inbox and environment news: Issue 521

December 5 - 11, 2021: Issue 521

Sounds-Signs Of Summer: Birdland

Adult Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) have a single post-breeding moult each year, from December to May. This moult is complete except in some bids, mostly females, that defer moult of outer primaries until the following year. Birds fledge in juvenile plumage, pass into pre-adult plumage when two to six months old with a moult of the head and body feathers and pass into adult plumage when twelve to eighteen months old with a complete moult. Replacement of primaries starts with middle primaries and progresses inwards and outwards from this focus. Average duration of primary moult is 114 days

Edmund Wyndham, John Le Gay Brereton & Robert J.S. Beeton (1983) Moult and Plumages of Eastern Rosellas Platycercus Eximius, Emu - Austral Ornithology, 83:4, 242-246, DOI: 10.1071/MU9830242 

Almost all rosellas are sedentary, although occasional populations are considered nomadic; no rosellas are migratory. Outside of the breeding season, crimson rosellas tend to congregate in pairs or small groups and feeding parties. The largest groups are usually composed of juveniles, who will gather in flocks of up to 20 individuals. When they forage, they are conspicuous and chatter noisily. Rosellas are monogamous, and during the breeding season, adult birds will not congregate in groups and will only forage with their mate.

Nesting sites are hollows greater than 1 metre (3.3 feet) deep in tree trunks, limbs, and stumps. These may be up to 30 metres (98 feet) above the ground. The nesting site is selected by the female. Once the site is selected, the pair will prepare it by lining it with wood debris made from the hollow itself by gnawing and shredding it with their beaks. They do not bring in material from outside the hollow. Only one pair will nest in a particular tree. A pair will guard their nest by perching near it and chattering at other rosellas that approach. They will also guard a buffer zone of several trees radius around their nest, preventing other pairs from nesting in that area.

The breeding season of the crimson rosella lasts from September through to February, and varies depending on the rainfall of each year; it starts earlier and lasts longer during wet years. The laying period is on average during mid- to late October. Clutch size ranges from 3–8 eggs, which are laid asynchronously at an average interval of 2.1 days; the eggs are white and slightly shiny and measure 28 by 23 millimetres (1+1⁄8 in × 7⁄8 in). The mean incubation period is 19.7 days, and ranges from 16–28 days. Only the mother incubates the eggs. The eggs hatch around mid-December; on average 3.6 eggs successfully hatch. There is a bias towards female nestlings, as 41.8% of young are male. For the first six days, only the mother feeds the nestlings. After this time, both parents feed them. The young become independent in February, after which they spend a few more weeks with their parents before departing to become part of a flock of juveniles. Juveniles reach maturity (gain adult plumage) at 16 months of age.

Channel Billed Cuckoo being harassed by miner birds

The channel-billed cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) is a species of cuckoo in the family Cuculidae. It is monotypic within the genus Scythrops. The species is the largest brood parasite in the world, and the largest cuckoo. It is found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia.

The channel-billed cuckoo is often shy, remaining hidden in tree canopies feeding on fruit and most active in early morning and evening. Its loud raucous call makes it more often heard than seen. Other birds such as crows harass and chase it when they encounter it; Miner birds and crows and some other species also swoop them.

Channel-billed cuckoos are brood parasites; instead of raising their own young, they lay eggs in the nests of other birds. They are thought to form pair bonds for the duration of a breeding season.[20] Their mating behaviour has been described as involving calling and gift-giving, with the male presenting items of food such as insects to the female. Pairs also work together in order to aid the laying of eggs in host nests; the male will fly over the nest in order to provoke the nest occupants into a mobbing response, whereupon the female will slip into the nest and lay an egg. Alternatively the pair may work together by attacking an incubating bird, driving it off the nest and allowing the female to lay.

The host species varies depending on the location; the most commonly targeted hosts are ravens, currawongs, butcherbirds and Australian magpies. Several eggs can be laid in a single nest, sometimes by different females. Often resembling those of currawongs and magpies (but not ravens), the eggs vary in colour and pattern, measuring 48 x 32 mm. They can be a reddish- or yellowish-brown to dull white, with darker brown splotches. The incubation period for this species is unknown. Upon hatching the chicks are altricial, being blind and naked. Unlike many other cuckoos, the chicks of the channel-billed cuckoo do not eject the other host eggs upon hatching or kill the host's chicks, but these seldom survive as the cuckoo chick is able to monopolise the supply of food. The chicks are fully feathered within four weeks, and leave the nest to clamber about on the branches, although chicks are fed for a number of weeks by the host parents after fledging. - BirdLife Australia

Fledgling Butcher Bird being fed this week; our garden:

Photos by A J Guesdon, 2021.

White's Seahorse Signage At Palm Beach

White’s Seahorse, also known as the Sydney Seahorse, is a medium-sized seahorse that is endemic to the east coast of Australia. The species is named after John White, Surgeon General to the First Fleet, and is one of four species of seahorses known to occur in NSW waters. Favouring shallow-water estuarine habitats, it is currently known to occur in eight estuaries on the NSW Coast, but is most abundant in Port Stephens, Sydney Harbour and Port Hacking. Its northern limit is Hervey Bay in Queensland and it has been historically recorded as far south as St Georges Basin in NSW.

Some of the characteristics of the White’s Seahorse are:

  • 17-18 dorsal-fin rays,
  • 16 pectoral-fin rays
  • 34-35 tail-rings
  • coronet is tall arranged in five pointed star at apex
  • spines are variable ranging from low to moderately developed and from round to quite sharp
  • a long snout

They have a very small anal fin which is used for propulsion, however, they are known to be one of the slowest swimming fishes in the ocean.

The White’s Seahorse is considered to be endemic to the waters of southern Queensland (Hervey Bay) to Sussex Inlet NSW where it can be found occurring in coastal embayments and estuaries. It is known to occur from depths of 1 m to 18 m. Habitats that are considered important habitat for the White’s Seahorse include natural habitats such as sponge gardens, seagrass meadows and soft corals. It is also known to use artificial habitats such as protective swimming net enclosures and jetty pylons.

The primary cause for the decline in abundance of White’s Seahorse is the loss of natural habitats across their range in eastern Australia. The seahorses occur within coastal estuaries and embayments which are areas subject to population pressure.

Below: the signage at Palm Beach

Careel Creek: Dusky Moorhen + Chicks In Residence - Please Keep Your Dogs On Their Leads

A dusky moorhen has taken up residence in Careel Creek during the past few weeks and now has a clutch of babies in the nest. These are known to be poor fliers, with laboured wing beats and a slow and weak flight. In general, moorhens are capable of flying but tend to not be good at it.

Unfortunately this a gentleman was encountered with his foxy terrier, a hunting dog breed, off the leash, the dog having just spotted the bird. When it was pointed out that this is an on-leash area, with clear signage of this, and that there are birds nesting here, as it is bird breeding season, the dog owner stated 'I will do what I like'. 

However, he subsequently put his dog back on its lead, and proceeded towards Avalon. Council have been alerted to the fact that there is an almost flightless protected bird in this creek and the gentleman's misconception that the rules to protect wildlife, and other human residents and their dogs, don't apply to him.

The dusky moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) is a bird species in the rail family and is one of the eight extant species in the moorhen genus. It occurs in India, Australia, New Guinea, Borneo and Indonesia. It is often confused with the purple swamphen and the Eurasian coot due to similar appearance and overlapping distributions. They often live alongside birds in the same genus, such as the Tasmanian nativehen and the common moorhen.

Breeding season is from August to January in the south of Australia, with generally one brood, and January to June in the north, often brooding twice. This species builds a bulky nest of reeds or grasses at the water's edge or a few centimetres above the water, often at the base of a Melaleuca and lays a clutch of 5–11 matte whitish eggs that are covered with red-brown dots and splotches. Tapered oval in shape, they measure 53 mm long by 36 mm wide each and have more prominent markings at the larger end. It is territorial when breeding, but otherwise gregarious. The dusky moorhen may nest alongside the purple swamphen.

Dusky Moorhen in Careel Creek, Saturday October 30, 2021 - photos by A J Guesdon

Dusky Moorhen in Careel Creek, Thursday November 30, 2021 - photos by A J Guesdon

Dusky moorhens are diurnal, and roost at night-time alone, in breeding groups, or in non-breeding flocks. They roost on platforms constructed in reeds set above the water, on branches over the water, and more rarely on the ground in the reeds. During the day they rest at these places, and may also sit on floating vegetation, rocks, logs, and on the banks. In hot weather they may sit high up in trees.

The moorhens frequently flick their conspicuous white and black tail. This may be a signal of alertness or of social status, depending on the context.

The dusky moorhen feeds both on land and in water. It diet consists of seeds, the tips of shrubs and grasses, algae, fruits, molluscs, and other invertebrates. It will also consume carrion, bread, and droppings from birds including gulls and ducks. The chicks are fed mostly on annelid worms and molluscs, with plant matter gradually being given in increasing proportions by the parents as the young mature.

The territorial call is a loud kurk or krik, which may be repeated or run together, sounding like kurruk-uk. This call is taken up by birds in surrounding territories and can be heard from over two kilometres away. The birds also make a series of short, sharp squawks and squeaks as alarm calls. Swimming and preening birds may make a series of short, stacatto, widely spaced noises.

Both sexes make a soft mewing noise, or a soft kook noise before and during courtship. Adults may make a quiet hissing noise when their eggs are disturbed. Chicks under the age of three months make a repeated shrill piping noise when begging, when an adult approaches with food, and when they are separated from adults. Adults also make short clicking noises when separated from chicks, and the young give a series of descending whistles in response.


Canopy Keepers Offer 100 Trees For Avalon Beach 100 Celebration

A group of local tree enthusiasts is inviting Avalon Beach residents to celebrate the suburb’s 100th anniversary by planting a tree.

Canopy Keepers convenor Deb Collins said Pittwater residents are surrounded by a unique urban tree canopy covering nearly 60 per cent of the area. 

However, between 2009 and 2016 the Pittwater Local Government Area lost more canopy than any other in NSW - due to development and the removal of trees from residential land.

So to celebrate the naming of Avalon Beach 100 years ago, Canopy Keepers will plant at least 100 trees in the 2107 postcode in coming months, Ms Collins said.

Avalon Beach residents and others in the postcode area are therefore invited to apply for one of these trees at no cost, to plant and care for the next generation of canopy, she said. 

“We are looking for 100 recipients - 100 new Canopy Keepers,” Ms Collins said. 

“Will you help us grow the future and become a canopy keeper, so that we can ensure our children and grandchildren enjoy the benefits of our wonderful urban forest?” Ms Collins said.

“The radical changes to our environment are not just upsetting residents.

“Forty per cent of all wildlife relies on a connected canopy to nest, raise their young and travel between food and water sources.

“The simple removal of ‘just one tree’ can break a critical link in a canopy pathway and threaten the habitat of wildlife such as Squirrel gliders, Powerful owls, and of course the much loved Koala, now extinct from our area but remembered here by so many of us from our childhood.

“We can do much to prevent our wildlife and trees from suffering the same fate as the Koala.

“But it will take a noisy village to achieve this.

“Please join our growing community and ensure Avalon and Pittwater in 100 years are as beautiful as they are today.”

Residents are asked to fill in the following form before December 10 and Canopy Keepers will offer you a tree that is best suited to where you live. 

Otherwise please email Canopy Keepers at

Find Canopy Keepers at the Avalon car boot sale, on Sunday December 19, where registered tree recipients will be able to pick up their trees for planting.

Canopy keepers is a local group dedicated to the preservation and regeneration of tree canopy in our local area. We want to link arms with all our neighbours and bring to life the vision of homes amongst the trees not shrubs along the edge.

Find out more at:

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.

Boobook Owl And Baby Possum Rescue; Sydney Wildlife Rescue Volunteer - Nesting Boxes Available - All Sales To Sydney Wildlife

Helen Pearce is one of our local Sydney Wildlife volunteers - last week she got a call for a raptor rescue.

Helen says; ''As a licensed wildlife rescuer, I get to deal with some pretty cool animals, but today was a beautiful privilege. 

Sydney Wildlife Rescue had a call at about 8:30 this morning for an owl on the ground. Thinking it’d be a Tawny chick (who is not an owl, not even a nightjar, but has very recently been reclassified in its own classification order), but preparing for a Powerful Owl, I set out with all necessary equipment. When I arrived, I found the most gorgeous fledgling Boobook owl. What a cutey! 

The parents were around and watching and rather concerned as to what we were going to do with their precious baby. Fluttering between Jo’s and Lisa Yost Palmer ‘s garden, I caught the petrified little fluffball of claws and sharp beak and we formulated a plan. 

Having consulted with SWR’s experienced raptor coordinator, we made a make-shift nest and Jo and Lisa’s amazing husbands scaled a tree and started fixing the new ‘nest’ as high as we practically could and placed ‘Fluffy’ in. 

This evening, mum and dad have tended to the chick and there’s a second chick still in the original nest! 

I’d like to extend my massive thanks to all involved for the effort made to help these birds. It’s great to know there’s people like these guys who care so deeply about our wildlife. Chicks of all species are fledging at the moment and may need a little extra help from us humans.''

The other recent rescue Helen has attended is a baby possum. More and more of these are coming into care as their tree homes are cut down without any checking to see if they are already inhabited by our wildlife.

Helen says;

''It’s baby season! And I have a huge soft spot for brushtail possums. 

The little guy in this photo is a 300g brushtail Joey. He was found all alone, in the middle of the day on a concrete slab by the side of a building. How he wasn’t already dead, I don’t know. Cats, dogs, birds, snakes, humans……hunger, dehydration, exposure to the sun, wind, cold……either way, he’s a very lucky boy. What happened to his mum is unknown. 

He’s very scared. He doesn’t know what’s happened to him, who this strange thing is who’s trying to feed a funny-tasting milk to him, where his mum is. He cries at night, calling for his mum, but she doesn’t come. 

He will settle in a day or two and get used to the new milk (which is a specialised marsupial milk, purely for his stage of development. Other various types of milks can kill him) and he’ll begin to trust me, but I can’t replace his mum. 

If you find a Joey on its own, it needs help. 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), please check the pouch for a Joey. Brushies 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. 

If you find a native animal in need, or if you have concerns, please call either 

Sydney Wildlife Rescue - 02 9413 4300 

Or WIRES - 1300 094 737

NB: Please do not attempt to handle a raptor, snake or other wild animals unless you are trained as you may cause injury to them or yourself.

Nesting Boxes Available

We are licensed wildlife rescuers with Sydney Wildlife Rescue and have been making more and more wildlife boxes, both for our releases and for members of the public. 

As fewer nesting areas are available and tree hollows are becoming rarer, as development takes over, our native wildlife are struggling. We have decided to make more boxes and sell them to the community with all profits going back to Sydney Wildlife. 

They can either be painted and sealed to make them weatherproof or unsealed for you to paint yourself as a fun activity for the family to add your own personal touch. 

The possum boxes will all have an access branch on the front. The Kookaburra boxes have an access tunnel to mimic a tree hollow. 

Please email me if you’d like to purchase one at

Photos: Helen Pearce

Dendrobium Coal Mine Declared State Significant Infrastructure

On Saturday December 4, 2021 Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources Paul Toole said a proposal to extend Dendrobium coal mine had been declared State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) given its importance to Port Kembla steelworks and its thousands of employees.

“Dendrobium is a critical source of coking coal for the Port Kembla steelworks and the decision to declare the project SSI will provide thousands of workers with greater certainty on the future of their jobs,” Mr Toole said.

“This decision recognises the proposal’s potential economic benefits, with the mine already contributing $1.9 billion to the State’s economy each year, employing 4,500 workers and supporting another 10,000 jobs across the Illawarra.”

On February 5 of this year the Independent Planning Commission refused the company's proposed extension under the Sydney Water Catchment.

South32 wants to extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal from its Dendrobium mine, west of Wollongong, through to 2048.

The company had received approval from the state Department of Planning for the $956 million project but was blocked by the IPC.

The state's planning authority found the impacts of the project outweighed the benefits.

In its reasons it said "the level of risk posed by the project has not been properly quantified and based on the potential for long-term and irreversible impacts — particularly on the integrity of a vital drinking water source for the Macarthur and Illawarra regions, the Wollondilly Shire and Metropolitan Sydney drinking water — it is not in the public interest".

The IPC also raised concerns about the longwall design, the degradation of watercourses and loss of swampland.

WaterNSW also "strongly opposed" the extension, finding it would cause significant environmental impact in watercourses and "would fundamentally change the hydrological and ecological functions" of upland swamps.

Then the proponents, South32, stated that as many as 2,000 jobs in the region were at risk if a reworked mine plan was not considered. 

The company then commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court, seeking a judicial review of the IPC assessment of the Dendrobium mine.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said Dendrobium mine’s proponent, South32, had taken into consideration concerns raised by the Independent Planning Commission.

“The decision to declare Dendrobium SSI followed support for a motion passed in the Legislative Council early this year. It will now go through a rigorous assessment process and the community will still have their say,” Mr Stokes said.

An SSI declaration does not change the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s rigorous assessment of the proposal to extend Dendrobium coal mine.

South32 can now request assessment requirements to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement which will then go on public exhibition for community feedback and detailed assessment.

Government Must Release Natural Resources Commission’s Forestry Report In Full

November 25, 2021

The NSW Government must explain why it ignored the advice of the independent Natural Resources Commission and kept logging forests in regions hit hardest by the 2019-20 Black Summer Bushfires.  

The government has kept the Commission’s report secret since June 2020 but extracts have been published today by Guardian Australia. [1]  

“It is now clear the government was advised it should suspend timber harvesting for at least three years in extreme risk zones, including Narooma, Nowra and Taree,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“The leaked extracts from the NRC report validate what the conservation movement has said since day one – logging must stop in burnt native forests to give them a chance to recover. 

“For some unknown reason, the government and its logging company, Forestry Corporation, chose to ignore the expert advice and put wildlife at extreme risk.  

“It’s quite astonishing. If you were looking for a case study of environmental negligence, you wouldn’t need to look any further than this. 

“The government must explain why it has kept this report secret for almost six months and also why it has not fully implemented the recommendations.” 

[1] Extract from Advice on Coastal IFOA operations post-2019-20 wildfires, June 2020, NSW Natural Resources Commission. Published on The Guardian Australia. 

Secret document urges native logging halt in NSW regions hit hard by black summer bushfires, 25-11-21, The Guardian Australia 

Threatened Species Habitat At Risk From A Hotter Climate 

October 12, 2021

New research released today has found climate change will expose larger areas of forest in coastal NSW to higher frequency and more intense fires, amplifying the changes to fire regimes brought about by the 2019/20 fires.

Leading researchers at the University of the Wollongong, a partner at the NSW Bushfire Research Hub, conducted the research using the latest data on behalf of the NSW Natural Resources Commission.

According to the lead researcher, Emeritus Professor Ross Bradstock, “The 2019/20 fires mean now only 10 percent of forested areas are currently within their recommended fire frequency thresholds. We found half of the state forest and national park area is now classified as ‘vulnerable’ in coastal NSW. This means the 2019/20 fires effectively doubled the extent of vulnerable forested vegetation on these tenures.”

The research also modelled what would happen to the habitat of 24 threatened species under a climate change scenario of hotter temperatures and little change in rainfall. Of the 24 species, seven species are predicted to have their habitat reduced by over 75% by 2070.

NSW Natural Resources Commissioner Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said. “This is an important report, one that highlights consequences of the 2019/20 bushfires and future climate for NSW's forests and provides guidance for future planning of our forests”.

The research team evaluated:

  • the specific risks to achieving the Coastal IFOA objectives and outcomes as result of the legacy landscape scale impacts of the NSW 2019/20 wildfire season
  • the broad implications of predicted changing fire regimes on the achievement of the Coastal IFOA’s objectives and outcomes options to mitigate risks.

The researchers found:

  • The 2019/20 fires impacted about 3.6 million hectares of forests across all tenures within the mapped Coastal IFOA region.
  • Around 60 percent of the total state forest and national park area within this region was burnt, almost half of which was subject to high or extreme fire severity.
  • Previous timber harvesting did not increase the fire extent or severity of the 2019/20 fires. However, there is potential for cumulative impacts in harvested landscapes that are subject to fire.
  • The 2019/20 fires mean now only 10 percent of forested areas are currently within their recommended fire frequency thresholds.
  • Half of state forest and national park area is now classified as ‘vulnerable’, meaning the 2019/20 fires effectively doubled the extent of vulnerable forested vegetation on these tenures.
  • Under the climate change scenario of hotter temperatures and little change in rainfall, of the 24 assessed threatened species, seven species are predicted to have their habitat reduced by over 75% by 2070.

However, there is potential for cumulative impacts in harvested landscapes that are subject to fire, particularly in the next 5 to 10 years.

This research supports the recommendations of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, and through the implementation of those recommendations, the NSW Government can lead efforts to mitigate the impacts and risks from changing fire regimes and climate.

The ful University of Wollongong report is available here: ''Risks to the NSW Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals Posed by the 2019/2020 Fire Season and Beyond: A Report to the New South Wales Natural Resources Commission'' 

Draft Cycling Strategy For NSW's National Parks

The Draft Cycling Policy, Draft Cycling Strategy and Draft Cycling Strategy: Guidelines for Implementation is on public exhibition until 30 January 2022.

The scope of this new strategy is broad. It includes all types of cycling experiences in our parks. It is complemented with a more detailed set of guidelines for implementation and updates to our Cycling policy.

  • The Draft Cycling policy builds upon our experience from previous versions and has been updated in parallel to the draft strategy. It identifies in a legislative framework where cycling is permissible in parks.
  • The Draft Cycling Strategy outlines our vision, objectives and priorities for the provision of cycling experiences.
  • The Draft Cycling Strategy: Guidelines for Implementation provides further details on the processes and procedures that National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will apply to assess, approve, manage and monitor cycling opportunities within NPWS estate as detailed in the Cycling Strategy.
  • The draft Cycling Strategy sets a precedent for managing the conservation of natural and cultural heritage values in our parks as a priority and then allows for the development of compatible cycling opportunities. Not all cycling activities will be suitable in all parts of parks.
  • The draft Cycling Strategy details a clear framework for how we seek to provide for, and manage, cycling opportunities within parks. The processes for cyclists to work with National Parks and Wildlife Service are made clear. We intend to work collaboratively with stakeholders and other land managers to tackle key challenges including, unauthorised tracks, the safety and enjoyment of visitors on multi-use trails and the provision of park visitor facilities.
  • The draft Guidelines for Implementation address the way we will deliver the Cycling Strategy, including the approval process for new tracks and networks, the rehabilitation of unauthorised tracks, how we will work with external parties (including volunteer groups) and our management of cycling experiences. These documents will replace the Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy 2011.

Public online presentation

You are invited to an online public presentation on Wednesday, 1 December, 12:00 – 1:00pm. Please register to attend this presentation.

Your feedback on the draft Cycling Policy, strategy and implementation guideline documents is valued. Our response to your submission will be based on the merits of the ideas and issues you raise rather than just the quantity of submissions making similar points. For this reason, a submission that clearly explains the matters it raises will be the most effective way to influence the finalisation of the plan.

Submissions are most effective when we understand your ideas and the outcomes you want for park management. Some suggestions to help you write your submissions are:

  • write clearly and be specific about the issues that are of concern to you
  • note which part or section of the document your comments relate to
  • give reasoning in support of your points - this makes it easier for us to consider your ideas and will help avoid misinterpretation
  • tell us precisely what you agree/disagree with and why you agree or disagree
  • suggest solutions or alternatives to managing the issue if you can.

Have your say by Thursday 30 January 2022.

There are three ways to provide feedback:

Online consultation

Formal submission: Address: Manager, NPWS Planning Evaluation and Assessment Locked Bag 5022 Parramatta NSW 2124


BASIX Higher Standards: Feedback Open

The NSW Government  are improving BASIX standards to build more comfortable homes, cut energy costs and contribute to our target of net zero homes by 2050.

This is part of the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings, a national plan that aims to achieve zero energy and carbon-ready buildings. The plan proposes increases to the energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code (NCC) for residential buildings from 2022.

What do the proposed new standards mean:

  • Cheaper energy bills. You’ll use less electricity so your bills will be cheaper – saving as much as $980 a year on energy bills.
  • More comfortable homes. Your home will be naturally cooler in summer, warmer in winter, which means you won’t be turning the heater or air conditioner on as often
  • Fewer carbon emissions. This contributes towards our goal of net zero homes by 2050

The proposed higher standards

Te NSW Department of Planning welcome feedback on the proposed increases to BASIX standards. The proposed changes can be found in the Proposed BASIX Higher Standards document. This document shows a map of the climate zones in NSW.

The proposed thermal performance and energy standards vary according to climate zones.

The tables show the proposed maximum allowable thermal loads and the energy standards for the climate zones.

Technical information about the changes

The proposed BASIX thermal performance and energy standards vary depending on;

  • location based on climate
  • building type for apartment buildings 

Standards for most new residential buildings are proposed to increase across NSW from late 2022. Exceptions include apartment buildings up to 5 storeys and properties in the NSW North Coast climate zone. 

The North Coast climate zones where standards won’t be changed are climate zones 9, 10 and 11 defined by the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). They are predominantly on the NSW North Coast but also include Port Stephens and Maitland.  

Other documents

Proposed BASIX Higher Standards 

Cost Benefit Analysis report 

BASIX Higher standards FAQ 

Have your say

The government welcome your feedback on the proposed BASIX higher standards from Wednesday, 17 November until January 17 2022. The BASIX higher standards exhibition aligns with the Design and Place SEPP exhibition.

The exhibitions will close on the same day, currently expected in January 2022. 


Home Design To Drive Energy Bills Down

November 22, 2021

New sustainability standards for homes will save residents up to $980 a year on energy bills and reduce the State’s carbon footprint as we move to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) is a key assessment tool that ensures new homes are comfortable to live in regardless of the temperature, are more energy efficient and save water.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said BASIX had prevented 12.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas over the past 17 years – equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road.

“These proposed increases in standards will see more energy-efficient homes from Double Bay to Dubbo and beyond, with better design, better insulation, more sunlight and more solar panels,” Mr Stokes said.

“We want to lift BASIX standards even higher to drive down emissions further, saving another 150,000 tonnes a year and helping to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Better design will keep your home naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter, so you won’t be turning the heater or air conditioner on as often.

Energy bills are expected to reduce significantly as a result of the new BASIX standards:

  • Savings of up to $190 each year for people living in high-rise apartments;
  • Savings of up to $850 each year for people living in new Western Sydney houses; and
  • Savings of up to $980 a year for people living in new houses in the regions.

“To showcase the benefits of these new measures, we’re inviting up to 10 builders to test the proposed BASIX requirements ahead of its official roll out next year,” Mr Stokes said.

These new targets complement work underway, such as planting one million trees and investing $4.8 million to make building materials more environmentally friendly.

The community is encouraged to provide feedback on the proposed BASIX changes by Monday 31 January, 2022 at IX- standards

Draft Marine Park Management Plan Released

The NSW Government has today, November 1, 2021, released its draft Management Plan for the NSW Mainland Marine Park Network (2021-2031), which has been developed to guide the management of the state’s five existing mainland marine parks.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said our marine parks are a precious and valuable asset that provide habitat for dozens of threatened and endangered species up and down the NSW coast.

“Marine parks are valued for their environmental, social and economic benefits – ranging from diving and recreational fishing to tourism and cultural use of Sea Country,” Mr Kean said.

“This draft plan strikes the right balance between conservation and recreation.”

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the draft would unlock more opportunities for all members of the community to engage in more low impact and low threat activities like recreational fishing while protecting the environmental values of our marine parks.

“The first step in improving the management of marine parks is to ensure we get the 10-year framework right and so this draft plan was informed by evidence on the community’s values of the park network and the threats posed to those values,” Mr Marshall said.

“The plan outlines management objectives and actions to ensure the community, including fishers and aquaculture operators, can get the best out of marine parks without being locked out.

“Up until now, marine parks have been managed by political decisions around lines on maps, but the draft plan is about making evidence-based decisions.

“This is certainly not about creating new marine parks, but rather making sure we get the settings right before looking at the rules of how they’re regulated.”

Mr Marshall said the draft plan will be out for a minimum of two months of community consultation. Following consultation on the draft management plan, we will consult the community separately on the rules and regulations.

“The community is now invited to have its say on the management of the state’s five mainland marine parks, which provide a range of biodiversity conservation, cultural, commercial and recreational benefits,” Mr Marshall said.

The five mainland marine parks in NSW include Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Port Stephens-Great Lakes, Jervis Bay and Batemans marine parks. A management plan for Lord Howe Island Marine Park will be developed separately.

The draft plan does not include any specific proposals around changes to rules or zones. The detail of any proposed changes to rules or zones will be developed in stage 2 after the draft plan is finalised and will be subject to further community consultation.

For more information and to complete the survey visit The plan will be open for consultation until 31 January 2022.

New Plans To Protect Sydney's Koalas

December 2, 2021

Sydney's largest, and one of the state’s healthiest, koala populations will be further protected under new measures being implemented as part of the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP).

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the changes put the protection of one of Australia’s most iconic threatened species at the heart of planning in south-west Sydney.

“After seeking advice from the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer on the draft Plan, I’m pleased to confirm we are adopting all 31 recommendations to protect our critical koala population,” Mr Stokes said.

“We have updated the Plan to protect additional areas of habitat and ensure that wildlife corridors are suitable for koala movement.

Member for Penrith and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the koala population of the Greater Macarthur region is one of healthiest colonies in the state and one which continues to grow.

“It’s important that we support the region’s koala population, while also managing a growing community in Sydney’s south-west,” Mr Ayres said.

“This area is also rich in significant Aboriginal culture and history, and we’re committed to working more closely with Local Aboriginal Land Councils and Traditional Custodians to preserve this in our planning for the community.”

Environment Minister Matt Kean said one of the leading threats to koala populations in the wild, is the loss and fragmentation of their habitat.

“South West Sydney is home to the only disease-free koala populations in the Sydney basin and it is one of the most important koala populations anywhere in the state,” Mr Kean said.

“This advice from the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer is crucial in protecting koala habitat in the Campbelltown and Macarthur regions as we finalise the implementation of the CPCP.

“As this part of Sydney continues to grow these recommendations will guide future development in the area and ensure koala habitat and wildlife corridors are protected in perpetuity.”

The Greater Macarthur 2040 Plan is also being finalised which will work alongside the CPCP to create koala movement corridors, improve connections and allow koalas to travel more safely throughout the region.

The CPCP and Greater Macarthur 2040 Plan are expected to be finalised and released in 2022.

For more information on the CPCP visit the CPCP web page.


Koala Underpasses Must Be Built Before Development: Greens

December 2, 2021

Today’s commitment by the NSW Government to enact all 31 of the Chief Scientist & Engineer’s recommendations to protect Campbelltown’s Koalas is welcome news for the community and koalas, however underpasses must be built and koala corridors protected before Lendlease starts any development, says Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and spokesperson for Environment and Wildlife. 

The new measures will form part of the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan and include commitments to build koala underpasses on Appin road and protect the east-west koala corridors.  The commitment comes after the NSW Legislative Council passed a Greens motion calling on the Government to ensure the underpasses are built and corridors protected prior to the development. 

“This is a welcome news for local residents who have been working tirelessly to see Campbelltown’s koalas protected for years now. They’ve been demanding more be done to protect this vital koala population from development and they’re being heard,” said Ms Faehrmann. 

“There is a serious desire to see Campbelltown’s koalas protected from the threats posed by development in the south west Sydney Growth centre. 

“Just a few weeks ago, the NSW Upper House overwhelmingly supported my motion calling for Appin Rd koala underpasses and corridors to be in place before construction begins. 

“This latest commitment by the government is welcome but there are still questions over when the corridors and crossings will be completed. The government has known about how deadly Appin Rd has been for koalas for years and have sat on their hands while koalas continue to be killed. 

“If the necessary protections aren’t in place before development begins the koala population will be hugely impacted by construction activities. 

“Lendlease should not be allowed to put a shovel in the ground until these underpasses are in place,” said Ms Faehrmann. 

Novel Implants To Protect Australia’s Wildlife From Feral Cats

New technology developed by the University of South Australia may put an end to predatory cat behaviours in native environments and help control Australia’s feral felines.

Using polymer chemistry principles, researchers at UniSA’s Applied Chemistry and Translational Biomaterials Group have created novel Population Protecting Implants (PPIs) to provide a targeted method for controlling invasive and problem feral cats.

The rice-sized implants are injected just under the skin of native animals, where they remain inert, only activating when digested by a feral predator. The result is deadly.

UniSA PhD student and 2021 recipient of an Australian Wildlife Society research grant, Kyle Brewer, says the PPIs could save hundreds of native animals that have been decimated by feral cats.

“Feral cats present a catastrophic threat for Australia’s wildlife as they occur across more than 99 per cent of Australia’s land area and kill more than 815 million mammals each year, the majority of which are native species,” Brewer says.

“Smaller, ‘meal size’ mammals are most at risk, especially ground-dwellers such as the bilby, bettong and quoll.

“Efforts to remove feral cats from a native landscape have had limited success, making it near impossible to re-establish threatened native populations outside a fenced area. Invariably, when native mammal reintroduction schemes are activated, they’re swiftly wiped out by an incursive feral cat.

“By injecting native species with the PPI before they are reintroduced to their natural environment, we’re providing a protective buffer that aims to take out the feral invader in one stroke.

“If a feral cat successfully preys upon one of the PPI-injected mammals, it eats the implant, which activates in the cat’s gastric system causing poison release and death. Ultimately, this protects the remaining native animal population.”

The PPIs are covered by a protective coating and contain a toxin derived from a natural poison in native plants. They present no danger to tolerant native mammals but are deadly once the toxin is activated in the introduced predator’s stomach.

Brewer’s project is a collaborative effort, with researchers from local ecology groups, Ecological Horizons and Peacock Biosciences, and the University of Adelaide, already trialling PPIs in South Australia.

Currently, 30 bilbies have been implanted with PPIs at Arid Recovery, a 123 km2 wildlife reserve in South Australia’s north. Results from this trial are expected to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology and lead to its commercialisation.

Feral cats threaten the survival of more than 100 native species in Australia and have caused the extinction of many ground-dwelling birds and small to medium-sized mammal species.

“We need to pounce on any opportunity to protect our native species. Nine lives no more for feral cats.”

More than 200 Australian birds are now threatened with extinction – and climate change is the biggest danger

Stephen GarnettCharles Darwin University and Barry BakerUniversity of Tasmania

Up to 216 Australian birds are now threatened – compared with 195 a decade ago – and climate change is now the main driver pushing threatened birds closer to extinction, landmark new research has found.

The Mukarrthippi grasswren is now Australia’s most threatened bird, down to as few as two or three pairs. But 23 Australian birds became less threatened over the past decade, showing conservation actions can work.

The findings are contained in a new action plan released today. Last released in 2011, the action plan examines the extinction risk facing the almost 1,300 birds in Australia and its territories. We edited the book, written by more than 300 ornithologists.

Without changes, many birds will continue to decline or be lost altogether. But when conservation action is well resourced and implemented, we can avoid these outcomes.

small bird perches on twig
Without change, threatened birds such as the southern emu wren, pictured, will be lost. Barry Baker

The Numbers Tell The Story

The 216 Australian birds now at risk of extinction comprise:

  • 23 critically endangered
  • 74 endangered
  • 87 vulnerable
  • 32 near-threatened.

This is up from 134 birds in 1990 and 195 a decade ago.

We assessed the risk of extinction according to the categories and criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its Red List of threatened species.

As the below graph shows, the picture of bird decline in Australia is not pretty – especially when compared to the global trend.

Authors supplied

What Went Wrong?

two black birds nuzzling
Birds are easily harmed by changes in their ecosystems. Dean Ingwersen/BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA

Birds are easily harmed by changes in their ecosystems, including introduced species, habitat loss, disturbance to breeding sites and bushfires. Often, birds face danger on many fronts. The southeastern glossy black cockatoo, for example, faces no less than 20 threats.

Introduced cats and foxes kill millions of birds each year and are considered a substantial extinction threat to 37 birds.

Land clearing and overgrazing are a serious cause of declines for 55 birds, including the swift parrot and diamond firetail. And there is now strong evidence climate change is driving declines in many bird species.

A good example is the Wet Tropics of far north Queensland. Monitoring at 1,970 sites over 17 years has shown the local populations of most mid- and high-elevation species has declined exactly as climate models predicted. Birds such as the fernwren and golden bowerbird are being eliminated from lower, cooler elevations as temperatures rise.

As a result, 17 upland rainforest birds are now listed as threatened – all due to climate change.

The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 – which were exacerbated by climate change – contributed to the listing of 27 birds as threatened.

We estimate that in just one day alone – January 6, 2020 – about half the population of all 16 bird species endemic or largely confined to Kangaroo Island were incinerated, including the tiny Kangaroo Island southern emu-wren.

Some 91 birds are threatened by droughts and heatwaves. They include what’s thought to be Australia’s rarest bird, the Mukarrthippi grasswren of central west New South Wales, where just two or three pairs survive.

Climate change is also pushing migratory shorebirds towards extinction. Of the 43 shorebirds that come to Australia after breeding in the Northern Hemisphere, 25 are now threatened. Coastal development in East Asia is contributing to the decline, destroying and degrading mudflat habitat where the birds stop to rest and eat.

But rising seas as a result of climate change are also consuming mudflats on the birds’ migration route, and the climate in the birds’ Arctic breeding grounds is changing faster than anywhere in the world.

dead bird lies one charred ground
The Black Summer bushfires devastated some bird populations. James Ross/AAP

The Good News

The research shows declines in extinction risk for 23 Australian bird species. The southern cassowary, for example, no longer meets the criteria for being threatened. Land clearing ceased after its rainforest habitat was placed on the World Heritage list in 1988 and the population is now stable.

Other birds represent conservation success stories. For example, the prospects for the Norfolk Island green parrot, Albert’s lyrebird and bulloo grey grasswren improved after efforts to reduce threats and protect crucial habitat in conservation reserves.

Intensive conservation efforts have also meant once-declining populations of several key species are now stabilising or increasing. They include the eastern hooded plover, Kangaroo Island glossy black-cockatoo and eastern bristlebird.

And on Macquarie Island, efforts to eradicate rabbits and rodents has led to a spectacular recovery in seabird numbers. The extinction risk of nine seabirds is now lower as a result.

There’s also been progress in reducing the bycatch of seabirds from fishing boats, although there is much work still to do.

lyrebird under leaves
The Albert’s lyrebird has been a conservation success. Barry Baker

Managing Threats

The research also examined the impact of each threat to birds – from which we can measure progress in conservation action. For 136 species, we are alarmingly ignorant about how to reduce the threats – especially climate change.

Some 63% of important threats are being managed to a very limited extent or not at all. And management is high quality for just 10% of “high impact” threats. For most threats, the major impediments to progress is technical – we don’t yet know what to do. But a lack of money also constrains progress on about half the threats.

What’s more, there’s no effective monitoring of 30% of the threatened birds, and high-quality monitoring for only 27%.

Nevertheless, much has been achieved since the last action plan in 2010. We hope the new plan, and the actions it recommends, will mean the next report in 2030 paints a more positive picture for Australian birds.The Conversation

Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University and Barry Baker, University associate, University of Tasmania

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

Photos from the field: leaving habitats unburnt for longer could help save little mammals in northern Australia

Monjon, a small, native mammal in the tropical savanna under threat from fire. David BettiniAuthor provided
Ben CoreyCharles Darwin UniversityIan RadfordCharles Darwin University, and Leigh-Ann WoolleyCharles Darwin University

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

Native small mammals such as bandicoots, tree-rats and possums have been in dire decline across Northern Australia’s vast savannas for the last 30 years – and we’ve only just begun to understand why.

Feral catslivestockwildfires, and the complex ways these threats interact, have all played a crucial role. But, until now, scientists have struggled to pinpoint which factor was the biggest threat.

Our new research points to fire. In the most comprehensive study of small mammals and the threats they face in northern Australia, we found the length of time a habitat is left unburnt determines the number of different mammal species present, and their abundance.

This is important because Northern Australia’s tropical savanna is one of the most fire-prone regions on the planet. Our findings suggest we need to change the way we manage wildfires so we can help native wildlife come back from the brink.

Wunaamin Miliwundi Range – stunning tropical savanna where wildfires pose a huge threat to wildlife. David BettiniAuthor provided

The Last Mammal Stronghold

The remote and breathtakingly beautiful Northern Kimberley is the only place in mainland Australia where there have been no mammal extinctions. Instead, it’s a stronghold for species that are now extinct or in decline elsewhere in northern Australia, such as golden-backed tree-rats, brush-tailed rabbit-rats and northern quolls.

It’s also home to species found nowhere else in Australia, such as the monjon (the world’s smallest rock-wallaby), the hamster-like Kimberley rock rat, and the enigmatic scaly-tailed possum.

Monjon (right) and northern quoll (left), two savanna species under dire threat from wildfires. David BettiniAuthor provided
A golden-backed tree-rat. David BettiniAuthor provided
Golden bandicoot. David BettiniAuthor provided

But wildfires are a significant threat to these small mammals, as well as many other plants and animals, with many officially listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Fire is a fundamental part of savanna ecology, and up to 50 million hectares burn each year. This means only a small proportion of the landscape remains unburnt for longer than four years.

This fire-proneness is driven by the monsoon climate. Wet season rainfall causes grass to grow rapidly, and a prolonged dry season causes these grasses to dry out, creating fuel. Lightning and other ignition sources from the mid to the end of the dry season from August to December result in frequent and massive high-intensity wildfires. Climate change may be exacerbating this threat.

An out-of-control fire, late in the Kimberley’s dry season. Ben CoreyAuthor provided
The results of a fire striking late in the dry season, when grassy fuel is abundant. Ian RadfordAuthor provided

Fire managers, largely led by Indigenous rangers as well as state government agencies and conservation organistations, use low intensity prescribed burning in the early dry season, when vegetation is moist and conditions are cooler. This produces patchy fire scars that limit the spread of the inevitable wildfires later in the dry season.

There’s ample evidence this approach is highly effective. And yet, mammals continue to decline, and scientists have been criticised for not having the answers.

A scaly-tailed possum. David BettiniAuthor provided

What We Found

We’ve been studying small mammals in the Northern Kimberley for the last ten years, amassing the one of the largest datasets for any study in northern Australia.

Our work confirms the critical role of feral cats and livestock (such as buffaloes, horses, cattle and donkeys) in mammal declines. Sites with more cats and livestock had fewer native mammals.

Researcher Ben Corey with a black-footed tree-rat. David ChemelloAuthor provided
A feral cat caught prowling around the critical native ecosystem of Australia’s topical savanna. Ben CoreyAuthor provided

However, the most vital factor was vegetation that remained unburnt for four or more years – whether from wildfires or prescribed burns. Sites with longer unburnt vegetation, including with fruiting shrubs and trees, had far more mammals.

We also tested an age-old debate in fire management: does pyrodiversity create greater wildlife diversity?

Pyrodiversity refers to the number of patches within a landscape, with different times since the last fire, and is something fire managers try to achieve.

Flying to remote monitoring sites, which can be near impossible to access by foot or car. Ben CoreyAuthor provided

However, we found pyrodiversity had a negative influence on mammals. Unburnt vegetation was the only attribute that explained the higher abundance and diversity of small mammal species.

What’s more, the benefits for small mammals increase with the size of the unburnt patch – bigger is better. These longer unburnt patches provide critical resources such as food from fruiting trees and shrubs, and shelter including tree hollows and hollow logs. They also help small mammals to evade feral cats.

Prince Regent National Park, in the remote north-west Kimberley. Ben CoreyAuthor provided
Longer unburnt habitat in Prince Regent National Park. Ben CoreyAuthor provided

A Conundrum For Fire Managers

Our findings present fire managers with a conundrum. While it’s vital to mammals, large unburnt patches are often targeted because they burn more easily and are often viewed as being risky.

We’re not suggesting there should be no prescribed burning or that current fire management has adverse effects on small mammals. In fact, we need around 25% of savannas to be burnt under milder fire-weather conditions each year to maintain longer unburnt vegetation and, therefore, achieve the best results for mammals.

However, our study does suggest fire management needs to be more nuanced than simply reducing wildfires. We mustn’t lose sight of the need to look at longer term fire patterns.

Aerial prescribed burning undertaken in Prince Regent National Park. Ben CoreyAuthor provided

Fire management in northern Australia is already highly sophisticated. Advances in fire scar and landscape mapping mean we have tools at our disposal to take a more strategic approach.

For example, we can identify refuge areas for mammals, as well as areas that are naturally less fire prone. We can decrease the randomness of prescribed burning by focusing on recently burnt areas and landscape features, such as rivers and cliffs, that maximise the stopping power of strategic fire scars.

Indeed, ideas for more strategic fire management, with ecologically meaningful management targets, have been championed for some time, and are being further refined.

A low intensity prescribed burn. Ben CoreyAuthor provided

But monitoring and reporting on this needs to become more widespread, and coordinated across different fire-managed areas. New fire reporting tools, such as the Savanna Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting Framework, will help make this happen.

We realise achieving this across northern Australia’s vast and remote landscapes is a formidable and expensive undertaking. But it’s essential adequate and targeted monitoring is embedded within fire management programs, so we can better track wildlife responses. The Conversation

Ben Corey, Adjunct Research Associate, Charles Darwin UniversityIan Radford, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University, and Leigh-Ann Woolley, Adjunct Research Associate, Charles Darwin University

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

Australia’s Black Summer of fire was not normal – and we can prove it

Garry CookCSIROAndrew DowdyAustralian Bureau of MeteorologyJuergen KnauerCSIROMick MeyerCSIROPep CanadellCSIRO, and Peter BriggsCSIRO

The Black Summer forest fires of 2019–2020 burned more than 24 million hectares, directly causing 33 deaths and almost 450 more from smoke inhalation.

But were these fires unprecedented? You might remember sceptics questioning the idea that the Black Summer fires really were worse than conflagrations like the 1939 Black Friday fires in Victoria.

We can now confidently say that these fires were far from normal. Our new analysis of Australian forest fire trends just published in Nature Communications confirms for the first time the Black Summer fires are part of a clear trend of worsening fire weather and ever-larger forest areas burned by fires.

What Did We Find?

Our study found that the annual area burned by fire across Australia’s forests has been increasing by about 48,000 ha per year over the last three decades. After five years, that would be roughly the size of the entire Australian Capital Territory (235,000 hectares).

We found three out of four extreme forest fire years since states started keeping records 90 years ago have occurred since 2002.

And we found that the fire season is growing, moving out of spring and summer into autumn and winter.

These trends are almost entirely due to Australia’s increasingly severe fire weather and are consistent with predicted human-induced climate change.

Our study is based on satellite and ground-based estimates of burnt forest area, and trends of nine wildfire risk factors and indices that relate to characteristics of fuel loads, fire weather, extreme fire behaviour, and ignition.

We have focused here only on the most dangerous forest fires, not the fires affecting Australia’s savanna across the tropical north.

Figure showing increasing area burned by forest fires in Australia
Burnt area of forest by year. Data derived from satellite data (NOAA-AVHRR burned area) Author provided

Fire Burns Much More Land Than 25 Years Ago

Before the 1990s, Australia’s forest fires were infrequent, though damaging. A given area would burn at an interval between 20 to over 100 years.

The exception were rare summers which would see severe and extensive fires, such as 1939. Overall, only a small fraction of the total forest area burned in any year.

This pattern of fire behaviour no longer exists.

Map of Australia showing shortening years between forest fires
Years since the last forest fire (decadal mean). Data derived from satellite data (NASA-MODIS burned area) and ground/air-based data from states and territories. Author provided

Over the last 30 years, the areas affected by fire have grown enormously.

If we compare the satellite records from 1988–2001 to the period from 2002–2018, the annual average fire area has shot up by 350%.

If we include the 2019–20 Black Summer fires, that figure soars to 800% – an enormous leap.

We are seeing fires growing the most in areas once less likely to be affected by fire, such as cool wet Tasmanian forests unaccustomed to large fires as well as the warmest forests in Queensland previously kept safe from fire by rainfall and a humid microclimate. This includes ancient Gondwanan rainforests not adapted for fire.

More Extreme Fire Years And Longer Fire Seasons

Before 2002, there was just one megafire year in the 90 years Australian states have been keeping records – and that was 1939.

Since 2001, there have been three megafire years, defined as a year in which more than one million hectares burn.

Our fire seasons are also getting longer. Spring and summer used to be the time most forest fires would start. That’s no longer guaranteed.

Since 2001 winter fires have soared five-fold compared to 1988–2001 and autumn fires three-fold.

Overall, fires in the cooler months of March to August are growing exponentially at 14% a year.

Figure showing rising burned areas in autumn and winter in Australia
Trends in autumn and winter burned areas over time. Data derived from satellite data (NOAA-AVHRR and NASA-MODIS burned area) Author provided

What’s Driving These Changes?

Imagine a forest fire starts from a lightning strike in remote bushland. What are the factors which would make it grow, spread and intensify?

A fire will get larger and more dangerous if it has access to more fuel (dry grass, fallen limbs and bark), and if the fire starts when the weather is hotter, drier and windier. Topography also plays a role, with fire able to move much faster uphill.

To get a sense of the overall risk of forest fire, temperature, humidity, windspeed and soil moisture are combined into a single figure, the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI).

As you might expect, this index has been steadily worsening over the past 40 years. The number of very high fire danger days in forest zones has been increasing by 1.6 days per decade.

So what does this mean for fire behaviour and spread?

In what we believe is a first, we have used 32 years of fire index data across Australia’s forest zones and compared the number of very high or severe fire danger days with areas subsequently burnt by fire.

We found a clear link, with a 300 to 500% increase in burnt area for every extra day of severe fire danger, and a 21% increase in burnt area for every extra day of very high fire danger.

Could fuel loads or prescribed burning be to blame? No. We looked for trends in these factors, and found nothing to explain the rise in burnt areas.

The main driver for the growing areas burnt by fire is Australia’s increasingly severe fire weather, accounting for 75% of the variation observed in the total annual area of forest fires. This is consistent with predictions from climate change scenarios that severe fire weather conditions will intensify due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Other fire weather risks are also growing. We’re seeing more higher atmospheric conditions which can lead to the formation of fire-generated thunderstorms (known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds).

These thunderstorms emerging out of fire plumes can spread burning embers further and whip up more dangerous winds for unpredictable fire behaviour on the ground, as well as generate lightning in the fire plume that can ignite new fires far ahead of the fire front.

Dry lightning is the primary natural cause of fire ignitions. Here too, the trends are worsening in southeast Australia. We are now seeing 50% more dry lightning in forest areas in recent decades (2000–2016) compared to the previous two (1980–1999).

Under most climate change scenarios, fire weather is predicted to keep on worsening.

Can We Predict Our Next Megafire?

So could we have predicted how bad and how widespread the Black Summer fires would have been, if we had examined fire danger index forecasts in mid-2019?

In short, yes.

The huge amount of bush that burned is entirely consistent with the 34 days of very high forest fire danger across the forest zones that summer. That’s in line with the long-range bushfire weather forecasts provided to fire agencies earlier in 2019.

This means that in future years, we will be able to broadly predict the area likely to burn each fire season by examining fire index forecasts.

We can also safely – and sadly – predict that more and more of Australia will burn in years to come, with increasing numbers of megafire years.

While many factors contribute to catastrophic fire events, our Black Summer was not an aberration.

Rather, it was the continuation of fire trends beginning more than two decades ago. It is now clear that human-induced climate change is creating ever more dangerous conditions for fires in Australia.

We need to be ready for more Black Summers – and worse.The Conversation

Garry Cook, Honorary Fellow, CSIROAndrew Dowdy, Principal Research Scientist, Australian Bureau of MeteorologyJuergen Knauer, Research fellow, CSIROMick Meyer, Post Retirement Fellow, CSIROPep Canadell, Chief research scientist, Climate Science Centre, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; and Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIRO, and Peter Briggs, Scientific Programmer and Data Analyst, CSIRO

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

Australia’s biggest fossil fuel investment for a decade is in the works – and its greenhouse gas emissions will be horrifying

Bill HareMurdoch University

The controversial Scarborough gas project off Western Australia will cause a substantial rise in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the world must rapidly decarbonise, new analysis released today shows.

The A$16 billion plan by Woodside Petroleum has been described as Australia’s biggest new fossil fuel investment in nearly a decade. The report, produced by Climate Analytics, a research organisation I help lead, is the first to examine the full climate impact of the entire expansion project.

The Morrison government has put the gas industry at the heart of its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the Scarborough example shows, such projects makes it less likely the world will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The sheer scale of emissions from the expansion, and projects linked to it, will make achieving 2030 emissions targets much harder for Western Australia and, by extension, Australia and the world.

Car and caravan with words 'Shut down Scarborough gas' block road
The controversial Scarborough gas project has been described as the nation’s biggest fossil fuel investment in a decade. Scarborough Gas Action Alliance

Emissions Worse Than We Thought

Woodside’s expansion proposal involves developing the Scarborough offshore gas field 375 kilometres off Australia’s northwest coast. It also includes a new pipeline to the company’s onshore Pluto processing facility on the Pilbara coast, and expansion of that facility.

Woodside last week announced it had approved the final investment decision on the developments. Chief executive Meg O'Neill said the project “supports the decarbonisation goals of our customers in Asia”.

Our study examines the full emissions implications of the expansion and associated projects, including domestic gas supply and a proposed project converting gas to hydrogen.

Estimates of the entire projects’ greenhouse gas implications are spread across several reports and documents. This report assembles these for the first time. The research was commissioned by the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

We examined the emissions from the gas facilities themselves, and emissions that will, or are likely to, occur as a result of the project. This second group of emissions includes locked-in domestic demand for natural gas and overseas export markets burning its product for energy.

We estimate that by 2055, the expansion and associated projects will emit 1.37 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. Almost 20% is projected to be emitted in Western Australia and the rest would be emitted overseas where the exported gas will be burnt.

The total emissions we calculate is far more than the 878 million tonnes Woodside says the project will emit.

In a statement to The Conversation, a Woodside spokeswoman said its emissions figure was “correct and has been accepted by the federal regulator NOPSEMA”.

However the NOPSEMA report covers only the emissions that come from gas derived from the Scarborough gas field and not the emissions from the entire Pluto expansion. In contrast, Woodside’s greenhouse gas action plan is based on the entire Pluto expansion, including all aspects of the project we included in our calculations.

Woodside said Scarborough gas, used to generate electricity, could power ten cities the size of Perth for 30 years and the emissions would be around half those for the same electricity generated from coal.

However, we found that introducing Scarborough-Pluto gas into electricity grids of countries decarbonising in line with the Paris Agreement would raise greenhouse gas emissions by several hundred million tonnes between 2026 and 2040.

silhouette of person sitting in front of city skyline
Woodside says the project could power ten cities the size of Perth for 30 years. David Goldman/AP

Questionable Emissions Reduction Plan

Woodside says its “greenhouse gas abatement program” shows how the company will offset a substantial amount of emissions. We believe that plan, approved by the WA government, is questionable on several counts.

For example, a Woodside project approved in 2006 at 12 million tonnes of LNG per year was later scaled down. However, Woodside’s plan for emissions reduction plan comes off the earlier high-emissions baseline.

Woodside proposes to reduce emissions reductions using carbon offsets (removing CO₂ from the atmosphere in one place to compensate for emissions made elsewhere). But there appears to be no guarantee these offsets would not have occurred as part of Woodside’s usual business operations.

Woodside says it plans to abate all emissions from the project by 2050. But most of this emissions reduction will not occur until after 2040, and depends on factors such as the availability of technology, government policy and the availability of carbon offsets for purchase.

Woodside has also not accounted for expected global increases in the price of carbon offsets. We calculate that by 2050, the cost of offsets could comprise between 21% and 71% of Woodside’s export revenue for liquified natural gas.

gas flares from offshore rigs at sunset
Carbon offsets compensate for emissions in one place by reducing them elsewhere. Shutterstock

Bad News For Net-Zero

In May this year, the International Energy Agency said no new oil and gas fields can be developed if the world is to meet the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and avert catastrophic global warming.

This, in our view, includes the Scarborough-Pluto expansion. Introducing gas from the project into electricity grids of importing nations would slow global decarbonisation efforts.

Big buyers of Australian gas, such as South Korea and Japan, are moving away from fossil fuels and towards green hydrogen and renewable energy. This suggests a softening, or even collapse, in demand for LNG this decade – a trend consistent with assessments by the International Energy Agency and Australia’s Reserve Bank.

For Woodside, the Scarborough-Pluto expansion is increasingly looking like a stranded asset. And the WA government’s support for the project, and the broader gas industry, means it’s missing out on massive, and growing, opportunities in renewable energy and green hydrogen exports.The Conversation

Bill Hare, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University

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

Labor’s 2030 climate target betters the Morrison government, but Australia must go much further, much faster

Wesley MorganGriffith University

The Labor opposition has pledged to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 43% this decade based on 2005 levels, claiming the plan will create jobs, cut power bills, boost renewables and provide business certainty.

Labor says the policy would create 604,000 jobs – mostly in regional areas – unlock A$52 billion in private sector investment in Australian industry, and cause electricity prices to fall by $275 per household by 2025.

Announcing the policy on Friday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the plan was backed by comprehensive modelling. He said Labor has produced a policy Australia can be proud of, while the Morrison government was “frozen in time while the world warms around it”.

Labor’s emissions-reduction goal is a significant step up on what the Morrison government has offered – 26-28% over the same time frame. And it’s a firm step to build on in coming years.

But it falls short of what experts say is needed for Australia to do its share on emissions reduction under the Paris Agreement, and is less ambitious than the targets adopted by Australia’s international peers.

What The Science Says Is Needed

While Labor’s 2030 target is higher than the Coalition’s, and provides a solid foundation on which to build, it still falls well below what the science says is necessary.

Earlier this year an independent Climate Targets Panel - made up of high-profile Australian climate scientists and experts - examined the action required by Australia if it’s to act consistently with the Paris Agreement goals.

To do its share in limiting global warming to below 1.5℃ this century, Australia must cut emissions by 75% below 2005 levels this decade. Limiting warming to well below 2℃ this century would require a 50% emissions reduction in the same time frame.

The last official government review of Australia’s climate targets was conducted by the Climate Change Authority, and updated in 2015. It found that to act in line with the 2℃ goal, Australia should aim for 45–65% emissions reduction by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

Notably, the Coalition government ignored this recommendation when it set Australia’s 2030 target of 26-28%. This recommendation is also more ambitious than the target announced by Labor today.

industrial port scene
Australia should aim for 45–65% emissions reduction by 2030 to act in line with Paris. Shutterstock

The Global Picture

The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed to at COP26 last month, called on nations to bring a stronger 2030 target to the next United Nations conference in November 2022. It said limiting global warming to 1.5℃ would require global emissions reduction of at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030.

To play their part, wealthy nations need to cut emissions by much more than 45% this decade. This particularly applies to Australia – a skilled, wealthy, developed nation blessed with sunshine and wind.

While the Glasgow pact uses a baseline year of 2010 rather than Australia’s 2005, our national emissions were similar in both years. So Labor’s new 43% commitment approaches, but still falls short of, the Glasgow pact.

Pacific island countries have called on Australia to cut emissions by at least 50% by 2030. So again, Labor’s target comes close but does not actually fulfil what island states want to see from Australia to help ensure their survival.

Labor’s 43% target also brings us closer to, but not into line with, our major allies. Over the same time frame, the United States is aiming for a 50-52% reduction, Japan 46% and New Zealand 50%. The United Kingdom plans to reduce emissions by 68% below 1990 levels, and the European Union 55%.

And special treatment afforded Australia under the Kyoto protocol – the precursor to the Paris Agreement – means the country is uniquely advantaged. We are allowed to count emissions from land use change in the base year from which emissions reduction is measured – something most countries don’t do.

Because of this, an Australian commitment to 43% below 2005 levels - a year when land use emissions were high - involves far less real-world emissions reduction than that of our international peers.

man sits at desk and looks at two TV monitors
Both the Morrison government’s target, and that of Labor, is below that of our international peers. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Building On The Work Of Others

Thanks to the head-start gifted by the states and territories, Australia could achieve emissions reduction far beyond the target set by Labor with just a modest amount of federal effort.

The Morrison government may claim Australia’s woeful 2030 target is “fixed”, but state and territory commitments made it redundant long ago.

The two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – both plan to halve their emissions over the same period. South Australia and the ACT intend to outperform even that, and Tasmania is already at net-zero emissions.

Even in Western Australian – where energy sector emissions have grown by two-thirds since 2005 as a result of unrestrained gas expansion – the state government announced yesterday it will establish a process to set emissions reductions targets in line with its net-zero goal.

Assuming state targets are only met and not exceeded, Australia’s emissions would fall by 34% from 2005 levels by 2030 with no effort from the federal government whatsoever.

In 2019, the Business Council of Australia loudly opposed Labor’s 2030 target of 45% below 2005 levels in 2030. In the context of increased state and territory ambition, it has now adopted this target as its own. Far from being “economy-wrecking” or other such hyperbole, such a target is in fact a humble but important additional effort that builds on existing state and territory action.

As has been shown time and again – most recently just yesterday in research the Climate Council commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics – good climate policy is good economic policy, and will drive job creation in regional areas.

Setting a stronger 2030 target is important for driving investment in the clean energy economy of the future. Australia is well-placed to take advantage of a world shifting toward net-zero emissions, and it makes no sense to delay the inevitable transition. This is especially so when Australia is so acutely vulnerable to climate impacts.

wind farm on hill
Australia is well-placed to take advantage of a world shifting toward net-zero emissions. Shutterstock

Go Further, Faster

Announcing the policy on Friday, Albanese said the planned emissions reduction was consistent with that of Canada, which has a comparable economy.

If Labor wins government at next year’s election, Australia could “go to international climate conferences and not be in the naughty corner”, Albanese said. “I wanted to make sure we have a policy that doesn’t leave people behind, that supports industry, supports jobs and gets the balance right.”

There’s no question that Labor’s target is inadequate. But it provides a solid framework for further action in the next decade.

Any federal government that implements meaningful policy to reduce emissions will quickly realise it’s in Australia’s interests to go further, faster. Doing so will leave households better off, grow jobs in regional Australia, and ensure we play a role in the global effort to avert climate catastrophe.The Conversation

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

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

Most Australian households are well-positioned for electric vehicles – and an emissions ceiling would help

Ingrid BurfurdGrattan Institute

Many people believe Australia’s shift to electric vehicles is stuck in the slow lane – another strollout, rather than a rollout. But while federal policies are still lacklustre, most Australians themselves are ready for the shift, according to our recent research.

We found most car-owning households will be able to charge their cars in their garage or driveway. Electric vehicles are also getting more attractive as purchase costs fall and battery range rises.

Australia’s world-beating solar uptake is another plus. Many of our three million solar households would be able to effectively charge their cars for free at daytime.

Surveys have found 56% of Australians would consider going electric with their next car purchase, while the share of consumers who would not purchase an electric car is declining quickly.

An electric vehicle being charged at an Adelaide house
Charging at home will be key to boosting electric vehicle uptake. Shutterstock

Will Electric Vehicles Come Suddenly Or Slowly?

The shift will not be sudden and disruptive but gradual, as people trade in their old petrol clunkers for sleek new electric vehicles. Many will buy an electric car for everyday driving, while holding onto a petrol or diesel SUV for longer trips. No weekends need be sacrificed.

About half of Australia’s car-owning households live in houses with off-street parking and own more than one car. These households will be the first to shift to electric cars.

Almost all owners charge their electric vehicles at home. For most houses with off-street parking, charging a vehicle is as simple as getting an electrician to check your wiring and install an outlet in your garage or near your driveway. In most cases installation isn’t expensive.

Some households will install a small charger on the wall of their garage to speed up the charging process, which will mean they can completely charge their electric vehicle overnight.

But what about range anxiety and sticker shock, two issues many consumers cite?

While surveys still show drivers worry about battery range for electric vehicles, the underlying technology is improving year by year. As batteries get better and cheaper, these issues will fade into memory. Technology isn’t standing still.

This year, for instance, electric vehicles came on market in Australia with a battery range of up to 650km, and on average 400km. That’s more than enough for common weekend round trips, such as Melbourne to Phillip Island (280km), Sydney to Kiama (260km), or Brisbane to Sunshine Coast (200km).

While everyone knows running an electric vehicle is cheaper than petrol or diesel – due to much cheaper energy and vastly reduced maintenance costs – the upfront cost has to date been a deterrent. That, too, is changing.

The cost of an electric car is falling. Price parity in many market segments should be reached by the mid 2020s. That means one-car households who currently rely on utes or 4WDs for weekend trips will be able to easily switch in time to contribute to our target of net-zero by 2050 target.

Not only that, but our research has found the number of public electric vehicle chargers has soared to more than 2500 standard chargers. There are now almost 500 fast chargers, which can get your electric vehicle back to 80% charged in under an hour.

An elevated road above the sea
As range anxiety fades, electric vehicle road trips are set to grow. Pictured: Sea Cliff Bridge, north of Wollongong. Shutterstock

How Can We Shift To Electric Vehicles Faster?

For us to reach net zero by 2050, we need electric vehicles to make up an increasing share of Australia’s cars. The federal government is belatedly embracing the technology as part of the new 2050 target.

While Australia is increasingly ready to shift, at present electric vehicles still make up less than 1% of new car sales. By contrast, Norway will sell its last fossil fuel-powered car next year if current trends hold.

At present, many manufacturers have skipped Australia entirely to focus on more attractive markets, leaving us with a limited range and older models.

So what needs to happen? As our report explains, the best way to bring down prices and increase the variety of electric vehicles is for the federal government to introduce an “emissions ceiling” on new vehicles.

This ceiling would limit the average emissions from vehicles and encourage manufacturers to bring Australia’s electric vehicle range up to par with the rest of the world.

Do these policies work? In a word, yes. Countries with emissions ceilings in place have a much wider range of electric vehicles for sale. Last year there were only 31 zero-emissions vehicles for sale in Australia, compared to more than 130 in the United Kingdom.

If we had an emissions ceiling in place, drivers would find it easier to switch to electric vehicles, as more choice brings cheaper cars and a wider range. Of course, no one would be forced to shift. Those who want to wait for an electric ute or SUV will be able to.

While people who own detached homes with off-street parking will find it easier to switch to electric cars, Australians who rent or live in apartments may find it harder or more expensive to get a charger installed at home.

Once homeowners with offstreet parking begin to shift to electric vehicles, charging will get easier for everyone else. Why? Because the increase in electric vehicles will prompt commercial operators to add more and more public chargers in accessible locations. The federal government’s Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy also has plans to close gaps in the network.

If you want a glimpse of the future, look at South Korea. There, companies are building ultra-fast charging stations as a replacement for petrol stations, offering recharging in under 20 minutes and a cafe to fill the time. In the near future we’ll use clean, fume-free charging stations like these in the same way we use petrol stations today.

As a bonus for switching, the air in our cities will become ever cleaner, and traffic noise will plummet.

Even if our leaders drag their feet on electric cars, we don’t need to. Australians are ready to swap petrol for electric. And we’ll never look back.The Conversation

Ingrid Burfurd, Senior Associate, Transport and Cities Program, Grattan Institute, Grattan Institute

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

Australia has a heritage conservation problem. Can farming and Aboriginal heritage protection co-exist?

Michael WestawayThe University of QueenslandJoshua GorringeIndigenous KnowledgeKelsey M. LoweThe University of QueenslandRichard MartinThe University of Queensland, and Ross MitchellIndigenous Knowledge

Rio Tinto’s destruction of the 46,000 year old Juukan Gorge rock shelters has led to recommendations by the Parliamentary Inquiry on how Australia can better conserve Aboriginal heritage sites.

Around the time the recommendations were made, Queensland’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act faced an important test when a pastoralist who cleared 500 hectares of bushland at Kingvale Station in Cape York was charged with failing to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The charges were eventually dismissed but the prosecution, the first of its kind in Queensland, highlights weaknesses in the law.

Like related legislation in other Australian states and territories, Queensland’s law requires landholders to conserve Aboriginal heritage sites or risk prosecution.

But the law has been criticised by many Aboriginal people and heritage specialists for allowing destructive development by removing any ability for government to independently assess how proposed clearing would affect Aboriginal heritage.

Under the “duty of care” provisions in the Act, Aboriginal heritage must be protected even if it is not known to landholders. However, as the Kingvale clearing case heard, if Aboriginal heritage is not known, how can it be shown to have been lost?

What We Learned From The Kingvale Clearing Case

In 2013, the former Newman government in Queensland removed protection for the environment by introducing the Vegetation Management Act which enabled clearing of what they deemed as “high value agricultural projects” in Cape York.

The World Wildlife Foundation argued this would see large areas of forest and bushland destroyed. Advocates for the new Act argued primary producers are “acutely aware of their responsibility to care for the environment”.

In opening up new areas of Cape York to clearing, this legislation posed new threats to heritage sites. In this context the landholder of Kingvale decided he did not need to assess cultural heritage when clearing 500 hectares.

At the conclusion of the hearing into this case, Judge Julie Dick of the Cairns District Court instructed the jury to return a not-guilty verdict, exonerating the landholder, as the offence could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The landholder’s legal team noted in the media if their defendant had been found guilty, every landholder (including freeholders) who had cleared land, built a fence or firebreak, ploughed a paddock, or built a road or airstrip since 2003 would potentially be guilty of a criminal offence.

The defendant argued the ramifications of the legal case were significant

for the rest of Queensland […] anyone who mowed a lawn or cut down a tree since 2003 would be automatically liable.

In our view, this is hyperbole. Section 21 of the Act makes explicit a person’s right to enjoy the normal and allowed use of their land to the extent they don’t harm Aboriginal heritage.

Further, a person doesn’t commit an offence if they take into account the nature of the activity and the likelihood of it causing harm. Mowing the lawn is quite different to clearing 500 hectares of native vegetation.

The setting of this activity is also important. Kingvale Station is located 100 kilometres west of the national heritage listed Quinkan Country. Heritage studies in similar landscapes across Cape York have identified scarred trees, artefact scatters, stone arrangements and cultural burial places.

Based on our heritage experience across Queensland, it would be surprising not to find Aboriginal heritage sites at Kingvale.

To reduce heritage risks, we assess the potential impacts of an activity, and talk with relevant Aboriginal groups about their sites and heritage values. Archaeologists and anthropologists also develop models to predict where unknown sites are likely to be found.

Recorded archaeological sites across Cape York. The distribution pattern reflects several key heritage surveys. It is expected that cultural sites would be found across the cape, including within the 500 hectares cleared at Kingvale. Image by Kelsey M. Lowe.

Can Farming And The Conservation Of Aboriginal Heritage Co-Exist?

The best way to conserve heritage is for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians to work together to identify, document, and protect places. An important example is the discovery of human remains from a mortuary tree west of St George, southern Queensland.

The site was discovered during fence clearing by the landholder, who contacted the police. We worked with the landholder who has supported the Kooma nations people to conserve the mortuary tree and enable it to remain on country.

Courtesy of Tony Miscamble, NGH Consulting.

A further example from Mithaka Country saw a spectacular stone arrangement discovered by a pastoral station manager, who notified the native title holders.

All are now engaging with researchers to investigate the site’s history.

Dozens of other examples around the state illustrate collaborative approaches to heritage conservation. But more effective legislation is urgently needed in response to Kingvale’s failed prosecution.

A spectacular stone arrangement from Mithaka country. Image courtesy of Lyndon Mechielsen

How Can We Improve Cultural Heritage Protection?

The Juukan Gorge case highlighted how Australia has a problem protecting its Aboriginal cultural heritage. The final report of the parliamentary inquiry into the disaster made several recommendations that could help pave a way forward.

Instances like Kingvale emphasise more work needs to be done. The Queensland government needs to act now to address the glaring problem with its heritage legislation.

Heritage management investment will also help. Victoria provides an example of how to improve Aboriginal heritage management. A standout action is the roll-out of a Certificate IV in Aboriginal cultural heritage management, with over 500 Aboriginal graduates to date.

This program is decentralising heritage management and empowering Aboriginal people across Victoria, building a level of professionalism rarely seen in other states.

Establishing treaties and agreements similar to those in Canada and New Zealand could go a long way to enable First Nations people in Australia to authoritatively protect their respective cultural heritage sites.

Heritage conservation will remain challenging, particularly in resource-rich states like Queensland. But we can do better.

Judge Dick’s ruling, while frustrating for the effort to conserve heritage, is crucial as it highlights weaknesses in the law.

This trial, along with the Juukan Gorge incident, may represent a critical tipping point in the struggle to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage in Queensland and across Australia.

The authors wish to thank Jamin Moon for his consultation in the writing of this article.The Conversation

Michael Westaway, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Archaeology, School of Social Science, The University of QueenslandJoshua Gorringe, General Manager Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous KnowledgeKelsey M. Lowe, Senior Research Fellow, The University of QueenslandRichard Martin, Senior lecturer, The University of Queensland, and Ross Mitchell, Common Law holder and director of Kooma Aboriginal Corporation Native Title PBC, Indigenous Knowledge

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

3 reasons the announcement to dump radioactive waste in South Australia is extremely premature

Ian LoweGriffith University

Radioactive waste from nuclear medicine facilities around Australia will be trucked to and buried near the South Australian town of Kimba, the federal government announced this week.

The site, Napandee, comprises 211 hectares of government-acquired land, with radioactive waste set to be stored for over 100 years in deep trenches.

The announcement comes after six years of consultation with the local community – but, as federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt noted, the problem of managing radioactive waste has been on the national agenda for 40 years.

There is a good reason it has taken so long: storing radioactive waste is a complex issue.

Radioactive waste is extremely hazardous to people and the environment. It emits radiation, which can pollute water, kill wildlife and cause a number of deadly human health issues such as cancer. Even waste with low potency levels needs to be stored away for centuries, so the community should be assured the repository is well designed and properly managed.

Currently, radioactive waste – which results from the radiation needed to perform diagnostic imaging and cancer treatment – is scattered in dedicated storage facilities in hospitals across the country, but the majority is secured safely at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

While Pitt is celebrating what he regards as a resolution, there are three reasons this announcement is premature.

1. Legislative And Regulatory Hurdles

Twenty years ago, The Olsen government of SA passed legislation to prevent radioactive waste being brought into the state. When the Howard government proposed storing radioactive waste in the state soon after, the subsequent Rann government strengthened that legislation.

This means the new proposal will require the current SA government to repeal or amend the current law. This will be difficult, as Premier Steven Marshall runs a minority government and, with an MP defecting in October, he’s likely to struggle to get the support he needs.

There is also a regulatory hurdle. A proposal such as this needs the approval of the regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA), which will assess the proposal to determine whether it ensures the safety of people and the natural environment.

ARPANSA took the previous proposal by the Howard government very seriously. The process included public hearings at which the Director of ARPANSA was assisted by two scientists – I was one and the other was a Canadian expert in radioactive waste management.

It became clear in the assessment process that the federal government had made no attempt to calculate the risk of transporting radioactive waste from the various sites where it’s now stored to the more secure centralised facility. It simply asserted that the risk was minimal.

ARPANSA was not impressed by this data-free approach. Faced with opposition by the state government and questions raised by the regulator, the federal government withdrew the proposal.

2. The Waste Is More Dangerous

The second serious hurdle is that “intermediate level” waste from a nuclear reactor temporarily stored at Lucas Heights will be sent there.

The new Napandee facility will mostly store the comparatively benign “low-level waste”. This includes residues from nuclear medicine, scientific research and industrial applications. Once buried in deep trenches, this poses relatively little risk to humans or wildlife.

Intermediate level waste is much nastier and demands much greater levels of security. It contains long-lived radioactive isotopes that need to be isolated and contained for periods of thousands of years – effectively permanent disposal. This is generally seen as requiring engineered underground containment facilities, rather than the near-surface repositories used for low-level waste.

No such facility to safely, and permanently, house this waste has been built in Australia, and the regulator will undoubtedly require assurances it could be safely constructed and managed.

It will also be much more difficult to justify transporting this waste along the roads of three states, given it’s now securely held at Lucas Heights. Transporting nuclear waste comes with risks of accidents or possible theft by terrorists of the dangerous material.

There seems to be no point moving intermediate waste from its temporary storage in Lucas Heights, to temporary storage in Napandee.

3. No Consent From Traditional Owners

The third hurdle for the proposal is the opposition of the Barngarla Traditional Owners, who have made clear they do not support the proposal for radioactive waste to be stored on their land.

After the consultation process in SA, a ballot showed 60% of the local residents supported the proposal. But the the Barngarla people say they have not been included in consultations.

In previous decades, our governments have ridden roughshod over the wishes of Traditional Owners and imposed developments they did not want. Today, the Australian public is generally more respectful of the wishes of Traditional Owners.

There will certainly be legal challenges to the government’s scheme. But even if the Barngarla people don’t have the law on their side, they have the moral authority. It will be politically difficult for any government to justify going ahead with a scheme that is totally opposed by the relevant Indigenous group.

The storage of radioactive waste is the extreme example of an issue that demands long-term thinking. Finding a site must involve serious discussion with Traditional Owners as well as current landholders. There is no need to rush, as the intermediate-level waste is securely held in temporary storage at Lucas Heights.The Conversation

Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

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

There’s an enormous geothermal pool under the Latrobe Valley that can give us cheap, clean energy

Graeme BeardsmoreThe University of Melbourne

About 650 metres beneath the Latrobe Valley, the heart of Victoria’s coal country, lies a little-known, naturally hot 65℃ pool of water in an enormous aquifer.

This aquifer is a source of geothermal energy – a renewable source of heat or electricity that is, so far, being used to heat an aquatic centre in the town of Traralgon. They chose it – over natural gas, coal-fired power or even emissions-free solar and wind – because geothermal energy is now the cheapest option for heating.

The hot aquifer was first reported as long ago as 1962, when government geologist J.J. Jenkin noted many “occurrences of high temperature waters in East Gippsland”. We now know the hot water underlies about 6,000 square kilometres of Gippsland, from Morwell in the west to Lakes Entrance in the east, and holds the equivalent of A$30 billion of heat at today’s natural gas price.

But with natural gas flowing from Bass Strait, and vast reserves of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley, there has been little incentive to develop alternative energy sources. With the coal era now drawing to a close, it’s time we made better use of this vast, clean source of energy to help cut national emissions and ease the energy transition.

Geothermal Energy Around The World

The core of the Earth is about the same temperature as the surface of the sun. That vast internal heat is like a hotplate warming natural groundwater from below. Beneath the Latrobe Valley, thick coal layers act like a blanket, which makes the underlying aquifers hotter than aquifers in other locations.

The result is unusually hot natural water without needing to burn any fossil fuels – emissions free. At deeper depths we can capture natural steam, and use it to turn turbines for a generator.

In many parts of the world, natural hot water already provides sustainable, low emissions heat to a wide range of residential and industrial consumers.

In carrying out a recent global scan of energy production from hot aquifers, I learned large parts of suburban Paris are heated by geothermal energy from a hot (56–85℃) aquifer between 1,600 and 1,800m beneath the city.

In the Netherlands, industrial scale greenhouses are replacing their natural gas heating systems with geothermal heat from aquifers, 1,800-2,200m below the surface.

Beijing is one of the world’s leading urban centres using geothermal energy. Wells as deep as 2,600m produce up to 70℃ water for many industrial purposes, from winter heating for hotels and factories, to greenhouse cultivation, to public geothermal bathing pools visited by as many as 50,000 people per day.

On a smaller scale, a town in Hungary circulates natural hot water (64–72℃ from 1,450–1,700m depth) through a network of distribution pipes. And Perth, Western Australia, uses natural hot water (40–52℃ from 750–1,150m) to heat at least 14 leisure and aquatic centres.

Importantly, in almost every case, the water itself is returned to the aquifer after delivering its heat. In other words, water is not consumed in the production of geothermal energy, making it renewable and sustainable.

When compared to geothermal systems around the world, it’s obvious natural hot water beneath the Latrobe Valley, at only 650m depth, is a truly world class geothermal energy resource that has, until now, been largely overlooked.

Beijing skyline
Beijing is a world leader in geothermal energy use. Shutterstock

A Cheaper Alternative To Gas

It’s a lot cheaper to drill a 650m bore than a 1,500m or deeper bore. This means it’s cheaper to produce geothermal energy in the Latrobe Valley than many places where geothermal energy already provides economic advantage.

In fact, geothermal heat is very likely a much cheaper alternative to natural gas. Since Australia began exporting liquified natural gas out of Queensland in 2015, the wholesale price of natural gas in eastern Australia has roughly tripled and is projected to rise further and remain high.

The higher price of natural gas affects the economy across the whole of Australia. The federal government estimates 40% of energy Australian households use is for heating and cooling, and a further 23% is for water heating. A 2019 report commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency found 52% of energy used by the nation’s industrial sector is consumed as heat.

But there are other long-term benefits the geothermal energy resource could deliver to the Latrobe Valley.

Victoria’s heavy reliance on natural gas for heat also presents a huge challenge for the state to meet its legislated greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of net zero by 2050.

Under this plan, the remaining coal-fired power plants in the Latrobe Valley are all scheduled to close in the coming years and decades, requiring support for workers to be reskilled.

Producing geothermal energy from hot aquifers can help on both fronts: by avoiding greenhouse-gas emissions and by reemploying skilled workers into new industries.

What’s Next?

I’m working closely with a number of stakeholders – including the Latrobe City Council, the Latrobe Valley Authority, the Geological Survey of Victoria, local businesses and community groups – to help realise the potential of this massive, undervalued source of clean energy.

We seek to better understand and sustainably develop this resource to help Australia meet it’s emissions reduction targets, and to bring the price of energy down.

This includes projects such as mapping, investigating the potential for power generation from deeper hotter rocks, and identifying and clearing policy and regulatory barriers.

The lessons we learn in the Latrobe Valley will carry across to other parts of Victoria and Australia – such as the Mornington Peninsula, Otway coast, and the Great Artesian Basin spanning NSW, Queensland and South Australia – where hot water is known to lie deeper, but still very accessible.The Conversation

Graeme Beardsmore, Senior Fellow in Crustal Heat Flow, The University of Melbourne

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

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You

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

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

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

Pittwater Reserves + Others

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
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
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
 Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
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 -

Class Of 2021 Conquer HSC Exams

Friday December 3, 2021
The 2021 Higher School Certificate exams are officially over at 12:30 today, when 3,756 Food Technology students finish their final exam.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said this is a momentous day for the Class of 2021, who have shown incredible resilience and hard work to get to this point.

“Today officially marks the end of 13 years of schooling for 69,000 Year 12 students and I am incredibly happy to see them so triumphantly reach the finish line,” Ms Mitchell said.

“HSC students should be very proud of what they have achieved over the past two years. The resilience, focus and adaptability they have shown will serve them well in the next chapter of their life, whether that is university, vocational training, or employment.

“To safely deliver 400,000 individual exam sessions statewide with no disruption amidst a global pandemic is a huge success.

“I thank the school sectors, principals, teachers, school staff, exam supervisors and invigilators, students and their families for their engagement and adherence to the COVID-safe HSC exam guidelines."

Over the past four weeks, students sat 110 exams across 750 exam venues, with strict COVID-safe protocols in place.

Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Paul Martin said the 2021 HSC was a huge success, with all exams going ahead safely even when a small number of schools closed due to COVID-19.

“Having a robust set of COVID-safe exam protocols in place was vital to the success of exams this year,” Mr Martin said.

“The protocols and plans in place also proved effective in mitigating against other issues throughout the exam period, including flooding in parts of the state. Students in the impacted areas were able to safely get to alternate exam venues.

“My sincerest gratitude goes to the school community and exam staff for delivering a COVID-safe HSC this year.”

Marking is already underway, with results to be delivered via SMS and email on Monday 24 January.

Students can get their school assessment ranks from this afternoon via Students Online until 30 December.

How To Host A Safe Party: Tips And Advice

courtesy NSW Police
For your information the NSW Police Force have listed some suggestions for you to consider when having a party or gathering. By following the advice below, you can help minimise the risks and help make your party successful, enjoyable and a safe time for everyone.

Before the party
Let the police know that you are having a party by completing the Party Registration Form online. Access the form through the NSW Police Force website and lodge at least 72 hours prior to the party being held.

Consider how the party will be advertised. Don't use Internet, SMS or email distribution lists, online notice boards or social networking sites. If word of the party has spread, you will need to take extra preventative measures (ie. Change venue, more adult supervisors, hire a security guard, ask neighbours to notify you of any unusual behaviour).

Guest lists should be kept to a manageable size. If you are hosting a young person's party, and you are expecting a large number of people, consider asking other responsible adults to assist with supervision, or consider hiring security officers.

Consider numbering your invitations or have the guests produce their invitation at the door in order to get entry. Accompany this with a door list to ensure only those invited are allowed to enter. This is relevant for adolescent parties.

Ask your guests to ensure that other people are not invited without the host's permission.

Personally hand out invitations and let people know that it is an exclusive party, strictly invitation only. That way you can control who is at the party - the door list will help with this.

Make sure your party has a definite start and finish time, and that your guests know what these times are.

If your party is to be held in a hall or sporting facility, contact your local council or community group regarding the hiring conditions, public liability, restrictions etc. This may end up saving you money in the long run.

Go to the location beforehand and check it out. Know where the entrance(s) and exit(s) to the venue are. It is wise to avoid buildings with multiple entrances if you don't want gatecrashers.

Talk to your neighbours and give them a contact number should an emergency occur.

Find out about local noise regulations (contact your Local Council or Police if in doubt).

Prepare your house
Lock away items that can be broken or damaged like the TV, laptop and electrical items. Also put things away that may be easily stolen such as jewellery, mobile phones, and cameras. If you can pick it up, so can others.

If your guests are under 18 years old, you can't serve them alcohol. It's an offence and the consequence is a hefty fine.

If uninvited people attend the party, ask them to leave, if they don't leave contact police on 131 444. If it is an emergency call Triple Zero (000).

The venue
Think about the party size and venue. Is your home too small? Would a hall/function centre be a more appropriate and controlled environment?

Consider appropriate lighting (particularly any dark hidden-away areas you may have).

Are there sufficient toilets so people don't go outside?

What about parking and nearby public amenities?

Where will people put their valuables when they arrive and during the party?

Allocate a lockable room for valuables and close off rooms you do not want people to use.

During the party
If gatecrashers arrive, ask them to leave. If they won't leave, call the police on 131 444 or if there is an emergency call Triple Zero (000).

Remember, you have the right to refuse entry to your property. It is an offence for people to trespass if you have refused them entry.

Have emergency numbers handy.

Locate band and speaker systems as far away from neighbours as possible, and try to keep noise to a minimum. Excessive noise is most likely to be the reason that police will be called to attend a party.

Plan a wind-down time leading up to the finish, turning down music etc.

Supervision and security
Think about adult supervision/security for your party. Who will you use? How many?

Will you use other parents or hire licensed security officers?

If the party is for a young person, please ensure parental supervision is not about “spying” on the young people attending, but just having adults on hand to deal with potential trouble.

Make sure that the supervision is visible, as this will also deter “gatecrashers”.

Drug and alcohol issues
Be aware that it is an offence for alcohol to be served or provided to people under the age of 18.

Ensure under 18's do not have access to alcohol. Confiscate BYO alcohol from under 18's

If under 18's do consume alcohol/drugs, contact their parents and have them collected from the party

Discourage guests from bringing their own alcohol to the party as this will give you greater control over drink distribution and the amount consumed.

Should you decide to allow guests to bring their own alcohol, avoid providing open containers that can be “spiked” or used to disguise the volume of alcohol being consumed.

Supervise responsible serving of alcohol for over 18's. Consider nominating a parent or responsible adult to supervise the service or serve the alcohol so that the intoxication and behaviour of your guests can be monitored.

For over 18's parties, make sure there is plenty of alternative non-alcoholic drinks and water.

Crowd management techniques
Have only one entrance or exit to make it easier to control who attends your party. Consider how you will monitor and control this.

Don't allow people to wander around or congregate out the front of your house. Try to confine the party to a backyard, building or enclosed area as it is easier to control your guests. Avoid using front yards or street frontages as this attracts uninvited guests/gatecrashers and can cause complaints from neighbours.

Have visible supervision or security.

Take into account that many people smoke. It is best to make accommodation for this within the confines of the party venue. This keeps guests from having to go outside, which ensures better crowd management.

Remember that it is your party and you have the right to set the standard of acceptable behaviour and to see that it is maintained.

You also have the right to ask people to leave.

If required contact the police on 131 444. In an emergency always contact Triple Zero (000).

Happy Dragon Off To Antarctica This Summer

There's a new ship in town...Happy Dragon is an ice-strengthened heavy cargo vessel that will help us resupply Casey and Davis research stations this summer.

Welcome to Hobart and the Australian Antarctic Program!

Photos: BigLift Shipping

Sydney's Sunny Beaches

Published by NFSA December 2, 2021

From the Film Australia Collection.  Made by the Cinema and Photographic Branch 1925. Directed by Bert Ive. Huge crowds enjoy mixed bathing, playing games and relaxing on Bondi Beach. Women with parasols parade on promenade. Men form a human pyramid, young girls do cartwheels, and lifesavers demonstrate a surf rescue and resuscitation techniques. Shows 'flappers' at South Bondi as well as scenes at Bronte and Tamarama Beaches.

Royal Australian Navy Commissions Replenishment Ship HMAS Stalwart

Published by the Department of Defence Australia

The Royal Australian Navy’s newest ship HMAS Stalwart was commissioned at a ceremony at Fleet Base West on 13 November 2021.  Stalwart is the second of two Supply class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) ships built for Navy and will be homeported at Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia. The Supply Class AORs’ primary role is to provide logistics replenishment to naval combat units while at sea.

JOIN Ruby “Rockstar” Trew at DROP IN for YOUTH 2021


+ Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam

OVER $10,000 in CASH - PRIZES - GIVEAWAYS to be WON!



@MONA VALE SKATE PARK, 1604 Pittwater Road, Mona Vale

Saturday, 11 December 2021; 09:30 am- $15 entry online. $20 entry on event day, rego opens 9:30am. Vert Comp kicks off 10:30am.


SKATE VERT COMP Kicks off 10:30am


  • - 6 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 8 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 12 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 16 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - Open Women’s - All Ages
  • - Open Men’s - All Ages
  • - Masters 45+ - Women's and Men's


Participants can only compete in a single category for the event. Age Group participants are competing for prizes. Entry into the Open category is for anyone who wants to compete for prize money.

Open and Masters participants are competing for ca$h and GLORY!

Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam competitions are for everyone to have some fun!

Presented by: Avalon Youth Hub - Business Education Network (THE BEN) - Hurley ANZ - Lifeline Northern Beaches - Modest Eyewear Co - Monster Skate Park - Rotaract - Skater HQ

Lifeline Northern Beaches is offering FREE face-to-face counselling at the Avalon Youth Hub for people aged 15-24. Counselling is safe and confidential, and our service is available with or without a referral. For more information, visit To book an appointment, call Lifeline Northern Beaches on 9949 5522 or email

TAFE NSW Offers Thousands Of Free Training Places

November 22, 2021

School leavers and jobseekers in the Northern Beaches now have access to thousands of free course places in the NSW Government funded Summer Skills, Lockdown Learning, and Job Trainer programs at TAFE NSW.   

TAFE NSW is offering free training in courses aligned to meet the skills needs of businesses in NSW, such as aviation, construction, cyber security and hospitality.    

TAFE NSW Managing Director Steffen Faurby said more than 20,000 people have already enrolled in fee-free Lockdown Learning courses, with almost 10,000 people studying with TAFE NSW for the first time.   

“TAFE NSW has assisted thousands of people with free training to upskill themselves or their staff, enhance their job prospects, or begin retraining for a new career,” Mr Faurby said.   

“With HSC exams underway, Summer Skills offers school leavers free short courses to upskill over the summer months, in courses such as Medical Terminology, Design and Build a Website, and Retail Customer Service.”     

TAFE NSW Northern Beaches will be offering the free Summer Skills course: Statement of Attainment in Introduction to Cookery Skills

Leading employment marketplace Seek currently has 1,200 kitchenhand jobs in NSW on its site, with North Shore & Northern Beaches accounting for more than 140 of them.      

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Commercial Cookery Richard Etherington said the Statement of Attainment in Introduction to Cookery Skills is fully subsidised for eligible students and allows them to launch a career in the fast-paced hospitality industry.  

“TAFE NSW is offering many Summer Skills courses via online learning or virtual classrooms, which means that no matter where you are located you can take up the opportunity to boost your employability and gain new skills,” Mr Etherington said.    

“The Statement of Attainment in Introduction to Cookery Skills is being offered at the local Northern Beaches campus, and is a great opportunity for school leavers to learn practical cookery and kitchen organisational skills. 

“Students will learn how to prepare dishes using basic methods of cookery, use hygienic practices for food safety, participate in safe work practices, and use food preparation equipment.”   

For more information about studying at TAFE NSW, visit or phone 131 601. 

Who invented video games?

For almost as long as there have been computers, there have been video games. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Noah Wardrip-FruinUniversity of California, Santa Cruz

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to

Who invented video games? TJ, age 7, Worcester, Massachusetts

Some people just love to play. Give them a ball, or a pen, or a pile of leaves and they’ll find a way to play with it. In fact, enough people love to play that just about any time someone invents something new, people find a way to play with it.

Christopher Strachey didn’t invent modern computers. He didn’t even see one until 1951, several years after others had first created the first ones. But he had been friendly with Alan Turing, who was one of the inventors of modern computers, when he was in college in England.

Five vertical racks of antique electronics
The Mark I is considered the first computer because it could store programs written for it. Anders Sandberg/FlickrCC BY

So when Strachey heard about the new Mark I computer installed at the University of Manchester in the U.K., he was able to ask Turing for a copy of the programming manual. He studied the manual, then got the chance to write a program for the computer. People were so impressed with his work that he soon had access to the computer whenever he had time off from his job as a teacher.

Strachey spent his school breaks working on a checkers-playing program, which was remarkably complicated for the time. It showed the board on a screen – a cathode-ray tube. Players wrote their moves on a teletype, a typewriter electronically connected to the computer, which both printed the moves on paper and sent them to the computer. The machine would “look ahead” at the different possible moves and countermoves, both to choose what it should do next and to make fun of players for particularly bad moves.

a checkerboard displayed on a black and white cathode ray tube
The first video game was a digital version of checkers. Wikimedia Commons

I call this game “M.U.C. Draughts” in my book “How Pac-Man Eats,” because Strachey never gave it a name. M.U.C. stands for Manchester University Computer and draughts is the British name for checkers. I think it’s the first video game. But there are lots of playful people out there, so someone else might have come first. Around the same time that Strachey was creating M.U.C. Draughts, A.S. (Sandy) Douglas created a game of tic-tac-toe, which was also displayed on a cathode-ray tube, for the University of Cambridge EDSAC computer. In the future we may find that other playful people made other video games for early computers.

People still play video game versions of board games and card games, but they’re usually not the first thing you think of when someone says “video games.” Generally people think about the video display showing a simulated space, with one or more features the player can control in that space – maybe gliding across the sky in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or the buildings and people in Civilization.

The next big step (that I know about) toward such games is now called Tennis for Two – though it didn’t have a name when it was created. William Higinbotham, Robert V. Dvorak and David Potter created it as a demonstration for the 1958 visitors’ day at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. They used an old-fashioned analog computer to create a side view of a tennis court, showing the ground, a net and a ball that would fly over the net. But after visiting day it got taken apart.

Spacewar! was another demonstration project, released in 1962 by a group of MIT engineers that included Steve “Slug” Russell, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards and Martin Graetz. It took the computing world by storm.

Rolling Stone magazine even sponsored a “Spacewar! Olympics” in 1972 – an amazing level of publicity at a time when most people had never even seen a computer in person, much less played a video game.

Spacewar! was the first video game to catch the public’s attention.

Spacewar! is the first game to do all the things people today commonly expect a video game to do. It had a simulated space, with objects moving around. In this case it was outer space, with a backdrop of stars and a central sun that exerted gravity. There were elements that players controlled in that space, specifically two spaceships locked in battle. And there were visual flourishes, such as fire emerging from the backs of the ships whenever players used their thrusters to move around.

Video games first came into the home in 1972 with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey game console. Ralph Baer, Bob Tremblay, Bob Solomon, Bill Rush and other engineers at Sanders Associates were trying to figure out a way to play games on home televisions. They came up with the idea of a ball being hit back and forth: electronic ping-pong, the precursor to Pong, a game that became wildly popular.

From there video games became a growing force in world culture – powered by people who love to play.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Professor of Computational Media, University of California, Santa Cruz

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

Have we made an object that could travel 1% the speed of light?

It only takes light about eight minutes to go from the Sun to Earth. loops7/E+ via Getty Images
Chris ImpeyUniversity of Arizona

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to

Have we made an object that could travel at at least 1% the speed of light? – Anadi, age 14, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Light is fast. In fact, it is the fastest thing that exists, and a law of the universe is that nothing can move faster than light. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 kilometers per second) and can go from the Earth to the Moon in just over a second. Light can streak from Los Angeles to New York in less than the blink of an eye.

While 1% of anything doesn’t sound like much, with light, that’s still really fast – close to 7 million miles per hour! At 1% the speed of light, it would take a little over a second to get from Los Angeles to New York. This is more than 10,000 times faster than a commercial jet.

A spacecraft with the sun in the background.
The Parker Solar Probe, seen here in an artist’s rendition, is the fastest object ever made by humans and used the gravity of the Sun to get going 0.05% the speed of light. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

The Fastest Things Ever Made

Bullets can go 2,600 mph (4,200 kmh), more than three times the speed of sound. The fastest aircraft is NASA’s X3 jet plane, with a top speed of 7,000 mph (11,200 kph). That sounds impressive, but it’s still only 0.001% the speed of light.

The fastest human-made objects are spacecraft. They use rockets to break free of the Earth’s gravity, which takes a speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 kmh). The spacecraft that is traveling the fastest is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. After it launched from Earth in 2018, it skimmed the Sun’s scorching atmosphere and used the Sun’s gravity to reach 330,000 mph (535,000 kmh). That’s blindingly fast – yet only 0.05% of the speed of light.

Why Even 1% Of Light Speed Is Hard

What’s holding humanity back from reaching 1% of the speed of light? In a word, energy. Any object that’s moving has energy due to its motion. Physicists call this kinetic energy. To go faster, you need to increase kinetic energy. The problem is that it takes a lot of kinetic energy to increase speed. To make something go twice as fast takes four times the energy. Making something go three times as fast requires nine times the energy, and so on.

For example, to get a teenager who weighs 110 pounds (50 kilograms) to 1% of the speed of light would cost 200 trillion Joules (a measurement of energy). That’s roughly the same amount of energy that 2 million people in the U.S. use in a day.

A shiny golden-hued square with a small spacecraft attached in space with a planet in the background.
Solar sails, the thin shiny square seen in this artist’s rendition of the Japanese IKAROS spacecraft, could propel a spacecraft to 10% the speed of light. Andrzej Mirecki via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

How Fast Can We Go?

It’s possible to get something to 1% the speed of light, but it would just take an enormous amount of energy. Could humans make something go even faster?

Yes! But engineers need to figure out new ways to make things move in space. All rockets, even the sleek new rockets used by SpaceX and Blue Origins, burn rocket fuel that isn’t very different from gasoline in a car. The problem is that burning fuel is very inefficient.

Other methods for pushing a spacecraft involve using electric or magnetic forcesNuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun, is also much more efficient than chemical fuel.

Scientists are researching many other ways to go fast – even warp drives, the faster-than-light travel popularized by Star Trek.

One promising way to get something moving very fast is to use a solar sail. These are large, thin sheets of plastic attached to a spacecraft and designed so that sunlight can push on them, like wind in a normal sail. A few spacecraft have used solar sails to show that they work, and scientists think that a solar sail could propel spacecraft to 10% of the speed of light.

One day, when humanity is not limited to a tiny fraction of the speed of light, we might travel to the stars.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona

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

How plankton helped create the Earth’s mountains 2 billion years ago

The Himalayas. Liudmila Kotvictchkaia/Shutterstock
John ParnellUniversity of Aberdeen

A world without the great mountain ranges – the Himalayas, the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes – is unimaginable, but they were not always a part of the Earth’s geography. Mountains didn’t start forming widely until 2 billion years ago, half way through the planet’s history. Now our research has revealed how primitive life played a key role in their introduction to the planet.

While the formation of mountains is usually associated with the collision of tectonic plates causing huge slabs of rock to be thrust skywards, our study has shown that this was triggered by an abundance of nutrients in the oceans 2 billion years ago which caused an explosion of planktonic life.

A diagram showing the timeline of mountains on Earth.
Timeline for the formation of mountains on Earth. J Johnston/University of AberdeenAuthor provided

Making Mountains

Mountains are not just a beautiful backdrop for recreation, they are essential to the way the world works, through their influence on weather, climate, the distribution of fresh water and the erosion of rock to make cultivable soil.

Before there were mountains, the plate movements that reshape the distribution of oceans and continents only occurred on a limited scale. But the movement of these plates are essential to making mountains. The pressure of one plate pushing against another – typically an ocean plate hitting a continental plate – causes slabs of ocean rock to break off and stack up on top of each other as they are pushed from behind.

Over millions of years the stack of rocks builds up, creating mountains, just as the Himalayas were built from ocean rocks between India and Eurasia, pushed northwards until the ocean disappeared and its remains were left piled high.

We know these mountains came originally from the ocean by the sea fossils found on the Tibetan plateau, thousands of metres above sea level. But piling up huge slabs of rock on such a scale needs serious lubrication, otherwise friction would stop them. That lubricant is carbon, which became part of the ocean rock when dead plankton fell to the ocean floor and became buried.

Plankton have lived in our oceans for over 3 billion years, but 2 billion years ago their numbers exploded when abundant nutrients entered the water. At the time, life was no more complex than their single cells. But the cells became much bigger, and they contained more carbon.

When they died they sank quickly and were buried in mud which created rock with unprecedented amounts of carbon, which was turned into graphite by heat and pressure. Graphite makes a great lubricant. Locks, hinges, gears, wheels and even zips all move more easily with graphite – and so do rocks.

Diagram showing how mountains are formed by tectonic pressure and carbon.
Slabs of rock stacked up by lubricating carbon, which creates mountains when tectonic plates collide; precise geometry is much more complex, and slabs may stack in the opposite direction. J Bowie/University of AberdeenAuthor provided


The plentiful graphite that accumulated beneath the ocean floor had a profound effect, by lubricating the building of mountains. While it has long been known that tectonic processes were lubricated, our research shows that it was the sheer abundance of carbon in the ocean that played a crucial role in the thickening of the Earth’s crust that built its mountain ranges.

The process has continued since then, and other geological layers like salt have also played their part, but the graphite beds of 2 billion years ago were especially slippery, and some have been involved in making mountains more than once.

The biggest mountains on Earth, the Himalayas, are geologically young – about 50 million years old – but rocks made in a much older ocean slid over each other to help create them. They had already slid in the first millions of years after they formed, and then after a long dormancy they slid again to help the rise of the Himalayas. They may slide again in the distant future.

Long after mankind is gone, those ancient plankton will continue their influence on the planet. The mountains made 2 billion years ago are worn down now, but we can still see their roots in places like Scotland, for example.

Our study looked at 20 cases of mountain building around the world from that time, from Australia to China, South America to the Arctic and in north-west Scotland, where we can see the slip surfaces in graphite-bearing rocks in Harris, Iona and Gairloch, formed during earthquakes that accompanied the earliest mountain building. The island of Tiree is one of the flattest places in Britain, but the seabirds that run over its sandy beaches cross the foundations of huge, long-gone mountains.

A beach fringing turquoise waters on the Hebridean island of Tiree off the West Coast of Scotland.
The Hebridean island of Tiree is now utterly flat, its 2 billion-year-old mountains worn away. Alistair MacLean/Shutterstock

Graphite Resources

In each of the 20 ancient mountain ranges that were studied, exceptional amounts of graphite were recorded. In many cases the graphite is abundant enough to have been mined as a resource.

Graphite is now a hot commodity, as it is needed in the batteries that are central to green technology (far more graphite is required than lithium in a lithium ion battery). Many of the largest graphite deposits in the world were formed about 2 billion years ago. The graphite that helped bring us mountains may prove critical to the planet once more, and play a key role in its preservation for future generations.

Without the carbon from countless cells of plankton, the distribution of tectonic plates may have evolved rather differently, and we would not have mountains as we know them. Ours is a planet fundamentally shaped by life.The Conversation

John Parnell, Professor of Geology and Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen

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

A new exoplanet: meet GJ 367b, an iron planet smaller and denser than Earth

SPP 1992 (Patricia Klein)
Coel HellierKeele University

As our Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago, small grains of dust and ice swirled around, left over from the formation of the Sun. Through time, they collided and stuck to each other. As they grew in size, gravity helped them clump together. One such rock grew into the Earth on which we live.

We now believe that most of the stars in the night sky are also orbited by their own planets. Astronomers have already found more than a thousand gas-giant planets – large, gaseous bodies similar in size to Jupiter. The focus now is on looking for rocky, Earth-sized planets. We expect that these will be similarly abundant but, being much smaller, they’re harder to find.

new paper published in the journal Science documents the latest discovery of a small planet, assigned the catalogue number GJ 367b. This exoplanet was found by a team, of which I was a member, led by Dr Kristine Lam of the Institute of Planetary Research at the German Aerospace Center.

Members of the team noticed the first signs of GJ 367b in data from Nasa’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess. Among the millions of stars being monitored by this satellite, one showed a tiny but recurrent dip in its brightness. This is the tell-tale sign of a planet passing in front of its star every orbit (called a “transit”), blocking some of the star’s light. The dip was only 0.03% deep, so shallow that it’s near the limit of what can be detected. That means the planet must be small, comparable to Earth.

Lam also wanted to learn about the planet’s mass. To do that, her team set about observing the host star at every opportunity with what’s called the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, or Harps. This is an instrument attached to a 3.6-metre telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. It was specially designed to find planets by detecting the slight shift in the wavelength of the host star’s light, caused by the gravitational pull of the planet. It took more than 100 observations to detect that shift, meaning that GJ 367b, besides being small, must also have a low mass.

Eventually, as observations with Harps accumulated, the researchers tied down the numbers: GJ 367b has a radius of 72% of Earth’s radius (to an accuracy of 7%), and a mass of 55% of Earth’s mass (to an accuracy of 14%). The measurements tell us this planet is denser than Earth. Whereas Earth has a core of iron surrounded by a rocky mantle, this planet is so dense that it must be nearly all iron, making it similar to Mercury.

Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days. Blasted by fierce sunlight, the “daytime” side is bare rock heated to 430℃. GJ 367b is even more extreme. The recurrent transit dips tell us that it orbits its star in only eight hours. Being so close, the daytime side will be a furnace heated to 1,400℃, such that even rock would be molten.

So how did it come to be? It’s possible that GJ 367b was once a giant planet with a vast, gaseous envelope, like Neptune. Over time, that gaseous envelope would have boiled off, leaving only the bare core that we see today. Or perhaps, as it formed, collisions with other proto-planets (planets in the process of forming) stripped off a mantle of rock, leaving only the iron core.

GJ 367b is similar in size to Mars, but its properties are like Mercury. NASA Images/Shutterstock

GJ 367b is, of course, way too hot to be habitable. But it’s one of very few rocky, Earth-sized planets astronomers have found so far. Its discovery shows that we can both find Earth-sized planets around other stars and measure their properties. The task now is to find them further from their star, in the “habitable zone”, where the surface temperature would allow water to exist as a liquid.

This is harder. The further out from its star a planet is, the less likely it is to be seen transiting the star, and the longer the time between transits, making them harder to detect. Additionally, orbiting further out, the gravitational tug on the host star is reduced, making the signal harder to detect.

But GJ 367b’s host star is a red dwarf, a star much dimmer than the Sun. And, with less heating from starlight, the habitable zone around red dwarfs is much closer in. Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft has already found planets in the habitable zone of red dwarf stars, and Tess promises to find many more.

The next step is to ask whether such planets have atmospheres, what those atmospheres are made of, and whether they contain water vapour. Even there, answers may soon be forthcoming. We’ve already found water vapour in the atmospheres of gas-giant exoplanets, and the James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch imminently, will attempt to find water on smaller, rocky planets.

As exoplanet discoveries continue apace, it is becoming feasible that we could, before long, prove the existence of a planet that has an atmosphere and a rocky surface, on which water is running freely.The Conversation

Coel Hellier, Professor of Astrophysics, Keele University

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

Love it or hate it, TikTok is changing the music industry

Kai RiemerUniversity of Sydney and Sandra PeterUniversity of Sydney

“Tik-a-Tok-a-Who?”, was Adele’s response to her management’s suggestion to promote her music to younger audiences on Tiktok, the video-sharing platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

“If everyone’s making music for the TikTok, who’s making music for my generation?”, she asked.

Adele might resist, but the platform has nonetheless been popularising and promoting her song Easy on me, with creators using it in almost one million videos in the first month after its release, making it viral on the app alone.

That’s because creator culture on TikTok is changing the way hits are made, how music is promoted, and how the world discovers music, even for those artists who choose not to engage with it.

TikTok Makes Hits

In early 2019, an unknown 19-year-old college drop-out from Atlanta, Georgia, made headlines around the world.

Living at his sister’s house and feeling bit lonely, in December 2018 he had bought a simple beat for US $30, recorded a song, half country and half rap, and posted it on Soundcloud and social media. The artist made news because Billboard magazine had removed the song from its country charts, after it took off in popularity, entering both the country and general Hot 100 charts.

The artist’s name was Lil Nas X and the song Old Town Road, which has since become the most successful song of all time, the first ever song to reach 15 times platinum. Much of this success can be credited to the song becoming an early TikTok “meme”, picked up by millions of users.

Old Town Road has become the origin story for a remarkable series of viral musical successes on TikTok. In each case artists have shot to popularity, because their songs were used by millions of TikTok users in their videos.

Virality on TikTok is powerful yet unpredictable. Some of 2021’s biggest global hits gained little traction when they were initially released to small audiences. Africa’s most successful pop song ever, CKay’s Love, Nwantiti, was released in 2019, but shot to fame only in 2021 and has now been used in more than 7 million TikTok videos.

Similarly, Australia’s Masked Wolf found himself in the spotlight in 2021, making Barrack Obama’s summer playlist and having been nominated for five ARIA awards. While his song Astronaut in the Ocean became a global hit more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it was released two years prior by a small Australian label. It has since been used in more than 18 million TikTok videos.

And while many artists, like Lil Nas X, create for virality on TikTok, others go viral even when unaware of the platform. We spoke to Masked Wolf who admitted:

I never made Astro to be on TikTok. I didn’t even know what TikTok was when I released Astronaut.

But it is not just new songs. Old songs are making remarkable comebacks with entirely new audiences. When a man named Nathan Apodaca went viral after he posted a video of himself gliding down a highway on his long board, casually drinking cranberry juice from a bottle, he was lip-syncing to Dreams, the 1977 Fleetwood Mac hit. Dreams was subsequently used by millions of TikTok creators and re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 more than 40 years after its original release.

How It Works

Videos created on the TikTok app are short. Most videos are less than 15 seconds long (though videos of up to 60 seconds are possible). Music plays a big part in these videos, many show dance moves or lip syncing, though there are others where users talk, even giving financial advice. When users create their videos, they will usually choose a song and select a short clip, often the catchiest bits of a song, like the chorus or beat drop.

Users can upload their own sound clips, but the app will detect copyrighted material that its owners do not allow on the platform and mute the sound. Instead, the app has in recent years put together an extensive catalogue of music authorised by big music labels, who have come on board due to TikTok’s role in producing global hits.

Behind this virality are so-called challenges, in which often millions of users create their own versions of a visual story or dance move set to the same music clip, and promoted by the platform using hashtags. For example, in the #yeehaw challenge that brought Old Town Road to fame, people dressed in normal clothes and danced until the beat changed in the clip, when they would instantly transform into cowgirls or cowboys.

But videos on TikTok do not directly contribute to chart success. However, there is a direct correlation between a song going viral on TikTok and it gaining in popularity on music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube, all of which in turn contribute to the Billboard charts.

What It Means For Artists, Listeners And The Music Industry

In our research, we spoke to Ole Obermann, Global Head of Music for TikTok and ByteDance, about the impact for artists, the music industry and music lovers. Ole points to the diversity of music on TikTok and new opportunities for finding music far beyond one’s usual taste.

He also stresses TikTok’s role in discovering artists from all corners of the globe: “I do see a pretty profound impact on the global nature of music as a result of TikTok but also music streaming overall. It’s so much more possible for a song that comes out of Australia or India or Korea or Japan or Saudi Arabia. To end up becoming a global hit and to be listened to by audiences all over the world.”

The recent successes of Love Nwantiti and Astronaut in the Ocean are just two examples to make this point.

TikTok is an excellent platform for listeners to gain exposure to new and different music. TikTok’s self-learning algorithm serves up new videos as a seemingly endless stream, allowing users to be exposed to a large amount of new music quickly, given videos are very short. When a user likes a particular song, with a simple tap they can instantly watch more videos set to the same clip.

The music industry is also coming on board, convinced by the viral success the platform produces. Ole Obermann again:

I think the acceptance has come now because that’s what the fans want. And it’s a way to create more engagement with the music, but there was a lot of resistance for many years, because it was just not the way that the music industry has traditionally worked.

The initial resistance is not surprising, given TikTok presents a significant shift from the industry’s understanding of recorded music as something to be listened to, to be passively consumed. Engagement with music on TikTok is very different, because music becomes a material for creation, for creative expression.

Importantly, what we see today is likely only the beginning, both in terms of new forms of creative expression, and promoting and marketing music in new ways.

But success also attracts investment, and creating on TikTok will likely become more commercialised over time. So far much of the virality has happened organically. But music labels increasingly hire professional influencers to use their music, or work with consultants to make songs more “TikTokkable”, in an attempt to engineer the next viral trend.

It remains to be seen if this will crowd out organic creativity, or if artists will feel pressure to create for TikTok virality, as foreshadowed by Adele.The Conversation

Kai Riemer, Professor of Information Technology and Organisation, University of Sydney and Sandra Peter, Director, Sydney Business Insights, University of Sydney

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

Mathematical discoveries take intuition and creativity – and now a little help from AI

Geordie WilliamsonUniversity of Sydney

Research in mathematics is a deeply imaginative and intuitive process. This might come as a surprise for those who are still recovering from high-school algebra.

What does the world look like at the quantum scale? What shape would our universe take if we were as large as a galaxy? What would it be like to live in six or even 60 dimensions? These are the problems that mathematicians and physicists are grappling with every day.

To find the answers, mathematicians like me try to find patterns that relate complicated mathematical objects by making conjectures (ideas about how those patterns might work), which are promoted to theorems if we can prove they are true. This process relies on our intuition as much as our knowledge.

Over the past few years I’ve been working with experts at artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind to find out whether their programs can help with the creative or intuitive aspects of mathematical research. In a new paper published in Nature, we show they can: recent techniques in AI have been essential to the discovery of a new conjecture and a new theorem in two fields called “knot theory” and “representation theory”.

Machine Intuition

Where does the intuition of a mathematician come from? One can ask the same question in any field of human endeavour. How does a chess grandmaster know their opponent is in trouble? How does a surfer know where to wait for a wave?

The short answer is we don’t know. Something miraculous seems to happen in the human brain. Moreover, this “miraculous something” takes thousands of hours to develop and is not easily taught.

The past decade has seen computers display the first hints of something like human intuition. The most striking example of this occurred in 2016, in a Go match between DeepMind’s AlphaGo program and Lee Sedol, one of the world’s best players.

AlphaGo won 4–1, and experts observed that some of AlphaGo’s moves displayed human-level intuition. One particular move (“move 37”) is now famous as a new discovery in the game.

How Do Computers Learn?

Behind these breakthroughs lies a technique called deep learning. On a computer one builds a neural network – essentially a crude mathematical model of a brain, with many interconnected neurons.

At first, the network’s output is useless. But over time (from hours to even weeks or months), the network is trained, essentially by adjusting the firing rates of the neurons.

Such ideas were tried in the 1970s with unconvincing results. Around 2010, however, a revolution occurred when researchers drastically increased the number of neurons in the model (from hundreds in the 1970s to billions today).

One of the first neural networks, the Mark I Perceptron, was built in the 1950s. The goal was to classify digital images, but results were disappointing. Cornell University

Traditional computer programs struggle with many tasks humans find easy, such as natural language processing (reading and interpreting text), and speech and image recognition.

With the deep learning revolution of the 2010s, computers began performing well on these tasks. AI has essentially brought vision and speech to machines.

Training neural nets requires huge amounts of data. What’s more, trained deep learning models often function as “black boxes”. We know they often give the right answer, but we usually don’t know (and can’t ascertain) why.

Deep learning systems often function as ‘black boxes’: data goes in and data comes out, but we have difficulty making sense of what happens in between. Shutterstock

A Lucky Encounter

My involvement with AI began in 2018, when I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. At the induction ceremony in London I met Demis Hassabis, chief executive of DeepMind.

Over a coffee break we discussed deep learning, and possible applications in mathematics. Could machine learning lead to discoveries in mathematics, like it had in Go?

This fortuitous conversation led to my collaboration with the team at DeepMind.

Mathematicians like myself often use computers to check or perform long computations. However, computers usually cannot help me develop intuition or suggest a possible line of attack. So we asked ourselves: can deep learning help mathematicians build intuition?

With the team from DeepMind, we trained models to predict certain quantities called Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials, which I have spent most of my mathematical life studying.

In my field we study representations, which you can think of as being like molecules in chemistry. In much the same way that molecules are made of atoms, the make up of representations is governed by Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials.

Amazingly, the computer was able to predict these Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials with incredible accuracy. The model seemed to be onto something, but we couldn’t tell what.

However, by “peeking under the hood” of the model, we were able to find a clue which led us to a new conjecture: that Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials can be distilled from a much simpler object (a mathematical graph).

This conjecture suggests a way forward on a problem that has stumped mathematicians for more than 40 years. Remarkably, for me, the model was providing intuition!

In parallel work with DeepMind, mathematicians Andras Juhasz and Marc Lackenby at the University of Oxford used similar techniques to discover a new theorem in the mathematical field of knot theory. The theorem gives a relation between traits (or “invariants”) of knots that arise from different areas of the mathematical universe.

Our paper reminds us that intelligence is not a single variable, like the result of an IQ test. Intelligence is best thought of as having many dimensions.

My hope is that AI can provide another dimension, deepening our understanding of the mathematical world, as well as the world in which we live.The Conversation

Geordie Williamson, Professor of Mathematics, University of Sydney

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

‘Strollout’ has gathered pace, romping home as the Macquarie word of the year. I’d have gone for ‘vax’ if on the list

Roslyn PetelinThe University of Queensland

In a break from the usual tradition, Macquarie asked the public to choose their word of the year in advance of the committee’s decision. The pundits were betting on a COVID-19 inspired word and the shortlist certainly contained possibilities related to the pandemic: “Delta”, “shadow pandemic”, and “strollout”. And they were right!

Macquarie’s other 16 possibilities included more obscure choices such as “humane washing” to describe “the misleading marketing of a product sourced from animals, deceptively giving the impression that the animals have been treated humanely” and “dry scooping” to describe the “practice of ingesting powdered pre-workout supplements or protein powder without mixing with water or milk as directed”.

Many of the wordsmiths I shared the list with had not heard of most of them. Neither had I. For example, “brain tickler” instead of nose swab.

Nor could we see ourselves using such terms as “hate-follow” (of sites whose content we disagreed with) or “front-stab” (as opposed to back-stab). We were offended by “menty-b” for mental breakdown and not that curious about “sober curious”.

And I’m too fond of proper baking to prepare a “dump cake” by combining the ingredients directly in the cake tin in which the cake is to be baked.

The term ‘menty-b’ gained popularity online as a shorthand for a pandemic induced ‘mental breakdown’. Shutterstock

Macquarie has just announced the result of the committee’s AND the people’s choice: both chose “strollout”. Defined as a “blend of rollout and stroll”, the word refers to the “perceived lack of speed” in Australia’s vaccine rollout.

Strollout was mostly used in media coverage to criticise the government for Australia’s initially slow rollout of the vaccination program over the past year.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre had already chosen “strollout”, which originated here and later featured on American media.

Oxford Dictionaries had chosen “vax”, which would have been my choice, had it been on Macquarie’s list. Was “strollout” as ubiquitous as “vax”?

Avoiding the COVID-19 direct expressions such as “Delta”, Cambridge had also gone for a subtler but still pandemic-inspired word of the year with “perseverance”, which we can all relate to.

Other Words Of The Year

Collins Dictionary chose the non-COVID “NFT” (non-fungible token), which WAS on Macquarie’s list. An NFT is an ownership certificate for a chunk of digital data such as an image, a domain name, a tweet, or a video. It’s a one-off, not fungible or replaceable by any other piece of data. Christies sold a digital artwork for £50 million earlier this year. Merriam-Webster hasn’t announced its choice yet. Nor has the American Dialect Society, the first body to launch a Word of the Year competition in 1990. It announces its choice after the end of the year.

You may be surprised that Cambridge has chosen the abstract word “perseverance”. Doesn’t the Word of the Year have to be a neologism like “strollout”?

Well, no! Macquarie usually chooses newly coined words like the whimsical “milkshake duck”, and “mansplain”, which was chosen as Macquarie’s word of the decade.

What Criteria Do The Authorities Base Their Choice On?

As Rose Wild asks in The Times, does a word of the year mean:

a word we perceive to be most used, abused or overused? Or is it one that encapsulates something unique to this year’s mood or events — or can it be both? What’s the point of it?

How Is The Decision Made? Who Gets To Choose?

Merriam-Webster bases its decision on the frequency of words that are “looked up” in their online dictionary. As does Cambridge. Collins tracks word usage in its corpus database that covers social media and print publications such as newspapers, and uses its team of editors, lexicographers, and marketing and publicity staff.

The American Dialect Society’s choice is determined by a vote of independent linguists. The Australian National Dictionary Centre’s editorial staff chooses words that have been prominent in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year, though the word is not always one that has originated in Australia.

Macquarie lists on its website a committee of language experts to make the choice.

Beyond The Word Of The Year

The American Dialect Society takes its mission seriously. It goes beyond Word of the Year to Word of the Decade; for the 2010s, it was the singular “they”. Its Word of the 20th Century was “Jazz” (Yay!), and its word of the past millennium was “she”.

The American Dialect Society also chooses words in several intriguing sub-categories. Some previous choices include most useful “they” (as a gender-neutral pronoun); most unnecessary “manbun”; most outrageous “gate rape” (airport patdown); most euphemistic “scooping technician” (a person whose job it is to pick up dog pooh); most productive “shaming” (as in “fat-shaming”); most likely to succeed “binge-watch” (many of us can confess to that), and most unlikely to succeed “sitbit” (a device that rewards a sedentary lifestyle), which is, of course, a pun on Fitbit. Some of us may be guilty of “sitbit”.

My favourite category is the most creative word. Apparently, the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport provides a “recombobulation area” for passengers who have passed through security screening, so that they can get their clothes and belongings back in order.

Having been prevented from international travel by COVID-closed borders for nearly two years, oh, how I long to be recombobulated again, though not necessarily at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.The Conversation

Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland

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

Up to half of Earth’s water may come from solar wind and space dust

Curtin University
Luke DalyUniversity of GlasgowMartin R. LeeUniversity of GlasgowNick TimmsCurtin University, and Phil BlandCurtin University

Water is vital for life on Earth, and some experts say we should all drink around two litres every day as part of a healthy lifestyle. But beyond the tap, where does our water come from?

It flows from local rivers, reservoirs and aquifers. But where has that water originated from? Over geological time, Earth cycles water through living organisms, the atmosphere, rivers, oceans, the rocks beneath our feet, and even through the planet’s deep interior.

But what about before that? Where did Earth get its water in the first place? Scientists have long searched for answers to this question.

We studied tiny pieces of an asteroid to find out – and we think a rain of protons from the Sun may be producing water all the time on rocks and dust throughout the Solar System. In fact, up to half of Earth’s water may have been produced this way and arrived here with falling space dust.

The Water Puzzle

We know Earth’s water likely came from outer space early in our Solar System’s history. So, what was the primordial delivery service that gave Earth its water?

Water-rich asteroids are currently the best candidates for the delivery of water, as well as carbon-hydrogen compounds, which together make possible our beautiful habitable blue planet teeming with life.

However, water from asteroids contains a specific ratio of ordinary hydrogen to a heavier kind, or isotope, called deuterium. If all of Earth’s water were from asteroids, we would expect it to have this same ratio – but Earth water has less deuterium, so there must also be some other source of water in space with less deuterium.

However, the only thing we know of in the Solar System with lots of hydrogen but a lower ratio of deuterium than Earth is the Sun itself. This puts us in a bit of a pickle, as it’s hard to see how the hydrogen in Earth’s water could have come from the Sun.

Excitingly, we might finally have an answer to this conundrum.

Tiny Pieces Of Asteroid

Back in 2011, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) sent the Hayabusa mission to take samples of the asteroid Itokawa and bring them back to Earth. In 2017, we were lucky enough to be allocated three extremely rare mineral particles from the sample, each about the width of a human hair.

Our aim was to study the outer surfaces of these dust particles in a brand new way to see if they have been affected by “space weathering”. This is a combination of processes which are known to affect all surfaces exposed in space, such as harmful galactic cosmic rays, micrometeorite impacts, solar radiation and solar wind.

The asteroid Itokawa was the source of grains of dust which contained a surprising layer of water. JAXA

We worked in a huge team involving experts from three continents, using a relatively new technique called atom probe tomography which analyses tiny samples at an atomic level. This let us measure the abundance and positions of individual atoms and molecules in 3D.

Near the surface of the Itokawa particles, we found a layer rich in hydroxide molecules (OH, containing one oxygen atom and one hydrogen) and, more importantly, water (H₂O, containing two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen).

This discovery of water was very unexpected! By everything we knew, these minerals from the asteroid should have been as dry as a bone.

How Solar Wind Makes Water

The most likely source of the hydrogen atoms required to form this water later is the solar wind: hydrogen ions (atoms with a missing electron) streaming through space from the Sun, then lodging in the surfaces of the dust particles.

We tested this theory in the lab by firing heavy hydrogen ions (deuterium) to simulate those in the solar wind at minerals like those in asteroids, and found that these ions react with the mineral particles and steal oxygen atoms to produce hydroxide and water.

Water created by the solar wind represents a previously unconsidered reservoir in our Solar System. And what’s more, every airless world or lump of rock across the galaxy could be home to a slowly renewed water resource powered by their suns.

This is fantastic news for future human space exploration. This life-giving water resource could potentially also be split into hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel.

Back Down To Earth

So how does this revelation relate to the origin of Earth’s water?

When Earth and its oceans were forming, the Solar System was teeming with objects from kilometre-wide asteroids to micrometre-scale dust particles. These objects have been falling onto our planet (and others) ever since.

Scaling up from our small space-weathered grain, we estimated that a cubic meter of asteroid dust could contain as much as 20 litres of water. So with all the space dust that has fallen to Earth over the aeons, a lot of water from the Sun (with less deuterium) would have arrived alongside the heavier water from larger asteroids.

We calculated that around a 50:50 mix of water-rich dust and asteroids would be a perfect match for the isotopic composition of Earth’s water.

So, while sipping your next glass of water, ponder the curious thought that Earth derived up to half its water from the Sun.The Conversation

Luke Daly, Lecturer in Planetary Geoscience, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of GlasgowMartin R. Lee, Head of the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of GlasgowNick Timms, Associate Professor, Curtin University, and Phil Bland, ARC Laureate Fellow, Curtin University

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

Seniors Stories: Volume 7 Now Available

NSW Seniors Card introduced the Seniors' Stories writing competition in 2013 as a way of recognising and valuing the experiences of NSW seniors and building connections between the young and old.
For each edition the top 100 stories are selected and published by NSW Seniors Card and distributed to the authors and libraries across the state.

These stories illustrate the substantial contributions made by older people and emphasise the need to ensure seniors are afforded ongoing opportunities to participate in our community and impart their knowledge and wisdom to younger generations.

.he theme of this year’s edition is ''What’s age got to do with it'', and each story reflects this theme in its own unique and inspiring way. NSW Seniors Card would like to thank the 100 authors whose stories are published in this volume, and the many other seniors who contributed to the overwhelming number and quality of stories we received. We would also like to thank Colleen Parker and the project team from the Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc., including those involved in the design and printing of the book.

Audio Files (just listen)

Front cover photo: ART OF AGEING 2020 EXHIBITION
image by Tim White
Peter Griffen b. 1948
Peter was a school teacher until 1979, when he quit to become a full-time abstract artist. He now has had exhibitions across the globe, and is always busy painting, running classes, teaching and travelling. His works adorn their Leichhardt warehouse home, The floor is covered with decades of paint, and there is a constant ordered chaos of paintings, equipment, projects and life.

“I believe that to make discoveries risks must be taken, the traveller must get lost. A well planned journey can only lead to an already known destination.”

Free Diary Helps Seniors Know Their Rights

December 2, 2021
Scams, retirement planning and e-safety are covered in a free 2022 diary for seniors to help them understand their legal rights.

Attorney General Mark Speakman encouraged seniors to pick up a copy of the Legal Topics for Older People 2022 Diary, which can now be pre-ordered online.

“We’re supporting NSW residents to age with dignity, and part of that is ensuring older people know where to turn if they’re experiencing elder abuse or discrimination,” Mr Speakman said.

“This fantastic publication produced annually by Legal Aid NSW provides details for legal and non-legal support services to help seniors stay connected and informed.”

Minister for Seniors Natalie Ward said some older people may be unaware of the legal avenues available to them.

“This diary helps break down the barriers which may prevent our seniors from asking for help and to arm them with the tools they need to access services available to them,” Mrs Ward said.

“It also keeps readers up to date with events like the popular NSW Seniors Festival and school holidays.”

Legal Aid NSW’s Acting CEO Monique Hitter said the diary was a critical resource for older people and the most popular publication the agency produces.

“It’s a great way to start some of those tough but important conversations about wills and planning for the future,” Ms Hitter said.

President of the Law Society of NSW Juliana Warner supported the production of such a critical legal resource for seniors.

“There are many legal issues impacting older people, including powers of attorney, aged care, housing, consumer rights and of course elder abuse. This diary covers them all,” Ms Warner said.

Pre-order the diary or calendar now, or pick up a copy from your local Legal Aid NSW office, state MP or library by 15 December.
(put 'older people' in search box)

Cut In Home Care Wait List Welcomed; But Where Are The Workers?

December 1, 2021
National Seniors welcomed news the home care wait list has decreased by 25 percent in twelve months helping to ease an unacceptable wait time for 41,000 older Australians.

Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the latest figures from the Home Care Packages Program Data Report show the number who accessed home care packages grew to 204,146 in September 2021 – an increase of more than 41,000 in 12 months. 

“National Seniors has been urging the Federal Government to take action to better support older Australians with the appropriate level of support they need and when they need it,” Mr Henschke said.

“After years of delays, exposed shamefully during the Royal Commission, we’re finally starting to see a significant drop in the wait list which has seen as many as 16,000 people die waiting, in one twelve-month period.” 

Where are the workers?
Mr Henschke cautioned while the wait list is clearing, there are still thousands of people waiting for home care support at a time of unprecedent labour shortages.

“While National Seniors is encouraged by today’s news, we urge the government or whoever wins the next election, to urgently address the shortage of quality workers.

There’s already a successful pilot program to train mature age workers in home care. This must be rolled out across the country to entice mature workers, particularly women, back into the workforce.

“We also need to let pensioners work if they want to.” Mr Henschke added 

“New Zealand has a Labour force participation rate of almost 25% among those aged 65 and over. Ours is less than 15%.

Only 3.4% of Age Pension recipients work in Australia. Many want to work but are discouraged because they lose 50c in the dollar from their pension when they work more than 1 day per week.

The workers are there, they just need incentives and training.

National Seniors is pushing for changes through a range of policies in the run up to the election and we’re continually reminding those in charge that older Australians want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. This is becoming a key election issue.”

More Seniors Access Home Care Packages As Waiting List Decreases

December 1, 2021
The number of people waiting to receive a home care package continues to decrease as the Australian Government ensures more senior Australians can live at home for longer.

The Home Care Packages Program Data Report (1st Quarter 2021-22) shows the number of people accessing a home care package grew to 204,146 at 30 September 2021 - an increase of over 41,000 older Australians in 12 months.

The number of people waiting for their approved home care package also dropped by 25 per cent from 30 September 2020 to 30 September 2021.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said it underlined the action taken by the Morrison Government in its comprehensive response to the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“Senior Australians want more choice, they want support to remain in control, to stay connected to their community and to remain as independent as possible, in their own home,” Minister Colbeck said.

“We have seen a 25 per cent decrease in the number of people who are waiting for a home care package at their approved level since 30 September 2020.

“The significant investment in home care packages and a shorter waitlist shows the Government is ensuring senior Australians have access to this kind of support when they need it.”

The Government is investing $6.5 billion for an additional 80,000 home care packages to support senior Australians who choose to remain in their own home.

Minister Colbeck said the packages, which commenced roll out from 1 July 2021, are expected to further reduce waitlist and wait times.

Importantly, 99 per cent of senior Australians waiting for a package at their assessed level have also been offered support from the Government, including an interim package or Commonwealth Home Support Programme and continue to have access to Australia's world-class health care system.

“We’re rolling out the packages quickly” Minister Colbeck said.

“In addition to the 40,000 packages released in 2021-22, another 40,000 packages will become available in 2022-23.

“This means that by 30 June 2023 there will be around 275,600 packages available.

“This allocation continues to significantly reduce the wait list while we work through the design phase of the new home care system which we aim to implement by July 2023."

Minister Colbeck said the Government remained committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of senior Australians remained a priority.

“We are working hard to make sure more senior Australians than ever before are able to receive the support they need to live at home and in the communities they love.”

The Home Care Packages Program Data Report (1st Quarter 2021-22) can be viewed here.

Scoping Study To Identify Key Issues For The Mental Health Of Older People

Researchers at the National Ageing Research Institute are working with the National Mental Health Commission to understand the key issues for older adults to maintain mental health and support those living with mental illness and their carers.

The research team is currently seeking participants to contribute to the study, including;

Focus Groups (time commitment: 1.5 hours)
  1. General community members aged 65 years+, or aged 50 years+ if they are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, live with HIV/AIDS or have an experience of chronic homelessness (participants will receive a $40 gift card for their involvement)
  2. An adult (18 years+) family or friend carers of older person living with mental health problems and using mental health services  (participants will receive a $40 gift card)
  3. Providers who work with older people with mental illness.
Individual interviews (time commitment: 40-60 minutes)

  • Persons aged 65 years+ (or aged 50 years+ if they are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, live with HIV/AIDS or have an experience of chronic homelessness) who have used mental health services in the past 12 months (participants will receive a $75 gift card).
To learn more, visit the National Ageing Research Institute website:

Recruitment will end on December 8, 2021 or when the desired number of participants has been reached

Is The Pension Fair?

With a federal election not far away, National Seniors Australia (the peak consumer group for older Australians), will host a free webinar titled, Is the pension fair? on Wednesday 8 December.
Panellists include Dr David Knox, Dr Deborah Ralston and Noel Whittaker, with National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke chairing the event.

“This is a rare chance to hear three of Australia’s leading experts on the ins and outs of our retirement system. We’ll look at the big questions: Should we have a universal pension? Why do we penalise pensioners who work? Is the pension fair?” said Mr Henschke.

“People can expect a robust and informative discussion on the adequacy of the pension and how we can improve the system as a whole.”

“I’m excited to hear from Dr Knox, Dr Ralston and Noel Whittaker – three people who’ve demonstrated over decades a commitment to improving outcomes for ALL older Australians.”

The webinar will also offer a platform for people to have their say.

“We want to make sure retirees are kept up to date about the key issues, particularly in the lead-up to the next budget and federal election,” said Mr Henschke. 

“It’s a great opportunity to give your views and join our campaigns to lobby government and drive real change. Together, we can make a difference. Remember you have to speak to get heard.”

Registration is free and open to members and non-members.

FREE - register here:

Unorthodox 'Exercise In A Pill' Could Offer Simple Solution For At-Risk Patients

December 1, 2021
Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have identified unique molecular signals in the body that could hold the key to developing a supplement capable of administering the health benefits of exercise to patients incapable of physical activity.

The molecular messages are sent to our brain and potentially our eyes immediately after we exercise.

The ANU team is conducting research to better understand what impact these molecular messages have on retinal health, but also the central nervous system and eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli, Head of Clear Vision Research at ANU, says the molecules could potentially be hijacked, recoded and "bottled up" in a pill and taken like a vitamin.

"The beneficial messages being sent to the central nervous system during exercise are packaged up in what are known as lipid particles. We are essentially prescribing the molecular message of exercise to those who physically aren't able to," he said.

"We think that as you age, the ability to communicate between the muscles and the retina starts to be lost. Similar to taking supplements, maybe we can provide genetic or molecular supplementation that enables that natural biological process to continue as we age.

"Our goal is to figure out what these molecules are communicating to the body and how they're communicating."

New ANU research has examined existing literature into the effects of exercise on the central nervous system and eyes. Specifically, the researchers set out to discover what impact exercise has on the retina -- the light-sensing part of the eye -- and whether exercise can help maintain good eyesight as we age.

Dr Joshua Chu-Tan, also from the ANU Clear Vision Research Lab, says further research is needed to understand how these molecular signals, which are sent from the rest of the body when we exercise, actually reach our brain and eyes.

He says the team's preliminary research into the benefits of exercise on the retina has unearthed some "promising" results.

"We know exercise is good for our eyesight, but to what extent is still unknown. Our aim is to understand the benefits of exercise at the molecular level and how it is beneficial for the central nervous system and the retina," Dr Chu-Tan said.

"We found the benefits of exercise extend far beyond what has traditionally been known, however this has been largely understudied in the retina, despite the retina being an extension of the brain.

"One of the main goals of doing this review was to determine what's going on inside the body after we exercise that gives us the benefits of exercise, and why physical activity is so good for our brain and eyes."

The futuristic therapy could one day help patients suffering from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"It's been suggested that prescribing exercise to patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can help improve and slow down the disease progression," Dr Chu-Tan said.

"We know that from looking at diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's if you exercise in a particular fashion you can potentially stimulate neuronal activity.

"That hasn't really been looked at in the retina at the level we're thinking of. We want to understand the molecular messages that underpin the benefits of exercise."

The researchers say the supplement would be intended only for patients who have restricted movement that renders them unable to exercise at an intensity needed to reap the rewards. It is not intended for the general public.

"We can't possibly package all the effects of exercise into a single pill, there are too many benefits that stretch throughout the entire body beyond what we could 'prescribe' and that's not the goal," Dr Chu-Tan said.

Dr Chu-Tan, Tuckwell Scholar Max Kirkby and Associate Professor Natoli's systematic review of existing literature into the benefits of exercise on the central nervous system and eyes, including the retina, is published in Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology.

Joshua A. Chu‐Tan, Max Kirkby, Riccardo Natoli. Running to save sight: The effects of exercise on retinal health and function. Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology, 2021; DOI: 10.1111/ceo.14023

National Aged Care Advocacy Expanded As Reforms Gain Momentum

December 1, 2021
A new funding agreement that increases total program funding from $52.6 million to $151.1 million over four years will significantly expand the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) to support greater choice and quality safeguards for senior Australians.

The Australian Government committed to an increase of $99.6 million for the NACAP program, as part of its $17.7 billion aged care reform package, announced in the 2021-22 Budget.

This responds to the Royal Commission into Aged Quality and Safety recommendation to expand aged care advocacy, recognising advocacy support that identifies and actively considers consumer needs is essential to an aged care system that delivers respect, dignity, and consumer choice and control. 

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the role of the NACAP was as important as ever.

“Our five-year, five pillar reform package is transforming aged care by prioritising the individual needs of senior Australians,” Minister Colbeck said.

“An expanded National Aged Care Advocacy Program will ensure those seeking support are empowered to make informed decisions about their care, understand their rights, and have support to resolve complaints when they arise, in a time of great change.”

The expanded NACAP will improve access to face-to-face and virtual aged care advocacy through:
  • doubling the workforce to support more than 15,000 additional advocacy cases and adding more than 1,000 local networking and education sessions each year;
  • new community advocacy activities, including increased capability for self-advocacy, home and community care vulnerability check-ins, and education around home care service costs;
  • support for aged care reform and emergencies, including extending COVID-19 response advocacy activities, and
  • education for providers to better understand the diversity of the community they are serving and help remove any related barriers to access.
The NACAP will continue to be provided by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), which builds on its record since 2017 of effectively delivering essential free, independent and confidential advocacy support and information to seniors and their families of choice or representatives. 

Minister Colbeck said OPAN had a strong track record of advocacy for senior Australians through the NACAP, particularly since the emergence of COVID-19.

“OPAN is providing critical advocacy and support services to aged care residents and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including those in facilities that have had an outbreak,” Minister Colbeck said.

OPAN delivers NACAP through its network of nine service delivery organisations across Australia.

People in need of advocacy or information can contact an OPAN member organisation in their area on 1800 700 600 (free call), or via OPAN’s website at

Famous Beach Is Popular Summer Playground: Australian Diary 16

Published by NFSA
As the first day of the Australian summer looms, the temperature soars and the seas turn ominously red with a mysterious bloom, we look back to 1948 and take a day trip to Manly Beach. Made by The National Film Board 1948.  Does this film bring back any memories or do you see anyone here that you recognise? 

See more Manly Surf Club Bungan Beach artefacts here:

You actually can teach an old dog new tricks, which is why many of us keep learning after retirement

Darryl DymockGriffith University

Lorna Prendergast was 90 years old when she graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Melbourne in 2019. She said her message to others was, “You’re never too old to dream.”

Nor, obviously, too old to learn.

In the same year 94-year-old David Bottomley became the oldest person in Australia to graduate with a PhD from Curtin University. The great-grandfather said he wasn’t yet finished. “I have a great deal yet to work out,” he said, perhaps making him the ultimate lifelong learner.

Prendergast’s and Bottomley’s achievements are examples of the levels of learning some older adults are capable of. In 2019-20, around 73,000 Australian adults aged 60 or more were enrolled in vocational training, community education and university courses. That’s enough to populate a mid-size Australian city.

But the term “lifelong learning” has increasingly tended to focus on the period of compulsory education and training across working lives – that is, before retirement.

Professor of adult education, Stephen Billett, argues the concept of lifelong learning has come to be associated with lifelong education, which is more about the institutional provision of learning experiences.

Instead, he says, it should go back to its roots. Lifelong learning is a personal process based on the sets of experiences people have had throughout their lives.

Learning After Retirement

According to David Istance, the nonresident senior fellow at the OECD’s Center for Universal Education, a result of this foreshortened view of lifelong learning is to downplay the considerable amount of formal learning taking place after retirement. This means learning like that done by Prendergast and Bottomley. Although much learning also happens in non-institutional settings.

For example, a Scottish study tracked the learning activities of almost 400 Glaswegians aged 60 or over. Using a broad definition of “learning”, researchers discovered an “active ageing” subset in the sample.

This active ageing group was:

socially and technologically engaged … “learner-citizens”, participating in educational, physical, cultural, civic and online activities.

Such findings are particularly significant for a country like Australia where the population is ageing, due to sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy. The result is proportionally fewer children and a larger proportion of people aged 65 and over.

Over the past two decades, the population aged 85 and over has also increased, by 110% (more than doubled) compared with total population growth of 35%. In mid-2020 there were more than half a million of these “older olds” in Australia.

Older woman painting at home.
Learning doesn’t have to be in an institutionalised setting. Shutterstock

The nation could have 50,000 centenarians by 2050.

A Lifetime Of Complex Cognitive Activity

Brain researcher Perminder Sachdev says surviving into older age relies partly on “a lifetime of good effort”. Some of that effort is a solid education in our formative years and then ongoing purposeful learning.

Sachdev believes this builds better cognitive reserves and sets us up for a lifetime of more complex cognitive activity.

But what is “purposeful learning”? A Swedish review found older adults do formal learning to maintain or increase quality of life, including through learning new things and sharing knowledge, and to connect through social networks. They also see classes and courses as a means of developing coping skills that enhance individual autonomy, and as a way of stimulating their cognitive abilities to help stave off mental decline.

But numerous studies in recent decades have shown formal education is just the tip of the adult learning iceberg.

As the Glasgow study reveals, many older adults are continuing their learning in guises other than through formal courses. Communal examples include sewing groups, men’s sheds, bird-watching clubs, travel groups, and musical jam sessions.

Few of the participants are likely to perceive their activities in explicit learning terms, yet all four reasons for learning the Swedish study identified can be discerned within such groups.

Sewing groups, bird watching clubs and musical jam sessions are ways seniors can continue their learning. Shutterstock

As in the Glasgow research, the proportion of older people engaged in purposeful learning is likely to be a subset of the larger population. Nevertheless there needs to be official and community acknowledgement that a segment of older people has both the motivation and capacity to continue to learn, including into their 90s. These people are “active agers”.

According to Sachdev, the key to maximising healthy ageing is improving the quality of initial and ongoing education because this impacts positively on our brains.

This is not to say older adults should feel obliged to engage in “purposeful learning”. After all, they’re not a homogeneous group, and some may decide it’s not something they want to do.

David Istance intimates some may also subscribe to the outmoded mindset that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

For older people who do want to continue to engage with the wider world and have the capacity to do so, however, we need to ensure “active ageing” is part of any “lifelong learning” agenda.

Let’s continue to promote older learning champions like Prendergast and Bottomley, not as outliers but as shining lights in a broader expanse of long-twinkling stars.The Conversation

Darryl Dymock, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in Education, Griffith University

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

The Jenkins review has 28 recommendations to fix parliament’s toxic culture – will our leaders listen?

Lukas Coch/AAP
Sonia PalmieriAustralian National University

In the wake of Brittany Higgins’ shocking allegations about being raped in a ministers’ office by a colleague, Prime Minister Scott Morrison initiated multiple inquiries.

Arguably, the most significant was the independent review into parliamentary workplaces, headed up by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and supported by Labor and the crossbench.

The review has been underway since March, speaking to current and former MPs and employees at parliament house and its associated workplaces - such as electorate offices and the press gallery. On Tuesday, the 450-page report, Set the Standard, was released.

As Jenkins observed, parliament house should be something “Australians look to with pride”.

This report represents a wholesale change strategy, and calls for leadership and accountability across a diverse parliamentary “ecosystem”. This new roadmap is grounded in the testimony and experiences of more than 1,700 contributors, including 147 former and current parliamentarians.

What Did The Report Find?

The report included a survey of current parliamentarians and people currently working at parliament house (such as staffers, journalists and public servants). More than 900 people responded.

It found more than 37% of people currently in parliamentary workplaces have personally experienced bullying in a parliamentary workplace. As one interviewee noted:

Frequently, like at least every week, the advice was go and cry in the toilet so that nobody can see you, because that’s what it’s like up here.

It also found 33% of people currently in parliamentary workplaces have personally experienced sexual harassment in a parliamentary workplace. As one interviewee reported:

Aspiring male politicians who thought nothing of, in one case, picking you up, kissing you on the lips, lifting you up, touching you, pats on the bottom, comments about appearance, you know, the usual. The point I make with that… was the culture allowed it, encouraged it.

The report notes a devastating impact on people as a result of these experiences. This included an impact on their mental and physical health, confidence and ability to do their job, as well as their future career, “these experiences also caused significant distress and shame”.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has been working on the parliamentary review since March. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The Drivers Behind This Behaviour

A critical part of the report looks at the drivers which contribute to misconduct in parliamentary workplaces. Participants also described risk factors which interact with these drivers to endanger their workplaces.

The drivers include:

  • power imbalances, where participants described a focus on the pursuit and exercise of power as well as insecure employment and high levels of power and discretion in relation to employment
  • gender inequality, including a lack of women in senior roles
  • lack of accountability, including limited recourse for those who experience misconduct
  • entitlement and exclusion, or “a male, stale and pale monopoly on power in [the] building”

The risk factors include:

  • unclear standards of behaviour, leading to confusion about the standards that apply
  • a leadership deficit, such as a prioritisation of political gain over people management
  • workplace dynamics, a “win at all costs” and high-pressure and high-stakes environment
  • social conditions of work, including “significant” alcohol use and a “work hard, play hard” culture.
  • employment structures and systems, such as a lack of transparent and merit-based recruitment.


There are 28 recommendations in the report.

They include a statement of acknowledgement from parliamentary leaders, recognising people’s experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in parliamentary workplaces, targets to increase gender balance among parliamentarians and a new office of parliament staffing and culture.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins was briefed on the report before it was made public. Lukas Coch/AAP

The report also wants to see the professionalisation of management practices for parliamentary staff and a code of conduct for parliamentarians and their staff. An independent commission would enforce these standards.

The report also calls for a new parliamentary health and well-being service.

Where To From Here

Two key press conferences – from Morrison and Jenkins – accompanied the release of the Set the Standard report. But the change expected by the report requires much more than words – it requires concerted action.

Parliament now needs to endorse and implement a number of key accountability mechanisms to ensure that, as an institution, it ensures all building occupants are safe and respected at work. These include the office on parliamentary staffing and culture and independent parliamentary standards commission.

In addition, the report calls on the parliament itself to continue reflecting and thinking through appropriate changes. For example, the parliamentary work schedule is shown to drive a workplace culture that values “presence and endurance” over remote working and flexibility. Sitting in the chamber at 9pm does not necessarily equal productivity, particularly when it is propped up – among political staffers – with alcohol.

There is no simple solution here. Some argue long hours in parliament house mean longer periods away from parliament, in the electorate, with families. Others argue the work day should end – as it does in other workplaces – before dinner. Jenkins recommends parliament does its own review of the sitting schedule. Hopefully this will create “buy in” from parliamentarians, but reviews like this have been undertaken before (and have not led to cultural change).

For this report to lead to meaningful change, everyone in all the many, varied parliamentary workplaces has to take responsibility for the systemic inequality that drives toxic workplace behaviour in the building.

Responsibility is not equally distributed though. Morrison may call for a bipartisan approach, but he currently leads the government responsible for instigating the inquiry and implementing its recommendations.

His challenge will be in convincing the electorate he means it when he says he wants to fix this “very, very serious problem”.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000. International helplines can be found via Conversation

Sonia Palmieri, Gender Policy Fellow, Australian National University

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

His spirit will return to Country. Vale David Dalaithngu, the actor who shaped Australian cinema

AAP Image/Terry Trewin
Bronwyn CarlsonMacquarie University

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article includes names and images of people who have died.

I opened #Blackfulla Twitter to find my feed awash with tributes to the life of David Dalaithngu and a deep shared sadness for his passing. As I scrolled, I witnessed a wave of grief and mourning – but also a commemoration of his life and the absolute joy his performances brought.

A member of the Mandjalpingu clan, Dalaithngu was raised on Country in Ramingining Arnhem Land. For many, he was the first Indigenous person we saw on the television or big screen.

To lose him, at only 68 years old, we are reminded how fragile our existence is and how short our lives can be as Indigenous people.

A Rich And Varied Career

Growing up in the 1970s, seeing Indigenous people on the television was rare. I remember the first time I saw Dalaithngu in the film Walkabout (1971). The storyline was indicative of the era, and Dalaithngu’s name was misspelt in the credits.

Regardless, his performance was brilliant.

He next played Billy in Mad Dog Morgan (1976) and Fingerbone Bill in Storm Boy (1976). He was lauded by his Storm Boy co-stars for his ability to perform as if there were no cameras at all. It would be fair to say for many non-Indigenous people during this era, in Australia and internationally, their only exposure to Indigenous culture was through his performances.

In 1977, he starred in The Last Wave. A sci-fi drama drawing on mysticism and the dichotomy of urban vs “tribal” identities, it is not a film without problems. But it sparked for me a love of sci-fi I still have today.

In 1986, Dalaithngu starred in Crocodile Dundee showing his comedy chops playing alongside Paul Hogan.

His sense of humour was second to none. He often mocked the stereotypes about who we are or who we are imagined to be by white folk.

His performance in Crocodile Dundee secured him as a household name across Australia, and, in 1987, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the arts.

A Political Actor

As Dalaithngu matured, so too did the Australian film industry. He increasingly took on weighty and political roles.

In 2002, he featured in Mimi, from the then little-known director Warwick Thornton, poking fun at white art collectors who purchase Indigenous art for its investment potential.

Also in 2002, he starrted in Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof-Fence and, in his first collaboration with Rolf de Heer, The Tracker, for which Dalaithngu won multiple acting awards.

Later, he starred in notable films including The Proposition (2005), Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie’s Country (2014).

Charlie’s Country, which Dalaithngu wrote with de Heer, captures the complexities of living in a settler society and the often violent and discriminatory policies and practices Indigenous people face here.

Set in Dalaithngu’s own Country in Ramingining, in one scene, Charlie and his bestie “Black Pete” (Peter Djigirr) kill a wild buffalo to eat.

They live without adequate finances to buy food from shops. This is a very real situation for many Indigenous communities in Australia.

The local policeman confiscates Charlie’s gun: it is not registered; he doesn’t have a license for hunting on his own Country. Charlie, who describes himself as a hunter, then makes himself a spear. The police also confiscate the spear, claiming it is a “dangerous weapon.”

For this performance, Dalaithngu won one of the world’s most prestigious acting awards, the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard for Best Actor.

A True Leader

Dalaithngu paved the way for Indigenous actors in the industry, and was unforgettable. He was an actor who could not be constrained. Your eye was drawn him in every role he took on.

In 2019, in recognition of his contributions as an actor, and to the wider Indigenous screen industry, mob awarded him a NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sadly he was too sick to attend so he recorded a message for us all. He said,

Never forget me. While I am here, I will never forget you.

Although incredibly sick, Dalaithngu wanted to make one more film, and he did. The documentary, My name is G (2020), is an intimate story of his own life.

He reflects on the end of his life and tells us, “my spirit will return back to my Country”. So it has.

From all of us mob, Vale Uncle.The Conversation

Bronwyn Carlson, Professor, Indigenous Studies and Director of The Centre for Global Indigenous Futures, Macquarie University

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

Varenicline Vs Nicotine Patches: Heart Attack And Stroke Risks Similar

November 30, 2021
This is the first study to compare the cardiovascular safety of two popular quit smoking medicines.
Smoking cessation medicines varenicline and nicotine patches present similar risks of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, a big data study published today in JAMA Network Open shows.

The study has implications for clinical practice and, in the long term, could contribute to lower smoking rates.

The research team used data of just over 200,000 Australians in NSW who were using either of the two most popular quit smoking medicines between 2011 and 2015.

“We did this study because there have previously been some concerns about the cardiovascular safety of quit smoking medicines,” says lead author Dr Alys Havard from UNSW Sydney’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and the Centre for Big Data Research in Health.

“It’s now generally accepted that if there is any cardiovascular risk associated with the use of quit smoking medicines, it's outweighed by benefits of quitting smoking. So really, these medicines should be offered to anyone who wants to quit. But even so, it's helpful for prescribers to know whether one is safer than another so they can minimise risk to their patients.”

In this study, the researchers compared the risk of major cardiovascular events in people who were using varenicline with people who chose nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches.

“We found that there was no difference between varenicline and NRT in terms of major events like heart attacks and stroke,” Dr Havard says.

“The risk of death from cardiovascular causes was actually slightly reduced among people using varenicline compared to those using NRT – albeit small in absolute magnitude (1.5 fewer cardiovascular deaths per 1000 person years).

“We know that varenicline is the most effective of the smoking pharmacotherapies – so our results suggest that prescribers can choose that one over nicotine and not worry about increasing patients' risk of major cardiovascular outcomes.”

This is the first time that varenicline and NRT have been compared in terms of cardiovascular outcomes while patients were using therapy.

“Researchers have looked at longer term effects in other studies, but that's not so much about safety – that’s more about whether the medicine helped someone to quit, and then what kind of health outcomes you have from that,” Dr Havard says.

Varenicline worries ‘put to bed’
Dr Havard says there have been concerns about varenicline having psychiatric side effects.

“But other evidence has pretty much put that to bed now. There have been a number of trials and similar work to this using routinely collected data sets that show that varenicline doesn't increase the risk of psychiatric side effects. But I think that's always meant that people have thought of it as not the safest option.

“With nicotine, it's seen as just a replacement for the smoking – there’s this perception that if anything, you're taking away some of the toxins that are associated with smoking, so it's always been thought to be quite safe in comparison.

“So it's interesting to see that actually, varenicline is no worse, and in some cases may be better for some outcomes.”

Study limitations unlikely to change conclusions
Dr Havard says while they tried to account for every possible factor you could measure in the healthcare data that informed the study – pharmaceutical dispensing, hospital and death records – there were some unknown factors they weren’t able to include.

“This study was based on data that are collected through healthcare interactions. So we knew everything about what medicines the people in our study were prescribed, and what diagnoses they'd had in their hospital admissions – and could therefore control for these factors.

“One key thing we're missing is data on how much they smoke, which might influence cardiovascular outcomes. Obviously, all people in our study smoked to a level that meant they were struggling to quit, and they want a medicine to help them with that. So we think they're fairly similar in that sense.”

Another limitation worth highlighting is that the team used data relating to prescribed medicines only.

“There are other nicotine replacement therapies available over the counter. We didn’t have data on those – so it's possible that people in either the varenicline group or nicotine group were also using nicotine purchased over the counter. I don't think it will change the conclusions, though,” Dr Havard says.

Implications for clinical practice and future research
Dr Havard says clinicians always need to consider several things when they prescribe, and it won't just be cardiovascular safety.

“But there are a number of clinical guidelines out there, and if this evidence could be incorporated into those so that prescribers now know that in terms of cardiovascular safety varenicline stacks up pretty well, that would be useful,” she says.

She says the research might also have positive effects on quit smoking efforts.

“Because we already know varenicline is the most effective, if it is prescribed in preference to nicotine, then ultimately, that's going to improve smoking cessation, and fewer people will be smoking.”

Smoking remains among the leading preventable causes of morbidity and premature mortality, accounting for 6.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015.

Dr Havard’s next step is to look at how varenicline and nicotine compare in terms of reducing longer term cardiovascular effects through being effective quit smoking aids.

Curtin Celebrates First Cohort Of Medical School Graduates

November 29, 2021
The first cohort of graduates from Curtin’s Medical School are ready to join WA’s new generation of doctors after completing the five-year, full-time Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).

Curtin Medical School graduand celebration event.

The 51 graduates were inaugural domestic students at Curtin Medical School when it opened in 2017, offering the only undergraduate entry program available in Western Australia.

Renowned health researcher and advocate Professor Fiona Stanley AC was keynote speaker at the Curtin Medical School graduand celebration event on November 26.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said the new graduates had been trained to meet the needs of currently under-serviced areas of health care, with a strong emphasis on primary care, chronic disease, ageing, Indigenous and regional health.

“Curtin first established its Medical School to help address the health and workforce needs of West Australians. We are now incredibly proud to celebrate the first graduating cohort of Curtin-trained doctors, who are eager and ready to provide competent and compassionate medical care, particularly to those people who currently have inadequate access to healthcare,” Professor Hayne said.

“They have had the benefit and privilege of being able to train, and gain practical clinical experience, at hospitals across the State, and in Curtin’s own purpose-built health campus at Midland and recently our new Kalgoorlie Rural Health Campus.”

Medical School Dean, Professor Sandra Eades said the graduands had been trained to the highest standards of the Australian Medical Council, and were ready and capable to take on internships and future specialisation anywhere in WA or across Australia.

“We are excited to be celebrating this significant milestone with our first cohort of graduating students who are a credit to themselves and to our School,” Professor Eades said.

“The key purpose and mission of the Curtin Medical School has remained unchanged from the time it was established- that is to increase the availability of high-quality medical care and to educate doctors that are well-prepared for primary care, rural, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare settings.

“We are very proud to have nurtured this first graduating cohort of cared and skilled doctors who can now transition into their chosen profession and into the communities they serve.”

As part of their studies, many of the graduating cohort have completed clinical placements in rural areas across the state, including Broome, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton and Albany.

Graduating student Christopher Chi of Carlisle said he was looking forward to beginning his medical career.

“Practising medicine has been a life-long dream of mine and after five years of excellent teaching and learning, I am excited to be able to put it all into practice when I begin my internship at St John of God Midland Public Hospital,” Mr Chi said.

“As the first graduating class of Curtin Medical School, we have had the privilege of learning from one of the best medical programs in Australia.

“Our smaller cohort size has created a collegial atmosphere of trust and camaraderie between students. This has enabled us to learn, develop, and practice the skills necessary to become capable doctors for the future.”

Medical School student Amie Ringuet is just one of the Curtin graduates heading to the regions.

“I am delighted to have a placement at Bunbury Hospital and I will live and work among the Bunbury community,” Ms Ringuet said.

“Through Curtin Medical School, I spent much of the last few years embedded in WA hospitals where I learned from some of the best doctors in Australia and was able to talk with and learn from many wonderful patients.

“These experiences have given me genuine insight into the healthcare needs of Western Australians and have inspired me to do my part to address the disadvantage that many country people face in terms of access to healthcare.”

Since its opening Curtin Medical School has attracted wide interest from students, with the University now offering 120 places for next year.

It has quickly become a school of choice for aspiring medical practitioners, with students consistently rating it number one in Australia in its field for overall experience, according to the 2022 Good Universities Guide.

For more information on the MBBS visit here and Curtin Medical School, visit here.

Study Suggests Sun Is An Unaccounted Source Of The Earth’s Water

November 29, 2021
Curtin University researchers have helped unravel the enduring mystery of the origins of the Earth's water, finding the Sun to be a surprising likely source.

A University of Glasgow-led international team of researchers including those from Curtin's Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) found the solar wind, comprised of charged particles from the Sun largely made of hydrogen ions, created water on the surface of dust grains carried on asteroids that smashed into the Earth during the early days of the Solar System.

SSTC Director, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland said the Earth was very water-rich compared to other rocky planets in the Solar System, with oceans covering more than 70 percent of its surface, and scientists had long puzzled over the exact source of it all.

"An existing theory is that water was carried to Earth in the final stages of its formation on C-type asteroids, however previous testing of the isotopic 'fingerprint' of these asteroids found they, on average, didn't match with the water found on Earth meaning there was at least one other unaccounted for source," Professor Bland said.

"Our research suggests the solar wind created water on the surface of tiny dust grains and this isotopically lighter water likely provided the remainder of the Earth's water.

"This new solar wind theory is based on meticulous atom-by-atom analysis of miniscule fragments of an S-type near-Earth asteroid known as Itokawa, samples of which were collected by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa and returned to Earth in 2010.

"Our world-class atom probe tomography system here at Curtin University allowed us to take an incredibly detailed look inside the first 50 nanometres or so of the surface of Itokawa dust grains, which we found contained enough water that, if scaled up, would amount to about 20 litres for every cubic metre of rock."

Curtin graduate Dr Luke Daly, now of the University of Glasgow, said the research not only gives scientists a remarkable insight into the past source of Earth's water, but could also help future space missions.

"How astronauts would get sufficient water, without carrying supplies, is one of the barriers of future space exploration," Dr Daly said.

"Our research shows that the same space weathering process which created water on Itokawa likely occurred on other airless planets, meaning astronauts may be able to process fresh supplies of water straight from the dust on a planet's surface, such as the Moon."

The research was supported by funding from the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (part of UKRI), and conducted by researchers from the University of Glasgow, Curtin University, the University of Sydney, the University of Oxford, the University of Hawai'i at M?noa, the Natural History Museum, Idaho National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Sandia National Laboratories, NASA Johnson Space Center, the University of Virginia, Northern Arizona University and Purdue University.

Other Curtin authors were Dr David Saxey, Dr Denis Fougerouse, Dr William Rickard, Dr Lucy Forman, Associate Professor Nick Timms, Professor Fred Jourdan, Professor Steven Reddy, Dr Zakaria Quadir and Morgan Cox.

Luke Daly, Martin R. Lee, Lydia J. Hallis, Hope A. Ishii, John P. Bradley, Phillip. A. Bland, David W. Saxey, Denis Fougerouse, William D. A. Rickard, Lucy V. Forman, Nicholas E. Timms, Fred Jourdan, Steven M. Reddy, Tobias Salge, Zakaria Quadir, Evangelos Christou, Morgan A. Cox, Jeffrey A. Aguiar, Khalid Hattar, Anthony Monterrosa, Lindsay P. Keller, Roy Christoffersen, Catherine A. Dukes, Mark J. Loeffler, Michelle S. Thompson. Solar wind contributions to Earth’s oceans. Nature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01487-w
Image: The sun, solar winds and asteroid Itokawa. Curtin Univbersity

Nibbling Prehistoric Herbivore Sheds New Light On Triassic Diversity

November 29, 2021
A Triassic herbivore, known for its supposed similarities to a modern-day ostrich, has been revealed to have entirely different approach to feeding from previously thought, according to research at the University of Birmingham.

The new discovery reveals a much broader diversity of herbivore behaviour during the Triassic period than has been recognised to date.

Called Effigia, the animal was about the size of a gazelle and lived in North America around 205 million years ago. Its fossil remains were found in the Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico in the 1940s, although the material was not formally described by palaeontologists until 2006.

Effigia. Credit: Mark Witton

The remains had been relatively poorly preserved in the quarry and the skull, in particular, was quite badly deformed, making accurate reconstruction problematic. Early analysis of the specimen concluded that it belonged to the group of reptiles that includes crocodylians and birds and which started to flourish in the Triassic period.

Although more closely related to crocodylians, Effigia's lightweight body, elongated neck, large eyes and beak shared many similarities with a modern-day ostrich, leading researchers to believe the animal fed by pecking plant material from the ground.

But new analysis of the specimen, by experts at the University of Birmingham, has revealed this animal was probably an entirely different type of herbivore than previously thought. The work, carried out in partnership with experts at the University of Bristol, University College London, University of York, Virginia Tech and the Natural History Museum, is published in The Anatomical Record.

The team used new CT scans of Effigia's skull which revealed a much more accurate reconstruction of the animal. This included new information about the shape of the skull, such as a more rounded, bulbous brain cavity and curved upper and lower jaws. Unlike an ostrich bill, which is more rounded, Effigia's bill is more concave with jaws that open and close a bit like a pair of shears.

The team used this information to model the effects of different forces acting on the skull, including what happens when the animal pecks at the ground. By modelling the forces the skull would need to withstand in order to feed by pecking, the researchers calculated that Effigia's skull would probably have shattered. Instead, they suggest, the animal would be more likely to use its jaws to snip off and nibble pieces of soft plant material such as young shoots, or ferns.

Lead researcher, Dr Jordan Bestwick, said: "The herbivores we already recognise in the Triassic period fed either by digging for roots, such as the pig-like aetosaurs, or reaching for leaves high up in the treetops, like the long-necked sauropods. These two-legged browsers with a weak bite are unique to this period and show a previously unrecognised diversity among the herbivores of this period."

Jordan Bestwick, Andrew S. Jones, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Stephan Lautenschlager, Emily J. Rayfield, Andrew R. Cuff, David J. Button, Paul M. Barrett, Laura B. Porro, Richard J. Butler. Cranial functional morphology of the pseudosuchian Effigia and implications for its ecological role in the Triassic. The Anatomical Record, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/ar.24827

As LA Traffic Slowed Amid The Pandemic Researchers Gained New Insight Into Air Pollution

November 30, 2021
As coronavirus cases popped up across California in March 2020, the previously impossible happened in Los Angeles County: The region's normally bumper-to-bumper traffic slowed by roughly 24%. Lucky drivers were now, suddenly, able to make it from Burbank to Santa Monica at rush hour on the 101 and 405 in less than 50 minutes.

A team of scientists led by CU Boulder are using the once-in-a-lifetime event to answer an unusual question: How much do vehicles in a city like Los Angeles add to the ammonia emissions that can hang in the air and sicken residents?

The group's findings, published Nov. 23 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, may spell bad news for a region that loves its cars. Ammonia is a common pollutant that can react to form small particles in the air that are a major cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, especially in densely populated areas. The researchers show that city vehicles may spew a lot more of these molecules than state and federal agencies have believed.

The study is the first to explore how vehicles churn out ammonia across an entire urban center using satellites in space.

"The tricky question has always been: How do we separate out ammonia concentrations owing to traffic from the ammonia emitted from sources like agriculture?" said Daven Henze, a co-author of the new study and professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. "Then the COVID lockdown suddenly provided us with a natural experiment."

In other words, the pandemic gave the researchers an accidental before and after picture -- with a smoggy, car-filled Los Angeles on one side and a clearer, relatively empty urban area on the other.

Henze and his colleagues took advantage of that situation by drawing on satellite images to track the ammonia concentrations in the air above Los Angeles before and during the lockdown of March 2020. The team discovered that cars may churn out as much as 95% of this harmful pollutant throughout the city at any one time.

"Our estimates for vehicle ammonia emissions are higher than federal and state inventories by a factor of two to five," said Hansen Cao, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder.

Hidden chemical danger
The research sheds light on what may be an underappreciated pollutant: Molecules of ammonia, the odor you detect when you pass a smelly farm.

Henze explained that scientists have long known that agricultural operations, from corn fields to chicken farms, churn out huge amounts of this chemical. Once in the air, ammonia can mix with nitrogen oxides to form what researchers call "fine particulate matter."

"Those emissions come from, to put it politely, the downstream processes," Henze said. "The feedlots, poultry and swine manure -- they all give off a lot of ammonia."

There's another source of that pollution, too: Your car's tailpipe. Estimates suggest that ammonia emissions from vehicles can lead to roughly 15,000 premature deaths across the United States every year. Recent research has also hinted that those numbers may miss the real toll of urban pollution.

Ammonia hotspots
Henze and his colleagues tapped data from two satellites, the United States' Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and Europe's Sentinel-5 Precursor to further explore the ammonia question.

In early March 2020, the team spotted two clear hotspots for ammonia in the Los Angeles region -- one above downtown L.A. and one just north of Riverside, California, a hub for livestock and agriculture. By the end of the month, the hotspot over downtown had all but disappeared as traffic petered out.

"I think we were almost surprised that we could see the downtown hotspot and the impact of the pandemic," Henze said. "We weren't just taking measurements at one road. We were looking at the entire urban area from space."

That ultimate bird's eye view paid off. The team calculated that vehicles produce at least 60% of the ammonia emissions in urban Los Angeles. Estimates from state and national regulators, in contrast, had pegged those numbers at less than 25%. Next, Cao said she and her colleagues want to apply the same techniques to explore the effects of the pandemic on the air above other cities.

The results could underscore the importance of regulating cars and their engines so that they churn out less of this dangerous pollutant, she said.

"Vehicles can be the dominant sources of ammonia emissions over urban areas," she said. "If we're underestimating those emissions, then previous estimates of premature deaths owing to ammonia emissions might also be underestimated."

Colin Harkins and Muhammad O. Nawaz, both graduate students at CU Boulder, were co-authors of the new study. Other co-authors included researchers at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.; the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association; University at Buffalo; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and the Southern University of Science and Technology in China.

Hansen Cao, Daven K. Henze, Karen Cady-Pereira, Brian C. McDonald, Colin Harkins, Kang Sun, Kevin W. Bowman, Tzung-May Fu, Muhammad O. Nawaz. COVID-19 Lockdowns Afford the First Satellite-Based Confirmation That Vehicles Are an Under-recognized Source of Urban NH3 Pollution in Los Angeles. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2021; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00730

Butterfly Migration: Sun Compass On Demand

Monarch butterflies are famous for their annual long-distance migration, which takes them over several thousand kilometres from the north of the USA to their overwintering habitat in central Mexico. On their migration, the conspicuously orange-black-white coloured butterflies use sun information as main orientation reference.

But how is sun information processed in the butterfly's brain? Previous studies have already described cells that process the solar azimuth. "However, we didn't know these cells encode the sun during flight," says Jerome Beetz from the Biocentre at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany.

Photograph of a female Monarch Butterfly. Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

Until now, it was assumed that the sun compass always works -- irrespective of whether the insects sit, walk or fly. A team led by JMU researchers Jerome Beetz and Basil el Jundi shows in the scientific journal Current Biology that this is not the case and that the compass is established at the onset of flight: "Surprisingly, the nerve cells change their coding strategy during flight, so that the neural network represents the heading direction of the butterflies relative to the sun in a similar way to a compass. This only happens when the animals can control their own direction of flight."

Butterflies in a flight simulator
How was this gap in knowledge closed? The team led by Beetz and el Jundi measured for the first time the neural activity in actively flying monarch butterflies and examined the influence of the animal's orientation behaviour on the processing of sun information. Such measurements had previously only been carried out in restrained butterflies.

The JMU researchers took advantage of a technical trick: "We tethered the butterflies to a freely rotatable rod in the centre of a flight simulator, which enables the butterflies to actively choose a flight direction. The sun was mimicked with a green light spot. While the tethered butterfly was flying, we monitored the brain activity with ultra-fine microelectrodes."

The experiments prove: Active movement of the butterflies is necessary to process sun information as compass information in the butterfly brain during migration.

"Our results emphasize the importance of performing neuronal recordings in actively moving animals in order to understand how the brain solves complex orientation tasks," says Beetz, who is first author of the publication in Current Biology. Other researchers from the Biocentre as well as from the universities of Lund (Sweden), Bielefeld and Texas were involved in the project. The work was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Brain the size of a grain of rice with amazing abilities
Beetz admires his research subjects: "Our publication uniquely demonstrates that even a brain with the size of a grain of rice is a highly complex organ that enables insects to perform such amazing behaviors. With their brain, monarch butterflies manage the enormous migration by using an efficient internal compass. Such a long-distance migration without using modern navigation devices is hard to imagine for us, humans and this is one major reason that drives my fascination for these enigmatic butterflies."

Next, Jerome Beetz and Basil el Jundi plan to investigate how the butterflies' sun compass operates when the butterflies have access to the natural sky than when simply using a light spot as reference for orientation. To do this, the neural recordings must be carried out in open air flight simulators.

M. Jerome Beetz, Christian Kraus, Myriam Franzke, David Dreyer, Martin F. Strube-Bloss, Wolfgang Rössler, Eric J. Warrant, Christine Merlin, Basil el Jundi. Flight-induced compass representation in the monarch butterfly heading network. Current Biology, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.11.009

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.