inbox and environment news: Issue 515

October 24 - 30, 2021: Issue 515

Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2021

The 2021 event will run from October 18‒24 during National Bird Week. Register as a counter today at:

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is one of Australia’s biggest citizen science events. This year is our eighth count, and we’re hoping it will be our biggest yet!

Join thousands of people around the country in exploring your backyard, local park or favourite outdoor space and help us learn more about the birds that live where people live.

Taking part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great way to connect with the birds in your backyard, no matter where your backyard happens to be. You can count in a suburban garden, a local park, a patch of forest, down by the beach, or the main street of town. ⁠

To take part, register on the website today, then during the count you can use the web form or the app to submit your counts. Just enter your location and get counting ‒ each count takes just 20 minutes!

Not only will you be contributing to BirdLife Australia's knowledge of Aussie birds, but there are also some incredible prizes on offer. ⁠

Head over to the Aussie Backyard Bird Count website to find out more.

Echidna At Mona Vale

This echidna, photographed at Mona Vale on Friday October 22, was having a stroll around. One of several spotted lately, a pair at Bayview. For most of the year the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is a solitary animal, although each animal’s territory is large and often overlaps with that of other echidnas. The short-beaked echidna is protected in NSW and although relatively abundant and widely distributed within NSW and Australia it is not readily seen in the wild because of its quiet, reclusive nature.

In temperate climates, echidnas are most often seen during early morning and in the late afternoon, as they tend to avoid temperature extremes.

Echidnas breed from the end of June to early September. A female lays a single egg, which is incubated in the pouch and takes about ten days to hatch. The young echidna is suckled by its mother from mammary glands in the pouch, and is carried in the pouch for about three months. During this time the female will sometimes leave the young animal in a burrow, made by the female for its protection, so she may go and eat.

Termites and ants are its preferred food and this is why the animal is often called the ‘spiny anteater’. Earthworms, beetles and moth larvae are also part of the echidna’s diet - a good reason to not use harmful chemicals in your garden, or in this case, the local street. This one was eating lots of tiny ants.

An echidna will use its fine sense of smell to find food and has a beak which is highly sensitive to electrical stimuli. It tracks down its prey and catches it with its long, sticky tongue. Echidnas do not have teeth and they grind their food between the tongue and the bottom of the mouth.

When the infant leaves the pouch, its spines have started to develop, but it still stays close to its mother and may continue to suckle. The young echidna will leave the burrow at around 12 months of age, weighing 1–2 kg (Strahan 1995). When grown, echidnas measure 30–53 cm long with males weighing about 6 kg and females about 4.5 kg.

Echidnas have been known to live for as long as 16 years in the wild, but generally their life span is thought to be under 10 years.

photos by and courtesy Alex Tyrell - information: NSW Dept. of Environment.

Cicada Shell

yes; we're on the verge of Summer 2021-2022
photo by courtesy Selena Griffith

The Flannel Flower: Australia’s Symbol For Mental Health Awareness During Mental Health Month - October

There are HEAPS of Flannel Flowers out at present. In Aboriginal or Indigenous Lore and storytelling they are a flower of close relationships, intimacy and healing, and sharing those healing pathways for people.

The Flannel Flower, an Australian native, has been chosen as the national symbol to promote mental health awareness in Australia.

The Australian bush has an inherent beauty and strength. It is also known for its extremes of weather and landscape. Varieties of the Flannel Flower are commonly found growing wild in the bush throughout Australia. The Flannel Flower, as with all native Australian plants, needs to be adaptable and enduring in order to survive.

In the same way all of us, regardless of our life circumstances, develop resilience and the ability to adapt to change, in order to maintain good mental health.

Being open and empathetic to a person’s expression of distress can assist in the recovery of a person living with mental health illnesses and change the negative attitudes of our society as a whole. 

Start a Conversation
R U OK? inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and start a conversation with those in their world who may be struggling with life.
You don't need to be an expert to reach out - just a good friend and a great listener. 
Use these four steps and have a conversation that could change a life:
1. Ask R U OK?
2. Listen
3. Encourage action
4. Check in

Tuckeroo Becoming Troublesome In Pittwater

Tuckeroos, now a weed in the area, with hundreds of seedlings being seen in bushland, the dunes, will displace everything else if we don't pull up seedlings. Indian/Common Mynas feeding on these in Mona Vale and flying off to feed their offspring in recent weeks, mean more may appear.

Planting tuckeroos as a safe street tree started about 15 years ago by Council landscape architects, oblivious to the warnings they would become a weed by Natural Environment staff. Although they are a native plant, they are not native to Pittwater, as they were never seen in 1991, when some bush regeneration sites commenced. 

The fruit is an orange to yellow capsule with three lobes. There is a glossy dark brown seed inside each lobe. The seeds are covered in a bright orange aril. Fruit ripens from October to December, attracting many birds including Australasian figbird, olive-backed oriole and pied currawong. 

Image per Wikipedia

If you see seedlings sprouting, please pull them out so we can maintain the diversity of other plant species and the wildlife that needs these.

Waratahs: Look But Don't Steal

The NSW Government announced on Friday rangers and volunteers have applied a non-toxic blue paint to waratah petals and stems to deter flower pickers. Thieves caught blue-handed may face a $300 fine.
If you see one when out walking please look but don't touch. Native plants are an important part of these ecosystems. 
They once were everywhere in Pittwater. Visit: A Bunch Of Wildflowers: Historical Spring September Songs

Birds In Your Garden: Wish You Had More?

If you plant hybrid Grevilleas that flower constantly, you will not get small birds.
Noisy Miners defend these as a year-round source of nectar. 
Their family groups set up territories and gang up furiously on any smaller birds that come by. They can kill them and also destroy their nests.

Information courtesy Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA). Photos: Joe Mills -  Honey Gem Grevillea, AJG - Noisy Miner

Avalon Preservation Association AGM 2021

Speaker: Angus Gordon OAM
“Global warming, is it real?”
The 2021 Annual General Meeting for Avalon Preservation Association (APA) will be held from 7.00pm on Thursday 11 November 2021 at the Avalon Beach surf life saving club.
Our special guest speaker is Angus Gordon OAM. Angus will talk on the controversial and very timely topic “Global Warming, Is it Real?”

Angus was General Manager of Pittwater Council from 1996 to 2005. He has a Master’s degree in Water and Coastal Engineering. In 2018 Angus received the Medal of the Order of Australia for “service to environmental management and planning, and to the community”.

Over the past 40 years he has undertaken projects in all states of Australia and in a number of overseas countries in coastal engineering, coastal zone management and flood management and engineering. Angus has served as a UN expert and was tasked with the development of the NSW Coastal Protection Act.

Angus Gordon OAM. AJG pic.

Due to the current health situation, APA will hold the AGM strictly in line with the NSW Public Health Orders in force at the time. This may restrict the number of members and guests able to attend and guests may need to check in with a QR code, wear facemasks and show that they have been fully vaccinated.

Avalon Preservation Association
PO Box 1 Avalon Beach 2107

November 2021 Forum For Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Fishing Bats And Water Rats (Rakali)

7pm Monday November 29, 2021 by Zoom
Brad Law, Geoff Williams and Yianni Mentis

Dr Brad Law and Dr Geoff Williams will tell us about the behaviours and environmental requirements of two fascinating species of aquatic mammals - Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) - that forage in, on and near Narrabeen Lagoon. Yianni Mentis will explain how Northern Beaches Council is working to protect the environment, especially the water quality, needed by these aquatic creatures.

Dr Brad Law is a Principal Research Scientist at the Forest Science Unit of the Department of Primary Industries
Dr Geoff Williams is the Director of the Australian Platypus Conservancy
Yianni Mentis is Executive Manager or Environment and Climate Change at Northern Beaches Council.

We hope that members of the local community will start to look for Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) AUSTRALIA’S NATIVE “OTTER” in and around Narrabeen Lagoon and report all reliable sightings for entry into the Atlas of Living Australia.
Bookings via the website are essential:

Migratory Bird Season

A reminder that many of the birds that migrate to our area are arriving exhausted from having flown thousands of miles to be here. Please keep yourselves and your pets away from these shores during these months. They need their rest.

Baby Wildlife Season

Sydney Wildlife volunteer carers are reminding residents that it's baby season in the wildlife world. 
If you find a Joey on its own, it needs help. A sub-adult may be ok, but a Joey is not. If you find one, please try to contain it and keep it safe from predators and exposure and call either Sydney Wildlife (Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services) or WIRES. If you find a dead possum (ringtail or brushtail), check the pouch for a Joey. Brushtails generally have one but ringtails will have 2, sometimes three. If you are unable to, that’s ok, but please call it in to a wildlife organisation so someone can attend to it. 
Sydney Wildlife Rescue - 02 9413 4300
WIRES - 1300 094 737

Harry the ringtail possum.  Sydney Wildlife photo

Broken Offsets System Driving Species To Extinction

October 22, 2021
Threatened species across NSW face extinction if the state’s ineffective offset legislation is not scrapped and rewritten to better protect them, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

Amid revelations in a Guardian report that mining companies are able to use the very pits that they dig and plan to rehabilitate - many years down the track - as offsets, the Alliance is calling for a new set of rules that protect threatened species and ecological communities, rather than hastens their decline.

LTGA’s submission to the Inquiry into the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme details how offsetting is likely hastening, rather than preventing, the loss of species and ecological communities. The public hearing of the inquiry begins today.

“Offsetting is a dubious practice at best, and must always be implemented as the very last resort when projects are approved,” said Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Carmel Flint.

“In practice in NSW, not only is offsetting no longer a last resort, but it has become the assumed approach.

“The legislation in place in NSW is utterly devoid of scientific rigour - it is just a box for mining companies to tick that does nothing to preserve this state’s natural heritage.

There are some ecological communities that are so endangered, such as Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest, that their destruction simply cannot be offset - yet the current legislation allows mining companies to bulldoze them anyway.

“We now find ourselves in the situation where mining companies are clearing critically endangered ecosystems like this, with nothing more than an intention to replant saplings on the disturbed site decades down the track when mining has ceased.

“You don’t need to be an ecologist to understand why this is ineffective at preserving or restoring the biodiversity that was lost.

“Regional extinctions are likely occurring right now due to this dodgy offsetting practice, and it’s why the system requires a total overhaul.”

Consultations Open On National Reforms To Support Clean Hydrogen And Biogas Blending

October 21, 2021: Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, The Hon. Angus Taylor
Consultations have opened today on national reforms that will support the next steps in the roll-out of hydrogen, biomethane and other renewable gases to be used in Australia’s gas networks.

Energy Ministers agreed in August to expedite reforms to support investment in projects that will help to scale-up Australia’s clean hydrogen and biomethane industries. 

The aim of these reforms is to ensure regulation allows for safe, low-level blending of hydrogen, biomethane and other renewable gases into existing gas distribution systems and for use in gas appliances in Australian businesses and homes.  

The consultations will seek feedback on what changes are needed to the National Gas Law and National Energy Retail Law. The Australian Energy Market Commission and the Australian Energy Market Operator will also be seeking feedback on required changes to relevant rules and procedures. 

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the reforms support the Government’s actions to build a clean hydrogen industry and expand biomethane opportunities through reducing regulatory barriers. 

“These reforms will encourage even more innovative projects to be rolled out across Australia by ensuring regulation doesn’t restrict investment. This will also ensure consumers are adequately protected if using these low emission technologies,” Minister Taylor said. 

“Blending biomethane and hydrogen into our gas networks is an important measure to increase domestic demand and grow these new industries. This scale is needed to help reach our ‘H2 under $2’ goal under the Technology Investment Roadmap and be a major global player in clean hydrogen by 2030.  

“Gas blending will also advance our vision of establishing hydrogen hubs in regional Australia under the Government’s $464 million Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hubs program.” 

The Government is investing more than $1.2 billion to make Australia a global leader in clean hydrogen production and export, with enabling hydrogen blending identified as a priority in the National Hydrogen Strategy. Government-supported trial projects are underway and larger-scale hydrogen blending and biomethane injection projects are in development.

The Government is also developing an Emissions Reduction Fund method that will credit the emissions avoided from displacing the consumption of natural gas with biomethane, and has announced the development of a similar method for hydrogen blending will be a priority in 2022.

Stakeholders and interested parties can find the consultation papers and provide feedback through the Energy Ministers’ website webpage at: 

Responses can be submitted using this template and are due by 5pm AEST on 26 November 2021 to

Energy Ministers will consider the draft reforms in mid-2022, following further consultation in 2022 on draft legislative changes.

Greater Sydney Water Strategy Open For Feedback

The NSW Government has launched the draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy, an unprecedented 20-year roadmap to providing a safe, secure and sustainable water supply for Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the Strategy, now on public exhibition, will guide water management to 2040 to support economic growth, meet the needs of the growing population and prepare for our changing climate.

“A secure water supply is vital and this plan ensures we are able to support economic growth as we recover from the pandemic and set the foundations for the future,” Mrs Pavey said.

"We need to plan now for how our growing city and region will use water wisely as Sydney’s population is set to grow to 7.1 million by 2041.

“During the most recent drought, our dam levels depleted faster than we’ve experienced since records began – at a rate of 20 per cent per year.

“Thankfully our dams are now full, but we need to act decisively to secure sustainable water for the long-term – by exploring options for new water sources not dependent on rainfall, by conserving more, and by doing more with less.”

Options for consultation in the draft Strategy include:
  • Improving water recycling, leakage management and water efficiency programs, which could result in water savings of up to 49 gigalitres a year by 2040.
  • Extending a water savings program, which has been piloted in over 1000 households and delivered around 20 per cent reduction in water use per household and almost $190 in savings per year for household water bills.
  • Consideration of running the Sydney Desalination Plant full-time to add an extra 20 gigalitres of water per year.
  • Expanding or building new desalination plants to be less dependent on rainfall.
  • Investigating innovations in recycled water to improve sustainability.
  • Making greater use of stormwater and recycled water to cool and green the city and support recreational activities.
The draft Strategy also proposes improvements to the decision making process for water restrictions to better reflect prevailing conditions and forecasting.

“Instead of having inflexible trigger points, decision makers will use a new holistic approach to consider things like rainfall events, inflows to dams and dam depletion rates, water demand and weather forecasts,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy is a critical part of the NSW Government’s plan to grow the NSW economy and I encourage the community and industry to have their say.”

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will hold public webinars and information sessions during September and October.

The draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy will be on display until November 8, 2021. To read the Strategy and provide feedback visit

Sydney Desalination Plant May 2021. Photo: Catherine Parker (WaterCommsDPIE)

Warragamba Dam Raising Project EIS On Public Exhibition

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Warragamba Dam Raising Project for flood mitigation is on public exhibition from the 29th of September 2021, for a period of 45 days closing on the 12th of November 2021, during which public submissions will be received.

In May 2017, the NSW Government released the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy – ‘Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities.’  

The strategy is designed specifically for the valley as the most flood-prone region in NSW, if not Australia. It is a long-term plan to minimise significant risks to life and livelihoods; damage to urban and rural property; and, the major dislocation of economic activity from rapid, deep flooding.

It is the framework for the government, councils, businesses and communities to work together to reduce and manage flood risk in the valley.

The strategy recommends that raising Warragamba Dam to create a flood mitigation zone of around 14 metres is the best option to reduce the risks to life, property and community assets posed by floodwaters from the extensive Warragamba River catchment.

While a range of other infrastructure and non-infrastructure outcomes are included in the strategy and must be part of the solution for managing ongoing risk, no other mitigation measures can achieve the same risk reduction as the Warragamba Dam Raising Proposal.

WaterNSW, as owner and operator of the dam, is consulting widely about the effects and benefits of the proposal to inform the environmental assessment, concept design and, subject to all planning approvals, a business case to assist decision-making in 2022 about whether to proceed with these major flood mitigation works.

Visit the project portal and virtual engagement room to review the EIS document, interact with explanatory material, make submissions and register to attend webinars.

Warragamba Dam, NSW. Photo: Maksym Kozlenko

NSW Government Plan To Revitalise Peat Island And Mooney Mooney Released

The NSW Government’s proposal to breathe new life into old assets and open Peat Island to the public, while also revitalising Mooney Mooney with new housing, community facilities and job opportunities, has been released.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch said the rezoning proposal is now open for public exhibition on Central Coast Council’s website.

“For over a century Peat Island has been closed off to the public and the NSW Government is working to unlock this under-utilised publicly-owned land in this stunning Hawkesbury River setting,” Mr Crouch said.

Key features of the proposal include:
  • Nearly 270 new homes at Mooney Mooney to deliver more housing supply,
  • Retention of nine unlisted historical buildings on the island, and four on the mainland, to be restored and used for new community and commercial opportunities,
  • New retail and café or restaurant opportunities,
  • Approximately 9.65 hectares of open space, including opportunities for walking and cycling tracks, parklands and recreational facilities,
  • Retention of the chapel and surrounding land for community use, and
  • 10.4 hectares of bushland dedicated as a conservation area.
“The NSW Government has been consulting widely, culminating in this rezoning proposal that strikes a balance between future land uses and achieving the best social and economic outcomes for the Mooney Mooney community.”

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the proposal will provide more than two kilometres of public access to the Hawkesbury River foreshore and Peat Island, opening it up for the first time in 100 years, as well as the opportunity for tourism uses including short-stay tourist accommodation.

“This is an area of great significance to the region, local and Aboriginal communities, and many other stakeholders, including those with links to Peat Island’s institutional past,” Mrs Pavey said.

“Any future uses will recognise and protect the site’s significant Aboriginal and European heritage.”

To ensure everyone has an opportunity to understand the NSW Government’s vision for Peat Island and Mooney Mooney, community information webinars will be held over coming weeks. Details will be available shortly.

Mrs Pavey said in parallel to the broader community engagement on the proposal, the NSW Government would continue to work with the Peat Island/Mooney Mooney Community Reference Group on the future of the area’s community facilities and public spaces.

“At the heart of this will be how the Peat Island chapel precinct at Mooney Mooney can be retained by the community and put to its best possible use,” Mrs Pavey said.

The rezoning proposal will also remain open to feedback from the public until Monday, 20 December 2021.

Government Supporting Australia's Biggest Electric Bus Fleet

October 21, 2021
Joint media release with Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister The Hon. Angus Taylor, NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy and Environment the Hon. Matt Kean MP and NSW Minister for Transport and Roads the Hon. Rob Stokes MP 

The Australian Government is backing the nation’s largest fleet of electric buses through a new pilot program that will see 40 new vehicles deployed across Sydney. 

The project will be an Australian first, transitioning diesel buses to electric, in addition to upgrading the charging infrastructure and retrofitting the bus depot in Leichhardt, NSW.

The Government is supporting the pilot with a $29.5 million investment, including $24.5 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and $5 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

The project is being delivered through a joint venture between Transgrid and Zenobe, with support from Transit Systems and Transport for NSW.

Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the Morrison and Perrottet Governments are working together to reduce emissions through a focus on technology and testing innovative commercial models.

“This project demonstrates the importance of governments and industry working together to reduce emissions in hard to abate sectors like road and transport,” Minister Taylor said. 

"The aim of the pilot is to show the technical and commercial viability of using electric buses travelling a full route without the need to stop to recharge along the way.

“This significant investment will establish the nation’s first fully-integrated electric bus depot, allowing other fleet operators to better understand commercial implications and make informed choices about new technologies.

NSW Minister for Transport Rob Stokes said NSW is leading the way with the largest fleet of electric buses in Australia.

“We’ve set an ambitious target to transition our fleet of 8,000 buses to Zero Emission technology by 2030 and this project is a huge step in that direction,” NSW Minister Stokes said.

“The innovative financing model adopted means we’re able to deliver 40 new electric buses for the Inner West quickly, at no extra cost to the NSW taxpayer. 

“We will also upgrade the infrastructure at the Leichhardt depot, shifting from diesel pumps to smart charging stations, solar panels and large scale energy storage.” 

NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy and the Environment Matt Kean said he was looking forward to more innovative projects focused on driving a cleaner future for public transport.

“Transport is one of the major sources of carbon emissions which is why we need to forge ahead with initiatives that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and drive us towards a cleaner and greener future,” NSW Minister Kean said. 

The Leichhardt depot retrofit will include a combination of 324 kWh and 422 kWh batteries, 5x120 kW electric bus chargers - capable of charging two buses at a time and 31x 80 kW electric bus chargers, 2.5 MW / 4.9 MWh of stationary battery storage, and 388 kW of rooftop solar PV.

The first 12 of the 40 new electric buses will start entering service this month, with the rest of the fleet arriving over the next 6 months.

The first 12 of the 40 new electric buses will hit the roads in Sydney. Picture: Supplied

Australia's 100 Priority Species

October 22, 2021
From the Quokka, Green Sea Turtle, the Australian Sea Lion, the Greater Bilby, the Koala to the Orange-Bellied Parrot, the Morrison Government has announced 100 Priority Species that will be the focus of further conservation efforts under its 10-year Threatened Species Strategy, and an immediate $10 million in community grants for on ground activities.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that extensive consultation with scientists, community groups, Traditional Owners and other stakeholders helped to identify the priority species.

“In prioritising 100 species through a decade long threatened species strategy, we are highlighting the importance not only of our mammals and plants but our, reptiles, insects, frogs and other freshwater and marine species," Minister Ley said.

“This is about halting and reversing historic declines and establishing the ways we can live together with our native species.

“In announcing the opening of $10 million in community grants, I am highlighting the importance of local communities being a part of a strategy that is supported by our investments through the more than $1 billion National Landcare Program, our $149 million commitment to National Environmental Science, our $200 million Bushfire recovery funding, and the $100 million being invested in Oceans Leadership.

“The expanded list will drive recovery actions for an array of plants and animals in diverse environments, from the arid deserts to the rainforests, the forests to grasslands, inland waters and seas.”

The ten year threatened species strategy will be underpinned by separate five-year action plans, the first of which will be released this year to reflect the priority species list. 

Grants will be available to support a wide range of actions to directly benefit the 100 priority species on the ground, including weed and pest management, feral predator control, environmental restoration and protection, off-site conservation activities, and community and citizen science programs.

Further information on the national 100 Priority Threatened Plants and Animal Species can be found here:   

Major Food Businesses Sign Up To Halve Food Waste In Australia

October 21, 2021
The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Trevor Evans MP, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management

Some of the world’s biggest and most competitive food retailers and manufacturers have come together in a bid to halve Australia’s food waste, signing up to a new agreement with the Australian Government to meet or beat the ambitious target by 2030.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Australian Food Pact, a voluntary agreement between retailers, manufacturers, growers and suppliers has the backing of industry heavyweights Woolworths Group, Coles, Goodman Fielder, Mars Australia, Simplot Australia, McCain and Mondelez Australia.

“Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food which is why the Australian Government has set an aggressive target of halving food waste by 2030,” Minister Ley said.

“That challenge goes right across the supply chain – from the grower to the home - the Australian Food Pact is the first time we will have the major players in the same room working towards that goal.

“With food waste costing the economy roughly $36 billion a year, we need collaboration between business and government without the threat of regulation.

“Australian Food Pact creates that space for businesses to come together, to work through their food waste issues and to collaborate up and down the supply chain.”

Assistant Minister for the Environment Trevor Evans said the Australian Food Pact will be good for consumers, boost jobs and help to protect the environment.

“By signing up to the voluntary agreement, business is demonstrating leadership in the push for circularity in food production, sustainability and environmental protection,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

Supported by $4 million in Morrison Government funding, organisation Stop Food Waste Australia will drive the policies and collaboration between businesses that sign up to the Australian Food Pact.

Stop Food Waste Australia CEO Dr Steven Lapidge said Australians waste 7.6 million tonnes of food each year, equivalent to more than 300kg of wasted food per person per year.

“The Australian Food Pact will bring together businesses from along the length of the supply chain – from farm to fork – to work together to reduce food loss and waste,” Dr Lapidge said.

“We’ve been heartened by the response of the Australian food industry to joining the Australian Food Pact, which will see signatories tackle waste, improve profitability, respond to supply risks, provide innovative solutions, be more competitive, and provide quality products with lower environmental impacts.”

The inaugural signatories for the Australian Food Pact are:
  • Simplot Australia
  • Woolworths Group
  • Coles
  • Mars Australia
  • Mondelēz Australia 
  • Goodman Fielder 
  • ARECO Pacific
  • McCain Foods
For more on the Australian Food Pact: 

About the Australian Food Pact

The Australian Food Pact is a voluntary agreement bringing together organisations from ‘farm-to-fork’ across the Australian food industry. It is a pre-competitive collaboration including the primary production, processing and manufacturing, wholesale, retail, hospitality, institutions, and household sectors, and is designed to make the Australian food system more sustainable, resilient, and circular as part of Australia’s goal of halving its food waste by 2030.

About Stop Food Waste Australia

Stop Food Waste Australia (SWFA) was established in January 2021 with funding from the Australian Government, and is a partnership including federal, state, and local governments, the food industry and food rescue charities. SFWA is part of independent non-profit company and charity, Fight Food Waste Limited, which also operates the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre.

Australia ranks last out of 54 nations on its strategy to cope with climate change. The Glasgow summit is a chance to protect us all

Johanna NalauGriffith University and Hannah Melville-ReaNew York University

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is widely discussed, but the other side of climate action is less often talked about: adapting to impacts already locked in. Even if we drastically reduce emissions, the cost of natural disasters in Australia will reach an estimated A$73 billion per year by 2060.

Intense heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest natural hazards. In the summer of 2019-2020, unprecedented bushfires devastated Australia’s southeast, and changes in seasonal conditions over the past two decades has seen average farm profits fall by 23%.

The Morrison government is developing a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy, to be released ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow next month.

The strategy must ensure Australia does better to manage climate damage already happening, as well as prepare for future disasters. Australia once led the world in climate adaptation, but efforts have fallen by the wayside over the past decade or so. The longer we fail to act, the greater the costs and difficulty we will face.

ocean rises up to homes
Climate change threatens Australia in myriad ways. UNSW WATER RESEARCH LABORATORY

Australia Was Once A Global Leader

According to the United Nations, adaptation refers to any change to processes, practices and structures in response to the climate change threat.

It can include anything from building flood defences, setting up early warning systems for cyclones and switching to drought-resistant crops, to redesigning communication systems, business operations and government policies.

In 2007, the newly elected Rudd government recognised the need for Australia to adapt to the climate changes ahead. For example, it established a federal Department of Climate Change and Water inside the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, to coordinate emissions reduction, climate adaptation and international efforts.

Australia was one of the first countries to invest millions in adaptation, including establishing the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility in 2008.

But the growing politicisation of climate action over subsequent years meant funding waned at the federal level, and Australia’s national adaptation efforts slowly deteriorated.

Read more: Australia's states are forging ahead with ambitious emissions reductions. Imagine if they worked together

The Abbott government dissolved the Department of Climate Change in 2013. Today, responsibility for emissions reduction, adaptation and climate diplomacy is split across various government departments.

Historically, Australia has chronically underinvested in disaster prevention. In 2014, the Productivity Commission examined the federal government’s initiative to provide disaster relief and recovery payments and found only 3 cents in every dollar are spent on mitigating risks, while 97 cents are spent on clean-up and recovery.

The absence of an overarching adaptation plan can lead to ad hoc, counter-productive policies. For example, the federal government recently announced a A$10 billion insurance guarantee in Northern Australia to protect residents from cyclone and flood damage. But this risks backing in residents to remain in disaster-prone areas.

Australia has also never conducted a national climate risk assessment. This leads to confusion at the local government level, especially around sea level rise. For example, in 2019 Shoalhaven city council in New South Wales reportedly voted to plan for unrealistically optimistic sea level rise projections that cannot be reached under current emissions scenarios.

Looking Ahead To COP26

This fragmented approach to climate policy has seen Australia fall behind other nations on climate action and resilience.

Under the Paris Agreement, each nation should have a National Adaptation Plan to sufficiently prepare for and manage climate change impacts. While at least 106 other countries have such policies and plans for adaptation, Australia does not.

Instead, we have the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy. Unlike National Adaptation Plans abroad, this strategy lacks enforceable targets or policies. As such, it was ranked last out of 54 comparable strategies in a 2019 study.

Read more: Who's who in Glasgow: 5 countries that could make or break the planet's future under climate change

An updated strategy will be released prior to or at the Glasgow summit. The government says it will support governments, communities and businesses to better adapt to the physical impacts of climate change.

Australia needs a long-term and proactive approach to climate resilience, and the updated national strategy should commit to spending as much on prevention as it does on recovery. Important proactive measures include:

  • greater funding for First Nations cool burning programs to prevent catastrophic bushfires

  • more green spaces in urban centres to mitigate urban heat

  • partnerships with insurance providers to evaluate projected costs of climate risks and adaptation for all new infrastructure decisions.

Read more: 'Top down' disaster resilience doesn't work. The National Recovery and Resilience Agency must have community at its heart

The recent 2019-2020 bushfires were a brutal reminder of the need to adapt to climate change. In response to a recommendation by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, the Morrison government established the National Recovery and Resilience Agency in May this year.

It includes A$600 million toward communities to help them prepare for future disasters. But as other experts have noted, the investment pales in comparison to the billions of dollars lost through disasters, and must become core funding.

Others have also questioned how the new agency will coordinate with the Emergency Management Australia and state recovery agencies, and how the agency’s success will be measured.

On top of business-as-usual management, climate change adaptation requires understanding how the disasters and other impacts will worsen in future, and how we can start preparing.

Preventative measures give you the most bang for your buck. Some studies estimate every dollar spent on disaster prevention saves as much as A$15 in recovery efforts.

Burnt forest
Traditional burning is one way to help mitigate catastrophic bushfires. Shutterstock

It’s Not Too Late

The window of opportunity is still open to urgently reduce global emissions and help communities respond to the unfolding climate crisis.

The federal government must reinvest in climate adaptation science, carry out risk assessments and roll out policies that protect us from floods, fires, drought and increasing temperatures.

The Glasgow summit is shaping as a strong catalyst for more action on adaptation. For the first time, countries will submit “Adaptation Communications” that outline their progress, and these will be updated and assessed by the United Nations every five years.

Collectively, they’ll help track global progress on adaptation measures and investments, to ensure no country gets left behind.The Conversation

Johanna Nalau, Research Fellow, Climate Adaptation, Griffith University and Hannah Melville-Rea, Research fellow, New York University

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

Widespread collapse of West Antarctica’s ice sheet is avoidable if we keep global warming below 2℃

Dan LowryGNS ScienceMario KrappGNS Science, and Nick GolledgeTe Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

Rising seas are already making storm damage more costly, adding to the impact on about 700 million people who live in low-lying coastal areas at risk of flooding.

Scientists expect sea-level rise will exacerbate the damage from storm surges and coastal floods during the coming decades. But predicting just how much and how fast the seas will rise this century is difficult, mainly because of uncertainties about how Antarctica’s ice sheet will behave.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCprojections of Antarctica’s contribution to sea-level rise show considerable overlap between low and high-emissions scenarios.

But in our new research, we show the widespread collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is avoidable if we can keep global warming below the Paris target of 2℃.

In West Antarctica, the interior of the ice sheet sits atop bedrock that lies well below sea level. As the Southern Ocean warms, scientists are concerned the ice sheet will continue to retreat, potentially raising sea level by several meters.

When and how quickly this process could happen depends on a number of factors that are still uncertain.

Our research better quantifies these uncertainties and shows the full impact of different emissions trajectories on Antarctica may not become clear until after 2100. But the consequences of decisions we make this decade will be felt for centuries.

People standing on a ridge in Antarctica.
New modelling shows if warming stays below 2℃, West Antarctica’s ice sheet remains intact. Author provided

A New Approach To Projecting Change In Antarctica

Scientists have used numerical ice-sheet models for decades to understand how ice sheets evolve under different climate states. These models are based on mathematical equations that represent how ice sheets flow.

But despite advances in mapping the bed topography beneath the ice, significant uncertainty remains in terms of the internal ice structure and conditions of the bedrock and sediment below. Both affect ice flow.

This makes prediction difficult, because the models have to rely on a series of assumptions, which affect how sensitive a modelled ice sheet is to a changing climate. Given the number and complexity of the equations, running ice-sheet models can be time consuming, and it may be impossible to fully account for all of the uncertainty.

Read more: Scientists still don’t know how far melting in Antarctica will go – or the sea level rise it will unleash

To overcome this limitation, researchers around the world are now frequently using statistical “emulators”. These mathematical models can be trained using results from more complex ice-sheet models and then used to run thousands of alternative scenarios.

Using hundreds of ice-sheet model simulations as training data, we developed such an emulator to project Antarctica’s sea-level contribution under a wide range of emissions scenarios. We then ran tens of thousands of statistical emulations to better quantify the uncertainties in the ice sheet’s response to warming.

Low Emissions Prevent Ice Shelf Thinning

To ensure our projections are realistic, we discounted any simulation that did not fit with satellite observations of Antarctic ice loss over the last four decades.

We considered a low-emissions scenario, in which global carbon emissions were reduced quickly over the next few decades, and a high-emissions scenario, in which emissions kept increasing to the end of the century. Under both scenarios, we observed continued ice loss in areas already losing ice mass, such as the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica.

These maps of Antarctica show the projected change in ice thickness between the present and the year 2300, for a low-emissions scenario (left) and a high-emissions scenario (right), with red indicating ice loss and blue showing ice gain.
These maps of Antarctica show the projected change in ice thickness between the present and the year 2300, for a low-emissions scenario (left) and a high-emissions scenario (right), with red indicating ice loss and blue showing ice gain. Author provided

For the ice sheet as a whole, we found no statistically significant difference between the ranges of plausible contributions to sea-level rise in the two emissions scenarios until the year 2116. However, the rate of sea-level rise towards the end of this century under high emissions was double that of the low-emissions scenario.

By 2300, under high emissions, the Antarctic ice sheet contributed more than 1.5m more to global sea level than in the low-emissions scenario. This is because the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapses.

The earliest warning sign of a future with a multi-metre Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise is widespread thinning of Antarctica’s two largest floating ice shelves, the Ross and Ronne-Filchner.

Read more: Antarctica's ice shelves are trembling as global temperatures rise – what happens next is up to us

These massive ice shelves hold back land-based ice, but as they thin and break off, this resistance weakens. The land-based ice flows more easily into the ocean, raising sea level.

In the high-emissions scenario, this widespread ice-shelf thinning happens within the next few decades. But importantly, these ice shelves show no thinning in a low-emissions scenario — most of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet remains intact.

Planning Our Future

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep warming well below 2℃. But current global government pledges commit us to 2.9℃ by 2100. Based on our emulator projections, we believe these pledges would lead to a 50% higher (70cm) Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise by the year 2300 than if warming remains at or under 2℃.

But even if we meet the Paris target, we are already committed to sea-level rise from the Antarctic ice sheet, as well as from Greenland and mountain glaciers around the world for centuries or millennia to come.

Continued warming will also raise sea levels because warmer ocean water expands and the amount of water stored on land (in soil, aquifers, wetlands, lakes, and reservoirs) changes.

To avoid the worst impacts on coastal communities around the world, planners and policymakers will need to develop meaningful adaptation strategies and mitigation options for the continued threat of sea-level rise.The Conversation

Dan Lowry, Ice Sheet & Climate Modeller, GNS ScienceMario Krapp, Environmental Data Scientist, GNS Science, and Nick Golledge, Professor of Glaciology, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

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

Australia is undermining the Paris Agreement, no matter what Morrison says – we need new laws to stop this

Peter ChristoffThe University of Melbourne

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is poised to take a 2050 net-zero emissions target to Glasgow. While this may seem like a milestone, Australia is still failing to abide by one of the core requirements of the Paris Agreement.

At Paris in 2015, Australia – like the rest of the world – signed up to toughening our emissions reduction targets every five years. We’ve now reached that point (factoring in a one-year COVID delay).

Yet Australia’s current 2030 targets remain no more ambitious than those we produced six years ago, and Morrison has all but ruled out increasing them ahead of the Glasgow summit.

This means Australia is undermining the international treaty central to combating climate change – and highlights yet again the need for Australia’s climate agreements to be written into domestic law.

sunset and smoke stack
Under the Paris Agreement, nations should increase their climate ambition every five years. Shutterstock

What Is The Paris Agreement?

The 2015 Paris Agreement is a curious instrument, allowing countries to nominate their own emissions-reduction targets and related actions. This discretionary arrangement was the only option to ensure support and compliance by individual states, especially the United States and China.

In 2015, Australia’s first target was to reduce emissions by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. It was well below the 45–65% reduction recommended by Australia’s Climate Change Authority.

In combination, the first emissions-reduction pledges made by the 195 signatories to the Paris Agreement was insufficient. They put the world on track for global warming of at least 3.5℃ above pre-industrial levels this century – far higher than the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2℃, while aiming for no more than 1.5℃ .

So the Agreement also requires nations to amend their targets every five years. These amendments are required to “represent a progression” beyond the last plan and “reflect a country’s highest possible ambition”.

Specifically, each country with a 2030 target – such as Australia – is expected to update its contribution by 2020 (a deadline pushed out by COVID to 2021).

Read more: What is COP26 and why does the fate of Earth, and Australia's prosperity, depend on it?

World leaders pose for a group photo at the Paris conference in 2015.
The Paris Agreement entered into force in 2016, following the Paris climate change conference in 2015. Jacky Naegelen/AP/AAP

Breaking Our Legal Obligations

fundamental principle of international law – and arguably the oldest – is “pacta sunt servanda”, which means “agreements must be kept”. It is essential to the functioning of the global treaty system.

Although the Paris Agreement does not include enforcement mechanisms, it is nonetheless a legally binding treaty and so, according to the “pacta sunt servanda” principle, must be implemented in good faith.

In practice, major developed countries have shown they understand “updating” to refer to toughening short-term targets, separate from a commitment to the longer term aim of net-zero by 2050.

For example, in December 2020 the United Kingdom lifted its 2030 target from 57% to 68% below 1990 levels. Germany has increased its target from 55% to 65% below 1990 levels. The United States will now aim for a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia, on the other hand, has not budged on its short-term ambition. Its 2020 formal communication to the United Nations lists a raft of policy initiatives. But there is no change to its old 2030 target.

This failure builds on Coalition’s record of undermining international climate agreements, stretching back to 1997 when the Howard government first negotiated extraordinarily favourable emissions targets but ultimately refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Howard’s recalcitrance contributed to an eight-year delay before the protocol came into legal force, and slowed global efforts to reduce emissions. Australia finally ratified the Protocol in 2007, under the Rudd government.

Morrison adds to this record as he continues to dither. His failure is puzzling, given the absence of threats to his prime ministership, and the clear support for tougher emissions targets from business, farmers and in crucial rural seats.

What’s more, Australia is actually already tracking towards emissions reductions of 30-38% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Read more: Yes, Australia can beat its 2030 emissions target. But the Morrison government barely lifted a finger

The Morrison government has not increased the ambition of its 2030 target. AAP

National Climate Target Law

So how can we ensure Australia abides by international laws, both in terms of the letter and the spirit?

Under our Constitution, unless the substance of an international treaty signed by Australia is also enacted in Australian law, that treaty has no legal hold over domestic behaviour.

No federal government – Coalition or Labor – has embedded Australia’s emissions-reduction targets in law. Most recently, in 2018, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to do so as part of the proposed National Energy Guarantee. Internal party tensions forced him to dump that legislative plan – but not soon enough to prevent him being dropped as leader.

Those times have passed; parliamentary support for climate action is now overwhelming.

Read more: Climate wars, carbon taxes and toppled leaders: the 30-year history of Australia’s climate response, in brief

The absence of legislative teeth means no one can be held accountable if Australia misses its emissions goals. That means the Morrison government has been able to approve new coal mines and subsidise coal-fired power generation and gas expansion without fear of punishment or redress.

By contrast, many other countries - for instance, the UKAustriaDenmark and Scotland - have established effective national climate laws, setting long-term and interim targets with associated mechanisms for reviewing and requiring progress.

Many include mechanisms for systematic review and are regularly amended to bring them into line with the targets and other provisions of the Paris Agreement.

The recognised gold standard for such climate legislation is the UK Climate Change Act 2008, which includes:

  • interim and final targets, and related implementation mechanisms
  • an independent committee with science-informed processes for reviewing progress
  • mechanisms for setting and regularly increasing ambition over time
  • parliamentary accountability mechanisms and the basis for whole-of-government planning and coordination.

Four Australian states and territories – Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT - have developed similar tough framework legislation. Indeed, recent research shows we were once global leaders: South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the world to enact such a law.

man at lectern
The administration of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has enshrined the nation’s climate targets in law. AP

Overcoming Past Failures

Without a stringent and binding plan to minimise national emissions in the short term, a 2050 net-zero target is vacuous.

Without a national climate law, the problems of the past will persist. National policies and effort will remain uncoordinated, investors will face continued uncertainty and economic opportunities will continue to be lost.

If Australia is really serious about climate action, Morrison must announce a new, tougher 2030 goal and enshrine it in law. This law must also include clear processes for coordinating, reviewing and enhancing national climate action.

The urgency and scale of the climate crisis demands it.The Conversation

Peter Christoff, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor, Melbourne Climate Futures initiative, The University of Melbourne

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

Barnaby Joyce has refused to support doubling Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets – but we could get there so cheaply and easily

Andrew BlakersAustralian National University

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison tries to land a Coalition climate policy deal ahead of the international COP26 summit in Glasgow, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Sunday ruled out supporting more ambitious 2030 targets.

The current 2030 target aims to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels, and has been criticised by scientists and the international community as far too weak.

But ahead of a Nationals party room meeting on Sunday to discuss changes to national climate policy, Joyce declared it “highly unlikely” he would support a doubling of the 2030 target, according to ABC reports.

If Australia was to adopt the bolder target, it would bring us in line with our key ally and trading partner, the United States, and would be broadly in line with the targets of other allies, the European Union and the United Kingdom. It would see Australia become a valued and relevant party to the negotiations at Glasgow, rather than a resented freeloader.

As a professor of engineering and an author of many research papers considering what’s needed to reach 100% renewable energy, I believe Australia could halve its 2030 emissions with minimal cost and inconvenience. Here’s how it could be done.

man in blue shirt talks to journalists
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says it’s ‘highly unlikely’ he will support a doubling of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target. Mick Tsikas/AAP

By The Megatonnes

The top three sources of Australia’s emissions are electricity (34%), heating from burning fossil fuels in homes and factories (20%), and transport (18%).

Australia’s emissions baseline year is 2005, when the total emissions were 612 million tonnes (megatonnes) of carbon dioxide equivalent.

By 2020, emissions had fallen to 498 megatonnes, mostly because the rates of land clearing, another big source of emissions, are much lower now than in 2005.

This puts us well on track to meet and beat Australia’s current 2030 target, which equates to about 453 megatonnes. We will easily reach this soft target by continuing to displace coal generation of electricity with solar and wind at the current rate of 7 gigawatts per year, provided we avoid new sources of emissions.

Earlier this year, United States President Joe Biden announced his commitment to reduce US emissions 50-52% by 2030.

Australia should offer to match this at the Glasgow summit. Cutting, say, 51% of Australia’s 2005 levels would bring Australia’s emissions down to just 300 megatonnes in 2030.

Read more: Yes, Australia can beat its 2030 emissions target. But the Morrison government barely lifted a finger

OK, So How Do We Do It?

The task of reaching 300 megatonnes in 2030 is straightforward, and with around zero net cost. It would see:

  • 90% of electricity generation coming from solar, wind and hydro in 2030 (three-quarters of the task)

  • 90% of new sales of vehicles and heating equipment be electric from 2027 (one-quarter of the task)

  • no new emissions sources. For example, encouraging fossil gas companies to frack large new areas makes the task more onerous because of methane leakage.

Let’s look at transport first. Curtailing sales of petrol vehicles with a combination of incentives and regulation would see nearly all vehicles become electric by the mid-2030s, as old cars retire.

While the federal government has been famously unenthusiastic about electric vehicles, states and territories are already offering modest incentives.

Read more: Up to 90% of electricity from solar and wind the cheapest option by 2030: CSIRO analysis

All vehicles could become electric when older cars retire. Shutterstock

The bulk of emissions cuts will come from the electricity sector, because the cost of solar and wind technology has fallen below coal and gas.

As of this month, Australia’s National Electricity Market derives 36% of its electricity demand from renewables (mostly solar and wind), and is tracking towards 50% in 2025. Coal burning makes up 60%, but is falling quickly because of growing competition from solar and wind. Gas generation has fallen to just 4%.

The wholesale market price has also fallen sharply from 2020, as a flood of new solar and wind farms entered the market. This means the faster we deploy solar and wind, the lower electricity prices will be and the faster we reduce emissions.

The biggest impediment to rapid deployment of solar and wind is a lack of new transmission cables to bring new solar and wind power from the regions to the cities. The government needs to facilitate a national transmission network to get rid of congestion when transmitting renewable electricity — then stand back as solar and wind farm companies rush to utilise it.

Australia has a wealth of sunlight, giving us huge potential for deploying solar power. Shutterstock

Australia’s Natural Advantage

Not only is the market for renewable energy dramatically improving, Australia also has a natural advantage. Compared with most other developed nations, Australia has excellent solar and wind resources where most people actually live, near the sea.

Australia also has a big head start on installing rooftop solar, solar farms and windfarms, helped along by strong Australian-developed solar technology and political support between 2007 and 2013.

In fact, in 2020 Australia was among the top three global leaders in deploying new renewable energy capacity, alongside the Netherlands and Norway, as the chart below shows. These three nations deployed new renewables per capita at 10 times the global rate, and between three and five times faster than China, Japan, Europe and the USA.

The fastest change in global energy systems in history is underway. Due to their their compelling economic advantage, solar and wind provided three-quarters of new electricity generating capacity worldwide, and 99% of new capacity in Australia, in 2020.

Data for this chart is from the International Renewable Energy Agency. Andrew BlakersAuthor provided

Cutting Further To 100 Megatonnes

Reducing emissions to 300 megatonnes in 2030 would place Australia on track to just 100 megatonnes sometime in the 2030s, at low cost. We’d eventually see emissions fully removed from electricity, land transport and heating as, for example, electric vehicles replace retiring older cars and retiring gas heaters are replaced.

It’s also important to note that every year, coal and gas mining releases around 50 megatonnes of “fugitive” methane emissions — leaks from coal mining and gas fracking. But this, too, will vanish in Australia when other countries stop buying Australian coal and gas. Presumably, this will be before 2050 as other countries make good on their promises to decarbonise.

The technology we need to reach 100 megatonnes of emissions is already available at low cost from vast production runs: solar, wind, energy storage (via pumped hydro and batteries), transmission cables, electric vehicles, heat pumps and electric furnaces. Continued research and development will make these costs even lower.

So What’s Left Over To Get To Net-Zero?

Remaining emissions come from aviation, shipping, industry (cement, chemicals, metals), land clearing and agriculture. These sectors need plenty of research and industrial development to decarbonise, but we have time to do this over the next decade if we halve emissions by 2030.

Given Australia has plenty of land, good wind and much better solar than its rivals, it would be unconscionable for Australia to have a softer emissions target than the US, UK and EU at the Glasgow.

We don’t need new taxes, nor hydrogen, nor carbon capture and storage, nor a “gas-led recovery”. But we do need the federal government to either get involved or get out of the way.

Read more: Climate wars, carbon taxes and toppled leaders: the 30-year history of Australia’s climate response, in brief The Conversation

Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering, Australian National University

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

Millions of people were evacuated during disasters last year – another rising cost of climate change

Melizabeth Uhi, a school principal, stands in front of her destroyed home in Vanuatu, a week after Cyclone Pam tore through the South Pacific archipelago in 2015. Nick Perry/AP
Jane McAdam AOUNSW

As world leaders prepare for the COP26 climate talks next month, it’s worth recalling a sobering line from the royal commission’s report into the 2019-20 Australian bushfires: “what was unprecedented is now our future”.

The bushfires saw the largest peacetime evacuation of Australians from their homes, with at least 65,000 people displaced. As climate change amplifies the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, evacuations are likely to become increasingly common – and costly – in human and economic terms.

Numbers Of Displaced People On The Rise

Globally, the displacement of people due to the impacts of disasters and climate change is now at a record high.

In 2020, nearly 31 million people were displaced within their own countries because of disasters, at least a third of which resulted from government-led evacuations. And people in poorer countries are six times more likely to be evacuated than those in wealthier countries, according to some estimates.

Already, close to 90% of the world’s refugees come from countries that are the most affected by climate change – and the least able to adapt.

Read more: We can no longer ignore the threats facing the Pacific — we need to support more migration to Australia

Evacuations are an important life-saving emergency response – a temporary measure to move people to safety in the face of imminent harm. Under human rights law, states are obligated to protect people from threats to life, including the adverse effects of disasters and climate change.

At times, this may include an obligation to evacuate people at risk.

However, without careful planning and oversight, evacuations can also constitute arbitrary displacement. They can uproot “significant numbers” of people for prolonged periods of time. And they can expose people to other types of risks and vulnerabilities, and erode human rights.

For example, in 2020, wildfires and flooding exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis in Syria, prompting the evacuation of thousands of already internally displaced persons who were forced to move yet again.

Too Little Support After Disasters

Unfortunately, the “rescue” paradigm that characterises the way we typically think about evacuations means such risks are too often overlooked. As a result, national responses may fail to appreciate the scale of internal displacement triggered by evacuations, or to identify it at all.

In practice, this may mean there is insufficient support for those who are displaced, and little accountability by the relevant government authorities. Moving people out of harm’s way during a disaster may be one element of an effective government response. Ensuring people can return, safely and with dignity, however, is crucial to economic and social recovery.

Read more: In the face of chaos, why are we so nonchalant about climate change?

This is particularly prescient given that evacuations can create significant economic and social disruption.

For instance, the cost of a year’s temporary housing for Australia’s 2019–20 bushfire evacuees amounted to A$60–72 million. Each day of lost work cost A$705 per person.

Such costs are amplified in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for 80% of global disaster-related displacement from 2008–18.

Small island states are particularly affected by disasters and the impacts of climate change. For instance, large proportions of Vanuatu’s population were displaced by Cyclone Pam in 2015 and by Cyclone Harold just five years later.

According to a UN forecast, such countries could face average annual disaster-related losses equivalent to nearly 4% of their GDPs. The impact on the long-term prosperity, stability and security of individuals and communities cannot be overstated.

The point is that with greater investment in disaster risk reduction and planning, many of these outcomes could be avoided.

Currently, the amount of money allocated in development assistance to prepare for disaster risks is “miniscule” compared to aid funding for post-disaster responses.

This is clearly is the wrong way around – especially when the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates each dollar spent on preparation could have a 60-fold return.

What Leaders At COP26 Need To Do

The ABC television’s miniseries Fires shows that people’s decisions about whether to stay or go in an emergency are not simple. People are influenced not only by their perceptions of the risk of harm, but also by the desire to protect relatives, property and animals, or a belief that they can withstand the disaster.

Well-planned, evidence-based strategies are important when an emergency requires rapid decision-making, often in changing conditions and with limited resources to hand. If lines of authority are unclear, or there is insufficient attention to detail during the planning process, evacuation efforts may be hampered further, putting lives and property at greater risk.

Read more: Rising seas will displace millions of people – and Australia must be ready

It is essential for policymakers to recognise that a government’s “life-saving” response to a disaster, such as an evacuation, can itself generate significant human and financial costs. Governments need to incorporate principles from human rights law into their response plans to help protect people from foreseeable risks and to enhance their rights, well-being and recovery.

Climate change is only going to exacerbate increasingly extreme weather events that force people from their homes. At next month’s climate talks, leaders must agree on climate change mitigation targets and adaptation policies that avert the need to evacuate people in the first place.

However, achieving change on the ground will require a far more linked-up and integrated approach to climate change, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and mobility. This includes systematically implementing the recommendations not only of the Paris Agreement, but other international agreements focused on these goals.

The Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW is holding a conference this week bringing together experts to share evidence, experiences and solutions for people at risk of displacement in due to climate change and disasters. A schedule of events and more information can be found here.The Conversation

Jane McAdam AO, Scientia Professor and Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW

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

Great Barrier Reef The Winner As Bid To Repeal Vital Water Laws Is Rejected

October 21, 2021
The failure of Katter’s Reef Regulation Reversal Bill to gain support in a Queensland Parliamentary Committee is good news for our Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

Members of the Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee recommended the Bill not be passed. If enacted, the Bill will repeal vital water pollution laws and result in more damaging chemicals and sediments flowing from farms into inshore areas of the Reef and harming dugong and turtle habitats.

AMCS’s Reef Water Quality Manager Jaimi Webster said the recommendation supported the scientific consensus on the effects of water pollution and sediment flowing into the Reef from agricultural lands. It also ensures all the investment and efforts of farmers and graziers who are already complying with the targets will not go to waste.

“In the face of global warming impacts and unsustainable fishing practices, our Reef needs less water pollution not more to help it be as resilient as possible,” she said. “Any repeal of the essential Reef regulations would be a huge step backwards and hugely disappointing for the tens of thousands of people in our tourism industry, whose jobs rely on a healthy Reef.

“Katter’s Bill has already been a waste of time and taxpayers’ money for all involved as well as a delaying tactic from some farming groups who should be focusing on helping their members comply with the water quality laws.

“The Reef regulations are not going to go away and there are plenty of farmers and graziers in Queensland who follow water pollution laws and do the right thing, bringing benefits to their lands as well as doing their bit to help protect our global icon in Queensland.

“Helping farmers by funding innovation and incentives to do the right thing, is what is best for the Reef.

“The World Heritage Committee has Australia’s management of the Reef under a spotlight right now. They have called for increased measures to protect our Reef from water pollution. It is unfathomable that some politicians would be trying to repeal the Reef’s vital water pollution laws at this time.”

The Committee’s report will be tabled in Parliament and debated. A vote will be taken on whether to support the Committee’s recommendation that the Bill not be passed. With such strong scientific consensus and stakeholder support for improving water pollution, it is expected the recommendation will be supported and the Bill in its current form will be dead.

The Reef Protection Regulations were passed in Queensland in 2019 and began rolling out in 2020. The regulations will finish rolling out in 2022.

For around two decades the Australian and Queensland governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve Reef water quality through a variety of voluntary schemes. Voluntary measures to stop water pollution have been insufficient to clean up the water flowing into our Reef, which is why the laws were introduced.

Water quality targets have been set out in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan and are based on the quality of water that corals and seagrasses need to be healthy.

The 2015 Reef 2050 Plan, containing 151 actions, was developed by the Queensland and Australian governments in response to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) considering listing the Reef ‘in danger’ in 2014.

An updated Reef 2050 Plan is due to be released imminently. It follows UNESCO’s recommendation to add the Reef to the list of World Heritage Properties ’in Danger’ due to climate and water quality impacts.

Aerial View of the Great Barrier Reef. Image: rheins

Fish Stocks Report Shows Urgent Reforms Needed To Counter Climate Crisis Impacts

October 18, 2021
The latest ABARES evaluation of 100 Australian fish stocks shows that many are declining and urgent reforms are needed to fisheries management to counter the impacts of the climate crisis, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

The evaluation of 22 Commonwealth-managed fisheries by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) found that around a third (33 of the 100) of fish stocks assessed were classified as uncertain, overfished or subject to overfishing.

More fish stocks were assessed for the 2021 report than last year’s evaluation. There has been little or no progress made to improve stocks classified as uncertain, overfished or subject to overfishing in that time.

AMCS Sustainable Seafood Program Manager Adrian Meder said the figures, combined with a recently released CSIRO report on the projected impacts to seafood species in Australia from global warming, show reforms to fisheries management are urgently required, particularly in the south east.

“These reforms will be needed in order to maintain healthy and sustainable fish stocks that support fishing communities and balanced ocean environments in the south east – a known climate change hotspot, warming at 3 to 4 times the global average,” he said.

“There are management problems in these fisheries which have been problematic for many years. Some stocks, like the endangered school shark, have been overfished since the ‘90s. Climate change impacts are going to make these management issues even worse.

One of the fisheries most concerning to us is the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF), which operates across south-eastern Australia. This huge fishery has driven several fish stocks that used to be among its mainstays such as school shark, orange roughy  and the eastern gemfish onto Australia’s endangered species list. More than 60% of the fish stocks caught in this fishery are continuing to decline or failing to recover.

“Recently released CSIRO climate projections predict a 40% decline in the next 20 years for some of the current major targets of the fishery, including blue grenadier and orange roughy. Instead of climate-safe management, both these fisheries have allowed a massive increase in effort from a New Zealand-owned fleet of industrial freezer trawlers in recent years. Yet current management arrangements do not explicitly consider the rapidly changing climate these fisheries operate in.

“Unless reforms are introduced, we are now expecting more fish stocks in the SESSF to end up on Australia’s endangered species list than on any list of fully recovered stocks in the foreseeable future. That is no good place for our Commonwealth-managed fisheries to be.”

Mr Meder said the SESSF needs to immediately introduce climate-resilient catch limits, and introduce cameras on boats to reduce the uncertainties around how much fish is being caught and brought to market, and how much is being discarded at sea and unreported. The data will help fisheries managers make more informed decisions to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks.

Mr Meder added the ABARES figures show that progress made in rebuilding fish stocks following a $220m taxpayer-funded bail out 16 years ago appear to have ceased.

“The goal back then was to rebuild all these fish stocks, and much of it should have happened by now. But the progress made appears to have halted around five years ago,” said Mr Meder.

“Some of that money should have been spent on cameras on boats. In 2021, there are cameras on boats in only three of the 22 AFMA-managed fisheries.”

If a fish stock is assessed as ‘subject to overfishing’, it means this stock is subject to a level of fishing that would move the stock to an overfished state.

If a stock is assessed as ‘overfished’, it means its biomass is at a level where recruitment is likely to be significantly impaired. In other words, the stock is overfished to a level where its stock is not being replenished fast enough.

If a stock is assessed as ‘uncertain’, it means there is inadequate information to determine how many fish there are in that stock or whether the level of fishing could be classed as overfishing.

AMCS notes that most if not all of the stocks now classified as ‘uncertain’ were on a negative trajectory before being labelled this way.

NT Government Approves Empire Energy Fracking Project

October 20, 2021
The Protect Country Alliance have condemned the NT Gunner Government’s approval of the Empire Energy fracking project.

The approval, which was granted on October 17 but appeared on the government’s website days later, allows Empire subsidiary Imperial Oil and Gas to frack up to seven horizontal wells near the community of Borroloola.

The project was the subject of a Senate Inquiry earlier this year, following revelations the company, which has close ties to the Liberal Party, received $21 million in taxpayer funded federal grants.

Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer said, “History will not look kindly on the Gunner Government and its foolish decision to approve this polluting fracking project.

“With this approval, Eva Lawler has thrown petrol on a burning house and we are all trapped inside.

“We are just weeks away from the most important climate meeting since the Paris Agreement was forged. We need immediate action to halt the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 

“The Gunner Government has not even completed the basic recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry. It has clearly decided to backflip on its promise to make sure fracking companies offset their emissions.

“Fracking the Beetaloo Basin has the potential to unleash a greenhouse gas bomb of up to 1.4 billion tonnes - that’s two and a half times the amount of Australia’s annual carbon emissions. 

“Traditional Owners have expressed clear concerns about this project, the money it has received, and the way it was assessed.

“This approval utterly flies in the face of science and due process in relation to the Strategic Regional Environmental and Baseline Assessment (SREBA) - studies the Pepper Inquiry said were needed. The dismissal of concerns about Stygofauna is also astounding. 

“On top of the $21 million in federal fracking cash, Empire Energy also received a $5 million tax concession from the Morrison Government, and is the only gas company that currently stands to benefit from a $217 million roads funding grant. This is corporate welfare on a shocking scale.

“Every way you look at it, the Gunner and Morrison governments are greasing the wheels of the fracking industry at a time when those wheels should be ripped off and thrown in the bin of history.

“Young people and future generations will pay the price for stupid decisions like this.”

Inland Rail Must Not Be Coal-Laden Bargaining Chip In LNP Climate Negotiations

October 22, 2021
The Lock the Gate Alliance is sounding the alarm against any net-zero carbon emissions deal the Coalition reaches that involves opening up a new, taxpayer subsidised coal basin via the heavily criticised Inland Rail project, that would turbo-charge climate change and hurt farmers.

Over recent weeks, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has repeatedly called for the rail line to be extended to Gladstone, taking it close to undeveloped coal projects near Wandoan and Taroom in the Western Surat Basin. The Morrison Government has already allocated $10 million for a feasibility study into the extension.

Large proposed coal projects in the area like Glencore’s 22Mtpa coal project at Wandoan have been discussed for years, but have not been developed due primarily to a lack of infrastructure and the additional costs required if companies wanted to export the coal.

A pre feasibility study has demonstrated that if this rail line was built, it would “unlock coal reserves in the Surat Basin and offer an alternative and more efficient access to export coal markets”.

The nine new coal mines that would benefit from the rail line, if built, would be responsible for 67 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum at a time when urgent action to mitigate global warming is required (see Appendix A of pre-feasibility study for list of projects). 

The emissions from these  mines would be huge - amounting to 160Mt CO2e per annum - which is almost a third of Australia’s total carbon emissions (Calculated using the National Greenhouse Accounts Factors).

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, "Using climate negotiations to divert the Inland Rail as a means to dig new coal mines is disgraceful. 

“Opening a massive new thermal coal basin will effectively doom any net-zero carbon emissions commitment from the outset - it would expose Coalition climate policy as nothing but a giant con job.    

"It will also be a major waste of taxpayer funds - public money shouldn’t be blown on coal projects that will be unviable in the near term as customer countries stop burning coal.”

Richard Moffat is a Taroom grazier and former Wandoan grazier, whose property is partially covered by a coal lease owned by North Surat Coal, a subsidiary of New Hope.

The company has just completed ten exploratory drill holes on his farm, however with no current way to transport the coal to port, Mr Moffat believes the drilling is so the company abides by its lease conditions.

“We are at the frontline of the coal industry," he said.

"They want to open-cut mine on my land. Our country is prime grazing, cattle fattening land, and there’s no way of making any more of it.

“I’ve been to the New Hope rehabilitation site at New Acland. They can make the country pretty, but they can’t put the productivity back into the grass that was there before they dug it up. That’s our beef with them, because we know that will happen here if they mine.”

When native title fails: First Nations people are turning to human rights law to keep access to cultural sites

For over six weeks, Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners have been performing continuous cultural ceremony at the edge of Adani’s Carmichael mine in central Queensland. Leah Light Photography
Shelley MarshallRMIT UniversityCarla Chan UngerRMIT University, and Suzi HutchingsRMIT University

In a shift from their usual conduct, Queensland police have recognised the cultural rights of Wangan and Jagalingou cultural custodians to conduct ceremony under provisions of the 2019 Queensland Human Rights Act.

Because of this act, the police were able to refuse to action a complaint from Adani to remove Wangan and Jagalingou cultural custodians camping on their ancestral lands adjacent to the Adani coal pit.

The police also issued a “statement of regret” for removing the group several months earlier.

The ceremonial grounds are on highly contested land that has been granted to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine by the state government.

In August 2019, Adani was granted freehold title over critical infrastructure areas of the Carmichael mine site by the Queensland government, without first notifying the Wangan and Jagalingou peoples.

This extinguished their native title over the site, affecting a number of peoples including the Juru, Jaang and Birrah, as well as the Wangan and Jagalingou.

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners maintaining presence at the Carmichael mine in central Queensland.
Police officers told the group of Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners they recognise their cultural rights to conduct ceremony under provisions of the 2019 Queensland Human Rights Act. Leah Light Photography

Why Was Practising Cultural Ceremony So Controversial?

Over the past six weeks, Jagalingou cultural custodians have been conducting the Waddananggu ceremony, translated to English as “The Talking”. Describing the ceremony, Cultural Custodian Coedie McAvoy has said

We have set up a stone Bora ring and ceremonial ground opposite Adani’s mine and are asserting our human rights as Wangan and Jagalingou people to practice culture.

Since the leases were granted to Adani, police have repeatedly removed the Wangan and Jagalingou people from their traditional lands when conducting ceremonies. They have also been accused by journalists of acting as a “shield” to Adani’s corporate interests.

Adani’s proposed Carmichael open-cut and underground coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland covers 200 square kilometres of land.

If built, it will be Australia’s largest and the world’s second largest coal mine. The project includes the construction of a 189-kilometre rail connection between the proposed mine and the Adani-operated Abbot Point Terminal adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

The proposed mining and railway developments encompass much of the Wangan and Jagalingou ancestral lands.

Read more: Protest art: rallying cry or elegy for the black-throated finch?

What Led To The Change In Police Attitudes?

Cultural Leader Adrian Burragubba brought a complaint to the Queensland Human Rights Commission after police broke up a Wangan and Jagalingou ceremonial campsite in August 2020. The complaint resulted in mediation between the police and Burragubba on behalf of his family and community over March to July of this year.

One outcome of the mediation was the Queensland police’s “statement of regret”, in which Assistant Commissioner Kev Guteridge said police recognise that Burragubba represents a group of traditional owners “aggrieved by Adani’s occupation of the land”, adding:

We acknowledge that the incident on 28 August, 2020, was traumatic for Mr Burragubba and his extended family, and caused embarrassment, hurt and humiliation.

According to The Guardian, Burragubba is thought to be the first Indigenous person to extract a public apology from a state agency since the enactment of the Queensland Human Rights Act.

Section 28 of the Act recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold distinct cultural rights as Australia’s First Peoples:

They must not be denied the right, with other members of their community, to live life as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is free to practice their culture.

An Aboriginal person painted up, stands under a flag.
Leah Light Photography

This is modelled on article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Articles 8, 25, 29 and 31 of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The inclusion of this section is highly significant given Australia only endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2019. Australia is yet to implement the declaration into law, policy or practice at a federal level.

The Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said the inquiry’s recommendation of “free, prior and informed consent” did not go far enough to protect traditional owners.

Burragubba’s complaint under the Queensland Act was likely strengthened by the Wangan and Jagalingou peoples’ ongoing legal assertion of native title. 44b of the Native Title Act confers rights of access for traditional activities to a native title claim group.

This legal principle of “right of access” was bolstered by the findings in the case of Western Australia v Brown, 2014, which confirmed title was not wholly extinguished by the lease of land as long as native title is “not inconsistent with the lease”.

The Significance Of This Police Action Could Be Far Reaching

The new respect shown by Queensland police for the cultural rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou will not reinstate Wangan and Jagalingou native title. Nor will it stop the Adani mine.

But it means the Wangan and Jagalingou can continue to practice culture on Country, as they have for thousands of years, instead of being treated “like trespassers on their own land”. Their living connection to Country is not broken by the lease of land to Adani.

For Adani, it means the Wangan and Jagalingou people are an ongoing presence: a public reminder of cultural claim over the land where the mine is situated.

For the police, the significance goes beyond the struggle over the Adani mine. This change in police conduct could mark the end of police complicity in removing First Nations people from their ancestral land in the state of Queensland. Other state agencies will now also be forced to take the cultural rights of First Nations custodians seriously.

Read more: Australia listened to the science on coronavirus. Imagine if we did the same for coal mining

It is an important step on a national journey towards recognition of First Nations’ cultural rights. Like the Queensland Human Rights Act, Victoria and the ACT also enshrine human rights in state law, providing legal avenues validating cultural practice on Country against public authorities. If the federal government adopts the findings of the parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, handed down earlier this week, First Nations’ cultural rights will be further protected.

The Inquiry committee recommended new Commonwealth legislation for stricter protection of sacred sites, and improvements to the Native Title Act. The committee has said new legislation should be underpinned by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The practice of Waddananggu is significant for the whole country. It is an opportunity for all of us to respectfully witness, talk and learn towards meaningful reconciliation.

McAvoy issued a broad invitation to the Waddananggu:

Stand with us to protect our human rights to practice ceremony and culture, and protect our homelands. ngali yinda banna, yumbaba-gi. We need you, to be heard.The Conversation

Shelley Marshall, Associate Professor and Director of the RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre, RMIT UniversityCarla Chan Unger, Research Associate, RMIT University, and Suzi Hutchings, Associate Professor, RMIT University

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

Fixing Australia’s shocking record of Indigenous heritage destruction: Juukan inquiry offers a way forward

Deanna KempThe University of QueenslandBronwyn FredericksThe University of QueenslandKado MuirIndigenous Knowledge, and Rodger BarnesThe University of Queensland

On May 24 last year, mining giant Rio Tinto legally destroyed ancient and sacred Aboriginal rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia to expand an iron ore mine.

Public backlash prompted a parliamentary inquiry. After almost 18 months of submissions and hearings, the joint standing committee released its final report titled A Way Forward this week.

In tabling the report, committee chair and Liberal MP Warren Entsch said while the destruction was a disaster for traditional owners – the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples – it was “not unique”.

Rio Tinto’s actions form part of a broader discriminatory pattern of development in Australia. Traditional owners are denied the right to object and as a result, Aboriginal heritage is routinely destroyed.

The committee’s final report grapples with the complex issues of cultural heritage protection in Australia. It recommends major legislative reforms, including:

  • a new national Aboriginal cultural heritage act co-designed with Indigenous peoples

  • a new national council on heritage protection

  • a review of the Native Title Act 1993 to address power imbalances in negotiations on the basis of free prior and informed consent.

The report is strong on the need for change, although achieving this will be far from straightforward.

Hard-To-Resolve Issues

The committee’s interim report, was released in December last year. From it, we learned how Rio Tinto silenced traditional owners and prevented their cultural heritage specialists from raising concerns. Rio Tinto prioritised production over heritage protection.

A Way Forward places the tragedy of Juukan Gorge in a broader context. It shines a light on how the regulatory system empowered Rio Tinto to destroy the caves and prevented the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples from doing anything about it.

It also demonstrates how the system has run roughshod over Indigenous interests for decades. Governments have been able to make determinations about cultural heritage without proper consultation and consent.

The report focuses on getting the regulatory framework right. It succeeds in bringing a wide and complex set of controversial issues together in the one place. But many of these issues are highly contested, which has hindered previous attempts to solve them.

Already, two committee members, Senator Dean Smith and MP George Christensen, disagree with the rest of the committee on the need for the Commonwealth to set standards for states’ cultural heritage protection laws. They say this would constrain the mining industry and give anti-mining activists too much power.

In contrast, Greens Senator and Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman Lidia Thorpe supports traditional owners having a “right to veto” the destruction of their cultural heritage.

Read more: Juukan Gorge inquiry: a critical turning point in First Nations authority over land management

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and some industry organisations have dismissed the inquiry’s calls for a stronger federal government role in protecting cultural heritage across Australia. Western Australia is yet to pass its draft heritage law, which the premier says will address the issues raised in the final report.

Aboriginal groups disagree that ultimate control over the destruction of cultural heritage should rest with the minister. These groups have tabled their issues at the United Nations.

One of the most contentious matters addressed in the final report is the need to obtain free prior and informed consent of traditional owners under Australia’s federal and state laws, affording them the right to manage their own heritage sites.

Change Is Needed Despite Australia’s Economic Recovery Pressures

It is not an ideal time to be driving this type of major change. Australia is heading towards a federal election. The federal government is focused on COVID-19 vaccinations, opening borders and the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The mining sector sits at the centre of Australia’s economic recovery, with climate change driving demand for energy transition mineralsAustralian states and territories are focused on mining these minerals for green and renewable technologies.

Green technologies will require more extraction of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, and other critical minerals, often located on Indigenous peoples’ lands and territories. This will put added pressure on the consent processes that A Way Forward recommends so strongly.

Read more: How Rio Tinto can ensure its Aboriginal heritage review is transparent and independent

Will Anything Actually Change?

So far, none of the big mining companies have come out in support of the committee’s recommendations for regulatory reform. But there are some positive prospects for change.

An Aboriginal flag flown in protest against mining at the Adani Bravus Carmichael mine site in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland.
An Aboriginal flag flown in protest against mining at the Adani Bravus Carmichael mine site in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland. Shutterstock

The inquiry has helped generate public awareness and a greater appreciation of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and the need to protect it. Australia’s commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have come under national and international scrutiny. This has added weight to the inquiry’s recommendations to elevate the importance of free prior and informed consent.

Institutional investors such as HESTA and Australian Council of Superannuation Investors have publicly supported the inquiry’s recommendations.

In the absence of regulatory reform to address systemic issues, Indigenous groups such as the National Native Title Council continue working with investor groups and peak industry bodies for change through developing voluntary guidelines and other formal commitments.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, along with the National Indigenous Australians Agency, has demonstrated capacity for co-design through their work on the Closing the Gap refresh.

Returning responsibility for cultural heritage to the Indigenous affairs minister’s portfolio, as recommended in the final report, could be a positive step.

Nothing short of the recommended reforms in the report will address the lessons learned from Juukan Gorge. The public must be vigilant in holding business, investors, and politicians to account by insisting on meaningful change.

Read more: We need lithium for clean energy, but Rio Tinto's planned Serbian mine reminds us it shouldn't come at any cost The Conversation

Deanna Kemp, Professor and Director, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of QueenslandBronwyn Fredericks, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement), The University of QueenslandKado Muir, Chair of National Native Title Council and Ngalia Cultural Leader, Indigenous Knowledge, and Rodger Barnes, Research Manager, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland

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

Nature doesn’t recognise borders but countries can collaborate to save species. The Escazú Agreement shows how

Rebecca K. RuntingThe University of MelbourneLeslie RobersonThe University of Queensland, and Sofía López-CubillosThe University of Queensland

Nature rarely recognises national borders. Many Australian birds, for example, are annual visitors, splitting their time between Southeast Asia, Russia, and Pacific Islands.

Yet, most efforts to protect ecological processes and habitats are designed and implemented by individual nations. Not only are these traditional approaches to conservation too geographically limited, they don’t address problems that seep across borders and drive ecosystem decline.

Our new research shows international collaboration and environmental management across national borders – a truly transboundary approach – is essential. We focused on an international environmental agreement that recently came into force across the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – or, more commonly, as the Escazú Agreement – it offers a hopeful example of new strategies to rise to this transboundary challenge.

What Is The Escazú Agreement?

In 2018, 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries were invited to sign and ratify the landmark Escazú Agreement, the first legally binding environmental agreement to explicitly integrate human rights with environmental matters.

It has so far been ratified by 12 signatory countries11 additional signatory countries have signed it but not yet ratified.

As we detail in our recent paper:

The agreement outlines an approach to enhance the protection of environmental defenders, increase public participation in environmental decision-making, and foster cooperation among countries for biodiversity conservation and human rights.

The Escazú Agreement And Human Rights

Countries from this region share transboundary species such as jaguars, as well as marine reserves containing immense biodiversity (including 1,577 endemic fish species).

But the Escazú Agreement isn’t just about flora and fauna. It also highlights the importance of human rights and public participation in environmental management – elements that are also vitally important for transboundary conservation.

Countries from the Latin America and the Caribbean region share transboundary species such as jaguars. Shutterstock

Latin America and the Caribbean have a history of disputed maritime claims and a mismatch between management of terrestrial and marine jurisdictions.

Environmental protections and jurisdiction complexities have, in the past, curtailed the rights of Indigenous people who traditionally fish in these areas.

This is where the Escazú Agreement could have contributed. It sets out guidelines for public engagement and may have helped Indigenous people have their voices heard.

But Colombia and many island states are yet to ratify the Escazú Agreement. Doing so would help with these issues in future.

Many biodiverse countries with high levels of human rights violations and sharing multiple ecosystems and species have not yet ratified the agreement.

Read more: This bird's stamina is remarkable: it flies non-stop for 5 days from Japan to Australia, but now its habitat is under threat

Marine Transboundary Conservation Needed

Ocean borders are extra messy. Some 90% of marine species compared to 53% of terrestrial species have habitat and migration ranges that cross national borders. Countries with large numbers of transboundary marine species include the US, Australia and Japan.

Many of Australia’s iconic ocean species – such as great white sharks, sea turtles, and humpback whales – are international migrants found in over 100 countries.

Even species that don’t move at all, like plants or corals, are often widely distributed. Take the slimy sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca), which grows along the coasts of almost 200 countries.

Marine species essentially share one ocean, making transboundary management extra challenging. Not only can threats such as pollution rapidly spread large distances over ocean currents, our traditional concept of sovereignty and borders makes even less sense on the ocean than it does on land.

Many countries must cooperate to protect species ranges across vast tracts of ocean.

A great white shark goes through the ocean.
Many of Australia’s iconic ocean species such as great white sharks are international migrants found in over 100 countries. Shutterstock

Australia Plays A Key Role

Australia must step up as a leader of domestic and transboundary management. After the US, it has the most transboundary marine species in its ocean territory.

Most species are shared with Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the high seas. As a well-resourced country, it is imperative Australia is part of international efforts to preserve this biodiversity.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Australia has a poor record on protecting its terrestrial biodiversity, and is ranked among the top nations that import shark fins.

Our patchwork legislation leaves the door open for unsustainable and illegal shark finning.

Australian governments need to collaborate with other countries, industries, and socio-environmental NGOs, and local communities leading the way in best practice in environmental conservation.

The Escazú Agreement shows how this can be done.

A Beacon Of Hope

There’s no doubt international collaboration adds challenges to environmental management.

Yet the recent Escazú Agreement offers a beacon of hope in forming just international environmental agreements that protect both the environment and human rights.

Signing agreements like these is just the first step. Then, we must work to implement them consistently on land or sea, across countries and in a way that’s inclusive of local stakeholders.

The world’s nations have accepted the idea we must cooperate to combat climate change. We’ll also need international collaboration to protect the vast majority of Earth’s biodiversity and natural systems.

Read more: What is COP26 and why does the fate of Earth, and Australia's prosperity, depend on it? The Conversation

Rebecca K. Runting, Lecturer in Spatial Sciences and ARC DECRA Fellow, The University of MelbourneLeslie Roberson, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland, and Sofía López-Cubillos, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland

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

Glasgow showdown: Pacific Islands demand global leaders bring action, not excuses, to UN summit

Wesley MorganGriffith University

The Pacific Islands are at the frontline of climate change. But as rising seas threaten their very existence, these tiny nation states will not be submerged without a fight.

For decades this group has been the world’s moral conscience on climate change. Pacific leaders are not afraid to call out the climate policy failures of far bigger nations, including regional neighbour Australia. And they have a strong history of punching above their weight at United Nations climate talks – including at Paris, where they were credited with helping secure the first truly global climate agreement.

The momentum is with Pacific island countries at next month’s summit in Glasgow, and they have powerful friends. The United Kingdom, European Union and United States all want to see warming limited to 1.5℃.

This powerful alliance will turn the screws on countries dragging down the global effort to avert catastrophic climate change. And if history is a guide, the Pacific won’t let the actions of laggard nations go unnoticed.

A Long Fight For Survival

Pacific leaders’ agitation for climate action dates back to the late 1980s, when scientific consensus on the problem emerged. The leaders quickly realised the serious implications global warming and sea-level rise posed for island countries.

Some Pacific nations – such as Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu – are predominantly low-lying atolls, rising just metres above the waves. In 1991, Pacific leaders declared “the cultural, economic and physical survival of Pacific nations is at great risk”.

Successive scientific assessments clarified the devastating threat climate change posed for Pacific nations: more intense cyclones, changing rainfall patterns, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, coastal inundation and sea-level rise.

Pacific states developed collective strategies to press the international community to take action. At past UN climate talks, they formed a diplomatic alliance with island nations in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, which swelled to more than 40 countries.

The first draft of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – which required wealthy nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – was put forward by Nauru on behalf of this Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Read more: Australia ranks last out of 54 nations on its strategy to cope with climate change. The Glasgow summit is a chance to protect us all

people stand in water with spears
Climate change is a threat to the survival of Pacific Islanders. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Securing A Global Agreement In Paris

Pacific states were also crucial in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in Paris in 2015.

By this time, UN climate talks were stalled by arguments between wealthy nations and developing countries about who was responsible for addressing climate change, and how much support should be provided to help poorer nations to deal with its impacts.

In the months before the Paris climate summit, then-Marshall Islands Foreign Minister, the late Tony De Brum, quietly coordinated a coalition of countries from across traditional negotiating divides at the UN.

This was genius strategy. During talks in Paris, membership of this “High Ambition Coalition” swelled to more than 100 countries, including the European Union and the United States, which proved vital for securing the first truly global climate agreement.

When then-US President Barack Obama met with island leaders in 2016, he noted “we could not have gotten a Paris Agreement without the incredible efforts and hard work of island nations”.

The High Ambition Coalition secured a shared temperature goal in the Paris Agreement, for countries to limit global warming to 1.5℃ above the long-term average. This was no arbitrary figure.

Scientific assessments have clarified 1.5℃ warming is a key threshold for the survival of vulnerable Pacific Island states and the ecosystems they depend on, such as coral reefs.

Read more: Who's who in Glasgow: 5 countries that could make or break the planet's future under climate change

coral reef with island in background
Warming above 1.5℃ threatens Pacific Island states and their coral reefs. Shutterstock

De Brum took a powerful slogan to Paris: “1.5 to stay alive”.

The Glasgow summit is the last chance to keep 1.5℃ of warming within reach. But Australia – almost alone among advanced economies – is taking to Glasgow the same 2030 target it took to Paris six years ago. This is despite the Paris Agreement requirement that nations ratchet up their emissions-reduction ambition every five years.

Australia is the largest member of the Pacific Islands Forum (an intergovernmental group that aims to promote the interests of countries and territories in the Pacific). But it’s also a major fossil fuel producer, putting it at odds with other Pacific countries on climate.

When Australia announced its 2030 target, De Brum said if the rest of the world followed suit:

the Great Barrier Reef would disappear […] so would the Marshall Islands and other vulnerable nations.

Influence At Glasgow

So what can we expect from Pacific leaders at the Glasgow summit? The signs so far suggest they will demand COP26 deliver an outcome to once and for all limit global warming to 1.5℃.

At pre-COP discussions in Milan earlier this month, vulnerable nations proposed countries be required to set new 2030 targets each year until 2025 – a move intended to bring global ambition into alignment with a 1.5℃ pathway.

COP26 president Alok Sharma says he wants the decision text from the summit to include a new agreement to keep 1.5℃ within reach.

This sets the stage for a showdown. Major powers like the US and the EU are set to work with large negotiating blocs, like the High Ambition Coalition, to heap pressure on major emitters that have yet to commit to serious 2030 ambition – including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Australia.

The chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, has warned Pacific island countries “refuse to be the canary in the world’s coal mine.”

According to Bainimarama:

by the time leaders come to Glasgow, it has to be with immediate and transformative action […] come with commitments for serious cuts in emissions by 2030 – 50% or more. Come with commitments to become net-zero before 2050. Do not come with excuses. That time is past.The Conversation

Wesley Morgan, Researcher, Climate Council, and Research Fellow, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

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

Don’t underestimate rabbits: these powerful pests threaten more native wildlife than cats or foxes

Pat TaggartUNSW and Brian CookeUniversity of Canberra

In inland Australia, rabbits have taken a severe toll on native wildlife since they were introduced in 1859. They may be small, but today rabbits are a key threat to 322 species of Australia’s at-risk plants and animals — more than twice the number of species threatened by cats or foxes.

For example, research shows even just one rabbit in two hectares of land can solely destroy every regenerating sheoak seedling. Rabbits are also responsible for the historic declines of the iconic southern hairy-nosed wombat and red kangaroo.

Our latest research looked at the conservation benefits following the introduction of three separate biocontrols used to manage rabbits in Australia over the 20th Century — all three were stunningly successful and resulted in enormous benefits to conservation.

But today, rabbits are commonly ignored or underestimated, and aren’t given appropriate attention in conservation compared to introduced predators like cats and foxes. This needs to change.

Why Rabbits Are Such A Serious Problem

Simply put, rabbits are a major problem for Australian ecosystems because they destroy huge numbers of critical regenerating seedlings over more than half the continent.

Rabbits can prevent the long-term regeneration of trees and shrubs by continually eating young seedlings. This keeps ecosystems from ever reaching their natural, pre-rabbit forms. This has immense flow-on effects for the availability of food for plant-eating animals, for insect abundance, shelter and predation.

Grazing competition from rabbits has been attributed to the decline of southern hairy-nosed wombats. David TaggartAuthor provided

In some ecosystems, rabbits have prevented the regeneration of plant communities for 130 years, resulting in shrub populations of only old, scattered individuals. These prolonged impacts may undermine the long-term success of conservation programs to reintroduce mammals to the wild.

Things are particularly dire in arid Australia where, in drought years, rabbits can eat a high proportion of the vegetation that grows, leaving little food for native animals. Arid vegetation is slow growing and doesn’t regenerate often as rainfall is infrequent. This means rabbits can have a severe toll on wildlife by swiftly eating young trees and shrubs soon after they emerge from the ground.

Rabbits eat a high proportion of regenerating vegetation even when their population is at nearly undetectable levels. For example, it took the complete eradication of rabbits from the semi-arid TGB Osborn reserve in South Australia, before most tree and shrub species could regenerate.

Rabbits also spread weeds, cause soil erosion and reduce the ability of soil to absorb moisture and support vegetation growth.

Rabbits spread weeds and eat seedlings. Shutterstock

If You Control Prey, You Control Predators

When restoring ecosystems, particularly in arid Australia, it’s common for land managers to heavily focus on managing predators such as cats and foxes, while ignoring rabbits. While predator management is important, neglecting rabbit control may mean Australia’s unique fauna is still destined to decline.

Cats and foxes eat a lot of rabbits in arid Australia and can limit their populations when rabbit numbers are low. A common argument against rabbit control is that cats and foxes will turn to eating native species in the absence of rabbits. But this argument is unfounded.

Cats and foxes may turn from rabbits to native species in the immediate short-term. But, research has also shown fewer rabbits ultimately lead to declines in cat and fox numbers, as the cats and foxes are starved of their major food source.

Culling rabbits starves feral predators of their major food source. Shutterstock

Regrowth Could Be Seen From Space

An effective way to deal with rabbits is to release biocontrol agents - natural enemies of rabbits, such as viruses or parasites. Our research reviewed the effects of rolling out three different biocontrols last century:

  • myxomatosis (an infectious rabbit disease), released in 1950

  • European rabbit fleas (as a vector of myxomatosis), released in 1968

  • rabbit haemorrhagic disease, released in 1995.

Each lead to unprecedented reductions in the number of rabbits across Australia.

Rabbits eventually built up a tolerance to biocontrols. Shutterstock

Despite the minor interest in conservation at the time, the spread of myxomatosis led to widespread regeneration in sheoaks for over five years, before rabbit numbers built back up. Red kangaroo populations increased so much that landholders were suddenly “involved in a shooting war with hordes of kangaroos invading their properties”, according to a newspaper report at the time.

Following the introduction of the European rabbit flea, native grasses became prolific along the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia. Similarly, southern hairy-nosed wombats and swamp wallabies expanded their ranges.

By the time rabbit haemorrhagic disease was introduced in 1995, interest in conservation and the environment had grown and conservation benefits were better recorded.

Native vegetation regenerated over enormous spans of land, including native pine, needle bush, umbrella wattle, witchetty bush and twin-leaved emu bush. This regeneration was so significant across large parts of the Simpson and Strzelecki Deserts, it could be seen from space.

When rabbits were controlled, the number of red kangaroos doubled. Shutterstock

Red kangaroos became two to three times more abundant, and multiple species of desert rodent and a small marsupial carnivore (dusky hopping mouse, spinifex hopping mouse, plains rat, crest-tailed mulgara) all expanded their ranges.

But each time, after 10 to 20 years, the biocontrols stop working so well, as rabbits eventually built up a tolerance to the diseases.

So What Should We Do Today?

Today, there are an estimated 150-200 million rabbits in Australia, we need to be on the front foot to manage this crisis. This means researchers should continually develop new biocontrols — which are clearly astonishingly successful.

But this isn’t the only solution. The use of biocontrols must be integrated with conventional rabbit management techniques, including destroying warrens (burrow networks) and harbours (above-ground rabbit shelters), baiting, fumigation, shooting or trapping.

Land managers have a major part to play in restoring Australia’s arid ecosystems, too. Land managers are required by law to control invasive pests such as rabbits, and this must occur humanely using approved and recognised methods.

They, and researchers, must take rabbit management seriously and give it equal, if not more, attention than feral cats and foxes. It all starts with a greater awareness of the problem, so we stop underestimating these small, but powerful, pests.

The authors would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Dr Graeme Finlayson from Bush Heritage Australia, who is the lead author of the published study.The Conversation

Pat Taggart, Adjunct Fellow, UNSW and Brian Cooke, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Canberra

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

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
Angophora Reserve - Angophora Reserve Flowers
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham's Beach
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

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 -

What’s It Going To Be Like When School Starts Again?

By NSW Education Dept.
It’s going to be different, that’s for sure. For a start, there will be new rules around mask wearing, school yard areas and social distancing.
You might not be able to do some things like sing in groups, attend assemblies or play some sports.

On the flip side, you’ll be able to see your friends IRL, and get your questions answered quickly in class.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to getting back to school:

  • Keep up to date about the rules around mask wearing at school and while travelling to and from there. If you need more information, look at your school’s website, Facebook page or contact a teacher or year adviser. Remember, COVID safe practices about physical distancing and hand washing are for the safety of everyone in the school community.
  • There may be changes to school-based activities like assemblies, sport, and excursions to encourage physical distancing and help keep people safe.
  • If you feel unsafe, or are worried about safety, talk to a trusted adult in the school about it.
Keep connected
  • Challenging times can be easier to get through together, so stay connected, be positive and be there for each other. Others may be feeling the same way so it can help to talk about it together and support each other.
  • Look out for your friends. If you think your friend is having a tough time, it’s a good idea to reach out and offer support. ReachOut has some helpful tips on how to start the conversation.

Don’t forget your physical health
  • Eating healthier food throughout the day and drinking water will help to improve your mood, aid concentration, boost your energy level and support your general health. This includes eating breakfast.
  • Stay active. Returning to school may make you physically and mentally tired for a while. Try to spend some time doing something physical at the end of the day to give yourself a break, get the blood flowing and boost your mood. This could be a walk, bike-riding, dancing, yoga, or high intensity exercise.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep to give your brain a rest and allow you to recharge. Get back into the routine of sleeping 8-10 hours and go to bed earlier enough so you can wake up in the morning in time for school. Uninterrupted sleep is best, so put your phone on silent or, even better, in another room.
  • It’s ok to feel a range of emotions about returning to school after learning from home. You may feel worried, nervous, angry, or happy, or any emotion in between. It may take you time to reconnect with teachers and other students and settle back into the school routine. And remember that some days may be easier than others.
  • Try to remember a time in the past when you have faced challenges that made you feel nervous or worried. Think about the strategies that you used to manage these emotions and get through the situation.
  • Even though it can be tough, look to focus on the good things, no matter how small they may seem. It is important to seek out the positives to help build your confidence and focus on your strengths.
If you do feel overwhelmed there are heaps of things you can do:
  • Take some deep breaths, walk away to another area, or talk about it with your mates.
  • Use an app to help look after yourself. Smiling Mind is one app that can be used to practise mindful meditations to manage stress and assist with relaxing. has heaps of other apps you can check out.
  • Reach out to your support network. This may include your family, people at school such as your teachers, year adviser, school counsellor/ school psychologist or student support officer.
  • There are some helplines that are great to use. You can do this on the phone or online chat. Kids HelpLine ( or 1800 55 1800) or Headspace (1800 650 890) are two places you can contact. Their services are free of charge.
  • Your local doctor is also someone you can talk to.
You will find more ideas on how to look after yourself and your friends on the Department of Education’s student mental health and wellbeing pages.

Your feelings are important, and you are allowed to talk about them. There are lots of people you can talk to when and if you need to.

Scholarships Open For Vulnerable Youth

Some of the state’s most disadvantaged young people will be supported to achieve their academic aspirations as part of the NSW Government’s Youth Development Scholarships program.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens said applications are now open for the $1,000 scholarships to students in Years 10, 11 and 12 or TAFE equivalent.

“A good education is the foundation for a better future. This program supports disadvantaged students by reducing financial barriers so they may engage in study,” Mr Henskens said.

“It is about giving young people who need support a helping hand. These scholarships will help students achieve their educational dreams.”

The program supports young people living in social housing or on the housing register, students receiving private rental assistance, or those living in supported accommodation or out-of-home care.

The funds can be used to help pay for education-related expenses such as textbooks, IT equipment and internet access.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said more than 3,300 students have been supported by the scholarship program since it was established in 2017.

“Fires, floods and COVID-19 have posed significant social and economic challenges for our communities, and have particularly affected young people,” Ms Mitchell said.

“These grants will help reduce the financial burden for more students so they can focus on their studies.”

The Youth Development Scholarships program is part of Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW, a ten-year plan to drive better outcomes for social housing tenants.

For more information on how to apply, visit Youth Development Scholarships 2022.
Applications will close at 5:00pm, 18 February 2022.

RSV Nuyina Arrives In Hobart

Published October 19, 2021 by the Australian Antarctic Division

The world’s most advanced Antarctic icebreaker, science and resupply ship, Australia’s RSV Nuyina, has arrived at its home port of Hobart! 

Despite southern Tasmania’s COVID-19 lockdown, the 160 metre-long, 50 metre-tall, bright orange icebreaker was impossible to miss by those with a waterside view, as it sailed up the River Derwent.

The ship’s historic arrival comes after 10 years of planning, design and construction, and an epic 24,400 km ‘delivery’ voyage from Europe.

The $500 million vessel is part of a $1.9 billion investment by the Australian Government to build, maintain and operate the ship over the next 30 years.

To find out more visit:

Joni Mitchell - Come In From The Cold

written by Joni Mitchell | produced by Joni Mitchell & Larry Klein | from the album Night Ride Home (1991) | video directed by Rocky Schenck | vhs transfer by sonicboy19

Fire And Rescue NSW: School-Based Apprenticeship Opportunity

Are you in year 10 or know someone who is? We have an exciting opportunity for Year 10 students interested in completing a School-Based Apprenticeship in Heavy Vehicle Mechanic in Years 11 and 12.
As a School-Based Apprentice Heavy Vehicle Mechanic, you will learn all aspects of the repair, service, and maintenance of heavy vehicles. 

A School based Apprenticeship forms a part of a student’s Higher School Certificate.
Students will undertake to complete paid work in Years 11 and 12 and attend training in a block release of 1 week a couple of times per term with TAFE NSW to complete stage one of a Certificate III qualification.
During the apprenticeship you will assist the qualified mechanics in the Strategic Capability, Fleet Management section which oversees the maintenance and repair of 702 appliances, 241 passenger vehicles and various other mobile plant and trailers.
The January after the student completes the Higher School Certificate they will continue with their apprenticeship as a fulltime 2nd year apprentice provided, they have successfully completed all the requirements of the first year of their apprenticeship.

Apprentice Heavy Vehicle Mechanic Fire and Rescue NSW
Salary: $13.54 per hour plus SBA Loading 25% (1st Year), and tool allowance and superannuation
Location: 1 Amarina Avenue, Greenacre
Closing date: Tuesday 5 November 2021

If this sounds like you, click here to apply:

Opportunity: Free Training To Help Hospitality Industry Raise The Bar

Global drinks giant Diageo has enlisted TAFE NSW and the Australian Hotels Association NSW (AHA NSW) to support their ‘Raising the Bar’ COVID-19 response initiative, offering three free online hospitality licensing courses for existing workers and new entrants to the sector.

The three courses: Statement of Attainment in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), TAFE Statement in NSW Liquor Licensee, and TAFE Statement in NSW Liquor Licensee (Advanced) are targeted to existing industry members to upskill and to drive more workers to hospitality venues in NSW.

In 2020, Diageo Australia pledged $11.5 million to the Down Under instalment of ‘Raising the Bar’, through iconic Aussie brand Bundaberg Rum. The ‘Raising the Bar’ fund will invest $11.5 million over two years to help venues in Australia adapt and emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.

Diageo Australia Managing Director Angus McPherson said the fund has already provided thousands of venues across the country with targeted support which includes practical equipment to promote safe indoor and outdoor socialising.

“The first phase of Raising the Bar supported venues with funds for much-needed equipment to re-open, such as hand sanitiser dispensers, temperature scanners and personal protective equipment,” Mr McPherson said.

“We are now excited to offer the industry access to free digital training through TAFE NSW to help our hospitality workers understand complicated legislation and compliance and support their business from the bottom up.”

TAFE NSW Teacher of Tourism and Hospitality Monique Fors said the free courses are delivered online and are available to anyone across the state who wants to learn how to comply and understand NSW liquor laws.

“These courses offer a great opportunity for people to upskill, whether you wish to become a compliant licensee, approved manager, club secretary, or simply require an RSA to secure bar and wait staff roles,” Ms Fors said.

“As the online courses are self-paced, they can be picked up at any time of the day or week, such as in between work shifts.”

AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said offering the industry free training in mandatory areas will ease a little of the economic burden experienced over the last 18 months.

“Support like the ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative is exactly what we need to help our hotels get back on their feet, employing people and contributing to the Australian economy,” Mr Whelan said.

“A large portion of this funding will see training for the next generation of leadership in the hotel sector. It will see managers provided with the same training as licensees and will vastly improve pub operations.”

The free courses are available until 30 June 2022. To enrol or find out more visit

What Does A “History Professional” Actually Do?

For many students and early career professionals interested in history, finding employment opportunities beyond their tertiary studies can be both challenging and daunting.
Join the History Council of NSW and the Professional Historians Association NSW/ACT with session Chair, Dr Matthew Allen [HCNSW Councillor] for an informal session featuring a diverse range of guest speakers working in the history sector.

Hear ‘lightning talks’ from historians, archivists, researchers and other history professionals as they share their experiences and tips on how to kick-start a career in the history world.
After each lightning talk, there will be an opportunity for a Q&A.

This is a free and online event! Registrations are essential. Runs Nov 2, 2021 06:30 PM RSVP -

Image 1 Credit: Ken Turner using Kodak camera, c. 1940s. Source Museums Victoria. Credit Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd.
Image 2 Credit:  Computer and operators, shows Exciter Lamp voltage dial, August 1963: photographed by Max Dupain. Courtesy of the State Library NSW.

Demand For Wildlife Carers

Tahnee Barnes is studying a Certificate IV in Native Wildlife Veterinary Nursing and is encouraging others to consider a career in the industry. This comes after newly released statistics reveal the number of animals needing care due to car collisions has surged in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic with more cars on the road along the NSW North Coast, which means career opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation are on the rise.

According to the NSW Wildlife Rehabilitation dashboard, in 2015, 15 animal rescues in the Tweed Region were due to car collisions, in 2016, there was 8. 

Since the start of COVID with more people going on road trips along the coast in lieu of international holidays, in 2020 there were 502 native wildlife animals that needed rescuing due to car collisions in Tweed alone. 

Ms Barnes is working to to expand on her knowledge and grow her practical skills to build her conservation organisation, End Extinction International. The not-for-profit organisation aims to educate people on the importance of protecting wildlife in the environment. 

Ms Barnes has a Bachelor of Zoology and has in-depth knowledge of ecology, conservation and anatomy, it was during an internship with the Jane Goodhall Institute that she realised what she was missing is hands-on practical medical skills to help animals in the field in need of help.

“TAFE NSW has taught me so many practical skills and vastly improved my knowledge. The learning and mentoring that the wonderful teachers provide is second-to-none. Their relevant, practical experience and strong industry connections, together with my qualification, have enabled me to progress in my career.”

Studying under the tutelage of TAFE NSW Animal Services teacher, Emma Whitlock, students are getting hands-on exposure to caring for wildlife.

“It is important that students learn the fundamentals of caring for animals in real situations and they get to do that through work placement with the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. Upon graduation, TAFE NSW students are job-ready and fully equipped to walk into any animal caring facility to put into practice what they have learnt,” said Mrs Whitlock.

For more information about courses at TAFE NSW or via TAFE Digital, visit or phone 131 601.

TAFE NSW student Tahnee Barnes

The Dabous Giraffes 

The Dabous Giraffes are neolithic petroglyphs by unknown artists on the western side of the Aïr Mountains in north-central Niger. The carvings are believed to have been done between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, during the African humid period, when the region was less arid, and the Sahara was a vast savannah. They are the largest known animal petroglyphs in the world.

The giraffe carvings were first recorded by French archaeologist Christian Dupuy in 1987, and documented by David Coulson in 1997 while on a photographic expedition to the site.

The carvings are 6 metres (20 ft) in height and consists of two giraffes carved into the Dabous Rock with a great amount of detail. Dabous Rock is located on the slope of a small rocky outcropping of sandstone in the first foothills of the Air Mountains. One of the giraffes is male, while the other, smaller, is female.

In the surroundings 828 images have been found engraved on the rocks, of which 704 are animals (cattle, giraffes, ostriches, antelopes, lions, rhinoceros, and camels), 61 are human, and 17 are inscriptions in Tifinâgh. Tifinagh, also written Tifinaɣ in the Berber Latin alphabet; Neo-Tifinaɣ, is an abjad script used to write the Berber languages.

Due to degradation of the engravings resulting from human activity, a mould was made of the engravings for display. An aluminium cast of this mould is on display at the airport of Agadez. The Bradshaw Foundation is an organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of this petroglyph.
Dabous Giraffes, 1991. Photo: Albert Backer.
Smaller petroglyphs near the Dabous Giraffes. Photo: Albert Backer.

Two Days In Spring

Published September 11, 2021 by Surfing Visions (Tim Bonython)

Two great days of waves greet Sydneysiders into a new Spring. With the right swell direction & winds this reef break can deliver some fun barrels & some punishing wipe-outs.

Featuring locals Kirk Flintoff, Maxime Raynor, Dylan Longbottom, Jarvis Earle  & Shane Campbell. Enjoy

NB: Tim has a new film that will be available in November - visit:

Jordan Lawler getting some Air in France - ProFrance21. Credit: © WSL /  Masurel - MORE HERE

2021 ARIA Awards In Partnership With YouTube Music: Nominated Artists Revealed - Amy Shark & Genesis Owusu Nominated For 6 ARIA Awards.

October 20, 2021
The countdown to the 2021 ARIA Awards in partnership with YouTube Music is on, with just five weeks to go. The ARIA Awards Nominations Announce event saw the nominees in all categories revealed today via a YouTube Premiere. This is the second time in ARIA Awards history that the Nominations event has premiered on YouTube and can be viewed here: and available to stream free on 9Now. The winners will be announced on Wednesday 24th November 2021 to be broadcast from Sydney, Australia and the world on YouTube, and on 9Now.

8x ARIA Award winner Amy Shark is closing a huge year with six nominations, including Album of the Year, Best Artist, Best Pop Release, Song of the Year presented by YouTube Music and more. Amy’s confessional sophomore album Cry Forever, debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts, following in the footsteps of Shark’s debut/breakthrough 2018 ARIA Album of the Year, LOVE MONSTER. Platinum accredited “Love Songs Ain’t For Us,” featuring Keith Urban, hit #1 on the Apple Music and Shazam charts and is nominated for Best Video presented by YouTube Music. A returning guest of the awards, last year Amy Shark opened the ceremony with an outstanding performance of platinum accredited single and the winner of 2020’s ARIA Best pop release, “Everybody Rise”. In addition to her solo performance, Amy joined other prominent female artists to pay tribute to Helen Reddy with a stunning performance of “I Am Woman” before receiving an additional award for Best Australian Live Act. Amy is once again nominated for Best Australian Live Act presented by Heaps Normal for her Cry Forever Tour 2021 making this her 28th nomination.

Genesis Owusu lands in tally with six nominations, including Album of the Year, Best Artist, Best Independent Release presented by PPCA, Best Hip Hop Release presented By Menulog and Best Cover Art. Genesis Owusu’s debut album Smiling With No Teeth peaked at #27 on the ARIA charts. The record gained worldwide acclaim from outlets like triple j, BBC, KCRW, The Needle Drop, The Guardian, NME and more, featured in a multitude of Spotify and Apple Music playlists and saw him sell out his 22 date national tour. In 2019 Genesis Owusu released “WUTD / Vultures” which went on to land his first ARIA nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release. In 2020, he was once again nominated for Best R&B/Soul Release for “Don't Need You,” which has collected over 5 million streams and landed #73 in triple j’s Hottest 100 in 2020.

Also receiving five nominations, including Best Artist, Best Soul/R&B Release and the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist, is R&B wunderkind Budjerah. The 19-year-old breakout artist released his self-titled debut Budjerah this year, co-written and produced by ARIA winner, singer songwriter Matt Corby. “Missing You,” the debut single from Budjerah has seen him garner widespread support from radio including #1 most played on triple j and Top 30 national airplay. Earlier this year, Budjerah was commended for his excellence with a nomination for New Artist of the Year from the National Indigenous Music Awards and was recognised by Apple Music as their latest local Up Next Artist. Signed to Warner Music, Budjerah is bringing listeners closer together with his crafted sound that melds the formative elements of gospel and soul, with contemporary pop and R'n'B references.

Internationally acclaimed Australian rapper Masked Wolf has secured five nominations this year, including Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist, Best Artist, Best Hip Hop Release presented By Menulog, Song of the Year presented by YouTube Music and Best Video presented by YouTube Music. In 2021 Masked Wolf re-released his 2019 single “Astronaut in the Ocean,” and it immediately caught fire, igniting 17.5million-plus TikTok videos. “Astronaut in the Ocean” has since gone triple platinum on the ARIA charts, hit #1 on the Global Shazam Chart and holding for 6+ weeks and has garnered over 1.6 billion streams with the official music video holding 230 million YouTube views to date.Australian treasures, 11x ARIA Awards and 2006 ARIA Awards Hall of Fame inductees, Midnight Oil, have landed five nominations this year, including Best Group, Best Australian Live Act presented by Heaps Normal and Best Video presented by YouTube Music. The Rock n’ Roll icons have also scored nominations for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album for this year's mini-album The Makarrata Project, which debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts, the band’s first new body of work in nearly 20 years. All of the songs on the record share a strong focus on Indigenous reconciliation, with each track featuring collaborations with the band’s First Nations friends. The first single “Gadigal Land” (feat. Dan Sultan, Joel Davison, Kaleena Briggs and Bunna Lawrie) went straight to #1 on the iTunes chart within hours of its release. Bunna Lawrie, Joel Davison and Rob Hirst, writers of “Gadigal Land” were awarded winners of the prestigious Song of the Year at the 2021 APRA Music Awards. The mini-album itself debuted #1 on the ARIA Album Chart, becoming their first studio album to do so since Blue Sky Mining over three decades ago, and their fifth overall chart-topper. In early 2021, Midnight Oil and First Nations collaborators Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Troy Cassar-Daley, Leah Flanagan and Tasman Keith toured across the country with Makarrata Live, sought to elevate The Uluru Statement From The Heart through performances of songs from The Makarrata Project as well as iconic Midnight Oil songs of reconciliation.

It was an exciting day for Australian electronic group, The Avalanches, who landed five ARIA Award nominations for Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Pop Release, Best Australian Live Act presented by Heaps Normal and Best Video presented by YouTube Music. In 2020, the band released their third studio album - We Will Always Love You, which features an array of living guests who contribute vocals and lyrics – meaning the album is their most song-oriented album yet. We Will Always Love You was awarded Album of The Year from the Australian Music Prize (AMP). Welcomed to worldwide praise, the album peaked at #4 on the ARIA Australian Albums charts. The Avalanches have celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 2001 debut album Since I Left You which won awards for Best New Artist (Album), Best Dance Release and Best New Artist (Single) for the album's feature track “Frontier Psychiatrist” at the 2001 ARIA Awards.

One of Australia’s fastest growing breakthrough artists, Tones And I, has this year been nominated for five awards, including Album of the Year, Best Artist, Best Pop Release, Song of the Year presented by YouTube Music and Best Video presented by YouTube Music. Following the enormous success of her breakout global hit “Dance Monkey,” which has accrued 7 billion global streams, 1.7 billion views on YouTube and went 15X platinum; Tones And I released her debut studio album, Welcome to the Madhouse, which debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts, hit #1 on the iTunes Album charts and #144 on the US Billboard 200. Tones And I rose to fame in 2019 and has since collected quite the stash of awards including Best Female Artist, Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist, Best Pop Release and Best Independent Release from the 2020 ARIA Awards.

Previous ARIA Award winner Vance Joy has scored five nominations for Best Artist, Best Pop Release, Best Independent Release presented by PPCA, Song of the Year presented by YouTube Music and Best Video presented by YouTube Music. Vance Joy has long been winning the hearts of Australians and the world with his anthemic folk-influenced tunes; this year he released two singles, “You” with Marshmello and Benny Blanco and the platinum – selling global hit “Missing Piece.” Featured on the seventeenth season of Grey’s Anatomy, “Missing Piece” landed #14 on the ARIA charts and #5 on the Billboard US Alternative Airplay charts. In September of this year, Vance Joy was invited to perform “Missing Piece” on the popular US TV talk show Late Late Show with James Corden and earlier in the year performed virtually as a part of Splendour in the Grass XR.

Papua New Guinea born and Sydney based R&B artist Ngaiire is celebrating four nominations for Best Artist, Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist, Best Soul/R&B Release and Best Cover Art. 2021 saw the release of Ngaiire’s third album, 3, which transcended music, to stand as a mission. Beginning as an experiment in 2017, 3 saw Ngaiire return to her home country, Papua New Guinea, with a small creative team to extract the unique visual aspects of her culture and present in a contemporary context alongside music that would be composed throughout and after the research period. Four years later, 3 arrived to fans open arms, since landing feature album of the week on Double j, FBi Radio, Triple R and Radio Adelaide, debuting at #5 on the ARIA charts and reaching #2 on the AIR Independent Label Album charts across Australia.

The excitement continues for Sydney-born international superstar, The Kid LAROI, who is nominated for four awards including Best Artist, Best Pop Release, Best Hip Hop Release Presented By Menulog and Song of the Year presented by YouTube Music. It’s been a groundbreaking year for The Kid LAROI, not only in his homeland but across the globe, with over 3 billion global streams across his catalogue. In early 2020 he released the first part of the F*ck Love trilogy, which went on to claim #1 on the Billboard 200, Top 40 in 17 countries and #1 on the ARIA charts, making him the youngest Australian artist to top the charts. Collaborating with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, The Kid LAROI released “Go” with Juice Wrld in 2020, which reached #52 on the Billboard 100 charts; as well as “Without You” with Miley Cyrus, which went 5X platinum on the ARIA charts, hit top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and broke the record for the longest non-consecutive weeks ever in the #1 Australian radio airplay slot. “Without You” received two nominations at the VMAs for Best New Artist and Push Performance of The Year. The Kid LAROI and Justin Beiber performed their 3x platinum single “Stay” at the MTV VMAs this year, a track that quickly hit #1 on both the Billboard 100 and the ARIA charts as well as a number of other countries. Adding to his long list of achievements, 18-year-old The Kid LAROI featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Ellen and SNL with Elon Musk and Miley Cyrus earlier this year and most recently sold out his North American tour within a matter of minutes.

With three nominations indie, rock pioneers Ball Park Music are nominated for Best Australian Live Act, Best Independent Release presented by PPCA and Best Rock Album. In late 2020 the five piece released their latest self titled album Ball Park Music, the sixth in their 13 years since formation. At its peak, the album hit #2 on the ARIA charts, an achievement that can be attributed to the band's consistent style and experimentation that their fans have come to know and love. The album was nominated for AIR Awards Independent Album of the Year, the J Awards Australian Album of the Year and took out the crown for the Queensland Music Awards Album of the Year. Their single “Cherub” has since amassed upwards of 7 million streams, landed #4 on the 2020 triple j hottest 100, and was performed as part of Ball Park Music’s triple j Like A Version performance alongside their cover of Radiohead’s hit song “Paranoid Android.” Luxury in the age of COVID-19, Ball Park Music have spent their year on the stages of Aussie festivals including Summer Sounds and Toowoomba Carnival, while embarking on their own tour alongside Thelma Plum and Alice Ivy.

Also nominated are locals Lime Cordiale - renowned for their live shows:

Annabelle Herd, ARIA Chief Executive, said: “Today, a huge congratulations are in order for every recording musician across Australia. After another immensely challenging year for creatives, it has been truly phenomenal to see such amazing, diverse and celebrated work continue to pour out from all over the country. In the face of such adversity, we can all be proud to say Australia’s creative heart is still alive and beating. That is exactly what the 2021 ARIA Awards, in partnership with YouTube Music, plan to celebrate. To all of this year’s amazing nominees, thank you for continuing to share your stories and brighten the lives of music fans across the globe, thank you to all the teams who have worked so hard behind the scenes, and thank you to the fans for continuing to show their love and support for this amazing and dedicated industry. Let’s party (safely)!”

Natalie Waller, ARIA Chair, said: “On behalf of the ARIA Board, we are sending an enormous congratulations to all of the talented people who today received a nomination for the 2021 ARIA Awards, in partnership with YouTube Music. You are all the very core of the unique brilliance that is Australia’s thriving music community. We are pleased to be honouring the strength and perseverance of our talented nominees from our homes this year. While this year will be a little different from every other, the spirit, gratitude and celebrations will remain just as large. Good luck to all of our nominees and thank you to all of our sponsors, I look forward to a fantastic evening.”

Marion Briand, Manager, Music Content Partnerships (AU/NZ), YouTube, said: “I’m ecstatic to see this year’s ARIA Awards nominees, including for the first time those in the Best Artist category - a massive congratulations to all. It’s been amazing to see the resilience of our home-grown talent that continues to shine bright, inspiring, entertaining and motivating people. We're thrilled to be working with ARIA again and can't wait to join others around the world tuning in to YouTube on November 24 to celebrate Australia’s incredible music industry.”

Stuart Ayres, NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, said: “Once again, the breadth and depth of Australian music talent is shining through the prism of the ARIAs. The NSW Government joins ARIA in congratulating all the incredibly gifted nominees for the 2021 ARIA Awards. Your perseverance with your art during this challenging period has brought life and light to Sydney and NSW at a time when it has never been more needed. We are proud to partner with ARIA in celebrating the strength and incredible resilience of our music industry and we look forward to supporting large-scale music events for our musicians to get back out and performing in front of their fans.”

The nominees for the Fine Arts and Artisan Awards were also announced today, which include Best Classical Album, Best Jazz Album, Best Original Soundtrack or Musical Theatre Cast Album and Best World Music Album – and Artisan awards – which include Best Cover Art, Engineer of the Year and Producer of the Year – will be presented at the ARIA Awards ceremony. Producers and Engineers will be nominated for their whole body of work, rather than one particular project. ARIA Award nominees for Engineer of the Year include Chris Collins, Eric J Dubowsky, Konstantin Kersting, Matt Corby, Tony Espie, while Producer of the Year nominees includes, Andrew Klippel and Dave Hammer, Konstantin Kersting, M-Phazes, Matt Corby and Robert Chater.Also returning this year is the opportunity for music fans to decide an ARIA winner via Twitter for the Most Popular International category. Fans can start voting for their favourite International Artist today by heading to Twitter and using the following hashtags:

#ARIAsArianaGrande #ARIAsDojaCat #ARIAsJustinBieber #ARIAsKanyeWest #ARIAsLukeCombs #ARIAsMachineGunKelly #ARIAsMileyCyrus #ARIAsOliviaRodrigo #ARIAsPopSmoke #ARIAsTaylorSwift

ARIA would also like to take this opportunity to thank 9Network’s Brooke Boney for her participation in the ARIA Awards Nominations Announce.

The 2021 ARIA Awards in partnership with YouTube Music are proudly supported by the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements in the coming weeks.

Ausmusic T-Shirt Day Announced For 2021

Music industry charity, Support Act, has announced that its annual Ausmusic T-Shirt Day will return on Friday 19 November, backed by some of Aussie music’s biggest names including Jessica Mauboy, Jon Stevens, 5 Seconds of Summer, Amy Shark, Lime Cordiale and Neil Finn.

Ausmusic T-Shirt Day, which is supported by ARIA and celebrated across triple j, Double J and the ABC as part of Ausmusic Month, is an annual day of fun and awareness to celebrate Australian music and raise urgently-needed funds for music workers in crisis due to the devastating impacts of COVID-19 or an issue that prevents them from working.

Over the past 18 months, Support Act has committed $22.8m in the form of 10,000 crisis relief grants to music and live performing arts workers in need, and provided mental health and wellbeing support to many thousands more through its mental health programs and Wellbeing Helpline. But with lockdowns and restrictions still in place, more support is needed.

A record number of Ausmusic T-Shirt Day ambassadors have put their names behind this year’s campaign. As well as those mentioned earlier, Accordion Hans, Adalita, Alex Hayes, Mo’Ju, Myf Warhurst, Ngaiire, Peking Duk, Rob Mills, The Amity Affliction, The OG Wiggles, The Teskey Brothers and Travis Collins are helping to ensure that all genres of music are represented. 

Hundreds of other artists will Champion the day through social media and companies across the country are gearing up to create teams to fundraise.

Music lovers around Australia can support the campaign in one of three simple ways:
  • Buy an Ausmusic T-Shirt
  • Fundraise in a team with work/school/mates/family 
  • Donate to Support Act
Participants are asked to share their Ausmusic T-Shirt love by posting on their favourite social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok using the hashtag #ausmusictshirtday and tagging Support Act, triple j and ARIA*

Ambassador Jessica Mauboy explains: “Our industry is in crisis like never seen before. We’ve lost work and livelihoods due to the pandemic, and for many this is our hour of need. Ausmusic T-Shirt Day is a simple and fun way YOU can help raise funds to get our beloved Aussie artists and music workers back on their feet.”

More fantastic Aussie artists have created this year’s range of limited edition Premium T-Shirts including Genesis Owusu, GFlip, Keith Urban, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Lime Cordiale, Paul Kelly, Powderfinger, Spacey Jane, Tame Impala, Tones and I and honorary Australian, Ed Sheeran, with 100 percent of net proceeds going to Support Act. Premium T-Shirts are $50 and are available to order now until Friday 5 November.

This year’s Ausmusic T-Shirt Day logo, a non-binary drumming echidna, has been created by First Nations artist Bree “Little Butten” Buttenshaw and is also available as one of this year’s Premium T-Shirts.

If that’s not enough, then a wide range of merch partners are onboard including Love Police, Sound Merch, Threadshop, Merchfan, Artist First, Merch Jungle, Warner Music and more who will all be donating a percentage of their proceeds to the campaign.

Support Act CEO, Clive Miller, adds: “While there is now light at the end of the COVID tunnel, thanks to the massive uptake of vaccinations across Australia, there is still a long way to go before the music industry is operating at pre-pandemic levels.

“We know just how much the Australian community loves and misses their live music, which is why we are asking everyone with a passion for Australian music to get behind this year’s Ausmusic T-Shirt Day to help raise the funds we urgently need to continue providing our support services to music workers in crisis.” 

For further information on Ausmusic T-Shirt Day including information about how to set up a team to fundraise, buy an Ausmusic t-shirt and ways to donate, visit

For further information on Support Act and its services, including crisis relief, mental health resources and programs, visit For the Wellbeing Helpline, call 1800 959 500.

Get Ready To Celebrate World Teachers' Day On 29 October

From today, students, parents, carers and the community can begin preparing to celebrate World Teachers’ Day on 29 October, with an e-toolkit now available for download from the NSW Education Standards Authority.

NESA Chief Executive Officer Paul Martin said across NSW, 160,000 early childhood, primary and secondary teachers have continued to educate, inspire and support young people, as the state has dealt with a global pandemic.

“Thanks to the adaptability and professionalism of teachers, students have continued learning whether from home or in the classroom.

“World Teachers’ Day gives us a chance to acknowledge their incredible work, and for students to share how their teachers have made a difference,” Mr Martin said.

This year, schools and the community can download an e-toolkit to support them letting a teacher know how they have inspired and helped them in their learning. The toolkit includes:
  • E-cards for students to send to their teachers
  • Badges to add to social media profiles
  • A downloadable colouring-in page
  • Tiles for Twitter posts
  • Backgrounds for Teams/Zoom meetings, screensavers and digital display screens
A digital card means students can join the celebration, even if they are learning from home. Students, school staff and families can share cards, tell their teacher how they have helped or inspired them and share their favourite learning experiences over Zoom, their Google classroom or on social media.

A World Teachers’ Day social media badge is available for the community to celebrate their own teachers from school and share all the ways their teachers inspired them.

“I encourage the community to join NESA in celebrating the teaching profession on 29 October, for the work they do and the lasting impact they have on our communities,” Mr Martin said.

Internationally, World Teachers Day is celebrated on 5 October. As this usually falls during the school holidays, Australia celebrates on the last Friday in October.

The e-toolkit can be downloaded from the NESA website now: 

The City Of Sydney

Published October 21, 2021 by NFSA - Silent
From The Film Australia Collection.  Made by the Cinema and Photographic Branch 1927. Directed by Bert Ive. The major landmarks and public buildings in inner city Sydney, N.S.W. Scenes include: the ferry terminals and tram stops at Circular Quay, Central Railway Station, the largest train terminus in the British Empire, Railway Square, Sydney University, the Commonwealth Bank and General Post Office in Martin Place; Martin Place decorated with stalls and bunting; Town Hall; and the façade of the Art Gallery.

Young People Take Centre Stage At Global Conference On The Climate Crisis

In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next month, several leading young climate activists from around the world will gather for the closing session of a nine-day conference on ‘Health and Human Rights in the Climate Crisis’. They’ll appear alongside global leaders in health, human rights and climate change policy, including former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Tlaleng Mofokeng, former Director of Preparedness and Mobilisation at the Australian Department of Defence Cheryl Durrant, and former Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization Flavia Bustreo.

Curated by the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney, the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Southern California’s Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, the conference draws together more than 30 international speakers across eight sessions. The conference will serve as a call to global governments to take urgent steps at gatherings like COP26 that recognise the link between the increasing burden on under-resourced public health systems, the exploitation of the natural world and altered climatic conditions.

“The future of climate activism lies with young people, which is why we wanted them to play a large part in our conference,” said Professor Justine Nolan, director of the Australian Human Rights Institute.

“They are demanding greater accountability from governments, business and international institutions for progressing action on climate change and they must play an active role in that process.

“The time for talk or ‘blah, blah, blah’ as Greta Thunberg might say, is over. It’s time for action.”

Young Australians in particular overwhelmingly want to see immediate action on climate change but have little faith their leaders will do anything significant, according to a recent survey from Foundations For Tomorrow, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. In recent years, frustration and anger at government inaction has led to a wave of international school strikes and legal action where courts are asked to define the rights of younger generations to a healthy future. 

Ava Princi, who will speak at the closing session, is one of eight students who filed the class action Sharma and others v Minister for Environment in September 2020 on behalf of young people in Australia and around the world. The students alleged that the federal Environment Minister had a duty to avoid causing future harm related to the carbon emissions that would result from the approval of a proposed coal mine extension project in NSW, known as the Vickery Extension Project.

In May 2021, the Federal Court of Australia found that the Environment Minister has a duty of care to avoid causing injury to young people while exercising her powers to approve the new coal project.

“One reason I was inspired to become involved in the case is the fact that it was a class-action lawsuit, meaning we were able to argue on behalf of all young Australians,” Princi said.

“Young people – particularly young First Nations, disabled and rurally-located Australians – are the most vulnerable groups in terms of climate impacts, yet we cannot vote or run for political positions.

“It's important that young people have a voice in the climate movement and influence climate policy to overcome our political circumstances.”
oining Princi in the youth-focused session is US teen climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor, founder of international non-profit Earth Uprising. Villaseñor became an international voice in the fight against climate change after witnessing firsthand the devastation of California’s deadliest ever wildfires in 2018. Smoke triggered Villaseñor’s asthma and inspired her to research the links between wildfire disasters and climate change. She soon began striking in solidarity with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as part of the Fridays for Future movement. For more than a year she missed school every Friday to sit outside the United Nations in New York City.

Villaseñor, Thunberg and 14 other young people representing 12 nations also filed an official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child for violating the human rights of children in regards to government inaction on climate change.

“We’re here as citizens of the planet, as victims of the pollution that’s been carelessly dumped into our land, air and sea for generations, and as children whose rights are being violated,” Villaseñor said at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.

Along with Princi and Villaseñor, the closing session, titled ‘Defending our Future’ will feature Tish King from Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network SEED, and Vice President of Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change Belyndar Rikimani.

As COP26 approaches, Princi echoed similar sentiments to Thunberg’s recent excoriation of global leaders over too much talk and not enough action.

“I sincerely hope Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attend COP26 as we need to commit to more ambitious targets, including a moratorium on all new coal and gas projects here in Australia,” she said.

Health and Human Rights in the Climate Crisis: Charting Challenges and Solutions runs 21-29 October, 2021. Speakers, session and registration information is available at Free ticket (For students and civil society)

NSW is Burning, Sydney is Choking - Climate Emergency Rally!, December 11, 2019 - Photo credit: Little Raven Photography

NESA Media Statement: HSC Major Projects

The NESA COVID-19 Response Committee has extended the COVID Special Consideration Program to most HSC major projects being completed by HSC students across the state.

This means teachers will provide a mark or estimate for their students’ major projects in:
  • Drama
  • Textiles and Design
  • Design and Technology
  • Industrial Technology
  • Visual Arts
Students will need to submit their projects by the published due dates and teachers will have until 22 October to submit marks to NESA.

When providing a mark or estimate, teachers will take into consideration any impact of COVID-19 restrictions on students’ work.

Teacher provided marks will be moderated by NESA to ensure equity across the state.

The decision was made to limit the movement of NESA markers within and beyond Greater Sydney and is in line with Health advice for protecting the health and safety of everyone involved in the HSC exams.

The following major projects (that are submitted online) will continue to be marked online by NESA markers (unless an application for special consideration is made):
  • English Extension 2
  • Music 1 (compositions)
  • Music 2 and Extension (compositions and musicology)
  • Society and Culture Personal Interest Project
The Special Consideration Program is already in place for students completing language oral and performance exams across the state.

For up-to-date advice about the 2021 HSC, visit NESA’s COVID-19 advice.

HSC 2021 Key Dates: - from NESA

Term 4, 2021

Friday, 22 October 2021
Submission of teacher-provided marks due (via Schools Online) for:

  • all HSC performance and language oral exams
  • major projects/submitted works for:
    • Textiles and Design
    • Design and Technology
    • Industrial Technology
    • Visual Arts
    • Drama
  • major projects/submitted works where applications to the  COVID-19 Special Consideration Program have been approved for:
    • English Extension 2
    • Society and Culture
    • Music (compositions and Musicology).
Friday 29 October 2021
Year 11 grades and Life Skills outcomes to be submitted (via Schools Online)

Monday 1 November 2021
2022 HSC student entries open.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021
HSC written exams start.

Friday, 26 November 2021
Year 10 grades and Life Skills outcomes to be submitted (via Schools Online).

Monday, 29 November 2021
Last day to notify NESA that a Year 12 student has met the HSC Minimum Standard

After last HSC written examination
HSC Assessment Ranks released to students via Students Online for 4 weeks.

24 January 2022
HSC results released.

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

Write what you know: the COVID experience is a rich resource for year 12 English exams

Janet DuttonMacquarie University

Generations of students sitting exams would know what Australian poet Joanne Burns means when she writes of the fear of failure when expressing ideas.

they don’t come out of your mouth in smooth formation very often […]

you become intimidated far too easily by the prospect of that great black trapdoor under your words, that might open and tumble you down to the cavern of indefinite shame if you start to make the slightest mistake […]

In 2021, English students are not only striving to overcome the “trapdoor” under their words, they are doing so in a year that has challenged them to see their world very differently.

COVID-19 has shaped a year of uncertainty. For secondary students eyeing the finish line of their school days, the disruptions to life, and disappointments from cancelled rites of passage, have been a crash course in the vicissitudes of human experiences.

Read more: Fears loom for teens undergoing vital brain development during COVID. Telling stories might help

There is no denying the serious challenges faced by so many. But senior students writing English exams can also use their experiences from this period of turbulence as a source of inspiration.

Write What You Know, But Stand Outside Your Experience

Classroom-based research has long supported the importance of “harnessing students’ own knowledge, experience, imagination and memories” in writing. Helping students to tell their own stories is a powerful way to value their experiences and support their identity.

Read more: 'I'm in another world': writing without rules lets kids find their voice, just like professional authors

Authors often use their everyday perceptions of the world as a source of inspiration. Novelist P.D. James famously observed:

You absolutely should write about what you know… [but] You have to learn to stand outside of yourself. All experience, whether it is painful or whether it is happy, is somehow stored up and sooner or later it’s used.

Drawing on lived experience doesn’t have to be explicit. Standing outside of yourself means not literally recounting a life story in boring detail. It means being original and doing what good writers do by asking questions to re-imagine personal experiences.

Questions you could ask yourself include:

  • what if the personal experience was told from a different perspective?

  • how could a character trait or emotion be exaggerated for comic or tragic effect?

  • how could the setting be changed to become more dramatic, unfamiliar, surreal, or perhaps possible in the future?

  • what if you use a flashback or flashforward to delay the action and build suspense?

  • could the dominant mood be altered to take the narrative in a different direction?

An elephant sitting in a tree.
Could you use personal experience and change it to make it surreal? Shutterstock

Using these techniques you could write about Zoom gatherings and viral TikTok dances in a satirical way.

Or consider using the enduring tensions around individual choice and collective responsibility as an example or metaphor in a writing task or persuasive text (writing an argument).

Use The Writing Prompt, But Be Interesting

Writing tasks in English exams include prompts. These vary widely but commonly focus on human experience and are broad enough to open a wide range of possibilities you could use in your writing.

In a past senior English Queensland exam, students were asked to use a set of images and develop a narrative using the theme of “a fork in the road”.

In one of the images a man wearing a backpack is standing in a forest.

For this task, you could use the image and “fork in the road” theme to explore potential decisions that could come about from having experienced social isolation during COVID. For instance, after the pandemic is over, do you want to return to your old social life or continue spending more time by yourself?

Illustration of people standing part from each other.
You could explore the idea of social isolation. Shutterstock

English exams often contain excerpts from texts as a writing stimulus, like this one from the short story Underdog, by Tobias Madden, which appeared in a NSW exam.

This is my world now, and it can be yours too, if you like. A place can soak through your skin like sweat, and ooze into your heart and soul. Breathe it in, and let me tell you a story.

With a prompt like this, you could use personal experiences such as:

  • a familiar location such as a disused warehouse in a local street, or the carefully styled loft apartment from an influencer’s social media post

  • comparisons between two worlds – your known world (a bustling commercial landscape) and another world (a desolate, urban landscape waiting for people to re-inhabit it)

  • a memoir-style description of a grandparents’ house, as told to a younger family member with use of dialogue in English and the student’s first language to construct authenticity.

Read more: Inside the story: writing trauma in Cynthia Banham's A Certain Light

It is always important for students to closely follow the task instructions because the marking criteria will assess the extent to which students are able to reflect the task parameters in their response.

Rote-learned, off-task pieces of writing will not be graded highly by markers.

English offers a unique space for students to write about their world. If students write what they know but make it interesting, their experiences during their turbulent senior year can be reshaped into meaningful and creative exam writing tasks.The Conversation

Janet Dutton, Senior Lecturer, Secondary English, Macquarie University

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

Mateship might sound blokey, but our research shows women value it more highly than men

Naama CarlinUNSWAmanda LaugesenAustralian National University, and Benjamin T. JonesCQUniversity Australia

Mateship is an intrinsic part of Australian society, routinely discussed as an important national value. In 1999, Prime Minister John Howard even attempted to include mateship in the constitutional preamble.

But despite its ubiquity in Australian culture, what does mateship mean to people and how do they really feel about the term? Our new Australian Mateship Survey attempted to find out.

In a survey of over 500 respondents, we found that while support for the concept of mateship is high among Australians, many find it problematic.

And surprisingly, women supported the idea of mateship being a key feature of Australian national values more strongly than men (70% and 60%, respectively). This finding stands out since mateship has historic masculine connotations – a perception that was supported by many of our respondents.

Short History Of Mateship In Australia

Mateship is a common word in many countries, but it has come to have a special meaning in Australian English. The Australian National Dictionary defines it as “the bond between equal partners or close friends; comradeship; comradeship as an ideal”.

While that definition is gender-neutral, mateship has historically been seen as a male domain. One of our respondents succinctly described it as “friendship, but bloke-ier”.

There is a long mythology of mateship in Australia. Canonical bush writers such as Henry Lawson drew on the concept of mateship, enshrining it as part of the Australian bush tradition of the late 19th century.

In the first half of the 20th century, mateship came to be closely associated with the ANZAC legend – and this remains the case today.

In the 1970s, historian Miriam Dixon, among others, challenged the cultural dominance of mateship and argued it was an exclusionary concept. For Dixon, mateship was “deeply antipathetic to women”.

By the 1990s, Howard claimed the term had outgrown its masculine origins and could be regarded as an inclusive national ideal. Nevertheless, his plan to include the term in the constitutional preamble was roundly criticised and ultimately abandoned.

The purpose of our research was to test attitudes towards mateship two decades after this public debate to see how people view it today.

Positive Feelings On Mateship – Except When Used By Politicians

Our survey posed a series of questions that sought to determine if and how respondents used the term “mate”, whether they believed mateship was important in Australia, and how people defined it.

A strong majority of respondents (82%) said they use the word “mate” in conversation and nearly 65% responded yes when asked, “Is mateship a key feature of Australian national identity?”. Many respondents also had positive things to say about mateship in their comments.

Our survey also showed women overall had a slightly more positive view of mateship compared to men and non-binary or gender-fluid respondents, despite the fact many women found the term to be too “blokey”.

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

While mateship is seen as a positive Australian value by most, we found there is suspicion when politicians try to gain political mileage from it.

When asked if politicians should invoke mateship in national rituals such as speeches on Australia Day and ANZAC Day, only 45% of our respondents said yes.

Without mentioning the phrase’s origin with the Howard government’s proposed addition to the constitutional preamble in 1999, respondents were asked if they supported the line, “We value excellence as well as fairness, independence as dearly as mateship”. Only 39% said yes.

Mateship And Exclusion

While most of our respondents (60%) said they believed mateship includes “all Australians”, a sizeable minority said the term is exclusive on gender and racial lines.

Many of the comments associated mateship not only with men, but specifically with white men. One respondent described it as “a dog whistle for white nationalism and misogyny”. Others suggested mateship was “too white male-centric” and “mateship feels like a boy’s club, specifically for white men”.

Read more: Paul Hogan and the myth of the white Aussie bloke

This perhaps reflects a sense of distrust people feel when mateship is used in political discourse. Australia’s political leaders are predominantly white and male, and regularly use the language of mateship to speak of solidarity and political community.

Like Howard, recent leaders have attempted to harness its cultural power. In fact, then-Treasurer Scott Morrison said in parliament in late 2015 that “mateship is the Australian word for love”.

Our survey shows there are many Australians concerned with attempts to force mateship as a civic ideal, as political rhetoric often does.

The Future Of Mateship

Although mateship is largely seen as a positive feature of Australian life, defining it is difficult and attempts to politicise it are generally frowned upon.

Our survey also found that, for a significant minority, the exclusionary connotations of mateship are too strong for it to be a unifying civic ideal. For many of our respondents – as with critics of Howard’s constitutional preamble – the term has not outgrown its sexist and exclusionary baggage.

In his history of mateship, Nick Dyrenfurth notes it has always been contested. The diverse range of responses to our survey support this.

As a result, we believe that political attempts to take ownership of mateship and enshrine a particular definition as a civic ideal are more likely to divide than unite.The Conversation

Naama Carlin, Lecturer, UNSWAmanda Laugesen, Director, Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University, and Benjamin T. Jones, Senior Lecturer in History, CQUniversity Australia

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

Australia’s oldest dinosaur was a peaceful vegetarian, not a fierce predator

Anthony RomilioAuthor provided
Steven W. SalisburyThe University of Queensland and Anthony RomilioThe University of Queensland

Ipswich, about 40 kilometres west of Brisbane, seems an unlikely place to find dinosaur fossils. Yet the area has produced the oldest evidence of dinosaurs in Australia.

A fresh look at these fossils now reveals they aren’t what they first seemed, and it’s prompting us to reconsider how the story of Australia’s dinosaurs began.

In research published today in Historical Biology, we reanalyse a sequence of 220-million-year-old tracks from the Ipswich Coal Measures, thought to have belonged to a carnivorous dinosaur.

We show they actually belonged to an early sauropodomorph — a distant relative of the plant-eating sauropods that roamed the planet much later, during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. This is the first time fossil evidence of early sauropodomorphs has been found in Australia.

Subterranean Dinosaur Tracks

The Ipswich area was once the principal source of coal for Queensland. Its suburbs including Ebbw Vale, New Chum and Swanbank were dotted with underground mines during the late 1800s and the first half of the twentieth century.

These mining operations involved the creation of deep shafts and tunnels, from which miners could access deposits of coal sandwiched between other layers of rock. Some tunnels would descend hundreds of metres below the surface.

The coal would be removed from the seam by hand, and pillars were left in its place to support the ceiling of the resulting underground “room”. It was difficult and dangerous work.

In 1964, miners working at the Rhondda colliery in New Chum made a startling discovery. As they removed the coal from a seam they were following 213 metres below the surface, a series of giant, three-toed tracks became exposed in the ceiling of the mine shaft. For the miners, it was as if a dinosaur had just walked over their heads.

Fossilised plant remains found in association with the tracks provide a fascinating window into the world of Australia’s first dinosaurs. The highly diverse flora comprised a dense groundcover of ferns, cycad-like plants and horsetails that grew under a canopy of gingko, voltzialean conifers and seed-ferns (corystosperms), like this Dicroidium dubium. Steven SalisburyAuthor provided

These tracks remain the oldest-known dinosaur fossils in the entire continent. They’d been made by a dinosaur walking across a layer of swampy vegetation, which would be extracted as coal 220 million years later. Buried under fine silt and mud, they’d been preserved as natural casts.

It had been assumed some type of predatory dinosaur made the tracks. The only problem was the footprints were reportedly about 40–46 centimetres long. This would suggest the track-maker was just under 2m high at the hips.

This isn’t necessarily large for a theropod such as Allosaurus fragillis, which was about this size. Tyrannosaurus rex was even bigger, with a hip height of about 3.2m.

But the tracks found in Ipswich were created during the Late Triassic about 220 million years ago — 65 million years before Allosaurus and 150 million years before T. rex. And fossil evidence from around the world indicates theropods of a larger size didn’t appear until the start of the Early Jurrasic Period, 200 million years ago.

Was something unusual afoot in Australia during the Late Triassic?

As part of a broader review of Australian dinosaur tracks, we decided to take a closer look at the Rhondda colliery tracks. The mine has long been closed, so the original tracks are no longer accessible, but archival photographs and a plaster cast are held at the Queensland Museum.

Read more: Introducing Australotitan: Australia's largest dinosaur yet spanned the length of 2 buses

Dispelling The Myth Of The ‘Triassic Terror’

Using the photos and cast, we created a 3D digital model of the track to allow a more detailed comparison with other dinosaur tracks from around the world.

Our study revealed two important things. First, the footprints were not as big as initially reported. Excluding drag marks and other unrelated surface features, they are close to 32–34cm long (not 40–46cm as previously documented).

Second, the shape of the footprints and the sequence in which they were made is more consistent with early sauropodomorphs. Sauropodomorphs were the distant relatives of the lumbering sauropods of the Late Jurassic and subsequent Cretaceous Period.

The towering Triassic terror of the Ipswich Coal Measures was no more. In its place was a peaceful plant-eater.

Australia's oldest dinosaur, reconstructed based on a fossilised tracks founnd in 220 million year old rocks from Ipswich.
Hypothetical reconstruction of the Ipswich sauropodomorph dinosaur, alongside an 3D orthographic image of one of the fossilised tracks form the Rhondda colliery, with a 1.8m person for scale. Anthony Romilio

The remains of early sauropodomorph dinosaurs have been found in Upper Triassic rocks, aged between 220 million and 200 million years, in continental Europe, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

And by the start of the Jurassic, 200 million years ago, they had achieved a near global distribution, with fossils in North America, China and Antarctica. This isn’t surprising, given the continents at the time were still connected in a single landmass called Pangaea.

Our new interpretation of the Rhondda colliery tracks shows early sauropodomorphs lived in Australia, too, and that Australia’s first dinosaurs were friendlier than we thought.

Read more: The march of the titanosaurs: the Snake Creek Tracksite unveiled The Conversation

Steven W. Salisbury, PhD; Senior Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland and Anthony Romilio, PhD, Independent Researcher, The University of Queensland

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

From counting birds to speaking out: how citizen science leads us to ask crucial questions

Hugh PossinghamThe University of Queensland

My utopia is based on one simple idea: we should all become citizen scientists.

Why? Because citizen scientists can overturn the information inequity that plagues much of our collective decision-making. If citizens immerse themselves in gathering knowledge and asking questions, they gain power – and are far more likely to engage in participatory democracy. This is fundamental to achieving sustainable environmental change.

Let me give you an example. Over the last 25 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be an active participant in the development of marine spatial plans in many countries.

These plans aim to deliver win-win outcomes for nature, climate, the economy and equity. If you protect marine areas from fishing and other human uses, the fish and other species will bounce back, increasing the number of fish we can catch outside the parks.

But there’s a problem. To work, these plans need buy-in from everyone from artisanal fishermen to national governments. Ideally, that means people need to be able to understand fish growth, movement and population dynamics to be able to discuss the issues on a level playing field. At present, that isn’t always possible.

That’s why I have my hopes pegged on a rapid expansion and celebration of citizen science.

What Is Citizen Science?

The Australian Citizen Science Association defines citizen science as:

public participation and collaboration in scientific research with the aim to increase scientific knowledge.

In short, it’s where lay people collect and sometimes analyse, interpret and share scientific information.

Finding out which species live where is often the first step to becoming a citizen scientist. Many people do this without realising.

binoculars and birdwatching guide
Birdwatchers are often engaged in citizen science without even knowing it. Shutterstock

Every day, thousands of birdwatchers enter data about birds they’ve seen into apps. This collective undertaking can become almost addictive for the user. On a mass scale, it allows us to produce maps showing where species are present, where they are not, and in some cases their abundance.

This citizen-collected data is exactly the kind we need for better spatial planning and environmental regulations. Collecting this data across large areas quickly would be almost impossible without the help of citizen scientists.

A huge body of scientific literature has been built around assembling, analysing and interpreting community-gathered spatial data.

Read more: Citizen scientists are filling research gaps created by the pandemic

Citizen Science Creates Informed Citizens

Citizen science also creates informed citizens who ask crucial questions.

Are there errors in the data and do they matter? How can we make distribution maps when so many parts of Australia are rarely visited by people? What does this data tell us about whether species are becoming more or less abundant, or changing their distribution?

If we collectively create and share data on species distributions, that allows communities to meaningfully discuss thorny issues such as the tension between threatened species and urban development.

Is a block of koala habitat important even if no koala has been seen in it for a couple of years? Should we be planting koala habitat in other areas?

The next fundamental question - what is changing? – is what leads citizen scientists further into engagement with science and collective decision-making.

This question has been important in improving policies for more than 50 years. Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book about environmental science, Silent Spring, was inspired in part by data collected by birdwatchers in the US showing some species were declining rapidly. That book led to changes in pesticide policy and gave rise to the modern environmental movement in the US.

To truly understand change, citizen scientists ideally collect data in the same way, at the same locations and across many years. Though this type of data requires more commitment and more attention to process, it produces the most valuable outcome: information on changes in species distribution and abundance.

bushwalkers photographing waratah flowers
Observing changes in where species live and their abundance provides vital data. Shutterstock

For instance, the Threatened Species Index has influenced policies such as the recent review of the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which exposed Australia’s failure to arrest the decline in listed threatened species over twenty years.

But this index would not have been possible without the data generated by citizen scientists (and researchers and governments). It was the quality of the data that made clear the alarming trends for our wildlife.

Knowing that the sky is falling is necessary, but it’s not enough. Knowing what to do about the falling sky is much more useful. This happens when a citizen scientist begins asking how our actions cause change.

Read more: Our turtle program shows citizen science isn't just great for data, it makes science feel personal

Speaking Up And Speaking Out

In my ideal world, everybody in Australia would not only be asking questions about what causes changes to the environment but would also be involved in solving the problems we face and making the most of whatever opportunities emerge.

For example, we have found that the work of recreational fishers in monitoring species abundance and size of fish in and outside of protected areas proves powerful advocacy for more marine zoning.

When people see with their own eyes how fish increase in size in protected zones compared to fishing zones, they often become advocates for protected areas. To me, this is a clear example of the power of information and connected knowledge in locally managed ecosystems.

Large ball of schooling fish
Citizen science can help capture changes in fish abundance and distribution in real time. Shutterstock

Any utopia requires decision-making by the people, for the people. For us to make good decisions together, we need to have equal access to information - not only consumption, but production.

That’s why I see citizen science as so important. It’s information produced by the people for everyone’s benefit. Its power lies in the opportunities it gives anyone to learn about the world, to ask questions about how it is changing, and and how our actions are affecting that change.

More and more citizen scientists are willing to speak up and speak out about matters they care about, and to question policies or decisions they disagree with. Science has given them power to speak with authority. If we were all citizen scientists, information inequities would be a thing of the past.

This piece has been adapted from Professor Possingham’s essay in Griffith Review 73: Hey, Utopia!The Conversation

Hugh Possingham, Professor, The University of Queensland

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

Common Sense Consent Reforms Closer To Becoming NSW Law

October 20, 2021
Common sense reforms to make sexual consent laws easier to follow and ensure more effective prosecutions of sexual offences will be introduced to NSW Parliament today.

Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the proposed Bill, Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Bill 2021, will reinforce the basic principle of common decency that consent is a free choice involving mutual and ongoing communication, and that consent should not be presumed.

“Today brings us another step closer to implementing these important reforms that will set clearer boundaries for consensual sex and better support victim-survivors who courageously come forward to report sexual assault,” Mr Speakman said.

“If you want to have sex with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too – under our reforms, it’s that simple.

“We have listened to calls for change and consulted on these reforms with victim-survivors and legal experts to introduce the best possible Bill to Parliament that will simplify our laws and help to address rates of sexual violence.”

The Bill builds on legislative drafting suggested as part of the NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) Report 148opens in new window, and will also make clear that a person doesn't consent to sexual activity unless they said or did something to communicate consent.

An accused's belief that consent existed will not be reasonable in the circumstances unless the accused said or did anything – within a reasonable time before or at the time of the sexual activity – to find out whether the other person consents to the sexual activity. This requirement will not apply to an accused person who had a cognitive or mental health impairment that caused them not to say or do anything to ascertain consent.

“This affirmative model of consent is not onerous. It does not require a written or video agreement or a script, or stifle spontaneity, as some have suggested,” Mr Speakman said.

Survivor Advocate and Director from Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy, Saxon Mullins, said today was a momentous win for victim-survivors and experts who’ve contributed to this cause for years, using their voices to advocate for an affirmative consent model.

“These reforms mean so much to so many survivors who understand first hand the difference this bill can make,” Ms Mullins said.

“It has been three years since I came forward to share my own story, and while progress can feel slow, I know this bill is a huge leap forward and will see NSW leading the way in consent law around the country.”

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said a clear definition of consent was vital when dealing with sexual assault matters, to ensure effective prosecutions.

“Victims of sexual assault who courageously come forward need to know that they are fully supported – both at the investigative stage but also through the judicial process,” Commissioner Fuller said.

“Reforms which provide clarity in a legal sense about consent are welcomed by police. As a frontline agency that often sees the devastating impact of these crimes first hand, I fully support the Government’s reforms to consent laws which will improve victim outcomes and boost confidence in the judicial process.”

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said that all school sectors were committed to tackling the issues of consent and sexual assault, demonstrated through a shared Statement of Intent to deliver greater engagement with students, staff, police and parents.

“Schools and parents can play a powerful role in supporting these reforms and helping to promote greater communication between young people, around the dinner table, and at school about consent and healthy relationships,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We’ve improved resources in the classroom for teachers and students, and supports for parents and carers to build greater understanding of these critical issues.”

The full suite of reforms also includes:
  • clarification that a person does not consent unless, at the time of the sexual activity, they freely and voluntarily agree to the sexual activity;
  • five new jury directions available for judges to give at trial to address common misconceptions about sexual assault and behavioural responses, and to ensure the evidence of complainants is assessed fairly;
  • targeted education programs for judges, legal practitioners and police;
  • a research project to improve our understanding of victim-survivor experiences with the criminal justice process; and
  • community awareness campaigns that will build on the success of #MakeNoDoubt.
A Bill to give effect to the reforms will be introduced to NSW Parliament today. The reforms are then expected to become law in mid-2022. Once the Bill has been introduced in NSW Parliament, you can read more about it here.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, support is available from those who are trained to help: call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or NSW Rape Crisis on 1800 424 017.

Telestroke Provides Life-Saving Care To NSW Residents

October 18, 2021
​More than 1,000 patients who experienced a stroke in NSW’s regional and rural areas have benefited from life-changing treatment thanks to the NSW Telestroke Service.

The innovative service provides 24/7 access to life-saving stroke diagnosis and treatment, connecting patients and local doctors with specialist stroke physicians via video consultation.

“Telestroke’s 1000th patient milestone exemplifies the world-class virtual care being delivered across the state,” said Dr Nigel Lyons, NSW Health Deputy Secretary, Health System Strategy and Planning.

“This vital service enables time-critical diagnosis and treatment for patients in regional and rural areas,” said Dr Lyons.

Professor Ken Butcher, Medical Director of the NSW Telestroke Service and Director of Clinical Neuroscience at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital, said the NSW Telestroke Service is an important weapon in the fight against stroke, which is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability.

“Using Telestroke, clinicians harness cutting-edge technology to deliver better outcomes for patients exhibiting signs of stroke,” said Professor Butcher.

“Multi-modal imaging allows clinicians to see where the stroke is in the brain and make better clinical decisions – irrespective of a patient’s location.”

One of the 1,000 patients thankful for Telestroke is Nina, a nurse and mother-of-three young children from Northern NSW. When Nina woke at 4.30am with her arm and leg moving uncontrollably, her husband drove her to hospital.

Upon arrival at The Tweed Hospital, emergency staff used Telestroke to connect with Newcastle-based Neurologist Dr Carlos Garcia-Esperon, who assessed Nina and prescribed vital blood clot-busting medicine.

“My family was so relieved that I received instant specialist care. By 9pm that night I was back to normal, thanks to Telestroke,” Nina said.

The Stroke Foundation is helping to raise awareness of Telestroke as it rolls out to even more rural and regional locations across the state.

Sixteen hospitals across regional and rural NSW are connected to the $21.7 million NSW Telestroke Service, which is jointly funded by the NSW and Commonwealth Governments and will expand to 23 sites by June 2022.

Implementation of the NSW Telestroke Service is a collaboration between Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital, eHealth NSW, the Agency for Clinical Innovation and the NSW Ministry of Health.

Health Leader To Advance Indigenous Genomics

October 14, 2021
Internationally-acclaimed Aboriginal researcher and clinician Dr Alex Brown will take up a new appointment as Professor of Indigenous Genomics as part of a new strategic partnership between Perth's Telethon Kids Institute and The Australian National University (ANU).

Telethon Kids Institute Board Chair and ANU Chancellor, the Hon Julie Bishop, said the appointment reflected a joint commitment of both organisations to working with community to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"Professor Brown is widely regarded as one of Australia's top Aboriginal clinician researchers. His work has already had a significant impact in improving health care and services, and also in the way we conduct research in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure the greatest relevance and results," Ms Bishop said.

"The field of genomics unlocks the information in our DNA to enable personalised, more targeted approaches to preventions and treatments. Professor Brown's work in this area will help to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are very much part of this exciting new frontier in medicine."

Professor Brown has long associations with both organisations, having served on the governing boards of the ANU National Centre for Indigenous Genomics and Telethon Kids Institute, as well as being the scientific lead on the Institute's 1000 Families Initiative.

"This role is a great opportunity for me to leverage the strengths of two highly regarded organisations to bring new capacity and focus to this program of work," he said.

"There is no population that suffers the long-term consequences of early life challenges more than our  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our program of research will combine genomics, precision medicine and public health to address this."

Professor Brown's priorities will be to:
  • Support community awareness and genomic literacy to underpin informed participation and empowerment in research
  • Establish ethical, culturally and socially appropriate ways of conducting genomic research in partnership with communities
  • Document and understand the diversity of  Indigenous peoples and the drivers of disease in different communities 
  • Deepen understanding of biology and enhance knowledge of complex diseases among Indigenous Australians to directly improve health outcomes
  • Translate scientific understandings of genomic diversity into enhanced and targeted delivery of health care within Indigenous health services
  • Develop the capacity of the Indigenous genomics workforce
Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Russell Gruen, welcomed the partnership with Telethon Kids Institute and the opportunities Professor Brown's appointment brings for serving society, and particularly Indigenous people, through transformational research.

"Professor Brown is leading population genomics to a new level, and will now align his own deep expertise with that of the Telethon Kids Institute and the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at ANU to advance human health, and ensure people everywhere can benefit from such great science," he said.

Telethon Kids Executive Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM, said Professor Brown's appointment reinforces the Institute's ambition to be the global leader in Indigenous child health research.

"Professor Brown is driven by integrity, respect and deep compassion. We are very excited to have his wisdom, expertise and leadership guiding our commitment to see real change for WA Aboriginal children and families, to make sure we can grow up the next generation of Aboriginal children to become leaders."

The ANU and Telethon Kids strategic partnership will drive a common agenda for research excellence and internationally significant scientific outcomes, as well as facilitate the training of higher degree by research students and the development of early-mid career researchers.

Professor Brown and his team will take up their new positions in 2022 and be based at the Institute's Adelaide office.

Photo: Professor Alex Brown (left), ANU Chancellor the Hon. Julie Bishop, and Telethon Kids Executive Director Jonathan Carapetis AM. Photo: Telethon Kids Institute

A New Treatment For Glaucoma?

October 18, 2021
A Northwestern Medicine study in mice has identified new treatment targets for glaucoma, including preventing a severe pediatric form of glaucoma, as well as uncovering a possible new class of therapy for the most common form of glaucoma in adults.

In people with high pressure glaucoma, fluid in the eye doesn't properly drain and builds up pressure on the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. It affects 60 million people worldwide and is the most common cause of blindness in people over 60 years old.

While there are a few treatments available for open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma in adults (eye drops, oral medication, laser treatments), there are no cures, and a severe form of glaucoma in children between birth and three years old known as primary congenital glaucoma can only be treated with surgery.

"Although primary congenital glaucoma is much rarer than open angle glaucoma, it is devastating for children," said corresponding author Dr. Susan Quaggin, chief of nephrology and hypertension in the Department of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "New treatments and new classes of treatments are urgently needed to slow vision loss in both forms.

Using gene editing, the scientists in the study developed new models of glaucoma in mice that resembled primary congenital glaucoma. By injecting a new, long-lasting and non-toxic protein treatment (Hepta-ANGPT1) into mice, the scientists were able to replace the function of genes that, when mutated, cause glaucoma. With this injectable treatment, the scientists also successfully prevented glaucoma from ever forming in one model. This same therapy, when injected into the eyes of healthy adult mice, reduced pressure in the eyes, supporting it as a possible new class of therapy for the most common cause of glaucoma in adults (high intraocular pressure open angle glaucoma).

The next step is to develop the appropriate delivery system for the successful new protein treatment in patients and bring it to production, Quaggin said.

Additionally, the scientists used bioinformatics and single cell RNA sequence data to understand and identify glaucoma pathways that can be explored in the future for additional therapeutic targets for the disease, such as ones that regulate communication with a specialized blood vessel in the eye (Schlemm's canal) that is important for draining fluid and maintaining normal eye pressure.

"Having a treatment that can promote remodelling and/or growth of a defective Schlemm's canal to treat glaucoma would be fantastic," Quaggin said. "These studies are the first step to that goal.

"Our hope is that this study leads to the first targeted therapy that effectively promotes (aqueous humor) fluid outflow from the front of an eye, reversing the underlying biologic defect in patients with glaucoma."

Other Northwestern co-authors are Ben Thompson (first), Dr. Jing Jin, Pan Liu and medical student Raj Purohit. This study builds on major teamwork and an ongoing collaboration with University of Madison-Wisconsin co-authors Terri Young and Stuart Thomson.

Benjamin R. Thomson, Pan Liu, Tuncer Onay, Jing Du, Stuart W. Tompson, Sol Misener, Raj R. Purohit, Terri L. Young, Jing Jin, & Susan E. Quaggin. Cellular crosstalk regulates the aqueous humor outflow pathway and provides new targets for glaucoma therapies. Nature Communications, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26346-0

New Fibres Can Make Breath-Regulating Garments

October 19, 2021
A new kind of fibre developed by researchers at MIT and in Sweden can be made into clothing that senses how much it is being stretched or compressed, and then provides immediate tactile feedback in the form of pressure, lateral stretch, or vibration. Such fabrics, the team suggests, could be used in garments that help train singers or athletes to better control their breathing, or that help patients recovering from disease or surgery to recover their breathing patterns.

The multi-layered fibres contain a fluid channel in the centre, which can be activated by a fluidic system. This system controls the fibres' geometry by pressurizing and releasing a fluid medium, such as compressed air or water, into the channel, allowing the fibre to act as an artificial muscle. The fibres also contain stretchable sensors that can detect and measure the degree of stretching of the fibres. The resulting composite fibres are thin and flexible enough to be sewn, woven, or knitted using standard commercial machines.

OmniFibers - courtesy of the researchers.

The fibres, dubbed OmniFibers, are being presented this week at the Association for Computing Machinery's User Interface Software and Technology online conference, in a paper by Ozgun Kilic Afsar, a visiting doctoral student and research affiliate at MIT; Hiroshi Ishii, the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; and eight others from the MIT Media Lab, Uppsala University, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.

The new fibre architecture has a number of key features. Its extremely narrow size and use of inexpensive material make it relatively easy to structure the fibres into a variety of fabric forms. It's also compatible with human skin, since its outer layer is based on a material similar to common polyester. And, its fast response time and the strength and variety of the forces it can impart allow for a rapid feedback system for training or remote communications using haptics (based on the sense of touch).

Afsar says that the shortcomings of most existing artificial muscle fibers are that they are either thermally activated, which can cause overheating when used in contact with human skin, or they have low power efficiency or arduous training processes. These systems often have slow response and recovery times, limiting their immediate usability in applications that require rapid feedback, she says.

As an initial test application of the material, the team made a type of undergarment that singers can wear to monitor and play back the movement of respiratory muscles, to later provide kinaesthetic feedback through the same garment to encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns for the desired vocal performance. "Singing is particularly close to home, as my mom is an opera singer. She's a soprano," she says. In the design and fabrication process of this garment, Afsar has worked closely with a classically trained opera singer, Kelsey Cotton.

"I really wanted to capture this expertise in a tangible form," Afsar says. The researchers had the singer perform while wearing the garment made of their robotic fibres, and recorded the movement data from the strain sensors woven into the garment. Then, they translated the sensor data to the corresponding tactile feedback. "We eventually were able to achieve both the sensing and the modes of actuation that we wanted in the textile, to record and replay the complex movements that we could capture from an expert singer's physiology and transpose it to a nonsinger, a novice learner's body. So, we are not just capturing this knowledge from an expert, but we are able to haptically transfer that to someone who is just learning," she says.

Though this initial testing is in the context of vocal pedagogy, the same approach could be used to help athletes to learn how best to control their breathing in a given situation, based on monitoring accomplished athletes as they carry out various activities and stimulating the muscle groups that are in action, Afsar says. Eventually, the hope is that such garments could also be used to help patients regain healthy breathing patterns after major surgery or a respiratory disease such as Covid-19, or even as an alternative treatment for sleep apnoea (which Afsar suffered from as a child, she says).

The physiology of breathing is actually quite complex, explains Afsar, who is carrying out this work as part of her doctoral thesis at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. "We are not quite aware of which muscles we use and what the physiology of breathing consists of," she says. So, the garments they designed have separate modules to monitor different muscle groups as the wearer breathes in and out, and can replay the individual motions to stimulate the activation of each muscle group.

Ishii says he can foresee a variety of applications for this technology. "Everybody has to breathe. Breathing has a major impact on productivity, confidence, and performance," he says. "Breathing is important for singing, but also this can help when recovering from surgery or depression. For example, breathing is so important for meditation."

The system also might be useful for training other kinds of muscle movements besides breathing, he says. For example, "Many of our artists studied amazing calligraphy, but I want to feel the dynamics of the stroke of the brushes," which might be accomplished with a sleeve and glove made of this closed-loop-feedback material. And Olympic athletes might sharpen their skills by wearing a garment that reproduces the movements of a top athlete, whether a weightlifter or a skier, he suggests.

The soft fiber composite, which resembles a strand of yarn, has five layers: the innermost fluid channel, a silicone-based elastomeric tube to contain the working fluid, a soft stretchable sensor that detects strain as a change in electrical resistance, a braided polymer stretchable outer mesh that controls the outer dimensions of the fiber, and a nonstretchy filament that provides a mechanical constraint on the overall extensibility.

Afsar plans to continue working on making the whole system, including its control electronics and compressed air supply, even more miniaturized to keep it as unobtrusive as possible, and to develop the manufacturing system to be able to produce longer filaments. In coming months, she plans to begin experiments in using the system for transferring skills from an expert to a novice singer, and later to explore different kinds of movement practices, including those of choreographers and dancers.

The research was supported by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. The team included Ali Shtarbanov, Hila Mor, Ken Nakagaki, and Jack Forman at MIT, Kristina Hook at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Karen Modrei, Seung Hee Jeong, and Klas Hjort at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Ozgun Kilic Afsar, Ali Shtarbanov, Hila Mor, Ken Nakagaki, Jack Forman, Karen Modrei, Seung Hee Jeong, Klas Hjort, Kristina Höök, Hiroshi Ishii. OmniFiber: Integrated Fluidic Fiber Actuators for Weaving Movement based Interactions into the ‘Fabric of Everyday Life’. UIST '21: The 34th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, October 2021 Pages 1010%u20131026 DOI: 10.1145/3472749.3474802

Mushroom Consumption May Lower Risk Of Depression

October 12, 2021
Mushrooms have been making headlines due to their many health advantages. Not only do they lower one's risk of cancer and premature death, but new research led by Penn State College of Medicine also reveals that these superfoods may benefit a person's mental health.

Penn State researchers used data on diet and mental health collected from more than 24,000 U.S. adults between 2005 and 2016. They found that people who ate mushrooms had lower odds of having depression.

According to the researchers, mushrooms contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect against cell and tissue damage in the body. Studies have shown that antioxidants help prevent several mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

"Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of the amino acid ergothioneine -- an anti-inflammatory which cannot be synthesized by humans," said lead researcher Djibril Ba, who recently graduated from the epidemiology doctoral program at the College of Medicine. "Having high levels of this may lower the risk of oxidative stress, which could also reduce the symptoms of depression."

White button mushrooms, which are the most commonly consumed mushroom variety in the U.S., contain potassium, which is believed to lower anxiety. In addition, certain other species of edible mushrooms, especially Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion's Mane, may stimulate the expression of neurotrophic factors such as nerve growth factor synthesis, which could have an impact on preventing neuropsychiatric disorders including depression.

Hericium erinaceus. Photo credit: eigene arbeit von Lebrac

According to the researchers, college-educated, non-Hispanic white women were more likely to eat mushrooms. The average age of surveyed participants was 45, and the majority (66%) were non-Hispanic white people. The investigators observed a significant association between mushroom consumption and lower odds of depression after accounting for socio-demographics, major risk factors, self-reported diseases, medications and other dietary factors. They said, however, that there was no clear additional benefit with relatively high mushroom intake.

"The study adds to the growing list of possible health benefits of eating mushrooms," said Joshua Muscat, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and professor of public health sciences.

The team conducted a secondary analysis to see if the risk of depression could be lowered by replacing a serving of red or processed meat with a serving of mushrooms each day. However, findings show that this substitution was not associated with lower odds of depression.

Prior to this research, there have been few studies to examine the association between mushroom consumption and depression, and the majority have been clinical trials with fewer than 100 participants. The researchers said this study highlights the potential clinical and public health importance of mushroom consumption as a means of reducing depression and preventing other diseases.

The researchers noted some limitations that could be addressed in future studies. The data did not provide details on the types of mushrooms. As a result, the researchers could not determine the effects of specific types of mushrooms on depression. Food codes issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were used to determine mushroom intake; therefore, some entries may have been misclassified or inaccurately recorded.

John Richie and Xiang Gao from Penn State Cancer Institute; Laila Al-Shaar and Vernon Chinchilli from Penn State College of Medicine; and Robert Beelman from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences also contributed to this research. The researchers declare no conflicts of interest or specific funding support.

Djibril M. Ba, Xiang Gao, Laila Al-Shaar, Joshua E. Muscat, Vernon M. Chinchilli, Robert B. Beelman, John P. Richie. Mushroom intake and depression: A population-based study using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2016. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2021; 294: 686 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.07.080

Fish Might Be Able To Distinguish Colour More Effectively Than Humans

October 14, 2021
Researchers have revealed that non-mammalian vertebrates might have a much more simple and effective way of deciphering between colour and greyscale information than humans.

Tom Baden, Professor of Neuroscience and others from his lab at the University of Sussex were investigating how zebrafish respond and decipher between different wavelengths, or colours of light.

Prof Baden said: "Zebrafish, unlike humans, have four types of cone-photoreceptors, specialised neurons in the retina which respond to light. These four types are often called red, green, blue and UV. The assumption is that each should do what it says on the tin -- red should respond to red light, green to green light, and so on. However, we found that this isn't the case."

In the first ever direct in-vivo measurements of 'colour tuning' from a vertebrate photoreceptor, Prof Baden and his team, collaborating with researchers at the University of Tübingen, Germany and Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, USA, found that zebrafish can decipher colour in a much simpler way to humans. Their study, published by Science Advances, describes how 'red cones' responded to brightness, i.e. black or white information, while 'green cones' responded to colour information.

Prof Baden explained: "In basic principles, colour vision requires visual circuits to disentangle brightness from colour information. In nature, these are fundamentally entwined so to disentangle them is no trivial task, which in some cases can require quite a lot of neurons.

"In humans, some of these are distributed all over the eyes and brain in ways that are still far from understood. In contrast, zebrafish solve this basic problem themselves at the earliest possible site, in the synapse of the photoreceptors themselves."

From an evolutionary perspective, Prof Baden explains that this "fish strategy" is probably much closer to the 'origin of vision' in vertebrates.

In contrast, during the age of the dinosaurs, humans' early mammalian ancestors are thought to have escaped to the forests and adopted a nocturnal lifestyle. In the process, they lost all but two of their cone-photoreceptor types, resulting in most mammals being dichromatic -- only able to see in two colours. Dogs, cats, horses, even hamsters and mice, can all distinguish blues from greens, but none of them can readily distinguish greens from reds. Accordingly, we imagine them to see the world in colours that may be similar to what a red-green colour-blind human might experience.

Unlike other mammals, humans and the evolutionary lineage of gorillas and chimpanzees, much later evolved to become trichromatic, regaining some of the lost abilities in colour vision. However, this occurs in a much more complicated way, which requires a lot of computation, thought to be performed by the brain rather than within the eye. This is a complex process and means that distinguishing between some colours has to be learnt in early infancy through the developing cortex.

Prof Baden said: "Our study essentially shows that vertebrates like zebrafish, and presumably most non mammalian vertebrates like other fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, can actually solve this fundamental 'colour puzzle' right at the first synapse of vision. In comparison, humans are stuck with this overly complicated 'knock-off' strategy because of early mammalian ancestry!"

The study also references links to insects, as flies also have four such 'colour vision photoreceptors', determining colour in exactly the same way as the zebrafish despite evolving completely independently.

In a follow-up paper, due to be published in Current Biologysoon (Bartel et al. Curr Biol, in press), the researchers use the same technique to investigate the second layer of processing in the retina, the so-called bipolar cells. Expanding on the above results, they show that at this second layer of processing, zebrafish represent three (rather than the previous two) types of colour contrast. This "third" is built by comparing UV- to all other wavelength, and it bears striking resemblance to one of the two colour channels that humans use -- the so called "blue-yellow" system.

Together, the papers imply that the human blue-yellow system is truly ancient, predating the split of tetrapods from fish almost 400 million years ago. It seems that when it comes to seeing colour, we do at least share some traits with essentially all vertebrates that see colour.

Journal References:

Takeshi Yoshimatsu, Philipp Bartel, Cornelius Schröder, Filip K. Janiak, François St-Pierre, Philipp Berens, Tom Baden. Ancestral circuits for vertebrate colour vision emerge at the first retinal synapse. Science Advances, 2021; 7 (42) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abj6815

Philipp Bartel, Takeshi Yoshimatsu, Filip K. Janiak, Tom Baden. Spectral inference reveals principal cone-integration rules of the zebrafish inner retina. Current Biology, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.047

Fig. 5. In vivo cone tunings efficiently represent statistics of natural light.(A to C) Hyperspectral data acquisition from zebrafish natural visual world. A 60° window around the visual horizon of an example scene recorded in the zebrafish natural habitat (A) was sampled at 1000 equispaced points with a custom-built spectrometer-based scanner (13) (B) to yield 1000 individual spectral readings from that scene. (C) Summary of the pooled and z-normalized data from n = 30 scenes (30,000 spectra) with mean ± SD [data from (14)]. Photo credit (A): Tom Baden, University of Sussex. (D to L) Reconstructions and analysis of the example scene as seen through different spectral filters: (D to F) log-opsin spectra, (G to I) cone in vivo tunings, and (J to L) based on the first three PCs that emerge from the hyperspectral data shown in (C). From left to right: (D, G, and J) example scene [from (A)] reconstructed on the basis of opsin/in vivo/PC tunings as indicated, (E, H, and K) correlation matrices between these respective reconstructions, and (F, I, and L) the actual tunings/PCs. A fifth element GB (for “green/blue”) is computed for in vivo tunings as contrast between green and blue cone tunings (cf. fig. S5). (M) Percent variance explained by the first five PCs (l). (N) Superposition of cone in vivo tunings (colored lines), PCs, and a linear R/G/B/U log-opsin fit to the respective PC (yellow; Methods). The latter fit can be seen as the biologically plausible optimum match to a given PC that can be achieved in a linear regime. Credit: Ancestral circuits for vertebrate color vision emerge at the first retinal synapse

How Marsh Grass Protects Shorelines

October 18, 2021
Marsh plants, which are ubiquitous along the world's shorelines, can play a major role in mitigating the damage to coastlines as sea levels rise and storm surges increase. Now, a new MIT study provides greater detail about how these protective benefits work under real-world conditions shaped by waves and currents.

The study combined laboratory experiments using simulated plants in a large wave tank along with mathematical modeling. It appears in the journal Physical Review -- Fluids, in a paper by former MIT visiting doctoral student Xiaoxia Zhang, now a postdoc at Dalian University of Technology, and professor of civil and environmental engineering Heidi Nepf.

It's already clear that coastal marsh plants provide significant protection from surges and devastating storms. For example, it has been estimated that the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy was reduced by $625 million thanks to the damping of wave energy provided by extensive areas of marsh along the affected coasts. But the new MIT analysis incorporates details of plant morphology, such as the number and spacing of flexible leaves versus stiffer stems, and the complex interactions of currents and waves that may be coming from different directions.

This level of detail could enable coastal restoration planners to determine the area of marsh needed to mitigate expected amounts of storm surge or sea-level rise, and to decide which types of plants to introduce to maximize protection.

"When you go to a marsh, you often will see that the plants are arranged in zones," says Nepf, who is the Donald and Martha Harleman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Along the edge, you tend to have plants that are more flexible, because they are using their flexibility to reduce the wave forces they feel. In the next zone, the plants are a little more rigid and have a bit more leaves."

As the zones progress, the plants become stiffer, leafier, and more effective at absorbing wave energy thanks to their greater leaf area. The new modeling done in this research, which incorporated work with simulated plants in the 24-meter-long wave tank at MIT's Parsons Lab, can enable coastal planners to take these kinds of details into account when planning protection, mitigation, or restoration projects.

"If you put the stiffest plants at the edge, they might not survive, because they're feeling very high wave forces. By describing why Mother Nature organizes plants in this way, we can hopefully design a more sustainable restoration," Nepf says.

Once established, the marsh plants provide a positive feedback cycle that helps to not only stabilize but also build up these delicate coastal lands, Zhang says. "After a few years, the marsh grasses start to trap and hold the sediment, and the elevation gets higher and higher, which might keep up with sea level rise," she says.

Examples of Spartina alterniflora in China. Photo credit: Xiaoxia Zhang

Awareness of the protective effects of marshland has been growing, Nepf says. For example, the Netherlands has been restoring lost marshland outside the dikes that surround much of the nation's agricultural land, finding that the marsh can protect the dikes from erosion; the marsh and dikes work together much more effectively than the dikes alone at preventing flooding.

But most such efforts so far have been largely empirical, trial-and-error plans, Nepf says. Now, they could take advantage of this modeling to know just how much marshland with what types of plants would be needed to provide the desired level of protection.

It also provides a more quantitative way to estimate the value provided by marshes, she says. "It could allow you to more accurately say, '40 meters of marsh will reduce waves this much and therefore will reduce overtopping of your levee by this much.' Someone could use that to say, 'I'm going to save this much money over the next 10 years if I reduce flooding by maintaining this marsh.' It might help generate some political motivation for restoration efforts."

Nepf herself is already trying to get some of these findings included in coastal planning processes. She serves on a practitioner panel led by Chris Esposito of the Water Institute of the Gulf, which serves the storm-battered Louisiana coastline. "We'd like to get this work into the coatal simulations that are used for large-scale restoration and coastal planning," she says.

The work was partly supported by the National Science Foundation and the China Scholarship Council.

Xiaoxia Zhang, Heidi Nepf. Wave damping by flexible marsh plants influenced by current. Physical Review Fluids, 2021; 6 (10) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevFluids.6.100502

Titan’s River Maps May Advise Dragonfly’s 'Sedimental' Journey

October 18, 2021
With future space exploration in mind, a Cornell-led team of astronomers has published the final maps of Titan's liquid methane rivers and tributaries -- as seen by NASA's late Cassini mission -- so that may help provide context for Dragonfly's upcoming 2030s expedition.

The fluvial maps and details of their accuracy were published in the Planetary Science Journal (August 2021.) In addition to the maps, the work examined what could be learned by analyzing Earth's rivers by using degraded radar data -- similar to what Cassini saw.

A radar image from the Cassini spacecraft of Titan’s liquid methane and ethane rivers and tributaries.NASA/JPL - Provided

Like water on Earth, liquid methane and ethane fill Titan's lakes, rivers and streams. But understanding those channels -- including their twists and branch-like turns -- is key to knowing how that moon's sediment transport system works and the underlying geology.

"The channel systems are the heart of Titan's sediment transport pathways," said Alex Hayes, associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. "They tell you how organic material is routed around Titan's surface, and identifies locations where the material might be concentrated near tectonic or perhaps even cryovolcanic features.

"Further, those materials either can be sent down into Titan's liquid water interior ocean, or alternatively, mixed with liquid water that gets transported up to the surface," Hayes said.

Larger than the planet Mercury and fully shrouded in a dense nitrogen and methane atmosphere, Titan is the only other place in the solar system with an active hydrologic system, which includes rain, channels, lakes and seas.

"Unlike Mars, it's not 3.6 billion years ago when you would have seen lakes and channels on Titan. It's today," Hayes said. "Examining Titan's hydrologic system represents an extreme example comparable to Earth's hydrologic system -- and it's the only instance where we can actively see how a planetary landscape evolves in the absence of vegetation."

Julia Miller '20 led the detailed work of examining Cassini's Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images of Titan's surface, looking for fluvial characteristics and then comparing those images to those available on Earth.

On Earth, fluvial geomorphology is typically studied with topographic data and high-resolution visible images, but that was not available for Titan. Instead, Miller used Earth-based radar images and degraded them to match the Cassini radar images of Titan.

This way, Miller could understand the limits of the Cassini dataset and know which results are robust for analysis using low, roughly 1-kilometer resolution data.

"Although the quality and quantity of Cassini SAR images put significant limits on their utility for investigating river networks," Miller said, "they can still be used to understand Titan's landscape at a fundamental level."

River shapes say a lot. "You can use sort of what the river looks like to try to say some things about the type of material that it's flowing through, or like how steep the surfaces, or just what went on in that region," Miller said. "This is using the rivers as a starting point, to then, ideally, learn more about the planet."

The Dragonfly mission to Titan is slated to launch in 2027 and is scheduled to arrive at Titan in 2034.

Said Hayes: "These maps will provide context for understanding things that Dragonfly finds locally and regionally, and will help to place Dragonfly's result into global context."

This project was funded by NASA and the European Space Agency.

J. W. Miller, S. P. D. Birch, A. G. Hayes, M. J. Malaska, R. M. C. Lopes, A. M. Schoenfeld, P. M. Corlies, D. M. Burr, T. G. Farr, JT Perron. Fluvial Features on Titan and Earth: Lessons from Planform Images in Low-resolution SAR. The Planetary Science Journal, 2021; 2 (4): 142 DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac0245

People Want To Use Bleach And Antiseptic For COVID And Are Calling Us For Advice

October 19, 2021
Through our work at the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre, we’re used to receiving calls from concerned parents about what to do if their child has accidentally drunk some cleaning product. We also take calls from health professionals for advice on how to manage poisonings.

But over the past 18 months, we’ve seen an increasing number of people calling us about home remedies to prevent or cure COVID-19, particularly during an outbreak. They’re calling for advice before using items such as bleach or disinfectant. Or they’re calling to ask about side-effects after gargling, spraying or bathing in them.

When asked about the reason for using such products, callers say they did not know they could be harmful. Some say they thought it was better to do something, rather than nothing.

We’re concerned about the use of unproven COVID-19 home remedies. Here are some of the more common ones people have called our 24-hour poisons information service about, the types that can need medical care.

1. Inhaling hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is used in household disinfectants, chlorine-free bleaches, stain removers and hair dyes. And people have been calling about inhaling products containing hydrogen peroxide as a fine mist (called nebulising).

Hydrogen peroxide (1-1.5 per cent) mouthwashes have been recommended as an antiseptic before a dental procedure. However, results about whether it kills SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are conflicting.

Nebulising hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation and swelling to the nose, throat and lungs. People can develop a cough and become short of breath; it can cause persistent damage to the lungs. These symptoms can be misinterpreted as a lung infection. If you have COVID-19, nebulising hydrogen peroxide can make you sicker and prolong your recovery.

People also report nausea and vomiting after nebulising hydrogen peroxide. The risk is increased with solutions of higher concentrations, although we do not believe any concentration is safe.

2. Gargling or swallowing antiseptics
People have also called about gargling or swallowing strong antiseptics. These can cause irritation, swelling and pain to the mouth, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pains.

Gargling or swallowing corrosive household cleaning products, such as the type you’d use in your kitchen or bathroom, is particularly unsafe. This can lead to life-threatening injuries, including rupture and bleeding of the upper gut, between the mouth and stomach.

A recently promoted home remedy is gargling antiseptics containing povidone-iodine.

Some low concentration (0.5-1 per cent) of products containing povidone-iodine can be gargled. And povidone-iodine (0.5 per cent) mouthwash has been recommended before a dental procedure to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Small pilot studies have suggested that similar low-strength gargle and nasal sprays may shorten the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in the nose and mouth. But these results should be confirmed in larger studies.

Although some people are allergic to povidone-iodine, low concentration solutions are usually safe when applied in the nose or mouth for a few months.

However, many products contain much higher concentrations of povidone-iodine and other chemicals designed for use on the skin.

So swallowing, gargling or inserting these products in the nose is not recommended.

Read more: You're much less likely to get long COVID if you've been vaccinated

3. Bathing in bleach or disinfectant
Bathing in household cleaning products (such as bleach or disinfectant), or applying them directly to the skin, can cause mild-to-moderate irritation and rashes.

Burns can occur with stronger products.

4. Spraying face masks
Routinely spraying disinfectants into face masks, and then breathing in the fumes and residue for a prolonged period, can also harm.

This can result in irritation to the throat and lungs, dizziness, headache and nausea.

If you spray your face mask, you’ll breathe in the fumes. Shutterstock

5. Taking high-dose vitamins
Taking over-the-counter supplements, including vitamins, for a prolonged period is also a concern as high doses can have side-effects:
  • vitamin C can cause kidney stones
  • zinc can cause loss of taste or smell
  • vitamin D can cause high concentrations of calcium in the blood, with effects including headache, thirst and, uncommonly, seizures.
It’s a confusing time
COVID-19 is arguably the most confusing time in recent history for making decisions about our health care. While people debate if any of these proposed home remedies work, it is essential to also consider their potential harms.

Deaths and other complications are reported in people overseas due to well-meaning use of proposed treatments and home remedies. We hope to avoid this in Australia.

If this article raises concerns for you or for someone you know about a COVID-19 home remedy, call the Poisons Information Hotline from anywhere in Australia on 131 126. This evidence-base advice is available 24 hours a day. For life-threatening symptoms, call 000.

Darren Roberts, Conjoint Associate Professor in clinical pharmacology and toxicology, UNSW and Nicole Wright, Clinical Educator, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney

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

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