May 26 - June 15, 2024: Issue 627

Our Youth page is for young people aged 13+ - if you are younger than this we have news for you in the Children's pageNews items and articles run at the top of this page. Information, local resources, events and local organisations, sports groups etc. are at the base of this page. All Previous pages for you are listed in Past Features


Fungi Season At Irrawong 

Photos by Joe Mills

Joe Mills took a walk along the Irrawong track up into Ingleside along the creek way a few weeks ago, just after all that rain during the first week of May, and took some of these great photos of fungi now out - as it does every Autumn. But fungi can appear at other times too as Botanist David Noble, explains:

''Fungi are found in all environments. They are around the roots of most plants, and in the stomachs of most animals. They range in size from microscopic yeasts to huge fungal mycelium that thread their way through hundreds of hectares. They make up perhaps 25% of the biomass.

The average person thinks of fungi as mushrooms, and indeed the word “fungi” is derived from the Latin word for mushroom, but they are much more than that. Mushrooms are thought to make up only about one fifth of the Kingdom. Other types of fungi can be brackets, clubs, cups, strange coral shapes, truffles, morels, stinkhorns, moulds, smuts and rusts.

DNA analysis shows that fungi are closer to animals than plants. They have no photosynthesis and obtain their nutrients from the breakdown of decaying organic material. This is mainly plants but can be animals, dung or even other fungi.

Fungi often reproduce both sexually and asexually in cycles. Most of their life is spent underground or inside a host such as a rotten log. All they consist of is a tangle of microscopic threads called hyphae. At certain times, often in response to rain, the mass of hyphae form larger threads called mycelium and from this can emerge what is called the fruiting body – the mushroom, or coral, club, cup etc.

It is the tiny hyphae that are so important to the environment. Most plants have mutually beneficial relationships with fungi. Fungi are mycorrhizal partners of plants – this is where the plant root is combined with a fungus. This greatly increases the effective surface area of the root helping the plant obtain more water and nutrients, and the fungus gets some of the products of photosynthesis. Some plants like orchids often need certain fungi present for their seeds to germinate.

Fungi can been seen all year round. Some species like truffles develop their fruiting bodies underground so can grow in dry areas like deserts. These truffle-like fungi are an important food source for some animals, such as Bandicoots and the endangered Long-footed Potoroo. Other types of fungi are eaten by insects, slugs and other invertebrates. Most fungi are seen when their fruiting body emerges from soil or logs or other substrates. In NSW this is usually during Autumn (or perhaps more accurately January to August), often in moist environments such as rainforests and then more than likely a few days after a reasonable fall of rain.

The next time you are in the bush keep your eyes open and look out for fungi. Once you find one, look for more nearby. They often occur in clusters that include many species. These fungi one day may help us learn the biochemistry to break down pollution or to kill tumours.

And to finish – do not eat any fungi you find in the bush. Even experts make mistakes with identification, and a mistake may be fatal.''

The National Parks Association of NSW recently published a presentation 'The Magic of Fungi' presented by Mr. Noble - that runs in this week's Park Bench Philosophers page for those whop may be interested in finding out more.

Some more of Joe's pictures:

Irrawong Falls, May 6 2024 - below: the creek leading out from there into Warriewood Valley

Calling Sydney Harbour: In 1960

From the Film Australia Collection.  Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1960.  Directed by Malcolm Otton. Step into one of the most iconic harbours in the world. The Port of Sydney is crowded with ships from every maritime nation. This 1960s snapshot of life on Sydney Harbour is taken from the tug master’s point of view. We explore the Harbour in a tugboat at work – bringing the Neptunia in to berth and taking the Oronsay out through the Heads. Calling Sydney Harbour also shows the bustling wharves and new construction work being carried out by the Maritime Services Board.

A Night at the zoo: celebrating world oceans day 

Saturday 8th Jun 2024, 4:30 pm - 9:30 pm 

For ages 13-17.

Tickets at:

This is an U18 event like no other, hosted by the Youth Ocean Carnival & Taronga Zoo and centred around inspiring youth-led conservation. 4.6 million Gen Z in Australia will take action on and around World Ocean Day.

Expect a fun, immersive event bringing together scientific data and positive solutions to boost positive change and amplify Gen-Z voices around the 30x30 Goal target.

‘Night at the Zoo’ is an immersive music and art conservation experience hosted by Youth Ocean Carnival SYD24 and Global Goal Partner Taronga Zoo. It is theYouth Ocean Carnival flagship Under-18 event for World Ocean Day. The event will provide access and connectivity for youth to explore their senses – feel, smell, taste, think, see and hear to immerse them as changemakers for the ocean.

It'll include film screenings of Earth's rarest species and spectacular underwater imagery, Ocean Climate Documentary 'Rising Up', interactive workshops, installations & live cool tunes.

Your Voice Our Future: have your say

The NSW Government is seeking feedback from young people on how the government can better support them in NSW.

The Minister for Youth, the Hon. Rose Jackson, MLC and the NSW Government is seeking feedback from young people aged 14 to 24 years on how the government can better support young people in NSW. The online survey asks about:

  • the important issues that young people face
  • what is not working well for young people in NSW
  • how the NSW Government should support and better engage with young people.

Your feedback will be summarised and and shared with the Minister for Youth, the Hon. Rose Jackson to inform ministerial priorities. It will also be promoted across NSW Government departments to help deliver better programs and services for young people. By completing the survey, you can go in a monthly draw to win a gift card of your choice up to the value of $250*.

This survey has been developed by the Minister for Youth, the Hon. Rose Jackson, MLC, the Office of the Advocate of Children and Young People (ACYP) and the Office for Regional Youth.

When we ask for your name and contact details

If you opt in to receive more communications about this work, you will be asked to provide your contact details so that you can be kept updated. You may also be contacted to see if you would like to participate in further surveys or activities.

If you opt in to enter the monthly draw, your contact details will be needed to request your preferred e-gift card so we can deliver it via email, if you win. If you win, we may publicise your first name, age and suburb on NSW Government webpages, social media and other public communications.

If you are under 18, you will also need to provide the contact details of your parent/guardian who may be contacted directly to confirm consent for you to participate.

*View the terms and conditions (PDF 140.28KB) and privacy policy (PDF 140.26KB)

Have your say by Tuesday 31 December 2024.

You can submit your feedback via an online survey, here:

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

Post-pandemic career change leads to success for TAFE NSW landscape design graduate

A TAFE NSW graduate has won a national industry award less than two years after changing careers and becoming a landscape designer.

More than 10,000 jobs are forecast to be needed in the gardening industry between 2021 and 2026, with landscape architect and designer roles forecast to grow by almost 17% over that period. TAFE NSW is delivering a pipeline of workers to meet that demand through its range of horticulture and landscape design courses.

Brenda Mancuso spent 18 years working in consumer insights in the corporate sector and during the COVID-19 pandemic started considering a career change.

After studying a Diploma of Landscape Design at TAFE NSW, Ms Mancuso has now been awarded a silver medal in the Emerging Designers category of the Landscape Design Institute’s national awards.

“I feel privileged to have landed in an industry that is so collaborative, generous and supportive. To be recognised in this way means a lot to me,” Ms Mancuso said.

Ms Mancuso’s journey into the landscape design industry started during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the lockdowns I really found myself valuing the green spaces we had even more and so I decided to take the plunge and explore becoming a landscape designer,” Ms Mancuso said.

“I knew nothing about landscape design; in fact, I knew very little about horticulture. It was scary going from a well-paid and secure job into the unknown. However, with the support of my TAFE NSW teachers and interesting, well-structured content, I quickly gained confidence that I had made the right decision.

“I was somewhat confident in my existing communications and people skills from my previous career, but my course gave me the practical and theoretical knowledge I needed to start working in the industry once I graduated. The landscape design diploma gave me the well-rounded skills I needed to position myself where I wanted to be in the industry.”

After graduating from TAFE NSW, Ms Mancuso started working with a landscape design company while also being approached to do private design jobs.

“Eventually I decided to go out on my own and nurture my own business, Sundays Landscape Design,” Ms Mancuso said.

“I am so proud of the success of my business so far and look forward to seeing it grow further. Taking the leap into a new career can be daunting, but with a passion for creating beautiful spaces, coupled with the skills I’ve learned through TAFE NSW, I’m excited to see where this new path will take me.

“For anyone considering a career change, I recommend taking the leap.”

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Landscape Design, Andrew Hewitt, said it is a career in demand.

“Landscape design is an exciting and dynamic career that’s experiencing considerable growth. Through TAFE NSW we’re providing the practical skills graduates need to secure a job and help meet industry demand,” Mr Hewitt said.

“Our students come from different life and career stages. We pride ourselves on supporting all our students who are building or changing careers to get their foot in the door in the industry to help them thrive.

“Examples like Brenda highlight how our graduates are helping meet the need for workers in the landscape design industry and how valuable a TAFE NSW education is in providing the skills they need to get the job they want.”

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: love

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

An emotion characterized by strong feelings of affection for another arising out of kinship, companionship, admiration, or benevolence. In a related sense, “love” designates a benevolent concern for the good or welfare of others. The term is also used to refer to sexual attraction or erotic desire toward another.


1. an intense feeling of deep affection. 2. a great interest and pleasure in something.


1. feel deep affection for (someone). 2. like or enjoy very much.

From: Old English lufu "feeling of love; romantic sexual attraction; affection; friendliness; the love of God; Love as an abstraction or personification," from Proto-Germanic lubo (source also of Old High German liubi "joy," German Liebe "love;" Old Norse, Old Frisian, Dutch lof; German Lob "praise;" Old Saxon liof, Old Frisian liaf, Dutch lief, Old High German liob, German lieb, Gothic liufs "dear, beloved"). The Germanic words are from word root leubh- "to care, desire, love."  

The Old English lufu, is of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit lubhyati ‘desires’, and related also to Latin libet ‘it is pleasing’, libido ‘desire’.

The weakened sense "liking, fondness" was in Old English. Meaning "a beloved person" is from early 13c. The sense "no score" (in tennis, etc.) is 1742, from the notion of playing for love (1670s), that is, for no stakes. Phrase for love or money "for anything" is attested from 1580s. The phrase no love lost (between two people) is ambiguous and was used 17c. in reference to two who love each other well (c. 1640) as well as two who have no liking for each other (1620s, the usual modern sense).

To fall in love is attested from early 15c.; to be in love with (someone) is from c. 1500. To make love is from 1570s in the sense "pay amorous attention to;" as a euphemism for "have sex," it is attested from c. 1950. Love affair "a particular experience of love" is from 1590s. Love life "one's collective amorous activities" is from 1919, originally a term in psychological jargon. Love beads is from 1968. Love bug, imaginary insect, is from 1883. Love-handles "the fat on one's sides" is in use by 1967.

Was Beethoven truly the greatest?

A portrait of the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven in 1818. 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Philip Ewell, Hunter College

On May 7, 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiered in Vienna, Austria. On its 200th anniversary, much was made about this seminal achievement of a composer routinely touted as the greatest master who ever lived.

In an essay for The New York Times, conductor Daniel Barenboim wrote that Beethoven was “the master of bringing emotion and intellect together.”

In another analysis, music historian Ted Olson wrote that the ninth was “the crowning achievement of Western classical music.”

There is no question that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is a significant work with “global appeal,” as my colleague Olson put it. I admit to having a soft spot for this piece. As a cellist, I’ve played it twice, once at Carnegie Hall and once while on tour in Asia.

Still, the lionization of Beethoven never sat well with me.

Beethoven backlash

Four years ago, I self-published a blog post under the headline, “Beethoven Was an Above-average Composer: Let’s Leave It at That.”

I had grown tired of notions of the “genius” of the composer, and how we’ve all been taught to put him on a hallowed hilltop as a “great master of the Western canon.”

To say the least, my blog post created quite a stir.

In “Classical Music’s Suicide Pact (Part 1),” Heather Mac Donald, a conservative fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote that my blog post was a “Beethoven takedown” and that I had “whiteness on the brain.”

Linguistics professor John McWhorter went so far as to say that I consider Beethoven to be “fetishized by the white establishment.”

To have conservative commentators defend one of their heroes is nothing new, but the backlash to my simple reinterpretation of the composer was contorted beyond recognition.

Reframing ‘The Master’

My intent was to reframe Beethoven’s greatness within the context of historic ideals of whiteness and patriarchy. I thought then – as I do now – that if Americans could acknowledge that our music and music education are deeply rooted in these two ideologies, then we could realize that Beethoven, surely a good composer, was simply one of many.

An opened book shows pages filled with musical notes.
The manuscript for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Ian Waldie/Getty Images

When Beethoven is said to be “one of the greatest” composers, or “the greatest” composer, those who make the claim do so without knowing most of the music that has been made over the centuries.

As I wrote then, Beethoven was definitely above average, but “to say he was anything more is to dismiss 99.9% of the world’s music written 200 years ago, which would be unscholarly, and academically irresponsible.”

To make sense of his veneration, one must believe in narratives of Western greatness and exceptionalism: that the best musical works on our planet were produced by a select few humans from a select few countries, and those humans were, of course, both white and male.

To further confuse the issue, conservative musicologists usually ask the same question: “Well Phil, who then, if not Beethoven?”

But this question is usually offered in bad faith, since there is no acceptable answer for those defending the established norms of music tradition. Whoever is chosen – and I could name many – the questioner can always find fault and be dismissive.

For me, the issue is primarily about whiteness and maleness, their impact on how musical foundations were established, and who gets to define the abstract concept of greatness. It’s not necessarily about finding alternative composers who could never possibly live up to the arbitrary and unrealistic standards that Beethoven purportedly embodies.

To be clear, this is not about “canceling” Beethoven. Instead, it’s about realizing that there were countless others who were no less great than those lionized white male heroes.

painting of the interiror of a concert hall
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiered at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna. DEA/A. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images

“Cancel culture” is most often used as a cudgel by those on the right against those, like me, wishing to have adult conversations about our fraught racial past.

And there can be no question about the anti-Blackness of American music curricula.

Shifting priorities

The short version of my argument can be summed up grammatically: as a general migration from the definite article “the” to the indefinite article “a.” What was always “the” foundation for music and music education is now becoming simply “a” foundation.

Are chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach “the” foundation for studying harmony and music theory, or simply one of many? And is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony “the” standard for such symphonies, or just “a” standard?

This grammatical shift has caused panic among conservative voices. But what’s happening in music simply reflects what’s happening throughout society, whether in academia, politics, law or pop culture.

I, for one, welcome reimagining our shared musical foundations and can think of no better composer than Beethoven – and his compelling Ninth Symphony – as a starting point for building new musical foundations.The Conversation

Philip Ewell, Professor of music theory, Hunter College

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

Some sports leaders are trying to defy term limits – which can open the door to corruption

Joshua McLeod, Deakin University and Hunter Fujak, Deakin University

Being a sport administrator comes with many perks, so it’s no surprise many want to stay in their positions as long as possible.

Recently, a trend has emerged whereby leaders in sport are seeking to extend or eliminate term limits (rules that restrict how long people can serve), raising serious questions about governance standards.

Several leading sport bodies have been involved. The Asian Football Confederation last week voted to remove term limits for its president and council members.

This followed reports the International Olympics Commitee (IOC) is considering amendments to allow Thomas Bach to serve beyond a 12-year limit.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) attracted attention when Aleksandar Čeferin pushed rule changes that would extend his tenure as president, although he ultimately decided to step down.

This trend raises two key questions: why should we care about term limits in sport? And how long is too long for sport administrators?

Why do we need term limits in sport?

The debate over term limits is ancient. Around 500BC, the Republic of Athens imposed a limit of two one-year terms for members of its ruling council. The Romans were even stricter, with a maximum one-year term.

The arguments for term limits back then were much the same then as they are for sport bodies today.

Simply put, term limits mitigate the risk of one individual accumulating an excessive concentration of power – the longer a leader remains in a position, the more power they accumulate.

This happens because over time, they can solidify control over resources and establish deeper connections within influential networks. In turn, this increases their influence over decision-making, leading to a cycle in which power reinforces itself.

Term limits, then, help to ensure power is more evenly distributed. They also offer a safeguard from leaders who could misuse their power indefinitely.

Take the case of Jack Warner, who in 1990 was elected president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Warner served for 21 years, and his tenure was marred by allegations of corruption.

A 2013 report by CONCACAF’s Integrity Committee concluded Warner had committed fraud against both CONCACAF and FIFA. Amid the 2015 FIFA corruption crisis, FIFA’s Ethics Committee banned Warner from football for life, and US prosecutors charged him with 12 offences, including racketeering and bribery.

Warner denies the charges, and the US Supreme Court recently threw the case out on the basis of jurisdictional overreach.

However, the controversies surrounding Warner have been highly damaging to CONCACAF and FIFA. Had term limits been in place, the damage may not have been so severe.

Incumbency advantage

The longer an administrator stays in power, the more they can potentially benefit from “incumbency advantage”. This describes how long-serving leaders can use their powers (such as promises of funding) to build a critical mass of support within key voting blocs.

Such manoeuvring can make elections almost ceremonial, as it becomes exceedingly difficult for challengers to pose a real threat to the incumbent’s position. Without maximum term limits, leaders effectively become life presidents or quasi-monarchs.

Again, this all might sound familiar to anyone who follows international football.

In no organisation has incumbency advantage been more pronounced than in FIFA, football’s world governing body. Longtime former president Sepp Blatter was allegedly adept at using the development funding at his disposal to guarantee his re-election.

With all 211 national football associations having an equal vote in the FIFA presidential elections, Blatter strategically garnered support across select regions, including Africa and the Caribbean, to ensure his continued leadership. While this political manoeuvring was not illegal, it created a system where it was extremely difficult to remove him through an election.

Since its formation in 1904, FIFA has had nine presidents (excluding interims). Only once has an incumbent lost an election. The winner of that election was Joao Havelange, who according to Swiss court documents, accepted millions in bribes during his presidency. Two presidents were impeached and resigned, while two voluntarily stepped down. Three died in office.

While rules introduced after the 2015 FIFA corruption crisis mean current FIFA president Gianni Infantino cannot remain in office beyond 2031, with the advantages of incumbency, he has easily navigated prior elections, and is highly unlikely to ever lose one.

The case against

There are, however, legitimate downsides to term limits. The most obvious is potential loss of experienced, highly competent leaders. Frequent turnover can also lead to instability.

This is the argument presented by IOC members regarding Bach. Between global conflicts and dwindling interest in the Olympics, they think the organisation is facing particularly tough times. From their perspective, stability and experienced leadership are paramount.

Term limits may also discourage long-term planning, with self-interested leaders opting to prioritise quick gains. Political science studies have validated this theory. Research shows shorter governmental tenures are associated with larger fiscal deficits and a neglect of long-term investments.

Despite this, consensus among experts is the benefits of implementing term limits dramatically outweigh the potential disadvantages.

This is especially true in sport, a sector with prestige and status. In such an environment, people are particularly inclined to stay involved.

How long is too long?

So if term limits are generally accepted as good governance practice, what exactly should that limit be?

This question is far from an exact science, and there is considerable variety in the extent and form of term limits across sport.

Our recent research on sport governance in Victoria highlights this variety.

The graph below displays the frequency of different term limit formats used in the 40 Victorian state sport organisations we studied. The size of the red dot indicates frequency.

As shown, a term of three years with a maximum of three terms is the most common model, adopted by 14 organisations.

In our experience working with these organisations, the optimal term limit is depends on the nature of the organisation, with smaller sports often requiring more flexibility due to limited interest in volunteer positions.

For larger organisations, three-year terms are most common, but arguably four-year terms better align with strategic planning and Olympic cycles.

Whether it is eight or 12 years, or somewhere in between, term limits are a cornerstone of good governance and it is essential to protect them from further erosion or being abolished altogether.The Conversation

Joshua McLeod, Lecturer in Sport Management, Deakin University and Hunter Fujak, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Deakin University

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

Alice’s adventures in banking wonderland: how an ambitious finance start-up didn’t change the world

John Tenniel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
John Hawkins, University of Canberra

Stuart Kells is in some senses an Antipodean version of American journalist and historian Michael Lewis. Kells has chronicled the antics of corporate players, such as publishers Penguin Random House, diamond miners Argyle, and financial market traders in the water of the Murray-Darling Basin. This new book is published by Melbourne University Publishing, whose corporate history he has also written.

In Alice: The Biggest Untold Story in the History of Money, he turns his attention to a financial innovator. But in his choice of protagonist, Kells differs from Lewis, whose most recent book told the story of the famous crypto wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried. Kells’ book is the story of Australian banking consultant Ian Shepherd, whose ambitious plan to reinvent the financial system and mitigate some of its risks ended in failure.

Review: Alice: The Biggest Untold Story in the History of Money – Stuart Kells (Melbourne University Publishing)

The early part of Kells’ book revolves around its two key characters, both bright Australian expats in America.

Kate Jennings (1948-2021) was a radical feminist author and editor of Mother I’m Rooted: An Anthology of Australian Women Poets (1975). In an unlikely career progression, she ended up a speechwriter with the corporate financial-management firm Merrill Lynch.

Kate Jennings. Text Publishing

Jennings wrote an acclaimed semi-autobiographical novel about her time in the US financial markets called Moral Hazard (2002). It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Author Gideon Haigh described it as a novel that enunciates “disquieting truths”. Some of the best lines in Kells’ book (e.g. “the only perfect hedge is in a Japanese garden”) come from it.

Jennings’ essay collection Trouble: Evolution of a Radical, Selected Writings 1970-2010, also includes a critique of the inadequate regulation of the US financial system, delivered as a lecture in 2003 to the unlikely audience of Anne and Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute. In Kells’ words, Jennings “found the poetry in the world of money”.

The other key figure in Kells’ book is Shepherd, who was a few years ahead of me studying economics at the University of Sydney, and, like me, started his career at the Commonwealth Bank. After earning an MBA from Stanford, Shepherd became a consultant with global management firm McKinsey & Company, specialising in banking.

In the 1980s, the volume of trading in financial markets grew rapidly, as did the risks around it. Shepherd thought deeply about those risks.

The rise and fall of Alice

The name of the Alice Project itself does not appear until page 127 of Kells’ book. It refers to Shepherd’s electronic market start-up, which he founded in the early 1990s.

Alice sought to disaggregate financial instruments, such as deposits, loans, insurance and options. Complicated financial transactions would be broken down into simple components, each of which had the form of a collateralised contract.

The idea was to develop a real-world version of the theoretical “Arrow-Debreu security”, which takes the form of a simple payout rule, such as “I pay you $1 if it rains tomorrow and nothing if it does not”.

The right combination of these contracts could duplicate the payoffs of existing financial instruments, but allow hedging of many more types of risk.

Much as Bitcoin inventor “Satoshi Nakamoto” and entrepreneur Elon Musk would later, Shepherd saw the large profits banks made from the payments system and wondered if a more efficient alternative could be devised – one that would avoid some of the risks of the current system.

Alice was named after the Lewis Carroll novel in a deliberate contrast to the more macho names common in finance. It was argued that Alice was creating a market in which anything is possible. National Australia Bank took a hefty initial stake in the company, which it later raised to around half.

For the scheme to work, it would have needed a very large user base, betting on both sides of a huge range of propositions, in order to generate an attractive degree of liquidity.

In May 2007, Alice was sued by CLS, a bank named after its goal of continuous linked settlement: a system for settling international transactions. CLS was backed by a consortium, including global banks such as J.P. Morgan and Citigroup.

Both CLS and Alice believed the other had infringed on their copyright. National Australia Bank was somewhat conflicted, as it had a stake in both. The litigation was escalated to the US Supreme Court in 2013.

Alice lost the case. The Supreme Court ruled the Alice system was not patentable. NAB then withdrew its involvement with Alice.

The treatment of finance

In 2010, Shepherd heard an interview Jennings had with Phillip Adams. Impressed, he contacted her and they had a series of meetings.

Both were avid followers of the collapse of Enron, which they saw as akin to a bank run. Shepherd even visited the former Enron CEO and fellow McKinsey alumnus Jeffrey Skilling in prison. I was surprised by how sympathetically Kells treats Skilling.

Jennings had sat in on the court hearings and would have been the obvious choice to write a book on the adventures of Alice. But she was by this time in poor health. Instead Kells took up the project, helped by Shepherd, who emerges as the hero of the story.

In some ways, the book is unsatisfactory. The story of this stalled venture, effectively reduced to a one-man-band, does not seem to justify the claim on the book’s cover that it forms part of the “history of money”.

Stuart Kells. Melbourne University Publishing

Kells refers to Alice as “a new type of tradeable security and a new kind of market”. But even on a second reading, I never got a really clear idea from the book of the innovation Alice would have brought to financial markets.

I thought the description of derivative markets was not quite right. Buyers and sellers are not “exposed to unlimited profits and losses”. A holder of an option can just not exercise it and their loss is limited to what they paid for it. And it is definitely wrong to claim that “some countries are using cryptocurrencies to assemble an alternative financial system”. The only one that is trying is El Salvador, and it is not succeeding.

While I generally enjoyed reading the book, it could have been shorter. Do we need to read the correspondence on Jennings’s seating arrangements at the court? I found Kell’s earlier books The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders (2017) and Shakespeare’s Library (2018) excellent.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mis-stated Kells’ academic background. Kells has degrees in finance, economics and law, among others.The Conversation

John Hawkins, Senior Lecturer, Canberra School of Politics, Economics and Society, University of Canberra

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

What’s the difference between fiscal and monetary policy?

Rose Marinelli/Shutterstock
Mark Crosby, Monash University

This article is part two of The Conversation’s “Business Basics” series where we ask leading experts to discuss key concepts in business, economics and finance.

How governments should manage their budgets, and how interest rates should be set, are two of the most important questions in economics.

Ideally, both work hand in hand to ensure the best outcomes for the economy as a whole. But they are enacted by different branches of government, and fall into different buckets within economics.

Budgeting – the way governments tax and spend – falls within the domain of fiscal policy. In contrast, the management of credit and interest rates falls into the domain of monetary policy.

With the recent federal budget handed down amid an ongoing battle to tackle inflation, both topics have dominated recent news coverage, so it’s important to understand the difference.

Fiscal policy

Paying tax is an unavoidable fact of life, but is needed to support spending on government services such as hospitals, roads, schools and defence. Taxation and spending decisions are made on different scales at every level of government, and form the basis of a government’s fiscal policy.

Traditionally, fiscal policy was seen as a very simple equation.

Governments should spend only as much as they earn through taxation, and only take on a small amount of debt for things like longer-term infrastructure projects.

But when economic growth falls, tax revenues also fall, forcing governments to cut spending to balance their budgets. Such spending cuts come at precisely the wrong time and are only likely to further worsen economic growth.

Noticing this pattern, economist John Maynard Keynes was the first to question this traditional wisdom, arguing that fiscal policy should be “countercyclical”.

According to Keynes, when economic growth falls, government spending should increase, only falling back as the economic recovery plays out.

Under a Keynesian approach, it’s therefore wholly appropriate for governments to issue debt to fund spending increases as the economy weakens.

The problem with this view of fiscal policy is that some governments have arguably abused their licence to spend, relying on ever-increasing levels of debt.

Greece famously suffered a spectacular debt crisis after the global financial crisis in 2008, but other European countries such as France, Italy, Portugal and Spain also have high and problematic levels of debt.

Chronically high debt can lead to higher interest payments on this debt, which in turn can limit a government’s ability to spend to support its economy.

Monetary policy

Aerial views of suburban houses in Melbourne
With the power to influence the cost of borrowing, interest rates are a powerful lever for regulating spending. Geometric Photography/Pexels

Monetary policy affects the economy via a different lever.

By changing the relative cost of borrowing money, changes in interest rates affect the aggregate level of spending in the economy.

This in turn can impact inflation – increases in the general level of prices.

Cuts in interest rates will tend to stimulate demand and push prices up, while rate increases reduce demand and push prices down.

Interest rates are typically set by a country’s central bank, whose primary role is to keep inflation low.

Our own central bank – the Reserve Bank of Australia, sets rates to meet an official inflation target of between 2% and 3%.

A combined Keynesian approach

Alongside Keynes’ writing on fiscal policy, he and other economists argued that interest rates should be reduced as an economy heads into recession, to support borrowing and spending by businesses and consumers.

Coupled with higher government spending, keeping interest rates lower in a recession should theoretically speed up economic recovery.

The merits of a Keynesian approach were borne out clearly in Australia in both the 2008 global financial crisis and the COVID pandemic.

Reserve Bank of Australia name on black granite wall in Sydney Australia with lens flare
Many central banks drastically lowered interest rates to boost spending during the pandemic. EyeofPaul/Shutterstock

Most recently, the pandemic saw the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to almost zero. Simultaneously, the government supported the economy with a wide range of spending programs, including big boosts to welfare payments and a generous JobKeeper program to mothball Australia’s workforce.

As a result, unemployment quickly returned to low levels and economic growth recovered following the lifting of restrictions.

Helping people pay their bills while taming spending is hard

Emergence from the pandemic left us with a different problem. Inflation surged and remained stubbornly above the Reserve Bank’s target range, forcing the bank to repeatedly raise rates to try to tame it.

At the same time, the government has been trying to support Australians through a cost-of-living crisis.

Now, critics of the government have argued that further spending to support Australians could unintentionally put further pressure on inflation and force the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates higher for longer.

Such challenges reflect the fact that our understanding of best practice for fiscal and monetary policy is constantly evolving.

Problems with burgeoning state debt have prompted debate on the former, and whether there should be limits on governments’ ability to issue debt.

These could include limits to public debt, or new oversight authorities to monitor levels of public spending.

And on monetary policy, a recent review of the Reserve Bank considered requiring a “dual mandate” that would force it to give equal consideration to employment and to inflation goals, as is currently required of the US Federal Reserve.The Conversation

Mark Crosby, Professor, Monash University

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

What is fate? And how can it both limit and liberate us?

Michael Allen Fox, University of New England

The concept of fate, or the idea of fatefulness, seems to crop up everywhere we look in one form or another. Fate is a key belief enduring across cultures and generations.

What is fate? Generally speaking, fate is thought of as a power or agency determining events and destinies, acting beyond our control.

An Amazon search for books in print centring on fate generates over 50,000 entries. They are mostly potboiler novels, modern mythologies, paranormal speculations, self-help manuals, and studies of specific historical events and eras.

This astonishing figure should not surprise us, because talk about fate has no limits of time or space, confining the notion to a particular age, society, or type of worldview. Fate, quite simply, is an essential part of the way people think and talk about the universe and their place in it.

Fateful ideas drive the disturbing visions of terrorists and cultists, energise the followers of millennial social movements, and endlessly inspire pundits, futurologists, utopian and dystopian theorists, and storytellers. Such ideas resurface as well in today’s debates about environmental collapse, pandemics, the possibility of World War III, and other issues.

Visions of fate

Many of us picture fate as a towering, aloof, controlling force or identify it with cataclysmic scenarios such as Armageddon and Ragnarok. This idea of a remotely acting fate haunts everyday expressions: “she was abandoned to her fate”; “as fate would have it”; “what fate decreed”; “it was meant to happen”; “it must have been written in the stars”.

The same vision is embedded in the mythologies of various cultures. For example, the ancient Greeks believed in three fateful figures (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) who spun and allotted the thread of life, deciding when to cut it off. In the works of Homer, however, there appears Moira, an impersonal force akin to a deity, whose decrees even the gods cannot evade.

A painting of a castle on fire.
A scene from the last phase of Ragnarök, where the world is engulfed by fire. Emil Doepler, 1905. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-NC-SA

In Norse mythology, three mysterious, powerful beings (Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld) represent past, present, and future, and they likewise control the thread of life.

Meanwhile, geographically and temporally distant from these depictions, the belief system of the Omaha tribe of the North American Great Plains features Wakonda, a spirit who directs life experiences from a level beyond human control.

Fate is sometimes conceived of as God’s will superimposing itself on the course of events. Examples of this interpretation can be found in Islamic and Christian thought, which both struggle to solve the problem of reconciling divine decree with free will. This conundrum manifests itself in everyday conversation when people say, “God willing” or “Inshallah” (“if Allah wills it”).

Within non-Western forms of spirituality, such as Daoism, one can also find the supreme force of the universe acting itself out. One must either act in accordance with the Dao (“go with the flow,” as it were) or be ever frustrated in life.

A more realistic perspective

Is fatalism (the doctrine that everything’s preordained to happen as it does) true or false?

Philosophers from the time of Aristotle have engaged in serious attempts to discover a rationally defensible answer to this question. The jury is still out, and so the concepts of fate and fatalism continue to flourish.

But what if we looked at fate from a more realistic, down-to-earth perspective – as comprising the fixed conditions of life plus the imponderable way certain unanticipated events alter our path over the course of time?

When we confront fate in this fashion, we find it can be integrated into views of life that preserve and perhaps even enhance our sense of agency and purpose.

The fixed conditions of life are for the most part fairly obvious, but we don’t often think of them as fateful.

They are things like birth, the inevitability of growing older (the “one-wayness of time”), death, the place and historical moment of one’s existence, each person’s genetically inherited traits, ethnicity, socio-cultural setting, and first language.

An older man with a grey beard.
The fixed conditions of life, such as growing old, are for the most part fairly obvious, but we don’t often think of them as fateful. Tish1/Shutterstock

These are fateful because we do not choose them but have to make of them what we can and will.

In addition, each of us eventually faces situations and occurrences that are life-changing, sometimes in far-reaching ways. These may come about because of things we do/fail to do or choices we make/omit.

Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard revealingly suggested we all encounter “that fork on the road […] where the path branches off.”

While he means a critical juncture at which we decide to make a major free choice, there is something about this act that is fateful as well. We can neither turn back nor turn away from it. Nor can we undo or redo it, predict or escape from its long-term consequences.

“Fate,” considered more carefully, refers to those circumstances of existence that are given and unalterable, or that come into play in an arbitrary, inexplicable manner, often having a momentous impact on our lives.

‘Elegance and complexity’

Contemporary writers of fiction acknowledge and elaborate upon the fatefulness of our acts, and it is astonishing how often one encounters such reflections without even trying. Here are two instances from books I have casually picked up at my local library in recent months.

A character in Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres (2003) asserts,

I always think that things have to happen the way they do happen, that there are so many inner and outer forces joining at every event that it becomes a kind of fate. I learned from Buddhism that there’s beauty, and certainly a lot of peace, in accepting that.

Joanne Harris writes, in her short story collection Jigs & Reels (2004), that

every choice, every step of the journey, from crossing the road to boarding that fatal flight, is governed by probabilities of near-infinite elegance and complexity.

Like all good literature, these works make you question basic assumptions and expand your awareness.

We also recognise, without generally reflecting on the fact, that historical events over which we have no control and happening at a distance, may determine the course of our lives ever afterwards.

Consider three examples. Scientists and military personnel based in Los Alamos, New Mexico decided the second atomic bomb would be dropped on August 9, 1945, on Nagasaki rather than some other Japanese city. European wars had lasting effects on colonies in the New World. Wall Street stockbrokers make choices whose effects ripple across the globe.

Fate, thus, functions importantly in the many ways we interact with the world and each other, and in how we cognitively process our experience. And unsurprisingly, fateful ideas have been misused and abused in the cause of social and political control.

Racism, sexism, belief in castes – these are all based on the notion that people’s fixed or given (that is, fated) identities make them somehow inferior (or superior) and subject as a result to discriminatory (or privileged) treatment.

The now discredited pseudoscience of eugenics (the program to breed “superior” races), lauded by the Nazis among others, was the product of this kind of thinking.

In the 16th century, Calvinists persecuted and killed Christians and others who disavowed the Calvinist belief in the peculiar doctrine that we are all “predestined” to either heaven or hell. And in our own era, Uighurs, Jews, Roma, and many other groups have been persecuted or exterminated because of real or imagined characteristics associated with their fateful genetic inheritance.

On a somewhat different plane, political leaders have often called upon the destiny “divine providence” has bestowed on their countries to justify war and colonialism. This is a fate-infused idea too, deriving from an underlying belief in the inevitability of history.

A brighter side

In spite of the fact that fate has been co-opted many times for evil ends, there is a brighter story to tell as well.

Fate can help shape a positive, balanced, meaningful outlook on life. Each of us has a given heritage, but we also encounter events that are life-changing in unaccountable, often profound ways. How we come to terms with these “acts of fate” is of singular importance and may be uniquely self-determining.

The stories of several “heroes of fate” portrayed in literature and mythology are inspirational here. For example, Sophocles’ famous character Antigone defies King Creon in order to give her brother the burial he deserves. She then acts out the fateful death sentence imposed on her by taking her own life.

Sisyphus, a man condemned by Zeus to roll his stone uphill eternally, scornfully takes ownership of his absurd fate in French writer Albert Camus’ version of the myth, achieving contentment in doing so.

In Hindu scripture, the warrior Arjuna has revealed to him by the god Krishna a mighty vision of the world’s fate and of his own role in the final battle that will end in universal destruction.

After wrestling with himself over his conflicting duties (since some of his enemies will be his own kin), Arjuna commits himself to fight, thus willingly carrying out his fate.

But there are plentiful examples of the transformative processes experienced by ordinary individuals too, when they face inevitable circumstances and work through them to their advantage. We encounter these in the news, in memoirs, in the lives of our friends and acquaintances, and in our own lives.

Cover of the book Fate and Life.
McGill-Queen's University Press

Fate, therefore, has the potential to become a liberating idea, and to be a kind of anchor for constructing one’s viewpoint on the world and our life-narrative.

This approach was developed by the ancient Stoics, who taught we strive in vain to change the way the world is. The course of wisdom is to focus on changing ourselves for the better, whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Down the centuries there are many parallel forms of insight, such as Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of amor fati (“love of fate”).

This embodies the goal to be the kind of individual who says “yes” to life as a whole, including its highs and lows, its blessings, limitations, and drawbacks. Let us suppose, says Nietzsche, it’s as if we had willed everything to happen just as it does and go on from there.

Thinking about fate has much to teach us about who we are, how we see the world, and our evaluation of the possibilities life presents.

Michael Allen Fox is author of the book Fate and Life: Who’s Really in Charge?.The Conversation

Michael Allen Fox, Adjunct Professor of Humanities, University of New England

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

The budget has earmarked $8.6 million for live music. Is it enough to save the flailing industry?

Catherine Strong, RMIT University; Ben Green, Griffith University, and Sam Whiting, University of South Australia

Leading music organisations have praised the federal budget for its investment in the live music sector.

The budget includes A$8.6 million for a program called Revive Live:

to provide essential support to live music venues and festivals showcasing Australian bands and artists – to ensure the long-term sustainability of the live music sector.

This investment builds on the Revive national cultural policy introduced last year.

Music was clearly a priority for Revive, with the creation of Music Australia, a dedicated body inside Creative Australia, “to support and invest in the Australian contemporary music industry”.

The money included in this week’s budget shows the government has been paying attention to issues in the live music sector.

The House of Representatives is currently considering submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the Australian live music industry. It comes hot on the heels of a call by a Senate inquiry into Revive for urgent funding for festivals and live music.

But will this new investment be enough to save an industry in crisis?

Australian live music industries in crisis

Multiple festivals have been cancelled over the last year, due to factors such as increased operational costs, sluggish ticket sales, risks from extreme weather, and changing audience behaviours.

Live music venues are in jeopardy. Beloved venues like Brisbane’s The Zoo have closed their doors. Others continue to be threatened by residential development.

The potential sale of Melbourne’s iconic Tote Hotel to developers last year was avoided only because music fans crowdfunded $3 million to save the venue. Other small venues have turned to crowdfunding for compulsory soundproofing or simply to continue operating.

Musicians see little financial reward for their labour. Many are walking away from the sector.

Industry bodies are concerned skills shortages in live music production and touring crews, following pandemic-related departures, will lead to further cancellations.

In such a fragile environment, an extra $8.6 million could make a big difference on the ground. However, the budget documents have not outlined the specifics of how this money will be spent.

The documents dedicate this money in 2024–25 for:

support to live music venues and festivals showcasing Australian bands and artists, including to improve accessibility and inclusion at live music performances.

The question then becomes what strategies and initiatives will Revive Live prioritise?

How can the extra money help?

Bold thinking is required, for both how this money could be allocated and what legislative change could help the sector.

Targeted funding may help to ease the pressures of increasing insurance, property and maintenance costs for our struggling – but essential – small venues.

We can look internationally for new models of venue ownership. In the United Kingdom, Music Venue Properties is a charity that crowdsources funding to collectively buy small venues.

Revive Live could assist venues to buy their freeholds in collaboration with community groups and local councils. This would reduce overheads and bring in further community oversight and involvement. Programs like this offer alternative models for engaging with contemporary music that do not rely on alcohol sales.

Capping public liability insurance for promoters and venues would also ease pressures.

Funding could also be used to drive desired changes to the culture of the industry.

Music Victoria’s 10,000 Gigs initiative provides venues with up to $10,000 a year to cover artist fees, where each performer must be paid a minimum of $250 per performance. This ensures artists are paid, while supporting venues to program talent and attract audiences.

The budget’s intention to “improve accessibility and inclusion at live music performances” responds to urgent needs, including access for people with disabilities, and gender-based violence and harassment at events. New funding should be conditional upon reaching KPIs in these critical areas, ensuring diversity and inclusion – including, vitally, among performers on stage.

Other significant reforms could include levies on big-ticket events with revenue redistributed to grassroots music venues, laws guaranteeing international performers include an Australian artist among their opening acts, and local content or “bannerhead” quotas for streaming platforms to ensure they promote Australian artists to Australian audiences.

The live music sector contributes an estimated $5.7 billion to the Australian economy. Although the budget’s $8.6 million isn’t a lot when compared to the size of the industry, if accompanied by targeted structural reforms it could be the seed funding needed to begin a process of transition and renewal.

No doubt this process will be heavily informed by the current parliamentary inquiry. Its outcomes may have serious implications for the sector’s long-term viability.

Ultimately, the sustainability of the live music sector requires fundamental adaptations to the way business has been done in the past. Audience behaviours are changing and new technologies continue to disrupt the industry. Revive Live may be an important and positive step in the right direction if it is used effectively.The Conversation

Catherine Strong, Associate Professor, Music Industry, RMIT University; Ben Green, Research Fellow, Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, and Sam Whiting, Lecturer - Creative Industries, University of South Australia

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

Turning the outback into post-apocalyptic wasteland: what Mad Max films tell us about filming in the Australian desert

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Melanie Ashe, Monash University

The Mad Max films are set in an arid, barren, post-apocalyptic world known in the movies as “the wasteland”. This is a world of environmental and civil collapse caused by humans. Resources like water are scarce. Clothes, food and transport – such as the film’s famous customised cars – are cobbled together from found and scavenged objects.

The films present a future of mega drought: a possible future scenario for climate change.

The latest film in the franchise, Furiosa, hits cinemas this week. What does the wasteland have to tell us about the role the Australian environment has played in shaping the Mad Max films?

A colonised wasteland

Film scholar Ross Gibson argued the landscape shown on Australian film reflects how white settlers saw the land when they first arrived: hostile, barren and lifeless. Mad Max’s wasteland is a classic example of this, alongside films like Wake in Fright (1971) or Wolf Creek (2005).

This understanding is shaped by problematic attitudes that see the Australian environment as a “wilderness” devoid of life and structure. These attitudes deny the liveliness of the land and deny the fact that Indigenous people have lived on the continent for tens of thousands of years.

The Mad Max wasteland uses this colonial lens in a knowing way. The films state the wasteland was created through resource extraction and conflict. All but one of the Mad Max films were shot in Australia, and they were similarly filmed in places that have been impacted by heavy resource extraction.

By using settings that are visibly degraded by these industries, Mad Max suggests the apocalyptic wasteland is only “barren” and “lifeless” due to recent human impact.

Behind the scenes.
Furiosa was shot on location in far west New South Wales near Broken Hill. Jasin Boland/Warner Bros

Mad Max 2 (1981) and Furiosa were shot on location in far west New South Wales near Broken Hill. This region is known for its silver, lead and zinc mining history. The spaces around the town were majorly transformed in the 1800s through tree clearing and degradation caused from mining, including major soil erosion.

Rather than a landscape which has always been devoid of structure and people, Furiosa presents a landscape that shows heavy impact through recent industry. The vast expanses of desert horizon that vehicles tear across in the film are bare, but they show a damaged environment caused by humans since colonisation.

Both in the film and in the real world, this is a post-mining landscape.

Greening the desert

Broken Hill is in a semi-arid biosphere known for having a “boom and bust” ecosystem. While this area may look like “the wasteland” after years of drought, the region is also prone to sudden and heavy rainstorms. With the rain arrives a wave of dense, lush desert greenery.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) was originally planned to shoot around Broken Hill, but they relocated after the area was “too green” post heavy rainfall in 2011.

“The Mad Max landscape looks like Wales”, director George Miller reported. The production relocated to the sparse and arid environment of Namibia.

But Mad Max 2 was shot in 1981 around Broken Hill under similar circumstances. Following record rainfall, Broken Hill was lush and green, with plants and shrubs clearly seen in behind the scenes footage.

To deal with this issue, the production team used colour grading: where the tones of the film shot are altered to create a different image quality. This gave an onscreen landscape which was more washed out and warm in tone.

During the shooting of Furiosa in 2022, the area was again looking verdant after months of rain. To transform into “the wasteland” while shooting an epic chase scene on location at a local pastoral station, teams removed wide stretches of green desert shrubbery and extra detail in the background was removed with post-production visual effects.

To shoot in Australia, or not?

There is a complex and sometimes fractious relationship between the economic bottom line, on-location film production and the Australian environment.

Given Furiosa and Mad Max 2 came up with creative solutions to film in the unexpectedly green Broken Hill, why did Fury Road relocate away from the region?

These three films demonstrate the environment is easily shaped for film production when convenient and cost effective. Both Mad Max 2 and Furiosa received tax rebates or government funding packages which made filming in Australia attractive, even when the environment needed to be physically changed during production or in post-production.

Behind the scenes of Furiosa
The production crew had to remove greenery from the unusually verdant desert. Jasin Boland/Warner Bros

Fury Road, on the other hand, was in pre-production in 2011 when the Australian dollar was almost on parity with the United States dollar, and any grants or tax benefits the film could receive for shooting in Australia would be offset by increased production costs. This means it made sense financially to relocate offshore where the film could be made cheaper.

The future of Australian screen

The wasteland of Mad Max films comment on the tradition of the Australian landscape as “barren”: this stereotype is actually due to recent human development and industry.

Understanding the environmental rhythms of the location behind the wasteland helps to think about how the geophysical world shaped the franchise. While these environments may be impacted by human industry, they are still very much alive. Rain and plant growth have shifted production through changing set and location design processes.

With the boom and bust cycle intensifying due to our changing climate, thinking about how environment shapes film production will be vitally important for the future of Australian screen.

Understanding how Mad Max’s wasteland was produced on screen reveals the underlying realities of climate catastrophe.The Conversation

Melanie Ashe, PhD Candidate, School of Media, Film & Journalism, Monash University

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

As governments crack down on fast fashion’s harms, could Shein lose its shine?

Shein pioneered the ultra-fast fashion approach. Venn-Photo/Shutterstock
Elaine L Ritch, Glasgow Caledonian University

Fast-fashion brand Shein expressed interest last year in listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). But, having met some opposition from US politicians, including Republican Florida senator Marco Rubio, it has now reportedly turned its attention to London.

While this would be a boost for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which has lost several organisations to other international exchanges over the last five years, it raises the question of why Shein has not been successful with its application to the NYSE.

Shein has gained a significant global market share in online fast fashion since launching in China in 2008. It found success accelerating the already lucrative fast-fashion business model to become an ultra-fast fashion retailer.

That Shein is the second most popular fashion retailer for American generation Z is unsurprising, given the vast choice of up to 10,000 new garments uploaded daily at significantly lower prices than fast-fashion competitors like Zara and H&M.

Yet those strategies that have enabled Shein’s international expansion are now likely hindering its application to the NYSE. The low cost of fast fashion in general has long been linked to potential labour exploitation, and the precariousness of outsourcing fashion production to the cheapest supplier within a global supply chain was evident during the pandemic. And as awareness of unethical and unsustainable practices in the wider industry grows, activists may yet have the power to disrupt Shein’s growth.

Swiss NGO Public Eye has reported on alleged exploitation at factories said to be used by Shein, which itself recently issued a comprehensive response saying it has made “extensive progress” in improving conditions. In the US, Rubio introduced a law in 2021 blocking imports made by Chinese Uyghur slave labour and has since ordered an investigation into Shein and fellow Chinese low-price retailer Temu to see if their goods fall foul of the law.

Climate emergency

The US is going further in regulating the fashion industry. In New York, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act will, if passed, legislate that fashion and footwear brands with more than US$100 million (£79 million) in revenue must map 50% of their supply chain to ensure transparency. They will also have to develop plans to reduce their social and environmental impact.

Similarly, in 2019 the European Parliament declared a climate emergency, and the European Commission responded by developing the European Green Deal. This includes planned legislation forcing the fashion industry to address sustainability issues, meaning that by 2030 fashion and textiles will have to become more durable, repairable and recyclable. Businesses will also need to have strategies in place from the design process through to the end of life to maximise resources and avoid contributing to landfill.

French politicians are also “legislating to limit the excesses of ultra-fast fashion”, with a surcharge from 2025 of €5 (£4.29) per item, rising to €10 by 2030. This is recognition that ultra-fast and fast fashion does not only exploit labour, but also the environment. In being seen as disposable, fast fashion has been shown to encourage constant consumption.

While listing Shein on the LSE could improve the company’s respectability and profits, it could backfire for the brand in the long term. Shein could become more visible to a wider audience and with more understanding of sustainability and business practices that contribute to the climate emergency, activists could begin targeting shareholders and other organisations and people with connections to the company.

There is precedent for this – activists who targeted museums and galleries over their sponsorship from energy companies, as well as campus protests in the US and Europe calling for universities to divest from Israeli companies over its war in Gaza.

This trend of publicly criticising brands for exploitative or unethical practice has been levied at fast fashion retailers on social media for years. In particular, influencers who promote “fashion hauls” have been criticised for encouraging unsustainable fashion consumption.

The fashion industry may appear to be unfairly scrutinised for failing to address sustainability. After all, it’s hardly the only industry that damages the environment. But the scrutiny appears to be valid; the United Nations now believes that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

What’s more, as an industry it makes an overt display of its cheap prices and rapid turnover, with marketing tactics claiming “last chance to buy” or “low in stock”, along with discounts that encourage frequent impulsive purchases. Our research has found that fast fashion marketing on social media is “in your face” and encourages mindless consumption of clothing that often languishes in wardrobes with the tags still on.

Fast-fashion retailers frequently make sustainability claims to alleviate consumer “eco-guilt”, which are often ambiguous and can’t be readily substantiated. But fast and ultra-fast fashion can never be sustainable due to the speed of turnover and items that are often binned after one wear.

So, although the marketing entices customers through social media, the messages consumers see as they scroll are increasingly competing with stories of activism and protests about fast fashion’s harmful effects.

As moves to regulate the fast-fashion industry spread to more regions, the effects will almost certainly affect the profits of those in the sector. While a London listing for Shein might be a shot in the arm for the LSE, it could spell trouble for the retailer as it finds itself – and its practices – under increasing scrutiny.

Shein was approached about the claims made in this article but declined to comment.The Conversation

Elaine L Ritch, Reader in Fashion, Marketing and Sustainability, Glasgow Caledonian University

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

New fossil brings us a step closer to unravelling the mystery of feather evolution

The studied Psittacosaurus under natural (upper half) and UV light (lower half). Zixiao Yang, Author provided
Zixiao Yang, University College Cork and Maria McNamara, University College Cork

Strong but light, beautiful and precisely structured, feathers are the most complex skin appendage that ever evolved in vertebrates. Despite the fact humans have been playing with feathers since prehistory, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about them.

Our new study found that some of the first animals with feathers also had scaly skin like reptiles.

Following the debut of the first feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx prima, in 1996, a surge of discoveries has painted an ever more interesting picture of feather evolution.

We now know that many dinosaurs and their flying cousins, the pterosaurs, had feathers. Feathers came in more shapes in the past – for example, ribbon-like feathers with expanded tips were found in dinosaurs and extinct birds but not in modern birds. Only some ancient feather types are inherited by birds today.

Paleobiologists have also learnt that early feathers were not made for flying. Fossils of early feathers had simple structures and sparse distributions on the body, so they may have been for display or tactile sensing. Pterosaur fossils suggest they may have played a role in thermoregulation and in colour patterning.

Fascinating as these fossils are, ancient plumage tells only part of the story of feather evolution. The rest of the action happened in the skin.

The skin of birds today is soft and evolved for the support, control, growth and pigmentation of feathers, unlike the scaly skin of reptiles.

Fossils of dinosaur skin are more common than you think. To date, however, only a handful of dinosaur skin fossils have been examined on a microscopic level. These studies, for example a 2018 study of four fossils with preserved skin, showed that the skin of early birds and their close dinosaur relatives (the coelurosaurs) was already very much like the skin of birds today. Bird-like skin evolved before bird-like dinosaurs came around.

So to understand how bird-like skin evolved, we need to study the dinosaurs that branched off earlier in the evolutionary tree.

Our study shows that at least some feathered dinosaurs still had scaly skin, like reptiles today. This evidence comes from a new specimen of Psittacosaurus, a horned dinosaur with bristle-like feathers on its tail. Psittacosaurus lived in the early Cretaceous period (about 130 million years ago), but its clan, the ornithischian dinosaurs, diverged from other dinosaurs much earlier, in the Triassic period (about 240 million years ago).

In the new specimen, the soft tissues are hidden to the naked eye. Under ultraviolet light, however, scaly skin reveals itself in an orange-yellow glow. The skin is preserved on the torso and limbs which are parts of the body that didn’t have feathers.

These luminous colours are from silica minerals that are responsible for preserving the fossil skin. During fossilisation, silica-rich fluids permeated the skin before it decayed, replicating the skin structure with incredible detail. Fine anatomical features are preserved, including the epidermis, skin cells and skin pigments called melanosomes.

The fossil skin cells have much in common with modern reptile skin cells. They share a similar cell size and shape and they both have fused cell boundaries – a feature known only in modern reptiles.

The distribution of the fossil skin pigment is identical to that in modern crocodile scales. The fossil skin, though, seems relatively thin by reptile standards. This suggests the fossil scales in Psittacosaurus were also similar in composition to reptile scales.

Reptile scales are hard and rigid because they are rich in a type of skin-building protein, the tough corneous beta proteins. In contrast, the soft skin of birds is made of a different protein type, the keratins, which are the key structural material in hair, nails, claws, hooves and our outer later of skin.

To provide physical protection, the thin, naked skin of Psittacosaurus must have been composed of tough reptile-style corneous beta proteins. Softer bird-style skin would have been too fragile without feathers for protection.

Collectively, the new fossil evidence indicates that Psittacosaurus had reptile-style skin in areas where it didn’t have feathers. The tail, which preserves feathers in some specimens, unfortunately did not preserve any feathers or skin in our specimen.

However, the tail feathers on other specimens show that some bird-like skin features must have already evolved to hold feathers in place. So our discovery suggests that early feathered animals had a mix of skin types, with bird-like skin only in feathered regions of the body, and the rest of the skin still scaly, like in modern reptiles.

This zoned development would have ensured that the skin protected the animal against abrasion, dehydration and pathogens.

What next?

The next knowledge gap for scientists to explore is the evolutionary transition from the reptile-style skin of Psittacosaurus to the skin of other more heavily feathered dinosaurs and early birds.

We also need more experiments studying the process of fossilisation itself. There is a lot we don’t understand about how soft tissues fossilise, which means it is difficult to tell which skin features in a fossil are real biological features and which are simply artefacts of fossilisation.

Over the last 30 years, the fossil record has surprised scientists in regard to feather evolution. Future discoveries of fossil feathers may help us understand how dinosaurs and their relatives evolved flight, warm-blooded metabolisms, and how they communicated with each other.The Conversation

Zixiao Yang, Postdoctoral researcher, University College Cork and Maria McNamara, Professor, Palaeobiology, University College Cork

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

Iconic baobabs: The origin and long-distance travels of upside down trees

The iconic baobabs, also known as upside-down trees, or the tree of life, have much cultural significance, inspiring innumerable arts, folklore, and traditions. A research published in Nature, involving international collaboration between Wuhan Botanical Garden (China), Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew, UK), University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) and Queen Mary University of London (UK) reveal a remarkable example of species radiation in Madagascar followed by long distance dispersal to Africa and Australia. With speciation, an astonishing divergence of pollination mechanisms evolved, that exploit hawkmoths, bats and lemurs for a simple nectar reward.

The charismatic baobabs have astonishing growth forms, reaching huge sizes with massive trunks, but apparently diminutive crowns, giving them their iconic appearance as upside-down trees.

The team first assembled the genomes of the eight recognised species and worked out their patterns of speciation.

They then analysed the genomes themselves and discovered that the ancestor of all eight species most likely radiated in Madagascar, where they made hybrids, before two species underwent astonishing long-distance travels, one to Africa and another to Australia.

In that radiation the species evolved different flower structures to attract hawkmoths, lemurs and bats.

Quote: Professor Andrew Leitch at Queen Mary University of London said, "We were delighted to be involved in this project uncovering patterns of baobab speciation in Madagascar followed by the astonishing long-distance dispersal of two species, one to Africa and another to Australia. This was accompanied by the evolution of some fascinating pollination syndromes involving hawkmoths, lemurs and bats."

Dr. Ilia Leitch at Royal Botanic Garden Kew said, "This work has uncovered new insights into the patterns of speciation in baobabs and shows how climate change has influenced baobab distribution and speciation patterns over millions of years."

Husband and wife team Andrew and Ilia Leitch at Queen Mary University of London and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew said. 'We were delighted to be involved in this project uncovering patterns of baobab speciation in Madagascar before the astonishing long-distance dispersal of two species, one to Africa and another to Australia. The work also provides new insights into how climate change has influenced baobab distribution and speciation patterns over millions of years'.

Jun-Nan Wan, Sheng-Wei Wang, Andrew R. Leitch, Ilia J. Leitch, Jian-Bo Jian, Zhang-Yan Wu, Hai-Ping Xin, Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, Guy Eric Onjalalaina, Robert Wahiti Gituru, Can Dai, Geoffrey Mwachala, Ming-Zhou Bai, Chen-Xi Zhao, Hong-Qi Wang, Sheng-Lan Du, Neng Wei, Guang-Wan Hu, Si-Chong Chen, Xiao-Ya Chen, Tao Wan, Qing-Feng Wang. The rise of baobab trees in Madagascar. Nature, 2024; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-024-07447-4

The Boab in Australia

Adansonia gregorii, commonly known as the boab and also known by a number of other names, is a tree in the family Malvaceae, found in the northern regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory of Australia.

The specific name "gregorii" honours the Australian explorer Augustus Gregory.

The common name "boab" is a shortened form of the generic common name "boabab", and is the most widely recognised common name. It does, however, have a large number of other common names. Similar names include:

  • baobab — the common name for the genus as a whole, but often used in Australia to refer to the Australian species
  • Australian baobab
  • boabab was in common use from the late 1850s (Perhaps the origin of boab)
  • baob

Gadawon is one of the names used by the local Aboriginal Australian groups. Other names include larrgadi or larrgadiy, which is widespread in the Nyulnyulan languages of the Western Kimberley.

Other names include:

  • bottle tree or bottletree
  • cream of tartar tree
  • gourd-gourd tree
  • gouty stem tree
  • monkey bread tree
  • sour gourd
  • upside down tree
  • dead rat tree

The boab occurs in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and east into the Northern Territory. It is the only baobab to occur in Australia, the others being native to Madagascar and mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There are various theories as to how the tree got to Australia, with A. gregorii and Adansonia digitata, its African relative, being very similar genetically.

It can grow from sea level up to about 300 m (980 ft) in altitude, and is most often found in open forest and rocky areas, but is also seen in monsoon forest.

As with other baobabs, Adansonia gregorii is easily recognised by the swollen base of its trunk, which forms a massive caudex, giving the tree a bottle-like appearance. Boab ranges from 5–15 m (16–49 ft) in height, usually 9–12 m (30–39 ft), with a broad bottle-shaped trunk, up to 5 m (16 ft) in diameter.

A. gregorii is deciduous, losing its leaves during the dry winter period and producing new leaves and large white flowers between December and May,[15] up to 75 mm (3.0 in) long.[10] The flowers open at night, and have a calyx about 6 cm (2.4 in) long. The inner surface is densely sericeous.

Boabs are pollinated by the convolvulus hawk-moth Agrius convolvuli.

Agrius convolvuli, the convolvulus hawk-moth, feeding in flight. Photos: Charles J. Sharp

The tree's bark has a remarkable property, in that it can maintain inscribed markings for long periods of time, over more than a century. Some specimens of the African relative of boabs have been estimated to live close to 2,000 years, but the Australian ones are not as well-documented.

The plant has a wide variety of uses; most parts are edible and it is the source of a number of materials. Its medicinal products and the ability to store water through dry seasons has been exploited.  Aboriginal Australians obtained water from the tree, owing to its ability to store huge amounts of water; some of the oldest and largest trees can hold more than 100,000 L (22,000 imp gal; 26,000 US gal) of water in their trunks. They also use the white powder that fills the seed pods (or pith, said to taste like sherbet or cream of tartar) as a food.

Decorative paintings or carvings were sometimes made on the outer surface of the fruit. The bark and leaves are used medicinally, in particular for digestive ailments. The root fibres are used to create string.

The 1889 book Useful native plants of Australia states that "The dry acidulous pulp of the fruit is eaten. It has an agreeable taste, like cream of tartar".

European use of the trees has included letter boxes and jails.

The leaves may see a future use prepared as food, due to their high iron content. The leaves can be boiled and eaten as a spinach; the seeds can be ground and used as a coffee-like beverage, and fermenting the pulp creates a type of beer.

Notable Australian Boabs

A large hollow boab south of Derby, Western Australia is reputed to have been used in the 1890s as a lockup for Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree, Derby is now a tourist attraction.

Boab Prison Tree, Derby. Photo: 'Whinging Pom', via Wikipedia

Boab in Timber Creek, NT. Photo: Melissa Jamcotchian

Another hollow boab near Wyndham, Western Australia was also used as a prison tree. The Hillgrove Lockup or Wyndham Prison Tree is on the King River Road out of Wyndham near the Moochalabra Dam. There is also a boab tree located within the Wyndham Caravan Park that is billed as "the biggest boab in captivity".

Gija Jumulu is a large boab which was transported from Warmun in the Kimberley region to Kings Park in the Western Australian capital city, Perth in 2008. As of 2019 the tree was growing well, after an initial period showing signs of stress after the move, demonstrating the adaptability of the species in a different climate.

Gregory's Tree, in the Gregory's Tree Historical Reserve at Timber Creek, NT, is an Aboriginal sacred site and a registered Australian heritage site. The boab tree marks the site of a camp of the explorer Augustus Charles Gregory, and is inscribed with the dates of his party's arrival and departure, from October 1855 to July 1856.

In 2021, a collaborative project to find and trace histories etched in boab trees in the Kimberley was launched. Funded by the Australian Research Council, archaeologists from the Australian National University (ANU), the University of Western Australia, the University of Canberra, and University of Notre Dame Australia are working with Aboriginal communities and using advanced technology (photogrammetry) to record 3D images of carvings on the trees. It is "the first systematic survey and recording program of carved boab trees in Australia".

In October 2022, the team published the results of their recent survey of such trees in the Tanami Desert. The survey records the tree markings, also known as dendroglyphs, relating to the Lingka Dreaming track across the desert. Also known as the King Brown Snake dreaming, many of the carvings are of snakes, but also include emu and kangaroo tracks; geometric markings; and, further west, crocodiles, turtles and Wanjina figures. The researchers also found stone artefacts and broken grinding stones, used for grinding seeds, as camps were often made underneath the large shady trees.

A boab tree is featured in the 1992 animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest to imprison the film's antagonist, Hexxus.

The boab tree is celebrated in the end credits of the 2008 film Australia with the song "By the Boab Tree", a song nominated for a 2008 Satellite Award, with lyrics by Baz Luhrmann and performed by Sydney singer Angela Little.

Augustus Charles Gregory

Sir Augustus Charles Gregory KCMG FRSGS (1 August 1819 – 25 June 1905) was an English-born Australian explorer and surveyor. Between 1846 and 1858 he undertook four major expeditions. He was the first Surveyor-General of Queensland. He was appointed a lifetime Member of the Queensland Legislative Council.

In 1846, with his two brothers, F. T. Gregory and H. C. Gregory, he made his first exploration. With four horses and seven weeks' provisions they left T. N. Yule's station 60 miles northeast of Perth on 7 August 1846 and explored a considerable amount of the country to the north of Perth, returning after an absence of 47 days during which they had covered 953 miles (1534 km).

Two years later, Gregory led an expedition to examine the course of the Gascoyne River and, in particular, to look for new pasture-land. The party left on 2 September 1848, crossing the Murchison River 25 September, but the country was very dry and it became difficult to water the horses. Gregory decided to turn south again in the beginning of October, and on 6 October decided to rest the horses by the Murchison River. The party returned to Perth on 12 November after having found good pastures. Despite water supply difficulties, about 1500 miles (2414 km) were covered in a period of 10 weeks.

In 1854 while Assistant Surveyor of Western Australia, Gregory was asked to lead an expedition to the interior, from a rendezvous point at Moreton Bay near Brisbane. Gregory had his brother, H. C. Gregory, as second in command and Baron von Mueller as botanist. There were 19 men altogether, with 50 horses and 200 sheep. The party left Moreton Bay by sea on 12 August 1855, and Port Essington was sighted on 1 September. On the next day their vessel grounded on a reef and it was impossible to float off until 10 September. They proceeded to Pearce Point (Joseph Bonaparte Gulf), and at the end of the month the party reached the estuary of the Victoria River. The party split up, with one group going up the river in a schooner, while Gregory led the other over the range.[citation needed] It was on this trip that Gregory made contact with the Gurindji people, with his party their first ever contact with Europeans.

In September 1857 Gregory was hired by the government of New South Wales to search for traces of Ludwig Leichhardt, a fellow explorer who had disappeared on an earlier expedition. A party of nine was formed with Gregory in command and his brother, C. F. Gregory, as second in command. On 24 March 1858 the expedition left Juandah near the present town of Taroom. On 21 April a tree marked with an L was found in latitude 24 degrees 35 minutes and longitude 146 degrees 6 minutes. The Barcoo River was then followed to its junction with the Thomson. On 15 May the country was so dry the expedition turned south to save the horses. Cooper Creek was followed until it was close to the South Australian border, coming to Strzelecki Creek on 14 June. Continuing his course mostly to the south, on 26 June he decided to proceed to Adelaide, which was reached at the end of July 1858.

Sir Augustus Gregory, circa 1903. Photo: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Gregory's Tree above Victoria River, appr. 20 km west of Timber Creek. The date, 2 July 1856, was carved into it by Thomas Baines, the expedition's artist. Photo: Reise-Line 

book of the month - may 2024: i can jump puddles by alan marshall

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

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

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

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

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

The world at your finger tips: Online

With current advice to stay at home and self-isolate, when you come in out of the garden, have had your fill of watching movies and want to explore something new, there's a whole world of books you can download, films you can watch and art galleries you can stroll through - all from at home and via the internet. This week a few suggestions of some of the resources available for you to explore and enjoy. For those who have a passion for Art - this month's Artist of the Month is the Online Australian Art Galleries and State Libraries where you can see great works of art from all over the world  and here - both older works and contemporary works.

Also remember the Project Gutenberg Australia - link here- has heaps of great books, not just focused on Australian subjects but fiction works by popular authors as well. Well worth a look at.

Short Stories for Teenagers you can read for free online

StoryStar is an online resource where you can access and read short stories for teenagers


Storystar is a totally FREE short stories site featuring some of the best short stories online, written by/for kids, teens, and adults of all ages around the world, where short story writers are the stars, and everyone is free to shine! Storystar is dedicated to providing a free place where everyone can share their stories. Stories can entertain us, enlighten us, and change us. Our lives are full of stories; stories of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, success and failure. The stories of our lives matter. Share them. Sharing stories with each other can bring us closer together and help us get to know one another better. Please invite your friends and family to visit Storystar to read, rate and share all the short stories that have been published here, and to tell their stories too.

StoryStar headquarters are located on the central Oregon coast.

NFSA - National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

The doors may be temporarily closed but when it comes to the NFSA, we are always open online. We have content for Kids, Animal Lovers, Music fans, Film buffs & lots more.

You can explore what’s available online at the NFSA, see more in the link below.

NLA Ebooks - Free To Download

The National Library of Australia provides access to thousands of ebooks through its website, catalogue and eResources service. These include our own publications and digitised historical books from our collections as well as subscriptions to collections such as Chinese eResources, Early English Books Online and Ebsco ebooks.

What are ebooks?
Ebooks are books published in an electronic format. They can be read by using a personal computer or an ebook reader.

This guide will help you find and view different types of ebooks in the National Library collections.

Peruse the NLA's online ebooks, ready to download - HERE

The Internet Archive and Digital Library

The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge." It provides free public access to collections of digitised materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies, videos, moving images, and millions of public-domain books. There's lots of Australian materials amongst the millions of works on offer.


Avalon Youth Hub: More Meditation Spots

Due to popular demand our meditation evenings have EXPANDED. Two sessions will now be run every Wednesday evening at the Hub. Both sessions will be facilitated by Merryn at Soul Safaris.

6-7pm - 12 - 15 year olds welcome
7-8pm - 16 - 25 year olds welcome

No experience needed. Learn and develop your mindfulness and practice meditation in a group setting.

For all enquires, message us via facebook or email

BIG THANKS The Burdekin Association for funding these sessions!

Green Team Beach Cleans 

Hosted by The Green Team
It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

We will meet in front of the surf club. 
Hope to see you there!

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.

 The Project Gutenberg Library of Australiana

Australian writers, works about Australia and works which may be of interest to Australians.This Australiana page boasts many ebooks by Australian writers, or books about Australia. There is a diverse range; from the journals of the land and sea explorers; to the early accounts of white settlement in Australia; to the fiction of 'Banjo' Paterson, Henry Lawson and many other Australian writers.

The list of titles form part of the huge collection of ebooks freely downloadable from Project Gutenberg Australia. Follow the links to read more about the authors and titles and to read and/or download the ebooks. 

Profile: Ingleside Riders Group

Ingleside Riders Group Inc. (IRG) is a not for profit incorporated association and is run solely by volunteers. It was formed in 2003 and provides a facility known as “Ingleside Equestrian Park” which is approximately 9 acres of land between Wattle St and McLean St, Ingleside. IRG has a licence agreement with the Minister of Education to use this land. This facility is very valuable as it is the only designated area solely for equestrian use in the Pittwater District.  IRG promotes equal rights and the respect of one another and our list of rules that all members must sign reflect this.


Research shows that one in five Australian children aged 8 to 17 has been the target of cyberbullying in the past year. The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner can help you make a complaint, find someone to talk to and provide advice and strategies for dealing with these issues.

Make a Complaint 

The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 gives the power to provide assistance in relation to serious cyberbullying material. That is, material that is directed at a particular child with the intention to seriously embarrass, harass, threaten or humiliate.


Before you make a complaint you need to have:

  • copies of the cyberbullying material to upload (eg screenshots or photos)
  • reported the material to the social media service (if possible) at least 48 hours ago
  • at hand as much information as possible about where the material is located
  • 15-20 minutes to complete the form


Our mission

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is Australia's leader in online safety. The Office is committed to helping young people have safe, positive experiences online and encouraging behavioural change, where a generation of Australian children act responsibly online—just as they would offline.

We provide online safety education for Australian children and young people, a complaints service for young Australians who experience serious cyberbullying, and address illegal online content through the Online Content Scheme.

Our goal is to empower all Australians to explore the online world—safely.


The Green Team

This Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative has been attracting high praise from the founders of Living Ocean as much as other local environment groups recently. 
Creating Beach Cleans events, starting their own, sustainability days - ‘action speaks louder than words’ ethos is at the core of this group. 

National Training Complaints Hotline – 13 38 73

The National Training Complaints Hotline is accessible on 13 38 73 (Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm nationally) or via email at

Sync Your Breathing with this - to help you Relax

Send In Your Stuff

Pittwater Online News is not only For and About you, it is also BY you.  
We will not publish swearing or the gossip about others. BUT: If you have a poem, story or something you want to see addressed, let us know or send to:

All Are Welcome, All Belong!

Youth Source: Northern Sydney Region

A directory of services and resources relevant to young people and those who work, play and live alongside them.

The YouthSource directory has listings from the following types of service providers: Aboriginal, Accommodation, Alcohol & Other Drugs, Community Service, Counselling, Disability, Education & Training, Emergency Information, Employment, Financial, Gambling,  General Health & Wellbeing, Government Agency, Hospital & GP, Legal & Justice, Library, Mental Health, Multicultural, Nutrition & Eating Disorders, Parenting, Relationships, Sexual Health, University, Youth Centre

Driver Knowledge Test (DKT) Practice run Online

Did you know you can do a practice run of the DKT online on the RMS site? - check out the base of this page, and the rest on the webpage, it's loaded with information for you!

The DKT Practice test is designed to help you become familiar with the test, and decide if you’re ready to attempt the test for real.  Experienced drivers can also take the practice test to check their knowledge of the road rules. Unlike the real test, the practice DKT allows you to finish all 45 questions, regardless of how many you get wrong. At the end of the practice test, you’ll be advised whether you passed or failed.

Fined Out: Practical guide for people having problems with fines

Legal Aid NSW has just published an updated version of its 'Fined Out' booklet, produced in collaboration with Inner City Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre.

Fined Out is a practical guide to the NSW fines system. It provides information about how to deal with fines and contact information for services that can help people with their fines.

A fine is a financial penalty for breaking the law. The Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and Regulations sets out the rules about fines.

The 5th edition of 'Fined Out' includes information on the different types of fines and chapters on the various options to deal with fines at different stages of the fine lifecycle, including court options and pathways to seek a review, a 50% reduction, a write-off, plan, or a Work and Development Order (WDO).

The resource features links to self-help legal tools for people with NSW fines, traffic offence fines and court attendance notices (CANs) and also explains the role of Revenue NSW in administering and enforcing fines.

Other sections of the booklet include information specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, young people and driving offences, as well as a series of template letters to assist people to self-advocate.

Hard copies will soon be available to be ordered online through the Publications tab on the Legal Aid NSW website.

Hard copies will also be made available in all public and prison libraries throughout NSW.

Read the resource online, or download the PDF.

Apprenticeships and traineeships info

Are you going to leave school this year?
Looking for an apprenticeship or traineeship to get you started?
This website, Training Services NSW, has stacks of info for you;

It lists the group training organisations (GTOs) that are currently registered in NSW under the Apprenticeship and Traineeship Act 2001. These GTOs have been audited by independent auditors and are compliant with the National Standards for Group Training Organisations.

If you are interested in using the services of a registered GTO, please contact any of the organisations listed here:

There are also some great websites, like 1300apprentice, which list what kind of apprenticeships and traineeships they can guide you to securing as well as listing work available right now.

Profile Bayview Yacht Racing Association (BYRA)
1842 Pittwater Rd, Bayview

BYRA has a passion for sharing the great waters of Pittwater and a love of sailing with everyone aged 8 to 80 or over!

 headspace Brookvale

headspace Brookvale provides services to young people aged 12-25. If you are a young person looking for health advice, support and/or information,headspace Brookvale can help you with:

• Mental health • Physical/sexual health • Alcohol and other drug services • Education and employment services

If you ever feel that you are:

• Alone and confused • Down, depressed or anxious • Worried about your use of alcohol and/or other drugs • Not coping at home, school or work • Being bullied, hurt or harassed • Wanting to hurt yourself • Concerned about your sexual health • Struggling with housing or accommodation • Having relationship problems • Finding it hard to get a job

Or if you just need someone to talk to… headspace Brookvale can help! The best part is our service is free, confidential and youth friendly.

headspace Brookvale is open from Monday to Friday 9:00am-5:30pm so if you want to talk or make an appointment give us a call on (02) 9937 6500. If you're not feeling up to contacting us yourself, feel free to ask your family, friend, teacher, doctor or someone close to you to make a referral on your behalf.

When you first come to headspace Brookvale you will be greeted by one of our friendly staff. You will then talk with a member of our headspace Brookvale Youth Access Team. The headspace Brookvale Youth Access Team consists of three workers, who will work with you around whatever problems you are facing. Depending on what's happening for you, you may meet with your Youth Access Worker a number of times or you may be referred on to a more appropriate service provider.

A number of service providers are operating out of headspace Brookvale including Psychologists, Drug & Alcohol Workers, Sexual Health Workers, Employment Services and more! If we can't find a service operating withinheadspace Brookvale that best suits you, the Youth Access Team can also refer you to other services in the Sydney area.

eheadspace provides online and telephone support for young people aged 12-25. It is a confidential, free, secure space where you can chat, email or talk on the phone to qualified youth mental health professionals.

Click here to go to eheadspace

For urgent mental health assistance or if you are in a crisis please call the Northern Sydney 24 hour Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511

Need Help Right NOW??

kids help line: 1800 55 1800 -

lifeline australia - 13 11 14 -

headspace Brookvale is located at Level 2 Brookvale House, 1A Cross Street Brookvale NSW 2100 (Old Medical Centre at Warringah Mall). We are nearby Brookvale Westfield's bus stop on Pittwater road, and have plenty of parking under the building opposite Bunnings. More at:

Profile: Avalon Soccer Club
Avalon Soccer Club is an amateur club situated at the northern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. As a club we pride ourselves on our friendly, family club environment. The club is comprised of over a thousand players aged from 5 to 70 who enjoy playing the beautiful game at a variety of levels and is entirely run by a group of dedicated volunteers. 
Profile: Pittwater Baseball Club

Their Mission: Share a community spirit through the joy of our children engaging in baseball.

Year 13

Year13 is an online resource for post school options that specialises in providing information and services on Apprenticeships, Gap Year Programs, Job Vacancies, Studying, Money Advice, Internships and the fun of life after school. Partnering with leading companies across Australia Year13 helps facilitate positive choices for young Australians when finishing school.

NCYLC is a community legal centre dedicated to providing advice to children and young people. NCYLC has developed a Cyber Project called Lawmail, which allows young people to easily access free legal advice from anywhere in Australia, at any time.

NCYLC was set up to ensure children’s rights are not marginalised or ignored. NCYLC helps children across Australia with their problems, including abuse and neglect. The AGD, UNSW, KWM, Telstra and ASIC collaborate by providing financial, in-kind and/or pro bono volunteer resources to NCYLC to operate Lawmail and/or Lawstuff.

Kids Helpline

If you’re aged 5-25 the Kids Helpline provides free and confidential online and phone counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 55 1800. You can chat with us about anything… What’s going on at home, stuff with friends. Something at school or feeling sad, angry or worried. You don’t have to tell us your name if you don’t want to.

You can Webchat, email or phone. Always remember - Everyone deserves to be safe and happy. You’re important and we are here to help you. Visit: