Inbox and Environment News: Issue 618

March 17-23, 2024: Issue 618


NSW Passes Historic Legislation To Ban Offshore Drilling And Mining

The NSW Labor Government has moved decisively to protect our beaches and coastal environment by banning seabed petroleum and mineral mining off the NSW coast.

The Government secured support from across the NSW Parliament to implement the ban, making NSW the first state in Australia to prohibit seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and mining.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Seabed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024 amends the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to prohibit:
  1. Seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery in NSW coastal waters; and
  2. Other development within the state for the purposes of seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery anywhere.
The Bill, which was passed this week, reaffirms the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to protecting NSW coastal waters from offshore mining activities.

'''These activities can have a devastating effect on our marine wildlife by releasing toxic materials, destroying habitat and creating harmful sediment levels. We must prevent this happening.'' the government said in a released statement

The Bill is designed to stop severe environmental damage that can result from offshore exploration and drilling including oil spills and greenhouse gas emissions.' 

The ban exempts coastal protection works including beach nourishment and beach scraping, which involves removing a layer of sand from the foreshore and transferring it to a different location on that same beach. This strengthens beaches, dunes and cliff systems from erosion.

Certain dredging activities, not involving mineral exploration or recovery, which are required as routine practice with environmental and economic benefits will also continue. This includes laying pipelines or submarine cables.

'No other state or territory has acted so comprehensively to prevent the severe environmental impacts that can result from offshore exploration.' the government said

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Penny Sharpe stated:
“The damage from seabed exploration and mining is significant. It threatens our state's sensitive marine environments, coastal areas and Indigenous heritage.

“With broad support, the NSW Labor Government has taken a responsible and balanced approach to banning seabed mining and protecting our marine environment into the future.”

Minister for the Central Coast David Harris said:
“Not only does this ban keep our waters clean and our marine life healthy, but it also gives certainty to coastal communities, like mine on the Central Coast who are overwhelmingly against offshore mining.

“I am pleased to be a part of a government that not only listens to the community but also acts in their best interests.”

During the Legislative Assembly Debate, Manly MP James Griffin stated:

''We have managed to get to this position of furious agreement because of the hard work, often behind the scenes, of the principled, smart and, at times, brave environmental advocacy groups who have, against the trend, gone out on a limb and proactively and comprehensively engaged with conservative politicians and voices over many years. They have brought about this outcome.

These groups have had the courage to buck the trend when it comes to the archetypal environmental advocacy group. It was the gains made by those groups who were willing and able to objectively engage—or, perhaps more importantly, those who truly understood the pragmatism required to change minds, inform, influence and educate using facts—who are ultimately the ones who have effected and will continue to effect the greatest change. The passing of this bill should, rightly, have many people claiming it as their win. It has been a collaborative effort. But that effort and reward belongs to those who were willing to leave their long‑held and often incorrect perceptions and views at the door and get around the table for a discussion. ''

''One of Australia's greatest economic assets is also its greatest environmental asset: the ocean. More than 85 per cent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the sea, but Australia's ocean economy extends well beyond New South Wales coastal communities. Australia's national marine industries contribute significantly to the economy by generating more than $110 billion in output, adding $105 billion in value to the GDP, whilst supporting 462,000 full‑time‑equivalent jobs. Conservation, restoration and sustainable use and management of marine ecosystems and biodiversity is fundamental to achieving a sustainable ocean economy. In that respect, the proposal of PEP 11, in my view, never delivered highest and best use of the coastal waters of New South Wales and, indeed, does not align with fundamental policy decisions and directions regarding energy security, reliability or cost.''

''The message I leave for other States and Territories of Australia is that the economic benefits of conservation of our coastline presents an overwhelming and comprehensive case. This legislation should not be misconstrued as simply a means to preserve the visual amenity of a portion of the coast, because it is so much more than that. Cheaper, more reliable and secure energy is best achieved through other means. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the many coastal communities, stakeholder groups and various members of Parliament, either historically or more recently, who have delivered this outcome. Well done to all. I commend the bill to the House.''

Pittwater MP Rory Amon addressed the main difference between his 2023 tabled Bill, the Minerals Legislation Amendment (Offshore Drilling and Associated Infrastructure Prohibition) Bill 2023, and that now in place through the work of the incumbent Minns Labor Government, stating:

''There is one other matter in which I note that the Government's bill is weaker than the Coalition's bill. It is a matter of concern, but I am assured that it will be dealt with adequately in the Government's bill. I thank the Minister and his office for facilitating briefings with the relevant departmental lawyers and experts on these matters to assure us of this. But it is important to record that the Government's bill refers to relevant development being prohibited for the purposes of offshore gas mining and exploration. My concern is that it does not specify in detail what that relevant development could include but not be limited to. For a community that was led down the garden path on this matter for many years, the more certainty we have, the better.

I appreciate that the Government's position is not to provide that greater certainty, but I am assured it is there, nonetheless. I will address the matter. The Coalition's bill would have specifically set out that prohibited relevant development would include the maintenance, repair, provisioning or refuelling of vessels, aircraft or equipment used for the relevant development, being offshore gas mining and exploration, handling, refining or processing petroleum or minerals obtained from that development, and the unloading or transportation, including by pipeline, of petroleum or minerals obtained from that relevant development. That was in the original bill but is not in the Government's bill. I am told that it is all good and I will take the Government at its word on that. But I feel it is important we identify the shortcomings or perceived shortcomings of the Government's bill.

Those things said, I congratulate the Government for following the Coalition's lead on this matter. The Prime Minister said he is opposed to PEP 11 and offshore gas mining and exploration. Every member in this place said they are opposed to it. It is good to see they are on board with opposing it by way of legislation. The ball is now fairly and squarely in the court of the Federal Labor Government to ensure that it rejects the renewal of the licence for offshore gas mining and exploration and that it can never be renewed or reactivated in future. To that end, I call on the Federal Government to do more where it can. I commend the bill to the House.''

When the Bill reached the Legislative Council Amendments were moved by Greens Member Cate Faehrmann, who stated:

These amendments will fix a fundamental and obvious flaw with the bill. Clause 3 is what is known as a Henry VIII clause. This is a clause where, so to speak, the tail gets to wag the dog. The long title of the bill says that the bill is "to prohibit the carrying out of seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery". The bill actually does this very well—that is, up until we get to clause 3. The clause allows for exemptions to be made to the prohibitions proposed in the bill simply on the say-so of the Minister, although they need to consult with the Minister for the Environment—not make a decision in concurrence with the Environment Minister; simply consult them. 
In other words, the Executive can, at its whim, completely subvert the intention of the bill and allow the very thing it is supposed to be prohibiting: no parliamentary scrutiny; just the Minister's say-so.

I note that amendments were passed in the other place making it clear that such exemptions cannot be made in the case of fossil fuels, petroleum, coal and oil shale, but the field is left open for any and all other minerals. The Government will tell us that such a clause is necessary to cater for unforeseen circumstances at some point in the future, when something good and sensible that we might like to do might unfortunately and inadvertently fall under the classification of minerals extraction and/or recovery, for the purposes of the Act, and we cannot do it because of the strictures that the Act places on us.

However, the Parliamentary Counsel's Office [PCO] warns about the dangers of a Henry VIII clause. That came from the PCO's submission to the Regulation Committee's inquiry into the making of delegated legislation in New South Wales. The PCO states:

… almost all modern legislation involves delegations to the executive of power to make delegated legislation. A standard regulation‑making power is included in most Acts, in the following terms—

The Governor may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, for or with respect to any matter that by this Act is required or permitted to be prescribed or that is necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.

The issue is whether the power exercised in the delegated legislation is properly executive or legislative in nature, and whether it should receive the enhanced scrutiny and debate that characterises legislative enactments.

The inquiry recommended the following in recommendation 4 of its report:

That, to foster greater transparency in the use of delegated legislative power, the NSW Government ensure that explanatory notes to bills:

highlight the presence in the bill of any Henry VIII clauses, shell legislation or quasi legislation

include an explanation as to why such a broad delegation of legislative power is considered necessary.

As I understand it, that was not done. In his second reading speech, the Minister said:

The bill also provides additional flexibility for exceptions in the form of a constrained regulation-making power in clause 3 of proposed schedule 10. This will accommodate other limited exceptions that offer an environmental or public benefit, and which are deemed necessary through the implementation of the bill.

Let us be clear: The clause in the bill allows for possible exemptions, again, entirely at the Executive's whim for any kind of mineral recovery or extraction—something that is completely antithetic to the purpose of the bill. Let us not forget exactly what we are talking about when we are dealing with seabed mining. As the Minister himself said in his second reading speech:

The impacts of seabed exploration and mining are significant. They are a threat to our State's sensitive marine environments, coastal areas and Indigenous heritage. Offshore mining activities can have a devastating impact on our marine fauna and their habitats, including the release of harmful or toxic materials, the removal of habitat and the creation of harmful sediment levels.

Beyond that, the Minister also said quite clearly that the bill "will give certainty to the community and industry by ensuring that any move away from the prohibition on these activities would require a future Act of Parliament". On the one hand, the Minister wants to provide certainty around prohibition, but, on the other hand—and not really being up-front about it, I have to say—provides a massive back door, a huge "get out of jail free" card for himself, the Government and future governments, for that matter. No Act of Parliament will be needed for a change in clause 3; just a bit of a chat with the environment Minister—which, hopefully, we will deal with in the next amendment—and the Minister can sign off on whatever mineral-related extraction or recovery he likes. That is simply not good enough. It is completely, again, antithetical to the purpose of the bill and what the community was promised. The clause needs to go. I commend The Greens amendment to the Committee.

The amendment, essentially, amends clause 3 (2) of the Bill, changing the requirement for the Minister for the Environment to simply be consulted and instead requires that the Planning Minister obtain the concurrence of the Environment Minister.

The Hon. Penny Sharpe, NSW Minister for the Environment stated the Government supports The Greens amendment that ensures the Environment Minister has concurrence on any regulations.

With the Amendment agreed to, The Hon. Penny Sharpe moved: 
That this bill be now read a third time.

A Third Reading: Once a Bill has passed through the second reading, and where necessary the consideration in detail/committee of the whole stages, a question will be moved "that this bill be now read a third time" If agreed to, the bill has passed all stages and the bill is sent, with a message, to the other House for consideration.

NEATS, as of March 15 2024, still lists the PEP11 application for an extension as 'pending'.

The PEP11 (Petroleum Exploration Permit 11) licence covers 4500sq/km of ocean, in places just 5.5km from the shore, from Manly through the Central Coast to Newcastle. PEP11 is entirely in Commonwealth waters, which begin 5.5km offshore.

On January 31 2024 Asset Energy partner in the PEP11, Bounty Oil & Gas advised via a statement to the ASX that NOPTA has made a recommendation to Joint Authority on Bounty and Asset Energy’s applications for extension of their PEP11 licence.

Asset Energy, as major holder of PEP 11, states it is still actively preparing to drill Seablue1; an exploration drilling for natural gas and greenhouse gas storage about 26km offshore and 30km from Newcastle. 

Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Seabed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024 Progress
Long Title: 'An Act to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to prohibit the carrying out of sea bed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery and related development; and for related purposes.'
Legislative Assembly
Initially introduced in the Legislative Assembly
Introduced by: Scully, Paul
Notice of Motion: Tue 6 Feb 2024
Introduced: Wed 7 Feb 2024
First Reading: Wed 7 Feb 2024
2R Speech: Wed 7 Feb 2024
Second Reading: Tue 12 Mar 2024
Considered in Detail: Tue 12 Mar 2024
Reconsidered in Detail: Thu 14 Mar 2024
Third Reading: Tue 12 Mar 2024
Date Passed LA: Tue 12 Mar 2024

Legislative Council
Member with Carriage: Sharpe, Penny
First Reading: Wed 13 Mar 2024
2R Speech: Thu 14 Mar 2024
LA agrees with LC amendment: Thu 14 Mar 2024
Passed Parliament: Thu 14 Mar 2024


Volunteers For Barrenjoey Lighthouse Tours Needed


Narrabeen's 'Occy'

Joe Mills, March 14 2024:

''An unusual shot of our regular friend the octopus who we find in the tidal flats alongside the Narrabeen Rock Pool wall. Most locals call him 'Occy'. 
He is curled up here and displaying his light colours to disguise as a rock. In the middle of the pic, the two little white patches are his eyes. 

To give you a bit of size, his head would fit in the palm of your hand, and his tentacles would reach to your elbow. He has become a local attraction, until someone sees him as Calamari.''

Manly Freshwater World Surfing Reserve Relaunches

Australia's first World Surfing Reserve, established in 2012 with Manly Council and Kelly Slater, re-launched on Wednesday 6th March at Queenscliff pools. Attending were Manly legends 7x World champion Layne Beachley AO and former Ironman champion Guy Leech as the new Ambassadors and Warringah MP Zali Steggall. 

“I’m so excited that Manly Freshwater World Surfing Reserve has voted me in as their ambassador. Protecting the beach and surfing amenity of Manly/ Freshwater where I learnt to surf is so important to me and for future generations. Manly has so much surf history and I am honoured to be part of it,” said Layne 

Layne Beachley AO, former Ironman champion Guy Leech and Warringah MP Zali Steggall

Hawaiian Olympic Gold Medallist Duke Kahanamoku first demonstrated surfing as a public exhibition at Freshwater Beach in December 1914. The pages of the past record:

At the invitation of the NSW Amateur Swimming Association a number of newspaper representatives, accompanied some of the officials to witness an exhibition of surf-board riding by Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, the worId's champion sprint swimmer, at Freshwater yesterday. It was Kahanamoku's first attempt at surf-board riding in Australia and it must be admitted it was wonderfully clever. The conditions were against good surf-board riding. The waves were of the "dumping" order and followed closely one on top of the other.

According to the champion, board-riding on the Waikiki Beach, Honolulu is a pleasure, and there it is possible to shoot well over a quarter of a mile. Then, too, Kahanamoku was at a disadvantage with the board. It weighed almost 100lb whereas the board he uses as a rule weighs less than 25lb. But, withal, he gave a magnificent display, which won the cordial applause of the onlookers.

Kahanamoku entered the water with the board accompanied by Mr. W.W. Hill and some members of the Freshwater Surf Club. Lying flat on the board and using his arms like paddles the champion soon left the swimmers far behind. When he was about 400 yards out he waited for a suitable breaker, swung the board round, and came in with it. Once fairly started, Kahanamoku knelt on the board and then stood straight up, the nose of the board being well out of the water.

But the force of the breakers never carried him more than 50 yards. On a couple of occasions he managed to shoot fully 100 yards, and then he cleverly demonstrated what could be done. He turned completely round, then, lying flat on the board, he raised himself on his hands and swung the board from front to back and back to front, finally again standing straight up. If the condition of the water is favourable when Kahanamoku makes his pubIic appearance in surf-board riding in Sydney it is sure to be keenly appreciated.
SURF-BOARD RIDING. (1914, December 25 - Friday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

Duke Kahanamoku carrying his board up the beach at Freshwater. Photo by Frank Bell (1884-1923)

January 2011 marked the inaugural Duke's Day celebration in Freshwater Beach, Australia. In 1914, Duke Kahanamoku accepted an invitation from Cecil Healy, a fellow Olympian, and friend, and travelled to Australia to compete in several swimming events. This trip turned into a three-month journey that would introduce Hawaiian surfing to locals and inspire the annual event called Duke’s Day.

A further tribute to Duke as our areas first Blue Plaque was officially installed on Monday October 17th 2022.

In 1964 Australian surfers Phyliss O’Donnell and Midget Farrelly were crowned first World Champions at Manly Beach In front of 50,000 spectators.

Winners Midget Farrelly and Phyllis O'Donnell with their trophies. CREDIT R.L. Stewart

Manly surfing family generation identity Scott Bell heads the new committee with fellow locals Susie Crick, Doug Lees, Murray Frazer, and Richie Lovett. Portugal's Joao Castro a coastal engineer who worked on the Northern Beaches Council represented Manly Freshwater WSR at last year's Coalition Summit hosted by Save the Waves. (World Governing Body of WSRs).

Currently there are 12 WSRs; Malibu, Santa Cruz, Portugal, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Noosa, Gold Coast, Costa Rica, and North Devon. 
No 13 is to be announced in 2024.

The primary aim is to protect global surf habitats by proactively identifying, designating, and enshrining international waves, surf zones, and surrounding environments. These designations help safeguard these areas from the threat of development.

CEO of Save the Waves Nik Strong Cvetich wholeheartedly supports the new relaunch.

"Manly / Freshwater is one of the most iconic places in the World Surfing Reserve network, and we Save The Waves are thrilled to see the results of the hard work and vision by new generation of locals, standing up to protect their iconic ways. Many congratulations to the whole team. I can’t wait to work alongside you all going forward.”

Manly Surfrider Foundation organised a 12th year celebration for Manly Freshwater WSR at Freshwater beach south end followed by fundraiser event at the Harbord Hotel with live music on Sunday 10th March.

Layne said:
''Through international recognition and local community stewardship it’s our responsibility to uphold the beauty and basic environmental integrity of a surf spot and its surrounding areas. World Surfing reserves aim to:
  • Protect marine habitats and biodiversity 
  • Maintain resilience of the coast
  • Safeguard the local livelihoods 
  • But, we are under threat! The 6 major threats are- 
  • Coastal development - eg seawalls
  • Sea levels rising
  • Coral reef destruction-industrials run off and climate change
  • Water degradation - fertilisers
  • Plastic pollution 
  • Loss of access - privatisation  
Everyone can play a pivotal role in protecting and preserving our planet for future generations to enjoy.''

To learn more, visit

2024 Ocean Lovers Festival At Bondi: March 20 To 24

The Ocean Lovers Festival is an annual celebration of Ideas, Art+Music & Actions, showcasing some of the latest innovations, science, state-of-the-art technology and cool ideas for helping the ocean. Born in Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach, the Festival provides 4 days of free entertainment and events. Be inspired and entertained with art, music, food, talks, stalls, workshops and more. 
Come and Sea Change!

Full list of what's on available at:  Blue Solutions Summit 2024: The Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, Wednesday, March 20, 2024 - information at:

Environment Protection Legislation Amendment (Stronger Regulation And Penalties) Bill Introduced To NSW Parliament

The  Environment Protection Legislation Amendment (Stronger Regulation and Penalties) Bill 2024 was introduced in the NSW Legislative Council on March 14 2024. 

Long Title: An Act to amend certain legislation administered by the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for the Environment to provide for strengthened regulation, and increased penalties for offences, relating to the protection of the environment; and to amend the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 for related purposes.
Most NSW environmental penalties have not increased since 2005, including those for serious offences.

The current criminal investigation into asbestos-contaminated mulch, the biggest in the EPA’s history, has highlighted the need to address loopholes and enhance investigative capabilities.

The Environment Protection Legislation Amendment (Stronger Regulation and Penalties) Bill 2024 includes:
  • Doubling maximum penalties for Tier 1 serious offences to $10 million for companies and $2 million for individuals.
  • Doubling maximum penalties for Tier 2 asbestos-related offences to $4 million for companies and $1 million for individuals.
  • More than doubling on-the-spot fine amounts for certain Tier 3 offences to $30,000 for companies for a first offence and $45,000 for a second offence. For individuals this will be $15,000 for a first offence and $22,500 for a second offence.
  • Doubling on-the-spot fines for general littering of small items to $160 for individuals and corporations in public places.
  • Cracking down on small-scale illegal dumping with maximum penalties of $50,000 for companies and $25,000 for individuals. On-the-spot fines of $5,000 for companies and $1,000 for individuals will be able to be issued by public land managers, including councils, NSW Police and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
  • Implementing a specific, higher penalty for small scale illegal dumping on sensitive land such as childcare centres, hospitals, schools, national parks and beaches.
  • Increasing maximum penalties for breaching resource recovery orders and exemptions from $44,000 to $2 million, or $4 million for offences by corporations involving asbestos waste.
  • Introducing new product recall powers for materials that may be contaminated with harmful substances across an entire supply chain, to quickly safeguard human health and the environment and warn the public.
  • Establishing a public ‘name and shame’ process to issue public warnings about poor environmental performers and sub-standard practices.
  • Strengthening investigation powers, introducing investigation notices, and improving and expanding clean-up notice controls.
  • Allowing the Land and Environment Court to ban serial and serious offenders from applying for an environment protection licence.
  • Providing a framework to establish a new waste accreditation scheme to ensure accurate assessment, classification and disposal of waste. This will protect the integrity of recycling streams by targeting the source of contamination. Regulatory effort will be focused upstream towards the waste generator, providing greater visibility and control over supply chains.
These state-wide reforms are designed to overcome emerging issues and urgent regulatory challenges. This is the first step the NSW Government is taking to ensure environmental frameworks are preventing contamination entering the community and recycling streams and enforcing deterrents to environmental crimes.

The NSW Government will consider further changes in response to the ongoing investigation into contaminated mulch or recommendations of the Asbestos Taskforce and Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:

“Today is a down payment on our election commitment to strengthen environmental protections in NSW. I’m proud that we’re introducing the biggest boost to environmental regulation since the creation of the EPA in 1991.

“Under 12 years of conservative government, penalties and regulation haven’t kept pace. We need a tough environmental cop on the beat. Our changes will give the EPA more power to better protect our precious places and to deter environmental crime.

“The events of the past two months have shown the urgent need to reform environment protection laws and increase penalties.

“These sweeping reforms will directly improve the protection of human health, the environment, and the community.

“Penalties are being ramped up to reflect the risk of harm and disruption to the environment and the community, and for those doing the wrong thing the fine will no longer just be the cost of doing business.”

Offence tiers:
  • Tier 1 offences – wilful
    • Wilful harm to environment from disposal of waste, or causing any substance to leak, spill or otherwise escape
  • Tier 1 offences – negligent
    • Negligent harm to environment from disposal of waste, or causing any substance to leak, spill or otherwise escape
  • Tier 2 offences with higher penalties – asbestos waste and other serious offences
    • For example, pollution of land where offence involves asbestos waste
  • Other Tier 2 offences
    • For example, failure to comply with licence condition or a clean-up notice
  • Tier 3 offences
    • Environmental offences which are dealt with via penalty notices (on-the-spot fines)

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 2024,  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.

Current fines for tree vandalism in NSW are $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for companies, compared with recent reforms in the ACT imposing fines up to $80,000. The current fines are no deterrent.

Councils lack resources for thorough criminal investigations, hindering effective prosecution. Despite the illegality of tree vandalism under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, only 19 cases were prosecuted from 2018 to 2022.

Local environment groups 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

EPA Fines Forestry Corporation $45K

March 15 2024
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) $45,000 after two separate incidents in Nadgee State Forest on the far south coast and Bagawa State Forest near Coffs Harbour.

Trees were allegedly removed in an Environmentally Significant Area and from a steep slope when seasonal restrictions on harvesting were in place.

The EPA found fifteen trees and vegetation were allegedly removed from within an Environmentally Significant Area in Nadgee State Forest in 2023 and has now issued a $15,000 fine.

The area was part of a designated tree retention clump, prohibited from forestry operations to protect hollow bearing trees under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA).

In February 2023, an alleged illegal tree removal in Bagawa State Forest occurred on a slope greater than 25 degrees, breaching obligations to prevent soil erosion and resulting in two penalty infringement notices totalling $30,000.

The clearing contravened specific seasonal requirements, but FCNSW also failed to identify the area subject to the protocol on a map.

EPA Director of Operations, Jason Gordon said both incidents could have been avoided had FCNSW complied with the CIFOA.

“We have rules in place to protect water quality, vegetation and important habitats during forestry operations.

“Ignoring these rules is a blatant disregard for our environment and their duty to protect hollow bearing trees for crucial fauna.

“In no circumstances, should 15 trees have been removed from an Environmentally Significant Area.

FCNSW claimed the Nadgee State Forest issue arose due to a mapping software failure, however our investigations found the software problem was known prior.

“At Bagawa, the seasonal requirements are important to prevent soil erosion during high rainfall and on this occasion further damage was only minimised due to rainfall being lower than expected.

“We are disappointed by these incidents, which occurred prior to the recent changes in the CIFOA.

FCNSW is now required to undertake nocturnal surveys and retain extra trees as part of the increased protections for greater gliders.”

Newcastle Company Fined $15,000 Over Harbour Coal Spill

March 14, 2024
Coal handling facility Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) has been fined $15,000 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) over an alleged pollution incident during ship loading activities in Newcastle Harbour.

The EPA’s investigation found that PWCS breached a condition of its Environment Protection Licence when approximately 10 kilograms of coal material spilled into the Hunter River from a wharf conveyor belt at the Carrington coal terminal last June.

Five hours later, the spill was discovered during a routine inspection where key pollution controls were found not to be in the appropriate position following repairs to the conveyor belt.

EPA Executive Director of Regulatory Operations, Jason Gordon said PWCS had a poor regulatory record and should have had better measures in place to prevent and detect the incident.

“Coal handling facilities have a responsibility to ensure any ship-loading duties do not impact the surrounding environment,” Mr Gordon said.

“This potentially damaging coal material entered the Hunter River without anyone noticing for several hours.

“The Hunter River is known by local Aboriginal people as Coquun, meaning ‘fresh water’ and is the lifeblood of the region.

“The EPA is committed to taking decisive action on pollution incidents that threaten waterways.  

“While there were no obvious impacts, coal material can pose a risk to the environment and the potential consequences on marine life are concerning.

“Given the 24-hour operation of this coal terminal and its proximity to the water, it’s crucial for PWCS to have better systems in place to prevent recurrences in the future.”

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve compliance. These measures also include formal warnings, licence conditions, enforceable undertakings, and prosecutions.

If you suspect someone is doing the wrong thing, phone the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.

Eastern Blue Groper Changes: Have Your Say

NSW DPI Fisheries:  
We would like to hear your feedback on making Eastern Blue Groper a ‘no take’ species in NSW. Head to our website via the link below to complete the consultation form before submissions close at 5pm on 30 April 2024.

Eastern Blue Groper Management Changes Consultation Form -

Iconic Blue Groper Now Protected In NSW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty said:

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

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

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

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

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

Driving A Cleaner Future: Vehicle Emissions Star Ratings Website Launched

The NSW Government has launched a new Vehicle Emissions Star Rating website to help vehicle buyers consider sustainability when making their next vehicle purchase.
A simple 6-star rating system will allow consumers to compare the carbon dioxide emissions of new and second-hand cars, utes and vans. The more stars a vehicle has, the lower the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.

The star rating applies to vehicles right across Australia and was developed in collaboration with the Commonwealth Government and state and territory governments.

The Vehicle Emissions Star Rating website has launched with star ratings for light vehicles dating back to 2004. Consumers will be able to compare their current vehicle’s star rating with more than 16,000 different models and variants.

The website has fully customisable calculators that allow consumers to input the actual price they pay for fuel or electricity, and consider annual costs based on the distances they drive, rather than just being offered information based on averages that may vary widely.

The information on emissions and efficiency is provided in a simple, visual format to help consumers make choices.

It is supported by useful articles and information on vehicle emissions, how different vehicles are powered, and how driving style and maintenance may reduce emissions.

The Vehicle Emissions Star Rating website also provides information on electric vehicles, including locations of charging infrastructure, battery recycling and the differences between electric vehicles , hybrid vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles.

Consumers are encouraged to visit Vehicle Emissions Star Rating

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Penny Sharpe said:

“The Vehicle Emissions Star Rating website offers information on emissions and efficiency in a simple format so consumers can choose a new or used car which reduces their emissions.

“This is both good for their hip pocket, and good for the environment.

“Battery EVs are the cleanest light vehicles, receiving a 6-star rating because they do not produce any tailpipe emissions. The NSW Government is supporting their uptake by growing the network of EV chargers across the state.”

New International Report Records Australia's Coal Mine Methane Emissions Are Underreported

March 14, 2024
A new international energy report records the Albanese Government is massively downplaying how much gas Australia is letting off.

Australia’s methane emissions from coal are 60 percent higher than what it reports to the United Nations, according to the International Energy Agency’s annual methane tracker report.

Released overnight, the IEA estimates methane emissions from coal mining in Australia were 1.668 million tonnes during the last year, 60 percent higher than the 1.007 million tonnes Australia reported to the United Nations.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas - more than eighty times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period.

While the Government signed the global pledge to reduce methane emissions in 2022, there has been little progress by coal companies to reduce their own methane emissions since.

The release of the IEA’s report follows analysis by Lock the Gate Alliance, which found, under the Albanese Government’s safeguard mechanism reforms, 10 coal mines would perversely be allowed to increase their direct emissions.

Previous work by Lock the Gate also showed that if the pipeline of coal mines in Queensland went ahead, the state would likely overshoot its newly adopted emissions reduction targets and “wipe out” any reductions in emissions from the safeguard mechanism.

Removal Works On All Macquarie River Rafts To Begin Soon

March 15 2024
Work on removing human-made debris from all seven Macquarie River rafts between the Warren (Top) Weir and Marebone Weir, and the shoreline, will begin next month on 8 April. 

The scope of works has been expanded from the two rafts originally proposed for partial removal last year to include removal of human-made debris from the river between the Warren (Top) Weir and the Marebone Weir. Identifiable woody weed debris, like willow, will also be removed from rafts.

This work has been informed by other government agencies and feedback from the community and landowners including at two community drop-in sessions.

Environmental Services Functional Area Coordinator, Steve Beaman said there will be a community drop-in session on 26 March 2024 to discuss the work being undertaken.

"We now have a contractor engaged and ready to start flood recovery clean-up works in the Macquarie River, which is expected to take four to six weeks," Mr Beaman said.  

"The contractor will remove human-made debris from the river between the two weirs as well as removing identifiable woody weed debris like willow from the rafts. Native woody debris that is impacting on access for the removal of other debris will be tethered to the riverbank to assist with bank stabilisation and preserving aquatic habitats.

"The extent of the works will help water flow and quality, as well as the overall health of the river.

"We will be monitoring water flow, quality and bank erosion throughout the duration of the works, with safety to workers and the environment our biggest priority."

We will continue to update the community throughout the execution of these works and on the monitoring program. More information is available on the EPA website.

A community drop-in session will be held in Warren on 26 March 2024 from 10:30am -12:30pm at the Window on the Wetlands Centre.  

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.

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

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.

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

Meet the kowari: a pint-sized predator on the fast track to extinction

Ariana Ananda
Katherine MosebyUNSW Sydney and Katherine TuftUniversity of Adelaide

Australia is home to more than 350 species of native mammals, 87% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. But with 39 of these species already extinct and a further 110 listed as threatened, there’s every chance many will vanish before you even knew they existed. So here’s one we think you simply must know (and save), before it’s too late.

The charismatic kowari is a small carnivorous marsupial. It was once common inland but is now found only in the remote deserts of southwest Queensland and northeastern South Australia, in less than 20% of its former range.

This pint-sized predator fits in the palm of your hand. Its bright eyes, bushy tail and big personality make it the perfect poster child for the Australian outback. But with just 1,200 kowari left in the wild, the federal government upgraded its conservation status in November from vulnerable to endangered.

Reversing the decline of the kowari is within our grasp. But we need public support and political will to achieve this. It requires limiting grazing of cattle and sheep, while keeping feral cat numbers under control.

Introducing the kowari (Arid Recovery)

Meet The Kowari

The kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) is a skilled hunter that stalks mice, tarantulas, moths, scorpions and even birds. Alert and efficient, they attack their prey voraciously.

Formerly known as the brushy-tailed marsupial rat, or Byrne’s crest-tailed marsupial rat, the kowari is more closely related to Tasmanian Devil and quolls.

The Wangkangurru Yarluyandi People use the name kowari, while the Dieri and Ngameni peoples use the similar-sounding name kariri.

Closeup of the gibber plain showing areas of flat interlocking red pebbles
The red stony gibber plains could be mistaken for the surface of Mars. Katherine Moseby

Kowaris live in stony deserts. They mainly inhabit remote treeless “gibber” plains. These areas of flat, interlocking red pebbles form vast pavements that could be mistaken for the surface of Mars.

In the outback, where temperatures can exceed 50°C, kowaris beat the heat by sheltering in burrows dug into sand mounds. At night they emerge to race across the plains, their head and distinctive brushy tail held high, pausing regularly to scan for predators and prey.

During chilly winter days, kowaris slow their metabolism to conserve energy. They go into a state of torpor, which is a daily version of hibernation.

At the two main South Australian sites, the number of animals captured in trapping surveys declined by 85% between 2000 and 2015. At this rate, the species could disappear from the area within two decades.

The entire population is estimated to number as few as 1,200 individuals scattered over just 350 square kilometres. That’s a combined area of less than 20km x 20km.

Based on this evidence, the conservation status of kowaris was upgraded from vulnerable to endangered in November last year.

A kowari standing in the desert facing the camera with its long bushy tail stretched out to the right
Kowari are now restricted to refuge populations in northeast South Australia and southwest Queensland. Andrea Tschirner

Shrinking Populations In The Stony Desert

Kowaris have been declining for a while but are suddenly on the fast track to extinction. How can that be, when they live in one of the most vast and remote parts of Australia?

Threats include land degradation from pastoralism, and predation from introduced feral cats and foxes.

But it’s complicated. Threats can combine, having a synergistic effect (greater than the sum of their parts). And then there are climate influences.

Heavy rain in the desert triggers a cascade of events that culminates in an explosion of feral cat numbers.

When conditions dry out again, the cats switch to eating larger or more difficult prey such as bilbies and kowaris, often causing local extinctions. In southwest Queensland, feral cats most likely wiped out one population of kowaris and decimated another.

Huge efforts to control cat plagues have saved the kowari and bilby populations in Astrebla Downs National Park from local extinction so far, but other areas have succumbed.

In SA, all the remaining kowari populations are on pastoral stations used for grazing cattle.

Cattle can trample kowari burrows. They can also compact the sand mounds, making it difficult for kowaris to build burrows in the first place. And they eat the plants on the mounds, reducing the availability of both food and shelter. This makes kowaris easy prey.

Over the past few decades, pastoralism has intensified. Nearly half of Australia (44%) is covered in pastoral leases where many threatened species occur.

Domestic stock usually graze close to watering points such as bores and troughs. More and more watering points are being established, to make more of the pastoral lease accessible to stock. So the area protected from grazing is shrinking as cattle encroach further into kowari territory.

A sand mound surrounded by the stony desert gibber plain
Kowari burrow in sand mounds that can be trampled and compacted by cattle. Katherine Moseby

How Can We Save The Kowari?

We have the knowledge and tools required to save this species from extinction. We just need decisive leadership and sufficient funding to put these plans into action.

State governments should provide more resources for desert parks so rangers can monitor feral cat numbers and respond rapidly to plagues. We can make use of new technology such as remote camera traps checked via satellite. These measures would also protect the last remaining stronghold of the bilby in Queensland, another nationally threatened mammal.

The pastoral industry and governments must work together to review watering-point placement and reduce grazing pressure in known kowari habitat.

By closing some pastoral watering points and ensuring a portion of each lease (possibly 20%) is away from waters, we can reduce the harm of stock and provide refuges for threatened species. Pastoral companies could show leadership and implement these actions themselves rather than waiting for governments to act.

In the meantime, reintroductions into safe havens is one stopgap measure helping to prevent imminent kowari extinction. In 2022, 12 kowaris were successfully reintroduced to the 123 square km fenced Arid Recovery Reserve in northern SA. The population has expanded since release. Removing cats, foxes and domestic stock from the reserve has given kowaris a chance to reclaim a small portion of their former range.

But safe havens are small and we need to act on a larger scale. If we don’t, the kowari may become yet another Australian species lost before you’ve even seen it.

Thanks to Genevieve Hayes, former ecologist at Arid Recovery, for coordinating the reintroduction of the kowari at Arid Recovery and commenting on the draft of this article.The Conversation

Katherine Moseby, Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney and Katherine Tuft, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide

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

Large old trees are vital for Australian birds. Their long branches and hollows can’t be replaced by saplings

Alex HollandThe University of MelbourneJason ThompsonThe University of MelbournePhilip GibbonsAustralian National University, and Stanislav RoudavskiThe University of Melbourne

When we make roads, houses or farmland, we often find large old trees in the way. Our response is often to lop off offending branches or even cut the tree down.

This is a bad idea. The more we learn about large old trees, the more we realise their fundamental importance to birds, mammals, insects, plants and other inhabitants. More than 300 species of Australian birds and mammals need large old trees to live.

Why focus on mature trees? It’s because they have many features that younger trees simply don’t have: cracks, hollows, dead branches, peeling bark and large quantities of nectar and seeds. The limbs and leaves that fall on the ground make excellent homes for many small creatures.

Our new research sheds light on the importance of such grand old trees for birds. We used lidar (scanning using lasers) to map small, medium and large tree crowns in unprecedented detail. On average, we found large old trees had 383 metres of the horizontal or dead branches preferred by birds, while medium trees had very little and young trees none. Some old trees had almost 2 kilometres of branches.

Why Are Branches So Important?

If we think of long, overhanging branches, chances are we may think “threat”. Some large trees can drop limbs without warning, although some arborists have pointed out the threat is overstated. To reduce the risk, councils and land managers may remove the limbs of large old trees.

But if you cut down a 300-year-old river red gum, you can’t simply replace it with a sapling of the same species. It will take centuries for the sapling to take up the same ecological role as its predecessor.

In our research, we mapped more than 100,000 branches from many millions of laser samples and recorded how birds use branches through years of field observations.

When we spot a bird using a branch, we can safely infer the bird has chosen it for a reason, whether resting, socialising, feeding, hunting or nesting.

What our data shows is that not all branches are equal. Birds find it easier to perch on horizontal or slightly inclined branches. Branches with few or no leaves offer clear vantage points for birds to land, hunt or see predators. You may have noticed crows and currawongs choosing dead branches for these reasons.

As trees mature, their branches begin to grow horizontally. Some branches may die due to lightning strikes, fire, wind damage, or attacks by insects or fungi, while the rest of the tree continues living. These long-term patterns of growth, decay and random events are necessary to produce the horizontal and dead branches prized by birds. For a large eucalypt, that process can take up to 200 years.

Mapping The Canopy With Lasers

Until recently, it’s been hard to map the tree canopy. Traditional methods rely on researchers visually assessing this vital habitat. But we know eye observations don’t do well at capturing parts of trees such as branches.

That’s where lidar comes in. Lidar sends out laser pulses, which bounce back when they hit objects. By recording the time taken for the light to return, we can build very detailed three-dimensional models. It’s a little like echolocation, but using light rather than sound.

This laser-scanning technology has been used in the jungles of Central America to find the ruins of lost Mayan cities. But it can do much more.

In forests, lidar is now increasingly used to estimate how dense the tree cover is, and how variable. This useful data feeds into how we assess a forest’s ability to store carbon, how much timber is present, and the current fire risk. We can even use it to spot animal pathways.

To get the canopy detail we wanted, we used lidar on the ground rather than from the air, and processed the data with algorithms that can recognise and describe about 90% of branches in even the largest trees.

We mapped trees in an area near Canberra. We chose this area because it represents the plight of temperate eucalypt woodlands, which have shrunk by up to 99% since European colonisation.

What Should We Do?

The very things that make branches good real estate for birds can make them seem dangerous or aesthetically displeasing to us. We tend to cut dead or long, horizontal branches and leave the living or more upright ones. But for birds, this is a disaster as many cannot live without such branches.

Young trees are no substitutes for their older counterparts. Planting saplings or installing nest boxes cannot replicate the ecological value of large, mature trees.

We can live alongside large old trees. To reduce the chance of injury or worse from falling limbs, we could use exclusion zones, add artificial supports for branches, and install devices to catch or redirect falling limbs. We can also look at emergency solutions such as prosthetic hollows on younger trees or even artificial replicas of old trees.

We should preserve these trees wherever we can and aim to keep them intact with their complex crowns and dead branches. We should also make sure there is a pipeline of young and medium trees to make sure there will be old trees in the future. The Conversation

Alex Holland, Researcher at Deep Design Lab and PhD Candidate at Melbourne School of Design, The University of MelbourneJason Thompson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Melbourne School of Design, The University of MelbournePhilip Gibbons, Professor, Australian National University, and Stanislav Roudavski, Founder of Deep Design Lab and Senior Lecturer in Digital Architectural Design, The University of Melbourne

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

The Great Barrier Reef’s latest bout of bleaching is the fifth in eight summers – the corals now have almost no reprieve

Terry HughesJames Cook University

For the fifth time in just the past eight summers – 2016, 2017, 2020, 2022 and now 2024 - huge swathes of the Great Barrier Reef are experiencing extreme heat stress that has triggered yet another episode of mass coral bleaching.

Including two earlier heating episodes – in 1998 (which was at the time the hottest year globally on record) and 2002 – this brings the tally to seven such extreme events in the past 26 years.

The most conspicuous impact of unusually high temperatures on tropical and subtropical reefs is wide-scale coral bleaching and death. Sharp spikes in temperature can destroy coral tissue directly even before bleaching unfolds. Consequently, if temperatures exceed 2°C above the normal summer maximum, heat-sensitive corals die very quickly.

Reef Health Update (8 March 2024) Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

What Is Coral Bleaching?

Bleaching happens when marine heatwaves disrupt the relationship between corals and their “photosynthetic symbionts” – tiny organisms that live inside the corals’ tissues and help power their metabolism.

Severe bleaching is often fatal, whereas corals that are mildly bleached can slowly regain their symbionts and normal colour after the end of summer, and survive.

Before 1998, coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef was infrequent and localised. But over the past four decades, bleaching has increased in frequency, severity and sptial scale, as a result of human-induced climate heating.

“Mass coral bleaching” refers to bleaching that is severe and widespread, affecting reefs at a regional scale or even throughout the tropics triggered by rising global sea temperatures.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of more than 3,000 individual coral reefs. It’s the same size as Japan or Italy, and extends for 2,300km along the coast of Queensland. Widespread coral deaths during extreme heatwaves, affecting hundreds of millions of coral colonies, far exceed the damage typically caused by a severe cyclone.

How Bad Is 2024?

Heat stress this week is reaching record levels on large parts of the Great Barrier Reef.

Climate scientists can measure the accumulation of heat stress throughout the summer by using a metric called “degree heating weeks” (DHW), which factors in both the duration and intensity of extreme heat exposure. This measures how far the temperature is above the threshold that triggers mild bleaching (1°C hotter than the normal summer maximum), and how long it stays above that threshold.

The same DHW exposure can result either from a long, moderate heatwave or from a short, intense peak in temperatures. The 2023–24 summer has been a slow burner on the Great Barrier Reef – sea temperatures have not been as extreme as during previous bleaching events, but they have persisted for longer.

As a general rule of thumb, 2–4 DHW units can trigger the onset of bleaching, and heat-sensitive species of coral begin to die at 6–8 DHW units. So far this summer, according to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, heat stress on the Great Barrier Reef has climbed to 10–12 DHW units on many individual reefs, and has been north and south compared to the central region. Heat stress will likely peak in the next week or two at levels above all previous mass bleaching and mortality events since 1998, before falling as temperatures drop.

Coral bleaching is typically very patchy at the enormous scale of the Great Barrier Reef. In each of the previous events since 1998, 20–55% of individual reefs experienced severe bleaching and coral deaths, whereas 14–48% of reefs were unharmed.

Given the near-record levels of heat stress this summer, we can expect heavy losses of corals to occur on hundreds of individual reefs over the next few months.

What’s The Longer-Term Outlook?

This latest, still-unfolding event was entirely predictable, as ocean temperatures continue to rise due to global heating.

Three of the seven mass bleaching events so far on the Great Barrier Reef coincided with El Niño conditions (1998, 2016 and this summer), and the remaining four did not. Increasingly, climate-driven coral bleaching and death is happening regardless of whether we are in an El Niño or La Niña phase. Average tropical sea surface temperatures are already warmer today under La Niña conditions than they were during El Niño events only three or four decades ago.

The Great Barrier Reef is now a chequerboard of reefs with different recent histories of coral bleaching. Reefs that bleached in 2017 or 2016 have had only five or six years to recover before being hit again this summer – assuming they escaped bleaching during the 2020 and 2022 episodes.

Clearly, the gap between consecutive heat extremes is shrinking – we are vanishingly unlikely to see another 14-year reprieve like 2002 to 2016 again in our lifetimes, until global temperatures stabilise.

Ironically, the corals that are now prevalent on many reefs are young colonies of fast-growing, heat-sensitive species of branching and table-shaped corals – analogous to the rapid recovery of flammable grasses after a forest fire. These species can restore coral cover quickly, but they also make the Great Barrier Reef more vulnerable to future heatwaves.

Attempts to restore depleted coral cover through coral gardening, assisted migration (by harvesting larvae) and assisted evolution (rearing corals in an aquarium) are prohibitively expensive and unworkable at any meaningful scale. In Florida, coral nurseries suffered mass deaths due to record sea temperatures last summer.

The only long-term way to protect corals on the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere is to rapidly reduce global greenhouse emissions.The Conversation

Terry Hughes, Distinguished Professor, James Cook University

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

The Lows And Lows Of Antarctic Sea Ice

March 6, 2024: by Australian Antarctic Division
Data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has revealed another summer of exceptionally low sea-ice extent around Antarctica. Sea-ice extent around the frozen continent was measured at 1.99 million square kilometres*, with scientists suggesting a ‘regime shift’ could be underway.

It’s the third year in a row Antarctic sea-ice extent has dropped below the long-term summer average of 2–4 million square kilometres, since satellite records began in 1979.

February 2023 holds the record for the lowest summer sea-ice extent over the past 46 years, of 1.77 million square kilometres – 36% less than average.

Winter sea-ice extent has also been declining. In September 2023, it dipped to a new record low of 16.96 million square kilometres, compared to the usual 19–20 million square kilometres.

The NSIDC said that the trend in summer sea-ice extent is a reduction of 4,700 square kilometres per year, or 1.7 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

This reduction is not statistically significant due to volatile year-to-year changes in Antarctic sea ice over the last two decades – in stark contrast to the Arctic, where the decline is continuous and larger in magnitude.

However, sea-ice scientist Dr Petra Heil, from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s Australian Antarctic Division, said if Antarctic sea ice continues to decline, it will have global consequences.

“The decline in Antarctic sea ice directly impacts the local climate and ecosystems but also affects climate and ecosystems processes around the world, with repercussions for our lifestyle and economic interests,” she said.

“Our Antarctic marine and field research, as well as remote-sensing analysis over more than 30 years, has been invaluable to our understanding of sea-ice change and its far-reaching impacts, but we need to intensify our research to obtain critical observations now, given the rate of change has accelerated severely.”

The current decline, which has been underway since 2016, comes after more than 30 years of a small, steady gain in Antarctic sea ice. This included a record winter high in 2012 and another in 2014.

Then in the spring of 2016, Antarctic sea ice fell to a (then) record low, and has been below average for most years since.

Research points to ocean warming  as playing a key role in the deficit of sea ice around Antarctica since then. Scientists say Antarctic sea ice may have been pushed to new state of diminished coverage (similar to that in the Arctic), from which it may not recover.

Antarctic sea ice has been described as the beating heart of the planet, as it expands in winter and contracts in summer. 

This regular cycle of freezing and thawing keeps our planet functioning, regulating global climate and sea-level rise.

Sea ice also provides habitat for krill and other small marine creatures that are food for whales, penguins, seals and fish. These smaller marine organisms also perform important ecosystem functions, such as extracting carbon from the atmosphere.

The Australian Antarctic Program has a range of long-term observing and other research activities to understand the nature and impacts of sea-ice change. These include remote-sensing and physical ‘on-ice’ measurements within the sea-ice zone.

The data collected from this work will help validate and calibrate satellite observations of sea ice, and improve satellite-derived products. These allow scientists to scale up more localised measurements, and provide an Antarctic-wide picture of the sea-ice environment.

Physical sea-ice measurements also help build an accurate picture of how ocean, ice and atmospheric processes contribute to sea-ice changes, and provide baseline data to ensure satellite-derived products, forecasts and model predictions are accurate.

“Given Antarctica’s global reach, if we want to understand the risks to Australia from climate tipping points, we need to improve our knowledge of processes and change in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” Dr Heil said.

Learn more about sea ice and the research scientists are doing to understand the impact of changes in the sea-ice zone in our multimedia feature ‘Antarctic sea ice in crisis’.

*Changing winds or late-season melt could still reduce the Antarctic ice extent. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the Antarctic and Arctic February conditions in March.


February 14 2024
Antarctic sea ice is in crisis, with a sudden decline recently observed after more than 30 years of relative stability.

Any day now, scientists will learn whether this summer's Antarctic sea-ice extent has beaten last year’s record summer low of 1.77 million square kilometres – 36% less than the long-term summer average.

Sea ice is so central to the functioning of the planet that its decline has serious implications for Earth’s climate and ecosystems, and human wellbeing.

Learn more about the importance of sea ice and the research we’re doing to understand the impact of its loss, in our new in-depth feature Antarctic sea ice in crisis.

The regular cycle of freezing and thawing of Antarctic sea ice, keeps our planet functioning, regulating global climate and sea-level rise Photo: Wendy Pyper

Tennis anyone? Bad news for skiers as snow season could shrink by 78% this century

Adrian McCallumUniversity of the Sunshine Coast

As the days shorten, many of us, particularly in Australia’s south-east, are looking forward to cooler times, and perhaps the allure of snow on the horizon. In the past week many in this region experienced their warmest days for over a century. What does this bode for times to come?

Research released overnight suggests ski areas in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand will soon have much less snow due to climate change. German researcher Veronika Mitterwallner and her colleagues show average annual snow-cover days may decline by 78% in the Australian Alps and 51% in the Southern Alps of Aotearoa New Zealand (under a high-emissions scenario) by 2071–2100. Worldwide, they found 13% of ski areas will lose all natural snow cover by the end of the century.

It’s often said Australia gets more snow than Switzerland, though the evidence says otherwise. The fact remains that the Australian Alps cover a large area, more than 12,000km, with a third or more covered in snow at peak times. So these changes will have a broad impact on local economies and threaten fragile alpine ecosystems.

a panoramic view of the Australian Alps covered in snow
If Australia loses three-quarters of its snow-cover days, a surprisingly big area will be affected. Greg Brave/Shutterstock

How Did The Study Make These Findings?

Mitterwallner’s team used a high-resolution climate data set for the global land surface area to identify the annual number of natural snow-cover days. Then, they projected those data under three emissions scenarios, and looked at historical (1950-2010), present (2011-2040), immediate future (2041-2070) and near future (2071-2100) data to examine changes over time.

Under most modelled emission scenarios, they found the annual number of snow-cover days will greatly decrease worldwide. For Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, in particular, they found the average number will decrease by 78% and 51% respectively. These were the two regions with the greatest losses of snow.

However, under a low-emissions scenario, the good news is no regions will fall below an average of 100 snow-cover days a year. This is historically the minimum number of days a ski resort needs in seven out of ten winters to remain viable (cover must be at least 30–50cm).

How Will We Adapt To The Loss Of Snow?

Will the way we use our alpine areas have to change permanently? Many resorts have already pivoted to activities such as mountain biking that don’t rely on snow. Skiing may be off the agenda – tennis anyone?

The prognosis of such research has driven the formation of groups such as Protect Our Winters. The mission of the Australian section is to help Australia’s outdoor community protect the integrity of our unique alpine environment and lifestyle from climate change.

Beyond Australia, New York recently had its highest snowfall in two years. Across the United States in general, though, they just experienced the warmest winter ever.

What is going on? And what might this new research mean, particularly for Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand?

These predictions, for almost all emissions scenarios, do not bode well for the skiers among us. More importantly, as many communities in the Himalaya are finding out, snow is not just a recreational “nice to have”. It’s a life-source for alpine communities, both human and non-human, and all those that depend on rivers sustained by snow melt around the globe.

Perhaps a greater concern in our region is the potential for ecological damage as resorts seek to increase ski slope metreage in areas that remain snow-covered. Expanding resort footprints is not a sustainable approach to a problem that probably won’t be going away.

A snow machine shoots out a plume of snow in the Snowy Mountains
Resorts can make artificial snow, but that doesn’t solve the problem of it melting if the alps get warmer. Edward Atkin/Shutterstock

Is Artificial Snow An Option?

So how might we support the goals of Protect Our Winters? What alternatives do we have? How about artificial snow, would that work?

As part of my PhD studies many years ago, at the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, I made masses of “polar snow” in a cold room (while effectively destroying the air-conditioning units at the same time). Artificial snow can be created quite readily, assuming enough water is at hand.

Artificial snow will have a different form and its density and microstructure will differ, potentially affecting longevity. (You can read more about snow mechanics here.)

But once on the ground, artificial snow, like natural snow, is subject to the vagaries of our weather. If the sun is shining and the day is hot, snow won’t last long, regardless of whether it’s natural or artificial.

There’s a lot to think on here as we contemplate what our world and our region might look like when skiing and snow-covered ground become no more than a memory in some areas. Yes, our recreational activities might change as we wonder whether it’s worth waxing up the skis this year – or is it time to break out the racquets? The ongoing survival of many communities might be jeopardised as a result.The Conversation

Adrian McCallum, Discipline Lead - Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast

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

Who Knew That Eating Poo Was So Vital For Birds’ Survival?

March 13, 2024
We all know that the early bird gets the worm, but new research shows they turn to something far more nutritious for their breakfast.

Poo – either their own, or from other birds – provides them with essential nutrients, energy, and helps them adapt to new environments and seasonal variations, especially when they are developing.

New research led by the University of South Australia and published in Biological Reviews explains how eating faeces (known as coprophagy) shapes wild birds’ digestive tracts (gut biota), enabling them to absorb lost or deficient nutrients and adjust to seasonal variations in food sources.

This is especially important for long-migratory birds, which transition between fasting and fuelling metabolic states as they fly around the world.

Lead author Dr Barbara Drigo, a UniSA microbial ecologist, says consuming faeces modifies bacteria and microbes in the birds’ digestive tract, allowing them to adapt to new environments.

There is also some evidence that ingesting faeces could be a form of self-medication to fight infections in birds, although more research is needed to confirm this theory.

While coprophagy provides birds with essential nutrients, it also has a downside, Dr Drigo says, because birds can potentially harbour and transmit diseases to other birds and humans via their faeces.

“Depending on their geographical range, behaviour and interactions with other animals and environments, birds – especially migratory ones – can efficiently spread pathogens around the world.

“Eating bird faeces may also increase their exposure to antimicrobials, particularly pesticides and cleaning products, which lead to antimicrobial resistance,” Dr Drigo says.

And the reason why humans should never feed bread to birds is that it lowers diversity in their gut microbiota, whereas if birds source food from natural sites, their digestive tract is much healthier.

“Birds foraging in human environments are exposed to chemicals and metals from waste, sewage and refuse, which can alter their microbiota, potentially leading to antimicrobial resistance.”

Dr Drigo says a healthy avian gut is essential for regulating birds’ biological functions, and eating faeces plays a significant role in this. However, while coprophagy is inherently beneficial, it can expose birds to harmful antimicrobial substances.

“There’s an urgent need to thoroughly explore how various forms of coprophagy impact avian gut microbiomes, affecting bird health across their different life stages and environments,” she says.

Impacts of coprophagic foraging behaviour on the avian gut microbiome” is published in Biological Reviews and authored by researchers from the University of South Australia, University of Technology Sydney and University of Wollongong. DOI: 10.1111/brv.13036
Photo: Red-necked stint. Image: University of South Australia

The surprising key to magpie intelligence: it’s not genetic

Elizabeth Speechley
Lizzie SpeechleyThe University of Western Australia

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering Australia’s iconic magpies, you know these birds are intelligent creatures. With their striking black and white plumage, loud warbling voices and complex social behaviours, magpies possess a level of avian brilliance that fascinates birders and scientists alike.

But what enables these clever birds to thrive? Are their sharp cognitive abilities innate – something coded into their genetic makeup? Or are magpie smarts more a product of their environment and social experiences?

In a new study, we shed light on the “nature versus nurture” debate – at least when it comes to avian intelligence.

Bigger Social Groups, Smarter Birds

Our study focused on Western Australian magpies, which unlike their eastern counterparts live in large, cooperative social groups all year round. We put young fledglings – and their mothers – through a test of their learning abilities.

We made wooden “puzzle boards” with holes covered by different-coloured lids. For each bird, we hid a tasty food reward under the lid of one particular colour. We also tested each bird alone, so it couldn’t copy the answer from its friends.

A mother magpie and a fledgling standing side by side.
Do fledgling magpies get their smarts from their mothers? Lizzie Speechley

Through trial and error, the magpies had to figure out which colour was associated with the food prize. We knew the birds had mastered the puzzle when they picked the rewarded colour in 10 out of 12 consecutive attempts.

We tested fledglings at 100, 200 and 300 days after leaving the nest. While they improved at solving the puzzle as they developed, the cognitive performance of the young magpies showed little connection to the problem-solving prowess of their mothers.

Instead, the key factor influencing how quickly the fledglings learned to pick the correct colour was the size of their social group. Birds raised in larger groups solved the test significantly faster than those growing up in smaller social groups.

Fledglings living in groups of ten or more birds needed only about a dozen tries to consistently pick the rewarded colour. But a youngster growing up in a group of three took more than 30 attempts to learn the link between colour and food.

How The Social Environment Shapes Cognition

Why would living in a larger social group boost cognitive abilities? We think it probably comes down to the mental demands that social animals face on a daily basis, such as recognising and remembering group members, and keeping track of different relationships within a complex group.

Magpies can learn to recognise and remember humans, too. The bird populations we work with live in the wild, but they recognise us by our appearance and a specific whistle we make.

A photo of Lizzie Speechley sitting on the grass next to a fledgling magpie.
Magpies recognise researchers and come looking for food. Sarah Woodiss-Field

A young magpie living in a group gets plenty of mental exercise recognising and remembering numerous individuals and relationships. Working to make sense of this stream of social information may boost their ability to learn and solve problems.

Our findings go against the idea that intelligence is something innately “set” within an animal at birth, based solely on genetic inheritance. Instead, we show how cognition can be shaped by the environment, especially in the first year after leaving the nest when young magpies’ minds are still developing.

While we focused specifically on Australian magpies, the implications of our research could extend to other highly social and intelligent species.The Conversation

Lizzie Speechley, Behavioural Ecologist, The University of Western Australia

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

China’s green steel push could crush Australia’s dirty iron ore exports

Zhao Jian Kang/Shutterstock
Charlie HuangRMIT University

Australia’s largest export, iron ore, has long been a powerhouse of economic growth. Over the past two decades, its contribution to our national income has surged from just A$8 billion in 2005 to over A$124 billion today.

But the Australian iron ore industry faces a major challenge as its biggest customers – China’s steel mills – move to drastically reduce their carbon footprint.

The issue lies in the purity of our product. Most of Australia’s current iron ore exports are not classed as high grade. Typically, the lower the iron content of an ore is, the more energy is required to refine it.

Our competitors – countries such as Brazil and Guinea with higher-grade ores in relative abundance – are positioned to become the steel industry’s suppliers of choice.

Australia could adapt its production to meet this change in demand. But if it doesn’t do so quickly, it may find itself left behind in the new green economy.

Iron Ore’s Biggest Customer Cleans Up Its Act

China is the largest importer of Australian iron by a hefty margin. Australia shipped 736 million tonnes – more than 80% of iron ore exports – to China in 2022.

Last year, China’s steel mills made up the majority of global steel production. But they were also a major polluter, accounting for about 15% of China’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

They’re now facing a double whammy of decarbonisation pressures.

At home, the Chinese government has mandated the steel industry reduce its emissions as part of China’s wider “dual carbon” goals. These will require emissions to peak before 2030 and for the country to become carbon neutral by 2060.

And internationally, upcoming tariffs on carbon-intensive steel imports are set to make producing “dirty” steel much costlier.

Australian Ore Doesn’t Make The Grade

Making steel with low-grade iron ore isn’t at all carbon friendly.

For one, it consumes vastly more energy in the traditional steelmaking process. My analysis shows that using one tonne of low-grade ore can emit over 200 kilograms more carbon dioxide in a blast furnace than high-grade.

A high level of impurities in low-grade ore also significantly reduces the efficiency of the process.

Reducing the use of low-grade ore has become a priority for Chinese steel mills, significantly affecting iron ore’s demand profile.

Much of the iron ore exported by competing nations like Brazil and Guinea is high-grade, containing more than 65% iron. But most of Australia’s current exports fall below that threshold, between 56% and 62%.

New Technologies

A number of new and emerging steelmaking technologies offer the promise of significantly lower emissions.

But common to all of them is a need for higher-grade iron ore than Australia produces.

There are four new steelmaking technologies in use or under construction by a number of Chinese steel corporations, including the world’s biggest steelmaker – China Baowu Group. These include:

Here’s how these technologies could help China reduce its carbon emissions:

Increased Use Of Steel Scraps

Global demand for steel is forecast to increase to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2050.

But that won’t all translate into greater demand for our iron ore.

Overall demand for iron ore could be reduced by the increasing availability and use of steel scraps or “recycled steel”, such as scrapped vehicles, white goods and machinery.

Using one tonne of recycled steel for steelmaking saves 1.4 tonnes of iron ore and avoids about 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

New Tariffs On Carbon

A number of legislative measures are on the horizon for the global steel industry, which produced about 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.

One such international measure, the European Union’s Cross-Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), has further accelerated a global drive toward sustainable steelmaking.

This legislation acts as a carbon tariff on imports to the EU, initially aimed at carbon-intensive products such as steel. It will be fully in force by 2026.

EU importers of steel products will be required to pay an import carbon tax, at a price set by the EU, based on the differences in carbon emissions between traditional steel mills and the EU’s emission benchmarks.

Being forced to charge higher prices for carbon-intensive steel products will incentivise non-European steel mills to accelerate their transition to green steel.

What Lies Ahead

The global transition to green steelmaking is bound to shape the future of Australia’s iron ore industry. Reduced demand for Australia’s low-grade iron ore could put pressure on its producers’ revenue, or even force some smaller iron ore miners to shut down.

But it also presents opportunities. Here are two ways Australia could ride the wave:

1. Substantially increase production and export of magnetite.

Australia is abundant in magnetite, an ore type which differs in composition from hematite or “direct shipping ore” (DSO). Magnetite has a low iron content (between 30 and 40%), but can be processed to a higher grade through a process of removing impurities known as “beneficiation”. This process is energy intensive, but could become economically viable if we continue to see rapid uptake of renewable energy.

2. Build direct reduction plants here in Australia.

Unlike the traditional blast furnace process, which uses coal as a source of energy, the direct reduction process uses hydrogen to reduce iron ore into iron without melting it.

There has been much hype around Australia’s potential to produce cheap hydrogen with renewable energy. But if we pull it off, we could stand at the forefront of the green steel revolution as a global production hub of direct reduced iron.

Decisions made by Australia’s major iron ore producers and political leaders will shape the outcome of this global shift. Rather than fear the transition, Australia could take on a leading role. The Conversation

Charlie Huang, Co-leader, Sustainable Global Business Operations and Development Research Group, School of Management, RMIT University

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

Surviving fishing gear entanglement isn’t enough for endangered right whales – females still don’t breed afterward

Endangered North Atlantic right whale Snow Cone, entangled in fishing rope, with her newborn calf off Georgia in 2021. Georgia Department of Natural Resources/NOAA Permit #21731, via AP
Joshua ReedMacquarie UniversityLeslie NewUrsinus CollegePeter CorkeronGriffith University, and Rob HarcourtMacquarie University

It sounds like a crime show episode at sea: In late January 2024, federal regulators learned that a dead female North Atlantic right whale had been sighted near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The whale was towed to shore, where more than 20 U.S. and Canadian scientists converged to perform a necropsy, or animal autopsy.

On Feb. 14, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the whale was #5120 in a catalog that tracks individual right whales. Further, the agency said, rope that had been deeply embedded in the whale’s tail had likely come from lobster fishing gear in Maine.

Entanglement in fishing gear is a deadly threat to these critically endangered animals. Scientists estimate that before commercial whaling scaled up in the 18th and 19th centuries, there may have been as many as 10,000 North Atlantic right whales. Today, fewer than 360 individuals remain. Almost 90% of them have been entangled at least once.

When whales become entangled in fishing gear, they use extra energy dragging it as they swim. If the rope is caught around their mouths, they may struggle to feed and slowly starve. Ropes wrapped around whales’ bodies, flippers or tails can cut into the animals’ skin and become deeply embedded in their flesh, as happened to whale #5120. This can cause infections, chronic emaciation and damage to whales’ blubber, muscle, bone and baleen – the bristly structures in their mouths that they use to filter prey from the water.

North Atlantic right whales are legally protected, both internationally and in U.S. waters, including policies that seek to reduce deaths or serious injuries resulting from entanglements. However, even when entanglement does not kill a whale, it can affect individuals’ ability to reproduce, which is critically important for a species with such low numbers.

Rescuers successfully remove more than 450 feet (137 meters) of rope and a 135-pound (60-kilogram) trap from an entangled North Atlantic right whale at sea.

In a newly published study, we show that even entanglements scientists classify as minor have devastating impacts on female right whales and that, surprisingly, potential mothers who suffer “minor” entanglements have the lowest chance of starting to breed. As researchers with expertise in marine biologyecology and statistics, we believe our findings underline the urgent need for ropeless fishing gear that can reduce threats to the survival of this species.

Smaller Females Are Having Fewer Young

Understanding reproductive patterns is essential for supporting species that are critically endangered. North Atlantic right whales historically started breeding by around 9 years of age and gave birth to a single calf every three to four years thereafter for several decades.

Today, however, many females have yet to reproduce at all. Moreover, those that have successfully produced calves now don’t produce another calf for more than seven years on average.

As we showed in a 2022 study, after an encouraging North Atlantic right whale population recovery from the 1970s through the early 2000s, the number of reproductively mature female right whales declined from 2014 onward. By 2018 there were only about 73 breeding females left, representing roughly half of all females and a sixth of the entire species.

Other research has shown that poor health and physical condition are making it harder for these females to even start breeding. Since the early 1980s, North Atlantic right whales have literally shrunk: Adults have shorter bodies than they did several decades ago. This trend is associated with entanglements in fishing gear. As is true for all mammals, decreasing female body size reduces the likelihood of reproducing. Smaller whales have fewer calves.

Infographic showing North Atlantic right whale population trends
North Atlantic right whales have been listed as endangered since 1970. Approximately 360 individuals remain, including around 70 reproductively active females. NOAA Fisheries

Low calving rates are a significant factor in North Atlantic right whales’ decline, so it is important to understand what causes them. Many organizations are involved in tracking North Atlantic right whales, including government agenciesaquariums and conservation groups. Photos taken from the air enable researchers to identify individuals and so monitor whale population trends, births and deaths, ocean habitat use patterns, health and rates of scarring from entanglements and collisions with ships.

Our new study found that female right whales who have experienced even a minor entanglement before reaching sexual maturity may not ever start to breed. Even females who have previously reproduced are less likely to breed again following an entanglement event.

We determined this by using a mathematical model to incorporate information on the identity of individual whales, derived from photographs of natural markings known as callosities on the whales’ heads. By identifying and photographing whales repeatedly over time, scientists can estimate different stages of their life, such as when females give birth.

Weakness Of Current Regulations

Researchers categorize the severity of injuries that result from entanglements as minor, moderate or severe. The scientists who manage the right whale catalog classify scars or injuries on the skin as minor if they are smaller than 0.8 inches (2 centimeters) without entering the blubber. If they are larger and enter the blubber, they are classified as moderate. Injuries that extend deep into the muscle or bone are categorized as severe.

Our research makes it clear that such value-laden terms are potentially misleading because even minor entanglements can threaten whales’ successful reproduction.

Multiple laws ostensibly protect North Atlantic right whales, including the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In our view, these measures do not give enough weight to preventing all types of entanglements, regardless of severity.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the NOAA develops and implements conservation plans and so-called Take Reduction Plans, which are designed to minimize wildlife deaths and serious injury resulting from commercial fishing gear.

The Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, developed in 1997, requires fishers to use weak links, with a maximum breaking strength of 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms), to connect lobster and crab pots to buoys on the surface. These links are intended to break when whales swim into them, so that the whales do not become entangled and weighted down by ropes and traps.

The plan also requires fishers to use heavy ground lines to connect multiple traps or pots. These lines are designed to sink to the bottom rather than floating in the water column. And the plan closes trap fishing areas seasonally when whales are known to be present in those zones.

U.S. and Canadian regulators are considering requiring ‘ropeless’ lobster and crab fishing gear in zones where right whales are present.

Coming Back From The Brink

Current population estimates suggest that the numbers of North Atlantic right whales could be stabilizing, meaning that the number of deaths is approximately equal to the number being born. While these estimates seem promising, females need to start and continue producing calves to increase whales’ numbers.

From our work, it is very clear that both lethal and sublethal impacts of entanglements are of grave concern for these whales. As we see it, eliminating entanglement, not mitigating it, is the only way to avoid the extinction of this species. Every entanglement, whatever its severity, is bad news for the whales.The Conversation

Joshua Reed, Research Associate in Biology, Macquarie UniversityLeslie New, Assistant Professor of Statistics, Ursinus CollegePeter Corkeron, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security, Griffith University, and Rob Harcourt, Professor of Marine Ecology, Macquarie University

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

Petrol, pricing and parking: why so many outer suburban residents are opting for EVs

Anton Ukolov/Shutterstock
Park ThaichonUniversity of Southern Queensland

Until now, you might have thought of electric vehicles as inner suburban toys. Teslas and Polestars are expensive, leaving them as playthings for wealthier Australians and out of reach for the mortgage belt.

But that’s no longer the case. As residents in the outer suburbs reel from price rises seemingly everywhere, more and more are turning to electric vehicles (EVs) to slash their fuel bill.

Last year, EV orders for outer suburban residents (43%) overtook inner suburban residents (39%) for the first time. Rural and regional residents accounted for 18% of orders.

Avoiding petrol costs is one reason. But there are other good reasons, from easier parking and charging, to lower maintenance. And as our research into why people buy EVs has shown, there’s an even more fundamental reason – car buyers now know more about EVs and feel more familiar with the technology.

man charging his EV at home
The suburban garage or driveway works well with charging your EV at home. riopatuca/Shutterstock

Outer Suburbs Rely On Cars

The further you get from the city centre, the more likely you are to have to drive. Distances are longer and public transport drops off. Research from 2020 shows most outer suburban residents who commute have to travel between 10 and 30 kilometres. Every workday return commute costs these workers about A$36 in car running costs, or $180 a week – and this figure will likely have risen since.

So while the initial upfront cost of an EV may put some people off, others run the numbers on how much they spend on petrol – and how much they would save by going electric.

Petrol prices have surged in recent years due to armed conflict in Europe and the Middle East. This affects outer suburban, rural and regional residents the most, given they cover the most distance.

This is a major reason why more outer suburbanites are going electric. Electricity is much cheaper than petrol, especially if you make it yourself with solar. Outer suburban residents are more likely to have solar on their rooftops than inner suburban residents in Sydney and Melbourne.

solar panel rooftops from above
Outer suburban houses with off-street parking can find it easier to charge their EVs – especially paired with solar. NorCalStockMedia/Shutterstock

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the majority of electric vehicle owners live 20 to 60km away from their city’s CBD.

The most popular EVs in Australia last year (Tesla Model Y, Model 3 and BYD’s Atto) can drive between 400 and 500km before needing a recharge. The all-important range has grown substantially in recent years, and now mean suburban residents can commute, shop and go out without worrying about finding a place to charge.

In fact, the outer suburbs are better placed than inner suburbs in terms of charging cheaply. In the inner suburbs, space is at a premium and many houses do not have off-street parking. That makes it hard to recharge your car from your home. But outer suburban homes tend to have off street parking or a garage, which means you can charge cheaply at home.

This is to say nothing of the environmental benefits by avoiding what comes out of the tailpipe of an internal combustion car: carbon dioxide, PM2.5 particles dangerous to our health, and many other nasties.

EVs Versus The Cost Of Living

At present, many of us are reining in expenses, cutting back on extracurricular activities and putting off holidays to cope with the surging cost of everything – especially mortgages.

It would make financial sense for many of us to switch to EVs to take advantage of much cheaper running and maintenance costs. But the higher up-front cost of EVs has long been a disincentive.

What’s changing now is that cheaper EVs are arriving from the likes of the world’s second-largest EV manufacturer, China’s BYD and other Chinese brands such as MG. Tesla has cut its prices, too.

In Australia, the cheapest EVs now start from A$40,000, though most still cost $60,000–$90,000.

The secondhand market is growing too, as government fleet EVs come up for sale and as early adopters buy new cars and sell their old.

What Are Governments Doing?

Subsidies, tax credits, and local charging infrastructure are making it easier for residents on the outskirts to transition towards greener transport.

Some state governments are trying to accelerate adoption with a range of incentives for EV owners, from subsidies to cheaper registration. The interest was so strong in Victoria and South Australia that these governments have wound back some subsidies. By contrast, Queensland is offering a generous $6,000 rebate for new EV owners.

At a federal level, the proposed new vehicle efficiency standards will encourage carmakers to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles. If these standards come in, they will likely penalise fuel-guzzling cars and make fuel misers cheaper. They will also likely increase the number of EVs and other zero-emissions vehicles in the Australian market.

What’s Next?

Outer suburban residents are buying electric vehicles for very good reasons: financial prudence, practicality and a cleaner future.

Petrol is a substantial expense for many who live in car-dependent suburbs. If you can stop buying it and get the same thing you want – transport – with far cheaper running costs, why wouldn’t you? The Conversation

Park Thaichon, Associate Professor of Marketing, University of Southern Queensland

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

Ultra-fast fashion is a disturbing trend undermining efforts to make the whole industry more sustainable

New Africa, Shutterstock
Taylor BrydgesUniversity of Technology Sydney

Since the 1990s, fast fashion has enabled everyday people to buy the latest catwalk trends. But the sheer volume of garments being whipped up, sold and soon discarded is contributing to a global sustainability crisis.

Now, just when the fashion industry should be waking up and breaking free of this vicious cycle, it’s heading in the opposite direction. We’re on a downward spiral, from fast fashion to ultra-fast fashion. The amount of natural resources consumed and waste produced is snowballing.

Ultra-fast fashion is marked by even faster production cycles, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trends, and poor labour practices. Brands like Shein, Boohoo and Cider are liberated from the concept of seasonal collections. Instead they are producing garments at breakneck speeds and self-generating microtrends such as balletcore, Barbiecore and even mermaidcore. At the same time there is limited transparency or accountability around clothing supply chains.

The overproduction and consumption of clothing cannot be allowed to continue. Without change, the industry will account for 26% of the world’s carbon budget for limiting global warming to 2°C by 2050. The fashion industry must take responsibility for its actions. Policymakers also have an important role to play in enabling the necessary shift towards a more responsible and circular fashion economy. And let’s not forget the power of consumers.

The dark side of Shein’s success (China Tonight, ABC News)

Cheap Clothing At What Cost?

It was once thought the pandemic would trigger a transition to a more sustainable fashion industry. Unfortunately in reality the industry is getting worse, not better.

Most ultra-fast fashion brands emerged in the late 2010s following the most well known, Shein, founded in 2008. These online, direct-to-consumer brands exploded in popularity during lockdowns, with Shein holding the title of the world’s most popular brand in 2020.

Established brands such as Gap introduce 12,000 new items a year and H&M 25,000. But Shein leaves them in the dust, listing 1.3 million items in the same amount of time. How is this even possible?

The ultra-fast fashion model thrives on data and addictive social media marketing to create insatiable consumer demand.

But Shein’s incredibly low prices (its website has thousands of items under A$5) come at a human cost. The company’s own 2021 Sustainability and Social Impact Report (later removed from the site) found only 2% of its factories and warehouses met its own worker safety standards, with the rest requiring corrective action.

The brand has also forgone in-house designers. Instead it works with independent suppliers who can design and manufacture a garment in two weeks.

The result is an incredibly profitable business model. Shein filed for an initial public offering (IPO) last year to value the brand at US$136 billion, up from US$2.5 billion in 2018.

How Shein Built a $66B Fast-Fashion Empire (WSJ)

Shifting from fast to ultra-fast fashion has serious environmental and social consequences. This includes even more exploitative labour practices. Shein garment workers reportedly work 75-hour weeks and warehouses operate 24/7.

Ignoring this shift isn’t just a fashion faux pas. Doing so jeopardises national efforts for a more sustainable fashion industry.

A Seamless Transition To Sustainability

The Australian Fashion Council is leading a national product stewardship scheme called Seamless that promises to transform the fashion industry by 2030.

The idea is to bring fashion into the circular economy. Ultimately that means zero waste, but in the meantime raw materials would be kept in the supply chain for as long as possible by designing out and minimising waste.

Members will contribute a four-cent levy for every clothing item they produce or import.

These funds go into clothing collection, research, recycling projects and education campaigns.

BIG W, David Jones, Lorna Jane, Rip Curl, R.M. Williams, THE ICONIC, Sussan Group and Cotton On are Seamless Foundation Members. Each has contributed A$100,000 to the development of the scheme.

As one of the world’s first industry-led collective product stewardship initiatives for clothing textiles, Seamless presents a unique opportunity to drive change towards a more sustainable and circular fashion industry.

But there is a risk ultra-fast fashion brands may act as freeriders in Seamless, benefiting from the investment and initiatives without making meaningful contributions. Shein and others will continue putting more and more product on the market, which will need to be dealt with at the end of its short life. But if they fail to commit to the scheme, they won’t be the ones paying for that.

The government-funded consortium must also recognise ultra-fast fashion in tackling the industry’s environmental and social sustainability challenges. At the moment they’re only talking about fast fashion and ignoring the rise of ultra-fast fashion. Their global scan, for example, includes a discussion of fast fashion and no mention of ultra-fast fashion.

This also points to a lack of data more broadly in the industry but in the case of Seamless, it could have a big impact if this growing market segment is ignored.

Shein and Temu are estimated to earn a combined $2 billion in sales in 2024, with customers from all walks of life.

The Critical Crackdown

Some brands are actively engaged and working towards a more sustainable future. But others such as Temu are learning from Shein and looking to emulate their business model.

The transition to a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry requires a greater understanding of ultra-fast fashion, urgent systemic changes and collective efforts.

The Institute for Sustainable Futures, where I work, is a founding member of an international academic research network aimed at tackling the complexities of ultra-fast fashion. That includes how ultra-fast fashion is affecting the livelihoods of garment workers, how it’s fuelling textile waste and underscoring the industry’s struggle to embrace circular economy principles. We’re also investigating how to reshape consumer behaviour, away from social media-fuelled hauls towards more sustainable consumption particularly among Gen-Z consumers.

Last month, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced a potential intervention, perhaps by introducing minimum environmental standards or a clothing levy by July.

The clock is ticking. It is time to lay the foundation for a more sustainable and just fashion industry. Australia has a rich fashion history and is home to many leading local brands – many of whom have gone global. These brands show us what is possible when good design, sustainability and innovation drive an industry.

Ultimately, our collective choices wield immense power. By understanding the consequences of our fashion habits and advocating for change, we can all be catalysts for a more sustainable and just fashion industry.The Conversation

Taylor Brydges, Research Principal, University of Technology Sydney

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

Sweden has vast ‘old growth’ forests – but they are being chopped down faster than the Amazon

Swedish old-growth forest. Ulrika ErvanderAuthor provided
Anders AhlströmLund University and Pep CanadellCSIRO

Most of Europe’s natural ecosystems have been lost over the centuries. However, a sizeable amount of natural old forest still exists, especially in the north. These “old-growth” forests are exceptionally valuable as they tend to host more species, store more carbon, and are more resilient to environmental change.

Many of these forests are found in Sweden, part of the belt of boreal forests that circle the world through Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. But after researching these last relics of natural forest we have found they are being cleared rapidly – at a rate faster even than the Amazon rainforest.

There is no direct monitoring of these forests, no thorough environmental impact assessments and most of the public don’t seem to be aware this is even happening. Other evidence suggests something similar is happening right across the world’s boreal forests.

It can be tricky to know exactly how much old-growth forest there is, since the distinction might not always be clear. However, there is a clear difference between forests that have been “clear-cut” (entirely chopped down) sometime in the past and those that never have.

Clear-cutting started appearing in Sweden in the early 1900s and has been the dominant type of forestry in the country since the 1950s. The uncut forests that predate this time have therefore most likely not been clear-cut and since they are old they can be classified as old-growth forests.

Logging machine in forest
Clear-cutting is still the main form of logging in Sweden. Lasse Johansson / shutterstock

In our study, we looked specifically at forests in unprotected areas where the trees predated 1880 on average. That’s long before the large-scale adoption of clear-cutting in Sweden and means those forests have likely never been clear-cut.

These unprotected old-growth forests constitute around 8% of the productive forest land in Sweden, that is, the area that is generally favourable for forestry (omitting forests close to the Scandinavian mountain range tree line). This amounts to about 1.8 million hectares of old-growth forest, more than the total wooded area in many European countries.

This area of unprotected old-growth forest, with the remaining protected old-growth and primary forests, constitutes a large share of the last known ecosystems of “high naturalness” in the EU.

What Is Happening To These Old-Growth Forests?

Between 2003 and 2019, 20% of all the clear-cut forest in Sweden was old-growth. This means a sizeable share of forest products, such as timber, paper and bioenergy, comes from old trees. The losses to unprotected old-growth forests amount to 1.4% per year, which means they will be lost completely by the 2070s if the trend continues.

To put this in perspective, Sweden’s old-growth forests have been cleared six to seven times faster than the Brazilian Amazon forest between 2008 and 2023. (Of course, given the size of the Amazon, the total amount of cleared forest is much larger there).

While our study, shockingly enough, appears to be the only of its kind across the boreal region, there is some research showing that old-growth forests are also harvested in Canada. Additional anecdotal evidence further suggests the unchecked loss of old-growth forests to forestry operations in other boreal regions .

What’s Next?

The European Commission has drafted guidelines for all countries to map and protect all remaining old-growth and primary forests. This would be a good start.

But ultimately, we’ll need a coordinated system to map and monitor the entire boreal forest simply to learn the rate at which it is being lost. This would also help us understand the implications for carbon storage, for other plants and animals that live in these forests, and the humans that use them.

Unfortunately, this is a large and difficult task. Yet this might be one of our last chances to protect and recover large areas of natural forests. Logging old-growth forests now will delay their recovery for centuries.The Conversation

Anders Ahlström, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University and Pep Canadell, Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Environment; Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIRO

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

Can earth-covered houses protect us from bushfires? Even if they’re a solution, it’s not risk-free

Helitak430/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA
Alan MarchThe University of Melbourne

As extreme fire weather becomes more common across ever larger areas of Australia, we need new options for living with the risk of bushfire. Underground or earth-sheltered housing is one possibility. While still unusual, these homes are being built in bushfire-prone areas.

But before we embrace this form of housing as a widespread solution to increasing bushfire risks, we need to consider its complexities. Things to weigh up include the challenges of designing and building these homes, their costs and occupants’ behaviour. We also have limited real-world evidence of how such homes perform in bushfires.

A broader question is whether we should allow more people to live in bushfire-prone areas. If we let that happen it will lead to more deaths and injuries.

What Does Building Such Homes Involve?

Earth-sheltered houses are often built into slopes, but can be built on flat ground, either by excavating or by mounding earth over the building. In Australia, concrete is generally used for the building structure to provide enough strength to allow soil to cover the roof and walls. The earth-covered areas can be vegetated.

Because of the amount of earth in contact with the exterior, care is needed to ensure the building is watertight and structurally sound.

The house usually has one main wall of windows facing away from the earth-covered side to provide natural light. To meet building regulations for ventilation, these buildings include rear windows in light wells or vents.

One advantage of earth-sheltered buildings is that their internal temperature remains quite stable. They use much less energy – up to 84% less for cooling and up to 48% less for heating – to maintain comfortable temperatures. (These figures are for all climates, compared to buildings with black roofs.)

These buildings can also offer greater opportunities for improved aesthetics (as the home blends into the landscape), landscaping, productive gardens and recreation. These benefits can offset having limited windows and constraints on building layouts.

What About Bushfire Resistance?

Bushfires present complex risks. Earth-sheltered buildings are likely to be a useful but somewhat expensive and limited niche solution on challenging legacy sites where housing already exists.

Few such buildings have been subjected to fires so we have limited evidence of their efficacy. However, it is clear they can be engineered to resist the main ways bushfires attack buildings: heat, flames and embers.

Since earth largely covers the building, the most vulnerable parts are windows and other openings. These can be designed to resist heat and flame, depending on the modelled levels.

Bushfire-resistant measures are estimated to add costs of between $53,000 and $273,000 (2020 values) compared to a typical home construction, depending on the site. Glass is often a key component. Because they are highly susceptible to heat, the cost of windows that can withstand a worst-case fire is often prohibitive.

An earth-shelter build usually costs much more than standard once one adds up the engineering, excavation, concrete and construction costs.

Most earth-sheltered structures rely on one side of the building having large windows to admit enough natural light inside. This window side is typically oriented downhill towards views, with the rear built into the slope. Bushfires increase speed and intensity when moving uphill, so the window side usually receives the most intense bushfire attack.

On sites with limited space, this challenge is often difficult to resolve. Sometimes the only solution is to remove large amounts of natural vegetation. This is done at the expense of ecological goals. The loss of plants whose roots bind the soil could also increase landslip risks.

Should People Even Be In High-Risk Places?

While it is possible to engineer a bushfire-resistant structure with a low risk of destruction, that doesn’t eliminate the risks created by people themselves.

Human factors greatly increase risks, even in well-designed bushfire-resistant structures. Poor maintenance or later modification can put a property at risk. Examples include unsafe storage of gas bottles and fuel, woodpiles, and modification of or failure to secure doors, windows or shutters.

Residents may also modify vegetation around an earth-covered home in ways that increase risks. They might, for example, plant highly flammable species, or allow fuel loads to build up, including mulch they might have laid down.

Despite education campaigns, warnings and alerts, people continue to put themselves in many risky situations before and during bushfires. Reasons include alert fatigue, expenses of evacuation, dangers while driving, being in unfamiliar locations such as holiday houses, retrieving children, protecting livestock and pets, or protecting underinsured or uninsured property. If more people live in bushfire-prone areas, there will be more bushfire-related deaths and injuries among both residents and bushfire responders.

The psychological impacts on people affected by extreme fires are significant. Nearly three-quarters suffered anxiety for two years after Australia’s 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. Even if a structure survives, the emotional burdens of isolation while under duress, loss of communications and the heat, smoke, darkness and noise of extreme fires are powerful and underestimated.

Yet people’s differing levels of awareness and ability are often ignored as a factor in bushfire risk.

There’s A Wider Context To Consider

It makes little sense to put more people in bushfire-prone locations that will likely become riskier over time. Solutions such as earth-sheltered buildings may be part of a suite of ways to reduce risks in existing bushfire-prone residential areas.

However, at a wider scale, building low-density housing in bushfire-prone areas is unnecessarily risky. It also conflicts with the compelling need to build at much higher densities in existing areas to house Australia’s growing population. Higher-density housing will allow better and more affordable access (because of economies of scale) to services, infrastructure, jobs and public transport.The Conversation

Alan March, Professor of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne

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

Redwood trees are growing almost as fast in the UK as their Californian cousins – new study

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock
Mathias DisneyUCL

What can live for over 3,000 years, weigh over 150 tonnes and could be sitting almost unnoticed in your local park? Giant sequoias (known as giant redwoods in the UK) are among the tallest and heaviest organisms that have ever lived on Earth, not to mention they have the potential to live longer than other species.

My team’s new study is the first to look at the growth of giant sequoias in the UK – and they seem to be doing remarkably well. Trees at two of the three sites we studied matched the average growth rates of their counterparts in the US, where they come from. These remarkable trees are being planted in an effort to help absorb carbon, but perhaps more importantly they are becoming a striking and much-admired part of the UK landscape.

To live so long, giant sequoias have evolved to be extraordinarily resilient. In their native northern California, they occupy an ecological niche in mountainous terrain 1400 – 2100 metres above sea level.

Their thick spongy bark insulates against fire and disease and they can survive severe winters and arid summers. Despite these challenges these trees absorb and store CO₂ faster and in greater quantities than almost any other in the world, storing up to five times more carbon per hectare than even tropical rainforests. However, the changing climate means Californian giant sequoias are under threat from more frequent and extreme droughts and fires. More than 10% of the remaining population of around 80,000 wild trees were killed in a single fire in 2020 alone.

Tree Giants From The US

What is much less well-known is that there are an estimated half a million sequoias (wild and planted) in England, dotted across the landscape. So how well are the UK giant sequoias doing? To try and answer this, my team used a technique called terrestrial laser scanning to measure the size and volume of giant sequoias.

Woman carrying baby stands next to base of giant trees
Sequoia national park in California, USA. My Good Images/Shutterstock

The laser sends out half a million pulses a second and if a pulse hits a tree, the 3D location of each “hit” is recorded precisely. This gives us a map of tree structure in unprecedented detail, which we can use to estimate volume and mass, effectively allowing us to estimate the tree’s weight. If we know how old the trees are, we can estimate how fast they are growing and accumulating carbon.

As part of a Master’s project with former student Ross Holland, and along with colleagues at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, we measured giant sequoias across three sites - Benmore botanical gardens in Scotland, Kew Wakehurst in Sussex and Havering Country Park in Essex. These sites span the wettest (Benmore) and driest (Havering) climates in the UK, enabling us to assess how rainfall affects growth.

The fastest-growing trees we measured are growing almost as fast as they do in California, adding 70cm of height and storing 160kg of carbon per year, about twice that of a native UK oak. The trees at Benmore are already among the tallest trees in the UK at 55 metres, the current record-holder being a 66 metre Douglas Fir in Scotland. The redwoods, being faster growing, are likely to take that title in the next decade or two. And these trees are “only” around 170 years old. No native tree in the UK is taller than about 47 metres. We also found significant differences in growth rates across the UK. They grow fastest in the north where the climate is wetter.

So how did these trees get here? Exotic plant collecting was big business in the 18th and 19th centuries, in large part as a display of wealth and taste. Giant sequoias were first introduced in 1853 by Scottish grain merchant and keen amateur collector Patrick Matthew, who gave them to friends. Later that same year commercial nurseryman William Lobb brought many more from California, along with accounts of the giant trees from which they came.

Giant sequoias quickly became a sensation and were planted to create imposing avenues, at the entrances of grand houses and estates, in churchyards, parks and botanic gardens. The letters about these trees helps us to accurately age planted trees, enabling us to calculate their growth rates.

Normally, you need to take samples from a tree’s core to get an accurate age estimate but that can damage the tree.

Imagine Their Potential

UK sequoias are unlikely to grow as tall as their Californian counterparts, which tend to grow in forests, due to lightning strikes and high winds – always a risk when you’re the tallest thing in the landscape rather than one among many. More recently, there has been a resurgence in planting giant sequoias in the UK, particularly in urban settings. This is because of their carbon storage potential and perhaps because people seem to really like them.

We urgently need to understand how UK trees will fare in the face of much hotter, drier summersstormier winters and with increased risks of fire. Global trade is also increasing the spread of disease among plantlife. More work is needed to consider the impact of planting non-native species like giant sequoias on native habitats and biodiversity but our work has shown that they are apparently very happy with our climate, so far.

More importantly, we have to remember that trees are more than just stores of carbon. If we value trees only as carbon sticks we will end up with thousands of hectares of monoculture, which isn’t good for nature.

But these giant sequoias are here to stay and are becoming a beautiful and resilient part of our landscape.

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Mathias Disney, Reader in Remote Sensing, Department of Geography, UCL

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

Vinegar and baking soda: a cleaning hack or just a bunch of fizz?

Daniele De Vivo/Shutterstock
Nathan KilahUniversity of Tasmania

Vinegar and baking soda are staples in the kitchen. Many of us have combined them in childhood scientific experiments: think fizzy volcanoes and geysers.

But people also frequently mix vinegar and baking soda to produce a reportedly effective household cleaner. Unfortunately, the chemistry behind the bubbly reaction doesn’t support the cleaning hype. The fizzy action is essentially a visual “placebo”, formed by the combination of an acid and a base.

So, how does it work, and is it worth using these chemicals for cleaning? To understand all this, it helps to know a little more about chemistry.

What’s An Acid?

Foods with a sour taste typically contain acids. These include citric acid in lemon juice, malic acid in apples, lactic acid in yoghurt and phosphoric acids in soft drinks. Most vinegars contain around 4–10% acetic acid, the rest is water and small amounts of flavour chemicals.

There are other naturally occurring acids, such as formic acid in ant bites and hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. Industrially, sulfuric acid is used in mineral processing, nitric acid for fertiliser manufacturing and the highly potent hydrofluoric acid is used to etch glass.

All of these acids share similar properties. They can all release hydrogen ions (positively charged atoms) into water. Depending on their potency, acids can also dissolve minerals and metals through various chemical reactions.

This is why vinegar is an excellent cleaner for showers or kettles – it can react with and dissolve mineral deposits like limescale.

Other common acidic cleaning ingredients are oxalic acid, used for revitalising timber decks, hydrochloric acid in concrete and masonry cleaners, and sulfamic acid in potent toilet cleaners.

A hand in a yellow glove cleaning the inside of a shower screen with a squeegee.
Adding some vinegar to your shower cleaning routine can help to dissolve away the limescale deposits on the glass. Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

What’s A Base?

In chemistry, bases – the opposite of acids in many ways – can bind, rather than release hydrogen ions. This can help lift and dissolve insoluble grime into water. Bases can also break apart fat molecules.

Baking soda (also known as sodium hydrogen carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, or bicarb) is a relatively weak base. Stronger common bases include sodium carbonate (washing soda), sodium hydroxide (lye) and ammonia.

Sodium hydroxide is a potent drain cleaner – its strong base properties can dissolve fats and hair. This allows blockages to be broken down and easily flushed away.

Mixing A Base And An Acid

Mixing vinegar and baking soda causes an immediate chemical reaction. This reaction forms water, sodium acetate (a salt) and carbon dioxide – the fizzy part.

The amount of carbon dioxide gas that is produced from baking soda is remarkable – one tablespoon (around 18 grams) can release over five litres of gas! But only if you add enough acid.

Reactions in chemistry often use equal quantities of chemical reagents. A perfect balance of acetic acid and baking soda would give you just water, carbon dioxide and sodium acetate.

But the majority of vinegar and bicarb cleaner recipes use a large excess of one or the other components. An example from TikTok for a DIY oven cleaner calls for one and a half cups of baking soda and one quarter cup of vinegar.

Crunching the numbers behind the chemical reaction shows that after the fizz subsides, over 99% of the added baking soda remains. So the active cleaning agent here is actually the baking soda (and the “elbow grease” of scrubbing).

Ovens can be cleaned much more rigorously with stronger, sodium hydroxide based cleaners (although these are also more caustic). Many modern ovens also have a self-cleaning feature, so read your product manual before reaching for a chemical cleaner of any sort.

What About The Sodium Acetate?

Devotees of vinegar and baking soda mixtures might be wondering if the product of the fizzy reaction, sodium acetate, is the undercover cleaning agent.

Unfortunately, sodium acetate is an even weaker base than baking soda, so it doesn’t do much to clean the surface you’re trying to scrub.

Sodium acetate is used in crystallisation-based heating packs and as a concrete sealant, but not typically as a cleaner.

Fun fact: sodium acetate can be combined with acetic acid to make a crystalline food additive called sodium diacetate. These crystals give the vinegar flavour to salt and vinegar chips without making them soggy.

Sorry To Burst Your Bubbles

There are a few rare cases where mixing vinegar and baking soda may be useful for cleaning. This is where the bubbling has a mechanical effect, such as in a blocked drain.

But in most cases you’ll want to use either vinegar or baking soda by itself, depending on what you’re trying to clean. It will be less visually exciting, but it should get the job done.

Lastly, remember that mixing cleaning chemicals at home can be risky. Always carefully read the product label and directions before engaging in DIY concoctions. And, to be extra sure, you can find out more safety information by reading the product’s safety data sheet.The Conversation

Nathan Kilah, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Tasmania

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

New evidence for an unexpected player in Earth’s multimillion-year climate cycles: the planet Mars

Dietmar Muller
Adriana DutkiewiczUniversity of SydneyDietmar MüllerUniversity of Sydney, and Slah BoulilaSorbonne Université

Our existence is governed by natural cycles, from the daily rhythms of sleeping and eating, to longer patterns such as the turn of the seasons and the quadrennial round of leap years.

After looking at seabed sediment stretching back 65 million years, we have found a previously undetected cycle to add to the list: an ebb and flow in deep sea currents, tied to a 2.4-million-year swell of global warming and cooling driven by a gravitational tug of war between Earth and Mars. Our research is published in Nature Communications.

Milankovitch Cycles And Ice Ages

Most of the natural cycles we know are determined one way or another by Earth’s movement around the Sun.

As the German astronomer Johannes Kepler first realised four centuries ago, the orbits of Earth and the other planets are not quite circular, but rather slightly squashed ellipses. And over time, the gravitational jostling of the planets changes the shape of these orbits in a predictable pattern.

These alterations affect our long-term climate, influencing the coming and going of ice ages. In 1941, Serbian astrophysicist Milutin Milankovitch recognised that changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit, the tilt of its axis, and the wobbling of its poles all affect the amount of sunlight we receive.

Known as “Milankovitch cycles”, these patterns occur with periods of 405,000, 100,000, 41,000 and 23,000 years. Geologists have found traces of them throughout Earth’s deep past, even in 2.5-billion-year old rocks.

A photo shows rocky pillars and cliffs in the ocean.
Fine layering in the Port Campbell Limestone by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is the product of Earth’s orbital eccentricity and obliquity. Adriana Dutkiewicz

Earth And Mars

There are also slower rhythms, called astronomical “grand cycles”, which cause fluctuations over millions of years. One such cycle, related to the slow rotation of the orbits of Earth and Mars, recurs every 2.4 million years.

Diagram showing the orbits of Earth and Mars around the Sun.
The orbits of Earth and Mars exert a subtle influence on each other in a cycle that repeats every 2.4 million years. NASA

The cycle is predicted by astronomical models, but is rarely detected in geological records. The easiest way to find it would be in sediment samples that continuously cover a period of many millions of years, but these are rare.

Much like the shorter Milankovitch cycles, this grand cycle affects the amount of sunlight Earth receives and has an impact on climate.

Gaps In The Record

When we went hunting for signs of these multimillion-year climate cycles in the rock record, we used a “big data” approach. Scientific ocean drilling data collected since the 1960s have generated a treasure trove of information on deep-sea sediments through time across the global ocean.

In our study, published in Nature Communications, we used sedimentary sequences from more than 200 drill sites to discover a previously unknown connection between the changing orbits of Earth and Mars, past global warming cycles, and the speeding up of deep-ocean currents.

Most studies focus on complete, high-resolution records to detect climate cycles. Instead, we concentrated on the parts of the sedimentary record that are missing — breaks in sedimentation called hiatuses.

A deep-sea hiatus indicates the action of vigorous bottom currents that eroded seafloor sediment. In contrast, continuous sediment accumulation indicates calmer conditions.

Analysing the timing of hiatus periods across the global ocean, we identified hiatus cycles over the past 65 million years. The results show that the vigour of deep-sea currents waxes and wanes in 2.4 million year cycles coinciding with changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit.

Astronomical models suggest the interaction of Earth and Mars drives a 2.4 million year cycle of more sunlight and warmer climate alternating with less sunlight and cooler climate. The warmer periods correlate with more deep-sea hiatuses, related to more vigorous deep-ocean currents.

Warming And Deep Currents

Our results fit with recent satellite data and ocean models mapping short-term ocean circulation changes. Some of these suggest that ocean mixing has become more intense over the last decades of global warming.

Deep-ocean eddies are predicted to intensify in a warming, more energetic climate system, particularly at high latitudes, as major storms become more frequent. This makes deep ocean mixing more vigorous.

Deep-ocean eddies are like giant wind-driven whirlpools and often reach the deep sea floor. They result in seafloor erosion and large sediment accumulations called contourite drifts, akin to snowdrifts.

Can Mars Keep The Oceans Alive?

Our findings extend these insights over much longer timescales. Our deep-sea data spanning 65 million years suggest that warmer oceans have more vigorous eddy-driven circulation.

This process may play an important role in a warmer future. In a warming world the difference in temperature between the equator and poles diminishes. This leads to a weakening of the world’s ocean conveyor belt.

In such a scenario, oxygen-rich surface waters would no longer mix well with deeper waters, potentially resulting in a stagnant ocean. Our results and analyses of deep ocean mixing suggest that more intense deep-ocean eddies may counteract such ocean stagnation.

How the Earth-Mars astronomical influence will interact with shorter Milankovitch cycles and current human-driven global warming will largely depend on the future trajectory of our greenhouse gas emissions.The Conversation

Adriana Dutkiewicz, ARC Future Fellow, University of SydneyDietmar Müller, Professor of Geophysics, University of Sydney, and Slah Boulila, Associate lecturer, Sorbonne Université

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

Rock Weathering And Climate: Low-Relief Mountain Ranges Are Largest Carbon Sinks

March  7, 2024
For many hundreds of millions of years, the average temperature at the surface of the Earth has varied by not much more than 20° Celsius, facilitating life on our planet. To maintain such stable temperatures, Earth must have a ‘thermostat’ that regulates the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over geological timescales, influencing global temperatures. The erosion and weathering of rocks are important parts of this ‘thermostat.’ 

A team led by LMU geologist Aaron Bufe and Niels Hovius from the German Research Centre for Geosciences has now modeled the influence of these processes on carbon in the atmosphere. Their surprising result: CO2 capture through weathering reactions is highest in low-relief mountain ranges with moderate erosion rates and not where erosion rates are fastest.

Weathering occurs where rock is exposed to water and wind. "When silicates weather, carbon is removed from the atmosphere and later precipitated as calcium carbonate. By contrast, weathering of other phases – such as carbonates and sulfides or organic carbon contained in rocks – releases CO2. These reactions are typically much faster than silicate weathering", says Hovius. “As a consequence, the impact of mountain building on the carbon cycle is complex.”

Weathering model shows common mechanisms
To address this complexity, the researchers used a weathering model to analyze fluxes of sulfide, carbonate, and silicate weathering in a number of targeted study regions – such as Taiwan and New Zealand – with large ranges in erosion rates. “We discovered similar behaviors in all locations, pointing to common mechanisms,” says Bufe.

Further modelling showed that the relationship between erosion and CO2-fluxes is not linear, but that CO2 capture from weathering peaks at an erosion rate of approximately 0.1 millimeters per year. When rates are lower or higher, less CO2 is sequestered and CO2 may even be released into the atmosphere. “High erosion rates like in Taiwan or the Himalayas push weathering into being a CO2 source, because silicate weathering stops increasing with erosion rates at some point, whereas the weathering of carbonates and sulfides increases further,” explains Bufe.

In landscapes with moderate erosion rates of around 0.1 millimeters per year, the rapidly weathering carbonates and sulfides are largely depleted, whereas silicate minerals are abundant and weather efficiently. Where erosion is even slower than 0.1 millimeters per year, only few minerals are left to weather. The biggest CO2 sinks are therefore low-relief mountain ranges such as the Black Forest or the Oregon Coast Range, where erosion rates approach the optimum. “Over geological timescales, the temperature to which Earth’s ‘thermostat’ is set therefore depends strongly on the global distribution of erosion rates,” says Bufe. To understand the effects of erosion on Earth’s climate system in greater detail, Bufe thinks that future studies should additionally consider organic carbon sinks and weathering in floodplains.

Aaron Bufe, Jeremy K. C. Rugenstein, Niels Hovius. CO 2 drawdown from weathering is maximized at moderate erosion rates. Science, 2024; 383 (6687): 1075 DOI: 10.1126/science.adk0957

Some Narrabeen Nature Things From & By Joe Mills

Joe Mills is a lovely gentleman who takes lots of photos to keep us all up-to-date on what's been happening around Narrabeen, Turimetta, Warriewood and Mona Vale. He also goes on bus and ferry trips into town. Last week he went to a great concert put on for Seniors (grandmothers and grandfathers - nannas and pops) as there's been some celebrations, that are still going this week, for our older aunts and uncles and nans and pops. It's about celebrating how great and special they are and happens once a year.

Joe took some photos while he was in town for the concert too!

Our favourites are the ones he gets when he is recording what he calls the 'mood' of a day, whatever time of the day or year it is, whatever the season is. Joe knows that every single day is different - different colours at sunrise, different breezes and smells and flowers out, even the birds you see everyday can be acting a bit different than they were yesterday when they were fishing because today they're collecting twigs to build a nest and lay eggs that will hatch as baby birds. 

We like to remember this when we're 'having a bad day' as it reminds us that the next day will be different - a new day, with new colours, new things the birds and other wildlife are doing - in fact, things can change even over a few hours, just like the sunlight changes the shadows of tress as it moves across the skies. So, if we stub our toe and go 'no, no, no!' at lunchtime, by after school time we might be ready to do some handstands and cartwheels again, because even we are changing our moods.

That's why we take a deep breath too sometimes - just to slow down a little and let a pesky mood, that's bothering us, leave or fade away.

Joe always send in some great information about what he has been photographing - and here is some of what he has seen and said last week.

Joe says: ''this is an unusual shot of our regular friend the octopus  who we find in the tidal flats alongside the Narrabeen Rock Pool wall.  Most locals call him 'Occy'.  He is curled up here and displaying his light colours to disguise as a rock.  In the middle of the pic, the two little white patches are his eyes.  

To give you a bit of size, his head would fit in the palm of your hand, and his tentacles would reach to your elbow.  He has become a local attraction.''

Joe's photo:

''I saw a smaller octopus nearby as well this week'':

Joe Mills:

An interesting cloud sunrise from Narrabeen Rock Pool, with an interesting reflection.  This was last Tuesday 13 Feb 2024.  The corner of the pool is the disturbed water on the right, and the calmer water on the left is what I call the tidal flats.  This area gets exposed at low tide, and where our resident octopus & other sea creatures live.

This the Narrabeen Lagoon entrance a little later on Wednesday the 13th, after sunrise - the clouds reflected in the water are pretty:

Royal Easter Show 2024

The Royal Easter Show opens this coming Friday, March 22nd, and runs through to April 2nd. Although some of you may be already dreaming about showbags, and we've run a bit on that in this week's PBP's page, there are also:

  • Livestock Pavilions Daily: 9.00am—7.00pm
  • Dog Pavilion Daily: 9.00am—5.00pm
  • Gong cha Carnival Daily: 9.00am—9.30pm
  • Farmyard Nursery Daily: 9.30am—6.30pm
  • Heritage Pavilion Daily: 9.30am—6.30pm

There are also some great resources you can download  to have a look into what you may see if you visit this year's Show. On a webpage set up by the people who put the Show together you can see and get a copy of:

  • Colouring Book Preschool & K-2
  • Home is Where the Farm Is Workbook 1-6
  • Farm to Table Stage 2-3
  • Career Stepping Stones 7-12
  • Livestock Showing 9-10

Pretty cool - although we like all the contests and parade that happen in the Main Arena too - all those different kinds of horses and cows.

The origins of the Show date back to 1822, when the emphasis was on agriculture and food provision for the new colony. In the words of the early RAS Founders, they needed to band together, to help each other.

The aim was, just a mere 34 years years after Europeans began settling here (1788), to “improve the quality of Australia's primary production by means of contests and competitions”.

When Pittwater was all farms of every kind people from here would enter their produce and animals and win prizes. Mr. Roche, a Bayview gentleman, would win prizes for his fruit - he had some of the best citrus fruits - lemons and mandarins and others, in Sydney and the whole state. A lady, Marie Stiles, who used to live at Little Mackerel Beach, would win prizes for her excellent chickens. 

Does that make you curious about what the meaning of the word 'show' is?

As a noun one of the meanings is 'a spectacle or display, typically an impressive one'.

 North View of Sydney New South Wales taken from the North Shore. 1822 by Joseph Lycett, ca. 1775-1828. Image No.: a928339, courtesy State Library of NSW

Home For NSW’s Rail History Opens In Sydney’s West: It's A Train Hospital Youngsters!

On Monday March 11 2024 the NSW State Government announced NSW Railway’s historic locomotives and carriages have found a new home in the heart of Western Sydney.

The $9.4 million Chullora Heritage Hub is a centralised storage facility for 50 of the state’s 220 heritage locomotives and carriages.

The historic trains have travelled by road and rail to the former Tank Annex Building at the Chullora Railway Workshops from three separate sites at Eveleigh, Thirlmere and Broadmeadow.

The building has received a thorough upgrade to ensure the protection and preservation of the historic collection with environmental, security and fire safety improvements delivered.

While the new location is not open for public viewing due to its function as a maintenance facility, it will give volunteers from Transport Heritage NSW the space they need to work on these one-of-a-kind engines.

The site at Chullora has been an important location for railway maintenance for more than a century. It was first established in 1913, and many of the buildings within the precinct date from the 1920s, with the Tank Annex building operating as part of the maintenance facility until 1994.

Among the rollingstock moving into the new building are:

  • Locomotive 1219, this locomotive and its class dominated express and mail train services in the late 1800s, with many hauling branch line services right up until the 1950s.
  • Locomotive 5096 was one of 280 introduced from 1890. This was the largest class of locomotives used anywhere in Australia and hauled goods trains more than two million kilometres until its retirement in 1965.
  • Locomotive 2606 was one of 20 tank locomotives manufactured by Scottish company Dubs and Co. Introduced from early 1892, they were supposed to assist engines travel up the mountain from Penrith to Katoomba. Limited water tank capacity and problems negotiating the numerous curves hindered their work, so they were reassigned to hauling coal trains to Waterfall and Newcastle. Before its retirement in 1970, 2606 spent its later years shunting carriages into position at Central Station.

Another 70 locomotives and carriages will remain at the NSW Rail Museum in Thirlmere, including the famous 3801

Locomotive 3801 was built in 1943 by Clyde Engineering and has been in preservation since its retirement from the NSW Railways in 1962. The locomotive was withdrawn from heritage service in 2007 for restoration and major boiler repairs. 3801 was officially relaunched at Sydney's Central Station on Friday 12 March 2021 by Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW.

You can read more about the project HERE

The museum is open to the public 7 days a week, with heritage train rides operating every weekend on the newly refurbished Loop Line.

Might be worth a visit this coming Easter or Autumn school holidays.

All the historic trains are operated by Transport Heritage NSW. You can find out more by visiting the webpages at: Transport Heritage NSW. They even have Virtual Tours you can take of the trains - visit:

NSW's Transport Minister, Jo Haylen, said:

“For the first time, the majority of our heritage rail collection will be sitting undercover and out of the elements, where they will be lovingly preserved by our dedicated volunteers.

“340 jobs were created in Western Sydney during the renovation of this historic building, which will now house our cherished railway past for the people of NSW to enjoy for generations to come.

“It’s vital we preserve our heritage fleet so the magic of being part of life on our railways isn't forgotten and continues to inspire.”

Jo Haylen also told us about this train, saying:

''This is engine 1219. This locomotive and its class dominated express and mail train services in the late 1800s, with many hauling branch line services right up until the 1950s.

Now inside the beautifully restored Tank Annex in Chullora, she's protected from the wind and rain, and ready for our hundreds of Transport Heritage volunteers to love and care for her.''

The Transport Minister also had a look around the new facility, a train hospital really, for fixing up these great old trains, and you could see some of the carriages and locomotives already there so they can be restored and spruced up and then get to the Rail Museum at Thirlmere so we can all visit them there.  

Chullora is a suburb out towards Canterbury-Bankstown and 15 kilometres west of the Sydney central area, or 'town', so not that far away, although it would take a bit of time to get there - even with a car or train!

Chullora is an industrial area with many factories and warehouses, including Tip Top Bakeries and the printing plants for Sydney newspapers and magazines.

The Chullora Railway Workshops and Electric Carriage Workshops previously serviced and repaired suburban and inter-urban trains, and the Chullora Bus Workshops serviced the bus fleet of the Urban Transit Authority and its predecessors from 1958 until 1989.

This is "The Big Bicycle" at the old Chullora Recycling Centre:


Congratulations!; RPAYC Placing At 2024 RNZYS Match Racing Cup

Congratulations to Daniel Kemp and his team on their runner-up placing in the 2024 RNZYS Youth International Match Racing Cup. This is an outstanding performance and a considerable step forward for the team and the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club RPAYC Youth Development program.

After a very strong stage of round-robin racing, Kemp and the team were able to make their way through the semi-final, defeating Rory Sims (RNZYS), to ultimately face off with the regatta favourite Josh Hyde (RNZYS).

The final series started with Hyde and Kemp trading match wins, before Hyde took a further two races to take the overall win. Congratulations to Josh and his team from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
RPAYC Youth Development coach, Rob Brewer, commented on the team’s performance over in Auckland. “A great regatta for the team in Auckland – super close! I’m very pleased with the team’s composure throughout and already excited for our next event”.

This event marks the end of the 2023-24 Youth Development training and regatta program. Thank you to all of our club members, supporters and sponsors for their continued support of these talented youth sailors. The 2024-25 YD program gets underway in just a couple of months – let the excitement continue!

Visit: or see the RPAYC Notice below for some more information.

Team: Daniel Kemp (Skipper), Lachlan Wallace, Louis Tilly, Isabella Holdsworth & Charlie Verity, supported by coach Rob Brewer.
Photos credit: livesaildie


Local Australian Boardriders Battle Grand Finalists Looking Forward To Next Comps.

A huge congrats to Burleigh Boardriders for taking out the 2024 Hyundai ABB Grand Final on home turf!

Congrats to NASA, North Steyne BRC and North Narrabeen BRC who made it through to the Quarterfinal heats and to North Narrabeen BRC for making it through to the Semifinals as well. A nice opener for a club that's celebrating its 60th year at a Black Tie function in October this year for team members Nathan Hedge, Davey Cathels, Jordy Lawler, Tru Starling and Tommy Hinwood along with the club itself.

Our area also sent in Bungan BRC, Long Reef SRA and Freshwater BRC, which is outstanding representation - to even make it to the Grand Final.

Although no club made it through to the final heats, as the ABB Final will be held at Burleigh for another few years, there's bound to be a few 'shifts' next year and the year after that. 

With so many current and prior champions in our local surfing clubs, and the opportunity to waylay some of that home wave advantage during the next comps., there is no reason this years great showing won't be improved on.

As NASA - North Avalon Surfriders Association - said afterwards; ''We put in a good effort, didn’t get the result we were hoping for but made some epic memories and hopefully entertained everyone at home.  We are all stoked hearing from everyone who tuned in and blown away by how much support and love we were given. 

Thank you to Rob Bain for being an epic team captain/guru/mentor and for running up that big hill- sah. 
Epic work from the team; Cedar Leigh Jones, Van Whiteman, Isaiah Vaeleki,  and Arch Whiteman
Can’t wait to show em what we got next year!''

Some NASA  2024 Hyundai ABB Grand Final Pics - thanks NASA and Surfing Australia!:

The new format for the Hyundai Australian Boardriders Battle tested athletes on Day 1 of competition at Burleigh Heads. The morning started with three to four foot waves offering plenty for Australia's best surfers to perform big manoeuvres and power turns.

Byron Bay Boardriders showed why they're the defending champions, winning Heat 1 despite their first surfer, 11-year-old Leihani Zoric, having to run the course twice.

"I went out there and didn't realise I got a wave before the heat had started. So I came in after that wave and had to do another lap and somehow I got back. I thought I'd wasted so much time," Zoric said.

The run up Burleigh Hill proved a challenge for almost every athlete, except a small few like Nathan Hedge (North Narrabeen Boardriders) who was able to sprint and overtake another surfer.

Byron Bay's power surfer, Dakoda Walters, said: "It was horrible! I used to be alright at cross country at school so I thought I'd be alright at this, but I'm stuffed. I feel like the first 30 metres is the hard part, all your lactic build up, you're just so fatigued from catching a wave and gotta try get a trod on straight away. It's crazy."

Ex-pro surfer, Josh Kerr (Snapper Rocks Surfriders) said: "I haven't run that far and that fast probably since high school. It definitely took the gas out of me for sure. I've still got a cramp in my left leg and it's an hour later!

Snapper finished third behind Scarborough BRC and Byron Bay to make it through to the quarterfinals.

"Burleigh is an amphitheatre. It's such a great spot to watch the waves just for the crowd to enjoy it, obviously it puts another whole element of surprise with the marathon run up and the rock jump. Luckily they've given us a bit more time to get through the heats," Kerr said.

But it wasn't always enough time for the power surfers... Arch Whiteman (NASA) only just made it up Hyundai Hill while Kobi Clements (Long Reef SRA) was among those who left it too late, catching his last wave with less than a minute to go. Lucas Wrice (Sandon Point BRC) was also unlucky, the power surfer within striking distance of the Oakley exchange.

Other heat winners included LeBa BRC, North Shelly BRC, Torquay BRC, Burleigh Heads BRC, Cabarita BRC and North Shore BRC.

Fresh from her win at the Central Coast Pro QS 3000, Macy Callaghan (North Shelly Boardriders) posted one of the highest single-wave scores of the day, a 7.83 (out of a possible 10). While Ace Buchan (Avoca BRC) scored an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10).
"This event always gets the nerves going and with the rocks and the run and everything else involved this year the pressure is on. I'm really happy with the way we performed, it was fun," Callaghan said.

Jarvis Earle (Elouera Boardriders Club), who also took out the Central Coast Pro QS 3000, said: "It's sick doing team events like this, just having all your crew down here supporting you, it's always really competitive and comes down to the wire. It's a pretty sick event."

On Day Two Burleigh Heads turned it on on for the Grand Final with tens of thousands of spectators lining the famous point-break to watch the event across Saturday and Sunday.

The teams competing were put to the test in more ways than one with four-to-six foot plus swell and a sprint run up Burleigh Hill.

In the end it was a series of big single-wave scores that set Burleigh Boardriders on a path to glory. Maddy Job posted 6.67, Thomas Woods an 8.00, Jay “Bottle" Thompson 6.67 and Tom Whitpaine 6.27. But it was Isla Huppatz who blew everyone out of the water. 

Building four-to-six foot swell, a strong sweep and an increase in heat times gave way to plenty of exciting and dramatic moments.

In the end it was a series of big scores that set Burleigh Boardriders on a path to success. Maddy Job (6.67), Thomas Woods (8.00), Jay "Bottle" Thompson (6.67) and Tom Whitpaine (6.27) forcing Torquay, North Shore, LeBa, Noosa and North Shelly to play catch up throughout the final.

Isla Huppatz was a standout for the winning team, posting an excellent 9.27 ride - the highest wave score of the event - with a strong first turn, that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

"When I came in on the beach and was running up the hill and barely breathing everyone was like come on Isla. It literally got me up the hill. I'm so proud of the club and everything they've given me," she said.

Burleigh's Open surfer, Thomas Woods said: "It's been an epic weekend. The whole run is a great aspect even though I'm definitely not built for it these days. My legs are shot, I'm done. Would not be able to do another turn."

Hughie Vaughan scored an excellent 8.90 with a sequence of strong manoeuvres to keep North Shelly Boardriders in contention. Ellie Harrison from Torquay Boardriders also posted an impressive 8.40, but in the end, it wasn't enough for either team to overtake Burleigh.

Then in a fitting finale, as Burleigh's power surfer, Maddy Job made his triumphant ascent up Hyundai Hill, the skies opened up. After struggling in recent years to even make a final, the drought has finally broken for Burleigh.

Earlier in the day, Bryon Bay's power surfer, Soli Bailey caused controversy when he exited the water over rocks instead of the beach and was handed a penalty, only to double-back and complete the course properly. The penalty was later reversed but it wasn't enough for the defending champions to make it through to the semis.

There were major upsets too for powerhouse clubs, North Narrabeen and Snapper Rocks, knocked out in the quarterfinals.

World champion surfer, Joel Parkinson, said: "I surf for my club (Snapper Rocks) and that's about all I do now. I love it. The pressure is intense but you just gotta try push that aside and do the job at hand. Burleigh is the best place for surfing events and being close to home is really special."

Surfing legend, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, who has lived on the Gold Coast all his life, said: "All our point breaks are world famous and we're blessed to live here really.

"Burleigh is the king today and I tell you what it's merciless. There's always been a run element in the ABB but this year is just next level. You have to have some ironman qualities about you and it's a big test for everyone.

"Club surfing is really an institution in Australia. A lot of clubs here are 60 years old plus. Surfers representing their club is a big deal. Some surfers seriously grow a foot taller when they put their club colours on."

The pumping conditions and sunny skies made for an action-packed weekend of surfing and activities for athletes and spectators alike, to enjoy.

Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, said: "Our iconic Burleigh break certainly turned on its magic this weekend, providing the ultimate stage for the nation’s best surfers from 42 clubs around Australia.

"We were thrilled to secure the Australian Boardriders Battle Grand Final for the Gold Coast this year and I want to congratulate all the winners and competitors. The best bit… we get to welcome back this exciting competition in 2025 and 2026, with the city locked in to host the Grand Final for three years. Bring it on!"

Specialty Awards:
Electric Air Show Award (individual) - Aaron Kelly
Electric Air Show Award (club) - Noosa BRC
Jim Beam Club Spirit Award - Burleigh Boardriders
Le Tan Breakthrough Award - Tom Woods
Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew Medal - Tully Wylie
Layne Beachley Medal - Isla Huppatz

2024 Hyundai Australian Boardriders Battle Grand Final results:
1st Burleigh BRC - 41.25 pts
2nd North Shelly BRC - 33.17 pts
3rd LeBa BRC - 31.67 pts
4th North Shore BRC - 30.76 pts
5th Noosa BRC - 26.91 pts
6th Torquay BRC - 25.24 pts

Local teams

Saturday's Surfers:
North Narrabeen BRC
Nathan Hedge
Davey Cathels
Jordy Lawler
Tru Starling
Tommy Hinwood
Nathan Hedge (P)

Cedar Leigh Jones
Arch Whiteman
Van Whiteman
Isaiah Vaeleki
Shane Conwell
Arch Whiteman (P)
Rob Bain (Grand Master – GM)

North Steyne BRC
Izzy Highs
George Pittar
Axel Curotta
Sol Gruendling
Dayyan Neve
George Pittar (P)

Bungan BRC
Lucy Brown
Darcy Crump
Will Pascoe
George Langley
Phil Hoile 3.40
Darcy Crump (P)

Long Reef SRA
Gabi Spake
Kobi Clements
Baxter Hurt
Xavier Bryce
Nick James
Kobi Clements (P)

Freshwater BRC
Layne Beachley
Tom Myers
Nathan Munro
Sam Brown
Lex Occonor
Tom Myers (P)

Sunday surfers:
Cedar Leigh Jones
Van Whiteman
Isaiah Vaeleki
Rob Bain
Arch Whiteman (P)

North Steyne BRC
Izzy Highs
George Pittar
Axel Curotta
Sol Gruendling
Dayyan Neve
George Pittar (P)

North Narrabeen BRC
Nathan Hedge
Davey Cathels
Jordy Lawler
Tru Starling
Tommy Hinwood
Nathan Hedge (P)

Tru Starling in the ABB Grand Final. Photo: Surfing Australia

The Hyundai Australian Boardriders Battle Grand Final was proudly supported by naming partner Hyundai and major partners ACCIONA, Jim Beam, Le Tan, BC™ Bars and Oakley.

The Hyundai ABB Grand Final is supported by Experience Gold Coast and Destination Gold Coast and the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland, and features on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.

Surfing Australia's other event sponsors include Burleigh Pavilion, QMS Media, Murf Bikes, Surfboard Empire, the Gold Coast Bulletin, Tempus One and Merlo Coffee.


The Royal Easter Show Began As The Royal Agricultural Society Of NSW

 North View of Sydney New South Wales taken from the North Shore. 1822 by Joseph Lycett, ca. 1775-1828. Image No.: a928339, courtesy State Library of NSW


The Sydney Royal Easter Show opens this coming Friday, March 22nd, and will run until Tuesday April 2nd. As many of you may head off to the Royal Easter Show to have fun on all the rides, gather as many showbags as you can and eat food that’s not on your everyday menu, the Editor insists on foisting some History on you as a prelude.... Hopefully you will stroll through the animal displays, have a look at the horses prancing in the main arena or those huge cows and bulls that people place prize ribbons around, as a result. 

This is where what we call the Royal Easter Show really began as an idea conceived by our earliest farmers – the aim was, just a mere 34 years years after Europeans began settling here (1788), to “improve the quality of Australia's primary production by means of contests and competitions”.

There will be some who state the Royal Easter Show does not stem from these original 'shows' and everyone is entitled to think what they will. An article at the base of this page states any livestock 'shows' actually began a lot earlier in 1806. Our intention is merely to offer you an old fashioned 'pictorial' this week, reproduce these early articles so you may make up your own mind, and hopefully inspire you to wander through the Agricultural Pavilions or visit the main arena and wonder about the food on your plate and where it comes from. 

Once the founders of the original Agricultural Society of New South Wales became more accustomed to the kind of soil here, and the seasons, some of them very hot compared to snowy England, Scotland and Ireland, they began to realise that here was a Garden of Eden that could support the very best of everything and they needed to promote and encourage people to cultivate the best of produce and livestock.

What did they do? They held a meeting and made some decisions. If you read through the list of names of people at this first meeting you may recognize surnames and people now quite famous in our Australian history who have had whole districts and suburbs named for them:

AT a MEETING, held the 5th July, 1822, at the House of Mr. ROBERTSON, in Sydney, the under-signed Gentlemen, and Landholders, adopted the following Resolutions ;
1. Resolved,-That it is highly expedient for the best Interests of the Colony, that the present Meeting do form itself into a Society, to be denominated "The Agricultural Society of New South Wales"  
2. That Sir JOHN JAMISON, Kt. & K. G. V. be appointed the President of this Society.
3. That the Honorable Mr. Justice FIELD, the Reverend Mr. MARSDEN, J. P. WILLIAM Cox, Esq. J. P. and Dr. TOWNSON, L. L. D. be appointed the Vice Presidents of this Society.
4. That G. T. PALMER, J. P. and ALEXANDER BERRY, Esquires, J. P. be the joint Secretaries of this Society.
5. That Messrs. RILEY and WALKER be the Treasurers of this Society.
6. That the following Gentlemen, jointly with the President and Vice-Presidents, be appointed the Committee, for conducting the Affairs of this Society, seven of whom shall form a Quorum :-
{ J. T. CAMPBELL, Esquire, J. P;
{JOHN PIPER, Esquire, J. P;
{JOHN PALMER, Esquire, J. P;
{H. G. DOUGLASS, Esquire, J. P;  
{Reverend T. HASSALL.
{WILLIAM HOWE, Esquire, J. P;
{ROBERT LOWE, Esquire, J. P ;
{JOHN OXLEY, Esquire, J. P ;
{THOMAS MOORE, Esquire, J. P;
{RICHARD BROOKS, Esquire, J. P ;
{Captain BRABYN, J.P;  
{ JOHN HARRIS, Esquire, J. P ;
{ARCHIBALD BELL, Esquire, J. P      
{H. C. ANTILL, Esquire, J. P ;
& Windsor;
{ JOHN McHENRY, Esquire, J. P ;
{JOHN WOOD, Esquire;  
{ANDREW ALLAN, Esquire ;
{JOHN HORSLEY, Esquire ;
{GEORGE COX, Esquire.
Correspondent Members of Committee at Newcastle,
Reverend Mr. MIDDLETON;J. P. WEBBER, Esquire ; WILLIAM DUNN, Esquire; EDWARD CLOSE, Esquire.
Resolved,-That the President, Vice-presidents, and Secretaries, be requested to wait upon His EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR, to solicit his Acceptance of the Office of Patron to this Society ; and to FREDERICK GOULBURN, Esquire, to accept the Vice Patronage thereof.
Resolved,-That the Committee do meet at the House of Charles Walker, at Parramatta, on Tuesday the 16th Instant, at Ten, A. M. for the Purpose of preparing a Series of Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Society.
Resolved,-That an Annual Subscription of Five Guineas be paid by each Member into the Hands of the Treasurers, for the general Purposes of the Association.
Resolved,-That many Members of the Society, having expressed their Intention of forming a Subscription Fund, in Shares of £25 each, for the Purpose of introducing from the Mother Country, and elsewhere, a more important Breed of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, &c ; that such other Members, as may desire to participate in the Advantages expected to accrue from those Importations, will communicate the same to the Secretaries at an early Day.
Resolved,-That it be particularly requested, that such Gentlemen as have been unable to attend the present Meeting, should they desire to become Members of the Society, will express their Intention, by Letter, to the Secretaries, or to the Committee at their next Meeting.
Resolved,-That the Proceedings of the present Meeting be inserted in the next, and three subsequent Sydney Gazettes.
The Thanks of the Meeting were unanimously voted to Sir John Jamison, for his Attention and Abilities as Chairman on this Occasion.
The Thanks of the Meeting were also unanimously voted to E. Wollstonecraft, Esq. for his able Assistance in forwarding the present Association.
JOHN JAMISON, President.

AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY OF NEW SOUTH WALES. (1822, August 2). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from

The second meeting, as given above, took place at Walker's Inn, Parramatta. The Society staged its first show in Parramatta in 1823.

AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY. THE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY OF NEW SOUTH WALES hereby offer the following. PREMIUMS; to be adjudged at their Quarterly Meeting, in the first Thursday in October next; viz.
1. 2.-For the best Australian Merino two-toothed Rams and Ewes, not less than five of each description-A Piece of Plate, value 40 Dollars, for each description.
3.-For the best Australian Merino Ewe Limbs, not less than ten in number-A Piece of Plate, value40 Dollars.        
4, 5.-For the second best Australian Merino two toothed Rams and Ewes, not less than five of each description-A Piece of Plate, value 20 dollars, for each description.    
6.-For the second best Australian Merino Lambs, not less than ten in number-A Piece of Plate, value 50 Dollars.
7. 8.-For the third best Australian Merino two toothed Rams and Ewes, not less than five of each description-A Piece of Plate, value 12 Dollars, for each description.              
9. For the third best Australian Merino Ewe Lambs, not less than ten in number- A piece of Plate, value 12 Dollars.        
10.,-For the best Colonial-bred Bull, not more than three years old-A Piece of Plate, value 40 Dollars.11.-For the second best Colonial-bred Bull, not more than three years old-A Piece of Plate, value 20
12.-Tor the best two-year old Heifer, Colonial-bred-  A Piece of Plate, value 20 Dollars.    13.-For the best Colonial-bred Stallion, not exceeding three years old-A Piece of Plate, value 16 Dollars.
1.-To the Shepherd, who produces from his Master a Certificate, on Oath before a Magistrate, of his having "weaned the greatest Number of Lambs, in Proportion to the Number of Ewes in his Charge,  for the Year, not having less than 300 Ewes in his- Flock-A Premium of 32 Dollars.
2.-To the Shepherd, who produces a like Certificate, of having weaned the next greatest Number of Lambs-A Premium of 16 Dollars.
3.-To the Man-Servant, employed in Husbandry or  , Grazing, or the Management of the Dairy, who brings satisfactory Certificates of good Conduct during his Servitude, and has been the-longest Period in one Service-not less than seven years A Premium of 20 Dollars.
4.-To the Man-Servant, employed as above, who may produce the second best Certificate to the same Effect-A Premium of 12 Dollars.
5.-To the Man-Servant, employed as above, who who may produce the third best Certificate to the same Effect-A Premium of 8 Dollars.
Parramatta, April 11, 1823.
G. T. PALMER }secretaries  

Classified Advertising. (1823, April 24). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from
Three Inns at Liverpool / The Hope Inn. / Elephant Castle / Duke of Wellington. Image a1080090r, Courtesy State Library of NSW

The half-yearly Fair at Parramatta, on Thursday last, was well attended with visitors. The show of cattle was far inferior to former season, but there were some good woolled rams, as well as other stock. There were very few buyers.      
On Thursday last, a very numerous Meeting of the Agricultural Society assembled at Parramatta. It being the day of the public fair, the Society's prize cattle and sheep were exhibited, and the premiums adjudged. So many meritorious horses were shewn, that a second prize was voted. The first was awarded to Mr. Samuel Terry (though not a Member of the Society), and the second to Captain Piper, for their respective three-year old stallions; but Mr. H. McArthur's two-year old colt Canon, seemed to he the public favorite. They were all three got by Model, and the two prize horses were bred by the late Mr. Bayly. Mr. H. McArthur obtained  the prize for the best rams; Mr. Howe for the best ewes; and Mr. Oxley for the best lambs. The judges  of the stock were, Mr. Cox, Mr. J. Campbell, and Mr.
G. T. Palmer.
The servants' rewards were adjudged as follow:—  To Maurice Roche, shepherd to Mr. Oxley, for having weaned 297 lambs from a flock of 316 ewes—thirty two dollars. To Henry Ashford, shepherd to Rev. S.  Marsden, for good conduct during a service of 16 years—  twenty dollars. To William Bull, servant to James  Davison, for good conduct, during a service of 11 years—  twelve dollars. And to Walter McTaggart, servant to Hugh Kelly, for good conduct during a service of 8 years—eight dollars. The men were called before the
Meeting, and immediately presented with the money by the President.
In short, in the present depressed state of agriculture, the public spirit for breeding and grazing appeared this day to be practically influenced by the encouragement and example of the Agricultural Society.
At this Meeting, Mr. Wollstonecraft presented the Society with a Model, and read an explanation, of General Beatson's Cultivator; and the Building Committee laid before them a very pretty plan and elevation of the Society's intended house in Parramatta. His EXCELLENCY the PATRON communicated a handsome letter from Lord Bathurst, in answer to the Society's Petition for the Repeal of the Wool-duty. This Body now consists of 112 Members; and 11 new names were this day proposed.—Five and forty Gentlemen sat down in the evening to dinner at Walker's Inn; after which, among  other loyal and appropriate toasts, the health of Mr.  Buxton, who has accepted the office of Parliamentary Protector of the Society, was drank with 3-times-3.Captain Piper kindly brought his Band, and the night was spent in social harmony. Thus concluded perhaps the most useful and interesting Meeting the Society has yet held.  MAGISTRATE FOR THE ENSUING WEEK, ALEXANDER BERRY, ESQUIRE. (1823, October 9). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from

Despite its initial success the Society was forced to disband in 1836 due to poor economic conditions and lack of support. In 1857 it reformed. From 1868, the Journal of the Agricultural Society of NSW was published, the first of its kind in Australia, containing practical information and latest agricultural developments for those on the land. 

The annual Shows moved from Parramatta to Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park after 1868, and then to a new site at Moore Park in 1882. Little more than scrubland at the time, it was here that the Society built a showground which would be home to the Show for the next 116 years. The 1919 Bubonic Plague and World War II prevented the Show going ahead during those times - the showgrounds actually being put to use for war work during WWII. The Society was renamed the ‘Royal’ Agricultural Society of NSW in 1891, by special permission of Queen Victoria, and the first 'Royal' Easter Show was held the same year.

The Show’s competitive displays showcased the best animals and rural produce – from prize-winning cattle, sheep and pigs to fruit and vegetables exhibits, as well as displays of wood chopping, show jumping, and even ploughing demonstrations, as they do today. These annual 'shows' were also an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and practices, an opportunity for farmers to gain first-hand knowledge of farming trends and technological advances.

By the mid 1930s, as the grip of the Depression in Australia began to lift, the Show’s attendance figures increased and there was a growing optimism in Australia’s agricultural future. The 1935 Royal Easter Show was the biggest to date, with the largest attendances, prize-money and competitive entries.

You may access more about the Royal Easter Show and it’s early years in an online exhibition the State Library of NSW has at:

Perhaps seeing these images will encourage you to explore the great online images available at our State Library if you get a rainy day these holidays and see not only beautiful and interesting pictures and photos but find out a bit more about them and your own history.

Photography of course did not exist then, although people were trying out the techniques as early as 1800.  People of these times made sketches and drawings and did landscape paintings, portraits were painted of people, not photographs taken.  One of the early sketchers of farms and homes in New South Wales was Edward Mason and the sketches, some of which are shared below, are attributed to him and come from NSW State Library albums titled “Views of Sydney and Surrounding District” ca. 1821-1823; 1892. The coloured paintings are from Collection of views predominantly of Sydney, Liverpool, and the Sunda Straits, and portraits, ca 1807, 1829-1847, 1887] / owned by A.W.F. Fuller and the ones we've chosen are by Joseph Lycett.

It is from these collections that we can see what the farms and lands around the above mentioned gentlemen were like. You will see at the bottom of some sketches ‘so many miles from’ – this means so many miles from Sydney.

The State Library of NSW has a great source of online materials you may access so you can see a wealth of all things Australian. The National Library of Australia also stores many images and texts you may access online. We found a few there too.

The Biographies included as smaller extracts stem mostly from another great online resource The Australian Dictionary of Biography, although some researchers, and even members of the families whose relatives are listed, have told us there are inaccuracies in these texts, possibly due to literature that was not available when they were originally created. This great resource may be accessed at: and will be invaluable should you want to investigate those we haven't listed something about on this page.

We hope sharing a little of these images and some information about a few of these initiators of what we now call the Royal Easter Show will inspire you to have a look at the Agriculture Displays should you go to the show this year and wonder about more about where your milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables all come from. 

In what is said about these early promoters of agricultural industry in New South Wales it is important to remember when reading about their lives that some came from padded salons and green fields to what, to them, was a virtual wilderness with no roads and they had little or no knowledge of the abundance of foods already here while others were simply determined to make better opportunities for themselves. They all had a willingness to undertake a big adventure. 

When you look at these images and read about these people bear in mind that they had to grow the wheat, then mill it, then make bread. If they wanted to spread some butter on their slice, they had to buy and house and feed a cow - then milk it, then churn it into butter. Jam for your bread? - plant the fruit, tend it so it grows, pick it in season and turn it into jam - now you may have a jam sandwich! 

Of the purported sketcher, Edward Mason, there is little recorded.  It is now thought (2006) the drawings are not copies and possibly(?) the work of Edward Mason, clerk to magistrates, Liverpool; merchant and landholder. Reference: Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825, State Records NSW, although some sources state the Edward Mason who compiled these sketches did not come to Australia until 1853 and these must be copies of earlier drawings.

What we could find around the same time of a gentleman of the same name (investigations can often bring up as many questions as answers!):

Such a misrepresentation of the circumstances relative to the premature death of the late unfortunate Gentleman, Mr. EDWARD MASON, as might tend to darken his urn, has appeared in one of the public Newspapers. As an intimate acquaintance of the deceased, from the period of his first arriving in the Colony, I should not do justice either to his memory, or the family to which he was allied, were I not to confer this small tribute on his high talents and acquirements; which, though long shaded, and almost obscured, are now set in oblivion. He was interred yesterday, the 14th, from this lodgings, in Hunter-street, Sydney.
Mr. Mason had attained the climacteric of human life, being about 56. He descended from a family of high respectability, now in England. His classical and accomplished education was well displayed in that prodigy of genius he possessed, and he had, for a series of years, formed a close intimacy with characters of the first literary fame in England; but the accession of less favorable vicissitude, to which human nature is ever liable, doubtless operated so power-fully and variously on his mind, during his latter years, as ultimately to extinguish the radiance of his evening sun; yet, to the last few days, those who had the pleasure of access to him, with refined corresponding views, the intervals were such as will tender his loss to be, to them, a source of lasting regret. To such only were his qualifications and his virtues known; and though, at the last, none were ready by him, to " Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head-' to avert the shaft of reproach on his memory-“ "Let him that is without a fault cast the first stone.” Sydney, 15th Sept. 1828. UMBROSUS. THE LATE MR. EDWARD MASON[?] GENT[?]. (1828, September 17). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from

From State Records of New South Wales - Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825 - Liverpool, Magistrates (Apr 1822) to Lloyd, B: 
1822 Apr 15    Edward Mason wanting to know "how far the Governor's Order 'recalling the servants allowed to overseer with a substitution of salary'" applied to his situation (Reel 6054; 4/1757 p.152)

Of the artist Joseph Lycett there is a little more. You can read about him in The Lycett Album - National Library of Australia 1990 HERE (PDF 5.5MB) or this extract from Wikipedia states his was transported for forgery and spent only seven years in the colony:

Joseph Lycett (c.1774 – c.1825) was a portrait and miniature painter, active in Australia. He specialised in topographical views of the major towns of Australia, and some of its more dramatic landscapes. He was convicted of forgery on 10 August 1811 and was transported to Australia, sailing aboard the General Hewitt, arriving in 1814. In May 1815 while Lycett was employed in the police office, Sydney was flooded by hundreds of skillfully forged 5 shilling bills drawn on the postmaster. They were traced to Lycett, who was found in possession of a small copper-plate press. Lycett was sent to Newcastle, where he came to the attention of the commandant of the settlement, Captain James Wallis. There Joseph drew up the plans for a church which Wallis projected and, when it was built in 1818, he painted the altar piece and is said to have also produced the three-light window which still survives in the bishop's vestry of Newcastle Cathedral. On the recommendation of Captain Wallis, Lycett was given a conditional pardon. He returned to Sydney and was allowed to practice his art, and in 1820 Governor Macquarie sent three of his paintings including a large view of Sydney to Earl Bathurst. It is generally believed that the absolute pardon which the Lycett received on 28 November 1821 was a reward for these. Many of his patrons seem to have been drawn from the military and public service elite, and included Commissioner John Thomas Bigge (who described Lycett's 'habits of intoxication' were 'fixed and incurable'),  his secretary Thomas Hobbes Scott, and Macquarie's aide-de-camp John Watts. Lycett had possibly married in the colony, for in June 1822 he advertised that he intended to leave accompanied by his two daughters. They sailed together in the Shipley in September. Although his later publication Views in Australia suggests Lycett also visited Tasmania, there is no evidence of his actually travelling there. 

He returned to England in September 1822, having been granted an absolute pardon. With publisher John Souter, between July 1824 and June 1825 he issued Views in Australia, or New South Wales and Van Diemens Land in 12 parts published monthly, each with two aquatint views of New South Wales and two of Van Diemen's Land, with descriptive letterpress, and a supplement with maps of both colonies. By permission the series was dedicated to Bathurst. The parts began to appear in July 1824 at 7s. plain and 10s. 6d. coloured. With its complicated publishing history, the extent of Lycett's involvement in the entire production is unclear, and it does seem that the book was not successful. These views were reissued in a volume in 1825. The 50 plates are coloured in some copies and plain in others. Joseph Lycett. (2014, March 18). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia. 

You can see more of his works in both the State Library of NSW and the National Library of Australia online resources.

And before the glorious pictures, the piece we found that points to 1806 as the first 'show' of an agricultural kind:

Royal Agricultural Society of N.S.W. FIRST SHOW HELD IN 1806 (By Frank McCaffrey.)

To get to the beginning of our agricultural shows in New South Wales we have to go back to 1806 when the first cattle show was held at Parrarnatta on Sunday, 13th July of that year. Those present included Governor King, Major George Johnston, Rev. Samuel Marsden, together with the owners of 3000 head of cattle. As this show was not held under strict Sabbatarian rules a little trading in flock was indulged in, but to display their charitable hearts a present of seventeen cows was given to the Female Orphan Institution of Parrarnatta. This institution, according to Major Moodie, gave us the mothers of many of the leading families of Australia. (Mr. Moodie's book is in. the Mitchell Library. F.McC.)

Those meetings were generally termed "mustres," and doubtless led to the formation of the Royal Agricultural Society of N.S.W. in 1821, of which we have read much in the press during the early part of the year 1822, owing to the great effort put forth to prove that the present R.A.S. is a continuation of the show established in Parrarnatta in 1821.

If the present R.A. Society can be connected in a continuous line from the year 1855 I do think it is as far back as it can be honestly traced. A move was made to establish the metropolitan show in Prince Alfred Park in 1868, and a show on a large scale was held there in 1870, and a few years later it was established in Moore Park. The title of Royal A.S. came into use in 1891.

When I began to compile the "First Century a Dairying in N.S.W.," which was published in 1906, a friend of mine sent me a sheet of paper, the writing on which was, my friend said, "that of the late Mr. Alexander Berry, M.L.C." It contained a list of subscribers to a stock fund to import stock for stud purposes from England. The following is a list of the subscribers to the stock fund-1823: -

James Atkinson. Esq £25 Alexander Berry. Esq 50 John Blaxland. Esq 25 Richard Brooks, Esq 25 John T. Campbell, Esq 25James Chandler, Esq 50William Cox. Senr., Esq 25 William Cox. junr.. Esq 25 Robert Crawford. Esq .. 25 Prosper de Mestre, Esq 25 John Dixon, Esq 25 Major Goulburn ..100 William Howe, Esq 25 Sir John Jamison ....100 Captain King, R.N 25 William Lawson, Esq 25 Robert Lowe. Esq 25 Hannibal Macarthur, Esq. .... 25Thomas McVitie. Esq 25 Rev. Samuel Marsden ... 25 William H. Morris, Esq. -.... 25 James Norton, Esq 25 Nathaniel Norton, Esq 25 John Oxley, Esq. 25 John Palmer, Esq 25 George T. Palmer, Esq 25 John Piper, Esq 25 Edward Riley, Esq 25 Charles Throsby, Esq 25 Dr. Robert Townson, LL.D. .... 25 William Walker, Esq. .. ..... 50 Thomas Walker, Esq. 25D'Arcy Wentworth, Esq 25Major West : - 25Edward Wolstoncraft, Esq. ... 50

Allan Cunningham, Esq., Corresponding Secretary. Royal Agricultural Society of N.S.W. (1926, March 26). The Land(Sydney, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 2 Supplement: Supplement to "THE LAND.". Retrieved from

* The Agricultural Society of NSW did hold a 3 day show, with prizes, at Prince Alfred Park as part of the Inter-Colonial Exhibition in 1869 - another instance of many minds making up their ways differently or these gentlemen being unable to access reports that detail these events when this article was first written: 

AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY'S PRIZE FOR CHEAP SUGAR MACHINERY. SIR,-You have doubtless ere this examined the Schedule of Prizes advertised by the Agricultural Society of New South Wales, for competition at the Intercolonial Exhibition to take place in Prince Alfred Park, Sydney, on 31st March and two following two days... I.  am, Sir, Yours, &c., O. O. DANGAR, Kempsey, November 10th. AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY'S PRIZE FOR CHEAP SUGAR MACHINERY. (1868, December 1). Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 - 1889), p. 4. Retrieved from

It was moved and carried,-"That the schedule of prizes for the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition, to be held in the Prince Alfred Park, Sydney, on the 31st of March, 1st and 2nd of April, 1869, now read, be adopted.-1st, wool: live stock-2nd, cattle; 3rd, horses ; 4th, sheep; 5th, pigs; 6th, poultry ; 7th, dogs : 8th, wine ; 9th, farm produce; 10th, fruits, vegetables, and flowers ; 11th, manures ; 12th, sugars; 13th, agricultural implements ; 14th, manufactured articles; 15th, works of art; 16th, field trials of agricultural implements. AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY OF NEW SOUTH WALES. (1868, October 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

VIEW OF THE METROPOLITAN INTERCOLONIAL EXHIBITION HELD IN PRINCE ALFRED PARK, SYDNEY, OPENED ON MAY 4TH. (1869, May 13). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 13. Retrieved from

 Moorebank, near Liverpool - The Residence of Thos. Moore Esq. Image No.: a1120006, courtesy State Library of NSW.

 Molle's Mains from the N.E. - Views of Sydney and Surrounding District by Edward Mason, Image No.: a1080009, courtesy State Library of NSW


Sir John Jamison (1776 – 29 June 1844) was an Australian physician, pastoralist, banker, politician, constitutional reformer and public figure. He was the son of Thomas Jamison (1752/53-1811) and Rebecca (1746-1838). Thomas Jamison was a Northern Irishman, who arrived in New South Wales, Australia, with the First Fleet in 1788, aboard HMS Sirius, as a surgeon's mate. Soon afterwards, Thomas was sent to the auxiliary British colony of Norfolk Island, where he served as principal medical officer during the 1790s - while accumulating wealth on the side as a maritime trader. Then, in 1801, after taking leave in England, Thomas was promoted to the position of Surgeon-General of New South Wales due to his intelligence, administrative competence, driving ambition and gift for cultivating useful patrons in London. While serving with the Royal Navy's Baltic Fleet in 1807 - aboard the hospital ship Gorgon - he was successful in treating an outbreak of scurvy in the allied Swedish Navy, and was made a knight of the Order of Vasa by a grateful Swedish king. He was also knighted by Britain's Prince Regent (afterwards King George IV) in May 1813, and subsequently appointed Inspector of Naval Hospitals and Fleets.

Meanwhile, Thomas Jamison had died in London in 1811. Jamison succeeded to his father's property, which included land at Jamisontown on the Nepean River, west of Sydney. He arrived in Sydney on 28 July 1814, aboard the Broxbornebury, to take up his patrimony. The following year, he accompanied Governor Lachlan Macquarie on his official visitation to the Bathurst Plains, and had the Jamison Valley in the Blue Mountains named in his honour by Macquarie. But two and a half years later, he fell out of favour with the governor, who described him in a private dispatch as being "intriguing and discontented".

Jamison was Australia's first titled free settler and thus head of the fledgling country's social pecking order. He acquired allotments in the heart of Sydney, and accumulated vast tracts of land in the central-western and northern parts of New South Wales between 1814 and 1840. He was a founder of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817, and established himself as one of the most prominent (and wealthiest) men in Australia, enjoying a reputation for lavish entertaining and hospitality at Regentville, his magnificent rural estate near the town of Penrith. 

Governor Darling in 1829 mentioned that Jamison was then President of the New South Wales Agricultural Society, "holding perhaps the largest stake in the country". In 1830, London's Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce awarded him the large gold medal "for his successful method of extirpating the stumps of trees". He also won various awards for his wine and other agricultural produce and took a keen, scientific interest in the natural history of the Sydney region. He was a committed Freemason and a founding father of the New South Wales thoroughbred racing industry. Benevolent organisations benefited from his generosity, and in 1830 he helped establish Sydney College - an important educational facility which gave rise to both Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney. During the mid-1830s, he held office as founder-president of the Australian Patriotic Association, which strove to liberalise the colony's political and legal institutions as Sydney evolved from a penal settlement into a thriving, mercantile port.

Jamison High School at Penrith was named after Sir John Jamison

John Jamison. (2013, November 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Picture: Regentville, the seat of Sir John Jamison [picture] [Sydney : J. Maclehose, 1838] nla.pic-an8421815 courtesy National Library of Australia

 East View of Wooloomooloo near Sydney, Iamge No.: a1120003, courtesy State Library of NSW


John Palmer (1760-1833), commissary, was born in England. He entered the navy as a captain's servant at 9, and appears to have been educated entirely in the navy, which maintained schoolmasters for such recruits. During the American war of independence he was serving in H.M.S. Richmond which was captured off Chesapeake Bay by a French squadron on 11 September 1781. In 1783, after his release as a prisoner of war, the dark, handsome officer married Susan Stilwell (1761-1832), daughter of an American loyalist family.

Palmer arrived in New South Wales with the First Fleet in 1788 as purser of Governor Arthur Phillip's flagship Sirius. The first Commissary, Andrew Miller, resigned in 1790 on account of ill health, and when the Sirius was wrecked off Norfolk Island Palmer was appointed commissary on 2 June 1791. In this post he was responsible for the reception and issue of all government stores, virtually the only supplies in the colony, and their supplement by purchase from private merchants. He negotiated payment for official business and was empowered to draw bills on the British Treasury. In effect he kept the public accounts and funds of the colony and was at once official supplier, contractor and banker to the settlement. 

By 1793 Palmer had decided to settle in New South Wales, though he had to wait three years before his application for leave was granted. In September 1796 he left for England in the Britannia, returning in November 1800 in the Porpoise with his wife and children, two sisters, Sophia (1777-1833) and Sarah (b.1774), and a naval brother, Christopher (1767-1821). In February 1793 Lieutenant-Governor Francis Grose had granted Palmer 100 acres (40 ha) at the head of Garden Island Cove, then known as Palmer's Cove. Here, set in an extensive orchard, Palmer built Woolloomooloo Farm, one of the colony's first permanent residences, where the Palmers lived and elegantly entertained the first rank of colonial society.

'Little Jack' Palmer was one of the most enterprising of the early settlers and acquired much knowledge of all aspects of the colony through his private speculations. Active and adventurous, he had early explored the interior of the colony, most of which he believed capable of cultivation. In 1795 Captain Henry Waterhouse described him as one of the three principal farmers and stockholders in the colony and in 1803 Palmer was hailed as the first exponent of improved farming methods when he reduced the men employed on his 300-acre (121 ha) Hawkesbury farm from a hundred to fifteen. When giving evidence before the select committee on transportation in 1812 Palmer claimed, 'I had more ground than anybody else; I farmed more than any other person did'. 

By 1803 he owned several small colonial-built craft. Two, the George and the John, were employed sealing in Bass Strait and another, the Edwin, plied up the Hawkesbury River and along the coast with grain, timber and coals. In 1803 one of his employees discovered a new coal-mine at Hunter's River. 

On 17 September 1801 Palmer's sister Sophia had married Robert Campbell, and during Campbell's absence in England in 1805 and 1806 Palmer acted as his agent. Palmer also owned a windmill on the margin of the Domain and a bakery near the present Conservatorium of Music. It is claimed that during the disastrous floods of 1806, when scarcity of grain inflated flour prices, Palmer ordered bread to be sold to the needy at lower prices than were then common.

Wooloomoolloo, [i.e. Woolloomooloo] / with the buying place of the "Palmers". Image No: 1080065h, courtesy State Library of NSW

The estate of Woolloomooloo, mortgaged for over £13,000, was eventually sold to Edward Riley for £2290 in May 1822, though the stock and furnishings were auctioned in 1816. In January 1818 Palmer was granted 1500 acres (607 ha) at Bathurst, which he named Hambledon, but he ran only a handful of stock. In the 1820s the family fortunes recovered. Palmer received a grant in the Limestone Plains known as Jerrabombera, while at Waddon, near Parramatta, he farmed 3000 acres (1214 ha), one-third of which was cleared. By the 1830s he was running more than 3000 sheep and nearly 500 cattle. From August 1803 to January 1824 he had been a member of the committee of the Female Orphan Institution. As a magistrate he sat frequently on the bench at Parramatta until dismissed by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane in the quarrel over the case of Henry Grattan Douglass in 1822; he was restored to the magistracy on 3 November 1825 and continued to sit until within a year or two of his death. His reputation for discreet benevolence was enhanced by a friendly manner and cheerful nature. He was an adherent of the Church of England. When he died at Waddon on 27 September 1833, he was 'the last surviving officer of the first fleet that arrived in this part of His Majesty's Dominions'. His wife died in September 1832; she was survived by three sons, George Thomas, John (1797-1839) and Edwin Campbell (b.1802), and a daughter, Sophia Susannah (b.1803), who had married Edward Close.

Margaret Steven, 'Palmer, John (1760–1833)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1967

John Palmer, R.N. – portrait - Presented by Mrs. J.C. Close, April 1966 - A label pasted onto the back of frame reads, "Copy of portrait of:- / John Palmer, R.N. / (Purser of H.M.S. "Sirius" / with the "First Fleet"; / and afterwards. / Principal Comissary / of the Colony of N.S. Wales; / finally / Assist.-Commissary-General of N.S.W.) / Relationship to Edward C. Close (Senr.) / Father-in-law". This image is thought to be based on a locket miniature. Image No.: a5460001

Reverend Mr. MARSDEN, J. P. 

Samuel Marsden (1765-1838), chaplain, missionary and farmer, was born on 24 June 1765 at Farsley, Yorkshire, England, the son of Thomas Marsden, a blacksmith. He attended the village school, was then apprenticed to his father and grew up in an area and amongst a class much influenced by the Methodist religious revival. Well known locally as a lay preacher, Samuel gained the interest of the Elland Society, an Evangelical group within the Church of England which sponsored the education for the ministry of promising but ill connected youths. Aged about 24, he went to Hull Grammar School, where he met the Milners, members of the Clapham sect, and through them William Wilberforce, doyen of humanitarian and missionary projects, who was to influence decisively the course of Marsden's life.

A proposal in March 1793 invited Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Fristan of Hull, to take up the cross and share life's travails and pleasures with him across the seas. The couple were wed on 21 April; Samuel was ordained deacon on 17 March at Bristol and priest in May; on 1 July they left for New South Wales in the William. After a journey made memorable by Samuel's clashes with the captain and by the accouchement of Elizabeth as the ship was buffeted by a storm off Van Diemen's Land, they arrived in Sydney Cove on 10 March 1794.

In some significant ways the pattern of Marsden's life was set during his first year in New South Wales. As assistant to Rev. Richard Johnson, after a brief visit to Norfolk Island in 1795, he was stationed at Parramatta. It was an important centre in the colony and Marsden remained there after Johnson's departure, although for some years he was the only Anglican clergyman on the mainland. He was promised the position of senior chaplain in 1802, but was much vexed at receiving only part of its stipend, and was not formally promoted until after his return from England in 1810. Governor Lachlan Macquarie allowed him to live at Parramatta 'as being more convenient and centrical for the execution of his general superintending duties', and in September directed that Marsden should be regarded 'as the resident chaplain in that district'.

Marsden had quickly and deeply committed himself to farming, although he was inexperienced in it. By 1802 he had received 201 acres (81 ha) in grants, and had purchased 239 (97 ha) from other settlers; he had 200 acres (81 ha) cleared and grazed 480 sheep. Three years later he had over 1000 sheep, 44 cattle and 100 pigs on his farm which by then had increased to 1730 acres (700 ha) seven miles (11 km) from Parramatta. In 1798, with Surgeon Thomas Arndell, he had made a valuable report on the colony's agriculture; in 1803-05 he made several reports to Governor Philip Gidley King and to Sir Joseph Banks on the prospects of sheep-breeding and wool-growing. King thought Marsden 'the best practical farmer in the colony', and when he visited England on leave in February 1807 he was recommended by Governor William Bligh as one who had made the 'nature and soil' of the colony 'his particular study'. He concentrated on the development of strong heavy-framed sheep such as the Suffolk breed, which had a more immediate value in the colony than the fine-fleeced Spanish merinos imported by John Macarthur. In 1808 he had his own wool made up into a suit by the Thompsons of Horsforth in Yorkshire, and so impressed George III that he was given a present of merinos from the Windsor stud. Four years later more than 4000 lbs (1814 kg) of his wool was sold in England at 45d. a lb. Marsden was an important promoter of the wool staple, even though his contribution to technology, breeding and marketing was far eclipsed by that of Macarthur.

Samuel Marsden (1765-1838), by Joseph Backler, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, National Library of New Zealand, ATL ref. G-620. A. T. Yarwood, 'Marsden, Samuel (1765–1838)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1967

 Mr Marsden's Mill N.S.Wales, near Parramatta, Imae. No.: a1120001, courtesy State Library of NSW.

J. T. CAMPBELL, Esquire, J. P;

John Thomas Campbell (1770?-1830), vice-regal secretary, was the eldest son of William Campbell, vicar of Newry, County Armagh, Ireland, and his wife Mary, née M'Cammon. Apparently Campbell and his brothers were educated at home by their father. Campbell's brother was curate at Caledon, County Tyrone, and Campbell himself seems to have enjoyed the patronage of the earl of Caledon, governor at the Cape, who recommended him to Macquarie when the latter called there in 1809. He joined the governor-designate's party, with an understanding that something would be done for him in New South Wales. Captain Henry Colden Antill noted that he 'had the appearance of being a gentlemanly well-informed man'. After they arrived in Sydney, on 1 January 1810 Macquarie appointed Campbell his secretary; Ellis Bent considered him 'very fit for the situation, which is very troublesome'. His salary was £282 10s., paid by the British government, to which Macquarie added £82 10s. from the colonial revenue as soon as authorized to do so in 1816. For eleven years he was Macquarie's chief assistant in the administration of the colony, his intimate friend and loyal supporter.

Campbell took a leading part in the founding of the Bank of New South Wales in 1816-17. As the first president of its board of directors he gave thorough attention daily to every detail of its organization and operations until it was well established. Although Macquarie, in his eagerness to present the bank's prospects in the best light, may have exaggerated the president's earlier experience as a banker, Campbell was obviously enthusiastic and competent. 

Campbell was a large landholder and a most efficient farmer and breeder of cattle and horses. In 1811 Macquarie granted him 1550 acres (627 ha) at Bringelly, and later he received a grant near Rooty Hill, which to Marsden's indignation he named Mount Philo. He was also a large stock-holder in southern New South Wales. Reserved, frugal, and with a genuine dislike of ostentation, Campbell was not a popular politician, but his reputation for high principles and integrity was acknowledged by nearly all of his contemporaries. He reserved his strongest indignation for what he conceived to be hypocrisy and self-seeking, as in the case of his attacks on Marsden, Barron Field and his sycophants, and John Macarthur. As became a nephew of Samuel Johnson's 'Irish Dr Campbell', he had literary tastes, and his large collection of books was bequeathed to the Australian Subscription Library. Campbell died at Sydney on 7 January 1830.

R. F. Holder, 'Campbell, John Thomas (1770–1830)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1966

MAJOR-GENERAL MACQUARIE, AND THE FIRST LANDING.-On Friday last JOHN THOMAS CAMPBELL, Esq. Provost Marshal for the Territory of New South Wales, upon the gratifying return of the day, gave a most superb Dinner to a large Party of the Officers (Civil, Military, and Naval) of the Colony, and other Gentlemen : His Honor Colonel ERSKINE (Lieutenant Governor), and Major GOULBURN (Colonial Secretary), were among the number of distinguished guests. A more splendid entertainment has not been given; and we somewhat regret that no faithful description of this development of princely liberality has not been handed to us. Affectionate remembrances,  however, are not to pass altogether unheeded.

On Friday last an excellent Dinner was prepared at Hill's Tavern, Hyde Park, in commemoration of the First Landing in this Colony; as also, in honor of the Birthday of, our late worthy and respected Governor, Major General MACQUARIE. At half past 5 o'clock, a numerous and respectable body of the Inhabitants of Sydney, sat down to the sumptuous fare provided for the auspicious occasion; the arrangements of which did every credit to Mrs. Hill. SIMEON LORD, Esq. was in the chair. After the cloth became removed, several loyal and appropriate toasts were drank, amongst which, the Chairman gave the following:-"THE KING !" "THE ROYAL FAMILY OF GREAT BRITAIN !""Our worthy Governor, Sir THOMAS BRISBANE !"  “Major General MACQUARIE-our late worthy GOVERNOR !" "The LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR !" " LADY  BRISBANE, and the LADIES of the COLONY !" "Success to the Agricultural, Commercial, and Manufacturing Interests of the Colony !" The evening was spent in much harmony and conviviality, and with all that urbanity and good humour so desirable in such assemblies.

Mr. Samuel Terry, of Pitt-street, upon the same occasion, also gave a Dinner, no way inferior to the above, to a select party. The donor of this feast manifested that he could deal well a liberal hand, for the festive board actually groaned under its ponderous weight of true British hospitality. We understand that Dinners were given at several of the Taverns in the interior, in honor of the day.

On Thursday last the Agricultural Society held the General Quarterly Meeting at Nash's Inn, Parramatta, and afterwards dined together. Mr. Nash provided an excellent Dinner, at a very moderate charge ; and the desert was contributed from the gardens of Dr. Townson and Captain Piper. It consisted of no fewer than 18 kinds of fresh fruit, and 4 of dried; among which were the banana, the Orlean plum, the green gage, the real peach, the cathead apple, and a peculiarly fine sort of musk melon. We understand that the Meetings are to be held at Walker's, and Nash's alternately. A Horticultural Subscription, of 8 dollars, is set on foot, and a Committee chosen. The future Agricultural Subscription was altered to 20 dollars.-At this Meeting three new Members were selected, and twelve proposed for the next Meeting.

Mr Jonas Bradley, to whom the silver tankard was voted for his specimen of tobacco, laid before the Society a statement of his mode and cure, a copy of which we are promised for publication. The President presented him with the piece of plate, suitably inscribed (the workmanship by Mr. Robertson), and informed him, with a view to encourage the colonial growth of tobacco, the legislature had now authorized the Governor, at discretion, to lay a duty of 4 shillings per lb. upon the importation of foreign tobacco. This meritorious marine settler acquainted the Society that, although Governor MACQUARIE had never given him more than 50 acres of land, yet he had acquired up-wards of 100 head of cattle and 800 sheep. One of his sons was among the number of proposed new Members.

Sunday ae'nnight being the 36th Anniversary of the First Landing in Australasia, the Royal Standard was displayed upon the heights of Fort* Philip throughout the whole of the dayMAGISTRATE FOR THE WEEK—RICHARD BROOKS, Esq. (1823, February 6 - Thursday). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from


Edward Wollstonecraft (1783-1832), merchant and landowner, was the son of Edward Wollstonecraft, a London solicitor, who was a brother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Edward and his sister Elizabeth were therefore cousins of the ill-fated Fanny Imlay and of Mary Godwin who became the second wife of Shelley and was the author of Frankenstein. His parents died when relatively young. Wollstonecraft resented the notoriety of his aunt and sought escape and fortune for himself and his sister in travel and trade.

Wollstonecraft arrived in Sydney in September 1819 in the Canada. Wollstonecraft was permitted to locate some 500 (202 ha) of his 2000 acres (809 ha) on the north side of Sydney Harbour, and his tenure was made official in June 1825. In spite of ill health he became a magistrate and a central figure in the Sydney commerce of the 1820s. As a director of the Bank of New South Wales and of the Bank of Australia, and as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, he appears to have been chiefly concerned with maintaining the general financial liquidity of the colony's economy. He argued that the introduction of the Spanish dollar had depreciated colonial values and embarrassed external trade, and he urged the government to make loans to the colonial banks in the financial crises of 1826 and 1828.

A wide variety of merchandise passed through the warehouse of Berry and Wollstonecraft in George Street. In 1820, while Berry was still in London, Wollstonecraft advised him to concentrate on obtaining the solid necessities of a young colony and to beware of fripperies 'and the other female trash by which we are likely to lose so much already'.

Berry returned to Sydney in 1821, chartering the Royal George and bringing with him Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane and his party as passengers. With Wollstonecraft he successfully applied for a further 10,000 acres (4047 ha) on their undertaking to maintain 100 convicts. The grant was taken on the Shoalhaven River on the initiative of Berry, who explored the area, liked it and assured it of safe access from the sea by cutting a canal between the Crookhaven and Shoalhaven Rivers. On this foundation Wollstonecraft's relentless business energy worked, for he believed that the colony's greatest economic need was a reliable export staple. Finding the Shoalhaven region climatically unsuited for sheep, his long term plan at Coolangatta (Cullingatta and Coolungatta), as the property came to be called, was to clear the hillsides and drain the swamps for agriculture. Meanwhile the forests of cedar and blue gum could be put to use. Teams of sawyers, both assigned convicts and freemen, were organized, and by July 1823 thirty-six men were employed in getting and preparing timber for which Wollstonecraft was assiduous in seeking markets. The bulk of it was exported and thus provided a desirable balance to the imports demanded by the diverse trade still carried on by the partners in Sydney. While timber proved an immediate and sure source of wealth, experiments were made at Shoalhaven with other crops of similar economic potential, the chief being tobacco which was normally retailed at enormous profit to the importer. The partners generally arranged that one was at Shoalhaven and the other at the North Shore. The bond between them was strengthened by Berry's marriage in September 1827 to Elizabeth, Wollstonecraft's sister.

Both Wollstonecraft and Berry had the eighteenth-century Englishman's view of the social importance of land, and they saw at Shoalhaven the beginning of a great estate over which eventually they might rule as patriarchs. In pursuit of their object Wollstonecraft was almost morbidly jealous of encroaching settlers. His aim was to exclude them altogether or, failing that, so to encircle their holdings as to make them unworkable. This the partners were increasingly able to do, both by manipulating the location of their own grants before survey, and by buying the promises of grants from other settlers and locating them as strategy required.

Wollstonecraft died on 7 December 1832. His life in Australia depended largely on Berry's enterprise, yet Berry could rightly claim that he had 'a naturally defective temper', and that his conduct in his last years was 'such as to render my existence hardly tolerable'. His letters leave an impression of sardonic bitterness which may, however, have been the product of ill health. His business acumen and integrity were beyond question, yet it is doubtful that they would have found any important employment without the wider vision and more civilized instincts of Berry.

Wollstonecraft never married. A suburb of Sydney was named after him and another after his cottage, Crow's Nest, on the North Shore. In March 1846 his remains were removed from the Sydney burial ground and placed with those of his sister, who died on 11 April 1845, in a magnificent tomb erected by Berry in the cemetery near St Thomas's Church of England, North Sydney.

M. D. Stephen, 'Wollstonecraft, Edward (1783–1832)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1967

Crows Nest Cottage Date of Work undated [ca. 1880-1890s] Image No.: a089387 courtesy State Library of NSW

 Eliza Point, near Sydney New South Wales Digital Order Number: a1120004, courtesy State Library of NSW

JOHN PIPER, Esquire, J. P

John Piper (1773-1851), military officer, public servant and landowner, was born on 20 April 1773 at Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of Hugh Piper, a doctor. The Pipers were in the main an army family, and Scots only by adoption, having come from Cornwall and before that from Germany. Through the influence of his uncle, Captain John Piper, young John received a commission as ensign in the newly formed New South Wales Corps in April 1791, as his younger brother Hugh was to do in 1799. 

John sailed in the Pitt and arrived in Sydney in February 1792 when the infant settlement was still fighting for its life in the face of starvation. Piper was an immediate social success and became a close family friend of John Macarthur.

John resigned his commission and decided to seek civilian employment in the colony. In 1813 he was appointed Naval Officer in Sydney and arrived back in February 1814. On 10 February 1816 he married Mary Ann, by special licence. She had borne him two more sons while they were away and in due course they had nine more.

His duties included the collection of customs duties, excise on spirits and harbour dues, control of lighthouses and work which is now the province of the water police. The post was very much to Piper's taste and proved very remunerative: with a percentage on all monies collected, his income from it rose to more than £4000 a year. He bought the property now known as Vaucluse House. 

In 1816 he was granted 190 acres (77 ha) of land on Eliza Point, now Point Piper, for the site of his official residence. Here he built Henrietta Villa (also called the Naval Pavilion) at the cost of £10,000 and furnished it in the most luxurious style. 

It was completed in 1822 and became the scene of many sumptuous entertainments.

Point Piper Image No: 1080063h, courtesy State Library of NSW

Piper was a close friend of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who in 1819 made him a magistrate. In 1825 he was chairman of directors of the Bank of New South Wales. He sat on the local committee of the Australian Agricultural Co., was president of the Scots Church committee and took part in many social and sporting activities. He owned much property, acquired by grant or purchase. Besides Point Piper he had 475 acres (192 ha) at Vaucluse, 1130 (457 ha) at Woollahra and Rose Bay, a farm of 295 acres (119 ha) at Petersham, 700 (283 ha) at Neutral Bay, 80 (32 ha) at Botany Bay, 2000 (809 ha) at Bathurst, 300 (121 ha) in Van Diemen's Land with various smaller farms, and an acre (0.4 ha) of city land in George Street. He was, however, not as solvent as he appeared and in 1826 he raised a mortgage of £20,000. 

John Piper was a man of his times. He personified the colonial dream. In his sixty years in the colony he adapted himself to its development. During the military regime he was an officer; when Macquarie created a civil state he became a civil servant; when the race was to the pioneer he became one. He was honourable, generous, gay and so well loved that he was forgiven things which would have wrecked a stronger man. He was no business man, completely lacking the shrewdness which enriched so many of his brother officers.

John Piper (1773-1851), by Augustus Earle State Library of New South Wales, Original : ML 6

Marjorie Barnard, 'Piper, John (1773–1851)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1967

Henrietta Villa, built between 1816 and 1822, was the property of Captain Piper and most likely designed by Henry Kitchen. The house was named after Mrs Macquarie and became a symbol of progress in the colony. When this drawing was executed, the building was not finished as the verandah covering the long windows are absent. -- Reference: The Artist and the patron : aspects of colonial art in New South Wales / [compiled by] Patricia R. McDonald and Barry Pearce. [Sydney] : Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1988.

Signed and dated at lower left in black ink, "Painted by R. Read junr. March 1820 Sydney N.S. Wales". 

Inscribed, probably in the artist's hand, beneath frame lines in pencil "Elizabeth Heneretta [i.e. Henrietta] Villa situate about four miles Down the Harbour from Sydney Cove the seat of John Piper Esqr. Naval Officer etc. etc. of Port Jackson New South Wales". Image No: a128862, courtesy State Library of NSW.

WILLIAM Cox, Esq. J. P. 

William Cox (1764-1837), military officer, roadmaker and builder, was born at Wimborne, Dorset, England, and educated at the local grammar school. He later moved to Devizes, Wiltshire, where he married Rebecca Upjohn of Bristol. He joined the army in 1797 and was commissioned a lieutenant in the New South Wales Corps; next year he was appointed paymaster. In 1799, accompanied by his wife and four of his six small sons, he sailed for New South Wales in the Minerva by way of Cork, where the ship picked up a consignment of Irish convicts who had taken part in the rebellion the previous year. Soon after he arrived in the colony on 11 January 1800, Cox acquired Brush Farm at Dundas from John Macarthur whom he had succeeded as paymaster, several adjoining farms and much stock. He overstrained his credit and in 1803 facing a deficiency of £7900 in his regimental accounts he was suspended from office. The sum of £2000 was secured, and to pay the remainder his estate was assigned to trustees and sold for the benefit of his creditors, including the army agents. By 1806 they had been paid in full, but by then Cox had been ordered to England under arrest 'to answer such charges as may be brought against him'. He sailed in February 1807 but appears never to have been brought to trial. In 1809 he resigned his commission and devoted the rest of his life to civilian pursuits. Through this enforced absence he was away from the colony during the William Bligh rebellion, and was never called upon to reveal where his sympathies lay; however, his wife and son signed an address of loyalty to Bligh organized by the settlers on the Hawkesburywhere Cox had gone to live after the sale of Brush Farm, and during the King period had been strongly criticized by Macarthur and the corps. Cox received the first grant of land west of the mountains, 2000 acres (809 ha) across the river from Bathurst which he called Hereford. Although neither he nor his sons made it their home, they ran sheep there for some time. About 1810 they had taken up land in the Mulgoa valley where three of his sons lived for many years. Later in the Mudgee district his sons and grandsons formed studs from William's flocks which became famous for the fine quality of their wool. His large estate at Clarendon near Windsor had all the appearance of a self-contained village. Over fifty convict servants acted as smiths, tanners, harness makers, wool sorters, weavers, butchers, tailors and herdsmen. Cox had steadily improved his flocks, which Commissioner Bigge described in 1820 as among the six best in the colony. He explored the source of the Lachlan River and organized provisions for John Oxley's expedition. He was the first president of the Windsor Benevolent Society, chairman of the local Macquarie Memorial fund, and a vice-president of the Agricultural Society. Politically he was always a radical, signing many petitions for such reforms as representative government, repeal of taxes, and trial by jury, being 'firmly of the opinion' that 'Respectable Emancipists' would be worthy jurors. In 1824 Brisbane submitted his name for the proposed new Legislative Council, but he was not appointed. He died on 15 March 1837, and was buried, with his first wife, at St Matthew's, Windsor. A window to his memory was erected in St Andrew's Cathedral by the sons of his first marriage.

William Cox (1764-1837), by Charles Rodius, State Library of New South Wales, Original : ML 1379

Edna Hickson, 'Cox, William (1764–1837)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1966

Dr. TOWNSON, L. L. D. 

Robert Townson (1762?-1827), scholar, scientist and settler, was probably baptized on 4 April 1762 at Richmond, Surrey, England, son of John Townson, merchant. Robert's zest for natural history dictated his activities for many years. He travelled widely as a gentleman scholar, collaborating with the professors at the universities he visited. In 1791 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He then visited the Universities of Copenhagen and Uppsala. After contributing a paper to the Linnean Society of London in 1792 on 'The Perceptivity of Plants', he made his headquarters at Göttingen University.

After plans for the study of mineralogy and geology in India fell through, Townson's thoughts turned to Australia. He was often at the home of Sir Joseph Banks and had there met William Paterson of the New South Wales Corps. His brother, Captain John Townson, also returned to England in 1800, so he had ample opportunities to learn about the new settlement. When John decided to return as a settler, Robert approached the British government. He was warmly received, informed that he was the type most urgently needed in the colony, promised land and indulgences, and allowed £100 to buy books and a laboratory for the colony. DrTownson arrived in Sydney in the Young William on 7 July 1807. Proficient in all branches of natural science and also in Latin, Greek, German, French, he was the most eminent scholar in the young colony.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1811 he granted him 1680 acres (680 ha) at Botany and added 1000 acres (405 ha) near the present Minto. This became the famous Varro Ville farm, but since these grants were made on the customary condition that the land be cultivated and not sold for five years, Townson again felt aggrieved. He had been living on his capital for nearly four years and was afraid of penury. He sought permission to sell his land and return to England. In the end he remained but developed a psychopathic personality. He subordinated everything to the development of his farms, shut himself off from society, and apparently did no scientific work in New South Wales. He became 'singular' and eccentric, and his rigid economy became a byword. He also nursed undue hostility towards all who had contributed to his critical situation; Macquarie described him as 'discontented' and one of his leading opponents, though there is no evidence that Townson took part in intrigues against him.

After Macquarie departed Townson began to take his rightful place in the community. In 1822 he became a foundation vice-president of the Agricultural Society and a member of its Horticultural and Stock Fund Committees; Edward Wollstonecraft proposed him for membership of the Philosophical Society of Australasia in the same year, and though the society's records do not disclose whether or not he was elected, it is probable that he was. In 1822 he joined in the protest against the commissariat paying for purchases in dollars, and in 1824 in the memorials against the British duties on wool. In 1826 he was appointed a magistrate. His name appeared regularly on subscription lists, and headed the list of donations towards establishing the Sydney Dispensary to give free medical attention to the poor. His invitations to dinner called for an early arrival so that there could be at least two hours of conversation before the meal. The contents of his library offered for sale after his death reveal his wide interests. Varro Ville became a show place for its beauty, abundance and variety in orchard and garden; his vineyard was second only to that of Gregory Blaxland; his fine-woolled sheep and their clip were in great demand; his cattle were numerous and in the opinion of his contemporaries 'no single man had accomplished more in the rearing of stock'.

V. W. E. Goodin, 'Townson, Robert (1762–1827)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, Doctor Robert Townson / painted by Augustus Earle painted between 1825-1827, Image No.: a3540001, courtesy State Library of NSW.


John Blaxland (1769-1845), landowner and merchant, was born on 4 January 1769, the eldest son of John Blaxland and Mary, née Parker, of Fordwich, Kent, England. After education at The King's School, Canterbury, he entered the army, rising to the rank of captain in the Duke of York's Cavalry. He resigned his commission in 1792 and lived at Newington, Kent, where he managed the family estates.  Blaxland decided to emigrate because his farm resources, even when swollen by wartime prices, were inadequate for his pretensions. Moreover he became depressed at England's 'gloomy prospects'. New South Wales was fixed upon by John and his younger brother Gregory as a result of the persuasions of Sir Joseph Banks and the indulgences promised them by the Colonial Office. John agreed to invest £6000 in the colony, in return for a free passage for his family and servants, free freight for his stores and equipment, a land grant of 8000 acres (3237 ha), and eighty convicts, to be clothed and fed for eighteen months by the government. Castlereagh, writing to Governor Philip Gidley King, stressed the 'property and Education' of the Blaxlands, who could be expected to 'set useful Examples of Industry and Cultivation … and … be fit persons to whose Authority the Convicts may be properly entrusted'. 

Although the British government, by sponsoring the Blaxlands, had taken a step which directly fostered private enterprise, there was no attempt to alter the colonial judicial and administrative structures to encompass a broadening of economic activity. Thus when John arrived in the colony in April 1807, he found that his capital and proposed activities were regarded with suspicion by officer-entrepreneurs of the colonial government and the New South Wales Corps. His first mistake in the eyes of the government was to ignore crop cultivation, and, in partnership with Gregory, to concentrate on the cattle industry: breeding, slaughtering, salting down (for which he produced the first suitable colonial salt), and selling meat and dairy produce. His other ventures, which Governor William Bligh disparaged as 'speculative' and 'mercantile', included sealing with the ship Brothers, of which he was part-owner with a London firm. He earned the disfavour of the commercial community as well as of the governor by his association with the former convict, Simeon Lord, but his crowning indiscretion was, after applying for a distilling licence, to offer Bligh a share in the company. Accordingly, Bligh was indifferent to Blaxland's complaints that he had received only 1290 acres (522 ha) on the Parramatta River, called Newington, and a third of the convicts due to him.

John Blaxland (1769-1845), by Richard Read State Library of New South Wales, Original : ML 308

T. H. Irving, 'Blaxland, John (1769–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1966

 North View of Sydney New South Wales taken from the North Shore. 1822 by Joseph Lycett, ca. 1775-1828. Image No.: a128797, courtesy State Library of NSW

The Royal Easter Show Began As the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon

NSW Youth Week 2024: Express. Empower. Get Loud!

NSW Youth Week 2024 will take place from 11 to 21 April 2024.
Youth Week began as a NSW Government initiative in 1989, and has since grown to be a celebration of young people in every state and territory across the country.

It is organised by young people, for young people, in communities across NSW and Australia. Following the success of the NSW Youth Week program, Youth Week became a national event in 2000. National Youth Week is jointly supported by the Australian government, state and territory governments and local governments.

If you’re aged between 12 -24, Youth Week is an opportunity to:
  • share ideas
  • attend live events
  • have your voice heard on issues of concern to  you
  • showcase your talents
  • celebrate your contribution to the community
  • take part in competitions
  • have fun!
The theme for Youth Week 2024 is Express. Empower. Get loud!
  • Express – Youth week is a chance for every young person from across NSW to be themselves! It gives young people the opportunity to showcase their talents and getting involved.
  • Empower – It’s time for young people in NSW to have their voices heard on issues that matter to you. Register here to participate in the Advocate for Children and Young People’s opportunities to have your say.
  • Get loud! – Get loud and celebrate together at local community events happening in your local community and across NSW.
Youth across NSW should stand up and get loud together during Youth Week.

As a first step, go to the NSW Youth Week event listing page and type in your suburb or post code into the search box. You are welcome to directly contact your local council as well. NBC events are listed HERE

You can attend any Youth Week activities outside your local council.

Northern Composure Band Competition: Entries Open Until March 17

Northern Composure is the largest and longest-running youth band competition in the area and offers musicians local exposure as well as invaluable stage experience. Bands compete in heats, semi finals and the grand final to battle it out for huge prizes and their chance to perform in front of a panel of industry experts.

Over the past 20 years we have had many success stories and now is your chance to join bands such as:
  • Ocean Alley
  • Lime Cordiale
  • Dear Seattle
  • The Rions
  • Crocodylus
  • C.O.F.F.I.N
  • Edgecliff
  • A Triple J announcer plus a wide range of industry professionals
Key Dates for 2024
  • Entries open: Thursday 22 February - Sunday 17 March 
  • People's choice voting open for online heats: Monday 18 March – Sunday 24 March  
  • Band workshop: Wednesday 20 March - Location TBC 
  • Semi final 1: Saturday 6 April, YoYo’s, Frenchs Forest 
  • Semi Final 2: Saturday 13 April, Mona Vale Memorial Hall 
  • Grand Final: Saturday 20 April, PCYC Dee Why
How to enter your band
  1. Ensure you have read the Eligibility Criteria and all Key Information below
  2. Upload you video entry onto a hosting platform (eg YouTube, Vimeo)
  3. Fill out the registration form
  4. Ensure all band members are available for this year's key dates
Entries close Sunday 17 March, midnight

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 RPAYC 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

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.”

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: Aspire

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


1. direct one's hopes or ambitions towards achieving something. 2. literary; rise high; tower.

From late Middle English: from French aspirer or Latin aspirare, from ad- ‘to’ + spirare ‘breathe’. 

"strive for, seek eagerly to attain, long to reach," c. 1400, aspiren, from Old French aspirer "aspire to; inspire; breathe, breathe on" (12c.), from Latin aspirare "to breathe upon, blow upon, to breathe," also, in transferred senses, "to be favorable to, assist; to climb up to, to endeavor to obtain, to reach to, to seek to reach; infuse," from ad "to" (see ad-) + spirare "to breathe". 

The literal sense of "breathe, exhale" (1530s) is rare in English. 

Compare suspire; to draw a long deep breath : sigh.

Students Aspire is a public artwork by American artist Elizabeth Catlett, located at 2300 6th Street NW on the Howard University campus in Washington, D.C., United States. Upon its completion, James E. Cheek called the work "a most significant addition to the outdoor sculpture on the university’s campus. Students Aspire was originally surveyed as part of the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! survey in 1993.

This bronze relief shows an African-American male and female figure in profile facing each other. The figures each have one hand on each other's waist and the other hand is raised above their heads. The raised hands are reaching towards a middle disk; part of a set of five which form an arch over the figures. Each disk has an image of a scientific or technological symbol. Beneath the figures is a square relief of the root system of a tree and at the end of each root is a face.

The University charter of March 2, 1867, designated Howard University as "a University for the education of youth in the liberal arts and sciences." The Freedmen's Bureau provided most of the early financial support and in 1879, Congress approved a special appropriation for the University. The charter was amended in 1928 to authorize an annual federal appropriation.; Title, date, subject note, and keywords provided by the photographer.; Credit line: The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.; Forms part of the George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive.

What we know so far about the rumoured Apple smart ring

A generic image of a smart ring in use. Fotos593 / Shutterstock
Erika Sanchez-VelazquezAnglia Ruskin University

Samsung officially announced the launch of a new smart ring-shaped wearable device, Galaxy Ring, as part of its Galaxy Unpacked event earlier this year. The ring, expected to be on sale in late summer 2024, will be able to monitor the user’s health parameters and provide insights based on the health metrics observed, which is very similar to what a smartwatch can do.

The global smart ring market is expected to grow from USD$314.52 billion (£246.3 billion) in 2023 to USD$2,570.30 billion (£2,012 billion) by 2030. So it is no surprise that Apple is now rumoured to be applying for its smart ring patents and is expected to have the product ready in time to compete with Samsung’s release.

But it might be surprising to learn that neither Samsung nor Apple are pioneers in this new wearable technology. Oura was launched in 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign for the first generation ring.

Now on its third generation, with the fourth one expected in 2024, this smart ring can measure respiratory rate, heart rate, health rate variability (HRV), blood oxygen levels, and body temperature. The ring also has an accelerator that logs the user’s activity and movement. However, the main question is: is wearable technology worth it?

What Is Wearable Technology?

Wearable devices come in many shapes and sizes, including smart watches and sports watches, fitness trackers, head-mounted displays, smart jewellery, smart clothing, and even implantable devices.

Technological advances have enabled manufacturers to access low-cost, low-power sensor technology and develop this variety of devices. At a minimum, wearable devices are equipped with sensors, software and connecting technology.

The sensors gather information from the person wearing the device, and the software gathers the data and sends it to a device with processing capacity via a wireless connection. The ecosystem on which wearable technology works is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). It is the same principle as smart technology used at home, on devices such as thermostats that can be operated from a mobile device outside the home, or smart speakers, but applied at a personal level. It is important to note that mobile devices do not process the data; it is usually sent to “the cloud” for processing, and the mobile device displays the data to the user.

What makes an IoT solution even more attractive is the interpretation of the data gathered by the sensors. For example, the Oura Ring and the Oura Membership allow users to monitor their sleep, manage stress and predict when they might get sick by monitoring body temperature and heart rate. This is all possible due to analysis of the data collected by the ring.

With advances in artificial intelligence (AI), it is expected that in 2024, there will be a boost in health tracking.

Smart watch and smart phone.
Smart rings are unlikely to replicate the functionality of smart watches and other devices. Alexey Boldin

Benefits And Drawbacks

Smart rings come with sensors similar to those of a smartwatch. However, because of their proximity to large blood vessels in the fingers, smart rings can provide more accurate readings than smartwatches, because they can use the capillaries (small blood vessels) in your finger to get their readings. Another advantage of smart rings is that they have a longer battery life than smartwatches. However, smart rings are unlikely to come with GPS or a screen.

In terms of price, the cheapest version of the Oura ring starts at £299 and users must pay a membership fee of £5.99 per month, with the first month free. This is required to get all the benefits of data analysis. However, the ring will still work with the Oura mobile app. The most affordable version of the AppleWatch, the SE version, starts at £219, while the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 Bluetooth starts at £239.

Smart rings can’t and won’t be able to replicate the functionality offered by a smartwatch. However, they represent an attractive choice for users interested in health tracking, who also want a simple device with minimalistic features. Bryan Ma, the Vice President of devices research at International Data Corporation, has said: “The idea behind such rings is not so much about being cheaper than smartwatches, but instead being a much smaller and discrete device for use in cases like sleep tracking.”

The Future Of Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology will continue evolving, with a strong focus on health monitoring. For example, Microsoft has been exploring smart tattoos as the next generation of wearable tech since 2016. However, due to the labour intensive fabrication technique for gold leaf, which is used in the tattoos, researchers are now focusing on more robust, advanced, and inexpensive materials.

Researchers at the University of Washington have also developed the thermal earring. This was able to measure the user’s earlobe temperature but shows promise for other areas of monitoring, including for eating and exercise. Although not commercially available, this device demonstrates how engineers are developing new ideas for wearable devices.

Under Armour already sells running shoes embedded with Bluetooth and sensors that track run statistics such as distance and pace. The shoes also measure running from metrics such as cadence (steps per minute), ground contact time, foot strike angle and stride length.

The app provides real time audio coaching, but only focuses on cadence. In future, we can expect to see advances in smart contact lensessmart nailssmart buttons, and many more.

Is Wearable Technology Worth It?

The expected increase in the market size of this technology shows users’ interest in monitoring their health and improving their lifestyle. Developments in the Internet of Things, in general, have improved our way of life and supported our wellbeing.

Connected devices collect, track, and store user data, which is the primary purpose of the technology. What users need to know is that many wearable devices share data with third party apps and services, and it is often unclear how this data is being used. The data can be sold to other companies or utilised for different purposes without the user’s knowledge or consent. Moreover, wearable devices can be hacked.

With this in mind, and as we have done with all new technology, users must consider the advantages of wearable technology and determine if the risks are worth taking. If security and data privacy are a concern, users are encouraged to follow all security recommendations provided by experts and manufacturers to protect their devices and research more on how their data is used and shared.The Conversation

Erika Sanchez-Velazquez, Deputy Head of School, Computing and Information Science, Anglia Ruskin University

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

TikTok claims ‘tongue scrapers’ can cure bad breath – here’s what the evidence actually says

Many people use tongue scrapers to remove the ‘biofilm’ from their tongue. Andrey_Popov/ Shutterstock
Zoe BrookesUniversity of Plymouth

Most of us know how important it is to brush and floss if we want a healthy smile. But some people on TikTok are suggesting that this isn’t enough – and that if you really want good oral health, you need to use a “tongue scraper”.

Tongue scraping has long been part of daily hygiene routines in many parts of the world. It involves running a hard instrument across the tongue to remove bacterial build-up and debris. Tongue scrapers come in all shapes and sizes – with some people even using their toothbrush. They remove the white coating (which contains bacteria) that builds up on the back of some people’s tongues.

Videos on social media of people advocating for the use of tongue scrapers have amassed millions of views. Many proponents claim the practice banishes bad breath. But while there’s some evidence to back these claims, the practise could also come with risks.

Everyone has communities of bacteria, fungi and even viruses living inside their mouth. This is known as your oral microbiome. These bacteria can stick to the surface of your tongue and teeth and build up in layers (known as a biofilm). Plaque is one example of a biofilm.

Poor oral health can lead to a build-up of biofilms containing certain bacterial species which cause dental decay (cavities), gum disease and bad breath. For example, a build-up of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans is associated with cavities, while a build-up of volatile sulphur compound producing bacteria (VSCs) on the tongue and gums can cause bad breath. Diets high in sugar and low in fibre can also contribute to the build-up of VSCs.

For most, brushing your teeth twice daily (for two minutes each time) and using floss or interdental brushes to clean between teeth will be enough to remove the build-up of these biofilms. These techniques are also very effective for preventing tooth decay and gum disease.

But there’s less evidence showing whether these techniques are also effective for preventing tongue biofilms and bad breath.

Tongue Scraping

A couple of reviews have shown that tongue scrapers can reduce the release of VSCs produced by the bacterial species found in the tongue’s biofilm. Tongue scrapers are also shown to be superior to a toothbrush for reducing bad breath.

So, based on the limited evidence out there, it does seem that regularly using a tongue scraper may help remove biofilms and improve bad breath. However, these reviews did find that the benefits of tongue scraping were shortlived and needed to be done using a specific technique to be effective.

Scraping your tongue once or twice a day for around 15-30 seconds is adequate. You also need to ensure you get far enough back on the tongue (where VSC-producing bacteria live), scrape back to front and keep up your regular tooth-brushing routine for the practise to be effective.

There are other caveats when it comes to tongue scraping. Bad breath isn’t only caused by VSCs. It can also be caused by cavities, tonsillitis and even stomach problems (such as acid reflux). In these instances, tongue scraping will do little to solve bad breath.

A father and his young son brush their teeth.
Brushing and flossing are still the best ways to look after your oral health. sirtravelalot/ Shutterstock

And despite their bad press, we actually need certain bacteria for good health. For example, nitrate-reducing bacterial species living on the tongue convert nitrate from the foods we eat (such as green leafy vegetables) to nitrite. This mechanism is important, since we swallow the nitrite that’s produced. The nitrite is then converted in the gut to nitric oxide, which relaxes our blood vessels and keeps blood pressure lower.

One study has suggested that tongue scraping may actually enrich the amount of nitrate-reducing bacteria on the tongue. However, this study was only conducted using a sample of 27 people, the majority of whom were dental hygiene students. It will be important for further research to be done with more participants to better determine both the potential benefits and harms of tongue scraping.

Should I Use A Tongue Scraper?

A qualified dentist would find it difficult to strongly advocate the use of tongue scrapers, due to the limited evidence supporting their use. It’s also likely that the benefits and downsides of using a tongue scraper would differ for each person. A check-up would probably be necessary before a dentist could advise – especially so they can ensure a white tongue coating isn’t due to another more serious condition, such as oral thrush or oral cancer.

Not everyone gets a tongue biofilm, either. Only around 10% of the people develop a thick tongue coating. For these people, removing this thick layer can help counter bad breath.

For others, a thick tongue biofilm may only happen at certain times – for example, during periods of illness, stress, with hormone changes, or if they change their diet. So for them, a tongue scraper may only be occasionally beneficial.

If there’s no white coating present at all, there doesn’t seem to be much point using a tongue scraper. Good oral hygiene will probably be enough to fix bad breath – and aggressive tongue scraping may actually risk making your tongue bleed. We also don’t yet fully know how tongue scraping will affect good bacteria on you tongue.

Anecdotal TikTok videos should not drive your healthcare decisions (especially if those videos haven’t been fact-checked). But in this case, TikTok may be highlighting an area where we need to do more research to better help peoples’ oral health. Producing strong evidence that tongue scrapers really do work (or don’t work), through good quality clinical studies, could lead to a change in UK guidelines in the future.

But until we know more, keep brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth with floss. Scrape your tongue, or clean your tongue with a toothbrush, with care, if you must.The Conversation

Zoe Brookes, Associate Professor of Dental Education and Research, University of Plymouth

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

From fast fashion to excessive earrings, these trends might be harmful to your health

Jennifer Lopez is a fan of the statement earring, but will her lobes forgive her? Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock
Naomi BraithwaiteNottingham Trent University

The perilous nature of some fashion items have a long history, from the potentially hazardous heights of stilettoes to the damaging constrictions imposed by the corset. But health-harming trends aren’t a thing of the past.

Fast fashion, the making and selling of cheap clothes with short life-spans at mass volumes, has become a notorious modern-day phenomenon – so much so that in 2023, the European Union attempted to crack down on the “overproduction and overconsumption of clothes and footwear” to make clothing more sustainable and reduce worker exploitation.

Fast fashion might be cheap but its environmental costs are dear. The detrimental ecological effects of the consumer appetite for trend-driven disposable clothing – and the consequential impacts on human health – are well known. But toxic clothing is a comparatively under-reported danger of consumers’ continuing love affair with fast fashion.

Affordable, on-trend clothing is often made from synthetic materials that can irritate the skin. But throwaway fashion garments can also contain toxic chemicals including PFAS (synthetic chemicals used widely in consumer products from non-stick baking tins to clothes), azo dyesphthalates and formaldehyde.

Approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used in the fast fashion manufacturing process, with residues staying on the garments that we purchase. Alden Wicker’s 2023 book, To Dye For, reveals the unregulated use of potentially harmful chemicals and the impacts these can have on our health. Azo dyes, for example, which are restricted in the EUcan be absorbed causing a range of reported health issues.

And there are other, perhaps more surprising, potential dangers lurking in your wardrobe too.

Trainers And Sneakers

Trainers have become the most popular shoe style of the 21st-century, transcending fashion boundaries of gender, race and age. The trend for athleisure – buoyed by brand collaborations with hip-hop and pop stars such as BeyoncéRihanna and the pre-scandal Kanye West’s ultra-successful Adidas Yeezy line – has increased consumer demand for footwear that’s both comfortable and has cult status.

This is a trend that shows no sign of going out of fashion: according to predictions, the global sneaker industry will be worth $100 billion by 2026. But how bad can it be to value comfort as well as style?

For example, wearing trainers too much can lead to poor foot posture and the widening of feet, a condition that’s impossible to reverse. The trend for platform trainers isn’t much better: this style can be a painful strain on the feet and gait. And sock sneakers – trainers that look like thick, usually colorful socks with rubber soles attached – is the style most likely to lead to a sprained ankle.

The best bet is to opt for athletic trainers that are designed to offer a supportive fit.

Waist Trainers

Waist trainers, brought into vogue this century by Kim Kardashian, are similar to the corsets and girdles of the past. They are designed to pull the wearer’s waist in as tight as possible to achieve an eye-wateringly “snatched” look – TikTok speak for creating the illusion of a tiny, accentuated waist.

Endorsed by influential celebrities such as Nikki Minaj and Kylie Jenner, the waist trainer, if worn over a prolonged period, may help achieve a temporary hourglass figure. And like the corset, the waist trainer does seem to have some benefits – it may help improve posture, for example.

Waist trainers and similar shapewear can also give the appearance of significant weight loss. But any actual weight loss from wearing the item is most likely because of water loss through sweating and muscle atrophy – muscles in the core are used less while wearing waist-trainers, so long-term use can lead to muscle wastage.

Also, the pressure exerted on the waist and internal organs can cause appetite loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, prolonged wearing of waist trainers can result in gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux and, in more extreme cases, the pressure on the diaphragm can cause respiratory problems.

If that isn’t enough, wearers of waist trainers and corsets may be at risk of fainting due to reduced oxygen. There’s also a reported case of a woman who developed acute lower-limb ischemia (a serious condition usually caused by a blood clot) after wearing a waist trainer – although such extreme health outcomes are very rare.

And while the potential health risks of wearing waist trainers might seem overwhelming, a study in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obsestrics found women who wore them following a cesarean delivery experienced less pain.

Heavy Earrings

The emergence of the “mob wife” trend, with its aesthetic signifiers of fur coats, leopard prints and chunky gold jewellery, has also popularised weighty earrings. But the regular and prolonged wearing of heavy earrings can cause elongation and thinning of the earlobe, which in extreme cases can cause the lobe to split.

To correct the damage caused by wearing excessively heavy or large earrings, lobe surgery has become one of the most common plastic surgery trends.

But it is not just heavy earrings that you may need to be wary of. Large thin hoops, although seemingly lightweight, can get caught in hair and clothes. In 2023, a TikTok video of a woman showing the tear in her earlobe caused by a large hoop earring went viral, with over 1.3 million views.

Ill-Fitting Thongs

Love them or hate them, the thong is a fashion classic. From showgirls at the World Fair in the 1930s to 2023’s whale tail trend for wearing a thong peeking out from the waistband of clothing, these notorious items have been rubbing us the wrong way for almost a century.

Renowned for being uncomfortable, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ill-fitting thongs can cause intimate irritation and chafing, especially if made from synthetic fabrics.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Research has shown that a well-fitting thong made from natural fibres, alongside regular washing of underwear and scrupulous personal hygiene, can ensure thong-wearers enjoy their whale tails in comfort.The Conversation

Naomi Braithwaite, Associate Professor in Fashion Marketing and Branding, Nottingham Trent University

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

Want to build muscle? Why carbs could be just as important as protein

Porridge was one of the carbs Mark Taylor, 2023’s “Mr Universe”, included in his diet. Ripio/ Shutterstock
Justin RobertsAnglia Ruskin UniversityHenry ChungUniversity of Essex, and Joseph LillisAnglia Ruskin University

High-protein, low-carb diets have long been considered the gold standard method for gym-goers and bodybuilders aiming to gain muscle and lose fat. But one bodybuilding champion has shown that this might not necessarily be the only way of achieving a chiselled physique.

Mark Taylor, a 52-year-old bodybuilding veteran who in 2023 won the coveted “Mr Universe” title, said in a recent interview that the key to his success was actually embracing carbs.

For years, Taylor religiously stuck to a traditional high protein, low carb diet, yet he felt tired all the time. It wasn’t until Taylor abandoned this thinking and his strict diet, to prioritise carbs and more calories, that he finally achieved his dream.

While this strategy might go against the norm, what does the science say?

Building Muscle With Nutrition

To shape up and gain muscle you have to train – there’s no getting around this. Muscle gains come from progressive overload training, which means either gradually increasing the weight you lift or performing more reps or sets of an exercise.

If the training is demanding enough, muscle adaptations during the recovery period can lead to improvements over time.

More specifically, muscle growth is a balance between two processes: “muscle protein synthesis” (where new muscle tissue is made or repaired) and “muscle protein breakdown” (where muscle tissue is degraded). Because these two processes are always occurring, the rate and balance between them, will affect overall gains.

Appropriate nutrition, alongside structured training, supports these processes. Proteins are essential as they contain amino acids (such as leucine) which provide the building blocks of muscle.

Evidence highlights that daily protein intake alongside eating enough calories may be most important for overall muscle gains. Other nutrients, such as essential fats, vitamins and minerals, are also relevant to the muscle building process. Conversely, consuming fewer calories than your body needs may negatively affect your training.

After training, it has also been shown that consuming 20g-40g of “fast releasing” proteins (such as whey protein) may accelerate muscle protein synthesis in the short-term. Many gym goers also consume “slow releasing” proteins (such as casein protein) before going to sleep to reach daily protein needs or optimise recovery.

So Where Do Carbs Fit In?

While some studies show combining carbs and protein after exercise can lead to increased muscle protein synthesis, other studies show that this is not the case when compared to consuming protein alone. This is because amino acids are key to this process, and carbs simply do not provide these building blocks so cannot directly drive muscle protein synthesis.

But carbs may have an influence on the degree of muscle protein breakdown that happens. This is because carbs trigger the body to produce the hormone insulin, which has been shown to reduce protein breakdown.

However, protein also influences insulin production, creating a similar effect. So if you have sufficient protein post-exercise, you could argue there’s no need for additional carbs from a muscle building perspective. So how do we explain Taylor’s success?

Many bodybuilders tend to go through a “bulking” phase, increasing the number of calories they eat daily by around 15% or more in an attempt to increase muscle mass. This is followed by a “cutting” phase to strategically reduce body fat in order to make muscles more visible. Using a low-carb approach can promote fat loss, resulting in a lean physique. This is why many gym enthusiasts and bodybuilders opt for this method.

An assortment of carbs, including potatoes, pasta and porridge.
Carbs are important for energy. Tatjana Baibakova/ Shutterstock

But low-carb diets also means less energy, which could lead to weakened immunity, greater fatigue and reduced performance. Low-carb diets can also disrupt menstrual function in women, and lower testosterone (needed for muscle development) – particularly in men. So these popular “cutting” strategies could be detrimental for some people.

Carbohydrates supply us with energy in the form of glucose, which is then stored in the muscle as glycogen for later use. Training in the gym can be demanding, which means we use glycogen stores to fuel us more rapidly.

This allows us to train more intensely, which indirectly influences muscle protein synthesis. If you don’t refuel with carbs and continue to train in a low-glycogen state, it may not only affect the muscle-building process, but overall training results.

Choice of carbs also makes a difference. In Taylor’s case, choosing sweet potatoes and porridge meant that his diet favoured a lower glycaemic approach.

The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates in a particular food increase blood sugar. Low GI foods (such as porridge) have a slower releasing effect. This not only affects mood, but also leads to sustained energy throughout the day – combating feelings of fatigue while benefiting other aspects of health – such as lowering blood pressure.

But while low GI foods are beneficial over the course of the day, research shows that higher GI foods (such as white pasta, bagels or granola) after hard or prolonged training support rapid recovery of glycogen. So a combination of low GI and high GI foods throughout the day could be a useful training and recovery strategy.

Athlete or not, increasing muscle mass requires work and our diet can influence thisFeeding our muscles with protein, while fuelling workouts with carbs, may well offer a more effective way to achieve your goal.

If, like Taylor, you’re not seeing the results you want, perhaps carbs are the missing piece of the puzzle.The Conversation

Justin Roberts, Professor of Nutritional Physiology, Anglia Ruskin UniversityHenry Chung, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, University of Essex, and Joseph Lillis, PhD Candidate in Nutritional Physiology, Anglia Ruskin University

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

From malaria, to smallpox, to polio – here’s how we know life in ancient Egypt was ravaged by disease

Thomas JeffriesWestern Sydney University

The mention of ancient Egypt usually conjures images of colossal pyramids and precious, golden tombs.

But as with most civilisations, the invisible world of infectious disease underpinned life and death along the Nile. In fact, fear of disease was so pervasive it influenced social and religious customs. It even featured in the statues, monuments and graves of the Kingdom of the Pharaohs.

By studying ancient specimens and artefacts, scientists are uncovering how disease rocked this ancient culture.

Tutankhamun’s Malaria, And Other Examples

The most direct evidence of epidemics in ancient Egypt comes from skeletal and DNA evidence obtained from the mummies themselves.

For instance, DNA recovered from the mummy of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun (1332–1323 BC) led to the discovery he suffered from malaria, along with several other New Kingdom mummies (circa 1800 BC).

In other examples:

  • skeletal and DNA evidence found in the city of Abydos suggests one in four people may have had tuberculosis
  • the mummy of Ramesses V (circa 1149–1145 BC) has scars indicating smallpox
  • the wives of Mentuhotep II (circa 2000 BC) were buried hastily in a “mass grave”, suggesting a pandemic had occurred
  • and the mummies of two pharaohs, Siptah (1197–1191 BC) and Khnum-Nekht (circa 1800 BC), were found with the deformed equinus foot which is characteristic of the viral disease polio.

Signs Of A Disease-Ravaged People

Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled from about 1388–1351 BC.

There are several reasons experts think his reign was marked by a devastating disease outbreak. For instance, two separate carvings from this time depict a priest and a royal couple with the polio dropped-foot.

This 18th dynasty panel depicts a polio sufferer. Wikimedia

Statues of the lion-headed goddess of disease and health, Sekhmet, also increased significantly, suggesting a reliance on divine protection.

Another sign of a potential major disease outbreak comes in the form of what may be an early case of quarantine, wherein Amenhotep III moved his palace to the more isolated site of Malqata. This is further supported by the burning of a workers’ cemetery near Thebes.

Grave goods also became less extravagant and tombs less complex during this period, which suggests more burials were needed in a shorter time frame. These burials can’t be explained by war since this was an unusually peaceful period.

Did Disease Trigger Early Monotheism?

Amenohotep’s son – “the heretic King” Akhenaten (who was also Tutankhamun’s father) – abandoned the old gods of Egypt. In one of the earliest cases of monotheism, Akhenaten made worship of the Sun the official state religion.

This panel (circa 1372-1355 BC) shows Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their daughters adoring the Sun god Aten. Wikimedia

Some researchers think Akhenaten’s dramatic loss of faith may have been due to the devastating disease he witnessed during his childhood and into his reign, with several of his children and wives having died from disease. But we’ve yet to find clear evidence for the role of disease in shaping his theology.

There’s also no direct DNA evidence of an outbreak under his father, Amenhotep III. There are only descriptions of one in letters Amenhotep III and Akhenaten exchanged with the Babylonians.

These clay tablets (circa 14th century BC), inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, were sent to Amenhotep III or Akhenaten from the ruler Abdi-tirshi of Hazor (modern-day Israel). British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA

To confirm an outbreak under Amenhotep III, we’d need to first recover pathogen DNA in human remains from this time, has been found in other Egyptian burial sites and for other pandemics.

Also, while many ancient epidemics are referred to as “plagues”, we can’t confirm whether any outbreaks in ancient Egypt were indeed caused by Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for bubonic plague pandemics such as the Black Death in Europe (1347-1351).

That said, researchers have confirmed the Nile rat, which was widespread during the time of the Pharaohs, would have been able to carry the Yersinia infection.

This 1811 etching depicts the ancient Plague of Athens (circa 430 BC), which may have been caused by Yersinia or a disease with similar symptoms such as smallpox, typhus or measles. The British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA

How Were Outbreaks Managed?

Much like modern pandemics, factors such as population growth, sanitation, population density and mobilisation for war would have influenced the spread of disease in ancient Egypt.

In the case of war, it’s thought the Hittite army was weakened by disease spread when it was famously defeated by Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the Great in the battle of Kadesh (1274 BC).

In some ways, Egyptian medicine was advanced for its time. While these outbreaks occurred long before the development of antibiotics or vaccines, there is some evidence of public health measures such as the burning of towns and quarantining people. This suggests a basic understanding of how disease spreads.

Diseases caused by microorganisms would have been viewed as supernatural, or as a corruption of the air. This is similar to other explanations held in different parts of the world, before germ theory was popularised in the 19th century.

New World, Old Problems

The funerary mask of Tutankhamun, who died as a teenager. WikimediaCC BY-SA

Many of the most widespread diseases that afflicted the ancient world are still with us.

Along with Tutankhamun, it’s thought up to 70% of the Egyptian population was infected with malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite – spread by swarms of mosquitoes occupying the stagnant pools of the Nile delta.

Today, malaria affects about 250 million people, mostly in developing nations. Tuberculosis kills more than a million people each year. And smallpox and polio have only recently been eradicated or controlled through vaccination programs.

More work is yet to be done to detect individual pathogens in Egyptian mummies. This knowledge could shed light on how, throughout history, people much like us have grappled with these unseen organisms.The Conversation

Thomas Jeffries, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, Western Sydney University

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

Australian music festivals are increasingly affected by climate change. But is the industry doing enough to mitigate its impact?

Maxwell Collins/Unsplash
Milad HaghaniUNSW Sydney

The Pitch Music and Arts Festival in Moyston, Victoria, was cancelled while festival-goers were already on site this weekend, after an extreme fire danger warning was issued.

Cancellations like these have become all too familiar.

The live music and festival industry is currently struggling with significant challenges, including expensive insurance premiums and the cost of living crisis impacting ticket sales.

In particular are the challenges associated with climate change, as extreme weather events becoming more frequent, severe and unpredictable.

I looked at news reports over 2022 and 2023 and found at least 22 music festivals in Australia cancelled or disrupted due to extreme weather conditions.

This trend of weather-related interruptions appears to be on the rise: over the seven years between 2013 and 2019, only ten music festivals in Australia were affected by extreme weather.

Severe weather impacts on music festivals and concerts have ranged from delays and cancellations, to the evacuation of venues and areas mid-festival or mid-performance. This will be a growing challenge for the industry.

Death, Injury And Cancellations

This is not limited to Australia, and not all extreme weather-related events result in a cancellation. In my research, I also looked at where and why events were being cancelled in the United States, finding at least 21 cancellations in 2022–23.

I also found similar cases in New ZealandCanadathe United KingdomSpain and the Netherlands.

In November, we saw the tragic death of a fan due to extreme heat at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in Brazil.

There were more than 100 hospitalisations following a hailstorm at a Louis Tomlinson concert in Colorado last June.

At a Taylor Swift performance in Sydney, fans were temporarily evacuated and the show was delayed due to lightning strikes.

In Australia, severe weather has recently led to the postponement of major events such as the abrupt ending to Sydney’s Good Things festival due to a storm in December, and cancellation the of Strawberry Fields festival, scheduled for October 2022, due to flooding in southern NSW.

Extreme weather events are closely linked to climate change. This trend is likely going to get worse. Australia has witnessed a marked increase in the intensity, frequency and duration of heatwaves over the past 67 years, with a significant uptick observed in recent decades.

The Environmental Impact Of Festivals

There has not yet been a comprehensive carbon footprint audit of the Australian music industry, but we do know how much music can contribute to carbon emissions through research in the UK.

The UK’s live music industry produces 405,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The primary sources of these emissions are audience travel, accounting for 43%, and the operations of live music venues, contributing another 23%. This means nearly three-quarters of industry’s emissions are linked to live music performances.

The average touring DJ is responsible for 35 tonnes of CO₂ a year – more than 15 times the personal carbon budget recommended for individuals and nearly eight times the average.

In 2019 alone, 1,000 touring DJs took more than 51,000 flights around the world, generating as much CO₂ as over 20,000 households.

Music Festivals Can Make A Change

There are signs of a growing consciousness within the live music industry towards mitigating environmental impacts.

The UK’s live music sector has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2030.

In Australia Woodford Folk Festival and WOMADelaide have banned single-use plastics and promote recycling to minimise waste.

The live music industry can reduce its environmental impact by adopting more renewable energy, and using sustainable transport options for artists and audiences.

Engaging audiences in sustainability efforts, such as incentivising carbon offset contributions, can also amplify impact.

Other environmental concerns at festivals are less obvious but also important. Attendees often enjoy wearing glitter, not realising it is made of microplastics. Switching to biodegradable glitter is a practical solution.

Festivals also see waste from abandoned low-quality camping gear. These one-time-use tents and accessories contribute to environmental degradation and create waste management challenges. There needs to be more efforts in educating attendees on the importance of sustainable camping practices and encouraging the use of high-quality, reusable camping gear.

Tree planting has emerged as a popular strategy for music festivals and bands to offset their carbon footprint and contribute positively to the environment.

Incorporating carbon offsets into ticket pricing or offering them as voluntary options presents strategy for festivals and artists to mitigate their environmental impact.

Challenges such as rising supply chain costs and the cost of living are testing the viability of festivals. Amid these challenges, severe weather can introduce additional uncertainties.

It is important the event industry and festival-goers acknowledge their contributions to these escalating challenges, and take proactive steps towards greening music festivals.The Conversation

Milad Haghani, Senior Lecturer of Urban Mobility, Public Safety & Disaster Risk, UNSW Sydney

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

A brief guide to birdwatching in the age of dinosaurs

Abi CraneUniversity of Southampton

Have you ever wondered what it would be like travel back in time to the age of dinosaurs? If you stumble upon a time machine, remember to bring your binoculars. Birdwatching is a popular hobby today, with an around 3 million participants in the UK alone, and in our modern world there are a staggering 11,000 species of birds to spot.

Despite the popularity of their modern-day descendants, we often forget about ancient birds because of their more famous dinosaur cousins.

Birds are actually a type of dinosaur. They are closely related to smaller, agile meat-eating dinosaurs such as the Velociraptor. Ancient birds came in a variety of forms, from ones with teeth and claws to species barely distinguishable from farmyard chickens.

So, if you were to point your binoculars over the heads of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex, what could you spot? Here is a quick introduction to six of the most interesting ancient bird species.


Archaeopteryx is the iconic “dino-bird” from the Jurassic period. The discovery of Archaeopteryx fossils in Germany over 150 years ago provided scientists with the first clues about the link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

At first glance, the skeleton of Archaeopteryx is just like any other meat-eating dinosaur – sharp teeth, clawed hands and a long bony tail. Surrounding the skeleton of specimens such as the Berlin Archaeopteryx (discovered between 1874 and 1876) however, are imprints of feathers which form a pair of distinctly bird-like wings.

3D rendering of black  bird-like dinosaur flying through the sky
Archaeopteryx looked half way between a dinosaur and a modern bird. Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock

But for many years, palaeontologists debated whether Archaeopteryx could have used these wings to fly. Scientists now think it is likely that Archaeopteryx could have flown, but only in short bursts , like a pheasant. Recent technological advances have given us our first insights into dinosaur colour and studies of fossilised, pigmented cells have shown that Archaeopteryx had matt black wing feathers.


This crow-sized bird had a beak like that of modern-day birds, but still had large, dinosaur-like claws on its hands. It is thought that they lived in flocks, large numbers of which were killed by ash or gas in volcanic eruptions and preserved as fossils. Known from over 1,000 fossil specimens from China, Confuciusornis is one of the most common fossil bird species.

Outline of dinosaur clearly preserved in rock
Confuciusornis sanctus fossil, encased in rock. Chawalit Chankhantha/Shutterstock

Some of these birds had a pair of tail feathers longer than their body, while others lacked these long feathers and would have looked comparatively stumpy. Scientists think these long-tailed birds were the males of the species and those with short tails were females. Like modern peacocks and peahens, the males probably used their extravagant tail feathers to woo the females.


Discovered in 2020, Falcatakely, from Madagascar, would have resembled a small, buck-toothed toucan. Its oversized, banana-shaped bill only had teeth at the very tip. Although we don’t know what this buck-toothed bird would have eaten, its close relatives ate a variety of food, including fruit, fish and even larger prey.

Scientists think that birds such as Falcatakely could fly the same day they hatched from their egg, unlike birds today which spend their first weeks or months helpless in the nest.


One of the weirdest birds from the age of dinosaurs, Hesperornis would have looked something like a six-foot-tall penguin with a beak full of sharp teeth. Its tiny arms would have made T rex look like a weightlifter, so it definitely couldn’t have used them to fly.

Illustration of bird with tiny wings perched on a rock
Hesperornis was an aquatic bird that lived at the time of the dinosaurs. Daniel Eskridge/Shutterstock

Instead, Hesperornis used its oversized feet to propel itself through the water like a modern cormorant. Out of the water, Hesperornis walked awkwardly upright and probably couldn’t travel far overland.

Vegavis And Asteriornis

Towards the end of the dinosaurs’ reign, the earliest groups of modern birds began to appear. The first of these birds to be discovered was Vegavis from Antarctica, which in the time of dinosaurs would have been covered in trees rather than ice.

It was probably an ancestor of ducks and geese and one exceptional fossil of Vegavis even has a rare preserved vocal organ. Analysis of this fossil suggested that Vegavis couldn’t make a songbird melody but could have made simple noises such as goose-like honks.

Sixty-six million years ago, not long before the asteroid impact, which caused the extinction of the non-bird dinosaurs, lived Asteriornis. This quail-sized bird from Belgium was an ancestor of modern ducks and chickens. Although it would have looked unremarkable compared to the giant swimming lizards and huge, toothed seagulls it lived alongside, this may have been to its advantage.

Scientists think that the small size of birds such as Asteriornis helped them to survive the mass extinction. Because smaller animals need less food and take less time to reproduce, these humble birds were able to survive and evolve into the birds you can see through your binoculars today.The Conversation

Abi Crane, Postgraduate Researcher in Palaeontology, University of Southampton

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

Avalon Beach Historical Society: March 2024 Meeting

A few happy snaps: 86 people attended. 

A new member of the Society, but an early resident of Palm Beach, David Elfick, the owner of the Palladium on Ocean Road, was 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. Later in its long life it served as a café, a restaurant, the Palm Beach Film Club, a film set and now as a private home. 

As usual David’s talk was supplemented with photos from different eras which Geoff Searl OAM, President of ABHS, explained, including some interior photos as well taken by William Goddard, who also helped out with research.

A full report on Mr. Elfick's shared insights, and PON's 'few extras' from a previous insight, can be supplemented by Geoff Searl and Bill Goddard's research, runs as next week's History insight.

Those gathered: photo by John Stone:

Guest Speaker with Geoff Searl OAM, President of ABHS and Bill Goddard, who helped with the research and took interior photos of the Palladium:

John Stone, Patron of the ABHS, who also helps out with supplying photos from his great cache and catalogue of images, taken over decades, of our local area:

Four OAMs attending: Brian Friend OAM, Warren Young OAM, Brian Friend OAM and Roger Sayers OAM:

Aged Care Taskforce Final Report Released

March 12, 2024
The Australian Government is today releasing the Aged Care Taskforce’s Final Report, an important next step towards delivering a sustainable aged care system that provides high quality care to all Australians now and into the future.

After considering the evidence and meeting several times throughout 2023, the Taskforce has not recommended a new tax or levy to fund aged care.

The Government confirms today it will not impose any increased taxes or a new levy to fund aged care costs or change to the means testing treatment of the family home for aged care.

''We will continue to analyse this report and finalise our response to its other recommendations.'' the Government said in a statement

'The principles that guide our response to the Taskforce’s report are to deliver lasting and enduring reforms that will benefit not just those in and entering the system now, but Australians who rely on the system as they age in decades to come.

'With the number of Australians aged 65 and over expected to more than double and the number aged 85 and over to more than triple over the next forty years it is clear we must start work now to deliver a sustainably funded aged care sector.

Already, the Albanese Government’s delivery in line with the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission have delivered greater quality, viability and availability of residential aged care.  

The Government has put nurses back into nursing homes, given carers more time to care, lifted wages in the sector and improved transparency and accountability.

However, it is clear there is more work to do.''

Chaired by the Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells, the Aged Care Taskforce brought together representatives of older Australians, aged care providers, and experts, to consider the great unanswered question of the Royal Commission: how to sustainably fund aged care into the future.

''The Taskforce Report delivers 23 recommendations to improve the sustainability of aged care.

''The Government will be carefully considering the recommendations of the report.

The Albanese Government thanks the Taskforce members for their time in developing the Taskforce Report and its 23 recommendations.'' the government stated

The Taskforce Final Report is available at:
The Hon Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care, stated: 
“Australia’s aged care system is under stress. There is universal acceptance that something must change in order to ensure all Australians can age with the dignity, safety and high-quality care they deserve.  
“After spending their lives building up our country, we have a solemn responsibility as a nation to respectfully care for older Australians as they age.
“All of us have a stake in a sustainable, high-quality and dignified aged care sector – whether it’s for our parents, ageing loved ones, or even eventually for ourselves.
“As we consider the Taskforce Report and continue to implement the reforms of the Royal Commission, our focus will always be ensuring dignity and respect for older Australians.”

The 23 Recommendations are:

Recommendation 1: Underpin the Support at Home Program with inclusion and exclusion principles and clearly defined service lists

Recommendation 2: Continue the significant role for government funding of aged care services. A specific tax or levy to fund aged care is not recommended.

Recommendation 3: It is appropriate older people make a fair co-contribution to the cost of their aged care based on their means.

Recommendation 4: Ensure a strong safety net for low means participants to meet aged care costs.

Recommendation 5: Make aged care fees fairer, simpler and more transparent so people can understand the costs they will incur if they access aged care.

Recommendation 6: Establish appropriate arrangements to allow older people and providers to smoothly transition to any new arrangements, including grandparenting arrangements for those already in residential aged care and phasing in for home care.

Recommendation 7: Establish a fee-for-service model for Support at Home that ensures participants only pay a co-contribution for services received.

Recommendation 8: Introduce Support at Home participant co-contributions that vary based on the type of service accessed.

Recommendation 9: Continue to focus government funding in residential aged care on care costs, with a significant role for resident co-contributions in non-care components.

Recommendation 10: Funding for daily living needs to cover the full cost of providing these services. It is recommended this be composed of the Basic Daily Fee and a supplement.

Recommendation 11: Enable residents and their representative and providers to negotiate better or more daily living services for a higher fee, subject to at least:
  • publishing prices and services
  • only allowing agreement to higher fees for agreed services to be made after a participant has entered care
  • a cooling off period and regular review opportunities to ensure the resident still wants the services and can still use them.
Recommendation 12: Following an independent review in 2030, transition the sector by 2035 to no longer accept RADs as a form of payment for aged care accommodation and move to a rental only model, provided that the independent review finds there is improved financial sustainability, diversified and adequate sources of capital to meet future demand and residential aged care is affordable for consumers.

Recommendation 13: Require providers to retain a portion of the RAD in the near‑term to make an immediate improvement to sector financial sustainability. Base the amount on length of stay, with a cap on the number of years a RAD is subject to retention to protect residents who stay for a long time.

Recommendation 14: Review the Accommodation Supplement, including improving incentives to meet the accommodation design principles.

Recommendation 15: In addition to the other accommodation recommendations, develop a package of measures to improve accommodation funding, equity between residents and transparency in the near-term. This will help place accommodation income on a long-term sustainable footing and position the sector for the ultimate phase out of RADs.

Recommendation 16: Establish appropriate safeguards and incentives to protect access to residential care for supported residents.

Recommendation 17: Consider the appropriateness of the current remoteness classification system.

Recommendation 18: Continue block funding in thin markets where appropriate and necessary. Consider any other supports necessary to ensure access to care in under serviced markets.

Recommendation 19: Consider ways to encourage providers to develop and scale innovative care models, invest in technology, and conduct research into best practices, including through:
  • the recommendations outlined in this report to improve the viability of the aged care sector
  • tasking the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission with supporting innovation by identifying innovative practices and promoting these across the sector.
Recommendation 20: Raise awareness of existing financial products that enable older people to utilise their wealth in retirement and provide confidence they can afford future aged care costs.

Recommendation 21: Task the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) to provide advice on how to encourage people to consider their future aged care needs at an appropriate stage of life.

Recommendation 22: Review and streamline financial reporting to government where possible to ensure reporting is genuinely enhancing transparency.

Recommendation 23: Improve communications between the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority (IHACPA) and providers and participants regarding its pricing advice and decisions, and task IHACPA with:
  • a review of its pricing in rural and remote areas
  • costing of the supplement for everyday living

Aged Care Taskforce Report 'Misses The Mark': NSWNMA

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) stated on Wednesday March 13 it is disappointed by the recommendations made in the Aged Care Taskforce’s final report and is urging the federal government to rethink its approach to the aged care system. 
The 23 recommendations fail to adequately address quality of care and workforce issues within the system which are the fundamental concerns that need urgent attention.  

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said there needs to be greater financial transparency from providers. 

“We are yet to see independent evidence of aged care providers being universally financially unsustainable, especially when the Royal Commission evidence demonstrated so many examples of aged care being significantly profitable, often at the expense of vulnerable residents and workers,” said Ms Candish. 

“Until providers come clean and show transparency, the federal government and residents in these facilities should not be topping up their bank accounts. 

“These recommendations will not improve the workforce shortages being felt across aged care, nor will it address the quality of care being received within the facilities. We are still seeing providers failing to comply with mandatory care minutes which were introduced as a result of the Royal Commission. 

“We are concerned providers will stand to gain more power and be less accountable if these recommendations are introduced. Despite 75% of aged care being funded by taxpayers, current reporting requirements are still too opaque to see where this funding is spent. 

NSW has the highest number of privatised residential aged care facilities in Australia and many of these recommendations sound alarm bells for our most vulnerable community members when they need aged care services
“We already see significant cost shifting to our public hospital system when residents without the means to pay a bond are not able to secure a residential aged care placement. These recommendations will only worsen this situation, placing the burden on our state hospitals.  

“The aged care system needs to protect our most vulnerable in the community, not alienate them. It needs to deliver the care Australians deserve in their final years.” 

The NSWNMA is urging the government to critically analyse the recommendations of the Taskforce with a view to properly addressing the systemic issues within aged care.   

Aged Care Taskforce Report Released

March 12, 2024
National Seniors Australia has stated it is pleased to see today’s release of the Aged Care Taskforce Report – a long awaited and necessary step towards a more sustainable system to support improved quality care.

'Today’s release of the Aged Care Taskforce report is a necessary step towards a more sustainable system to support improved quality care.' National Seniors stated

“Like many, we have eagerly awaited the recommendations proposed by the Taskforce,” National Seniors Australia (NSA) CEO Chris Grice said.

“NSA is pleased the Taskforce has recommended a strong safety net for those who cannot afford to pay and that changes be introduced incrementally with grandfathering for people already in the system.”

The Taskforce report has recommended government should be the primary funder of clinical support, such as nursing care, but co-contributions for living costs, such as cleaning and accommodation, be increased for those who can afford to pay, as the primary means of making aged care financially sustainable.

“For greater contributions from older people using aged care to gain acceptance, government must ensure quality of care,” Mr Grice said.

“As detailed in our submission to the Aged Care Taskforce, any changes to funding must be reasonable and introduced incrementally; aged care providers should be transparent and accountable; and care should be of the highest quality.

“While the report provides a general roadmap for funding reform, there is limited detail about how changes to co-contributions will work in practice.

“The government must consult with the community about changes to funding arrangements, especially those related to co-contributions. NSA looks forward to being a part of these conversations.

“It is unfortunate the report and the government’s response were not available to inform consultations around the new Aged Care Act.

“The government has committed to a 1 July 2024 deadline for legislation to enshrine the basic rights of older people. The new Act must be passed in this term of parliament.”

Federal Government Must Deliver Robust Aged Care Act Without Delay

March 12, 2024
The Federal Government must finally deliver a new Aged Care Act that protects and enforces the rights of older people, allows visitors in aged care at all times, and supports informal carers of older people without delay, organisations representing older people and carers say.

12 national organisations working with older people and carers have detailed the key requirements of a new Aged Care Act in a submission to the Federal Government’s exposure draft on the new Act.

The submission, released today, highlights key areas that older people and carers say need to be addressed in the new Aged Care Act including:
  • Enforceable rights of older people that address the current power imbalance
  • A robust, independent complaints system
  • Transparency of timelines and funding
  • Strong regulations and penalties for those found guilty of not upholding the rights of older people
  • A guaranteed right to aged care visitors at all times
  • Ensure the new Act delivers supports for family and friend carers
  • Strengthening diversity requirements, including through the referencing to the existing Aged Care Diversity Framework.
The consortium of 12 organisations said while it supported the government’s decision to extend consultation on the exposure draft of the new Act to 8 March to ensure all voices were heard, the Federal Government committed to a 1 July 2024 deadline and the Act’s passage remains an urgent priority for 2024.

COTA Australia Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, said older people shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the robust, enforceable rights they deserve.

“The Federal Government committed to a deadline for legislation enshrining the basic rights of older people and we’re looking forward to seeing them delivered in that timeframe.

“We’re looking forward to working with all politicians to deliver the robust Aged Care Act we all deserve. We can’t afford to delay the fundamental rights of older people any longer."

Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) CEO Craig Gear stated:
“The new Aged Care Act strives for a major cultural shift in the way aged care is delivered. It corrects the current power imbalance, putting older people at its centre, rather than the organisations that are providing services.

“Three years after the Aged Care Royal Commission handed down its final report, older people are still waiting for their human rights to be upheld. The Act’s passage remains an urgent priority for 2024.

“But there are significant gaps in the current exposure draft – such as fees and charges and the complaints framework– that need to be addressed prior to its commencement this year. The legislative framework must also include stronger protections around choice and control, transparency, an effective complaints process and enforceability of rights.”

National Seniors Australia CEO Chris Grice said:
“A new rights-based Aged Care Act will be a long-awaited, watershed moment for older Australians. Among many crucial reforms, the Act must build in much greater transparency across all aspects of the system. Importantly, this must include transparent use of funds, whatever their source, and transparent timelines across the full journey for older people accessing care.

The Act must also contain specific timeframes for access to care and transparency around adherence to those timeframes, if it is to implement the principle of guaranteed equitable and timely access to aged care services across Australia.”

Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) CEO Mary Ann Geronimo said:
"This joint submission is our collective contribution to a new Aged Care Act that must be well equipped to ensure the rights, dignity and needs of older people in Australia are protected and upheld, without discrimination. FECCA holds high expectations that this will be an inclusive Act, which will reflect our multicultural and increasingly diverse society."

What will aged care look like for the next generation? More of the same but higher out-of-pocket costs

Hal SwerissenLa Trobe University

Aged care financing is a vexed problem for the Australian government. It is already underfunded for the quality the community expects, and costs will increase dramatically. There are also significant concerns about the complexity of the system.

In 2021–22 the federal government spent A$25 billion on aged services for around 1.2 million people aged 65 and over. Around 60% went to residential care (190,000 people) and one-third to home care (one million people).

The final report from the government’s Aged Care Taskforce, which has been reviewing funding options, estimates the number of people who will need services is likely to grow to more than two million over the next 20 years. Costs are therefore likely to more than double.

The taskforce has considered what aged care services are reasonable and necessary and made recommendations to the government about how they can be paid for. This includes getting aged care users to pay for more of their care.

But rather than recommending an alternative financing arrangement that will safeguard Australians’ aged care services into the future, the taskforce largely recommends tidying up existing arrangements and keeping the status quo.

No Medicare-Style Levy

The taskforce rejected the aged care royal commission’s recommendation to introduce a levy to meet aged care cost increases. A 1% levy, similar to the Medicare levy, could have raised around $8 billion a year.

The taskforce failed to consider the mix of taxation, personal contributions and social insurance which are commonly used to fund aged care systems internationally. The Japanese system, for example, is financed by long-term insurance paid by those aged 40 and over, plus general taxation and a small copayment.

Instead, the taskforce puts forward a simple, pragmatic argument that older people are becoming wealthier through superannuation, there is a cost of living crisis for younger people and therefore older people should be required to pay more of their aged care costs.

Separating Care From Other Services

In deciding what older people should pay more for, the taskforce divided services into care, everyday living and accommodation.

The taskforce thought the most important services were clinical services (including nursing and allied health) and these should be the main responsibility of government funding. Personal care, including showering and dressing were seen as a middle tier that is likely to attract some co-payment, despite these services often being necessary to maintain independence.

The task force recommended the costs for everyday living (such as food and utilities) and accommodation expenses (such as rent) should increasingly be a personal responsibility.

Aged care resident eats dinner from a tray
Aged care users will pay more of their share for cooking and cleaning. Lizelle Lotter/Shutterstock

Making The System Fairer

The taskforce thought it was unfair people in residential care were making substantial contributions for their everyday living expenses (about 25%) and those receiving home care weren’t (about 5%). This is, in part, because home care has always had a muddled set of rules about user co-payments.

But the taskforce provided no analysis of accommodation costs (such as utilities and maintenance) people meet at home compared with residential care.

To address the inefficiencies of upfront daily fees for packages, the taskforce recommends means testing co-payments for home care packages and basing them on the actual level of service users receive for everyday support (for food, cleaning, and so on) and to a lesser extent for support to maintain independence.

It is unclear whether clinical and personal care costs and user contributions will be treated the same for residential and home care.

Making Residential Aged Care Sustainable

The taskforce was concerned residential care operators were losing $4 per resident day on “hotel” (accommodation services) and everyday living costs.

The taskforce recommends means tested user contributions for room services and everyday living costs be increased.

It also recommends that wealthier older people be given more choice by allowing them to pay more (per resident day) for better amenities. This would allow providers to fully meet the cost of these services.

Effectively, this means daily living charges for residents are too low and inflexible and that fees would go up, although the taskforce was clear that low-income residents should be protected.

Moving From Buying To Renting Rooms

Currently older people who need residential care have a choice of making a refundable up-front payment for their room or to pay rent to offset the loans providers take out to build facilities. Providers raise capital to build aged care facilities through equity or loan financing.

However, the taskforce did not consider the overall efficiency of the private capital market for financing aged care or alternative solutions.

Instead, it recommended capital contributions be streamlined and simplified by phasing out up-front payments and focusing on rental contributions. This echoes the royal commission, which found rent to be a more efficient and less risky method of financing capital for aged care in private capital markets.

It’s likely that in a decade or so, once the new home care arrangements are in place, there will be proportionally fewer older people in residential aged care. Those who do go are likely to be more disabled and have greater care needs. And those with more money will pay more for their accommodation and everyday living arrangements. But they may have more choice too.

Although the federal government has ruled out an aged care levy and changes to assets test on the family home, it has yet to respond to the majority of the recommendations. But given the aged care minister chaired the taskforce, it’s likely to provide a good indication of current thinking.The Conversation

Hal Swerissen, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University

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

Could many dementia cases actually be liver disease?

Ashwin DhandaUniversity of Plymouth

recent study of US veterans found that 10% of those diagnosed with dementia actually had a liver condition called hepatic encephalopathy (HE) – a treatable condition.

The liver can be damaged by several things, including alcohol, fatty deposits and hepatitis viruses. When the damage continues over several years, the liver becomes scarred (known as cirrhosis) and, at a certain point, can no longer perform one of its critical tasks: detoxifying the blood. Toxins (mainly ammonia) can build up and get into the brain, interfering with brain function. This is HE.

HE can be very mild and difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can be as subtle as changes in sleep pattern or irritability. As the condition worsens, symptoms such as forgetfulness, disorientation or confusion emerge. In its most severe form, it can cause coma and death.

Once diagnosed, it can be treated, initially with laxatives that help to remove ammonia and other toxins that accumulate in the gut. This is followed by treatment with an antibiotic (rifaximin) that kills some of the harmful ammonia-producing bacteria in the gut. If it is very severe, HE can even be a reason to have a liver transplant.

Silent Condition

HE is easier to spot and treat if we know the person has cirrhosis. The trouble is that cirrhosis is a silent condition until it reaches very late stages when the liver starts to fail. HE is much harder to diagnose in the general population. The symptoms of change of mood, behaviour, confusion and forgetfulness are also all seen in people with dementia.

Dementia is a condition caused by long-term damage to brain function. This is most commonly caused by reduced blood supply to the brain because of damage to small blood vessels through diabetes or high blood pressure (vascular dementia). Other forms of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, where deposits damage the brain causing typical symptoms of forgetfulness and confusion.

The new US study examined medical records of former soldiers treated by the Veterans Health Administration over ten years with a diagnosis of dementia made on at least two separate occasions.

The team looked at clinical data including blood results from this group and used them to calculate an FIB-4 score (a score based on liver blood results and age), which can be used to predict liver damage. Over 175,000 people were included in the analysis. Of these, 10% (18,390 people) had a FIB-4 score of more than 3.25 (an accepted cut-off for the diagnosis of liver scarring).

The researchers found that a high FIB-4 score was more common in those with viral hepatitis and heavy alcohol users – risk factors for liver disease.

A high score was less likely in people who had diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease – all risk factors for dementia. This suggests that people with a high FIB-4 score may actually have liver disease with HE causing their symptoms rather than dementia.

The researchers went on to confirm these findings by looking at a separate group of people that were assessed for dementia at their hospital and found similar results, with 9% having a high FIB-4 score and potential cirrhosis.

This study suggests that around 10% of people diagnosed with dementia may instead have underlying silent liver disease with HE causing or contributing to the symptoms – an important diagnosis to make as HE is treatable.

Important New Avenue

It is the first study of its kind to analyse routinely collected health data in this way. However, we should treat these results with some caution.

First, the data is from military veterans – 97% male and 80% white ethnicity – and hence not representative of the wider population. Second, FIB-4 was used as a marker of cirrhosis. It is a useful score that is easily calculated, but accuracy depends on the cause of liver disease and is lower in older people. Finally, having a high FIB-4 score does not necessarily mean that the person has HE.

This study opens an important new avenue of research. It raises the awareness of checking for liver disease in people with general symptoms of dementia. This is likely to be a growing problem as the rates of both dementia and cirrhosis are increasing. But we still need better data to fully understand the number of people with HE incorrectly given a diagnosis of dementia and how best to identify and treat them.The Conversation

Ashwin Dhanda, Associate Professor of Hepatology, University of Plymouth

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

Helping Seniors Make Safer Transport Choices

Older people are being encouraged to use a valuable new Transport for NSW resource called “The Road Ahead” to help them make safe and informed choices about driving and navigating transport networks.

Launched to coincide with this year’s NSW Seniors Festival (March 11-24) this 28-page booklet was created as a direct response to the growing number of the state’s drivers retaining their licence for longer.

Statistics show that with increased age, the number of fatalities also increase. For example, in the five years between 2018 to 2022, drivers aged over 70 accounted for 10 per cent of all road fatalities.

Transport for NSW created The Road Ahead to assist older people in making safer decisions when driving, riding, walking, or catching public transport.

This is part of the NSW government’s 2026 Road Safety Action Plan which features new targets to halve deaths and reduce serious injuries by 30 percent on NSW roads by 2030.

Sally Webb, Deputy Secretary of Safety, Environment and Regulation at Transport for NSW, said this digital booklet contains resources for older drivers on how to make informed decisions about driving safely.

“Older drivers are encouraged to consider the impact their health may be having on their driving ability. Seeking advice from their GP to properly assess how their health may impact their driving ability is crucial,” Ms Webb said.

“The resource encourages older adults to consider their transition from full-time driving to getting around using other modes such as public transport.”

“It is everyone’s responsibility to be on the lookout for warning signs that an older family member or friend may have reduced driving capabilities,” Ms Webb said.

Additionally, in April 2022, Transport for NSW and the University of Wollongong released the ‘Driving and staying independent: A decision aid for older drivers’ to help empower older adults to make informed decisions.

To access a copy of the guides and other relevant information for older road users visit, or visit your local Service NSW or call 13 22 13.

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

Avalon Beach Ladies Probus Club: April 2nd 2024 Speaker

Avalon Beach Ladies Probus Club meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Club Palm Beach. The meeting is followed by morning tea and a Guest speaker. Topics are varied and include, authors, musicians and local identities. In April Members and Guests will be treated to ' The Allure of Lace, A Cavalcade of History and Fashion Presentation'.

All are welcome - Arrive at Club Palm Beach at 10:45am. Cost $10 head.

The Cavalcade of History and Fashion is an organisation with a collection of original historic gowns and accessories with provenance, dating from the 1700s, preserving Australia’s social and fashion history. More at:

Margaret White 

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.

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 Seminar

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.

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

The ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is exposing older Australians to the risk of financial abuse

Julia CookUniversity of Newcastle and Peta S. CookUniversity of Tasmania

This article is part of The Conversation’s series examining the housing crisis. Read the other articles in the series here.

Young Australians who would have once been locked out of home ownership are increasingly relying on the so-called Bank of Mum and Dad to get a deposit or to guarantee a bank loan.

The Bank of Mum and Dad has become so large as a home loan enabler that the Productivity Commission says if it was an actual bank it would be somewhere between the fifth and ninth biggest mortgage lender.

While not all home loan assistance from parents is in the form of gifts, the Productivity Commission says the number of children receiving them from parents has doubled in the past 20 years.

Although this is helping young Australians get into the housing market (perhaps at the expense of pushing up housing prices), it is far from clear whether such financial assistance works well for the parents providing the support.

Transfers Of $5,000 To $500,000

Financial elder abuse is the third most common form of elder abuse in Australia. The perpetrators of elder abuse are most likely to be adult children, with sons more likely to commit financial elder abuse than daughters.

Yet mortgage brokers, financial advisers and even government officials appear to be encouraging older people to provide financial help to adult children wanting to buy homes without considering whether there might be consequences for the parents.

To find out how intergenerational financial assistance works, we conducted interviews with 52 parents and adult children who have recently given or received financial assistance with home ownership.

The amounts transferred ranged from A$5,000 to $500,000. The average was $75,000. Some amounts were much higher.

The common themes in our interviews were a lack of clarity about whether the payments were gifts or loans, the mischaracterisation of loans as gifts, and undocumented agreements entered into without any documentation or legal advice.

‘Gifts’ Offered Without Legal Advice

Photo of elder writing a letter
Lenders want letters. Shutterstock

Most lenders want older Australians to provide a “gift letter” stating the money they are providing to their adult child is a gift rather than a loan.

This is because a loan would reduce the amount the adult child could borrow from their lender, which may make it harder for them to get a mortgage.

Parents may feel obligated to provide “gift letters” even when they and their adult children regard the transfer as a loan.

There are no requirements for parents to obtain independent legal advice before signing such a letter and no cooling-off period.

Few of the parents we spoke to sought legal or financial advice.

Travis, aged 58 – who provided $50,000 to his son – told us:

No, didn’t need to. But I guess we didn’t think about it. We didn’t consider doing that, no. But it’s family, so it’s not needed, I don’t think.

Rosa, who became a guarantor to her daughter and also provided $10,000 to her son, said she “didn’t think about it too much”.

I just thought, why not, I guess. It’s no worries to me, and it really helps them along. […] I didn’t think about it too much because it was a simple process, really. And you do anything for your children.

Little Protection From The Banks

Australia’s Banking Code of Practice does little to encourage banks to support parents who provide financial assistance with home ownership to their children.

While it commits banks to “taking extra care” with customers who are experiencing elder abuse, the only documentation usually required for transfers from parents is a statutory declaration (gift letter) written by the parent to the adult child’s lending institution, which may be a different bank.

The code acknowledges that older people’s banks may only become aware of their circumstances “if you tell us about them”.

Shame, and the desire to avoid getting their adult children into trouble, make it unlikely that older people will report financial abuse to their bank.

Loans Become Unintended Gifts

Many of the parents we talked to found it difficult and uncomfortable to talk about money. As a result, the parents and adult children often had different understandings of whether the assistance was a gift or a loan, and when (if at all) it would be repaid even when it was a loan.

This ambiguity extended to the parents’ financial positions, with most of the adult children in our study having very little understanding of whether their parent(s) could afford to assist them without compromising their own financial wellbeing.

John (aged 59) told us he gave $150,000 to his daughter and her partner to help them purchase a property.

When we asked his daughter Caroline (aged 32) whether the money was a gift or a loan, she responded, “a loan, yeah, definitely a loan.” However, when asked whether she had begun repayments she responded:

Not yet. I’m not quite sure, but I think we will work it out when it comes to it.

When we asked John the same question, he responded:

Yes, that’s a good question. We said loan, but I’m never going to see that money [laughs]. Maybe a little bit of it, but not the full amount. Definitely not. But we’ll see.

John’s decision to present the assistance as a loan, despite the expectation it would not be repaid in full, was echoed by multiple participants.

Although their reasoning varied, in general, donors who framed the assistance as a loan did so to either manage their children’s feelings of entitlement, to help their children develop “good” saving habits, or to try to avoid their children feeling dependent or infantilised.

The reasoning behind differing views of whether money is a gift or a loan is less important than the more general point that financial assistance of this type is often not defined clearly from the outset.

Little Legal Protection

Legally, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, funds provided by Australian parents to their children are presumed to be gifts.

This unfortunate presumption carries the assumption older adults’ money will be “passed down” to their children, representing this as the default state of affairs in the absence of evidence otherwise.

It means older adults’ money is represented as not entirely their own, and puts the burden of proof on them to prove that what they had understood to be a loan was a loan – a task made more difficult by the existence of a “gift letter” and the potential of financial elder abuse.

Our study does not find that intergenerational financial assistance is inherently exploitative, but it does point to risks – risks made more likely by the lack of protection offered to parents by banks and the legal system, their understandable desire to help their adult children, and the presumption that financial transfers are “gifts”.The Conversation

Julia Cook, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Newcastle and Peta S. Cook, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Tasmania

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

Russia is about to hold another presidential election. It needn’t bother

Matthew SussexAustralian National University

Time for an early announcement: Vladimir Putin has won the upcoming Russian presidential election on March 15–17. It’s hardly a spoiler. Russian elections have been performative exercises in phoney democracy for many years now, and this latest round of theatre promises to be no different.

Official state analysts peg Putin’s likely support at around 75%. His only rivals are state-permitted and largely endorse both his platform and leadership. They include the Communist Party’s ageing Nikolai Kharitonov, who is polling around 4%, and Leonid Slutsky, the comparatively spry candidate from the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (it’s actually an ultra-nationalist party), who is polling about the same.

Perhaps the most “liberal” candidate on the ballot is Vladislav Davankov, the deputy chair of the State Duma – Russia’s lower house of parliament. Davankov has called for peace talks in Ukraine “on our terms, and with no roll-back”, and his main campaign slogan is the rather vague “Yes to changes!”. He is expected to receive perhaps 5% of the vote.

As Russians obediently line up to cast what amounts to little more than a mandatory expression of fealty, the only real questions worth asking are:

  • is there any semblance of opposition left?

  • and what kind of leader Putin will be in his fifth full term as president?

No Real Opposition Figures Left

There is increasing evidence that Putin will become even more repressive. The Kremlin has overseen the elimination or marginalisation of any charismatic individual who might serve as a hub for popular opposition, and hence pose a threat to Putin – either on the ballot, or off it.

The death of Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison camp certainly sent that message, underscored by the arrests of several people who attended his funeral.

But throughout Putin’s tenure, plenty of other challengers, dissidents or opponents have been executed or attacked. They include:

Other potential challengers have been ostracised or imprisoned. Nemtsov’s protégé, Vladimir Kara-Murza, for example, was arrested in 2022 and subsequently imprisoned for 25 years.

And so far this year, the Kremlin has jailed the elderly human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov for “discrediting the military”; issued an arrest warrant for the exiled Russian author Boris Akunin for being a “foreign agent”; and labelled the exiled Russian chess grand master Garry Kasparov an “extremist and terrorist”.

In just the last day, Navalny’s former chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, has been hospitalised in Lithuania after being sprayed in the face with tear gas and beaten repeatedly with a hammer.

Elections Mean Very Little

The Kremlin has persisted with the charade of free elections throughout Putin’s rule, but with recent changes to this year’s ballot, those who have proven too popular have found themselves disqualified.

The ex-TV journalist Yekatarina Duntsova, for example, was barred from running due to “violations” in the paperwork for her candidacy. She had been widely scorned as a Kremlin stooge, even though she planned to run on an anti-war platform.

So, too, was Boris Nadezhdin, who attracted significant attention for his pledge to end the war in Ukraine peacefully. But he also ran afoul of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, which alleged he had failed to collect the necessary 100,000 signatures to qualify as a candidate.

In the end, the political pantomime around who gets to contest Russia’s elections really doesn’t matter.

There has been ample evidence of systemic electoral fraud in Russia for years. This includes ballot stuffing, “carouselling” (bussing voters to different booths to vote multiple times) and simple vote-rigging.

As early as 2011, United Russia – Putin’s de facto party of power in the parliament – was winning an unlikely 99% of the vote in Chechnya.

In the 2018 presidential elections, millions of votes were recorded in districts that had surprisingly precise turnout figures of 85%, 90% and 95%. Some 1.5 million votes (about 2% of the total) simply appeared as “extras” after the final day of voting.

Evidently irked by repeated findings from monitors for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about the lack of freedom in Russian elections, the Kremlin simply denied them access in 2024.

Putin The Autocrat

It is often said that a marker of authoritarian governments is they generally tend to tolerate dissent. Autocratic governments, on the other hand, do not. That’s because they are the sole custodians of political power. Anyone seeking to challenge that is – by definition – an enemy.

Putin is embracing the autocratic type in his next stanza as president. That makes him incredibly dangerous. Now 71 years old, he has deliberately not anointed a successor, but has bound the fortunes of Russia’s leadership cadres to his own via political blood pacts.

He has created a polity comprised of serfs who compete for his attention, among whom he can place no trust. As the embodiment of Russia’s political gravity, his expectations of utter loyalty will increase. Every failure and setback will only serve to deepen a despotic determination to nourish his delusions of grandeur.

As Russia’s electoral circus unfolds in slow motion, we are already witnessing signs of this. In recent days, former president Dmitry Medvedev prominently displayed a future map of Ukraine. The majority of it was swallowed by Russia, with Medvedev noting that “historic parts of Russia need to come home”.

Around 40% of government spending is now going to the war in Ukraine. And alarm bells have sounded in both Europe and the US that Putin’s ultimate aim is to fracture the West, either through war or the threat of it.

The only way to respond to Putin, therefore, is to resist him as vigorously as possible. After his sham election, he will preside over a regime that may exude strength, but is both fragile and brittle. Should this edifice come down, the results will be both terrible and terrifying for Russians.

But it increasingly seems that will be Putin’s legacy: not as Russia’s champion, but its wrecker.The Conversation

Matthew Sussex, Associate Professor (Adj), Griffith Asia Institute; and Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

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

What can we expect from six more years of Vladimir Putin? An increasingly weak and dysfunctional Russia

William PartlettThe University of Melbourne

There is very little drama in Russia’s upcoming presidential election this weekend. We all know Vladimir Putin will win. The only real question is whether he will receive more than 75% of the vote.

It could be tempting to see these results as a sign of the strength of the Russian system. Recent gains by the Russian army in Ukraine seem to further support this.

But my own research – soon to be published in a forthcoming book – shows the election results and Russia’s military gains in Ukraine hide a much more problematic reality for the country.

Russia’s system of government is not only undemocratic, rights abusing and unpredictable. It is also increasingly dysfunctional, trapped in a cycle of poor quality and weak governance that cannot be solved by one man, no matter how much power he has.

The Constitutional Dark Arts

The weakness stems from the hyper-centralisation of power in Russia around the president.

This centralisation is the product of an increasingly common logic that I call the “constitutional dark arts”. This logic generally holds that democracy and rights protection are best guaranteed in a constitutional system that centralises authority in one elected leader. This line of thinking is present in many populist, authoritarian countries, such as Hungary and Turkey.

The foundation of this kind of system in Russia is the 1993 Constitution. It was drafted by then-President Boris Yeltsin and his supporters (many in the West) as an expedient for dismantling communism and implementing radical economic reforms. As such, it contains a number of rights provisions and democratic guarantees, alongside provisions that centralise vast power in an elected Russian president.

Yeltsin (and his Western supporters) described this system as democratic because it made the president answerable to the people. They also argued that rights provisions would allow courts to limit any abuses by the centralised state.

These reformers hoped Yeltsin could use this concentrated power to build democracy in Russia. Thirty years later, however, we can see how this use of the “constitutional dark arts” backfired spectacularly.

Since 2000, Putin has ruthlessly deployed this centralised authority to eliminate any checks on power. He has also transformed elections, the media and the courts from sources of accountability into mechanisms to project the image of strong presidential power.

The upcoming presidential election is just the most recent example.

Poor Quality Governance In Russia

Although this centralised system has allowed Putin to dominate politics, it fosters weak and poor governance, particularly outside Moscow. At least two factors are at play.

First, centralised decision-making in Russia is often made using incomplete or false information. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is an example. It was based on intelligence that the operation would be over quickly and Ukrainians would likely welcome Russian forces.

Second, centralised directives are delegated to under-resourced, incompetent and weak institutions. Russia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous, in large part due to the poorly resourced regional authorities who were overwhelmed by a crisis of this scale.

This dysfunction has been a central message of the political movement led by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Before his death last month, Navalny and his team harshly criticised the corruption and weakness of the Russian regime and its inability to fix roads, provide health care and adequately pay teachers or doctors.

This message was potent, making Navalny the first opposition politician to build a broad coalition that spanned Russia’s 11 time zones.

This broad coalition frightened the Kremlin to such an extent that it led to Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020. Although it remains to be seen how his political movement responds to his death, this central criticism of the government remains one of its most potent messages.

Although it’s impossible to get independent polling on domestic issues during the Ukraine war, it does appear Putin and his administration are concerned about this weakness. In his February 29 address to parliament, Putin tacitly acknowledged these problems, promising new national projects to improve infrastructure, support families and enhance the quality of life.

These kind of promises, however, are unlikely to be implemented. Putin has traditionally promised these kinds of changes around presidential elections. But, when it comes to implementing them, Russia’s regional sub-units are often given no resources to do so.

With so much money now going to the war, it is unlikely the latest set of promises will be any different.

An Increasingly Dysfunctional Russia

With Putin soon to start his fifth presidential term, this centralisation and personalisation of power is only going to increase.

Externally, this centralisation is likely to produce an increasingly unpredictable Russia, led by a man making decisions on the basis of an increasingly paranoid world view and incorrect or manipulated information. As former German Chancellor Angela Merkel once described Putin, he is really “living in another world”.

This is likely to lead to more foreign policy adventurism and aggression. It will likely foster harsher repression of any dissenting voices inside Russia, as well.

We are also likely to see an increasingly dysfunctional Russia, one in which roads, housing, schools, health care and other infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, particularly outside of Moscow.

This extends to the military, which remains weak despite its recent battlefield gains. For instance, Russia’s overly centralised command structure has decimated the officer class and led to stunning losses of equipment. Although Russia has managed to muddle through by relying on its vast human and industrial resources, these systemic problems are taking a serious toll on its fighting capacity.

Despite escalating repression, these problems pose an opportunity for a democratic challenger, particularly when Putin is inevitably replaced by another leader.

Russia’s dysfunctional government is also an important reminder for Western media, policymakers and commentators. While it should not serve as a reason for complacency, highlighting Russia’s poor governance is an important tool in combating the Kremlin’s carefully curated image of power and control.The Conversation

William Partlett, Associate professor of public law, The University of Melbourne

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

Pittwater-Narrabeen Parkinson’s Support Group

The purpose of our group is to support seniors (55yrs +) living with Parkinson’s, their carers, relatives and those who have lost a partner to Parkinson’s, who live on the northern beaches of Sydney.

This support Group has been meeting for around 30 years on the Northern Beaches. Our meetings aim to help reduce the social isolation, and increase community connectedness for our members. Through guest speakers, discussions, and group activities, our meetings will support and promote mental health, healthy lifestyles and well-being.

Our Facebook webpage will be used to store resources and links, and provide another way to safely keep in touch, for those who want to use Facebook. We also have a website that is regularly updated

We meet regularly and due to Covid we have been meeting at Jamieson Park, The Esplanade, Narrabeen.

Give Dot a call for more information: 0418 640 086 and join our Facebook group:

Short-Term Exposure To High Levels Of Air Pollution Kills 1 Million Globally Every Year: Monash University

March 2024
Every year, more than one million deaths globally occur because of exposure to short-term (hours to days) fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in air pollution, according to a new report, with Eastern Asia reporting more than 50 per cent of deaths attributable to short-term PM2.5  globally.

In Australia, the short-term PM2.5 attributable deaths rose by 40 per cent between 2000 and 2019.

To date most studies have focused on the health impacts of living in cities where pollution levels are consistently high, ignoring the frequent “spikes” in pollution that can impact smaller urban areas that occur, for instance landscape fires, dust and other intermittent extreme air-pollution concentration events.

The Monash University study, looking at mortality and pollution levels of PM2.5 in over 13,000 cities and towns across the globe in the two decades to 2019, was published this week in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Led by Professor Yuming Guo, the study is important because it is the first to look at short-term exposure globally – rather than the long-term impacts of persistent exposure such as for people living in cities with high pollution levels.

The researchers found that breathing in PM2.5 for even a few hours, and up to a few days, results in more than one million premature deaths occurring worldwide every year, particularly in Asia and Africa, and more than a fifth (22.74 per cent) of them occurred in urban areas.

According to Professor Guo, the short-term health effects of being exposed to air pollution have been well documented, “such as the megafires in Australia during the so-called Black Summer of 2019–20 which were estimated to have led to 429 smoke-related premature deaths and 3230 hospital admissions as a result of acute and persistent exposure to extremely high levels of bushfire-related air pollution,” he said.

“But this is the first study to map the global impacts of these short bursts of air pollution exposure.”

The authors add that because of the high population densities in urban areas, together with high levels of air pollution, “understanding the mortality burden associated with short-term exposure toPM2.5 in such areas is crucial for mitigating the negative effects of air pollution on the urban population.”

According to the study:
  • Asia accounted for approximately 65.2 per cent of global mortality due to short-term PM2.5 exposure
  • Africa 17.0 per cent
  • Europe 12.1 per cent
  • The Americas 5.6 per cent
  • Oceania 0.1 per cent
The mortality burden was highest in crowded, highly polluted areas in eastern Asia, southern Asia, and western Africa with the fraction of deaths attributable to short-term PM2.5 exposure in eastern Asia more than 50 per cent higher than the global average.

Most areas in Australia saw a small decrease in the number of attributable deaths, but the attributable death fraction increased from 0.54 per cent in 2000 to 0.76 per cent in 2019, which was larger than any other subregions. One potential reason could be the increasing frequency and scale of extreme weather-related air pollution events, such as bushfire events in 2019.

The study recommends that, where health is most affected by acute air pollution, implementing targeted interventions, such as air-pollution warning systems and community evacuation plans, to avoid transient exposure to high PM2.5 concentrations, could mitigate its acute health damages.

Wenhua Yu, Rongbin Xu, Tingting Ye, Michael J Abramson, Lidia Morawska, Bin Jalaludin, Fay H Johnston, Sarah B Henderson, Luke D Knibbs, Geoffrey G Morgan, Eric Lavigne, Jane Heyworth, Simon Hales, Guy B Marks, Alistair Woodward, Michelle L Bell, Jonathan M Samet, Jiangning Song, Shanshan Li, Yuming Guo. Estimates of global mortality burden associated with short-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2·5). The Lancet Planetary Health, 2024; 8 (3): e146 DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(24)00003-2

Insert mage - Professor Yuming Guo. Photo Credit: Monash University

Blood-Based Marker Developed To Identify Sleep Deprivation: Monash University

March 10, 2024
A blood test that can accurately detect when someone has not slept for 24 hours has been developed by experts at Monash University, in Australia, and the University of Birmingham, in the UK.

This level of sleep deprivation increases the risk of serious injury or fatality in safety critical situations.

Published in Science Advances, the biomarker used a combination of markers found in the blood of healthy volunteers. Together, these markers accurately predicted when the study volunteers had been awake for more than 24 hours under controlled laboratory conditions.

The biomarker detected whether individuals had been awake for 24 hours with a 99.2 percent probability of being correct, when compared to their own well-rested sample. When a single sample was considered without the well-rested comparison (similar to a diagnostic blood test), it dropped to 89.1 per cent, which was still very high.
With about 20 per cent of road accidents worldwide caused by sleep deprivation, researchers hope the discovery may inform future tests to quickly and simply identify sleep deprived drivers. The biomarker could also be developed for other situations where sleep deprivation may lead to catastrophic consequences, such as in safety-critical workplaces.

Senior author Professor Clare Anderson led the research while she was with the Monash University School of Psychological Sciences and Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. She is now Professor of Sleep and Circadian Science at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

"This is a really exciting discovery for sleep scientists, and could be transformative to the future management of health and safety relating to insufficient sleep," Professor Anderson said. "While more work is required, this is a promising first step.

"There is strong evidence that less than five hours' sleep is associated with unsafe driving, but driving after 24 hours awake, which is what we detected here, would be at least comparable to more than double the Australian legal limit of alcohol performance wise."
The test may be also ideal for future forensic use but further validation is required.

First author Dr Katy Jeppe, from the Monash Proteomics and Metabolomics Platform, previously from the School of Psychological Sciences, said it was difficult to say how soon the test could be developed for post-accident use.

"Next steps would be to test it in a less controlled environment and maybe under forensic conditions, particularly if it was to be used as evidence for crashes involving drivers falling asleep," Dr Jeppe said.

"Given it's blood, the test is more limited in a roadside context, but future work could examine whether our metabolites, and therefore the biomarker, are evident in saliva or breath."

This sleep deprivation biomarker is based on 24 hours or more awake, but can detect down to 18 hours awake. A biomarker for limited sleep over the previous night could be developed but more research is required to combine the time since sleep with the amount of sleep in the predictions.

"Much further work would be needed if laws were to change and a sleep deprivation test introduced on the road or in workplaces," Dr Jeppe said. "This would include further validation of biomarkers, as well as establishing safe levels of sleep to prevent and recover from impairment, not to mention the extensive legal process."

"A biomarker for limited sleep over the previous night could be developed, and others have made progress in this respect (Depner et al.)."
Sleep deprivation can have fatal consequences for other safety-critical occupations. Major catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown and the Challenger space shuttle Disaster* are thought to be caused, in part, by human error associated with fatigue.

"Objective tests that identify individuals who present as a risk to themselves or others are urgently needed in situations where the cost of a mistake is fatal," Professor Anderson said.

"Alcohol testing was a game changer for reducing road crashes and associated serious injuries and fatalities, and it is possible that we can achieve the same with fatigue. But much work is still required to meet this goal."

This research was conducted in association with the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity.

Katherine Jeppe, Suzanne Ftouni, Brunda Nijagal, Leilah K. Grant, Steven W. Lockley, Shantha M. W. Rajaratnam, Andrew J. K. Phillips, Malcolm J. McConville, Dedreia Tull, Clare Anderson. Accurate detection of acute sleep deprivation using a metabolomic biomarker—A machine learning approach. Science Advances, 2024; 10 (10) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adj6834

Cost Of Living And Digital Economy Shape 2024-25 Compliance And Enforcement Priorities: ACCC

Consumer and competition issues in the supermarket sector and essential services including electricity and financial services are among the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for the year ahead, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb announced on March 7, 2024.

“Our priorities continue to be shaped by the key challenges facing our economy and the concerns that occupy our community,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said, speaking at a Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney.

“Principal amongst these shaping influences are the existential importance of the net zero transition, the opportunities and disruptions of digital transformation, and the significant impact of cost of living pressures across our community.”

In the digital economy, the ACCC will focus on consumer protection and fair trading issues for small business including misleading or deceptive conduct in influencer marketing, online reviews, price comparison websites and in-app purchases – especially in the video gaming industry.

“The gaming industry has significant size and reach, particularly with younger consumers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Far too often we hear concerns about consumers incurring huge purchases because of in-app offerings that have inadequate safeguards, or in some cases, deliberately target and nudge or confuse consumers.”

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC would also continue to prioritise improving business compliance with consumer guarantees, this year especially in the sale of home electronics and delivery times for online purchases.

“A key concern that has recently emerged is the delay in delivery and non-delivery of consumer products. Delivery timeframes are a key consideration for many consumers when choosing a retailer,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said because Australian consumers were facing rising costs across a range of products and services, they were more vulnerable to anti-competitive conduct and misleading representations.

With this in mind, the ACCC will prioritise competition, fair trading, consumer protection and pricing issues in the supermarket sector, with a focus on food and groceries. This work will include the 12-month price inquiry commenced in January.

“This priority reflects the concerns of many Australian consumers and farmers about supermarket pricing that have been expressed to the ACCC and publicly,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We also have a role to ensure that consumers are not misled and that claims about specials, discounts and advertised prices are truthful and accurate.”

Competition, consumer and product safety issues in sustainability and the net zero transition will remain a priority, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said, as will competition and consumer issues in the aviation sector.

Improving compliance with the Australian Consumer Law by National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers was newly listed following the ACCC commencing chairing a joint taskforce involving NDIS agencies.

Compliance with unfair contract terms laws will also be a priority in contracts relating to small businesses and consumers, supported by new penalties taking effect in late 2023.

For the first time, the ACCC’s work protecting the small business sector was listed as an enduring priority.

“Small business is a significant contributor to our economy and supports the livelihoods of many Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Taking action on cartel conduct remains at the heart of the ACCC’s role as a competition enforcement agency. Cartel conduct is and will remain an enduring priority.

“Cartels undermine the competitive process removing competition, restricting output, and increasing price of everyday goods for all Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We are proud of our history of cartel enforcement, and will continue to bring cartel proceedings, including criminal cartel proceedings by referring briefs to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.”

The ACCC’s work in the National Anti-Scam Centre was also newly listed as an enduring priority, joining anti-competitive conduct, product safety, conduct impacting consumers experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage and conduct impacting First Nations Australians.

“This year we are establishing a dedicated First Nations coordination, outreach and advocacy team that will help inform and align all our activities across the whole agency regarding conduct impacting First Nations Australians,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Notably, 2024 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Trade Practices Act – now the Competition and Consumer Act - a significant milestone for the legislation which remains the foundation for much of the ACCC’s work.

“We recognise the importance of strong enforcement outcomes in achieving specific and general deterrence of conduct prohibited by the Act and in ensuring that consumers, business and the wider community continue to have confidence in our market economy,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

More information including the full list of the ACCC’s 2024-25 enforcement priorities is available at Compliance and enforcement policy and priorities

A summary is also available at 2024-25 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities.  

Photo: ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb

Fertility: Skin Cell Turned Into An Egg - Research Sheds Light On New Strategy To Treat Infertility

March 2024
New research from Oregon Health & Science University describes the science behind a promising technique to treat infertility by turning a skin cell into an egg that is capable of producing viable embryos.

Researchers at OHSU documented in vitro gametogenesis, or IVG, in a mouse model through the preliminary steps of a technique that relies upon transferring the nucleus of a skin cell into a donated egg whose nucleus has been removed. Experimenting in mice, researchers coaxed the skin cell's nucleus into reducing its chromosomes by half, so that it could then be fertilized by a sperm cell to create a viable embryo.

"The goal is to produce eggs for patients who don't have their own eggs," said senior author Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy.

The technique could be used by women of advanced maternal age or for those who are unable to produce viable eggs due to previous treatment for cancer or other causes. It also raises the possibility of men in same-sex relationships having children who are genetically related to both parents.

Rather than attempting to differentiate induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, into sperm or egg cells, OHSU researchers are focused on a technique based on somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which a skin cell nucleus is transplanted into a donor egg stripped of its nucleus. In 1996, researchers famously used this technique to clone a sheep in Scotland named Dolly.

In that case, researchers created a clone of one parent.

In contrast, the OHSU study described the result of a technique that resulted in embryos with chromosomes contributed from both parents. The process involves three steps:

Researchers transplant the nucleus of a mouse skin cell into a mouse egg that is stripped of its own nucleus.

Prompted by cytoplasm -- liquid that fills cells -- within the donor egg, the implanted skin cell nucleus discards half of its chromosomes. The process is similar to meiosis, when cells divide to produce mature sperm or egg cells. This is the key step, resulting in a haploid egg with a single set of chromosomes.

Researchers then fertilize the new egg with sperm, a process called in vitro fertilization. This creates a diploid embryo with two sets of chromosomes -- which would ultimately result in healthy offspring with equal genetic contributions from both parents.

OHSU researchers previously demonstrated the proof of concept in a study published in January 2022, but the new study goes further by meticulously sequencing the chromosomes.

The researchers found that the skin cell's nucleus segregated its chromosomes each time it was implanted in the donor egg. In rare cases, this happened perfectly, with one from each pair of matching egg and sperm chromosomes.

"This publication basically shows how we achieved haploidy," Mitalipov said. "In the next phase of this research, we will determine how we enhance that pairing so each chromosome-pair separates correctly."

Laboratories around the world are involved in a different technique of IVG that involves a time-intensive process of reprogramming skin cells to become iPSCs, and then differentiating them to become egg or sperm cells.

"We're skipping that whole step of cell reprogramming," said co-author Paula Amato, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "The advantage of our technique is that it avoids the long culture time it takes to reprogram the cell. Over several months, a lot of deleterious genetic and epigenetic changes can happen."
Although researchers are also studying the technique in human eggs and early embryos, Amato said it will be years before the technique would be ready for clinical use.

"This gives us a lot of insight," she said. "But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to understand how these chromosomes pair and how they faithfully divide to actually reproduce what happens in nature."

The Authors state that all research involving animal subjects at OHSU must be reviewed and approved by the university's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The IACUC's priority is to ensure the health and safety of animal research subjects. The IACUC also reviews procedures to ensure the health and safety of the people who work with the animals. No live animal work may be conducted at OHSU without IACUC approval.

Aleksei Mikhalchenko, Nuria Marti Gutierrez, Daniel Frana, Zahra Safaei, Crystal Van Dyken, Ying Li, Hong Ma, Amy Koski, Dan Liang, Sang-Goo Lee, Paula Amato, Shoukhrat Mitalipov. Induction of somatic cell haploidy by premature cell division. Science Advances, 2024; 10 (10) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk9001

Indigenous fire management began more than 11,000 years ago: new research

Cassandra RoweJames Cook UniversityCorey J. A. BradshawFlinders University, and Michael BirdJames Cook University

Wildfire burns between 3.94 million and 5.19 million square kilometres of land every year worldwide. If that area were a single country, it would be the seventh largest in the world.

In Australia, most fire occurs in the vast tropical savannas of the country’s north. In new research published in Nature Geoscience, we show Indigenous management of fire in these regions began at least 11,000 years ago – and possibly as long as 40,000 years ago.

Fire And Humans

In most parts of the planet, fire has always affected the carbon cycle, the distribution of plants, how ecosystems function, and biodiversity patterns more generally.

But climate change and other effects of human activity are making wildfires more common and more severe in many regions, often with catastrophic results. In Australia, fires have caused major economic, environmental and personal losses, most recently in the south of the country.

One likely reason for the increase of catastrophic fires in Australia is the end of Indigenous fire management after Europeans arrived. This change has caused a decline in biodiversity and the buildup of burnable material, or “fuel load”.

Infographic showing the process of extracting and analysing a sediment core.
How sediment coring works. Emma Rehn, Haidee Cadd, Kelsey Boyd / Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage

While southern fires have been particularly damaging in recent years, more than two-thirds of all Australia’s wildfires happen during the dry season in the tropical savannas of the north. These grasslands cover about 2 million square kilometres, or around a quarter of the country.

When Europeans first saw these tropical savannas, they believed they were seeing a “natural” environment. However, we now think these landscapes were maintained by Indigenous fire management (dubbed “firestick farming” in the 1960s).

Indigenous fire management is a complex process that involves strategically burning small areas throughout the dry season. In its absence, savannas have seen the kind of larger, higher-intensity fires occurring late in the dry season that likely existed before people, when lightning was the sole source of ignition.

We know fire was one of the main tools Indigenous people used to manipulate fuel loads, maintain vegetation and enhance biodiversity. We do not know the time frames over which the “natural” fire regime was transformed into one managed by humans.

A 150,000-Year Record Of Fire And Climate

To understand this transformation better, we took an 18-metre core sample from sediment at Girraween Lagoon on the outskirts of Darwin. Using this sample, we developed detailed pollen records of vegetation and charcoal, and paired them with geochemical records of climate and fire to reveal how fire patterns have changed over the past 150,000 years.

Now surrounded by suburbs, Girraween Lagoon (the “Place of Flowers”) is a significant site to the Larrakia and Wulna peoples. It is also where the crocodile-attack scene in the movie Crocodile Dundee was filmed.

The lagoon was created after a sinkhole formed, and has contained permanent water ever since. The sediment core we took contains a unique 150,000-year record of environmental change in Australia’s northern savannas.

The core records revealed a dynamic, changing environment. The vegetation around Girraween Lagoon today has a tall and relatively dense tree canopy with a thick grass understory in the wet season.

However, during the last ice age 20,000–30,000 years ago, the site where Darwin sits now was more than 300 km from the coast due to the sea level dropping as the polar ice caps expanded. At that time, the lagoon shrank into its sinkhole and it was surrounded by open, grassy savanna with fewer, shorter trees.

Photo of a collection of clear tubes filled with dark sediment.
Sediment cores retrieved from Girraween Lagoon. Michael Bird / James Cook University

Around 115,000 years ago, and again around 90,000 years ago, Australia was dotted with gigantic inland “megalakes”. At those times, the lagoon expanded into a large, shallow depression surrounded by lush monsoon forest, with almost no grass.

When Human Fire Management Began

The Girraween record is one of the few long-term climate records that covers the period before people arrived in Australia some 65,000 years ago, as well as after. This unique coverage provides us with the hard data indicating when the natural fire regime (infrequent, high-intensity fires) switched to a human-managed one (frequent, low-intensity fires).

The data show that by at least 11,000 years ago, as the climate began to resemble the modern climate that established itself after the last ice age, fires became more frequent but less intense.

Frequent, low-intensity fire is the hallmark of Indigenous fire regimes that were observed across northern Australia at European arrival. Our data also showed tantalising indications that this change from a natural to human-dominated fire regime occurred progressively from as early as 40,000 years ago, but it certainly did not occur instantaneously.

Photo showing green shoots of plant life springing up in a burnt landscape.
Vegetation recovering after a human-ignited ‘cool’ fire. Cassandra Rowe / James Cook University

Unlocking Girraween’s secrets with modern scientific techniques has provided unprecedented insights into how the tropical savannas of Australia, and their attendant biodiversity, coevolved over millennia under this new Indigenous fire regime that reduced risk and increased resources.

The rapid change to a European fire regime – with large, intense fires occurring late in the dry season – abruptly regressed patterns to the pre-human norm. This ecosystem-scale shock altered a carefully nurtured biodiversity established over tens of thousands of years and simultaneously increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Reversing these dangerous trends in Australia’s tropical savanna requires re-establishing an Indigenous fire regime through projects such as the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement managed by Indigenous land managers. By implication, the reintroduction of Indigenous land management in other parts of the world could help reduce the impacts of catastrophic fires and increase carbon sequestration in the future.The Conversation

Cassandra Rowe, Research Fellow, James Cook UniversityCorey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University, and Michael Bird, JCU Distinguished Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, James Cook University

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

2024 could be the year the Fair Work umpire properly values women’s work – here’s how

Lisa HeapRMIT University

This International Women’s Day, it is time to call on Australia’s workplace umpire, the Fair Work Commission, to finally close the gender pay gap.

Half a century after the commission’s predecessor granted women “equal pay for equal work” in a landmark case in 1969, the gap remains between 12% and 21%.

Amendments to the Fair Work Act by the incoming Labor government in 2022 gave it new tools to close the gap by addressing the undervaluation of work in traditionally female-dominated occupations.

If it uses these tools to their full potential, 2024 will be a landmark year in the genuine achievement of equal pay for equal work.

What We’ve Been Doing Hasn’t Much Worked

Traditionally in Australia, addressing gender-based undervaluation has relied on two approaches.

The first has been to argue the business case for gender equality – convincing employers they’ll be rewarded for “doing the right thing”.

The second has been to bring equal pay cases to tribunals.

Unfortunately, neither approach has been successful. In particular, pushing for equal remuneration through tribunals has been time-consuming and expensive.

These tribunals, historically working on models of male full-time wage earners, have struggled to understand the undervaluation of work performed predominantly by women.

The Commission’s New Tools

The commission’s act has been rewritten to require it to

promote job security and gender equality.

It also has the power to make equal remuneration orders either on its own initiative or on application in order to bring about equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.

A further new development is the establishment of expert panels to assist in gender-related cases. Advice from gender experts should assist in overcoming historical gender biases in commission decisions.

Perhaps the most promising tool is the change to the commission’s modern awards objective, which requires it to eliminate gender-based undervaluation of work and provide workplace conditions that facilitate women’s full economic participation each time it reviews an award.

Among other things, this requirement is likely to result in provisions that ensure part-time work is treated equally to full-time work and ensure a better balance between work and caring responsibilities.

Amending awards is likely to be particularly important for women given that almost three in five of the workers on awards are women. Men are mainly on negotiated agreements.

If the commission wanted to, it could hold a wide-ranging inquiry into the many factors that have contributed to gender-based undervaluation of women’s work.

It could also review entire industries and occupations that are female-dominated, upgrading multiple awards at the same time. This would avoid lengthy and costly reviews of individual awards.

What’s Likely In 2024

The Fair Work Commission’s resolve to make lasting change will be tested by several matters currently before it.

The commission is due to issue its final decision in the case lodged by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Health Services Union, and the United Workers Union on the value of the work done by workers in aged care.

An initial interim decision delivered in 2022 awarded some – but not all – of these workers a 15% increase, finding that work in feminised industries had been historically undervalued and the reason for that undervaluation is likely to be gender-based".

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke backed the decision, saying it was merely the “first step”.

Another application, for nurses and midwives outside of aged care, was lodged by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation in February this year.

The commission has already started the process of grappling with gender-based undervaluation in modern awards, commissioning research that documents the segregation of women and men into different occupations and industries.

Further research documenting the history of a select group of female-dominated modern awards and identifying the extent to which common elements indicate gender-based undervaluation, is due to be released in April.

It will feed into the annual wage review due by the middle of the year.

How To Be Bold

Gender-based undervaluation of women’s work won’t be eradicated by incremental adjustments.

Here are three bold steps the commission could take:

  • grant a minimum interim 12% increase (one estimate of Australia’s national gender pay gap) across the board for female-dominated awards in this year’s annual wage review

  • develop new systems for classifying work and ascribing work value, breaking with the previous standards built around skills and qualifications in male dominated occupations

  • better consider the uneven bargaining power in industries such as nursing where governments fund care work and try to restrain costs.

The changes to the Fair Work Act that allow multi-employer bargaining are a start, but unlikely alone to correct the undervaluation of women’s work.

In female-dominated industries where collective bargaining is non-existent or ineffective, the commission should step in and further increase wages.

The Fair Work Commission has been given the tools. This should be the year it applies them.The Conversation

Lisa Heap, Doctoral Researcher RMIT University; Senior Researcher Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, RMIT University

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

Australia’s restrictive vaping and tobacco policies are fuelling a lucrative and dangerous black market

James MartinDeakin University and David BrightDeakin University

Australia currently has the most restrictive tobacco and vaping policies in the developed world. Australian smokers are taxed at one of the highest rates among comparable nations, with taxes set to further increase at rate of 5% per year. Meanwhile, Australia is the only country to have a prescription model for accessing vaping products.

These policies have begun to attract international attention. The UK government, for example, recently announced increased taxes on tobacco and vaping products, while the Labour opposition has vowed to emulate Australia’s prescription model if it wins this year’s election.

Australia’s policies have been backed by some medical experts as a means to drive down and eventually eliminate smoking and vaping. There has been much alarm around youth vaping, in particular.

While arguably well-intentioned, the increasing taxes and restrictions on cigarettes and vaping products have resulted in an unintended and dangerous outcome – the rise of a lucrative and expanding black market for these products.

Tobacco ‘War’ Unfolding In Victoria

Emerging black markets tend to attract established organised crime groups, which have the capacity to use violence to enforce contracts, collect debts and threaten competitors.

Over the past six months, for instance, there have been more than 40 firebombings of stores selling illicit tobacco and vapes across Victoria. In October, police said the killing of Melbourne man in a drive-by shooting was also linked to the underworld war over illegal tobacco products. Reports of standover tactics and extortion targeting tobacco shop owners are also on the rise.

According to police, this serious criminal activity is being committed at the behest of rival criminal networks who are engaged in a “turf war” for control of the lucrative trade.

Since October, police have searched almost 70 stores believed to be involved in the illegal tobacco trade, seizing more than 100,000 vapes with an estimated street value of A$3.2 million, along with 3.2 million cigarettes.

While most of the violence associated with the black market appears to be taking place in Victoria, this is a national problem. Last month in Sydney, health authorities seized over 30,000 vapes and 118,000 cigarettes with a estimated street value of $1.1 million.

These numbers may sound impressive, but they represent a drop in the ocean of the total black market. Authorities estimate the size of the illicit vape market could be worth up to $500 million in Victoria alone.

The Economics Of The Black Market

The black market for illicit tobacco and vaping products has been driven by economic forces on both the supply and demand side.

On the demand side, smokers are disproportionately concentrated among lower socio-economic groups. Many are unable or unwilling to pay the ever-increasing prices for cigarettes.

People who vape are also largely rejecting the government’s prescription model, with 87% reporting they source their vapes illegally.

Vaping rates are on the increase, particularly among younger adults. Shutterstock

This demand is only likely to increase as cigarette prices increase further and prescription vapes become even less appealing with the introduction of new flavour restrictions.

On the supply side, economic models suggest traffickers of illicit products are attracted to opportunities that present the lowest risks and highest rewards.

Similar to drugs like cocaine, the importation of illicit tobacco offers attractive profits. The difference is that while importing large quantities of cocaine can lead to substantial prison sentences, the penalties for the importation of illicit tobacco are not as severe.

Vapes are similarly low risk and highly profitable. They can be purchased wholesale from China for as little as $2.50 and sold “on the street” in Australia for more than ten times that amount.

The Limits And Dangers Of Prohibition

These economic realities suggest it is unlikely law enforcement agencies will be able to effectively tackle the black market under current government settings.

The Australian Border Force is already stretched beyond capacity tackling the booming illicit drug market. So, even if eight out of ten consignments of illicit vapes are intercepted at the border (an unrealistically high proportion on the best of days), the two that make it through are sufficient for traffickers to make a profit.

And while law enforcement agencies have made inroads with arrests of black marketeers and seizures of their products, these are often quickly replaced so trafficking operations can continue unabated.

As previous examples of prohibition on alcohol and other drugs have demonstrated, the dangers of black markets extend beyond systemic violence. Other harms include the influx of inferior and adulterated products, which can pose even more health risks than legal tobacco products. Young people also have greater access to vapes as black market retailers ignore restrictions on sales to minors. (It should be noted, though, that many retailers may be doing so under duress.)

Added to this is the risk of criminalisation of consumers. A teenager in NSW was recently arrested, for example, following an altercation with police over his possession of a vape.

Then there is the lost tax revenue from tobacco goods sold under the counter, which the Taxation Office estimated at $2.3 billion in 2021-22.

The Australian public and policymakers, as well as other countries considering emulating our policies, need to be mindful of these risks and the implacable economic forces that are driving the black market.

Australia’s tobacco and vaping policies have transformed two largely legal and peaceful markets into increasingly dangerous and uncontrolled ones. The situation could even get worse in the absence of meaningful legislative reform, enhanced multi-agency cooperation, nationally consistent policy platforms and the winding back of some restrictions.

As the history of prohibition has taught us time and again, there is a “sweet spot” in restricting the sale of harmful products – one that limits access and reduces harm, but is not so onerous as to create a large black market. The violence unfolding on our streets suggests our current tobacco and vaping polices are failing to strike this balance.The Conversation

James Martin, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University and David Bright, Professor of Criminology, Deakin University

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

Prefabricated and build-to-rent houses could help bring rents down

Ameeta JainDeakin University

This article is part of The Conversation’s series examining the housing crisis. Read the other articles in the series here.

Australia’s rental vacancy rate has hit a historic low of close to zero. The latest estimate from SQM Research is 1.1%. The latest estimate from the property listing firm Domain is 0.7%.

As would be expected with hardly any of Australia’s rental properties vacant and available for rent, rents have soared – at first in 2022 only for newly advertised properties, and later for properties in general as measured by average rents.

The Bureau of Statistics measure of average capital city rents climbed 7.3% throughout 2023. It would have climbed by more – by 8.5% – had the bureau not taken account of the increased rent assistance in the May budget, which depressed recorded rents by 1.2%.

Demand Surged While New Supply Sank

Vacancy rates have fallen and rents have climbed because the demand for living space has surged; at first in the aftermath of lockdowns as Australians sought accommodation with fewer housemates and more home office space, and later as borders reopened and Australia’s population swelled.

At the same time, the number of dwellings completed dived in response to shortages of both labour and materials.

Before COVID about 50,000 new dwellings were completed per quarter. Since then, completions have rarely exceeded 45,000.

Tweaking Tax Concessions Would Do Little To Help

While the Australian Greens are pressing the government to wind back capital gains tax concessions and limit negative gearing in order to wind back home prices, there’s little reason to think the changes would do much to reduce rents.

Half of all Australian landlords negatively gear by making a net loss on rental income in order to profit later from concessionally taxed capital gains. Attacking these tax concessions would be likely to cause some of them to reconsider being landlords.

But if they sold, more renters would be able to buy and stop renting, leaving the balance of renters and properties for rent little changed.

Rent Assistance And Caps Won’t Much Help Either

While there is popular support for increasing rent assistance, and while it has materially cut rents paid over the past year, it won’t create more rental properties.

Very big increases in rent assistance might even lift rents further by increasing the amount renters are able to pay. However, the effect is unlikely to be big because Commonwealth rent assistance is restricted to welfare recipients.

Rent caps or freezes don’t increase supply either, and run the risk of encouraging a black market in bidding to pay rents over the legally sanctioned cap.

What’s Needed Is More Homes, In The Right Places

The government’s new Housing Australia Future Fund and associated agreements are intended to support the delivery of 20,000 new social and 20,000 new affordable homes over the next five years.

Separately, the Commonwealth and the states have agreed to an ambitious target of 1.2 million “new well-located homes” over the next five years, up from 918,200 over the past five years.

The Commonwealth has set aside A$3 billion for “performance-based funding” to the states paid at the rate of $15,000 for each new well-located home they deliver in excess of their share of 1 million new homes in five years.

If the states and territories are able to deliver 1.2 million homes over five years rather than 1 million, Grattan Institute analysis suggests rents will be 4% lower than they would have been.

NSW is displaying the sort of initiative that will be needed. The state is allowing developers of projects worth more than A$75 million to build taller buildings with more accommodation as long as they use 15% of the floor space for affordable housing.

NSW is also allowing denser development within 400 metres of 31 train stations.

Build-To-Rent Would Help

In Australia, most rental properties (even apartments) are owned by individual so-called “mum and dad” investors.

Overseas in the United States and Europe, they are more likely to be owned by corporations who build entire blocks to lease.

These corporations are more concerned about long-term returns than individual owners who want the flexibility to sell, so they tend to offer long-term leases on better terms.

In last year’s budget the government offered build-to-rent tax rules which the Property Council of Australia says could create thousands of extra homes.

On one hand, they are unlikely to be homes for low-income renters. Developers require commercial returns. On the other hand, an increasing number of renters have high incomes.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says while in 1996 households with incomes worth $140,000 a year or more in today’s dollars accounted for only 8% of renters, by 2021 they accounted for 24%.

Pre-Fabs Could Also Help, And More Apprentices

Another thing that would help is encouraging the use of prefabrication to cut construction times and costs, using locally sourced materials.

Prefabricated homes were used to house migrants after the second world war. More recently they have been used to house NSW flood victims.

They will still require skilled builders and tradespeople, who are in short supply. Only about half of enrolled apprentices complete their training, and the dropout rate has been climbing.

The government has announced an in-depth review of Australia’s system of apprenticeship support. It’s due to report later this year.

It might also help to prioritise the migration of tradespeople. It’s hard to build more homes in the right places, but that’s what we need.The Conversation

Ameeta Jain, Associate Professor, Deakin Business School, Deakin University

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

Let’s not kid ourselves that private investors or super funds will build the social housing we need

Brendan CoatesGrattan Institute and Joey MoloneyGrattan Institute

This article is part of The Conversation’s series examining the housing crisis. Read the other articles in the series here.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers is leading a push to get private investors to help build more social and affordable housing. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves about where the money will come from.

The defining feature of social and affordable housing is a big rental subsidy for the tenant, which no private investor will ever volunteer to pay. In the end, government – that is, taxpayers – will always foot the bill.

The sooner we accept this, the better. Wishful thinking that private investors will wear the cost of rental discounts risks making the limited government subsidies available for housing less effective.

We Need More Social Housing

Social housing – where rents are typically capped at 30% of tenants’ incomes – makes a big difference to the lives of many vulnerable Australians.

Yet Australia’s stock of social housing – currently about 430,000 dwellings – has barely grown in 20 years, during which time the population has increased by 33%.

A stagnant stock means there is little “flow” of available housing to catch people going through hardship, who then face prolonged, agonising waits while struggling to afford to keep a roof over their head.

But It’s Expensive

The main reason our social housing stock has stagnated is the expense.

Social housing offers a big rental discount, or subsidy, to tenants.

In Australia, the gap between the subsidised rent and the private market rent is about $15,000 per rental per year.

Because the subsidy to tenants is ongoing, the cost to governments is ongoing. That means that every extra 100,000 social housing dwellings costs an extra $1.5 billion every year.

The same goes for subsidised “affordable” housing, where rents are typically set at 20-25% below the market rate, and which are available to many low- and some middle-income earners.

If the tenant is getting a discount on the market rate, the government will pay for that somewhere along the line.

Private Investors Won’t Wear The Subsidy Gap

Australia has $3.5 trillion of superannuation savings – the fourth-largest retirement savings pool in the world – but practically none of it is invested in Australian housing. The Treasurer wants to change that.

He’s talked a big game about encouraging private capital, including super funds, to invest specifically in social and affordable housing.

But no super fund should forego returns for its members by paying the subsidy gap for social or affordable housing out of members’ pockets.

It would be incompatible with superannuation funds’ core objective – maximising returns for their members – which funds are obligated by law to prioritise.

Private Investors Prefer Affordable To Social Housing

If we make encouraging private investment in social and affordable housing the goal, we risk misallocating the scarce government subsidies we have.

Most super funds, and other investors, would typically prefer to invest in affordable, rather than social housing.

Doing so lets investors finance more homes for any given quantity of government housing subsidies that are available, while taking on less-disadvantaged tenants who are seen as less risky.

We’ve been here before: the National Rental Affordability Scheme spent $3.1 billion channelling subsidies to private investors for affordable housing.

Grattan Institute estimates suggest the scheme paid an extra $1 billion in windfall gains to investors, above and beyond the cost of the discounted rents offered to tenants, who typically weren’t the most needy.

Super Funds Could Make Social Housing More Expensive

Super funds can help finance the construction of new social housing via loans to community housing providers – as four major funds have recently agreed to do.

But these loans are likely to be on fully commercial terms.

They are deals attractive to federal and state governments worried about taking on more debt.

But they are also likely to make social housing more expensive to deliver because governments can borrow at lower rates than the returns sought by funds.

Governments Can’t Avoid Their Responsibility

Ultimately, governments have to foot the bill for social and affordable housing. And our priority should be social, rather than affordable housing, since its targeted at people at serious risk of becoming homeless.

The sooner that truth is acknowledged, the sooner we can get on with funding subsidies and the less time we will waste on trying to coax private investors into being something they’re not.

The best way to boost funding for social housing would be to double the size of the Housing Australia Future Fund from $10 billion to $20 billion

The government-owned fund uses borrowed money to invest in stocks and bonds and uses the income to cover the social housing subsidy gap.

It makes use of the higher return the government can get from investing than from retiring debt, in the same way as the government’s Future Fund.

Doubling the size of the Housing Australia Future Fund could support the building of up to an extra 30,000 social dwellings over the next five years.

Coupled with a further big boost to Commonwealth Rent Assistance, it could really help low-income renters.The Conversation

Brendan Coates, Program Director, Economic Policy, Grattan Institute and Joey Moloney, Deputy Program Director, Economic Policy, Grattan Institute

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

Hundreds of tariffs to go from July 1 in biggest unilateral tariff cut in decades

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

The Albanese government will abolish almost 500 so-called “nuisance” import tariffs from July 1.

Items set to become tariff-free include toothbrushes, hand tools, fridges, dishwashers, clothing, and menstrual and sanitary products. The tariff on such products is 5%. The cost to the budget has not yet been announced, partly because the plan is subject to consultations.

The decision will be the centrepiece of a speech Treasurer Jim Chalmers will make to a business audience in Sydney on Monday. Later, in another speech this week, Chalmers will set out some directions for the May budget.

The government says this is “the biggest unilateral tariff reform in at least two decades”, hailing it as a gain for productivity.

“It will cut compliance costs, reduce red tape, make it easier to do business, and boost productivity,” the government said in a statement, adding these tariffs do not protect Australian businesses.

The reforms were an important step in simplifying Australian trade, and would particularly assist small and medium-sized firms.

“After successive trade agreements, most goods are now imported duty-free. This means that businesses spend time and money proving their imports are eligible for existing tariff preferences and concessions, a compliance cost they often pass on to consumers, ” the statement said.

Cheaper Toothbrushes, Tools And Tampons

Chalmers said: “Tariff reform will also provide a small amount of extra help with the cost-of-living challenge by making everyday items such as toothbrushes, tools, fridges, dishwashers and clothing just a little bit cheaper”.

The changes will scrap 14% of Australia’s total tariffs, streamlining about $8.5 billion worth of annual trade. Businesses will save more than $30 million in compliance costs each year, on the government’s estimate.

A Productivity Commission report in 2020 defined nuisance tariffs as

tariffs that raise little revenue, have negligible benefits for producers, but impose compliance burdens

It said the administrative costs of collecting these tariffs amounted to $11 million to $20 million per year.

The government gave the following list of examples of products set to see the removal of the 5% customs duties and what revenue the tariffs currently raise annually:

  • Washing machines with annual imports worth over $490 million, raise less than $140,000 in revenue per year

  • Fridge-freezers with imports worth over $668 million – less than $28,000

  • Tyres for agricultural vehicles, tractors or other machines with imports worth over $102 million – less than $10,000

  • Protective footwear with imports worth $160 million – less than $112,000

  • Toothbrushes with imports worth over $84 million – less than $22,000

  • Menstrual and sanitary products with over $211 million worth of imports – less than $3 million

  • X-ray film with over $160,000 in imports – less than $200

  • Chamois leather with $100,000 in imports – less than $1,000

  • Pyjamas with almost $108 million in imports – less than $120,000

  • Fishing reels with over $50 million in imports – less than $140,000

  • Rollercoasters with over $16 million in imports – less than $40,000

  • Dodgem cars with over $2 million in imports – less than $15,000

  • Ballpoint pens with imports worth over $57 million – less than $95,000

  • Toasters with imports worth over $49 million – less than $1,000

  • Electric blankets with imports worth over $31 million – less than $5,000

  • Bamboo chopsticks with over $3 million in imports – less than $3,000.

Removing tariffs on menstrual and sanitary items will align tariff policy settings with changes previously made to the GST.

The government said consultation on the proposed initial reforms is underway, with submissions open on the Treasury website and closing on April 1.

“The tariffs identified have been selected because their abolition will deliver benefits for businesses without adversely impacting Australian industries or constraining Australia in sensitive FTA negotiations,” the government said in its statement.

The full list of abolished tariffs will be finalised and provided in the May budget.

Chalmers said:“This is meaningful economic reform that will deliver meaningful benefits to businesses of all sizes around Australia.

"These tariffs impose a regulatory burden on Australian businesses and raise the costs of imported goods but they do little to protect our workers and businesses because they apply to goods that are mostly already eligible for duty-free importation.

"These tariff reforms will be better for businesses, better for consumers and better for the economy.”

Trade Minister Don Farrell said: “With one in four Australian jobs trade-related, and 27% of Australia’s economic output supported by trade, the importance of trade to Australia’s national wellbeing cannot be overstated.

"Trade that is simple, fast, and cost-effective can boost Australia’s international competitiveness, help create jobs, and reduce cost of living pressures.”

The Whitlam government began the journey to cut protection by cutting tariffs 25% across-the-board. The Hawke-Keating governments in the late 1980s and early 1990s undertook comprehensive tariff reductions and the elimination of import quotas.

The Howard government cut most tariffs to no more than 5% and many to zero.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

ACCC Extends Wholesale Price Controls To Superfast Fixed-Line Broadband Networks

March 12, 2024
Australians on broadband plans provided by non-NBN fixed-line networks should benefit from more stable pricing and greater competition between retailers, following the ACCC’s decision to make a final wholesale access determination for the declared superfast broadband access service (SBAS), the ACC has stated today.

TPG and Uniti Group Limited (Uniti) are the two largest suppliers of the SBAS. Their networks combined cover more than one million premises, primarily in apartment buildings and new residential housing estates. In many areas they are the sole fixed-line broadband network operator.

The access determination sets maximum wholesale prices and other important terms and conditions for retailers to access the networks. The regulation will apply if the network owners and retailers cannot reach satisfactory commercial agreements.

“We have made this access determination so the one million or so Australians who rely on these networks for internet at their homes or businesses can select from a broader range of retailers and offers that can better meet their needs,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“The final regulation we’ve settled on contains specific price terms, benchmarked against NBN Co’s pricing, that will enable consumers and businesses to find retail offers that are similar to, or better than, those available on the NBN.”  

Regulated monthly prices for the 25/5 and 50/20 Mbps speed tiers will give retailers greater certainty over the access costs they pay. Because of the benchmarking against equivalent NBN access costs, retailers will be able to develop consistent product offerings to consumers across all networks.

The changes will put downward pressure on the wholesale cost to access the entry level 25/5 Mbps service and the popular 50/20 Mbps service. The ACCC expects the regulated price terms for the 50/20 Mbps speed tier will also constrain wholesale prices for higher speed tiers.

The access determination will also regulate connection, transfer, and appointment charges for SBAS networks, which will make it easier for households to switch retailers and will limit their potential exposure to missed appointment fees or other ad hoc charges.

“We’re confident that our final decision strikes the right balance between protecting the long-term interests of consumers and allowing the network providers to earn the revenues required to continue to invest and improve their networks over time,” Ms Brakey said.  

The new access determination will come into force on 1 September 2024 and apply until 1 March 2027.

The ACCC consulted extensively with the SBAS providers, retailers, industry, and consumer groups throughout its inquiry.  

More information on the SBAS and the ACCC’s final report on the inquiry is available at SBAS final access determination inquiry 2021

The SBAS is a declared wholesale fixed-line broadband access service provided over a ‘superfast’ broadband network (one normally capable of download speeds of 25 Mbps or more). These provide a similar service to the NBN.

Other technologies capable of providing a superfast broadband service that are not captured by the declared SBAS are fixed wireless, satellite, mobile, and the NBN.

Since the ACCC first declared an SBAS in 2016, the market has consolidated as larger firms acquired smaller providers. TPG and Uniti are now relatively large, vertically integrated providers, and there is a range of other smaller providers (generally with fewer than 30,000 active customers).

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the ACCC released a draft decision on the SBAS determination in October 2022 and undertook further consultation over 2023. 

In March 2023, the ACCC released an exposure draft of its determination instrument and called for submissions.

The inquiry was subsequently extended due to uncertainty around regulated NBN access prices under NBN Co’s variation to its special access undertaking (SAU).

The ACCC undertook further consultation on the SBAS determination in November 2023 following its acceptance of NBN Co’s varied SAU.

NBN upgrade: what a free speed increase for fast broadband plans would mean for consumers and retailers

Mark A GregoryRMIT University

The National Broadband Network may offer a significant speed boost to many users, if a plan from NBN Co, the operator of the network, is implemented. NBN Co’s proposed upgrade would provide download speeds up to five times faster for users on its three fastest home services (Home Fast, Home Superfast and Home Ultrafast).

The speed boost would come at no extra wholesale cost to retailers. On its face, this is an exciting announcement that aims to meet consumer demand for higher speed broadband connections to the internet.

NBN Co has highlighted the rationale for this move. The average Australian household now has around 22 internet-connected devices, and this is expected to grow to 33 by 2026. Data usage per household has doubled in the past five years, and now averages 443 gigabytes per month.

Why Do People Want More Data?

Higher data usage is being driven by new applications, entertainment and online gaming. For example, game updates can be as large as 30 or more gigabytes today. If games update regularly, the amount of data used each month increases quickly.

Entertainment too is using more data. Most streaming video today is provided in a 720p format, but newer televisions can display content at the higher-resolution 4K format. With faster broadband speeds becoming more common, consumers should anticipate more 4K content becoming available.

Likewise, virtual reality and augmented reality are relatively new technologies that are slowly becoming integrated with gaming and business systems. These high data usage technologies are likely to become more present in our daily lives over the next decade.


When Would The Upgrades Happen?

NBN Co has indicated it would like to start providing the new higher speed products later this year, or early next year. The upgrade would be achieved by increasing the overall capacity of the NBN, which could then be “shared out” to consumers.

The NBN Co announcement is something the service providers should have expected at some point soon.

NBN Co’s announcement, coming only months after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approved a proposal for major annual price increases, may not be welcomed by all broadband retailers.

A spokesperson for the second largest broadband retailer, TPG Telecom, told CommsDay yesterday:

It took more than two years to finalise [the new pricing approved by the ACCC] and only three months for NBN Co to undermine the certainty it was supposed to create. We will always welcome opportunities to deliver greater service and speed to our customers, but NBN’s monopolistic whims make genuine collaboration with them very difficult.

Retailers understandably want certainty in wholesale pricing. One difficulty in achieving this is the high cost of “backhaul” in Australia: this is an intermediate connection between service providers and the NBN itself. Larger retailers have their own backhaul infrastructure, but smaller retailers must pay a third party.

If the NBN offers higher speed broadband connections, smaller retailers may end up paying more for backhaul – and will be faced with a dilemma over whether to pass these extra costs to consumers.

Telstra and Optus have broadly supported the plan by NBN Co to move to new technologies that offer the higher speed capabilities.

A Faster Network May Entice Consumers

Aussie Broadband Group managing director Phillip Britt told Gizmodo Australia:

Aussie Broadband is still understanding the detail of NBN Co’s speed proposal, but on the face of it, it could represent one of the most exciting steps in technology adoption for Australian households and businesses.

For NBN Co, the boost for the higher-speed plans may entice consumers to move from basic 50 Mbps plans to the upgraded Home Fast plan (which will offer download speeds of 500 Mbps, up from the current 100 Mbps).

NBN Co may also hope this encourages the remaining consumers with copper “fibre to the node” connections to move to “fibre to the premises” by taking advantage of one of the low or no cost upgrade offers available through retailers.

NBN Co has issued a consultation paper to retailers, asking for their feedback on the proposed changes to the high speed products by April 19 2024.The Conversation

Mark A Gregory, Associate Professor, School of Engineering, RMIT University

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

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