ending the connection between political parties and fossil fuel industries by reforming political donations and halting subsidies to polluters.
  5. Creating strong national nature-protection laws and an independent national regulator that stop Australia’s extinction crisis and preserve valuable natural carbon sinks such as bushland, wetlands and forests.
“The world’s top climate scientists have issued their starkest warning yet about the need for urgent action to avert a global climate catastrophe,” said McFadzean.

“This report reconfirms carbon dioxide as the biggest driver of global warming and says other climate pollutants, such as methane gas, must also be reduced as quickly as possible.

“These projections are a stark warning and must act as a wake-up call to all politicians.

“If the rest of the world follows in Australia’s climate policy footsteps, the planet and all its inhabitants face a catastrophic future.

“In many cases, those least responsible will bear the greatest burden, such as our Pacific Island neighbours, who face an existential threat from sea level rise.

“The Morrison government’s gas led recovery has no place to hide after these findings. It must be replaced by an urgent transition to renewables for our domestic use and exports.”

A net zero carbon emissions target means Australia would achieve a scientific equilibrium between emitted and sequestered carbon.

What about individuals?
Australians are living through unprecedented times, with COVID-19 lockdowns affecting half the country in July and August. But anxiety about climate change has been found to outstrip that related to the pandemic three times over. 

Studies have found that as well as seeking professional mental health support for climate anxiety, Australians are also also seeking to ease their worry by spending time in natural environments and taking positive climate action where they can.

And while the release of the IPCC Climate Report may be worrying right now, but there are proactive things people can do to take individual action.

Those actions include starting a conversation with others about why climate action is important, writing to parliament and joining a community group.

Need to talk to someone after reading this? If this article has raised issues for you, or you have concerns for another person, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline (ages 5-25) 1800 55 1800, or head to ReachOut for more resources on climate anxiety.

IPCC Report: 2050 Is Too Late

August 9, 2021
A new report released today, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, is a stark reminder of the urgency of acting on climate change. 

The world’s top climate scientists have issued their strongest ever warning: burning fossil fuels is causing irreversible damage to the climate.

The world’s scientists have found that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

This report confirms as well as carbon dioxide, methane gas is a major driver of climate damage and must be reduced as quickly as possible.

Parts of Australia will face more more land and marine heatwaves, more intense, frequent and longer bushfire events, more heavy rainfall and flooding, more drought, increasingly severe cyclones and significant changes to our shorelines. 

The report confirms that the role of human actions in driving climate change is indisputable, but also finds that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate change. 

Australia’s fair share of action means we must cut our climate pollution by 75% in the next decade and reach zero emissions in fifteen years. 2050 is too late.

In response to this warning, the Australian Conservation Foundation is calling for action from the federal government: Australia needs stronger targets and plans to cut greenhouse gas pollution this decade. 

We have world class wind and solar resources and an opportunity to capitalise on these assets as the world shifts to zero emissions electricity, transport and industry. 

Australia hasn’t strengthened its woefully inadequate 2030 target of 26-28% since it was announced by the Abbott Government more than five years ago. At the government’s current rate we won’t achieve the cuts we need until 2170.

As one of the biggest exporters of coal and gas, the action Australia takes makes a big difference.

This report is a wakeup call for Australia, we need to rapidly shift our energy from polluting coal and gas this decade. 

Every fraction of a degree of global warming we prevent will save lives and create a safer and healthier future for all of us.

Australians want to see the federal government do much more to secure a safe and liveable climate into the future.

We’ve seen the Australian community, business, state and local governments embrace climate action. It’s now time for the federal government to do their part too. Every fraction of a degree matters, every action matters.

Five big actions political and corporate leaders need to take
  1. Send our sunshine around the world - Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal, gas and uranium exports and use with renewable energy. We have plentiful sun and wind. A valuable export industry that secures and creates great jobs through manufactured products like green hydrogen, steel and aluminium, is within our reach.
  2. Create energy independent communities - Power schools, hospitals, government offices, public and social housing, remote Indigenous communities, sporting clubs, halls and libraries with affordable, clean energy by 2025, and replace coal and gas-burning power stations with renewable energy and storage by 2030. 
  3. Travel clean - Take pollution out of transport. Save our health and climate with more accessible buses and trains running on clean energy; make electric vehicles cheaper; and install electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
  4. Move the money - Banks and super funds must move our money from funding polluting coal, gas and nuclear projects to clean renewable powered industries and jobs. Political parties must stop accepting dirty donations and giving public funding to coal and gas companies and ban big political donations to reduce their influence on decision making.
  5. Save our big backyard - Create strong national nature protection laws that stop Australia’s worsening extinction crisis, and support nature as a climate solution. New laws must be enforced by an independent regulator. Our forests, wetlands and bushlands store greenhouse gases, provide homes for our unique animals and birds, and are places where people restore and revive.

Fossil fuel misinformation may sideline one of the most important climate change reports ever released

Christian DownieAustralian National University

This week’s landmark report on the state of the climate paints a sobering picture. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that, without deep and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the world is very likely headed for climate catastrophe.

In November, world leaders will gather in Glasgow for the latest round of United Nations climate talks. It’s the most crucial round of climate negotiations since those which led to the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The question is: will governments around the world now listen to the climate science? Or will misinformation campaigns backed by vested interests continue to delay action?

If we’re to avert a climate disaster, we must not underestimate the power of climate misinformation campaigns to undermine the IPCC findings and ensure governments continue to ignore the science.

Person in crowd holds sign
Science must be at the heart of policy-making if climate change is to be addressed. Shutterstock

A History Of Heeding The Science

Scrutiny of Australia’s climate policies will be particularly harsh at the Glasgow meeting, given the Morrison government’s failure to implement substantive policies to reduce emissions. We can expect renewed international pressure on Australia to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and set out a national plan to decarbonise the economy this decade.

For those who believe in the power of science, the failure of world leaders to act urgently is frustrating, to say the least.

We have acted on the concerns of scientists in the past. In fact, it was scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen who put climate change on the agenda back in 1988, triggering international negotiations.

Scientific concern over the growing hole in the ozone layer prompted the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to curb the use of ozone-depleting substances.

And of course, scientific advice is guiding the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many reasons why the calls of climate scientists are not being heeded at present. But one factor has been particularly successful in delaying climate action: scientific misinformation campaigns.

These campaigns damage public understanding of science, erode trust in research findings, and undermine evidence-based policy.

Read more: A brief history of fossil-fuelled climate denial

Earth from space
Governments heeded scientific warnings over the ozone hole – so why not climate change? Shutterstock

Muddying The Waters

Research has shown climate misinformation campaigns are often backed by corporate interests which stand to lose if the world transitions to a cleaner energy future.

Such a future could bring incredible benefits to Australia – a country with some of the world’s best solar and wind resources.

The campaigns have wrought untold damage to the public debate on climate science. These corporations have funded industry associations, think tanks and front groups (even including paid actors) to mobilise a counter movement to climate action.

Examples of the phenomenon abound. In the United States, oil and gas giant ExxonMobil reportedly knew of climate change 40 years ago, but funded climate deniers for decades.

Reports emerged last week that Facebook failed to prevent a climate misinformation campaign by the oil and gas industry during last year’s US presidential election.

The war against climate science has been waged in Australia, too. Researchers and journalists have described the lengths the oil, gas and coal industries have gone to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change, and to kill off policies put in place to limit emissions.

Australian media companies such as News Corp have also been criticised for downplaying the significance of the climate crisis. Little wonder, then, that Australian news consumers are far more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news users in other countries.

Read more: With the release of a terrifying IPCC report, Australia must face its wilful political blindness on climate

man holding sign reading 'Tell the Truth'
News Corp has been accused of underplaying the seriousness of climate change. Shutterstock

Calling Out Misinformation

The latest IPCC report was five years in the making. It involved 234 leading scientists from more than 60 countries, who rigorously assessed more than 14,000 research papers to produce their synthesis. The result is the most authoritative, reliable report on the state of Earth’s climate since the last IPCC report of its kind in 2013.

But as the history of climate action has shown, incontrovertible science is not enough to shift the needle – in large part due to climate misinformation which deceives the public and weakens pressure on governments to act.

We must call out attempts by those who seek to delay climate action in the name of profit – and then counter those attempts. As the IPCC has shown this week, further delay equals catastrophe.

Read more: We have the vaccine for climate disinformation – let's use it The Conversation

Christian Downie, Associate professor, Australian National University

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

The Murrumbidgee River’s wet season height has dropped by 30% since the 1990s — and the outlook is bleak

Murrumbidgee River, near Yass. Nick Pitsas, CSIRO/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA
Milton SpeerUniversity of Technology Sydney and Lance M LeslieUniversity of Technology Sydney

The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia’s biggest agricultural region, producing almost 40% of the national food supply during the growing season from April to September. It’s filled with criss-crossing rivers, wetlands and lakes farmers rely on for crops, and it’s home to a range of freshwater wildlife, many of which are under threat.

But our new research found climate change since the 1990s has drastically reduced the amount of water available in the southern part of the basin.

The height of the Murrumbidgee River — the third longest in Australia and highly valued for irrigation and hydro-electricity — has dropped by about 30% during the growing season. This is a loss of approximately 300 million litres per day that would normally flow past Wagga Wagga, New South Wales — the same as six days of water use in the City of Melbourne.

The findings follow a major report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Monday, which found much of Australia will become more arid as the world warms. This will bring reduced river flows, mass tree deaths, more droughts and drier soils.

The viability of the basin is at stake. Continued drying and warming in Australia will cause water availability to decline even further, deepening the hurt for communities, businesses, animals and the environment. Any decisions about the competing interests of agriculture and the environment must keep these global warming impacts front of mind.

What We Found

The southern Murray-Darling Basin occupies the southern half of NSW and northern Victoria. It receives most of its water from rain in the cooler months that fills dams, with any overflow spilling into the floodplains.

But our research shows rainfall in April to May has significantly decreased which, in turn, has caused the net inflows to the Murrumbidgee River catchment in the southern basin to decrease. This includes in the main dams of Burrinjuck and Blowering in the upper part of the catchment, and downstream river heights.

Murrumbidgee River catchment makes up 8% of the Murray-Darling Basin. Conquimbo/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

The Murrumbidgee River catchment is approximately 84,000 square kilometres, or about 8% of the basin. It encompasses a complex series of wetlands and floodplains, and supplies water for homes in many communities, including Wagga Wagga, Griffith and Leeton.

Using statistical analysis and machine learning, we found the Murrumbidgee River dropped from 3.5 metres in 1990 to 2.5 metres in 2019 during the cooler months. When you multiply this by the the length and breadth of the river, which stretches more than 1,400km, this is an enormous volume of water lost.

Given this drop is associated with the wettest months from April to September, the outlook for the warmer months between October and March is dismal. The number of days when the river ceases to flow will certainly increase.

Long, Difficult Droughts

Dam building and excessive irrigation are often behind decreased river flows across the Murray-Darling Basin. But in this case, we can point to decreased rainfall from climate change as the reason the Murrumbidgee River catchment is losing water.

Read more: We looked at 35 years of rainfall and learnt how droughts start in the Murray-Darling Basin

The Burrinjuck Dam was completed in 1928 and the Blowering Dam was completed in the 1960s. Until the early 1990s, the Murrumbidgee River used to regularly spill over the banks at Wagga Wagga and also further downstream at Hay, during the cool seasons.

Likewise, we didn’t identify irrigation as a major contributor, because more than 80% of irrigation occurs downstream of Wagga Wagga.

The Murrumbidgee River is over 1,400 kilometres long, and flows past Wagga Wagga. Shutterstock

Global warming has accelerated in the latter half of last century, and particularly since the 1990s in Australia.

To see its effect in Australia, we need only look to the extended drought conditions since the mid-1990s in the basin, comprising the Millennium Drought (1997-2009) and the 2017-2019 drought. They were extreme, even compared to the historical Federation Drought between 1895 and 1903.

In 2006, the Australian newspaper reported that inflows to the nearby River Murray system between June and November were 610 gigalitres, “just 56 percent of the previously recorded low in 1902” when the Federation Drought was at its worst.

Climate Change Exacerbates Dry Years

But climate change doesn’t tell the whole story, there are also other factors at play driving the low rainfall trend in the basin. Namely, natural climate phenomena form over the ocean and bring wetter or drier weather to various parts of Australia.

One of these climate phenomena is the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which brings wetter weather than normal from June to October when in its “negative” phase (in fact, the Bureau of Meteorology recently declared another negative IOD for Australia this year, the first in five years).

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

But in the last two decades there have been only two strongly negative-phase Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events affecting Australia. The current IOD phase is only moderately negative.

Climate drivers like this are entirely natural and have been occurring for thousands of years, but human-caused climate change exacerbates their influence. Generally, it makes dry seasons drier, and wet seasons wetter.

After years of little rain or snowmelt, evaporation accentuates the lack off run-off. Shutterstock

In April this year, devastating floods engulfed western Sydney. This resulted in the dams reaching nearly 100% capacity last month. However, the river height at Wagga Wagga is currently around 5.3m and this is still 2m below the minor flood level of 7.3m — too low to overflow into the surrounding floodplain.

And after years of little rain or snowmelt, evaporation accentuates the lack off run-off into dams and streams, because water needs to soak into dry catchments before significant run-off can occur.

Profoundly Disturbing Implications

The implications of our research are profoundly disturbing, because it means the economic, social and ecological sustainability of the Murrumbidgee River catchment is at stake.

Under climate change, we can expect further drying of wetlands and major losses of wildlife habitat. For example, the mid-Murrumbidgee and the Lowbidgee wetlands are listed as nationally significant, providing critical habitat for threatened frogs, such as the vulnerable southern bell frog.

The southern bell frog is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, barriers to movement, predation, disease and exposure to biocides. Shutterstock

For farmers and communities, we can expect huge reductions in the amount of water allocated for irrigation. The ability for communities to survive these severe decreases in agricultural productivity will be tested.

The efficiency of farm practices is improving. But because of the continuing threat of drought conditions in a warming climate, there’s an urgent need to plan for further decreases in rainfall, and further unreliability of water supply.

Australia needs a new review of water availability and sustainability in the Murrumbidgee and other river systems in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Read more: Climate change has already hit Australia. Unless we act now, a hotter, drier and more dangerous future awaits, IPCC warns The Conversation

Milton Speer, Visiting Fellow, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Technology Sydney and Lance M Leslie, Professor, School of Mathematical And Physical Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

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 -

Congratulations To The Rions - Unearthed Finalists

Great song! 

They Want You Back!

Oxford Falls principal and teachers put together this funny, yet poignant, rendition of “Want You Back For Good” and emailed it to all their students.  It was all shot in black and white to illustrate the lack of colour they feel without their kids…  (Mrs Power in the library was the “pièce de resistance”) 

The empty buses, deserted classrooms, whisper-quiet playground and echoing hallways must be awful for these warm and giving educators to see, day in and day out.  

HUGE shout-out to all the educators who are missing their students.  We can’t possibly express how much we appreciate all of you.
And to the best-of-the-best Oxford Falls Teachers - the kids miss you more than you can ever comprehend.
Thank You!

Keep Calm And Carry On - You've Got This!

Milkman delivering milk despite London Blitz - October 9th, 1940 - photographer Fred Morley


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, 1927

The Ingleside Escarpment - Fern Creek walk loop - Winter 2021 - photo by Joe Mills. More in this week's Pictorial.

It’s OK if you have a little cry in lockdown. You’re grieving

Neeraja SanmuhanathanUniversity of Notre Dame Australia

If you are one of the millions of Australians in lockdown, you are not alone in feeling a range of emotions difficult to put into words.

Lockdown days are blurry, with time lost within our own four walls. These walls are far more visible than we’ve noticed before. Our obsession with the never-ending news cycle leaves us both informed and overwhelmed.

Whether it’s a day filled with anger and sadness or oscillating between feeling grateful and feeling lost, this lockdown feels harder than ever before.

And the sadness you may be feeling, but can’t quite put your finger on, could be something called “disenfranchised grief”.

Let’s Admit How Tough It’s Been

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to our lives we never imagined. It has transformed the world we live in, our sense of safety, our behaviours and how connected we feel to our loved ones.

It’s highlighted the importance of human connection. We’ve learned a lack of connection with others can bring social pain, just as real as physical pain.

We’ve heard it’s OK to not be OK. Just last week, Lifeline recorded its busiest ever day, receiving 3,345 calls for help.

Read more: Lockdowns don't get easier the more we have them. Melbourne, here are 6 tips to help you cope

What Is Disenfranchised Grief?

The sadness you may be feeling can be down to a number of reasons. And feeling sad is not necessarily a sign of a mental health disorder. In fact feeling sad is one of the range of emotions that make us human, and has benefits.

But this doesn’t really explain the sadness many of us are feeling in lockdown right now — disenfranchised grief.

US researcher and professor Kenneth Doka introduced this notion about 30 years ago. He described disenfranchised grief as a loss not “openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned”.

This fits with what we know about COVID-19, with stories of intangible losses including loss of safety, control, community, dignity and independence. Feelings of loss seem to envelope us wherever we turn.

Grandparents lost time with their grandkids; children have lost parts of their childhood, the milestones, the sleepovers, the ability to play with other children outside the home. Parents lost their village of support and parents-to-be lost their birthing plans.

Refugees and temporary migrants lost the safety of new-found homes, with the loss of jobs, accommodation and support services; citizens lost the predictability of being able to come home.

Students were robbed of in-person learning and parents were robbed of celebrating their children’s transition to the next phase in life. As well as birthdays and graduations, we lost funerals and weddings.

And when it came to grieving and loss, we lost access to the places and people that allow us to grieve collectively — our wider family and community, as well as places of worship.

Is It OK To Grieve About This?

Societal and cultural norms, including gender norms, dictate how we grieve. These norms allow us to mourn the death of a loved one. Yet it feels more challenging to mourn the loss of our way of life.

Grieving can feel complicated in a pandemic when others may have it worse. People may question whether it’s legitimate for them to grieve the loss of their way of life. Researchers also talk about a hierarchy of loss, a sliding scale of who has a socially acceptable right to grieve, rather than a simple “yes” or “no”.

Disenfranchised grief may also cloud our ability to identify and validate our difficult emotions, such as feelings of shame. This may be especially so when others don’t see these losses.

This impacts our capacity to express emotions as well as seek appropriate support when needed.

Read more: Lockdowns make people lonely. Here are 3 steps we can take now to help each other

What Can I Do?

Grief is real even when it feels impossible to explain what you’re feeling. So it’s important to acknowledge the loss.

Grieving is allowing yourself permission to say out aloud what you have lost. It can be validating to also label the emotions you’re feeling, even if they sound contradictory, such as feelings of both anger and guilt.

Although the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms for people with vulnerabilities has increased during the pandemic, it is not helpful to always pathologise valid human emotions that tell us we are not doing so well. These emotions act as a compass for us to slow down, reset expectations, and seek support when necessary.

Read more: The five stages of grief don't come in fixed steps – everyone feels differently

Setting practical and achievable short-term goals can help direct our behaviour to be more purposeful. Sticking to a routine (as closely as possible to what you did before lockdown) can also support our sense of control.

Check in with yourself and each other. Use social media for support, which many young people in the LGBTQIA+ community have found beneficial during the pandemic. It’s vital for us to hear others’ experiences that can normalise our own.

Finally, nothing is more important than reminding ourselves we are living through a one-in-one hundred year event. We are all doing the best we can. And that’s not only OK, it’s enough.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or GriefLine on 1300 845 745.The Conversation

Neeraja Sanmuhanathan, Lecturer in Counselling, University of Notre Dame Australia

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

Researchers Develop Real-Time Lyric Generation Technology To Inspire Song Writing: Have A Go!

August 10, 2021
Music artists can find inspiration and new creative directions for their song writing with technology developed by Waterloo researchers.

LyricJam, a real-time system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate lyric lines for live instrumental music, was created by members of the University's Natural Language Processing Lab.

The lab, led by Olga Vechtomova, a Waterloo Engineering professor cross-appointed in Computer Science, has been researching creative applications of AI for several years.

The lab's initial work led to the creation of a system that learns musical expressions of artists and generates lyrics in their style.

Recently, Vechtomova, along with Waterloo graduate students Gaurav Sahu and Dhruv Kumar, developed technology that relies on various aspects of music such as chord progressions, tempo and instrumentation to synthesize lyrics reflecting the mood and emotions expressed by live music.

As a musician or a band plays instrumental music, the system continuously receives the raw audio clips, which the neural network processes to generate new lyric lines. The artists can then use the lines to compose their own song lyrics.

"The purpose of the system is not to write a song for the artist," Vechtomova explains. "Instead, we want to help artists realize their own creativity. The system generates poetic lines with new metaphors and expressions, potentially leading the artists in creative directions that they haven't explored before."

The neural network designed by the researchers learns what lyrical themes, words and stylistic devices are associated with different aspects of music captured in each audio clip.

For example, the researchers observed that lyrics generated for ambient music are very different than those for upbeat music.

The research team conducted a user study, inviting musicians to play live instruments while using the system.

"One unexpected finding was that participants felt encouraged by the generated lines to improvise," Vechtomova said. "For example, the lines inspired artists to structure chords a bit differently and take their improvisation in a new direction than originally intended. Some musicians also used the lines to check if their improvisation had the desired emotional effect."

Another finding from the study highlighted the co-creative aspect of the experience. Participants commented that they viewed the system as an uncritical jamming partner and felt encouraged to play their musical instruments even if they were not actively trying to write lyrics.

Since LyricJam went live in June this year, over 1,500 users worldwide have tried it out.

The team's research, to be presented at the International Conference on Computations Creativity this September, has been pre-published on arXiv. Musicians interested in trying out LyricJam can access it at

Olga Vechtomova, Gaurav Sahu, Dhruv Kumar. LyricJam: A system for generating lyrics for live instrumental music. Submitted to arXiv, 2021 [abstract]

President George Washington's Farewell Address (1796)

Hopefully you are enjoying selecting and reading some of the inspirational Addresses in your August 'Book of the Month'. It's being reread here, to accompany you - a hardcopy form is on our library shelf.
A personal favourite is some of the paragraphs contained in President George Washington's Farewell Address  of 1796. 

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father of the United States, who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the Constitution of the United States and a federal government for the United States. Washington has been called the "Father of the Nation" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of this country.

Washington's Farewell Address is a letter written by American President George Washington as a valedictory to "friends and the fellow-citizens" after 20 years of public service to the United States. He wrote it near the end of his second term of presidency before retiring to his home at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

The letter was first published as The Address of Gen. Washington to the People of America on His Declining the Presidency of the United States in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, about ten weeks before the presidential electors cast their votes in the 1796 election. It is a classic statement of republicanism, warning Americans of the political dangers which they must avoid if they are to remain true to their values. It was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers around the country, and later in pamphlet form.

The first draft was originally prepared by James Madison in June 1792, as Washington contemplated retiring at the end of his first term in office. However, he set it aside and ran for a second term because of heated disputes between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson which convinced Washington that the growing tensions would rip apart the country without his leadership. This included the state of foreign affairs, and divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties.

As his second term came to a close four years later, Washington prepared a revision of the original letter with the help of Hamilton to write a new farewell address to announce his intention to decline a third term in office. He reflects on the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796, expresses his support for the government eight years after the adoption of the Constitution, defends his administration's record and gives valedictory advice to the American people.

Although Iceland is generally held to be the oldest Parliament, the Althing starting in 930, and America was woefully late in giving women the right to vote, Americans did establish, as so eloquently spoken by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in The Gettysburg Address, ''that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.''

Much of what is said in this Address still rings true today, and, verses the high hopes as well as the cautions, the 'what to look out for' and what to expect our own representatives at local, state and federal level to adhere to or to hold them to should they appear to be faltering or choosing to 'do wrong' when the choice should always be to 'do what is right' - or as my dear departed dad used to say ' You can do whatever you want to do and be whatever you want to be, as long as you don't hurt another'. 

He meant other people, but for those of us that love all the animals and all the plants or oceans that support these, the natural extension encompasses everything.

The majority of people who stand for public office are genuine, honourable and equipped with skills and knowledge to aid their pursuit of the betterment of not only their own species but of all other species and the life support system that supports this - the planet's environment. They have respect for the office they hold and the purpose for which it was created. This is enshrined in laws to facilitate their work, as in, for instance, the case of local government, Local Environment Plans and Development Control Plans, to guide the paid by you or your parents staff of these elected bodies in what is 'ok' to do and what not to do.

Although they are commonly called 'politicians' if standing for public office the truer aspiration is to be or become good and great statesmen and stateswomen. The accepted definition of a statesman or stateswoman is that they are the opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power and then run their mates agenda once they are in office and tout barely believable responses to any subject, sometimes distressingly so if they are given a 'portfolio' and become the Minister for Flying Ducks and then are caught going duck shooting. A statesman or stateswoman is someone who does everything for the common good of the people and places he or she represents and where it's not all about the dollar but more about good custodianship, with a firm eye on generations yet to come. To call a person a statesman/woman is a mark of high regard for that person's integrity. 

Some of you may be voting for the first time during the next few years - December of this year will see a local government election, the next NSW state election is due to be held on on March 25th 2023 to elect the 58th Parliament of New South Wales, including all 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 21 of the 42 seats in the Legislative Council, while the next Australian federal election will be held in or before 2022 to elect members of the 47th Parliament of Australia. All 151 seats in the House of Representatives (lower house) and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate (upper house) will be up for election.

These stanzas from George Washington's Farewell, along with other inspirational and aspirational speeches in your Book of the Month, may help you to define what you expect those you vote for to do and not do, as it has been since this long long discussion, and now your place in it, commenced:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.


To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendencyThey serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigour as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull (1824)

This painting depicts George Washington's resignation as commander-in-chief of the Army to the Congress, which was then meeting at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, on December 23, 1783. This action was of great significance in establishing civilian, rather than military rule, leading to a republic and democracy, rather than a dictatorship. Washington stands with two aides-de-camp addressing the president of the Congress, Thomas Mifflin, and others, such as Elbridge Gerry, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison. Mrs. Washington and her three grandchildren are shown watching from the gallery, although they were not in fact present at the event. John Trumbull (1756–1843) was born in Connecticut, the son of the governor. After graduating from Harvard University, he served in the Continental Army under General Washington. He studied painting with Benjamin West in London and focused on history painting. This oil painting on canvas is now located in the United States Capitol rotunda in Washington D.C. Its dimensions are 365.76 cm × 548.64 cm (144.00 in × 216.00 in).

NSW Sustainability Awards Now Open For Entry

August 6, 2021
The NSW Sustainability Awards are now open and accepting entries from eligible NSW participants across a range of categories from biodiversity to net zero initiatives.

Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said the awards will allow New South Wales to showcase some of our best and brightest minds on a national stage with winners automatically entered into the prestigious Banksia National Sustainability Awards.

"New South Wales leads the country when it comes to generating ideas on sustainability, these awards will not only showcase those ideas but also celebrate the people that are making our world better," Mr Kean said.

"Entrants for these awards will join a community of sustainability champions who are reimagining the future of New South Wales and the world."

Inspired by the United Nations 2030 Global Goals and NSW's commitment to reaching net zero by 2050, these awards will salute individuals, communities and businesses for their innovation and excellence in environmental and social leadership.

The 8 awards categories include:
  • NSW Net Zero Action Award
  • NSW Biodiversity Award
  • NSW Circular Transition Award
  • NSW Clean Technology Award
  • NSW Large Business Transformation Award
  • NSW Small to Medium Business Award
  • NSW Youth as our Changemakers Award
  • Minister's Young Climate Champion Award
The awards will be presented and run by the Banksia Foundation in partnership with the NSW Government. Entries for the awards are expected to close on September 15 with winners announced by the end of this year. The winners of the National Banksia awards will be announced in March 2022.

For more information or for registration of interest for the awards can be made at NSW Sustainability Awards.

  1. NSW Clean Technology Award: Recognises outstanding initiatives by an organisation or organisations in collaboration that show- case efficient resources through renewable energy, low emissions technology, and appreciable pollution reduction (beyond compliance) of Australia's water, air, and land.
  2. NSW Biodiversity Award: Recognises outstanding initiatives by an organisation or organisations in collaboration that protect our habitat, flora and/or fauna to ensure Australia's ecosystems are secured and flourish for future generations.
  3. NSW Circular Transition Award: Recognises outstanding achievements in innovative design in waste and pollution systems and products, through to regenerating strategies. The award will go to a company that has adopted a technology, initiative or project that is helping the business move from a linear to a circular model.
  4. NSW Large Business Transformation Award: Recognises outstanding achievements that demonstrate business and values alignment with multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals and by integrating sustainability principles and practices across business activities.
  5. NSW Youth as our Changemakers AwardRecognises young innovators aged between 18-35 years, who bring fresh perspectives, bold ideas and compelling initiatives that align with any or the multiple UN SDG's.
  6. NSW Net Zero Action Award: Recognises organisations, (company, business association, NGOs) that can demonstrate a tangible program or initiative that evidences transition toward a 1.5-Degree goal, through a publicly communicated net zero commitment, plus data, disclosures and investments to support it.
  7. NSW Small to Medium Business Award: Recognises outstanding achievements that demonstrate business and values alignment with multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals and by integrating sustainability principles and practices across business activities.
  8. Minister's Young Climate Champion AwardThe Minister's Young Climate Champion Award recognises young innovators aged under 18 years who bring bold ideas for a safe and thriving climate future that align with any of the UN SDGs. Young and passionate minds who have taken outstanding actions that benefit the sustainability of their communities and help address climate change will be showcased in this award, which is a celebration of young people with drive, commitment and a passion for sustainability and the environment.

480 million-year-old fossil spores from Western Australia record how ancient plants spread to land

An irregular cluster of fossil spores. (Scale 10 micrometres.) Paul StrotherAuthor provided
Clinton FosterAustralian National University

When plants first ventured onto the land, evolving from freshwater-dwelling algae, more than 500 million years ago, they transformed the planet. By drawing carbon dioxide from the air, they cooled Earth, and by eroding rock surfaces they helped build the soil that now covers so much land.

These changes to the planet’s atmosphere and land surface paved the way for the evolution of the biosphere we know. Land plants make up around 80% of Earth’s biomass.

The pioneering plants were small and moss-like, and they had to overcome two big challenges to survive on land: avoiding drying out, and surviving the Sun’s harsh ultraviolet light.

In rock samples from Canning Basin in the north of Western Australia, we have discovered 480 million-year-old fossilised spores from early land plants alongside spores from ancestral water-dwelling algae. These are the oldest land plant spores found, and they give us new clues about when and where plants made the jump to land and also how they managed to survive. The research is published in Science.

When Plants Colonised Land

Estimates of the initial timing of the colonisation of land by plants are based on large fossilised plant remains, calculations of how long it has taken different species to evolve (called “molecular clock” data), and the record of plant spores.

Molecular clock data suggests land colonisation occurred around 515 million years ago (in the Cambrian period), while the earliest plant stem fossils occur around 430 million years ago (in the mid-Silurian period). These early small plants did not have root systems or hard woody tissue, which may explain why their fossil remains are rare.

Read more: The evolution of land plants may have cooled the planet millions of years ago

Alternatively, we can look at the spores of plants. Spores are simple reproductive units that carry genetic material (much simpler than seeds, which did not evolve until much later). For successful reproduction, the spore walls of land plants had to be strong enough to resist drying out and damage from ultraviolet radiation.

These resilient spore walls are also what allows the spores to be preserved for hundreds of millions of years in ancient sediments, and to be extracted from those sediments using strong acids as used in this study. We then studied the shapes of the spores under the microscope.

The Shape Of Spores

The spores of the earliest land plants occur as more or less regular geometrically arranged groups of two or four cells. Such spores and have been found in sediments as old as 465 million years (in the Ordovician period), which places them at least 35 million years before any known larger plant fossils.

However, older spores (from around 505 million years ago) have also been found in the United States. Paul Strother (of Boston College, my co-author on the new Canning Basin research) and his colleagues have shown these older spores are likely to derive from freshwater algae called charophytes.

These older spores occur as irregularly shaped “packets” of cells. These same “packets” of spores also occur in the fossils we found in the Canning Basin, dated to around 25 million years later.

Newly discovered fossil spores (middle) bridge the gap between older (bottom) and newer forms (top). Paul StrotherAuthor provided

Charophyte algae live semi-aquatically. To survive in this situation they developed genes to resist desiccation and the damaging affects of UV.

The earliest land plants either captured parts of that ancestral algal genome, perhaps through “horizontal gene transfer” in which bacteria move genes from one organism to another, or developed similar genes on their own.

Given the time frame of millions of years, it suggests the origin of the land plants did not occur as a singular event. We found both land plant spores, with either two or four cells, and irregularly packaged algal spores in the Canning Basin assemblage, which shows land plants and their algal ancestors existed together in the same area at the same time.

It also shrinks the time gap between estimates of land colonisation from molecular clock data (515 million years ago) and fossil evidence. At around 480 million years old, the Canning Basin record is the oldest yet found anywhere in the world.

Where Did Land Plants Get Their Start?

Our discovery follows from earlier studies of land plant spores in Canning Basin. In 1991 spores dated around 440-445 million years ago were found, and more dated to 460 million years ago were found in 2016.

Those two records were only found after examination of extracts from about 100 core samples in efforts to determine the age of the rock sequences, which shows the spores are rare. The sediments deposited in the Canning Basin in this period are mainly from marine environments, as we can see from shelly fossils and microfossils such as conodonts.

Read more: Ancient teeth sharpest to date

The early land plants, like their charophyte algae ancestors, grew in freshwater settings at the fringes of the sea. Spores and sediments were washed into these areas. So the fossil records that have come down to us depend on the geography of the ancient world.

In 2020 Geoscience Australia in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Western Australia drilled a well in the southern part of the Canning Basin to understand the geology of the subsurface rocks. After acid extraction of rock samples from a geological formation called the Nambeet Formation, which dates to the Early Ordovician period (485 million to 470 million years ago), we identified land plant spores with the typical regular arrangements of two or four cells.

As part of that work, we examined preparations of plant spores, already mounted on glass slides, from the original section of the Nambeet Formation drilled in 1958. And here we found the first record of land plant spores associated with spores from their algal ancestors. Our discovery would not have been possible without the access to these earlier materials provide by the WA government.

Further studies are needed to determine where additional algal and land plant spores occur in Australian sediments from the late Cambrian and Ordovician periods. New data may also shed light on where the land plants got their start: was it on this continent, as others have suggested?

The present work has emphasised the importance of access to previous data and materials, and we acknowledge the critical science infrastructure role of curating geological samples and data by the WA government.The Conversation

Clinton Foster, Honorary professor, Australian National University

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

Furore Over ‘Modern’ Swimming Trunks At Avalon Beach

Did you know that Avalon Beach was once the centre for a revolt over objections to those ‘new swimming trunks’? These were a form of the surf shorts that are so popular today.

With the development of new clothing materials, particularly latex and nylon, through the 1930s swimsuits gradually began hugging the body, with shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning.
In the 1930’s men began going without shirts when swimming.  Bare-chested male swimwear became the norm by the end of the 1940s, including in competitive swimming events, in which men are not only bare-chested, but wear a swimming suit that is intended merely to meet public decency requirements. The norm of male bare-chestedness in swimwear extended to other competitive sports, such as professional boxing and professional wrestling.

From the newspapers of the past:

Warringah Ban Surf Trunks
WARRINGAH Shire Council decided last night to prohibit the wearing of trunks only in the surf on the beaches and reserves in the shire this season.
The matter came before the council in letters from several clubs, the honorary ranger of the shire (Mr. G. Dempster), Rev. Ebbs, of Manly, and Mr. E. L. Sanders, MLA. (Willoughby).
The surf clubs asked council to define its attitude on the new costumes. Mr. Sanders, M.L.A., drew attention to the "indecent costumes" worn by men at Avalon. The park ranger also referred to the new surf attire as "very indecent." Councillor Barber said that the question of the new costumes was very important. "It depends on the figure and the person wearing the costume," he said. ' "Men wore Vs. years ago." 
"Segregate Them" 
A voice: They did that here. 
Cr. Barber: If it was not bad in those days, why is it bad to-day? Let surfers dress as they like so far as they are decent. 
Cr. Hughes: If people wished to go into the water only in shorts they should be segregated. People bathing in public should wear a neck-to-knee costume. Warringah Bans Surf Trunks (1934, October 23). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from 

MR. SPOONER'S determination to continue through the 1936 surf season the antique regulations forbidding trunks for men, is being met with revolt along the beaches. All the honorary beach inspectors of Avalon have resigned rather than participate in the enforcement of the distasteful provisions of Local Government Ordinance No. 52

The Avalon inspectors who have resigned are: G. Hanson, A. Rowe, and W. G. Simmonds (editor of "Surf in Australia"). They were followed by Mr. L. S. McDonald, honorary beach inspector of Freshwater. There are signs that others will refuse to play the part of unpaid censors of beach wear while the present regulations arc in force. The Newport Club last year refused to appoint beach inspectors, and will appoint none this year. Members of the Newport Life-Saving Club said last night that they refused to act as "amateur policemen." This fresh move against the Spooner compulsory chest-protector for male bathers serves further to expose the ridiculous legal anomalies created by Local Government Ordinance No. 52. 

Lawyers have declared that shorts worn on the beach for sun-bathing are not Illegal under Mr. Spooner's regulations, yet trunks for swimming are still proscribed. "We are not in sympathy with the present costume regulations and don't feel disposed to enforce them," said Mr. Simmonds. "In these circumstances we thought our best course was to resign. "Last year, on the beach, quite a number of men rolled their costumes down to the waist, and we never had any complaints from the public. 

"We shall continue, of course, as members of the Avalon Surf Life-Saving Club."
Mr. Mr. R. G. Jamieson, Warringah Shire Clerk, said the council had written to all surf clubs in the shire, asking them to enforce the regulations, but Avalon was the only one that had replied so far. On Sunday week, Dee Why club-members will be asked to fill in the forms in which they undertake to enforce Local Government regulations on the beach. One of the officials of the club stated last night that it was most unlikely that any would accept the positions.

One of the rebel inspectors, Mr. L. S. McDonald (Freshwater) , last night said: — "If the clubs take this lying down they deserve what they get. They have the whole situation in their hands and can effectively show Mr. Spooner their feelings. "I would be one of the first to wear trunks in an organised protest." One of the best-known amateur surf-men in New South Wales. Mr. Rupert Michaelis, said he was glad to see that other club members were refusing to carry out duties that he had declined a couple of years ago. Mr. Michaelis was captain of Cronulla club for many years. He refused to act as an honorary beach inspector, as he did not feel disposed to order people to wear shorts over their costumes. SURF PATROL IN REVOLT (1936, November 26). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from 

Photos showing a mix of old and new styles in swimming trunks: 
1. Women in bathing suits on Collaroy Beach, 1908, photographed by Colin Caird,courtesy State Library of NSW, Image No.: a845001h - Models from left to right: M. Throwden, S. Norris, B. Emery, E. Williams, Ivy Throwden. 
2. Left to right. Miss Sue Russell, John (Jack) Ralston PBSLSC with Alrema Samuels on right circa 1934-36 with 9 foot surfboard. Image No.: hood_02985, courtesy State Library of NSW. 
3.  'The boat shot (our first) is from 1938 and although the nameplate reads ‘Avalon’ it was most probably the original “Akubra” which Wally Simmonds obtained from  his old club Queenscliff. The crew include Geoff Hanson (starboard side midships) brother Tom Hanson (sweep), Ted Sanders (Sanders Lane fame) on the port side in the hat and Peter Paterson (almost obscuring the sweep).' - Geoff Searl, February 2016

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 Guide

REMINDER: there's a great Practical Guide for Getting through your HSC by Sydney Uni at:

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

Meanwhile... Back At The Beach: Isolation Surfing In Avalon - A Short Film From Home By Tim Bonython

Researchers Find A ‘Fearsome Dragon’ That Soared Over Outback Queensland

August 9, 2021
Australia's largest flying reptile has been uncovered, a pterosaur with an estimated seven-metre wingspan that soared like a dragon above the ancient, vast inland sea once covering much of outback Queensland.

University of Queensland PhD candidate Tim Richards, from the Dinosaur Lab in UQ's School of Biological Sciences, led a research team that analysed a fossil of the creature's jaw, discovered on Wanamara Country, near Richmond in North West Queensland.

"It's the closest thing we have to a real life dragon," Mr Richards said.

"The new pterosaur, which we named Thapunngaka shawi, would have been a fearsome beast, with a spear-like mouth and a wingspan around seven metres.

An artist’s impression of the Thapunngaka shawi. UQ image.

"It was essentially just a skull with a long neck, bolted on a pair of long wings.

"This thing would have been quite savage.

"It would have cast a great shadow over some quivering little dinosaur that wouldn't have heard it until it was too late."

Mr Richards said the skull alone would have been just over one metre long, containing around 40 teeth, perfectly suited to grasping the many fishes known to inhabit Queensland's no-longer-existent Eromanga Sea.

University of Queensland PhD candidate Tim Richards. UQ photo

"It's tempting to think it may have swooped like a magpie during mating season, making your local magpie swoop look pretty trivial -- no amount of zip ties would have saved you.

"Though, to be clear, it was nothing like a bird, or even a bat -- Pterosaurs were a successful and diverse group of reptiles -- the very first back-boned animals to take a stab at powered flight."

The new species belonged to a group of pterosaurs known as anhanguerians, which inhabited every continent during the latter part of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Being perfectly adapted to powered flight, pterosaurs had thin-walled and relatively hollow bones.

Given these adaptations their fossilised remains are rare and often poorly preserved.

"It's quite amazing fossils of these animals exist at all," Mr Richards said.

"By world standards, the Australian pterosaur record is poor, but the discovery of Thapunngaka contributes greatly to our understanding of Australian pterosaur diversity."

It is only the third species of anhanguerian pterosaur known from Australia, with all three species hailing from western Queensland.

Dr Steve Salisbury, co-author on the paper and Mr Richard's PhD supervisor, said what was particularly striking about this new species of anhanguerian was the massive size of the bony crest on its lower jaw, which it presumably had on the upper jaw as well.

"These crests probably played a role in the flight dynamics of these creatures, and hopefully future research will deliver more definitive answers," Dr Salisbury said.

The fossil was found in a quarry just northwest of Richmond in June 2011 by Len Shaw, a local fossicker who has been 'scratching around' in the area for decades.

The name of the new species honours the First Nations peoples of the Richmond area where the fossil was found, incorporating words from the now-extinct language of the Wanamara Nation.

"The genus name, Thapunngaka, incorporates thapun [ta-boon] and ngaka [nga-ga], the Wanamara words for 'spear' and 'mouth', respectively," Dr Salisbury said.

"The species name, shawi, honours the fossil's discoverer Len Shaw, so the name means 'Shaw's spear mouth'."

The fossil of Thapunngaka shawi is on display at Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond.

Timothy M. Richards, Paul E. Stumkat, Steven W. Salisbury. A new species of crested pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea, Anhangueridae) from the Lower Cretaceous (upper Albian) of Richmond, North West Queensland, Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2021; e1946068 DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1946068

Ficus Macrophylla F. Columnaris - Lord Howe Fig

Published by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain
This banyan fig grows only on Lord Howe Island, where a single tree covers a hectare. Find out more with horticulturist and manager of volunteer programs at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Paul Nicholson.

Here are 5 new species of Australian trapdoor spider. It took scientists a century to tell them apart

A female Euoplos variabilis from Mount Tamborine. Jeremy Wilson
Mark HarveyThe University of Western Australia

After a century of scientific confusion, we can now officially add five new species to Australia’s long list of trapdoor spiders — secretive, burrowing relatives of tarantulas.

It all started in 1918, when a species known as Euoplos variabilis, was first described. Since then, this species has been considered widespread throughout south-eastern Queensland.

However, in new research, fellow arachnologists from the Queensland Museum studied the physical appearance and DNA of these trapdoor spiders. They revealed this “widespread” species is actually several.

Many trapdoor spider species are short-range endemics, meaning they only occur in one small area. This makes them especially vulnerable to threats such as habitat destruction and degradation, which is why the discovery and description of these new species from Queensland is so important — they can now be protected from future threats.

Meet Australia’s Trapdoor Spiders

To many people, Australia’s spider diversity is a source of fear. To arachnologists like myself, it’s a goldmine.

Weird and wonderful new species are everywhere. While new discoveries are relatively common, it’s likely most Australian spider species are still yet to be named by science.

The crenate burrow of Euoplos crenatus, a recently discovered ‘palisade trapdoor spider’. Michael Rix

Trapdoor spiders live in burrows that usually have a hinged door at the entrance that the spider constructs using silk, soil or other material from the surrounding area. Their burrows can be camouflaged, but to a trained eye they’re easily found on the soil embankments beside walking tracks in eastern Australian rainforests.

In the past few years, I’ve been part of a team studying the spiny trapdoor spiders — a group of relatively large (up to about seven centimetres long, including legs) but highly secretive spiders found throughout Australia. They belong to an ancient group called the Mygalomorphae that, alongside tarantulas, includes the infamous Australian funnel-web spiders.

Australian spiders of the group called the Mygalomorphae: left, a funnel-web spider; middle, a wishbone spider; right, a tree trapdoor spider. Jeremy Wilson

Like other trapdoor spiders, adult male and female spiny trapdoor spiders look shockingly different. When males reach adulthood, their physical appearance changes: their legs get longer and thinner, and their first appendages (called “pedipalps”) develop into structures used for mating. In contrast, adult females remain short-legged and robust.

Male trapdoor spiders undergo this dramatic change because as adults they must leave their burrow and search for females to breed.

Their long legs presumably help them run faster and further in search of females, and also allow them to keep the vulnerable parts of their body out of harm’s way once they meet the (usually larger) female, who isn’t always happy to see them.

The Mystery Of The Trapdoor Spider From Mount Tamborine

This striking differences in appearance between male and female spiny trapdoor spiders (“sexual dimorphism”) was at the heart of the mystery regarding the true identity of Euoplos variabilis.

A male and female of the same species of trapdoor spider, showing the sleek, long-legged male and the robust female. Jeremy Wilson

When the species was first described in 1918, it was based only on female spiders, which were red-brown, large and lived in the rainforest of Mount Tamborine, just south of Brisbane.

In 1985, a male spider, also from Mount Tamborine, was finally linked to the original females. Matching male and female trapdoor spiders of the same species can be difficult because they look so different.

This all changed when the Queensland Museum team began researching the spiny trapdoor spiders of eastern Australia in 2015. When they looked in the museum’s natural history collection, it seemed like males of the Mount Tamborine trapdoor spider were widespread, spanning Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast.

Read more: I travelled Australia looking for peacock spiders, and collected 7 new species (and named one after the starry night sky)

But strangely, they found females from different locations looked different.

While females from the Mount Tamborine rainforest were large and red-brown, those from the lowlands of north Brisbane were small and tan. And in the rainforest of the D'Aguilar Range, north of Brisbane, the females were even bigger, with a bright orange carapace and red legs.

Could these really all be the same species?

One of the males originally thought to be Euoplos variabilis. It was later realised these males belong to an entirely different species, now called Cryptoforis hughesae. Michael Rix

This Mystery Was Solved In Two Steps

First, in 2018, the museum’s arachnologists discovered the seemingly widespread males were actually members of a completely different group of trapdoor spiders, which also occurs in eastern Australia. In other words, there had been a male/female mismatch!

Then, by collecting fresh trapdoor spiders around south-east Queensland and studying their DNA, they discovered the Mount Tamborine trapdoor spider actually doesn’t occur in Brisbane at all. In fact, it’s found only in the mountain ranges bordering New South Wales, with Mount Tamborine being its the most northerly location.

Surprisingly, the female spiders found in Brisbane, the D'Aguilar range, and in various other areas, turned out to be several completely different species, new to science.

Read more: Ever wondered who'd win in a fight between a scorpion and tarantula? A venom scientist explains

These species can be distinguished by subtle differences in size and colour, and by differences in their DNA. The different species seem to be adapted to different habitats, at different elevations.

So, alongside Euoplos variabilis, the original Mount Tamborine trapdoor spider, the new confirmed species are:

  • Euoplos raveni and Euoplos schmidti, both from the lowland forests of the Brisbane Valley, south of the Brisbane River

  • Euoplos regalis from the upland rainforest of the D'Aguilar Range

  • Euoplos jayneae from the the lowland forests of the Sunshine Coast hinterlands

  • Euoplos booloumba from the upland rainforest of the Conondales Range

These five new species put the total number of known spiny trapdoor spider species to 258.

Don’t be alarmed, bites from a trapdoor spider aren’t dangerous to humans. Shutterstock

What Happens Now?

And so, the mystery was solved. Another small fraction of Australia’s beautiful biodiversity is known to science and can be preserved. But the story isn’t over just yet.

To properly conserve these species, we need to understand more about how they live. This is why the research team and I are undertaking a long-term study on one of these new species, Euoplos grandis from the Darling Downs. We hope to learn the intricacies of their lives and to track whether populations are declining from threats such as habitat destruction.

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

We’re also continuing our mission to discover and describe new species of trapdoor spider, not just from Queensland, but from all around Australia.

The story of the Mount Tamborine trapdoor spider exemplifies the type of detective work Australian scientists undertake on all types of animal groups. But when it comes to invertebrates, we’ve barely scratched the surface, with new species of bugs, spiders, worms and more waiting to be discovered.

Working on discovering these invertebrates comes with a sense of urgency. These species need a name and formal protection, before it’s too late.

Who would win in a fight between a scorpion and a tarantula? A venom scientists explains for The Conversation.

Jeremy Wilson and Michael Rix from Queensland Museum were co-authors on this articleThe Conversation

Mark Harvey, Curator of Arachnology at the Western Australian Museum, Adjunct Professor, The University of Western Australia

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

How venomous snakes got their fangs

Tontan TravelAuthor provided
Alessandro PalciFlinders UniversityAaron LeBlancKing's College London, and Olga PanagiotopoulouMonash University

Venomous snakes inject a cocktail of toxins using venom fangs — specialised teeth with grooves or canals running through them to guide the venom into a bite wound. Uniquely among animals, grooved and tubular teeth have evolved many times in snakes.

Our new research, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, reveals this happened via a modification of tooth structures that probably served to help anchor snakes’ teeth in their sockets. In certain species, these structures evolved into grooves running the length of the tooth, which served as a handy conduit to deliver venom.

Of the almost 4,000 species of snakes, about 600 are considered “medically significant”, meaning they can deliver a bite that would require hospital treatment, but many more have small fangs and are only mildly venomous. The appearance of mild venoms is thought to predate the appearance of venom fangs in snakes.

Venom fangs are positioned in one of three main ways: fixed at the back of the mouth, as in crab-eating water snakes, cat-eyed snakes, twig snakes and boomslangs; fixed at the front of the mouth, as in cobras, coral snakes, kraits, taipans and sea snakes; or at the front of the mouth and able to fold backwards or sideways, as in adders, vipers, rattlesnakes and stiletto snakes.

Diagram of different fang types
Types of snake fangs and their position in the mouth. Left, a rear-fanged crab-eating water snake; middle, a taipan with fixed front-fangs; right, a Gaboon viper, a snake with hinged front-fangs that can be folded backwards. Alessandro PalciAuthor provided

The Repeating History Of Fangs

By looking at snakes’ evolutionary tree, we can assume the most recent common ancestor of all fanged snakes was probably fangless. This seems much more likely than the alternative: that fangs were acquired once and then lost independently in dozens of different snake lineages.

Read more: How snake fangs evolved to perfectly fit their food

So how did snakes repeatedly evolve syringe-like teeth from the simpler cone-shaped teeth of their ancestors?

To address this question, we took a closer look at snake teeth and how they develop. We examined 19 species of snakes, including both venomous and non-venomous species and one early fossil form. We used both traditional methods, such as studying slides under a microscope, and cutting-edge microCT scans and biomechanical modelling.

The Secret To Snake Teeth: Dental Origami

We found that nearly all snakes — whether venomous or not — have teeth that are tightly infolded at their base, and look wrinkly in cross-section (the wrinkles in the red part of the diagram below).

Diagram of taipan skull showing fangs and venom groove
The skull of a taipan, a venomous snake, showing a close-up of its left fang sectioned longitudinally and transversely to show the relationship between plicidentine infoldings at its base and the venom groove. Alessandro PalciAuthor provided

These folds or wrinkles occur in a tooth layer called dentine, and are known as “plicidentine”, from the Latin word “plica”, meaning “fold”. Plicidentine has been found in many extinct animals and a handful of living fish and lizard species. The function of these folds is not clear, but one theory is they make teeth less likely to break or bend during biting.

However, when we tested this idea using computer simulations on digital tooth models with and without these folds we found that this is not the case.

Snakes replace their teeth throughout their life, rather like sharks, and their teeth do not have deep sockets. So we think the folds could improve the initial attachment of new teeth to shallow sockets by providing a larger area for attachment.

Regardless of the original function of folded snake teeth, what is really interesting is that in venomous snakes, one of those folds is much larger than the others and extends up the tooth to produce a groove: the venom groove.

Read more: Why are some snakes so venomous?

These long, single grooves have occasionally been found in the teeth of other species, such as the venomous Gila monster, which has plicidentine folds and associated grooves in all of its teeth. Importantly, the grooved teeth of the Gila monster can occur in the mouth away from the venom glands, implying a disconnection between the two. We also found that some venomous snakes occasionally have grooves on teeth other than the venom fangs; such teeth are not connected to the venom glands.

So, grooved teeth can occur all over the mouth, even away from the venom glands and their ducts, and we found a clear connection between the presence of plicidentine and venom grooves. This led us to hypothesise that the original condition for venomous snakes could have been that of randomly expressing grooves on their teeth simply as a result of enlarged plicidentine folds, independently of venom glands.

Next, we looked at how the grooved fangs and venom glands of venomous snakes could have evolved together to become an efficient structure for delivering venom.

Venom fang of Gaboon viper
Venom fang of a Gaboon viper, with the venom groove running along the top. Alessandro PalciAuthor provided

Among the ancestors of today’s venomous species, the presence of venom glands (or their precursors, the modified salivary glands called Duvernoy’s glands) was an important prerequisite for the refinement of grooved teeth into enlarged venom fangs.

We think that when a grooved tooth appeared near the discharge orifice of the venom gland, natural selection likely favoured its increase in size and efficiency, as that tooth was more effective at injecting venom.

This refining evolutionary process would eventually produce the large, syringe-like fangs we see today in snakes such as cobras and vipers, where the edges of the groove meet to form a needle-like tubular structure.

This discovery shows how a simple ancestral feature, such as plicidentine (wrinkles on the tooth base likely related to tooth attachment), can be modified and re-purposed for a completely new function (a groove for venom injection). And this could help explain why snakes, uniquely among all animals, have evolved venomous fangs so many times.The Conversation

Alessandro Palci, Research Associate in Evolutionary Biology, Flinders UniversityAaron LeBlanc, Postdoctoral Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology, King's College London, and Olga Panagiotopoulou, Senior lecturer, Monash University

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

Doing a VET subject in years 11 and 12 can help with a job and uni. Here’s what you need to know about VET in the senior years

Michelle CircelliNational Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) and Josie MiskoNational Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

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

Vocational education and training, or VET, is where you learn skills for employment. Think of plumbers, veterinary nurses, fashion designers, make-up artists, chefs, childcare workers, furniture makers, shipbuilders, carpenters, builders, electricians, laboratory and cybersecurity technicians, surveyors, legal assistants and many other vocations.

VET is done in secondary schools and post-school educational organisations such as TAFEs or private training institutions. It’s also provided in workplaces and in the community.

It can be done at your own pace, with a group through online learning, in the classroom, or a combination of these. If you’re thinking of doing a VET subject in the senior years at school, here’s what you need to know.

What Kinds Of VET Qualifications Are There?

Secondary school students can enrol in nationally recognised VET together with other school subjects. This includes doing school-based apprenticeships or traineeships.

Provided students meet necessary requirements, they can finish school with a VET qualification along with their secondary school certificate.

Vet nurse checking a cat.
You can learn many, varied skills with a VET course – from vet nursing to shipbuilding. Shutterstock

VET studies at school involve a combination of classroom and work-based learning. School-based apprenticeships and traineeships are a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training under a contract of training with an employer.

In 2020, 241,200 secondary school students across Australia were doing VET that contributed to their senior secondary school certificate. This was an increase of around 2% on the previous year. More males did a VET course than females.

Read more: We need to change negative views of the jobs VET serves to make it a good post-school option

If you want to do a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship you need to have an employer willing to employ you. In 2020 around 7% (17,800) of secondary students doing VET decided on this pathway. Queensland had the highest proportion of school-based apprentices and trainees of all states and territories.

The top five qualifications done by school-based apprentices and trainees in 2020 were in business, retail, hospitality, childcare, and sport and recreation. Nearly half of all students doing a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship in 2020 enrolled in one of these qualifications.

Most secondary students who do VET don’t do a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship. They do other types of VET studies instead. The top five enrolments in 2020 included qualifications in hospitality, business and construction.

The Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways, a general qualification that helps prepare people for entry into the workforce and/or further vocational training, had the second highest number of enrolments.

Depending on the VET course, students can learn at school, in purpose-built facilities like a trade training centre, or at the premises of an external training provider such as a TAFE or other VET institution.

Schools may also join with other schools in a cluster arrangement to increase what students have on offer. If your school does not have a course you are interested in you can check if you could do it through another school.

It’s A Flexible Pathway To Work And Further Study

VET is a competency-based system, which means the focus is on the development of a skill. Students then get the opportunity to demonstrate they can perform that skill. It doesn’t matter how the person goes in comparison with others — it only matters how they perform against the standard required.

The VET system provides flexible pathways, enabling students to move in and out of education and training to get the skills and qualifications they need to enter the jobs market. This includes starting their own business, moving through jobs or transitioning to new or related jobs and courses.

Plumber showing a young apprentice how to fix a sink.
Doing a VET course at school means you can leave school with a qualification under your belt. Shutterstock

In 2019, there were 4.2 million people — almost a quarter (23.4%) of the Australian resident population aged 15-64 — enrolled in nationally recognised VET courses.

Participation is highest among younger people: 43.2% of 15-19 year olds and 32.2% of 20-24 year olds did some VET in 2019. Some students enrolled in qualifications (such as the Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation or a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician). Others enrolled in short courses such as the Course in First Aid Management of Anaphylaxis or the Course in Asbestos Awareness. Others enrolled just in a single subject, such as learning how to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or the responsible serving of alcohol.

The number of students enrolled in short courses and stand-alone subjects has increased steadily over the past several years.

Why Do Students Do VET?

Secondary students do VET studies for a range of reasons including to get a qualification while still at school.

Around 45% of secondary students do VET for employment reasons, while 30% do it for further study. About a quarter of secondary students do VET for personal development.

Doing a VET course while at school can help in getting a job directly after you finish school. Research has found students who did VET studies at school, including school-based apprenticeships and traineeships, were more likely than those who didn’t to be in full-time and permanent employment five years after their studies.

Read more: Most young people who do VET after school are in full-time work by the age of 25

In the states and territories that allow it, many students do VET studies that count toward their ATAR. Some 45.2% of students in secondary schools that do VET also get an ATAR.

Hairdressing students learning.
A VET qualification when you leave school can help you get a job. Shutterstock

Research has also explored the intended occupation of students doing VET in secondary school and whether they actually get that job. The strongest links were in trade-related study areas — electrotechnology and telecommunications, construction trades, and automotive and engineering trades. There were also strong links across other occupational groups, like sales assistants, and carers and aides.

Will I Earn Less Money Than If I Go To Uni?

The most common post-school qualifications for secondary students who did VET studies were VET qualifications. But almost 20% of students had also gone on to complete a bachelor’s degree.

People with university qualifications generally earn more per week than people with VET qualifications. But this masks the variability in wages between industries and jobs that require VET qualifications.

For example, people who have a VET qualification and work in the agricultural, forestry and fishing, or mining industries have similar, if not higher, weekly earnings as those who have a university qualification.

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

Technicians and trades workers (such as plumbers, information communications technology support technicians, operating theatre technicians) who have VET qualifications earn as much per week, if not more, than those with university qualifications in a similar job.

You can’t go wrong doing VET studies at school. It sets you up for a job straight after school as well opening up opportunities to do further study, whether that be more VET or a uni degree.

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

Michelle Circelli, Senior Research Officer, National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) and Josie Misko, Senior Research Fellow, National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

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

Art, drama and music lower stress. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of taking arts in years 11 and 12

Shelley HanniganDeakin University

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

If you’re thinking of taking a performing or visual arts subject in years 11 and 12, you are probably weighing up a few considerations. These may include your passion and interest in the subject, how doing one or two arts subjects might affect your entry into university and what you could do with the skills you learn.

Nearly 30% of all year 12 students across Australia (53,311 year 12 students in total) chose to study visual or performing arts in year 12 in 2019. But twice as many girls took an arts subject (40%) as boys (18%).

The arts subject selection you have will depend on what state you live in. But these are the types of subjects you can broadly choose from in visual and performing arts.

Visual Arts

Visual arts is a theory-based subject. You will learn about different artworks and the role of artists in society. You will engage in discussions and writing tasks about what artworks mean. This includes ideas from historical and contemporary arts and culture.

Read more: Here's looking at: Blue poles by Jackson Pollock

In studio arts, you will learn about artists’ practices and the art industry while also developing your own art.

You will experiment with techniques and art processes in the mediums of your choice. These include photography, painting, drawing, printmaking, film, digital arts, ceramics or textiles. You will develop your own artworks, document this process and exhibit your work.

Young man holding camera.
In studio arts, you can work in a media form of your choice, including photography. Shutterstock

Media arts involves researching and learning about narrative across different media forms. You will demonstrate your understanding of production processes by designing a media product (such as a film or photographic exhibition) and presenting it.

Product design and technology involves learning about, and experimenting with, materials and processes. The materials will vary from school to school, but you may be able to choose from wood or timber, metal, fabrics, polymers, glass or ceramics. You will learn how to design and put these designs into production.

Performing Arts

Dance will teach you about dance traditions, styles and works from different cultures. You will learn about music theatre, the work of tap or jazz or street performers, ballet and modern dance, and choreography. As you learn this content through theory and practice, you will engage in analysis of dance that will help you develop your own choreographed performance with others.

Drama involves studying practice and theory to understand the ways theatre and performance can communicate stories and ideas. You will explore different traditions of drama including costume, set design and lighting, make-up, masks, props and puppetry and sound design. You will ultimately create, develop and present a solo performance.

Girl playing guitar.
In music, you will learn through listening, performing and composing. Shutterstock

Music has different pathways depending on what state you live in. In the Victorian curriculum, there are three pathways culminating in units 3 and 4 of music investigation and music performance. These pathways require at least four years’ experience in learning an instrument. Another pathway, VET music industry, focuses on performing in public.

While each pathway and qualification is different, you will learn through listening, performing and composing. You will apply creative thinking skills to analyse and critique contemporary and historical music and musicians.

What Benefits Will I Get Through Studying Arts?

From my research and practice as an artist and university educator of 15 years, I know any of the year 11 and 12 art subjects will enable you to learn from extensive creative processes. Developing a set of paintings will require experimenting with techniques, learning from other artists, developing a theme or message to convey, and ensuring the subject matter in your paintings is suitable for conveying the message and appropriate for the style you are working in.

Read more: Thrash not trash 🤘: why heavy metal is a valid and vital PhD subject

Your technique must be proficient to achieve good marks. You also need to document the development of your research and ideas with visual images you created and written statements in journals. This is somewhat risky as you are putting yourself out there. It must also come together in a certain time frame, which can be challenging and stressful.

But it will pay off as research shows arts education has many benefits.

Beyond technical knowledge and skills, benefits include actual enjoyment and stress relief. The senior years can be stressful years, so adding an arts subject to the mix can actually be a way to take care of yourself. It is well documented the arts offer mental health benefits as the focus on creating art is a form of mindfulness.

Students doing improvisation in drama class, wearing all black.
Theatre and other arts can be a great form of stress relief. Shutterstock

Creating art is a process of focusing on bringing together subject matter, technique and creative experience to communicate a story or an idea. The ability to express your feelings through the arts is a form of release. And reflecting on its meaning can provide insights into your self, which is therapeutic.

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

In addition, you will develop a range of skills that will help you in any area of life. Beyond creativity and thinking skills, research shows arts education will help you enhance your communication and expressive skills, as well as boosting your confidence and self-esteem. Teamwork, too, is a big part of the arts, and learning this skill will be helpful at university and in your future employment.

The presentation, communication and performance skills you learn are adaptable for public speaking, community and public art careers, as well as teaching.

Will Doing The Arts Bring Down My ATAR?

The ATAR is a university-based system that determines how many students will get into particular courses. Like a queue, it ranks you against everyone in the year 12 age group.

But university entry, particularly when it comes to the arts, doesn’t rely on ATAR. It often requires an interview process with presentation of a portfolio.

If you’re not looking to do arts at university, it’s still important to choose senior subjects you are interested in and good at. Plus, skills you learn in the arts can enhance your entry prospects. For instance, entry into a medical degree requires a high ATAR. But most universities also conduct an interview to test your empathy, collaboration and ethical reasoning skills – all of which are enhanced by the arts.

What Will I Do With These Skills After School?

Many students who study senior art go on to study the visual and/or performing arts at university. Some become self-employed artists. Others practise art on the side and that helps them maintain a good balance in life.

Woman's hands making pottery.
Many people continue to practise art on the side of their full-time job, to help create a healthy life balance. Shutterstock

One ex-student, now in her late 20s, studied visual art and music in school but is now a psychiatric nurse who is also in a band. She said being a musician helps her cope with the stresses of her job.

Another ex-student, a 20-year-old male, studied the VCE VET in music industry as well as media arts, studio arts, visual arts, psychology and literature. He is a full-time intern in a technology company. He said the networking he does now is very close to what he had to do for the documentary he made in media arts. He also said his creative skills were helpful in the marketing material he designs.

You have to be a creative strategist to get people to give you time of day in sales and marketing.

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

Shelley Hannigan, Senior Lecturer in Art Education, Deakin University

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

Which maths subject should I take in years 11 and 12? Here’s what you need to know

Jill P BrownDeakin University and Carly SawatzkiDeakin University

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

Maths prepares students for the ultimate test — life beyond school. As maths is everywhere, regardless of where life leads you, the more maths you learn, the better prepared you may be to understand the world.

The Australian Curriculum intends to provide some consistency in what is taught at school, regardless of where you live. Maths is one of 15 senior secondary subjects.

However, states and territories maintain responsibility for local education. So there is variation in the range, focus and difficulty of maths subjects offered.

How Many Senior Students Do Maths?

It’s not compulsory to study senior maths across Australia, but most year 11 and 12 students still do so. Available data suggests just over 70% of year 12 students study maths, with slightly less females doing so than males.

However, enrolments are on the decline. For instance, between 2001 and 2013 the proportion of students studying the high school certificate in New South Wales, who did not take a maths subject, tripled from 3.2% to almost 10%. NSW has announced it intends to make maths mandatory in years 11 and 12 to arrest the decline in enrolments, but there has not yet been a timeline set for this move. Victoria is also widening its maths offering to senior secondary students.

Read more: Fewer Australians are taking advanced maths in Year 12. We can learn from countries doing it better

What Subjects Are Available For Me To Choose From?

The Australian Curriculum describes four senior secondary maths subjects, with each organised into four units, usually studied over the four semesters of year 11 and 12.

They are essential mathematics, general mathematics, mathematical methods and specialist mathematics. In Queensland, these are the subject names used. However, there are different names for different types of maths in each state and territory with some being more closely aligned with the Australian Curriculum than others. For example, in NSW the equivalent subjects have completely different names and also arrange content and concepts differently.

But all maths subjects have similarities when it comes to the knowledge and skills students will develop. They also teach students how to think, reason and communicate mathematically, describe and analyse data and evidence, and use digital technologies.

Coins stacked on graphs and charts.
Maths subjects will teach you about important concepts, such as financial modelling. Shutterstock

Essential mathematics (most closely aligned with foundation mathematics in year 11 in Victoria) focuses on students developing and using maths knowledge and skills to investigate realistic problems. The subject or subjects include the study of data and statistics and financial modelling. Students selecting these courses typically have work or a vocational education and training course in mind once they leave school.

Read more: More teens are dropping maths. Here are three reasons to stick with it

General mathematics (most closely aligned with general mathematics in year 11 and further mathematics in year 12 in Victoria) includes the study of financial modelling, geometric problems, and statistics. These are areas many of us encounter in our work and life. Students selecting this subject typically plan to go to university and study a course where maths may have practical and/or theoretical relevance. General mathematics is a pre-requisite for courses like aviation, ICT, and health science at Swinburne University.

Mathematical methods is where students are introduced to calculus. This is the study of relationships and change. For instance, is the spread of a particular virus increasing? Can we describe trends and patterns observed and make predictions about the future? Can we describe the total number of cases over a given time period and assess the impact of government intervention?

Students are also introduced to statistical analysis, which is describing and analysing phenomena involving uncertainty and variation. Students who choose mathematical methods are likely intending to study maths-related subjects at university such as science, engineering, medicine and IT related degrees.

Specialist mathematics should be taken together with mathematical methods, as it deepens and extends key ideas studied there. Students who do specialist mathematics and mathematical methods (or extension and advanced mathematics in NSW) intend to do maths related courses at university.

When we were teaching in school, many students studied two maths subjects in year 12 (mathematical methods and specialist mathematics, or mathematical methods and general mathematics). Everyone had different ideas on which maths they found the hardest.

Which One Should I Choose?

Parents and teachers frame subject selection around the question, “What are your plans for the future?”

Having an idea what you want to do once you finish year 12 will determine your interest in maths and motivation to learn it.

The future is uncertain with study and career pathways that are dynamically evolving. Research shows a 15-year-old today could have 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime. Maths is essential to a range of study and career choices — including vocational trades, nursing, teaching and mathematical sciences.

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

If you do choose maths, you should choose the maths subject that interests you and offers the best preparation for your destination beyond school, be it work, TAFE or university.

Unsurprisingly, studying senior maths at school increases your success when studying university maths units and courses. Some universities have pages where you can easily search by maths subjects rather than course.

School careers counsellors are an excellent resource for advising students on possible study and career paths and what maths subjects you may need.

It can also help to speak with maths teachers you know and trust, and family members and friends who have taken different subjects. Some people say some maths subjects are harder than others, but others argue it really depends on your interests and effort to take advantage of available opportunities to learn.

Be wary about the university and vocational education and training prerequisites and recommended subjects. Often students see a subject is recommended but not required, and opt not to take that subject.

However, when they enrol in the TAFE or university course in question, they might find a maths equivalent to a year 12 course is more or less squashed into a first semester unit. It is often easier to learn this content in year 12 with the support of a dedicated maths teacher than to try doing so in one semester in a new environment with unfamiliar teachers and peers.

What Should I Know About Scaling?

In calculating the ATAR, all subjects are scaled to account for the competition in the subject — not the level of difficulty. Maths and languages have additional scaling.

Scaling is to even the playing field, and students who take more challenging subjects usually get scaled up. Specialist mathematics is taken to be more difficult than mathematical methods which is taken to be more difficult than general mathematics. For mathematics, the subjects are compared against each other as well as against all other studies.

For example, in 2020 in Victoria, an initial study score of 30 was scaled to 27 in further mathematics, 34 in mathematical methods and to 41 in specialist mathematics.

Maths has never been more important or visible to making sense of the world. We believe there is a maths for every student and a choice that keep your options open for the future.

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

Jill P Brown, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education, Deakin University and Carly Sawatzki, Lecturer in Primary Mathematics Education, Deakin University

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

Hidden women of history: how mother of 8, Mary Anne Allen, made do on the goldfields amid gunshots, rain and sly grog

S. T. Gill, 34. Iron Bark Eagle Hawk, in Original Sketches, 1844-1866. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Katrina DernelleyLa Trobe University

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

In February 1852, 46-year-old Mary Anne Allen set off from Melbourne for the Mt Alexander (Castlemaine) diggings with her husband Reverend John Allen and their eight children, the youngest aged five.

Histories of the Victorian gold rushes often overlook women’s presence on the goldfields in 1852. Women, children and home, however, were always part of goldfields life.

Mary Anne Allen’s diary appears to have been written for publication. In it she observes life on the diggings, not through the lens of masculinity and mateship, but through family and home.

A Perilous Journey

Englishwoman Mary Anne and her family had arrived in Port Phillip before the gold rushes. They migrated in 1849 to deliver the word of God for Scottish evangelist and colonial enthusiast John Dunmore Lang. Yet two years later the family abandoned their congregation in search of gold, “dreaming of little beyond wealth and competency”.

On route to Mt Alexander, the family almost lost their dray over a ravine. Their son Frederick tried to “scotch the wheels” (likely wedging a stone or bar to stop them rolling) but to no avail.

“My little girl came running towards me”, wrote Mary Anne in her diary. “She said we expected father would have been killed but Fred’s hand was smashed and two of his fingers broken.” Disaster was averted, but it would be just the beginning of the family’s trials.

drawing of men fighting
Most stories of the goldfields were told through the lens of mateship and masculinity. An early illustration by S. T. Gill. State Library of Victoria

Next, four bushrangers bailed up a bullock driver ahead of them. The Allen family continued cautiously forward, one of her sons armed with a gun, the second with a hatchet, a third with a club. Mary Anne’s younger children inquired anxiously, “What will they do with you Mamma?” Fortunately, fate spared Mary Anne an answer.

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

Life In The Clearings

Mary Anne found the new goldfields “remarkably picturesque and singularly beautiful”. The countryside was already home to miners’ mia-mias (based on Aboriginal dwellings) and hundreds of tents, scattered for miles through the still dense bush.

But clean drinking water was impossible to find. A German miner gave Mary Anne’s children a cup of water, milky with chalk. Another miner gave Mary Anne a loaded gun to help her protect any water they found. The family moved on to nearby Barker’s Creek, where there were fewer tents and more available water.

The Allen’s erected their tent and furnished it with handmade “bush bedsteads”: saplings driven into the ground and bed cases filled with dried leaves. Their table was topped with bark and the floor carpeted with the same. Mary Anne wrote that the bark decomposed rapidly in wet weather, producing an “exceedingly unpleasant” smell.

Henry Winkles, ‘Interior of a digger’s tent’, c.1853. National Library of Australia

Many miners’ tents, she wrote, were lined with blankets inside and bullock hides externally to keep out the weather. Her sons built a stone fireplace with bark sides, which they topped with an old sugar cask. They put up a tarpaulin awning so the family could bake damper and roast meat without standing in the rain. Even with these precautions, mould covered everything.

Living With Uncertainty

Families lived in fear of the dangers presented by mine shafts. The lesson was brought home for the Allen family as they watched a man trapped down a shaft. Then another man went in after him. The father of one of the men rushed forward and he too fell headlong into the mine. The whole party, Mary Anne noted disapprovingly, was the worse for “the influence of spirits”.

Bushfires were a frightening, yet entertaining, reality:

One small tree burnt through fell at our horses feet. We hastened onwards and when out of danger we sat and admired the grandeur of the scene.

At night, diggings glowed with fires outside every tent and lamps lit by candlewicks made from honeysuckle flowers soaked in oil. One night, as the family sat reading around their table, a gun was fired through their tent. The bullet landed on her son’s book: “So uncertain was life at Barker’s Creek”.

On the diggings, Sunday was not for religion but for domestic duties and domestic quarrels. Sometimes Mary Anne expected that “instant death would ensue from stabbing members of their own families”.

bark hut on goldfields
Canvas and bark tents smelled terrible when wet. S. T. Gill/State Library of Victoria

Read more: Emancipated wenches in gaudy jewellery: the liberating bling of the goldfields

Abrupt Endings

Living next door to a sly grog tent, Mary Anne reported: “Drunkenness, fighting, profanity and robberies were every day occurrences”. Her diary ends abruptly, to cries of murder and an aborted gold robbery.

She did not record whether her family found gold. Historical documents reveal the family only stayed six months on the diggings. John did not return to the church until just before his death in 1861, by which time the couple had bought a number of properties in Melbourne.

My doctoral research is the first time Mary Anne’s diary has been written into goldfields history. Her manuscript is entitled Mrs Allen’s Trip to the Gold Fields, suggesting she intended it for publication. Now, almost 170 years later, we can read her observations as one of many women on the diggings in early 1852.

Read more: Friday essay: masters of the future or heirs of the past? Mining, history and Indigenous ownership The Conversation

Katrina Dernelley, PhD Candidate in History, La Trobe University, La Trobe University

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

Yeah, nah: Aussie slang hasn’t carked it, but we do want to know more about it

Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND
Kate BurridgeMonash UniversityDylan HughesMonash UniversityHoward MannsMonash UniversityIsabelle BurkeMonash UniversityKeith AllanMonash University, and Simon MusgraveMonash University

Writer C.R Read cautioned in 1853 “that Englishmen going to the Australian digging should search their souls and ask themselves ‘if they can stand a little colonial slang’”.

This slang – our Australian slang – has been a lightning rod for pride, prejudice and confusion. “Dustbin language” writes one (not a huge fan), “people’s poetry” writes another (we’d agree).

Expressions like budgie smugglersfair suck of the Siberian sandshoe or flat out like a lizard drinking may not be the stuff of great literature and poetry, but they draw on the same devices: metaphor, irony and features of sound such as alliteration.

We know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, nah. Aussie slang’s carked it. When was the last time you heard someone say "cobber” or “dinkum”?“ Fairly recently, actually —- we’re starting to collect these terms, and rest assured, we’re finding them.

Read more: Get yer hand off it, mate, Australian slang is not dying

What’s Interesting About Australian Slang

What’s interesting about Australian slang -— as far as "slang” goes -— is the mere fact that some of these words stick around for so long, and that we still call them slang. They may not be part of your everyday lingo, but they can have a special place in your heart.

And heaps of grouse Aussie words have been doing the hard yakka for decades—grouse is around 100 years old. Mate is even older, even though since the 1930s people have been worrying about its well-being. First it was the arrival of digger, then the threat of buddy or pal. Now we worry mate will die at the hands of dude.

But which words go, and which words stay, and which ones stay slangy? And why do we love this language so much?

‘Flat out like a …’ well, you know the one. Shutterstock

Getting To The Bottom Of Australian Slang

We could try to answer these questions by collecting data in a survey —- and we are doing just that. We can also look at the results others have gathered. We’re doing that, too. And we can give you a teaser of what we’ve found.

ABC radio stations around the country have asked their listeners: “What do you think is the greatest Aussie slang word or phrase?”. Out of more than 1,000 unique phrases, the answer is (drum roll please!) —- various versions of mate, followed by yeah, nah (though mate gets unfairly boosted because it’s tagged onto so many favourites like g’day mate).

Another place to look is in contexts where our knowledge about slang is made explicit. We’re fortunate to have such a data source: The Age newspaper runs a daily quiz on its puzzles page, and questions about slang appear occasionally. A sample from April 2006 until March 2021 contains 109 such questions (that’s about one slang question every six weeks).

Of those 109 questions, 26 explicitly mention Australian slang and another two mention Australian rhyming slang. Three expressions are repeated (furphy and spit the dummy each occur four times, and daks twice). This means there are 19 expressions identified as Australian, plus the two rhyming slang expressions—- actually another of the 19 (cheese and kisses “missus”) is rhyming slang too, but not identified as such. Here’s the full list:

  • sanger
  • dunny
  • bogan
  • daks
  • strides
  • spit the dummy
  • shoot through like a Bondi tram
  • sparky
  • drongo
  • thunderbox
  • gum sucker
  • mozzie
  • furphy
  • mandarin
  • pineapple
  • have a gander
  • ratbag
  • snag
  • cheese and kisses
  • illywhacker
  • dead horse
  • Noah’s Ark

A Cabinet Of Linguistic Wonders

A curious collection, you might well be thinking. And you’d be right.

It has a few staples of you-beaut Aussie lingo, some minted in this country (sangersnagdrongo). Many are part of everyday language (furphybogan), and some we’ve even gifted to the rest of the world (ratbag and its offspring ratbaggeryspitting the dummy). Shortenings like mozzie are also being exported (and let’s not forget the global Aussie rockstar selfie). These shortenings are thriving, as any sparky or garbo could tell you.

There are also a few lexical zombies on this list. When did you last use like a Bondi tram, or pineapple for that matter, unless you’re getting the rough end of it. This pineapple, though, is the A$50 note (compare the $5 prawn, $10 blue (swimmer), $20 lobster and $100 avo). They’re slang curiosities – rarely heard but still loved.

There are those on this list that (wait for it) were originally American English. True, pinpointing the origins of slang is notoriously difficult, but have a gander “to look” does make its first appearance in early 1900s American criminal slang. Even illywhacker takes its inspiration from American spieler “con-man” (it needs some fossicking to track down illy’s origin in the word “eeler-spee”, a transposition of spieler).

‘Trackie daks’ were ideal for both watching the Olympics and competing in them. AAP/Rick Rycroft

Others on this quiz list were once British English, but we’ve given them an Aussie makeover. Strides originally referred to pantaloons with plenty of stride. And daks, a blend of Dad and slack(s), was the exclusive label of Simpson’s of Piccadilly; it lives on in our beloved trackie daks (these days our pandemic pants) and newly minted dack “to steal something” (presumably by shoving it down your daks).

Dunny comes from dunnakin underworld slang for what was known euphemistically as “the necessary” (danna “dung” + ken “house”). Even the thunderbox isn’t our own. Its origin is unquestionably British, as is the mandarin “senior public servant”, though we see its potential as Aussie rhyming slang mandarin duck.

Read more: How Australians talk about tucker is a story that'll make you want to eat the bum out of an elephant

Looking For The Good Oil On Aussie Slang

“Who gives a mandarin”? We do, because there’s a special place in our cabinet of lexical wonders for slang and we want to know more about it. You’ll find long lists on the internet, and it features large in these quizzes. However, people disagree about what is or isn’t slang, whether or not something is Aussie, whether slang is dying, and what any of this means to us Aussies.

Slang is different things to different people. There are some contexts in which it can be presumed, and others in which it requires a lot more discussion, and a lot more sleuthing. Don’t leave us on our Pat Malone. We’d be happy as Larry if you could share some of your knowledge of Aussie slang with us.

You can take our survey here. Onya mate!The Conversation

Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash UniversityDylan Hughes, PhD Student, Monash UniversityHoward Manns, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash UniversityIsabelle Burke, Research fellow in Linguistics, Monash UniversityKeith Allan, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, Monash University, and Simon Musgrave, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

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

Physical Activity Protects Children From The Adverse Effects Of Digital Media On Their Weight Later In Adolescence

August 9, 2021
Children's heavy digital media use is associated with a risk of being overweight later in adolescence. Physical activity protects children from the adverse effects of digital media on their weight later in adolescence.

A recently completed study shows that six hours of leisure-time physical activity per week at the age of 11 reduces the risk of being overweight at 14 years of age associated with heavy use of digital media.

Obesity in children and adolescents is one of the most significant health-related challenges globally. A study carried out by the Folkhälsan Research Center and the University of Helsinki investigated whether a link exists between the digital media use of Finnish school-age children and the risk of being overweight later in adolescence. In addition, the study looked into whether children's physical activity has an effect on this potential link.

The results were published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

More than six hours of physical activity per week appears to reverse adverse effects of screen time
The study involved 4,661 children from the Finnish Health in Teens (Fin-HIT) study. The participating children reported how much time they spent on sedentary digital media use and physical activity outside school hours. The study demonstrated that heavy use of digital media at 11 years of age was associated with a heightened risk of being overweight at 14 years of age in children who reported engaging in under six hours per week of physical activity in their leisure time. In children who reported being physically active for six or more hours per week, such a link was not observed.

The study also took into account other factors potentially impacting obesity, such as childhood eating habits and the amount of sleep, as well as the amount of digital media use and physical activity in adolescence. In spite of the confounding factors, the protective role of childhood physical activity in the connection between digital media use in childhood and being overweight later in life was successfully confirmed.

Activity according to recommendations
"The effect of physical activity on the association between digital media use and being overweight has not been extensively investigated in follow-up studies so far," says Postdoctoral Researcher Elina Engberg.

Further research is needed to determine in more detail how much sedentary digital media use increases the risk of being overweight, and how much physical activity is needed, and at what intensity, to ward off such a risk. In this study, the amount of physical activity and use of digital media was reported by the children themselves, and the level of their activity was not surveyed, so there is a need for further studies.

"A good rule of thumb is to adhere to the physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents, according to which school-aged children and adolescents should be physically active in a versatile, brisk and strenuous manner for at least 60 minutes a day in a way that suits the individual, considering their age," says Engberg. In addition, excessive and extended sedentary activity should be avoided.

Elina Engberg, Marja H. Leppänen, Catharina Sarkkola, Heli Viljakainen. Physical Activity Among Preadolescents Modifies the Long-Term Association Between Sedentary Time Spent Using Digital Media and the Increased Risk of Being Overweight. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1123/jpah.2021-0163

NSW DPIE Fast-Tracked Assessment Program: Audit Office Of NSW Report

July 27, 2021: Audit Office of NSW
This report examines the effectiveness of the Fast-tracked Assessment Program, administered by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) between April 2020 and October 2020. 

The program aimed to support the construction industry during the COVID-19 crisis by accelerating the final assessment stages for planning proposals and development applications. 

DPIE selected projects and planning proposals for fast tracked assessment that demonstrated the potential to:
  • deliver jobs
  • progress to the next stage of development within six months of determination
  • deliver public benefit.
The audit assessed whether the Fast-tracked Assessment Program achieved its objectives while complying with planning controls.

What we found
Through tranches three to six of the program, DPIE successfully accelerated the final stages of 53 assessments. DPIE reported that 89 per cent of these proceeded to the next stage of development within six months.

Assessment of projects and planning proposals was compliant with legislation and other requirements. However, the audit found gaps in DPIE's management of conflicts of interest.

DPIE has not evaluated or costed the program and is not able to demonstrate the extent to which it provided support to the construction industry during COVID-19. 

Aspects of the program have been incorporated into longer term reforms to create a new level of transparency over the progress and status of planning assessments. 

What we recommended
DPIE should:
  • strengthen controls over conflicts of interest 
  • evaluate the Fast-tracked Assessment Program.
Fast facts
Construction industry support 
The program aimed at providing immediate support to the construction industry during the COVID-19 crisis

59 fast-tracked projects 
59 projects and 42 planning proposals projects were assessed in six tranches

of all fast-tracked assessments in tranches three to six progressed to the next stage of the planning process within six months of determination

Executive summary
In April 2020, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) introduced programs aimed at providing immediate support to the construction industry during the COVID-19 crisis. One of these was the Fast-tracked Assessment Program. This program identified planning proposals and development applications (DAs), across six tranches, that were partially-assessed and could be accelerated to determination.

In accordance with the program objectives, the planning proposals and DAs selected for fast-tracked assessment had to:
  • deliver jobs – particularly in the construction industry
  • be capable of progressing to the next stage of development within six months of determination
  • deliver public benefit.
At the same time, the Fast-tracked Assessment Program was to lay a foundation for future reform of the planning system by piloting changes in the assessment process that could be adopted in the medium to long term.

This audit assessed whether the Fast-tracked Assessment Program achieved its objectives while complying with planning controls. The audit focused on tranches three to six of the program, which were determined between July 2020 and October 2020. The rationale for focusing on these four tranches was that the program design had been slightly modified after the first two tranches to address identified risks.

Through tranches three to six of the Fast-tracked Assessment Program, DPIE successfully accelerated the final stages of 53 assessments. DPIE’s internal monitoring indicates that 31 DAs and 16 planning proposals selected in these tranches proceeded to the next stage of development within six months of determination. DPIE achieved this while also successfully managing the risk of non-compliance with planning controls arising from the accelerated process. While DPIE has incorporated components of the Fast-tracked Assessment Program into other longer-term reforms, it has not evaluated the program and is not able to demonstrate the extent to which the program provided support to the construction industry during COVID-19.

Between April and October 2020, DPIE adopted a case management approach to accelerate the final stages of assessment for 42 planning proposals and 59 DAs in six tranches. Tranches three to six were the focus of this audit and included 22 planning proposals and 31 DAs. Applicants involved in the program were expected to progress their projects to the next stage of development within six months of determination. While DPIE had no way of compelling applicants to do this and relied on non-binding commitments obtained from applicants, DPIE’s internal monitoring indicates that 47 of the 53 applicants selected in tranches three to six honoured this commitment.

Fast-tracked assessment only applied to the final stages of assessment and required DPIE staff and other stakeholders to work towards a determination deadline. DPIE effectively used a case management approach to manage the risk that the accelerated timeframe could result in planning controls not being fully compliant with legislation. There is some room for improvement in the process, as four of 28 staff assessing planning proposals and DAs had not lodged current conflict of interest declarations.

Based on the results of and learnings from the Fast-tracked Assessment Program, DPIE has incorporated some elements of the program into other longer-term reforms. There is now increased transparency about when applicants can expect to receive a planning determination and DPIE has also introduced a case management approach for strategic and high priority planning applications. Applicants benefiting from case-managed assessment are now required to commit to a formal service charter that specifies the obligations of both DPIE and the applicant.

DPIE has not evaluated the Fast-tracked Assessment Program to understand the costs and benefits of the program, nor which aspects of the program were most effective as a basis for future reform.

1. Key findings
Selection criteria were consistently applied when identifying projects for fast-tracking
The following three criteria were used to select planning proposals and DAs for fast-tracked assessment:
  • estimated number of jobs created, including both construction and ongoing jobs, calculated using an objective tool and based on the Capital Investment Value of each planning proposal or DA
  • DAs had to be capable of moving to construction within six months of determination and planning proposals had to be capable of lodging a DA within six months
  • demonstration of public benefit.
  • DPIE arranged for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to review the selection criteria and provide advice to mitigate risks in the selection process.
The selection criteria were consistently applied when selecting projects for accelerated or 'fast-tracked' assessment. There was no upper limit on the number of planning proposals and DAs that could be fast-tracked. All planning proposals and DAs that met the criteria could be included provided they were already in the DPIE system and the assessment was underway. DPIE staff reported that all planning proposals and DAs in DPIE’s system that met the selection criteria were included in the program.

DPIE made public announcements about the planning proposals and DAs selected in each tranche, the number of estimated jobs enabled or created, and the timeframe for achieving determination.

The fast-tracked process of assessment managed the risk of non-compliance with planning controls, but there are gaps in the management of conflicts of interest
Assessment of planning proposals and DAs was compliant with legislative requirements and consultation requirements and in line with delegations. However, there were gaps in the management of conflicts of interest.

It is important that public servants involved in assessing DAs and planning proposals declare and  manage any conflicts of interest as planning – in particular assessment of DAs – is a high-risk area for personal conflicts.

Four of 28 staff who were involved in assessing planning proposals and DAs did not have a conflict of interest declaration that was current during the fast-tracked assessment period. In addition, DPIE engaged a probity advisor for the program but did not check whether the advisor had any conflicts of interest relating to this program. 

DPIE has not evaluated the costs, benefits and outcomes of the program
DPIE has not evaluated or costed the program. It is important that DPIE evaluates the costs and benefits of the approach, given that it was new and rapidly implemented, so that it can understand which aspects of the program were most effective as a basis for further reform.

When developments were selected for inclusion, DPIE made announcements in the media about the number of jobs created or enabled in each tranche. This will be difficult to evaluate as these are estimates and construction may take place over a number of years meaning that the number of jobs enabled by a development project may vary over those years. Also, the estimate includes ongoing jobs, some of which may not be realised for many years following determination.

There was no additional funding for this program but DPIE staff reported working additional hours to meet the determination deadlines. This approach is unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term and DPIE will need to consider what additional resourcing is required if some aspects of this program continue into the future. DPIE has also not fully evaluated the impact of prioritising some planning proposals and DAs over those that were not selected.

Implementing a differentiated assessment process over the longer term may introduce risks to impartiality if applicants lobby for accelerated assessment. Careful consideration of equity and impartiality should be given to the design of any further programs that prioritise some applicants over others.

Not all applicants involved in the program formally committed to or achieved their fast-tracking obligations
The intention of the program was to provide relief to the construction industry during and immediately following the COVID-19 crisis so it was important that the DAs selected for the program moved forward into construction within the six-month period to realise these benefits. Planning proposals selected for the program were expected to lead to a DA lodged within six months of determination.

DPIE managed the risk that DAs would not move forward into construction within six months by asking applicants to commit to this outcome in writing. However, DPIE is unable to demonstrate that this commitment was sought for three of the seven DAs we examined. In tranches five and six, DPIE introduced a condition of consent that required developers to report to the Secretary about construction status six months after determination.

DPIE is not able to compel applicants to commence construction within six months of their DA being approved as the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) allows for five years. With regard to planning proposals, there is no legislated time limit for lodging a DA following approval. However, ten of the 12 projects we examined met their six-month obligation. Overall, DPIE’s internal monitoring indicates that 47 of the 53 applicants selected in tranches three to six progressed to the next stage of development within six months: 31 DAs and 16 planning proposals.

DPIE has incorporated learnings from the Fast-tracked Assessment Program into other longer-term reforms
The Fast-tracked Assessment Program was intended to form a foundation for future reform of the planning system. Aspects of the Fast-tracked Assessment Program have been incorporated into two longer-term reforms. Horizons Projects are partly-completed assessments expected to reach a determination in the following month. These are announced on a monthly basis. This is a new level of transparency over the progress and status of planning assessments.

The Priority Assessment Program selects strategic and high priority concept plans, planning proposals and DAs at an early stage in their assessment and applies a case management process to accelerate assessment timeframes. There is no expectation that assessment will be completed within one month as was the case with the fast-tracked assessments, but applicants participating in the Priority Assessment Program commit to assessment timeframes through a formal service charter that is signed by both the applicant and a DPIE representative.

2. Recommendations
By December 2021, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment should:
1. strengthen controls over conflicts of interest to ensure that:
  • all officers complete an annual conflict of interest declaration
  • officers working on planning assessments do not have any unmitigated conflicts of interest
  • officers are not in a position to be influenced by another officer with a conflict of interest
  • advisors and consultants do not have any conflicts of interest
2. evaluate the Fast-tracked Assessment Program to:
  • quantify the costs and benefits of the case management approach
  • assess which aspects of the program were most effective as a basis for further reform
  • understand the impact on developments not accelerated.

New Report: COVID-19 Widens Australia's Stark Health Income Gap

August 11, 2021
UNSW Sydney and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) have released the Work, income and health inequity report, published by their Poverty and Inequality Partnership Project. It was written by researchers from the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE) and the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at UNSW.

The Work, income and health inequity report seeks to understand the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and health in Australia. It explores the health outcome indicators and socio-economic indicators currently available in national health surveys and how these health outcomes differ by socio-economic position.

Lead author of the report, UNSW Medicine & Health’s Professor Evelyne de Leeuw who is Director of CHETRE, said it’s clear that income and wealth help determine health outcomes in Australia.

“Our report shows those in the highest income group are more than twice as likely to be in good health than those in the lowest income group. Without urgent government action, the pandemic is only set to widen this inequality, with people on lower incomes already being left behind in the vaccine rollout. Many live in insecure, over-crowded housing or work in roles that can’t be carried out from home. Health inequities are not a given; they are a consequence of how our societies work,” Prof. de Leeuw said.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the stark inequities that impact our health across the country.

“People on the lowest incomes, and with insecure work and housing, have been at greatest risk throughout the COVID crisis. Now, they are the same people who are at risk of missing out in the vaccine rollout,” Dr Goldie said.

“Our report shows that health inequities are built into our society. It shows that people on low incomes have the highest levels of psychological distress, and we know that the pandemic is increasing that distress. People on lower incomes are also at greater risk of chronic illnesses, which can make them more at risk to the impacts of the pandemic.”

Improving health for all is not only about investing in our health system – it’s also about income support, housing and community services, according to Dr Goldie.

“We must deliver on the basic economic supports and social determinants of health such as adequate and secure incomes and housing, including in lockdowns, so we can improve health for all and get through the COVID crisis.

“As the wealthiest country in the world, it is inexcusable that we have not tackled preventable health inequalities. Far too many people have poorer health outcomes by reason of preventable economic and social disadvantage.”

Key findings:
  • People in the highest income group are twice as likely (60 per cent) to report their health status as good, very good or excellent, compared with only 33 per cent of those in the lowest income group.
  • People on social security payments under 65 were considerably more likely to have asthma (19 per cent) than those whose main income was wages or salary (11 per cent).
  • Half of people on social security payments under 65 report mental health conditions (50 per cent). This is over twice as many as those whose main source of income is wages or salary (18 per cent).
  • Over a third of people on social security payments under 65 report high psychological distress (36 per cent), compared with 10 per cent of people whose main source of income is wages or salary.

Computational Evaluation Of Drug Delivery Reveals Room For Inhalers Improvement

August 10, 2021
Increased air pollution in recent years has not only contributed to deteriorating environmental conditions in cities across the globe. It has also exacerbated health risks for the people who populate them, particularly those who suffer from pulmonary diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These dynamics underscore the importance of work to increase the efficacy of drug delivery devices, such as inhalers, that administer active pharmaceutical ingredients to treat respiratory illnesses.

In Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, researchers from India and Australia describe the results of their collaboration in developing a computational evaluation of drug delivery through both pressurized metered-dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers to determine how the process can be improved.

While inhalers have revolutionized the treatment of pulmonary diseases in the last few decades and are currently being used to administer drugs to patients infected by the COVID-19 virus, "their efficacy remains a great concern as only one-third of the total drug reaches the affected regions of the lungs," said co-author Suvash C. Saha, from the University of Technology Sydney. "As a result, the drug loss and cost of the treatment become higher."

Knowing an ability to predict aerosolized or powdered drug deposition in the lungs is vital to better understand targeted drug delivery, Saha and colleagues at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology Allahabad, in India, created a computational model to evaluate where improvements can be made.

"At higher flow rates, inertial impaction is found to be responsible for deposition of drug particles in the upper portion of the airways but with lesser availability of drug particles in the distal region of the airways," said co-author Akshoy Ranjan Paul. "Additionally, at lower flow rates, there is not enough momentum to carry particles to the distal region. As a result, there should be an optimum flow rate [to achieve] maximum reach of drug particles in the distal region."

The researchers present a computational investigation of inhalation rates and drug particle sizes in a realistic human lung model. Using computation fluid dynamics, the study reveals that more drug particles are deposited in the right bronchi than in the left bronchi, which is relatively curved due its proximity to the heart. Key findings suggest the drugs should contain smaller-sized particles to enable their reach in the distal bronchi.

The research "is a notable example that demonstrates how the understanding of fluid mechanics, and the power of computational fluid dynamics, can inform more effective design of drugs and drug-administering devices," said Saha.

Anurag Tiwari, Anuj Jain, Akshoy R. Paul, Suvash C. Saha. Computational evaluation of drug delivery in human respiratory tract under realistic inhalation. Physics of Fluids, 2021; 33 (8): 083311 DOI: 10.1063/5.0053980

New Mothers’ Sleep Loss Linked To Accelerated Aging

August 5, 2021
Too little sleep in first six months after birth can add 3 to 7 years to women’s ‘biological age,’ UCLA scientists report.
When new mothers complain that all those sleepless nights caring for their new-borns are taking years off their life, they just might be right, UCLA research published this summer in the journal Sleep Health suggests.

Scientists studied 33 mothers during their pregnancies and the first year of their babies' lives, analysing the women's DNA from blood samples to determine their "biological age," which can differ from chronological age. They found that a year after giving birth, the biological age of mothers who slept less than seven hours a night at the six-month mark was three to seven years older than those who logged seven hours or more.

Mothers who slept less than seven hours also had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells. These small pieces of DNA at the ends of chromosomes act as protective caps, like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces. Shortened telomeres have been linked to a higher risk of cancers, cardiovascular and other diseases, and earlier death.

"The early months of postpartum sleep deprivation could have a lasting effect on physical health," said the study's first author, Judith Carroll, UCLA's George F. Solomon Professor of Psychobiology. "We know from a large body of research that sleeping less than seven hours a night is detrimental to health and increases the risk of age-related diseases."

While participants' nightly sleep ranged from five to nine hours, more than half were getting less than seven hours, both six months and one year after giving birth, the researchers report.

"We found that with every hour of additional sleep, the mother's biological age was younger," said Carroll, a member of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA's Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "I, and many other sleep scientists, consider sleep health to be just as vital to overall health as diet and exercise."

Carroll urged new mothers take advantage of opportunities to get a little extra sleep, like taking naps during the day when their baby is asleep, accepting offers of assistance from family and friends, and, when possible, asking their partner to help with the baby during the night or early morning. "Taking care of your sleep needs will help you and your baby in the long run," she said.

Co-author Christine Dunkel Schetter, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, said the study results "and other findings on maternal postpartum mental health provide impetus for better supporting mothers of young infants so that they can get sufficient sleep -- possibly through parental leave so that both parents can bear some of the burden of care, and through programs for families and fathers."

Dunkel Schetter added that while accelerated biological aging linked to sleep loss may increase women's health risks, it doesn't automatically cause harm to their bodies. "We don't want the message to be that mothers are permanently damaged by infant care and loss of sleep," she emphasized. "We don't know if these effects are long lasting."

'This aisle is closed': Using epigenetics to determine biological age
The study used the latest scientific methods of analysing changes in DNA to assess biological aging -- also known as epigenetic aging, Dunkel Schetter said. DNA provides the code for making proteins, which carry out many functions in the cells of our body, and epigenetics focuses on whether regions of this code are "open" or "closed."

"You can think of DNA as a grocery store," Carroll said, "with lots of basic ingredients to build a meal. If there is a spill in one aisle, it may be closed, and you can't get an item from that aisle, which might prevent you from making a recipe. When access to DNA code is 'closed,' then those genes that code for specific proteins cannot be expressed and are therefore turned off."

Because specific sites within DNA are turned on or off with aging, the process acts as a sort of clock, Carroll said, allowing scientists to estimate individuals' biological age. The greater an individual's biological, or epigenetic, age, the greater their risk of disease and earlier death.

The study's cohort -- which included women who ranged in age from 23 to 45 six months after giving birth -- is not a large representative sample of women, the authors said, and more studies are needed to better understand the long-term impact of sleep loss on new mothers, what other factors might contribute to sleep loss and whether the biological aging effects are permanent or reversible.

Carroll and Dunkel Schetter reported last year that a mother's stress prior to giving birth may accelerate her child's biological aging, which is a form of "intergenerational transfer of health risk," Dunkel Schetter said.

Co-authors of the new study included researchers from the department of psychology, the department of psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences, and the department of human genetics and biostatistics at UCLA and from the psychology department at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Funding sources for the study included the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Aging, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

Judith E. Carroll, Kharah M. Ross, Steve Horvath, Michele Okun, Calvin Hobel, Kelly E. Rentscher, Mary Coussons-Read, Christine Dunkel Schetter. Postpartum sleep loss and accelerated epigenetic aging. Sleep Health, 2021; 7 (3): 362 DOI: 10.1016/j.sleh.2021.02.002

Problems In Thinking And Attention Linked To COVID-19 Infection

August 11, 2021
Evidence of cognitive deficits in people who have recovered from COVID-19 has been discovered in a new study of over 80,000 individuals. The research found that those with more severe COVID-19 symptoms scored lower on an online series of tests, with performance on reasoning and problem-solving tasks being most affected. Further analysis of the data indicated that those who received mechanical ventilation to help them breathe whilst in hospital had the greatest impairment on cognitive tasks.

Published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, the research was a collaboration between King's College London, Imperial College London and Cambridge University. It was part-funded by the UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research & Technology Centre and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.

Online cognition tests
A series of online tests, developed by first author on the study and Reader in Restorative Neuroscience at Imperial College London Dr Adam Hampshire had been opened up to the general public just before the pandemic for the BBC2 Horizon's Great British Intelligence test. In early 2020 the study team extended the questionnaires to gather information on SARS-CoV-2 infection, the symptoms experienced and the need for hospitalisation.

Out of the 81,337 who provided complete data, 12,689 people suspected they had COVID-19. Participants reported a range of severity of illness, with many experiencing respiratory symptoms whilst still being able to stay at home (3,559 participants). Nearly 200 were hospitalised (192 participants) and about a quarter of these (44 participants) required mechanical ventilation.

The time since illness onset was around 1-6 months, meaning the study could not draw any definitive conclusions about whether these effects on cognition were long-lasting.

Thinking problems and respiratory symptoms
The study found a relationship between deficits in overall cognitive performance and severity of respiratory symptoms experienced. The research also found that not all areas of thinking ability correlated in the same way with COVID-19 illness and that some abilities were spared, which included emotional discrimination (recognition of faces that were expressing the same emotion) and working memory (remembering where a sequence of squares appears on the screen). In comparison 'executive' tasks that required skills in reasoning (e.g. Deciding if relationships between words were similar) and problem solving (working out how many moves it would take to go from one arrangement to another) seemed to show the greatest deficit.

To understand the size of the deficits the authors compared the pattern of scores on the tests to cognitive changes that occur for other reasons. The effects in those hospitalised with mechanical ventilation were similar to the average cognitive decline seen over a period of ten years of ageing and equivalent to a seven-point difference in IQ.

Ruling out other explanations
The researchers carried out a series of checks to ensure these cognitive deficits were associated with COVID-19 and not explicable by other variables. These included separating out those who had a confirmed positive test for SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrating that the cognitive deficits were indeed greater in those with positive tests. Further checks suggested the results were not due to a minority with pre-existing conditions or on-going symptoms of COVID-19. Analysis also indicated that it was unlikely that the results could be explained by the fact that those who contracted more severe COVID-19 disease were less cognitively able before they were ill.

Dr Adam Hampshire, first author on the study, said: "Our study adds to an increasing body of research that is looking at different aspects of how COVID-19 might be impacting the brain and brain function. This research is all converging to indicate that there are some important effects of COVID-19 on the brain that need further investigation. Going forward it would be valuable to bring together brain imaging and cognitive tests with other information on mental health and everyday function, ideally in studies that track peoples' trajectories for months or even years. To really know what the long-term effects are for people will require people to be followed up over time."

New studies, such as COVID-19 Clinical Neuroscience Study (COVID-CNS), led by King's College London and University of Liverpool and the REACT Long COVID study, led by Imperial College London, are now applying these cognitive tools to study the long-term impacts of COVID-19.

"A critical question remains as to why some cognitive functions are more affected than others," said Mitul Mehta, Professor of Neuroimaging from King's College London and senior author on the study. "It is already known that hypoxia and mechanical ventilation are associated with cognitive deficits similar to those observed in this study, and there is now evidence of neurological complications in some patients, as well as psychiatric consequences. As we are coming through the third wave of the pandemic, there are more available options that can reduce the severity of COVID-19 such as vaccination and effective treatments whilst in hospital. The findings from this study suggest that by reducing the severity of illness through these different approaches we may also be able to reduce the severity of cognitive difficulties people may experience."

Adam Hampshire, William Trender, Samuel R Chamberlain, Amy E. Jolly, Jon E. Grant, Fiona Patrick, Ndaba Mazibuko, Steve CR Williams, Joseph M Barnby, Peter Hellyer, Mitul A Mehta. Cognitive deficits in people who have recovered from COVID-19. EClinicalMedicine, 2021; 101044 DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101044

Growing Evidence Of Vitamin K Benefits For Heart Health

August 9, 2021
New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has found that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin K have up to a 34 percent lower risk of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels).

Researchers examined data from more than 50,000 people taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study over a 23-year period. They investigated whether people who ate more foods containing vitamin K had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease related to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).

There are two types of vitamin K found in foods we eat: vitamin K1 comes primarily from green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils while vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs and fermented foods such as cheese.

The study found that people with the highest intakes of vitamin K1 were 21 percent less likely to be hospitalised with cardiovascular disease related to atherosclerosis.

For vitamin K2, the risk of being hospitalised was 14 percent lower.

This lower risk was seen for all types of heart disease related to atherosclerosis, particularly for peripheral artery disease at 34 percent.

ECU researcher and senior author on the study Dr Nicola Bondonno said the findings suggest that consuming more vitamin K may be important for protection against atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease.

"Current dietary guidelines for the consumption of vitamin K are generally only based on the amount of vitamin K1 a person should consume to ensure that their blood can coagulate," she said.

"However, there is growing evidence that intakes of vitamin K above the current guidelines can afford further protection against the development of other diseases, such as atherosclerosis.

"Although more research is needed to fully understand the process, we believe that vitamin K works by protecting against the calcium build-up in the major arteries of the body leading to vascular calcification."

University of Western Australia researcher Dr Jamie Bellinge, the first author on the study, said the role of vitamin K in cardiovascular health and particularly in vascular calcification is an area of research offering promising hope for the future.

"Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death in Australia and there's still a limited understanding of the importance of different vitamins found in food and their effect on heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease," Dr Bellinge said.

"These findings shed light on the potentially important effect that vitamin K has on the killer disease and reinforces the importance of a healthy diet in preventing it."

Next steps in the research
Dr Bondonno said that while databases on the vitamin K1 content of foods are very comprehensive, there is currently much less data on the vitamin K2 content of foods. Furthermore, there are 10 forms of vitamin K2 found in our diet and each of these may be absorbed and act differently within our bodies.

"The next phase of the research will involve developing and improving databases on the vitamin K2 content of foods.

"More research into the different dietary sources and effects of different types of vitamin K2 is a priority," Dr Bondonno said.

Additionally, there is a need for an Australian database on the vitamin K content of Australian foods (e.g. vegemite and kangaroo).

To address this need, Dr Marc Sim, a collaborator on the study, has just finished developing an Australian database on the vitamin K content of foods which will be published soon.

The paper 'Vitamin K intake and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Study' was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The research is part of ECU's Institute of Nutrition Research.

It was a collaboration with researchers from the University of Western Australia, Royal Perth Hospital, Herlev & Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark and the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre.

The Institute for Nutrition Research was established as an ECU Strategic Research Institute in 2020. Find out more about their work.

Jamie W. Bellinge, Frederik Dalgaard, Kevin Murray, Emma Connolly, Lauren C. Blekkenhorst, Catherine P. Bondonno, Joshua R. Lewis, Marc Sim, Kevin D. Croft, Gunnar Gislason, Christian Torp‐Pedersen, Anne Tjønneland, Kim Overvad, Jonathan M. Hodgson, Carl Schultz, Nicola P. Bondonno. Vitamin K Intake and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2021; DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.120.020551

Starving Pneumonia-Causing Bacteria Of Its Favourite 'Food' Holds Promise For New Antibiotics

August 6, 2021
Australian researchers have revealed how the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) obtains the essential nutrient, manganese, from our bodies, which could lead to better therapies to target what is a life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant pathogen.

Pneumococcus is one of the world's deadliest organisms, responsible for more than one million deaths each year and is the leading infectious cause of mortality in children under five. It is the main cause of bacterial pneumonia, as well as a major cause of meningitis, sepsis and inner ear infections (otitis media).

Published today in Science Advances and after ten years of detailed investigations, researchers from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and the Bio21 Molecular Science & Biotechnology Institute (Bio21), along with collaborators at the Australian National University and Kyoto University, Japan, have determined the structure of the unique 'gateway' that pneumococcus uses to steal manganese from the body.

All organisms, including pathogens, need vitamins and minerals to survive. While researchers knew that manganese was critical for survival of the pneumococcus, how it took manganese from the body wasn't understood.

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Megan Maher, a laboratory head at Bio21, said they noticed the bacterium was drawing in nutrients in a regulated way.

"Eventually we discovered that this was due to a unique gateway that sits in the bacterium's membrane that opens and closes to specifically allow manganese in," said Associate Professor Maher.

"This is a completely new structure that has never been seen in a pathogen like this."

University of Melbourne Professor Christopher McDevitt, a laboratory head at the Doherty Institute, said the study's finding changes what we know about the pathogen's survival.

"Previously, it was thought that these gateways acted like Teflon coated channels in the sense that everything just flowed through," explained Professor McDevitt.

"Now we understand that it is selectively drawing the manganese in. Any disturbance of this gateway starves the pathogen of manganese, which prevents it from being able to cause disease."

It could hold the key to better and alternative therapies against the pneumococcus.

Although a pneumococcal vaccine does exist, it only provides limited protection against circulating strains, and antibiotic resistance rates are rapidly rising.

"It's a really attractive therapeutic target as it sits on the surface of the bacterium, and our bodies don't use this type of gateway," Professor McDevitt said

"At a time when we are seeing rising resistance to our first and last line antibiotics, and the emergence of 'superbugs', it is important that we think of new strategies to control this deadly organism."

Stephanie L. Neville, Jennie Sjöhamn, Jacinta A. Watts, Hugo MacDermott-Opeskin, Stephen J. Fairweather, Katherine Ganio, Alex Carey Hulyer, Aaron P. McGrath, Andrew J. Hayes, Tess R. Malcolm, Mark R. Davies, Norimichi Nomura, So Iwata, Megan L. O’Mara, Megan J. Maher, Christopher A. McDevitt. The structural basis of bacterial manganese import. Science Advances, 2021; 7 (32): eabg3980 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg3980

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.