June 4 - 10  2023: Issue 586

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

A new virtual museum reveals 600 million years of Australian fossils in unprecedented 3D detail

Virtual Australian Museum of Palaeontology, Author provided
Alice Clement, Flinders University; Aaron Camens, Flinders University, and Jacob van Zoelen, Flinders University

Palaeontology is the study of evolution and prehistoric life, usually preserved as fossils in rocks. It combines aspects of geology with biology and many other scientific disciplines.

But a lot of palaeontology really is about rocks. For 200 years, hammers and chisels have been some of its most commonly used tools.

However, advances in modern scanning technology are revolutionising the way we do palaeontology. Precise scans of the internal and external features of fossils let us see them in new ways.

And these digitised scans can readily be made available to the public online. At the new Virtual Australian Museum of Palaeontology, we offer free access to 600 million years of digital Australian fossils, from enigmatic early lifeforms to gigantic extinct marsupials.

How do palaeontologists learn about the past?

There are many different types of fossils. For example, a dinosaur leg bone can become a fossil, but so can a leaf from a tree, the footprint of an extinct kangaroo, poo from a shark, or even geochemical traces preserved in ancient soils.

The field of palaeontology was formally solidified into scientific enquiry by people such as Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). Cuvier was a French naturalist and zoologist sometimes referred to as the “founding father of palaeontology”. Others such as the Scottish geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875) gave us the geological framework through which fossils could be classified and compared.

A man digging up fossils
Palaeontologist Aaron Camens digging up fossils. Aaron Camens, Author provided

Palaeontology has come a long way in the past 200 years.

Records of long-extinct animals also survive in the rock art and oral traditions of First Nations peoples. These are increasingly being recognised as an important complement to traditional Eurocentric approaches.

How to scan a fossil

Different kinds of scanning technology are playing an increasing role in palaeontology. Computed tomography, or CT scanning, uses x-rays to create three-dimensional models of the internal and external features of dense objects.

Four images showing stages of creating a 3D model of a fossil fish
A photo of a fossil fish (far left), an x-ray image (middle left), a ‘tomogram’ or slice through the scan data (middle right), and a 3D virtual model (far right). Alice Clement, Author provided

Other imaging methods include photogrammetry, or surface scanning using lasers or projected patterns of light. These methods capture the external three-dimensional shape of an object or site, sometimes with colour and textural detail. They also have the advantage of being more portable and can often be taken directly to the fossil.

A photo of a man holding a device that illuminates a fossil with a bright purple light
Palaeontologist Jacob van Zoelen using a surface scanner on a fossil marsupial skull. Alice Clement, Author provided

The most powerful scanning methods are the synchrotron and neutron imaging. A synchrotron works on the same principles as CT scanning, using radiation to look inside an object, but uses much stronger radiation. Neutron imaging uses neutrons instead of x-rays or other radiation, and it can be useful for particularly dense or large objects.

These advances in scanning technology are opening up whole new avenues for exploring, sharing and analysing Australia’s unique fossils. Now what to do with all our digital palaeontology data?

That’s where the Virtual Australian Museum of Palaeontology comes in.

About the museum

A photo of a woman standing outdoors holding two pieces of rock containing a fossil
Palaeontologist Alice Clement in the field with a new fossil discovery. Alice Clement, Author provided

We are a group of researchers at Flinders University, working with the South Australian Museum, the Western Australian Museum, and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Between us, we have spent many hours scanning, processing and uploading hundreds of three-dimensional virtual models.

Australia is geologically old with a rich fossil heritage. We are fortunate to have captured high-quality examples spanning nearly 600 million years of evolution on our continent.

We have scans of some of the earliest complex life from Ediacaran and Cambrian sites from over 500 million years ago. We have exquisite examples from the best ancient fish deposit in the world, and many amazing extinct megafauna not known from anywhere else.

Examples include the marsupial lion Thylacoleo, the giant wombat-like Diprotodon, and huge short-faced kangaroos such as Sthenurus.

Reconstructions of common Australian megafauna in an open bush setting
Many giant creatures that once roamed Australia are now known only from fossils. Peter Trusler

In the pilot phase of this project we have digitised more than 500 fossils across more than 30 genera. Some highlights include:

  1. one of the world’s most complete marsupial lion skeletons (almost every bone from the skull to the toe bones)
  2. one of the only known bones of a pterosaur (flying reptile) from South Australia
  3. scans of one of the oldest known sharks in the world
  4. fossil mammal footprints that are now known only from our digital data, as the original trackways have been destroyed.
A collage shows six digital models of fossils accompanied by silhouette drawings of the animals they came from
Six digital models of scanned fossil specimens from the museum. Virtual Australian Museum of Palaeontology, Author provided

You can explore the VAMP website yourself. All you need to dig into a world of 3D fossil scans is a computer or a smartphone.The Conversation

Alice Clement, Research Associate in the College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University; Aaron Camens, Lecturer in Palaeontology, Flinders University, and Jacob van Zoelen, PhD Candidate, Flinders University

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

The STAEDTLER Secondary School Artists Of The Year Competition Is Back!

Open to all year 7 to 12 students, it’s a chance for all up and coming artists to share their work for the opportunity to win 1 of 11 prizes. Entries open on 16th May and close 20th June. 

With the help of our panel of 3 talented judges, we are searching for the STAEDTLER Senior (years 10-12) and Junior (years 7-9) Artist of the Year 2023.

Both first place winners will receive a $1,000 VISA gift card!

For more information on prizes, please click here.

How to enter


Using your favourite STAEDTLER products, show us your creativity and produce a masterpiece you’d like to submit.

You can get your inspiration from anywhere; a favourite place, a person, animal or school art project – we can’t wait to see your work of art!


Upload a photo of your artwork here and follow the prompts. If you are a Teacher, you can enter for your students and upload multiple entries at once. You will need to include artwork title, your name, school and year group.

Please ensure we can see the surface the artwork has been produced on eg. canvas or paper.

Note: digitally created or digitally enhanced artwork will not be accepted.


Entries close on Tuesday 20th June and the judging and voting will then take pace.

You can vote for the People’s Choice Award from 21st -28th June – just come back to this page.

Winners will be announced 7th July.

Enter here: https://au.competitions.staedtler.com/

Applications open for 150 apprentice scholarships

Apprentices facing financial or personal hardship will be supported to undertake their trade and study through a $2.25 million NSW Government scholarship program.

Applications are now open until 21 July for the 2023 Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships program that will support 150 people with $15,000 each to complete their training and further their career.

The scholarships support apprentices who are experiencing financial or personal hardship, demonstrate a high aptitude for vocational education and training, and are committed to their on- and off-the-job training in metropolitan and regional NSW.

The scholarship program is named in honour of the late Bert Evans AO, a passionate advocate of vocational education for more than 30 years. A total of 751 Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships have been awarded since 2014.

These scholarships greatly assist first year apprentices to undertake their trade and study to achieve their career goals.

The NSW Government-run program offers grants of $5000 annually over 3 years to help people overcome personal barriers to finish their apprenticeships and go onto rewarding careers.

The scholarships are awarded to apprentices in NSW who have demonstrated:

  • financial hardship and/or personal hardship
  • capability for vocational education and training, and
  • a positive attitude and application in the workplace and in off-the-job training.

Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Tim Crakanthorp said, “With demand for vocational education high, this year we have increased the number of Bert Evans scholarships on offer to help more apprentices through their training.

“Whether you need to purchase new tools, cover fuel or car maintenance costs, or pay for additional training courses, these scholarships have helped people overcome personal barriers to finish their apprenticeships and go onto rewarding careers.

“Apprenticeships are vital in ensuring NSW has a pipeline of skilled workers, and we want to give our apprentices a helping hand to complete their training, so they can make a strong contribution in their jobs and in the lives of their families and communities.”

Visit Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships or phone 13 28 11 for more information and to apply.

At: https://education.nsw.gov.au/skills-nsw/apprentices-and-trainees/support-with-your-apprenticeship-or-traineeship/bert-evans-apprentice-scholarships

dorothea mackellar poetry awards 2023: Optional theme this year 'the winding road'

HOW TO ENTER: https://dorothea.com.au/how-to-enter/



Primary school and secondary school entries can be submitted anytime during the competition period.

1. Teacher/parent register account online *If you have already created an account, skip to step 3 and log in*

2. Check email for link to verify account and create password

3. Log in to your account

4. Purchase tier of entries *Please note we’re only able to accept credit card payments at this time*

5. Enter student details and submit poem(s) (cut and paste or type in poem content direct to the webpage)

6. Repeat step 5 for every student/individual poem.

*PLEASE NOTE: If you’re registering as an individual student, put your HOME address in your personal details and not your SCHOOL’S address! The address you list is where your participation certificate will be posted!*

Please read our Conditions of Entry here before registering for the competition.


Have a read of the judges’ reports from the previous year. They contain some very helpful advice for teachers and parents alike!

It is recommended for schools to appoint a coordinator for the competition.

Only a teacher/parent can complete the registration form on behalf of the student/child.

Log-in details: username is the email address and a password of your choice.

Log-in details can be given to other teachers/students for poem submission in class/at home.

Log-in as many times as necessary during the competition period.

Teachers can view progress by monitoring the number and content of entries.

Individual entries are accepted if the school is not participating or a child is home schooled. Parent needs to complete the registration form with their contact details. Please indicate ‘individual entry’ under school name and home postal address under school address.

Invoice for the entry fee will be sent to the registered email address within 2 weeks.

‘Participation certificate only’ option available for schools where pre-selection of entries has been carried out. Poems under this option will not be sent to judges, students will still receive participation certificate for their efforts.

Please read the Conditions of Entry before entering. Entries accepted: March 1 to June 30, results announced during early September.


Check out our learning resources or browse the previous years’ themes and winning entries.

For more information contact our Project Officer on 02 6742 1200 or email dorothea.mackellar@outlook.com.

Mumma Moon Delivers - Part 1

Published by Surfing Visions (Tim Bonython) May 30 2023
In this edit we go to a place that not many surfers want to surf. Why, it’s super powerful, if you wipeout your more than likely end up on the rocks plus its a long way from civilisation so if you get hurt you’re long way to go to the hospital. This spot is your typical Aussie slab which means it breaks HARD on a shallow reef. If you can paddle it your normally a bodyboarder as breaks very quick.      
But if you’re Nathan Florence, Kipp Caddy or Moroccan legend Jerome Sahyoun then you’re good enough to paddle it.  

We were invited down to this location by a keen bunch of locals.They graciously offered me a jet-ski to shoot off to get that cinematic moment. Mind you, where you sit to get the shot is very precarious as on the big ones it tends to closeout so i was constantly looking over my shoulder to see if we were safe. Sometimes I felt like i was out at Nazare.(oh yeah, you fall off, you & your camera are on the rocks) 
Also invited was my good friend & slab hunter Dylan Longbottom with his daughter Summa. 
What went down over the three days at Mumma Luna’s definitely wasn’t your typical surf trip.               
This one went down as one of the best Swell Chases ever.

Winter Sports On Victoria's Mount Buffalo in 1947

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by The National Film Board 1947. Directed by Jack S Allan. At Mount Buffalo Chalet in the Victorian Alps tourists enjoy skiing, ice skating, snowball fights and snowmen

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 and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some uncertainty. 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: www.yourcareer.gov.au/school-leavers-support

Word Of The Week: Flibbertigibbet

Word of the Week returns in 2023 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. a silly flighty person. 2. a gossip/er. 3. a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young woman. In modern use, it is used as a slang term, especially in Yorkshire, for a gossipy or overly talkative person.

Flibbertigibbet is one of many incarnations of the Middle English word flepergebet, meaning "gossip" or "chatterer" (others include flybbergybe, flibber de' Jibb, and flipperty-gibbet). 

It is a word of onomatopoeic origin, created from sounds that were intended to represent meaningless chatter. William Shakespeare apparently saw a devilish aspect to a gossipy chatterer; he used flibbertigibbet in King Lear as the name of a devil. This use never caught on, but the devilish connotation of the word reappeared over 200 years later when Sir Walter Scott used Flibbertigibbet as the nickname of an impish urchin in the novel Kenilworth. The impish meaning derived from Scott's character was short-lived and was laid to rest by the 19th-century's end, leaving us with only the "silly flighty person" meaning.

The word has been used by extension as a synonym for Puck.

Puck is also known as Robin Goodfellow, and was/is a domestic and nature sprite, or fairy.

The etymology of puck is uncertain. The modern English word is attested already in Old English as puca (with a diminutive form pucel). Similar words are attested later in Old Norse (púki, with related forms including Old Swedish puke, Icelandic púki, and Frisian puk) but also in the Celtic languages (Welsh pwca, Cornish bucca and Irish púca). Most commentators think that the word was borrowed from one of these neighbouring north-west European languages into the others, but it is not certain in what direction the borrowing went, and all vectors have been proposed by scholars. The Oxford English Dictionary favoured a Scandinavian origin, while a scholarly study by Erin Sebo of Flinders University argues for an Irish origin, on the basis that the word is widely distributed in Irish place-names, whereas puck-place-names in English are rare and late in the areas showing Old Norse influence, and seem rather to radiate outwards from the south-west of England, which she argues had Irish influence during the early medieval period.

The character Puck, also referred to as Robin Goodfellow, appears as a vassal of the Fairy King Oberon in William Shakespeare's 1595/96 play A Midsummer Night's Dream, and is responsible for the mischief that occurs.

The character also appears in Grim the Collier of Croydon (1660, but perhaps based on an earlier play). It is unknown how Shakespeare's Puck appeared on the stage; but the figure in Grim was costumed "in a suit of leather close to his body; his face and hands coloured russet-coloured, with a flail."

The nuns describe free-spirited Sister Maria as, “A flibbertigibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!” in the show tune “Maria” from the 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and in the subsequent 1965 movie.

What are the long-term effects of quitting social media? Almost nobody can log off long enough to find out

John Malouff, University of New England

Being on social media has become synonymous with living in the 21st century. Year after year, we see new platforms and smarter algorithms roping us into highly addictive online worlds.

Now, a growing number of people have noticed this trend and are actively making an effort to resist it.

Anecdotally, a case can be made for quitting social media, and there are myriad reasons why someone might want to. But is there evidence that doing so is good for you in the long term?

Drivers for quitting

Although there are too many social media platforms to name, most people tend to think of the “big five”: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Research has found people have various reasons for quitting one or more of these apps. Many quit over concerns about negative impacts on their mental and physical health. For example, studies have shown adolescent girls in particular can experience negative body image as a result of viewing manipulated selfies on Instagram.

People also choose to quit due to disliking ads, feeling like they’re wasting time, or if they’re worried about their privacy. The question then is: does quitting social media resolve these concerns?

Mixed research outcomes

It’s difficult to determine whether there are clear and lasting benefits to quitting social media – and a look at the research explains why.

One 2020 study found people who had quit social media saw improvements in their close relationships, and were pleased to be free of comparison with others. But some also said they missed the informational and entertainment aspects of it.

In a 2018 study, researchers assessed the psychological state of 143 American undergraduates before randomly assigning one group a daily ten-minute limit for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, per platform. Three weeks later, those who limited their social media use showed significantly lower levels of loneliness and depression. However, there was no significant effect on anxiety, self-esteem or wellbeing.

And in one 2019 study with 78 participants, half were asked to take a one-week break from Facebook and Instagram. To the researchers’ surprise, the users in this group who were generally active on social media experienced less positive psychological effects than those in the control group.

With research findings painting several different pictures, it’s safe to say our relationship with social media – and how it affects us – is very complex.

Research constraints

There appear to be no published studies that have assessed the long-term impacts of permanently quitting social media. This is probably because it’s difficult to find participants who will agree to be randomly assigned the task of dropping social media forever.

One important consideration is that a percentage of individuals who quit social media will eventually go back. Reasons for returning include feeling left out, fearing loss of connections, wanting to regain access to interesting or useful information, feeling social pressure to rejoin, or simply feeling that quitting wasn’t the right choice.

Even if researchers do find a large enough group of people willing to quit social media for good, conducting long-term follow-ups would be highly resource-intensive. Beyond that, it would be difficult to figure out how much of a participant’s increase (or decrease) in life satisfaction is due to quitting social media, and not other factors.

As such, there’s currently no evidence that quitting social media comes with concrete long-term benefits. And in the short term, results are mixed.

To quit, or not to quit?

However, that doesn’t mean quitting (for a short or long period) wouldn’t be beneficial for some people. It’s likely that any potential benefits will depend on the individual doing the quitting, and why they’re doing it.

For instance, consensus that does emerge from the research is that the way you use social media plays a significant role in how negative or positive your experience is. By using social media mindfully, users can minimise potential harms while retaining the benefits.

For some, it may only be one platform causing unease. If you strongly dislike Instagram’s tendency to be hyper-focused on people’s private lives, then you could simply stop using Instagram.

Another technique is to curate your social media feeds by engaging only with content you find useful and positive. For instance, many young women take steps to avoid seeing perfect bodies all day on their social media.

If you’re still wondering whether quitting might be good for you, the simplest way to find out is to experiment and do it.

Take a break from one or more types of social media. After some time ask yourself whether the benefits seem worth it to you. If the answer is “yes”, make the break permanent.

The Conversation is commissioning articles by academics across the world who are researching how society is being shaped by our digital interactions with each other. Read more hereThe Conversation

John Malouff, Associate Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England

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

In the 1800s, colonisers attempted to listen to First Nations people. It didn’t stop the massacres

Benjamin Duterrau, The Conciliation 1840, oil on canvas. Purchased by the Friends of TMAG and the Board of Trustees, 1945. Collection: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, AG79.
Stephen Gapps, University of Newcastle and Lynda-June Coe, Macquarie University

Note of warning: This article refers to deceased Aboriginal people, their words, names and images. Words attributed to them and images in the article are already in the public domain. Also, historical language is used in this article that may cause offence.

As we head toward the referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament later this year, it is worth considering the long history of how governments have tried and failed to authentically listen to First Nations people.

And not just post-federation governments. During Australia’s colonial period in the 19th century, the office of the Protector of Aborigines was established in an effort to hear to the “wants, wishes and grievances” of Aboriginal people, as the secretary for the colonies, Lord Glenelg, put it in 1838.

However, this office not only failed to genuinely listen to First Nations peoples, it led to policies that actually underpinned the erasure of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the Australian Constitution of 1901.

Spotlight on the treatment of Indigenous people

During the 1830s, slave rebellions in Britain’s colonies and a growing humanitarian movement in the UK pushed the government to abolish slavery. The spotlight was then turned on the treatment of Indigenous peoples, both within and on the edges of the rapidly expanding British Empire.

In 1836, the British government established a Select Committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines to hear testimony from church leaders, missionaries and colonial officials about the situation of Aboriginal people in the Australian colonies.

The hearings focused particular attention on the conduct of militia forces in the so-called Black War in Tasmania, where roving parties of white men hunted down and killed Palawa people and massacres were seen as part and parcel of occupying Aboriginal lands.

In January 1838, Glenelg wrote to the governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, that the British government

[had] directed their anxious attention to the adoption of some plan for the better protection and civilisation of the native tribes.

Photographic reproduction of a 1837 portrait of Charles Grant, the first Baron Glenelg. Wikimedia Commons

Glenelg told Gipps that as part of the scheme, the British government had decided to “appoint a small number of persons qualified to fill the office of Protector of Aborigines”. The chief protector, a non-Indigenous person, was to be aided by four assistant protectors and to “fix his principal station at Port Phillip” (later to become Melbourne), only recently occupied by the British.

According to Glenelg, George Augustus Robinson was bestowed with the office of chief protector as he had

shewn [sic] himself to be eminently qualified by his charge of the Aboriginal Establishment at Flinders Island.

Robinson’s so-called “Friendly Mission” - a series of journeys around Tasmania in the early 1830s to convince Palawa of Governor George Arthur’s humane intentions - was lauded by Gipps as a success, as it had peacefully convinced some people to move to a reserve at Flinders Island. Historians now consider this mission to be nothing more than ethnic cleansing.

For Glenelg, appointing Robinson to the new position of chief protector appeared to be the only plan available that did not involve military or police, or armed settlers dispensing their own “justice”.

Portrait of George Augustus Robinson, 1853, by Bernardino Giani. Wikimedia Commons

An aim to convey ‘wants, wishes or grievances’

The plan for establishing Aboriginal protectorates followed Robinson’s Friendly Mission model in Tasmania.

Protectors were to “watch over the rights and interests of the natives” and protect them from “acts of cruelty, of oppression or injustice”. The protector was also to be a kind of conduit to express the “wants, wishes or grievances” of Aboriginal peoples to the colonial governments. For this purpose, each protector was commissioned as a magistrate.

Protectors were encouraged to learn the “language of the natives” and “obtain accurate information” on the “number of the natives within his district”.

On paper at least, the “plan for the better protection and civilisation of the native tribes” seemed a remarkable step forward from previous years. Indeed, there was no plan prior to this that attempted to deal with the situation in Aboriginal lands beyond the official boundaries of the colonies – boundaries that were being increasingly crossed by hundreds of squatters and stockmen, and tens of thousands of cattle and sheep.

The establishment of the role of protectors, who would live among Aboriginal people and learn their languages, was arguably an early attempt at a conduit for an Aboriginal voice to government.

A failure from the beginning

But the scheme did not stop the conflicts and massacres. Shortly after the commission’s report appeared in print in Australia, dozens of Gamilaraay people were killed at Waterloo Creek and Myall Creek in northern inland New South Wales in January and June 1838.

A tinted lithograph depicting the Waterloo Creek massacre by the New South Wales Military Mounted Police. Wikimedia Commons

The scheme also did little to stop the resistance warfare that broke out across the entire length of the frontier in the late 1830s and early 1840s – a counteroffensive that has been described by some contemporary observers as a “general uprising”.

The protectorates scheme was also bound up in the supposed superiority of the colonisers’ race and Christian religion. The ultimate goal was for Aboriginal people to become “civilised” and Christian – just like white people apparently were. It was a paternalistic concept that ultimately turned humanitarian ideals into an even more violent and coercive colonial system.

The protectors, as they had been directed to, could report to the government the “grievances” of Aboriginal people. These were often found to be, as one observer at the time wrote,

[an] explosion of long-pent feelings of revenge and hatred towards the whites, resulting from a long course of violence and injustice.

The attempt by the colonial authorities to understand the “wants, wishes and grievances” of Aboriginal people, however, failed in its mission to actually protect people. The system was abandoned in 1849.

From the 1860s, the various colonial governments developed even more coercive policies of “protection”, which controlled peoples’ lives and corralled them into missions and reserves, so their lands and children could be taken from them.

How this history feeds into failed policies today

The Protector of Aborigines office was an important historical moment that embedded this idea of government control over First Nations’ people’s lives into the social and political fabric of this nation. These supposedly moral standards around “protection” and “civilisation” ultimately forced Indigenous people to become less Indigenous.

These beliefs continue to permeate our government today through failed paternalistic policies such as Closing the Gap. Such racialised policies draw on Australia’s history of containment of Aboriginal land and the ongoing colonial violence of “protection”.

Because of this, we have yet to generate new possibilities of truly meaningful dialogue.

The long struggle for rights and recognition by Aboriginal people has been punctuated by (all too few) moments of support by non-Aboriginal people. As the referendum for the Voice approaches, another such moment beckons. Will this be history repeating itself?The Conversation

Stephen Gapps, Historian and Conjoint Lecturer, University of Newcastle and Lynda-June Coe, PhD Candidate, Macquarie University

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

Friday essay: Private Leo, my imaginary father

Leo Brophy, on right, pictured in Darwin during the war. Author provided
Kevin John Brophy, The University of Melbourne

My mother fell in love with my father, Leo, at a Melbourne suburban dance hall in 1946. He was 26, handsome, athletic, smart, a newly minted war veteran, and his grin was infectious. They were a dazzling couple, as their later wedding photos show. Many decades on my mother liked to tell of Leo’s mother warning her that he was going to prove a handful — and was she prepared for this? Possibly my mother told the story to let us know that her love for Leo could never be doubted. Or equally she might have been letting us know that she had no idea what a handful he would actually turn out to be.

In 2017, when Leo died at the age of 97, one of my brothers gave me a folder of papers. They were the documents of our father’s military service. I put them away with clippings, incomplete family trees, photos and birth and marriage certificates that constitute a patchy record of our unwritten family history.

Three years later, at the height of Melbourne’s extended lockdowns against a rising death toll from COVID-19, with time on my hands at home, I began going through the book shelves, throwing out what would never be read or consulted again, and culling papers accumulated through 40 years of writing and teaching. I found forgotten letters from past lovers and exchanges arising from past close friendships in whole series of letters, reminders that once I’d been a young man with hopes and ideals, but no idea what the future held for that young man. There were letters and notes from my father too, one of them dismissing me as a “receiver”. His disappointments in me were many. His letter explained at length what a receiver is on the football field and how team mates feel about such a cowardly player among them.

When I came across his war documents this time it was with a fresh curiosity about the young man who had been the subject of eight years of military clerks’ scribbled notes. I wondered how I might fit this record of him as a young recruit to the violent father I’d known. As his first son and second child I had swum in a world made of him, never wondering whether I really knew him but always feeling I knew him too well. Perhaps, I thought now, in these military records I might glimpse the youth he once was.


I can remember a line of white rime along the edge of his mouth as he beat me one night, seemingly unable to stop, my mother from the hallway saying over and over, “That’s enough, Leo.” What strikes me now is that I so neatly filed away this image of his lips during the terror of a beating.

Sometimes there were lucky escapes when he did hold himself back. We had a square wooden table painted blue that fitted in to a kitchen alcove. It was possible to scramble under this table as a small child and press myself against the far wall out of his reach, knowing he would refuse the indignity of getting down on his knees to crawl in after me.

Going through the papers of his war record I began to wonder if he was someone else as a young man — someone I would not have feared and might have even enjoyed knowing.


In his late teenage years, wiry Leo was a talented suburban cricketer, about average height, with a thin, straight nose and that handsome grin. His intense green eyes were too deeply set to ever give him an expression of openness, though in certain moods he would have been handsome and irresistible.

A week before turning 19, in the inner northern Melbourne suburb of Carlton, he enlisted in the Australian armed forces, signing an oath to “well and truly serve Australia’s Sovereign Lord the King” for the next three years. This was seven months before Australia joined with Britain in war. Too young for the army, Leo had enlisted in the mostly part-time Citizens Militia Force, a body meant to supply the army with trained recruits; and once war was declared in September 1939, 40,000 were immediately deployed from the militia into full service. Was Leo declaring himself keen to be part of that war once it got under way?

I don’t understand this enthusiasm to be absorbed into the military so early. Perhaps it was a way of putting distance between himself and his childhood family. Or something he did with his mates in a moment of shared restless ratbaggery. It might have been a sign of determination to show his older brothers he had become a man. Among them, Jim and Bernie did not enlist until 1942.

Leo was one of six brothers, and as it turned out he would be the only one among them not to achieve a professional education. Suddenly enlisting at 18 might have been the beginning of a series of impulsive decisions that so complicated his life it became impossible for him to stop improvising as he went, decade after decade, through the rest of the 20th century.

Not once did we hear from him a word of praise for England or the English. With an identity built upon Irish Catholic hatred directed at Great Britain, he could not have joined the military in the hope of being sent to Europe to defend the English.

But even so in November 1941 he signed a new form in Carlton to enlist as a regular soldier. One part he left blank, possibly as self-protection: What is your religious denomination? Control of what he considered personal information was always vital to him.

Less than a year later he signed a further attestation, this time from an office at Adelaide River, a hundred kilometres South of Darwin. He noted on this form that he had been serving as a Corporal at an Australian Army Bulk Issue Petrol and Oil Depot in the Northern Territory. He committed to serving the King “until the cessation of the present time of war and twelve months thereafter”. His Medical Examination Report is a quick handwritten note: “A1”. He left education and religion details blank. He was moved to Darwin.

He had been serving in the Northern Territory since the first week of April in 1942, and by then the Japanese air force had made ten raids on Darwin and across the Territory, including a bombing of Katherine, 300 kilometres inland.

Beginning in June 1942, the bombing raids over Darwin included low-level strafing by Japanese Zeroes. The long-range Zero fighter planes, stripped of armour and radios, were so lightweight, fast and deadly that pilots of the less nimble Australian planes each carried a pocket-map marking food caches buried along the northern coast in case they were shot down — as many were.

Oil tanks burning in Darwin in 1942. AAP

Much later my father told us that the troops in Darwin became so familiar with the routines and flight paths of the Japanese bombing fleets that they knew what times were good for being out on patrol or out partying, and when to head for the bunkers near the beach.

There were at least 77 raids over the Northern Territory alone between 1942 and 1944. Nearly 200 Japanese airmen died as their planes were brought down, with many wrecks and bodies still not found today. By my count, my father was present for more than 30 raids during his 11 months in and around Darwin.

In his eighties he became somewhat deaf, and blamed this on the effects of being so close to exploding Japanese bombs. There were stories of him leaving a card game just before a bomb landed, and of raiding the liquor cabinets in abandoned suburban Darwin houses, wheeling out a piano to dance and sing in the empty streets between raids. When he was in his nineties, and I was spending time in Halls Creek, he said that if he had got there during his service in the north it would have been in the back of a military police truck under arrest since Halls Creek was the site of the army’s prison.

My impression is of a restless man moving step by step, oath by oath, deeper into the army, further from home, and closer to harm. He was never the kind of patriot to be proud of dying for his military leaders or his nation but perhaps he was the kind of young man who could not resist an adventure, a chance to prove himself, or a shot at being among the bravest. He could have remained safely a clerk at the Adelaide River Depot, but it seems he was determined to be in Darwin under those bombs.


Leo had a younger brother after whom I was named; he was disabled by polio. I have seen a newspaper photo of the older brothers wheeling him on a portable bed to a VFL football game. His illness might have been rare bad luck, but not so rare then that the family felt singled out by a malevolent fate. He died aged 17 in 1940. There is one small, glossy snapshot of him peeking over the top of his wicker pram, head propped by a fluffed pillow, a confident smile across his thin face, his gaze direct. In this photo he looks as if he would take an interest in whoever stopped to talk. He looks well loved.

Uncle Kevin Brophy in his pram. He died aged 17 in 1940.

My father’s parents, Alice and Tom, were stalwart members of their community and their Catholic parish. Alice had been a school teacher. Tom was a local station master in the northern inner Melbourne suburb of Coburg after serving in country towns. He kept a milking cow on Crown land beside his railway station. In a surviving family photo he stands in railway uniform ramrod straight, unsmiling and clear-eyed in front of his extended family. My father never spoke about him except to tell the story of his death.

Tom died at the age of 66, in 1947, fallen from his bicycle in Princes Park on his way home from the Carlton football ground. That afternoon the Carlton team had made a grand comeback in muddy conditions from being five goals adrift of Richmond well into the third quarter. Carlton would go on to win the VFL premiership that year, with their centre-half-back Bert Deacon securing the Brownlow Medal.

When Tom had failed to return, my newly-married father and one of his brothers went out looking through Brunswick and around Princes Park. Eventually they went to the Carlton police station where they were told that there was an unidentified body at the city morgue. The brothers late that night identified the body of their father. He had died of a heart attack.

I wonder about Leo as a 27-year-old identifying the anonymous body of his father only a few years after brothers on both sides of him had died, and himself a recent war survivor.

It was the death of the third son, Bernie, early in the battles of Finschhafen on the remote Huon Peninsula in the north of New Guinea that, I think, most deeply shook my father. Bernie died in October 1943 at the age of 26, one of 73 Australians to die in the first of those battles. The record shows my father was given a week’s leave without pay shortly after Bernie’s death, then a second request for another week of leave was rejected. A few months later he changed his “next of kin” notice on his military details from his mother to his father’s name. The telegram notice of Bernie’s death had been delivered directly to his mother, and I guess Leo understood that she could not have withstood another such telegram.

Bernie Brophy’s grave at the war cemetery in PNG.

In his last years my father asked to be taken to Papua New Guinea to visit Bernie’s grave at the Lae War Cemetery. No one in the family had been there, and as the last living brother his mind went to this unfinished business. But he weakened too much and too quickly for us to consider the journey.

His other older brother Jim flew bomber planes across Germany from Britain. Afterwards Jim kept his medals out of sight. Refusal to celebrate the war might have been a necessary family gesture of respect for the death of Bernie.

My father’s military mementos lived in the spidery stillness of a dim shed at the back of our childhood yard in Coburg. I remember a jacket with corporal stripes, a sheathed Japanese bayonet that I spent many hours polishing and marvelling over. And a gas mask of rubber and canvas that turned us into monsters as we took turns trying it on.


On the eleventh of January 1943, Leo’s papers show he was demoted from Corporal to Private at his own request. He had joined the First Australian Parachute Battalion. Without direct combat experience, and by concealing a defect that would have excluded him, he had managed to be selected for the most elite fighting and flying unit ever formed in Australia. His defect was colour blindness.

His story was that he listened to a man in front answer the questions put on colour vision, memorised them on the spot, and repeated them back to the testing officer. Did he do this for a bet or just for the hell of it? Or was he caught up in some kind of trouble — and this voluntary demotion with a switch to the new paratroop battalion looked to be a way out? And if perception of colour might have meant the difference between life and death on the battlefield for himself and his comrades, why did he risk such disaster? His paths through the army and the war look to me to be erratic, impulsive, risky.

As a member of the First Parachute Battalion, newly Private Leo was being trained to make incursions into enemy territories. As well as airborne drills, the men were expected to learn guerrilla warfare tactics while carrying on their backs equipment weighing up to 30 kilograms. He qualified as a parachutist in December 1943, which meant he had completed at least seven successful jumps over ten months, a time cleaved by the death of his brother Bernie. Refusals to jump were not uncommon among trainees. Most often a refusal to jump occurred on a trainee’s third flight.

The explanation for this was that a first jump could be exhilarating, the second a return to reality, then at the third a man might come to understand the real dangers. These troops jumped without auxiliary parachutes on the reasoning that the auxiliary pack was too cumbersome, and in any case they were jumping at such low heights that if a parachute failed there would be no time to release an auxiliary.

Within the first year of the formation of the Parachute Battalion, five men had died in training mishaps and more had suffered broken limbs, concussion and other injuries. The parachutists soon won rights to extra pay in recognition of risk and danger. These superbly fit and now well-paid young men became infamous for excursions to whatever breweries, hotels and brothels were near their remote bush training grounds.

To be a paratrooper was to know that you might at any time be ordered to jump out into an enemy sky, an easy floating target for snipers.

At any time you might be ordered to jump out into an enemy sky. Shutterstock

With one son dead in New Guinea, another training for high-casualty missions, and a third flying bomber planes over Europe, this family must have seemed set to pay much too high a price for any coming Allied victory.

In March, 1944 the Parachute Battalion underwent intensive jungle warfare manoeuvres, participated in dawn attack rehearsals over Wollongong, and were moved from the Blue Mountains to Mareeba in North Queensland not far inland from Cairns in preparation for a possible mission into New Guinea with American support.

It was during this month of feverish preparations for real engagement in the war that my father suffered injuries to his ankles in a jump. He was one of five injured in training jumps during that month. Leo was hospitalised at Concord on the Parramatta River where he was treated then discharged to the Lady Gowrie Convalescent Home. From April until July he was moved between hospital and convalescent home repeatedly. It seemed he was being invalided out of the army.

Somehow, though, and following his own brand of determination, he found his way back to the Parachute Battalion’s training ground in Queensland where he took charge of managing the officers’ mess. J. B. Dunn notes in his history of the paratroopers that at this time Leo had earned the reputation of being “the most tight-lipped man in the Battalion”.

He had made his way back north, I imagine, because he had found for himself a place and a reputation among these paratroopers. Privy to information, accepted by this species of men, and probably at least on the fringes of whatever scams went on, Leo could be trusted to keep the truth close. This fits the man I knew. He loved to talk, and he could have us almost falling off our chairs at the dinner table once he turned his talents to mocking our neighbours and friends. But when it came to business or money or murkier matters of sexuality he was either utterly tight-lipped or so meanderingly impenetrable in anything he said that we could not trust or follow his talk.

Operating from a zone of bluff somewhere between bully and charmer, salesman and commander, he never let up. I expect in business he wore people down. He was always looking to show us he was a man with the inside information, the man with a way through where others floundered. When he wanted one of my younger brothers to be privately tutored in mathematics he found a man a few doors away who was so smart “he could teach a cow to count”.

My brother was sent to him for lessons and I was encouraged to go there too to play chess with this apparently brilliant man. I don’t know why I agreed to go. A deep introvert as teenage years approached, I spent my days when I could with comics and books. Perhaps I went out of curiosity or most likely it was just easier to do what my father told me to do.

I was encouraged to go there to play chess. Wikimedia Commons

This amazing man my father had found lived in a small newly-built house with a young and beautiful wife. When we played chess his beautiful wife would serve us tea and cake, and he would say as she left the room that when he married her he thought he could teach her something, but that she had turned out to be plain dumb. She couldn’t learn anything and he couldn’t teach her anything. Had he made this confession to my father? Shocked that he would let his new, young wife witness him speak these insults, I was distressed. But I returned to the house many times.

I think I kept going back even when my brother’s lessons had ceased. I was half in love with his wife, and I hated him. He was large and pushy, his heavy eyes glistening with self-satisfaction. He liked above all to be able to impress a small boy with his big talk. After a while I thought I understood that in fact my father considered him a fool, and that I must be just as much a fool in my father’s eyes if I sought this man’s company.


Perhaps it was some overly-rigid discipline adopted from his military years or an earlier implacable standard he identified with, for when we left to go to school in the mornings it had to be with hair brushed, ties tied, caps and hats straight, and shoes polished. “You might be able to learn Latin but you can’t even learn to polish your shoes,” he would say to me. And in a bloody-minded way I became happy enough to construct a rough version of myself around that accusation. Perhaps the humiliation of it remains as a shadow, a provocation, and a point of pride for me. He held us close but he held us in contempt.

Does his silence about his father (and in fact his whole childhood), and that seeming eagerness to be gone into the army as a teenager, speak of damage done well before he became a soldier in a war? This would be another story, and much of it would have to be fiction.

The one value my father held to as a near-absolute was tribal loyalty. How could it be that we were Catholics (with the moral absolutes that came with that), but no matter how un-Christian or how “sinful” one of us might be, my father’s loyalty to family would come above all? And yet it was inside the family where he let his temper and venom loose. None of it made sense.

His obsession with sexual morality was equally intense. Politicians and public figures were judged on their fidelity in marriage. The increasing public disgrace of the Catholic Church for prolonged and incomprehensible abuse of children in their care confronted him. In the last year of his life my father did try to tell me something about his experience of abuse, perhaps impulsively as a plea for understanding, or more likely to prove some point important and urgent for him at the time. He talked of a family friend who used to visit their home and get drunk and stay the night. He said the man climbed into his childhood bed with him, so he understood what men could do to children. That was all. Perhaps he was showing me the world could teach him little he didn’t already know. He went on to some other topic, some other complaint. He had made his point — about vulnerability, knowledge, men’s evil, and even perhaps about the failure of parents to protect their children in his story that was so brief it was not even a story.


While working on this essay I have been reading, among a half-dozen other books, Jess Hill’s report on research into domestic abuse, See What You Made Me Do. I realise that my childhood home was sometimes a prison and sometimes a haven. Each day as I returned from school and each morning as I woke in that place I couldn’t be sure which it would turn out to be.


My father believed he understood men — a conviction that could bring you forcefully in under his orbit. As long as he could see you as a type, he had you, even if it took him a few wrong guesses to get you right. Then you were pocketed.

His best years were his time in business managing teams of hot-asphalt spreaders. The workers were mostly Italians who loved him and were devoted to him. In my last couple of years at school during the mid 1960s I did labouring work with them through the summer and they told me what a good boss my father was. They bestowed on me some of the affection and loyalty they felt towards him. I was in another world with them, a place where my father was trusted, where something like love passed between him and these men, a place where migrant families saw him as their avenue to success and dignity. I was proud to be the son of such a man — and upset at him for not bringing these qualities into his own family. What happened to him in our presence? What was it that brought out such desperate meanness when he was with us? There was something about family life that could turn him inside-out with rage.

Sometimes, though, he was that generous father we craved and imagined. He could take us into the countryside for hikes and picnics or to the beach in summer where he liked to swim out until he was a far smudge on the sea. For a while there were purple-eyed ferrets caged in the back yard. I remember going ferreting with him and his mates, setting the nets at rabbit-hole entrances across a paddock, then letting a ferret into a burrow and waiting for the rabbits to come racing in a panic up and out and into those nets where they would be easy to grab and have their necks wrung.

Sometimes, though, a ferret would settle with its catch inside a burrow, refusing to emerge. It was then that each person had to guard an entrance while someone began digging down to where the ferret was guarding its kill. It was chaotic, messy, hit-and-miss. But it did put rabbits on our table, and for a while we ate rabbit as often as people eat chicken now. I think it was at this half-wild life of mucking about in the open air with other men, making up the rules as you went, that my father found himself most fully.


In January 1945 his extra parachutist pay was cancelled, with a note on his file indicating he was unfit for marching or for long standing due to a “stiff foot”. Nevertheless, in October Leo managed to join a group re-assigned to embark for Singapore. They visited the Changi Prison and contributed a contingent of troops to a guard of honour for the official surrender. Until January 1946 they operated as local Military Police preventing looting while order was restored to Singapore.

Then on May 29, 1946, Private Leo was discharged without ceremony back into civilian life. He had been in the military for most of the first eight years of his early adulthood, and upon resuming his civilian status his home address was still his parents’ address in Coburg.

By September 1949 he would be married with a two-year-old daughter and me, his new baby boy. Seven more children would follow.

How unprepared was this erratic, restless young soldier for the life that he found himself choosing so soon after the war? In her chapter on the experiences of children in families where fathers are abusive, Hill writes of a form of post-traumatic stress suffered by combat veterans:

Every time a potential threat arises a survival response triggers in the brain, motivating the soldier to act defensively — a reaction that can be the difference between life and death.

This describes my father’s reaction when faced with a crisis or even a passing difficulty within the family. He could react as if his physical life depended upon him fighting his way through to an immediate victory — darkly red in the face, veins striking lines down his neck, green eyes alive with an animal urge to survive no matter what damage might be done to others. It was easy to be terrified of him at these times.

Was this reaction fixed in him by the cumulative terrors of the bombing raids over Darwin, the repeatedly suppressed panic he must have faced in jumping from planes, the shock of seeing mates die in accidents, the physical and psychological rigours of training among men renowned for their wildness — and by feelings of grief and guilt over the death of his brother Bernie? He kept a photo of Bernie on his desk all his adult life. How far beyond his temperamental limits might he have been tested during those shaping years of his early twenties? I suspect there was as much shame as pride for him in his war experience, and more confusion than purpose.

Larrikin or patriarch? Trouble-maker or law-giver? Working man or thinker? Tribal lord or obedient Catholic parishioner? Scheming insider or cynical outsider? Husband or knockabout? Survivor or warrior? He loved telling stories, and he was good at it, but some form of confused shame, I think, kept him from telling the stories that were closest to him, which were the ones I wanted to hear.

The almost daily violence at home continued through our childhoods in part because we kept it among ourselves. There I was, silent, arriving at school of a morning shamed by bruised legs; and there were the teachers keeping their distance. The vicious dog our neighbour kept in his tiny yard was no less loud, mad and wrong than my father. But nobody complained about either of them. There might have been no words for what was happening. Now I write what I can in the hope of coming somewhere close to comprehending how my father might have been as a young man bursting with himself while struggling, as I imagine him, between recklessness and fear, cowardice and bravado, all the while desperate to keep himself intact as much as a green young man could in that war-time world. I am writing this with an eye out for the ways my imagined father might point me away from a shamed, inchoate privacy that can only make each of us diminished versions of ourselves.

There is a surviving faded black and white photo of him with a mate who remained a lifelong friend. They are in Darwin on the wharves, both dressed in loose-fitting tropics uniforms, helmets at cocky angles, my father’s arm over his friend’s shoulder as their bodies lean in towards each other.

Helmets at cocky angles … Leo and a lifelong friend. Author provided.

My father’s expression is easy, open, confident, untroubled. They look like men who have arrived in a place that suits them. This isn’t the man I remember. But it’s a man I’d like to get to know and spend time with. This is the man my mother must have loved so completely just a few years later. In the moment of the photo he appears supremely comfortable with himself and with the kind of friendship made possible in that war zone.

This essay was recently shortlisted for the 2023 Calibre Prize for an outstanding essay.The Conversation

Kevin John Brophy, Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing, The University of Melbourne

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

DIY degree? Why universities should make online educational materials free for all

Sam Lion/Pexels
Richard F. Heller, University of Newcastle

This article is part of our series on big ideas for the Universities Accord. The federal government is calling for ideas to “reshape and reimagine higher education, and set it up for the next decade and beyond”. A review team is due to finish a draft report in June and a final report in December 2023.

As part of the federal government’s bid to overhaul higher education, the Universities Accord discussion paper is seeking to “widen” opportunities for people to access university. It also wants to “grow a culture” of lifelong learning in Australia. As the review team note, most people in Australia who study at university are under 35.

Lifelong learning can help to ensure that workforce skills are up to date and that jobs in high demand can be filled, as well as enabling people to create new job opportunities through innovation.

These issues need to be approached in many ways. And will inevitably include proposals for shorter forms of learning as well as addressing the financial cost of attending university.

My proposal – also outlined in this journal article – is that a proportion of educational resources generated by publicly funded universities should be made public and freely available.

This could radically expand opportunity and flexibility and potentially allow students to design their own degrees, by doing multiple different units from different universities.

This idea is not completely new

There is a precedence for this idea. The international Plan S initiative is led by a group of national research funding organisations. Since 2018, it has been pushing for publicly funded research to be published in open-access journals or platforms.

Australian chief scientist Cathy Foley similarly wants all Australian research to be “open access, domestically and internationally, and for research conducted overseas to be freely available to read in Australia”.

When it comes to university learning, a 2019 UNESCO report encouraged member states to make higher education educational resources developed with public funds free and freely available.

In a March 2023 report, the Productivity Commission recommended the federal government require “all universities to provide all lectures online and for free”. The commission said this would increase transparency in teaching performance and encourage online learning.

But this also has the ability to make to higher education more accessible.

There is already plenty of international experience sharing educational materials online – including the global Open Educational Resources public digital library. This includes resources from early learning through to adult education.

The Productivity Commission says universities would not lose income by making educational resources open access. This is because universities “sell” credentials, not resources. It is also argued overworked academics can save time by using materials created by others.

But there is resistance from institutions and academics, including a perception free resources will be poor quality and take a lot of time to create. There is also a lack of technological tools to adapt resources. This may explain why open education has not yet taken off in Australia.

A mother works on her computer next to her young son.
Making resources free will increase access to higher education in Australia. Shutterstock

How would this work?

My plan would require open online sites to host educational materials produced by academics. These would need to be moderated or curated and published under an open access license.

It would include a peer review system for educational materials like the one already used for research publications. Academics could get credit for publishing, updating or reviewing resources and the publication of education output would be included in the university metrics.

This could also help reverse the current downgrading of teaching in Australian universities in favour of research.

There could be three types of users:

  1. students who access materials through the university that produced them, as per current practice

  2. individual students outside the university that created the materials who access materials for their own learning at whatever stage of life they are relevant to them

  3. other organisations, including other universities, that then contextualise and deliver the materials to their students.

What kind of materials are we talking about?

The Productivity Commission has talked about “lectures” being made available for free. But lectures are not a good way of transmitting information, especially online. For one thing, they do not promote critical thinking.

My plan proposes whole courses or at least sections of courses with assessments, would be provided. This includes text, videos and software and can include course planning materials and evaluation tools.

An indication of the academic level to which the course speaks, and the amount of possible credit, should also be provided.

What about accreditation?

Accreditation of learning should be considered as part of this.

The OERu is an international organisation where partner universities (including Penn State in the US and Curtin University in Australia) offer free access to online courses. Students pay reduced fees if they want to submit assignments, which can earn them microcredits towards a degree offered by one of the partners.

A more radical option would be to develop a system where students collect microcredits from whatever source they wish and present them to an accrediting body for an academic award rather than enrolling in a particular degree course.

Suggested recommendations

As it prepares its draft report, the accord review team should recommend:

  • most university-generated educational material should be public and free

  • as an interim goal, within three years, 10% of all public university courses should be freely available online

  • an organisation should be created to develop the infrastructure needed to do this. This includes, open repositories, a peer review system for open educational materials, and systems for offering microcredits to students and academic credit to academics who take part.

A woman in a wheelchair work on a laptop in a cafe.
Students could pay a fee if they want accreditation for their work. Marcus Aurelius/Pexels

Why is this a good idea?

The Productivity Commission says making this material public will encourage higher quality teaching, empower students and assist in lifelong learning. On top of this, there is the potential for true reform of the educational landscape.

It provides opportunities for collaboration between universities, rather than a competitive business model. And it would make teaching more important, rather than an “inconvenient task” by those seeking academic advancement through research.

Finally, it would genuinely make learning more accessible and more affordable, no matter who you are or where you live.The Conversation

Richard F. Heller, Emeritus Professor, University of Newcastle

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

Native raspberries, limes and geraniums: how did these curious plants end up in Australia?

Gregory Moore, The University of Melbourne

While plants can’t walk, they can certainly travel. Some species have travelled vast distances over millennia, moving by different and varied modes.

Some found new habitats when the continent they were riding on slowly crashed into another. Others went on perilous ocean going journeys – think of coconuts washing up on new island shores. Others still have been carried as seeds by birds or other animals – including us.

Many have now become local, endemic to their region of Australia. Some may surprise you.

Native nuts – how macadamia trees began

Early in the age of jet aeroplanes, flying to America meant a stop-over in Hawaii to refuel. Here, many Australians tasted macadamia nuts for the first time and probably assumed they were a local delicacy. Imagine their surprise at discovering the truth. Hawaii’s macadamia industry began when a few nuts were sent from Australia in the 1880s.

Of course, this was not news to Australia’s First Nations people, many of whom had enjoyed macadamia nuts for millennia.

macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts first gained notice in Hawaii – but they’re Australian as can be. Shutterstock

There are four species of Macadamia, of which two are the most important nut producers, namely Macadamia integrifolia and M . tetraphylla. All species belong to the Proteaceae family, meaning they are related to banksias, grevilleas and proteas.

This family connection reveals the genus has a long evolutionary history, dating back about 100 million years. Macadamias travelled with the continent of Australia as it split off from Antarctica and South America.

In their natural habitat across northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, these subtropical trees can reach heights of 25 metres. But even though they are now widely farmed, they’re actually threatened in the wild – and may be further threatened by climate change.

Oranges, lemons – and native citrus?

Many of us are fond of tart and tasty citrus – oranges from southern China, lemons probably from northern India. All the world’s citrus trees stem from an ancestor species which grew in the foothills of the Himalayas, according to DNA evidence. Over time, these trees spread out and new species split off. Eventually, about 8–10 million years ago, they arrived in Australia.

The most well known is the finger lime, C. australasica, with tiny globes spilling out of the fruit like citrus caviar. But there are others, like the Australian lime, Citrus australis and the desert lime C. glauca. Like many citrus, they can be prickly customers with long painful spines. While most are shrubs and small trees, the Australian lime can reach heights of 20 metres.

Native raspberries

In recent years, the native raspberry, Rubus probus, has achieved celebrity status as a prickly, quick growing bramble with a good fruit.

But like its relative, the blackberry, Rubus fruticosus, you have to work hard to get fruit and rarely come away unscathed.

That’s why it was big news when a thornless specimen was found and propagated. This will make a big difference to the cultivation of our native raspberry.

Native raspberry
Our native raspberry is becoming popular. Shutterstock

So how did Australia come to have raspberries? It seems likely their ancestors migrated from North America towards Europe and Asia between 10 and 15 million years ago and eventually made it to Oceania.

Exactly how the genus Rubus made it to Australia is unknown, but the most likely pathway is a few seeds stuck to the feathers of a migrating bird. It could have happened as recently as a few hundred thousand years ago.

Native geraniums? It’s true

I associate geraniums with my maternal grandmother, who had the most magnificent red geraniums along her back fence. Family folklore had it they were cuttings from a prize winner at a major horticultural exhibition – and I believe it.

While we associate garden geraniums with Europe, they’re actually African and only arrived in Europe in the 17th century.

But while we all know these geraniums, Australia has its own species. That fact still amazes me after decades of studying plants.

But first, let’s clear up the debate over names. In the 17th century, geraniums and closely-related pelargoniums were grouped together in a single genus. But early in the 18th century, Charles LeHeritier – the botanist who first described eucalypts – divided them and there has been confusion ever since.

The easiest way of telling them apart is that geraniums have five petals of the same size and shape but pelargoniums have two larger petals and three smaller ones.

Most of the Australian native plants commonly called geraniums are in fact pelargoniums. You may have stumbled across Pelargonium australe, the most common of our seven species, which is spread across much of southern Australia.

australian pelargonium
Native geranium? The pelargonium australe is the native plant most commonly thought of as a geranium. Wikimedia, CC BY

Native orchids: from flying ducks to the Queen of Sheba

There’s something about orchids. In the 19th century, so many Europeans went mad for their flowers that the name “orchidelirium” was coined.

We have some of the most iconic orchids as natives, such as the remarkable flying duck orchid and the stunning Queen of Sheba. Our 1800 species mostly grow in our tropical and subtropical areas.

flying duck orchid
Australia’s flying duck orchid (Caleana major) is world-famous for its resemblance. Shutterstock

Some orchids can be traced back to the last years of Gondwana. But curiously, we also have tropical species which must have island hopped from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia more recently.

That’s only the start of our surprising plants. We have native tamarinds, native rivermint, and a native rhododendron.

And did you know that cloves come from an Indonesian species of lilly pilly? This species is related to Australian lilly pillies, a genus which evolved as the final fragmentation of Gondwana occurred about 65 million years ago. They rapidly diversified and there are now over 1000 species.

queen of sheba orchid
The Eastern Queen of Sheba orchid is rightly famous. Shutterstock

Plants move slowly. But they move much more than you’d expect. Their success has enriched the biodiversity and novelty of our ecosystems in surprising ways. As for me, I love an Australian macadamia nut – and I’ll always love those imported red geraniums.The Conversation

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

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

What really started the American Civil War?

More than 600,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. Keith Lance/Digital Vision Vectors via Getty Images
Robert Gudmestad, Colorado State University

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

What really started the Civil War? – Abbey, age 7, Stone Ridge, New York

The U.S. citizenship test – which immigrants must pass before becoming citizens of the United States – has this question: “Name one problem that led to the Civil War.” It lists three possible correct answers: “slavery,” “economic reasons” and “states’ rights.”

But as a historian and professor who studies slavery, Southern history and the American Civil War, I know there’s really only one correct answer: slavery.

1862 photo of enslaved people and soldiers on a plantation, standing for the camera.
Enslaved people and soldiers on a South Carolina plantation in 1862. Henry P. Moore/LOC/Archive Photos via Getty Images

White Southerners left the Union to establish a slave-holding republic; they were dedicated to the preservation of slavery.

What’s more, unlike slavery in the ancient world, slavery in the United States was based on race. By the time of the Civil War, Black people were the ones enslaved; white people were not.

Every American citizen, whether born in this country or naturalized, should understand that the conflict over slavery is what caused the Civil War.

The history

Slavery in the U.S. began at least as early as 1619, when a Portuguese ship brought about 20 enslaved African people to present-day Virginia. It grew so quickly that by the time Colonists fought for their independence from England in 1775, slavery was legal in all 13 Colonies.

As the 19th century progressed, Northern states slowly abolished slavery; but Southern states made it central to their economy. By 1860, nearly 4 million enslaved people lived in the South.

Increasingly, the North and South were at odds over the future of slavery. White Southerners believed slavery had to expand into new territories or it would die. In 1845, they pressured the federal government to annex Texas, where slavery was legal. They also supported an effort to purchase Cuba and add it as a slave state.

In the North, people generally opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, and many favored the gradual emancipation of enslaved people. A smaller group, known as abolitionists, wanted slavery to end immediately.

But even though many Northerners opposed the expansion of slavery, they did not favor equal rights for Black people. In most Northern states, segregation was rampant, Blacks were barred from voting and violence against them was common.

By the 1850s, it became more difficult for the federal government to satisfy either side. The Compromise of 1850, a series of bills that tried to solve the problem, pleased almost no one.

The publication of the 1852 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – about the pain and injustice inflicted on an enslaved man – turned Northerners against slavery even more. In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that enslaved people were not U.S. citizens, nor could Congress ban slavery in a federal territory. Two years later, the abolitionist John Brown attacked a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in an unsuccessful attempt to supply weapons to enslaved people.

Dressed in a three-piece suit, Abraham Lincoln sits for a photograph.
A digitally restored photograph of President Abraham Lincoln, taken during the American Civil War. National Archives/Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

Lincoln becomes president, secession follows

Amid this swirl of troubles, the presidential election of 1860 took place. A new political party, the Republican Party, was opposed to the spread of slavery throughout the western territories. With four major candidates running for president, Abraham Lincoln won the electoral vote – but only 40% of the popular vote.

The election of a president from a party that opposed slavery jolted white Southerners to action. Less than two months after Lincoln won, South Carolina delegates, meeting in Charleston, decided to secede from the Union – that is, to formally withdraw membership in the United States.

Other Southern states followed and said slavery was the primary reason for secession. Texas delegates wrote the abolition of slavery “would bring inevitable calamities upon both races and desolation” in the slave states. The Mississippi secession document said “our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest in the world.”

The hundreds of brutal, bloody battles of the Civil War took a terrible toll on the country.

Confederate supporters made their position clear

The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, also said slavery was the reason for secession, and that Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal – were wrong.

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea,” Stephens told a crowd. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

Although the evidence shows slavery caused the Civil War, some Southerners created a myth – the “Lost Cause” – that transformed Confederate generals into heroes who were defending freedom. To some degree, that myth has, unfortunately, taken hold. Some schools are still named after Confederate generals; so are some military bases, although that is changing.

It’s important to know the real reason for the Civil War so the country no longer celebrates historical figures who fought to establish a slave-holding republic.

This article has been updated to clarify that the colonies became states in the United States of America.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Robert Gudmestad, Professor and Chair of History Department, Colorado State University

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

Newly described enormous marsupial wandered great distances across Australia 3.5 million years ago

Jacob van Zoelen, Author provided
Jacob van Zoelen, Flinders University; Aaron Camens, Flinders University, and Gavin Prideaux, Flinders University

Today, 80% of Australia is arid, but it was not always that way. In the early Pliocene, 5.4 to 3.6 million years ago, Australia had a greenhouse climate, widespread forests and diverse marsupial animals.

As the climate dried out in the late Pliocene, open woodland, grassland and shrubland spread across Australia. How did large marsupials cope with these changes?

In 2017, Flinders University researchers uncovered a skeleton eroding from a cliff face on the Warburton River, at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Kalamurina Station in northern South Australia.

The skeleton belongs to a species in the family Diprotodontidae – a group of four-legged herbivores that were the largest marsupials to ever exist.

Photo of a rust coloured rock face and a map of Australia above it
Map of fossil deposits where the species was found (A & B). Close up of the Main Body of the Tirari Formation as exposed at Keekalanna East with some elements in situ (C). Aaron Camens, Author provided

In a new study published in Royal Society Open Science today, we describe this fossil finding in detail, providing new insights into how the animal lived and moved.

Exceptional preservation

Wombats are the closest living relatives of diprotodontids, but the two are as distantly related as kangaroos are to possums. As a result, palaeontologists have had a hard time reconstructing these large, long-gone animals, especially since most diprotodontid species have been described mainly from jaws and teeth.

But the common, widespread nature of diprotodontid remains indicates they were an integral part of Australian ecosystems until the last species, including the rhino-sized Diprotodon optatum, became extinct about 40,000 years ago.

It is rare to find multiple bones belonging to a single skeleton in the fossil record. Only a handful of studies have described parts of the limbs of a post-Miocene diprotodontid. As such, the newly described skeleton is of great importance and is even more special, as it is the first to be found with associated soft tissue structures.

We also compared the specimen to more than 2,000 diprotodontid elements from museums across the globe, making this the most comprehensive appraisal of a diprotodontid skeleton to date.

Our comparisons revealed the skeleton belongs to a new genus we named Ambulator, meaning walker or wanderer. We chose this name because the locomotory adaptations of the legs and feet of this quarter-tonne animal would have made it well suited to roaming long distances in search of food and water, especially when compared to earlier relatives.

We 3D-scanned the specimen, and the files are freely available for anyone to download and look at online.

A black silhouette of a rhino like animal with bones overlaid in several places
Reassembled partial skeleton of Ambulator keanei, with a silhouette demonstrating advanced adaptations for its style of walking. Jacob van Zoelen, Author provided

Walking marsupials

We don’t often think of walking as a special skill – but when you’re big, any movement can be energetically costly, so efficiency is key.

Most large herbivores today, such as elephants and rhinoceroses, are unguligrade, meaning they walk on the tips of their toes, with their wrists or ankles not touching the ground.

Diprotodontids are what we call plantigrade, meaning their heel-bone contacts the ground when they walk – similar to human feet. This stance helps distribute weight and reduces energy loss when walking, but uses more energy for other activities such as running.

Many diprotodontids also have so-called extreme plantigrady in their hands – a wrist bone modified into a secondary heel. This “heeled hand” made early reconstructions of these animals look bizarre and awkward.

Development of the wrist and ankle for weight-bearing meant the digits became essentially functionless and likely did not make contact with the ground while walking. This may be why no finger or toe impressions are observed in the trackways of diprotodontids.

A grey rock with shallow, oddly shaped footprints
Hand and foot impression of Diprotodon optatum – with no sign of digits. Aaron Camens, Author provided

Climbers, walkers and grabbers

Diprotodontids have limb-bone shapes that can be grouped into three main types. There are those adapted to tree climbing, such as Nimbadon lavarackorum and Ngapakaldia tedfordi; and those adapted to more efficient locomotion and travelling great distances, such as Diprotodon optatum and Ambulator keanei (we call these “walkers”).

There are also diprotodontids that were terrestrial and probably could not climb. However, unlike the walkers, their forelimbs were not as specialised for walking and were able to perform a range of functions. These were “grabbers” such as Neohelos stirtoni, and likely Kolopsis torus and Plaisiodon centralis.

Walkers do not show up in the fossil record until we get to the Pliocene (3.5 million years ago). In fact, A. keanei is the earliest diprotodontid we know of that had these specialised walking adaptations.

A chart showing skeleton bones in three orientations
Comparisons of the left hand of three diprotodontids. From left to right a composite hand of: 8 million-year-old Alcoota diprotodontid, a grabber; 3.5 million-year-old A. keanei, a walker; and 50 thousand-year-old Diprotodon optatum, also a walker. Jacob van Zoelen, Author provided

During the Pliocene, when A. keanei was around, there was an increase in grasslands and open habitat as Australia became drier. Diprotodontids likely had to travel much greater distances to obtain enough water and their preferred food, which was the soft leaves of shrubs and trees, not grass.

Animals such as Ambulator may have evolved to traverse great distances more efficiently. This may also have allowed diprotodontids to get bigger and support more weight. This would eventually lead to the evolution of the giant and relatively well-known 2.7 tonne Diprotodon.

Unfortunately, we will never get to see great migrating mobs of diprotodontids. But it’s amazing to know such a thing may have once been commonplace across the continent.The Conversation

Jacob van Zoelen, PhD Candidate, Flinders University; Aaron Camens, Lecturer in Palaeontology, Flinders University, and Gavin Prideaux, Professor, Flinders University

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

These magnificent 107-million-year-old pterosaur bones are the oldest ever found in Australia

Adele Pentland, Curtin University and Stephen Poropat, Curtin University

New research on old bones has shed light on pterosaur fossils from the early Cretaceous period of Australia, which took place roughly 107 million years ago.

The bones were discovered in Victoria in the late 1980s at a fossil site called Dinosaur Cove, a few hours’ drive west of Melbourne.

Our paper describing the bones is published today in Historical Biology.

The oldest pterosaur bones we have

The Dinosaur Cove fossils are the geologically oldest pterosaur remains we have from the Lower Cretaceous of Australia.

These bones belonged to two separate individuals, because there’s a relative size difference between the two.

One specimen is a partial sacrum (the fused vertebrae from between the pelvic bones), a relative rarity in the pterosaur fossil record. The other is a comparatively small fourth metacarpal (part of the wing finger) – it is the first evidence of a juvenile pterosaur found in Australia.

Although we couldn’t pinpoint exactly which species in the pterosaur family these bones came from, the partial sacrum belonged to an individual with a wingspan estimated to exceed two metres. By contrast, the juvenile pterosaur had a wingspan just over one metre.

Silhouettes of a woman compared with Australian Cretaceous pterosaurs
Wingspan estimates of Australian pterosaurs, including Ferrodraco lentoni, an adult from the Upper Cretaceous of Queensland, compared with the newly described Victorian pterosaurs from the Lower Cretaceous. Author provided

In the early Cretaceous, approximately 110–107 million years ago, Victoria was virtually unrecognisable. The Bass Strait was a narrow valley occupied by fast-flowing rivers. Conifers and ginkgoes grew here instead of eucalypts and grasses, and dinosaurs reigned.

On the ground, the dominant herbivore animals were small-bodied, beaked ornithopods, perpetually wary of the rapacious megaraptoran theropods.

For more than 30 years, it has been clear to scientists that flying reptiles called pterosaurs soared through the Victorian Cretaceous skies, above the heads of the dinosaurs. Until recently, however, they have remained a mystery.

Treasure at Dinosaur Cove

Large-scale excavations at Dinosaur Cove began in 1984, and for more than 40 years, a team of volunteers called Dinosaur Dreaming have excavated fossil sites along several other sites scattered across the Victorian coast.

Tom Rich and Pat Vickers-Rich, co-authors of our newly published paper, led the excavations that yielded not just the newly described pterosaurs, but myriad other discoveries as well.

Two palaeontologists holding pterosaur bones
Co-authors Pat Vickers-Rich and Tom Rich holding the pterosaur specimens we described. Tim Ziegler, Author provided

The work at this rich fossil site has resulted in thousands of dinosaur bones and other fossils. These include fossil fish (bony fish and lungfish), skeletal remains from ornithopods, megaraptoran theropods, aquatic plesiosaurs and prehistoric mammals. There was also Australia’s only elaphrosaurine theropod: a lightly-built dinosaur with a small head, long neck, relatively short front limbs, long hind limbs and a long tail.

But among the rarest vertebrate fossils from Dinosaur Cove are those from pterosaurs.

Australia’s pterosaur record

The majority of Australia’s pterosaur fossils have been found in central-western Queensland. Indeed, the first pterosaurs reported from the continent were isolated remains from the Eromanga Basin, described in 1980.

Since then, more pterosaur material has come to light, with four Australian pterosaur species currently recognised: Mythunga camara, Aussiedraco molnari, Ferrodraco lentoni and Thapunngaka shawi.

Ferrodraco is the most complete Australian pterosaur to date, and is represented by an adult individual with a wingspan of approximately four metres, which we named as a new species in 2019.

Other pterosaur fossils from Australia include isolated remains from the Cretaceous of Western Australia, and opalised pterosaur teeth from the mid-Cretaceous of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales.

Three pterosaur wing bones
Three pterosaur wing bones from three individuals. Left: right metacarpal from the Toolebuc Formation was discovered at Slashers Creek Station, east of Boulia, Queensland. Middle: Left metacarpal from Ferrodraco lentoni from the Winton Formation, discovered northeast of Winton, Queensland. Right: a left metacarpal from a juvenile pterosaur from Dinosaur Cove, Victoria. Author provided

We don’t know which species the Victorian pterosaurs belong to. However, the comparatively small fourth metacarpal – a bone from the wing – is the first unequivocal evidence of a juvenile pterosaur from Australia.

Pterosaurs at high latitudes

Few pterosaur remains have been reported from fossil sites that were at high latitudes during the Age of Reptiles – the Mesozoic Era.

Antarctica, which was at high latitudes throughout, has produced three pterosaur fossils. One of these awaits formal description, and another was recovered from the charred remains of the National Museum of Brazil.

The only reports of high-latitude pterosaurs in the northern hemisphere are of isolated footprints.

During the Cretaceous, Australia was farther south than it is today. In fact, Victoria was within the polar circle during much of the Cretaceous. Southeast Australia was not frozen over at this time, but there were weeks or months of continuous darkness during the winter. Despite these harsh polar conditions, life found a way to survive and thrive.

This prompts a few questions: were pterosaurs permanent residents in southeast Australia? Or did they migrate south during summer and head north for the winter?

From a young age, pterosaurs were adept fliers, their bones already able to withstand the stresses of both launch and flight. However, subtle variations in the shape of the bones imply that hatchlings differed from their adult counterparts in terms of speed and manoeuvrability.

Until we discover pterosaur eggs or embryonic individuals at sites that were at high latitudes at the time, we won’t be able to confirm if pterosaurs were year-round residents or migratory.

Despite the rarity of pterosaurs in the fossil record, it is only a matter of time before we find more complete pterosaur material from Dinosaur Cove and other Cretaceous sites from coastal Victoria. Then, we can finally uncover the identity of these ancient, enigmatic winged reptiles.The Conversation

Adele Pentland, PhD candidate, Curtin University and Stephen Poropat, Research associate, Curtin University

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

book of the month - june 2023: The riddle of the Raven : a sailing ship possessed by a ghost

By Jan De Groot
Jan De Groot describes his experiences aboard the Raven, a 140-foot gaff-rigged ketch he purchased in order to provide sailing adventures for underprivileged children in British Columbia, but which turned out to be haunted by the ghost of the ship's builder.

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.

Visit:  https://archive.org/

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 help@avalonyouthhub.org.au

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

Visit: esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying

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.

Visit: esafety.gov.au/about-the-office 

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 skilling@education.gov.au.

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: pittwateronlinenews@live.com.au

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

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: https://www.training.nsw.gov.au/gto/contacts.html

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
Website: www.byra.org.au

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 - www.kidshelpline.com.au

lifeline australia - 13 11 14 - www.lifeline.org.au

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: www.headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/headspace-brookvale

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.

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.

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: https://kidshelpline.com.au/kids/