inbox and environment news: Issue 550

August 14 - 20, 2022: Issue 550

Public Meeting On Northern Beaches Aboriginal Lands Approval By State Government

WHO: Save the Northern Beaches Bushlands
TIME: 2PM to 4PM
To discuss: Decision made by NSW Minister for Planning of approval for draft development delivery plans for the Northern Beaches Aboriginal Lands to be included into SEPP. Decision by NSW Minister for Planning to be investigated as to why such a decision was made when so much is against it already.

What does this mean?
What can we do now to continue the fight to protect our natural environment and bushlands?

Open Invitation to: State and Federal Ministers, Local MP’s, Mayor  and all community members to be there.
We aim to protect and preserve our Bushlands and wildlife here on the Northern Beaches.

Bushfire Affected Species Listed As Threatened

August 9, 2022
The Minister for the Environment and Water is today listing the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo and the Mountain Skink as threatened under national environment law.  

Listing a species under environmental law can provide it with the support of a recovery plan or conservation advice, funding and support to bounce back. The Government has committed to providing $224.5 million over the forward estimates to help arrest species decline and restore populations of endangered plants and animals.

Minister Tanya Plibersek has accepted the Threatened Species Scientific Committee’s recommendation to list the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo as vulnerable on the threatened species list under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The Minister has listed the Mountain Skink as endangered. It is found in isolated patches of rocky habitat in the mountains and subalpine areas of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Both species were severely impacted by the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires and prioritised for listing assessment in the wake of the fires.  

A comprehensive statutory Conservation Advice is now in place for both species to guide their protection and conservation.

A national Recovery Plan for the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo will also be developed to further facilitate conservation action across its national range and to coordinate management across multiple jurisdictions and diverse stakeholder groups, including First Nations people and communities.

The Australian Government is investing more than $1 million in projects benefitting the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo through on ground actions including citizen science surveys and coordinating cross-jurisdictional monitoring, nest box installation, and revegetation and protection of the Black She‑oak, which is their main source of food and habitat.

An investment of $800,000 is supporting the recovery and conservation of alpine reptiles, including the Mountain Skink, through protection of their known and suspected habitat and surveys to uncover more about this illusive skink.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said:

“Today, I have listed the Mountain Skink as endangered under national environmental law.

“At the same time, I have listed the beloved South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo as vulnerable.

“The damage caused by the Black Summer bushfires is still being felt today and can be seen reflected in these listings today.

“The fires had an immense impact on our environment, from a small reptile found in the mountains to a bird that is at home on the coast – there is still a lot of work to do.

“The Australian Government has committed to establishing the Saving Native Species Program that will boost protection for many threatened species like these, combat invasive species, and strengthen conservation planning required under national environmental law.

“We are working closely with experts and community groups to help prevent species decline and restore populations of endangered plants and animals.

“These listings will ensure the prioritisation of recovery actions to protect both species and offer conservation guidance on a national scale.”

Glossy Black-Cockatoos Added To Federal Threatened List

The Black Saturday bushfires of 2019–20 had a catastrophic effect on so much of Australia’s wildlife, and those effects are still being felt, with yet another bird being added to the Federal Government's list of Australia’s threatened species as a result of the fires. This time it’s the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo, (Calyptorhynchus lathami) which has been classified as Vulnerable.

Many Glossy Black-Cockatoos in East Gippsland and adjacent areas of New South Wales were killed during the bushfires, and although a few of those that survived were able to fly across the landscape in a desperate search for suitable sheoak habitat to forage and breed in, most of the survivors remained in scattered patches of unburnt bush in eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos specialise in feeding on the seeds of sheoaks (also known as casuarinas), which they extract from the hard seed pods. They rely on groves of sheoaks growing among the eucalypt forests to survive. However, many casuarina habitats across the Glossies’ range in eastern and south-eastern Australia were burnt during the bushfires, and they have been very slow to recover. Glossy Black-Cockatoos feed almost exclusively on the cones of female she-oak trees, which can be 10 years old before they start producing cones.

This has meant there are shortages of food to eat and hollows for them to nest in.

The Glossy Black-Cockatoos of eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW are the subject of a BirdLife Australia project, which has seen a network of artificial nest hollows provided for the birds to breed in the scattered, remnant patches of unburnt habitat. Additionally, BirdLife Australia's advocacy has prevented yet more habitat being blackened, this time in planned burns.

With bushfires becoming more frequent and severe, the impacts are growing more dangerous for birds like the South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo, and by being recognised as a threatened species, it should now be subject to all the protections under the EPBC Act that this listing entails.

This guide supports citizen scientists to collect data on South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoos. Glossy Black-Cockatoos (also known as “glossies”) are threatened by bushfires, droughts, land clearing, urban development, and inappropriate planned fires. Data about Glossy Black-Cockatoo flocks and feed trees are important for informing work to protect them from these threats.

This guide summarises how to:
• identify South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoos;
• tell the sex and approximate age of birds; and
• identify different species of she-oaks in each region and recognise evidence of Glossy Black-Cockatoos feeding on them.

Record your data
Data on South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoos and their feed trees (i.e., sheoak trees with evidence of Glossy Black-Cockatoo feeding) can be recorded in the “South-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo” module on the Birdata website at, or using the Birdata mobile app. You can also email data to

A pair of glossy black cockatoos. Photo: Cabritis

Vale Peter Higgins

BirdLife Australia is sad to announce the passing of Peter Higgins, the driving force behind our most ambitious undertaking ever — the encyclopaedic Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB). He was 63.

Although he was born in Deniliquin, Peter grew up in Peakhurst, in suburban south-western Sydney, where the bush on the banks of the Georges River provided him with unbridled opportunities to immerse himself in nature, especially the district’s abundant birdlife.

Later, he cemented his love of birds at the University of Sydney, graduating with a Master’s Degree, focusing on the social organisation and behaviour of White-eared Honeyeaters.

In the early 1980s, Peter and his wife-to-be, Jill, headed west to spend some time as Assistant Wardens at the Eyre Bird Observatory, on the southern edge of the Nullarbor Plain, but his next stint at the RAOU (later to become BirdLife Australia) — a stint that would turn into a marathon — was where he would make his true mark.

In 1987, Peter moved to Melbourne, where the RAOU employed him as an Assistant Editor on HANZAB, under the watchful eye of the classically trained Managing Editor, Stephen Marchant. Although already an accomplished writer, Peter’s editorial skills were quickly honed under Stephen’s gaze, and he soon became Joint Editor. After two volumes of HANZAB were published, Peter took over the reins as Managing Editor for the remaining five volumes.

Leading a team of ornithological writers and compilers, harnessing their varied personalities and pointing them all in the same direction was one of his more onerous tasks, and keeping them on track was always a challenge. Nevertheless, through a combination of Peter’s diligence tempered with a healthy dose of good humour (though not necessarily patience), HANZAB continued on, despite constantly being confronted with seemingly insurmountable staffing and funding setbacks, together with ruffling a few feathers along the way. That the project was finished at all is testament to his tenacity, passion and plain hard work. All those years of late nights and early mornings finally paid off — HANZAB won numerous awards, including the prestigious Whitley Medal, and is a monument to his mammoth effort. And the ornithological world is better off for it too.

In between times, he was often called on to interrupt this hectic schedule to fill in as Acting CEO of our organisation — always a thankless task — to provide sound and thoughtful guidance.

In the late 1990s, Peter and Jill moved from Melbourne to Sawtell, on the north coast of NSW, where he continued to toil away. His epic journey on the good ship HANZAB lasted for 20 years or so, and he was one of just three people to work on all seven volumes. Along the way, he mentored numerous up-and-coming ornithologists and ecologists, some of whom have subsequently become leaders in their field. His remarkable contribution was rewarded with a Special Commendation from the Royal Zoological Society of NSW in 2016.

After HANZAB was completed, Peter turned his elite editorial skills to our flagship journal, Emu–Australasian Ornithology. As Copy Editor, his adroit edits transformed many a substandard contribution, and his thoughtful queries were reputed to be far more astute than most made by peer reviewers. Peter continued in this role for a decade or more, during which time his editorial magic played no small part in propelling Emu’s rapid rise up the journal quality rankings.

Never one to be idle, Peter was also the Convenor of BirdLife Northern NSW, a position he held for five years. During his time at the helm of this major regional branch, they organised the 2012 BirdLife Australia Congress and Campout, considered one of the most successful ever.

After his time with BirdLife Australia, Peter joined the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, where he applied the ecological knowledge that he’d gained over a lifetime to threatened species as disparate as donkey orchids and Spotted-tailed Quolls.

All this hard work makes him sound a dullard, but Peter was anything but dull. Anyone who met him instantly knew his good humour and cheerful personality, and quickly discovered what wonderful company he was, whether in the office, at the football or sitting around a campfire in the Outback.

A friend to many, a mentor to a grateful few and an unsung hero at BirdLife Australia, Peter will be remembered fondly and missed greatly.

He leaves behind his wife Jill and daughter Nell.

Tasmanian Birdlife Cull

Three states — Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania — still persist with conducting duck shooting seasons, flying in the face of high levels of disapproval by the general public. As barbaric as this pastime is, at least the native waterfowl are protected at other times of the year, outside the killing season. However, in Tasmania there is a loophole which sees thousands of native birds killed throughout the year, with the blessing of the state government. Ironically, some of the birds targeted are waterbirds that are protected from hunters during the duck shooting season.

Under what are called ‘Property Protection Permits’ (formerly Crop Protection Permits), issued by the Tasmanian Government, landholders have killed literally millions of native animals across the state since 2019, with the assumption that the wildlife being targeted is damaging property or crops.

Apart from 2.8 million wallabies, kangaroos and possums, more than 5000 Black Swans, nearly 3000 Australian Wood Ducks and 1800 Cape Barren Geese have been killed in Tasmania since 2019, as have more than 14,000 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, over 2500 Tasmanian Native-hens, 340 Green Rosellas and 560 Silvereyes. Also included in the list of birds killed legally under permit are Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, Kelp Gulls, Black and Grey Currawongs and Yellow Wattlebirds.

“The numbers are truly staggering”, said Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor of BirdLife Tasmania. “The more you look at these… numbers and [the] species involved, the more they defy logic and comprehension.”

“It’s carnage, there’s no other way to describe it — it’s carnage for our wildlife.”

Dr Woehler suspects that large numbers of some birds, particularly Black Swans, Australian Wood Ducks and Cape Barren Geese, are killed as a result of a widespread but misplaced belief among many farmers that grazing by birds has a significant impact on pasture, citing that some farmers are under the impression that a single Cape Barren Goose will eat as much grass as four sheep.

“There's always this tension that the birds are displacing the sheep from pasture, but from a biology perspective it's not possible,” he said. "I acknowledge farmers do have problems with some of these animals, but culling shouldn't be the top of the list of options.”

“Some farmers are very conservative,” he said. “I suspect it’s going to take a long time to change these practices.”

“The ‘business as usual’ approach of issuing 5-year permits to cull wildlife is as indefensible, as is the numbers of wildlife culled,” he continued. “These are convenience culls of our native wildlife.”

“Culling must be the last resort for wildlife management in Tasmania.”

Careel Creek Birds Seen This Week

photographed Thursday August 11, 2022
AJ Guesdon pictures

Dusky moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) - there is a pair of these living here now - earlier this year 3 chicks were seen

White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae

Little pied cormorant(Microcarbo melanoleucos) in foreground

Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) also known as the black-billed spoonbill, in background

Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa

The Black Duck Songline, as current Aboriginal knowledge holders confirm, travels up the South Coast from over the Victorian border to the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, passing through Pittwater and many important cultural locations of the Yuin and Dharawal peoples of the region.

National Bird Week 2022 will take place between Monday October 17 and Sunday October 23.

The celebration of National Bird Week has its origins back in the early 1900s when October 28th was first designated by BirdLife Australia's predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’. 

The Backyard Bird Count will take place during this 2022 celebration of Australian birds. To get involved all you need is 20 minutes, your favourite outdoor space (this can be your yard, local park, beach, or anywhere you can see birds), and some keen eyesight. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert — BirdLife Australia will be there to help you out. Simply record the birds you know and look up those you don’t on the ‘Aussie Bird Count’ app or their website

You’ll instantly see live statistics and information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted in your neighbourhood and the whole of Australia!

Magpie Breeding Season: Avoid The Swoop!

Residents are reporting local pairs of magpies are already starting to display signs of breeding in well-known local places they nest. The NSW Department of Environment provides a few tips to help us look after ourselves and these other local residents during the onset of the Spring breeding season.

As Spring arrives, many species of native birds are beginning to court and build nests. Across Sydney these species include the magpie, butcherbirds and noisy miners, along with all the shorebirds we are fortunate to share this beautiful place with. 

As Spring progresses some birds start protecting their hatchlings by swooping people entering their nesting territory.

The breeding season generally runs from late August through until November. It can be a stressful time for many people as favourite outdoor destinations become ‘no-go zones’ due to swooping birds. But the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) says there are simple steps people can take to avoid these unwanted close encounters of the feathery kind during spring.

“For most of the year these birds are welcome additions to our lives helping control garden pests and filling our ears with their beautiful song,” NPWS  Executive Officer of the Sydney Branch of OEH Peter Hay said.

“However, for several weeks in springtime, some of the males will swoop to defend their hatchlings, generally within 100 metres of their nest.

“They are just being responsible parents, protecting their young from perceived threats by warning us off.”

Some simple and effective steps to avoid being swooped include:
  • Try to avoid the area. Do not go back after being swooped. Australian magpies are very intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the same people if you persist on entering their nesting area.
  • Be aware of where the bird is. Most will usually swoop from behind. They are much less likely to target you if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. You can also hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping.
  • Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. Running seems to make birds swoop more. Be careful to keep a look out for swooping birds and if you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
  • If you are on your bicycle or horse, dismount. Bicycles can irritate the birds and the major cause of accidents following an encounter with a swooping bird, is falling from a bicycle. Calmly walk your bike/horse out of the nesting territory.
  • Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you and as they have a great memory this will ultimately make you a bigger target in future. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree and try to remove eggs or chicks.
  • Teach children what to do. It is important that children understand and respect native birds. Educating them about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. Its important children learn to protect their face.
“We advise people to try to avoid areas where birds are known to swoop and to be patient and as tolerant as possible.

“These are protected native birds and harassing them may likely make the problem worse as they become more distrusting of people,” Mr Hay added.
Magpie pair: live in the PON office yard and adjacent trees, July 2022

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

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.”

Possums In Your Roof?: Do The Right Thing

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Wildlife photos

Local 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

National Parks And Wildlife Amendment (Reservations) Bill 2022 Passes NSW Parliament

The National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Reservations) Bill 2022 has passed the NSW Parliament on August 11. 

The Bill revokes a total of 54.3 hectares from national parks and reserves including:
  • about 23 hectares in the Blue Mountains National Park
  • about 21.41 hectares in the Conjola National Park
  • about 0.3 hectares in the Corramy Regional Park
  • about 3.56 hectares in the Hartley Historic Site
  • about 2.35 hectares in the Limeburners Creek National Park and 
  • about 3.68 hectares in the Parma Creek Nature Reserve
The principal objective of the Bill is to revoke land from 6 reserves to enable the upgrading of highways and public roads for improving road safety and for better connecting communities. The road upgrades will be to the Great Western Highway, the Princes Highway and Maria River Road.

The bill also revokes the gazettal of land that was recently declared as the Mayingu Marrugu Aboriginal Place in the Gardens of Stone reserve. This change has occurred following feedback from the traditional custodians of the land that they wish for the area to remain as Crown land. 

The land is predominantly located next to the existing roadway and involves a widening of existing transport corridors to allow these infrastructure works to proceed. 

Under the bill the New South Wales Government will need to fund the purchase of land to compensate for this loss to the national parks estate and add it to the national parks estate. To be clear, the land purchased to compensate for the land being lost is in addition to any biodiversity offset requirements that will likely arise from the development application process.

Labor MP Kate Washington, during debate this week, stated,
''At the same time that those opposite were failing to protect land by creating national parks, they were actively stripping protections away from existing bushland. The Liberal-Nationals Government rolled back land clearing laws in New South Wales, which encouraged widespread bulldozing of native bushland and resulted in the massive loss of habitat across this State. Under this Government, land clearing in New South Wales has increased thirteen-fold. Do not think for a moment it is a coincidence. It is a direct consequence of this Government's decision to change the biodiversity conservation laws, which wound back protections for habitat and gave the green light to bulldozers. The direct and predictable consequences of the irresponsible changes to environmental protection laws that were made by this Government includes the plummeting populations of koalas and the exacerbation of the impact of climate change on ecosystems. Whilst we all like to talk about koalas, it is not just my furry friends that are now endangered. A rising number of other native species are at greater risk of becoming extinct due to this Government's irresponsible attitude when it comes to our environment.

In the State of the Environment report released recently by the new Federal Labor Government, the extensive land clearing in New South Wales over the last five years was cited as a major cause of habitat loss and fragmentation and the reason why many of Australia's native species are now listed as threatened. The report was prepared and ready for release last year under the former Federal Morrison Government, but it sat on it. It clearly realised that failing to care about the environment has political implications, as it should. Just like their former Federal counterparts, as we head into an election next year, this Liberal-Nationals Government will no doubt be seeking to hide its environmental legacy of land clearing, habitat loss and critical declines in koala populations. But I can guarantee the Government members that my Labor colleagues and I will not let the good people of this State forget this Government's legacy when it comes to our environment.

I acknowledge that Minister Kean did what he could when he was the Minister for Energy and Environment, but ultimately he did not succeed in his battle against his Coalition partners—the environmental vandals otherwise known as The National Party. It appears that the new Minister and member for Manly will have even less success. 

When Minister Griffin was asked what his priority was in the portfolio, he said he wanted to massively increase conservation activity on private land. Let us check how that is going. The Government's data reveals that land clearing approvals on privately owned land have now exceeded an astonishing half a million hectares in just four years. That is a shocking 646,418 hectares that have been approved between 2018 and April 2022. That is in addition to the many thousands of hectares of land no longer requiring formal approval because of other changes to laws and regulations made by this Government. The bill before us today will, at best, deliver the status quo in protected land. Our environment needs so much more than that and so much more than this Government.''

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle, Labor, stated:

''The bill states that the land identified as "land to be revoked" in the Blue Mountains National Park will be "about 23 hectares". I want it to be acknowledged that this is not a sliver, as has been suggested by senior Transport for NSW bureaucrats; it is a sizeable chunk. I imagine the argument put forth will be that it is necessary to forge ahead with the Great Western Highway duplication project west of Katoomba. I also imagine that it will be pointed out that the piece of land to be revoked, whilst it is national park, does not sit within the World Heritage‑listed section. The suggestion might be, therefore, that it is not such a big deal. I think it is still a big deal, and so do many in the community of the Blue Mountains—the Blue Mountains Conservation Society especially.

Labor is not opposing the bill, with the expectation that the New South Wales Government will do the right thing and that the land revoked will be replaced, like for like, with land of equal area and equal or greater environmental value. I note that the bill amends the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to revoke more than 54 hectares from national parks and reserves for priority transport projects; that national park land revocations occur regularly and are only considered as a last resort when no other practical options are available; and that there is a requirement that the lost land will be compensated. The Minister must be satisfied that appropriate compensation has been secured before the land can be revoked. I note that the Minister is in the Chamber; we will hold him to this, and so will the State.

Whilst the party I represent is not opposing the bill, as the local member for an area that will be on the receiving end of the actions that result from the bill, I want my concerns and the concerns of my community on the record. I want to know that there are protections in place for the remainder of our national park, World Heritage listed or otherwise. It seems that what is deemed as progress that meets human need always wins out in the end, often by way of large infrastructure projects like highways. I understand this to a degree, but we must all realise that the days of this kind of thinking are numbered.

I worry for my electorate because so much of the focus on getting the Great Western Highway upgraded is not at all about what is best for protecting and preserving the natural environment in the Blue Mountains. While I acknowledge the growing need for a more efficient traverse across the mountains and more practicable solutions to ease local traffic congestion, I am yet to be convinced that one of the core motivations in progressing the highway upgrades is respect for environmental sensitivities. This is starkly illustrated by the New South Wales Government's decision to opt for a review of environmental factors in the area where the land in the Blue Mountains is earmarked for revocation, rather than a full environmental impact statement.

I highlight this because it makes me question whether we really know enough about the land in the Blue Mountains that is set to be revoked. Do we know that there are no vulnerable species living there? Do we know the full impacts on things like groundwater run‑off and nearby swamps? We are essentially being asked to trust in the process of taking something away and giving something back, but I would feel more inclined to trust in this if I had any trust in the Government. Let us not forget that Blue Mountains National Park has already lost millions of hectares and wildlife from the 2019‑20 bushfires and from the impacts of several major flooding incidents.

I would also like to understand what assurances, if any, will be in place to protect the surrounding national park and World Heritage national park as this highway project ploughs ahead. I want to know that a precedent of sorts is not being set here. I want to know that, if this piece of our park must be revoked, it will not pave the way for further revocations at a later date because another project has been deemed more important than the unique environment in which we live. Our national parks are essential to us all, both locally and globally. They support broader conservation and anchor ecosystems. They are home to Indigenous cultural heritage, and they provide habitat for wildlife and plant life.''

MP for Manly and NSW Environment Minister James Griffin confirmed new lands would be added to the reserves system without specifying where.

''The National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Reservations) Bill 2022 proposes to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to remove a small area of land from the reserve system—only 54 hectares, which is less than one square kilometre—from six parks and reserves.'' Mr. Griffin said during debate of the Bill.

''Compensatory lands will be of suitable biodiversity or other conservation values. Importantly, the bill includes a safety net to ensure that appropriate compensation must be approved by the Minister for Environment and Heritage before any of the revoked lands are transferred to the relevant road authority.'' 

'' It is important to recognise that none of the land being revoked sits within the Blue Mountains World Heritage area, and I can assure the member for the Blue Mountains that appropriate compensation will be provided and transferred into parks. I also note that since 2019 this Government has increased the New South Wales protected area network by over 441,000 hectares. 

All the bill does is recognise that from time to time park boundaries require routine adjustment to correct historical areas, address encroachments and enable significant infrastructure projects to proceed. At the core of this, appropriate transfers and compensation will be identified and provided to the particular parks where an impact is being felt.'' Mr. Griffin said.

NSW Department Of Planning Announces New Chief Executive Secured For NSW Land And Housing Corporation

August 9, 2022
Simon Newport has been named the new Chief Executive of the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, leading the team responsible for the largest housing portfolio in Australia, comprising some 125,000 property assets worth more than $51 billion.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment Secretary Mick Cassel said Mr Newport was an experienced executive with more than 30 years in the construction, finance and housing industries, most recently as Acting Chief Executive at the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO).

“The NSW Land and Housing Corporation has a mandate to grow and manage the largest social housing portfolio in Australia, and to be an industry leader in providing social housing that is well designed and located, affordable, safe, and well maintained,” Mr Cassel said.

“LAHC is innovating housing to deliver more keys in doors for people in need, but housing is more just than having a roof over people’s heads – it’s also about safe and appropriate accommodation close to transport, shops and local services, and community support.

“I’m delighted we’ve secured a leader with Simon’s capability, experience, and passion for social housing, demonstrated most recently where he led AHO’s economic stimulus and recovery programs over the past 18 months, delivering more homes, upgrades and jobs for the Aboriginal community in NSW.

“With Simon at the helm, the AHO recently secured more than $200 million of additional Budget investment in Aboriginal housing and support services.”

Mr Cassel said LAHC, including supporting teacher and police housing, had been allocated more than $1.3 billion over the past 2 years to invest in new and upgraded housing - to respond to COVID-19, floods, and housing needs across the State.

“This funding is delivering 2,295 social homes, over 28,000 upgraded homes through capital maintenance, new and refurbished key worker homes in remote and regional areas, 1,800 private market homes, and 1,000 vacant land lots.

“I also want to acknowledge the work of Deb Brill who, from late December 2021, has acted in the role of Chief Executive at LAHC. Deb has been integral in shaping the LAHC business, working with me to reposition LAHC as an innovative agency. Deb’s knowledge and passion for social housing are well known and highly respected across the sector,” he said.

Mr Newport said he was thrilled to join LAHC at such a critical time for the agency.

“I’m excited to work with a great team at LAHC to continue to ensure the delivery of the right types of housing, at the right time, in the right places for people in need across NSW.

“With housing pressures front of mind right across Australia, the quality and innovation of our maintenance, delivery, policy and partnership work remains vital to ensure safe and secure housing for people and families in need,” he said.

Simon Newport will commence in the role of Chief Executive, Land and Housing Corporation, on 15 August.

For more information about the Land and Housing Corporation visit

Applications Now Open For 2022 Gone Fishing Day Grants

NSW Gone Fishing Day is back for 2022 and recreational fishing clubs and organisations are encouraged to apply for grants to host fishing activities on Sunday October 9th.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Deputy Director General Fisheries Sean Sloan said applications for grants of up to $2,000, as well as Gone Fishing Day packages to help host a local Gone Fishing Day event are now open until Tuesday September 6th, 2022.

“Recreational fishing clubs, organisations and community groups are eligible to apply for grants of up to $2,000 to purchase items required to run Gone Fishing Day events, such as casting and fishing workshops and information sessions, on or around 9 October 2022.

“The grants can be used to purchase fishing gear, bait, food and soft drinks and equipment hire etc.

“Activities to restore fish habitat, through replanting and/or weeding creek banks, on Gone Fishing Day are also eligible to apply.

“Clubs can also apply for Gone Fishing Day packages consisting of rod and reel sets, bags, giveaways and advisory information for participants attending events,” Mr Sloan said.

Gone Fishing Day events and activities are supported by NSW DPI and the Recreational Fishing Trust and is a part of a national initiative organised by the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation.

“Gone Fishing Day is a great way for the state’s one million fishers to connect and introduce their friends and family to their valued pastime,” Mr Sloan said.

“It doesn't matter if you haven't fished before or if you're the keenest of anglers, Gone Fishing Day is for everyone.”

DPI will also be hosting free community fishing events at Ballina, Lake Macquarie, Batemans Bay, Sydney, Narrabri and Cowra on Sunday 9 October to encourage everyone to get on the water and wet a line.

Application forms and grant funding guidelines are available on the Gone Fishing NSW Day page.

Minister Officially Opens Koala Hospital

August 11, 2022
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek has today officially opened the Port Stephens Koala Hospital, reaffirming the Australian Government’s commitment to Koala conservation.

In recent years, the cumulative impacts of climate change, disease, and habitat loss have caused a drastic decline in population numbers of Koalas, which are now listed as endangered in some states under national environment law.

This decline was accelerated by the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, which impacted 3.7 million hectares of Koala habitat on Australia’s east coast.

In response, the Australian Government is taking action to protect this iconic species and has committed nearly $76 million to Koala conservation over the next four years.

Most recently, the Australian Government committed $24.5 million towards Koala conservation under the $224.5 million Saving Native Species Program.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said:

“I am excited to be opening the Port Stephens Koala Hospital and to see first-hand the work that is being done to protect and revive this iconic species,” Minister Plibersek said.

“It’s hard to imagine Australia without koalas. But because of habitat destruction, climate change and disease, they’re at genuine risk of extinction.

“Last month, I released the State of the Environment Report. It showed that, in the past five years, the number of threatened ecological communities in Australia had grown by another twenty percent – while the number of threatened species had grown by almost ten percent.

“The Australian Government is determined to protect Australian species from the ongoing threat of extinction. That’s why we’ve committed $224.5 million to establish the Saving Native Species Program, that will boost protection for native species including the Koala, combat invasive species, and improve conservation planning.”

$1.27 Million To Bolster Energy Storage In The Hunter

August 10, 2022
The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy
Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson

The Albanese Government is boosting renewable energy technology by supporting a ground-breaking thermal energy storage project in the Hunter to support the energy transformation.

Through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) the government is providing $1.27 million to Newcastle-based company MGA Thermal to develop a 5 MWh thermal energy storage system.

The $2.85 million project will see the construction of a pilot unit to showcase steam generation from stored thermal energy with the capacity to provide a new form of medium-term energy storage.

As Australia ramps up renewable generation such as wind and solar, we will need more energy storage to deliver secure and affordable renewable energy for Australian businesses and households.

The government’s funding will help take this technology from lab to market.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, on a visit to the MGA Thermal manufacturing site near Newcastle with local member Meryl Swanson, said the government was proud to be supporting a local Newcastle company.

“MGA Thermal is a wonderful example of Australian know-how leading the way in the rapidly expanding renewables sector,” he said.

“The company’s unique technology has the potential to make major advances in medium-term storage that are vital for decarbonising industrial energy use and electricity generation in Australia and the world.”

“ARENA makes it possible for Australians to invest in ground-breaking projects like MGA Thermal, which is why the Albanese Government is committed to protecting and strengthening the agency.”

Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson, who accompanied Minister Bowen on the visit, said the trail-blazing project by MGA Thermal in Newcastle would stimulate the local economy and create employment.

“This project will have many positive knock-on effects for the region, including delivering 22 high-skill full-time jobs,” she said.

“MGA Thermal is a spin-off from the University of Newcastle and its latest breakthrough highlights the Hunter’s growing dual reputation as a leading research hub and a regional energy powerhouse.”

The project uses MGA Thermal’s proprietary Miscibility Gap Alloy technology, a unique material to store heat for days with minimal energy loss. The government’s funding will help take this technology from lab to market.

Last month the Government introduced regulations to ensure ARENA could remain focused on supporting next generation renewable and related technologies like electrification. These steps are helping to back technologies that industry and other energy users will need for the energy transformation underway. 

Queensland's Renewable Energy Sector Gets $160m Boost

August 11, 2022
The Australian and Queensland governments have inked a landmark agreement to fast-track connection of the country’s largest wind farm precinct to the National Electricity Market.

The $160 million commitment from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) for the Southern Downs Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) will help power 700,000 Queensland homes and create hundreds of local jobs.

Powerlink, a Queensland Government company, will use the finance to build and operate 65 km of high voltage overhead transmission lines and two new switching stations.

The new infrastructure will connect power generated from the region’s rich wind resources to the grid, providing additional network capacity of up to 1000MW, adding to the proposed 1000MW of renewable plant capacity to support the MacIntyre Wind Precinct. 

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said the CEFC finance would help deliver more renewable energy to households and businesses in southern Queensland, and the east-coast states of Australia.

“The best way to put downward pressure on energy prices is to ramp up investment in renewables, transmission and storage and that is exactly what this $160 million commitment will do,” he said.

“After a decade of energy chaos from the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Governments – the Albanese Government is getting on with the job and working with all states and territories, including Queensland, on the essential energy infrastructure we need.

“We are delivering on our Powering Australia plan which includes a major boost to renewable energy supplies to help create jobs and reduce emissions across the nation.”

This is the first account between a Queensland Government owned company and the CEFC, and it will be helping to establish one of the largest wind project in the southern hemisphere.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the agreement demonstrated how working together can help the nation achieve energy independence.

“Connecting the massive project to the national grid not only unlocks $2 billion worth of investment, it also boosts reliability of power across the three east Australian states, with clean Queensland-made energy,” he said.

“It also presents another opportunity to build onshore capability and skill Queenslanders for renewable energy jobs of the future.

“This model also connects cheaper renewable generation in a way that minimises costs and risks for Queensland businesses and households.”

Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) CEO Andrew Richards said the model should be replicated across Australia.

“This model fundamentally changes the way that transmission businesses are looking at delivering this type of infrastructure,” he said. 

It’s fantastic and we want to see more of them adopt this approach across the country.”

Santos’ Pipeline Purchase Faces Massive Hurdles As Landholders Line Up Against It

August 11, 2022
Oil and gas giant Santos is set to stir up a hornet’s nest of fierce opposition after it purchased the rights to build the Queensland-Hunter Gas Pipeline, which would run through the Liverpool Plains on the way to the Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga.

With hundreds of landowners along the existing pipeline route organised and ready to defend their businesses and the region’s high quality soils from the destructive pipeline, the company will need both state government's to override these residents to proceed.

Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord spokesperson and beef farmer Margaret Fleck said “The previous owners of the Hunter Gas Pipeline knew the fight they were in for, so it’s no wonder they were all too happy to offload this poisoned chalice onto Santos.”

“We estimate there are at least 800 properties in NSW alone that would be impacted if this destructive pipeline is built, and all along its proposed route, farmers and communities have formed grassroots groups to prevent its construction.

“It is totally inappropriate and downright dangerous for any company to build a high pressure gas pipeline through the vertosol soils of the Liverpool Plains. These soils crack and swell, and they also happen to be some of the best soils for food and fibre production in the state.

“This also proves Santos’ intent to rip apart the Liverpool Plains with hundreds of new gaswells, with the company recently announcing plans to conduct seismic testing in the world-renowned foodbowl.

“There’s also no incentive for regional towns to link to ‘offtake points’ along the route as Santos claims because it would cost councils millions of dollars in infrastructure cost that will leave these councils holding a very expensive, stranded asset.”

Quirindi farmer Peter Wills, who has a property likely to be impacted by the pipeline said, “Santos needs to drastically reconsider its expectations if it thinks it can build a high pressure gas pipeline through the Liverpool Plains while it is already trying to explore for coal seam gas here.

“Santos has made it ten times harder for itself by already announcing its intentions to once again explore for gas in the Liverpool Plains, more than a decade after this community rejected its last advances and drove Santos out of town."

Lock the Gate National Coordinator Carmel Flint said, “Santos is the architect of the gas crisis currently besetting the East Coast - its gas exports have resulted in our domestic gas being funnelled overseas and have driven up prices here to astronomical highs.

“The only solution to volatile gas markets and profiteering gas giants is to switch to renewables now - more gasfields will damage land and water and won’t do anything about high gas prices which are caused by cartel-like behaviour by gas companies, including Santos."

QLD Farmers Given Just Days To Respond To Massive Gas Threat

Darling Downs farmers are crying foul after they were given just 15 business days to read and respond to a nearly 500 page application by coal seam gas company Arrow Energy to drill deviated wells on some of the state’s most productive agricultural land.

If approved, the regional interests development approval (RIDA) application by Shell and PetroChina owned Arrow Energy would allow the company to drill deviated CSG wells on land in the Ducklo area south west of Dalby - a district renowned for its world class cropping.

The move comes after Arrow was fined $1 million in March this year for ignoring land access laws and illegally drilling deviated wells beneath farmers’ land.

Arrow applied for a RIDA on July 21 last year, however was later served a noncompliance letter after it was unable to provide sufficient information to the Queensland Government.

Even though the farms Arrow is targeting for unconventional gas drilling are classed as priority agricultural land and strategic cropping land, Queensland laws do little to protect it. In fact, an Environmental Defenders Office analysis recently showed that since the Regional Planning Interest Act was created in 2014, not one RIDA application to drill for CSG in priority agricultural areas has been rejected.

Chinchilla landholder advocate and Chair of Property Rights Australia Shay Dougall said Arrow Energy was once again treating farmers and Australia’s best agricultural land with disdain.

“Farmers can’t be expected to wade through, let alone respond to a document of this size and importance in just 15 days while they are trying to put food on the table for Queenslanders,” she said. 

“We’re facing a food supply crisis and an energy crisis, yet in Queensland the Palaszczuk Labor Government is happy to sacrifice farms so companies like Arrow can rip the gas and water out from under our feet and send it overseas to the highest bidder.

“We’ve requested an urgent extension to the 15 business day timeframe; this is the one opportunity that these farmers have to influence the state’s decision on these CSG activities and the impact they have on their businesses.

“A 15 day timeframe for a meaningful contribution is absurd.

“The Palaszczuk Government must put the spirit and intention of the RPIA into action so priority agricultural land is preserved. It must not blindly follow arbitrary dates that would only serve to appease Arrow Energy.”

Submissions in response to Arrow’s RIDA are due by August 15.

Historic new deal puts emissions reduction at the heart of Australia’s energy sector

Madeline TaylorMacquarie University

Australia’s energy ministers on Friday voted to make emissions reduction a key national energy goal, in a major step forward in the clean energy transition.

Federal, state and territory energy ministers agreed to include emissions in what’s known as the “national energy objectives”. The objectives guide rule-making and other decisions concerning electricity, retail energy and gas.

Announcing the deal on Friday, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said it was the first change to the objectives in 15 years. He added:

This is important, it sends a very clear direction to our energy market operators, that they must include emissions reductions in the work that they do … Australia is determined to reduce emissions, and we welcome investment to achieve it and we will provide a stable and certain policy framework.

The agreement comes not a moment too soon. To meet Australia’s net-zero goals, variable renewable energy capacity must increase nine-fold by 2050. That means doubling Australia’s renewables capacity every decade. So let’s take a closer look at what the deal means.

Prioritising Emissions Reduction

A body called the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) makes the rules for the electricity and gas market. It must refer to the national energy objectives to guide the formation of these rules.

The exclusion of emissions from the objectives meant the commission did not have to consider the long-term climate implications of the rules it set. Instead, the objectives mostly meant the commission considered the price, quality, safety, reliability and security of energy.

This limited scope meant some investment decisions by the commission were based on short-term economic grounds. For example, these old regulations required a transmission company to maintain diesel generators rather than build a world-first clean energy mini-grid near Broken Hill, New South Wales.

Other jurisdictions worldwide already include sustainability objectives in electricity laws.

For example, a principal objective of the United Kingdom’s Electricity Act 1989 requires officials to protect the interests of existing and future consumers. The first listed priority is the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity supply.

What Has Its Exclusion Meant For Projects?

The environment used to be included in the objectives, but the Howard government removed it more than two decades ago. The move was a major setback for climate action and the transition to renewable energy.

The energy market operator may consider the environmental or energy policies of participating jurisdictions to identify effects on the power system. But Friday’s deal means consideration of emissions would no longer be optional for the commission.

The traditional principles of efficiency and reliability are, of course, still crucial to energy systems. Yet, the ongoing energy crisis shows we must invest in a suite of technologies to reach net-zero goals while assuring future energy security.

Sheep beside solar panels
Consideration of emissions will no longer be optional. Shutterstock

Ensuring The Transition Is Fair

Including emissions in investment decisions is crucial for planning the future of the National Electricity Market. Some states are making excellent progress.

For example, New South Wales has mapped five “renewable energy zones” to replace ageing coal-fired generators. The roadmap’s objectives explicitly include improving “the affordability, reliability, security and sustainability of electricity supply”.

A successful energy transition must also consider society’s values. This includes consulting with landholders and communities about developing renewable energy projects on their land.

Making sure Australia’s transition is fair for everyone means prioritising people and their involvement. It also means getting a social licence for energy industry decisions.

The requirement to consider emissions in energy investment decisions may create further incentives for energy bodies to consider societal impacts. This is also reflected in Friday’s ministerial commitment to work on a co-designed First Nations clean energy strategy.

Considering climate impacts in energy financing and planning decisions is also crucial to the resilience of our energy systems. It will help ensure we don’t see a repeat of the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-2020, when entire sections of the national grid were destroyed.

Aligning With Our Long-Term Interests

This is a momentous period for Australia’s energy policy. The new federal government recently established Australia’s first offshore wind zone and is close to enshrining an emissions target in legislation. All this signals a long-needed embrace of the energy transition towards net zero.

This latest change increases this momentum. Importantly, it sends a direct signal for more investment net-zero technologies.

The international COP27 climate conference is due in November and Australia wants to co-host COP29 in 2024 with our Pacific Island neighbours. With that in mind, our regulation must reflect our commitment to the energy transition – and this new deal is a crucially important step.The Conversation

Madeline Taylor, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University

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

Beyond net-zero: we should, if we can, cool the planet back to pre-industrial levels

Marc Pell/UnsplashCC BY
Andrew KingThe University of MelbourneCelia McMichaelThe University of MelbourneHarry McClellandThe University of MelbourneJacqueline PeelThe University of MelbourneKale SnidermanThe University of MelbourneKathryn BowenThe University of MelbourneTilo ZiehnCSIRO, and Zebedee NichollsThe University of Melbourne

The world’s focus is sharply fixed on achieving net-zero emissions, yet surprisingly little thought has been given to what comes afterwards. In our new paper, published today in Nature Climate Change, we discuss the big unknowns in a post net-zero world.

It’s vital that we understand the consequences of our choices when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and what comes next. The pathways we choose before and after reaching global net-zero emissions might mean the difference between a planet that remains habitable and one where many parts become inhospitable.

At the moment, human activities have a warming effect on the planet. But achieving our climate policy goals would take humanity into the uncharted territory of being able to cool the planet.

Being able to cool the planet raises a number of questions. Principally, how fast would we want the planet to cool, and what global average temperature should we aim for?

How Are Our Emissions Changing?

Our collective greenhouse gas emissions have warmed the planet about 1.2℃, relative to pre-industrial temperatures. In fact, despite all the talk about reducing emissions, global carbon dioxide emissions are at near-record levels.

Emissions have rebounded following the reductions seen during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Looking back further we can see that carbon dioxide emissions have roughly quadrupled since 1960. Global Carbon Project

Some countries have successfully reduced their greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, such as the United Kingdom which has halved greenhouse gas emissions relative to 1990.

There is also greater push from major emitters such as the United States and the European Union – as well as countries that emit less but already experience climate change impacts – to take stronger steps to limit the damage we are doing to the climate.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching net-zero are humanity’s greatest challenges. As long as greenhouse gas emissions remain substantially above net-zero we will continue to warm the planet.

To be in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels this century, we need to drastically reduce our emissions.

We also need to increase our uptake of carbon from the atmosphere through developing and implementing drawdown technology.

What Will Come After Net-Zero?

Net-zero emissions will be reached when humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere are balanced by their removal from the atmosphere. We would likely need to reach global net-zero well within the next 50 years to keep global warming well below 2℃.

If we achieve this, we could continue the process of decarbonisation to reach net-negative greenhouse gas emissions – where more of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are removed from the atmosphere than released into it.

This would need to be achieved through a combination of “negative emissions” technologies, likely including some not invented yet, and land use changes such as reforestation.

Continued net-negative emissions will cause the planet to cool as greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere fall. This is because the greenhouse effect, where gases such as carbon dioxide absorb radiation from Earth and warm the atmosphere, would weaken.

Currently, there’s almost no focus from governments, or indeed scientists, on the consequences of meeting our policy goals and going beyond net-zero. But this would be a turning point as the world would begin to cool.

Land would cool faster than the ocean. Indeed, some people may experience substantial cooling over their lifetimes – an unfamiliar concept to grasp in our warming climate.

These changes would be accompanied by effects on weather extremes and impacts to weather and climate-sensitive industries. While there’s not much research on this yet, we could, for example, see shipping routes close up as ice regrows in polar regions.

In the long-term, the best target global temperature for the planet might be something akin to a pre-industrial climate, with the human effect on Earth’s climate receding.

In our paper we call for a new set of climate model experiments that allow us to understand the range of possible future climates after net-zero.

Any decisions must be informed by an understanding of the consequences of different choices for a post net-zero climate. For example, competing interests between countries and industries may make global agreements more challenging in a post net-zero world.

The Earth has warmed to date but after achieving net-zero emissions it will cool. We need new climate model simulations to understand this. Observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) comes from the Berkeley Earth dataset. The red, orange and blue lines illustrate possible scenarios for a post net-zero climate for which we wish to understand the implications. Author provided

Why Does This Matter Now?

Reading this article, you may feel we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After all, as highlighted, global greenhouse gas emissions remain at near-record highs.

A key factor that will affect the behaviour of the climate system after net-zero emissions would be the maximum level of global warming that we peak at. This is dictated by our current and near-future emissions.

If we fail to meet the Paris Agreement and peak global warming reaches 2℃ or more, then future generations will endure the effects of higher sea levels and other possible disastrous climate changes for many centuries to come.

Our understanding of post net-zero impacts of different peak levels of global warming is extremely limited.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through decarbonisation remains our key priority. The more we can suppress global warming by reaching net-zero emissions as early as possible, the more we limit potential disastrous effects and the need to cool the planet in a post net-zero world. The Conversation

Andrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of MelbourneCelia McMichael, Senior Lecturer in Geography, The University of MelbourneHarry McClelland, Lecturer in Geomicrobiology, The University of MelbourneJacqueline Peel, Director, Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of MelbourneKale Sniderman, Senior Research Fellow, The University of MelbourneKathryn Bowen, Professor - Environment, Climate and Global Health at Melbourne Climate Futures and Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, The University of MelbourneTilo Ziehn, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, and Zebedee Nicholls, Research Fellow at The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of Melbourne

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

These unusual moths migrate over thousands of kilometres. We tracked them to reveal their secret navigational skills

Christian Ziegler Max Planck Institute of Animal BehaviorAuthor provided
Myles MenzJames Cook University and Martin WikelskiMax Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Migratory insects number in the trillions. They’re a major part of global ecosystems, helping to transport nutrients and pollen across continents – and often travelling thousands of kilometres in the process.

It had long been thought migrating insects largely go wherever the wind blows. But there’s mounting evidence they’re actually great navigators and can select favourable conditions to undertake their journeys.

One outstanding question for experts has been how they react to varying wind conditions while en route. In research published today in Science, we show one migratory insect species, the death’s-head hawkmoth, can maintain a perfectly straight flight path. These moths are able to adjust their trajectory to compensate for rough wind conditions.

Tiny Transmitters

Much of our knowledge of insect migration comes from direct observations. These include observations made using radar, or studies of population processes, such as using genetic methods, or measuring ratios of isotopes in tissues (which can reveal insects’ food and water sources and provide information on where they come from).

How individual insects behave, and the paths they take, during migration has been relatively difficult to study, mostly due to their small size and the sheer number of them. But recent advances in tracking technology have helped produce transmitters small enough to be carried by larger insects.

These transmitters weigh less than a gram and can be attached to individual insects. This allows us to track them directly as they migrate and learn what this process involves.

Migratory Moths

Our study focused on the death’s-head hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos), an enigmatic moth found in Europe and Africa. The species is well known for the unusual skull-like marking on its thorax. When disturbed, it also has the habit of squeaking and flashing its bright-yellow abdomen.

The moth feeds on honey it steals from honeybee hives, entering the hive and piercing the honeycomb with its stout proboscis (its feeding tube).

While we know this species occurs in Europe, little is understood about its migratory behaviour and where it spends the winter. Adult moths tend to appear in Europe during spring (May to June), and the next generation of adults sets out in autumn (August to October) – likely making its way to the Mediterranean or North Africa, and perhaps as far as south of the Sahara.

It’s thought the species is unable to spend winter north of the Alps, so its migration is probably driven by low temperature and resource availability.

Tracking In The Dark

For our research, we tracked 14 moths for up to four hours each – a stretch of time long enough to be considered migratory flight.

We fitted each individual with a tiny radio transmitter, weighing less than 0.3g, before releasing them. A Cessna aeroplane with receiving antennas flew after them as they migrated, detecting their precise location every five to 15 minutes. This method gave us in-depth insight into their flight behaviour.

A map depicting a highlighted moth flightpath through Germany.
The moths were followed from Konstanz, Germany, into the Alps. Max Planck Institute of Animal BehaviourAuthor provided

Radio tracking has successfully been used to investigate the migration of some day-flying insects, such as the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and green darner dragonfly (Anax junius). However, it has never been used on nocturnal insects in the wild, or at this resolution.

In fact, our research marks the longest distance any insect has ever been continuously tracked in the field.

A shot of a plane from the side.
A Cessna aircraft was fitted with antennas and flown in circles in the air to home in on the radio signal. Max Planck Institute of Animal BehaviourAuthor provided

Making A Bee-Line

So what do moths do on migration? To our surprise, we found they flew along very straight paths, effectively making a bee-line for their destination. Some of the longest tracks reached nearly 90km over a period of four hours. This is a fascinating finding as such straight tracks are very uncommon in long-range migratory animals.

The moths also showed distinct strategies to deal with different wind conditions. When there were favourable tailwinds (winds going in the same direction as them) they flew downwind and were propelled towards their destination, or offset their heading slightly to maintain control of their trajectory.

In unfavourable conditions, such as headwinds (coming from the front) and crosswinds (from the side), the moths flew low to the ground and directly into the headwinds, adjusting their trajectory to avoid drifting off course. They also increased their speed to stay in control.

This remarkable ability to stay on course, even in unfavourable conditions, indicates the death’s-head hawkmoth has sophisticated compass mechanisms.

A researcher holds up his hand, while a yellow moth flies away in front of him.
Our research team reared the caterpillars into adulthood in a laboratory, before releasing the moths at dusk. Christian Ziegler/Max Planck Institute of Animal BehaviorAuthor provided

Where To Next?

We’ve shown insects are capable of being expert navigators, on par with birds, and aren’t at the whim of the winds as we once thought. This is an important discovery in migration science.

That said, there’s still a huge amount we don’t know about how insects migrate and where they go. The next step will be to understand exactly what mechanisms these moths use to stay on their path. For instance, are they following the Earth’s magnetic field? Or perhaps relying heavily on visual cues?

The more we understand, the closer we can get to being able to predict the phenomena of insect migration. And this would have broad implications – from managing threatened species and species with agricultural benefits, to having better control over agricultural pests. The Conversation

Myles Menz, Lecturer, Zoology and Ecology, James Cook University and Martin Wikelski, , Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

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

Thousands more species at risk of extinction than currently recorded, suggests new study

Amphibian species are particularly at risk. elementals / shutterstock
Lilly P. HarveyNottingham Trent University

New research suggests the extinction crisis may be even worse than we thought. More than half of species that have so far evaded any official conservation assessment are threatened with extinction, according to predictions by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Conservation resources are limited and it is not feasible or logical to protect every square kilometre of land and sea. So to mitigate the rapid loss of biodiversity, where should our conservation resources go? To answer this question we first need to know which species to protect.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature coordinates a network of scientists who have assessed biological information available for all sorts of species worldwide for more than 50 years, publishing their findings in the Red List of Threatened Species. Its goal has been to identify species that need protection with an assigned conservation category of extinction risk.

It’s the Red List that confirmed tigers are officially endangered, for instance, or that giant panda populations have recovered enough to move from endangered to merely vulnerable.

However, while species like pandas and tigers are well studied, researchers don’t know enough about some species to properly assess their conservation status. These “data deficient” species make up around 17% of the nearly 150,000 species currently assessed.

When analysing conservation data it is common for researchers to remove or underestimate assumptions of threat for these species, in order to control for unknown variations or misjudgements. Now, these researchers in Norway have tried to shed light on the black hole of unknown extinction risk by designing a machine learning model that predicts the threat of extinction for these data deficient species.

Machine Learning For Extinction Assessment

When thinking of artificial intelligence and machine learning it is easy to imagine robots, computer-simulations and facial recognition. In reality, at least in ecological science, machine learning is simply an analytical tool used to run thousands of calculations to best represent the real-world data we have.

In this case, the Norwegian researchers simplified the Red List extinction categories into a “binary classifier” model to predict a probability of whether data deficient species are likely “threatened” or “not threatened” by extinction. The model algorithm has “learned” from mathematical patterns found in biological and bioclimatic data of those species with an already assigned conservation category on the Red List.

Giant Panda webpage on IUCN Red List
The Red List assigns each species in one of seven conservation categories, or tags them as ‘not evaluated’ or ‘data deficient’. IUCN Red List

They found more than half (56%) of the data deficient species are predicted to be threatened, which is double the 28% of total species currently evaluated as threatened in Red List. This reinforces the concern that data deficient species are not only under-researched, but are at risk of being lost forever.

On land, these likely threatened terrestrial species are found across all continents, but live in small geographically restricted areas. This finding supports previous research with similar conclusions that species with small range sizes are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic habitat degradation, such as deforestation or urbanisation.

At Risk Amphibians

Amphibians are the most at-risk group, with 85% of those data deficient species predicted as threatened (compared to 41% of those currently evaluated on the Red List). Amphibians are already a poster-child for the extinction crisis and are a key indicator for ecological health, as they depend on both land and water. We don’t know enough about what causes such catastrophic extinction of amphibians, and I am part of a science initiative trying to address the problem.

Black and yellow toad on green leaf
Dozens of harlequin toad species in Central and South America have been discovered and almost all are already critically endangered or extinct in only a few decades. goran_safarek / shutterstock

It’s a slightly different, but still tragic, story at sea. Data deficient marine species that are predicted to be facing extinction are concentrated along coasts, particularly in south-eastern Asia, the eastern Atlantic coastline and in the Mediterranean. When data deficient species are combined with fully-assessed species on the Red List, there is a 20% increase in the probability of extinction along the eastern coastlines of tropical Latin America.

What This Means For Global Conservation

Two world maps
How data deficient species change conservation priorities: percent change in probability of a species being threatened by extinction once data deficient species are factored in. (a = marine species; b = non-marine) Borgelt et al / Communications Biology

Though it is likely that the need for conservation has actually been underestimated worldwide these probability predictions are highly variable across different areas and groups of species, so don’t be fooled into overgeneralising these findings. But these broad results do highlight why it is so important to further investigate data deficient species.

The use of machine learning tools can be a time-and-cost-effective way to enhance the Red List and help overcome the challenging decision of where and what to protect, aiding targeted conservation action and expanding protected areas in these black holes of biodiversity.The Conversation

Lilly P. Harvey, PhD Researcher, Environmental Science, Nottingham Trent University

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

How centuries of self-isolation turned Japan into one of the most sustainable societies on Earth

‘Lower Meguro (Shimo Meguro)’, artist: Katsushika Hokusai, c1830–32. The Met Museum
Hiroko OeBournemouth University

At the start of the 1600s, Japan’s rulers feared that Christianity – which had recently been introduced to the southern parts of the country by European missionaries – would spread. In response, they effectively sealed the islands off from the outside world in 1603, with Japanese people not allowed to leave and very few foreigners allowed in. This became known as Japan’s Edo period, and the borders remained closed for almost three centuries until 1868.

This allowed the country’s unique culture, customs and ways of life to flourish in isolation, much of which was recorded in art forms that remain alive today such as haiku poetry or kabuki theatre. It also meant that Japanese people, living under a system of heavy trade restrictions, had to rely totally on the materials already present within the country which created a thriving economy of reuse and recycling). In fact, Japan was self-sufficient in resources, energy and food and sustained a population of up to 30 million, all without the use of fossil fuels or chemical fertilisers.

The people of the Edo period lived according to what is now known as the “slow life”, a sustainable set of lifestyle practices based around wasting as little as possible. Even light didn’t go to waste – daily activities started at sunrise and ended at sunset.

Clothes were mended and reused many times until they ended up as tattered rags. Human ashes and excrement were reused as fertiliser, leading to a thriving business for traders who went door to door collecting these precious substances to sell on to farmers. We could call this an early circular economy.

Painting of people washing in a river
Washing in a river – Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Another characteristic of the slow life was its use of seasonal time, meaning that ways of measuring time shifted along with the seasons. In pre-modern China and Japan, the 12 zodiac signs (known in Japanese as juni-shiki) were used to divide the day into 12 sections of about two hours each. The length of these sections varied depending on changing sunrise and sunset times.

During the Edo period, a similar system was used to divide the time between sunrise and sunset into six parts. As a result, an “hour” differed hugely depending on whether it was measured during summer, winter, night or day. The idea of regulating life by unchanging time units like minutes and seconds simply didn’t exist.

Instead, Edo people – who wouldn’t have owned clocks – judged time by the sound of bells installed in castles and temples. Allowing the natural world to dictate life in this way gave rise to a sensitivity to the seasons and their abundant natural riches, helping to develop an environmentally friendly set of cultural values.

Working With Nature

From the mid-Edo period onwards, rural industries – including cotton cloth and oil production, silkworm farming, paper-making and sake and miso paste production – began to flourish. People held seasonal festivals with a rich and diverse range of local foods, wishing for fertility during cherry blossom season and commemorating the harvests of the autumn.

This unique, eco-friendly social system came about partly due to necessity, but also due to the profound cultural experience of living in close harmony with nature. This needs to be recaptured in the modern age in order to achieve a more sustainable culture – and there are some modern-day activities that can help.

For instance zazen, or “sitting meditation”, is a practice from Buddhism that can help people carve out a space of peace and quiet to experience the sensations of nature. These days, a number of urban temples offer zazen sessions.

Lady meditates in forest
You don’t need water to go forest bathing. Palatinate Stock / shutterstock

The second example is “forest bathing”, a term coined by the director general of Japan’s forestry agency in 1982. There are many different styles of forest bathing, but the most popular form involves spending screen-free time immersed in the peace of a forest environment. Activities like these can help develop an appreciation for the rhythms of nature that can in turn lead us towards a more sustainable lifestyle – one which residents of Edo Japan might appreciate.

In an age when the need for more sustainable lifestyles has become a global issue, we should respect the wisdom of the Edo people who lived with time as it changed with the seasons, who cherished materials and used the wisdom of reuse as a matter of course, and who realised a recycling-oriented lifestyle for many years. Learning from their way of life could provide us with effective guidelines for the future.The Conversation

Hiroko Oe, Principal Academic, Bournemouth University

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

The world’s biggest ice sheet is more vulnerable to global warming than scientists previously thought

titoOnz / shutterstock
Chris StokesDurham University and Guy PaxmanDurham University

The eastern two thirds of Antarctica is covered by an ice sheet so large that if it melted the sea would rise by 52 metres. Most scientists had once thought this ice sheet was largely invulnerable to climate change, but not any more. And our new research, published in Nature, reveals the dire consequences if we were to awaken Antarctica’s sleeping giant.

Almost 70% of the Earth’s fresh water is frozen in vast continental ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica. Together, they store the equivalent of around 65 metres of sea level rise. Hence, even relatively small changes in the volume of these remote polar ice sheets will have a global impact. An estimated 1 billion people live within 10 metres of sea level, including 230 million within 1 metre.

Scientists measure changes in the volume of these ice sheets by estimating the mass input, mostly via snowfall, and the mass output, mostly melting snow and ice along with icebergs that break off and float away. The difference between input and output is known as the ice sheet’s “mass balance”, which is highly sensitive to climate change.

Scientists working on ice
A field camp on the surface of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nerilie AbramAuthor provided

The most recent efforts to measure ice sheet mass balance paint a very worrying picture. The Greenland Ice Sheet, which contains around 7.4 metres of sea level rise, lost 3,900 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2018, causing global sea level to increase by 11 millimetres over this period. A similar story emerges from the western part of Antarctica, known as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It holds around 5.3 metres of sea level and lost more than 2,000 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, adding around 6 mm to the sea level.

Shaded map of Antarctica.
Thickness of ice in Antarctica (UK and Ireland shown for scale). Data: Morlighem et al. (2020; Nature Geoscience) Image: Guy PaxmanAuthor provided

More Sensitive Than We Thought

Perhaps surprisingly, much less work has focused on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is by far the world’s largest but was thought to be a lot less vulnerable to global warming. This is because large parts of the ice sheet have persisted through “natural” climate changes across millions of years, and because recent measurements indicate that it has been in equilibrium or has maybe even gained mass (a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which means more snow). In fact, the ice sheet may have even slightly reduced sea level rise over the past century.

Icebergs in the sea
Iceberg towers that have broken off from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nerilie AbramAuthor provided

However, over the past two decades or so, observations suggest that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may be far more sensitive to climate warming than previously thought. Major outlet glaciers like the Totten and Vanderford are thinning and retreating. And there are clear signals of mass loss in Wilkes Land, the ice sheet’s “weak underbelly”, so-called because it rests on “land” that lies well below sea-level and so is particularly unstable.

Lessons From The Past

There is also evidence that parts of East Antarctica retreated quite dramatically during warm periods in the past, when carbon dioxide concentrations and atmospheric temperatures were only slightly higher than present.

Ice meets ocean
The edge of Vanderford Glacier, one of the major outlet glaciers that appears to be thinning and retreating in Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. Richard JonesAuthor provided

It is likely that East Antarctica contributed several metres to global sea level during the mid-Pliocene warm period, around 3 million years ago, with ice loss concentrated in Wilkes Land. Recent work has also suggested that ice in Wilkes Land retreated 700 km inland from its present position around 400,000 years ago, when global temperatures were only 1 or 2℃ higher than present. A key lesson from the past, therefore, is that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is highly sensitive to relatively modest warming, even if it is currently stable.

Don’t Wake A Sleeping Giant

So what will actually happen over the next few decades and centuries? We recently analysed projections from various computer simulations to answer this question. Our results were alarming, but also offered some encouragement.

We found the ice sheet will probably remain broadly in balance in the short-term, because any mass loss due to global warming will be offset by increased snowfall. Although there are large uncertainties, we concluded that the ice sheet will only raise the sea level by about 2cm by the year 2100, which is much less than the contribution projected from melting ice in Greenland or West Antarctica.

Over the next few centuries, however, the sea-level contribution from East Antarctica will depend critically on whether we manage to curb our emissions. If warming continues beyond 2100, sustained by high emissions, then East Antarctica could contribute around 1 to 3 metres by 2300 and around 2 to 5 metres by 2500, adding to the substantial contributions from Greenland and West Antarctica and threatening millions of people who inhabit coastal areas.

How much the sea would rise thanks to melting water from the Each Antarctic Ice Sheet if warming was kept below 2C (left column in each year) and in an extreme warming scenario (right). Richard Jones, Monash UniversityAuthor provided

Crucially, however, our analysis suggests that if the Paris Agreement to limit warming to well below 2℃ is satisfied, then East Antarctica’s sea-level contribution would remain below 0.5 metres, even five centuries from now.

The fate of the world’s largest ice sheet remains in our hands.The Conversation

Chris Stokes, Professor in the Department of Geography, Durham University and Guy Paxman, Assistant Professor (Research), Department of Geography, Durham University

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

Ice shelves hold back Antarctica’s glaciers from adding to sea levels – but they’re crumbling

Esmee van WijkAuthor provided
Alexander FraserUniversity of Tasmania and Chad GreeneCalifornia Institute of Technology

As Antarctica’s slow rivers of ice hit the sea, they float, forming ice shelves. These shelves extend the glaciers into the ocean until they calve into icebergs.

But they also play a crucial role in maintaining the world as we know it, by acting as a brake on how fast the glaciers can flow into the ocean. If they weren’t there, the glaciers would flow faster into the sea and melt, causing sea levels to rise.
Unfortunately, Antarctica’s ice shelves are not what they were. In research published today in Nature, we show these ice shelves have significantly reduced in area over the last 25 years due to more and more icebergs breaking off. Overall, the net loss of ice is about 6,000 billion tonnes since 1997.

Previous estimates of ice shelf loss come from satellite measurements, which captured ice shelves gradually thinning in recent years. We tracked how much extra ice had been lost as icebergs calve away from the retreating edge of the continent. We found Antarctica’s ice shelves have lost twice as much mass as previous studies suggested.

Ice shelves are now weaker than at any time since at least the 1990s. This has led Antarctica’s glaciers to begin adding more water to the oceans, and more quickly. To date, much of the concern about the cryosphere – the world’s frozen parts – has focused on the fast-melting Arctic sea ice. But as climate change intensifies, Antarctica will begin melting in earnest, contributing more to sea level rise.

east antarctic glacier
Sørsdal Glacier in East Antarctica, where meltwater lakes have been appearing. Sarah ThompsonAuthor provided

What We Measured

We built numerical models to figure out what ice shelf thinning and loss of area mean for the ability of ice shelves to resist new ice being pushed in from upstream glaciers.

Our work shows the drop in ice shelf area has led to more ice flowing into the sea since 2007, as calving has weakened ice shelves and allowed some of the world’s largest glaciers to accelerate.

We found the Pine Island Glacier and the so-called “Doomsday” Thwaites Glacier – which could destabilise the entire West Antarctic ice sheet if it melts – are highly sensitive to calving, and are already increasing their contribution to sea level rise as their protective ice shelves crumbled.

Iceberg calving is a natural process. In any climate, we expect to see massive flat-top icebergs periodically break off and float away. So while no single calving event should be taken as cause for alarm, the long term trend is concerning. We found a majority of Antarctica’s ice shelves have lost mass since the late 1990s.

Why are Antarctic ice shelves shrinking? There’s no single answer. Some ice shelves such as the Wilkins Ice Shelf have already seen catastrophic disintegration, while others are retreating slowly and some are even advancing. But overall, these ice shelves are shrinking.

We know one cause of ice shelf retreat is the thinning of ice shelves, which is largely caused by relatively warm seawater eroding the base of these shelves.

We also know iceberg calving increases whenever Antarctica’s protective ring of sea ice weakens. This year, Antarctica saw the lowest sea ice extent ever recorded since measurements began in the 1970s. We’ve also seen entire ice shelves collapse when warmer air temperatures create surface meltwater that can cut through hundreds of metres of ice shelf.

Four Giant Ice Shelves Are Still In Good Shape

Antarctica’s four largest ice shelves are the Ross, Ronne, Filchner, and Amery. These vast floating sheets of ice tend to calve off giant icebergs once every few decades.

All four are on track for major calving events in the next 10 to 15 years, and none would normally be cause for alarm. The problem is calving will come on top of steady ice shelf loss. When the major ice shelves do calve off huge icebergs, they will leave the Antarctic Ice Sheet smaller than we’ve ever seen it.

tabular iceberg
Enormous tabular icebergs like this one are often formed by calving from ice shelves. This iceberg near the coast of West Antarctica is seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane in 2016. Getty

But while we’re not yet seeing any abnormal behaviour in these four major ice shelves, the overlooked losses from all the smaller ice shelves fringing the continent are adding up. Earlier this year, one smaller ice shelf collapsed entirely.

The most troubling changes of the past few decades are less photogenic than sudden ice shelf collapse. Bit-by-bit, West Antarctica’s Thwaites ice shelf has retreated.

Each calving event has left the ice shelf weaker and allowed the Thwaites Glacier behind it – the size of the state of Victoria – to flow faster into the ocean. While the Thwaites ice shelf is relatively small, it is vital. Until now, it has acted like a plug. If it keeps retreating, it could potentially destabilise the entire West Antarctic ice sheet and unlock several metres of sea level rise.

Climate Change Is The Big Picture

Our warming atmosphere and ocean are the root cause. Given the long lag time between greenhouse gases trapping heat and actual warming, it stands to reason that what we’re seeing in Antarctica right now is at least partly a response to warming gases dumped into the atmosphere decades or even a century ago. That means we’re already locked into more ice shelf retreat, as emissions have continued rising.

Antarctica holds around 30 million cubic kilometres of ice, a truly enormous figure. That represents around 90% of the world’s surface fresh water. If it all melted, seas would rise almost 60 metres. Humanity’s decisions will shape what Antarctica will look like in decades to come, and how much ice will remain.The Conversation

Alexander Fraser, Senior Researcher in Antarctic Remote Sensing, University of Tasmania and Chad Greene, Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

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

The US has finally passed a huge climate bill. Australia needs to keep up

Christian DownieAustralian National University

If politics moves slowly, climate politics often feels like it doesn’t move at all.

Yet at the weekend, US senators worked through the night to accomplish something they have failed to do since NASA scientist James Hansen first warned them about the dangers of climate change almost 35 years ago. They passed a major climate bill.

And not just any bill. The A$530 billion of clean energy initiatives in the larger Inflation Reduction Act represent the largest single investment to slow global heating in US history. It means the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases will become a global leader on climate change.

Initial modelling suggests the bill could be enough to cut US emissions by around 40% by 2030, relative to a 2005 baseline. That won’t meet President Joe Biden’s goal of halving emissions by 2030, but it gives America a fighting chance.

What does it mean for Australia? After the go-slow years of Coalition government and Trump’s fossil-fuel-friendly presidency, the times finally favour action. There is a clean energy race on, and Australia needs to keep up.

It’s Been A Hard Road

When the bill passed, senators broke down in tears. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer spoke of “a long, tough and winding road. But at last, at last we have arrived.”

The bill looked dead in the water as recently as July, when controversial Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia pulled his crucial vote for climate legislation.

That led many to despair, believing the window for climate action had shut again given Republican disinterest in climate action. But then Manchin cut a deal. It was the last chance to act before November’s midterm elections, which Republicans are expected to win – although the Supreme Court’s seismic decision on abortion may change this.

Offshore wind could be a game-changer for clean energy in Australia. Nicholas Doherty/UnsplashCC BY

I remember being in Washington DC, studying climate policy, the last time the US got this close. In the summer of 2009, the US House of Representatives passed a bill designed to institute a nationwide carbon price. With chants of “yes we can” still ringing in many ears after President Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House, it seemed climate politics was moving. But the Senate killed that bill, and with it any hope for legislative action on climate change.

America had to wait more than a decade for the next opportunity. The weekend’s vote was close, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the decider.

What was lost in the intervening years was more than time. In the past decade, climate impacts have become more frequent and deadly. Just ask the flood victims of Lismore in New South Wales, or the citizens of Mallacoota in Victoria after the bushfires.

Most of Europe is now in drought. Stories of unprecedented heatwaves and flooding come in weekly from China, India, the Middle East and South America. The western US is in megadrought, the worst in at least 1,200 years, with reservoirs at dangerous lows.

What Does The Bill Actually Contain?

When climate action is deliberately stalled by political parties, the price is paid by communities, families and the natural world.

That’s why the US bill is momentous. Senate approval of the A$530 billion in spending will directly advance clean energy. This includes billions of dollars in tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and geothermal plants, among other technologies.

This comes through around A$13 billion in rebates for Americans to electrify their homes, tax credits of almost A$11,000 to electrify their cars, and billions more to establish a “green bank”, target agricultural emissions and help disadvantaged communities.

Even better, these billions in public money will crowd in private investment, accelerating the speed at which the US economy can decarbonise.

What Should Australia Take From This?

There are several lessons for Australia.

The first is legislating a target as Labor has done is a start, but only a start. The world is set for a clean energy race, given China is also investing huge amounts in clean energy while European nations are trying to wean themselves off Russian gas.

The Albanese government should follow the US with historic investments in clean energy, using renewable jobs as an incentive. Key features of the US bill aim to turbocharge local clean energy manufacturing, such as requiring battery components be made in the US. As it stands, America’s geopolitical rival China has cornered the market in many areas of clean tech, such as solar panels.

Second, fossil fuel industries will fight tooth and nail against change. Manchin has received more money from the oil and gas industry than any other member of Congress – and has personal interests in coal. His interventions mean the bill has rewards for the oil and gas industries, such as requiring the federal government to auction new offshore oil and gas leases. There is likely more devil in the detail.

For decades, fossil fuel industries have had an outsized influence on climate policy in Australia. It’s folly to think they’ll just give up. This week we found out the car industry has already launched a secret PR campaign to slow electric vehicle uptake.

protest climate
Protestors and people involved in climate movements have kept the pressure up during periods of political inaction. Markus Spiske/UnsplashCC BY

Against these entrenched interests stand the growing throngs of people involved in climate movements. This is what has kept climate politics moving. Countless Americans, from political activists to schoolkids, mobilised to pressure Congress to act.

The same has happened here. Arid and sparsely populated Australia is already being hit by intensifying natural disasters. As the May election result showed, people have had enough of political delays and inaction.

We must keep moving. Climate science does not stand still, and neither should the politics.The Conversation

Christian Downie, Associate Professor, Australian National University

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

Backyard hens’ eggs contain 40 times more lead on average than shop eggs, research finds

Mark Patrick TaylorMacquarie UniversityDorrit E. JacobAustralian National University, and Vladimir StrezovMacquarie University

There’s nothing like the fresh eggs from your own hens, the more than 400,000 Australians who keep backyard chooks will tell you. Unfortunately, it’s often not just freshness and flavour that set their eggs apart from those in the shops.

Our newly published research found backyard hens’ eggs contain, on average, more than 40 times the lead levels of commercially produced eggs. Almost one in two hens in our Sydney study had significant lead levels in their blood. Similarly, about half the eggs analysed contained lead at levels that may pose a health concern for consumers.

Even low levels of lead exposure are considered harmful to human health, including among other effects cardiovascular disease and decreased IQ and kidney function. Indeed, the World Health Organization has stated there is no safe level of lead exposure.

So how do you know whether this is a likely problem in the eggs you’re getting from backyard hens? It depends on lead levels in your soil, which vary across our cities. We mapped the areas of high and low risk for hens and their eggs in our biggest cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – and present these maps here.

Our research details lead poisoning of backyard chickens and explains what this means for urban gardening and food production. In older homes close to city centres, contaminated soils can greatly increase people’s exposure to lead through eating eggs from backyard hens.

chickens scratching in the dirt
Chickens love scratching and pecking in the dirt. Unfortunately, that’s how lead from the soil gets into them. Shutterstock

What Did The Study Find?

Most lead gets into the hens as they scratch in the dirt and peck food from the ground.

We assessed trace metal contamination in backyard chickens and their eggs from garden soils across 55 Sydney homes. We also explored other possible sources of contamination such as animal drinking water and chicken feed.

Our data confirmed what we had anticipated from our analysis of more than 25,000 garden samples from Australia gardens collected via the VegeSafe program. Lead is the contaminant of most concern.

The amount of lead in the soil was significantly associated with lead concentrations in chicken blood and eggs. We found potential contamination from drinking water and commercial feed supplies in some samples but it is not a significant source of exposure.

Unlike for humans, there are no guidelines for blood lead levels for chickens or other birds. Veterinary assessments and research indicate levels of 20 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) or more may harm their health. Our analysis of 69 backyard chickens across the 55 participants’ homes showed 45% had blood lead levels above 20µg/dL.

We analysed eggs from the same birds. There are no food standards for trace metals in eggs in Australia or globally. However, in the 19th Australian Total Diet Study, lead levels were less than 5µg/kg in a small sample of shop-bought eggs.

The average level of lead in eggs from the backyard chickens in our study was 301µg/kg. By comparison, it was 7.2µg/kg in the nine commercial free-range eggs we analysed.

International research indicates that eating one egg a day with a lead level of less than 100µg/kg would result in an estimated blood lead increase of less than 1μg/dL in children. That’s around the level found in Australian children not living in areas affected by lead mines or smelters. The level of concern used in Australia for investigating exposure sources is 5µg/dL.

Some 51% of the eggs we analysed exceeded the 100µg/kg “food safety” threshold. To keep egg lead below 100μg/kg, our modelling of the relationship between lead in soil, chickens and eggs showed soil lead needs to be under 117mg/kg. This is much lower than the Australian residential guideline for soils of 300mg/kg.

To protect chicken health and keep their blood lead below 20µg/kg, soil concentrations need to be under 166mg/kg. Again, this is much lower than the guideline.

How Did We Map The Risks Across Cities?

We used our garden soil trace metal database (more than 7,000 homes and 25,000 samples) to map the locations in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne most at risk from high lead values.

Map of Sydney showing areas of high and low lead risk for backyard chickens
Levels of lead risk for backyard chickens across Sydney. Dark green dots indicate areas with safe lead levels. Light green and yellow dots are areas over the safe lead level. Orange and red dots indicate areas with high levels. Map: Max M. Gillings, Mark Patrick TaylorAuthor provided

Map of Melbourne showing areas of high and low lead risk for backyard chickens
Map of Melbourne showing levels of lead risk for backyard chickens. Dark green dots indicate areas with safe lead levels. Light green and yellow dots are areas over the safe lead level. Orange and red dots indicate areas with high levels. Map: Max M. Gillings, Mark Patrick TaylorAuthor provided

Map of Brisbane showing areas of high and low lead risk for backyard chickens
Map of Brisbane showing levels of lead risk for backyard chickens. Dark green dots indicate areas with safe lead levels. Light green and yellow dots are areas over the safe lead level. Orange and red dots indicate areas with high levels. Map: Max M. Gillings, Mark Patrick TaylorAuthor provided

Deeper analysis of the data showed older homes were much more likely to have high lead levels across soils, chickens and their eggs. This finding matches other studies that found older homes are most at risk of legacy contamination from the former use of lead-based paints, leaded petrol and lead pipes.

What Can Backyard Producers Do About It?

These findings will come as a shock to many people who have turned to backyard food production. It has been on the rise over the past decade, spurred on recently by soaring grocery prices.

People are turning to home-grown produce for other reasons, too. They want to know where their food came from, enjoy the security of producing food with no added chemicals, and feel the closer connection to nature.

While urban gardening is a hugely important activity and should be encouraged, previous studies of contamination of Australian home garden soils and trace metal uptake into plants show it needs to be undertaken with caution.

Contaminants have built up in soils over the many years of our cities’ history. These legacy contaminants can enter our food chain via vegetableshoney bees and chickens.

Urban gardening exposure risks have typically focused on vegetables and fruits. Limited attention has been paid to backyard chickens. The challenge of sampling and finding participants meant many previous studies have been smaller and have not always analysed all possible exposure routes.

Mapping the risks of contamination in soils enables backyard gardeners and chicken keepers to consider what the findings may mean for them.

Particularly in older, inner-city locations, it would be prudent to get their soils tested. People can do this at VegeSafe or through a commercial laboratory. Soils identified as a problem can be replaced and chickens kept to areas of known clean soil.The Conversation

Mark Patrick Taylor, Chief Environmental Scientist, EPA Victoria; Honorary Professor, Macquarie UniversityDorrit E. Jacob, Professor, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, and Vladimir Strezov, Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University

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

Once the fish factories and ‘kidneys’ of colder seas, Australia’s decimated shellfish reefs are coming back

Dominic McAfeeUniversity of AdelaideChris GilliesJames Cook UniversityChristine CrawfordUniversity of TasmaniaIan McLeodJames Cook University, and Sean ConnellUniversity of Adelaide

Australia once had vast oyster and mussel reefs, which anchored marine ecosystems and provided a key food source for coastal First Nations people. But after colonisation, Europeans harvested them for their meat and shells and pushed oyster and mussel reefs almost to extinction. Because the damage was done early – and largely underwater – the destruction of these reefs was all but forgotten.

No longer. We have learned how to restore these vital reef systems. After a successful pilot in 2015, there are now 46 shellfish reef restorations underway – Australia’s largest marine restoration program ever undertaken. It’s not a moment too soon. There’s just one natural reef remaining for the Australian flat oyster, which is teetering on extinction.

How did shellfish reefs go from forgotten to frontline? Our new research shows how this historical amnesia was overcome through a national community of researchers, conservationists, and government and fisheries managers.

This matters, because oysters and mussels are ecological superheroes. As we restore these reefs, we give local marine life a real boost and support human livelihoods reliant on healthy seas. These cold-water reefs play a similar role to coral in tropical seas. They give hiding places and food to baby fish, filter seawater and defend coastlines against erosion from waves.

Large-scale shellfish reef restoration projects began with a single pilot in 2015 and soared to 46 projects nationwide by 2022.

What Killed Our Original Shellfish Reefs?

Just 200 years ago, shellfish reefs carpeted Australia’s temperate regions, filling up sheltered bays and estuaries around over 7,000 kilometres of coastline.

Archaeological research from Queensland shows First Nations people were sustainably harvesting local shellfish reefs over at least 5,000 years, replenishing oyster populations by building reefs with stone and shell.

This ended as Europeans took the lands and waters from Traditional Owners. Shellfish became one of colonial Australia’s first fisheries. Oysters were fished extensively for food, while their shells were burnt to manufacture lime for fertiliser and cement. If you walk past a colonial-era building, look at the mortar. Chances are, a lot of oyster shells went into it.

Even though the wild fishery ended a century ago, these shellfish weren’t able to return. That’s because they can’t just grow on bare sand. Their preferred substrate is the shells of their ancestors, left behind on the sea bottom. Once substrate was scraped by dredge or smothered by sediment, there was nowhere for baby oysters and mussels to settle and grow.

Today, there’s just one small natural flat oyster reef (Ostrea angasi) and six remnant Sydney Rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) reefs remaining, across all Australian waters.

Colonial oyster fishers used oyster dredges, rakes, and shovels to scrape oysters from the seafloor. State Library of South Australia

How To Kick-Start Shellfish Reef Restoration

Shellfish can’t recover by themselves. But it turns out with a little human help, they can. Think of it as making up for our unsustainable use.

For a decade before the first large-scale restoration, recreational fishing groups and community groups worked on smaller projects, sometimes with government backing.

To begin larger-scale restoration work, we first had to remember how it used to be. Because the ecological collapse of Australia’s shellfish reefs was so profound, they were almost lost to human memory. Historical records guided us as to what a restored ecosystem should look like, and where these reefs used to be.

Australia’s only surviving native flat oyster reef (Ostrea angasi) is in eastern Tasmania. Flat oyster reefs were dredged to obliteration over thousands of kilometres of southern Australian coastline.

Our job was made easier because of the huge benefits shellfish reefs provide to marine life. Intact oyster and mussel reefs are natural fish factories providing nursery habitats for economically important fish species like bream and whiting.

Even better, these filter-feeding shellfish are the kidneys of the coast, cleaning water cloudy with sediment or overloaded with nutrients. A single oyster can filter 100 litres of water a day. Shellfish reefs also act as living defences against the energy of waves, store carbon in their shells and help protect intertidal communities from the warming climate through shade and moisture at low tide.

People working on reef restoration turned to our thriving oyster and mussel farming industry to understand their life cycles and what they needed to thrive. The fact these farms are successful indicated many areas remained suitable for shellfish reefs.

Environmental NGO The Nature Conservancy connected the emerging reef restoration community as well as bringing practical experience from longer-running shellfish restoration projects in America. Reef restoration work is now being led by conservation NGOs, local and state governments, and, increasingly, by community groups.

So does it work? Yes. It’s as if the oysters have been waiting for this opportunity. Many human-made reefs have been settled by millions of baby oysters within months of construction, such as the largest project to date, the 20 hectare Windara Reef in South Australia. Some restored reefs are closing in on oyster densities in line with natural reefs.

Looking Forward

We hope the rapid rise of shellfish reef restoration is the beginning of a new era for large-scale marine restoration in Australia.

Today, community-led restorations are growing in scale and number, and public support for shellfish restoration is widespread.

It is an impressive story. This is a national program of recovery showing significant successes with a relatively modest investment. These restoration efforts show large-scale action to repair nature can work – and work quickly – when experts from a range of disciplines work with communities towards a common goal.

As the restored oyster and mussel reefs mature, we will see more fish in our seas and more recreation and tourism opportunities emerging. That, in turn, could give more communities the idea to restore their own shellfish reefs. Together, we can bring back the reefs which lived in our cooler seas for millennia. The Conversation

Dominic McAfee, Postdoctoral researcher, marine ecology, University of AdelaideChris Gillies, Adjunct Associate Professor in marine ecology, James Cook UniversityChristine Crawford, Senior research fellow in marine biology, University of TasmaniaIan McLeod, Professorial Research Fellow in Marine Biology, James Cook University, and Sean Connell, Professor, Program Director of Stretton Institute, Program Director of Environment Insitute, University of Adelaide

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

‘Unacceptable costs’: savanna burning under Australia’s carbon credit scheme is harming human health

Penelope JonesUniversity of TasmaniaDavid BowmanUniversity of Tasmania, and Fay JohnstonUniversity of Tasmania

Savanna burning projects in northern Australia provide economic benefits to Indigenous communities and claim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But our research suggests smoke from these projects is harming human health.

Northern Australia’s savannas cover about 25% of Australia’s land mass. They’re among the most flammable regions in the world and comprise 70% of Australia’s fire-affected area each year.

Savanna fire management involves strategically burning grasslands early in the dry season, purportedly to reduce the chance of large, intense, more carbon-intensive fires later in the season. Under Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund, land managers who undertake savanna burning receive financial rewards in the form of carbon credits.

But our research, focused on Darwin, has shown savanna burning under the fund is making air pollution worse. A review of the fund now underway must consider these unacceptable costs to human health.

aerial view of Darwin showing apartment buildings, trees and roads
The research focused on air pollution in Darwin. Shutterstock

The Top End’s Smoke Problem

Savanna fire management is currently a topic of substantial global interest – much of it stemming from its potential to reduce carbon emissions.

The underlying premise is that early dry season burning releases fewer emissions than late dry season burning. This is because the fuel is moister and weather conditions milder — hence fires will be less extensive, less fuel will combust and less carbon will be released.

In Australia, savanna burning programs for carbon abatement were developed in the mid-2000s and integrated into the carbon market. Land managers are offered financial incentives to burn large amounts of savanna before the end of July each year.

The scheme has proved popular: registered projects now cover some 25% of Australia’s 1.2 million km² tropical savannas, including 55% of land within 500km of Darwin.

Australia now touts itself as a world leader in savanna burning. We are sharing the practice with other regions around the world, and savanna burning programs linked to carbon markets have been proposed elsewhere.

Yet the smoke pollution consequences of such programs are rarely considered. In Australia’s Top End, for example, thick and prolonged smoke blankets communities every dry season. Darwin, a city of 158,000 people, regularly exceeds the Australian air quality standard for particulate matter.

In Darwin, smoky days bring more hospital admissions for lung and heart disease, and more emergency department presentations for asthma. These impacts disproportionately affect Indigenous people.

Almost all Darwin’s particulate pollution is caused by landscape fires. In the early dry season, almost all of this is generated by prescribed burning - and there’s been a marked increase in burning in recent years linked to carbon abatement schemes.

sky filled with black smoke above grass and flames
Almost all Darwin’s particulate pollution is caused by landscape fires. Dean Lewins/AAP

What Our Research Found

Our research considered the relationship between prescribed burning and smoke pollution in Darwin from 2004 to 2019.

We first assessed the very small particles found in smoke known as PM2.5. We then analysed fire activity within a 500km radius, and assessed the links between pollution, weather and fire.

The results showed air quality worsened in Darwin in the early dry season (particularly in June and July), with an increase in the annual number of severely polluted days.

Perhaps surprisingly, air quality did not change substantially in other seasons. In other words, shifting savanna burning to the early dry season did not appear to lead to better air quality later in the season.

Our findings highlight a complex story. Despite a substantial expansion of savanna burning for carbon abatement over our study period, net annual PM2.5 concentrations in Darwin did not decline. In fact, there was an increase in the number of times the national air quality standard was exceeded.

So what’s driving these results? One important factor involves large areas of savanna burned for carbon abatement to the southeast of Darwin in the early dry season. At that time of year, a steady south-easterly trade wind hits Darwin, bringing much of the smoke from these fires with it.

Fuel dynamics may also be at play. Native and non-native grasses which are highly flammable in the early dry season have been expanding on frequently burned savannas. Higher temperatures may be drying fuel out earlier in the dry season. These factors may make early dry season fires as extensive and intense as savannas burnt later in the season.

Our research comes with caveats. For example, we drew only broad inferences about the geographic sources of smoke over Darwin. Notwithstanding this, our results clearly demonstrate Darwin’s already significant air quality problem is worsening, rather than improving, in association with increased early dry season burning.

people sit and walk through leafy shopping street
Darwin’s already significant air quality problem is worsening, rather than improving. Shutterstock

A Balancing Act

None of this means savanna burning should cease, nor that traditional owners should not be paid to manage fire on country. But it does mean policies should be designed so unintended harm is minimised and the benefits are maximised.

Policymakers must consider how to regulate burning to avoid smoke pollution exposure. In Darwin, particular attention may be needed in locations southeast of the city. One solution may be to regulate how much smoke can be released in a specific area on a given day.

Other factors should be considered too. For example, savanna burning in Australia may risk harming biodiversity.

But the Emissions Reduction Fund is a blunt tool which doesn’t consider these hidden costs and other nuances.

The new Labor government has ordered an independent review of the fund. For this review to fulfil its brief, all unintended harms must be taken into account. The Conversation

Penelope Jones, Research Fellow in Environmental Health, University of TasmaniaDavid Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania, and Fay Johnston, Professor, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania

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

Southern conifers: meet this vast group of ancient trees with mysteries still unsolved

Huon pine in Tasmania. Shutterstock
Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

When you think of “conifers”, tall, conical shaped trees often found in public parks or front yards may spring to mind. But these impressive trees are far more fascinating than you may have realised, as they represent just one piece of an unsolved botanical puzzle.

These popular garden trees are from the northern hemisphere. But we also have conifers in the southern hemisphere, called “southern conifers”, found largely in Australia, South America, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

A little detective work reveals that southern conifers evolved in Gondwana, and long ago separated from coniferous relatives in the northern hemisphere.

They appeared around 200 million years ago, before the first flowering plants evolved, sharing land with the dinosaurs. One example is the Wollemi pine, which was famously saved in a secret firefighting operation during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Unlike the introduced conifer garden trees, southern conifers are neither as well-known nor as popular with Australians as they should be. So let me help you get to know them a little better.

These conical trees may be what spring to mind when you think of ‘conifer’ Shutterstock

Famous ‘Living Fossils’

Northern conifers are mostly evergreen, woody trees with needle-like leaves, while southern conifers tend to have broad leaves like flowering trees.

Trees in the genus Araucaria, including the monkey puzzle, bunya bunya, hoop pine and Norfolk Island pine, are southern conifers. As are most members of the Podocarp family (Huon pine, celery top pine and plum pine) and 22 species of Agathis (including the majestic Queensland and New Zealand Kauri trees).

Southern conifers often possess cones, such as the Araucaria and Agathis species. Sometimes, these cones are very large and heavy that can cause serious injury if they fall from high in the tree onto an unsuspecting passerby.

Some southern conifers can be over 30 metres high. Others, such as the Kauri and Huon pine, are renowned for their longevity. They can live for centuries or, for the Huon pine, perhaps over an astonishing ten millennia.

While all species of southern conifers are of ancient origin, the Wollemi pine is famous for its status as a “living fossil”. Of course, this is a contradiction in terms – a fossil is any evidence of past life.

But in this context, the term refers to organisms that appeared in the fossil record long ago, were then thought to be extinct, before a living version was discovered. We are curious as to how they successfully hid for so long and may imagine a link with a distant, different past.

Monkey Puzzle tree, Araucaria Araucana Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

So, the question botanists have yet to answer is: how distant are the north and south relatives?

When Flowering Plants Evolved

Many southern conifers show little resemblance to the “true conifers” of the northern hemisphere, such as pine, cedar, spruce and juniper.

All conifers are gymnosperms, which means they have naked seeds and cones. They evolved from an ancient group of seed ferns, before the fragmentation of the super continent Pangaea.

These seed ferns were a diverse group. As Pangaea divided into Gondwana in the south and Laurasia in the north, the seed ferns began to diversify, giving rise to northern and southern seed ferns.

Botanists have long known that northern conifers and other gymnosperms evolved from these northern seed ferns. But what of the southern seed ferns? They remained a bit of a mystery until the 1970s.

Cones of a spruce tree. Shutterstock

One group of southern seed ferns constituted what’s now called the Glossopteris flora, which was of Gondwanan origin. From this diverse group of Glossopterids, flowering plants in all their variety evolved.

This solved one of the great riddles of botany – the origin of the flowering plants which had puzzled scientists, particularly in the northern hemisphere until the early 1980s.

It’s likely southern conifers also evolved from these southern seed ferns. Some may have arisen from other members of the Glossopteris group, too, or perhaps their relatives.

If this was the case, then the southern conifers would be more closely related to flowering plants than to the true conifers of the north.

When The Trees Were In Fashion

After millions of years of evolution, southern conifers became fashionable with gardeners in the 1800s.

Their novelty and striking form captured the interest of the educated and wealthy landowners of Europe and they were planted as status symbols on estates and in public gardens.

In Australia they were planted in large private gardens and in many public parks from the mid 1800s to World War 1, after which their popularity waned.

You can see many of these fine trees growing still in large gardens and public parks across Australia, such as botanic gardens in most Australian states, as well as in smaller public parks and gardens of older suburbs and inland towns. Their striking, almost geometrical, form catches the eye.

Southern conifers are known for their resilience, are rarely affected by pests or disease and, despite their large size, cause few problems with paths, roads, buildings and other urban infrastructure. Probably because they were given plenty of space to grow when first planted.

We Still Have Much To Learn

It takes time to solve some of these botanical puzzles. Evolution is a sophisticated process that has led to very complex relationships between plant groups.

In future we may well recognise that southern conifers are not really conifers at all. Perhaps, the links between the two groups go so far back in time, the relationship is too distant for both southern and true conifers to be called conifers at all.

In any case, these mysterious trees have persisted through vast periods of time and changing environments – they have much to teach us about plant responses to climate change.The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Senior Research Associate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne

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

Who’s holding back electric cars in Australia? We’ve long known the answer – and it’s time to clear the road

Paul Miller/AAP
John QuigginThe University of Queensland

New analysis this week found strong fuel efficiency standards would have saved Australia A$5.9 billion in fuel costs and emissions equal to a year’s worth of domestic flights if the policy was adopted in 2015.

The finding, by think-tank the Australia Institute, puts further pressure on the new federal government to bring our fuel efficiency standards in line with Europe and other developed nations.

Unlike other comparable countries, Australia does not have fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles. On the face of it this is puzzling; aside from lower costs for motorists and fewer emissions, the policy would also decrease our reliance on imported oil.

But opposition from vested interests – including oil refineries and the car dealership industry – has held Australia back. The onus is now on the Albanese government to enact this obvious and long overdue policy which is crucial to the electric vehicle transition.

smoke blows from tailpipe
Unlike other comparable countries, Australia does not have fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles. ALEXANDER RUESCHE/AP

Long Road, Little Progress

So how would a fuel efficiency standard work?

Under a likely model, the government would set a national limit, averaged across all new cars sold, stipulating grams of CO₂ that can be emitted for each kilometre driven. This measure depends on fuel-efficiency: that is, the amount of fuel burnt per kilometre.

The limit would not apply to individual cars. Instead, each supplier of new light vehicles to Australia would have to make sure the mix of vehicles does not exceed the limit. Low-efficiency vehicles could still be sold, but car dealers would have to balance this out by selling enough high-efficiency vehicles.

Because electric vehicles don’t use fuel (or use less, in the case of hybrids), a fuel efficiency standard would give suppliers an incentive to include electric vehicles in the mix of vehicles they supply.

The prospect of fuel efficiency standards on light vehicles has regularly hit the national agenda in recent years.

In 2014, the Climate Change Authority prepared a detailed plan for a standard and estimated the likely economic savings. The plan seemed well timed. Australia has traditionally produced large, fuel-guzzling cars like the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. At the time of the plan’s release, however, the last remaining domestic car manufacturers had just announced plans to close, removing the most likely source of political resistance.

But the Coalition government sat on the idea. It ran a string of reviews before ultimately letting the issue drop.

In 2019, then-Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged fuel efficiency standards, as well as a target for electric vehicles to comprise half of new car sales by 2030. But he soon ran into Scott Morrison’s jibe that Labor wanted to “end the weekend” and take away people’s utes.

Labor, of course, lost that election and Anthony Albanese dumped the fuel standards idea on becoming party leader.

two smiling men sit in car
The Coalition government failed to progress fuel efficiency standards. William West/AAP

But What About The Benefits?

A fuel efficiency standard would deliver significant benefits to Australia.

The first is economic. The report released this week is just the latest of many studies showing motorists would have been slugged far less at the bowser if our cars used fuel more efficiently.

The second benefit is tackling climate change. Transport accounts for nearly 20% of Australia’s emissions and this share is increasing.

And while lab tests suggest cars sold in Australia are becoming somewhat more efficient, real world testing shows the opposite. If we are to achieve emissions cuts consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, cutting emissions from transport is essential.

Third, Australia is almost entirely dependent on foreign fuel. So new efficiency standards would decrease overall liquid fuel consumption, leaving us less reliant on imports.

woman fills white car with petrol
Fuel efficiency standards could have saved Australian motorists billions. James Gourley/AAP

What’s Holding Us Back

So why hasn’t Australia introduced this clearly beneficial policy? In short, because fuel inefficiency is deeply embedded in Australia’s automotive sector.

The strongest initial resistance to fuel efficiency standards came from the operators of refineries. Fuel-efficient cars require high-quality fuel. But Australia has long had among the dirtiest petrol in the developed world in terms of sulphur content.

Australian refiners resisted fuel efficiency standards because they said the cost of upgrading their plants would put them out of business. But the Morrison government last year funded upgrades at Australia’s last two oil refineries, removing one obstacle.

Further resistance has come from car dealers. From a dealership perspective, it’s easier to sell a car with a low sticker price even if lifetime running costs are higher.

Fuel efficiency standards, and the subsequent large-scale shift to electric vehicles, would fundamentally undermine the business model of the Australian car dealership industry. Much of its profitability comes from after-sales services required to maintain warranty protection, such as oil changes, transmission fluid and tune-ups.

None of these are needed in electric vehicles. The lifetime costs of maintaining an electric vehicle engine are about half those for a comparable internal combustion engine. At some point in their lives, an electric vehicle will require a new battery. But this will occur long after the initial sale.

Given all this, it’s not surprising the car industry is reportedly campaigning to limit any new fuel efficiency standards and delay the shift to electric vehicles.

cars and a van pause in from of sign saying 'prepare to stop'
The car industry is reportedly campaigning to limit any new fuel efficiency standards. Dean Lewins/AAP

What Now?

The Albanese government has proposed some incentives to encourage a shift towards electric vehicles. But these limited measures won’t drive the dramatic transition that is needed.

Strong fuel efficiency standards would save motorists money, cut emissions and reduce Australia’s dependence on imported fuel. Anyway you look at it, the policy makes sense.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.

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 Grand Old Tree Of Angophora Reserve Falls Back To The Earth - History page
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
Seagull Pair At Turimetta Beach: Spring Is In The Air!
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

DVA Claims Processing Among Urgent Recommendations In Royal Commission Interim Report

August 11, 2022
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has made 13 urgent recommendations in its interim report, which was handed to the Governor-General, David Hurley, and tabled in Parliament in Canberra today.

The Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said suicide in the veteran community was a national tragedy that required immediate action.

"We acknowledge every serving and ex-serving member who has died by suicide – each life lived and each life left behind," Commissioner Kaldas said. "We also recognise those serving or former ADF members who have experienced suicidality."

Key recommendations include:
  • Clearing the backlog of Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) claims
  • Simplifying and harmonising complex and confusing veteran compensation and rehabilitation laws
  • Increasing legal protections for serving and ex-serving ADF members to engage with the Royal Commission
  • The exemption of the Royal Commission from parliamentary privilege, to make it easier for the inquiry to hold Defence and DVA to account
  • For Defence and DVA to improve access for serving and ex-serving members (and their families) to their service information, including medical records
Claims backlog
Commissioner Kaldas said one of the most pressing issues was the unacceptable backlog of DVA claims – almost 42,000, as at the end of May this year – that were still awaiting processing.

"We know that the long wait to receive entitlements can have a terrible effect on veterans' mental health and in some cases leads to suicide and suicidality," he said.

"Behind each claim is a veteran who needs support, and it is gravely important that this assistance is provided as quickly as possible – lives and livelihoods depend on it."

The Commission has recommended DVA be given until 31 March 2024 to eliminate the backlog of claims and that the Australian Government provide the necessary resources to ensure this occurs.

Accountability – permanent body
The Australian Government has formally responded to fewer than half of the 57 previous inquiries or reports submitted to it in relation to matters that relate to Defence and veteran suicide.

The Commission is considering what should follow this Royal Commission, including the need for a permanent body to report on the progress and quality of the implementation of recommendations from this Royal Commission and previous inquiries.

Further work – including public consultation – will be carried out in 2023 so that such a body can be in place by mid-2024 when this Royal Commission delivers its final report and recommendations.

Broader issues
Other areas of focus for the remainder of the inquiry include suicide prevention and wellbeing, the role and support of families, ADF culture and transition to civilian life.

Separate issues not detailed in this interim report may be included in any special reports or recommendations produced before the Commission concludes in 2024.

Supporting veterans
Commission Chair Nick Kaldas said the welfare of current and former serving members – and the memory of those who had died by suicide – is foremost in Commissioners' minds.

"We will continue to listen, consult and learn. We want to ensure this Royal Commission's legacy is a vast improvement in the welfare of serving and ex-serving members of the ADF and their families," Commissioner Kaldas said.

The Royal Commission will continue to review each submission received and consider the evidence and information gathered from hearings, roundtables, private sessions, internal and commissioned research.

"We want all current and former Defence personnel to go on to live long, happy and meaningful lives,"" Commissioner Kaldas said.

The Commission was established in July 2021 to help reduce the devastating toll of suicide among current and former members of the ADF.

Royal Commissioners, Nick Kaldas APM (Chair), The Hon James Douglas QC and Dr Peggy Brown AO presented the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide to the Governor-General, His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) on 11 August 2022, and it was tabled in Parliament on 11 August.

The inquiry is focused on the identification of systemic problems and solutions to suicide and suicidality among serving and ex-serving ADF members.

The Interim Report provides commentary on the following:
  • summary of work undertaken
  • preliminary observations
  • recommendations about urgent and immediate issues

Caravan Industry On Notice For Poor Treatment Of Consumers

Australian consumers have reported widespread consumer guarantee failures, misrepresentations by caravan suppliers, and unexpected delays in the delivery and repair of caravans, according to the ACCC’s New caravan retailing report.

The report highlights key issues of concern in the market for new caravans and provides guidance to businesses about their obligations to comply with Australian Consumer law.

In an ACCC survey of 2,270 caravan owners, 80 per cent reported having experienced problems with their new caravan.

The number of consumer complaints to the ACCC about the caravan industry continues to rise, reaching more than 1,300 reports in the past five years.

“A caravan can represent a significant financial and emotional investment. Some people save for years in anticipation of purchasing and travelling in a caravan. If something goes wrong the harm can be significant,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Under Australian Consumer Law, if your caravan fails to meet one or more consumer guarantees, for example it is not of acceptable quality or doesn’t match a description made by a supplier, then you are entitled to a remedy from the supplier. A remedy can be a repair, replacement or refund.

If a consumer guarantee failure is minor, the supplier can choose to offer you a repair. If the supplier refuses to offer you a repair for the minor failure, you are entitled to a refund or a replacement. 

If a failure is major, you are entitled to your choice of a replacement or refund. It is also important to note that multiple minor failures can be considered a major failure, which entitles you to your choice of a refund or replacement.

Many consumers reported to the ACCC that when they experienced a failure with their caravan, they were unable to obtain a remedy or that the remedy provided did not fully address the failure.

“We are very concerned by these reported failures to comply with obligations under the Australian Consumer Law, and the impact that these failures have on consumers who have purchased a caravan which develops a fault.”

“Consumers need to be confident that when they make a significant financial purchase like a caravan, they will be able to get a refund, replacement or a repair if there is a failure,” Ms Rickard said.

“It is the ACCC’s view that it is reasonable to expect a new caravan won’t develop a major fault within the first several years of use.”

Under Australian Consumer Law, a retailer must provide the consumer with a remedy when there is a consumer guarantee failure. However, the Australian Consumer Law also provides the retailer is entitled to recover any costs associated with providing that remedy from the manufacturer. This reimbursement includes parts and labour associated with repairs.

In response to an ACCC survey, 40 per cent of caravan suppliers reported that a manufacturer had refused to reimburse them for providing a remedy to a consumer.

“While a supplier can take legal action against a manufacturer to recover costs, the ACCC’s survey of suppliers found some were reluctant to take this step due to fear of retribution,” Ms Rickard said.

“We are very concerned by reports that retailers are unable to obtain the reimbursement they are entitled to for providing remedies to consumers.”

The ACCC is also concerned that many consumers believe suppliers have misled them during the sales process or when problems with their caravan arose. The most frequently reported misleading claims were about consumer guarantee rights and their interaction with warranties. 

“If your caravan has a major or minor consumer guarantee failure you may be entitled to a remedy even if the warranty provided by the business has expired,” Ms Rickard said.

Consumers also reported they believed suppliers made misrepresentations about their caravan’s performance capabilities, and tow-weight. 

“Reports of misleading representations about caravan’s tow-weight and other important performance capabilities are particularly worrying given the grave safety implications for consumers,” Ms Rickard said.

“The ACCC will investigate and take enforcement action against suppliers and manufacturers we believe may have misled consumers.”

The report also found that many consumers experienced delays in the delivery of their new caravan, or for repairs to their existing caravan, some of which relates to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions and recent increased demand.

“We expect that suppliers will be upfront with consumers about the timeframe for delivery of their caravan and any potential delays during the sales process and continue to proactively communicate until delivery,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC strongly supports proposals to strengthen the Australian Consumer Law, including by enabling enforcement actions and penalties for when suppliers have failed to provide remedies for consumer guarantee failures and when manufacturers have failed to reimburse suppliers for providing remedies.

The ACCC has released guidance buying a new caravan to help consumers and businesses understand their rights and obligations when buying and selling caravans.

The ACCC has also developed information for the caravan industry to assist in complying with the requirements of consumer and competition laws.

The ACCC is concerned with the rising number of complaints (1,300) the ACCC has received about caravans over the past five years.

Accordingly, industry compliance with consumer guarantees regarding high value items including caravans is a 2022-23 Compliance and Enforcement priority for the ACCC, as it was in 2021-22.

In November 2021, the ACCC released two surveys directed towards consumers and suppliers to better understand the issues they faced in the new caravan retailing market. 

The ACCC received 2,270 relevant consumer responses and 67 supplier responses. The ACCC has also spoken directly with consumers, suppliers, industry associations and received feedback through industry forums.

In December 2021, the Treasury published a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS) on improving consumer guarantees and supplier indemnification provisions under the ACL. This included consideration of civil prohibitions with pecuniary penalties for:

a failure to provide a remedy where a business is legally required to do so
manufacturers’ failure to indemnify suppliers, and
retribution by manufacturers against suppliers who seek indemnification.
The ACCC has provided a submission to Treasury’s CRIS process advocating for the ACL to be amended to introduce these prohibitions.

Major Contributor To Alzheimer's Disease Discovered

August 9, 2022
Research led by Drs. Yuhai Zhao and Walter J Lukiw at the LSU Health New Orleans Neuroscience Center and the Departments of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Neurology and Ophthalmology, reports for the first time a pathway that begins in the gut and ends with a potent pro-inflammatory toxin in brain cells contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). They also report a simple way to prevent it.

The researchers found evidence that a molecule containing a very potent microbial-generated neurotoxin (lipopolysaccharide or LPS) derived from the Gram-negative bacteria Bacteroides fragilis in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract generates a neurotoxin known as BF-LPS.

"LPSs in general are probably the most potent microbial-derived pro-inflammatory neurotoxic glycolipids known," says Dr. Lukiw. "Many laboratories, including our own, have detected different forms of LPS within neurons of the Alzheimer's disease-affected human brain."

In this study, the researchers detail the pathway of BF-LPS from the gut to the brain and its mechanisms of action once there. BF-LPS leaks out of the GI tract, crosses the blood brain barrier via the circulatory system, and accesses brain compartments. Then it increases inflammation in brain cells and inhibits neuron-specific neurofilament light (NF-L,) a protein that supports cell integrity. A deficit of this protein leads to progressive neuronal cell atrophy, and ultimately cell death, as is observed in AD-affected neurons. They also report that adequate intake of dietary fibre can head off the process.

The novel features of this newly described pathological pathway are threefold. The AD-stimulating pathway begins inside of us -- in our GI-tract microbiome -- and therefore is very "locally sourced" and active throughout our lives. The highly potent neurotoxin BF-LPS is a natural by-product of GI-tract-based microbial metabolism. Bacteroides fragilis abundance in the microbiome, which is the source of the neurotoxin BF-LPS, can be regulated by dietary fibre intake.

"Put another way, dietary-based approaches to balance the microorganisms in the microbiome may be an attractive means to modify the abundance, speciation, and complexity of enterotoxigenic forms of AD-relevant microbes and their potential for the pathological discharge of highly neurotoxic microbial-derived secretions that include BF-LPS and other forms of LPS," Lukiw explains.

The researchers conclude that an improved understanding of the interaction between the GI tract-Central Nervous System axis and the GI-tract microbiome and Alzheimer's disease has considerable potential to lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in the clinical management of Alzheimer's disease and other lethal, progressive, and age-related neurodegenerative disorders.

It has been estimated that Americans eat 10-15 grams of fibre a day on average. The USDA recommends that women up to age 50 consume 25 grams a day and men 38 grams. Over age 50, women and men should consume 21 and 30 grams daily, respectively.

Aileen I. Pogue, Vivian R. Jaber, Nathan M. Sharfman, Yuhai Zhao, Walter J. Lukiw. Downregulation of Neurofilament Light Chain Expression in Human Neuronal-Glial Cell Co-Cultures by a Microbiome-Derived Lipopolysaccharide-Induced miRNA-30b-5p. Frontiers in Neurology, 2022; 13 DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2022.900048

Dementia Action Week
19 – 25 September 2022

Dementia impacts close to half a million Australians and almost 1.6 million Australians are involved in their care. The number of people living with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years. With so many people impacted now and into the future, it is vital we clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about dementia.

People living with dementia can live active and fulfilling lives many years after diagnosis. Despite this, they often experience discrimination. In a Dementia Australia survey, more than 70 per cent of people believed discrimination towards people with dementia is common or very common.

The concept for Dementia Action Week was developed in consultation with Dementia Advocates, who have a lived experience of dementia. The ‘A little support makes a big difference’ campaign demonstrates that many people living with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their diagnosis. In 2021, the focus was also on supporting and celebrating carers of people living with dementia.

The campaign provides information and tips to encourage all Australians to increase their understanding of dementia and learn how they can make a difference to the lives of people around them who are impacted – and to help eliminate discrimination. These include simple and practical tips to:
  • Give a little support to a person living with dementia.
  • Give a little support to a carer, friend or family member of a person living with dementia.
  • Help healthcare professionals make their practice more dementia-friendly.
This awareness-raising campaign continues to lead the discussion about discrimination, which we know has a big impact on people living with dementia, their families and carers. The good news is, there is a lot that can be done to improve their experiences. To find out how you can make a difference please visit our campaign site by clicking the link below:

We encourage community organisations, partners and supporters  to register your interest to receive further information about Dementia Action Week 2022, discrimination and dementia.

What created the continents? New evidence points to giant asteroids

Solarseven / Shutterstock
Tim JohnsonCurtin University

Earth is the only planet we know of with continents, the giant landmasses that provide homes to humankind and most of Earth’s biomass.

However, we still don’t have firm answers to some basic questions about continents: how did they come to be, and why did they form where they did?

One theory is that they were formed by giant meteorites crashing into Earth’s crust long ago. This idea has been proposed several times, but until now there has been little evidence to support it.

In new research published in Nature, we studied ancient minerals from Western Australia and found tantalising clues suggesting the giant impact hypothesis might be right.

How Do You Make A Continent?

The continents form part of the lithosphere, the rigid rocky outer shell of Earth made up of ocean floors and the continents, of which the uppermost layer is the crust.

The crust beneath the oceans is thin and made of dark, dense basaltic rock which contains only a little silica. By contrast, the continental crust is thick and mostly consists of granite, a less dense, pale-coloured, silica-rich rock that makes the continents “float”.

The internal structure of Earth. Kelvin Song / WikimediaCC BY

Beneath the lithosphere sits a thick, slowly flowing mass of almost-molten rock, which sits near the top of the mantle, the layer of Earth between the crust and the core.

If part of the lithosphere is removed, the mantle beneath it will melt as the pressure from above is released. And impacts from giant meteorites – rocks from space tens or hundreds of kilometres across – are an extremely efficient way of doing exactly that!

What Are The Consequences Of A Giant Impact?

Giant impacts blast out huge volumes of material almost instantaneously. Rocks near the surface will melt for hundreds of kilometres or more around the impact site. The impact also releases pressure on the mantle below, causing it to melt and produce a “blob-like” mass of thick basaltic crust.

This mass is called an oceanic plateau, similar to that beneath present-day Hawaii or Iceland. The process is a bit like what happens if you are hit hard on the head by a golf ball or pebble – the resulting bump or “egg” is like the oceanic plateau.

Our research shows these oceanic plateaus could have evolved to form the continents through a process known as crustal differentiation. The thick oceanic plateau formed from the impact can get hot enough at its base that it also melts, producing the kind of granitic rock that forms buoyant continental crust.

Are There Other Ways To Make Oceanic Plateaus?

There are other ways oceanic plateaus can form. The thick crusts beneath Hawaii and Iceland formed not through giant impacts but “mantle plumes”, streams of hot material rising up from the edge of Earth’s metallic core, a bit like in a lava lamp. As this ascending plume reaches the lithosphere it triggers massive mantle melting to form an oceanic plateau.

So could plumes have created the continents? Based on our studies, and the balance of different oxygen isotopes in tiny grains of the mineral zircon, which is commonly found in tiny quantities in rocks from the continental crust, we don’t think so.

Zircon is the oldest known crustal material, and it can survive intact for billions of years. We can also determine quite precisely when it was formed, based on the decay of the radioactive uranium it contains.

What’s more, we can find out about the environment in which zircon formed by measuring the relative proportion of isotopes of oxygen it contains.

We looked at zircon grains from one of the oldest surviving pieces of continental crust in the world, the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which started forming more than 3 billion years ago. Many of the oldest grains of zircon contained more light oxygen isotopes, which indicate shallow melting, but younger grains contain a more mantle-like balance isotopes, indicating much deeper melting.

Zircon δ18O (‰) vs age (Ma) for individual dated magmatic zircon grains from the Pilbara Craton. The horizontal grey band shows the array of δ18O in mantle zircon (5.3 +/– 0.6‰, 2 s.d.). The vertical grey bands subdivide the data into three stages, as discussed in the paper. The pink boxes represent the age of deposition of high-energy impact deposits (spherule beds) from the Pilbara Craton and more widely.

This “top-down” pattern of oxygen isotopes is what you might expect following a giant meteorite impact. In mantle plumes, by contrast, melting is a “bottom-up” process.

Sounds Reasonable, But Is There Any Other Evidence?

Yes, there is! The zircons from the Pilbara Craton appear to have been formed in a handful of distinct periods, rather than continuously over time.

Except for the earliest grains, the other grains with isotopically-light zircon have the same age as spherule beds in the Pilbara Craton and elsewhere.

Spherule beds are deposits of droplets of material “splashed out” by meteorite impacts. The fact the zircons have the same age suggests they may have been formed by the same events.

The sun sets in the Pilbara, and the hunt for firewood is on. Chris Kirkland, 2021.

Further, the “top-down” pattern of isotopes can be recognised in other areas of ancient continental crust, such as in Canada and Greenland. However, data from elsewhere have not yet been carefully filtered like the Pilbara data, so it will take more work to confirm this pattern.

The next step of our research is to reanalyse these ancient rocks from elsewhere to confirm what we suspect – that the continents grew at the sites of giant meteorite impacts. Boom.The Conversation

Tim Johnson, Associate Professor, Curtin University

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

New AMA President And Vice President Elected At AMA National Conference

July 31, 2022
The AMA today elected a new President, Professor Steve Robson and Vice President, Dr Danielle McMullen.

The election, at the AMA’s National Conference, follows the conclusion of the two-year terms of President Dr Omar Khorshid and Vice President Dr Chris Moy.

Professor Robson is a senior specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and has been in practice in Canberra for 20 years.

Professor Robson first joined the AMA in 1984 as a medical student in Queensland. He has served as ACT President and is in his fifth term on the AMA ACT Board and is a Federal Councillor. He has also been President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Dr McMullen is a GP in Sydney’s Inner West, and immediate past president of AMA (NSW), which included handling the state's response to COVID. Throughout the pandemic, she demonstrated strong leadership, effectively engaging decision makers to further the AMA’s strategic policy and public health aims.

Dr McMullen is passionate about the AMA and strongly believes it is the only organisation that successfully brings together doctors from all specialties and stages of career to advocate for a better system for patients and their doctors.

Professor Robson thanked Dr Khorshid and Dr Moy for their service in unprecedented times.

“Our new team will be a strong advocate for the medical profession and the community following in the large footsteps of the former leadership team of Dr Omar Khorshid and Dr Chris Moy.

“We have come so far, but there’s still so much to be done. I am determined to see general practice not only survive but be recognised as the lynchpin it is in our health system. It is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping Australians healthy,” said Professor Robson.

“As a leadership team, we look forward to working with members and non-members and stakeholders, including government to see the $1 billion dollars in funding earmarked for general practice spent in a targeted and effective way as outlined in the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan,” said Dr McMullen.

“Continuing the AMA campaign to stop the Hospital Logjam and restore sustainable funding to our public hospital system and hold the new federal government to account will be a priority also,” she said.

“Across the issues of prevention, private practice, public hospitals, aged care and general practice we are looking forward to continuing the critical work the AMA carries out, and highlighting that health is the best investment for governments to make,” said Professor Robson.

The Seekers - I'll Never Find Another You 

(HQ Stereo, 1964/'68) The Seekers' first hit single, recorded at Abbey Road studios in London in the autumn of '64, reaching #1 in Feb '65. Originally in mono, here is a new stereo mix using DES (Digitally Extracted Stereo)

Olivia Newton John - Let Me Be There 



A man with road rage confronts an elderly driver. Then all hell breaks loose.
By Omeleto, 2020

Pop icon Olivia Newton-John was the rare performer whose career flourished through different phases

Catherine StrongRMIT University

Olivia Newton-John was a versatile artist with an appeal that spanned generations, and who played an important role in claiming a space for Australian popular culture on the world stage.

She was the rare performer whose career flourished through different phases, and who found success exploring many facets of her talent.

Born in Cambridge in 1948, Newton-John moved to Melbourne at age 6 (becoming one of a myriad of non-Australian celebrities wholeheartedly claimed by this country).

In her teens she started to build up her profile on the local performing circuits, also appearing on pop music television program The Go!! Show.

In the 1960s, Australian musical acts saw moving to the UK as a vital part of their career progression. Newton-John became part of the steady stream of expats pursuing their music in “the mother country” after winning a talent competition that provided her with tickets.

When her friend Pat Carroll joined her, the two found success touring as a pop duo, before visa troubles meant Carroll had to return to Australia.

This led to new opportunities for Newton-John as a solo artist. Her first album If Not For You (1971) was a success in the UK and Australia, establishing her as a household name in those countries – and leading to opportunities such as a performance at Eurovision representing the UK in 1974 (she lost to ABBA).

Her break in the US market came as she found a niche in the country music genre. Country/pop crossover songs such as Let Me Be There were huge hits, and in 1972 she won a Grammy for Best Country Female – the first of four Grammys she would win across her career.

Her move to the US in the mid-1970s was accompanied by a string of number one hits in that country, establishing her as an international superstar.

Life On The Silver Screen

Her star continued to rise with the release of the musical Grease in 1978.

Sandy established her as a genuinely iconic pop culture figure.

Grease was a huge box-office success, and produced a multi-million copy selling soundtrack. Tracks such as You’re the One That I Want and Summer Loving were not only hits in their own right at the time but have become embedded in our cultural memory, transcending generations with their appeal.

Grease was the peak of her movie career. Attempts to re-create the on-screen magic between herself and co-star John Travolta in Two of a Kind and the fantastical Xanadu (a personal childhood favourite) failed to gain traction with audiences or critics.

But her contributions to the soundtracks of these films – including Magic and Twist of Fate – still charted highly as her musical career stayed strong.

Away From The Spotlight

In the early 1980s she was seen as part of the “Australian invasion”, a period where Oz culture was particularly prominent on the international stage through acts such as Air Supply and the Little River Band.

Newton-John leaned into the moment. In 1983, she launched her Koala Blue boutique selling Australian fashion and cultural items, in collaboration with her previous singing partner Pat Carroll. The boutique lasted a little over a decade, during which time Newton-John had a family and put less focus on her music career.

A planned comeback in 1992 had to be put on hold when Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before beginning her tour.

Her journey with the disease inspired her to take up advocacy and fundraising work in this area. The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre fundraises in various ways, including through events such as the annual Wellness Walk.

The return of Newton-John’s cancer in 2017, which would eventually lead to her death, also spelled the end of her touring career.

A Lasting Legacy

Newton-John leaves a legacy as a sweet girl-next-door type with a sublime voice, who embraced the country that claimed her as its own, but who also at times showed a more risqué side, such as in Sandy’s leather jumpsuit, or the cheeky video to the unapologetically sexual Physical.

She has already been recognised through awards and honours.

She has been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. In 2020 she was appointed a Dame in the Queen’s New Year honours list. She has also been a continuing part of the cultural conversation through appearances on pop culture staples such as Drag Race.

She remained down-to-earth and friendly, regularly turning up to events like the Wellness Walks to chat to participants and encourage them on.

Like many Australians, ONJ has been part of the soundtrack to my life – from arranging my own little performances to Xanadu in kindergarten, to singing along to the Grease megamix at school discos, to discovering her earlier work through my research much later in life – and many have benefitted from her non-musical work, too.

She will be missed but never forgotten.The Conversation

Catherine Strong, Associate professor, Music Industry, RMIT University

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

Six Behaviours To Increase Your Confidence: Emily Jaenson - TEDxReno

Published August 11, 2022 by TEDx Talks

Research tells us that the way to get people to change is not to start with trying to change their attitudes alone, but to start with the behaviors associated with the attitudes. When people see themselves behaving differently, they can then think of themselves differently and the attitude change will follow. The six behaviors discussed that you could start today are derived from over 90 interviews with female executives in sports. 

Emily Jaenson’s motto is “Be so good they won’t forget you!” and this motto has carried her through her career to land her former role as General Manager of the Triple-A Reno Aces.  Upon accepting this role in 2018, Jaenson became the first female in Triple-A to hold the GM role in nearly 20 years. Jaenson leads a podcast, Leadership is Female, where she interviews executives in sport so that she and her guests can guide the next generation of female leadership forward and leads a team of sports front office veterans in their consulting business. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organised by a local community. Learn more at

Be The Boss: I Want To Be A Music Producer

We all LOVE music, right? But not all of us will become GREAT Musicians - however, there is an industry career that will allow you to support musicians, that of Music or Record Producer. 

Years ago, as part of doing some research into the Doppler Effect and wondering what whole notes our planets sound (a heartbeat), how the sequence of these may create a 'song of our galaxy', the best way to find out more about sound production to recreate that range of notes was to do a Music Producer course in at Surry Hills. Since then it is noted this same great crew of then has expanded and now offer courses in Sydney still but also in Melbourne and Brisbane. They were, and are, the JMC Academy, and there is some fee help available through this organisation, you can check them out here: - there's a new course starting September 22nd, 2022.

But what is a Music Producer?

A music producer writes, arranges, produces and records songs for other artists or for their own projects.

Work activities

As a music producer, you would:

  • work with musical artists in a recording studio to record new songs
  • choose songs with the artist
  • work out musical arrangements and hire musicians
  • arrange, set up and use microphones and other recording equipment
  • meet with new artists and music industry professionals to schedule work
  • generate ideas for creative approaches to recording music
  • develop budgets for music albums
  • schedule the recording and mixing studios that an artist would use
  • supervise the recording, overdubbing and mixing sessions, keeping within the decided budget
  • at the major label level, work in shaping songs deemed to have commercial potential
  • work closely with artists to elicit consistent and outstanding vocal or instrumental performances
  • keep to a record label’s deadlines
  • produce music for games, film and TV, and video commercials. 

Key skills and interests

To become a music producer, you would need:

  • a broad knowledge of musical styles
  • well developed technical skills
  • extensive knowledge of audio recording techniques and the best way to use music studio equipment
  • the ability to use microphones and computer software to engineer quality recordings
  • an awareness of new musical trends and new audio production technology
  • creativity and flexibility
  • good project management and time management skills.

Working hours and conditions

Music producers work irregular hours. They are also likely to have to attend music industry events, concerts and performances out of hours, during evenings, and on weekends.

Music producers may be self-employed, work for a recording studio or record label, or work on the production of music for games, film and TV, and video commercials. You would usually work in a studio. You would use a wide range of specialised recording, mixing and dubbing equipment, as well as computer software. 

How to become an Music Producer?

You can work as a music producer without formal qualifications. Most producers begin the production phase of their careers after many years working their way up from junior level roles in the music industry, or in related industries such as film.

However, most producers are educated to degree level. You could undertake a Bachelor's degree in an area such as visual or creative arts, arts management or arts with a major in music studies. To get into these courses, you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent.

Additional courses in music production may increase your chances of success in a very competitive environment. You will also need substantial experience in a broad range of musical styles, an in-depth understanding of the production process, and a good network of contacts in the industry.

Music producers face strong competition for jobs because there are many more people who want to work in this field than there are jobs available, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your passion - if you have to make music, this could be your way in and may well lead to other opportunities presenting themselves along the way that could lead to your place in your chosen field.

Music Producer as a job information courtesy Australian Government Apprenticeships Guide (Your Career), Australian Open Colleges,  Australian Careers HQ and The Good Universities Guide, Australia.

In text photo: Music producer Sir George Martin, best known for his work with The Beatles, pictured with members George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon at a recording session at Abbey Road in 1966

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Smooth Start To First HSC Exams

COVID-smart protocols are in place to ensure minimal disruption to the start of the 2022 HSC exams.

The NSW 2022 Higher School Certificate (HSC) exams have kicked off last weekend with more than 5,600 students completing their oral language exams. On Monday August 8th, HSC performance exams in Dance, Music and Drama began for more than 9,500 students.

With teachers having to provide marks for both oral language and performance exams last year due to COVID-19 disruptions, Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said it was great to see the HSC return to normal.

“I know students starting their exams are breathing a sigh of relief having had a smoother start to their HSC journey,” Ms Mitchell said.

“All students can take comfort in that fact that we have stringent measures in place to reduce potential disruptions this year, including alternative arrangements if they are unable to sit an exam due to illness.”

Ms Mitchell said COVID-smart protocols would be in place, including physical distancing and strongly encouraging face masks. Hand sanitiser, alcohol wipes and masks will also be readily available to students.

“Our most important message to students is to stay home and get tested if you feel unwell on the day of an exam.”

Ms Mitchell said around 76,000 students are working to complete their HSC program this year, and languages was the first of 126 courses to be examined.

“Learning a second language is an invaluable experience and an important skill in a globalised world,” Ms Mitchell said.

“In NSW, we are surrounded by rich and diverse languages – and the NSW Curriculum provides students from all backgrounds the opportunity to engage with and value those cultures.”

HSC written exams will start on 12 October 2022, finishing on 4 November 2022. View the HSC timetable here

Funding To Enhance University Collaboration

August 10, 2022

Young people will be supported and encouraged to study at university, upskill and pursue entrepreneurship through innovative new projects that aim to enhance educational outcomes and break down barriers to university study. 

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said four projects will receive a share of the $1.75 million NSW Government Collaboration and Innovation Fund, which focuses on supporting innovation and addressing challenges to partnerships within the university sector. 

“These grants will help break down barriers that prevent people who want to study at our world class universities and will drive innovative new projects in collaboration with the university sector,” Mr Henskens said. 

“Projects funded through this round of the program include workshops to encourage high school students to explore technology entrepreneurships and toolkits to help regional and culturally and linguistically diverse students bridge the skills gap between school and university.” 

Projects funded through the Collaboration and Innovation Fund, include: 

  • Startup @ Schools (University of Technology Sydney and the University of Newcastle) with workshops to encourage Year 9 and 10 students to pursue technology-enabled entrepreneurship as a career;
  • Teachers Aide Pathway (Charles Sturt University, TAFE NSW and Regional Development Australia Orana) to upskill teachers’ aides currently employed in NSW schools to become qualified teachers in regional communities;
  • Start @ Uni (UNSW Sydney and The University of Sydney) for first-year regional and culturally and linguistically diverse students transitioning to university, which aims to address academic skills gaps between high school and university; and
  • The Academy (University of New England and the Dhiiyaan Centre) preparing Aboriginal students for higher education from Year 8 through to tertiary enrolment via a curriculum that merges Aboriginal knowledge with science. 

The Collaboration and Innovation Fund provides grants to support university projects that address education goals included in the NSW Higher Education Strategy.

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

Word Of The Week: Scallywag

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


1. a person, typically a child, who behaves badly but in an amusingly mischievous rather than harmful way; a rascal. 2. US; a white Southerner who collaborated with northern Republicans during the post-Civil War reconstruction period. 3. Scallywags (Second World War), a nickname for the British Auxiliary Units, who were to engage in guerrilla warfare in the event of a Nazi invasion.

The first citation of “scalawag” given by the Oxford English Dictionary is from J.R. Bartlett's 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms, which defines it as “a favourite epithet in western New York for a mean fellow; a scape-grace.” 

scapegrace; Archaic - a mischievous or wayward person, especially a young person or child; a rascal.

Scallawag: In United States history, the term scalawag (sometimes spelled scallawag or scallywag) referred to white Southerners who supported Reconstruction policies and efforts after the conclusion of the American Civil War.  As with the term carpetbagger, the word has a long history of use as a slur in Southern partisan debates. The post-Civil War opponents of the scalawags claimed they were disloyal to traditional values and white supremacy. Scalawags were particularly hated by 1860s–1870s Southern Democrats, who called Scalawags traitors to their region (long known for its widespread chattel slavery). Prior to the Civil War, most Scalawags had been opposed to the southern states' (the Confederacy's) secession from the United States.

A Sept. 1868 cartoon in Alabama's ''Independent Monitor'', threatening that the KKK would lynch scalawags (left) and carpetbaggers (right) on March 4, 1869, predicted as the first day of Democrat Horatio Seymour's presidency (the election winner was actually Ulysses S. Grant). The term is commonly used in historical studies as a descriptor of Reconstruction Era Southern white Republicans, although some historians have discarded the term due to its history of pejorative connotations.

Scallywags WWII: The Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units were specially-trained, highly-secret quasi military units created by the British government during the Second World War with the aim of using irregular warfare in response to a possible invasion of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany, "Operation Sea Lion". With the advantage of having witnessed the rapid fall of several Continental European nations, the United Kingdom was the only country during the war that was able to create a multi-layered guerrilla force in anticipation of an invasion.

The Auxiliary Units would fight as uniformed guerrillas during the military campaign. In the event of an invasion, all Auxiliary Units would disappear into their operational bases and would not maintain contact with local Home Guard commanders, who were to be wholly unaware of their existence. Although the Auxiliaries were Home Guard volunteers and wore Home Guard uniforms, they would not participate in the conventional phase of their town's defence but would be activated once the local Home Guard defence had been ended to inflict maximum mayhem and disruption over a further brief but violent period. They were not envisaged as a continuing resistance force against long-term occupation. The secrecy surrounding the insurgent squads meant that members “had no military status, no uniforms and there are very few official records of their activities”.

Service in the Auxiliary Units was expected to be highly dangerous, with a projected life expectancy of just twelve days for its members, with orders to either shoot one another or use explosives to kill themselves if capture by an enemy force seemed likely.

Urged on by the War Office, Prime Minister Winston Churchill initiated the Auxiliary Units in the early summer of 1940. This was to counter the civilian Home Defence Scheme already established by SIS (MI6), but outside War Office control. The Auxiliary Units answered to GHQ Home Forces but were legally an integral part of the Home Guard.

In modern times, the Auxiliary Units have sometimes misleadingly been referred to as the "British Resistance Organisation". That is a title was never used by the organisation officially but reflects a subsequent misunderstanding of what their role might have been. Colloquially, members of the Auxiliary Units were referred to as "scallywags" and their activities as "scallywagging".

Operational base, reconstruction at Parham Airfield Museum. Photo courtesy Gaius Cornelius 

Skimmed ALIVE - Skim Boarding The Biggest Waves On The Planet. Featuring Lucas Fink. Profile 2

by Surfing Visions - Tim Bonython

Published August 10, 2022

Nazare the home of the worlds biggest ridable wave attracts fearless riders of all sorts of craft. Here we a profile the world champ skim boarder Lucas Fink maximising himself on some of the biggest waves ever ridden on a skim board in PART 2 of Big Wave Surfer Profiles. ENJOY

Three lessons Olivia Newton-John taught me about music – and life

Photo by Roger Allston/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
John EncarnacaoWestern Sydney University

My default mental image of Olivia Newton-John is from the mid-1970s: long, flowing floral dresses; long, centre-parted light brown hair; big inquisitive eyes; and, when called for, an irresistible smile perfect for the cover of TV Week.

It seemed like the counterculture had passed her by.

But even in the heights of my hippie and punk-inspired (imagined, toothless) rejections of society and a perceived mainstream, I respected Olivia, a figure so ubiquitous in popular culture during my first 20 years on the planet it feels natural to call her by her first name.

There was something about her voice, her way with a song. Through her phrasing and timbre, there was always a personal appeal to her singing.

Like heatstroke in December-through-February, Olivia was part of the Australian landscape. The country felt a little less hostile for her being in it - or beamed into it from the northern hemisphere, while we claimed her as “ours”.

There was a big sister who understood and sympathised.

1. What She Taught Me About Murder

Despite all this, Olivia did contribute to a certain loss of innocence.

Some of us are unlucky enough to encounter death personally as children; for the rest it will be a song or a TV show, a passing remark or a news item.

Newton-John’s recording of the folk ballad Banks of the Ohio was released in 1971. It concerns the protagonist luring their loved one down to the river to stab them through the heart.

I held a knife against his breast
As into my arms he pressed
He cried: My love! Don’t you murder me
I’m not prepared for eternity.

I can’t think of an earlier exposure to the idea of death, let alone murder. I associate it with the tinny sound of a portable AM radio. I have the honeyed tones of ONJ forever linked to the visceral realisation one human being could wilfully kill another.

Heavy metal and hip hop are the traditional punching bags of parents worried about harmful content. But people let their guards down around ONJ.

2. What She Taught Me Through A Cover Band

Shaggin’ Wagon, a cover band of mine instigated around 1993, did what it said on the label: rocked the hell out of songs from the 1970s.

We combined relatively obscure minor chart hits – say, Silver Lady by David Soul, or Ebony Eyes by Bob Welch – with what we thought of as a classic lineage of power pop by the likes of Big Star, The Soft Boys, The dB’s, The Sweet and Abba.

There was always a smattering of hard rock – Kiss, Alice Cooper – and Australian artists like The Numbers, Models and Dragon. Though the repertoire was always changing, there were a few big crowd pleasers to bring the house down.

One of mine, as part-time singer, was Hopelessly Devoted to You. What started as half a joke I took to with gusto. It is a great song, with a fantastic key change from A major in the verses to F major in the chorus via a devastating G minor chord.

“There’s nowhere to hide”, wallows the protagonist on that pitiful chord, harmonically so removed from the plaintive longing of comfortable A major we’ve swooned through thus far.

I started to search for other Olivia songs. I picked up a 45 of A Little More Love and realised it was a kind of masterpiece; like Hopelessly it was composed by longtime Newton-John collaborator John Farrar.

It is another beautifully structured song, somewhat labyrinthine. Even now I find it a thrill to play on the guitar.

Despite my party trick of (usually) being able to hit the high F at the end of Hopelessly, sustaining the upper octave required for the choruses of A Little More Love was beyond me.

The attempt further educated me about the technical demands Olivia shrugged off. The range is so wide that no matter how I transposed it, I could not pull off both low verses and high choruses.

I already knew she was good – and I’d never claim to be anywhere near ONJ’s league – but this was further proof being learned by my body.

3. What She Taught Me About The Girl-Next-Door

Olivia wasn’t entirely convinced about Physical. She loved the song but wondered: could she get away with it?

Tired of the flirtation and game-playing, the protagonist wants to get down to it: “There’s nothin’ left to talk about unless it’s horizontally”.

The record was banned in Utah and South Africa due to its explicit content (!). The video further fanned the flames, with its closing “gay scene” (two guys leaving the gym holding hands).

Every bit of controversy just further hyped what was a superlative pop record. Physical topped the US charts for 10 weeks in 1981 and was one of the biggest songs of the decade. And if Physical wasn’t enough, the follow up single was Make a Move On Me.

You’d be forgiven for sensing a theme.

Physical, the album, is about more than a seasoned pop star trying on a slightly more risqué persona. None of the six images of Newton-John on the cover feature her looking at the camera, or even with her eyes open.

She does not challenge the camera or voyeur with her direct gaze, and so may be seen to be offering herself as an object to be consumed; the assumption along this line of reasoning is she avails herself of the male gaze.

I find it more compelling to consider her lost in her body. The viewer, the whole world outside her physical sensation, is irrelevant.

Despite the fact the music remains eminently accessible, she is not looking to her audience for approval.

Physical is the definitive statement of independence – from country music radio, from her pre-1978 image as girl-next-door, from a certain level of conservatism in her audience.

She even cut her hair.The Conversation

John Encarnacao, Musician, lecturer, Western Sydney University

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

Olivia Newton-John gave a voice to those with cancer and shifted the focus to the life of survivors

Alex BroomUniversity of Sydney

Since news of Olivia Newton-John’s death this week, many have paid tribute to her character, humble nature and cultural significance.

She also made a significant contribution to cancer survivorship and the ideal of treating the whole person, not just their disease.

Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction. Her cancer journey spanned three decades, and as she explained:

The whole experience has given me much understanding and compassion, so much so that I wanted to help others going through the same journey.

Bringing Our Attention To Cancer

Getting the community mobilised around difficult topics like cancer can be tough. Celebrities – and their experience of illness and healing – have become one of the most powerful means for mobilising action.

Olivia Newton-John was one of the first to share her experience of breast cancer with a wide audience and her advocacy opened the door for others such as Kylie Minogue and Angelina Jolie to share theirs.

Stories like theirs have mobilised cancer screening and research, prompting reflection and normalised the experience of living with cancer.

The ‘Alternative’ Voices Of Cancer Survivorship

The diverse approach Newton-John took to cancer treatment was a distinguishing part of her legacy. As she explained when establishing the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre:

I did herbal formulas, meditation and focused on a vision of complete wellness.

Explaining her “pro cannabis” stance on 60 minutes in 2019, she reflected a growing recognition of community interest in diverse approaches to pain and symptom management, and how such community views often rub up against legal and regulatory constraints. Australia only legalised medicinal cannabis in 2016, and many reservations persist among the Australian medical community.

Being open about her experience, Newton-John gave voice to things which many Australian cancer patients try, and believe in, but many in the medical community continue to push back on. In Australia, more than half of people living with cancer use alternative treatments over the course of their cancer journeys. Yet, alternative practices, including herbal products and medicinal cannabis, remain largely absent from mainstream cancer care. This risks putting mainstream medicine out of step with community beliefs.

As regularly noted, managing patient interest in “alternative” cancer care is a tricky area, but what is clear is that openness and frank discussions serve everyone best. A harm-reduction approach, which discusses and detects any dangerous side-effects or interactions, is safer than silencing what people living with cancer are doing or believe in.

Challenges To Unhelpful Cancer Narratives

Cancer has suffered from a wide range of misconceptions and misrepresentations, ranging from ideas about cancer as a “death sentence”, or the idea that you either beat it or succumb to it. People often feel this does them a disservice.

People with cancer are so much more than a “cancer patient”, and they don’t want to be trapped in that frame. They can live well with cancer, without focusing entirely on trying to be cancer-free to the exclusion of all else. Newton-John emphasised this idea regularly.

Likewise, the expectation of “cancer heroics” is an all-consuming and unhelpful cultural ideal. Sometimes “fighting” works and is needed, but in many contexts and particularly for long-term survivors, focusing on quality of life and wellness is critical.

This is likely why various alternative practices have gained traction, despite the slim evidence base for many. The world of “alternative therapies” has tended to present to the community a more person-centred approach, regardless of whether this is actually achieved by many practitioners in practice.

Towards ‘Survivorship’

Cancer “survivorship”, in its broadest sense, denotes a broad focus, inclusive of the mind, body and the social life of the person living with cancer, not merely their disease, symptoms or treatment side-effects.

Even two decades ago, the emphasis was almost exclusively placed on curative cancer treatment, treatment discovery, or post-curative experiences. This overly disease-centred focus tended to marginalise the many people who will continue to live on with cancer.

Person-centred approaches, in their many forms, show considerable benefit, although there continues to be a diverse set of understandings about what it actually means. The broad principle of person-centredness is that we are much more than a disease and this matters throughout all aspects of care. Our care needs to be structured around our beliefs, psychological and social needs and life experiences. This may sound simple, but it is often not a central part of the picture.

While we are making progress, as Newton-John was acutely aware, there is so much more to do in this realm. Based on our most recent estimates more than one million Australians alive today are either currently living with cancer or have lived with it. Strategies which help all of us touched by cancer to live well, whether cured or not, should be the priority moving forward.

While we must be careful not to push too far in the other direction – a cruel optimism which threatens to sideline the hard, sad and often difficult experiences of cancer – a balance is needed which we have not quite reached.

Olivia Newton-John’s death will likely be difficult for some living with cancer. Important survivorship stories, when they come to a close, are difficult. So, let’s not pretend. Endings are hard, but a life well lived it also something to celebrate.

The Conversation

Alex Broom, Professor of Sociology & Director, Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies, The University of Sydney., University of Sydney

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

Eddie Betts’ camp saga highlights a motivational industry rife with weird, harmful ideas

Ben Farr-WhartonEdith Cowan UniversityMatthew XerriGriffith University, and Yvonne BrunettoSouthern Cross University

Former AFL star Eddie Betts’ revelations about the 2018 Adelaide Crows training camp, which left him feeling like he had been brainwashed and sapped his passion for football, raises all sorts of questions.

But the most obvious is how could the Crows’ management, running an elite organisation with a team that had made the grand final the year before, treat its most valuable assets – its players – so badly?

Who decided the bullying and abusive behaviour that reportedly traumatised individuals and fractured the team was a good idea?

We can’t answer that. But as academics with experience in the “motivational industry”, we’re not all that shocked such things occurred.

The market for programs and processes to improve individual and organisational performance is huge, and with it comes faddish ideas with little or no basis in evidence.

A Shattering Experience

Betts’ account of the 2018 training camp, in his recently published autobiography The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, describes scenes of humiliation, misappropriation of Indigenous cultural practices and an emphasis on toxic aspects of masculinity.

The four-day preseason camp followed Adelaide making the 2017 AFL grand final but being trounced by the Richmond Tigers.

Betts describes being blindfolded, led onto a bus with papered-over windows and taken to a random location with Richmond’s club song (“Tigerland”) being played loudly over and over again.

He says there were criticism sessions in which “counsellors” yelled taunts at him about personal matters he believed he had disclosed in confidence:

I was exhausted, drained and distressed about the details being shared. Another camp-dude jumped on my back and started to berate me about my mother, something so deeply personal that I was absolutely shattered to hear it come out of his mouth.

The experience clearly left a lasting impression. Betts says his performance and relationship with his family suffered.

His account is disturbing. Equally concerning is how easily these kinds of inappropriate, confrontational and ethically dubious experiences occur in the name of “training” and “motivation”.

A Tough Idea With No Evidential Basis

As industry-engaged academics, we are experienced in developing, implementing and evaluating training and interventions that build psychological capital, resilience and wellbeing.

We can only presume the rationale for the training camp was to develop greater mental toughness.

But while it might be a commonly held belief that placing people in highly stressful and emotionally confronting circumstances will help them “sink or swim” and “face their fears”, the evidence shows this is not helpful. Indeed, it has the potential to be very harmful.

The brain is a highly efficient learning machine. It uses emotions (the automatic deployment of chemicals in the brain as a response to stimuli) to “bake in” memories – and, for that matter, skills.

When external stimuli trigger negative emotions, this leads to a “flight, fight or freeze” response. Long after the trigger and experience, the emotional and physiological reaction to the memory can remain.

This is called trauma. As described by Martin Seligman - often referred to as the “father of positive psychology” - if that trauma isn’t resolved it can lead to anxiety and depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Time And Place For ‘Post-Traumatic Growth’

Decades of research in the field of psychology has led to the general understanding that there are times when it is appropriate for people to face emotionally confronting circumstances, particularly childhood experiences, that may have had a defining impact on a person’s behaviour or cognition.

However, there are very strict guidelines and protocols as to when and under what conditions this occurs. In Australia this is governed by the Psychology Board of Australia and underpinned by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act.

In brief, such confrontation should only occur when a qualified and registered practitioner believes the person they are treating feels safe and supported, so the emotional and physiological reaction can occur in a contained way. When this occurs, it is called “post-traumatic growth” – and it must be done by a dedicated expert practitioner.

There are no circumstances under which an organisation, or those acting on behalf of it, should deliberately subject its employees to experiences that have the potential to be emotionally traumatic.

Indeed, Australia’s work health and safety regulations are increasingly making employers legally responsible for “psycho-social hazards” – anything that could cause psychological harm – at work. This includes aggressive, bullying behaviour and exposure to traumatic events.

In some workplaces, exposure to emotionally confronting events is unavoidable. Examples include aged-care and health-care workers who regularly have to confront human frailty and death; paramedics who have to attend car accidents; and police officers who are exposed to the very worst of human nature. Particularly for paramedics and police, substantial organisational resources are deployed to help mitigate the impact of exposure to trauma – although, sometimes, they can still fall through the cracks.

All Workplaces Should Be Safe And Respectful

The idea of provoking trauma for some organisational benefit is wrong. Do not ever believe that any good is done by doing harm. There is no evidence to support this.

Helping someone to achieve personal growth requires standard mental-health first-aid skills: listening; giving support and information; and encouraging them to seek appropriate professional help.

Betts’ reported experience is a reminder that engagements with colleagues, managers, subordinates, customers and clients at work should always be safe and respectful.

Deliberately exposing someone to an emotionally confronting situation is only likely to harm their ability to perform.The Conversation

Ben Farr-Wharton, Associate Dean of Management, Edith Cowan UniversityMatthew Xerri, Senior Lecturer in Human Resources, Griffith University, and Yvonne Brunetto, Professor of Management and HRM, Southern Cross University

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

How complex is your life? Computer scientists found a way to measure it

Unsplash/Susan Q Yin
Karlo DorocThe University of Melbourne

Nobel laureate economist Richard Thaler famously quipped:

People aren’t dumb, the world is hard.

Indeed, we routinely encounter problems in our everyday lives that feel complex – from choosing the best electricity plan, to deciding how to effectively spend our money.

Australian pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year to comparison websites and consumer-focused groups such as CHOICE to help them make decisions about products and services.

But how can we objectively measure how “complex” our decisions really are? Our recently published research offers one potential way to do this, by drawing on concepts from computer and systems science.

Why Bother Measuring Complexity?

There are several factors when it comes to measuring complexity in any scenario. For instance, there may be a number of options to choose from and each option may have several different features to consider.

Suppose you want to buy jam. This will be easy if there are only two flavours available, but difficult if there are dozens. Yet choosing an electricity plan would be much harder even with just two options.

In other words, you can’t isolate one particular factor when trying to determine the complexity of something. You have to consider the problem as a whole – and this requires a lot more work.

The ability to accurately measure complexity could have a wide range of practical applications, including informing the design of:

  • regulation on how complex products should be

  • easy to navigate digital systems including websites, apps and smart device programs

  • easy to understand products. These may be financial products (superannuation and insurance plans, credit card schemes), physical products (devices) or virtual products (software)

  • artificial intelligence (AI) that offers advice when problems are too complex for humans. For example, a scheduler AI may let you book meetings yourself, before jumping in to suggest optimal meeting times and locations based on your history.

How We Study Human Decision-Making

Computer science can help us solve problems: information goes in and one (or more) solutions come out. However, the amount of computation needed for this can vary a lot, depending on the problem.

We and our colleagues used a precise mathematical framework, called “computational complexity theory”, that quantifies how much computation is needed to solve any given problem.

The idea behind it is to measure the amount of computational resources (such as time or memory) a computer algorithm needs when problem-solving. The more time or memory it needs, the more complex the problem is.

Once this is established, problems can be categorised into “classes” based on their complexity.

In our work, we were particularly interested in how complexity (as determined through computational complexity theory) corresponds with the actual amount of effort people must put into solving certain problems.

We wanted to know whether computational complexity theory could accurately predict how much humans would struggle in a certain situation and how accurate their problem-solving would be.

Testing Our Hypothesis

We focused on three types of experimental tasks, for which you can see examples below. All of these task types sit within a broader class of complex problems called “NP-complete” problems.

Here are example cases for the three experimental tasks, each of which required a yes or no answer from our research participants. Juan Pablo Franco Ulloa/Karlo Doroc/Nitin Yadav

Each task type requires a different ability to perform well in. Specifically:

  • “satisfiability” tasks require abstract logic
  • “travelling salesperson” tasks require spatial navigation skills and
  • “knapsack” tasks require arithmetic.

All three are ubiquitous in real life and reflect day-to-day problems such as software testing (satisfiability), planning a road trip (travelling salesperson), and shopping or investing (knapsack).

We recruited 67 people, split them into three groups, and made each group solve between 64-72 different variations of one of the three types of task.

We also used computational complexity theory and computer algorithms to figure out which tasks were “high complexity” for a computer, before comparing these with the results from our human problem solvers.

We expected – assuming computational complexity theory is congruent with how real people solve problems – that our participants would spend more time on tasks identified as being “high complexity” for a computer. We also expected lower problem-solving accuracy on these tasks.

In both cases that’s exactly what we found. On average, people did twice as well on the lowest complexity cases compared to the highest complexity cases.

Computer Science Can Measure ‘Complexity’ For Humans

Our results suggest effort alone is not enough to ensure someone does well on a complex problem. Some problems will be hard no matter what – and these are the spaces in which advanced decision aids and AI can shine.

In practical terms, being able to gauge the complexity of a wide range of tasks could help provide people with the necessary support they need to tackle these tasks day-to-day.

The most important result was that our computational complexity theory-based predictions about which tasks humans would find harder were consistent across all three types of task – despite each requiring different abilities to solve.

Moreover, if we can predict how hard humans will find tasks within these three problems, then it should be able to do the same for the more than 3,000 other NP-complete problems.

These include similarly common hurdles such as task schedulingshoppingcircuit design and gameplay.

Now, To Put Research Into Practice

While our results are exciting, there’s still a long way to go. For one, our research used quick and abstract tasks in a controlled laboratory environment. These tasks can model real-life choices, but they’re not representative of actual real-life choices.

The next step is to apply similar techniques to tasks that more closely resemble real-life choices. For instance, can we use computational complexity theory to measure the complexity of choosing between different credit cards?

Progress in this space could help us unlock new ways to aid people in making better choices, every day, across various facets of life. The Conversation

Karlo Doroc, PhD Candidate in Decision Science, Centre for Brain, Mind and Markets, The University of Melbourne

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

What is love? In pop culture, love is often depicted as a willingness to sacrifice, but ancient philosophers took a different view

Plato’s Symposium – Anselm Feuerbach (1869)
Oscar DavisBond University

Woven through Thor: Love and Thunder, Taika Waititi’s latest contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a sentimental and age-old commentary on mortality and love.

In this intergalactic rom-com, the hammer-wielding Gods of Thunder face the shady “god butcher” Gorr in a race to the Gates of Eternity. Gorr has inherited his god-killing gift through a contract with the Necrosword, at the price of his own impending death.

Meanwhile, Thor’s ex-girlfriend, Dr. Jane Foster, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite her best scientific efforts and the magic of the Mjolnir, she too only manages to delay the inevitable.

The stage is set for a story about love where the stakes are high because time is short.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman). Marvel Studios, Fox Studios Australia, Walt Disney Pictures

Gorr’s god-killing spree is fuelled by revenge for the loss of his daughter, Love. Towards the end of the film, Thor risks his life to spend his final moments with Jane. He leaves Gorr to choose between his desire for revenge and spending his dying wish to revive Love. In awe of this sacrifice, Gorr chooses Love.

In the end, both Thor and Gorr put love before themselves.

The film thus appears to celebrate the youthful romantic love we find in Pyramus and Thisbe, or more famously Romeo and Juliet. But it also provides an opportunity to rethink this popular conception of love. Though they are godly, the central characters in this film find themselves grappling with mortal questions.

Does true love require self-sacrifice? This is where the philosophers come in.

An Ancient Greek Dinner Party

The ancient Greeks explored practically everything: the nature of the universe, how to organise a society and achieve justice, how to teach courage, what it means to be a good friend – and, of course, the art of love.

Greek philosophers mostly agreed that our primary purpose in life was to achieve a state of being known as eudaimonia. The eudaimonic life is a life well lived. But just what kind of beings are we? What are the virtues conducive to a good life? At the heart of these questions is, according to the ancient Greeks, the highest virtue: knowledge.

The most famous dialogue on love, Plato’s Symposium, set in 416 BCE, consists of a series of speeches exploring different perspectives on the nature of love and desire.

The dialogue takes place in the house of Agathon, who is celebrating his victory in a tragedy-writing competition. On this particular night, the speakers agree that, rather than get drunk again, they will each give a speech in honour of Eros, the God of Love.

Francesco Albani, Sleeping Eros (circa 1625-1650). Wikimedia Commons

The seven speakers are the ancient equivalents of the authorities of conventional erotic wisdom we have today. We meet a writer, a comedian, a philosopher, a scientist, an old lover, a young lover, and a hedonist. This curated list of invitees – we don’t really know if it is by Plato’s invention or Agathon’s invitation – are the representatives of the varieties of opinions on what love is.

If Thor and Gorr were invited to Plato’s Symposium, they might have agreed with Phaedrus’ claim that we would “rather die a thousand deaths” than be seen as a coward in the eyes of a lover. Bravery and courage are a gift from Eros to lovers, Phaedrus argues, and these virtues are honoured most highly when they belong to love.

Then there is Pausanias, who distinguishes between two kinds of love. There is the basic lover, who sees the function of love as purely instrumental and who “loves the body rather than the soul”.

And there is the richer kind: noble, lifelong love. Noble lovers see their beloved in a deeper way, honoring them for their intelligence and what makes them unique.

Aristophanes, the comedian in attendance, provides some comic relief and shares a myth which has become legend. To understand love, he says, you must understand our nature and development. He claims that lovers were once joined at the back and were round all over with four arms and four legs.

There was one head to the two faces, which looked opposite ways. The creature could walk or, if necessary, cartwheel at high speeds.

One day, the creatures conspired against the gods. In retaliation, Zeus decided to lessen their strength by slicing each creature in two. Apollo then made some important anatomical corrections, ensuring our heads face forwards rather than backwards, and pulling the skin in from the edges and tying it into the middle of the belly, making what we know as the navel.

“Love is born into every human being,” states Aristophanes; “it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.”

We are all looking for our matching half, in order to feel whole.

We are all looking for our matching half, according to Aristophanes. Edgar Chaparro/Unsplash

Aristophanes’ story has become the most romanticised of them all.

Eryximachus, a doctor, sets out a scientific approach to the subject of love. Love affects everything in the universe, he argues, including plants and animals. It is a powerful force which is the source of life’s satisfaction. It brings us good friends and partners and brings us closer the gods. Love governs beautiful music and the harmony of the universe. When love is balanced inside of us, the result is health.

Agathon the tragedian argues that love fades as we age and becomes a practical love – agapē. The god of love “seeks food among flowers” and therefore will not settle on body or soul “whose flower has faded away”.

The Philosopher

Head of Socrates in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome. Wikimedia commonsCC BY-SA

Socrates recounts a conversation with the philosopher Diotima who, he says, taught him everything he knows about love. Diotima shows Socrates that love is a kind of joint ascension towards something greater. Love leads us towards good and beautiful things, the highest of which is knowledge.

Loving then, according to Diotima, is helping each other to become better people – to live more fulfilled eudemonic lives, together. We should show those we love “the great sea of beauty” that is the world and spark a love of wisdom.

Love, then, is a passionate, joint contemplation of the wonders of the universe.

Although Socrates’ speech is the longest and most philosophically intricate in the Symposium, it is not necessarily the definitive argument. Socrates gives us a richer conception of love than the other more conventional romantic accounts, taken as individual views.

But what is unique about the Symposium is that, unlike Plato’s other dialogues, the speeches do not end in aporia – a state of perplexity induced by Socrates’ methodical questioning (known as elenchus). This gives credence to the view that each of the speeches contains an element of truth and this makes love unlike other matters.

There is some truth to Aristophanes’ comedic myth. When you love someone, you treat their heart as if it were your own.

Eryximachus is right that love does bring us good friends and partners, and perhaps Agathon is right to say that love changes shape as we age.

What the Ancient Greeks are sure about is that fulfilled lives are marked by our practice of virtue – and this means that within all of our relationships, we ought to love with kindness, forgiveness, generosity, and patience. The Conversation

Oscar Davis, Lecturer in Philosophy and History, Bond University

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

Part of the Japanese revolution in fashion, Issey Miyake changed the way we saw, wore and made fashion

Peter McNeilUniversity of Technology Sydney

Throughout his career, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, who has died of cancer at 84, rejected terms like “fashion”.

But his work allowed much of the world to reimagine itself through clothing.

Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake studied graphic design in Tokyo where he was influenced by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and the black and white photography of Irving Penn.

As soon as the post-war restrictions barring Japanese nationals from travelling abroad were lifted, he headed to Paris, arriving in 1964.

There, the young designer apprenticed for eminent haute couture fashion houses Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. Such houses made expensive clothes that conformed to prevailing standards of etiquette. Miyake was to go well beyond that.

Miyake was there for the Paris student revolt of 1968 and was galvanised by the youth quake shaking all rules of society.

The ready-to-wear concept by a couturier had been launched just a few years earlier when Yves Saint Laurent created Saint Laurent Rive Gauche in late 1966.

The fashion system was changing and Miyake rose to the challenge.

Japanese Fashion Revolution

Miyake arrived in Paris shortly after Kenzo’s “Jungle Jap” clothes had made waves, with their bright colours and unexpected patterns based partly on Japanese artistic traditions.

The Japanese revolution in fashion was commencing.

Japanese designers including Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey – all born in the 1930s and 40s – rose to prominence in the 70s and showed in Paris.

All questioned Eurocentric views of fashion and beauty. The Japanese designers reversed the Western focus on symmetry and tidiness and adopted aspects of Japanese aesthetic systems, such as Yamamoto’s use of black with colours such as red, purple, cerise, brown and dark blue.

Thigh high laced suede boots worn over cotton pants and woven with a quilted look are worn with a full-sleeved lamb wool jacket
An early creation by Issey Miyake presented in New York City in 1972. AP Photo

Miyake held his first show in New York in 1971 and in Paris in 1973. He integrated technology with tradition, exploring Japanese aesthetics and the uncut, untailored garment. He also commissioned high-tech textiles that influenced fashion around the world.

Miyake’s BODY series included the famous bustiers of plastic, rattan and resin in which the female body was re-imagined as a type of armour.

In February 1982 the prominent journal Artforum photographed a Miyake bustier on its cover.

It was the first time a contemporary art journal had featured fashion.

Covering The Body

Throughout his career Miyake completely re-imagined the potential of textiles.

Working with his textile director Makiko Minagawa and Japanese textile mills, he began to create the famous Pleats collections: using thermally processed polyester textiles that are not pleated before sewing (the regular practice), but manufactured much larger, and then pleated in machines.

The Rhythm Pleats collection from 1989 was inspired by the French artist Henri Rousseau: Miyake took elements of the colour palette and the strange sculptural shells surrounding women in these paintings, a good example of how his influences were always abstract and suggestive.

His very commercial collection Pleats Please was launched in 1993.

The A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) collection (in collaboration with Dai Fujiwara, 1998) revolutionised clothing design and prefigured anxieties around the unsustainability of fashion and its attendant waste. Clothes were knitted in three dimensions in a continuous tube using computerised knitting technology as a whole and from a single thread.

The garment came in a cylinder and was later cut out by the wearer – there was no waste, as leftover sections became mittens, for example.

Miyake And Men

Miyake’s pneumatic collection in 1991 included knickerbocker trousers for men with plastic bladders and straws – men could inflate or deflate the clothes to suit.

It was the age of the AIDS crisis and attendant body wasting. Calvin Klein had responded with hyper-masculine underwear and hyper-masculine advertising. Miyake, on the other hand, tested the zeitgeist by suggesting we use clothes to make our bodies and appearances suit our needs.

Having worn his clothes myself for some time, I can testify for the liberation they provide. The jackets are unlined and embrace the body in unexpected ways. Sleeves might be manufactured so they create a pagoda shape on your arm and add dynamism to the body.

The colour palette is extraordinary and so different from a diet of sensible woollens or tweeds.

Computer-generated jacquard weaving creates subtle patterns only truly registered by closer looking. The textiles have an unexpected tactility next to the skin. Some of the garments are provided literally rolled in a ball. They weigh virtually nothing, meaning they liberate the traveller. Once unrolled and put on the body, they spring back to life.

There is a real sense that you, the wearer, animate these lifeless things: dressing is a performance and the clothes generate a reality that is both theatrical and practical. Although widely worn (there is a cliche all gallerists once lived in Miyake) people remain intrigued by them, wanting to touch them for themselves.

At the Issey Miyake Retrospective in Tokyo in 2016, I saw Miyake and very much wanted to go over and thank him for transforming the potential of fashion for women and men around the world, its material possibility and imaginative possibility.

I’d very much like to thank him for that now.The Conversation

Peter McNeil, Distinguished Professor of Design History, UTS, University of Technology Sydney

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

Royal commission delivers damning interim report on defence and veteran suicide. Here’s what happens next

Ben WadhamFlinders University and James ConnorUNSW Sydney

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has released its interim report after more than 1,900 submissions and 194 witnesses.

It includes recommendations considered so urgent the royal commission is making them now (it still has two years left to run).

After years of lobbying efforts by the veteran community, the government finally relented and established the royal commission in 2021. The evidence presented and initial findings justify how important it is.

The interim report is a good start and we hope the problem of independence and accountability for the effects of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) culture and systems will be addressed.

A Culture Of Tribalism And Exclusion

Defence and veteran suicide is predominantly understood as a mental health issue. But an overemphasis on mental health neglects the impact institutional cultures and systems have on the wellbeing of service personnel.

Institutional abuse is a significant issue in the ADF. The hierarchical and closed character of the military provides environments where service personnel can harass and bully each other.

Cohesion and a sense of pride and loyalty in each unit are central to military effectiveness. But this can create the conditions for abuse.

As we told the royal commission, there’s often a culture of tribalism and exclusion in military settings. This is created by factors including hyper-masculinity, intense stigma against acknowledging injuries (physical or psychological), and the total authority commanders have over military life.

The military justice system permits commanders to use their discretion to discipline their subordinates, which can result in administrative violence. This refers to commanders using their authority arbitrarily to make the life of a subordinate unbearable.

From our own research into institutional abuse in the ADF, the effects of a closed system that perpetrates administrative violence against members can be a contributing factor in veterans self-harming.

We also consistently heard how these processes were used to further traumatise victimised members. We call this the second assault.

Moving From Military To Civilian

The royal commission recognises the importance of the transition from military to civilian life. Moving from the closed military institution to the open civilian world is a significant upheaval, with service personnel losing their sense of identity, purpose and belonging.

The ADF is very effective at socialising civilians into the military – it needs to direct that expertise to transitioning them safely out.

Another key focus of the interim report is the management of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and the claims system. When veterans leave the service the DVA manages their injuries.

The royal commission noted the DVA had yet to determine more than 62,000 claims as of June 2022. It recommends urgent and immediate action to clear the backlog of claims, as claim delays can significantly worsen veterans’ mental health.

Unable To Change

The royal commission is right to ask why it has taken so long for the ADF to change, despite decades of scrutiny.

It identified over 50 previous reports, with 750 recommendations since 2000. The commissioners say:

We have been dismayed to come to understand the limited ways that Australian Governments have responded to these previous inquiries and reports.

We recently concluded an Australian Research Council Discovery grant on institutional abuse in the ADF. We conducted nearly 70 interviews with survivors and assessed the ADF’s inquiries and policy attempts to reform military culture. Our yet-to-be-published research extends back to 1969 – when the same culture of bullying was identified, followed by institutional cover-up and victim blaming.

The ADF has undertaken many inquiries into these problems yet has been unable to effect meaningful change.

Independent Scrutiny Is Crucial

The royal commission flagged there’s a “compelling case” for an independent body to oversee the implementation of recommendations from inquiries and reviews. The commission will explore this further over its final two years.

We think the development of an independent body that sits outside the chain of command is urgent. The entity should also be able to address member grievances.

At the institutional level, Defence has been unable to reform itself and needs to be subject to independent scrutiny.

But this isn’t the first time such an entity has been flagged. In 2005, the Senate Inquiry into the Effectiveness of the Australian Military Justice System recommended something similar, called the Australian Defence Force Administrative Review Board. It was vetoed by Defence and the federal government.

This highlights a fundamental tension for the ADF – between keeping things in house and continuing the legacies of abuse, or empowering an external body that protects the rights of service personnel. The problem is such an entity will inevitably come into conflict with the ADF command.

The royal commission must seek more answers from the leaders and commanders of the ADF and DVA. Their leadership is the key site of institutional dysfunction that disempowers members, veterans and their families, and perpetuates the systems of abuse.

The royal commission must stand up to this power in order to recognise and support those who serve their country.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call the following support services:

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 (phone and online counselling)

Defence Member and Family Helpline: 1800 624 608 (free and confidential, 24/7 national counselling service for Australian veterans and their families, provided through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs)

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14 (24-hour crisis support)

ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line: 1800 628 036

1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732 (free, immediate, short-term counselling from the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service)

No To Violence Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491 (24-hour counselling service for sexual assault, family and domestic violence)

Open Arms: 1800 011 046 (for men concerned about their own use of violence, or abuse)The Conversation

Ben Wadham, Director, Open Door: Understanding and Supporting Service Personnel and their Families, Flinders University and James Connor, Associate professor, UNSW Sydney

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

Home And Hope For Vulnerable Women In Sydney

August 12, 2022
A partnership between the NSW Government and community housing provider Women’s Housing Company is set to drive a new strategy to address the rising issue of female homelessness in Sydney.

The completion of a new complex with nine units at Peakhurst by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) is one of twelve to be delivered by 2025 across Greater Sydney and marks another step towards helping women who are most in need.

The NSW Government has invested $35 million towards the program, which will see the construction of safe accommodation across 9 Sydney LGAs, delivering 106 new units for women who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts said the new facilities would play a crucial role in helping those in need transition into permanent housing.

“Single women over 55 are one of the fastest growing groups of people seeking housing assistance in NSW. They can be at risk of homelessness for many reasons including separation, domestic violence, health issues or retirement,” Mr Roberts said.

“That’s why building these homes are so important. They’ll provide women in need with a safe place to live, while ensuring they have a strong support network in an affordable, secure and stable environment.

Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones said housing for those most in need is the priority, particularly those who have become homeless.

“We know the stigma of being homeless can mean people sleeping rough feel too embarrassed or ashamed to reach out for assistance,” Ms Maclaren-Jones said.

“That’s why we’ve ramped up outreach teams to engage with more people sleeping rough and offer them support towards finding safe and stable accommodation so that they can get a roof over their head and back on their feet.”

Member for Oatley Mark Coure said the new housing complex would provide safe accommodation to women across the local area who are or at risk of becoming homeless.

“This initiative goes the heart of the NSW Government’s want to ensure no one is left behind,” Mr Coure said.

“Homelessness is an issue which can affect anyone for any number of reasons and this new complex will help to provide a safe and secure environment for vulnerable older women so that they can get back on their feet.”

Women’s Housing Company CEO Debbie Georgopoulos said they welcomed the much-needed new housing for older women.

“Women’s Housing Company has worked with LAHC on developing this new program, specifically for older women to be able to age in place,” Ms Georgopoulos said.

“With each development, we’ll refine our understanding of the design and amenity to ensure the blocks are a successful addition to our social housing and the local community.

“Safe and secure housing like this provides a stable base for improvements to health and wellbeing and the Women’s Housing Company will ensure women are linked to local services to feel connected and settle into their new homes.”

Snapper Study Finds Three Populations

August 11, 2022
New research on snapper has revealed that there are more genetically distinct populations in the western part of its Australian range than previously understood.

Australian snapper (Chrysophrys auratus). Photo courtesy David Harasti

The research, led by the Molecular Ecology Lab at Flinders University (MELFU) as well as government fisheries agencies, used a large genomic dataset of more than 10,000 DNA markers to uncover three different oceanic snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) populations between Shark Bay in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia.

Two of these snapper populations occurred in WA, with the northernmost one extending around 800 km from Shark Bay to Lancelin, and the second spanning about 600 km from Fremantle to Albany.
he west coast of SA is home to an additional unique snapper population that is genetically distinct from the two in WA.

Genetically distinct populations form when there is limited movement and interbreeding between groups of individuals occupying different geographical areas.

“Such knowledge is valuable from a sustainability perspective because genetically distinct populations may need to be managed differently as they could respond uniquely to fishing pressures”, says Andrea Bertram, first author of the study published in the international journal Evolutionary Applications.

The use of contemporary genomic techniques has improved knowledge based on previous genetic work that suggested snapper form a single population from Shark Bay to Albany.

“The high resolving power of our large genomic dataset compared to the smaller ones used in the past is what allowed us to uncover the two distinct snapper populations in Western Australia”, says MELFU director Professor Luciano Beheregaray.

The large geographical ranges of these three populations also suggests that snapper can make movements of several hundreds of kilometres.

While the differences between the populations means that snapper don’t often move outside of their geographical boundaries, one fish from the SA population was found to have moved as far west as Busselton in the south-west corner of WA.

“Although it’s not totally clear why snapper don’t often venture across the boundaries between these populations, ocean currents and maintaining proximity to spawning and nursery habitats may be important,” says WA fisheries scientist Dr David Fairclough, who is the second author on the new paper.

The results are now being discussed by fisheries scientists and managers to help improve snapper management across WA.

This research is part of a current ARC Linkage Project titled ‘Fisheries Genomics of Snapper’ which involves using genomic data to improve the management of wild snapper fisheries as well as the production of snapper through aquaculture.

The ARC project is a collaborative effort between MELFU, the government fisheries research groups in the five mainland Australian states as well as Plant and Food Research, New Zealand (equivalent to Australia’s CSIRO).

The paper, Fisheries genomics of snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) along the west Australian coast (2022), by A Bertram, D Fairclough, J Sandoval-Castillo, C Brauer, A Fowler, M Wellenreuther and LB Beheregaray, has been published as open access in the international journal Evolutionary Applications.

NSW Eyes The Future For Autonomous Vehicles

August 7, 2022
The NSW Government will invest $5 million for an on-road Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Bus Trial to kick-start its plan to accelerate autonomous vehicles on NSW roads.

With driverless vehicles expected to commercially hit our streets in less than a decade, the Government’s new NSW CAV Readiness Strategy sets out the State’s pathway to ensure the road network is CAV-friendly in the future.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said he wanted NSW to be a world-leading adopter of CAV technologies to keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of customers.

“Vehicle connectivity and automation are game-changing technological innovations with the potential to sustainably transform the future mobility of people and goods,” Mr Dominello said.

“Globally, these technologies are advancing rapidly and already appearing in vehicles on the market today.

“We’re putting NSW in the front seat, with a Strategy and funding to back it up to prepare our road network, local industry, and the public for the roll out of this technology.”

Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said the CAV Readiness Strategy sets out a faster, easier and safer future for commuters across the state.

“The NSW Government is advancing new technology that will revolutionise the way we travel,” said Mrs Ward.

“The CAV Readiness Strategy outlines six priority areas focused on integrating this new technology into our transport system.

“This will include working within the national regulatory framework over the next five years, so we’re ready for the safe commercial deployment of CAVs in Australia.

“Getting ahead of the game will make it easier to upskill our transport staff so customers have a seamless service when it is officially on our roads.” 

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said NSW had set several national and international firsts in autonomous vehicle technology including the world’s first fully automated shuttle service in a public setting through the Coffs Harbour Busbot trial.

“The NSW Government is ready to embark on another Australian first - by investing $5 million for an on-road CAV bus trial that will see CAV systems developed and tested on full-sized, passenger-carrying buses in NSW,” Mr Farraway said.

“Expressions of interest are open now, and Transport for NSW is calling on local and international technology leaders to partner with bus manufacturers and transport operators to deliver the trial of on-road connected and automated buses.

“This builds on what NSW has already achieved through autonomous shuttle trials, partnerships with local universities and investment in the Future Mobility Testing and Research Centre at Cudal.

“This is big picture thinking - by putting NSW one step ahead it will bring investment opportunities, knowledge and better customer outcomes.”

The NSW CAV Readiness Strategy seeks to:
  • Test and deploy CAVs on the road network
  • Shape CAV policy, and customer outcomes
  • Get the road network ready for CAVs
  • Develop physical and digital CAV testing capabilities
  • Support freight services automation
  • Increase local CAV knowledge and skills

NSW Government Expanding The Dust Diseases Scheme And Protecting Worker Entitlements

August 10, 2022
The NSW Government today introduced the Workers Compensation (Dust Diseases) Amendment Bill 2022 to support the operation of the Dust Diseases Care Scheme.

The Scheme provides financial compensation and health care support to people affected by work related dust diseases. If passed, the Bill will simplify benefit calculations to ease the administrative burden on injured workers and their families.

The amendments will remove anomalies in historical legislation that could have given rise to inconsistencies in the calculation of benefits for injured workers. The changes will mean that all current benefit rates are protected and there is no reduction in entitlements.

Minister for Finance Damien Tudehope said the amendments will support the Dust Disease Authority to deliver the Scheme effectively.

“The passing of these amendments will contribute to improving the customer experience for workers in the Scheme by removing any potential ambiguity over their entitlements and simplify the calculation of benefits for historical claims.” Mr Tudehope said. 

The introduction of this Bill was brought forward in the same week that the NSW Government passed the Workers’ Compensation (Dust Diseases) Amendment (Scheduled Diseases) Regulation 2022 (Regulation).

The Regulation ensures the expansion of the Schedule 1 list of diseases as recommended by an independent review conducted by Professor Tim Driscoll.

These diseases are based on a current, evidence-based understanding of work-related dust disease and include the following:
  • Diffuse dust-related pulmonary fibrosis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Pneumoconiosis (any form)
  • Silica-induced carcinoma of the lung
  • Systemic sclerosis 
“Developments in the protection of workers within the workers compensation scheme represent another important step to expanding and safeguarding support for injured workers,  “This is an effort to modernise the Scheme with the interests of those who are gravely ill at the heart of these changes.”

A new Australian supercomputer has already delivered a stunning supernova remnant pic

CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Processing/Pawsey Supercomputing Research CentreAuthor provided
Wasim RajaCSIRO and Pascal Jahan ElahiCSIRO

Within 24 hours of accessing the first stage of Australia’s newest supercomputing system, researchers have processed a series of radio telescope observations, including a highly detailed image of a supernova remnant.

The very high data rates and the enormous data volumes from new-generation radio telescopes such as ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) need highly capable software running on supercomputers. This is where the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre comes into play, with a newly launched supercomputer called Setonix – named after Western Australia’s favourite animal, the quokka (Setonix brachyurus).

ASKAP, which consists of 36 dish antennas that work together as one telescope, is operated by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO; the observational data it gathers are transferred via high-speed optical fibres to the Pawsey Centre for processing and converting into science-ready images.

In a major milestone on the path to full deployment, we have now demonstrated the integration of our processing software ASKAPsoft on Setonix, complete with stunning visuals.

Traces Of A Dying Star

An exciting outcome of this exercise has been a fantastic image of a cosmic object known as a supernova remnant, G261.9+5.5.

Estimated to be more than a million years old, and located 10,000-15,000 light-years away from us, this object in our galaxy was first classified as a supernova remnant by CSIRO radio astronomer Eric R. Hill in 1967, using observations from CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope, Murriyang.

Supernova remnants (SNRs) are the remains of powerful explosions from dying stars. The ejected material from the explosion ploughs outwards into the surrounding interstellar medium at supersonic speeds, sweeping up gas and any material it encounters along the way, compressing and heating them up in the process.

Additionally, the shockwave would also compress the interstellar magnetic fields. The emissions we see in our radio image of G261.9+5.5 are from highly energetic electrons trapped in these compressed fields. They bear information about the history of the exploded star and aspects of the surrounding interstellar medium.

The structure of this remnant revealed in the deep ASKAP radio image opens up the possibility of studying this remnant and the physical properties (such as magnetic fields and high-energy electron densities) of the interstellar medium in unprecedented detail.

A cut, grey-brown marsupial curiously looking at the camera
The new supercomputer is named after the iconic quokka. Chia Chuin Wong/Shutterstock

Putting A Supercomputer Through Its Paces

The image of SNR G261.9+05.5 might be beautiful to look at, but the processing of data from ASKAP’s astronomy surveys is also a great way to stress-test the supercomputer system, including the hardware and the processing software.

We included the supernova remnant’s dataset for our initial tests because its complex features would increase the processing challenges.

Data processing even with a supercomputer is a complex exercise, with different processing modes triggering various potential issues. For example, the image of the SNR was made by combining data gathered at hundreds of different frequencies (or colours, if you like), allowing us to get a composite view of the object.

But there is a treasure trove of information hidden in the individual frequencies as well. Extracting that information often requires making images at each frequency, requiring more computing resources and more digital space to store.

While Setonix has adequate resources for such intense processing, a key challenge would be to establish the stability of the supercomputer when lashed with such enormous amounts of data day in and day out.

Key to this quick first demonstration was the close collaboration between the Pawsey Centre and the ASKAP science data processing team members. Our teamwork enabled all of us to better understand these challenges and quickly find solutions.

These results mean we will be able to unearth more from the ASKAP data, for example.

More To Come

But this is only the first of two installation stages for Setonix, with the second expected to be completed later this year.

This will allow data teams to process more of the vast amounts of data coming in from many projects in a fraction of the time. In turn, it will not only enable researchers to better understand our Universe but will undoubtedly uncover new objects hidden in the radio sky. The variety of scientific questions that Setonix will allow us to explore in shorter time-frames opens up so many possibilities.

This increase in computational capacity benefits not just ASKAP, but all Australia-based researchers in all fields of science and engineering that can access Setonix.

While the supercomputer is ramping up to full operations, so is ASKAP, which is currently wrapping up a series of pilot surveys and will soon undertake even larger and deeper surveys of the sky.

The supernova remnant is just one of many features we’ve now revealed, and we can expect many more stunning images, and the discovery of many new celestial objects, to come soon.The Conversation

Wasim Raja, Research scientist, CSIRO and Pascal Jahan Elahi, Supercomputing applications specialist, Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, CSIRO

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

15 years of experiments have overturned a major assumption about how thirsty plants actually are

Hasan Almasi / Unsplash
Lucas CernusakJames Cook University and Chin WongAustralian National University

Have you ever wondered just how much water plants need to grow, or indeed why they need it? Plants lose a lot of water when they take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so they need up to 300 grams of water to make each gram of dry plant matter.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In a new paper published in Nature Plants, we report on a natural secret that could ultimately be used to help plants thrive while using less water.

An Essential Ingredient For Plant Growth

Plants are mostly made up of water – about 80% by weight. So we might expect plants would need around four grams of water for each gram of dry mass to achieve their ideal level of hydration.

That may be so, but they need a lot more water to grow. To produce one gram of new dry mass, a plant needs about 300 grams of water.

Why such a large difference between the amount of water required for hydration and the amount required for growth? Because almost all the water plants take up from the soil through their roots soon rises out into the atmosphere through their leaves.

Plant leaves are covered in microscopic valves called stomata. Stomata open to let in carbon dioxide from the air, which plants need for photosynthesis and growth.

But when the stomata are open, the moist internal tissue of the leaf is exposed to the drier outside air. This means water vapour can leak out whenever the stomata are open.

A Long-Held Assumption

Plant scientists have long assumed the opening and closing of the stomata almost entirely controlled the amount of water evaporating from a leaf. This is because we assumed the air in small pockets inside the leaves was fully saturated with water vapour (another way to say this is that the “relative humidity” is 100%, or very close to it).

If the air inside the leaf is saturated and the air outside is drier, the opening of the stomata controls how much water diffuses out of the leaf. The result is that large quantities of water vapour come out of the leaf for each molecule of carbon dioxide that comes in.

An electron microscope image of a leaf shows fine hairs called trichomes and the tiny stomata (oval-shaped slits) which allow the movement of water vapour and carbon dioxide. Louisa Howard / Dartmouth

Why did we assume the air inside the leaves has a relative humidity near 100%? Partly because water moves from more saturated places to less saturated places, so we thought cells inside leaves could not sustain their hydration if exposed directly to air with relative humidity much lower than 100%.

But we also made this assumption because we had no method of directly measuring the relative humidity of the air inside leaves. (A recently developed “hydrogel nanoreporter” that can be injected into leaves to measure humidity may improve this situation.)

A Secret Revealed

However, in a series of experiments over the past 15 years, we have accumulated evidence that this assumption is not correct. When air outside the leaf was dry, we observed that the relative humidity in the air spaces inside leaves routinely dropped well below 100%, sometimes as low as 80%.

What is most remarkable about these observations is that photosynthesis did not stop or even slow down when the relative humidity inside the leaves declined. This means the rate of water loss from the leaves stayed constant, even as the air outside increased its “evaporative demand” (a measure of the drying capacity or “thirstiness” of air, based on temperature, humidity and other factors).

If the leaves restricted their loss of water only by closing their stomata, we would expect to see photosynthesis slowing down or stopping. So it appears plants can effectively control water loss from their leaves while stomata remain open, allowing carbon dioxide to continue diffusing into the leaf to support photosynthesis.

Using Water Wisely

We think plants are controlling the movement of water using special “water-gating” proteins called aquaporins, which reside in the membranes of cells inside the leaf.

Our next experiments will test whether aquaporins are indeed the mechanism behind the behaviour that we observed. If we can thoroughly understand this mechanism, it may be possible to target its activity, and ultimately provide agriculturalists with plants that use water more efficiently.

Over the coming decades, global warming will make the atmosphere increasingly thirsty for evaporated water. We are pleased to report that nature may yet reveal secrets that can be harnessed to boost plant production with limited water resources.

The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions to this work of Graham Farquhar, Martin Canny (deceased), Meisha Holloway-Phillips, Diego Marquez and Hilary Stuart-Williams.The Conversation

Lucas Cernusak, Associate Professor, Plant Physiology, James Cook University and Chin Wong, Visiting Fellow, Plant Sciences, Australian National University

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

Western Sydney University, Charles Darwin University (CDU) And The Menzies Partner To Establish The Northern Territory’s Own Medical School

August 10, 2022
Charles Darwin University (CDU), Western Sydney University and the Menzies School of Health Research have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the establishment of the CDU Menzies School of Medicine, and growth of the Northern Territory’s medical workforce.

Western Sydney University – an Australian Medical Council accredited medical program curriculum partner –  will collaborate with CDU to establish a high quality, relevant curriculum for the CDU Menzies School of Medicine. This is a critical step to enable the teaching of a medical program in the Territory and for the Territory.

The two universities will work together with Menzies to strengthen medical education, training, and research for the benefit of regional and remote communities. The MoU includes shared advocacy for commonwealth funded medical student places and promotes participation in medical education for First Nations, regional, rural and remote students.

Charles Darwin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman AO, Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Barney Glover AO and Menzies School of Health Research Director Professor Alan Cass AO announced the collaboration in Darwin today and said the MOU would bring the three partners together to support medical workforce development.

“Western Sydney University, CDU and Menzies have a strong commitment to their local community and complementary values around improving health outcomes for regional Australians, so we’re delighted to announce this collaboration,” Professor Bowman said.

Professor Bowman said the MoU would help support the delivery of a CDU Menzies School of Medicine in the Northern Territory.

“The MoU with Western Sydney University is a major step forward for the CDU Menzies School of Medicine - as our program development progresses, it will provide an opportunity to draw on knowledge, experience and expertise that the university has in setting up a regional medical program focused on rural and remote medicine.”

“Western Sydney University is the perfect partner for CDU. They have experience in guiding another regional university through the process of establishing their own Medical School. Their Vice-Chancellor formerly served in the same role at CDU, meaning this is a partnership predicated on a detailed understanding of the unique health requirements of the Northern Territory.”

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Glover, who was formerly the Vice-Chancellor at CDU from 2009-13, highlighted that the MoU would focus on supporting a much-needed increase in the regional medical workforce while providing additional opportunities for research, training and community engagement.

“Western Sydney University is proud to collaborate in pursuit of a Northern Territory-focused Medical Program based at the CDU Menzies School of Medicine. Together, our institutions will work to jointly develop a new approach to delivering medical education in the Northern Territory,” Professor Glover said.

“Importantly, the program will develop medical practitioners that have the skills and knowledge to serve their region, including rural and remote communities in northern Australia, providing a much-needed boost to the national medical workforce.”

Menzies Director, Professor Alan Cass said this is an important step forward to developing a local program that provides training specifically focussed to prepare doctors to work in the cross-cultural context of health service delivery in the Northern Territory.

“This partnership provides a clear pathway to an independent NT-led medical school. We want to enable and support Territorians to become the doctors we need to address the health and wellbeing issues that are the priorities for our community.”

The MoU will advocate for better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Northern Australia, the development of the knowledge economy, and strengthening of the region’s research capacity.

Cystic Fibrosis: Causal Treatment Suitable From Childhood

August 8, 2022
Cystic fibrosis remains an incurable genetic disorder which impairs lung function and significantly reduces life expectancy. A new combination drug therapy which addresses the disorder's underlying defects offers a promising new treatment approach. The use of this therapy had previously been limited to adolescents and adults. Designed to meet the highest standards of clinical practice, a study co-led by Charité -- Universitäts medizin Berlin has now confirmed that this combination therapy regimen is also beneficial to primary school-aged children. Earlier treatment means disease progression is likely to be significantly slowed. The researchers' findings have been published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Characterized by the build-up of thick, sticky mucus, cystic fibrosis, also known as mucoviszidosis, is the most common fatal genetic disease in Germany. A defect in the CFTR ion channel (which sits on the surface of airway epithelial cells and transports salt and water) disrupts the normal fluid balance, resulting in highly viscous mucus. Cystic fibrosis primarily impairs the lungs, which get clogged by this viscous mucus and thus become less effective at clearing away pathogens. The result is chronic infection and airway inflammation, progressively impaired lung function, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, a lung transplant may become necessary. People affected by the disease used to die before reaching adulthood. Today, average life expectancy is around 55 years. These gains in life expectancy are mainly due to improvements in symptomatic treatment.

Drugs which target not just the disease's symptoms but also its underlying molecular defects by improving CFTR channel function -- known as CFTR modulators -- only became available a few years ago. In approximately 90 percent of patients with cystic fibrosis, the underlying CFTR channel defect is caused by a specific fault in the CFTR gene known as the F508del mutation. A triple therapy combining three CFTR modulators (elexacaftor, tezacaftor and ivacaftor) has been available in Europe since August 2020. In patients with one copy of the F508del mutation, this triple combination therapy can restore ion channel function to approximately half the normal level, thereby producing noticeable improvements in lung function and quality of life. 

"It was a milestone in the treatment of cystic fibrosis," explains first author Prof. Dr. Marcus Mall, Head of Charité's Department of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine, Immunology and Critical Care Medicine and Charité's Cystic Fibrosis Center. 

He adds: "Unfortunately, until now, this treatment has only been available to patients aged 12 and over. This is because, traditionally, new drugs are first tested on and then authorized for use in adults. What we want to do, however, is administer this causal treatment as early as possible during the course of the disease in order to prevent irreversible lung damage. This is of course only possible if treatment starts during childhood. What we have been able to do now is to show that this can be done both safely and very effectively in primary school-aged children."

Prof. Mall and his international research partners studied the effects of this triple combination therapy in 121 children with cystic fibrosis. Participants were aged between 6 and 11 years and had at least one copy of the F508del mutation. The children were randomized to receive either the triple combination regimen or placebo for a duration of approximately six months. The study, which was conducted at centers in ten different countries, was designed as a randomized controlled trial -- the gold standard in clinical research. 

"This type of clinical study remains too much of a rarity in pediatric drug development," says Prof. Mall, Einstein Professor at Charité and cystic fibrosis research lead at the German Center for Lung Research (DZL). "The inclusion of control groups is often neglected in pediatric research. Instead, adult data are used to extrapolate effects from adults to children. But children are not simply small adults. High-quality studies are therefore crucial to the development of safe and effective drugs for children."

Their recently published study showed that treatment significantly improved CFTR channel function, thereby enhancing the children's lung function and quality of life. The treatment had a good overall safety profile and was well tolerated, with side effects comparable to those observed in older patients. 

"I was both surprised and delighted to see that, even this early in the disease trajectory and despite the brief treatment duration, the children experienced noticeable improvements," says Prof. Mall. "These findings contributed to the decision by the European Medicines Agency to expand the marketing authorization for this triple combination regimen to include children aged 6 and over. That means we are already in a position to treat children in this age group. I expect that the earlier initiation of treatment targeting the disease's causative defect will produce significant improvements to the long-term health of patients with cystic fibrosis."

As a next step, the research team plan to test whether the drug combination might be suitable for use in even younger children. Given cystic fibrosis forms part of the newborn screening program, the disease can now be diagnosed within the first few weeks of life. "That would place us in a position to start causal treatment for cystic fibrosis as early as early infancy, which would hopefully prevent even early-stage damage to the lungs and possibly even other organs like the pancreas. Very gradually, we are working our way closer to this target. Currently, we are testing the safety and efficacy of this triple combination therapy in children aged between 2 and 5 years," explains Prof. Mall.

About this study 
The study discussed here was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor triple combination regimen in children with cystic fibrosis who were aged between 6 and 11 years and had at least one copy of the F508del mutation in addition to a second CFTR mutation which is unaffected by this treatment. A phase 3b clinical trial, the study was conducted across 34 trial centers in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kindgom, Australia, Canada and Israel. The study is registered on (NCT 04353817). The clinical trial sponsor is Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Prof. Mall is one of three international study leads.

Marcus A Mall, Rossa Brugha, Silvia Gartner, Julian Legg, Alexander Moeller, Pedro Mondejar-Lopez, Dario Prais, Tacjana Pressler, Felix Ratjen, Philippe Reix, Paul D Robinson, Hiran Selvadurai, Florian Stehling, Neil Ahluwalia, Emilio Arteaga-Solis, Bote G Bruinsma, Mark Jennings, Samuel M. Moskowitz, Sabrina Noel, Simon Tian, Tanya G. Weinstock, Pan Wu, Claire E Wainwright, Jane C. Davies. Efficacy and Safety of Elexacaftor/Tezacaftor/Ivacaftor in Children 6 Through 11 Years of Age with Cystic Fibrosis Heterozygous for F508del and a Minimal Function Mutation: A Phase 3B, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1164/rccm.202202-0392OC

Girls Slip Through The Cracks Due To ‘Referral Bias’: Australian-First Study

August 4, 2022
Young girls are just as likely to be living with language difficulties despite more boys being referred for support services, according to a new Curtin-led study that seeks to shatter the “referral bias” and help parents advocate for their children.

Perth couple Stephen and Santina Morphett are helping to raise awareness of Developmental Language Disorder after their 10-year-old daughter Aleysha was diagnosed in pre-primary.

The study – the first to detail the prevalence of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in Australian children – examined the language skills of more than 1,600 children aged 10 years as part of the Raine Study, the nation’s longest-running public health study.

Published today in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, it found the most significant predictor of a child being diagnosed with DLD at 10 years of age was being exposed to smoking during pregnancy, with the odds of meeting the criteria of DLD 2.56 times greater than mothers who did not smoke at 18 weeks gestation.

Lead author Dr Sam Calder, from the Curtin School of Allied Health, said he was concerned more young girls were not being diagnosed with DLD given the potentially life-long consequences of not receiving the appropriate care and support.

“This study suggests an alarming number of children aren’t getting the help they need, meaning they may go their entire lives without realising a language disorder could explain why they had such a hard time learning at school or struggled in social situations more than their peers,” Dr Calder said.

“Despite more young boys being referred for clinical services, our study found no significant difference between boys and girls meeting the criteria for DLD, pointing to a ‘referral bias’ for young boys.

“It is therefore vitally important for parents, educators and health professionals to be vigilant in advocating for young girls with language and learning challenges to ensure they receive the same support boys are receiving.”

Co-author Dr Lizz Hill, also from the Curtin School of Allied Health, said the study showed about two kids in every WA classroom was likely to experience life-long language problems that may impact their psychological, academic, and vocational wellbeing and success.

“The study showed a higher proportion of 10-year-old children meeting the criteria for DLD were born preterm, exposed to smoking in pregnancy, had a father that did not live at home, and were read to less than once per week as a three-year-old,” Dr Hill said.

“After analysing the experiences of more than 1,600 children, we found smoking in pregnancy was the most significant predictor of a child being diagnosed with DLD. It is critical that we identify and support these children early in order to promote the best possible outcomes. This includes raising awareness of the potential impact of smoking during pregnancy on a child’s life-long language and communication skills.”

DLD is a brain difference that makes talking and listening difficult, for no known reason.

Perth couple Stephen and Santina Morphett are helping to raise awareness of Developmental Language Disorder after their 10-year-old daughter Aleysha was diagnosed in pre-primary.

Mr and Mrs Morphett said it was important for people to take the time to learn about DLD because two children in every classroom, on average, would have this hidden condition yet community awareness remained extremely low.

As part of Aleysha’s NDIS support, she has fortnightly speech therapy, a speech tutor to help with her homework for two hours a fortnight and she sees an OT fortnightly. This is maintaining her current skills to ensure she does not fall any further behind because of her DLD.

“We can’t change the world but we can change Aleysha’s world,” Mr and Mrs Morphett said.

The study also involved experts from the Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia.

On October 14, Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day will help to raise awareness of this little-known neurological condition that affects an average of two students in every class of 30.

The full paper, ‘The Prevalence of and Potential Risk Factors for Developmental Language Disorder at 10 years in the Raine Study’, can be viewed online here.

About the Raine Study

Established in 1989, the Raine Study is Australia’s longest running public health study and one of the most successful multi-generational cohort studies anywhere in the world. Based in Perth, it has studied the same group of nearly 3,000 young Western Australians since before they were born, as well as their parents, grandparents and now their own children. Thirty years on, discoveries from the Raine Study continue to have significant impact on health policy, practice, and education through ground-breaking research that examines influences, pathways and outcomes through all aspects of human life. The Raine Study is a joint venture between The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Telethon Kids Institute, Women and Infants Research Foundation, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and The University of Notre Dame Australia. Flinders University in South Australia and Newcastle University in New South Wales are Institutional Partners. The study receives additional funding support from the Raine Medical Research Foundation and National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information visit

Evidence That Giant Meteorite Impacts Created The Continents

August 10, 2022
New Curtin research has provided the strongest evidence yet that Earth's continents were formed by giant meteorite impacts that were particularly prevalent during the first billion years or so of our planet's four-and-a-half-billion year history.

Dr Tim Johnson, from Curtin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the idea that the continents originally formed at sites of giant meteorite impacts had been around for decades, but until now there was little solid evidence to support the theory.

"By examining tiny crystals of the mineral zircon in rocks from the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which represents Earth's best-preserved remnant of ancient crust, we found evidence of these giant meteorite impacts," Dr Johnson said.

"Studying the composition of oxygen isotopes in these zircon crystals revealed a 'top-down' process starting with the melting of rocks near the surface and progressing deeper, consistent with the geological effect of giant meteorite impacts.

"Our research provides the first solid evidence that the processes that ultimately formed the continents began with giant meteorite impacts, similar to those responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, but which occurred billions of years earlier."

Dr Johnson said understanding the formation and ongoing evolution of the Earth's continents was crucial given that these landmasses host the majority of Earth's biomass, all humans and almost all of the planet's important mineral deposits.

"Not least, the continents host critical metals such as lithium, tin and nickel, commodities that are essential to the emerging green technologies needed to fulfil our obligation to mitigate climate change," Dr Johnson said.

"These mineral deposits are the end result of a process known as crustal differentiation, which began with the formation of the earliest landmasses, of which the Pilbara Craton is just one of many.

"Data related to other areas of ancient continental crust on Earth appears to show patterns similar to those recognised in Western Australia. We would like to test our findings on these ancient rocks to see if, as we suspect, our model is more widely applicable."

Dr Johnson is affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), Curtin's flagship earth sciences research institute.

Tim E. Johnson, Christopher L. Kirkland, Yongjun Lu, R. Hugh Smithies, Michael Brown, Michael I. H. Hartnady. Giant impacts and the origin and evolution of continents. Nature, 2022; 608 (7922): 330 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04956-y

Tiny Optical Sensors Could Put An End To Hospital Bed Sores

August 10, 2022
Tiny smart bed sensors embedded in hospital mattresses could put an end to painful and potentially life-threatening pressure sores, thanks to new technology developed by the University of South Australia.

UniSA scientists have designed minute optical fibre sensors, which can be attached to the upper surface of a mattress to monitor movement and record heart and respiratory rates.

The unobtrusive sensors can detect when a hospital patient turns over, leaves a bed, or just remains motionless, picking up their breathing.

Nurses can therefore be remotely alerted if a patient has not moved within a couple of hours, prompting them to adjust the patient’s position.

Lead researcher Dr Stephen Warren-Smith says the technology could “significantly relieve” the burden on hospital staff having to constantly monitor patients for pressure sores.

“Each year, thousands of older Australians in hospitals and nursing homes experience pressure injuries, or ulcers, which take a long time to heal and can be fatal,” Dr Warren-Smith says.

“At the very least these injuries can cause severe pain, disrupt sleep, affect their mood as well as their rehabilitation, mobility and quality of life.”

Unlike the sensors that many people wear on their wrists to monitor physical activity and physiological signs, the optical fibre sensors are embedded in the same space as a person, but not on them physically.

Hospitals currently use weight-based sensors or cameras installed in the room to monitor patients, but both have limitations, Dr Warren-Smith says.

“Existing weight-based hospital sensors cannot predict when a patient leaves the bed until their feet touch the floor, leaving little time for nursing staff to respond in the event of a fall. Also, there are privacy issues with camera-based technology.”

The optical fibre sensors are sensitive enough to record heart and respiration rates and can detect whether a person is in the bed, even if they remain stationary for long periods.

“Respiration rates are often the first sign that a patient is deteriorating. This normally requires devices to be attached to the patient, either on the chest, as a mask on the face, or ventilator. These can be restrictive and sometimes inappropriate in an aged care setting.

“Monitoring vital signs continuously, unobtrusively and cheaply via the mattress-embedded sensors is a far better solution for both patient and nurse,” Dr Warren-Smith says.

The technology is explained in a recent paper published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

Down On Vitamin D? It Could Be The Cause Of Chronic Inflammation

August 7, 2022
Inflammation is an essential part of the body's healing process. But when it persists, it can contribute to a wide range of complex diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases.

Now, world-first genetic research from the University of South Australia shows a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation, providing an important biomarker to identify people at higher risk of or severity of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component.

The study examined the genetic data of 294,970 participants in the UK Biobank, using Mendelian randomization to show the association between vitamin D and C-reactive protein levels, an indicator of inflammation.

Lead researcher, UniSA's Dr Ang Zhou, says the findings suggest that boosting vitamin D in people with a deficiency may reduce chronic inflammation.

"Inflammation is your body's way of protecting your tissues if you've been injured or have an infection," Dr Zhou says.

"High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein.

"This study examined vitamin D and C-reactive proteins and found a one-way relationship between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of C-reactive protein, expressed as inflammation.

"Boosting vitamin D in people with deficiencies may reduce chronic inflammation, helping them avoid a number of related diseases."

Supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology the study also raises the possibility that having adequate vitamin D concentrations may mitigate complications arising from obesity and reduce the risk or severity of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component, such as CVDs, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

Senior investigator and Director of UniSA's Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says these results are important and provide an explanation for some of the controversies in reported associations with vitamin D.

"We have repeatedly seen evidence for health benefits for increasing vitamin D concentrations in individuals with very low levels, while for others, there appears to be little to no benefit." Prof Hyppönen says.

"These findings highlight the importance of avoiding clinical vitamin D deficiency, and provide further evidence for the wide-ranging effects of hormonal vitamin D."

Ang Zhou, Elina Hyppönen. Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2022; DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyac087

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.