inbox and environment news: Issue 544

June 26 - July 2, 2022: Issue 544

Wanted: Photos Of Flies Feeding On Frogs (For Frog Conservation)

June 21, 2022
Do you have any photos of frogs being bitten by flies? Submit them to our study to help in frog conservation.

By sampling the blood of flies that bite frogs, researchers can determine the (sometimes difficult to spot) frogs in an environment. Common mist frog being fed on by a Sycorax fly. Photo: Jakub Hodáň

UNSW Science and the Australian Museum want your photos of frogs, specifically those being bitten by flies, for a new (and inventive) technique to detect and protect our threatened frog species.

You might not guess it, but biting flies – such as midges and mosquitoes – are excellent tools for science. The blood ‘sampled’ by these parasites contains precious genetic data about the animals they feed on (such as frogs), but first, researchers need to know which parasitic flies are biting which frogs. And this is why they need you to submit your photos.

“Rare frogs can be very hard to find during traditional scientific expeditions,” says PhD student Timothy Cutajar, leading the project. “Species that are rare or cryptic [inconspicuous] can be easily missed, so it turns out the best way to detect some species might be through their parasites.”

The technique is called ‘iDNA’, short for invertebrate-derived DNA, and researchers Mr Cutajar and Dr Jodi Rowley from UNSW Science and the Australian Museum were the first to harness its potential for detecting cryptic or threatened species of frogs.

The team first deployed this technique in 2018 by capturing frog-biting flies in habitats shared with frogs. Not unlike the premise of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, where the DNA of blood-meals past is contained in the bellies of the flies, Mr Cutajar was able to extract the drawn blood (and therefore DNA) and identify the species of amphibian the flies had recently fed on.

These initial trials uncovered the presence of rare frogs that traditional searching methods had missed.

“iDNA has the potential to become a standard frog survey technique,” says Mr Cutajar. “[It could help] in the discovery of new species or even the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct, so I want to continue developing techniques for frog iDNA surveys. However, there is still so much we don’t yet know about how frogs and flies interact.”

In a bid to understand the varieties of parasites that feed on frogs – so Mr Cutajar and colleagues might lure and catch those most informative and prolific species – the team are looking to the public for their frog photos.

“If you’ve photographed frogs in Australia, I’d love for you to closely examine your pictures, looking for any frogs that have flies, midges or mosquitoes sitting on them. If you find flies, midges or mosquitoes in direct contact with frogs in any of your photos, please share them.”

The submitted photos will be analysed for the frog and parasite species they contain, helping inform future iDNA research. Mountain Stream Tree Frog (Litoria barringtonensis) being bitten by Sycorax. Photo: Tim Cutajar/Australian Museum

“We’ll be combing through photographs of frogs submitted through our survey,” says Mr Cutajar, “homing in on the characteristics that make a frog species a likely target for frog-biting flies.

“It’s unlikely that all frogs are equally parasitised. Some frogs have natural insect repellents, while others can swat flies away. The flies themselves can be choosy about the types of sounds they’re attracted to, and probably aren’t evenly abundant everywhere.”

Already the new iDNA technique, championed in herpetology by Mr Cutajar, has shown great promise, and by refining its methodology with data submitted by the public – citizen scientists – our understanding of frog ecology and biodiversity can be broadened yet further.

“The power of collective action can be amazing for science,” says Mr Cutajar, “and with your help, we can kickstart a new era of improved detection, and therefore conservation, of our amazing amphibian diversity.”

Complex Cliff Failure At Long Reef

June 13, 2022 by Pittwater Pathways
Exceptional rainfall in early 2022 caused many cliff failures, as detailed here at Long Reef where cliff retreat is faster than the norm. Global warming is accelerating change at all levels, in organisms, plants and even rocks. Script by Dr Peter Mtchell OAM. Song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

My Wonder World Of Rocks

June 14, 2022 by Pittwater Pathways
Denise Barry’s art is infused with the spirit of the extraordinary rocks – “my guardians’’ – that are central to her fascinating work. These 240 million year old Hawkesbury Sandstone monoliths occur at the bottom of the sequence where remarkable patterns were formed by wet slump folding as explained by Dr Peter Mitchell OAM.

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

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

The Story Of Narrabeen Lagoon - Part 2

September 2011

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

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

Midwinter Swim At Mawson

Published June 21, 2022
Today at our four Australian research stations in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic – Casey, Davis, Mawson and Macquarie Island – and in Tasmania, we celebrate Midwinter Day (Winter Solstice).
As tradition demands, the team of 15 at Mawson cut through metre-thick sea ice to create a sub-zero swimming pool.

Environmental Assessment Of Illawarra's Mountain Bike Network Released: Have Your Say

June 20, 2022
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is progressing plans for a 50-kilometre mountain biking network in the Illawarra, with the Draft Review of Environmental Factors (REF) now on public exhibition.

Kane Weeks from NPWS said the draft REF covers the first stage of the proposed mountain bike network in the Mount Kembla area.

"The draft REF includes environmental, cultural heritage and geotechnical assessments. It identifies the potential impacts of the mountain bike trails and outlines the mitigating measures," said Mr Weeks.

"NPWS supports high quality, sustainable cycling experiences in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and riding is a fantastic way for people of all ages to enjoy the reserve.

"But this needs to be balanced with protecting the unique environmental and cultural values of this dedicated conservation area.

"We have taken the time to get this right. The proposed network outlined in the draft REF caters for different riding levels while also protecting the conservation values and cultural significance of the Escarpment.

Importantly the draft REF also acknowledges that the Illawarra Escarpment, in particular Mount Keira (Djera) and Mount Kembla (Djembla), continue to carry great cultural significance to the Aboriginal community.

The draft Review of Environmental Factors will be on public exhibition for 28 days from 20 June to 18 July 2022.

To view the draft REF and have your say, go to: Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Project

Further information about the proposed network at Balgownie will be provided when the Illawarra Mountain Bike Strategy is finalised. The draft REF for this section of trails will also go on public exhibition later for comment.

The start date for any trail construction is pending approval of the REFs. Trails that do not form part of the final network will be progressively closed and rehabilitated.

Woodside, We'll See You In Court

June 22, 2022: Australian Conservation Foundation
Today, we commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court against Woodside Energy.

I wanted to make sure we alerted you to this breaking news as early as we could.

If we win, we will set an urgently-needed legal precedent – climate impacts must be considered under our national environment law.

Woodside Energy's Scarborough Gas Project and its Pluto extension is the most polluting new fossil fuel proposal in Australia. If it goes ahead, it would result in yearly climate pollution equal to the annual pollution from 15 coal-fired power stations!

And to make matters worse, they plan to build it on one of the most captivating marine environments in the world and in an area of immeasurable significance to First Nations Peoples. The Burrup Peninsula is part of the Dampier Archipelago in the north-west of Western Australia – a thriving coastal wonderland, where there is no place for gas.

Our case in the Federal Court aims to stop the Scarborough Gas Project in its tracks, until its climate impacts are properly assessed!
In order to access this toxic fossil gas resource, Woodside plans to dredge the seabed, and hammer giant concrete piles into the ocean floor, before dumping millions of tonnes of seabed spoil across the Archipelago.

The Scarborough project would cause immensely disruptive activity, which is a serious risk to life for the turtles, dolphins, dugongs and migrating humpback whales who call these waters home.

But shockingly, Woodside Energy has already been given state-based environmental approvals and will shortly commence the construction phase.
We’ll be arguing the Scarborough Project’s enormous greenhouse gas emissions will have a significantly detrimental impact on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Therefore, this project should not be allowed to start production without interrogation under our national environment law.

Although the gas would be extracted in waters off Western Australia and much of it burned overseas, it would fuel climate damage that is already bleaching coral a ghostly white on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. We know that the use of coal and gas threatens our way of life and the places we love, no matter where they’re burned.

The Scarborough Project was never referred to the Federal Environment Minister for assessment, even though Woodside must know how destructive it will be to our climate and reefs! Gas and oil projects assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority currently have an exemption from the national environment law.

However, and this is where our legal case comes in, that exemption does not apply if an offshore project is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage or National Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.

When you have the head of the International Energy Agency saying “climate chaos is guaranteed if proposed oil and gas mega-projects go ahead”, it makes you wonder how these sorts of destructive projects are being approved in the first place.
If we win this case, and we are hopeful we will, this will draw a line in the sand that the climate impacts of projects – whether offshore or onshore – must be assessed under our national environment law.

In the times we're in, no polluting gas project should be allowed to proceed without consideration of the climate impact on the precious Great Barrier Reef.

And we won’t stop until we have exhausted all legal options to get the climate consequences of this project properly considered.

Together, we can set an important precedent for the future.

FCNSW In Court For Alleged Breaches Of 2019/20 Bushfire Harvest Rules

June 20, 2022
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has launched a prosecution alleging Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) breached conditions imposed to aid the recovery of the Yambulla State Forest, near Eden after the 2019/20 bushfires.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has launched a prosecution alleging Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) breached conditions imposed to aid the recovery of the Yambulla State Forest, near Eden after the 2019/20 bushfires. The EPA alleges more than 50 trees were cut down in an “unburned” and “partially burned” environmentally significant areas.

The Authority alleges that between March and July 2020, FCNSW’s contractors carried out harvesting operations, including operating machinery and cutting and removing 53 trees in a Category 1 Environmentally Significant Area in the Yambulla State Forest.

These actions if proven, would contravene the conditions of forestry rules, the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, and the Site-Specific Operating Conditions issued by the EPA after the 2019/20 bushfires.

EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Greg Sheehy said the EPA imposed these Site-Specific Operating Conditions to protect areas in forests across NSW, of environmental importance, that were less affected by the fires.

“Bushland along our South Coast was severely damaged by the devastating fires, and the EPA established additional protections for bushfire affected forests like the Yambulla State Forest in order to limit further harm,” Mr Sheehy said. 

“These conditions were imposed to prevent FCNSW harvesting trees in areas considered environmentally significant that were less damaged or completely untouched by the fires.

“The additional protections, applied to certain forests in NSW were designed to help wildlife and biodiversity recover in key regions,” Mr Sheehy said.

The EPA alleges the breach occurred because FCNSW failed to mark the area as off-limits in the operational map used for the harvest.

It alleges the map used by FCNSW’s contractors did not show two known Environmentally Significant Areas, one being a “partially burned area” and the other being the “unburned area”.

“Mapping activities are a legal requirement and must be carried out correctly by forestry operators,” Mr Sheehy said.

“These laws protect areas in our forests that may be home to important shelters and food resources for local wildlife or unique native plants.”

Prosecution is one of the tools the EPA uses to achieve the best environmental or human health outcomes. Our regulatory approach includes a wide variety of options. Find out more about them here

Non-Compliance With Forestry Regulations Costs Forestry Corporation NSW

June 23, 2022
Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) has been fined $15,000 for allegedly failing to comply with a post bushfire condition imposed to protect critical habitat in a forest near Batemans Bay.

The Site Specific Operating Condition required FCNSW to permanently retain all hollow bearing trees. Hollow bearing trees are important to many native animals in the forest, including threatened species that are dependent on these trees for their survival.

EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Regional Greg Sheehy said these conditions were aimed at protecting our environment from further harm after the forest was damaged by fires.

“The requirement to retain all hollow bearing trees was clear and it’s concerning that better systems were not put in place to ensure compliance.

“FCNSW forest management and activities did not meet our expectations and the EPA has put them on notice that failing to meet standards is unacceptable,” Mr Sheehy said.

The Penalty Infringement Notice was issued for allegedly failing to comply in Compartment 58A in South Brooman State Forest.

In July 2020 the EPA issued FCNSW with a Stop Work Order to stop the harvesting of trees in part of the forest for 40 days, after an inspection found hollow bearing trees that were either damaged or felled.

The penalty followed the resumption of logging in that area, after FCNSW were required to put in place additional checks to ensure they met the conditions.

$15,000 is the largest fine the EPA is able to issue under the legislation.

Penalty notices are one of the tools the EPA uses to achieve the best environmental or human health outcomes. Find out more about our regulatory approach:

Budget Boost To Biodiversity

June 21, 2022
Improving biodiversity is a clear focus in the 2022-23 NSW Budget, with major investments in ground-breaking programs that support landholders to protect and conserve their land, and more than $2 billion invested in programs focusing on protection, conservation and natural capital investment.

Minister for Environment and Heritage James Griffin said the Budget investment demonstrated the NSW Government's commitment to protecting the environment and growing a clean economy.

"I'm proud to be part of a Government that has a strong track record in conserving our environment, and this massive new round of funding ensures we can continue this critical work right across New South Wales," Mr Griffin said.

"This Budget delivers hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage landholders to conserve biodiversity and sequester carbon on their land, which is critical because private landholders own and manage about 70% of land in New South Wales and many sensitive ecosystems are found there.

"Our $206.2 million Sustainable Farming Program will ensure farmers can opt to receive benefits for sustainable land management practices, while improving biodiversity and lowering emissions.

"This Budget is also delivering a $106.7 million Biodiversity Credits Supply Fund, which will ultimately pay landholders for generating biodiversity offset credits, while conserving biodiversity.

"By partnering with landholders through these new programs, we can continue enhancing existing biodiversity conservation, which is great news for the environment and future generations."

The 2022–23 NSW Budget also includes $598.2 million over 10 years for the National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of the Government's continued response to the risk of bushfires.

"This funding will maintain record levels of national park firefighters, delivering 250 permanent jobs, including 200 firefighters, as well as critical infrastructure and fleet upgrades," Mr Griffin said.

"After significant flooding and rain this year, the Budget is committing $18.5 million to expand Beachwatch to ensure we can continue meeting community expectations for monitoring the quality of water at swimming spots statewide.

"We're continuing our massive investment in our national parks and enticing more domestic and international tourists to visit by delivering another ecotourism drawcard in the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk on the Mid-North Coast, a world-class feature showcasing our spectacular environment.

"Major changes to the way we deal with waste and plastic in New South Wales are coming too, thanks to a $286.2 million investment over 4 years in the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 and NSW Plastics Action Plan."

New funding for environment and heritage in Budget 2022–23 includes:
  • $598 million over 10 years for National Parks and Wildlife Service to deliver 250 permanent jobs, including 200 firefighters, and critical infrastructure and fleet upgrades
  • $286.2 million over 4 years to implement the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 and NSW Plastics Action Plan
  • $206.2 million over 10 years in natural capital for a Sustainable Farming Program, rewarding farmers who opt into an accreditation program to improve carbon and biodiversity outcomes
  • $148.4 million over 2 years to manage the clean-up and removal of flood and storm-related damage, debris and green waste from the 2022 floods
  • $106.7 million over 3 years to increase the supply of biodiversity offset credits through a new Biodiversity Credits Supply Fund
  • $56.4 million over 4 years for a new Arc Rainforest Centre and Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk in the Dorrigo National Park
  • $44.8 million over 10 years for a state-wide environmental and air-quality monitoring program
  • $42.9 million over 4 years for the Me-Mel (Goat Island) Remediation, paving the way for the transfer of the island to the First Nations communities
  • $32.9 million over 4 years to safeguard the future of the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island by rolling out a biosecurity regime targeting invasive species
  • $18.5 million over 10 years to expand Beachwatch to a state-wide program, meeting community demand for water-quality monitoring in NSW swim sites.
Funding is continuing for major programs, including more than $450 million from 2020–23 for NPWS visitor infrastructure, $60 million for the Saving our Species program, $5 million for the NSW Blue Plaques Program, and $3 million for the Heritage Grants Program to support items listed on the State Heritage Register or declared as an Aboriginal Place.

Magnificent New Multiday Walk Puts NSW On Global Ecotourism Map

June 19, 2022
The ancient Gondwana Rainforests on the NSW mid-north coast will host a spectacular new multi-day walk as part of a $56.4 million investment in the NSW Budget.

Treasurer Matt Kean said the four day Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk will increase access to one of Australia’s most beautiful rainforests and attract an extra 200,000 visitors to the region.

'Through the NSW Budget, we’re investing $56.4 million to offer a new way for people to enjoy the ancient World Heritage environment,' Mr Kean said.

'This project will drive increased nature-based tourism in NSW, further bolstering the contribution that national parks make to the State economy.'

National park management and visitation generates $18 billion in economic activity annually and supports over 74,000 jobs, with 75 per cent of economic benefit occurring in regional areas.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the project is part of the largest capital investment program ever undertaken in NSW national parks.

'Along with Snowies Alpine Walk, the Wollemi Great Walk, and the Great Southern Walk, our signature multi-day walks are providing new experiences in NSW while expanding access to our national parks,' Mr Griffin said.

'The rainforest at Dorrigo National Park is even more spectacular than the Daintree, and I’m proud to say that with this magnificent new 46 kilometre walk, we’ll be happily tempting domestic and international tourists away from Queensland.

'I want everyone who comes to our NSW national parks as a visitor to leave as a conservationist, and this world-class Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk helps us achieve that.'

The starting point of the Dorrigo Great Walk will be the new Arc Rainforest Centre, featuring a hanging boardwalk overlooking the World Heritage rainforest.

The walk will include four low impact walkers’ hut precincts, new camping areas, three suspension bridges and 46 kilometres of walking trails.

It will also become a place for visitors to learn and connect with the culture of the traditional custodians, the Gumbaynggirr people.

Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres said the new Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk would help put NSW on the global map for tourism and national parks.

'We’re building a network of multi-day walks to bring people from all over the world to NSW, boosting local tourism businesses, jobs and regional economies,' Mr Ayres said.

'The Dorrigo project will be one of the first of its kind to combine two new, world class nature-based attractions - the Arc Rainforest Centre and the multi-day walk - providing access for all abilities to the Gondwana rainforest.'

For more information, visit the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk webpage.

In text image: The walk features tall waterfalls - Red Cedar Falls. Credit: Rob Cleary/DPE. Above: Artists Impressions of the Arc Rainforest Centre. Credit: NSW Government

Farmers Supported To Build Natural Capital

June 19, 2022
Farmers around the State will be supported to adopt additional sustainable practices through a groundbreaking $206 million program delivered in the NSW Budget.
Treasurer Matt Kean said this landmark investment will reward farmers who voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions and protect biodiversity.

'This is great news for farmers and the environment. This funding will help improve biodiversity and lower emissions across NSW, and our farmers will receive tangible benefits for sustainable land management practices,; Mr Kean said.

Mr Kean said New South Wales has an early mover advantage to secure a leading position in the emerging global marketplace for low carbon food and fibre from producers who are also improving our biodiversity.

'This new era of natural capital could unlock up to $10 billion of ‘Environment, Social and Governance’ financing in Australia,' Mr Kean said.

'Natural capital will reduce farmers’ risks from climate change and biodiversity loss while improving long-term farm productivity.'

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the Sustainable Farming Program will help to shore up the long-term health of the environment and the agricultural sector.

'This $206 million new program is completely voluntary. We’re proposing to develop an accreditation scheme for farmers who manage their land for biodiversity and carbon, while enhancing their productivity,' Mr Griffin said.

'Just as we know what the Forestry Stewardship Council certification system represents, this is about developing an easily recognisable accreditation for sustainable farms.

'We know that investors and consumers are increasingly looking for sustainably produced products, and this program will support our producers to meet that demand.'

Many farmers are already undertaking sustainable practices as part of their day to day operations and this program represents an opportunity for diversified income, with the program offering farmers payments to secure and maintain accreditation.

In turn, the accreditation has potential to increase their market access globally, helping farmers sell their products at a premium and access emerging environmental markets. The accreditation will not impact existing accreditation schemes such as those used to access the European beef markets.

Accreditation could be achieved by actions such as restoring habitat, fencing for dam and riparian areas, rotating crops, and using best-practice feed and fertiliser practices.

Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Dugald Saunders said the program will be developed in close consultation with farmers and landowners.

'The NSW Government will work with farmers and landholders on options to tap into the emerging natural capital market,' Mr Saunders said.

'Farmers in NSW are already natural capital specialists and should be rewarded for the productive and environmental outcomes they generate.

'This announcement will give farmers and other landholders more options to diversify their income while maintaining ultimate decision making power on how to sustainably and productively manage their property.'

Farmers will receive a payment for reaching milestones on agreed sustainable practices under an accreditation framework.

The accreditation program will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, and complements existing private land conservation programs offered by the NSW Government.

In text image: fencing a creek line prevents cattle entering waterways and reduces nutrients and sediment run-off as trees grow Credit: Chris Sheedy/DPE

NSW Takes The Lead With EV Charger Boost

June 20, 2022
Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers will benefit from a further $38 million in charging infrastructure announced as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget to accelerate the EV revolution across New South Wales.
Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean said the additional funding increases the State's EV investment to $633 million under the NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy.

"Rolling out extra chargers will allow more EV drivers to benefit from their cheaper running costs and a cleaner, quieter and more sustainable road network," Mr Kean said.

"You'll never be far from a charger on our major highways, in regional destinations, apartment buildings and on kerbsides in metropolitan areas with limited off-street parking."

The funding will leverage significant private sector investment to service growing demand. It includes:
  • $10 million to co-fund 500 kerbside charge points to provide on-street charging in residential streets where private off-street parking is limited.
  • $10 million to co-fund around 125 medium and large apartment buildings with more than 100 car parking spaces to make EV charging electrical upgrades.
  • $18 million for more EV fast charging grants to speed up the rollout of stations. It will also increase the number of charging points – from the current four to at least 8 – at charging stations located in high density urban areas.
"This funding will help communities stay connected and help holidaymakers hit the road to enjoy weekend trips as NSW motorists gear up for the next era of driving," Mr Kean said.

The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy is the biggest EV plan in Australia, which includes a $3,000 rebate and stamp duty waivers for eligible new EVs.

It also includes a $149 million plan to support private industry to roll out ultra-fast charging stations, and $20 million for chargers at regional businesses and tourist locations.

Budget Fails To Tackle Key Threat To Biodiversity — Habitat Destruction

June 21, 2022
In response to spending in the environment portfolio announced in today's state budget, Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said:    

“We welcome new funding in the budget for national parks and private land conservation — farmers should be supported to do the right thing on their land. 

“We’ve been calling for some time for the government to do more to support farmers who want to conserve biodiversity. 

“This is very welcome, but government policy is contradictory and pushing farmers in opposite directions. 

“On the one hand the government forks out millions to support conservation projects on farms. 

"On the other, it has land clearing laws that incentivise habitat destruction, which is now happening at record rates. 

“The measures announced in today’s budget will not halt habitat destruction that is facilitated by weak protections in the government’s  land clearing laws. 

“Habitat loss from land clearing and logging is the biggest threat to koalas and other wildlife.  

“If the government is serious about tackling the biodiversity crisis, it must embrace reform in this area.” 

Precious Callala Bay Wildlife Habitat Must Be Protected

June 21, 2022
Threatened species including greater gliders, eastern pygmy possums and powerful owls will all lose vital habitat if the NSW Government allows a property developer to destroy 40 hectares of mature coastal forest at Callala Bay. [1] 

“The bushland around Callala Bay and Lake Wollumboola is a critical refuge for wildlife that were hammered by the Black Summer bushfires,” Nature Conservation Council Forest Campaigner Wilson Harris said. 

“Those fires incinerated millions of animals. Many that survived the firestorm later starved to death or were picked off by feral cats and foxes. 

“The mature coastal forests around Callala Bay and Lake Wollumboola have always been important, but after the fires it became critical. They must be conserved. 

“Greater gliders, eastern pygmy possums and powerful owls are just a few of the species that with be harmed. Glossy-black cockatoos, gang-gangs and grey-headed flying-fox will also lose roosting sites and feed trees. 

“The extinction risk for greater gliders and yellow-bellied gliders was recently increased to ‘vulnerable’ because their numbers have been plummeting due to habitat loss, especially in the Shoalhaven where their numbers were decimated by the Currowan bushfire.” 

The Nature Conservation Council has added its weight to the campaign by the Callala Environmental Alliance to conserve this forest by making a submission to the Planning Department urging that it reject the plan rezone 40 hectares for destruction. [2] 

“There is plenty of land that has already been cleared that could be used for housing — we don’t need to clear more critical bushland to make developers rich,” Mr Harris said.   


Santos’ Raised Zombie To Begin Inflicting Destruction On Liverpool Plains

Liverpool Plains farmers are vowing to resist Santos’ intrusion into the food growing powerhouse every step of the way, after the oil and gas giant revealed new plans to conduct seismic testing and explore for gas in the region.

In a newspaper advertisement (available here), the company said it would conduct seismic testing in an area to the south west of Gunnedah in order to explore for gas. Santos neglected to state the country it is targeting for coal seam gas is on the Liverpool Plains, renowned as Australia’s foodbowl.

The move comes after the NSW Perrottet Government raised numerous Santos-owned or part owned “zombie” coal seam gas exploration licences from the dead, which collectively cover more than one million hectares across the Liverpool Plains and northwest.

It also comes after farmers won a long battle against coal mining company Shenhua, and then Deputy Premier John Barilaro told locals there would be no mining on the Liverpool Plains.

Mullaley cattle farmer Margaret Fleck, whose property is covered by PEL 12 said, “Santos’ attempts to expand its polluting gas operations in NSW are a farmers’ worst nightmare. 

“We’ve seen how coal seam gas has expanded rapidly in southern and inland Queensland, causing land to subside and water bores to run dry. 

“Santos and the Perrottet Government appear hell-bent on inflicting the same devastation on the precious farming country of the Liverpool Plains and northwest. 

“We are utterly reliant on groundwater here - any gas mining that drains the aquifer beneath us threatens our very ability to produce food and fibre for Australians.

“Santos’ attempts to carve up the Liverpool Plains for unconventional gas will be met with fierce resistance from landholders. Santos will never build gasfields on the Liverpool Plains.”

Support For Santos From New Resources Minister Disrespectful, Ill-Informed

Comments made by new Resources Minister Madeleine King concerning Santos’ destructive Pilliga gasfield are appalling and show she has little respect for the ongoing Native Title Tribunal process, say Gomeroi Traditional Owners, local farmers, and their supporters.

Earlier this year, Gomeroi Traditional Owners voted 162 to 2 to oppose the gasfield, which would involve the drilling of 850 coal seam gas wells in and around the Pilliga Forest, which is considered sacred by Gomeroi people.

The legal decision is yet to be handed down, and Karra Kinchela, a Gomeroi Traditional Owner from Narrabri, said Ms King’s comments in the media in support of the project were disrespectful.

“We are respecting the tribunal process, we’re waiting patiently, there hasn’t been an outcome yet and Madeleine King should likewise be respectful,” she said.

“What gets me the most is that if we had started the transition to renewable energy ten years ago, the Pilliga wouldn’t be at risk now. The government wouldn’t be putting our Pilliga, our climate, and our water at risk.

“There has been resistance to Santos’ project for more than a decade, and that’s not going to change just because Ms King wants it to. She’s underestimating the determination of groups who are opposed to the gasfield if she thinks we’re just going to let Santos bulldoze the Pilliga.”

Liverpool Plains farmer Scott McCalman, whose property is covered by a recently renewed, Santos-owned coal seam gas exploration licence, said Ms King’s comments were disappointing given the new Albanese Government had been voted in with a mandate to boost renewable energy.

“The government was voted in because people want change, they want commitment to address climate change and they want our energy network to facilitate that change, and not be reliant on coal seam gas. Drilling for gas and supporting Santos’ project at Narrabri is extremely short-sighted,” he said.

“The Santos gasfield would be a costly, and environmentally damaging exercise and being years off production, it can’t play any role in the current energy crisis. Madeleine King only needs to look to Queensland where the land is slumping, there’s groundwater drawdown, and a massive, unresolved problem with salt waste, all thanks to coal seam gas.

“Santos’ gasfield will do nothing to address the energy crisis. We’ve got a renewable energy transition happening and we need the Federal Government to stick to it. They can come up with smarter ways to address short term issues that don’t involve sacrificing our best farming country to companies like Santos.

“Our food security is crucial. Madeleine King’s support of the Santos project threatens that.”

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Georgina Woods said Santos and other gas companies had been exploiting the high gas prices and tight market they engineered to exert political pressure for more damaging gasfields for years.

“Santos is the architect of the gas supply crisis we now face," she said.

"It’s embarrassing for the new Labor government to have a Minister duped by the gas industry’s self-serving campaign. Sacrificing the beautiful Pilliga to hundreds of gaswells will do nothing to reduce the high price of gas. What our country needs is a pathway to zero emissions and a government that puts people and the environment first.

“The last thing a new Federal Government should be doing is locking Australians into a future reliant on high gas prices. The renewable energy revolution is well and truly underway. That’s where Madeleine King should be focusing her energy.”

The national electricity market is a failed 1990s experiment. It’s time the grid returned to public hands

Dean Lewins/AAP
John QuigginThe University of Queensland

A crisis, as the saying has it, combines danger and opportunity. The dangers of the current electricity crisis are obvious. The opportunity it presents is to end to the failed experiment of the national electricity market.

Having suspended the market last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is now directing generators when to supply electricity. It’s also paying them lavish compensation for the financial shortfalls they suffer as a result.

These emergency measures are unsustainable. But they provide the starting point for a restructured electricity supply industry – one that’s better balanced between markets and planning.

Now’s the time to create a national grid that serves the Australian public and meets the challenges of a warming world. A new government-owned and operated body should take control of Australia’s electricity system. And decarbonising the grid, while ensuring reliable and affordable energy, should be its core business.

string of light bulbs in dark
Decarbonising the grid should be a key goal of electricity reforms. Dave Hunt/AAP

Privatisation And Poor Design

The National Electricity Market is where energy generators and retailers trade electricity. It was established about 25 years ago after technological advances allowed electricity grids to be connected across all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Before the market began, each state operated its own electricity industry with only limited interconnection. Back then, electricity companies were publicly owned. Most were also fully integrated, with one company responsible for the entire electricity supply chain, from generation to distribution and billing.

The national grid’s arrival coincided with the peak of enthusiasm for micro-economic reform. So, instead of a unified national enterprise, state utilities were broken up into separate parts – generation, transmission, distribution and retail – with the intention they would be privatised then engage in market competition.

Driving the trend towards privatisation was a widespread view that state-owned electricity enterprises had not performed well – particularly in investing to expand access to electricity.

Reflecting this view, the industry became fully or mostly privatised in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Other states opened electricity generation and retail to competition.

The market was created just as the global need to reduce carbon emissions was being recognised. Despite this, the climate problem was not considered in the design of the market, which was based on a mix of coal and gas plants.

Until AEMO suspended the market last week, bids from generators determined the wholesale price of electricity at five-minute intervals. Retailers supplied electricity to consumers at prices that shielded them from the fluctuations in wholesale prices.

Prices typically sat around A$50 per megawatt hour. But in periods of very high electricity demand, the price can reach the market “price cap”, currently set at $15,100 per megawatt hour.

Meanwhile, electricity distribution – getting the power to homes and businesses using poles, wires and other infrastructure – was handed to a set of regulated monopolies, which were awarded high rates of return on low-risk assets.

steam emitted from coal-fired power station
The climate problem was not considered in the design of the market. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

What Went Wrong

The designers of the national electricity market hoped it would lead to better efficiency and more rational investment decisions. The market also aimed to lower consumer power bills and promote competitive retail offers tailored to individual needs. But none of this happened.

In fact, consumer electricity prices – after falling for the better part of a century in real terms under public ownership – rose dramatically.

This was partly due to high returns to private electricity distribution companies, and the need for infrastructure investment to improve reliability. A proliferation of highly paid marketers, managers and financiers were also required to run the market.

Over time, the failures of the original design led to an alphabet soup of agencies needed to run the industry. They include AEMO, AEMC, AER, ARENA and a bunch of state-level regulators. Finally, the Turnbull government created the misnamed Energy Security Board (ESB), which sat on top of the whole process.

All this delayed the transition from an old and unreliable coal-based system to its necessary replacement by a combination of solar, wind and storage.

Now, this rickety system has failed to deal with a major supply crisis. The temptation is to slap on another patch and restore “normal” market conditions. The ESB’s proposal to pay coal and gas generators to be on standby if needed is one such quick fix. But much more comprehensive reform is needed.

composite image of electricity infrastructure and numbers
The national electricity market has failed to achieve its key aims. Shutterstock

Where To From Here?

A combination of public and private investment is now needed to secure affordable electricity and transition to renewable energy generation.

The plethora of bodies regulating the market should be replaced by a single government agency that buys wholesale electricity from generators. This organisation could then sell electricity directly to customers or supply it to electricity retailers.

The emergency purchasing arrangements AEMO currently has in place should be replaced by “power purchase agreements”. These are long-term contracts between a buyer and a generator to purchase energy, in which prices, availability and reliability are set.

Within those terms, generators that consistently produce electricity at very low prices are the first to be called on. This dispatch method, known as merit order, has been shown in Germany to lead to lower prices for consumers.

At the same time, the Australian electricity grid should be returned to government ownership and operation. And its guiding principle should be moving to a decarbonised energy system, rather than the “net market benefit” test AEMO currently uses when deciding where to approve investment.

Labor’s Rewiring the Nation policy provides a starting point for reform. It should invest directly in the expanded transmission network needed to support the transition to renewable energy.

Australian energy policy took a wrong turn in the 1990s. It’s time to get back on course.The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

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

Grape growers are adapting to climate shifts early – and their knowledge can help other farmers

Bill SkinnerUniversity of AdelaideDouglas BardsleyUniversity of Adelaide, and Georgina DrewUniversity of Adelaide

It’s commonly assumed Australia’s farmers and cities are divided over climate issues. This is not true. After all, farmers are on the front line and face the realities of our shifting climate on a daily basis.

In regional Australia, our research has found many farmers are already responding to climate change threats and finding ways to adapt.

Wine grape growers are among those who are responding fastest. That’s because their crop is extremely sensitive to weather and climatic shifts. Growers have had to learn quickly how to adapt to safeguard their industry. Think pruning for better canopy management, growing cover crops to keep the ground cooler and promote soil health, and reducing how much water they use in irrigation.

Establishing a vineyard takes a long time – up to five years until the vines produce a full yield. Grape growers have to take a medium to long term perspective to farming, weighing up forecasts about climate change and market trends a decade or more in advance. Successful vignerons recognise the need to work together in a coordinated way to achieve positive outcomes. Maintaining local agency is crucial, and relinquishing this can open up new risks.

Australia’s broader farming community will have to draw on similar adaptations – preparing for less rainfall in some areas, or finding ways to capture the enormous but less frequent rain bursts predicted for other areas.

grape vines irrigation
Vineyards have had to reduce water use. Shutterstock

Why Have Wine Grape Growers Moved Early?

Wine grape growers have had to act early because wine has enormous market differentiation based on variety. In turn, choice of varieties depends heavily on water and soil.

During the 1990s and 2000s, Australian wine exports boomed. The lion’s share of the cheap and cheerful Aussie wines bound for supermarket shelves around the world came from grapes from extensive irrigated vineyards throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, where grapes are grown relatively cheaply with lots of sunshine and lots of water. But the days of water abundance are no longer guaranteed.

Our research in South Australia’s Langhorne Creek wine region has found climate change is having most impact in respect to water.

Historically, this region has relied on groundwater or surface irrigation from seasonal floods along local watercourses. But as groundwater suffered from over-extraction, the aquifers became saltier.

In response, farmers sought to minimise reliance on groundwater. Some vineyards even installed desalination plants to make groundwater usable again. Community leaders spearheaded a push to cut their own allocations and seek supply from nearby Lake Alexandrina, which the Murray and other rivers empty into.

Then came the 2001–2009 Millennium Drought, which led to the shallow lake beginning to dry up through lack of inflow. The crisis of these drought years is seared into regional memory. Without a clear end in sight, many began to wonder if the region had a future.

The community backed a new private-public pipeline drawing directly from the Murray. When the new pipeline opened in 2009, it gave Langhorne Creek an important boost to water security. But it did so at the expense of tying its future directly to that of the Murray Darling Basin.

Now, farming in Langhorne Creek is at the mercy of everything that happens upstream. After two years of La Niña rains, there’s plenty of water in the system. For the time being, things are good – but farmers know better than most that good times don’t last.

In response to the broader shifts, many grape growers have increased plantings of southern Mediterranean varieties such as tempranillo or vermentino, better suited to hotter and drier conditions than traditional mainstays like shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes.

To date, Langhorne Creek offers an excellent example of how a strong community can act effectively in the face of environmental threat. As the region becomes integrated into the wider basin, there will be new challenges in navigating basin-wide management policies, a broadening bureaucratisation of decision making, and falling public trust in basin management.

While the technological fix of a new pipeline has helped grape growers overcome an immediate water supply issue, it does not defeat broader climate risk. What it does show is the need for forward thinking. The task for current and future farmers is to remain vigilant in confronting new climate risks, and responding through strong and coordinated local action and political cooperation. The Conversation

Bill Skinner, Postdoctoral research associate, University of AdelaideDouglas Bardsley, Associate professor, University of Adelaide, and Georgina Drew, Associate Professor and Program Director, Stretton Institute, University of Adelaide

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

After decades of loss, the world’s largest mangrove forests are set for a comeback

Benjamin BrownCharles Darwin University and Satyawan PudyatmokoUniversitas Gadjah Mada

Mangroves ring the shores of many of Indonesia’s more than 17,000 islands. But in the most populated areas, the world’s largest mangrove forests have been steadily whittled away, and with them, the ability to store blue carbon.

As the world’s fourth-most populous nation has grown, pressure on the mangroves has too. More than 756,000 hectares of mangroves have been cleared and turned into brackish ponds to farm water shrimp and milkfish.

Every year for the past three decades, another 19,000 hectares has been ripped out for aquaculture and increasingly, for oil palm plantations. As of 2015, an estimated 40% of the country’s mangroves had been degraded or lost.

Is this another predictable bad news story about the environment? No. This is a good news story. That’s because Indonesia’s government is, rising to the challenge of conserving its mangroves – and restoring lost forests.

Government investment in mangroves is rising and the political will is in place. Indonesia’s ambitious goal is to restore almost all of what’s been lost, rehabilitating 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024.

Why Have Indonesia’s Mangroves Been Hard Hit?

In a 2012 interview, former Indonesian forestry official Eko Warsito explained why his country’s mangroves were disappearing:

More than 50% of Indonesia’s population lives in coastal areas, and most of them are poor. An ordinary plot of mangroves is worth $84 a hectare. But if it’s cleared and planted with oil palms, it can be worth more than $20,000 a hectare.

Unfortunately, this difference in perceived value has seen mangroves degraded or replaced. You can glimpse the current state of Indonesia’s 3.3 million hectares of mangrove area in the map below, which was released last year by Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry.

Mangroves are broadly in good condition in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. But in the more populated areas – especially around the densely populated island of Java – mangroves have been largely deforested and degraded.

Adapted from a Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia map

Recent analysis by the World Bank puts the value of mangrove ecosystems at between A$21,000 to $70,000 per hectare per year. Similarly, a 2020 cost-benefit analysis of mangrove conservation versus conversion to shrimp aquaculture in Indonesia’s Papua province estimated the direct and indirect value of mangroves at A$34,000 per hectare per year.

But these valuations are heavily influenced by the role mangroves play in providing ecosystem services. Without these services, mangroves are worth two orders of magnitude less, at around A$340 per hectare.

Their real value lies in their ability to store large amounts of carbon, averaging almost 4000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per hectare. Until now, however, policy bottlenecks at the national level have stopped Indonesia from investing in better mangrove management and producing new revenue streams from stemming mangrove losses.

Mangroves like these from a village forest in Sumatra store an average of 1083 tonnes of carbon in their living tissues and the soil beneath. Benjamin Brown

Indonesia’s mangroves have suffered because of this disconnect between their real value and government policies and institutions. Over 20 institutions have some level of responsibility for mangrove management in Indonesia. It’s no wonder their agendas often conflict.

But progress is being made. Two years ago, President Joko Widodo added mangroves to the mandate of the country’s peatland restoration agency, after its success at restoring damaged peatlands. The goal for mangroves is to restore 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024.

There Are Alternatives To Aquaculture

You might think it’s too hard to restore mangroves once they’ve been turned into shrimp farms. Previously, this has been true, with an over-reliance on simply planting more seedlings rather than tackling the harder work of social and economic reliance on former mangrove habitat. In response, Indonesia’s government has mapped around 77,000 hectares of the best restoration candidate areas across 300 villages in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), working in full collaboration with coastal villagers.

Restoring mangroves requires human labour and machinery, as in this image of villagers in Sulawesi improving water flow and drainage into disused shrimp ponds. Rio Ahmad (Director of Yayasan Hutan Biru)
5° 1'59.95
This Google Earth image shows how quickly mangroves can rebound after hydrological restoration to make water flows more natural. Google Earth

To create alternatives to aquaculture, Indonesia’s national farmer field school program will expand to include hundreds of coastal villages. These coastal field schools help local villages improve their management of the coasts and develop alternative sources of income.

These include learning to use Nypah palms alongside mangroves, to allow villagers to harvest the valuable sugar from the sap. This species is the only palm considered a true mangrove. They can produce 800,000 litres of sap per hectare per year, forming a sustainable commodity base for organic palm sugar production as well as bio-ethanol.

Other options include encouraging production of honey, gluten-free flour, tea, juice, jam, and cosmetics. For some villages, eco-tourism could be an option, or shifting to more sustainable aquaculture.

Ratna Fadillah, an expert in non-timber forest product use, harvests holly mangrove leaves to make herbal green tea. These teas offer a low-cost opportunity to create a business, which many women and youth across Indonesia are adopting. Benjamin Brown

What’s Next?

Indonesia’s government is drafting a new mangrove policy, focused on balancing mangrove protection, sustainable use and restoration. We’re already seeing welcome realignment between the nation’s ministries.

These efforts are being funded by a $A573 million loan from the World Bank and a $A27 million grant for the policy reforms and investment in coastal livelihoods. This loan will be repaid with credits from blue carbon. Indonesia’s government is seeking more financial support from other governments and multilateral organisations to scale up their mangrove management to a national scale.

Indonesia’s work to turn around the fate of their ailing mangroves will be shown on the world stage at the G20 summit in Bali in November. By then, there will be a public dashboard to represent progress captured by field-based and satellite monitoring.

World Bank natural resources expert André Rodrigues de Aquino contributed to the research underlying this articleThe Conversation

Benjamin Brown, Postdoctoral research associate, Charles Darwin University and Satyawan Pudyatmoko, Professor of Forestry, Universitas Gadjah Mada

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

Is Migaloo … dead? As climate change transforms the ocean, the iconic white humpback has been missing for two years

Vanessa PirottaMacquarie University

It’s that time of year again, when the humpback highway is about to hit peak blubber to blubber as humpback whales migrate up Australia’s east and west coasts from Antarctic waters.

They’re headed to the whale disco – warm breeding waters where males will sing their whale song to attract female company, and pregnant females will birth their calves.

Already this season we’ve seen dolphins dancing with whales, dwarf minke whales with their calves, killer whales and a re-sighting of Curly, the humpback with an unusual curved tail. That’s only just the beginning.

Curly the humpback whale with the unique tail. Photo: Dr Vanessa Pirotta.

We expect more than 40,000 humpback whales to make this annual journey. I’ll be joining the ABC for their special tonight, Southern Ocean Live, to explore the science around this glorious migration first hand.

But as excitement for the whale season builds, there’s just one whale on the minds of many: the famous white humpback whale named Migaloo.

Who Is Migaloo?

Migaloo is by far one of the world’s most recognisable whales, because he is completely white. Thanks to genetic sampling of Migaloo’s skin, scientists have identified that he’s male, and his albino appearance is a result of a variation in the gene responsible for the colour of his skin.

Simply by looking different, Migaloo has become an icon within Australia’s east coast humpback whale population. Indeed, Migaloo has his own Twitter account with over 10,000 followers, and website where fans can lodge sightings and learn more about humpback whales.

Migaloo is an all white humpback whale. Jodie LoweAuthor provided

He was first discovered in 1991 off Byron Bay, Australia, and has since played hide and seek for many years, with many not knowing where or when he’ll show up next. He’s even surprised Kiwi fans by showing up in New Zealand waters.

With the last official sighting two years ago, the time has once again come for us to ask: where is Migaloo?

Already this year there have been false sightings, such as a near all white whale spotted off New South Wales. To make things more confusing, regular-looking humpbacks can trick whale watchers when they flip upside down, due to their white bellies.

Not Migaloo: a northward migrating whale upside down photographed during whale snot drone collection, Sydney, Australia. Macquarie University/Heliguy Scientific, Scientific Licence 101743Author provided

Migaloo As A Flagship Whale

The annual search for Migaloo connects people with the ocean during the colder months, and is an opportunity to learn more about the important ecological role whales play in the sea.

Migaloo’s popularity has also help drive modern marine citizen science. For example, the Cape Solander Whale Migration study records sightings of Migaloo as part of their 20 year data set. His presence was always a highlight for citizen scientists in the team.

Migaloo also represents the connection whales play between two extreme environments: the Antarctic and the tropics, both of which are vulnerable to climate change.

Humpback whales are the connection between two extreme environments: Antarctica and the tropics. Dr Vanessa PirottaAuthor provided

Earlier this year humpbacks were removed from Australia’s list of threatened species, as populations bounced back significantly after whaling ceased. But climate change poses a new threat, with a paper this year suggesting rising sea surface temperatures may make humpback whale breeding areas too warm.

Other changes to the ocean – such as ocean currents and the distribution of prey – may change where whales are found are when they migrate.

In Australia, for example, we’re already seeing many whales dine out on their migration south. Humpback whales are known to primarily feed once they’re back in Antarctic waters, so scientists are closely watching any new feeding areas off Australia.

Feeding in Australian waters might even become an annual event, and may mean southern NSW waters become an area of importance for migrating humpback whales. This behaviour encourages us to ask more about what’s going on below the surface, and the potential changes in the broader marine ecosystem we just don’t yet know about.

Humpback whales feed on krill in the Southern Ocean, before they travel northwards to breed. Shutterstock

So Where Is He Now? Could He Be Dead?

Migaloo’s presence – or lack thereof – highlights the variations in whale migration. Some whales may choose to migrate early or late, or even elsewhere such as in New Zealand. Others might choose not to migrate at all and remain in the Southern Ocean.

Migaloo’s presence may be driven by several factors. This includes social circumstances, such as interactions with other whales (including moving between different pods) or biological needs (the desire to head north the reproduce).

Environmental conditions, such as currents and water temperature, may also impact when and where Migaloo chooses to swim.

Unfortunately, Migaloo and other whales do face a number of human-caused threats in the ocean every day, such as entanglement in fishing gear or collisions with ships. They also face natural threats, such as predation by killer whales.

Fortunately, Migaloo’s sighting history has shown us he can turn up when we least expect it, or not. So, there’s still hope we might see him yet. After all, being in his mid 30s, he’s likely in the prime of his whale life.

How To Get Involved

The continuing search for Migaloo shows how marine citizen science has become a powerful way to learn about wildlife. Many eyes make science work, as a network of citizen scientists can cover vast areas scientists can’t alone.

A team of 200 citizen science scuba divers, for example, surveyed 2,406 ocean sites in 44 countries over a decade to track how warming oceans impact marine life. They found fish may expand their habitat, pushing out other sea creatures.

But participating in marine citizen science is often as easy as recording wildlife observations on your phone next time you’re at the beach. Opportunities include Happy WhaleRedMapWild Sydney Harbour and INaturalist.

People taking photos of humpback whales from the side of a boat.
It’s peak season for whale watching in Australia. Shutterstock

This year’s annual migration will last until October or November, so here’s hoping we’ll see Migaloo once again. The power of this unique whale to generate discussion, despite not being seen for years, is true testament to just how curious we are about the mysteries of the deep.The Conversation

Vanessa Pirotta, Postdoctoral Researcher and Wildlife Scientist, Macquarie University

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

Why including coal in a new ‘capacity mechanism’ will make Australia’s energy crisis worse

Tim NelsonGriffith University and Joel GilmoreGriffith University

Australia’s electricity generators would be paid extra money to be available even if they don’t actually generate any energy, under a new mechanism proposed by the federal government’s Energy Security Board (ESB).

Controversially, the ESB has recommended all generators be eligible for the payment, including ageing coal-fired generators that are increasingly breaking down.

The proposal comes after federal and state ministers last week requested the ESB advance its work on a “capacity mechanism … to bring on renewables and storage”. The ESB says a mix of generators is crucial for the mechanism to be effective, guaranteeing energy supply to the grid.

So will this capacity mechanism lower energy prices for households? Probably not, because it includes unreliable coal-fired power stations, and consumers are likely to pick up the cost when the plants ultimately fail.

The Electricity Market Is In Crisis

Wholesale electricity prices have surged due to two main factors: high coal and gas prices (driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) and roughly one in four coal power stations being out of action at various times in the past few weeks.

The coal stations are unavailable because of maintenance as well as the sudden exit of 3,000 megawatts of power due to breakdowns, with almost all Australian coal-fired power stations now older than their original design life.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has suspended the market in response to the crisis, and it’s unclear when it will restart.

Under the temporary system now in place, generators provide their availability and the market operator tells generators when to run to ensure secure supply. Market prices are then fixed at the past 28-day average for that hour of the day, between A$150 and $300 per megawatt hour.

If generation costs are higher, power station owners can apply for additional compensation, which will be later recovered from consumers. Unfortunately, this means all electricity customers will effectively subsidise the companies that own the unreliable coal generators that caused this crisis.

AEMO last week suspended the National Electricity Market in response to the rising energy prices. Shutterstock

Would A Capacity Market Have Helped Avoid This Crisis?

The short answer is no. The long answer is actually worse: a capacity market is likely to cause further crises such as the one we’re currently in.

The ESB suggests that selling “capacity certificates” three or four years in advance will mean coal generators will signal when they intend to close. But coal generators are unlikely to face penalties if they don’t turn up when needed - they will just hand back the extra payments they’ve received.

This sort of arrangement is what economists call a “free option” - it costs nothing to participate. If the coal stations fail to deliver, as they have done over the last two months, it will be left to consumers to deal with the consequences.

By including all existing generators (including coal), a traditional capacity market is actually more likely to delay investment in new, fast-start, dispatchable technologies (such as batteries, pumped hydro and hydrogen-ready gas turbines) than accelerate them, as ministers want.

Indeed, ESB’s recommendation is already looking difficult to implement. Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen says it will be up to the states to choose which generators are eligible, and Victoria has already said fossil fuels will not be.

Most electricity suppliers also say they don’t want coal included.

What’s The Real Problem We’re Trying To Address?

Any capacity mechanism needs to have a solution to unexpected and sudden shortfalls of capacity.

The ESB has noted the biggest risk to consumers is that coal will exit suddenly with little warning because it is old and prone to breaking down. This has been a significant contributing factor to the current crisis.

It also drove higher prices in 2017 when Hazelwood suddenly closed without sufficient time for investment in new capacity to be brought online.

The market operator didn’t foresee any reliability problems less than two months ago - and neither did anyone in the market. The ESB’s proposed capacity market would have implicitly recommended less capacity in the system.

Hazelwood workers left their hats on the power station’s last day. Shutterstock

A Capacity Mechanism Needs To Create A Reserve

As older coal power stations are increasingly unreliable, it may be prudent to have new generation in place before coal power stations fail.

Governments should create a capacity reserve market. Effectively, a capacity reserve pays new generators for new capacity until it’s needed, whereas a traditional capacity market (like the ESB is recommending) pays all existing generators that would have been available anyway. This is the key difference between a capacity market and a capacity reserve.

Under a capacity reserve, governments could provide payments only to new, modern, reliable, fast-start, firm capacity such as batteries, hydrogen-ready gas turbines and pumped hydro. This could be brought into a “waiting room” and held until it’s needed.

New generators could be deployed immediately when coal power stations fail, helping prevent the type of crisis we’re going through now.

Importantly, consumers would only be paying for new generation, not coal-fired power stations. This will cost less, and is the only way to provide the insurance the market needs.

Wind turbines in a field at sunset
Ministers want a smooth transition to renewables. Shutterstock

We Already Have The Tools In Place

Several years ago, the ESB introduced the Retail Reliability Obligation, which requires retailers to hold contracts with generators for their share of peak electricity demand. This is intended to encourage retailers to plan ahead.

The Retail Reliability Obligation framework could be modified to address situations such as what we’re in now.

If coal-fired generators fail and the market operator is forced to intervene like it did last week, then any costs the market operator incurred could be recovered from the retailers without enough generation or contracts in place to supply all of their customers.

This would be better than today, where the operator’s costs are recovered from all electricity consumers.

By strengthening price signals and building some reserves, we can help prevent future crises and deliver what ministers have rightly requested: a smooth pathway to more renewables and storage.

It’s also worth remembering coal-fired generators received a windfall of up to $5 billion under the Clean Energy Future package in 2012. How much more money do coal generators need from taxpayers and energy consumers to simply do the right thing and make their plant reliable? Or to shut it down with sufficient notice to allow new capacity to be built?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.

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
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy 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 -

$3.3 Million To Understand Generational Health Challenges That Influence Dementia Prevalence

Co-Director of Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW Medicine & Health, Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO, has been awarded $3.3 million to understand how generational health challenges influence the prevalence of dementia.

The highly competitive National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant will allow his expert team of researchers to ascertain what changes have occurred in Sydney’s next generation of 70 to 90-year-olds in terms of physical, psychological, social and brain health.

People aged 70 and over comprise nearly 12% of the Australian population, and this proportion will be nearly 20% by mid-century.

Within a few decades, it is expected that people over the age of 85 will increase from approximately 500,000 to 1.5 million people.

Age-related conditions and disabilities are major drivers of care needs and cost associated with ageing, and the top 3 diseases causing burden in people over the age of 70 are coronary heart disease, dementia and stroke.

"The time to prioritise dementia prevention is now but in order to maximise return on investment we need to understand changes at a population level in people’s exposure to risk factors, and their uptake of evidence-based strategies for healthy living,” says Professor Brodaty.

“Incremental change is not enough. This 5-year study will give us a clear guide of generational changes in population physical, psychological, social and cognitive health, as well as changes in risk factors for and protective factors against poor health.”

Ultimately, we want to be able to help inform planning for services and health policy – and better target preventative strategies against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. - Professor Henry Brodaty

The study will address questions of health challenges by repeating one of Australia’s largest population-based longitudinal studies of ageing – CHeBA’s Sydney Memory and Ageing Study - one generation later. The highly successful study, which has a strong track record with over 180 peer-reviewed published papers, recruited 1037 dementia-free individuals aged 70-90 and followed them for 14 years.

It has significantly influenced policy and practice in Australia.

“We now intend to extend the methodology of the original Sydney Memory and Ageing Study to include innovative plasma biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and an evaluation of novel risk factors for dementia,” says Brodaty.

Professor Brodaty will lead an exceptional research team of experts in epidemiology, cohort studies, big data, physical health, psychological health, social health, cognitive ageing, health economics, diabetes and proteomics and metabolomics, genetics, neuroimaging, neuropsychology and cognitive testing.

Research is the key to the health gains the world has made.

“Deaths from heart disease have steadily decreased over the last 50 years and life span increased by over 25 years in the last century.

“This study will ultimately enable insight into how to live longer without cognitive decline by targeting dementia prevention strategies,” says Professor Henry Brodaty 

Chief Investigators: 

Professor Henry Brodaty AO, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney 
Professor Perminder Sachdev AM, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney
Professor Colin Masters AO, University of Melbourne
Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, University of Sydney
Professor Annette Dobson, University of Queensland
Professor Aletta Schutte, UNSW Sydney
Professor Henry Cutler, Macquarie University
Professor Carol Brayne, University of Cambridge
Dr Nicole Kochan, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney
Dr Katya Numbers, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney

Report: Heidi Douglass, UNSW

Eye movements could be the missing link in our understanding of memory

Roger JohanssonLund University and Mikael JohanssonLund University

Humans have a fascinating ability to recreate events in the mind’s eye, in exquisite detail. Over 50 years ago, Donald Hebb and Ulrich Neisser, the forefathers of cognitive psychology, theorised that eye movements are vital for our ability to do this. They pointed out we move our eyes not only to receive sensory visual input, but also to bring to mind information stored in memory. Our recent study provides the only academic evidence to date for their theory.

It could help research in everything from human biology to robotics. For instance, it could shed new light on the link between eye movements, mental imagery and dreaming.

We can only process information from a small part of our visual field at a time. We overcome this limitation by constantly shifting our focus of attention through eye movements. Eye movements unfold in sequences of fixations and saccades. Fixations occur three to four times per second and are the brief moments of focus that allow us to sample visual information, and saccades are the rapid movements from one fixation point to another.

Although only a limited amount of information can be processed at each fixation point, a sequence of eye movements binds visual details together (for example, faces and objects). This allows us to encode a memory of what we can see as a whole. Our visual sampling of the world – through our eye movements – determines the content of the memories that our brains store.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

In our study, 60 participants were shown images of scenes and objects, such as a cityscape and vegetables on a kitchen counter. After a short break, they were asked to recall the images as thoroughly as possible while looking at a blank screen. They rated the quality of their recollection and were asked to select the correct image from a set of highly similar images. Using state-of-the-art eye tracking techniques we measured participants’ scanpaths, their eye movement sequences,both when they inspected the images and when they recalled them.

We showed that scanpaths during memory retrieval was connected to the quality of participants’ remembering. When participants’ scanpaths most closely replicated how their eyes moved when they looked at the original image, they performed their best during the recollection. Our results provide evidence that the actual replay of an sequence of eye movements boosts memory reconstruction.

We analysed different features of how participants’ scanpaths progressed over space and time – such as the order of fixations and the direction of saccades. Some scanpath features were more important than others, depending on the nature of the sought-after memory. For example, the direction of eye movements was more important when recalling the details of how pastries were positioned next to each other on a table than when recalling the shape of a rock formation. Such differences can be attributed to different memory demands. Reconstructing the precise arrangement of pastries are more demanding than reconstructing the coarse layout of a rock formation.

Close up of the top half of a young woman's face, she has brown eyes
Eye movement is vital to memory recall. Shutterstock

Episodic memory allows us to mentally travel in time to relive past experiences. Previous research established that we tend to reproduce gaze patterns from the original event we are trying to call to mind and that gaze locations during memory retrieval have important consequences for what you remember. Those findings all relate to static gaze, not eye movements.

Donald and Ulrich’s 1968 theory was that eye movements are used to organise and assemble “part images” into a whole image visualised during episodic remembering. Our study showed that the way scanpaths unfold over time is critical to recreate experiences in our mind’s eye.

A Step Forwards

The results could be important for cognitive neuroscience and human biology research and in fields as diverse as computing and image processing, robotics, workplace design, as well as clinical psychology. This is because they provide behavioural evidence of a critical link between eye movements and cognitive processing which can be harnessed for treatments such as brain injury rehabilitation. For instance, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-established psychotherapy treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In this therapy, the patient is focusing on the trauma and engaging in bilateral eye movements, which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the memory of the trauma. But the underlying mechanisms of the therapy are not yet well understood. Our study shows a direct link between eye movements and the human memory systems, which may provide an essential piece of the puzzle.The Conversation

Roger Johansson, Associate professor, Lund University and Mikael Johansson, Professor of Psychology, Lund University

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

Board games: how playing them online can bring grandparents and grandchildren closer together

Rose CapdevilaThe Open University and Lisa LazardThe Open University

We’re all familiar with the blissful image of grandma or grandpa playing snakes and ladders with their grandchild – or a large family sat round a table at Christmas over a game of Scrabble, Monopoly or Cluedo.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the popularity of board games might have waned in favour of the smartphone, tablet or other online gaming. In fact, the market value of board games has been growing considerably in recent years.

While board games were already on the rise pre COVID, lockdown fuelled this trend. A study conducted during the lockdowns suggested nostalgia may have been an important factor in how people coped with isolation, both dusting off board games for solace and watching classic films.

According to a study carried out in Sweden, board games can help children learn about relationships, to become more socially adept and develop their cognitive abilities. Research suggests playing board games can also enhance family togetherness across the generations.

Close But Far

The COVID lockdowns gave us a unique opportunity to study the extent to which families separated by geography managed to maintain that warm glow of togetherness all year round. Suddenly, even relatives who were used to seeing their grandchildren, nieces and nephews on a regular basis were forced to depend upon technology to communicate.

Those with experience of family video calls will know that conversations between older and younger people can often be uncomfortable. Grandparents ask formal questions – how’s school? What’s your favourite subject? – and get monosyllabic responses. The children will then wander away, leaving their parents to continue the conversation.

We wanted to explore how families can use technology to connect and build their relationships, and how game playing, specifically board games, could improve the quality of interactions between grandparents and grandchildren.

Extended family members who lived in different places became more separate than ever during the pandemic and many families struggled to sustain intergenerational relationships. This kind of geographical separation, research suggests, can hinder the development of emotional closeness in the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.

Our research aimed to address this gap. We know that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be mutually beneficial. It can contribute to children’s development and help grandparents adapt to the ageing process.

Studies have shown that play using technology can help maintain grandparent-grandchild relationships, as well as improving older people’s digital literacy and reducing their social isolation. It may also benefit children’s development and support parents in replacing “bad” screen time.

We gave families something to talk about. We asked pairs of grandchildren and grandparents living in the UK to play the well known board game Articulate, adapted for online play. We interviewed 12 pairs of grandparents and grandchildren together before the game, and then observed their game play during a video call.

We found that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for grandparents and grandchildren alike. During play, they talked about shared memories relevant to the game and there was much fun and laughter. Grandparents also showed grandchildren love and care through celebrating their game successes. All participants reported that, in contrast to their standard video call, game-playing enabled longer, more enjoyable and meaningful interaction.

We partnered with child development experts Anna Taylor and Amanda Gummer from play consultancy Fundamentally Children for this research. Their face-to-face research on intergenerational play found that grandparents feel pressure to adopt technology for fear of missing out on their grandchild’s lives.

After Lockdown

Children develop impressive expertise in online gaming early in life. Older adults, however, are often less familiar with new technology but are far more experienced in traditional pastimes.

A key barrier to intergenerational play on the video calls in our study was that online board game instructions did not take advantage of children’s expertise. Grandparents looked to grandchildren for help setting up but game instructions are written for adults.

Our findings suggested that intergenerational board game play normally happens on special occasions or holidays, particularly Christmas. Playing games in everyday life is something that children do. But video-calling technologies mean family time is no longer reliant on physically coming together. Technology allows those family dramas over Monopoly to happen anytime, not just at Christmas.The Conversation

Rose Capdevila, Professor in Psychology, The Open University and Lisa Lazard, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, The Open University

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

Ongoing Support For Seniors In NSW Budget

June 21, 2022
The 2022-23 NSW Budget showcases the NSW Government’s commitment to supporting older residents with the continuation of important programs and cost-saving initiatives.

Minister for Seniors Mark Coure said $8 million in the Budget had been secured so events, support programs, and cost-of-living measures could continue.

“We believe older people deserve to enjoy the state they have built, and that is why we are ensuring we continue hosting fantastic events such as the NSW Seniors Festival, which includes the Premier’s Gala Concerts, Seniors Comedy Show and Expo,” Mr Coure said.

“We are also making sure funding is allocated to continue the Tech Savvy Seniors program so it can help seniors be active members of their community in our increasingly digital world.”

Mr Coure added that the NSW Government was committed to continuing a raft of rebates and initiatives to help seniors with the cost of living.

“We have the Seniors Card and Seniors Savers Card, which give older people living in New South Wales access to discounts at more than 6,500 businesses, travel, entertainment and professional services,” Mr Coure said.

“In addition to this, the NSW Government provides access to more than 60 rebates for pensioners and more than 30 rebates for self-funded retirees.

“These cover energy and utilities, health, transport, and recreation and travel rebates, all of which can help seniors save hundreds of dollars a year and alleviate the stress of needing to constantly watch their bank balance day-to-day.”

As part of the $8 million allocation, $500,000 will go to continuing to support the NSW Seniors Card program, $1 million to the annual NSW Seniors Festival, and $1 million for the four NSW ageing advocacy organisations.

For more information about programs and cost of saving initiatives available to seniors, visit:

ACCC Product Safety Priorities Announced At National Consumer Congress

June 16, 2022
The ACCC will this year focus on product safety issues affecting young children and strategies for reducing instances of fires and injuries from lithium-ion batteries, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said today.

Speaking at her first National Consumer Congress as Chair of the ACCC, Ms Cass-Gottlieb shared her vision for consumer protection in Australia and announced the ACCC’s seven product safety priorities.

The priorities include high-risk product safety issues affecting young children.

“Young children are among our most vulnerable users of consumer products and their safety is paramount. We will focus on various hazards, including small high-powered magnets, baby dummies and chains, sleep aids and toys for children under three,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb also renewed the ACCC's commitment to product safety for infant inclined sleep products and toppling furniture.

“Baby bouncers, rockers and other sleep accessories that are inclined can be potentially deadly for infants, and the public health advice remains for infants to sleep on a flat, firm surface without pillows or bumpers,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“There are currently no mandatory or voluntary standards in Australia that specifically apply to infant inclined products. This year we will be seeking feedback on possible regulatory intervention.”

Ms Cass-Gottlieb also announced the ACCC will conduct a study to identify product safety hazards linked with lithium-ion batteries.

“We are concerned about increasing reports of fires and injuries relating to lithium-ion battery powered goods such as mobile phones, smart watches, laptops, solar energy systems and e-scooters,” Ms Cass Gottlieb said.

A new priority for the ACCC is improving the mandatory standards framework by implementing reforms that make it easier to adopt trusted overseas standards here in Australia so businesses can comply with the latest version of Australian and overseas standards, as recognised in Australian law.

“It is important the mandatory standards framework is dynamic and supports businesses to keep pace with industry and market developments at both a domestic and international level,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Button batteries will remain a priority, as the ACCC shifts its focus to enforcing the new world-leading mandatory safety standards that come into effect on 22 June 2022.

“Tragically, in Australia, three children have died and one child a month on average is seriously injured after swallowing or otherwise ingesting a button battery. Enforcing these safety standards is a crucial step towards preventing deaths and injuries to children,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

In announcing the ACCC’s product safety priorities during her opening keynote speech, Ms Cass-Gottlieb recognised the theme of this year’s Congress – Protecting Tomorrow’s Consumer Today.

“Unlike most OECD countries, Australia does not have a general safety provision that prohibits the sale of unsafe goods in Australia. Instead the ACCC must respond to safety issues once products are already in the market and, in some instances, when consumers have already been harmed,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We believe the introduction of a general safety provision that incentivises manufacturers to ensure their products are safe would allow us to move away from this reactive model.”

Product safety remains an enduring compliance and enforcement priority for the ACCC.

“We are committed to pursuing businesses and individuals that do not comply with their product safety obligations,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Outlining her vision for protecting Australian consumers at the Congress, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC was particularly concerned with scams, greenwashing and sustainability claims by businesses, misconduct by digital platforms, and unfair trade practices targeting, or disproportionately affecting, consumers experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.

“We will closely scrutinise businesses that make environmental or sustainability claims about their products, services or operations,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said

“We will continue to seek significant and increasing enforcement penalties against businesses for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law. We will also continue to seek consumer redress to ensure businesses are compensating consumers directly when they are harmed, particularly in cases involving blatant misconduct against disadvantaged consumers or consumers experiencing vulnerability,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

A full transcript of Ms Cass-Gottlieb’s National Consumer Congress speech is available here.

A complete list of the ACCC Product Safety Priorities can be found here.

Roadblocks On The Drive Back To Work - New Research

June 22, 2022
New research by National Seniors Australia has found that older Australians are confronted by the barriers of ageism, harsh pension rules and a scarcity of age-appropriate job opportunities when trying to re-enter the workforce.

The advocacy organisation for seniors documented the barriers in a new report called 'Older Australians’ Perspectives on Working After Retirement' which surveyed 3067 Australians aged 50 and over.

While 63% of retirees surveyed do not want to work, just under 20% do, and they need action to overcome the barriers that stand in their way. Their difficulties have been poorly understood and reported.

The report identified 14 different kinds of barriers based on survey participants’ views.

One major hurdle is the Age Pension income test and related concerns, mentioned by approximately 21% of participants, which is the driver behind the National Seniors 'Let Pensioners Work' campaign according to National Seniors Chief Executive and Director of Research Professor McCallum.

Professor McCallum said, “The punitive nature of these rules, particularly in a time of dire labour shortage, needs immediate attention.”

Unfair ageist attitudes to older workers topped the list of barriers, with 36% of participants directly mentioning it and others alluding to it.

“I had trouble returning to the workforce (part time) at 33,” said one older survey participant quoted in the report. “Employers told me I was too old then!”

Another said, “The Job Agency didn't refer me to one position in 18 months. I was over 60.” According to the research, part of the problem is a lack of appropriate opportunities for older workers, a barrier mentioned by 14% of participants.

If we want a reliable workforce to fix shortages, the report recommends supporting employers to redesign jobs so they are less physically taxing and more flexible in hours and conditions, to capitalise on the wealth of skills and experience older workers can contribute.

“We are overlooking an entire workforce of people with experience not just in their chosen profession but real-world experience, who are willing and entirely able to reintegrate back into employment,” Professor McCallum said.

“They are being overlooked because of a range of factors including ageism, government rules and narrow ideas about what older workers can offer.”

The study also found that for those who want to return to work, 19% nominated a benefit to their physical and mental health.

Respondents told the survey that factors attracting them back to the workforce were that work kept them active, in some cases was “fun”, helped them maintain their existing skills as well as learning new ones and kept them in a routine.

“What this shows is that there is a positive, collective benefit to our society by keeping older Australians engaged through employment,” Professor McCallum said.

Not surprisingly money was the primary motivating factor for 52% of those surveyed, with a higher rate, 60% for participants on the pension.

This was due to a range of factors including financial stress and the rising cost-of-living, creating a financial buffer against unexpected expenses such as medical costs, and increasing financial comfort in retirement.

Professor McCallum said, “Not everyone in retirement wants to go back to work and nor should they be pushed into it, but the number who do should not be ignored. And should we not forget the large numbers of older Australians who also volunteer and provide care at home

“We need to overcome the ‘use-by-date’ mentality we apply to many older people in the workforce and instead of thinking they’re past it, we should be thinking how we can put all that wealth of experience and enthusiasm to work,” he said. 

As one survey participant put it, “People look at age and not ability. They forget the wealth of experience from having lived and excelled at various jobs over a lengthy work life."

Gold Ribbon Not Necessary: Healthy Brain And Body Function Are The Rewards In This Game

As human lifespans increase, new societal challenges arise. In a "superaging society," in which young people are few and older people are many, caring for the older adult population adequately with limited resources is a difficult balancing act to perform. However, the hope is that by implementing new knowledge of how to keep aging adults healthy, caring responsibilities may be lightened.

In an article that was recently published in Alzheimer's & Dementia, a research team from the University of Tsukuba puts their findings that a game-like intervention called Synapsology helps to improve cognitive function and physical capabilities in older adults and its implications into perspective.

In areas of research such as pathological changes to the brain during aging (for example, mild cognitive impairment and dementia), a lot remains unknown. Although drug therapies to treat dementia are available and more are continually being developed, prevention is arguably the most important area of focus in working toward humankind's goal of healthy long life. Convincing evidence exists that dual-task exercises, which are performed by the brain and body simultaneously, have the potential to be beneficial for the physical and mental health of older adults. However, as highlighted by the World Health Organization, the weak link in this area of research was the lack of translation of dual-task exercises into practice to yield concrete evidence on efficacy.

"We conducted a study to assess the effects of 60-minute sessions of Synapsology twice per week," says Professor Jieun Yoon. "The exercises combined body movement with tasks that stimulate frontal, temporal, and occipital brain activity. We found that, in comparison with older adults aged 85 to 97 who did not take part, those who did maintained or improved their cognitive and physical abilities over a period of 24 weeks."

Synapsology is also a cost-effective intervention, because it doesn't require special tools or facilities. This means that the findings of the study were likely to be useful because Synapsology can be scaled and adapted.

"Furthermore, we used well-known measures to quantify the changes to cognitive and physical function," adds Professor Yoon, "which means that both the intervention and the assessment can be extended to different populations of older adults to yield sufficient evidence to support the use of this dual-task intervention at a scale that can have a societal impact."

Some questions remain -- such as, can an intervention help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer disease? The team has already begun research that will address this question by simultaneously monitoring biological changes in the brain from the disease and those that may represent cognitive and physical improvements from Synapsology.

Jieun Yoon, Hiroko Isoda, Tetsuya Ueda, Tomohiro Okura. Cognitive and physical benefits of a game‐like dual‐task exercise among the oldest nursing home residents in Japan. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 2022; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1002/trc2.12276

Do optimists really live longer? Here’s what the research says

Women who reported themselves to have high levels of optimism lived longer on average. FamVeld/ Shutterstock
Fuschia SiroisDurham University

Do you tend to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty? Are you always looking on the bright side of life? If so, you may be surprised to learn that this tendency could actually be good for your health.

number of studies have shown that optimists enjoy higher levels of wellbeing, better sleep, lower stress and even better cardiovascular health and immune function. And now, a recent study has shown that being an optimist is linked to longer life.

To conduct their study, researchers tracked the lifespan of nearly 160,000 women aged between 50 to 79 for a period of 26 years. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a self-report measure of optimism. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorised as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.

Then, in 2019, the researchers followed up with the participants who were still living. They also looked at the lifespan of participants who had died. What they found was that those who had the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, the optimists were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as “exceptional longevity”, considering the average lifespan for women is about 83 years in developed countries.

What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict a long life – including education level and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffered from depression or other chronic health conditions.

But given this study only looked at women, it’s uncertain whether the same would be true for men. However, another study which looked at both men and women also found that people with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a lifespan that was between 11% and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic.

The Fountain Of Youth?

So why is it that optimists live longer? At first glance it would seem that it may have to do with their healthier lifestyle.

For example, research from several studies has found that optimism is linked to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and being less likely to smoke cigarettes. These healthy behaviours are well known to improve heart health and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of death globally. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also important for reducing the risk of other potentially deadly diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

Two elderly women out for a walk together on a pier on a sunny day.
Optimists tend to have healthier lifestyle habits. karelnoppe/ Shutterstock

But having a healthy lifestyle may only be part of the reason optimists live a longer than average life. This latest study found that lifestyle only accounted for 24% of the link between optimism and longevity. This suggests a number of other factors affect longevity for optimists.

Another possible reason could be due to the way optimists manage stress. When faced with a stressful situation, optimists tend to deal with it head-on. They use adaptive coping strategies that help them resolve the source of the stress, or view the situation in a less stressful way. For example, optimists will problem-solve and plan ways to deal with the stressor, call on others for support, or try to find a “silver lining” in the stressful situation.

All of these approaches are well-known to reduce feelings of stress, as well as the biological reactions that occur when we feel stressed. It’s these biological reactions to stress –- such as elevated cortisol (sometimes called the “stress hormone”), increased heart rate and blood pressure, and impaired immune system functioning –- that can take a toll on health over time and increase the risk for developing life-threatening diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. In short, the way optimists cope with stress may help protect them somewhat against its harmful effects.

Looking On The Bright Side

Optimism is typically viewed by researchers as a relatively stable personality trait that is determined by both genetic and early childhood influences (such as having a secure and warm relationship with your parents or caregivers). But if you’re not naturally prone to seeing the glass as half full, there are some ways you can increase your capacity to be optimistic.

Research shows optimism can change over time, and can be cultivated by engaging in simple exercises. For example, visualising and then writing about your “best possible self” (a future version of yourself who has accomplished your goals) is a technique that studies have found can significantly increase optimism, at least temporarily. But for best results, the goals need to be both positive and reasonable, rather than just wishful thinking. Similarly, simply thinking about positive future events can also be effective for boosting optimism.

It’s also crucial to temper any expectations for success with an accurate view of what you can and can’t control. Optimism is reinforced when we experience the positive outcomes that we expect, and can decrease when these outcomes aren’t as we want them to be. Although more research is needed, it’s possible that regularly envisioning yourself as having the best possible outcomes, and taking realistic steps towards achieving them, can help develop an optimistic mindset.

Of course, this might be easier said than done for some. If you’re someone who isn’t naturally optimistic, the best chances to improve your longevity is by living a healthy lifestyle by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Add to this cultivating a more optimistic mindset and you might further increase your chances for a long life.The Conversation

Fuschia Sirois, Professor in Social & Health Psychology, Durham University

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

Go glammas! How older people are turning to TikTok to dispel myths about ageing

Ranta Images/Shutterstock
Shweta SinghWarwick Business School, University of Warwick

During lockdown, my 65-year-old mother did something that actually shocked me. She started going on to TikTok so she could watch and follow her favourite “Dancing Dadi” – which means grandmother in Hindi.

I was genuinely taken aback to discover that my mother – who is completely technophobic – had bought an iPad, got a high-speed internet connection and figured out how to create a TikTok account, all just to watch uninterrupted Dancing Dadi.

While I appreciate that few sights are more entertaining than an Indian granny amusing others with her wicked dance moves, there had to be something more than mere amusement converting my mother to technology and the youthful attractions of social media.

As I started to examine the reason behind this transformation, I realised that both my mother and Dancing Dadi herself are trying to bust the negative stereotypes and myths about old age.

While my mother was tearing down the trope of the older person who cannot get to grips with technology or understand social media, Dancing Dadi was shattering the stereotype that older women don’t have the energy to dance or express joy through movement – and was using social media to demonstrate it.

Recent research from the University of Singapore has shown this isn’t as unusual as you might think. Many older people are turning to TikTok – best known as a playground for Gen Z – to reframe the experience of ageing and kick back against age stereotyping.

In my own work as a behavioural data scientist, I explore how humans become biased in the first place. We are all born unbiased but then learn our prejudices from all sorts of sources such as culture, language, society, peers, values and so on. My research is concerned with developing sophisticated AI technologies to mitigate human biases, prejudices and stereotypes.

Both my mother and Dancing Dadi compelled me to ponder these ageist stereotypes – why they still exist and why some people are trying so hard to overcome them using one of world’s most popular social media platforms.

How Stereotypes Work

Stereotypes are beliefs (or associations) about certain social groups or categories. For instance, men are commonly associated with power and career while women are often associated with family and a lack of power. In other words, stereotypes are expectations about a certain group’s ability, preferences and personality type, which are often over-generalised and thus inaccurate.

Along the same lines, older people (those over 60) are stereotypically considered weak, ailing, incapable, boring and useless at technology and social media.

Research has shown that the human mind has cognitive limitations such as bounded rationality, meaning, we seek for good enough decisions rather than the best possible ones. When making decisions, we rely on simple cues which are often formed by our assumptions or stereotypical associations. This is especially true when people don’t have the time or resources to discover new information.

The question is, are these associations correct and should they be relied on during decision making? Many of us might deny we think that way, but how often when making decisions under pressure, do we actually succumb to our cognitive limitations, forming biased opinions? In this way, stereotypes lead to biased perceptions then which can then lead to discriminatory behaviour.

Smashing Biases

The only way to unshackle the mind from our own subconscious biases is to demolish these stereotypes. However, challenging stereotypes, changing society and mitigating subconscious biases that lead to discrimination is not easy.

But those wishing to dispel negative stereotypes of older age have already started a social media revolution on Tiktok’s popular video platform. Smart, funny and generally geared towards youngsters, 41% of TikTok users are under 24 – but around 14.5% of users are over 50.

Increasingly, as the Singapore research has shown, more and more older people are adopting this platform as their social media of choice to provide a glimpse to a youth-centric world what their lives are like, the views they hold and the fun they have.

The researchers compiled TikTok’s most-viewed videos of people over 60 with at least 100,000 followers, resulting in up to 1,382 posts with more than 3.5 billion views. An in-depth analysis then highlighted how older adults are proactively engaging in TikTok to defy the negative stereotypes and challenge socially constructed notions of “old age”.

These revolutionary content creators are users over 60 and creating viral content for their millions of followers. The big hitters are people like Grandma Droniak, who hands out straight-talking advice; Grandad Joe, who makes humorous, non-speaking videos about how he sees things; J-Dog, a nonagenarian who likes to put young people right; Grandpa Chan, who is a whizz at keep-fit dance videos; and Babs aka Nonna, who is now a best-selling cookbook author through her popular TikTok recipe and lifestyle videos.

These people showcase their wisdom, vibrancy, energy and fierceness, proving that granddads can be granfluencers and grandmothers can be glammas – glorious and glamorous.

In using humorous, engaging videos, older people are taking a stand against bias and discrimination, and rejecting the idea that they are invisible. Of course there needs to be greater effort on a variety of fronts to eliminate the stereotyping of older people that goes on in our culture. This includes what I do – designing programmes which can make us aware of our own biases and devising strategies which can challenge them.

Meanwhile, these older TikTok-ers are part of an encouraging and heartening movement that is helping to shift prevailing attitudes. In a world so concerned with inclusion, older people are often at the end of the queue, as we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. This delightful late-in-life embracing of TikTok serves to remind us all of the value and humanity of a section of society that is so often ignored and sidelined.The Conversation

Shweta Singh, Assistant Professor, Information Systems and Management, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

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

Art Competition To Remember Our ANZACS

June 24, 2022
Students across NSW are encouraged to get creative as the NSW Government together with RSL NSW launches an art competition to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Commemoration next year.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell is encouraging students to speak to their school and submit a design that will feature on the 2023 program and at an exhibition at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park.

“The NSW Government and the Department of Education has co-hosted this service with RSL NSW for 70 years, and we want to acknowledge this anniversary with a commemorative program to which the students in New South Wales can contribute,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I invite any student across all three education sectors to participate and have the opportunity to be selected to have their artwork featured on the 2023 service program.”

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said the annual commemoration at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park aims to educate and encourage younger Australians to learn about Australia’s military history, whilst paying respect to the service and sacrifice of servicemen and servicewomen. 

“This art competition is a great way for students in New South Wales to learn about our military history and design an artwork that reflects what it means to them. It could be about a family member who served in World War One, or a symbol of their service to our nation,” Mr Elliott said.

“The annual RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC proceedings are incomparable, as they’re delivered entirely by school students including the Master of Ceremonies, keynote address, readings, and musical accompaniment.”

RSL NSW President Ray James said it was critical for the RSL to work with the Department of Education to ensure school students understood why Australians commemorated the service and sacrifice of those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.

“Commemorating significant moments in our military history is vital to Australia, as a people, a community, and a nation. RSL NSW takes this responsibility incredibly seriously as the custodians of the Anzac spirit. Future generations should never forget that the freedom they enjoy in Australia has been protected by the men and women who served in our armed and allied forces.” Mr James said.

The RSL and Schools Remember ANZAC Commemoration was first held in 1953, co-hosted by RSL NSW and the Department of Education. Over the years the service has expanded to Catholic Schools NSW and the Association of Independent Schools NSW.

16 September 2022: Submissions close

6 Students Score Top Marks To Tour Hiroshima And Pearl Harbour

June 24, 2022
Six high school students have scored top marks for their essay writing which will see them tour historic WWII sites in Japan and Hawaii as part of the ClubsNSW Premier’s WWII Memorial Tour.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was delighted with the number of entries received from enthusiastic students across the State.

“It is great to see so many students engaged with this essay writing competition, more than 100 entries were received from year 11 students who were asked to write a 1000 word essay answering the question ‘Are the lessons of WWII still relevant today?’,” Mr Perrottet said.

“It is important that students today continue to talk about the sacrifices and commitment of our servicemen and servicewomen as it these learnings and conversations that helps keep the memory of the spirit of our diggers alive.”

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott today announced the winning students who will embark on the 11-day tour of historic WWII sites in Hiroshima, Japan and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • Ashley Kim, Tara Anglican School for Girls 
  • Kathleen Polson, Menai High School 
  • Elsa McLean, Brigidine College St Ives
  • Lucas Hepworth, Ambarvale High School 
  • Gabriel Fernandez, St Aloysius College Milsons Point 
  • Caleb Harrison, Clarence Valley Anglican School 
“I’ve read the winning entries and I’m very impressed with the amount of effort and thought that went into the essays. The judging panel also advised that selecting the winning entries was tough as submissions were of a high level,” 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. The attack on Pearl Harbor and atomic bombing of Hiroshima are two of the most pivotal moments in the Second World War.”

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis, today welcomed the announcement of the winners and said ClubsNSW was proud to teach a new generation about significant moments in history.

“What an incredible opportunity for these Year 11 students to learn about history first-hand, and witness the sacrifices made by those on both sides of World War II in the Pacific,” Mr Landis said. 

“Clubs and the veteran community are intrinsically linked, which is why ClubsNSW is honored to fund this program.

“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.”

The group will depart Sydney on Thursday 21 July and return on Sunday 31 July.

Massive X-Ray Blasts, Thousands Of Black Holes Revealed; A Universe In A Computer And More - Next Generation Astronomers Win National Recognition

June 20, 2022
A Sydney student, early-career researchers from Perth and Melbourne, and a fast telescope have received awards for changing our view of our galaxy and the Universe.
  • Our Milky Way may just have two arms, says University of Sydney student Maria Djuric.
  • A rare X-ray blast a thousand times brighter than the sun was predicted and observed by ICRAR astrophysicist Adelle Goodwin from Monash University and Curtin University.
  • Thousands of black holes are pictured in colour by Curtin University/ICRAR radio astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker.
  • The laws of the universe have been manipulated in a supercomputer by University of Western Australia/ICRAR theoretical astrophysicist Adam Stevens.
  • A telescope is opening up the sky thanks to CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope team.
  • The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) will honour the five at its Annual Scientific Meeting in Hobart 27 June – 1 July.

“Australian astronomers are among the best in the world, and the breadth of these prestigious awards shows why we lead the world in so many areas. It is a pleasure to recognise these examples of individual brilliance, as well as teamwork, and technical innovation,” says ASA President Professor John Lattanzio.

It looks like the Milky Way is a giant Swiss roll
The Milky Way may have just two arms that wrap around in layers, something like cream and sponge in a Swiss roll, according to Maria’s honours research.

We can’t see the whole shape of the Milky Way from our location, halfway between the galaxy’s centre and the outer rim.

“We can see streams that are obviously part of a larger spiral but, when we look at a bunch of streams, we’re not sure if it’s just two arms wrapped up twice as much or if it’s four separate arms because we can just see a snippet of the galaxy,” the 22-year-old says.

Maria used information on thousands of stars tracked by the European Space Agency’s GAIA spacecraft to show the Milky Way is likely to have just two arms. She is now moving to University College London where, for her PhD, she will use up to 35 million stars in a fresh GAIA data release.

Maria Djuric, University of Sydney, winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Bok Prize 2022 for outstanding research by an honours student or eligible masters student

Explosive observation shines brighter than a thousand suns
Adelle predicted an outburst from neutron star SAX J1808.4−3658, enabling five groups of researchers and seven telescopes to examine the onset of such an event in detail for the first time.

Neutron stars are extreme objects. Just one handful of their matter weighs as much as five Mount Everests. What’s more they are dark and hard to find.

When they’re part of a binary system, they steal matter from their partner star, producing bright X-ray emission and, occasionally, explosions a thousand times the energy of our sun.

A rare X-ray blast from neutron star SAX J1808.4−3658, a thousand times brighter than the sun, was predicted and observed by prize-winning astrophysicist Adelle Goodwin.

The project, one of six that made up her thesis, included Neils Gehrels Swift X-ray Observatory, the International Space Station’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, Las Cumbres Observatory, and the South African Large Telescope. Adelle undertook her PhD at Monash University and is now a post-doctoral researcher at Curtin University.

Dr Adelle Goodwin, Monash University/Curtin University/ICRAR, winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Charlene Heisler Prize for the most outstanding PhD thesis

Thousands of black holes in a new vision of the night sky
The recently published image of the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way was captured by massive radio telescopes and a big global team.

Meanwhile, Natasha has worked with a small team of early career researchers to use Australian telescopes to create a new vision of the entire southern sky, in radio colour.

This work enabled the imaging of hundreds of thousands of black holes in distant galaxies, and the identification of a remnant supernova that lit up the sky for Indigenous Australians when it exploded 9,000 years ago.

Natasha is an ARC Future Fellow at Curtin University in Perth and a member of ICRAR. She completed her PhD in radio astronomy at Cambridge University in the UK. Her prize-winning project is the GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA (GLEAM) extragalactic catalogue.

Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, Curtin University/ICRAR, winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Anne Green Prize 2022 for a significant advancement by a mid-career scientist

A universe in a computer shows where galaxies are headed
Imagine playing God within a supercomputer simulation.

That’s what Adam did in his University of Western Australia post-doctoral research, which was one of the most cited physics and astronomy papers for the year it was published.

Adam simulated and tested predictions of what radio telescopes might see in the actual sky.

Those predictions have helped scientists understand the evolution of galaxies.

Adam used the IllustrisTNG simulation on the Draco supercomputer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

He says: “What’s wonderful about a simulation is you can track exactly what happens to a galaxy: you can play back the simulation and it can spit out data. Whereas, when you observe a galaxy, you just see how it is now.”

Dr Adam Stevens, The University of Western Australia/ICRAR, winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Louise Webster Prize 2022 for outstanding research by a scientist early in their post-doctoral career

Big honour for scientists’ big pictures of a big Universe
The ASKAP team created a new kind of receiver, backed by computing power, to broaden our understanding of the Universe by broadening our view of it.

ASKAP is the fastest radio telescope in the world. With a 30-square-degree field of view for each dish it can take panoramic snapshots more than 100 times the size of the full Moon.

Each of the 36 dishes is equipped with a phased array feed with 188 individual receivers in a chequerboard arrangement.

Working together, these arrays capture so much data that the CSIRO team needed to develop powerful computing technologies to process the imagery in real time and avoid a massive data backlog.

The Prize recognises the efforts of more than 100 engineers and researchers including the ASKAP Project Scientists over the years: Ilana Feain, Lisa Harvey-Smith and today, Aidan Hotan.

A small magellanic cloud with filaments captured by CSIRO’s prize-winning ASKAP radio telescope team.

Aidan says: “Past telescopes have told us a lot about individual objects and galaxies in space, but it’s hard to piece together how these objects fit with each other on the scale of the entire Universe. ASKAP provides that big picture.”

CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope team, winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Peter McGregor Prize 2022 for innovation in astronomical instrumentation

Word Of The Week: Locavore

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

The term “locavore“ was named the Word of the Year for 2007 in the Oxford American Dictionary. Locavore was coined by a group of women in San Francisco, who encouraged people to eat food produced within a 100-mile radius of where they lived. Runners up for Word of the Year included: cougar: an older woman who romantically pursues younger men and upcycling: the transformation of waste materials into something more useful or valuable.

There are several factors that motivate people to adopt the locavore philosophy.  The idea began in the United States with three women: Jessica Prentice, Dede Sampson and Sage Van Wing. Prentice coined the term “locavore” in 2005 and they began a website, challenging people to eat only locally produced food during the month of August.

Locavores reject the idea that any food should be available anywhere, at any time of the year, with fresh produce imported from the other side of the globe. One source estimates that supermarket produce in the USA travels on average 1,300 to 2,000 miles (2,092 to 3,218 kilometres) to reach the consumer, at a considerable carbon cost.  The distance the food travels has come to be called “food miles”.

As well as reducing the climate impacts by eating local food in season, locavores recognise that such food is likely to be fresher. In addition,  buying it helps support local growers. The locavore movement coincides with the increase in the number of community farms and farmers’ markets as well as a renewed interest in backyard vegetable growing.  Even committed locavores tend to stumble when it comes to coffee though.

There are those who point out that local ingredients aren’t always environmentally friendly, saying that raising livestock has a bigger environmental cost than transport. Food processing also has a high environmental impact, although those concentrating on eating locally are likely to avoid highly processed foods.

Fifth Of Global Food-Related Emissions Due To Transport

June 20, 2022
In 2007, 'locavore' -- a person who only eats food grown or produced within a 100-mile (161km) radius -- was the Oxford Word of the Year. Now, 15 years later, University of Sydney researchers urge it to trend once more. They have found that 19 percent of global food system greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation.

This is up to seven times higher than previously estimated, and far exceeds the transport emissions of other commodities. For example, transport accounts for only seven percent of industry and utilities emissions.

The researchers say that especially among affluent countries, the biggest food transport emitters per capita, eating locally grown and produced food should be a priority.

Dr Mengyu Li from the University of Sydney School of Physics is the lead author of the study, to be published in Nature Food. She said: "Our study estimates global food systems, due to transport, production, and land use change, contribute about 30 percent of total human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. So, food transport -- at around six percent -- is a sizeable proportion of overall emissions.

"Food transport emissions add up to nearly half of direct emissions from road vehicles."

Nutritional ecologist and co-author, Professor David Raubenheimer, said: "Prior to our study, most of the attention in sustainable food research has been on the high emissions associated with animal-derived foods, compared with plants.

"Our study shows that in addition to shifting towards a plant-based diet, eating locally is ideal, especially in affluent countries."

Rich countries excessively contribute
Using their own framework called FoodLab, the researchers calculated that food transport corresponds to about 3 gigatonnes of emissions annually -- equivalent to 19 percent of food-related emissions.

Their analysis incorporates 74 countries (origin and destination); 37 economic sectors (such as vegetables and fruit; livestock; coal; and manufacturing); international and domestic transport distances; and food masses.

While China, the United States, India, and Russia are the top food transport emitters, overall, high-income countries are disproportionate contributors. Countries such as the United States, Germany, France, and Japan constitute 12.5 percent of the world's population yet generate nearly half (46 percent) of food transport emissions.

Australia is the second largest exporter of food transport emissions, given the breadth and volume of its primary production.

Transport emissions are also food type dependent. With fruit and vegetables, for example, transport generates nearly double the number of emissions than production. Fruit and vegetables together constitute over a third of food transport emissions.

"Since vegetables and fruit require temperature-controlled transportation, their food miles emissions are higher," Dr Li said.

The locavore discount
The researchers calculated the reduction in emissions if the global population ate only locally: 0.38 gigatonnes, equivalent to emissions from driving one tonne to the Sun and back, 6,000 times.

Though they acknowledge this scenario is not realistic, for example, because many regions cannot be self-sufficient in food supply, it could be implemented to varying degrees. "For example, there is considerable potential for peri-urban agriculture to nourish urban residents," co-author Professor Manfred Lenzen said.

This aside, richer countries can reduce their food transport emissions through various mechanisms. These include investing in cleaner energy sources for vehicles, and incentivising food businesses to use less emissions-intensive production and distribution methods, such as natural refrigerants.

"Both investors and governments can help by creating environments that foster sustainable food supply," Professor Lenzen said.

Yet supply is driven by demand -- meaning the consumer has the ultimate power to change this situation. "Changing consumers' attitudes and behaviour towards sustainable diets can reap environmental benefits on the grandest scale," added Professor Raubenheimer.

"One example is the habit of consumers in affluent countries demanding unseasonal foods year-round, which need to be transported from elsewhere.

"Eating local seasonal alternatives, as we have throughout most of the history of our species, will help provide a healthy planet for future generations."

Mengyu Li, Nanfei Jia, Manfred Lenzen, Arunima Malik, Liyuan Wei, Yutong Jin, David Raubenheimer. Global food-miles account for nearly 20% of total food-systems emissions. Nature Food, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00531-w

The world’s affluent must start eating local food to tackle the climate crisis, new research shows

Arunima MalikUniversity of Sydney and Mengyu LiUniversity of Sydney

The desire by people in richer countries for a diverse range of out-of-season produce imported from overseas is driving up global greenhouse gas emissions, our new research has found.

It reveals how transporting food across and between countries generates almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector – and affluent countries make a disproportionately large contribution to the problem.

Although carbon emissions associated with food production are well documented, this is the most detailed study of its kind. We estimated the carbon footprint of the global trade of food, tracking a range of food commodities along millions of supply chains.

Since 1995, worldwide agricultural and food trade has more than doubled and internationally traded food provides 19% of calories consumed globally. It’s never been clearer that eating local produce is a powerful way to take action on climate change.

vegetables in buckets next to sign reading
Eating local produce is a powerful way to take action on climate change. Shutterstock

A Web Of Food Journeys

The concept of “food miles” is used to measure the distance a food item travels from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed. From that, we can assess the associated environmental impact or “carbon footprint”.

Globally, food is responsible for about 16 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year – or about 30% of total human-produced carbon emissions. The sources of food emissions include transport, land-use change (such as cutting down trees) and the production process.

Our study used an accounting framework we devised in an innovative platform called the FoodLab. It involved an unprecedented level of detail, spanning:

  • 74 countries or regions
  • 37 economic sectors
  • four transport modes - water, rail, road and air
  • more than 30 million trade connections: journeys of a single food from one place to another.
aerial view of container ship on ocean
Food miles measure the distance a food item travels from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed. Shutterstock

Our Results

We found global food miles emissions were about 3 billion tonnes each year, or 19% of total food emissions. This is up to 7.5 times higher than previous estimates.

Some 36% of food transport emissions were caused by the global freight of fruit and vegetables – almost twice the emissions released during their production. Vegetables and fruit require temperature-controlled transport which pushes their food miles emissions higher.

Overall, high-income countries were disproportionate contributors to food miles emissions. They constitute 12.5% of the world’s population yet generate 46% of international food miles emissions.

A number of large and emerging economies dominate the world food trade. China, Japan, the United States and Eastern Europe are large net importers of food miles and emissions – showing food demand there is noticeably higher than what’s produced domestically.

The largest net exporter of food miles was Brazil, followed by Australia, India and Argentina. Australia is a primary producer of a range of fruits and vegetables that are exported to the rest of the world.

In contrast, low-income countries with about half the global population cause only 20% of food transport emissions.

woman giving bag to customer at food stall
Low-income countries contribute far less to the problem of emissions from food transport. Shutterstock

Where To Now?

To date, sustainable food research has largely focused on the emissions associated with meat and other animal-derived foods compared with plant-based foods. But our results indicate that eating food grown and produced locally is also important for mitigating emissions associated with food transport.

Eating locally is generally taken to mean eating food grown within a 161km radius of one’s home.

We acknowledge that some parts of the world cannot be self-sufficient in food supply. International trade can play an important role in providing access to nutritious food and mitigating food insecurity for vulnerable people in low-income countries.

And food miles should not be considered the only indicator of environmental impact. For example, an imported food produced sustainably may have a lower environmental impact than an emissions-intensive local food.

But there is much scope to reduce food transport emissions, especially in richer countries. Potential measures include:

  • carbon pricing and import duties
  • investing in less-polluting vehicles
  • encouraging businesses to cut emissions in their production and distribution chains
  • planning laws that allow more urban agriculture projects.

Consumers also have the power to reduce food transport emissions by adopting a more sustainable diet. For instance, next time you go to buy fruit out of season – which may have been grown overseas or on the other side of the country – perhaps consider whether a local alternative might do.

The problem of food transport emissions will only worsen as the global population grows. Governments, corporations and everyday people must work together to ensure the production and consumption of food does not make climate change worse.The Conversation

Arunima Malik, Senior Lecturer in Sustainability, University of Sydney and Mengyu Li, Postdoc Research Fellow, University of Sydney

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

Frankenstein: how Mary Shelley’s sci-fi classic offers lessons for us today about the dangers of playing God

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster.
Jamie Q RobertsUniversity of Sydney

In our Guide to the Classics series, experts explain key works of literature.

Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, is an 1818 novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Set in the late 18th century, it follows scientist Victor Frankenstein’s creation of life and the terrible events that are precipitated by his abandonment of his creation. It is a Gothic novel in that it combines supernatural elements with horror, death and an exploration of the darker aspects of the psyche.

It also provides a complex critique of Christianity. But most significantly, as one of the first works of science-fiction, it explores the dangers of humans pursuing new technologies and becoming God-like.

The Celebrity Story

Shelley’s Frankenstein is at the heart of what might be the greatest celebrity story of all time. Shelley was born in 1797. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the landmark A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), was, according to that book’s introduction, “the first major feminist”.

Shelley’s father was William Godwin, political philosopher and founder of “philosophical anarchism” – he was anti-government in the moment that the great democracies of France and the United States were being born. When she was 16, Shelley eloped with radical poet Percy Shelley, whose Ozymandias (1818) is still regularly quoted (“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”).

A pretty woman sitting between two men, looking anxious.
Douglas Walton Percy Shelley Elsa Lanchester Mary Shelley and Gavin Gordon Lord Byron in the film The Bride of Frankenstein.

Their relationship seems to epitomise the Romantic era itself. It was crossed with outside love interests, illegitimate children, suicides, debt, wondering and wandering. And it ultimately came to an early end in 1822 when Percy Shelley drowned, his small boat lost in a storm off the Italian coast. The Shelleys also had a close association with the poet Lord Byron, and it is this association that brings us to Frankenstein.

In 1816 the Shelleys visited Switzerland, staying on the shores of Lake Geneva, where they were Byron’s neighbours. As Mary Shelley tells it, they had all been reading ghost stories, including Coleridge’s Christabel (Coleridge had visited her father at the family house when Shelley was young), when Byron suggested that they each write a ghost story. Thus 18-year-old Shelley began to write Frankenstein.

The Myth Of The Monster

The popular imagination has taken Frankenstein and run with it. The monster “Frankenstein”, originally “Frankenstein’s monster”, is as integral to Western culture as the characters and tropes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But while reasonable continuity remains between Carroll’s Alice and its subsequent reimaginings, much has been changed and lost in the translation from Shelley’s novel into the many versions that are rooted in the popular imagination.

There have been many varied adaptations, from Edward Scissorhands to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (see here for a top 20 list of Frankenstein films). But despite the variety, it’s hard not to think of the “monster” as a zombie-like implacable menace, as we see in the trailer to the 1931 movie, or a lumbering fool, as seen in the Herman Munster incarnation. Further, when we add the prefix “franken” it’s usually with disdain; consider “frankenfoods”, which refers to genetically modified foods, or “frankenhouses”, which describes contemporary architectural monstrosities or bad renovations.

However, in Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s creation is far from being two-dimensional or contemptible. To use the motto of the Tyrell corporation, which, in the 1982 movie Bladerunner, creates synthetic life, the creature strikes us as being “more human than human”. Indeed, despite their dissimilarities, the replicant Roy Batty in Bladerunner reproduces Frankenstein’s creature’s intense humanity.

Roy Batty as a replicant in Blade Runner, delivering his famous tears in rain speech.

Some Key Elements In The Plot

The story of Victor Frankenstein is nested within the story of scientist-explorer Robert Walton. For both men, the quest for knowledge is mingled with fanatical ambition. The novel begins towards the end of the story, with Walton, who is trying to sail to the North Pole, rescuing Frankenstein from sea ice. Frankenstein is being led northwards by his creation towards a final confrontation.

The central moment in the novel is when Frankenstein brings his creation to life, only to be immediately repulsed by it:

I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.

Victor Frankenstein, like others in the novel, is appalled by the appearance of his creation. He flees the creature and it vanishes. After a hiatus of two years, the creature begins to murder people close to Frankenstein. And when Frankenstein reneges on his promise to create a female partner for his creature, it murders his closest friend and then, on Frankenstein’s wedding night, his wife.

More Human Than Human

The real interest of the novel lies not in the murders or the pursuit, but in the creature’s accounts of what drove him to murder. After the creature murders Frankenstein’s little brother, William, Frankenstein seeks solace in the Alps – in sublime nature. There, the creature comes upon Frankenstein and eloquently and poignantly relates his story.

New York Public LibraryCC BY

We learn that the creature spent a year secretly living in an outhouse attached to a hut occupied by the recently impoverished De Lacey family. As he became self-aware, the creature reflected that, “To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being.” But when he eventually attempted to reveal himself to the family to gain their companionship, he was brutally driven from them. The creature was filled with rage. He says, “I could … have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.” More human than human.

After Victor Frankenstein dies aboard Walton’s ship, Walton has a final encounter with the creature, as it looms over Frankenstein’s body. To the corpse, the creature says:

“Oh Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst.”

The creature goes on to make several grand and tragic pronouncements to Walton. “My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change, without torture such as you cannot even imagine.” And shortly after, about the murder of Frankenstein’s wife, the creature says: “I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey.”

These remarks encourage us to ponder some of the weightiest questions we can ask about the human condition:

What is it that drives humans to commit horrible acts? Are human hearts, like the creature’s, fashioned for ‘love and sympathy’, and when such things are withheld or taken from us, do we attempt to salve the wound by hurting others? And if so, what is the psychological mechanism that makes this occur?

And what is the relationship between free will and horrible acts? We cannot help but think that the creature remains innocent – that he is the slave, not the master. But then what about the rest of us?

The rule of law generally blames individuals for their crimes – and perhaps this is necessary for a society to function. Yet I suspect the rule of law misses something vital. Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, considered such questions millennia ago. He asked:

What grounds do we have for being angry with anyone? We use labels like ‘thief’ and ‘robber’… but what do these words mean? They merely signify that people are confused about what is good and what is bad.

Unintended Consequences

Victor Frankenstein creates life only to abandon it. An unsympathetic interpretation of Christianity might see something similar in God’s relationship with humanity. Yet the novel itself does not easily support this reading; like much great art, its strength lies in its ambivalence and complexity. At one point, the creature says to Frankenstein: “Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.” These and other remarks complicate any simplistic interpretation.

In fact, the ambivalence of the novel’s religious critique supports its primary concern: the problem of technology allowing humans to become God-like. The subtitle of Frankenstein is “The Modern Prometheus”. In the Greek myth, Prometheus steals fire – a technology – from the gods and gives it to humanity, for which he is punished. In this myth and many other stories, technology and knowledge are double-edged. Adam and Eve eat the apple of knowledge in the Garden of Eden and are ejected from paradise. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, humanity is born when the first tool is used – a tool that augments humanity’s ability to be violent.

The novel’s subtitle is referring to Kant’s 1755 essay, “The Modern Prometheus”. In this, Kant observes that:

There is such a thing as right taste in natural science, which knows how to distinguish the wild extravagances of unbridled curiosity from cautious judgements of reasonable credibility. From the Prometheus of recent times Mr. Franklin, who wanted to disarm the thunder, down to the man who wants to extinguish the fire in the workshop of Vulcanus, all these endeavors result in the humiliating reminder that Man never can be anything more than a man.

Victor Frankenstein, who suffered from an unbridled curiosity, says something similar:

A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind … If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.

And also: “Learn from me … how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”

In sum: be careful what knowledge you pursue, and how you pursue it. Beware playing God.

Alas, history reveals the quixotic nature of Shelley and Kant’s warnings. There always seems to be a scientist somewhere whose dubious ambitions are given free rein. And beyond this, there is always the problem of the unintended consequences of our discoveries. Since Shelley’s time, we have created numerous things that we fear or loathe such as the atomic bomb, cigarettes and other drugs, chemicals such as DDT, and so on. And as our powers in the realms of genetics and artificial intelligence grow, we may yet create something that loathes us.

It all reminds me of sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson’s relatively recent (2009) remark that, “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.”The Conversation

Jamie Q Roberts, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Sydney

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

Levelling up: why Netflix and TikTok are turning to gaming to secure their future

James BirtBond University and Darren Paul FisherBond University

The streaming wars are heating up. In March, Disney delayed the release date of Obi-Wan Kenobi to May 27 to coincide with the launch of Netflix’s top show, Stranger Things. This on the back of Google’s announcement YouTube Shorts had matched TikTok’s 1.5 billion subscribers in the short-form video market.

Facing increased competition, falling subscriber numbers and loss of content, Netflix and TikTok are having to diversify. And for this they’re turning to games. With more than three billion players worldwide, and an estimated market share of US$200 billion, the gaming industry is both popular and lucrative.

Netflix introduced mobile gaming last year for all its subscribers. This included two notable Stranger Things tie-ins. Meanwhile, TikTok has offered games to select users since 2019 and seems very likely to expand these offerings.

Retaining Existing Subscribers

Both Netflix and TikTok have transformed the entertainment business.

They appear diametrically opposed on the surface. The former gets revenue from subscriptions, and spends millions of dollars on licensing or creating content. The latter makes money by linking viewers to advertisers, with the help of streaming “influencers” who have mastered the art of short-form video.

Young woman uses a ring light set up behind her phone
With the rise of Youtube Shorts, TikTok is facing increased competition. Shutterstock

However, the two platforms share some key characteristics. They both:

  1. deliver video content via the internet
  2. aim to constantly grow their user base
  3. benefit from unique and original content
  4. collect user data and use it to improve their services, and
  5. face considerable and rising competition from other companies and entertainment media.

Many well-loved films and television series are departing Netflix for competitor platforms. At the same time, TikTok is also losing short-form video influencers to other platforms. Both platforms are seeking new strategies for subscriber retention, growth, and original content.

This is where gaming comes in. According to one consumer insights report, 79% of the world’s online population engages with games in some form. And millennials rate gaming as either the most popular, or second-most popular entertainment activity – behind watching other people play games on video platforms.

Why Is Gaming An Attractive Space?

Games typically afford longer engagement periods than series or movies. This is due to the psychological principles of motivation that underpin most gameplay.

People invested in games will often seek out additional narrative (or “lore”) in the form of shows and movies. Alternatively, audiences invested in shows may also look to video games to provide alternative narratives and opportunities for world-building. So shows lead customers to games, and games keep them engaged between season releases.

This technique of telling a story across multiple platforms and formats is known as “transmedia storytelling” and has been used with great success by broadcast, social media and gaming companies. This is what platforms are banking on to keep audiences locked into their entertainment ecosystems.

Content creation has boomed since the pandemic, and younger audiences are spending more time than ever watching user-generated content online. They have been particularly tuned into games such as Crab Game (a fan-made version of the popular Netflix show Squid Game) – which also has millions of view hours on the streaming service Twitch.

The rise of Minecraft as a popular “modding” game (in which players can collectively transform the game space through their own modifications) has also helped video streaming and subscription services. Minecraft-related videos have been streamed more than one trillion times on YouTube.

Transmedia success provides additional avenues for companies looking to leverage their licensed or original copyrighted content.

Minecraft has been viewed over one trillion times
Minecraft videos have been viewed more than one trillion times on YouTube. YouTube

Intellectual Property And Data Analytics

We know games promote attention, motivation, emotion and socialising among players.

Companies such as the game-hosting platform Steam have demonstrated user data can influence the creation of new content by game developers. In fact, this is a market advantage that Netflix and TikTok have over rivals.

For example, one could easily imagine that a character who is popular in a game, as revealed through gaming data, would also be more likely to feature in an upcoming show based on that game.

Gameplay stats and achievements from Netflix Stranger Things 3: The Game
Gameplay stats can be used by companies to help design future producers, with a focus on what users engage with most. STEAM

Netflix And TikTok Can Lose Big

When we speak of the streaming wars and greater competition, it’s not a level playing field. There are crucial differences between Netflix and TikTok, and other players such as Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube.

Netflix is in the streaming business, and TikTok in the video-hosting industry. On the other hand, based on revenue Disney is in the theme park and toy business, Amazon the online sales industry, Apple the computing and phone industry, and Google in the search and advertising industry.

For these companies, streaming and video hosting is a small side business that provides useful data to feed a greater machine. So in the “streaming wars” they don’t have as much to lose, as they can run these side businesses at a loss.

Netflix and TikTok aren’t so lucky. By turning to games, they’re grabbing onto a lifeline they really need.The Conversation

An iPad with Netflix, HBO, Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+
Netflix’s list of competitors is growing, and there’s now a variety of streaming services including HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Shutterstock

James Birt, Associate Professor of Computer Games and Associate Dean Engagement, Bond University and Darren Paul Fisher, Assistant Professor, Head of Directing, Department of Film, Screen and Creative Media, Bond University

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

The 5 best films from the 2022 Sydney Film Festival

Sydney Film Festival
Ari MattesUniversity of Notre Dame Australia

Back to June again, after the disruption of the last couple of years, and the twin festivals of light – Vivid and the Sydney Film Festival – once again galvanise the city.

Here are my picks for best films from among the 40 or so I managed to catch.

Tchaikovsky’s Wife

Tchaikovsky’s Wife, written and directed by Russian auteur Kirill Serebrennikov, is a spellbinding exploration of an individual’s idealistic obsession with greatness.

The film follows Antonina Miliukova (a wonderfully understated Alyona Mikhailova) as she meets and then decides she wants to marry celebrated composer Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron). Tchaikovsky agrees to marry her, mainly, the film implies, as a beard covering up his sexuality and to access her proposed dowry.

He quickly tires of her – she’s annoying, clingy, doesn’t understand or fit into his Bohemian lifestyle – and demands a separation. But she refuses to let go, and much of the film involves following Antonina’s gruelling refusal to give up on her deluded belief in the fidelity and splendour of her marriage.

The film follows Antonina Miliukova (played by a wonderfully understated Alyona Mikhailova) as she meets and then decides she wants to marry celebrated composer Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron). Sydney Film Festival

It is both incredibly sad and incredibly funny, a tale of an idiot whose naïve refusal to disbelieve in her love is as touching as it is infuriating. But by the end of the film, all traces of humour are gone – Antonina has had three children with her lawyer Nikolai (Miron Fedorov), all of whom have died in the orphanage to which she abandoned them. The whole thing culminates in a staggering, surreal dance sequence, the virtuosity of the production crew on full display.

Watching a film like Tchaikovsky’s Wife at the cinema is a genuine delight. It is replete with beautifully staged period details capturing the mania of 19th century Europe. I am sure this will hold up as one of the masterpieces of the 21st century.

Fire Of Love

Similarly worth seeing on a big screen, Fire of Love is a documentary following the work and lives of Katia and Maurice Krafft, French husband and wife volcanologists.

Writer-director Sara Dosa skillfully foregrounds the contrast in temperament of the two researchers without undermining the seriousness of their research into volcanoes. Maurice appears at times like a media-savvy entertainer, almost a charlatan, in contrast with his sober, serious wife. This worked for the couple, Dosa points out, both personally and in their division of labour, with Maurice making their films and doing most of the speaking tours, and Katia writing up and publishing their research.

Fire of Love is a documentary following the work and lives of Katia and Maurice Krafft, French husband and wife volcanologists. Sydney Film Festival

Fire of Love plays incredibly well as a documentary. Miranda July’s narration is surprisingly restrained and the amazing footage of volcanoes captured by the couple on 16mm film blazes across the screen. The assembly of archival interview material is similarly first rate.

The enthusiasm the Kraffts have for volcanoes – and for each other – at all times underpins the film, lending it its energy, up to the tragic (and romantic) moment of the pair’s death, side by side, under the ashes of Mount Unzen in Japan in 1991.

The Passengers Of The Night

Mikhaël Hers’ The Passengers of the Night is unapologetically sentimental with a degree of schmaltziness, I’m sure, bound to put off some viewers. But I loved it.

The narrative follows single mother Elisabeth (Charlotte Gainsboug, perfect as usual) as she takes on a job vetting calls for a late night talkback radio show to support herself, teenage son Matthias (Quito Rayon Richter) and daughter Judith (Megan Northam). Their family dynamic shifts when Elisabeth brings home charming drug addict waif Talulah (Noée Abita).

The film’s nostalgic recreation of 1980s Paris is punctuated by carefully observed (and at times genuinely touching) moments of connection between mother, son, daughter and friend. The blend of drama and comedy works so well because of Hers’ light touch, and the whole thing is refreshingly non-polemical (the current cinema of the Anglosphere could learn a lot).

The Passengers of the Night is unapologetically sentimental and schmaltzy. Sydney Film Festival

It is certainly a fantasy – a fantasy of family, friends, and resilience, of Parisian romance, of the 1980s – and, like the most effective fantasies, sweeps us out of the present into a moment that may have never been, but is nevertheless pleasurable to imagine once was – or could have been.


Hinterland, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is an impressive film on all counts. It is visually magnificent, with its deliberate recreation of a German expressionist aesthetic working seamlessly with its engrossing narrative.

Peter Perg (Murathan Muslu), a battle-scarred soldier returning to Vienna following the second world war, resumes his occupation as a detective to track down a serial killer murdering ex-soldiers in some of the most gruesome ways you’ll see at the movies. Various clues point him back towards his memories of the war - and an ultimate reckoning with his frailty.

The tone is grim and unrelenting, but everything is so stylish, the actors are so charismatic - Muslu offers one of the most commanding performances in recent cinema - and the detective narrative so compelling that the movie passes by in a flash.

Hinterland follows Peter Perg (Murathan Muslu), a battle-scarred soldier returning to Vienna following WWI, who resumes his occupation as a detective to try to track down a serial killer who is murdering ex-soldiers/ Sydney Film Festival

Hinterland works as both a homage to the Golden Age of European cinema and a gripping serial killer thriller. It’s a splendid film, best seen on the biggest screen you can find, and continues Ruzowitzky’s legacy of making big budget Euro blockbusters.

The Forgiven

Sometimes John Michael McDonagh’s work fails to hit the mark – it can appear pretentious in its attempts at authenticity, in its deliberate political incorrectness and geezer-esque humour. This is certainly not the case with The Forgiven.

This is a near perfect film (marred by an imperfect ending), both a gruelling revenge and redemption film in the style of Calvary and a study – and critique – of the continued excesses of the Western elite in one of the former colonial outposts of Empire, Morocco.

Most of The Forgiven takes place during a party at affluent Richard Galloway’s (Matt Smith) ridiculous mansion in the High Atlas Mountains. Sydney Film Festival

Most of the film takes place during a party at affluent Richard Galloway’s (Matt Smith) villa-cum-pleasure palace in the High Atlas Mountains. When alcoholic grump David (Ralph Fiennes) and his wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) run over a local boy on their way to the party, David is forced to set off on a ritual journey involving his return to the boy’s home to help bury the body, while Jo stays behind at the party – and parties!

The contrast between Fiennes’ development from antisocial curmudgeon to empathetic humanist might appear too neat on paper (with whiffs of colonialism about it – the Arab body is good only for the redemption of the white master), but it is so skilfully rendered by McDonagh (and Fiennes) that it packs an emotional wallop for the viewer.

The Forgiven has all of McDonagh’s signature traits – gallows humour, lots of drinking, and a Catholic commitment to the possibilities of redemption in spite (or because) of the horrors of life. But its stark structure in which the earnestness of David’s journey is savagely contrasted with the bourgeois decadence of the party makes it more effective than his earlier films.

The Best Of The Rest

There were several other films that could replace any from the list above.

The astonishing documentary Into the Ice, for example, featuring breathtaking footage of scientist Alun Hubbard as he abseils into the moulins in Greenland, or the Danish period drama Godland, stunningly shot on celluloid film following a priest’s frost-bitten journey across Iceland.

Day After… written and directed by Kamar Ahmad Simon is a striking picaresque documentary-fictional hybrid, following passengers on a paddle-steamer travelling from Chaka to Khulna in Bangladesh.

The Spanish horror thriller Piggy is one of the best of the genre I’ve seen and Inu-Oh, a bizarre anime rock opera, shows director Masaaki Yuasa to be one of the most original voices working in the medium today.

Piggy is a riveting social horror film about trauma and revenge. Sydney Film Festival

The only two disappointments were Unrest and Elvis. The premise of Unrest is excellent - in the late 19th century in Switzerland, we follow the work of clock makers as revolution brews – but its treatment is so dull it’s painful to watch. Elvis is similarly hampered by banal treatment, surprising given director Baz Luhrmann’s usual flair, and is almost sunk by a painful and irritatingly knowing performance from Tom Hanks as the Colonel, Elvis’ cut-throat manager.

One of the pleasant tragedies of most film festivals is that one can never see everything one wants to see, and some of the major films that I missed include Close, the winner of the Sydney Film Prize, Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and Julia Davis’ crowd-pleaser Nude Tuesday. Given their international success, these films are sure to be released to theatres soon.The Conversation

Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

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

Religious women set up some of Australia’s first schools, but their history remains veiled

St John’s Pro-Cathedral, the Convent of Mercy and the girls’ school in Perth circa 1862. State Library of Western Australia
Odhran O'BrienThe University of Western Australia

In a wealthy country like Australia, a time with no government schools seems unimaginable. But back in the 1840s, when the Sisters of Mercy opened the first seconadary school in Western Australia, there were only a few tiny private schools. Many children, particularly girls, received no formal education.

Women religious, or nuns, made education more accessible. Their way of life also offered one of few leadership opportunities for women.

These women demonstrated entrepreneurial and diplomatic skill while developing education in Australia. Their work required them to navigate hostile male hierarchies, religious discrimination, class struggles and complex relationships with Aboriginal peoples.

Historians have documented part of this story, but there is a way to go. In a country enamoured with egalitarianism, the lives of women religious speak of the broader historical reality of inequality.

Where Did These Women Come From?

Religious orders consist of people living apart from society but as a community in accordance with the spiritual rule of their founder. Catherine McAuley (1778-1841) founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin when she opened the first House of Mercy dedicated to serving the poor, sick and uneducated.

Catherine’s approach to assisting Ireland’s burgeoning poor was radical. The community consisted of two classes of sisters. Choir sisters were educated, middle-class women and generally served as teachers. Lay sisters were poor and working class and operated the kitchen or laundry.

Ursula Frayne (1816-1885), who opened the first secondary school in Western Australia as well as schools in Victoria in the mid-19th century, had trained with McAuley. In 1845 Bishop John Brady visited the sisters’ Dublin convent and requested the mother superior send six sisters to Western Australia with Frayne as the leader.

While sailing to Western Australia aboard The Elizabeth, a member of the missionary group travelling with Bishop Brady was a young French monk, Leandre Fonteinne, who ominously noted:

“His Lordship is only concerned […] for the six women religious that he is bringing along with us. They are and for quite a number of years to come will be a burden to the mission.”

What Did They Do In Australia?

After arriving in Perth, in 1846 the sisters became the first female religious teaching order to establish a school in Australia. Having navigated sectarism in Ireland, they decided to offer a general education to all Christians. The sisters prioritised Aboriginal people, immigrant Irish orphan girls, the poor and the uneducated. The sisters established a fee-paying school, benevolent institution and Western Australia’s first high school.

Coming from a prosperous Dublin family, Frayne was class-conscious but the distinction between choir and lay nuns was unsustainable in colonial Perth. Relying on the bishop was not an option that would allow them to progress their enterprise.

For these women to be self-sufficient, everyone had to do domestic duties. Frayne herself became a baker.

Although Bishop Brady promised financial support, in 1850 Frayne travelled to Colombo, Malta, Rome, Florence, Paris, England and Ireland to raise funds. In March 1851, she returned to Perth with £450. She gave £157 to the bishop, who was broke.

By 1853 the nuns could afford a new £800 school building. As the sisters’ workload increased, they applied to Dublin for “strong” lay sisters.

Two of the longest-serving lay sisters sent from Dublin were Catherine O’Reilly and Catherine Strahan. O’Reilly filled multiple roles, including carpenter. She was eventually promoted to choir sister and helped to establish schools at locations such as Geraldton.

Strahan’s trajectory was different. Strahan was a lay sister at 30 and provided essential services to the convent kitchen and laundry until she died at 67.

In 1857, Frayne moved to Melbourne to establish a new school as Brady’s replacement as bishop, Joseph Serra, frequently interfered in the order’s leadership. Frayne felt much of his interference unneccessary. Such interference peaked in Queensland, where the Sisters of Mercy had established the state’s first secondary school for girls. The local bishop withheld part of their government salary and exposed them to undernourishment and an early death.

Drawing of senior nun
Ursula Frayne was a pioneer of education in both Perth and Melbourne.

Undeniably Important Yet Curiously Anonymous

Women religious operated significant educational enterprises. Historian Stephanie Burley considers female Irish teaching orders as an empire within the British Empire. Their classes bridged the political, religious and cultural norms of the Irish Catholic Church and the British Empire, acting as a pacifying force between the two spheres.

Unfortunately, as historian Colin Barr notes:

“Unfortunately, historians have too often seen these women as an undifferentiated mass, undeniably important yet curiously anonymous. Yet [they] were not merely the passive transmitters of male ideas or initiatives.”

As a leader, Frayne has been the subject of biographies. However, Catherine O’Reilly and Catherine Strahan remained cloistered.

The women who laboured in domestic roles in religious communities deserve greater attention. Although historians are increasingly showing interest in the broader role of women religious in Australian society, aspects of their influence remain opaque.The Conversation

Odhran O'Brien, PhD Candidate in History, The University of Western Australia

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

Fifth Of Global Food-Related Emissions Due To Transport

June 20, 2022
In 2007, 'locavore' -- a person who only eats food grown or produced within a 100-mile (161km) radius -- was the Oxford Word of the Year. Now, 15 years later, University of Sydney researchers urge it to trend once more. They have found that 19 percent of global food system greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation.

This is up to seven times higher than previously estimated, and far exceeds the transport emissions of other commodities. For example, transport accounts for only seven percent of industry and utilities emissions.

The researchers say that especially among affluent countries, the biggest food transport emitters per capita, eating locally grown and produced food should be a priority.

Dr Mengyu Li from the University of Sydney School of Physics is the lead author of the study, to be published in Nature Food. She said: "Our study estimates global food systems, due to transport, production, and land use change, contribute about 30 percent of total human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. So, food transport -- at around six percent -- is a sizeable proportion of overall emissions.

"Food transport emissions add up to nearly half of direct emissions from road vehicles."

Nutritional ecologist and co-author, Professor David Raubenheimer, said: "Prior to our study, most of the attention in sustainable food research has been on the high emissions associated with animal-derived foods, compared with plants.

"Our study shows that in addition to shifting towards a plant-based diet, eating locally is ideal, especially in affluent countries."

Rich countries excessively contribute
Using their own framework called FoodLab, the researchers calculated that food transport corresponds to about 3 gigatonnes of emissions annually -- equivalent to 19 percent of food-related emissions.

Their analysis incorporates 74 countries (origin and destination); 37 economic sectors (such as vegetables and fruit; livestock; coal; and manufacturing); international and domestic transport distances; and food masses.

While China, the United States, India, and Russia are the top food transport emitters, overall, high-income countries are disproportionate contributors. Countries such as the United States, Germany, France, and Japan constitute 12.5 percent of the world's population yet generate nearly half (46 percent) of food transport emissions.

Australia is the second largest exporter of food transport emissions, given the breadth and volume of its primary production.

Transport emissions are also food type dependent. With fruit and vegetables, for example, transport generates nearly double the number of emissions than production. Fruit and vegetables together constitute over a third of food transport emissions.

"Since vegetables and fruit require temperature-controlled transportation, their food miles emissions are higher," Dr Li said.

The locavore discount
The researchers calculated the reduction in emissions if the global population ate only locally: 0.38 gigatonnes, equivalent to emissions from driving one tonne to the Sun and back, 6,000 times.

Though they acknowledge this scenario is not realistic, for example, because many regions cannot be self-sufficient in food supply, it could be implemented to varying degrees. "For example, there is considerable potential for peri-urban agriculture to nourish urban residents," co-author Professor Manfred Lenzen said.

This aside, richer countries can reduce their food transport emissions through various mechanisms. These include investing in cleaner energy sources for vehicles, and incentivising food businesses to use less emissions-intensive production and distribution methods, such asnatural refrigerants.

"Both investors and governments can help by creating environments that foster sustainable food supply," Professor Lenzen said.

Yet supply is driven by demand -- meaning the consumer has the ultimate power to change this situation. "Changing consumers' attitudes and behaviour towards sustainable diets can reap environmental benefits on the grandest scale," added Professor Raubenheimer.

"One example is the habit of consumers in affluent countries demanding unseasonal foods year-round, which need to be transported from elsewhere.

"Eating local seasonal alternatives, as we have throughout most of the history of our species, will help provide a healthy planet for future generations."

Mengyu Li, Nanfei Jia, Manfred Lenzen, Arunima Malik, Liyuan Wei, Yutong Jin, David Raubenheimer. Global food-miles account for nearly 20% of total food-systems emissions. Nature Food, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00531-w

Freight containers: Unsplash

Children Who Had Bronchitis Linked To Adult Lung Problem

June 21, 2022
Bronchitis in early childhood has been found to increase the risk of lung diseases in middle age according to research from the Allergy and Lung Health Unit at the University of Melbourne.

Researchers found that Australian children who had bronchitis at least once before the age of seven were more likely to have lung problems in later life.

They also established that the lung diseases the children suffered from by the time they reached the age of 53 were usually asthma and pneumonia, rather than chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Lead author of a paper published today in the journal, BMJ Open Respiratory Research, Dr Jennifer Perret, said the findings come from one of the world's oldest surveys, the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study, which followed 8,583 people who were born in Tasmania in 1961 and started school in 1968.

"This is the first very long-term prospective study that has examined the relationship between childhood bronchitis severity with adult lung health outcomes. We have seen already that children with protracted bacterial bronchitis are at increased risk of serious chronic infective lung disease after two to five years, so studies like ours are documenting the potential for symptomatic children to develop lung conditions, such as asthma and lung function changes, up to mid-adult life," she said.

Researchers established the link between childhood bronchitis and adult lung problem by surveying the original participants when they joined the study. Participants were then tracked for an average of 46 years with 42 per cent completing another questionnaire, including doctor-diagnosed lung conditions and a clinical examination, between 2012 and 2016.

By categorising participants into groups based on groups based on the number and duration of episodes of "bronchitis" and/or "loose, rattly or chesty cough," they found that the more often a participant had been diagnosed by a doctor as having pneumonia and asthma, the more likely the participant had bronchitis as a child.

Dr Perret said the numbers in the most severe subgroup were small (just 42 participants were in this category and of these just 14 had current asthma in middle-age), but the trends across bronchitis severity categories were significant.

"Compared with the majority who never had from bronchitis, there was an incremental increase in risk for later asthma and pneumonia which strengthened the more often a person had suffered from bronchitis as a child, and especially if they had recurrent episodes which were prolonged for at least one month in duration.

"It is notable that the link with later adult active asthma was seen for participants who did not have co-existent asthma or wheezing in childhood, and a similar finding has been recently seen in a very large meta-analysis of school-aged children who had had a lower respiratory tract infection during early childhood."

Researchers hope the study will help doctors identify children who could benefit from more careful monitoring and earlier interventions to keep them in better health into mid-adult life.

Jennifer L Perret, Danielle Wurzel, E Haydn Walters, Adrian J Lowe, Caroline J Lodge, Dinh S Bui, Bircan Erbas, Gayan Bowatte, Melissa A Russell, Bruce R Thompson, Lyle Gurrin, Paul S Thomas, Garun Hamilton, John L Hopper, Michael J Abramson, Anne B Chang, Shyamali C Dharmage. Childhood ‘bronchitis’ and respiratory outcomes in middle-age: a prospective cohort study from age 7 to 53 years. BMJ Open Respiratory Research, 2022; 9 (1): e001212 DOI: 10.1136/bmjresp-2022-001212

ADHD And ASD: What The Eyes Could Reveal

June 17, 2022
It's often said that 'the eyes tell it all', but no matter what their outward expression, the eyes may also be able to signal neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD according to new research from Flinders University and the University of South Australia.

In the first study of its kind, researchers found that recordings from the retina could identify distinct signals for both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) providing a potential biomarker for each condition.

Using the 'electroretinogram' (ERG) -- a diagnostic test that measures the electrical activity of the retina in response to a light stimulus -- researchers found that children with ADHD showed higher overall ERG energy, whereas children with ASD showed less ERG energy.

Research optometrist at Flinders University, Dr Paul Constable, says the preliminary findings indicate promising results for improved diagnoses and treatments in the future.

"ASD and ADHD are the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in childhood. But as they often share similar traits, making diagnoses for both conditions can be lengthy and complicated," Dr Constable says.

"Our research aims to improve this. By exploring how signals in the retina react to light stimuli, we hope to develop more accurate and earlier diagnoses for different neurodevelopmental conditions.

"Retinal signals have specific nerves that generate them, so if we can identify these differences and localise them to specific pathways that use different chemical signals that are also used in the brain, then we can show distinct differences for children with ADHD and ASD and potentially other neurodevelopmental conditions."

"This study delivers preliminary evidence for neurophysiological changes that not only differentiate both ADHD and ASD from typically developing children, but also evidence that they can be distinguished from each other based on ERG characteristics."

According to the World Health Organization, one in 100 children has ASD, with 5-8 per cent of children diagnosed with ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by being overly active, struggling to pay attention, and difficulty controlling impulsive behaviours. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is also a neurodevelopmental condition where children behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.

Co-researcher and expert in human and artificial cognition at the University of South Australia, Dr Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, says the research has potential to extend across other neurological conditions.

"Ultimately, we're looking at how the eyes can help us understand the brain," Dr Marmolejo-Ramos says.

"While further research is needed to establish abnormalities in retinal signals that are specific to these and other neurodevelopmental disorders, what we've observed so far shows that we are on the precipice of something amazing.

"It is truly a case of watching this space; as it happens, the eyes could reveal all."

This research was conducted in partnership with McGill University, University College London and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Paul A. Constable, Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, Mercedes Gauthier, Irene O. Lee, David H. Skuse, Dorothy A. Thompson. Discrete Wavelet Transform Analysis of the Electroretinogram in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2022; 16 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2022.890461

Adverse Childhood Experiences And Trauma Among Young People In The Youth Justice System

June 2022
This study examines the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a representative sample of young people under youth justice supervision in South Australia.
The analysis showed that not only was the prevalence of ACEs particularly high in this population (89% experienced a combination of maltreatment and household dysfunction), but so too were trauma symptomatology, substance use, and internalising and externalising behaviours (with more than two-thirds of young people scoring in the clinical ranges on each of these measures). 

When viewed collectively, the data provide a foundation for understanding and responding to the vulnerabilities of young people in the youth justice system. They suggest that developmentally focused and trauma‑informed approaches may offer the greatest promise in assisting young people and keeping the community safe from crime.

Malvaso C et al. 2022. Adverse childhood experiences and trauma among young people in the youth justice system. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 651. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Females Far Likelier To Suffer With Long COVID New Review Of Studies Shows; Underscoring A Critical Need For Gender-Disaggregated Research

June 21, 2022
A new study published today in the peer-reviewed journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, reveals that females are "significantly" more likely to suffer from Long COVID than males and will experience substantially different symptoms.

Long COVID is a syndrome in which complications persist more than four weeks after the initial infection of COVID-19, sometimes for many months.

Researchers from the Johnson & Johnson Office of the Chief Medical Officer Health of Women Team, who carried out the analysis of data from around 1.3 million patients, observed females with Long COVID are presenting with a variety of symptoms including ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; as well as fatigue.

Male patients, however, were more likely to experience endocrine disorders such as diabetes and kidney disorders.

"Knowledge about fundamental sex differences underpinning the clinical manifestations, disease progression, and health outcomes of COVID-19 is crucial for the identification and rational design of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive of and sensitive to the potential differential treatment needs of both sexes," the authors explain.

"Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in Long COVID syndrome. Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity. However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases."

As part of the review, researchers restricted their search of academic papers to those published between December 2019-August 2020 for COVID-19 and to January 2020-June 2021 for Long COVID syndrome. The total sample size spanning articles reviewed amounted to 1,393,355 unique individuals.

While the number of participants sounds large, only 35 of the 640,634 total articles in the literature provided sex disaggregated data in sufficient details about symptoms and sequalae of COVID-19 disease to understand how females and males experience the disease differently.

When looking at the early onset of COVID-19, findings show that female patients were far more likely to experience mood disorders such as depression, ear, nose, and throat symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and respiratory symptoms. Male patients, on the other hand, were more likely to suffer from renal disorders -- those that affect the kidneys.

The authors note that this synthesis of the available literature is among the few to break down the specific health conditions that occur as a result of COVID-related illness by sex. Plenty of studies have examined sex differences in hospitalization, ICU admission, ventilation support, and mortality. But the research on the specific conditions that are caused by the virus, and its long-term damage to the body, have been understudied when it comes to sex.

"Sex differences in outcomes have been reported during previous coronavirus outbreaks," authors add. "Therefore, differences in outcomes between females and males infected with SARS-CoV-2 could have been anticipated. Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited sex-specific clinical insights that may be impacting treatment." Ideally, sex disaggregated data should be made available even if it was not the researcher's primary objective, so other interested researchers can use the data to explore important differences between the sexes.

The paper also notes complicating factors worthy of additional study. Notably, women may be at greater risk of exposure to the virus in certain professions, such as nursing and education. Further, "there may be disparities in access to care based on gender that could affect the natural history of the disease, leading to more complications and sequela."

The latter serves as a rallying cry: availability of sex disaggregated data and intentional analysis is imperative if we are to ensure that disparate outcomes in disease course are addressed. No research is complete unless the data is made available to people who want to answer the question: does sex and gender matter?

Shirley V. Sylvester, Rada Rusu, Biankha Chan, Martha Bellows, Carly O’Keefe, Susan Nicholson. Sex differences in sequelae from COVID-19 infection and in long COVID syndrome: a review. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.1080/03007995.2022.2081454

Olive Trees Were First Domesticated 7,000 Years Ago

June 2022
A joint study by researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University unraveled the earliest evidence for domestication of a fruit tree. The researchers analyzed remnants of charcoal from the Chalcolithic site of Tel Zaf in the Jordan Valley and determined that they came from olive trees. Since the olive did not grow naturally in the Jordan Valley, this means that the inhabitants planted the tree intentionally about 7,000 years ago.

The ground-breaking study was led by Dr. Dafna Langgut of the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology & Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University. The charcoal remnants were found in the archaeological excavation directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports from the publishers of Nature.

Dr. Langgut: "I am the head of the Laboratory of Archaeobotany & Ancient Environments, which specializes in microscopic identification of plant remains. Trees, even when burned down to charcoal, can be identified by their anatomic structure. Wood was the 'plastic' of the ancient world. It was used for construction, for making tools and furniture, and as a source of energy. That's why identifying tree remnants found at archaeological sites, such as charcoal from hearths, is a key to understanding what kinds of trees grew in the natural environment at the time, and when humans began to cultivate fruit trees."

In her lab, Dr. Langgut identified the charcoal from Tel Zaf as belonging to olive and fig trees. "Olive trees grow in the wild in the land of Israel, but they do not grow in the Jordan Valley," she says. "This means that someone brought them there intentionally -- took the knowledge and the plant itself to a place that is outside its natural habitat. In archaeobotany, this is considered indisputable proof of domestication, which means that we have here the earliest evidence of the olive's domestication anywhere in the world. I also identified many remnants of young fig branches. The fig tree did grow naturally in the Jordan Valley, but its branches had little value as either firewood or raw materials for tools or furniture, so people had no reason to gather large quantities and bring them to the village. Apparently, these fig branches resulted from pruning, a method still used today to increase the yield of fruit trees."

The tree remnants examined by Dr. Langgut were collected by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University, who headed the dig at Tel Zaf. Prof. Garfinkel: "Tel Zaf was a large prehistoric village in the middle Jordan Valley south of Beit She'an, inhabited between 7,200 and 6,700 years ago. Large houses with courtyards were discovered at the site, each with several granaries for storing crops. Storage capacities were up to 20 times greater than any single family's calorie consumption, so clearly these were caches for storing great wealth. The wealth of the village was manifested in the production of elaborate pottery, painted with remarkable skill. In addition, we found articles brought from afar: pottery of the Ubaid culture from Mesopotamia, obsidian from Anatolia, a copper awl from the Caucasus, and more."

Dr. Langgut and Prof. Garfinkel were not surprised to discover that the inhabitants of Tel Zaf were the first in the world to intentionally grow olive and fig groves, since growing fruit trees is evidence of luxury, and this site is known to have been exceptionally wealthy.

Dr. Langgut: "The domestication of fruit trees is a process that takes many years, and therefore befits a society of plenty, rather than one that struggles to survive. Trees give fruit only 3-4 years after being planted. Since groves of fruit trees require a substantial initial investment, and then live on for a long time, they have great economic and social significance in terms of owning land and bequeathing it to future generations -- procedures suggesting the beginnings of a complex society. Moreover, it's quite possible that the residents of Tel Zaf traded in products derived from the fruit trees, such as olives, olive oil, and dried figs, which have a long shelf life. Such products may have enabled long-distance trade that led to the accumulation of material wealth, and possibly even taxation -- initial steps in turning the locals into a society with a socio-economic hierarchy supported by an administrative system."

Dr. Langgut concludes: "At the Tel Zaf archaeological site we found the first evidence in the world for the domestication of fruit trees, alongside some of the earliest stamps -- suggesting the beginnings of administrative procedures. As a whole, the findings indicate wealth, and early steps toward the formation of a complex multilevel society, with the class of farmers supplemented by classes of clerks and merchants."

Dafna Langgut, Yosef Garfinkel. 7000-year-old evidence of fruit tree cultivation in the Jordan Valley, Israel. Scientific Reports, 2022; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-10743-6

Olive Blossoms outside Jerusalem. Image: Sputnikcccp 

Pacific Whiting Skin Has Anti-Aging Properties That Prevent Wrinkles

June 21, 2022
The gelatine in the skin of Pacific whiting, an abundant fish on the Pacific Coast of North America, may help prevent skin wrinkling caused by ultraviolet radiation, a new Oregon State University study found.

Pacific whiting is caught in large volumes in the United States but consumers have little familiarity with the mild, white meat fish also known as hake. It is popular in Europe, though, where it is the eighth most consumed species. In the U.S., the 10 most-consumed species account for 77% of total per capita seafood consumption and Pacific whiting is not among the top 10.

By studying Pacific whiting. Jung Kwon, an assistant professor at Oregon State's Seafood Research & Education Center in Astoria, Oregon, is looking to change that and alleviate pressure on stocks of those 10 species, which include salmon and tuna.

She studies marine organisms and their potential to improve human health and is particularly interested in the benefits from parts of marine organisms such as fish skin, which many U.S. consumers choose to discard rather than eat.

"Fish skins are an abundant resource that we already know have valuable nutritional properties," Kwon said. "But we wanted to find out what additional potential value might be found in something traditionally considered a by-product."

In a paper recently published in the journal Marine Drugs, Kwon and a team of researchers looked at molecular pathways that contribute on a cellular level to the wrinkling of skin. That wrinkling is promoted by chronic exposure to ultraviolet light, which breaks down collagen in the skin.

The observer sampling station on a catcher processor in the at-sea Pacific hake fishery off the U.S. West Coast. Credit: NOAA.

The researchers extracted gelatine from Pacific whiting fish and then looked at what impact it had on anti-oxidant and inflammatory responses and pathways known to degrade collagen and promote synthesis of collagen.

They found that the Pacific whiting skin:
  • Reactivated to a certain level the collagen synthesis pathway that had been suppressed by UV radiation.
  • Prevented activation to a certain level of the collagen degradation pathway that had been accelerated by UV radiation.
  • Promoted additional anti-oxidant activity. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells.
  • Promoted additional anti-inflammatory effects.
Kwon cautioned that these are initial results obtained in her lab through a human cell model system. Further research is needed using animal models.

"We saw some potential with a positive response in the cell model system," she said. "This gives us good evidence to take those next steps."

Co-authors of the paper are Elaine Ballinger of Oregon State and Seok Hee Han and Se-Young Choung of Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

The research was funded by Pacific Seafood, a harvester, processer, and distributor of seafood.

Seok Hee Han, Elaine Ballinger, Se-Young Choung, Jung Yeon Kwon. Anti-Photoaging Effect of Hydrolysates from Pacific Whiting Skin via MAPK/AP-1, NF-κB, TGF-β/Smad, and Nrf-2/HO-1 Signaling Pathway in UVB-Induced Human Dermal Fibroblasts. Marine Drugs, 2022; 20 (5): 308 DOI: 10.3390/md20050308

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.