inbox and environment news: Issue 623

April 28 - May 4, 2024: Issue 623

Cockatoo Feed Time: Careel Bay 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) eggs are laid in a suitable tree hollow, which is prepared by both sexes. Both parent birds also incubate and care for the chicks. The chicks remain with the parents all year round and family groups will stay together indefinitely.

Breeding Season: August to January in the south; May to September in the north.

  • Clutch size: 1 to 3
  • Incubation: 30 days
  • Time in nest: 65 days

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's normal diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more members of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch. When not feeding, birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. These items are not eaten, however. The activity may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large.

Pics: AJG/PON (April 24, 2024). Info.: Australian Museum

Flowering Now: White Paperbark Trees

Melaleuca quinquenervia, commonly known as the broad-leaved paperbark, paper bark tea tree, punk tree or niaouli, is a small- to medium-sized tree of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. It grows as a spreading tree up to 20 m (70 ft) tall, with its trunk covered by a white, beige and grey thick papery bark. The grey-green leaves are egg-shaped, and cream or white bottlebrush-like flowers appear from late spring to autumn. It was first formally described in 1797 by the Spanish naturalist Antonio José Cavanilles.

Native to New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and coastal eastern Australia, from Botany Bay in New South Wales northwards into Queensland, M. quinquenervia grows in swamps, on floodplains and near rivers and estuaries, often on silty soil.

The paper-like bark is used traditionally for making coolamons and shelters and for wrapping baked food and lining ground ovens.[7] The nectar is extracted traditionally by washing in coolamons of water which is subsequently consumed as a beverage. The scented flower also produces a light to dark amber honey depending on the district. It is strongly flavoured and candies readily. 

Melaleuca quinquenervia is often used as a street tree or planted in public parks and gardens, especially in Sydney.[39] In its native Australia, it is excellent as a windbreak, screening tree and food source for a wide range of local insect and bird species.

The essential oil of Melaleuca quinquenervia is used in a variety of cosmetic products especially in Australia. The oil is reported in herbalism and natural medicine to work as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, to help with bladder infections, respiratory troubles and catarrh.

Melaleuca quinquenervia, also called white bottlebrush, Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach, April 25th, 2024

Melaleuca quinquenervia, also called white bottlebrush, and feasting rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus - Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach, April 25th, 2019

Recycled Plastic Rulers Delight Lower North Shore School Students

Two local primary schools in the Willoughby local government area enjoyed a real life lesson in recycling after rubbish they collected at home was turned into plastic rulers, thanks to a Council sustainability education program.

Seeking to boost children’s understanding of the scourge of plastic waste and introduce circular economy principles, the Council developed a series of lessons for Our Lady of Dolours and Castle Cove primary schools. 

Embracing the principles of the circular economy, students collected plastic waste from home, which was then transformed into sleek, eco-friendly rulers by recycling specialists from Defy Design. 

Each ruler, proudly stamped with the school's logo, serves as a tangible reminder of the importance of reducing plastic waste and embracing sustainable practices. 

The circular economy model promotes the reusing and repairing of materials that are already in circulation, and in keeping with this theme the original concept and mould for the rulers was created by Ku-ring-gai Council, who had used it in a similar scheme. Following the successful trial, Willoughby City Council is hoping to partner with other local schools to deliver plastic waste and recycling education for the benefit of all children.

Willoughby City Mayor Tanya Taylor said:
“Teaching recycling to primary-age children can be challenging, so our programme uses a simple example to make the concept easier to understand. As well as valuable life lessons on reducing waste, the kids are being introduced to the basics of the circular economy in a fun and engaging way, with a real outcome they can hold in their hands. The scheme is one of many initiatives underpinning Willoughby’s aspiration to be a green city, and we’re only too happy to share the lesson plans with other local authorities who might be interested in running a similar scheme.”

Principal of Our Lady of Dolours Chatswood Mr Marco Ianni said:
“Students at Our Lady of Dolours enjoyed a great presentation from Defy and having the opportunity to see how the recycling process can produce something meaningful and for real life need. What a great initiative from Willougby City Council with the support of the teachers at OLD. The lessons provided an opportunity to learn and then see this in action.” 

The ‘circular economy’ is a model of resource production and consumption in any economy that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. The concept aims to tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.
The Plastic Recycling educational program ran at two primary schools during term 1 in 2024:
At Our Lady of Dolours primary school, the programme was delivered to 100 students at Stage 2, Years 3 and 4
At Castle Cove primary school the programme was delivered to 45 students from Year 3
Teachers ran 3-4 classes at each school covering:
  • The plastic waste problem
  • How plastic affects the environment
  • The waste hierarchy (Refuse; reduce; reuse; repair)
  • Plastic recycling and circular economy
Each child collected suitable plastic from their home, which they took into school to be collected by Defy Design, who turned it into a ruler- 35g of recycled plastic was required to make each ruler, which is approximately 2 – 3 plastic milk bottles.
Photo courtesy: Willoughby City Council

Petition: Abolish Seismic Blasting Special Prospecting Authority Permits (SPA)

Let Minister King know that we need an end to seismic blasting SPA permits to protect endangered species and threatened marine habitats.

A Special Prospecting Authority (SPA) is a specific type of permit that allows companies to buy access to large areas of our oceans to use seismic blasting to search for oil and gas, and Carbon Capture and Storage locations below the ocean floor.

Seismic blasts are how the oil and gas industry surveys the ocean floor. Seismic vessels tow an array of airguns and audio receivers (hydrophones) behind them in the water. These powerful airguns fire loud blasts of compressed air every 10 to 15 seconds, 24 hours a day. The sound waves produced penetrate deep into the seabed and bounce back to the audio receivers. From the sound patterns detected, companies can work out the most likely place to find oil and gas reserves under the ocean floor. The next step is exploratory drilling.

These blasts are among the loudest human-made sounds in the ocean, just short of those caused by explosive devices, and have a devastating effect on marine life.
  • Seismic blasting has been connected to temporary and permanent hearing loss, habitat abandonment, mating and feeding disruption and possible death in marine mammals like whales.
  • The blasts lead to scallop deaths by compromising their immune systems and have been found to irreversibly damage the organs of lobsters.
  • Tasmanian research found seismic blasting also triggers extensive death in plankton, including krill, which are crucial foundations of marine food webs, from more than a kilometre away. 
There is a proposal for seismic blasting over 45,000 sq km of ocean between Victoria and Tasmania by joint venture TGS/SLB-Schlumberger, which would see seismic blasting over commonwealth marine parks and endangered blue whale feeding areas. If approved, it will be the world’s largest 3D seismic blasting project on record.

Companies’ applications for plans to conduct seismic blasting go to the regulator NOPSEMA for approval, and then to the administrator NOPTA to be granted an SPA permit.

They are both government bodies answerable to the Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King.
  • Minister King is responsible for overseeing the administrator NOPTA, which gives approval to companies seeking SPA permits to conduct seismic blasting. The Minister can refuse a permit.
  • Minister King can act to abolish SPAs to clean up the industry and keep some of the largest and most damaging seismic blasting projects out of Australian waters.
  • This gives Minister King authority on behalf of the Australian Government to shape the industry’s practices and safeguard our marine environments.
We need the Australian Government to take action to abolish these quick, cheap and harmful seismic blasting permits. 

By abolishing SPA permits, we are helping to turn the tide on the harm caused by seismic blasting, removing this permit that fails to assess companies’ fitness and proper standing to operate, and keeping some of the largest and most damaging seismic blasting projects out of Australian waters.

This action is about safeguarding critical marine habitats, preserving biodiversity, and protecting the livelihoods of communities that depend on healthy oceans.

Add your name to send an email to Minister King here:

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

2024 BirdLife Australia Community Conservation Grants

Applications close Wednesday 1st May 2024.

BirdLife Australia is fighting to save birds and the natural ecosystems on which their survival depends. The Bird Conservation Strategy outlines our focus areas of Species, Sites, Systems and Societies.

To achieve BirdLife Australia’s vision that by 2050, birds and nature are valued, conserved and restored, sustaining a healthy planet for the benefit of all people, we must multiply our impact by strengthening our existing partnerships, establishing new ones and collaborating with local communities to lead change.

BirdLife Australia Community Grants support this by empowering passionate Australian groups to act for birds, with up to $20,000 in funding for projects that align with BirdLife Australia’s Bird Conservation Strategy.

Grant Streams
In 2024, the Community Grants Program is divided into two streams: Community Participation and Volunteering and Conservation and Applied Research.

Stream 1 provides funding for projects which encourage community engagement and volunteering in the conservation, protection and advocacy for Australian birds and their habitats.

Stream 2 provides funding for conservation projects which conserve birds at a local or landscape scale; or contribute applied research into bird conservation, and projects which assist in meeting conservation strategy goals.

Your project may have overlap between these two streams. For example, a project which involves habitat restoration works may focus on engaging new volunteers to allow the group to expand the amount of on-ground conservation work that they can do. In this instance, it would fall under Stream 1. If the project focused on equipment purchases or conducting research to complete works more effectively, it would fall under Stream 2.

If you are unsure which stream your project falls under, please contact us and a member of our team will get in touch to discuss it with you.

Funding and Support for Community- and Capacity-building Projects
We offer grants of up to $20,000 for community- and capacity-building projects that align with and support the delivery of BirdLife Australia’s Bird Conservation Strategy. This includes funding for equipment, signage and vegetation restoration, as well as volunteers, community education, training and advocacy.

How to apply for this grant
Complete the ‘Community Grant Application’ form. Applications close on Wednesday 1st May 2024. The Application must be completed and signed by the person/people responsible for delivering the project.

Community Grants How To Guide and FAQ 2024 – PDF
Community Grants How To Guide and FAQ 2024 – Word

BirdLife Australia will acknowledge receipt of your application.

  • Assessment criteria
  • Eligibility
  • Stream 1: Community Participation and Volunteering Assessment Criteria
  • Stream 2: Conservation and Applied Research Assessment Criteria

Have Your Say: Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Disaster Adaptation Plan

The NSW Government has opened consultation on how they can address flood risk in the Valley. Although Pittwater is outside of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River Flood Study area targeted, as the estuary and beaches of the Barrenjoey peninsula are impacted, it may be worth Pittwater residents providing their insights.

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley (the Valley) is one of the most dangerous floodplains in Australia, flooding 6 times between 2020-2022. The NSW Reconstruction Authority is working with local councils and the community to develop a high-priority Disaster Adaptation Plan (DAP) to address flood risk in the Valley, and wants residents to be involved.

The consult webpage states: ''There is no single solution to reduce the impact of floods in the Valley so the DAP will include a range of measures to reduce risk where we can and, importantly, adapt where we can’t. Some options being investigated include mitigation infrastructure, such as levees, improvements to evacuation roads and ways to better prepare the community.''

The feedback period closes 1 November 2024.

Image:  Snapperman Beach after the 2021 Hawkesbury flood. Image: AJG/PON

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 

Murrumbidgee Floodplain Management Plan: Have Your Say

Opened: 25 March 2024
Closes: 5 May 2024
The NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is developing a new floodplain management plan for the Murrumbidgee Valley Floodplain and is seeking your feedback.

Floodplain management plans set the rules for flood work development on floodplains in rural areas. The rules include what type of flood work can be constructed and where.  

Stage 1 public consultation provides an early opportunity for community feedback on key elements that will be used to prepare the draft plan, including:
  • the proposed floodplain boundary  
  • the historical flood events used for modelling  
  • the floodway network  
  • cultural and heritage sites  
  • ecological assets
  • local variances to some rules.
To assist you in understanding the key elements proposed and how to make a submission, please read the Report to assist Stage 1 public consultation.

One-on-one appointments
You are invited to book a 20-minute, one-on-one appointment in person with departmental staff to learn more:  
  • Hay, Wednesday 3 April
  • Balranald, Thursday 4 April
  • Darlington Point, Wednesday 10 April
  • Wagga Wagga, Thursday 11 April.
Online appointments
Online appointments are also available on Tuesday 2 April, Monday 8 April and Tuesday 9 April.

Have your say
Have your say by Sunday 5 May 2024.

There are 3 ways you can provide feedback.
  1. Survey -  Complete the survey: Murrumbidgee Floodplain Management Plan 
  2. Email - 
  3. Formal submission - Address: Murrumbidgee Valley FMP, Water Group - NSW DCCEEW, PO Box 189, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620
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.

For documents and more visit: - video below

Plastic Bread Ties For Wheelchairs

The Berry Collective at 1691 Pittwater Rd, Mona Vale collects them for Oz Bread Tags for Wheelchairs, who recycle the plastic.

Berry Collective is the practice on the left side of the road as you head north, a few blocks before Mona Vale shops . They have parking. Enter the foyer and there's a small bin on a table where you drop your bread ties - very easy.

A full list of Aussie bread tags for wheelchairs is available at: HERE 

Volunteers For Barrenjoey Lighthouse Tours Needed


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.

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

Gone in a puff of smoke: 52,000 sq km of ‘long unburnt’ Australian habitat has vanished in 40 years

Trismegist san, Shutterstock
William GearyThe University of MelbourneDale NimmoCharles Sturt UniversityJulianna SantosThe University of Melbourne, and Kristina J MacdonaldDeakin University

Landscapes that have escaped fire for decades or centuries tend to harbour vital structures for wildlife, such as tree hollows and large logs. But these “long unburnt” habitats can be eliminated by a single blaze.

The pattern of fire most commonly experienced within an ecosystem is known as the fire regime. This includes aspects such as fire frequency, season, intensity, size and shape.

Fire regimes are changing across the globe, stoked by climate and land-use change. Recent megafires in AustraliaBrazilCanada and United States epitomise the dire consequences of shifting fire regimes for humanity and biodiversity alike.

We wanted to find out how Australian fire regimes are changing and what this means for biodiversity.

In our new research, we analysed the past four decades of fires across southern Australia. We found fires are becoming more frequent in many of the areas most crucial for protecting threatened wildlife. Long unburnt habitat is disappearing faster than ever.

Uncovering Long-Term Changes

“Fire regimes that cause declines in biodiversity” was recently listed as a key threatening process under Australia’s environmental protection legislation.

However, evidence of how fire regimes are shifting within both threatened species’ ranges and protected areas is scarce, particularly at the national scale and over long periods.

To address this gap, we compiled maps of bushfires and prescribed burns in southern Australia from 1980 to 2021.

We studied how fire activity has changed across 415 Australian conservation reserves and state forests (‘reserves’ hereafter), a total of 21.5 million hectares. We also studied fire activity within the ranges of 129 fire-threatened species, spanning birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates.

We focused on New South Wales, the Australia Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia because these states and territories have the most complete fire records.

A recently burnt forest, with blackened trees against a cloudy blue sky
Large areas of long unburnt forest in New South Wales were burnt in the 2019-20 fire season. Tim Doherty

More Fire Putting Wildlife At Risk

We found areas of long unburnt vegetation (30 years or more without fire) are shrinking. Meanwhile, areas of recently burnt vegetation (5 years or less since the most recent fire) are growing. And fires are burning more frequently.

On average, the percentage of long unburnt vegetation within reserves declined from 61% to 36% over the four decades we studied. We estimate the total area of long unburnt vegetation decreased by about 52,000 square kilometres, from about 132,000 sq km in 1980 to about 80,000 sq km in 2021. That’s an area almost as large as Tasmania.

At the same time, the mean amount of recently burnt vegetation increased from 20% to 35%. Going from about 42,000 sq km to about 64,000 sq km in total, which is an increase of 22,000 square kilometres.

And the average number of times a reserve burnt within 20 years increased by almost a third.

While the extent of unburnt vegetation has been declining since 1980, increases in fire frequency and the extent of recently burnt vegetation were mainly driven by the record-breaking 2019–20 fire season.

Charting the changing proportions of unburnt and recently burnt vegetation in 415 conservation reserves and state forests across southern Australia. The two lines meet in the middle after 40 years from 1980 to 2020.
Changes in the proportions of unburnt and recently burnt vegetation across 415 conservation reserves and state forests in southern Australia. Tim Doherty

Which Areas Have Seen The Biggest Changes?

The strongest increases in fire frequency and losses of long unburnt habitat occurred within reserves at high elevation with lots of dry vegetation. This pattern was most prominent in southeastern Australia, including the Kosciuszko and Alpine national parks.

In these locations, dry years with low rainfall can make abundant vegetation more flammable. These conditions contribute to high fire risk across very large areas, as observed in the 2019–20 fire season.

Threatened species living at high elevations, such as the spotted tree frog, the mountain skink and the mountain pygmy possum, have experienced some of the biggest losses of long unburnt habitat and largest increases in fire frequency.

Multiple fires in the same region can be particularly problematic for some fire-threatened animals as they prevent the recovery of important habitats like logs, hollows and deep leaf-litter beds. Frequent fire can even turn a tall forest into shrubland.

Composite image showing four fire-threatened species - the kyloring (western ground parrot), mountain skink, stuttering frog and mountain pygmy possum
Fire-threatened species Australia include (clockwise from top-left) the kyloring (western ground parrot), mountain skink, stuttering frog and mountain pygmy possum. Clockwise from top-left: Jennene Riggs, Jules Farquhar, Jules Farquhar, Zoos Victoria.

What Does This Mean For Australia’s Wildlife?

Fire management must adapt to stabilise fire regimes across southern Australia and alleviate pressure on Australia’s wildlife.

Indigenous land management, including cultural burning, is one approach that holds promise in reducing the incidence of large fires while providing fire for those species that need it.

Strategic fire management within and around the ranges of fire-threatened species may also help prevent large bushfires burning extensive portions of species’ ranges within a single fire season.

We can also help wildlife become more resilient to shifting fire regimes by reducing other pressures such as invasive predators.

However, our efforts will be continually undermined if we persist in modifying our atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. This means conservation managers must also prepare for a future in which these trends continue, or hasten.

Our findings underscore the increased need for management strategies that conserve threatened species in an increasingly fiery future.The Conversation

William Geary, Lecturer in Quantitative Ecology & Biodiversity Conservation, The University of MelbourneDale Nimmo, Professor in Ecology, Charles Sturt UniversityJulianna Santos, Research fellow in Ecology and Conservation Science, The University of Melbourne, and Kristina J Macdonald, PhD Candidate, Deakin University

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

Vastly bigger than the Black Summer: 84 million hectares of northern Australia burned in 2023

Rohan FisherCharles Darwin University

It may come as a surprise to hear 2023 was Australia’s biggest bushfire season in more than a decade. Fires burned across an area eight times as big as the 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires that tore through 10 million hectares in southeast Australia.

My research shows the 2023 fires burned more than 84 million hectares of desert and savannah in northern Australia. This is larger than the whole of New South Wales, or more than three times the size of the United Kingdom. The scale of these fires is hard to comprehend.

The speed at which these fires spread was also incredible. In just a few weeks of September and October, more than 18 million hectares burned across the Barkly, Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

I presented this research into the 2023 fires at the International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference this month in Canberra. I described the scale of these fires, why they occurred, and how fires could be better managed to help protect remote but ecologically and culturally important regions of Australia.

2023 fire spread in North Australia animation, drawing on North Australia Fire Information from (Rohan Fisher)

Why Did This Happen?

Fire and rain are closely connected. Rain triggers grass growth. When it dries out, grass becomes fuel for fires.

For example, you can see the pattern of more fire following wet years repeating at periodic intervals over the past 20 years of fire in the Northern Territory.

In this way, La Niña is the major driver of these massive fires in the desert.

Although 2023 was a massive fire year, 2011 was even bigger. In the NT alone, more than 55 million hectares burned in 2011, compared with 43 million in 2023.

When fuel is dry and weather conditions are extreme, lightning strikes tend to start more fires across savannah and desert rangelands.

Lightning across Australia in late 2023 using data from Andrew Miskelly at Weather Zone (Rohan Fisher)

It has been variously suggested in the media and on social media that these fires are part of a “normal” cycle, a consequence of climate change, or largely the result of arson. Such simplifications fail to grasp the complexity and history of fire management in desert Country.

The main driver of these fires was the very large fuel loads. These wet growing seasons are part of the natural cycle. While climate change can make fire conditions more extreme, in this case it’s not the main cause. However, the scale of these fires was not “normal”.

How Can Fires Be Managed?

For many thousands of years, Indigenous people managed fuel loads across these vast landscapes.

The sophisticated use of fire in Australia’s highly flammable tropical savannas has been recognised as the world’s best wildfire management system.

Traces of this long history of traditional fire practice can be seen in aerial photos of desert Country from the 1940s. Research analysing these photos has shown extensive and complex “fuel mosaics” spread like patchwork quilts over vast parts of the WA deserts.

The term mosaic refers to having many patches of vegetation of different ages, some recently burnt with sparse cover, some long unburnt with old, large and connected spinnifex clumps and small trees.

This provides habitat for a broad range of animals, because different species prefer different amounts of ground cover. It also hinders the spread of fire because areas subject to more recent fire have insufficient fuel to carry new fires for many years.

Old aerial photograph showing the patchwork of spinifex of different ages in the Great Sandy Desert
Aerial image from the 1940s showing a complex mix of burns through spinifex in the Great Sandy Desert. National Library AustraliaCC BY

Efforts have only just begun to bring good fire management back into these landscapes in a coordinated and large-scale way.

In 2022–23 Indigenous ranger groups conducted extensive burning operations. They travelled more than 58,000km by air and road, burning from cars, on foot and dropping incendiaries.

These burns were astoundingly effective. Even though large fires still ripped through these deserts in 2023, by mapping the fuel reduction fires and overlaying the spread of subsequent wildfires, we can see the 2023 fires were limited by previous burns.

For example, the fire spread animation below shows fires moving through a complex mosaic comprising fuel of different ages. One fire can be seen moving more than 600km from near the NT border almost to the coast south of Broome. The fire weaves around previous burns and cheekily finds small gaps of older, continuous fuel.

Animation showing fire spreading through the Great Sandy Desert in 2023 (North Australia and Rangelar)

So without these earlier smaller controlled burns, the out-of-control fires would have been larger.

In the Great Sandy Desert of WA, the complex mosaic of spinifex of different ages persisted after these fires. The Indigenous Desert Alliance puts this down to more controlled burning in the past couple of years than in the ten years prior.

The fires of greatest concern to government agencies were the Barkly fires that threatened the town of Tennant Creek. These fires were large and fast-moving, feeding off fuel in a vast area of unmanaged country east of the town.

Here, a lack of land management increased disaster risk. The fire only stopped when it encountered four-year-old burned areas from lightning strikes.

The summer of 2023–24 was very wet across the Barkly and Tanami regions in the NT. Bushfires NT chief fire control officer Tony Fuller has warned of another big fire year to come as we head into the northern dry season of 2024.

Preparing For The Future

Desert fire management is still under-resourced and poorly understood.

Ultimately the only effective way to prevent these massive fires in very remote parts of Australia is through a long-term, well-funded strategy of using fire over our vast desert landscapes to control fuel, as was done during previous millennia. The Conversation

Rohan Fisher, Information Technology for Development Researcher, Charles Darwin University

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

Our tall, wet forests were not open and park-like when colonists arrived – and we shouldn’t be burning them

David LindenmayerAustralian National UniversityChris TaylorAustralian National UniversityElle BowdAustralian National University, and Philip ZylstraCurtin University

Some reports and popular books, such as Bill Gammage’s Biggest Estate on Earth, have argued that extensive areas of Australia’s forests were kept open through frequent burning by First Nations people. Advocates for widespread thinning and burning of these forests have relied on this belief. They argue fire is needed to return these forests to their “pre-invasion” state.

A key question then is: what does the evidence say about what tall, wet forests actually looked like 250 years ago? The answer matters because it influences how these forests are managed. It’s also needed to guide efforts to restore them to their natural state.

In a new scientific paper, we looked carefully at the body of evidence on the natural pre-invasion state of Australian forests, such as those dominated by majestic mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), the world’s tallest flowering plant. We analysed historical documents, First Nations Peoples’ recorded testimonies and the scientific evidence.

Our analysis shows most areas of mainland mountain ash forests were likely to have been dense and wet at the time of British invasion. The large overstorey eucalypt trees were relatively widely spaced, but there was a dense understorey of broad-leaved shrubs, tree ferns and mid-storey trees, including elements of cool temperate rainforest.

Dense tall eucalypt forest with an understorey of tree ferns
Old-growth mountain ash forest in Tarra Bulga National Park on Brataualung Country. Chris Taylor

What Was The Evidence?

We looked at many sources of historical evidence. We read colonial expeditioners’ diaries. We reviewed colonial paintings and photographs. We sought out recorded and published testimonies from First Nations People. We compiled evidence from studies such as those that used carbon dating, tree rings and pollen cores.

We also examined the basic ecology of how the forests grow and develop, the plants’ level of fire sensitivity and different animals’ habitat needs.

As an example of the many accounts we found, 19th-century civil servant and mining engineer Robert Brough Smyth wrote about:

[…] heavily timbered ranges lying between Hoddle’s Creek and Wilson’s Promontory. The higher parts and the flanks of these ranges are covered with dense scrubs, and in the rich alluviums bordering the creeks and rivers the trees are lofty, and the undergrowth luxuriant; indeed in some parts so dense as to be impenetrable without an axe and bill-hook.

Similarly, in 1824, colonial explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell described their encounter with mountain ash forests at Mount Disappointment in Victoria:

Here […] they find themselves completely at a stand, without clue or guide as to the direction in which they are to proceed; the brush wood so thick that it was impossible to see before them in any direction ten yards.

The ecological and other scientific evidence suggests mountain ash forests evolved under conditions where high-severity bushfires were rare. As a result, mature forests of eucalypt trees of multiple ages dominated these landscapes. There was no evidence of active and widespread use of recurrent low-severity fire or thinning.

Our key conclusion is that these forests were not open or park-like – as was the case in some other vegetation types in Australia.

Colonial-era painting of forest of mountain ash and tree ferns by Eugene Von Guerard
Eugene Von Guerard’s 1857 painting of dense forest at Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges. Google Arts & Culture/National Gallery of Victoria

First Nations People Knew Not All Country Needs Fire

Importantly, tall wet forests were not wilderness. Rather, they were places of significance for First Nations People. They used these forests seasonally to access important sites and resources and as pathways to visit others in neighbouring Countries.

There is no doubt parts of Australia were subject to recurrent cultural burning for many diverse and important reasons before the British invasion. However, our discussions with Traditional Custodians in the Central Highlands of Victoria, including Elders, indicate cultural burning was not widely practised in most of the mountain ash forests there. Nor were these forests actively thinned.

Many First Nations People advocate the need to consider ecological responses to fire. The right fire (or not) for the right Country is a guiding principle of traditional fire management. In the words of Elder and cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen:

Aboriginal fire knowledge is based on Country that needs fire, and also Country that doesn’t need fire. Even Country we don’t burn is an important part of fire management knowledge and must be within the expertise of a fire practitioner.

Repeated burning, and even low-severity fire, is unsuited to the ecology of tall, wet forests. It can lead to their collapse and replacement by entirely different vegetation such as wattle scrub.

Similarly, thinning these forests can make them more fire-prone, not less, by creating a drier forest, and generate huge amounts of carbon emissions.

Thinning and burning will also destroy habitat for a wide range of species. They include critically endangered ones such as Leadbeater’s possum. Indeed, mountain ash forests are themselves recognised as a critically endangered ecosystem.

An alpine ash forest after bushfire
Thinned alpine ash forest that was subsequently burned in the 2009 fires near Lake Mountain. Chris Taylor

Let Forests Mature To Restore What’s Been Lost

The compelling evidence we compiled all indicates mountain ash forests were dense, wet environments, not open and park-like, at the time of British invasion.

The use of scientific evidence is essential for managing Australia’s natural environments. Based on this evidence, we should not be deliberately burning or thinning these forests, which will have adverse impacts.

Rather, restoration should involve letting these forests mature. We should aim to expand the size of the old-growth forest estate to precolonial levels. Where regeneration has failed, practices such as planting and reseeding will be important to restore ecological values.The Conversation

David Lindenmayer, Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National UniversityChris Taylor, Research Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National UniversityElle Bowd, Research Fellow, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University, and Philip Zylstra, Research Associate, University of New South Wales, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Curtin University

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

Species living closely together in symbiosis is far older and way more common than you might think

Lichen, the first described example of symbiosis. AdeJ Artventure/Shutterstock
Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

Once known only to those studying biology, the word symbiosis is now widely used. Symbiosis is the intimate relationship of different species living together. It’s much more common and older than many of us might realise.

One of the most common symbiotic relationships is between various species of algae and fungi, or between cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green algae though it’s not algae) and fungi. These paired species take the form of lichens.

The term symbiosis was first used in the 19th century to describe the lichen relationship, which was thought to be highly unusual. Since then, we’ve discovered symbiosis is the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, it has shaped the evolution of most life on Earth.

A clownfish hides among the tentacles of an anenome
Clownfish and anenomes have one of the best-known symbiotic relationships between animals. melissaf84/Shutterstock

Symbiosis Is Almost Everywhere We Look

Lichens are diverse. They grow on tree trunks, on roof tiles and on ancient rocks.

The symbiosis of two different species allows both to survive in environments they might not be able to colonise otherwise. The fungus provides a suitable environment for its partnering species of algae or cyanbacteria to grow – it might otherwise be too exposed or dry, for example. In return, the fungus gets to share some of the carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis.

This is an example where both partners benefit from their relationship. It’s called mutualistic symbiosis.

Lichens are often very good indicators of air quality and more general ecosystem health. Their absence can indicate poor air quality. Because they absorb air pollutants such as heavy metals they can be used as biomonitors.

In another very common example of mutualistic symbiosis, most plant species live in a close relationship with fungi in the soil. It’s known as a mycorrhizal association.

The plants harness the energy in sunlight to make sugar from water and carbon dioxide in the process called photosynthesis. The plants share this food with the fungus, which relies on them for survival. In return, the fine threads of the fungus greatly increase the surface area of the plant roots for absorbing water and nutrients.

A section of rice plant root with mycorrhizal fungal threads as seen under a microscope
A microscopic view of a rice plant root showing the threads of a mycorrhizal fungus. melissaf84/Shutterstock

Not All Partners Benefit

Not all symbiotic relationships benefit both partners.

In parasitic symbiosis, one partner benefits at the expense of the other. Examples include the fungi PhytophthoraFusarium and Armilleria, which often kill their plant hosts.

In cases of commensalism, one organism benefits and the other neither gains nor loses. Small birds, for example, sometimes perch on large herbivores, eating insects disturbed by the larger animals.

As in any relationship, it’s possible things can change over time. For example, a mutualistic symbiosis between a tree and its mycorrhizal fungus might change to parasitism as the tree ages and declines, or if environmental conditions change.

A mistletoe in flower
The relationship between mistletoe and its host plant can be complex and change with the conditions. Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock

Symbiosis Has Driven Evolution

Symbiosis has played a huge role in the evolution of life. The cells that make up the bodies of animals and plants are the result of symbiotic relationships.

Cells are complex. They contain structures called organelles, such as the nucleus (the control centre of the cell) and mitochondrion (involved in cellular respiration, which uses oxygen to break down food molecules to make energy available). Plant cells also contain chloroplasts, the sites of photosynthesis.

These complex cells evolved from much simpler, ancient forms of life that came together symbiotically.

The organelles of complex cells were once single-celled life forms that survived being engulfed by other simple cells. They formed a more complex and efficient cell, which has become the basic cell type for large multicellular life forms.

All large multi-cellular organisms living on Earth – animal and plant – possess this type of cell. It’s proof of how successful this evolutionary symbiotic strategy has been.

Cell respiration in both plant and animal cells involves mitochondria, which indicates they were engulfed early in evolutionary history. Later a cell type already containing mitochondria engulfed the chloroplast. This led to the evolution of complex plants.

When Two Become One

The incorporation of one cell type into another is called endosymbiosis. It allowed cells and parts of cells to become highly specialised. This specialisation improved their efficiency and capacity to survive under a wider range of conditions.

When I was a postgraduate botany student in the late ’70s, colleagues one day brought samples of common sea lettuce, Ulva latuca, to the laboratory, where I was studying photosynthetic physiology. Sea lettuce is a seaweed found in many shallow waters around the Australian coast.

We noticed a little marine slug grazing on the plant, so we popped it into our system for studying photosynthesis. To our surprise the slug was photosynthesising! We discovered the slug partly digested the sea lettuce cells, but some chloroplasts passed through the lining of the slug’s gut and continued to photosynthesise.

We thought we had made an important discovery, only to learn others had published similar work. After that I never doubted the validity of endosymbiosis, which was still a controversial theory at the time.

A seaslug on an algae-covered rock
Chloroplasts can continue photosynthesising inside the body of sea slugs that absorb them when grazing on algae. Sarah Frost/Shutterstock

Symbiosis Turns Out To Be The Norm

We now know symbiosis is the norm for most organisms, including humans.

Our gut flora represent symbiosis on a massive scale. The diversity and huge numbers of bacteria living happily in our gut can have a huge impact on our general health and wellbeing. In the case of a healthy gut, both the person and the bacteria do well out of the relationship: a nice example of mutualistic symbiosis.

COVID focused public attention on viruses. But not all viruses are harmful; many actually benefit the organisms they infect. Some viruses even protect us from disease-causing viruses. For example, in people who are HIV-positive the disease progresses more slowly in those who are also infected with GB virus C (GBV-C).

Of course, the full range of symbiotic relationships with viruses is possible, from mutual benefit to an infected host suffering great harm. And, as with bacteria, there is accumulating evidence viruses have helped many species evolve, including our own.

An organism must live within a complex set of relationships to survive and thrive in any environment. Some relationships will be more positive than others, but it should not surprise that mutualistic symbiosis is so often the key to success.The Conversation

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

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

Nature conservation works, and we’re getting better at it – new study

Joseph William BullUniversity of Oxford and Jake E. BicknellUniversity of Kent

To work in nature conservation is to battle a headwind of bad news. When the overwhelming picture indicates the natural world is in decline, is there any room for optimism? Well, our new global study has some good news: we provide the strongest evidence to date that nature conservation efforts are not only effective, but that when they do work, they often really work.

Trends in nature conservation tend to be measured in terms of “biodiversity” – that is, the variety among living organisms from genes to ecosystems. We treasure biodiversity not only for how it enriches society and culture, but also its underpinning of resilient, functioning ecosystems that are a foundation of the global economy.

However, it is well known that global biodiversity is decreasing, and has been for some time. Is anything we are doing to reverse this trend effective?

As part of a team of researchers, we conducted the most comprehensive analysis yet of what happened when conservationists intervened in ecosystems. These were interventions of all types, all over the world. We found that conservation action is typically much better than doing nothing at all.

The challenge now is to fund conservation on the scale needed to halt and reverse declines in biodiversity and give these proven methods the best chance of success.

First, The Less Good News

Globally, biodiversity is being depleted by human activities like habitat clearance, overharvesting, the introduction of invasive species and climate change.

To arrest its decline, people in various places have taken measures including creating protected areas, removing invasive species or restoring habitats, such as forests and wetlands. These efforts are interdependent with traditional stewardship of the world’s richest biodiversity by indigenous people and local communities. And in 2022, governments adopted new global targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Gloved hands move baby sea turtles from a crate to the sand on a beach.
Conservation aims to give nature a helping hand. Here, volunteers shepherd turtle hatchlings to the sea. Evan Aube/Shutterstock

Our team, led by the conservation organisation Re:wild, the universities of Oxford and Kent, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, analysed the findings of 186 studies covering 665 trials of different conservation interventions globally over the course of a century.

We wanted to understand whether the outcomes of these conservation actions improved on what would have happened without any intervention. Lots of studies have tried to compare the effects of conservation projects this way, but this is the first time such research has been combined in a single analysis to determine if conservation is working overall.

And Now, The Good News

What we found was extremely encouraging: conservation efforts work, and they work pretty much everywhere.

We found that conservation actions improved the state of biodiversity or slowed its decline in the majority of cases (66%) compared with no action. But more importantly, when conservation interventions work, we found that they are highly effective.

Examples from our far-reaching database included the management of invasive and problematic native predators on two of Florida’s barrier islands, which resulted in an immediate and substantial improvement in the nesting success of loggerhead turtles and least terns. In central African countries across the Congo basin, deforestation was 74% lower in logging estates subject to a forest management plan versus those that weren’t. Protected areas and indigenous lands had significantly less deforestation and smaller fires in the Brazilian Amazon. Breeding Chinook salmon in captivity and releasing them boosted their natural population in the Salmon River basin of central Idaho with minimal side effects.

Multi-coloured salmon swimming close together.
Even species with complex lifecycles can benefit from conservation. Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Where conservation actions did not recover or slow the decline of the species or ecosystems that they were targeting, there is an opportunity to learn why and refine the conservation methods. For example, in India, removing an invasive algae simply caused it to spread elsewhere. Conservationists can now try a different strategy that may be more successful, such as finding ways to halt the drift of fragments of algae.

In other cases, where conservation action did not clearly benefit the target, other native species benefited unintentionally. For example, seahorses were less numerous in protected sites off New South Wales in Australia because these marine protected areas increased the abundance of their predators, such as octopus. So, still a success of sorts.

We also found that more recent conservation interventions tended to have more positive outcomes for biodiversity. This could mean modern conservation is getting more effective over time.

Four graphs depicting four different types of outcomes from conservation actions.
The majority of examples studied showed positive outcomes. Langhammer et al. (2024)/Science

What Comes Next

If conservation generally works but biodiversity is still declining, then simply put: we need to do more of it. Much more. While at the same time reducing the pressures we put on nature.

Over half of the world’s GDP, almost US$44 trillion (£35 trillion), is moderately or highly dependent on nature. According to previous studies, a comprehensive global conservation programme would require an investment of between US$178 and US$524 billion. By comparison, in 2022 alone, subsidies for the production and use of fossil fuels – which are ultimately destructive to nature as fossil fuel burning is the leading cause of climate change – totalled US$7 trillion globally. That is 13 times the upper estimate of what is needed annually to fund the protection and restoration of biodiversity. Today, just US$121 billion is invested annually in conservation worldwide.

Potential funding priorities include more and better managed protected areas. Consistent with other studies, we found that protected areas work very well on the whole; studies that highlight where protected areas are not working often cite ineffective management or inadequate resources. More large-scale investment in habitat restoration would also help according to this new research.

Our study provides evidence that optimism for nature’s recovery is not misplaced. Though biodiversity is declining, we have effective tools to conserve it – and they seem to be getting better over time. The world’s governments have committed to nature recovery. Now, we must invest in it.

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 30,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Joseph William Bull, Associate Professor in Climate Change Biology, University of Oxford and Jake E. Bicknell, Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Conservation, University of Kent

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

Longer-lasting ozone holes over Antarctica expose seal pups and penguin chicks to much more UV

Andrew Netherwood
Sharon RobinsonUniversity of WollongongLaura RevellUniversity of Canterbury, and Rachele OssolaColorado State University

Over the last 25 years, the ozone hole which forming over Antarctica each spring has started to shrink.

But over the last four years, even as the hole has shrunk it has persisted for an unusually long time. Our new research found that instead of closing up during November it has stayed open well into December. This is early summer – the crucial period of new plant growth in coastal Antarctica and the peak breeding season for penguins and seals.

That’s a worry. When the ozone hole forms, more ultraviolet rays get through the atmosphere. And while penguins and seals have protective covering, their young may be more vulnerable.

Why Does Ozone Matter?

Over the past half century, we damaged the earth’s protective ozone layer by using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and related chemicals. Thanks to coordinated global action these chemicals are now banned.

Because CFCs have long lifetimes, it will be decades before they are completely removed from the atmosphere. As a result, we still see the ozone hole forming each year.

The lion’s share of ozone damage happens over Antarctica. When the hole forms, the UV index doubles, reaching extreme levels. We might expect to see UV days over 14 in summers in Australia or California, but not in polar regions.

Luckily, on land most species are dormant and protected under snow when the ozone hole opens in early spring (September to November). Marine life is protected by sea ice cover and Antarctica’s moss forests are under snow. These protective icy covers have helped to protect most life in Antarctica from ozone depletion – until now.

Unusually Long-Lived Ozone Holes

A series of unusual events between 2020 and 2023 saw the ozone hole persist into December. The record-breaking 2019–2020 Australian bushfires, the huge underwater volcanic eruption off Tonga, and three consecutive years of La Niña. Volcanoes and bushfires can inject ash and smoke into the stratosphere. Chemical reactions occurring on the surface of these tiny particulates can destroy ozone.

These longer-lasting ozone holes coincided with significant loss of sea ice, which meant many animals and plants would have had fewer places to hide.

You can see how the size of the ozone hole in 2019 (top left) and 2020 (top right) differs from the mean ozone hole area between 1979 and 2018. Maps of ozone area for September to December show how the ozone hole disappeared early in 2019 (November, middle panel) but extended into December in 2020 (lower panel) NASA Ozone WatchCC BY-NC-ND

What Does Stronger UV Radiation Do To Ecosystems?

If ozone holes last longer, summer-breeding animals around Antarctica’s vast coastline will be exposed to high levels of reflected UV radiation. More UV can get through, and ice and snow is highly reflective, bouncing these rays around.

In humans, high UV exposure increases our risk of skin cancer and cataracts. But we don’t have fur or feathers. While penguins and seals have skin protection, their eyes aren’t protected.

Is it doing damage? We don’t know for sure. Very few studies report on what UV radiation does to animals in Antarctica. Most are done in zoos, where researchers study what happens when animals are kept under artificial light.

Even so, it is a concern. More UV radiation in early summer could be particularly damaging to young animals, such as penguin chicks and seal pups who hatch or are born in late spring.

As plants such as Antarctic hairgrass, Deschampsia antarctica, the cushion plant, Colobanthus quitensis and lots of mosses emerge from under snow in late spring, they will be exposed to maximum UV levels.

Antarctic mosses actually produce their own sunscreen to protect themselves from UV radiation, but this comes at the cost of reduced growth.

Trillions of tiny phytoplankton live under the sea ice. These microscopic floating algae also make sunscreen compounds, called microsporine amino acids.

What about marine creatures? Krill will dive deeper into the water column if the UV radiation is too high, while fish eggs usually have melanin, the same protective compound as humans, though not all fish life stages are as well protected.

Four of the past five years have seen sea ice extent reduce, a direct consequence of climate change.

Less sea ice means more UV light can penetrate the ocean, where it makes it harder for Antarctic phytoplankton and krill to survive. Much relies on these tiny creatures, who form the base of the food web. If they find it harder to survive, hunger will ripple up the food chain. Antarctica’s waters are also getting warmer and more acidic due to climate change.

An Uncertain Outlook For Antarctica

We should, by rights, be celebrating the success of banning CFCS – a rare example of fixing an environmental problem. But that might be premature. Climate change may be delaying the recovery of our ozone layer by, for example, making bushfires more common and more severe.

Ozone could also suffer from geoengineering proposals such as spraying sulphates into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight, as well as more frequent rocket launches.

If the recent trend continues, and the ozone hole lingers into the summer, we can expect to see more damage done to plants and animals – compounded by other threats.

We don’t know if the longer-lasting ozone hole will continue. But we do know climate change is causing the atmosphere to behave in unprecedented ways. To keep ozone recovery on track, we need to take immediate action to reduce the carbon we emit into the atmosphere. The Conversation

Sharon Robinson, Distinguished Professor and Deputy Director of ARC Securing Antarctica's Environmental Future (SAEF), University of Wollongong, University of WollongongLaura Revell, Associate Professor in Environmental Physics, University of Canterbury, and Rachele Ossola, Postdoctoral fellow, Colorado State University

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

We reconstructed landscapes that greeted the first humans in Australia around 65,000 years ago

Examples of Australian landscapes. Unsplash
Tristan SallesUniversity of SydneyIan MoffatFlinders UniversityLaurent HussonUniversité Grenoble Alpes (UGA)Manon LorceryUniversité Grenoble Alpes (UGA), and Renaud Joannes-BoyauSouthern Cross University

Seventy thousand years ago, the sea level was much lower than today. Australia, along with New Guinea and Tasmania, formed a connected landmass known as Sahul. Around this time – approximately 65,000 years ago – the first humans arrived in Sahul, a place previously devoid of any hominin species.

Due to the patchy nature of the archaeological record, researchers still don’t have a full picture of the routes and speed of human migration across the region.

In research published in Nature Communications, our team has reconstructed the evolution of the landscape during this time. This allowed us to better understand the migration strategies of the first peoples in what is now Australia, along with the places they lived.

Walking Over A Changing Landscape

When trying to understand the dispersion of first humans in Sahul, one overlooked aspect has been the impact of the changing landscape itself.

Our planet’s surface is constantly shifted by various physical, climatic and biological processes, changing on a grand scale over geological time – a process known as landscape evolution.

We used a landscape evolution model that details climatic evolution from 75,000 to 35,000 years ago.

The model allows for a more realistic description of the terrains and environments inhabited by the first hunter-gatherer communities as they traversed Sahul.

On top of the evolving landscape, we then ran thousands of simulations, each describing a possible migration route.

We considered two entry points into Sahul: a northern route through West Papua (entry time: 73,000 years) and a southern one from the Timor Sea shelf (entry time: ~75,000 years).

A detailed map of a landmass shaped like Australia with additional land in the north.
Results from our simulations predicted migration routes passing through 34 of the 40 archaeological sites older than 35,000 years (white circles are identified archaeological sites). Colours represent the number of moves between consecutive circles; the size of the circle is scaled based on the cumulative distance travelled by groups of hunter-gatherers. Salles et al., Nature Communications (2024)

From these simulations, we calculated the speeds of migration based on available archaeological sites. Estimated speeds range between 0.36 and 1.15 kilometres per year. This is similar to previous estimates, suggesting people spread across the continent quite rapidly.

For both scenarios, our simulations also predicted a high likelihood of human occupation at many of the iconic Australian archaeological sites.

A colour-coded map of the same landmass as above.
Probability of human presence across Sahul by 35,000 years ago, combining the northern and southern entry points. White circles indicate locations of archaeological sites. Grey lines overlaying the map show the dominant movement corridors interpreted as super-highways of human migration across Sahul before 50,000 years ago. Salles et al., Nature Communications (2024)

Following Rivers And Coastlines

From the predicted migration routes, we produced a map of most likely visited regions, with probability of human presence as shown above.

We found that human settlers would have dispersed across the continental interior along rivers on both sides of Lake Carpentaria (the modern Gulf of Carpentaria). The first communities would have mainly been foraging along the way, following water streams. They also travelled along the receding coastlines as sea levels rose once more.

Based on our model, we didn’t identify well-defined migration routes. Instead, we saw a “radiating wave” of migrations.

However, our model did indicate a high likelihood of human presence near several already-proposed most likely pathways of Indigenous movement (called super-highways), including those to the east of Lake Carpentaria, along the southern corridors south of Lake Eyre, and traversing the Australian interior.

We Could Predict Archaeological Sites

There’s one particularly interesting outcome from our map that shows the probability of human presence in Sahul. In a cost-effective way (without needing to travel across the entire continent), it could potentially pinpoint areas of archaeological significance.

Our approach can’t tell us how well a given location might be preserved for archaeological finds. However, our simulations do give an indication of how much specific sites may have eroded or received extra sediment.

We could use this to estimate if artefacts at a potential archaeological site have moved or been buried over time.

Our study is the first to show the impact of landscape changes on the initial migration on Sahul, providing a new perspective on its archaeology. If we used such an approach in other regions as well, we could improve our understanding of humanity’s extraordinary journey out of Africa.The Conversation

Tristan Salles, Associate professor, University of SydneyIan Moffat, Associate Professor of Archaeological Science, Flinders UniversityLaurent Husson, Earth sciences researcher, Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA)Manon Lorcery, PhD Candidate, Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), and Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Professor, Southern Cross University

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

ESA’s Astronaut Class Of 2022 Graduate Katherine Bennell-Pegg: Australia's First Female Astronaut - A Former South Curl Curl Girl

Former South Curl Curl resident and Queenwood school Class of 2002 alumna Katherine Bennell-Pegg is the first Australian woman trained as an astronaut by an international space agency, under the Australian flag. Katherine, Director of Space Technology at the Australian Space Agency, said it’s a journey she hopes will inspire more girls to take up a career in STEM. The Queenwood School motto is – Per Aspera ad Astra (through struggles to the stars)

Portrait of Australian Space Agency astronaut: Katherine Bennell-Pegg. CREDIT: ESA - P. Sebirot

When asked by a teacher at high school to write down three career options, Katherine only wrote ‘astronaut’. 

With the encouragement of her parents, Katherine researched what she would need to do to fulfil this goal. She worked hard at school, studying maths, English, chemistry, physics, and economics in her final year. She also did a range of extra-curricular activities aimed at a career in space: aerobatic flying lessons, amateur astronomy, sport and debating.

In 2007, Katherine graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) – Aeronautical Engineering (Space) and a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) – Physics from the University of Sydney. She kept busy during her studies, completing internships as a mechanical engineer, a physics researcher, and later, working as a computer programmer. She was also an Australian Army Reservist, a volunteer in the NSW SES and travelled to India with Engineers Without Borders.

‘The great thing about wanting to be an astronaut is that the backup careers are exciting. You can specialise in almost any STEM field: piloting, medicine, science and engineering are all good backgrounds for being an astronaut.’

Katherine worked across Europe on a range of space projects. This included human spaceflight missions and technologies, facilities for the International Space Station, debris removal concepts, Earth observation, and space exploration missions. 

During this time, Katherine had two daughters with her husband Campbell, who also works in space. The family returned to Australia in 2019, with Katherine and Campbell both joining the Australian Space Agency.

Inspiring others to reach for the stars

During her 13-months of training, Katherine has stayed connected with Australia. She has inspired audiences with virtual presentations and done dozens of media interviews.

‘I want to use this experience to open doors for Australian scientists and engineers to utilise space for their discoveries, to inspire the pursuit of STEM careers, and show all Australians that they too can reach for the stars.’

Upon graduation, Katherine also became Australia’s first female astronaut. 

‘I hope it paves the way for other young Australians who share my dream, particularly young girls. Only around one in ten astronauts are female, but the profile of an astronaut is evolving over time. The alpha-male stereotype is no longer what is being sought.’ Katherine said

Australian Space Agency astronaut candidate Katherine Bennell-Pegg during a radiation physics lesson as part of her basic astronaut training. CREDIT: ESA/DLR

During basic training, the astronaut candidates delved into radiation physics and had a unique encounter with two special colleagues—Helga and Zohar, two ‘phantoms’ equipped with radiation detectors sent on a lunar flyby during the Artemis I mission. The candidates examined the radiation sensors placed in Helga an Zohar as part of the MARE experiment, and were taught about radiation and space travel. This picture shows Katherine removing a radiation sensor from Helga’s neck area. The sensor is then placed in an evaluation device and measured.

Katherine commenced basic astronaut training alongside ESA’s newest class of astronauts, including Sophie Adenot, Rosemary Coogan, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Raphaël Liégeois and Marco Sieber in April 2023. The new ESA astronaut class was selected in November 2022. 

The one-year basic training provides an overall familiarisation and training in various areas, such as spacecraft systems, spacewalking, flight engineering, robotics and life support systems, as well as survival and medical training before they receive astronaut certification in April 2024.  

After certification, they will move on to the next phases of pre-assignment and mission-specific training, paving the way for future missions to the International Space Station and beyond. 

On 22 April 2024 the ESA celebrated the graduation of its class of 2022 astronaut candidates. The ceremony, held at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, signified the successful completion of basic training for the five European astronaut graduates and the Australian Space Agency’s first astronaut, all now eligible for spaceflight assignments.

The new graduates ESA astronauts are Sophie Adenot, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Rosemary Coogan, Raphaël Liégeois and Marco Sieber. Also, as testament to ESA’s commitment in international collaboration, Katherine Bennell-Pegg from the Australian Space Agency graduated with her fellow ESA classmates.

“Today is a significant milestone as we celebrate the graduation of a new class of five ESA astronauts, who are now qualified to be assigned to future spaceflights. I am also proud to witness the graduation of an Australian astronaut candidate, which reaffirms our dedication to advancing international cooperation in space exploration. The addition of fresh talent and diverse perspectives and expertise enhances our ability to navigate the complexities of space exploration and solidifies ESA's role as a pioneering force in shaping our future in space,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

Selected for training in 2022 at the ESA Ministerial Council, the astronaut candidates commenced their basic training in April 2023, first at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre and then across the globe. They completed a comprehensive one-year training programme covering essential skills such as spacecraft systems, spacewalking, flight engineering, robotics and life support systems, as well as survival and medical training.

After certification, assigned ESA astronauts from the new class will move on to the next phases of pre-assignment and mission-specific training, paving the way for future missions to the International Space Station and beyond.

ESA received an overwhelming response to its call for applications, with more than 22, 500 candidates from ESA Member States. From this pool, 17 individuals were chosen to form the astronaut class of 2022, including 12 members of the ESA astronaut reserve and five astronaut candidates who have completed their basic training.

ESA also established a reserve pool of astronauts for the first time in 2022. Comprised of candidates who excelled throughout the selection process, this reserve pool stands ready to be called upon for project astronaut roles as flight opportunities arise. The first among those was Marcus Wandt, who flew on the Axiom-3 mission in January this year.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration Daniel Neuenschwander said, “As the basic training is successfully completed by our new ESA astronauts, we embark on a new era in European astronaut history. These five new members of the European astronaut corps, alongside the members of the reserve, underscore our dedication to fostering talent and maximising opportunities for space exploration. We are poised to embark on a new era of collaborative endeavours, pushing the boundaries of discovery and shaping the future of space exploration.”

Additionally, one member of the reserve pool is participating in the “Fly! Feasibility Study”, which explores options for the inclusion of astronauts with physical disabilities in human spaceflight missions and future endeavours.

The class of 2022 astronaut graduates in their own words:

Australian Space Agency astronaut Katherine Bennell-Pegg

“When I dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child, I never thought it possible to do so representing Australia. Now, we have the Australian Space Agency and a growing space sector which can really benefit from the knowledge and insights I have gained during training with ESA. I'm incredibly determined to make the most of this past year, and whatever follows, to generate further opportunities for Australian industry, and the aspirations of everyone back home. Partnering with ESA has been a remarkable opportunity to not only contribute to our shared goals but also to foster collaboration on a global scale, which is essential for the future of space exploration.”

ESA astronaut Sophie Adenot

“Becoming an astronaut has been a lifelong dream, and completing basic training is just the beginning of an extraordinary journey. With previous experiences that have shaped me, I've faced challenges that have prepared me for the rigors of space exploration. I'm honoured to bring my background and enthusiasm to a team dedicated to pushing the boundaries of human capability in space, the most challenging and hostile environment there is.”

ESA astronaut Pablo Álvarez Fernández

“Completing basic astronaut training has been an extraordinary journey of personal growth. I'm deeply grateful for the invaluable lessons learned from the best in the field and thrilled to play a role in shaping the future of space exploration. As an ESA astronaut representing Spain, I am honoured to join the lineage of pioneers like Pedro Duque. This opportunity fills me with immense pride, and I'm excited to elevate our shared passion for space to unprecedented heights.”

ESA astronaut Rosemary Coogan

“Graduating from astronaut basic training is an incredibly moving moment for me. From dreaming about space to now being one step closer to reaching it, I'm filled with gratitude and determination to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. I’m proud to share this moment with my fellow astronaut graduates and of the commitment of our international team to exploration. Together, we stand ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, united by our shared passion for space.”

ESA astronaut Raphaël Liégeois

“Completing basic astronaut training has been an intense experience, highlighting the importance of teamwork and continuous learning. I'm excited to apply these lessons as I embark on the next phase of my journey. I'm eager to contribute to the ongoing journey of discovery and scientific advancement, inspired by Belgium's steadfast dedication to the exploration of the new frontiers.”

ESA astronaut Marco Sieber

“As I stand on the threshold of a new chapter in my life, I am humbled by the challenges and triumphs of basic astronaut training. I'm ready to being part of the collective effort of exploring our universe for the benefit of life on Earth and for future generations, as well as contributing to Switzerland’s participation in the emergence, consolidation and expansion of European space cooperation.”

ESA's astronaut class of 2022 including Sophie Adenot, Rosemary Coogan, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Raphaël Liégeois, Marco Sieber, and Australian Space Agency's Katherine Bennell-Pegg during their graduation ceremony at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre on 22 April 2024. Receiving certification marks their transition from candidates to fully qualified astronauts eligible for space missions. Selected in November 2022, the group began their training in April 2023. Basic astronaut training covers spacecraft systems, spacewalks, flight engineering, robotics, life support systems, survival, and medical training, followed by pre-assignment and mission-specific training, setting the stage for future missions to the International Space Station and beyond. CREDIT: ESA - P. Sebirot

ESA's astronaut candidates of the class of 2022 at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. The five candidates are Sophie Adenot, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Rosemary Coogan, Raphaël Liégeois, and Marco Sieber. The group is part of the 17-member astronaut class of 2022, selected from 22 500 applicants from across ESA Member States.

The astronaut candidates are trained to the highest level for future space missions. Basic training includes learning about space exploration, technical and scientific disciplines, space systems and operations, as well as spacewalks and survival training. The astronaut candidates are joined by Australian Space Agency astronaut candidate Katherine Bennell-Pegg. 

Katherine Bennell-Pegg with her Certificate - photo via Twitter/X where Katherine tweeted ''This is going straight to the pool room!'' [from The Castle, 1997 Australian film]

Watch 'Into the Light' 

Published March 14, 2024 by Australian Space Agency

Into the Light showcases the power of a dream and the determination and hard work that goes into making that dream a reality. Australian astronaut-in-training Katherine Bennell-Pegg takes the audience on a journey from a childhood realisation of how vast our universe is, to the knowledge gained when we explore the unknown.

Astrovan Win 2024 Northern Composure Band Comp.

Councillor Miranda Korzy sent through this photo of Astrovan - who apparently took out the 2024 Northern Composure Band Competition on Saturday April 20.

Congratulations Astrovan!

Bands through to the Grand Final, held Saturday 20 April, 7pm, at PCYC Dee Why, were:

  • Astrovan
  • Bangalley
  • Melaluka
  • Overnight Lows 

This year the grand finalists were supporting The Grogans as headline act - they're an Australian garage rock band from Melbourne. The trio consists of Quin Grunden, Angus Vasic and Jordan Lewis. Since forming in 2016, they have released four studio albums – most recently, Find Me A Cloud in 2023.

The highly anticipated and respected Northern Composure competition, now in its 21st year, offers 12–19-year-olds the rare chance of a live on-stage performance.

Congratulations to all 4 finalists, Astrovan, Bangalley, Melaluka and Overnight Lows, reaching the grand final after showing their skills to the 4 judges through online heats and semi-finals.

The judges selected the winning band through 5 criteria: musicianship, originality, stage presence, youth audience appeal and overall conduct.

Mayor Sue Heins said the calibre of performers in this year’s competition was impressive.

“We are proud to again showcase some incredibly talented musicians and help be a stepping stone to a potential career in the music industry.

“Forming the centrepiece of Youth Week, Council has supported Northern Composure unearth many success stories such as Dear Seattle, The Rions and Lime Cordiale,” said Mayor Heins.

The winning band took home $1,000 cash from Northern Beaches Council and a marketing and publicity package from Perfect Pitch valued at $1,100. Mall Music and BOSS provided a consultation with Rowland Product Specialist and a $400 retail Rowland equipment voucher.

The band also walks away with a full music production package from Jaminajar where they will record a single with renowned music producer Paul Najar at the Jaminajar studios with stereo and Dolby Atmos mixes.

Northern Composure Band Competition is proudly produced by Northern Beaches Council and generously supported by major sponsor Perfect Pitch and event partners – Jaminajar, Rocksalt Sound, Mall Music and Roland.

Platinum:                      Astrovan
Gold:                            Bangalley
Bronze:                        Melaluka
Emerging Artist:          Overnight Lows

Astrovan released a new single called 'Whats Wrong With Olivia' in February. Their bio info states they're inspired by the best of Indie rock from the 2000’s and are a Mosman high school formed band a few years back. Cr. Korzy said they were spot on and incredibly tight live. The boys are focussed on composition and song writing - the bedrock of all great music.

Bangalley, named after a local Avalon/Whale Beach headland that itself was named for a tree, released 'For Molly' on March 17. Their Triple your Yays bio reads;- 'Indie Surf-Rock band, Bangalley, is comprised of 4 close mates that found their passion for crafting smooth, psychedelic, reggae tunes through their collective music taste. Inspired by their environments, experiences and each other; they look to reach their potential and create a strong relationship with their fans, one song at a time

Melaluka also have a brand new song out 'Already Done'; which is FULL ON!! and has a huge metal base. They too are a beaches outfit that play tight, fast and LOUD! REALLY LOUD!!!

The Overnight Lows are another local band, a trio and have a diverse music taste with influences from various genres including but not limited to Punk, Rock, Hip-Hop and Metal and are having a go in Unearthed High 2024. They are high energy outfit who ran 'Blanked Out' for the online voting part of the 2024 Band Comp - don't be fooled by the slow whimsical start to this piece, the lullaby soon turns into jump aroundness....

This year’s four finalists competed in an online heat, live semi finals shows and then the grand final, performing in front of a panel of industry experts and opening for this year’s headliner.

Competing bands were judged on five categories at the semi-finals and final:

  • Musicianship – Technical ability for singers and musicians 
  • Originality – Even when playing covers, have you put your own brand into the song
  • Stage Presence – How you interact with your audience and each other
  • Youth Audience Appeal – Do you appeal to a wide audience of 12-24 year olds
  • Overall Conduct – How you conduct yourselves as individuals and as a band

Congratulations Astrovan, Bangalley, Melaluka, Overnight Lows  and ALL who had a go in this year's band comp - great stuff.

Cockatoo Feed Time: Careel Bay 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) eggs are laid in a suitable tree hollow, which is prepared by both sexes. Both parent birds also incubate and care for the chicks. The chicks remain with the parents all year round and family groups will stay together indefinitely.

Breeding Season: August to January in the south; May to September in the north.

  • Clutch size: 1 to 3
  • Incubation: 30 days
  • Time in nest: 65 days

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's normal diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more members of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch. When not feeding, birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. These items are not eaten, however. The activity may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large.

Pics: AJG/PON (April 24, 2024). Info.: Australian Museum

Flowering Now: White Paperbark Trees

Melaleuca quinquenervia, commonly known as the broad-leaved paperbark, paper bark tea tree, punk tree or niaouli, is a small- to medium-sized tree of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. It grows as a spreading tree up to 20 m (70 ft) tall, with its trunk covered by a white, beige and grey thick papery bark. The grey-green leaves are egg-shaped, and cream or white bottlebrush-like flowers appear from late spring to autumn. It was first formally described in 1797 by the Spanish naturalist Antonio José Cavanilles.

Native to New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and coastal eastern Australia, from Botany Bay in New South Wales northwards into Queensland, M. quinquenervia grows in swamps, on floodplains and near rivers and estuaries, often on silty soil.

The paper-like bark is used traditionally for making coolamons and shelters and for wrapping baked food and lining ground ovens.[7] The nectar is extracted traditionally by washing in coolamons of water which is subsequently consumed as a beverage. The scented flower also produces a light to dark amber honey depending on the district. It is strongly flavoured and candies readily. 

Melaleuca quinquenervia is often used as a street tree or planted in public parks and gardens, especially in Sydney.[39] In its native Australia, it is excellent as a windbreak, screening tree and food source for a wide range of local insect and bird species.

The essential oil of Melaleuca quinquenervia is used in a variety of cosmetic products especially in Australia. The oil is reported in herbalism and natural medicine to work as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, to help with bladder infections, respiratory troubles and catarrh.

Melaleuca quinquenervia, also called white bottlebrush, Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach, April 25th, 2024

Melaleuca quinquenervia, also called white bottlebrush, and feasting rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus - Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach, April 25th, 2019

Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships 2024 Are Now Open!

Do you know a first-year apprentice in NSW who could use some financial assistance? Maybe it’s you!   

The Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships help NSW apprentices facing hardship to excel and complete their apprenticeships, helping them to develop a fulfilling career and strengthening the growth of your industry.

Up to 150 successful applicants will receive a $5,000 scholarship annually for up to three years, totalling $15,000.    

The funds could be utilised to help purchase new tools, pay for fuel or take additional training courses.   

First-year apprentices, including school-based apprentices, whose employers are in regional or metropolitan NSW, are eligible to apply.     

The Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships form part of the NSW Government Apprenticeship and Traineeship Roadmap (2024-2026), which will drive the development of Apprenticeships and Traineeships in NSW over the next three years, taking an inclusive and learner-centered approach.       

Applications are open until 31 May 2024.      

For more information around eligibility criteria and how to apply, visit

Music To The Ears: New Recording And Touring Grants

Applications open on 20 March and close 20 May 2024.

Musicians and artists are set to receive a boost under the NSW  Government with the opening of grants focused on rebuilding the NSW touring circuit.

Sound NSW’s new Touring and Travel Fund and Recording and Promotion Grants will inject $3 million into the local contemporary music sector to deliver more new and original music, enable touring opportunities, and open doors for career-defining professional development.

With a focus on fostering growth and sustainability for the contemporary music industry, the programs support NSW artists to be globally competitive, develop industry networks and connect with new audiences locally and internationally.

Touring and Travel Fund

Designed to address the time-sensitive nature of venue availability and performance opportunities, Sound NSW’s $2 million Touring and Travel Fund offers quick response grants of up to $2500 per person for domestic activity and up to $7500 per person for international activity.

Applications for Sound NSW’s Touring and Travel Fund will be assessed on a quick-response basis against eligibility criteria.

Applications open on 20 March via and close 20 May 2024.

Recording and Promotion Grants

Sound NSW’s $1 million Recording and Promotion Grants program will support NSW contemporary musicians to record and release new, original creative projects. NSW artists can apply for grants of:

  • up to $25,000 for short-form releases, such as a single or EP
  • up to $50,000 for long-form releases, such as an album
  • up to $25,000 matched funding for artists signed to a major label. 

Applications open 20 March and close 17 April 2024 at

Minister for the Arts John Graham said:

“We are determined to rebuild the touring circuit, up and down the NSW coast, through our inland tours and suburbs. This fund will do just that.

“We’re delivering on our commitment to bring music back in NSW with this much-needed investment. These fast-response grants will support more new and original music from our musicians, enable tours across Australia and the world, and move NSW a step closer to being a global powerhouse for contemporary music.”

Head of Sound NSW Emily Collins said:

“Recording, releasing and performing new music is essential to the contemporary music industry and the growth and sustainability of artists’ careers, but the upfront costs are often greater than the income generated for many musicians.

“Sound NSW is excited to help bridge this gap by providing this vital funding, removing these prohibitive barriers and supporting NSW artists to do what they do best – making great music.”

2024 Young Writers' Competition

Celebrating 15 years of the Young Writers' Competition, the 2024 theme word is 'crystal'. Council are looking for the next sparkling young creative writers on the Beaches.

Are you gazing into a crystal ball or standing under a sparkling crystal chandelier? Swimming through crystal blue waters or hunting for a magical crystal guarded by a monstrous beast? Is your story becoming crystal clear?

Write an original creative piece of work using this year's theme word 'crystal' for a chance to win prizes, meet our author judges and receive personalised feedback on your entry.

Open to students up to Year 12.

How to Enter

Visit the council webpage for more information and Conditions of Entry.


This event is delivered by Council's Library Programs Team as part of NSW Youth Week.

Finalists will be celebrated in an awards event and their creative works published in a library eBook. Entries are judged according to characterisation, plot, originality, and use of language and arranged into six different age group categories.

Four finalists are chosen in each age category and invited to a presentation event where a winner, runner-up and two highly commended prizes are awarded. Finalists from each category will have their stories published in an eBook that will be added to our collection.

All finalists receive a prize bag. Top prizes per category:

  • Years K-2 - $70 voucher
  • Years 3-4 - $85 voucher
  • Years 5-6 - $100 voucher
  • Years 7-8 - $125 voucher
  • Years 9-10 - $150 voucher
  • Years 11-12 - $175 voucher

Entries close May 15, 2024 at 5pm

This is a Free event.

Nominate For 2024 Public Education Awards

Nominations for the 2024 Public Education Awards are now open.

The awards showcase the exceptional work occurring every day across NSW public education - by schools, students, teachers, employees and parents - and were previously known as the Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.

Among the seven award categories in 2024 is the Secretary’s Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

This award recognises and celebrates those in NSW public education who proactively advocate for and celebrate diversity, inclusion and belonging.

It is open to all current employees of the NSW Department of Education, including casual staff, temporary staff and contractors.

The seven award categories for 2024 are:

Award nominations close on 14 May and the winners will be announced at a gala event at Sydney Town Hall on Monday 5 August.

More information is available on the Public Education Foundation website

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: Greengrocer

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


A greengrocer is a person who owns or operates a shop selling primarily fruit and vegetables. The term may also be used to refer to a shop selling primarily produce. It is used predominantly in the United Kingdom and Australia.

While once common in the United Kingdom and Australia, the increase in popularity of supermarkets caused greengrocer shops to become rarer, though they may still be found in smaller towns and villages. Today, greengrocers can also be found in street markets, malls, and supermarket produce departments.

Avalons Organics store would be a current day version of this store.

The  earliest evidence for greengrocer is from 1723, in the London Gazette. greengrocer is formed within English, by compounding.  from green (n.) "vegetable" + grocer.


green (n.)

late Old English, "green color or pigment, spectral color between blue and yellow;" also "a field, grassy place; green garments; green foliage," from green (adj.). Specific sense "piece of grassland in a village belonging to the community" is by late 15c. In golf, "the putting portion of the links" by 1849. Symbolic of inconstancy since late 14c., perhaps because in nature it changes or fades. Also symbolic of envy and jealousy since Middle English. Shakespeare's green-eyed monster of "Othello" sees all through eyes tinged with jealousy. "Greensleeves," ballad of an inconstant lady-love, is from 1570s. The color of the cloth in royal counting houses from late 14c., later the color of the cloth on gambling tables.

grocer (n.)

early 15c. (mid-13c. as a surname), "wholesale dealer, one who buys and sells in gross," corrupted spelling of Anglo-French grosser, Old French grossier, from Medieval Latin grossarius "wholesaler," literally "dealer in quantity" (source also of Spanish grosero, Italian grossista), from Late Latin grossus "coarse (of food), great, gross". Sense of "a merchant selling individual items of food" is 16c.; in Middle English this was a spicer.

Compare grass (n.)

Old English græs, gærs "herb, plant, grass," from Proto-Germanic grasan (source also of Old Frisian gers "grass, turf, kind of grass," Old Norse, Old Saxon, Dutch, Old High German, German, Gothic gras, Swedish gräs "grass"). As a colour name (especially grass-green, Old English græsgrene) by c. 1300. 

c1967 Roadside Stall on Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills. The owners of the stall were Joe Pollifrone and his family.  Joe and Mr. Caruso standing next to the truck.

Greengrocer Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae

The Australian Museum tells us that 'the Greengrocer cicada is probably the most commonly encountered in the Sydney area. The two common names of Greengrocer and Yellow Monday refer to different colour forms of the same species. The origin of the names is unclear but they are known to have been in use as early as 1896. Other names for different colour forms include Chocolate Soldier (dark tan form) and Blue Moon (turquoise form).

Dusk is the usual time to hear the male Greengrocers calling for females, but they also sing in the morning on warm days. The harsh song may be continuous or delivered in short bursts, and can be extremely loud and penetrating.

Adult Greengrocer cicadas live for around six weeks. Females deposit eggs into dead or dying branches of a food plant. The eggs hatch after about four months into spidery-looking, long-legged nymphs that burrow into the soil. Here they suck sap out of plant roots and grow for up to seven years, emerging as adults between September and November on warm nights often following rain.'

Superfluous apostrophes - the "greengrocers' apostrophes"

Because of its common misuse on greengrocers' signs, an apostrophe used incorrectly to form a plural—such as apple's, orange's, or banana's instead of apples, oranges and bananas —is known as a greengrocers' apostrophe.

Apostrophes used in a non-standard manner to form noun plurals are known as greengrocers' apostrophes or grocers' apostrophes, often written as greengrocer's apostrophes or grocer's apostrophes. They are sometimes humorously called greengrocers apostrophe's, rogue apostrophes, or idiot's apostrophes (a literal translation of the German word Deppenapostroph, which criticises the misapplication of apostrophes in Denglisch). The practice, once common and acceptable (see Historical development), comes from the identical sound of the plural and possessive forms of most English nouns. It is often criticised as a form of hypercorrection coming from a widespread ignorance of the proper use of the apostrophe or of punctuation in general. Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, points out that before the 19th century it was standard orthography to use the apostrophe to form a plural of a foreign-sounding word that ended in a vowel (e.g., banana's, folio's, logo's, quarto's, pasta's, ouzo's) to clarify pronunciation. Truss says this usage is no longer considered proper in formal writing.

The term is believed to have been coined in the middle of the 20th century by a teacher of languages working in Liverpool, at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of greengrocers (e.g., Apple's 1/- a pound, Orange's 1/6d a pound). Some have argued that its use in mass communication by employees of well-known companies has led to the less literate assuming it to be standard and adopting the habit themselves.

How breakdancing became the latest Olympic sport

Mikhail BatuevNorthumbria University, Newcastle

“Breaking” is the only new sport making its debut at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Breaking is probably better known to most of us as breakdancing. So why is the sport officially called breaking, and how is something so freestyle and subjective going to play out as a scored sport in Paris this summer?

The origins of breaking are somewhat debatable, although most agree its roots can be traced to 1970s house parties in the Bronx area of New York hosted by DJ Kool Herc, the founder of hip-hop. Breaking was performed on the dance floor by so-called B-boys and B-girls when the music tracks were “breaking” – meaning all that could be heard was the percussion track.

Throughout the 1980s the phenomenon garnered international exposure via music videos and movies such as Flashdance (1983), Breakin’ (1984) and Beat Street (1984). This is also when the media started to use the term “breakdancing”. However, breakers never add “dance” on the end, as this term came from outsiders rather than the hip-hop community, as one of the breaking pioneers Crazy Legs has pointed out.

While the idea of testing each other in format-free “cyphers” (when people gather in a circle and somebody freestyles in the middle) has always been fundamental to breakers, the importance and the number of organised breaking competitions has steadily grown with commercialisation and codification of the activity.

There have always been two main formats: crew competitions and one-on-one solo battles, which have manifested the individualism, creativity and self-expression of breakers. Still, as with many alternative activities evolving into sports, like skateboarding or surfing, the governance and competition frameworks have remained fragmented until recently.

It was not until 2018 that breaking became officially governed by the World DanceSport Federation. However, major competitions still exist outside the official governance, such as Red Bull BC One and the Battle of the Year, that arguably carry more credibility within the breaking community.

Why The Olympics?

Since the Olympic Agenda 2020 – a road map for the Olympic movement based on the three pillars of credibility, sustainability and youth – the IOC has continued to modernise the Olympic programme to make it more attractive to a wider and younger audience.

Undoubtedly, the inclusion of breaking fits well with that overall strategy – there has been nothing similar to breaking on the programme in terms of its creativity, affordability (no tools or equipment needed) and its urban nature. It is also fair to say though that breaking made it to Paris 2024 thanks to the insistence of the host country.

Apart from the usual core Olympic programme, the host country of each Olympics has five additional slots that they can fill with the sports of their preference. I analysed the Tokyo 2020 Games to find that when it came to its medal tally, Japan benefited from local favourites like karate, skateboarding, baseball and softball.

Los Angeles 2028 will add flag football (a variant of American football), lacrosse, cricket and squash. Bizarrely, Paris 2024 may well be the only time we will see breaking in the Olympics in the foreseeable future, although the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) is determined to ensure it returns in Brisbane 2032.

What We Will See In Paris?

There are a lot of odd new terms to learn if you have never watched a breaking contest, such as “turtle freeze”, “six-steps” and “coin drop”. However, the format of Olympic competition is very straightforward: 16 B-boys and 16 B-girls will battle it out head-to-head under the lights of the Place de la Concorde.

There is a three-part qualifier for the games, so no doubt each of those qualifying athletes will be in the history books. Already qualified through WDSF World and continental championships are some heavy favourites, such as B-boys Victor (US) and Danny Dan (France), and B-girls India (Netherlands) and Nicka (Lithuania).

The last 14 will be decided by the top-ranked 80 breakers at the dedicated Olympic qualifier series in Shanghai in May and Budapest in June. To make the competition diverse, the IOC has limited each country to a maximum of two B-boys and two B-girls, while introducing two universal places that provide opportunities to smaller and emerging nations.

As in any creative sport, there are inevitable questions about scoring in breaking. Indeed, there is always going to be a substantial degree of subjectivity, but not drastically more than in established Olympic sports like gymnastics, synchronised swimming or figure skating.

Traditionally, three or five judges have been used in major breaking contests. However, this number has increased to nine in the Olympic framework, presumably to minimise subjectivity and risk of errors.

The trivium judging system that will be used in Paris was developed by influential B-boy Storm and DJ Renegade for the 2018 Youth Olympics, and has been fine-tuned through the series of WDSF events since.

It is based on six criteria to decide the winner of each battle: creativity, personality, technique, variety, performativity and musicality – this means connecting to a musical track that is not known in advance.

The breaking community has always been very close and informal, and some breakers and judges might find the new formalities of sporting frameworks unusual. However, there is still one unique feature that will hopefully survive the formalisation – it is the only sport where the judges have to perform for the athletes and spectators.

This usually happens before the competition starts and is called “the judges’ showcase”. University lecturer Rachael Gunn, aka B-girl Raygun, (who won the Oceania Breaking Championships and qualified for the Olympics) sees this unique practice as a symbolic gesture, a demonstration that underscores the unity and shared passion between contestants and those judging them.

So don’t forget to tune in early on August 9 and 10 to witness this special celebration before following this exciting contest when we will see the first-ever Olympic breaking champions crowned.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Mikhail Batuev, Lecturer in Sport Management, Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Northumbria University, Newcastle

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

Victorian London was a city in flux: architectural models helped the public visualise the changes

The new Royal Courts of Justice in London, opened in 1882 and photographed here between 1897 and 1899. The Queen's Empire. Volume 3. Cassell & Co. London|Wikimedia
Matthew WellsUniversity of Manchester

In 1848, the British government decided to draw up a precisely measured map of London. Imperial expansion had seen the city develop quickly, particularly around the docks and the City of London.

There was a growing need for improved infrastucture, particularly an underground sewer system, which would be overseen by the Metropolitan Board of Works.

Previous cartographic attempts had largely involved piecing together existing maps of the region. Military professionals now undertook a thorough survey of the city’s topography and rivers, covering a radius of 12 miles from St Paul’s Cathedral.

This was a time of great urban expansion. London in the mid-19th century was becoming the global centre of finance and trade. New public buildings were constructed including museums, libraries, art galleries and markets (for money, livestock, coal). As the minister in charge of public works, Austin Layard, put it:

The government has to decide upon the erection of a large number of important public buildings than had ever been raised in any capital at one time.

An archival photograph of 19th-century London.
St Paul’s Cathedral and the rooftops of Victorian London, 1860s. Wikimedia

Politicians began to talk about needing to supplement this new cartographic view of the city with a three-dimensional one. The idea was to detail both individual buildings and major changes to urban districts. In 1869 Layard thus proposed a new 3D model of the city itself that would be open to public viewing.

In my new book, Modelling the Metropolis, I show how architectural models became a crucial communication tool in Victorian London. They enabled politicians and the wider public to visualise, in unprecedented fashion, how their city was changing.

Victorian Politics And Architecture

The early 19th century saw major changes made to the electoral landscape in Britain. First, following the 1832 Reform Act, voting rights were extended to a greater share of the male population. Electoral boundaries moved to better reflect the urbanisation of industrialised Britain.

Three decades later, the 1867 Reform Act enfranchised a million new male voters. This doubled the size of the electorate and propelled the country into the age of mass politics.

These changes created a new political context and an urban public eager for democratic participation. In London, this meant keeping the public up to date on how the city was expanding.

An archival circular photograph of Victorian central London.
The National Gallery, 1890s. Wikimedia

The popular press discussed the various merits of new prominent civic buildings. These included the National Gallery, built between 1832-1838, and George Edmund Street’s designs for the Royal Courts of Justice, which opened in 1882.

Architectural models came to play a central role in this public discourse. Architects and politicians used scale models to present to the public an accurate idea of a proposed building, prior to its construction.

These used models variously to show different options for how a future building might look, to raise funds for its construction or to celebrate the project’s progress. These models enabled audiences to visualise different scenarios and discuss the future appearance of their city.

During a debate about the Royal Courts of Justice, Layard said:

I am strongly of opinion that no great public building ought to be erected without a model upon a large scale, having first been submitted to the public.

A model, he argued, was the best means to openly display the chosen design to the government, opposition members of parliament and the tax-paying public. He felt it necessary that projects “be seen and criticised”.

In 1869 a team of modelmakers made a vast model of the Embankment, from Blackfriars Bridge to the Palace of Westminster. It showed two different sites for the Royal Courts of Justice. Each component part could be removed and replaced to show new buildings constructed as the city changed.

Although now lost, we know that the model required consent from the chancellor of the exchequer due to its expense. It cost some £150,000 in today’s money. Londoners were able to view it on display in the library of the Palace of Westminster and at the newly opened Bethnal Green Museum.

An etching depicting the interior of a Victorian museum.
The opening of the Bethnal Green Museum in 1872. Wikimedia

Nineteenth-Century Levelling Up

The relationship between democratic politics and architectural models also reveals tensions between the metropolis and the regions in Victorian Britain.

After 1867, the importance of British popular politics grew exponentially. The Third Reform Act in 1882 extended the same voting qualifications as existed in Britain’s cities and towns to the countryside.

Sections of the public and various MPs raised concerns that national finances would be used for the benefit of London alone. Metropolitan improvements were funded directly by the city’s own authorities. There was a growing sense that the capital should also pay for its own public buildings.

The lobby of the House of Commons by Henry Barraud, 1872-1873. Wikimedia

This issue came to the fore in various debates surrounding the construction of the Natural History Museum and various government offices on Whitehall. Select committee inquiries in parliament logged journalistic protests and complaints. The extents and ornament of a building were often reduced as a result, in a bid to lower costs.

By the turn of the 20th century, a group of politicians advocated for changes to legislation. Led by Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas, the 10th Earl of Wemyss, with the support of the Royal Institute of British Architects, they suggested that any proposal for a government-funded building should first require an architectural model to be displayed in public.

Politicians in the House of Lords said models would allow taxpayers to view designs for new buildings and give them the opportunity to voice an opinion. Ultimately, this campaign was unsuccessful. The legislation regulating how public works should be presented to the public did not change.

Across the Victorian period, journalists and critics questioned the reliability of particular scales, viewing positions or model-making materials. This popular use of architectural models shows how effective they can be as a tool of communication, and how they give the public an idea of what buildings will really look like.The Conversation

Matthew Wells, Lecturer in Architectural Humanities, University of Manchester

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

Why reading and writing poems shouldn’t be considered a luxury in troubling times

Ben White/Unsplash
Emily CullenUniversity of Limerick

The American poet Adrienne Rich once asked: “To say that a poet is responsive, responsible – what can that mean?” This question about poets bearing witness and being the “conscience” of their society is something I’ve pondered over the years.

My own political awakening was something of a slow burner. As a fledgling poet from a middle-class background, growing up in Carrick-on-Shannon in the Irish county of Leitrim in the 1980s, I watched the news each night in shock as another bomb exploded not far away across the Northern Ireland border.

Poetry by Wordsworth, Yeats and the only woman poet on our school curriculum, Emily Dickinson, became my sustenance. In my teens, I was deeply affected by the plight of Ann Lovett. In 1984, her death in childbirth, in front of the Virgin Mary statue in Granard, Co. Longford, stoked my incipient feminism and indignation at the way unmarried mothers were treated by church and society.

During my final year in secondary school, however, as I prepared to sit my Leaving Certificate, new hope glimmered on the horizon in the form of Ireland’s first female president. At her inauguration in 1990, Mary Robinson referenced the poetry of Eavan Boland.

Finally, I was discovering new voices like Boland, Eithne Strong and, in time, Paula Meehan, who were all questioning the status quo and articulating the female experience.

When my first collection of poetry, No Vague Utopia, was published in 2003, it was still driven more by sonic and lyrical elements than by my social conscience. The habits of a smiling Irish female, conforming to societal expectations and diffident in the face of the mostly male Irish canon, were hard to break.

Gradually, with more life experience, I gained perspective and poetic nerve. My most recent collection, Conditional Perfect (2019), offers a broader emotional range, including anger about many forms of oppression.

While it’s true to say that I didn’t always think of myself as a political poet, I am more aware than ever of my own level of responsiveness and responsibility to the urgent issues of my time. I recognise that poetry can indeed be “the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness”, as the author Alice Walker once stated.

A woman writing poetry
Successful poems evoke empathy in the reader. Sweet Life/Unsplash

Poetry For Social Change

Poetry has played a crucial part in the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay liberation campaign and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

In a world teeming with injustice, it is more urgent than ever to read (and write) poetry that engages with social realities and inequities. Poetry, as Audre Lorde memorably stated, “is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of light within which we can predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change”.

In our social media-driven era, where it often feels as if nuance is in jeopardy, it is timely to think about how poetry can embrace the political while not succumbing to the lure of rhetoric.

During the Arab Spring in 2010, Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabi’s poem The Will to Life captured the emotions of Tunisian protesters in their struggle for democracy and change.

In Afghanistan, women are harnessing the power of the landay (a two-line form of poetry) as a vital lifeline in resistance against the Taliban, who can be threatened by the simple act of composing and sharing couplets.

The poignant concision of the following landay is especially striking:

When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.

When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.

Last December, the tragically prophetic poem of Palestinian professor Refaat Alareer, who was subsequently targeted and killed by an Israeli bomb, called us to bear witness, as global citizens, and speak out about the horrors in Gaza:

If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story.

Writing Political Poetry

If we want to infuse our poems with a greater robustness, to take a stronger stance, how can we gain confidence to tackle these issues with authority? What are the skills writers need to enable them to speak out, while avoiding the didactic and over-simplistic meaning?

These are some of the questions my colleague, poet Eoin Devereux, and I are discussing today with special guest poet and renowned activist Sarah Clancy, in a unique online event for this year’s Poetry Day Ireland.

Successful poems evoke empathy in the reader and expand horizons of possibility. They make us feel, rather than preach at us. They remind us of our common humanity and our interconnectedness to the world. To quote American poet Joy Harjo:

Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them, listen to them. They are alive poems.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Emily Cullen, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Meskell Poet in Residence, University of Limerick

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

Dark matter: our new experiment aims to turn the ghostly substance into actual light

Galaxy cluster, left, with ring of dark matter visible, right. NASA
Andrea Gallo RossoStockholm University

A ghost is haunting our universe. This has been known in astronomy and cosmology for decades. Observations suggest that about 85% of all the matter in the universe is mysterious and invisible. These two qualities are reflected in its name: dark matter.

Several experiments have aimed to unveil what it’s made of, but despite decades of searching, scientists have come up short. Now our new experiment, under construction at Yale University in the US, is offering a new tactic.

Dark matter has been around the universe since the beginning of time, pulling stars and galaxies together. Invisible and subtle, it doesn’t seem to interact with light or any other kind of matter. In fact, it has to be something completely new.

The standard model of particle physics is incomplete, and this is a problem. We have to look for new fundamental particles. Surprisingly, the same flaws of the standard model give precious hints on where they may hide.

The Trouble With The Neutron

Let’s take the neutron, for instance. It makes up the atomic nucleus along with the proton. Despite being neutral overall, the theory states that it it made up of three charged constituent particles called quarks. Because of this, we would expect some parts of the neutron to be charged positively and others negatively –this would mean it was having what physicist call an electric dipole moment.

Yet, many attempts to measure it have come with the same outcome: it is too small to be detected. Another ghost. And we are not talking about instrumental inadequacies, but a parameter that has to be smaller than one part in ten billion. It is so tiny that people wonder if it could be zero altogether.

In physics, however, the mathematical zero is always a strong statement. In the late 70s, particle physicistsnRoberto Peccei and Helen Quinn (and later, Frank Wilczek and Steven Weinberg) tried to accommodate theory and evidence.

They suggested that, maybe, the parameter is not zero. Rather it is a dynamical quantity that slowly lost its charge, evolving to zero, after the Big Bang. Theoretical calculations show that, if such an event happened, it must have left behind a multitude of light, sneaky particles.

These were dubbed “axions” after a detergent brand because they could “clear up” the neutron problem. And even more. If axions were created in the early universe, they have been hanging around since then. Most importantly, their properties check all the boxes expected for dark matter. For these reasons, axions have become one of the favourite candidate particles for dark matter.

Axions would only interact with other particles weakly. However, this means they would still interact a bit. The invisible axions could even transform into ordinary particles, including – ironically – photons, the very essence of light. This may happen in particular circumstances, like in the presence of a magnetic field. This is a godsend for experimental physicists.

Experimental Design

Many experiments are trying to evoke the axion-ghost in the controlled environment of a lab. Some aim to convert light into axions, for instance, and then axions back into light on the other side of a wall.

At present, the most sensitive approach targets the halo of dark matter permeating the galaxy (and consequently, Earth) with a device called a haloscope. It is a conductive cavity immersed in a strong magnetic field; the former captures the dark matter surrounding us (assuming it is axions), while the latter induces the conversion into light. The result is an electromagnetic signal appearing inside the cavity, oscillating with a characteristic frequency depending on the axion mass.

The system works like a receiving radio. It needs to be properly adjusted to intercept the frequency we are interested in. Practically, the dimensions of the cavity are changed to accommodate different characteristic frequencies. If the frequencies of the axion and the cavity do not match, it is just like tuning a radio on the wrong channel.

The powerful magnet is moved to the lab at Yale.
The powerful magnet is moved to the lab at Yale. Yale UniversityCC BY-SA

Unfortunately, the channel we are looking for cannot be predicted in advance. We have no choice but to scan all the potential frequencies. It is like picking a radio station in a sea of white noise – a needle in a haystack – with an old radio that needs to be bigger or smaller every time we turn the frequency knob.

Yet, those are not the only challenges. Cosmology points to tens of gigahertz as the latest, promising frontier for axion search. As higher frequencies require smaller cavities, exploring that region would require cavities too small to capture a meaningful amount of signal.

New experiments are trying to find alternative paths. Our Axion Longitudinal Plasma Haloscope (Alpha) experiment uses a new concept of cavity based on metamaterials.

Metamaterials are composite materials with global properties that differ from their constituents – they are more than the sum of their parts. A cavity filled with conductive rods gets a characteristic frequency as if it were one million times smaller, while barely changing its volume. That is exactly what we need. Plus, the rods provide a built-in, easy-adjustable tuning system.

We are currently building the setup, which will be ready to take data in a few years. The technology is promising. Its development is the result of the collaboration among solid-state physicists, electrical engineers, particle physicists and even mathematicians.

Despite being so elusive, axions are fuelling progress that no ghost will ever take away.The Conversation

Andrea Gallo Rosso, Postdoctoral Fellow of Physics, Stockholm University

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

Spotify just made a record profit. What can the platform do now to maintain momentum?

Could this be the start of a golden era for Spotify? r.classen/Shutterstock
Andrew WhiteKing's College London

It is not much of an exaggeration to say that Spotify saved the music industry. Global revenue for recorded music reached its zenith in 1999 – the same year that the seeds of the industry’s near destruction were sown.

When Napster launched that year it gave music lovers around the world access to an almost limitless catalogue of songs for free. To millions of young people, it would take more than legal action against Napster and others to persuade them that they should return to analogue modes of listening. Spotify’s emergence in 2006 demonstrated that it was possible to monetise streaming in a way that was both legal and attractive to music lovers.

Eighteen years on and Spotify has just turned its largest quarterly gross profit – more than a billion euros (£859 million) in the three months to the end of March. Previously, its regular posting of quarterly losses had many commentators arguing that Spotify was ailing.

One reason for this was that its initial success in striking deals with record labels for streaming their music was imitated by what would become formidable competitors: Amazon Music, Apple Music and YouTube Music. What makes these rivals particularly powerful is that their music offerings can be subsidised by their wider business. This willingness to bear losses in music streaming if it benefits other aspects of their business might explain why the monthly subscription for all the main platforms was held at the arbitrary cross-currency price point of 9.99 from 2009 to 2021.

This decline in real terms of music streaming subscription revenue has been mirrored in the real terms drop in total global revenue for recorded music. Thus, despite massive rises in the number of subscribers in the last decade, with 2016 alone witnessing a worldwide growth of 65%, it took until 2021 for recorded music revenue to return to the level of 1999, even though that represented a significant decline in real terms.

Is Streaming Working For Musicians?

This drop in overall revenue has had an acute impact on those whose content enables the market in music streaming, namely musicians and songwriters. Their revenue from streaming is dependent on a pro-rata payment model. This means that the proportion of a platform’s overall revenue that they receive is calculated by the platform’s total number of streams divided by the number of times their particular songs are downloaded. One of the consequences is that money from individual subscribers does not go directly to the musicians whose music they play, but into a general revenue pot.

Musicians’ dissatisfaction with what they see as poor and opaque forms of streaming revenue was brought into stark relief when COVID stopped their main sources of income: gigging and selling merchandise. Parliamentarians launched an investigation in 2020, with one of its discussions centred on replacing the pro-rata payment model with a user-centric model. This would involve remunerating musicians and songwriters from the subscribers who actually paid for their songs, creating a direct link between fans and the music they play.

If the lack of overall revenue is the main problem with music streaming, then more money will need to be generated from subscriptions. Slowing growth in global subscriptions in the past few years bears out former Spotify chief economist Will Page’s claim that the number of subscribers is reaching saturation point. Indeed, Spotify’s Q1 profits came at the expense of its forecast for growing its monthly active users.

Growth in revenue will therefore need to come from increases in the subscription price. Studies have shown that adopting a user-centric model would not make much difference in the short term to musicians’ earnings. But I would argue that indicating to consumers a clear link to the creators of the music they streamed would make them more amenable to price rises.

Can Spotify Move Towards A More Sustainable Model?

Unlike video streaming platforms, each of which has distinct content, the main music streaming platforms offer the same unlimited menu. Spotify’s attempts to differentiate itself from competitors have involved a very expensive move into podcasting, with much of the US$1 billion (£804 million) being spent on luring high-profile celebrities like Joe Rogan, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Barack and Michelle Obama.

Meghan Markle waving alongside Prince Harry
Meghan and Harry parted ways with Spotify last year. lev radin/Shutterstock

This part of its business has, though, haemorrhaged money, which puts further pressure on musicians. Nonetheless, this, and recent ventures like the opening of a merch hub for artists last year, demonstrate to its investors that Spotify is still a company that is constantly innovating to stay one step ahead of its rivals.

The recent laying off of 17% of its workforce will lead to a short-term hit of 130-145 million euros in redundancy payments. But this week’s results seem to show it has put the company on a more financially sustainable footing. The 9.99 price point spell was broken last year when subscriptions rose to 10.99, with a further rise to £11.99 in the UK from next month.

Despite that first price point rise in July 2023, the last quarter for that year saw Spotify increasing its premium subscribers by 4%, suggesting that its growth strategy is starting to pay off. Spotify continues to lead its formidable competitors in the race for subscribers. And it might well have stumbled upon a strategy to continue its dominance and to start generating a long-term profit.The Conversation

Andrew White, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King's College London

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

What is meaningful work? A philosopher’s view

What gives a task meaning? rangizzz/Shutterstock
Caleb AlthorpeTrinity College Dublin

Work is an inescapable feature of the modern world. Most of us, except for a lucky few, spend a significant portion of our lives working. If this is the case, we may as well try and make it meaningful. In a 2019 report, 82% of employees reported that it is important to have a purpose in their work and that creating meaningful work was one of their top priorities.

But what exactly makes a particular job an instance of “meaningful work”? Is it just any sort of work people happen to believe is meaningful? Or is it a job with certain objective features?

To answer these questions, we might first think about what makes work meaningless. Take the Greek myth of Sisyphus, whose punishment for misbehaviour was to roll a boulder up a mountain only for it to roll back down just before he reached the top. He had to walk back down and start again, repeating the process forever. Today, we describe laborious and futile tasks as Sisyphean.

The gods knew what they were doing with this punishment – anyone who has spent time doing Sisyphean tasks in their work will understand how soul crushing they can be.

Fyodor Dostoevsky certainly understood this. Partly informed by his own experience in a labour camp, the novelist wrote that: “If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely … all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”

This article is run in partnership with HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest ideas and music festival, which returns to Hay-on-Wye from May 24-27. On Sunday, May 26, The Conversation’s Avery Anapol will host a live event delving into whether “meaningful work” exists in today’s age. Check out the festival’s full line-up of speakers and don’t miss an exclusive 20% off tickets with code CONVO24.

People may believe such Sisyphean tasks are meaningful (maybe this is the only thing that makes it bearable), but is this belief alone enough to make it so? Many philosophers don’t think so. Instead, they argue that for an activity to be meaningful, it must also contribute to some goal or end that connects the person doing it to something larger than themselves. As philosopher Susan Wolf puts it, meaning requires seeing “one’s life as valuable in a way that can be recognised from a point of view other than one’s own”.

In my own research into the meaning of work, I argue that for a job to be meaningful, it requires some objective feature to connect the worker with a larger framework that extends beyond themselves.

This feature, I suggest, is social contribution: are you making a positive difference with your work? Is your work useful, and does it help others carry out their lives? Confidently answering “yes” to these questions places your work in the larger context of society.

Sisyphean work clearly fails against this standard of social contribution, and so cannot be meaningful. There are, at least according to some studies, a surprising number of jobs like this in modern economies. The recent penchant for “lazy girl jobs” and “fake email jobs” suggest that some young people may actually be seeking out such work as a way to maintain a healthier work-life balance and separate their sense of self from their job.

Do No Harm

Another implication of my view is that work cannot be meaningful if it not only fails to help others but actually harms them. Examples might be marketing intentionally defective products, or working in sectors that contribute to the environmental crisis and all its affiliated harms. The phenomenon of “climate quitting” (leaving an employer for environmental reasons) could be seen as the result of people deciding to quit out of a desire for meaningful work.

These examples suggest that a job will not automatically be meaningful just because it contributes to the economy. While market value and social value sometimes overlap (for example, working in a supermarket helps put food in people’s stomachs), these two kinds of value can come apart.

We must think about who benefits from our work, whether their social position means this benefit comes at the cost of others being harmed, and whether there are likely to be unintended negative consequences from our work.

A young woman sitting at a desk with her chin in her hands, looking very bored
Where do you fit in at work? Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Meaningful Work Within Organisations

On top of just asking whether some jobs positively contribute to others, I also suggest that work will struggle to be meaningful when workers do not experience their contributions as palpable. In other words, can you see the contribution you are making in your work, or do you feel abstract and removed?

This is especially relevant to people with jobs in complex companies or large organisations. Most companies do not give ordinary workers influence over big decisions that affect how the company operates in society (such as decisions about what product to produce or service to offer, which markets it operates in and so on). Instead, this influence is limited to managers and executives.

As a result, workers can easily become disconnected and alienated from the social contribution contained in their work, thereby preventing it from being meaningful for them. Take the following from an auditor of a large bank: “Most people at the bank didn’t know why they were doing what they were doing. They would say that they are only supposed to log into this one system … and type certain things in. They didn’t know why.”

The issue here isn’t that the workers aren’t contributing (banks have an important social function after all), but that in their day-to-day work they are completely removed from how they are contributing.

One way to make more work more meaningful for more people would be to think about how large organisations could more democratically involve workers in these sorts of decisions. This could mean giving workers veto powers over strategic decisions, having worker representatives on company boards, or even turning the company into a worker cooperative.

Research suggests democratic arrangements like these can help people find a sense of meaning in their work by connecting them more closely to the positive outcomes that result from it.

A fan of cutting-edge debate and putting ideas at the centre of public life? Then you won’t want to miss HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest ideas and music festival this spring. Returning to Hay-on-Wye from May 24-27, the event will convene world-leading thinkers and Nobel prize-winners including David Petraeus, Roger Penrose, Daniel Dennett, Amy Chua, Peter Singer and Sophie Scott-Brown. A remedy to online echo-chambers, the festival unites speakers across disciplines to chart tangible solutions to the crises of our era.

And don’t miss The Conversation’s live event at the festival on Sunday, May 26 with Avery Anapol delving into whether “meaningful work” exists in today’s age. We’re delighted to offer 20% off tickets with the code CONVO24. Get discounted tickets here.The Conversation

Caleb Althorpe, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin

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

How a global crisis, drift racing and Memphis hip-hop gave us phonk – the music of the TikTok generation

Andy WardUniversity of the Sunshine CoastBriony LuttrellUniversity of the Sunshine Coast, and Lachlan GooldUniversity of the Sunshine Coast

What’s that sound you hear – a combination of down-tempo hip-hop, menacing bass, distorted drums and plucky synths? It’s phonk!

Still have no idea what we’re talking about? You’ve probably heard it if you’re on TikTok, awkwardly played over a Peaky Blinders or Jordan Peterson clip that has snuck into your algorithm.

TikTok user Shortbadger certainly cuts to the chase explaining the genre in one of their videos: “creators wanted people to not just hear their words, but feel their words”. Shortbadger also uses comedy to hint at phonk’s subversive (and sometimes troubling) nature.

Actually, Phonk has an altogether more interesting history. On the surface it seems to be another musical resurgence story driven by the social media economy – a bit like Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor or Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill, both of which re-entered the charts after years of relative obscurity.

But once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find government censorship, online rebellion and the disruption of American-dominated popular culture.

By smashing together components of hip-hop, EDM, metal and dubstep, phonk is placed as one of the most prominent new genres of music. And with it comes a subversion of popular music taste-making – and a whole lotta politics.

A Brief Early History

A quick check of online repositories tells us Phonk’s origins are in the Southern hip-hop of ’90s Memphis.

While you may not be directly familiar with the ’90s Memphis hip-hop scene, you will have felt its influence in popular music from recent decades. Known for its expert and nuanced use of the Roland 808 drum machine (particularly pitched kick-drums and snappy hi-hats), styles such as trap and other modern EDM and hip-hop movements owe a lot of their stylistic choices to this scene.

Artists such as DJ Screw, a hip-hop DJ originally from Texas, initially championed phonk by using this palette of sounds in their mixtapes – and helped popularise the style through the mid-’90s.

But it wasn’t until rapper and producer SpaceGhostPurrp started releasing his SUMMA PHONK mixtapes in the early 2010s that phonk really gained attention. He then worked as a producer for hip-hop stars ASAP Rocky and Wiz Khalifa, helping to cement the stylistic elements of phonk in the hip-hop zeitgeist.

The Rise Of Phonk Through Racing Culture

Fast-forward to early 2020: COVID is dominating the world news; lockdowns have led to an uptick in social media use; the post-truth era of Trumpism marches forward; and Spotify dominates music streaming through its self-serving, exploitative model of music commerce.

This was the perfect storm in which phonk could be repositioned as the soundtrack of the TikTok generation. By the last quarter of 2020, TikTok had amassed more than 700 million global users, overtaking Spotify to become the main outlet through which music promotion (and exploitation) could occur.

Much like the DIY expansion of dubstep that took place some ten years ago, young artists such as KORDHELL and $WERVE! brought millions of ears to their phonk music by attracting attention from talent scouts, including at Spotify.

Incidentally, 2020 was also the year Spotify launched in Russia as a new platform for the proliferation of Russian underground music. This scene had also started embracing the stylistic ethos of phonk from the US.

In fact, what you’re most likely to identify as phonk today is actually a sub-movement called “drift phonk”, championed by Russian producers in the early 2020s. The name comes from the marriage of the music with TikTok videos of drift car racing.

Drift phonk’s ominous rhythms and detuned (shifted from the original pitch) melodies are a perfect match for the adrenaline-fuelled culture of underground street racing. The relationship between phonk and racing videos helped spread the style across social media. It even extended to the Fast and Furious franchise, with the release of Drift Tape (Phonk Vol 1).

Much like hip-hop and punk before it, phonk’s use of distorted and aggressive sounds engages young audiences struggling with anxiety brought about by the state of the world. It’s a subversive soundtrack to a generation rallying against authority in a challenging geopolitical landscape.

Phonk’s Future Is Assured

In early 2022, in the midst of its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Kremlin clamped down on TikTok by banning all non-Russian content. A state-owned company even tried (and ultimately failed) to develop a rival video platform of its own.

Less than a month after the start of the invasion, the Russian government had legislation on “fake news” that made any anti-Russian military content illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Spotify pulled its availability in March 2022, citing the new law as its key reason.

Meanwhile, TikTok still remains available in Russia, but with significant content restrictions, so Russian makers of drift phonk may have had their market pathways severed.

Nonetheless, phonk lives on – ringing loudly in the ears of social media platforms. And while it’s often tied to critiques of our ever-shrinking attention span (given how widely it’s consumed through TikTok), it has undoubtedly become a part of our cultural zeitgeist.

From the meme-level phonk walk that is so 2023, to fresh 2024 Oscars content, creators are continuously finding new, inventive ways to use this music.

The Conversation

Andy Ward, Senior Lecturer in Music, School of Business and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine CoastBriony Luttrell, Lecturer in Contemporary Music, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Lachlan Goold, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Music, University of the Sunshine Coast

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

Poetry, parties and ‘strong Australian tea’. The surprising story of how Anzac Day has been marked in the US for over 100 years

Yves ReesLa Trobe University

Since 1916, April 25 has been a de facto national day for Australia, commemorated as the occasion Australian and New Zealand troops began the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in 1915. But for more than a century, Anzac Day has also been marked by Australians in the United States, via rituals ranging from songs and bingo to dinners and football games.

In 1922, 100 Australians congregated for an Anzac Day dinner at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania, then the largest hotel in the world. Although this dinner was held only four years into the peace and with war memories still fresh, it was far from a sombre affair.

The event was an exuberant gathering, continuing well after midnight. Guests recited poetry and performed songs, with a telegram from Prime Minister Billy Hughes read to the assembled crowd. “On this day, sacred to or nation, Australians, wherever they may be, are bound together by the crimson tie of kinship,” Hughes wrote.

Later in the 1920s, there were Anzac Day events in Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. These were upbeat social gatherings, quite different to the funereal Anzac rituals that emerged later in the century. At the time, Australians were still British subjects (not Australian citizens) and travelled on British passports. At this early stage, Anzac Day was about empire as much as nation.

These interwar dinners and dances were sporadic, ad hoc gatherings, not official commemorations. Before 1940, there was no Australian embassy or consulate in the US to organise state events, and the Australian community was small and highly assimilated into the local population. It would take another world war for April 25 to become an annual fixture in the US.

Clubs, Dinners And A Garden

The outbreak of the second world war in 1939 was accompanied by a dramatic upswing in Anzac activity in the US. That year, the Australian Society of New York was established to organise social events and fundraise for the war effort. The highlight of the society’s calendar was the annual Anzac Day dinner.

The 1942 dinner was a deluxe extravaganza organised by the Australian-born celebrity decorator Rose Cumming.

Held at the Waldorf Astoria, it was attended by 1,800 guests including British Ambassador Lord Halifax, Australian Minister for External Affairs H. V. Evatt and former US Presidential candidate Wendell L. Wilkie. British prime minister Winston Churchill and Australia’s John Curtin sent telegrams. The guest list included the rich and famous, with various Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Rothschilds, alongside Hollywood star Merle Oberon.

Merle Oberon in 1943. Wikimedia Commons

This New York dinner, held two months after the fall of Singapore, was a high-stakes affair, which sought to strengthen the newfound Australian-US alliance. Essentially a public relations exercise promoting the idea of Australia to an audience of US elites, it was a roaring success.

The evening was sponsored by corporate heavyweights such as General Electric, General Motors and Chase National Bank. South-Pacific Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur cabled an effusive message of support.

In these war years, Anzac activity was not limited to Anzac Day. The Australian Society organised Anzac cocktail parties and bingo nights year-round. It also established an Anzac War Relief Fund to raise money for Australasian servicemen. In 1941, a Pacific Coast branch of the fund was established by Australians in Hollywood, an occasion marked by a glamorous party at the Riviera Country Club.

Hostesses and guests at the Anzac Club, New York, circa 1944. State Library of Victoria

Then there was the Anzac Club. The brainchild of New Zealand actress Nola Luxford, the club was a home-away-from-home for Australasian servicemen in New York. After the New York club opened in 1942, other Anzac Clubs opened in Detroit, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC.

These clubs became de facto Australian embassies and were renowned for serving “strong Australian tea” – a rare pleasure in a coffee-drinking nation.

A cafe in New York with blue and white striped umbrellas.
The Anzac Garden is on the roof of the Rockefeller Center’s British Empire building. rblfmr/Shutterstock

During the war, New York also acquired an Anzac memorial garden, located atop the Rockefeller Center’s British Empire Building at 620 Fifth Avenue. The garden featured a central pool to represent the Pacific Ocean, bordered by three garden beds symbolising Australia, New Zealand and the US – a design anticipating the tripartite alliance formalised with the 1951 ANZUS treaty.

Since opening in 1942, the Anzac Garden has hosted annual Anzac commemorations. In 1943, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended the garden’s re-dedication ceremony, a publicity coup boosting awareness of the venue and promoting the Anzac cause. To this day, the Anzac Garden remains the only permanent Australian monument in New York City.

Anzac Resurgence

As in Australia, the past few decades have seen a resurgence of Anzac commemoration in the US. As thanks for Australian participation in the “war on terror”, in 2005 the Bush administration introduced the E-3 visa program, which made special provision for Australians to live and work in the US. As a result, the Australian population of New York City alone quickly grew from 5,000 in 2005 to 20,000 by 2011. By 2019, there were almost 99,000 Australians resident in the US.

For this expanded Australian diaspora, Anzac Day remains an opportunity to gather. In New York, April 25 is marked by social gatherings, as well as church services and Anzac Garden ceremonies. The city also hosts a Dawn Service at the Vietnam Veterans Plaza.

The Australian Embassy in Washington DC organises a regular Anzac Day event, as do Australian consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. In 2019, San Francisco had no fewer than four scheduled events, including a coffee meet-up, a sausage sizzle, a football game and a formal service.

Unlike the upbeat gatherings of the 1920s, these contemporary Anzac events tend to be sombre and moving, with tears often shed. Just as in Australia, Anzac Day in the US is becoming more emotional, rather than less, as the two world wars recede from living memory.

Throughout the US, special Australian rules football games are played on April 25, mirroring the Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon, which began in 1995.

In San Francisco, the Golden Gate football league plays an annual Anzac Day round, followed by an Australian lunch of meat pies and beer. Other Anzac gatherings serve iconic Australian foods like Tim Tams, lamingtons, meat pies, sausage rolls and – of course – Anzac biscuits.

These days good coffee rather than tea has become a marker of Australianness abroad. In the 2010s, Manhattan’s Australian-run Bluestone Lane café began serving free flat whites and Anzac biscuits to attendees from the nearby Dawn Service. The café’s San Francisco outlet also offered complimentary coffees.

One of New York’s Bluestone Lane cafes. Shutterstock

Memorial Diplomacy

April 25 has also become an occasion to reaffirm the Australian–US alliance. In recent years, Anzac services have been attended by high-ranking officials from both countries, who have used the occasion to emphasise trans-Pacific cooperation and friendship.

In 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the “kinship our armed forces share” dates back to 1915. In 2022, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed New York’s Dawn Service, while former governor-general Quentin Bryce gave the Anzac Day address at New York’s Trinity Wall Street Church. Both speeches relayed the history of Australian-US wartime cooperation and stressed – in Bryce’s words – that “today is a day for all of us”. In 2024, Bryce will once again give the Anzac Day address.

This trend is an example of what historian Matthew Graves calls “memorial diplomacy” – the use of commemorative events to create or reassert geopolitical alliances. As the ANZUS treaty enters its eighth decade, Anzac Day in the US has been repurposed as a celebration of that strategic relationship.

In many respects, Anzac remains as much about empire as nation – only these days the British empire has been usurped by the American.The Conversation

Yves Rees, Lecturer in History, La Trobe University

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

Robert Adamson’s final book is a search for recognition and a poetic tribute to his love of nature

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus). Bernard Dupont, via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA
Craig BillinghamUNSW Sydney

Robert Adamson, one of our greatest poets, died aged 79 on December 16, 2022. By that time, as recorded in the biographical note in his final book, Birds and Fish: Life on the Hawkesbury, he had published 21 volumes of poetry and had long been a renowned editor, critic and publisher. He made a significant and lasting contribution to Australian literature.

Birds and Fish: Life on the Hawkesbury – Robert Adamson (Upswell)

In 2004, Adamson published Inside Out: An Autobiography. Several long excerpts are included in Birds and Fish, a selection of his writings on the natural world. The first of these excerpts begins:

From as far back as I can remember, I was fascinated by animals and felt compelled to get close to them in whatever way I could – by hunting them, studying them, keeping them in cages or imitating their behaviour.

Adamson grew up in Neutral Bay on Sydney’s lower north shore, which afforded him ample opportunity to pursue his interest. He frequented Taronga Zoo, “sometimes through the front gates, but more often over the fence near [his] favourite part, the quarantine area at Athol Bay”.

On one such occasion, aged “ten or eleven”, Adamson fell into an enclosure and found himself “face to face with an angry cassowary”. He stood “utterly still with the great black bird” circling around him, with its “deep, resonant, furious-sounding voice” and “horn of a head fringed with iridescent blue feathers shivering in the moonlight”.

It is a terrifying, beautiful scene, recounted not by the fallen boy, of course, but the poet he became.

Australian Cassowary (Casuarius australis): illustration by Elizabeth Gould for John Gould’s Birds of Australia. Rawpixel, via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

Adamson says of the injured rainbow lorikeets his younger self would take home to nurse that

I wanted to will myself inside the bird’s head – not to tame it exactly. What I think I was aiming for when I stared into each bird’s eyes was some flicker of recognition, some sign of connection between us. I wanted the bird to recognise and accept me. But as what?

Adamson is very often on philosophical ground. What does it mean for a person to want an animal “to recognise and accept” him? Do animals have such a capacity? Can an animal be a person?

Theories of recognition have a long history, which in the Western tradition date back at least as far as Hegel. To think on “recognition” raises questions of respect and understanding, friendship, love and empathy, and law.

To and from whom is recognition given, or withheld? As we know from history, and it seems always newly apparent, the answer to such a question can be a hinge point for calamity.

In the scene with the injured lorikeet, as earlier with the angry cassowary, the philosophy is implicit. We knew it would be, for the book’s epigraph is from Gerard Manley Hopkins: “What you look hard at seems to look hard at you.”

Mutual recognition, self-consciousness: it’s Hegel again.

Blunt And Honest

It wasn’t only non-human animals to whom the young Adamson looked for recognition:

The year I turned ten was my best year, when I was class captain for the final term. This was the year of Mr Roberts, the teacher who introduced me to poetry and what they called nature studies.

Mr Roberts “would read poems to the class and go through them explaining what they meant and how poetry worked.”

The young Adamson seemed to find therein “a secret code”. He excelled at memorising poems, a talent which saw him selected to represent his school “on an ABC radio program that came on just before The Argonauts every Friday afternoon”.

It helped, too, that Mr Roberts “knew a bit about birds” and that he was encouraging about projects and assignments. The young Adamson lights up, a recognition undimmed, even when a new teacher tells him “to forget [his] ambition”.

He has a strong sense already that the natural world is “pure compared to the hypocrisies of humans”:

There was no third party, no good manners, no god involved – no reasoning or theology, let alone spelling and maths. Nature was blunt and honest.

For Adamson, the natural world offers a form of deliverance:

Fishing sustains the soul because it was once one of the most natural things a human being could do; that is why you can enter that state of grace, that lightness of being, while fishing. It is to do with the field of being; you can project yourself back to the original lores, rites and rituals.

All of which carries us from Hegel and recognition to the Spinoza Journal, which takes up the last 30 pages of the book. Adamson writes:

Spinoza’s given name [Baruch] means “Blessed” in Hebrew. Spinoza argued that God exists and is abstract and impersonal. His view of God can be described as Classical Pantheism, with infinite manifestations of divinity.

The Spinoza of Adamson’s journal is not the 17th century Dutch philosopher, but an unfledged bird that Adamson and his wife, the photographer Juno Gemes, find on the side of the road close to their house on the Hawkesbury River.

Adamson realises that the chick is only a few days old. He carries her “into the garage” and sets “her on the makeshift nest”. Every two hours, he feeds her a “mixture of rolled oats, crushed walnut and egg yolk”. A lifetime’s acquaintance with birds informs his actions:

When you find a baby bird, the thing to do is to place it near the tree it may have fallen from and wait for the parents to turn up. I did this and watched from a distance. It was a hot afternoon, so after about an hour, I decided that was long enough. I looked around for likely foster parents – currawongs, magpies and maybe kookaburras? No action at all. I took the baby bird back inside and put it into the cat carrier. To my relief, next morning the chick was still alive and squawking for food.

Adamson worries at the domestication of a channel-billed cuckoo, fearing “Spin the domestic companion would be like having Arthur Rimbaud as a pet”. He looks hard at the bird and the bird looks right back. There are regular feeding times and flying lessons, affording Adamson an occasion to write about Pliny the Elder and Charles Darwin, and to recall the “Cuckoo Song”, the “oldest secular lyric written in English, dating from 1250”.

There is some terrific writing and detailed observation. Then, some six weeks into the relationship:

I’m feeling embarrassed today: I finally realised Spin is not a channel-billed cuckoo. Spinoza is a satin bowerbird!

Spin has been misidentified, but not unrecognised:

Spin was in a lovely mood today in my study. I was working on the manuscript for my new book. As I look into Spin’s eye, when he turns his head to one side, I sense an empathy between us.

We should be thankful to Upswell Publishing and the editor of Birds and Fish, the American poet Devin Johnston, for ensuring the publication of this last of Adamson’s books.

The sort of recognition it suggests is a capacity of the imagination, or the moral imagination. It is imperfect, “blunt and honest”, and perhaps in a final sense, hopeful. Adamson deserves the last word:

Although I have loved birds all my life and love Spin deeply, it is Spin who has taught me that birds are nothing at all like humans. They are far removed from us, really, except that sometimes they let us project ourselves onto what we imagine them to be.The Conversation

Craig Billingham, Lecturer, Creative Writing, UNSW Sydney

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

New rock art discoveries in Eastern Sudan tell a tale of ancient cattle, the ‘green Sahara’ and climate catastrophe

Julien Cooper
Julien CooperMacquarie University

The hyper-arid desert of Eastern Sudan, the Atbai Desert, seems like an unlikely place to find evidence of ancient cattle herders. But in this dry environment, my new research has found rock art over 4,000 years old that depicts cattle.

In 2018 and 2019, I led a team of archaeologists on the Atbai Survey Project. We discovered 16 new rock art sites east of the Sudanese city of Wadi Halfa, in one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara. This area receives almost no yearly rainfall.

Almost all of these rock art sites had one feature in common: the depiction of cattle, either as a lone cow or part of a larger herd.

On face value, this is a puzzling creature to find carved on desert rock walls. Cattle need plenty of water and acres of pasture, and would quickly perish today in such a sand-choked environment.

In modern Sudan, cattle only occur about 600 kilometres to the south, where the northernmost latitudes of the African monsoon create ephemeral summer grasslands suitable for cattle herding.

The theme of cattle in ancient rock art is one of most important pieces of evidence establishing a bygone age of the “green Sahara”.

A map
New sites discovered on surveys in Eastern Sudan. © The Atbai Survey Project

The ‘Green Sahara’

Archaeological and climatic fieldwork across the entire Sahara, from Morocco to Sudan and everywhere in between, has illustrated a comprehensive picture of a region that used to be much wetter.

Climate scientists, archaeologists and geologists call this the “African humid period”. It was a time of increased summer monsoon rainfall across the continent, which began about 15,000 years ago and ended roughly 5,000 years ago.

A desert.
The wastes of the Atbai Desert, north-east Sudan – a very different landscape to the ‘green Sahara’. Julien Cooper

This “green Sahara” is a vital period in human history. In North Africa, this was when agriculture began and livestock were domesticated.

In this small “wet gap”, around 8,000–7,000 years ago, local nomads adopted cattle and other livestock such as sheep and goats from their neighbours to the north in Egypt and the Middle East.

A Close Human-Animal Connection

When the prehistoric artists painted cattle on their rock canvasses in what is now Sudan, the desert was a grassy savannah. It was brimming with pools, rivers, swamps and waterholes and typical African game such as elephants, rhinos and cheetah – very different to the deserts of today.

Cattle were not just a source of meat and milk. Close inspection of the rock art and in the archaeological record reveals these animals were modified by their owners. Horns were deformed, skin decorated and artificial folds fashioned on their neck, so-called “pendants”.

Rock art
A strong relationship between human and animal: a cow with a modified ‘neck’ pendant and horns. Julien Cooper

Cattle were even buried alongside humans in massive cemeteries, signalling an intimate link between person, animal and group identity.

The Perils Of Climate Change

At the end of the “humid period”, around 3000 BCE, things began to worsen rapidly. Lakes and rivers dried up and sands swallowed dead pastures. Scientists debate how rapidly conditions worsened, and this seems to have differed greatly across specific subregions.

Local human populations had a choice – leave the desert or adapt to their new dry norms. For those that left the Sahara for wetter parts, the best refuge was the Nile. It is no accident that this rough period also eventuated in the rise of urban agricultural civilisations in Egypt and Sudan.

Cattle on a rock.
The most common image in the local rock art was of cattle. Julien Cooper

Some of the deserts, such as the Atbai Desert around Wadi Halfa where the rock art was discovered, became almost depopulated. Not even the hardiest of livestock could survive in such regions. For those who remained, cattle were abandoned for hardier sheep and goats (the camel would not be domesticated in North Africa for another 2,000–3,000 years).

This abandonment would have major ramifications on all aspects of human life: diet and lack of milk, migratory patterns of herding families and, for nomads so connected to their cattle, their very identity and ideology.

New Phases Of History

Archaeologists, who spend so much time on the ancient artefacts of the past, often forget our ancestors had emotions. They lived, loved and suffered just like we do. Abandoning an animal that was very much a core part of their identity, and with whom they shared an emotional connection, cannot have been easy for their emotions and sense of place in the world.

For those communities that migrated and lived on the Nile, cattle continued to be a symbol of identity and importance. At the ancient capital of Sudan, Kerma, community leaders were buried in elaborate graves girded by cattle skulls. One burial even had 4,899 skulls.

Today in South Sudan and much of the Horn of Africa, similar practices regarding cattle and their cultural prominence endure to the present. Here, just as in ancient Sahara, cattle are decorated, branded and have an important place in funeral traditions, with cattle skulls marking graves and cattle consumed in feasts.

As we move into a new phase of human history subject to rapid climate oscillations and environmental degradation, we need to ponder just how we will adapt beyond questions of economy and subsistence.

One of the most basic common denominators of culture is our relationship to our shared landscape. Environmental change, whether we like it or not, will force us to create new identities, symbols and meanings. The Conversation

Julien Cooper, Honorary Lecturer, Department of History and Archaeology, Macquarie University

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

Book Of The Month - May 2024: I Can Jump Puddles By Alan Marshall

Alan Marshall AM, (2 May 1902 – 21 January 1984) was an Australian writer, story teller, humanist and social documenter.

He received the Australian Literature Society Short Story Award three times, the first in 1933. His best known book, I Can Jump Puddles (1955) is the first of a three-part autobiography. The other two volumes are This is the Grass (1962) and In Mine Own Heart (1963).

Marshall was born in Noorat, Victoria. At six years old he contracted polio, which left him with a physical disability that grew worse as he grew older.[2] From an early age, he resolved to be a writer and, in I Can Jump Puddles, he demonstrated an almost total recall of his childhood in Noorat. The characters and places of his book are thinly disguised from real life: "Mount Turalla" is Mount Noorat, "Lake Turalla" is Lake Keilambete, the "Curruthers" are the Blacks, "Mrs. Conlon" is Mary Conlon of Dixie, Terang, and his best friend, "Joe", is Leo Carmody.

During the early 1930s. Marshall worked as an accountant at the Trueform Boot and Shoe Company, Clifton Hill, and later wrote about life in the factory in his novel How Beautiful are Thy Feet (1949).

Marshall wrote numerous short stories, mainly set in the bush, and also wrote newspaper columns and magazine articles. He also collected and published Indigenous Australian stories and legends. He travelled widely in Australia and overseas.

Think Twice Before Adopting A Pet: National Seniors

We love them dearly, but animals and humans don’t always mix. Here’s why getting a certain type of pet may not be a good idea.

Loneliness due to lack of companionship is a chronic condition often associated with ageing.  

It’s the reason many seniors adopt a pet, usually a dog or cat. 

The health and wellbeing benefits of having a pet are well established.  

Our furry friends are just that – friends who neither judge us nor go AWOL (usually). They deliver unrequited love at a time when many of us need it the most. 

They also provide incentive for keeping active in body and mind. Even if you don’t want to go “walkies”, those big doggie eyes will get you up from your lounge chair and out of the house.  

More aged care homes are now allowing pets, either for individuals or shared among all residents.  

Of course, there are barriers to owning a pet – a major one being the concern that no one will be there to care for the animal in the event of an emergency. 

Boarding kennels can be expensive, and many elderly pet owners would not want to leave their pet alone. 

An older person experiencing serious ill-health does not need the added stress of worrying about their pet. 

Knowing what you are getting into upfront and ensuring it fits your lifestyle is crucial. There are some great resources available to help you make your decision, such as Getting a Pet by Money Smart. 

Animals cause injuries
While most pets adore us and have our best interests at heart, they can also be a cause of accidents and injury. 

Did you know that cats and dogs are responsible for over half (53%) of all injury hospitalisations related to contact with animals? I know I’ve tripped over my cat and dog many times. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that hospitalised injuries due to contact with animals have increased in recent years, possibly due to more people owning pets during the pandemic.  

There were 23,380 hospitalisations due to contact with animals in 2021–22, with an increase of 2,230 (or 10%) hospitalisations from 2019–20 to 2020–21.  

Open wounds were the most common type of injury, accounting for 13,420 (57%) cases, followed by fractures (15%), toxic effects (10%), and superficial (5%) and soft tissue injury (4.5%). Upper limbs (46%) and head and neck (14%) were the body parts most likely to be injured.  

Some people have found they are allergic to their pets. Allergic reactions sent 1,180 people to hospital, with men being twice as likely as women to be hospitalised for this reason.  

Overall, however, two in three pet owners are female and women are 1.2 times as likely as males to be hospitalised due to a common pet-related injury. 

Despite the risks, the AIHW report appears to come down on the side of pet ownership. 

“Although owning a pet comes with a risk of injury, research has shown that interactions between humans and animals can provide benefits to our health and wellbeing,” said AIHW’s Dr Sarah Ahmed. 

How to choose the right pet
Before rushing to get a pet now, it’s advisable to think about issues that may arise later down the track.  

Perhaps an older and more mature pet would be of greater benefit than a kitten or puppy, as youngsters require intensive care during their first few months.  

But if the animal is already a senior itself, it may need expensive or time-consuming extra care.  

The cost of buying a pet, especially dogs, has escalated since the pandemic – and that’s just the start of it. You’ll have to budget for the cost of feeding and veterinary expenses. 

Try to make sure the pet you want is healthy. Some species are more liable to disease and injuries than others. 

The animal’s personality is important. Look for one that is relaxed and responds well to being handled.  

The Beautiful Game: a film about the Homelessness World Cup that’s a testament to how football can change lives

Grant JarvieThe University of Edinburgh

The Beautiful Game is a film of second chances — where teams of homeless men and women from around the world find that all roads lead to Rome and everything’s to play for.

Starring Bill Nighy as coach Mal, it follows the England team as they prepare for the Homelessness World Cup in Rome. At the last minute, Mal decides to bring with them a talented striker Vinny (Michael Ward), who could give them a chance at winning, but only if he’s ready to let go of his past and become part of the team.

The Homelessness World Cup is a real football tournament and the film was made by the foundation responsible for the annual games.

The idea for Homeless World Cup (HWC) Foundation emerged in 2001. It was created by The Big Issue, a magazine that supports homelessness, co-founder Mel Young and Austrian journalist Harald Schmied with the aim of transforming lives, creating opportunities and changing perceptions of homelessness.

To date, HWC has helped 1.2 million homeless people through a network of more than 70 grassroots organisations in more than 70 countries. The Cities Ending Homelessness Report supported by HWC notes that along with interventions around housing, mental health and employment, HWC football is helping to change the narrative from managing the homeless problem to ending homelessness.

As someone who has worked with people who have been helped by the tournament, I found the film captured the spirit, commitment and, in part, the remarkable story of the Homelessness World Cup.

A Sense Of Hope And Purpose

Last year’s tournament involved 400 players representing 40 countries and took place in Sacramento, California in the US. The teams competed in a week-long football tournament for seven prizes: four for the men’s competition and three for the women’s. The tournament marked 20 years of HWC and was won by Mexico’s women’s team and Chile’s men.

An HWC survey found that 94% of players say the foundation has had a positive effect on their lives, 83% improved their relationship with families and friends and 77% say that HWC has changed their lives significantly and 76% continue to enjoy and play the sport.

Many of the extras in the film had been helped by HWC. Bill Nighy told the BBCthat the best bit about being in the film was meeting the extras who had participated in the real tournaments and are now no longer homeless.

As a sports academic, I have worked with HWC and spoken to many people who they have helped. In a journal article, my colleague Susan Ahrens and I sought to find out to what extent football could increase the capability of the homeless and those living on the street. We did so by focusing on how the Homeless World Cup and Street Soccer (Scotland) have affected the lives of some people.

During this research, I spoke to people whose lives had been changed by competing. The stories I heard were about finding hope in sport. As one man told me: “It helped me mentally because I was starting to get depressed but the football and goal of HWC helped me feel more positive.”

Others spoke of gaining purpose and control. “I want to feel like I have control in an aspect of my life again … At the moment soccer gives me this.”

Many also said that the experience had given them hope for the future. “To me it [HWC] was a symbol of hope, determination, strength, and courage. It was the first time in my life I was proud to say I was an addict in recovery.”

Our research found that interventions that start small can make a big difference. Football can contribute to non-football outcomes, such as reducing homelessness and building other skills such as team work and communication.

The Beautiful Game echoes our research as it celebrates the power and potential of team sports for those who might feel pushed to the margins. We watch as Vinny refuses to relate to his team mates and to accept his homelessness. Playing as part of a team helps him to open up and be hopeful. Winning is not the real reward of playing in the HWC, it’s the interpersonal skills Vinny learns and the personal development he experiences.

The film is a testament to the reach and capability of football as a tool to make a difference that goes beyond the pitch.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Grant Jarvie, Chair of Sport and Head of the Academy of Sport, The University of Edinburgh

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

Time To Get Your Flu Vaccine

A statement by the Head of the interim Australian Centre for Disease Control Professor Paul Kelly.

World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April) is a timely reminder for everyone in Australia to book their annual flu vaccination.

Free vaccines are now available for people most at risk of complications through the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program. For those not eligible, you can purchase a vaccine through your immunisation provider.

People can get their vaccine at general practices, pharmacies, and immunisation clinics – and in many cases, at their workplace.

Although we can’t predict the 2024 flu season, we can look at, and learn from, key outcomes from the 2023 season.

Last year, the highest notification rates for flu were in children under 14 years. But concerningly, the vaccine uptake was very low in this population group.

In good news, the 2023 vaccine was very effective at protecting people from needing to go to hospital or visit their GP.'

'Children under 5 years of age are at increased risk of getting severely ill or dying from the flu.

In Australia, 39 people died from the flu last year – and of these, 9 were children younger than 16 years. This was higher than the number of flu-associated deaths in children in 2022 and in many pre-COVID-19 pandemic years.

This is a tragic reminder that the flu is not the common cold, which people often mistake it for. It is a serious virus that can cause severe illness, hospitalisation and death among otherwise healthy children and adults.

I encourage everyone 6 months of age or over to get vaccinated against the flu. It could save your life!

People eligible for free flu vaccine doses include children aged 6 months to under 5 years, pregnant people, First Nations Australians, people aged 65 years or older and people with certain medical conditions that put them at greater risk.

For convenience and if recommended, COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time.

We Need A Senior Dental Benefits Scheme Bulk Billed Through Medicare: COTA

COTA are urging the Federal Government to introduce a Seniors Dental Benefit Scheme to ensure our most vulnerable older Australians get access to the oral and dental health care they need.

Currently, too many Australians – including many older Australians – are delaying or avoiding getting the oral and dental treatment they need due to cost, COTA states.

''Having good dental care is essential to good health, no matter what your age! But as you get older the risk of broader health implications increase. Older Australians are more susceptible to chronic diseases such as dental decay, gum disease and oral cancer. As well as the increased embarrassment and social isolation, there is also a relationship between dental health and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and chronic malnutrition in older people.

''Recent polling commissioned by COTA Australia and conducted by Essential Research, has highlighted the alarming number of older Australians who are putting off dental care due to cost. Given the broader health and welling implications, especially for older people, we are urging the Federal Government to take urgent steps to introduce a Seniors Dental Benefit Scheme – a scheme recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety for all residents of nursing homes, pensioners or Seniors Healthcare Card holders living in the community.

The key findings of our poll include:
  • 37% of Australians aged 55+ have delaying or completely put off going to the dentist in the past year due to cost;
  • 44% of older Australians on lower incomes have delaying or completely put off going to the dentist in the past year due to cost;
  • 57% of Australians aged 55+ who say they are financially struggling have delayed or completely put off going to the dentist in the past year due to cost;
  • 73% of all Australians support the introduction of a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme;
  • Four in five people (79%) believe dental care should be covered by Medicare;
  • 89% of Australians of all ages who are in serious financial difficulty believe dental care should be covered by Medicare.
Making sure all Australians, including older Australians, get access to the quality, affordable health and dental care they need will keep them healthier for longer – decreasing the burden on our public health care system and freeing it up for those who need it most. That’s not just good for older people, but for all of us.

Do you support the idea that dental care should be covered by Medicare and want to get involved in our advocacy? 

Register your interest by completing the form HERE

COTA will add you to our mailing list, and keep you informed of any action and updates on Dental/Oral Care and a Senior Dental Benefit Scheme moving forward

Better Access To Free Flu Vaccine Welcomed

April 22, 2024
National Seniors Australia has welcomed the funding of pharmacists to provide flu and other National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines in residential aged care facilities.

"Allowing pharmacists to give aged care residents protection against COVID-19 and influenza from April 29 is a good move on the cusp of the flu season,” NSA Chief Executive Officer Mr Chris Grice said.

“While the flu vaccine has been available for people 65+ at no charge in GP clinics for some time, and at pharmacies, this is the first time the vaccine will be accessible to people in residential care via their pharmacist. 

“GPs can be stretched visiting residential care facilities and many residents in care are not able to visit their GP. The ability for these residents to receive the vaccine in the convenience of their care facility, via a pharmacist, in addition to a GP, will help to ensure our most vulnerable Australians get the protection they need when they need it.”

Mr Grice said rightly so, a lot of focus the past few years has been on COVID-19 and its vaccine, but it’s important to remember there are other serious infections, influenza being just one of them. 

“The flu can be very serious, especially for older Australians who may have complex health conditions and compromised immune systems. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against contracting the flu and NSA welcomes government measures to make access to vaccination easier,” he said. 

The flu vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program for several groups of people, including Australians 65 and older. 

People who are not eligible for a free vaccine can purchase the vaccine from vaccination providers, including local GPs and many pharmacies.

Could not getting enough sleep increase your risk of type 2 diabetes?

Giuliana MurfetUniversity of Technology Sydney and ShanShan LinUniversity of Technology Sydney

Not getting enough sleep is a common affliction in the modern age. If you don’t always get as many hours of shut-eye as you’d like, perhaps you were concerned by news of a recent study that found people who sleep less than six hours a night are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

So what can we make of these findings? It turns out the relationship between sleep and diabetes is complex.

The Study

Researchers analysed data from the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database which serves as a global resource for health and medical research. They looked at information from 247,867 adults, following their health outcomes for more than a decade.

The researchers wanted to understand the associations between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes, and whether a healthy diet reduced the effects of short sleep on diabetes risk.

As part of their involvement in the UK Biobank, participants had been asked roughly how much sleep they get in 24 hours. Seven to eight hours was the average and considered normal sleep. Short sleep duration was broken up into three categories: mild (six hours), moderate (five hours) and extreme (three to four hours). The researchers analysed sleep data alongside information about people’s diets.

Some 3.2% of participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the follow-up period. Although healthy eating habits were associated with a lower overall risk of diabetes, when people ate healthily but slept less than six hours a day, their risk of type 2 diabetes increased compared to people in the normal sleep category.

The researchers found sleep duration of five hours was linked with a 16% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while the risk for people who slept three to four hours was 41% higher, compared to people who slept seven to eight hours.

One limitation is the study defined a healthy diet based on the number of servings of fruit, vegetables, red meat and fish a person consumed over a day or a week. In doing so, it didn’t consider how dietary patterns such as time-restricted eating or the Mediterranean diet may modify the risk of diabetes among those who slept less.

Also, information on participants’ sleep quantity and diet was only captured at recruitment and may have changed over the course of the study. The authors acknowledge these limitations.

Why Might Short Sleep Increase Diabetes Risk?

In people with type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the effects of a hormone called insulin, and slowly loses the capacity to produce enough of it in the pancreas. Insulin is important because it regulates glucose (sugar) in our blood that comes from the food we eat by helping move it to cells throughout the body.

We don’t know the precise reasons why people who sleep less may be at higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But previous research has shown sleep-deprived people often have increased inflammatory markers and free fatty acids in their blood, which impair insulin sensitivity, leading to insulin resistance. This means the body struggles to use insulin properly to regulate blood glucose levels, and therefore increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Further, people who don’t sleep enough, as well as people who sleep in irregular patterns (such as shift workers), experience disruptions to their body’s natural rhythm, known as the circadian rhythm.

This can interfere with the release of hormones like cortisol, glucagon and growth hormones. These hormones are released through the day to meet the body’s changing energy needs, and normally keep blood glucose levels nicely balanced. If they’re compromised, this may reduce the body’s ability to handle glucose as the day progresses.

These factors, and others, may contribute to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes seen among people sleeping less than six hours.

A man checking the glucose monitor on his arm.
Millions of people around the world have diabetes. WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS/Shutterstock

While this study primarily focused on people who sleep eight hours or less, it’s possible longer sleepers may also face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Research has previously shown a U-shaped correlation between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk. A review of multiple studies found getting between seven to eight hours of sleep daily was associated with the lowest risk. When people got less than seven hours sleep, or more than eight hours, the risk began to increase.

The reason sleeping longer is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes may be linked to weight gain, which is also correlated with longer sleep. Likewise, people who don’t sleep enough are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Good Sleep, Healthy Diet

Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Based on this study and other evidence, it seems that when it comes to diabetes risk, seven to eight hours of sleep may be the sweet spot. However, other factors could influence the relationship between sleep duration and diabetes risk, such as individual differences in sleep quality and lifestyle.

While this study’s findings question whether a healthy diet can mitigate the effects of a lack of sleep on diabetes risk, a wide range of evidence points to the benefits of healthy eating for overall health.

The authors of the study acknowledge it’s not always possible to get enough sleep, and suggest doing high-intensity interval exercise during the day may offset some of the potential effects of short sleep on diabetes risk.

In fact, exercise at any intensity can improve blood glucose levels.The Conversation

Giuliana Murfet, Casual Academic, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney and ShanShan Lin, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney

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

What do we lose when our old suburbs disappear?

Day Day Market, Parramatta. Photo: Garry Trinh
Felicity CastagnaWestern Sydney University

I live on the edge of Parramatta, Australia’s fastest-growing city, on the kind of old-fashioned suburban street that has 1950s fibros constructed in the post-war housing boom, double-storey brick homes with Greek columns that aspirational migrants built in the 1970s and half-crumbling, Federation-era mansions once occupied by people whose names still appear in history textbooks.

Parramatta’s population is predicted to almost double in the next 20 years. My street, like so many others, has recently been rezoned for high-density living. Many of these houses are being sold to developers.

It’s a local story but it’s also a national one: suburbs near our cities are disappearing everywhere along with the crucial histories of Australian life they represent.

Australia is still a suburban nation: 70% of us live in the suburbs and this figure is increasing with the rapid growth of “McMansion” areas in the far outskirts of our cities.

Suburbia looms large in our imagining of ourselves, so what happens when we lose those suburban streets whose houses are too young to be heritage-listed but still old enough to tell an important story of our social and economic history? As urban researcher Larry Bourne argued, we have yet to really write the history of suburban life because we haven’t paid enough attention to recording the private everyday experiences of people and their homes there.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several months, walking the street with suburban photographer Garry Trinh and talking to my neighbours about their relationships with their homes before they are lost.

‘A Different Attitude To Life’

A few houses down from me, Craig lives in a cottage that he believes “shows a different attitude towards life”. He spends his weekends restoring parts of his home.

It takes a lot of time to maintain. People took longer to do things. They had a different sense of time – they did things one time so they didn’t have to do it again.

He enjoys the idea that living in a house like this “you grow old together”. He shows me the places where the tiles on the floor don’t fit perfectly. The “walls and roofs are never even”, but that’s part of the place’s charm – you can see where others have added a living room or tried to fix a leak.

These homes have layers of history that don’t exist anywhere else.

To Craig, these houses represent why other generations felt more of the kind of safety and security that allowed them to build a greater sense of community.

You used to buy one house and you never changed it, one car […] people stayed in the same place […] people feel so restless now because we are no longer safe. Everything changes. Our houses are rezoned. There’s no certainty.

‘Edible Things In People’s Yards’

Jenny’s parents bought the largest block on the end of the street because the previous owners refused to sell to developers. She recently moved back home to care for her mother.

It’s a sprawling Federation-era home called “Coo-Wong” and it feels like big history must have happened there, despite its absence from any local history archives. There are clues, though, about the kind of people who might have lived here before: Chinese coins found on the property, a shed full of bric-a-brac.

Mostly, the whole family lives in the kitchen or the light-filled corner at the back of the house where Jenny’s mother grows flowers. Her father’s family lost everything during the Cultural Revolution and he moved here to find a better life. He’s in the building industry and their home is filled with the spare parts from other houses, doors, drawers and other supplies that might go into extending or renovating their home one day.

Jenny remembers when they moved into the neighbourhood there was an older generation of people who embraced them. There were fruit trees and “all of these edible things in people’s yards”. In their backyard, a giant satellite dish, which her parents bought to watch their shows from China, still looms big even if it isn’t needed anymore.

It’s these small details in Jenny’s home that tell the larger story of how various generations of migrants sewed themselves into the fabric of our suburbs.

Different Versions Of One House

George, his wife, Jennifer, and their two adult children live in the house George’s father built in 1973 when the street was filled with vacant blocks. His family was the first to move here from their village in Lebanon, so their house became a kind of community hub – there were always people there.

George’s family passed the plans he used to build the house onto other Lebanese families that moved in. It means there are slightly different versions of this house in many other places on the street.

George’s dad and his uncles built many houses in this area together. Sometimes they didn’t quite get it right though: only one door in their house is hung straight – all the rest are hung backwards. The family has been trying to restore parts of the house for a long time, including the Art Deco railings and Victorian lights.

As an expert in post-war housing, Mirjana Lozanovska says this layering of architectural details found in these post-war suburban homes “expanded the image and aesthetic spectrum of what it is to be Australian”.

A Long Row Of Houses For Sale

Carol lives in a long row of houses at the end of the street that are all for sale. She has, to put it lightly, a lot of stuff. Her odd collection of tents and furniture and well-loved succulents spill from her house to its immense lawns.

The quest for affordable housing has pushed Carol further and further west over time. When the landlord sells the house she’ll head further away, looking for some other suburban street where the houses are still intact and maybe there’ll still be lemon trees. The Conversation

Felicity Castagna, Lecturer, Creative Writing, Western Sydney University

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

GLAD Bags Manufacturer In Court For '50% Ocean Plastic' Claims

April 18, 2024
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Clorox Australia Pty Ltd, the manufacturer of GLAD-branded kitchen and garbage bags, for allegedly making false or misleading representations that certain kitchen and garbage bags were partly made of recycled ‘ocean plastic’, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC alleges that Clorox represented that its GLAD Kitchen Tidy Bags and Garbage Bags were comprised of 50 per cent recycled ‘ocean plastic’ collected from an ocean or sea, when that was not the case.

The ACCC alleges that these GLAD kitchen and garbage bags were instead partly made from plastic that was collected from communities in Indonesia up to 50 kilometres from a shoreline, and not from the ocean or sea.

“We allege that the headline 'ocean plastic' statements and wave imagery on the GLAD bag packaging, and the use of blue coloured bags, created the impression that these GLAD bags were made from plastic waste collected from the ocean or sea, when this was not the case,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We are concerned that, by its alleged conduct, Clorox deprived consumers of the opportunity to make informed purchasing decisions, and may have put other businesses making genuine environmental claims at an unfair disadvantage.”

“This action reflects our enforcement priority to take action against businesses making false or misleading environmental claims. Increasingly consumers choose the products they buy based on their environmental impact, and in doing so they must be able to rely on the environmental claims made by businesses being accurate,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Both of these products were reportedly withdrawn from supply to retailers from July 2023.

Kitchen Tidy Bags
Between June 2021 and about 13 November 2022, the packaging of Clorox’s small, medium and large Kitchen Tidy Bags said ‘50% Ocean Plastic Recycled Bags’, and ‘Made using 50% Ocean Plastic*’.

The back of the packaging carried two qualifying statements in small font stating:

These bags are made from 50% ocean recycled plastic, and have the trusted strength of Glad® to hold household waste on its way to landfill. Recycling ocean bound plastic reduces plastic pollution before it enters the ocean, helping to reduce pollution in waterways, save marine life and put an end to irresponsible waste.

‘*Made using 50% ocean bound plastic that is collected from communities with no formal waste management system within 50 km of the shore line.’

Between 6 March 2022 and 13 November 2022, Clorox updated the packaging to include the statement ‘Made using 50% Ocean Bound Plastic*’ on the front of the packaging.

The statements in small font on the back of Kitchen Tidy Bags’ packaging were also updated as follows (changes in bold):

These bags are made from 50% ocean bound recycled plastic, and have the trusted strength of Glad® to hold household waste on its way to landfill. Recycling ocean bound plastic reduces plastic pollution before it enters the ocean, helping to reduce pollution in waterways, making the seas safer for marine life, and helping to put an end to irresponsible waste.’

‘*Made using 50% ocean bound recycled plastic that is collected from communities with no formal waste management system within 50 km of the shore line.’

Garbage Bags
Between about May 2022 and July 2023, the packaging of its large and extra-large Garbage Bags stated ‘50% Ocean Plastic Recycled Garbage Bags’, and ‘Made using 50% Ocean Bound Plastic*’.

The back of the packaging carried two qualifying statements in small font stating:

These strong garbage bags are made from 50% ocean bound recycled plastic, and have the trusted strength of Glad® to hold waste on its way to landfill. Recycling ocean bound plastic reduces plastic pollution before it enters the ocean, helping to reduce pollution in waterways, making the seas safer for marine life, and helping to put an end to irresponsible waste.’

‘*Made using 50% ocean bound recycled plastic that is collected from communities with no formal waste management system within 50 km of the shore line.’

The ACCC is seeking declarations, penalties, injunctions, an order to implement a compliance program, corrective notices, costs and other orders.

Clorox is a supplier (to retailers including supermarkets and online retailers) of various consumer goods, including food care and waste disposal products sold under the GLAD brand.

In November 2023, the ACCC accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from yoghurt manufacturer MOO Premium Foods Pty Ltd after an investigation into MOO’s ‘100% ocean plastic’ representations.

In December 2023, the ACCC released its guidance on making environmental claims for businesses, which explains business’ obligations under the Australian Consumer Law when they make environmental and sustainability claims. It also sets out what the ACCC considers to be misleading conduct and good practice when making such claims, to help businesses provide clear, accurate and trustworthy information to consumers about the environmental performance of their business.

Call For Input Into Noise Camera Trial In Bayside Council Area

April 26 2024
For too long residents in the Bayside local council area have had to put up with noisy vehicles interrupting their peace. The NSW Government is taking action to end that.

The NSW Labor Government committed in the election to trialling noise cameras and cracking down on cars that disturb the peace.  

Residents are now being invited to provide input into the noise camera trial, which is due to start in the coming months.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will trial noise cameras in Bayside and Wollongong in response to community concerns about the impact of noisy vehicles.

Residents can make suggestions on where the noise cameras should be trialled, via the EPA’s website. The EPA plans to test the moveable cameras at several locations.

Vehicle noise cameras are an emerging technology currently being tested in various formats in major cities around the world, including in London, Paris and New York.  

In NSW, the EPA works in partnership with local government, NSW Police and NSW Roads and Maritime Services to enforce noise control regulations.
Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said:

“Car hoons are on notice. The NSW Government has heard the community’s concerns about noisy vehicles and is committed to sourcing and testing the most effective methods to deter anti-social behaviour on our roads.

“Work is underway to test noise cameras in communities fed up with noisy vehicles, and we invite all residents to have their say and play a key role in the trials.”

Member for Rockdale Steve Kamper said:

“The local Rockdale community has been calling for action against disruptive noisy vehicles for years.

“In the first 12 months of Government, we have already delivered three new fixed speed cameras along The Grand Parade to address the reckless behaviour endangering our local community.

“The Noise Camera Trial is the next step in addressing the antisocial behaviour. I encourage all interested residents in the Rockdale and Bayside Council area to have their say.”

We’re all feeling the collective grief and trauma of violence against women – but this is the progress we have made so far

Anastasia PowellRMIT University and Asher FlynnMonash University

It has been a particularly distressing start to the year. There is little that can ease the current grief of individuals, families and communities who have needlessly lost a loved one to men’s violence in recent weeks.

A spate of cases involving women dying, allegedly at the hands of men, in the Ballarat region. The shocking case of Molly Ticehurst, allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend in central west New South Wales. The fact so many of the victims of the violence at Bondi Junction were women.

It is clear there is a collective grief across our nation. The headlines express our shared hurt and disbelief that women continue to lose their lives to men’s violence against them. This weekend, a National Rally Against Violence will urge governments to take more assertive action to end gender-based violence in our communities.

So what’s being done – and are we making any progress?

What Is Being Done?

At this time, it is appropriate we seek to ease our individual and collective grief.

It is a time for expressing our respect for the women who have lost their lives, and for renewing our commitments that we will not stand by and do nothing while women continue to be harmed.

We have not been standing in silence.

Australians have been – and will continue – taking action to end gender-based violence.

Every Australian government has committed to policy action to address violence against women. The second National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children (2022 to 2032), is building on the progress made over the past ten years.

This plan emphasises prevention and early intervention, as well as improving support for victim-survivors and justice responses. There is also a focus on recovery and healing.

For the first time, there is a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan to address violence against women and children in First Nations communities.

The Commonwealth government has also committed to centring Aboriginal women’s leadership in the development of a standalone National Plan for First Nations women.

Across our communities, workplaces are implementing new policies and programs to prevent sexual harassment and to promote equity and respect at work.

The media, too, are reporting with greater sensitivity and respect for victim-survivors of violence.

Universities are embarking on a program of policy, services and cultural change to address sexual violence and harassment.

More and more schools are delivering on respectful relationships education with children and young people.

From sports clubs to faith communities, to licensed venues and public spaces, there is a heightened awareness of family and sexual violence, and the role we all have to play in responding to and preventing it.

Is It Working?

Our national data is telling us that these shared efforts are starting to show impact in our communities. Of course, zero preventable deaths should be our goal.

But the data from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Program does show a continuing decline in rates of intimate partner homicide, in particular.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey, the most accurate measure of self-reported experiences of all forms of personal violence in Australia, also shows some promising trends. It shows the 12-month rate of family violence may have reduced in some states, while remaining the same in others.

What More Needs To Be Done?

There is so much policy and program work that Australia has committed to – but much is still in its infancy of implementation.

Police and justice systems in several states have been reviewing policies and practices that have too often failed to protect women’s lives.

Accountability of men who choose to use violence is critical – but there is also a need for more work with men who want to change their behaviour, and for early intervention programs to prevent men’s violence from escalating.

We also urgently need funding for recovery and healing services for victim-survivors.

It is unacceptable that many of those experiencing lasting trauma and other impacts of family and sexual violence face a lack of affordable, accessible, trauma-informed support beyond a situation of dangerous crisis.

It has been less than ten years since we have had a national framework to guide evidence-based strategies to prevent the violence before it occurs. Addressing the underlying drivers of gender-based violence goes hand-in-hand with our response efforts, if we want to see lasting change.

Impact On Survivors

The recent headlines on gender-based violence have also undoubtedly affected remaining victim-survivors.

For some, hearing about these recent cases may add to existing trauma. It can prompt an unnerving sense of unsafety; a feeling of endless risk that too often women are left to navigate largely on their own.

Others may feel the time is right to disclose their own experience of violence to a friend or family member, or contact a helpline like 1800 RESPECT.

If you find yourself responding to a disclosure of violence, remember your initial response can have a lasting impact.

Now, more than ever, she will need to be listened to without blame or judgement. She will need to be believed, and she may need some support to connect with specialist support services.

Many men too, will no doubt be reflecting on what needs to be done to end this violence. There is a particularly important role for non-violent men to play in speaking out against gender-based violence and helping break these patterns.

We must not lose heart, but rather accelerate the progress we have begun to make.

We must continue to take action if we are to fulfil our shared commitment to an Australia where women – and indeed, all of us – live free from all forms of violence.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In immediate danger, call 000.The Conversation

Anastasia Powell, Professor, Family and Sexual Violence, RMIT University and Asher Flynn, Associate Professor of Criminology, Monash University

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

NSW State Government Provides $250k For Female Leadership And Fair Play Project

April 26, 2024
In a boost for female participation in sport, the NSW Labor Government is today delivering on it’s election commitment to ensure our State Sporting Organisations are better funded to provide for our grassroots sporting communities.

A key component of the election promise was to drive outcomes for women in sport, in governance, as coaches, or building the next generation of female leaders.

As part of the Organisational Support Program a new project to deliver the next generation of female sporting leaders was launched today following an agreement between the NSW Government and peak body Sport NSW.

The NSW Government will provide $250,000 to Sport NSW to deliver the Female Leadership and Fair Play Project which will expand on Sport NSW’s female leadership and Fast Track for Female Coaches program to increase the number of female leaders and coaches in NSW sport.

The project will also support the implementation of the NSW Sport Fair Play network which will support and advise on initiative to make community sport environments more welcoming and supportive for participants at a grass root level.

The aim of this initiative is to build a pipeline of board ready female leaders to support gender equity on boards and close the gender gap amongst coaches in pathway and elite coaching roles.

NSW Minister for Sport Steve Kamper said:
“The NSW Government is committed to supporting pathways for female coaches and officials in sport.

“Participants in this project will become role models for future female coaches and athletes, increasing the depth of knowledge and expertise among female coaches in this state.

“Importantly, it will also create a pipeline of board-ready female leaders, resulting in increased gender equity on boards in the future.”

Minister for Women Jodie Harrison said:
“The NSW Government is committed to improving gender equality and one of the ways it is doing this is the Female Leadership and Fair Play Project to increase the number of female leaders and coaches.

“Research shows that organisations with women in leadership positions leads to a decline in their gender pay gap.

“Therefore, it is vital that we provide women and girls pathways to leadership so we can continue to address gender quality and the pay gap in sport.

“It’s not only good for women, it’s good for sport.”

Sport NSW Chair Chris Hall said:
“The Female Leadership and Fair Play Project aims to increase knowledge and capability among female coaches, match officials and leaders at NSW sporting organisations.

“This funding will allow us to develop more female leaders across the sport sector.

“Sport NSW looks forward to partnering with sporting organisations so even more women have the opportunity to become coaches, senior administrators and board directors.”

Paralympic Gold Medallist and NSW Institute of Sport Coach and program presenter Louise Sauvage OAM said:
“It is vital that we provide programs that support the pathway development of female coaches, match officials and leaders.

“Importantly, this project also aims to improve inclusiveness in sport by providing guidance and education to leaders on inclusive participation opportunities.”

The Female Leadership and Fair Play Project group. Photo: supplied

New Campaign Raises Awareness Of Sepsis

April 10 2024
A new campaign is encouraging people to ask frontline healthcare workers, ‘Could it be sepsis?’ if they or a loved one are showing signs and symptoms of the potentially deadly condition which occurs when the body has an extreme response to an infection.

Minister for Health Ryan Park said sepsis is very serious and it is important to act quickly.

“Sepsis can affect anyone and I want people to seek help without delay if they, or their loved one, is very unwell, even if they have recently been seen by a doctor or other medical professional,” Mr Park said.

“In Australia at least 55,000 people develop sepsis each year and more than 8,000 of them die from sepsis-related complications.

“That’s why it’s important people aren’t afraid and are empowered, to ask, ‘Could it be sepsis?’ because early treatment can be lifesaving,” he said.

Paediatric Specialist Dr Matthew O’Meara said a person with sepsis often reports feeling the sickest they have ever felt.

“We want people to pay close attention to the symptoms, and seek urgent medical care if symptoms get worse,” Dr O’Meara said.

“You may only have some of the symptoms of sepsis, and features can initially be subtle.

“We urge people to trust their instincts, especially parents who are the experts in their child’s behaviour.”

Dr O’Meara said sepsis can be caused by any type of infection, including bacterial, viral and fungal, and those infections can be anywhere in the body.

There are many possible signs and symptoms of sepsis, and they include getting very sick very quickly, difficulty breathing, confusion, a rash or blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin.

Symptoms to look out for in young children that may indicate severe illness include being quieter or sleepier than normal or difficult to wake, irritability, high-pitched crying, refusal to eat/feed, fewer wet nappies, cold or mottled limbs and difficulty breathing.

If you or the person you care for is seriously unwell call 000 or go to your local Emergency Department. If you are concerned about your or your child’s health call your GP or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Kathy GibbsGriffith University

Around one in 20 people has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood and often continues into adulthood.

ADHD is diagnosed when people experience problems with inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that negatively impacts them at school or work, in social settings and at home.

Some people call the condition attention-deficit disorder, or ADD. So what’s the difference?

In short, what was previously called ADD is now known as ADHD. So how did we get here?

Let’s Start With Some History

The first clinical description of children with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity was in 1902. British paediatrician Professor George Still presented a series of lectures about his observations of 43 children who were defiant, aggressive, undisciplined and extremely emotional or passionate.

Since then, our understanding of the condition evolved and made its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM. Clinicians use the DSM to diagnose mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions.

The first DSM, published in 1952, did not include a specific related child or adolescent category. But the second edition, published in 1968, included a section on behaviour disorders in young people. It referred to ADHD-type characteristics as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood or adolescence”. This described the excessive, involuntary movement of children with the disorder.

Kids in the 60s playing
It took a while for ADHD-type behaviour to make in into the diagnostic manual. Elzbieta Sekowska/Shutterstock

In the early 1980s, the third DSM added a condition it called “attention deficit disorder”, listing two types: attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADDH) and attention deficit disorder as the subtype without the hyperactivity.

However, seven years later, a revised DSM (DSM-III-R) replaced ADD (and its two sub-types) with ADHD and three sub-types we have today:

  • predominantly inattentive
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • combined.

Why Change ADD To ADHD?

ADHD replaced ADD in the DSM-III-R in 1987 for a number of reasons.

First was the controversy and debate over the presence or absence of hyperactivity: the “H” in ADHD. When ADD was initially named, little research had been done to determine the similarities and differences between the two sub-types.

The next issue was around the term “attention-deficit” and whether these deficits were similar or different across both sub-types. Questions also arose about the extent of these differences: if these sub-types were so different, were they actually different conditions?

Meanwhile, a new focus on inattention (an “attention deficit”) recognised that children with inattentive behaviours may not necessarily be disruptive and challenging but are more likely to be forgetful and daydreamers.

Woman daydreams
People with inattentive behaviours may be more forgetful or daydreamers. fizkes/Shutterstock

Why Do Some People Use The Term ADD?

There was a surge of diagnoses in the 1980s. So it’s understandable that some people still hold onto the term ADD.

Some may identify as having ADD because out of habit, because this is what they were originally diagnosed with or because they don’t have hyperactivity/impulsivity traits.

Others who don’t have ADHD may use the term they came across in the 80s or 90s, not knowing the terminology has changed.

How Is ADHD Currently Diagnosed?

The three sub-types of ADHD, outlined in the DSM-5 are:

  • predominantly inattentive. People with the inattentive sub-type have difficulty sustaining concentration, are easily distracted and forgetful, lose things frequently, and are unable to follow detailed instructions

  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. Those with this sub-type find it hard to be still, need to move constantly in structured situations, frequently interrupt others, talk non-stop and struggle with self control

  • combined. Those with the combined sub-type experience the characteristics of those who are inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive.

ADHD diagnoses continue to rise among children and adults. And while ADHD was commonly diagnosed in boys, more recently we have seen growing numbers of girls and women seeking diagnoses.

However, some international experts contest the expanded definition of ADHD, driven by clinical practice in the United States. They argue the challenges of unwanted behaviours and educational outcomes for young people with the condition are uniquely shaped by each country’s cultural, political and local factors.

Regardless of the name change to reflect what we know about the condition, ADHD continues to impact educational, social and life situations of many children, adolescents and adults.The Conversation

Kathy Gibbs, Program Director for the Bachelor of Education, Griffith University

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

What is childhood dementia? And how could new research help?

Olena Ivanova/Shutterstock
Kim HemsleyFlinders UniversityNicholas SmithUniversity of Adelaide, and Siti MubarokahFlinders University

“Childhood” and “dementia” are two words we wish we didn’t have to use together. But sadly, around 1,400 Australian children and young people live with currently untreatable childhood dementia.

Broadly speaking, childhood dementia is caused by any one of more than 100 rare genetic disorders. Although the causes differ from dementia acquired later in life, the progressive nature of the illness is the same.

Half of infants and children diagnosed with childhood dementia will not reach their tenth birthday, and most will die before turning 18.

Yet this devastating condition has lacked awareness, and importantly, the research attention needed to work towards treatments and a cure.

More About The Causes

Most types of childhood dementia are caused by mutations (or mistakes) in our DNA. These mistakes lead to a range of rare genetic disorders, which in turn cause childhood dementia.

Two-thirds of childhood dementia disorders are caused by “inborn errors of metabolism”. This means the metabolic pathways involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids, fatty acids and proteins in the body fail.

As a result, nerve pathways fail to function, neurons (nerve cells that send messages around the body) die, and progressive cognitive decline occurs.

A father with his son on his shoulders in a park.
Childhood dementia is linked to rare genetic disorders. maxim ibragimov/Shutterstock

What Happens To Children With Childhood Dementia?

Most children initially appear unaffected. But after a period of apparently normal development, children with childhood dementia progressively lose all previously acquired skills and abilities, such as talking, walking, learning, remembering and reasoning.

Childhood dementia also leads to significant changes in behaviour, such as aggression and hyperactivity. Severe sleep disturbance is common and vision and hearing can also be affected. Many children have seizures.

The age when symptoms start can vary, depending partly on the particular genetic disorder causing the dementia, but the average is around two years old. The symptoms are caused by significant, progressive brain damage.

Are There Any Treatments Available?

Childhood dementia treatments currently under evaluation or approved are for a very limited number of disorders, and are only available in some parts of the world. These include gene replacement, gene-modified cell therapy and protein or enzyme replacement therapy. Enzyme replacement therapy is available in Australia for one form of childhood dementia. These therapies attempt to “fix” the problems causing the disease, and have shown promising results.

Other experimental therapies include ones that target faulty protein production or reduce inflammation in the brain.

Research Attention Is Lacking

Death rates for Australian children with cancer nearly halved between 1997 and 2017 thanks to research that has enabled the development of multiple treatments. But over recent decades, nothing has changed for children with dementia.

In 2017–2023, research for childhood cancer received over four times more funding per patient compared to funding for childhood dementia. This is despite childhood dementia causing a similar number of deaths each year as childhood cancer.

The success for childhood cancer sufferers in recent decades demonstrates how adequately funding medical research can lead to improvements in patient outcomes.

An old woman holds a young girl on her lap.
Dementia is not just a disease of older people. Miljan Zivkovic/Shutterstock

Another bottleneck for childhood dementia patients in Australia is the lack of access to clinical trials. An analysis published in March this year showed that in December 2023, only two clinical trials were recruiting patients with childhood dementia in Australia.

Worldwide however, 54 trials were recruiting, meaning Australian patients and their families are left watching patients in other parts of the world receive potentially lifesaving treatments, with no recourse themselves.

That said, we’ve seen a slowing in the establishment of clinical trials for childhood dementia across the world in recent years.

In addition, we know from consultation with families that current care and support systems are not meeting the needs of children with dementia and their families.

New Research

Recently, we were awarded new funding for our research on childhood dementia. This will help us continue and expand studies that seek to develop lifesaving treatments.

More broadly, we need to see increased funding in Australia and around the world for research to develop and translate treatments for the broad spectrum of childhood dementia conditions.

Dr Kristina Elvidge, head of research at the Childhood Dementia Initiative, and Megan Maack, director and CEO, contributed to this article.The Conversation

Kim Hemsley, Head, Childhood Dementia Research Group, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders UniversityNicholas Smith, Head, Paediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group, University of Adelaide, and Siti Mubarokah, Research Associate, Childhood Dementia Research Group, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University

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

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.