Inbox and Environment News: Issue 625

May 12 - 18, 2024: Issue 625

Leaf Curling Spider: for children

This leaf was suspended by a thin spider thread outside our back door the other day and got caught on the top of someone by that thread and brought inside. A tiny spider with bright black and white spots then emerged from it - making us wonder what it is.

We looked it up and found out it is a Leaf-curling Spider.

The Leaf-curling Spiders (genus Phonognatha) are day-active orb weaving spiders that protect themselves from predators by sitting inside a silk seamed, curled leaf.

Mainly identified by their curled-leaf retreats in which they hide with only their legs exposed, Leaf-curling Spiders are fat, oval-shaped spiders with red-brown legs and body and a cream coloured pattern on their backs.

The Australian Museum states:

Leaf-curling Spiders (Phonognatha graeffeihoist a leaf from the ground and, using silk threads, curl it to form a protective cylinder, silked shut at the top and open at the hub.. They then sit in this cylinder with only their legs showing, feeling for the vibrations of a captured insect. The curled leaf protects them from birds and parasitic wasps. Sometimes other objects, such as snail shells (which come ready-curled), are used. In P. graeffei this leaf is suspended just above the centre of the web, but may be placed higher in other species. Juvenile spiders start off by bending over a small green leaf, but eventually graduate to larger dead leaves.

A male Leaf-curling Spider will take up residence in an immature female's web, living at the upper end of the curled leaf. He will then mate with her as soon as she matures. The female lays her eggs within another curled leaf, which is silked up and hung in the foliage away from the web.

The curled leaf retreat protects Leaf-curling Spiders from predators such as birds and parasitic wasps.

They live in Urban areas, forests and woodlands of Eastern Australia.

We put the spider and its leaf back outside, so it could get on with doing its spider things.

Avalon Dunes Restoration

Have you noticed sand being bulldozed from the dunes back onto the beach at the northern end of Avalon Dunes?  

This is being done because bare sand blown by the south easterlies was burying the track to the beach through the dunes. 

Why was the sand bare? 

Because people kept hanging out in there to look at the view, damaging the vegetation, lighting fires etc. The whole reason our dunes are otherwise stable is because of the dense vegetation. The area will be fenced again and planted with local dune plants.

The Avalon Dunes bushcare group meet on the first Sunday of each month, 8.30 - 11.30am.

Projects; Revegetating and Stabilising Avalon Dunes, restoring native coastal vegetation and fauna habitat

More in: Avalon Beach Dunes Bushcare

Also available: Avalon Beach Sand Dunes: Some History

Photos and images supplied

'Panorama of beachgoers at Avalon Beach', New South Wales, ca. 1925 section enlarged to show dressing sheds on Avalon Beach at this point in time. The beginnings of Norfolk Pines, planted by A J Small are in the white wicker tree guards. Image No.: nla.pic-vn6217968 by EB Studios, part of the Enemark collection of panoramic photographs, courtesy National Library of Australia Retrieved  from

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.”

Beachwatch Consultation Reinstated

On May 4 2024 the NSW Government announced it is giving Sydney coastal councils an additional 12 months’ consultation before the implementation of the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program which provides information on water quality at our beaches and waterways.

In July 2022, the former government decided to expand the cost sharing partnership model which has been in place across regional New South Wales since 2002, to include 14 Sydney coastal councils which currently do not pay for water quality sampling and laboratory analysis.

Under the current Beachwatch program, Sydney coastal councils do not share the costs with the NSW Government, but regional councils do. The proposed changes were designed to make the system equitable and manage growth of the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program to more areas.

Consultation was supposed to start in late 2022 to give councils 18 months’ notice before the decision came into effect in July 2024. However, the consultation was deferred until December 2023. Sydney coastal councils have provided feedback on several issues regarding the proposed changes, including that 6 months' consultation is not sufficient for them to plan for and consider the transition.

The NSW Government has listened to this feedback from councils, and is reinstating the 18-month consultation period, which will now run through to June 2025.

''This will allow for further consultation on changes to the funding model and design of the program.'' the government states

''Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe is writing to the 14 affected coastal councils to inform them the proposed changes will not go ahead until mid-2025, following further work on the program design.''

The 14 Sydney coastal councils are Bayside, Canada Bay, Georges River, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe stated:

'Beachwatch is an important program for those who visit our beaches and waterways, and for councils that work with Beachwatch to detect and respond to emerging pollution problems.

'The NSW Government is committed to ensuring an equitable service and good program design for all councils across the state.

'We are dedicated to genuine partnerships with councils, and look forward to working with them to ensure Beachwatch can give the community confidence to swim in more waterways across New South Wales.'

Background information:

Beachwatch provides daily advice on swim site suitability for people to choose if and when to swim.

In response to pollution from Sydney’s ocean-wastewater outfalls, in 1989, Beachwatch commenced providing water quality monitoring at no cost to Sydney coastal councils.

At present, Beachwatch monitors 97 swim sites within 14 local government areas in the Sydney coastal area at no cost.

Since 2002, regional councils and wastewater managers have participated in the Beachwatch Partnership Program. Currently there are 10 regional NSW councils and two wastewater managers (Hunter and Sydney Water Corporations) who have funded their own sampling and analysis across 128 swim sites.

The 2022–23 budget provided $18.5 million over 10 years to deliver the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program statewide and support all NSW councils to be able to opt in from July 2024.

Under this model, the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program will provide a centralised coordination, data management, technical support, quality control, audit, and reporting services, while local council partners provide water quality sampling and analysis for priority swim sites in their local government areas.

At the March 26 2024 Council Meeting Councillors voted to Respond to the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water advising that:

a. Council supports the continuation of the NSW Beachwatch Program.

b. Council strenuously objects to the decision to shift the cost of the Beachwatch Program to Sydney councils and on that basis will not be signing up as a partner.

2. Support the Sydney Coastal Councils Group in its advocacy on this matter.

3. Write to the Minister for Climate Change, Energy and the Environment, the Minister for Water, the shadow ministers for those portfolios, as well as all leaders of the crossbench in the Legislative Council conveying Council’s concerns as to the decision to shift the cost of the NSW Beachwatch Program to Sydney councils and that this matter also be referred to the state and federal parliamentary inquiries examining the ability of local government to fund infrastructure and services.

The government offered NBC two options: either council collects water samples and sends them to DCCEEW for analysis at a cost of $198,800; or council engages DCCEEW to continue collecting and analysing samples at $129,383.

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG), to which NBC belongs, is leading opposition to this latest attempt at cost shifting to councils.

After being advised about the government’s decision in December, the SCCG obtained legal advice that indicates Councils do not have responsibility for water quality below the mean high water mark. It then informed councils, also pointing out that Sydney Water, which is a major polluter, had not been asked to contribute to the cost of Beachwatch. Then at its March Executive meeting, it approved letters to the Environment and Water ministers opposing the new payment scheme.

SCCG has stated:

''The NSW Government is attempting to shift the costs of its successful and long-running NSW Beachwatch program to coastal councils in Sydney.  The NSW Beachwatch program helps people make informed decisions about when and where to swim.

Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG), representing nine coastal and estuarine councils in Sydney, supports the program’s value to not only local residents but to the broader NSW community and international tourists that visit our world-renowned beaches.  However, it rejects the NSW Government’s attempts to shift the cost of the program to local councils for what is a state government responsibility.

Generally, Councils have no control over the land or waterways below mean high water where Beachwatch monitoring is conducted.  Councils also have no control over sewers which is the primary source of bacteriological contamination of waterways that impact on swimming.

Costs for the service provided by the NSW Government to coastal councils represent a significant financial impost on councils that are already grappling with increasing community expectations, constrained budgets and other forms of state government cost-shifting.

In light of this, the SCCG calls on the NSW Government to maintain the NSW Beachwatch program as a fully-funded state program without shifting costs to Sydney coastal councils.

SCCG also calls on the Minister for the Environment, in consultation with the Minister for Water, to request Sydney Water, as the provider of sewerage services in Sydney, to take a role in water quality monitoring at Beachwatch sites.''

NSW Biodiversity Worse Than Ever, Habitat Clearing The Key Driver, Says Government Report 

May 8th, 2024  

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today labelled new Government data on biodiversity loss ‘a shocking and deeply frustrating failure to meet our obligation to protect nature’.    

The NSW Government today released their Biodiversity Outlook Report 2024 findings which show that biodiversity is in decline across the state. Across nearly every indicator NSW biodiversity is worse off than when the previous report was released in 2020. 

“This report confirms what we have been warning the government about since they came to office – we are in a biodiversity crisis and urgent action is needed,” Nature Conservation Council NSW (NCC) spokesperson Clancy Barnard said today. 

“Habitat clearing has tripled since nature laws were changed in 2016 to allow virtually unregulated destruction, and now this report confirms what we suspected – it’s only going to get worse for NSW ecosystems and wildlife as long as the status quo persists.  

“It isn’t surprising that when nothing is done, nothing gets better. The state of the NSW environment is not going to improve until the NSW Government bins these John Barilaro-legacy laws and gets to work on nature protection laws that actually protect nature.” 

NCC Spokesperson, Clancy Barnard, stated:

“The report finds that we will lose half of NSW’s threatened species in the next 100 years if nothing is done.  

NSW habitat is so degraded it can only support 29% of the plants and animals it once could – enough is enough. 

“This government came to power promising to ‘stop runaway land clearing’ and ‘fix the biodiversity offset scheme’ and they haven’t.  

“While in opposition they were vocal critics of the changes to our nature protection laws, which wound back reforms of the previous Carr Labor government.

“So far, they have failed to even close the Barilaro-era self-assessment loopholes everyone agrees is a key driver of habitat loss, let alone develop stronger protections that reflect the scale of the extinction and climate crisis.  

“The government needs to implement the recommendations of the Henry Review, close the loopholes that allow landholders to tick a box and clear-fell vital habitat and listen to the experts charting a path out of species extinction.  

NSW is a national leader in deforestation, with 50 million trees and 100,000 hectares lost every year. Is this a record the NSW Government can accept? 

“The government urgently needs to honour its commitment to fix the laws and protect our precious biodiversity. 

“We know that changes to nature laws are on the agenda at both the state and federal level – this is an opportunity for the NSW Government to rise to the challenge of becoming a nature positive state.”

The NCC recently commissioned polling that found 73% of people in NSW would support the NSW Labor Government re-introducing protections against habitat clearing that were scrapped by the previous Liberal Government, with 17% being unsure and only 9% opposed.  

Key findings in the Biodiversity Outlook Report 2024:

  • Loss of habitat is the key driver of biodiversity loss.
  • Only 50% of listed threatened species are expected to survive in 100 years.
  • Past habitat loss and future climate change will also impact the capacity of landscapes to retain biodiversity in 50 years.
  • The capacity of habitat to support native species declined to 29%.
  • There are more than 300 invasive weeds and 36 pest animal species across New South Wales, with red foxes and feral cats observed in almost every bioregion.
  • Clearing of native vegetation remains higher than during 2009 to 2017.
  • Warming climate will see more frequent and intense fires and will disrupt species dependencies across ecosystems.

The Minns Government states;

''It is not all bad news. The area of land permanently secured for conservation in New South Wales has grown to 11%, and various programs are working well to protect species and ecosystems, including pest eradication on NSW islands which is leading to the return of nesting shore birds and the nutrient cycle they support.

The projections in the biodiversity outlook report do not include the potential impacts of management programs, such as Saving our Species.

In just over 12 months, the NSW Government has taken a range of steps to halt the decline in biodiversity, including:

  • Passed the Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Act and made meeting our emissions reduction targets a government priority.
  • Committed $172 million to saving koalas – including $80 million for a Great Koala National Park and $88 million to protect and support Sydney's koalas.
  • Protected more than 33,000 hectares under private land conservation agreements.
  • Added more than 480,000 hectares to the National Park footprint in New South Wales.
  • Reintroduced locally extinct animals in predator free zones and national parks, including platypus in the Royal National Park where they had been missing for 50 years.
  • Delivered the biggest boost to environmental protection laws in more than 30 years.
  • Progressed biodiversity law reform in response to Ken Henry's review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act.
  • Supporting native plants and animals by introducing effective control of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park.
  • Maintained record levels of feral animal control in our national parks.

Data for the report is drawn from the Biodiversity Indicator Program which assesses the status and trends of biodiversity over time by considering a range of indicators.

Page viiii from the NSW Biodiversity Outlook Report 2024:

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.

Gardens Of Stone Multi-Day Walk And Campsites 20 Year Commercial Lease: Have Your Say

Consultation period
From: 1 May 2024
To: 31 May 2024

The proposed grant of lease is to Wild Bush Luxury Experience Pty Ltd ACN 648 431 734. With the aim to develop, operate and support:

  • 3 bush camps within the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area
  • guided multi-day walking experiences on the Gardens of Stone Multi-Day Walk.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service plans for the proposed lease to enhance its campgrounds. The grounds are available to independent walkers and commercial operators registered with the Parks Eco Pass program.

The proposed lease term is 10 years plus two 5-year options (total potential term of 20 years).

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area plan of management identifies the accommodation notes located in 3 of the proposed lease areas.

The notice of intention to grant a lease in the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is open for public consultation to give the community an opportunity to have a say.

The 3 bush camps will comprise at each site:

  • six 2-person enclosed cabins, with an approximate footprint of 3 m × 5 m (including entry deck)
  • one communal covered common area, with an approximate footprint of 5 m × 12 m for the covered area
  • one ablutions facility containing 3 showers and 3 composting toilets, with an approximate footprint of 8 m × 3 m and adjacent 20,000 L rainwater tank
  • all systems and facilities required for a quiet, ‘light-touch’, self-sufficient camp, including rainwater tank, solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity supply, and grey-water and black-water treatment
  • timber or Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boardwalks connecting the cabins, communal common area and ablutions facility
  • connections to ground (that is, footings) designed to be fully removable with minimal impacts.

The proposed lessee will also establish ‘adjoining’ walking tracks from the public walking track to the bush camps.

View the document and have your say here

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

A ‘conservation conundrum’ – when rat control to conserve one species threatens another

Victoria Florence Sperring
Victoria Florence SperringMonash University and Rohan ClarkeMonash University

When pest rats and mice decimate populations of native species, pest control is a no-brainer. But what if baiting rats protects threatened songbirds, while poisoning critically endangered owls?

This is a question conservation managers are grappling with on tiny Norfolk Island, some 1,300 kilometres off the east coast of Australia. They’re not the only ones troubled by such conflicting priorities.

Rodents are implicated in the decline of at least 400 threatened species and 30% of bird, mammal and reptile extinctions worldwide. Unfortunately, the most effective rat baits can also kill birds of prey.

Our new research shows the critically endangered Norfolk Island morepork is eating even more rats and mice than previously thought. These birds of prey are being poisoned in the process. We clearly need a way to control or eradicate rodents without killing our native species.

One of the authors, Victoria (Flossy) Sperring, holding a Norfolk Island morepork tagged for research, against a dark night sky
Moreporks were captured at dusk and tagged with trackers attached to two tail feathers. Daniel Terrington

The Conservation Conundrum On Norfolk Island

As its name suggests, the Norfolk Island morepork is found only on Norfolk Island. Just 25 birds are left in the world, with none held in captivity. The rate of successful breeding is extremely low.

In our new research, we examined the morepork’s diet in unprecedented detail.

We tracked seven owls, almost a third of the population, to collect their poo and pellets (coughed up like cats do with furballs) for analysis. First we studied the contents by sight, then we sent the samples off for DNA sequencing, to work out what they had been eating.

Every owl in our study had eaten rodents. Two owls had eaten house mice.

When a bird of prey such as a morepork or boobook eats a poisoned rodent, it can become very unwell or die. This is known as secondary poisoning.

During the course of our research, one sick morepork was found and rehabilitated. We named the owl Rashootin after Grigori Rasputin, the Russian mystic who was famously poisoned yet survived. But if Rashootin hadn’t been found by an islander, he would not have been so lucky.

Unfortunately we don’t know how many other moreporks suffer from secondary poisoning but there is anecdotal evidence it’s a problem. The Norfolk Island morepork chicks that hatched between 2011 and 2019 died from a case of suspected secondary poisoning. Elsewhere the incidence of secondary poisoning for boobooks, moreporks and larger Ninox species that eat rodents is well documented.

A Norfolk Island morepork chick, looking like a ball of grey fluff with a beak, held in two cupped hands.
One of two precious Norfolk Island morepork chicks that hatched in 2019. Nick Bradsworth

An obvious solution would be to modify the use of rodent baits on Norfolk island. Perhaps baiting could be less frequent. Or less toxic baits could be used, to reduce the risk of killing non-target species.

But less toxic baits are not so good at killing rats.

Rat control is deemed necessary on Norfolk Island because the rats prey on other threatened species. In our previous research we found rats were the main cause of “nest failure” for all five songbirds found only on Norfolk Island. This means rats are typically responsible for the failure of these songbirds to rear chicks in any given breeding season. We found rats raided 39% of endangered Norfolk Island robin nests, eating either chicks or eggs.

Adding to the complexity of the challenge, the ranges of Norfolk Island moreporks and robins overlap almost completely at Norfolk Island National Park.

In summary, rat control is essential for the recovery of several threatened species on Norfolk Island, yet this same intervention poses a genuine threat to the tiny remaining morepork population.

How can land managers prioritise the conservation of one threatened species over another?

A male Pacific robin on Norfolk Island, sitting on a thin tree branch
Rats are known to prey on Norfolk Island robin Petroica multicolor eggs and young chicks. Imogen Warren, Shutterstock

A Global Issue

Introduced rats and mice cause problems everywhere. Rodent control is a common practice.

Most rat poisons are anticoagulants, which means they prevent blood clotting, causing the rodent to bleed to death internally.

Anticoagulants fall into two broad categories: first-generation and second-generation. First-generation baits need the rodent to eat multiple doses to prove fatal.

Second-generation baits are up to 1,000 times more toxic and can kill rodents after a single feed. But they take much longer to break down in the body and so are much more dangerous for animals that happen to eat the poisoned rodents.

The Solution

We urgently need new methods to control or eradicate invasive rodents. These methods must also be effective and safe for non-target species.

In recognition of the threat to the morepork population, Norfolk Island land managers have already taken some measures to minimise the risk of secondary poisoning. Rat baiting during the morepork breeding season (October to February) has been restricted to first-generation and non-anticoagulant baits since 2015. Second-generation baits are used throughout the remainder of the year, but the quantity used and toxicity of the product has been reduced. Any further weakening of the baiting program would likely have serious consequences for the threatened songbirds.

Unfortunately our research shows moreporks are still finding lots of rats and mice to eat, year round. This could be putting the population at risk.

Outside of Norfolk Island, one alternative being investigated is baiting with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), which raises blood calcium levels of the rats causing death through heart failure. This rodent control method has been shown to reduce the risk of secondary poisoning. However, further research is still required.

Non-toxic control methods such as traps can reduce rodent numbers in areas with large rodent populations. There are many different types of traps available now including models that reset themselves. These are also being trialled on Norfolk Island and elsewhere. But further development is required before this method can effectively keep rats at a low population size.

Emerging gene-drive technology promises to alter the DNA of the target population so they can no longer reproduce. Once perfected, this method would be highly effective and very safe for non-target species. However, it may be many decades before this approach is available. Many threatened species do not have decades to spare.

Our study shows further research is needed to find the optimal baiting strategy. We also strongly encourage land managers to continue exploring new approaches and innovative techniques to control rodents effectively and safely. Land managers everywhere need to think carefully about the side-effects of rodent control and use second generation anticoagulants only when necessary, for they may inadvertently be killing our beloved birds of prey.The Conversation

Victoria Florence Sperring, Research Officer, Monash University and Rohan Clarke, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University

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

Gas is good until 2050 and beyond, under Albanese gas strategy

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

The Albanese government is talking up the crucial role of gas as a transition fuel “through to 2050 and beyond”.

In a gas strategy to be released on Thursday, the government envisages the fuel’s uses would change over time, as energy efficiency improved, renewables were firmed and emissions were reduced.

“But it is clear we will need continued exploration, investment and development in the sector to support the path to net zero for Australia and for our export partners, and to avoid a shortfall in gas supplies,” Resources Minister Madeleine King says, outlining the government’s policy.

The strategy sees gas as crucial to the new Future Made in Australia policy, which includes support for manufacturing and refining critical minerals.

At present gas supplies 27% of Australia’s energy, and 14% of the country’s export income. The industry employs 20,000 people.

The government’s gas-is-good rhetoric will come under fire from the Greens, sections of the environmental movement and some within Labor who take a hard line on any fossil fuel.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has declared gas to be as dirty as coal and previously accused Labor of spitting in people’s faces by “fast-tracking new gas mines that undo everyone else’s good work” in promoting cleaner energy.

Among the principles on which the government’s policy is based is that gas must remain affordable for Australian users. Over the years, there have been battles involving both sides of politics with producers to ensure the industry, which is export-oriented, provides adequate and affordable local supplies.

Facing warnings about the risk of gas shortages in the local market, the Labor government introduced the mandatory Code of Conduct and a renewed Heads of Agreement with LNG exporters, and strengthened the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism.

To support household and business consumers, the government says it will work with states and territories to ensure gas remains affordable for those who need it.

The strategy says new gas sources will be required to meet demand during the transition.

It commits to “prevent gas shortfalls by working with industry and state and territory governments to encourage more timely development of existing gas discoveries in gas-producing regions”.

This is an implied warning that companies should not sit on undeveloped supplies. The Weatern Australian government has called for a strengthening of the so-called use-it-or-lose-it rules to stop big companies sitting on deposits.

The strategy also commits to reducing gas-related emissions by working with industry and regulators to minimise venting and flaring of methane from operations. These issues have been taken up by environmentalists.

The government will promote geological storage of CO2 and release acreage for offshore carbon capture and storage.

“Gas will play an important role in firming renewable power generation and is needed in hard-to-abate sectors like manufacturing and minerals processing until such time as alternatives are viable and can be deployed,” the government says.

The government has also flagged greater controls on the use of seismic surveys by gas companies. Seismic testing is a hot issue with environmental groups who say it disturbs sea life.

Real Disposable Income To Grow In 2024-25: Budget

Tuesday’s budget will forecast a 3.5% growth in real disposable income in 2024-25. This is expected to be driven by a 4.5 percentage point contribution from growth in labour incomes and a one percentage point contribution from the tax cuts. This would be the fastest rate of growth in more than a decade, excluding the pandemic.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Australia can have a future for the gas industry, or meet its climate commitments – but not both

Samantha HepburnDeakin University

Gas is back – if it ever went away.

Yesterday, the Albanese government doubled down on gas with the release of its Future Gas Industry policy.

Under this proposal, gas will be part of our power mix until at least 2050. New gas fields will be opened to avoid the supply problems that have bedevilled east coast users. And our gas exports will remain a source of income and diplomatic power.

What about climate change? Well, the strategy is littered with references to low-emissions gas, carbon capture and storage, decarbonisation and the need to shore up energy supply as coal departs the grid. As it states:

Continued gas development and more flexible gas infrastructure is needed to increase the resilience of Australia’s energy system and keep costs down as we transition.

But this is a fig leaf. We cannot open new gas projects and still meet our climate goals. If we want to make sure we have enough domestic supply on the east coast, we could simply reserve some of our export gas, as Western Australia has done.

Having Your Cake And Eating It Too

Gas still supplies more than a quarter of Australia’s power within the National Energy Market. By 2028, the report forecasts supply shortages will begin to hurt the east coast. But this supply crisis could be solved easily with a WA-style reservation policy, where a percentage of gas extracted from existing supply is mandated to be reserved for the domestic east coast market. The fact the government is not pursuing this option means the supply crisis is of our own making.

Cynics would say the domestic supply issue is a cover for vastly larger interests, namely the A$17 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry which sells about 90% of our gas overseas with demand for LNG in the Asian region expected to continue until 2050. Over the past decade, our LNG exports have risen sharply. For several years, Australia was the world’s top exporter, competing directly with the likes of Qatar. Gas now accounts for 14% of our export earnings.

Last year, we exported 80 million tonnes of the stuff – roughly 114 shiploads. That’s the first drop in production since 2015.

The reason? Production is likely to have peaked. Many gas fields are running dry, and exploration has slowed. Late last year, the oil and gas industry put out a report stating:

investment in supply is also required to meet current long-term LNG commitments with the current committed and anticipated production also declining over time to below contracted levels in the medium-term.

Now we have a new government strategy, calling for renewed exploration and development.

gas meter at home
Gas consumption in homes is projected to fall – but industrial use would stay high. JWPhotoworks/Shutterstock

Is There A Role For Gas?

The gas industry would, of course, like us to keep using gas for as long as possible. But how does that square with the need to get to net zero as soon as possible? To meet Australia’s commitment to net zero by 2050, emissions from gas must be reduced.

As Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King says in the foreword to the new gas strategy:

Under all credible net zero scenarios, natural gas is needed through to 2050 and beyond, though its production and use will change over this period[…] Gas will be a transition fuel that firms renewable power generation and is required for manufacturing and minerals processing until such time as alternatives are viable. Gas can support our future made in Australia. However, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with gas must sharply decline and where gas use cannot be reduced, emissions must be increasingly abated and offset.

This has some truth. We cannot simply turn off the gas pipelines overnight for our domestic consumption. Homes still use gas. Industries rely on it. Gas peaking plants have taken up some of the slack left by coal leaving the grid. Development of lower emission alternatives such as biomethane, hydrogen gas, pumped hydro, batteries and other bio-fuels will take time, especially for industrial use.

The report envisages the steepest domestic falls in demand in east coast buildings, which essentially means Victorian homes, as the state most reliant on gas. Here, the state government has signalled it wants to end this reliance. But the report sees industrial demand remaining high due to a lack of alternatives, and an increase in gas demand on the west coast for new industrial users, such as fertiliser plants coming on line, which will use gas as a key feedstock.

So is the government actually planning for the time when gas stays safely in the ground, where it does not add to corporate coffers and also does not add to the tally of planet-warming gases?

Not exactly. Under the most ambitious emissions scenario in the report, the government foresees global demand for gas dropping 30% by 2043. That’s almost two decades away, and a 30% drop is not much on that kind of timescale. Further, the report states gas “underpins a wide range of economic activity in Australia and globally, with secure gas supplies being a core component of energy security.” So, our Future Gas Strategy will continue to be aligned with the production and export of gas, despite out Net Zero commitments

What’s also clear in the report is the importance this government places on gas as a geopolitical tool. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global gas prices skyrocketed as major gas consumers scrambled to find alternative supplies. By and large, they have – and Australia is one of the beneficiaries of the global gas grab.

As King notes in her foreword:

Australia is and will remain a reliable and trusted trade and investment partner, including for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Our trade partners have made large investments over decades in Australia’s resources industry.

The Greens, teals and independents have seized on this report as evidence the government is simply doing whatever the gas industry wants. Vocal independent David Pocock described the strategy as “morally bankrupt”.

It’s hard to write that line of argument off completely. As the International Energy Agency has said, large new fossil fuel projects are simply not compatible with cutting emissions and tackling climate change. The Conversation

Samantha Hepburn, Professor, Deakin Law School, Deakin University

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

Future Gas Strategy Underpins Emissions Not Renewables

May 9, 2024

The Federal Government’s Future Gas Strategy locks in fossil fuel expansion until 2050 and ignores the fact that the vast majority of Australia’s gas is used for exports, according to analysis from the Australia Institute.

The plan relies on the false promise of carbon capture and storage to justify fossil fuel expansion. Chevron’s recently approved Gorgon LNG Stage 2 expansion will release 3 billion tonnes over the next five decades; Chevron’s CCS program has, by contrast, sequestered just over 9 million tonnes to date (and will only capture about 100 million tonnes over the life of the system).

“The world has just experienced its hottest April on record and the Australian Government is doubling down on fossil fuel expansion. It’s scientifically and economically reckless,” said Polly Hemming, climate & energy program director at the Australia Institute.

“To be clear, Australia has more than enough gas. In fact, the gas industry itself is the biggest user of Australia’s gas, which they use for export production.

“It is a flawed argument to say that Australia needs more fossil fuels to become a renewable energy superpower. First, we had the “gas-fired recovery,” and now we have “gas-fired renewables.” It is as if the Coalition Government never left.

“It’s not just Australians who are facing the burden of climate change; this affects the countries the Australian Government has gone to pains to describe as its so-called ‘family’.

“Foreign Minister Penny Wong is currently in Tuvalu, witnessing how rising sea levels consume entire Pacific Island communities while our resources minister suggests we cannot leave Korean and Japanese companies without Australian gas.

“Australia wants to host a UN climate conference in 2026 in partnership with its ‘Pacific family’ while also being one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters.

“The Government has been wilfully ignorant to the pleas of Pacific Island nations for years, so it is peculiar that the welfare of Korean and Japanese gas executives has suddenly become a national priority.”

Mackellar MP Dr Sophie Scamps  stated:

''Labor’s new stance on gas is a betrayal to future generations. Aussies diligently try to reduce their greenhouse footprint by buying EVs, installing solar panels and changing their appliances. They should feel outraged by the governments Future Gas Strategy. 

''We owe it to our young people to take the hard decisions, the brave steps towards an economy based on renewable power. I am deeply disappointed and will do all that’s in my power in parliament to thwart the development of new gas fields.''

Warringah MP Zali Steggall stated: 

''Just like the Morrison government, the Albanese government is captured by the gas industry and self-interest, prioritising Big Gas profits over Australia’s (and the planet's) future wellbeing. Swapping out one fossil fuel for another won’t get us to Net Zero.''


New Federal Approval For Giant WA Gas Project Will Release 3 Billion Tonnes Of Emissions

May 9, 2024

On the same day the Australian Government has approved key infrastructure for Chevron’s Gorgon LNG Stage 2 expansion that will produce 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions over the next 50 years.

The approval was granted by the Commonwealth Government’s offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA and will enable LNG production at Chevron’s Gorgon project. This will result in 62 million tonnes of emissions annually, which is 16 times greater than the emissions of WA’s largest coal power station, Muja.

The approval comes despite Chevron’s ongoing failure to achieve carbon capture and storage (CCS) targets that were a condition of the project’s original approvals.

“The total emissions from this expansion represent 6 years of Australia’s current annual emissions, it’s a huge amount” said Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor at The Australia institute.

“This approval highlights the determination of the Australian Government to prioritise the interests of foreign owned gas exporters over our climate and communities.

“Western Australia is coming off the back of a record-breaking summer – we know further climate change will speed up the collapse of our forests in the south west and increase the frequency and severity of fires and floods.

“The positive impacts of any Australian or WA Government renewable energy initiatives will be completely undone by this irresponsible project if it proceeds.”

“Chevron can’t even meet its carbon capture and storage commitments that were a condition of its original approval. Why, then, is the Government providing additional approvals that will further increase emissions?”

Saving the Mary River turtle: how the people of Tiaro rallied behind an iconic species

Marilyn Connell
Mariana CampbellCharles Darwin University and Hamish CampbellCharles Darwin University

Australian freshwater turtles are facing an alarming trend. Almost half of these species are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

The Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) is one of Australia’s largest freshwater turtles, weighing up to 8kg. You might know it as the bum-breathing punk turtle – it can stay underwater for days, extracting oxygen through its cloaca, and algae growing on its head can look like a mohawk. It’s also one of the most threatened. This species is found only in the Mary River in south-east Queensland, which empties into the sea near K'Gari/Fraser Island.

Despite its highly restricted range, many Australians would have seen this turtle. In the 1960s and ’70s, thousands of turtle eggs were harvested from the banks of the Mary River and hatched in captivity. The hatchlings were sold as “penny turtles” throughout the country.

Back then, no one knew these turtles belonged to a unique species restricted to a single river. Neither did anyone know that their sale – often as Christmas gifts due to their hatching time – was pushing the species towards extinction.

Intense egg harvesting, habitat changes and introduced predators such as foxes have drastically reduced the Mary River turtle population. Breeding female numbers fell 95% between 1970 and 2000. Even more worrisome is that the population consists mainly of older adults. That’s often a warning sign of a species’ imminent extinction.

However, it is not all doom and gloom for the Mary River turtle. In 2001, the people of the Tiaro district bordering the river launched a conservation program in 2001. A recent review of this community-led program found things seem to be turning around for this iconic species.

A Mary River turtle hatchling in a person's hand
The sale of hatchlings as ‘penny turtles’ contributed to a sharp fall in the wild Mary River turtle population. Marilyn Connell

A Community-Driven Rescue

Tiaro is a small town with about 800 residents. Some of the most productive Mary River turtle nesting areas are close to the town. This inspired the Tiaro & District Landcare Group to take action.

Their work was mainly focused on protecting turtle nests. Tiaro is surrounded by farms, mainly for cattle. The group erected fences to stop cattle trampling the nests, placed covers over nests to shield them from predators and recorded nesting activities.

These efforts have resulted in thousands of young Mary River turtles entering the river every year.

mary river turtle floating
The Mary River turtle is unique in its evolutionary history. Marilyn Connell

Enlisting The Help Of Experts

The community soon realised they needed scientific help to develop an effective management plan. They hit upon an inventive fundraiser, selling homemade chocolate turtles, to support research.

The money provided scholarships for several higher-degree research students. It also paid for research equipment.

And the support went beyond money. The people of Tiaro provided accommodation, transport, local knowledge, land access and enthusiasm.

To date, the joint efforts of the community and scientists have resulted in 16 peer-reviewed scientific articles and six higher-degree research theses. We now know much more about the turtles’ ecological requirements, population status and threats.

The published works have featured heavily in development, environmental management and natural resource planning throughout the catchment. As federal environment minister, Peter Garrett even cited information from this research program when he vetoed controversial state government plans for the Traveston Crossing Dam in 2009.

This long-term research effort has raised the profile of the turtle and the community that supports its preservation. A bronze turtle statue now stands proudly in the middle of Tiaro.

The statue is testament to the community’s dedication and the turtle’s local significance. It’s both a symbol of successful conservation and a tourist attraction.

Our Turtles Still Need Protection

The Mary River turtle remains threatened, as do other Australian turtle species. A scientific assessment panel has recommended upgrading the species to critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

This is due to the knowledge gained through the community-led research program rather than an increased extinction risk.

We argue that the outlook for the Mary River turtle is brighter now than when it was first listed as endangered 22 years ago. This is because the research program has enabled national priorities to be set accurately. As a result, local water resource planning and strategic development throughout the catchment properly take the turtle’s ecology into account.

By playing to each other’s strengths, community members and scientists have given the Mary River turtle a much better outlook.

The head and front legs of an adult Mary River turtle standing in shallow water
The Mary River turtle’s future looks brighter than it did two decades ago. Marilyn Connell

The Mary River turtle is unique in its appearance and evolutionary history. It stands out as the sole species in its genus, having diverged from all other living species about 50 million years ago. To put this into perspective, humans separated from our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos, less than 10 million years ago.

The species is listed at number 30 on the EDGE of Existence program, a global conservation initiative focusing on evolutionarily distinct threatened species.

Australia’s freshwater turtles play a vital role in maintaining freshwater ecosystems. They are also culturally important for First Nations people.

The advent of similar community-researcher conservation projects, such as 1 Million Turtles and Turtles Forever, suggests the future is looking brighter for Australia’s freshwater turtles.

This story is part of Good Green News, a new series on community efforts to restore nature. Read other articles in the series here.The Conversation

Mariana Campbell, Research Lecturer, Conservation, Charles Darwin University and Hamish Campbell, Professor - Spatial Science, Charles Darwin University

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

How a filmmaker, a pile of old shells and a bunch of amateurs are bringing our oyster reefs back

Robbie Porter, OzFish Unlimited
Dominic McAfeeUniversity of Adelaide and Craig CopelandUniversity of Newcastle

Around Australia, hundreds of people are coming together to help a once-prized, but decimated and largely forgotten marine ecosystem. They’re busy restoring Australia’s native oyster and mussel reefs.

Alongside the high-profile national Reef Builder campaign, community groups have become inspired to do their bit, in their own backyards.

Fortunately there’s more than one way to rebuild a reef. And you don’t have to think small.

From humble beginnings, a community-driven project in Queensland’s Moreton Bay has grown into an ambitious plan to restore 100 hectares of oyster reef over the next ten years. This would make it the largest oyster reef restoration project in the Southern Hemisphere.

Introducing the Moreton Bay Shellfish Reef Restoration Project (OzFish Unlimited)

Why Are We Bringing Back Shellfish Reefs?

Just 200 years ago, Australia’s coastline was home to billions upon billions of oysters and mussels, forming reefs that stretched thousands of kilometres. They filled the sheltered waters of bays and estuaries from the southern Great Barrier Reef to Tasmania and all the way around to Perth. These thriving marine ecosystems provided food, shelter and water filtration, as well as coastline protection from stormy seas.

But today, our shellfish reefs are near extinct. Oyster dredges scraped reef after reef from the seafloor throughout the 19th century. Oysters and mussels were harvested for food. Their shells were ground up to make roads and cement. Now only degraded remnants and individual oysters remain from what was once a continent-wide marine empire.

Fortunately, Australia’s shellfish ecosystems were rediscovered this century. Researchers used historical records including newspaper clippings to work out how many oysters were taken and where from.

Community interest grew as the scale of the loss became clear. Coastal communities could see the benefits of shellfish and wanted to bring them back.

It turns out the baby oysters are still there, bobbing around in the ocean, just looking for a place to live.

How Do You Build A Shellfish Reef?

There’s more than one way to rebuild shellfish reefs.

If you have earth-moving equipment and lots of money, you can start from the ground up.

Limestone rubble can provide the firm foundation for baby oysters to settle and grow.

That’s how Australia’s largest oyster reef restorations are built. Construction began in 2015.

Windara Reef now spans 20 hectares in the coastal waters of Gulf St Vincent, near Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.

Through a national campaign led by The Nature Conservancy, reefs have been built at 23 locations this way. They plan to hit a target of 60 reef ecosystems by 2030.

But if you don’t have cranes, trucks and the money it costs to build reefs from stone, there is another way. Baby oysters can simply settle and grow on the shells of old oysters, if they’re clumped together.

Fishing Filmmaker’s Bright Idea

When former filmmaker Robbie Porter of Wynnum in Queensland heard about a small reef restoration project in the Noosa River, he wanted to do something closer to home. He approached fish conservation non-profit OzFish Unlimited with an idea for a smaller-scale, hands-on approach to reef building.

He devised a structure people could use to build their own reefs – one that’s light enough to be carried to a boat and dropped over the side.

These wire mesh cages, called “robust oyster baskets”, are filled with sterile, recycled oyster shells. The structure ensures the shell to be held together for a few years, until the reef is established.

Once the baby oysters find a good place to settle, they cement themselves to it. As they grow, they fuse with other oysters. After two or three years, the wire cage rusts away and you’re left with an “oyster bommie”, which looks like some of the few remaining reefs that still exist in undeveloped areas.

The Moreton Bay project established a major recycling facility to collect used oyster shells from local restaurants and oyster shucking facilities. The shells are then sterilised in the sun, washed and sorted before being placed into the baskets.

As knowledge and support has grown, so has the ambition of these projects. Now reconstruction is taking place on an industrial scale. And Porter is now employed full time as OzFish Shellfish Revolution Senior Special Projects Officer.

After six years, the project has amassed more than 23,000 volunteer hours, collected more than 800,000kg of shell for processing and placed more than 7,000 oyster bommies into Moreton Bay. These can be found mainly around the Port of Brisbane but also at 11 other locations in Southeast Queensland.

The idea has caught on. Community and OzFish groups in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria have all started their own projects growing oysters in baskets. Two projects are also planned for New South Wales.

Volunteers making Robust Oyster Baskets for the shellfish reef restoration project. The basket is made from biodegradable wire mesh in a triangular shape, ready to be filled with shells.
Our ‘Robust Oyster Baskets’ provide secure habitat for baby oysters to settle, grow, and form reef before the cage erodes away. Robbie Porter, OzFish Unlimited

A Test Bed For Research

Academics and research students from various Australian universities have also been involved along the way. They have established scientific monitoring programs and laboratory experiments to examine progress. This knowledge helps validate restoration activities while allowing researchers to make new discoveries.

Researchers are monitoring shellfish health, dissecting the biodiversity of the baskets, studying how fish use these reefs, and working towards understanding the reef’s capacity to filter water.

Research in Victoria has also shown shell recycling is an effective way not only to collect material for restoring shellfish reefs, but also to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill – and even published a step-by-step guide to establishing shell recycling.

Shellfish Restoration At Scale

Australians love the coast and millions of people fish along it every year. This is a potential army of conservation volunteers. But many people don’t know these projects exist, or how to get involved.

The Moreton Bay Shellfish Reef Restoration project has enabled more than 600 people to engage in nature repair, while building a sense of community. This was a first of its type in the world and it won’t be the last. Projects are popping up all around Australia.

The model replicates the success of the Landcare movement, with local groups delivering local outcomes supported by expert advisers and academic researchers.

Bringing people together around a shared vision for a healthier future also has welcome side effects. Many of our volunteers have discovered a new sense of purpose and optimism.

By recreating our long-lost and almost forgotten shellfish reefs, we have rediscovered ourselves.

This story is part of Good Green News, a new series on community efforts to restore nature. Read the other stories here.The Conversation

Dominic McAfee, Postdoctoral researcher, marine ecology, University of Adelaide and Craig Copeland, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

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

Making merry: how we brought Melbourne’s Merri Creek back from pollution, neglect and weeds

Adam Calaitzis/Shutterstock
Judy BushThe University of Melbourne

I met with a friend for a walk beside Merri Creek, in inner Melbourne. She had lived in the area for a few years, and as we walked beside the creek, past trees, native grasses, a small wetland echoing with frog calls, I talked about how it had looked before we started the site’s restoration around 25 years ago. She stopped in her tracks, astonished. “But I thought it had always been like this!” she said.

As we grapple with bad environmental news every day, we need to tell stories of ecological restoration – to speak of what’s possible, and also what’s not.

Merri Creek is not particularly long – just 70km. But because it threads through Australia’s largest city, linking the ecosystems of the Great Dividing Range with those of Port Philip Bay, it provides habitat of regional significance. The creek’s headwaters lie in the Great Dividing Range near Wallan. It flows through Melbourne’s northern suburbs to join Birrarung/Yarra River just upstream from Dights Falls in the inner city. Its waters flow between rocky escarpment walls, through basalt plains clothed in native grasslands, and across a rocky creek bed.

painting of merri creek and first nations groups from 19th century
First Nations people fishing and camping on Merri Creek in the 1860s. Charles Troedel (1864), Souvenir Views of Melbourne and Victorian Scenery

From Fishing Grounds To Industrial Sewer

This is Wurundjeri Country. The region’s Traditional Custodians, the Wurundjeri, have cared for this Country for millennia, and their Custodianship continues. At the time of colonisation, the waterway was rich with biodiversity – woodlands, grasslands, billabongs and wetlands. The landscape was a cultural artefact, created and maintained by burning, digging, tending and harvesting.

Colonisation saw displacement, dispossession and disruption to Wurundjeri methods. As Melbourne grew, the creek’s fate worsened. Factories along its path dumped waste directly into its waters, while the sealed surfaces of the city caused flash flooding and washed litter into the water.

By the 1970s, the creek was weed-infested, polluted and threatened with further destruction from proposals to extend freeways and build culverts. Plans to connect the Hume Highway to the Eastern Freeway at Dights Falls would have completely obliterated the creek.

The Beginning Of Restoration

It was these proposals that led people and communities to seek first to protect and then to restore the creek.

At first, these efforts were small. Friends groups and local citizen groups formed along the creek. In 1976, they came together with eight local councils to form the Merri Creek Coordinating Committee.

As interest and activity along the creek grew, the individual friends groups came together in 1989 to form Friends of Merri Creek, while the coordinating committee resolved to establish the Merri Creek Management Committee as an incorporated association of councils, the Friends of Merri Creek, Melbourne Water and the Victorian Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This coordinated approach gave the committee more resources, allowing it to employ a revegetation team and focus on ecological restoration. This was pioneering work in Australia.

The team worked to remove weeds such as prickly pear, African boxthorn, Chilean needle grass and serrated tussock, replacing them with tubestock grown from locally collected seeds and cuttings of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees.

Some areas along the creek required more drastic action, such as earthworks to restore the creek bank’s profile where rubbish dumping and building waste had destroyed the creek’s form.

Volunteers and workers worked to restore wetlands away from the main channel to create habitat for pollution-sensitive frogs and aquatic insects such as damselflies. These creatures cannot survive the still-polluted water of Merri Creek’s main channel.

Much restoration work relied on community involvement, with planting days organised up and down the creek so local residents could contribute to its restoration.

Today, the members of the committee are the six local governments covering its catchment, Friends of Merri Creek and the Wallan Environment Group.

Why Has This Partnership Endured?

Efforts to restore Merri Creek have been largely successful – and have gone the distance. Why? There are several important reasons, as I have explored in my research.

For one, the management committee and the friends groups work in partnership, and often take complementary roles in protecting and advocating for the creek.

As volunteers, the Friends of Merri Creek take an active and vocal role in organising on-ground volunteer activities, monitoring biodiversity to contribute to citizen science efforts and acting politically by advocating and writing submissions to planning and decision-making processes.

kangaroo grass
Kangaroo grass is the dominant species of Melbourne’s Western Basalt Plains. It’s returning to the creek as grasslands are restored. Judy BushCC BY-NC-ND

As an incorporated association, Merri Creek Management Committee employs skilled professionals such as the revegetation team, works with governments and agencies, and undertakes strategic planning and research.

Both the committee and the Friends have built links with the Wurundjeri’s Narrap natural resources team, as part of efforts to centre care for Country. They have both worked to build local connections and a sense of stewardship for communities near the creek, through community organising and collective action such as on-ground activities, planning and advocacy.

The result is palpable. If you go for a walk along Merri Creek these days, it’s hard to reconcile the reality now with its former life as an industrial sewer.

Frogs, birds, snakes, eels and insects are returning to the creek and the newly created wetlands. It’s even possible to glimpse a swamp wallaby, 5km from the heart of Melbourne. Locals show their love of the creek through painting, poetry and daily visits.

Job done? Not quite. There are always threats, ranging from design and construction of new suburbs in the creek’s northern reaches to inner-suburban dense development close to its banks. Floods bring litter and weed seeds directly into the creek’s environment. And industrial pollution flowing down drains or illegal clearing of vegetation require us to maintain active stewardship. Pollution in the creek’s sediments, including heavy metals, means true restoration is a long-term endeavour.

Merri Creek is a peaceful place, an exciting place, a meditative place, a thriving place, a cultural place connecting to Wurundjeri custodianship and continuing care for Country, a place full of life, wonder and joy.

This story is part of Good Green News, a new series on community efforts to restore nature. Read the other stories here.The Conversation

Judy Bush, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning, The University of Melbourne

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

This group rid one Australian river of its privet problem – and strengthened community along the way

Lekali Studio/Shutterstock
Sonia GrahamUniversity of Wollongong

Privet is a popular garden hedge. It grows quickly and responds well to being pruned. But in natural areas, privet is a problem.

Like 72% of weeds in Australia, privet escaped from our gardens. Now it wreaks havoc on natural ecosystems. Across south-east Queensland and eastern New South Wales, privet thrives along waterways and rainforest areas. It spreads rapidly and establishes a thick canopy that crowds out native plants.

Small-leaved privet attracted much public attention in the late 1990s and was nominated as a “weed of national significance”. Although the nomination was unsuccessful, the damage done by privet has spurred multiple community groups into action.

Deua Rivercare is one such group. These volunteers have been controlling small-leaved and broad-leaved privet and other weeds along a 42 kilometre stretch of river for 20 years. How have they gone the distance? By making it about more than just the weeds.

deua river valley
The Deua River is idyllic – but it takes work to keep it free from woody weeds. Grahamec/WikipediaCC BY-NC-ND

The Beginnings Of Deua Rivercare

The Deua River has long held cultural significance and is known for its beauty.

Located a few kilometres inland from Moruya, on the New South Wales south coast, the river divides a national park and state forest. It’s the main source of drinking water for the Eurobodalla region – and serves as excellent platypus habitat.

For years, residents of the Deua Valley paid little attention to weeds. Like most people, they experienced a phenomenon known as “plant blindness”. That is, even those passionate about protecting the bush found it hard to differentiate between native and introduced plants and couldn’t see the damage done by weeds.

That changed in the early 2000s, when a new resident raised concerns about the spread of privet up and down the river. With the help of the local council, they started Deua Rivercare.

privet bush
Broad-leaved privet pushes out native trees and shrubs. John Tann/WikipediaCC BY-NC-ND

Keys To Success

The group began by developing a clear goal: improve and protect the Deua River by controlling habitat-changing weeds.

This goal focused community attention on the much-loved river and limited activities to the worst weeds, such as privet, cassia and wild tobacco.

The Rivercare group worked closely with the local council and won environmental grants so they could pay contractors to remove weeds in hard-to-reach places.

Having a clear goal and sufficient funding is important for a community group. But my research has found these alone aren’t enough to build and sustain action. What matters is structure and social connection.

For Deua Rivercare, it took years and the commitment of another long-term resident to find the right balance between working towards environmental outcomes and providing social benefits.

First, working bees became regular. The group chose to meet on the first Saturday of each month, advertised through a letterbox drop and a roadside sign. Knowing when working bees would be made it easier for residents to attend.

Second, working bees became about more than controlling weeds. Adding a morning tea to the end of each event gave residents a reason to chat, connect and reflect on what they had achieved. Over time, this social aspect has been critical to drawing new residents to the group, and keeping long-term members engaged.

Third, group members visited every landholder in the valley and invited them to join the group. The coordinator made it clear that everyone’s contribution would be valued, no matter how big or small. The visits also helped identify who needed help with weeds and plan where future working bees would be held.

Monitoring of the riverbank condition by kayak has shown where weed control has been most effective and where further work is needed.

Over time, the group has demonstrated significant ecological benefits, having reduced “woody weeds” including privet by 90%.

The Hidden Social Benefits Of Removing Privet

The social connections built by Deua Rivercare helped helped residents endure the Black Summer bushfires as well as the subsequent floods and landslips.

When the Clyde Mountain fire swept through the Deua Valley in January 2020, group members who lived in Moruya provided shelter to those who had fled their homes.

After the fires, the group cleared burned out cars, replanted native vegetation and pulled out new weeds which sprang up afterwards.

They have also provided much needed social support. As one respondent told me:

We don’t make a point of saying, “Oh, we’ll go and have a cup of coffee.” We say: “Let’s go weeding.” So, we weed… And sometimes there’s tears about something halfway through the bush, and they’ll tell you something that’s been worrying them… It’s a comforting time as well

4 Key Lessons

Deua Rivercare has lasted two decades because of four key factors:

1. Leadership is shared

The roles of recruitment, grant writing and communication are distributed among those who are most keen and capable.

Having someone who is highly knowledgeable about plants is also important. This kind of expertise draws others in, offering people a way to learn more about the environment and overcome plant blindness.

2. A clear goal

Groups need a focused and an achievable goal. For Deua Rivercare this began small, before expanding over time to cover a 42 kilometre stretch of river. Other groups may focus on smaller areas.

What is achievable depends on the nature of the weed problem, funding and the number of people available to help.

3. Regular and strategic activities

This approach divides the focus area into smaller management zones. Areas need to be small enough that they can be effectively controlled through working bees or contractor efforts.

It’s crucial the group does monitoring to demonstrate progress and keep the motivation going.

4. Social connection is crucial

Ultimately, environmental success depends on social connections. So if you want to start a new group, you need to think about what your volunteers get out of it – as much as how nature will benefit.

This story is part of Good Green News, a new series on community efforts to restore nature. Read the other stories here.The Conversation

Sonia Graham, DECRA Fellow, University of Wollongong

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

Heat is coming for our crops. We have to make them ready

Tanja Esser/Shutterstock
Mohan SinghThe University of Melbourne and Prem BhallaThe University of Melbourne

Australia’s vital agriculture sector will be hit hard by steadily rising global temperatures. Our climate is already prone to droughts and floods. Climate change is expected to supercharge this, causing sudden flash droughts, changing rainfall patterns and intense flooding rains. Farm profits fell 23% in the 20 years to 2020, and the trend is expected to continue.

Unchecked, climate change will make it harder to produce food on a large scale. We get over 40% of our calories from just three plants: wheat, rice and corn. Climate change poses very real risks to these plants, with recent research suggesting the potential for synchronised crop failures.

While we have long modified our crops to repel pests or increase yields, until now, no commercial crop has been designed to tolerate heat. We are working on this problem by trying to make soybean plants able to tolerate the extreme weather of a hotter world.

What Threat Does Climate Change Pose To Our Food?

By 2050, food production must increase by 60% in order to feed the 9.8 billion people projected to be on the planet, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.

Every 1°C increase in temperature during cropping seasons is linked to a 10% drop in rice yield. A temperature rise of 1°C could lead to a 6.4% drop in wheat yields worldwide. That’s as if we took a major crop exporter like Ukraine (6% of traded crops before the war) out of the equation.

Plants, unlike animals, cannot seek refuge from heat. The only solution is to make them better able to tolerate what is to come.

These events are already arriving. In April 2022, farmers in India’s Punjab state lost over half of their wheat harvest to a scorching heatwave. This month, scorching temperatures in Southeast Asia are savaging crops.

What Happens To Plants When They Face Extreme Heat?

Plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugary food. When it’s too hot, this process gets harder.

More heat forces plants to evaporate water to cool themselves. If a plant loses too much water, its leaves wilt and its growth stalls. A plant’s solar panels – the leaves – cannot capture sunlight when wilted. No water, no energy to make the fruit or grain we want to eat. When the air temperature hits 50°C, photosynthesis shuts down.

Hotter temperatures can make it harder for plants to produce pollen and seeds, and can make it flower earlier. Heat weakens a plant, leaving it more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

wilted potato plants
Heat hits plants in a number of different ways. Brita Seifert/Shutterstock

Our seed crops – from rice to wheat to soybeans – rely on sexual reproduction. The plants have to be fertilised (pollinated by bees and flies, for instance) to produce a good yield.

If a heatwave strikes during the fertilisation period, plants find it harder to set their seeds and the farmer’s yield drops. Worse, high temperatures cause sterile pollen, which slashes the number of seeds a plant can produce. Pollinators such as bees are also finding it hard to adapt to the heat.

Preparing Our Crops

To give our crops the best chance, we will have to use genetic modification techniques. While these have often been controversial, they are our best shot in responding to the threat.

The reason is genetic modification gives us more precise control over a plant’s genome than the traditional method of breeding for specific traits. It’s also much faster as we can isolate genes from one organism and transfer it to another without sexual reproduction. So while we can’t cross sunflowers with wheat using sexual reproduction, we can take sunflower genes and transfer them to wheat.

For decades, we’ve relied on genetically modified versions of some of our most important food and fibre crops. Nearly 80% of soybeans worldwide have been genetically modified to boost yield and make them more nutritious. Genetically modified canola accounts for more than 90% of production in Canada and the United States, while about 20% of the canola grown in Australia is genetically modified. But until now, we’ve had no commercially adopted crops modified to resist heat.

One way to do this is to search for heat tolerant plants and transfer their prowess to our crops. Some plants are remarkably heat tolerant, such as the living fossil welwitschia mirabilis, which can survive in the Namibian desert with almost zero rainfall.

Heat Shock And Heat Sensors

Plant cells possess heat-shock proteins, just as ours do. These help plants survive heat by protecting the protein-folding process in other proteins. If heat-shock proteins weren’t there, vital proteins would unfold rather than fold into the right shape for the job.

We can try to strengthen how these existing heat-shock proteins function, so the cells can keep functioning in hotter conditions.

We can also tweak the behaviour of genes acting as heat sensors. These genes operate as master switches, controlling a cell’s response to heat by summoning protective heat shock proteins and antioxidants.

In our laboratory, we have modified soybean plants by strengthening these heat-sensing master switch genes. Soybean plants expressing higher levels of this gene had significant increases in protection. Under short, intense heatwave conditions, these modified plants wilted less, produced more viable pollen, had fewer structural deformities, and had better yields under heat stress conditions.

We may have to urgently modify our crops to survive the new climate. Kikujiarm/Shutterstock

What About Wheat?

While we have become accustomed to genetically modified soybeans, we have not yet come to terms with the need to alter wheat – the single most important staple crop.

Heatwaves pose a similar problem for wheat, but community acceptance is not there. The pushback against modified wheat has been very strong.

In the lab, researchers in universities and agricultural companies have had success in modifying wheat to tolerate more heat. But none of these changes have made it into crops planted in fields.

If we are to feed a growing population on a hotter planet, this will have to change. The Conversation

Mohan Singh, Professor of Agri-Food Biotechnology, School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences at the University of Melbourne., The University of Melbourne and Prem Bhalla, Professor of Crop Biotechnology, The University of Melbourne

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

Supercharged thunderstorms: have we underestimated how climate change drives extreme rain and floods?

Andrew DowdyThe University of MelbourneConrad WaskoUniversity of SydneyJennifer CattoUniversity of Exeter, and Seth WestraUniversity of Adelaide

In media articles about unprecedented flooding, you’ll often come across the statement that for every 1°C of warming, the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture.

This figure comes from research undertaken by the French engineer Sadi Carnot and published 200 years ago this year.

We now know there’s more to the story. Yes, a hotter atmosphere has the capacity to hold more moisture. But the condensation of water vapour to make rain droplets releases heat. This, in turn, can fuel stronger convection in thunderstorms, which can then dump substantially more rain.

This means that the intensity of extreme rainfall could increase by much more than 7% per degree of warming. What we’re seeing is that thunderstorms can likely dump about double or triple that rate – around 14–21% more rain for each degree of warming.

Thunderstorms are a major cause of extreme flooding around the world, contributing to Brazil’s disastrous floods, which have submerged hundreds of towns, and Dubai’s flooded airport and roads.

For Australia, we helped develop a comprehensive review of the latest climate science to guide preparedness for future floods. This showed the increase per degree of global warming was about 7–28% for hourly or shorter duration extreme rain, and 2–15% for daily or longer extreme rain. This is much higher than figures in the existing flood planning standards recommending a general increase of 5% per degree of warming.

Why Are Thunderstorms Important For Extreme Rain?

For thunderstorms to form, you need ingredients such as moisture in the air and a large temperature difference between lower and higher air masses to create instability.

We typically associate thunderstorms with intense localised rain over a short period. What we’re seeing now, though, is a shift towards more intense thunderstorm downpours, particularly for short periods.

Extreme rain events are also more likely when thunderstorms form in combination with other weather systems, such as east coast lows, intense low pressure systems near eastern Australia. The record floods which hit Lismore in February 2022 and claimed the lives of many people came from extreme rain over many days, which came in part from severe thunderstorms in combination with an east coast low.

Climate Change Pumps Up Extreme Flood Risk Factors

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that:

frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land areas for which observational data are sufficient for trend analysis (high confidence), and human-induced climate change is likely the main driver

This increase is particularly clear in short-duration extreme rains, such as those caused by thunderstorms.

Why? In part, it’s because of the 7% figure – warmer air is able to hold more water vapour.

But that doesn’t explain everything. There’s something else going on. Condensation produces heat. So as water vapour turns into droplets, more heat becomes available, and hot air rises by convection. In thunderstorms, more heat fuels stronger convection, where warm, moisture-laden air is driven up high.

This explains why thunderstorms can now drive such extreme rainfall in our warming world. As water vapour condenses to make rain, it also makes heat, supercharging storms.

We are seeing these very rapid rates of rainfall increase in recent decades in Australia.

Daily rainfall associated with thunderstorms has increased much more than the 7% figure would suggest – about 2-3 times more.

Hourly rainfall extremes have also increased in intensity at similar rates.

What about very sudden, extreme rains? Here, the rate of increase could potentially be even larger. One recent study examined extreme rain for periods shorter than one hour near Sydney, suggesting about a 40% increase or more over the past 20 years.

Rapid trends in extreme rainfall intensity are also clear in other lines of evidence, such as fine-resolution modelling.

To model complex climate systems, we need the grunt of supercomputers. But even so, many of our models for climate projections don’t drill down to grid resolutions smaller than about 100 kilometres.

While this can work well for large-scale climate modelling, it’s not suitable for directly simulating thunderstorms. That’s because the convection processes needed to make thunderstorms form happen on much smaller scales than this.

There’s now a concerted effort underway to perform more model simulations at very fine scales, so we can improve the modelling of convection.

Recent results from these very fine scale models for Europe suggest convection will play a more important role in triggering extreme rainfall including in combined storms, such as thunderstorms mingling with low pressure systems and other combinations.

This matches Australian observations, with a trend towards increased rain from thunderstorms combining with other storm types such as cold fronts and cyclones (including low-pressure systems in southern Australia).

flooded river Sydney
Days of heavy rain triggered floods on the Hawkesbury River in 2021. Leah-Anne Thompson/Shutterstock

Does This Change How We Plan For Floods?

The evidence for supercharged thunderstorm rainfall has grown in recent years.

Australia’s current flood guidance recommendations, which influence how infrastructure projects have been built, are based on extreme rain increasing by just 5% for each degree of warming.

Our research review has shown the real figure is substantially higher.

This means roads, bridges, tunnels built for the 5% figure may not be ready to deal with extreme rain we are already seeing from supercharged thunderstorms.

While Australia has become more conscious of links between climate change and bushfires, studies show we are less likely to link climate change and more intense storms and floods.

This will have to change. We still face some uncertainties in precisely linking climate change to a single extreme rain event. But the bigger picture is now very clear: a hotter world is likely one with higher risk of extreme floods, often driven by extreme rain from supercharged thunderstorms.

So what should we do? The first step is to take climate change influences on storms and flood risk as seriously as we now do for bushfires.

The next is to embed the best available evidence in how we plan for these future storms and floods.

We have already loaded the dice for more extreme floods, due to existing human-caused climate change and more to come, unless we can quickly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.The Conversation

Andrew Dowdy, Principal Research Scientist in Extreme Weather, The University of MelbourneConrad Wasko, ARC DECRA Fellow in Hydrology, University of SydneyJennifer Catto, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Exeter, and Seth Westra, Hydrologist, University of Adelaide

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

Should we fight climate change by re-engineering life itself?

Michael Schiffer / Unsplash
Jonathan SymonsMacquarie UniversityJacqueline DalziellUniversity of Sydney, and Thom DixonMacquarie University

Life has transformed our world over billions of years, turning a dead rock into the lush, fertile planet we know today. But human activity is currently transforming Earth again, this time by releasing greenhouse gases that are driving dramatic changes in our climate.

What if we could harness the power of living organisms to help rein in climate change? The field of “engineering biology”, which uses genetic technology to engineer biological tools for solving specific problems, may be able to help.

Perhaps the most dramatic success to date of this nascent field is the mRNA vaccines that helped us weather the COVID pandemic. But engineering biology has enormous potential not only to help us adapt to climate change, but also to limit warming.

In our latest paper in Nature Communications, we reviewed some of the many ways engineering biology can aid the fight against climate change – and how governments and policy makers can make sure humanity reaps the benefits of the technology.

Could Engineering Biology Help Fight Climate Change?

We identified four ways engineering biology might help to mitigate climate change.

The first is finding better ways to make synthetic fuels that can directly replace fossil fuels. Many existing synthetic fuels are made from high-value crops such as corn and soybeans that might otherwise be used for food, so the fuels are expensive.

Some engineering biology research explores ways to make synthetic fuel from agricultural waste. These fuels could be cheaper and greener, and so might help speed up decarbonisation.

For example, it would be much faster for airlines to decarbonise their existing fleets by switching to synthetic zero-carbon jet fuels, rather than waiting to replace their aircraft with yet-to-be-developed planes running on hydrogen or batteries.

Photo of a passenger jet against a cloudy sky.
Finding a way to make carbon-neutral jet fuel would be a faster way to decarbonise air travel than waiting for electric planes to be developed. Kevin Woblick / Unsplash

The second is developing cost-effective ways to capture greenhouse emissions (from industrial facilities, construction and agriculture) and then use this waste for “biomanufacturing” valuable products (such as industrial chemicals or biofuels).

The third is replacing emissions-intensive production methods. For example, several companies are already using “precision fermentation” to produce synthetic milk that avoids the dairy industry’s methane emissions. Other companies have produced microbes which promise to fix nitrogen in soil, and so help reduce use of fertilisers produced from fossil fuels.

Finally, the fourth is directly capturing greenhouse gases from the air. Bacteria engineered to consume atmospheric carbon, or plants bred to sequester more carbon in their roots, could in theory help reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Beyond the technological and economic barriers, it’s unclear whether these ideas will ever gain a social license. Given the “science fiction-like” character of some of these emerging climate responses it’s essential that researchers be transparent and responsive to public attitudes.

Fact Or Science Fiction?

Just how realistic are these ideas? Bringing a new product to market takes time, money and careful research.

Take solar power, for example. The first solar cell was created in the 1880s, and solar panels were installed on the White House roof in 1979, but it took many more decades of government support before solar power became a cost-competitive source of electricity.

Photo of an array of solar panels under a blue sky.
It took decades of government support before solar panel technology became a viable competitor for fossil fuel electricity generation. Lincoln Electric Systems / Unsplash

The engineering biology sector is currently flooded with investor capital. However, the companies and projects attracting most investment are those with the greatest commercial value – typically in the medical, pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural sectors.

By contrast, applications whose primary benefit is to reduce greenhouse emissions are unlikely to attract much private investment. For example, synthetic jet fuel is currently much more expensive than traditional jet fuel, so there’s no rush of private investors seeking to support its commercialisation.

Government (or philanthropic) support of some kind will be needed to nurture most climate-friendly applications through the slow process of development and commercialisation.

Back To Picking Winners?

Which engineering biology applications deserve governments’ assistance? Right now, it’s mostly too early to tell.

Policymakers will need to continually assess the social and technical merits of proposed engineering biology applications.

If engineering biology is to play a significant role in fighting climate change, policymakers will need to engage with it skilfully over time.

We argue government support should include five elements.

First, continued funding for the basic scientific research that generates new knowledge, and new potential mitigation tools.

Second, public deliberation on engineering biology applications. Some new products – such as precision-fermented synthetic milk – might gain acceptance over time even if they at first seem unattractive. Others might never gain support. For this public deliberation to reflect the interests of all humanity, low- and middle-income countries will need to gain expertise in engineering biology.

Photo of a glass and a bottle of milk on a bench.
Synthetic milk, produced by fermentation with customised yeast, may be an emissions-friendly way of creating dairy products. Photoongraphy / Shutterstock

Third, regulations should be aligned with public interest. Governments should be alert to the possibility of existing industries trying to use regulations to lock out new competitors. For instance, we may see efforts from animal-based agricultural producers to restrict who can use words like “milk” and “sausage” or to ban lab-grown meat completely.

Fourth, support commercialisation and scale-up of promising technologies whose primary benefit is reducing greenhouse emissions. Governments might either fund this work directly or create other incentives – such as carbon pricing, tax credits or environmental regulations – that make private investment profitable.

Fifth, long-term procurement policies should be considered where large-scale deployment is needed to achieve climate goals. For example, the US Inflation Reduction Act provides unlimited tax credits to support direct air capture. While these incentives weren’t designed with engineering biology in mind, they are technologically neutral and so might well support it.

A Bioengineered Future In Australia?

Governments are now involved in a global race to position their countries as leaders in the emerging green economy. Australia’s proposed “future made in Australia” legislation is just one example.

Other governments have specific plans for engineering biology. For example, the United Kingdom committed £2 billion (A$3.8 billion) last year to an engineering biology strategy, while the US CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 called for the creation of a National Engineering Biology Research and Development Initiative.

If such interventions are to be economically and ecologically successful, they will need to work with still-developing technology.

Can policymakers work with this kind of uncertainty? One approach is to develop sophisticated assessments of the potential of different technologies and then invest in a diverse portfolio, knowing many of their bets will fail. Or, they might create technology-neutral instruments, such as tax credits and reverse auctions, and allow private industry to try to pick winners.

Engineering biology promises to contribute to a major step up in climate mitigation. Whether it lives up to this promise will depend on both public and policymakers’ support. Given just how high the stakes are, there’s work for all of us to do in reckoning with this technology’s potential.The Conversation

Jonathan Symons, Macquarie School of Social Sciences, Macquarie UniversityJacqueline Dalziell, Lecturer of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney, and Thom Dixon, PhD Candidate, International Relations, Macquarie University

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


Sydney Northern Beaches Water Polo Club (Breakers) Have Had A Phenomenal Season: 7 Local Athletes Selected For The Australian Teams + AOC Names Womens' Water Polo Team For Paris 2024: Three Local Athletes Selected

The Sydney Northern Beaches Water Polo Club (Breakers) have been having a phenomenal season.

Their W16A team won a nail biting grand final in a penalty shootout against Sydney University to become State Champions in April. The girls were Metro Champs, State Champs and 2nd at Nationals! Well done girls, coach Stefano and manager Carly.

The SNBB Water Polo M16s team have achieved the trifecta, beating Hunter 11-5 in the Gold Medal match at State Champs to round out the perfect season.

They are now Metro Champs, State Champs and Nationals Champions.

Congratulations to the boys, coach Harley and manager Sean.

The M18 Team won Bronze at the 2024 Junior State Champions

In April Water Polo NSW hosted the 2024 NSW Junior State Championships across 9 days at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. The Water Polo NSW (WPNSW) event played host to 74 Teams, approximately 880 athletes, 280 games and included approximately 2,500 spectators. 

Water Polo NSW stated:

''We were excited to see such a vibrancy of activity and competition throughout the tournament.''

Sydney Northern Beaches Water Polo W16A team 2024. Photo; Water Polo NSW

Sydney Northern Beaches Water Polo M16s team 2024. Photo; Water Polo NSW

Sydney Northern Beaches Water Polo M18 team 2024. Photo; Water Polo NSW

During the past few days the club gave a HUGE Congratulations to the 7 Breakers Athletes that have been selected into the Australian Teams competing in Europe and NZ in June and July this year:

16&U Men's Australian World Aquatics Championship Tour - Alex Woolfe, Jett Semmens and Lachie Davies. These players will be travelling from 1st-26th June to Serbia, Turkey  and then onto Malta to compete in the 16&U Men's World Championships.

Bringing together the most promising 16&U athletes from around the world, the World Championships will take place in Malta from June 18-24.

Head Coach of the Australian 16&U Men John Fox is excited to see the talented team compete in Europe.

“It’s a really exciting team that’s been selected based on form displayed by the boys over the last 12 months, including the international tours to Europe and New Zealand, their performances at the Australian Youth Water Polo Championships and the subsequent training camps we’ve had,” said Fox.

“We have a really well balanced team on both sides of the pool. We’ve got some really strong offensive players but we’ve also got some fantastic defensive talents that will fit into our defensive systems really well.

“Congratulations to all the boys selected, not only is this a fantastic opportunity but it’s also a great stepping stone on their pathways towards future (Ord Minnett Aussie) Sharks representation,” he said.

16&U Women's Australian World Aquatics Championship Tour - Zara Cooke and Alannah Paul

The World Aquatics Women’s U16 Water Polo Championships will be held in Manisa, Turkey from June 28 - July 4 2024.

A second team of athletes has been selected to take part in a tour to New Zealand, guided by coaches Kristina Sherer and four-time Olympian Bron Knox.

16&U Girls Head Coach Georgina Kovacs-Muller said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with this group of athletes.

“Thank you to the parents, Daily Training Environment coaches and support networks for helping us to develop this age group.

“The selection process was exciting and hard at the same time, the age group is strong across the board.

“This is a very young age to have a World Championships, and for most of the athletes it will be their first international event. It is an exciting journey that all of these athletes are about to embark on, and we hope that by providing these opportunities, they'll cherish and maximise learnings for the future.

“It was great to see that many athletes that started in this age group two years ago, went on to represent Australia again, selected in the 18&U World Championships and New Zealand Tours earlier this week.

“Congratulations to all the athletes selected, I know that they will represent Australia with pride both in and out of the pool,” she said.

18&U Women's Australian NZ Tour Sophia Cooper will travel to New Zealand in July to compete, with games set to take place against 21&U teams at the New Zealand Nationals as well as the 19&U New Zealand National squad.

The New Zealand Tour, taking place in July, will provide the chosen squad with a great opportunity to continue developing, with games set to take place against 21&U teams at the New Zealand Nationals as well as the 19&U New Zealand National squad.

Head Coach of the Australian 18&U Women Rowie Webster said she’s looking forward to continuing to work with the teams, and offered her congratulations to the athletes selected in both the World Championships and NZ tour teams.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for athletes at this age to get a chance to play on the world stage, under pressure,” Webster said.

“We get so used to playing at home in Australia, but to go abroad and get experience there, with different styles of the game and open up their mind, it’s really exciting.

“At the World Championships we want to go and do our best, execute our systems and play our game. 

“I’ve had this group of athletes for a short amount of time, but I hope that we can impact their water polo career, and continue their love for the game, but also challenge them to put a result on the scoreboard for Team Australia,” she said.

16&U Men's Australian NZ Tour - Kosta Tsiaousis will travel with the team to New Zealand to compete.

15 athletes have been selected for the New Zealand tour which will take place from July 7-15.

16&U Boys Head Coach John Fox offered his congratulations to those athletes selected.

“This team has been selected based on form displayed by the boys over the last 12 months, their performances at the Australian Youth Water Polo Championships and the subsequent training camps we’ve had,” said Fox.

“Congratulations to all the boys selected,  this a fantastic opportunity and a great stepping stone on their pathways towards future (Ord Minnett Aussie) Sharks representation,” he said.

About the Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers

The Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers, your home for Water Polo in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. The club is committed to providing high-quality Water Polo programs for athletes of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to experienced players.

Whether you're looking to develop your skills, compete at a high level, or simply have fun and stay active, SNBBWPC have a program that's right for you. The Junior programs are designed to help young players learn the fundamentals of the game and develop a love for the sport, while the Senior programs offer competitive opportunities for players of all levels.

At SNB Breakers, we believe in the power of sports to bring people together and build strong communities. That's why we're committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members. We are incredibly fortunate to have a dedicated team of experienced coaches who are committed to helping our young players achieve their full potential. Each coach brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our club, ensuring that every child receives the best possible guidance in their Water Polo journey. 

We're also proud to be a valued member of the local water polo community, and we work closely with other clubs and organisations to promote the sport and grow the game. Whether you're a new player, a seasoned veteran, or just looking for a fun and challenging way to stay active, we invite you to join us at SNB Breakers and become part of our Water Polo family.

SNB Water Polo Club is committed to fostering the growth and advancement of water polo by providing a supportive and inclusive environment for athletes of all ages and skill levels. Our mission is to cultivate a passion for the sport, build strong teamwork and sportsmanship, and instil values of dedication, discipline, and respect. Through comprehensive coaching and structured training programs, we aim to produce competitive and well-rounded athletes who can excel both in the pool and in life.

Our Mission is to:

  • Provide an opportunity for young athletes to participate in a Community Club in a safe, friendly and family oriented environment.
  • To help young players learn the fundamentals of the game and develop a love for the sport.
  • Develop young Athletes through a variety of training programs overseen by qualified coaching staff.
  • To offer competitive opportunities for players of all levels.
  • Strive to maintain our reputation as a well-respected club, with success both in and out of the pool.
  • Encourage community involvement through events, fundraising activities and sponsorship and be recognised as a leading contributor to the spirit of the SNB Water Polo community.
  • Support the SNB values of fairness, safety, innovation, health and wellbeing.
  • To always operate the club professionally, in a responsible manner and within the competition’s rules and regulations.
  • To exercise tolerance to others, and to always act fairly, honestly and respectfully.
  • And most of all encourage all our members to have fun while enjoying this fabulous sport we LOVE WATER POLO.

Find out more at:


Womens Water Polo Team For Paris 2024 Announced: Two Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers Included

In related news the 13-strong Aussie Stingers women’s water polo team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was announced on Thursday May 9 2024 at the Dawn Fraser Baths in Sydney and this includes three local girls.

Sienna Green, 19, of Mosman who has played for Sydney University as both her Junior and Senior clubs, is the youngest player chosen for the squad while Keesja Gofers is set to become the third Australian Stinger to compete in the Olympics as a mother.

The Aussie Stingers squad, announced by Australian Olympic Team’s Deputy Chef de Mission and hockey great Mark Knowles, will be led by 32-year-old Zoe Arancini, who will be making her third appearance at the Olympics along with Keesja Gofers.

The 34-year-old Gofers, now a mother of one-year-old daughter Teleri, will become the third Aussie Stinger to compete at the Olympics as a mother. Two-time Olympians Bronwyn Smith (nee Mayers) and Lea Yanitsas are the other two.

With Abby Andrews, Elle Armit, Bronte Halligan, Tilly Kearns and Gabi Palm all returning for their second Olympics, the Australian women’s water polo squad for the Paris Olympics boasts plenty of experience.

Two local girls, Manly's Bronte Halligan and Tilly Kearns who were both Junior members of the Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers, have already represented Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Meanwhile, Alice Williams, Sienna Hearn, Sienna Green, Genevieve Longman, Danijela Jackovich and Charlize Andrews will be making their Olympic debuts. Green, 19, is also set to become the youngest Aussie Stinger to compete at the Olympics.

Coached by Olympic bronze medallist Bec Rippon, the Stingers have a string of recent top-5 global finishes, including fifth at Tokyo 2020 and fourth at last year’s World Championships.

“I’m really proud of the team that has been selected,” head coach Bec Rippon said after team selection. “I think you can expect the Stingers to have the attitude of going after everything, we are in Paris to be competitive and we’re there to chase a medal.”

Deputy Chef de Mission for the 2024 Australian Olympic Team and four-time Hockey Olympian Mark Knowles announced the team’s selection at the Dawn Fraser Baths, the home of Australia’s oldest water polo club the Balmain Tigers.

“Congratulations to each of the 13 athletes selected today, this is a fantastic achievement,” Mr Knowles said.

The women’s water polo competition at the 2024 Summer Games will be a 10-team tournament. It will be held at the Paris Aquatic Centre and the Paris La Defense Arena from July 27 to August 10.

For more information, please visit the AOC website.

Tilly's Story

Unlike many of her fellow players, it was not love at first sight – or touch – for Matilda 'Tilly' Kearns, when as a 13-year-old she jumped into the deep end of the water polo pool.

“At first I didn’t really like it because I didn’t really get it. I did it for four weeks and it was barely water polo, it was like bull-rush with a ball," she said of her first foray in the sport.

“I stopped playing it but then came back the next season, and because I was bigger than everyone I was better at it and started to like it from there,” Tilly said, of her 176cm frame.

Tilly joined the Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers (SNBB) club and came through the age groups and as soon as she made her first NSW state team, she was determined for Olympic glory.

A Water Polo high-performance camp in July 2018 fuelled that fire a little more.

Matilda 'Tilly' Kearns

Bronte's Story

What is it about rugby league Test footballers whose children excel in water polo? Bronte Halligan is the daughter of Kiwis and Canterbury-Bankstown goal-kicking legend Daryl Halligan; former Australian junior team member Jamie-Lee Lewis is the daughter of Kangaroos and Maroons legend Wally Lewis; while Sharks player Aidan Roach is the son of Kangaroos and Balmain icon Steve Roach.

“Maybe it's just the physicality and aggression in the sports that transfer, who knows,'' Bronte said when posed the question.

''I knew I wanted to be an athlete of some sort and represent my country when I watched dad play. It just motivates me even more.

''I can't kick a ball that well … But he definitely helps me on the mental side of things just to cope and make sure I'm always on top of things.”

Bronte Halligan 

Sienna's Story

When Sienna Green realised as a nine-year-old that water polo combined the two sports she loved, she was hooked.

“I started playing when I was nine because my parents and older brother played water polo,” she said. “It combined the other sports I played at the time of swimming and basketball and I instantly fell in love.

“I really enjoyed the physicality and strategy of the game and I just loved playing.”

After winning an Australian Water Polo League title with the University of Sydney Lions in 2021, Sienna captained the national under-18 team, before earning her first cap for the Australian women’s team, the Stingers, in 2022.

She made her debut with the Stingers against Canada in March of 2022. Sienna served as captain and was the highest goal-scorer of the Australian team at the 2022 FINA World Women's Youth Water Polo Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Following a successful US college season for UCLA in 2023, in which she shone not only as a central defender but also as an increasingly effective presence in attack – scoring 39 goals in 29 games – Sienna was selected in the Stingers’ 2024 world championships squad.

The 193cm utility played in all of the Stingers’ seven games, marking some of the world’s best attackers while scoring nine goals herself. Australia finished sixth at the Doha tournament.

Sienna earned particular praise from commentators when she scored two goals in quick succession in a thrilling 9-10 quarter-final loss to reigning Olympic champions USA.

NSW Institute of Sport water polo program head coach Jacki Northam has described Sienna as “a player to watch … ready to unleash on the world”.

Sienna Green

Bios  and bio photos: AOC


Tyler, Molly, Jack And Ethan Officially Qualify For Surfing At Paris 2024

May 8th, 2024: Surfing Australia has welcomed the surfing team selection for Paris 2024, after the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced Tyler Wright, Molly Picklum, Jack Robinson and Ethan Ewing have now officially qualified for the Games.

All four surfers provisionally qualified for Paris by finishing in the World Surf League (WSL) top five end of season rankings in 2023, fulfilling the additional qualification element by participating in Australia’s campaign at the 2024 World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico.

The team has an incredible record of success on the global stage, with Wright a two-time World Champion, and Picklum a two-time Championship Tour (CT) event winner. Robinson has seven CT event wins, including at the Olympic venue in Tahiti last year and last month’s Margaret River Pro, while Ewing is a two-time CT event winner, finishing last year’s WSL in second overall.

Surfing made it into the Olympic program for the Tokyo 2020 Games, where Owen Wright won the bronze medal for Australia, and the sport will return for Paris 2024 and be held at Teahupo'o in Tahiti.

The Teahupo’o venue makes Olympic history as the farthest distance an Olympic event will be held from the host city – with Tahiti to Paris around 100 kilometres further than Melbourne to Stockholm, which hosted the 1956 Olympic equestrian events due to quarantine challenges.

Surfing Australia High Performance Director, Kate Wilcomes, said: "We're excited to officially announce the Irukandjis team made up of Tyler, Molly, Jack and Ethan. They are all incredibly talented athletes, and we are beyond proud to have them represent Australia.

"Our athletes bring not only their skill but also respect for the wave, the local people and their culture. I believe this passion and connection to the location is important not only to our team’s success but also to the legacy that follows after the Games. I can’t wait to see them in the green and gold."

Australian Olympic team Chef de Mission, Anna Meares, said: "Congratulations to these world-class athletes on their selection to the Australian Olympic Team.

"Surfing has been such an incredible addition to the Olympic program. The Olympic movement, athletes and fans have enjoyed welcoming our Australian surfers and the Aussie surfing community has embraced being part of the broader Olympic family.

"Tyler, Molly, Jack and Ethan have already shown they are among the best surfers in the world, and I know Aussie fans are going to be cheering them on in Tahiti in July. Congratulations as well to the team at Surfing Australia and the coaches, family members and supporters that have helped these four athletes achieve this Olympic milestone today."

2016 and 2017 World Champion Tyler continues the Wright family’s Olympic legacy, after brother Owen won Australia’s first Olympic medal in Tokyo.

"To see surfing in the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 was kind of surreal," Wright said.

"The Olympics for me is something I’ve sat down since I was young and just spent two weeks absolutely obsessing over the sport. To see my own sport there was kind of weird but so cool. I’m excited to see where it can go from here.

"Teahupo’o is a massive wave of consequence. It’s beautiful, it’s raw and it’s a wave where you don’t want to find out the consequences. You want to go in with a really humble and respectful approach to mother nature and what she produces.

"More than likely I’m going to be scared, but it’s being honest with that and sticking to what’s important for me in that opportunity, that’s all I can ask for myself.

Molly Picklum, a 21-year-old Central Coast surfer, is currently second on the WSL world rankings, with a growing reputation as a fearless surfer in big conditions.

"To be selected on the Australian Olympic team is an honour," Picklum said.

"Once I put this shirt on and talk about it, it’s becoming real. I still don’t think I understand the full impact.

"Tahiti is a pretty scary wave. Our surfing team is really strong and this team is ideal for this location – the boys and Tyler are such good barrel riders, and this wave is all about barrel riding. This team is definitely worthy of sitting on the edge of your seat and watching."

West Australian Jack Robinson knows what it takes to succeed in Tahiti, winning the 2023 Tahiti Pro at Teahupo’o.

"When I got selected it was a dream. Representing the Irukandjis, just really proud to represent your country," Robinson said.

"Teahupo’o is the heaviest wave in the world. It’s so gnarly, you just have to respect the wave every time you go out. It was really inspiring watching Owen [Wright], I just want to get to the Olympics first, once we’re there it will all unfold."

25-year-old Queenslander Ewing said it felt amazing to be officially selected for his debut Olympics.

"It has been a huge goal of mine since surfing got introduced to the Olympics, it’s an absolute honour to represent Australia. It’s really exciting, I feel more pressure because I’m not just surfing for myself, it’s for my teammates, and the people that have represented Australia before me but I love it, I’m super proud."

Today’s selection takes the selected Australian Olympic Team size to 64 of an expected final team of around 460 athletes.

For more information, please visit the AOC website.

The surfing competition window will run from 27 July to 5 August at Teahupo’o, located on the west shore of Tahiti.

Woody Point Yacht Club Members Historic 'Fitzroy' Returns To Cockatoo Island

The return of an early 20th Century ferry to Cockatoo Island / Wareamah not only brings its story full circle but also provides the Harbour Trust with a timely opportunity to preserve Australia's maritime heritage.

On Wednesday 24 April, the Harbour Trust took ownership of the Fitzroy ferry and relocated it Cockatoo Island from Pittwater, where it had been in private use for decades. Measuring 30 feet by 9 feet 8 inches (9.14 metres by 3 metres), the wooden vessel once played a vital role in the island's maritime operations.

Designed by prominent naval architect David Carment and constructed by Cockatoo Island Dockyard apprentices using spotted gum, it was used to ferry dockyard workers to and from the island during the period from 1928 to 1963.

Upon the ferry’s retirement, it passed into private ownership and was renamed Burgundy Belle and, later, Fitzroy. From this time, it resided in McCarrs creek Pittwater and underwent modifications.

Fitzroy was originally built with a large 2 stroke engine set further forward in the hull of the vessel. This engine was likely a Crossley diesel, with an exhaust point that exited through the roof. The engine was connected to two large gas canisters which were charged with compressed air and used to turn over and start the engine. This was called direct air start. To reverse the vessel, the engine was stopped and run in reverse. The engine further included a keel cooling system, with coolant circulated through a system of tubing outside the vessels hull.

David Carment worked as a naval architect at Cockatoo Island from 1916 until his retirement in 1954. During World War Two he was responsible for design and drawing work for the Queen Mary and a number of US cruisers that were undergoing conversion and repair. 

Later in his career Mr. Carment became head teacher for the naval architecture diploma course at Sydney Technical College, and played a part in the establishment of the naval architecture degree at the University of New South Wales. He was also a yachting enthusiast, issuing the measurement certificate for the Australian America’s Cup Challenger GRETEL in 1962.

Fitzroy was replaced by a 40ft workboat built in Williamstown, also named Fitzroy that stayed in operation at the shipyard until 1992. 

Fitzroy (1928 build) was fitted with a Volvo Penta 40HP engine  in 2008, and painted a heritage green at Rowell Marine in Newport. Since renamed Fitzroy, the vessel moved from Gymea Bay, Taren Point, to McCarrs Creek, Pittwater. Fitzroy, now painted in white, was used weekly, and has taken part in the Woody Point Yacht Club's annual putt putt race - below is one of Marg Fraser-Martin, of Marg's Yacht Photos, pictures of her taking part in the Woody Point Yacht Club’s 2023 Putt Putt and Gentlemen’s Launch Regatta.

Ahead of the Fitzroy’s centenary in 2028, the Harbour Trust plans to undertake restoration work on the vessel in the hope of providing visitors with insights into a bygone era of shipbuilding craftmanship.

Photo: Marg Fraser-Martin, of Marg's Yacht Photos

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: Peace

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


1. freedom from disturbance; tranquillity. a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended. 3. used as an informal greeting. 4. Archaic; used as an order to remain silent. 5. Obsolete; To make peace between (conflicting people, states etc.); to reconcile.

Verb; leave; "I woke up at seven, thanked my host, and peaced out"

From mid-12c., pes, "freedom from civil disorder, internal peace of a nation," from Anglo-French pes, Old French pais "peace, reconciliation, silence, permission" (11c., Modern French paix), from Latin pacem (nominative pax) "compact, agreement, treaty of peace, tranquillity, absence of war" (source of Provençal patz, Spanish paz, Italian pace), from word root pag- "to fasten" (which is the source also of Latin pacisci "to covenant or agree;" see pact), perhaps on the notion of "a binding together" by treaty or agreement.

It replaced Old English frið, also sibb, which also meant "happiness." The modern spelling is from 1500s, reflecting vowel shift.

It is attested from mid-13c. as "friendly relations between people." The sense of "spiritual peace of the heart, soul or conscience, freedom from disturbance by the passions" (as in peace of mind) is from c. 1200. The sense of "state of quiet or tranquillity" is by 1300, as is the meaning "absence or cessation of war or hostility." Specifically as "treaty or agreement made between conflicting parties to refrain from further hostilities," c. 1400.

Used in various greetings from c. 1300, from Biblical Latin pax, Greek eirēnē, which translators took to render Hebrew shalom, properly "safety, welfare, prosperity."

Allegory of Peace or Triumph of Peace is a 1652 oil-on-canvas painting by Dutch artist Jan Lievens. The painting represents the 1648 Treaty of Münster and depicts Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, crowning Pax, the goddess of peace.

Photos are everywhere. What makes a good one?

T.J. Thomson
T.J. ThomsonRMIT University

We upload some 3 billion images online each day. We make most of these photos on smartphones and use these devices to document everything from gym progress and our loved ones to a memorable meal.

But what makes a “quality” photo? Many people, even those who make images for work, struggle to answer. They often say something along the lines of “I know it when I see it”. But knowing some dimensions of a quality photograph can help make your images stand out and make you a more literate media maker and consumer.

Quality can be relative, but knowing the various dimensions at play can help you draw on those that are most relevant for your particular audience, context and purpose.

I identified six dimensions which will impact the quality of photographs. Here’s what I learnt – and what you can apply to your own photographs.

1. Production And Presentation

Think of the factors in front of and behind the lens.

If you know you’re being recorded, this can affect your behaviour compared to a candid depiction.

You might be more or less comfortable posing for a friend or family member than for a stranger. This comfort, or its lack, can lead to more stiff and awkward poses, or ones that look more natural and confident.

Silhouettes of people in front of a camera.
Awareness of being observed can impact the final photograph. T.J. Thomson

Presentation circumstances, like the viewing size and context, also matter.

A group shot can make a nice statement piece above a fireplace, but it wouldn’t have the same effect as a profile photo. Be aware of how “busy” your image is, and whether the viewing conditions are well-suited for the nature of your photo.

Images with lots of elements, fine textures or other details need to be viewed large to be fully appreciated. Images with fewer, larger and simpler elements can usually be appreciated at smaller sizes.

2. Technical Aspects

Technical aspects include proper exposure – meaning the image isn’t too dark or too bright – adequate focus, and appropriate camera settings.

Some of these camera settings, like shutter speed, affect whether motion is seen as frozen or blurred.

People walking up stairs.
A slow shutter speed can introduce motion blur and enliven an otherwise more static composition. T.J. Thomson

If the image is too blurry, too pixelated, or too light or dark, these technical aspects will negatively impact the photograph’s quality. But some motion blur, as distinct from camera shake, can make more dynamic an otherwise static composition.

3. Who Or What Is Shown

An older couple dances.
Older people tend to be under-represented in public photography, T.J. Thomson

Who or what is shown in the photographs we see is affected, in part, by access and novelty. That’s why we often make more photos during our holidays compared to documenting familiar settings.

Some people or locations can be under-represented and photographing them can lead to more visibility, and, depending on the context, a more empowering framing.

Consider in your photography if you’re including people who are typically under-represented, such as older individuals, people of colour, people living with disabilities and queer people. Also consider whether you’re representing them in stereotypical or disempowering ways.

As examples, when photographing older people, consider whether you’re showing them as lonely, isolated, passive, or in need of mobility aids.

4. Composition

A man in the gym.
Use items in the built or natural environment as framing devices. T.J. Thomson

Composition includes positioning of elements in the frame, the balance between positive and negative space, and depth, among others.

Generally, images that centre the subject of interest aren’t as visually engaging as images that offset the subject of interest. This is what’s known as the rule-of-thirds approach.

Likewise, images that have no depth are generally not as interesting as images with a clear foreground, midground and background. “Seeing through things” with your compositions can help increase the visual depth of your photos alongside their visual appeal.

5. The Psycho-Physiological

The psycho-physiological concerns how the viewer reacts to what is shown.

Men stand near a red car.
Images can spark an emotional reaction. T.J. Thomson

This includes the biological reaction we have to seeing certain colours, for example the way the colour red can increase our heart rate. It also can include the feeling we have when seeing a photo of someone we know.

The most powerful photos use colour and other elements of visual language strategically for a specific effect. Looking at these images might evoke a specific emotion, such as empathy or fear, and influence how the viewer responds.

6. Narrative

Narrative concerns the storytelling quality of the image.

Images can show something in a literal way (think a photograph from a real estate listing) or they can tell a bigger story about the content represented or about the human condition (think about some of the iconic photos that emerged during Australia’s black summer bushfire season).

Literal photos help us see what something or someone looks like but they might not have as much of an impact as iconic photos. For example, the well-known photo of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey boosted fundraising for refugees 100-fold.

A More Thoughtful Process

Next time you pull out your smartphone to make an image, don’t just “spray and pray”. Try to pre-visualise the story you want to tell and wait for the elements to line up into place.

Being aware of aesthetic and ethical considerations alongisde technical ones and emotional resonance can all help engage viewers and lead to more standout imagery.

To challenge yourself further, consider taking your phone off full-auto mode and play with camera settings to see how they impact the resulting photos.The Conversation

T.J. Thomson, Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication & Digital Media, RMIT University

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

Silent disco: why dancing in sync brings us closer together

Joshua S. BamfordUniversity of Oxford

Silent discos started back in the 1970s as a convenient way to get around noise restrictions. In those days that meant everyone bringing their own music loaded onto a Walkman. Later, DJs would set up their own radio channels to allow everyone to listen to the same playlist. These events gained popularity in the early 2000s, when music festivals began to host silent gigs with lots of artists streaming on different channels.

At a regular disco or nightclub, everybody experiences dancing together in time to the same music. But at a silent disco, people can be dancing in the same space but out of time with each other, if they’re listening to different music across several channels. This can be a strange experience, but it does provide a very useful context to study the importance of synchrony – more commonly known as being “in sync” on the dance floor.

So what does the “silent disco” phenomenon tell us about dance? Researchers have used it to study social dynamics, finding that it interferes with the social bonding effects of dance. Silent disco may even help us to better understand the evolution of musicality and our rhythmic abilities.

As a cognitive anthropologist, my work looks at why humans spend so much time singing and dancing, and I am particularly interested in how dance “works” as a social activity.

Silent Disco In The Lab

In a recent study using a silent disco experiment, I wanted to find out how important it was for dancers to be in sync. Since people were dancing with headphones on, we could use this to control whether they were listening to the same music or not. This allowed us to separate the effects of sharing a dance floor from the experience of dancing in sync.

In our study, we had pairs of participants listening to the same music, but we manipulated whether the music was in time by adding some delay to one of the channels. Even though they didn’t know that we were manipulating the timing, we found that people preferred it when they heard the music in time with their dance partner. They also looked towards each other more when they were listening in sync.

This silent disco method has also been used in similar studies, in which researchers found that we remember people better if we’ve just been dancing in sync with them, and synchronised dancing may also stimulate the endorphin system which creates positive feelings.

Being Together

People seem to like each other more when moving in sync. This is true in more naturalistic silent disco studies, but also in very basic experiments that just involve synchronised finger tapping. The synchronisation involved in music and dance may be the “active ingredient” in their social bonding effects.

Singing and dancing with others is a great way of fostering synchrony, but it also exists in many kinds of social interactions. Anyone who experienced Zoom fatigue during the pandemic may have actually been suffering from the slight temporal delay that interrupts the flow of conversation and prevents being in sync, which can get pretty frustrating and ultimately exhausting in a Zoom setting.

While live concerts were being replaced with live-streams during the COVID pandemic, some of my colleagues even observed that live-streams fostered a greater feeling of social connection when compared with pre-recorded concerts, partly because of the synchrony involved. There’s something special about knowing that someone is sharing an experience with us in time, even if we are separated by distance.

Evolution Of Music

Some researchers have suggested that the social bonding effects of music and dance may have been important for the evolution of musicality. They propose that synchronising with others helps to reduce stress by releasing “feel good” endorphins. Reducing stress for other people makes them like you more, which may elevate your social status, or even improve your chance of finding a mate – so people with better musical abilities could be more successful in evolution terms.

An alternative theory suggests that group synchronisation may be a way of displaying the strength of the group to others, such as when a marching band in a military parade. These two apparently competing theories could actually be complementary – although it is very difficult to test this scientifically, because obviously we can’t replicate all of human evolution in the lab, so these debates may never truly be solved.

One thing that is certain, is that music and dance have important social functions in society today. When many people around the world appear to be suffering from loneliness, it is important to understand how people create and maintain social bonds.

It may be that group song and dance was the method of choice for our ancestors, as it still is for many people today around the world. However, if you do plan on making friends on the dance floor, it might be best to ditch the headphones.The Conversation

Joshua S. Bamford, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Oxford

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

Marcin Rogozinski / Alamy

Students on social work, nursing and teaching placements to get weekly $319.50 means tested Prac Payment from July next year

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

A new Commonwealth Prac Payment will provide students with $319.50 a week when they are on clinical and professional placements.

The payment will be means tested and start from July 1 next year, which will be after the next election. Those eligible will include people studying teaching, nursing, midwifery and social work. No cost for the measure was immediately available – the government said that would be in next week’s budget

The money is to help students who often have to give up work to undertake their placements and so are left out of pocket. The government’s Universities Accord report recommended the issue should be addressed, as did the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce.

Education Minister Jason Clare at the weekend announced a rejig of the indexation arrangements for HELP and related student loans, which will benefit three million people, wiping out some $3 billion in debt.

As well as advancing the Accord agenda, the spending has an eye to the youth vote.

The government says the new Prac Payment will assist about 68,000 eligible higher education students and more than 5,000 VET students each year. The payment is benchmarked to the single Austudy rate.

The payment will be in addition to other income support a student might receive.

Placements are particularly a feature of feminised areas of study and work, and the government is also linking the measure to its gender equality strategy, Working for Women.

Clare said: “Placement poverty is a real thing. I have met students who told me they can afford to go to uni, but they can’t afford to do the prac.

"Some students say prac means they have to give up their part-time job, and that they don’t have the money to pay the bills.”

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O'Connor said: “This is an additional payment to support nursing TAFE students who have extra costs such as uniforms, travel, temporary accommodation or child care, during mandatory clinical placements”.

$25 Billion Budget Revenue Upgrade

Tax receipt upgrades, excluding GST, in next week’s budget are set to be about $25 billion over the forward estimates. This is vastly less than the $129 billion average upgrade in the last three budgets.

These figures came from the government as Finance Minister Katy Gallagher repeatedly refused to say whether the budget would be contractionary.

She told the ABC it “will have a focus on inflation in the short term and growth in the long term over the forward estimates”.

While there will be a surplus this financial year, the government says the position for the following years is likely to be weaker compared with the budget update late last year. This is because of smaller revenue upgrades, spending pressures and government investment to drive growth.

The smaller upgrade is the result of weakness in the global economy, the slowing domestic economy, the labour market softening, and lower commodity prices.

The government plans to bank about 95% of the revenue upgrade in 2023-24, as part of its effort to contain inflation. But it indicates less will be banked in later years.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said: “While our big focus in the near term remains easing inflation and helping relieve cost-of-living strains, it’s critical to also make room for urgent and unfunded priorities and invest in the future drivers of economic growth in the years ahead.

"That’s why the May budget will be carefully calibrated to the economic circumstances, striking the right balance between getting inflation under control, easing cost-of-living pressures, supporting sustainable growth and building fiscal buffers in an uncertain global environment.”

One significant cost in later years will be the government’s controversial Future Made in Australia program.

Gallagher said finding savings was harder in Labor’s third budget.

“I think we should be looking at […] not only the aggregate spending, but the quality and composition of that spending. There’s a lot of spending that we’re having to do for terminating programs or legacy issues that haven’t been funded or, you know, unavoidable spending.

"You will see some savings, you’ll see some reprioritisation with existing expenditure.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

What does the new Commonwealth Prac Payment mean for students? Will it do enough to end ‘placement poverty’?

Deanna Grant-SmithUniversity of the Sunshine Coast and Paula McDonaldQueensland University of Technology

The federal government has announced a “Commonwealth Prac Payment” to support selected groups of students doing mandatory work placements.

Those who are studying to be a teacher, nurse, midwife or social worker will be eligible to receive A$319.50 per week while on placement. This amount is benchmarked to the single Austudy per week rate. Other support payments received by a student will not be affected.

The payment, which is part of the upcoming federal budget, is due to start in July 2025 and will be means-tested (the details of which are still to be worked out). It follows a recommendation from the Universities Accord final report and will be welcomed by many students facing “placement poverty” as they complete their degrees. But is it enough?

Why Is A Prac Payment Needed?

Unpaid work experience has become a compulsory rite of passage to paid employment in many areas of study.

This experience is thought to increase skills, knowledge, experience and students’ identity in the profession. Research also shows students believe work experience (whether paid or unpaid) builds job and social skills, helps them decide on a career path, and boosts their chances of getting a job when they graduate.

But due to their long hours and intensive nature, unpaid placements can also result in financial stress and have negative impacts on wellbeing as students juggle paid work, study obligations and unpaid work.

Being unable to afford to do mandatory unpaid work can also prevent some students from completing their degree on time or at all.

As more students are expected to undertake long or multiple unpaid placements, this also limits the types and amounts of paid work they can do while studying, making their financial and employment situation more precarious.

Does The Plan Go Far Enough?

Many degrees require students to do the equivalent of up to six months’ unpaid work.

For example, social work students are expected to complete 1,000 hours of full-time, unpaid work experience. Education students must do a minimum of 80 days. Both of these student groups will be eligible for the prac payment.

But many other degrees can require hundreds of hours of unpaid placement time but are not supported by the Commonwealth Prac Payment. This means other allied health students, such as occupational therapy students (who must complete a minimum of 1,000 unpaid hours), or speech pathology students who may be required to take a rural or remote placement, are excluded from the payment.

To enhance graduate employability, universities and other tertiary training institutions (such as TAFEs) have also expanded obligatory “work-integrated learning” into fields of study where there are no statutory or professional requirements for it. This includes areas such as urban planningcommunication and creative industries, and journalism.

This means students do projects or placements with organisations outside of the university as part of their coursework.

When asked about broadening the set of courses involved, Education Minister Jason Clare told Radio National “that’s something that we’d have to look at down the track”.

Mandatory Versus ‘Voluntary’ Unpaid Work

On top of mandatory placements, it is common for students to also do other work experience on their own initiative while studying. Researchers call these “open-market internships”.

Sometimes this is billed as “voluntary” but the lines here can be very blurry. Students can see this unpaid work as necessary to develop networks and fill CVs to become more competitive for graduate jobs.

Unpaid work undertaken as part of a degree or vocational education program is lawful in Australia, but some open-market internships may not be.

Dubious arrangements include interns doing the same work as regular paid employees and undertaking work that does not predominantly involve observing or performing mock or simulated tasks.

What More Is Needed?

If employers and universities genuinely believe work experience is they key way students become employable graduates, they must find ways of making such experiences accessible to all students. Payment for placements and other meaningful financial support is a good place to start.

For example, earlier this year, the Queensland government announced a $5,000 cost-of-living allowance for eligible final-year nursing and midwifery students who do placements in regional, rural or remote Queensland.

But safeguarding the financial and general wellbeing of students is not just the responsibility of governments. Universities, vocational education and training providers (such as TAFEs) and employers also need to make sure the benefits of unpaid work placements are not outweighed by the costs.

We need to look at new regulations that limit how long an unpaid placement can last, and offer alternatives to unpaid placements, such as “supervised service learning”. An example of this is the National Tax Clinic Program. Run through the Australian Taxation Office, students studying tax-related courses provide free tax advice to individuals and small businesses under the supervision of qualified professionals.

Employers also need to ensure they properly train, induct and pay graduates and students undertaking work that benefits their business.

As the Prac Payment details are worked out and evaluated, we need to make sure the government does indeed look again at the list of eligible courses, to make sure the scheme helps all students who need it.The Conversation

Deanna Grant-Smith, Professor of Management, University of the Sunshine Coast and Paula McDonald, Professor of Work and Organisation, Queensland University of Technology

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

Australian artists only earn $23,200 a year from their art – and are key financial investors in keeping the industry afloat

David ThrosbyMacquarie University and Katya PetetskayaMacquarie University

Arts companies and individual artists in Australia are supported by government arts agencies, philanthropists, industry bodies, private donors and patrons. However, it is frequently overlooked that a major source of support for the arts in this country comes from artists themselves.

Artists such as writers, actors, visual artists, musicians, dancers and others effectively make a personal financial contribution to supporting cultural activity through their willingness to accept a lower reward for their work than they could earn elsewhere.

Their subsidy to the arts helps to sustain artistic practice and represents a significant personal investment in the future of the cultural life of this country.

The incomes earned by professional artists are perennially low. Our new research, funded by Creative Australia and published today, shows in the 2021–22 financial year, artists’ income from creative work averaged only A$23,200. Even when other sources of income are added – such as from teaching or working outside the arts – the average gross income of Australian artists was still only $54,500 in the year.

Forgone Income And Volunteer Hours

Artists are more highly educated than the workforce at large. Three-quarters hold a university degree, compared with only 36% in the wider labour force, and more than 40% of artists also hold a postgraduate degree, compared with 30% of all Australian professionals.

Given these levels of training, the extent of artists’ forgone income can be estimated by comparing their income with those of professional workers such as lawyers, doctors and accountants who have similar levels of training, qualifications and experience.

Data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for different occupational groups Australia-wide show in the 2021–22 year, the average income of professional workers was $98,700.

Even in comparison with the $73,300 average yearly earnings of all employed people in Australia, artists’ earnings were significantly lower.

Like many other professionals and workers in Australia, artists engage in continuous learning and mastering new techniques and concepts to advance their practice.

Indeed, data from our successive surveys into artists’ economic circumstances reveal artists invest more in their formal education than workers in other occupations.

Despite the income challenges artists face, they frequently reach into their own pockets to fund their projects. Our data show 78% of artists use personal savings to sustain their practice, underscoring a profound financial commitment that often goes unrecognised.

In addition to these financial investments, professional artists are also often asked to donate their time and expertise to public or corporate events and to community activities.

Our survey data indicate the value of these donations averages $5,600 annually per donating artist.

Moreover, artists engage in volunteering, spending on average about five hours weekly on unpaid work of benefit to the community.

Working Outside The Arts Industry

Few professional artists can work full-time at their creative practice. Most are obliged, by choice or necessity, to take on other work beyond their immediate core creative practice.

A mere 9% of artists in Australia are able to spend all their working time at their creative practice. And even when other arts-related work, such as teaching, is added, only 44% can dedicate all their working time solely to total arts work.

There is a discrepancy between artists’ desired and actual time spent on creative work. Two-thirds of artists would like to devote more time to their creative practice, but economic circumstances prevent them from doing so.

These constraints include insufficient return from creative work, leading to the need to earn an income elsewhere. Again, such additional income generated through jobs unrelated to their art is often invested back into artistic practice.

While the incomes of Australian artists have remained relatively stagnant over the years when adjusted for inflation, their average expenses related to their artistic practice have been increasing dramatically. In the 2021–22 financial year, artists spent an average of 73% of their artistic income on expenses related to producing their work.

Of all the events that have affected Australian life and work in recent times, none has been as profound as the COVID pandemic.

Professional artists, whose working conditions were already precarious, were particularly badly hit.

Our results indicate that, by the end of 2022, only one-third of all artists had fully returned to their pre-COVID working hours, with just over half partially returned or in the process of doing so.

It is significant that 16% did not believe they would be able to return to their previous working hours as an artist.

Key Investors In The Arts

The arts in Australia are supported by a complex ecosystem in which individual professional artists are a central component.

It is important that policy initiatives recognise the role of artists as key investors in supporting the arts ecosystem in this country and the precariousness of their financial situation.

The dedication and commitment of professional artists, often insufficiently acknowledged, is making an essential contribution to the growth and sustainability of Australian arts.The Conversation

David Throsby, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Macquarie University and Katya Petetskaya, Research Project Director at the Department of Economics, Macquarie University

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

How 2-Tone brought new ideas about race and culture to young people beyond the inner cities

Ian GwinnBournemouth University

This Town, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight’s latest drama for the BBC, brings to life a defining – if short-lived – era in the history of British youth culture and popular music. Set in the West Midlands against the backdrop of industrial decline and social unrest in the early 1980s, the drama unfolds to the syncopated sounds of 2-Tone.

A furious mix of punk and Jamaican ska, 2-Tone became a genuinely national phenomenon, bursting out of a bedsit in Coventry and into the charts and the popular consciousness.

We know a lot about the urban multiracial landscapes of its Midlands origins, out of which its twin ideals of racial unity and musical hybridity sprang. But we know much less about how it resonated with the experience of young people beyond the big towns and cities.

Such considerations are timely. It is now 45 years since the founding of 2-Tone Records by Jerry Dammers, organist and songwriter for ska’s most famous band The Specials, and mastermind of the whole movement.

Of course, 1979 was also a decisive year for politics in the UK. But bands like The Specials did more than just soundtrack the civil strife of the early Thatcher years; they actually inspired political and cultural change.

To understand how they did so is important not only for historical reasons. A deeper sense of how anti-racist and multicultural ideas have shaped less culturally diverse regions may enrich contemporary debates over racism, particularly rural racism, which have become increasingly polarised.

My own ongoing oral history project with people from the Dorset region registers the powerful effect 2-Tone had in less racially mixed areas. Interviewees speak vividly of the energy, excitement and unruliness of attending gigs, as well as the sense of shared community, belonging and togetherness.

Nobody Is Special

As The Specials’ first single, Gangster, hit the airwaves in the summer of 1979 and the first 2-Tone tour opened in the autumn (with support from fellow labelmates The Selecter and Madness), a growing legion of youth clad in slim-fit mohair “tonic suits”, pork-pie hats, and black-and-white checkerboard greeted the bands as they made their way across the country. By the time all three bands appeared together on Top of the Pops that November, 2-Tone had swept the nation.

The Specials, in particular, built an ethos on the idea that “nobody is special”, refusing the division between band and audience (symbolically represented in the audience joining the band on the stage for the final numbers).

The inaugural tour covered the length and breadth of the country, reaching musical outposts like Aberdeen, Ayr, Blackburn, Bournemouth, Plymouth and Swindon. A seaside tour followed in 1980, winding its way through several English coastal towns, from Blackpool to Worthing.

One interviewee described how 2-Tone bands made a big deal of moving out into the remote areas and bringing the music to the people. That made them more accessible, setting them apart from other bands of the period.

For one fan from Weymouth, travelling up to that first Bournemouth gig was a powerful unifying experience:

You just didn’t realise that you were part of a bigger thing…When you get in there and everyone’s got the same attitude, the same outlook, the same sense of purpose and sense of place – it was really quite an amazing feeling.

Playing venues in far-flung places was part of the 2-Tone mission. For Dammers and others, the anti-racist message was aimed directly and primarily at white youth. These 2-Tone bands sought to reach audiences with a visual and aural display of unity. The symbolism had a profound impact. As another interviewee recalled:

Groups were either all white or all black…2-Tone was the first thing where you actually saw white and black musicians on stage together…That was a massive difference.

But not everyone suddenly became a staunch anti-racist. Some simply went for the music, the dancing and the good times. But for others the unity of politics, style and music cut across divisions among fractious youth cults and against far-right influences. Embracing the spirit of 2-Tone gave rural and small-town youth a way of expressing anti-racist politics in a more local idiom.

Race And Racism Today

Despite the contribution of 2-Tone – and before it, Rock against Racism – to anti-racist struggles, issues of racism have never gone away. The fight against far-right nationalism and police brutality continues, but increasingly the spotlight has shifted towards the more subtle and unseen ways in which racism is perpetuated. This ranges from everyday microaggressions to the lingering shadow of Britain’s imperial legacy, attracting a strong backlash in some quarters.

Recent evidence of rural racism, for example, has been met with swift dismissals. The former home secretary Suella Braverman was quick to deny others’ experience of racism, stating that the claim the countryside is racist is one of the most ridiculous examples of left-wing identity politics – just because there are more white people than non-white people somewhere does not make it racist.

Recalling the example of 2-Tone and The Specials may encourage a longing for a simpler time, when racists were easy to spot; things are more complicated today. Still, it can help us to understand how racial solidarities are forged, particularly in and through social and geographical differences. For my interviewees, 2-Tone’s ska revival was not a passing fad; it allowed them to reinterpret their own experience of class, race and locality.

If only for a moment, 2-Tone mania ruled Britain, in the words of the music critic Simon Reynolds. But as This Town shows, its rich and complex legacies can still be brought powerfully to life in the present.The Conversation

Ian Gwinn, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Bournemouth University

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

Grand designs? Why many Australian architects say their career makes them unhappy

SORN340 Studio Images/Shutterstock
Naomi SteadRMIT University and Vicki LeibowitzRMIT University

For years there have been suggestions of widespread poor wellbeing among architects. In many ways this is not surprising. It’s well established the profession has a culture of long hours and (often unpaid) overtime, relentless and pressured deadlines, high responsibility and liability and surprisingly low starting pay, even after five years of university education.

Add to this the increasing pressures facing all workers in the construction industry, including new procurement and contracting models, and it seems like a recipe for trouble.

But up until now the perception has been just that. Despite much concern and discussion, a mountain of anecdotal evidence, and a lot of harrowing stories, there have been little firm data to elucidate the problems – let alone to suggest means of improvement.

Now our new research, undertaken over the past four years, suggests the story is not quite as straightforward, nor as entirely dire, as it might first appear.

So Are Architects Actually Struggling?

Is the overall wellbeing of architects negatively affected by their work lives? The short answer is, in many cases, yes.

Using the Australian Unity Personal Wellbeing Index, we found the subjective quality of life of our respondents was substantially lower than that of the general working population.

Furthermore, our first practitioner survey, in 2021, found 42% of the 2,066 respondents considered working in architecture to have had a negative overall effect on their wellbeing, with 50% saying the overall effect had been positive.

Architects look over plans.
42% of respondents considered working in architecture to have had a negative overall effect on their wellbeing. Pickadook/Shutterstock

A significant portion of our respondents felt anxious, distressed, overworked, exhausted, underpaid and generally frustrated by workplace dynamics and circumstances outside their control, with elevated levels of burnout and role overload.

In response to our open-ended survey questions, respondents wrote tens of thousands of words – heartfelt and sometimes distressing accounts of struggles in their work lives.

Serious as they are, though, the negative findings only tell half the story. Many architects also reported their love for the profession, their sense of purpose, and their pride in what they do. Many reported a strong sense of professional identity and creative role identity, and a deep conviction about the benefits good design can bring to the world.

An interesting building.
Many architects had a deep conviction about the benefits good design can bring to the world. Daniele Buso/Unsplash

But it was telling that, while many respondents were personally committed to the profession and believed deeply in the benefits it could bring society, they would not recommend it as a career to others.

Many perceived an imbalance between effort and reward, and believed practising architecture often undermined their personal wellbeing.

As one respondent wrote: “I do love it, I just find that it’s overwhelmingly exploitative.”

The Contradictions Of (Over)Commitment

These apparent contradictions make more sense when we consider how the profession sits at the intersection of the creative and construction industries.

The work of architects straddles the creative and pragmatic. It can be a highly complex intellectual puzzle, requiring exceptional skill and inventiveness in problem-solving, alongside the integration and synthesis of often conflicting requirements.

Design is an absorbing, challenging, creative endeavour. The intensity of project-based work, and the sense of camaraderie and pleasure of collaboration, are enormously valued by practitioners. But they also have a propensity to become too much – to flip from being a positive to a negative influence on wellbeing.

An architect on a building site.
The work of architects straddles the creative and pragmatic. sculpies/Shutterstock

The satisfactions of architectural practice are inherently entangled, it seems, with its risks. These hazards can be either ameliorated or exacerbated by cultures in specific workplaces, and what is normalised in the profession as a whole.

Across the board, the hazards are clearly made worse by downward pressure on the time and money available to complete work, because of fee pressures, risk shifting in the construction industry, and sometimes unsustainable business management practices within architecture.

Systemic Change Is Required

Understanding and addressing work-related wellbeing is crucial to the future of the architecture profession as a viable and fulfilling career path, and for realising the benefit design can bring to the world.

Improving wellbeing within the profession, and elsewhere, starts with an ethical proposition: people deserve to feel supported to do their work, in a psychologically safe environment where demands are clear and reasonable, and rewards are commensurate.

An architect
People deserve to feel supported to do their work in a psychologically safe environment. Hitdelight/Shutterstock

Above all, their legal rights and entitlements must be respected.

Many architects characterise the challenges to wellbeing in the profession as systemic. Our research found they’re not just a result of isolated instances, nor the “fault” of any single group, professional role or practice type.

This is a structural situation to which the whole profession is subject, and is certainly not something that can be fixed with individual self-care.

Our project will culminate in a symposium in Melbourne on May 8 and 9 where we will discuss our findings and, more importantly, endeavour to chart a path forward to systemic change.The Conversation

Naomi Stead, Director of the Design and Creative Practice Enabling Impact Platform, RMIT, RMIT University and Vicki Leibowitz, Research Fellow, Design & Creative Practice, RMIT University

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

AI can now generate entire songs on demand. What does this mean for music as we know it?

PeamDesign / Shutterstock
Oliver BownUNSW Sydney

In March, we saw the launch of a “ChatGPT for music” called Suno, which uses generative AI to produce realistic songs on demand from short text prompts. A few weeks later, a similar competitor – Udio – arrived on the scene.

I’ve been working with various creative computational tools for the past 15 years, both as a researcher and a producer, and the recent pace of change has floored me. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the view that AI systems will never make “real” music like humans do should be understood more as a claim about social context than technical capability.

The argument “sure, it can make expressive, complex-structured, natural-sounding, virtuosic, original music which can stir human emotions, but AI can’t make proper music” can easily begin to sound like something from a Monty Python sketch.

After playing with Suno and Udio, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly they change – and what they might mean not only for the way professionals and amateur artists create music, but the way all of us consume it.

Expressing Emotion Without Feeling It

Generating audio from text prompts in itself is nothing new. However, Suno and Udio have made an obvious development: from a simple text prompt, they generate song lyrics (using a ChatGPT-like text generator), feed them into a generative voice model, and integrate the “vocals” with generated music to produce a coherent song segment.

This integration is a small but remarkable feat. The systems are very good at making up coherent songs that sound expressively “sung” (there I go anthropomorphising).

The effect can be uncanny. I know it’s AI, but the voice can still cut through with emotional impact. When the music performs a perfectly executed end-of-bar pirouette into a new section, my brain gets some of those little sparks of pattern-processing joy that I might get listening to a great band.

To me this highlights something sometimes missed about musical expression: AI doesn’t need to experience emotions and life events to successfully express them in music that resonates with people.

Music As An Everyday Language

Like other generative AI products, Suno and Udio were trained on vast amounts of existing work by real humans – and there is much debate about those humans’ intellectual property rights.

Nevertheless, these tools may mark the dawn of mainstream AI music culture. They offer new forms of musical engagement that people will just want to use, to explore, to play with and actually listen to for their own enjoyment.

AI capable of “end to end” music creation is arguably not technology for makers of music, but for consumers of music. For now it remains unclear whether users of Udio and Suno are creators or consumers – or whether the distinction is even useful.

A long-observed phenomenon in creative technologies is that as something becomes easier and cheaper to produce, it is used for more casual expression. As a result, the medium goes from an exclusive high art form to more of an everyday language – think what smartphones have done to photography.

So imagine you could send your father a professionally produced song all about him for his birthday, with minimal cost and effort, in a style of his preference – a modern-day birthday card. Researchers have long considered this eventuality, and now we can do it. Happy birthday, dad!

Can You Create Without Control?

Whatever these systems have achieved and may achieve in the near future, they face a glaring limitation: the lack of control.

Text prompts are often not much good as precise instructions, especially in music. So these tools are fit for blind search – a kind of wandering through the space of possibilities – but not for accurate control. (That’s not to diminish their value. Blind search can be a powerful creative force.)

Viewing these tools as a practising music producer, things look very different. Although Udio’s about page says “anyone with a tune, some lyrics, or a funny idea can now express themselves in music”, I don’t feel I have enough control to express myself with these tools.

I can see them being useful to seed raw materials for manipulation, much like samples and field recordings. But when I’m seeking to express myself, I need control.

Using Suno, I had some fun finding the most gnarly dark techno grooves I could get out of it. The result was something I would absolutely use in a track.

Cheese Lovers’ Anthem. Generated by Oliver Bown using Suno2.75 MB (download)

But I found I could also just gladly listen. I felt no compulsion to add anything or manipulate the result to add my mark.

And many jurisdictions have declared that you won’t be awarded copyright for something just because you prompted it into existence with AI.

For a start, the output depends just as much on everything that went into the AI – including the creative work of millions of other artists. Arguably, you didn’t do the work of creation. You simply requested it.

New Musical Experiences In The No-Man’s Land Between Production And Consumption

So Udio’s declaration that anyone can express themselves in music is an interesting provocation. The people who use tools like Suno and Udio may be considered more consumers of music AI experiences than creators of music AI works, or as with many technological impacts, we may need to come up with new concepts for what they’re doing.

A shift to generative music may draw attention away from current forms of musical culture, just as the era of recorded music saw the diminishing (but not death) of orchestral music, which was once the only way to hear complex, timbrally rich and loud music. If engagement in these new types of music culture and exchange explodes, we may see reduced engagement in the traditional music consumption of artists, bands, radio and playlists.

While it is too early to tell what the impact will be, we should be attentive. The effort to defend existing creators’ intellectual property protections, a significant moral rights issue, is part of this equation.

But even if it succeeds I believe it won’t fundamentally address this potentially explosive shift in culture, and claims that such music might be inferior also have had little effect in halting cultural change historically, as with techno or even jazz, long ago. Government AI policies may need to look beyond these issues to understand how music works socially and to ensure that our musical cultures are vibrant, sustainable, enriching and meaningful for both individuals and communities.The Conversation

Oliver Bown, Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney

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

Why are algorithms called algorithms? A brief history of the Persian polymath you’ve likely never heard of

Debbie PasseyThe University of Melbourne

Algorithms have become integral to our lives. From social media apps to Netflix, algorithms learn your preferences and prioritise the content you are shown. Google Maps and artificial intelligence are nothing without algorithms.

So, we’ve all heard of them, but where does the word “algorithm” even come from?

Over 1,000 years before the internet and smartphone apps, Persian scientist and polymath Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī invented the concept of algorithms.

In fact, the word itself comes from the Latinised version of his name, “algorithmi”. And, as you might suspect, it’s also related to algebra.

Largely Lost To Time

Al-Khwārizmī lived from 780 to 850 CE, during the Islamic Golden Age. He is considered the “father of algebra”, and for some, the “grandfather of computer science”.

Yet, few details are known about his life. Many of his original works in Arabic have been lost to time.

It is believed al-Khwārizmī was born in the Khwarazm region south of the Aral Sea in present-day Uzbekistan. He lived during the Abbasid Caliphate, which was a time of remarkable scientific progress in the Islamic Empire.

Al-Khwārizmī made important contributions to mathematics, geography, astronomy and trigonometry. To help provide a more accurate world map, he corrected Alexandrian polymath Ptolemy’s classic cartography book, Geographia.

He produced calculations for tracking the movement of the Sun, Moon and planets. He also wrote about trigonometric functions and produced the first table of tangents.

A scan of a postal stamp with an illustration of a man with a beard, wearing a turban.
There are no images of what al-Khwārizmī looked like, but in 1983 the Soviet Union issued a stamp in honour of his 1,200th birthday. Wikimedia Commons

Al-Khwārizmī was a scholar in the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah) in Baghdad. At this intellectual hub, scholars were translating knowledge from around the world into Arabic, synthesising it to make meaningful progress in a range of disciplines. This included mathematics, a field deeply connected to Islam.

The ‘Father Of Algebra’

Al-Khwārizmī was a polymath and a religious man. His scientific writings started with dedications to Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. And one of the major projects Islamic mathematicians undertook at the House of Wisdom was to develop algebra.

Around 830 CE, Caliph al-Ma’mun encouraged al-Khwārizmī to write a treatise on algebra, Al-Jabr (or The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing). This became his most important work.

A scanned book page showing text in Arabic with simple geometric diagrams.
A page from The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing. World Digital Library

At this point, “algebra” had been around for hundreds of years, but al-Khwārizmī was the first to write a definitive book on it. His work was meant to be a practical teaching tool. Its Latin translation was the basis for algebra textbooks in European universities until the 16th century.

In the first part, he introduced the concepts and rules of algebra, and methods for calculating the volumes and areas of shapes. In the second part he provided real-life problems and worked out solutions, such as inheritance cases, the partition of land and calculations for trade.

Al-Khwārizmī didn’t use modern-day mathematical notation with numbers and symbols. Instead, he wrote in simple prose and employed geometric diagrams:

Four roots are equal to twenty, then one root is equal to five, and the square to be formed of it is twenty-five, or half the root is equal to ten.

In modern-day notation we’d write that like so:

4x = 20, x = 5, x2 = 25, x / 2 = 10

Grandfather Of Computer Science

Al-Khwārizmī’s mathematical writings introduced the Hindu-Arabic numerals to Western mathematicians. These are the ten symbols we all use today: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0.

The Hindu-Arabic numerals are important to the history of computing because they use the number zero and a base-ten decimal system. Importantly, this is the numeral system that underpins modern computing technology.

Al-Khwārizmī’s art of calculating mathematical problems laid the foundation for the concept of algorithms. He provided the first detailed explanations for using decimal notation to perform the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and computing fractions.

A medieval illustration showing a person using an abacus on one side and manipulating symbols on the other.
The contrast between algorithmic computations and abacus computations, as shown in Margarita Philosophica (1517). The Bavarian State Library

This was a more efficient computation method than using the abacus. To solve a mathematical equation, al-Khwārizmī systematically moved through a sequence of steps to find the answer. This is the underlying concept of an algorithm.

Algorism, a Medieval Latin term named after al-Khwārizmī, refers to the rules for performing arithmetic using the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Translated to Latin, al-Khwārizmī’s book on Hindu numerals was titled Algorithmi de Numero Indorum.

In the early 20th century, the word algorithm came into its current definition and usage: “a procedure for solving a mathematical problem in a finite number of steps; a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem”.

Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī played a central role in the development of mathematics and computer science as we know them today.

The next time you use any digital technology – from your social media feed to your online bank account to your Spotify app – remember that none of it would be possible without the pioneering work of an ancient Persian polymath.The Conversation

Debbie Passey, Digital Health Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

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

Can I take your order – and your data? The hidden reason retailers are replacing staff with AI bots

Linus Zoll / Google DeepMind / Unsplash
Cameron ShackellQueensland University of Technology

You might have seen viral videos of Wendy’s drive-thru customers in the United States ordering their fast food from the firm’s generative AI bot Wendy’s FreshAI. Most show a very human-like transaction punctuated with cries of amazement at how fast, accurate and polite the system is.

While the system and others like it are in their infancy, and some still rely heavily on human assistance, retailers are investing huge sums in AI to replace human workers.

Why the rush to automate? It might seem like it’s all about slashing the wage bill, and straight AI-for-human swaps are indeed happening in many roles.

But there is another force driving the tsunami of restructuring in retail. At stake is the hidden lifeblood of the 21st-century business: data.

Superhuman Data Harvesters

Retail employees don’t typically feed much data back into a business. Instead data flow shapes them personally, and they develop what we recognise as experience or expertise. This is one of the reasons businesses traditionally try to retain employees for long periods.

Retail AI bots, on the other hand, completely automate data collection. The bot is part of a business’s broader computer system, so the details of every customer interaction can be piped straight to a database. The data harvest can include the complete “stimulus” presented to each customer: the initial greeting, the volume, the tone, the pacing, responses to customer questions, and of course the dollar and cents outcome.

Depending on a firm’s ethical position, an AI bot can also be designed to harvest not only the customer’s words but also various “meta-facts”: male or female, young or old, thin or obese, short or tall, tattoos or no tattoos.

In fact, with video and audio recording so commonplace, there is no reason everything about an interaction can’t be captured for later breakdown and analysis by AI.

By substituting bots for humans, all the data that once ended up in employees (who, possessing the data as expertise, might demand more money to stay) can now go straight into the electronic vaults of the business.

What makes the business case for AI bots even more compelling, however, is that they can complete the loop and use the data as well as harvest it.

Dynamic “Touchpoint” Creators

Retailers pay a lot of attention to “touchpoints” – critical moments of contact where they can influence the customer’s perceptions and decisions.

In the past, human employees have been selected or trained to provide effective touchpoints. For example, teenagers in colourful uniforms staffing a fast food restaurant lend a certain image and vibe. And the scripts and prompts they deliver, such as “Do you want fries with that?”, come straight from a manual.

But human employees aren’t really able to model millions of past customer interactions, or weigh them against the customer standing in front of them.

Retail bots can. They can complete real-time “data loops”.

What does that mean? Using gigabyes of past data, retail bots can profile the current customer and adjust their behaviour accordingly, interact with the customer, and then feed back the data created for better performance next time. And that next time might be two seconds later at an identical outlet on the other side of the country with a similar customer.

Businesses Are Striving To Become Equations – That AI Can Solve

All these data loops are being closed at the cost of human jobs because full digitisation is today’s business ideal.

Why? Because a business that runs on data flowing in smooth loops is essentially an equation. And if a business is an equation, you can use (you guessed it) the latest AI to constantly tweak your retail bots and pull other levers to maximise the bottom line.

The answers AI provides to the essential question “How do we make more money?” can be extremely granular. For example, based on data from retail bots, AI might one day suggest (and test and implement) an additional 300 millisecond pause before asking overweight customers with brown eyes, “Anything else?”. And it might increase profits for reasons nobody understands.

This leaves customers in a weird place.

Data loops create a business so agile that customers feel like their minds are not just being read but anticipated. Think that’s far-fetched? You are probably already familiar with how well this works from long hours glued to algorithmic pioneers and full-equation businesses like Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook and TikTok.

Retailers want to use AI to get in on the action.

In fact, on the heels of its AI drive-thru data bonanza, Wendy’s recently had to hose down reports it was considering Uber-style “dynamic pricing”.

So Which Retail Jobs Will AI Take First?

There’s no simple answer to this complicated question. But I can offer a guiding principle.

AI thrives on data. If your job involves a lot of data, and the data is currently not captured (people dealing with high-volume traffic, like drive-thru workers), or it doesn’t inform the way you deliver your service (drive-thru workers again, but also those dealing with complex products) – watch out. You are blocking a data loop, and you may be in the crosshairs.

If, on the other hand, you’re not a sinkhole for too much data, and a lot of data wouldn’t make a big difference to you as a touchpoint, you’re probably safe for a while. You can relax and just wait to become a victim of the regular wage-saving type of AI restructuring.The Conversation

Cameron Shackell, Sessional Academic and Visitor, School of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology

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

The ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky and how I used modern astronomy to explore her link with the Milky Way

Or GraurUniversity of Portsmouth

What did our ancestors think when they looked up at the night sky? All cultures ascribed special meaning to the Sun and the Moon, but what about the pearly band of light and shadow we call the Milky Way?

My recent study showed an intriguing link between an Egyptian goddess and the Milky Way.

Slowly, scholars are putting together a picture of Egyptian astronomy. The god Sah has been linked to stars in the Orion constellation, while the goddess Sopdet has been linked to the star Sirius. Where we see a plough (or the big dipper), the Egyptians saw the foreleg of a bull. But the Milky Way’s Egyptian name and its relation to Egyptian culture have long been a mystery.

Several scholars have suggested that the Milky Way was linked to Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky who swallowed the Sun as it set and gave birth to it once more as it rose the next day. But their attempts to map different parts of Nut’s body onto sections of the Milky Way were inconsistent with each other and didn’t match the ancient Egyptian texts.

In a paper published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, I compared descriptions of the goddess in the Pyramid TextsCoffin Texts, and the Book of Nut to simulations of the Milky Way’s appearance in the ancient Egyptian night sky.

Carved onto the walls of the pyramids more than 4,000 years ago, the Pyramid Texts are a collection of spells to aid the kings’ journey to the afterlife. Painted on coffins a few hundred years after the age of the pyramids, the Coffin Texts were a similar collection of spells. The Book of Nut described Nut’s role in the solar cycle. It has been found in several monuments and papyri, and its oldest version dates back some 3,000 years ago.

The Book of Nut described Nut’s head and groin as the western and eastern horizons, respectively. It also described how she swallowed not only the Sun but also a series of so-called “decanal” stars that are thought to have been used to tell time during the night.

From this description, I concluded that Nut’s head and groin had to be locked to the horizons so that she could give birth and later swallow the decanal stars as they rose and set throughout the night. This meant that she could never be mapped directly onto the Milky Way, whose different sections rise and set as well.

I did, however, find a possible link to the Milky Way in the orientation of Nut’s arms. The Book of Nut describes Nut’s right arm as lying in the northwest and her left arm in the southeast at a 45 degree angle to her body. My simulations of the Egyptian night sky using the planetarium software Cartes du Ciel and Stellarium revealed that this orientation was precisely that of the Milky Way during the winter in ancient Egypt.

The Milky Way is not a physical manifestation of Nut. Instead, it may have been used as a figurative way to highlight Nut’s presence as the sky.

During the winter, it showed Nut’s arms. In the summer (when its orientation flips by 90 degrees) the Milky Way sketched out her backbone. Nut is often portrayed in tomb murals and funerary papyri as a naked, arched woman, a portrayal that resembles the arch of the Milky Way.

However, Nut is also portrayed in ancient texts as a cow, a hippopotamus and a vulture, thought to highlight her motherly attributes. Along the same lines, the Milky Way could be thought of as highlighting Nut’s celestial attributes.

The ancient Egyptian texts also describe Nut as a ladder or as reaching out her arms to help guide the deceased up to the sky on their way to the afterlife. Many cultures around the world, such as the Lakota and Pawnee in North America and the Quiché Maya in Central America, see the Milky Way as a spirits’ road.

The Book of Nut also describes the annual bird migration into Egypt and ties it both to the netherworld and to Nut. This section of the Book of Nut describes Ba birds flying into Egypt from Nut’s northeast and northwest sides before turning into regular birds to feed in Egypt’s marshes. The Egyptians considered the Ba, portrayed as a human-headed bird, to be the aspect of a person that imbued it with individuality (similar, but not identical, to the modern Western concept of the “soul”).

The Bas of the dead were free to leave and return to the netherworld as they wished. Nut is often shown standing in a sycamore tree and providing food and water to the deceased and their Ba.

Once again, several cultures across the Baltics and northern Europe (including the Finns, Lithuanians, and Sámi) view the Milky Way as the path along which birds migrate before winter. While these links don’t prove a connection between Nut and the Milky Way, they show that such a connection would place Nut comfortably within the global mythology of the Milky Way.The Conversation

Or Graur, Associate Professor of Astrophysics, University of Portsmouth

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

For Lynne’s Friends

Hi to all of Lynne’s friends
The official opening of Lynne Czinner Park in Warriewood is at 10am Wednesday 15 May 2024. The ceremony will be at the Dove Lane end of the park.
Please do come along if you can.
Trent Czinner

Private Health Insurance Major Concern For Seniors: National Seniors

Private health insurance is the second biggest concern for older Australians, behind cost of
living, according to a survey of 6,500 people by National Seniors Australia (NSA).

In separate soon-to-be-released research, it has also been revealed while most people want and need private health insurance, the rising cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs for private health significantly undermine its value proposition.

They’re sobering revelations which make private health a potential election issue and
prompted NSA in its Pre-Budget Submission 2024 to call for a full review of the private
health system to ensure Australians get value for money.

“There is a growing discourse about the unaffordability of private health which government
must address to help tackle rising living costs. As such, National Seniors Australia has
recommended the Productivity Commission conduct an in-depth independent inquiry into
the private health system,” said NSA Chief Executive Officer Mr Chris Grice.

“Despite several reviews, nothing has changed. Private health insurance holders continue to face premium increases, product limitations, and soaring out-of-pocket costs.

“Our research shows older people who are single, rely on the Age Pension or have limited
savings are less likely to hold health insurance. It also found while older people
overwhelmingly support private health insurance, many are bitter about it. The risk for
government is older people drop their insurance, placing pressure on the public system.

“Debates between insurers and doctors about who is responsible for soaring premiums and gap costs mean it’s time for an independent review of private health to finally get to the
bottom of this. The inquiry should identify ways to improve its value proposition to policy
holders in general and older policy holders in particular.”

As part of its Pre-Budget Submission 2024, NSA is also calling for an increase in the Private Health Insurance Rebate for people on lower incomes to help them maintain cover.

76-year-old Mrs Diane Bunworth has been in private health since she was 16. After 60 years, she is considering letting it go as cost-of-living pressures continue to build and compete.

“Our current monthly premium is $462, that’s a big dent in our Age Pension when we have
so many other expenses to fund,” Diane said.

“If we drop a tier and pay a lower premium, we risk losing cover for procedures often
needed for people at our stage of life such as joint replacements, renal and cataracts
treatment, as well as our choice of doctor and specialists.

“Letting go of private health and losing the security it provides isn’t a decision we would
take lightly but it is a decision we reluctantly may be forced to make.”

Mr Grice said experiences like Diane’s, and others forced into the public health system,
reinforce the need for NSA’s recommendations while highlighting the fragility of the health
system and the sustainability of private health moving forward. 

PHI status, single versus partnered
 19% of Australians aged 50+ surveyed do not have private health insurance

PHI status, people with Age Pension as only income vs. people with other income sources
27% of people reliant on the Age Pension surveyed do not have private health insurance compared to only 12% of older people with income sources other than the Age Pension.

Unveiling The New Darling Harbour: A Sound Shell, Upsized Playground And Expanded Chinese Garden

May 8 2024
The NSW Government is inviting Sydneysiders to rediscover Darling Harbour with the opening of three new public spaces.

A state-of-the-art playground, a sound shell in Tumbalong Park and a bamboo forest walk in the Chinese Garden of Friendship are being opened to the public as new enticing places that will draw more crowds to this harbourside precinct.

The new 2000 square-metre playground doubles the size of the existing Darling Harbour playground and is designed to cater to older children and teenagers. The playground, a $10 million investment from Tianlong as part of the Ribbon development, is made up of two areas: the Bay, with a series of decks, ramps and bridges and the Wave, with higher level ramps, climbing tower and slide plus plenty of seating for parents and carers.

The new sound shell at Tumbalong Park, a $10 million investment from Placemaking NSW, will become Sydney’s newest home for live concerts, a site for sporting events and community festivals.

The sound shell design has a unique cantilevered roof resembling a cockle shell that is a symbolic link to the history of the area. Tumbalong also means ‘the place where shellfish is found’ in Gadigal. The state-of-the-art structure includes two new 9 x 5 metre digital screens, permanent speakers, acoustic panelling and a motorised truss capable of hosting a variety of events.

The Friendship Bridge and bamboo forest walk at the Chinese Garden of Friendship is part of a $1 million expansion that connects the existing Garden with a repurposed area including 20 per cent more accessible open public space.

The space called the ‘Meandering Pathway of Tranquillity’ crosses the Lotus Pavilion and the Seven Sages Walk and finishes near the base of the waterfall, with a calming design that represents the first major upgrade to the Garden since it opened in 1988.

These reinvigorated spaces will improve the experience for more than 28,000 residents in the CBD and 13,000 on Pyrmont, as well as creating significantly improved experiences for locals and visitors to the Darling Harbour precinct.

As the redevelopment of Darling Harbour continues, more green and public spaces will continue to be delivered, reinventing the precinct for future generations.

The NSW Government is also developing a Darling Harbour 2050 Vision, a planning framework to shape it into a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable waterfront precinct. A draft is expected to be exhibited for feedback in coming months and will reflect the views of the community.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:

“With around 27 million visitors a year it’s important that the NSW Government continues to revitalise Darling Harbour as a modern, accessible and enjoyable precinct with plenty of open space for recreation and play.

“The new playground catering to older children and teenagers has been delivered as part of the Ribbon redevelopment and is designed to complement the existing playground which was focused on small children.

“The sound shell at Tumbalong Park is Sydney’s first major purpose-built, live outdoor cultural venue in the heart of the city. It is destined to become an iconic landmark rivalling sites such as the Sidney Myer Music Bowl or Federation Square in Melbourne or the HOTA Outdoor Area at the Gold Coast.

“The Chinese Garden of Friendship is an important heritage-listed cultural space which provides visitors with a tranquil garden oasis nestled in the heart of Darling Harbour. Thirty-six years after the Garden opened it is continuing to grow and expand with recent works giving the Garden a new lease of life.

“Darling Harbour is the third most visited destination in NSW and so many of us have celebrated big moments there. The Darling Harbour 2050 Vision will also guide future decision-making and secure this harbourside precinct as a world-famous destination for generations to come.”

Yes, Australia’s big supermarkets have been price gouging. But fixing the problem won’t be easy

TK Kurikawa/Shutterstock
Bree HurstQueensland University of TechnologyCarol RichardsQueensland University of TechnologyHope JohnsonQueensland University of Technology, and Rudolf MessnerQueensland University of Technology

A much-awaited report into Coles and Woolworths has found what many customers have long believed – Australia’s big supermarkets engage in price gouging.

What started as a simple Senate inquiry into grocery prices and supermarket power has delivered a lengthy 195-page-long report spanning supermarket pricing’s impact on customers, food waste, relationships with suppliers, employee wages and conditions, excessive profitability, company mergers and land banking.

The report makes some major recommendations, including giving courts the power to break up anti-competitive businesses, and strengthening the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

It also recommends making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory for supermarket chains. This code governs how they should deal with suppliers. The government’s recent Independent Review of the Food and Grocery Code also recommended making it mandatory for the supermarket giants.

But at this point it’s hard to say what, if anything, the recommendations will mean for everyday Australians and the prices they actually pay.

Price Gouging Isn’t Illegal

At the heart of the Senate inquiry was the question of whether Australian supermarkets were price gouging. According to the committee, the answer is a “resounding yes”, despite the evidence presented by supermarkets to the contrary.

Price gouging is when businesses exploit a lack of competition by setting prices well above cost price. But the practice is not explicitly illegal.

Man in supermarket viewing receipts
It’s not illegal to set prices higher than they need to be. Denys Kurbatov/Shutterstock

The committee put forward a number of recommendations that could help reduce price gouging. These include making it an offence to charge excess prices and establishing a new “Commission on Prices and Competition” to examine price setting practices in different sectors.

The committee also wants the ACCC to be given enhanced powers to investigate and prosecute unfair trading practices, and to be better funded and resourced.

The committee says supermarket claims that price gouging does not exist should mean the giants have nothing to fear under tougher legislation. However, it says:

the evidence brought forward by people willing to speak out about the business practices of Coles and Woolworths suggests that maintaining margins and increasing margin growth is occurring at the expense of suppliers, consumers, and best business practices, and without proper justification.

It’s Unlikely We’ll See Relief Anytime Soon

Will these recommendations actually deliver any relief on prices? It’s hard to say at this point. The recommendations put forward are comprehensive, but they’re unlikely to result in any short-term change for consumers.

At any rate, the Albanese government does not support many of them. In the report’s additional commentary, Labor senators argue that Australian competition law already addresses excessive pricing by prohibiting misleading and deceptive conduct. They also don’t support establishing a new commission to examine prices.

Rather, the report calls for a dramatic overhaul of current regulatory settings, which it says are “not appropriate or fit for purpose”. This is not going to be an easy or fast process.

What Does The Report Mean For The Greens’ Divestiture Bill?

While the inquiry was underway, the Greens introduced a bill which would give courts “divestiture powers”. This means a corporation could be ordered to sell some of its assets to reduce its market power.

While the bill lacks support from the major parties, the committee suggested that such divestiture powers should be introduced specifically for the supermarket sector. Where abuse of market power was able to be proven, supermarkets could be forced to sell certain stores.

While Australia does not have divestiture powers in this context, some other countries do. In New Zealand, the UK and the US, courts can force corporations that are abusing their market power to sell components of their business. Such powers are very rarely used, but the deterrent they impose can be highly influential on corporate behaviour.

Labor rejects creating any forms of divestiture power in the report’s additional commentary. But the Coalition isn’t entirely against the idea, noting that it “does not believe the committee has persuasively found that divestiture powers should not be pursued at all” and that “divestiture powers should be targeted to sectors of concern”.

What’s Next?

At this stage, the report suggests there’s only one action all political parties agree on at this stage: making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory and ensuring its full enforcement. We’re unlikely to see much unity on the other recommendations.

Farm workers pick mandarins and load them onto a truck
There remains a stubborn power imbalance between major supermarkets and their suppliers. Kevin Wells Photography/Shutterstock

In a scathing commentary, the Coalition argues the report represents “a missed opportunity to address some of the structural imbalances in our supermarket sector that are impacting Australia’s growers, farmers, small businesses, and ultimately consumers”.

While this is a harsh assessment, the reality is that unless these structural imbalances in our food system are addressed, we’re unlikely to see meaningful change.

The report draws on substantial evidence to paint a troubling picture of the food system in Australia – in particular, how growers and consumers are struggling. The task for regulators is working out what mechanisms can be used to address the imbalance of power in the market, in a way that doesn’t force growers or Australian consumers to bear the cost.The Conversation

Bree Hurst, Associate Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, QUT, Queensland University of TechnologyCarol Richards, Professor, Queensland University of TechnologyHope Johnson, ARC DECRA Fellow, Queensland University of Technology, and Rudolf Messner, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

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

OpenAI’s content deal with the FT is an attempt to avoid more legal challenges – and an AI ‘data apocalypse’

Hadrian / Shutterstock
Mike CookKing's College London

OpenAI’s new “strategic partnership” and licensing agreement with the Financial Times (FT) follows similar deals between the US tech company and publishers such as Associated Press, German media giant Axel Springer and French newspaper Le Monde.

OpenAI will licence the FT’s content to use as training data for its products, including successors to its AI chatbot ChatGPT. The AI systems developed by OpenAI are exposed to this data to help them improve their performance in terms of use of language, context and accuracy. The FT will receive an undisclosed payment as part of the deal.

This is happening against a global backdrop of legal challenges by media companies alleging copyright infringement over the use of their content to train AI products. The most high-profile of these is a case brought by the New York Times against OpenAI. There is also a fear among tech companies that, as they build more and more advanced products, the internet will no longer have enough high-quality data to train these AI tools.

So, what will this deal mean for the FT? There’s still a lack of detail on partnerships like this one, apart from the fact the FT will be paid for its content. However, there are hints of other potential benefits.

In a statement, the FT Group’s chief-executive, John Ridding, emphasised that the paper was committed to “human journalism”. But he also acknowledged that the news business can’t stay still: “We’re keen to explore the practical outcomes regarding news sources and AI through this partnership … We value the opportunity to be inside the development loop as people discover content in new ways.”

The FT has previously said it would “experiment responsibly” with AI tools, and train journalists to use generative AI for “story discovery”.

OpenAI is probably keen to announce this partnership because it hopes it will help solve the most acute problems facing its flagship products. The first is that these generative AI tools sometimes make things up, a phenomenon known as hallucination. Using reliable content from the FT and other trusted sources should help with that.

The second problem is that it could help offset the legal scrutiny that OpenAI faces. Signing official deals with news sources provides the tech company with some reputational damage control, as it shows them trying to make good with the world of journalism. It also potentially provides more legal security going forward.

Varavin88 / Shutterstock

The licensed content from the FT – and other media sources – could provide ChatGPT and the upcoming GPT-5 with more specific, referenced responses to users. Gemini, Google’s ChatGPT competitor, already attempts to do this by providing Google searches that support the claims it makes. Getting results directly from the source means OpenAI has more reliable evidence to search through and be trained on.

This appears to follow the trend of “retrieval-augmented generation” (RAG) that is becoming more popular in the AI world. RAG is a technique whereby a large language model (the technology that sits behind AI chatbots such as ChatGPT) can be provided with a database of knowledge which can be searched to support what the chatbot already knows. This is a bit like taking an exam with a textbook open in front of you.

This helps reduce the risk of hallucination, where the AI authoritatively produces a response that looks real but is actually made up. Having access to a database of trusted journalism helps offset the reliability problems with AI products as a result of them being trained on the open internet.

Partnership Programme

There’s a subtext to this global media partnerships programme that isn’t about the law or ethics. OpenAI needs more and more data as time goes on to keep delivering big improvements through upgrades to its AI products. Yet these products are running out of high-quality training data from the open internet.

This is, at least in part, because there is now a proliferation of content made by AI on the web. This potentially undermines OpenAI’s continual need to prove to its partners, governments and investors that it can deliver big improvements to its flagship products.

The New York Times lawsuit maintains that products such as ChatGPT threaten the business of media companies. Whatever the outcome of this case, it is in OpenAI’s interests to keep its sources of training data, including media companies, productive and economically viable. The success of ChatGPT, at least for now, is very much tied to the success of the people and organisations producing the data that makes it useful.

PR from the AI industry has done much to foster the idea of inevitability: that AI, in the form of products such as ChatGPT, will transform industries – and people’s lives in general. Yet technology fails all the time. The FT deal highlights the dynamic tension that exists between AI and the industries it is changing. ChatGPT now needs the trustworthy journalism that its own generative capabilities and training methods have helped to undermine.

The idea that generative AI has poisoned the internet is nothing new. Some AI researchers have likened the spread of AI-generated junk on the internet to how radioactive contamination of metals forced steel manufacturers in the 1950s to go diving for steel from wrecked ships that had been manufactured before the nuclear age. This pre-nuclear steel was needed for certain uses, such as in particle accelerators and Geiger counters.

In a similar way, for OpenAI and companies like it, training its products on data “scraps” does not seem like a viable way forward.The Conversation

Mike Cook, Senior Lecturer, Department of Informatics, King's College London

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

AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine withdrawn – right to the end it was the victim of misinformation

Michael HeadUniversity of Southampton

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was a critical part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. However, on May 7 2024, the European Commission announced the vaccine is no longer authorised for use.

This EU announcement was preceded by an application from AstraZeneca on March 27 2024 to withdraw the EU marketing authorisation. This development has been covered in various media outlets as primarily related to the known “adverse events”, namely a very small risk of blood clots. However, other factors are far more likely to be driving this decision.

The first AstraZeneca vaccine dose, outside of clinical trials, was administered on January 4 2021. In that year, about 2.5 billion doses were administered, and an estimated 6.3 million lives saved.

It was a key product at the peak of the pandemic. This includes during the emergence of the delta variant in India, across the first half of 2021 where, amid significant global supply issues, the AstraZeneca vaccine was one of the few tools available during that humanitarian crisis.

This COVID vaccine, like those from Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and others, went through the appropriate levels of testing. The phase 3 trials (where the vaccine is tested on thousands of people) showed the AstraZeneca product was safe and effective. It was distributed in many countries in Europe in early 2021, including the UK.

The potential adverse events related to blood clots were publicly reported in February 2021, with, for example, the UK government and the drugs regulator (the MHRA) then publishing a statement about its continued use on March 18 2021.

Amid speculation and investigation, the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization both highlighted how the benefits of the vaccine greatly outweighed any possible risks.

This was a time when COVID levels were extremely high, and getting higher, with around 4 million confirmed new cases globally per week.

It is well established that COVID itself caused a significantly increased risk of these related blood clots (thrombocytopenia). An August 2021, analysis of 30 million vaccinated people in the UK showed that the risks of thrombocytopenic events were much higher following a COVID infection, compared with any COVID-related vaccine.

From that study, the British Heart Foundation describe how for every 10 million people who are vaccinated with AstraZeneca, there are 66 extra cases of blood clots in the veins and seven extra cases of a rare type of blood clot in the brain. By comparisons, infection with COVID is estimated to cause 12,614 extra cases of blood clots in the veins and 20 cases of rare blood clots in the brain.

To put this into some perspective, these vaccine-associated blood clot rates are much lower than many widely prescribed medicines. For example, the combined contraception pill, prescribed widely to women, has blood clot-related risks of around one in 1,000. With women taking postmenopausal hormone therapy, around one in 300 per year are likely to develop a blood clot.

Poor Public Profile

The AstraZeneca vaccine did suffer from a poor public profile, arguably much of it undeserved. There was some poor quality reporting in Germany in January 2021, with claims that the vaccine was only “8% effective in the elderly”. This claim was widely repeated, but it turns out that 8% figure referred to the percentage of people aged over 65 years in the study and not the efficacy measure.

The antivaccine lobby had a field day with fuelling the “infodemic”, including other false claims such as fabricated links between the vaccine and female infertility. As with the blood clots, COVID infection is known to increase the risks of infertility, but there is no link at between infertility and the vaccine.

For individuals and families likely to have been injured by any medicine, including any of the COVID vaccines, compensation schemes are available. Many claimants report difficulties and frustrations with accessing the compensation. This is an area where the government-led schemes should be more transparent, and also where the misinformation from the anti-vaccine lobby hinders those groups they are claiming to support.

So, why would AstraZeneca withdraw this high-profile product? One reason for the withdrawal is likely to be that other COVID vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are essentially better products.

AstraZeneca is very good, but the mRNA versions have better effectiveness and safety levels.

The initial concerns around the difficulties of the specialist refrigeration needed to transport and store the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been overcome, including in low-income countries. The mRNA vaccines are also easier to update when new variants emerge.

With those factors, orders for the AstraZeneca vaccine are probably much lower now than they were in previous years. It is being overlooked in favour of better-performing vaccines.

For the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, perhaps its time has indeed passed. But it has been a safe and effective vaccine and a key part of the pandemic response for most countries around the world.The Conversation

Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton

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

Our new vaccine could protect against coronaviruses that haven’t even emerged yet – new study

Rory HillsUniversity of Oxford

The rapid development of vaccines that protect against COVID was a remarkable scientific achievement that saved millions of lives. The vaccines have demonstrated substantial success in reducing death and serious illness after COVID infection.

Despite this success, the effects of the pandemic have been devastating, and it is critical to consider how to protect against future pandemic threats. As well as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID), previously unknown coronaviruses have been responsible for the deadly outbreaks of SARS (2003) and MERS (2012 outbreak with ongoing cases). Meanwhile, several circulating bat coronaviruses have been identified as having the potential to infect humans – which could cause future outbreaks.

My colleagues and I have recently shown, in mice, that a single, relatively simple vaccine can protect against a range of coronaviruses – even ones that are yet to be identified. This is a step towards our goal of what is known as “proactive vaccinology”, where vaccines are developed against pandemic threats before they can infect humans.

Interview with the author, Rory Hills.

Conventional vaccines use a single antigen (part of a virus that triggers an immune response) that typically protects against that virus and that virus alone. They tend not to protect against diverse known viruses, or viruses that have not yet been discovered.

In previous research, we have shown the success of “mosaic nanoparticles” at raising immune responses to different coronaviruses. These mosaic nanoparticles use a type of protein superglue technology that irreversibly links two different proteins together.

This “superglue” is used to decorate a single nanoparticle with multiple receptor-binding domains – a key part of a virus located on the spike protein – that come from different viruses. The vaccine is focused on a sub-group of coronaviruses called sarbecoviruses that includes the viruses that cause COVID, SARS and several bat viruses that have the potential to infect humans.

As a virus evolves, some parts of it change while other parts remain the same. Our vaccine incorporates evolutionarily related receptor-binding domains (RBDs), so a single vaccine trains the immune system to respond to the parts of the virus that remain unchanged. This protects against the viruses that are represented in the vaccine and, critically, also protects against related viruses that are not included in the vaccine.

Despite this success with mosaic nanoparticles, the vaccine was complex, making it difficult to produce on a large scale.

Simpler Vaccine

In a collaboration between the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Caltech, we have now developed a simpler vaccine that still provides this broad protection. We achieved this by genetically fusing RBDs from four different sarbecoviruses to form a single protein that we call a “quartet”. We then use a type of protein glue to attach these quartets to a “protein nanocage” to make the vaccine.

When mice were immunised with these nanocage vaccines, they produced antibodies that neutralised a range of sarbecoviruses, including sarbecoviruses not present in the vaccine. This show the potential to protect against related viruses that may not have been discovered at the time that the vaccine was produced.

Along with this streamlined production and assembly process, our new vaccine elicited immune responses in mice that at least matched, and in many cases exceeded, those raised by our original mosaic nanoparticles vaccine.

Given the large fraction of the world vaccinated or previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, there was a worry that an existing response to SARS-CoV-2 would limit the potential to protect against other coronaviruses. However, we have shown that our vaccine is able to raise a broad anti-sarbecovirus immune response even in mice that had previously been immunised against SARS-CoV-2.

Our next step is to test this vaccine in humans. We are also applying this technology to protect against other groups of viruses that can infect humans. All of this brings us closer to our vision of developing a library of vaccines against viruses with pandemic potential before they have had the opportunity to cross over into humans.The Conversation

Rory Hills, PhD Candidate, Biochemistry, University of Oxford

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

Wanted: A Grannie Flat

I am a mature aged lady, n s, car owner. I have been in 2 Grannie flats in the Upper Northern Beaches area for a total of 11 years keeping an eye on the elderly owners for their families. 

I was a member of the RMYC Newport and a Volunteer with MRNSW as well before I went away last year for a year. Now back I would like a similar situation. My contact is Sandie on 0427 581 017 with references.
Sandie Henry

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 

‘Groundhog Day’: 40 years of Australian government responses to domestic violence reveal a bumpy road to change

Left: Anne Summers working at women’s refuge Elsie. Elsie Conference, Lukas Coch/AAP
Zora SimicUNSW SydneyAnn CurthoysUniversity of Sydney, and Catherine KevinFlinders University

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared a “national crisis” of domestic violence following an alarming spike in killings of women and a wave of protest rallies across the country. A dedicated meeting of National Cabinet has pledged $925 million to tackle the problem, including permanently funding the Leaving Violence program, which provides up to $5,000 crisis support to eligible women.

This is not the first time domestic violence has been declared a national crisis, or that governments have promised increased funding to deal with it. For some, it feels like Groundhog Day: here we go again. Knowing how often we have been here before can help us build on what has been proven to work and learn from past mistakes. But what can history tell us?

We are researching the history of domestic violence in Australia. For us, the importance of knowing this history was highlighted by a recent conference marking the opening of Australia’s first feminist refuge, Elsie, 50 years ago – on March 16, 1974. It was convened by Anne Summers, one of the six women who started Elsie. Most delegates work in, or have worked in, the domestic and family violence sector, among them victim-survivors.

The mood of the conference, where 50 “unsung heroines” of the feminist refuge movement were honoured, was equal parts celebratory and weary. After 50 years of activism, there was palpable despair that domestic violence is not only still rife, but has taken on new, insidious forms like technology-assisted abuse. Throughout the country, to varying extents, successive neoliberal governments have kept front-line services in a perpetual cycle of funding uncertainty.

The sector’s struggle to be properly resourced continues. For example, a Blacktown migrant women’s refuge is turning away five to six women a week. It receives no government funding, even though it gets referrals from government services.

Anne Summers working a shift at Elsie, Australia’s first women’s shelter. Elsie Conference

We have seen 50 years of countless dedicated conferences, action plans, reports, inquiries and proposed solutions for reducing and eradicating domestic and family violence. At their best, these initiatives yield tangible results. Recently, the Victorian government accepted all 227 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria – and invested record funding.

In 1997, the Howard government de-gendered the language of domestic violence (which is overwhelmingly committed by men against women) to fit his “family values” approach and replaced former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s plan to address it with his own. But governments since have taken a more bipartisan approach, and strategies developed by one side of politics have at times been taken over by the other. After his election in 2007, Kevin Rudd reintroduced the language of “violence against women” and this approach has survived subsequent changes of government.

In practical terms, support services have been expanded and police attention has increased, as has the sharing of knowledge between different agencies supporting victims. Despite these gains, so many women are seeking help that support agencies can barely keep up. National Legal Aid recently reported that in New South Wales alone, there was an increase of 61% in duty services provided by the domestic violence unit and a 36% increase in calls to the unit’s hotline.

The First National Conference: 1985

When, how and why did domestic violence become a government concern in the first place? And what has happened since?

Our story starts in November 1985, with the first government-initiated national conference on domestic violence. At this point, more than a decade of feminist activism on the issue had seen the establishment of relevant agencies by successive state governments, starting with New South Wales. Some forms of domestic violence were criminalised across the states and territories, including long-standing assault laws and apprehended violence orders in New South Wales that had been introduced three years earlier. But they were inadequately policed and prosecuted.

The attorney general, Lionel Bowen, asked the Australian Institute for Criminology to host a conference, to provide the government with advice. He put the need to improve family law and policing – which remain works in progress – on the agenda. The organisers particularly identified the need for resources for ethnic groups and First Nations women, about whom knowledge was relatively scarce.

Over five days, more than 300 participants listened to the testimonies of survivors and support workers, representatives of various church and migrant community organisations, and researchers’ findings.

Consensus would not be easy. Even the term “domestic violence” was disputed. Some were concerned its neutrality avoided the criticism of marriage contained in “wife bashing”. But most speakers referred to “domestic violence”: the term had already taken root.

Feminist contributors wanted to have domestic violence considered and treated as a crime. They urged the criminal justice agencies to take women’s testimonies more seriously but also noted that a fixation on legal responses could obscure the need for continuing support for community services. They saw achieving gender equity as essential for long-term solutions.

Various proposals were made at the conference. The extensive recommendations covered policy, funding, research, housing, childcare and education. These were a guide for subsequent initiatives, such as a report commissioned by the Office of the Status of Women on Aboriginal women’s issues in 1986, and the 1991 publication of Through Black Eyes: a handbook of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Childcare Agencies.

However, proposals similar to those made in 1985 have been made many times since, including calls for dedicated policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, adequate funding for refuges and more training for police and the judiciary. Some of this would take time to achieve and some is a work in progress: for example, we finally got a national plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in 2024, but we still need more funding for refugees.

Other aspects of domestic violence, such as its prevalence in gay and lesbian relationships, were not yet on the agenda.

‘I Had No Idea Violence Against Women Was So Pervasive’

Late in 1987, the federal government established a National Committee on Violence, with gender issues as a key term of reference. Domestic violence became part of a larger conversation about violence. In 1988, the Commonwealth released an action plan, National Agenda for Women, responding to community consultations revealing violence against women and children as a major concern. It was a milestone in the development of national domestic violence policy.

At that point, Australia did not yet have reliable data about rates of domestic violence. In the early 1990s, the national committee gathered and analysed data, which showed the problem was larger than even experienced feminists realised.

When Summers, Australia’s first dedicated professor of family and domestic violence, became head of the Keating government’s Office of the Status of Women in the early 1990s (her second time in the role), she was “staggered” that in focus groups “almost every woman” mentioned violence. “I had no idea violence against women was so pervasive,” she later wrote in her 2018 memoir.

In 1992, the government released the far-reaching and ambitious National Strategy on Violence Against Women, which attributed domestic violence to male attitudes and gendered power.

It produced some action. There were new national guidelines for training people working in the area, which continued to be used for years after. In 1993, there was a Stop Violence Against Women community awareness campaign. In May 1994, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published the first national crime statistics on domestic violence.

In 1996, the ABS conducted the first Women’s Safety Survey, which had a specific focus on physical and sexual violence against women. It found that 5.9% of women had experienced physical violence in the last 12-month period and 1.5% had been sexually assaulted.

1994 was the UN International Year of the Family. An angry, anti-feminist “men’s rights” movement was emerging – explaining men’s violence as a product of their unequal treatment in the family law system. The movement argued women were just as violent as men.

‘De-Gendering’ Domestic Violence In The Howard Era

Feminist influence on government policy plummeted when a socially conservative, pro-family Coalition government led by John Howard came to power in March 1996. The government cut many services to women and slashed the funding of the Office for the Status of Women by 40%.

It recognised that domestic violence placed a heavy strain on police, courts and the health system, and reframed it as an issue that undermined family life. Domestic violence was discussed less in the context of addressing violence against women and more as solving problems in the family to avoid family breakdown.

In 1997, Howard convened a National Domestic Violence Summit. He opened it by saying: “We must acknowledge that domestic violence is not a private matter, but a serious issue for our whole society.”

The Howard government overturned the Keating government’s plan and replaced it with an entirely new one. Its new program, Partnerships Against Domestic Violence, left major responsibility to the states. Important initiatives included national annual data on the cost of domestic violence and a focus on Indigenous family violence. The Women’s Safety Agenda, which replaced the program in 2005, continued many of its initiatives.

‘It Is Australian Men That Are Responsible’

When Labor won office in November 2007, it reintroduced the language of “violence against women”. In a speech in September 2008, Rudd cited the half million Australian women who experienced violence from their partners. “It is my gender – it is our gender – Australian men – that are responsible,” he said.

In March 2009, the Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children released its national 12-year plan for 2010–22, supported by all state governments. An updated version was released in early 2011, with Julia Gillard as prime minister.

The plan recognised the intersections of domestic and family violence and sexual assault with issues such as homelessness, disability and income support. It sought to stop “violence before it happens in the first place” by changing attitudes to gender, thus returning to a feminist framing.

In the last ten years, domestic violence has gained more public attention than ever before. In 2005, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described domestic violence as “a national disgrace”. It should be, he said, “UnAustralian” to disrespect women.

His successor, Scott Morrison, commented that a “culture of disrespect towards women is a precursor to violence, and anyone who doesn’t see that is kidding themselves”. Yet during his term in office, the culture of parliament itself was called into question, and there was widespread anger and disappointment about his government’s lack of action on gendered violence.

On March 15, 2021, thousands protested across the country against sexism and gendered violence in #March4Justice rallies, including at Parliament House.

The exclusive, invitation-only nature of the Morrison government’s National Summit on Women’s Safety to discuss the next 12-year national plan was widely criticised, as was its narrow remit. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women called for a separate national plan.

60% Of Single Mothers Experienced Domestic Violence

In July 2022, a few months after Labor won office, Summers released the landmark report The Choice: Violence or Poverty, which found 60% of the 311,000 single mothers living in Australia in 2016 had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a previous partner.

Summers called for the reversal of the “bad policy” introduced by Gillard: the restriction of the parenting support payment to children aged eight and under, rather than 16. In the 2023-24 budget, the government lifted the age for child support from eight to 14. The campaign continues to reinstate the age to 16. Domestic abuse author and campaigner Jess Hill said recently that structural improvements to gender equality, such as the single parenting payment, are key to prevention.

The Albanese government’s iteration of the national plan included the first specific action plan developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to focus on their needs, and long-called-for national targets to measure and reduce violence.

In November 2022, Micaela Cronin was appointed as Australia’s inaugural domestic, family and sexual violence commissioner, only the third-such appointment in the world.

We Need Talk And Action

Both sides of parliament now assume – and it is expected of them – that Australia must have a national plan to address problems of domestic and family violence and violence against women. But is there too much talk and not enough action?

It is encouraging that the federal government has heeded the call for a dedicated national plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. But given that First Nations women are 33% more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non-Indigenous women, governments must work with affected communities to fund existing programs that work.

It has been almost 40 years of national talk fests, plans and initiatives. The feminist knowledge accrued in a fledgling but impactful women’s refuge movement was core to the 1985 national conference that started the Australian government’s move towards a national domestic violence policy. The expertise of victim-survivors and those who work closely with them – in a sector often stretched to near-breaking – has been central since. It continues to be a crucial resource for decision-makers.

But funding responses have rarely been adequate to the task of translating this generous knowledge-sharing into change.

The current domestic and family violence conversation brings mental health, housing and legal aid funding – among other salient issues – into view. Now, the Australian government response to domestic violence needs to build on the knowledge it has gathered over 40 years – and to meet this expertise with reliable and adequate funding that enables improvements across a range of intersecting services that are built to last.

Note: We discuss some of these issues in more detail in “Too much talk, not enough action? Federal government responses to domestic violence”, in Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity, and David Lowe (eds), Lessons from History: Leading Historians Tackle Australias Greatest Challenges (NewSouth).The Conversation

Zora Simic, Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW SydneyAnn Curthoys, Honorary Professor in History, University of Sydney, and Catherine Kevin, Associate Professor in Australian History, Flinders University

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

$230 Million To Improve NSW Domestic Violence Prevention And Support: NSW Government

May 6, 2024
The NSW Government has announced it will provide $230 million over four years as part of an emergency package to enhance support for domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) victim-survivors and expand programs that reduce the rate of violence against women and children.

Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men in Australia have experienced violence by an intimate partner or family member since the age of 15.  

The NSW Labor Government is taking urgent action to address the unacceptable rate of violence against women and children, including implementation of NSW’s first dedicated Primary Prevention Strategy – a new step in NSW’s approach to preventing DFSV.

The Government will also undertake further long-term reform to prevent domestic, sexual and family violence in NSW.

This work will be informed by the lived experience of victim-survivors and expert advice to government, including from leaders in the domestic family and sexual violence sector who engaged directly with the NSW Cabinet last week.

The package includes:

Crisis response
  • $48m to roll out the Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV) program state-wide and to expand the Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Service (IDFVS).
    • The Staying Home Leaving Violence program helps women and their children to remain safe in their homes after leaving a violent relationship. In 2022, a formal evaluation from the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of NSW found this program effectively contributes to the long-term safety and housing stability of women and children who have left a violent and abusive relationship.
    • The Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Service provides important case management helping people to navigate the services of government agencies and non-government organisations. This can include coordinating across police, courts, healthcare, child protection workers, housing providers and women’s refuges. The program works with both victim-survivors who have left a relationship and those who remain, focusing on maximising safety for this group of women and their children.
Improving the justice system for victims
  • $45 million has been set aside to improve bail laws and justice system responses to domestic violence with measures to be announced in coming weeks.
  • Nearly $24 million for specialist DV support workers within the justice system.
  • $2 million over four years to support the Domestic Violence Death Review Team and its work to deliver robust research around risks factors, trends and impact of service delivery.
  • $2.1 million over two years to improve and continue the Corrective Services program EQUIPS Domestic and Family Violence, delivered to offenders in custody and under supervision in the community to prevent reoffending.
Early intervention
  • $48 million to secure and increase funding for workers who support children accompanying their mothers to refuges. These specialist workers support them, including with education and mental health measures.
  • Support of $700,000 for the NSW Domestic Violence Line (DV line).
Primary prevention
  • $38 million for the implementation of NSW’s first dedicated Primary Prevention Strategy. The Pathways to Prevention: NSW Strategy for the Prevention of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence 2024-2027 will develop a range of initiatives to address the drivers of domestic, family and sexual violence.
  • $8.1 million over four years for the ‘All in’ early childhood pilot, to prevent domestic violence by teaching young children about healthy relationships.
Strengthening the sector
  • $5 million for workforce training on the implementation of a newly developed risk assessment framework, and quality standards.
  • $3.6 million to expand Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW), which is the peak body for specialist services in New South Wales.
  • $5m in funding for research into perpetrators and effective interventions.
This package supports NSW’s commitments, alongside the Prime Minister and First Ministers across the country, at National Cabinet last week. First Ministers committed to sustained focus on stopping the homicides and achieving our shared goal of ending violence against women and children in a generation.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic, family or sexual violence, please call the toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for support on 1800RESPECT or visit

Premier Chris Minns said:
“Too many lives have been lost and too many families have been broken because of domestic and family violence. It is a blight in our communities, and it is a problem that deserves our government’s concerted attention and response.

“We are listening to leaders, organisations, victim-survivors, and communities from across NSW to drive solutions. Domestic, family, and sexual violence is preventable; we cannot accept the status quo.

“This funding announcement is an important step to doing better, to recognising that domestic violence supports need to be applied not just from a crisis response perspective, but with an eye to disrupting the cycle of domestic and family violence early and permanently.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jodie Harrison said:
“Our government is committed to seeing dramatic improvements in the rates of domestic, family, and sexual violence through a preventative approach, as outlined in NSW’s first dedicated whole-of-government domestic, family and sexual violence Pathways to Prevention strategy.

“There is no shying away from the horrendous statistics, and the tragic stories behind each one of those statistics.

“What we need to focus on, and what we are committed to achieving, is appropriate, ongoing, and all-encompassing wraparound support for victim-survivors, as well as ensuring we learn from their experiences and do better for communities across NSW.”

Attorney General Michael Daley said:
“In the coming weeks we will confirm and announce the details of $45 million to improve bail laws and justice system responses, ensuring we are reviewing domestic violence supports and systems from every angle.

“NSW needs a coordinated approach across multiple fronts to disrupt domestic violence – that is what this suite of funding initiatives is designed to achieve.”

Minister for Corrections Anoulack Chanthivong said:
“This is important funding to expand and improve programs that stop cycles of violence, including by reducing reoffending.

“There isn’t any excuse for family and domestic violence. We’re ensuring offenders can access the specialised programs they need to help change their behaviour.”

Qantas Agrees To $20m Payments To Customers And, Subject To Court Approval, A $100m Penalty For Misleading Consumers + Scam Warning On Repayments

May 6, 2024:ACCC
Scam warning: The ACCC is aware that scammers have been calling people, falsely claiming to help them get payments. They may be using this media release about Qantas refunds to convince you that it is real.

If you receive a call from anyone offering to help you with a payment or refund, hang up immediately. Never give personal information to anyone calling you out of the blue, never give access to your computer or bank account and never click on a link in a text message or open an attachment in an email if you were not expecting the text or email. If you have given information to a scammer or lost money, contact your bank immediately. Report scams to Scamwatch.

Qantas (ASX: QAN) has admitted that it misled consumers by advertising tickets for tens of thousands of flights it had already decided to cancel, and by cancelling thousands more flights without promptly telling ticketholders of its decision, after court action by the ACCC.

As part of an agreement announced today, the ACCC and Qantas will ask the Federal Court to impose a penalty of $100 million on Qantas for breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

Qantas has also agreed in a court-enforceable undertaking to pay about $20 million to more than 86,000 customers who were sold tickets on flights that Qantas had already decided to cancel, or in some cases who were re-accommodated on these flights after their original flights were cancelled.

Qantas will pay $225 to domestic ticketholders and $450 to international ticketholders. These payments are on top of any remedies these consumers already received from Qantas, such as alternative flights or refunds.

“We are pleased to have secured these admissions by Qantas that it misled its customers, and its agreement that a very significant penalty is required as a result of this conduct. The size of this proposed penalty is an important milestone in enforcing the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Qantas’ conduct was egregious and unacceptable. Many consumers will have made holiday, business and travel plans after booking on a phantom flight that had been cancelled.”

“We expect that this penalty, if accepted by the Court, will send a strong deterrence message to other companies. Importantly, it demonstrates that we take action to ensure that companies operating in Australia communicate clearly, accurately and honestly with their customers at all times,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We note that Qantas has also agreed not to repeat this type of conduct in the future, and to make payments as soon as possible to the thousands of consumers who purchased tickets on flights that Qantas had already decided to cancel, or were re-accommodated onto these flights after their original flight was cancelled.”

The ACCC launched Federal Court action against Qantas in August 2023 alleging that, between 21 May 2021 and 7 July 2022, Qantas advertised tickets for more than 8,000 cancelled flights. It was also alleged that, for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart in May to July 2022, Qantas did not promptly notify existing ticketholders that their flights had been cancelled.

Qantas has now admitted that its misconduct continued from 21 May 2021 until 26 August 2023, affecting tens of thousands of flights scheduled to depart between 1 May 2022 and 10 May 2024.

“We acknowledge Qantas’ cooperation in ultimately deciding not to contest this case, admitting that the conduct occurred for a longer period, and seeking to resolve this early and for the benefit of consumers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Qantas has also undertaken to notify customers of cancelled flights as soon as practicable, and no more than 48 hours from deciding to cancel the flight. It has also undertaken to stop selling cancelled flights as soon as practicable, and in any event within 24 hours of its decision to cancel. The undertaking also applies to its low-cost subsidiary, Jetstar.

Qantas will also review its consumer compliance program and appoint independent auditors who will monitor Qantas’ compliance with the undertaking and provide reports to the Qantas board and the ACCC.

Summary of the agreement
Under the agreement with the ACCC, Qantas:
  • admits misleading representations were made to consumers in respect of flights it had decided to cancel
  • undertakes to the ACCC to make payments to customers
  • undertakes to not engage in this type of conduct in the future
  • will make joint submissions on the proposed $100 million penalty to the Federal Court.
The Court will determine the penalty after a hearing on a date to be fixed.

Qantas has also agreed to pay a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.

Payments to affected consumers
Qantas will facilitate payments to 86,597 consumers who, between 21 May 2021 and 26 August 2023, booked, or were re‑accommodated on, a domestic or international flight scheduled to depart between 1 May 2022 until 10 May 2024 after Qantas had already decided to cancel it.

The total value of the payment scheme is expected to be approximately $20 million.

Qantas will contact affected consumers to inform them about the payment scheme by 10 July 2024, and consumers should direct queries about the scheme to Qantas.

Consumers will receive communications from Qantas and Deloitte Australia, which is administering the payments on behalf of Qantas, via email and text message, providing information on accessing a portal to facilitate the payment.

Consumers should be aware of scammers pretending to make contact on behalf of Qantas or Deloitte. Consumers should only provide their personal information through the official claims portal, and not to anyone else. 

The undertaking offered by Qantas, and accepted by the ACCC, is available online at Qantas Airways Ltd.

Qantas is Australia’s largest domestic airline operator. It is a publicly listed company which operates domestic and international passenger flights under its mainline brand, Qantas, and through its subsidiary Jetstar. It offers flights for sale through direct channels, such as its website and app, and indirect channels, such as travel agents and third-party online booking websites.

The ACCC commenced its court action against Qantas on 1 August 2023.

New Laws To Increase Awareness Of The Dangers Of Toppling Furniture

May 7 2024
Furniture suppliers will be required to provide safety warnings to consumers about the dangers of toppling furniture hazards, after the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon. Stephen Jones, made a new information standard for toppling furniture.

Since 2000, 28 people, including 17 children under five, have died in Australia from toppling furniture, and each year more than 900 Australians suffer injuries requiring medical assistance from toppling furniture. Children aged up to 4 years are most at risk, with older Australians also vulnerable.

Furniture, such as chests of drawers, wardrobes, bookshelves, TV units or other tall items, which are not properly secured, can topple over when young children attempt to climb on, or pull themselves up on, those items of furniture.

The toppling furniture information standard was made by the Assistant Treasurer on 3 May 2024, following a recommendation by the ACCC.

The standard requires suppliers to provide safety warnings and advice about how to reduce toppling furniture incidents to consumers before, during and after purchasing furniture.

“A mandatory information standard is a critical step towards reducing the injuries and deaths involving toppling furniture,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.   

“We know that young children and the elderly are most at risk of toppling furniture injuries, and the most common cause of death is head and crush injuries and asphyxiation.”

“The new information standard will help increase awareness about toppling furniture risks, including by warning consumers to securely anchor furniture to prevent furniture tip overs,” Mr Keogh said.

The toppling furniture information standard will require suppliers to:
  • attach a permanent warning label to furniture;
  • include safety information and advice about anchoring furniture in manuals and assembly instructions; and
  • provide warnings about the hazards of toppling furniture in furniture stores and online.
The standard will apply to chests of drawers, wardrobes, bookcases, hall tables, display cabinets, buffets and sideboards with a height of 686mm or more, and entertainment units of any height.

Suppliers will have a 12-month transition period to implement the new information and labelling requirements.

Consumer advice
When you’re out -shopping, use these tips to help you pick safer furniture:
  • Examine the furniture to make sure it is stable.
  • Pull out any top drawers of a chest of drawers or open doors on other furniture items and apply a little pressure to see how stable the furniture is.
  • Make sure the drawers don’t fall out easily.
  • Look for built-in drawer stops that limit how far drawers can be extended or interlocks that prevent more than one drawer being opened at a time.
  • Look for furniture with sturdy backing material which increases stability.
  • Look for low-set furniture, or furniture with a sturdy, stable and broad base. It’s less likely to tip over.
The best way to prevent furniture from tipping over is to secure it to the wall or floor.  

What you’ll need depends on what your wall or floor is made of, and what kind of furniture you’re working with. There are different kinds of wall and floor anchors available.

If your furniture doesn’t come with anchoring hardware, you can ask about anchors and buy what you need from a furniture retailer, hardware store or a specialty store for baby goods.

As well as securing your furniture and TVs, here are some things you can do to use furniture safely:
  • Keep your heaviest items at the bottom of your drawers or shelves. Furniture that is top-heavy is easier to tip over.
  • Do not place heavy items such as TVs or items that are attractive to children on top of furniture.
  • Put locking devices on all drawers. They help prevent children from opening them and using them as steps.
Information for suppliers
The ACCC is preparing guidance for furniture suppliers about the new information standard and plans to engage with the furniture industry during the 12-month transition period to assist with complying with the new requirements.

Supplying a product that fails to comply with the information standard is a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law and may expose a business or individual to potential enforcement action by the ACCC.

The maximum financial penalties for businesses are the greatest of:
  • $50,000,000;
  • three times the value of the "reasonably attributable" benefit obtained from the conduct, if the court can determine this; or
  • if a court cannot determine the benefit, 30 per cent of adjusted turnover during the breach period.
The maximum financial penalty for individuals is $2,500,000.

In response to an issues paper published in 2021, the ACCC received broad support from interested parties for the introduction of measures to reduce the risk of death and injury associated with toppling furniture.

In response to a consultation paper published in 2022 that set out a range of proposed regulatory options to address the risks associated with toppling furniture, the ACCC received 31 submissions from stakeholders including manufacturers and retailers. The submissions received broadly supported regulatory action to improve consumer safety. All respondents supported the provision of consumer education about the risks of toppling furniture and advice to consumers to improve safety through anchoring.

AMA Calls Out Sick System On Chronic Conditions

May 7, 2024
The Australian Medical Association is urging action on the prevention and management of chronic conditions in Australia.

The AMA has called for a coordinated policy approach and cross jurisdiction funding for chronic disease, in its response to the Department of Health and Aged Care’s consultation on a new National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions.

“Chronic illnesses are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in Australia; with almost half of all Australians living with at least one chronic disease, and one in five living with two or more chronic conditions,” AMA President Professor Steve Robson said.

“Long-term commitment and sustainable funding models are urgently needed, with a focus on real solutions that improve quality of life for those who are suffering," Professor Robson said.

Chronic conditions include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, mental health conditions and osteoporosis.

“The refresh of the National Strategic Framework must become a priority for all governments in Australia,” Professor Robson said.

“Chronic conditions are placing an enormous strain on the healthcare system through increased costs and potentially preventable hospital admissions. We know prevention is much more than spending.”

In its submission, the AMA is calling for improved arrangements to support GP led well-coordinated multidisciplinary care for patients with chronic and complex disease.

“There is opportunity to build on MyMedicare to help streamline care, and to improve the management of patients with chronic conditions,” Professor Robson said.

“GPs are best placed to look holistically at patients but need support in leading a multidisciplinary approach to care, which is often frustrated by the complexity of the health system.

“People with a chronic disease need top notch medical care from their doctor and also the involvement of a team with nurses, allied health and other supports. That team needs to be well connected, resourced and to truly work together.

"We need more efficient arrangements that support the provision of well-coordinated multidisciplinary care for patients with chronic and complex disease.

"The goal of the next National Strategic Framework should be to ensure that Australians get the treatment they need no matter where they live or who they are – one that will serve Australians, doctors and saves lives."

Along with treating disease and risk factors, the AMA highlighted the impact of underlying social determinants of health in contributing to chronic disease.

The AMA highlights that rates of chronic conditions and overall poorer health outcomes are far higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, people in rural and remote areas and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“All Australians deserve access to their usual doctor to prevent chronic disease and treat early signs,” Professor Robson said.

"We know the fixes for a sick system with chronic problems ― we just need to make the investment.

“Our health is not a cost to be managed, but an investment to be made. The lack of investment in prevention of chronic disease has resulted in a healthcare system that responds to poor health outcomes rather than actively preventing them.”

Many people are feeling ecological grief. How can we help those whose work puts them at risk?

Anna CookeThe University of QueenslandClaudia BenhamThe University of QueenslandJulie DeanThe University of Queensland, and Nathalie ButtThe University of Queensland

We feel ecological grief when we lose places, species or ecosystems we value and love. These losses are a growing threat to mental health and wellbeing globally.

We all see news of environmental degradation and climate change impacts around the world. But environmental scientists, rangers, engineers, advocates and policymakers are at particular risk of ecological grief, due to their first-hand experience of environmental decline. Our author group has heard from colleagues about the impacts of coral bleaching, bushfires and floods on their work and the distress they feel.

Ecologist Daniella Teixeira has also written about her “immense grief” at the impact of bushfires on the species she was studying:

I grieved not only for the glossy black cockatoos and other damaged species, but also the loss that would come in the future under climate change. […] I will inevitably face more crises, and dealing with them effectively means keeping my mental health in check.

In our paper published today we draw on psychology and public health research for insights and strategies that help people adapt to loss, and apply these to ecological grief. We developed an approach we call “ecological grief literacy”. We highlight three key elements: peer support, organisational change and practical workplace strategies.

Exploring Ecological Grief Literacy

Grief literacy relates to the knowledge, skills and values that help with loss and grieving. When adapting the concept for ecological grief, we thought about the differences between bereavement and environmental loss.

Bereavement usually happens after a single event – the loss of a loved one. But environmental losses have constant uncertainty in timing and severity. They are happening now, but are also ongoing.

These losses interact and add up. Scientists might watch a species decline towards extinction over their years of research. Or a bushfire or bleaching event might damage an ecosystem supporting many endangered species, with rangers unable to help.

We started with a workshop to explore strategies to support these workers. We shared information about the science of stress and emotion. We explored the knowledge, skills and values that make up ecological grief literacy.

The workshop provided a range of exercises and resources so participants could take what was useful for them.

What Are The Key Elements Of This Approach?

Ecological grief literacy has several aspects.

Peer support

Social support is crucial in adapting to loss. People then feel cared for and have the help they most need.

For losses such as the death of a loved one, much of this support is likely to come from family and friends.

However, ecological grief is less well acknowledged or understood in the community. Helpful support is most likely to come from colleagues or peers who share the experience of working with nature.

Peer support has been shown to be helpful in other workplaces, such as disaster response and health and education settings.

One of our workshop’s main goals was to enable people to talk about their ecological grief with others who shared a connection to nature. As the workshop was told:

At times, I’ve had to stop watching the news or reading reports about climate change. My stomach still clenches just thinking about opening an IPCC report. How can I work?

Another person said:

My eco-grief is more a general feeling of dread and sadness and worry for my kids, and their (future) kids – all of the coming generations – these days.

Deep listening and sensitivity

Environmental professionals can develop the skill of listening deeply to colleagues experiencing grief. Asking questions in a sensitive way helps people express their experiences without fear of judgment or unsolicited advice.

One reason this is important is because individual reactions differ. We will also feel differently over time.

Emotions such as sadness, despair, anger, guilt, fear and yearning, feeling numb or disconnected, are all normal reactions to environmental loss. Being listened to can be a huge relief when grieving.

I frequently engage with government and policy inquiries to try to make things better. Nothing is getting better. Nothing works. I oscillate between pure rage and total despair […] I feel a huge responsibility to use my privilege and my knowledge to push for change. It’s exhausting and very lonely.

Valuing an ethic of care

Recognising that we will all be vulnerable at some time in our lives can help create a supportive community. People are then able to ask for and receive help when needed.

Our workshop explored the concept of compassion motivation – both being aware of distress and suffering, and wanting and intending to attempt to ease it.

For ongoing ecological grief, it is important to direct this compassion towards ourselves as well as others. We need to prioritise times of rest and also distraction. Remember the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

No one-size-fits-all approach

There is no universally best or right way to respond to loss. What helps one person may not work for another.

Some may prefer to go for a run in the bush with a friend. Others may benefit from open discussions in safe spaces, such as Psychology for a Safe Climate’s online Climate Cafes.

It is important to know and communicate that many options are available.

What Does This Mean For The Workplace?

Australia has world-leading laws requiring employers to protect mental health in the workplace.

While individuals can improve their ecological grief literacy, it’s crucial for organisations to create supportive structures and resources for workers. Environmental professionals facing ecological grief need support in their workplaces and access to information and options that suit them.

To be effective, ecological grief literacy should be built into all levels of these organisations, encompassing leadership and all team members. These steps might include:

  • formal and informal opportunities for peer support, to encourage people to discuss and share their experiences

  • training about ecological grief to give staff the skills to support one another

  • allocating time, personnel and funding to meet needs arising from ecological grief

  • pathways to get support from a mental health professional with specialist skills in ecological grief when needed.

Ecological grief is a normal and valid response to environmental losses. Making ecological grief literacy part of day-to-day workplace health and safety will help with not only environmental professionals’ wellbeing but also their work to protect the species and ecosystems on which we all depend.

If there is just one takeaway we would emphasise it is that social connection and support in the workplace are important. We hope readers at risk of ecological grief will forward this piece to colleagues and say: “For our next meeting?”The Conversation

Anna Cooke, Honorary Fellow, School of the Environment, The University of QueenslandClaudia Benham, ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow, School of the Environment, The University of QueenslandJulie Dean, Health Services Researcher, Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland, and Nathalie Butt, Research Fellow, School of the Environment, The University of Queensland

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

Yes, adults can develop food allergies. Here are 4 types you need to know about

Clare CollinsUniversity of Newcastle

If you didn’t have food allergies as a child, is it possible to develop them as an adult? The short answer is yes. But the reasons why are much more complicated.

Preschoolers are about four times more likely to have a food allergy than adults and are more likely to grow out of it as they get older.

It’s hard to get accurate figures on adult food allergy prevalence. The Australian National Allergy Council reports one in 50 adults have food allergies. But a US survey suggested as many as one in ten adults were allergic to at least one food, with some developing allergies in adulthood.

What Is A Food Allergy

Food allergies are immune reactions involving immunoglobulin E (IgE) – an antibody that’s central to triggering allergic responses. These are known as “IgE-mediated food allergies”.

Food allergy symptoms that are not mediated by IgE are usually delayed reactions and called food intolerances or hypersensitivity.

Food allergy symptoms can include hives, swelling, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, throat or chest tightening, trouble breathing, chest pain, rapid heart rate, dizziness, low blood pressure or anaphylaxis.

Symptoms include hives. wisely/Shutterstock

IgE-mediated food allergies can be life threatening, so all adults need an action management plan developed in consultation with their medical team.

Here are four IgE-mediated food allergies that can occur in adults – from relatively common ones to rare allergies you’ve probably never heard of.

1. Single Food Allergies

The most common IgE-mediated food allergies in adults in a US survey were to:

  • shellfish (2.9%)
  • cow’s milk (1.9%)
  • peanut (1.8%)
  • tree nuts (1.2%)
  • fin fish (0.9%) like barramundi, snapper, salmon, cod and perch.

In these adults, about 45% reported reacting to multiple foods.

This compares to most common childhood food allergies: cow’s milk, egg, peanut and soy.

Overall, adult food allergy prevalence appears to be increasing. Compared to older surveys published in 2003 and 2004, peanut allergy prevalence has increased about three-fold (from 0.6%), while tree nuts and fin fish roughly doubled (from 0.5% each), with shellfish similar (2.5%).

While new adult-onset food allergies are increasing, childhood-onset food allergies are also more likely to be retained into adulthood. Possible reasons for both include low vitamin D status, lack of immune system challenges due to being overly “clean”, heightened sensitisation due to allergen avoidance, and more frequent antibiotic use.

Woman holds coffee and pastry
Some adults develop allergies to cow’s milk, while others retain their allergy from childhood. Sarah Swinton/Unsplash

2. Tick-Meat Allergy

Tick-meat allergy, also called α-Gal syndrome or mammalian meat allergy, is an allergic reaction to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or α-Gal for short.

Australian immunologists first reported links between α-Gal syndrome and tick bites in 2009, with cases also reported in the United States, Japan, Europe and South Africa. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates about 450,000 Americans could be affected.

The α-Gal contains a carbohydrate molecule that is bound to a protein molecule in mammals.

The IgE-mediated allergy is triggered after repeated bites from ticks or chigger mites that have bitten those mammals. When tick saliva crosses into your body through the bite, antibodies to α-Gal are produced.

When you subsequently eat foods that contain α-Gal, the allergy is triggered. These triggering foods include meat (lamb, beef, pork, rabbit, kangaroo), dairy products (yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, cream), animal-origin gelatin added to gummy foods (jelly, lollies, marshmallow), prescription medications and over-the counter supplements containing gelatin (some antibiotics, vitamins and other supplements).

Tick-meat allergy reactions can be hard to recognise because they’re usually delayed, and they can be severe and include anaphylaxis. Allergy organisations produce management guidelines, so always discuss management with your doctor.

3. Fruit-Pollen Allergy

Fruit-pollen allergy, called pollen food allergy syndrome, is an IgE-mediated allergic reaction.

In susceptible adults, pollen in the air provokes the production of IgE antibodies to antigens in the pollen, but these antigens are similar to ones found in some fruits, vegetables and herbs. The problem is that eating those plants triggers an allergic reaction.

The most allergenic tree pollens are from birch, cypress, Japanese cedar, latex, grass, and ragweed. Their pollen can cross-react with fruit and vegetables, including kiwi, banana, mango, avocado, grapes, celery, carrot and potato, and some herbs such as caraway, coriander, fennel, pepper and paprika.

Fruit-pollen allergy is not common. Prevalence estimates are between 0.03% and 8% depending on the country, but it can be life-threatening. Reactions range from itching or tingling of lips, mouth, tongue and throat, called oral allergy syndrome, to mild hives, to anaphylaxis.

4. Food-Dependent, Exercise-Induced Food Allergy

During heavy exercise, the stomach produces less acid than usual and gut permeability increases, meaning that small molecules in your gut are more likely to escape across the membrane into your blood. These include food molecules that trigger an IgE reaction.

If the person already has IgE antibodies to the foods eaten before exercise, then the risk of triggering food allergy reactions is increased. This allergy is called food-dependent exercise-induced allergy, with symptoms ranging from hives and swelling, to difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis.

Man stands on court
This type of allergy is extremely rare. Ben O'Sullivan/Unsplash

Common trigger foods include wheat, seafood, meat, poultry, egg, milk, nuts, grapes, celery and other foods, which could have been eaten many hours before exercising.

To complicate things even further, allergic reactions can occur at lower levels of trigger-food exposure, and be more severe if the person is simultaneously taking non-steroidal inflammatory medications like aspirin, drinking alcohol or is sleep-deprived.

Food-dependent exercise-induced allergy is extremely rare. Surveys have estimated prevalence as between one to 17 cases per 1,000 people worldwide with the highest prevalence between the teenage years to age 35. Those affected often have other allergic conditions such as hay fever, asthma, allergic conjunctivitis and dermatitis.

Allergies Are A Growing Burden

The burden on physical health, psychological health and health costs due to food allergy is increasing. In the US, this financial burden was estimated as $24 billion per year.

Adult food allergy needs to be taken seriously and those with severe symptoms should wear a medical information bracelet or chain and carry an adrenaline auto-injector pen. Concerningly, surveys suggest only about one in four adults with food allergy have an adrenaline pen.

If you have an IgE-mediated food allergy, discuss your management plan with your doctor. You can also find more information at Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia.The Conversation

Clare Collins, Laureate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle

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

Terminal lucidity: why do loved ones with dementia sometimes ‘come back’ before death?

Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio
Yen Ying LimMonash University and Diny ThomsonMonash University

Dementia is often described as “the long goodbye”. Although the person is still alive, dementia slowly and irreversibly chips away at their memories and the qualities that make someone “them”.

Dementia eventually takes away the person’s ability to communicate, eat and drink on their own, understand where they are, and recognise family members.

Since as early as the 19th century, stories from loved ones, caregivers and health-care workers have described some people with dementia suddenly becoming lucid. They have described the person engaging in meaningful conversation, sharing memories that were assumed to have been lost, making jokes, and even requesting meals.

It is estimated 43% of people who experience this brief lucidity die within 24 hours, and 84% within a week.

Why does this happen?

Terminal Lucidity Or Paradoxical Lucidity?

In 2009, researchers Michael Nahm and Bruce Greyson coined the term “terminal lucidity”, since these lucid episodes often occurred shortly before death.

But not all lucid episodes indicate death is imminent. One study found many people with advanced dementia will show brief glimmers of their old selves more than six months before death.

Lucidity has also been reported in other conditions that affect the brain or thinking skills, such as meningitis, schizophrenia, and in people with brain tumours or who have sustained a brain injury.

Moments of lucidity that do not necessarily indicate death are sometimes called paradoxical lucidity. It is considered paradoxical as it defies the expected course of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

But it’s important to note these episodes of lucidity are temporary and sadly do not represent a reversal of neurodegenerative disease.

Man in hospital bed
Sadly, these episodes of lucidity are only temporary. Pexels/Kampus Production

Why Does Terminal Lucidity Happen?

Scientists have struggled to explain why terminal lucidity happens. Some episodes of lucidity have been reported to occur in the presence of loved ones. Others have reported that music can sometimes improve lucidity. But many episodes of lucidity do not have a distinct trigger.

A research team from New York University speculated that changes in brain activity before death may cause terminal lucidity. But this doesn’t fully explain why people suddenly recover abilities that were assumed to be lost.

Paradoxical and terminal lucidity are also very difficult to study. Not everyone with advanced dementia will experience episodes of lucidity before death. Lucid episodes are also unpredictable and typically occur without a particular trigger.

And as terminal lucidity can be a joyous time for those who witness the episode, it would be unethical for scientists to use that time to conduct their research. At the time of death, it’s also difficult for scientists to interview caregivers about any lucid moments that may have occurred.

Explanations for terminal lucidity extend beyond science. These moments of mental clarity may be a way for the dying person to say final goodbyes, gain closure before death, and reconnect with family and friends. Some believe episodes of terminal lucidity are representative of the person connecting with an afterlife.

Why Is It Important To Know About Terminal Lucidity?

People can have a variety of reactions to seeing terminal lucidity in a person with advanced dementia. While some will experience it as being peaceful and bittersweet, others may find it deeply confusing and upsetting. There may also be an urge to modify care plans and request lifesaving measures for the dying person.

Being aware of terminal lucidity can help loved ones understand it is part of the dying process, acknowledge the person with dementia will not recover, and allow them to make the most of the time they have with the lucid person.

For those who witness it, terminal lucidity can be a final, precious opportunity to reconnect with the person that existed before dementia took hold and the “long goodbye” began.The Conversation

Yen Ying Lim, Associate Professor, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University and Diny Thomson, PhD (Clinical Neuropsychology) Candidate and Provisional Psychologist, Monash 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.