inbox and environment news: Issue 552

August 28 - September 3, 2022: Issue 552

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment August Forum: Ku-Ring-Gai GeoRegion Project

Reminder to book 
NEXT FORUM 7pm on 29th August 2022; Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion Project
Don’t miss it! Register now.
Please refer to our website to book into this forum: 

Speakers from a group led by Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment will tell us about the proposal to establish a GeoRegeion encompassing a wide area of interesting geology including areas of the Northern Beaches.

The area of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion has at its centre Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and extends eastwards to the coast encompassing the cliffs, beaches, and lagoons from Long Reef to Barrenjoey,  westwards to Muogamarra Nature Reserve and Eastern Berowra Valley National Park.  The area is rich in geoheritage sites of both national and international significance, supporting the  existing recognised values of the area, specifically its biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage.

Features of  international geological significance include:

* The best exposed geological section of early to mid-Triassic period (240 million years ago) sedimentary rocks in the Sydney Basin.

* Various rock units contain a diversity of fossils that inform us of past environments over nearly 50 million years.

* The GeoRegion includes eight volcanic diatremes (pipes) and associated dykes with the Hornsby one having perhaps the best exposed geological section in the world.

The initial goal is to develop a range of geotrails across each of the key LGAs represented in the above map and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) areas. The aim is  to have one geotrail in each area by the end of 2022.

The next challenge will be to develop Ku-ring-gai Geopark. 
Establishment of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion and, in the future, Ku-ring-gai GeoPark, would provide international environmental attention and protection for important areas  such as the Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment and the Long Reef area.

This forum will be held via Zoom because of the current Covid-19 situation. 
When you book, you will receive an email that will give you the link with which you can join the forum on the night.

Bookings essential
Please refer to our website to book into this forum: 

Warriewood Creeklines Works Delayed Due To Rains

Council's August 23 2022 meeting shows a recommendation by staff to roll over unspent funds from the 2021/22 financial year to the 2022/23 budget for specific projects and to reduce the 2022/23 budget for projects ahead of schedule. Specifically that Council:
1. Roll over $3,116,842 in operational project expenditure and associated funding from 2021/22 to the 2022/23 budget.
2. Roll over $20,582,386 in capital project expenditure and associated funding from 2021/22 to the 2022/23 budget.
3. Reduce the 2022/23 budget for $188,924 in capital projects expenditure and associated funding for works undertaken in 2021/22 and budgeted in 2022/23.

Those waiting for works to be done to Warriewood creeklines should note that:
CN01061. Warriewood Valley Creekline Works (188,659); Project behind schedule due to heavy rainfall affecting site and operating conditions.
CR05007. Planned Stormwater Renewal Works (234,846) Headwall upgrade works at Mullet Creek under Garden Street were delayed due to inclement weather and contractor unavailability throughout the first half of 2022 and are expected to commence in October 2022.

Worth noting are:

CN01007. Collaroy‐Narrabeen Coastal Protection Works (2,576,086) Construction works delayed pending completion of the neighbouring private property protection works.
CN01045. Planned Stormwater New Works (361,905) Project behind schedule due to inclement weather and contractor unavailability

Similarly CR05064. Energy Saving Initiatives Works Program (SRV) (24,136) Urban Night Sky Place project lighting upgrades for the public buildings in Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach are to be installed early in 2022/23.

Council's documents for this meeting also note that the summer storms in November 2019 and February 2020 were declared natural disasters, providing access to Federal Government funding towards clean up and restoration costs. 

The Council is yet to receive funding and proposes to carry forward a forecast budget of $1.2 million in anticipation of the acceptance of their claims. Claims for more recent storms are also in progress.

Those figures not received as yet are:
38011002 Storm Damage Feb 2020 ‐ Storm Damage February 2020 ‐ awaiting natural disaster claim payment (1,000,000) 1,000,000
39051003 Storm 26 Nov 2019 ‐ Storm Damage November 2019 ‐ awaiting natural disaster claim payment (179,214) 179,214

So-Called Biodiversity Certificates Scheme Another False Solution To Tackling Environmental Crisis Researcher States

August 26, 2022
The Labor Government has today announced the creation of a biodiversity certificates scheme which would see the conversion of Australia’s ecosystems into a new type of tradeable credit that would be traded to ‘compensate’ or ‘offset’ damage to the environment.

“The Government’s announcement of a new ‘biodiversity certificates scheme’ raises concerns of more false solutions to tackle the climate crisis,” said Polly Hemming, senior researcher at the Australia Institute.

“There are straightforward solutions to addressing species loss in Australia like ending native forest logging, regulating land clearing, and paying landholders and communities directly to improve their habitats.

“What is not at all clear, is why anyone would think that creating a so-called ‘biodiversity offset scheme’ where some people can destroy habitat as long as someone else promises to improve habitat is the cheapest or best solution. If Australia can afford to spend $11 billion subsidising fossil fuels, as a nation we can afford to protect our ecosystems and habitats.

“Australia Institute research and independent experts suggests that up to 80 per cent of the carbon credits circulating in Australia are of low integrity. The Government announcement makes no reference to the fact that this scheme and its governance is currently under review and that Professor Ian Chubb is yet to report his findings.

“The decision that this scheme will be overseen by the same regulatory body that is currently being investigated for its failure to regulate Australia’s carbon credits system seems particularly reckless.”

Biodiversity Certificates To Increase Native Habitat And Support Australian Landholders

August 26, 2022: Media Release by
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

The Albanese Labor Government has today announced the creation of a biodiversity certificates scheme. 

The scheme recognises landholders who restore or manage local habitat and grants them biodiversity certificates which can then be sold to other parties.

This will operate in a similar way to our current carbon crediting legislation.

The scheme will make it easier for businesses, organisations and individuals to invest in landscape restoration and management.

As companies look to invest in carbon offsetting projects like tree planting, we need to make sure there is a path for farmers and the environment to benefit.

We need to protect waterways, provide habitat for native species, reduce erosion, protect topsoil, improve drought resilience and create shelter for livestock.

A biodiversity market will also promote management of existing, remnant vegetation that provides habitat for native species.

As the recent State of the Environment report found, Australia’s environment is poor and deteriorating and government cannot foot the bill alone.

The markets for biodiversity and carbon credits will operate in parallel, both regulated by the Clean Energy Regulator.

Over coming months we will be consulting widely on the detailed rules for scheme – for example the rules on how biodiversity benefits should be measured and verified. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: 

“As we move toward net zero, we are creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – not just to protect Australia’s natural environment but to kickstart a nationwide restoration. 

“Our market will be open to all land managers – whether they’re farmers, people interested in conservation or Indigenous land managers. 
“This is a chance to support farmers using their knowledge and expertise in a way that benefits us all - a chance to shape a better future.” 

Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said: 

“We want carbon planting projects to deliver broader benefits for the environment. We can provide habitat for threatened species while also helping to address climate change.  

“Businesses and philanthropic organisations are looking to invest in projects to protect and restore nature. We need to make this easier.  

“Repairing nature is good for productivity. Reducing erosion, protecting topsoil and providing shelter for livestock – it’s all good for business.” 

Nap Nap Water Recovery Project Announced 

August 26, 2022
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
The Hon Kevin Anderson MP, New South Wales Minister for Water

The Australian Government today announced $2.4 million in funding for the Nap Nap Station Water Efficiency Project near Hay in New South Wales.
The project will recover around 150 megalitres annually towards the 450 gigalitre target which is needed to protect the environment and deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in full.
150 megalitres is equivalent to the water in 60 Olympic sized swimming pools.
This saving is achieved by upgrading pipes, pumps and tanks to reduce water losses including evaporation and seepage.
The more efficiently we can use and manage water for agriculture, the environment and local communities, the better we can safeguard the Murray–Darling Basin for generations to come.
In addition to more water for the environment the project will provide:
  • Access points for the Rural Fire Service.
  • Provide economic benefits to the local economy through local purchasing and employment opportunities from the investment in the project. 
  • Increasing drought resilience and preparedness of Nap Nap Station.
  • Improve the conditions for animals on the property improving both their wellbeing and health outcomes.
Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP said:
“Water recovery targets under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan are important, not just for the millions who live and work in the Basin, but for all Australians.
“In the past 6 weeks, I’ve been listening to stakeholders in every Basin jurisdiction while visiting many of the significant sites across the Basin.
“When it comes to water recovery, nothing is off the table. I’m open to hearing all ideas on how to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full.
“Today’s announcement of an off-farm efficiency measures is an important part of preparing the Murray-Darling Basin for the future. I’m so glad we could partner with Nap Nap Station to deliver this.
“I’ll be encouraging my state and territory counterparts to continue to explore all opportunities to contribute towards the water recovery targets including finding new and innovative projects to save water and use it more effectively.”
New South Wales Minister for Water, the Hon Kevin Anderson MP said:
“The Nap Nap Station off-farm efficiency project is encouraging as it aligns with our view for healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities.
“It’s great to see a landholder motivated to improve water quality for stock and domestic uses, improve co-benefit outcomes for the local community all the while contributing towards water recovery efforts that benefit the environment.
“New South Wales looks forward to continue delivering innovative projects that deliver benefits for the community while contributing towards water recovery targets.”

Measuring Benefits Of Blue Carbon Ecosystems

August 25, 2022
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
The Hon Andrew Leigh MP, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury  

A new project capturing information about the environmental and economic benefits of blue carbon ecosystems will improve our understanding of our relationship with the ocean.

For the first time, Australia has today released the National Ocean Ecosystem Account which collects information on carbon storage and coastal protection benefits of Australia’s mangroves and seagrass, known as blue carbon ecosystems.

Australia is home to about 12 percent of the world’s blue carbon ecosystems. These ecosystems are up to five times better at storing carbon than rainforests.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics have estimated that in 2021 mangroves and seagrass sequestered over 14 million tonnes of carbon. The amount of carbon sequestered is equivalent to the amount of carbon emitted by over 4 million cars.
The new data also found 18,000km of Australia’s coastline is being protected by wide stands of mangroves, offering protection from natural hazards to 85,000 homes and 175,000 people.

This new data is the result of a strong partnership between the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, and will help inform evidence-based policy. 

In June, the Government announced increased support for blue carbon ecosystems by investing $9.5 million to support five new practical restoration projects and endorsed the Joint Declaration on the Creation of a Global Coalition for Blue Carbon.

Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP said:

“Up to 50 percent of our planet’s coastal ecosystems have been lost over the last century.

 “There is no such thing as a healthy environment or healthy oceans without action on climate change. And we can’t tackle climate change without action on our oceans.

“Blue carbon ecosystems support marine life, contribute to coastal livelihoods, and provide protection from storm surges. But they also absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their soils, roots and plants.

“We’re improving our understanding of Australia’s blue carbon ecosystems by using ocean accounting.

“The information collected will inform decision making to ensure blue carbon ecosystems thrive.”

Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP said:

“This is the ultimate sea change. Ocean Accounts organise data so we can describe the complex environmental and economic systems present in our oceans. 

“We will use the Accounts to help inform decisions about how we manage our blue carbon ecosystems that underpin Australian marine industries.

“Good information guides good policy – we need the right evidence to help us protect vital ecosystems and address the challenge of climate change.”

Planning Decisions For Aboriginal Communities: Two New Groups Formed By NSW Department Of Planning

August 24, 2022
The NSW Department of Planning has announced two new groups have been established to speed up assessments, improve outcomes and unlock economic benefits for Aboriginal communities.

The Department of Planning and Environment’s Deputy Secretary of NSW Planning, Marcus Ray said a dedicated service had been set up within the Department of Planning and Environment, to help Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) and Native Title Body Corporates navigate the planning system.

“This is an important step in returning to a level of ‘self-determination’ for Aboriginal communities, so they can control the destiny of their land,” Mr Ray said.

“Ultimately, the new Aboriginal Planning Concierge will help unlock opportunities on Aboriginal-owned land, by reducing backlogs and accelerating the assessment process.

“Whether it’s clearing hurdles holding up a proposal’s determination, or resolving complex issues with agencies and industry, this team is skilled at removing barriers and simplifying pathways to avoid delays and keep the economy going.”

Marcus Leslie, a Gomeroi man from North West NSW with a background in natural resource management and environmental regulation, will lead the Concierge to offer advice, build relationships, and ensure seamless experiences in the planning system.

Mr Ray said Aboriginal communities will also benefit from the appointment of 13 new specialists to the current expert pool for the Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels.

“These new specialists, with expertise in strategic planning and Aboriginal land planning, will join the existing pool of alternate members on a case-by-case basis when needed to improve decision-making, and help speed up the assessment and delivery of new homes, jobs, and infrastructure,” Mr. Ray said.

“This will give existing panels the additional resources they need to improve rezoning reviews, planning proposal timeframes and unlock more opportunities for Local Aboriginal Land Councils.”

Australian Teachers Want Support To Embrace Nature Play In Primary Education

August 25, 2022
From tree-branch tepees to bush tucker gardens, mud kitchens and even functional fire pits, primary schools are sprouting all sorts of nature play environments in an effort to better connect primary students with the outdoors.

But while nature play infrastructure grows, new research from the University of South Australia shows that teachers also need a knowledge-boost on how to best link nature play areas to the curriculum and children's learning.

Conducted in partnership with Nature Play SA, the Australian first study found that while all teachers believe that nature-based play and learning can deliver huge benefits for children, seven out of 10 teachers felt that their knowledge and confidence was limiting their ability to fully embrace these opportunities at school.

Surveying teachers in 50 South Australian schools, the study found that the benefits of nature-based play and learning for children included:
  • better mental health (98%)
  • improved cognitive development (96%)
  • learning about risk-taking (96%)
  • spending time outdoors/in nature (96%).
Barriers to adopting nature-based play and learning for teachers included:
  • limited knowledge and confidence about how to incorporate into learning or how to operate the class outside (68%)
  • a crowded curriculum restricted their ability to adopt new learning (64%)
  • a lack of understanding/support from others in the school (38%).
Australian statistics indicate that less than a quarter of children aged 5-14 achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day and spend just over two hours each day sitting or lying down for screen-based activities.

Lead researcher and PhD candidate, Nicole Miller, says the importance of nature-based play and learning for children cannot be underestimated. She strongly advocates for schools to support professional development opportunities to develop nature-based teaching and learning skills.

"There is widespread concern that children are not spending enough time in nature and, as a result, that they may be missing out on the potential benefits that nature has to offer -- both for wellbeing and learning," Miller says.

"Emerging evidence indicates that nature-based play and learning can improve children's social skills, learning, physical health, and wellbeing.

'While lots of schools are creating wonderful nature play areas, many teachers feel underprepared and uncertain about how to use these spaces to maximise teaching and learning opportunities aligned with the curriculum.

"For teachers in the know, nature-based play and learning is incredible. For example, cooking damper on an outdoor fire can encompass a range of curriculum skills -- maths and measurement of ingredients, essential fire and safety skills, literacy, and sequencing skills from the recipe, as well as resourcefulness in finding the best sticks to use as skewers.

"But simple activities can equally deliver benefits: using sticks to demonstrate how fractions are part of a whole can demonstrate problem solving in a hands-on way and help children better grasp more complex maths concepts.

"Nature-based play and learning has so much potential for learning and wellbeing -- both for students and teachers. But we must find ways to support teachers to upskill and feel confident in delivering learning opportunities in nature.

"Training, education, and support at the school level is essential for teachers to take the next step, but so too are system-level approaches to consider how nature-based learning can be formally included into the curriculum.

"Mitigating these barriers must be a focus to ensure children are able to access nature-based play and learning opportunities at school."

Nicole Miller, Saravana Kumar, Karma L Pearce, Katherine L Baldock. The perceived benefits of and barriers to nature-based play and learning in South Australian public primary schools: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14729679.2022.2100431

Bringing Sea Horses And Kelp Forests Back To World's Most Iconic Harbour: Seabirds To Seascapes

August 21, 2022
One of the largest harbour restoration projects of its kind in the world is set to commence in the iconic Sydney Harbour to reforest and restore marine habitats for penguins, seals, seahorses and turtles.
Minister for Environment James Griffin said a $9.1 million NSW Government initiative will help restore Sydney Harbour to bring back lost biodiversity, improve water quality and increase carbon storage.

"Celebrated Australian writer Clive James reminisced about our magnificent Sydney Harbour, likening it to 'crushed diamond', and we want to restore that same brilliance to the habitats that lie beneath the surface," Mr Griffin said.

"Sydney Harbour is a modern, working harbour at the beating heart of our city, but the effects of urbanisation and industrial activity have resulted in the loss of marine habitats and the species that call them home.

"While Sydney's water quality has significantly improved in recent decades, so much so that we all delight at sightings of whales and seals in the Harbour, there's no better time to supercharge our restoration efforts.

"By installing hundreds of Living Seawall panels and replanting seagrasses and kelp forests in at least 9 locations, we'll be restoring critical habitat for marine life like the endangered White's seahorse, little penguins, green turtles and seals.

"The ocean is critical for marine and human life, providing every second breath we take. This harbour conservation and restoration project is one of biggest of its kind and demonstrates our commitment to improving our environment for generations to come."

The NSW Government's $9.1 million Seabirds to Seascapes project includes 3 elements:
  1. restoring Sydney Harbour's marine ecosystems by installing Living Seawalls, and replanting seagrass meadows and kelp forests
  2. supporting the future of little penguins in New South Wales by conducting the first ever statewide little penguin census to better understand their population size and how they're responding to threats such as climate change
  3. helping fur seals thrive as a species by conducting a seal survey to identify their preferred habitat, breeding grounds, diet and key threats.
Seaweeds such as crayweed provide critical habitat and food for marine life. They also act as underwater forests, capturing carbon and creating oxygen.

However, crayweed completely disappeared from the Sydney metropolitan region from Palm Beach to Cronulla in the 1980s due to pollution, and has never returned.

Seabirds to Seascapes is being led by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, in partnership with experts from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), Taronga Conservation Society Australia and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

SIMS Chair Peter Cochrane said his ambition is that this project can be applied elsewhere.

"Urbanisation has converted more than 50% of Sydney Harbour's natural shoreline into built structures and introduced many environmental stressors that have degraded aquatic habitats," Mr Cochrane said.

"Despite that, we're fortunate that the foundations for habitat repair still exist and we have the world-class science to guide this project."

More than 85% of people in New South Wales live within 50 kilometres of the coast, and coastal tourism employs more than 142,000 or about 24% of employees working in the coastal zone, so protecting the blue economy has never been more important.

The NSW Environmental Trust is granting $6.6 million to the project, with partners contributing a further $2.5 million in kind.

The Seabirds to Seascapes project builds upon existing management of threatened and protected marine species through the $184 million Marine Estate Management Strategy and the $175 million Saving Our Species program.

Leopard Seal Visitor

Selena Griffith forwarded this photo, taken from 40 metres distance, of a Leopard Seal visitor to our area in recent days. 

Unfortunately as soon as we posted these on social media we commenced getting message that dogs were on the beach, a no-dogs area, and people were concerned that either those pets or the seal would end up being attacked, as happened at Long Reef in November 2020 - a Marine Park and NO DOGS area.

Council and trained ORRCA volunteers, who had been monitoring the visitor the day previously, quickly acted and fenced off the area to ensure the safety, and peace, of all.

Although it is nice to share images of these visitors on social media, it's not a good idea to state their location as it can attract too many people to that place.

There is a requirement in NSW to maintain a 40m exclusion zone for seal protection and the protection of the community. 

Please report any sightings of seals hauling out onto our beaches to the ORRCA 24/7 Rescue Hotline on 02 9415 3333. 

Echidna 'Love Train' Season Commences

This echidna, photographed at Mona Vale a few years back by Alex Tyrell, is after foods; ants - however, local wildlife carers and rescuers are reminding us that now is the time of year when these other little residents go in search of love and making little echidnas. Please slow down and be extra cautious on our roads around these weeks as we head into Spring - there's already that Spring Thing happening out there.

Dogs Off-Leash On Beaches Open For Feedback

The REF the council commissioned for dog off-leash areas - at Palm Beach (North) and Mona Vale Beach (South) is now open for comments -- closes September 9.

The webpage states the council will investigate any further requirements it must address before having dogs off-leash on beaches can proceed, including under the Local Government Act 1993, which states an Environmental Impact Assessment is required, as was the case in the Station Beach 'trial' challenged in the Land and Environment Court by residents, and any other requirements under the Crown Land Management Act 2016, the Companion Animals Act 1998 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

To register your support or opposition visit the council's webpage for this
Written submissions required - no survey this time.

Recent reports:

White faced heron landing at north Palm Beach, March 7th, 2022 during storm event. All native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals (except the dingo) are protected in New South Wales by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act).

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

Opening 10 new oil and gas sites is a win for fossil fuel companies – but a staggering loss for the rest of Australia

Jan-Rune Smenes Reite/PexelsCC BY
Samantha HepburnDeakin University

Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King yesterday handed Australia’s fossil fuel industry two significant wins.

The minister announced oil and gas exploration will be allowed at ten new Australian ocean sites – comprising almost 47,000 square kilometres. And she approved two new offshore greenhouse gas storage areas off Western Australia and the Northern Territory, to explore the potential of “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) technology.

The minister said the new oil and gas permits will bolster energy security in Australia and beyond, and ultimately aid the transition to renewables. King also said controversial carbon-capture and storage was necessary to meet Australia’s net-zero emissions targets.

The world’s energy market is going through a period of disruption, largely due to Russian sanctions and the Ukrainian war. But expanding carbon-intensive fossil fuel projects is flawed reasoning that will lead to greater global insecurity.

Research shows 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground if we’re to have half a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5℃ this century.

Ignoring The Facts

The new sites for offshore gas and oil exploration comprise ten areas off the coasts of the NT, WA, Victoria, and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands. King’s announcement came at a resources conference in Darwin, where she said:

Gas enables greater use of renewables domestically by providing energy security. Australian [liquefied natural gas] is also a force for regional energy security and helps our trading partners meet their own decarbonisation goals.

The problem with this assessment is that it ignores two things.

First, Australia exports nearly 90% of domestically produced gas and lacks robust export controls to moderate this. Without these controls, increasing domestic production will not improve Australia’s energy security.

Second, gas can only enable greater use of renewables domestically and provide energy security where it is “decarbonised” through the use of carbon-capture and storage. If it isn’t decarbonised, using gas undermines energy security by risking further global warming.

However the deployment of CCS technology is complex, expensive and faces many barriers. To date it has a history of over-promising and under-delivering.

Carbon-capture and storage typically involves capturing carbon dioxide at the source (such as a coal-fired power station), sending it to a remote location and storing it underground.

Offshore CCS involves injecting and storing CO₂ in suitable rock formations. Doing so safely requires robust monitoring and verification, but challenging ocean conditions can make this extremely difficult.

For example, Chevron allegedly failed to capture and store CO₂ at its huge offshore Gorgon gas project, after the WA government approved the project on the condition the company sequester 80% of the project’s emissions in its first five years.

report in February suggested the project emitted 16 million tonnes more than anticipated due to injection failure. King calls CCS a “proven” technology, but Chevron’s experience indicates this is far from the case.

King did say the federal government won’t rely entirely on CCS, adding “it’s one of the many means of getting to net-zero” and renewable energy remained central to Australia’s emissions reduction efforts.

But critics labelled the technology a “smokescreen” behind which fossil fuel companies can continue to pollute.

Fossil Fuels Are Not The Future

Putting gas in competition with renewable energy will end badly for the fossil fuel industry. As renewable energy’s market share expands, fossil fuels will become uneconomic due to their environmental impacts and higher costs.

Eventually, natural gas will be used only during periods of peak demand or when wind and solar are not producing electricity – in other words, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. It will not provide the steady, constant electricity supply that makes up our baseload power system. This reality will significantly reduce gas demand and negate the need for carbon-capture and storage.

Opening up new gas and oil exploration is a reactive and dangerous move that does not support Australia’s long-term energy future. Many of our international peers already acknowledge this.

The United Kingdom, for example, now generates 33% of its electricity from renewable sources such as onshore and offshore wind, solar and biomass. The subsequent decline of fossil fuels means the UK has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% on 1990 levels.

Gas in the UK is valuable for its ability to provide rapid, flexible power supply during peak periods, to integrate with other renewable technologies and to improve system flexibility. During periods of high demand, storage devices can discharge into the grid and maintain security of supply.

Wind turbines on a hill at sunset
Putting gas in competition with renewable energy will end badly for the fossil fuel industry. UnsplashCC BY

Wrong Way, Go Back

Clearly, Australia is heading in the wrong direction by opening up new fossil fuel exploration.

The move will damage our longer-term security and undermine our climate imperatives. It ignores the glaring economic realities that will eventually push gas out of the market.

And opening new gas fields while carbon-capture remains uncertain is dangerous for the planet. The Conversation

Samantha Hepburn, Professor, Deakin Law School, Deakin University

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

Suspected Poisoning Of Shoalhaven Flying-Foxes

August 25, 2022
Up to 70 grey-headed flying-foxes found dead in the Shoalhaven area earlier this year may have been poisoned, prompting authorities to remind people to properly dispose of chemicals and pesticides.
Mike Saxon from the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) said tragically a banned organochlorine pesticide, Dieldrin, was confirmed in one flying-fox and there are signs that others had also ingested a poison.

"At this stage we have not been able to identify any person responsible and we do not know if this was a deliberate or accidental poisoning," Mr Saxon said.

"We are continuing enquiries but regardless, this tragic incident highlights the horrible impact banned pesticides have on our native wildlife.

"Grey-headed flying-foxes play a vital role in our environment pollinating our forests and dispersing our rainforest seeds. They also feed on fruit, including backyard fruit trees.

"We know this can frustrate gardeners but remind people that grey-headed flying-foxes are listed as a threatened species in New South Wales. They are protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act and it is an offence to harm them," Mr Saxon said.

The department is partnering with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to inform the community about risks associated with improper storage and use of pesticides. Director of Regulatory Operations Cate Woods said the use of Dieldrin has been banned in Australia since 1987, noting that it can accumulate in native animals and livestock and contaminate soil for decades.

"This is a good reminder to check areas of your property where old pesticide or chemical stocks may be forgotten and dispose of them lawfully," Ms Wood said.

"Any old stocks of organochlorine pesticides like Dieldrin should be stored securely and properly labelled until they can be safely disposed of at a Household Chemical CleanOut event.

"These events accept household quantities up to a maximum of 20 litres or 20 kilograms of a single chemical or item. They are free services held across New South Wales.

"The next Household Chemical Clean Out Event in the Shoalhaven is this Sunday, 28 August, 9 am–3 pm at the Woollamia Council Works Depot, 3 Erina Road Woollamia.

"We much prefer that people come forward and dispose of these chemicals or poisons correctly, rather than try to dispose of them another way that may end up harming our environment and wildlife," Ms Wood said.

The department would like to thank the team at Wildlife Rescue South Coast, North Nowra Veterinary Hospital, Taronga Zoo and volunteers who helped recover and identify the cause of death for these flying-foxes.

South32 Cancels Water-Draining Dendrobium Coal Mine Expansion Plan

August 23, 2022
Communities from the Illawarra to Sydney are celebrating this morning after South32 revealed it would not proceed with its dangerous Dendrobium coal mine expansion.

The company had faced sustained pressure from locals since it first announced its plans to expand the coal mine due to concerns about the project’s impact on Sydney and the Illawarra's drinking water catchment, cultural heritage sites, greenhouse gas emissions, and unique upland swamp ecosystems.

The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) originally rejected the proposal for these reasons in 2021, but political interference led to the NSW Government labelling the expansion a “state significant infrastructure” proposal, and the mining company was encouraged to resubmit plans for an expansion.

However even that scaled down proposal would have had significant detrimental effects on Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water supply, and WaterNSW recently wrote a scathing submission in response to the revised expansion, noting:

“The submitted proposal is considered unacceptable to WaterNSW in its current form due to impacts on water quantity, water quality and ecological integrity within the Metropolitan Special Area.”

Deidre Stuart, secretary for Illawarra and Sydney based environmental group Protect Our Water Catchment Incorporated said it was fantastic news.

“This is a terrific outcome for all those who spent many hours working to stop what was a clearly unacceptable proposal from the very beginning. It was never in the public interest,” she said.

“The ‘state significant infrastructure’ declaration was an assault on good governance and on communities.

“It’s a great shame that many politicians were lining up across the political spectrum to undermine the original Planning Commission ruling. Thank goodness common sense has prevailed. 

“POWC remains very concerned about the lack of remediation on not just South32-owned mines but across all the mines in the Illawarra escarpment, as well as the ongoing legacy problems of methane emissions.

“The community would be nowhere without the support of the groups including EDO who are willing to work for us pro-bono to defend the IPC refusal in the court.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde urged South32 not to cut and run from its existing coal mine in light of its decision not to proceed with the expansion.

“South32 must rehabilitate the land at Dendrobium as mining at the site comes to its natural end. Gradual rehabilitation once the mine closes will give workers ongoing employment, and it will protect the water catchment area from further degradation.

“We’re calling for the NSW Government to guarantee that it will not allow this expansion plan to be handed on to another mining company, and will instead legislate to finally protect Sydney’s drinking water catchment from any new or expanded coal mining.

“The drinking water catchment for 5 million people is an incredible asset that needs protection - it’s past time, and the NSW Perrottet Government must act now."

The Australian Government’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee said the Project would result in “severe, long-lasting and irreversible” impacts to “near-pristine water resources in the restricted catchment of Sydney’s drinking water supply” that would reduce “water quality and inflows to Sydney’s drinking water storage”.

The IESC summarised their advice by declaring - in effect - that South32’s longwall project should not go ahead, finding that “the project’s impacts will be severe, irreversible and persistent, and that longwall mining methods are not appropriate in this context.”

Newly Discovered Legless Lizard To Be Considered In Final IPC Decision On Mount Pleasant Coal Mine

August 23, 2022
The Independent Planning Commission looks set to pay heed to the discovery of an entirely new species of legless lizard in the footprint of MACH Energy’s Mount Pleasant coal mine expansion.

New documentation published on the IPC website late last week, reveal that ecological surveys found the Hunter Valley Delma (Delma vescolineata) in the Mount Pleasant coal mine expansion area. The lizard was only officially listed as a new species last month.

The delma is so new to science that it has not yet been listed under the EPBC Act or the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act. It was determined to be a new species shortly after the release of the latest Federal State of the Environment report which revealed the shocking state of species decline and habitat loss across Australia.

The IPC has indicated it will incorporate the new information into its assessment of the expansion, and that it will invite a new round of public comments. 
The document states:

In a letter dated 12 August 2022, the Department wrote to the IPC, advising that:
‘MACH Energy Australia Pty Ltd (MACH) [the applicant for the Project] has provided the Department with a research paper … confirming that the Legless Lizard recorded at Mount Pleasant is not the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) as previously thought, but is in fact a new species not previously identified. Importantly, this species is not yet listed as threatened under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act).’
The Panel has since heard from stakeholders in relation to this issue and has revised its position of 19 August 2022. The Panel considers that it would be assisted by public submissions on the DPE letter and its attachments regarding the identification of the Legless Lizard, linked here.

Public submissions may be made only on this new material and must be received via email ( by 5pm AEST Tuesday, 30 August 2022.

The Department of Planning has suggested the impacts of the mine on the species can be “offset”, despite there being no information on whether that is even possible.

The IPC is expected to make a ruling on the expansion any day now, however in light of the Hunter Valley Delma discovery, Lock the Gate Alliance has written to the authority calling for the assessment to be re-opened to new public and expert submissions (letter attached).

Lock the Gate has stated it will also write to Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek alerting her to the discovery. 

Should the IPC approve the Mount Pleasant expansion, a final assessment would be required by the Federal Environment Department, and Ms Plibersek would make the ultimate decision whether to approve or reject the mine.

The Mount Pleasant coal expansion would also be the most polluting coal mine in terms of greenhouse gas emissions of any project assessed by the IPC since it was created - and would be responsible for 876 million tonnes of carbon emissions if built.

LTGA NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde said, “MACH’s Mount Pleasant expansion was already a climate-wrecking monstrosity - and now we know it also threatens an entirely new species of legless lizard.

“Coal mines are expanding at such a rate in NSW, they’re threatening new species before the government even has time to assess their conservation status.

“The Independent Planning Commission has signalled an intent to just ram a decision through on Mount Pleasant without any opportunity for community input - that would be an outrageous approach to this extraordinary scientific discovery.

“The IPC should not be determining the fate of the project this week without the proper opportunity for community input on this startling new information.

“The IPC has said the discovery of this entirely new species of lizard is ‘not significant new information’ - which is obviously just absurd. It doesn’t pass the pub test.

“Minister Plibersek has acknowledged the dire straits Australia’s wildlife is in, and we’re hoping she will follow up her words with action. 

“Here is a classic example of a newly discovered species whose habitat would be devastated if a coal mine is built, and where she has the final say on whether that coal mine goes ahead.

“Frankly, the terrifying emissions Mount Pleasant would produce should be enough to send MACH Energy packing. We’re hoping the discovery of the Hunter Valley Delma seals the fate of this horrendous proposal once and for all.”

Santos Wants To Dump 61,500 Bull Elephants Worth Of Coal Seam Gas Waste In Western Sydney Or The Headwaters Of The Murray-Darling

August 21, 2022
Santos faces likely insurmountable challenges to safely dispose of up to 430,500 tonnes of coal seam gas waste (roughly equal to the weight of 61,500 fully grown African bull elephants) that would be generated if its Pilliga (Narrabri) gasfield is built.

Santos’ waste management plan was recently uploaded to the NSW Government’s major project’s website. It identifies three sites Santos has suggested for the disposal of the massive amount of waste its planned gasfield would create.

They are:
  • WeKando, Chinchilla, Queensland (on the banks of a tributary of the Murray-Darling)
  • A landfill facility at Kemps Creek in Western Sydney 
  • A landfill facility at Jackson, Queensland (500km from Narrabri)
The extraction of coal seam gas generates large volumes of water contaminated with salt and heavy metals. 

The Queensland coal seam gas industry recently came under fire for having no solution to address its waste problem, despite thousands of gas wells having already been drilled across the state.

Lock the Gate Campaign Coordinator Carmel Flint said, “Trucking hazardous coal seam gas waste thousands of kilometres and burying it underground is a terrible and risky idea. 

“Santos shouldn’t be allowed to turn either Western Sydney or regional Queensland into their dumping ground. Santos’ waste management plan is simply to offload their responsibilities and land their waste on others to deal with. 

“This type of waste represents a serious environmental risk and, if buried, would have to be managed in perpetuity to prevent it being released into groundwater or surface water. 

“The approval for the Narrabri Gas Project requires Santos to ‘maximise beneficial reuse’ of salt waste from their gasfield, but here they are already scoping out a contract to dump more than half of it in landfill. 

“The site at Kemps Ck appears to have had problems with flooding in the past and one of the Queensland sites is just a short distance from a creek that flows to the Condamine River. 

“We estimate that moving this amount of waste would require 47 truckloads per month that would collectively travel 50,000km.  So not only is it a dangerous idea, but it will increase greenhouse gas emissions from transporting the waste as well."

Third-generation cattle farmer Glen Beasley lives near the WeKando waste facility near Chinchilla in southern Queensland, one of the proposed landfill sites where the Narrabri gasfield’s waste could be sent. The waste facility is just 100 metres from Stockyard Creek, in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin.

He said he was worried about the potential impacts on the local water catchment from Santos’ salt waste.

“The possibility of contamination from leakage from landfill into the local water table is serious," Mr Beasley said.

“Salt is not benign, it’s a potential contaminant.

“Successive governments have failed to adequately deal with this corrosive industry that contributes very little to Australia, the Australian public, and places a lot at risk.”

Chlamydia Vaccine Trial For Koalas In South-West Sydney

August 20, 2022
A chlamydia vaccine for koalas could increase the species' resistance to the potentially fatal disease in a trial in south-west Sydney, which is part of an almost $1.7 million NSW Koala Strategy investment across the region.
Minister for Environment James Griffin said the focus of the vaccine trial is to help protect the species in the south-west Sydney region, home to one of the few growing koala populations in New South Wales.

"Chlamydia is a serious issue for koalas, leading to blindness, infections and infertility in this precious species. This disease weakens koalas and can make them more susceptible to dog attacks and other threats," Mr Griffin said.

"That's why as part of the more than $190 million NSW Koala Strategy and the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan, we're investing more than $600,000 towards keeping the Campbelltown koala population free from chlamydia, including through a vaccination trial.

"The NSW Koala Strategy is the single largest investment in any species in Australia, aimed at tackling multiple threats to the species and securing more habitat to protect the future of koalas in the wild."

Koala carers, Campbelltown and Wollondilly Council and the University of Sydney teams involved in the chlamydia vaccine trial will be able to use a new rapid chlamydia testing machine to minimise the time koalas are in care.

Member for Wollondilly Nat Smith said the south-west Sydney community deeply cares about its koalas and this funding will be an opportunity for them to become more involved in their conservation.

"South-west Sydney is one of 10 focus areas identified in the NSW Koala Strategy as important koala populations that will benefit from more intensive investment and action," Mr Smith said.

"Koalas in Wollondilly will be better supported by a $146,000 investment to map their habitat, preferred corridors, and monitor their activity."

The Greater Sydney Landcare Network will deliver a $600,000 project to educate the community about the health and safety of koalas and support local conservation and habitat restoration.

Greater Sydney Landcare Chair Bev Debrincat said it is proud to partner with the NSW Government as a Koala Strategy regional partner.

"Koalas are an iconic NSW species, and the broader community and conservationists in the area will benefit greatly knowing that this significant population will be well-served by the whole community working together in a co-ordinated effort," Ms Debrincat said.

For more information visit NSW Koala Strategy.

Climate Change Predicted To Reduce Kelp Forests' Capacity To Trap And Store Carbon

August 24, 2022
Kelp forms vast seaweed forests along temperate coastlines, which sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon. But according to a study by Karen Filbee-Dexter at the University of Western Australia and the Institute of Marine Research and colleagues, published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, warming oceans could reduce the capacity of kelp forests to trap carbon for long periods in deep ocean stores, exacerbating the effects of climate change.

Kelp carbon can feed other organisms during decomposition, or it can be trapped in the deep ocean, where it can remain for hundreds or thousands of years. To understand how the capacity of kelp forests to build long-term carbon stores will change as the climate warms, researchers investigated kelp decomposition rates at 35 locations across the Northern Hemisphere. They collected fragments of fresh kelp and placed them inside a mesh bag within a plastic cage -- allowing water and microbes to flow through but excluding larger herbivores -- and tethered them to the sea floor for 4-18 weeks.

They found that sea temperature had a strong influence on the rate of decomposition, with kelp fragments in cooler waters degrading more slowly. Modeling showed that kelp decomposition is slow enough that a significant proportion can reach deep ocean carbon sinks. But ongoing sea temperature rises due to climate change could accelerate decomposition, reducing the amount of carbon that is stored for the long-term. A projected increase in sea temperature of 0.4 degrees Celsius by 2050 could reduce the carbon sequestration potential of decomposing kelp by 9%.

However, kelp forests are predicted to expand in higher latitude waters as the climate warms, and here slower decomposition rates could make these forests a major contributor to long-term ocean carbon stores, the authors say.

Filbee-Dexter adds, "Our experiment measured kelp carbon turnover across twelve regions throughout the northern hemisphere and found that carbon breakdown was strongly linked to ocean temperature. This suggests that kelp carbon storage could be reduced as the ocean warms and that kelp forests in cool polar environments have potential to be important blue carbon ecosystems."

Karen Filbee-Dexter, Colette J. Feehan, Dan A. Smale, Kira A. Krumhansl, Skye Augustine, Florian de Bettignies, Michael T. Burrows, Jarrett E. K. Byrnes, Jillian Campbell, Dominique Davoult, Kenneth H. Dunton, João N. Franco, Ignacio Garrido, Sean P. Grace, Kasper Hancke, Ladd E. Johnson, Brenda Konar, Pippa J. Moore, Kjell Magnus Norderhaug, Alasdair O’Dell, Morten F. Pedersen, Anne K. Salomon, Isabel Sousa-Pinto, Scott Tiegs, Dara Yiu, Thomas Wernberg. Kelp carbon sink potential decreases with warming due to accelerating decomposition. PLOS Biology, 2022; 20 (8): e3001702 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001702

It’ll be impossible to replace fossil fuels with renewables by 2050, unless we cut our energy consumption

Mark DiesendorfUNSW Sydney

Energy consumption – whether its heating your home, driving, oil refining or liquefying natural gas – is responsible for around 82% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Unless Australia reduces its energy consumption, my recent study finds it’ll be almost impossible for renewable energy to replace fossil fuels by 2050. This is what’s required to reach our net-zero emissions target.

Yet, as the nation’s economy recovers from the pandemic, Australia’s energy consumption is likely to return to its pre-pandemic growth. The study identifies two principal justifications for reducing energy consumption (or “energy descent”):

  1. the likely slow rate of electrifying transport and heating
  2. that renewable energy will be chasing a retreating target if energy consumption grows.

Energy descent isn’t an impossible task. Indeed, in 1979, Australia’s total final energy consumption was about half that in 2021. Key to success will be transitioning to an ecologically sustainable, steady-state economy, with greener technologies and industries.

What’s Slowing Down Growth In Renewables?

To transition to sustainable energy, Australia must electrify transport and combustion heating, while replacing all fossil-fuelled electricity with energy efficiency and renewables, which are the cheapest energy technologies.

Renewables can be rolled out rapidly: wind and solar farms can be built in just a few years and residential rooftop solar can be installed in a single day.

But rapid growth in wind and solar is slowed by three critical infrastructural and institutional requirements of the electricity industry:

  • to establish Renewable Energy Zones (a cluster of wind and solar farms and storage)
  • to build new transmission lines and medium-term energy storage such as pumped hydro
  • to reform electricity market rules to make them more suitable for renewable electricity.

These take longer than building solar and wind farms and much longer than installing rooftop solar and batteries. Nevertheless, they could be fully implemented within a decade.

In fact, transitioning existing fossil-fuelled electricity generation, such as coal-fired power stations, to 100% renewables could possibly be completed by the early 2030s.

But optimistic calculations based on how quickly we can build solar and wind farms and their infrastructure ignore the fact that the growth of renewable electricity is limited by electricity demand.

When existing coal-fired power stations have been replaced by renewables, electricity demand will be determined by how rapidly we can electrify transport and combustion heating. These are the principal tasks that will limit the future growth rate of renewable electricity. They will likely be implemented slowly, despite the urgency of climate change.

Households and industries have big investments in petrol/diesel vehicles and combustion heating. They may be reluctant to replace these working technologies, without substantial government incentives.

So far, effective federal government policies are almost non-existent for transitioning transport and heating, which are together responsible for 38% of Australia’s emissions.

This month’s announcement of a future “consultation” on fleet fuel efficiency standards is the government’s tentative first step.

Chasing A Retreating Target

If we look at only percentage growth rates, the task of renewable electricity looks misleadingly easy. From 2015 to 2019, Australia’s renewable electricity grew by 62% – an excellent achievement.

But, it was starting from a small base. This means its increase in energy production over that period was only slightly bigger than the growth of total final energy consumption – comprising electricity, transport and heating – which is still mostly fossil fuelled.

On the global scale, the situation is even worse. As a result of growth in total final energy consumption, the share of fossil fuels was the same in 2019 as in 2000: namely around 80%.

The challenge for renewable energy is like a runner trying to break a record while officials are striding away down the track with the finishing tape.

This situation is not the fault of renewable energy technologies. Nuclear energy, for example, would grow much more slowly and would take even longer to catch up with growing consumption.

In one of the scenarios I explore in my study, Australia’s total final energy consumption grows linearly at the pre-pandemic rate from 2021 to 2050. Then, renewable electricity would have to grow at 7.6 times its pre-pandemic rate to catch up by 2050.

Alternatively, if renewable electricity growth is exponential, it would have to double every 6.8 years until 2050.

Considering that future growth in renewable electricity will be limited by the rate of electrifying transport and combustion heating, both the required linear and exponential growth rates appear impossible.

Possible Solutions

Both the International Energy Agency and modelling done for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change avoid the problem by assuming large-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage or directly capturing CO₂ from the air will become commercially available.

But relying on these unproven technologies is speculative and risky. Therefore, we need a Plan B: reducing our energy consumption.

My study shows if we could halve 2021 energy consumption by 2050, the transition may be possible. That is, if raw materials (such as lithium and other critical minerals) are available and local manufacturing could be greatly increased.

For example, if the total final energy consumption declines linearly and renewable electricity grows linearly, the latter would only have to grow at about three times its 2015–2019 rate to replace all fossil energy by 2050. For exponential growth, the doubling time is 9.4 years.

Improvements in energy efficiency would help, such as home insulation, efficient electrical appliances, and solar and heat pump hot water systems. However, the International Energy Agency shows such improvements will be unlikely to reduce demand sufficiently.

We need behavioural changes encouraged by socioeconomic policies, as well as technical.

Implications Of Energy Descent

To reduce our energy consumption, we would need public debate followed by policies to encourage greener technologies and industries, and to make socioeconomic changes.

This need not involve deprivation of key technologies, but rather a planned reduction to a sustainable level of prosperity.

It would be characterised by greater emphasis on improving and expanding public transport, bicycle paths, pedestrian areas, parks and national parks, public health centres, public education, and public housing.

This approach of providing universal basic services reduces the need for high incomes and its associated high consumption. As research in 2020 pointed out, the world’s wealthiest 40 million people are responsible for 14% of lifestyle-related greenhouse gas emissions.

And on a global scale, energy descent could be financed by the rich countries, including Australia. Most people would experience a better quality of life. Energy descent is a key part of the pathway to an ecologically sustainable, socially just society.The Conversation

Mark Diesendorf, Honorary Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney

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

10 images show just how attractive Australian shopping strips can be without cars

Matthew MclaughlinThe University of Western AustraliaHayley ChristianThe University of Western AustraliaJasper SchipperijnUniversity of Southern Denmark, and Trevor ShiltonCurtin University

Think of a typical Australian shopping street: parked cars occupy the prime public space in front of the shops. But we could instead create a place that’s good for business and is beautiful too. It would attract customers while being good for our physical, mental and social health.

This isn’t a new idea. Realising they can make better use of the space next to businesses to boost sales, shopping centres design places to attract people. That’s why they provide seats, air-conditioning, music, artwork, cafes and plants outside their shops.

Online shopping is even comfier, but it lacks human contact.

We know what works to create people-friendly local shopping streets. Safer speeds, improving lighting, replacing parking with “parklets”, planting street trees and widening pavements — these are just some of the ways.

Below we’ll discuss four reasons to reallocate parking space next to shops. But first, we’ve re-imagined ten car-centric Australian streets to illustrate the benefits of reallocating space to people … to shoppers, diners, riders, children, prams and the mobility-impaired.

Transforming 10 Car-Centric Shopping Streets

These re-imagined streets show thriving liveable communities, supporting friends and families to meet, creating local jobs and providing access to fresh food. (Click on and move the sliders to compare the actual and re-imagined streets.)

1. Chapel Street, Windsor, Melbourne, Victoria

2. Beaumont Street, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales

3. Darby Street, Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW

4. Hall Street, Bondi, Sydney, NSW

5. Princes Highway, Woonona, Wollongong, NSW

6. Belvidere Street, Belmont, Perth, Western Australia

7. Oxford Street, Leederville, Perth, WA

8a. Parklet, South Terrace, Fremantle, Perth, WA

8b. South Terrace, Fremantle, Perth, WA

9. Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland

The Elephant In The Room

Typically a car transports just one or two customers. A parked car occupies about 13 square metres. That’s about the size of an elephant lying down.

In the same space, 20 shoppers can be walking, 12 diners can sit outside a cafe, or 12 customers can park their bikes.

Before re-imagining the streets, we calculated that car parking (27%) and travel lanes (46%) took up nearly three-quarters of the street space, comparable to other research.

Reducing car parking and travel lanes allowed us to increase green space (up 18%), seating (up 17%) and footpaths (up 6%) in our re-imagined streets.

Made with Flourish

Creating beautiful and healthy shopping streets that provide safe and equitable access is key to attracting more business.

Encouraging motorists to park on neighbouring side streets or in off-street car parks can free up space for people. In any case, motorists rarely find parking right out the front of a shop — the (rising) number and size of cars makes that impossible.

Parking on side streets along Belvidere Street, Redcliffe, Perth, Australia. The red lines show where the majority of on-street parking is. The black shaded area shows where parking spaces can be better used for people and businesses.

4 Reasons To Redesign Shopping Streets

1: Local businesses benefit

Just this week, Perth’s lord mayor proposed ripping out a pedestrian mall in the CBD and opening it to cars. But this logic doesn’t stack up to get more customers.

It’s important to remember: cars don’t buy things from shops, people do. Shopping streets that prioritise people and beauty over cars will attract higher sales, higher retail rental values and reduced shop vacancy rates.

But where will shoppers park? Shoppers are already used to walking short distances from parking on side streets and in off-street car parks.

Switching to other modes of transport for short journeys to the shops is another option.

2. More attractive for COVID-19 dining

We now know that COVID-19 is airborne — meaning we can inhale the virus. Improving ventilation is key to reducing the spread, but this can be a challenge indoors.

The evidence suggests gathering outdoors is safer than indoors.

Almost half of Australians have a family dog, so being able to have a coffee outside opens up further business benefits of outdoor dining space.

Trialling more people-friendly streets can be a great way to demonstrate their benefits. NSW has already run trials of “streets as shared spaces” encouraging outdoor dining.

3: For kids and families

Great streets are enjoyable and safe places for kids and their families. Streets like this make it easier to get active and have fun.

We should listen to kids’ ideas when it comes to building healthy streets — they want their local streets to be active and fun places to meet their friends.

Shopping streets should make everyone feel welcome. By this we mean streets that:

  • are safe and easy to cross
  • have shade and shelter
  • provide rest stops and benches
  • are quiet, walkable and rideable
  • have interesting things to see and do
  • are relaxing
  • have fresh, clean air.

4: Boost our physical activity and mental health

More than half of city car journeys are shorter than 5km — and many are even shorter. Ongoing under-investment in safe walking and cycling means Australians feel forced into driving short distances, even though they might prefer to walk or cycle.

Increasing walking is a cost-effective investment to boost Australia’s physical activity levels. It would reduce the one in ten deaths and A$15.6 billion-a-year burden of inactivity.

Riding or walking to the shops can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, and shopping streets can be destinations that people enjoy walking around, staying a while and spending more.

When Australians have better access to local destinations, they walk more.

More people on the streets builds a sense of community, essential for optimal mental health.

Take-Home Message

For shopping streets to compete with larger shopping centres, they need to be more beautiful places to visit, which provide safe and inclusive access for people to spend money locally.

Towns and cities around the world are realising this. Tens of thousands of on-street car parking spaces are being reallocated to people, including in AucklandStockholmParisAmsterdamMilan. Australia can learn from their successes.

The authors encourage the open access reuse of the re-imagined streets. They are freely available to download in multiple formats.The Conversation

Matthew Mclaughlin, Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western AustraliaHayley Christian, Associate Professor, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Western AustraliaJasper Schipperijn, Professor of Active Living Environment, University of Southern Denmark, and Trevor Shilton, Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health, Curtin University

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

‘I will miss them if they are gone’: stingrays are underrated sharks we don’t know enough about

Mangrove whipray. Wikimedia Commons
Jaelen Nicole MyersJames Cook University

Am I not pretty enough? This article is part of The Conversation’s series introducing you to unloved Australian animals that need our help.

Have you ever done the “stingray shuffle”? If you live by the coast, you’ve probably taken this precaution to frighten off any buried stingrays as you wade into the water. Breath easy – your chances of getting stuck with a nasty barb are slim.

Any thoughts we have about stingrays usually end once danger is averted, but these fascinating creatures are much more than an inconvenience for beachgoers.

Stingrays are flat-bodied sharks that live in almost all marine environments worldwide. In fact, there are over 600 recognised species – most of which we know very little about. Even in the research world, we struggle to answer simple questions such as: which areas are most valuable for stingray populations and why?

The mangrove whipray (Urogymnus granulatus) is one such species. Aptly named, mangrove whiprays feel at home gliding through submerged mangrove roots in the tropical coastal regions of the Indo-Pacific and Northeast Australia. Unfortunately, they are at risk of decline and localised extinctions.

As a scientist who studies them, I attest these rather ordinary, mud-covered stingrays are beautiful, and I never tire of watching them. We have to ask ourselves: would it make any difference if these rays were here or not? How relevant are they for ecosystem health?

The Situation At Hand

Sharks and rays are experiencing some of the most drastic declines of any animal group inhabiting our oceans today due to fishing pressure and habitat loss, and coastal species are particularly vulnerable.

Stingrays are occasionally preyed upon by their toothy relatives, such as formidable Carcharhinid or hammerhead sharks. However, the shark-eat-shark world isn’t all to blame for losses of abundance and species becoming red-listed.

Most stingrays depend on shallow tidal habitats for feeding and protection, especially during their first years of life, but many of these areas worldwide are being lost and degraded. This is a big threat to the survival of mangrove whiprays.

Six stingrays in the sand
A cluster of mangrove whiprays. Jaelen MyersAuthor provided

Coastal development is a major contributor to the destruction of mangroves as we replace these seaside forests with marinas, agricultural land, factory ports, ocean-view hotels, homes, and other structures.

A recent global assessment of tidal wetlands found that compared to other coastal environment types, mangroves experienced some of the greatest losses due to human activities, with 3,700 square kilometres lost worldwide between 1999-2019.

Worsening drought conditions due to climate change may also threaten mangrove forests. For example, recent research suggests climate change contributed to the deaths of 40 million Northern Australian mangroves in the summer of 2015 and 2016.

We can only expect that with the loss of pristine mangrove environments, mangrove whiprays will diminish along with them. As this threat continues into the future, this little stingray remains at risk.

Mangrove whiprays feel right at home gliding around submerged mangrove roots. Jaelen MyersAuthor provided

Why They Matter

Mangrove whiprays do much more than lay buried in the sand. While they’re not high profile apex predators, they fill an important niche as intermediate predators. Essentially, they are the glue that connects higher and lower levels of the food chain.

Since they’re usually seen from above, it’s hard to notice the small, suction-like mouth underneath, which they use to extract buried invertebrate prey. Combined with vigorous flapping of their winged pectoral fins, their feeding can stir up hefty clouds of sediment.

Mangrove whipray in sand
Mangrove whiprays stir up clouds of sediment when they feed. Jaelen MyersAuthor provided

Through this intense excavation, they recirculate buried nutrients and small food items back into the water column. This, in turn, can be important for creating feeding opportunities for other organisms. My personal observations of foraging mangrove whiprays have revealed that small fishes often linger nearby to snack on stray food particles.

As both predator and prey, these rays also help transfer nutrients beyond where they feed across a broader range of ecosystems. This can occur at small scales when they creep in and out of intertidal areas with the tide and at larger scales when juveniles transition to deeper waters as adults.

This strengthens ecosystem connectivity, which is a critical component of overall health and stability of coastal environments.

Stingray feeding pits on a sandflat. Jaelen Myers

So, under the category “ecosystem functions”, coastal stingrays like the mangrove whipray have an impressive resume worthy of our attention. The next big question regarding their conservation is: what can we do for them?

What We Can Do

Realistically, we cannot snap our fingers and stop all human activities from threatening the coastal mangroves they call home. What we can do is achieve a better understanding of where they are highly abundant and why, so we can identify pieces of critical habitat.

This way, conservation efforts can be designed to protect the areas they rely on the most.

An improved understanding on how mangrove whiprays participate in coastal food chains would also help us determine if declining populations threaten the welfare of coastal mangrove forests.

A pair of mangrove whiprays. Jaelen MyersAuthor provided

But the campaign for action doesn’t stop at mangrove whiprays. This species represents just one of many creeping into the bubble of conservation concern, and more may join the list if we continue without vital knowledge that can support their protection.

Examples of other vulnerable species that have been documented sharing habitats with mangrove whiprays are the pink whipray (Pateobatus fai) and giant guitarfish (Glaucostegus typus). Therefore, in areas where these different ray species live together, conservation strategies for one may have positive outcomes for all.

It’s up to scientists to fill the existing gaps on stingray ecology, but the average bystander can also help by spreading awareness for stingrays so their plight won’t drag on without any media headlines to lament it.

They may not warm our hearts with their cuddly cuteness (me excluded), but the wellbeing of our coastal ecosystems may just depend on these remarkable flat-bodied sharks. I know I will miss them if they are gone.The Conversation

Jaelen Nicole Myers, PhD Candidate, James Cook University

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

The road to new fuel efficiency rules is filled with potholes. Here’s how Australia can avoid them

Dean Lewins/AAP
Robin SmitUniversity of Technology SydneyHussein DiaSwinburne University of Technology, and Nic SurawskiUniversity of Technology Sydney

Last week, federal Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen officially put fuel efficiency standards on the national agenda, saying the measure would reduce transport emissions and encourage electric vehicle uptake.

Fuel efficiency standards are applied to car manufacturers and indirectly set limits on how much CO₂ can on average be emitted from a new vehicle. Such standards lead to lower fuel costs for motorists and could help Australia meet its targets under the Paris climate agreement.

Importantly, Bowen noted any new rules must be ambitious and designed specifically for Australia. But implementing effective standards is easier said than done – and there are many potholes to avoid.

Without a robust set of mandatory transport emissions standards, Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels will deepen, and reaching our emissions reduction goals will become harder.

man in black suit gestures with hands
Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen says fuel efficiency standards must be ambitious. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Standards Must Be Mandatory

Road vehicles vary in the efficiency with which they use fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. For example, large SUVs are usually less fuel efficient than smaller, lighter cars. And of course, electric vehicles operate without any fossil fuels at all (although the energy source used to charge their batteries determines how “green” they are).

Stringent fuel efficiency standards will encourage the auto industry to bring more electric vehicles to Australia, and reduce how many polluting vehicles it imports.

Australia is the only country in the OECD without mandatory fuel efficiency standards for road transport vehicles. Voluntary fuel economy targets were adopted for new petrol cars in 1978, but were not achieved in 2010. In 2020, Australia’s automotive industry announced a new voluntary reporting system for CO₂ emissions reduction of 3-4% per year this decade.

These rules are not mandatory, and the target probably falls short of what’s needed. Yet, the industry is promoting these standards as a template for Australia’s new fuel efficiency rules.

Mandatory fuel efficiency standards are at the core of energy and transport policies around the world. So this should be the first guiding principle of any new system pursued by the federal government.

red car drives on city street
Small cars are usually more fuel-efficient than bigger cars. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Real-World Driving Patterns

Second, the standards must be based on real-world fuel consumption.

Setting fuel efficiency standards first requires selecting a specific “driving pattern” that includes vehicle speed, acceleration, deceleration and power usage, and are used to determine a vehicle’s fuel use and emissions.

The patterns also take into account local road type (such as residential, arterial or motorway) and driving conditions (such as free-flow or morning peak).

The voluntary industry standards now in place in Australia are based on a driving pattern called the “New European Drive Cycle” or NEDC. Among its shortcomings, the cycle assumes mild accelerations and constant speeds that don’t reflect modern-day driving.

This has led to substantial deviations between the NEDC assumptions about fuel use and real-world consumption.

Our recent research measured emissions from five SUVs driving around Sydney. After comparing our measurements with the Green Vehicle Guide, we found fuel use was 16% to 65% higher than NEDC values, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions.

And research in 2019 suggested that, contrary to official figures using the NEDC, the rate of CO₂ emissions for new Australian passenger vehicles was not falling – and may actually have increased since 2015.

Why? It’s likely due to an increase in sales of bigger, heavier vehicles in Australia, such as SUVs, as well as a shift towards more 4WD and diesel cars.

So it’s crucial that we drop the NEDC – and base the new Australian standards on a drive pattern that represents real-world conditions. This could be similar to the pattern adopted by the European Union, or a real-world Australian drive cycle.

vehicles queue in tunnel
Fuel efficiency standards must be based on real Australian driving patterns. Dean Lewins/AAP

Other Things To Consider

The federal government should implement a single standard for all passenger vehicles – including all SUVs, without exception.

Australia’s voluntary system allows large road-based SUVs to fall into the same category as light commercial vehicles. This means they’re subject to less stringent fuel efficiency standards than cars.

This may inadvertently promote sales of heavy SUVs and, as a result, significantly increase real-world fuel consumption and associated emissions.

SUV parked at side of road
SUVs should comply with the same standards as other vehicles. Shutterstock

And Australia’s standards must also eliminate loopholes that could allow companies to comply with regulations but not actually improve fuel efficiency to the extent intended.

The considerations listed above are by no means exhaustive. And new fuel efficiency standards must be supported by other policy measures, such as reducing our reliance on private cars, and promoting public transport, walking and cycling.

Transport is Australia’s third-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and federal government moves to tackle this problem are welcome. But if fuel efficiency standards are not carefully designed, the sector will continue to let down motorists, and the planet.The Conversation

Robin Smit, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Technology SydneyHussein Dia, Professor of Future Urban Mobility, Swinburne University of Technology, and Nic Surawski, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering, University of Technology Sydney

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

Frozen in time, we’ve become blind to ways to build sustainability into our urban heritage

The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct development won the Greenway Award for Heritage. MDRX/WikimediaCC BY-SA
James LeshDeakin University

It was hard to keep up with all the bad news coming out of the recent Australia State of the Environment report. The dire state of natural places and First Nations heritage rightly attracted attention. However, one important finding was overlooked: the poor state of Australia’s so-called historic heritage.

The report found this heritage is at risk on many fronts. It’s under pressure from land development, resource extraction, poorly managed tourism, climate change and inadequate management and protections.

In a familiar framing, the report points the finger at urban development and other changes. However, this mindset itself is actually an obstacle to protecting our urban heritage.

Change in our cities, and to our heritage, is both inevitable and necessary. Our relationships to neighbourhoods and places constantly evolve, as we learnt during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Policy ideas framed by sustainability, such as adaptive management that encourages heritage places to change and evolve, are more sensible. Flexible and creative responses to heritage places should be allowed.

An example of embracing change is the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct in Sydney. The project has reimagined maritime heritage for culture and the arts.

Adopting new perspectives won’t only preserve our historic buildings and places by enabling us to shape them for today’s needs. It will also mean urban heritage can contribute to cities becoming more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

A Problem Of Definitions

The historic heritage that the report finds is deteriorating refers to places, buildings and structures dating from 1788 onwards. But the very idea of “historic heritage” is out-of-date.

The term originally contrasted colonial built heritage with so-called “pre-history”. Indigenous heritage was generally seen as being in the past rather than continuing into the present or having a future.

A more precise term, “cultural heritage”, embraces the diverse historical and societal values that shape cities and historic environments. It better recognises that our urban cultural heritage is a product of colonisation and dispossession and located on Indigenous Country.

On the ground, we see a few examples of more progressive activities. The deeply researched City of Melbourne Hoddle Grid Review embraced Indigenous perspectives, social values and modern buildings. But this is an unusual case of innovation.

A Problem Of Knowledge

For heritage to contribute more to social sustainability, by ensuring places reflect and strengthen diverse communities, we need more robust knowledge about existing protections.

We simply lack that data. Australia has no heritage reporting mechanisms across national, state and local heritage jurisdictions.

As a result, the State of the Environment report was unable to provide a fuller picture of the state of urban heritage: what is protected, why and how it is protected, nor its values and condition. The report was not funded for this kind of comprehensive data collection, nor for widespread site visits.

We cannot identify which Australian communities and histories – whether First Nations, colonial or multicultural stories – are represented within heritage lists. The five-year report identifies only six targeted projects exploring gaps in state heritage registers. Only one of these studies foregrounds social value.

Centralising community perspectives in heritage remains a challenge. For example, when the City of Ballarat collaborated with residents to identify places of importance, the insights could not be translated into protections because planning laws don’t adequately recognise community heritage expertise. Work needs to be done to integrate heritage management and social sustainability.

A Problem Of Adaptation

Expanding the scope of urban heritage enables new perspectives on how it can contribute to economic and environmental sustainability. Economic development can threaten heritage, but also rescue it from decay. Leading heritage projects treat existing physical and social spaces as significant but underutilised resources.

The regeneration of Sydney’s Kings Cross, for example, seeks to return glitz and glamour to the area, albeit minus its gritty and subversive character. Heritage and communities are both enhanced and diminished through development and investment.

The report rightly identifies climate change as a threat to heritage places. Yet, across jurisdictions, inadequate emphasis is placed on heritage as a driver of climate adaptation. Reworking existing environments, buildings and structures, whether or not they are heritage-listed, is a sustainability trend.

Indeed, the report encourages the retention of existing buildings for their embodied energy due to the resources that have gone into constructing and maintaining them. But it maintains the premise that development tends to undermines conservation.

This longstanding mindset stands in the way of widespread adaptive reuse. Adopting broader perspectives and new approaches empowers heritage for sustainability agendas.

Although not heritage-listed, Broadmeadows Town Hall (1964) in Melbourne has been conserved and transformed in a sophisticated and functional way. At Melbourne’s Southbank, the listed Robur Tea House may soon finally be revitalised. Reworking the 1880s industrial building with a skyscraper above may well be the best way forward.

What’s Stopping Us From Doing Better?

With clear parallels to today, the Inquiry into the National Estate reported in 1974 that Australia’s heritage had been “downgraded, disregarded, and neglected”. The Commonwealth government took dramatic action by establishing the independent and innovative Australian Heritage Commission (1975–2004).

In recent times, however, the Commonwealth has greatly reduced its involvement in conserving urban heritage. Every state and local government now has its own approaches, resulting in fragmented governance arrangements. The lack of national leadership, co-ordination and innovation has led to us falling behind international approaches.

Personalities of Historic Places – Why Do Historic Places Matter?

Urban heritage can strengthen communities and help foster an inclusive and democratic society only by engaging with a diversity of places and stories. Widespread adaptation and reuse of both listed and non-listed heritage places can support economic and environmental sustainability.

New and radical perspectives are needed to keep heritage relevant and thriving in cities.

James Lesh’s book Values in Cities: Urban Heritage in Twentieth-Century Australia will be launched at the Robin Boyd Foundation in Melbourne on August 24 2022.The Conversation

James Lesh, Lecturer in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Deakin University

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

If you thought this summer’s heat waves were bad, a new study has some disturbing news about dangerous heat in the future

Parts of China suffered through a monthslong heat wave in summer 2022. China Photos/Getty Images
David BattistiUniversity of Washington

As global temperatures rise, people in the tropics, including places like India and Africa’s Sahel region, will likely face dangerously hot conditions almost daily by the end of the century – even as the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, a new study shows.

The mid-latitudes, including the U.S., will also face increasing risks. There, the number of dangerously hot days, marked by temperatures and humidity high enough to cause heat exhaustion, is projected to double by the 2050s and continue to rise.

In the study, scientists looked at population growth, economic development patterns, energy choices and climate models to project how heat index levels – the combination of heat and humidity – will change over time. We asked University of Washington atmospheric scientist David Battisti, a co-author of the study, published Aug. 25, 2022, to explain the findings and what they mean for humans around the world.

What Does The New Study Tell Us About Heat Waves In The Future, And Importantly The Impact On People?

There are two sources of uncertainty when it comes to future temperature. One is how much carbon dioxide humans are going to emit – that depends on things like population, energy choices and how much the economy grows. The other is how much warming those greenhouse gas emissions will cause.

In both, scientists have a really good sense of the likelihood of various scenarios. For this study, we combined those estimates to get a likelihood in the future of having dangerous and life-threatening temperatures.

We looked at what these “dangerously high” and “extremely dangerous” levels on the heat index would mean for daily life in both the tropics and in the mid-latitudes.

“Dangerous” in this case refers to the likelihood of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion won’t kill you if you’re able to stop and slow down – it’s characterized by fatigue, nausea, a slowed heartbeat, possibly fainting. But you really can’t work under these conditions.

The heat index indicates when a person is likely to reach that threshold. The National Weather Service defines “dangerous” as a heat index of 103 F (39.4 C), and “extremely dangerous” as 125 F (51.7 C). If a person gets to “extremely dangerous” temperatures, that can lead to heat stroke. At that level, you have a few hours to get medical attention to cool your body down, or you die.

Illustration of human body listing symptoms of heat strike and heat exhaustion.
Signs of heat illness. elenabs via Getty Images

“Extremely dangerous” heat index conditions are almost unheard of today. They happen in a few locations near the Gulf of Oman, for example, for maybe a few days in a decade.

But the odds of the number of “dangerous” days are increasing as the planet warms. We’ll likely have about the same weather variability as today, but it’s all happening on top of a higher average temperature. So, the likelihood of extremely hot conditions increases.

What Does Your Study Show For Each Region?

In the mid-latitudes by 2050, we’ll see the number of dangerous heat days double in the most likely future scenario – even under modest greenhouse gas emissions that would meet the Paris climate agreement target of keeping warming under 2 C (3.6 F).

In the Southeastern U.S., the most likely scenario is that people will experience a month or two of dangerous heat days every year. The same is likely in parts of China, where some regions have been sweating through a summer 2022 heat wave for over two straight months.

We found that by the end of the century, most places in the mid-latitudes will see a three- to tenfold increase in the number of dangerous days.

In the tropics, such as parts of India, the heat index right now can exceed the dangerous level for a few weeks a year. It’s been like that for the past 20 to 30 years. By 2050, those conditions are likely to occur over several months each year, we found. And by the end of the century, many places will see those conditions most of the year.

What that means in practice is if you’re a rich country like the U.S., most people can afford or find air conditioning. But if you’re in the tropics, where about half the world’s population lives and poverty is higher, the heat is a more serious problem for a good part of the year. And a large percentage of people there work outside in agriculture.

Maps show study's projections
The average number of days with dangerous heat index levels in 1979-1998 and the study’s median projections for 2050 and 2100. Zeppetello, Raftery & Battisti, 2022

As we get toward the end of the century, we’ll start exceeding “extremely dangerous” conditions in several places, primarily in the tropics.

Northern India could see over a month per year in extremely dangerous conditions. Africa’s Sahel region, where poverty is widespread, could see a few weeks of extremely dangerous conditions per year.

Can Humans Adapt To What Sounds Like A Dystopian Future?

If you’re a rich country, you can build cooling facilities and generate electricity to run air conditioners – hopefully they won’t be powered with fossil fuels, which would further warm the planet.

If you’re a developing country, a very large fraction of people work outdoors in agriculture to earn money to buy food. There, if you think about it, there aren’t a lot of options.

Migrant workers in the U.S. also face more difficult conditions. A farm might be able to provide cooling facilities, but farmers’ margins are pretty small and migrant workers are often paid by volume, so when they aren’t picking, they aren’t paid.

Eventually, conditions will get to the point that more workers are overheating and dying.

Farm workers sit in an open-air truck with a tarp over the top for shade.
U.S. farmworkers take a break from picking melons on a July 2021 week when temperatures were expected to pass 110 F. AP Photo/Terry Chea

The heat will be a problem for crops, too. We expect most of the major grains to be less productive in the future because of heat stress. In the mid-latitudes right now, we’re close to optimal temperatures for growing grains. But as temperatures increase, grain yield goes down. In the tropics, that could be anywhere between a 10% to 15% reduction per degree Celsius increase. That’s a pretty big hit.

What Can Be Done To Avoid These Risks?

Part of our work in this study was determining the odds that the world will actually meet the Paris agreement. We found that to be around 0.1%. Basically, it’s not going to happen.

By the end of the century, we found the most likely scenario is that the planet will see 5.4 F (3 C) of warming globally compared to pre-industrial times. Land warms faster than ocean, so that translates to about a 7 F (3.9 C) increase for places where we live, work and play – and you can get a sense of the future.

The faster renewable energy comes online and fossil fuel use is shut down, the better the chances of avoiding that.The Conversation

David Battisti, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington

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

Hunger is increasing worldwide but women bear the brunt of food insecurity

Women and children separate grain from soil in Malawi. AP
Carol RichardsQueensland University of Technology and Rudolf MessnerQueensland University of Technology

Recent UN data on food insecurity paints a bleak picture of a growing international problem: global hunger is not only growing but it disproportionately affects women. Similarly, the international humanitarian aid organisation, CARE, estimates that 150 million more women than men went hungry in 2021.

Despite gains in global food security since 2015, food security has gone backwards, with an increase of 150 million people experiencing hunger since 2019.

The UN reports that globally, 2.3 billion people were food insecure in 2021 with 276 million (12%) facing severe food insecurity. This rapid and sustained increase in hunger over a short time is highly concerning. So too, is the growing gender gap, with 32% of women compared to 27.5% of men going hungry.

Why Are Women More Affected By Food Insecurity Than Men?

To answer this question, the global food system needs to be understood as a mirror of society. It reflects income inequalities and the uneven distribution of goods and services and, as such, is likely to show the same underlying structural inequalities as society at large.

The causes of food insecurity are complex and multi-dimensional. However, two important dimensions are the availability of food (is there enough food?) and the accessibility of food (is it affordable?).

Recently, the availability of food has been challenged by climate crises, conflicts, and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, cost of living pressures have pushed the accessibility of food beyond the means of many people in both developed and developing countries.

On official measures of gender equality, women tend to experience a lower socio-economic status than men. Globally, 388 million women and girls live in extreme poverty right now, compared to 372 million men and boys. Oxfam reports that women earn 24% less than men, work longer hours, have more precarious work and do at least twice as much unpaid work.

The Impact Of Other Forms Of Inequality

Income disparities are also important to consider. Even when food is in abundance, with a few exceptions, it cannot be accessed without money. Accordingly, a bigger gender gap in income equality also means women have fewer means to purchase food.

Women and children line up for food rations from a charity group in Sanaa, Yemen in 2020. EPA

The disadvantage of women has also been described in terms of their lack of agency to change their circumstances. In developing countries where subsistence farming is a key means of food provision, structural inequalities in land tenure and access to credit undermine women’s ability to generate income. Women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce, yet own less than 15% of land.

Improved women’s agency is strongly correlated with a reduction in poverty and has been recognised by the Higher Level Panel of Experts on Food Security as a critical dimension of food security.

Australia Also Has Severe Food Insecurity, But Women Aren’t Counted

Despite being the “lucky country,” Australia does not have a food security policy, nor does it collect the data necessary for an informed and targeted response.

In fact, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry argues that concerns about food security are “understandable, yet misplaced” because Australia “[…] produces substantially more food than it consumes.”

The narrative might work in terms of availability of food but overlooks key issues regarding its accessibility, including gender dimensions, the difference between individual, household and domestic food security, and the link between poverty and food insecurity.

Some of these data gaps have been filled by Food Bank, a food relief organisation, that conducts annual surveys on food insecurity in Australia. Their recent data reveals 17% of Australian adults are “severely” food insecure. While the data is not segregated by gender, we can surmise a food insecurity gap if we use income as a proxy.

A Food Bank volunteer in Melbourne. AAP

Indeed, the Australian parliament reports that women’s median weekly earnings were 25% lower than men’s in 2019, suggesting women may also have reduced access to food. We may also expect a “food security gap” with other marginalised groups such as the aged, people with disabilities, sole parents, and Indigenous populations.

Future Responses

Severe levels of food insecurity are currently increasing in all regions of the world, and women are faring worse than men. Gender inequality worldwide intensifies the lack of access to food for women.

Recognising that women’s food security cannot be separated from broader concerns of agency, policies must consider the specific issues of gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment.

To do this, governments must also institute funded, systematic data collection, segregated by gender. Improved knowledge and transparency is central to policies aiming to strengthen women’s agency, lift women out of poverty and ensure the food security gender gap does not widen.The Conversation

Carol Richards, Associate professor, Queensland University of Technology and Rudolf Messner, Postdoctoral research fellow, Queensland University of Technology

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

What the High Court decision on filming animals in farms and abattoirs really means

Judith Prins/Unsplash
Danielle Ireland-PiperBond University

What do farm animals have to do with the Australian Constitution?

Should the public know what happens in abattoirs and farms? Do we have the right to publish footage of what happens to animals in slaughterhouses? Should governments be able to make laws criminalising it? How do we best protect the privacy of farmers and prevent trespass?

The High Court considered these issues in Farm Transparency v New South Wales, handing down its judgment this month. This case concerned sections 11 and 12 of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW): section 11 prohibits the publication or communication of footage or photographs of “private activities”, including intensive farming and slaughtering operations, with penalties of up to five years in prison. Section 12 criminalises the possession of such recordings.

In 2015, Farm Transparency Project’s director, Chris Delforce, was charged with publishing footage and photos depicting lawful practices at piggeries. The footage related to the use of carbon dioxide gas as a means of slaughtering animals.

While the charges were eventually dismissed, animal welfare organisations are concerned the legislation will obstruct legitimate whistleblowing (and public access to information) about the agricultural industry. There are also concerns the legislation may dampen the willingness of media to grapple with these issues. In turn, this may limit the ability of the Australian consumer to make informed choices about what they eat, and hinder public discussions about animal welfare due to a lack of information.

In that context, Farm Transparency took legal action arguing that the Surveillance Devices Act was in breach of the “freedom of political communication” implicitly protected by the Australian Constitution. In doing so, they turned an animal welfare and consumer rights issue into a constitutional issue.

What Is The Implied Freedom Of Political Communication?

Australia, unlike all other western democracies, does not have a federal bill of rights. This means there is no stand-alone right to free expression or speech.

However, freedom of political communication is implied from sections 7 and 24 of the Australian Constitution, which require that elected representatives be “chosen by the people”.

The courts have held previously that this implies laws should not limit our communication on political matters because that influences our choice of representative. This means state or federal laws that disproportionately “burden” communication about political matters can be struck down as unconstitutional.

The High Court has repeatedly emphasised that the freedom of political communication is not absolute, nor is it a personal right. Rather, laws directed at a legitimate objective that are reasonable and adapted to that objective will still be valid.

In this case, the question before the court was whether the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 is “suitable”, “necessary” and “balanced” in pursuing a legitimate objective. These questions have also been considered before by the court in relation to, for example, protesting, tweeting, political donations, bail conditions, and media reporting.

What Did The High Court Decide?

Four members of the court (Kiefel CJ, and Keane, Edelman, and Steward JJ) held that while the legislation did burden political communication, it also has a legitimate purpose of privacy. They also held that the offence provisions were proportionate to that purpose. Another judge (Gordon J) “read down” the reach of the provisions, which meant she thought they had limited scope and couldn’t be enforced to restrict publication of political communication.

Notably, two judges disagreed with the majority view (Gageler and Gleeson JJ), and found that the legislation was invalid. In their view, sections 11 and 12 impose blanket prohibitions and do so indiscriminately. In particular, Gageler J thought “The prohibitions are too blunt; their price is too high”.

However, ultimately the majority view was that sections 11 and 12 are constitutionally valid.

Of significance to those interested in animal welfare is that Kiefel CJ and Keane J accepted it was “a legitimate matter of governmental and political concern”. However, in their views, the relevant provisions in this case were not directed at restricting the content of the communications, but to the manner (such as trespass) in which they were obtained.

Why Does This Matter?

This decision means improved conditions for farm animals needs to be achieved by legislative and policy reform. Concerned consumers must convince parliaments to improve legal protections for non-human animals.

The issue is unlikely to go away. Animal welfare groups are increasingly concerned about standards of care and the manner in which animals are raised and slaughtered. Consumers are savvier in the information age and prefer choice.

The recognition of animal sentience and animal rights may eventually curtail the ability to engage in large-scale factory farming. This in turn will contribute to overall efforts to mitigate climate change and other environmental effects.

There is also the overarching issue of the legal protection offered to whistleblowers generally and the inherent problem in restricting information necessary for meaningful public debate.

Individuals and organisations do have legitimate expectations of privacy. However, disclosing reasonable concerns about conduct is an important tool in maintaining good governance and advancing accountability. Protections for whistleblowers are limited in Australia and there is space for legislative reform on this.The Conversation

Danielle Ireland-Piper, Associate Professor of Constitutional and International Law, Bond University

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

Not all of us have access to safe drinking water. This clever rainwater collector can change that

Igor Batenev/Shutterstock
Md Abdul AlimWestern Sydney UniversityAtaur RahmanWestern Sydney University, and Zhong TaoWestern Sydney University

Access to clean drinking water is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, and a universal human right. But almost 200,000 Australians are still forced to use water contaminated with unsafe levels of various chemicals and bacteria. The situation is especially dire in remote areas.

To tackle this issue, we have developed an integrated rainwater harvesting unit at Western Sydney University (WSU).

This simple system can produce safe drinking water for households and communities in remote areas. It’s cheap, easy to use, and could improve the lives of thousands of people.

Far From City Life

In large Australian cities, we are used to turning on the tap – clean, plentiful water is always there, coming from the central water supply. We also take for granted the use of potable water for other uses, such as car washing, gardening and laundry.

But in rural and remote Australia, communities must develop private water supply systems to get safe drinking water from other sources. These can be rainwater, groundwater, surface water and “carted water” – treated water from a supplier.

Among these sources, harvested rainwater is considered to be the second-safest option after mains supply, according to the private water supply risk hierarchy chart. So, many residents in rural and remote Australia are using rainwater for their needs.

Chart showing water source risk, in order from lowest to highest: mains water, rainwater, deep groundwater, shallow groundwater, and surface water
Sources of drinking water can be charted according to the health risk level they pose. Victorian Department of Health

But rainwater isn’t always safe to drink without adequate treatment, as it can be contaminated from various sources, including air pollution, runoff chemicals, animal droppings, and more.

Unknown Water Quality

In Australia, roughly 400 remote or regional communities don’t have access to good quality drinking water, and 40% of those are Indigenous communities.

According to a 2022 drinking water quality report by Australian National University researchers, at least 627,736 people in 408 rural locations have drinking water that doesn’t meet at least one of the standards set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Although the 2022 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals progress report declares that 100% of the Australian population has access to safe and affordable drinking water, it seems this report excluded about 8% of the population living in regional and remote areas.

The issue could be even more widespread due to lack of adequate testing.

Better Options Are Available

Our low-cost rainwater harvesting unit can produce safe drinking water that meets Australian guidelines, particularly maintaining Escherichia coli and nitrate levels below the recommended limits.

Most importantly, the system is integrated, which means it both collects rainwater, and treats it to be safe for household use.

The system is sustainable, uses locally available materials (such as gravel, sand, charcoal, limestone and stainless steel wire mesh or even cheesecloth), needs minimal maintenance, and is simple to operate. Communities can be trained to use these water systems regardless of technological skill level.

A wire diagram of how the various materials can be layered to make a filter, and a photo of a grey cylinder with a long tube coming out the top
A filtration unit can be attached to an existing rainwater harvesting tank or integrated into a new system. Author provided

It’s also affordable. The cost of the drinking water produced through this system would be just over 1 cent per litre, according to a recent technical and financial feasibility analysis.

Ready To Use, With Improvements On The Way

Despite their simplicity, these rainwater filter systems don’t even have to be confined to individual households – we can scale them up so entire communities can benefit.

Schematic showing how individual houses can be linked to a large common tank that uses the water filtering system
An example of scaling the integrated rainwater collecting system to community level. Author provided

case study has proved this in both developed and developing countries. Our collaborators in Bangladesh made the first move to adopt this technology, supplying safe drinking water to student accommodation at the Khulna University of Engineering & Technology.

We are also working on improvements. For example, we are building an automated system that can monitor the water quality from the unit regularly and adjust disinfectant dosing to keep it safe for drinking. We’re also developing a method for the system to sense when the filter materials need cleaning, and even start this process automatically.

In Australia, there is a clear need to improve water quality in remote communities. Adopting our simple rainwater filtering system would help communities to produce safe drinking water at minimum cost, and the WSU team is ready to work with local shire councils and groups from different remote communities to transfer the knowledge.The Conversation

Md Abdul Alim, Associate lecturer, Western Sydney UniversityAtaur Rahman, Professor, Western Sydney University, and Zhong Tao, Professor, Western Sydney University

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

The survival of the endangered monarch butterfly depends on conservation beyond borders

Habitat degradation, insufficient food and water and climate change have led to a decline in the number of North American monarch butterflies, which is now on the IUCN’s Red List. (Shutterstock)
Columba González-DuarteMount Saint Vincent University

The iconic North American monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus plexippus was recently listed in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, signalling that its ongoing decline could lead to extinction. The compounding effects of habitat degradation, insufficient food and water and climate change have led to these dwindling numbers.

This tiny, almost weightless, butterfly can travel thousands of kilometres across natural and human-made borders with ease. It can survive harsh weather during its long-distance flights across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. And it has developed, over millennia, these movements in a delicate relationship with its milkweed host plant.

Despite their remarkable adaptations and ongoing conservation efforts, things have gone downhill for these monarchs. Why? Part of the answer lies in our misguided approach to protecting them.

As a social anthropologist, I have followed this butterfly across North America over the past decade. I document how monarchs are natural crossers, uniting people, fields of expertise and countries. What is at risk of disappearing with them, I argue, is the wonder of a natural connector. And we need to unite to truly protect them.

Monarch Butterflies Need People

Most monarch conservation initiatives are grounded in a false separation of nature and society. Monarch conservation reserves are based on a western ideal of pristine nature, fenced off from humans.

National parks that protect monarchs removed — sometimes forcefully — local people, including Indigenous groups who have long lived sustainably with these insects. This separation caused the monarchs to suffer from that disconnection from the communities which followed agricultural practices that protected them.

Trees and vines in Carolinian forest — Point Pelee National Park
Canada’s Point Pelee National Park, which is seen as a Carolinian forest, was originally home to the Savanna habitat that monarchs need. (Shutterstock)

In Mexico, forest extensions that used to be community commons (later a Biosphere Reserve to protect monarchs) have been converted into avocado plantations. In Canada, the emblematic Point Pelee National Park that hosts monarchs at their fall migration also substituted monarch habitat with wooded areas that are not suitable for monarchs. Creating this National Park entailed evicting the Caldwell First Nation from their ancestral land.

Borders Affect Monarch Conservation

Monarchs are negatively affected by national borders. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have different environmental laws and political priorities.

Monarchs are protected when they spend the winter in the cool and humid forests of central Mexico, but the migratory route is still not fully integrated into the conservation plan. In Canada, monarchs are listed as endangered but protected differently across provinces and in the United States, monarchs are still not listed as endangered.

These protective measures keep changing and political and economic motivations can take precedence over the genuine need to care for monarch habitat trans-nationally. For example, a butterfly enthusiast can freely collect and rear monarchs in captivity in most of the U.S., but not in Ontario.

A map of North America showing the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly.
A map of North America showing the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly. (USFWS Midwest Region/flickr)

Monocrop Displaces Milkweed And Monarchs

Monarchs live in an unequal North America — a region that is integrated economically and geographically, but marked by inequality based on race, class and citizenship. The fates of marginalized residents are closely tied to those of the monarch.

This is seen in monocrop agriculture, which has displaced Indigenous people and destroyed habitats for monarchs and other pollinators by changing the native landscape.

Meanwhile, agribusiness, which is both a push and pull factor in the precarious migration of Mexican farmers, has also displaced the milkweed in what is known as the Canadian and U.S. corn belt.

Rethinking Conservation Strategies

Monarchs’ migrating behaviour entails crossing nature and human-made barriers despite the added difficulties of this journey.

Instead of more fragmentation and boundaries (around countries, parks and people), what monarchs need to survive is for us to emulate their “crossing” behaviour. We must ask: how can we create more and better crossings?

A group of adults and children hold a banner that reads 'Save The Monarchs'.
People, communities and nations must come together to find ways to protect the monarch butterfly. (Howard County Library System/flickr)CC BY-ND

To enable more crossings, we need to de-centre the role of conservation experts as leaders of monarch protection policies. Actions to save the monarch butterfly should be planned with — not merely in consultation with — Indigenous peoples who have ancestrally lived with this insect.

We also need to begin democratizing monarch knowledge. This would include accounting for the role of citizen scientists in monarch protection. They should be viewed not merely as amateurs or “helpers” in scientific research, but as knowledge producers and, ideally, policy-makers in their own right.

Despite the harsh reality of its path to extinction, we should see the latest monarch listing as an opportunity. We have a short, but potential window to redirect our conservation efforts by connecting crossing fields and boundaries to ensure the survival of this insect and, perhaps, secure a better future for us as well.

We need to move beyond the goal of saving a beloved butterfly to learning from it about how to safeguard our collective futures.The Conversation

Columba González-Duarte, Assistant Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, Mount Saint Vincent University

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

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy photos by Joe Mills 
Angophora Reserve  Angophora Reserve Flowers 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
Topham Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP,  August 2022 by Joe Mills and Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Protecting The Night Sky From Light Pollution: Why Does It Matter?  Mariya Lyubenova

Published August 19, 2022 by TEDx talks
As an active researcher in the area of galaxies, black holes, and globular clusters, Mariya talks about the importance of the protection of the dark sky. Light pollution from cities, and even satellites.

Video produced and edited by: Nikolay Shopov Mariya is a driven researcher who thrives at the intersections of fields, disciplines, and sectors in society. She is a firm believer in the need for open communication in a nurturing environment for the successful transfer and advancement of knowledge. 

Mariya holds an MSc in physics from Sofia University in Bulgaria and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Munich in Germany. She currently works at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), where she is head of media relations, science advisor to the Department of Communication, and editor of ESO's science & technology journal.

She also appreciates mentoring women and gender minorities interested in pursuing a career in STEM fields. Her professional expertise, complemented by volunteering for social causes, enables her to successfully share her knowledge with people coming from various backgrounds. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Look up this spring – you might see little ravens build soft, cosy nests from your garden trees

Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

Spring is nearing and birds will soon start nesting in trees in backyards across Australia. The trees in our garden are now 40 years old – not old by tree standards, but old enough to be among the tallest in our suburb, offering refuge for local native birds.

When I propagated Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) seedlings for research in the mid 1970s, there were a few left over. I kept a couple, and one made a fine indoor Christmas tree for our young family in the early 1980s. My plan was to get rid of the tree but, after a few Christmases, the family was determined it would stay.

In the years since our tree, now in the garden, has grown to nearly 27 metres tall and almost 1m in diameter. It has become a favourite of many birds over the years and a nesting tree for ring-tailed possums.

A group of noisy but intelligent little ravens (Corvus mellori), have roosted in it, crowed from its lofty heights and battled others of the same and different species that have trespassed.

Over COVID lockdowns, I observed the curious behaviour of little ravens as they busily built their nests using the trees in my garden, and learned how they create a soft nest lining for their chicks. This spring you, too, can observe the delightful behaviour of birds as they visit your nearby trees and shrubs.

Monterey pine is native to the central coast of California and Mexico. Wikimedia commonsCC BY-SA

Little Ravens In Backyards

Monterey pine is an introduced species to Australia, and has significant potential to become a weed, so we regularly check for self-sown seedlings. So far our vigilance has paid off and there are no escapees in the parks, gardens and surrounds.

While I would never recommend its planting, we are going to make the most of its presence while we have it. Over the years the tree has provided great summer shade and some wonderful interactions with local wildlife.

The din when sulphur-crested and yellow-tailed black cockatoos make their visits to feed on cones has to be heard to be believed. The cockatoos drive the little ravens away as they enjoy the cones, but the little ravens keep a look out and return as soon as the cockatoos have finished feeding.

During lockdowns the avian demands, discussion and negotiations were a welcome and entertaining break.

Yellow-tailed black cockatoo. Shutterstock

Little ravens aren’t likely to rank high in the list of popular birds, but there is much to be impressed by when you study them.

Despite their name, little ravens aren’t actually that little, at over 40 centimetres tall. They are common across southern Australia and will eat almost anything, plant or animal.

They’re intelligent birds and great scavengers, capable of opening food containers, raiding bins and devouring road kill. They have adapted well to humans and so are found in backyards across the country.

Building Cosy Nests

Another special tree in our garden is the messmate stringy bark (Eucalyptus obliqua). I grew it and hundreds of others from seed for research experiments in the late 1970s, and it comes from the Wombat Forest near Daylesford, Victoria.

Its spreading canopy provides fine dappled summer shade. And it’s almost inconspicuous white flowers cause the tree to hum from the visits of local bees, not to mention the visits of native honey eaters, such as the yellow wattlebird and the white plumed honeyeater.

Close-up of the Eucalyptus obliqua tree trunk. Wikimedia commonsCC BY-SA

Every spring for about 20 years I had noticed marks on the tree’s branches, and wondered what caused them. During lockdown, I observed little ravens peeling strips of the fibrous stringy bark from upper branches. These are private, unannounced visits without calls or fuss. You had to be alert to know the birds were there.

Many birds are expert home decorators. The little ravens know exactly what they’re after and where to find it, and harvest nest-building material from different parts of the tree.

In their first visits, they gather material for the basic structure of the nest, made from twigs. Once in place, they strip long, coarse strings of bark from lower and larger branches in the canopy.

A few days later, the birds return to some of the younger upper branches where they collect fine, almost fur-like snippets of bark. These will provide an ideal fine soft inner nest lining for hatching raven chicks.

Little raven on a bin in a cemetary
Little ravens are expert scavengers. Shutterstock

Observing Birds In Your Own Backyard

From my work with trees, I have come to appreciate some of the delicate and intimate relationships between fauna and flora and fungi.

I look for evidence of possum claw marks on heavily grazed trees and the damage to branches caused by the nibbling of the powerful beaks of sulphur-crested cockatoos. Now, I know the long strands pulled from the upper trunks and larger branches of messmate stringy bark are due to the careful work of little ravens lining their nests.

So at this time of the year, keep an eye out on both your garden plants and their avian visitors.

Look for birds darting, almost furtively, in and out of your trees, wisterias and rose bushes – they may have a nest within the foliage. Your prickly shrubs can afford protection to smaller birds and increase the chances of successful breeding.

Both native and introduced birds will be breeding in the next few weeks. And both native and introduced trees can be used by both for nesting.

Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Many of popular garden trees – such as wattles or introduced conifers – can host magpies and silvereyes. If you live near a creek, you may attract the superb fairy wren in a bottlebrush. And different finches may occur in your gum trees, roses or wisterias.

Native tree and shrub species with diverse flowering times can be beneficial to our native birds. They provide nectar and host native insects species in late winter and deliver a full bounty of resources in spring.

Trees with fine foliage and fibrous bark, such as stringy bark and some of the feathery-leaved wattles, are popular with birds at this time of year for nesting material.

This means your garden can be an important way to maintain local biodiversity. In a changing climate, we need all the diversity we can get!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.

Be The Boss: I Want To Be A Biotechnologist

Biotechnologists study plants, animals, biological systems and processes to develop new products or solve problems in areas such as pharmaceutical manufacture, agriculture, environmental protection, and improving industrial processes. Their work may incorporate the use of small molecule technologies, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and synthetic biology.

As a biotechnologist, you would:
  • determine the objectives and methods of research
  • collect and analyse data
  • prepare reports based on your findings
  • present the findings or publish reports
  • keep administrative records.
Biotechnologists might work in developing new products or improved processes in areas such as:
  • new vaccines to treat diseases
  • genetically modified plants with resistance to pests
  • improved detection of diseases
  • treatments for human infertility
  • bacteria capable of cleaning up oil spills or polluted land
  • creating biological dyes or biodegradeable plastics
  • environmentally friendly biofuels.
To become a biotechnologist, you would need:
  • a strong interest in science
  • good technical scientific research skills
  • an enquiring mind and good problem-solving skills
  • a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to analyse statistical and technical data
  • good computer skills
  • good written communication skills.
Working hours and conditions
You would usually work a standard number of hours during the week. This might include nights and weekends if you are involved in research which needs continuous monitoring.

You would mainly work in a laboratory, often in sterile conditions. You would normally wear protective clothing such as a lab coat and safety glasses.

How to become an Biotechnologist?
To become a biotechnologist you usually have to complete a degree in biology, biotechnology, biochemistry or a degree in science with a major in one of these areas. You can also become a biotechnologist by completing a degree in chemical engineering with a major in biological engineering. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, earth and environmental science, and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.

Employment of biotechnologists is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Greater demand for biotechnology research is expected to increase the need for these workers.

Biotechnologists will be needed to help scientists develop new treatments for diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In agriculture, biotechnologists will continue research into genetically engineered crops and improved livestock yields. In addition, biotechnologists will be needed to help develop alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels, and to find new and improved ways to clean up and preserve the natural environment.

University Courses:
Bachelor of Advanced Science (Environmental Biotechnology) 
Bachelor of Advanced Science students explore and specialise in advanced scientific thinking in a specialist field of their choice. Offering advanced courses and an honours year this course is designed innovative and advanced scientific practice. - ​UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY

Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours - Biology) 
Bachelor of Advanced Science students explore and specialise in advanced scientific thinking in a specialist field of their choice. Offering advanced courses and an honours year this course is designed innovative and advanced scientific practice. - ​UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Bachelor of Biomedicine (Biotechnology) 
Bachelor of Biomedical Science students prepare for a role in the rapidly changing industry of healthcare, disease and medical research. Courses often provide a base education with the possibility to specialise. - 

Bachelor of Bionanotechnology (Honours) 
Bachelor of Bionanotechnology students immerse themselves in scientific principles from biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics in order to explore biological processes at the molecular level. This course provides a pathway into a range of industries including biotechnology, pharmacology, biomedical research, government policy, patent law and other fields. - ​UNIVERSITY OF WOLLONGONG

Bachelor of Biotechnology 
Bachelor of Biotechnology students explore biology and the processes behind it in order to develop technologies and products ranging from biofuels, breeding programs or bionic limbs. - ​UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE


Bachelor of Biotechnology (Computational Biotechnology) 
Bachelor of Biotechnology students explore biology and the processes behind it in order to develop technologies and products ranging from biofuels, breeding programs or bionic limbs. - ​UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY

Bachelor of Biotechnology (Environmental Biotechnology) 
Bachelor of Biotechnology students explore biology and the processes behind it in order to develop technologies and products ranging from biofuels, breeding programs or bionic limbs. - ​UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY

Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours - Bioinformatics) 
Bachelor of Biotechnology students explore biology and the processes behind it in order to develop technologies and products ranging from biofuels, breeding programs or bionic limbs. - ​UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours - Bioprocess Technology) 
Bachelor of Biotechnology students explore biology and the processes behind it in order to develop technologies and products ranging from biofuels, breeding programs or bionic limbs. - ​UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Background Notes
Although not normally what first comes to mind, many forms of human-derived agriculture clearly fit the broad definition of "'utilising a biotechnological system to make products". Indeed, the cultivation of plants may be viewed as the earliest biotechnological enterprise.

Agriculture has been theorized to have become the dominant way of producing food since the Neolithic Revolution. Through early biotechnology, the earliest farmers selected and bred the best-suited crops, having the highest yields, to produce enough food to support a growing population. As crops and fields became increasingly large and difficult to maintain, it was discovered that specific organisms and their by-products could effectively fertilize, restore nitrogen, and control pests. Throughout the history of agriculture, farmers have inadvertently altered the genetics of their crops through introducing them to new environments and breeding them with other plants — one of the first forms of biotechnology.

These processes also were included in early fermentation of beer. These processes were introduced in early Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, and still use the same basic biological methods. In brewing, malted grains (containing enzymes) convert starch from grains into sugar and then adding specific yeasts to produce beer. In this process, carbohydrates in the grains broke down into alcohols, such as ethanol.

Brewing was an early application of biotechnology. Image: The Brewer designed and engraved in the Sixteenth Century by J. Amman

Later, other cultures produced the process of lactic acid fermentation, which produced other preserved foods, such as soy sauce. Fermentation was also used in this time period to produce leavened bread. Although the process of fermentation was not fully understood until Louis Pasteur's work in 1857, it is still the first use of biotechnology to convert a food source into another form.

Before the time of Charles Darwin's work and life, animal and plant scientists had already used selective breeding. Darwin added to that body of work with his scientific observations about the ability of science to change species. These accounts contributed to Darwin's theory of natural selection.

A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology, for example:
  • Bioinformatics (also called "gold biotechnology") is an interdisciplinary field that addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization as well as analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, "conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale". Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
  • Blue biotechnology is based on the exploitation of sea resources to create products and industrial applications. This branch of biotechnology is the most used for the industries of refining and combustion principally on the production of bio-oils with photosynthetic micro-algae.
  • Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation. Another example is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific environments in the presence (or absence) of chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thereby ending the need of external application of pesticides. An example of this would be Bt corn. Whether or not green biotechnology products such as this are ultimately more environmentally friendly is a topic of considerable debate. It is commonly considered as the next phase of green revolution, which can be seen as a platform to eradicate world hunger by using technologies which enable the production of more fertile and resistant, towards biotic and abiotic stress, plants and ensures application of environmentally friendly fertilizers and the use of biopesticides, it is mainly focused on the development of agriculture. On the other hand, some of the uses of green biotechnology involve microorganisms to clean and reduce waste.
  • Red biotechnology is the use of biotechnology in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and health preservation. This branch involves the production of vaccines and antibiotics, regenerative therapies, creation of artificial organs and new diagnostics of diseases. As well as the development of hormones, stem cells, antibodies, siRNA and diagnostic tests.
  • White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the using of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals. White biotechnology tends to consume less in resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods.
  • Yellow biotechnology refers to the use of biotechnology in food production (food industry), for example in making wine (winemaking), cheese (cheesemaking), and beer (brewing) by fermentation. It has also been used to refer to biotechnology applied to insects. This includes biotechnology-based approaches for the control of harmful insects, the characterisation and utilisation of active ingredients or genes of insects for research, or application in agriculture and medicine and various other approaches.
  • Grey biotechnology is dedicated to environmental applications, and focused on the maintenance of biodiversity and the remotion of pollutants.
  • Brown biotechnology is related to the management of arid lands and deserts. One application is the creation of enhanced seeds that resist extreme environmental conditions of arid regions, which is related to the innovation, creation of agriculture techniques and management of resources.
  • Violet biotechnology is related to law, ethical and philosophical issues around biotechnology.
  • Dark biotechnology is the colour associated with bioterrorism or biological weapons and biowarfare which uses microorganisms, and toxins to cause diseases and death in humans, livestock and crops.
In medicine, modern biotechnology has many applications in areas such as pharmaceutical drug discoveries and production, pharmacogenomics, and genetic testing (or genetic screening).
DNA microarray chip – some can do as many as a million blood tests at once.

Pharmacogenomics (a combination of pharmacology and genomics) is the technology that analyses how genetic makeup affects an individual's response to drugs. Researchers in the field investigate the influence of genetic variation on drug responses in patients by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a drug's efficacy or toxicity. The purpose of pharmacogenomics is to develop rational means to optimize drug therapy, with respect to the patients' genotype, to ensure maximum efficacy with minimal adverse effects. Such approaches promise the advent of "personalized medicine"; in which drugs and drug combinations are optimized for each individual's unique genetic makeup.

Biotechnology has contributed to the discovery and manufacturing of traditional small molecule pharmaceutical drugs as well as drugs that are the product of biotechnology – biopharmaceutics. Modern biotechnology can be used to manufacture existing medicines relatively easily and cheaply. The first genetically engineered products were medicines designed to treat human diseases. To cite one example, in 1978 Genentech developed synthetic humanized insulin by joining its gene with a plasmid vector inserted into the bacterium Escherichia coli. Insulin, widely used for the treatment of diabetes, was previously extracted from the pancreas of abattoir animals (cattle or pigs). The genetically engineered bacteria are able to produce large quantities of synthetic human insulin at relatively low cost. Biotechnology has also enabled emerging therapeutics like gene therapy. The application of biotechnology to basic science (for example through the Human Genome Project) has also dramatically improved our understanding of biology and as our scientific knowledge of normal and disease biology has increased, our ability to develop new medicines to treat previously untreatable diseases has increased as well.

Genetic testing allows the genetic diagnosis of vulnerabilities to inherited diseases, and can also be used to determine a child's parentage (genetic mother and father) or in general a person's ancestry. In addition to studying chromosomes to the level of individual genes, genetic testing in a broader sense includes biochemical tests for the possible presence of genetic diseases, or mutant forms of genes associated with increased risk of developing genetic disorders. Genetic testing identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. Most of the time, testing is used to find changes that are associated with inherited disorders. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. As of 2011 several hundred genetic tests were in use. Since genetic testing may open up ethical or psychological problems, genetic testing is often accompanied by genetic counselling.

Genetically modified crops ("GM crops", or "biotech crops") are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified with genetic engineering techniques. In most cases, the main aim is to introduce a new trait that does not occur naturally in the species. Biotechnology firms can contribute to future food security by improving the nutrition and viability of urban agriculture. Furthermore, the protection of intellectual property rights encourages private sector investment in agrobiotechnology.

Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, stressful environmental conditions, resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to a herbicide), reduction of spoilage, or improving the nutrient profile of the crop. Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels, and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bioremediation.

Farmers have widely adopted GM technology. Between 1996 and 2011, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops had increased by a factor of 94, from 17,000 square kilometres (4,200,000 acres) to 1,600,000 km2 (395 million acres). 10% of the world's crop lands were planted with GM crops in 2010. As of 2011, 11 different transgenic crops were grown commercially on 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 29 countries such as the US, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain.

Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA with the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new crop traits as well as a far greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. To date most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed; in November 2013 none were available on the market, but in 2015 the FDA approved the first GM salmon for commercial production and consumption.

There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.

GM crops also provide a number of ecological benefits, if not used in excess. However, opponents have objected to GM crops per sae on several grounds, including environmental concerns, whether food produced from GM crops is safe, whether GM crops are needed to address the world's food needs, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.

Industrial biotechnology (known mainly in Europe as white biotechnology) is the application of biotechnology for industrial purposes, including industrial fermentation. It includes the practice of using cells such as microorganisms, or components of cells like enzymes, to generate industrially useful products in sectors such as chemicals, food and feed, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and biofuels. In the current decades, significant progress has been done in creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that enhance the diversity of applications and economical viability of industrial biotechnology. By using renewable raw materials to produce a variety of chemicals and fuels, industrial biotechnology is actively advancing towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a petrochemical-based economy.
Synthetic biology is considered one of the essential cornerstones in industrial biotechnology due to its financial and sustainable contribution to the manufacturing sector. Jointly biotechnology and synthetic biology play a crucial role in generating cost-effective products with nature-friendly features by using bio-based production instead of fossil-based.[83] Synthetic biology can be used to engineer model microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli, by genome editing tools to enhance their ability to produce bio-based products, such as bioproduction of medicines and biofuels. For instance, E. coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in a consortium could be used as industrial microbes to produce precursors of the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel by applying the metabolic engineering in a co-culture approach to exploit the benefits from the two microbes.

Another example of synthetic biology applications in industrial biotechnology is the re-engineering of the metabolic pathways of E. coli by CRISPR and CRISPRi systems toward the production of a chemical known as 1,4-butanediol, which is used in fiber manufacturing. In order to produce 1,4-butanediol, the authors alter the metabolic regulation of the Escherichia coli by CRISPR to induce point mutation in the gltA gene, knockout of the sad gene, and knock-in six genes (cat1, sucD, 4hbd, cat2, bld, and bdh). Whereas CRISPRi system used to knockdown the three competing genes (gabD, ybgC, and tesB) that affect the biosynthesis pathway of 1,4-butanediol. Consequently, the yield of 1,4-butanediol significantly increased from 0.9 to 1.8 g/L.

Environmental biotechnology includes various disciplines that play an essential role in reducing environmental waste and providing environmentally safe processes, such as biofiltration and biodegradation. The environment can be affected by biotechnologies, both positively and adversely. Vallero and others have argued that the difference between beneficial biotechnology (e.g., bioremediation is to clean up an oil spill or hazard chemical leak) versus the adverse effects stemming from biotechnological enterprises (e.g., flow of genetic material from transgenic organisms into wild strains) can be seen as applications and implications, respectively. Cleaning up environmental wastes is an example of an application of environmental biotechnology; whereas loss of biodiversity or loss of containment of a harmful microbe are examples of environmental implications of biotechnology. 
- Background Notes sourced from Wikipedia.

Technician Brandy Jones examines a rose plant that began as cells grown in a tissue culture. Image: This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K9608-1

Information courtesy Australian Government Apprenticeships Guide (Your Career), Australian Open Colleges,  Australian Careers HQ and The Good Universities Guide, Australia.

Also Available:

The Rite Of Holmgang (Viking Short Film)

by The Brothers Robinson
A young warrior must overcome both sword and shield as well as the rage behind them, when he takes his father’s place in a duel. A short film in the Old Norse Language
Original score composed by Luke Standridge:
Featuring the song 'Trisahion' by Cappella Romana:
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Filmed in Tasmania, Australia on a budget of zero dollars

Cinematography/camera by Andrew Walton:
Sound recording by Bent Eared Records:
Sound design by Mahoney Audio Post:
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More Opportunities To Get Skilled For Free

August 2022
NSW residents who want to get skilled for a first job, a new job or a better job will have more opportunities to access fee-free training, with the NSW Government extending funding through to the end of the 2022-23 financial year.

The joint NSW - Federal Government funded JobTrainer program, providing fee-free training in response to the impact of COVID-19, is due to end in December, but the NSW Government will step in to ensure more people can access training so they can get jobs in priority industries.

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens announced the funding extension to mark the commencement of National Skills Week, which will remove barriers to training and help people get the skills they need for the jobs they want.

“We want people to get skilled, find in-demand jobs, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future for their families,” Mr Henskens said.

“When it comes to investing in skills and training, NSW has led the nation. Despite the Commonwealth’s funding for fee-free training ceasing at the end of this year, the NSW Government will extend funding for fee-free courses through to July 2023.

“The funding will target the in-demand industries such as community services, including aged care and disability support, hospitality, agriculture and digital technology.

“On top of our unprecedented investment in fee-free training, the NSW Government is also delivering revolutionary new programs and projects, such as our Institutes of Applied Technology and the New Education Training Model.”

Business NSW CEO Daniel Hunter welcomed the investment which will help train more workers for jobs in critical industries.

“The number one issue facing businesses right now is access to skilled workers. Every person that gets skilled up and into a job under this program is a success story for local communities and businesses across NSW,” Mr Hunter said.

For more information on eligibility and locations of the fee-free training courses across NSW including online, visit this website.

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: Hippie

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


(especially in the 1960s) a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values

A hippie, also spelled hippy, especially in British English, is someone associated with the counterculture of the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to different countries around the world. The word hippie came from hipster and was used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and Chicago's Old Town community. The term hippie was used in print by San Francisco writer Michael Fallon, helping popularize use of the term in the media, although the tag was seen elsewhere earlier.
The origins of the terms hip and hep are uncertain. By the 1940s, both had become part of African American jive slang and meant "sophisticated; currently fashionable; fully up-to-date". The Beats adopted the term hip, and early hippies inherited the language and countercultural values of the Beat Generation. 

Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower, the principal American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, argues that the terms hipster and hippie are derived from the word hip, whose origins are unknown. The word hip in the sense of "aware, in the know" is first attested in a 1902 cartoon by Tad Dorgan, and first appeared in prose in a 1904 novel by George Vere Hobart (1867–1926), Jim Hickey: A Story of the One-Night Stands, where an African-American character uses the slang phrase "Are you hip?"

The term hipster was coined by Harry Gibson in 1944. By the 1940s, the terms hiphep and hepcat were popular in Harlem jazz slang, although hep eventually came to denote an inferior status to hip

In Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, New York City, young counterculture advocates were named hips because they were considered "in the know" or "cool", as opposed to being square, meaning conventional and old-fashioned. In the April 27, 1961 issue of The Village Voice, "An open letter to JFK & Fidel Castro", Norman Mailer utilizes the term hippies, in questioning JFK's behavior. In a 1961 essay, Kenneth Rexroth used both the terms hipster and hippies to refer to young people participating in black American or Beatnik nightlife. According to Malcolm X's 1964 autobiography, the word hippie in 1940s Harlem had been used to describe a specific type of white man who "acted more Negro than Negroes".

Hippies tended to travel light, and could pick up and go wherever the action was at any time. Whether at a "love-in" on Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco, a demonstration against the Vietnam War in Berkeley, or one of Ken Kesey's "Acid Tests", if the "vibe" wasn't right and a change of scene was desired, hippies were mobile at a moment's notice. Planning was eschewed, as hippies were happy to put a few clothes in a backpack, stick out their thumbs and hitchhike anywhere. Hippies seldom worried whether they had money, hotel reservations or any of the other standard accoutrements of travel. Hippie households welcomed overnight guests on an impromptu basis, and the reciprocal nature of the lifestyle permitted greater freedom of movement. People generally cooperated to meet each other's needs in ways that became less common after the early 1970s. This way of life is still seen among Rainbow Family groups, new age travellers and New Zealand's housetruckers.

Young people near the Woodstock music festival in August 1969

The legacy of the hippie movement continues to permeate Western society. In general, unmarried couples of all ages feel free to travel and live together without societal disapproval. Frankness regarding sexual matters has become more common, and the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people, as well as people who choose not to categorize themselves at all, have expanded. Religious and cultural diversity has gained greater acceptance.

Co-operative business enterprises and creative community living arrangements are more accepted than before. Some of the little hippie health food stores of the 1960s and 1970s are now large-scale, profitable businesses, due to greater interest in natural foods, herbal remedies, vitamins and other nutritional supplements. It has been suggested that 1960s and 1970s counterculture embraced certain types of "groovy" science and technology. Examples include surfboard design, renewable energy, aquaculture and client-centered approaches to midwifery, childbirth, and women's health. Authors Stewart Brand and John Markoff argue that the development and popularization of personal computers and the Internet find one of their primary roots in the anti-authoritarian ethos promoted by hippie culture.

Distinct appearance and clothing was one of the immediate legacies of hippies worldwide. During the 1960s and 1970s, moustaches, beards and long hair became more commonplace and colourful, while multi-ethnic clothing dominated the fashion world. Since that time, a wide range of personal appearance options and clothing styles, including nudity, have become more widely acceptable, all of which was uncommon before the hippie era. Hippies also inspired the decline in popularity of the necktie and other business clothing, which had been unavoidable for men during the 1950s and early 1960s. Additionally, hippie fashion itself has been commonplace in the years since the 1960s in clothing and accessories, particularly the peace symbol. Astrology, including everything from serious study to whimsical amusement regarding personal traits, was integral to hippie culture. The generation of the 1970s became influenced by the hippie and the 1960s countercultural legacy. As such in New York City musicians and audiences from the female, homosexual, Black, and Latino communities adopted several traits from the hippies and psychedelia. They included overpowering sound, free-form dancing, multi-coloured, pulsating lighting, colourful costumes, and hallucinogens. 1960s Psychedelic soul groups like the Chambers Brothers and especially Sly and The Family Stone influenced George Clinton, P-funk and the Temptations. In addition, the perceived positivity, lack of irony, and earnestness of the hippies informed proto-disco music like M.F.S.B.'s album Love Is the Message.

As a hippie, Ken Westerfield helped to popularize the alternative sport of Frisbee in the 1960s–70s, that has become today's disc sports

Info from Wikipedia.

Why do my feet smell? And what can I do about it?

Caroline RobinsonCharles Sturt University

“Smelly” might be the first word that comes to mind when you think of feet.

Why do some people’s feet have no smell, yet other feet are so pungent they could almost knock you out?

Let’s go through what causes smelly feet, what you can do about it, and when to seek professional advice.

Sweaty Feet

Sweaty feet can lead to smelly feet.

Feet can become sweaty in hot weather, especially if we wear a closed-in shoe or boot and the sweat doesn’t evaporate.

Anxiety and emotional stress also increase the activity of sweat glands due to the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, causing sweaty hands and feet.

Sweaty feet are common, but some people have an excessive sweating condition called “hyperhidrosis”. It’s very distressing and can lead to social awkwardness, reduced self-confidence and poor mental health.

But sweat usually doesn’t have a smell by itself. It’s the bacteria that feast on sweat that cause the bad smell.

Bacteria And Sweat

Humans have around 1,000 species of bacteria living on our skin. Bacteria thrive in moist environments such as our armpits, groin and also in between our toes. The bacteria living on our skin are mostly harmless (and some are even good for us), but they can also cause odour when they interact with sweat.

Foot odour is associated with several types of bacteria. When these bacteria eat the sugars and fats in sweat, they produce chemicals with a noxious smell.

The most common chemical compounds are:

  • “isovaleric acid”, which has a distinctive cheesy, sweaty feet odour

  • “propionic acid”, which smells sour.

A type of bacteria called “brevibacteria” also cause foot odour. They eat dead skin on our feet, producing a gas which has a distinctive sour smell.

Cheesemakers will often add this bacteria to the surface of cheese to develop texture and flavour. This explains why many cheeses smell like feet, and feet smell like cheese!

Biologist Bart Knols received an “Ig Nobel” Prize (for unusual scientific achivements) in 2006 for demonstrating that a type of mosquito known for transmitting malaria has an equal preference for Limburger cheese and the smell of human feet.

Woman smells man's smelly feet
There’s a reason feet sometimes smell like cheese. Shutterstock

What Else Can Cause Smelly Feet?

Foot odour is made worse by socks and shoes that don’t allow sweat to evaporate from the skin. When sweat can’t evaporate from the skin, the temperature and relative humidity rise inside footwear, particularly in shoes such as work boots. Bacteria prefer a warm, damp environment.

A bacterial skin infection called “pitted keratolysis” may also cause bad foot odour. It typically affects the soles of the feet and in between toes, and makes the skin white and soggy, often with clusters of small punched-out craters or “pits”. These pits are caused by bacteria digesting the skin and producing sulphur compounds.

It’s more common in men than women and is associated with sweaty feet, poor foot hygiene, diabetes and immunodeficiency. Pitted keratolysis will respond to treatment with antiseptic agents and topical antibiotics.

Foot odour can also be caused by tinea, a fungal skin infection often called athlete’s foot, which a podiatrist will be able to diagnose. It can be treated with an anti-fungal cream or lotion.

What You Can Do To Manage Sweaty And Smelly Feet

The first things to consider if you have smelly feet are foot hygiene and footwear.

Feet don’t wash themselves in the shower. In fact, bacteria from the rest of your body are washed down to your feet. So, it’s important to wash your feet with soap – including between your toes!

Drying your feet thoroughly after bathing is also important to prevent the build-up of sweat and bacteria.

It’s ideal to alternate your footwear so that shoes and boots have a chance to dry out before you wear them again. Damp footwear is the perfect place for bacteria to thrive and create those smelly chemicals.

Regular washing and drying of anything your wear on your feet will remove bacteria and stale sweat.

Bamboo has a natural antimicrobial effect (meaning it may have some ability to slow bacteria or mould growing), and socks made from this fibre may be helpful, but it’s unclear whether the benefits translate to bamboo clothing products.

There’s conflicting views on the best material for shoes and socks to improve smelly feet, so more research is needed.

Treatments For Sweaty And Smelly Feet

If your feet are stubbornly sweaty and smelly even with good foot hygiene and attention to footwear, you may need to consider some other options.

An expert opinion from a podiatrist will help you make an appropriate treatment choice and ensure more serious issues aren’t missed.

Most of the available treatments for body odour target sweat production:

  • a strong antiperspirant containing aluminium chloride hexhydrate, which can be purchased from a pharmacy without a prescription and applied directly to your feet

  • iontophoresis” is a procedure offered at specialist clinics to reduce sweating in the hands and feet. A mild electrical current is passed through skin soaked in tap water. One study found around 75–80% of participants had reduced foot sweating after 20 days of this treatment

  • Botox treatments are highly effective in reducing foot sweating. Botox works by blocking the nerves that activate sweat glands. However, injections into the sole of your foot can be very uncomfortable

  • a topical cream containing a small amount of “glycopyrronium bromide” can help to control excessive sweating.

Caroline Robinson would like to thank Anna Horn from Charles Sturt podiatry, for her contribution to researching this article.The Conversation

Caroline Robinson, Associate Professor Podiatry, Charles Sturt University

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

Why does my breath smell bad, and what can I do about it?

nhia moua/unsplashCC BY-SA
Arosha WeerakoonThe University of Queensland

Most of us can’t smell our own breath. If someone bravely informs you your breath smells, believe them, and do something about it. Or if you are worried you have bad breath, seek out a trusted opinion.

Your breath can be the first sign something in your body needs attention. Here are some tips to help you identify the cause, and how to fix it.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Of the many causes of bad breath, 90% originate from putrid-smelling bacterial by-products inside our mouth. These by-products form a bouquet of odours that can make our breath smell like rotten eggs (volatile sulphur compounds) or poo (methyl mercaptan/hydrogen sulphide).

The largest and most significant odour-cultivating culprit is our tongue. The back of our tongue is a perfect petri dish for bacteria that feed on dead cells, saliva proteins, sinus ooze and fluids from untreated gum disease.

These bacteria can form a furry coat on our tongue that permeates our breath. The good news is you can fix this by brushing your tongue when you clean your teeth.

Toothbrushes in a holder
Brush your tongue as well as your teeth. Shutterstock

Eating onion and garlic can add a sulphurous tone to your breath for up to three days, due mainly to food particles left behind. Tobacco smoking also causes bad mouth smells to linger. Pus from dental infections can also be a smelly culprit.

Hard-to-reach places in the mouth where the toothbrush just can’t seem to clean can act like greenhouses where unhealthy bacteria thrive. Spaces in faulty or broken fillings, holes in teeth, gaps (pockets) in the gums that form with advancing gum (periodontal) disease, as well as improperly cleaned dental implantsdentures and braces, all contribute to bad odours.

Your dentist or hygienist can help identify these smell-promoting reservoirs, and fix or clean them. They can also help customise your oral hygiene routine to improve your health and reduce malodour.

What About Morning Breath?

We all experience morning breath, with some suffering more than others. Morning breath occurs when our saliva flow slows or stops while we sleep. And without saliva to wash, dilute or flush, everything stagnates: food particles ferment and the bacteria multiply to release gassy odours.

This is why it is important to brush your teeth and gums, and use appropriate tools such as floss or interdental brushes before going to bed. If you are unsure, your dentist or hygienist will be able to identify which tools work best for you.

Other factors that reduce saliva include stressanxiety, fasting, dehydration, antidepressants and blood-pressure-reducing medication, recreational drugs, caffeine and alcohol.

And if you tend to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose while asleep, your morning breath may be worse. Mouth-breathers can have sinus issues that block their noses to prevent proper breathing.

Garlic in a sieve
Eating onion and garlic can add a sulphurous tone to your breath for up to three days. anshu/unsplashCC BY

More Serious Causes

Chronic (long-term) sinusitis and tonsillitis can also cause bad breath (especially if the tonsilitis causes tonsil stones – smelly cheese-like clumps of bacteria, dead skin cells, keratin and foreign debris).

Occasionally, young children may insert small objects into their nasal passages, which causes a buildup of bacteria and a yucky smell.

What Do I Do If I Have Bad Breath?

For most of us, good oral hygiene, drinking plenty of water, avoiding tobacco products, regular dental visits, and chronic sinus and tonsillitis management will help avoid bad breath.

In some instances, we may choose to suffer the short-term consequences (because onion and garlic are delicious). Chewing sugar-free gum or mints may temporarily ease any issues caused by last night’s garlic pizza.

If you’re concerned, see your hygienist or dentist, who can diagnose and help you manage the cause of your bad breath.The Conversation

Arosha Weerakoon, Lecturer, General Dentist & PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland

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

Noise pollution is hurting animals – and we don’t even know how much

If you don’t like noise, imagine how pets and other animals feel about it. Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock
Fay ClarkAnglia Ruskin University and Jacob DunnAnglia Ruskin University

From construction projects to busy roads, aeroplanes and railways, human noise is everywhere. It is an invisible cause of stress, posing serious risks to human health and wellbeing. However, noise also harms animals living in close contact with humans, in homes, farms and zoos.

Noise is a distracting, scary or physically painful sound. The impacts of noise upon humans range from mild irritation to learning and memory problems, permanent hearing damage and heart disease.

Abnormally loud noise, such as at music concerts or construction sites, is controlled to protect human hearing. But noise is not regulated for other animals.

In our recent paper, we found a greater awareness and more understanding is needed into how noise harms pets, farm and working animals and zoo animals.

Research tends to measure how loud a noise is in decibels (dB). Decibels are easy to measure with a handheld device and form the basis of human health guidelines. But the type of noise source, frequency (pitch), rate and duration can also impact how noise is experienced by a listener.

Great apes have similar hearing capabilities to humans, but the rest of the animal kingdom perceives noise very differently. Hearing ranges from very high frequency ultrasound (>20,000 Hz) echolocation in bats and dolphins to very low frequency infrasound (<20 Hz) in elephants. The hearing range of humans sits right between ultra and infrasound.

Some invertebrates such as hunting spiders detect sound from vibrations with their tiny leg hairs. It’s difficult to tell how sensitive an animal is to noise but what’s most important is whether noise in their environment is within their hearing range, rather than if the animal has a high or low frequency.

What We Know

Due to a lack of research, we don’t know that much about how precisely noise affects animals but this is what we’ve learnt so far.

Loud noise can permanently damage lab rodents’ hearing. We can assume this exposure is painful because rats exposed to loud noise behave differently with and without pain medication. Findings in lab rodent studies can be generalised to other mammals but there are known differences in hearing ability across different animals.

Wild animals suffer chronic stress, fertility problems and change their migration routes in response to noise. Confined animals are often exposed to high levels of human-generated noise which they cannot escape.

Research shows noise causes confined animals pain, fear and cognitive problems. For example in fish, vibrations from extreme noise can damage the swim bladder which in turn impacts their hearing and buoyancy. Pain and fear are strong indicators of poor welfare.

Black and white cat hiding in a paper bag
Animals hide when they’re scared. Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Inaudible noise (vibrations) can also hurt animals by physically shaking their internal body parts. Farm animals experience high levels of vibration during transportOur research group at Anglia Ruskin University is investigating whether vibrations from construction work impacts zoo primates.

One noisy event such as a local music festival or extreme weather can trigger long-term fear in animals. The link between noise and fear has been well studied in dogs using recordings of thunderstorms.

This kind of noise sensitivity, which affects up to 50% of pet dogs, is triggered by unexpected noises. It makes animals hide or seek human comfort. Farmed hens exposed to vehicle noise and even music also freeze in fear.

Small monkey with long tail perches in a tree
This pied tamarin monkey lives in a public park in Brazil but has no say over local noise regulations. Whaldener Endo, Wikipedia

Primates, birds and frogs can adjust in the short term to noisy environments by vocalising louder, similar to raising our voices at noisy parties. But the long-term consequences of animals needing to change their methods of communication hasn’t been studied.

Long-term exposure to loud noise reduces learning and memory ability in lab mice. The link between cognition and anxiety in humans is complex but generally speaking, high levels of anxiety reduce our ability to perform challenging tasks.

This could be similar in other mammals but there is not enough research to be sure. Studying noise in zoos is difficult because it’s hard to control other factors, like weather and visitor presence.

How To Help

If your pet is stressed by noise, a range of treatments are available to calm or distract them including synthetic pheromones and enrichment toys. But prevention is better than cure.

If you take care of confined animals, pay close attention to human activities that generate noise (such as cleaning and gardening) and how the surroundings may reflect sound waves. Sound waves can be blocked and bounce back from materials like concrete, metal and glass, which makes the noise worse.

You can protect your pets during noisy events, like thunderstorms and firework displays, by providing extra spaces to escape noise. Some soft furnishings like pillows or blankets inside a den help absorb sounds. A pile of blankets to crawl under, even without a den, will help to block out noise.

Better regulation is needed to protect animals from construction work and noisy events. Animals don’t have a say in what building projects or music concerts go ahead but they can suffer the consequences.The Conversation

Fay Clark, Research Fellow in Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University and Jacob Dunn, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Anglia Ruskin University

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

Fossils Of Giant Sea Lizard That Ruled The Oceans 66 Million Years Ago Discovered

August 24, 2022
Researchers have discovered a huge new mosasaur from Morocco, named Thalassotitan atrox, which filled the apex predator niche. With massive jaws and teeth like those of killer whales, Thalassotitan hunted other marine reptiles -- plesiosaurs, sea turtles, and other mosasaurs.

At the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, sea monsters really existed. While dinosaurs flourished on land, the seas were ruled by the mosasaurs, giant marine reptiles.

Mosasaurs weren't dinosaurs, but enormous marine lizards growing up to 12 metres (40 feet) in length. They were distant relatives of modern iguanas and monitor lizards.

Mosasaurs looked like a Komodo dragon with flippers instead of legs, and a shark-like tail fin. Mosasaurs became larger and more specialised in the last 25 million years of the Cretaceous, taking niches once filled by marine reptiles like plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. Some evolved to eat small prey like fish and squid. Others crushed ammonites and clams. The new mosasaur, named Thalassotitan atrox, evolved to prey on all the other marine reptiles.

The remains of the new species were dug up in Morocco, about an hour outside Casablanca. Here, near the end of the Cretaceous, the Atlantic flooded northern Africa. Nutrient rich waters upwelling from the depths fed blooms of plankton. Those fed small fish, feeding larger fish, which fed mosasaurs and plesiosaurs -- and so on, with these marine reptiles becoming food for the giant, carnivorous Thalassotitan.

Thalassotitan, had an enormous skull measuring 1.4 metres (5 feet long), and grew to nearly 30 feet (9 metres) long, the size of a killer whale. While most mosasaurs had long jaws and slender teeth for catching fish, Thalassotitan had a short, wide muzzle and massive, conical teeth like those of an orca. These let it seize and rip apart huge prey. These adaptations suggest Thalassotitan was an apex predator, sitting at the top of the food chain. The giant mosasaur occupied the same ecological niche as today's killer whales and great white sharks.

Thalassotitan's teeth are often broken and worn, however eating fish wouldn't have produced this sort of tooth wear. Instead, this suggests that the giant mosasaur attacked other marine reptiles, chipping, breaking, and grinding its teeth as it bit into their bones and tore them apart. Some teeth are so heavily damaged they have been almost ground down to the root.

Fossilised remains of prey
Remarkably, possible remains of Thalassotitan's victims have been discovered. Fossils from the same beds show damage from acids, with teeth and bone eaten away. Fossils with this peculiar damage include large predatory fish, a sea turtle, a half-meter long plesiosaur head, and jaws and skulls of at least three different mosasaur species. They would have been digested in Thalassotitan's stomach before it spat out their bones.

"It's circumstantial evidence," said Dr Nick Longrich, Senior Lecturer from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath and lead author on the study, published in Cretaceous Research.

"We can't say for certain which species of animal ate all these other mosasaurs. But we have the bones of marine reptiles killed and eaten by a large predator.

"And in the same location, we find Thalassotitan, a species that fits the profile of the killer -- it's a mosasaur specialised to prey on other marine reptiles. That's probably not a coincidence."

Thalassotitan was a threat to everything in the oceans -- including other Thalassotitan. The huge mosasaurs bear injuries sustained in violent combat with other mosasaurs, with injuries to their face and jaws sustained in fights. Other mosasaurs show similar injuries, but in Thalassotitan these wounds were exceptionally common, suggesting frequent, intense fights over feeding grounds or mates.

"Thalassotitan was an amazing, terrifying animal," said Dr Nick Longrich, who led the study. "Imagine a Komodo Dragon crossed with a great white shark crossed with a T. rex crossed with a killer whale."

The new mosasaur lived in the final million years of the Age of Dinosaurs, a contemporary of animals like T. rex and Triceratops. Along with recent discoveries of mosasaurs from Morocco, it suggests that mosasaurs weren't in decline before the asteroid impact that drove the Cretaceous mass extinction. Instead, they flourished.

Professor Nour-Eddine Jalil, a co-author on the paper from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, said: "The phosphate fossils of Morocco offer an unparalleled window on the paleobiodiversity at the end of Cretaceous.

"They tell us how life was rich and diversified just before the end of the 'dinosaur era', where animals had to specialise to have a place in their ecosystems. Thalassotitan completes the picture by taking on the role of the megapredator at the top of the food chain."

"There's so much more to be done," said Longrich. "Morocco has one of the richest and most diverse marine faunas known from the Cretaceous. We're just getting started understanding the diversity and the biology of the mosasaurs."

Nicholas R. Longrich, Nour-Eddine Jalil, Fatima Khaldoune, Oussama Khadiri Yazami, Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola, Nathalie Bardet. Thalassotitan atrox, a giant predatory mosasaurid (Squamata) from the Upper Maastrichtian Phosphates of Morocco. Cretaceous Research, 2022; 105315 DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105315

Thalassotitan was a threat to everything in the oceans - including other Thalassotitan. The huge mosasaurs bear injuries sustained in violent combat with other mosasaurs, with injuries to their face and jaws sustained in fights. Other mosasaurs show similar injuries, but in Thalassotitan these wounds were exceptionally common, suggesting frequent, intense fights over feeding grounds or mates.

‘You get burnt together, you get wet together, you dance together’: how festivals transform lives – and landscapes

Amelie KatczynskiDeakin UniversityElaine StratfordUniversity of Tasmania, and Pauline MarshUniversity of Tasmania

Every year in lutruwita/Tasmania, tens of thousands of people journey to and meander through the island state and take in festivals such as Dark MofoCygnet Folk Festival or Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival.

Part of the pull of this place and its cultural offerings are the landscapes in which such events are placed: picturesque mountain ranges and deep valleys; vast open paddocks and pristine bushlands; glistening coastlines; quirky city spaces.

As human geographers, we understand that festival landscapes are more than a party backdrop. They are not waiting, ready to greet us like some sort of environmental festival host. They have Deep Time and layers of meaning.

But when they become spaces for creative adventures, these landscapes also have profound effects on how people experience festivals, affecting our sense of place, of ourselves and others.

Festivals come with specific boundaries – dates, gates or fences – and mark a period and place in which we experience some shifting of social norms.

In our research, we wanted to explore how festivals affect people’s sense of place, self and other.

As Grace, an avid festival-goer, told us “social expectations that come with adulthood get removed at a festival.”

I don’t know what happens when you walk through the gate of a festival [..] you leave all that behind and you step into what feels like […] a more authentic version of yourself. Or at least a freer one.

Creating Spaces

A lot happens to make a festival landscape.

A lot goes into forming a temporary community around a festival site. Tanya Pro/Unsplash

Teams of staff and volunteers establish campsites, install rows of toilets that often are also composting works of art, build stages, lay kilometres of pipes and power chords and design paths, sculptures and dance floors.

These collective labours create a special atmosphere; serve basic needs for sleep, food, hydration, warmth and sanitation; invite journeying to and from; and foster relationships to places and sites via immersive experiences and hands-on engagements with the landscape itself, for itself.

Travis, a stage-builder and DJ, told us:

if you use what’s already there, then [the stage] blends in with that whole environment and ties in to how people see it and how people feel in it.

Marion, a festival artist, spoke of her desire to show care and respect by creating work that “doesn’t impose and can […] naturally be reabsorbed” into the landscape.

She described how all of the rocks for a labyrinth at one event came from the festival site. Once, the sheep who lived there walked through on their usual path – destroying her installation.

Transformative Experiences

When people attend festivals, they often attach themselves to the landscape and detach from their daily lives: they are looking for transformative experiences.

In lutruwita/Tasmania, festivals such as Fractangular near Buckland and PANAMA in the Lone Star Valley take place in more remote parts of the state.

Grace, from Hobart, told us that being in those landscapes taps into

something that humans have done forever […] gather around sound and nature and just experience that and feel freedom.

Even when festivals are based in urban landscapes, the transformation of these spaces can evoke a sense of freedom.

For Ana, a festival organiser, creating thematic costumes is part of her own transformation.

At festivals she feels freedom to “wear ‘more out there’ things”.

If I was on the street just on a Wednesday I’d have to [explain my outfit] […] Whereas at a [street] festival[it] flies under the radar.

Body Memories

Festival landscapes have features conducive for meeting in place (think open spaces, play spaces, food and drink venues) and for separating out (think fences and signs).

Commingling at festivals can literally lead people to bump into each other, reaffirm old bonds and create new connections through shared experiences.

One artist, Marion, told us:

When you go and you camp, you get burnt together, you get wet together, you dance together. [It creates] an embrace for me.

Festivals often linger in people’s memories, entwined with bodily experiences. People we spoke with talked about hearing birdsong and music, seeing the sun rise and fall over the hills and feeling grass under their dancing feet.

The galaxy at night.
Some festivals are held in remote parts of Tasmania. Ken Cheung/Unsplash

While one-off events can be meaningful, revisiting festivals may have an especially powerful effect.

Annual festival pilgrimages become cycles of anticipation, immersion and memory-making. This continuing relationship with a landscape also allows festival goers to observe how the environment is changing.

As festival organiser Lisa said:

since 2013 […] every summer our site just got drier and drier. 2020 was the driest year of all. There was no creek. There was just a stagnant puddle.

Writing New Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic led organisers and attendees to rethink engagements with live events. Many were cancelled; some were trialled online.

But after seasons of cancellationsdownscaling and online events, some festivals in lutruwita/Tasmania are back, attracting thousands of domestic and interstate visitors.

For those festivals that have disappeared, their traces remain in our countless individual and collective stories of the magic of festival landscapes.The Conversation

Amelie Katczynski, Research Assistant, Deakin UniversityElaine Stratford, Professor, School of Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, and Pauline Marsh, Social Researcher, Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, University of Tasmania

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

Les Murray said his autism shaped his poetry – his late poems offer insights into his creative process

Les Murray. Alan Porritt/AAP
Amanda TinkWestern Sydney University

An autistic author recently tweeted:

I filled out an autism quotient questionnaire for my upcoming assessment and one of the questions was about if I am fascinated by dates and I said no BUT now I want to go to the supermarket and buy some dates and see how fascinating they really are.

Reading this, I decided that a personal reevaluation of dates was definitely in order, despite our previous incompatibilities.

For me, the first hurdle in even tolerating any food is the physical experience of eating it – its initial combination of textures, and how they change during the eating process. Like Les Murray’s son Alexander, I hated “orange juice with bits in it” throughout my childhood. I still dislike the bits, but I have learned to endure them for the taste, which is my process for at least half of what I eat.

My memory of the taste of dates when I tried them as a child is sugary dirt, so they were never worth their gluey gelatinousness. But perhaps they, or I, would be different now. Intrigued by this idea, I sent the “dates” tweet to my partner, who describes himself as “having more than a hint of neuroatypicality”. He replied that he had always thought that that question referred to going out to a romantic dinner.

Of course, the non-autistic designers of the autism quotient test intended “dates” to refer only to the day, month and year of an event.

Autism And Detail

These differences in word association are one reason that Les Murray identified autism as “the part of my brain […] which is mostly the part my poetry comes from”.

They also emphasise the role of context in interpretation. Though being autistic enabled the intimate relationship with detail and uncommon relationship with the world that are characteristic of Murray’s poetry, his autism often went unacknowledged when his poetry was interpreted.

Having explored the influences of autism in Murray’s poetry for a number of years, I was intrigued that autism and recontextualisation were of particular interest to him in his final collection Continuous Creation, where they often intertwine.

While Murray explicitly foregrounds his autism, some of his intentions regarding context are unclear. One example of this uncertainty is the poem Cherry Soldiers, which appears at the halfway point of the book. Here it is, in its two-line entirety:

Chokecherry, chokecherry, makin a stand:
I got your little pokeberry eatin from my hand.

Caroline Overington labels this poem “fun”, which may well be the experience Murray intended it to convey as a singular poem in this collection. For me, however, it evokes the unease that I feel whenever I read it in Fredy Neptune.

Fredy Neptune was Murray’s second verse novel, published in 1998. It is the self-narrated story of an autistic German-Australian man named Fredy Boettcher.

Near the beginning of the novel, Fredy witnesses a mass murder that is part of the Armenian genocide, after which he acquires an impairment which includes the absence of physical sensation. Over the course of the novel, he develops an understanding of his impairments and negotiates others’ prejudices against him, in the midst of some key events in the first half of the 20th century.

The two lines of the poem Cherry Soldiers appear ten pages from the end of the novel. Fredy has settled in Australia with his wife, their adult son, and Hans, who is also autistic, and whom Fredy has adopted as his brother. In what I think of as a signal to anyone who has registered Fredy’s and Hans’s autism, they are at a train station, alleviating their stress by watching the trains arrive and depart.

They are separated by a group of American soldiers, one of whom draws Fredy into a conversation about names, while the rest begin teaching Hans to play poker. The reader is unsure what will occur next, until the captain of the troop returns and calls them to order. The soldiers sing “Chokecherry, chokecherry, makin’ a stand: / I got your little pokeberry eatin’ from my hand” as they leave.

Fredy finishes this story by noting his mixed emotions regarding this song: “Lord knows what that meant; but I still sing it sometimes.”

The Importance Of Context

The role of context is similarly both significant and mysterious for the poems School Bus Home and The Invention of Pigs. In his review of Continuous Creation, David McCooey cites these poems as new material and presents them as examples of Murray’s “inconsequential writing” and “love of the sonic nature of poetry”.

While I agree with McCooey about these perennial qualities of Murray’s writing, the two poems are not new writing, if you take “new” to mean not previously in existence. If you take new to mean not previously in this form, then they might be evidence of Murray’s skill at rearranging, because earlier versions of them appear in his book On Bunyah (2015).

The three stanzas of School Bus that appear in On Bunyah have been re-ordered, transposed from past to present tense, and supplemented with two additional stanzas to become School Bus Home in Continuous Creation.

The Invention of Pigs, which describes a bushfire moving through Bunyah, has the same title in both books, but there are alterations in all four stanzas that change the scope of the poem. For example, in On Bunyah, stanza three reads:

too swift to ignite any houses.
One horse baked in a tin shed.
After, a few pigs lay smoke-dead
but where flames had leaned in on

Whereas, in Continuous Creation, the pigs, even though they are named as the poem’s topic in the title, are deleted in favour of chickens:

too swift to ignite any houses.
One horse baked in a tin shed,
naked poultry lay about dead
having been plucked in mid flight

These are two of the three rearrangements of previous poems that I am aware of in Continuous Creation. The third has alterations similar to those in The Invention of Pigs and, like School Bus home, is told from a different perspective. The Scores, 20th Century was first published as The Scores in 2002. It is the only one of these four context-highlighting poems that is listed in the acknowledgements.

Evidently, Murray was not attempting to misrepresent these poems as originals, since they all have titles that reference their initial context. Beyond that, the future he imagined for them is unclear.

Perhaps he wanted Cherry Soldiers to be considered separately from, as well as within, its context in Fredy Neptune? Perhaps he had determined that the altered versions of School Bus Home and The Invention of Pigs should replace their earlier versions? Perhaps he assumed that those involved with the organisation and publication of Continuous Creation would be familiar enough with his work to get the joke, and exclude one or all of these poems?

Les Murray in Munich, 2014. Wikimedia commonsCC BY

Creation As Continuous

If Murray intended for these poems to be published, this represents a striking change in the presentation of his writing. Throughout most of his six-decade career, he continually adjusted his body of work to represent his current position on and in the world. Within this process, there was a connection between Murray of the past and Murray of the present that was stretched but not broken. When a break occurred, Murray deleted commas, lines, stanzas and entire poems to reestablish an alignment between his poetry as a whole and himself.

But I am unaware of rearrangement to this degree in his previous books. It might imply an interest in expanding from a conception of the process of creation as continuous to a conception of each individual creation as continuous.

There is further evidence for this in Waiting for the Past, which also originated in 2015 as a line in a poem. Murray used the line to title his other collection from that year. In Continuous Creation, Waiting for the Past is the title of a poem, and it has developed into a refrain on the subject of remembering.

Waiting for the Past describes how the many details of Murray’s “great memory”, which he noted when publicly declaring his autism in the poem The Tune on Your Mind (2006), have faded. Yet “flesh tells what mind forgets”.

In other words, perhaps in response to critics who have suggested that Murray should move on from long-ago arguments, this poem replies that with an autistic memory it is not so easy.

Another property of autistic minds is referred to in Polo Solved. Murray suggests that the absence of the Great Wall from Marco Polo’s extensive lists of what he observed during his 17 years in China was because:

if you are autistic

things that you’ve missed
seem not to exist.

This is a well-documented difference between non-autistic and autistic perception. Autistic author Star Ford calls them “forest-first” and “trees-first”, in order to value both approaches. Non-autistic people begin with an undifferentiated scene, then become aware of some details. Autistic people begin with one detail, and then add another and another, until they become aware of a scene.

This is one reason that autistic people might not notice details that seem obvious to non-autistic people, and vice versa. It is also the reason that Murray became the “delicately detailed describer of the earth” that, as Lyn McCredden notes, “even Murray-sceptics admire”.

Polo Solved is a reminder that Murray was autistic and it affirms that, to the end, autism was one of his strongest poetic themes. He first explicitly wrote on autism in Portrait of the Autist as a New World Driver in 1974. He continued writing poems on his own autism, such as Self-Portrait from a Photograph, The Shield-Scales of Heraldry, and The Tune on Your Mind. In Fredy Neptune, he explored the experience of being autistic before this way of being in the world was medicalised.

He also wrote poems on his son’s autism, including It Allows a Portrait in Line Scan at Fifteen, Like the Joy at his First Lie, and To One Outside the Culture.

As a part of his final collection, Polo Solved is a note on the role of context in “all that will outlast us”. For autistic writers, it is a reminder that Murray created, not just a path, but a field for us. It is a reminder for everyone to stay curious and to keep considering what you believe to be present, as well as what might be missing.The Conversation

Amanda Tink, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University

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

Scientists have traced Earth’s path through the galaxy via tiny crystals found in the crust

Chris KirklandCurtin University and Phil SuttonUniversity of Lincoln

“To see a world in a grain of sand”, the opening sentence of the poem by William Blake, is an oft-used phrase that also captures some of what geologists do.

We observe the composition of mineral grains, smaller than the width of a human hair. Then, we extrapolate the chemical processes they suggest to ponder the construction of our planet itself.

Now, we’ve taken that minute attention to new heights, connecting tiny grains to Earth’s place in the galactic environment.

Looking Out To The Universe

At an even larger scale, astrophysicists seek to understand the universe and our place in it. They use laws of physics to develop models that describe the orbits of astronomical objects.

Although we may think of the planet’s surface as something shaped by processes entirely within Earth itself, our planet has undoubtedly felt the effects of its cosmic environment. This includes periodic changes in Earth’s orbit, variations in the Sun’s output, gamma ray bursts, and of course meteorite impacts.

Just looking at the Moon and its pockmarked surface should remind us of that, given Earth is more than 80 times more massive than its grey satellite. In fact, recent work has pointed to the importance of meteorite impacts in the production of continental crust on Earth, helping to form buoyant “seeds” that floated on the outermost layer of our planet in its youth.

We and our international team of colleagues have now identified a rhythm in the production of this early continental crust, and the tempo points to a truly grand driving mechanism. This work has just been published in the journal Geology.

A swirling spiral of blue and white glowing stars on a dark background
Residing inside the Milky Way galaxy makes it impossible to picture, but our galaxy is thought to be similar to other barred spiral galaxies, like NGC 4394. ESA/Hubble & NASA

The Rhythm Of Crust Production On Earth

Many rocks on Earth form from molten or semi-molten magma. This magma is derived either directly from the mantle – the predominantly solid but slowly flowing layer below the planet’s crust – or from recooking even older bits of pre-existing crust. As liquid magma cools, it eventually freezes into solid rock.

Through this cooling process of magma crystallisation, mineral grains grow and can trap elements such as uranium that decay over time and produce a sort of stopwatch, recording their age. Not only that, but crystals can also trap other elements that track the composition of their parental magma, like how a surname might track a person’s family.

With these two pieces of information – age and composition – we can then reconstruct a timeline of crust production. Then, we can decode its main frequencies, using the mathematical wizardry of the Fourier transform. This tool basically decodes the frequency of events, much like unscrambling ingredients that have gone into the blender for a cake.

Our results from this approach suggest an approximate 200-million-year rhythm to crust production on the early Earth.

Our Place In The Cosmos

But there is another process with a similar rhythm. Our Solar System and the four spiral arms of the Milky Way are both spinning around the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s centre, yet they are moving at different speeds.

The spiral arms orbit at 210 kilometres per second, while the Sun is speeding along at 240km per second, meaning our Solar System is surfing into and out of the galaxy’s arms. You can think of the spiral arms as dense regions that slow the passage of stars much like a traffic jam, which only clears further down the road (or through the arm).

Geological events on the orbit of the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy
Geological events, including major crust formation events highlighted on the transit of the Solar System through the galactic spiral arms. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/R. Hurt (background image)

This model results in approximately 200 million years between each entry our Solar System makes into a spiral arm of the galaxy.

So, there seems to be a possible connection between the timing of crust production on Earth and the length of time it takes to orbit the galactic spiral arms – but why?

Strikes From The Cloud

In the distant reaches of our Solar System, a cloud of icy rocky debris named the Oort cloud is thought to orbit our Sun.

As the Solar System periodically moves into a spiral arm, interaction between it and the Oort cloud is proposed to dislodge material from the cloud, sending it closer to the inner Solar System. Some of this material may even strike Earth.

A glowing image of a spiral galaxy with blue arms and pale golden centre
Milky Way’s structure and Solar System’s orbit through it may be important in controlling the frequency of some large impacts on Earth, which in turn may have seeded crust production on the early Earth. jivacore/Shutterstock

Earth experiences relatively frequent impacts from the rocky bodies of the asteroid belt, which on average arrive at speeds of 15km per second. But comets ejected from the Oort cloud arrive much faster, on average 52km per second.

We argue it is these periodic high-energy impacts that are tracked by the record of crust production preserved in tiny mineral grains. Comet impacts excavate huge volumes of Earth’s surface, leading to decompression melting of the mantle, not too dissimilar from popping a cork on a bottle of fizz.

This molten rock, enriched in light elements such as silicon, aluminium, sodium and potassium, effectively floats on the denser mantle. While there are many other ways to generate continental crust, it’s likely that impacting on our early planet formed buoyant seeds of crust. Magma produced from later geological processes would adhere to those early seeds.

Harbingers Of Doom, Or Gardeners For Terrestrial Life?

Continental crust is vital in most of Earth’s natural cycles – it interacts with water and oxygen, forming new weathered products, hosting most metals and biological carbon.

Large meteorite impacts are cataclysmic events that can obliterate life. Yet, impacts may very well have been key to the development of the continental crust we live on.

With the recent passage of interstellar asteroids through the Solar System, some have even gone so far as to suggest they ferried life across the cosmos.

However we came to be here, it is awe-inspiring on a clear night to look up at the sky and see the stars and the structure they trace, and then look down at your feet and feel the mineral grains, rock and continental crust below – all linked through a very grand rhythm indeed.The Conversation

Chris Kirkland, Professor of Geology, Curtin University and Phil Sutton, Senior Lecturer in Astrophysics, University of Lincoln

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

Breakthrough shows humans were already standing on their own two feet 7 million years ago

Artwork in the Djourab desert, Chad, gives a taste of how our oldest ancestors got around. Sabine Riffaut, Guillaume Daver, Franck Guy / Palevoprim / CNRS – Université de Poitiers / MPFTFourni par l'auteur
Jean-Renaud BoisserieUniversité de PoitiersAndossa LikiusUniversité de N'Djamena (Tchad)Clarisse Nekoulnang DjetounakoUniversité de N'Djamena (Tchad)Franck GuyUniversité de PoitiersGuillaume DaverUniversité de PoitiersLaurent PallasKyoto UniversityMackaye Hassane TaissoUniversité de N'Djamena (Tchad), and Patrick VignaudUniversité de Poitiers

The study of present-day species has delivered a clear verdict on humanity’s place in the living world: right alongside chimpanzees and bonobos. However, this does not tell us much about our earliest human representatives, their biology or geographical distribution – in short, how we became human. For this, we mainly have to rely on the morphology of frustratingly rare fossils, given paleogenetic information is only preserved for recent periods – and even then, in rather cool climates.

Since the 1960s and the identification of the very early age of Australopithecus – including the famous Lucy aged 3.18 Ma (million years ago), discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia – the acquisition of bipedalism has been regarded as a decisive step in human evolution. Indeed, it is an essential feature that marks the transition from non-human to human long before the significant increase in the size of our brain.

There has been much anticipation of our study, published on 24 August in Nature, on the skeleton of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, who is a candidate for the oldest-known representative of humanity.

So, was our distant ancestor a biped or not – i.e., human or not human? In reality, asking the question in these terms borders on circular reasoning. Given we have yet to discover the last common ancestor we share with chimpanzees, we do not know the initial state of human locomotion – bipedal or otherwise.

Were The First Representatives Of Humanity Bipeds?

Until now, the earliest data available to us were the limb bones of Orrorin (6 Ma, Kenya) and Ardipithecus (5.8 Ma–4.2 Ma, Ethiopia), which practised a different type of bipedalism from that of more recent species. It turns out bipedalism is not an invariable feature of humanity and has its own history within our history. The right question is therefore: were the first representatives of humanity bipedal, and if so, to what extent and how? This is the question that our Franco-Chadian team sought to answer by studying the much older remains (about 7 Ma) of Sahelanthropus.

The existence of Sahelanthropus was initially deduced in 2002 from a distorted but otherwise well-preserved cranium (nicknamed Toumaï) and a few other cranio-dental specimens discovered by the Franco-Chadian palaeoanthropological mission (founded and directed by Michel Brunet) at Toros-Menalla in the Djourab Desert in Chad, representing at least three individuals. The study is primarily based on the morphology of the teeth, face and braincase that this species has been compared with more recent human fossils.

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The limb bones described in our article include a partial left femur (thigh bone) and two left and right ulnae (together with the radius, the ulna is one of the two bones in the forearm that form our elbow). These bones were found in the same locality and year as the cranium, but were identified later in 2004. They most likely belong to the same species as the cranium, as only one large primate was identified out of nearly 13,800 fossils representing about 100 different vertebrates across 400 localities in Toros-Menalla. However, it is not known whether this femur, ulnae and cranium belong to the same individual, as at least three different individuals were found onsite.

3D digitised models of the three limb bones of TM 266 attributed to Sahelanthropus tchadensis (left, femur in posterior and medial views; right, the two ulnae in anterior and lateral views). Franck Guy/CNRS/Université de Poitiers/MPFTFourni par l'auteur

A number of factors slowed down our research, which began in 2004. For example, we were required to prioritise field research of other postcranial remains, while we struggled to analyse fragmentary material. We eventually relaunched the project in 2017 and concluded it five years later.

Bones Studied From Every Angle

Given the poor preservation of these long bones (the femur, for example, has lost both ends), brief analyses cannot provide reliable interpretations. We therefore studied them from all angles, both in terms of their external morphology and internal structures.

To reduce uncertainty, we employed an extensive set of methods, including direct observations and biometric measurements, 3D image analysis, shape analysis (morphometrics) and biomechanical indicators. We compared the Chadian material with present-day and fossil specimens through the prism of 23 criteria. Taken separately, none can be used to propose a categorical interpretation of the material – indeed, there are no “magic” traits in paleoanthropology, and all will be subject to discussion within the scientific community.

Taken together, however, these traits result in an interpretation of these fossils that is far more parsimonious than any alternative hypothesis. This combination therefore indicates that Sahelanthropus practised habitual bipedalism – i.e., that is as a regular means of locomotion. In this case, bipedalism was probably used for movement on the ground as well as in trees. In the latter case, it was most likely accompanied by a quadrupedal gait accompanied by the grasping of branches, in contrast from the quadrupedal gait practised by gorillas and chimpanzees, known as “knuckle walking”, in which weight is supported by the backs of the phalanges.

Relationships between humans, gorillas and chimpanzees. Bipedalism gradually became the means of locomotion within the human branch from a combination of bipedalism and tree climbing, as documented by Sahelanthropus. Franck Guy/CNRS/Université de Poitiers/MPFTFourni par l'auteur

The results are consistent with observations made on Orrorin and Ardipithecus, and have several implications. First, they reinforce the concept of a very early form of bipedalism in human history coexisting with other modes of locomotion. Thus there was no “sudden” appearance of a characteristic unique to humanity right from the start, but a long, slow transition spanning millions of years.

This phase of human evolution thus took place in ways that are quite common throughout the history of life and the globe, and it reminds us that our species is but a fragment of biodiversity. This fact alone should lead us to rethink our attitude toward the living world and the parameters that govern the hospitality of our planet.

Second, the characteristics of SahelanthropusOrrorin and Ardipithecus suggest the ancestor we share with chimpanzees was neither chimpanzee-like nor the exclusive biped we have become. Contrary to the hypothesis that chimpanzees and bonobos retained their ancestral morphology, their particular combination of vertical climbing and “knuckle walking” more likely evolved well after our divergence.

Finally, if Sahelanthropus tchadensis is a witness of human diversity among others, it is, to this day, the only known habitual bipedal species of that age. Considering the whole, weakly diversified, hominoid fossil record of Africa and Eurasia at the end of the Miocene (after 10 Ma), the acquisition of bipedalism by the human branch on the African continent remains the only well-documented hypothesis to date. At this stage, the bipedalism appears to be part of an opportunistic locomotor repertoire – flexible, able to take advantage of different environments – that corresponds well to the diversified paleoenvironment of Toros-Menalla as reconstructed by the geologists, paleobotanists and paleontologists of our team.

This work was developed through a strong North-South scientific collaboration in palaeoanthropology, namely between the PALEVOPRIM laboratory, the palaeontology department of the University of N’Djaména and the Centre National de Recherche pour le Développement. These three bones belong to the Chadian heritage and will soon return to their country. At the same time, our fruitful collaboration will continue through new studies of the material as well as new field research that follows in the footsteps of the much-missed Yves Coppens, pioneer of paleontological research in Chad.

This article was co-authored by Abderamane Moussa (University of N’Djaména, Chad).The Conversation

Jean-Renaud Boisserie, Directeur de recherche au CNRS, paléontologue, Université de PoitiersAndossa Likius, Mission Paléoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne, Université de N'Djamena (Tchad)Clarisse Nekoulnang Djetounako, Enseignante chercheure en paléontologie, Université de N'Djamena (Tchad)Franck Guy, Paléoanthropologue, Université de PoitiersGuillaume Daver, Maîtres de conférences en paléoanthropologie, Université de PoitiersLaurent Pallas, Paléontologue, Kyoto UniversityMackaye Hassane Taisso, Paléontologue, Université de N'Djamena (Tchad), and Patrick Vignaud, Pr. Paléontologie, Université de Poitiers

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

Establishment Of The Royal Commission Into Robodebt

August 25, 2022
By: Prime Minister, Minister for Social Services, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Minister for Government Services, Attorney-General
The Governor-General His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) has issued Letters Patent establishing a Royal Commission into the former debt assessment and recovery scheme commonly known as Robodebt. 

The inquiry will examine, among other things: 
  • The establishment, design and implementation of the scheme; who was responsible for it; why they considered Robodebt necessary; and, any concerns raised regarding the legality and fairness;
  • The handling of concerns raised about the scheme, including adverse decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal;
  • The outcomes of the scheme, including the harm to vulnerable individuals and the total financial cost to government; and
  • Measures needed to prevent similar failures in public administration.
The Royal Commission’s focus will be on decisions made by those in positions of seniority. The full scope of the inquiry is outlined in the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference.

Commonwealth agencies will work to respond expeditiously to requests made by the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commissioner is Catherine Holmes AC SC. The Commissioner is a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland and brings vast experience from a distinguished legal career.

The Commissioner led the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry following the 2010-11 floods and acted as counsel assisting the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions in 1998-99.

The Government has allocated $30 million for the Royal Commission and the final report will be delivered to the Governor-General by 18 April 2023.

The headquarters of the Royal Commission will be in Brisbane and information about hearing dates and how to participate will be provided in the coming weeks.

A legal financial assistance scheme will be available to people requested to formally engage with the Royal Commission, for example, to appear as a witness.

Hold The Phone: You Don’t Have To Spend Big On A New One

August 25, 2022
Here are some tips on extending the life of your old smartphone, courtesy of National Seniors
It’s that time of the year when the big mobile phone companies roll out their latest models, and usually big prices too.  

But the devices they sold us last year or years before are still good for your wallet and the environment.  

Most newer models, even less expensive ones, are water resistant. Larger batteries provide longer life, and the display glass is stronger.  

Unless you want one of the new folding phones, the improvements and new features of a new model can be only incremental.  

Of course, there are good reasons to upgrade. If your phone is in bad shape, running an out-of-date operating system or struggles to store apps, which seem to take up more and more space, or can’t be updated.  

But experts are saying if your phone is less than five years old and still kicking, you can improve its speed and extend its longevity. And that seems to be borne out by the latest sales figures, which show the sale of new phones is down.  

Here are some easy ways to extend the life of your smartphone.
1. Fix your smartphone
There’s no shortage of phone repair shops, so try a few and compare quotes.

2. Replace the battery  
A new battery is the most effective way to breathe new life into an older smartphone. Batteries have charge cycles. One cycle from fully charged to fully discharged. As it runs through these cycles, the battery becomes less efficient at delivering charge.

Changing the battery every two years helps with the longevity of the device. Getting the battery replaced at a repair shop is a straightforward task.

3. Protect your screen  
Along with the battery, a smartphone screen is a component most likely to fail and one of the pricier ones to repair. Expect to shell out upwards of $250 for iPhone or Galaxy screens at authorized repair centres.

Otherwise, invest in a transparent screen cover or a shock-absorbing case for your phone and a screen protector instead.

4. Repair damage immediately  
If you end up cracking the screen, repair it as soon as possible, even if you can still see the display to go about your daily business. It's not just a cosmetic issue. The longer you wait to repair, the more dirt, oil, and debris can work into the cracks and compromise your phone’s internal components.

Speediness also applies to other damage, such as dropping a phone that's not water-resistant into water. While you might be able to make your phone operational by drying it out in a bowl of uncooked rice, water vapour can remain, causing damage down the road. Repair shops can take your phone apart and dry and clean it.

5. Clean your ports
The charging port is one common area that attracts dirt that could compromise device operation. If you keep your phone in your pocket, the charging port can become clogged by lint. Clean the debris with a toothpick. Use a soft-bristled brush to clean out your phone's speaker grilles.

The same goes for dirt or sand getting into your smartphone case – remove your phone from its case every so often and wipe it down. You can use a microfiber cloth lightly dampened with a 50/50 mix of water and distilled white vinegar to remove grease and smudges.

6. Pay attention to storage  
If your smartphone has started slowing down, the first thing to troubleshoot is the amount of storage you have available. To keep your phone running smoothly, keep about 20 per cent of your storage free.

7. Reset your device  
Should clearing out your smartphone fail to restore its performance, its software may be corrupted, perhaps through downloaded apps. Try factory reset that erases all content – including passwords and accounts. A reset helps by allowing you to reinstall the operating system fresh, giving it a nearly out-of-the-box speed and slickness. Back up your phone first to ensure you don't lose any data.
For iPhones, you can find the total reset option under Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.  

For Android phones, head to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset). For Samsung phones, heat to Settings > General management > Reset > Factory data reset.

National Head To Health Phone Service Goes Live

August 23, 2022
The Australian Government is proud to announce the official launch of the new Head to Health phone service which will help Australians access mental health support in their own communities.
Every Australian, no matter where they live, can now make a free phone call to the national Head to Health support line where they will receive advice, assessment, and referral to mental health services that best suit their needs.
This will help people, their friends and family, and their carers to seek the support they need when they need it.
You can contact Head to Health on 1800 595 212 from 8:30am to 5pm weekdays to find the right mental health service for yourself or someone you care for.
After entering their postcode, the caller will then be connected to a trained intake worker who understands the mental health services in their region.
The national phone service will operate alongside physical Head to Health centres, satellites, and the Head to Health website, giving Australians several ways to receive timely advice, assessment, and treatment.
Anyone in need of information and advice on the best mental health supports available to them or someone they know, can reach out to Head to Health.
Assistant Minister, Emma McBride said:
“The Head to Health phone service is an important expansion of the national Head to Health service, which now includes a network of adult mental health centres and satellite services.
“The phone service is free and easy to access and will connect people to mental health services in their community that best suits their needs.
“The mental health and wellbeing of all Australians is a top priority for the Albanese Government and we believe it’s vital that everyone has access to the care they need when they need it, no matter where they live.”

Suicide rates reveal the silent suffering of Australia’s ageing men

Unsplash/Mark TimberlakeCC BY
Rhys MantellUNSW Sydney and Adrienne WithallUNSW Sydney

Men aged 85 and older have the highest suicide rates in Australia, but the tragedy has gone relatively unnoticed. This group is growing older, feeling alone and flying under the radar.

The tragedy of suicide is recognised as a major public health issue. Yet what may come as a surprise to many is data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing men over 85 have suicide rates more than three times the average rate.

Public perception is that men – in particular, young men – have the highest suicide risk. While this is true for the net number of suicides, if we don’t consider age-standardised rates (which account for differences in age distribution across the population) we miss a crucial finding.

Adjusting For Age

Men aged over 85 accounted for a relatively small proportion of all male suicides (3.1%) in 2020 (the latest data available). But the age-specific suicide rate was 36.2 deaths per 100,000 (up from 32.3 per 100,000 in 2019). For women aged over 85, this rate was much lower (6.2 per 100,000). The next highest rate was for men in both the 40-44 and 50-54 age bands (27.1 per 100,000).

In 2020, the overall suicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 people.

But this issue is rarely addressed in public discourse or policy directives. The National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing released last month did not include data on people older than 85.

This risk is not new, but little has changed to address it over the past decade. In light of COVID and what it has revealed about ageism and the value of older people in our society, it is crucial to explore these issues again.

older man with head in hands
All the key risk factors for suicide have become even more relevant due to COVID. Shutterstock

Preventable Deaths

It is startling that men who have shown resilience to survive to late life are at such risk of preventable death. Many factors contribute, including physical and material circumstances like frailty, chronic pain, bereavement and financial troubles. However, we cannot assume only external issues cause distress and lead to suicide.

In fact, for older people, successful ageing is rarely defined purely by physical circumstances. Ageing well often implies flourishing despite hardship.

The silent challenge among men aged over 85 who take their own lives is psychological and existential distress, which can reinforce feelings of loneliness and worthlessness. Older men at risk of suicide may feel they are “no longer needed” or perceive themselves as “burdensome” to family and community.

These beliefs can overlap with major life transitions, such as retirement, stopping driving or moving to residential care, where they are a minority. Such stressful events can increase feelings of marginalisation, loss of independence and worthlessness, and also lead to social isolation.

Talking About It

A reluctance to express their feelings or be vulnerable has long been discussed as an important factor for men’s wellbeing, especially when they’re feeling low.

Research suggests gender stereotypes and social norms linked to masculinity reduce help-seeking behaviours and can increase suicide risk. Many ageing men hold restrictive and stoic beliefs about what it means to be a man. This may make them less inclined to share when they aren’t coping.

Yet emerging research challenges the assumption men don’t talk because they can’t. One reason men are not talking about their mental health struggles is because there’s nowhere for them to open up in a way they see as culturally and socially acceptable.

Instead, older men are speaking through their actions.

Suicide prevention and early intervention responses that are not tailored to the needs of older men are unlikely to be effective. We need to meet men where they are and listen to their quiet and absent voices by designing programs in partnership with them.

This means better understanding men’s barriers to suicide interventions. These include a lack of trust in traditional services and an aversion to “formal” supports that frame emotional distress and suicidal behaviours as mental illness.

It also means exploring, developing and funding new options that are acceptable, relevant and accessible, such as gendered support, peer-led programs, community-based informal support and programs combining exercise with mental health promotion.

The objective is not only to develop more suitable suicide prevention for this specific group, but also to examine broader interactions between ageing, isolation and loneliness; all key risk factors for suicide that have become even more relevant due to COVID.

More Calls For Help

Increased feelings of distress and loneliness produced by the pandemic can be measured by increased calls to services such as Lifeline. And more persistent mental health problems are likely to present more slowly, over longer horizons, and peak after the most acute phases of the pandemic.

Older people have handled much of the burden of COVID, including unprecedented restrictions and ageist sentiments. We must recognise these factors – growing old, being alone and feeling unheard - underpin increasing distress felt by men aged over 85, not only during the pandemic, but more generally.

This group must be seen as a priority population for suicide prevention. We must start listening and work together to find solutions so older men can access the help they need in a way that suits them.

UNSW Ageing Futures Institute would like to acknowledge the research contribution of Lifeline Research Foundation’s Dr Anna Brooks (National Manager) and Dr Tara Hunt (Research and Engagement Manager).

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, you can call these support services, 24 hours, 7 days:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14

  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

  • MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

  • StandBy - Support After Suicide: 1300 727 24The Conversation

Rhys Mantell, PhD Candidate, School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney and Adrienne Withall, Senior Research Fellow, School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney

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

Men's Sheds Grants And Movember Improving Men's Health

The Australian Government is providing much needed funds to our men’s sheds.  
A total of $500,000 will be provided through the latest round of National Men’s Sheds Programme (NSDP) funding.  
Across Australia, 153 men’s sheds will receive up to $10,000. 
Funds will be used to buy computers, host health and wellbeing events, make shed improvements, or purchase tools to use in the shed.  
Men’s sheds seeking funding to purchase a defibrillator will also be able to apply at any time under a special category. 
The Government is also providing $400,000 over the next 18 months to charity organisation Movember to conduct a targeted review of health professional education on male health issues.  
Movember will lead a group of subject matter experts to identify gaps and improvement opportunities for the education of clinicians. This work will assist in removing barriers for men in accessing timely and appropriate health care. 
This work will assist in remove barriers for men in accessing timely and appropriate health care. 
Applications for the next round of NSDP open on Friday 19 August, with interested sheds encouraged to apply by Tuesday 27 September

Further information, including an application form for the next round, can be found here:
Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said;
“Men’s sheds across Australia create a place of belonging for over a thousand local communities.
“The Albanese Government is providing this funding to men’s sheds so they can continue their important work.  
“Movember is synonymous with highlighting men’s health issues. 
“The Movember review continues efforts to realise improved health outcomes for Australian males through the implementation of the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030.” 

Celebrities Combine Forces And Voices To Support People Impacted By Dementia + National Dementia Helpline Now 24/7

August 17, 2022
Celebrity supporters, Ambassadors, Patron Ita Buttrose AC OBE and a person living with dementia have combined forces and lent their voices to an audiobook version of Dementia Australia’s Dementia Guide.  

The Dementia Guide is the go-to online resource for any person impacted by any form of dementia, of any age, in any location across Australia,” Ms Buttrose said. 

“Speaking for the voices team, I know we have all been thrilled to contribute to The Dementia Guide Audiobook to increase the accessibility to vital information about dementia and the support available. 

“Each person who has shared their voice has had an experience of dementia in their family and we have done this to raise awareness and help others to know they are not alone and that there is support available.” 

Dementia Australia Ambassadors and voices Natarsha Belling, Stephanie Bendixsen, Takaya Honda, Mark Seymour, Denis Walter OAM, Pat Welsh and celebrity supporters Rhonda Burchmore OAM and Geraldine Hickey wholeheartedly echo Ita’s words and have enthusiastically backed the project. 

Not just for people living with dementia, The Dementia Guide is also for friends, families and carers, and talks to the impact dementia may have on a person, the treatment, support and services they may need, and how loved ones can provide support.  

Stephanie Bendixsen, video game critic and television presenter, said she added her voice to the audiobook as she sees the value in a more accessible resource for families, such as hers, who need to navigate life with dementia.  

“My mother passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2018, and we really knew so little about dementia when she was diagnosed,” Ms Bendixsen said.   

“This made it difficult to understand why certain things were happening with her behaviourally, and we struggled to understand what was truly going on inside her brain, how her physicality was affected and how best we could support her and my Dad, her main carer, as a family.  

“Resources like this are so very valuable, and their accessibility even more so. Even though I consider myself a big reader - finding the time to sit down and read a book can be tricky when you have a busy lifestyle. I switched to audiobooks years ago so that I can absorb books while I'm driving, walking the dog, doing chores - it's been life-changing. An easily accessible resource like this would have made a wonderful difference to me and my family when we were coming to terms with how Mum's - and our lives - would change.”   

The audiobook includes a welcome from Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM and a chapter recorded by Ann Pietsch, who is a Dementia Advocate and lives with dementia.  

“I was invited to read one of the chapters and I personally think that The Dementia Guide is a valuable resource, making it available as an audio book is a great idea as it will now be easily available to more people living with dementia, carers, and families and the wider public,” Mrs Pietsch said. 

Ann speaks to the value of The Dementia Guide in her own personal circumstances when she was first diagnosed with dementia.  

“I would have been able to effortlessly pass on the details of the audiobook to my children and family and friends, so they could learn about dementia and my specific dementia, and the issues I might face whilst living with dementia. Then in their own time they could have chosen to listen to reliable dementia information and used any of the resources.”  

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said The Dementia Guide Audiobook is an important addition to our suite of support services and resources ensuring more people are able to access the support they need at a time that suits them. 

“Dementia Australia exists to empower people living with dementia, their families and carers to understand dementia and to manage their diagnosis on their terms,” Ms McCabe said.  

“We are committed to increasing accessibility to our services and the National Dementia Helpline, 1800 100 500, operated by Dementia Australia, is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If someone has a diagnosis of dementia, or mild cognitive impairment, or is concerned about changes to their or a loved one’s cognition, Dementia Australia is here for them.  

“There is no reason too small, no issue too big and no time too late. This is a gamechanger because no one should have to face dementia alone at any time of day or night. 

“The National Dementia Helpline and The Dementia Guide are both invaluable and much-needed resources, especially as the number of people living with dementia is expected to grow from half a million Australians today, to more than one million by 2058.” 

Ms Bendixsen said sometimes there are scenarios that don't warrant an emergency or doctor response or there are moments when we need to reach out and feel we don’t want to burden others – through the night, the early morning, or times when family is busy or unavailable.  

“I think when carers or people living with dementia find themselves in a moment of panic, or indecision, or confusion - it's so hard to know where to turn first. A dementia diagnosis can be a frightening, lonely road for many people - and this Helpline will serve as a lantern in the fog. This Helpline is an invaluable resource and for many people even just knowing it is there will mean the world,” she said. 

Dementia Australia provides support and information to all Australians, of any age, impacted by all forms of dementia, including mild cognitive impairment, in any location across Australia. Ongoing support and information is available at every stage from pre, during and post-diagnosis. This includes support for people with concerns about changes in memory and thinking. 

The National Dementia Helpline, staffed by a highly-trained team, is a free 24/7 telephone service which provides information and support to people living with dementia, people concerned about changes to memory and thinking, people living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), family, friends and carers of people living with dementia and people who work in health and aged care.  

By contacting Dementia Australia, you will have access to timely, reliable and expert information, advice and a wide range of programs to support you and your family and friends to live well with dementia. The National Dementia Helpline 24/7 service is available by phone, email or through our online chat function. Listen to and download The Dementia Guide free at

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you. 

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit  

Complaints, missing persons, assaults – contracting outside workers in aged care increases problems

Nicole SuttonUniversity of Technology Sydney and Nelson MaUniversity of Technology Sydney

Aged care homes struggling to meet staffing needs are increasingly relying on externally contracted care workers to make up shortfalls.

However, our new study, shows homes that rely more heavily on externally contracted care staff provide significantly worse quality of care.

With the government convening a national jobs and skills summit next week, much attention is focused on addressing current staff shortages across the economy. Legislation has just been passed to increase the numbers of workers in aged care homes, and our research indicates workers’ employment conditions are critical to ensuring higher quality of care is provided to senior Australians.

‘Agency’ Staff Across The Sector

Within the residential aged care sector, approximately 9% of all the registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers are external contractors. Employed by third-party labour hire agencies, these “agency” staff work across different aged care homes on a temporary basis.

This sort of employment arrangement can help homes deal with short-term fluctuations in demand and staffing shortfalls. So it’s not surprising that as shortages have become more acute, this workforce strategy has become more commonplace.

In particular, as homes have struggled to maintain sufficient staff during the COVID pandemic, the use of agency staff has increased across the sector.

As agency staff tend to work intermittently, there are concerns they lack familiarity with individual residents and their unique needs. This can be disruptive and distressing for residents and their families and undermine the continuity of their care.

Also, as agency staff frequently work across different homes, they tend to be less efficient and require more supervision. This can can increase workload pressures, stress and turnover of permanent workers.

The Relationship Between Staffing And Quality Care

Our study of 1,709 aged care homes over five years investigated the relationship between the quality of care provided by aged care homes and their reliance on agency contract care staff.

We found the use of agency staff was relatively common, with the majority of homes using agency care staff at some point.

More importantly, we found homes that rely more heavily on agency staff have worse quality of care. Specifically, they have higher rates of workforce-related complaints to the regulator, occurrences of missing residents, reportable assaults, preventable hospitalisations and instances of non-compliance with accreditation standards.

While this is the first such study in Australia, these results align with international evidence. One striking similarity is how sensitive care quality is to even tiny increments of agency staffing. We found that even if just 5% of care time is delivered by agency staff, homes deliver significantly poorer quality outcomes.

health worker helps older woman
Agency staff are less likely to be aware of residents’ individual needs and preferences. Shutterstock

But We’re In The Middle Of A Workforce Crisis

Our findings suggest one way to improve quality of care is for homes to reduce their reliance on contract care staff. This could involve efforts to improve the recruitment, retention and rostering of permanent nurses and care workers.

However, in the current context, this might be easier said than done. With the industry in the midst of a massive workforce crisis, homes may have no choice but to continue to rely on agency workers.

In such cases, homes should adopt strategies to mitigate the potential for bad outcomes. For example, they might improve residents’ continuity of care by drawing from a pool of regular agency workers and investing in better orientation and shift handover processes.

In terms of policy, much of the recent reform agenda has focused improving staffing numbers and skills in aged care, through funding for training programs, mandatory care minutes, 24/7 registered nurses and addressing workers pay.

Another of Labor’s election promises was to implement a recommendation from the Royal Commission to require aged care providers to preference direct employment over using contracted “agency” workers. This issue is now being investigated by the Productivity Commission, which will hand its report down next month.

No Quick Fixes

Simply putting limits on agency staff is unlikely to work in the current context. Imposing caps may result in homes providing less total care to residents.

Rather, the widespread use of agency across the sector reflects a need to understand and address its root causes. As will be discussed next week at the jobs summit, staffing shortages are not isolated to aged care but widespread across the economy.

Policymakers also will have to be mindful of the impact of other reforms in play. For instance, the use of contractors may well increase as providers attempt to increase staffing levels to meet incoming mandatory minimum standards, while managing the demands and disruptions of COVID outbreaks.

Despite these challenges our research highlights the importance of finding ways to sustainably curb the use of contract staff so as to deliver the quality of care all senior Australians deserve.The Conversation

Nicole Sutton, Senior Lecturer in Accounting, University of Technology Sydney and Nelson Ma, Senior Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney

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

Overseas recruitment won’t solve Australia’s aged care worker crisis

Unsplash/Georg Arthur Plueger
Hal SwerissenLa Trobe University

Next week’s job summit will need to address the massive staff shortages in aged care. Estimates suggest 35,000 additional aged care workers per year are needed to fill growing aged care skill shortages. These problems will only increase as demand continues to grow.

Aged care workers provide personal and health care such as showering, feeding and changing dressings, help people with shopping and other community tasks, and support people in their homes and in aged care facilities.

As the recent royal commission into aged care found, after decades of poor planning and governance, particularly at the local and regional level, it’s now hard to attract workers.

Workers are poorly paid, with hourly wages starting at around A$22. They often work casually or part time and there are limited career pathways.

Only around 5% of providers are currently exceeding the target staffing levels the new government has promised for 2023. Not surprisingly, there is high staff turnover in the industry and many providers simply can’t get staff.

But while skilled migration can play a role in aged care, it’s unlikely to be enough to fix the immediate or long-term problems.

What Has The Government Done To Boost Workers So Far?

The new federal government has opened up the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to bring in more aged care workers to plug the gap.

The PALM scheme allows eligible aged care providers to hire workers from nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste for between one and four years in unskilled, low skilled and semi skilled positions when there are not enough local workers available.

Currently, there are about 27,000 PALM workersin Australia. Most are in agriculture and manufacturing. The federal government is committed to growing the scheme, but at the end of 2021 there were only about 150 PALM workers in the care sector.

Migration Processing Is Lagging

The total migration program is 160,000 visas per year. About 110,000 visas are for skilled migration. The rest is for families. The federal government has recently indicated it is looking at permanent migration for aged care workers.

Following COVID, there is a massive backlog in processing applications, resulting in a substantial reduction in migration.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade handles skilled visa applications and the actual assessments are issued by one of 42 skills assessing authorities. A full skills assessment takes about four to six weeks. But it takes around six to nine months for the department to issue skills visas for permanent migration and longer for temporary migration.

The Department of Home Affairs has been directed to speed up visa processing and clear the substantial backlog that has built up during the last three years.

But Migration Numbers Are Unlikely To Meet Demand

Even if the backlog is addressed and processing times improve, it is unlikely there will be sufficient appropriately qualified applicants to meet the aged care shortages through skilled migration, given the high demand for workers across the board and the international shortage of health care workers.

There are also broader risks in relying on temporary migration to fix short-term problems. Temporary solutions have a nasty habit of becoming permanent and undermining labour market conditions. There is now a long history of temporary migration undercutting wages and workers’ rights.

So what can be done to attract and keep aged care workers?

5 Ways To Boost The Aged Care Workforce

1. Increase wages

Most importantly, wages for aged care workers must be improved immediately. The current work value case before the Fair Work Commission will help if the commission grants a substantial wage increase. The unions have called for a 25% lift to wages for aged care workers. That case should be determined later this year.

2. Improve conditions

Better wages alone won’t be enough. Conditions for aged care workers have to be made more secure. While consumer choice and flexibility are important, that can’t be at the expense of proper protections for workers. Aged care workers often have insecure and variable hours, split shifts and out-of-pocket costs.

3. Scale up training

Training and career structures have to be much more attractive. Around 30% of the workforce do not hold a relevant aged care qualification.

Despite the demand for improved training, the vocational education sector has difficulty attracting aged care students. Entry pathways to aged care work have to be made much more attractive.

While there are some traineeships for aged care, these could be scaled up. A national scaled up program of paid aged care traineeships should be considered to address the problem as an immediate extension of the federal government’s free TAFE initiative.

Certificate III in Individual Support could be completed over two years with trainees working three days a week with approved home care and residential care providers. Training and supervision could be provided in partnership with TAFEs.

Paid traineeships would be attractive – and 10,000 to 15,000 traineeships would make a significant dent in the aged care workforce shortage.

The costs of aged care employment and training are already included in federal and state aged care and VET budgets. A traineeship scheme could be implemented in 2023.

4. Develop career structures so workers can progress

In the medium term, aged care career structures have to be reformed both to improve the quality of the management, supervision and care of aged care services and to develop and retain the aged care workforce.

The new government’s initiatives to require 24/7 nursing oversight in all residential care facilities and to increase the care time to be provided are a start, but a broader emphasis on restructuring the personal care workforce is also needed. In particular, all personal care staff should be required to have appropriate training and registration to work in aged care.

5. Make it more attractive

Finally, the attractiveness of working in a reformed aged care sector needs to be promoted. A compelling vision of a high quality, well run, properly funded aged care sector with good wages and conditions and career pathways is needed to make aged care a much more desirable career choice.The Conversation

Hal Swerissen, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University

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

Former High Court judge Virginia Bell to investigate Morrison’s secret ministries

Flavio Brancaleone/AAP
Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

The government has appointed former High Court judge Virginia Bell to inquire into former Prime Minister Scott Morrison having himself secretly appointed to five ministries.

Bell will examine the facts and circumstances of what Morrison did and the implications of his actions.

She will also report in “the practices and policies which apply to ministerial appointments”, recommending procedural or legislative changes to give greater transparency and accountability.

Announcing the inquiry’s details, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicated how Bell conducted it would be basically up to her.

He expected those involved would co-operate but flagged that if they did not, the government would review the situation.

“We have every confidence that people will co-operate […] If there isn’t co-operation, then there are other matters that can be considered in the future.”

Asked about Morrison’s attendance, Albanese said it would be “extraordinary” if anyone refused to talk to a former High Court judge who was beyond reproach.

Bell will report by November 25, leaving time for parliament to deal with recommendations she makes.

During 2020-21, Morrison had himself appointed to the ministries of health; finance; industry, science, energy and resources; home affairs and treasury.

He did not tell cabinet of his multiple portfolios, and none of the appointments was publicly announced.

His moving into health was agreed to by the health minister, Greg Hunt. His appointment to resources was known to the minister concerned, Keith Pitt, whom Morrison overrode on an exploration matter, and to two Nationals leaders.

The other ministerial incursions were not known to the ministers in the portfolios. Morrison has said he did not exercise any powers in the portfolios except on the resources decision.

The solicitor-general found the appointments were legal but by keeping them secret, Morrison had breached the principle of responsible government.

“It is impossible for the Parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration of particular departments if the identity of the Ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not publicised,” the opinion said.

Asked whether the remit of the inquiry would expand as far as including the role of the governor-general, Albanese said: “The governor-general has made clear that his actions were upon the advice of the government, and that’s the focus of the inquiry. If you look at the terms of reference [… ] the governor-general has a particular place under our constitutional system.”

It will be a matter for Bell whether she seeks to question the governor-general.

The public will be able to make written submission to the inquiry, but there will not be public hearings.

Under her terms of reference, Bell will report on the implications arising from the Morrison appointments for not just the functioning of departments, but for government business enterprises and statutory bodies.

She will examine the implications for the structure of the ministry, the accountability of the executive to parliament and public confidence in government.

She will also examine the practices and processes applying to the appointment of ministers under section 64 of the constitution and directions that ministers hold certain offices under section 65, including the disclosure of appointments and directions.

Bell was appointed to the High Court in 2009 and retired in 2021.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Preparing Multicultural Communities For NSW Plastics Ban

August 24, 2022
Support and education has been delivered to more than 23,000 businesses and retailers around the state ahead of the upcoming 1 November single use plastic bans in NSW, with information delivered in 15 different languages.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said to ensure small businesses are primed for more changes this year, the NSW Government engaged the National Retail Association (NRA) to deliver a massive retailer education campaign.

“Single-use plastic is an environmental disaster, which is why we’re banning some of the most problematic plastics such as bags and straws in NSW,” Mr Griffin said.

“Single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 per cent of all litter in NSW, and the bans will prevent almost 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from entering the environment in NSW over the next 20 years.

“These bans require businesses, many of which are in hospitality and retail, to change their supply chains, and I’m pleased to see so many have already moved away from plastic items well before the additional bans come into place in November.

“These single-use plastic bans are just the beginning of a major move away from plastic in NSW, and we’re making sure businesses have the information they need to stop using plastics and start using environmentally friendly options.”

From November, the NSW Government is banning single-use items including:
  • plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and cotton buds
  • food ware and cups made from expanded polystyrene
  • rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.
This comes after lightweight single-use plastic bags were banned in NSW from 1 June.

On behalf of the NSW Government, the NRA has already delivered support about the single-use plastic bans to more than half of the 40,000 target businesses, and visited more than 560 retail precincts of the 650 target around the state since February.

Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the NSW Government is ensuring everyone, especially small business owners in diverse communities, are ready when the change comes into effect.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy, and we want to ensure everyone knows what they need to do so they are set up for success,” Mr Coure said.

“We also know that many business owners in diverse areas play an integral role in helping inform their broader community about what is happening and what actions they need to take.

“That’s why we’re assisting business owners with in-language services about the single-use plastic bans in 15 different languages, so they know what to do and can also support their communities through this important change.”

Of the 15 languages materials will be available in, include Arabic, Mandarin and Punjabi.

The NRA has launched a free hotline (1800 844 946) to offer businesses and community organisations advice on the single-use plastic bans.

Mental Health Resources Become Accessible For Diverse Communities In NSW

August 24, 2022
A range of new resources has been launched today as part of a trial program to provide better mental health support to people from diverse communities.

The digital mindfulness resources, which have been developed after identifying a need within Arabic, Bangla, Mandarin, Nepali, Greek and Spanish speaking communities, aim to help people improve their wellbeing and reduce psychological distress through six mindfulness exercises. 

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the new resources will make a real difference to the lives of people from these communities.

“COVID has had a significant impact on the mental health of many people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, due to feeling less safe, disruptions in social support activities, challenges in finding work, and other impacts on daily life,” Mrs Taylor said.

“Studies have shown that programs based in mindfulness are effective in reducing depression, anxiety and stress, and improve overall general wellbeing. These resources have been adapted from mindfulness programs that have been found to produce significant improvements in mental health and reductions in psychological distress.

“Mindfulness can be practised by anyone from any faith irrespective of their cultural or spiritual beliefs.”

Arabic and Bangla were the first two languages the resources were developed in, and represented the first time nationally or internationally there has been a translation of an evidence-based mindfulness program into these languages.

Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the programs help speak directly to people in their language.

“Just like we need to be treating mental health as part of our holistic health and wellbeing, so too do we need to ensure everyone across NSW can access the help they need no matter their cultural background or language,” Mr Coure said.

“This trial program reflects the ongoing commitment of the NSW Government to ensure no one is left behind in our rich multicultural society.

“While the resources are in-language, they are also developed with awareness of these communities’ respective cultures to ensure they are speaking directly to people in a way they will understand and can relate to.

“The programs are free and can be accessed without a referral, so I encourage anyone from these communities needing support with their mental wellbeing to look to these resources for help.”

Director of the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service and Priority Populations in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Lisa Woodland, said the resources were co-developed by bilingual health professionals, accredited translators and community members, to ensure the integrity of the evidence-based program and cultural acceptability.

“The multicultural mindfulness resources are now available online for community members, community organisations, bilingual mental health professionals and community workers,” Ms Woodland said. 

NSW Government Builds On Housing Taskforce Response

August 25, 2022
The NSW Government will accept all 15 recommendations put forward by the Regional Housing Taskforce to help deliver improved housing supply and affordability in regional NSW.

The comprehensive suite of measures includes more homes for key workers, accelerating development assessments, and identifying options to use Government land for more social and affordable housing.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the acceptance of all 15 recommendations, as well as investing $2.8 billion in housing as part of the NSW Budget, demonstrates the State Government’s commitment to addressing housing challenges.

"We are getting on with the job of easing housing pressures in the regions, both now and for the future," Mr Toole said.

"We've listened to the recommendations of the Regional Housing Taskforce and put together a comprehensive, multi-pronged plan to unlock land and drive the supply of new and affordable homes. 

“It builds on the investment we’ve made through the NSW Budget to improve housing supply and ensure locals and key workers moving to the regions have a place to call home."

Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts said regional councils will benefit from a share of $12 million to help them plan for housing that is affordable, diverse, and resilient to natural hazards.

“The councils can apply for up to $250,000 each through the Regional Housing Strategic Planning Fund, to help them undertake the up-front planning work needed to speed up housing delivery,” Mr Roberts said.

“The grants will help councils deliver strategic plans, housing policies and technical studies that pave the way for new homes needed to support growing communities.

“Our initial $30 million Regional Housing Fund is already helping 21 regional councils in high-growth areas deliver 25 new projects to provide services, open space and connections to fast-track a pipeline of new homes.”

The Government’s response also includes:
  • Delivering around 270 more homes for key frontline workers in the regions;
  • Expanding the Urban Development Program to more high-growth regional areas, to improve infrastructure coordination and delivery;
  • Improving data by auditing residential land, identifying infrastructure gaps and environmental constraints, to establish a clearer housing supply pipeline;
  • Identifying opportunities to use suitable Crown land for social and affordable housing development;
  • Working with local government to improve assessment timeframes for new housing through the Faster Local Assessment Grant program;
  • Investigating the introduction of standardised planning pathways for certain types of temporary accommodation, to address spikes in housing demand; and
  • Preparing Regional Housing Delivery Plans in targeted economic areas.
Councils have until 30 September 2022 to submit their applications for the Regional Housing Strategic Planning Fund.

Ocean Cooling Over Millennia Led To Larger Fish

August 23, 2022
Earth's geological history is characterized by many dynamic climate shifts that are often associated with large changes in temperature. These environmental shifts can lead to trait changes, such as body size, that can be directly observed using the fossil record.

To investigate whether temperature shifts that occurred before direct measurements were recorded, called paleoclimatology, are correlated with body size changes, several members of the University of Oklahoma's Fish Evolution Lab decided to test their hypothesis using tetraodontiform fishes as a model group. Tetradontiform fishes are primarily tropical marine fishes, and include pufferfish, boxfishes and filefish, among others.

The study was led by Dahiana Arcila, assistant professor of biology and assistant curator at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, with Ricardo Betancur, assistant professor of biology, along with biology graduate student Emily Troyer, and involved collaborators from the Smithsonian Institution, University of Chicago, and George Washington University in the United States, as well as University of Turin in Italy, University of Lyon in France, and CSIRO Australia.

The researchers discovered that the body sizes of these fishes have grown larger over the past hundred million years in conjunction with the gradual cooling of ocean temperatures.

Fig 2 showing the evolution of tetraodontiform body size over time.

Their finding adheres to two well-known rules of evolutionary trends, Cope's rule which states that organismal body sizes tend to increase over evolutionary time, and Bergmann's rule which states that species reach larger sizes in cooler environments and smaller sizes in warmer environments. What was less understood, however, was how these rules relate to ectotherms, organisms that can't regulate their internal body temperatures and are dependent on their external or environmental climates.

"Cope's and Bergmann's rules are fairly well-supported for endotherms, or warm-blooded species, such as birds and mammals," Troyer said. "However, among ectothermic species, especially vertebrates, these rules tend to have mixed findings."

A challenge of studying ancient fish is that there are very few fossil records. To supplement that missing information, the researchers combined genomic data of living fish with fossil data.

"When you look across different groups in the tree of life, then you will notice that there are a limited number of groups that actually have a good fossil record, but the larger marine fish group (known as Tetraodontiformes)that includes the popular pufferfish, ocean sunfish and boxfish, is remarkable in that it has a spectacular paleontological record," Arcila said. "So, by integrating those two fields, genomics and paleontology, then we're actually able to bring into the picture new results that you won't be able to obtain using just one data type."

The genomic and fossil data was then combined with data on ocean temperatures, that demonstrated that the gradual climate cooling over the past 100 million years is associated with increased body size of tetraodontiform fishes.

"Based on fossil data, we're showing that these fish started very small, but you can see that living species are much larger, and those changes are associated with the cooling temperature of the ocean over this very long period of time," Arcila said.

While the evolution of tetraodontiform fishes appears to conform to Cope's and Bergmann's hypotheses, the authors add a caveat that many more factors could play a role in fish body size evolution.

"It's really exciting to see support for these two biological rules in Tetraodontiformes, as these trends are less studied among marine fishes compared with terrestrial species," Troyer said. "Undoubtedly we will discover more about their body size evolution in the future."

Emily M. Troyer, Ricardo Betancur-R, Lily C. Hughes, Mark Westneat, Giorgio Carnevale, William T. White, John J. Pogonoski, James C. Tyler, Carole C. Baldwin, Guillermo Ortí, Andrew Brinkworth, Julien Clavel, Dahiana Arcila. The impact of paleoclimatic changes on body size evolution in marine fishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022; 119 (29) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2122486119

New Curtin Institute To Tackle The Transition To Sustainable Energy

August 23, 2022
The Curtin Institute for Energy Transition, led by inaugural Director Professor Claus Otto, brings together experts from a wide array of schools and faculties to conduct multi-disciplinary research and outreach activities to support the energy transition and embrace sources such as wind, solar, ocean, geothermal and bioenergy.

Professor Otto said transitioning towards clean and sustainable energy is one of humanity’s greatest challenges and the new Institute is committed to supporting this change to ensure a better, more sustainable future for all.

“Becoming sustainable requires more than replacing combustion engines with batteries. It means living together differently, and our role is to figure out what this different reality looks like, and to help create it,” Professor Otto said.

“To ensure the transition to sustainable energy remains at the forefront, we need to generate new questions and answers to challenge what we think we know about sustainable energy. Our team at the Curtin Institute for Energy Transition is committed to finding innovative solutions to tackle this problem through research, teaching and community outreach.”

Professor Otto said the Institute will not only provide a shared platform for research, learning and teaching, but it will also challenge and educate future energy leaders who are trying to make breakthroughs in this space.

“Conducting research is important, but we also need to train future leaders and educate the community about their role in the energy transition,” Professor Otto said.

“With the goal of empowering people to be part of the new energy future and a new way of living, the Institute brings together artists and writers, biologists and geologists, engineers and physicists, and philosophers and social scientists – to learn from each other and look at energy in a new way.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran said Curtin is a leader in sustainability and energy research and this new Institute will strengthen the University’s commitment to achieving a sustainable future for all.

“This Institute will help to promote sustainability and support Australia’s energy transition, while also supporting the growth of innovative SMEs and supply chains,” Professor Moran said.

“The team at the Curtin Institute for Energy Transition will work with researchers across different disciplines to generate creative ideas, solutions and insights that support energy transition, while also connecting with industry, government, and the local community.”

The Institute is hosted by WASM: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering at Curtin University.

Further information on the Curtin Institute for Energy Transition can be found online here.

Comet Impacts Formed Continents When Solar System Entered Arms Of Milky Way

August 24, 2022
New Curtin research has found evidence that Earth's early continents resulted from being hit by comets as our Solar System passed into and out of the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy, turning traditional thinking about our planet's formation on its head.

The new research, published in Geology, challenges the existing theory that Earth's crust was solely formed by processes inside our planet, casting a new light on the formative history of Earth and our place in the cosmos.

Lead researcher Professor Chris Kirkland, from the Timescales of Mineral Systems Group within Curtin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said studying minerals in the Earth's crust revealed a rhythm of crust production every 200 million years or so that matched our Solar System's transit through areas of the galaxy with a higher density of stars.

"The Solar System orbits around the Milky Way, passing between the spiral arms of the galaxy approximately every 200 million years," Professor Kirkland said.

"From looking at the age and isotopic signature of minerals from both the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia and North Atlantic Craton in Greenland, we see a similar rhythm of crust production, which coincides with periods during which the Solar System journeyed through areas of the galaxy most heavily populated by stars."

"When passing through regions of higher star density, comets would have been dislodged from the most distant reaches of the Solar System, some of which impacted Earth.

"Increased comet impact on Earth would have led to greater melting of the Earth's surface to produce the buoyant nuclei of the early continents."

Professor Kirkland said the findings challenged the existing theory that crust production was entirely related to processes internal to the Earth.

"Our study reveals an exciting link between geological processes on Earth and the movement of the Solar System in our galaxy," Professor Kirkland said.

"Linking the formation of continents, the landmasses on which we all live and where we find the majority of our mineral resources, to the passage of the Solar System through the Milky Way casts a whole new light on the formative history of our planet and its place in the cosmos."

Professor Kirkland is affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), Curtin's flagship Earth Sciences research institute.

Also contributing to the study were researchers from the University of Lincoln, the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division within NASA's Johnson Space Center and the Geological Survey of Western Australia.

C.L. Kirkland, P.J. Sutton, T. Erickson, T.E. Johnson, M.I.H. Hartnady, H. Smithies, M. Prause. Did transit through the galactic spiral arms seed crust production on the early Earth? Geology, 2022; DOI: 10.1130/G50513.1

Safeguarding Against 'Shadow Government' Appointments And Strengthening Australia's Democracy

August 23, 2022: Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon. Anthony Albanese
Yesterday, I received the Solicitor-General’s opinion in the matter of the validity of the appointment of Mr Morrison to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (SG No.12 of 2022).

Given the highly extraordinary circumstances, I have today decided to release that Opinion, and I have instructed the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to publicly release it on the department’s website at

In summary, the Solicitor-General has concluded that Mr Morrison was validly appointed to administer that department under the Constitution.

However, the Solicitor-General has also said that the fact that the Parliament, the public and other ministers were not informed about this appointment, was inconsistent with the conventions and practices of responsible government which are critical to our constitutional democracy.

The Solicitor-General’s conclusions are relevant to the circumstances of Mr Morrison’s appointments to administer four other portfolios during 2020 and 2021, which followed the same process.

Importantly, the Solicitor-General considers that the existing practices by which appointments such as this are notified to the Parliament and the public are deficient.

I agree.

He has proposed various mechanisms by which those practices could be improved.

I have directed the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to work with the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General to adopt a practice of publishing in the Commonwealth Gazette future appointments of ministers to administer departments.

I will also give consideration to whether any further immediate changes are required.

Cabinet has agreed there will be an inquiry into these events and will now consider what form that inquiry will take.

My government is seeking to restore the Australian public’s faith in our institutions and put an end to the culture of secrecy.

Our democracy is precious and we are committed to strengthening it.

Solicitor-General Opinion - In the matter of the validity of the appointment of Mr Morrison to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
Solicitor-General’s opinion
23 August 2022

On 22 August 2022, the Prime Minister received the Solicitor-General’s opinion (SG No 12 of 2022) – In the matter of the validity of the appointment of Mr Morrison to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources PDF 945KB.

Morrison’s multiple ministries legal but flouted principle of ‘responsible government’: solicitor-general

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

Scott Morrison’s action in having himself appointed secretly to multiple ministries was legal but breached “the principle of responsible government”, according to advice from the Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue.

Releasing the advice, Anthony Albanese announced the government would set up an inquiry, under an “eminent person with a legal background”, into the former prime minister’s actions.

Albanese said questions that needed examining included: “Why this occurred? How this occurred? Who knew about it occurring? What the implications are for our parliamentary system? Are there any legal implications behind decisions that were made? How can we avoid this happening again?”

Over 2020-21 Morrison had himself appointed to the ministries of health; finance; industry, science, energy and resources; home affairs and treasury. The appointments were not announced, Morrison did not tell cabinet and some of the ministers directly affected did not know.

The advice focused on the resources department, where Morrison overrode the decision of the minister on a gas exploration project, but the findings applied to the departments generally.

The solicitor-general said the constitution’s section 64 empowered the governor-general to appoint multiple ministers to administer a single department.

But under responsible government, outlined in chapter II of the constitution, the executive was responsible to parliament and, through it, to the electorate.

“It is impossible for the Parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration of particular departments if the identity of the Ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not publicised.”

Morrison’s multiple appointments were not announced and “there was no way the public could discern [them] from the Ministry list, or anywhere else.”

“The capacity of the public and the Parliament to ascertain which Ministers have been appointed to administer which departments is critical to the proper functioning of responsible government, because it is those appointments, when read together with the [administrative arrangements order], that determine the matters for which a Minister is legally and politically responsible.”

“To the extent that the public and the Parliament are not informed of appointments that have been made under s 64 of the Constitution, the principles of responsible government are fundamentally undermined.”

“Neither the people nor the Parliament can hold a Minister accountable for the exercise (or, just as importantly, for the non-exercise) of particular statutory powers if they are not aware that the Minister has those powers.”

“Nor can they hold the correct Ministers accountable for any other actions, or inactions, of departments.”

Morrison’s name did not appear in the ministry list in October 2021 in relation to any of the five departments he had been appointed to administer, the advice noted.

The solicitor-general said the undermining of responsible government did not depend on the extent to which Morrison exercised power.

Canvassing a number of ways the government could remedy the situation, including having all details put in ministry lists, the solicitor-general observed such measures would not bind future governments.

“For that reason, the Government might choose to entrench a requirement for the publication of appointments under s 64 of the Constitution by creating a statutory requirement for the publication of appointments”.

Albanese said he had told his department to work with the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General to adopt a practice of publishing in the Commonwealth Gazette future appointments of ministers to administer departments. The government will also consider legislation to ensure such appointments are made public.

Governor-General David Hurley has come under public criticism for apparently not questioning the strange arrangement Morrison was making.

The solicitor-general noted, “The governor-general has no discretion to refuse to accept the prime minister’s advice in relation to such an appointment.”

Hurley himself has said he had no reason not to think the government would make the appointments public.

Albanese made it clear he would not criticise Hurley.

Asked whether Morrison should resign from parliament, Albanese said that is “a matter for Mr Morrison and his colleagues”.

“Quite clearly, I think Mr Morrison’s behaviour was extraordinary. It undermined our parliamentary democracy and he does need to be held accountable for it.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Mysterious marks on boomerangs reveal a ‘forgotten’ use of this iconic Aboriginal multi-tool

Yinika L. PerstonAuthor provided
Eva Francesca MartellottaGriffith UniversityMichelle LangleyGriffith University, and Paul CraftIndigenous Knowledge

Alongside kangaroos and Akubra hats, boomerangs are one of the most iconic symbols of the Australian continent. They are also widely misrepresented.

Apart from hunting and fighting, boomerangs have many functions in the daily activities of Aboriginal communities, including digging, cutting, and making music.

These multiple functions are something Aboriginal people have always known, but the rest of the world has been none the wiser – until now.

In a recently published study in the journal PLOS One, we have “rediscovered” a function of boomerangs in Australian Aboriginal culture – shaping stone tools.

A Child’s Toy For A Tourist

Made from hardwoods, boomerangs are usually shown to return to your hand when thrown into the distance. This common depiction of the boomerang isn’t always true, however.

There is actually a variety of boomerang types, with the returning ones typically being children’s toys used for games and learning. (And, after European incursion, for selling to tourists.)

Most boomerangs are significantly larger than a child’s symmetrical, returning item – this increased size is required for their function as hunting and fighting weapons. But there’s an array of other functions, not all of them widely described in the literature.

We meshed Indigenous knowledge and experimental archaeology to produce scientific proof of a previously unrecognised (to science) use of these iconic objects: the manufacture of stone tools.

Two brown, slightly curved 'sticks' on a white surface, one decorated with an Indigenous art style
Two traditional style boomerangs. Manufactured by Paul Craft. Photo by Eva F. MartellottaAuthor provided

Nothing ‘Primitive’ About Working Stone

When we think about stone tools, we associate them with “primitive” technology. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Manufacturing stone tools requires an advanced understanding of fracture mechanics, extensive planning, and years of hands-on practice to produce even the most basic of tools.

Not unlike the contents of today’s kitchen drawers and garden sheds, human groups living in the deep past had access to an assortment of tools for all sorts of everyday activities.

The ability to carefully modify the edge of stone tools was crucial not only to produce the variety of utensils designed, but to resharpen them when they blunted. In modern terms, we can think about butcher knives and bread knives: their blades have different shapes – one straight, the other serrated – each used to effectively cut different materials.

Archaeologists call the careful shaping of a tool edge “retouching” – repeatedly touching (or working) the stone edge until it reaches the shape we want.

Yinika L. Perston using a boomerang to shape a stone flake. Griffith University.

Wood Shapes Stone

For Australia, there is very little published evidence surrounding the retouching techniques used by various peoples across the continent. A deep dive into early European accounts of Aboriginal technologies suggested wooden tools – especially boomerangs – were used to shape their stone technology.

If true, this would be a retouching approach thus far unknown elsewhere in the world.

To investigate this idea, we designed an experiment to discover if boomerangs really could shape stone tools. Most archaeologists would have thought wooden items would not be suitable for such a tough task.

Expert hands infused with Aboriginal knowledge manufactured four hardwood boomerangs to be used in the experiment. These weapons were then put to repeatedly striking stone tool edges. During this process, small, thin pieces of stone detached from the edge – perfectly shaping the stone tool.

A person sitting on the ground working a stone tool with a boomerang, and close-up images of the marks the process created
Boomerangs and stone tools used during the retouching experiment. PLOS OneAuthor provided

The impact of the sharp stone edge against the boomerang’s wooden surface left microscopic marks on the latter. Such marks are not new in archaeology. They have previously been found on bone fragments recovered from prehistoric archaeological sites in Europe dating back as far as roughly 500,000 years ago.

To document these marks, we used a powerful high-definition microscope to get a closer look. A great number of micro-flakes were found to have got stuck within the retouching marks – another trait in common with the bone tools from Europe.

These experimental results allowed us to identify distinctive marks on boomerangs curated by The Australian Museum in Sydney, some of them collected as far back as 1890.

Preserving A Diverse And Rich Past

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across the country made and used hundreds of multifunctional utensils. Among these, the throwing stick known as “boomerang” sits high on the list.

Our work aims to join Indigenous knowledge and Western-based scientific investigation to explore Australia’s diverse and rich past. Sadly, with the passing of Elders, oral histories and ancient knowledge bases are being threatened.

Various grey and brown scratch marks in close up visible on a red surface, a set of six images
Microscopic fragments of stone embedded in the use marks produced on the boomerangs’ surface during the retouching experiment. PLOS OneAuthor provided

As communities join with archaeologists in examining artefacts, art, stories, songs, dances, languages, we can learn more about the past and the present. This process is empowering – discovering more about our past and our origins can only strengthen identity.

We are grateful to the Milan Dhiiyaan mob for sharing their Traditional knowledge and supplying bubarra/garrbaa/biyarr (boomerangs) representative of the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Wailwaan and Yuin people.

The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of study co-authors Dr Jayne Wilkins and Yinika L. Perston – who is also seen in the video using the boomerang to retouch the stone tools.The Conversation

Eva Francesca Martellotta, PhD candidate in Archaeology and Human Evolution, Griffith UniversityMichelle Langley, Senior Research Fellow, Griffith University, and Paul Craft, Owner Operator, Burragun Aboriginal Cultural Services, Indigenous Knowledge

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

Murdoch v Crikey highlights how Australia’s defamation laws protect the rich and powerful

Lachlan Murdoch, far left, with his father Rupert and brother James in 2014. Dan Steinberg/AP/AAP
Denis MullerThe University of Melbourne

There is no better example of how Australia’s defamation laws enable the rich and powerful to intimidate their critics than Lachlan Murdoch suing over a comment piece concerning Fox News, Donald Trump and the Washington insurrection of January 6 2021.

Crikey says it has published the correspondence between its lawyers and Murdoch’s in order to show how media power is abused in Australia.

The correspondence begins with a “concerns notice” Murdoch sent to Crikey, which is the essential first step in launching an action for defamation. In it, Murdoch claims that the Crikey commentary by Bernard Keane, published on June 29 2022, conveyed 14 meanings that were defamatory of Murdoch.

Murdoch’s Allegation And Crikey’s Defence

According to Murdoch’s claims, Keane’s piece alleges that Lachlan Murdoch illegally conspired with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 US presidential election result and incite an armed mob to march on the Capitol to prevent the result from being confirmed.

Crikey has responded by disputing that these meanings are conveyed, saying they are “contrived and do not arise”. Crikey also argues that whatever it published could not possibly have done serious harm to Lachlan Murdoch’s reputation.

In order to get an action for defamation off the ground, Murdoch, the plaintiff in this case, has to satisfy the court that serious reputational harm has been done. The court may well decide this is the case.

Crikey says that given what much bigger media companies such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the ABC (American Broadcasting Company) have already published about Murdoch’s Fox News and its propagation of the “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen, what Crikey has published cannot further harm Murdoch’s reputation.

US Vs Australian Defamation Protections

This brings us to the first way Australia’s defamation laws facilitate intimidatory action by the rich and powerful.

Since those two big American newspapers have published similar material to that published by Crikey, the question naturally arises: why has Lachlan Murdoch not sued them? The answer is that in the United States, there is a “public figure” defence to defamation.

In the US, Lachlan Murdoch would easily qualify as a public figure, being executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation. If he sued there, he would have to prove malice on the part of the newspapers. That means he would have to prove that the newspapers lied or were recklessly indifferent to the truth.

No such defence is available to the media in Australia, despite decades of intermittent campaigning by the media that it is needed. The reasons these efforts have gone nowhere are twofold.

Murdoch claims that Crikey’s piece alleges that he illegally conspired with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 US presidential election. AAP

First, Australian politicians are among the most avid users of defamation laws, and it would be unrealistic to expect they would change this convenient state of affairs. This has been illustrated recently by the successful defamation action taken by the former deputy premier of NSW, John Barilaro, against an online satirist, Jordan Shanks, aka friendlyjordies.

Second, the tradition of accountability in public life is weak in Australia and the tradition of secrecy is strong, as vividly demonstrated by Scott Morrison’s behaviour in the affair of the multiple portfolios.

Another major factor in the chilling effect that the Australian defamation laws exert on the media is the extravagant damages the courts have awarded to plaintiffs that sue media companies, as well as the high cost of litigation. This has caused large media companies to settle cases even when they had an arguable prospect of defending themselves.

A recent example was when the biography of the AFL player Eddie Betts was published, confirming what had happened at the now notorious training camp held by the Adelaide Crows in 2018. At the camp, Betts alleged he was targeted, abused and the camp “misused personal and sensitive information.”

However, when The Age broke the story initially, it was sued by the company that ran the camp. The newspaper issued an apology, although it did not admit the story was wrong.

The Age said its parent company, Nine Entertainment, had made a “business decision” to settle the case. In other words, it did not want to risk the costs and damages involved in contesting the suit.

Liabilities For Online Publication

A third main factor is the failure of the Morrison administration to bring to finality stage two of the defamation law reforms, which concern the liabilities and defences for online publication.

Currently, anyone who publishes a website or a blog is liable for the comments made there by third parties. Continuously moderating comment streams for potentially defamatory material is onerous and expensive at a time when media organisations have far fewer resources than they did in the pre-digital age.

Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising that Lachlan Murdoch feels he can use his immense wealth and power to intimidate and silence a relatively small outfit like Behind him stand corporations with a market capitalisation of billions. Crikey says its company, Private Media, is valued at less than $20 million.

Murdoch’s Demands

Murdoch wants Crikey to take down the story and issue an apology. In pursuit of his case, he has filed suit in the Federal Court.

In defiance of Murdoch’s claim, Crikey has published his 2014 oration at the State Library of Victoria named in honour of his grandfather, Sir Keith Murdoch, as part of its publishing of the legal correspondence:

Censorship should be resisted in all its insidious forms. We should be vigilant of the gradual erosion of our freedom to know, to be informed and make reasoned decisions in our society and in our democracy. We must all take notice and, like Sir Keith, have the courage to act when those freedoms are threatened.

Quite.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne

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

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.