Inbox and environment news: Issue 624

May 5 - 11, 2024: Issue 624


Avalon Beach This Week: A Place Of Bursting Main, Flooding Drains + Falling Rocks

the corner of Bellevue avenue and Avalon Parade - and just downhill from where creeks run through Angophora Reserve

The BOM's rain gauge statistics for the past week show 130 mm has fallen into the rain gauge at Mona Vale Golf course - and possibly a little more further north of the Bilgola Bends.

The valley of Avalon and Bilgola Plateau has been reminded this week that it was once a marshy floodplain called 'Priests' Flat' alongside the beach from Kamikazee corner to the mangroves of Careel Bay and that even though those water channels may now be funnelled into concrete pipes, they may still reappear during prolonged downpours of rain.

The NSW HRLV provides under Volume 4828, Folio 108 from when Angophora Reserve was handed to the community by A J Small  - note the marked water courses, or creeks::

In February 1931 the formalisation of the dedicating the Bilgola Plateau parks from the same gentleman is recorded in Vol-Fol 4469-13, over 5 acres all up, which included some of the well-known Bilgola Plateau parks:

Note the creeks threading through these parks - the same is in the landscape at Angophora Reserve and Hudson Park (dedicated later as a public reserve, in 1957) during this era, as shown when that was formally gifted by A J Small and had the Wildlife Presrevation Society as Trustees, and in Dunbar Park, when that was gifted as well:

On May 2nd a waterpipe burst on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Avalon Parade, carrying a plume of white and yellow sand and other matter all the way down Careel Creek and into Careel Bay. 

The bay is home to Posidonia seagrasses, an endangered species, and as one of the slower growing species of seagrass, Posidonia australis can be particularly slow to recover from damage.

The Careel Bay Saltmarsh is one of the only large Sarcocornia dominated Saltmarshes in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Estuary.  Mangroves act as a filter for pollutants, thus protecting the sea grasses and mudflats(symbiotic ecosystem relationships). 

This drone shot taken by local photographer Tim Seaton shows the plume entering the waters and dispersing over the waters and their base.

Although Council, Sydny Water and the Avalon NSW Fire and Rescue team were quick to respond, the pavers that had been there for years are now gone. These photos were taken Saturday morning, May 4:

Too much rain, changes in temperature or ground conditions, tree roots, heavy traffic and construction work can all lead to breaks in water and cause water mains to burst.

Further north, at Careel Bay playing fields, which formally was part of the Careel Bay mangroves and then became a tip so the land could be reclaimed, and where road staff had cleared out the ditch over July 25-27 2022, the fact that this too is still actually a mangrove floodplain, and is fed by at least three old creeks encased in concrete pipes at Burrawong road and from atop Careel Head, has swept everything people keep putting into drains while blowing off grass and leaves, and the flow of dirt from the land, has filled this up again.

Pre July 25 2022:

At work:

This week (and why the Swamp Oaks thrive):

Further up the hill, on Whale Beach road, days of rain and water seeping through the landscape brought down about 8 tonnes of sandstone boulder - photos supplied:

This too is a recurring event - residents of decades would recall when a whole hillside slid down on to Barrenjoey Road just past 874 in the early 1980's. While this one, with a photo by John Stone, happened in November 1970 on Palm Beach road - this boulder was estimated to weigh 270 tonnes and took around a week to clear away:

Earlier than that one of Palm Beachs' earliest architects sent in some items to newspapers:

The road from Newport to Palm Beach, at the corner of Barranjoey and Sunrise roads, was blocked on Saturday afternoon by the fall of two large pieces of rock, estimated to weigh several hundreds of tons. The mass is slowly slipping further down, and threatens to demolish either the store or the wharf. LANDSLIDE. (1917, May 23 - Wednesday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from 

Another one during the rain times the following year:

Land Slip 
(See photo, on page 11) 

Henry A. Wilshire sent us the above striking photograph with the following note : — I am sending you a couple of negatives of photos of a land slip or rock slip on the Palm Beach Road, next to the Barrenjoey Road. The rock in measurement would weigh some 700 tons, and a small one next to it, 300 odd tons. The slide was very smooth, the bed being white pipeclay, and since it has been on the road, it creeped 2 feet. It should form an interesting problem for engineers in Shires as how would be the most economic way of removing same, and the quickest way to get rid of such a lot of stone. It seems to me if the earth were removed from the front of it, the weight ma}' take it farther, where it would eventually go into the waters of Pittwater. However, 10 men are starting to blast it and try and remove it for the property owners who are at present cut off from any road communication.  SHIRES (1918, June 4). Construction and Local Government Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1913 - 1930), p. 6. Retrieved from 

Or how about this one after rain, a storm swell and a little earthquake off Avalon Beach north Headland:

Morning of Wednesday June 17th, 2020 - photo
 by A J Guesdon.

Although a fresh stream through the and was once a way to sell land here in the decades prior to water being piped into Pittwater, the calls throughout the 1940's and 1950's and 1960's to put these into drains and pipes, along with current day carving out the soft sandstone cliff faces for filling a whole block with an oversized development, or building on the floodplains of Warriewood to Narrabeen and above the Narrabeen catchment, are funnelling more water into places it never went before. 

And what is being carried in those waters elsewhere - broken down plastic turf fields, chemicals, garden refuse, plastics.

This is one of the reasons it's worth delving into where all these creeks once threaded through the local landscape - if only to see what has been lost and what may soon be making a reappearance - not just to see whether it's worth getting some gumboots, but how we may possibly do it better this time, and return a place of bushland and chirping creeks woven through and around and for the homes and places we live in. 

For those who love the sound of the ocean, fountains and find a delightful soothing in wading along a chirruping creek, the growing opportunity to return the world being lost presents some great positives amongst dealing with what has been done before we got here.


Council Announces Intention To Progress One LEP For Whole LGA

On Friday May 3rd 2024, at 5pm, Council sent out an email update advising residents Council is progressing with a Local Environment Plan (LEP) that covers the whole of our region.
'It will provide our community with a clearer, simpler and fairer set of planning rules.' the council announcement states

An LEP is a state government requirement for all local government areas to guide land use planning and development decisions within the area.

It should be remembered, as part of that process commenced under the previous state government, the then newly incumbent Minns NSW State government announced in late 2023 that the NSW Planning Dept. recommended Pittwater keeps all its Conservation Zones(A Huge Win For Pittwater's Environment! Pittwater To Keep Its Conservation Zones - Issue 609 - more under Background below)

Council's Update states:
''At the meeting this week, Council resolved to hold an Extraordinary Council Meeting on 17 June to consider submitting the LEP Planning Proposal to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces for ‘Gateway Determination’, which is a legally required review point before a Planning Proposal can be exhibited for public comment.

The Council meeting will follow the consideration of the LEP Planning Proposal by the independent Northern Beaches Local Planning Panel at its meeting on 23 May 2024.

The LEP Planning Proposal outlines contents of the draft LEP and the justification for the proposed development controls. It also includes maps that show proposed land use zones across the Northern Beaches, as well as land use tables that identify the types of land uses that are permissible in each zone.

  • Council is committed to continuing our engagement with the community and we will be asking for comment on the Planning Proposal (including the draft LEP) once the Minister has issued the Gateway Determination.
  • The public exhibition is likely to take place early in 2025. It is intended that the draft DCP will be publicly exhibited alongside the LEP, subject to Council endorsement. The exact timing will depend on when the Gateway Determination is issued to Council as well as the nature and extent of any conditions and requirements by the Minister prior to the exhibition.
Once approved by Council and the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the draft LEP will then be exhibited for public comment. The draft LEP will be amended as required and will only commence following the further approval of Council and the Minister.''

''Until now, we have been managing land use and development through four separate LEPs of the former council areas.'' the announcement states 

'''The purpose of the new Northern Beaches LEP is to harmonise planning rules across the area. It will also introduce some new controls to better respond to strategic directions and the community’s aspirations for the area, and especially regarding urban character of centres and environmental sustainability. The LEP will be complemented by a new comprehensive Development Control Plan (DCP), which is being developed in parallel to the LEP.

'The Planning Proposal outlines contents of the proposed LEP and the justification for the proposed development controls. It also includes maps that show land use zones across the Northern Beaches, as well as land use tables that define how the land in each zone can be used (‘permissible uses’). This is informed by extensive technical and spatial analysis as well as community engagement, including for the LEP/DCP Discussion Paper and the Conservation Zones Review.''

The LEP is separate to the NSW Government’s recently proposed changes to low- and mid-rise housing controls, which commenced on Monday April 29. Council states it is meeting separately with the Department to discuss the impacts of these proposals.

Council's webpage 'Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan' provides further details at:


The community and councillors were assured by council staff that no environmental values would be sacrificed from any former council areas in the harmonisation of the Pittwater, Warringah and Manly LEPs and DCPs.

However, the Draft Conservation Zones Review proposed removing 3,613 properties from the former Pittwater Local Government Area’s Conservation Zones and making them Residential Zones, with their controls undefined. This contrasts with the loss of only one property with a Conservation Zoning from the former Warringah LGA. This scenario was, in fact, not harmonising zones across the new council area but aligning them with the former Warringah zonings, Cr. Korzy said.

Pittwater NSW MP Rob Stokes had also tried to reassure Pittwater residents about protection of its environment. In a letter to the Avalon Preservation Association of December 5, 2017, Mr Stokes discussed the introduction of Local Strategic Planning Statements. In it he said:

“The development of these statements will see councils and communities formulate the forward vision for land use in the local area - capturing and respecting the local characteristics that need to be preserved and articulating what local residents want in the future. This will include where and how any changes should occur.

These statements will be formally recognised in Legislation and reflected in councils’ Local Environment Plans and development controls. Councils will be able to tailor the statements to specify land use priorities on a ward by ward basis.”

However, the previous Northern Beaches Council chose not to utilise this process, opting instead for an LGA-wide LSPS. A ward based LSPS would have revealed the special characteristics of Pittwater and all other wards, and the differences between them. We can see the result of this in the Draft Conservation Zones Review, in which consultants have failed to recognise the importance of, for example, wildlife corridors and tree canopy. This would have a major impact in Pittwater - but also across the entire LGA.

Further, the previous NBC council made the decision to adopt one LEP across the LGA without any explicit discussion about the reasons for this or necessity to do so. At the November 27, 2018 meeting, councillors voted to accept the Local Environment Plan Review and one LSPS.

However, the report from staff did not mention the fact that there is no legislation that requires one LEP or any ministerial directive to that effect either. This issue was never placed before councillors or the community, and we were told that the state government required us to introduce one LEP.

The NSW Government changed the name of Environment Zones across NSW to Conservation Zones. The new names commenced on 1 December 2021. 

It was stated at the time this change was of name only. Land uses that were currently permitted and prohibited in the environment zones would continue once they are renamed conservation zones. Only the name of zones is changing.

The Government stated; ''By renaming these zones to reflect the ‘conservation’ land use function more clearly, the focus, purpose, and intent of these zones is clearly signalled. The purpose is to conserve the environmental values and qualities in areas where this land use zoning is applied.

The naming also aligns better with the objectives of the zones as being about conservation.''

There were now 4 types:

  • Zone C1 – National Parks and Nature Reserves (previously E1)
  • Zone C2 – Environmental Conservation (previously E1)
  • Zone C3 – Environmental Management (previously E1)
  • Zone C4 – Environmental Living. (previously E1)

Northern Beaches Council conducted a Conservation Zones Review in 2022, that was publicly exhibited, proposing the former Pittwater Area lose thousands of C4 Conservation Zones blocks, compared to 54 in the former Manly and just one in the former Warringah Council LGA.

Staff received 935 public submissions regarding the review, 60 per cent of which were from residents of the former Pittwater area. 

In Pittwater, the former C4 zoning for the Pittwater Council LGA allowed low impact developments (generally single dwellings) in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic value while in Manly, blocks of flats were allowed in the C4 zone.

Planners told councillors they estimated that in the former Pittwater LGA, 3,613 properties would move from a C zone to an R (residential) zone, and 1,328 from an R zone to a C zone, resulting in an overall loss of 2,285 properties from C zones.

Most residents are aware of massive excavations from boundary to boundary and multiple storeys down in E4 zones - Environmental Living Zones now known as C4 for Conservation Living Zones - across the former Pittwater Local Government Area. These include sites at Palm Beach and Whale Beach, Avalon, Bayview and Church Point - where massive homes are built, sometimes up to six storeys down the block.   

Councillor Korzy introduced a Motion at the February 2023 Meeting. The Motion called for the briefing to include reference to excavation, tree removal/retention, protection of endangered ecological communities, hard surface to landscape ratios, and other relevant matters. Cr. Korzy also asked for it to discuss how compliance with conditions of consent and relevant legislation is assessed and enforced in these zones. 

''Finally, I asked about options for protecting the environment in our C4 zones as part of the new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan currently being drafted for the whole Northern Beaches Local Government Area. The new LEP and DCP are required in councils amalgamated in 2016.'' Cr. Korzy stated

The Pittwater LEP states that its particular aims include: “to promote development in Pittwater that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable … (and) “to protect and enhance Pittwater’s natural environment and recreation areas”. 

Objectives of the E4 Environmental Living Zone were then defined as: 

  • To provide for low-impact residential development in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic values. 
  • To ensure that residential development does not have an adverse effect on those values. 
  • To provide for residential development of a low density and scale integrated with the landform and landscape. 
  • To encourage development that retains and enhances riparian and foreshore vegetation and wildlife corridors.”

The DCP provided detail on how these objectives should be achieved. It includes extensive controls related to the natural environment, including for specific ecological communities and 16 locality specific controls. 

Amongst them are numerous controls on development in environmentally sensitive sites, such as: 

“Development shall not have an adverse impact on Pittwater Spotted Gum Endangered Ecological Community.” 

For land adjoining bushland reserves it states that: “Development shall not result in a significant loss of canopy cover or a net loss in native canopy trees.” And for heathland/woodland vegetation: “Development shall not reduce or degrade habitat for locally native species, threatened species, endangered populations or endangered ecological communities.” It also explicitly lays out Pittwater’s well-known 60:40 ratio for the building envelope on Pittwater’s C4/E4 zones, stating for a number of suburbs that: “The total landscaped area on land zoned R2 Low Density Residential or E4 Environmental Living shall be 60% of the site area.” 

Experts who reviewed the Biodiversity Planning Review paper stated it should be opposed as such a huge potential loss of conservation zones represents the most serious incursion into the existing Pittwater LEP/DCP rules. These guidelines have contributed to the protection of Pittwater’s character, landscape, and scenic quality to date.

In total, the former Pittwater would have had 7,447 properties zoned C3 or C4 and 9,347 properties in residential zones.

The move from C4 to Residential would result in more development in these areas and a huge loss of natural landscapes including canopy. The rezoning from C4 to Residential would also trigger the application of the July 1st 2022 amended NSW Housing SEPP to the newly created Residential zones. 

Under the changes made to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 all seniors living, including independent living unit developments, will be allowed in R2 Low Density Residential zones. The building height will also change, allowing up to 9 metres, excluding any basement works.

It's also worth noting that under the Council's Local Housing Strategy the then NSW Department of Planning told the Council it must proceed with planning work that will lead to rezoning of one or more of the following as outlined in its LHS to compensate for housing not delivered by the Ingleside precinct:

  • One of the following Centre Investigation Areas for Brookvale, Dee Why, Manly Vale or Narrabeen; 
  • Two or more of the Housing Diversity Areas centres; and/ or
  • other proposed rezonings in the LGA that have arisen since the preparation of the LHS that will enable delivery of substantive and new housing supply. 

The planning proposals for one or more of these alternatives were required to be submitted to the NSW Planning Department for Gateway determination by or before December 2022.

Further, the Council is required to submit proposal(s) for two or more of the Centre Investigations Area are to the Planning Department for Gateway determination to facilitate dwelling delivery within the 2021 to 2026 period. 

Council was also required to expedite the following LHS actions under Priorities 2 and 5 to ensure housing supply, diversity and affordability outcomes are secured before 2026:

  • Planning analysis and LEP updates for Brookvale, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Manly Vale and Narrabeen that do not reduce the permissibility or density of existing permissible uses.
  • Annual reporting of development by centre to track yields and housing mix.
  • Adoption of a social and affordable housing target.
  • Continue to implement council’s affordable housing contribution scheme (AHCS).
  • Review and seek lower parking requirements for boarding houses for R3, R4 and B4 sites in centre investigation areas.

Council's LHS Centre investigation areas identified Brookvale, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Manly Vale and Narrabeen along the existing B-Line as centre investigation areas in the medium term, and Forestville and Beacon Hill in the longer term, subject to a future B-Line route (future B-Lines along Warringah and Mona Vale Roads).

Housing diversity areas identified through the Council's LHS were Avalon, Newport, Warriewood, Belrose, Freshwater, Balgowlah and Manly as areas to support housing diversity in the form of dual occupancies, seniors housing and boarding houses.

In July 2018 the NSW Government introduced new planning controls through the Low-Rise Medium Diversity Housing Code (the Code) under State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development), which also applied to the NBC LGA.

The Code allows for the development and subdivision of dual occupancies; multi-dwelling houses (including terraces), manor homes under a fast track complying development approval process where those land uses were currently permitted with development consent from Council.

This approval can be issued by a private certifier within 20 days if the application complies with requirements in the Code. 

Residents already know the former Pittwater LGA is under increasing environmental pressure. This trend has seen people building way over their 60 percent of land area, needlessly removing trees and exceeding existing height limits with variations being permitted.

There have also been a number of proposed developments out of keeping with Pittwater. One still before the Land and Environment court, with hearing dates set for later in October, seeks to build flats and develop the whole block in an area where this would ruin the local amenity at Palm Beach.

There have been ongoing calls for a Heritage Listing for the whole of Pittwater since the plans were first made public.

Professor Richard West AM, President of the Palm Beach-Whale Beach Association, which has as its main aim to preserve the unique environment in which we live, has echoed other residents associations which state these changes represent a threat to Pittwater. 

Prof. West told Pittwater Online then that 'special consideration should be made to preserve these qualities'.

These zonings will feed into the upcoming, single Northern Beaches Local Environment Plan, despite it having been pointed out again in 2023 that Pittwater could retain its own LEP, something which had been spoken of even before Pittwater was forcibly amalgamated with Warringah Council.

A single LEP would regulate development for the whole council area. So for those wanting to protect the scenic bushland habitat, it was important to read the multiple documents made available and let the Council know what you thought. 

The Council wanted to know if residents agreed with the approach and criteria used in the review to identify and map core habitat areas, biodiversity corridor areas, threatened ecological communities, and threatened flora and fauna species habitat.

Conservation zones, previously called Environmental zones in the former Pittwater LEP, “are used to protect and conserve areas with special environmental values or where there are known hazards eg bushfire, (and) coastal inundation”, planning staff noted in their motion to place the draft on exhibition. 

The four conservation zones in the new LEP align with those identified and renamed by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment as follows: 

  • C1 National Parks and Nature Reserves - existing and newly proposed national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas - as identified and agreed by the NSW government. 
  • C2 Environmental Conservation - for areas of high ecological, scientific or cultural values.
  • C3 Environmental Management - Special ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic attributes or environmental hazards/processes. 
  • C4 Environmental Living - special environmental or scenic values; low impact residential development.    

The challenge for Council staff has been that four LEPs are currently operational across the Northern Beaches Council area and the state government required that they be 'harmonised' after the forced amalgamation of the former Manly, Warringah and Pittwater councils. (ie Pittwater’s LEP; Manly’s; Warringah’s; and a second one in that former council area for land where zoning was never finalised by the NSW government).

Alike the Rates Harmonisation of the forcibly amalgamated former Councils that saw an increase for Manly and Pittwater implemented from July 1st 2022, and a reduction for the former Warringah area, despite an amendment to the Local Government Amendment Bill 2021 which allowed up to eight-years to harmonise rates for councils that were amalgamated in 2016, and which had been preceded by Warringah Council's seeking approval from IPART in 2014 for a cumulative increase of 26.2 per cent over four years 9and was instead  allowed an increase at 19.7 per cent), the former council area that will be impacted most by an 'LEP harmonisation' would be Pittwater and the Pittwater environment,prioor to the late 2023 announcements under the new Minns government.

Pittwater residents at February 2023 Council Meeting

Previous reports during the council consultation:

Transport Oriented Development Begins

On Monday April 29 2024 the first stage of the new NSW Government’s Transport Oriented Development (TOD) planning reforms commenced, with the finalisation of the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).

The new SEPP amends planning controls around 37 metro and rail stations, with 18 commencing immediately, helping to deliver more homes that are well designed and in well-located areas.

'Over the next 15 years, this part of the TOD policy is estimated to deliver more than 170,000 new homes in mid-rise dwellings with new affordable homes, and apartment buildings that contain commercial space to create vibrant communities close to transport, services and jobs.' the government said in a statement

'The NSW Government is committed to tackling the housing crisis. If we don’t build more houses, families will up and leave because they can’t afford a home in NSW. And if we lose our young people, we lose our future.'

The government states the SEPP is informed by consultation and feedback from councils and peak industry bodies on the proposed development standards contained in the SEPP.

The following planning controls have been announced:
  • Permissibility – Allowing residential flat buildings in residential zones and local centre zones, along with shop top housing in local and commercial zones.
  • Floor space ratio (FSR) – A maximum FSR of 2.5:1 has been set. This allows for buildings of up to 6 storeys while providing for landscaping, setback, privacy and open space standards to be met.
  • Building Height – A 22m height for residential flat buildings to maintain design standards and a maximum building of 24m for buildings containing shop top housing, to accommodate commercial ceiling height.
  • Lot size and width – Introduction of a minimum lot width of 21m and no minimum lot size.
  • Street frontages – The inclusion of a clause which applies to local and commercial centres to consider active street frontages of buildings at the ground floor.
  • Heritage – Applications involving heritage considerations will continue to be lodged with and assessed by councils. Councils are well placed to assess applications that might involve the removal of a non-contributory building to the heritage value of that area. Any new development needs to improve and enhance the heritage values of those locations.
  • Affordable Housing – At least 2% mandatory affordable housing contribution, delivered onsite and in perpetuity for developments with a minimum Gross Floor Area of 2000sqm, managed by a Community Housing Provider. The rate will increase over time and will reflect market conditions.
  • Apartment Design Guide (ADG) – The ADG will continue to be the principal guiding document for apartment development, including TOD developments.
As part of the consultation, 27 briefings were conducted with all councils proposed to be included in the amending SEPP areas, the government said.

'Additionally, 14 industry peak bodies and advocacy groups were consulted in January and February 2024 and 13 provided a submission.'

The SEPP will be published today and will include maps for the first 18 TOD locations.

For the remaining locations where time for additional local planning has been provided, should councils fail to undertake local planning, nor provide equal or greater housing than proposed, the TOD SEPP will come into effect.

The majority of the sites will be in effect by December 2024.

From 13 May 2024, development applications (DAs) can be lodged on the NSW Planning Portal for sites around the first 18 metro and rail stations.

Councils will retain their existing assessment powers for development applications, allowing them to apply a merit-based assessment. Guidance and support is being provided to assist councils with their assessment of TOD development.

Minister for Planning and Public Space Paul Scully said:
“Housing is the largest single cost of living issue facing the people of NSW.

“These reforms are a critical part of our plan to deliver more homes as we confront the housing crisis.

“Though this SEPP, there is the capacity to deliver an estimated 170,000 more well-located, well-designed and well-built homes throughout Sydney, the Illawarra, the Hunter and Central Coast.

“The extensive consultation has been an important part of developing the settings to help deliver more housing in well located areas, around transport hubs, close to services, jobs and amenities.

“I want to thank those councils who came to us with a plan to deliver more homes and look forward to seeing the plans as they evolve.”

NSW State Government Announces $5 Million For Koala Hospital In Sydney's South West 

On April 28 2024 the State Government announced it is  delivering on its commitment to the koalas of south-western Sydney with $4.5 million in new funding to establish a koala care centre in the Macarthur region and $500,000 to support volunteer rehabilitators.

The investment will boost the availability of expert help for injured and sick koalas in the region, which is home to a thriving koala population.

The koala care centre will be part of the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital on the Camden campus of the University of Sydney's School of Veterinary Science. This facility treats the majority of koalas which come into care in the Macarthur region.

Those koalas include Mack and Gage, who are today being released back into the wild at Wedderburn in south-west Sydney after being treated and cared for by staff and volunteers from the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital and WIRES.

Mack and Gage will be observed for a week in a small area of bushland to ensure they are climbing trees properly. Then they'll receive the green light to roam further afield.

The new funding will expand the hospital's capacity to support koala rescue, rehabilitation and conservation.

The facility will also benefit wildlife rehabilitation across the region with on-call vet care and advice, and access to facilities such as pre-release enclosures, upgraded clinical equipment and biosecurity seclusion areas.

The $500,000 to support the region's dedicated wildlife rehabilitators will be available via a grant program. The funding will support volunteers to continue their invaluable work rescuing and rehabilitating koalas.

This $5 million investment complements previous commitments to safeguard the region's koalas, including habitat protection, koala friendly crossings and vehicle strike mitigation.

The new koala care centre funding is in addition to the allocation of $3.5 million to support regional wildlife hospitals in other parts of New South Wales.

Further information about Mack and Gage:

Orphaned female joey Macklin was found with her mother at the base of a tree in Holsworthy in July 2023. Both were taken to the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital for assessment, but the mother couldn't be saved. Mack went into care with WIRES weighing just 555 grams. Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe visited Mack at the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital in September 2023.

Orphaned male joey Gage came into care in October 2023 after his mother was hit and killed by a vehicle at Holsworthy. He weighed 985 grams when taken into care by WIRES.

Since being weaned, both Mack and Gage have been learning to climb and getting ready for release.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe stated:

'I have seen first-hand the important work carried out by the passionate and dedicated team at the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital, and I'm thrilled this funding will allow them to care for more koalas.

'I met little Mack at the Wildlife Health and Conservation Hospital in September when she was newly orphaned and being cared for by the excellent WIRES team. It's wonderful to see her strong and healthy as she returns to the wild.

'The NSW Government is committed to ensuring the survival of koalas like Mack and Gage in the wild, and the koala care centre will help through rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release. The region's wildlife carers are essential, and this grant will support their work.

'Safeguarding these koalas is vital. We want future generations to be able to step into bushland in south western Sydney and see koalas in the wild.'

Member for Campbelltown Greg Warren stated:

'This $4.5 million koala care centre will benefit both the region's wildlife and our passionate and dedicated carers, with the help, care and expertise it will offer.

'The community is grateful to the region's wildlife volunteers who care so deeply for these special animals and the new south-west Sydney grants program will offer additional support.

'We are proud to be home to a thriving koala population.'

However, those living in this area have stated the only way to save koalas in South Sydney is to stop allowing developers to clear their homes and food trees - their habitat - and to put in fauna passes over the roads they are trying to cross, and being killed on, while travelling through their historic, embedded in their genes for generations, range.

May 10, 2019: Australian Koala Foundation report states koalas are ‘functionally extinct’ - Photo: Koala in Mona Vale in 1958 from Australian Women's Weekly Article - Koalas are definitely extinct in Pittwater.

NSW Greens politician Cate Faehrmann also stated the same after the announcement:


Autumn In Pittwater 

Deep Creek, Middle Creek and Turimetta sunrises, along with captures from Avalon Beach to Warriewood form part of Turimetta Moods: April 2024 - words and photos by Joe Mills, running as this Issue's Pictorial

Botanic Gardens Day At Stony Range: May 26

To celebrate Botanic Gardens Day:  Enjoy morning tea with us at Stony Range, Sunday 26th May 9am - 12pm

  • Native plants for sale (card facilities available)
  • Live music from trio  'Coastal Cool'
  • Children's Fun Activities
  • 'Bugs About' and displays

810 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why

Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden  is a botanic garden specialising in native Australian flora located in Dee Why, New South Wales, Australia. The garden is wheelchair accessible, has walking tracks of varying lengths and inclinations.

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

Wondering what Australia might look like in a hotter world? Take a glimpse into the distant past

Tim FlanneryThe University of MelbourneJosephine BrownThe University of Melbourne, and Kale SnidermanThe University of Melbourne

Current concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in Earth’s atmosphere are unprecedented in human history. But CO₂ levels today, and those that might occur in coming decades, did occur millions of years ago.

Wouldn’t it be useful to go back in time and see what Australia looked like during those periods in the distant past? Well, scientists – including us – have done just that.

These studies, which largely involve examining sediments and fossils, reveal a radically different Australia to the one we inhabit.

The continent was warmer and wetter, and filled with unfamiliar plant and animal species. It suggests Australia may be much wetter, and look very different, in centuries and millennia to come.

ferns imprinted in rock
Studying fossils helps us understand past climates. Shutterstock

Then And Now: Measuring CO₂

Atmospheric CO₂ is measured in “parts per million” – in other words, how many CO₂ molecules are present in each million molecules of dry air.

The concentration of CO₂ influences Earth’s climate. The more CO₂ present, the warmer it gets.

Right now, atmospheric CO₂ is about 420 parts per million. This concentration last occurred on Earth between 3 million and 5 million years ago – a period known as the Pliocene.

If humanity keeps burning fossil fuels at the current rate, by mid-century CO₂ concentrations will be around 550 parts per million. This level was last approached 14 million to 17 million years ago, in the mid-Miocene period.

In both these periods, Earth was warmer than it is today, and sea levels were far higher.

In the Pliocene, research shows CO₂ was the cause of about half the elevated temperatures. Much of the rest was due to changes in ice sheets and vegetation, for which CO₂ was indirectly responsible.

In the mid-Miocene, the link between CO₂ and warmer temperatures is less certain. But climate modelling does suggest CO₂ was the primary driver of temperature increases in this period.

By examining the plants and animals that lived in Australia during these epochs, we can gain insight into what a warmer Australia might look like.

Obviously, the Pliocene and mid-Miocene far predate humans, and CO₂ concentrations in the atmosphere in those periods increased for natural reasons, such as volcanic eruptions. Today, humans are causing the CO₂ increases, and it’s happening at a much faster rate than in the past.

steam billows from chimneys
Today, humans are the cause of high CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Shutterstock

Australia In The Pliocene

The fossil and sediment record from the Pliocene period in Australia is limited. But the available data suggest much of the continent – and Earth generally – was more humid and warm than today. This helped determine the species that existed in Australia.

For example, the Nullarbor Plain, which stretches from South Australia to Western Australia, is today extremely dry. But studies of fossilised pollen show during the Pliocene it was home to Gymea lilies, banksias and angophoras – plants found around Sydney today.

Similarly, the western Murray-Darling Basin is today largely saltbush and grassland. But fossil pollen records show in the Pliocene, it was home to araucaria and the southern beech – rainforest trees found in high-rainfall climates.

And preserved remains of marsupials dating back to the Pliocene have been found near Hamilton in western Victoria. They include a dorcopsis wallaby – the nearest living relative of which lives in New Guinea’s ever-wet mountains.

small grey wallaby
The nearest relative of the dorcopsis lives in New Guinea. Shutterstock

Hot And Moist In The Mid-Miocene

A rich fossil and sediment record exists from the mid-Miocene. Marine sediments off WA suggest the west and southwest part of Australia was arid. In contrast, the continent’s east was very wet.

For example, the Riversleigh World Heritage area in Queensland is today a semi-arid limestone plateau. But research has found in the mid-Miocene, seven species of folivorous ringtail possums lived there at the same time. The only place more than two ringtail possum species coexist today is in rainforests. This suggests the Riversleigh plateau once supported a diverse rainforest ecosystem.

Similarly, McGraths Flat, near Gulgong in New South Wales, is today an open woodland. But mid-Miocene fossils from the site include rainforest trees with pointed leaves that help shed water.

And mid-Miocene fossils from the Yallourn Formation, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, also include the remains of rainforest plants. Before colonisation it supported eucalypt forests and grasslands.

This evidence of rainforest suggests far wetter conditions in the mid-Miocene than exist today.

leaf in rainforest during downpour
Dry parts of Australia were once rainforest. Shutterstock

An Uncertain Future

You may be wondering, when climate change projections tell us Australia will be drier in future, why we are suggesting the continent will be wetter. We concede there is a real contradiction here, and it requires further research to unravel.

There’s another important point to note. While conditions in the Pliocene or Miocene can help us understand how Earth’s systems respond to elevated CO₂ levels, we can’t say Australia’s future climate will exactly replicate those conditions. And there are lags in the climate system, so while CO₂ concentrations in the Pliocene are similar to today’s levels, Earth hasn’t yet experienced the same extent of warming and rainfall.

The uncertainty comes down to the complexities of the climate system. Some components, such as air temperature, respond to increased CO₂ levels relatively quickly. But other components will require centuries or millennia to fully respond. For example, ice sheets over Greenland and Antarctica are kilometres thick and as big as continents, which means they take a long time to melt.

So, even if CO₂ levels remain high, we shouldn’t expect a Pliocene-like climate to develop for centuries or millennia yet. However, every day we add CO₂ to Earth’s atmosphere, the climate system moves closer to a Pliocene-like state – and it cannot be easily turned around.The Conversation

Tim Flannery, Honorary fellow, The University of MelbourneJosephine Brown, Senior Lecturer, The University of Melbourne, and Kale Sniderman, Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

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

We think we control our health – but corporations selling forever chemicals, fossil fuels and ultra-processed foods have a much greater role

Ahmet Misirligul/Shutterstock
Nick ChartresUniversity of Sydney and Lisa BeroUniversity of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

You go to the gym, eat healthy and walk as much as possible. You wash your hands and get vaccinated. You control your health. This is a common story we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s not quite true.

Factors outside our control have huge influence – especially products which can sicken or kill us, made by companies and sold routinely.

For instance, you and your family have been exposed for decades to dangerous forever chemicals, some of which are linked to kidney and testicular cancers. You’re almost certainly carrying these chemicals, known as PFAS or forever chemicals, in your body right now.

And that’s just the start. We now know exposure to just four classes of product – tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods and fossil fuels – are linked to one out of every three deaths worldwide. That is, they’re implicated in 19 of the world’s 56 million deaths each year (as of 2019). Pollution – largely from fossil fuels – is now the single largest environmental cause of premature death. Communities of colour and low-income communities experience disproportionate impacts. Over 90% of pollution related deaths occur in low middle income countries.

This means the leading risk factor for disease and death worldwide is corporations who make, market and sell these unhealthy products. Worse, even when these corporations become aware of the harms their products cause, they have often systematically hidden these harms to boost profits at the expense of our health. Major tobacco, oil, food, pharmaceutical and chemical corporations have all applied similar techniques, privatising the profits and spreading the harms.

man smoking
Tobacco companies long questioned the link between smoking and cancer. Nopphon_1987/Shutterstock

Profit And Loss Statements

When companies act to conceal the harm their products do, they prevent us from protecting ourselves and our children. We now have many well-documented cases of corporate wrongdoing, such as asbestosfossil fuelspesticidesherbicides sugarsilica, and of course tobacco. In these instances, corporations intentionally manufactured doubt or hid the harms of their products to delay or prevent regulation and maintain profits.

Decades of empirical evidence shows these effective tactics have actually been shared and strategically passed from one industry or company to the next.

For instance, when large tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds bought food companies Kraft, General Foods and Nabisco in the 1980s, tobacco executives brought across marketing strategies, flavouring and colourings to expand product lines and engineered fatty, sweet and salty hyperpalatable foods such as cookies, cereals and frozen foods linked to obesity and diet-related diseases. These foods activate our reward circuits and encourage us to consume more.

Or consider how ‘forever chemicals’ became so widespread. A team of scientists (including this article’s co-author) investigated previously secret internal industry documents from 3M and DuPont, the largest makers of forever chemicals PFOA and PFOS.

The documents showed both 3M and DuPont used tactics from the tobacco industry’s playbook, such as suppressing unfavourable research and distorting public debate. Like Big Tobacco, 3M and DuPont had a financial interest in suppressing scientific evidence of the harms of their products, while publicly declaring in-demand products such as Teflon were safe.

For decades, forever chemicals PFOA and PFOS have been used to make Teflon pans, Scotchgard, firefighting foam and other non-stick materials. By the early 2000s, one of these, PFOS, ended up in our blood at 20 times the level its manufacturer, 3M, considered safe.

As early as 1961, the chief toxicologist at DuPont’s Teflon subsidiary reported the company’s wonder-material had “the ability to increase the size of the liver of rats at low doses”, and recommended the chemicals be handled “with extreme care”. According to a 1970 internal memo, the DuPont-funded Haskell Laboratory found the chemical class C8 (now known as PFOA/PFOS) was “highly toxic when inhaled and moderately toxic when ingested”.

teflon pan water drops
Teflon was hailed as a wonder material, making non-stick pans possible. But the original chemicals used to make Teflon were dangerous. Minko Dima/Shutterstock

Both 3M and DuPont did extensive internal research on the risks their products posed to humans, but they shared little of it. The risks of PFOA including pregnancy-induced hypertension, kidney and testicular cancers, and ulcerative colitis was not publicly established until 2011.

Now, 60 years after DuPont first learned of the harms these products could cause, many countries are facing the human and environmental consequences and a very expensive cleanup.

Even though the production of PFOA and PFOS is being phased out, forever chemicals are easily stored in the body and take decades to break down. Worse, PFOA and PFOS are just two of over 15,000 different PFAS chemicals, most of which are still in use.

How Can We Prevent Corporate Injury To Our Health?

My co-author and I work in the field known as commercial determinants of health, which is to say, the damage corporations can do to us.

Corporate wrongdoing can directly injure or even kill us.

One of the key ways companies have been able to avoid regulation and lawsuits is by hiding the evidence. Internal studies showing harm can be easily hidden. External studies can be influenced, either by corporate funding, business-friendly scientists, legal action or lobbying policymakers to avoid regulation.

Here are three ways to prevent this happening again:

1) Require corporations to adhere to the same standards of data sharing and open science as independent scientists do.

If a corporation wants to bring a new product to market, they should have to register and publicly release every study they plan to conduct on its harms so the public can see the results of the study.

2) Sever the financial links between industry and researchers or policymakers.

Many large corporations will spend money on public studies to try to get favourable outcomes for their own interests. To cut these financial ties means boosting public health research, either through government funding or alternatives such as a tax on corporate marketing. It would also mean capping corporate political donations and bringing lobbying under control by restricting corporate access and spending to policymakers and increasing transparency. And it would mean stopping the revolving door where government employees or policymakers work for the industry they used to regulate once they leave office.

3) Mandate public transparency of corporate funding to researchers and policymakers.

In 2010, the United States introduced laws to enforce transparency on how much medical and pharmaceutical companies were spending to influence the products doctors chose to use. Research using the data unearthed by these laws has shown the problem is pervasive. We need this model for other industries so we can clearly see where corporate money is going. Registries should be detailed, permanent and easy to search.

These steps would not be easy. But the status quo means corporations can keep selling dangerous or lethal products for much longer than they should.

In doing so, they have become one of the largest influences on our health and will continue to harm generations to come – in ways hard to counter with yoga and willpower. And your health is more important than corporate profits.The Conversation

Nick Chartres, Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine & Health, University of Sydney and Lisa Bero, Chief Scientist, Center for Bioethics and Humanities and Professor of Medicine and Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

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

We found pesticides in a third of Australian frogs we tested. Did these cause mass deaths?

Jodi RowleyCC BY-NC-ND
Jodi RowleyUNSW Sydney and Damian LettoofCSIRO

In winter 2021, Australia’s frogs started dropping dead. People began posting images of dead frogs on social media. Unable to travel to investigate the deaths ourselves because of COVID lockdowns, we asked the public to report to us any sick or dead frogs.

Within 24 hours we received 160 reports of sick and dying frogs, sometimes in their dozens, from across the country. That winter, we received more than 1,600 reports of more than 40 frog species.

We needed help to investigate these deaths. We asked people across New South Wales to collect any dead frogs and store them frozen until travel restrictions eased and we could pick them up for testing. Hundreds of people stepped up to assist.

What could be causing these deaths? Aside from the obvious suspect, disease, many people wondered about pesticides and other chemicals. One email we received pondered:

Maybe a lot of these Green Frogs that are turning up dead have in fact died from chemicals.

Another asked:

Is there any relationship between chemicals being used to control the current mice plague in Eastern Australia and effects on frogs?

In our newly published research, we detected pesticides in more than one in three frogs we tested. We found a rodenticide in one in six frogs.

Pesticides have been shown to be a major cause of worldwide declines in amphibians, including frogs and toads. In the case of the mass deaths in Australia, we don’t believe pesticides were the main cause, for reasons we’ll explain.

What Did The Research Find?

As soon as travel restrictions eased, we drove around the state with a portable freezer collecting these dead frogs. We began investigating the role of disease, pesticides and other potential factors in this awful event.

We tested liver samples of 77 frogs of six species from across New South Wales for more than 600 different pesticides. We detected at least one pesticide in 36% of these frogs.

Our most significant discovery was the rodenticide Brodifacoum in 17% of the frogs. This is the first report of rodenticides – chemicals meant to poison only rodents – in wild frogs.

We found it in four species: the eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii), green tree frog (Litoria caerulea), Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii) and the introduced cane toad (Rhinella marina).

A head-one view of an eastern banjo frog
The eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii) was one of the species in which rodenticide was detected. Jodi RowleyCC BY-NC-ND

How Did These Poisons Get Into Frogs?

How were frogs exposed to a rodenticide? And what harm is it likely to be causing? Unfortunately, we don’t know.

Until now, frogs weren’t known to be exposed to rodenticides. They now join the list of non-rodent animals shown to be exposed – invertebrates, birds, small mammals, reptiles and even fish.

It’s possible large frogs are eating rodents that have eaten a bait. Or frogs could be eating contaminated invertebrates or coming into contact with bait stations or contaminated water. Whatever the impact, and the route, our findings show we may need to think about how we use rodenticides.

A cane toad on leaf litter
Large species like the cane toad (Rhinella marina) could eat rodents that have ingested baits. Jodi RowleyCC BY-NC-ND

Two pesticides detected in frogs were organochlorine compounds dieldrin and heptachlor. A third, DDE, is a breakdown product of the notorious organochlorine, DDT.

These pesticides have been banned in Australia for decades, so how did they get into the frogs? Unfortunately, these legacy pesticides are very stable chemicals and take a long time to break down. They usually bind to organic material such as soils and sediments and can wash into waterways after rain.

As a result, these pesticides can accumulate in plants and animals. It’s why they have been banned around the world.

We also found the herbicide MCPA and fipronil sulfone, a breakdown product of the insecticide fipronil. Fipronil is registered for use in agriculture, home veterinary products (for flea and tick control) and around the house for control of termites, cockroaches and ants. MCPA has both agricultural and household uses, including lawn treatments.

A graphic showing the types of pesticides detected in frogs and the percentages of tested frogs in which each chemical was detected
Pesticides detected in frogs and the percentages of tested frogs in which each chemical was detected. Jodi RowleyCC BY-NC-ND

What Are The Impacts On Frogs?

There’s very little research on the impact of pesticides on frogs in general, particularly adult frogs and particularly in Australia.

However, from research overseas, we know pesticides could kill frogsor cause sub-lethal impacts such as suppressing the immune system or malformations, or changes in growth, development and reproduction. Pesticides are considered a threat to almost 700 amphibian species.

Unfortunately for them, frogs do have characteristics that make them highly likely to come into contact with pesticides.

Most frog species spend time in both freshwater systems, such as wetlands, ponds and streams (particularly at the egg and tadpole stage), and on the land. This increases their opportunities for exposure.

Second, frogs have highly permeable skin, which is likely a major route for pesticides to enter the body. Frogs obtain water through their skin – you’ll never see a frog drinking – and also breathe through their skin.

A tree frog sits on a branch
Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii) is one of the common species in which pesticides were detected. Jodi RowleyCC BY-NC-ND

Our findings are a reminder that frogs are sensitive indicators of environmental health. Their recognition as bioindicators, or “canaries in the coalmine”, is warranted.

Frogs and other amphibians are the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet. More research is needed to determine just how our use of pesticides is contributing to ongoing population declines in frogs.

So, were pesticides the major driver of the mass frog deaths in 2021? We don’t believe so.

We didn’t detect pesticides in most frogs and the five pesticides detected were not consistently found across all samples. It’s certainly possible they contributed to this event, along with other factors such as disease and climatic conditions, but it’s not the smoking gun.

Our investigation, with the help of the public, is ongoing.

Chris Doyle, from the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, contributed to this article.The Conversation

Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum, UNSW Sydney and Damian Lettoof, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Wildlife Ecotoxicology, CSIRO

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

No threat to farm land: just 1,200 square kilometres can fulfil Australia’s solar and wind energy needs

Clean Energy Council / Neoen
Andrew BlakersAustralian National University

As Australia’s rapid renewable energy rollout continues, so too does debate over land use. Nationals Leader David Littleproud, for example, claimed regional areas had reached “saturation point” and cannot cope with more wind and solar farms and transmission lines.

So how much land is needed to fully decarbonise energy in Australia? When we switch completely to solar and wind, do we have the space for all the panels, turbines and power lines?

I’ve . All we need is 1,200 square kilometres. That’s not much. The area devoted to agriculture is about 3,500 times larger at 4.2 million square kilometres. The area of land that would be taken away from agriculture works out at about 45 square metres per person – about the size of a large living room.

We can ditch fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse emissions with negligible impact on agriculture. And in many cases, farmers can be paid for hosting renewable energy infrastructure while continuing to run sheep and cows or grow crops.

Made with Flourish

The Challenge Of The Energy Transition

Electricity consumption in Australia is currently about .

Decarbonising Australia’s economy will require electrifying many technologies that currently derive their power from burning fossil fuels. Then we need to ensure the electricity grid runs entirely on renewables.

When we electrify transport, heating and industry, annual electricity consumption per capita doubles. But we will need even more electricity to decarbonise aviation and shipping. So it’s reasonable to assume electricity consumption must triple if we are to complete decarbonisation, to 30MWh per person per year.

This would logically be achieved in three stages, starting with the easiest to achieve:

Stage 1: Solar and wind displace coal and gas from the electricity system. The federal government target of 82% renewable electricity by 2030 puts us firmly on track to decarbonise electricity. This trend is already well underway as shown by the graph below.

Stage 2: Clean electricity is used to electrify transport (electric vehicles), heating (electric heat pumps) and industrial heat (electric furnaces). This off-the-shelf technology could largely replace petrol and gas within a decade with negligible impact on the cost of running vehicles and heating homes.

Stage 3: The chemical industry is decarbonised. Clean electricity is used to make ammonia, iron, steel, plastics, cement, and synthetic aviation and shipping fuel.

Where Will This Clean Power Come From?

Virtually all new generation capacity in Australia over the past decade has been in solar and wind. Together, solar and wind have risen from about 6% of electricity generation in 2014 to 33% today. Solar and wind provide the cheapest electricity.

Most solar power in Australia today comes from rooftop solar panels. These panels don’t require any extra land. But the area of rooftop is limited. In coming years, ground-mounted solar farms will become ever more important.

We’ll also need more wind farms. Each wind farm contains dozens of turbines and spans dozens of square kilometres. But only a small fraction of the land is lost to farming.

And it’s best to spread the solar farms and wind farms throughout the settled areas of Australia, to reduce the effect of local cloud and wind lulls.

Most solar and wind farms are located on sheep and cattle farms inland from the Great Dividing Range. Here there is plenty of sun and wind, and it’s not too far away to transmit electricity to the cities via high-voltage power lines.

So How Much Land Do We Need?

Typically, is actually lost to farming. In most cases, farmers run livestock or continue cropping around the turbine towers and access roads.

Similarly, because solar panels are spaced apart, the area spanned by a solar farm is often two to three times the actual area of the panels themselves.

The panels are typically spaced to avoid losses from shading. As an added bonus, it means rain and sunlight can fall between them, allowing grass to grow and livestock to graze and shelter.

About 10,000km of new transmission lines will also be required for the energy transition. This sounds like a lot but amounts to just 37 centimetres per person.

Again, the area of land that would be taken away from agriculture for wind turbine towers and access roads is relatively small.

A further small area of land will be dedicated to new storage such as pumped hydro power and batteries.

The total area spanned by the solar farms, wind farms and all the other infrastructure is about 22,000 square km (mostly the land between the turbines in windfarms). But agriculture could continue largely as normal on most of this land.

, the total area taken away from agriculture to power a 100% renewable energy (zero fossil fuel) economy is about 45 square metres per person. Considering Australia’s total population of 27 million people, that means the total land area required is 1,200 square km. The area currently devoted to agriculture is about 3,500 times larger than this.

Farmers Can Earn Extra Income

Mining companies are often permitted to mine land without the consent of the landowner.

Solar and wind farm developers do not have the same rights. They must agree on lease fees with landowners before gaining access to land. These fees are typically tens of thousands of dollars per year per turbine.

In the case of transmission lines, hosts in Victoria are paid A$200,000 per kilometre over eight years.

The transition to renewable energy has attracted opposition from some residents living near proposed infrastructure. But this can be overcome.

Successful solar and wind farm companies gain community acceptance through genuine transparency, particularly early in the project, to ensure no information vacuum is created and then filled with misinformation.

Paying neighbours as well as the renewable energy host farm, and establishing community funds, is also helpful.

A sheep and a lamb resting in the shade of solar panels, facing the camera
Solar panels also provide shade for livestock. Clean Energy Council / University of Queensland

Plenty Of Land To Share

The expansion of renewable energy infrastructure will be concentrated in Australia’s regional areas. But we can also expect new energy capacity from elsewhere, such as expanded rooftop solar and new offshore wind farms, which reduces the amount of land needed for the energy transition.

The location of good areas for solar and wind farms is shown in the Australian National University’s renewable energy heatmaps, which takes account of the solar and wind resources, proximity to transmission lines, and protected land. Farmers in areas coloured red can command higher prices for leasing land to solar and wind farm companies.

In short, Australia has far more than enough land to host the solar farms and wind farms required for the renewable energy revolution.

The Conversation

Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering, Australian National University

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

Great white sharks off South Africa’s coast are protected by law, but not in practice. Why this needs to change

Enrico GennariRhodes UniversityNeil HammerschlagUniversity of Oregon, and Sara AndreottiStellenbosch University

In less than eight years, white sharks in South Africa have all but disappeared from their historical hotspots in False Bay and Gansbaai, on the Western Cape coast. These areas were once known as the “white shark capital of the world” and were home to a flourishing ecotourism industry. One possible explanation for this change would be a declining white shark population.

We are part of an international research team with expertise in shark ecology, genetics, fisheries and conservation, researching sharks for more than 20 years. This has included tagging sharks and monitoring their activities in the area.

We have published numerous papers on the species. These have included research into conservation plans for sharks in South Africawhite shark cage diving, and the importance of coastal reef habitats for white sharks.

Our most recent tracking data on white sharks tells a worrying story: 18 of 21 white sharks tagged since 2019 with internal 10-year transmitters in Mossel Bay by the Oceans Research Institute have disappeared. This represents the loss of nearly 90% of the tracked white sharks in less than four years. They have not been detected moving to the Eastern Cape or elsewhere: they vanished.

Furthermore, nowadays, white sharks larger than 4 metres in length, the big breeders, are rarely sighted. Combined with the known low genetic diversity of this population, it is an indication that the white shark population is likely not stable in South Africa.

Based on this, we urge the South African government to take a precautionary approach to white shark conservation. Otherwise, South Africa could go down in history not only as the first country to protect white sharks, but also the first country to knowingly lose its white sharks.

What’s Known

As far back as 2011, between 500 and 1,000 individual white sharks were estimated to be left in South Africa. Today, we barely see any larger white sharks. This in itself is a sign of a population not doing well, because the fewer adult sharks there are, the greater the decline will be.

Although white sharks have been a protected species since 1991, large numbers are legally killed every year by shark nets and drumlines (anchored hooks with large baits) operated by the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board. This is based on an outdated 70-year-old idea that sharks should be culled to reduce the chances of encounters with humans.

Between 1978 and 2018, drumlines and shark nets captured 1,317 white sharks, of which 1,108 died. So, on average, 28 white sharks were killed every single year for the last 40 years.

We have estimated that even if tens of white sharks were killed per year, this would drive the white shark population into decline.

White sharks have also been affected by the demersal shark longline fishery. Boats use fishing lines fitted with thousands of hooks that can be kilometres long. The fishery is permitted to target and kill endangered and critically endangered small sharks. But as the smaller sharks get caught on the lines, so do larger predators chasing them, including white sharks.

This fishery is conservatively estimated to have killed an average of 40 white sharks a year, mainly from 2008 to 2019. Photographer Oliver Godfrey observed three white sharks being caught and killed by this fishery while he was on one of their boats. He confirmed dead white sharks were discarded at sea and not reported to authorities. Three white sharks killed in 10 weeks by one vessel equates to 40 white sharks killed by an average of 4 vessels operating for only 3 weeks per month, 10 months of a year (all conservative figures).

Nevertheless, South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment has no official records of any of those because it relies only on the records supplied by the same fishery. The lack of records should raise concerns within the department as it knows that during a test run of this fishery, its scientists set three longlines, caught two white sharks and killed one.

What’s In Dispute

recent study claimed that the population of white sharks in South Africa was stable. The study suggested that the sharks had simply relocated eastward, fleeing from a pair of shark-eating orcas. According to the authors of the study, the stability of the white shark population was “encouraging” and “reassuring”.

But our review of that study found that their results could not demonstrate a stable white shark population, nor that the sharks had relocated. Our analysis found several discrepancies between the results and conclusions.

The main discrepancies included the fact that the declines of white sharks in the Western Cape began before the appearance of the shark-eating orcas in 2015 as reported. And at present there is no evidence of any location with the same large numbers of white shark comparable to the numbers found 10-15 years ago in the Western Cape. If the sharks had only relocated, their numbers should be found elsewhere.

There have been only eight confirmed white shark deaths by orcas since 2017 but possibly a few more unrecorded. Nevertheless, the permitted nets, drumline and longline fishery have together probably been responsible for at least eight times more white shark deaths, every single year.

Next Steps

South Africa is still permitting unsustainable shark fishing operations in its waters. This ought to stop.

We also advocate for a discussion on new approaches to bather safety that don’t kill sharks, as also advocated in AustraliaTethered dronesshark spotters, and “smart drumlines” that send alerts to quick response teams when sharks are caught are among available technologies to protect swimmers and surfers without culling sharks.

The journal article that this article was based on was co-authored by Chris Fallows, Monique Fallows and Matias Braccini.The Conversation

Enrico Gennari, Research Associate at the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science and Shark Scientist and Founder Oceans Research Institute, Rhodes UniversityNeil Hammerschlag, Courtesy Faculty, Oregon State University, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences Department, University of Oregon, and Sara Andreotti, Postdoctoral Researcher in management and conservation of white sharks, Stellenbosch University

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


Bayview Sea Scouts Hall: Some History 

The hall used by 1st Bayview Group, which has been running continuously for almost 62 years in this same location, was first built through the work of Cedric Moreton Williams as a clubhouse for the then Pittwater Aquatic Club. The Williams family have done a lot for Pittwater throughout successive generations, including asking Sir Granville de Laune Ryrie (1865-1937), grazier, politician and soldier, to officially dedicate the Mona Vale Village Park War Memorial


At the last meeting of the New South Wales ...Sculling League. Cedric Williams Pittwater, handed in the titles he held of lightweight champion sculler and lightweight Gladstone skiff champion of New South Wales. Williams has been the outstanding lightweight sculler in the state for quite a few years and his retirement from the lightweight division should create greater Interest in these championships. SCULLING. (1935, April 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 17. Retrieved from 

He didn't stop rowing in local events though or organising for things to get better by affiliating the club with NSW Rowing Association and securing coach as well as funds from then Warringah Shire Council towards a clubhouse:


The Pittwater Aquatic Club’s first regatta under the control of the New South Wales Rowing Association will be held at Bayview on Monday. The club is now affiliated and for Its first main series will enter crews In four oar and sculling races only. It has secured Mr F Ballan as coach. He is an ex member of Drummoyne Rowing Club. The first crew heavyweight maiden fours comprised of the club’s scullers N Fox V Fox A Fryer and C Williams. The second crew are men from Deewhy F Moore J Trim R Bonser and M Moore.

The racing will start at 10 am when heats of the sculling races will be held and the main racing at 3 p m The club has recently purchased two eight-oar boats and will commence training for senior events early in the new year. A new club-house is being erected at BayviewROWING. (1936, October 3). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 21. Retrieved from 

The official opening took place on Monday 4th of October 1937 and was conducted by Pittwater Aquatic Club Patron Sir Clifton Love, manufacturer and businessman, who also spent Christmas Holidays in Pittwater aboard his luxury cruiser, Spindrift.

Pittwater Aquatic Club opening - C M Williams' son Cedric Vincent Williams' photo

from the water when it was the Aquatic Club premises, for rowing. Photo: Don Taylor, circa 1930s

Christmas Holidays Afloat.

Christmas and New Year promise to be very bright socially at Palm Beach and on the luxurious homes afloat on Broken Bay and Pittwater.
In the Basin adjacent to Palm Beach will be many luxury cruisers of all sizes and descriptions They will include the auxiliary schooner Boomerang of Mr and Mrs Frank Albert with Mr Lex Albert and a party on board and with Live Wire is a speed tender Mr and Mis Stuart Doyle's motor yacht Mirimar, the fifty foot cruiser Cynthia of Mr and Mrs H P Christmas, Mr and Mrs Bernard Bayley in the Greyhound, Mr and Mrs W Heine in Corsair, Mr and Mrs W D Lawson in Sylph III, Mr and Mrs A D Walker in Lolita, Mr and Mrs P A Mcintosh in Opal with Silver Spray, Mr and Mrs Bertie Hors-field in their cruiser Moth, Mr and Mrs V Heine in Hoona, Mr and Mrs Sid Blundell in Catherine Ellen, Mr and Mrs Noel P Hunt in Ronald, Mr and Mu J A Barraclough In Corycia, Mr and Mrs H W Bunce in Laloa, Mr and Mrs A W Brown with Mr and Mrs Brown sen in Binghi, Miss Mirle Doyle in Baby Miramar, Dr C L S Mcintosh in Carinya, Mr Keith Hamilton with Mr and Mrs Ken Wheeler and Mr John Milgrove aboard Ophir, Mr and Mrs F Luks Hermina II, Mr and Mrs Ron Shaftos Marcia, Mr and Mrs P Dowling's Fairie, Mr W Mantel's party In Air Wave, Jack Copeland in the speed boat Idle a While, Mr Jo Fallon with speed boat It, Mr Ralph Doyle with his daughter Miss Robin Doyle in the Redwing, Sir Clifton Love in Spindrift Mr and Mrs A G Wilson in Iolanthe.
Altogether more than £100 000 worth of luxury craft will grace the waters of Broken Bay this Christmas flying the famous burgee of the Royal Motor Yacht Club-blue with a yellow cross and Royal crown.
Many and festive are the parties to be held on board the various yachts and smart dances card parties and excursions daily and nightly will add to the gaieties of the season.
Then comes the Pittwater regatta on December 30 which is the Cowes of Australia with its myriads of craft from big sailing yachts to tiny outboards splashing the azure waters of Pittwater and Palm Beach with flickering foam-speed boats luxury cruisers sailing boats and yachts and the T S S Gwydir the social centre of activity as the flagship of the Regatta. At night the Broken Bay branch of the Royal Motor Yacht Club will hold its annual New Years ball.
 AQUATIC GAIETY. (1933, December 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from

The Pittwater Aquatic Club began in 1922 in Bayview, with meetings originally held in the boatshed of local gentleman and champion rower/sculler Cedric Williams. The club, formalised in 1924, was the original sculling/rowing club version of the Pittwater Aquatic club.

The PAC also included ladies in its ranks who regularly competed with each other and at inter-club events. Their inclusion began in 1933 and they soon began winning inter-club races as well:

SCULLING. - Pittwater Aquatic Club.

Pittwater Aquatic Club closed Its 1932-33 sculling season and financial year on June 3. The membership was Increased during the year by 40. During the year a women's section was attached to the club, which now has a membership of 19 active competitors. The club has had a very successful season, and at present holds four of the five State championship titles allotted by the New South Wales Professional Sculling and Rowing League. On Broken Bay during the season 167 races were held. SCULLING. (1933, June 29). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from

The club had various cups and trophies to be competed for during the season, the Pittwater Cup, a Relay Race for the Parramatta Cup, the PAC Fox Trophy for Men’s Best and Best Handicap, and the Penniman trophy and even one called the Giant Brand Paint trophy. In February of each year they held a two day Regatta to which competitors from Shoalhaven, Parramatta and Balmain would come. The most well known of all these trophies is one initiated by Cedric Williams Esq. to be raced for as a perpetual trophy between clubs. 


PITTWATER -Cedric M Williams trophy race Waterwitch 21m 19m Tug 14m 8m Wln^s 12m8m Mavis 12m fin Sunny 10m 8m Swastika Popeye 9m 8m Bunyip 6m 6m Ncmlsls 3!jmam Pandora 2m scr Cygnet set ser I roller 7m Swift scr set. CLUB SAILING FIXTURES. (1937, October 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from


The Parramatta River Sculling Club held Its championship regatta over the Putney-Gladesville course on the Parramatta River on Saturday. The main attraction on the programme, the light-weight Gladstone skiff championship of New South Wales, was won for the third successive year by Cedric Williams,  of  Pittwater, who defeated his clubmate, F. Kerr, by three lengths. J. Hanlan, Pittwater, won the outrigger handicap, and the skiff handicap,


Lightweight championship of New South Wales, In Gladstone skills, lm (holder, C. Williams);  C.M. Williams (Pittwater), 1; F. Kerr (Pittwater), 2.Only starters. Won by three lengths.  Women's Gladstone skiff handicap, lm.: Miss D.Pamplin (Parramatta), 52s, 1; Miss D. Hammond(Parramatta), 38s, 2; Miss M. Hickson (Pittwater),16s, 3. Won by four lengths. SCULLING. (1935, March 11). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from

Cedric M Williams as rower circa 1930 (Older gentleman used to help with rowing - possibly F Ballan)

At the last race prior to the outbreak of war in 1939 this trophy, a model of a Racing Four complete with sculls, and mounted in a glass case made by then well-known model maker Stuart Murray, was won by the Balmain club. It gathered dust at their club stuck atop a cupboard until 2009 when remodelling caused pause for thought and the return of this item to its home in the new Pittwater Aquatic Club. The PAC, now a sailing club, moved to new premises on the other side of the bay.

One of the original Trophies. Picture by Michael Mannington, 2012. 

Some of the medals Cedric M won - courtesy of Cedric V

A model Cedric M built of a Gladstone Skiff - courtesy of Cedric V Williams

Larger PAC hall social functions were held at the Masonic Hall at Collaroy, and when the community was welcoming home airman Patrick Gordon Taylor, an event was held at Mona Vale’s hall:

Sophie, Cedric and John Williams Snr. at right side, Front row in this photo - courtesy Elizabeth Hird (nee Williams)

Cedric M Williams was friends with Captain P G 'Bill' Taylor (later Sir) - they went flying together and the first seaplane of sorts that Sir Taylor flew was flown from Bayview. See: The Man Who Saved Smithy - Fighter pilot, pioneer aviator, hero: the life of Sir Gordon Taylor MC, GC by Rick Searle - a few insights from the biographer of this Allen&Unwin book on a local hero - and make you wonder if there were a few Williams hands helping those floats float!

Among Elizabeth Hird's Photos and newspaper clippings from her mum Sophie Iris are some  seen in our recent Collector's Corner page - Pittwater Regatta Air Race Trophies: from 1934 and 1935 and The Pilot Who Saved William Hughes - including one of the planes in photograph form: clearly Capt. P G Taylor had more than a small hand in bringing aeroplanes into being part of Pittwater Regattas:

That welcome Home included Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith:

Letter and clippings courtesy courtesy Elizabeth Hird (Nee Williams)

The Pittwater Aquatic Club also held its own end of season functions in the clubhouse:

During WWII the club lapsed (1939) and those who were members stayed on the water fulfilling roles in keeping Pittwater safe. Cedric Williams, along with older brother Jack, worked on Pittwater and became an Army Lieutenant. 

The hall at Bayview was then used for a while as an ambulance station.


The police have pieced together the movements of Fisher's taxi on Saturday from information supplied by numerous telephone callers. This is the picture they have got:

8 A.M.-Fisher left home to start work.

10.30.-Taxi seen by Mr. C. Clark, whose Church Point store is about three-quarters of a mile from the culvert where Fisher was found.

WIFE-"Had To Skip"

10.45_Mrs. Wymark, on her way to buy groceries, heard the taxi coming, with its engine full-out. She said yesterday "If I hadn't skipped out of the way it would have hit me. We very rarely see coloured taxis out here They are mostly private hire cars. That is why I noticed its cream and orange colour. When I saw the description in the Sunday papers I immediately told the police "

The taxi was travelling towards Mona Vale

10.55-Mr C Williams ambulance officer at Bayview, saw the taxi rush past the ambulance station, heading for Mona Vale.

“I knew Fisher and I know his taxi," he said "Every time he went past he hooted his horn to say good day.

"I was in the garden, but this time there was no hoot "


11.30.-Mr M Daddry, of  Roseville Road, Beacon Hill who works for the same employer as Fisher did was looking out of the window with his wife and saw the taxi on Pittwater Road going towards the city

Mr. Daddry slid to his wife, ‘Gee, Ted must be late to work.'

12 10 pm-Mr Chris Mallis who owns Fisher’s cab saw the taxi being driven along Oxford Street city by a thin stranger He challenged him and the man got out of the cab. He ran away as Mr. Malus was questioning him.

The police believe that Fisher, who lived in Oaks Avenue, Deewhy, was murdered at about 10 a.m. on Saturday. 

They want to interview a man aged about 18 to 20, 5ft 7in to 5ft 11in tall, very thin build, fairly fair complexion clear skin, very fair hair, parted on left side (hair on right side of parting tends to stand up a little), thin features, clean shaven. He was dressed in a brown, possibly check, sports coat, sports trousers, and white shirt.

It is believed Fisher may have been in the back of the car dead for some time before the killer dumped him in the culvert.

After Mr. Malus took over the taxi in Oxford Street, detectives found a .22 cartridge shell and Fisher's wrist watch and a cigarette lighter on the back seat. Later, a Paddington man found a sawn off 22 calibre rifle in his backyard He handed it to police

SEARCH-Scrub And Roads

On Saturday night, Superintendent H E Snowden, Detective Inspector J Rogers and Detective Inspector M F Calman organised yesterdays big police search. They scientifically searched roads and dense scrub over a wide area.

They are searching for a fibre seat cover which was missing from the murdered man's taxi.

They appeal to anyone who finds it to contact the C.I.B. immediately.

Detective-Inspector J. Rogers, Detective-Inspector M. Caiman, Detective-Sergeant Crowley, Detectives W Cannings and K. Brown, and other C.I.B. men are leading the hunt for the killer

Police are impressed by similarity of the murder with the Southport taxi-murder last month. The blood-stained taxi of Athol Henry McCowan was found on the seafront at South-port, near Brisbane, towards the end of May. McCowan was found murdered in a creek a week later after a manhunt in which more than 1,000 people took part. His murderer has not yet been found. HOW THE KILLER GOT AWAY. (1952, June 30). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Three people were injured yesterday when two cars collided head on in Bayview Road, Bayviewoutside the Pittwater branch of Manly Ambulance.
Injured were: Miss Laura Greenwood, 37, of Thornley Street, Leichhardt, fractured right arm and laceration to face, scalp and hand; Miss Leslie Utting, 22, of Ellison Street, Ringwood, Melbourne, lacerations to both, legs and injuries to the back; Hugh Giblin, 38, solicitor, of Bay-view Road, Church Point, laceration to the forehead. Child Dies On Road At Glebe (1953, March 15). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 3. Retrieved  from 

1st Bayview Sea Scouts Group were given permission to use the hall from 1962. The Warringah Shire Council meeting of May 28th 1962 records:

B) Boy Scouts Assn. Pittwater District; addressed to the President; 16/5/62 Requesting permission to use the building, previously occupied by the Manly-Warringah District Ambulance, and-situated in Pittwater Road, Bayview, for the purpose of a Scout Hall. 

Council Resolved --that those organisations be permitted to use the hall at Council's pleasure. ,(Crs. Wade/Bertram): , (C) Palm Beach Golf Club Ltd., 18/5/62 Notifying on June 16th.: the Club is holding a Charity Day in aid of the Mona Vale Hospital and extending an invitation to all Councillors to be the Club's guests at the evening's social function 32. 'Resolved; that the Palm Beach Golf Club be informed that as many Councillors as possible will attend.; (Crs. Ellis/Jones). 

When 1st Bayview first started the hall was still had some of the trappings of the ambulance station. This made it easy to teach the cubs and scouts 1st Aid.

With the opening of Mona Vale Hospital the shed was no longer needed for this purpose.

The hall is a waterfront property on the edge of Pittwater. The hall was built on pylons out in the water. Then the break wall and Bayview Park was reclaimed and built around it, but not under the hall. To this day there is still a sandy beach and water at high tide underneath this hall.

The area around Bayview Park, alongside the site and where the Bayview Tennis Club has had its home since late 1933, has been subjected to successive episodes of land-filling, reclamation and dredging since the early twentieth century. By the late 1940s the area had been almost totally reclaimed and by the early 1970s dredging of the bay and reclamation of saltmarsh had been completed. The western edge of bay had been prepared and realigned in anticipation of the seawall and a proposed marina development at Winnererremy Bay which did not eventuate (see film by John Illingsworth below). Until the past few decades estuarine wetlands were regarded as unhealthy swampy wastelands requiring 'reclamation' which was often achieved by way of waste landfills. This intervention of the natural environment eliminated much of the transitional zone – the estuarine complex of mudflats, saltmarsh meadows, mangroves and Swamp Oak forests. The Careel Bay Playing fields are another instance of this occurring. These had been a tip and then were added to by filling in the mangroves that once stretched from the northern edge of Avalon to Careel Bay.

The hall has been rebuilt and modernised multiple times, but retains a rustic wooden boatshed vibe.

The old Pittwater Aquatic Clubhouse was in danger of being demolished due to its dilapidated state. It was saved but again came under potential demolition orders with a scheme to widen the road. This was not the first time where the land meets the water was changed to suit road building and other infrastructure. Warringah Shire Council Minutes of Meetings record a few instances – a few examples are:

June 7th 1938 Warringah Shire Council Minutes of Meeting records; - 

Correspondence was dealt with as follows - 1. Lands Dept., 20/38, stating Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board has requested that a small area of land between Bayview Road and highwater mark of Pittwater, as shown on an accompanying sketch, be added to the road; inquiring whether Council concurs the declaration as a I, in public road of this area, and also other similar other small are shown on accompanying plan. Resolved, - The Department The informed the Council concurs in the proposal. 

The Minutes of Meeting held March 22nd 1968 record:

Dunbar Park. Area cleared for relocation of Scout Hall. Kitchener Park. Area on southern side graded ready for grassing. Bayview Baths. Cleansed on 20.3.68 and 3.4.68. TREES & GARDENS. The following trees and shrubs planted or replanted during this period:_Epping. Drive. 35 liquid amber. Glen Street. 6 liquid amber. Pringle Avenue. 14 liquid amber. Naree Road. 6 liquid amber and 8 tristania conferta. North Curl Curl School. 12 eucalyptus haemostoma, 4 melaleuca armillaris. Various streets and reserves; 46 mixed trees and shrubs re; plan . 

The November 29th 1971 Special Meeting records:

EXPENDITURE LAND. (Page 33). Proposed Acquisition of Lot 1, Section 7, D.P. 9125, No. 25 Fisher 4 Road, Dee Why Civic Centre, Dee Why $40,000. 21. Resolved; That this item be deleted and referred to the 1973 Estimates. (Crs. Sainsbery/Farrell). 22. Further resolved; That items 2 and 3 under the heading 'Land', proposed acquisition of No. 1826 Pittwater Road, Bayview for Open Space, and Lots 1, 51 6, Bungan Beach for Open Space, totalling $63,250, be deleted from the Draft Estimates and included in a future Loan. (Crs. Begaud/Farrell).  Adjournment of Special Meeting; 27. Resolved; That this Special Meeting now adjourn, and resume on Thursday, 9th December, 1971, at 5.30 P.M. (Crs. Farrell/Gracie). The meeting concluded at 10.28 p.m. _This is page Number 5 of the Minutes of the Special Meeting of Warringah Shire Council, held on Monday, 29th November, 1971

Warringah Shire Council's Works Committee Meeting of Monday, 4th April, 1977 records: 

PITTWATER ROAD - MONA VALE TO CHURCH POINT DESIGN BY DEPARTMENT OF MAIN ROADS (file 430/12) (Report No. A77/69 S/E) The Department asks Council's concurrence with its design proposal to allow preparation of final design and establishment of an appropriate reclamation line. 1 The proposal is to generally provide a 12.6 m. carriageway which allows for 2 through traffic lanes and 2 kerbside lanes. All curves are to be widened to suit the Department's Urban Road Design Standard and additional widening of 1.6 m. at bus stops included throughout. A footpath 1.6 m. wide on the north aide is to be provided and a 1 a. nature strip or berm, behind the kerb on south side. 2. Because of the presence of established trees within the proposed carriageway between Jendi Avenue and Kananook Avenue, the Department requests Council to plant new trees in the proposed footway area and it has reduced the carriageway to 6.7 m. and no kerb and gutter until these trees become established, at which time the carriageway will be widened to 12.6 m. and the existing tress in the carriageway removed. 3. The proposed alignment follows the existing road pavement as closely as possible within the constraints of the Department's Design Standards. This results in the retention of the Bayview Tennis Courts and Scout Hall on the Pittwater side of the road and eliminates heavy reclamation and sea walls between Mona Street and Bakers Road except for a short length around the large bend at Fermoy Avenue. Additional widening to accommodate separation median and a sheltered right turn storage lane is provided at the large boat shed immediately west or Fermoy Avenue. The purpose of this is primarily to save a number of large trees in the area of the median. 4. There is no significant acquisition of private property required for road widening but Council will lose approximately 8 m. off the full length of the Church Point Car Park. 5. From Minkara Road to Church Point a continuous line of seawall approximately 10 ml off the edge of the present road pavement is proposed. RECOMMENDATION That a) the Deportment's design as submitted on plan 0174.479 MU 2506 be agreed to; b) street trees be planted to replace trees requiring removal in the future between Jendi Avenue and Kananook Avenue; COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATION: That the plan as recommended be forwarded to the Standing Committee, as set up, to examine this road and that the Town Planner be included in discussions of the special plan. COUNCIL'S DECISION (12/4/77): 68 ADOPTED. t. Creagh/Hoy) PAGE 12

The 1st Bayview Sea Scouts Group are one of the largest scout groups in our Region.

Having the title "Sea Scouts" means the 1st Bayview Group have leaders qualified in water activities, and have all the appropriate water craft in-house; Canoes, Kayaks, Sailing boats, Wind Surfers, SUP, power boats, and a Yacht. 

They also have all the gear and qualifications for the more traditional scouting adventurous activities; Camping, Bushwalking, anything and everything to do with cubs and scouts.

The club then, as now, honours its beginnings as a place to learn how to be safe on the water and have fun:

BUSINESS WITHOUT NOTICE - INTRODUCED BY THE PRESIDENT SCOUT ASSOCIATION, MANLY WARRINGAH AREA, letter dated 7.12.1974 requesting permission to hold its Scouts Regatta at Bayview Scout Headquarters on 25/27th January, 1975 with events being held on Pittwater; seeking permission to use (a) area adjacent to the Scout Hall for boat storage, boat trailer and car parking free of charge; (b) use of Pittwater Quay's area for camping up to 400 scouts; (c) provision of temporary toilet and garbage facilities. 

Council Resolved - (a) That approval be granted to conduct the Regatta, subject to the Association obtaining the concurrence of Pittwater Quay Pty. Ltd. to use the area under its control; (b) That $550 be voted under Section 504 for the provision of toilet and water supply facilities and sanitary service and that the Association liaise with the Parks and Reserves Engineer and the Controller of Cleansing on this matter. (Crs. Huntingdon/Sainsbery)

1st Bayview Sea Scout Group provides fun youth development activities, building resilience and confidence for ages 5 to 17.

The Group runs weekly meetings during school terms, plus many weekend and holiday events for our youth members, and sometimes the whole family.

Find out more at:  

The 1st Bayview Sea Scouts in 2012:


Bayview Sea Cubs and Scouts muster for 2023 Anzac Day March and Service at Avalon Beach RSL Cenotaph in Dunbar Park


Winnererremy Bay: Angus Gordon - Sequel To 'Dorothy Hawkins' Film

A follow-on from John Illingsworth's film about  Dorothy Hawkins -  Dorothy Hawkins' family, father Joseph Homer, ran a dairy near Winnererremy Bay at Mona Vale from 1936.

John states in the information listed for this film:

Angus Gordon was General Manager of breakaway Pittwater Council from 1996 to 2005. He turned the new council around. Central was the successful development of Winnererremy Bay into both residential area and beautiful public park, a work almost of genius given that Warringah Council had botched the initial public land resumption in favour of a dodgy commercial development focussed on a 'boatel' and marina development. When that failed the NSW State Government prepared a residential development of up to 300 blocks. Resident opposition and some clever footwork by the new Council instead produced a public good. Lightly edited, this film offers rare insight into processes that govern us that are more usually obscure to the general public.

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

Striking A Chord – Local Live Music Revival

Council states the local live music scene is set to be energised with the launch of a new Live and Local program on the peninsula.

Council is partnering with the Live Music Office and the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) to help local musicians and venues to program more live music.

As part of the 12-month Live and Local program, Council will host a live music forum to discuss ways to boost the local industry and also organise live music events later in the year.

Mayor Sue Heins said it was vital support for an industry that has been struggling.

“The Northern Beaches is home to so many talented local musicians and some fabulous live music venues,” Mayor Heins said.

“We know that the industry is still recovering from venue closures and other impacts of the pandemic. The local music scene needs a revival, and we are committed to playing our part.

“We are working on a strategy to support the night-time economy in Manly and the wider Northern Beaches, while also partnering with the music industry to support live music programming.

“I encourage all local musicians, DJs, venues and live music businesses to register their interest for the Live and Local program.”

In its 2023 Year in Review, APRA AMCOS reported the loss of 1,300 live music venues and stages across Australia. They found that the venue-based live music scene had been ‘decimated’ over recent years. In NSW, there was a 32% loss in live music venues since the 2018 financial year.  

APRA AMCOS and the Live Music Office offer matched-funded partnership opportunities for local councils to help them build the capacity of the local live music industry.

Through the Live and Local program, Council will connect a network of local musicians, venues and industry and facilitate professional development opportunities for local musicians.

The program is open to musicians, bands, DJs, venues, and other music businesses.

Details of the Live Music Forum and live music performances will be announced at a later date.

Live and Local is presented by Council in partnership with the Live Music Office and APRA AMCOS.

To find out more about the program and how you can join visit visit Council's website HERE

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: Scam

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


a dishonest scheme; a fraud.


scam; 3rd person present: scams; past tense: scammed; past participle: scammed; gerund or present participle: scamming

swindle; "a guy that scams old pensioners out of their savings"

Origin: 1963, noun ("trick, ruse, swindle, cheat") and verb ("to trick or swindle, perpetrate a fraud"), U.S. slang, a carnival term, of unknown origin. Perhaps related to 19c. British slang scamp "cheater, swindler".

scamp (noun)
1782, "highway robber," probably from dialectal verb scamp "to roam" (1753, perhaps from 16c.), which is shortened from scamper. By 1808 in a general sense of "fugitive, vagabond, swindler, mean villain;" used in the affectionate sense of "rascal" since 1837.

Australians lose $5,200 a minute to scammers. There’s a simple thing the government could do to reduce this. Why won’t they?

Peter MartinCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

What if the government was doing everything it could to stop thieves making off with our money, except the one thing that could really work?

That’s how it looks when it comes to scams, which are attempts to trick us out of our funds, usually by getting us to hand over our identities or bank details or transfer funds.

Last year we lost an astonishing A$2.74 billion to scammers. That’s more than $5,200 per minute – and that’s only the scams we know about from the 601,000 Australians who made reports. Many more would have kept quiet.

If the theft of $5,200 per minute seems over the odds for a country Australia’s size, a comparison with the United Kingdom suggests you are right. In 2022, people in the UK lost £2,300 per minute, which is about A$4,400. The UK has two and a half times Australia’s population.

It’s as if international scammers, using SMS, phone calls, fake invoices and fake web addresses are targeting Australia, because in other places it’s harder.

If we want to cut Australians’ losses, it’s time to look at rules about to come into force in the UK.

Scams Up 320% Since 2020

The current federal government is doing a lot – almost everything it could. Within a year of taking office, it set up the National Anti-Scam Centre, which coordinates intelligence. Just this week, the centre reported that figure of $2.74 billion, which is down 13% on 2022, but up 50% on 2021 and 320% on 2020.

It’s planning “mandatory industry codes” for banks, telecommunication providers and digital platforms.

But the code it is proposing for banks, set out in a consultation paper late last year, is weak when compared to overseas.

Banks Are The Gatekeepers

Banks matter, because they are nearly always the means by which the money is transferred. Cryptocurrency is now much less used after the banks agreed to limit payments to high risk exchanges.

Here’s an example of the role played by banks. A woman the Consumer Action Law Centre is calling Amelia tried to sell a breast pump on Gumtree.

The buyer asked for her bank card number and a one-time PIN and used the code to whisk out $9,100, which was sent overseas. The bank wouldn’t help because she had provided the one-time PIN.

Here’s another. A woman the Competition and Consumer Commission is calling Niamh was contacted by someone using the National Australia Bank’s SMS ID. Niamh was told her account was compromised and talked through how to transfer $300,000 to a “secure” account.

After she had done it, the scammer told her it was a scam, laughed and said “we are in Brisbane, come find me”.

How Bank Rules Protect Scammers

And one more example. Former University of Melbourne academic Kim Sawyer (that’s his real name, he is prepared to go public) clicked on an ad for “St George Capital” displaying the dragon logo of St. George Bank.

He was called back by a man using the name of a real St. George employee, who persuaded him to transfer funds from accounts at the AMP, Citibank and Macquarie to accounts he was told would be in his and his wife’s name at Westpac, ANZ, the Commonwealth and Bendigo Banks.

They lost $2.5 million. Sawyer says none of the banks – those that sent the funds or those that received them – would help him. Some cited “privacy” reasons.

The Consumer Action Law Centre says the banks that transfer the scammed funds routinely tell their customers “it’s nothing to do with us, you transferred the money, we can’t help you”. The banks receiving the funds routinely say “you’re not our customer, we can’t help you”.

That’s here. Not in the UK.

UK Bank Customers Get A Better Deal

In Australia in 2022, only 13% of attempted scam payments were stopped by banks before they took place. Once scammed, only 2% to 5% of losses (depending on the bank) were reimbursed or compensated.

In the UK, the top four banks pay out 49% to 73%.

And they are about to pay out much more. From October 2024, reimbursement will be compulsory. Where authorised fast payments are made “because of deception by fraudsters”, the banks will have to reimburse the lot.

Normally the bills will be split 50:50 between the bank transferring the funds and the bank receiving them. Unless there’s a need for further investigations, the payments must be made within five days.

The only exceptions are where the consumer seeking reimbursement has acted fraudulently or with gross negligence.

The idea behind the change – pushed through by the Conservative government now led by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – is that if scams are the banks’ problem, if they are costing them millions at a time, they’ll stop them.

New Zealand is looking at doing the same thing, as is Singapore.

But here, the treasury’s discussion paper on its mandatory codes mentions reimbursement only once. That’s when it talks about what’s happening in the UK. Neither treasury nor the relevant federal minister is proposing it here.

Australia’s Approach Is Softer

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones is in charge of Australia’s rules.

Asked why he wasn’t pushing for compulsory reimbursement here, Jones said on Monday prevention was better.

I think a simplistic approach of just saying, ‘Oh, well, if any loss, if anyone incurs a loss, then the bank always pay’, won’t work. It’ll just make Australia a honeypot for these international crime gangs, because they’ll say, well, ‘Let’s, you know, focus all of our activity on Australia because it’s a victimless crime if banks always pay’.

Telling banks to pay would certainly focus the minds of the banks, in the way they are about to be focused in the UK.

The Australian Banking Association hasn’t published its submission to the treasury review, but the Consumer Action Law Centre has.

It says if banks had to reimburse money lost, they’d have more of a reason to keep it safe.

In the UK, they are about to find out. If Jones is right, it might be about to become a honeypot for scammers. If he is wrong, his government will leave Australia even further behind when it comes to scams – leaving us thousands more dollars behind per day.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

Job scams are on the rise. What are they, and how can you protect yourself?

Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash
Dimitrios SalampasisSwinburne University of Technology

In the digital era, the job market is increasingly becoming a minefield – demanding and difficult to navigate. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of job vacancies fell by 6.1% between November 2023 and February 2024. Every click on a job ad can either open doors to amazing opportunities, or plunge job seekers into perfectly set up cyber traps.

The latest annual Targeting Scams report shows a seemingly encouraging 13.1% decline in scam losses reported by Australians – down to A$2.74 billion in 2023. But it doesn’t mean we should get complacent. Scammers are continuously refining their techniques and expanding their reach.

Particularly alarming is the volume of job scams (also known as employment or recruitment scams). These scams were among the top ten scam categories in 2023, with a dramatic 150% increase in financial losses compared to the year before.

How exactly do job scams work? And how can job seekers distinguish between legitimate job offers and deceptive schemes?

What Is A Job Scam?

Job scammers attract people by promising fake jobs that require little effort but promise a substantial financial reward or “guaranteed” income, or perhaps even a “dream job” at a real company they’re impersonating. The end goal in all cases is to extract money and/or personal details from the victim.

Employment scams may take many forms, but there are several tell-tale signs.

Scammers use social media, unsolicited emails, encrypted chat applications (such as WhatsApp or Telegram), phone calls or even legitimate employment websites to advertise non-existent jobs.

Screenshot of a text message offering easy work testing apps with an hourly salary up to $200.
An example of a job scam sent through a text message. The Conversation

Job scammers may also impersonate recruiters from genuine organisations, including high-level executives or even hiring managers conducting interviews for jobs that do not exist.

A text saying a company has flexible job openings and asking if they can share more information.
An example of a job scam impersonating a recruiter from a legitimate company. The Conversation

For some of these jobs, the scammer will ask for some type of upfront fee to secure the employment, pay for onboarding, or to purchase (non-existent) products the job seeker is supposed to sell. The moment the fee is paid, the scammer will instantly disappear.

Sometimes, job scammers promise a high commission if the person uses their own bank account to transfer existing funds into an offshore account, cryptocurrency exchange or gift cards. This is likely money laundering.

Depending on the type of job scam, cyber criminals conducting a fake application and onboarding process may even gain access to sensitive information such as your passport number, driver’s licence and other credentials. This puts you at high risk of identity theft.

Who Is Vulnerable To Job Scams And Why?

Scammers target their victims based on their online behaviour, financial situation, needs and even vulnerability to certain types of persuasion.

The increasing cost of living in Australia is creating a fertile ground for job scams. People in desperate need of employment, those who have been unemployed for a very long time and those seeking additional income via part-time (usually remote) jobs are all at high risk of becoming victims to these job scams.

These individuals are driven by economic need and will easily overlook or not recognise red flags. University students and recent graduates looking for valuable work experience in tough job markets are increasingly becoming targets of job scams, too.

Immigrants can be particularly susceptible to job scams, mainly because they may not be familiar with legitimate employment processes, standard recruitment practices and Australian employment rights.

In extreme cases, employment scams can even result in international human trafficking, as shown by an incident in Cambodia last year, with victims being locked into compounds, having their passports confiscated and being trained to scam others. Captors would release them only upon receiving a ransom fee payment.

How Can I Avoid A Job Scam?

Apart from using a “stop, think and protect” approach, here are more tips on how to protect yourself from job scams:

  • Use only legitimate job boards and networking sites. For example, LinkedIn verifies recruiters with a visible badge on their profiles.

  • Critically evaluate and check job listings by looking for comprehensive information and list of qualifications. Seek advice from trusted professionals to validate the legitimacy of the job offer.

  • Don’t respond to non-corporate emails, texts or other messages offering “too good to be true” unsolicited employment opportunities with high returns.

  • Conduct thorough research by always verifying the legitimacy of the offer. Check the company’s official website, read trusted reviews, call or even visit.

  • Avoid providing credentials including passport details, a driver’s licence, Medicare number, or financial information (a bank account number or PayID) during the application or onboarding process.

  • Don’t provide an upfront payment and don’t pay fees for training, equipment or software as a condition of being hired.

  • Never agree to receive or transfer funds through your own bank account on behalf of someone else for a commission.

Overall, stay vigilant. If you do come across any job scams, make sure to report them to the Scamwatch website.The Conversation

Dimitrios Salampasis, FinTech Capability Lead | Senior Lecturer, Emerging Technologies and FinTech, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Radical Optimism is Dua Lipa’s philosophy for dealing with life’s chaos – but radical openness is a better approach

Joshua ForstenzerUniversity of Sheffield

In a teaser video for her third album, Radical Optimism, Dua Lipa explained that every track has that “through-the-struggle-you-are-going-to-make-it” optimistic feeling.

She has also said that the album “taps into the pure joy and happiness of having clarity in situations that once seemed impossible to face”. She added: “The hard goodbyes and vulnerable beginnings that previously threatened to crush your soul, become milestones as you choose optimism and start to move with grace through the chaos.”

Dua Lipa’s teaser video for Radical Optimism.

This “chaos” is a feeling all too familiar for many young adults today. The philosophy of radical optimism sounds like an answer to the confusion that often accompanies our 20s and 30s. So, should we all seek to harness “radical optimism” to gain the kind of clarity and fortitude Lipa speaks of in our own lives?

I’m a pragmatist philosopher researching how we can constructively and honestly face personal and collective catastrophe. While I like the idea of fostering a hopeful and empowering outlook when facing life’s many challenges, I worry that radical optimism can have some damaging consequences.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Lucky girl syndrome: the potential dark side of TikTok’s extreme positive thinking trend

What millennials and gen Z professionals need to know about developing a meaningful career

Big Mood is a gloriously exuberant comedy about navigating mental health in your 30s

Radical optimism isn’t a singular recognisable philosophical school of thought, so it can be hard to pin down exactly what it means.

If pessimism is the expectation that mostly bad things will happen, then optimism is the expectation that mostly good things will happen. Radical optimism stresses the importance of agency and responsibility in understanding our negative experiences, prescribing a mindset that things will ultimately work out for the better.

This might sound a lot like the deeply unscientific “law of attraction”, which suggests that positive thoughts can somehow cosmically “attract” positive outcomes, such as wealth and success. But radical optimists, much like people who follow stoicism, generally place a greater emphasis on equanimity (calmness and composure in difficult situations) than fans of the “law of attraction”. They believe that confidence and trust are better ways of dealing with problems than fear and worry.

The perceived importance of happiness and positivity is so embedded in our culture that phrases like “stay positive” or “be kind to yourself” seem to have become the common sense adages of our age.

In most cases, they serve as simple reminders not to be too hard on ourselves. This is appropriate because humans tend to suffer from a negativity bias – we notice and dwell more readily on negative experiences than positive ones. Taken too literally, however, these adages can result in “toxic positivity” – a compulsion to present an upbeat attitude, regardless of how you authentically feel.

This can be damaging as it can lead to desensitisation and even dissociation by hindering your capacity to discern your true feelings and values. It can also disconnect you from valuable experiences of sadness, frustration, anger and grief.

Radical optimism ultimately aims for a middle way between toxic positivity and fearful pessimism. But when coming from a megastar like Lipa, the message of radical optimism can feel a bit rich.

On the whole, with a positive attitude and appropriate efforts, things probably will work for out for privileged people like her. But is the same thing true for those living within the normal range of talents, gifts and wealth? If not, then embracing radical optimism could actually be a mild self-delusion, heightening expectations that simply can’t be met and so causing greater despair down the line.

I suspect that Lipa is not blind to this, as she has shared her own experiences of suffering and is the daughter of refugees. The album title comes from her 2021 Grammy acceptance speech, when she said:

One thing that I’ve really come to realise is how much happiness is so important. I felt really jaded at the end of my last album where I felt like I only had to make sad music to feel like it mattered … happiness is something that we all deserve and something that we all need in our lives.

The 2021 Grammy acceptance speech that inspired the album title.

These words were heartfelt and poignant, personal but also collective since they arrived on the screens of millions of people during the pandemic – probably feeling a good deal of fear and despair. In times of duress, allowing yourself to hope for future happiness is both healthy and helpful.

However, directly trying to boost our happiness has a tendency to make it recede ever further on the horizon.

Psychologists have amassed a trove of data about happiness, and it turns out that happy people rarely think about their own subjective happiness. Instead, they direct their attention towards things that they find intrinsically valuable (like personal passions or their sense of purpose) and towards their relationships with others. They also tend to be physically active and regularly feel grateful.

Meliorism And Being ‘Radically Open’

I think a better approach than radical optimism is to understand that the future is radically open. The American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey described “meliorism” as “the belief that the specific conditions which exist at one moment, be they comparatively bad or comparatively good, in any event may be bettered”. In other words, Dewey thought that we should believe that we can make progress, but understand that it demands personal and often collective efforts.

A well-grounded hope that recognises the radical openness of the future can bolster our initiative and deepen our compassion. It also avoids unhelpful forms of emotional suppression.

As the great existential psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom, said: facing the negative parts of human life (mortality, loss, isolation, uncertainty) head on can be a powerful experience that yields self-knowledge and life-sustaining meaning. It can help us to slay superficial, comfortable hopes to allow for a deeper, less shaky, form of hope to grow.

Understood in the right way, meliorism can see us through the most painful and confusing times in our life more effectively than any kind of simplistic optimism. That’s because it can remind us of our own frailty and fallibility, while at the same time affirming our agency and interdependence. It reminds us to ask for help and to believe that our habits, actions and beliefs ultimately matter in helping us find a way through.

Perhaps, meliorism is what Lipa is really referring to when she speaks of “radical optimism”. I will have to listen to the album carefully to know for sure. But I admit it: “radical meliorism” isn’t quite such a catchy title.The Conversation

Joshua Forstenzer, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Co-Director of the Centre for Engaged Philosophy, University of Sheffield

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

What being a teenage girl in 1960s Britain was really like

Penny TinklerUniversity of Manchester

Dressed in a mini skirt and passionate about boys, music, dance and fashion, the 1960s teenage girl is a pop culture icon, the seeming beneficiary of the ascendancy of mass youth culture in the west and of unprecedented social and cultural changes.

Quite how real women actually experienced – and benefited from – this era of social change is more complex. For the past six years, I have led the first detailed study of girls growing up in Britain between the 1950s and 1970s. In order to understand how this era has shaped women’s experiences and identities in later life, my colleagues and I conducted interviews with 70 women born between 1939 and 1952.

We also explored data on girlhood from Britain’s first birth cohort study, as well as the English longitudinal study of ageing.

The current Teenage Kicks exhibition, on show at the Glasgow Women’s Library and online until May 18, delves into eight of our interviewees’ stories. Edinburgh-based artist Candice Purwin has illustrated the striking diversity they relay: girls growing up in very different circumstances navigated the possibilities and pitfalls of the 1960s and early 1970s in very different ways.

Swinging London

Our interviewees were from different social class backgrounds and across both rural and urban locations. To spark memories, we played music that these women would have listened to when they were young. We talked with them about their personal photos.

Illustration of girls in a room with posters.
Andrea. Candice Purwin/University of ManchesterCC BY-NC-ND

One interviewee, Liz, was the epitome of a modern, mobile, young woman. At 17, she was earning an income, travelling to Europe with friends and enjoying the consumerism of swinging London. She told us about visiting clubs and shopping in new department stores. At 19, she left to work in the US.

This sense of London as a place of opportunity was a recurrent theme. Andrea embarked on a science degree in London, aged 18. Coming to the capital meant being able to escape village life and the scrutiny of her religious parents.

Andrea found freedom to engage in student politics and to come out as a lesbian. Being gay was a stigmatised identity at the time. She recalled furtive visits to London’s only lesbian club, the Gateway Club. “A crummy place really,” she said, “down in the basement, small, hot and dark.”

Another interviewee, Joyce, grew up in poverty in an overcrowded home in central London. She said she felt like “the bee’s knees” when she started earning money. She described the pair of white boots she was able to buy, to wear when she went out dancing.

Like her peers, though, Joyce mainly spent her leisure time walking the streets with friends and going to cafés. “We sat there all night with one coffee,” she said, “sometimes two, if you were feeling rash.”

An illustration of a a girl and a woman in the countryside.
Valerie. Candice Purwin/University of ManchesterCC BY-NC-ND

In rural areas, girls were often dependent on limited public transport to access leisure venues, shops and cafes in nearby towns. Going to the cinema was a major expedition.

Valerie, who grew up on a farm near Portsmouth on England’s south coast, said: “We couldn’t get there until 6 o’clock and we had to be on the 9 o’clock bus back.” As films were often shown on a continuous loop throughout the day, she said “you’d pick up a film half way through, watch it until the bit that you came in at, and then leave.”

For girls abroad, the capital represented the opportunities Britain itself promised. One interviewee, Cynthia, migrated from St Kitts, in search of better prospects. “Jobs were easy to find when I came to Britain,” she said.

Cynthia worked as a machinist in a clothing factory by day. By night, she studied typing and administration. These new qualifications helped her secure a better-paid job as a secretary in a solicitor’s office.

An illustrated scene of girls in a city.
Cynthia. Candice Purwin/University of ManchesterCC BY-NC-ND

Unequal Access

We found that access to the widening educational and professional opportunities for girls was uneven. More were going to university and into professional training. Most, however, left school at 15 without qualifications and with limited work prospects.

Joyce thrived at school but left at 15 when her mother became ill. Later, she took evening classes and became a telephonist.

Pamela too was a star pupil but her mother thought it pointless educating a daughter. “She’s only going to get married!”, her mother would say. Once in the workforce, however, Pamela excelled and quickly progressed into management.

Like others whose education was foreshortened due to hardship and sexism, Pamela and Joyce later regretted not having been able to pursue their studies further.

A group of young people in an archival photograph.
Young adults on London’s Carnaby Street in the 1960s. National Archives UK/Wikimedia

In popular culture, the 1960s are associated with growing permissiveness. Most of the women we spoke with, however, said that, as girls, they feared getting pregnant out of wedlock.

The pill became available to married women in 1961. But access for single women was restricted until 1974. Even access to basic sex education was limited.

Pamela fell in love at 17 and got pregnant. Her mother insisted that she give up both that relationship and her baby. She eventually started a new relationship and married at 20. This was an abusive marriage. Taking control of her fertility, she went on the pill and by age 24, she had secured a divorce.

The unprecedented trend towards early marriage meant youth was typically short-lived. In 1965, 40% of brides were under 21. Easier access to divorce from 1969 proved an important development for many.

Women speak about aspects of their younger selves having stayed with them in later life. Many live with what we call “shadow selves”, the feeling that they could have been a different person and had a different life if things had gone differently when they were young.

Some of our interviewees explained that it was not possible to rectify what they missed in their youth. Others spoke about using retirement to make up for missed opportunities. Most advise their own children and grandchildren to make the most of being young.The Conversation

Penny Tinkler, Professor of Sociology and History, University of Manchester

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

Beautifully crafted Roman dodecahedron discovered in Lincoln – but what were they for?

Samantha TipperAnglia Ruskin University

Roman dodecahedra are something of an enigma: there is no known mention of these 12-sided, hollow objects in ancient Roman texts or images. First discovered in the 18th century, around 130 dodecahedra have been found across the Roman Empire, although it is interesting that the majority have been found in northern Europe and Britain, and none have been found in Italy.

Dodecahedra are quite intricate, featuring a number of round holes, with knobs framing the holes. It would have taken a very skilled craftsman to make them. They are made out of a copper alloy and would have been quite expensive, due to the amount of time and metal that was used to create them, which adds to their intrigue.

I am part of the local archaeology group behind the recent discovery of a Roman dodecahedron in Norton Disney, near Lincoln. It has been quite a whirlwind for our group, from the shock on the day of finding the object, where everyone on site was buzzing with excitement and disbelief, to dealing with all the attention both nationally and internationally. It has been wonderful to witness the interest in our find and the history of Norton Disney.

There have been numerous suggestions by archaeologists and the public as to what dodecahedra could have been. Some theorise that they were religious objects, knitting tools, measuring instruments or stress toys. Due to the high level of skill involved, some have suggested that they were a way for a master craftsman to demonstrate their expert abilities.

There is no uniformity in the size or shape of the dodecahedra found so far, nor in their metal composition or even in the level of craftsmanship. If they were important objects, we would expect to also discover contextual evidence in the archaeological record, such as depictions in paintings or mosaics. It does feel that this object will remain a mystery for some time – which might be why so many people are fascinated by it.

The Norton Disney Dodecahedron

In June 2023, the Norton Disney Archaeology Group (NDAG) (of which I am the treasurer) carried out a local community dig in a field close to the village of Norton Disney, Lincolnshire.

Four trenches were opened, and it was in trench four – in what appeared to be a large pit – that a perfectly crafted dodecahedron was found. It’s the 33rd to be found in England and the first to be found in the Midlands.

There are a few things that make this find particularly special. First is its size, as it is thought to be one of the largest examples in Britain. Second is the high level of preservation of the object. As Richard Parker, the secretary for the NDAG, explained: “Ours is in absolutely fantastic condition. It is completely undamaged and there is no evidence of any wear at all.”

The dodecahedron has undergone some initial analysis in order to try to provide some more clues about it. A handheld XRF (X-Ray flourescence) analysis, a technique used to analyse element composition, was carried out by archaeometallurgist Gerry McDonnell, an expert in the past use and production of metals by humans. It revealed that the composition of the object was mostly a mix of copper alloy (75%), with tin (7%) and lead (18%).

The Norton Disney dodecahedron measures around 8cm across and weighs 245 grams. It has also been scanned using a 3D scanner in collaboration with the University of Lincoln, and later this year it will be sent to Newcastle University for some further scientific analysis.

The site of the find itself is interesting. Pottery shards from a number of the trenches ranged in date from the Iron Age up to the Roman period, showing a long, continued use of the land.

There is also a Roman Villa close to the site that was excavated in 1935. Skeletal remains found at the villa suggest that it was occupied in the late Roman period, and that the villa site was later reused as a burial ground. In 1989, a metal detectorist discovered a Romano-British horseman deity figurine in the vicinity of the Roman villa, which is currently housed at the British Museum.

There is still so much to learn about the site and the dodecahedron itself. The trench where it was found was not fully excavated in 2023 due to time and financial constraints (the NDAG is solely reliant on donations), as it was found on the penultimate day of the dig.

But the NDAG will be returning to the site this June to reopen a couple of trenches and fully excavate the pit where the dodecahedron was found. This will hopefully provide a better picture of exactly what the site was used for and why the mysterious dodecahedron was placed there.The Conversation

Samantha Tipper, Senior lecturer in Forensic Anthropology, Anglia Ruskin University

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

The newly discovered dodecahedron photographed during the dig. Photo: Norton Disney Archaeology Group

Unravelling life’s origin: five key breakthroughs from the past five years

Seán JordanDublin City University and Louise Gillet de ChalongeDublin City University

There is still so much we don’t understand about the origin of life on Earth.

The definition of life itself is a source of debate among scientists, but most researchers agree on the fundamental ingredients of a living cell. Water, energy, and a few essential elements are the prerequisites for cells to emerge. However, the exact details of how this happens remain a mystery.

Recent research has focused on trying to recreate in the lab the chemical reactions that constitute life as we know it, in conditions plausible for early Earth (around 4 billion years ago). Experiments have grown in complexity, thanks to technological progress and a better understanding of what early Earth conditions were like.

However, far from bringing scientists together and settling the debate, the rise of experimental work has led to many contradictory theories. Some scientists think that life emerged in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where the conditions provided the necessary energy. Others argue that hot springs on land would have provided a better setting because they are more likely to hold organic molecules from meteorites. These are just two possibilities which are being investigated.

Here are five of the most remarkable discoveries over the last five years.

Reactions In Early Cells

What energy source drove the chemical reactions at the origin of life? This is the mystery that a research team in Germany has sought to unravel. The team delved into the feasibility of 402 reactions known to create some of the essential components of life, such as nucleotides (a building block of DNA and RNA). They did this using some of the most common elements that could have been found on the early Earth.

These reactions, present in modern cells, are also believed to be the core metabolism of LUCA, the last universal common ancestor, a single-cell, bacterium-like organism.

For each reaction, they calculated the changes in free energy, which determines if a reaction can go forward without other external sources of energy. What is fascinating is that many of these reactions were independent of external influences like adenosine triphosphate, a universal source of energy in living cells.

The synthesis of life’s fundamental building blocks didn’t need an external energy boost: it was self-sustaining.

Volcanic Glass

Life relies on molecules to store and convey information. Scientists think that RNA (ribonucleic acid) strands were precursors to DNA in fulfilling this role, since their structure is more simple.

The emergence of RNA on our planet has long confused researchers. However, some progress has been made recently. In 2022, a team of collaborators in the US generated stable RNA strands in the lab. They did it by passing nucleotides through volcanic glass. The strands they made were long enough to store and transfer information.

Volcanic glass was present on the early Earth, thanks to frequent meteorite impacts coupled with a high volcanic activity. The nucleotides used in the study are also believed to have been present at that time in Earth’s history. Volcanic rocks could have facilitated the chemical reactions that assembled nucleotides into RNA chains.

Hydrothermal Vents

Carbon fixation is a process in which CO₂ gains electrons. It is necessary to build the molecules that form the basis of life.

An electron donor is necessary to drive this reaction. On the early Earth, H₂ could have been the electron donor. In 2020, a team of collaborators showed that this reaction could spontaneously occur and be fuelled by environmental conditions similar to deep-sea alkaline hydrothermal vents in the early ocean. They did this using microfluidic technology, devices that manipulate tiny volumes of liquids to perform experiments by simulating alkaline vents.

This pathway is strikingly similar to how many modern bacterial and archaeal cells (single-cell organisms without a nucleas) operate.

The Krebs Cycle

In modern cells, carbon fixation is followed by a cascade of chemical reactions that assemble or break down molecules, in intricate metabolic networks that are driven by enzymes.

But scientists are still debating how metabolic reactions unfolded before the emergence and evolution of those enzymes. In 2019, a team from the University of Strasbourg in France made a breakthrough. They showed that ferrous iron, a type of iron that was abundant in early Earth’s crust and ocean, could drive nine out of 11 steps of the Krebs Cycle. The Krebs Cycle is a biological pathway present in many living cells.

Here, ferrous iron acted as the electron donor for carbon fixation, which drove the cascade of reactions. The reactions produced all five of the universal metabolic precursors – five molecules that are fundamental across various metabolic pathways in all living organisms.

Building Blocks Of Ancient Cell Membranes

Understanding the formation of life’s building blocks and their intricate reactions is a big step forward in comprehending the emergence of life.

However, whether they unfolded in hot springs on land or in the deep sea, these reactions would not have gone far without a cell membrane. Cell membranes play an active role in the biochemistry of a primitive cell and its connection with the environment.

Modern cell membranes are mostly composed of compounds called phospholipids, which contain a hydrophilic head and two hydrophobic tails. They are structured in bilayers, with the hydrophilic heads pointing outward and the hydrophobic tails pointing inward.

Research has shown that some components of phospholipids, such as the fatty acids that constitute the tails, can self-assemble into those bilayer membranes in a range of environmental conditions. But were these fatty acids present on the early Earth? Recent research from Newcastle University, UK gives an interesting answer. Researchers recreated the spontaneous formation of these molecules by combining H₂-rich fluids, likely present in ancient alkaline hydrothermal vents, with CO₂-rich water resembling the early ocean.

This breakthrough aligns with the hypothesis that stable fatty acid membranes could have originated in alkaline hydrothermal vents, potentially progressing into living cells. The authors speculated that similar chemical reactions might unfold in the subsurface oceans of icy moons, which are thought to have hydrothermal vents similar to terrestrial ones.

Each of these discoveries adds a new piece to the puzzle of the origin of life. Regardless of which ones are proved correct, contrasting theories are fuelling the search for answers. As Charles Darwin wrote:

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science for they often long endure: but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.The Conversation

Seán Jordan, Associate professor, Dublin City University and Louise Gillet de Chalonge, PhD Student in Astrobiology, Dublin City University

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

Long before politicians called to ‘stop the boats’, First Nations people welcomed arrivals from Indonesia

Will McCallumDeakin University and Simon WilmotDeakin University

Earlier this year, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of not supporting Operation Sovereign Borders – the military-led border security operation that has “closed Australia’s borders to unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

It’s a proven line of attack from the Coalition, who claimed to have “stopped the boats” – almost all of which originate from Indonesia – during their tenure. The trope of a northern coastline in need of protection from a foreign “other” has resonated with many Australians for some time.

In the course of producing Waŋgany Mala (2024) – a documentary made in collaboration with Anindilyakwa and Gumatj people in northeast Arnhem Land – we learned that many First Nations peoples don’t typically subscribe to a land-sea distinction.

Instead, the land-seascape is crisscrossed with songlines that transcend this division. Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly, authors of the book Songlines: The Power and Promise, explain that songlines can act as navigational paths in the cartographic sense – but more fundamentally they encode knowledge of country, art and ceremony that is shared across generations.

Furthermore, the Knowledge Holders with whom we worked celebrated the time when boats from across the Indonesian archipelago weren’t intercepted.

The Precolonial ‘Makassan’ Tale

Just three weeks after ousting his predecessor Scott Morrison, Albanese became the first prime minister to visit Indonesia’s third-largest city, Makassar, in South Sulawesi.

Albanese made reference to the so-called Makassan seafarers who set off for Australia from Sulawesi, the Aru Islands, West Timor and Rote Island.

These seafarers would spend up to six months of the year harvesting trepang (sea cucumber) alongside people in northeast Arnhem Land (a land they called Marege’) and the Kimberly (Kai Jawa). Their highly valuable catch would eventually reach the dinner tables of China’s Qing dynasty.

More than 600 or so years before European colonies were established on the continent, the Makassans created a language with First Nations peoples, they traded tools and other goods, they intermarried, and as a recent ABC Compass episode showed, many Aboriginal people travelled across the Indonesian archipelago. Some stayed in Indonesia permanently.

A Malay Proa in the Gulf of Carpentaria (1886), wood engraving by Horace Baker. Library & Archives NT

The Makassan fleets were eventually taxed by the Australian colonial authorities, and then banned in 1907.

Over the past 100 years, the Timor and Arafura seas have become a literal and figurative space to be defended against boats transporting asylum seekers or illegal foreign fishing vessels.

But while the boats may no longer be arriving in Australia’s “exclusive economic zone”, stories of past connection and agency hold enormous value for local Nations.

Pride And Agency

“Makassans were good to us […] it was a good time because the Aboriginal people weren’t angry, and the Makassans were happy,” says Edith Mamarika, an Indigenous Knowledge Holder and Anindilyakwa elder.

Mamarika is one of the oldest people living on Groote Eylandt, the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. She never met Makassans, but her relatives did, and she knows the fishers were only given permission to stay at the beach after exchange and agreement was secured.

She shared her stories with us as we documented the construction of a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel, or pinisi, filming in Tana Beru all the way from the early selection of hardwood, to its eventual maiden voyage to Makassar.

The documentation shows the resilience of these UNESCO-recognised boat-building techniques. As we filmed, however, a more important story emerged: the experience of one of the building crew, Nirmala Syarfuddin Baco.

Today’s Makassans

Nirmala was born in Ambon, Maluku, but was forced to flee as a child during religious violence in 1999.

Her family settled in Baubau, southeast Sulawesi, but she eventually landed in Makassar where she studied marine science, inspired by her father who had spent much of his life assisting the Indonesian navy in stopping people from fishing using explosives.

Twenty-nine years old, fervently religious and the only woman in the boat-building and sailing crew, Nirmala has a challenging experience.

Her role is to manage finances and equipment deliveries, but she is invariably tasked with jobs such as preparing coffee or lunch for the crew. She also endures regular “playful” suggestions about sleeping arrangements once the boat is on the water.

Mala is fascinated by the histories shared by Edith Mamarika and other Knowledge Holders, and has ambitions to sail the new pinisi into Australian waters.

Amplifying Older Stories

What makes the Makassan story so compelling for a filmmaker is how it collides and competes with Australia’s more popular origin story: one of British explorers on tall sailing ships making “first contact”.

That is just one part of Australia’s story, and there are many more that could be amplified. Across northeast Arnhem Land there are very old stories about Indonesian men and women who have left an indelible mark on Country.

As Gumatj leader and Bawaka homelands custodian Timmy Djawaburarrwanga says at the end of our film: “my feeling is that this land always will be for Indonesians”.

Waŋgany Mala will be screened in Australia and Europe later this year.The Conversation

Will McCallum, PhD Candidate - School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University and Simon Wilmot, Senior Lecturer, Film, Deakin University

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

Why are some people faster than others? 2 exercise scientists explain the secrets of running speed

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, in yellow, holds the world’s speed record for humans. AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Dawn P. CoeUniversity of Tennessee and Elizabeth (Kip) WebsterUniversity of Tennessee

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to

Why are some people faster than others? – Jon, age 14, Macon, Georgia

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest person, ran a 100-meter sprint at a speed of 23.35 miles per hour (37.57 kilometers per hour).

That’s mind-blowingly fast for a human. It’s about the same speed as cruising in a car through your neighborhood or in a school zone. It might not seem that fast when you’re in the car, but for a person? Few runners in the world can even come close.

There are several reasons why some people can run very fast while others tend to run more slowly. Genetics – the traits you inherit from your parents – play a role, but so do your choices and experiences.

As pediatric exercise scientists, we create and evaluate programs that help children be healthy. The exciting news is that while you have no control over your genetics, you can train to improve your speed.

Fast Twitch, Slow Twitch

One major factor that influences your ability to run fast is the structure of your body, including how your muscles work.

The human body has more than 600 muscles that work together, allowing you to move in different directions and at various speeds. These muscles are made up of groups of fibers. There are two main types: fast twitch and slow twitch.

Muscles have different mixes of these fiber types. For example, two muscles make up the calf: One is predominantly fast twitch – that’s the gastrocnemius, used for sprinting and jumping. The other is mostly slow twitch – that’s the soleus, used for walking and jogging.

Two women play soccer, one is in motion, clearly sprinting to kick the ball.
Speed and endurance are both important when you’re playing soccer. AP Photo/John Cowpland

Fast-twitch muscle fibers are larger and help your body move quickly and generate significant force. Sprinters tend to have an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, this muscle fiber type also tires quickly, which limits how long you can run at top speed to relatively short distances.

Slow-twitch muscle fibers are smaller and help you run at slower speeds, but with greater endurance. Long-distance runners and competitive cyclists tend to have a lot of these muscles.

How much you have of each type of muscle fiber – fast twitch and slow twitch – is mostly determined by your genes, so you’ll have to work with what you’re born with when it comes to muscle types. But exercises can help train those muscles.

Your Brain Plays A Big Role

Physical ability isn’t just about muscle. Your brain plays an important role, too.

Your skeletal muscles are controlled by your brain – you think about your actions and then execute the movements. For example, you can control how long your stride is, how your arms move, how your feet hit the ground and even the techniques you use to breathe.

You can teach your body to use the best running techniques. That includes proper posture, so your body is standing tall, and an economical stride, so your feet land below you rather than too far out in front, where they can slow you down.

Five tips for running faster, from an Olympic sprinting coach.

You can also improve your running form by using your whole body, with your arms pumping in opposition to the legs, running on your toes and maximizing the time spent in flight phase with both feet off the ground. Using proper running techniques helps the muscles create more force and work together, which helps you run faster.

The more you practice an activity, the better you will get. As your ability to run fast increases, challenge yourself to run even faster.

How To Train To Run Faster – Myth-Busting!

You may have heard your friends chatting about ways to boost your speed or searched the internet for tips on getting faster. Time to bust some of those myths.

Myth 1: You have to run as fast as you can to train to be faster. That’s false!

You don’t have to run as fast as you can to get faster, and it actually helps to take short breaks to recover in between activities where you are sprinting.

Myth 2: You need to lift heavy weights to get faster. False!

Functional strength training involves performing exercises that help you get better at specific movements. They involve using either medium weights or just the resistance of your own body weight. Doing plankslungesstep-ups or jump squats are great examples. These activities focus on the muscles that are instrumental during running.

Myth 3: You need to specialize in running early in life to become a fast runner. False!

Picking one activity to focus on early in life may actually limit your ability to develop into a fast runner. Doing a variety of physical activities can help you develop new skills that improve your running. For example, the movements and endurance used in soccer may translate into the ability to run faster.

Myth 4: Training isn’t fun. False!

Training programs can take many shapes and forms. You can play running games with your friends, work on fast footwork using an agility ladder or create obstacle courses. There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to motivate your training.

What’s important is having fun while training and participating in activities that promote running speed on a regular basis.

So, whether you want to be the next Usain Bolt or you just want to win a race against your friend, remember that with a little bit of genetic luck and hard work, it may just be possible.The Conversation

Dawn P. Coe, Associate Professor of Exercise Science, University of Tennessee and Elizabeth (Kip) Webster, Associate Professor of Exercise Science, University of Tennessee

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

‘Witches’ are still killed all over the world. Pardoning past victims could end the practice

Arrest for witchcraft (1866) by John Pettie. NGVCC BY-NC
Brendan C. WalshThe University of Queensland

In recent decades, governments the world over have increasingly taken action to address the dark history of witch-hunting. In western Europe, memorials to victims have been erected at sites in Bamberg (Germany)Vardø (Norway) and Zugarramurdi (Spain). Many states have also taken to issuing national apologies, with some even granting posthumous pardons.

The witchcraft exoneration movement isn’t simply about addressing past injustices. Violence directed at suspected witches persists across the world today and, alarmingly, seems to be intensifying.

The witchcraft trials memorial at Steilneset in Vardø, Finnmark, Norway. Wikimedia

The 2023 Annual Report of the United Nations Human Rights Council asserts that each year, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are harmed in locations such as sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea because of belief in witchcraft.

One 2020 UN report states at least 20,000 “witches” were killed across 60 countries between 2009 and 2019. The actual number is likely much higher as incidents are severely under-reported. These sobering statistics indicate a need for urgent government action.

The Exoneration Movement

State-issued exoneration for victims of witchcraft persecution isn’t a modern concept. The most notable example was in the aftermath of the Salem witch trials (1692–93), in which at least 25 people (mostly women) were executed, tortured to death, or left to die in jail.

In the decades that followed, the citizens of Salem submitted petitions demanding a reversal of convictions for those found “guilty” of witchcraft, and compensation for survivors. In 1711, Massachusetts Governor Joseph Dudley agreed to these demands.

More recently, many states have moved to recognise and make amends for their historical involvement in witch-hunting. On International Women’s Day 2022, Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a national apology to people accused of witchcraft between the 16th and 18th centuries.

In 2023, Connecticut lawmakers passed a motion to exonerate the individuals executed by the state for witchcraft during the 17th century. This motion is the result of grassroots campaigning by descendants and groups such as the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project.

This witchcraft scene (circa 1770-1799), attributed to Spanish painter Luis Paret y Alcázar, shows three nude figures in a darkened interior, with one holding a skeleton by the shoulders. Trustees of the British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA

However, as historian Jan Machielsen warns, the exoneration process can also be problematic. For instance, apologies or pardons may ignore the central role of communities in historical witch-hunts.

Most witchcraft accusations emerged from neighbourly disputes and involved active participation by both the community and authorities. Even when European states ceased persecution in the 18th century, community-level violence continued.

Nonetheless, advocates for witchcraft exoneration projects argue that state pardons are more important than ever, not least because they can help address ongoing witchcraft-related violence.

Why Is Modern Witchcraft Violence Growing?

Modern witchcraft persecutions are driven largely by religious fundamentalism and are further exacerbated by factors such as civil conflict, poverty, and resource scarcity. Biblical passages such as Exodus 22:18 are clear on the matter: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”.

In particular, the growth of Pentecostalism in developing nations has played a central role in fuelling witch-hunts.

Pentecostal evangelising has effectively demonised many cultural traditions – superimposing a strict religious attitude towards magic onto societies that have long accommodated such beliefs. This is evident in the ongoing crusade led by Helen Ukpabio, founder of the notorious Nigerian church Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries.

Witchcraft-related violence has also been a growing concern in the United Kingdom, particularly within the African disapora. One of the most shocking cases was the 2010 death of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu in London.

Bamu was tortured by his older sister and her partner for days, as they believed he was a witch. On Christmas Day, Bamu was forced into a bath for an exorcism, where he drowned. In response to such horrific cases, London’s Metropolitan Police launched The Amber Project in 2021 to address increasing incidents of child abuse linked to belief in witchcraft and spirit possession.

Misogyny has also been a prevalent factor in historical witchcraft prosecutions and remains so today. According to the UN, “women who do not fulfil gender stereotypes, such as widows, childless or unmarried women, are at increased risk of accusations of witchcraft and systemic discrimination”.

Witchcraft accusations are often a means to exert control over the bodies of women and girls, while maintaining male-dominated power structures. Accusations also play a role in human trafficking by making it easier to drive victims out of their communities.

Global Witchcraft Prosecutions

Belief in harmful magic and/or witchcraft exists across many societies. India has a long history of witch-hunting and continues to be plagued by this terrible injustice. One victim was Salo Devi, a 58-year-old woman from a small village in the state of Jharkhand. In 2023 she was beaten to death by her neighbours for allegedly bewitching a baby.

Papua New Guinea and sub-Saharan Africa are also hotspots for witchcraft-related violence.

This wooden fertility doll ‘akwaba’ was made in Ghana prior to 1914. Such dolls were used as fertility charms since infertility raised suspicions of witchcraft. The Trustees of the British MuseumCC BY-NC-SA

Violence isn’t just used as a punishment against accused witches, but is often part of the remedy. Attempts at counter-witchcraft or exorcisms have been a significant source of harm, particularly for children.

Cultural beliefs surrounding disabilities and misunderstood conditions such as albinism have also been used as justification for beatings, banishment, limb amputation, torture and murder.

So prevalent is such violence that in 2021 the UN Human Rights Council issued a historic special resolution calling for the “elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks”. This resolution urges member states not only to condemn these practices but also to take action to abolish them.

What Can Be Done?

The UN and numerous non-government organisations are implementing programs to educate communities at risk of witchcraft-related violence. Leo Igwe, a Nigerian human rights activist and director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches, has played a central role in increasing public awareness of this violence. More voices like his are needed. At the same time, increased recognition is only the beginning.

The UN has issued numerous denouncements and a few states have introduced anti-witchcraft bills. Additional legal protections, multi-agency task forces and national apologies will help bring more attention to this pressing issue.

Above all, it’s necessary to address the beliefs and motivations that underpin witchcraft accusations. By doing so, we can reverse the alarming rate of witchcraft-related deaths recorded each year.The Conversation

The Witch Hunt (circa 1882-88) by Henry Ossawa Tanner. Wikimedia

Brendan C. Walsh, Sessional Academic, The University of Queensland

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.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is about to peak and could be the best this century – here’s how to catch it

A bright Eta Aquariid meteor photobombed this photo of comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) in May 2020. Jonti Horner
Jonti HornerUniversity of Southern Queensland and Tanya HillMuseums Victoria Research Institute

Meteors – commonly known as shooting stars – can be seen on any night of the year. But some nights are better than others.

As Earth moves around the Sun, we encounter streams of dust and debris from comets and asteroids. That debris gives birth to “meteor showers” – times when the number of shooting stars you are likely to see increases dramatically.

Currently, we are passing through the outskirts of one such debris stream, left behind by Halley’s comet. It creates the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, one of the best visible from the southern hemisphere. Every year, when Earth reaches this point in its orbit, you can see the Eta Aquariids in the morning sky.

This year’s display promises to be extra special. The peak coincides with a new Moon, meaning skies will be extra dark in the hours before dawn – perfect conditions to watch fragments of a famous comet rain down. There are even hints the shower might be more “active” than usual.

Fragments Of The Most Famous Comet

Halley’s comet (1P/Halley by its official name) orbits the Sun every 76 years or so, and has spent thousands of years on its current path.

Every time it swings through the inner Solar System, the comet sheds dust and gas. This dust has slowly spread through space, shrouding the comet’s orbit in a broad swathe of debris.

Earth runs through that debris twice per year, giving birth to two famous meteor showers. In October, we get the Orionid meteor shower, visible from both hemispheres and relatively well known.

But the better of the two showers from Halley’s debris peaks in early May – the Eta Aquariid meteor shower. Earth begins encountering that debris in mid-April, and then spends approximately six weeks traversing the broad debris stream left behind by the mighty comet.

For much of that time, Earth passes through the outskirts of the stream, and the number of meteors produced remains low. But for around a week centred on May 6, Earth moves through the densest part of the stream, and the Eta Aquariids reach their peak.

How Can I Watch The Meteor Shower?

The Eta Aquariids are actually one of the best meteor showers of the year, but are relatively poorly known for a simple reason – they are best seen from the southern hemisphere, and are very hard to observe from locations north of the equator.

The reason is that in northern locations, the Eta Aquariid radiant (the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate) does not rise until it is already morning twilight. As a result, all but the brightest meteors get lost in the rising daylight.

Southern observers are more fortunate. For most Australian locations, the radiant – located in the constellation Aquarius – rises at around 1:30am to 2am local time. This gives us several hours before dawn to observe the spectacle.

A general rule of thumb when observing meteor showers is the higher in the sky the radiant rises, the better the display will be as your location on Earth is turned into facing the oncoming shower of cometary dust.

The first hour after radiant rise will likely not produce many meteors. It is still worth staring skyward though, as the few meteors you do see will be crashing into the atmosphere at a very shallow angle, allowing them to streak from horizon to horizon. These are known as “earthgrazing” meteors.

A long exposure night sky with milky way, red sunset and a bright streak clearly visible.
An Eta Aquariid meteor captured in Wyoming in 2013. David Kingham/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

As the radiant climbs higher, so, too, will the number of meteors you observe. At their peak (on the morning of May 6th), in the hour or two before dawn, the Eta Aquariids could easily produce 20 to 30 meteors per hour. Similar rates should be visible for a couple of mornings either side of the maximum, making the weekend of May 4 and 5 a perfect time to do some morning meteor spotting.

However, meteors don’t come at an even rate. You can wait 15 minutes and see none, then four may come along at once. So remember to wrap up warm, get comfortable and gaze towards the eastern sky as you relax to enjoy the show.

An Extra Special Year?

The Eta Aquariids are always a fabulous autumn treat for observers in Australia, but this year promises to be extra special. First, the skies will be dark thanks to a new Moon, making meteors easier to spot.

But there’s more. Scientists modelling the behaviour of the Eta Aquariids over the past few decades have found tantalising hints that this year could see significantly enhanced rates. In fact, they suggest the 2024 Eta Aquariid meteor shower could prove to be the strongest of the entire 21st century.

Predicting the activity of meteor showers is really hard, however. Other researchers have argued this year might just be “business as usual”.

Even if the latter is true, this is still an excellent meteor shower to try to catch. With perfect conditions, and the peak falling on the morning of May 6 (a public holiday in Queensland and the Northern Territory), it’s the ideal time to plan a weekend trip to the country – to settle down somewhere dark, and wake up to spend a few hours enjoying a display of natural fireworks before watching a beautiful autumn sunrise. What’s not to love?

The Conversation

Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland and Tanya Hill, Senior Curator (Astronomy), Museums Victoria and Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne, Museums Victoria Research Institute

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.

AvPals Term 2 2024


Issacs's Gardening Services: Seniors Looked After 

Our neighbour's son (Isaac Loveday) recently started his own gardening business here.  He lives at Warriewood.

Isaac has 10 years horticultural experience with Flower Power.   His listed expertise is:
  • Horticultural advice
  • Mowing & hedging
  • Landscaping & fertilising
  • Planting & turf laying
  • Weed & pest control
No job is too big or too small, and seniors will be looked after.
I have attached his Brochure & Business Cards.
Do you have anywhere in PON that we can advertise his business.  He is a young man & enthusiastic about his work.

Mah Jong Returns To RPAYC


Everyone is welcome, from novices to experienced players! Sharpen your mind, connect with friends, learn a new skill or refresh your existing game. Mah Jong if fun for all!

For more information contact Leigh Hudson 0408 941 665.

Stay for dinner in Halyards - book your table online HERE 

Manly-Warringah Choir is pleased to announce its Autumn concert: 

Mostly Mozart
Sunday, 19th May 2024 at 2pm
The Waterford Hall, St Paul's Catholic College, Darley Road, Manly 

Tickets will be available from 25th March at: 

Further details are in poster. Parking will be available in the school grounds. Light refreshments will be served afterwards at this lovely venue, with panoramic views over Sydney Harbour. We do hope you can join us.

Join In The Biggest Morning Tea At RPAYC


Pour yourself a cup of kindness and join us at the Biggest Morning Tea Fundraiser! We can't think of a better way to spend a morning than coming together as a community, enjoying delicious delights, and supporting a cause that means so much to so many. $35 per person includes delicious sandwiches and cakes baked in-house, a selection of tea & coffee and a $5 donation to Cancer Council. Book your ticket HERE 

What junior doctors’ unpaid overtime tells us about the toxic side of medicine - Yuri A/Shutterstock
Claire HookerUniversity of SydneyAlex BroomUniversity of SydneyKaren ScottUniversity of Sydney, and Louise NashUniversity of Sydney

What’s been described as the largest underpayment class action in Australian legal history has just been settled. Who was allegedly underpaid? Thousands of junior doctors who, subject to court approval, are set to share back-pay of almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

Amireh Fakhouri, who brought the claim on behalf of junior doctors in New South Wales, alleged that when they worked in the state’s public health system from December 2014 to December 2020, NSW Health had failed to pay the overtime and weekend meal break entitlements she and her colleagues were owed.

More than 20,000 claimants are now set to be eligible for a share in the nearly A$230 million settlement.

But repayment was never the main goal of the class action. Fakhouri, who is now training as a GP in Victoria, said she hoped instead it would change the work culture in medicine.

A Rite Of Passage?

Our health-care system has routinely relied on the labour of junior doctors. These include interns (those who have completed their university medical training and are in their first year of being practising doctors), residents (who have completed their internship and hold a general registration) and registrars (specialists in training).

Junior doctors often provide much of the staffing for night and weekend shifts and complete burdensome administrative tasks for consultants (senior doctors).

Overworking junior doctors has been normalised for decades. We see this depicted in books (such as The House of God and This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor) and TV shows (such as House and Scrubs).

The TV series This is Going to Hurt is based on the book by former UK junior doctor Adam Kay.

This is a safety issue. Doctor fatigue has considerable effects on patient safety through potential medical errors, poor quality patient care, longer patient recovery, reduced physician empathy and impacts on the doctor-patient relationship.

2020 study found that when doctors reported even moderate tiredness their chance of making a medical error rose by 53%.

Put simply, stretched, demoralised and tired doctors will do harm. Eventually, that will affect you.

It’s Not Just Long Hours

The expectation of working long hours is only part of the culture of medicine.

Our research and global evidence shows “teaching by humiliation” and other forms of verbal mistreatment have also been normalised.

2018 study of NSW interns and residents found more than 50% experienced bullying. Some 16-19% (mostly female) experienced sexual harassment.

Some of the junior doctors who are victims of mistreatment later become the perpetrators, perpetuating this harmful culture.

Junior Doctors Are Suffering

The impact of long hours on junior doctors and of the abuse they are subjected to is vividly evident through research, including ours. Junior doctors have significantly high levels of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.

As we’ve been saying for almost a decade, there is a desperate need for better work-life balance for junior doctors and deep culture change in our health-care system.

But there is often little sympathy for junior doctors. In 2022, one hospital threatened to remove comfortable lounges to prevent juniors napping on quiet night shifts. Just last week, we heard of a similar case involving junior doctors at another hospital, who were told “sleeping is not part of your job description”.

A Culture Of Silence

This class action was needed because on a day-to-day basis, junior doctors mostly do not complain.

They internalise distress as failure (not being tough enough) and fear that a diagnosis of depression or anxiety will result in patients and colleagues avoiding them.

They don’t report mistreatment or reject overwork as, often, their senior doctors control their career progression.

This is important, because contrary to perceptions of doctors as wealthy elites, our research shows junior doctors often find it hard to progress, get a job in their city of choice, or find full-time roles. The pressure on junior doctors to “make it” in an increasingly competitive environment grows stronger. Such professional problems reinforce the culture of not complaining for fear of blow-back.

Most of those who do take action, report ineffective or personally harmful outcomes when reporting to senior colleagues. This fulfils a vicious cycle of silence as junior doctors become ill but do not seek help.

We Wanted To Lift The Silence

We used theatre to lift the culture of silence about health-care worker distress due to workplace pressure.

We conducted interviews with junior and senior doctors about their experiences and used their verbatim stories to craft the script of the play Grace Under Pressure.

The aim is for this “verbatim theatre” to facilitate conversations and actions that promote positive culture change.

What Needs To Be Done?

It often takes brave public legal action such as this lawsuit to catalyse culture change – to nudge hospitals to prevent junior doctors from working back-to-back shifts, to protect time off for a personal life, ensure meal breaks, and provide means to hold powerful senior doctors to account.

Culture change is hard, slow and requires multi-pronged strategies. We need a safe way for junior doctors to report their concerns, and training so they know their options for responding to mistreatment. We need senior doctors and hospital managers to be trained in how to encourage and respond constructively to complaints.

Our research shows that when this happens, culture change is possible.

Correction: we have updated the article to reflect the correct value of the settlement.The Conversation

Claire Hooker, Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, Health and Medical Humanities, University of SydneyAlex Broom, Professor of Sociology & Director, Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies, University of SydneyKaren Scott, Associate Professor, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, and Louise Nash, Associate Professor and Psychiatrist, Brain and Mind Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney

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

Underwater cultural heritage: why we’re studying ‘orphaned objects’ to work out which shipwrecks they came from

Hence Kertajaya/Shutterstock
Natali PearsonUniversity of SydneyMartin PolkinghorneFlinders UniversityNia Naelul Hasanah RidwanFlinders University, and Zainab TahirFlinders University

A lot of the recent talk about maritime issues in Southeast Asia has focused on issues such as security, the Blue Economy, law enforcement and climate change. But there’s one maritime challenge that’s gone underdiscussed: underwater heritage.

We are co-investigators on a research project called Reuniting Cargoes: Underwater Cultural Heritage of the Maritime Silk Route.

Since the 1960s, Southeast Asia has seen a big rise in both commercial and illicit salvage of underwater cultural heritage. These items are often taken from unprotected sites and sold through middlemen and auction houses to collectors and museums. In this process, the connection to their original locations is lost or obscured, diminishing their cultural and historical significance.

This project aims to address that challenge by working out which object came from what shipwreck, and how it came to be out of the water and in collections.

To do this, we need to figure out where an item originally came from by applying the latest methods of archaeological science. Talking with local communities and authorities is another important way of gathering information about which shipwreck a particular object might have come from.

Learning more about and reconnecting items like this can change how communities relate to them. It can enhance everyone’s understanding of these artefacts beyond their commercial value.

What We Are Doing

We are studying two ceramic collections.

The first is in Australia, consisting of about 2,300 objects purchased from antique markets across Indonesia by a private collector over many decades.

The second is in Indonesia, consisting of about 230,000 objects. This collection was amassed by the Indonesian government and is now at a shipwreck artefact warehouse in Jakarta.

Our goal is to work out which shipwrecks the items came from.

Australian and Indonesian scholars examine ceramics from the Australian collection, February 2024
Dr Holly Jones-Amin (Grimwade Centre), Nia Naelul Hasanah Ridwan, Adria Yuky Kristiana, Sutenti (Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries), and Alqiz Lukman (National Research and Innovation Agency) examine an ‘orphaned object’. Martin Polkinghorne


Ancient shipwrecks, sunken cargoes and the submerged past are underwater cultural heritage.

A 2001 UNESCO convention prioritises protection and preservation of these sites, and international cooperation to achieve those goals. The central idea is that cultural heritage (including the kind found underwater) can help foster local, national and regional identity.

We see taking these “orphaned objects” languishing in private or institutional collections and reconnecting them with their original countries and communities as an important part of that broader goal.

Shipwrecks And Their Cargo Can Be Sites Of Conflict

From South America to the South China Sea, state and non-state actors (such as curious tourists or people seeking to profit from shipwrecks) are making various claims on ancient shipwrecks. Some are motivated by nationalism, others by money.

It’s also important to remember local communities engage with heritage in unique ways. What makes sense to policy makers, scientists or communities in one place won’t always make sense to those in another place.

Our project seeks to reconnect “orphaned” objects – cultural objects that have been recovered unethically, illegally or in some other problematic way. One example is underwater sites that have been commercially salvaged (meaning items that were recovered and then sold for profit) rather than scientifically excavated.

Identifying the original find-spots for these orphaned objects won’t be without its scientific, political and legal challenges.

But challenges can also represent opportunities. This project requires collaboration between Indonesian and Australian project partners. That builds capacity on both sides. Along the way, we’re helping develop mechanisms that could guide the return of other heritage items more broadly to their places of origin.

Trade ceramics in storage at the KKP Cileungsi warehouses, West Java. Image courtesy:
These ceramics are among the ‘orphaned objects’ we are researching. Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia

Maritime Heritage Tourism And Sustainable Development

Shipwrecks are fascinating scientifically and historically. But they can also reveal local, national and international tensions.

Take, for example, the 9th century shipwreck discovered in 1998 in waters near Belitung Island, Indonesia. Indonesian laws at the time clearly allowed commercial operators to salvage shipwrecks in its territorial waters, even if this went against international standards established by UNESCO.

Then there’s the 18th century Spanish ship, the San José, which lies in the waters of the Caribbean and is the subject of a multi-country legal fight over who should get the treasure it carried.

On the other hand, shipwrecks have political value. They can bring people together around shared goals or identities. They can be better integrated into sustainable development strategies, including through community-based marine tourism.

Marine heritage tourism initiatives will enable local communities to benefit financially from heritage. Adopting environmentally sustainable practices can also help protect marine ecosystems and ensure the long-term viability of underwater cultural heritage.

This will help to grow local economies by offering different kinds of jobs, not just fishing, while also minimising underwater cultural heritage looting and illicit trafficking.

Successful initiatives along these lines are already underway in Indonesia, in places such as Karawang, Abang Island and Tidore.

Dr Muja Hiduddin and Fatimah Rahman lead a ceremony at the Southeast Asian Ceramic Archaeology Laboratory at Flinders University.
Ancient shipwrecks, sunken cargoes and the submerged past are underwater cultural heritage. Priyambudi Sulistiyanto

Reconnecting Orphaned Objects

Orphaned objects have not received the attention they deserve.

Such objects are generally anathema to scholars, because of concerns that to study them is to legitimise them.

We agree there are important ethical considerations at play. But we also recognise these orphaned objects are a crucial part of broader geopolitical and maritime security debates.

To exclude them from scholarly study, as has largely been the case to date, is to risk missing an essential piece of the maritime puzzle. The Conversation

Natali Pearson, Senior Lecturer, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of SydneyMartin Polkinghorne, Associate Professor in Archaeology, Flinders UniversityNia Naelul Hasanah Ridwan, Maritime-Underwater Archaeologist and PhD Candidate on Archaeology (Humanities), Flinders University, and Zainab Tahir, Marine Heritage Analyst and PhD Candidate, Flinders University

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

Can this thumb test tell if you are at increased risk of a hidden aortic aneurysm?

Dan BaumgardtUniversity of Bristol

All the parts of our bodies share an inherent connectivity. This goes much further than “the foot bone’s connected to the … leg bone”. For instance, both hands and feet are connected to a constantly flowing bloodstream, and a nerve network that makes their muscles kick.

So what about the connection recently proposed by some news outlets regarding a simple test involving your palm and thumb? Could it really help diagnose a silent, yet potentially serious problem?

An aneurysm is what we’re referring to here. This is a ballooned segment of an artery – the vessels that supply oxygenated blood to your body tissues. Aneurysms may cause no problems, but if they grow larger, they can weaken, burst and bleed. This is bad enough in most arteries, but imagine if the artery involved were the biggest in your body?

The vessel in question is the aorta. Aortic aneurysms can develop slowly and insidiously, without yielding any knowledge that they are evolving, since they may not trigger any symptoms.

Indeed, they may not become identifiable until they’re starting to leak. By this stage, the threat to life from arterial rupture is severe.

Any test that can pick up an aneurysm before it gets to this danger point has great implications. Namely, so the defect can be closely monitored and repaired if needed.

So, is there a clinical basis for this proposed test? And what does it involve?

The Thumb-Palm Test

The original paper regarding the problem dates to 2021. A research group in the US recognised that some people with aortic aneurysms demonstrated a sign in their hands when asked to cross their thumb across a flattened palm. A positive test was seen when the thumb extended all the way across the palm, protruding to the other side.

A link could be made between this finding and the presence of a connective tissue disorder, where joints and ligaments are lax and loose, and might lead to a positive test. Some connective tissue disorders, including Marfan syndrome, are known to be associated with developing aneurysms, so this observation made sense.

The findings were that a positive test was associated with a high likelihood of an aneurysm being present in the ascending portion of the aorta as it leaves the heart.

However, it’s important to note that the landmark paper examining the relationship looked at 305 patients. Of these, ten showed the positive sign, so the sample size could have affected the results.

That’s not to say that this test lacks credibility, but it needs to be tested on more patients first.

And it’s not the only example of a test used in medical practice that is not perfect.

What Makes A Good Test?

In medicine, we ideally want to use tests that accurately spot diseases without missing them. We also want those that don’t misdiagnose patients, and are specific to certain conditions. We call these important parameters the sensitivity and specificity. Ideally, both should be as high as possible for a test to be considered a gold standard.

In reality, there are many tests we use that lack sensitivity or specificity. Take prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for instance – a simple blood screening test available to screen for prostate cancer. If the PSA comes back raised (and this is variable according to ageone of the underlying diagnoses might be prostate cancer.

But it also might be an enlarged or inflamed prostate, or a urinary tract infection. Or recent sexual intercourse. Or indeed, (but more speculatively) cycling before the test.

Many factors aside from cancer can cause a raised PSA, making the test lack specificity. PSA can also sometimes be normal in patients with prostate cancer, which means it lacks sensitivity.

This is why doctors have to use test results alongside other clues, such as examining the prostate to see if it is enlarged and craggy to the touch – altogether more suggestive of cancer.

Like PSA, what is known about the thumb-palm test shows it has to be interpreted correctly. Those with positive tests do not always have an aortic aneurysm. And having a negative test doesn’t automatically exclude one. It also needs to be performed correctly: the palm must be flat, not folded, to prevent a false positive test.

But what does this all mean for detecting aortic aneurysms while more research is carried out? Perhaps we should be considering what is known about them.

We know that this condition is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking – so identifying and treating risk factors is important.

Equally important is scanning the aorta of those at-risk groups; those with certain connective tissue disorders or with a family history of aortic aneurysms.

The thumb-palm test has yet to be incorporated into clinical practice, but further research looking at larger patient populations might allow it some more credence. In the meantime, we must rely on what we do know, to detect them as early as possible, and monitor them lest they become dangerous.The Conversation

Dan Baumgardt, Senior Lecturer, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, University of Bristol

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

SciStarter Australia Is A New Home For Citizen Science

April 30, 2024
Citizen science platform SciStarter Australia has officially launched on the final day of Global Citizen Science month, creating a one-stop location for citizen science projects seeking volunteers in Australia.

SciStarter Australia will serve as a hub for citizen scientists, collating a list of vetted scientific projects and promoting citizen science best practices, building on a tested and internationally recognised infrastructure from the United States and the Atlas of living Australia’s BioCollect platform.

SciStarter Australia. Photo credit: Michail Sergeev Ivanov.

“With SciStarter Australia now live, it has never been easier to find a project that interests you and for the public to contribute to the understanding of our world,” says project co-lead Professor Frank Grützner, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and the Environment Institute.

“We hope SciStarter Australia will bring new capabilities and increase participation in citizen science projects here in South Australia and across the country.”

SciStarter Australia, which has launched in beta form, will enable greater accessibility to and visibility about science projects that are open to public participation and collaboration.

Project co-lead Professor Rachel Ankeny, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Humanities, says the project will provide insights into how citizen science is performed in Australia.

“The SciStarter Australia platform will allow us to investigate how citizen science is being done and initiate more efforts to diversify participation so that all Australians can collaborate on these important scientific activities,” says Professor Ankeny.

“It will also allow more engagement with communities and businesses so that their members can volunteer for citizen science activities that align with their interests and skills."

SciStarter Australia received a $160,000 grant from the South Australian government’s Citizen Science Fund.

Its advisory board includes members representing Flinders University, the University of South Australia, the Australian Citizen Science Association including the SA Chapter, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, and SciStarter (USA).

Just like science is a collaborative pursuit, Professor Ankeny says partnership and collaboration were key to the project coming to fruition.

“The goal of the new SciStarter Australia platform is to provide a sustainable and accessible space for those conducting citizen science projects to make potential participants aware of their fantastic projects, and hence it is a collaboration between all with interests in Australian citizen science,” she says.

Dr Annie Lane, Chair of the Australian Citizen Science Association, says she is thrilled to be able to celebrate the launch of SciStarter Australia.

“This initiative aims to mobilise the Australian public and facilitate connections between people and scientists and the diverse range of scientific projects conducted by community groups,” says Dr Lane.

“Citizen science empowers individuals to contribute to the creation of new knowledge through collaborative scientific investigation. SciStarter Australia will facilitate this involvement by assisting people in discovering projects of interest and joining relevant communities.”

Director of the ALA, Dr Andre Zerger, says SciStarter Australia will positively impact what his organisation can achieve.

“Citizen science is an important data source for the ALA, and we have a long history of partnerships with the citizen science community as the national biodiversity data aggregator,” Dr Zerger says.

“SciStarter Australia will make participating in citizen science projects easier and more discoverable for local communities, better enabling stronger research and biodiversity outcomes for Australia.”

SciStarter Founder, Professor Darlene Cavalier, says she is excited to see the initiative she started reach further across the world.

“This collaboration aims to leverage the technological infrastructure of SciStarter to help efficiently and effectively connect Australians to citizen-science research that needs their help," says Professor Cavalier, who is Professor of Practice at Arizona State University.

"We are very excited to deploy this customised instance of SciStarter to help accelerate important research and build knowledge about the projects and participants powering this movement in Australia."

Peter Hastwell is a veteran citizen scientist who has contributed to projects such as iNaturalist, Echidna CSI, Bird-Life Australia, Roadkill, Feral Scan, and Frog ID – and even helped identify a new frog species named for Kangaroo Island.

He says SciStarter Australia will be useful in finding new scientific projects to contribute to.

“Previously, finding out about project possibilities was piecemeal, relying on media or word of mouth,” Peter says.

“SciStarter Australia provides an interactive database platform that puts together the plethora of citizen science projects around the country.

"I can now easily search for projects that I may never have heard of that might fit my interests, activities, locations, or abilities.”

The SciStarter Australia team is working to expand the list of citizen science projects and encourages project leaders to add their projects  to the global SciStarter platform.

Australian-based projects will flow through to the bespoke national website.

Citizen scientist Peter Hastwell with an echidna. Photo credit: Peter Hastwell

Tropical Fish Are Invading Australian Ocean Water

A University of Adelaide study of shallow-water fish communities on rocky reefs in south-eastern Australia has found climate change is helping tropical fish species invade temperate Australian waters.

"The fish are travelling into these Australian ecosystems as larvae caught in the Eastern Australian Current, which is strengthening due to the warming climate," said the University of Adelaide's Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, Chief Investigator of the study.

"These larvae would not normally survive in the cooler Australian ocean water, but the warming Eastern Australian Current keeps the baby fish warm and increases their likelihood of survival."
The novel populations of tropical fish in temperate ecosystems are not having much of an impact now, but may do in the future.

"Because water temperatures in temperate Australia are still a bit cool, these tropical fish do not grow to their maximum size and therefore are not fully competing with temperate Australian fish -- yet," says Professor David Booth of the University of Technology Sydney, a co-Chief Investigator of the study.

"However, under increasing future ocean warming these tropical fish will eventually grow to their full size, and their diets will start to overlap more and more with those of temperate fish.

"It is the expectation that these tropical fish will be permanently established in temperate Australia, where they will become serious competitors with the native temperate fish that have historically lived there."

While the University of Adelaide study, led by PhD student Minami Sasaki, focused on fish communities off New South Wales, Professor Nagelkerken says similar changes in water temperature are also being seen in south-western Australia and overseas.

He says the fish migration observed in this study is "an ongoing process that has strengthened in the last few decades due to ocean warming."
The broader impacts on the ecosystems these fish invade are not yet clear.

""Tropical herbivores overgraze temperate kelp, but for the tropical invertebrate eaters, we are not sure yet what it means for the ecosystem itself," says Professor Nagelkerken.

An earlier study led by University of Adelaide PhD candidates Chloe Hayes and Angus Mitchell, and also involving Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University and University of Technology Sydney, showed tropical generalists might fare better than the specialist temperate fish they're muscling in on.

"We've seen that ocean warming physiologically benefits tropical generalists but disadvantages temperate specialists, which may mean the generalists will be more successful in the initial stages of climate change," says Hayes.

"Generalist tropical species that are less fussed about what they eat or what habitats they use as shelter appear to be the most successful tropical invaders."

"This could make survival difficult for Australian fish that are native to these rapidly warming temperate environments," Professor Nagelkerken says.
Minami Sasaki, Kelsey M. Kingsbury, David J. Booth, Ivan Nagelkerken. Body size mediates trophic interaction strength of novel fish assemblages under climate change. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2024; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.14079

Climate Change Will See Australia's Soil Emit CO2 And Add To Global Warming

April 26, 2024
New Curtin University research has shown the warming climate will turn Australia's soil into a net emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), unless action is taken.

Soil helps to keep the planet cool by absorbing carbon, however as the climate gets warmer its ability to retain carbon decreases -- and in some instances can start to release some carbon back into the air.

A global research team -- led by Professor Raphael Viscarra Rossel from Curtin's School of Molecular and Life Sciences -- predicted the changes in the amount of carbon in Australia's soil between now and the year 2100.
To do so, the team ran simulations using three different paths for society: an eco-focused 'sustainable' scenario, a 'middle-of-the-road' scenario and another which predicted a continued reliance on 'fossil-fuelled development'.

It found Australian soil will be a net emitter and could account for 8.3 per cent of Australia's total current emissions under the 'sustainable' scenario and more than 14 per cent by 2045 under the 'middle-of-the-road' and 'fossil-fuelled' scenarios.

By 2100, soil emissions under both scenarios are predicted to account for an even higher proportion of total emissions, but the predictions are more uncertain.

While some areas with arable farmland could continue to store carbon, the study found it would not be enough to offset the amounts of carbon lost from the soil in areas which are more sensitive to warmer weather, such as coastal regions and Australia's vast rangelands.

Australian soil holds an estimated 28 gigatons of carbon, 70 per cent of which is stored in these rangelands.

"Unless farming methods are further improved so farmland soils can continue to store carbon, any gains and benefit will likely decrease by 2045 and worsen in time, if the Earth continues to warm at its current rate," Professor Viscarra Rossel said.

"This means Australia's soil could release even more carbon into the air instead of storing it, which will in turn make climate change worse.
"If emissions continue at the current rate, the Earth's temperature is expected to reach 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures sometime this century, which is predicted to have dire consequences and potentially catastrophic impacts for the planet."

Professor Viscarra Rossel said more sustainable pathways and improved management and conservation of soils were essential for Australia to meet its emissions reduction goals.

"Ensuring Australia's rangeland soils can maintain their carbon stocks is imperative: capturing and storing additional carbon will require interdisciplinary science, innovation, cultural awareness and effective policies" Professor Viscarra Rossel said.

"It will be challenging, given the rangelands' drier and more variable climate, its relatively sparse vegetation and other factors such as bushfires -- however, only a slight change over such large areas will make a positive difference.

"Innovative grazing management, cultural burning and regenerating biodiverse, endemic native plant communities, for example, could see rangelands soils absorb and store more water and carbon, reduce erosion and lead to more stable ecosystems -- and ultimately, fewer emissions."

R. A. Viscarra Rossel, M. Zhang, T. Behrens, R. Webster. A warming climate will make Australian soil a net emitter of atmospheric CO2. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 2024; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41612-024-00619-z

Taiwan is experiencing millions of cyberattacks every day. The world should be paying attention

Lennon Y.C. ChangDeakin University

Taiwan stands out as a beacon of democracy, innovation and resilience in an increasingly autocratic region. But this is under growing threat.

In recent years, China has used a variety of “grey zone” tactics to pressure Taiwan to accept the Communist Party’s attempts at unification. This has included an onslaught of cyberattacks, which not only pose a significant threat to Taiwan’s national security but also seek to undermine its democratic processes.

These attacks range from phishing attempts to sophisticated malware intrusions. Website defacement attacks and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are often seen during significant events, such as the August 2022 visit of Nancy Pelosi, then-speaker of the US House of Representatives. Government agencies, educational institutions, convenience stores and train stations are among the targets.

So, how is Taiwan defending itself from these attacks? And can it continue to do so as China’s tactics become more sophisticated?

Millions Of Cyberattacks A Day

Despite Taiwan’s technological prowess and robust cybersecurity measures, it continues to be a major target for malicious actors seeking to sow chaos in the country.

According to senior government officials, Taiwan receives some five million cyberattacks a day. And Frontinet, a US-based cybersecurity firm, has found Taiwan experienced just over half of the billions of malware attacks detected in the Asia-Pacific region in the first half of 2023.

The intensity of cyberattacks reached new heights during Taiwan’s January 2024 elections – a critical juncture in its democratic journey. The Ministry of Digital Affairs reported on the widespread use of social engineering tactics to compel people to click on links or download files, which then allowed perpetrators to steal sensitive information.

One particularly alarming incident involved a “threat actor” named Earth Lusca, which targets organisations of interest to the Chinese government.

From December to January, this actor emailed a malicious zip file entitled “China’s grey-zone warfare against Taiwan” to selected targets, including government and educational institutions and news media in Taiwan. The file was designed to install malicious software to infiltrate computer systems. It also included documents written by experts in Taiwan–China relations, believed to have been stolen from the authors or agencies that own them.

The timing of these attacks, peaking just 24 hours before the elections, underscored their strategic intent to undermine Taiwan’s electoral integrity.

Disinformation And Deepfakes

These efforts to destabilise Taiwan are not confined to conventional hacking techniques. Disinformation campaigns are also causing political, economic and social harm to the country.

In the lead-up to the elections, for instance, a deluge of false narratives and fabricated content circulated on social media. These targeted the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which advocates for Taiwanese sovereignty.

Among the most egregious examples was the dissemination of a 300-page e-book entitled “The Secret History of Tsai Ing-wen” (蔡英文秘史), laden with baseless allegations about the Taiwanese president aimed at eroding the public’s trust in her and her party. It claimed, for example, that Tsai’s mother was a prostitute. It also portrayed Tsai as a vile, morally corrupt dictator who is sexually promiscuous and hungry for power. Taiwanese security officials said the book bore the hallmark of the Chinese Ministry of State Security.

Using AI tools such as Capcut, developed by the Chinese technology giant ByteDance, the book’s developers also produced and disseminated fake news videos for social media. Featuring AI-generated voices and fake news anchors, these videos were produced with alarming efficiency and promptly replaced if they were taken down by platforms.

Furthermore, rumours circulated on social media about DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te having illegitimate sons, and other candidates having extramarital affairs. The videos used deepfake technologies to make the claims appear more real to deceive the public.

Although these campaigns were not entirely successful – Lai won the presidency – they are still a cause for concern.

Orchestrated disinformation campaigns are becoming more sophisticated and widespread, especially with the support of generative AI and deepfake software. And their potential to influence public opinion or fuel political polarisation could gradually weaken Taiwan’s democracy and create instability.

And these tactics can also be replicated elsewhere. Other countries worried about the impact of cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns on their elections and democratic institutions should be paying attention.

How Taiwan Is Responding

In response to these multifaceted threats, Tsai, the outgoing president, has stressed that cybersecurity is synonymous with national security.

However, the country’s existing cybersecurity regulations primarily target cybercrime. Because of the blurry line between cybercrime and cyber warfare, Taiwan needs to adopt a more holistic approach. This should encompass preventive measures, rapid response strategies and enhanced public-private and international collaborations.

For example, Taiwan is now developing its own satellite internet service – an alternative to Elon Musk’s Starlink – to reduce the potential harm from severed underwater internet cables.

Working with the American Institute In Taiwan, the government is also promoting a US Department of Defence cybersecurity framework for local businesses to make them more resilient to attacks. And in January, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau established a new research centre aimed at combating the threat of online disinformation.

Non-governmental organisations such as the Doublethink Lab, Cofacts and the Taiwan Factcheck Centre are also playing a significant role through real-time monitoring of foreign influence and disinformation campaigns and fact-checking services.

However, with advances in technology, cyberattacks and disinformation will evolve. This is why other components are essential to build a comprehensive cyberdefence strategy. This includes increased investment in cybersecurity infrastructure, fostering digital literacy and promoting responsible online behaviour.

Only through collective vigilance and concerted efforts can Taiwan safeguard its democratic values in the face of relentless cyber threats.The Conversation

Lennon Y.C. Chang, Associate Professor of Cyber Risk and Policy, Deakin University

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

Genetic Hope In Fight Against Devastating Wheat Disease

April 26, 2024
Fungal disease Fusarium head blight (FHB) is on the rise due to increasingly humid conditions induced by climate change during the wheat growing season, but a fundamental discovery by University of Adelaide researchers could help reduce its economic harm.

While some types of wheat are resistant to FHB thanks to the action of the TaHRC gene at the Fhb1 locus, how this gene functions in wheat cells was unknown until now.

Collaborating with Nanjing Agriculture University, the University of Adelaide research team has shown TaHRC works in the nucleus of wheat cells, and it can either increase or decrease a plant's susceptibility to FHB.
"There are two variants of TaHRC that have opposing effects on the condensation of a specific protein complex within the nucleus," says Dr Xiujuan Yang, from the University's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

"When condensed, the complex leads to susceptibility to FHB, whereas when diffused, it provides resistance against FHB.

"We are the first to reveal the function of protein complex condensation in response to a major crop fungal disease, providing insight into the mode of action of protein complexes in cereal defence responses."

FHB has caused significant harm to Australia's wheat industry in recent years, with crops in the 2022 season suffering up to 100 per cent yield losses.

The disease has been on the rise globally since the 1970s, but climate change has increased its prevalence.

"Australia's reputation for producing high-quality wheat has been built on fortuitous climate conditions during flowering and grain fill, typically coinciding with the dry season, which helps avoid many fungus-caused diseases that thrive in humid weather," says Dr Yang.

"However, in the background of climate change, a wet spring in 2022 led to Fusarium head blight becoming widespread across eastern Australia."

Australian durum wheat varieties are all highly susceptible to FHB, but it is unclear what level of resistance exists in bread-wheat varieties.
Dr Yang hopes this fundamental discovery, published in Cell Host & Microbe, will counteract the growing prevalence of FHB and provide assurance to Australian growers.

"Our findings offer exciting prospects for developing new and enhanced forms of Fusarium head blight resistance," Dr Yang says.

"By understanding the underlying mechanisms beyond Fhb1, we can innovate breeding strategies to diversify resistance sources.

"Our research opens the door to the development of more resilient and sustainable wheat varieties for future agriculture, and might shed light onto other Fusarium-caused diseases, such as crown rot."

Yi He, Xiujuan Yang, Xiaobo Xia, Yuhua Wang, Yifan Dong, Lei Wu, Peng Jiang, Xu Zhang, Cong Jiang, Hongxiang Ma, Wujun Ma, Cong Liu, Ryan Whitford, Matthew R. Tucker, Zhengguang Zhang, Gang Li. A phase-separated protein hub modulates resistance to Fusarium head blight in wheat. Cell Host & Microbe, 2024; DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2024.04.002

Dr Xiujuan Yang examining the health state of wheat flowers. Credit: University of Adelaide.

What is pathological demand avoidance – and how is it different to ‘acting out’?

Shutterstock/Brian A. Jackson
Nicole RinehartMonash UniversityDavid MoseleyMonash University, and Michael GordonMonash University

“Charlie” is an eight-year-old child with autism. Her parents are worried because she often responds to requests with insults, aggression and refusal. Simple demands, such as being asked to get dressed, can trigger an intense need to control the situation, fights and meltdowns.

Charlie’s parents find themselves in a constant cycle of conflict, trying to manage her and their own reactions, often unsuccessfully. Their attempts to provide structure and consequences are met with more resistance.

What’s going on? What makes Charlie’s behaviour – that some are calling “pathological demand avoidance” – different to the defiance most children show their parents or carers from time-to-time?

What Is Pathological Demand Avoidance?

British developmental psychologist Elizabeth Newson coined the term “pathological demand avoidance” (commonly shortened to PDA) in the 1980s after studying groups of children in her practice.

A 2021 systematic review noted features of PDA include resistance to everyday requests and strong emotional and behavioural reactions.

Children with PDA might show obsessive behaviour, struggle with persistence, and seek to control situations. They may struggle with attention and impulsivity, alongside motor and coordination difficulties, language delay and a tendency to retreat into role play or fantasy worlds.

PDA is also known as “extreme demand avoidance” and is often described as a subtype of autism. Some people prefer the term persistent drive for autonomy or pervasive drive for autonomy.

What Does The Evidence Say?

Every clinician working with children and families recognises the behavioural profile described by PDA. The challenging question is why these behaviours emerge.

PDA is not currently listed in the two diagnostic manuals used in psychiatry and psychology to diagnose mental health and developmental conditions, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Researchers have reported concerns about the science behind PDA. There are no clear theories or explanations of why or how the profile of symptoms develop, and little inclusion of children or adults with lived experience of PDA symptoms in the studies. Environmental, family or other contextual factors that may contribute to behaviour have not been systematically studied.

A major limitation of existing PDA research and case studies is a lack of consideration of overlapping symptoms with other conditions, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorderanxiety disorder, selective mutism and other developmental disorders. Diagnostic labels can have positive and negative consequences and so need to be thoroughly investigated before they are used in practice.

Classifying a “new” condition requires consistency across seven clinical and research aspects: epidemiological data, long-term patient follow-up, family inheritance, laboratory findings, exclusion from other conditions, response to treatment, and distinct predictors of outcome. At this stage, these domains have not been established for PDA. It is not clear whether PDA is different from other formal diagnoses or developmental differences.

girl sits on couch with arms crossed, mother or carer is nearby looking concerned
When a child is stressed, demands or requests might tip them into fight, flight or freeze mode. Shutterstock

Finding The Why

Debates over classification don’t relieve distress for a child or those close to them. If a child is “intentionally” engaged in antisocial behaviour, the question is then “why?”

Beneath the behaviour is almost always developmental difference, genuine distress and difficulty coping. A broad and deep understanding of developmental processes is required.

Interestingly, while girls are “under-represented” in autism research, they are equally represented in studies characterising PDA. But if a child’s behaviour is only understood through a “pathologising” or diagnostic lens, there is a risk their agency may be reduced. Underlying experiences of distress, sensory overload, social confusion and feelings of isolation may be missed.

So, What Can Be Done To Help?

There are no empirical studies to date regarding PDA treatment strategies or their effectiveness. Clinical advice and case studies suggest strategies that may help include:

  • reducing demands
  • giving multiple options
  • minimising expectations to avoid triggering avoidance
  • engaging with interests to support regulation.

Early intervention in the preschool and primary years benefits children with complex developmental differences. Clinical care that involves a range of medical and allied health clinicians and considers the whole person is needed to ensure children and families get the support they need.

It is important to recognise these children often feel as frustrated and helpless as their caregivers. Both find themselves stuck in a repetitive cycle of distress, frustration and lack of progress. A personalised approach can take into account the child’s unique social, sensory and cognitive sensitivities.

In the preschool and early primary years, children have limited ability to manage their impulses or learn techniques for managing their emotions, relationships or environments. Careful watching for potential triggers and then working on timetables and routines, sleep, environments, tasks, and relationships can help.

As children move into later primary school and adolescence, they are more likely to want to influence others and be able to have more self control. As their autonomy and ability to collaborate increases, the problematic behaviours tend to reduce.

Strategies that build self-determination are crucial. They include opportunities for developing confidence, communication and more options to choose from when facing challenges. This therapeutic work with children and families takes time and needs to be revisited at different developmental stages. Support to engage in school and community activities is also needed. Each small step brings more capacity and more effective ways for a child to understand and manage themselves and their worlds.

What About Charlie?

The current scope to explain and manage PDA is limited. Future research must include the voices and views of children and adults with PDA symptoms.

Such emotional and behavioural difficulties are distressing and difficult for children and families. They need compassion and practical help.

For a child like Charlie, this could look like a series of sessions where she and her parents meet with clinicians to explore Charlie’s perspective, experiences and triggers. The family might come to understand that, in addition to autism, Charlie has complex developmental strengths and challenges, anxiety, and some difficulties with adjustment related to stress at home and school. This means Charlie experiences a fight, flight, freeze response that looks like aggression, avoidance or shutting down.

With carefully planned supports at home and school, Charlie’s options can broaden and her distress and avoidance can soften. Outside the clinic room, Charlie and her family can be supported to join an inclusive local community sporting or creative activity. Gradually she can spend more time engaged at home, school and in the community. The Conversation

Nicole Rinehart, Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Director, Krongold Clinic (Research), Monash UniversityDavid Moseley, Senior Research Fellow, Deputy Director (Clinical), Monash Krongold Clinic, Monash University, and Michael Gordon, Associate Professor, Psychiatry, Monash University

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

We spent 2 years in deep underground caves to bring this extraordinary fossil to light

The fossil skeleton in a secluded alcove of the cave. Rob French/Museums Victoria
Tim ZieglerMuseums Victoria Research Institute

Pitch-black darkness. Crushing squeezes, muddy passages, icy waterfalls. Bats and spiders. Abseiling over ledges into the unknown. How far would you go for a fossil?

On a two-year retrieval mission of nearly 60 hours in an underground cave, we met our limits – and went beyond.

The limestone slope of Potholes Cave Reserve is found in Gunaikurnai Country, north of the township of Buchan in eastern Victoria.

Here, the river valley is peppered with shadowy entrances to underground caves. Portals barely large enough to permit a willing caver open into kilometres of subterranean passages encrusted with delicate crystals twinkling in torchlight.

In one of them, Nightshade Cave, the Museums Victoria Research Institute led a team of recreational cavers and Parks Victoria rangers to excavate an extraordinary fossil: a near-complete skeleton of the extinct short-faced kangaroo Simosthenurus occidentalis. In June this year, it will appear on display at Melbourne Museum.

A collection of orange bones laid out on a black tablecloth in the shape of a skeleton.
The fossil skeleton of S. occidentalis is 71% complete. Tim Carrafa/Museums Victoria

It Started With An Unusual Skull

As is so often the case in palaeontology, the discovery began with engaged citizens out in nature. In 2011, a local caving group first entered Nightshade Cave through an opening previously blocked by soil. One of the group, Joshua Van Dyk, sighted an unusual animal skull.

Recognising its potential significance, he reported the find to Melbourne Museum. However, Van Dyk reckoned it was irretrievable, appearing to be crushed under boulders in a narrow vertical collapse. The cave was gated shut to protect its contents, and a decade passed quietly.

In 2021, I took an interest in the intriguing find. Members of the Victorian Speleological Association were only too happy to assist a return to the cave.

A man in a dark cave wearing glasses and a hard hat with a light on it inspects a large bone.
Tim Ziegler retrieving fossil bones from Nightshade Cave. Rob French/Museums Victoria

Rigging a ropeline, we abseiled down a tight ten-metre rift, emptying our lungs to pass tight points in midair. We corkscrewed into a narrow passage and wormed, single-file, through low-domed chambers hung with dripping stalactites and plastered by popcorn-like calcite formations.

Descending deeper, the cave transformed into tall, narrow, clean-walled rifts, full of dark recesses. Hours passed as we circuited the passages, until a shout echoed around: found again! We scrambled to a chimney-like chute stacked with pinned boulders, to come eye to eye with an ancient.

On reaching it, I felt sudden grief: the beautiful fossilised skull had in the intervening years begun to collapse. It seemed that, despite its long survival, the fossil was newly vulnerable – from little more than the altered air currents and changing humidity caused by the new cave entrance.

We strengthened the exposed bones with protective resins, but exited the cave having left them in place: more time would be needed to plan their retrieval.

A Painstaking Retrieval

On our return trips, I carefully brushed away fine layers of mud and we photographed and packed the newly freed fossils. The skull had a deep muzzle, with robust jaws and teeth that marked it as a short-faced (sthenurine) kangaroo.

Behind it were more bones. It was a marvel to see vertebrae, shoulders and hips, limbs and a narrow ribcage: many of the bones were wholly undisturbed and still in their original positions. This was a single animal, not a random scattering of bones. It felt like a fossil holy grail.

A detailed comparison to fossils in the Museums Victoria State Collection gave our skeleton its identification as Simosthenurus occidentalis. Comprising 150 preserved bones, it is the most complete fossil skeleton found in a Victorian cave to date.

That it is a juvenile rather than adult kangaroo further distinguishes it from other examples of the species. Its teeth show little wear, its skull bones are still unfused, and its limb ends had not yet joined, suggesting it was still young at its time of death.

From the size of its limbs, we estimate it weighed around 80 kilograms – as much as an average person – but might have grown half as large again had it reached adulthood.

Australia’s Extinct Megafauna

Short-faced kangaroos appear in Australia’s fossil record from 10 to 15 million years ago, as widespread rainforests began to give way to drier habitats. They became particularly diverse during the shift toward our current arid climate in the later part of the Pleistocene Epoch, from around 500,000 years ago.

But in a pulse of extinction around 45,000 years ago, they vanished across the continent, along with up to 85% of Australia’s megafauna. Radiocarbon dating by the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation dated the skeleton’s burial to 49,400 years ago. This means our S. occidentalis was among the very last of its kind.

Today, the hills of eastern Gippsland host a precious population of the brush-tailed rock-wallaby, a vulnerable species. Once, they shared the country with larger kin.

A key idea under investigation is whether sthenurine kangaroos walked with a striding gait, rather than hopped. The skeleton we found has a uniquely complete vertebral column, providing new insights we couldn’t get from isolated bones. With the benefit of detailed 3D models, this near-complete skeleton can also be studied from anywhere in the world.

This fossil, along with others from Nightshade Cave, is now housed and cared for in perpetuity at Melbourne Museum. Through Museums Victoria Research Institute, we can preserve a link to its once home of East Gippsland, while opening a door to global research.The Conversation

Tim Ziegler, Collection Manager, Vertebrate Palaeontology, Museums Victoria Research Institute

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

Mind-bending maths could stop quantum hackers, but few understand it

Tavrius / Shutterstock
Nalini JoshiUniversity of Sydney

Imagine the tap of a card that bought you a cup of coffee this morning also let a hacker halfway across the world access your bank account and buy themselves whatever they liked. Now imagine it wasn’t a one-off glitch, but it happened all the time: imagine the locks that secure our electronic data suddenly stopped working.

This is not a science fiction scenario. It may well become a reality when sufficiently powerful quantum computers come online. These devices will use the strange properties of the quantum world to untangle secrets that would take ordinary computers more than a lifetime to decipher.

We don’t know when this will happen. However, many people and organisations are already concerned about so-called “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, in which cybercriminals or other adversaries steal encrypted data now and store it away for the day when they can decrypt it with a quantum computer.

As the advent of quantum computers grows closer, cryptographers are trying to devise new mathematical schemes to secure data against their hypothetical attacks. The mathematics involved is highly complex – but the survival of our digital world may depend on it.

‘Quantum-Proof’ Encryption

The task of cracking much current online security boils down to the mathematical problem of finding two numbers that, when multiplied together, produce a third number. You can think of this third number as a key that unlocks the secret information. As this number gets bigger, the amount of time it takes an ordinary computer to solve the problem becomes longer than our lifetimes.

Future quantum computers, however, should be able to crack these codes much more quickly. So the race is on to find new encryption algorithms that can stand up to a quantum attack.

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology has been calling for proposed “quantum-proof” encryption algorithms for years, but so far few have withstood scrutiny. (One proposed algorithm, called Supersingular Isogeny Key Encapsulation, was dramatically broken in 2022 with the aid of Australian mathematical software called Magma, developed at the University of Sydney.)

The race has been hotting up this year. In February, Apple updated the security system for the iMessage platform to protect data that may be harvested for a post-quantum future.

Two weeks ago, scientists in China announced they had installed a new “encryption shield” to protect the Origin Wukong quantum computer from quantum attacks.

Around the same time, cryptographer Yilei Chen announced he had found a way quantum computers could attack an important class of algorithms based on the mathematics of lattices, which were considered some of the hardest to break. Lattice-based methods are part of Apple’s new iMessage security, as well as two of the three frontrunners for a standard post-quantum encryption algorithm.

What Is A Lattice-Based Algorithm?

A lattice is an arrangement of points in a repeating structure, like the corners of tiles in a bathroom or the atoms in a diamond crystal. The tiles are two dimensional and the atoms in diamond are three dimensional, but mathematically we can make lattices with many more dimensions.

Most lattice-based cryptography is based on a seemingly simple question: if you hide a secret point in such a lattice, how long will it take someone else to find the secret location starting from some other point? This game of hide and seek can underpin many ways to make data more secure.

A variant of the lattice problem called “learning with errors” is considered to be too hard to break even on a quantum computer. As the size of the lattice grows, the amount of time it takes to solve is believed to increase exponentially, even for a quantum computer.

The lattice problem – like the problem of finding the factors of a large number on which so much current encryption depends – is closely related to a deep open problem in mathematics called the “hidden subgroup problem”.

Yilei Chen’s approach suggested quantum computers may be able to solve lattice-based problems more quickly under certain conditions. Experts scrambled to check his results – and rapidly found an error. After the error was discovered, Chen published an updated version of his paper describing the flaw.

Despite this discovery, Chen’s paper has made many cryptographers less confident in the security of lattice-based methods. Some are still assessing whether Chen’s ideas can be extended to new pathways for attacking these methods.

More Mathematics Required

Chen’s paper set off a storm in the small community of cryptographers who are equipped to understand it. However, it received almost no attention in the wider world – perhaps because so few people understand this kind of work or its implications.

Last year, when the Australian government published a national quantum strategy to make the country “a leader of the global quantum industry” where “quantum technologies are integral to a prosperous, fair and inclusive Australia”, there was an important omission: it didn’t mention mathematics at all.

Australia does have many leading experts in quantum computing and quantum information science. However, making the most of quantum computers – and defending against them – will require deep mathematical training to produce new knowledge and research.The Conversation

Nalini Joshi, Professor of Mathematics, University of Sydney

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

Think all chemicals are bad? From our food to your phone, modern life relies on them

Albert Russ / Shutterstock
Timothy SchmidtUNSW Sydney and Jason DuttonLa Trobe University

The icebreaker of many a barbeque conversation is something like “what do you do for a crust?”

“I teach chemistry at university,” is what we usually reply. Then silence. Our new friend will usually go on to say they either hated or did terribly in chemistry at school.

Or, depending on what’s been in the news lately, they might start talking about parabens in shampoo, or BPA in plastic poisoning our dogs, or the “forever chemicals” PFAS in everything.

Chemistry, it must be admitted, has an image problem.

Chemistry’s Image Problem

By the age of six, many children already have negative feelings about the word “chemical”.

Ask the average person what a chemical is, and they’re likely to tell you it’s something bad. Products advertise themselves as “chemical-free” – an assertion that makes no scientific sense (since everything in the world is made of chemicals) but resonates with the consumer.

The media often doesn’t help chemistry’s image. Positive news stories about science are often about a breakthrough cure for some disease, years before it might eventually be approved for use in patients, or the latest nifty-looking thing we’ve noticed up in space.

Stories about chemistry, on the other hand, are often negativetoxic chemical spill from train derailment; ammonia leak sparks evacuation; residents told to stay inside as warehouse fire spreads toxic smoke.

The Modern World Is Built On Chemistry

However, everyone in the world owes much of their present standard of living to advances made by chemists. Without the Haber-Bosch process for creating fertiliser from nitrogen in the air, half the world’s population would not have enough to eat. All modern medicines, from aspirin to RNA vaccines, owe their discovery to chemistry.

The lithium batteries that enable so many portable electronic devices – yep, chemistry. We could go on.

And indeed we will.

Photo of a person's hands holding fertiliser over soil.
The chemical fertiliser that lets modern agriculture grow enough food to feed the world? That’s chemistry. FotoDuets / Shutterstock

The materials that allow the manufacture of just about everything you see were developed by chemists. The isolation of metals from ore is chemistry. The synthesis of lightweight plastics, polymers and composites is chemistry. The purification of silicon, enabling the computer and internet revolution, not to mention solar panels, is chemistry. Energy-efficient lighting due to white LEDs owes its development to yet more chemistry.

Chemistry has itself been enabled by advances in other disciplines, notably physics. The discovery of quantum mechanics in the early twentieth century advanced our theoretical understanding of chemistry, and many chemical reactions and behaviours can now be predicted using sophisticated computer programs.

At the same time, chemists’ study of molecules and atoms provided crucial data to physicists looking for that deeper understanding.

Chemistry And The Future

Chemists are also working on solutions for the future.

Take batteries. The lithium on which today’s rechargeable batteries run is a scarce element. It is difficult to isolate, and its extraction is not without environmental drawbacks. Many chemists are working on alternatives. The batteries of the future might be based on sodium, for example, or some other chemistry yet to be developed.

The next generation of solar cells needs new materials. These are being synthesised by chemists, and rapidly tested in devices. Chemists have discovered materials that can work with silicon to pull more usable energy from sunlight, and that can make solar cells extremely lightweight and flexible.

If we are to produce hydrogen as a clean fuel, we will need new catalysts to make the required chemical reactions faster.

Chemists continue to work hand in hand with clinicians on solutions to treating diseases, from rare conditions to unfortunately common cancers. We are developing new antibiotics, and antimicrobial coatings for medical devices.

Chemists also study the natural world, and how we affect it. Climate change might have its roots in chemical reactions releasing CO₂ into the atmosphere, but stabilising the climate will also require chemists to invent new ways to capture and store CO₂, or convert it to something else.

The Central Science

Even leaving aside the countless crucial applications of chemistry, fundamental chemical research born from pure curiosity is of vital importance. This work leads to solutions for problems we don’t yet know we are going to have.

Chemistry is sometimes seen as an “old” science: one that’s taught in high school but doesn’t prepare students for jobs in the real world. At best, chemistry is often seen as something that will get you a job in a horribly polluting industry.

But not always. At a kid’s birthday party the other day, a couple of GPs asked one of us what we did. Instead of the usual response to the mention of chemistry, the reply came as a pleasant surprise: “You enable the whole field of medicine,” they said.

As we have seen, chemistry is a subject that is at the core of past and future advances in society. It is still the central science.The Conversation

Timothy Schmidt, Professor of Chemistry, UNSW Sydney and Jason Dutton, Professor of Chemistry, La Trobe 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.