Inbox and Environment News: Issue 542

June 12 -18, 2022: Issue 542

Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services: Possums In Your Roof

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Local Leatherback Turtle Deaths

June 6, 2022
Australian Seabird & Turtle Rescue Central Coast: Finally, some information has been released into the recent deaths of the leatherback turtles that we had washing up on our coastline back in March and April. There was a total of 7 carcasses, four of these were able to be retrieved for further analysis.  

Out of the four specimens analysed, one had signs of infection and unfortunately the other three were the result of likely entanglement issues. Ironically, this event coincided with the rollout of additional shark mitigation measures. Entanglements from fishing and shark mitigation practises are one of the many threats our marine turtles are facing. 

The leatherback population worldwide has been in rapid decline since the 1980’s, it is estimated that the pacific ocean population may be down to less than 2300 breeding females.

Photo: Australian Seabird & Turtle Rescue Central Coast

Pelicans Heading To The Coast Now: Winter Migrations

If you spot any orange leg band from this season's Pelican mega breeding colony about to disperse to coastal waterways for food, from Lake Brewster and Kieeta Lake, please contact the NSW DPI.
Keep watch if any Pelican comes to rest in both urban and remote location as may require assistance, before arriving on our coasts to drink and feed.
Here's the email just to send any details of orange banded pelican sightings

Central Coast Announced As Location For New Offshore Artificial Reef

June 7, 2022
The Central Coast has officially been announced as the new home for an Offshore Artificial Reef.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the location was chosen after an extensive expression of interest (EOI) process that received almost 1,200 submissions from the recreational fishing community.

“The sheer volume of submissions is a testament to how popular these reefs are in providing high-quality fishing experiences, it’s fantastic news for anglers and local businesses that have struggled over the last two years,” Mr Saunders said.

“This announcement is part of our commitment to promoting the sustainable growth of recreational fishing in NSW.”

The project is the latest addition to a series of artificial reefs put in place across the state, spanning from Tweed Heads to Merimbula, including one that was recently announced in Forster.

“These reefs provide a cost-effective method to improve fishing practices and drive economic growth, while also providing significant ecological and productivity benefits.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast Adam Crouch welcomed the decision, saying it will go a long way for tourism and the local community.

“I want to personally thank the hundreds of Central Coast locals who supported my petition for an offshore artificial reef. This was a significant factor when I was lobbying the Minister on our regions behalf and I look forward to working with our finishing community to identify a location.”

The reef will be a marine reserve similar to the decommissioned HMAS Adelaide, which was sunk at Avoca Beach in 2011.

“Our coastline boasts some of the most vibrant ocean environments in NSW and the ex-HMAS Adelaide is a fantastic example of the remarkable transformation that a single site can have on the surrounding area,” Mr Crouch said.

“The ship is quite rightly designated as a marine reserve, but I want to ensure that local fishers have a similar type of reef to enjoy.

“Creating a million-dollar Offshore Artificial Reef will be an amazing tourism driver, while also providing a benefit to thousands of keen local fishos across a range of ages.”

The artificial reef program is funded through the Recreational Fishing Trust, which is made up of recreational fishing licence fees.

The NSW Government will now undertake further detailed assessments and consult stakeholders to determine the most suitable location off Terrigal.

For more information on the NSW artificial reefs program, visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries website.

ex-HMAS Adelaide dive at Avoca. Images: Courtesy Visit NSW

Sand Point - Palm Beach: Winter 2022

photos: A J Guesdon

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA) Walks

Our first Sunday Nature Walk for 2022: A Bushwalk around Newport.
The Newport Bushlink Project: From the Crown to the Sea began as an idea of local residents in 1994 - to create a walk through four reserves, through different kinds of bushland and geology - Hawkesbury sandstone heath to closed forest.

We'll follow that route, exploring the reserves the track goes through, looking at plants, birds, views.

When: 9.30 am, Sunday June 26th
Where: Meet at Porter Reserve, Burke St Newport, returning here about 11.45am.
Level of difficulty: Some steep up and down bush tracks. Reasonable fitness needed. Not suitable young children or dogs.
The circular walk could take 2 hours. Wear boots, bring water, snacks.

To Book: Only 15 people please, as the track is steep and narrow. Please email to book. 

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA): What’s This Plant? + Microbat

Found in damp leaf litter during bushcare at north Avalon Dunes. Give up?
Not one plant but many seedlings of Norfolk Island Pine, still attached to the cone. A curiosity as the cones usually shatter to disperse the seeds, to the delight of cockatoos.
Avalon Dunes  Bushcare:  1st Sunday  of each month - 8:30 - 11:30am.
Find out how you can help out in your area by visiting Profile page: Mona Vale Dunes and Avalon Beach Dunes Bushcare Groups
Photo: PNHA

Sheltering head down inside a folded beach umbrella in Mona Vale, near Bayview Golf Course. Probably Goulds Long-eared Bat, this insectivorous micro bat species weighs between 9 and 16.5g, body and head 44-52mm.

Photo: Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)

Microbats Of Sydney

The Sydney Basin supports a rich microbat fauna of at least 19 species. Four species are predominantly cave-roosting, sheltering during the day in caves, mines, tunnels, culverts and stone basements. The remaining 15 species roost during the day in tree hollows, under bark and in buildings.

Nocturnal microbats are not generally well-known creatures so research scientists Dr Brad Law and Dr Caragh Threlfall have created the first poster to feature Sydney’s microbats with images and descriptions of 17 species (19 species have been identified in the Sydney region). It’s hoped this poster will bring Sydney's microbats some well-deserved publicity.

Nectar and fruit feeding bats are vital to forest regeneration as pollinators and dispersers of rainforest seeds. Insect-eating bats also play an important role in the natural control of insect populations.

Threats include: Habitat destruction for residential and other development; accumulation of contaminants such as organochlorines and other compounds in wood preservatives, herbicides and pesticides; motor vehicle impact; and cat predation, especially for slow-flying species that forage near the ground. 

We can all help ensure a future for these fascinating and important creatures by: keeping cats indoors, especially at night; building and installing a bat roosting box; minimising the use of herbicides and pesticides; helping to conserve old growth forests.

There is no charge for the poster, production of which has been funded by the Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society (KBCS) along with several Sydney councils, but a $10.00 contribution towards packaging and postage would be appreciated.

To view a PDF version of the poster, to order a printed poster or to find out more about microbats and the Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society visit: 

Chemical Clean Out: June 2022 At Mona Vale

Where: Mona Vale Beach Car Park; Surfview Road, Mona Vale
When: Sat 25, Sun 26 June 2022, 9am - 3:30pm

The safe way to dispose of potentially hazardous household chemicals is at a Household Chemical CleanOut event. These events are free services held across NSW on specified dates.

Before you attend a Chemical CleanOut event, please place all materials in the rear of your vehicle. On arrival, remain in your vehicle and our contractor will collect your items. Contractors onsite will be wearing personal protective equipment and following social distancing measures.

Use CleanOut to safely dispose of household chemicals that could cause harm to human health and the environment if not disposed of correctly. Check dates and locations for Household Chemical CleanOut events.

What can I take to a Household Chemical CleanOut event?
You can take household quantities of the following household chemicals and items – up to a maximum of 20 litres or 20 kilograms of a single item.

Solvents and household cleaners
Floor care products
Ammonia-based cleaners
Pesticides and herbicides
Pool chemicals
Hobby chemicals
Motor fuels
Fluorescent globes and tubes
Acids and alkalis
Smoke detectors
Paint and paint-related products
Gas bottles
Fire extinguishers
Car and household batteries
Motor oils and cooking oils

CleanOut events held in the Sydney, Illawarra and Hunter regions are open to all NSW residents, unless expressly stated, and are organised through the NSW EPA.

Living Ocean Traditional Welcome To Country For The Southern Humpback Whale Migration: June 24 

Environmental organisation Living Ocean is proud to host a traditional indigenous Whale Welcome to Ocean Country to be held at 7:30AM on Friday 24 June at the Avalon Surf Club, 558 Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach.  Details of the great whale census, to be held by collaborative partner ORRCA on 26 June, will also be announced at this event. 

Tens of thousands of Humpback Whales are expected to migrate north along the East Coast of Australia from June to September. Traditionally the local indigenous people, the Garigal of the Guringai whose totem is the whale, have always welcomed the migration to their Ocean Coast.   

Local elder Uncle Neil will perform a smoke ceremony, followed by whale songs on the didgeridoo, and finally the local community will call the whales in the traditional way by squeaking their feet in the sands of Avalon Beach. 

The annual Southern Hemisphere whale migration is one of nature’s most spectacular events, with these magnificent animals travelling up to 10,000 kilometres. However, it’s not just about their journey, as the importance of whales in terms of climate change is staggering when you consider each great whale captures 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. At the same time, whales supply the ocean with the nutrients required to grow phytoplankton, which capture ~40% of all CO2 produced. Just a 1% increase in phytoplankton thanks to whales would capture hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 2 billion trees. 

David Cousins, Living Ocean Vice President, says ‘the preservation of the marine ecosystem to boost whale populations is paramount, as the lungs of our planet actually reside in the ocean.’  

Living Ocean is a not-for-profit organisation which operates as a centre for marine studies with a focus on marine animal behaviour, macro and micro plastics, and marine environment processes.  They promote awareness of human impact on the ocean through research, education, creative activation and support of others who sustain ocean health and integrity.  

The role of the ocean is fundamental as it regulates rainfall and droughts, holds 97% of our planets water, and is the greatest carbon sink on earth, far surpassing all vegetation. Therefore, the impact of ocean health is profound.   

Living Ocean strives to promote and educate on the importance of ocean health as necessary to the survival of all life (human, animal and botanical) on earth.   

The Welcome to Ocean Country for the Southern Hemisphere’s great whales will be held at 7:30AM on Friday 24 June at the Avalon Surf Club, 558 Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach.

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Narrabeen - June 26

Come and join Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew for our Narrabeen Lake clean up. We'll meet at Lake Park, at the southern end, close to Pittwater rd. For exact meeting point look at the map below. 

We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the lagoon as well as cleaning the lagoon, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). 

It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. Send us a message or email if you are lost. Please invite family and friends and share this event. This is a Covid safe event so everyone must please stay 1.5 meters apart if you are not in the same household. 

We meet at 10am for a briefing. Then we generally clean between 60-90 minutes. After that, we sort and count the rubbish so we can contribute to litter research. We normally finish around 12.30 when we go to lunch together (at own cost). Please note, we completely understand if you cannot stay for the whole event. We are just grateful for any help we can get.  No booking required. Just show up on the day.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Tours

Enjoy a Barrenjoey Lighthouse tour any Sunday afternoon. It stands at Sydney's northern-most point. The views of Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the mighty Pacific are unforgettable.
When: Tours will run every Sunday from Sunday 15 May 2022 to Sunday 25 June 2023. Tour times: 11am to 11.30am, 12pm to 12.30pm, 1pm to 1.30pm, 2pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 3.30pm.
Tours will not run on: Christmas Day - Sunday 25 December 2022 or New years Day - Sunday 1 January 2023.
Price: Adult $10 per person. Concession $8 per person. Child $5 per person. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Accompanying adults need to book and pay. 
Bookings: Bookings required. Phone 1300 072 757 or book online at:,54324,54344,54348
Meeting point: Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Give yourself at least 40mins to walk from the carpark to the lighthouse before your tour departs.

Local Wildlife Rescuers And Carers State That Ongoing Heavy Rains Are Tough For Us But Can Be Tougher For Our Wildlife:

  • Birds and possums can be washed out of trees, or the tree comes down, nests can disintegrate or hollows fill with water
  • Ground dwelling animals can be flooded out of their burrows or hiding places and they need to seek higher ground
  • They are at risk crossing roads as people can't see them and sudden braking causes accidents
  • The food may disappear - insects, seeds and pollens are washed away, nectar is diluted and animals can be starving
  • They are vulnerable in open areas to predators, including our pets
  • They can't dry out and may get hypothermia or pneumonia
  • Animals may seek shelter in your home or garage. 

You can help by:

  • Keeping your pets indoors
  • Assessing for wounds or parasites
  • Putting out towels or shelters like boxes to provide a place to hide
  • Drive to conditions and call a rescue group if you see an animal hit (or do a pouch check or get to a vet if you can stop)
  • If you are concerned take a photo and talk to a rescue group or wildlife carer

There are 2 rescue groups in the Northern Beaches:

Sydney Wildlife: 9413 4300

WIRES: 1300 094 737

Please be patient as there could be a few enquiries regarding the wildlife. 

Generally Sydney Wildlife do not recommend offering food but it may help in some cases. Please ensure you know what they generally eat and any offerings will not make them sick. You can read more on feeding wildlife here 

Information courtesy Ed Laginestra, Sydney Wildlife volunteer. Photo: Warriewood Wetlands Wallaby by Kevin Murray, March 2022.

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Helpers Needed

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.

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

New Report Lets Rip On Australia’s Problem With Gassy Coal Mines

June 8, 2022
Massive underreporting and a lack of action to mitigate direct coal mine methane emissions are putting Australia’s climate goals in jeopardy, according to a new international analysis (available here).

The report, by international climate think tank Ember and commissioned by Lock the Gate Alliance, shows reducing direct coal mine emissions is crucial early climate action for the newly-elected Albanese Government while it puts in place more ambitious climate targets.

Among the report's findings is that methane leaking from Australia’s coal mines causes almost double the climate impact every year of all Australia’s cars.

The report also identifies a list of super-emitting mines that should be a target for urgent action - it finds the 15 most polluting coal mines account for 50% of the country’s reported emissions from mining, while producing just 10% of Australia’s coal.

As well, it shows that one of the main reasons for Australia’s chronic underreporting of coal mine methane is a result of many companies using what’s called “standardised emissions estimates”, rather than actual measurements.

The report also finds:
  • Australia is the world’s 6th largest coal mine methane emitter and on track to become the 3rd worst. Despite this, the government has not signed the Global Methane Pledge and has continued to approve new and expanding coal mines at a rate only behind China and Russia.
  • Methane’s short-term climate impact is 82.5 times that of carbon dioxide, making the methane released by coal mines equivalent to 74.3 million tonnes of CO2. This is greater than the 44 million tonnes of CO2 emitted by cars each year.
  • But the International Energy Agency estimates that direct methane emissions from Australian coal mines in 2019 were double the reported amount. This would mean coal mines are releasing equivalent to 149Mt of CO2-e.
  • Even the IEA’s figure is likely to be conservative, with state of the art satellite data showing some coal mines are releasing ten times the amount officially recorded.
Ember’s methane analyst Dr Sabina Assan said, “Australia has a moral responsibility to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but increasingly, it also needs to reduce emissions to remain globally competitive as a trading nation.

“Failing to address direct methane emissions poses a risk to trade relationships with countries like Japan and South Korea, which, unlike Australia, have signed the Global Methane Pledge. China has also announced a methane action plan, aimed at cutting methane emissions in major industries, including coal mining. 

“Australia is falling behind in a race it could be winning.

“The technology exists, but companies are not incentivised to deploy it. It is up to the Australian Government to legislate a robust and well thought out plan to rapidly reduce easy-to-tackle leaks in the short term and jump-start a just transition to phase out coal.”

Lock the Gate Alliance national coordinator Carmel Flint said, “Reducing methane emissions is ‘the low hanging fruit’ of climate action, because methane’s impact in the atmosphere is far greater but shorter lived than carbon dioxide.

“Australia has a methane problem - it is already the world’s sixth largest coal mine methane emitter, but those emissions are set to rise even further, as NSW and Qld continue to approve new and expanded coal mines.

“By limiting methane emissions from coal mining, the incoming Albanese Government can buy itself and the world time while the complex task of decarbonisation gets underway.

“We are calling for the Australian Government to sign the Global Methane Pledge, overhaul monitoring and reporting of mining methane emissions in Australia, and urgently address pollution from the super-emitting coal mines identified in this report.

“It’s time to take action in order to protect Australians who are facing hardship from extreme weather events including floods, fires, and heat waves fueled by climate change.”

Suzanne Harter, climate campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation said, “In Australia, methane from coal, oil and gas extraction, production and distribution is believed to be responsible for around 10% of our total emissions – but this important research shows it’s likely to be far higher.

“We’ve got a massive methane problem and it’s set to grow even worse if Australia continues to pursue more coal and gas projects and fails to accurately measure, report, regulate, and reduce methane emissions from active and abandoned mines.

“Plugging leaking methane from fossil fuel projects is one of the most effective – and one of the easiest – measures we can take to quickly cut greenhouse pollution in this crucial decade for climate action.”

Dendrobium Mine Extension Project: Have Your Say (Again)

Plans for the extension of the Dendrobium longwall mine in the Illawarra are now being publicly exhibited. The NSW government has relisted this as a “State Significant Development” - despite the Independent Planning Commission refusing permission because it would cause damage to our water.
It’s right underneath the Greater Sydney water catchment.

This will involve Longwall mining which is known to damage reservoirs, cracks rock beds and increases the presence of heavy metals in our water. That’s why nowhere else in the world allows longwall mining underneath their publicly owned water catchments.

The expansion will also damage local biodiversity and threatened ecological communities, and cause irreversible damage to 58 identified Aboriginal cultural artefacts.

The Project proposes to extend the mine life at the Dendrobium Mine to the end of 2041.

Political Stitch Up Over Dendrobium Abandons Community, Climate, And Water, Favours Coal Mining Company Residents State

May 4, 2022
Illawarra residents opposed to coal mining beneath the drinking water catchment and their supporters have labelled the revised Dendrobium coal mine expansion a “political stitch up” after the Independent Planning Commission’s earlier rejection of the project was overruled.

In response to the IPC’s rejection of the destructive project, the NSW Government took the unprecedented step of declaring the coal mine “state significant infrastructure”.

South32 has today released a revised Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which claims the mine’s direct impacts will be reduced, but shows the project would still threaten nationally significant upland swamps and the drinking water catchment relied on by Illawarra and Sydney residents.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said a decision about the project would go straight to NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts without the transparent scrutiny that would occur if it were to return to the IPC for consideration.

“South32 could write that magical fairies will protect our drinking water and it wouldn’t matter because the assessment of this project is now a political decision, rather than assessment that undergoes a considered and transparent process by independent commissioners,” he said.

“This is the only coal mine in the state’s history that has been declared state significant infrastructure. This is a mine being assessed on a political basis, not a scientific one, and Sydney’s drinking water is not safe as a result. 

“The NSW Government’s political intervention has removed the community’s objection rights and that’s outrageous and undemocratic.

“The IPC previously rejected South32’s claim that coal from Dendrobium was needed for the continuation of the Bluescope steelworks. This erroneous claim was the justification the NSW Government used to declare it state significant infrastructure, and is contrary to the findings made by the IPC.

“South32 still refuses to consider the less damaging bord and pillar method of mining, despite the IPC, NSW Government, and Wollongong Coal considering it an acceptable method just eight kilometres north at Russell Vale.

“As the saying goes, you can roll a turd in glitter, but it’s still a turd. South32’s revised Dendrobium proposal puts the security of Sydney’s drinking water catchment at risk and that stinks.”

Deidre Stuart, from Illawarra grass roots network fighting the Dendrobium extension Protect Our Water Catchment Incorporated, said, “Our group is already in the NSW Land and Environment Court defending the IPC refusal decision of the original expansion proposal.  And now at the same time, the NSW Government has introduced a new, fast-track process for South32 to have its new proposal assessed, side lining the IPC.

“We in the community operate in good faith and we feel utterly betrayed by our government over its handling of a coal mine expansion that was rightfully rejected by the IPC. 

“What’s undeniable is that this proposal will still trash Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, drain upland swamps that are recognised as nationally significant, and threaten our drinking water. 

“The Perrottet Government must not risk all this just so a private company can continue to mine coal in our drinking water catchment area.

“The Dendrobium expansion will be responsible for more than 87 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the world cannot afford to burn any more fossil fuels if humanity wants to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis.

“Our drinking water must be protected at all costs. It is more important than coal, and must be protected from any expansion of Dendrobium, particularly one that is not subject to the same degree of scrutiny as the former, already rejected proposal.”

Golden Re-Entry To NSW National Parks For Extinct Bandicoots

June 6, 2022
Australia’s leading native animal rewilding project has hit another milestone, with the tenth extinct species, the golden bandicoot, being reintroduced into a NSW national park.
The NSW Government is establishing a network of eight feral predator-free areas across the state, making it a world leader in rewilding.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the latest release of about 40 golden bandicoots into Sturt National Park means 10 mammal species previously unseen in NSW national parks for about a century are now back where they belong.

'These golden bandicoots are the tenth extinct species that we have rewilded in a NSW national park, which is a major milestone in our work to turn back the tide of extinctions in this state,' Mr Griffin said.

'Due to threats such as feral cats and foxes, golden bandicoots are extinct across 95 per cent of their former range, with the only wild mainland population found in a small patch of northwest Western Australia.

'The release of these golden bandicoots isn’t just good news for this species, it’s also good news for a range of other species that benefit from having bandicoots back in the environment.

'It’s incredible that just three years after the NSW Government reintroduced the first mammal in this project, we already have 10 species that were previously extinct in NSW returned to national parks.'

The Sturt National Park site is part of the NSW Government’s rewilding network that is creating 65,000 hectares of feral predator free areas across seven national parks, providing significant conservation benefits for more than 50 threatened species.

The golden bandicoot is the fourth locally extinct mammal that the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, working in partnership with Wild Deserts (a partnership between University of New South Wales and Ecological Horizons), have reintroduced at Sturt National Park.

Already, bilbies, crest-tailed mulgaras and Shark Bay bandicoots have been successfully reintroduced at Sturt National Park.

Eventually it’s hoped the site will be home to 900 golden bandicoots.

Wild Deserts Project Leader Professor Richard Kingsford said the golden bandicoots were farewelled from their home in Western Australia by Aboriginal rangers.

'We thank the Tarla Matuwa Piarku Aboriginal Corporation (TMPAC) Wiluna Martu rangers from Western Australia. They travelled a long way to handover their precious cargo to the local traditional owner groups Wongkumara and Maljangapa at the Sturt National Park site,' Professor Kingsford said.

'The return of this species into these deserts is so important ecologically because the golden bandicoots dig and turn over the soil where leaves and nutrients collect and support the food web.

'We are also excited to be playing a part in connecting and restoring this desert on behalf of the original Aboriginal people, linking two groups across the continent.'

The Sturt project is part of the NSW Government's $40 million feral predator-free area partnerships project, which is returning at least 13 mammal species currently extinct in New South Wales back into the wild.

So far across three sites, 10 of the 13 species proposed for reintroduction have been successfully reintroduced, including the greater bilby, bridled nail-tail wallaby, numbat, brush-tailed bettong, crest-tailed mulgara, greater stick nest rat, red-tailed phascogale, Shark Bay bandicoot, and now, the golden bandicoot.

Photos: Tom Hunt/ Wild Deserts - UNSW

Stunning New Walk Opens In The Snowies

June 6, 2022
The second stage of a world-class multi-day walk, featuring the country’s highest suspension bridge between Guthega and Charlotte Pass in Kosciuszko National Park is now complete.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the spectacular new nine-kilometre track along the upper Snowy River is helping to establish the region as a key eco-adventure tourism destination.

'Once all four stages are complete, the 55-kilometre Snowies Alpine Walk will be a world-class experience for visitors to enjoy even more of Kosciuszko National Park, and puts the Snowy Mountains region firmly on the domestic and international tourism map,' Mr Toole said.

'The Snowies Alpine Walk includes Australia’s highest suspension bridge at 1,627 metres above sea level and will create more than 30 jobs, attracting an expected 50,000 visitors per year.'

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the project is part of the largest ever investment in national park visitor infrastructure and could compete with the likes of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain Overland Track.

'The opening of this section of the walk marks the completion of the second of four stages, and I’m thrilled to see increased access in this beautiful part of the world,' Mr Griffin said.

'The Snowies Alpine Walk is putting New South Wales on the map for multi-day hikes, and it’ll be a must-do walk for anyone who loves Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain Overland Track. In fact, I reckon it’ll be a strong competitor with the Overland.

'I want to see everyone who comes to our magnificent NSW national parks arrive as visitors, and leave as conservationists, and this walk will help us achieve that.'

Member for Monaro Nichole Overall said the construction of the walkway would open doors for nature-based tourism experiences.

'I’m incredibly excited for this walk to showcase the majestic alpine and sub-alpine landscapes unique to the Snowy Mountains region,' Ms Overall said.

The Snowies Alpine Walk project was awarded more than $17 million by the NSW Government Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund program.

Additional funding of $10 million from the Australian Government’s Regional Recovery Partnerships program has enabled construction to commence on stage four.

Always check the National Parks and Wildlife Services website for track updates before you go.

Important Koala Population Discovered In Kosciuszko National Park

June 2, 2022
Evidence of an important koala population in Kosciuszko National Park has been revealed by new surveys undertaken as part of a collaboration between NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian National University.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said it comes after surveys were conducted in November 2021 and February 2022 that recorded male koalas at 14 sites within the park’s Byadbo Wilderness Area.

'This is good news because, until these recent surveys, there had only been 16 recorded sightings of koalas in Kosciuszko in more than 80 years,' Mr Griffin said.

'This exciting news provides hope that Kosciuszko National Park may be a refuge for this iconic species.

'It’s a promising sign and an indication that biodiversity is benefitting from the NSW Government’s commitment to protect and conserve threatened species.

'From here, we need to better understand the population and the impact this discovery could have on the survival of the species.'

In addition to koalas, the surveys unveiled a host of other declining species, including recordings of the southern greater glider and the yellow-bellied glider.

Member for Monaro Nichole Overall said this new discovery is an opportunity to learn about the significance of higher altitude habitats like those in Kosciuszko for the long-term survival of species like koalas.

'Monaro benefits in so many ways with this incredible national park on our doorstep, and it’s pleasing to see the evidence of the thriving biodiversity in the region,' Ms Overall said.

'This discovery is significant, and from this point, we can learn more about the species and how we can best support the population to thrive in the wild.'

Australian National University ecologist David Lindenmayer said researchers who collected and analysed the data believe Kosciuszko National Park may host a significant koala population, although at low densities.

'These findings are important because of the area’s elevation, which we hope will make the populations more resilient to climate change,' Professor Lindenmayer said.

'The project involved using 100 passive acoustic recorders and spotlight surveys.'

Additional surveys will be conducted under the NSW Koala Strategy to map the distribution of koalas across Kosciuszko National Park.

The population will be tracked as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service’s world-leading ecological monitoring program.

How Australia’s expanding environmental movement is breaking the climate action deadlock in politics

Guano zzzzAustraliaz/FlickrCC BY-SA
Robyn GulliverThe University of Queensland

The federal election saw voters’ growing concern about Australia’s laggardly response to climate change finally addressed, with teal independents garnering seats in Liberal heartland and record votes for Greens candidates.

But what caused this seismic shift in Australia’s political landscape? And why now? We believe the rapid growth and diversification of Australia’s environmental movement since 2015 played an important role.

For example, almost a million Australians volunteered for an environmental charity in 2019, whether by planting trees, organising candidate forums or joining a climate strike.

The environmental movement is also increasingly crossing into traditionally conservative areas, with the emergence of groups such as the Coalition for Conservation and Farmers for Climate Action, which has united 7,000 farmers and 1,200 agriculture industry supporters.

Much of this work remains invisible and takes time, despite being punctuated by highly visible uprisings. And after many years, it may be finally precipitating the end of the climate wars.

Challenging Stereotypes

Many Australians will already be familiar with iconic environmental campaigns such as the Franklin Blockade in Tasmania in the early 1980s, which was pivotal in the evolution of Australia’s environmental movement.

More recently, the Extinction Rebellion and School Strike 4 Climate protests have gained substantial public attention in Australia.

Behind these well-known protests is a diversifying and rapidly expanding environmental movement. In recent years, hundreds of new groups have appeared, and many are actively challenging the activist stereotype characterised by labels such as hippies, extremists, or zealots.

Groups such as First Nations Clean Energy NetworkEmergency Leaders for Climate Action, and the Investor Group on Climate Change have normalised calls for climate action in new industry sectors, and across regional and remote communities.

Many of these groups are using innovative methods to bring about change. Market Forces, for example, applies financial levers to challenge corporate support for the fossil fuel industry.

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners have established a sovereignty camp inside the Adani coal mining lease after their native title rights were extinguished.

And Next Economy canvassed regional communities, discovering a strong desire for clear and well-resourced transition plans for a zero emissions economy.

Meanwhile, philanthropic organisations are increasingly prioritising funding for climate activism. Other organisations offer research services, resources, training and fellowships for people demanding social and environmental change.

Building Consensus On Climate Action

Tactics we’ve seen activists use to demand climate action include the 2019 street blockades, die-ins and mass strikes by Extinction Rebellion and School Strike 4 Climate.

These actions put climate change onto the public agenda by generating widespread media attention. But they represent just a fraction of environmental movement activities.

Most environmental movement activity seeks to build consensus on climate change with those who share different values and worldviews.

Our extensive empirical analysis published last year found between 2010 and 2019, environmental groups advertised more than 24,000 events on Facebook alone, such as film screenings, seminars and clean-ups.

Many Australians have now felt impacts of the climate crisis. The 2019-2020 bushfires affected 80% of Australians whether directly or indirectly. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the recent floods in New South Wales and Queensland.

By sharing heart-wrenching accounts of climate change-related harm, groups such as Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action are able to influence peoples’ opinions and beliefs on climate change .

The diversification of groups has also increased calls for climate action from conservative voices, which have been closely tied to climate scepticism in Australia.

But research from 2021 shows how amplifying these voices within the environmental movement can help normalise climate action within conservative ideology. Conservatives are also more likely to support messages delivered by other conservatives.

We can see these processes playing out in groups such as Farmers for Climate Action. Farmers, traditionally represented by conservative politicians famous for questioning climate science, have become increasingly frustrated about climate inaction.

By championing the economic opportunities and food security benefits delivered by strong climate policy, Farmers for Climate Action have helped connect farmers’ identity to environmental stewardship, while preserving conservative values and outlooks.

The environmental movement is increasingly crossing into traditionally conservative areas. Shutterstock

More Than One Goal

For many groups, the election is only one way of creating change to adequately tackle climate change in Australia. They continue to take action in different ways.

Some, such as Australian Parents for Climate Action, are building community groups working on local issues. This includes installing solar panels and batteries in schools and early childhood centres.

Original Power, a community-focused Aboriginal organisation, seeks self-determination and recognition that Indigenous rights go hand in hand with climate crisis solutions.

And Better Futures is building an alliance of public and private sector leaders to showcase individual and collaborative climate action across industry sectors and communities.

Groups such as these are organising hundreds of new campaigns every year from local to national scale, many of which are achieving their goals.

What Does This Mean For The New Government?

Entrenched interests seeking to maintain the fossil fuel industry and media-supported climate denial have propped up political inaction on climate change, and perpetuated Australia’s relentless climate wars for decades.

While the Albanese government has set a stronger emissions reduction target and promises to inject more renewables into the grid, it insists on continuing to support the emissions-intensive gas industry.

This year’s election offers a chance for the federal government to chart a new way forward. Whether politicians grasp this opportunity remains to be seen.

Will the government heed the call that voters expect greater climate action? Will Labor forge a path beyond fossil fuels, one that doesn’t leave coal and gas communities behind? And how far will the Greens and teal independents push Labor to rise to the challenge?

The environmental movement is now tightly woven into communities across Australia and its demands are clear. It has achieved demonstrable impact and wields considerable power to affect change. Politicians ignore it at their peril.The Conversation

Robyn Gulliver, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

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

Ice world: Antarctica’s riskiest glacier is under assault from below and losing its grip

The front of Thwaites Glacier is a jagged, towering cliff. David Vaughan/British Antarctic Survey
Ted ScambosUniversity of Colorado Boulder

Flying over Antarctica, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Like a gigantic wedding cake, the frosting of snow on top of the world’s largest ice sheet looks smooth and unblemished, beautiful and perfectly white. Little swirls of snow dunes cover the surface.

But as you approach the edge of the ice sheet, a sense of tremendous underlying power emerges. Cracks appear in the surface, sometimes organized like a washboard, and sometimes a complete chaos of spires and ridges, revealing the pale blue crystalline heart of the ice below.

As the plane flies lower, the scale of these breaks steadily grows. These are not just cracks, but canyons large enough to swallow a jetliner, or spires the size of monuments. Cliffs and tears, rips in the white blanket emerge, indicating a force that can toss city blocks of ice around like so many wrecked cars in a pileup. It’s a twisted, torn, wrenched landscape. A sense of movement also emerges, in a way that no ice-free part of the Earth can convey – the entire landscape is in motion, and seemingly not very happy about it.

A view across the ice from an airplane showing many fractures.
Broken ice where Thwaites Glacier heads out to sea. Ted Scambos

Antarctica is a continent comprising several large islands, one of them the size of Australia, all buried under a 10,000-foot-thick layer of ice. The ice holds enough fresh water to raise sea level by nearly 200 feet.

Its glaciers have always been in motion, but beneath the ice, changes are taking place that are having profound effects on the future of the ice sheet – and on the future of coastal communities around the world.

Breaking, Thinning, Melting, Collapsing

Antarctica is where I work. As a polar scientist I’ve visited most areas of the ice sheet in more than 20 trips to the continent, bringing sensors and weather stations, trekking across glaciers, or measuring the speed, thickness and structure of the ice.

Currently, I’m the U.S. coordinating scientist for a major international research effort on Antarctica’s riskiest glacier – more on that in a moment. I have gingerly crossed crevasses, trodden carefully on hard blue windswept ice, and driven for days over the most monotonous landscape you can imagine.

Mountains direct the flow of glaciers toward the sea. 66 North via Unsplash

For most of the past few centuries, the ice sheet has been stable, as far as polar science can tell. Our ability to track how much ice flows out each year, and how much snow falls on top, extends back just a handful of decades, but what we see is an ice sheet that was nearly in balance as recently as the 1980s.

Early on, changes in the ice happened slowly. Icebergs would break away, but the ice was replaced by new outflow. Total snowfall had not changed much in centuries – this we knew from looking at ice cores – and in general the flow of ice and the elevation of the ice sheet seemed so constant that a main goal of early ice research in Antarctica was finding a place, any place, that had changed dramatically.

Deep cracks leaves jagged columns of ice with a layer of snow at the top ready to tip into the sea.
Ice breaks off the front of a glacier in Antarctica. 66 North via Unsplash
A map of the ice sheet showing faster flowing ice at the ice shelves and particularly around the edges of West Antarctica.
A map of Antarctica seen from above, most of it the ice sheet, shows the velocity of the ice flow ice. Thwaites Glacier is on the left. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

But now, as the surrounding air and ocean warm, areas of the Antarctic ice sheet that had been stable for thousands of years are breaking, thinning, melting, or in some cases collapsing in a heap. As these edges of the ice react, they send a powerful reminder: If even a small part of the ice sheet were to completely crumble into the sea, the impact for the world’s coasts would be severe.

Like many geoscientists, I think about how the Earth looks below the part that we can see. For Antarctica, that means thinking about the landscape below the ice. What does the buried continent look like – and how does that rocky basement shape the future of the ice in a warming world?

Visualizing The World Below The Ice

Recent efforts to combine data from hundreds of airplane and ground-based studies have given us a kind of map of the continent below the ice. It reveals two very different landscapes, divided by the Transantarctic Mountains.

In East Antarctica, the part closer to Australia, the continent is rugged and furrowed, with several small mountain ranges. Some of these have alpine valleys, cut by the very first glaciers that formed on Antarctica 30 million years ago, when its climate resembled Alberta’s or Patagonia’s. Most of East Antarctica’s bedrock sits above sea level. This is where the city-size Conger ice shelf collapsed amid an unusually intense heat wave in March 2022.

A view of Antarctica's bedrock beneath the ice today shows islands in the west side and more above-sea bedrock in the east.
Below the ice, recent studies have mapped Antarctica’s bedrock and show much of the west side is below sea level. Bedmap2; Fretwell 2013

In West Antarctica the bedrock is far different, with parts that are far deeper. This area was once the ocean bottom, a region where the continent was stretched and broken into smaller blocks with deep seabed between. Large islands made of volcanic mountain ranges are linked together by the thick blanket of ice. But the ice here is warmer, and moving faster.

As recently as 120,000 years ago, this area was probably an open ocean – and definitely so in the past 2 million years. This is important because our climate today is fast approaching temperatures like those of a few million years ago.

The realization that the West Antarctic ice sheet was gone in the past is the cause of great concern in the global warming era.

Early Stages Of A Large-Scale Retreat

Toward the coast of West Antarctica is a large area of ice called Thwaites Glacier. This is the widest glacier on earth, at 70 miles across, draining an area nearly as large as Idaho.

Satellite data tell us that it is in the early stages of a large-scale retreat. The height of the surface has been dropping by up to 3 feet each year. Huge cracks have formed at the coast, and many large icebergs have been set adrift. The glacier is flowing at over a mile per year, and this speed has nearly doubled in the past three decades.

Two decades of satellite data show the fastest ice loss in the vicinity of the Thwaites Glacier. NASA.
A view across the ice from an airplane showing many fractures.
From above, fractures are evident in the Thwaites Glacier. Ted Scambos

This area was noted early on as a place where the ice could lose its grip on the bedrock. The region was termed the “weak underbelly” of the ice sheet.

Some of the first measurements of the ice depth, using radio echo-sounding, showed that the center of West Antarctica had bedrock up to a mile and a half below sea level. The coastal area was shallower, with a few mountains and some higher ground; but a wide gap between the mountains lay near the coast. This is where Thwaites Glacier meets the sea.

This pattern, with deeper ice piled high near the center of an ice sheet, and shallower but still low bedrock near the coast, is a recipe for disaster – albeit a very slow-moving disaster.

Ice flows under its own weight – something we learned in high school earth science, but give it a thought now. With very tall and very deep ice near Antarctica’s center, a tremendous potential for faster flow exists. By being shallower near the edges, the flow is held back – grinding on the bedrock as it tries to leave, and having a shorter column of ice at the coast squeezing it outward.

An Antarctic glacier flows between mountains. Lines in ice show that it's flowing.
An Antarctic glacier flows toward the sea. Erin Pettit
How warmer water is undermining the glacier.

If the ice were to step back far enough, the retreating front would go from “thin” ice – still nearly 3,000 feet thick – to thicker ice toward the center of the continent. At the retreating edge, the ice would flow faster, because the ice is thicker now. By flowing faster, the glacier pulls down the ice behind it, allowing it to float, causing more retreat. This is what’s known as a positive feedback loop – retreat leading to thicker ice at the front of the glacier, making for faster flow, leading to more retreat.

Warming Water: The Assault From Below

But how would this retreat begin? Until recently, Thwaites had not changed a lot since it was first mapped in the 1940s. Early on, scientists thought a retreat would be a result of warmer air and surface melting. But the cause of the changes at Thwaites seen in satellite data is not so easy to spot from the surface.

Beneath the ice, however, at the point where the ice sheet first lifts off the continent and begins to jut out over the ocean as a floating ice shelf, the cause of the retreat becomes evident. Here, ocean water well above the melting point is eroding the base of the ice, erasing it as an ice cube would disappear bobbing in a glass of water.

An illustration of an ice shelf and glacier with water flowing under the ice shelf and eroding it at the seabed
Warming water is reaching under the ice shelf and eroding it from below. Scambos et al 2017

Water that is capable of melting as much as 50 to 100 feet of ice every year meets the edge of the ice sheet here. This erosion lets the ice flow faster, pushing against the floating ice shelf.

The ice shelf is one of the restraining forces holding the ice sheet back. But pressure from the land ice is slowly breaking this ice plate. Like a board splintering under too much weight, it is developing huge cracks. When it gives way – and mapping of the fractures and speed of flow suggests this is just a few years away – it will be another step that allows the ice to flow faster, feeding the feedback loop.

Up To 10 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

Looking back at the ice-covered continent from our camp this year, it is a sobering view. A huge glacier, flowing toward the coast, and stretching from horizon to horizon, rises up to the middle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. There is a palpable feeling that the ice is bearing down on the coast.

Ice is still ice – it doesn’t move that fast no matter what is driving it; but this giant area called West Antarctica could soon begin a multicentury decline that would add up to 10 feet to sea level. In the process, the rate of sea level rise would increase severalfold, posing large challenges for people with a stake in coastal cities. Which is pretty much all of us.The Conversation

Ted Scambos, Senior Research Scientist, CIRES, University of Colorado Boulder

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

Shifting seasons: using Indigenous knowledge and western science to help address climate change impacts

Yuku Baja Muliku Country, Archer Point, North Queensland. Author provided
Karin GerhardtJames Cook UniversityJon C. DayJames Cook UniversityLarissa HaleIndigenous Knowledge, and Scott F. HeronJames Cook University

Traditional Owners in Australia are the creators of millennia worth of traditional ecological knowledge – an understanding of how to live amid changing environmental conditions. Seasonal calendars are one of the forms of this knowledge best known by non-Indigenous Australians. But as the climate changes, these calendars are being disrupted.

How? Take the example of wattle trees that flower at a specific time of year. That previously indicated the start of the fishing season for particular species. Climate change is causing these plants to flower later. In response, Traditional Owners on Yuku Baja Muliku (YBM) Country near Cooktown are having to adapt their calendars and make new links.

That’s not all. The seasonal timing of cultural burning practices is changing in some areas. Changes to rainfall and temperature alter when high intensity (hot) burns and low intensity (cool) burns are undertaken.

Seasonal connections vital to Traditional Owners’ culture are decoupling.

To systematically document changes, co-author Larissa Hale and her community worked with western scientists to pioneer a Traditional Owner-centred approach to climate impacts on cultural values. This process, published last week, could also help Traditional Owners elsewhere to develop adaptive management for their Indigenous heritage.

Wattle flower
A YBM Traditional Owner showing the wattle flower which used to be an indicator species for good fishing. Author provided

Climate Change Threatens First Nations - Their Perspectives Must Be Heard

Australia’s First Nations people face many threats from climate change, ranging from impacts on food availability to health. For instance, rising seas are already flooding islands in the Torres Strait with devastating consequences.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on impacts and adaption noted in the Australasia chapter that climate-related impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their country and cultures are “pervasive, complex and compounding.”

While it is important these impacts are recorded, the dominant source of the data is academic literature based on western science. Impacts and pressures Traditional Owners are seeing and managing on their country must be assessed and managed from their unique perspective.

Traditional Owners have survived and adapted to climatic shifts during their 60,000+ years in Australia. This includes sea-level rise that flooded the area that is now the Great Barrier Reef and extreme rainfall variability. As a result, they have developed a fine-tuned sense of nature’s variability over time.

Drone shot of Annan river
YBM Traditional Owners and scientists surveying freshwater mussel populations on Annan River near Cooktown. Author provided

So What Did We Do?

Worried about the changes they were seeing on their Land and Sea Country around Archer Point in North Queensland, the YBM people worked with scientists from James Cook University to create a new way to assess impacts on cultural values.

To do this, we drew on the values-based, science-driven, and community-focused approach of the climate vulnerability index. It was the first time this index had been used to assess values of significance for Indigenous people.

YBM people responded to key prompts to assess changes to their values, including:

  • What did the value look like 100 years ago?
  • What does it look like now?
  • What do you expect it will look like in the climate future around 2050?
  • What management practices relate to that value and will they change?

We then discussed what issues have emerged from these climatic changes.

Using this process, we were able to single out issues directly affecting how YBM people live. For instance, traditional food sources can be affected by climate change. In the past, freshwater mussels in the Annan River were easy to access and collect. Extreme temperature events in the last 10 years have contributed to mass die-offs. Now mussels are much smaller in size and tend to be far fewer in number.

Freshwater mussels Annan River
Freshwater mussels used to be more common. Author provided

Through the process we also documented that changes to rainfall and temperature have altered the time when some plant foods appear. This is particularly true for plants that depend upon cultural burns to flower or put up shoots. This in turn has meant that the timing of collecting and harvesting has changed.

bushfoods found on YBM country
The timing of when some bushfoods appear is changing. Author provided

These climate-linked changes challenge existing bodies of traditional knowledge, altering connections between different species, ecosystems and weather patterns across Land and Sea Country.

A key part of this process was developing a mutually beneficial partnership between traditional ecological knowledge holders and western scientists. It was critical to establish a relationship built on trust and respect.

Walking the country first – seeing rivers, mangroves, beaches, headlands, bush, wetlands, and looking out at Sea Country – helped researchers understand the perspectives of Traditional Owners. Honouring experience and knowledge (especially that held by Elders and Indigenous rangers) was important. Indigenous cultural and intellectual property protocols were recognised and respected throughout the assessment.

Respecting and working collaboratively with Traditional Owners as expert scientists in their own knowledge system was critical for success. Any effort to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge in climate change assessments must protect sensitive traditional knowledge.

As climate change will continue and accelerate, we must work together to minimise resulting impacts on the cultural heritage of First Nations peoples.The Conversation

Karin Gerhardt, PhD student, James Cook UniversityJon C. Day, PSM, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook UniversityLarissa Hale, Yuku Baja Muliku Traditional Owner, Indigenous Knowledge, and Scott F. Heron, Associate Professor in Physics, James Cook University

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

A huge Atlantic ocean current is slowing down. If it collapses, La Niña could become the norm for Australia

Matthew EnglandUNSW SydneyAndréa S. TaschettoUNSW Sydney, and Bryam Orihuela-PintoUNSW Sydney

Climate change is slowing down the conveyor belt of ocean currents that brings warm water from the tropics up to the North Atlantic. Our research, published today in Nature Climate Change, looks at the profound consequences to global climate if this Atlantic conveyor collapses entirely.

We found the collapse of this system – called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – would shift the Earth’s climate to a more La Niña-like state. This would mean more flooding rains over eastern Australia and worse droughts and bushfire seasons over southwest United States.

East-coast Australians know what unrelenting La Niña feels like. Climate change has loaded our atmosphere with moister air, while two summers of La Niña warmed the ocean north of Australia. Both contributed to some of the wettest conditions ever experienced, with record-breaking floods in New South Wales and Queensland.

Meanwhile, over the southwest of North America, a record drought and severe bushfires have put a huge strain on emergency services and agriculture, with the 2021 fires alone estimated to have cost at least US$70 billion.

Earth’s climate is dynamic, variable, and ever-changing. But our current trajectory of unabated greenhouse gas emissions is giving the whole system a giant kick that’ll have uncertain consequences – consequences that’ll rewrite our textbook description of the planet’s ocean circulation and its impact.

What Is The Atlantic Overturning Meridional Circulation?

The Atlantic overturning circulation comprises a massive flow of warm tropical water to the North Atlantic that helps keep European climate mild, while allowing the tropics a chance to lose excess heat. An equivalent overturning of Antarctic waters can be found in the Southern Hemisphere.

Climate records reaching back 120,000 years reveal the Atlantic overturning circulation has switched off, or dramatically slowed, during ice ages. It switches on and placates European climate during so-called “interglacial periods”, when the Earth’s climate is warmer.

Since human civilisation began around 5,000 years ago, the Atlantic overturning has been relatively stable. But over the past few decades a slowdown has been detected, and this has scientists worried.

The main components of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. The northward flowing upper branch (red arrow) transports warm salty waters to the North Atlantic, and forms the North Atlantic Deep Waters (NADW) at high latitudes. The southward flowing NADW lies above the Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW). Stefano Crivellari, University of São Paulo/Research Gate

Why the slowdown? One unambiguous consequence of global warming is the melting of polar ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica. When these icecaps melt they dump massive amounts of freshwater into the oceans, making water more buoyant and reducing the sinking of dense water at high latitudes.

Around Greenland alone, a massive 5 trillion tonnes of ice has melted in the past 20 years. That’s equivalent to 10,000 Sydney Harbours worth of freshwater. This melt rate is set to increase over the coming decades if global warming continues unabated.

A collapse of the North Atlantic and Antarctic overturning circulations would profoundly alter the anatomy of the world’s oceans. It would make them fresher at depth, deplete them of oxygen, and starve the upper ocean of the upwelling of nutrients provided when deep waters resurface from the ocean abyss. The implications for marine ecosystems would be profound.

With Greenland ice melt already well underway, scientists estimate the Atlantic overturning is at its weakest for at least the last millennium, with predictions of a future collapse on the cards in coming centuries if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked.

The Ramifications Of A Slowdown

In our study, we used a comprehensive global model to examine what Earth’s climate would look like under such a collapse. We switched the Atlantic overturning off by applying a massive meltwater anomaly to the North Atlantic, and then compared this to an equivalent run with no meltwater applied.

Our focus was to look beyond the well-known regional impacts around Europe and North America, and to check how Earth’s climate would change in remote locations, as far south as Antarctica.

An Atlantic overturning shutdown would be felt as far south as Antarctica. Shutterstock

The first thing the model simulations revealed was that without the Atlantic overturning, a massive pile up of heat builds up just south of the Equator.

This excess of tropical Atlantic heat pushes more warm moist air into the upper troposphere (around 10 kilometres into the atmosphere), causing dry air to descend over the east Pacific.

The descending air then strengthens trade winds, which pushes warm water towards the Indonesian seas. And this helps put the tropical Pacific into a La Niña-like state.

Australians may think of La Niña summers as cool and wet. But under the long-term warming trend of climate change, their worst impacts will be flooding rain, especially over the east.

We also show an Atlantic overturning shutdown would be felt as far south as Antarctica. Rising warm air over the West Pacific would trigger wind changes that propagate south to Antarctica. This would deepen the atmospheric low pressure system over the Amundsen Sea, which sits off west Antarctica.

This low pressure system is known to influence ice sheet and ice shelf melt, as well as ocean circulation and sea-ice extent as far west as the Ross Sea.

A New World Order

At no time in Earth’s history, giant meteorites and super-volcanos aside, has our climate system been jolted by changes in atmospheric gas composition like what we are imposing today by our unabated burning of fossil fuels.

The oceans are the flywheel of Earth’s climate, slowing the pace of change by absorbing heat and carbon in vast quantities. But there is payback, with sea level rise, ice melt, and a significant slowdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation projected for this century.

Now we know this slowdown will not just affect the North Atlantic region, but as far away as Australia and Antarctica.

We can prevent these changes from happening by growing a new low-carbon economy. Doing so will change, for the second time in less than a century, the course of Earth’s climate history – this time for the better.The Conversation

Matthew England, Scientia Professor and Deputy Director of the ARC Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science (ACEAS), UNSW SydneyAndréa S. Taschetto, Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney, and Bryam Orihuela-Pinto, PhD Candidate, UNSW Sydney

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

Australia has overshot three planetary boundaries based on how we use land

Romy ZyngierClimateworks Centre

We used to believe the world’s resources were almost limitless. But as we spread out across the planet, we consumed more and more of these resources. For decades, scientists have warned we are approaching the limits of what the environment can tolerate.

In 2009, the influential Stockholm Resilience Centre first published its planetary boundaries framework. The idea is simple: outline the global environmental limits within which humanity could develop and thrive. This concept has become popular as a way to grasp our impact on nature.

For the first time, we have taken these boundaries – which can be hard to visualise on a global scale – and applied them to Australia. We found Australia has already overshot three of these: biodiversity, land-system change and nitrogen and phosphorus flows. We’re also approaching the boundaries for freshwater use and climate change.

The nation’s land use is a key contributor to these trends, with natural systems under increasing pressure as a result of many land management practices. Luckily, we already know many of the solutions for living within our limits, such as waste management, conservation and restoration of natural lands in conjunction with agriculture, and shifts in food production.

What Are Planetary Boundaries?

In 2015, scientists took stock of how humanity was tracking, warning four of nine boundaries had already been crossed.

While such warnings make global headlines, they can also leave people wondering, “What does this actually mean for me?”

This TED talk on planetary boundaries has helped popularise this approach.

This is the question we have sought to answer for Australia and its land use sector. We took five of these global boundaries and calculated what Australia’s “share” of those would be in our new technical report.

We then went one step further, breaking down what these boundaries mean for Australia’s land use industries, such as agriculture and forestry.

fallen trees in tasmania
Land-system change can pose major threats for nature. Shutterstock

These Limits Are Not Abstractions – They’re Real

These are real-world limits. Pushing past them has real-world consequences.

Take nitrogen and phosphorus flows, which refers to the levels of these chemicals in the nation’s waterways.

In around 50% of our river catchments, we already have concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus past the safe level for the health of the environment. These chemicals are applied as fertiliser to cropland and pasture. If there’s too much, it can run off into waterways. Once in our rivers, these chemicals can fuel dangerous algal blooms which can force the closure of popular recreational areas, fill lakes with weeds and hurt fish and other wildlife.

Tackling one environmental issue often has benefits for others. Improving water quality has benefits for biodiversity, because the plants and animals supported by those rivers have better water to live off and in.

Why does biodiversity matter? The diversity of life on our continent plays a critical role in keeping ecosystems stable and sustaining vital services – such as fresh air and water – they provide to wildlife and to us.

It’s well known areas with lower numbers of species and lower genetic diversity prove generally less resilient to shocks. That means these environments are at higher risk of tipping into a state where they can no longer provide the services vital to life.

Different species occupy different niches within ecosystems, meaning the loss of one or two can erode the functioning of the system as a whole.

Protecting and restoring biodiversity is therefore critical to achieving planetary health. Unfortunately, biodiversity is among the boundaries Australia has already overshot. The number of species threatened by our activities is growing, and many of our endangered animals are at risk of extinction.

Dead fish algal bloom
Fertiliser overuse can trigger algal blooms and kill fish and other water species. Shutterstock

We Know What We Need To Do

With this report, we contribute to the national conversation about how Australia can stay within its fair share of planetary limits and contribute to the global effort for sustainable development.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use industries also have a critical role to play in reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. But the land use sector is under increasing pressure from growing populations, the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

Understanding what sustainability means in practical, measurable terms for Australia’s land use sector is vital to enable humanity to continue to prosper.The Conversation

Romy Zyngier, Senior Research Manager, Climateworks Centre

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

Get out and go fungal: why it’s a bumper time to spot our native fungi

Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

When COVID forced Melburnians to isolate during large parts of 2020 and 2021, many took the opportunity to walk around parks, creeks or remnant bush.

In your walks, you may have noticed the wonderful and diverse range of fungal fruiting bodies on display. Victoria’s display of puff balls, bracket fungi and fairy rings has been nothing short of splendid.

The fun’s not over, either. This year has been a particularly good one for fungus too, and here’s why. As you may recall, the harsh 2019-20 summer dried our soils, stressed much of our vegetation and led to major bushfires. In 2021, this switched abruptly to one of the wettest starts to a year on record in many places, courtesy of the La Niña climate pattern.

With the rains, the weather became ideal for fungal reproduction. We had warm, very moist soils and lovely warm and sunny autumnal days, perfect for fungi to send up their reproductive structures (you might know these as mushrooms and toadstools) and spread their spores. Conditions this good may not occur again for years so seize the opportunity to see them.

Puffball mushrooms emit a cloud of spores into the air when stepped on. Shutterstock

What You Can See In A Walk In The Park

Fungi are not just for adults. Oh no! They can entertain children for hours.

In 2020, our family group took a walk in Brimbank Park, in Melbourne’s northwest. The five year old leader waved his lucky stick/sword/wand in the air as we entered, declaring, “today we hunt fungus!” He was still doing so two hours later, closely followed by his younger brother.

Their first findings were puff balls, some brown and others like little white pebbles. If you squeeze these puff balls, a fine dust of spores can emerge like a mist. You don’t want to breathe them in but at a distance they are mostly harmless.

We spotted some like ordinary field mushrooms, but when you scratched their light tan surface a bright yellow colour emerged. If you were to eat these yellow-staining mushrooms you would be sick and potentially seriously ill. Some contain very powerful toxins and can prove to be deadly if eaten. Unless you know exactly what fungus you have, don’t even think of eating them. It’s advisable to wash hands well after handling any kind of fungi.

Yellow-staining mushroom
Yellow-staining mushrooms are the most common cause of mushroom poisoning in Australia, given their resemblance to field mushrooms. Shutterstock

Spores are the means by which fungi reproduce themselves. Most are tiny but they can be dry like powder, damp and sticky, dull or brightly coloured, plain or ornately decorated and sometimes quite smelly. The dry spores can easily be dispersed by even a gentle breeze, but the sticky ones often adhere to an unsuspecting passer-by such as a bird, rabbit, dog or human sock.

We gave the little ones extra points if they looked at the fungus but left it intact, even if they couldn’t resist giving one or two a poke. Their next discovery gained even more points because you had to look up: it was a bracket fungus growing on a dead branch. Some of these are snowy white, but others are yellow or bright orange, almost like traffic lights. Some have an almost velvety outer texture while others appear to be made of woody rings like the tree upon which they are growing.

On dead trees, bracket fungi have the role of recycling old dead wood. Some don’t even wait until the tree dies. They gain access to the old wood at the tree’s centre and begin the decay process while the tree is still living. The fruiting bodies of these fungi look like little shelves on the trunk of the tree and can persist for decades. On some trees, multiple brackets form a veritable stairway to heaven. If you have a large bracket fungus on a large old branch or tree, it’s a good idea to get arboricultural advice about the safety of the tree.

Fairy Rings, Basket Fungus And Symbiotic Relationships

Our little posse of fungal hunters had travelled 100 metres into the park, but in the zigzag pattern of explorers, it had taken us an hour. A brown dried star-like structure was revealed as a dried puff ball, its spores well and truly blown and what was once a ball had peeled back as it dried into a near perfect star. In a section of mown grass, we come across the delicate mushrooms of a fairy ring. Excitement ensues.

Why is it a ring? Where are the fairies? Can you eat them? Not the fairies, the mushrooms! The fairies of course heard us coming and so they are hiding. No, you can’t eat them because they might be poisonous and make you sick.

Fairy rings form into a circle because they came from a single starting point and expanded outward from the centre at more or less the same rate.

Fairy ring mushrooms
Fairy rings of mushrooms come from a common source. Shutterstock

Is that a pebble? No it’s a fungus doing a brilliant impression of a pebble. We were camouflage experts now, and it couldn’t hide from us. Then a squeal. What is that? A soccer ball? No, old plastic. No, a dome. It’s a magnificent white basket fungus shaped like an intricate geodesic sphere. We left it for others to discover. With the mighty stick/sword/wand high in the air, we head for home.

Fungi are always there in our soils. Their fine thread structures, called hyphae, lie underfoot all year, but their fruiting bodies only appear under the right conditions. Many of these fungi entwine around the roots of specific plants and in many cases into the plant root cells themselves. The fungus offers water and nutrients to the plants and in return the plants give the fungus some of the carbohydrates they produce from photosynthesis. It’s a marvellously beneficial relationship.

stinkhorn fungus
The smooth cage stinkhorn (Ileodictyon gracile) has a fruiting body like a geodesic dome. Michael Jefferies/FlickrCC BY

We went a-hunting several more times, and the young ones never tired of the sport. Interacting closely with plants and fungi meets basic physical, mental and psychological needs hailing back to our early travel through natural ecosystems.

Finding and poring over plants and fungi engages all our senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch – and for experts only, taste. It’s no wonder all of us in the hunt feel the better for this purposeful forest bathing.

Spotting fungi above ground is a rare treat. If the weather gets too chilly, or if La Niña gives way to hot and dry El Niño, the fungi will vanish. But if we get a mild, wet winter, the fungal season can just roll on. That’s the thing about fungi, you can never be sure. They play by their own rules. The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Doctor of Botany, The University of Melbourne

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

Our new environment super-department sounds great in theory. But one department for two ministers is risky

Peter BurnettAustralian National University

Good news, Australia – the environment is back. Our new government has introduced a new super-department covering climate change, energy, the environment and water.

But while the ministry move sounds great in theory, it’s risky in practice. Having one super-department supporting two ministers – Tanya Plibersek in environment and water, and Chris Bowen for climate change and energy – is likely to stretch the public service too far.

If a policy area is important enough to warrant its own cabinet minister, it also warrants a dedicated secretary and department. This is especially true for the shrunken environment department, which has to rebuild staff and know-how after having over a third of its budget slashed in the early Coalition years.

Supporting two cabinet ministers stretches department secretaries too thinly. It makes it hard for them to engage in the kind of deep policy development we need in such a difficult and fast-moving policy environment.

What Are The Politics Behind This Move?

Tanya Plibersek’s appointment last week as minister for the environment and water was the surprise of the new ministerial lineup.

Even if Plibersek’s move from education in opposition to environment in government was a political demotion for her, as some have suggested, placing the environment portfolio in the hands of someone so senior and well-regarded is a boon for the environment.

Having the environment in the broadest sense represented in Cabinet by two experienced and capable ministers is doubly welcome. It signifies a return to the main stage for our ailing natural world after years of relative neglect under the Coalition government.

It also makes good political sense, given the significant electoral gains made by the Greens on Labor’s left flank. While ‘climate’ rather than ‘environment’ was the word on everybody’s lips, other major environmental issues need urgent attention. Threatened species and declining biodiversity are only one disaster or controversy away from high political urgency.

When released at last, the 2021 State of the Environment Report will make environmental bad news public. Former environment minister Sussan Ley sat on the report for five months, leaving it for her successor to release it.

Now Comes The Avalanche Of Policy

Both ministers have a packed policy agenda, courtesy of Labor’s last minute commitment to creating an environmental protection agency, as well as responding to the urgent calls for change in the sweeping [2020 review] of Australia’s national environmental law (

That’s not half of it. Bowen is also tasked with delivering the government’s high-profile 43% emissions cuts within eight years, which includes the Rewiring the Nation effort to modernise our grid. He will also lead Australia’s bid to host the world’s climate summit, COP29, in 2024, alongside Pacific countries.

Plibersek also has to tackle major water reforms in the Murray Darling basin and develop new Indigenous heritage laws to respond to the parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of ancient rock art site Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto.

Can One Big Department Cope With This Workload?

Creating a super-department is a bad idea. That’s because the agenda for both ministers is large and challenging. It will be a nightmare job for the department secretary tasked with supporting two ministers. It’s no comfort that the problem will be worse elsewhere, with the infrastructure department supporting four cabinet ministers.

Giving departmental secretaries wide responsibilities crossing lines of ministerial responsibility encourages them to reconcile policy tensions internally rather than putting them up to ministers, as they should.

The tension between large renewable energy projects and threatened species is a prime example of what can go wrong. Last year, environment minister Sussan Ley ruled a $50 billion renewable megaproject in the Pilbara could not proceed because of ‘clearly unacceptable’ impacts on internationally recognised wetlands south of Broome.

Ley’s ‘clearly unacceptable’ finding stopped the project at the first environmental hurdle. That’s despite the fact the very same project was awarded ‘major project’ status by the federal government in 2020.

The problem here is what might have been the right answer on a narrow environmental basis was the wrong answer more broadly.

If Australia is to achieve its potential as a clean energy superpower and as other renewable energy megaprojects move forward, we will need more sophisticated ways of avoiding such conflicts. This will require resolution of deep policy tensions – and that’s best done between ministers rather than between duelling deputy secretaries.

Super-departments also struggle to maintain coherence across the different programs they run. While large departments bring economies of scale, these benefits are more than offset by coordination and culture issues.

An early task for Glyn Davis, the new head of the prime minister’s department, will be to recommend a secretary for this new super-department of climate change, energy, the environment and water. In addition to the ability to absorb a punishing workload, the successful appointee will need high level juggling skills to support Plibersek and Bowen simultaneously.

Ironically, in dividing time between two ministers, she or he will be the least able to accept Plibersek’s call for staff of her new department to be ‘all in’ in turning her decisions into action.The Conversation

Peter Burnett, Honorary Associate Professor, ANU College of Law, Australian National University

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

This mosquito species from Papua New Guinea was lost for 90 years – until a photographer snapped a picture of it in Australia

Tracking mosquitoes in our backyards, such as Aedes notoscriptus, helps authorities work out future health risks. Cameron Webb (NSW Health Pathology)Author provided
Cameron WebbUniversity of SydneyCraig WilliamsUniversity of South AustraliaLarissa Braz SousaUniversity of South Australia, and Marlene WalterWalter and Eliza Hall Institute

There are already plenty of mosquitoes in Australia. They bring pest and public health risks to many parts of the country.

Now a new species of mosquito, Aedes shehzadae, has been discovered 90 years after the first (and only other observation) of it in Papua New Guinea – and it’s thanks to citizen science.

Mosquitoes And Their Health Threats

Mosquitoes are simple creatures, but they pose complex health risks. The recent widespread arrival of Japanese encephalitis virus, which caused dozens of cases of disease and five deaths, is a reminder of the threat mosquitoes pose in Australia.

To address this threat, there are mosquito and mosquito-borne pathogen surveillance programs in states and territories around the country. Our borders are checked by the Department of Agriculture Water and Environment for the arrival of invasive mosquitoes with international travellers, their belongings, or freight.

These programs collect valuable information on local and invasive mosquitoes. But they can’t be everywhere – which is where citizen science can step in.

Water-filled potted plant saucers and other containers in the backyard can be a perfect place to find mosquitoes. Cameron Webb (NSW Health Pathology/University of Sydney)

We can learn more about mosquitoes, and their spread across the country, with the help of volunteer “citizen scientists”. Individuals or groups can participate in projects such as Zika Mozzie Seeker or Mozzie Monitors. Mozzie Monitors has expanded in recent years to become the only national program, primarily focused around the annual Mozzie Month.

Citizen scientists can also upload photographs of mosquitoes to online platforms such as iNaturalist, which provides opportunities to observe the insects in nature. An analysis of more than 2,000 mosquito observations uploaded to iNaturalist revealed an astonishing 57 species observed across Australia.

And one of the most remarkable observations uploaded to iNaturalist in recent years has been a mysterious and distinctive mosquito, Aedes shehzadae.

A Discovery 90 Years In The Making

Aedes shehzadae was first captured in Australia by photographer John Lenagan in 2021, while on the lookout for moths in the Kutini-Payamu National Park (Iron Range) in Queensland’s Cape York.

The photo kicked off a cascade of investigations into mosquito collections held in research institutes and museums across Australia. They even stretched as far as the Natural History Museum in London.

We and our colleagues have detailed the circumstances around this unique discovery in this month’s edition of the Journal of Vector Ecology.

Lenagan’s photo wasn’t just the first time Aedes shehzadae was observed in Australia – it was also only the second time this mosquito had ever been formally recorded. The discovery may have gone unnoticed, had the photograph not been uploaded to iNaturalist and sparked interest.

Close-up shot of a mosquito.
The first time a live specimen of Aedes shehzadae was observed in Australia, about 90 years after first being collected in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. John Lenagan/iNaturalistAuthor provided

The only other specimen of this mosquito was collected in Papua New Guinea in 1934, almost 90 years ago. It was collected by a remarkable unpaid entomologist named Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, and stored in the Natural History Museum, until being formally described in 1972 by the Malaria Institute of Pakistan entomologist M. Qutubiddin (first name unconfirmed). He named the mosquito after his daughter.

Cheesman was a tenacious naturalist who collected around 70,000 specimens of insects, plants, and other animals for the Natural History Museum – many during expeditions to the South West Pacific.

We don’t know much about Aedes shehzadae. We’re not even sure whether it’s a new arrival in Australia, or if it had simply not been observed before. In all likelihood it won’t pose a significant threat to our backyards.

But that can’t be said for other exotic and invasive mosquitoes knocking on our door. Mosquitoes such as Aedes albopictus, or the “tiger mosquito”, could be a game-changer for mosquito-borne disease in Australia.

Community Assistance

Much has been said about the potential for citizen science to help health authorities identify exotic and invasive mosquitoes. This has been the case in Europe. And these programs may well be instrumental in tracking newly arrived mosquitoes that have hitched a ride with travellers or freight to the backyards and bushland of Australia.

We’re used to female mosquitoes biting us for blood, but we’re less aware of the flowers they visit to help pollination. We also don’t know a lot about the animals that eat mosquitoes, so perhaps some photographs of them caught in spider webs would be useful too.

There’s no doubt participants in citizen science projects can contribute to our understanding of native and invasive species distribution in meaningful ways. If Aedes shehzadae is anything to go by, anyone with a camera and some curiosity can be the discoverer of a new species, or new mosquito arrival.The Conversation

Cameron Webb, Clinical Associate Professor and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of SydneyCraig Williams, Professor and Dean of Programs (Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences), University of South AustraliaLarissa Braz Sousa, PhD candidate on citizen science and public health, University of South Australia, and Marlene Walter, Masters of Research Student, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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

3 key measures in the suite of new reforms to deal with Australia’s energy crisis

Tim NelsonGriffith University and Joel GilmoreGriffith University

With electricity prices surging to previously unimaginable levels, state and federal energy ministers met yesterday to consider how to respond to Australia’s energy crisis.

The market is pricing electricity at over A$300 per megawatt hour, more than three times what it traded at the beginning of this year.

In yesterday’s meeting, ministers agreed on 11 actions for lowering gas bills and to ensure a crisis like this doesn’t happen again. Here we take a closer look at three key ones.

None will address prices immediately, so all consumers should look for the best deal on electricity through excellent comparison sites, such as the Energy Made Easy website.

Three Important Measures On The Table

Power bills are set to remain high for months to come. Wholesale electricity makes up one third of a typical household retail bill, and the Australian Energy Regulator recently approved household electricity price rises of up to 20%.

If wholesale prices stay at current levels, Australians will have to pay even more for their electricity during the second half of the year.

So what key measures have the ministers proposed to address this? First, the ministers will allow the market operator to purchase gas and hold it in reserve.

If done well, holding reserves to release in times of supply shortage could smooth out extreme prices. Holding reserves of gas won’t be costless, but the cost of that insurance may be worth it to taxpayers. It will be important to see the detail of how this will be implemented.

The second action is to develop a national plan for growth in renewables, hydrogen, and transmission.

Accelerating new renewables will be key to reducing our exposure to fuel prices. A new wind or solar project can provide energy for $50-80 per megawatt hour, compared to $300-500 per megawatt hour from fossil fuel plants today.

Having a clear plan is a good start, but ministers will need to work out how to deliver it. Expanding the national Renewable Energy Target would be a good first step.

This target, legislated by the Rudd government, currently requires roughly 20% of electricity to come from new renewable energy. This could be increased significantly.

Indeed, state targets in place now could be more efficiently delivered if they were amalgamated into a stronger national target. Ministers could also consider similar targets for green gas or hydrogen.

Wind turbines on a hill, behind a gum tree
The renewable energy target in national legislation must be strengthened. Shutterstock

The third action is the most contested. Ministers have recommended implementing a capacity mechanism that would pay units to be available even if they’re not used, which may be similar to a capacity market. It’s not clear what this proposal will look like in detail or how this proposal would address the current crisis.

The communique doesn’t explicitly rule out coal. But there are reasons to be hopeful that what ministers have actually asked for is a capacity reserve, which will facilitate more renewables accompanied by modern technologies such as battery storage.

What Is A Capacity Market And Why Should It Exclude Coal?

A traditional capacity market is designed to pay all power stations (including existing coal) for being available, even if they’re not used.

This sort of capacity market won’t build the type of capacity we urgently need. Our grid requires generation that can turn on and off quickly, adjusting to consumers’ increasing appetite for installing their own solar panels.

A traditional capacity market that pays inflexible capacity such as coal will delay investment in new flexible capacity such as hydro, batteries, and hydrogen-ready gas peakers. Coal is considered inflexible because it takes hours to ramp up to full production, whereas “flexible” capacity can ramp to full production in seconds or minutes.

Locking in existing inflexible generation can reduce the reliability of the grid, a risk now possible in Western Australia.

Paying coal power stations to stay around longer also exposes Australia to fuel price spikes as we’ve seen recently, as well as continued shortfalls of capacity. This is because, as federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen pointed out, the current crisis is due to an unexpected shortage of coal, not gas.

Paying coal power stations twice – once for their capacity, and again for their energy – means it’s harder to build new, flexible capacity. A capacity market like this wouldn’t have avoided our current crisis or reduced consumers’ bills: the cost of coal and gas would still be high.

Coal is also increasingly unreliable. Currently up to 25% of coal is offline for maintenance, and unplanned outages are rising. Ironically, some coal generators are simultaneously asking to be paid to close their power stations.

Governments also need to consider the very significant financial assistance already paid to coal-fired generators when the Clean Energy Future package was introduced in 2012 and repealed only two years later.

None of the over $5 billion in assistance provided to coal-fired generators was paid back to taxpayers. Asking consumers to pay again for these power stations to “stay in the market” via a capacity market payment doesn’t seem fair or equitable.

So What Should Ministers Do?

Our current market already provides strong signals for investment in the right mix of capacity.

The market operator says there are around 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of new gas, 1.2 GW of battery, and 2.3 GW of hydro projects entering the market in coming years. Total new capacity entering the market is over 11 GW.

With electricity prices as high as they are, investors such as Snowy Hydro say it’s simply incorrect that the existing market doesn’t incentivise new storage such as batteries and pumped hydro.

However, a well designed “capacity reserve” would smooth out the market. New capacity, such as batteries and pumped hydro, could be brought into a “waiting room” and held until it’s needed.

2.3 gigawatts of hydro projects are projected to enter the market in coming years. Shutterstock

This could be implemented very quickly. The New South Wales roadmap provides a somewhat similar approach - underwriting new investments to ensure they’re built sooner rather than later.

Importantly, ministers make it clear in their communique that they’re only really wanting the mechanism to support new investment in fast-start zero emissions technologies. As such, it may be that the “capacity mechanism” they have in mind is actually more akin to the “capacity reserve” we have articulated here.

In the near-term, governments need to ensure all energy companies are doing their fair share to address costs and reliability.

The government has asked the ACCC to consider this, as we suggested last week.

But for now, the best option to keep warm this winter without breaking the bank is to shop around for the best electricity deals.The Conversation

Tim Nelson, Associate Professor of Economics, Griffith University and Joel Gilmore, Associate Professor, Griffith University

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

How to make your lawn wildlife friendly all year round – tips from an ecologist

Sandra Standbridge/Shutterstock
Gareth GriffithAberystwyth University

Alongside the worrying current fad for plastic grass, a growing number of people are choosing to let their lawns grow wild in order to encourage a more diverse range of plants and insects to live in them.

You may not be convinced of the beauty of a wild and unruly garden, but there is a sweet spot to be found between a rewilded jungle and a sterile green desert which not only looks good but provides a haven for wildlife. This is especially important in the UK, where 97% of semi-natural grassland has been destroyed over the last 80 years.

I’m an ecologist specialised in the study of this kind of habitat, and I want to help you get the most out of it. One simple compromise you can make is to put off when you first get the lawn mower out each year. A campaign by conservation charity Plantlife called #NoMowMay asks people with lawns to hold off the first cut until June, which allows grasses and herbs time to flower and set seed.

But if you want to maintain a wildlife-friendly lawn throughout the year, without letting your garden become completely overgrown, here’s some advice for what else you can do.

To find a happy medium, some mowing may be necessary. This halts the ecological processes which would otherwise transform a grass lawn into a woodland over time. By varying the height at which you mow different areas of your lawn and how often you do it (simulating the effect of different herbivores grazing in the wild), you can create a mix of conditions which benefit a variety of species.

Areas cut short will favour daisies, which flower in profusion and offer a nectar buffet to bees and butterflies. Unkempt areas left uncut for a year suit a wider variety of flowers, tempting a diverse cast of bugs and other creatures into your garden.

In experiments on his own garden in Kent, Charles Darwin recorded that refraining from mowing turf for too long resulted in fewer species overall, because:

the more vigorous plants gradually kill the less vigorous … thus out of 20 species growing on a little plot of turf (three feet by four) nine species perished from the other species being allowed to grow up freely.

Another key thing to think about is the level of nutrients the lawn receives. Even if you have never succumbed to the lawn feed products heavily promoted in most garden centres, your lawn will get a sufficient dose of fertiliser from reactive nitrogen carried on the wind.

The purpose of mowing in a natural grassland should be to mimic grazing by animals. And to do that, you have to remove the clippings otherwise the nutrients they carry will soak back into the soil.

Fungi and bacteria decompose dead plant material and return those nutrients to plants in a lawn through networks of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Regular mows which dump the cuttings and overload the soil with nutrients drive a stick through the spokes of this cycle by devaluing the currency of the nitrogen and phosphorus fungi deliver. Clumps of cut grass can also smother small seedlings.

At unnaturally high soil nutrient levels (common in lawns mown and topped with the clippings regularly), the vegetation is dominated by a small number of fast-growing, weedy species. As Darwin found, this prevents a rich community of wildflowers from taking shape. Soil with low nutrient levels favours not only more species, but also healthy soil food webs.

At the Rothamsted Park Grass experiment in Hertfordshire, scientists have studied the effects of annual haycutting since 1860, making it the oldest field experiment in the world. When fertiliser was evenly applied to some plots, it reduced the number of plant species from 40 to fewer than five.

A blue rake on a wooden stick collects grass cuttings in a pile.
Grass cuttings inundate soils with more nutrients than a diverse community of plants needs. Ekaterina Pankina/Shutterstock

Autumn Fruiting

You also want to consider the time of year. Mow sparingly and leave grass long in summer to create diverse plant and insect communities in the warmest months. A lawn left uncut until late July, as in a traditional hay meadow, will favour the greatest variety of flowers. But cut it short in autumn to foster conditions for mushrooms fruiting as the year winds down.

Soil organisms and their hidden lives are badly neglected in nature conservation. Among the most overlooked are grassland macrofungi, so named because they are large enough to be visible to the naked eye. My favourites are the brightly coloured waxcaps. These film stars of the fungal world are restricted to undisturbed grasslands where soil nutrient concentrations are low.

The British Isles is a global hotspot for these fungi, but they are threatened by habitat loss. 11 species found in the UK were assessed by international experts as vulnerable – the same extinction risk faced by the panda and snow leopard.

Three pink mushrooms with split edges in grass.
Pink ballerina mushrooms in an Aberystwyth garden. This species is considered globally vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gareth GriffithAuthor provided

study by my research group showed that waxcaps need the turf to be short (8cm tall at most) in the autumn, but that their most prolific fruiting occurred when the grass was left uncut until mid-July. Waxcaps grow slowly and are long-lived, but with late cuts and the removal of clippings to lower soil nutrient levels, it is likely that the first waxcaps will return within a decade.

To sum up, delay mowing until midsummer, keep your lawn free of clippings and leave patches more unkempt for longer to please butterflies and bees. But give it regular trims from August onwards to encourage globally rare mushrooms. You’ll then see that grasslands are diverse and dynamic habitats just waiting to be unleashed.The Conversation

Gareth Griffith, Professor of Fungal Ecology, Aberystwyth University

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

Making room for wildlife: 4 essential reads

Photographing a bear in Yellowstone National Park at a distance the National Park Service calls safe – at least 100 yards from a predator. Jim Peaco, NPS/Flickr
Jennifer WeeksThe Conversation

Millions of Americans enjoy observing and photographing wildlife near their homes or on trips. But when people get too close to wild animals, they risk serious injury or even death. It happens regularly, despite the threat of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

These four articles from The Conversation’s archive offer insights into how wild animals view humans and how our presence affects nearby animals and birds – plus a scientist’s perspective on what’s wrong with wildlife selfies.

1. They’re Just Not That Into You

In some parts of North America, wild animals that once were hunted to near-extinction have rebounded in recent decades. Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, beavers and black bears are examples of wild species that have returned to large swaths of their pre-settlement ranges. As human development expands, people and animals are finding themselves in close quarters.

How do the animals react? Conservation researcher Kathy Zeller and her colleagues radio-collared black bears in central and western Massachusetts and found that the bears avoided populated areas, except when their natural food sources were less abundant in spring and fall. During those lean seasons, the bears would visit food sources in developed areas, such as bird feeders and garbage cans – but they foraged at night, contrary to their usual habits, to avoid contact with humans.

“Wild animals are increasing their nocturnal activity in response to development and other human activities, such as hiking, biking and farming,” Zeller reports. “And people who are scared of bears may be comforted to know that most of the time, black bears are just as scared of them.”

Fuzzy black and white image of a bear walking in a developed area.
A bear on a residential driveway in Ontario, Canada, at 4 a.m., photographed by a trail camera with night vision. Pixel-Productions/iStock/Getty Images Plus

2. Wild Animals Turn Up In Unexpected Places

When a recovering species shows up on its old turf or in its former waters, humans aren’t always happy to make room for it. Ecologist Veronica Frans studied sea lions in New Zealand, a formerly endangered species that moves inland from the coast to breed, often showing up on local roads or in backyards.

Frans and her colleagues created a database that they used to find and map potential breeding grounds for sea lions all over the New Zealand mainland. They also identified potential challenges for the animals, such as roads and fences that could block their inland movement.

“When wild species enter new areas, they inevitably will have to adapt, and often will have new kinds of interactions with humans,” Frans writes. “I believe that when communities understand the changes and are involved in planning for them, they can prepare for the unexpected, with coexistence in mind.”

'Petting chart' image of a bison with various sections marked 'Nope,' 'Ouch,' and similar messages.
Seriously, don’t pet the bison. National Park Service

3. Your Presence Has A Big Impact

How close to wildlife is too close? Guidelines vary, but as a starting point, the U.S. National Park Service recommends staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from wild animals, and 100 yards (91 meters) from predators such as bears or wolves.

In a review of hundreds of studies, conservation scholars Jeremy DertienCourtney Larson and Sarah Reed found that human presence may affect many wild species’ behavior at much longer distances.

“Animals may flee from nearby people, decrease the time they feed and abandon nests or dens,” they report. “Other effects are harder to see, but can have serious consequences for animals’ health and survival. Wild animals that detect humans can experience physiological changes, such as increased heart rates and elevated levels of stress hormones.”

The scholars’ review found that the distance at which human presence starts to affect wildlife varies by species, although large animals generally need more distance. Small mammals and birds may change their behavior when people come within 300 feet (91 meters), while large mammals like elk and moose can be affected by humans up to 3,300 feet (1,006 meters) away – more than half a mile.

A wooden shed overlooks a wetland with mountains in the background.
Photo blinds like this one at Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada make it easy to watch and photograph wild animals and birds unobtrusively. DC Carr, USFWS/Flickr

4. Don’t Take Wildlife Selfies, Even If You’re A Scientist

There are stories from around the world of people dying in the act of taking selfies. Some involve wildlife, such as a traveler in India who was mauled by an injured bear in 2018 when he stopped to photograph himself with the animal.

Tourists are often the culprits, but they’re not alone. As ocean scientist Christine Ward-Paige explains, scientists who have special permission to handle wild animals as part of their field research sometimes use this opportunity to take personal photos with their subjects.

“I have witnessed the making of many researcher-animal selfies, including photos with restrained animals during scientific study,” Ward-Paige recounts. “In most cases, the animal was only held for an extra fraction of a second while vigilant researchers simply glanced up and smiled for the camera already pointing in their direction.”

“But some incidents have been more intrusive. In one instance, researchers had tied a large shark to a boat with ropes across its tail and gills so that they could measure, biopsy and tag it. Then they kept it restrained for an extra 10 minutes while the scientists took turns hugging it for photos.”

In Ward-Paige’s view, legitimizing wildlife selfies in this way encourages people who don’t have scientific training or understand animal behavior to think that taking them is OK. That undercuts warnings from agencies like the National Park Service and puts both people and animals in danger.

Instead, she urges fellow scientists to “work to show the vulnerability of our animal subjects more clearly” and help guide the public to observe wildlife safely and responsibly.The Conversation

Jennifer Weeks, Senior Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation

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

50 years of UN environmental diplomacy: What’s worked and the trends ahead

Negotiations over the years have aimed to protect forests, biodiversity and the climate. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images
Mihaela PapaTufts University

In 1972, acid rain was destroying trees. Birds were dying from DDT poisoning, and countries were contending with oil spills, contamination from nuclear weapons testing and the environmental harm of the Vietnam War. Air pollution was crossing borders and harming neighboring countries.

At Sweden’s urging, the United Nations brought together representatives from countries around the world to find solutions. That summit – the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm 50 years ago on June 5-16, 1972 – marked the first global effort to treat the environment as a worldwide policy issue and define the core principles for its management.

The Stockholm Conference was a turning point in how countries thought about the natural world and the resources that all nations share, like the air.

It led to the creation of the U.N. Environment Program to monitor the state of the environment and coordinate responses to the major environmental problems. It also raised questions that continue to challenge international negotiations to this day, such as who is responsible for cleaning up environmental damage, and how much poorer countries can be expected to do.

A conference hall filled with seated people and a person at the podium in the front.
The Stockholm Conference began on June 5, 1972. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

On the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, let’s look at where half a century of environmental diplomacy has led and the issues emerging for the coming decades.

The Stockholm Conference, 1972

From a diplomacy perspective, the Stockholm Conference was a major accomplishment.

It pushed the boundaries for a U.N. system that relied on the concept of state sovereignty and emphasized the importance of joint action for the common good. The conference gathered representatives from 113 countries, as well as from U.N. agencies, and created a tradition of including nonstate actors, such as environmental advocacy groups. It produced a declaration that included principles to guide global environmental management going forward.

A U.N. video captured scenes in and around the Stockholm Conference, including young protesters and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s speech.

The declaration explicitly acknowledged states’ “sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” An action plan strengthened the U.N.’s role in protecting the environment and established UNEP as the global authority for the environment.

The Stockholm Conference also put global inequality in the spotlight. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi questioned the urgency of prioritizing environmental protection when so many people lived in poverty. Other developing countries shared India’s concerns: Would this new environmental movement prevent impoverished people from using the environment and reinforce their deprivation? And would rich countries that contributed to the environmental damage provide funding and technical assistance?

The Earth Summit, 1992

Twenty years later, the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – in Rio de Janeiro provided an answer. It embraced sustainable development – development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That paved the way for political consensus in several ways.

A person in a costume of the Earth holds a child's hand on a beach in Rio. The photo is from 1992
U.N. conferences like the Earth Summit, held June 3-14, 1992, draw global attention to environmental problems. Antonio Ribeiro/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images, 1992

First, climate change was making it clear that human activities can permanently alter the planet, so the stakes were high for everyone. The imperative was to establish a new global partnership mobilizing states, key sectors of societies and people to protect and restore the health of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Second, economic development, environmental protection and social development were treated as interdependent.

Finally, while all countries were expected to pursue sustainable development, it was acknowledged that developed countries had more capacity to do so and that their societies placed greater pressures on the environment.

A young person a nuclear symbol on a contamination suit hugs another person wearing a gas mask in front of a dark illustration of Earth.
Young people at the Earth Summit in 1992 protested against nuclear power. Antonio Ribeiro/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images, 1992

The Earth Summit produced the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, laying the foundation for global climate negotiations that continue today; the Convention on Biological Diversity; nonbinding Forest Principles; and an overarching action plan to transition to sustainability.

Progress, But Major Challenges Ahead

The increasing awareness of environmental challenges over the past 50 years has led to the spread of national environmental agencies and the growth of global environmental law.

The world has pulled together to stop the destruction of the ozone layerphase out leaded gasoline and curb the pollutants from burning fossil fuels that create acid rain. In 2015, U.N. member countries adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with measurable targets and signed the Paris climate agreement. Countries in 2022 committed to develop a treaty to reduce pollution from plastics. Climate change and sustainable resource use have also become higher priorities in foreign policymaking, international organizations and corporate boardrooms.

But while environmental diplomacy has demonstrated that progress is possible, the challenges the world still faces are immense.

Greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing, and rising temperatures are fueling devastating wildfires, heat waves and other disasters. More than a million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, potentially leading toward the worst loss of life on the planet since the time of dinosaurs. And 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds World Health Organization guidelines for pollutants.

The Next 50 Years: Trends To Watch

As environmental diplomacy heads into its next 50 years, climate change, biodiversity and effects on human health are high on the agenda. Here are a few newer trends that also bear watching.

The idea of a circular economy is gaining interest. People produce, consume and throw away billions of tons of materials every year, while recycling or reusing only a small percentage. Ongoing efforts to create a more circular economy, which eliminates waste and keeps materials in use, can help mitigate climate change and restore natural systems.

Advocacy for rights of nature and animal rights is becoming more prominent in environmental diplomacy.

Outer space is another theme, as it increasingly becomes a domain of human exploration and settlement ambitions with the growth of private space travelSpace junk is accumulating and threatening Earth’s orbital space, and Mars exploration raises new questions about protecting space ecosystems.

The 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference is an important opportunity to think about development rights and responsibilities for the future while using environmental diplomacy today to preserve and regenerate the Earth.The Conversation

Mihaela Papa, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Sustainable Development and Global Governance, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

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

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
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 Boathouse In Governor Phillip Park  Part Of Our Community For 75 Years: Photos From The Collection Of Russell Walton, Son Of Victor Walton
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers 
Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham Beach by Barbara Davies
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
Duck Holes: McCarrs Creek by Joe Mills
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
Iluka Park, Woorak Park, Pittwater Park, Sand Point Reserve, Snapperman Beach Reserve - Palm Beach: Some History
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
Lucinda Park, Palm Beach: Some History + 2022 Pictures
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
Resolute Track at West Head by Kevin Murray
Resolute Track Stroll by Joe Mills
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
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
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
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
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 -

Public Health Alert: High-Dose MDMA (Ecstasy) Circulating In NSW

June 10, 2022
NSW Health is warning of high-dose MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy tablets, circulating in the community after tablets seized by NSW Police contained more than two times the average dose of MDMA per tablet.

The tablets are pink in colour, irregular shaped and are marked with an Audi logo.

High dose MDMA tablets have recently been found in NSW (average dose of 196 mg). This is more than twice the amount usually contained in MDMA tablets circulating in NSW.

Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Dr Darren Roberts, said consuming high doses of MDMA has been linked to cases of serious illness and death in NSW.

"It can cause severe agitation and paranoia, raised body temperature, seizures or fits, irregular heart rhythm and death," Dr Roberts said.

"While one MDMA tablet alone can cause life-threatening toxicity, the risk is greatly increased if high doses or multiple MDMA tablets are consumed over a short period, or if MDMA is consumed in combination with other stimulants, such as cocaine."

Dr Roberts urged anyone who was unwell from MDMA to immediately call Triple Zero.

"Importantly, look after your mates. If you feel unwell, or if your friend feels unwell, do something about it. Don't ignore it. You won't get into trouble for seeking medical care," he said.

For images and more information on the high dose MDMA (ecstasy) visit the NSW Health website 

Effects to look out for
Feeling really hot and sweaty, light headedness, rigid muscles (e.g. difficulty walking), confusion or agitation, racing pulse/heart, feeling aggressive, uncontrolled repetitive movements, vomiting, seizures, difficult to rouse / unconscious.

Getting help
Seek help immediately from your nearest emergency department or call Triple Zero (000). Start CPR if someone is not breathing.

For information about the potential adverse effects of MDMA, please contact the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

For support and information on drug, alcohol and other substance, please contact: The Alcohol and Drug Information Service: 1800 250 015. This is a 24/7 service offering confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and information.

Free Training To Deliver In-Demand Winter Skills

June 7, 2022
More than 1,500 fee-free training places are up for grabs as part of the NSW Government’s Winter Skills program, which aims to get people skilled for a bumper winter tourism and hospitality season.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said in-demand short courses would be on offer across parts of regional NSW to help people gain on-the-job experience while supporting local industries.

“The NSW Government has consulted with local businesses and industry groups to identify the key skills needed this winter season,” Mr Toole said.

“So whether it’s learning how to be a tour guide, pouring a beer at a pub, making a coffee at a local café, or lending a hand across the wine regions, regional NSW is keen to have you.”

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said the program will train people to work in the ski industry and related hospitality roles, bar tenders, wait staff and more, to help businesses meet demand for workers.

“NSW’s winter getaway destinations will be packed with people this season, so now is the perfect time for people looking to get skilled and work in some of the most beautiful places in our state,” Mr Henskens said.

“Following the success of the Winter Skills campaign last year, the program has been expanded to include the Snowy Mountains, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, Hunter Valley and the Central West.”

Some of the courses available include Food Safety Supervision, Statement of Attainment in Hospitality, Statement of Attainment in Outdoor Recreation and Statement of Attainment in Public Safety.

Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson said the State’s pubs, clubs, restaurants, bars and other hospitality businesses have been impacted over the past few years.

From Perisher to Thredbo to villages packed with fireplace warmed restaurant and cellar doors, we want to make sure our hospitality venues continue to be the lifeblood for local communities,” Mr Anderson said.

“This initiative will ensure our local hospitality businesses have access to a pipeline of skilled and job-ready workers, helping address industry needs and skills shortages as a result of the pandemic and the gradual re-emergence of international travel.”

For more information and to enrol in courses, visit

HSC Artists In Virtual Exhibition

The creative force of the 2021 HSC visual arts students will be available for the world to see when ARTEXPRESS Virtual 2022 launched on Wednesday 25 May.

The exhibition features bodies of work by 52 accomplished visual arts students from across all school sectors and regions of NSW.

Now in its third year, the exhibition uses world-leading 3D technology to create an authentic gallery experience in the virtual world where viewers can “walk” around artworks and virtually lift them up.

ARTEXPRESS Virtual 2022 curator and Wyndham College Creative and Performing Arts head teacher, Ron Pratt, said the quality of the work on show was astonishing.

“The diversity of materials and inspired ideas that have emerged, highlight the resilience of these students and the commitment they had for their art practice and creative selves,” Mr Pratt said.

“When viewing this year’s showcase we should reflect that these works were completed when NSW was under its harshest lockdown laws and many students’ access to resources, support and equipment along with their school classroom was limited,” Mr Pratt said.

ARTEXPRESS Virtual 2021, which used the same technology, had more than 78,000 visits to its website with the painting At Face Value, by Riverside Girls High School student Adina Carapetian, the most viewed artwork with 1181 views.

The ARTEXPRESS Virtual exhibition has been nominated for the Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Award which will be announced next month.

ARTEXPRESS is a partnership between the New South Wales Department of Education and the New South Wales Education Standards Authority. The National Art School is the Launch Venue Partner for ARTEXPRESS Virtual 2022.

To view the virtual exhibition, please visit:

Example of works on Exhibition:

Emily McGhee
Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus
Charcoal, paper

My body of work explores the current sense of apathy regarding the climate crisis. Using stop-motion animation I represent two diametrically opposed processes: a manufactured machine that contributes to the ruination of the Earth; and a natural ecosystem that works as a filter and serves to protect the Earth. My intent is to condemn rapacious modern consumerism and its resulting negligence of the exponential degradation of the natural world, and to offer a reminder of the ways in which the Earth works to undo the harm we inflict upon it.
My artmaking practice has been influenced by the study and interpretation of the artist William Kentridge, Felix in Exile.

Students To Tour Hiroshima And Pearl Harbor

Six high school students across NSW will have the chance to visit historic WWII sites in Japan and Hawaii as part of the ClubsNSW Premier’s WWII Memorial Tour.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said in order to secure this trip of a lifetime high school students can submit a 1000-word essay which answers the question ‘Are the lessons of WWII still relevant today?’

“Six students will be given the opportunity to visit the sites of some of the most defining moments in World War II history.” Mr Perrottet said.

“I’m encouraging Year 11 students aged 16 and 17 to submit a 1000-word essay detailing how the lessons of World War II are still relevant today.”

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said this initiative will see successful students embark on an 11-day tour of historic WWII sites in Hiroshima, Japan and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“The attack on Pearl Harbor and atomic bombing of Hiroshima are two of the most pivotal moments in the Second World War.” Mr Elliott said.

“The ClubsNSW Premier’s WWII Memorial Tour will provide opportunities for students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the history of World War II.”

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis welcomed the launch of the ClubsNSW Premier’s WWII Memorial Tour, and said ClubsNSW is proud to teach a new generation about significant moments in history.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for high school students to revisit a defining moment in our history and learn about the contributions and sacrifices made by those on the front line,” Mr Landis said.

“Clubs and the veteran community are intrinsically linked and ClubsNSW is incredibly proud to support this program. I call on all our member clubs to encourage their local students to submit an essay for a chance to be selected for this exclusive overseas experience.”

The group will depart Sydney on Thursday 21 July and return on Sunday 31 July. Year 11 students must be aged 16 or 17. 
Entries are open until 5pm on 13 June 2022.

Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards 2022: Entries Close June 30th

Details and more at:

There's also a special History page running this Issue for you - the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar, after whom the Electorate of Mackellar is named, had a house here in Pittwater at Lovett Bay.

 “Our poets are encouraged to take inspiration from wherever they may find it, however if they are looking for some direction, competition participants are invited to use this year’s optional theme to inspire their entries.”

In 2022, the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society has chosen the theme “In My Opinion.” 

As always, it is an optional theme. The Society encourages students to write about topics and experiences that spark their poetic genius (in whatever form they choose.)




Primary school and secondary school entries can be submitted anytime during the competition period. Visit:

Word Of The Week: Serendipity

Word of the Week returns in 2022 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix.

Serendipity is an unplanned fortunate discovery. Serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery. Serendipity is also seen as a potential design principle for online activities that would present a wide array of information and viewpoints, rather than just re-enforcing a user's opinion.

From Serendipity is a noun, coined in the middle of the 18th century (January 28th, 1754) by author Horace Walpole (he took it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip). The princes, he told his correspondent, were "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of." The name comes from Serendip, an old Persian name for Sri Lanka (Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders. It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island).

The adjective form is serendipitous, and the adverb is serendipitously. A serendipitist is "one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for."

Examples of serendipity in inventions include:
  • The Post-It Note, which emerged after 3M scientist Spencer Silver produced a weak adhesive, and a colleague used it to keep bookmarks in place on a church hymnal.
  • Silly Putty, which came from a failed attempt at synthetic rubber.
  • The microwave oven. Raytheon scientist Percy Spencer first patented the idea behind it after noticing that emissions from radar equipment had melted the candy in his pocket.
  • The Velcro hook-and-loop fastener. George de Mestral came up with the idea after a bird hunting trip when he viewed cockleburs stuck to his pants under a microscope and saw that each burr was covered with tiny hooks.
  • The Popsicle, whose origins go back to San Francisco where Frank Epperson, age 11, accidentally left a mix of water and soda powder outside to freeze overnight.
  • The antibiotic penicillin, which was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming after returning from a vacation to find that a Petri dish containing staphylococcus culture had been infected by a Penicillium mold, and no bacteria grew near it.
Serendipity is a design principle for online activity that would present viewpoints that diverge from those participants already hold. Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein argues that such an "architecture of serendipity" would promote a healthier democracy. Like a great city or university, "a well-functioning information market" provides exposure to new ideas, people, and ways of life, "Serendipity is crucial because it expands your horizons. You need that if you want to be free." The idea has potential application in the design of social media, information searches, and web browsing.

Spin Doctors - Two Princes (1991)

John Hiatt - Have A Little Faith In Me (1987)

Indigo Girls - Closer To Fine (1989)

Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi + Both Sides Now (1966 - These Live BBC Editions From 1969)

Anything & Everything gives us a glance into the lives teenagers are constructing online

Rising/Sarah Walker
Thuy TranThe University of Melbourne

Review: Anything & Everything, Platform Arts, infinity ensemble for Rising.

Anything & Everything reminds me of a rite of passage we have all sailed through, in one way or another. That question we all ask: who am I?

The passage is quite different for the new generation. Anything & Everything, directed by Jackson Castiglione, is about the young people who navigate this question with social media embedded in their compass.

We are in a TV studio. Six amazing teenagers converse about how they look, who they are and what is expected of them while collaborating to film short videos of each other, constructing how they want to be seen by the world.

We see them throughout the hour simultaneously on stage and on a variety of screens. A production within a production. A play about identity construction, in which people learn to navigate the different layers of themselves.

You could ask how “real” these layers are.

Are the images on screen less real than what we see in real life (IRL)?

Does this reflection mean anything at all?

Or has it come to mean everything?

Production image
Are the selves we construct on screen more or less real than the selves we construct in real life? Rising/Sarah Walker

What If You Could See All Angles Of Yourself?

A metaphor repeatedly invoked throughout the show is the idea of having butterfly eyes – compound eyes of up to 17,000 lenses which, our cast says, could let them see everything all at once.

The performers ask each other what they would see if they could see themselves from all angles. One thinks about what it would mean to see herself from the back, rather than the front. Another speaks about how she could spy on everyone, knowing what they love and hate about themselves.

There is also an analogy between butterfly eyes and the digital technology we have today. One the one hand, technology gives us unprecedented power to see ourselves and others from many different perspectives, all at the same time. On the other, this power can be too much to handle – as one performer describes, it can be intimidating.

Production image
The pressure to perform online can sometimes be too much. Rising/Sarah Walker

At the heart of Anything & Everything is the question of how young people find themselves in multiple realities, rather than a single overarching personality.

None of our teen protagonists say they would like to label themselves with a coherent and unified identity. As Richard Jenkins, a professor of sociology, writes in his book about social identity, identity is not a thing, but a process.

It is fascinating to listen to these young people’s stories about how they navigate this process.

For older audiences, it might be a little surreal to realise how much social media channels such as TikTok and Instagram are now an essential part of these journeys.

What Is Real?

Images on screen have often been perceived as a less authentic version of reality, with the potential for deception.

As screens become more ubiquitous, this perception is changing.

Throughout the show, the performers repeatedly discuss how they look and what they see, especially under the influence of digital technology. It is all about seeing. Visual culture has come to dominate our lives. The screens are all around us.

For these teenagers, the online/offline binary or hierarchy seems to no longer matter. They think of their images on screen as real as their physical bodies.

The screens are not lying to them.

The kids learn to negotiate when certain elements among these multiple realities appear contradictory.

Production image
There are touching moments when the cast reflect on the big issues in their lives. Rising/Sarah Walker

Am I Different?

There are touching moments when the performers discuss how gender, racism and living with disabilities influence their sense of identity. Kids are not often expected to have a voice on these issues, and it might surprise some in the audience how much these young people can take in and reflect on.

Each story in the show speaks to the struggles we adults have been dealing with – often without talking to kids. We tend to think children should be protected from such problems.

It turns out they have their own stories: moving stories about fear, frustration, hope and courage. As the beautiful background music of the show says, “you don’t need to be afraid.” The kids are trying to be strong too, even without adults’ recognition.

Anything & Everything ends with an inspiring reflection from one of the ensemble members about identity as performance. Interestingly, they say the idea came to them from an infographic on Instagram.

Production image
Adults don’t always listen to teenagers – but it turns out they have a lot to say. Rising/Sarah Walker

Identifying as non-binary, they reveal how realising that everyone’s gender identity is a performance gave them the courage to choose their gender – rather than fit into a box.

But the show is about more than individual agency. It asks if social discourses can be changed, such as the way we raise our girls with certain unconscious assumptions and expectations.

In that sense, Anything & Everything leaves us rethinking about young people’s identities, as well as the technological and social forces that influence the process of discovering who we are.

Anything & Everything is at ACMI until June 12.The Conversation

Thuy Tran, PhD Candidate, The University of Melbourne

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

Young Australian voters helped swing the election – and could do it again next time

Greens supporters celebrate on election night. James Ross/AAP
Intifar ChowdhuryAustralian National University

The 2022 federal election saw a significant move away from the two major parties, with a host of independent and Greens candidates taking seats from Labor and the Coalition.

Amid predictions about a “youthquake” before May 21, what role did young voters play in this radical electoral shift? And how important could they be by the next election?

The Trend Was There

Even before the election, researchers had noted major differences between younger and older voters.

Long-term voting patterns showed Labor was more likely to attract young voters. But surveys also showed how both the major parties have been losing their youth vote to the Greens.

Voters at the polling booth on Election Day.
Younger voters were trending away from the major parties before the 2022 poll. Dean Lewins/AAP

As the Australian Election Study found after the 2019 election, 42% of voters under 24 did not vote for Labor or the Coalition. Of those aged 25 to 34, 35% did not vote for Labor or the Coalition. This compares to just 12% of those aged over 65.

We also know younger voters were more concerned about environmental issues and property prices than older voters. None of these were adequately addressed during the last term of parliament, which was marred by frightening bushfires, heat waves and floods, and saw inadequate action on climate change and rising intergenerational inequality.

Clear Wins On May 21

So it is not surprising that electorates with the highest rate of voters under 30 saw unprecedented support for Greens in 2022. An analysis of AEC enrolment data shows seats with four of the top five highest proportions of young voters (18-29 year-olds) went to the Greens. This includes:

  • Melbourne with a youth vote of 26.9% (Greens retain)
  • Brisbane with a youth vote of 25.7% (Greens gain from the Liberal Party)
  • Griffith with a youth vote of 24.7% (Greens gain from Labor)
  • Ryan with a youth vote of 22.5% (Greens gain from the Liberal Party)

Also in the top five was the seat of Canberra with a youth vote of 23.1%. This was an easy Labor retain. However, here the Greens primary vote was almost 25% and the Greens, not the Liberal Party, were used for the two-party-preferred calculations.

There were also a relatively high rate of youth enrolment in key seats likes Kooyong (20.8%, independent gain from Liberals) and Fowler (19.5%, independent gain from Labor). There were other Liberal-turned-teal seats with a relatively lower proportion of youth voters (Curtin 17.7%, Wentworth 17.1%, Goldstein 16.3%, North Sydney 16.3% and Mackellar 15.6%). But it is important to acknowledge the women’s vote may have been a stronger driving force in these seats.

So, what does this mean electorally going forward?

The Big Debate About Young Voters

Leading up to the election there was a lot of speculation about young people’s voting behaviour. As other countries recorded a worrying decline in youth electoral participation, I argued young Australians are different.

Still, there was concern the backdrop of COVID suffering, economic inequality, climate inaction and decaying trust in political leaders would culminate in youth political disengagement. Clearly, this did not happen.

Parties And Politicians Now Are On Notice

The election shows how the centre of gravity of Australian politics has shifted. The various swings away from the major parties revealed just how discerning voters can be. It also showed voters are likely to act based on policy concerns, rather than political allegiances.

The oldest millennial voters were 42 at this election, while first-time voters of 18 years of age included members of Generation Z. So, some of this can be attributed to generational replacement as the polls populate with more progressive, apartisan younger voters.

A young voter walks past election advertising at the polling booth.
Ahead of the election, there were fears young people would disengage with voting. Dean Lewins/AAP

This trend is only going to increase. A basic analysis of current enrolments, plus expected future enrolments suggests that by the next election, millennial voters and younger (those under 45) will make up about 44% of the voting population. This is similar to this election – where they made up 43% – but significantly up from ten or 20 years ago. That means what we consider to be younger generations are replacing their older counterparts - and their more conservative values - over time in the electorate.

The 2022 election also sends a crucial political signal to the younger voters. The results show them the power of their actions to affect change in Australia’s democracy – and that the vote, in an aggregate sense, is an effective tool to do so. The 2022 federal election was one to restore young people’s hope and faith in the Australian democratic system.

Major parties need to acknowledge that younger voters do not like what they are offering, especially in response to climate change. If Labor is hoping to woo them back in 2025, it is interesting that “Minister for Youth” is not a cabinet position.

In the lead-up to their electoral success, the Greens worked hard in Brisbane – courting voters with young, personable candidates who went door-to-door to speak to voters directly. But they need to keep working. The Greens and teal victories were a virtue of issue-based voters, who will be watching whether these new MPs make change in Canberra.

Young voters in Australia can no longer be ignored.The Conversation

Intifar Chowdhury, Associate lecturer, Australian National University

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

Need to renew your passport? The weird history of Australian passports explains how they got so expensive

David LeeUNSW Sydney

Now borders are open, Australians are applying for and renewing passports in droves. Wait times have doubled.

The cost of the Australian biometric passport and the rigour involved in obtaining one can be traced to Australia’s participation in an international passport system that evolved over the past century.

An Ancient Lineage

The passport has an ancient lineage and is mentioned in the Bible.

Deriving from the French words passer and port, it allows the bearer to transit a port or to enter or leave a territory. It is essentially a document asking a foreign ruler to let the bearer pass through his or her country unhindered.

But passports were generally not necessary to move across borders in the 19th century.

They were certainly not required to move within the British Empire. In Australia, the passport’s first appearance was as a document – known as a “ticket of leave” – allowing paroled convicts to move internally within colonies.

A ‘ticket of leave’ passport issued to an Australian convict in the 1800s. Collections WA

Wartime Changes

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the colonies (later the states) and the federal government issued passports to the relatively few Australians who travelled overseas and might need one to enter a non-British country.

The outbreak of the first world war made it crucial to monitor who was entering and leaving the country.

The British government soon made passports mandatory for people entering or leaving the British Isles. The Australian government followed suit, making passports mandatory and monopolising passport issuing under the War Precautions Act.

The Australian government, led by Billy Hughes, wanted to introduce conscription for overseas service. Making a passport compulsory for Australian travellers gave the government a tool to ensure men of age could not evade military service by heading overseas.

Boxer Les Darcy was vilified by some for not enlisting in the first world war and was denied a passport to go to the US to fight for the official world title. National Library of Australia

During the war, passport application interviews for Australian men became tantamount to an interrogation. One man certain he would be denied a passport was champion middleweight boxer Les Darcy. To evade conscription and travel to America to earn money for his family, he stowed away on a ship and entered the United States without a passport.

The passport system established in the first world war continued as a permanent system under the auspices of the League of Nations.

Australia gave its passport a legislative basis with the Passport Act 1920, which was revised in 1938 and again in 2005.

The Passport System After The Second World War

In the first half of the 20th century, passports were issued to British subjects or naturalised British subjects resident in Australia.

This “British” passport signified the bearer was a British subject who had available to him or her the diplomatic and consular network of the United Kingdom government.

After the second world war, the Chifley Labor government secured passage of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which created the category of Australian citizen for the first time.

From 1948, passports attested to the bearer’s identity and that he or she was an Australian citizen (or British subject until the 1980s).

Australian citizens who requested a passport – by now a prerequisite for international travel – usually got one. Foreign countries would not admit you without one.

But there was no absolute right to an Australian passport. Australian law, as in most other countries, gave the government the right not to issue or to cancel passports in certain circumstances.

Communist war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett, was denied an Australian passport for many years. AP Photo

In the Cold War, many communists were denied passports. A celebrated instance was the communist war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett.

Burchett’s support for China and North Korea during the Korean War led some to accuse him of treason. The Australian government refused him a passport and he was forced to travel with a special class of travel document issued by the Cambodian and North Vietnamese governments (the laissez-passer).

The document was so large Burchett bound it in Moroccan leather. Despite not having a passport, the Australian government could not stop Burchett entering Australia. He eventually chartered a plane from Noumea, New Caledonia, to Brisbane and entered the country that way.

The Modern Passport System

The growth of international air travel saw Australian passport issues soar by the late 1980s. By 2019-20 the Australian government was issuing 1,745,340 passports – over 7,000 each business day.

With increasing travel came problems of identity. In the 1970s and 1980s, drug traffickers exploited the Australian passport system to get passports issued under aliases. One drug lord, Terrence John Clark, was arrested in 1978 holding passports under five different names.

In 1983, the Stewart Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking made sweeping recommendations for the passport system to curtail the drug trade.

The Fraser government did not accept Stewart’s recommendation for a national system based on fingerprinting to verify identity. But it accepted other recommendations.

From the 1980s onward, it was no longer acceptable for travel agents to procure passports for travellers. It became mandatory for applicants to attend an interview at post offices. Photocopied birth certificates and citizenship documents could not be used in an application.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 brought more significant change. The United States flagged its visa issuing would be dependent on foreign countries developing biometric means to identify people.

Australia was at the forefront of this change. Since 2005, the Australian government has stored a digitised photograph of an applicant’s face in a national database and on a computer chip embedded in the passport.

These added security measures make the Australian passport costly to produce; it is now among the most expensive in the world.The Conversation

David Lee, Associate Professor of History, UNSW Sydney

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

We’re told AI neural networks ‘learn’ the way humans do. A neuroscientist explains why that’s not the case

James FodorThe University of Melbourne

Recently developed artificial intelligence (AI) models are capable of many impressive feats, including recognising images and producing human-like language. But just because AI can perform human-like behaviours doesn’t mean it can think or understand like humans.

As a researcher studying how humans understand and reason about the world, I think it’s important to emphasise the way AI systems “think” and learn is fundamentally different to how humans do – and we have a long way to go before AI can truly think like us.

A Widespread Misconception

Developments in AI have produced systems that can perform very human-like behaviours. The language model GPT-3 can produce text that’s often indistinguishable from human speech. Another model, PaLM, can produce explanations for jokes it has never seen before.

Most recently, a general-purpose AI known as Gato has been developed which can perform hundreds of tasks, including captioning images, answering questions, playing Atari video games, and even controlling a robot arm to stack blocks. And DALL-E is a system which has been trained to produce modified images and artwork from a text description.

These breakthroughs have led to some bold claims about the capability of such AI, and what it can tell us about human intelligence.

For example Nando de Freitas, a researcher at Google’s AI company DeepMind, argues scaling up existing models will be enough to produce human-level artificial intelligence. Others have echoed this view.

In all the excitement, it’s easy to assume human-like behaviour means human-like understanding. But there are several key differences between how AI and humans think and learn.

Neural Nets Vs The Human Brain

Most recent AI is built from artificial neural networks, or “neural nets” for short. The term “neural” is used because these networks are inspired by the human brain, in which billions of cells called neurons form complex webs of connections with one another, processing information as they fire signals back and forth.

Neural nets are a highly simplified version of the biology. A real neuron is replaced with a simple node, and the strength of the connection between nodes is represented by a single number called a “weight”.

With enough connected nodes stacked into enough layers, neural nets can be trained to recognise patterns and even “generalise” to stimuli that are similar (but not identical) to what they’ve seen before. Simply, generalisation refers to an AI system’s ability to take what it has learnt from certain data and apply it to new data.

Being able to identify features, recognise patterns, and generalise from results lies at the heart of the success of neural nets – and mimics techniques humans use for such tasks. Yet there are important differences.

Neural nets are typically trained by “supervised learning”. So they’re presented with many examples of an input and the desired output, and then gradually the connection weights are adjusted until the network “learns” to produce the desired output.

To learn a language task, a neural net may be presented with a sentence one word at a time, and will slowly learns to predict the next word in the sequence.

This is very different from how humans typically learn. Most human learning is “unsupervised”, which means we’re not explicitly told what the “right” response is for a given stimulus. We have to work this out ourselves.

For instance, children aren’t given instructions on how to speak, but learn this through a complex process of exposure to adult speech, imitation, and feedback.

A toddler tries to walk outdoors, with an adult guiding it by both hands
Childrens’ learning is assisted by adults, but they’re not fed massive datasets the way AI systems are. Shutterstock

Another difference is the sheer scale of data used to train AI. The GPT-3 model was trained on 400 billion words, mostly taken from the internet. At a rate of 150 words per minute, it would take a human nearly 4,000 years to read this much text.

Such calculations show humans can’t possibly learn the same way AI does. We have to make more efficient use of smaller amounts of data.

Neural Nets Can Learn In Ways We Can’t

An even more fundamental difference concerns the way neural nets learn. In order to match up a stimulus with a desired response, neural nets use an algorithm called “backpropagation” to pass errors backward through the network, allowing the weights to be adjusted in just the right way.

However, it’s widely recognised by neuroscientists that backpropagation can’t be implemented in the brain, as it would require external signals that just don’t exist.

Some researchers have proposed variations of backpropagation could be used by the brain, but so far there is no evidence human brains can use such learning methods.

Instead, humans learn by making structured mental concepts, in which many different properties and associations are linked together. For instance, our concept of “banana” includes its shape, the colour yellow, knowledge of it being a fruit, how to hold it, and so forth.

As far as we know, AI systems do not form conceptual knowledge like this. They rely entirely on extracting complex statistical associations from their training data, and then applying these to similar contexts.

Efforts are underway to build AI that combines different types of input (such as images and text) – but it remains to be seen if this will be sufficient for these models to learn the same types of rich mental representations humans use to understand the world.

There’s still much we don’t know about how humans learn, understand and reason. However, what we do know indicates humans perform these tasks very differently to AI systems.

As such, many researchers believe we’ll need new approaches, and more fundamental insight into how the human brain works, before we can build machines that truly think and learn like humans.The Conversation

James Fodor, PhD Candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne

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

Set in a 19th century Australian leper colony, Eleanor Limprecht’s The Coast depicts past cruelties, but has powerful things to say about the present

Sotnikov Misha/ Shutterstock
Suzie GibsonCharles Sturt University

Eleanor Limprecht’s new historical novel The Coast recreates a lost world that was once damned to obscurity. Set in a formerly remote coastal area known as Little Bay, just outside of Sydney, her book imagines a series of characters forced into quarantine after being diagnosed with leprosy.

Review: The Coast – Eleanor Limprecht (Allen & Unwin).

Established at the tail end of the 19th century, Sydney’s Little Bay “Coast Hospital” (known today as the Prince Henry Hospital Nursing and Medical Museum) hosted thousands of leprosy patients.

Yet this is a relatively unknown piece of Australian history. Perhaps the shame of locking up sick people and the cruelty of their seclusion (leprosy was never very contagious) needed to be suppressed?

Cleverly, Limprecht’s novel resists making any such judgements. Instead, it allows readers to gain an incremental knowledge of a “system”, its living conditions, and the various characters – patients, family members, nurses and doctors – who reside both within and beyond what is essentially a leper colony.

The style of the novel is polyvocal: each chapter begins with a character’s name, heralding their narrative point of view. This technique fosters a great deal of intimacy between readers and characters. We approach each chapter as one would an individual.

The writing is crisp, alternating between the first-person and third-person modes of address in its chronicle of intimate moments and uncharted worlds. It balances the expository dimension of prose with the lyricism of poetry:

What bound them together was too complex to unknit, too tangled to think the truth would smooth it.

Limprecht’s prose moves seamlessly from the lead protagonist Alice, the novel’s inaugurating first-person narrator, to other voices and perspectives, including that of Jack, a stolen generation youth, whose experience of loss and alienation is filtered through an omniscient narrator.

The mediation of Jack’s story through a third-person perspective emphasises his estrangement as a “half-caste” aboriginal boy who has been brutally removed from his home. Limprecht’s disturbing description of his relocation to a mission reveals a system designed to eradicate every vestige of his Indigeneity. The haunting scene of Jack washing away his encrusted “tracks of tears” suggests that no cleansing agent will ever heal the deep wound of his abduction.

Dialogues And Perspectives

There are many dialogues in this novel: between characters, within chapters, and across chapters. They take the form of conversations between different forms of isolation, revealing levels of confinement and incarceration. The overall effect is like that of a collage, in which there is a complex layering of experiences and perspectives.

This technique is evocative of Henry James, whose masterful late novels The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904) convey information through myriad exchanges and internal musings.

Significant details are also divulged through conversation. For example, Alice’s leprosy, her blond hair, and her birth name “Hilda” are revealed through dialogue. In the case of Alice’s shifting appellation, James’s narrative obliquity is arguably taken a step further, as one ponders the fragility of identity when it is wedded to proper names.

Henry James (1843-1916) Public domain

The Coast’s shifting names and perspectives evoke a profound sense of loss. As Alice observes, there are “places we can never return because they only exist as memories”.

The lives of characters also coincide with specific years that occasionally headline chapters — 1926, 1905, 1910, 1892 and 1915, among others. These roving time periods signify dramatic and appalling moments in Australian history: the massacre of First Nations peoples, the dissolution of penal settlements, the unification of self-governing states at Federation, the forced removal of “mixed-race” Indigenous peoples that created the Stolen Generation, the White Australia Policy, and the first world war.

It is not coincidental that The Coast is organised around significant and shameful episodes in our history. The novel suggests that institutional maltreatment and racially driven government policies may not be all that historical. An epistolary newspaper clipping from the novel suggests this:

Scattered throughout the cities, town and villages, and remote out-back settlements, aliens may develop and spread the virus of the many strange Eastern diseases which they carry with them in their wanderings – and in a hundred other ways they come in close and intimate contact with our European population. From a hygienic point of view, as well as a racial one, the people are dangerous. Leprosy is the legacy of woe which their yellow, black and brown forerunners of the early ‘sixties’ left to Australia …

One is left to ponder if the “sixties” refers to the 1860s or the 1960s. Perhaps such an omission is deliberate: the colonial era and the mid 20th century were both periods that demonised non-European immigrants, especially the Chinese, who were racially vilified as the “yellow peril”.

Eleanor Limprecht. Image: Bronwyn Rennex/

Racism is not temporally bound. It lingers as a form of unconscious bias, as an overt prejudice, or even less subtly as a specific government policy like Australia’s modern day Operation Sovereign Borders. The Coast may conjure the past through its powerful representation of those exiled in a leper colony, but its depiction of isolation is deeply redolent of contemporary asylum seekers locked up in detention centres.

There is thus an important political and ethical dimension to Limprecht’s book. It educates us about the past, while asking us to contemplate a present in which the sick, the poor, the elderly and the homeless are exposed to institutional and governmental malpractice and incompetence.

Mapping The Past, The Present, And The Future

Displacement is another significant motif in The Coast. Readers are, for example, presented with a puzzle of pseudonyms and abbreviated names, only to discover that in some instances such identifiers are adopted monikers – sometimes freely chosen, sometimes not.

This operates as a reminder of the present day treatment of refugees in Australia, powerfully dramatised in Behrouz Boochani’s book No Friend But the Mountains (2018). Those who are in mandatory detention are dehumanised to the point of losing the “privilege” of having a “proper” name.

When Jack is relocated to the mission, he becomes a number: “122”. Such maltreatment encourages one to contemplate whether contemporary attitudes towards Indigenous peoples have changed. In light of what has gone on at the Northern Territory’s infamous Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, the answer would seem to be a resounding no.

Displacement is also depicted through arduous physical and psychological journeys, as characters are ripped from their homes after a leprosy diagnosis. The lengthy sea and land excursions from such far flung places as Jiggi, Lismore and Nimbin to Sydney’s lonely Little Bay enclave, evoke the vastness of a continent encircled by the sea.

Mandatory travel to a secluded coastal hospital captures the extreme trepidation and cultural stain of leprosy. The stigma of the disease is aligned with the racial slur of being “half-caste”, as both “conditions” lead to physical and psychological isolation.

There is also a biblical dimension to The Coast, as it invokes the ancient fear of leprosy. In his designated chapter, titled “Will”, Dr Stenger observes: “The Bible had not done the disease any favours.”

The Bildungsroman genre adds yet another layer, as the novel dramatises Alice’s development from childhood to adulthood. Charlotte Brontë’s famous coming of age novel Jane Eyre (1847) is particularly resonant. When Alice forges a friendship with 12 year old Greta, a tuberculosis patient, it parallels Jane Eyre’s bond with the consumptive Helen Burns, as these relationships develop while in captivity.

Again, Limprecht pushes the limits of 19th century fiction by unearthing taboo subjects, such as childhood sexuality. As Alice narrates:

I thought of Greta before I fell asleep at night and first thing when I woke in the morning … I thought of her skin, how smooth and unblemished it was.

Sketch of Charlotte Brontë by George Richmond (1850). Public domain

Alice’s erotic feelings toward Greta make one ponder youthful relationships and whether same-sex desire was a dormant dimension in Brontë’s novel.

As a chronicle of loss, displacement, friendship, and even love, the profundity of The Coast often appears unexpectedly. Limprecht’s language accesses the most intimate regions of her characters’ minds, revealing truths that are anchored to a world of sound, sensation and touch.

The Coast may be about Australia’s past, but it is also very much a novel of the present in its powerful dramatisation of contamination fears and the dehumanising effect of such anxieties. One cannot but see parallels between leprosy and today’s COVID-19 epidemic.

But The Coast is also a novel of and for the future – a time that will no doubt test our ability to handle more infectious diseases. The question remains: do we have enough historical self-awareness to treat the sick and vulnerable with compassion?The Conversation

Suzie Gibson, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Charles Sturt University

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

Louisa Lim’s ‘outstanding’ portrait of a dispossessed, defiant Hong Kong is the activist journalism we need

Kin Cheung AP Hong Kong July protesters flood the streets as they take part in an annual rally in Hong Kong.
Kevin CarricoMonash University

Indelible City is more than a book: it is a haunting testimonial to the intertwined vitality, tragedy and hope of Hong Kong.

Review: Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong by Louisa Lim (Text Publishing)

Louisa Lim weaves together three powerful narratives to tell this city’s story.

It’s a macro-level history of Hong Kong and its relationship with its two colonial masters: the United Kingdom and China. A micro-level history of a not-so-mentally-stable street calligrapher, the King of Kowloon, whose art and bearing embody the dispossession and defiance that frame the macro-level history. And Lim shares her own personal narrative of growing up in Hong Kong and witnessing the transformation of the city in recent decades.

It should really come as no surprise that Hong Kong’s “return to the motherland” since 1997 has been an unmitigated disaster. Hong Kong is after all a culturally diverse, socially complex, rule-of-law-conscious, and politically engaged community: all traits for which China’s post-1989 leaders have had little patience.

What should in fact shock us is that this community, as deserving as any of a say in its own fate, has nevertheless been perpetually denied it. Lim’s history narrates how this could happen.

Hong Kong cityscape. Jerome Favre/AP

From British To Chinese Colonisation

Lim’s overview of the colonial era shows how British rule fostered the diverse, dynamic and mature society that we see today – but was structured around unforgivable exclusion and marginalisation. The latter, characteristic of the colonial experience, continued for Hong Kong in its process of supposed decolonisation.

Faced with the expiration of the 99-year lease on the New Territories in 1997, Great Britain pursued negotiations with China on the city’s future.

Lim brings us inside these negotiations and their often painful twists and turns, as the fate of millions was determined behind closed doors – with often quite inexplicable conclusions. Foremost among these was the diligent drafting of a supposedly legally binding agreement with China, a state that refuses to be bound by any law.

Tellingly, there was no seat at the negotiating table for a representative from Hong Kong. Lim shows how the concerns of excluded locals turned out to be prophetic.

One local official, excluded from the talks, expressed his worries that Hong Kong would not be genuinely autonomous, but rather controlled by Beijing; that Chinese officials charged with implementing policy would be unable to accept Hong Kong’s culture; and that future Chinese leaders might change their mind about promises made to Hong Kong. Few predictions of Hong Kong’s future could be more accurate.

The result of this deeply flawed process, as we can all see today, is a dynamic society muzzled under the so-called National Security Law. Although marketed as a law, the National Security Law is effectively the end of all law in Hong Kong. It strips away legally protected rights and due process, giving the government free rein to imprison anyone it pleases indefinitely for speech crimes.

The fate of Hong Kong today is a stain on Britain’s legacy and a reminder of the fundamental duplicity of the Chinese Communist Party leadership. Yet most importantly, for the people of Hong Kong, none of whom have remained untouched by this debacle, it is a genuine tragedy: recolonisation masquerading as decolonisation.

‘Guerrilla Street Calligrapher’ The King Of Kowloon

Woven into this rich history is a parallel micro-history of the King of Kowloon: Tsang Tsou-Choi, a trash collector with some fairly obvious mental issues who made a name for himself as a guerrilla street calligrapher. Lim’s narrative of Tsang, his life, and his rise to the status of media icon makes for unforgettable reading.

King of Kowloon street graffiti. longzijun/Flickr

At some point in his life, Tsang came to the admittedly unlikely but symbolically telling conclusion that his family had once owned the Kowloon Penninsula and that this land had been taken from them illegally. Rather than seeking redress in the courts – long the preferred avenue for settling disputes in the city – Tsang opted to decorate the cityscape with calligraphic declarations of his family’s ownership of the penninsula and his own self-declared royal status.

Tsang’s choice here anticipated a broader shift from working within the system to resolve issues, to seeking new paths outside the system: a driving ethos of the protest movement of 2019. Here again, the streets of Hong Kong were covered in calligraphic declarations of dispossession and defiance, seeking redress (that would never arrive) beyond the stifling confines of the conventional.

Neutrality A ‘Corrupt Compromise’

The third narrative thread in the book is Lim’s own personal experiences, from growing up Eurasian in Hong Kong to observing the defining moments of the 2019 protests.

I particularly appreciated Lim’s frequently witty casual observations and offhand comments, which incorporate a touch of humour into the narrative: much needed, considering the gravity of its subject.

short-haired woman smiling at the camera, wearing a purple blazer
Louisa Lim’s book is an ‘outstanding example’ of activist journalism. Photo Laura Du Vé.

In her reflections on the events of 2019, Lim narrates a number of moments at which she crossed over from an observer of political developments to become a participant. This poses a pressing question for our time: how does one balance the ideal of journalistic or academic neutrality with activist participation?

The answer to this question is, in my reading, extremely clear. As the horrifying nature of Chinese Communist Party rule over its colonies – from Hong Kong to Tibet to Xinjiang – becomes increasingly apparent, the ideal of neutrality becomes a corrupt compromise with the fundamentally unjustifiable.

If academic or journalistic work on China in the age of the National Security Law, concentration camps and genocide is to have any meaning at all beyond its own vapid self-reproduction, it must embrace an activist ethos – of which Indelible City is an outstanding example.

Lim’s book concludes with details of a fascinating exchange with a curator and friend of the King of Kowloon, Joel Chung Yin-chai. Chung has ironically spent years carefully painting over the King’s calligraphy in public spaces, to preserve and protect these works from state-enforced erasure.

The King’s defiance thus lives on under a thin veneer of paint, unnoticed by tens of thousands of passersby every day, awaiting a moment when it can again see the light of day. This image is deeply evocative in the context of Hong Kong today.

Similarly, if we peer beneath the surface of the National Security Law’s unrelenting reign of terror, we can still see a politically engaged and dynamic civil society – as captured so memorably in Lim’s book. Hopefully awaiting the day when the thin, fragile and always fundamentally unsustainable veneer of repression can finally be chipped away, as history shows it always will be.

This will be the day when the people of Hong Kong will finally have a say in determining their own future, once and for all.The Conversation

Kevin Carrico, Senior Lecturer, Chinese Studies, Monash University

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

Running Up That Hill: How Stranger Things and TikTok pushed Kate Bush’s 1985 pop classic back to the top of the charts

D. Bondy Valdovinos KayeQueensland University of Technology

Netflix’s nostalgia-laden thriller Stranger Things returned last month and with it came the revival of another classic from the 1980s, Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush. The song plays a prominent part in the narrative connected to one of the show’s leading teen cast members and is featured in a climatic, and visually stunning scene that has been making the rounds on the internet.

In a post shared to her website over the weekend, Kate Bush showered praise on the show and Netflix:

You might’ve heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of Stranger Things has recently been released on Netflix… It features the song, ‘Running Up That Hill’ which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show – I love it too!

Making A Deal With TikTok

One thing missing from the acknowledgement is mention of another digital platform helping to boost the song’s presence: TikTok. A thirty-second version of the Stranger Things clip has been posted and reposted on TikTok, gaining millions of views in just over a week, and Kate Bush’s song has been used in over 500,000 short videos.

Videos featuring the song depict teens cosplaying as characters, acting out scenes from the shows, and making humorous meme videos (“my friends playing my favourite song trying to save me… my airpods die”).

Others engage less with Stranger Things and more with Kate Bush, in videos depicting connecting with parents over a shared love, recommending more of Bush’s music, and sharing joy that a new generation of audiences might be discovering the influential artist for the first time. The song speaks to misfits and of desperation, themes as relevant to teens in 2022 as they were in 1985.

Running Up That Hill And Going Viral

The runaway resurgence of Bush’s 1985 classic could be a signal to film and TV producers to make clips more “TikTokable”.

Songs with short catchy hooks that are attached to eye-grabbing visual sequences in clips that are sixty, or better yet thirty, seconds maximum are more likely to be picked up on and shared on TikTok.

The chances of going viral can be improved by choosing classic chart-toppers that may find a revival among younger audiences. Naturally when a beloved artist is found by Gen-Z audiences, it leads to gatekeeping by longtime fans as well as counter-gatekeeping by fans who are thrilled to see a younger audience connecting with one of their favourite artists’ music.

Stranger Things is not the first to capitalise on the power of musical nostalgia. The success of films like Guardians of the Galaxy have proven to be powerful tools to give older a reprisal on the radio and popular charts. TikTok challenges and audio memes have helped catapult other classics back into vogue such as Harry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line, The Shangri-Las’s Leader of the Pack remixed into Oh No by Kreepa, and, of course, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams.

TikTok is a music-centric platform. It takes advantage of musical innovations pioneered on earlier short video platforms, like Flipagram, Dubsmash, and These platforms allowed users to draw from an internal library of popular songs, creatively add them to video creations, and use features like Duet to place themselves side-by-side their favourite artists.

Unlike streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify, users can take a more active and playful role interacting with music on TikTok.

Radio And The Charts

As with other musical TikTok phenomena, Running Up That Hill might be more than a momentary flash in the pan. In 2020, TikTok claimed over 70 artists who first emerged on the platform had secured record deals an the Billboard charts now frequently feature songs that went viral.

The song has returned to the Top 10 singles charts in the UK and is set to overtake Harry Styles As it Was as the number one single in Australia.

Kate Bush being reserviced to radio, physically or digitally delivering music to radio stations by her label, is a significant development. In the past much money and influence has been involved in getting music onto the radio. For a song that has not received play for decades to spontaneously reappear is a “watershed moment” according to a Warner Music label executive. Despite the growth and dominance of streaming, radio still plays a pivotal role for curation and discover in music markets such as the USAustralia, and around the world.

Radio play brings songs like to those who might not use TikTok or haven’t gotten around to watching the new season of Stranger Things.

While much focus in the music industry has centred on how to make songs go viral on TikTok, labels and artists might want to reconsider the radio as the true measure of success for songs traveling through the pipeline from TV to TikTok to Top 40.The Conversation

D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye, Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

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

How the art of Daniel Boyd turns over the apple cart of accepted white Australian history

Daniel Boyd, Sir No Beard, 2007. Oil on canvas 183.5 x 121.5 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, gift of Clinton Ng 2012, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 378.2012. Image: AGNSW, Felicity Jenkins © Daniel Boyd
Prudence GibsonUNSW Sydney

Daniel Boyd’s solo exhibition Treasure Island, now on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is a deeply political and personal interrogation of Australia’s colonial history.

Boyd is a Kudjala, Ghungalu, Wangerriburra, Wakka Wakka, Gubbi Gubbi, Kuku Yalanji, Yuggera and Bundjalung man, with ni-Vanuatu heritage. His work knocks over the apple cart of accepted white Australian history and presents the tumbled mess of bruised fruit.

For many, the true tales of racism, exploitation and violence towards First Nations people in Australia will not be a surprise, but Boyd charges the data with emotion and affect.

Daniel Boyd, Treasure Island, 2005. Oil on canvas 175 x 200 cm. Collection of James Makin, Melbourne. Image: courtesy James Makin Gallery © Daniel Boyd

One of the featured artworks presents a large Aboriginal map showing multiple language group areas, and with the words “Treasure Island” across its flank. This refers to the imperial notion of Australia as Terra Nullius, a land of free resources to steal or extract.

Drawing on iconic tales of Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island and collector of what Boyd describes as “Pacific fetish objects”) and countless ethnographic images from archives, Boyd creates his disruptions.

The works on display reflect the range of Boyd’s critical inquiry into the cosmos, patterned navigational maps, Plato’s cave allegory and dark matter in space and history.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (WWDTCG) 2020. Oil, charcoal, pastel and archival glue on canvas. 87 x 87 cm. Collection of Anthony Medich, Sydney. Image: Luis Power, courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © Daniel Boyd

The Transference Of Knowledge

We Call Them Pirates Out Here (2006) presents the viewer with a familiar image of Cook’s first landing at Kamay (Botony Bay), in 1770. Boyd re-presents Cook as a pirate, unlawfully stealing unceded land.

In Boyd’s hands the scene becomes chaotic rather than messianic. But the stain of power is still there.

The false truth can be disrupted, but the violence has already been done. De-colonialism has not yet been achieved.

Daniel Boyd, We call them pirates out here, 2006. Oil on canvas, 226 x 276 x 3.5 cm. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia,Sydney, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families 2006. 2006.25. Image: AGNSW, Jeni Carter © Daniel Boyd

I asked Daniel Boyd if non-Indigenous people will ever be able to understand life in the same way that First Nations people do – as multiple and complex, as holistic and connected and as poetic? He replied:

when Indigenous people situate themselves with place, with the sea, the land and the sky, then that knowledge can be transferred.

Boyd’s exhibition is exactly that transference of knowledge to audiences. He presents a middle room of artworks dedicated to the period of “blackbirding” in Australia, where people from South Sea Islands were brought to Queensland as slave labour to work on sugarcane plantations.

Boyd tells me that his own great-great-grandfather Samuel Pentecost was forcibly taken from Malakula Island, Vanuatu, and brought to Queensland to work for no pay.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (BGTJS), 2017. Oil, ink and archival glue on polycotton. 273 x 213 cm. Private collection, Melbourne. Image: Jessica Maurer, courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © Daniel Boyd

On The Backs Of Slaves

In Secret Cures of Slaves, historian Londa Schiebinger writes about slaves being tossed into mass graves at the end of cotton or sugarcane rows if they died from exhaustion or malnutrition on site. I’ve read of slaves being only fed bananas or dumb cane which made their tongues swell and stopped verbal backlash.

As Boyd tells me, the Queensland economy was built on the backbone of free labour of First Nations and Pacific Island peoples. Wages were stolen and people were exploited.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (KCE) 2013. Oil, charcoal and archival glue on linen 223.5 x 447 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Image: Ivan Buljan, courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © Daniel Boyd

Along with domestic servitude, this free labour created capital and profit for generations of white Australians.

Boyd continues these disturbing tales with a painting of an imperial ship, full of produce. The artist tells me that Joseph Banks “discovered” Tahitian breadfruit as a useful species to feed to plantation slaves, so the breadfruit was transported aboard the Bounty ship to Jamaica, another site of plantation slavery.

The brutality continued through Australian history and in Boyd’s own family lineage. Samuel’s son, Boyd’s great-grandfather, was stolen from his parents up in Mossman Gorge and taken to Yarrabah Mission.

Boyd transfers an image of Harry Mossman, photographed by anthropologist Norman Tindale, for this exhibition. This is one of the most unadorned and plain portraits of the exhibition: it has a calm, proud and direct appeal.

Adjusting Our Focus

Boyd’s use of tiny glue dots on the surface of his artworks references traditional painting but also acts as lenses. These adjust our focus and help us see the true stories, painful and sorrowful and shameful as they are.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (PI3), 2013. Oil and archival glue on linen. 214 x 300 cm. Private collection, Bowral. Image: Jessica Maurer, courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © Daniel Boyd

They are emblematic of the way light (western knowledge) can blind us from what we need to see (Black truth). The mostly white dots are portals to better see the hidden stories.

Boyd’s art dispels white Australian propaganda that erases information about slavery, the stolen generation and the early years of white settlement. He encourages audiences to see the true stories lurking in the shadows.

It’s not easy, but facing the truth is the first step to decolonising our Australian history.

Daniel Boyd Treasure Island is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until January 2023.The Conversation

Prudence Gibson, Author and Research Fellow, UNSW Sydney

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

Judy Garland at 100: more than just a star, Garland shaped the modern movie musical

Gregory CampUniversity of Auckland

There are many angles from which we can celebrate Judy Garland’s 100th birthday on June 10.

We can see her as iconic interpreter of the Great American Songbook, mother of a showbiz dynasty, gay icon, a sad symbol of the excesses of Hollywood control or a classic movie star.

But one of the most interesting things about her is not her place as the star of individual movies, or as a persona, but as a co-creator of a specific style of movie musical.

When looking at Garland’s varied filmography, I am struck by how many “integrated” musicals she starred in. These are movies where the songs contribute to telling the story as opposed to being simply attractive diversions: the songs are integrated into the plot.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow is specific to the plot of The Wizard of Oz (1939). No other character could sing it, and Dorothy could only sing it when she does, early in the film before her journey to Oz.

Similarly, The Boy Next Door in Meet Me In St Louis (1944) only fits where it is in the film: an expression of the wonder of a new crush.

Music For Music’s Sake

The earliest movie musicals of the late 1920s were either adaptations of preexisting stage shows, or backstage dramas about the staging of musicals replete with elaborate production numbers that have nothing to do with the plot.

The most famous among these were from Warner Bros with numbers staged by Busby Berkeley.

As the genre developed in the 1930s, there was usually a mix of plot numbers and pure spectacle, such as in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals made by RKO.

A few of Garland’s musicals fit this style, but most of the best known ones are strikingly void of musical numbers that exist purely for their own sake.

The makers of films like The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis and The Pirate (1948) seem to have responded to Garland’s particular acting talents, writing stories and music that suited her storytelling style.

In this, she had an influence on both the form and the content of the film musical genre.

Even in her backstage musicals – where songs usually happen as performance, as opposed to being in musically-enhanced reality mode – Garland’s songs have double meanings as both performances and as character milestones.

The most famous example from Garland’s later career is undoubtedly The Man That Got Away from A Star is Born (1954).

In the film, Garland’s character Esther is rehearsing with her band, but it is clear the character is feeling the specific meaning of the song composed by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin for Garland to sing in this film.

A Fully Rounded Character

Take one of Garland’s less familiar films, 1943’s Girl Crazy.

This is not a great film by any means, but it has a stack of classic Gershwin songs and the most interesting plot of Garland’s pre-Meet Me In St Louis films (other than The Wizard of Oz, of course).

Garland plays the postmistress of a small college town somewhere in the American West, to which Mickey Rooney’s character has been banished for having too much non-academic fun at Yale.

Each of Garland’s numbers shows off a different side of her talent while still allowing her to stay entirely in character.

Her comedy duet with Rooney, Could You Use Me?, is a masterclass in under-acting. Even though Rooney is hamming it up at his usual 110%, Garland gives hyperactive Rooney a run for his money by keeping quite still. Focus remains on her even during Rooney’s verses.

In Embraceable You, Garland has fun charming the entire student body of the men’s college where her grandfather is dean. She also shows off her dancing talents in the number.

The melancholic ballad But Not For Me is Garland in her miserable mode, but numbers like this (there is one in almost every Garland musical) never come across as cloying or full of self-pity.

Instead, the subtlety of her portrayal of heartbreak means the audience’s hearts break right along with hers.

Finally, I Got Rhythm shows how powerful she was as an anchor for a huge production number, here a five-minute extravaganza complete with singers, dancers and Tommy Dorsey’s big band, brought to the college to celebrate the fact that it is staying open (and will now be coeducational!).

Unlike many such production numbers, which exist only to show off the performers, this serves as a fitting climax to the film: Garland has found her man, and who indeed could ask for anything more?

That even a relatively minor movie such as Girl Crazy lets Garland play a fully rounded character through her singing demonstrates her influence as a singing actress.

Her considerable talents pushed her collaborators to give her their best work, integrating song and story and pushing the movie musical genre to greater sophistication.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misnamed the lyricist for A Star Is Born. The writer was Ira Gershwin.The Conversation

Gregory Camp, Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland

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

Tribute To Wal Williams OAM

In NSW Parliament, June 7, 2022 - by The Hon Rob Stokes, MP for Pittwater—Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Cities, and Minister for Active Transport

It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the life and legacy of Wal Williams, OAM. He was a World War II veteran who passed away on Saturday at the RSL ANZAC Village in Narrabeen at the age of 99. A local legend in Pittwater, Wal made a valuable contribution to raising awareness of the sacrifice and suffering of prisoners of war during the Second World War in the Pacific between 1941 and 1945. Born in Northbridge in 1922, Wal grew to be an excellent swimmer and represented the Northbridge Swimming Club at the NSW State Championships. This skill would later help save his life. Not long after war broke out, Wal enlisted in the permanent army and then joined the Second Australian Imperial Force in November 1941. Wal was underage and needed permission to join up. His father, a Gallipoli veteran of the Light Horse, did not want Wal to be a soldier but eventually gave his permission.

In December 1941, following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and Malaya, Wal's unit sailed to Singapore to reinforce the 2/19th Battalion, which had suffered casualties just north of Singapore. In one of the strange quirks of history, the 2/19th was commanded by one of my ancestors, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson. Together with his unit, Wal fought a fierce defensive battle for several days. Coinciding with heavy attacks elsewhere on the island's perimeter and on its water supply, and with supplies and ammunition dwindling, the difficult decision was made to surrender Singapore on 15 February 1942. Wal, along with tens of thousands of Allied soldiers, nurses and civilians, was taken prisoner. He would go on to spend three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese. At first interned at the infamous Changi prison camp, Wal was then put to work on the Burma‑Thailand Railway—with my uncle, Hugh Johnson—for two years, and would later be transported to Japan.

In September 1944, as a prisoner on his way to Japan aboard the Rakuyo Maru, an American submarine—unaware that 1,300 Allied prisoners were onboard—fired a torpedo, sinking the Japanese prison ship. Treading water for 24 hours, Wal and a handful of mates survived being strafed by Japanese aircraft, only to be picked up by another Japanese ship which took them to Japan. Only 159 Allied prisoners were pulled from the water alive. Wal survived barbaric hard labour in Japan and the Allied firebombing of Tokyo and Yokohama, and finally returned to Australia at the end of October 1945. Following the war, Wal travelled to Papua New Guinea to work on boats, and upon his return to Sydney he met his late wife, Helen. Wal became an auctioneer. He and Helen raised their son on the northern beaches of Sydney, after Wal opened a second‑hand furniture shop at Narrabeen.

Wal was heavily involved in the RSL, being recognised for his work with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2021. He was passionate about raising awareness of the little‑known history of the thousands of Australian and Allied prisoners of war, nurses and civilians who were lost at sea aboard Japanese ships as the result of Allied action. This included the Montevideo Maru, which was sunk 80 years ago next month with the loss of all 1,054 Allied prisoners and civilians aboard. Wal worked tirelessly to have the memory of those Allied service personnel and civilians who died on Japanese prisoner of war [POW] ships recognised with a memorial on Robert Dunn Reserve at the south end of Mona Vale Headland. But, in an act of bureaucratic bastardry, the New South Wales Government at the time and the local council denied permission for the erection of the memorial. Therefore, it was incredibly hurtful and, quite simply, outrageous when a memorial to the Japanese submariners entombed in their vessel off Bungan Beach was erected on North Mona Vale Headland. We now have an opportunity to right this wrong.

One of the last things Wal learned about was the decision of the council. I am so pleased that veterans Minister David Elliott has given significant funding, together with council, to ensure that Wal's memorial can finally be built, in the location originally intended, on the south end of Mona Vale Headland. One of the very last things that Wal did was to approve the wording for the memorial. It is interesting that it is positioned on the southern headland at Mona Vale, because it is an unwitting but poignant reconciliation of the tragedy of war—Japanese invaders remembered at one headland, allied POWs remembered at the other, all linked by the new coastal walkway along a beachfront which was covered in barbed wire during the war and in front of a golf course built by survivors of the Great War, including my grandfather, Keith Stokes. 

Wal is survived by his son Neil, grandsons Robert and Nicholas, and a great‑granddaughter, Sophia. I feel connected to Wal because his story is shared by families like mine and so many others across Australia. Thank you, Wal, for your service and your incredible life. Lest we forget.


Wal's Profile from 2017 runs again this week -  a Tribute to a lovely gentle man and a contributor over all of his life to community.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse.

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022: Significance
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a day dedicated to educating people about the injustices that the elderly face across the world whether verbal, physical, or emotional. Elders are esteemed in many societies, and rightly so. Their life experiences, memories, and perspectives are treasured for the lessons they can teach younger people. And if elderly people aren't encouraged to pass on the knowledge and skills they've gained during their lives, the culture as a whole will suffer.  Research suggests that 4 to 6 percent of the elderly suffer from some kind of abuse, most of which go unreported. This day is to make sure we remain focused on our elders, ensuring they lead a life of high quality and dignity.

WEAAD was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, following a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.

According to WHO estimates, 1 in 6 people over 60 years of age suffers from abuse. That means nearly 141 million people globally. This number may be much higher as neglect, abuse and violence of older people are among the most hidden and underrepresented violations of human rights.

This year, WEAAD coincides with two important events. The first is the start of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030). This marks the beginning of ten years of concerted, catalytic and sustained collaboration with diverse stakeholders on improving the lives of older people, their families and their communities. The second is the 20th milestone of the Second World Assembly on Ageing and the fourth review and appraisal of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA). These provide an opportunity to generate renewed momentum for international action to advance the ageing agenda.

MIPAA represents the first time Governments agreed to link questions of ageing to other frameworks for social and economic development and human rights. The 159 Member States who signed onto the MIPAA reaffirmed the commitment to spare no effort to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.

According to WHO, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 10 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.

Individuals, communities, municipalities and organisations will come together across the globe to hold events on 15 June that raise awareness of elder abuse.

If you need help please call the NSW Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline at 1800 628 221(Monday – Friday 9-5) 

Advancing Equality For Older People

June 8, 2022
A new report by HelpAge International clarifies States’ obligations to tackle ageism and age discrimination and provides key insights into the importance of a dedicated international legal instrument and comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. 

The report examines and compares the legal frameworks for prohibiting age discrimination in 12 States, analysing them for consistency with international legal standards. It identifies the principal gaps, inconsistencies and barriers which prevent the realisation of the rights to equality and non-discrimination for older people while highlighting good practices and promising developments.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50% of people worldwide are ageist. That’s a scary fact when you realise that by 2050 one in six of us will be aged 65 or over. Securing equality for older people is in everyone’s interest because every single one of us is getting older.

Seniors Rights Service Visiting The Central West 

June 8, 2022
Do you have a concern that could benefit from access to free legal advice relating to Retirement Village Communities, Land Lease Communities and people living in Strata buildings?
Our team of experienced solicitors will be in the Central West and Orana from 14 to 17 June 2022 to hold a series of consultations and legal information sessions.

We will be holding legal clinics to allow local residents to seek specialist advice on a range of issues and concerns they may have relating to their living arrangements.

Attending one of our legal sessions would benefit anyone who is experiencing legal difficulties or challenges in their retirement village or other supported accommodation where advice from a solicitor may assist.

Tuesday 14 June, 4 – 6pm – Dubbo
Connecting Community Services, 31-33 Church Street, Dubbo

Thursday 16 June, 9.15 – 11.15am – Orange
The Hive, 25-27 McNamara Street, Orange

Friday 17 June, 2 – 4pm – Parkes
Neighbourhood Central, 80 Currajong Street, Parkes

Each consultation will be allocated an initial 20 minutes to allow the solicitor to assess your issue and to arrange follow-up or referral as needed. Please bring any relevant papers with you to the session.

To book an appointment please email a brief summary of your issue marked LEGAL CLINIC to or call 02 9281 3600.

Our solicitors will also be conducting community education sessions in a number of local retirement villages advising residents on their rights and obligations as members of these communities.

For any enquiries please call 02 9281 3600 or email

Seniors Rights Service provide free and confidential advice, aged care advocacy and support, and legal advice to seniors across New South Wales.

Your rights. Your voice. Free and confidential.
Call 02 9281 3600

Seniors Rights Service is a community organisation dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of older people, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

What Older People Think: COTA NSW Report Released

COTA NSW has released the 2022 edition of their 50+ report, which has found that older people in NSW support a number of issues that have long been contentious in public discussion.

Entitled What Older People think…, the report is based on a survey of 6,390 older Australians aged 50+ in New South Wales, including some newsletter readers, as well as eight focus groups exploring the issues in greater depth. The issues looked at included climate change, Indigenous recognition, sources of news and portrayal of older people in the media.

We found majority support for action on climate change, including mitigation and adaptation measures, the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian constitution and the contribution that culturally diverse communities have made to our community.

Most older people no longer source their news from print newspapers. However, a significant majority are concerned that it is getting harder to access information and services without using the internet, and many find it difficult to keep up with the pace of technological change.

The research also looked at intergenerational conflict, finding that most respondents did not see it as an issue. About half thought that things were worse for young people today, with housing affordability and HECS debts cited as the main concerns, while others thought the greater opportunities for women meant that things were better now.

The results of this research provide important insights for decision makers and the broader populace to be cognisant of the diversity of older people’s experiences, socio economic background and stage of life to ensure that the all older people are heard, and that decisions are not made on the basis of inaccurate stereotypes.

Moving Pictures – Changing How We Look At Dementia

Moving Pictures is a multimedia, multi-lingual project collaboration between National Ageing Research Institute and Curtin University which aims to change the way we look at dementia, especially in immigrant communities.

Limited awareness of dementia in these communities often results in delayed diagnosis, poorer prognosis, and a higher burden of care on families and health systems.

Moving Pictures aims to change this through the production of short films co-produced with people from culturally and language diverse backgrounds. The Moving Pictures team has so far produced 15 short films with Hindi-, Tamil-, Mandarin-, Cantonese- and Arabic-speaking communities.

For each language, there are three films: Detection and Diagnosis, Navigating Care, and the Carer Journey.

The films are based on the stories and lived experiences of carers of people living with dementia, and the expert views of key service providers.

The project aims to encourage lifestyle choices and changes to prevent the onset of the disease. There are practical tips, as well as information about services that are available to families caring for someone living with dementia.

Currently almost 480,000 people live with some form of dementia in Australia, and this is projected to increase to over 1 million people by 2058 without a major medical breakthrough.

Nearly 30% of Australians aged over 65 were born overseas, mainly in non-English speaking countries, and there are growing concerns that the prevalence of dementia in some CALD communities could increase by more than 650% in the years to come.

Access available materials at:

Tax Time Scams And How To Avoid Them

Unscrupulous individuals prey on older Australians at tax time. National Seniors provides an overview of how to identify these scams and what to do next.

Tax time can cause a lot of confusion and stress for many of us. This stress can be amplified when you receive an SMS or email from someone insisting you owe the tax office money. So, what can you do to make sure you don’t end up falling for one of these scams?

Fake TFN and ABN scams
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has reported a new scam doing the rounds in April 2022: the fake TFN and ABN scam.

The scammer poses as somebody who can help you set up a tax file number (TFN) or an Australian Business Number (ABN) for a fee. Instead, they will take your money and personal information but never deliver the promised service.

What does it look like? Usually, the scammer will put up an advertisement on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram which will include a link to a legitimate-looking website. Individuals who click on this advert will be asked to hand over personal information and pay for the service, which will never occur.

How to avoid this scam: Setting up a TFN and ABN is free. If you need assistance setting one up, you can do so through a tax agent registered with the Tax Practioners Board. If you see an advert on social media or receive an unsolicited text message or email from somebody claiming they can help you set up a TFN or ABN, treat it with extreme caution. Never give out your personal details unless you are certain of who you are dealing with.

Cryptocurrency tax scam
Another new scam that is on the rise this year is where a scammer will masquerade as the ATO and tell the victim they are suspected of being involved in a cryptocurrency tax evasion.

What does it look like? Individuals have reported being contacted by SMS or email by somebody who claims to be from the ATO. They will then be asked to ‘connect their wallet’ and provide information via a link. The link will take the victim to a fake myGov page designed to steal personal information.

Example scam message. Source ATO website.

How to avoid this scam: If you receive this kind of SMS or email, do not click on the link. The real ATO will never send an SMS or email with a link to login to their online services. The real ATO may send a text or email requesting you contact them but will never ask for personal information. If in doubt, call the ATO’s official phone number on 1800 008 540 to double check.

Fake tax debt
Many scammers use fear tactics to get their victims to hand over their personal details and money, and one of the most common is the fake tax debt scam.

Scammers will pretend to be from the ATO, telling the victim they have a tax debt that must be paid immediately.

What it looks like: Scammers may contact via text, phone call, or email and masquerade as a member of the ATO. They will often threaten you with arrest if you do not pay immediately and will usually demand payment in the form of a gift card or to a personal account.

How to avoid this scam: The real ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest, send a pre-recorded message to your phone, demand payment through gift card or bank transfer, or insist you stay on the line until the payment has been made. If the ATO does ring you, it always be through a ‘No Caller ID’ listing, instead of a specific phone number.

If you’re ever unsure, hang up and call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to confirm if it’s real.

Tax refund scam
On the opposite end of the spectrum, scammers might lure victims with the promise of money. A common form of this scam is the tax refund scam.

What it looks like: Scammers will email the victim, claiming to be the ATO and promising a tax refund (see example below). They will then ask the victim to update their financial details on an attached form to process the refund. They will then steal money from account details provided.

Example scam email. Source ATO website

How to avoid this scam: If you receive an email like the above, do not open any attachments or click on any links. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to confirm if it’s real.

Other tax related scams
There are several other scams doing the rounds, you can see the full list of known scams and what to look for on the ATO website.

What to do if you've been scammed
If you've lost money or given personal details to a scammer, you may not see your money again. However, you can limit further damage and loss. The federal government's Scamwatch website recommends the below steps if this has happened to you: 
  1. Contact people you know: Let your friends and family know what's happened. 
  2. Contact your financial institution: If you've provided your bank or credit card details to the scammer, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop the transaction, perform a 'charge back' to your credit card (reverse the transaction) or close your bank account. 
  3. Recover your stolen identity: If you have had your identity stolen, get in touch with contact IDCARE, a government website that will work with you to plan a response. Visit the IDCARE website or call 1800 595 160. You can also apply for a Commonwealth Victims' Certificate to support your claim that you've been a victim of identity crime and help re-establish credentials. 
  4. Report the scam to authorities: Report scams to the ACCC via the Report a Scam website. Depending on the type of scam, you may also need to report it to the ATO, Centrelink, Medicare, the ACCC, the police, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. You should also report the scam to your telecommunications provider, email service, and/or the social media platform (depending how you were first contacted). 
  5. Change your online passwords: If any of your online accounts have been compromised, change your password immediately. Most websites will have instructions for how you can recover a hacked account if you're unable to get into it. 
  6. Set up two-factor authentication for online accounts: Two (or three factor) authentication offers an extra layer of protection. Along with your username and password, most two-factor authentication will set up a second step such as entering a code sent to your phone or email. This makes it harder for hackers to access your account without first gaining access to your phone or email. Most websites will have instructions for how to set this up for your online account. 

Hidden costs, manipulation, forced continuity: report reveals how Australian consumers are being duped online

Katharine KempUNSW Sydney

Australian consumers’ choices on websites and apps are being manipulated through online designs taking advantage of their weaknesses. That’s according to research on consumers’ online experiences and the presentation of websites and apps, released today by the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC).

The research gives examples of consumers being manipulated or deceived into unintentionally buying items, paying more, or giving up more personal data than they meant to.

Examples include situations where an online store automatically added items to consumers’ carts, and “Hotel California” techniques which make it easy to subscribe to a service, but much harder to unsubscribe.

According to the CPRC’s findings, 83% of Australians surveyed had experienced one or more negative consequences – including financial harm or feeling manipulated – as a result of these “dark patterns”.

Some misleading designs breach the Australian Consumer Law. However, not all designs that have unfair consequences will necessarily be captured under the law. The latest report adds to existing calls to amend consumer law by introducing a ban on unfair trading practices.

What Are Dark Patterns?

Experts and regulators around the world have highlighted concerning online design techniques in recent years, labelling them “dark patterns” or “deceptive design”.

These designs often take advantage of a consumer’s recognised behavioural biases. For instance, “default bias” is consumers’ bias in favour of leaving default choices in place to avoid making complex decisions. Businesses take advantage of this by pre-ticking boxes in favour of the business’s preferences, despite consumer interests.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has examined dark patterns, defining them as:

The design of user interfaces intended to confuse users, make it difficult for users to express their actual preferences, or manipulate users into taking certain actions.

The CPRC study conducted a randomised sweep of websites and apps to identify deceptive design features.

Hidden Costs: I Bought What?

The CPRC found several examples of online stores automatically adding items to consumers’ shopping carts, such as insurance or service plans.

For example, in one case a consumer buying a washing machine from a major online retailer for A$1,059, may or may not have noticed a single-line item, “3 Year Care Plan For Home - $160”, in the final steps of their purchase.

In other cases, customers were presented with offers of a product care plan at several points in the checkout process. The CPRC says:

this design approach risks implying that […] a product care plan is required when most faults or problems are adequately covered by the consumer guarantees.

For products sold in Australia, consumer guarantees about the quality of products are provided free of charge under the Australian Consumer Law.

“Hotel California” Or Forced Continuity

Another concerningly common pattern is the relative difficulty consumers experience when trying to unsubscribe from a service, compared with how easy it is to sign up. CPRC labels this “Hotel California”, after the famous line in the Eagles’ song: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

Examples from the CPRC’s findings included attempting to cancel an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, which required a consumer to navigate more than five screens. Similarly, cancelling an eBay Plus subscription required four additional steps after selecting “cancel membership”.

The CPRC argues it should be as easy to opt-out of a service as it is to opt-in. While extra steps may not seem disastrous in isolation, they can especially disadvantage those already experiencing vulnerabilities, such as sudden illness, loss of a loved one, or low digital literacy.

This is sometimes combined with another manipulative design technique called “confirmshaming”. With this, consumers are asked to confirm a statement that makes them feel shamed or foolish, such as if they want to “lose their benefits” or if they “refuse to support” a good cause.

Data Grabs, Colours And Countdowns

The CPRC also found the majority of consumers surveyed (89%) had experienced being asked for more personal information than was needed to access the relevant product or service. This was achieved in various ways, including by:

  • pre-ticking the option to receive marketing communications
  • forcing the consumer to create a profile to browse or purchase a product, and
  • treating the mere use of a website as acceptance of data terms or conditions.

Other examples of manipulative design included highlighting the business’s preference in a colour known to entice consumers to agree or act (often green or blue), using a rapid countdown to create a false sense of urgency, and warning that a number of other customers are looking at a product.

Importantly, the research found consumers aged between 18 and 28 were more likely to suffer negative impacts from manipulative design, leading to substantial effects on their financial well-being and privacy. A significant proportion of consumers in this younger age bracket reported they:

  • accidentally bought something (12%)
  • spent more than they intended (33%)
  • disclosed more personal information than they wanted to (27%)
  • created an online account when they didn’t want to (37%), and
  • accidentally signed up to something (39%).
Young man in a store peruses his phone, with a laptop open on a table in front of him
The research found young people in particular were vulnerable to manipulative techniques used by online businesses. Shutterstock

We Need To Upgrade Business Practices And Consumer Law

For businesses, using dark patterns to boost profit will likely lead to long-term losses in the form of consumer trust and loyalty. Almost one in three people surveyed said they stopped using a website or app (either temporarily or permanently) after experiencing dark patterns.

Misleading designs may also lead to penalties for businesses under the Australian Consumer Law. This happened last year when Google’s privacy settings were found likely to mislead consumers.

However, other designs that have unfair consequences might not fall foul of consumer laws, if they don’t meet certain criteria set out by the law.

The CPRC’s research adds to evidence in support of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s existing recommendation that our consumer law should include an unfair practices prohibition, similar to those in the European Union and the United Kingdom.The Conversation

Katharine Kemp, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW, UNSW Sydney

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

NSW Government Responds To Grants Review Recommendations

June 7, 2022
The NSW Government has announced its support or support in principle for all of the recommendations of the Grants Administration Review to ensure any public money invested in grants programs is spent fairly, effectively, and transparently.

The Grants Administration Review was led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) in partnership with the Productivity Commissioner, Mr Peter Achterstraat AM.

The Review delivered 19 recommendations that, when put in place, are designed to deliver value for money by ensuring that the administration, assessment, and assurance of grants programs in NSW is in line with best practice.

The government has confirmed its support, or support in principle, for all of the recommendations.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the NSW Government has asked DPC to lead the implementation of the recommendations as swiftly as possible.

“Grants are an important part of everyday life in our state – from sports clubs to disaster recovery, business assistance to COVID support programs – and we need to do everything we can to ensure every dollar of grant money is appropriately directed and invested,” Mr Perrottet said.

“In a representative democracy it is of course important that elected officials retain some discretion in the administration of grants programs. However, the NSW Government is committed to ensuring this discretion is exercised as fairly, transparently and effectively as possible.

“The NSW Government typically spends around $4 billion every year on grants, and that has increased significantly as we have responded to support people through bushfires, the pandemic, droughts and floods.

“Grants need to be delivered fairly and deliver value for the NSW taxpayer and I am committed to seeing positive changes put in place as swiftly as possible.”

Some key reforms that the government will now implement include:
  • Replacing the current Good Practice Guide to Grants with the new Grants Administration Guide (to be issued under a Premier’s Memorandum).
  • The establishment of a cross-agency “community of practice” comprising officials with expertise in grants administration, that will be tasked with developing resources to support compliance with the Guide and exploring opportunities for collaboration across government on grants.
Read the Grants Administration Review Report - April 2022
Read the Audit Office of NSW Integrity of grant program administration Report - February 2022

Audit Office Of New South Wales: Transport 2021

May 6, 2022
What the report is about
The results of the Transport cluster agencies’ financial statement audits for the year ended 30 June 2021.

What we found
Unmodified financial statement audit opinions were issued for all Transport cluster agencies. Resolution of issues delayed signing the Transport Asset Holding Entity of NSW (TAHE) until 24 December 2021. Matters relating to TAHE are also reported in the report on State Finances 2021.

Emphasis of Matter - TAHE
An Emphasis of Matter paragraph was included in TAHE's audit opinion to draw attention to uncertainty associated with:
  • future access and licence fees that are subject to re-signed agreements
  • an additional $4.1 billion of funding that is outside the forward estimates period
  • a significant portion of the fair value of TAHE’s non-financial assets is reflected in the terminal value, which is outside the ten-year contract period to 30 June 2031, and the risk that TAHE will not be able to negotiate contract terms to support current projections.
TAHE's transition from RailCorp also changed its valuation of assets to an income approach, resulting in a $20.3 billion decrease to the fair value. The fair value decrease was because the cash flows were not sufficient to support the previous recorded value.

TAHE corrected a misstatement of $1.2 billion relating to the valuation of its assets. This followed significant deliberation on key judgements and assumptions, with TAHE adopting risk assumptions in its valuation that were not in line with comparable benchmarks.

Emphasis of Matter - State Transit Authority of New South Wales
An Emphasis of Matter paragraph was included in the State Transit Authority of NSW's (the Authority) audit opinion to draw attention to the financial statements not prepared on a going concern basis. This was because the NSW Government put the Authority's bus contracts out to competitive tender and accordingly, management assessed the Authority's principal activities are not expected to operate for a full 12 months after 30 June 2021.

The implementation of AASB 1059 ‘Service Concession Arrangements: Grantors’ resulted in a net increase in assets of $23.5 billion across the Transport cluster.

The 2020–21 audits identified six high risk and 45 moderate risk issues across the cluster. Fourteen of the moderate risk issues were repeat issues, including information technology controls around management of user access for key financial systems and payroll processes.

The high risk issues, in addition to those related to TAHE and previously reported in the report on State Finances 2021, include:
  • absence of conflict of declarations related to land acquisition processes at Transport for NSW
  • no evidence of conflict of interest declarations obtained by TAHE from consultants and contractors regarding involvement in other engagements.
What we recommended
TAHE needs to:
  • finalise revised commercial agreements to reflect fees detailed in a Heads of Agreement signed on 18 December 2021
  • prepare robust projections and business plans to support the required rate of return.
NSW Treasury and TAHE should monitor the risk that control of TAHE assets could change in the future.

Transport for NSW needs to significantly improve its processes to ensure all key information is identified and shared with the Audit Office.

Transport agencies should implement a process to ensure conflicts of interest declarations are completed for land acquisitions and applied consistently across the cluster.

Transport agencies should implement a process to capture all contracts and agreements entered to ensure:
  • agencies are aware of contractual obligations
  • financial reporting implications are assessed, particularly with respect to leases, revenue and service concession arrangements.

Fast facts
The Transport cluster plans and delivers infrastructure and integrated services across all modes of transport. This includes road, rail, bus, ferry, light rail, cycling and walking. There are 11 agencies in the cluster.
  • $128b road and maritime system infrastructure assets as at 30 June 2021
  • 100% unqualified audit opinions were issued on agencies 30 June 2021 financial statements
  • 26 monetary misstatements were reported in 2020–21
  • $24.9b rail systems infrastructure assets as at 30 June 2021
  • 6 high risk management letter findings were identified
  • 37% of reported issues were repeat issues 

Screen Time, Alcohol, And Poor Sleep For Girls: How The Pandemic Has Impacted Teens In Australia

June 6, 2022
Australian teens had overall improvements in sleep over the two years and some improvements in dietary choices during lockdown, however these were offset by increases in already concerning levels of screen time and worrying trends of alcohol use and poor sleep among girls.

Led by the University of Sydney and published in BMJ Open today, the study adds important new data to the growing chorus of concern around the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on young people. It also emphasises the importance of tailoring support and interventions to address specific concerns and groups -- such as adolescent girls -- who appear to be most impacted.

"We know these lifestyle risk behaviours are common among young people, but we also know they are key predictors of chronic diseases later in life, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders," said lead author Dr Lauren Gardner, Research Fellow at the Matilda Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

"It's important that we understand how to best support young Australians moving forward, regardless of the course of the pandemic, and invest in prevention and health promotion activities."

About the study
The research drew on self-reported longitudinal survey data from 983 Australian adolescents (average age 12.6 years at baseline) enrolled in the The Health4Life Study.

It analysed data over a two-year period from before (2019) to during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021) -- looking at the 'Big 6' health behaviours: diet, physical activity, recreational screen time, sleep and alcohol and tobacco use.

The researchers also examined if differences over time were associated with gender and lockdown status across three Australian states -- New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

Key findings:
  • Compared to pre-pandemic levels, there were increases in the prevalence of excessive recreational screen time (86% to 94%), insufficient fruit intake (20% to 30%), and increased alcohol (2% to 10%) and tobacco use (1% to 4%)*.
  • Overall, the prevalence of insufficient sleep decreased over the two-year period (by 26%), regardless of lockdown status.
  • Being in lockdown was associated with improvements in sugar sweetened beverage consumption (39% lower than those not in lockdown) and discretionary food intake (27% lower than those not in lockdown).
  • For females, there was an increase in the prevalence of insufficient sleep (24% higher than males) and alcohol use* (134% higher than males).
  • Although the prevalence of insufficient physical activity and insufficient vegetable intake did not change over time, nor were there differences based on lockdown status, these behaviours remain concerning, with 82% not achieving 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and 84% not eating the recommended five serves of vegetables per day.
*The increase in alcohol and tobacco use over time was expected as the cohort aged and remained relatively low, however, the greater increase in alcohol use among females was unexpected.

"The Health4Life study gave us a unique opportunity to assess changes in key health behaviours in a large and geographically diverse sample. Due to Australia's state-based public health restrictions, approximately one-third of the sample was subjected to the Greater Sydney stay-at-home orders at the second time point, allowing us to look at how different levels of restrictions impacted these behaviours," said Dr Gardner.

Comparison to the international experience
Director of the Matilda Centre, Professor Maree Teesson said the new study reinforces other international research highlighting the varied impact of the COVD-19 pandemic across countries and within regions.

"The full extent of the impact of the pandemic on children and young people is being recognised internationally. This study is the first to examine those impacts on Australian teens," said Professor Teesson.

"We need a COVID recovery plan -- as proposed by Australia's Mental Health Think Tank -- that helps our young people get back on track for a healthier future."

"Supporting young people to improve or maintain positive health behaviours is important. Research such as this can help us start to understand the interplay between health behaviours and mental health to ensure we provide targeted interventions to those who need it the most."

Lauren Anne Gardner, Jennifer Debenham, Nicola Clare Newton, Cath Chapman, Fiona Elizabeth Wylie, Bridie Osman, Maree Teesson, Katrina Elizabeth Champion. Lifestyle risk behaviours among adolescents: a two-year longitudinal study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ Open, 2022; 12 (6): e060309 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-060309

Red Pandas Face A Fractured Future

June 6, 2022
The much-loved red panda is renowned for its tree-climbing ability and adorable nature, but new research shows the endangered mammal is being driven closer to extinction.

University of Queensland PhD candidate Damber Bista, who tracked red pandas in Nepal over a 12-month period from Queensland using GPS telemetry, has found that human impact is causing the mammal to restrict its movements which is further fragmenting their habitat.

Mr Bista said it was a worrying sign.

"Our research findings show that current patterns of habitat fragmentation and forest exploitation, from infrastructure projects such as new roads, are placing the red panda under increased threat," Mr Bista said.

"Because of this, red pandas are changing their activity to minimise their interactions with disturbances, such as humans, dogs, or livestock, and this is drastically interfering with natural interactions between the animals, resulting in population isolation."

Mr Bista has been studying red pandas for several years and in late 2019 he travelled to Nepal, where he tagged red pandas with collars which allow him to track their movements by satellite.

He returned to Australia in January 2020, with the intention of returning to Nepal within a few months to continue monitoring the animals and install cameras in the field, but COVID-19 hit.

"The satellite tracking allowed me to monitor the red pandas remotely here in Brisbane, while I relied on my friends and colleagues in Nepal to install cameras and conduct the field surveys," he said.

"It was a surreal experience, I would spend many hours a day during COVID lockdowns in my home, watching the movement of red pandas in Nepal on my computer."

There was one red panda which he kept a close eye on.

An adult male "Chintapu," named after the location he was found, was known for its roaming nature and in one 24 hour period the mammal travelled 5km which is unheard of for a typical red panda.

So, what was it after -- fresh bamboo, or perhaps a wild blossom delicacy? "It was during breeding season," Mr Bista explained.

Other red pandas that Mr Bista followed closely for 12-months included a female "Paaruhaang," named after a local deity, a female "Mechaachaa" meaning daughter, and "Ninaammaa" which means Queen of the Sky in local dialect.

There was also "Brian," named after the founder of the Red Panda Network.

Mr Bista's research was the fifth known global study conducted on wild red pandas, and only the second in Nepal.

"It's difficult to know how many red pandas are left in the world, but it is estimated that 10,000 are left in the wild, and between 500 to 1000 are in Nepal," he said.

"With the findings from this study showing fragmentation of their habitat, together with a previous study on the impacts of poaching, I am concerned about the future of this species.

"While red pandas can adapt to habitat impacts to some extent, they may be susceptible to local extinction under these conditions, placing the wider population of the species at risk."

Mr Bista said the dwindling amount of wild forest forces the red panda into situations where it must decide on whether to live closer to predators or adapt to co-exist with humans.

"As you'd expect, it's in an animal's best interest to avoid its predators, but as we continue to build more roads and infrastructure, that drastically reduces the capacity for red pandas to do this," he said.

"As the availability of suitable forests shrink, it's up to the red panda to weigh up its options on how to best survive.

"This trade-off can lead to an increased risk of mortality and population decline in the long run."

He said this underpinned the need to minimise human-induced disturbances, which is one of the recommendations made in the study.

"Our recommendation is for human activities to be strictly regulated during most if not all biologically crucial times such as mating, dispersal and birthing seasons," Mr Bista said.

"As for conservation programs, we recommend they focus on identifying ecologically sensitive areas, maintaining habitat continuity, and minimising projects that will disturb habitats, such as building roads and herding livestock.

"If road construction can't be avoided, we suggest avoiding core areas and restrictions on speed limits and noise, and for an increase in wildlife crossings in high-risk areas."

The research is published in Landscape Ecology.

This research was a collaborative effort between The University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, the Red Panda Network, and Rotterdam Zoo.

Damber Bista, Greg S. Baxter, Nicholas J. Hudson, Sonam Tashi Lama, Peter John Murray. Effect of disturbances and habitat fragmentation on an arboreal habitat specialist mammal using GPS telemetry: a case of the red panda. Landscape Ecology, 2021; 37 (3): 795 DOI: 10.1007/s10980-021-01357-w

Intersecting Light Beams Key In Transformative 3D Printer Potential

June 6, 2022
QUT researchers have used intersecting light beams to control chemical reactions in an advanced material, paving the way for future use in 3D printers that print entire layers, instead of single points, at a time.

Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Materials Science interdisciplinary research team, made up of Dr Sarah Walden, Leona Rodrigues, Dr Jessica Alves, Associate Professor James Blinco, Dr Vinh Truong, and ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik, have published their research in Nature Communications.

Dr Walden said light was a particularly desirable tool for activating chemical processes, because of the precision it offered in starting a reaction.

"Most of the work QUT's Soft Matter Materials Group researchers have done in the past with light has been to use a laser beam to start and stop a chemical reaction along the entire volume where the light strikes the material," Dr Walden said.

"In this case, we have two different coloured light beams, and the reaction only occurs where the two beams intersect.

"We use one colour of light to activate one molecule, and the second colour of light to activate another molecule. And where the two light beams meet, the two activated molecules react to form a solid material.

"Normally, in a 3D printer, the inkjet moves around in two dimensions, slowly printing one 2D layer before moving up to print another layer on top.

"But using this technology, you could have a whole two-dimensional sheet activated, and print the entire sheet at once."

Professor Barner-Kowollik said such two colour activated materials are currently very rare.

"This project is about proving the viability of the ink for future generation of printers," he said.

Professor Barner-Kowollik, whose career is focused on the power and possibilities of light in materials science, was recently recognised with Australia's highest prize for chemistry, the 2022 David Craig medal, awarded by the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Barner-Kowollik said one of the challenges of the project was to find two molecules that could be activated by two different colours of light and then have them react together.

"This is where the innovation comes from," Professor Barner-Kowollik said.

"You want a molecule to be activated with one colour of light but not the other colour, and vice versa.

"That's not easy to find, it's actually quite hard to find."

Dr Truong, after much work, was able to find two molecules that reacted to the lights in the required manner and combined to form a very solid material.

"In our chemical design, both light activated processes are reversible," Dr Truong said.

"Hence we can control exactly when and where the solid material may form."

The researchers are from QUT's School of Chemistry and Physics.

Sarah L. Walden, Leona L. Rodrigues, Jessica Alves, James P. Blinco, Vinh X. Truong, Christopher Barner-Kowollik. Two-colour light activated covalent bond formation. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-30002-6

DNA Shed From Colon Cancers Into Bloodstream Successfully Guides Chemotherapy After Surgery

June 5, 2022
A new research study showed that circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) -- genetic material shed from tumors into the bloodstream -- can identify stage II colon cancer patients who can most benefit from chemotherapy following surgery and spare other patients the need for this form of treatment.

The multi-institutional, international study, led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and WEHI in Melbourne, Australia, found that testing for ctDNA after surgery and directing chemotherapy to ctDNA-positive patients reduced the use of chemotherapy overall without compromising recurrence-free survival.

There are several prior research studies demonstrating that circulating tumor DNA can be detected in blood and that the presence of ctDNA post-surgery predicts a risk of cancer recurrence. However, this is believed to be the first clinical study showing that the measurement of circulating tumor DNA prior to therapy may benefit patients.

These findings will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on June 4.

"Previous studies have theorized that ctDNA measurements might be useful in guiding patient management, and this study provides real-world clinical evidence that supports these theories," says Bert Vogelstein, M.D., Clayton Professor of Oncology, co-director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Vogelstein and group were the first to show that colon cancer is caused by a sequence of genetic mutations and showed that DNA shed from tumors could be detected in blood, stool and other body fluids.

Currently, the use of chemotherapy in stage II colon cancer, which is defined as a colon cancer that has grown through the wall of the colon but does not extend to the lymph nodes or other organs, is controversial. There is no consensus among cancer experts on its benefit. This study was aimed at helping solve the controversy by assessing whether ctDNA could be used to provide a more precise prediction of recurrence risk after surgery. Patients who were ctDNA-negative could be spared the toxicities of chemotherapy, and those who had remaining cancer could receive chemotherapy to attack the lingering malignant cells.

In the study, 455 patients with stage II colon cancer were randomized after surgery 2:1 to standard treatment or ctDNA-guided management. Of these patients, 153 received standard management, which includes monitoring over time for recurrence or chemotherapy. An additional 302 patients underwent blood tests within seven weeks after surgery to search for ctDNA. If ctDNA was detected, patients received fluoropyrimidine or oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy. If ctDNA was not detected, patients did not receive chemotherapy.

The ctDNA-guided approach reduced the use of chemotherapy compared with the standard management group (15.3% of patients in the ctDNA-guided group received chemotherapy versus 27.9% in the standard management group). The two- and three-year survival with no cancer recurrence was similar between the ctDNA-guided group and the standard management group.

"Stage II colon cancer presents a unique challenge," explains Anne Marie Lennon, M.B.B.Ch., Ph.D., professor of medicine, and director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology. "In stage I colon cancer, patients do not receive chemotherapy because their prognosis for survival is over 90%. The risk of discomfort and toxicities from the therapy outweigh the benefits it can provide. On the other hand, every stage III colon cancer patient currently receives chemotherapy because the risk of relapse is high."

The goal of chemotherapy in colon cancer is to eradicate micrometastases, cancer cells not yet visible on radiologic images that travel through the bloodstream and cause the cancer to come back or spread it to other parts of the body. Using ctDNA to detect these invisible cells can now identify which patients are most likely to have micrometastases and, therefore, are most likely to benefit from chemotherapy.

"Using ctDNA to guide treatment, a stage II colon cancer patient who is negative for ctDNA has a lower chance of cancer recurrence than the average stage I colon cancer patient, so we have an opportunity to change clinical practice," says Joshua Cohen, a lead author of the study and M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers hope these findings will stimulate the study of ctDNA in patients with other stages of colon cancer and other types of cancer. In future studies, the researchers will explore patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer and stage III colon cancer to see if ctDNA can similarly identify patients who are most likely to benefit from more aggressive chemotherapy than is currently used. They also plan to explore whether the presence of residual ctDNA can be used to help optimize the management of individual patients following surgery or other forms of therapy.

Using ctDNA to stratify treatments among patients is part of the movement toward precision medicine -- individualized care that tailors therapies to the unique characteristics of a cancer.

The researchers also believe the findings will provide opportunities to test promising new drugs in patients with earlier stages of cancer.

"All drugs work better in patients with cancers that are detected relatively early, before they have given rise to large metastatic masses. However, new drugs are usually first tested in patients whose cancers are very advanced," says Vogelstein. "We hope that ctDNA analysis will enable testing of new drugs in patients with early-stage cancers and micrometastases, when the new drugs are most likely to save lives."

In addition to Vogelstein, Cohen, Lennon, other researchers were Kamel Lahouel, Ph.D., Yuxuan Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Janine Ptak, M.S., Natalie Silliman, B.S., Lisa Dobbyn, B.A., Maria Popoli, M.S., Ralph Hruban, M.D., Nicholas Papadopoulos, Ph.D., Kenneth Kinzler, Ph.D., and Cristian Tomasetti from Johns Hopkins, and Jeanne Tie, M.D., Serigne Lo, Ph.D., Suzanne Kosmider, M.B.B.S., Jeremy Shapiro, M.B.B.S., Margaret Lee, M.B.B.S., Sam Harris, M.B.B.S., Adnan Khattak, M.B.B.S., Matthew Burge, M.B.B.S. Marion Harris, M.B.B.S., James Lynam, M.B.B.S., Louise Nott, M.B.B.S., Fiona Day, Ph.D., Theresa Hayes, M.B.B.S., Sue-Anne McLachlan, M.B.B.S., Belinda Lee, M.B.B.S., and Peter Gibbs, M.D., from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, or University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia.

This research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Marcus Foundation, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, Lustgarten Foundation, the Conrad R. Hilton Foundation, the Sol Goldman Charitable Trust, John Templeton Foundation, National Institutes of Health (CA62924, CA009071, GM136577, CA06973) and the Eastern Health Research Foundation Linda Williams Memorial Grant.

Bert Vogelstein, Kenneth Kinzler and Nickolas Papadopoulos are founders of and hold equity in Thrive Earlier Detection, an Exact Sciences Company. Kenneth Kinzler and Nickolas Papadopoulos are consultants to Thrive Earlier Detection, an Exact Sciences Company. Bert Vogelstein, Kenneth Kinzler, Nickolas Papadopoulos and Joshua Cohen are consultants to and own equity in Haystack Oncology. Nickolas Papadopoulos and Kenneth Kinzler are on the board of directors of Haystack Oncology. The companies named above have licensed previously described technologies related to the work described in this paper from The Johns Hopkins University. Bert Vogelstein, Kenneth Kinzler, Nickolas Papadopoulos and Joshua Cohen are inventors on some of these technologies. Licenses to these technologies are or will be associated with royalty payments to the inventors as well as to The Johns Hopkins University.

Jeanne Tie, Joshua D. Cohen, Kamel Lahouel, Serigne N. Lo, Yuxuan Wang, Suzanne Kosmider, Rachel Wong, Jeremy Shapiro, Margaret Lee, Sam Harris, Adnan Khattak, Matthew Burge, Marion Harris, James Lynam, Louise Nott, Fiona Day, Theresa Hayes, Sue-Anne McLachlan, Belinda Lee, Janine Ptak, Natalie Silliman, Lisa Dobbyn, Maria Popoli, Ralph Hruban, Anne Marie Lennon, Nicholas Papadopoulos, Kenneth W. Kinzler, Bert Vogelstein, Cristian Tomasetti, Peter Gibbs. Circulating Tumor DNA Analysis Guiding Adjuvant Therapy in Stage II Colon Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2200075

Alignment Of Planets This June

From June 10 a rare chance to see all five bright planets in the sunrise direction presents itself. Mercury will be lowest in the sky; Venus continues its early morning dominance as it slides lower towards the horizon; Mars brightens, making it easier to spot and identify; Jupiter gleams high in the sky as dawn approaches; and Saturn finishes out this rare planet parade.

This rare phenomenon has not occurred since December 2004, and this year, the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be smaller, according to Sky & Telescope.

As June progresses, Mercury will become brighter and easier to see, according to Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope. The rest of the planets should be consistently visible to the naked eye, she added.

The delightful view of all five naked-eye planets will greet early risers throughout the month of June. While seeing two or three planets close together (in what’s known as a conjunction) is a rather common occurrence, seeing five is somewhat more rare. And what’s even more remarkable about this month’s lineup is that the planets are arranged in their natural order from the Sun.

Throughout the month of June, shortly before the Sun rises, viewers could see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn — in that order — stretching across the sky from low in the east to higher in the south. Mercury will be tougher to spot: Early in the month, viewers will need an unobstructed eastern horizon as well as binoculars to potentially see the little world. As the month wears on, Mercury climbs higher and brightens significantly, making it easier to see, and thus completing the planetary lineup.

June 24: According to Sky & Telescope magazine, the planetary lineup this morning is even more compelling. To begin with, Mercury will be much easier to snag, making the five-planet parade that much more accessible. And you’ll have about an hour to enjoy the sight, from when Mercury pops above the horizon to when the rising Sun washes it out of the sky. But the real bonus is the waning crescent Moon positioned between Venus and Mars, serving as a proxy Earth. By this time of month, the planets are spread farther across the sky — the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be 107°.

The best time to view the five planets is in the 30 minutes before sunrise. The night before you plan to view the alignment, check when the sun will rise in your area. In Sydney the sun rises at 6.55 am - so 6.30am will be prime viewing time.

Image: At dawn on June 24th, the crescent Moon joins the planetary lineup. It's conveniently placed between Venus and Mars, serving as a proxy Earth. Image: Sky & Telescope illustration

Expect the RBA to go easy on interest rate hikes from now on – we can’t afford rates to climb as steeply as the market expects

Peter MartinCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

By lifting its cash rate by 0.5 points, from 0.35% to 0.85%, the Reserve Bank has added about another $120 per month in payments for a A$500,000 mortgage.

If financial markets are to be believed, by the end of this year it will have added a total of $800 per month – and, by the end of next year, a total approaching $1,000 per month.

Those figures are for variable mortgages, but homeowners on fixed rates won’t escape them long. Those rates are typically fixed for up to three years.

Many of the fixed-rate mortgages were taken out during COVID at annual rates as low as 2%. When those fixed rates end (and many will end in the next year or so) those homeowners will find themselves paying 5% or 6% per year, shelling out as much as $3,000 per month instead of $2,000.

Unless financial markets are wrong. The good news is, I think they are.

The pricing of deals on the futures market factors in an increase in the Reserve Bank’s cash rate from 0.10% to 3.5% by June next year, enough to push up the standard variable mortgage rate from around 2.25% to 5.65%.

We Couldn’t Afford The Rates The Market Expects

One reason for suspecting it won’t happen is that many homeowners simply couldn’t afford the extra $1,000 per month. Most of us don’t have that much cash lying around.

US President Richard Nixon had an economic adviser by the name of Herbert Stein with an uncommonly-developed sense of common sense. In his later years he wrote an advice column for Slate magazine.

To a reader wanting a cure for unrequited love, he wrote that the best solution was “requited love”. To a reader concerned about her inability to make small talk, he wrote that what people want most is a “good listener”.

In economics, Stein is best known for Stein’s Law, which says: “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop”.

Mortgage rates can’t keep climbing to the point where homeowners pay an extra $1,000 per month.

For new homeowners, it’s worse. The typical new mortgage taken out to buy a home in NSW has climbed to $700,000. In Victoria, it has climbed to $585,000. These people will be paying a good deal more than an extra $1,000 per month if the bets on repeated rate hikes made on the futures market come to pass.

The Reserve Bank says it lifted its cash rate from 0.35% to 0.85% today to withdraw the “extraordinary monetary support” put in place during the pandemic.

But the bank says from here on it will be guided by data, and, in a nod to homeowners concerned about continual rate hikes, said it expected inflation to climb just a bit more before declining back towards its target next year.

The Bank Will Be Guided By Data

Financial markets don’t see it that way. They have priced in (in other words, bet money on) rate hikes in July, August, September, October, November, December, February, March, April and May.

But there are reasons to believe the bank is right about inflation.

It doesn’t seem that way with electricity prices set to climb 8-18% in NSW, 11% in Queensland, 5% in Victoria, and as much as 20% in South Australia. (The only jurisdiction without an increase in prospect is the Australian Capital Territory, which has 100% renewables and fixed long-term contracts.)

Fortunately for overall inflation, electricity accounts for less than 3% of the typical household budget. Gas accounts for less than 1%. Even low earners spend little more than 4% of their income on electricity.

While the price of vegetables is soaring (heads of lettuce are selling for $10), we spend less than 1.5% of our income on vegetables.

The best measure of overall price increases remains the official one of 5.1% for the year to March, calculated by the Bureau of Statistics.

It is a more alarming increase in inflation than Australians are used to. But what matters for the Reserve Bank is whether the 5.1% is set to turn down and head back towards the target of 2-3%, or climb further away from it.

Australia is almost uniquely disadvantaged among developed nations in getting a handle on what’s happening to inflation, being one of only two OECD members (the other is New Zealand) to compile its consumer price index quarterly, instead of monthly.

By the time Australia’s index is published, several of the measures in it are months old, and they don’t get updated for another three months.

It has been said to make the bank’s job like driving a car looking through the rear-view mirror.

Using Our Rear-View Mirror, With Caution

Fortunately the Bureau of Statistics is gearing up to produce a monthly index. Meanwhile, in the United States – which is subject to the same international price pressures as Australia – most measures of inflation eased in April.

Wages growth, which the Reserve Bank said last month seemed to be “picking up”, remained dismal in the figures released a few weeks later – at just 2.4% in the year to March. That was well short of the 2.7% forecast in the budget for the year to June, and not enough to do anything to further fuel inflation.

Australia has a history of aggressive interest rate hikes to tame inflation.

In 1994, Reserve Bank Governor Bernie Fraser rammed up the cash rate from 4.75% to 7.5% in a matter of months. But that was when wage growth was well above inflation and the bank was trying to dampen “demands for wage increases” to prevent a wage-price spiral.

We don’t even have the beginnings of that yet. Unless the bank wants to needlessly impoverish Australians, and keep going until it pushes them out of work, it will increase rates cautiously from here on.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

Yes, women might ‘feel the cold’ more than men. Here’s why

Charlotte PhelpsBond University and Christian MoroBond University

We all have different preferences for when it’s the right time to bring out the winter blankets. And the thermostat’s setting often forms the basis of office arguments between women and men regarding the “correct” temperature for it to be set.

Between the sexes, there are always more similarities than differences. But research does consistently show women prefer a higher indoor temperature to men.

But is there any science backing up the widespread belief women “feel the cold” more than men?

Biological Differences Between Men And Women

At around the same body weight, women tend to have less muscle to generate heat. Women also have more fat between the skin and the muscles, so the skin feels colder, as it’s slightly further away from blood vessels.

Women also tend to have a lower metabolic rate than men, which reduces heat production capacity during cold exposure, making women more prone to feeling cold as the temperature drops.

Hormonal Differences

The hormones oestrogen and progesterone, found in large quantities in women, contribute to the core body and skin temperatures.

Oestrogen dilates blood vessels at the extremities. This means more heat can be lost to the surrounding air. And progesterone can cause the vessels in the skin to constrict, meaning less blood will flow to some areas to keep the internal organs warmer, leaving women feeling cooler. This hormone balance changes throughout the month alongside the menstrual cycle.

The hormones also make women’s hands, feet and ears stay around three degrees Celsius cooler than men’s.

The core body temperature is highest in the week after ovulation, as progesterone levels increase. This means that around this time, women may be particularly sensitive to cooler outside temperatures.

Although the hands and feet are cooler, women do have warmer average core temperatures than men. This is likely the source of the saying “cold hands, warm heart”.

Woman in beanie warming her hands
Women’s hands are around three degrees colder than men’s. Shutterstock

Is It Just Humans?

The phenomenon that some of us prefer warmer temperatures to others isn’t unique to humans. Studies on many species of birds and mammals report that males commonly congregate in cooler areas where there is shade, while females and offspring stay in warmer environments where there is sunlight.

Male bats prefer to rest at the cool, high peaks of mountains, whereas females remain in the warmer valleys.

Female mammals may have developed a preference for warmer climates to encourage them to rest with offspring during stages when the young are unable to regulate their own body temperature.

So the difference between heat-sensing mechanisms may provide an evolutionary advantage.

So How Do We Agree On The Ideal Temperature?

The “Scandinavian sleep method”, where couples sleep with separate blankets, is one way to overcome the differences in temperature preferences.

In the workplace, personal comfort systems are thermal systems that heat or cool and can be locally positioned in individual work stations such as desktops, chairs, or near the feet and legs. Examples include small desk fans, heated chairs and blankets, or footwarmers.

These systems provide individualised thermal comfort to meet personal needs without affecting others in the same space, and have been found to produce higher comfort satisfaction in the workplace.

They may also be an energy-efficient method to balance thermal comfort and health in office environments.The Conversation

Charlotte Phelps, PhD Student, Bond University and Christian Moro, Associate Professor of Science & Medicine, Bond University

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

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.