Inbox and Environment News: Issue 615

February 25 - March 2, 2024: Issue 615

Seabirds - Cockatoos Continue To Be Impaled With Discarded Fish Hooks

Narrabeen to Palm Beach residents have reported continued incidences of seabirds and birds, such as cockatoos that feed on Norfolk pine seeds, being impaled with fish hooks through the beak and tongue.

Discarded fishing equipment such as line, rope, nets, hooks and buoys can be fatal for our marine wildlife. Sea birds and marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, sea lions and even whales can all be seriously injured or die if they become entangled.

Nearly 60% of fishing gear victims admitted to the Wildlife Carers  and Vets have died or were euthanised as a result of their injuries.

While this statistic is discouraging, it’s important that animals injured by fishing line receive appropriate medical assessment and treatment. If you see an animal who is tangled in fishing line, or if you know a wild animal has swallowed a hook, contact a permitted wildlife rescuer or veterinarian for advice.

If you do see fishing hooks and lines left behind, please pick it up and get rid of it in a way that won't impact on local wildlife or local human youngsters who like dancing around on the seashore and lagoons edges. 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Long Billed Corella mates - cleaning each other's scalps, Careel Bay, May 24, 2022. Photo: A J Guesdon

Leaving Fishing Gear on the shore

Residents continue to call for help to catch local seabirds and estuary birds impaled with fishing hooks or tangled up in fishing line. Despite the launch of Rig Recycle last year, visitors, and/or residents, are still leaving hooks and line where these species live. 

Another killer of local aquatic species are the bait bags discarded in the environment after use. 

Rig Recycle was developed and trialled as part of Tangaroa Blue Foundation's ReefClean program, removing and preventing marine debris and litter impacting the Great Barrier Reef. 

The aim is to divert specified recreational fishing items and packaging accessories from becoming litter in the environment or being disposed of in landfill by changing the recycling behaviours of consumers and retailers.

The Rig Recycle program is an Australian-first program that collects selected recreational fishing and packaging items and diverts them from landfill through an innovative repair, reuse and recycle framework. The project connects recreational fishers, community clean-up participants, recreational fishing retailers and suppliers, social enterprises and community partners in a holistic and truly circular program that fills a current recycling gap. 

The NSW launch took place as part of the Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival at Bondi, March 15-19, 2023 with Heidi Tait from Tangaroa Blue Foundation taking part in the Ocean Plastic Action Forum on March 15, speaking about the initiative and the work of the Foundation. The Ocean Plastic Action Forum was a one-day special event filled with interactive panel discussions providing valuable insights into the impact of ocean plastic pollution, delving into the science and issues surrounding ocean plastic, exploring current innovation and reviewing future solutions to purge plastic from our ocean.

CEO, Heidi Tait travelled to Bondi to take part in panel discussions at the Ocean Plastic Action Forum. Along with other industry professionals, they discussed the current state of plastics in our oceans and what is currently being done to reduce the impact on our oceans.

This was also a great opportunity to showcase the Rig Recycle bins that are currently rolling out across NSW as part of a NSW Recreational Fishing Trust grant. Heidi is pictured here with Anita and Brad with thanks to them and the organising team for supporting the NSW launch. This is the first version of the Rig Recycle bin - new improved one below. Photo: RigRecycle

How does it work?

  1. Take your recreational fishing items to a Rig Recycle bin near you
  2. The items get collected, audited and entered into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database
  3. The items are either repaired for reuse or recycled

What can you put in the bin?

  • Fishing line
  • Plastic line spools (that you buy your line on)
  • Handline spools
  • Hooks - preferably in good condition (not rusty)
  • Sinkers - lead or other, in any condition
  • Swivels - preferably in good condition (not rusty)
  • Lures
  • Floats

What can't go in the bin?

  • Bait packaging, or any other smelly item
  • Soft plastic packaging, recyclability is variable
  • Soft plastic disposable body/tail
  • Rods and reels
  • Life jackets
  • Flares. These should be disposed of appropriately - see your State or Territory guidelines

You can also download the Recycle Mate app, put in your location and the item and it’ll tell you where to recycle it!

Council Open Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance

On Tuesday afternoon, February 20 2024, at 3:20 pm Council announced it was opening Narrabeen lagoon entrance prior to anticipated rainfall expected over the following days.
Residents had been sending in photos of the lagoon waters breaching their perimeters and flooding adjacent fields in the hours prior to this. 

Narrabeen lagoon at 11:24 am Feb 20, 2024. photo supplied

Narrabeen Lagoon at 7.20pm, Feb 20, 2024. photo supplied

Council stated the works would take 1-2 hours. 

These works were commenced immediately, although, as can be seen via the second image above, waters took some time to recede.

Narrabeen's Wakehurst Parkway, which had been closed at 1.00pm the same day due to flooding and remained closed for hours, and the creeks that fill the Narrabeen Catchment and Warriewood valley, were also adding to the volume of water running into a closed lagoon.

The volume of water can be seen in the below screenshot of just one of the creeks that flows into the lagoon.

screenshot from video by Michael Gleeson, posted at midday on Tuesday February 20, 2024, Mr. Gleeson stated; 'Our creek in Elanora going off and over a cliff into Deep Creek. Coming at you Narrabeen.'

On Friday February 16 more flooding on Wakehurst Parkway at Oxford Falls Road also limited residents access along this road.
The BOM rainfall table (5/02/2024 to 21/02/2024) - shows significant falls in the surrounding areas and those that have creeks that run into Narrabeen Lagoon.

Station name:

This Wakehurst Parkway alert, posted by Northern Beaches Police Area Command on Thursday Feb. 22, 2024, further underlines the amount of water that mpoved through the Narrabeen Lagoon catchment on February 20, 2024:

Council's works have opened a wide channel from the lagoon to the ocean, making for clean waters and a good flow from and to the lagoon.

Photos: Narrabeen Lagoon Open again - photos by Kevin Murray, taken on a sunny Thursday February 22, 2024:

Council's Update: Thursday, 15 February 2024

In August 2022 the elected Council, following extensive community consultation, approved a comprehensive entrance management strategy for Narrabeen Lagoon which included more frequent sand excavations to reduce the risk of flooding. 

In keeping with this strategy, last year 25,000 cubic metres (around 45,000-50,000 tonnes) of sand was extracted from the lagoon entrance ahead of the busy summer swimming season. 

Despite these significant works, the entrance closed in early February when a four-metre swell washed sand into the entrance, compounded by a high degree of clockwise beach rotation in the Collaroy Narrabeen embayment. 

Beach rotation relates to the width of sand on the beach near the entrance, and North Narrabeen Beach is currently the widest it has been in decades due to large volumes of sand moving northwards up the beach. With sand moving northward, natural closure of the entrance is accelerated and difficult to prevent, especially when the wave and tidal conditions are right. 

Although the entrance has closed, the flood risk to the low‐lying area surrounding Narrabeen Lagoon remains lower than usual as a result of the recent clearance works. 

The works intentionally dredged a higher volume of sand from the west of the Ocean St bridge compared to past clearances in accordance with expert advice. While the area closer to the beach fills up with sand from the ocean, the deeper area to the west will allow for faster flow of water out of the lagoon should heavy rainfall raise the water level to allow an emergency opening at the entrance, thus reducing the risk of flooding. 

Once reopened, the works will also significantly increase the chance of the lagoon remaining open for a longer period. 

Council’s coast and flood engineers will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, lagoon water levels and the state of the entrance and be ready to open it mechanically when lagoon water levels rise and weather, tide and swell conditions allow for a successful opening. 


From Issue 613: Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Blocked Again

Narrabeen lagoon entrance is blocked again, after recent storm swells, and Council spending $1.5. million on moving the sand south to Collaroy for weeks.

Council announced on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 work to clear Narrabeen Lagoon entrance to reduce the risk of flooding to local homes and businesses.

''Council contractors will excavate more than 20,000 cubic metres (40,000 tonnes) of sand – equivalent to the weight of 100 jumbo jets – to the east and west of Ocean Street Bridge.'' it was stated

The sand is to be deposited at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach between Goodwin and Stuart Streets.

Works were expected to start in the coming weeks, although the above photo shows they were commenced immediately, and were completed in time for the Summer school holidays, which commenced on December 19 2023. This means the lagoon entrance was open for around 6.5 weeks prior to the big seas which moved so much sand over the past few days of weather conditions as the tail end of Cyclone Kirrily moved south.

After impacting Queensland, ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily crossed the border into western NSW on Monday afternoon, February 5, bringing heavy rainfall and flash flooding to inland communities, before reaching Sydney early the next day bringing 21mm of rain and localised flash flooding, along with strong winds.

This had preceded by swell set to peak at 4 to 4.5 metres in Sydney over the weekend of February 3-4.

West Head Lookout Works Completed

On Saturday February 17 2024 National Parks and Wildlife NSW quietly announced via a Facebook post the completion of works at West Head.

The post, with photos, stated:

West Head lookout in Kuring-Gai Chase National Park has recently reopened after significant upgrades offering some of Sydney’s most panoramic views, now safer for all.
Repairs to the site have prioritised visitor safety while preserving the original design features, reusing original sandstone and timber to conserve resources.

The iconic lookout offers incredible views over Pittwater towards Barrenjoey Head and across Broken Bay, stretching as far as the Central Coast. Visit the site and take in the magnificent vistas and sounds of waves crashing below, head to nearby Resolute picnic area for lunch or take a stroll along the Aboriginal Heritage walk.

An engineering inspection was completed as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service's Asset Management Program. This inspection revealed concerns about the structural stability of the lookout. Further investigation was undertaken, and advice was provided, which led to the installation of temporary fencing in May 2021.

In 2022, the National Parks and Wildlife Service prepared designs to address safety and structural issues. The designs, NPWS stated, considered concerns from stakeholders about protecting the heritage and aesthetic values of the site. 

In early 2023, a tender for construction works was released, and a contractor was appointed in April 2023. A works program was developed, and construction commenced on 25 May 2023. Works were expected to take approximately 6 months to complete. 

Closures were in place at West Head Road after Resolute Picnic Area. During the construction phase, there was no pedestrian or vehicle access in or around the West Head Lookout.

The works were completed in late 2023 and now look like this - as posted by the NPWSW on Facebook - and for all those who are not on Facebook or interested in social media posts - Pittwater Online shared the post on PON's FB page and some positive comments were posted:

Notice is hereby given, under section 61 of the Heritage Act 1977 that the Heritage Council of NSW has received an application (HMS ID 5329) for development at Barrenjoey Headland Lightstation, Palm Beach, NSW, 2108, which is within the curtilage of the State Heritage Register item Barrenjoey Head Lightstation (SHR no. 00979) made under the Heritage Act 1977.

Street address and suburb: Barrenjoey Headland Palm Beach, NSW, 2108
Applicant: National Parks and Wildlife Service
Submissions opening date: 9:00 am 23 February 2024
Submissions closing date: 5:00 pm 15 March 2024

Description of the proposal as per the section 60 application form: 
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service proposes to demolish and remove 2 former fishermen's cottages and remediate the site within Barrenjoey Headland Conservation Area, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

The Heritage Council of NSW invites written submissions regarding the proposal. Note that if a submission is made by way of objection, the reasons for objection must be specified in the submission. Unless you state otherwise, contents of your submission may also be provided to the applicant or other interested parties in some circumstances.

Hard copies of the documents may be inspected at the office location of Heritage NSW, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, Podium level, 4 Parramatta Square, 12 Darcy Street Parramatta, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (please note this is by appointment only).

Submissions can be made until close of business 15 March 2024.

NSW Heritage Management System:
Post to: Heritage Council of NSW, Locked Bag 5020, Parramatta 2124.

Documents available at: 

Adoption Of The Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, Lion Island Nature Reserve, Long Island Nature Reserve And Spectacle Island Nature Reserve Plan Of Management

The NPWS is pleased to advise that the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage, the Hon Penny Sharpe MLC, has adopted the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Lion Island Nature Reserve, Long Island Nature Reserve and Spectacle Island Nature Reserve Plan of Management under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is one of the State’s most significant and iconic national parks. The nearby nature reserves are also very important for the conservation of natural values. The plan outlines how these parks will be managed for the long-term protection of their special values.  

As reported in in January - (Issue 611) Short-Term Accommodation In Barrenjoey Headland Buildings has been Ruled Out - the new government intends to keep the Barrenjoey Headland precinct and its historic buildings available to ALL people ALL of the time and maintain the integrity and heritage value of the lightstation buildings. 

The formalised POM lists:
Building - Potential new or additional use
Barrenjoey Head
Barrenjoey Lighthouse - Guided tours
Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage -  Park management and/or community use, including visitor tours
Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage - Park management and/or community use, excluding short stay accommodation.
Boatman’s Cottage Staff - Site management staff or caretaker accommodation
Fishers’ cottages - Due to their state of disrepair and the presence of hazardous material these buildings may be removed - see above
Red Shed - Removal, park management or adaptation for interpretive purposes.

At The Basin:
Beechwood Cottage 
Current use: Group function venue
Potential new or additional use: Park management and/or community use or café/kiosk

The plan is available at:  HERE

Iconic Blue Groper Now Protected In NSW

February 21, 2024
The NSW Government is taking steps to ensure the protection of NSW’s State Fish, the Blue Groper, with new changes to prohibit fishing a Blue Groper by any method.

Whilst the Blue Groper has been protected from spearfishing since 1969 and commercial fishing since 1980, these new changes will protect it from other forms of fishing including line fishing.

These changes will initially be implemented for a 12-month trial period during which time the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), will consult with stakeholders and the broader community on longer term changes to Blue Groper fishing rules.

Given the cultural significance of the species to many Aboriginal people the new changes will not apply to Aboriginal cultural fishing.

These changes follow recent spearfishing incidents involving Blue Gropers in Sydney and Jervis Bay.

Under the new rules, a person found contravening the closure and taking Blue Groper in NSW by any method may face a $500 penalty infringement notice and/or a maximum court-imposed fines of $22,000 or imprisonment for 6 months (or both) for a first offence.

For a second or subsequent offence a perpetrator may receive a $44,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months (or both).

To Support the changes, DPI Fisheries will undertake education activities, including social media reminders, to increase awareness of responsible fishing practices.

Blue Gropers were made the state fish of New South Wales in 1998 and can be found in shallow coastal waters.

Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty said:

“We have heard the community concerns, and these new rules will make it clear to all water users that these fish should be admired but not targeted.”

“With their bright blue colour, alongside their placid and curious nature, there is little wonder why these beautiful big fish are so well loved by our coastal communities.”

“While most fishers complied with the previous rules for targeting Blue Groper, prohibiting line fishing will improve compliance by creating the same rules for all recreational fishers and enhance the protection of this iconic fish.”

“Education is key in protecting this iconic species, with DPI Fisheries commencing a statewide advisory campaign to ensure all fishers are aware of these new rules.”

A male Eastern Blue Groper (Achoerodus viridis) with escorts. Shelly Beach, Manly. Photo: Richard Ling 

$3.5 Million Boost For Koala Wildlife-Care In Regional New South Wales

February 21, 2024
The NSW Government has announced it is delivering on its commitment to provide additional support to wildlife hospitals, koala protection and research with more than $3.5 million in new funding provided to 3 regional wildlife-care facilities.

Koalas in the state’s north will have a more secure future with $1.4 million allocated to complete construction of the Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital in Wollongbar.

Friends of the Koala, based in Lismore, will receive a $110,000 grant to vaccinate 300 koalas against chlamydia, and develop a koala database.

This funding builds on previous NSW Government commitments to protect koalas in the Northern Rivers from vehicle strike and degraded habitats.

Grants totalling $460,000 were awarded to Richmond Valley, Ballina, Lismore, Tweed and Clarence Valley councils for signage to alert drivers to slow down and watch for koalas in vehicle strike hotspots.

Koala habitat restoration is also underway in the Northern Rivers region, with $810,000 invested to restore 660 ha across private land and national park estate.

In addition to grants for Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital and Friends of the Koala, the NSW Government is providing a $2 million grant to Port Stephens Koala Hospital to increase wildlife veterinary capacity.

The NSW Government is committed to ensuring the long-term survival of koalas in the wild and each partnership with councils, land managers, community organisations and wildlife groups is an important step toward achieving that goal.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:

'There are many reasons why a koala may be taken into care, including vehicle strike and disease.

'The NSW Government is taking steps to prevent koalas needing to be in veterinary care, and this funding helps to ensure that native wildlife have the best possible outcome when treated and returned to the wild.

'It is important that koalas have a bright future in New South Wales.'

Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington stated:

'Koalas are a much-loved member of our community, and an iconic part of our region.

'This funding is a welcome announcement for our community, which cares deeply for koalas and will greatly assist the amazing army of volunteers at Port Stephens Koala Hospital.

'Together we can help secure the future of koalas and other wildlife in our beautiful part of the world.'

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said:

'The Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital is wonderful. We have already turned the first sod but this $1.4 million in funding ensures its place within our network of native wildlife care.

'Our local communities love our iconic koalas and the $110,000 in funding will help protect them against chlamydia and, importantly, keep track of them.

'Friends of the Koala in East Lismore is a fantastic organisation, professional, with compassionate and competent volunteers.

'I am proud to have advocated for and secured funding for these projects and very pleased to join Minister Sharpe to announce them here in the electorate.'

Flood Housing Response: Audit Office Of NSW Report Released

February 22, 2024
Extreme rainfall across eastern Australia in 2021 and 2022 led to a series of major flood events in New South Wales.

A NSW Audit Office audit assessed how effectively the NSW Government provided emergency accommodation and temporary housing in response to the early 2022 Northern Rivers and late 2022 Central West flood events.

Responsible agencies included in this audit were the Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Reconstruction Authority, the former Department of Planning and Environment, the Department of Regional NSW and the Premier’s Department.

The Findings record the Department of Communities and Justice rapidly provided emergency accommodation to displaced persons immediately following these flood events.

However, there was no plan in place to guide a temporary housing response and agencies did not have agency-level plans for implementing their responsibilities.

The NSW Government rapidly procured and constructed temporary housing villages. However, the amount of temporary housing provided did not meet the demand.

There is an extensive waitlist for temporary housing and the remaining demand in the Northern Rivers is unlikely to be met. The NSW Reconstruction Authority has not reviewed this list to confirm its accuracy.

Demobilisation plans for the temporary housing villages have been developed, but there are no long-term plans in place for the transition of tenants out of the temporary housing.

Agencies are in the process of evaluating the provision of emergency accommodation and temporary housing.

The findings from the 2022 State-wide lessons process largely relate to response activities.

The Audit recommendations are that the NSW Reconstruction Authority should:
  • Develop a plan for the provision of temporary housing.
  • Review the temporary housing waitlist.
  • Determine a timeline for demobilising the temporary housing villages.
  • Develop a strategy to manage the transition of people into long-term accommodation.
  • Develop a process for state-wide recovery lessons learned.
All audited agencies should:
  • Finalise evaluations of their role in the provision of emergency accommodation and temporary housing.
  • Develop internal plans for implementing their roles under state-wide plans.

Climate Change Amendment (Duty Of Care And Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023: Senate Inquiry Report Due March 1, 2024

On 3 August 2023, the Senate referred the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 1 February 2024.

The closing date for submissions was the 20 October 2023 and has been extended to 23 November 2023.

On 7 August 2023, the committee was granted an extension of time for the report until 1 March 2024.

The Bill was introduced by independent Senator David Pocock.

The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 seeks to amend the Climate Change Act 2022 to require decision makers to consider the wellbeing of current and future children when making certain decisions that are likely to contribute to climate change, including decisions that will increase scope one, two or three emissions.

This is Senator Pocock’s first private senators’ bill, which he introduced after working on a draft bill with lead litigant in the 2020 Federal Court case Sharma and others v. Minister for the Environment, Anjali Sharma. 

In Sharma and others v Minister for the Environment the Court accepted evidence brought by independent experts that carbon emissions released from mining and burning fossil fuels will contribute to wide-ranging harms to young people. However, then Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, part of the Morrison Ministry, appealed the decision. 

On March 15 2022 the federal court ruled unanimously that Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley does not have a duty of care to protect young people from the harms of climate change. The ruling overturned the previous landmark win in July 2021 by eight high school students, who sought to stop Ley approving the Whitehaven Vickery coal mine expansion in New South Wales.

Senator Pocock said in a statement the bill would plug a dangerous gap in the legislative framework exposed by the case which highlighted the need to embed in legislation the principle that governments should care about the health and wellbeing of children.

It seeks to add two conditions to decisions made under six existing pieces of legislation relating to decisions that facilitate the financing and development of projects that may significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, including the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Senator Pocock said with the fast worsening impacts of climate change on Australia’s economic prosperity, environment, and our health and wellbeing, the cost of decisions today not to act, or to act slowly on climate change will be paid by young people and future generations. And the price will be high.

“It’s our duty as politicians and policy makers to make sure that the climate young people inherit is one they can live and thrive in,” Senator Pocock said.

“We should be thinking about young people when we make decisions. I want to be part of a parliament, and more importantly a country, that takes this responsibility seriously.

“Politicians and policy makers should have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of young people and future generations. 

“A growing number of young Australians and their families are demanding to have their voices heard and action taken to protect their future.

“Look at any news website or television report and the deadly impacts of climate change on communities and on Nature are clear to see.

“The focus on the short term - polls, the media cycle, the next election - need to end. We need to be looking at how our decisions impact young people and future generations.

“We need a legislative tool that can be used in government decision making, and this bill will deliver that.

“I look forward to my parliamentary colleagues giving serious consideration to this legislation and hopefully supporting it and the wellbeing of young people.”

Lead litigant and climate advocate Anjali Sharma said this bill is born out of years of advocacy by young people leading the charge for greater climate action. 

“As a young person, I’m increasingly scared about my future. The past few years have seen climate disasters and temperatures that have broken records. The government can either act in accordance with its duty to young people and deliver us a safe and liveable future, or set us on a path to climate catastrophe.”

Canberra mum and ProACT co-founder Clare Doube said:

“As the mother of a 5 and 7 year old, I want real, tangible action now - not just for their future, but also for the 5 and 7 year olds in Tuvalu, Bangladesh, Greece and beyond. This is urgent - we can already see that if we don’t seriously act now, the future is catastrophic.”

The provisions of the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023 would apply to decisions made under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991, the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008, the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Act 2023, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016, and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.

It imposes a statutory duty on decision-makers under those Acts:
  • To consider the likely impact of decisions that could harm the climate on the health and wellbeing of current and future children as the paramount consideration; and
  • Not to make a decision that could harm the climate if the decision poses a material risk of harm to the health and wellbeing of current and future children in Australia.
It is not retrospective.

Protecting The Spirit Of Sea Country Bill 2023: Senate Inquiry

On 19 October 2023, the Senate referred the Protecting the Spirit of Sea Country Bill 2023 to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for report by 28 June 2024.

The closing date for submissions was 19 February 2024 and has been extended to 4 March 2024.

The Protecting the Spirit of Sea Country Bill 2023 seeks to amend the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 so that First Nations people are adequately consulted on the preparation of environment plans for proposed offshore energy projects.

Studying Indigenous Songlines To Better Protect Australia’s Whales And Dolphins

February 16, 2024
Dr Jodi Edwards, Vice Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), based at the University of Wollongong (UOW), has been awarded $300,000 by the Australian Government to explore how Indigenous songlines have protected whales and dolphins over hundreds of years.

The study will use Indigenous knowledge that for centuries has safeguarded marine mammals and fish across generations. With many species facing threats due to habitat destruction and over-fishing, the study holds the potential to play a crucial role in the effective protection and recovery of threatened ocean populations.

Named the Unbroken Whispers project, the research will specifically delve into First Nations knowledge concerning the southern right whale, vulnerable humpback whale, orcas, and dolphins. The primary aim is to uncover a deeper understanding of their long-term migratory patterns, habitats, and relationships.

Funding for the initiative is provided through the National Environmental Science Program’s Marine and Coastal Hub.

Dr Edwards is based at UOW's ANCORS (Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security), the only multidisciplinary university-based centre of its type in the Southern Hemisphere dedicated to delivering specialised research, advisory services, education and training in ocean law and policy, maritime security, and marine resources management.

Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek said, "We're lucky to have more than 65,000 years of continuous conservation knowledge that we can learn from. First Nations Australians have cared for land and sea country for generations and are crucial in our fight to better protect our environment and the precious creatures who live in it.

“We know many marine species are under threat from things like habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Projects like this may be the key to how we effectively protect and recover declining populations.”

Hon Stephen Jones, Member for Whitlam, said, “Dr Edwards brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a proud Yuin woman and University of Wollongong researcher. I’m looking forward to examining the findings from this important research project.”

Member for Cunningham, Alison Byrnes MP said, “In the lead up to World Whale Day on 18 February 2024, it is great to see the Unbroken Whispers Project, led by local Indigenous researcher Dr Jodi Edwards, receive $300,000 in funding from the Albanese Labor Government.

“The adverse effects of climate change on our marine and coastal environments is an issue that our Government takes extremely seriously and are taking steps to mitigate. This project will start off the coast of Bruny Island in Tasmania, tracking migratory patterns up the east coast, past the Illawarra and finishing in Northern Queensland.

“We look forward to working with Dr Edwards to gain a better understanding of long-term migratory patterns, habitats and relationships of the southern right whale, the vulnerable humpback whale, orcas and dolphins.”

The Albanese Labor Government will invest more than $300,000 to study Indigenous environmental knowledge about the connections between land, sea and sky, with a particular focus on whales.

The funding will support the Unbroken whispers project, which focuses on collecting Indigenous knowledge about the southern right whale, the vulnerable humpback whale, orcas and dolphins, and looking at how we can use this knowledge to better protect these species.

The study, led by Dr Jodi Edwards, a Yuin woman from the University of Wollongong, also seeks to unlock a better understanding of long-term migratory patterns, habitats and relationships.

The research project is partly funded by the Australian Government through the National Environmental Science Program’s Marine and Coastal Hub and will run from 2024 to 2026.

Member for Cunningham Alison Byrnes, Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek, Dr Jodi Edwards and Member for Cunningham Stephen Jones at a briefing on the Unbroken Whispers project. Photo: Office of Alison Byrnes.

Unbroken whispers: the ripples connecting sea kin

Whales and dolphins are culturally significant and totemic species for many Aboriginal nations, particularly in south-eastern Australia. Stories of their importance are portrayed in song and dance, rock art and contemporary artworks.

Many of these large marine species have experienced serious declines. While whales are no longer hunted in Australia, their marine and coastal habitats continue to be developed and utilised. They also face the effects of climate change, both in Australia and along international migratory pathways. Some are listed as threatened under national and state laws. Efforts to protect and rebuild populations are based on what is known about populations and the threats they face.

Indigenous ecological knowledge can contribute to a better understanding of threatened and migratory whales and dolphins. For example, Indigenous knowledge passed from generation to generation includes an understanding of ecological dynamics such as migratory patterns and relationships between species. But the Indigenous perspective and use of cultural knowledge is not considered in the protection and recovery of listed threatened and migratory species.

This Indigenous-led project will identify and share (where appropriate) cultural knowledge of relationships with whales and dolphins, and connections between land, sea and sky. Indigenous communities will participate in research that explores cultural ideology around kinship and responsibilities to kin, through expressing the knowledge, values and concerns they hold for whales and dolphins.

The acquired knowledge and methods will support the cultural governance of sea Country by Indigenous communities and organisations, and policymaking, implementation and review by government agencies in relation to resource use and conservation.

This project will focus on Indigenous knowledge relating to the southern right whale, humpback whale, orca and dolphins, with cultural, environmental, social and technical research themes.

An Indigenous Cultural Connections Reference Group will be established to assist the Aboriginal researchers with cultural and spiritual leadership of the project. The group will include knowledge holders with an interest in connecting Aboriginal people to uphold traditional relationships with sea Country.

A desktop study will assess national and global Indigenous marine mapping, anthropological and ethno-anthropological historic records and documents, oral history and language associated with the identified marine habitats and species.

On-Country gatherings will be co-designed with Indigenous communities invited to share and weave knowledge. These will follow the path of the annual whale migration, with a focus on coastal areas between K’gari (Fraser Island, Queensland) to Lunawanna-allonah (Bruny Island, Tasmania) and across to Warrnambool (Victoria). The two to four-day gatherings will include artistic workshops, yarning circles and on-Country learning. The first, on Bruny Island, will be in March 2024.

Engagement and knowledge-sharing

The project was developed in consultation with government research users. The engagement will continue to ensure a shared understanding of intended outcomes, communicate progress and findings, and explore opportunities for applying Indigenous knowledge for the protection and recovery of threatened and migratory species. The project team will also report back to participating Indigenous people in a culturally appropriate way that supports the reawakening of cultural practices and sharing of knowledge.

The project threads will be brought together to generate insights from a weaving together of Indigenous knowledge with western science knowledge. Indigenous knowledge will be portrayed in artworks, written stories, images, video, and a final technical report, for research users and to promote awareness of cultural connection to species/Country.

Expected outcomes
Indigenous people will benefit through the employment a mid-career Indigenous researcher, paid participation on the Indigenous Cultural Connections Reference Group, and capacity building by reawakening cultural connections and sharing cultural knowledge.

Intergenerational knowledge on cultural connections to whales and dolphins will be shared across Indigenous communities. This knowledge transfer will help to reawaken cultural practices.

Opportunities will be identified for applying Indigenous knowledge for the protection and recovery of threatened and migratory species listed under the Environment Protection and Biological Conservation Act 1999.

A model approach will facilitate collating, analysing and sharing knowledge on Indigenous connections to country.

About Dr. Jodi Edwards
Dr Jodi Edwards is a Yuin woman with Dharawal kinship connection who has dedicated her life to Community, Culture, education and Language.

Jodi is a Cultural Experience, Language and Tourism Consultant who takes people on a magical journey through storytelling of Aboriginal peoples lives through the eyes of Mother Earth. Jodi shares stories from the oceans, mountains and rivers with Aboriginal Culture as the vocal point. 

Jodi says: “I want to reconnect the disconnected. We’re all children of the earth and we need to teach our young people to respect the earth. When we lead by example, the children see that and they make changes too. We’ve just got to make sure we leave them something to change.”

Nominated as 2023 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year, she has spent more than 20 years advocating for improved cultural education across NSW. She was named 2022 Shellharbour Woman of the Year and Illawarra Regional NAIDOC Aboriginal Community Person of the Year for her Language and Cultural work across Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven local government areas.

Jodi was awarded her PhD from Macquarie University's Department of Indigenous Studies in 2021 for her thesis “Weaving the past into the future: The continuity of Aboriginal cultural practices in the Dharawal and Yuin Nations”.

As a D’harawal language speaker and advocate, she is passionate about awakening the language. She is a Curriculum Reform Advisor for Aboriginal Education with the NSW Education Standards Authority, providing expertise and advice to support the curriculum reform and delivery process. Jodi is also a Research Fellow at RMIT and a tutor at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

An author and advisor, Dr Edwards has published 4 local Dharawal Dreaming Stories, co-founded the Shellharbour Aboriginal Community Youth Association, established the Guwura Surfing program, works with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre and continues to sit on the advisory board of Shellharbour Council.

Jodi has great love and respect for Yuin Country and the local Community who continue to teach and nurture her.

Whale Songs, 2022 - Frances Belle Parker with Urban Art Projects - installed at Avalon Beach

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Bilgola Beach Clean - February 25

Want to do something for our local community, getting to know friendly people of all ages and backgrounds, and making a difference at the same time?
Come and join us for our family-friendly February clean up, at Bilgola Beach on the 25th at 10am. We are meeting close to Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club. If driving put that in the GPS. See map below for our meeting point, where the red pin is. 

We have gloves, bags, and buckets, and grabbers. We're trying to remove as much plastic and rubbish as possible before it enters the ocean. Some of us can focus on the bush area and sandy/rocky areas, and others can walk along the edges and even clean up in the water (at own risk). We will clean up until around 12.00 and after that, we will take a group photo, bag the rubbish and head for lunch together (at own cost). 

No booking required - just show up on the day - we will be there no matter what weather. We're a friendly group of people, and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event. It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. For everyone to feel welcome, please leave political and religious messages at home - this includes t-shirts with political campaign messages, and we don't allow people handing out flyers at our events.

There is a council carpark, check streets close by as well if it's full or please consider using public transport.

Message us on our social media or send us an email if you are lost. 
All welcome - the more the merrier. 
Please invite your friends too!

Harvest Seeds & Native Plants: Education Sessions 2024 -  "The Harvest Huddle"

281 Mona Vale rd , Terrey Hills
Phone: (02) 9450 2699
Open 9am - 4pm, 7 days

Introducing "The Harvest Huddle"! Harvest Seeds and Native Plants are putting on some educational sessions through 2024. These will be run by their incredible and knowledgeable staff who have decades of combined experience in horticulture, garden design, soil science and ecology. Please see the image below for session dates and times.
The Harvest Huddle Sessions run from 4.30 pm to around 5.30pm

Harvest Seeds and Native Plants are: Specialists in Native Plants and Seeds of the Sydney Basin, Central Coast, South Coast and surrounds. For all your projects big or small. Horticulturists on site to help with your queries. 

Weeds a problem? On February 29 4.30pm PNHA will help! 

Notice Of 1080 Baiting: February 1 - July 31 2024

Please note the following notification of continuous and ongoing fox control using 1080 POISON with ground baits and canid pest ejectors (CPE’s) in Sydney Harbour National Park, Garigal National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and Lane Cove National Park. As part of this program, baiting also occurs on North Head Sanctuary managed by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and the Australian Institute of Police Management facility at North Head.

This provides notification for the 6 monthly period of 1 February 2024 – 31 July 2024. 

Warning signs are displayed at park entrances and other entrances to the baiting location to inform the public of 1080 baiting.

1080 Poison for fox control is used in these reserves in a continuous and ongoing manner. This means that baits and ejectors (CPE’s) remain in the reserves and are checked/replaced every 6 – 8 weeks.

1080 use at these locations is in accordance with NSW pesticides legislation, relevant 1080 Pesticide Control Orders and the NPWS Vertebrate Pesticides Standard Operating Procedures.

A series of public notifications occur on a 6 monthly basis including; alerts on the NPWS website, public notices in local papers, Area pesticide use notification registers and to the NPWS call centre.

If you have any further general enquiries about 1080, or for specific program enquiries please contact the local NPWS Area office:

For further information please call the local NPWS office on:

NPWS Sydney North (Middle Head) Area office: 9960 6266

NPWS Sydney North (Forestville) Area office: 9451 3479

NPWS North West Sydney (Lane Cove NP) Area office: 8448 0400

NPWS after-hours Duty officer service: 1300 056 294

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust: 8969 2128

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association: Second PNHA Nature Event 2024

This littoral rainforest is rich in Coachwoods, Swamp Mahoganies, ferns and wonderful birds, including Eastern Whipbirds and Lyrebirds if we are lucky. Learn some birdcalls.
TIME: 8.30 to about 10.30
MEET: western end of Irrawong Rd North Narrabeen
BRING: Water, binoculars if possible, insect repellent
RECEIVE: a free copy of PNHA’s Introductory Field Guide to the birds of this area.
Email us if you’d like to join us.

Clean Up Australia Day 2024 Registrations Are Now Open

The call out for our community, schools and businesses to volunteer for Clean Up Australia Day to help keep our neighbourhood pristine has begun.  Now is the time to register for this year’s Clean Up Australia event, happening on Sunday 3 March 2024.

Registrations are now open to register a site or volunteer at a registered site near you.

Businesses are encouraged to join the Business Clean Up Day on Tuesday 27 February and young people can get involved in the School Clean Up Day on Friday 1 March 2024 or as a youth group on Sunday 3 March 2024.  

Since Clean Up Australia was created in 1990, more than 21 million volunteers have helped clean up Australia.

To register to volunteer, visit

Photo: Pip Kiernan – Chair, Clean Up Australia

After the death of her father Ian Kiernan AO in 2018, Pip was appointed Chair of Clean Up Australia, the iconic Australian charity he founded over 30 years earlier.  Having grown up with Clean Up Australia, Pip is deeply committed to honouring and growing the organisation which is now recognised as one of the country’s most credible and trusted environmental organisations. Image supplied

NEW At Eco House & Garden(At Kimbriki): 'Supporting School & Community Composts Workshop' 

Where you can become part of the (waste) solution in our 3-hour workshop. 

See below for more details and for bookings go to 👉

Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre: Early Childhood Educators Professional Development Day 

As part of Kimbriki's 2024 Eco House & Garden Educational Calendar, this year we introduce the Early Childhood Educators Professional Development Day on Friday 22nd March. For more details and bookings 👉

Upcoming Events At Permaculture Northern Beaches

Build a Swale and plant a Food Forest workshop
When - Sunday February 25th 9am - 2:30pm
Where - Allambie Heights

Come along to learn the fundamentals of suburban swale construction and planting out a productive, low-maintenance food forest. 

At this Permaculture Northern Beaches workshop, you will learn how to set out and dig suburban-size contour swales in preparation for a food forest. Swales are a very effective way of slowing and catching water in the landscape so that it can soak into the soil instead of running off into drains and other areas. They are very effective tree-growing systems that will need little maintenance once established. Food forests are human-engineered ecosystems that contain many layered species of edible perennial plants.

Workshop cost is $40 for PNB members and $50 for non-members. Book here

Hurry! Spaces for this great workshop are limited to 20 participants. All welcome!

Bring along:
  • - Sunscreen
  • - Hat
  • - Water bottle
  • - Lunch (or there are shops and eateries nearby) Morning tea will be provided by us.
The workshop will be hosted by Kyle Taylor of Tierra Projects. Tierra projects are rooted in permaculture ethics and help homeowners, businesses, and community groups to achieve more self-sufficiency and sustainability. We hope you can join us for this great workshop.

For more info reach out to


When - February 29th 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Where - Narrabeen Tramshed Arts and Community Centre, Lakeview Room

Permaculture Northern Beaches is thrilled to host Ling Halbert, famous for her amazing Laotian cooking sessions with her absolute passion for sharing food and wisdom. Ling brings together interested people to share in the health-giving benefits of vegetarian food with classic Laotian ingredients.

Ling cooks with thought to tradition, taste, cost, medicinal/nutritional qualities and ethics in mind. Inspired by her Lao-Chinese heritage, Ling will teach us her cooking techniques, and you can sample some of her delicious food.

Bring a bowl and eating utensil to the night so you can enjoy the food! If you would like to add your own produce, such as eggs, pumpkin, onions, herbs, lemon, limes, chilies, cucumber, greens, capsicum or zucchini please do so as Ling can add it and cook with it on the night. Yum!

We will then enjoy the delicious food together and chat about Permaculture Northern Beaches’ exciting activities for 2024!

Entry is by donation ($10 recommended). All welcome and no booking necessary.

Organic teas and coffee will also be available on the night.

We hope you can join us for this yummy event!

For more info reach out to


When - March 28th 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Where - Narrabeen Tramshed Arts and Community Centre, Lakeview Room

Saving Our Seeds is a crucial part of our own food chain and it enables us to grow our own food and plants with no additional costs! The strongest seeds are locally grown over many generations and well adapted to local conditions - so your plants will thrive while you save on costs. Join us with seed-saving guest speakers Mylene Turban, and Elle Sheather to have an overview and to inspire you to get seed-saving!

We now have more reasons than ever to save seeds, with more government restrictions on seed imports, and multi-national companies buying up small seed companies, while during COVID the seed companies actually ran out of seeds!

Learn techniques to save dry seeds and wet seeds, starting small, storage, labelling, advantages of planting seeds over seedlings, biodiversity, plus why saving seeds is so important. You can also eat or sprout them as a nutritious source of food!

PNB is building our Seed Saving library and Seed Swaps. If you would like to be involved, join our team by emailing We are also working with community gardens on the Northern Beaches of Sydney to build up seed stocks and to swap seeds.

Organic teas and coffees will be available on the night as well as our own Seeds! All are welcome and no bookings necessary. Entry is by donation ($5 is recommended.)


Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group on Sydney's Northern Beaches working for ecological integrity and assisting you on a pathway to sustainability.

PNB holds monthly permaculture-related public meetings on the last Thursday of each month at the Narrabeen Tramshed Community & Arts Centre, Lakeview Room, 1395A Pittwater Road, Narrabeen. Buses stop directly at the centre and there is also car parking nearby. Doors open at 7:15 pm and meetings take place monthly from February to November. 
Check out our events page for the next meeting. Everyone is welcome! 

We also hold a range of workshops, short courses, film and soup nights, practical garden tours, permabees (working bees), beehive installations, eco-product making sessions and much more.

We are an independent organisation registered as an Association in NSW, ABN Number 11486171929.

Join or Renew your annual membership with Permaculture Northern Beaches and check out the member benefits by following the link at PNB Membership.

Stony Range Nursery

Now that the weather is cooler, come and visit our well stocked plant nursery at Stony Range.
Run by volunteers and open on a Saturday 12pm - 4pm
Native tubestock, ferns and orchids for sale.
While you are visiting, take a walk through the rainforest or have a picnic in the BBQ Area.

Please note:  The volunteer run plant nursery at Stony Range is open from 2pm - 4pm on a Saturday

Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden
810 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why
Phone: (02) 8495 5009
Cost: Free
Opening hours
The garden is open every day of the year, including public holidays.
8am to 8.30pm - Daylight Saving Time (October to April)
8am to 5.30pm - Eastern Standard Time (April to September)

Stay Safe From Mosquitoes 

NSW Health is reminding people to protect themselves from mosquitoes when they are out and about this summer.

NSW Health’s Acting Director of Environmental Health, Paul Byleveld, said with more people spending time outdoors, it was important to take steps to reduce mosquito bite risk.

“Mosquitoes thrive in wet, warm conditions like those that much of NSW is experiencing,” Byleveld said.

“Mosquitoes in NSW can carry viruses such as Japanese encephalitis (JE), Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE), Kunjin, Ross River and Barmah Forest. The viruses may cause serious diseases with symptoms ranging from tiredness, rash, headache and sore and swollen joints to rare but severe symptoms of seizures and loss of consciousness.

“People should take extra care to protect themselves against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne disease, particularly after the detection of JE in a sentinel chicken in Far Western NSW.

The NSW Health sentinel chicken program provides early warning about the presence of serious mosquito borne diseases, like JE. Routine testing in late December revealed a positive result for JE in a sample from Menindee. 

A free vaccine to protect against JE infection is available to those at highest risk in NSW and people can check their eligibility at NSW Health.

People are encouraged to take actions to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of acquiring a mosquito-borne virus by:
  • Applying repellent to exposed skin. Use repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Check the label for reapplication times.
  • Re-applying repellent regularly, particularly after swimming. Be sure to apply sunscreen first and then apply repellent.
  • Wearing light, loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts, long pants and covered footwear and socks.
  • Avoiding going outdoors during peak mosquito times, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • Using insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units and mosquito coils to repel mosquitoes (mosquito coils should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas)
  • Covering windows and doors with insect screens and checking there are no gaps.
  • Removing items that may collect water such as old tyres and empty pots from around your home to reduce the places where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Using repellents that are safe for children. Most skin repellents are safe for use on children aged three months and older. Always check the label for instructions. Protecting infants aged less than three months by using an infant carrier draped with mosquito netting, secured along the edges.
  • While camping, use a tent that has fly screens to prevent mosquitoes entering or sleep under a mosquito net.
Remember, Spray Up – Cover Up – Screen Up to protect from mosquito bite. For more information go to NSW Health.

Mountain Bike Incidents On Public Land: Survey

This survey aims to document mountain bike related incidents on public land, available at:

Sent in by Pittwater resident Academic for future report- study. The survey will run for 12 months and close in November 2024.

Please Look Out For Wildlife During Heatwave Events

New South Wales is experiencing significant heatwave conditions.

These prolonged weather conditions can cause native wildlife to become heat-stressed as they suffer from high temperatures; here is how you can identify a heat-stressed animal and how you can help.
Always remember:

If you find an injured, orphaned or sick native animal, call WIRES on 1300 094 737 or Sydney Wildlife Rescue on 9413 4300.

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

Palmgrove Park Avalon: New Bushcare Group 

Palmgrove Park Avalon is a remnant of the Spotted Gum forest that was once widespread on the lower slopes of the Pittwater peninsula. This bushland’s official name and forest type is Pittwater and Wagstaffe Endangered Ecological Community, endangered because so much has been cleared for suburban development. Canopy trees, smaller trees and shrubs, and ground layer plants make up this community. Though scattered remnant Spotted Gums remain on private land, there is little chance of seedlings surviving in gardens and lawns. More information HERE

A grant to PNHA from Council in 2021 funded revegetation of a section between Dress Circle Rd and Bellevue Rd. The tubestock planted there late in 2022 by students from Avalon Primary and bush regeneration contractors is flourishing.

More tubestock was planted on National Tree Day on July 30 2023.

A new Bushcare group will now be working there from Saturday, starting at 9am and working for up to three hours. Your help would be wonderful.

Contact Pittwater Natural Heritage Association on to find out more.

Report Fox Sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Group On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit:

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Summer is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

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

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.

Bushcare In Pittwater: Where + When

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

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 
Catalpa Reserve              4th Sunday of the month        8.30 – 11.30
Palmgrove Park              1st Saturday of the month        9.00 – 12 

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

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Ringtail Posses 2023

More Green Space To Enhance Liveability In NSW Communities: Metropolitan Greenspace Program + Community Gardens Program Grants Now Open

Communities across New South Wales will benefit from more green space in 2024 with $3.25 million in NSW Government grant funding now available to select councils.

Councils in Greater Sydney and the Central Coast can apply for their share of the money from the Metropolitan Greenspace Program (MGP) for open space projects to improve liveability.

Eligible projects include playgrounds, walking tracks, pedestrian and cycleways, bushland restoration and recreation facilities.

The Metropolitan Greenspace Program (MGP) has seen recent success through projects including water quality improvement and stormwater harvesting at Gannons Park in Georges River Council.

The upgrades were highly commended at the National Engineering Excellence Awards in 2022 and won the ‘Excellence in Integrated Stormwater Design’ Award at the Stormwater New South Wales 2021 Awards.

The MGP commenced, under the Wran Government in 1983, and since 1990, more than $56 million has been provided to more than 681 projects.

Further funding of $250,000 is also available to Greater Sydney councils as part of the Places to Roam Community Gardens program.

Applicants can access up to $75,000 for community gardens, bush care schemes and waterway enhancements to support health and wellbeing in areas with priority housing growth.

A recent recipient of the program is the Pemulwuy Community Garden, which opened late last year with wheelchair-friendly pathways and 16 raised garden beds for the planting of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

The new garden space has complemented Cumberland City Council’s three existing community gardens.

Small-scale projects are also encouraged with successful applications selected on merit, including how easily they can be delivered and community benefits.

An independent panel of experts will assess applications against each program’s key objectives.

For more information and program guidelines visit Metropolitan Greenspace Program or Places to Roam.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:
“We already have some incredible accessible green and open spaces across Greater Sydney and the Central Coast but it’s vital that we keep investing in these great programs.

“Greater Sydney and the Central Coast is growing, and while we’re focused on making sure we provide enough of the right kind of housing to suit everybody’s needs, we need to compliment this with the right infrastructure including green, open public space.

“I’m excited to see fresh ideas and plans from councils to help connect residential areas with even more high-quality parklands and public spaces.”

Minister for the Central Coast David Harris said:
“We all know how important green space is for community health and wellbeing and I am pleased that the Central Coast will be able to access and benefit from this great program.

“Our unique environment and green space is one of the main reasons people love living on the Coast and we need to ensure it is protected and enhanced for our growing population.”

To find out more an apply visit:

Wongkumara People – Native Title Act: Have Your Say

Closes: 22 March 2024
National Parks and Wildlife Service is seeking your feedback on the native title agreement with the Wongkumara People in relation to Sturt National Park.

What’s this about?
Notice is given on the proposal to make an agreement for the purposes of section 47C(6)(a) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) in relation to Sturt National Park in north-western New South Wales. This notice is to give any interested people an opportunity to comment on the proposed agreement.

The proposed agreement is subject to the registration of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the State of NSW and Wongkumara that addresses the coexistence of native title rights with park management and public use in the Wongkumara claim area, which includes the proposed agreement area.

Get more information on the proposed agreement is available on the Environment and Heritage webpage.

Have your say
Have your say by Friday 22 March 2024.

You can submit your feedback in 3 ways.

  1. Informal submission
  2. Email
  3. Mailout
Wongkumara People – notice under the Native Title Act
National Parks and Wildlife Service is proposing a section 47C native title agreement with the Wongkumara People in relation to national park estate covered by a native title application.

Notice is given on the proposal to make an agreement for the purposes of section 47C(6)(a) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) in relation to Sturt National Park in north-western New South Wales. This notice is to give any interested people an opportunity to comment on the proposed agreement.

The proposed agreement is subject to the registration of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the State of New South Wales and Wongkumara that addresses the coexistence of native title rights with park management and public use in the Wongkumara claim area, which includes the proposed agreement area.

Proposed agreement description
The Attorney General, as state minister responsible for native title in New South Wales, is proposing, at least 3 months from the date of this notice, to enter into an agreement under section 47C of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) (the proposed agreement) with the Wongkumara People as one part of a comprehensive settlement of their native title determination application, which they commenced in the Federal Court of Australia.

If the state and the Wongkumara People enter into an agreement under section 47C and the Federal Court makes a determination of native title that applies section 47C, any historical extinguishment of native title will be disregarded in the proposed agreement area.

Proposed agreement area description
The proposed agreement area will cover parts of Sturt National Park in north-western New South Wales within the Wongkumara claim area, where native title has been historically extinguished, including areas subject to public works.

Effect of the proposed agreement description
Under the proposed agreement, the National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to operate and manage Sturt National Park. If made, the determination of native title will not affect public access or any existing valid interests (such as leases or licences) in relation to the proposed agreement area. It will also not affect the continued reservation of the national parks estate or access to, or operation of, public works in the park estate.

Native Title Determination Application map

What will happen after the notification period ends?
At the end of the public comment period the NSW Government will review all comments received and take them into consideration when deciding whether to enter into the section 47C agreement.

Comment on the proposed agreement
You can comment on the proposed agreement until 22 March 2024.

To give us feedback, please send a written comment by:

Post your written submission to:
Manager Native Title, National Parks and Wildlife Service
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124

Email your submission to:

Use the online form here.
Written comments must be received by 22 March 2024.

The information you provide in this form will only be used for the purpose for which it was collected. By submitting, you consent to storage, use, and disclosure of your personal information in accordance with our privacy policy. You can request access and amendment of your personal information.

Widjabul Wia-Bal People – Notice Under The Native Title Act: Have Your Say

Closes: 17 April 2024.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is proposing a section 47C native title agreement with the Widjabul Wia-bal People in relation to national park estate covered by a native title application.

Notice is given on the proposal to make an agreement under section 47C(6)(a) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) covering land within parks and reserves in northern New South Wales, located to the south-west of Ballina and to the north-west of Byron Bay.

The proposed agreement would enable the Federal Court to disregard prior extinguishment of native title within the proposed agreement area and make a determination acknowledging that Widjabul Wia-bal hold native title rights and interests in that area.

This notice is to give any interested people an opportunity to comment on the proposed agreement.

Notice of the intention to enter into an agreement under section 47C(6)(a) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) with the Widjabul Wia-bal covering the same parks and reserves was previously given on 17 and 25 November 2021, however the determination of native title over those areas did not proceed at that time.

Proposed agreement
The Attorney General, as state minister responsible for native title in New South Wales, is proposing, at least 3 months from the date of this notice, to enter into an agreement under section 47C of the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) (the proposed agreement) with the Widjabul Wia-bal. The Widjabul Wia-bal will file a further native title determination application in the Federal Court over the parks and reserves comprising the proposed agreement area, seeking a determination that native title exists within the proposed agreement area.

If the proposed agreement under section 47C is entered into and the Federal Court makes a determination of native title, any historical extinguishment of native title will be disregarded in the proposed agreement area.

Proposed agreement area
The proposed agreement area will cover parts of the national park estate in northern New South Wales within the new Widjabul Wia-bal claim area, where native title has been historically extinguished, including areas subject to public works:
  • Boatharbour Nature Reserve
  • Tuckean Nature Reserve
  • Muckleewee Mountain Nature Reserve
  • Goonengerry National Park
  • Victoria Park Nature Reserve
  • Mount Jerusalem National Park
  • Nightcap National Park
  • Davis Scrub Nature Reserve
  • Snows Gully Nature Reserve
  • Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve
  • Andrew Johnson Big Scrub Nature Reserve
  • Whian Whian State Conservation Area.
Effect of the proposed agreement
Under the proposed agreement, the National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to operate and manage the national park estate. If made, the determination of native title will not affect public access or any existing valid interests (such as leases or licences) in relation to the proposed agreement area. It will also not affect the continued reservation of the national park estate or access to, or operation of, public works in the park estate.

The proposed agreement area is outlined and shaded in blue.

What will happen after the notification period ends?
At the end of the public comment period the NSW Government will review all comments received and take them into consideration when deciding whether to enter into the section 47C agreement.

Comment on the proposed agreement
You can comment on the proposed agreement until 17 April 2024.

To give us feedback, please send a written comment by:

Post your written submission to:
Area Manager, NPWS Richmond River Area office
PO Box 856
Alstonville NSW 2477

Email your submission to:

Use the online form here.
Written comments must be received by 17 April 2024.

The information you provide in this form will only be used for the purpose for which it was collected. By submitting, you consent to storage, use, and disclosure of your personal information in accordance with our privacy policy. You can request access and amendment of your personal information.

Environmental Grants Connect To Country: Applications Close 2 April 2024

February 21, 2024
The NSW Environmental Trust's annual Protecting Our Places grants are now open, and Aboriginal groups or corporations are encouraged to apply for funding up to $80,000.

Aboriginal Programs Officer with the Trust, Shannon Whyte, said the grant program is in its 22nd year and has funded more than 240 Aboriginal community-led environmental projects.

"Any Aboriginal groups working on Country can apply for funding through this fantastic program," Ms Whyte said.

"'Protecting Our Places' empowers Aboriginal groups to develop and share their cultural land management practices.

"It also supports communities to conserve culturally significant environmental landscapes in New South Wales.

"The types of projects that have successfully applied for funding include creating bush tucker gardens, rainforest and riverbed restoration, fire management and conservation of threatened species habitat.

"In response to feedback, the Trust has also greatly simplified the grant application process this year and we genuinely look forward to receiving applications before 2 April," Ms Whyte said.

Organisations that receive grants will be supported by the NSW Environmental Trust to develop project plans from the outset.

In recent years the Trust has introduced project management workshops as part of the grants program, and this hands-on training and support has been invaluable in terms of building relationships and skills.

The NSW Environmental Trust aims to increase the amount of culturally significant Aboriginal land protected, restored, and managed by local Aboriginal groups, land managers, and stakeholders.

For details about Protecting Our Places grants and how to apply, visit the NSW Environmental Trust pageApplications close 2 April 2024.

Independent Review Of Small-Scale Titles: Have Your Say

Closes: 31 March 2024
An Independent Review into the statutory framework for small-scale titles is seeking feedback on an Issues Paper on the current state of the NSW opal industry.

What’s this about?
In June 2023 the NSW Government announced the Independent Review into the Statutory Framework for Small-Scale Titles in NSW (the Review).

The Review is analysing the current state of the opal industry in NSW, and the statutory framework for opals under the Mining Act 1992, to make recommendations that will deliver practical and beneficial changes to the way the current small-scale title framework operates. 

The Review is being led by the Hon. Terry Sheahan AO, supported by Norton Rose Fulbright Australia. Following recent engagement with key stakeholders, the Review has released an Issues Paper, and is seeking your feedback on a range of issues associated with small-scale opal mining.

You can make a submission on any matter within the scope of the Terms of Reference, you do not need to limit your submission to the topics raised by the Issues Paper. 

Feedback on this Issues Paper will inform the final report and recommendations to be delivered by the Review. 

Your personal information will only be used for the purpose you are providing it in this form. Please read the Privacy Collection Notice for more information about how we handle your information.  

Have your say
Have your say by Sunday 31 March 2024.

Note: If you want a submission made directly to the review to be anonymous, make sure it is clearly marked 'Confidential'. 

There are 3 ways you can submit your feedback.

Online consultation to 31 March 2024: Have your say: Independent Review of Small-Scale Titles 

Formal submission: Address: Ms Saxon, Norton Rose Fulbright Australia, GPO Box 3872, Sydney 2001.

Crown Land Management Act 2016 Review: Have Your Say

Closes: 19 March 2024
The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure is seeking your feedback on the legislative framework for the management and use of Crown land across NSW.

What’s this about?
We are conducting a 5-year statutory review of the Crown Land Management Act 2016 (the Act) to understand how well the Act is working and identify reforms that could strengthen and improve management of the Crown estate.

You can read the full discussion paper that sets out issues raised to date and identifies potential reform priorities.

Have your say
Have your say by Tuesday 19 March 2024.
You can have your say in 2 ways.

Coastal Floodplain Drainage Project: Have Your Say

Closes: 21 April 2024
The Coastal Floodplain Drainage Project interagency working group is seeking feedback on the rules managing coastal floodplain drainage works.

What’s this about?
The Coastal Floodplain Drainage Project aims to improve the regulatory framework for coastal agricultural drainage works and activities by:
  • addressing the complexity, time and costs associated with the approvals process
  • reducing the impact of these works and activities on downstream water quality, aquatic ecosystems, communities and industries.
The Coastal Floodplain Drainage Project interagency working group has released an Options Report which lays out 6 proposals to address the project’s objectives. The report is accompanied by an Attachments Paper that includes supporting information about the management of coastal floodplains.

The working group is seeking feedback on the level of support for implementing any 1 or a combination of the proposed options. Feedback on the proposed options will be used to inform recommendations to the relevant NSW Government Minister/s.

The six proposed options are:
  • Option 1: One-stop shop webpage - A single source of information on the various approvals that may be required by government agencies for coastal floodplain drainage works.
  • Option 2: Drainage applications coordinator - A central officer(s) to guide the applicant through the approvals processes for all NSW government agencies (Department of Planning and Environment’s Water Group, Planning, Crown Lands, and the Department of Primary Industries — Fisheries) and answer the applicant’s questions about their individual location and proposed works. The drainage applications coordinator would complement both Option 1 and Option 3.
  • Option 3: Concurrent assessment - Concurrent assessment of applications by relevant government agencies.
  • Option 4: Risk-based approach - NSW Government agencies would use a standardised risk matrix to compare the type and extent of the drainage works against the acidic water and blackwater potential of the drainage area to identify the level of risk associated with the proposed works. The identified level of risk could then be used to determine the level of information required from applicants, the level of assessment required by the approval authority, and the types of conditions applied to any approvals.
  • Option 5: Drainage work approvals under the Water Management Act 2000 - Switch on drainage work approvals under the Water Management Act 2000. Two different methods of implementation are possible:
i. a drainage work approval would be required only when works are proposed and for the area of works only
ii. a drainage work approval could apply to existing and new drainage works across the entire drainage network.
Within either of these two methods, one of three different approaches for public authorities could be applied:
a. require public authorities to hold a drainage work approval
b. allow for public authorities to hold a conditional exemption from requiring approvals
c. exempt public authorities from requiring a drainage work approval.
  • Option 6: Streamlining of Fisheries and Crown Land approvals through the use of drainage work approvals - Drainage work approvals, particularly under Option 5(ii), have the potential to deliver a catchment-wide consideration of the drainage network. This would provide greater certainty to other agencies such as Fisheries and Crown Land that environmental impacts have been considered and appropriate conditions applied, supporting them to assess and issue approvals more quickly.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water staff will present online information sessions to explain the Options Report and answer questions. The webinars will be held on:
Note: All submissions will be made public on the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s website unless clearly marked confidential. You can ask that your submission be anonymous.

Have your say
Have your say by Sunday 21 April 2024.

Submit your feedback using the online survey.

19 February 2024 to 21 April 2024

Moorhen chicks at Warriewood Wetlands. Photo: Joe Mills

Lorne Welcomes First Ever Hooded Plover Family

February 15, 2024
It’s the first time the threatened shorebirds have been recorded breeding in the area.

In December last year, a pair of Hooded Plovers became the talk of the town when they were spotted nesting on a beach in Lorne, on Victoria’s south coast. It was the first record of the threatened shorebirds breeding in the area since monitoring began in the 1980s.

Like other beach-nesting shorebirds, Hooded Plovers lay their eggs directly onto the exposed sand of southern Australia’s ocean shores – and their breeding season coincides with peak tourist season. With crowds of people flocking to Victoria’s Surf Coast beaches over the Christmas break, these plucky little plovers needed a helping hand to give their chicks the best possible chance of survival.

After a member of the public reported the sighting to BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds team, we arranged for local land managers from the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority to install fencing and signage at the site.

One bird was flagged RA (White) – a male banded by our Beach-nesting Birds team in 2019 that had previously nested nearby at Moggs Creek.

RA White, the father of Lorne’s first Hooded Plover chicks. Photo by Michael Prideaux

Against all odds, their eggs survived the festivities and the pair successfully hatched two chicks.

Once they hatch, Hooded Plover chicks roam the beach while learning to feed and fly – where they’re most vulnerable to predation and human disturbance. It takes 35 days for chicks to reach flying age – but without human intervention, there’s just a 20% chance that a chick will make it to fledging stage.

Thankfully, the Lorne community rallied around the new locals to keep them safe. Volunteers from BirdLife Australia’s Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority staff helped monitor the birds, protect their nest site and educate beach-goers about Hooded Plovers and their conservation. Local police even helped ensure the public gave the birds enough space during the New Year’s festivities.

Earlier this week, these efforts were rewarded when both chicks successfully fledged – another first for the area. It really does take a village!

When BirdLife Australia's Beach-nesting Birds program began in 2006, the population of Hooded Plovers in Victoria was as low as 500 birds – and declining. Thanks to the tireless work of our staff and volunteers who help monitor and protect hundreds of nesting sites throughout their breeding season, the number of chicks hatching at these sites has increased significantly – and their population is slowly recovering.

When our Beach-nesting Birds program began in 2006, the population of Hooded Plovers in Victoria was as low as 500 birds – and declining. Thanks to the tireless work of our staff and volunteers who help monitor and protect hundreds of nesting sites throughout their breeding season, the number of chicks hatching at these sites has increased significantly – and their population is slowly recovering.

Environment Groups Urge Northern Territory Chief Minister To Take Action To Protect Nature 

February 21 2024  
On Monday, Territory and national environment and conservation groups, including BirdLife Australia, delivered a dire message to the Northern Territory Chief Minister, advocating for urgent measures to protect the Territory’s unique and irreplaceable wildlife and natural landscapes

For too long the nature of the Northern Territory has been deprioritised compared to demands from the pastoral and agricultural sector and is suffering death by a thousand cuts from avoidable threats like indiscriminate land clearing, invasive species impacts and global warming induced changes to the already extreme climate. 

The Top End of the NT is home to part of the largest intact tropical savanna ecosystem in the world. Sadly, it was also assessed as one of nineteen ecosystems at imminent threat of collapse.  

Brittany Hayward- Brown, Convenor of BirdLife Top End says that the lack of biodiversity conservation legislation in the NT is failing to protect local birds and their habitats, and value their contribution to the NT’s economy.  

“Thirty-eight Northern Territory birds are now nationally recognised as Threatened, four of which are Critically Endangered, meaning they are one step away from extinction.”  

“Birds like the Endangered Red Goshawk have had almost 550,000 hectares, or the equivalent area of 78 times Uluru-Kata Juta National Park, of potential habitat destroyed, unabated, across the Territory since the year 2000 alone,” she said. 

Red Goshawk. Image by John Stirling.

“Meanwhile, some of the Territory’s most valuable natural areas, such as Lee Point in Darwin’s northern suburbs or the famous Mataranka Thermal Pools, are on the chopping block because the legislation and planning foresight required to protect them is virtually non-existent.”  

“We are the only jurisdiction in Australia not to have native vegetation protection laws, instead there are only ‘guidelines’. What we see time and time again is the short-sighted prioritisation of destructive industries over recognising the immense value that birds and their habitats can offer to our economy through alternatives like avi-tourism, and I think Territorians have had enough of it.”  

Environment groups stand ready to work with the Northern Territory Government to genuinely protect the Territory’s unique nature and are calling for: 
  1. The Enactment of specific biodiversity conservation legislation, which will address the unique conservation challenges by the Northern Territory and to provide a legal framework that prioritises the protection of its diverse ecosystems and wildlife. 
  2. The support for long-term conservation planning that is community-led, scientifically-grounded, and that respect the rights and concerns of First Nations Peoples. 
  3. The launch of an NT Biodiversity Strategy to plan the action necessary to reduce threats and restore nature, with transparent evaluation and reporting.   

Hundreds Celebrate World Wetlands Day 2024 At Toondah Harbour – And Call For Its Protection

February 15, 2024: from BirdlIfe Australia
On Sunday 4 February, hundreds of nature lovers from across south-east Queensland united to celebrate World Wetlands Day, and urge the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to save Toondah Harbour.

Held on the shores of Toondah Harbour, the annual World Wetlands Day event was themed “Our Bay – Our Flyway,” highlighting why these internationally significant wetlands must be protected for the migratory shorebirds that call them home.

This event comes just weeks before the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek will decide whether to approve or reject Walker Corporation’s real estate project proposal to destroy hectares of these Ramsar-listed to build 3,600 apartments, a hotel, restaurants and marinas.

Activities on the day included an artistic interpretation of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, used by migratory shorebirds on their epic 12,000-kilometre journeys from the Arctic to Australia’s shores. This community art project saw participants help paint a ‘flock’ of hundreds of cut-out migratory shorebirds to place on the map.

Eastern Curlew by Duade Paton

On the day, visitors also heard from speakers including Dr Hugh Possingham, BirdLife Australia Vice President, former Queensland Chief Scientist and Chief Councillor with the Biodiversity Council,  and learnt how wetlands contribute to our wellbeing. Participants also enjoyed viewing local shorebirds through powerful scopes and seeing Toondah’s koalas in their natural habitat – as well as live music and displays from community and environmental groups demonstrating their opposition to Walker Corporation’s proposal.

The community also called for a Week of Action to put pressure on Minister Plibersek to save Toondah Harbour, in the leadup to her April 23 decision deadline.

This event was organised by the Toondah Alliance, which includes BirdLife Australia, BirdLife Southern Qld, Redlands2030, Qld Wader Study Group, ACF Community Bayside, ACF, Koala Action Group, Stradbroke (Terrangeri) Environmental and the Cultural Protection Association.  

Petitions and campaigns against this proposal are also being conducted by the Save Our Bay - Toondah Harbour community group, Love Straddie Save Toondah Wetlands residents group, Save Straddie community group and Toondah Friends.

About Save Straddie 
Stradbroke (Terangeri) Environmental and Cultural Protection Association Inc. (SECP) consists of an equal number of indigenous and non-indigenous Straddie community members. 
The Association's objectives include working towards greater protection of North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Bay, and saving the Toondah wetlands.

The Toondah Harbour proposal to build a 3,600 high-rise unit development up to 10 storeys on protected tidal wetlands beside Cleveland's Stradbroke ferry terminal has been closely linked, by its promoters, to Stradbroke Island's future. 

In addition to environmental destruction of Ramsar listed wetlands and over-development at Cleveland, if the irresponsible Toondah scheme proceeds, it will set the scene for over-development on Straddie.  

A decision on the Toondah Harbour proposal will be made soon. You can help persuade the Environment Minister to reject the irresponsible Toondah scheme – and at the same time help protect fragile Straddie, the second largest sand island in the world.

About Toondah Friends
We are concerned about the massive residential development proposed to be constructed on / over part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park, which is also an international RAMSAR site and the Australian home of migratory shorebirds (protected under treaty).

Background by Save Straddie Group
Controversy continues to grow over the Queensland Government’s facilitation of the scheme via its Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA) over public, protected assets – including the tidal wetlands depicted in Figure 1. The wetlands are part of the Moreton Bay Ramsar siteWalker’s latest plan involves ‘reclamation’ of over 40 hectares of wetlands, including mangroves and seagrass beds, habitat and feeding places of many marine and bird species, some critically endangered.

Australia promised the world, when we signed the Ramsar Convention for the protection of internationally important wetlands, that we would protect all of our listed wetlands and the shorebirds inhabiting them. The requirement for ‘wise use’ is an illustration of this. Another illustration is the key promise, applying to all signatory nations, not to “delete or restrict” a Ramsar site boundary unless for “urgent national interests” eg urgent defence purposes. The Toondah scheme would breach this obligation. The Ramsar Convention has been signed by 171 nations, which is the vast majority of nations.

The Moreton Bay Ramsar site was listed in 1993 after being nominated by the Queensland and Federal Governments. A 1992 successful Queensland Cabinet submission by then Environment Minister, Pat Comben, reveals the Government was (and remains) aware that:
a main objective of the Ramsar Convention is to stem the loss of wetlands;

Australia is obliged, under the Convention, to conserve and wisely use our Ramsar listed wetlands and not to delete or restrict their boundaries unless for urgent national interests.
The final boundaries of the Moreton Bay Ramsar site were endorsed in 1993 by the Queensland Cabinet, which also confirmed the nomination of the site.

Cabinet, and therefore the Queensland Government, accepted that although the Federal Government is the contracting party under the Convention, the Convention obligations also bind the Queensland Government which has a responsibility to properly protect listed wetlands. The Toondah Harbour scheme clearly conflicts with our national and international obligations.

More generally, Federal approval of Queensland’s Toondah development plans is required because “matters of national environmental significance” are at stake, namely:

  • Wetlands of international importance
  • Listed threatened species and communities
  • Listed migratory species
The PDA includes historic GJ Walter Park and extends hundreds of metres out into Moreton Bay. The PDA is defined by the red lines in Figure 3. Walker Corporation, a major political donor to Labor and Liberal/Nationals, wants to use the State Government’s PDA to build 3,600 units in buildings up to 10 storeys, a hotel, restaurants, marinas, and a wetland and cultural centre for the controversial Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).

The Palaszczuk Government facilitated Toondah plan cannot proceed without Federal approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Crucially, in deciding whether to approve, or not approve, the EPBC Act (section 138) stipulates that the Federal Environment Minister –
“must not act inconsistently with Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention”

This is a very important provision, in conjunction with the protection requirements of the Ramsar Convention. In addition to our obligations of conservation and wise use of listed wetlands, Clause 2.5 of the Convention requires “urgent national interests” to exist before a signatory nation can “delete or restrict” any part (our emphasis) of a Ramsar listed wetland.

The ABC has revealed that senior lawyers advised the Federal Government that “if the minister approved the Toondah Harbour proposal in its current form, he would be acting inconsistently with Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar convention in relation to Ramsar listed sites”. See the Background Briefing transcript – interview with ANU Professor of Law, Andrew Macintosh. This FB post contains relevant extracts.

The Toondah scheme has not changed much since that legal advice was given to the Federal Government. One or two Walker supporters have tried to argue that the current housing crisis provides an “urgent national interest”. But that claim does not stand up to scrutiny of course. We don’t live in a small country like Singapore, where there is not much land. And high-end, waterfront apartments obviously are not intended for the homeless! Also, Walker some time ago dropped any claim that its scheme is in our urgent national interests. Instead, it wants the Federal Government to ignore this Ramsar Convention obligation.

Walkers Corp. Hires People To Take Down Community Protest Signage At Appin

Community and residents group Appin Development Page - Battle for Appin has filmed people taking down signage last weekend that points out the problems with the Walker Appin Development.

The New South Wales government fast-tracked the approval of Appin part one for 13,000 homes through a new state-led planning pathway. The process removed the local Wollondilly Council as the consent authority.

During the process the council and community repeatedly raised concerns the development would create an infrastructure crisis for the area.

In November 2022 Wollondilly Council Mayor Gould said, “We are bitterly disappointed at the NSW Government’s rushed announcement and that once again we are seeing them rubber stamp massive residential developments in an area that completely lacks the most basic infrastructure to support it, and without any meaningful commitment to roads, public transport, schools, hospitals or other essential services.”

“The State Government has clearly learnt nothing from the mistakes it has made at Wilton. The Government’s own plans show there is no strategy for infrastructure or jobs,” he said.

“It is way too early to start building houses at Appin, and it is counterproductive to have growth areas competing against each other for basic infrastructure.”

“The Minister [then Anthony Roberts] claims this proposal will look after our local koala population, but building houses will definitely not secure the protection of important koala corridors. In fact, Wollondilly’s disease-free koala population will be under significant threat if this plan is fast-tracked, with their food trees cut down to make way for houses.” 

“This blatant case of putting billionaire developer interests before the needs of the community will be to the detriment of current and future Wollondilly communities, as well as our koala population.” 

Wollondilly Council have shared a preliminary notification of Walker Corporation's planning proposal for Appin part two this month for community consultation. That proposal outlines plans for an additional 1,312 homes in the area.

The Battle for Appin group said on Saturday February 17, 2024:
''A second contractor has arrived, paid by Walker Corporation to remove signs off poles. It’s not personal, and they are just doing what they are being paid to do.

This was under the Appin Planning and Discovery Centres Local Community Liaison Officers instructions; To remove signs that are not even on Walker Corporation owned property. 
[they are] Removing signs raising awareness about the state government and need for infrastructure here.
[they are] Removing signs like koala crossing, slow down, signs that have absolutely nothing to do with them.''

On 20 February 2024 the group released the following statement;

Appin Community Furious As Developer Walker Corporation Removes Community Signs

''The removal of community signs by Walker Corporation, highlighting urgent safety issues and infrastructure deficits in Appin, has ignited outrage within the community.

The signs were not on any property owned by the developer. Signs also calling for a royal commission were forcefully removed by the developer, compounding the issue. The rezoning was approved by NSW Planning in the absence of critical planning documents, including a precinct structure plan, a development control plan, and a state planning agreement, which have still not been finalised or put on public exhibition even though the deferred rezoning deadline has now passed.

This action is perceived by many as an attempt to silence community in raising its concerns over the State Government’s decision to fast track development in Appin without adequate planning or infrastructure support. 

‘Locals are absolutely furious that Walkers Corporation thinks they can just go around ripping signs down they don’t like, this is our lives and safety they are playing with’. a spokesperson said

The Appin community demands that the NSW State Government provide evidence that an agreement has been reached from all state departments, to fund and deliver the infrastructure to support this rezoning. And if these agreements cannot be produced, then rescind the rezoning based on failure to produce these documents, inadequate infrastructure commitments and risk to public safety.''

We are digging deep.

Protecting local environments and heritage sites, such as the Aboriginal massacre site in Appin, is crucial for preserving cultural history, environmental integrity, and educating future generations about Australia's complex past. 

The partial listing of Teston Farm (1100 acres in total) by state heritage, owned by Walker Corporation, excludes a ‘significant’ number of acres, prompting questions about the influences and decisions behind heritage protection. 

These decisions often involve complex negotiations influenced by economic, developmental, and political factors. 
Investigating why the entire area wasn't protected is essential to ensure transparent, equitable processes in heritage conservation, involving consultations with Indigenous communities, historians, and environmentalists. 

So that’s what we’ve been doing.
In the meantime, PLEASE sign and share the petition.

That footage;

The Signs The Residents Had Placed In Public Areas:

Appin Road Upgrade - Ongoing Compromises Instead Of Safeguarding Koalas: Sydney Basin Koala Network

Statement: January 24, 2024
The NSW Government greenlights Appin Road upgrades by Transport for NSW. At least 30 koalas lost their lives trying to cross this road last year. We demanded urgent action, but while there are some positives - proposed upgrades fall short.

Positives include upgraded culverts based on community feedback, but the reduction to a single box culvert at Beulah is disappointing. The community's demand for increased road crossings remains unmet, undermining the crucial need for enhanced connectivity.

TfNSW admits complexity in designing underpasses for koalas. Why not opt for proven overpasses? They provide continuous habitat - unlike underpasses - and have been shown to be effective. While TfNSW commits to monitoring the designs, meaningful data could take years to collect and there is no contingency plan if the designs are ineffective. Overpasses provide certainty now, offering a more immediate solution.

The current plan's timing will mean koalas can't move freely for up to 12 months. Crossings will be installed only after road fencing is completed. Immediate crossings are necessary, and waiting for fencing completion is unwarranted.

Mallaty Creek is a critical oversight, as Koalas use this corridor and therefore it requires an overpass, as supported by Dr. Colin Salter (WIRES). An overpass at Mallaty would reduce the distance between crossings, improving habitat connectivity. The current road upgrade neglects this vital corridor, as does the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP), which proposes to cut off this habitat corridor entirely to koalas. The Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan must maintain connectivity at Mallaty Creek. The CPCP must be amended to preserve, widen, and restore this corridor. Choosing to cut off vital habitat contradicts the purpose of a Conservation Plan. The CPCP and Appin Road upgrade seemingly relegate koala conservation to an afterthought. The plans endorse severing vital corridors and constructing long tunnels post-fencing, an unwarranted gamble. Proven alternatives like overpasses offer a more natural and effective habitat connection.

Allowing these compromises in one of the last disease-free Koala colonies in the state, jeopardises the species' recovery. We need to act urgently to protect this colony and avoid similar outcomes elsewhere.

Help Save The Wildlife And Bushlands In Campbelltown In Gilead

31 January 2024 at 22:49
A massive thank you to Taylor for contacting us about a koala mum and Joey almost hit by a car tonight. 

At around 8:25pm we got the call from Taylor about a koala mum and joey almost hit by cars on Appin road. We passed the job onto WIRES who were closer to the location at the time as time is critical in this situation. In the video you can see the mum koala with Joey on back run in front of vehicles from the Figtree Hill  Lendlease development entrance this mum and bubs where so lucky. 

Koalas live, breed and move from tree to tree along Appin road making this koala habitat in my eyes. With the upgrade of Appin Road going from one lane each way to  two lanes each way with a potential of a each lane each way making it 3 lanes each way will mean the removal of hundreds of mature koalas trees along Appin Road from Ambarvale till the Figtree development. 

That many koalas have been sighted, males and females koalas with also joeys on back and not to mention all the koalas injured and killed on Appin road. 

This destruction of trees and a single not suitable underpass will cause a massive impact on our disease free koala colony. The government needs to think of a better way to upgrade Appin Road without the destruction of hundreds of mature koala trees.

Meat Being Dumped Into Bush Attracts Foxes

The Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown group posted photos of meat that has been dumped in the bush at St Helens Park, on Monday February 19, 2024.
The group stated:

''Koalas have enough to deal with habitat loss due to development dog attacks, hit by cars  etc.

A member of the public looked out their window and saw a fox in the Bushlands across the road eating something on the ground. While the member of public was looking he also noticed a young koala almost at the base of the tree near the fox, then the  fox  heard a noise and noticed the koala and then the koala saw the fox the koala screamed with fright and quickly ran straight back up the tree to safety.

The member of public said the koala wasn’t bitten just scared. 

Why did this happen? 

Let us explain. Somebody thought it was a good idea to be feeding the foxes in the area, so they put the food at the base of a tree for the foxes to eat every night. The koala was lucky tonight. 

People need to stop feeding native and non-native Wildlife one of our Sydney Wildlife volunteer  and members at a public helped cleaned up the food scraps to deter the fox from coming back and members of the public are monitoring the Koala. Thank you to all involved.''

Later that same day:

''We just got sent pics of more food [meat] been dumped in bushlands near Kentlyn.''

Photos: Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

Bolstering Traditional Practices To Ramp Up Bushfire Resilience

February 23, 2024
A new program to boost the bushfire resilience of critical transport corridors by supporting Aboriginal cultural landscape management has been launched at 4 sites across regional NSW.

The $4.5 million Transport for NSW (TfNSW) Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes Project is a land management pilot created in response to recommendations from the NSW Bushfire Inquiry which followed the Black Summer disaster.

The outcome-driven project supports local Aboriginal communities to use traditional land management methods, including cultural burning, to reduce the risk of bushfires impacting key NSW roads.

Pilot sites are located:
  • near the Bruxner Highway northwest of Grafton on Bundjalung Country
  • near the Oxley and Newell Highways at Coonabarabran on Gomeroi Country
  • along the Princes Highway at Bega and Batemans Bay on the South Coast on Yuin Country.
A joint TfNSW and La Trobe University research project will accompany the pilots and explore how traditional and cultural land and water management can be used to build resilience to natural disasters into the transport network.

The Department of Regional NSW Regional Aboriginal Partnerships Program will support Aboriginal groups within a culturally safe environment to ensure their business models can deliver landscape management services to landowners and Government once the pilots conclude in mid-2025.

The pilot is part of the NSW Government’s $28 million Network Resilience Program being delivered by TfNSW over 4 years to improve the State Road network’s resilience to bushfires.

Find out more about the Network Resilience Program.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Corporation of NSW, NSW Local Land Services, local councils and Local Emergency Management Committees are working on the pilots with TfNSW.

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said:
“Hazard reduction and mitigation play a key role in managing fire risk, and we know from the Bushfire Inquiry that there are many different approaches we can take to this to prepare as much as possible for bushfires.

“This project will support Aboriginal communities to carry out and expand cultural landscape management, making our road network more resilient and promoting the use of local traditional knowledge to better prepare our landscape for natural disasters.”

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty David Harris said:
“Aboriginal people have been caring for Country as custodians and knowledge holders for tens of thousands of years.

“It makes sense for Aboriginal people to manage the landscape at these sites now and into the future.

“Through this initiative, we are Closing the Gap by creating jobs and empowering Aboriginal people and communities to be decision-makers.

“The project will strengthen Aboriginal communities and build knowledge and cultural heritage across the generations.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said:
“Having travelled extensively through Bega during the 2019/20 bushfires, I know the first-hand trauma and devastation they caused.

“It’s a win-win situation that could pave the way for this important work to expand after the pilot. It will contribute to a model of closer working with Aboriginal people to build the framework for future land management partnerships with Transport for NSW, other Government agencies, and private landholders.

“This won’t just help reduce the risk of catastrophic fires impacting our transport links, it will also help the Aboriginal communities strengthen their cultural connection with Country.”

Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland said:
“The long-term tragedy and trauma that catastrophic fires bring is fresh in the memory of people who live, work and visit the South Coast. Connectivity is key during times of natural disaster, and I welcome any initiative that will help build the resilience of our key road network.

“The great thing about the pilot is that it has the potential to build future business and employment opportunities for local communities, while uplifting our collective ability to care for Country.

“This will help encourage knowledge of the land to be passed on by Elders, and benefit local communities as well as everyone who relies on the road network.”

NSW Government Leaving Feral Pigs With Nowhere To Hide

February 18, 2024
The NSW Government states its feral pig control program has culled 33,277 feral pigs in just 4 months, making it one of the largest feral pig programs in the nation’s history.

Already 2,035 property owners have participated in the Government’s $13 million Feral Pig Program, working with Local Land Services to target pest populations.

Biosecurity is a central commitment of the NSW Government and adequately resourcing the Local Land Services team to get the job done properly has been a priority for the Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty.

Central to the program’s effort is the three priority control zones along western NSW where baiting, trapping and shooting, have been expanded and intensified.

Highlights of the NSW Feral Pig Program to date include:
  • 33,277 feral pigs culled
  • 4.69 million hectares protected through aerial and ground control efforts
  • 77,904 kg of free bait issued to landholders
  • 51 sessions with groups of landholders focused on feral pig management
  • Establishment of the state’s first Feral Pig Coordinator
A critical part of the feral pig program has been equipping farmers with the tools, education and support needed to get on top of the problem.

Local Land Services staff offer on the ground support in paddocks as well as at community and industry events. Farmers and land managers are being urged to continue to work with Local Land Services and their neighbours to focus on ongoing control efforts.

This should include a combination of methods such as baiting, trapping and shooting to ensure best results are achieved.

Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty said:

“Farmer feedback on our $13 million NSW Government investment into the feral pig program has been positive and 2,035 farmers are involved in the program.

“We now have one of the largest coordinated feral pig control programs ever, supporting farmers on the ground to reduce the impacts of pest animals.

"Tackling the feral pig problem requires government and farmers to work side by side, and the Government is making sure this program is doing exactly that."

CSIRO Study Shows Marine Heatwaves Have Significant Impact On Microorganisms

February 2024
Prolonged oceanic warm water events are altering the microorganism communities that form the base of the marine food chain.

A new study led by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, shows that marine heatwaves (MHWs) are altering the microorganism communities that form the base of the marine food chain, disrupting coastal ecosystems.  

Australia has recently experienced a number of marine heatwaves off the East Coast and Tasmania.  

They are prolonged oceanic warm water events that can have significant impacts on marine life, including fish, coral reefs and kelp forests.  

MHWs can be caused by a range of factors, and large climate drivers such as El Niño are known to impact their frequency, intensity and duration.  

Lead author Dr Mark Brown said the researchers analysed a MHW off Tasmania in 2015/16, an extreme warming event, finding it had significant impacts on microorganisms. 

“The marine heatwave transformed the microbial community in the water column to resemble those found more than 1000 km north, and supported the presence of many organisms that are uncommon at this latitude,” Dr Brown said. 

“This reshaping leads to the occurrence of unusual species, the development of unique combinations of organisms, and can cause cascading effects throughout the ecosystem, including changes in the fate of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere.  

“For instance, we observed a shift away from the normal phytoplankton species at this site towards smaller cells that are not easily consumed by larger animals, potentially leading to profound changes all the way up the food chain.”  

The study is the result of a long-term effort to observe marine microbiota for over 12 years.  

CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Lev Bodrossy said researchers used a new approach to simplify the way they observed tens of thousands of marine microbes.  

“This will enable us to evaluate the health of the marine ecosystem and predict how it will change with predicted global warming,” Dr Bodrossy said. 

“We’ll be able to better predict the future of fish stocks and marine carbon sequestration in different regions of the global ocean.

“Observations like these, especially those done in the open ocean, are difficult to sustain but are crucial for understanding and forecasting the future status of the marine ecosystem,” he said.

The article ‘A marine heatwave drives significant shifts in pelagic microbiology’ was published in Nature’s Communications Biology.

Australia has recently experienced a number of marine heatwaves off the East Coast and Tasmania. Photo: CSIRO

Secrets Of Night Parrot Unlocked After First Genome Sequenced

February 14, 2024
The development will answer questions about population genetics and biology that could boost conservation hopes for one of the world's rarest birds.

Researchers at CSIRO have sequenced the first genome of the Night Parrot, one of the world’s rarest and most elusive birds. 

The development will answer questions about population genetics and biology that could boost conservation hopes for the recently rediscovered species.

“The genome will enable us to explore the genetic basis of why the Night Parrot is nocturnal, a very unusual feature in parrots. We’ll investigate faculties like navigation, smell, beak shape and its less-than-optimal night vision,” Dr Leo Joseph, Director of CSIRO’s Australian National Wildlife Collection said. 

“Researchers will also be able to run statistical analyses on the genome of this individual to estimate past population sizes of Night Parrot populations in Australia. 

“Now, we have the capability to compare this annotated genome with other, closely related parrots, shedding light on the reasons behind its scarcity and limited distribution compared to many of its relatives.” 

CSIRO researchers sequenced the Night Parrot genome — its genetic blueprint — using tissue obtained from Dr Kenny Travouillon, Acting Curator of Ornithology at the Western Australian Museum, after Traditional Owners in the Pilbara found the deceased specimen and delivered it to the Museum Boola Bardip.

The specimen, which is the best-preserved on display in the world, is now open to public viewing at the WA Museum Boola Bardip.

Dr Gunjan Pandey, who led the Night Parrot genomics project, said access to high-throughput DNA sequencing technology under CSIRO’s Applied Genomics Initiative is accelerating genomics research in Australia.  

“We can now generate very high-quality genomes from really tiny tissue samples – even as small as an ant’s head or a single mosquito,” Dr Pandey said. 

“This level of quality and detail just wasn’t possible even five years ago. 

“The genetic data can be used to ensure conservation programs maximise diversity, so the species is resilient and has the best chance of long-term survival.” 

CSIRO's Night Parrot genome project team. Photo: CSIRO

Once more widespread in arid Australia, the Night Parrot declined due to environmental changes such as predation by cats and foxes.  

It is now known only from localised parts of southwest Queensland and Western Australia. 

“A couple of dozen scientific specimens were collected during the nineteenth century and one in 1912. Then a specimen was found in 1990 in southwest Queensland,” Dr Joseph said. 

“Live birds were reported from the same area in 2013, and a live parrot was finally caught and tagged in 2015.” 

While the Night Parrot genome is an exciting scientific resource to understand more about this bird, protecting the species from cats, foxes, fire and habitat loss is also crucial for their conservation. 

“The Night Parrot genome will open up numerous opportunities for further research to help conserve this species,” Dr Pandey said. 

“This will empower scientists to develop a plan for saving the Night Parrot, which is the ultimate goal of sequencing the genome and making it publicly available.”  

The Night Parrot genome was sequenced from tissue collected from a deceased specimen, found by Traditional Owners in the Pilbara. Photot ©  Arianna Urso / Western Australian Museum

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) annotated the genome sequence of the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis). The locations of individual genes were found using NCBI’s Eukaryotic Annotation Pipeline (EGAP). The annotated genome is now available online as part of the NCBI Reference Sequence (RefSeq) Database through NCBI Datasets.

CSIRO together with the Threatened Species Initiative, supported by Bioplatforms Australia, will continue genetic studies to understand more about the Night Parrot and other closely related birds such as the Eastern Ground Parrot.

CSIRO’s Applied Genomics Initiative (AGI) uses high throughput sequencing technology to deliver reference genomes and large-scale diversity datasets for new insights and applied outcomes.

The genome was sequenced using Oxford Nanopore technology at the Biomolecular Resource Facility (BRF) at the Australian National University (ANU). BRF is a service node of Bioplatforms Australia which is made possible through investment funding provided by the Commonwealth Government National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). The AGI has successfully assembled over 100 genomes across diverse life forms in recent years, and many of these annotated genomes are accessible to the public via GenBank

Australia’s Eucalypt Of The Year Voting Opens Today In Your Backyard!

Australia’s much loved Eucalypt of the Year voting is now open. Gumtree lovers across the country are invited to vote for their favourite gum, for the seventh consecutive year. This year, Eucalypt Australia is celebrating the eucalypts we share our cities and towns with; the beautiful but tough species that thrive in urban environments and are the backdrop to our lives.

“We hear so much about NIMBYs but this year, we want to celebrate the YIMBYs or ‘Yes In my Backyards’ with eucalypts that are perfect for urban environments. Our shortlist of ten species this year represent urban eucalypts that give character to our neighbourhoods,” says Linda Baird, CEO of Eucalypt Australia.

“Picture Red Flowering Gums (Corymbia ficifolia) exploding with oranges, pinks and reds and full of ecstatic bees and bugs during summer; the unmistakable fresh scent in autumn as you pass sprawling Lemon Scented Gums; the incredible silver bells and bright winter blossoms of a wiry silver princess; and the cacophony of lorikeets in Yellow Gum street trees as they rain gum blossom fragments below during spring.

“Last year’s winner – the glorious Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata) is not eligible but your personal urban favourite might still be in the shortlist. Now is the time to cast your vote for your personal favourite neighbourhood star,” says Linda.

People can vote for their favourite eucalypt until Wednesday 20th March at

The winning eucalypt will be announced on National Eucalypt Day, Saturday March 23. National Eucalypt Day is Australia’s biggest annual celebration of eucalypts held every year to celebrate and promote Australia’s eucalypts and what they mean to our lives and hearts.

Tell Eucalyptus Australia how you voted on social media by tagging @EucalyptAus using the hashtag #EucalyptoftheYear. The ten shortlisted species are:
  • Dwarf Apple Angophora hispida 
  • Ghost Gum Corymbia aparrerinja 
  • Red-flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia 
  • Silver Princess Eucalyptus caesia 
  • Argyle Apple Eucalyptus cinerea  
  • Yellow Gum Eucalyptus leucoxylon  
  • Risdon Peppermint Eucalyptus risdonii  
  • Coral Gum Eucalyptus torquata 
  • Heart-leaved Mallee Eucalyptus websteriana 
  • Lemon-flowered Gum Eucalyptus woodwardii

Dwarf Apple, Angophora hispida
Features: A shrub or small tree with interesting foliage, producing masses of big, cream flowers in late spring and summer. The juvenile leaves and stems are burgundy and covered in tiny red hairs, an unusual feature amongst the eucalypts.
Great for: Tough coastal or rocky sites with sandy, acidic soil. Can be maintained as an attractive shrub or small tree with a dense, shade-giving crown.
Needs: temperate climate and well-drained soils. Dislikes alkaline soils.

Dwarf Apple Angophora hispida. Photo: Cathy Cavallo for Remember The Wild

Ghost Gum, Corymbia aparrerinja
NT, Qld, WA
Features: An iconic tree of Central Australia, its powdery white bark resplendent against a backdrop of blue sky and red soil. Astoundingly adaptable, this species grows to its conditions – from a 30 cm shrub clinging to a crack on a rocky escarpment to a tall, spreading tree on the plains. When planted in warm, arid environments, the Ghost Gum general grows into a well-shaped tree with a single trunk and rounded, shade-giving crown. 
Great for: This highly drought-tolerant, stately species is perfect for parkland plantings and useful as a street tree in hot, dry areas.
Needs: Well-draining soil, warm-hot arid climates and plenty of sun.

Red-flowering Gum, Corymbia ficifolia
Features: This Western Australian species is having a jaw-dropping flowering season, thanks to a mild, relatively wet summer. You will have seen the photos - red or orange blossoms so bright they max out the camera, set against glossy, dark green, fig-like leaves (that's where the name ficifolia comes from!) and big, woody, urn-shaped gumnuts. Despite its restricted distribution in the wild, this is one of Australia's most widely-planted eucalypts, and it's not hard to see why!

Great for: Highly successful as a street tree in temperate environments, thanks to its uniform shape, short, straight trunk, dense, shady crown, non-shedding bark and abundant, bright flowers. There are a wide variety of cultivars available, including hybrids that offer various shades of pink, many grafted to guarantee choice of flower colour. Also suitable for gardens and parks. 
Needs: Suited to coastal and inland temperate and subtropical areas on acidic, sandy soil, however some grafted cultivars tolerate a wider range of soil types and acidities.

Red-flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia. Photo: Dean Nicolle

Silver Princess, Eucalyptus caesia
Features: Huge, pink, pendulous gum blossoms, silver, bell-like gumnuts and handsome red 'minniritchi' bark that curls in upon itself - what's not to like? But don't let its delicate beauty fool you, this a hardy desert species that tolerates a wide range of temperatures and conditions across temperate and arid Australia.
Great for: The Silver Princess an excellent choice for small, sunlit gardens where its narrow trunk, open crown and non-competitive root systems allow other species to be planted beneath. This, and the bright, bird-attracting flowers that bloom in autumn and winter have made it a historically popular choice in urban native gardens of the south east. 
Needs: Full sun all day and well-draining soil. Moderately frost and drought tolerant.

Argyle Apple, Eucalyptus cinerea
NSW, Vic 
Features: A stately tree from the Central and Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, its distribution extending just over the border into the Beechworth area of north-east Victoria. It features a dense crown of silver-blue, rounded leaves against a dark, non-shedding, fibrous bark. From winter to early summer, the Argyle Apple produces small cream flowers that provide food for native insects and smaller honeyeaters.

Great for: Shade, shelter and screening. Trim lower branches during growth to create a shady feature tree to sit beneath. Eucalyptus cinerea is a larger species (6-18 metres tall), suitable for bigger gardens, parklands and potentially streetscapes.

Needs: This is a tolerant, hardy woodland species that can take a wide range of temperatures, soil types and lighting conditions. It does need well drained soil and moderate rainfall.

Yellow Gum/South Australian Blue Gum, Eucalyptus leucoxylon
NSW, SA, Vic
Features: A versatile, widely grown eucalypt with masses of pink, red, yellow or cream pollinator-attracting flowers from winter to spring, glossy green leaves and smooth, striped bark, which ranges in colour from white and grey to yellow and brown and changes character throughout the seasons. Despite the smooth bark, this species is most closely related to the ironbarks.

Great for: With a wide environmental tolerance, five subspecies and multiple tried-and-true cultivars, this species is suitable for almost all urban uses - from small, shady street trees and backyard trees to parkland giants. Most popular cultivars have been produced from the smaller subspecies megalocarpa, also known as the Large-fruited Yellow Gum, which has a short trunk, rounded, dense crown and the biggest, brightest flowers amongst the subspecies. The species responds well to pruning and provides food and shelter for a wider variety of native species. 

Needs: This species tolerates a wide variety of soils and performs well in coastal environments with mild climates and moderate to high rainfall. Drought and frost tolerance varies from subspecies to subspecies.

Risdon Peppermint, Eucalyptus risdonii
Features: A rare, small peppermint species from Tasmania with scented silver foliage, attractive smooth bark and small white flowers that attract native insect pollinators.
Great for: Street plantings and smaller gardens in cool temperate environments. Can be periodically pruned back to the ground to be grown as a multi-stemmed mallee or to promote vigorous growth of the striking, paired leaves, which can be used in cut flower arrangements. 
Needs: Plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil and a cool temperate climate with moderately high rainfall.

Risdon Gum Eucalyptus risdonii. Photo: Cathy Cavallo for Remember The Wild

Coral Gum, Eucalyptus torquata
Features: Named for its pink flowers and orange buds, the Coral Gum is one of the most widely planted eucalypts and for good reason. Along with masses of spectacular flowers over a prolonged flowering season, the species features a dense, rounded crown, non-shedding bark on a short, single trunk, is consistently structurally sound and highly drought tolerant.

Great for: Street plantings, parklands and as a small garden tree for shade and shelter. The orange, beaked bud caps look like tiny, piped meringues and the bright flowers are popular with native pollinators. 
Needs: Lots of sun, and well-drained soil, a dry climate with hot summers and mild winters. Tolerates most soil types. Does not like salt-laden coastal winds, high humidity or high rainfall.

Heart-leaved Mallee, Eucalyptus websteriana
Features: A small, rounded shrub or mallee with heart-shaped leaves, striking red and green minniritchi bark and pale yellow flowers that are popular with native birds and insects alike. The sweet, delicate flowers emerge from bronze, rounded buds in winter and spring.
Great for: This ornamental species is perfect for large pots and small garden spaces. It has a compact crown and non-competitive root system that allows it to be planted in concert with other species in a denser habitat garden. It is drought tolerant, copes well in hot summers and can be pruned right back to the base. 
Needs: The Heart-leaved Mallee is a desert species that needs full sun, well-draining soil, and a warm, dry climate.

Lemon-flowered Gum, Eucalyptus woodwardii
Features: Cascades of white buds, grey-green leaves and lemon-yellow flowers adorn the weeping branches of this small tree. Paired with its copper and silver bark, the Lemon-flowered Gum is a real showstopper. 

Great for: A long-lived, generally single-trunked species suitable as a street or feature tree in warm, arid environments. Despite its slender form and heavy flowering, the species is structurally very sound. The cheerful yellow flowers are produced in winter in spring, providing food for native birds and insects. 
Needs: Grows well on well-drained clay or limestone-based soils in hot weather with plenty of sun. Grows poorly in humid, coastal environments and areas of high rainfall. 

Lemon-flowered Gum Eucalyptus woodwardii. Photo: Cathy Cavallo for Remember The Wild

Hard to kill: here’s why eucalypts are survival experts

Bernard Spragg/Flickr
Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

They can recover from fire. Grow back from a bare stump. Shrug aside bark loss that would kill a lesser tree. Endure drought and floods.

Eucalypts are not interested in dying. They’re survivors. The world’s 800-plus species are almost all found in Australia, a continent with old, degraded soils and frequent fires and droughts.

In the fossil record, they first appear about 34 million years ago. As the Australian continent dried out, eucalypts gradually emerged as the dominant trees in all but the most arid and tropical areas.

But what is it about eucalypts that makes them survivors? It’s a combination. Leathery leaves. Fire-resistant bark. Dormant buds under bark, waiting for fire. Mallee roots (lignotubers) at ground level to let them regrow. Roots which put out special chemicals to unlock scarce nutrients. And gumnuts which use fire to germinate and get a head-start on any rivals.

In a difficult place to survive, they thrive. Here’s how they do it.


Many gum species have leaves which hang vertically. These adaptations are about water. Water in Australia is often scarce, and it makes sense for trees to hold onto it when they have it. Vertical leaves means less direct sun, which means less evaporation. Their dry, leathery leaves also keep the water inside. It also improves their tolerance to bushfire.


Stringybark, ironbark, candlebark – the bark of eucalypts is used to identify them. But it’s also one of their great adaptations. The bark is often an excellent insulator against hot, dry summers as well as a protective barrier against fire.

Stringy bark is so fibrous that despite singeing and looking black on the surface, it often doesn’t burn, meaning buds beneath it are protected from damage.


Underneath the bark of a normal-looking eucalypt lie thousands of dormant buds. These invisible “epicormic” buds are a remarkable adaptation, letting the tree rapidly regrow after bushfires, severe insect and animal grazing, storms, droughts or floods.

You can spot epicormic shoots sprouting up and down the trunks of gum trees after a fire, making them look like “toothbrush trees”.

Eucalyptus Epicormic Buds
Epicormic Shoots emerge from Eucalyptus buds hidden under the bark after a bush fire. Forest Service/Flickr

Epicormic shoots can grow 27cm in a single day, or up to 6 metres in a year. When epicormic buds touch soil, they can sometimes develop as roots. This allows fallen trees or even large branches to re-establish and anchor after storms and floods.

You can sometimes see hundreds of woody spines on the trunks of old dead trees. These are a pointy reminder of how many undeveloped epicormic buds lurk under the bark.

Mallee Roots (Lignotubers)

As remarkable as epicormic buds are, they’re not the recovery mechanism of last resort. That job falls to the bulge at the bottom of many eucalypt trunks, which we often call “mallee roots”.

These are lignotubers, remarkable adaptations possessed by most eucalypts.

Base of Eucalyptus Tree
Lignotubers growing at the base of eucalyptus tree. Anitham Raju Yaragorla/ShutterStock

To appreciate the complexity and biological beauty of a lignotuber, imagine the trunk of a eucalypt with all its epicormic buds scrunched into a ball at the base of the trunk. The buds have direct access to a large root system able to supply water, nutrients and carbohydrates.

This is a gum tree’s emergency reboot option. Even when the tree above is falling apart, the lignotuber can rapidly regrow the tree at a rate of 6 metres or more in a year.


The roots of species such as river red gums drive deep into the soil along water courses, searching for subterranean water supplies as a backup in case the river dries up.

For other species, the solution to limited water is to send roots far and wide, often many times further than the tree’s height. In many species, the lignotuber and roots are buried under an insulating layer of soil. This acts as protection against fire.

That’s not all. Many eucalypt species produce “exudates” from their roots – chemicals which leach into the soil and free any locked-up nutrients in poor soils.

Still other exudates seep out to help feed mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. The gum trees do this as part of a wonderful symbiosis, allowing both tree and fungus to thrive. The gum gives sugar, the fungi give water and nutrients.

This underground exchange greatly improves soil quality and lets other species grow in difficult conditions.


Gumnuts – woody fruits of eucalypts – are familiar to many of us from May Gibbs’ famous Snugglepot and Cuddlepie stories.

These capsules protect the tiny seeds inside from desiccation and fire. After a fire, eucalyptus fruit may be damaged or dry out. This frees the fine seeds, which sprinkle over the soil like pepper over dinner.

Some eucalypts rely not on lignotubers or epicormic buds but on the seeds contained and protected in those woody gumnuts. The seeds fall to the ground and germinate when conditions are right renewing the forest.

Survivors – But Not Immortal

In the years ahead, we’ll see natural disasters occurring more often and with greater ferocity as the climate changes. And in the aftermath, we will also see the spectacular and rapid responses of eucalypts – one of the world’s great families of survivors.

But we will also see dead forests. Gum trees do perish, despite their abilities to regenerate. Some species such as mountain ash are not coping with pressures such as logging and climate change, while thin-barked snow gums are struggling to cope with new fire regimes. Every living thing has limits. 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.

New ecosystems, unprecedented climates: more Australian species than ever are struggling to survive

Frédérik SaltréFlinders University and Corey J. A. BradshawFlinders University

Australia is home to about one in 12 of the world’s species of animals, birds, plants and insects – between 600,000 and 700,000 species. More than 80% of Australian plants and mammals and just under 50% of our birds are found nowhere else.

But habitat destruction, climate change, and invasive species are wreaking havoc on Earth’s rich biodiversity, and Australia is no exception.

In 2023, the federal government added another 144 plants, animals and ecological communities to the threatened species list – including iconic species such as the pink cockatoospiny crayfish and earless dragons.

More and more species stand on the edge of oblivion. That’s just the ones we know enough about to list formally as threatened. Many more are in trouble, especially in the oceans. Change is the new constant. As the world heats up and ecosystems warp, new combinations of species can emerge without an evolutionary connection, creating novel communities.

It is still possible to stop species from dying out. But it will take an unprecedented effort.

How Species End

The modern extinction crisis is quite recent. Between 1970 and 2018, wildlife populations around the world fell by almost 70%. But the collapse of these populations isn’t equal – Latin America and the Caribbean have lost around 94% of the individuals in wild populations. Africa has lost 65%, Asia-Pacific about 45%, while North America and Europe have lost 45% and Central Asia 33%.

In the 250 years since Europeans arrived, at least 100 unique Australian species have gone extinct. That’s about 6% to 10% of all recorded extinctions worldwide since the year 1500. If we look at mammals alone, we have the worst track record of any country.

Extinction doesn’t happen overnight. An abundant species might be exposed to a new predator such as feral cats. Its population could fall to the point where it is listed as threatened, meaning it has a high chance of becoming extinct in the near future.

If the species can’t adapt and if we do nothing, the species can become critically endangered and decline to a few hundred individuals. If pressure continues, it can go extinct in the wild. And if zoos can’t establish breeding populations or we simply don’t know about it, the entire species can wink out of existence.

Tip Of The Iceberg

Australia’s threatened species list is useful, because it helps us prioritise which species to help. But it does not show the true number of species in danger. There are well known gaps, such as many invertebrates that have gone extinct unnoticed because of their secretive nature and small size.

The list likely misses other lesser-known or hard to research groups such as microorganisms, hard to find marine speciessnakes and lizards, and rare plants.

Neither does the list take into account species that depend on each other, such as wasps relying on one species to parasitise and pollinators specialising on a few types of flowers. Yet these complex interactions are essential to healthy functioning of ecosystems.

To list a species as threatened takes work. By the time we have catalogued all species on Earth – estimated to take 100–200 years at current discovery rates – experts estimate most species will have already gone extinct.

Can Species Come Back?

For decades, conservationists have used species recovery programs to try and bring threatened species back from the brink. You need a combination of approaches – there’s no point breeding thousands of endangered woylies if their habitat has been replaced with farmland or plantation.

One measure with good results is to use policy measures to cut forest loss and other habitat destruction. Lost habitat is the main reason more than 85% of our threatened species are on the list in the first place. Invasive species and diseases can worsen damage from habitat loss – or act alone.

Extinction is not inevitable. Between 2000 to 2022, we saw 29 species recover to the point they could be taken off the threatened list.

But the road to recovery is long, complicated, and far from assured for most of our worst-affected species.

Novel Ecosystems And Climate Change

Each species has a climate it prefers and can survive in. But the magnitude of expected future climate change is likely to produce climates without precedent in many regions. We could see the creation of entirely new biological communities and environments, as has happened before.

The best-known novel communities emerged at high latitudes mostly between 17,000 and 12,000 years ago. Here, for instance, spruce and ash trees in North America grew side by side – even though they now live far apart – and pines were less common than today.

Unfortunately, the emergence of novel communities often led to an increase in species extinctions.

But the emergence of new types of ecosystems doesn’t mean all species will suffer. For instance, novel habitats in Melbourne’s suburbs have led to a surge in southern brown bandicoots, who find strips of native and introduced plants along roads, canals and railways to their liking.

New ecosystems can sometimes harbour more species and actually be more resilient due to the variety of species traits, behaviours, and genetic diversity. But this is not guaranteed.

Managing these new ecosystems will be challenging. We will have to come up with creative ways to handle these changes by adopting Indigenous practices or applying novel solutions such as genetic rescue, mass reforestation and assisted migration to reduce extinction rates.

With unprecedented climates, novel ecosystems, invasive species, and disruptions to the food chain, we can expect more and more species to be added to the threatened list. The Conversation

Frédérik Saltré, Research Fellow in Ecology for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University and Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University

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

Ross Garnaut and Rod Sims have proposed a $100 billion-a-year fossil fuel tax – and it’s a debate Australia should embrace

Ian A. MacKenzieThe University of Queensland

Leading Australian economists Ross Garnaut and Rod Sims this week sought to shake up the carbon policy debate in Australia, by proposing a tax on the nation’s fossil fuel production. They claim it could raise A$100 billion in its first year and position Australia at the forefront of the low-carbon revolution.

The proposal has been rejected by the federal government and the Nationals, as well as business groups and the fossil fuel industry. The Greens have thrown their support behind the idea.

Garnaut and Sims have characterised their proposal as a “levy”. But it’s essentially a tax, applied to one sector of the economy: exporters of fossil fuels such as coal and gas, as well as importers of oil and diesel.

Australia’s recent political history tells us the road to a carbon tax is not smooth. However, as other nations race to restructure their economies in line with a low-carbon future, Australia risks being left behind. Whether to introduce a major, economy-shaping tax on fossil fuels is a conversation Australia must have.

How Would The Plan Work?

The respected economists presented the plan to the National Press Club this week. It involves a “carbon solutions levy” applied to all fossil fuel extraction sites in Australia (around 105 sites), and on all fossil fuel imports to Australia. The tax would presumably be calculated according to the emissions generated when the fuels are burned.

Garnaut and Sims say proceeds in the first year of the levy would be well over A$100 billion. They say the money should be spent on a rapid acceleration of Australia’s renewable energy expansion, as well as subsidising the development of low-carbon manufacturing for products such as steel and aluminium.

The proceeds would also be spent on cost-of-living relief for consumers, such as energy bill relief and scrapping the current excise on petrol and diesel fuel.

Garnaut told the National Press Club the global transition to net-zero represents a huge opportunity Australia must seize:

We can use it to raise productivity and living standards after the decade of stagnation. Other countries do not share our natural endowments of wind and solar energy resources, land to deploy them, as well as land to grow biomass sustainably as an alternative to petroleum and coal for chemical manufacture.

In the zero-carbon economy, Australia is the economically natural location to produce a substantial proportion of the products currently made with large carbon emissions in Northeast Asia and Europe.

And as Garnaut also outlined in his speech, climate change threatens Australia’s economy, which remains heavily dependent on exporting fossil fuels.

Is The Levy A Good Idea?

Carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming, which damages the planet and its people. The purpose of a carbon tax, or levy, is to ensure polluting companies pay for the damage they cause. In theory, the taxes make polluting production processes more expensive than the alternatives, reducing demand for those products.

The world, including Australia, has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. It’s a big task and we need to act fast. Economists broadly agree carbon taxes are the most efficient, lowest-cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So the proposal makes good policy sense.

Australia had a carbon price, or tax, from 2012 until 2014. It was introduced by Labor but repealed by the Abbott Coalition government. The policy was working: analysis showed emissions in Australia’s national electricity market would have been 11 million to 17 million tonnes higher without the measure.

Of course, sound policy ideas do not always come to fruition. After more than a decade of the so-called “climate wars” in Australia, the term “carbon tax” remains politically unpalatable.

Unsurprisingly, the plan proposed this week was immediately rejected by Labor and the Nationals. Even less surprising was the strong rebuff from business groups such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the fossil fuel lobby.

The Rest Of The World Got The Memo

Putting a price on carbon is not groundbreaking policy. Many countries do it – either as direct taxes or emissions trading schemes.

Notably, from 2026 a European Union tariff on carbon-intensive imports will come into effect. Known as the “carbon border adjustment mechanism”, it means importers will have to report on – and pay for – the emissions created when producing goods such as iron and steel.

The policy is designed to level the playing field for EU manufacturers that must pay a penalty for their own pollution. Imports from countries where a carbon price applies would be exempt from the tariff.

In coming years, we can expect other jurisdictions to implement similar policies to guard their domestic industries. Australia must protect its export revenue by expanding its production of low-carbon goods, or else find itself stuck with expensive, emissions-intensive products that no-one wants to buy.

It’s also important to remember Australia is a relatively small economy with little clout in global trade. To remain serious trading partners, we must come to the table with adequate climate policies.

And finally, imposing a carbon levy in Australia would ensure we get to keep the revenue for ourselves. The potential proceeds are enormous, and could be spent raising the living standard for all Australians.

My only real quibble with the plan is the proposal to set the levy at the level of the EU’s five-year average carbon price, currently around $90 a tonne. This puts Australia at the mercy of economic conditions in Europe. We’d be far wiser to determine the price ourselves.

Will Such A Levy Ever Happen?

Garnaut and Sims know their policy is a bold one – and will have its detractors. But as the world comes to terms with the economic reality of climate change, Australia risks being left behind.

As Garnaut told the ABC, everyone is a winner under the plan, except fossil fuel companies which, he conceded, “will hate it”. That may be true. But climate change is wreaking havoc on human communities, on natural systems, and on the global economy. It’s only fair that those responsible pay for the damage.

The political hurdles are high, but not insurmountable. Australia already penalises polluting companies via the safeguard mechanism, which imposes a hard cap on industrial emissions. Ten years ago, such a policy seemed highly unlikely, but we got there.

A carbon levy of the type proposed is an eminently sensible approach to get to net zero. This is a policy debate whose time has come. Let’s bring it on.The Conversation

Ian A. MacKenzie, Professor of Economics, The University of Queensland

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

A single Antarctic heatwave or storm can noticeably raise the sea level

Edward HannaUniversity of Lincoln and Ruth MottramDanish Meteorological Institute

A heat wave in Greenland and a storm in Antarctica. These kinds of individual weather “events” are increasingly being supercharged by a warming climate. But despite being short-term events they can also have a much longer-term effect on the world’s largest ice sheets, and may even lead to tipping points being crossed in the polar regions.

We have just published research looking at these sudden changes in the ice sheets and how they may impact what we know about sea level rise. One reason this is so important is that the global sea level is predicted to rise by anywhere between 28 cm and 100cm by the year 2100, according to the IPCC. This is a huge range – 70 cm extra sea-level rise would affect many millions more people.

Partly this uncertainty is because we simply don’t know whether we’ll curb our emissions or continue with business as usual. But while possible social and economic changes are at least factored in to the above numbers, the IPCC acknowledges its estimate does not take into account deeply uncertain ice-sheet processes.

Sudden Accelerations

The sea is rising for two main reasons. First, the water itself is very slightly expanding as it warms, with this process responsible for about a third of the total expected sea-level rise.

Second, the world’s largest ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland are melting or sliding into the sea. As the ice sheets and glaciers respond relatively slowly, the sea will also continue to rise for centuries.

Large glacier in mountains meeting the ocean
Elephant Foot Glacier in northern Greenland. Nicolaj Larsen / shutterstock

Scientists have long known that there is a potential for sudden accelerations in the rate at which ice is lost from Greenland and Antarctica which could cause considerably more sea-level rise: perhaps a metre or more in a century. Once started, this would be impossible to stop.

Although there is a lot of uncertainty over how likely this is, there is some evidence that it happened about 130,000 years ago, the last time global temperatures were anything close to the present day. We cannot discount the risk.

To improve predictions of rises in sea level we therefore need a clearer understanding of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. In particular, we need to review if there are weather or climate changes that we can already identify that might lead to abrupt increases in the speed of mass loss.

Weather Can Have Long-Term Effects

Our new study, involving an international team of 29 ice-sheet experts and published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, reviews evidence gained from observational data, geological records, and computer model simulations.

We found several examples from the past few decades where weather “events” – a single storm, a heatwave – have led to important long-term changes.

The ice sheets are built from millennia of snowfall that gradually compresses and starts to flow towards the ocean. The ice sheets, like any glacier, respond to changes in the atmosphere and the ocean when the ice is in contact with sea water.

These changes could take place over a matter of hours or days or they may be long-term changes from months to years or thousands of years. And processes may interact with each other on different timescales, so that a glacier may gradually thin and weaken but remain stable until an abrupt short-term event pushes it over the edge and it rapidly collapses.

Because of these different timescales, we need to coordinate collecting and using more diverse types of data and knowledge.

Historically, we thought of ice sheets as slow-moving and delayed in their response to climate change. In contrast, our research found that these huge glacial ice masses respond in far quicker and more unexpected ways as the climate warms, similarly to the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and heatwaves responding to changes with the climate.

Ground and satellite observations show that sudden heatwaves and large storms can have long-lasting effects on ice sheets. For example a heatwave in July 2023 meant at one point 67% of the Greenland ice sheet surface was melting, compared with around 20% for average July conditions. In 2022 unusually warm rain fell on the Conger ice shelf in Antarctica, causing it to disappear almost overnight.

These weather-driven events have long “tails”. Ice sheets don’t follow a simple uniform response to climate warming when they melt or slide into the sea. Instead their changes are punctuated by short-term extremes.

For example, brief periods of melting in Greenland can melt far more ice and snow than is replaced the following winter. Or the catastrophic break-up of ice shelves along the Antarctic coast can rapidly unplug much larger amounts of ice from further inland.

Failing to adequately account for this short-term variability might mean we underestimate how much ice will be lost in future.

What Happens Next

Scientists must prioritise research on ice-sheet variability. This means better ice-sheet and ocean monitoring systems that can capture the effects of short but extreme weather events.

This will come from new satellites as well as field data. We’ll also need better computer models of how ice sheets will respond to climate change. Fortunately there are already some promising global collaborative initiatives.

We don’t know exactly how much the global sea level is going to rise some decades in advance, but understanding more about the ice sheets will help to refine our predictions.The Conversation

Edward Hanna, Professor of Climate Science and Meteorology, University of Lincoln and Ruth Mottram, Climate Scientist, National Centre for Climate Research, Danish Meteorological Institute

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

As the world heats up, solar panels will degrade faster – especially in hot, humid areas. What can we do?

Shukla PoddarUNSW Sydney

To reach the goal of 82% renewable energy in Australia’s grid by 2030, we’ll need to build a lot more solar.

But even as we accelerate the rate at which we install solar on our rooftops and in grid-scale farms, the world keeps getting hotter and extreme weather arrives more often.

Solar panels have to be outside, exposed to all weather. They’re built to endure heat, snow, rain and wind. But they have limits. Climate change will mean many panels can degrade faster.

Our new research examines which areas of Australia will have the worst conditions for solar degradation out to 2059 – and what it will do to the cost of energy. We found solar in Australia’s hot, humid north will degrade fastest, while solar in the arid interior and more moderate climates down south will fare better.

What Makes Solar Panels Degrade?

When you’re looking to install solar on your rooftop, the warranty will likely be a factor in your eventual choice. Most solar manufacturers offer a 25-30 year warranty, where they guarantee power output will drop by less than 20% over that time.

The reason the power output drops at all is that solar panels slowly degrade over time. But different climates, different materials and different manufacturing techniques can lead to faster or slower degradation.

At present, the dominant solar technology is silicon. Silicon modules degrade due to stress from the environment, voltage changes and mechanical stresses, as silicon wafers are quite stiff and brittle. Environmentally, humidity, ultraviolet radiation and temperature are the main causes of damage.

Hotter, more humid conditions can accelerate degradation in several ways. The map below combines four types of degradation we predict will worsen under climate change. These are:

  1. delamination: heat and humidity can cause the bonds holding the different layers of the cell together to lose adhesion

  2. discoloured encapsulant: intense sunlight and extra moisture can damage or discolour the encapsulant, the polymer used to adhere layers within the solar cell together

  3. ribbon corrosion: if it’s more humid more often, it increases the chances moisture can accumulate and begin corroding the internal ribbon connections of the cell

  4. internal circuit failure: solar cells experience regular temperature fluctuations, daily and seasonally. These temperature changes can over time cause circuits to fail. A hotter world will add extra stress to internal circuits, leading to a higher chance of failure.

What Will Climate Change Do?

Our results predict degradation rates will increase across Australia out to 2059 under both high and low emissions scenarios laid out by the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change.

Under a high emissions scenario, solar would degrade twice as fast as it would under a lower emission scenario due to the extra heat. Solar farms would be able to produce less power and might have to replace panels due to failure more often. On average, this would mean losing about 8.5% of output due solely to extra degradation by 2059. Under a high emissions scenario, this would mean energy could cost 10-12% more.

But the effects wouldn’t be felt equally. Our results show solar built across the hot and humid north of Australia will degrade at especially high rates in the future compared to the arid centre, where conditions are hot but dry.

solar farm in desert
Solar in hot, dry conditions will fare better than hot and humid areas. Adwo/Shutterstock

What Should We Do?

Heat is the main way solar panels degrade and break in Australia. As the world heats up, it will go from annoyance to very real problem.

At present, very few solar developers are taking climate change into account when they buy their panels. They should, especially those operating in humid areas. They can be more careful while selecting a new solar farm location to ensure their modules have lower chances of failure due to degradation.

To fix the problem, we’ll need to incorporate new ways of cooling panels and improve the materials used. We also need to improve manufacturing processes and materials so we can stop moisture from accumulating inside the panels.

These issues can be fixed. The first step is to understand there is a problem. The Conversation

Shukla Poddar, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering, UNSW Sydney

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

Climate change is forcing Australians to weigh up relocating. How do they make that difficult decision?

Justine DandyEdith Cowan University and Zoe LevistonAustralian National University

Big environmental changes mean ever more Australians will confront the tough choice of whether to move home or risk staying put.

Communities in the tropical north are losing residents as these regions become hotter and more humidRepeated floods have communities along the east coast questioning their future. Others face rising bushfire risks that force them to weigh up the difficult decision to move home.

However, the decision-making process and relocation opportunities are not the same for everyone. Factors such as socio-economic disadvantage and how we are attached to a place influence decisions to move or stay, where people go and how they experience their new location.

Our research, working with other researchers at Edith Cowan University’s Centre for People, Place & Planet and Curtin University, seeks to document when and why people stay or go, and what this means for places and communities. In particular, our research suggests who is more likely to go may leave those who remain even more vulnerable.

Darwin is already losing residents because of rising heat and humidity.

We’ve Been Slow To Adapt To Increasing Impacts

Climate change is global in scale and has compounding effects. It is increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters and extreme weather events such as heatwaves, fires, storms and floods. It is also accelerating environmental changes such as soil erosion, salinisation of waterways, loss of biodiversity, and land and water degradation.

Both sudden disruptions and gradual pervasive decline have impacts on the places where we live, work and play. So far, there has been little effective government action to improve climate change adaptation in Australia.

As we have seen in recent times in Lismore, New South Wales, and northern Victoria, for example, living in some flood-prone locations will become unaffordable due to insurance costs or simply uninsurable.

In other locations, different reasons will force residents to leave. It might be because environmental change threatens their livelihoods, or they can’t tolerate new conditions such as more long heatwaves or less reliable freshwater supplies. Others might not be able to endure the threat of another disaster.

In sum, living in the place they called home will not be sustainable.

Repeated floods are forcing people in towns like Rochester in Victoria to contemplate whether they can afford to stay.

What Factors Affect The Decision To Stay Or Go?

Not everyone can relocate to cooler or safer places. Systemic inequalities mean some people are more at risk from environmental change and have less capacity to respond than others. These vulnerable people include children (both before and after birth), women, older people, people on low incomes and/or with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other cultural and/or linguistic minorities.

In addition, housing is more affordable in areas that are hotter or flood-prone. This makes it more likely to be owned or rented by people with fewer financial resources, compounding their disadvantage.

For First Nations peoples and communities, connections to and responsibilities for places (Country) are intimately intertwined with identity. For them, the impacts of climate change, colonisation and resettlement interact, further complicating the question of relocation.

Place attachment – the emotional bond between people and their environment – might suppress the urge to move. But environmental change might fundamentally alter the characteristics that make a place unique. What we once loved and enjoyed has then disappeared.

This sort of change impacts human health and results in feelings of loss and grief. It can prompt people to decide to leave.

So Who Stays And Who Leaves?

In our research, we found that when residents imagined the loss of what they valued about Perth’s environment this significantly increased their intentions to move away and significantly decreased place attachment. They nominated bushland, beaches, fauna and flora, and the climate/weather as characteristics they valued and feared changing or losing as climate change progressed. One study participant wrote:

It would be hotter and much more unpleasant in summer. I would miss the trees, plants and birds. I would hate living in a concrete jungle without the green spaces we have here. I would miss being able to cycle or walk to the local lakes to connect to nature and feel peaceful.

But social factors matter too. We found people who valued characteristics of Perth such as social relationships and lifestyle were more likely to stay as they tended to have less reduction in their place attachment.

We also found place attachment was associated with people acting to protect that place, such as protesting environmentally destructive policies. Yet people who were more likely to take such actions were also more likely to leave.

This could make the remaining community more vulnerable to further unwanted change. That’s because those who can afford to relocate are usually the ones with the resources – psychological, social, political and financial – to take action to protect their homes, neighbourhoods and cities.

Proper Planning For Adaptation Is Long Overdue

Climate change impacts everyone. It causes significant economic and non-economic losses for both individuals and communities.

Many locations are becoming unliveable. A changing climate and inappropriately built or located housing interact to create conditions where some people can or should no longer stay.

Some will be prompted or forced to move, but not everyone has that capacity. Furthermore, relocation pressures have environmental, infrastructure and social consequences for the places to which they move.

The housing crisis in Australia adds to resource constraints and their impacts for individuals and communities. Relocating can also disrupt psychological, emotional, social and cultural connections that are crucial for people’s wellbeing.

We need co-ordinated, well-governed, long-term planning for people to move in the face of environmental change to ensure equitable and positive transitions for individuals and communities.

The authors wish to acknowledge the following contributors to this research: Professor Pierre Horwitz and Dr Naomi Godden (Centre for People, Place & Planet, ECU), Dr Deirdre Drake (School of Arts and Humanities, ECU) and Dr Francesca Perugia (School of Design and the Built Environment, Curtin University).The Conversation

Justine Dandy, Associate Professor, Centre for People, Place & Planet, and School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University and Zoe Leviston, Research Fellow, College of Health and Medicine, Australian National University

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

Australians are washing microplastics down the drain and it’s ending up on our farms

Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock
Shima ZiajahromiGriffith University and Frederic LeuschGriffith University

Australian wastewater treatment plants produce thousands of tonnes of treated sewage sludge every year. This nutrient-rich material is then dried to make “biosolids”, which are used to fertilise agricultural soil.

Unfortunately every kilogram of biosolids also contains thousands of tiny pieces of plastic. These pieces are so small they can only be seen under a microscope, so they’re called microplastics.

In our new research, we sampled biosolids from three states and calculated the average contribution of microplastics per person: 3g in New South Wales and 4.5g in Queensland. But the average in South Australia was 11.5g – that’s about the same amount of plastic as a plastic bag.

Roughly 80% of this microplastic comes from washing clothes. We need to protect agricultural soil from contamination by making simple changes at home, mandating filters on washing machines and introducing more effective wastewater treatment.

Biosolids As Fertiliser

Most domestic wastewater comes from household kitchens, bathrooms and laundries.

Wastewater treatment separates most of the water and leaves sewage sludge behind. This mixture of water and organic material can then be sent to landfill for disposal or dried to form a material called “biosolids”.

In Australia, two-thirds of the 340,000 tonnes produced annually are used on farms to improve soil quality and stimulate plant growth. This not only boosts agricultural productivity but also allows for more sustainable disposal of treated sewage sludge. The waste becomes a resource, a useful and economically viable fertiliser, rather than ending up in landfill.

Microplastics In Australian Biosolids

Wastewater treatment plants can capture anywhere from 60% to more than 90% of the microplastics in sewage before the wastewater is discharged. But plastic is durable and does not degrade during treatment. So the microplastic particles removed from the wastewater are simply transferred to the sludge.

We assessed the abundance, characteristics and size ranges of microplastics in biosolids collected from 13 wastewater treatment plants across three states.

We found every kilogram of biosolid contains between 11,000 and 150,000 microplastic particles.

Most of the microplastics found were invisible to the naked eye, ranging from 20 to 200 micrometres in size.

Grid showing four separate microscopy images of microplastics in biosolid samples
Various microplastic particles from biosolid samples can be as seen under the microscope. Shima Ziajahromi

The most common type of microplastic was microfibres from fabric. We found more microplastic fibres during cold seasons. We suspect this corresponds to people washing more synthetic fleece clothing and blankets.

Microbeads are tiny balls of microplastic sometimes added to personal care products and detergents. We did not find any microbeads in samples from South Australia and New South Wales. These states were among the first to support a voluntary industry phase-out of plastic microbeads.

In contrast, we found a small amount of microbeads in samples from Queensland, which only banned microbeads in September last year. That was more than a year after samples were collected for this study.

We estimate Australians release between 0.7g and 21g of microplastics per person into wastewater every year. This wide range is based on our results, which varied from state to state: 0.7g to 5.9g in NSW, 1g to 7.2g in Queensland and 1.9g to 21g in SA. We don’t know why it varies so much between states.

This contributes to the amount of microplastics in biosolids. Our biosolid samples contained anywhere from 1kg to 17kg of microplastics per tonne. Remember this is being transported into our farmlands.

What’s The Problem?

Microplastics are steadily accumulating in agricultural soils, where they will remain for hundreds of years. While natural weathering processes such as sunshine and rain will slowly break down microplastics into smaller and smaller particles, that only makes matters worse. Smaller particles cause more harmful effects to soil organisms.

Eating small pieces of plastic can cause internal abrasions and blockages in the digestive tract. In very small aquatic animals such as zooplankton, microplastics can reduce absorption of nutrients from food, decrease reproduction rates, and cause death.

These tiny particles also contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals, either added during manufacturing to improve the product or soaked up from the environment. This makes them even more dangerous.

Smaller microplastics (less than 100 micrometres in size) are even more harmful for soil organisms.

Microplastics in soil can be ingested by soil organisms such as earthworms and cause harmful effects on these vital organisms. Microplastic exposure has also been shown to adversely affect soil health and plant growth.

Australian regulations govern the amounts of heavy metals, nutrients, pathogens and some emerging contaminants allowed in biosolids, but there is no guideline for microplastics concentrations. We think that has to change.

Stockpiles of biosolids from sludge lagoons with a tractor in the background
Biosolids from sludge lagoons in South Australia. SA Water

Here’s What We Can Do

Our research shows biosolids are a significant source of microplastics in agricultural systems. More research is needed to better understand the risks.

We need to put effective control measures in place to minimise the accumulation of microplastic in productive agricultural soils.

The most effective way to do this is to reduce the level of microplastics in biosolids at the source.

We know most microplastics in biosolids come from washing clothes. While it may not be possible to eliminate the use of synthetic fabrics, there are some measures we can all take to reduce the amount of microplastic washing off our clothes into the wastewater stream. Properly installed filters in washing machines have been shown to significantly reduce microplastic levels in wastewater.

Australia’s National Plastics Plan recommends the Australian government work with industry to “phase-in” microfibre filters on all washing machines by 2030. But why wait until 2030?

Several jurisdictions, including FranceOntario and California, have already made microfibre filters on washing machines mandatory. It’s time Australia did the same.

In the meantime, there are simple things everyone can do at home. Wash clothes in cold water, avoid running the machine for light loads if you can wait to do a full load, and wash synthetic fabrics less frequently. These steps will also save energy and money.

It’s far better to stop microplastics entering the wastewater stream than trying to remove them at the wastewater treatment plant. Prevention is always better than a cure. The Conversation

Shima Ziajahromi, Advance Queensland Research Fellow, Griffith University and Frederic Leusch, Professor of Environmental Science, Griffith University

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

Ridding Macquarie Island of pests pays off as seabirds come back from the brink – but recovery has just begun

An Antarctic prion. JJ Harrison/WikipediaCC BY-SA
Jeremy BirdUniversity of TasmaniaJustine ShawQueensland University of Technology, and Richard FullerThe University of Queensland

One of the largest publicly funded conservation investments in history is starting to pay off on Macquarie Island, our newly published study shows.

Sealers and whalers introduced cats, rats, rabbits and other animals to the island in the 19th century. Their impacts devastated the millions of seabirds breeding on the island. Numbers fell to a fraction of their former populations.

From 2011-14, the last non-native pests were cleared from the island. It was the end of a deadly chapter in the island’s history during which two bird species, a rail and a parakeet, were lost from the planet forever.

We looked for signs of recovery in populations of petrels, a group of highly specialised seabirds. We found that species listed as threatened have recovered to the point where they can be delisted. There’s still a long way to go, though, before their populations return to historical levels.

A field research hut on Macquarie Island
Government-maintained research huts have supported science on Macquarie Island for over 70 years. Jeremy Bird

A Highly Threatened Group Of Birds

Petrels can live for decades and spend most of their lives over the open oceans far from land. Some circumnavigate the Pacific each year.

Petrels return to land only to breed on remote islands that are naturally free of mammalian predators.

Under natural circumstances petrels can be enormously abundant. This means they play important roles in marine food webs. And, by transferring marine nutrients to breeding islands, they enrich whole island ecosystems.

Petrels usually come ashore only at night and nest in underground burrows to ward off predatory birds. However, these behaviours have been no defence against the cats and rats introduced to most of the world’s islands. As a result, petrels are among the world’s most threatened bird groups.

These habits make petrels extremely difficult to study, so good information is lacking. We used novel technologies and new analytical approaches to calculate the population and distribution of four species across Macquarie Island and to compare these with surveys from the 1970s.

Blue Petrels swirl around their nesting colony in the dark
At night, blue petrels come ashore to their nests, now back on the main island since pests were eliminated. Jeremy Bird

What Did The Study Find?

Antarctic prions (Pachyptila desolata) remain the most widespread and common of the four species. They survived on the barren, elevated interior of the island in areas relatively inhospitable to predators. There are about 160,000 breeding pairs today, increasing by around 1% each year.

In the 1970s, cats ate an estimated 11,000 white-headed petrels (Pterodroma lessonii) each year. Only 15% of nests were successfully fledging chicks. Today there are about 12,800 pairs with a breeding success rate of about 80%.

White-headed petrels’ range remains smaller than it was, and they were likely close to extinction before cats were eradicated in 2001. Listed as vulnerable in Tasmania, the population is growing by 1% a year and now warrants delisting.

A side view of a Grey Petrel in flight
Grey petrels number in the low hundreds but are increasing by 10% a year. JJ Harrison/WIkimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

Two species, grey petrel (Procellaria cinerea) and blue petrel (Halobaena caerulea), became extinct on the main island in the 1900s. Grey petrels disappeared altogether, while 500–600 pairs of blue petrels survived on a few coastal rock stacks. Both have now recolonised the main island.

Grey petrels still number only in the low hundreds and blue petrels in the thousands, but are increasing at more than 10% each year. Our data suggest blue petrels no longer qualify as a federally listed vulnerable species. Grey petrels will no longer qualify for listing as endangered in Tasmania if they increase at the same rate until 2026.

a graph showing changes in the populations of 4 petrel species as pests were eliminated
Petrel populations have increased as cats and then rabbits and rats were eradicated from Macquarie Island. Jeremy Bird

Recovery Has Only Just Begun

It is testament to the hard work of all those involved in eradicating invasive species that these bird species are showing signs of recovery. Yet we found ourselves pondering what “recovery” really means.

We don’t know what Macquarie Island was like before humans first visited in 1810. To try to understand this, we identified suitable areas for recovering petrel populations by comparing with analogous islands with different invasive species histories.

The species we studied still occupy only a tiny fraction of the island. They were almost certainly many times more abundant historically. It will take decades for populations to fulfil their ecological roles again – if threats like climate change and avian influenza don’t halt their recovery.

A researcher surveying by torchlight
A researcher identifies a soft-plumaged petrel (Pterodroma mollis) in their spotlight while surveying at night. Jeremy Bird

A Vision Of An Island Of Abundance Reborn

This is our vision of Macquarie Island if these amazing birds make a full recovery.

Days before visitors first sight land, thousands of seabirds swirl around the ship at sea. The white undersides of blue petrels and prions outnumber the spindrift cresting each wave. Rather than ones or twos, there’s a constant stream of white-headed and soft-plumaged petrels.

A White-Headed Petrel flies over the ocean
Instead of seeing white-headed petrels fly past in ones and twos, we hope to see many more in future. Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock

On the island, all must tread carefully, sticking to managed paths to avoid collapsing burrows in the super-colonies that cover seaward-facing slopes. These areas, once denuded by rabbit grazing, have revegetated. A labyrinth of tunnels through the undergrowth blurs the lines between the surface and underground world.

In places the smell of ammonia is powerful. Even more pervasive is the warm, musty smell associated with petrel plumage.

By day, predatory skuas patrol the colonies, going from burrow entrance to entrance, as the occupants sit silently within. As the sun sinks, a scan from land with binoculars finds the petrels approaching en masse, loitering over coastal waters as they wait for the cover of darkness.

At dusk, black silhouettes swarm like flies up and down the coastal hills. Where once the night was silent save for the wind, the slopes are bubbling with the purr and chatter of blue petrels, the “kwick, kwick, kwick” calls of white-headed petrels and the mournful cries of soft-plumaged petrels. Once a forlorn few, the calls have become an excited cacophony.The Conversation

Jeremy Bird, Research Associate, Ecology and Biodiversity, University of TasmaniaJustine Shaw, Senior Research Fellow in Antarctic and island conservation science, Queensland University of Technology, and Richard Fuller, Professor in Biodiversity and Conservation, The University of Queensland

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

Sentinels of the sea: ancient boulder corals are key to reef survival in a warmer world

Giacomo d Orlando
Kate Marie QuigleyJames Cook University

Seas surrounding Australia this month hit an alarming level of warming. It comes on the back of serious marine heatwaves in the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Such warming is highly dangerous for corals. Every half a degree of ocean warming increases their risk of bleaching and potential death.

The best long-term strategy to protecting Earth’s coral reefs is to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions and so limit global warming. But in the meantime, we must urgently make corals more resilient and protect those that are vulnerable.

That is particularly true for the huge, ancient features of reefs known as boulder corals. Research suggests they will be a vital part of reef survival in a warmer world.

A map of Australia surrounded by patches of yellow, red and purple
An image showing various levels of bleaching alert around Australia as of February 19, 2024. NOAA Coral Reef Watch

The Old-Growth Trees Of The Sea

Boulder corals (Porites) can grow to more than 10m high and live for more than 600 years. In Australia they are often referred to as “bommies”. Each bommie can comprise multiple species, but they’re often a single massive individual.

The corals play a crucial role in reefs, including providing habitat for marine life. Importantly, they can maintain these functions even when other coral species are absent.

Some species are thought to be resistant to stress. Old corals have likely experienced – and survived – past warming episodes, proving their resilience.

For example, a paper in 2021 described a giant boulder coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef which was thought to be more than 400 years old. It has survived 80 major cyclones, numerous coral bleaching events and centuries of exposure to other threats.

This resilience can benefit the whole reef ecosystem. We can think of boulder corals as akin to old-growth trees in a forest. Just like forests containing big, old trees are more resistent to fire, studies show a mix of different growth forms, including old and large boulder corals, fare better in the long-term under marine warming.

Older and bigger corals may also produce more offspring, so can more rapidly replenish the reef after disturbances.

Clearly, as our oceans face unprecedented pressures under climate change, we must protect – and learn from – these sentinels of the sea.

Preparing For The Challenges Ahead

Understanding boulder corals is crucial to predicting how they might cope under climate change, and planning for their protection.

But scientists still have much to learn about boulder corals. In particular, we don’t know exactly how many species exist, their life histories and how they evolved.

My colleagues and I are aiming to overcome this knowledge gap. We are studying reefs across Australia, with a particular focus on boulder corals at Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia.

We are creating maps of what species of boulder corals exist and where they are located. And using cutting-edge genomics technology, such as DNA sequencing, we are measuring the tolerance of each species to warming and trying to predict when they will reproduce.

Importantly, we are also examining the mutually beneficial relationship between the corals and algae. This relationship provides algae with shelter, gives corals their colour and provides nutrients to both partners. It may also be a main factor in coral resistance to warmer temperatures.

So far, we have found more diversity than initially expected. This is exciting because it may signal an increased capacity to resist different types of stress. But the work to fully map Ningaloo’s coral diversity has only just begun.

We hope our findings, once finalised, can inform local community management actions such as:

  • public education campaigns and signs
  • managing visitor numbers to reefs
  • installing public moorings to reduce harm from boat anchoring, especially during coral spawning.

The information can also be used in broader management actions such as:

  • establishing “baseline” conditions from which to measure change
  • zoning decisions, including the establishment or ramping up of of marine park protections, especially for resilient coral species and individuals
  • impact assessments following events such as heatwaves
  • direct conservation actions for iconic, at-risk bommies, such as providing shade to diminish stress from heat
  • the development of national reef management plans.

Something Worth Fighting For

The stress to coral wrought by recent marine heatwaves compounds damage incurred over decades. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, has experienced five major heatwaves in 30 years.

Broadly, making reefs more resilient to these pressures involves:

  • resisting, recovering, managing and adapting to shocks across ecosystems
  • improving governance structures
  • preparing human communities for change.

Awareness of the need to increase reef resilience is growing. For example, it formed the basis of a 2017 blueprint for the Great Barrier Reef and a strategy for the Ningaloo Coast released last year. But more work is required.

There’s also a need for coordination across Australia’s reef areas. This might include the exchange of knowledge and data between researchers and combined lobbying efforts to better protect reef ecosystems.

What’s more, Traditional Owners must be offered the opportunity to be consulted about, and meaningfully engaged in, protection of reef areas, including co-management of Sea Country.

The Australian Coral Reef Society, of which I am a councillor, last week released an open letter to the federal government, calling for action on climate change to protect reefs. The task has never been more urgent.

There is still a lot of reef worth fighting for – but only if we act now.

The author would like to acknowledge the contribution of Ningaloo marine park managers – in particular, Dr Peter Barnes – to the research she and her colleagues are undertaking.The Conversation

Kate Marie Quigley, DECRA Research Fellow (James Cook University), Principal Research Scientist (Minderoo Foundation), James Cook University

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

Australian passenger vehicle emission rates are 50% higher than the rest of the world – and it’s getting worse

Robin SmitUniversity of Technology Sydney

Australian passenger vehicles are emitting 50% more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than the average of the world’s major markets. And the real-world situation is even worse than official figures show. That’s the finding of a new study comparing the CO₂ emissions performance of cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles in Australia and overseas.

The comparison suggests Australia will probably fall well short of the economy-wide 2050 net-zero emission target for road transport. To hit the target, policies to cut vehicle emissions have to be intensified and supported by a range of other policies.

This month, the Australian government announced options for a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES) – not to be confused with the National Electric Vehicle Strategy (NEVS). Each option would set a national limit on grams of CO₂ that can be emitted for each kilometre driven, averaged across all new cars sold.

Mandatory CO₂ emission or fuel-efficiency standards are internationally recognised as a fundamental building block to cut transport emissions. To provide further context and input to the development of an Australian standard, Australia-based Transport Energy/Emission Research (TER) and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) collaborated on a newly published briefing paper.

The independent analysis shows the urgent need for Australia to adopt a stringent, well-designed and mandatory fuel-efficiency standard. This standard and additional policies are essential to keep up with technological advances and decarbonisation in other developed countries.

How Did We Fall So Far Behind?

Both fuel efficiency and emission standards aim for roughly the same thing: cutting fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In doing so, they also cut fuel costs for consumers and improve energy security.

About 85% of the global light vehicle market has adopted these standards over time, in some cases decades ago. The United States, European Union, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, China, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile and India all have them. Australia and Russia are the two exceptions in the developed world.

Australia has a long history of debate about making such standards mandatory for passenger and light commercial vehicles. The federal government has released six public consultation documents since 2008, without achieving mandatory standards. This is about to change.

Australia has had voluntary standards since 1978. These targets have not always been met due to lack of enforcement. They have been criticised for lacking both ambition and effectiveness in reducing real-world emissions.

It appears the government’s current proposal will be more ambitious. It potentially aims to converge with US targets in 2027 – though falling short of what is being done in Europe. The Australian standard’s effectiveness in achieving genuine emission reductions and net zero emissions in 2050 will still need to be examined once the design and details are clearer.

How Does Australia Compare Using Official Figures?

The new study compared the officially reported CO₂ emissions performance of passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia, China, the EU, Japan and the US. We found CO₂ emissions from the Australian passenger vehicles were 53% higher than the average of these major markets in 2021.

Officially reported fleet average emissions performance for new passenger vehicles, comparing Australia with four major markets. TER and ICCT, 2024

Importantly, without effective action, this performance gap is expected to grow in future years. That’s because these other markets are moving to aggressively adopt standards that drive the transition to a low-or-zero-emissions vehicle fleet.

How Does Australia Compare In Reality?

The official Australian figures are based on a test protocol called the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC). It was developed in the early 1970s.

The main problem is that the difference between NEDC test results and actual on-road emissions has steadily increased. Actual on-road emissions were estimated to be about 10% higher in 2007, growing to over 45% in 2021.

Indeed, the EU no longer uses the outdated NEDC protocol. It has adopted a more realistic test procedure, the Worldwide Harmonised Light-Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

The briefing paper used previous research into Australian and international real-world emissions performance to create a more accurate comparison. Whereas the official figures suggest newly sold Australian passenger vehicles have relatively high emissions, at least they appear to have improved each year. The picture is very different when we look at on-road emissions.

Estimated real-world fleet average emissions for new passenger vehicles, comparing Australia with four major markets. TER and ICCT 2024

Our estimates suggest emissions from newly sold Australian passenger vehicles have actually been rising since 2015. This trend is a result of increasing vehicle size and weight, a shift towards more four-wheel-drive SUVs and large utes, and a lack of mandatory standards or targets.

The Australian real-world emissions performance is also much worse than in the four major markets. Before 2016 the average difference was around 20% higher on average. By 2021, Australian emissions were almost 50% higher for passenger vehicles.

What Does This Mean For Policy?

Our analysis shows both officially reported and actual on-road CO₂ emissions from new Australian light-duty vehicles are much higher than in other developed nations. The available evidence suggests this poor performance will get worse without stringent mandatory standards in place.

The good news is that the government is acting on the lack of an effective standard. Mandatory standards will likely be adopted this year. The New Vehicle Efficiency Standard is due to take effect in 2025.

However, the standard must be carefully designed to achieve genuine emission reductions for new vehicles.

For instance, the official Australian test protocol (NEDC) is outdated and increasingly underestimates on-road emissions. It provides an unrealistic and skewed picture, undermining effective emission reduction. The government says it intends to adopt a more realistic test protocol.

The standards should also include on-board monitoring of fuel consumption – as the EU is now doing. It’s vital to measure real-world fuel efficiency and emissions of new vehicles and to make this information public to ensure standards are achieving their goals. But the latest government report didn’t mention it.

A mandatory fuel-efficiency standard is long overdue in Australia. It can help close the performance gap between Australia and the rest of the world. So we’d better make sure it works.The Conversation

Robin Smit, Adjunct Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Technology Sydney

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

Fire is a chemical reaction. Here’s why Australia is supremely suited to it

Jason DuttonLa Trobe University

Over the last 15 million years, Australia has slowly dried out. After humans arrived more than 65,000 years ago, they learned to use fire to their advantage. Today, fire weather is getting more frequent – and fires are following as the world heats up. This month, fires have flared in Victoria, destroying 46 houses, while Western Australia endures a heatwave and braces for potential fires.

We use controlled fire for food, industry and many other uses. But we fear it when it is uncontrolled. For something so common, it’s not well understood.

Fire is chemistry – a set of reactions known as combustion. Here’s what that means – and why parts of Australia are so well suited to fire.

What Is Fire?

For a fire to start, it needs three things: fuel, an oxidising agent and heat.

In bushfires, the fuel is plant material, the oxidising agent is oxygen in the atmosphere, and the heat could come from lightning or the fire itself once it starts.

First, the heat has to get to the fuel. Plants are mostly comprised of cellulose (a natural carbohydrate polymer we can’t digest) and lignin (a complex aromatic hydrocarbon), alongside other organic molecules.

But big molecules such as cellulose and lignin don’t burn easily, unlike small molecules such as propane or ethanol. It takes an external heat source to get them to burn. This is normally in the form of lightning, the cause of most large bushfires. But humans have added other sources – a flicked cigarette, angle-grinders, or sparks from a downed powerline.

lightning striking tree
To start a fire, you need an external heat source such as lightning. David Wheat/Shutterstock

A little bit of extra heat won’t do it. But when cellulose and lignin are heated to 300°C, pyrolysis begins and the natural polymers begin to break down into small organic molecules, which promptly evaporate and form a gas.

At these temperatures, this gas rapidly reacts with oxygen in the air to produce carbon dioxide, water vapour – and heat. This is combustion.

As it burns, the gas becomes hot enough to glow, as do any solid particles within it. When we gaze at a campfire, that’s what we’re seeing – burning gas, glowing particles.

Many believe it’s the breaking of chemical bonds in the fuel that produces heat. But it’s actually the opposite. When we break any chemical bond, heat is absorbed. It’s making new chemical bonds that releases heat – the creation of water vapour and carbon dioxide.

These newly formed bonds are stronger than the bonds in the hydrocarbon fuel, meaning heat is released overall. So much heat that pyrolysis is sustained, consuming more fuel and spreading the fire.

What About The Water In Plants?

Plant material contains water as well as organic compounds.

There’s a unique bit of chemistry which takes place here. When heat first hits plant material, the water within begins to warm. But water has an extraordinarily high ability to store heat.

As water heats up, it begins to evaporate. Evaporation is endothermic, meaning it absorbs heat. That’s why we use it to stop ourselves overheating – we rely on sweat evaporating off our skin and taking heat with it.

This means you need still more energy to increase the temperature and overcome water’s heat absorbing properties. For pyrolysis to occur at all, the water in the plant matter has to evaporate. If there’s still water in the leaves or bark, it won’t burn.

Fire Weather And Gum Trees

Australia’s forests and bushlands are mostly on the east coast, avoiding the arid interior. But they can’t avoid the extremely hot and dry air the deserts produce, especially over summer.

Hot air can hold a remarkable amount of water. Its ability to soak up water roughly doubles every 10°C. So hot, dry air acts like a sponge. It scours the water from plant matter and soaks it up.

Plant material largely comes from gum trees. Our hundreds of species are famously messy, dropping bark, leaves and limbs on the forest floor.

Eucalyptus leaves often contain large amounts of volatile organic oils. In dry conditions, these leaves act as like natural lighter fluid, or “pre-pyrolysed material”.

This is because eucalypts like fire. Fire wipes out competitor species and can trigger gumnut germination.

When a bushfire begins and starts to spread, it’s usually burning the dead, dry litter and grasses, not large living trees with plenty of water.

Dry fuel is one thing. But a bushfire needs wind to spread.

Hot days in Australia are often windy, due to the temperature difference between hot deserts and cold oceans. If a lightning triggers pyrolysis and starts a fire, wind is what makes it spread.

Wind provides fresh oxygen to the fire front, making it more intense. It also blows hot dry air over fresh fuel ahead of the fire front, drying it out. If there’s no wind, fire spreads much more slowly.

What does it take to end a bushfire? A large fire will naturally burn itself out if there’s no more fuel for it. Heavy rain can douse a fire, though coals can keep smouldering and restart fires if dry, hot air arrives again.

Firefighters make firebreaks to try to starve the fire of its fuel, spray water to wet and cool the fuel or apply chemical agents such as fire-fighting foam to prevent oxygen getting in.

If we add more and more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere it traps more heat, leading to hotter days. More heat means fire weather – hot, dry and windy conditions – is more likely. And that means combustion will be more likely in some places. Under climate change, there’s more fire in our future. The Conversation

Jason Dutton, Professor of Chemistry, La Trobe University

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

‘Green’ or ‘blue’ hydrogen – what difference does it make? Not much for most Australians

Mitchell ScovellCSIRO and Andrea WaltonCSIRO

Hydrogen can play a key role in Australia’s energy transition by giving us additional ways of storing and moving energy around. As the world shifts towards cleaner energy production, there’s a push to make hydrogen production cleaner as well. In Australia, low-emission hydrogen is produced in two main ways.

One method produces what is known as “green hydrogen”. It uses electricity produced from renewables – such as solar, wind or hydro – to “crack” water into separate streams of hydrogen and oxygen.

The other method produces “blue hydrogen”. This process separates the hydrogen from a gas mixture obtained from fossil fuels (coal or natural gas), using carbon-capture technologies to deal with the emissions.

While different colours are used to describe these methods, the resulting product is the same: colourless hydrogen. Both methods are technically viable options.

So, we wanted to know what the public thinks about these approaches. Understanding people’s attitudes in more detail will help scientists, industry and governments to develop hydrogen technologies in a way that aligns with community values and expectations.

Our survey found only a slight difference in public attitudes to the two methods when they were described without the colour “labels”. The method of production had little impact on people’s willingness to accept different uses of hydrogen.

Why Do We Need To Know What People Think About Hydrogen?

There is a focus on scaling up the hydrogen industry for many purposes, including transport, heating and industrial uses, in Australia and overseas.

Although there are plans for many new uses, such as powering vehicles, hydrogen has had industrial uses for a long time. At present, it’s mainly used to make other chemicals, such as ammonia for nitrogen fertiliser. However, most of this hydrogen is produced globally using fossil fuels, which emits carbon.

Now attention has turned to producing low-emission hydrogen. Past research has shown Australians are “cautiously optimistic” about hydrogen’s potential as a future fuel. We wanted to explore attitudes to the two low-emission production methods more closely.

Understanding public attitudes is key to promoting responsible innovation for the benefit of all Australians.

How Was The Survey Done?

We asked a representative sample of 1,900 Australians to share their thoughts about living near a hypothetical hydrogen hub – a site where hydrogen is stored, transported and used locally. Participants were told the hydrogen would be produced nearby (200 kilometres away).

We wanted to investigate the effect of the “green” and “blue” production methods on acceptance. To avoid introducing bias, we only explained the technical process of each production method. We did not describe them using colours. Half of the participants were told the hydrogen was produced using one method and half were told about the other method.

Because many Australians aren’t aware of hydrogen technologies, we consulted technical experts here at CSIRO so we could provide relevant information about the production methods and their potential impacts. Participants were also shown a short video introduction to hydrogen (shown below) at the start of the survey.

We then asked a serious of questions to assess beliefs, attitudes and levels of support for the production methods and various uses of hydrogen.

Survey participants were shown this animated video.

A Slight Preference For ‘Green’

Participants who were told the hydrogen was produced using renewable energy – “green” hydrogen – had, on average, a more positive attitude to it than those presented with hydrogen made from fossil fuels with carbon-capture technology – “blue” hydrogen. However, the difference between the two groups’ overall appraisal of the production methods was quite small.

We also explored the beliefs that underpin these attitudes. Despite some differences in beliefs between the two groups, many of these differences were again quite small. And there were no differences in the perceived influence on cost of living and wealth creation.

The largest difference between the groups was the perceived replaceability of the technology. Blue hydrogen was seen as the more replaceable approach. People also reported blue hydrogen as having a worse impact on climate change and competing more with renewable electricity production.

What Is The Impact On Acceptance Of Hydrogen?

The small differences of opinion about production methods had little influence on people’s willingness to accept different uses of hydrogen. For example, knowing a bus was fuelled by blue hydrogen had a relatively weak effect on how willing people said they’d be to use a hydrogen bus. For most hydrogen applications presented, support was quite neutral regardless of how it was made.

Further analysis showed that people with stronger pro-environmental attitudes were more supportive of green hydrogen. Those with weaker pro-environmental attitudes were more supportive of blue hydrogen.

These results suggest that, to some extent, people’s broader worldviews shape their evaluations of production methods. Although blue hydrogen aims to address carbon emissions, it seems those who strongly value environmental preservation see blue hydrogen as less likely than green hydrogen to achieve this goal.

Neither Method Is Strongly Opposed

Our research shows there is no strong opposition to either hydrogen production method at this stage.

Results suggest the hydrogen industry will need to address concerns that blue hydrogen technology might need to be replaced sooner rather than later. There is also a need to be clear about its impact on the environment and potential to compete with power from renewables.

Despite these concerns, it seems the production method is not holding back hydrogen acceptance at this stage. As the industry grows, current public beliefs suggest it will be increasingly important to demonstrate that using hydrogen is safe and effective, and won’t compete with other renewable energy technologies.The Conversation

Mitchell Scovell, Research Scientist, CSIRO and Andrea Walton, Social Scientist, CSIRO

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

Scientists shocked to discover new species of green anaconda, the world’s biggest snake

Bryan G. FryThe University of Queensland

The green anaconda has long been considered one of the Amazon’s most formidable and mysterious animals. Our new research upends scientific understanding of this magnificent creature, revealing it is actually two genetically different species. The surprising finding opens a new chapter in conservation of this top jungle predator.

Green anacondas are the world’s heaviest snakes, and among the longest. Predominantly found in rivers and wetlands in South America, they are renowned for their lightning speed and ability to asphyxiate huge prey then swallow them whole.

My colleagues and I were shocked to discover significant genetic differences between the two anaconda species. Given the reptile is such a large vertebrate, it’s remarkable this difference has slipped under the radar until now.

Conservation strategies for green anacondas must now be reassessed, to help each unique species cope with threats such as climate change, habitat degradation and pollution. The findings also show the urgent need to better understand the diversity of Earth’s animal and plant species before it’s too late.

snake on branches above water
Scientists discovered a new snake species known as the northern green anaconda. Bryan Fry

An Impressive Apex Predator

Historically, four anaconda species have been recognised, including green anacondas (also known as giant anacondas).

Green anacondas are true behemoths of the reptile world. The largest females can grow to more than seven metres long and weigh more than 250 kilograms.

The snakes are well-adapted to a life lived mostly in water. Their nostrils and eyes are on top of their head, so they can see and breathe while the rest of their body is submerged. Anacondas are olive-coloured with large black spots, enabling them to blend in with their surroundings.

The snakes inhabit the lush, intricate waterways of South America’s Amazon and Orinoco basins. They are known for their stealth, patience and surprising agility. The buoyancy of the water supports the animal’s substantial bulk and enables it to move easily and leap out to ambush prey as large as capybaras (giant rodents), caimans (reptiles from the alligator family) and deer.

Green anacondas are not venomous. Instead they take down prey using their large, flexible jaws then crush it with their strong bodies, before swallowing it.

As apex predators, green anacondas are vital to maintaining balance in their ecosystems. This role extends beyond their hunting. Their very presence alters the behaviour of a wide range of other species, influencing where and how they forage, breed and migrate.

Anacondas are highly sensitive to environmental change. Healthy anaconda populations indicate vibrant ecosystems, with ample food resources and clean water. Declining anaconda numbers may be harbingers of environmental distress. So knowing which anaconda species exist, and monitoring their numbers, is crucial.

To date, there has been little research into genetic differences between anaconda species. Our research aimed to close that knowledge gap.

snake in water eating deer
Green anaconda have large, flexible jaws. Pictured: a green anaconda eating a deer. JESUS RIVAS

Untangling Anaconda Genes

We studied representative samples from all anaconda species throughout their distribution, across nine countries.

Our project spanned almost 20 years. Crucial pieces of the puzzle came from samples we collected on a 2022 expedition to the Bameno region of Baihuaeri Waorani Territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We took this trip at the invitation of, and in collaboration with, Waorani leader Penti Baihua. Actor Will Smith also joined the expedition, as part of a series he is filming for National Geographic.

We surveyed anacondas from various locations throughout their ranges in South America. Conditions were difficult. We paddled up muddy rivers and slogged through swamps. The heat was relentless and swarms of insects were omnipresent.

We collected data such as habitat type and location, and rainfall patterns. We also collected tissue and/or blood from each specimen and analysed them back in the lab. This revealed the green anaconda, formerly believed to be a single species, is actually two genetically distinct species.

The first is the known species, Eunectes murinus, which lives in Perú, Bolivia, French Guiana and Brazil. We have given it the common name “southern green anaconda”. The second, newly identified species is Eunectes akayima or “northern green anaconda”, which is found in Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

We also identified the period in time where the green anaconda diverged into two species: almost 10 million years ago.

The two species of green anaconda look almost identical, and no obvious geographical barrier exists to separate them. But their level of genetic divergence – 5.5% – is staggering. By comparison, the genetic difference between humans and apes is about 2%.

green anaconda underwater
The two green anaconda species live much of their lives in water. Shutterstock

Preserving The Web Of Life

Our research has peeled back a layer of the mystery surrounding green anacondas. This discovery has significant implications for the conservation of these species – particularly for the newly identified northern green anaconda.

Until now, the two species have been managed as a single entity. But each may have different ecological niches and ranges, and face different threats.

Tailored conservation strategies must be devised to safeguard the future of both species. This may include new legal protections and initiatives to protect habitat. It may also involve measures to mitigate the harm caused by climate change, deforestation and pollution — such as devastating effects of oil spills on aquatic habitats.

Our research is also a reminder of the complexities involved in biodiversity conservation. When species go unrecognised, they can slip through the cracks of conservation programs. By incorporating genetic taxonomy into conservation planning, we can better preserve Earth’s intricate web of life – both the species we know today, and those yet to be discovered.The Conversation

Bryan G. Fry, Professor of Toxicology, School of the Environment, The University of Queensland

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

Carbon offsets bring new investment to Appalachia’s coal fields, but most Appalachians aren’t benefiting

For decades, railroad tracks carried coal from eastern Tennessee to power plants in the eastern U.S. Appalachian VoicesCC BY
Gabe SchwartzmanUniversity of Tennessee

Central Appalachia is home to the third-largest concentration of forest carbon offsets traded on the California carbon market. But while these projects bring new investments to Appalachia, most people in Appalachia are not benefiting.

The effect of this new economic activity is evident in the Clearfork Valley, a forested region of steep hills and meandering creeks on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Rural communities here once relied on coal mining jobs. As the mines shut down, with the last closing in 2022, the valley was left with thousands of acres of forests and strip-mined land but fewer ways to make a good living.

Today, corporate landowners and investment funds have placed most of that forest land into carbon offset projects – valuing the trees for their ability to absorb carbon dioxide emissions to help protect the climate.

These carbon offset projects can be lucrative for the landowner, with proceeds that can run into the millions of dollars. Companies subject to California’s carbon emissions rules are willing to pay projects like these to essentially cancel out, or offset, the companies’ carbon emissions. However, my research shows that few local residents are benefiting.

The projects are part of a wider and growing trend of investor-owners of rural land making money but providing little local employment, local investment or community involvement in return.

Few Local Jobs, Little Economic Benefit

The rise of carbon forest offset projects in Appalachia has coincided with the historic decline of the coal economy.

Central Appalachia lost 70% of its coal jobs from 2011 to 2023 as its coal production fell by 75% in that same period. As corporate landowners looked for new revenue streams, they found a burgeoning forest carbon offset market after California instituted a forest carbon offset protocol in 2011.

Much of the Clearfork Valley was originally owned by the American Association, a British coal corporation that accumulated the land in the 1880s. That property passed between other coal companies before NatureVest, a climate change-driven investment firm owned by The Nature Conservancy, created an investment fund to purchase the land in 2019.

The previous owner, a forestland investment company, had established carbon offsets on that land in 2015, making a 125-year commitment to retain or grow the forest carbon stock. When NatureVest purchased the land in 2019, it generated at least US$20 million in proceeds from the sale of additional offsets. The details of such transactions are typically private, but offset sales can be structured in a number of ways. They might be one-time payments for existing credits, for example, or futures contracts for the potential of additional credits.

A map shows large areas of forest in several states that are on the carbon market.
Forest carbon offset projects in Central Appalachia that are on the California carbon market. The Clearfork Valley is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the lower left. California Air Resources Board, ESRI

The investment fund is attempting to demonstrate that managing land to help protect the climate can also generate revenue for investors.

In Appalachia, offset projects largely involve “improved forestry management.” These offsets pay landowners to sequester carbon in trees – additional to what they would have pulled in without the offset payment – while still allowing them to produce timber for sale. In practice, this often means letting trees stand for longer rotations before cutting for timber.

Recent research, however, indicates that the carbon storage of improved forestry management projects may be getting overcounted on the California market, the largest compliance offset market in the Americas. Other approaches to carbon offsets could produce better outcomes for people and the climate.

And while the landowners and investors profit, my research, including dozens of interviews with residents, has also found that former mining communities in this valley have seen little return.

The Nature Conservancy has offered support to local communities. But while the organization operates a small grant program from coal mining and gas drilling royalties it receives from the land, the investment in the local economy has been relatively small – roughly $377,000 in the three states since 2019. Furthermore, while some communities have benefited, these investments have largely bypassed struggling former coal communities in the Clearfork Valley in Tennessee.

Looking for other revenue sources on these lands, by 2022, The Nature Conservancy had also leased access to nearly 150,000 acres of its Cumberland Forest Project, including parts of the Clearfork Valley, to state agencies and outdoor recreation groups. As a result, permits and fees are often now required to enter much of the forestland.

As one interviewee told my co-author for our forthcoming book, “For three generations my family has been able to walk and use that land, but now I could be arrested for entering it without a permit.”

The Rise Of TIMOs And Climate ‘Rentierism’

While a century ago many of the landowners in Appalachia were coal companies and timber companies, today they are predominantly financialized timber investment management organizations, or TIMOs. TIMOs are financial institutions that manage timberlands to generate returns for institutions, such as endowments and pension funds, and private investors. While NatureVest is more diversified than a TIMO, its timberland investments operate in a similar fashion.

The financial ownership of timberlands is part of the much wider trend of financialization of the United States economy. Wall Street-based investors have become major owners of all sectors of the U.S. economy since the 1970s, from agriculture and manufacturing to natural resources.

Financial profits, however, often do not entail job creation or investments in infrastructure in the surrounding communities. Yet the investor-owned timberlands in Central Appalachia do generate millions of dollars in revenue for their investors.

The hills above a home have been strip mined, where forests once stood.
Homes below a coal strip mine in Campbell County, Tennessee, home to part of the Clearfork Valley. Appalachian Voices via FlickrCC BY

Political economists have diagnosed the trend of falling employment that accompanies increasing economic activity as partially the result of growing rentierism.

Rentierism is a term for generating income predominantly from rents as opposed to income from production that employs people. Rural communities have acutely felt the effects of increasing rentierism in various sectors since the 1970s.

Researchers have noted growing trends of rentierism in forestland management. Many TIMOs seek new revenue streams from timberlands outside of wood products and timbering, such as in conservation easements. As firms such as NatureVest seek to generate income from controlling carbon stocks or conservation resources, there is now a growing climate rentierism.

Rural Resentment And A Crisis Of Democracy

A robust body of research in sociology and political science shows how the hollowing out of rural North American economies has fed into a kind of rural resentment. Trust in government and democracy is particularly low in rural North America, and not only because of economic woes. As sociologist Loka Ashwood documents, it is also because many rural residents believe that the government helps corporations profit at the expense of people.

Carbon offsets in Appalachia, unfortunately, fit within these troubling trends. Government regulation in California generates sizable revenue for corporate landowners, while the rural communities see themselves locked out of the economy.The Conversation

Gabe Schwartzman, Assistant Professor of Geography and Sustainability, University of Tennessee

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
A Stroll Around Manly Dam: Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
A Stroll Through Warriewood Wetlands by Joe Mills February 2023
A Walk Around The Cromer Side Of Narrabeen Lake by Joe Mills
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
Aquatic Reflections seen this week (May 2023): Narrabeen + Turimetta by Joe Mills 
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
Bangalley Headland Walk: Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
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
Mona Vale Woolworths Front Entrance Gets Garden Upgrade: A Few Notes On The Site's History 
Mother Brushtail Killed On Barrenjoey Road: Baby Cried All Night - Powerful Owl Struck At Same Time At Careel Bay During Owlet Fledgling Season: calls for mitigation measures - The List of what you can do for those who ask 'What You I Do' as requested
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 Entrance Clearing Works: September To October 2023  pictures by Joe Mills
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 Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden 
Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern, Wilshire Parks, McKay Reserve: From Beach to Estuary 
Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  
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 Great Outdoors: Spotted To The North, South, East + West- June 2023:  Palm Beach Boat House rebuild going well - First day of Winter Rainbow over Turimetta - what's Blooming in the bush? + more by Joe Mills, Selena Griffith and Pittwater Online
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!
Some late November Insects (2023)
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
Stony Range Regional Botanical Garden: Some History On How A Reserve Became An Australian Plant Park
The Chiltern Track
The Chiltern Trail On The Verge Of Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
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
Turimetta Moods by Joe Mills: June 2023
Turimetta Moods (Week Ending June 23 2023) by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: June To July 2023 Pictures by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: July Becomes August 2023 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: August Becomes September 2023 ; North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Warriewood - Mona Vale photographs by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: Mid-September To Mid-October 2023 by Joe Mills
Warriewood Wetlands - Creeks Deteriorating: How To Report Construction Site Breaches, Weed Infestations + The Long Campaign To Save The Warriewood Wetlands & Ingleside Escarpment March 2023
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

Molly Picklum - Jack Robinson Win Hurley Pro Sunset Beach 

Pictured: Australians Jack Robinson (AUS) and Molly Picklum (AUS) both found near-perfect scores on their way to claiming dominant wins in the 2024 Hurley Pro Sunset Beach. Credit: © WSL / Tony Heff

SUNSET BEACH, Oahu, Hawaii, USA Wednesday, February 21, 2024 
Today, Molly Picklum (AUS) and Jack Robinson (AUS) won the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, Stop No. 2 on the 2024 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), in six-to-eight-foot perfect rights at Sunset Beach. The proving grounds of Oahu’s North Shore once again offered a real challenge to the best surfers in the world with solid waves, in shifting lineups, but overall plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent and kick off the new season. 
A monumental shift in women’s professional surfing happened over the course of the season’s first two events, with the Top 17 taking on serious conditions at Pipe and Sunset and some of the youngest competitors showing up with massive performances and commitment to raise the bar. 

Picklum Goes Back-to-Back at Sunset, Takes Over Rankings Lead 
Central Coast surfer Picklum was an integral part of the charge in making history this month as she collected huge scores for her relentless approach to hitting the biggest sections of the waves, holding nothing back. Today she earned back-to-back titles at Sunset. This win marks Picklum’s second victory on Tour, out of four Finals surfed, and the Australian will be wearing the yellow Leader jersey heading to Portugal for the next stop of the 2024 CT as the new World No.1.
“What a moment! Defending a title is so hard in our sport because the ocean is in charge,” Picklum said, “The ocean played its part for me and I’m really, really happy it did that. Every event feels different, so I’m just taking it for what it is and trying to find the little fun moments in between it all. I definitely wasn’t as confident in this event but I always kept belief and I think that’s one of my strengths.”  

The women’s Final was a rematch of the second Semifinal at Pipe last week between Picklum and Sakura Johnson, with a lot in the balance as the winning surfer would get to wear the rankings leader yellow jersey leaving the Hawaiian leg. Both surfers found similar waves to kick off the Final, but the Hawaiian won the first exchange with better-timed turns in the critical sections for a 7.17 (out of a possible 10) over the Australian’s 6.50.
Picklum backed it up quickly to take the lead midway through the heat and apply pressure to Sakura Johnson, who was surfing in her first-ever Final on the CT. But the Haleiwa local stayed patient, sitting in the lineup with priority waiting for the right wave. Her calculated approach, unfortunately, did not pay off as time ran down without offering any more opportunities for either surfer.
Picklum added yet another highlight to a spectacular four-week stint on the North Shore today with one of the biggest turns ever seen on the women’s Tour at Sunset Beach. In her Semifinal bout against Brisa Hennessy (CRC), the powerful regular foot posted a near-perfect 9.67 for a high-risk, high-reward single maneuver on a double-overhead wave. 

Molly Picklum had a near-perfect score on her way to claiming the win in the 2024 Hurley Pro Sunset Beach. Credit: © WSL / Brent Bielmann

Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) reached her first CT Final in her third year on Tour and has upped her game big time in 2024. The 18-year-old posted some of the event’s biggest scores, including a 9.17 in her first heat at Sunset yesterday. One of the most confident surfers in the Pipe barrels and the big open faces of Sunset, the Hawaiian will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
“It’s been an unreal last couple of days, we’ve been so fortunate to get good waves,” said Sakura Johnson. “I’m really just blessed to be home and to represent home, and have my coach behind me and have the confidence I needed to do well in this event. It’s pretty unreal. Molly and I talked about it two years ago, and now we’re doing it, and I’m really happy to be a part of it and to hopefully keep pushing this level, and it will be a new level of surfing for women’s surfing in the next few years.” 

Robinson Posts Near-Perfection for Sunset Glory 
West Australia surfer Jack Robinson continues to build his legacy on the North Shore, as he picks up win No. 6 on the CT, his first at Sunset. After an upset loss in the Round of 32 at Pipe, the Australian bounced back in the best way with total domination all week, an incredible display of his signature carves, and the ability to find the deepest, cleanest barrels at Sunset.
“It was a crazy last few months at home, I had a baby and everything before coming here and it’s all new and just adapting,” said Robinson. “I’m just enjoying it so much today. I know I didn’t start good at Pipe but it didn’t matter, I was just trying to enjoy it so much and it’s so special. It was a cool wave, almost bending, and I’ve never been tubed twice on the inside here. And to have a Final with Kanoa, we’ve grown up together, we’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s a cool history and a lot more to come.”

Jack Robinson on his way to claiming the win in the 2024 Hurley Pro Sunset Beach. Credit: © WSL / Brent Bielmann
Two surfers with a lot of history, competing against each other since their early grom years, Robinson and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) met in the Final after dominating all week at Sunset. The Australian pulled the trigger first and wasted no time as his first wave went straight to excellence, an 8.17, to make his intentions clear to his opponent.
After an unlikely mistake on his first attempt, Igarashi fought back with a 7.33 to stay in fighting distance. But Robinson kept building momentum and found an absolute gem, locking into two barreling sections after a massive carve and was rewarded with a near-perfect 9.87 to put the Japanese surfer into an 18.04 combination situation (out of a possible 20).
Despite his best efforts, the gap was too much for Igarashi to overcome and Robinson claimed the win. The West Australian will leave Hawaii ranked second in the world. 
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) was in need of a big result as well after a disappointing early exit at Pipe and found his groove on the big open walls of Sunset where he could lay down his lightning-fast turns to overcome some of the toughest competition this week.
“Growing up in California, Hawaii was just one flight away and a place we had to come and train, and back when I was younger I would dread coming over because it’d be scary to be here on the North Shore to surf bigger waves,” said Igarashi. “But, over the years I would try to put as much time as I could, and I have a really good team in my corner. Thanks to them they always pushed me, and I knew that if I wanted to be a top surfer on Tour I’d have to get good results here. I’m really happy with my start so far this year and just want to keep it going.” 

Florence Heads to Portugal as the World No. 1, Simmers Falls to World No. 2 
North Shore local and two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) put up a great fight against Smith in the Quarters but ultimately fell short and had to settle for an equal 5th at Sunset after a runner-up at Pipe. His consistency at home has served him well, however, as he leaves Hawaii in pole position on the rankings and will be World No. 1 in Portugal.
The World No. 1 coming into this week at Sunset, Caitlin Simmers (USA), reached the Quarterfinals with fairly low scores and, by her own admission, average heat execution and unfortunately couldn’t turn on her magic against an in-form Hennessy this morning. Simmers spent most of the 30 minutes waiting in the lineup for set waves that never manifested and exited the heat with only 2 points on the board and an equal 5th-place result. She will head to Portugal, where she is the defending event winner, ranked second in the world.
For more news and highlights from Finals Day at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, please visit  

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Final Results: 
1 - Molly Picklum (AUS) 11.83
2 - Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 8.67
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Men’s Final Results: 
1 - Jack Robinson (AUS) 18.04
2 - Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.16
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Semifinal Results: 
HEAT 1: Molly Picklum (AUS) 17.44 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 9.07
HEAT 2: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 12.66 DEF. Caroline Marks (USA) 10.40
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Men’s Semifinal Results: 
HEAT 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.83 DEF. Jordy Smith (RSA) 12.50
HEAT 2: Jack Robinson (AUS) 16.10 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.10
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Women’s Quarterfinals Results:
HEAT 1: Molly Picklum (AUS) 11.16 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 7.60
HEAT 2: Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 11.67 DEF Caitlin Simmers (USA) 2.00
HEAT 3: Caroline Marks (USA) 8.57 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 7.67
HEAT 4: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 15.50 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 10.65
Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.67 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 10.90
HEAT 2: Jordy Smith (RSA) 15.16 DEF. John John Florence (HAW) 14.26
HEAT 3: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 16.00 DEF. Liam O'Brien (AUS) 12.10
HEAT 4: Jack Robinson (AUS) 17.37 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.60
Next Stop: MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal 
The next stop on the 2024 WSL Championship Tour will be the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. The competition window opens on Wednesday, March 6 and closes on Saturday, March 16, 2024. The event will be broadcast LIVE on, the free WSL app, and the WSL’s YouTube channel. Check out more ways to watch from the WSL’s broadcast partners. For fans watching in the United States, coverage of the competition's Quarterfinals and beyond will continue on and ESPN+. 
The Hurley Pro Sunset Beach is proudly supported by Hurley, Lexus, 805 Beer, Red Bull, YETI, SHISEIDO, Bonsoy, Cup Noodles, Spectrum Hawaii, Pura Vida, Mananalu Water, Pacifico, True Surf, Eventbrite, Hawaii Tourism, and Cocomo. 

2024 ISA World Longboard Championship - Team Announced

Surfing Australia is excited to announce the four athletes heading to El Salvador to represent Australia at the 2024 ISA World Longboard Championship, from April 18-25, 2024.

Surfing Australia National High Performance Director, Kate Wilcomes, said: "We are excited to announce our Irukandji Longboard team for the 2024 ISA World Longboard Championships. We have a powerhouse team this year, with majority seasoned ISA surfers and we are looking forward to seeing them go for gold in El Salvador."

The Irukandjis team comprises 2023 Australian Champions Kirra Molnar (Noosa Heads, QLD) and Clinton Guest (Bokarina, QLD), along with wildcards Tully White (Allambie Heights, NSW) and Declan Wyton (Manly, NSW), all of whom said they’re honoured to represent their country.

Kirra Molnar who clinched two Australian Title last year and competed on the WSL World Longboard Tour said: "As always, I’m very excited to be representing my country, especially in a sport that is normally very individual. Coming together as a team and supporting each other truly shows the Aussie spirit. I’m looking forward to surfing this wave again as it changes so much in size and shape every day. The community that comes along for the event is also very inspiring to be competing against the best longboarders from countries all over the world."

Clinton Guest, who began surfing at the age of eight in Noosa before moving to the Gold Coast and then back to Bokarina on the Sunshine Coast, said: "Representing Australia is the ultimate honour, representing the Australian longboard community at the ISA games is something I won’t take for granted knowing the surfers who have represented in the past, they have inspired me and now it’s my turn to inspire the next generation. Having the opportunity to show up and perform for your country to win personally and for the team is something unique and special to the ISA World Games. This will be my first time to El Salvador after qualifying with the Australian Title last year. Excited for the challenge and enjoying each step of the experience."

Tully White, who grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches and has been on the WSL longboard tour the past four years, said: "I am proud to represent Australian longboarding on the world stage, we have some incredible surfers here in Australia and I look forward to sharing the passion we have for traditional longboarding at the ISA level. I have competed in the ISA Longboard titles in both Hainan China in 2018 and in Biarritz France in 2019. It was really special to see the talent coming out of little known surf communities across the world and meet new people with the same passion for surfing. I am looking forward to surfing over in El Sunzal again this year, having been there last year for a WSL event. The long right-hand point at El Sunzal is super fun to longboard."

Tully White (at The 2022 WSL Longboard Tour - Manly) photo by/© WSL / Cait Miers

Declan Wyton, who grew up in Sydney's inner-west and now calls Manly home, said: "I am privileged to have been chosen to represent Australia in the upcoming 2024 ISA World Longboard Championship in El Salvador. Australia is renowned worldwide as an iconic surfing nation, and I look forward to demonstrating our country’s exceptional talent and passion for Longboarding on the world stage. I have been privileged to represent Australia in the 2018 and 2019 ISA World Longboard Championships held in Hainan, China and Biarritz, France, respectively. These events, organised by the ISA, brought together longboarders from across the globe, creating an incredible experience. I have had the opportunity to visit El Salvador previously for the 2023 WSL World Longboard Tour. El Salvador is a stunning place with amazing waves, and I am eager to get back there with the team and represent my country."

Declan Wyton - photo by Gary McEvoy

The 2024 World Longboard Championship will follow the record-breaking 2023 edition, also hosted by Surf City El Salvador, where 118 surfers from 33 nations were present to challenge for the world championship in pristine conditions at the world famous El Sunzal point.

ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, said: "El Sunzal is such an amazing wave for longboard. I am looking forward to seeing the world’s best longboarders return in 2024 after such a wonderful event in 2023."

Follow the event via the ISA website and Surfing Australia's social media channels.

Narrabeen Sports High School Science Labs Opened

On February 14, Narrabeen SHS had the pleasure of celebrating the Grand Opening of 4 brand new Science Labs, a hybrid Lab and a technician spaces in their Science faculty.

The school stated:
''We would like to thank  The Honourable Mr Greg Warren MP Campbelltown, Parliamentary Secretary for Education & Early Learning for unveiling our new Science mural painted by Narrabeen students and our new Science Labs as part of the NSW Department of Education Upgrade works.''

''It was a lovely way to celebrate this milestone with our special guests, senior school leaders, staff, our school community and former students.

Our students and teachers alike have thoroughly enjoyed these spaces today and we look forward to meeting the next generation of Scientists brought to you by Narrabeen Sports High School!''

The Hon. Greg Warren MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier, Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Early Learning, who attended the opening, said:

''Thanks for having me Narrabeen Sports High School to open your 4 brand new science labs, a hybrid lab and a technician space on behalf of the Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car with my Parliament of NSW colleague and local member Rory Amon MP.

The labs look amazing and I look forward to hearing about your future learnings and experiments!''

Two days later the school posted on its social media accounts:
''We have been enjoying our new Science Faculty spaces for a couple of days now and you still can't wipe the smiles from at faces here at Narrabeen.

These promised photos are of our labs complete, such a transformation and we are very proud to show them off!

Again special thank you to Royal Contractors and the NSW Department of Education for completing this project for us.''

Narrabeen Sports High School is committed to delivering quality public education to develop the individual talents, interests and abilities of the staff, students and citizens who form its learning community. Their aim is to be recognised as a vibrant and responsive public school, working collaboratively within the public education system to produce well educated citizens with the capability and confidence to succeed in the twenty-first century. 

Narrabeen Sports High School aims to be the first choice of secondary school for its local community. The school is first and foremost a local, comprehensive public secondary school that provides the full range of academic and cultural programs. 

As well, it offers an excellent sports program. The school caters for students of all ability levels and interests. Local students who are not particularly interested in sport should have no concerns enrolling in Narrabeen Sports High as the primary aim is to be a high quality local secondary school for all students of all interests and abilities. 

In 2018 Narrabeen Sports High School was announced as an Olympic Pathways school in the sport of surfing.

Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden and President of the NSW Sports High Schools Association (SHSA) Roger Davis launched the new partnership at Maroubra Beach on Friday October 26 2018 alongside students from Matraville Sports High, Narrabeen Sports High, Illawarra Sports High, Hunter Sports High and Endeavour Sports High.

Luke Madden said: “Now that we are an Olympic sport, it is essential that we explore ways to further develop our sport. We see this partnership as a vital component in the identification and development of talent and a key to building a high-performance pathway for our sport in the state."

The program provides a comprehensive curriculum that includes skill and technique development and fitness as well as strategies to enable students to build the mental capabilities required to be successful in the competitive world of surfing.

In February 2023 this was re-announced with other sports added in. The state’s seven Sports High Schools officially became Australian Olympic Pathway Schools from February 8, 2023. 

In addition to a rigorous academic curriculum the school also offers a variety of Vocational and Educational Training courses including Certificate 2 Sport and Recreation, Certificate 3 Trade and Construction through a state of the art Trade Training Centre and Certificate 2 Hospitality through state of the art commercial grade kitchens. 

In 2012 Pittwater Council provided funds for a major upgrade to the school sports fields. In 2013 Pittwater Council received an award for its work at the school.

Narrabeen Sports High School is also a partner in the Peninsula Community of Schools which includes 13 local primary and secondary schools. Senior curriculum options are enhanced through a shared curriculum structure involving Narrabeen Sports, Pittwater and Barrenjoey high schools. Narrabeen Sports High School also has many partnership programs with local primary schools involving leadership, enrichment and transition opportunities. 

Narrabeen Sports High School consistently records very strong growth outcomes for its students. A great strength of Narrabeen Sports High School is the personalised learning programs and individual support offered to students. The school is known for its caring and nurturing environment. 

Narrabeen Sports High School has experienced steady enrolment growth over the past few years and this is projected to increase over coming years. The school has in place careful plans to maximise the opportunities afforded by this growth through expanding curriculum and cultural programs without jeopardising the attention to each individual.


In 2018 the Coalition NSW Government committed to upgrading Narrabeen Sports High School and Narrabeen North Public School with new and improved education facilities to ensure all students can learn in modern, fit for purpose environments.

Master-planning undertaken in 2019 for the Narrabeen education precinct or campus considered the long-term opportunities across both campuses. In 2020 concept plans were scheduled to be completed.

In June 2021 then Pittwater MP Rob Stokes announced funding had been secured in the 2021/22 NSW Budget for the Narrabeen Education Precinct- this was listed as $3.135m for the Narrabeen Education Precinct in Budget papers. A further $15.5 million to commence the upgrade of the Narrabeen Education Campus (total cost subject to tender) was announced as part of the 2022/23 NSW State Budget.

Narrabeen Sports High School layout plan. Image Credit: School Infrastructure NSW, 2021

Artist impression of the new multipurpose hall and administration hub at Narrabeen North Public School. Image Credit: School Infrastructure NSW, 2022

In October 2022 the documents for the Narrabeen North PS DA were made available on Council's website for feedback.

ADCO Constructions was awarded the design and construct main works contract to deliver the Narrabeen North Public School upgrade. The development application (DA) for the main works at Narrabeen North Public School were approved by Northern Beaches Council in June 2023. That allowed construction works to begin on site. Site establishment at Narrabeen North Public School started in late June 2023, with works to remove hazardous materials from the site undertaken during the Winter school holiday break to minimise potential impacts on students.

The Narrabeen North Public School works are scheduled to be completed in 2024.

Narrabeen Sports High works remained at a standstill though.

New Pittwater MP Rory Amon stated as part of his election commitments, ''I am committed to seeing the continued improvement of our local schools, including the $60 million upgrade of the Narrabeen Education Campus (Narrabeen North Public School and Narrabeen Sports High School).''

Mr. Amon kept his promise and pursued the funding that had been allocated be put towards where it was intended, sending in a statement weeks back about the conditions of the classrooms, bathroom facilities without toilet doors and leaking rooves at Narrabeen Sports High School, and calling for immediate remediation works to be commenced so students returning from the Winter break could focus on being students rather then the stains on the walls or toilet cisterns that were cracked and stalls without doors.

Apparently the roof sheets, toilet systems and doors that could have been bought just up the road for a few hundred dollars and put in by a community working bee isn't the way it can be done nowadays - it has to be through official channels and it has to cost millions and a community has to wait until it can be done - even if there is a clear need to get it done yesterday. 

With the change of government, residents were advised for future project updates, works notifications, or other relevant documents related to the current upgrades of Narrabeen Sports High School or Narrabeen North Public School after July 2023, to please visit their separate project pages:  Narrabeen Sports High School project page and the Narrabeen North Public School project page

The new NSW Labor Government stated it remains committed to delivering the much-needed upgrades at Narrabeen Sports High School and followed up and followed through.

The August 2023 update by School Infrastructure NSW records:

'In the first week of Term 3, School Infrastructure NSW met with the school’s leadership to confirm their priorities and make sure that the upgrades meet the needs of the students and staff.

As an outcome of this discussion, it has been decided that the upgrade will include essential and urgent maintenance including the following:

  • renewal and repairs for the science labs, prep rooms, and chemical storerooms in Block B
  • replacement of all roofs in Blocks A, B, C, D and E
  • refurbishment of student and staff amenities (bathrooms and changerooms)
  • upgraded technological and applied studies classrooms in Block A
  • refurbishment of existing classrooms within Block C
  • refurbishment of Block K including data upgrades.

Now these works are being completed - in record time.

Warning: High-Dose MDMA Tablets (Ecstasy) Circulating In NSW

February 15, 2024
NSW Health is warning the public of multiple high-dose MDMA tablets (ecstasy), found to contain around twice the average dose of other MDMA tablets in recent circulation.

The tablets are skull-shaped with 'MYBRAND' wording and logo imprinted on the reverse side. Recent high-dose examples have been blue or pink-orange in colour.

Colour: Pink-orange, MDMA dose: ​181 mg   Colour: Blue, MDMA dose: 216 mg

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

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

“Other risks include taking MDMA in combination with other stimulants, such as amphetamines or cocaine.

“The amount of MDMA in a tablet or capsule can vary a lot, even within the same batch. The health risks from MDMA are greatly increased if high amounts (including multiple doses) are consumed over a short period.

“Hot environments, such as at music festivals, increase the risk of harm from MDMA. Taking a break from dancing, seeking shade, and drinking water are important measures to reduce the risk of overheating.

“It is very important to remember, if you or a friend has taken drugs and feel unwell, you won't get into trouble for seeking medical care. If you or a friend feels unwell, please seek help immediately by calling Triple Zero.

“There are experienced onsite medical providers and teams of well-trained peer volunteers from programs such as DanceWize NSW and ACON Rovers who are ready to support you at many major festivals. Other event staff are also trained to help patrons."

For more information about staying safe, including the warning signs to seek help, see Stay OK at Music Festivals.

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

For support and information with alcohol, MDMA and other drugs, please contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 250 015. This is a 24/7 service offering confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and information. NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) also provides a range of harm minimisation resources and advice and can be reached on 1800 644 413.

$80 Million Institute Of Applied Technology For Construction Opened In Western Sydney

February 20, 2024
The NSW Government today officially opened the $80 million Institute of Applied Technology for Construction at TAFE NSW Nepean – Kingswood.

Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education, Steve Whan joined industry and university partners of the Institute for a ribbon cutting and official unveiling of the facility.

The Institute of Applied Technology is a partnership between TAFE NSW, construction company CPB Contractors, and Western Sydney University.

The new facility features a civil construction sandpit, and large workshop spaces to accommodate the construction of full-scale buildings for use in carpentry, plumbing, and electrotechnology training.

In addition to traditional trades, the Institute also designs and delivers market-leading training that rapidly responds to industry needs.

The Institute of Applied Technology educational model brings together vocational education, universities, and industry to fast-track training solutions for sectors that are in a constant state of skills transformation.

The new 7500m2 facility at TAFE NSW Kingswood achieved a 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). It features a solar system that generates more than 50 percent of its daily power usage, and electric vehicle charging stations for learners and staff.

Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan said:

“This new facility will provide specialist training in civil construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, helping to fill skills gaps in Western Sydney and across the state.

“The Institute is doing an amazing job by delivering online Micro skill and Micro credential programs in project management, contract administration, building information modelling, and digital skills in construction.

“I’m so pleased to see that learners across Australia have already enrolled in more than 10,000 micro-skills or micro-credentials delivered by The Institute of Applied Technology Construction.

“The Institute will help upskill the next generation of construction workers, who will be able to continue to build the much-needed homes this state needs.”

Institute of Applied Technology Construction course list

Micro credentials:
  • 2D CAD Drawings and 3D Models in Construction
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Construction
  • Commercial & Contract Management in Construction
  • Contract Administration Fundamentals
  • Contract Administration in Construction
  • Cost Management in Construction
  • Emerging Leaders in Construction
  • Excel in Construction
  • Frontline Leaders in Construction
  • Introduction to Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Construction
  • Introduction to Project Scope Management in Construction
  • Microsoft Office 365 Foundations in Construction
  • Power BI Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Management Foundations in Construction
  • Project Management Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Management Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Risk Management in Construction
  • Schedule Management in Construction
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Management in Construction
Micro credentials in development:
  • Experienced Leaders in Construction
  • Project Integration Management in Construction
  • Quality Management in Construction
  • Scheduling - MS Projects in Construction
  • Power BI Data Visualisation in Construction
  • Procurement and Commercial Management in Construction
  • Construction Communication
  • Contract Law/Dispute Resolution
  • Introduction to Claims and Variations in Construction
  • Reality Capture Technologies
  • Integrating GIS and BIM in Construction
Micro skills:
  • Experienced Leaders in Construction
  • Project Integration Management in Construction
  • Quality Management in Construction
  • Scheduling - MS Projects in Construction
  • Power BI Data Visualisation in Construction
  • Procurement and Commercial Management in Construction
  • Construction Communication
  • Contract Law/Dispute Resolution
  • Introduction to Claims and Variations in Construction
  • Reality Capture Technologies
  • Integrating GIS and BIM in Construction

HERstory Exhibition: Remembering Australia’s Military Women

Women have long played a significant role in Australian military service, from serving as nurses in the Boer War, to the formation of the women’s auxiliary forces during the Second World War and their current roles on the front lines.

The HERstory: Remembering Australia’s Military Women exhibition is artist Carla Edwards' personal thank you to the women who have served in the Australian Defence Force. 

The exhibition at the Anzac Memorial in Sydney's Hyde Park features 24 women from New South Wales whose military service spans from 1942 up to the present day. 

The women served, in the Air Force, Army and Navy as well as the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, Australian Women's Army Service, Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, Women's Royal Australian Air Force, Women's Royal Australian Army Corps and the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service. Their stories range from WWII through to serving in the Middle East and East Timor.

Jan-Maree Ball OAM [Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN)] who has featured in past Issues of PON for her work in establishing Aussie Hero Quilts, and taking part in Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch Services, features as one of the women in this exhibition.

Carla started this project in 2022 with a request to photograph seven ex-service women on the NSW Central Coast. The overwhelmingly positive response to this initiative prompted Carla to broaden the reach. Fourteen months later, Carla has now driven 20,000 kilometres and interviewed and photographed 93 women across five states and one territory. 

The exhibition is located in the Memorial’s Auditorium on Lower Ground level. The Memorial is open every day, 9 am to 5 pm. Please note that access to the exhibition is dependent on the Auditorium’s availability, so you are to call the Memorial in advance on (02) 8262 2900.

The exhibition closes on 1 April; entry is free. Find out more on the Memorial's website

Below Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branchs' 75th celebrations included a three-course dinner and a band 'Dazed and Confused', along with a very special presentation of a hand made quilt and laundry bag being presented to Sub Branch Member Skye Smith by Jan-Maree Ball, founder of Aussie Heroes Quilts.

Basketball Court - Winnererremy Bay, Mona Vale: Have Your Say

Comments close: Fri 1 Mar 2024
Council states that a new basketball facility is coming soon to Winnererremy Bay, Mona Vale and is seeking feedback on their plan.

The proposed basketball facility will include:
  • new hard court with regulation size key and 3-point lines
  • new seating overlooking the courts and park area
  • open grassed areas will remain and will include new shade trees to provide passive recreational opportunities
  • an additional bike path around the perimeter of the hard court.
No lights will be installed. The hard courts are not intended to be used after dark as there is no existing lighting or future lighting planned. The build is estimated 12-week construction phase, weather permitting.

Share your thoughts on the proposed design by:
Please include 'Lets Play! Hard Court Mona Vale' in the subject line of all email or written feedback.

All comments in their entirety are made publicly available in the Community Engagement Report. Personal identifying information, and content which is discriminatory, hateful or which may defame, offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate will be redacted.

Concept Design plan: NBC

Girls Rugby Open Day

When: Sunday, March 17th, 2-4pm
Where: Rat Park, Warriewood

Local Clubs are uniting for the ultimate girls rugby event! 

We are hosting a girls' rugby union open day at Rat Park, grab your friends and head down to see what the game is all about.

Get ready to redefine what it means to be strong. It's not just about tackles and tries, it's about building unshakable confidence and making lifelong friends. We can show you that the field will be your new playground. 


We've got the incredible Wallaroo, Waratah and Rat's Women joining us!

Listen to their inspiring journeys, learn from the best, and discover how rugby shaped their fearless path.

We have prize giveaways lined up, so this is your chance to score big on and off the field.

Join us for an action-packed afternoon featuring drill sessions, top Aussie female player guest speakers, and amazing prize giveaways.

Curious about the game? This is your chance to dive in and discover! Don't miss out!

Expressions Of Interest For The 2024 Youth Development Program Are Now Available! 

Following on from a successful program, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club - RPAYC is pleased to invite Youth sailors, aged between 13 and 23 years of age, to apply for the club's premiere training program

The Youth Development program was established over 30 years ago, to provide a pathway for youth members to develop their keelboat sailing experience. The club’s commitment to youth sail training has seen graduates move into competitive classes and racing events such as the World Match Racing Tour, Olympic Games, around-the-world Ocean Racing, America’s Cup, Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and various professional sailing circuits. 

The program has also created career opportunities for graduates into the sailing and marine industry, including in boat building, sail making, electrical and mechanical engineering, and as shore crew for international sailing teams. 

Expressions of Interest close on 31 March 2024. Successful applicants will be notified after the closing date. 

Learn more and apply via the link below 👇

Early Childhood Workforce Given $17 Million Boost After Record Number Of Scholarship Applications

February 18, 2024
Educators in the early childhood sector have been given a $17.1 million boost after a NSW Labor Government scholarship program designed to strengthen the workforce attracted a record number of applications.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Scholarships program, which financially assists people wanting to enter the workforce, and existing staff looking to boost their skills, was a key election promise of the NSW Labor Government.

The program aims to create a reliable pipeline of early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators for NSW’s youngest learners.

The program received a record 2,328 applications - well exceeding an initial target of 1,700 applicants. Of the 2,328 applicants, 1,875 are early childhood educators looking to upskill, and 453 are looking to enter the ECEC sector.

Up to $29.4 million will be available to support this year’s scholarship program as the NSW Labor Government assigns up to $17.1 million on top of the $12.3 million committed in the 2023-24 budget.

For the first time, those looking to secure Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) qualifications have also been able to apply.

Successful scholars will receive:
  • Up to $25,000 for early childhood teaching (ECT) qualifications.
  • Up to $5,000 for diploma and certificate III ECEC and OSHC qualifications.
Investing in strengthening the early childhood education and care workforce is a priority for the NSW Labor Government. The ability to both attract and retain staff is a long term issue affecting the viability of early childhood education and care, and was highlighted in the recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Childcare inquiry report.

This program is just part of the NSW Government’s commitment to boosting the early childhood education and care workforce, and comes in addition to the $20 million invested to expand access to ECEC through the Flexible Initiatives Trial, and $6.5 million to help ECEC businesses engage with a business capability development program, improving the viability of their offering.

The NSW Department of Education is currently assessing applications. It has already notified some successful scholars and will continue to notify others in the coming months.

Prospective applicants can visit the department’s website for more information.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Early Learning, Prue Car said:

“Workforce shortages continue to be a challenge in early childhood education and care, and it is vital the Government make support available to encourage educators to continue their careers, and to make it easier for people to enter the sector.

“These scholarships give people financial support while they are studying, offering them a chance to learn new skills without taking on additional strain during a cost of living crisis.

“Investing in this workforce is essential to support ECEC services around the state and give our littlest learners the best start in life.”

‘Paddle For Change’ – A Youth Led Climate Action Event: Mona Vale

Mackellar MP Dr Sophie believes that younger Australians deserve to be heard, even those too young to vote.
You’re invited to join the Paddle for Change, a youth led climate action event on Saturday 9th March 2024, 10am at Mona Vale Beach (Bongin Bongin Bay).

Calling All High School Student Video Makers  

Do you have a brilliant idea for inspiring fellow students to get active? Are you in Year 7- 12?
Enrol now in the Youth Voices Get Active video competition to promote exercise before the Thursday, 14 March 2024.

School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at:

Word Of The Week: Articulate

Word of the Week remains a keynote in 2024, simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently. 2. able to express thoughts and ideas easily, clearly and well. 3. TECHNICAL; having joints or jointed segments. 4. able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing; 5. clearly expressed and easily understood.


1. pronounce (something) clearly and distinctly. 2. form a joint

Are you ready for it? ‘Yeah-nah’ comes back stronger – with a little help from Taylor Swift

Kate BurridgeMonash University and Isabelle BurkeMonash University

Much has been written about the power of Taylor Swift’s poetic lyrics to resonate deeply with her audiences. But forget poetry and literary allusions — their influence pales in comparison to the cultural impact of a resounding “yeah-nah”.

During last Friday evening’s concert, Swift’s dancer Kameron Saunders bellowed the cherished Australian phrase in response to Swift’s line “You know that we are never getting back together” — and 96,000 Swifties at the Melbourne Cricket Ground went wild.

It Was Enchanting To Meet You — Introducing ‘Yeah-Nah’

According to the first ever study of this little Aussie icon, “yeah-nah” arrived on the linguistic scene probably around the late 1990s. But it didn’t really come to the attention of Australians until the early 2000s, much the same time as Swift and her guitar began to rise to fame in Nashville. And, just like Swift, it’s not always been plain sailing for “yeah-nah” — a rocky start and a career marked by continual change and innovation.

Condemned by many in the early 2000s, “yeah-nah” was branded with disparaging labels such as “speech junk” — and lumped together with other “unnecessary words that clutter up our language”. “Yeah-no” was a symptom of Australia’s inarticulateness, they argued, and it should go.

But somehow “yeah-no” climbed out of the linguistic abyss — came back stronger than a nineties trend, as Swifties would put it — and won people’s hearts. When ABC radio stations around the country asked their listeners to send in their favourite Aussie slang expressions, “yeah-nah” came second out of more than a thousand unique phrases (it might even have come first had “mate” not got that unfair boost from other favourites like “g’day mate”).


Now a major protagonist in William McInnes’ book Yeah, Nah!: A celebration of life and the words that make us who we are, this much loved linguistic celebrity also makes regular public appearances — popping up everywhere from car sales adverts to the branding initiatives of condom companies. It’s prominently adorned on earrings, signet rings, necklaces, T-shirts and even features in beautifully intricate needlework embroideries.

What’s ‘Yeah-Nah’ Anyway?

"Yeah-nah” (or its more formal version “yeah-no”) is one of those highly idiosyncratic expressions dotted through our speech. Its functions have to do with hedging, politeness and solidarity, but they are complex and pinning them down is tricky. As you’d expect — it is after all the fall-out of the hidden thought processes of humans interacting with other humans.

Here are some examples to illustrate just some of its duties.

You might want to decline someone’s kind offer of assistance: “Do want a hand?” — “Yeah-nah, I’ll be fine.” To simply say “no” would be blunt.

You might want to agree with a negative question: “So you didn’t get the Taylor Swift tickets?” — “Yeah-nah, we were too slow.” A simple “yes” or “no” would be ambiguous.

You might want to indicate enthusiastic agreement: “So you enjoyed Taylor Swift?” — “Yeah-nah, she was fantastic.” The effect of “no” is to reinforce “yes” by knocking on the head any possibility of contradiction.

You start talking after a lull in the conversation: “Yeah-nah, I was hoping to go to the concert.” “Yeah-nah” strengthens rapport with your conversational partner; it suggests interest or support.

You’re under pressure to accept a compliment, but at the same time want to appear modest. “You played brilliantly today” — “Yeah-nah, I was lucky really.” “Yeah” acknowledges the compliment (not to would seem ungrateful), and the following “nah” effectively softens its impact.

So Which One Did Taylor Swift’s Dancer Use?

The “yeah-nah” starring in the Eras tour is one of the newest functions, sometimes dubbed the “shutdown” use: an intense, sarcastic form of disagreement, which effectively shuts down the topic altogether (“Would you give me your tickets for Saturday night’s concert?” “Yeah, nah”.) The “yeah” sarcastically feints at an agreement that is clearly not possible, before the crystal-cold clarity of the disagreement is issued: “nah”. Curiously, this use has earlier and stronger documentation in US English, and only more recently has it been found in Australian English.

“Shutdown” uses have proliferated on Twitter since at least 2018 (and, yes, that an intense form of disagreement should gain momentum on Twitter is perhaps the least surprising part of this story). The strong strand of internet language feeding the development of this function is perhaps why newer studies have found this form of “yeah-no” is used predominantly by younger people.

A little surprising, really — in most other functions, Baby Boomers have been documented to be the most prolific users of “yeah-no”.

You Belong With Me — Language Binds Us

Language is all about communicating (of course), but it’s also about defining the gang — and never underestimate the significance of this second function. Members of Swift’s fandom are known for weaving her song lyrics (“blank space, baby”, “red lip classic”) into their conversations. These fragments of lyrics become a kind of “clique”, or in-group recognition device — “if you’re quoting Taylor Swift, that connects us”.

Swift is certainly aware of the power of language when it comes to creating bonds, and not just through relatable lyrics and themes. She is brilliant at acknowledging local culture and using colloquial phrases to connect with her audiences. And she nailed it with “yeah-nah”.The Conversation

Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University and Isabelle Burke, Research fellow in Linguistics, Monash University

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

Outrage culture is a big, toxic problem. Why do we take part? And how can we stop?

Shane RogersEdith Cowan University

“Outrage culture” is pervasive in the digital age. It refers to our collective tendency to react, often with intense negativity, to developments around us.

Usually this ire is directed at perceived transgressions. The internet wasted no time in raging at Taylor Swift when she received Album of The Year at the Grammys, seemingly frustrated by her lack of acknowledgement of Celine Dion, who presented the award.

Whether or not Swift’s behaviour could be considered rude isn’t the point. The point is the backlash arguably wasn’t proportionate to the crime. This so-called “snub” incident is, therefore, a good example of how quickly and easily people will jump on the online hate train.

Modern outrage culture, which is also known as call-out culture and is linked to cancel culture, often devolves into a toxic spiral. People wanting clout compete to produce the meanest and most over-the-top commentary, stifling open dialogue and demonising those who make mistakes.

A Tale As Old As Time

Collective outrage isn’t a new phenomenon – nor is it necessarily bad. Humans have adapted to become highly sensitive to the threat of social exclusion. Being called out hurts our feelings, which motivates us to change. We learn how this feels for us and we learn how to use it to influence others.

In pre-digital societies, expressing outrage to shame someone as a group served crucial social functions. It reinforced group norms, deterred potential rule-breakers, and fostered a sense of order and accountability within communities.

Expressing outrage can also challenge norms in a way that leads to positive societal change. The women’s liberation movement in the latter part of the 19th century is a good example of this.

The technological innovations of the internet, smartphones and social media have now enabled communal outrage on a global scale. Multiple societies can be affected at once, as witnessed with the #MeToo movement.

When Outrage Spirals

We’ve all seen it play out. Someone says or does something “controversial”, some posts draw attention to it and soon enough a whirlwind of comments appears, echoing over and over the person in question is fundamentally bad.

The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial is an example where, regardless of how you feel about the case, it’s hard to deny the discourse turned toxic.

The collective moral outrage that drives such negativity spirals has parallels with people brandishing their pitchforks during the 1690s Salem witch trials. Sharing similar beliefs helps us feel like we’re part of the group.

Beyond that, the conviction we witness in others’ comments and behaviour on an issue can stir up our own emotions, in what’s called “emotional contagion”. With our own emotions heightened and our convictions strengthened, we may feel compelled to join the choir of negative discourse.

The overall tone and style of language used by others can also influence how we act and feelSocial modelling dictates that if many others are piling on with negative comments, it can make it seem okay for us to do so, too.

And the more exposed we are to one-sided discourse, the more likely we are to resist alternative viewpoints. This is called “groupthink”.

Social media algorithms are also generally set up to feed us more of what we’ve previously clicked on, which further contributes to the one-sidedness of our online experience.

Scholars have suggested algorithms can prioritise certain posts in a way that shapes the overall nature of commentary, essentially fuelling the flames of negativity.

Two Sides Of Speaking Up

Unlike Salem in the late 1690s, today’s outrage culture is multiplied in intensity and scale due to changing cultural norms around “speaking up”. Combined with the anonymity and global reach afforded by the internet, the culture of speaking up has likely fuelled the kind of vocalisation we see online.

For example, in the past two decades there has been growing societal recognition that it’s good to speak up against bullying. This can be associated with more education on bullying in schools. There’s also a growing trend of encouraging a speak-up culture in workplaces. So it’s not surprising many people now report feeling confident in voicing their opinions online.

Encouraging speaking up is important in many contexts, but more vocal people online means more opportunity for conflict. Shutterstock

It’s also easier to express negative opinions online since we can remain anonymous. We don’t directly witness the emotional pain inflicted upon our target. Nor do we have to worry about the potential threat to our personal safety that would be associated with saying the same horrible thing to a person’s face. As summed up by Taylor Swift herself in You Need to Calm Down:

Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out. But you say it in a tweet, that’s a cop-out.

How Can We Combat Negativity?

Navigating the pitfalls of outrage culture requires us to adopt a more reflective approach before participating in public condemnation. Consider also that outrage culture runs counter to the moral ideals most of us admire, such as:

  • everyone makes mistakes
  • people are worth more than their worst actions
  • people are capable of growth and change, and deserve second chances
  • it’s okay to have different opinions to others
  • the punishment should fit the crime.

Research suggests positive comments can be a productive counter-influence on negativity spirals. So it’s worth speaking up if you do witness matters getting out of hand online. Before clicking the send button, consider asking yourself:

  • do I really believe what I’m about to say or am I going along with the group?
  • how might this comment affect the person receiving it, and am I okay with that?
  • would I communicate like this if it was a face-to-face situation?

By encouraging reflection, empathy and open dialogue, we can avoid toxic outrage culture – and instead use our collective outrage as a force for positive change.The Conversation

Shane Rogers, Lecturer in Psychology, Edith Cowan University

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

A botanical Pompeii: we found spectacular Australian plant fossils from 30 million years ago

Details of a silicified fern fossil. Geoff Thompson/Queensland Museum
Andrew RozefeldsCQUniversity Australia

The Australian continent is now geologically stable. But volcanic rocks, lava flows and a contemporary landscape dotted with extinct volcanoes show this wasn’t always the case.

Between 40 and 20 million years ago – during the Eocene to Miocene epochs – there was widespread volcano activity across eastern Australia. In places such as western Victoria and the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, it was even more recent.

Erupting volcanoes can have devastating consequences for human settlements, as we know from Pompeii in Italy, which was buried by ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. But ash falls and lava flows can also entomb entire forests, or at least many of the plants within them.

Our studies of these rare and unique plant time capsules are revealing exquisitely preserved fossil floras and new insights into Australia’s botanical history. This new work is published in the journal Gondwana Research.

A landscape with snow crested mountain in the background and ash layers covering plants next to a road
This is what volcanoes can do to landscapes – super-heated gasses from the 2011–12 eruption of Puyehue-Cordon Caulle Volcano in Argentina killed the forest. After ten years, the forest has started to regrow. Andrew Rozefelds

Remarkable Preservation

The most common volcanic rocks are basalts. The rich red soils derived from them are among the most fertile in Australia.

But the rocks in which fossils occur are buried under basalts or other volcanic rock, and are called silcretes – the name indicates their origins are from silica-rich groundwaters. Silica is the major constituent of sand, and familiar to most of us as quartz.

What makes the silcrete plant fossils so fascinating is the superfine preservation of plant material. This includes fine roots and root nodules, uncurling fern fronds and their underground stems, the soft outer bark of wood, feeding traces and frass (powdery droppings) of insects, and even the delicate tissues and anatomy of fruits and seeds.

Close-up of clearly visible fern leaves and fragments made up of amber coloured stone
The foliage of a Pteridium fern, preserved in silcrete in exceptional detail. Geoff Thompson/Queensland Museum

For this fine preservation to occur, first there needs to be a rapid burial, like that from a volcanic eruption. Then, there has to be an abundant source of silica — a condition met when the volcanic rocks began to weather.

The process where silica infills and preserves plant structures is referred to as “silicification” or “permineralisation”. When plant material is buried, it provides acidic conditions that are ideal for this to happen.

And the process need not take millions of years. Overseas studies of plants in hot springs or undertaken in the laboratory have shown that some types of silica will quickly infiltrate wood and plant tissues.

Close-up of a rocky amber and white material with bubble-like shapes within
This is a cross-section of the stem (rhizome) of a silicified fern, showing its characteristic anatomy. Geoff Thompson/Queensland Museum

Why Are These Plant Fossils Significant?

Because of their rapid entombment by the volcanoes, we can be sure the plants were in situ (that is, their original location) and were actively growing. This means we can gain detailed information about the make-up of these past plant communities.

In other areas where plant fossils might accumulate – such as river deltas – we can never be sure how far the bits of plants were carried, and whether they were from different types of vegetation.

Silicification not only preserves plants, but also leaf litter on the forest floor and even the underlying soil containing roots and root nodules. The fossil plants that are preserved at different sites varies, indicating the presence of distinct plant communities.

The abundance of seeds and fruits at one site near Capella, in central Queensland, even indicated to us that the local volcanic eruptions are likely to have occurred in summer or early autumn during the fruiting season.

A detailed folded shape of a seed encased in orange-amber rock
This cross-section of a silicified native grape seed shows its complex internal structure which is typical of the seeds of this family. Geoff Thompson/Queensland Museum

The extraordinary preservation of these fossils allows us to compare them with modern plants. In turn, this means we can accurately identify them.

The ferns include fronds and underground stems (rhizomes) of the familiar bracken fern (Pteridium). We have also found the distinctive seeds and lianas of the grape family (Vitaceae), along with evidence of insect damage in the wood. Two sites also had evidence of palms.

While there have been few previous studies on silcrete plants, we have revealed new insights into the history of the modern Australian flora.

Close-up of a bright green pointy leaved fern with sun shining from behind it
A modern bracken fern found in Queensland – the clear successor of the ferns found in the silcrete rocks. AustralianCamera/Shutterstock

Volcanoes Shaped Plant Communities

Volcanic activity both destroys and modifies existing plant communities. It also provides new substrates for plants to colonise.

Several sites contained ferns – this may be because they are among the first living plants to colonise new volcanic terrains via their tiny wind-borne spores. For instance, it has been documented that bracken ferns were pioneer plants of the barren cone of the famous Krakatoa volcano after its eruption in 1883.

But the diversity of seeds and fruits at another site suggests that an existing forest was buried by volcanic activity.

A star shaped impression embedded in an orange-amber rock
This star-shaped fruit, seen in cross section here, is currently being studied and is likely to be a species new to science. Geoff Thompson/Queensland Museum

Researchers have suggested that the key factors responsible for the evolution of the Australian fauna and flora during the Cenozoic period (the last 66 million years) were predominantly climate and environmental change. It happened, in part, due to the movement of the Australian continental plate northwards.

But the broad-scale volcano activity that occurred in eastern Australia during the Cenozoic has rarely been invoked as a key driver of such changes.

So remarkably preserved, the silcrete plant fossils are now providing startling new insights into the history of some groups of Australian plants and the vegetation types in which they grew.

The author would like to acknowledge co-author Raymond Carpenter from the University of Adelaide who contributed to this article.The Conversation

Andrew Rozefelds, Adjunct Assoc Professor Central Queensland University and Principal Curator Geosciences Queensland Museum, CQUniversity Australia

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

We discovered two new Australian native mammals – the first of their kind this century

The newly described western delicate mouse. Ian Bool
Emily RoycroftAustralian National University

Australia can lay claim to two new native mammal species, discovered as part of our collaborative research published today in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Australia has some of the most unique biodiversity in the world, and our native mammals are particularly well known. For many, the iconic marsupials might be the first that come to mind – but we also boast an impressive and fascinating diversity of native rodents.

Unlike the invasive pests introduced since European colonisation, native rodents have been evolving in Australia for around five million years. With over 150 species in Australia and New Guinea found nowhere else in the world, there’s a lot to love about our native rats and mice.

Our new research adds two more species to this list, and, like many of Australia’s recently described mammals, they’ve been hiding in plain sight.

Hiding In Plain Sight

The two new species belong to a group of very small and aptly named Australian rodents: the delicate mice.

These dainty creatures differ from the invasive pests you might come across in your home or backyard. With adults weighing as little as six grams, they are typically smaller, and are a crucial part of Australia’s natural environment and ecosystems.

Prior to our discovery, the namesake of the group, the delicate mouse or Molinipi (Pseudomys delicatulus) was thought to be a single species spanning a massive stretch of the country – from the Pilbara in Western Australia, across parts of the Northern Territory and through Queensland down to the New South Wales border.

A very small grey rodent - smaller than a palm - climbing across a person's hands
The northern delicate mouse (Pseudomys delicatulus) or ‘molinipi’ occurs throughout the Top End and northern Kimberley of Australia. The species was previously thought to have a much wider distribution. Yugul Mangi Rangers/ALACC BY

However, our team has now confirmed the delicate mouse is three species, not one.

We discovered this using genomic sequencing of delicate mice from across the country, combined with data on reproductive traits and high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans.

The three species are genetically distinct. Their sperm and chromosomes also aren’t compatible, which likely prevents them from interbreeding.

Despite this, they do look quite similar to each other – which is why these two additional delicate mouse species have remained undiscovered until now.

New Names For Cryptic Species

One of these mice gets to keep its original scientific name, so Pseudomys delicatulus now refers to the “northern delicate mouse”. The other species needed their own names.

The new “western delicate mouse” (Pseudomys pilbarensis) or Kalunyja in the Kariyarra language, occurs mainly in Western Australia, including the Pilbara, Great Sandy Desert and southern Kimberley regions.

The “eastern delicate mouse” (Pseudomys mimulus) or Kalla, in the Wik-Mungkan language, occurs through eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, around Mount Isa in western Queensland, and on Groote Eylandt.

An outline of Australia showing three regions towards the top of the country highlighted in different colours
Where Australia’s newest mammals live. Emily Roycroft, with photos by Ian Bool, Yugul Mangi Rangers and Justin Wright

The western delicate mouse is the first new Pseudomys described this century. While we know a lot about Australia’s native mammals, there is still more to uncover. This discovery follows the description of two very tiny new marsupials last year, along with a host of other new marsupials and bats described since 2000.

By giving these species their own names, we’re taking the first step toward ensuring they’re given the right conservation attention.

Standing in some hay, a small grey mouse with black eyes looking at the camera
The newly re-classified eastern delicate mouse (Pseudomys mimulus) is found through eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, around Mount Isa, and on Groote Eylandt. Justin Wright

Conserving Our Iconic Native Mammals

Native rodents are one of our most threatened mammal groups and have been disproportionately impacted by extinction since European colonisation of Australia began in 1788.

Recognising Australia’s mammals under official taxonomic names is crucial to ensure they can be assessed and prioritised for conservation listing and funding.

The northern delicate mouse has not previously been a conservation priority – but that might be because it was thought to have a distribution three times larger than it actually does. The western and eastern delicate mice haven’t had any conservation or research attention, because we didn’t know they were unique species.

A small russet mouse with black eyes sitting on red coloured gravel
The newly described western delicate mouse (Pseudomys pilbarensis) is found in the Pilbara and Great Sandy Desert of WA, and through the southern Kimberley region. Ian Bool

As part of our research, we also showed how species in the delicate mouse group are specialised to unique Australian environments: from the arid central deserts to the northern monsoonal tropics. Given their habitat specialisations, models in our research suggest that up to 95% of current delicate mouse habitat may become unsuitable by the year 2100 under a moderate future warming scenario.

Combined with more immediate threats – predation by feral cats, habitat clearing and introduced diseases – the delicate mice may be more at risk that we previously thought.

Our discovery is significant for the future of the tiny mice, with their new names already endorsed by the Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium. Recognition in government legislation is to follow.

This will allow us to reassess the conservation status of the three species, to determine what action is needed to protect them into the future.The Conversation

Emily Roycroft, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian National University

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

The New York Times’ AI copyright lawsuit shows that forgiveness might not be better than permission

pio3 / Shutterstock
Peter VaughanNottingham Trent University

The New York Times’ (NYT) legal proceedings against OpenAI and Microsoft has opened a new frontier in the ongoing legal challenges brought on by the use of copyrighted data to “train”, or improve generative AI.

There are already a variety of lawsuits against AI companies, including one brought by Getty Images against StabilityAI, which makes the Stable Diffusion online text-to-image generator. Authors George R.R. Martin and John Grisham have also brought legal cases against ChatGPT owner OpenAI over copyright claims. But the NYT case is not “more of the same” because it throws interesting new arguments into the mix.

The legal action focuses in on the value of the training data and a new question relating to reputational damage. It is a potent mix of trade marks and copyright and one which may test the fair use defences typically relied upon.

It will, no doubt, be watched closely by media organisations looking to challenge the usual “let’s ask for forgiveness, not permission” approach to training data. Training data is used to improve the performance of AI systems and generally consists of real world information, often drawn from the internet.

The lawsuit also presents a novel argument – not advanced by other, similar cases – that’s related to something called “hallucinations”, where AI systems generate false or misleading information but present it as fact. This argument could in fact be one of the most potent in the case.

The NYT case in particular raises three interesting takes on the usual approach. First, that due to their reputation for trustworthy news and information, NYT content has enhanced value and desirability as training data for use in AI.

Second, that due to its paywall, the reproduction of articles on request is commercially damaging. Third, that ChatGPT “hallucinations” are causing reputational damage to the New York Times through, effectively, false attribution.

This is not just another generative AI copyright dispute. The first argument presented by the NYT is that the training data used by OpenAI is protected by copyright, and so they claim the training phase of ChatGPT infringed copyright. We have seen this type of argument run before in other disputes.

Fair Use?

The challenge for this type of attack is the fair use shield. In the US, fair use is a doctrine in law that permits the use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances, such as in news reporting, academic work and commentary.

OpenAI’s response so far has been very cautious, but a key tenet in a statement released by the company is that their use of online data does indeed fall under the principle of “fair use”.

Anticipating some of the difficulties that such a fair use defence could potentially cause, the NYT has adopted a slightly different angle. In particular, it seeks to differentiate its data from standard data. The NYT intends to use what it claims to be the accuracy, trustworthiness and prestige of its reporting. It claims that this creates a particularly desirable dataset.

Sam Altman
Sam Altman of OpenAI: the company mentions the fair use defence in its response to the legal action. Jamesonwu1972 / Shutterstock

It argues that as a reputable and trusted source, its articles have additional weight and reliability in training generative AI and are part of a data subset that is given additional weighting in that training.

It argues that by largely reproducing articles upon prompting, ChatGPT is able to deny the NYT, which is paywalled, visitors and revenue it would otherwise receive. This introduction of some aspect of commercial competition and commercial advantage seems intended to head off the usual fair use defence common to these claims.

It will be interesting to see whether the assertion of special weighting in the training data has an impact. If it does, it sets a path for other media organisations to challenge the use of their reporting in the training data without permission.

The final element of the NYT’s claim presents a novel angle to the challenge. It suggests that damage is being done to the NYT brand through the material that ChatGPT produces. While almost presented as an afterthought in the complaint, it may yet be the claim that causes Open AI the most difficulty.

This is the argument related to AI “hallucinations”. The NYT argues that this is compounded because ChatGPT presents the information as having come from the NYT.

The newspaper further suggests that consumers may act based on the summary given by ChatGPT, thinking the information comes from the NYT and is to be trusted. The reputational damage is caused because the newspaper has no control over what ChatGPT produces.

This is an interesting challenge to conclude with. “Hallucination” is a recognised issue with AI generated responses and the NYT is arguing that the reputational harm may not be easy to rectify.

The NYT claim opens a number of lines of novel attack which move the focus from copyright on to how the copyrighted data is presented to users by ChatGPT and the value of that data to the newspaper. This is much trickier for OpenAI to defend.

This case will be watched closely by other media publishers, especially those behind paywalls, and with particular regard to how it interacts with the usual fair use defence.

If the NYT dataset is recognised as having the “enhanced value” it claims to, it may pave the way for monetisation of that dataset in training AI rather than the “forgiveness, not permission” approach prevalent today.The Conversation

Peter Vaughan, Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University

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

Stone Age ‘megastructure’ under Baltic Sea sheds light on strategy used by Palaeolithic hunters over 10,000 years ago

Artist’s impression of the Blinkerwall: the ancient stone wall used as a hunting structure. Michał GrabowskiAuthor provided
Stephanie PiperUniversity of York

Archaeologists have identified what may be Europe’s oldest human-made megastructure, submerged 21 metres below the Baltic Sea in the Bay of Mecklenburg, Germany. This structure – which has been named the Blinkerwall – is a continuous low wall made from over 1,500 granite stones that runs for almost a kilometre. The evidence suggests it was constructed by Palaeolithic people between 11,700 and 9,900 years ago, probably as an aid for hunting reindeer.

The archaeologists investigating the Bay of Mecklenburg used a range of submarine equipment, sampling methods and modelling techniques to reconstruct the ancient lake bed and its surrounding landscape. This revealed that the Blinkerwall stands on a ridge running east to west, with a 5km-wide lake basin a few metres below the ridge to the south.

The human, rather than natural, origin for the Blinkerwall was confirmed by an archaeological diving team who photographed sections of the wall. These show that it is made up of 288 very large boulders, which were probably dropped in that location by the retreating glacier, connected by 1,673 smaller stones.

These smaller stones appear to have been collected from the immediate vicinity, as the area just to the north of the wall has many fewer stones than the areas even further north. The resulting structure stands a little under a metre in height and up to two metres wide, with remarkable regularity over its 971-metre length.

A Different Landscape

At the time of its construction, the landscapes and seascapes of northwest Europe were very different from today. The climate was beginning to warm as the colder Pleistocene era ended and the warmer Holocene era began. Sea levels were much lower, and large glaciers sat over much of Fennoscandia.

The land around the Baltic Sea basin was rising rapidly, released from the weight of the retreating glaciers and transforming a brackish body of water known as the Yoldia sea into the freshwater Ancylus lake. Great Britain was a peninsula of the European continental landmass, with a vast lowland plain known as Doggerland stretching from Norfolk to the Netherlands. Herds of reindeer, European bison and wild horse migrated across its sparsely forested landscape.

In cultural terms, this period, known as the Late Upper Palaeolithic, is marked by significant hallmarks in technological innovation by the people who lived at this time. Dogs had been recently domesticated; there are regionally distinct forms of stone projectile points; and there is frequent use of decorated bone and antler harpoons, as well as specialist hunting strategies employed to target migrating prey.

The identification of the Blinkerwall now demonstrates that Palaeolithic hunters were managing their landscape to aid their hunting activities more deliberately than was previously thought.

Construction of walls and other features in the landscape is familiar to us, particularly in the context of land enclosure for farming. Both contemporary and ancient societies that have traditionally subsisted by hunting and gathering wild resources are also known to alter their environments by constructing features such as stone walls. These are used for a variety of purposes including fishing, shellfishing and hunting.

The researchers compared the Blinkerwall to other archaeologically documented structures of a similar length and construction type that have been identified in the Middle EastNorth America, Canada and Greenland. These structures are interpreted as having been built for the purpose of game drive hunting. In this strategy, hunters use landscape and built features to gain an advantage over their prey by directing its movements to a location where they are more vulnerable to attack by other hunters.

The similarity of the Blinkerwall to these other structures, and its construction adjacent to a body of water, led to the suggestion that the wall had been created for the same purpose. The lake itself may also have been used in this strategy.

Supporting Evidence

One archaeological site from Germany that supports this interpretation is Stellmoor, located just north of Hamburg and which dates to the latest time that the Blinkerwall could have been constructed.

The site is located at the end of a narrow valley where thousands of reindeer bones – some bearing hunting impact traces, flint points and even pinewood arrow shafts – were found preserved in the ancient lake sediments. The hunting evidence at Stellmoor shows the reindeer were shot by arrows as they were driven down the valley into the lake.

Northern and Central Europe in the Late Upper Palaeolithic.
Northern and Central Europe in the Late Upper Palaeolithic (white areas = ice-covered). Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA)CC BY

While there is no archaeological evidence at Stellmoor to suggest people had deliberately created or changed the landscape to enhance their hunting success, it shows how the topography of the landscape was used to the hunters’ advantage. The Blinkerwall construction provides evidence that Palaeolithic people took this level of planning and coordination a step further.

It shows they recognised and understood the instincts of their prey so well that they were able to predict their movements – and how they would react when faced with an artificially created obstacle like the Blinkerwall.

The discovery of this monumental piece of hunting architecture is unique in Europe. At a maximum of 11,700 years old, it is one of the oldest examples in the world, potentially predating a desert hunting “kite” at Jibal al-Gadiwiyt in Jordan by over a thousand years.

The Blinkerwall adds a new element to our understanding of the highly skilled and specialised hunting strategies engineered by people at the end of the last glacial period – strategies that have continued to be used in different landscapes for millennia. And the discoveries are unlikely to stop here.

The Bay of Mecklenburg has the potential to reveal further archaeological evidence of equal significance. The researchers do not rule out the possibility that another wall or other associated features could be found, buried under later sedimentation of the ancient lake.

If weapons, tools or animal remains were to be recovered at the site, this would reveal information about the nature and duration of its use – and far greater insights into the sophisticated subsistence strategies of the Palaeolithic hunters of the Baltic.The Conversation

Stephanie Piper, Lecturer in Archaeology, University of York

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

Letters and embroidery allowed medieval women to express their ‘forbidden’ emotions

A miniature of the Erythrean Sibyl, writing. British Library, Royal 16 G V f. 23.CC BY-SA
Pragya AgarwalLoughborough University

Medieval Europe was a place of great emotional incontinence. So much so that historian Johan Huizinga claimed: “Modern man has no idea of the unrestrained extravagance of the medieval heart.”

Crying was ubiquitous – especially by religious men and women, as writing and illustrations in religious texts of the time show. Women were not allowed to engage widely in holy intellectual pursuits such as writing and interpreting religious texts, so they could only channel their religious fervour and closeness to God through their bodies.

But though such displays of extreme emotions were accepted from religious women because it was seen as a sign of their devotion to God, it wasn’t considered acceptable for their lay counterparts.

In the medieval period, prescriptive literature warned women of the dangers of anger – one of seven deadly sins. Women’s anger was seen to confirm their inherent weakness and inability to control their emotions.

But while they were discouraged from expressing their feelings in daily life, letters written by elite women of the medieval period are a rich source of information about their emotions. Most upper-class women were educated and eloquent in their writing, and letters gave them the opportunity to express themselves and wield power, when they had little other means of exerting influence.

Surviving Letters

Not many of these letters have survived. One that has was sent by Aline le Despenser, Countess of Norfolk, to the chancellor of England in around 1273. Women did not partake in official communication, so this was unusual. The letter is a masterclass in persuasion. It uses rhetoric such as “dear friendship”, which was mostly only used between male associates. But the countess had to write carefully and mostly stay close to the expected gender norms of appearing to be a decorous, obedient wife – a tight line to navigate.

A medieval woman writing a book
Detail of a miniature of Christine de Pizan in her study. Harley MS 4431, f. 4r/British LibraryCC BY-SA

In Renaissance Italy, the feeling of being powerless was palpable in many of the letters that women wrote. A Corresponding Renaissance: Letters Written by Italian Women, 1375–1650 (2016), by historian Lisa Kaborycha, includes 55 letters written by women of different social status. Through their writing, the women attempt to gain cultural currency, enter the public sphere and assert power.

A letter written by the aristocrat Lucrezia de’ Medici shows that she felt trapped in the roles she was expected to play. She was the older sister of Lorenzo de’ Medici, one of the most powerful Italian statesmen of the time, best known for his patronage of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.

De’ Medici was married off at the age of 13 for a large dowry and brought to her husband’s house five years later. In one of her letters, she says: “Don’t be born a woman if you want your own way.”

The letters by another Florentine women from the same period, Alessandra Strozzi are considered some of the most important insights into political and social life at the time. But equally, they provide an insight into her inner world and emotions throughout her life – from joy and triumph to despair, anxiety, pain and sorrow.

Strozzi wrote long letters because she wanted to, not because she needed to. Following the death of her husband, she chose not to remarry to ensure she remained involved in her children’s lives and worked hard to negotiate beneficial financial and marital collaborations for her sons. She also used shame and guilt to manipulate and coerce her sons, Filippo and Lorenzo, into strategic deals.

In one of her letters she says: “Not seeing any of your children makes me wonder who are they doing all this work for. If they carry on as they are, they will harden their hearts and they’ll keep me in these negotiations for so long that I’ll die.”

Embroidered Messages

Embroidery was another way that medieval women could express their emotions. These women used their needles as pens, subverting the traditional notion of female docility by incorporating symbols and messages into their designs.

During this period, embroidery was not just undertaken for practical purposes but was expected from virtuous upper-class women, part of expressing their “true” nature as dutiful and obedient wives and daughters.

Most embroidery pattern books were written by men, and in rejecting the patterns (and sentiments) that were proposed by them, these women exerted power and emotional authority, while treading the line between masculine authoritativeness and female passivity.

Three panels of embroidery by Mary Queen of Scots
Embroidery by Mary, Queen of Scots. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

In collaboration with noblewoman Elizabeth Talbot (widely known as Bess of Hardwick), Mary, Queen of Scots designed several embroidery and lace patterns. The designs were a way to express her agency and emotions during her captivity.

Her designs were a symbol of her pride and resistance, especially as her letters were under constant surveillance. Her use of colour and symbols showed her grief and melancholy. In one panel, a crowned ginger cat is pictured with a grey mouse, representing her fractious relationship with her sister, Elizabeth I.

While these letters and embroidered messages are a fascinating insight into the emotions of medieval women, most of them are from women of high social standing who had wealth and privilege. Women from lower classes were not educated, and so could not make use of these forms. And the archives have gaps. What was perceived to be of value has been saved for posterity, while that which did not hold cultural currency was not.

As I discuss in my book, Hysterical: Exploding the myth of gendered emotions, while the wider literature from the period tells us that medieval women were silent and passive, quiet and chaste, their letters and embroideries tell a different story. The women who wrote and created these works were bold and strident, angry and astute. And clever enough to find their own tools for claiming power, in a culture determined to silence them.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Pragya Agarwal, Visiting Professor of Social Inequities and Injustice, Loughborough University

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

I’ve researched Clara Bow – it’s no wonder the actress inspired Taylor Swift’s new album

Jennifer VossDe Montfort University

While on stage collecting the award for album of the year (her fourth to date) at the 2024 Grammys earlier this month, Taylor Swift announced her 11th album: The Tortured Poets Department.

Moments later, Swift uploaded full details of her new record to Instagram, including the album artwork and track list. One of the 17 newly revealed tracks is titled Clara Bow. Actress Clara Bow (1905-1965) was the original “It girl”. And she had plenty in common with Swift. Adored and villainised throughout her career, her love life was constantly under scrutiny.

While news outlets instantly set about reporting on the excitement of Swift’s latest album, unveiling her new collaborations and praising her record-setting evening, an opposing maelstrom of hate was already on its way.

Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

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Headlines branded Swift “disrespectful” and “classless” for appearing to snub music legend Celine Dion. SZA fans accused Swift of robbing SZA’s SOS of album of the year. Twitter users called her “disgusting” for bringing her friend and collaborator Lana Del Rey on stage, after she’d lost out on her own award.

The tempestuous response to Swift’s win and subsequent album announcement is a reminder of the constantly fluctuating love/hate relationship with the media that has persisted throughout her career.

While their backgrounds could not be more different, there is a clear experience that both Bow and Swift have shared: unrelenting scrutiny overshadowing their hard work and success.

Who Was Clara Bow?

Clara Bow was an American silent and early sound film actress, whose tumultuous career spanned from 1922 to 1933. Bow’s best-known film, the 1926 silent romantic comedy It, secured her status as a cultural icon who embodied the youth and liberation of the 1920s’ flapper.

Clips of Clara Bow’s hit movie It (1927) set to a song written about her in the same year, She’s Got It by Harry Reaser.

Bow’s rise to stardom is often framed as a variation on the Cinderella tale. An unassuming girl, brought up in the poverty-stricken tenements of Brooklyn and longing for a chance in the limelight, wins a contest and is catapulted to screen stardom. But that’s not the full story.

This sequence of events, which kick-started the ongoing mythicisation of Bow’s star image, skips over the work Bow herself put in. It erases the labour involved in starting and maintaining her own career. In fact, Bow’s life is bound up with misinformation, speculation and tales of exploitation, abuse and illicit love affairs.

How Clara Bow Inspired Taylor Swift

During the height of her career, Bow’s love life was a point of constant ridicule in popular film fan magazines. Headlines branding her “empty hearted” and asking “why can’t the It Girl keep her men?” sought to psychoanalyse her broken engagements. The press labelled Bow an “idiot”, and wondered why “no man [had] led her to the altar”.

Clara Bow in a black and white photo
Clara Bow in 1932. D.D.Teoli Jr.

Bow’s reputation as a “girl who burns ‘em up and then leaves ‘em cold” was exacerbated even further when in 1931, she found herself embroiled in scandal.

At the time, information about the marriages and divorces of celebrities, as well as suggestions of extramarital affairs and sex scandals, were commonplace in the press.

Bow’s assistant and best friend, Daisy DeVoe, was accused of trying to embezzle money from her. A reporter colluded with DeVoe to accuse Bow of: “Promiscuity and exhibitionism, kinkiness and incest, lesbianism and bestiality, drug addiction and alcoholism, venereal disease and family insanity.” They then tried to blackmail the actress, asking for USD$25,000 (£19,839) to cease printing the stories.

Before the trial, it was alleged that DeVoe had warned Bow: “I’ve got some letters and telegrams that that won’t do you any good if I turn ‘em over to the papers”. The reporter responsible for the blackmail received an eight-year suspended sentence and a fine for defaming her. But the trial had already done significant damage to Bow’s image.

In 2017, I visited the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, which holds Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archive. During my research trip, I was able to access the papers of Clara Bow, as well as those who knew her: including notable gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

Within the archive, there is a letter from Bow to Hopper, revealing her desire to someday write the story of her life – a potential attempt to set the record straight and reclaim the narrative that other people had created. Unfortunately, Bow died before she was able to do so.

Perhaps Swift’s ode to Bow will offer some artistic justice for the often-misrepresented starlet. Or perhaps it will lament Swift’s own inability to control the media narrative. We will find out soon. But it’s not hard to see why Taylor Swift, a modern starlet whose every move is scrutinised and criticised, would find a rich seam of inspiration in the life of Clara Bow.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Jennifer Voss, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Humanities and Performing Arts, De Montfort University

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

Learning music the informal way some popular musicians do could inspire more school students

LightField Studios/Shutterstock
Anna MariguddiEdge Hill University

Music is a school subject facing difficult times. In England, fewer students are taking the subject at GCSE, not enough people are training to become secondary music teachers, and the subject is suffering from a lack of funding.

One problem may be that the way music is taught in school has become increasingly formal. The current music national curriculum, introduced in 2014, includes using staff notation, learning music history, and listening to the music of “great composers and musicians”. This was a shift in comparison to the previous, more child-centred national curriculum.

Wider education policy on how future teachers should be trained places emphasis on teacher control and well-structured lessons – again, perpetuating more formal, traditional approaches.

But this isn’t how many popular musicians – the artists students may be listening to on their way into school – learn how to play music. Their approach is often more informal. Many learn to play by ear, hearing a piece of music and figuring it out on an instrument.

Bringing this approach into the classroom to a greater extent could help both students and the subject of music itself.

Freedom To Play

Informal learning can look and sound haphazard at times, but has close ties with more natural ways of engaging with music. In one example of the approach, pioneered by the professor of music education Lucy Green, students begin “in at the deep end” – tasked with copying a song of their choice, by ear, working together in groups. They are required to work out the various parts of the song, often building up to a performance.

This kind of learning gives students more freedom and independence in the classroom, and a more equal power balance with the teacher is encouraged. The role of the teacher is to set the task, then let the students choose how they approach it and help only when needed. The students can decide on their own pace of learning and the level of difficulty of the part they play within their group.

This can lead to increased student confidence in the music classroom. Although the teacher is still in control by default, this approach can prompt them to trust in the musical activity their students are engaging in, resisting the temptation to step in too soon.

Informal learning is linked with increased numbers of students choosing the subject at GCSE. This suggests it has the potential to capture the interest of some students who might have previously become disengaged with music lessons.

Learn What You Love

Students are motivated by being able to choose what music they will play with their friends – often selecting popular music. By welcoming student choice of music into the classroom, increased links are forged between in- and out-of-school music. Students are engaging in a learning practice that exists beyond the confines of the classroom, and which has relevance to their musical interests and passions.

Children singing together
Music at school is often formal and structured. SpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Also, this does not mean that informal learning cannot extend beyond popular music. While students often choose to bring popular music into the classroom, the underpinning research shows once they are motivated and engaged, the teacher can move beyond this genre and draw upon aspects of the approach to introduce other types of music into the classroom in later stages.

The non-profit Musical Futures has contributed towards the development of informal learning and continues to advocate and promote its ethos. And although the approach is largely aimed at secondary school students, primary students can benefit from adapted versions of informal learning.

Facilitating informal learning might feel risky for some teachers. They face a variety of pressures and requirements, and may feel this kind of learning does not align with wider education policy and the expectations of their role.

Informal music learning is not always easy to assess, either. And embracing learning that is informal and “haphazard” might lead to a fear of judgment – that the teacher lacks control of pupil behaviour.

However, informal learning offers a way to challenge thinking about how music is taught, and to consider alternative possibilities to enable the subject to flourish in school.The Conversation

Anna Mariguddi, Lecturer in Education (music specialist), Edge Hill University

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

Run out of butter or eggs? Here’s the science behind substitute ingredients

Joanna Lopez/Unsplash
Paulomi (Polly) BureyUniversity of Southern Queensland

It’s an all too common situation – you’re busy cooking or baking to a recipe when you open the cupboard and suddenly realise you are missing an ingredient.

Unless you can immediately run to the shops, this can leave you scrambling for a substitute that can perform a similar function. Thankfully, such substitutes can be more successful than you’d expect.

There are a few reasons why certain ingredient substitutions work so well. This is usually to do with the chemistry and the physical features having enough similarity to the original ingredient to still do the job appropriately.

Let’s delve into some common ingredient substitutions and why they work – or need to be tweaked.

Oils Versus Butter

Both butter and oils belong to a chemical class called lipids. It encompasses solid, semi-solid and liquid fats.

In a baked product the “job” of these ingredients is to provide flavour and influence the structure and texture of the finished item. In cake batters, lipids contribute to creating an emulsion structure – this means combining two liquids that wouldn’t usually mix. In the baking process, this helps to create a light, fluffy crumb.

One of the primary differences between butter and oil is that butter is only about 80% lipid (the rest being water), while oil is almost 100% lipid. Oil creates a softer crumb but is still a great fat to bake with.

You can use a wide range of oils from different sources, such as olive oil, rice bran, avocado, peanut, coconut, macadamia and many more. Each of these may impart different flavours.

Other “butters”, such as peanut and cashew butter, aren’t strictly butters but pastes. They impart different characteristics and can’t easily replace dairy butter, unless you also add extra oil.

A block of yellow butter in an open silver foil wrapper
Nut ‘butters’ can’t replace dairy butter because their composition is too different. congerdesign/Pixabay

Aquafaba Or Flaxseed Versus Eggs

Aquafaba is the liquid you drain from a can of legumes – such as chickpeas or lentils. It contains proteins, kind of how egg white also contains proteins.

The proteins in egg white include albumins, and aquafaba also contains albumins. This is why it is possible to make meringue from egg whites, or from aquafaba if you’re after a vegan version.

The proteins act as a foam stabiliser – they hold the light, airy texture in the product. The concentration of protein in egg white is a bit higher, so it doesn’t take long to create a stable foam. Aquafaba requires more whipping to create a meringue-like foam, but it will bake in a similar way.

Another albumin-containing alternative for eggs is flaxseed. These seeds form a thick gel texture when mixed with a little water. The texture is similar to raw egg and can provide structure and emulsification in baked recipes that call for a small amount of egg white.

Lemon Plus Dairy Versus Buttermilk

Buttermilk is the liquid left over after churning butter – it can be made from sweet cream, cultured/sour cream or whey-based cream. Buttermilk mostly contains proteins and fats.

Cultured buttermilk has a somewhat tangy flavour. Slightly soured milk can be a good substitute as it contains similar components and isn’t too different from “real” buttermilk, chemically speaking.

One way to achieve slightly soured milk is by adding some lemon juice or cream of tartar to milk. Buttermilk is used in pancakes and baked goods to give extra height or volume. This is because the acidic (sour) components of buttermilk interact with baking soda, producing a light and airy texture.

Buttermilk can also influence flavour, imparting a slightly tangy taste to pancakes and baked goods. It can also be used in sauces and dressings if you’re looking for a lightly acidic touch.

A stack of fluffy pancakes dusted with sugar with a strawberry on top
Buttermilk is a common ingredient for making fluffy pancakes. Matthias_Groeneveld/Pixabay

Honey Versus Sugar

Honey is a complex sugar-based syrup that includes floral or botanical flavours and aromas. Honey can be used in cooking and baking, adding both flavour and texture (viscosity, softness) to a wide range of products.

If you add honey instead of regular sugar in baked goods, keep in mind that honey imparts a softer, moister texture. This is because it contains more moisture and is a humectant (that is, it likes to hold on to water). It is also less crystalline than sugar, unless you leave it to crystallise.

The intensity of sweetness can also be different – some people find honey is sweeter than its granular counterpart, so you will want to adjust your recipes accordingly.

Close-up of a slice of bread with golden honey pooling on top
Honey has a complex flavour and can taste sweeter than regular sugar. estelheitz/Pixabay

Gluten-Free Versus Regular Flour

Sometimes you need to make substitutions to avoid allergens, such as gluten – the protein found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye, barley and others.

Unfortunately, gluten is also the component that gives a nice, stretchy, squishy quality to bread.

To build this characteristic in a gluten-free product, it’s necessary to have a mixture of ingredients that work together to mimic this texture. Common ingredients used are corn or rice flour, xanthan gum, which acts as a binder and moisture holder, and tapioca starch, which is a good water absorbent and can aid with binding the dough. The Conversation

Paulomi (Polly) Burey, Associate Professor (Food Science), University of Southern Queensland

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

What is Sora? A new generative AI tool could transform video production and amplify disinformation risks

Vahid PooryousefMonash University and Lonni BesançonLinköping University

Late last week, OpenAI announced a new generative AI system named Sora, which produces short videos from text prompts. While Sora is not yet available to the public, the high quality of the sample outputs published so far has provoked both excited and concerned reactions.

The sample videos published by OpenAI, which the company says were created directly by Sora without modification, show outputs from prompts like “photorealistic closeup video of two pirate ships battling each other as they sail inside a cup of coffee” and “historical footage of California during the gold rush”.

At first glance, it is often hard to tell they are generated by AI, due to the high quality of the videos, textures, dynamics of scenes, camera movements, and a good level of consistency.

OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman also posted some videos to X (formerly Twitter) generated in response to user-suggested prompts, to demonstrate Sora’s capabilities.

How Does Sora Work?

Sora combines features of text and image generating tools in what is called a “diffusion transformer model”.

Transformers are a type of neural network first introduced by Google in 2017. They are best known for their use in large language models such as ChatGPT and Google Gemini.

Diffusion models, on the other hand, are the foundation of many AI image generators. They work by starting with random noise and iterating towards a “clean” image that fits an input prompt.

A series of images showing a picture of a castle emerging from static.
Diffusion models (in this case Stable Diffusion) generate images from noise over many iterations. Stable Diffusion / Benlisquare / WikimediaCC BY-SA

A video can be made from a sequence of such images. However, in a video, coherence and consistency between frames are essential.

Sora uses the transformer architecture to handle how frames relate to one another. While transformers were initially designed to find patterns in tokens representing text, Sora instead uses tokens representing small patches of space and time.

Leading The Pack

Sora is not the first text-to-video model. Earlier models include Emu by Meta, Gen-2 by Runway, Stable Video Diffusion by Stability AI, and recently Lumiere by Google.

Lumiere, released just a few weeks ago, claimed to produce better video than its predecessors. But Sora appears to be more powerful than Lumiere in at least some respects.

Sora can generate videos with a resolution of up to 1920 × 1080 pixels, and in a variety of aspect ratios, while Lumiere is limited to 512 × 512 pixels. Lumiere’s videos are around 5 seconds long, while Sora makes videos up to 60 seconds.

Lumiere cannot make videos composed of multiple shots, while Sora can. Sora, like other models, is also reportedly capable of video-editing tasks such as creating videos from images or other videos, combining elements from different videos, and extending videos in time.

Both models generate broadly realistic videos, but may suffer from hallucinations. Lumiere’s videos may be more easily recognised as AI-generated. Sora’s videos look more dynamic, having more interactions between elements.

However, in many of the example videos inconsistencies become apparent on close inspection.

Promising Applications

Video content is currently produced either by filming the real world or by using special effects, both of which can be costly and time consuming. If Sora becomes available at a reasonable price, people may start using it as a prototyping software to visualise ideas at a much lower cost.

Based on what we know of Sora’s capabilities it could even be used to create short videos for some applications in entertainment, advertising and education.

OpenAI’s technical paper about Sora is titled “Video generation models as world simulators”. The paper argues that bigger versions of video generators like Sora may be “capable simulators of the physical and digital world, and the objects, animals and people that live within them”.

If this is correct, future versions may have scientific applications for physical, chemical, and even societal experiments. For example, one might be able to test the impact of tsunamis of different sizes on different kinds of infrastructure – and on the physical and mental health of the people nearby.

Achieving this level of simulation is highly challenging, and some experts say a system like Sora is fundamentally incapable of doing it.

A complete simulator would need to calculate physical and chemical reactions at the most detailed levels of the universe. However, simulating a rough approximation of the world and making realistic videos to human eyes might be within reach in the coming years.

Risks And Ethical Concerns

The main concerns around tools like Sora revolve around their societal and ethical impact. In a world already plagued by disinformation, tools like Sora may make things worse.

It’s easy to see how the ability to generate realistic video of any scene you can describe could be used to spread convincing fake news or throw doubt on real footage. It may endanger public health measures, be used to influence elections, or even burden the justice system with potential fake evidence.

Video generators may also enable direct threats to targeted individuals, via deepfakes – particularly pornographic ones. These may have terrible repercussions on the lives of the affected individuals and their families.

Beyond these concerns, there are also questions of copyright and intellectual property. Generative AI tools require vast amounts of data for training, and OpenAI has not revealed where Sora’s training data came from.

Large language models and image generators have also been criticised for this reason. In the United States, a group of famous authors have sued OpenAI over a potential misuse of their materials. The case argues that large language models and the companies who use them are stealing the authors’ work to create new content.

It is not the first time in recent memory that technology has run ahead of the law. For instance, the question of the obligations of social media platforms in moderating content has created heated debate in the past couple of years – much of it revolving around Section 230 of the US Code.

While these concerns are real, based on past experience we would not expect them to stop the development of video-generating technology. OpenAI says it is “taking several important safety steps” before making Sora available to the public, including working with experts in “misinformation, hateful content, and bias” and “building tools to help detect misleading content”.The Conversation

Vahid Pooryousef, PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction, Monash University and Lonni Besançon, Assistant Professor in Data Visualization, Linköping University

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

The brightest object in the universe is a black hole that eats a star a day

Cristy Roberts/ANUCC BY-NC
Christian WolfAustralian National University

Scientists have no reported evidence of the true conditions in Hell, perhaps because no one has ever returned to tell the tale. Hell has been imagined as a supremely uncomfortable place, hot and hostile to bodily forms of human life.

Thanks to a huge astronomical survey of the entire sky, we have now found what may be the most hellish place in the universe.

In a new paper in Nature Astronomy, we describe a black hole surrounded by the largest and brightest disc of captive matter ever discovered. The object, called J0529-4351, is therefore also the brightest object found so far in the universe.

Supermassive Black Holes

Astronomers have already found around one million fast-growing supermassive black holes across the universe, the kind that sit at the centres of galaxies and are as massive as millions or billions of Suns.

To grow rapidly, they pull stars and gas clouds out of stable orbits and drag them into a ring of orbiting material called an accretion disc. Once there, very little material escapes; the disc is a mere holding pattern for material that will soon be devoured by the black hole.

The disc is heated by friction as the material in it rubs together. Pack in enough material and the glow of the heat gets so bright that it outshines thousands of galaxies and makes the black hole’s feeding frenzy visible to us on Earth, more than 12 billion light years away.

The Fastest-Growing Black Hole In The Universe

A somewhat noisy photo of a bright white disk and small reddish dot against a dark background.
The brightest thing in the universe: J0529-4351 is a glowing disc of matter around a supermassive black hole, and it is 500 trillion times brighter than the Sun. (The red dot is a neighbouring star.) Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey DR10 / Nature AstronomyCC BY-SA

The accretion disc of J0529-4351 emits light that is 500 trillion times more intense than that of our Sun. Such a staggering amount of energy can only be released if the black hole eats about a Sun worth of material every day.

It must also have a large mass already. Our data indicate J0529-4351 is 15 to 20 billion times the mass of our Sun.

There is no need to be afraid of such black holes. The light from this monster has taken more than 12 billion years to reach us, which means it would have stopped growing long ago.

In the nearby universe, we see that supermassive black holes these days are mostly sleeping giants.

Black Holes Losing Their Grip

The age of the black hole feeding frenzy is over because the gas floating around in galaxies has mostly been turned into stars. And after billions of years the stars have sorted themselves into orderly patterns: they are mostly on long, neat orbits around the black holes that sleep in the cores of their galaxies.

Even if a star dove suddenly down towards the black hole, it would most likely carry out a slingshot manoeuvre and escape again in a different direction.

Space probes use slingshot manoeuvres like this to get a boost from Jupiter to access hard-to-reach parts of the Solar System. But imagine if space were more crowded, and our probe ran into one coming the other way: the two would crash together and explode into a cloud of debris that would rapidly fall into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Such collisions between stars were commonplace in the disorder of the young universe, and black holes were the early beneficiaries of the chaos.

Accretion Discs – A No-Go Zone For Space Travellers

Accretion discs are gateways to a place whence nothing returns, but they are also profoundly unfriendly to life in themselves. They are like giant storm cells, whose clouds glow at temperatures reaching several tens of thousands of degrees Celsius.

The clouds are moving faster and faster as we get closer to the hole, and speeds can reach 100,000 kilometres per second. They move as far in a second as the Earth moves in an hour.

The disc around J0529-4351 is seven light years across. That is one and a half times the distance from the Sun to its nearest neighbour, Alpha Centauri.

Why Only Now?

If this is the brightest thing in the universe, why has it only been spotted now? In short, it’s because the universe is full of glowing black holes.

The world’s telescopes produce so much data that astronomers use sophisticated machine learning tools to sift through it all. Machine learning, by its nature, tends to find things that are similar to what has been found before.

This makes machine learning excellent at finding run-of-the-mill accretion discs around black holes – roughly a million have been detected so far – but not so good at spotting rare outliers like J0529-4351. In 2015, a Chinese team almost missed a remarkably fast-growing black hole picked out by an algorithm because it seemed too extreme to be real.

In our recent work, we were aiming to find all the most extreme objects, the most luminous and most rapidly growing black holes, so we avoided using machine learning tools that were guided by too much prior knowledge. Instead we used more old-fashioned methods to search through new data covering the entire sky, with excellent results.

Our work also depended on Australia’s current 10-year partnership with the European Southern Observatory, an organisation funded by several European countries with a huge array of astronomical facilities.The Conversation

Christian Wolf, Associate Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Australian National University

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

From Harry Potter to Taylor Swift: how millennial women grew up with fandoms, and became a force

Emily BaulchThe University of Queensland

With Taylor Swift pulling in over half-a-million audience members on her Australian tour, we’ve been thinking a lot about fans. In this series, our academics dive into fan cultures: how they developed, how they operate, and how they shape the world today.

With the record-breaking success of Barbie and Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, the economic power of women as fans is being stamped on the global entertainment industries.

Leading these events are millennial women. While women of all ages turned out to see Barbie, women aged 25 and older made up 38% of the audience by the second week of its release. Likewise, a significant chunk of Swifties belong to the millennial age group, much like 34-year-old Taylor Swift herself.

Female fans followed Swift to the 2024 Super Bowl, and many advertisers targeted this female Gen Z and millennial audience. The challenge to gender stereotypes around sport and fandom echoes the support for the Matildas during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia, which opened up a new space of representation.

Women’s fandom is increasingly a visible and powerful force in many spaces of pop culture, media and entertainment.

Training Fandoms

Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, were taught to buy into their passions thanks to growing up in the golden age of franchises, from Harry Potter to Twilight to the Hunger Games. As these fandoms grew, millennial women increasingly found themselves playing a major role as audiences and consumers.

The first Harry Potter book was released in 1997, and the first film in 2001.

Today, there is no shortage of ways to buy into the Harry Potter world. From mugs to broomsticks, from clothes to limited-edition books, there is a constant range of objects to buy. Potter merchandise has existed since the early 2000s, with early merchandise including items like “secret boxes” containing mystery trinkets. The Wizarding World brand launched in 2018. Encompassing things like bags, jewellery and cosmetics, the brand saw demand and merchandising formalised.

Specialised Harry Potter stores are still popping up around the globe, offering keen fans branded merchandise on just about every product imaginable.

Hannah Worthy is the business manager at Brisbane’s The Store of Requirement (a play on “The Room of Requirement” at Hogwarts, which provided anything a witch or wizard needed). The store opened in 2017 and is exclusively dedicated to stocking officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise.

Their biggest demographic, Worthy told me in an interview, is “women aged between 25 and 45”.

The first Twilight book was released in 2005, and the first film was released in 2008. Michael Inturrisi, the business development manager at Ikon Collectibles, tells me Twilight changed the landscape for Funko Pop! Vinyl figures, opening doors for selling collectables into major Australian bookstores.

These collectible plastic figurines partly found success because Twilight was popularised on both screen and film. The movies meant the franchise was a “big deal” with a large consumer base, Inturrisi says.

Ikon’s consumer base has since shifted over the years, moving away from its original male-dominated demographic. The company now caters more to women, with about 60% of its consumers being female.

The Hunger Games also contributed to franchise fever, teaching fans that they could buy into their passions. Where Harry Potter featured a male lead character, The Hunger Games was led by a strong female protagonist.

These franchises changed the fandom landscape by building fans’ voracious appetites for all things franchised, leading to the fandom we see today.

Online Communities

Female fans have built complex communities in digital places, empowered by social media to connect and to share their fandom. The power of these communities is becoming increasingly visible.

BookTok” is a growing TikTok community where book lovers discuss and share their opinions on their reads. The platform has the power to make and break books and helps to catapult niche genres or self-published releases to the forefront of popular culture. It has driven the growth behind emerging genres, like “cosy fantasy” and “romantasy” – niche genres that focus on characters and their relationships, and romance in fantasy worlds respectively.

BookTok fans aren’t just market followers; they are also market-makers. Romantasy (a portmanteau of “romance” and “fantasy”) authors like Sarah J. Maas and Rebecca Yarros have outsourced their merchandising to fans, taking a cut of the royalties. In my research I’ve found these authors have leveraged the popularity of unofficial merchandise on social media platforms to increase their official merchandise catalogues and revenue.

Fan cultures have a range of influences on everyday life, from swapping friendship bracelets at Taylor Swift concerts to attending romantasy-inspired balls.

Fandom might be shared online, but its effects are felt in person.

The Influence Of Millennial Women In Fandom

Fans who were girls in the era of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight are now the women who have powered the success of Barbie and the Eras Tour. The shift in fandom has been led by adult women who have been honing their fan skills since girlhood.

They, in turn, stand on the shoulders of the early female fans who read romance fiction back when it was even more stigmatised and wrote the earliest fan-fiction. Now they buy their daughters tickets to Taylor Swift and cheer them on as their own girls take on new fan roles. The Conversation

Emily Baulch, PhD Candidate in Publishing Studies, The University of Queensland

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

Shame, intimacy, and community: fangirls are mocked, but it is more complex than you might think

Sascha SamlalThe University of Melbourne

With Taylor Swift pulling in over half-a-million audience members on her Australian tour, we’ve been thinking a lot about fans. In this series, our academics dive into fan cultures: how they developed, how they operate, and how they shape the world today.

With Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated The Eras Tour now playing Australia, the behaviours and practices of pop music fangirls are again the spotlight.

From the devastation of missing out on tickets to live performances, the dedicated effort of camping at arenas to see their stars up close, to the ways these fans interact online, fangirls are often shamed within the cultural zeitgeist.

However, this shame is an integral aspect of fandom spaces. Shame can be used in creating shared intimacy between fans and fostering a sense of community, as evidenced in interviews conducted as part of my research.

Drawing on ten interviews with “Directioners” (fans of One Direction) who participated in online fandom communities during their adolescence, the way shame is experienced, perpetuated and internalised by fangirls became clear.

Yet what also emerged in these interviews is how shame simultaneously provides the foundation for these close-knit communities and long-lasting connections.

Pop Music, Girls And Shame

Pop music is often characterised by its popularity with young women, and is perceived to in opposition to rock music and other, more “serious” genres. Rock music represents the authentic, political, intelligent and masculine; pop music therefore is inauthentic, vacuous and feminine.

Fans of more “serious” genres of music might be referred to as “aficionados”, “tastemakers” or “connoisseurs”, permitted to spend thousands of dollars on their rare vinyl collections or engage in online debate about their favourite albums.

One person I spoke to highlighted her otherwise “good” taste by positioning acclaimed musicians – Queen and Elton John – in opposition to One Direction, and to pop music. “I wasn’t necessarily listening to pop music,” she said.

Yet fangirls of pop music are not allowed this same status. It is expected they only like the object of their devotion because they are immature, apolitical, or they desire the (male) pop star.

The condemnation of fangirls is a historically recurring and widespread phenomenon, from Beatlemania to Bieber Fever.

One participant recalled her time at school hiding her status as a One Direction fangirl:

all the boys would make fun of those girls, and I’d join in […] Me and my friends used to [say] ‘One Infection’!

The interests of girls are often demeaned as unserious or tasteless, pervasively understood as mass consumer products that hordes of crazy girls consume mindlessly.

The trope of the “hysterical fangirl” conjures up the image of a hormonally out of control teenage girl consistently duped by the mainstream music industry.

The Good Vs The Hysterical

This cultural framing of fangirls seeps into fandom spaces.

Fangirls are extremely protective of how they are perceived by wider society, creating unspoken codes of conduct within these spaces. Practices that threaten the facade – such as “slash” shipping, the imagined romantic and sexual pairing of two same sex characters or celebrities – are further marginalised within communities as a means to regulate and maintain the limits of “good” fangirl behaviour.

As one participant condemned when asked about slash fan fiction:

It’s about real people […] I just think that’s so weird. I think shame is needed there.

Fangirls strive to distance themselves from the hysterical fangirl trope. “Larries” – fans who support the imagined relationship between One Direction bandmates Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson – are depicted as an obsessive and perverse faction within the fandom who are unable to distinguish their own fantasies from reality.

As one participant told me:

I would try and distance myself from that hyper-feminised sort of fangirl representation […] I didn’t want to be perceived as crazy and weird, even though I was!

Bonding Through Shame

Although shame is a regulatory tool fangirls deploy onto each other to maintain this good/bad fangirl binary, shame is also utilised in productive ways to foster relationships.

Shame is often thought of as a negative, isolating feeling. However, it is a dynamic emotion important in thinking about how these fandom spaces are formed in the first place, and how kinship is created among fans.

While it is common to think fandoms are simply organised around a shared object of devotion, it is the relationships between fans that generate and sustain these communities.

Many fangirls I interviewed praised the creativity of fan practices and the sense of belonging garnered through fandom as a point of pride of their fangirlishness.

One fangirl described sharing fan fiction within her online community felt like “having those giggly conversations with your sisters”.

Through creative practices and continuous online discourse, fans construct their spaces in perceived privacy for an audience of their peers. Shame becomes a fangirl criterion for realising reciprocal, empathetic and fulfilling relationships between fans.

As one participant recalled discovering a new friend also read One Direction fan fiction, she mused:

it was a moment there, where we connected. I understand you; you understand me.

Ultimately, shame is a dynamic and important function within online fandom communities. The cultural condemnation of pop music fangirls speaks to the wider societal devaluation of femininity as infantile, weak or anti-intellectual. The pervasiveness of this systemic devaluation of femininity is evident as shame is also used within fandoms to maintain a good/bad fangirl binary.

Conversely, shame fosters shared intimacy and creates kinship between fangirls, nurturing a sense of community and belonging. These fandoms are ultimately networks of little families, who happen to all love the same catchy tunes.The Conversation

Sascha Samlal, PhD Candidate, The University of Melbourne

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

The art of ‘getting lost’: how re-discovering your city can be an antidote to capitalism

Stephen DobsonCQUniversity Australia

Do you remember what it was like to discover the magic of a city for the first time? Do you remember the noises, smells, flashing lights and pulsating crowds? Or do you mostly remember cities through the screen of your phone?

In 1967, French philosopher and filmmaker Guy Debord publicised the need to move away from living our lives as bystanders continually tempted by the power of images. Today, we might see this in a young person flicking from one TikTok to the next – echoing the hold images have on us. But adults aren’t adverse to this window-shopping experience, either.

Debord notes we have a tendency to observe rather than engage. And this is to our detriment. Continually topping-up our image consumption leaves no space for the unplanned – the reveries to break the pattern of an ordered life.

Debord was a member of a group called the Situationist International, dedicated to new ways we could reflect upon and experience our cities. Active for about 15 years, they believed we should experience our cities as an act of resistance, in direct opposition to the (profit-motivated) capitalistic structures that demand our attention and productivity every waking hour.

More than 50 years since the group dissolved, the Situationists’ philosophy points us to a continued need to attune ourselves – through our thoughts and senses – to the world we live in. We might consider them as early eco-warriors. And through better understanding their philosophy, we can develop a new relationship with our cities today.

Understanding The ‘Situation’

The Situationist International movement was formed in 1957 in Cosio di Arroscia, Italy, and became active in several European countries. It brought together radical artists inspired by spontaneity, experimentalism, intellectualism, protest and hedonism. Central figures included Danish artist Asger Jorn, French novelist Michèle Bernstein and Italian musician and composer Walter Olmo.

The Situationists were driven by a libertarian form of Marxism that resisted mass consumerism. One of the group’s early terms was “unitary urbanism”, which sought to join avant-garde art with the critique of mass production and technology. They rejected “urbanism’s” conventional emphasis on function, and instead thought about art and the environment as inexorably interrelated.

Times Square in the modern day. The Situationists viewed consumerism as oppressive forces that should be rebelled against. Shutterstock

By rebelling against the invasiveness of consumption, the Situationists proposed a turn towards artistically-inspired individuality and creativity.

Think On Your Own Two Feet

According to the 1960 Situationist Manifesto we are all to be artists of our own “situations”, crafting independent identities as we stand on our own two feet. They believed this could be achieved, in part, through “psychogeography”: the idea that geographical locations exert a unique psychological effect on us.

For instance, when you walk down a street, the architecture around you may be deliberately designed to encourage a certain kind of experience. Crossing a vibrant city square on a sunny morning evokes joy and a feeling of connection with others. There’s also usually a public event taking place.

The Situationists valued drift, or dérive in French. This alludes to unplanned movement through a landscape during journeys on foot. By drifting aimlessly, we unintentionally redefine the traditional rules imposed by private or public land owners and property developers. We make ourselves open to the new unexpected and, in doing so, are liberated from the shackles of everyday routine.

In our research, my colleagues and I consider cities as places in which “getting lost” means exposing yourself to discovering the new and taken-for-granted.

Forge Your Own Path

By understanding the Situationists – by looking away from our phones and allowing ourselves to get lost – we can rediscover our cities. We can see them for what they are beneath the blankets of posters, billboards and advertisements. How might we take back the image and make it work for us?

The practise of geo-tagging images on social media, and sharing our location with others, could be considered close to the spirit of the Situationists. Although it’s often met with claims of over-fuelling tourism (especially regarding idyllic or otherwise protected sites), geo-tagging could inspire us to actively seek out new places through visiting the source of an image.

This could lead to culturally respectful engagement, and new-found respect for the rights of traditional custodians as we experience their lands in real life, rather than just through images on our phones.

Online, there’s a strong temptation to fall into the spectator role by merely consuming other people’s content. Geo-tagging offers a way to share experiences. Shutterstock

Then there are uniquely personal and anarchistic forms of resistance, wherein we can learn about the world around us by interweaving ourselves with our histories. In doing so we offer a new meaning to a historical message, and a new purpose. The Situationists called this process détournement, or hijacking.

For instance, from my grandfather I inherited a biscuit tin of black and white photographs I believe were taken in the 1960s. They showed images of parks and wildlife, perhaps even of the same park, and cityscapes of London with people, streets and buildings.

I have spent many hours wandering the London streets tracking down the exact places these images were snapped. I was juxtaposing past with present, and experiencing both continuity and change in the dialogues I had with my grandfather. In this way, I used images to augment (rather than replace) my lived experience of the material world.

Urban art installations can also be examples of detournment as they make us re-think everyday conceptions. Forgotten Songs by Michael Hill is one such example. A canopy of empty birdcages commemorates the songs of 50 different birds once heard in central Sydney, but which are now lost due to habitat removal as a result of urban development.

There are also a number of groups, often with a strong environmental or civic rights focus, that partake in detournment. Reclaim the Streets is a movement with a long history in Australia. The group advocates for communities having ownership of and agency within public spaces. They may, for instance, “invade” a highway to throw a “road rave” as an act of reclamation.

As French avant-garde philosopher Gaston Bachelard might have put it, when we’re bombarded by images there is no space left to daydream. We lose the opportunity to explore and question the world capitalism serves us through images.

Perhaps now is a good time to set down the phone and follow in the Situationists’ footsteps. The Conversation

Stephen Dobson, Professor and Dean of Education and the Arts, CQUniversity Australia

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

Books Of The Month - March 2024: Oscar And Lucinda + Popular Mechanics ~ 1946

Oscar And Lucinda

by Peter Carey

Publication date 2011

Oscar Hopkins is an Oxford seminarian with a passion for gambling. Lucinda Leplastrier is a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass. The year is 1864. When they meet on the boat to Australia their lives will be forever changed ... Daring, rich, intense and bizarre, Peter Carey's Booker prize-winning novel is a brilliant achievement - a moving love story and a historical tour de force that is also powerfully contemporary - Pittwater mentioned!

Popular Mechanics ~ 1946

January: (Telephone Microwave Relays), FIDO Fights Fog, (Minesweepers), (Post War Photography), (Wire Rope), They Police California's Rain, Five-Tube Super Radio (Flattened mini tubes)

February: RADAR Cues the Navy Fighters, (Americium and Curium), On Guard Against Death Rays (Radioactivity), Science Pins Down the Weather, "Brabazon 1" Flying Hotel, Will Malaria Strike at Home?, Fighting Flying Ice

March: Unlocking the Universe (Cosmic Rays), By RADAR to the Moon, (Aluminum and Magnesium), The Genius of Shinagawa (Harry Petterson), (War Coffee), RADAR "Bat" Bomb Chased Jap Ships, (WWII Smart Bomb?), All the Answers at Your Fingertips (MIT Computer), Raising the Dead Ships,

April: "Operation Crossroads" (Atomic Bomb Test), Flying Water Bugs (Hydroplanes), Industry Cooks with Electrons, (Indianapolis Auto Race), (Private Aircraft), Seeds for the Wide World, Designs for Better Living, 25 Insect Pests and How to Control Them, Ultra-Sensitive Television "Camera" Pickup Tube (Image Orthicon)

May: (Flying Automobile), (Aircraft Carrier Arresting Method), Do's and Don'ts of DDT, Ice Cube Flattop, How the Iron Pin Boy Works, How Deep is the Ocean? (Photo Reconnaissance) Hands for the Handicapped, (Concrete House Construction), The Gold Bug Strikes Again, (Vending Machines), (Stars), (Flat Front CRTs)

June: RADAR Lands Them Blind, (1947 Studebaker), (Farm Electrification), (Inventor has Car Phone, Smart House), Print Your Own Color Photos, At Home in a Round House (Buckminster Fuller), Have We Outgrown the Panama Canal?, Flying Mailcar, 10,000 Mile Flying Wing (XB-35), ENIAC, (Cancer Research), Mudslingers Bring Up Oil, LITHIUM... The Hungry Metal, (TV Smart Bomb) (Slot Loading Phonograph)

July: (SONAR), Eyes On Bikini (Atomic Bomb Test), "Prep School" for Rocket Warfare, (High Speed Navy Camera), Forecasting the Ocean Waves, (UN News Radio, TV, Print), "Printed" Radio Circuits

August: Report From Bikini, Speed Planes, Sailing in the Sky, (Newspaper by FAX), (Coated Lenses and Mirrors), Transatlantic Flying Wing (Nice Illustration), Putting Earth Waves to Work, The Bridge Born in a Wind Tunnel (Tacoma Narrows), (Movie Stuntmen)

October: Power From Atoms: How Soon?, New Queens of the Skyways, Luxury Goes Back to Sea, Mother Ship of the Cable Lines, Throwing Light on Mother Nature, Platinum on Four Feet, Will the Atom Drive Us Underground?, The Dust Bowl Is Restless Again, (Explosive Decompression Tests)

November: (Tucker Automobile), (22 to 66lbs of Pu), Speed Unlimited (Supersonic Flight), On The Air (1920-1946), Scientific Fortune Tellers (Aptitude Testing), (17 cars made into one as in the Johnny Cash song), The Home That's Run by Pushbuttons, Making Money by the Ton (Coins), (Improved CRTs)

December: (Non-Stop Australia to USA), Narrow Gauge Movies (16mm), (The Slinky!), Inside the "Atom City" (Oak Ridge), Station M-O-O-N (Soft Landed Transmitter Proposed), (The Slinky Again. Page 302 "Mr. Walker")

COVID-19 Outbreaks In Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities 

February 16, 2024
As at 8:00 am 15 February 2024 there are 1,852 active COVID-19 cases in 262 active outbreaks in residential aged care facilities across Australia. There have been 114 new outbreaks, 17 new resident deaths and 1,696 combined new resident and staff cases reported since 8 February 2024. 

Vaccination in residential aged care facilities
People living in residential aged care are a high priority for the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Older age remains the biggest risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease. Vaccination offers added protection to help reduce the risk of severe illness or hospitalisation of aged care residents.

The Department is working with both the aged care and primary care sectors to ensure residents have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It continues to target support for residential aged care facilities to arrange COVID-19 vaccinations with local primary care providers such as GPs, community pharmacists and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

As at 14 February 2024*:
• 69.9% of aged care residents have received a booster dose since 1 January 2023.
• 66.8k (36.2%) of aged care residents received a booster dose in the last 6 months.
• 3,384 aged care residents received a vaccine dose in the last week.
*An updated methodology has been implemented (resulting in an increase in total residents and vaccination numbers).

Aged care COVID-19 booster doses (data as at 14 February 2024): NSW
  • Residents vaccinated: 22k 
  • % of residents vaccinated: 37.1%

HERstory Exhibition: Remembering Australia’s Military Women

Women have long played a significant role in Australian military service, from serving as nurses in the Boer War, to the formation of the women’s auxiliary forces during the Second World War and their current roles on the front lines.

The HERstory: Remembering Australia’s Military Women exhibition is artist Carla Edwards' personal thank you to the women who have served in the Australian Defence Force. 

The exhibition at the Anzac Memorial in Sydney's Hyde Park features 24 women from New South Wales whose military service spans from 1942 up to the present day. 

The women served, in the Air Force, Army and Navy as well as the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, Australian Women's Army Service, Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, Women's Royal Australian Air Force, Women's Royal Australian Army Corps and the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service. Their stories range from WWII through to serving in the Middle East and East Timor.

Jan-Maree Ball OAM [Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN)] who has featured in past Issues of PON for her work in establishing Aussie Hero Quilts, and taking part in Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch Services, features as one of the women in this exhibition.

Carla started this project in 2022 with a request to photograph seven ex-service women on the NSW Central Coast. The overwhelmingly positive response to this initiative prompted Carla to broaden the reach. Fourteen months later, Carla has now driven 20,000 kilometres and interviewed and photographed 93 women across five states and one territory. 

The exhibition is located in the Memorial’s Auditorium on Lower Ground level. The Memorial is open every day, 9 am to 5 pm. Please note that access to the exhibition is dependent on the Auditorium’s availability, so you are to call the Memorial in advance on (02) 8262 2900.

The exhibition closes on 1 April; entry is free. Find out more on the Memorial's website

Below Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branchs' 75th celebrations included a three-course dinner and a band 'Dazed and Confused', along with a very special presentation of a hand made quilt and laundry bag being presented to Sub Branch Member Skye Smith by Jan-Maree Ball, founder of Aussie Heroes Quilts.

New Fact Sheet For Hearing Services Program Providers

The Department of Health and Aged Care have published a fact sheet for Hearing Service Program providers that contains answers for questions about service delivery under the program. Please check this publication before emailing the Dept. with an enquiry.

The fact sheet will help providers meet requirements under the Hearing Services Program, but it is not a substitute for independent legal advice. 

Legislation and the service provider contract take precedence if there is any ambiguity or inconsistency between this fact sheet and the:
  • Hearing Services Administration Act 1997
  • Hearing Services Program (Voucher) Instrument 2019
  • Schedule of service items and fees
  • service provider contract.

Avalon Beach Historical Society: March 2024 Meeting

Our first meeting of the year will be on TUESDAY 12 MARCH and will be held in the Annexe (old scout hall) in the north-western corner of Dunbar Park.

It will start at the usual 8pm and this time we will be stepping outside our ‘comfort zone’ (but only for a short distance!) to Palm Beach.

A new member of our Society, but an early resident of Palm Beach, DAVID ELFICK, the owner of the Palladium on Ocean Road, will be our guest speaker.

David has owned the building for 50 years and seen it through some fascinating times.
After it began as a very popular dance hall in the 1930s, for some years it helped finance the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club. Later in its long life it served as a café, a restaurant, the Palm Beach Film Club, a film set and then home to the long-lived surfing magazine ‘TRACKS’. 

As usual we will supplement David’s talk with photos from different eras including some interior photos as well.

We hope you’ll join us for what should be a super night.

Guests of members are very welcome and also to stay for supper afterwards.

Geoff Searl OAM
President ABHS

Local Seniors Festival Events 2024

The local Seniors Festival celebrates and recognises seniors for the role they play and the contributions they make to our local community. The official Festival theme for 2024 is ‘Reach Beyond'.

The Northern Beaches Festival will run from Monday 11 March to Thursday 28 March.

Council has put together a webpage listing all local events. 

As part of the Festival Program, Council will be coordinating two expos to showcase local seniors groups on:
  • Wednesday 13 March, 10.30am to 1.30pm – Forestville Memorial Hall and Forestville Seniors Centre
  • Friday 22 March, 1pm to 4pm – Newport Community Centre
There are a LOT more events listed at the link above.

Celebrate Seniors Festival - March 11-24

LUNCH SPECIALS in Glasshouse Grill at Pittwater RSL
Salmon Linguine or Creamy Coconut Beef Curry + Glass of house white or red wine.. $15*
Offer only available Monday to Thursday each week.

*T&Cs apply. Members price. 150ml glass wine. Either lunch special on offer can be purchased without wine for $12. Offer only available Monday to Thursday each week from March 11-24 with the exception of special events and public holidays. Pittwater practises the RSA.

Computer Pals For Seniors At Narrabeen: What Is AI?

Save the date: 20th March 2024
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The growth of artificial intelligence is already changing the world, just as the internet did twenty years ago. The ChatGPT AI system released last year represented a new level in computer intelligence. It has generated both excitement and concern. 

John Cameron a 50-year veteran in the computer industry will discuss what ChatGPT can and can't do, how it can help you, and how to use it safely. John is a member of Computer Pals for Seniors Turramurra and we are delighted that he has agreed to share his knowledge of this new technology with us so that we can safely learn how to use and incorporate it into our daily lives.

The one-hour session will be held at 1pm at The Lakeview Hall in the Tramshed Community Centre, Narrabeen. It is open to all that are interested in understanding our brave new world. Light refreshments will be served after the presentation.

As numbers are limited, please email to reserve a seat Due to us being a not-for-profit organisation a gold coin donation would be gratefully appreciated.

Dr. Scamps Offering Free Anti-Scam Seminars

In 2023, losses to scams exceeded $4.5 billion, causing misery and financial hardship to thousands of people including hundreds on the Northern Beaches. The perpetrators of these crimes masquerade as your bank, the Tax Office, phone companies, or postal delivery services – to name a few.

Scammers deliberately target older people, the vulnerable and people who are not as savvy with digital communications.

“These scammers are without scruples,” said Dr Sophie Scamps, Federal MP for Mackellar.

“That’s why I want to help the people of Mackellar fight back against them, by knowing what to do when they are contacted by these people.”

Nearly 20% of reports in NSW were by people 65 and over, followed by the 55-64 age group (12.2%) and 45-54 age group (10.7%). There are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Dr Scamps will host a free seminar on scams presented by staff from the Australian Competition and Consumer commission’s Scam.

In person event on March 14th: 10.30am-12pm
Ted Blackwood Community Centre, Jacksons Rd & Boondah Rd, Warriewood.

Online presentation on April 10th: 3.30pm to 5pm
To find out more please visit:

The scams awareness presentations will provide practical guidance to assist people to identify and avoid scams and stay safe online. The presenter will share valuable information on where to seek help and support when recovering from a scam.

It’s also an opportunity for attendees to share their scam stories with their peers. 
We all need to be vigilant and help each other to avoid scams. If you have an unusual phone call, text or email, stop! Hang up. Do not click on the link or provide information. Seek advice from a friend or relative

Navalny dies in prison − but his blueprint for anti-Putin activism will live on

The legacy of Alexei Navalny lives on. Ian Langsdon/AFP via Getty Images
Regina SmythIndiana University

Long lines of Russians endured subzero temperatures in January 2024 to demand that anti-Ukraine war candidate Boris Nadezhdin be allowed to run in the forthcoming presidential election. It was protest by petition – a tactic that reflects the legacy of Alexei Navalny, the longtime Russian pro-democracy campaigner. Authorities say Navalny, a persistent thorn in the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in prison on Feb. 16, 2024.

For more than a decade, Navalny fought Russian authoritarianism at the ballot box and on the streets as the most recognizable face of anti-Putinism, filtering support to candidates brave enough to stand against the Kremlin’s wishes.

Often opposition does not translate into electoral success. Nadezhdin supporters did not expect that their man could actually defeat Putin in the vote scheduled for March 20, 2024. Given how tightly the Kremlin controls politics in Russia, the result of the presidential election is a foregone conclusion.

But for many Russians, the opportunity to support Nadezhdin’s candidacy was the only legal means they had to communicate their opposition to Putin and the war. The fact that authorities ultimately barred Nadezhdin from participating suggests that the Kremlin remains cautious about any candidate who punctures official narratives of a nation united behind Putin’s war in Ukraine.

That effort to protest the election seems all the more poignant following Navalny’s death. It reflected the heart of a strategy that Navalny developed over more than a decade and that I have written about since 2011.

The Movement Remains

Navalny understood that opposition in Russia was about exposing the corruption in Putin’s party, United Russia; shining a light on electoral manipulation; and alerting the world to growing political violence.

Navalny highlighted the very real opposition to Putin and authoritarian rule that exists in Russia despite attempts to hide it from the world.

To achieve these goals, team Navalny – and it is important to remember that while Navalny the man is dead, the movement he sparked remains – repeatedly used elections to make the opposition visible and spark political debate.

Navalny emerged as a political force in 2011, when he kicked off a large national protest movement ahead of the 2012 parliamentary election by labeling Putin’s United Russia the “Party of Crooks and Thieves.” He held contests to create memes to illustrate the slogan and mobilized voters who did not support Putin’s party.

A protester wearing a hat stands in front of a sign in Russian that translates to 'We did not vote for crooks and thieves!'
Opposition activists in 2011 declare, ‘We did not vote for crooks and thieves!’ Valery Titievsky/AFP via Getty Images

Putin inevitably won the election, with the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer mission commenting that due to irregularities and abuses the winner “was never in doubt.”

But nonetheless, Navalny’s efforts meant that a new opposition was in place and ready to take to the streets to fight election fraud.

Getting Out Of The Electoral ‘Ghetto’

Despite his arrest and conviction on fraud charges in 2013, Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow that year. In the campaign, he innovated electoral politics, recruiting young volunteers who met voters on the streets and in their apartment blocks.

Navalny won almost 30% of the vote – double that expected – and claimed that the only reason Putin’s hand-picked candidate, Sergei Sobyanin, had got above the 50% needed to secure a first-round victory was due to a falsified vote.

Navalny later articulated the real success, as he saw it, in an interview with fellow opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza: “We have shown that ordinary people – with no administrative resources, no corporate sponsors, no public relations gurus – can unite and achieve results at the ballot box,” he said. “We have shown that we are no longer confined to a 3% electoral ‘ghetto.’”

Navalny concluded: “For me, the most important result of this campaign is the return of real politics to Russia.”

During that 2013 campaign, my research team interviewed Navalny activists and observed the work in campaign headquarters.

These interviews underscored Navalny’s relationship with the people. Many of the volunteers rejected the idea that they were working for him. Instead, they were volunteering because they admired Navalny’s tactics. They liked his political style. They wanted change in Russia.

Navalny brought Russians alienated by Russian politics together and empowered them. As one campaign volunteer interviewed in our study argued, “We all were frightened before the first protest and even left a will before we joined the movement. But it was not a mob. There were people like us. The feeling we had in Navalny’s office was the feeling of being with people like me.”

Through the next decade, Navalny and his team continued to return political competition to Russia’s politics. They built local organizations that attracted support and found some success in Siberian cities Tomsk and Novosibirsk, despite the endless obstacles the Kremlin placed in their way.

Return From Exile

The culmination of these efforts is a system Navalny developed in 2018 called Smart Voting. Through an online tool, the Navalny team encourages Russians to support any reform-minded candidates in elections and in particular directs voters to the candidate most likely to beat Putin’s United Russia party.

Research by Russian scholars Mikhail Turchenko and Grigorii Golosov shows that the tool has had a very significant effect on voters and increasing turnout, opposition votes and popular attention on elections.

Navalny’s efforts seemingly irked the Russian state and may have been the impetus of an assassination attempt against him by Russia’s domestic security agency, known as the FSB, in 2020.

Navalny survived Novichok poisoning only because international pressure forced the regime to allow him to be airlifted to Germany for treatment. During his recovery, Navalny used the attack on him to further his political activism and convey the regime’s growing brutality. He famously interviewed his would-be assassin to uncover the details of the operation.

Navalny’s return to Russia under threat of arrest in February 2021 kicked off the largest street protests – in support of the opposition leader – since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

These protests inspired a new generation of activists. They also marked new levels of police brutality against pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets and in the years since.

Handing On The Baton

Since 2022, I have led a research team that has interviewed Russians who left the country in opposition to the war in Ukraine. Many participated in the anti-war protests of late February and early March 2022 and point to Navalny’s return to Russia as the origin of their own political engagement and activism.

As one respondent argued: “My civic position began to emerge. All this was close to Navalny, his movement, and his encouragement to notice something, to pay attention … I began to go to rallies, and became much more interested and aware of politics.”

While Navalny languished in prison camps following his arrest on charges of violating parole during his recovery in Germany, many of these activists in exile continued to operate outside of Russia, our research partners have found.

They support Ukrainian refugees and war efforts and participate in tracking down children who have been taken to Russia. They are active in anti-war demonstrations and support each other in exile.

This new generation of Russian activists – whether those in exile advocating for change or those risking their well-being in Russia to support anti-war candidates – is Navalny’s legacy, and I believe it is powerful.

Before his death, Navalny spoke directly to the generation of activists he inspired: “Listen, I’ve got something very obvious to tell you. You’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.”The Conversation

Regina Smyth, Professor of Political Science, Indiana University

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

Alexei Navalny had a vision of a democratic Russia. That terrified Vladimir Putin to the core

Robert HorvathLa Trobe University

Alexei Navalny was a giant figure in Russian politics. No other individual rivalled the threat he posed to the Putin regime. His death in an Arctic labour camp is a blow to all those who dreamed he might emerge as the leader of a future democratic Russia.

What made Navalny so important was his decision to become an anti-corruption crusader in 2008. Using shareholder activism and his popular blog, he shone a spotlight on the corruption schemes that enabled officials to steal billions from state-run corporations.

His breakthrough came in 2011, when he proposed the strategy of voting for any party but President Vladimir Putin’s “party of crooks and thieves” in the Duma (parliament) elections. Faced with a collapse of support, the regime resorted to widespread election fraud. The result was months of pro-democracy protests.

Putin regained control through a mix of concessions and repression, but the crisis signalled Navalny’s emergence as the dominant figure in Russia’s democratic movement.

Despite being convicted on trumped-up embezzlement charges, he was allowed to run in Moscow’s mayoral elections in 2013. In a clearly unfair contest, which included police harassment and hostile media coverage, he won 27% of the vote.

Perseverance In The Face Of Worsening Attacks

The authorities learned from this mistake. Never again would Navalny be allowed to compete in elections. What the Kremlin failed to stop was his creation of a national movement around the Foundation for the Struggle Against Corruption (FBK), which he had founded in 2011 with a team of brilliant young activists.

During the ensuing decade, FBK transformed our understanding of the nature of Putin’s kleptocracy. Its open-source investigations shattered the reputations of numerous regime officials, security functionaries and regime propagandists.

One of the most important was a 2017 exposé of the network of charities that funded the palaces and yachts of then-premier Dmitry Medvedev. Viewed 46 million times on YouTube, it triggered protests across Russia.

Exposé accusing Dmitry Medvedev of corruption.

No less significant was Navalny’s contribution to the methods of pro-democracy activism. To exploit the regime’s dependence on heavily manipulated elections, he developed a strategy called “intelligent voting”. The basic idea was to encourage people to vote for the candidates who had the best chance of defeating Putin’s United Russia party. The result was a series of setbacks for United Russia in 2019 regional elections.

One measure of Navalny’s impact was the intensifying repression directed against him. As prosecutors tried to paralyse him with a series of implausible criminal cases, they also pursued his family. His younger brother Oleg served three and a half years in a labour camp on bogus charges.

This judicial persecution was compounded by the violence of the regime’s proxies. Two months after exposing Medvedev’s corruption, Navalny was nearly blinded by a Kremlin-backed gang of vigilantes, who sprayed his face with a noxious blend of chemicals.

More serious was the deployment of a death squad from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which had kept Navalny under surveillance since 2017. The use of the nerve agent Novichok to poison Navalny during a trip to the Siberian city of Tomsk in August 2020 was clearly intended to end his challenge to Putin’s rule.

Instead it precipitated the “Navalny crisis”, a succession of events that shook the regime’s foundations. The story of Navalny’s survival – and confirmation that he had been poisoned with Novichok – focused international attention on the Putin regime’s criminality.

Any lingering doubts about state involvement in his poisoning were dispelled by Navalny’s collaboration with Bellingcat, an investigative journalism organisation, to identify the suspects and deceive one of them into revealing how they poisoned him.

The damage was magnified by Navalny’s decision to confront Putin’s personal corruption. In a powerful two-hour documentary film, A Palace for Putin, Navalny chronicled the obsessive greed that had transformed an obscure KGB officer into one of the world’s most notorious kleptocrats.

With over 129 million views on YouTube alone, the film shattered the dictator’s carefully constructed image as the incarnation of traditional virtues.

A Palace for Putin.

‘We Will Fill Up The Jails And Police Vans’

It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of the “Navalny crisis” on Putin, a dictator terrified of the prospect of popular revolution. No longer was he courted by Western leaders. US President Joe Biden began his term in office in 2021 by endorsing an interviewer’s description of Putin as a “killer”.

To contain the domestic fallout, Putin unleashed a crackdown that began with Navalny’s 2021 arrest on his return to Moscow from Germany, where had been recovering from the Novichok poisoning. On the international stage, Putin secured a summit with Biden by staging a massive deployment of military force on the Ukrainian border, a rehearsal for the following year’s invasion.

The Kremlin’s trolling factories also tried to destroy Navalny’s reputation with a smear campaign. Within weeks of Navalny’s imprisonment, Amnesty International rescinded his status as a “prisoner of conscience” on the basis of allegations about hate speech. The evidence was some ugly statements made by Navalny as an inexperienced politician in the mid-2000s, when he was trying to build an anti-Putin alliance of democrats and nationalists.

What his detractors ignored was Navalny’s own evolution into a critic of ethnonationalist prejudices. In a speech to a nationalist rally in 2011, he had challenged his listeners to empathise with people in the Muslim-majority republics of Russia’s northern Caucasus region.

This divergence from the nationalist mainstream was accentuated by Putin’s conflict with Ukraine. After the invasion of Crimea in March 2014, Navalny denounced the “imperialist annexation” as a cynical effort to distract the masses from corruption.

Eight years later, while languishing in prison, he condemned Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, exhorting his compatriots to take to the streets, saying:

If, to prevent war, we need to fill up the jails and police vans, we will fill up the jails and police vans.

Later that year, he argued a post-Putin Russia needed an end to the concentration of power in the Kremlin and the creation of a parliamentary republic as “the only way to stop the endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism”.

Navalny’s tragedy is that he never had a chance to convert the moral authority he amassed during years as a dissident into political power. Like Charles de Gaulle in France and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, he might have become a redemptive leader, leading his people from war and tyranny to the promised land of a freer society.

Instead, he has left his compatriots the example of a brave, principled and thoughtful man, who sacrificed his life for the cause of democracy and peace. That is his enduring legacy. The Conversation

Robert Horvath, Senior lecturer, La Trobe University

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

How long does back pain last? And how can learning about pain increase the chance of recovery?

Sarah WallworkUniversity of South Australia and Lorimer MoseleyUniversity of South Australia

Back pain is common. One in thirteen people have it right now and worldwide a staggering 619 million people will have it this year.

Chronic pain, of which back pain is the most common, is the world’s most disabling health problem. Its economic impact dwarfs other health conditions.

If you get back pain, how long will it take to go away? We scoured the scientific literature to find out. We found data on almost 20,000 people, from 95 different studies and split them into three groups:

  • acute – those with back pain that started less than six weeks ago
  • subacute – where it started between six and 12 weeks ago
  • chronic – where it started between three months and one year ago.

We found 70%–95% of people with acute back pain were likely to recover within six months. This dropped to 40%–70% for subacute back pain and to 12%–16% for chronic back pain.

Clinical guidelines point to graded return to activity and pain education under the guidance of a health professional as the best ways to promote recovery. Yet these effective interventions are underfunded and hard to access.

More Pain Doesn’t Mean A More Serious Injury

Most acute back pain episodes are not caused by serious injury or disease.

There are rare exceptions, which is why it’s wise to see your doctor or physio, who can check for signs and symptoms that warrant further investigation. But unless you have been in a significant accident or sustained a large blow, you are unlikely to have caused much damage to your spine.

Factory worker deep-breathes with a sore back
Your doctor or physio can rule out serious damage. DG fotostock/Shutterstock

Even very minor back injuries can be brutally painful. This is, in part, because of how we are made. If you think of your spinal cord as a very precious asset (which it is), worthy of great protection (which it is), a bit like the crown jewels, then what would be the best way to keep it safe? Lots of protection and a highly sensitive alarm system.

The spinal cord is protected by strong bones, thick ligaments, powerful muscles and a highly effective alarm system (your nervous system). This alarm system can trigger pain that is so unpleasant that you cannot possibly think of, let alone do, anything other than seek care or avoid movement.

The messy truth is that when pain persists, the pain system becomes more sensitive, so a widening array of things contribute to pain. This pain system hypersensitivity is a result of neuroplasticity – your nervous system is becoming better at making pain.

Reduce Your Chance Of Lasting Pain

Whether or not your pain resolves is not determined by the extent of injury to your back. We don’t know all the factors involved, but we do know there are things that you can do to reduce chronic back pain:

  • understand how pain really works. This will involve intentionally learning about modern pain science and care. It will be difficult but rewarding. It will help you work out what you can do to change your pain

  • reduce your pain system sensitivity. With guidance, patience and persistence, you can learn how to gradually retrain your pain system back towards normal.

How To Reduce Your Pain Sensitivity And Learn About Pain

Learning about “how pain works” provides the most sustainable improvements in chronic back pain. Programs that combine pain education with graded brain and body exercises (gradual increases in movement) can reduce pain system sensitivity and help you return to the life you want.

Physio helps patient use an exercise strap
Some programs combine education with gradual increases in movement. Halfpoint/Shutterstock

These programs have been in development for years, but high-quality clinical trials are now emerging and it’s good news: they show most people with chronic back pain improve and many completely recover.

But most clinicians aren’t equipped to deliver these effective programs – good pain education is not taught in most medical and health training degrees. Many patients still receive ineffective and often risky and expensive treatments, or keep seeking temporary pain relief, hoping for a cure.

When health professionals don’t have adequate pain education training, they can deliver bad pain education, which leaves patients feeling like they’ve just been told it’s all in their head.

Community-driven not-for-profit organisations such as Pain Revolution are training health professionals to be good pain educators and raising awareness among the general public about the modern science of pain and the best treatments. Pain Revolution has partnered with dozens of health services and community agencies to train more than 80 local pain educators and supported them to bring greater understanding and improved care to their colleagues and community.

But a broader system-wide approach, with government, industry and philanthropic support, is needed to expand these programs and fund good pain education. To solve the massive problem of chronic back pain, effective interventions need to be part of standard care, not as a last resort after years of increasing pain, suffering and disability.The Conversation

Sarah Wallwork, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of South Australia and Lorimer Moseley, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Foundation Chair in Physiotherapy, University of South Australia

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

Seniors Need Support As ‘Cashless Society’ Looms

National Seniors is urging Australians to make it known that they want banknotes and coins to remain in circulation.

The apparently inexorable march towards a “cashless society” has long been a concern for many Australians, especially seniors.

The issue hit the headlines again this month, with a prominent politician making a stand against being forced to pay electronically, with a credit or debit card or mobile phone app.

It started when Queensland Federal Member, Bob Katter, went to purchase a meal at a cafe inside Parliament House in Canberra.

When he tried to pay for his meal with a $50 note, he was told that the establishment only accepted cards.

Mr Katter pointed out that cash was legal tender and he was supported in this assertion by the Speaker of the House, Milton Dick.

The reality, however, is that many Australians are preferring to use cards for everyday transactions, and many businesses are refusing payment in cash.

This trend accelerated during the pandemic when more of us started shopping online and some people were reluctant to handle cash for fear of transmitting COVID-19.

At the same time, our opportunities for obtaining cash have been dwindling, with banks closing many of their branches (more than 400 in the year from June 2022-June 2023) and removing automatic teller machines (700 in the same period).

Supermarkets are also limiting the amount of cash they allow shoppers to withdraw at the checkout, and banks are phasing out personal cheque accounts, which will be gone by 2030.

National Seniors Australia chief executive officer Chris Grice said, “Seniors have been experiencing this issue for a number of years now.

“There are many seniors and others who would be greatly inconvenienced and experience hardship if cash was difficult to access or use.”

In media interviews on the issue, Mr Grice said seniors had good reasons to be wary of card-only payments.

Some people can not afford mobile phones, and others are not tech-savvy or are concerned about scams associated with electronic transactions.

He said card payments often attracted additional fees, so purchases are more expensive than with cash.

Another concern is power and internet outages which could render cashless systems inoperable.

Mr Grice said banks were phasing out personal cheque accounts, with the system due to shut down by 2030, yet many government payments are still being made by cheque. 

“There is a disconnect in the system,” he said.

The future
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) notes on its website that businesses are legally able “to specify the terms and conditions that they will supply goods and services”.

It says, “This includes whether they will accept cash payment. However, consumers must be made aware of these terms and conditions before they make a purchase.”

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) associate professor in finance, Dr Angel Zhong, told Nine News that the transition to a cashless society was already underway and could be complete by the end of the decade.

However, she said this didn’t mean that cash would cease to exist.

“It doesn't mean that there’s no banknotes at all. No one should be panicking that your banknotes will no longer carry value,” she said.

“There is always a place for cash, but the majority will be making payments with digital wallets.”

Mr Grice said the best way for Australians to support seniors during this transition was to “pay it forward” by using cash where possible.

This would keep cash flowing through the system, sending a message to government, banks, and business that it is still being used.

The aim is to help ensure online and digital transactions are offered in addition to cash payment, not instead of it.

Mr Grice said businesses should improve their customer service and support for people who are struggling to adjust, and support initiatives such as the Be Connected Program, which aims to increase the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology. 

In Remembrance Of The Bombing Of Darwin

February 19, 2024
Today is a national day of remembrance honouring those who served and lost their lives in the attacks on Darwin and across northern Australia during the Second World War.

From December 1941, Japanese forces swept southward, invading Thailand, Malaya, parts of the Netherlands East Indies (present-day Indonesia) and New Guinea. On 15 February 1942, the Japanese captured Singapore, representing a major symbolic and strategic defeat for the Allies.

Four days later, the Japanese launched a raid on Darwin from aircraft carriers in the Arafura Sea and a base on the island of Ambon. More than 240 bombers and fighters descended on the coastal town and harbour in two devastating waves.

The attack overwhelmed Darwin’s defences, with Japanese aircraft bombing and strafing their targets, the port, ships and the airfield. Eight of the 47 ships in the harbour – three naval and five merchant vessels – were sunk, including the American naval destroyer USS Peary, killing 88 sailors.

Tragically, the two raids claimed more than 250 lives, including members of the three Australian armed services, and other Allied personnel. Many merchant mariners and other civilians were also killed, including the postmaster, his family and several postal workers when the trench in which they were sheltering outside Darwin’s post office suffered a direct hit.

The raids on Darwin marked the first attacks on the Australian mainland during the Second World War.

A mere two weeks after the initial raids on Darwin, Japanese forces continued their attacks on northern Australia. Japanese fighters struck Broome without warning, resulting in dozens killed or wounded and more than 20 Allied aircraft destroyed.

These were the first in a series of raids throughout 1942 and 1943, with almost 100 air raids against northern Australia from Wyndham, Port Hedland and Derby in Western Australia, to Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory, Townsville and Mossman in Queensland, and Horn Island in the Torres Strait.

Today, we pause and remember those who died in the attacks on Darwin in 1942, those who lost their lives in the air raids across northern Australia, and all those who bravely served in the defence of our nation during the Second World War.

Lest we forget.

To learn more about the Bombing of Darwin visit our 2023 Profile: Lindsay Dufty 

AMA Statement On The Closure Of The Veterans’ MATES Program

February 20, 2024
A new program that supports better health outcomes for veterans needs to be developed and implemented in the wake of the federal government’s decision to close the Veterans’ MATES program.

AMA President and former Australian Navy officer Professor Steve Robson said the AMA understood the decision to end the program given concerns about data privacy.

“A replacement program should be developed that takes into account concerns that have been raised about the privacy of sensitive healthcare information,” Professor Robson said.

The Veterans’ MATES program was designed to support the quality use of medicines for veterans, providing educational materials to health professionals and veterans, and individualised medicine advice to general practitioners.

“The AMA is proud to have been involved with the program since its inception, as it helped improve health outcomes in the veterans’ community,” Professor Robson said.

“This program helped keep many veterans out of hospital and improved their overall quality of life.

“While we are saddened this program has ended, it is important we now work with the federal government and other key stakeholders to develop an effective replacement.”

Professor Robson said the Department of Veterans’ Affairs must continue to invest in programs that support better health outcomes for our veterans’ communities.

“This goes beyond funding timely access to high quality care and extends to innovative programs like Veterans’ MATES that aim to provide clinicians and patients with best practice information.”

Statement From The Secretary Of DVA On The Veterans’ MATES Program

February 12, 2024
The Department is aware that the withdrawal of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Human Research Ethics Committee approval on Monday, 5 February 2024 has increased concerns in the veteran community regarding the Veterans’ MATES Program (MATES), particularly in relation to the sharing of data. MATES has sought to support veterans and their families to manage their health and aligns strongly with DVA’s objective to proactively support the health and wellbeing of veterans.

It is important to note that there has not been any unauthorised access of veteran data. The data has not been made available publicly or for nefarious purposes. DVA only ever provided client data for the purposes of MATES to a trusted organisation, the University of South Australia (UniSA) under strict data security and access policies.

DVA provided the data to UniSA in accordance with the ethics approvals in place at the time. This was done via a secure and carefully controlled channel. UniSA stored the data in a secure facility. Billing data was automatically de-identified before being accessed by researchers for the thematic review under the MATES program. The data did not include doctor’s notes. Identifying data was only used to communicate with the veteran themselves, as well as their doctor, in the event that the analysis of the de-identified data revealed risks to the veteran’s health. The letters that went to veterans and their doctors provided invaluable insights that supported those veterans receiving the most appropriate treatment possible.

Following an Office of the Australian Information Commissioner decision in April 2023, an external review was conducted concerning the administration of opt-out procedures in the MATES program. The review concluded all other such requests received by DVA to opt out of MATES had been properly implemented.

DVA takes its obligations under the Privacy Act extremely seriously and in August 2023 paused any provision of data to UniSA to enable a thorough examination of the existing arrangements. Since this time, no data transfers have occurred.

On 9 February, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs asked the Department to close down the MATES program and examine options for possible future programs that provide health benefits to the veteran community while meeting community and stakeholder expectations around ethical and data use requirements. Any future program would be subject to a new Ethics Committee approval.

What was Veterans' MATES
The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) has delivered the Veterans' Medicines Advice and Therapeutics Education Services (Veterans' MATES) program with the aim of improving the use of medicines and related health services in the veteran community.

Cota Australia Announce A New Chair: Hon. Christopher Pyne

COTA Australia has announced the appointment of the Hon. Christopher Pyne as its new independent chair.

Mr Pyne replaces outgoing independent chair, Jane Halton AO PSM, who has served in the position since 2017.

Mr Pyne, a former Federal Minister, including in health and ageing portfolios, has a long history of dedication to public welfare in his political life as well as through roles including as the Chair of Vision 2020 Australia and as a member of the advisory board of the mental health body, the Orygen Institute. 

Mr Pyne was also instrumental in the creation of HeadSpace.

Patricia Sparrow, COTA Australia Chief Executive Officer, said she looks forward to working with Christopher Pyne to deliver for older Australians.

“Christopher brings a wealth of experience to COTA Australia, extending across multiple federal governments and various sectors, including public, academic, and social spaces,” Ms Sparrow said.

“His expertise is an asset that aligns seamlessly with our focus on championing the concerns of ageing individuals and older Australians nationwide.

“We believe that his leadership will further elevate our mission to create positive change and advocate for policies that enhance the lives of older Australians.”

Ms Sparrow also acknowledged the exceptional contribution of outgoing independent chair, Jane Halton AO.

“Jane Halton has been an incredible asset to our organisation. Her extensive knowledge and wealth of experience has been a driving force behind COTA’s advocacy success. Jane Halton has been, and will no doubt continue to be, an incredible advocate for older Australians. We extend our heartfelt thanks for her incredible service.

”Reflecting on her time at COTA, Ms Halton said:

“During my time as Chair, COTA Australia has gone from strength to strength and been influential in the review of retirement incomes and through the Aged Care Royal Commission. I am proud to have played a role in these areas which have such a critical impact on people’s lives. The successful transition from a long-standing CEO to a new CEO and changes to the Constitution provided a solid foundation for the future.”

“I have full confidence that with Christopher’s leadership, COTA Australia will continue to thrive, and I look forward to its continuing positive impact on the lives of older Australians.”

The Hon. Christopher Pyne said he was looking forward to taking on the important role of COTA Australia independent chair.

“There’s no doubt there are many challenges facing older Australians and, as the leading advocacy voice of older Australians, COTA Australia certainly has a big task ahead of it in the coming years. I’m looking forward to playing my part in helping meet those challenges for the benefit of older people across the country.

“One of the major challenges we’re facing as a country is how we tackle ageism. Ageism is endemic in Australia and addressing it needs to be a key focus not just for COTA, but for governments, businesses and society broadly.

“By addressing systemic ageism, we’ll help unlock the potential of older Australians. That’s not just important for older Australians themselves, but for people of every age.”

Women’s Service Recognised In Mural

February 20, 2024
A message from the Violet Town RSL Sub-Branch;
An impressive mural representing women who served in, or supported, Australia’s and allied defence forces in times of war has been unveiled at the Violet Town RSL Sub-branch in North East Victoria.

It is the largest mural in Australia dedicated to honouring all women’s contribution to war. Painted by recognised mural artist Tim Bowtell, the largely black and white artwork tells the story of local women from the Violet Town area who served, but set in the context of Australian women’s service in all military conflicts.

Susan Felsche and Vietnam 

Local women and AWAS 

The large mural is 17 metres long and nearly 2 metres high, and is located next to the town’s Boer War Memorial in Cowslip Street, just off the busy Hume Highway linking Melbourne and Sydney.

The RSL project to build the mural, which extended over several years, highlighted that while there were about 20 local women who had been identified as having served in the Army, Navy, Air Force or on the home front, they served only during the First and Second World Wars.

The project team was keen to create a mural that symbolically represented those who served across the spectrum – from the Boer War to the present – as well as those who helped on the home front.

The mural covers the major areas of conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries, and shows portraits of local women and other women, representing those who played their part. Other features are women at work in factories highlighting work on the home front, and high ranking officers, representing the rise of women in the ranks of military services. Storyboards highlight the different organisations which women joined and the roles they played.

The mural will become part of Victoria’s military history trail, extending from Seymour northward. The Violet Town RSL Sub-branch is proud that the RSL is recognising the women of the district as well as the men, as Australian women have been able to serve in all combat roles since 2016.

New Aged Care Act Consultation Period Extended

February 13, 2024
Public consultation on the draft new Aged Care Act as been extended to 8 March 2024. Have your say and help shape Australia’s aged care system.

The Department of Health and Aged Care's consultation on the draft Act opened on 14 December 2023. 

Since then, they’ve heard from people who use aged care services, people who deliver these services and work in aged care, and people with an interest in the sector. 

Many people have also asked for more time to review the draft Act and provide feedback on this important change to aged care. 

In response, the Australian Government has extended the consultation period. This will give people more opportunity to contribute. 

The new Act will impact everyone connected to aged care so it’s important that you get involved and have your say. You can: 
Consultation closes at 7:00 pm (AEDT) on Friday 8 March 2024. 

$50 Million To Develop World-Leading Artificial Heart

February 20,. 2024
The Australian Government is providing $50 million to develop and commercialise the world’s most advanced artificial heart, a technology that could halve deaths from heart failure globally and contribute $1.8 billion to Australia and Australian society.
The $50 million is the third-largest grant in the nearly ten-year history of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
The Artificial Heart Frontiers Program brings together five universities, three clinical partners and an Australian-grown company to develop three transformative, next-generation cardiac technologies, collectively known as the Total Artificial Heart.
Every year, over 23 million people around the world suffer from heart failure, but only 6,000 will receive a donor heart.
Nearly 500,000 Australians live with heart failure. Each year, around 60,000 Australians are diagnosed with the condition, and 60,000 are hospitalised for it.
Approximately 100 patients undergo a heart transplant each year for advanced heart disease, but many more do not get the chance.
Unlike previous devices, the Total Artificial Heart uses state-of-the-art magnetic levitation technology that promises to be durable for more than 10 years, is small enough to implant in a child, and powerful enough for an adult.
The Total Artificial Heart will allow patients to maintain an active lifestyle and improve their quality of life.
If successful, the devices will save millions of lives globally, halving deaths from heart failure.
The $50 million provided by the Albanese Government will help position Australia as the home of next-generation cardiac devices, developing and commercialising a pipeline of technology while retaining and attracting the field’s best and brightest minds.
Over the next 15 years, the project is expected to contribute $1.8 billion to Australia and Australian society, including savings to the healthcare system, an industry expansion in research and manufacturing, the creation of over 2,000 jobs, and giving Australians patients early access to clinical trials and emerging life-saving technologies.
The Monash University-led consortium includes the following partners:
  • Industry partner: BiVACOR
  • University partners: Monash University; University of Sydney; University of New South Wales; Griffith University; University of Queensland
  • Clinical partners: The Alfred; Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute; St Vincent’s Health Australia
The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, stated:

“As well as the obvious health benefits, this is an incredible story of Australian ingenuity and sovereign manufacturing, with collaboration across universities, clinical hospitals and industry to develop the world’s most advanced artificial heart.”

“The $50 million provided by the Albanese Government makes this the third-largest grant in the nearly ten-year history of the Medical Research Future Fund.”

“This will give hope to the half a million Australians who suffer from heart failure. The Australian technology has the potential to halve deaths from heart failure, create thousands of jobs, and contribute $1.8 billion to Australia and Australian society.”

Dementia can be predicted more than a decade before diagnosis with these blood proteins

Andrey Popov/Shutterstock
Rahul SidhuUniversity of Sheffield

In the largest study of its kind, scientists have discovered that a blood test detecting specific proteins could predict dementia up to 15 years before a person receives an official diagnosis.

The researchers found 11 proteins that have a remarkable 90% accuracy in predicting future dementia.

Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer. Over 900,000 people in the UK are living with the memory-robbing condition, yet less than two-thirds of people receive a formal diagnosis. Diagnosing dementia is tricky and relies on various methods.

These include lumbar punctures (to look for certain telltale proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid), PET scans and memory tests. These methods are invasive, time-consuming and expensive, putting a heavy burden on the NHS. This means that many people are only diagnosed when they have memory and cognitive problems. By this point, the dementia may have been progressing for years and any support or health plan may be too late.

Those with undiagnosed dementia, and their families, cannot attend clinical trials, have an organised healthcare plan or access essential support. So improving dementia diagnosis would provide earlier support and give patients a longer, healthier and more prosperous life.

In this latest study, researchers at the University of Warwick in England and Fudan University in China examined blood samples from 52,645 healthy volunteers from the UK Biobank genetic database between 2006 and 2010. Over the ten- to 15-year follow-up period, around 1,400 developed dementia.

The researchers used artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse 1,463 proteins in the blood. They identified 11 proteins associated with dementia, of which four could predict dementia up to 15 years before a clinical diagnosis.

When combining this data with more regular risk factors of age, sex, education and genetics, the dementia prediction rate was around 90%.

These proteins found in the plasma (the liquid component of blood) are biological markers for the changes that occur in dementia sufferers over a decade before clinical symptoms first appear. They act as warning signs of the disease.

Why These Proteins?

The four proteins most strongly associated with all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (accounting for 70% of all dementias) and vascular dementia (accounting for 20%) are GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2.

Scientists showed GFAP to be the best “biomarker” for predicting dementia. GFAP’s function is to support nerve cells called astrocytes.

A symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is inflammation, and this causes astrocytes to make a lot of GFAP. Consequently, people with dementia display increased inflammation, resulting in higher levels of GFAP, making it a prominent biomarker.

The study showed that people with higher GFAP were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as people with low levels. Smaller studies have also identified GFAP to be a potential marker for dementia.

NEFL is the second protein that is most strongly associated with dementia risk. This protein relates to nerve fibre damage. Combining NEFL or GFAP with demographic data and cognitive tests significantly improves the accuracy of dementia prediction.

Proteins GD15 and LTBP2, both involved in inflammation, cell growth and death, and cellular stress, are also strongly linked to increased dementia risk.

But despite the study’s discovery, other scientists warn that the new biomarkers require further validation before they can be used as a screening tool.

A lumbar puncture being performed
Lumbar puncture is one of the planks of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Casa nayafana/Shutterstock

The Bigger Picture

Other initiatives are also promoting the adoption of blood tests as a widespread screening method in diagnosing dementia, including the Blood Biomarker Challenge, a five-year project aiming to use NHS blood tests to diagnose diseases that lead to dementia by looking at traces of brain proteins leaked into the bloodstream.

The exciting advent of new dementia drugs such as lecanemab and donanemab, not yet approved for use in the UK, has the potential to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Patients seeking lecanemab or donanemab treatment would require an early-stage diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates that only 2% of patients undergo such diagnostic testing.

The study shows that blood tests are an effective way to detect dementia early by identifying specific proteins, providing the patient with the best possible opportunity to receive life-changing treatment.

Early diagnosis of dementia would result in a more effective treatment. A simple blood test has the potential to replace the costly, time-consuming and invasive tests currently used for dementia patients, ultimately improving the quality of many lives.The Conversation

Rahul Sidhu, PhD Candidate, Neuroscience, University of Sheffield

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

Spitting Image at 40: the story of the show is surprisingly influenced by Thatcher

Hannah AndrewsUniversity of Lincoln

Spitting Image, first broadcast in February 1984, is famed as an iconoclastic satire of 1980s political and popular culture. Its grotesque puppet caricatures became so well known that they could cement a person’s image in public consciousness: Margaret Thatcher as a domineering bully, Sarah Ferguson a snorting Sloane ranger, a grey-skinned John Major joylessly chomping a plate of peas.

Thatcher may have provided the show with its star turn, but her government’s policies were also influential in bringing the programme to air, as well as its eventual demise. The story of Spitting Image is a surprisingly – and accidentally – Thatcherite one.

Spitting Image had unusual origins for a popular TV show. It began with the partnership of artists Roger Law and Peter Fluck, also known as “Luck and Flaw”. They specialised in three-dimensional caricature models, which were photographed for news outlets across the world.

To provide additional income, the pair decided to make these models move. Though Fluck and Law would not have called themselves entrepreneurs, they were keen to expand the operation in ways that would have made Thatcher happy.

At a feted “original lunch” in 1982, designer Martin Lambie-Nairn suggested a television show as a vehicle for Fluck and Law’s caricaturing. They formed an independent company with US-based satirist Tony Hendra, comedy producer John Lloyd (who had approached Fluck and Law to animate their caricatures for his hit BBC show Not the Nine O’Clock News) and freelance current affairs producer Jon Blair.

It was unclear, though, how to translate this wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm into making and selling a TV show.

This was understandable, since, at this time, most British TV was made in-house, either by the BBC or within the ITV network. Independent television production was a cottage industry and indies had little access to airtime.

Spitting Image would need to be made with a major broadcaster, but most commissioners were unwilling to take this expensive risk. Charles Denton of Central Independent Television (CIT) was the exception. He was looking for opportunities to change the image of CIT, which was largely known for light entertainment.

Spitting Image was offering something different: it was innovative, provocative, eye-catching.

After a successful 20-minute pilot produced in June 1983, Denton enthusiastically commissioned Spitting Image to begin in 1984. It became a rare example for its time of a co-production between ITV and an independent production company.

The Enterprise Zone

After teething troubles, Spitting Image grew into hit for CIT. There was huge demand for the puppets, which were manufactured in “the world’s first caricature sweatshop”, as Law jokingly described it in a 1985 documentary.

The workshop was in London’s West India Dock (now Canary Wharf) one of the government’s newly founded “Enterprise Zones”, which gave tax incentives and relaxed regulations for redevelopment. These aided the refurbishment of the Spitting Image “factory”.

Spitting Image became a ubiquitous part of 1980s popular culture. The puppets appeared on a wide range of merchandise, including booksboard gamesrecords and toys.

The Spitting Image Margaret Thatcher puppet in action.

Spin-offs boosted the reputation of the show, though arrangements were ad hoc, and the creative team were ambivalent about them, keen to avoid selling out.

The international success of the series helped to boost its reputation. Not only did it win awards such as the International Emmy in 1986, but it would be imitated around the world, for example as Les Guignols de L’Info in France or Kukly in Russia. Its success in international sales led in 1989 to it winning a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.

Political objections to the Thatcher government notwithstanding, Spitting Image was heralded as one of the commercial success stories for the UK TV industry at this time. Its annual turnover was reported at over £2 million in 1986.

The Show’s Decline

Thatcher’s resignation in November 1990 deprived Spitting Image of its main character. But her government’s television policy had already sowed the seeds for the series’ demise.

Thatcher saw the TV industry as bloated, bureaucratic and dominated by unions. She called ITV the “last bastion of restrictive practices” in 1987. Her overall aim was to marketise broadcasting by introducing greater competition. The prize of a privatised BBC eluded her.

Legislation was passed in 1990 that required the BBC and ITV to commission 25% of its programming from independent production companies. Uncertainty about how this would work caused costly delays in commissioning decisions in the early 1990s, which led to difficulties for Spitting Image Productions.

Trailer for the Britbox revival of Spitting Image.

Licenses to run (and profit from) regional ITV franchises were now awarded to the highest cash bid. ITV companies became more explicitly profit-oriented, and programmes were under greater pressure to deliver audiences to advertisers. This coincided with a recession in 1990 and 1991, which depressed demand for advertising and raised operating costs thanks to inflation.

By the early 1990s, Spitting Image’s ratings were in decline. Most of the original creative team had left. Other ventures, such as a Madame Tussauds-style Rubberworks exhibition or children’s TV show The Winjin’ Pom, had not generated much needed extra income. The final series aired in 1996.

Spitting Image has since been revived. In 2020 and 2021 it was brought back as exclusive content for the streaming service Britbox, and then in 2023 as a musical staged in Birmingham and London.

But it is as a silly, rude, satirical vision of the 1980s – and a unique product of a changing television industry – that it will be remembered.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Hannah Andrews, Associate Professor in Film and Media, University of Lincoln

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

Did your dog dig in asbestos-laden mulch? Here are the risks – and what to do next

Chiara PalmieriThe University of Queensland

This week, disturbing news emerged about mulch containing asbestos in parks, schools and homes across New South Wales (and possibly Canberra). So far, the discussion has focused on the risks to human health.

But the incidents have prompted me to worry about the effects on dogs. Dogs love to sniff, dig, lick and roll on the ground. That means dogs in the vicinity of the mulch may have been exposed to asbestos.

I research the environmental causes of cancer in animals. Animal exposure to asbestos is deeply worrying. Long-term exposure, even to low doses, can cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The disease also affects humans.

Here, I outline the risks of asbestos exposure in dogs, and what to do if you’re concerned.

The experts trained to identify asbestos in mulch | 7.30, ABC, 19 February 2024.

What Do We Know About Mesothelioma In Dogs?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that affects both animals and humans. It’s typically concentrated in the respiratory tract, but can affect all cells lining body cavities.

The illness is rare in dogs, causing less than 1% of all canine tumours. But it takes years to develop, by which time successful treatment is difficult.

Symptoms in dogs include difficulty breathing, enlarged abdomen and muffled heartbeat. A dog may cough, become lethargic, lose its appetite and become depressed.

In dogs, the incubation time – the period when the cancer is developing, is less than eight years, compared with more than 20 years in humans. So studying cancer in pet dogs can provide important information about similar cancers that might also affect humans.

Dogs can be exposed to asbestos in the same way as humans – for example, during home renovation projects. People can wear protective gear, but animals cannot. Dogs also tend to lick things, which means they may ingest asbestos fibres as well as breathe them in.

Asbestos is more dangerous when it is “friable” or easily crumbled and broken up into smaller pieces, releasing fibres into the air.

One study from the 1980s showed dogs could be exposed to asbestos, through “secondary contact” or the actions of someone else. This may occur, for example, if a dog inhaled asbestos fibres from the clothes of its owner.

So during house renovations, pets may need to stay mostly outside, or at someone else’s house or a boarding kennel.

A small dog looking up from digging a hole in the garden
Dogs love to dig but this may can expose them to contaminants. jarizPJ, Shutterstock

What About The Mulch Issue?

At latest count, 47 sites in NSW have tested positive for asbestos in mulch. In the Australian Capital Territory, environment officials are investigating potentially contaminated “cottage mulch” sold to 24 companies and 27 addresses in and around Canberra.

In all but one Sydney case, the asbestos was considered lower-risk as it was mixed with cement or other hard bonding materials. However, “non-friable” or “bonded” asbestos can become friable if damaged or old. Then, asbestos can be released into the air.

The more dangerous friable asbestos was found at a popular public park in Glebe. This is concerning.

The risk of an animal developing cancer is influenced by duration of exposure and the extent of contamination. We don’t know what level of exposure is required to develop mesothelioma in dogs. But in humans, there is no known safe asbestos exposure level.

What To Do If You’re Concerned

Mesothelioma can progress rapidly in both dogs and humans. Early diagnosis increases the chance of survival.

If you think your dog has been exposed to asbestos, take it to see a vet. The vet may perform an x-ray to check the dog’s lungs and/or abdomen and windpipe. If damage is present, a vet would take samples of tissue and fluids from the thorax or abdomen, for further examination.

So what happens if a dog is diagnosed with mesothelioma?

In some cases, the cancer will be so far progressed that treatment is not an option. In that case, all effort should be made to ensure the dog is as comfortable as possible.

If it’s not too late to start treatment, dogs can undergo chemotherapy, usually in the form of injections. One study suggests chemotherapy increases a dog’s chance of survival.

The duration of treatment and side effects of chemotherapy vary depending on the severity of the dog’s case. Deciding whether or not to proceed with chemotherapy can be difficult and requires weighing up the costs and likely benefits. It is expensive, but many dogs cope remarkably well and rarely lose their hair.

A Wake-Up Call

Cancer in pets doesn’t always develop by chance. It can be caused by the air they breathe, the soil they dig in and the water they drink.

The case of asbestos-contaminated mulch should be a wake-up call for regulators and industry. But it should also remind pet owners to carefully consider the substances their animals might be exposed to, both inside and outside the home.

Gathering data on canine exposure to environmental hazards is crucial to understanding the origin of spontaneous cancers. We’re about to launch a national survey on the topic. If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with me and I will share the survey link as soon as it becomes available.The Conversation

Chiara Palmieri, Professor, The University of Queensland

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

Research Leaves Smoking Stereotypes Up In Smoke

February 19, 2024
A first-of-its-kind national study from The Australian National University (ANU) has debunked common myths about who smokes in Australia and will help provide better support and potentially life-saving interventions for 2.5 million daily smokers.

The study, the first national population profile of people who smoke, counters widespread perceptions that smokers are largely uneducated, unemployed and suffer poor mental health. Instead, the findings make clear smoking affects the whole community.

Study senior author Professor Emily Banks, from ANU, said the findings will help break down stigma surrounding people who smoke as well as ensure that support is better targeted to the people who need it. 

“Smoking remains Australia’s leading cause of premature death and disability, so it’s vital that we better understand who smokes and the reasons why they do,” Professor Banks said.

“People who smoke are often stigmatised and stereotyped as uneducated, unemployed and mentally ill.”

Lead author, ANU medical student Ms Jessica Aw said: 
“We analysed nationally representative data on smoking in Australia to get a better understanding of who smokes in our population.

“We found that around 2.5 million people smoke daily in Australia; around 60 per cent of people who smoke are men, 65 per cent live in major cities, and 92 per cent are non-Indigenous.

“In addition, 69 per cent have completed year 12, 69 per cent of those of working age are in paid employment and 73 per cent had good mental health.

“Although smoking is more common in people who are experiencing structural disadvantage – like people in more remote areas, Indigenous peoples, those with less education and those living in poverty – most people who smoke are educated, employed and in good mental health, similar to the total population of Australia.”

Professor Emily Banks. Photo: ANU

Professor Banks said that people who smoke need to be supported and empowered to quit.

“They need to ‘see themselves’ in material and campaigns tackling tobacco,” Professor Banks said. 

“These findings should reduce unfair stigma around smoking and support evidence-based tobacco control measures.”    

Study co-author Associate Professor Raglan Maddox said: “Effective, relevant communications reflect the lives of people who smoke.

“We need both broad messages and specific approaches for priority populations, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while taking care not to frame it as an issue unique to one particular group.”

Ms Aw said: “This is a world-first, as previous studies have focused on comparing people who smoke with those who don’t, but have never looked at the population of people who smoke really are.

“No other study nationally or internationally has sought to comprehensively understand this. Results from previous studies have described associations with smoking such as people who smoke are more likely to be living rurally, unemployed, uneducated and have poor mental health which can contribute to stigma.

“We now know the whole population of people who smoke are similar to the whole Australian population.”

The findings, ''Who smokes in Australia? Cross-sectional analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics survey data, 2017–19'', are published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Royal Australian Navy’s Enhanced Surface Fleet Following Review: Federal Government Announcement

February 20, 2024
The Australian Government has released its blueprint for a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet for the Royal Australian Navy in response to the recommendations made by the Independent Analysis of Navy’s Surface Combatant Fleet.

Australia’s strategic circumstances require a larger and enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet, complemented by a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Navy’s future surface combatant fleet will be an integral component of Australia’s joint force for operations in the immediate region to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade.

Our strategic circumstances require a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet, complemented by a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Navy’s future fleet will be integral to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade, through operations in our immediate region. This fleet will constitute the largest number of surface combatants since WWII.

The independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet lamented the current surface combatant fleet was the oldest fleet Navy has operated in its history, and emphasised the need for immediate action to boost Navy’s air defence, long-range strike, presence and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

In line with independent analysis’ recommendations, Navy’s future surface combatant fleet will comprise:

26 major surface combatants consisting of:
  • Three Hobart class air warfare destroyers with upgraded air defence and strike capabilities
  • Six Hunter class frigates to boost Navy’s undersea warfare and strike capabilities
  • 11 new general purpose frigates that will provide maritime and land strike, air defence and escort capabilities
  • Six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels (LOSVs) that will significantly increase Navy’s long-range strike capacity
  • Six remaining Anzac class frigates with the two oldest ships to be decommissioned as per their planned service life.
The Government has also accepted the independent analysis’ recommendations to have:
  • 25 minor war vessels to contribute to civil maritime security operations, which includes six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
The Hunter class frigates will be built at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia, and will be followed by the replacement of the Hobart class destroyer. The Hobart destroyers will be upgraded at Osborne with the latest US Navy Aegis combat system.

The new general purpose frigate will be accelerated to replace the Anzac class frigates, meaning the Transition Capability Assurance (TransCAP) upgrades are no longer required. These new general purpose frigates will be modern, capable and more lethal, requiring smaller crews than the Anzac.

Consolidation of the Henderson precinct is currently underway, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. Successful and timely consolidation will enable eight new general purpose frigates to be built at the Henderson precinct, and will also enable a pathway to build six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels in Western Australia.

The Albanese Government is committed to continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia and the design of Navy’s future fleet will provide a stable and ongoing pipeline of work to the 2040s and beyond.


In order to implement the recommendations of the independent analysis, the Albanese Government has committed to funding the planned acquisition and sustainment of the future surface fleet.

This will see the Albanese Government inject an additional $1.7 billion over the Forward Estimates and $11.1 billion over the next decade in Defence for an accelerated delivery of Navy’s future surface combatant fleet and to expand Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

This comes on top of the Albanese Government’s investment of an additional $30.5 billion to Defence’s Integrated Investment Program out to 2032-33.

This additional $11.1 billion of funding for the future surface fleet alone brings both acquisition and sustainment investment in the fleet to $54.2 billion in total over the next decade.

This investment provides a clear pathway for the shipbuilding industry and workforce in South Australia and Western Australia.

The Albanese Government thanks Vice Admiral William Hilarides, USN (Retd), Ms Rosemary Huxtable, AO, PSM and Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer, AO, RAN for their leadership of the independent analysis and contribution to the most comprehensive update to Navy’s fleet in decades.

Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP stated:

“The enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet will ensure the Navy is optimised for operations in our current and future environment, underpinned by the meticulous assessment conducted by the Independent Analysis Team.

“Australia’s modern society and economy rely on access to the high seas: trade routes for our imports and exports, and the submarine cables for the data which enables our connection to the international economy.

“The Royal Australian Navy must be able to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and trade routes as they are fundamental to our way of life and our prosperity.”

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Pat Conroy MP said:

“This significant advancement in Navy capability that will be delivered under this plan requires a strong, sovereign defence industry.

“This plan ensures Navy’s future fleet can meet our strategic circumstances by delivering a larger and more lethal fleet sooner and secures the future of naval shipbuilding in Australia, supporting 3,700 direct jobs over the next decade and thousands of indirect jobs for decades to come.”

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond AO said:

“A strong Australia relies on a strong Navy, one that is equipped to conduct diplomacy in our region, deter potential adversaries, and defend our national interests when called.

“The size, lethality and capabilities of the future surface combatant fleet ensures that our Navy is equipped to meet the evolving strategic challenges of our region.”

Australia’s Defence Industrial Base Expanded To Deliver Navy’s Enhanced Surface Combatant Fleet

The Government has committed to increase Defence’s funding in the 2024-25 Federal Budget by $11.1 billion over the next decade to ensure the enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet is funded.

Australian shipbuilders and industry will be at the centre of delivering this future fleet. The Albanese Government is providing a clear pipeline of work and setting the conditions for job creation, technology investment, export opportunities, supply chain resilience, infrastructure enhancement and economic prosperity.

The independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet found in excess of $25 billion in unfunded promises in the former government’s acquisition and sustainment plans. This meant there was no certainty for Australian industry and workforce.

Over the next ten years, this investment will support more than 3,700 direct jobs and deliver the critical infrastructure required at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia and Henderson shipbuilding complex in Western Australia, delivering on the Government’s commitment to continuous naval shipbuilding.

In South Australia, the construction of the Hunter class frigates at Osborne will sustain at least 2,000 jobs and create at least 500 new jobs over the next decade.

Under this plan, the Albanese Government will enter into a build contract for the Hunter class frigates that sees construction start this year, with the final Hunter frigate to be delivered by 2043.

The Hunter class will be immediately followed by construction of the replacement for Navy’s Hobart class destroyers.

Combined with more than 4,000 estimated jobs created to build the new Submarine Construction Yard in South Australia and the more than 4,000 direct jobs to build conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia, Osborne will be at the epicentre of a naval shipbuilding jobs revolution in this country.

In Western Australia, the Albanese Government is delivering on its commitment to establishing a continuous naval shipbuilding program, securing the future of naval shipbuilding jobs at the Henderson complex for decades to come.

Consolidation of the Henderson precinct is currently underway, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. Successful and timely consolidation will enable eight new general purpose frigates to be built at the Henderson precinct, and will also enable a pathway to build six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels in Western Australia.

This is in addition to the strategic shipbuilder pilot which will see Army’s Landing Craft Medium and Heavy (Littoral Manoeuvre Vessels), as well as the decision to acquire two new Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats, all of which will be built at Henderson by Austal.

These projects will create at least 1,200 new local jobs over the next decade.

The planned Transition Capability Assurance (TransCAP) upgrades to the Anzac class will not proceed. The accelerated acquisition of a new general purpose frigate allows for a more cost effective and lethal capability outcome.

Two Anzac class vessels will be decommissioned close to their original planned withdrawal from service. The six remaining Anzac class frigates will be upgraded with enhanced maritime strike capabilities. Defence will work with industry partners to redeploy the Anzac class sustainment workforce across the Henderson precinct.

An updated Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment Plan will be released this year.

Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP  said:

“The Albanese Government is delivering world class, sovereign capabilities through this investment in Navy’s future fleet and Australia’s vital shipbuilding and defence industry.

“After inheriting the oldest surface fleet Navy has operated in its history, this blueprint will see Navy equipped with a major surface combatant fleet over twice as large as planned when we came to government, with more surface combatants in the water sooner.

“The delivery of an enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet and sovereign shipbuilding industry will help secure Australia’s economic prosperity and trade, and help keep Australians safe.” 

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Pat Conroy MP stated:

“The innovation and ingenuity of our dynamic defence industry is critical to the Albanese Government’s plan to deliver four times as many warships in the next 10 years compared to what had been planned by the previous government.

“This additional investment of $11.1 billion over the next decade, will provide confidence to industry and financial security for thousands of hard-working Australians.

“By investing in a strong and sovereign shipbuilding industry, the Albanese Government is investing in a future made in Australia by Australians.”

Australian Competition Tribunal Authorises ANZ’s Proposed Acquisition Of Suncorp Bank: ACCC Statement

February 20, 2024
The ACCC notes the Australian Competition Tribunal’s decision today to grant authorisation for ANZ’s proposed acquisition of Suncorp’s banking business.

The Tribunal’s decision sets aside the ACCC’s earlier decision not to grant authorisation for the proposed acquisition. The Tribunal is the review body for authorisation decisions made by the ACCC. 

On 4 August 2023 the ACCC said it would not authorise the proposed acquisition, because it was not satisfied the transaction would not result in a substantial lessening of competition in the supply of home loans nationally, small to medium enterprise banking in Queensland, and agribusiness banking in Queensland, and that the claimed public benefits did not outweigh the likely public detriment.

The ACCC was concerned that the proposed acquisition of Suncorp Bank by ANZ would further entrench an oligopoly market structure that is dominated by the four major banks.

Based on its review of the material before the ACCC, and some limited new information, the Tribunal has concluded that it is satisfied that the transaction would not result in a substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market.

The Tribunal found many of the public benefits claimed by ANZ and Suncorp were either not public benefits or were not specific to the proposed acquisition. However, the Tribunal found that any detriments from the acquisition were uncertain and unlikely to outweigh the integration benefits.

“The ACCC notes the decision and will reflect on it. The Tribunal’s decision demonstrates the checks and balances of an administrative merger approval process.” ACCC Chair Cass-Gottlieb said.

“The Tribunal made findings on fundamental matters that informed our concerns, including that the national market for home loans is currently conducive to coordination and that material barriers to entry and expansion remain. However, the Tribunal didn’t consider that the proposed acquisition would meaningfully impact on the likelihood of coordination.”

“Banking markets are critical for many homeowners, businesses and farmers. The ACCC will continue to apply scrutiny to these markets across the breadth of our functions including merger assessments and enforcement investigations," Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

On 2 December 2022, the ACCC received an application for merger authorisation from ANZ in relation to its proposal to acquire Suncorp Bank.

During the period of its review the ACCC gathered and tested a substantial body of evidence including approximately 200,000 documents, analysis of relevant banking data and conducted 10 compulsory interviews with bank executives. That evidence was brought before the Tribunal. The Tribunal commented that it had a very substantial quantity of information, documents and evidence placed before it.

The ACCC issued a statement of preliminary views on 4 April 2023.

On 4 August 2023, the ACCC denied authorisation for ANZ to acquire Suncorp Bank.

On 25 August 2023, ANZ and Suncorp applied to The Australian Competition Tribunal for review of the ACCC's determination under section 101 of the Competition and Consumer Act.

In such a review, the Tribunal may affirm, vary or set aside the ACCC’s determination. The role of the ACCC in this review was to assist the Tribunal.

The Tribunal is a review body. A review by the Tribunal is a re-consideration of a matter.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction under the Competition and Consumer Act to hear a variety of applications, including reviews of determinations of the ACCC granting or refusing authorisation for company mergers and acquisitions.

In conducting its review, the Tribunal applies the same ‘authorisation test’ as the ACCC and is generally limited to the information which was before the ACCC.

Under the Competition and Consumer Act, the Tribunal must not grant authorisation unless it is satisfied, in all the circumstances, that either (1) the conduct would not have the effect or be likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition; or (2) the conduct would result or be likely to result in a benefit to the public, and the benefit would outweigh the detriment to the public that would result or be likely to result.

Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise be in breach of the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act, including section 50 which prohibits acquisitions which are likely to substantially lessen competition.

The Full Federal Court of Australia can hear appeals from the Australian Competition Tribunal in limited circumstances.

Designated Complaints Legislation Welcomed: ACCC

February 15, 2024
The ACCC has welcomed today’s introduction of legislation into Parliament that will enable certain consumer and small business groups to make designated complaints to the ACCC.

The designated complaints will be about significant and systemic market issues that relate to the ACCC’s powers or functions under the Competition and Consumer Act and the Australian Consumer Law.

“The proposed new designated complaints function will reinforce the importance of key issues impacting consumers and small business to the ACCC’s work, as well as the role of advocate organisations in detecting and highlighting emerging issues,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“A number of our successful compliance and enforcement outcomes have come about from referrals to us by consumer or small business advocacy groups, so we welcome this proposed measure that will provide an official avenue for this information.”

“We consider it will reinforce public confidence in the responsiveness of the ACCC to the competition, consumer and fair trading issues significantly impacting the community,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

The designated complaints function (Competition and Consumer Amendment (Fair Go for Consumers and Small Business) Bill 2024) was part of the current Federal Government’s election commitments and has been subject to consultation by Treasury.

Similar schemes also operate in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Under the proposed scheme certain consumer and business advocacy groups will be approved by the Minister to make designated complaints to the ACCC. Complaints will need to meet certain criteria, including that they relate to a significant or systemic market issue affecting consumers or small business in Australia, and that they relate to a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act or the ACCC’s powers or functions under the Act.

The ACCC will be required to assess and publicly respond to the designated complaint within 90 days. The ACCC’s response must state what further action, if any, will be taken in response to the complaint.

The scheme is expected to commence from July 2024.

ACCC matters arising from issues referred to it by consumer and small business advocacy groups, including:
  • In May 2021, Telstra was ordered to pay $50 million in penalties for engaging in unconscionable conduct when selling mobile contracts to Indigenous consumers. The issues that led to this case were brought to the ACCC’s attention by various financial counselling groups and other consumer advocates, such as Bush Money Mob.
  • In November 2021, the ACCC accepted court enforceable undertakings from the suppliers of CAMI and iTutor home tutoring software in which they admitted to using unfair contract terms to subscribe customers, and undertook to provide refunds and allow contract cancellations. The matter came to the ACCC’s attention following consumer complaints and referrals from Legal Aid NSW and the Consumer Action Law Centre.
  • In April 2021, Megasave Couriers Australia and its sole director were ordered to pay penalties totalling $2,020,000, and $500,000 in partial redress for false or misleading representations about guaranteed minimum weekly payments and guaranteed annual income, made to prospective franchisees. The matter came to the ACCC’s attention via franchisee complaints, and a referral of further complaints by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.  

Realestate.Com.Au's Proposed Acquisition Of Dynamic Methods Raises Potential Concerns: ACCC

February 15, 2024
The ACCC has outlined preliminary competition concerns with’s proposed acquisition of Dynamic Methods in a statement of issues published today.

The ACCC was not notified of the proposed acquisition and commenced a public review once it became aware of the proposed deal.

“This is yet another example of a potentially concerning merger not being notified to the ACCC under the current informal voluntary system. It highlights the importance of reforming Australia’s merger laws,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.

REA Group (ASX:REA), which owns and operates, is the largest supplier of digital real estate advertising services in Australia and has acquired companies supplying services and products which complement its real estate advertising services in recent years.

Dynamic Methods operates the only national forms platform that enables real estate agents to access and use digital real estate forms, such as contracts for the sale and leasing of homes. The forms are created and maintained by real estate institutes in each state and territory except Victoria, where Dynamic Methods supplies its own forms.

“We are concerned that by expanding REA Group’s existing ecosystem of products and services, this acquisition may extend REA Group’s already strong position and give it the ability and incentive to significantly harm competitors,” Ms Carver said.  

“Industry participants such as real estate service providers have expressed serious concerns to us about how the proposed acquisition will entrench REA Group’s position of strength in the supply of real estate services.”

“Many are concerned that REA Group, which operates, will have the ability to control access to, and data from, digital forms which are necessary for providing real estate related services,” Ms Carver said.

The ACCC is concerned that the proposed acquisition may reduce competition in markets for the supply of digital real estate products and services that encompass REA Group’s ecosystem of products and services. This includes real estate advertising services, digital real estate forms, real estate agency software solutions, and property data services.   

The ACCC is considering the impact of the proposed acquisition and the extent to which REA Group owning the largest supplier of digital real estate forms may further advantage REA Group’s ecosystem of real estate businesses and harm competition.

The statement of issues can be found on the ACCC’s public register at – Dynamic Methods.

The ACCC invites submissions in response to the statement of issues by 1 March 2024.

Background is a wholly owned subsidiary of REA Group (ASX:REA). REA Group provides digital advertising services for residential and commercial real estate, including through the websites and apps known as, and

REA Group is also involved in mortgage broking and lending and agent solutions through its ownership/investments in:
  • Mortgage Choice Pty Ltd, an online mortgage broking franchise
  • PropTrack Pty Ltd, a property data and valuation services provider and, an online property research website 
  • Campaign Agent Pty Ltd, a provider of vendor paid advertising and home preparation finance solutions
  • Realtair Pty Ltd, a digital platform which enables real estate agents to manage real property transactions online
  • Managed Platforms Pty Ltd, a property management software solution for the collection and payment of property management related fees
  • Simpology Pty Ltd, a mortgage applications and e-lodgement service provider
  • Arealytics, a provider of commercial real estate information and technology.
Dynamic Methods provides a digital forms platform to distribute and facilitate the use of real estate institutes’ digital real estate forms by real estate agents in all states and territories except Victoria.

In Victoria, Dynamic Methods supplies its own forms directly to real estate agents. The Real Estate Institute of Victoria supplies its forms via a competing digital forms platform.

Dynamic Methods’ platform can be integrated into real estate agency software solutions and data platforms but does not currently integrate with any digital property listing platforms. 

Monster Black Hole Devouring One Sun Every Day

February 20, 2024
The fastest-growing black hole ever recorded – devouring the equivalent of one sun every day – has been discovered by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). 

Lead author Associate Professor Christian Wolf from ANU said it’s a record he doesn’t think will ever be beaten.  

“The incredible rate of growth also means a huge release of light and heat,” Associate Professor Wolf said. “So, this is also the most luminous known object in the universe. It’s 500 trillion times brighter than our sun.” 

Co-author Dr Christopher Onken added: “It’s a surprise it remained undetected until now, given what we know about many other, less impressive black holes. It was hiding in plain sight.” 
The black hole has a mass roughly 17 billion times that of our solar system’s sun. 

It was first detected using a 2.3 metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in NSW. The research team then turned to one of the largest telescopes in the world – the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope – to confirm the full nature of the black hole and measure its mass.  

“The light from this black hole has travelled over 12 billion years to reach us,” Professor Rachel Webster from the University of Melbourne said.  

“In the adolescent universe, matter was moving chaotically and feeding hungry black holes. Today, stars are moving orderly at safe distances and only rarely plunge into black holes.” 

The intense radiation comes from the accretion disc around the black hole, which is the holding pattern for all the material waiting to be devoured.  

“It looks like a gigantic and magnetic storm cell with temperatures of 10,000 degrees Celsius, lightning everywhere and winds blowing so fast they would go around Earth in a second,” Associate Professor Wolf said. 

“This storm cell is seven light years across, which is 50 per cent more than the distance from our solar system to the next star in the Galaxy, alpha Centauri. 

“We were only able to make these discoveries because of The Australian Government’s 10-year partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO).” 

The research was done in collaboration with the ESO, University of Melbourne and the Sorbonne Université in France.

The researchers’ findings are published in Nature Astronomy. 

Artist’s impression of the record-breaking quasar J0529-4351:

Polar Bears Unlikely To Adapt To Longer Summers

February 2024
More time stranded on land means greater risk of starvation for polar bears, a new study indicates. During three summer weeks, 20 polar bears closely observed by scientists tried different strategies to maintain energy reserves, including resting, scavenging and foraging. Yet nearly all of them lost weight rapidly: on average around 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, per day.

Some have speculated that polar bears might adapt to the longer ice-free seasons due to climate warming by acting like their grizzly bear relatives and either rest or eat terrestrial food.

The polar bears in this study tried versions of both strategies -- with little success.

"Neither strategy will allow polar bears to exist on land beyond a certain amount of time. Even those bears that were foraging lost body weight at the same rate as those that laid down," said Charles Robbins, director of the Washington State University Bear Center and co-author of the study in the journal Nature Communications.

"Polar bears are not grizzly bears wearing white coats. They're very, very different."

Usually larger than grizzly bears, adult male polar bears can reach 10 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds compared to grizzly bears' 8 feet and 800 pounds.

To maintain that great mass, polar bears rely on the energy-rich fat of seals, which they best catch on the ice.

Little has been known about polar bear energy expenditure and behaviour when confined to land, so researchers used collars with video cameras and GPS to track polar bears summering in the western Hudson Bay region of Manitoba, Canada.

They wanted to see what the specialized ice-hunters ate and did during the extended time on land when their preferred seal prey was out of reach.

The researchers also weighed the bears before and after the observation period and measured their energy expenditures.

"We found a real diversity of bear behaviours, and as a result, we saw a diverse range of energy expenditures," said lead author Anthony Pagano, research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Polar Bear Research Program and former WSU post-doctoral researcher.

Many of the adult male polar bears simply laid down to conserve energy, burning calories at rates similar to hibernation.

Others, actively searched for food, consuming bird and caribou carcasses as well as berries, kelp and grasses.

In all, the researchers found a five-fold range in energy expenditure from an adult male that rested 98% of the time to the most active who clocked 330 kilometres (205 miles). Some adult females spent as much as 40% of their time foraging.

Yet all that activity didn't pay off.

"The terrestrial foods did give them some energetic benefit, but ultimately, the bears had to spend more energy to access those resources," said Pagano.

Three polar bears went for long swims -- one swimming 175 kilometres (about 110 miles) across the bay.

Two found carcasses in the water, a beluga and a seal, but neither bear could feed on their finds while swimming nor bring them back to land.

Only one bear out of the 20 gained weight after stumbling across a dead marine mammal on land.

The study focused on the southern-most extent of polar bear range in the western Hudson Bay, where climate warming is likely impacting the bears at a faster rate than other Arctic regions.

The polar bear population in the area has already declined by an estimated 30% since 1987.

This study indicates that polar bears across the Arctic are at risk of starvation as the ice-free period continues to grow.

"As polar bears are forced on land earlier, it cuts into the period that they normally acquire the majority of the energy they need to survive," said Pagano.

"With increased land use, the expectation is that we'll likely see increases in starvation, particularly with adolescents and females with cubs."

This research received support from the National Science Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Detroit Zoological Association, Polar Bears International, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and WSU.

Anthony M. Pagano, Karyn D. Rode, Nicholas J. Lunn, David McGeachy, Stephen N. Atkinson, Sean D. Farley, Joy A. Erlenbach, Charles T. Robbins. Polar bear energetic and behavioural strategies on land with implications for surviving the ice-free period. Nature Communications, 2024; 15 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-44682-1

Australia's Most At-Risk Bird Species Share Some Common Traits

February 2024
Australian birds that live on islands are among the species most at risk of extinction, a first-of-its-kind study from The Australian National University (ANU) has shown. Australia has over 750 native bird species. But lead-author Dr George Olah said many of them are facing an uncertain future.

"The numbers are quite sad. By 2020 eight species were already considered extinct, and 10 per cent were threatened with extinction," he said.

"But if we understand more about the factors that increase extinction risk, we can better prioritise conversation efforts.
"Some species are more prone to extinction than others -- we wanted to find out why."

Dr Olah and his team found three factors that were particularly significant.

"Firstly, species living only on islands were much more likely to be at risk of extinction. Think of the emblematic Swift Parrot and Orange-bellied Parrot of Tasmania, both considered critically endangered," Dr Olah said.

"This may be because they are less well prepared for the threats posed by introduced species like rats, cats and other mammals."

The second factor was the species' ability to adapt to survive in agricultural areas.

"The more able they were to find food in agricultural areas, the less endangered they were predicted to be," Dr Olah said.

"If they can adapt to take advantage of new agricultural lands, perhaps after some of their habitat has been destroyed to make way for it, it's probably a big benefit for the species."

The third important factor was the evolutionary distinctiveness or "uniqueness" of the species.

The researchers came up with a score based on things like how many other species there were within the larger bird family.

"The burden of extinction risk seems to disproportionately impact species that have high uniqueness," Dr Olah said.

"Some of these shared traits are also connected to form a larger pattern. For example, we know slow breeders that have a larger body size and maybe live longer generally find it harder to cope with environmental changes."

The study also found that assessments of conservation status at just the species level can mask higher extinction risk at the more granular subspecies level.

"For instance, the Ground Parrot as a species is considered of least concern today based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, its western subspecies, found in coastal Western Australia, is considered critically endangered in Australia," Dr Olah said.

"Similarly, the Morepork, a small owl species, is least concerned globally due to its large range size in New Zealand, but its subspecies in Norfolk Island is critically endangered in Australia, while its other subspecies from Lord Howe Island has already gone extinct."
The study forms part of the Emu special issue on threats to Australian birds.

Dr Olah was also a co-author on another study published in the issue, led by Alex Berryman from Birdlife International, which looked at trends and patterns in the extinction risk of Australia's birds over the past three decades.

The study calculated the Red List Index for all Australian birds -- a measure of extinction rates based on the IUCN Red List.

"More than 50 per cent of the increase in extinction risk between 2010 and 2020 was caused by the 2019-2020 bushfires," Mr Berryman said.

"The greatest increases overall were in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, where drought and wildfire effects were pronounced.

"Australia is currently failing its international commitments to reducing extinction risk made in 2022 under the Global Biodiversity Framework."

George Olah, Robert Heinsohn, Alex J. Berryman, Sarah M. Legge, James Q. Radford, Stephen T. Garnett. Biological characteristics of Australian threatened birds. Emu - Austral Ornithology, 2024; 124 (1): 83 DOI: 10.1080/01584197.2023.2285821

Image: Orange-bellied parrots. Photo: Difficult Bird Research Group/ANU

Advanced Artificial Photosynthesis Catalyst Uses CO2 More Efficiently To Create Biodegradable Plastics

February 2024
A research team from Osaka Metropolitan University that had previously succeeded in synthesizing fumaric acid using bicarbonate and pyruvic acid, and carbon dioxide collected directly from the gas phase as one of the raw materials, has now created a new photosensitizer and developed a new artificial photosynthesis technology, effectively doubling the yield of fumaric acid production compared to the previous method. 

The results of this research are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and provide an innovative way to produce biodegradable plastics while reusing waste resources.

Amid growing global concern over climate change and plastic pollution, researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University are making great strides in the sustainable production of fumaric acid -- a component of biodegradable plastics such as polybutylene succinate, which is commonly used for food packaging.

The researchers have managed to efficiently produce fumaric acid, which is traditionally derived from petroleum, using renewable resources, carbon dioxide, and biomass-derived compounds.

In a previous study, a research team led by Professor Yutaka Amao of the Research Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Osaka Metropolitan University demonstrated the synthesis of fumaric acid from bicarbonate and pyruvic acid, a biomass-derived compound, using solar energy.

They also succeeded in producing fumaric acid using carbon dioxide obtained directly from the gas phase as a raw material.

However, the yield in the production of fumaric acid remained low.

In their latest research, published in Dalton Transactions, the researchers have now developed a new photosensitizer and further advanced an artificial photosynthesis technique that doubles the yield of fumaric acid compared to conventional methods.

"This is an extremely important advancement for the complex bio/photocatalyst system. It is a valuable step forward in our quest to synthesize fumaric acid from renewable energy sources with even higher yields, steering us toward a more sustainable future," said Professor Amao.

Mika Takeuchi, Yutaka Amao. An effective visible-light driven fumarate production from gaseous CO2 and pyruvate by the cationic zinc porphyrin-based photocatalytic system with dual biocatalysts. Dalton Transactions, 2024; 53 (2): 418 DOI: 10.1039/d3dt03492e

A schematic diagram of how fumaric acid is produced from carbon dioxide using solar energy. Credit: Yutaka Amao, Osaka Metropolitan University

Mystery Solved: The Oldest Fossil Reptile From The Alps Is An Historical Forgery

February 2024
A 280-million-year-old fossil that has baffled researchers for decades has been shown to be, in part, a forgery following new examination of the remnants.

The discovery has led the team led by Dr Valentina Rossi of University College Cork, Ireland (UCC) to urge caution in how the fossil is used in future research.

Tridentinosaurus antiquus was discovered in the Italian alps in 1931 and was thought to be an important specimen for understanding early reptile evolution.
Its body outline, appearing dark against the surrounding rock, was initially interpreted as preserved soft tissues.

This led to its classification as a member of the reptile group Protorosauria.

However, this new research, published in the scientific journal Palaeontology, reveals that the fossil renowned for its remarkable preservation is mostly just black paint on a carved lizard-shaped rock surface.

The purported fossilised skin had been celebrated in articles and books but never studied in detail.

The somewhat strange preservation of the fossil had left many experts uncertain about what group of reptiles this strange lizard-like animal belonged to and more generally its geological history.

Dr Rossi, of UCC's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said:

"Fossil soft tissues are rare, but when found in a fossil they can reveal important biological information, for instance, the external colouration, internal anatomy and physiology.

"The answer to all our questions was right in front of us, we had to study this fossil specimen in details to reveal its secrets -- even those that perhaps we did not want to know."

The microscopic analysis showed that the texture and composition of the material did not match that of genuine fossilised soft tissues.

Preliminary investigation using UV photography revealed that the entirety of the specimen was treated with some sort of coating material.

Coating fossils with varnishes and/or lacquers was the norm in the past and sometimes is still necessary to preserve a fossil specimen in museum cabinets and exhibits.

The team was hoping that beneath the coating layer, the original soft tissues were still in good condition to extract meaningful palaeobiological information.

The findings indicate that the body outline of Tridentinosaurus antiquus was artificially created, likely to enhance the appearance of the fossil.

This deception misled previous researchers, and now caution is being urged when using this specimen in future studies.
The team behind this research includes contributors based in Italy at the University of Padua, Museum of Nature South Tyrol, and the Museo delle Scienze in Trento.

Co-author Prof Evelyn Kustatscher, coordinator of the project "Living with the supervolcano," funded by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano said:

"The peculiar preservation of Tridentinosaurus had puzzled experts for decades. Now, it all makes sense. What it was described as carbonized skin, is just paint."

However all not all is lost, and the fossil is not a complete fake.

The bones of the hindlimbs, in particular, the femurs seem genuine, although poorly preserved.

Moreover, the new analyses have shown the presence of tiny bony scales called osteoderms -- like the scales of crocodiles -- on what perhaps was the back of the animal.

This study is an example of how modern analytical palaeontology and rigorous scientific methods can resolve an almost century-old palaeontological enigma.

Valentina Rossi, Massimo Bernardi, Mariagabriella Fornasiero, Fabrizio Nestola, Richard Unitt, Stefano Castelli, Evelyn Kustatscher. Forged soft tissues revealed in the oldest fossil reptile from the early Permian of the Alps. Palaeontology, 2024; 67 (1) DOI: 10.1111/pala.12690

FIG. 1: Tridentinosaurus antiquus. A, photograph of the specimen, including sampling locations S0–S12 and SX (matrix). B, map of the topography of the surface of the specimen, highlighting the superficial topography. C, UV photograph showing that the fluorescence of the whole specimen. D, enlargement of the shoulder region, outlined on A. E, enlargement of the pelvic girdle region, outlined on A. Scale bars represent: 20 mm (A); 5 mm (D); 3 mm (E).

More Support Classes In NSW Mainstream Schools For Students With Disability

February 19, 2024
The NSW Government is increasing support for students with disability through an expansion of support classes in mainstream schools. This is part of the NSW Government’s plan to improve equity and ensure every student has access to a high-quality public education.

An extra 243 support classes have been approved to open in 2024, bringing the total to almost 4,500 support classes across all public education settings.

It means more than 1,500 students with a disability will have a place in a NSW public school support class this year.

The majority of these classes will be established in mainstream public schools while 12 additional classes will open in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs).

The expansion comes as the NSW Government is tackling a shortage of teachers that has impacted support classes. The NSW Government is deploying a multi-pronged approach to address the challenge, from scholarships and professional learning opportunities to admin reduction and the biggest payrise for NSW teachers in 30 years.  

Support classes in mainstream public schools are available for students with moderate to high learning and support needs, such as intellectual and/or physical disability, mental health issues, autism, sensory impairment and behaviour disorders.

There are 206,000 students with disability in NSW public schools, with the majority (86 per cent) learning in a mainstream classroom in a mainstream public school.

Eleven per cent of students with disability attend support classes in mainstream schools and three per cent are enrolled in schools for specific purposes.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said:

“We’re committed to building a more inclusive public education system, providing all students with an education that best meets their individual learning and development needs.

“This additional support for students with disability provides an opportunity for more specialised, intense support for students with disability and those with higher support needs.

“Our new Plan for NSW Public Education has equity as its centrepiece to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.

“Support classes can only help students if they are adequately staffed by qualified teachers – that’s why we are so focussed on tackling the statewide teacher shortage and doing so is key to the success of these classes.”

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Inclusion, Kate Washington said:

“The NSW Labor Government is committed to improving inclusion and accessibility across all mainstream services, including in our wonderful public schools.

“We’re working hard to remove barriers that students with disability face in accessing safe, quality and inclusive education in public schools.

“We want young people with disability to have the support they need to achieve their full potential – increasing support classes is an important step.”

NSW Government States New Figures Show Encouraging Progress On Teacher Shortage

February 20, 2024
The NSW State has stated the new school year has started with a 20 per cent drop in the number of teacher vacancies as the NSW Government continues to tackle the teacher shortage crisis that has plagued the education sector for the past decade.

In a positive sign, the NSW education system began Term 1 2024 with 460 fewer teacher vacancies than the same time last year, the Government states.

There were 1,782 teacher vacancies in the first week of this school year compared to 2,242 at the same time in 2023.'

There has been a significant fall in vacancies in regional, rural and remote NSW, where schools have traditionally been harder to staff. Vacancies in these areas have dropped by almost 25 per cent, from 1,241 at the start of school last year in 2023, to 938 in 2024.

This comes as NSW teachers entered the new school year among the highest paid in the country after the NSW Government struck an historic pay deal in September.'

'The start of the 2024 school year saw 6,261 teachers appointed to their first permanent role with the Department of Education this term, a massive increase of 4,575 on the same time last year.

The NSW Government is also continuing to deliver on its commitment to make more temporary teachers and support staff permanent and reducing the excessive administrative workload on schools.'

Measures the NSW Government has taken to address the teacher shortage include:
  • Scrapping the former government’s public sector wage cap and delivering NSW public school teachers the biggest pay rise in a generation
  • Improving job security by delivering our commitment to transition 16,000 teachers and support staff on temporary contracts into permanent roles
  • Reducing the admin workload by introducing more admin support staff, removing unnecessary tasks, streamlining accreditation requirements, and cutting the volume of policy documents
  • Recruitment measures including re-engaging teachers who recently resigned or retired from the profession to return, and expanding the Grow Your Own program
  • Improving the classroom environment by banning mobile phones restoring authority to teachers and principals to manage student behaviour
  • Developing a teacher housing strategy, priority recruitment support and wellbeing measures as part of our Rural, Regional and Remote Education action plan to attract and retain staff in the bush
Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said:

“To see vacancies trending in the right direction – downward – is encouraging after record vacancies under the Liberals and Nationals. We still have a lot of work to do to turn around the shortage, and addressing teacher vacancies remains a key priority for the Minns Government.

“These figures affirm our decision to deliver a once-in-a-generation wage rise to NSW public school teachers, along with our focus on easing teacher workload and improving student behaviour.

“Getting permanent, well paid teachers into our classrooms will pay dividends down the line when it comes to academic outcomes for our students.

“While these are positive numbers, the experience of teachers on the ground is critical. That’s why, unlike the former Liberal National Government, I will continue to listen to our teachers and their real concerns about staff shortages.

“These initiatives are underpinned by a desire to restore respect for the teaching profession and let our school staff know we value the work they do every day in educating our children.”

$80 Million Institute Of Applied Technology For Construction Opened In Western Sydney

February 20, 2024
The NSW Government today officially opened the $80 million Institute of Applied Technology for Construction at TAFE NSW Nepean – Kingswood.

Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education, Steve Whan joined industry and university partners of the Institute for a ribbon cutting and official unveiling of the facility.

The Institute of Applied Technology is a partnership between TAFE NSW, construction company CPB Contractors, and Western Sydney University.

The new facility features a civil construction sandpit, and large workshop spaces to accommodate the construction of full-scale buildings for use in carpentry, plumbing, and electrotechnology training.

In addition to traditional trades, the Institute also designs and delivers market-leading training that rapidly responds to industry needs.

The Institute of Applied Technology educational model brings together vocational education, universities, and industry to fast-track training solutions for sectors that are in a constant state of skills transformation.

The new 7500m2 facility at TAFE NSW Kingswood achieved a 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). It features a solar system that generates more than 50 percent of its daily power usage, and electric vehicle charging stations for learners and staff.

Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan said:

“This new facility will provide specialist training in civil construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, helping to fill skills gaps in Western Sydney and across the state.

“The Institute is doing an amazing job by delivering online Micro skill and Micro credential programs in project management, contract administration, building information modelling, and digital skills in construction.

“I’m so pleased to see that learners across Australia have already enrolled in more than 10,000 micro-skills or micro-credentials delivered by The Institute of Applied Technology Construction.

“The Institute will help upskill the next generation of construction workers, who will be able to continue to build the much-needed homes this state needs.”

Institute of Applied Technology Construction course list

Micro credentials:
  • 2D CAD Drawings and 3D Models in Construction
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Construction
  • Commercial & Contract Management in Construction
  • Contract Administration Fundamentals
  • Contract Administration in Construction
  • Cost Management in Construction
  • Emerging Leaders in Construction
  • Excel in Construction
  • Frontline Leaders in Construction
  • Introduction to Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Construction
  • Introduction to Project Scope Management in Construction
  • Microsoft Office 365 Foundations in Construction
  • Power BI Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Management Foundations in Construction
  • Project Management Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Management Fundamentals in Construction
  • Project Risk Management in Construction
  • Schedule Management in Construction
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Management in Construction
Micro credentials in development:
  • Experienced Leaders in Construction
  • Project Integration Management in Construction
  • Quality Management in Construction
  • Scheduling - MS Projects in Construction
  • Power BI Data Visualisation in Construction
  • Procurement and Commercial Management in Construction
  • Construction Communication
  • Contract Law/Dispute Resolution
  • Introduction to Claims and Variations in Construction
  • Reality Capture Technologies
  • Integrating GIS and BIM in Construction
Micro skills:
  • Experienced Leaders in Construction
  • Project Integration Management in Construction
  • Quality Management in Construction
  • Scheduling - MS Projects in Construction
  • Power BI Data Visualisation in Construction
  • Procurement and Commercial Management in Construction
  • Construction Communication
  • Contract Law/Dispute Resolution
  • Introduction to Claims and Variations in Construction
  • Reality Capture Technologies
  • Integrating GIS and BIM in Construction

NSW Government Announces Historic Investment In Regional Public Preschools: Locations Of 100 New Public Preschools Revealed

February 19, 2024
Thousands of families across NSW will benefit from expanded access to early childhood education as the NSW Government unveils the locations for 100 new public preschools.

This is the biggest expansion of public preschools in NSW history, the Government stated.

Co-located at public primary school sites, the new public preschools will be built over the next 3 years in areas of greatest need across NSW.

After more than a decade of decline in education outcomes, the NSW Government will prioritise quality education in the early years, giving every child the best start for success.

The NSW Government is investing a record $769 million to deliver 100 new public preschools by 2027, including delivering preschools at new public primary schools.

This includes in Western Sydney, South West Sydney and North West Sydney, as well as throughout regional NSW, in the South Coast, the Hunter, Illawarra, Mid North Coast, New England, Southern NSW, Northern Rivers, Far West, Riverina, South-West Slopes and Central West regions.

The public preschools will improve access for families across NSW, with sites selected by a NSW Department of Education Panel, overseen by an independent chair and probity advisor, based on rigorous assessment criteria which considered educational need, child development and socioeconomic data, preschool demand, infrastructure feasibility and insights gained through consultation.

Co-locating public preschools with existing schools will ensure children are ready for kindergarten and will assist busy working families with cost-of-living pressures, help avoid the double drop off, and make the transition to school as seamless as possible.

The NSW Government’s election commitment to deliver 100 public preschools is in sharp contrast to the Liberals and Nationals’ unrealistic claim it would build 500 preschools– a last minute announcement made on the eve of an election, with zero consultation and no proper planning.

The announcement of the complete list of preschool locations comes after the locations of the 49 regional public preschools were announced on Saturday. Late last year, the NSW Government announced the initial 10 public preschool sites.

This is part of the NSW Government’s historic investment in early childhood education, which includes a $60 million commitment to build and upgrade 50 preschools on non-government school sites in areas of greatest educational need. The NSW Government has also committed up to $29.4 million to expand the number of early childhood workers in NSW through a scholarship program, which has seen a record number of applications. The NSW Government has also provided $17 million to support capital works for early childhood services in areas of need.

Premier of NSW Chris Minns said:

“Children who receive high quality early childhood education can benefit throughout their life, and it is so important families are able to access good quality services wherever they live.

“This investment is an important step towards delivering expanded preschool access for all families across NSW.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said:

“I am delighted the NSW Labor Government will deliver 100 new public preschools over the next 3 years, a key election commitment made to the people of NSW.

“This investment in public preschools is the largest made by any Government in NSW’s history.

“This significant investment reflects the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to high quality public education, and our belief that access to early childhood education before school should not be defined by your postcode.”

NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar said:

“This major step towards delivering 100 public preschools has involved work and consultation with our educators, teachers and local communities.

“We are committed to working hard to deliver high quality education and closing equity gaps, so more families and children in NSW can access early childhood public education.”

Locations for 100 new public preschools:

Albury Thurgoona – new primary school
Barrack Heights Public School
Beelbangera Public School
Berkeley West Public School
Birrong Public School
Blackett Public School
Blacktown North Public School
Blairmount Public School
Blaxcell Street Public School
Bomaderry Public School
Booragul Public School
Boorowa Central School
Bourke Public School
Bowraville Central School
Bradbury Public School
Cabramatta West Public School
Carramar Public School
Carter Street Precinct near Sydney Olympic Park – new primary school
Cartwright Public School
Cecil Hills Public School
Cessnock Public School
Chullora Public School
Crawford Public School
Cringila Public School
Curran Public School
Deniliquin South Public School
Edensor Park Public School
Ellalong Public School
Emerton Public School
Eschol Park Public School
Fairfield West Public School
Gables in North West Sydney – new primary school
Gillieston Public School
Governor Philip King Public School
Granville East Public School
Granville South Public School
Greenway Park Public School
Greenwell Point Public School
Guildford Public School
Guildford West Public School
Gulyangarri Public School
Hanwood Public School
Harcourt Public School
Hayes Park Public School
Hebersham Public School
Heckenberg Public School
Hillvue Public School
Jindabyne Public School
Kearns Public School
Kearsley Public School
Kingsgrove Public School
Kurri Kurri Public School
Lake Heights Public School
Lake Illawarra South Public School
Lansvale East Public School
Leeton Public School
Lennox Head Public School
Leppington Public School
Leumeah Public School
Lynwood Park Public School
Maryland Public School
Melonba Public School
Melrose Park Public School
Menindee Central School
Miller Public School
Moorland Public School
Morgan Street Public School
Moss Vale Public School
Mount Pritchard Public School
Nirimba Fields Public School
Nowra – new public school
Nulkaba Public School
Parkes East Public School
Parkview Public School
Prairievale Public School
Queanbeyan East Public School
Queanbeyan South Public School
Robert Townson Public School
Ruse Public School
Sackville Street Public School
Sanctuary Point Public School
Shalvey Public School
Sherwood Grange Public School
Shortland Public School
Tacking Point Public School
Taree Public School
Tenambit Public School
Teralba Public School
Thomas Acres Public School
Toomelah Public School
Tuggerawong Public School
Umina Beach Public School
Villawood North Public School
Warialda Public School
Weston Public School
William Stimson Public School
Wilton Junction – new primary school
Wollongbar Public School
Woodland Road Public School
Yagoona Public School.

How to help children and the family dog stay safe when they play together

Anna BaatzUniversity of Salford

It’s no wonder owning a family dog is popular in the UK – research shows that our wellbeing can increase with dog ownership, and there’s even evidence that children’s development can benefit if they share their home with a dog.

Unfortunately though, hospital admissions for dog bites are more likely to be children than adults. The majority of bites on children are from a dog known to them. And many bites happen while a parent or caregiver is actually present.

Popular representations of dogs as the perfect addition to a family are everywhere, from the 1904 JM Barrie Novel Peter Pan and Nana, to today’s children’s television. The movie, The Secret Life of Pets 2 opens with Max, the charismatic terrier complaining that he doesn’t personally love kids and is grateful for not living with them and being “piled on” by “hordes of children”. Max is soon faced with a new child in the family, Liam, and he laments he doesn’t feel safe in his own home.

Although Max’s predicament is played for laughs, the truth is children can make dogs’ lives difficult and uncomfortable. We certainly don’t want our children to be bitten. But it’s easy to overlook the dog’s perspective.

Power Of Play

Safe play means no shouting or roughness. Fetch, for example, can be great but be mindful if your dog is “guarding” by not relinquishing or snapping for their favourite toys. You and your children should teach your dog a leave command by trading toys for treats. Immediately throwing a second toy as soon as they bring the first back can also discourage guarding. My own son finds this game lots of fun with our dog.

Woman holding a child and shaking a dog's paw
Supervising play is important. Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

During play all four paws should be on the floor. If your dog becomes over excited during play, for example jumping up or mouthing, it’s better to just ask your child to step away and both have a bit of a time out, than shouting or punishing your dog.

But that doesn’t mean children should be discouraged from playing with the family dog. Play is something children are usually better at than adults. Parents I interviewed for my research into children’s interactions with a family dog said their kids don’t tire of throwing a ball or playing tug. And for dogs, play is a natural behaviour that they don’t grow out of.

Cuddles Aren’t Always Cute

While thousands of animal cuddly toys are squished by children the world over, it’s worth remembering that cuddling is a mostly human behaviour.

Research has shown that some dogs can learn to tolerate cuddles, some even enjoy them. But they are not something that dogs innately find enjoyable and research shows that many dogs don’t get an oxytocin (cuddle hormone) response to it.

Close physical contact between children and the family dog is a common reason dogs show aggression towards a child. So children should be discouraged from putting their arms around a dog, leaning on, or picking them up, in favour of other ways of showing affection in which the dog has more freedom of choice.

A Dog Needs Freedom Of Choice

It’s impossible to allow dogs to do whatever they like all the time. Their behaviour has to fit into what we are willing to accept as their human owners after all. Nonetheless dogs living with children can react aggressively if children restrict their ability to choose what they want to do, for example physically restrictive cuddles, or interrupting them when they are in the middle of resting, eating or playing alone.

It isn’t difficult to allow your dog some choice in affectionate interactions from children. Simply encouraging the kids to call the dog over to them where they are sitting, rather than approaching the dog themselves, can make a difference. And remind children not to follow the dog if he or she moves away from them. In my recent study parents also found that their dogs were more likely to value their space from the kids at night time or when they were tired.

Don’t Expect Children To Read Dogs

Dogs can’t talk. Imagine if they could. Perhaps then we’d be better at understanding their needs. Instead, they mostly use their bodies to communicate.

Research has shown that young children are generally not good at recognising dog body language or facial expressions. My 2023 study of UK families showed that even if they could recognise their dog was unhappy about an interaction, it didn’t make the child stop itAnd a 2016 study found that parents who owned a dog didn’t notice common signs of anxiety, such as a dog licking their lips or nose, wide eyes, yawning out of context or leaning away from the child.

If your child can learn how to spot how dogs show certain emotions that’s great. There’s lots of resources available online . But don’t expect that alone to be a panacea of all interaction problems or risks.

The fact that dogs have emotions too means there is always a possibility an interaction might not go well. Which is why it is not just supervision, but involved supervision that will help your dog and kids become best of friends.The Conversation

Anna Baatz, PhD Candidate and Associate Lecturer in human-animal interactions, University of Salford

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

Disinformation threatens global elections – here’s how to fight back

Some Republicans still believe the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. Lyonstock/Shutterstock
Sander van der LindenUniversity of CambridgeLee McIntyreBoston University, and Stephan LewandowskyUniversity of Bristol

With over half the world’s population heading to the polls in 2024, disinformation season is upon us — and the warnings are dire. The World Economic Forum declared misinformation a top societal threat over the next two years and major news organisations caution that disinformation poses an unprecedented threat to democracies worldwide.

Yet, some scholars and pundits have questioned whether disinformation can really sway election outcomes. Others think concern over disinformation is just a moral panic or merely a symptom rather than the cause of our societal ills. Pollster Nate Silver even thinks that misinformation “isn’t a coherent concept”.

But we argue the evidence tells a different story.

A 2023 study showed that the vast majority of academic experts are in agreement about how to define misinformation (namely as false and misleading content) and what this looks like (for example lies, conspiracy theories and pseudoscience). Although the study didn’t cover disinformation, such experts generally agree that this can be defined as intentional misinformation.

A recent paper clarified that misinformation can both be a symptom and the disease. In 2022, nearly 70% of Republicans still endorsed the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 US presidential election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. If Trump had never floated this theory, how would millions of people have possibly acquired these beliefs?

Moreover, although it is clear that people do not always act on dangerous beliefs, the January 6 US Capitol riots, incited by false claims, serve as an important reminder that a misinformed crowd can disrupt and undermine democracy.

Given that nearly 25% of elections are decided by a margin of under 3%, mis- and disinformation can have important influence. One study found that among previous Barack Obama voters who did not buy into any fake news about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, 89% voted for Clinton. By contrast, among prior Obama voters who believed at least two fake headlines about Clinton, only 17% voted for her.

While this doesn’t necessarily prove that the misinformation caused the voting behaviour, we do know that millions of black voters were targeted with misleading ads discrediting Clinton in key swing states ahead of the election.

Research has shown that such micro-targeting of specific audiences based on variables such as their personality not only influences decision-making but also impacts voting intentions. A recent paper illustrated how large language models can be deployed to craft micro-targeted ads at scale, estimating that for every 100,000 individuals targeted, at least several thousand can be persuaded.

We also know that not only are people bad at discerning deepfakes (AI generated images of fake events) from genuine content, studies find that deepfakes do influence political attitudes among a small target group.

There are more indirect consequences of disinformation too, such as eroding public trust and participation in elections.

Other than hiding under our beds and worrying, what can we do to protect ourselves?

The Power Of Prebunking

Many efforts have focused on fact-checking and debunking false beliefs. In contrast, “prebunking” is a new way to prevent false beliefs from forming in the first place. Such “inoculation” involves warning people not to fall for a false narrative or propaganda tactic, together with an explanation as to why.

Misinforming rhetoric has clear markers, such as scapegoating or use of false dichotomies (there are many others), that people can learn to identify. Like a medical vaccine, the prebunk exposes the recipient to a “weakened dose” of the infectious agent (the disinformation) and refutes it in a way that confers protection.

For example, we created an online game for the Department of Homeland Security to empower Americans to spot foreign influence techniques during the 2020 presidential election. The weakened dose? Pineapple pizza.

How could pineapple pizza possibly be the way to tackle misinformation? It shows how bad-faith actors can take an innocuous issue such as whether or not to put pineapple on pizza, and use this to try to start a culture war. They might claim it’s offensive to Italians or urge Americans not to let anybody restrict their pizza-topping freedom.

They can then buy bots to amplify the issue on both sides, disrupt debate – and sow chaos. Our results showed that people improved in their ability to recognise these tactics after playing our inoculation game.

In 2020, Twitter identified false election tropes as potential “vectors of misinformation” and sent out prebunks to millions of US users warning them of fraudulent claims, such as that voting by mail is not safe.

These prebunks armed people with a fact — that experts agree that voting by mail is reliable — and it worked insofar as the prebunks inspired confidence in the election process and motivated users to seek out more factual information. Other social media companies, such as Google and Meta have followed suit across a range of issues.

A new paper tested inoculation against false claims about the election process in the US and Brazil. Not only did it found that prebunking worked better than traditional debunking, but that the inoculation improved discernment between true and false claims, effectively reduced election fraud beliefs and improved confidence in the integrity of the upcoming 2024 elections.

In short, inoculation is a free speech-empowering intervention that can work on a global scale. When Russia was looking for a pretext to invade Ukraine, US president Joe Biden used this approach to “inoculate” the world against Putin’s plan to stage and film a fabricated Ukrainian atrocity, complete with actors, a script and a movie crew. Biden declassified the intelligence and exposed the plot.

In effect, he warned the world not to fall for fake videos with actors pretending to be Ukrainian soldiers on Russian soil. Forewarned, the international community was unlikely to fall for it. Russia found another pretext to invade, of course, but the point remains: forewarned is forearmed.

But we need not rely on government or tech firms to build mental immunity. We can all learn how to spot misinformation by studying the markers accompanying misleading rhetoric.

Remember that polio was a highly infectious disease that was eradicated through vaccination and herd immunity. Our challenge now is to build herd immunity to the tricks of disinformers and propagandists.

The future of our democracy may depend on it.The Conversation

Sander van der Linden, Professor of Social Psychology in Society, University of CambridgeLee McIntyre, Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University, and Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol

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

Separate water fountains for Black people still stand in the South – thinly veiled monuments to the long, strange, dehumanizing history of segregation

In this 1938 image, a Black boy uses a fountain marked ‘colored’ at a North Carolina county courthouse. Getty Images
Rodney CoatesMiami University

No one knows for certain when public facilities like bathrooms and drinking fountains were separated by race.

But starting in the 1890s, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Jim Crow laws and customs that emerged required Black and white people to be separated in virtually every part of life. They used separate restrooms, sat in separate sections on trains and buses and drank from separate water fountains.

Even in death, Black and white people were buried in separate cemeteries.

Though the racist practice of separate accommodations was officially outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, relics from the past still linger today.

In Ellisville, Mississippi, for instance, two water fountains remain standing in front of the Jones County Courthouse. When they were first built in the late 1930s, the words “white” and “colored” designated which fountain was to be used by which race.

Over the years, those words were covered up by different ceremonial plaques. But for some Black Ellisville residents, the fountains still stir up painful memories of second-class citizenship.

During public hearings in 2020 to determine whether the fountains should be removed, then 68-year-old Donnie Watts told the County Board of Supervisors that he had lived there for most of his life.

“I got told once to get away from that fountain because I, as a 6-year-old, was drinking out of the ‘white’ fountain,” Watts said. “Can you imagine what a child, that age, how they felt when they were told that they can’t drink out of that fountain and they had to drink out of another fountain that said ‘colored’?”

Separate And Unequal

In the 2001 Behind the Veil project, Duke University historians and researchers conducted interviews with over 300 Black and white people to document what day-to-day life was like during the Jim Crow era of legal segregation.

One of those interviewed was Mary Sive, who in 1947 was 24 years old and lived in Montclair, New Jersey. That year, she was traveling through the Deep South when she saw water fountains labeled “colored” and “white” for the first time.

A Black man is drinking from a water fountain that has a signs that reads for colored only.
Men drinking from segregated water fountains in 1960. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

“This was not outright cruelty such as lynching or denial of voting rights,” she said. “It was not silly, as it at first seemed to me. I realized that for segregation to stick, it had to intrude into the simplest everyday activity such as taking a drink of water. It was that very banality that brought home what it must be like to be ‘colored.’”

Sive said she chose not to drink from either fountain.

The signs were not the only thing that separated the fountains.

The fountains for whites were often more modern, offered some form of filtering from contaminants found in tap water and were capable of providing cold water. The colored water fountains were always worse, generally older and less well kept and usually found in the basement or outdoors.

More often than not, there were no Black facilities.

Bloody Tuesday

In my view as a sociologist who studies race and ethnicity, part of the legal and systematic effort to maintain Black subservience was based in part on the white people’s fear that formerly enslaved Black people would be rebellious and unwilling to stay on the lower levels of society.

It’s not surprising, then, that peaceful protests against the repressive structure of Southern society was met with a violent reaction from Southern law enforcement officers.

On June 9, 1964, for instance, Rev. T.Y. Rogers organized a march with the NAACP to protest segregated drinking fountains and restrooms in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The civil rights group had planned to march to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse but barely made it a few steps from where they started at the First African Baptist Church before they were assaulted, beaten, arrested and tear-gassed by police officers, who used cattle prods and wooden batons to subdue the demonstration.

Known as Bloody Tuesday, the day saw the hospitalization of 33 Black men, women and children and the arrests of 94 others on charges of unlawful assembly.

That tragedy has been largely overshadowed by another protest march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery that occurred nearly a year later on March 7, 1965.

In what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” more than 600 marchers who were demanding equal voting rights, including John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and future congressman, were beaten and arrested by state troopers led by segregationist Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor.

But unlike Bloody Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, news photographers and television cameras captured the images of Black marchers being beat by white police officers.

Those images triggered national outrage.

A white man is shaking the hands of a Black man as a crowd of other men stand behind them.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, left, shakes hands with Martin Luther King Jr. after signing the Civil Rights Act on July 3, 1964, at the White House. AFP via Getty Images

But enactment of civil rights laws didn’t mean the end of the fight.

After Donnie Watts’ testimony about his experience with discrimination at age 6, Jones County voters decided to keep the two separate fountains in a 2020 referendum.

Even though the fountains don’t work any longer and the words “white” and “colored” remain covered by ceremonial plaques, Watts said in a published interview that his memory of them remains clear.

“I can see right through those plaques. I know what they say,” Watts told the Hattiesburg American. “If they were so gung-ho about keeping those fountains, why don’t they take those plaques off where everybody can see the words ‘colored’ and ‘white’?”The Conversation

Rodney Coates, Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Miami University

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

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.