Inbox and Environment News: Issue 616

March  3 - 9, 2024: Issue 616

Increase Tree Vandalism Penalties: NSW Parliamentary Petition

You may have heard of these incidents of tree vandalism on a huge scale in recent times on Sydney's North Shore. All involved trees on public land and it appears the vandalism was motivated to improve the views of some people who clearly feel extremely entitled.

On 19th February,  nine Fig trees on Balmoral's iconic Sydney beachfront were drilled and poisoned.  Thanks to the rapid action of residents and council, the trees -  some dating back to the construction of the esplanade in the 1930's - might survive.

In November 2023, over 100 trees were illegally chopped on the foreshore of Woodford bay in the Sydney suburb of Longueville.

In August 2023, over 265 trees were poisoned, hacked and chain-sawed in a bushland reserve in the suburb of Castle Cove.

We encourage you to sign this petition to the NSW Parliament to: 
Increase Penalties for Urban Forest Tree Vandalism and Recognise Trees as Natural Assets in the IP&R Framework of The Local Government Act

Lone Dollarbird - A Sign Of Autumn

Signs of the end of Summer 2023-2024
The Dollarbird is the sole Australian representative of the Roller family, so named because of their rolling courtship display flight. The Dollarbird visits Australia each year to breed. It has mostly dark brown upperparts, washed heavily with blue-green on the back and wing coverts. The breast is brown, while the belly and undertail coverts are light, and the throat and undertail glossed with bright blue. The flight feathers of the wing and tail are dark blue. The short, thick-set bill is orange-red, tipped with black. In flight, the pale blue coin-shaped patches towards the tips of its wings, that gave the bird its name, are clearly visible. Both sexes are similar, although the female is slightly duller. Young Dollarbirds are duller than the adults and lack the bright blue gloss on the throat. The bill and feet are brownish in colour instead of red.

The Dollarbird arrives in northern and eastern Australia in September each year to breed. In March or April the birds return to New Guinea and adjacent islands to spend the Winter.

Calls: The distinctive, harsh 'kak-kak-kak' call is repeated several times, and is often given in flight
Minimum Size:  26cm, Maximum Size: 31cm. Average size:  28cm, Average weight: 123g
Breeding season:  October to January, Clutch Size: 3 to 4
Scientific Name: Eurystomus orientalis
Habitat: In Australia, the Dollarbird inhabits open wooded areas, normally with mature, hollow-bearing trees suitable for nesting

Did you know?
The origin of the Dollardbird's name stems from the silvery, circular patches on the underside of the wings, thought to resemble the American silver dollar coin.
Information: BirdLife Australia's Bird In Backyards listings

1st Pic taken Sunday afternoon, February 25 2024, AJG/PON - 2nd showing wing markings- Image Credit: Julian Robinson

Avalon Beach Cockatoos 

Pics taken Sunday afternoon, February 25 2024, AJG/PON
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

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.

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


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

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

Baiting foxes can make feral cats even more ‘brazen’, study of 1.5 million forest photos shows

Matthew Rees
Matthew ReesCSIRO and Bronwyn HradskyThe University of Melbourne

Foxes and cats kill about 2.6 billion mammals, birds and reptiles across Australia, every year. To save native species from extinction, we need to protect them from these introduced predators. But land managers tend to focus on foxes, which are easier to control. Unfortunately this may have unintended consequences.

We wanted to find out how feral cats respond to fox control. In one of the biggest studies on this issue to date, we worked with land managers to set up 3,667 survey cameras in a series of controlled experiments. We studied the effects on cat behaviour and population density.

Our research shows feral cats are more abundant and more brazen after foxes are suppressed.

In some regions, cats need to be managed alongside foxes to protect native wildlife.

This camera trap captured a wide variety of animals, not just cats and foxes, in the Otway Ranges, 2019 (Matthew Rees)

Could Feral Cats Benefit From Fox Control?

Foxes and cats were brought to Australia by European colonisers more than 170 years ago. They now coexist across much of the mainland.

While foxes are bigger than cats, they compete for many of the same prey species.

But most wildlife conservation programs in southern Australia only control foxes. That’s largely because controlling foxes is relatively straightforward. Foxes are scavengers and readily take poison baits. Feral cats, on the other hand, prefer live prey. So they’re much more difficult to control using baits.

Consequently, foxes have become the most widely controlled invasive predator in Australia, while feral cat control has been relatively localised.

Some native species have thrived following fox control or eradication, but others have continued to decline. For example, one study found numbers of common brushtail possums, Western quolls and Tammar wallabies increased following fox control in southwest Western Australia. However, seven other species crashed: dunnarts, woylies, southern brown bandicoots, western ringtail possums, bush rats, brush-tailed phascogales and western brush wallabies.

People suspected controlling foxes could inadvertently free feral cats from competition and aggression, particularly if there were no dingoes around.

An image of a red fox from a camera trap in the study.
Foxes devastate native wildlife, but may also suppress feral cats. Matthew Rees

Experimenting With Fox Control

To investigate how cats respond to fox control programs, we worked with land managers to run two large experiments in southwest Victoria. Foxes are the top predator in these forests and woodlands, because dingoes have already been removed.

We studied cat behaviour and population density before and after fox control in the Otway Ranges. In a separate study, we compared conservation reserves with and without fox control in the Glenelg region.

We put out 3,667 survey cameras over seven years. The cameras photograph animals as they walk by, allowing us to analyse where and when invasive predators and native mammals are active.

From these photographs, we were also able to identify individual feral cats based on their unique coat markings.

When multiple photographs of one cat were taken by several different cameras, we could track their movement. Combining information on the tracks of all the cats in an area allowed us to estimate cat population density.

It was a painstaking process. We went through almost 1.5 million images manually to check for animals, eliminate false triggers and identify individual cats.

Future research is exploring using artificial intelligence to streamline the process, but the computer still needs to be taught what to look for.

A grid of six different still images from camera traps showing a variety of different feral cats
We identified 160 different feral cats across two fox control programs in south-west Victoria. Matthew Rees

What We Found

We found sustained, intensive baiting for foxes worked. Areas with more poison baits had fewer foxes. Replacing baits regularly was also worthwhile.

Feral cat density was generally higher in areas with fox control. The strength of this effect varied with the extent and duration of fox management. We found up to 3.7 times as many cats in fox-baited landscapes.

Productive landscapes also supported more cats. There was about one feral cat per square kilometre in wet forests, compared with less than half as many in dry forests.

Feral cat behaviour also varied with fox control and forest type, including how visible cats were, how far they moved, and what times of day they were active.

Feral cats appeared more adventurous where fox populations were suppressed. In dry forests, for example, foxes were largely nocturnal, as were most native mammals. Feral cats became more active at night when there were fewer foxes, potentially giving them access to different prey species.

We found some threatened species, such as long-nosed potoroos, were doing much better in areas with long-term fox control, although others, such as southern brown bandicoots, showed no improvement.

We don’t know how fox control affected smaller native rodents and marsupials, which are likely to be most at risk from increased cat predation.

Camera trap image of one of the feral cats
Areas where foxes were controlled had more feral cats. They also tended to be behave differently. Matthew Rees

A Conservation Balancing Act

Broad-scale fox control is an important tool in the ongoing battle to protect Australia’s wildlife. Fox baiting is relatively simple and effective. But we have to balance the known benefits of fox control against potential unintended consequences.

Our study reinforces the need to carefully consider what could happen if you only control one pest animal, and to monitor carefully rather than assume that fox control will benefit all native species. We are not saying people should stop fox baiting, because there are clear benefits to species such as long-nosed potoroos. But we need to keep an eye on the cats and might need to also manage their impacts on native prey.

As feral cats are notoriously difficult to control lethally, indirect management may also be helpful. For example, promoting dense understorey vegetation for native prey to hide in or removing other sources of food that boost cat numbers such as pest rabbits.

Integrated pest management is challenging and expensive but likely needed, especially where feral cats or other pests are thriving alongside foxes.The Conversation

Matthew Rees, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CSIRO and Bronwyn Hradsky, Research Fellow in Ecology, The University of Melbourne

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

Researchers found 37 mine sites in Australia that could be converted into renewable energy storage. So what are we waiting for?

Timothy WeberAustralian National University and Andrew BlakersAustralian National University

The world is rapidly moving towards a renewable energy future. To support the transition, we must prepare back-up energy supplies for times when solar panels and wind turbines are not producing enough electricity.

One solution is to build more pumped hydro energy storage. But where should this expansion happen?

Our new research identified more than 900 suitable locations around the world: at former and existing mining sites. Some 37 sites are in Australia.

Huge open-cut mining pits would be turned into reservoirs to hold water for renewable energy storage. It would give the sites a new lease on life and help shore up the world’s low-emissions future.

The Benefits Of Pumped Hydro Storage

Pumped hydro energy storage has been demonstrated at scale for more than a century. Over the past few years, we have been identifying the best sites for “closed-loop” pumped hydro systems around the world.

Unlike conventional hydropower systems operating on rivers, closed-loop systems are located away from rivers. They require only two reservoirs, one higher than the other, between which water flows down a tunnel and through a turbine, producing electricity.

The water can be released – and power produced – to cover gaps in electricity supply when output from solar and wind is low (for example on cloudy or windless days). And when wind and solar are producing more electricity than is needed – such as on sunny or windy days – this cheap surplus power is used to pump the water back up the hill to the top reservoir, ready to be released again.

Off-river sites have very small environmental footprints and require very little water to operate. Pumped hydro energy storage is also generally cheaper than battery storage at large scales.

Batteries are the preferred method for energy storage over seconds to hours, while pumped hydro is preferred for overnight and longer storage.

large pipes on grass
Pumped-hydro storage technology has been demonstrated at scale for over a century. Shutterstock

Why Mining Sites?

There are big benefits to converting mining areas into pumped hydro plants.

For a start, the hole has already been dug, reducing construction costs. What’s more, mining sites are typically already serviced by roads and transmission infrastructure. The site usually has access to a water source for which the mine operators may have pumping rights. And the development takes place on land that is already cleared of vegetation, avoiding the need to disturb new areas.

Finally, community support may have already been obtained for the mining operations, which could easily be rolled over into a pumped hydro site.

In Australia, one pumped hydro energy storage project is already being built at a former gold mine site at Kidston in Far North Queensland.

The feasibility of two others is being assessed at Mount Rawdon near Bundaberg in Queensland, and at Muswellbrook in New South Wales. Both would repurpose old mining pits.

What We Found

Our previous research identified suitable locations in undeveloped areas (excluding protected land) and using existing reservoirs. Now, we have turned our attention to mine sites.

Our study used a computer algorithm to search the Earth’s surface for suitable sites. It looked for mining pits, pit lakes and tailings ponds in mining sites which were located near suitable land for a new upper reservoir. The idea is that the reservoir and mining site are “paired” and water pumped between them.

Globally, we identified 904 suitable mining sites across 77 countries.

Some 37 suitable sites are located in Australia. They include the Mount Rawdon and Muswellbrook mining pits already under investigation.

There are a number of potential options in Western Australia: in the iron-ore region of the Pilbara, south of Perth and around Kalgoorlie.

Options in Queensland and New South Wales are mostly located down the east coast, including the Coppabella Mine and the coal mining pits near the old Liddell Power Station. Possible sites also exist inland at Mount Isa in Queensland and at the Cadia Hill gold mine near Orange in NSW.

Potential sites in South Australia include the old Leigh Creek coal mine in the Flinders Ranges and the operating Prominent Hill mine northwest of Adelaide. Tasmania and Victoria also offer possible locations, although many other non-mining options exist in these states for pumped hydro storage.

We are not suggesting that operating mines be closed – rather, that pumped hydro storage be considered as part of site rehabilitation at the end of the mine’s life.

If old mining sites are to be converted into pumped hydro, several challenges must be addressed. For example, mine pits may contain contaminants that, if filled with water, could seep into groundwater. However, this could be overcome by lining reservoirs.

Looking Ahead

Australia has set a readily achievable goal of reaching 82% renewable electricity by 2030.

The Australian Energy Market Operator suggests by 2050, this nation needs about 640 gigawatt-hours of dispatchable or “on demand” storage to support solar and wind capacity. We currently have about 17 gigawatt-hours of electricity storage, with more committed by Snowy 2.0 and other projects.

The 37 possible pumped hydro sites we’ve identified could deliver 540 gigawatt-hours of storage potential. Combined with other non-mining sites we’ve identified previously, the options are far more numerous than our needs.

This means we can afford to be picky, and develop only the very best sites. So what are we waiting for?The Conversation

Timothy Weber, Research Officer for School of Engineering, Australian National University and Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering, Australian National University

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

Our native animals are easy prey after a fire. Could artificial refuges save them?

A tawny-crowned honeyeater in an artificial refuge. Author provided
Darcy WatchornDeakin UniversityChris DickmanUniversity of Sydney, and Don DriscollDeakin University

Australia is home to some of the most spectacular and enigmatic wildlife on Earth. Much of it, however, is being eaten by two incredibly damaging invasive predators: the feral cat and the red fox.

Each year in Australia, cats and foxes kill an estimated 697 million reptiles, 510 million birds, and 1.4 billion mammals, totalling a staggering 2.6 billion animals. Since the predators were introduced more than 150 years ago, they have contributed to the extinction of more than 25 species – and are pushing many more to the brink.

Research suggests cats and foxes can be more active in areas recently burnt by fire. This is a real concern, especially as climate change increases the frequency and severity of fire in south-eastern Australia.

We urgently need new ways to protect wildlife after fires. Our study trialled one such tool: building artificial refuges across burnt landscapes. The results are promising, but researchers need to find out more.

Video showing a buttonquail using an artificial refuge built by the researchers.

Triple Threat: Cats, Foxes And Fire

Many native animals are well-adapted to fire. But the changing frequency and intensity of fire is posing a considerable threat to much of Australia’s wildlife.

Fire removes vegetation such as grass, leaf litter and shrubs. This leaves fewer places for native animals to shelter and hide, making it easier for cats and foxes to catch them.

We conducted our experiment in three Australian ecosystems: the forests of the Otway Ranges (Victoria), the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert (Queensland) and the woodlands of Kangaroo Island (South Australia). Each had recently been burnt by fire.

We built 76 refuges across these study areas. They were 90cm wide and up to 50m long – and backbreaking to install! They were made from wire mesh, mostly covered by shade cloth. Spacing in the mesh of 50mm allowed small animals to enter and exit from any point, while completely excluding cats, foxes and other larger animals. The shade cloth obstructed the vision of predators.

We then placed remote-sensing camera traps both inside and away from each refuge, and monitored them for periods ranging from four months to four years.

The placement of the cameras meant we could compare the effect of the refuges with what occurred outside them.

What We Found

Across the three study areas, the artificial refuges were used by 56 species or species groups. This included the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, the threatened white-footed dunnart and the threatened southern emu-wren.

For around half the species, we detected more individuals inside the refuges than outside. As we predicted, the activity of small birds and reptiles, in particular, was much higher inside the refuges.

But surprisingly, reptile activity was also generally higher inside the refuges, particularly among skinks. We had not predicted that, because the shade cloth likely made conditions inside the refuges cooler than outside, and reptiles require warmth to regulate their body temperature.

Over time, the number of animals detected inside the refuges generally increased. This was also a surprise. We expected detections inside the refuges to decline through time as the vegetation recovered and the risk of being seen by predators fell.

But there were also a few complicating factors. For example, in the Otway Ranges and Simpson Desert, similar numbers of the mammals were detected inside and away from the refuges. This suggests the species didn’t consider the refuges as particularly safe places, which means the structures may not reduce the risk of these animals becoming prey.

So what’s the upshot of all this? Our findings suggest that establishing artificial refuges after fire may help some small vertebrates, especially small birds and skinks, avoid predators across a range of ecosystems. However, more research is required before this strategy is adopted as a widespread management tool.

Important Next Steps

Almost all evidence for an increase in cat and fox activity after fire comes from Australia, particularly the tropical north. But cats are an invasive species in more than 120 countries and islands.

That means there’s real potential for post-fire damage to wildlife to worsen globally, especially as fire risk increases with climate change.

Our results suggest artificial refuges may be a way to help animals survive after fire. But there are still important questions to answer, such as:

  • can artificial refuges improve the overall abundance and survival of individuals and species?
  • if so, how many refuges would be required to achieve this?
  • in the presence of natural refuges – such as rocks, logs, burrows, and unburnt patches – are artificial refuges needed?
  • does their effectiveness vary between low-severity planned burns and high-severity bushfires?

These questions must be answered. Conservation budgets are tight. After fires, funds must be directed towards actions that we know will work. That evidence is not yet there for artificial refuges.

Our team is busy trying to find out more. We urge other ecologists and conservationists to do so as well. We also encourage collaboration with designers and technologists to improve on our refuge design. For example, can such large refuges be made biodegradable and easier to deploy?

Solving these problems is important. It’s almost impossible to rid the entire Australian continent of cats and foxes. So land managers need all the help they can get to stop these predators from decimating Australia’s incredible wildlife. The Conversation

The impact of roaming pet cats on Australian wildlife.

Darcy Watchorn, PhD Candidate, Deakin UniversityChris Dickman, Professor Emeritus in Terrestrial Ecology, University of Sydney, and Don Driscoll, Professor in Terrestrial Ecology, Deakin University

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

Victoria’s fire alert has knocked Australians out of complacency. Under climate change, catastrophic bushfires can strike any time

David BowmanUniversity of Tasmania

Victorians were braced for the worst on Wednesday amid soaring temperatures and gusty winds, creating the state’s worst fire conditions in years. Authorities have declared a “catastrophic” fire risk in some parts of the state.

At the time of writing, the Bayindeen bushfire near Ballarat was still burning out of control, almost a week after it began. It had razed 21,300 hectares, destroyed six homes and killed livestock. And more than 30,000 people in high-risk areas between Ballarat and Ararat had reportedly been told to leave their homes.

This statewide emergency is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it represent a big test of Australia’s updated fire danger rating system. The new version adopted in 2022 dictates that if a fire takes hold under catastrophic conditions, people should leave an area rather than shelter in place or stay defend their homes.

The second point to note is the timing: late February, when many Australians probably thought the worst of the bushfire season was over. Climate change is bringing not just more frequent and severe fires, but longer fire seasons. That means we must stay on heightened alert for much longer than in the past.

Under Catastrophic Conditions, Leave

The current Australian Fire Danger Rating System was implemented in September 2022. It’s a nationally consistent system based on the latest scientific research.

Authorities hope the system will more accurately predict fire danger. It was also designed to more clearly communicate the danger rating to the public. For example, it involves just four danger ratings, compared to the previous six under the old Victorian regime.

“Catastrophic” fire danger – previously “code red” in Victoria – represents the worst conditions. The main message for the public under these conditions is:

If a fire starts and takes hold, lives are likely to be lost. For your survival leave bushfire risk areas.

Under catastrophic conditions, people are advised to move to a safer location early in the morning or even the day before. Authorities warn “homes cannot withstand fires in these conditions. You may not be able to leave, and help may not be available”.

two fire danger rating systems
The old fire rating system in Victoria, versus the new national system. AFDRS

Lessons From Black Saturday

Australia’s previous fire danger rating system was developed in the 1960s and was formally known as the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index. It initially comprised five risk levels ranging from low-moderate to extreme. However, states were free to adapt the system to their needs, including adding extra categories.

The devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria killed 173 people. Many people died after staying to defend their properties.

The tragedy prompted scrutiny of the fire danger ratings system in Victoria, and the “code red” category was added. The message under those conditions was that those living in a bushfire-prone area should leave. The first code red was declared in 2010, then another in 2019.

That system was replaced by the national system in 2022.

Don’t Stay And Defend

Under the current fire danger rating system, catastrophic conditions mean everyone should leave an area. The leave orders currently issued in Victoria cover many thousands of people, and represent a big test of this advice.

We don’t yet know how many people will heed the advice of authorities. However, at least some people have reportedly decided to stay and defend their properties.

If thousands of others do flee, what will result? Will rural roads be blocked? Do we have the infrastructure to temporarily house all those evacuees? Whether or not the fire situation escalates on Wednesday, there will be much to learn about how we deal with such threats.

Certainly, it’s prudent for people in high-risk areas to leave. In hot, windy conditions, a fire could erupt and take hold in minutes. The collapse of electricity transmission towers in Victoria last week showed the vulnerability of such infrastructure in high winds. It doesn’t take long for downed power lines to ignite the surrounding bush.

Is there a potential alternative to the mass relocation of people in response to a major fire risk? Yes: building communities that are sufficiently fire-proofed to withstand catastrophic fire weather.

This could be achieved through adaptation measures such as building fire bunkers and specially-designed houses. It would also involve carefully managed bushland and creating fire breaks by planting non-flammable plants. It may also include targeted cultural burning by Traditional Owners. These options require further discussion and research.

Our Fire Seasons Are Getting Longer

The current emergency in Victoria shows how Australia’s fire seasons are changing.

It’s late February and summer is almost over. The kids are back at school and the adults are back at work. It seemed southeast Australia had escaped the bad fire summer that many had feared. Few people expected this late-season emergency.

But as climate change escalates, we must expect the unexpected. In a fire-prone continent such as Australia, we can never relax in a warming world. We must be in a constant, heightened state of preparedness.

That means know your risk and prepare your home. Draw up a bushfire survival plan – think about details such as what to do with pets and who will check on vulnerable neighbours. And please, heed the advice of authorities.The Conversation

David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania

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

What we know about last year’s top 10 wild Australian climatic events – from fire and flood combos to cyclone-driven extreme rain

Japan Meteorological Agency, Himawari-8Author provided
Laure PoncetUNSW Sydney and Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne

Fire. Flood. Fire and flood together. Double-whammy storms. Unprecedented rainfall. Heatwaves. Climate change is making some of Australia’s weather more extreme. In 2023, the country was hit by a broad range of particularly intense events, with economy-wide impacts. Winter was the warmest in a record going back to 1910, while we had the driest September since at least 1900.

We often see extreme weather as distinct events in the news. But it can be useful to look at what’s happening over the year.

Today, more than 30 of Australia’s leading climate scientists released a report analysing ten major weather events in 2023, from early fires to low snowpack to compound events.

Can we say how much climate change contributed to these events? Not yet. It normally takes several years of research before we can clearly say what role climate change played. But the longer term trends are well established – more frequent, more intense heatwaves over most of Australia, marine heatwave days more than doubling over the last century, and short, intense rainfall events intensifying in some areas.

What Happened In 2023?

January. Event #1: Record-breaking rain in the north (NT, WA, QLD)

The year began with above-average rainfall in northern Australia influenced by the “triple-dip” La Niña phase.

Some parts of the country were already experiencing heavy rainfall even before Cyclone Ellie arrived. From late December 2022 to early January 2023, Ellie brought heavy rainfall to Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, resulting in a one-in-100-year flooding of the Fitzroy River. Interestingly, Cyclone Ellie was only a “weak” Category 1 tropical cyclone. So why did it cause so much damage? In their analysis, climate scientists suggest it was actually low wind speeds in the mid-troposphere which allowed the system to stall and keep raining.

February–March. Event 2: Extreme rain and food shortages (NT, QLD)

Climate scientists observed the same behaviour from late February to early March 2023, when a persistent slow-moving low-pressure system known as a monsoonal low dumped heavy, widespread rain over the Northern Territory and north-west Queensland. The resulting floods cut transport routes in the NT, and led to food shortages.

June–August. Event 3 and 4: Warmest winter, little snow (NSW)

After a wet start to the year, conditions became drier and warmer in southern and eastern Australia. New South Wales experienced its warmest winter on record, with daily maximums more than 2°C above the long-term average.

The unusual heat and lack of precipitation translated into the second-worst snow season on record (the worst was 2006).

September. Event 5: Record heatwave (SA)

In September, South Australia faced a record-breaking heatwave. Temperatures reached as high as 38°C in Ceduna. As warming continues, scientists suggest unusual heat and heatwaves during the cool season will become more frequent and intense.

September also saw El Niño and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole declared by the Bureau of Meteorology. When these two climate drivers combine, we have a higher chance of a warm and dry Australia, particularly during late winter and spring.

October. Event 6, 7 and 8: Fire-and-flood compound event (VIC), compound wind and rain storms (TAS), unusually early fires (QLD)

Dry conditions gave rise to an unseasonably early fire season in Victoria and Queensland. In October, Queensland’s Western Downs region was hit hard. Dozens of houses and two lives were lost in the town of Tara.

The same month, Victoria’s Gippsland region was hit by back-to-back fires and floods, a phenomenon known as a compound event.

While it’s difficult to attribute these events to climate change, scientists say hot and dry winters make Australia more prone to early season fires.

Also in October, a different compound event struck Tasmania in the form of successive low-pressure systems. The first dumped a month’s worth of rain in a few days over much of the state, while the second brought strong winds. The rain from the first storm loosened the soil, making it easier for trees to be blown down.

Scientists say the combined effects were more severe than if just one of these events occurred without the other. Such extreme wind-and-rain compound events are expected to occur more frequently in regions such as the tropics as the climate continues to change.

November. Event 9: Supercell thunderstorm trashed crops (QLD)

In November, a supercell thunderstorm hit Queensland’s south-east, destroying A$50 million worth of crops and farming equipment. Initial research suggests extreme winds and thunderstorms may become more likely under climate change, but more work is needed.

crops hailstorm
The hailstorm ripped through crops in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, a big agricultural area. Shutterstock

December. Event 10: Unprecedented flooding from Cyclone Jasper (QLD)

In mid-December, Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall as a Category 2 tropical cyclone in north Queensland. The system weakened into a tropical low and then stalled over Cape York. The weather system’s northerly winds drew in moist air from the Coral Sea, which collided with drier winds from the south-east. This caused persistent heavy rainfall over the region – up to 2 metres in places. Catchments flooded across the region, causing widespread damage to roads, buildings and crops. Similar to ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie, most damage occurred after landfall as the system stalled and dumped rain.

Climate Change Can Make Extreme Weather Even More Extreme

It’s generally easier to identify and understand the role of human-caused climate change in large-scale extreme events, particularly temperature extremes. So we can say 2023’s exceptional winter heat was probably intensified by what we have done to the climate system.

For smaller-scale extremes, it is often harder to determine the role of climate change, but there’s some evidence short, intense rainfall events are getting even more intense as the world warms. Early-season bushfires and low snow cover are consistent with what we expect under global warming.

There’s also an increasing threat from the risk of compound events where concurrent or consecutive extreme events can amplify damage.

Australia’s intense weather events during 2023 are broadly what we can expect to see as the world keeps getting hotter and hotter due to the heat-trapping greenhouse gases humanity continues to emit. The Conversation

Laure Poncet, Research officer, UNSW Sydney and Andrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of Melbourne

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

Not such a bright idea: cooling the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space is a dangerous distraction

James KerryJames Cook UniversityAarti GuptaWageningen University, and Terry HughesJames Cook University

The United Nations Environment Assembly this week considered a resolution on solar radiation modification, which refers to controversial technologies intended to mask the heating effect of greenhouse gases by reflecting some sunlight back to space.

Proponents argue the technologies will limit the effects of climate change. In reality, this type of “geoengineering” risks further destabilising an already deeply disturbed climate system. What’s more, its full impacts cannot be known until after deployment.

The draft resolution initially called for the convening of an expert group to examine the benefits and risks of solar radiation modification. The motion was withdrawn on Thursday after no consensus could be reached on the controversial topic.

A notable development was a call from some Global South countries for a “non-use agreement” on solar radiation modification. We strongly support this position. Human-caused climate change is already one planetary-scale experiment too many – we don’t need another.

A Risky Business

In some circles, solar geoengineering is gaining prominence as a response to the climate crisis. However, research has consistently identified potential risks posed by the technologies such as:

Here, we discuss several examples of solar radiation modification which exemplify the threats posed by these technologies. These are also depicted in the graphic below.

An infographic showing the potential unintended effects of various solar engineering methods.
An infographic showing the effects of solar engineering methods. Authors provided

A Load Of Hot Air

In April 2022, an American startup company released two weather balloons into the air from Mexico. The experiment was conducted without approval from Mexican authorities.

The intent was to cool the atmosphere by deflecting sunlight. The resulting reduction in warming would be sold for profit as “cooling credits” to those wanting to offset greenhouse gas pollution.

Appreciably cooling the climate would, in reality, require injecting millions of metric tons of aerosols into the stratosphere, using a purpose-built fleet of high-altitude aircraft. Such an undertaking would alter global wind and rainfall patterns, leading to more drought and cyclones, exacerbating acid rainfall and slowing ozone recovery.

Once started, this stratospheric aerosol injection would need to be carried out continually for at least a century to achieve the desired cooling effect. Stopping prematurely would lead to an unprecedented rise in global temperatures far outpacing extreme climate change scenarios.

cracked, dry earth
Injecting aerosols into the atmosphere may lead to more droughts. Shutterstock

Heads In The Clouds

Another solar geoengineering technology, known as marine cloud brightening, seeks to make low-lying clouds more reflective by spraying microscopic seawater droplets into the air. Since 2017, trials have been underway on the Great Barrier Reef.

The project is tiny in scale, and involves pumping seawater onto a boat and spraying it from nozzles towards the sky. The project leader says the mist-generating machine would need to be scaled up by a factor of ten, to about 3,000 nozzles, to brighten nearby clouds by 30%.

After years of trials, the project has not yet produced peer-reviewed empirical evidence that cloud brightening could reduce sea surface temperatures or protect corals from bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy. Scaling up attempts at cloud brightening would require up to 1,000 machines on boats, all pumping and spraying vast amounts of seawater for months during summer. Even if it worked, the operation is hardly, as its proponents claim, “environmentally benign”.

The technology’s effects remain unclear. For the Great Barrier Reef, less sunlight and lower temperatures could alter water movement and mixing, harming marine life. Marine life may also be killed by pumps or negatively affected by the additional noise pollution. And on land, marine cloud brightening may lead to altered rainfall patterns and increased salinity, damaging agriculture.

More broadly, 101 governments last year agreed to a statement describing marine-based geoengineering, including cloud brightening, as having “the potential for deleterious effects that are widespread, long-lasting or severe”.

A cloud brightening field trip in 2021 (Southern Cross University)

Balls, Bubbles And Foams

The Arctic Ice Project involves spreading a layer of tiny glass spheres over large regions of sea ice to brighten its surface and halt ice loss.

Trials have been conducted on frozen lakes in North America. Scientists recently showed the spheres actually absorb some sunlight, speeding up sea-ice loss in some conditions.

Another proposed intervention is spraying the ocean with microbubbles or sea foam to make the surface more reflective. This would introduce large concentrations of chemicals to stabilise bubbles or foam at the sea surface, posing significant risk to marine life, ecosystem function and fisheries.

No More Distractions

Some scientists investigating solar geoengineering discuss the need for “exit ramps” – the termination of research once a proposed intervention is deemed to be technically infeasible, too risky or socially unacceptable. We believe this point has already been reached.

Since 2022, more than 500 scientists from 61 countries have signed an open letter calling for an international non-use agreement on solar geoengineering. Aside from the types of risks discussed above, the letter said the speculative technologies detract from the urgent need to cut global emissions, and that no global governance system exists to fairly and effectively regulate their deployment.

Calls for outdoor experimentation of the technologies are misguided and detract energy and resources from what we need to do today: phase out fossil fuels and accelerate a just transition worldwide.

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and global responses have been woefully inadequate. Humanity must not pursue dangerous distractions that do nothing to tackle the root causes of climate change, come with incalculable risk, and will likely further delay climate action.The Conversation

James Kerry, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University, Australia and Senior Marine and Climate Scientist, OceanCare, Switzerland, James Cook UniversityAarti Gupta, Professor of Global Environmental Governance, Wageningen University, and Terry Hughes, Distinguished Professor, James Cook University

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

As Varroa spreads, now is the time to fight for Australia’s honey bees – and you can help

Nic Vevers/ANU
Alexander MikheyevAustralian National University

A tiny foe threatens Australian beekeepers’ livelihood, our food supply and the national economy. First detected in New South Wales in 2022, the Varroa mite is now established in Australia.

The parasitic mite, which feeds on honey bees and transmits bee viruses, has since spread across New South Wales.

It is expected to kill virtually all unmanaged honey bees living in the bush (also known as “feral” honey bees), which provide ecosystem-wide pollination. Honey bees managed by beekeepers will survive only with constant and costly use of pesticides.

As the last holdout against Varroa, Australia has a key advantage – we can still take action that was impossible elsewhere. We know Varroa-resistant bees would be the silver bullet. Despite decades of research, no fully resistant strains exist, largely because the genetics of Varroa resistance are complex and remain poorly understood.

A recently released national management plan places a heavy focus on beekeeper education, aiming to transition the industry to self-management in two years. This leaves research gaps that need to be urgently filled – and we can all work together to help tackle these.

Unlocking The Genetic Key To Resistance

Without human intervention, Varroa kills around 95% of the honey bees it infects, but the survivors can evolve resistance. However, losing almost all bees would decimate Australia’s agriculture.

Our feral honey bees will have no choice but to evolve resistance, as they have in other countries. However, feral honey bees are not suited for beekeeping as they are too aggressive, don’t stay with the hive and don’t produce enough honey.

In principle, we could breed for a combination of feral resistance and domestic docility. But figuring out the genetics of how feral bees resist Varroa has been a challenge. As most bees exposed to the parasite will die, the survivors will be genetically different.

Some of these differences will be due to natural selection, but most will be due to chance. Identifying the genes responsible for resistance in this scenario is difficult. The best way to find them is to measure genetic changes before and after Varroa infestation. But to do that, we need bee populations largely unaffected by Varroa.

This is where our unique Australian opportunity comes in. We have a small and vanishing window to collect bees before the inevitable rapid spread of the mites, and the mass die-offs, occur.

Close-up of the octagonal cells of a beehive with a small red-brown speck visible
A Varroa mite visible in a beehive – they mainly reproduce on bee larvae. Igor Chus/Shutterstock

We Are Collecting Information… And Bees

My lab at the Australian National University’s Research School of Biology has started collecting data on feral bee populations around New South Wales to identify pre-Varroa genetic diversity.

We will also monitor changes in bee population size and the spread of viruses and mites.

The most efficient way to collect bees is to go to a local clearing, such as a sports oval surrounded by forest. Unbeknownst to the cricket players, honey bee males (that is, drones) congregate at these sites by the thousands on sunny afternoons looking for mates.

You can lure them with some queen pheromone suspended from a balloon, and sweep them up with a butterfly net. Bee drones have no stinger and only come out for a couple of hours when the weather is fantastic, making collecting them literally a walk in the park, suitable for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

A man with a beard and glasses holding a small honey bee on his fingertips
The author pictured with a stingless male honey bee (a drone) collected for genetic research into Varroa resistance. Nic Vevers/ANU

Anyone Can Help

You can help this effort by collecting some drones in your local area – this would save us time and carbon emissions from driving all over the country. We will provide pheromone lures, instructions, and materials for sending the bees back via mail. By sacrificing a few drones for the research now, we might save millions of bees in the future.

If you can spare just a couple of summer afternoons, this would give two timepoints at your location, and we can monitor any changes as the Varroa infestation progresses. More information can be found on our website.

Apart from our project, there are also other urgent research questions. For example, how will native forests respond to the loss of their dominant pollinators? Will honey bee viruses spread into other insects?

Work on these and other projects also requires pre-Varroa data. Unfortunately, Varroa falls through our research infrastructure net. Most of Australia’s agricultural funding is industry-led, however, the beekeeping industry is small and lacks the resources to tackle Varroa research while also reeling from its impacts.

Other industries that rely on honey bees for pollination, including most fruit, nut and berry growers, have diverse research needs and are one step removed from the actual problem.

Together, we can take action to save Australia’s honey bees and assure security for our key pollinators.The Conversation

Alexander Mikheyev, Professor, ANU Bee lab, Australian National University

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

Secrets in the canopy: scientists discover 8 striking new bee species in the Pacific

James Dorey Photography
James B. DoreyUniversity of WollongongAmy-Marie GilpinWestern Sydney University, and Olivia DaviesFlinders University

After a decade searching for new species of bees in forests of the Pacific Islands, all we had to do was look up.

We soon found eight new species of masked bees in the forest canopy: six in Fiji, one in French Polynesia and another in Micronesia. Now we expect to find many more.

Forest-dwelling bees evolved for thousands of years alongside native plants, and play unique and important roles in nature. Studying these species can help us better understand bee evolution, diversity and conservation.

Almost 21,000 bee species are known to science. Many more remain undiscovered. But it’s a race against time, as the twin challenges of habitat loss and climate change threaten bee survival. We need to identify and protect bee species before they disappear forever.

A group of research students using stepping stones to cross a creek in the rainforest while carrying sampling nets on short poles
Searching for bees in the rainforest on Vanua Levu, formerly known as Sandalwood Island, the second largest island of Fiji. James Dorey Photography

Introducing The New Masked Bees

Pollinators abound in forests. But scientific research has tended to focus on bees living closer to the ground.

We believe this sampling bias is replicated across much of the world. For example, another related Oceanic masked bee, Pharohylaeus lactiferus (a cloaked bee), was recently found in the canopy after 100 years in hiding.

Closeup of one of the new masked bees showing the yellow markings on its face
This masked bee was collected from a canopy-flowering mistletoe near Mount Nadarivatu on Viti Levu, Fiji. James Dorey Photography

Our first decade of bee sampling in Fiji turned up only one bee from the genus Hylaeus. This bee probably belonged in the canopy so we were very lucky to catch it near the ground. Targeted attempts over the next few years, using our standard short insect nets, failed to find any more.

But this changed when we turned our attention to searching the forest canopy.

Sampling in the canopy is physically challenging. Strength and skill are required to sweep a long, heavy net and pole through the treetops. It’s quite a workout. We limit our efforts to the edges of forests, where branches won’t tangle the whole contraption.

By lifting our gaze in this way, we discovered eight new bee species, all in the genus Hylaeus. They are mostly black with stunning yellow or white highlights, especially on their faces – hence the name, masked bees.

They appear to rely exclusively on the forest canopy. This behaviour is striking and has rarely been identified in bees before (perhaps because few scientists have been looking for bees up there).

Because the new species live in forests and native tree tops, they’re likely to be vulnerable to land clearing, cyclones and climate change.

More work is needed to uncover the secrets hidden in these dense tropical treetops. It may require engineering solutions such as canopy cranes and drones, as well as skilful tree-climbing using ropes, pulleys and harnesses.

Michener’s Missing Links

The journey of bees across the Pacific region is a tale of great dispersals and isolation.

Almost 60 years ago, world-renowned bee expert Charles Michener described what was probably the most isolated masked bee around, Hylaeus tuamotuensis.

Searching for bees on Fiji’s highest peak, Mount Tomanivi, here two researchers are picking a path through dense undergrowth while carrying nets on short poles
Fiji’s highest peak, Mount Tomanivi, is home to unique bee species. James Dorey Photography

The specimen was found in French Polynesia. At the time, Michener said that was “entirely unexpected”, because the nearest relatives were, as the bee flies, 4,000km north in Hawaii, 5,000km southwest in New Zealand, and 6,000km west in Australia.

So how did it get there and where did it come from?

Our research helps to answer these questions. We found eight new Hylaeus species including one from French Polynesia. Using genetic analysis and other methods, we found strong links between these species and H. tuamotuensis.

So Michener’s bee was probably an ancient immigrant from Fiji, 3,000km away. A journey of that magnitude is no mean feat for bees smaller than a grain of rice.

Of course, there are more than 1,700 islands in the Pacific, which can serve as stepping stones for bees on their long journeys.

We don’t yet know how many new Hylaeus species might exist in the South Pacific, or the routes they took to get to their island homes. But we suspect there are many more to be found.

Our Pacific Emissaries

The early origins of Fijian bees – both ground-dwelling Homalictus and forest-loving Hylaeus – can be traced to the ancient past when Australia and New Guinea were part of one land mass, known as Sahul. The ancestors of both groups then undertook epic oceanic journeys to travel from Sahul to the furthest reaches of the Pacific, where they diversified. But the Hylaeus travelled furthest, by thousands of kilometres.

These little emissaries have similarly brought together researchers across the region. We resolved difficulties sampling and gathering knowledge by working with people across the Pacific, including Fiji, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. It shows what can be accomplished with international collaboration.

Together we are making great strides towards understanding our shared bee biodiversity. Such collaborations are our best chance of discovering and conserving species while we can.

We would like to thank Ben Parslow and Karl Magnacca for their contribution to this article. We would further like to thank our collaborators and their home institutions, the Hawiian Department of Land and Natural Resources, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, University of the South Pacific, the South Australian Museum and Adelaide University.The Conversation

James B. Dorey, Lecturer in Biological Sciences, University of WollongongAmy-Marie Gilpin, Lecturer in Invertebrate Ecology, Western Sydney University, and Olivia Davies, , Flinders University

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

From crickets in Melbourne to grasshoppers in Cairns, here’s what triggers an insect outbreak

David Rentz
David RentzJames Cook University

In recent weeks, Melburnians have reported thousands of crickets showing up in large numbers after dark, flying into homes and shops and taking up residence.

The insect in question is the widespread, native black field cricket (Teleogryllus commodus).

Some media reports have described the swarms as a “plague”. This is not quite accurate, because scientists in Australia reserve that term for serious pests such as mice and some locusts. It’s best to call the present phenomenon an “outbreak”.

So what triggers these outbreaks, and how can we best live alongside insects as they go through these cycles of boom and bust?

Why The Crickets Moved To Melbourne

Black field crickets are not usually pests – the insects belong here and their song is that of the Australian bush. Crickets are a valuable food source for birds, reptiles and mammals.

Males sing every night by rubbing their wings together. They can easily be distinguished from females by the absence of the needle-like organ called an ovipositor that the females use for laying eggs.

Black field crickets are notorious for breeding in large numbers then flying to new sites at night.

Recent unseasonal and persistent rain fostered the growth of plants and insects, supplying ample food for the crickets. This is the most likely trigger for the extraordinarily large numbers we’re seeing.

The crickets may have flown in on persistent winds, or maybe the city lights attracted them. Nocturnal insects use light to work out which way is up, so they find artificial light confusing.

Cooler weather will help keep crickets in their natural habitat, where they belong. The hot weather would have stimulated their movement and spurred them on, because crickets are more active when it’s warm.

Tips For Dealing With The Crickets

Crickets are naturally attracted to light sources during the night. This can lead them to enter indoor spaces – often through small openings such as cracks around doors, or through windows or vents.

Keeping crickets out of your home can be challenging. Start by turning off outdoor lights and closing curtains and blinds. Seal entry points and install insect screens.

Changing outdoor lights from bright white to yellow will also help to deter insects.

If crickets do enter your home, they can easily be caught in a jar and taken outside.

A lack of humidity means crickets don’t survive indoors for more than a few days. Females require soil to lay their eggs, which means they won’t breed inside the home.

As an aside, if you fancy a cricket as a pet, they can be kept alive for a few weeks in a takeaway plastic container with some air holes. Captive crickets should be provided with a source of water such as a wet cotton ball in a jar lid. They can be fed muesli and a bit of apple, which provides another source of moisture. The water and the moist food raises the humidity to a suitable level.

Other Insects Swarm, Too

Rain often triggers insect outbreaks.

In Far North Queensland, where I live, we had almost 2 metres of rain in less than a week during Cyclone Jasper. And the rain persists. This has caused some insects that normally occur in small numbers to reproduce abnormally.

Cairns is a favoured destination for multiple grasshopper species that thrive in warm, wet conditions. They have been known to trouble Cairns Airport, but authorities there now have a good Wildlife Hazard Management Plan in place.

In Canberra, huge numbers of bogong moths have been known to infiltrate Parliament House for few weeks en route to the Australian Alps, where they spend the summer. The moths reproduce during wet years and the following season, they migrate in great numbers.

The widespread little Upolu meadow katydid (Conocephalus upoluensis) also breeds in large numbers after good rain. Adults fly to lights, often in their hundreds, and can be seen at outback petrol stations and cafes. As with most of these outbreaks, their presence is shortlived.

A male Upolu meadow katydid (_Conocephalus upoluensis_) sitting on a blade of gtass
Katydids or bush crickets also breed up in response to rainy weather. David Rentz

Looking Ahead

Under climate change, plagues of some insects such as locusts are expected to worsen as a result of increased heat and extreme rains.

However, climate change is also expected to lead to declines in some insect species. This compounds other harms caused by humans such as habitat loss and pollution.

Those pressures mean insect populations may be moving into new, populated areas in search of more favourable conditions.

All that said, we can expect insect outbreaks to happen again. My advice for those in Melbourne is just to wait until the crickets move on – and in the meantime, enjoy the spectacle of nature.The Conversation

David Rentz, Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University

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

On fisheries, Australia must be prepared for New Zealand as opponent rather than ally

Tara Lambourne/Shutterstock
Lynda GoldsworthyUniversity of Tasmania

On February 1, senior Australian and New Zealand ministers signed a Joint Statement of Cooperation, acknowledging the long history of collaboration between the two nations.

The same week, New Zealand rejected an Australian proposal on sustainable fishing at the annual fisheries meeting of nations that fish in the high seas of the South Pacific. The move has driven a wedge between these traditional allies.

At stake was an agreement by those nations to protect 70% of special and vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as ancient corals, from destructive fishing practices like bottom-trawling.

Until December 2023, NZ was jointly leading the work to implement this agreement with Australia. But New Zealand’s new government, a coalition of conservative parties, rejected the proposed restrictions, citing concerns about jobs and development.

This sudden about-face raises many questions for Australia, and for progress on sustainable fishing more generally. On fishing, Australia must now be prepared to consider New Zealand an opponent rather than ally.

Sustainable Fishing Alliance No More?

In 2009, Australia, New Zealand and Chile led successful negotiations for a convention governing sustainable fishing in the South Pacific high seas beyond a nation’s marine exclusive economic zones, meaning more than 370km off the coast. The goal was to make sure fish stocks were not fished out and to protect marine ecosystems. (Tuna are not included, as they are dealt with under a separate convention.)

Since then, New Zealand and Australia have led much of the development of regulations governing the sustainable use of deepwater fish species and the conservation of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the South Pacific region. Their work led to the first measures governing deepwater fisheries, science-based catch limits for deepwater species, and a joint assessment of seafloor fishing methods such as trawling.

But the idea of banning or restricting trawling was controversial. Bottom-trawling, in which boats deploy giant nets that scrape along the ocean floor, is very effective – so much so that it can devastate everything in its path.

In 2015, the United Nations’ first worldwide ocean assessment found bottom-trawling causes widespread, long-term destruction to deep-sea environments wherever it is done. Scientists have compared it to clear-felling a forest. The practice is banned in the Mediterranean and in shallow waters of the Southern Ocean, and is increasingly restricted by many nations, including Australia.

fishing nets underwater
Bottom trawling is effective – but can lay waste to everything else living in the deep. Allexxandar/Shutterstock

The UN has repeatedly called for better protection, as well as specific actions to make it a reality. And many nations and organisations are heeding that call.

The science is clear. But the politics is not. International waters in the South Pacific are one of the few areas where deepwater bottom-trawling is still permitted on seamounts – underwater mountains rich in life – and similar features.

Last year, South Pacific nations agreed to protect a minimum of 70% of marine ecosystems vulnerable to damage from fishing. This agreement came from research done largely by New Zealand.

Other countries pushed for a higher level of protection, but New Zealand insisted on 70% to ensure its fishing could continue. These kinds of compromises are common at meetings like this.

The meeting in February was meant to agree on how to make the consensus decision a reality. But it was not to be. Now that NZ has withdrawn support, the original decision remains but without the mechanisms to make it happen. Bottom-trawling will likely continue in the South Pacific.

Why? The new NZ fisheries minister, Shane Jones, has publicly stated he was “keen to ensure that, number one, we’re looking after our own people, looking after jobs and opportunities for economic development to benefit New Zealand.”

While high seas fishing is an important industry for New Zealand, their bottom trawling activity in the South Pacific is small. One vessel fished the bottom in 2021-2022, catching only 20 tonnes of orange roughy. No bottom trawling has happened since then.

fishing boats in Auckland
New Zealand’s seafood exports are economically important. krug_100/Shutterstock

Since coming to power, New Zealand’s new government has questioned 2030 renewable energy targets, promised to “address climate change hysteria”, declared mining more important than nature protection – and supported bottom-trawling.

Many of these changes will be of considerable concern to Australia. For the past 15 years, Australia has taken a prominent leadership role – alongside New Zealand – in sustainable ocean management.

With Pacific island nations, Australia and NZ worked long and hard to progress the High Seas Treaty – a breakthrough opening new legal avenues to protect up to 30% of the unregulated high seas where illegal and exploitative fishing practices are common.

The NZ government’s willingness to jettison long collaborative work, abandon agreed commitments and risk existing agreements bodes poorly for cooperation across the Tasman. Australia must sadly now treat New Zealand as an opponent when it comes to protecting the seas and managing fisheries for the long term. The Conversation

Lynda Goldsworthy, Research Associate, University of Tasmania

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

Is there an alternative to 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines? Yes – but you may not like it

Magnus SöderbergGriffith University and Phillip WildGriffith University

Building transmission lines is often controversial. Farmers who agree to host new lines on their property may be paid, while other community members protest against the visual intrusion. Pushback against new lines has slowed development and forced the government to promise more consultation.

It’s not a new problem. Communities questioned the routes of earlier transmission lines built during the 1950s-70s to link new coal and hydroelectric plants to the cities.

But this time, the transition has to be done at speed. Shifting from the old coal grid to a green grid requires new transmission lines. In its future system planning, Australia’s energy market operator sees the need for 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines in the five states (and the Australian Capital Territory) which make up the National Energy Market.

Do we need all of these new transmission lines? Or will the “staggering growth” of solar on houses and warehouses coupled with cheaper energy storage mean some new transmission lines are redundant?

The answer depends on how we think of electricity. Is it an essential service that must be reliable more than 99.9% of the time? If so, yes, we need these new lines. But if we think of it as a regular service, we would accept a less reliable (99%) service in exchange for avoiding some new transmission lines. This would be a fundamental change in how we think of power.

Why Do We Need These New Transmission Lines?

The old grid was built around connecting a batch of fossil fuel plants via transmission lines to consumers in the towns and cities. To build this grid – one of the world’s largest by distance covered – required 40,000 km of transmission lines.

The new grid is based around gathering energy from distributed renewables from many parts of the country. The market operator foresees a nine-fold increase in the total capacity of large scale solar and wind plants, which need transmission lines.

That’s why the market operator lays out integrated systems plans every two years. The goal is to give energy users the best value by designing the lowest-cost way to secure reliable energy able to meet any emissions goals set by policymakers.

To avoid having to build transmission lines everywhere, policymakers have opted to group renewables in “renewable energy zones” with good wind or solar resources, and build transmission lines just to the zones.

According to the market operator, the major reasons why we need such a strong transmission network are:

– to harness flows of variable renewable power from different regions to make sure the system is reliable

– to cope with outages or shortfalls in supply. If a cloud band cuts solar farm output in one state, the grid can draw on solar from another state.

– boosting regional economies with advanced manufacturing and production of emerging green products and technologies.

So while 10,000 km sounds like a lot, it’s been kept to the minimum.

transmission lines on farmland
Transmission lines are necessary – but people often don’t want them nearby. Ruud Morijn Photographer/Shutterstock

What If Rooftop Solar Takes Over?

Even so, some energy insiders question whether we need all these new transmission lines.

What if the growth of behind-the-meter energy resources such as rooftop solar, grid-connected home batteries and electric cars begin to cut demand from the grid?

About one in three households now have solar on their rooftops – the highest solar take up per capita in the world. And as more electric cars arrive in driveways, we will start using their large batteries as a backup power supply for our homes – or to sell the power on the grid. Could it be that cities could make their own power, as Nationals leader David Littleproud has called for?

Planners at Australia’s market operator do anticipate ever-greater levels of rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles. Their latest forecasts see these resources with enough capacity to power 30% of the grid by the end of the decade and 45% by mid-century.

These are substantial contributions, but not enough to power a nation. As we move to electrify everything, we will need to roughly double how much electricity we produce. Electricity is a much more efficient way to power transport, for instance, but switching from petrol to electric vehicles will mean more grid demand.

Having said that, we cannot be certain. When we model ways of giving up fossil fuels and ending emissions, there is always major uncertainty over what shape the future will take. Some technologies may splutter while others surge ahead.

recharging electric car with grid in background
Over time, more of us will use electric vehicle batteries to store power or to send it back to the grid. Owlie Productions/Shutterstock

We Could Trade New Transmission Lines For A Less Reliable Supply

At present, electricity is considered an essential service under national electricity laws. That means there has to be enough power 99.998% of the time. To meet that threshold, outages have to be kept to ten minutes in a year.

Making electricity an essential service is a choice. We could choose differently. If we decided electricity should be a regular service, where 99% reliability is OK (translating to outages of up to 87 hours a year), we would be able to get away with fewer new transmission lines.

That’s because wealthier households would likely respond to more outages by investing more in big solar arrays and batteries. Some would become energy self-sufficient and cut ties with the grid.

In this scenario, self-generation by the rich would mean a reduced demand on the grid, and we might be able to get away with building fewer new transmission lines.

But we should be careful here. If we took this approach, we would reshape society. The rich would be insulated while poorer households deal with the pain of power outages. The idea of the grid as a public good would begin to disappear. The Conversation

Magnus Söderberg, Professor & Director, Centre for Applied Energy Economics and Policy Research, Griffith University and Phillip Wild, Senior Research Fellow, CAEEPR, Griffith University

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

When homes already hit 40°C inside, it’s better to draw on residents’ local know-how than plan for climate change from above

Sebastian Pfautsch/Western Sydney University
Abby Mellick LopesUniversity of Technology SydneyCameron TonkinwiseUniversity of Technology Sydney, and Stephen HealyWestern Sydney University

Weather extremes driven by climate change hit low-income communities harder. The reasons include poor housing and lack of access to safe and comfortable public spaces. This makes “climate readiness” a pressing issue for governmentscity planners and emergency services in fast-growing areas such as Western Sydney.

We work with culturally diverse residents and social housing providers in Western Sydney to explore how they’re adapting to increasing heat. Residents hosted heat data loggers inside and outside their homes.

Last summer was relatively mild, but we recorded temperatures as high as 40°C inside some homes. Recalling a heatwave in 2019, one resident said: “The clay had cracks in the grass that you could almost twist your ankles.”

We correlated these data with what residents and social housing providers told us about managing the heat and what is needed to do this better. Different cultural groups used different strategies. Through the project, residents shared a wealth of collective knowledge about what they can do to adapt to the extremes of a changing climate.

Air Conditioning Has Limitations

Official responses to climate extremes typically rely on a retreat indoors. These “last resort” shelters depend in most cases on a reliable electricity supply, which can be cut during heatwaves.

There have been efforts, but not in Australia, to establish a “passive survivability” building code. The aim is to ensure homes remain tolerably cool during a heatwave (or warm during a cold snap) even if power is cut for a number of days.

We recognise air conditioning is vital for vulnerable populations, including older people and those with health conditions, but we do not want to give up on going outside!

Outdoors, approaches such as pop-up cooling hubs for the homeless are compassionate. While important, such approaches don’t get beyond “coping”.

There’s also a risk of perpetuating a deficit narrative that sees the city’s poorest as lacking capacity to act on their circumstances. Our strengths-based action research approach looks for alternative solutions that draw on the collective knowledge and practices already found in communities.

‘My house is an oven’ – a look at the problem of hot housing in Western Sydney.

How Was The Research Done?

Our project, Living with Urban Heat: Becoming Climate Ready in Social Housing, is part of a broader research program, Cooling the Commons. Its focus is the role of shared spaces and knowledge in designing climate-resilient cities.

We use participatory design methods. Adaptation strategies are developed by working with people who are already attuned to their place and community.

In a first step, to get a better grasp on the micro-climates at each site, residents hosted data loggers in their homes. The data show that the location, degree of urban density and type of housing influence residents’ experience of heat.

In Windsor, for example, the extremes are felt inside the home. Last summer, loggers in Windsor and Richmond recorded 69 days above 30°C. On average, temperatures inside were 6°C warmer than outside and hit 40°C four occasions.

Further east in Riverwood and Parramatta recorded lower temperatures. However, for project researcher Sebastian Pfautsch, these data also highlighted the urban heat island effect. In Riverwood, the average day and night temperatures were 25.8°C and 25.4°C respectively, as brick surfaces hold the heat.

We correlated these data with what residents and social housing providers told us about how they manage heat and comfort in their different places.

Inside a home showing a chest of drawers with ornaments on top and a data logger installed in the corner
A heat data logger installed in one of the homes in the study. Climate-Ready in Social Housing Team

So How Do Residents Manage The Heat?

At bilingual design workshops across the locations, themes from the interviews between groups of residents were shared.

Residents who said “I retreat” felt trapped rather than safe in their poorly adapted homes.

“Taking comfort” meant using ice, water spray, sheets and towels to cool spaces and bodies. Chinese residents used foods such as rice porridge congee to cool down. Residents also took comfort from housing providers and neighbours checking on their wellbeing on hot days.

Residents with access to a car “chased the air”. This meant moving between air-conditioned spaces: friends’ homes, coffee shops and supermarkets.

Residents without cars used cool spots, such as public libraries, that they could get to by public transport. Others whose families have lived in the area for decades used their local knowledge to chase the “Dee Why Doctor” and other local breezes, as well as sitting in the river.

Residents often return, though, to a home that has baked in the heat all day.

They had ingenious ways to get air moving with windows, doors and fans. “Making the air” was an important pattern across the groups.

Air movement was as important for bodily comfort as a cooler temperature, particularly for people who found it hard to breathe in the heat. As one participant said: “It’s stuffy in the bedroom. It’s really hard sometimes […] I feel I can’t open the window because of the smells and noise.”

Residents also created “rules” to manage the heat in their homes. These ranged from opening and closing doors and windows at certain times, to keeping lights off, to avoiding baking, to rationing air conditioning.

The groups benefited from sharing these themes. For example, the Chinese community, most of whom did not drive, had never thought of “chasing the air”. On the other hand, using congee to feel cooler was news for others.

Post-it notes in Chinese and English from the workshop
In the workshops, different cultural groups shared their experiences of heat and strategies to manage it. Climate-Ready in Social Housing Team

Collective Adaptation Works Best

In each community, sharing these approaches prompted a broader conversation about more collective forms of adaptation, including shared spaces and practices in the built and natural environments.

This research is raising questions. There is a tension, for example, between the enclosure that air conditioning requires and the movement of fresh air many residents see as healthy. What implications might this have for a cooling hubs blueprint and the future of social housing, particularly where a need for security often means blocked openings and locked doors?

Climate-readiness does not mean reinforcing inadequate technical solutions that shut us in, or barely remedial solutions. These reduce us to what philosopher Georgio Agamben termed a “bare life”, a condition that precludes the possibility of a good one. That need not be so.

Our research is trialling adaptive practices, drawing on local knowledge of cool spaces (both natural and built), and sharing these practices across cultures. It shows we can reimagine climate-readiness as part of a flourishing community.

The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of all co-researchers in the Climate-Ready in Social Housing team.The Conversation

Abby Mellick Lopes, Associate Professor, Design Studies, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology SydneyCameron Tonkinwise, Professor, School of Design, University of Technology Sydney, and Stephen Healy, Associate Professor, Human Geography and Urban Studies School of Social Sciences/ Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

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

We can’t say yet if grid-breaking thunderstorms are getting worse – but we shouldn’t wait to find out

Janelle Lugge/Shutterstock
Andrew DowdyThe University of MelbourneAndrew BrownThe University of MelbourneAndrew KingThe University of MelbourneClaire VincentThe University of MelbourneMichael BrearThe University of MelbournePierluigi MancarellaThe University of Melbourne, and Todd LaneThe University of Melbourne

On February 13, six transmission line towers in Victoria were destroyed by extreme wind gusts from thunderstorms, leading to forced electricity outages affecting tens of thousands of people. The intense winds knocked trees onto local power lines or toppled the poles, which caused about 500,000 people to lose power. Some people went without electricity for more than a week. A month earlier, severe thunderstorms and wind took out five transmission towers in Western Australia and caused widespread outages.

Intense thunderstorm events have made news in recent years, including the January 2020 storms that caused the collapse of six transmission towers in Victoria. Perhaps the most far-reaching storms were those in 2016, when all of South Australia lost power for several hours after extreme winds damaged many transmission towers.

So are these thunderstorms with extreme winds getting worse as the climate changes? It’s possible, but we can’t yet say for sure. That’s partly because thunderstorms involve small-scale processes harder to study than bigger weather systems.

How Can Wind Topple A Giant Transmission Tower?

Many people saw the photos of transmission towers bent like thin wire and wondered how it was possible.

The reason is physics. When wind hits a structure, the force it applies is roughly proportional to the wind speed squared. When wind gusts are stronger than about 100 kilometres per hour, even just for a few seconds, there can be a risk of damage to infrastructure.

Direction matters too. Wind has greater force when it blows more directly towards a surface. If strong winds blow from an unusual direction, risk of damage can also increase. Old trees, for instance, may be more firmly braced against prevailing winds – but if storm winds blow from another direction, they might topple onto power lines.

On February 13, a strong cold front was approaching Victoria from the southeast, bringing thunderstorms with extreme wind gusts over 120 km/h after a period of extreme heat. Thunderstorms can create extremely strong and localised gusty winds, sometimes called “microbursts” due to cold heavy air falling rapidly out of the clouds. These winds were enough to bend towers and topple trees and poles.

Are These Thunderstorm Winds Getting Worse?

Scientific evidence clearly shows climate change is steadily worsening hazards such as extreme heatwaves and bushfires, which can damage our grid and energy systems.

On balance, evidence suggests tropical cyclones may become less frequent but more severe on average. All but one of Australia’s tropical cyclones this summer have been severe (Category 3 or higher).

But we aren’t yet certain what climate change does to extreme winds from thunderstorms.

This is because high-quality observations of past thunderstorms are relatively rare, with large variability in how often storms occur and their severity, and because climate models have difficulties simulating the small-scale processes which give rise to thunderstorms.

The evidence we do have suggests continued climate change may potentially increase the risk of extreme winds from thunderstorms. This is partly due to more moist and unstable air, which are essential for thunderstorms to form. We think these conditions could occur more often with climate change, in part because warmer air can hold more moisture.

We also know the severity of thunderstorms can be affected by vertical wind shear, which is the way the wind changes with height. To date, we’re less certain about how wind shear will change in the future.

Recent research by coauthor Andrew Brown and the lead author suggests climate change is likely causing more favourable conditions for thunderstorms with damaging winds, particularly in inland regions of Australia. But the methods used for these predictions are new, meaning more research needs to be done for further insight on what climate change will do to extreme winds.

We Shouldn’t Wait To Find Out

Modelling extreme wind gusts is still in its infancy. But given so much of our electricity grid is exposed to extreme winds, it’s important we try to address this gap in our knowledge.

It’s safe to say we should treat these storms as a warning. We should factor the risks from extreme winds into how we design our energy systems. It’s especially important as we build a grid able to handle clean energy that we anticipate these kinds of risks from extreme weather.

Hardening the grid by burying powerlines and removing vegetation isn’t the only option. We could build a smarter grid, with distributed renewables and energy storage including large as well as relatively smaller (e.g., community-level or household-level) batteries, giving the grid greater resilience including against extreme weather events.

In the wake of South Australia’s devastating 2016 grid outage, authorities moved to boost grid resilience in this way, building big batteries, more renewables and new interconnectors, while Australia’s energy market operator AEMO changed how it dealt with windfarms if grid issues occur.

Power grids are the largest machines in the world. As we move to a clean energy grid, we face complex challenges – not just in building it, but in protecting it against extreme weather.

We would be well served if we work to better understand the risks of compound events, such as combinations of extreme winds, fires or floods hitting a region around the same time.

We also need accurate predictions of risks shortly before extreme winds or other disasters strike, as well as effective long-term planning for the risks likely to increase due to climate change or during different climate cycles such as El Niño and La Niña.

If we get this response wrong, our energy bills will rise too much and, worse, we still might not have a more resilient system. Since our energy networks are regulated by a complex set of government rules, reform is not just something for industry to address. It must ultimately be led by government – and guided by evidence.The Conversation

Andrew Dowdy, Principal Research Scientist, The University of MelbourneAndrew Brown, Ph.D. student, The University of MelbourneAndrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of MelbourneClaire Vincent, Senior Lecturer in Atmospheric Science, The University of MelbourneMichael Brear, Director, Melbourne Energy Institute, The University of MelbournePierluigi Mancarella, Chair Professor of Electrical Power Systems, The University of Melbourne, and Todd Lane, Professor, School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Melbourne, The University of Melbourne

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

Antarctica provides at least $276 billion a year in economic benefits to the world, new research finds

Rachel BairdUniversity of Tasmania and Natalie StoecklUniversity of Tasmania

All humanity benefits from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that surrounds it. To some, these benefits may seem priceless. But in our market-driven world, calculating the economic value of the environment can be a useful tool in garnering support for its protection.

That was the intention of our new research. We crunched the numbers on the value of services Antarctica and the Southern Ocean provide in terms of fisheries, tourism and various natural processes that support Earth’s functioning.

And the result? We calculate the economic value at a whopping US$180 billion (A$276 billion) each year. We hope our findings will help prioritise conservation actions in Antarctica and galvanise international support to protect the region from the ravages of climate change.

Benefits Seen, And Unseen

The many benefits nature provides to humans are known as “ecosystem services”.

Some services provided by Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are invisible to most people. For example, the Southern Ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere, and ice in the region reflects heat. These processes help regulate Earth’s climate

The Southern Ocean also helps transport water around the globe, which helps distribute heat, fresh water, carbon and nutrients. These are known as “regulating” services.

We can think about the value of these services in terms of the cost that would accrue if it was not provided. For example, the Antarctic ice sheet contains 30 million cubic kilometres of ice. If that ice melted as a result of global warming, the effects on coastal communities around the world would be catastrophic.

Other benefits provided by the Antarctic region are more visible. For example, humans rely on toothfish and krill for food, pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements. A warmer and more acidic Southern Ocean would affect fish stocks – both in the region and elsewhere – and some species may become extinct.

The Antarctic region also provides cultural services such as hosting vital scientific research. And in recent years, Antarctica has experienced a surge in tourist numbers.

So how much are these services actually worth to humanity? Our research examined that question.

Crunching The Numbers

We used various methods to estimate the value of each service. Some, such as the provision of food, can be easily calculated by looking at what the market is willing to pay. Others, such as the avoidance of harm due to CO₂ absorption, are more complicated to ascribe value to.

Let’s start with tourism. Visitor numbers to Antarctica – mostly by ship – have increased markedly in recent decades, from about 8,000 a year in 1993–1994 to 105,000 in 2022–2023. We estimate the annual value of the Antarctic tourism industry at about US$820 million.

And what about the benefits of fisheries? Considering the tonnes of toothfish and krill caught in the region, we estimate the value at about US$370 million per year.

Finally, we estimated the economic value of “regulating services” such as carbon storage, sea level regulation and light reflection. We did this by multiplying estimates of the value of carbon stored in the Southern Ocean by estimates of the social cost of carbon.

This was a complex calculation, which we explain in greater detail in our paper. Overall, we estimate the value of the region’s regulating services at about US$179.3 billion a year.

All up, this brings the total value of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem services to about US$180 billion a year. This is a conservative estimate which excludes some ecosystem services.

For example, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and neighbouring ocean gyres – which distribute Antarctic nutrients around the world – are thought to help boost the value of global fisheries by about US$2.8 billion. We did not include this in the calculation above to avoid double-counting with other regulating services.

And due to a lack of data, we could not even roughly estimate the value of scientific work in Antarctica, so this is also excluded. But Antarctic research may have prevented significant damage to livelihoods and infrastructure across the world – for example, by monitoring changes in ice and sea levels – and we can expect this contribution to increase in future.

And the region provides other important services that we don’t have enough information to estimate, such as medicinal ingredients yet to be discovered.

What Role For The Antarctic Treaty?

As the Southern Ocean becomes warmer and more acidic, its natural systems will undergo huge changes. This will reduce the many benefits the Antarctic region provides, at great cost to the world. So how should the global community respond?

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean is governed by the Antarctic Treaty, which was adopted in 1959. The threats we’ve outlined were not anticipated at the time, and the treaty does not address them.

Treaty parties have the authority to safeguard some ecosystem services, such as tourism, fishing and science. But are unable to effectively safeguard others, such as regulating services when the threat comes from outside the Antartctic area.

The treaty has evolved over the years. Now it must go further, to safeguard the huge benefits – economic and otherwise – the region provides to the world.The Conversation

Rachel Baird, Senior Lecturer , University of Tasmania and Natalie Stoeckl, Professor of Economics, University of Tasmania

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

Emissions from households’ water use are on a par with aviation. The big cuts and savings they can make are being neglected

Steven KenwayThe University of QueenslandLiam SmithMonash UniversityPaul SaturMonash University, and Rob SkinnerMonash University

Why is there such a big gap between people, industries and government agreeing we need urgent action on climate change, and actually starting? Scope 3 emissions are a great example. These are greenhouse gas emissions that organisations can influence, but don’t directly control.

Our research has identified the benefits of tackling these emissions in Australia’s urban water sector. If we consider the energy we use to heat water, water costs us far more than we think. It’s an issue of cost of living as well as water supply and energy infrastructure.

In Victoria, for example, water utilities are the largest source (about a quarter) of scope 1 and 2 emissions from the government sector. Scope 1 emissions come from activities utilities directly control, such as driving their vehicles. Scope 2 emissions are from the energy they buy.

Our research has found the gains from pursuing scope 3 emissions from the use of water that utilities supply could be about ten times bigger than their planned reductions in scope 1 and 2 emissions.

Extrapolating from Melbourne household data suggests domestic water heating accounts for 3.8% of each person’s share of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – on a par with the 4.1% from aviation. Our research indicates that in Melbourne alone a city-wide program to retrofit showerheads could, by reducing water and energy use, have the same impact on emissions as taking tens of thousands of cars off the road.

Such a program would cost much less than all other renewable energy investments water utilities are making. It would also save water users money.

How To Tackle Scope 3 Emissions

Water utilities don’t directly control scope 3 emissions, but they could influence what customers do. If they encourage more efficient water usecustomers use less water and, in turn, less energy to heat it.

Water utilities account for 24% of scope 1 and 2 emissions from the Victorian government sector. While the sector has shown leadership in acting on these emissions, there is very little active accountability for, or even quantification of, scope 3 emissions.

Graph showing the sources of stage 1 and 2 emissions from the Victorian water sector
Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate ActionCC BY

Our research has found a Melbourne-wide program to retrofit showerheads to next-generation technology could save 12-27 billion litres (GL) of water a year (about 6% of current use).

The resulting energy savings would be 380-885GWh per year, cutting emissions by 98,000-226,000 tonnes. That equates to taking 21,000 to 49,000 cars off the roads.

Customers would also save up to $160 a year on their bills. The full economic benefit to society is more than five times the cost of the program.

Who Influences Water Use? Everyone

Helping customers adopt highly efficient showerheads could cut emissions at much lower cost than all other renewable energy investments water utilities are making.

Most households don’t realise hot water systems account for around 24% of their total energy use. Their total energy use for water heating is larger as it includes appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and kettles. An even larger percentage of household energy use is “water-related” if pool filtration, rainwater tank pumps and so on are included.

We think only of the savings on water bills, but efficient water use also affects our power bills and emissions. But communicating the link isn’t easy.

Showerhead manufacturers tell us they aren’t promoting efficient showerheads because they respond to demand. Water utilities don’t invest in them because it is a present cost for a future benefit – it doesn’t help them balance their budgets. And for policymakers it’s hard to celebrate the water and energy you don’t need to consume.

The combined impact is lack of action on saving water to reduce emissions – even though it’s a great option.

A ‘Tragedy Of The Commons’ Dilemma

Without direct control or accountability by any one organisation, we face a “tragedy of the commons” – individuals overconsuming a shared resource at the wider expense of society. The limited resource today is the ability of our planet to process greenhouse gas emissions before they change our climate.

The tragedy of the commons was used to describe externalities: costs borne by others that a decision-maker does not pay for. Examples include the future costs of increased flooding, more severe droughts and bushfires, and rising sea levels.

If we fully considered the costs and benefits to consumers and society (rather than just costs to utilities), investment priorities would change towards “least cost to the community” solutions.

Many water utilities will be carbon-neutral for scope 1 and 2 by 2025. This means they are at the global forefront of reducing emissions – but the water industry can do much more by tackling scope 3 emissions.

Committing to a scope 3 reduction challenges a water company to move toward things it can only influence rather than control. So, does it pursue all possibilities, without knowing if it can cut emissions? Or does it take a conservative approach and commit to only scope 1 and 2 emissions?

Reducing emissions from water use requires community, industry and government to act together. The stumbling block is decision-making and current legislation.

A road runs along the top of the Thomson Dam wall
Water utilities have focused on cutting their own emissions and costs, neglecting the much bigger gains to be had from changing water users’ behaviour. Simon Maddock/Shutterstock

So, What Is The Solution?

First, we need to call out the problem.

Second, we must find a way to ensure the reward for pursuing action is higher than the penalty for failure. A key to this will be highlighting how much cheaper and better many actions are that focus on scope 3 emissions, rather than solely “within business” strategies. We need to find solutions that are genuinely “least cost to community” rather than “least cost to individual business entities”.

Third, as a “commons”, this challenge must be communicated beyond utilities and government to communities. There needs to be broad understanding of the benefits of new approaches and of the pitfalls of a “do nothing” approach.

Big savings are up for grabs in the water industry. More broadly, all industries (from manufacturing to mining) need to consider scope 3 emissions from use of the products they sell.The Conversation

Steven Kenway, Research Group Leader, Water-Energy-Carbon, The University of QueenslandLiam Smith, Director, BehaviourWorks, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash UniversityPaul Satur, Research Fellow for Water Sensitive Cities, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, and Rob Skinner, Professorial Fellow, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University

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

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
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

Out Front 2024 – Talented Young Artists Awarded

Impressive artworks depicting the theme of isolation human interventions in underwater environments and have been awarded the distinguished Theo Batten Youth Art Award.

The artworks were selected from a pool of 30 outstanding artworks in this year’s Out Front 2024 exhibition of HSC Visual Arts.  

The Theo Batten Youth Art Award, worth $5,000, helps support talented young artists pursuing arts studies at a tertiary level. 

This year’s joint winners were:
  • Eden Stewart from NBSC Freshwater Senior Campus for a series of paintings entitled Solitude Unveiled
  • Henri Tremauville from Narrabeen Sports High School for a ceramic work Symbiotic Depths
Both received prize money of $2000 each. 

The judges also awarded Highly Commended ($1000) to Sophia Hearty from NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus for a series of oil painting entitled Habitual Tendencies.

This year, Manly Art Gallery & Museum is celebrating 30 years of showcasing HSC artworks though its annual exhibition, formerly called Express Yourself.

This exhibition has been a part of MAG&M’s program since 1995. Presented in partnership with the Theo Batten Trust and MAG&M Society, the program has provided Youth Art Awards to aspiring artists for 30 years. The program demonstrates our ongoing commitment to connecting with secondary schools across the region and to supporting visual arts education.

The exhibition celebrates the extraordinary talent and creativity of young emerging artists from our local community and will feature a broad range of expressive artforms, demonstrating the diversity, spirit and artistic strength of our young local artists, as well as showcase the quality of teaching in our peninsula's secondary schools. 

Out Front 2024: Thirty years of Express Yourself will be on display from 1 March to 14 April 2024.

The 2024 edition features a broad range of expressive art forms including virtual reality, digital animation, drawing, printmaking, photography and ceramics. The artworks explore themes relevant to the young artists, such as culture, connection and environment.

For the first time ever, the 30 exhibited artists from 20 secondary schools will be invited to participate in a new mentorship program.

The Theo Batten Youth Art Award is named in honour of former local artist Theo Batten who bequeathed funds for the award. 

Theo Batten b. 11 June 1918 at Cremorne, d. 2 May 2003 at Manly, also known as Theo Harley Batten, was a late 20th century Sydney comic strip artist and illustrator and the creator of the 'Lucky Cat' strip that appeared in the Sun Herald in the late 1970s/early 1980s. In 1972 Batten won an Walkley Award for an Australian Women's Weekly illustration.

Theo worked as a messenger for the David Jones department store, before joining The Sun as a copy boy in 1934. He became a cadet artist and was eventually appointed senior artist in The Sun's art department.

He served in the Australian Army during 1940-1945, where he was assigned to the LHQ Cartographic Company (No.1 Drawing Section) in Bendigo, Victoria. After World War II, Batten studied painting and illustration at the East Sydney Technical College, as part of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme.

Batten subsequently worked as a freelance illustrator for various magazine and book publishers, producing cartoons, story illustrations and covers for detective novels. In 1952, Batten left Australia with his wife, the journalist and writer Anthea Goddard, and lived in London, where he established himself as an advertising artist and magazine illustrator.

Batten's work for British clients was frequently syndicated to Australian publishers throughout the 1950s. Returning to Australia in 1959, Batten was able to capitalise on his overseas reputation and opened his own commercial art studio in 1960.

Batten painted dramatic illustrations, designed to accompany short stories appearing in popular Australian women's magazines throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, including The Australian Women's Weekly, Everybody's (formerly The Australian Woman's Mirror), and Woman's Day. In 1972, Batten won the Walkley Award for 'Best Colour or Black and White Illustration' for his illustration of 'The Sandman', a short story by Clinton Smith (q.v.), published in The Australian Women's Weekly in December 1971.

Congratulations to all the award winners and finalists in Out Front 2024.

Henri Tremauville, Symbiotic Depths

Eden Stewart, Solitude Unveiled

Sophia Hearty, Habitual Tendencies, detail - images courtesy NBC

Helping Young Australians Learn About The Harms Of Vaping

The Australian Government's Department of Health are partnering with media platforms, such as Spotify and Year 13, and well-known influencers including gaming, comedy and lifestyle personalities, to challenge the social acceptance of vaping among young people.

These platforms and personalities will help you learn about the harms of vaping and raise awareness of the help available to quit.

Vaping – or the use of e-cigarettes – has been increasing among young people in Australia. 

Data from the Australian Secondary School Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (2022–23) show that around 1 in 6 (16%) high school students reported recently vaping. This is a fourfold increase from 4% of high school students in 2017.

Through these partnerships, provided content aims to:
  • meets the needs of young Australians who are curious or concerned about vaping 
  • provides young Australians with credible information about vaping
  • provides support and resources for young people who want to quit or reduce vaping.
Australian Minister for Health Mark Butler said: 
“There is an enormous amount of misinformation and online advertising designed to lure teenagers into vaping.
“Together with the Government’s world leading vaping reforms, education is a key step to stopping Big Tobacco companies from luring a new generation into nicotine dependency.
“It’s pretty clear that teenagers don’t watch TV or listen to Health Ministers, much as I might like them to, which is why we’ve partnered with influencers that young people listen to: from comedians, to sport stars and gamers, and everyone in between.
Ellyse Perry, Cricketer, said :
“I’m excited to be supporting the Australian Government on the vaping education campaign and lending my voice to such a critical health issue.
“As a professional athlete, I know that even occasional vape use would have significant consequences for both mental and physical performance on and off the field.”
Ella Watkins, Actor and content creator said:
“I’m very vocal with friends and family about the negative physical and mental health effects of vaping and I’m really pleased to be joining this campaign and helping to spread such an important message to young Australians.”
Jack Buzza, Gamer and comedian said:
“I know in the gaming and content space, a lot of young people vape without understanding the health consequences of that choice, including the addictive nature of vaping.”
Zahlia Short, Junior professional surfer said:
“As young women, we witness on a regular basis our friends and dear ones be tempted by vaping. Not only do we worry about the health concerns, but we also worry about the environmental concerns.
“The ocean is our second home, and it is also now being affected by vapes. It is time for everyone to be aware of how vaping affects your health and the environment.”

Zahlia and Shyla Short have both supported a family member to quit vaping. They joined Mark Butler at Parliament House to announce the new influencer-led youth vaping campaign - and for a quick meeting with the PM! Photo: Australian Government
Lachlan Fairbairn, Comedian said:
“We know that a lot of our peers vape, so it's important to us that we support a campaign that will educate people on the harms of vaping and help them seek support if they want it.”

The Fairbairn Brothers. Photo: Australian Government.

dedicated web hub provide reliable information about vaping. It contains resources and links to support services to help young people trying to reduce or quit vaping.

How TAFE NSW Yallah Helped Aislinn Thrive In Male-Dominated Landscape Industry

A Wollongong woman who ditched plans for a career in social work to join the male-dominated landscaping sector has urged other young women to get “on the tools” and consider a career in the booming industry.

Aislinn Rebel, 25, always thought her post-school plans would involve a university degree but in a surprising about-face, found herself gravitating to the outdoor trades after falling in love with landscaping.

It comes as Labour Market Insights predicts a 14 per cent boost in gardening and landscaping jobs by 2026. Meanwhile, less than 5 per cent of landscapers are women.

Now a third-year apprentice with Vista Landscapes and a Certificate III in Landscape Construction student at TAFE NSW Yallah, Ms Rebel said she had discovered her professional passion.

“I always liked the idea of working outside in a challenging role but I thought I was destined to do social work at university,” Ms Rebel said.

“A friend suggested I try landscaping and I brushed it off at first but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it could be for me.”

Despite being the only female in her TAFE NSW Yallah class and a few years older than the other students, Ms Rebel said her studies had helped give her the practical skills and experience to thrive.

“The TAFE NSW teachers are so experienced and it’s great to have open discussions in class about some of the challenges we are facing on the job,” she said. “And it’s such a satisfying job: you get to see what you’ve created each day and feel yourself get fitter and stronger.

“I would just encourage other women to consider a career in landscaping as it’s a great industry with heaps of opportunity.”

Ms Rebel said the job was rich in variety, with her typical day involving anything from paving to grouting, building retaining walls to planting out a backyard space.

She hopes to eventually study the Diploma of Landscape Design at TAFE NSW Yallah to broaden her skill set and help her one day own her own landscaping business.

TAFE NSW Yallah landscape construction teacher Rob Wardlaw, a 30-year veteran of the industry, said landscapers were in such high demand in the Illawarra, he regularly fielded calls from employers looking for new staff.

“It’s such a broad trade that it’s really a number of trades rolled into one,” Mr Wardlaw said. “That opens up a lot of doors for you.”

He said TAFE NSW Yallah students honed their skills with a range of hands-on projects both on campus and in the community.

TAFE NSW Helps Expand Mobile Zoo Aquarium Business

A marine biologist from Western Sydney is bringing the ocean to students of schools and preschools, building awareness about marine life and conservation one starfish and sea cucumber at a time.
Nathan Bass, a 33-year-old marine biologist from Campbelltown, expanded his business, The Wildlife Movement while studying a Certificate III in Wildlife and Exhibited Animal Care at TAFE NSW.
The latest Australia State of the Environment Report (2022) says that the impacts of climate-related pressures on the coastal environment is expected to worsen, however the report notes that conservation efforts can help drive increased biodiversity and improved resilience.
Since starting his mobile aquarium business in 2020, Nathan has used the skills and knowledge gained during his studies to create an engaging, hands-on program for children to learn about and care for marine life during classroom visits with his animals.
Mr Bass also completed a TAFE NSW Statement of Attainment in “Sea Turtle Tracks to Heron Island”, a unique, six-day experiential course that includes theory, simulation training in turtle nesting techniques and access to the research station on Heron Island. The firsthand encounter with wildlife conservation during the course has reinforced his commitment to educating others about marine life's wonders.
"I’ve seen and experienced first-hand how learning about animals in a fun and engaging way, helps build appreciation for the natural environment, which I hope will translate to more kids understanding how important it is to protect the health of our oceans and harbours,” Mr Bass said.  
“But it was my teacher's guidance at TAFE NSW and the industry connections I’ve made while studying that have been invaluable in shaping my entrepreneurial vision and building my business,” said Nathan.
Reflecting on the Turtle Tracks experience, Nathan said “This was another fantastic opportunity to watch wildlife conservation in action, where we were lucky enough to observe turtles laying eggs on the island,” he said.
Previous course participants were also fortunate to see the nest site of the endangered Loggerhead Turtle at Shelly Beach on the NSW Central Coast, which is the southernmost nest on record for the species.  The eggs were laid in January and later relocated to a hatchery at Taronga Zoo and course participants were invited to watch the release of the rescued hatchlings by the Central Coast Marine Wildlife Rescue organisation.
“With climate change causing an increase in ocean and beach temperatures, we will see more turtles nesting further south along the NSW coast.  It's important that people become aware of what to expect and who to contact should they come across a nesting turtle on their beach,” said Darek Figa, Animal Care teacher at TAFE NSW Ultimo and 2017 NSW VET Trainer / Teacher of the Year.
As Nathan continues his studies over the next six months, he is excited about the prospect of incorporating newfound knowledge and skills into his business. With a passion for marine life and a dedication to education, Nathan is ready to make a lasting impact on children's understanding and appreciation of the ocean through The Wildlife Movement.

A Sound Future For Music In NSW

February 29, 2024
The ten-year plan to rebuild the music sector in NSW takes another important step forward as Sound NSW holds its first advisory board meeting of representatives from a cross-section of the industry.

Sound NSW is delivering a ten-year Contemporary Music Strategy, as well as policies and funding programs, including soundproofing of live music venues to counter some of the noise complaint issues that have dogged the sector in recent years.

To inform the strategy, Sound NSW is conducting research into NSW’s live music ecosystem with insights due by the middle of the year.

Emily Collins has been appointed as Head of Sound NSW following a competitive recruitment process by the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade to drive and deliver this music agenda. Collins and her team will be supported by an artist and industry Advisory Board.

The 12-strong Advisory Board is now complete following the final appointments of three new members – Jane Slingo, Kristy Peters (KLP), and Tanya Ali.

The board will consider initiatives to support the contemporary music sector and encourage collaboration and innovation, and identify investment opportunities.

The full Sound NSW Advisory Board is:
  • Vyvienne Abla, Director, 4E Hip Hop Festival
  • Tanya Ali, Managing Director, FBi Radio
  • Tyla Dombroski, Director, Crowbar Sydney 
  • Jessica Ducrou (Chair), co-CEO, Secret Sounds
  • Annabelle Herd, CEO ARIA and PPCA 
  • Matthew Jeffrey, Delegate, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance
  • Lucy Joseph, Live and Local Program Manager, Live Music Office 
  • Tim Leha, Independent Indigenous media specialist
  • Dean Ormston, CEO, APRA AMCOS
  • Kristy Lee Peters, Musician/DJ, KLP
  • Jane Slingo, Executive Producer, Electronic Music Conference
  • John Watson (Deputy Chair), founder and president of John Watson Management and Eleven: A Music Company

Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, John Graham said: 

“Through Sound NSW, the music industry has a dedicated Government office committed to the development and promotion of contemporary music in NSW.

“Working together with industry, Sound NSW will help the government to move the dial on our commitment to support the venues that sustain and grow our music industry.

“With a board full of nationally significant leaders from across the music industry and Emily Collins heading up the team at Sound NSW, work is underway to deliver on our election commitment to double live music venues and support contemporary music in NSW.

“Sound NSW has been given the direction to champion and invest in the contemporary music sector to deliver positive outcomes for artists and audiences alike through targeted programs and advocacy.”

Head of Sound NSW, Emily Collins, said: 

“It is an exciting time for Sound NSW as we really start to break our stride and deliver on our priorities to nurture creative careers, encourage innovation, enhance export opportunities, and create positive outcomes for artists, industry professionals, music businesses, and audiences.

“With a new Sound NSW team in place, an Advisory Board of music experts and the support of Government, NSW is on track to become a global music powerhouse and a thriving heartland for our national industry.”

Narrabeen Swim Academy 

Narrabeen Swim Academy is up and swimming. 
  • Competitive Squads 
  • Junior Squads 
  • Adult Squads. 
  • Public Swimming Mon - Fri 8am -10am. 
Located at the Sydney Academy of Sport Narrabeen

Please visit for more details.

Junior Lifesaver Of The Year (JLOTY) Program 2024

An impressive group of the state’s brightest young lifesavers will come together in our area once again this April for the Ingenia Holiday Parks Junior Lifesaver of the Year (JLOTY) program – Surf Life Saving NSW’s flagship youth development programs.

Held from 24-26 April at The Collaroy Centre, JLOTY provides a platform to assist young lifesavers in growing their networks, establishing lasting connections and building knowledge through fun and interactive activities.

The JLOTY program brings together all 22 of the Junior Lifesavers of the Year, nominated and awarded at Branch level. At the end of the program, male and female overall NSW Junior Lifesavers of the Year winners are named.

The three-day camp is built around skill development, where the budding young lifesavers will work with like-minded volunteers to build a greater awareness of opportunities and individual abilities in the membership.

“It was very nerve-racking, but it was also chill. You learn very quickly that everyone there with you is deserving of the title as well,” 2023 co-NSW Lifesaver of the Year, Kaylah Broadhead of Nobbys SLSC said.

“We got to really learn and understand where everybody comes from and what they do, and it was a big part of our development,” said fellow NSW winner, Coogee SLSC’s Calum Reiter.

Ingenia Holiday Parks is once again on board as Naming Rights partner of the JLOTY program, with Executive General Manager of Tourism, Matt Young stating the East Coast holiday park operator was proud to be supporting our future leaders.

“We are extremely proud to support the Junior Lifesaver of the Year program again in its 34th year to recognise the next generation of volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards,” he said.

“It is truly inspiring to watch these kids actively ensuring the safety of our beaches and communities, especially knowing that many of our holiday park guests go swimming at the beach.

“These junior lifesavers make Australia a better place, and we are grateful.”

The Ingenia Holiday Parks Junior Lifesavers of the Year will be awarded at a presentation on 26 April – livestreamed on Facebook.


  • Far North Coast – Kayden Muller, Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC
  • Far North Coast – Abigail Matthews, Lennox Head-Alstonville SLSC
  • North Coast – James Freeman, Bellinger Valley-North Beach SLSC
  • North Coast – Lily-Mei Wong, Woolgoolga SLSC
  • Mid North Coast – Cooper Walmsley, Hat Head SLSC
  • Mid North Coast – Sienna Ward, Hat Head SLSC
  • Lower North Coast – Blake Stewart, Crowdy Head SLSC
  • Lower North Coast – Calista Elmer, Crowdy Head SLSC
  • Hunter – Max Mietzel, Newcastle SLSC
  • Hunter – Abbey Keighran, Tea Gardens Hawks Nest SLSC
  • Central Coast – Seamus Devenish Meares, Wamberal SLSC
  • Central Coast – Remy Avis, North Avoca SLSC
  • Sydney Northern Beaches – Louis Stapf-Giannakis, Freshwater SLSC
  • Sydney Northern Beaches – Riley Atkinson, Mona Vale SLSC
  • Sydney – Jack Castles, Bondi SBLSC
  • Sydney – Ebony Springall, North Cronulla SLSC
  • Illawarra – Audrey Steffan, Scarborough Wombarra SLSC
  • Illawarra – William Papandreas, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC
  • South Coast – Archie Weir, Kiama Downs SLSC
  • South Coast – Poppy Nelson, Kiama SLSC
  • Far South Coast – Maxim Savchencko-Ray, Bermagui SLSC
  • Far South Coast – Zara Hall, Moruya SLSC

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: Persevere

Word of the Week remains a keynote in 2024, simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success. 2. to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement. 3. to be steadfast, constant.

from late Middle English: from Old French perseverer, from Latin perseverare ‘abide by strictly’, from perseverus ‘very strict’, from per- ‘thoroughly’ + severus ‘severe’, word-root segh- "to have, hold," on the notion of "steadfastness, toughness." Related: persevered; persevering - mid-14c., perseveraunce "will or ability to persevere, tenacity," from Old French perseverance "persistence, endurance" (12c., Modern French persévérance) and directly from Latin perseverantia "steadfastness, constancy," from perseverant- past-participle stem of perseverare "continue steadfastly". From late 14c. as "quality or state of continuing or enduring."

Synonyms/similar phrases: persist, continue, carry on, go on, keep on, keep going, not give up, hammer away, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, keep at it, show determination, press on/ahead, stay with something, not take no for an answer, be tenacious, be pertinacious, be patient, stand one's ground, stand fast/firm, hold on, go the distance, stay the course, stick at it, stick it out.

Universities Accord: there’s a push for a Higher Education Future Fund, but some unis ‘hate’ it

Engin Akyurt/ Pexels CC BY
Gavin MoodieUniversity of Toronto

The federal government has released the final report on a Universities Accord. Taking more than a year to prepare, it is billed as a “blueprint” for reform for the next decade and beyond. It contains 47 recommendations across student fees, wellbeing, funding, teaching, research and university governance. You can find the rest of our accord coverage here.

One of the most contentious recommendations so far from the Universities Accord final report is for a “Higher Education Future Fund”.

The fund would be established with money from both the federal government and universities, ultimately reaching A$10 billion in assets. The idea is the government would match funding from universities, which would provide money from their own “untied” revenue.

This means universities could not use any of the non-government funding they have gained that they currently spend on research, buildings and other institutional priorities.

So would a fund work and is it a good idea?

Why Have A Future Fund?

The report says the federal government should set a target to more than double the number of government-supported university students in Australia by 2050. The future fund would help support this growth, by providing “built and digital infrastructure, including student housing”. It could also include spaces such as libraries and things like cyber-security.

The fund would be managed by the Board of Guardians of Australia’s Future Fund, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund. This board also manages the Medical Research Future Fund, the Future Drought Fund and four other funds.

Any grants paid by the higher education fund would be approved by an independent board.

A woman with a backpack walks outside a building.
The Higher Education Future Fund could potentially be used to fund student housing. Lisa McIntyre/UnsplashCC BY

How Would It Work?

The accord final report suggests wealthier universities would pay more as the fund would “recognise universities’ capacity to pay”. The report contains little detail on how this would be achieved, but it seems likely the fund would redistribute resources from universities with more “untied non-government revenue” (from sources such as international student fees and business ventures) to those with less.

This appears to be a development of the proposed levy on international student fee income floated in the accord interim report last year.

This was criticised by higher education experts as being “unhelpful and unworkable”. Wealthier universities also opposed the idea.

So the review panel may not be surprised to see the future fund is being similarly criticised.

As the Group of Eight chair Mark Scott (who is also chair of The Conversation’s board) noted in a statement:

This is extremely poor public policy, and taxing the very system the report identified as underfunded is not a solution.

Scott added it could also undermine Australia’s “successes in international education and damage our global reputation”.

But not all universities think alike. According to The Australian, Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover (who was also a member of the accord review panel) thinks the fund is “important future proofing” for the sector, but there is work to do on the details.

What About The Impact On Research Funding?

Asking universities to surrender some of their own funds for a communal fund seems to be inconsistent with other areas of the report.

The report calls for increased targets for how much Australia spends on research and development as a proportion of GDP and for a “pathway” to fund the “full economic cost of research”. At the moment, Australia’s university research is significantly subsidised by international student fees.

If funds were taken away from individual universities for a future fund, this would likely take funds away from research. Universities would gain more direct funding for research, but would loose some of their international student fee income which they currently reallocate to research.

Monash University (which is also a member of the Group of Eight) said the fund would “blunt” the impact of its research. As Vice-Chancellor Sharon Pickering said:

[It will] diminish Monash’s ability to deliver on the Accord’s objectives and aspirations.

The fund’s proposed model stands in contrast to that of the Australian Government Future Fund, which was set up in 2006 to soak up big federal government surpluses generated from the mining boom. In other words, it was funded fully by the government.

But A Fund Has Some Merit

Yet there are reasons to support a future fund for higher education. It would be prudent to use some of the revenue from the current boom in international students to generate revenue long into the future.

Collective action from the sector to set itself up for the future could also be more powerful and better coordinated than separate actions of individual institutions. And it is progressive to redistribute resources from those with more to those with less.

We also know affordable housing is a crucial issue for many Australians, and students are among those with the fewest resources. The huge numbers of international students has also increased pressure on student housing.

While Australian universities have not been expected to provide student housing, we already have some structures set up via university colleges and student residences as well as housing services that seek to match good landlords with responsible students.

So it is not unreasonable to expect universities to be part of the solution of student accommodation pressures.

However, history suggests it will be politically difficult. In 1988, the federal government levied universities (or “clawed back” funds) to establish the Australian Research Council.

This was the subject of fraught and prolonged negotiations between universities and the then education minister John Dawkins. In the end, the clawback was largely implemented as planned. But the spread of research funding across universities remains highly disputed.

An empty lecture theatre.
A proposed international student levy was opposed by Australia’s wealthier universities. Pixabay/PexelsCC BY

What Now?

A future fund is not going to be set up anytime soon. The review panel advises it should not be established until after the full implementation of a recommended new needs-based funding model for universities.

This itself has many moving parts and is likely to involve extensive and intensive discussions and negotiations.

So there is plenty of scope for universities to offset what they consider to be disadvantages with other parts of the proposed accord.

In the meantime, the government is considering the report. When asked about the future fund by The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan, Education Minister Jason Clare noted some universities “hate” the idea and others “like it”, before adding, “I’ve got an open mind”.The Conversation

Gavin Moodie, Adjunct Professor, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE, University of Toronto

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

Universities Accord: early university offers won’t be made until later in Year 12. Is this a good idea?

Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels CC BY
Pearl SubbanMonash University

The federal government has released the final report on a Universities Accord. Taking more than a year to prepare, it is billed as a “blueprint” for reform for the next decade and beyond. It contains 47 recommendations across student fees, wellbeing, funding, teaching, research and university governance. You can find the rest of our accord coverage here.

If you are a Year 12 student this year, you may be hoping to get an early offer for a university place before your final exams even begin.

While the bulk of students receive their university offers in January of the year they plan to start study, it is increasingly common for students to receive an offer while they are still at school. Offers have reportedly been made as early as March.

But this practice is set to change. While the federal government is still considering much of the Universities Accord final report, it has made a decision on its recommendation about early offers to Year 12 students.

Over the weekend, it announced university offers in all states and territories should not be made to school students before September.

What Are Early Offers?

Most (though not all) Year 12 university applicants do their school exams, then their external exams and then apply to university with their ATAR (or Australian Tertiary Entrance Rank).

Universities use this to make an offer to students from January of the year they begin study.

But some universities and some subject areas take a different approach. They look at Year 11 results and factors such as portfolios of work, written responses to questions, demonstration of skills like resilience or motivation and/or letters of recommendation.

Students can apply under an early offer scheme. Then universities can make a provisional offer to Year 12 students before final exams and the release of ATARs.

Students are still required to complete Year 12 and may need to achieve a certain ATAR, have done certain subjects and received certain results in these subjects.

Early offers are not new to universities, particularly in areas such as visual and performing arts where measures beyond exam results are required. But the practice became more widespread during disruptions to learning and teaching during COVID.

A young woman looks at a notebook with a floral cover and types on a laptop.
Since COVID, more Australian students have had offers of a uni place during Year 12. Karolina Grabowska/CC BY

Why Are Early Offers Changing?

The Universities Accord review panel found early offers to students at school to be a “contentious practice”. It found there was no consistency or transparency around it and little data.

While they noted they can ease the stress of Year 12, the panel also heard early offers can lead to student disengagement “in the final and important weeks and months” of school.

The panel also noted they can favour students who already have personal or socioeconomic advantages, such as principals, careers counsellors or parents who can advocate for and write letters of recommendation on their behalf.

What Will Happen Now?

At a meeting last week, federal and state education ministers agreed early offers to Year 12 students should change.

For this year and next, no early offers will be made before September. A national approach will be developed by 2027.

Students who suffer from exam anxiety and who are not as confident may lose out as a result of this move.

Some students who become overwhelmed by Year 12, may perform better in the internal Year 11 exams where the pressure is often reduced. Year 11 exams are still significant but they are scored by classroom teachers and likely to take in other dynamics, including the student’s circumstances and background.

Is This Change A Good Idea?

At the moment, the system is geared towards a year of assessments and exams the concludes with an ATAR, which is a student’s ticket into a university course. This sort of incentivisation may prepare students for future challenges in their academic and career journeys.

It does however favour the student who performs well under test conditions and whose life circumstances enable them to work consistently all year.

It may also disadvantage those who already face challenges such as poor mental health, or those who are the first in their family to attend to university.

Drawing more students from underrepresented backgrounds into university is a key goal of the Universities Accord final report. If equity is a priority, it may be wise to rethink early offers for some vulnerable students.

Conscientious students are not likely to reduce their commitment to their study program and will persevere through Year 12 anyway.The Conversation

Pearl Subban, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Monash University

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

Leap of imagination: how February 29 reminds us of our mysterious relationship with time and space

Emily O'HaraAuckland University of Technology

If you find it intriguing that February 28 will be followed this week by February 29, rather than March 1 as it usually is, spare a thought for those alive in 1582. Back then, Thursday October 4 was followed by Friday October 15.

Ten whole days were snatched from the present when Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull to “restore” the calendar from discrepancies that had crept into the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE.

The new Gregorian calendar returned the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox to its “proper” place, around March 21. (The equinox is when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, and is used to determine the date of Easter.)

The Julian calendar had observed a leap year every four years, but this meant time had drifted out of alignment with the dates of celestial events and astronomical seasons.

In the Gregorian calendar, leap days were added only to years that were a multiple of four – like 2024 – with an exception for years that were evenly divisible by 100, but not 400 – like 1700.

Simply put, leap days exist because it doesn’t take a neat 365 days for Earth to orbit the Sun. It takes 365.2422 days. Tracking the movement of celestial objects through space in an orderly pattern doesn’t quite work, which is why we have February – time’s great mop.

Time And Space

This is just part of the history of how February – the shortest month, and originally the last month in the Roman calendar – came to have the job of absorbing those inconsistencies in the temporal calculations of the world’s most commonly used calendar.

There is plenty of sciencemaths and astrophysics explaining the relationship between time and the planet we live on. But I like to think leap years and days offer something even more interesting to consider: why do we have calendars anyway?

And what have they got to do with how we understand the wonder and strangeness of our existence in the universe? Because calendars tell a story, not just about time, but also about space.

Our reckoning of time on Earth is through our spatial relationship to the Sun, Moon and stars. Time, and its place in our lives, sits somewhere between the scientific, the celestial and the spiritual.

It is notoriously slippery, subjective and experiential. It is also marked, tracked and determined in myriad ways across different cultures, from tropical to solar to lunar calendars.

It is the Sun that measures a day and gives us our first reference point for understanding time. But it is the Moon, as a major celestial body, that extends our perception of time. By stretching a span of one day into something longer, it offers us a chance for philosophical reflection.

The Sun (or its effect at least) is either present or not present. The Moon, however, goes through phases of transformation. It appears and disappears, changing shape and hinting that one night is not exactly like the one before or after.

The Moon also has a distinct rhythm that can be tracked and understood as a pattern, giving us another sense of duration. Time is just that – overlapping durations: instants, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, lifetimes, centuries, ages.

The Elusive Moon

It is almost impossible to imagine how time might feel in the absence of all the tools and gadgets we use to track, control and corral it. But it’s also hard to know what we might do in the absence of time as a unit of productivity – a measurable, dispensable resource.

The closest we might come is simply to imagine what life might feel like in the absence of the Moon. Each day would rise and fall, in a rhythm of its own, but without visible reference to anything else. Just endless shifts from light to dark.

Nights would be almost completely dark without the light of the Moon. Only stars at a much further distance would puncture the inky sky. The world around us would change – trees would grow, mammals would age and die, land masses would shift and change – but all would happen in an endless cycle of sunrise to sunset.

The light from the Sun takes eight minutes to reach Earth, so the sunlight we see is always eight minutes in the past.

I remember sitting outside when I first learned this, and wondering what the temporal delay might be between me and other objects: a plum tree, trees at the end of the street, hills in the distance, light on the horizon when looking out over the ocean, stars in the night sky.

Moonlight, for reference, takes about 1.3 seconds to get to Earth. Light always travels at the same speed, it is entirely constant. The differing duration between how long it takes for sunlight or moonlight to reach the Earth is determined by the space in between.

Time on the other hand, is anything but constant. There are countless ways we characterise it. The mere fact we have so many calendars and ways of describing perceptual time hints at our inability to pin it down.

Calendars give us the impression we can, and have, made time predictable and understandable. Leap years, days and seconds serve as a periodic reminder that we haven’t.The Conversation

Emily O'Hara, Senior Lecturer, Spatial Design + Temporary Practices, Auckland University of Technology

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

Pope Gregory XIII gave us the leap year – but his legacy goes so much further

Darius von Guttner SporzynskiAustralian Catholic University

On this day, February 29, conversations the world over may conjure the name of Pope Gregory XIII – widely known for his reform of the calendar that bears his name.

The need for calendar reform was driven by the inaccuracy of the Julian calendar. Introduced in 46 BC, the Julian calendar fell short of the solar year – the time it takes Earth to orbit the Sun – by about 12 minutes each year.

To correct this, Gregory convened a commission of experts who fine-tuned the leap-year system, giving us the one we have today.

But the Gregorian calendar isn’t the only legacy Pope Gregory left. His papacy encompassed a broad spectrum of achievements that have left a lasting mark on the world.

Rise To Papacy

Born in 1502 as Ugo Boncompagni, Gregory made many contributions to the life of the Catholic Church, the city of Rome, education, arts and diplomacy.

Before ascending to the papacy, Boncompagni had a distinguished career in law in Bologna where he received his doctorate in both civil and canon law. He also taught jurisprudence, which is the theory and philosophy of law.

A painting of Pope Gregory XIII by Lavinia Fontana
An oil portrait of Pope Gregory XIII painted by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614). Wikimedia

His intellectual influence positioned him as a trusted figure in legal and diplomatic circles even before his election as pope in the 1572 conclave. Upon being elected he adopted the name Gregory, in honour of Pope Gregory the Great who lived in the sixth century.

Movement In The Church

One of Gregory’s major undertakings was reforming the Catholic Church in response to the Reformation, a movement which established a distinct new branch of Christianity, Protestantism, separated from the Catholic Church.

Gregory aimed to implement the decisions of the Council of Trent, which met between 1545 and 1563, and defined key Christian doctrines and practices, including scripture, original sin, justification, the sacraments and saint veneration. Its outcomes directed the church’s future for centuries.

Gregory’s administrative reforms were aimed at centralising church governance and its operations. As pope, he relished the practice of law, personally engaging in judicial deliberations and surprising his contemporaries with his legal acumen.

His papacy also marked a revision of Gratian’s Decretals, a collection of 12th-century church laws that served as a textbook for lawyers. Gregory aimed to correct numerous errors and unify the various versions of this foundational text of canon law. This culminated in the publication of an amended edition in 1582.

Gregory’s Dragon

Pope Gregory lived at a time when emblematic and symbolic interpretations were central to the political and cultural discourse. In particular, monsters were interpreted as omens or divine signs and played a significant role in religious and political debate.

Gregory’s coat of arms, the heraldic emblem of the Boncompagni family, featured a dragon. As such, it drew criticism from Protestant propaganda.

The coat of arms of Pope Gregory XIII has a dragon. Wikimedia

Anti-Catholic publications featured the Boncompagni dragon as an emblem of the Antichrist, drawing on the seven-headed monster in the Book of Revelation.

Rooted in biblical and mythological references, the negative imagery of Gregory’s dragon became a focal point for debates over the nature of papal authority, the legitimacy of Protestant criticisms, and the broader struggle to define truth and meaning in a rapidly changing world.

A Legacy Enshrined In Art

Gregory’s legal legacy is celebrated in art, particularly in the Sala Bologna of the Vatican Palace, which commemorates his and other popes’ contributions to the study and codification of law.

Gregory XIII’s pontificate (term of office) was marked by a comprehensive effort to renew and beautify Rome, improving both the city’s functionality and aesthetics. He had a particular focus on the Capitoline Hill, the political and religious heart of Rome since the Antiquity.

Gregory’s initiatives – which included restoring essential infrastructure such as gates, bridges and fountains – were part of a broader vision to emphasise the centrality of law in Rome’s history and culture.

This is demonstrated by him being honoured by a statue in the Aula Consiliare of the Senator’s Palace. This hall was designed to showcase the importance of judicial proceedings.

Alongside his urban planning initiatives, Gregory’s commissioning of artworks and architectural projects showcased his commitment to fostering a city that was not only the spiritual centre of Catholicism, but also a beacon of Renaissance culture.

In the Sala Regia hall in Vatican City, he commissioned a series of mural frescoes showcasing the triumph of Christianity over its enemies. He also commissioned an entire map gallery for the Apostolic Palace, to demonstrate the extent of Christianity’s spread over the world.

Reforming The Calendar

Because the Julian calendar fell short by about 12 minutes each year, it was increasingly out-of-sync with the solar year. By the time Gregory’s reign began, this discrepancy had accumulated to more than 10 days.

To correct this, Gregory convened a commission of experts. Their work led to the publication of a formal papal decree in the form of the bull Inter Gravissimas on February 24 1582.

This decree not only fine-tuned the leap-year system, but also mandated the elimination of ten days to realign the calendar with the solar year.

The first page of the bull Inter Gravissimas. Wikimeia

The Gregorian calendar reform signified a monumental shift in timekeeping. In 1582, October 4 was followed directly by October 15, correcting the calendar’s alignment with astronomical reality.

This adjustment, slowly adopted by Protestant nations, has had a lasting impact on how the world measures time.

Faith, Intellect And Reform

In St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, you will find a remarkable funerary monument to Pope Gregory XIII. Completed in 1723 by Milanese sculptor Camillo Rusconi, it incorporates representations of both Religion and Wisdom, personified by two statues flanking the pope.

Wisdom is shown drawing attention to a relief beneath the enthroned pope which illustrates the promulgation of the new calendar – the pope’s most significant achievement. At the base of the monument, a dragon crouches unapologetically.

It’s a fitting tribute to a pope whose tenure was characterised by the interaction of faith, intellect and reform – and which can now be marked as a cornerstone in European history.The Conversation

A dragon, the heraldic emblem of the Boncompagni family, is carved into the base of the monument. Shutterstock/The Conversation

Darius von Guttner Sporzynski, Historian, Australian Catholic University

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

70% of Australians don’t feel in control of their data as companies hide behind meaningless privacy terms

Trismegist san/Shutterstock
Katharine KempUNSW Sydney

Australian consumers don’t understand how companies – including data brokers – track, target and profile them. This is revealed in new research on consumer understanding of privacy terms, released by the non-profit Consumer Policy Research Centre and UNSW Sydney today.

Our report also reveals 70% of Australians feel they have little or no control over how their data is disclosed between companies. Many expressed anger, frustration and distrust.

These findings are particularly important as the government considers long-overdue reforms to our privacy legislation, and the consumer watchdog finalises its upcoming report on data brokers.

If Australians are to have any hope of fair and trustworthy data handling, the government must stop companies from hiding their practices behind confusing and misleading privacy terms and mandate fairness in data handling.

We Are All Being Tracked

Our activities online and offline are constantly tracked by various companies, including data brokers that trade in our personal information.

This includes data about our activity and purchases on websites and apps, relationship status, children, financial circumstances, life events, health concerns, search history and location.

Many businesses focus their efforts on finding new ways to track and profile us, despite repeated evidence that consumers view this as misuse of their personal information.

Companies describe the data they collect in confusing and unfamiliar terms. Much of this wording seems designed to prevent us from understanding or objecting to the use and disclosure of our personal information, often collected in surreptitious ways.

Businesses can use your data to make more profit at your expense. This includes

  • charging you a higher price
  • preventing you from seeing better offers
  • micro-targeting political messages or ads based on your health information
  • reducing the priority you’re given in customer service
  • creating a profile (which you’ll never see) to share with a prospective employer, insurer or landlord.

Anonymised, Pseudonymised, Hashed

Businesses commonly try to argue this information is “de-identified” or not “personal”, to avoid running afoul of the federal Privacy Act in which these terms are defined.

But many privacy policies muddy the waters by using other, undefined terms. They create the impression data can’t be used to single out the consumer or influence what they’re shown online – even when it can.

Privacy policies commonly refer to:

  • anonymised data
  • pseudonymised information
  • hashed emails
  • audience data
  • aggregated information.

These terms have no legal definition and no fixed meaning in practice.

Data brokers and other companies may use “pseudonymised information” or “hashed email addresses” (essentially, encrypted addresses) to create detailed profiles. These will be shared with other businesses without our knowledge. They do this by matching the information collected about us by various companies in different parts of our lives.

“Anonymised information” – not a legal term in Australia – may sound like it wouldn’t reveal anything about an individual consumer. Some companies use it when only a person’s name and email have been removed, but we can still be identified by other unique or rare characteristics.

What Did Our Survey Find?

Our survey showed Australians do not feel in control of their personal information. More than 70% of consumers believe they have very little or no control over what personal information online businesses share with other companies.

Only a third of consumers feel they have at least moderate control over whether businesses use their personal information to create a profile about them.

Most consumers have no understanding of common terms in privacy notices, such as “hashed email address” or “advertising ID” (a unique ID usually assigned to one’s device).

And it’s likely to be worse than these statistics suggest, since some consumers may overestimate their knowledge.

The terms refer to data widely used to track and influence us without our knowledge. However, when consumers don’t recognise descriptions of personal information, they’re less likely to know whether that data could be used to single them out for tracking, influencing, profiling, discrimination or exclusion.

Most consumers either don’t know, or think it unlikely, that “pseudonymised information”, a “hashed email address” or “advertising ID” can be used to single them out from the crowd. They can.

Most consumers think it’s unacceptable for businesses they have no direct relationship with to use their email address, IP address, device information, search history or location data. However, data brokers and other “data partners” not in direct contact with consumers commonly use such data.

Consumers are understandably frustrated, anxious and angry about the unfair and untrustworthy ways organisations make use of their personal information and expose them to increased risk of data misuse.

Fairness, Not ‘Education’

Simply educating consumers about the terms used by companies and the ways their data is shared may seem an obvious solution.

However, we don’t recommend this for three reasons. Firstly, we can’t be sure of the meaning of undefined terms. Companies will likely keep coming up with new ones.

Secondly, it’s unreasonable to place the burden of understanding complex data ecosystems on consumers who naturally lack expertise in these areas.

Thirdly, “education” is pointless when consumers are not given real choices about the use of their data.

Urgent law reform is needed to make Australian privacy protections fit for the digital era. This should include clarifying that information that singles an individual out from the crowd is “personal information”.

We also need a “fair and reasonable” test for data handling, instead of take-it-or-leave-it privacy “consents”.

Most of us can’t avoid participating in the digital economy. These changes would help ensure that instead of confusing privacy terms, there are substantial, meaningful legal requirements for how our personal information is handled.The Conversation

Katharine Kemp, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney

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

How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

Emily BoothUniversity of Technology Sydney and Marian-Andrei RizoiuUniversity of Technology Sydney

As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”.

However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not.

In new research published in the Journal of Sociology, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly intense stages, and only a small number of people progress to the point where they commit violent acts.

Our work shows the misinformation radicalisation process is a pathway driven by human emotions rather than the information itself – and this understanding may be a first step in finding solutions.

A Feeling Of Control

We analysed dozens of public statements from newspapers and online in which former radicalised people described their experiences. We identified different levels of intensity in misinformation and its online communities, associated with common recurring behaviours.

In the early stages, we found people either encountered misinformation about an anxiety-inducing topic through algorithms or friends, or they went looking for an explanation for something that gave them a “bad feeling”.

Regardless, they often reported finding the same things: a new sense of certainty, a new community they could talk to, and feeling they had regained some control of their lives.

Once people reached the middle stages of our proposed radicalisation pathway, we considered them to be invested in the new community, its goals, and its values.

Growing Intensity

It was during these more intense stages that people began to report more negative impacts on their own lives. This could include the loss of friends and family, health issues caused by too much time spent on screens and too little sleep, and feelings of stress and paranoia. To soothe these pains, they turned again to their fringe communities for support.

Most people in our dataset didn’t progress past these middle stages. However, their continued activity in these spaces kept the misinformation ecosystem alive.

Photo showing man and woman lying in bed in the dark, facing away from each other and looking at their phones.
Engagement with misinformation proceeds in stages. TimeImage / Shutterstock

When people did move further and reach the extreme final stages in our model, they were doing active harm.

In their recounting of their experiences at these high levels of intensity, individuals spoke of choosing to break ties with loved ones, participating in public acts of disruption and, in some cases, engaging in violence against other people in the name of their cause.

Once people reached this stage, it took pretty strong interventions to get them out of it. The challenge, then, is how to intervene safely and effectively when people are in the earlier stages of being drawn into a fringe community.

Respond With Empathy, Not Shame

We have a few suggestions. For people who are still in the earlier stages, friends and trusted advisers, like a doctor or a nurse, can have a big impact by simply responding with empathy.

If a loved one starts voicing possible fringe views, like a fear of vaccines, or animosity against women or other marginalised groups, a calm response that seeks to understand the person’s underlying concern can go a long way.

The worst response is one that might leave them feeling ashamed or upset. It may drive them back to their fringe community and accelerate their radicalisation.

Even if the person’s views intensify, maintaining your connection with them can turn you into a lifeline that will see them get out sooner rather than later.

Once people reached the middle stages, we found third-party online content – not produced by government, but regular users – could reach people without backfiring. Considering that many people in our research sample had their radicalisation instigated by social media, we also suggest the private companies behind such platforms should be held responsible for the effects of their automated tools on society.

By the middle stages, arguments on the basis of logic or fact are ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether they are delivered by a friend, a news anchor, or a platform-affiliated fact-checking tool.

At the most extreme final stages, we found that only heavy-handed interventions worked, such as family members forcibly hospitalising their radicalised relative, or individuals undergoing government-supported deradicalisation programs.

How Not To Be Radicalised

After all this, you might be wondering: how do you protect yourself from being radicalised?

As much of society becomes more dependent on digital technologies, we’re going to get exposed to even more misinformation, and our world is likely going to get smaller through online echo chambers.

One strategy is to foster your critical thinking skills by reading long-form texts from paper books.

Another is to protect yourself from the emotional manipulation of platform algorithms by limiting your social media use to small, infrequent, purposefully-directed pockets of time.

And a third is to sustain connections with other humans, and lead a more analogue life – which has other benefits as well.

So in short: log off, read a book, and spend time with people you care about. The Conversation

Emily Booth, Research assistant, University of Technology Sydney and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science, University of Technology Sydney

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

Why and how often do I need to wash makeup brushes and sponges?

Annie Spratt on Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Enzo PalomboSwinburne University of Technology and Rosalie HockingSwinburne University of Technology

From the bristles of brushes to the porous surfaces of sponges, your makeup kit can harbour a host of bacteria and fungi.

These potentially hazardous contaminants can originate not only from the cosmetics themselves, but also from the very surface of our skin.

So, how can we keep things hygienic and avoid microbial growth on makeup brushes and sponges? Here’s what you need to know.

How Do Germs And Fungi Get In My Brushes And Sponges?

Germs and fungi can make their way into your makeup kit in lots of ways.

Ever flushed a toilet with the lid open with your makeup brushes nearby? There’s a good chance faecal particles have landed on them.

Perhaps a family member or housemate has used your eyeshadow brush when you weren’t looking, and transferred some microbes across in the process.

Bacteria that trigger a pimple outbreak can be easily transferred from the surface of your skin to a makeup brush or sponge.

And tiny little mites called Demodex mites, which have been linked to certain rashes and acne, live on your skin, as well, and so may end up in your sponge or brushes.

A young Asian man applies makeup at a cluttered vanity.
Germs and fungi can make their way into your makeup in lots of ways. Chay_Tee/Shutterstock

Bacterial contamination of lip cosmetics, in particular, can pose a risk of skin and eye infections (so keep that in mind if you use lip brushes). Lipsticks are frequently contaminated with bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureusE. coli, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Low-quality cosmetics are more likely to have higher and more diverse microbial growth compared to high-quality cosmetics.

Brushes exposed to sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth and nose are particularly susceptible to being potential sources of infection.

The range of conditions caused by these microorganisms includes:

  • abscesses

  • skin and soft tissue infections

  • skin lesions

  • rashes

  • and dermatitis.

In severe cases, infections can lead to invasion of the bloodstream or deep tissues.

Commercially available cosmetics contain varying amounts and types of preservatives aimed at inhibiting the growth of fungi and bacteria.

But when you apply makeup, different cosmetics with unique formulations of preservatives can become mixed. When a preservative meant for one product mixes with others, it might not work as well because they have different water amounts or pH levels.

So preservatives are not foolproof. We also need to observe good hygiene practices when it comes to brushes and other cosmetics applicators.

A woman washes a makeup brush in a sink.
You don’t need to use micellar water to clean your brushes. Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Keeping Brushes Clean

Start with the basics: never share makeup brushes or sponges. Everyone carries different microbes on their skin, so sharing brushes and sponges means you are also sharing germs and fungi.

If you need to share makeup, use something disposable to apply it, or make sure any shared brushes are washed and sterilised before the next person uses it.

Clean makeup brushes by washing with hot soapy water and rinsing thoroughly.

How often? Stick to a cleaning routine you can repeat with consistency (as opposed to a deep clean that is done annually). Once a week might be a good goal for some, while others may need to wash more regularly if they are heavy users of makeup.

Definitely wash straight away if someone else has used your brushes or sponges. And if you’ve had an eye infection such as conjunctivitis, ensure you clean applicators thoroughly after the infection has resolved.

You can use bactericidal soap, 70% ethanol or chlorhexidine solutions to wash. Just make sure you wash very thoroughly with hot water after, as some of these things can irritate your skin. (While some people online say alcohol can degrade brushes and sponges, opinion seems to be mixed; in general, most disinfectants are unlikely to cause significant corrosion.)

For some brushes, heating or steaming them and letting them dry may also be an effective sterilisation method once they are washed with detergent. Microwaving sponges isn’t a good idea because while the heat generated by a domestic microwave would kill microbes, it would need temperatures approaching 100°C for a decent period of time (at least several minutes). The heat could melt some parts of the sponge and hot materials could be a scalding hazard.

Once clean, ensure brushes and sponges are stored in a dry place away from water sources (and not near an open toilet).

If you’re having makeup applied professionally, brushes and applicators should be sterilised or changed from person to person.

A bunch of makeup brushes are set out to dry on a towel.
Dry brushes thoroughly after washing. prachyaloyfar/Shutterstock

Should I Wash Them With Micellar Water?


Not only is this expensive, it’s unnecessary. The same benefits can be achieved with cheaper detergents or alcohol (just rinse brushes carefully afterwards).

Disinfection methods such as using bactericidal soap, 70% ethanol, or chlorhexidine are all very good at reducing the amount of microbes on your brushes and sponges.The Conversation

Enzo Palombo, Professor of Microbiology, Swinburne University of Technology and Rosalie Hocking, , Swinburne University of Technology

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

Young people are drinking less in real life. But film and TV paints a different picture

Maree PatsourasLa Trobe UniversityAmy PennayLa Trobe UniversityBenjamin RiordanLa Trobe University, and Emmanuel KuntscheLa Trobe University

The new Mean Girls is a fresh take on a classic teen comedy, this time appealing to a new audience: Gen Z. So how does the film paint the new generation? As one that loves to drink.

Mean Girls is filled with references to and depictions of alcohol. There’s drinking at parties, a scene where Cady gets drunk, and even a joke about a vodka-filled inhaler.

On-screen alcohol exposure is an important issue, particularly when underage drinking is shown. Greater on-screen exposure to alcohol is associated with an increased risk of beginning to drink alcohol at a younger age, and increased likelihood of weekly drinking and binge drinking among young people.

But despite the attempts to appeal to a young audience, the new Mean Girls film doesn’t reflect most of Gen Z’s attitudes towards drinking. In fact, research shows young people are increasingly rejecting alcohol, especially when compared to older generations. So why does alcohol retain a chokehold on our screens?

Drinks All Round?

A 2023 Cancer Council report found in 1996, 90% of Australian secondary school students aged 16–17 reported drinking alcohol in the past year. By 2023, this had dropped to 64%.

The report also found recent risky drinking – that is, consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on any day within the past week – among 16- and 17-year-olds has particularly declined, dropping from 22% in 1996 to 9% in 2023.

This trend isn’t unique to Australia. Gen Z-ers across the world are drinking much less alcohol than previous generations.

Teenagers with beer bottles.
Gen Z are drinking less alcohol than other generations.

But we’re yet to see this decline reflected in films and television targeting young people.

2019 analysis found alcohol remains the most frequently portrayed substance in films, and substance use (including alcohol) on screen was more often portrayed as having either neutral or rewarding consequences (such as increased popularity), in comparison to unrewarding consequences (such as vomiting or headaches).

One-fifth of teenage characters in PG-13 (roughly equivalent to an Australia M rating) and R-rated films are shown drinking alcohol, and nearly half of G-rated animated films show alcohol use.

One prime example is Ratatouille (2007). This Disney-Pixar film is so beloved by Gen Z it got turned into a TikTok musical. The film shows alcohol a whopping 60 times, even though it’s rated PG and aimed at children.

Alcohol imagery isn’t limited to film or broadcast TV. Recent research found more alcohol in streaming content from Amazon and Netflix than in broadcast television.

And despite the sheer volume of on-screen alcohol depictions, our research shows films depict alcohol exposure nearly five times more frequently than the average Australian adult thinks they do.

Lack Of Regulation – And Young Filmmakers

Locally, alcohol exposure in films is governed by the Australian Classification Board. The board considers six classifiable elements, such as sex and violence, when deciding on a rating.

Currently, alcohol is not explicitly represented among these, although excessive consumption and alcohol dependency is considered under the element of “themes”.

This has an impact: alcohol brand placements have nearly doubled in the last two decades, and alcohol brands appear in 41% of children’s films.

When we consider why young people are so often shown drinking in films, it’s not just a matter of what can be shown under Australian regulations. Film and television is largely not yet directed, written or created by Gen Z-ers. A lack of representation can lead to young people’s perspectives not being understood, or unaccounted for.

A film director
As Gen Z enters the film industry, the depiction of alcohol on screen may change. Grusho Anna/Shutterstock

The mismatch between Gen Z’s drinking habits and the overexposure of alcohol in films is also surprising when we consider most adults in our research were supportive of a range of policies restricting alcohol exposure in films. A significant number of adult Australians support policies de-glorifying alcohol consumption and beverages in films – especially in films aimed at children.

Australia intends to reform its National Classification Scheme. Perhaps these changes – along with Gen Z entering the film industry themselves – will allow for young people’s actual drinking habits to be reflected more accurately on screen. The Conversation

Maree Patsouras, , La Trobe UniversityAmy Pennay, Research Fellow, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe UniversityBenjamin Riordan, Research fellow, La Trobe University, and Emmanuel Kuntsche, Director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University

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

Gail Jones’ One Another explores the life of Joseph Conrad and the transformative potential of reading

The Otago (1884). State Library of Queensland. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Sue KossewMonash University

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), the famous Polish-born author of Heart of DarknessLord Jim and The Secret Agent, among many other novels and short stories, is not a writer usually associated with Australia. Yet lying just off the banks of the River Derwent near Hobart there remains a haunting reminder of his presence – the partially submerged wreck of the Otago, a sailing ship he once captained when he was a roaming seafarer serving in the British merchant navy.

As a mariner, Conrad visited Australia numerous times (though, ironically, not Tasmania). The Otago, as with other ships on which he served, became the subject of many of the works he wrote in England when his sailing career ended.

A fictionalised version of Conrad, the man and the writer, forms half of Gail Jones’s new novel One Another. Significantly, Jones wrote the novel in Hobart, while taking up a writing fellowship at the University of Tasmania.

The Otago wreck is a pivotal image in the book, providing a symbolic meeting-space between the novel’s two main characters and marking a place where the past intrudes, in a bodily way, into the present.

A Tale Of Two Lives

One Another interleaves the life of the celebrated writer (born Jósef Teodor Konrad Korseniowski) with that of Helen Ross, a young Australian postgraduate student of literature, who is writing her PhD thesis at Cambridge University on “Cryptomodernism and Empire” in the works of Joseph Conrad.

The narrative moves between them, reconstructing fragments of Conrad’s life and works, while narrating Helen’s attempts to write her thesis in the middle of her increasingly toxic relationship with Justin, a psychologically damaged fellow Australian.

Although these two lives are separated by time and distance, the narrative gradually and non-chronologically reveals parallels and crossings between them. The motif of journeying and outsider status is shared by both.

The orphaned Joseph is helped by his Uncle Tadeusz to leave Poland on the death of his father. He embarks on his peripatetic life, first in the French and then the British merchant navy. Later, he becomes a British subject.

Helen leaves what she sees as the constriction of Hobart to study in England, the colonial centre, in 1992. Although the text only occasionally draws attention to specific dates, the year is significant. While overseas, Helen hears of the Australian High Court’s Mabo decision, something that she recognises as “momentous”.

Photo of Gail Jones
Gail Jones. Heike Steinweg/Text Publishing

This underlines another common thread between the two characters: their awareness of the violence of colonialism. Each has been complicit, however tangentially, in imperial and colonial practices. Conrad witnessed the “historical cruelty” in the Belgian Congo in his role as a steamboat captain on the Congo River. Helen is a settler-colonial Australian from Tasmania, a site of violent dispossession of its Indigenous peoples.

As dislocated “foreigners” in Britain, Joseph and Helen both experience British culture as unfriendly. Joseph never loses his Eastern European accent and is self-conscious about his “broken English”; Helen’s Australian accent is regarded as “uncouth”.

Both characters are writers, and both lose a crucial manuscript – a traumatic loss that has apparently afflicted a number of other authors listed in the text. Joseph leaves the only copy of his first book, Almayer’s Folly, in a café in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse train station; Helen leaves her thesis on a train.

Reading As Encounter

Helen’s “profound attachment” to Conrad has its childhood beginning when her father takes her on an unexpected road trip to show her the wreck of the Otago. But Helen does not attribute her interest in the writer to this sighting of the sunken ship. It is not an “epiphanic moment” or a “neat or mythic beginning”. Rather, as Jones writes: “What began was a kind of dreaming towards this emptied body, the boat.”

Helen’s absorption of Conrad’s life and work is indicated towards the end of the novel when she mirrors his language of the sea, alluding to a dream she has had as

the dark shipwreck that she has been caught in. No shape here: just her own mind tossed and unsettled.

This oceanic language of global and personal flow is a feature of the novel. In less skilful hands, it could become somewhat predictable, but Jones’s poetic way with words and imagery keeps it fresh and relevant.

To read a Gail Jones novel is to become absorbed in narrative patterns of looping time, often cinematic imagery, and interrelated literary allusions. The motif of immersion is particularly apt in this novel, not only for its connection to Joseph’s ocean voyaging and the references to a number of drownings and near-drownings.

The immersive experience of reading itself is a strong thematic thread, as it is in much of Jones’ work. It is evoked as an intimate aesthetic and philosophical encounter between reader and writer, or reader and text – and is perhaps another implication of the “one another” of the title.

The novel gradually introduces the reader to the complex pasts of its two main characters and, in the case of Joseph, his literary works. One Another includes some wonderfully perceptive and often intriguing short analyses of Conrad’s novels and short stories. These interpretations draw out the thematic connections between the stories of Joseph and Helen: loss, loneliness, friendship, violence.

There is one section that simply lists, in order, all the words from Heart of Darkness that have the negative prefixes “in-”, “im-” and “un-”. Other sections enumerate details of Conrad’s life and world under headings such as “Illnesses he suffers”, “The body” and “Accidents”.

These snippets can be read as extracts from the handwritten index cards that Helen has compiled for her thesis. Early on, she describes her lost manuscript as “fragments of a life intersected by literary-critical notations” – an accurate description of parts of the novel we are reading.

Photograph of the wreck of the Otago, Derwent River, Hobart.
The wreck of the Otago, Derwent River, Hobart. Steve Lovegrove/Shutterstock

Creative Biography

In many ways, then, One Another is a novel about the transformative potential of reading. It expresses the sense of intimate connection poetically, describing Helen’s “conjuring” of Conrad as “a flow into fiction’s otherness that welcomed and accommodated her”.

Jones has based the events in Joseph’s life on Conrad’s autobiographical writings in A Personal Record, his published letters, and numerous biographies and works of literary criticism. But the novel is an imaginative reconstruction of significant moments in Conrad’s world, not a historical study.

The genre of biofiction is one in which Jones has particular skill. Her early short-story collection Fetish Lives (1997) reimagines in fictional form the lives and deaths of famous writers and artists. In her recent novel, Salonika Burning (2022), she rewrites the World War I experiences of four real-life characters, including Australian writer Stella Miles Franklin, as a fictional thought experiment. But as she writes in the author’s note, Salonika Burning “takes many liberties and is not intended to be read as history”.

In One Another, Jones is similarly inspired by historical events and people to write her own version of their interior lives – their thoughts and emotions, as well as of their bodily being.

The novel begins, for example, with Joseph’s dream of his parents, “the unquiet dead”, and ends with a moving imagining of his dying thoughts, as he “sinks as he has always wanted to sink, washed by kind waves, closed over by sway, hearing no language at all but that of the ocean”.

Unlike a conventional biography, One Another suggests that “for both Joseph and his biographers, there will always be the element of the hidden”. And as Helen comes to realise, the life of another is always only partially accessible:

Seeing in fragments. That was how she now thought of it. Seeing one’s own life, and another’s […] those forms of shaped meaning that might found the merest understanding.

This fractured vision – referenced in the text’s approximation of T.S. Eliot’s line in The Waste Land about fragments “shored against ruins” – implies a modernist sensibility, whereby fragmentation can create its own “forms of shaped meaning”.

Once again, Jones has written a richly evocative novel that warrants attention, both for its fascinating subject-matter and for its outstanding writerly qualities. One Another adds to her already impressive, diverse and highly-regarded oeuvre. Importantly, too, it is also a novel that adds to our understanding of the processes of writing and reading the lives of others – and one that situates Australian literature within a globalised world.The Conversation

Sue Kossew, Emeritus Professor of Literary Studies at School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Monash University

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

We discovered a ‘gentle touch’ molecule is essential for light tactile sensation in humans – and perhaps in individual cells

Kate PooleUNSW Sydney and Mirella DottoriUniversity of Wollongong

You were probably taught that we have five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. This is not quite right: “touch” is not a single sense, but rather several working together.

Our bodies contain a network of sensory nerve cells with endings sitting in the skin that detect an array of different physical signals from our environment. The pleasant sensation of a gentle touch feels distinct from the light pressure of our clothes or the hardness of a pencil gripped between our fingers, and all of these are quite different from the pain of a stubbed toe.

How do these sensory neurons communicate such a wide range of different inputs?

In new research published in Science, the two co-authors of this article and our colleagues have found a force-sensing molecule in nerve cells called ELKIN1, which is specifically involved in detecting gentle touch. This molecule converts gentle touch into an electrical signal, the first step in the process of gentle touch perception.

How We Sense Gentle Touch

Sensing gentle touch begins with tiny deformations of the skin due to a light brush. While they may not seem like much, these deformations generate enough force to activate sensory molecules that are found in specialised nerve endings in the skin.

These molecular force sensors form a pore in the surface of the cell that is closed until a force is applied. When the cell is indented, the pore opens and an electrical current flows.

This electrical current can generate a signal that moves along the sensory nerve to the spinal cord and up to the brain.

Our new research, led by Gary Lewin and Sampurna Chakrabarti from the Max Delbruck Center in Berlin, showed the force sensor ELKIN1 is necessary for us to detect very gentle touch.

They found mice lacking the ELKIN1 molecule did not appear to sense a cotton bud being gently drawn across their paw. The mice retained their ability to sense other environmental information, including other types of touch.

Different Molecules For Different Kinds Of Touch

This new finding reveals one reason we can sense multiple types of “touch”: we have multiple, specialised force-sensing proteins that can help us distinguish different environmental signals.

ELKIN1 is the second touch-receptor molecule discovered in sensory neurons. The first (PIEZO2) was found in 2010 by Ardem Patapoutian, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize for the work. PIEZO2 is involved in sensing gentle touch, as well as a sense known as “proprioception”. Proprioception is the sense of where our limbs are in space that helps us regulate our movements.

A microscope image showing blobs of cyan, yellow and magenta.
Mouse neurons with the new ion channel ELKIN1 (cyan), which is responsible for touch sensation, nucleus (yellow) and the already known ion channel PIEZO2 (magenta). Sampurna Chakrabarti / Max Delbrück Center

Identifying these force-sensing molecules is a challenge in itself. We need to be able to study nerve cells in isolation and measure electrical currents that flow into the cell while simultaneously applying controlled forces to the cells themselves.

Do Cells Feel?

While much of our research studied mouse neurons, not all scientific data obtained from mice can be directly translated to humans.

With team members at the University of Wollongong, one of us (Mirella Dottori) tried to determine whether ELKIN1 worked the same way in humans. They reprogrammed human stem cells to produce specialised nerve cells that respond to “touch” stimuli. In these human cells, ELKIN1 had similar functional properties of detecting touch.

A photo of a glass electrode prodding some cells in a Petri dish.
Experiments on sensory neurons confirmed the role of the ELKIN1 molecule. Felix Petermann / Max Delbrück Center

While this research expands our understanding of how we make sense of the world around us, it also raises an additional, intriguing possibility.

ELKIN1 was first identified by one of us (Kate Poole) and her team at UNSW, with Gary Lewin and his team, while studying how melanoma cells break away from model tumours and “feel” their way through their surroundings. This could mean these tiny molecular force sensors give not only us, but our individual cells, a nuanced sense of touch.

Future research will continue to search for more molecular force sensors and endeavour to understand how they help our cells, and us, navigate our physical environment.The Conversation

Kate Poole, Associate Professor in Physiology, UNSW Sydney and Mirella Dottori, Professor, University of Wollongong

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

Drinking olive oil: a health and beauty elixir or celebrity fad in a shot glass?

Hazel FlightEdge Hill University

In the ever-changing world of wellness trends and celebrity endorsed health fads there is a new trend on the scene: daily olive oil shots.

Celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian, Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez all extol the virtues of swigging extra virgin as well as slathering it on their skin, crediting olive oil for their glowing complexions.

Lopez even based her JLo Beauty brand around the kitchen staple, claiming that her age-defying looks were not the result of botox or surgery but the family beauty secret: moisturising with olive oil.

And she’s in good company. Hollywood star Goldie Hawn reportedly drinks olive oil before bed and uses it topically as a moisturiser, while beauty icon Sophia Loren really goes to town by bathing in the stuff.

While these celebrities swear by the skin beautifying properties of olive oil, some skin types should give it a swerve. Those prone to acne or eczema, for example, might find the olive oil exacerbates their problems. Some dermatologists warn against using it as skin care altogether – bad news for JLo.

Thanks largely to celebrity promotion, drinking olive oil has now become a worldwide TikTok sensation. Viral videos show influencers tossing back shots of cult olive oil brands, and proclaiming a wide range of health benefits from improving digestion to clearing up acne.

Celebrity and influencers are sold on liquid gold but what about the rest of us? Can drinking olive oil really work on miracles for our health?

The Benefits Of Olive Oil

There’s no doubt that olive oil is full of good stuff. It’s high in polyphenols and antioxidants, which have protective qualities for the body’s tissues. It’s also a rich source of essential fatty acids, including oleic acid, which is known for lowering cholesterol so reducing the chances of heart disease.

Research has found that the inclusion of olive oil in the diet shows encouraging effects in a variety of inflammatory and medical diseases and can support weight management if used correctly.

Replacing butter, margarine, mayonnaise and dairy fat with olive oil has been linked to a lower risk of mortality. There’s also evidence to suggest that the protective compounds in olive oil may help guard against cancerdementia and support the liver and kidneys.

But none of this is new information to health professionals. The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are well researched and nutritionists have promoted olive oil as a swap for saturated cooking fat for years.

After all, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world for decades. The diet itself can vary from region to region, but virgin olive oil is a consistent element. It’s used as the main source of cooking fat and included in everything from salad dressings to bread.

Can Fat Be Healthy? Yes And No

Fats are crucial for a balanced diet, aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E,K and enhancing the nutritional value of meals.

However, fat of any kind is also dense in calories and excessive consumption can lead to weight gain. According to the World Health Organization, to prevent unhealthy weight gain, adults should limit their intake of fat to 30% of total energy intake with no more than 10% coming from saturated fats.

Two tablespoons of olive oil – the standard amount in the shots taken by celebrities and social media influencers – contain 28g of fat (238 calories) and 3.8g of saturated fat equating to 19% of the recommended daily intake.

That daily shot of extra virgin, then, might not be the best idea. Adding small amounts of olive oil to meals throughout the day is a more balanced – and appetising – approach to incorporating healthy fats into your diet.

But what about Kourtney Kardashian’s claim that: “It’s recommended to consume extra virgin olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach so the oil can coat your system and neutralize your stomach walls for optimal benefits?”

Some brands have also echoed the idea that consuming olive oil on an empty stomach offers unique health benefits. But no. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest this is true.

For a healthy but more satisfying snack, Kourtney might try including a handful of olives into her daily diet. Olives offer the same rich array of nutrients, including vitamins E, A and K, alongside essential minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and amino acids.

Unlike olive oil, olives have the added benefit of a high fibre content. The combination of fat and fibre enhances feelings of satiety, making olives a nutritious addition to the diet.The Conversation

Hazel Flight, Programme Lead Nutrition and Health, Edge Hill University

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

An ode to the social realism of ‘boring’ lyrics – from The Kinks to The Streets

Glenn FosbraeyUniversity of Winchester

The majority of chart artists content themselves with writing lyrics about relationships, breakups or their lavish lifestyles. Take the current top 10 song, Prada by Cassö, RAYE & D-Block Europe. As one might expect from the title, it speaks of designer clothes, fancy hotels and expensive cars. Other artists, however, satisfy themselves with something a little less glamorous – songs about the everyday, with lyrics about the ordinary and banal.

Social and literary realism have long been valuable tools in detailing the everyday lives of people, and they have been a staple in popular music for decades. When The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society in 1968, it was perhaps the first album to actively focus on the mundane, everyday aspects of life as lived by the average person in Britain.

It was about as far removed as it was possible to be from the psychedelic introspection that was popular among the biggest selling bands of the time (led, of course, by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society delighted in detailing the smaller joys of life, with songwriter Ray Davies singing about strawberry jam, draught beer, custard pies and Desperate Dan in songs that gave an insight into a world that was familiar and relatable to its listeners.

The Smiths To The Streets

The Kinks started a trend. In the 1980s, The Smiths chose the name to be as unglamorous and bland as possible, positioning themselves as the antithesis to the Spandau Ballets and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Darks of the music world. Lead singer Morrissey told an interviewer: “It was the most ordinary name and I thought it was time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.”

With lyrics that portrayed a life of rented roomshigh-rise estates and motorway service stations, Morrissey was writing lyrics about unexceptional, everyday experiences that jarred with the glitz and glamour the New Romantic bands were singing about.

And while The Smiths provided an alternative to the pomposity of early 1980s music, The Streets’ debut album Original Pirate Material was released in 2002 into a UK music market dominated by cheesy lyrics like “I’m flying high ‘cause your love’s made me see” and “Baby I would climb the Andes solely to count the freckles on your body”. Its lead vocalist Mike Skinner instead wanted “to write good lyrics about contemporary British life”.

His songs about Playstations, London Underground travel cards, cans of Carling, bottles of Smirnoff Ice, smoke-reeking jeans, McDonald’s and KFC documented the lives many of us were actually living.

Could Well Be In by The Streets (2004) includes lyrics about JD Sports, playing pool and ITV.

When COVID swept the world in 2020 and we were confined to our houses, gazing out of our windows at a world that was off limits, songs with everyday lyrics became even more important.

After all, did we really want to be listening to Ed Sheeran’s boast about how he’d found love in a bar when we couldn’t go to bars, or Dua Lipa going on about how she was once again dancing her ass off when we couldn’t go to clubs? What many of us really wanted were lyrics that showed solidarity with our situation and represented the lives we were living, with all the glamour, excitement and gloss wiped off.

Lyrics to 2021 songs like Niko B’s Who’s That, What’s That? (“Copped a Big Mac, milkshake and some large fries … take the gherkin out of the inside”) or Lady Leshurr’s Quarantining (“I went Sainsbury’s just to get bog roll”) became poignant.

Even love song supremo Paul McCartney got on board, pondering in the track When Winter Comes (2021) how he must “dig a drain by the carrot patch” and “fix the fence”. Not a hint of “patron”, “poolside drinking”, or “Margarita rounds” in sight (sorry, Drake).

The Future Of The Banal

Sixty years since champions of the everyday The Kinks came onto the scene, the ordinary lyric is alive and well. Mike Skinner is back releasing albums as The Streets after a decade-long hiatus, and new pretenders to the throne of the mundane, Leeds’s Yard Act, are about to release their second album Where’s My Utopia.

The band have been praised for how their songs have documented modern life in Britain. With lyrics like: “We’re gonna put Poundshop terracotta frogs everywhere / And wrap solar power fairy lights round the gutter … I got a prosecco o’clock poster half price in Ikea”, they continue to fly the flag of joyous banality.

Songs about love, breakups and extravagance will undoubtedly continue to dominate the charts, but in among it all, it seems, there’s always room something a little more ordinary.

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

Glenn Fosbraey, Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Winchester

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

Alopecia in art history: the many ways women’s hair loss has been interpreted

Met Museum/National Portrait Gallery
Glen JankowskiLeeds Beckett University

At least 40% of women experience hair loss or alopecia over their lifetimes. This could be alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), traction alopecia (strained hair loss) or another form. The different ways that women’s hair loss has been depicted across art history demonstrates the many different ways it has been interpreted over the years.

In 16th and 17th century Britain, for example, women’s alopecia was sometimes interpreted as retribution for sins, including adultery.

Some historical art, however, depicts a more neutral, or even positive, attitude towards women’s alopecia. In religious or mythical art, it was sometimes idealised as divine.

Two paintings of Madonna and baby Jesus, in which Madonna has a receding hairline
Left: Prudence by Andrea della Robbia (circa 1475). Right: Madonna and Child with St. Mary Magdelene and St. Jerome by Cosmè Tura (circa 1455). National Gallery of Art/Musée Fesch

Madonna and Child, painted in the 15th century by Italian Rennaisance artist Carlo Crivelli, shows Jesus and Mary embracing in a gold, stylised setting. The pair sit behind a religious altar surrounded by ripe fruit and adorned with halos. Madonna has a high forehead and her blonde hair recedes, particularly on her right temple.

This association between alopecia and divinity is echoed in a work by another Renaissance Italian artist, Cosmè Tura. His Madonna and Mary Magdalene (circa 1490) depicts both mother and child with prominent foreheads.

Prudence depicted in stone as two headed, with balding woman one side.
Prudence by Andrea della Robbia (circa 1475). Met Museum

A glazed terracotta piece created by the Italian sculptor Andrea della Robbia in 1475 features Prudence, a human embodiment of Christian morality, as a balding two-headed person.

Baldness in women has been connected to the divine for various reasons. It took the emphasis off of personal appearance in favour of deeper, more spiritual, priorities. But intentional hair removal played a role too. For some religious people, such as Buddhist nuns and Haredi Jewish wives, a bald head is thought to be purer and shaving can represent a regular, sacrificial ritual.

Ancient Depictions

Egyptian painting of two princesses
Two Princesses (circa 1353 to 1336BC). Met Museum

Artwork on the walls of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten who ruled from 1351 to 1334BC, depicts two of his daughters, naked, with bald heads. Head shaving as well as natural baldness was common among the ancient Egyptians, including women.

statue of a bald headed princess
The bald head of an ancient Egyptian princess (circa BC 1352–1336). Met Museum

In fact, ancient Egyptians had distinct terms for female and male alopecia. This attests to just how common baldness, head shaving and wig wearing were for both sexes in ancient Egypt.

And it isn’t just Egypt. Partial and full head shaving has historically been common among women across sub-Saharan Africa. As one traveller observed among the inhabitants of the 18th century Kingdom of Issini (modern-day Ghana): “Some only shave one half of the head … Others leave broad patches here and there unshaved.”

Medieval And Renaissance Alopecia

The 15th century painting, Portrait Of A Woman With A Man At A Casement, by the Italian artist, Fra Filippo Lippi, features an aristocratic profile of a woman facing a man. She has a prominent forehead and high hairline.

Portrait of a balding woman in profile.
Portrait Of A Woman With A Man At A Casement by Fra Filippo Lippi (circa 1440). Met Museum

The appearance of recessed frontal hairlines in Medieval and Renaissance Europe may have been fashionable and even considered a sign of intelligence, encouraging customs of forehead shaving and eyebrow plucking.

The 16th century queen of England, Elizabeth I, was often painted in this way. One undated oil portrait of the British monarch depicts her in bejewelled robes, with a pearl emblazoned veil and a prominent forehead.

The removal of female bodily hair at this time, including on the forehead, wasn’t just a matter of fashion. It also arguably arose due to patriarchal ideas that women’s body hair was dirty and even dangerous to men.

Modern Alopecia

Adverts and research today tend to discuss hair loss exclusively through medical terms, as a kind of detrimental disease. A recent BBC article refers to people with alopecia areata as “patients” and their experience of it as “profoundly challenging”. This certainly reflects some experiences, but not those who interpret their hair loss more neutrally, or even with pride.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetic products are promoted as “necessary” treatments. A newly licensed drug, litfulo or ritlecitinib, has been hailed this week as the “first treatment” and “medicine” for alopecia. But as many forms of alopecia are not delimiting and as the “treatments” on offer have limited efficacy and potential safety issues, this should not be the default response. For example, the European Medicine Agency notes that ritlecitinib results in 80% hair regrowth but only for 36% of people taking it. About 10% are at risk of diarrhoea, acne and throat infections.

Another study noted that similar alopecia drugs, that operate through immunosuppression, only seem to work if they are taken continuously, yet their long-term safety has not been established.

Depictions of alopecia throughout art history are a reminder of the many complicated ways women’s hair loss has been viewed. Sometimes weaponised as a way to shame women, sometimes venerated as a sign of the divine, the truth is that hair loss really indicates nothing about a woman’s worth, morality or status.

But historical depictions of women’s alopecia and baldness provide hope. They show that alopecia has been conceptualised differently at different times. This means the current framing of alopecia as an inevitably disadvantaging disease in need of certain “treatments” might be biased too. They suggest if our societal interpretation of alopecia improves (as something that shouldn’t be stigmatised), then so too may the individual experience (as something that shouldn’t be dreaded).

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

Glen Jankowski, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University

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

If you get your financial advice on social media, watch out for misinformation

Lindsey AppleyardCoventry University

When your parents had financial troubles or questions about planning for the future, they may have sought the help of a financial adviser, their bank, or other professional. Today, many people turn to social media.

TikTok in particular has become a hub of financial advice, from money saving hacks and personal stories to investment and stock market advice. But this information is not always reliable. A recent report found that more than 60% of videos shared using the hashtag #StockTok contain inaccurate or misleading information.

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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These days young people experience greater financial insecurity than previous generations. So it’s not surprising that many are anxious about financial matters and want to learn more about money.

I’ve conducted research with young people aged 18-24 years old about their financial and borrowing habits. Around half of the 80 people my team and I spoke to had used social media for money advice and financial guidance.

Young People’s Money Beliefs

We observed several trends in the money messages they were absorbing. Many understood the importance of saving but there was a great interest in investing. Some perceived that if they didn’t invest in the stock market or cryptocurrency, they would be at a significant disadvantage compared to their peers. One 24-year-old participant described investing as a “rat race”, and said that politicians and news coverage of inflation added to the pressure.

Many interviewees had strong views on home ownership – property was viewed as “an investment”, while renting was seen as “wasting” money. Some we spoke to suggested that greater protection from significant and unaffordable rent increases was needed, so that they could have an opportunity to save more.

Some reported feelings of “fomo” (fear of missing out) if they didn’t invest in cryptocurrency. On social media, they saw influencers promoting their luxury lifestyles, shopping hauls, holidays and new cars supposedly funded by their “savvy” investments. However, our participants were also aware that such content could be a ploy to get people to pay for a course on how to invest, which funded the influencers’ lifestyle rather than crypto. One participant said:

Even my [younger] sister, she’s even investing in things like crypto coins, and she knows nothing about it, so I think it’s the younger generation, everyone knows about it, but I don’t know enough about it … to invest confidently.

Investing in something just because others are is not a reason to do the same. Not understanding the risks involved in investing as well as the potential benefits is dangerous. Cryptocurrency is often touted as an easy way to make money on social media because it is highly volatile. But, because the value can rise and fall dramatically, investors can lose all their money.

Researchers have argued that regulators should track emerging trends on #FinTok and #StockTok to proactively regulate consumer finance information and products where needed.

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is an example of an unregulated financial product promoted on social media that can cause financial harm if people do not understand that it is a credit product and how they should use it. Evidence suggests that people are paying off their BNPL loans using credit and deepening their debt.

Sifting Through Financial Advice Online

As I found in my research, young people do not know where to go for financial advice – but this isn’t necessarily their fault. The UK financial services landscape is hugely complex, so it is not surprising if you are not sure who to trust or where to get accurate information.

The independent, government-backed website MoneyHelper is a good place to start. They have specifically created a guide for young people on how to support themselves financially and produced a beginners guide to investing.

A young woman focuses, with her head resting on her chin at a desk, using a pen and calcuator to go through financial papers
Think carefully before making big financial decisions. Natee Meepian/Shutterstock

MoneyHelper is active on TwitterFacebook and YouTube, but could expand to TikTok and Instagram, meeting young people where they are and helping them make good financial decisions.

TikTok has urged users to #FactCheckYourFeed, to encourage people to use critical thinking when it comes to news and other informative content on the app. When engaging with financial advice, this can mean asking yourself the five w’s – who, what, when, where and why:

  • Who is this person? Are they a regulated financial advisor?
  • What are they saying?
  • When was this posted?
  • Where are they getting their information?
  • Why are they sharing this? Is it an ad or are they asking me to sign up to something?

Think about your financial goals and what small steps you can take to help you reach those goals. For example, if you are under 40 years of age, you can save £4,000 tax-free each year in a Lifetime ISA where the government will add a 25% bonus (up to £1000) each year.

Before you make any financial decisions, either talk to someone about your finances before you take action or look at the resources available at independent, charitable organisations such as MoneyHelper, Stepchange and Citizens Advice.The Conversation

Lindsey Appleyard, Assistant Professor, Coventry University

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

Young people are losing sleep over energy drinks – but a ban won’t be enough to protect them

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Aja MurrayThe University of Edinburgh and Ingrid ObsuthThe University of Edinburgh

There’s no calming the buzz around energy drinks. And it’s not just because of their notoriously high caffeine content.

In the first few weeks of 2024, the UK Labour party proposed including a ban on energy drinks for under-16s in their election manifesto due to concerns about their health impact. Soldiers belonging to the Blues & Royals – part of the king’s ceremonial bodyguards, the Household Cavalry – have also been ordered to stop consuming energy drinks.

Since then, one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has launched a new campaign for his “healthy” energy drink brand, Zoa. No doubt Johnson is hoping to capitalise on the thirst for energy drinks that helped Prime, a brand promoted by popular but controversial YouTube personalities KSI and Logan Paulachieve cult status among school-aged children, especially boys.

But young people’s consumption of energy drinks isn’t likely to be completely driven by influencer trends. If we want to help young people suffering the health consequences of consuming energy drinks too often, regulation is no doubt part of the picture. But we also need to examine the root causes of young people’s attraction to energy drinks.

Recent evidence suggests that in the UK up to a third of children and young adults consume energy drinks regularly. A 2016 systemic review of energy drink consumption by children and young people found boys are more likely to consume higher amounts than girls.

Energy drinks can contain as much as 505mg of caffeine per serving (equivalent to over fourteen cans of cola), with most containing around 160mg per can. For comparison, a typical 250ml cup of coffee contains about 90-140mg.

Owing to this high caffeine content, the consumption of energy drinks has been linked to poor sleep quality. Research has found that the drinks may also contribute to mental health issues among young people, including anxiety, stress, irritability, and depression. All of which are almost certainly linked to disrupted sleep patterns.

So why are young people so keen on energy drinks? Academic research shows that reasons for consumption include enjoying the taste, as a measure to deal with fatigue and boost mood – and to improve mental and sporting performance.

Another common use for energy drink is as a mixer. Energy drinks are often combined with alcohol and consumed at parties to give an extra buzz. The energy drink counteracts the depressive effect of the alcohol so the drinker feels more alert than they might otherwise.

But this trend also has its dangers. People can end up drinking more alcohol than they realise because its effects are suppressed by the energy drinks.

Branding, marketing and peer influence encourage their use among young people, many of whom are unaware of possible harms of energy drink usage. A UK study conducted in 2022 found that only about half of children knew that energy drinks contained caffeine.

Young People Lacking In Sleep

Though some academic studies have reported a link between young people’s use of energy drinks and a lack of sleep, the exact relationship between the two isn’t clear.

Numerous factors such as night-time screen use and social media scrolling, academic pressures, and mismatches between school start times and natural sleep-wake rhythms conspire to see many of the world’s young people falling short of recommended sleep targets.

Whetever the cause of young people’s lack of sleep, energy drinks offer a fast and convenient way to counteract the effects of poor sleep on mood and day-to-day functioning. It’s possible, then, that young people can become trapped in vicious cycles of energy drink use, poor sleep, and deteriorating mental health.

Energy drink use has also been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, while some acute effects of energy drinks, such as increased activity, resemble ADHD symptoms, it is currently unclear whether there is any long term increased risk of developing ADHD as a result of energy drink consumption.

Young people with ADHD symptoms might also be more likely to use energy drinks as a form of “self-medication” or because they enjoy the feeling or lower impulse control. As young people with ADHD are already more likely to experience sleep difficulties, they might also be an especially vulnerable group for whom energy drink use could exacerbate pre-existing sleep issues.

Bans And Regulation Are Only Part Of The Answer

In light of the accumulating evidence for the harms of energy drinks, several countries have started to regulate or outright ban their sale minors. In Lithuania and Turkey, for example, sales of energy drinks to under 18s is not allowed.

In the UK, a 2018 social media campaign spearheaded by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver led to many supermarkets implementing a voluntary ban on sales to under-16s. The following year, the UK government said they would ban energy drinks for under-16s in England. But the ban has not been implemented.

Bans and regulation can help to change behaviour, but they are usually not enough on their own. Equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to manage their sleep and energy cycles will play a crucial role in tackling the global shortage of sleep among young people.

Most crucial of all, we need to listen to young people and understand their motivations for using energy drinks so that we can design effective strategies to support them to reduce their consumption.The Conversation

Aja Murray, Reader in Psychology, The University of Edinburgh and Ingrid Obsuth, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, The University of Edinburgh

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")

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

Sedentary Behaviour Increases Mortality Risk

February 28, 2024
Based on decades-long observations of centenarians, author Dan Buettner (Blue Zones) conjectures that people live longer when they get up and move around after sitting for twenty minutes. Now, a rigorous new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) has data showing that older women who sat for 11.7 hours or more per day increased their risk of death by 30 percent, regardless of whether they exercised vigorously.

Study co-author Steve Nguyen, Ph.D., M.P.H., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, examined measurements of sitting and daily activity collected from hip devices worn for up to seven days by 6,489 women, aged 63 to 99, who were followed for eight years for mortality outcomes. This data was collected in a study led by Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., M.P.H., Distinguished Professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health, as part of a long-term national project known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), which began in 1991 and is ongoing.

Nguyen's paper is the first to apply a novel and validated machine-learned algorithm called CHAP to examine total sitting time and length of sitting bouts in relation to the risk of death.

"Sedentary behaviour is defined as any waking behaviour involving sitting or reclining with low energy expenditure," explains Nguyen. "Previous techniques for calculating sedentary behaviour used cut points that identified low or absent movement. The CHAP algorithm was developed using machine-learning, a type of artificial intelligence, that enhanced its ability to accurately distinguish between standing and sitting." Fine-tuning "sitting" enabled Nguyen to parse total sitting time and usual sitting bout durations.

Sedentary behaviour is a health risk because it reduces muscle contractions, blood flow and glucose metabolism. "When you're sitting, the blood flow throughout your body slows down, decreasing glucose uptake. Your muscles aren't contracting as much, so anything that requires oxygen consumption to move the muscles diminishes, and your pulse rate is low," said LaCroix.

Unfortunately, exercise cannot undo these negative effects. According to the study, whether women participated in low or high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, they showed the same heightened risk if they sat for long hours.
"If I take a brisk long walk for an hour but sit the rest of the day, I'm still accruing all the negative effects on my metabolism," said LaCroix.

Based on the research, LaCroix makes the following recommendation: "The risk starts climbing when you're sitting about 11 hours per day, combined with the longer you sit in a single session. For example, sitting more than 30 minutes at a time is associated with higher risk than sitting only 10 minutes at a time. Most people aren't going to get up six times an hour, but maybe people could get up once an hour, or every 20 minutes or so. They don't have to go anywhere, they can just stand for a little while."

However, Nguyen points out that not all sitting is the same. "Looking beyond conditions like cardiovascular disease, we start thinking about cognitive outcomes, including dementia," he said. "There are cognitively stimulating activities that can result in sedentary behaviour, like sitting while studying a new language. Is sedentary behaviour in that context overall bad for a person? I think it's hard to say." Nguyen has recently received a National Institute of General Medical Sciences K99 award for 12 months of mentored research to look at protein signatures of physical activity and how they relate to dementia.

LaCroix is sympathetic to the challenges of modifying sedentary behaviour, but she knows that the modifications are necessary, if not easy. "We've created this world in which it's so fascinating to sit and do things. You can be engrossed by TV or scroll on your Instagram for hours. But sitting all the time isn't the way we were meant to be as humans, and we could reverse all of that culturally just by not being so attracted to all the things that we do while sitting."

Steve Nguyen, John Bellettiere, Blake Anuskiewicz, Chongzhi Di, Jordan Carlson, Loki Natarajan, Michael J. LaMonte, Andrea Z. LaCroix. Prospective Associations of Accelerometer‐Measured Machine‐Learned Sedentary Behaviour With Death Among Older Women: The OPACH Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2024; DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.123.031156

How 40Hz Sensory Gamma Rhythm Stimulation Clears Amyloid In Alzheimer's Mice

February 28, 2024
Studies at MIT and elsewhere are producing mounting evidence that light flickering and sound clicking at the gamma brain rhythm frequency of 40 Hz can reduce Alzheimer's disease (AD) progression and treat symptoms in human volunteers as well as lab mice. 

In a new study in Nature using a mouse model of the disease, researchers at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory of MIT reveal a key mechanism that may contribute to these beneficial effects: clearance of amyloid proteins, a hallmark of AD pathology, via the brain's glymphatic system, a recently discovered "plumbing" network parallel to the brain's blood vessels.

"Ever since we published our first results in 2016, people have asked me how does it work? Why 40 Hz? Why not some other frequency?" said study senior author Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience and director of The Picower Institute and MIT's Aging Brain Initiative. "These are indeed very important questions we have worked very hard in the lab to address."

The new paper describes a series of experiments, led by Mitch Murdock when he was a Brain and Cognitive Sciences doctoral student at MIT, showing that when sensory gamma stimulation increases 40 Hz power and synchrony in the brains of mice, that prompts a particular type of neuron to release peptides. The study results further suggest that those short protein signals then drive specific processes that promote increased amyloid clearance via the glymphatic system.

"We do not yet have a linear map of the exact sequence of events that occurs," said Murdock, who was jointly supervised by Tsai and co-author and collaborator Ed Boyden, Y. Eva Tan Professor of Neurotechnology at MIT, a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and an affiliate member of The Picower Institute. "But the findings in our experiments support this clearance pathway through the major glymphatic routes."

From Gamma to Glymphatics
Because prior research has shown that the glymphatic system is a key conduit for brain waste clearance and may be regulated by brain rhythms, Tsai and Murdock's team hypothesized that it might help explain the lab's prior observations that gamma sensory stimulation reduces amyloid levels in Alzheimer's model mice.

Working with "5XFAD" mice, which genetically model Alzheimer's, Murdock and co-authors first replicated the lab's prior results that 40 Hz sensory stimulation increases 40 Hz neuronal activity in the brain and reduces amyloid levels. Then they set out to measure whether there was any correlated change in the fluids that flow through the glymphatic system to carry away wastes. Indeed, they measured increases in cerebrospinal fluid in the brain tissue of mice treated with sensory gamma stimulation compared to untreated controls. They also measured an increase in the rate of interstitial fluid leaving the brain. Moreover, in the gamma-treated mice he measured increased diameter of the lymphatic vessels that drain away the fluids and measured increased accumulation of amyloid in cervical lymph nodes, which is the drainage site for that flow.

To investigate how this increased fluid flow might be happening, the team focused on the aquaporin 4 (AQP4) water channel of astrocyte cells, which enables the cells to facilitate glymphatic fluid exchange. When they blocked APQ4 function with a chemical, that prevented sensory gamma stimulation from reducing amyloid levels and prevented it from improving mouse learning and memory. And when, as an added test they used a genetic technique for disrupting AQP4, that also interfered with gamma-driven amyloid clearance.

In addition to the fluid exchange promoted by APQ4 activity in astrocytes, another mechanism by which gamma waves promote glymphatic flow is by increasing the pulsation of neighbouring blood vessels. Several measurements showed stronger arterial pulsatility in mice subjected to sensory gamma stimulation compared to untreated controls.
One of the best new techniques for tracking how a condition, such as sensory gamma stimulation, affects different cell types is to sequence their RNA to track changes in how they express their genes. Using this method, Tsai and Murdock's team saw that gamma sensory stimulation indeed promoted changes consistent with increased astrocyte AQP4 activity.

Prompted by peptides
The RNA sequencing data also revealed that upon gamma sensory stimulation a subset of neurons, called "interneurons," experienced a notable uptick in the production of several peptides. This was not surprising in the sense that peptide release is known to be dependent on brain rhythm frequencies, but it was still notable because one peptide in particular, VIP, is associated with Alzheimer's-fighting benefits and helps to regulate vascular cells, blood flow and glymphatic clearance.

Seizing on this intriguing result, the team ran tests that revealed increased VIP in the brains of gamma-treated mice. The researchers also used a sensor of peptide release and observed that sensory gamma stimulation resulted in an increase in peptide release from VIP-expressing interneurons.

But did this gamma-stimulated peptide release mediate the glymphatic clearance of amyloid? To find out, the team ran another experiment: they chemically shut down the VIP neurons. When they did so, and then exposed mice to sensory gamma stimulation, they found that there was no longer an increase in arterial pulsatility and there was no more gamma-stimulated amyloid clearance.
"We think that many neuropeptides are involved," Murdock said. Tsai added that a major new direction for the lab's research will be determining what other peptides or other molecular factors may be driven by sensory gamma stimulation.

Tsai and Murdock added that while this paper focuses on what is likely an important mechanism -- glymphatic clearance of amyloid -- by which sensory gamma stimulation helps the brain, it's probably not the only underlying mechanism that matters. The clearance effects shown in this study occurred rather rapidly but in lab experiments and clinical studies weeks or months of chronic sensory gamma stimulation have been needed to have sustained effects on cognition.

With each new study, however, scientists learn more about how sensory stimulation of brain rhythms may help treat neurological disorders.

Mitchell H. Murdock, Cheng-Yi Yang, Na Sun, Ping-Chieh Pao, Cristina Blanco-Duque, Martin C. Kahn, TaeHyun Kim, Nicolas S. Lavoie, Matheus B. Victor, Md Rezaul Islam, Fabiola Galiana, Noelle Leary, Sidney Wang, Adele Bubnys, Emily Ma, Leyla A. Akay, Madison Sneve, Yong Qian, Cuixin Lai, Michelle M. McCarthy, Nancy Kopell, Manolis Kellis, Kiryl D. Piatkevich, Edward S. Boyden, Li-Huei Tsai. Multisensory gamma stimulation promotes glymphatic clearance of amyloid. Nature, 2024; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-024-07132-6

Nicotine pouches are being marketed to young people on social media. But are they safe, or even legal?

Piskova Photo/Shutterstock
Becky FreemanUniversity of Sydney

Flavoured nicotine pouches are being promoted to young people on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Although some viral videos have been taken down following a series of reports in The Guardian, clips featuring Australian influencers have claimed nicotine pouches are a safe and effective way to quit vaping. A number of the videos have included links to websites selling these products.

With the rapid rise in youth vaping and the subsequent implementation of several reforms to restrict access to vaping products, it’s not entirely surprising the tobacco industry is introducing more products to maintain its future revenue stream.

The major trans-national tobacco companies, including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, all manufacture nicotine pouches. British American Tobacco’s brand of nicotine pouches, Velo, is a leading sponsor of the McLaren Formula 1 team.

But what are nicotine pouches, and are they even legal in Australia?

Like Snus, But Different

Nicotine pouches are available in many countries around the world, and their sales are increasing rapidly, especially among young people.

Nicotine pouches look a bit like small tea bags and are placed between the lip and gum. They’re typically sold in small, colourful tins of about 15 to 20 pouches. While the pouches don’t contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine that is either extracted from tobacco plants or made synthetically. The pouches come in a wide range of strengths.

As well as nicotine, the pouches commonly contain plant fibres (in place of tobacco, plant fibres serve as a filler and give the pouches shape), sweeteners and flavours. Just like for vaping products, there’s a vast array of pouch flavours available including different varieties of fruit, confectionery, spices and drinks.

The range of appealing flavours, as well as the fact they can be used discreetly, may make nicotine pouches particularity attractive to young people.

Two teenage girls vaping on a blanket in a park.
Vaping has recently been subject to tighter regulation in Australia. Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock

Users absorb the nicotine in their mouths and simply replace the pouch when all the nicotine has been absorbed. Tobacco-free nicotine pouches are a relatively recent product, but similar style products that do contain tobacco, known as snus, have been popular in Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, for decades.

Snus and nicotine pouches are however different products. And given snus contains tobacco and nicotine pouches don’t, the products are subject to quite different regulations in Australia.

What Does The Law Say?

Pouches that contain tobacco, like snus, have been banned in Australia since 1991, as part of a consumer product ban on all forms of smokeless tobacco products. This means other smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snuff, and dissolvable tobacco sticks or tablets, are also banned from sale in Australia.

Tobacco-free nicotine pouches cannot legally be sold by general retailers, like tobacconists and convenience stores, in Australia either. But the reasons for this are more complex.

In Australia, under the Poisons Standard, nicotine is a prescription-only medicine, with two exceptions. Nicotine can be used in tobacco prepared and packed for smoking, such as cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and cigars, as well as in preparations for therapeutic use as a smoking cessation aid, such as nicotine patches, gum, mouth spray and lozenges.

If a nicotine-containing product does not meet either of these two exceptions, it cannot be legally sold by general retailers. No nicotine pouches have currently been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as a therapeutic aid in smoking cessation, so in short they’re not legal to sell in Australia.

However, nicotine pouches can be legally imported for personal use only if users have a prescription from a medical professional who can assess if the product is appropriate for individual use.

We only have anecdotal reports of nicotine pouch use, not hard data, as these products are very new in Australia. But we do know authorities are increasingly seizing these products from retailers. It’s highly unlikely any young people using nicotine pouches are accessing them through legal channels.

Health Concerns

Nicotine exposure may induce effects including dizziness, headache, nausea and abdominal cramps, especially among people who don’t normally smoke or vape.

Although we don’t yet have much evidence on the long term health effects of nicotine pouches, we know nicotine is addictive and harmful to health. For example, it can cause problems in the cardiovascular system (such as heart arrhythmia), particularly at high doses. It may also have negative effects on adolescent brain development.

The nicotine contents of some of the nicotine pouches on the market is alarmingly high. Certain brands offer pouches containing more than 10mg of nicotine, which is similar to a cigarette. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, pouches deliver enough nicotine to induce and sustain nicotine addiction.

Pouches are also being marketed as a product to use when it’s not possible to vape or smoke, such as on a plane. So instead of helping a person quit they may be used in addition to smoking and vaping. And importantly, there’s no clear evidence pouches are an effective smoking or vaping cessation aid.

A Velo product display at Dubai airport in October 2022.
A Velo product display at Dubai airport in October 2022. Nicotine pouches are marketed as safe to use on planes. Becky Freeman

Further, some nicotine pouches, despite being tobacco-free, still contain tobacco-specific nitrosamines. These compounds can damage DNA, and with long term exposure, can cause cancer.

Overall, there’s limited data on the harms of nicotine pouches because they’ve been on the market for only a short time. But the WHO recommends a cautious approach given their similarities to smokeless tobacco products.

For anyone wanting advice and support to quit smoking or vaping, it’s best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or access trusted sources such as Quitline or the iCanQuit website.The Conversation

Becky Freeman, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

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

The US just returned to the Moon after more than 50 years. How big a deal is it, really?

Intuitive MachinesCC BY-NC-ND
David FlanneryQueensland University of Technology

In the few short years since the COVID pandemic changed our world, China, Japan and India have all successfully landed on the Moon.

Many more robotic missions have flown past the Moon, entered lunar orbit, or crashed into it in the past five years. This includes spacecraft developed by South Koreathe United Arab Emirates, and an Israeli not-for-profit organisation.

Late last week, the American company Intuitive Machines, in collaboration with NASA, celebrated “America’s return to the Moon” with a successful landing of its Odysseus spacecraft.

Recent Chinese-built sample return missions are far more complex than this project. And didn’t NASA ferry a dozen humans to the Moon back when microwaves were cutting-edge technology? So what is different about this mission developed by a US company?

Back To The Moon

The recent Odysseus landing stands out for two reasons. For starters, this is the first time a US-built spacecraft has landed – not crashed – on the Moon for over 50 years.

Secondly, and far more significantly, this is the first time a private company has pulled off a successful delivery of cargo to the Moon’s surface.

NASA has lately focused on destinations beyond the Earth–Moon system, including Mars. But with its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, it has also funded US private industry to develop Moon landing concepts, hoping to reduce the delivery costs of lunar payloads and allow NASA engineers to focus on other challenges.

Working with NASA, Intuitive Machines selected a landing site about 300 kilometres from the lunar south pole. Among other challenges, landing here requires entering a polar orbit around the Moon, which consumes additional fuel.

At this latitude, the land is heavily cratered and dotted with long shadows. This makes it challenging for autonomous landing systems to find a safe spot for a touchdown.

NASA spent about US$118 million (A$180 million) to land six scientific payloads on Odysseus. This is relatively cheap. Using low-cost lunar landers, NASA will have an efficient way to test new space hardware that may then be flown on other Moon missions or farther afield.

Ten Minutes Of Silence

One of the technology tests on the Odysseus lander, NASA’s Navigation Doppler Lidar experiment or NDL, appears to have proved crucial to the lander’s success.

As the lander neared the surface, the company realised its navigation systems had a problem. NASA’s NDL experiment is serendipitously designed to test precision landing techniques for future missions. It seems that at the last second, engineers bodged together a solution that involved feeding necessary data from NDL to the lander.

Ten minutes of silence followed before a weak signal was detected from Odysseus. Applause thundered through the mission control room. NASA’s administrator released a video congratulating everyone for returning America to the Moon.

It has since become clear the lander is not oriented perfectly upright. The solar panels are generating sufficient power and the team is slowly receiving the first images from the surface.

However, it’s likely Odysseus partially toppled over upon landing. Fortunately, at the time of writing, it seems most of the science payload may yet be deployed as it’s on the side of the lander facing upwards. The unlucky payload element facing downwards is a privately contributed artwork connected to NFTs.

The lander is now likely to survive for at least a week before the Sun sets on the landing site and a dark, frigid lunar night turns it into another museum piece of human technology frozen in the lunar regolith.

Close-up view of a machine with golden foil and various panels with a grey moon surface in the background
The Moon visible 10km beneath the Odysseus lander after it entered lunar orbit on February 21. Intuitive MachinesCC BY-NC-ND

Win Some, Lose Some

NASA’s commercial approach to stimulating low-cost payload services all but guarantees some failures. But eventually NASA hopes that several commercial launch and landing providers will emerge from the program, along with a few learning experiences.

The know-how accumulated at organisations operating hardware in space is at least as important as the development of the hardware itself.

The market for commercial lunar payloads remains unclear. Possibly, once the novelty wears off and brands are no longer able to generate buzz by, for example, sending a piece of outdoor clothing to the Moon, this source of funding may dwindle.

However, just as today, civil space agencies and taxpayers will continue to fund space exploration to address shared science goals.

Ideally, commercial providers will offer NASA an efficient method for testing key technologies needed for its schedule of upcoming scientific robotic missions, as well as human spaceflight in the Artemis program. Australia would also have the opportunity to test hardware at a reduced price.

It’s worth noting that US budgetary issues, funding cuts and subsequent lay-offs do threaten these ambitions.

Meanwhile, in Australia, we may have nothing to launch anyway. We continue to spend less than the OECD average on scientific research, and only a few Australian universities – who traditionally lead such efforts – have received funding provided by the Australian Space Agency.

If we do support planetary science and space exploration in the future, Australians will need to decide if we want to allocate our limited resources, competing with NASA and US private industry, to supply launch, landing and robotic services to the global space industry.

Alternatively, we could leverage these lower-cost payload providers to develop our own scientific space program, and locally developed space technologies associated with benefits to the knowledge economy, education and national security.The Conversation

David Flannery, Planetary Scientist, Queensland University of Technology

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

Vale Martin McCallum FRSA

6 April 1950 – 14 January 2024
The Palm Beach Whale Beach Association mark with the greatest sadness the death of Martin McCallum who resigned from the Association’s Committee last year after serving on it for 10 years.

Martin was born in Blackpool, England and began his theatre career at the Castle Theatre in Farnham later becoming a production manager at the Old Vic, the home of the National Theatre, under the leadership of Laurence Olivier. There he managed many shows including ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ by Eugene O’Neill starring Olivier and Constance Cummings and Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’ starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. In 1978 he formed The Production Office which specialised in technical and general production management, the first of its kind.

In 1981 as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Cats’ was becoming a world wide hit the producer Cameron Mackintosh called in Martin McCallum to help. He collaborated in the management of Mackintosh’s overseas operations, particular in Australia and New York, and worked with him to restore the first two of Mackintosh’s West End theatres. In the 1980s he played a significant part in the success of ‘Cats’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Miss Saigon’. In tribute, Cameron McIntosh has said “My companies’ ongoing success is in no small part due to the enduring foundations Martin laid so wisely in the 1980s and 90s”. Altogether he worked on more than 500 shows on Broadway and the West End. He was also President of the Society of London Theatre and Advisor to the Arts Council.

He moved permanently to Sydney in 2003 and built his own house in Palm Beach designed by his brother-in-law who was an architect. He served on the board of the Sydney Theatre Company from 2005-2014 and was the inaugural Chair of the STC50 Building Committee which oversaw the masterplan development for the first major renovation of the Wharf since 1984. The Sydney Theatre Company pays tribute to his enormous contribution and the impact he had on the Company leaving a legacy through his work, guidance and mentorship that will continue to inspire future generations of theatre lovers.

In Pittwater he joined the Council’s working group on Art, Culture and Heritage in 2015 and later Martin and John Pearson formed the Barrenjoey Alliance with Sue Boaden and Conrad Grayson as a means of influencing the Council’s directions on the Coast Walk and other arts initiatives. He came with global experience. He never thought small and he contributed greatly to the thinking at council and community level.

Two years ago he bought a beautiful property in Tilba Tilba and enthusiastically set about transforming it.

Martin was a great thought leader. He provided insight and was passionate about making a difference. It was a delight to know him and spend time with him.
We will miss him.

At its February 27 2024 Meeting Council Cr Heins introduced a Mayoral Minute That Council:
  1. Acknowledge the wonderful contribution made by the late Martin McCallum.
  2. Send its condolences to the family of the late Martin McCallum, the Palm Beach Whale Beach Association and the Barrenjoey Alliance for Arts and Culture.
  3. Work with the family of the late Martin McCallum, the Palm Beach Whale Beach Association and the Barrenjoey Alliance for Arts and Culture to find a fitting tribute that recognises his long-standing contribution to our community.
VOTING FOR: Unanimous

COVID-19 2024 Vaccine Advice

February 29, 2024
The Australian Government has accepted the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on the National COVID-19 Vaccine Program for 2024.

COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact across the community. The best protection against severe disease, is to keep up to date with vaccinations.
Adults 65 years and over, or aged 18-64 who are severely immunocompromised, are eligible to receive a booster dose every 6 months. 
All other adults are eligible to get a booster dose every 12 months.
Children aged 5 to 17 who are severely immunocompromised can receive a single dose this year.
Teenagers and children who are in good health do not need a booster dose in 2024, due to the low incidence of severe illness and high level of hybrid immunity amongst this group.
The COVID-19 booster can be administered at the same time as the annual influenza shot.
As with all vaccinations, people are encouraged to discuss the vaccine options available to them with their health practitioner. If the required 6 or 12 months has passed since your last vaccination, you are encouraged to come forward for another booster.
To find a local COVID-19 vaccine provider please visit: 
The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said: 
“Vaccination remains the most important measure to protect against the risk of severe disease from COVID-19.
“COVID-19 vaccines are available every 6 months for older people and adults with severe immunocompromise, and an annual vaccine dose for other adults.
“Adults aged 75 years and over are the most vulnerable to severe disease and are strongly encouraged to come forward for a booster dose if it has been more than 6 months from their last dose.
“COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered with other vaccines, like the annual influenza vaccine.
“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be available free of charge and are widely available through general practices and pharmacies.”

2024 National Immunisation Program Influenza Vaccination – Early Advice For Health Professionals

February 29, 2024
Key points and updates for 2024
Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications. It is recommended for all people aged 6 months and over.

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides free influenza vaccines to people most at risk of complications from influenza. Influenza vaccines can be administered on the same day as any COVID-19 vaccine.

Flucelvax Quad® is a cell-based vaccine funded for people aged 5 to 64 years with medical conditions that put them at an increased risk of complications from influenza.

For adults aged 65 years and over, the adjuvanted Fluad® Quad is recommended over standard influenza vaccines.

It is mandatory to report all vaccines that you administer to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

Vaccine supply and timing
National Immunisation Program influenza vaccines can be ordered from April 2024 depending on your state or territory health department.

Vaccination can commence from mid-April to provide protection for the peak of the flu season. This is generally from June to September in most parts of Australia. However, there is no need to wait. You can vaccinate as soon as stock is available. Viruses can circulate well after the peak, so continue to offer vaccination as long as valid vaccines are available.

If your patient had a 2023 influenza vaccine in late 2023 or even early 2024, they should still receive a 2024 vaccine when they become available.

Eligible groups
Free influenza vaccines under the NIP, are available for:
  • children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
  • pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • First Nations people aged 6 months and over
  • people aged 65 years and over
  • people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their risk of severe influenza and its complications.
Encouraging vaccination
The best defence against influenza is to increase vaccination rates in eligible groups and the community overall.

Take every opportunity to offer influenza vaccination to your patients and their family members.

Prepare for the season
Ensure readiness for the influenza season by:
  • discarding expired vaccines and disposing of them in line with local protocols
  • ordering 2024 vaccines through your state or territory health department
  • promoting the free vaccine to eligible people and priority groups
  • considering opportunities to co-administer vaccines – you can give influenza vaccines on the same day as any COVID-19 vaccine
  • ensuring vaccine safety – always check your patient’s age and the age range printed on the syringe before vaccination
  • reporting to the AIR all influenza vaccines that you have given to your patients – this includes both NIP and private vaccines.

Additional resources
Providers are strongly encouraged to review the:
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recently issued advice on the National COVID-19 Vaccine Program for 2024, and recommendations regarding respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines available on the private market.

Council's Seniors Festival 2024 

Seniors across the our area can enjoy a smorgasbord of free and low cost activities as part of this year’s Seniors Festival.

‘Reach Beyond’ is the theme for this year’s festival, with a range of events held from 11 – 28 March.

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said the festival was a wonderful opportunity to ‘reach beyond’, meet new people and get involved in the community.

“Older people can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the community” Mayor Heins said.

“Seniors Festival is an opportunity for our older residents to meet new people, rekindle old friendships, join new community groups and feel socially connected again.

“There are so many activities on offer, so no matter your hobby or interest, there is a group or activity just waiting for you.”

A highlight of the festival program are the Meet Your Local Seniors Group Expos at Forestville Memorial Hall on Wednesday 13 March and Newport Community Centre on Friday 22 March. 

With over 25 stalls from local groups and organisations, there is something for everyone at the expos. There will be presentations on health and wellbeing, performances by comedian Tommy Dean (Forestville) and the Third Age Jazz Rock Fusion (Newport), lucky door prizes, giveaways and more.  

Council Libraries and author Ashley Kalagian Blunt will teach seniors how to write a memoir, while Manly Art Gallery & Museum will offer seniors a special morning tea and guided tour.

Other events include virtual reality experiences, ‘chair yoga’, gentle exercise classes, Tai Chi, an online shopping course, painting workshops, games afternoons, book clubs, musical performances, family history workshops, an introduction to nature journaling, historical walking tours, Aboriginal heritage walks and a tour of the HUB at Kimbriki.

The festival also supports seniors with their safety and wellbeing, with sessions on protecting your identity, staying secure online and outwitting scammers, understanding and preventing dementia and mental health support. 

For more information and all the event details visit Council's website at:  HERE

Pan Pacific Masters Games 2024

It's go time, Legends! Entries are open for the 2024 Pan Pacific Masters Games! We are looking forward to welcoming you on the Gold Coast from 1-10 November this year. Lock your entries in now! 

Please note: we are still confirming details from some sports, more information will available soon.

Federal Budget: Cost-Of-Living Solutions For Seniors

February 29, 2024
National Seniors Australia has delivered its solutions for a fairer and more prosperous Australia, including the need for immediate cost-of-living relief.

A recent National Seniors report found that 66% of older people were concerned about keeping up with the rising cost of living in the long-term, with 26% extremely concerned.

That is why we need a budget that provides direct relief coupled with longer-term policy reform to ensure our standard of living does not go backward.

National Seniors’ plan to address this, outlined in the Pre-Budget Submission 2024, is a suite of well-researched innovative policy recommendations that tells the government what you, our members, have been telling us over the past few years about how life for seniors and their families can be improved.

The Federal Budget will be announced on 14 May and this current budget cycle comes at a critical time for Australia. The pressure of rising living costs is being felt by all, including older people. The rapid increase in the cost of groceries, fuel, energy, rents, healthcare, and other essential items is stretching household budgets to the point of breaking.

Not everyone is feeling cost-of-living impacts equally. Our research found that cost-of-living pressures were being felt disproportionately by:
  • Older people with low incomes
  • Older renters
  • Older people living in rural and remote areas
  • Older people who are single
  • Younger seniors (under 60).
Many older Australians on low, fixed incomes are especially doing it tough.

While rising interest rates can offer high returns for those with investments, fear of rising living costs will likely reduce consumer confidence and have negative impacts on the economy.

Budget submission overview
Our cost-of-living solutions for seniors cover fuel, energy, health, housing and aged care.

They include immediate relief for fuel and energy costs and continuing the deeming rate freeze to ensure pension payments and concessions are maintained in the short-term. We also recommend significant policy reforms to allow additional concessions and support to those most in need.

In the area of health, we argue for a formal Productivity Commission review of private health to identify ways to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs. We also argue for action on private health rebates for low-income earners to maintain and boost coverage. Additionally, we call for targeted support for dental care for those most in need.

In housing, we advocate for policy changes to support older people offering to house other older people, enable older people to downsize later in life, and boost financial support for struggling renters.

We continue to advocate for a targeted exemption from the Age Pension income test for care sector workers. We also want changes to Age Pension gifting rules to give seniors a greater incentive to make financial contributions to charities and younger generations.

Our recommendations will help to address cost-of-living pressures facing older people and their families and ensure they feel the government is in their corner.

You can read the full submission here, including the budget impact of our recommendations.

Cost-of-living solutions for seniors
A significant focus of our budget submission is easing cost-of-living pressures.

Cost-of-living rebate
Cost of living is the number one issue facing Australians, particularly those on low incomes. A recent National Seniors survey of older Australians found that cost of living, including rising grocery and insurance costs, was the number one policy issue for seniors.

High inflation eats away at household budgets. Yet at the same time, inflation has contributed positively to the Federal Budget.

The government could deliver a rebate to households via electricity bill relief, as was provided to households in 2023. A base rebate could be provided to all households with a higher rebate to those most in need.

A cost-of-living rebate of up to $500 would give households money in their pocket to meet rising living costs.

Cut fuel costs via the fuel excise
Automotive fuel has been one of the primary contributors to change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in recent times rising 7.9% in the 12 months to September 2023.

While the Australian Government has little control over the price of oil, it does control the taxes on the fuel we pump into our vehicles. It’s called the fuel excise and is a general revenue-raising tax for which motorists currently pay 49.6 cents for every litre of fuel they purchase — between one-quarter and one-third of the bowser price. The excise increases biannually in line with the CPI.

Rising fuel costs cause many everyday items to cost more.
To reduce the impact of rising fuel costs government should reduce the fuel excise by up to 20c per litre and consider pausing excise indexation while oil prices are high.

Reducing the fuel excise by 20c per litre will save an average motorist $520 per year (using 50 litres of fuel a week).

Freeze deeming rates for an additional 12 months
Deeming rates are used as part of the Age Pension income test to determine eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and to determine co-contributions for aged care services.

The rates have been frozen for two years but this freeze will lapse from 1 July 2024. Because interest rates are much higher than when deeming rates were first frozen, a lifting of the freeze would mean hundreds of thousands of pensioners would have their pensions reduced, some Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders could lose this benefit, and aged care costs would increase for those required to contribute.

The government should continue the freeze for 12 months and use this time to reform the method used to set deeming rates. Doing so would mean there is no confusion about how rates are set when interest rates change.

If the freeze is lifted on 1 July 2024 and the existing deeming method is applied:
  • Hundreds of thousands of pensioners will have their pensions cut
  • Some Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders will lose access to concessions
  • Aged care costs would automatically increase for those required to contribute.

New Aged Care Act Consultation Period Extended

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. 

From a ‘magic mineral’ to the stuff of nightmares: a 6,700-year history of asbestos

Sonja KlebeFlinders University

Asbestos is making national news once again after being found in contaminated mulch used in hundreds of locations, including schools and hospitalsacross Sydney and regional New South Wales.

With headlines featuring terms such as “crisis”, “nightmare” and “deadly”, it’s hard to believe the toxic mineral was once hailed for its supposedly “magical” properties.

In fact, the history of asbestos goes back at least 6,700 years. Its prevalence in our built environment means it’s (unfortunately) here to stay for a long time.

Before It Became A ‘Killer Dust’

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in rock formations across the globe, including in some national parks in Australia.

It gets its name from the Greek word for inextinguishable (ásvestos), alluding to its resistance to fire and corrosion. It was these characteristics, along with its insulating properties, that made asbestos seem like a “magic mineral” in centuries prior.

Researchers have found ancient clay pottery from East Finland, dated to 2500 BC, with asbestos fibres mixed into it – likely added for extra strength and resilience. Some of the earliest asbestos pottery, also found in Finland, has been dated to 4700 BC. Asbestos use has also been recorded at other neolithic sites, including in Central Russia and Norway.

In (Western) literature, the first known reference to what might have been asbestos comes from Theophrastus (circa 372-287 BC), a student of Greek philosopher Aristotle and his successor at the Lyceum. In his book On Stones, Theophrastus writes:

In the mines at Scapte Hyle a stone was once found which was like rotten wood in appearance. Whenever oil was poured on it, it burnt, but when the oil had been used up, the stone stopped burning, as if it were itself unaffected.

In the 10th century, Christian pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem were sold pieces of asbestos as fragments of the True Cross – their divinity supposedly evidenced by their incombustibility. By the medieval ages, trading asbestos-containing items had become common. This fascination continued for millennia.

This earthenware pilgrim flask (circa 1585-1600) has an impresa with burning asbestos and the words ‘ardet aeternum’, meaning ‘burn forever’. It’s painted with a medallion showing a nude male (Bacchus) holding two bunches of grapes. British MuseumCC BY-NC

In 1725, a young Benjamin Franklin found himself broke and living in London. In need of cash to pay his bills, he sold a purse made of fibrous mineral asbestos that he’d brought from North America. The recipient was Hans Sloane, whose collections would later be used to establish the British Museum.

A Class I Carcinogen

The carcinogenic effect of asbestos – even at brief, transient and “low” doses (such as bystander exposure) – has been recognised since at least 1965. Today, it is classified as a class I carcinogen and considered a deadly threat to humans.

Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, a cancer of the surface of the lung. It can also cause lung cancer and is implicated in other cancers, including throat and stomach cancers.

In Australia, there are more than 700 cases of mesothelioma each year. We don’t know how many of the roughly 6,000 yearly cases of lung cancer are caused, wholly or partially, by asbestos.

Although asbestos use has been banned in Australia since 2003, people the world over continue to deal with its harmful effects.

The Spread Of ‘Fibro Houses’

Australia started using asbestos goods from around the 1880s, largely for steam-driven machines that benefited from its insulating properties. Only small local mines operated at the time.

Eventually, the world wars increased demand and active exploration led to larger-scale mining, especially at Wittenoom in Western Australia. Even then, local production wasn’t meeting demand.

It was initially miners who presented with the disease, followed by workers in industries manufacturing asbestos-containing products, as well as builders, plumbers and fitters. The Wittenoom miners and their families are still being followed by researchers to determine the effects of exposure.

The economic boom that followed WWII further drove demand for asbestos. In addition to local production, more than 50,000 tons of asbestos were imported to Australia each year throughout the 1950s and into the late 1970s.

Asbestos afforded many Australians a home. Timber-framed houses clad in flat asbestos cement sheeting (called “fibro houses”) were favoured by people who built or legally supervised the building of their own home.

In the mid-1960s, nearly 20% of Australia’s housing stock was made up of fibro houses – with the highest uptake (more than 50%) in the Northern Territory. It’s impossible to say exactly what percentage of existing buildings contain asbestos.

When cyclone Tracy swept through Darwin in 1974, the death and disease that resulted from the uncoordinated cleanup served as a warning of the possible dangers of asbestos removal.

Asbestos Is Here To Stay

Asbestos-related cancers have a long lag time between exposure and detectable disease. Although this lag is typically about 30 years, it can range anywhere between 10 and 70 years. As such, it can be difficult to trace exposure retrospectively.

Many buildings constructed before the mid-1980s contain asbestos. It’s often inseparably bound to other materials, such as tiles, vinyl and cement.

Regulations demand specialist removal for asbestos-affected areas of more than 10 square metres. In reality, whether this happens comes down to how effectively it can be detected, and whether the people affected can afford removals. Without specialised assessment and analysis, asbestos can be difficult to recognise.

Since there is no recognised “safe” dose – a dose below which there’s no risk of developing asbestos-related cancer – workplace standards can only minimise risk, not eliminate it.

Only time will tell what the long-term outcomes are from the latest exposure in NSW. The risk from asbestos depends on several factors, including the overall amount inhaled, the type of asbestos and the number of years since exposure.

Among the most heavily exposed Wittenoom miners, about 20% have developed mesothelioma so far.

Documenting Cases

Since July 2010, the Australian Mesothelioma Registry has collected information on new mesothelioma cases diagnosed in Australia. The national Asbestos Exposure Register also allows any person to register a documented or suspected case of exposure.

If you’re worried about your neighbourhood, the Asbestos and Silica Eradication Agency has produced a national heat map showing the probability of asbestos presence in buildings by geographic area.The Conversation

Sonja Klebe, Associare Professor, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University

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

ACCC Supermarkets Inquiry Invites Consumer, Farmer And Industry Views

February 29, 2024
Australian consumers are asked to share information about how they shop and what they experience through an online survey published today as part of the ACCC’s supermarkets inquiry.

The ACCC has also today published an issues paper outlining the topics the supermarkets inquiry will explore, and is calling for submissions from farmers, wholesalers, retailers, and other interested parties.

“We know that consumers and suppliers alike have a range of concerns about Australia’s major supermarkets, and this is their chance to have their say,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“We will be using our legal powers to compulsorily obtain data and documents from the supermarkets themselves, but consultation with consumers and grocery sector participants is an important first step in our inquiry.”

Survey of supermarket customers
The ACCC invites consumers to complete the online survey to improve its understanding of where and how Australians buy groceries, and how price changes, loyalty programs and other factors influence how they shop.

Consumers are also invited to include information about any grocery shopping experiences they believed were confusing or misleading, such as “was/now” pricing or so-called “shrinkflation”, when a product is sold at a smaller size or volume for the same or a higher price.

Consumers can complete the online survey at Supermarkets inquiry consumer survey until 2 April 2024:

Issues paper and stakeholder submissions
The ACCC is also seeking submissions from industry participants involved in grocery supply chains, in response to matters raised in the issues paper.

The issues paper is divided into two sections: competition for consumer retail spending between the supermarkets, and grocery supply chains.

At the retail level, the ACCC will examine competition between supermarkets and the barriers that new or emerging supermarkets face when trying to enter or expand.

The ACCC is also interested in how retail competition differs across Australia, particularly in regional and remote areas.

“One of our major focus areas will be the supermarkets’ approach to setting prices, and whether there is evidence to show that a lack of effective retail competition is contributing to higher prices,” Mr Keogh said.

“We will conduct a detailed comparison of the price suppliers receive for their goods and the price consumers pay at the checkout, and the profits the supermarkets earn.”

“In addition, we will be looking at other issues such as loyalty schemes, discounting practices, the shift to online shopping and the impact of home-brand products,” Mr Keogh said.

In relation to grocery supply chains, the ACCC wants to hear from industry participants about competition within supply chains, trading arrangements, margins and price transparency, and if supermarket buyer power is impacting suppliers’ commercial viability.

“A lack of competition at any stage of a supply chain can result in inefficient or unsustainable prices across the supply chain,” Mr Keogh said.

Grocery supply chain participants and other interested parties are invited to make submissions in response to the issues paper via a guided submissions process on the ACCC’s consultation hub until 2 April 2024.

Parties can claim confidentiality over all or some of their submission, including their identity, if they believe the information being shared publicly could damage their business.

Further information is available at Supermarkets inquiry 2024-25:

On 25 January 2024, the Australian Government announced that it will direct the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into Australia’s supermarket sector.

The ACCC received the formal direction from the Australian Government and the terms of the reference for the inquiry on 1 February 2024.

The ACCC last conducted a comprehensive inquiry into the grocery sector in 2008.

The terms of reference require the ACCC to consider matters such as the supermarkets’ approach to setting prices, the role of small and independent retailers (including those in regional and remote areas), and the impact of increased data collection and other technological developments.

Study Of 1.2+M Births Reveals Associations Between Excess Heat Exposure And Preterm Births

February 26, 2024
In the face of increasing temperatures globally, a new Monash-led study of 1.2 million births in Sydney over two decades has shown a strong association between the risk of pre-term birth and exposure to extreme hot temperatures in the third trimester of pregnancy. The data suggested that this association with extreme temperature might be reduced by the level of greenery in a pregnant person's residential surrounds.

The findings suggest health services should consider preparing for an increase in preterm births as our climate warms.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at the relationship between preterm birth, exposure to high temperatures as well as the mitigating factor of exposure to trees and overall greenness.
For the purposes of the study, excess heat was defined as trimester temperatures higher than the 95th percentile of trimester distributions over the 20-year period.

The study, led by A/Prof Shanshan (Shandy) Li from the Monash School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, looked at 1.2 million births -- including 63,144 preterm births -- occurring in Sydney, between 2000 and 2020, using the New South Wales Midwives Data Collection.

The research team cross-referenced this data with historical temperature data, as well as tree cover and overall greenness levels derived from satellite images.

The research concluded that exposure to both daytime and night-time extreme heat in the third trimester was strongly associated with increased preterm birth risks, unlike the same exposure in either the first or second trimesters.

This association existed for all levels of area-level greenness, although the strength of the association was slightly diminished for women living in areas with more trees and other greenery, raising the intriguing possibility that greenness might ameliorate some of the excess risk from extreme heat exposure in the third trimester that deserves further study.

First author A/Prof Li is an expert in environmental impacts on children's health.

She says, "The presence of greenery, especially trees, has the potential to mitigate heat levels and lower the risks of preterm birth associated with heat. Greenery also has positive physical and mental health impacts beyond just pregnancy and birth outcomes. We should be integrating heat mitigation strategies such as increasing green spaces into urban planning, to improve public health."

According to Professor Yuming Guo, senior author on the study, and also from Monash University, there has been increasing but still limited epidemiological evidence linking prenatal environmental temperatures with birth outcomes.

"Emerging evidence suggests that night-time air temperature, particularly extreme night-time heat, significantly impacts health, including sleep and rest. Sleep quality and duration affects various aspects of health, and disturbances in these factors may have consequences for pregnancy outcomes," he said.

"High night-time temperatures can disrupt circadian rhythms and potentially influence blood pressure, which may be an issue for pregnant individuals. Given the projected increase in extreme temperatures as our planet warms, understanding its impacts on birth outcomes and developing strategies to mitigate the risks becomes crucial."

Tingting Ye, Yuming Guo, Wenzhong Huang, Yiwen Zhang, Michael J. Abramson, Shanshan Li. Heat Exposure, Preterm Birth, and the Role of Greenness in Australia. JAMA Pediatrics, 2024; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2024.0001

Mounting research shows that COVID-19 leaves its mark on the brain, including with significant drops in IQ scores

Research shows that even mild COVID-19 can lead to the equivalent of seven years of brain aging. Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library via Getty Images
Ziyad Al-AlyWashington University in St. Louis

From the very early days of the pandemic, brain fog emerged as a significant health condition that many experience after COVID-19.

Brain fog is a colloquial term that describes a state of mental sluggishness or lack of clarity and haziness that makes it difficult to concentrate, remember things and think clearly.

Fast-forward four years and there is now abundant evidence that being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can affect brain health in many ways.

In addition to brain fog, COVID-19 can lead to an array of problems, including headaches, seizure disorders, strokes, sleep problems, and tingling and paralysis of the nerves, as well as several mental health disorders.

A large and growing body of evidence amassed throughout the pandemic details the many ways that COVID-19 leaves an indelible mark on the brain. But the specific pathways by which the virus does so are still being elucidated, and curative treatments are nonexistent.

Now, two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine shed further light on the profound toll of COVID-19 on cognitive health.

I am a physician scientist, and I have been devoted to studying long COVID since early patient reports about this condition – even before the term “long COVID” was coined. I have testified before the U.S. Senate as an expert witness on long COVID and have published extensively on this topic.

How COVID-19 Leaves Its Mark On The Brain

Here are some of the most important studies to date documenting how COVID-19 affects brain health:

  • Large epidemiological analyses showed that people who had COVID-19 were at an increased risk of cognitive deficits, such as memory problems.

  • Imaging studies done in people before and after their COVID-19 infections show shrinkage of brain volume and altered brain structure after infection.

  • A study of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 showed significant prolonged inflammation of the brain and changes that are commensurate with seven years of brain aging.

  • Severe COVID-19 that requires hospitalization or intensive care may result in cognitive deficits and other brain damage that are equivalent to 20 years of aging.

  • Laboratory experiments in human and mouse brain organoids designed to emulate changes in the human brain showed that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers the fusion of brain cells. This effectively short-circuits brain electrical activity and compromises function.

  • Autopsy studies of people who had severe COVID-19 but died months later from other causes showed that the virus was still present in brain tissue. This provides evidence that contrary to its name, SARS-CoV-2 is not only a respiratory virus, but it can also enter the brain in some individuals. But whether the persistence of the virus in brain tissue is driving some of the brain problems seen in people who have had COVID-19 is not yet clear.

  • Studies show that even when the virus is mild and exclusively confined to the lungs, it can still provoke inflammation in the brain and impair brain cells’ ability to regenerate.

  • COVID-19 can also disrupt the blood brain barrier, the shield that protects the nervous system – which is the control and command center of our bodies – making it “leaky.” Studies using imaging to assess the brains of people hospitalized with COVID-19 showed disrupted or leaky blood brain barriers in those who experienced brain fog.

  • A large preliminary analysis pooling together data from 11 studies encompassing almost 1 million people with COVID-19 and more than 6 million uninfected individuals showed that COVID-19 increased the risk of development of new-onset dementia in people older than 60 years of age.

Autopsies have revealed devastating damage in the brains of people who died with COVID-19.

Drops In IQ

Most recently, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed cognitive abilities such as memory, planning and spatial reasoning in nearly 113,000 people who had previously had COVID-19. The researchers found that those who had been infected had significant deficits in memory and executive task performance.

This decline was evident among those infected in the early phase of the pandemic and those infected when the delta and omicron variants were dominant. These findings show that the risk of cognitive decline did not abate as the pandemic virus evolved from the ancestral strain to omicron.

In the same study, those who had mild and resolved COVID-19 showed cognitive decline equivalent to a three-point loss of IQ. In comparison, those with unresolved persistent symptoms, such as people with persistent shortness of breath or fatigue, had a six-point loss in IQ. Those who had been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19 had a nine-point loss in IQ. Reinfection with the virus contributed an additional two-point loss in IQ, as compared with no reinfection.

Generally the average IQ is about 100. An IQ above 130 indicates a highly gifted individual, while an IQ below 70 generally indicates a level of intellectual disability that may require significant societal support.

To put the finding of the New England Journal of Medicine study into perspective, I estimate that a three-point downward shift in IQ would increase the number of U.S. adults with an IQ less than 70 from 4.7 million to 7.5 million – an increase of 2.8 million adults with a level of cognitive impairment that requires significant societal support.

Another study in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine involved more than 100,000 Norwegians between March 2020 and April 2023. It documented worse memory function at several time points up to 36 months following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test.

Parsing The Implications

Taken together, these studies show that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to brain health, even in mild cases, and the effects are now being revealed at the population level.

A recent analysis of the U.S. Current Population Survey showed that after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 1 million working-age Americans reported having “serious difficulty” remembering, concentrating or making decisions than at any time in the preceding 15 years. Most disconcertingly, this was mostly driven by younger adults between the ages of 18 to 44.

Data from the European Union shows a similar trend – in 2022, 15% of people in the EU reported memory and concentration issues.

Looking ahead, it will be critical to identify who is most at risk. A better understanding is also needed of how these trends might affect the educational attainment of children and young adults and the economic productivity of working-age adults. And the extent to which these shifts will influence the epidemiology of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is also not clear.

The growing body of research now confirms that COVID-19 should be considered a virus with a significant impact on the brain. The implications are far-reaching, from individuals experiencing cognitive struggles to the potential impact on populations and the economy.

Lifting the fog on the true causes behind these cognitive impairments, including brain fog, will require years if not decades of concerted efforts by researchers across the globe. And unfortunately, nearly everyone is a test case in this unprecedented global undertaking.The Conversation

Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Development, VA St. Louis Health Care System. Clinical Epidemiologist, Washington University in St. Louis

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

Why Barnaby Joyce’s TV diagnosis of insomnia plus sleep apnoea is such a big deal

Alexander SweetmanFlinders University

The health of Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce is in the news again, this time with a diagnosis of a sleep disorder made while filming a TV documentary.

Joyce’s diagnosis of insomnia plus sleep apnoea arose while filming Australia’s Sleep Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley in 2023. SBS has confirmed episode three, in which my Flinders University colleagues reveal his sleep disorder, is set to air on March 20.

I was not involved in the program and have no knowledge of Joyce’s ongoing health care. But I was part of the research team that in 2017 coined the term COMISA (co-morbid insomnia and sleep apnoea), the official name of Joyce’s on-screen diagnosis. Since then, I’ve led research into this common sleep disorder.

Here’s why it’s so important to diagnose and treat it.

What Was Joyce’s Diagnosis?

People can be diagnosed separately with insomnia or sleep apnoea.

Insomnia includes frequent difficulties falling asleep at the start of the night or difficulties staying asleep during the night. These can result in daytime fatigue, reduced energy, concentration difficulties and poor mood. Over time, insomnia can start to impact your mental health and quality of life.

Sleep apnoea (specifically, obstructive sleep apnoea) is when people experience repeated interruptions or pauses in breathing while they sleep. This reduces oxygen levels during sleep, and you can wake up multiple times at night. People with sleep apnoea may be aware of loud snoring, gasping for air when they wake up, or feeling exhausted the next morning. However, not all people have these symptoms, and sleep apnoea can go undiagnosed for years.

But in Joyce’s case, both insomnia and sleep apnoea occur at the same time.

We’ve known this could happen since the 1970s, with evidence growing over subsequent decades. Since then, sleep researchers and clinicians around the world have learned more about how common this is, its consequences and how best to treat it.

How Do You Know If You Have It?

Many people seek help for their sleep problems because of fatigue, exhaustion, physical symptoms, or poor mood during the day.

If you think you have insomnia, a GP or sleep specialist can talk to you about your sleep pattern, and might ask you to complete brief questionnaires about your sleep and daytime symptoms. You might also be asked to fill in a “sleep diary” for one to two weeks. These will allow a trained clinician to see if you have insomnia.

If you or your GP think you may have (or are at risk of having) sleep apnoea, you may be referred for a sleep study. This normally involves sleeping overnight in a sleep clinic where your sleep patterns and breathing are monitored. Alternatively, you might be set up with a recording device to monitor your sleep at home. A trained medical professional, such as a sleep and respiratory physician, will often make the diagnosis.

Up to 50% of people with sleep apnoea report symptoms of insomnia. About 30–40% of people with insomnia also have sleep apnoea.

What Are The Consequences?

Insomnia and sleep apnoea (individually) are associated with reduced sleep qualitymental health and physical health.

Importantly, people with both at the same also tend to experience worse sleep, daytime function, mental health, physical health and quality of life, compared with people with no sleep disorder.

For instance, we know having both conditions comes with an increased risk of diseases of the heart.

In three studies, we found people with both insomnia and sleep apnoea have about a 50–70% higher risk of dying early from any cause, compared with people with neither sleep condition. People with insomnia alone and sleep apnoea alone did not have an increased risk of dying early.

However, there are effective treatments to reduce these health consequences.

How Is It Treated?

In general, it is best for people to access evidence-based treatments for both disorders. These treatments vary according to the patient and the severity of their condition.

For instance, wearing a CPAP mask while sleeping improves breathing during sleep and reduces many of the daytime consequences of obstructive sleep apnoea. However, other effective treatments may be recommended based on each person’s symptoms, such as weight management, avoiding sleeping on your back, oral devices (which look a bit like a mouthguard), or surgery.

The most effective treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, also known as CBTi. About four to eight sessions often lead to improvements in sleep, daytime function and mental health that are maintained for many years. This can be delivered by trained therapists such as psychologists, nurses or GPs, as well as via online programs.

Last year, we drew together evidence from more than 1,000 people with both conditions. We found CBTi is an effective treatment for insomnia in people with treated and untreated sleep apnoea.

New Treatments And Approaches

We and other teams internationally are developing and testing new ways of delivering CBTi.

Several groups are testing devices, which stimulate the tongue muscles during sleep, to treat sleep apnoea in people with both disorders.

And we’re still working out the best order for patients to access treatments, and the best combination of treatments.

The Power Of TV

Joyce’s public diagnosis of both insomnia and sleep apnoea will no doubt raise awareness of what we suspect is an underdiagnosed condition.

Based on how common insomnia and sleep apnoea are in Australia, we estimate Joyce is one of about 5–10% of Australian adults to have both at the same time.

The Conversation contacted Joyce’s spokesperson for comment but did not hear back before deadline.The Conversation

Alexander Sweetman, Research Fellow, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University

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

Independent MP Helen Haines has a plan to stamp out pork-barrelling. Would it work?

Yee-Fui NgMonash University

Independent MP for Indi Helen Haines has introduced a private member’s bill to crack down on pork-barrelling.

Haines has argued pork-barrelling is happening right now ahead of the Dunkley byelection on March 2, where Labor is splashing out money hoping to retain the seat.

Without government or opposition support, the bill is unlikely to pass. But it puts the issue of pork-barrelling in the public eye. So would the proposed measures work?

How Common Is Pork-Barrelling In Australia?

Pork-barrelling involves governments channelling public funds to seats they hold and wish to retain, or seats they would like to win from an opponent, as a way of winning voters’ favour. This means the money is used for political purposes, rather than proper allocation according to merit.

We have been inundated with pork-barrelling scandals in recent years. This includes the car park rorts scandal, where 77% of the commuter car park sites selected were in electorates held by the then Coalition government, rather than in areas of real need with congestion issues.

This followed close on the heels of the “sports rorts” scandal. Bridget McKenzie resigned from cabinet following allegations she had intervened in the sport grants program to benefit the Coalition government while in a position of conflict of interest.

My journal article shows pork-barrelling is an intractable problem across multiple governments over many decades and takes different forms based on electoral systems.

Australia has a single-member electorate parliamentary system, which makes it more susceptible to pork-barrelling than multi-member electorates such as Norway or Spain.

The belief is that politicians who “bring home the bacon” for their constituents are electorally rewarded for doing so.

This means a government has an incentive to strategically apportion benefits to marginal electorates to increase prospects of electoral success. There is also an incentive to bias the apportionment of funds towards electorates held by the party in power.

In short, rorts scandals keep happening because governments believe channelling money to marginal and government electorates will win them elections.

What Does The Haines Bill Do?

The Haines bill requires all grant programs to have clear and publicly available, merit-based selection criteria and guidelines.

Second, the bill ensures robust reporting to the parliament about what grants are awarded, to whom and why. This includes requirements for ministers to report to parliament in a timely manner when they’ve gone against official advice from government departments about who should receive grants.

Third, the bill creates a new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Grants Administration and Investment Mandates. This committee would oversee grants administration, including compliance with guidelines.

Will This Bill Fix Our Broken System?

My article has argued that stronger legal accountability is needed to hold ministers responsible for the biased allocation of grants.

The bill seeks to enhance transparency by requiring stronger parliamentary disclosure of the allocation of grants.

A joint parliamentary committee would also increase scrutiny and accountability over grants administration.

But the bill does not go far enough in terms of enforcement. There should be penalties for breaches of grant rules. And these should be enforceable by an external scrutineer, such as an independent commissioner.

Without strong enforcement, existing laws will be deficient in preventing, deterring and punishing governments that allocate grant funding in a partisan fashion, rather than on merit.

Ensuring proper use of public money is crucial to preserving public trust in Australian democratic institutions. To improve accountability for the use of public funding, we need stronger and legally enforceable rules and regulations.The Conversation

Yee-Fui Ng, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Monash University

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

Algorithms are pushing AI-generated falsehoods at an alarming rate. How do we stop this?

Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock
Stan KaranasiosThe University of Queensland and Marten RisiusThe University of Queensland

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools are supercharging the problem of misinformation, disinformation and fake news. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini, and various image, voice and video generators have made it easier than ever to produce content, while making it harder to tell what is factual or real.

Malicious actors looking to spread disinformation can use AI tools to largely automate the generation of convincing and misleading text.

This raises pressing questions: how much of the content we consume online is true and how can we determine its authenticity? And can anyone stop this?

It’s not an idle concern. Organisations seeking to covertly influence public opinion or sway elections can now scale their operations with AI to unprecedented levels. And their content is being widely disseminated by search engines and social media.

Fakes Everywhere

Earlier this year, a German study on search engine content quality noted “a trend toward simplified, repetitive and potentially AI-generated content” on Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo.

Traditionally, readers of news media could rely on editorial control to uphold journalistic standards and verify facts. But AI is rapidly changing this space.

In a report published this week, the internet trust organisation NewsGuard identified 725 unreliable websites that publish AI-generated news and information “with little to no human oversight”.

Last month, Google released an experimental AI tool for a select group of independent publishers in the United States. Using generative AI, the publisher can summarise articles pulled from a list of external websites that produce news and content relevant to their audience. As a condition of the trial, the users have to publish three such articles per day.

Platforms hosting content and developing generative AI blur the traditional lines that enable trust in online content.

Can The Government Step In?

Australia has already seen tussles between government and online platforms over the display and moderation of news and content.

In 2019, the Australian government amended the criminal code to mandate the swift removal of “abhorrent violent material” by social media platforms.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry into power imbalances between Australian news media and digital platforms led to the 2021 implementation of a bargaining code that forced platforms to pay media for their news content.

While these might be considered partial successes, they also demonstrate the scale of the problem and the difficulty of taking action.

Our research indicates these conflicts saw online platforms initially open to changes and later resisting them, while the Australian government oscillated from enforcing mandatory measures to preferring voluntary actions.

Ultimately, the government realised that relying on platforms’ “trust us” promises wouldn’t lead to the desired outcomes.

The takeaway from our study is that once digital products become integral to millions of businesses and everyday lives, they serve as a tool for platforms, AI companies and big tech to anticipate and push back against government.

With this in mind, it is right to be sceptical of early calls for regulation of generative AI by tech leaders like Elon Musk and Sam Altman. Such calls have faded as AI takes a hold on our lives and online content.

A challenge lies in the sheer speed of change, which is so swift that safeguards to mitigate the potential risks to society are not yet established. Accordingly, the World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risk Report has predicted mis- and disinformation as the greatest threats in the next two years.

The problem gets worse through generative AI’s ability to create multimedia content. Based on current trends, we can expect an increase in deepfake incidents, although social media platforms like Facebook are responding to these issues. They aim to automatically identify and tag AI-generated photos, video and audio.

What Can We Do?

Australia’s eSafety commissioner is working on ways to regulate and mitigate the potential harm caused by generative AI while balancing its potential opportunities.

A key idea is “safety by design”, which requires tech firms to place these safety considerations at the core of their products.

Other countries like the US are further ahead with the regulation of AI. For example, US President Joe Biden’s recent executive order on the safe deployment of AI requires companies to share safety test results with the government, regulates red-team testing (simulated hacking attacks), and guides watermarking on content.

We call for three steps to help protect against the risks of generative AI in combination with disinformation.

1. Regulation needs to pose clear rules without allowing for nebulous “best effort” aims or “trust us” approaches.

2. To protect against large-scale disinformation operations, we need to teach media literacy in the same way we teach maths.

3. Safety tech or “safety by design” needs to become a non-negotiable part of every product development strategy.

People are aware AI-generated content is on the rise. In theory, they should adjust their information habits accordingly. However, research shows users generally tend to underestimate their own risk of believing fake news compared to the perceived risk for others.

Finding trustworthy content shouldn’t involve sifting through AI-generated content to make sense of what is factual.The Conversation

Stan Karanasios, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland and Marten Risius, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, The University of Queensland

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

Australian Employer Gender Pay Gaps Published For The First Time

February 27, 2024
The Albanese Government is taking action to improve workplace gender equality, with the gender pay gaps for nearly 5,000 Australian private sector employers today being published for the first time.

It comes after Labor’s reforms passed the Parliament last year, a key driver for employer action to speed up progress to close the gender pay gap in the workplace.

The Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, said the publication of employer gender pay gaps is a pivotal moment for gender equality in Australia.

“The release of employer gender pay gaps marks a historic step towards transparency and accountability in addressing gender inequality,” Minister Gallagher said.

“The gender pay gap is a persistent and complex problem that costs the Australian economy $51.8 billion every year,” Minister Gallagher said.

“Transparency and accountability are critical for driving change. By shining a light on gender pay gaps at an employer level, we are arming individuals and organisations with the evidence they need to take meaningful action to accelerate closing the gender pay gap in Australian workplaces.”

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has published base salary and total remuneration median gender pay gaps for private sector employers in Australia with 100 or more employees.

The results show that:
  • 30% of employers have a median gender pay gap between the target range of -5% and +5%.
  • 62% of median employer gender pay gaps are over 5% and in favour of men.
  • The rest (8%) are less than -5% and in favour of women.
  • Across all employers, 50% have a gender pay gap of over 9.1%.
For all employers, the publication of their gender pay gaps and workforce composition is an opportunity to assess their performance on gender equality and take action to improve it.

“It is encouraging to see that gender pay gaps for almost one-third of employers are close to gender parity within their workforce,” WGEA CEO Mary Wooldridge said.

“All employers should be aiming for a gender pay gap within +/-5%. This range allows for normal business fluctuations and employee movements, while signifying that an employer has a focus on identifying and addressing inequalities and is taking action to ensure there is gender equality throughout an organisation.”

There is significant variation in the gender pay gap across different industries, ranging from the Construction Industry where the mid-point employer gender pay gap is 31.8% to the Accommodation and Food Services Industry with a mid-point employer gender pay gap of 1.9%.

“Particularly for those employers whose gender pay gaps are higher than their Industry peers, publication of the results today is a catalyst for action and change,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“The gender pay gap is a widely used, internationally recognised measure for gender equality. Publishing employer’s gender pay gaps brings transparency to those employers who have low median gender pays gaps and those that don’t.”

“The time for talk and excuses is over. Change takes action and employers need to double down on ensuring all employees are fairly represented and equally valued and rewarded in their workplace,” Ms Wooldridge said.

Companies’ gender pay gaps are available on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency website: WGEA Data Explorer | WGEA

New Company Established To Operate NSW’s World-Leading Viral Vector Facility

February 26, 2024
The NSW Government has announced the establishment of a new company to operate the world-leading viral vector manufacturing facility based at Westmead, which will produce ground-breaking and life-saving therapies.

Viral vectors are a key component of many cell and gene therapies, and vaccines, which are increasingly being used to treat cancer, genetic diseases and infections.

Viral vector technology uses viruses that are harmless to humans to carry genetic therapies to the target organs and systems that cause significant human diseases.

Establishing a commercial company with an agile, responsive operating model will provide a strong base for the sustainable, long-term success of the Viral Vector Manufacturing facility.

Stage 1 of the facility is operational for use in gene therapy research with the first clinical trial anticipated to commence in 2025 using vectors from the facility.

The Stage 2 facility is currently under construction and once completed will provide NSW with a commercial-scale viral vector manufacturing facility capable of meeting the growing demand for viral vectors.

Completion of construction works is expected by the end of 2024, with Good Manufacturing Practice  certification to follow soon after. The company is to be registered as Viral Vector Manufacturing Facility Pty Ltd. It will manufacture the vectors and supply them to specialised healthcare staff, who will deliver the therapies to patients.

Overall, the NSW Government has committed $134.5 million to establish the Facility and to manufacture viral vector products for research and clinical trials.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said:
“NSW is a globally recognised leader in developing and delivering gene therapies, cell therapies and vaccines, and viral vectors are a key part of many of these therapies.

“This is cutting-edge, world class work happening right here in Western Sydney.

“This commercial-scale facility will allow us to meet local manufacturing demand, and further establish us as a respected leader in this field.

Minister for Health Ryan Park said:
“My priority as health minister has been to embrace innovative initiatives in improving health outcomes for our community.

“I am so proud that NSW Health is at the forefront of this world leading treatment.

“Today’s announcement will have real life changing benefits for people suffering from genetic diseases, cancers and viral infections.

“These therapies are expanding rapidly, targeting more and more genetic diseases, cancer and infections – significantly increasing the number of patients who can and will benefit from viral vectors.

“This expansion in potential applications, treatments and patient benefits is not however matched by current manufacturing capacity, either locally or globally, which is causing a delay in us achieving these benefits.”

Minister for Medical Research David Harris said:
“This will mean researchers have a local viral vector supply for their work, and attract students and researchers from around the world.

“Investing in health precincts like this one is an important part of making sure that research can thrive and is integrated in the wider health ecosystem.”

Member for Parramatta Donna Davis said:
“The facility is an important part of the Westmead Health and Innovation Precinct here in western Sydney.

“I am so proud that Parramatta is home to this facility which is at the cutting edge of medical research and treatment.”

NSW Ambulance First In The World To Trial New Stroke Care Technology

February 28, 2024
A world-first collaborative trial will see cutting-edge technology used by NSW Ambulance as part of the rapid assessment and triage of stroke patients as they are transported to hospital.

A revolutionary new brain scanner, the Medfield Diagnostics Strokefinder MD100 helmet, is currently being piloted by NSW Ambulance paramedics in the Hunter region, the first time the Strokefinder helmet technology is being utilised on the frontline and outside of hospital.

Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park said this innovative trial could enable even faster stroke diagnosis and treatment, meaning more patients stand to benefit from timely stroke interventions in the vital ‘golden hour’.

“Stroke is a time critical emergency and is one of Australia’s biggest killers, so the earlier our paramedics and neurologists can assess and treat patients, the better the outcome,” Mr Park said.

“I am really proud our NSW Ambulance paramedics are the first in the world to use this device in the pre-hospital setting.

“This is a wonderful example of some of the truly collaborative projects taking place across the health system right now, where cutting-edge technology and our highly skilled hospital clinicians and frontline paramedics work together.”

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dr Dominic Morgan said the technology is fast to operate and performs multiple brain measurements in 60 seconds.

“This exciting study brings together NSW Ambulance intensive care paramedics and John Hunter Hospital neurologists, and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, to evaluate the feasibility of the Strokefinder MD100 helmet in pre-hospital care,” Dr Morgan said.

“When combined with an innovative an innovative telehealth app, our paramedics on the ground are able to consult with the neurology team in the hospital to optimise the care and overall outcome for the stroke patient.”

Acute Stroke Services Neurologist at John Hunter Hospital and study lead, neurologist Professor Chris Levi, said clinicians and researchers will work together closely to evaluate and refine how the stroke detection system and telehealth app can optimise frontline care.

“When a stroke occurs, rapid and accurate diagnosis is vital to speed up the delivery of treatment interventions and improve clinical outcomes for the patient,” Professor Levi said.

Preliminary data from the trial shows almost all patients were scanned within an hour of the Triple Zero call being made.

Minister for Medical Research David Harris said these results of the trial have been remarkable considering less than five per cent of stroke patients in Australia undergo a hospital CT scan within an hour of suffering a stroke.

“Although still in the research phase, this innovation allows paramedics to rapidly scan the brain, hopefully within what’s known as the ‘golden hour’ after a stroke occurs which is when we can optimise treatment outcomes for the patient,” Mr Harris said.

Jack Di Tommaso, a 27-year-old gym owner and personal trainer from Newcastle, recently completed a marathon when an ischaemic stroke gave him and his family the shock of their lives. Jack didn’t know what to make of his sudden symptoms, which included slurred speech and reduced consciousness.

Thanks to this trial, the Strokefinder MD100 scan was performed on Jack within the ‘golden hour’ after suffering a stroke and his clinical information was captured in the telehealth app.

Jack said he felt lucky to be treated so quickly thanks in part to this ground-breaking trial.

“I’m grateful my mate called Triple Zero straight away, the paramedics arrived minutes later and were amazing from start to finish,” Jack said.

“I was scanned by the Strokefinder helmet and examined on a video call direct to the neurologist at hospital This collaboration and quick response was a major factor in making a full recovery.”

Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley said regional Australians are 17% more likely to suffer a stroke than those in metropolitan areas.

"In the Hunter New England Health District, around 1500 residents experience a stroke each year, so it makes sense a trial like this would take place here,” Ms Catley said.

Member for Wallsend Sonia Hornery said she was proud clinicians from John Hunter Hospital are involved in the trial.

“Some of our best and brightest work at John Hunter Hospital, and for them to be involved this frontline research which is improving outcomes for people suffering a stroke is really fantastic,” Ms Hornery said.

NSW Ambulance in partnership with Hunter New England Local Health District, Medfield Diagnostics, Hunter Medical Research Institute, and Titan Neuroscience Research Australia, anticipate reporting trial results later this year. 

Photo: NSW Ambulance

Wellbeing Nurses To Support More NSW School Children

February 27, 2024
More NSW children will have access to important wellbeing support at school as a result of the NSW Government committing $60 million over 4 years to continue the successful Wellbeing and Health In-reach Nurse (WHIN) Coordinator program.

Since the program started in 2018, more than 10,000 students have been supported by wellbeing nurses.

Around 100 wellbeing nurses are spread across metro, rural and regional areas of NSW working in about 400 public schools, potentially giving 150,000 students access to their important service. 

The WHIN Coordinator program is a joint initiative of NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education, and establishes wellbeing nurses in public primary and secondary schools to coordinate appropriate early intervention, assessments and referral to health and social services.

This is just part of the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to improving student and teacher wellbeing in schools, which includes a commitment to increase the number of counsellors in schools, ensuring an additional 250 counsellors are recruited.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said:

"Wellbeing nurses are providing important care and support by connecting students and their families to health and community services. 

“This has a positive flow on effect by delivering improved health outcomes and better education engagement for students across NSW, and I am pleased to announce this service will continue for another 4 years under the NSW Labor Government."

Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car: stated

“I am delighted to see this successful program will continue, providing students in around 400 public schools with ongoing access to support through a wellbeing nurse.

“This program facilitates connections for our students and families to access high quality wellbeing support with local health care services.”

Minister for Health Ryan Park said:

“These wellbeing nurses play a vital role in our schools, helping students and their families to access mental health support and high quality, compassionate healthcare.

“We know wellbeing nurses are effective in assisting students and their families to access care for health and wellbeing needs they otherwise would not receive, so I’m proud thousands of children and young people across NSW will continue to benefit from this important service.”

Member for Heathcote Maryanne Stuartsaid:

“I’m really pleased the NSW Government is continuing our investment into this incredibly successful wellbeing program.

“Giving students the support they need directly within schools to connect with local health services is better for them, their families and our health system overall.”

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.