Tag: Australia

‘How are you feeling about starting high school?’: how to reduce back-to-school anxiety

Sydney 2000

A little while ago, my oldest child started primary school.

As we’d visited the uniform shop, the excitement radiated from her.

Well, if I’m being completely truthful, the excitement only started radiating after the initial disappointment had worn off.

Turned out she’d misheard me and had thought we were heading to the unicorn shop. She couldn’t wait to meet her teacher, to make new friends and to learn to read.

Despite a little trepidation about just how “big” big school was, she assured me that she felt mostly “nerve-cited,” which she explained was the feeling you get when you’re both nervous and excited at the same time.

You know the crazy part though? Turns out a little while was, in fact, somehow, seven years ago.

Parental As Anything
Join one of Australia’s favourite parenting authors and educators Maggie Dent on Parental As Anything, to get tips and answers to your real-world parenting dilemmas.

I honestly don’t recall entering the time-speeding-up-machine, but I must have, because as I write this, my eldest daughter is actually about to start high school.

And funnily enough, it feels like we’ve come full circle as she once again prepares to head off to “big” school.

Yet despite it being a similarly big transition for our kids, much of the advice written for parents tends to focus on helping kids prepare to start primary, rather than high school.

Naturally, some of our children will find this big step less daunting than their peers.

For some, high school might already be a familiar place. Perhaps they attend a school that continues through from primary to secondary school. Or maybe they have an older sibling at high school already.

Others, like my daughter, enjoy change. Like others with a novelty-seeking temperament, she relishes change, viewing it as an adventure.

Many other children however, find change to be quite the opposite — unsettling, daunting and downright overwhelming.

Regardless of your child’s temperament though, there’s a lot of ‘newness’ to adapt to as your child moves from primary to secondary school.

Here are some tips that might help ease the transition for your soon-to-be high schooler.

Try to build familiarity

If your child’s school is yet to host an orientation day, make sure you head along. It will help your child to feel more settled if they’re already familiar with the environment.

Meet your child’s home room teacher if you can — your child will settle more quickly if they feel safe, confident and able to seek help from their teacher when needed.


The more parents can do to build familiarity with the classroom before school starts, the better, says Dr Henderson. (Jonathan Beal, file photo: ABC)

Specifically ensure that your child knows which classroom to head to on their first day; where to find the canteen; the toilets; and where to catch the bus or to meet you at the end of the day.

One of the most intimidating changes for new high schoolers is the move from a single teacher in a classroom to multiple teachers, changing timetables and differing classrooms.

Accessing their timetable in advance and taking the opportunity to visit their classrooms ahead of time will hopefully make this change a little less daunting.

If there won’t be an opportunity to visit the school before the term starts, does the school have a website you can explore with your child? Can you do a ‘virtual tour’ of the school? View the staff photo to identify their teacher? Watch the Principal’s video message?

The more you can do to build familiarity, the better.

Meet other students and families

Naturally, the move to high school will feel less daunting for kids who have primary school classmates moving into high school with them.

If that’s not the situation for your child, consider how you can arrange a meet up with some of their new classmates ahead of time.


Dr Kaylene Henderson is a child psychiatrist. (Supplied: Matt Barwick)

Does your child’s new school have a Facebook group you could join to request a catch up? Or can you ask that your details be passed on to any other new families who might be keen on a get-together before the school year begins?

Also, some parents are reluctant to ask their child how they’re feeling, for fear of creating anxiety.

Chances are, your child will be feeling a little anxious already and knowing that you’re interested and willing to listen will help them feel better, not worse.

Simply ask your child “How are you feeling about starting high school?” and acknowledge whatever feelings they share with you.

Also, the night before school starts, ensure your child has an early bedtime so they’re well rested for their first day.

Wake them early so that you can avoid frantically rushing and keep stress levels low.

If your child hasn’t been able to make it along to an orientation session, be sure to get your child to school early so that they can locate their classroom, toilets and canteen and introduce themselves to their teacher before the school bell rings.

Allow your child time to adjust

Try not to overschedule your child, at least in term one.

Keep checking in with them, stay present and interested when they talk about their new classmates and ensure there’s time in their week for downtime as they adapt to all the newness that high school brings.

Also remember to keep your own feelings in check. It can be hard for parents who didn’t enjoy high school themselves to feel excited and supportive of this transition, yet we need to be.

Children are very good at picking up on our stress. It signals to them that they’re heading into a dangerous situation and will worsen any anxiety they might have.

Our children will look to us for confidence and reassurance. Regardless of our own experience of high school, it’s important that we view this change as a positive one and be there for our children, cheering them on as their loyal and loving cheer squad.

So here we are, now just days away from high school and my daughter can’t wait to meet her teacher, new friends and to finally have a high school locker — she’s clearly watching more American high school movies than unicorn shows these days.

Once again, she’s feeling “nerve-cited” about this new high school adventure … and I’m here, forever on her team, reminding her that she’s got this.

Dr Kaylene Henderson is a medically trained Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and one of Australia’s leading parenting experts.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Anti-nuclear campaigners sceptical of plan to reopen mothballed uranium mine

Broken Hill 2880

The company behind a proposal to restart uranium mining in north-east South Australia says it would be ready to begin production within a year if prices improve.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has cast doubt on the likelihood of that occurring, arguing the market is moving away from uranium.

Key points:

  • Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence but has been mothballed since 2013
  • New owner Boss Resources says technology will help it lower operational costs and will reopen the mine once uranium prices improve
  • Anti-nuclear campaigners doubt the mine’s prospects, saying significant uranium producers have been deferring or halting development

The Honeymoon uranium mine was mothballed in 2013 because it had become too expensive to run.

But in 2015, the mine, which is about 80 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, was purchased by WA exploration company Boss Resources.

Boss chief executive Duncan Craib said the company had developed new technology to lower operational costs and had finalised a feasibility study.

He said the mine would reopen once uranium prices improved, which he was expecting to happen soon.

“We don’t want to destroy the resource at low uranium prices, so we’d like an uptick in the market before proceeding,” Mr Craib said.

“The demand [for uranium] is outstripping supply, so it’s inevitable that prices will rise. When the price does rise, we lock into a contract and start straight away.”


The benchmark market for uranium in 2019 measured in US dollars per pound. (Supplied: TradingEconomics.com)

Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence.

However, Mr Craib said uranium was under-utilised in Australia and he would like to see a domestic uptake of nuclear power.

“It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s certainly a very positive carbon-free means of producing power and it should be part of any energy mix,” he said.

“Australia has a third of the world’s resource of uranium, yet we turn our backs on nuclear. I think it needs to be readdressed.”

He said the mine would generate between 80 and 100 jobs, and that he wanted to use as many workers from the area as possible.


Officials in Broken Hill are pleased by promises the mine will employ local people. (Supplied: Boss Resources)

Optimism baseless, campaigner says

Anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney from the ACF said he believed the announcement was without substance.

“There is nothing new in their statement,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a holding-pattern statement from a mining company with not a lot of resources, not a lot of projects, that are trying to continue to hold a place in the market, where the market is increasingly in freefall.

“Obviously, Boss is going to say the uranium price is going to soar — they’re a uranium miner.

“We’ve got major producers in this country … We’ve got a third of the world’s uranium and we’re not digging much, and that is because the price is not there.

Mr Sweeney said significant producers were deferring or halting development.

“Rio Tinto, a massive mining company, is exiting at the Ranger mine in Kakadu,” he said.

“Cameco, the world’s largest dedicated uranium producer, has written down an asset that it spent $500 million on a decade ago in WA, and says that the best way to preserve the value of uranium is to keep it in the ground.”


Mining at the Ranger uranium mine in Pit 3 ceased in 2012. (ABC Rural: Carl Curtain)

Council welcomes job prospects

Broken Hill councillor Marion Browne welcomed Boss’s assurance it would hire locally.

“Anything that promises employment has got to be something that we look at positively,” Cr Browne said.

Despite efforts to diversify its economy, Broken Hill is still reliant on mining and its population has been in chronic decline for decades.

“Everyone’s aware that without employment … we won’t increase our population or even keep our population stable at the level that it is,” Cr Browne said.

She said although there had been anti-nuclear sentiment among locals in the past, the general response would be welcoming.

“[Broken Hill] was established as a mining community around the mine, so I think there’s always interest in seeing new mines and employment generated by new mines.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australia in danger of ‘sleepwalking straight into an extinction crisis’

Adelaide 5000

Ecologists have calculated that at least 6 million hectares of habitat that is home to at least 250 different threatened species has now gone up in smoke.

Key points:

  • About 70 threatened species lost more than half their habitat to recent bushfires
  • Of the 250 overall species to lose habitat, 25 are listed as critically endangered and include plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and fish
  • A panel of senior ecologists has met in Canberra with the Threatened Species Commissioner to plan the next phase in the response

Twenty-five of these species are listed as critically endangered — in other words, on the brink of extinction in the wild.

Michelle Ward from the University of Queensland says about 70 threatened species, including the fire-sensitive long-footed potoroo, lost more than half their range to recent fires.

“We used a combination of NASA satellite imagery and intersected that with the threatened-species range maps,” Ms Ward said.

While most of the threatened species hit by fire are plants, there are also a mix of threatened birds, mammals, reptiles and fish.


Threatened species habitat impacted by fire across mainland Australia. (Supplied: Michelle Ward)

James Watson, director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland, sees the impact of the fires as particularly problematic because many of these threatened species only have small amounts of habitat left.

“We’re seeing catastrophic loss of remaining habitat for threatened species right across the southern states of Australia,” Professor Watson said.


Long-nosed potoroos have had their habitat burned by fires. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

He said even before the fires Australia faced a threatened-species crisis.

“People should know that we’ve actually lost more mammals than any other nation on the planet,” he said.

The list of threatened species hit by the fire reads like a menagerie of rare and shy creatures. There’s the Hastings River mouse, spot-tailed quoll, mountain pygmy possum, southern brown bandicoot, and large-eared pied bat just to name a few.


Mountain pygmy possums are a critically endangered alpine species. (Supplied: Zoos Victoria)

The road to recovery

“The next step is to get people on the ground looking for these species, ascertaining how much, how many populations are left, how endangered they are,” Professor Watson said.

“And realising that some of these species will need urgent attention, and the need for professionals to go and grab some populations and safeguard them in zoos so that they can persist in the long term.”


Victorian wildlife officers check trees for injured animals. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Across the firegrounds, that work has already begun.

In east Gippsland, wildlife officers from Parks Victoria and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have been scouring burnt land for injured wildlife.

“In this area, we’re seeing koalas most frequently, that’s not to say that there aren’t other species that have been impacted,” senior Forest and Wildlife officer Lachlan Clarke said.


Wildlife officers coax a koala out of a tree in a burnt area in east Gippsland. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell )

They use a special technique to get koalas down out of trees to check them.

Wildlife officers extend a long pole with a flag on top, called a bat, which they wave above the koala’s head.

The koala moves down the tree away from the flag, where another team member ushers it into a hessian sack.


Wildlife officers check an injured koala in the Gelantipy fireground in east Gippsland. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

In some cases, the animals are healthy but stranded with no food. They’re quickly relocated to some unburnt forest.

Amid the blackened landscape, Mr Clarke spots patches of refuge for these animals.


A mother and baby koala escaped the fires with only minor injuries. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“I’m really happy to see some large, intact areas of habitat that hasn’t been burned, particularly along water features like creeks and gullies,” he said.

Animals that need treatment are taken to a special mobile unit, where Zoos Victoria veterinary staff attend to them.


Zoos Victoria vet Meg Curnick and vet nurse Ellen Richmond treat a koala injured in the fires. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Top wildlife experts head to Canberra

While rapid-response teams do what they can for injured wildlife, on Wednesday a panel of senior ecologists met in Canberra with the Threatened Species Commissioner, Sally Box, to plan the next phase in the disaster response.

“Some of the immediate actions might be things like protecting those unburned refuges where the plants and animals are still there and are vulnerable,” Dr Box said.


One of the key priorities is to identify unburnt habitat for animals and work to restore burnt habitat. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“It may be about protecting them from feral predators and herbivores. It may be that we need to protect areas that we thought before were secure and we may need to focus on those areas now. It’s a different landscape now.”

Reproductive biologist, Marissa Parrott, said Zoos Victoria was clearing space in preparation for receiving animals, while also planning for potential expansion of its captive-breeding programs.

“Every species is different, particularly when we’re bringing in a new species that needs care after a massive catastrophe like these bushfires,” Dr Parrott said.

“There’s a lot of research that we need to do to ensure that the species will come and thrive in captivity, that we can breed them appropriately and, importantly, we can get them back out into the wild where they belong.”


Fire has affected the habitat of the endangered alpine Guthega skink. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Ecologists like Professor Watson are recognising what is needed to save a species will in some ways clash with current government forestry policy.

“I think we’ve got to really re-evaluate how we think about forestry and logging in Australia,” he said.

“The science is pretty clear. Many of these fires got out of control in logged areas and logging is the very reason why many species are already endangered.

“If we want to maintain threatened species in these landscapes, we’ve got to realise that forestry does not work to save them.”


The burns on this koala’s paws had already started to heal well by the time wildlife officers checked it. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

James Todd, executive director of biodiversity with the Victorian Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning, said there were some native fish in Gippsland whose entire range had burned in the fires.

He said when it rained heavily, there would be a real danger they could be caught up in a fish kill.


A badge huntsman survives in a patch of unburnt forest. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“One of the key actions that we need to look at for a range of species, including those fishes, [is] whether we need to pull those fish and other species out and salvage them until their habitat is suitable for them to return,” Mr Todd said.

“[That] means going in, literally collecting the fish and taking them to an aquarium that we’ve got set up within the department to handle that.”

None of this will be cheap.

“In the longer term, it is looking at funding and getting the right people the right money,” Mr Todd said.


The regent honeyeater’s range has contracted dramatically in the past 30 years. (Supplied: Birdlife Australia)

Funding wildlife recovery

On Tuesday, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced an initial $50 million for wildlife recovery.

Described by the Government as a “down-payment”, half the money was earmarked for first responders like zoos and wildlife groups, and half to programs driven by the Threatened Species Commissioner.

Professor Watson said tackling the wildlife crisis would require a sea change in government policy.

“Right now, there is a paucity of money going towards threatened-species management in Australia at the federal level,” he said.


Professor James Watson warns an extinction crisis beckons. (Supplied: University of Queensland)

“The budgets have gone down over the last 10 years in terms of how much money is being spent on endangered species.”

But the alternative, he said, was unthinkable.

“There is no doubt that if we just tackle this problem using business-as-usual strategies, we are going to sleepwalk straight into an extinction crisis,” Professor Watson said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

My mid-life crisis is cheaper than a younger bloke, but a bit more accident prone


When I was a kid, all I wanted for Christmas was a pony.

Just after my 52nd birthday, Santa finally delivered.

I’m now the ridiculously excited owner of a sweet-natured, 10-year-old mare named Reyn.

How did a city slicker who grew up in the suburbs end up happily stomping through muddy paddocks with dirt under her nails and poo on her boots, my friends and family have wondered.

It’s my mid-life crisis.

“Better than me running off with a younger bloke,” I tell my poor suffering husband.


Owning a horse is an expensive hobby, but have you priced golf clubs lately? (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

“I think a new bloke would be cheaper,” he shoots back.

It is an expensive hobby, but have you priced golf clubs, bikes and boats lately?

I didn’t just saddle up on a whim

Ok, maybe horses are a tiny bit more costly — several thousand dollars for a good one and several hundred dollars per month in agistment.

Don’t forget to factor in feed (prices are high due to the drought), tack (believe it or not saddles can cost almost as much as the horse), clothing (important to look the part), farrier (between $80 and $150 every two months depending on whether your horse is barefoot or shod), an equine dentist (yes, horses need their teeth filed down once a year) and vet fees (I clocked up $800 for three visits in four weeks, but more on that later).


My animal-loving teenage daughter and I started having riding lessons about four years ago. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

I may as well have simply opened my wallet and set fire to $100 bills.

But after a couple of life-threatening illnesses in the past few years, I’m big on fulfilling lifelong dreams — although I do sometimes question the logic of having cheated death twice and then taking up a hobby riding an animal that often tops the charts among Australia’s most dangerous.

They can kill with a kick and a highly-tuned flight response means they can be spooked and bolt by the sight of a mere plastic bag drifting in the breeze.

For that reason, I didn’t just saddle up on a whim.


My daughter and I did several trail rides and then leased a horse at a riding school for a year. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

My animal-loving teenage daughter and I started having riding lessons about four years ago, did several trail rides and then leased a horse at a riding school for a year.

The owner taught us all aspects of horse care, handling and safety.

We were on a massive learning curve and got off to a bad start when we lassoed the wrong horse on the first day.

Both were grey and about the same size, although we just needed to look underneath to realise our mistake. Our horse was a boy and we’d caught a girl.


There were plenty of horses for sale online, but making an informed choice can be difficult. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

Honesty is in short supply when you’re buying a horse

Eventually, we felt confident enough to buy our own. But how to go about it?

“Whatever you do, don’t buy a thoroughbred,” every experienced horse person I knew told me.

It was around the time of the 7.30 investigation into the treatment of retired racehorses which exposed the problem of overbreeding and wastage.

Footage of slaughtered racehorses ‘will shake the industry to its core’
An extensive ABC investigation has revealed the widespread slaughter of racehorses for pet food and human consumption at abattoirs and knackeries in New South Wales and Queensland.

There were certainly plenty for sale online (and cheap). Rehoming a racehorse seemed like a good thing to do, but it’s not like rescuing a greyhound.

While there are programs dedicated to retraining racehorses for equestrian and recreational riding, I quickly realised that they’re mostly for experienced riders — not a novice like me.

Never has “buyer beware” been more necessary than when purchasing a horse. Honesty is in short supply when someone is trying to unload a troublesome horse.

I’ve heard numerous horror stories of people who’d bought a horse advertised as healthy, calm and with no vices only to discover when they brought it home that it was anything but, having apparently been drugged to mask injury, lameness or behaviour problems.

So, the best advice I got was to buy from someone you know, and trust, or who knows the history of the horse. Which is what we did.

They have an uncanny knack for getting into trouble

Having found a horse perfectly suited in purpose and temperament for us newbies, we thought the hard part was over.

But as it turns out, horses have an uncanny knack for getting into trouble — and our lovely mare proved to be a bit accident prone.


Reyn ripped a shoe off and was a bit lame, which meant we couldn’t ride her and required a special visit by the farrier. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

When she walked off the float that was delivering her, she had a fist-sized hematoma (swelling) on her chest, having apparently bumped herself on the trip to the agistment property.

That caused a few days of anxiety but settled down. Then she ripped a shoe off and was a bit lame, which meant we couldn’t ride her and required a special visit by the farrier.

Just as that was coming good, she had a sudden (and scary) onset of colic — abdominal pain which can become life-threatening — and needed after-hours emergency treatment by the vet.

Her upset stomach could have been triggered by ovulation (who knew horses could get PMS?) or grazing on sandier soil than where she’d been, the vet thought.

“Give her some psyllium husk every month to flush the sand out,” he said.

“And by the way, she’s overweight with small feet, so you better get some weight off her pretty quickly or she’s at risk of laminitis [a crippling condition of the feet also known as founder].”

I thought I’d done the right thing in choosing an agistment property with lush green paddocks, but now the spring grass could be deadly?


I thought I’d done the right thing in choosing an agistment property with lush green paddocks, but now the spring grass could be deadly? (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

It was high in sugar and poor Reyn only had to look at it to start stacking on the kilos. I knew her pain only too well.

So, like all of us desperately trying to lose weight before summer, she was put on a strict diet and exercise regime.

No delicious grass, just tasteless, low-sugar hay to munch on.

The hard work and worry is worth it

There have been moments on this ride into horse ownership when I’ve asked myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”.

At times I’ve felt the same kind of “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing” terror I experienced as the mother of a newborn baby.


There have been moments on this ride into horse ownership when I’ve asked myself, “What the hell was I thinking?” (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

Can I actually keep this horse alive?

“That’s just life with horses,” my horsey friends reassure me.

They’ve all got wild stories of various dramas, including one whose horse tried to jump a fence and got stuck two legs on either side of the top rail. She had to actually dismantle the fence to free it.

But being connected and in sync with your horse — albeit, often only fleeting moments for beginners — is a seductive bliss that makes all the worry and hard work worth it.

Reyn is now in great shape (fingers crossed) and my daughter and I are back in the saddle, riding every second day over the summer holidays and enjoying the best Christmas present ever.


Being connected and in sync with your horse makes the worry and hard work all worth it. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Pollution experts team up for landmark study into health impacts of bushfire smoke

Sydney 2000

Australia’s top pollution experts are teaming up to propose a major new study into the long-term health impacts of bushfire smoke.

Key points:

  • A team of Australian academics is seeking funding to study the health impacts of bushfire smoke
  • A previous study looked at the effects of 45 days of smoke inhalation
  • That study found pregnant women were more likely to contract gestational diabetes

Guy Marks from the University of New South Wales said he was not confident in the current health advice offered by authorities because there was very little evidence available.

“Are masks even that effective? What about air filtration? Or staying indoors. We’re not sure that any of that is right, but they’re all testable questions,” Professor Marks said.

He is putting together a team of two dozen top Australian researchers to investigate the medical fallout from the fires.

It comes as Victoria is smothered in toxic fumes, causing Melbourne’s air quality to be ranked the worst in the world.

Bushfires are responsible for a smoke haze which has been affecting the quality of air breathed by millions of people, including those living in Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne.

Some Sydney suburbs have recorded air quality more than 10 times worse than what is considered hazardous.


People have been wearing masks to protect themselves from smoke coming from the bushfires. (AAP Images: Steve Saphore)

Significant government funding will be required, but Professor Marks says the research will be world leading.

“This is a new reality that we’re living with,” he said.

“Australia is at the forefront of a changing climate and it’s our responsibility to investigate.

“It’s likely this is not going to be the last such episode and we need to know more about what the health effects are.”

Researchers hope to conduct a range of studies, including human experimental tests to see how effective P2 masks are and toxicology tests to see how smoke particles affect the bloodstream.

To date, the closest comparable study available in Australia is an academic paper on the Hazelwood coal fire in 2014.

Life in the big smoke
You can see the smoke, but not the dangers — these graphics illustrate what Sydneysiders have been inhaling.

Residents in the nearby town of Morwell endured close to six weeks of toxic smoke after a bushfire ignited the mine.

When the air cleared, a team of researchers led by Monash’s Professor Michael Abramson studied the effects of 45 days of smoke inhalation on the residents in the small community.

The results surprised even the researchers.

Pregnant women, especially those in their second trimester, were more likely to contract gestational diabetes, a condition that affects the mother’s blood sugar level.

Their babies stored the extra sugar as fat and grew larger than normal.

About 16 women were affected, in the town of just over 13,000 people.


Sydney has been suffering from poor air quality for months. (AAP: Dean Lewins)

“While a coal fire and bushfire aren’t the same, they both emit toxic Pm2.5 particles and carbon monoxide,” Professor Abramson said.

With thousands of women pregnant during the bushfires, Professor Abramson is concerned the effects of the recent smoke haze could be more widespread.

“It’s been going on for months … it’s well beyond what our previous study addressed.”

Professor Abramson will form part of the team of researchers led by Professor Marks, and intends to find an answer.

“It’s not easy to get funding for environmental health research,” he said.

“Until now bushfires have not been a priority area getting targeted funding.”

It appears that is now shifting, with the Federal Government announcing $5 million for bushfire-related health research.

Three million will go towards research considering the physical impact of prolonged smoke exposure, and two million will go towards studies into the mental health impact.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said it is more about community reassurance rather than significant concern.

“The expectation is as the smoke recedes so will any respiratory effect, but we want to provide absolute reassurance, data and evidence as well as support for health going forward.

“Clear long-term evidence will make sure any issues that might arise are identified early and if we see any trends emerging we will be able to move at rapid speed to address it.”

Stay across the latest bushfire coverage

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The babies of 2000 are all grown up and they have a message


They were barely more than babies when the September 11 attacks occurred, toddlers when Facebook was launched and just starting primary school when the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth was released.

So what does the world look like now for someone born in 2000?

We spoke to five Australians turning 20 this year to find out what issues have shaped their lives and what they think the future holds.

The election of Donald Trump


Ryan Nindra was only a year old when the September 11 attacks happened, but he’s experienced the flow-on effects of racial profiling and discrimination. (ABC News: John Gunn)

Ryan Nindra was born on January 1, 2000: the first day of the new millennium.

He says the most memorable world event in his lifetime is the election of US President Donald Trump.

Ryan was at school refreshing news sites and social media feeds as he watched the results pour in on his smartphone.

“No-one really knew what to expect,” he says. “We had a very bad image of Donald Trump.”

When it became clear that Trump would win the election “it was just a shock to everyone,” Ryan says. “I’ve never seen that many people terrified.”

Trump’s election was a defining moment for Ryan and the reason he’s now studying politics at Macquarie University in Sydney.


The election of Donald Trump was a defining moment in Ryan Nindra’s life. (Reuters: Mark Makela)

“Leadership is about taking initiative and focusing on issues rather than the politics around it,” he says.

He disagrees with Trump’s hardline views on immigration, arms control and climate change and says he has seen the effects of Trump’s politics first hand.

“There has been a change in the way people think,” he says.

“Leadership is no longer about empowering the people to lead a better society, but rather pandering to a specific audience to keep power intact.

“The ideal leader for me is one who puts the people first and strives to better people’s lives, not their own political agenda.”

Climate change


Sabrina Katay, a 19-year-old social work student, says the discussion around climate change is the most important issue she’s thinking about. (ABC News: Karen Tong)

Sabrina Katay, a 19-year-old social work student, says the discussion around climate change is most important to her.

“Everyone, no matter where you are, has an opinion on climate change and on global warming and that has brought a lot of people together globally,” she says.

The current bushfires in Australia have brought that to a head, she believes.

Sabrina wants to do all she can to preserve the environment, but she says her faith informs her opinion on climate change, motivates her to take action and gives her hope.

“As a Christian, I think it’s difficult to say that it’s entirely in our hands,” Sabrina says.

“I’m not saying that I’m ‘off the hook’, but that I trust God has a plan for climate and for our world.

“I also believe he chooses to action that plan through me.”

That means “being conscious of my electricity and meat consumption, staying informed about what’s actually going on and donating where I think it’s most needed”.

“This gives me a real sense of peace,” she says. “Even though my own personal contribution might be considered small in the grand scheme of things, I know that the God whom I believe to have power over everything has it under control, whatever my own limited perspective on it is.”

The global, youth-led climate strikes of 2019 indicate Sabrina is not alone in feeling concerned about climate change.


Sina Aghamofid says participating in the climate strikes is something he’ll never forget. (ABC News: Jedda Costa)

Sina Aghamofid, an arts/law student and mental health advocate, says participating in the climate strikes is something he’ll never forget.

“We study social movements in school, but being a part of it is a whole different experience,” he says.

“Marching with other young people for an issue that I’m passionate about is one of the most memorable moments in my lifetime so far.

“It makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel more passionate about what I believe in because I know so many other people believe in it.”

People born in this millennium are the generation most concerned about climate change.

“While we still have time to realistically solve whatever issues we’ve created,” Ryan says.

“I think the solution would be to start pushing for targets, start pushing for subsidies, start pushing for real reform to our legislation to help firms move towards renewables.”

Ryan takes personal responsibility too. He’s cutting his energy use by buying energy efficient light bulbs, and using his computer and television less, and he uses E10 petrol for his car.


Jacqueline Stark believes more people and resources need to be aimed at dealing with the impact of climate change. (ABC News: John Gunn)

Jacqueline Stark believes more people and resources need to be directed at dealing with the impact of climate change in years to come.

She wants greater focus on working out ways to make crops sustainable and accommodating people who will be displaced by rising sea levels.

She also thinks that young people should be taken seriously when it comes to climate change.

“Despite all the strikes that have happened, nothing really has shifted in that ideology, and so I don’t think that we’re impacting as much as would be good,” she says.



Nandini Sharma remembers a small window of time before texting and social media. (Supplied: Nandini Sharma)

Nandini Sharma remembers a snapshot of time before texting and social media.

“If I wanted to meet a friend, I’d have to call them using a landline,” the finance and accounting university student says.

“Now, if your friends are busy, you just send a text or tag them in a meme.”

Technological advancements have made it easier to stay in touch with friends, but it’s also made it easier to avoid face-to-face interactions.


Sabrina Katay believes “no one is ever kind online”. (ABC News: Will Ockenden )

“There are a lot of physical cues you can pick up from social interactions,” she says, “and it’s easier to ‘pretend’ how you feel online rather than in person”.

But there are some benefits, such as convenience.

“Before, if you were meeting a friend, you would have to arrange a spot to meet before, and plan ahead,” she says.

“Today, you can ask them where they are and get a reply within seconds.”

Being able to talk to multiple people at once is another benefit. “That really makes communication efficient,” she says.

If Nandini could pick another time to be born, it would be the 1980s or 1990s.

“There were definitely really good inventions that sort of helped you get by, but you would still be forced to step out of the house and go and meet them instead of today, where you can just stay in bed and interact with your friends,” she says.


Nandini Sharma, pictured as a toddler, was born in the year 2000 — but if she could pick another time to be born, it would be the 1980s or 1990s. (Supplied: Nandini Sharma)

Social media

Social media is at the centre of what Sabrina likes best about society in this millennium, but also one of its flaws.

“What I really like about our society is that I think we’re passionate,” she says.

“Particularly this is seen in social media where people are very comfortable to talk about issues and make their opinions well known.”

However, Sabrina also believes social media has “made it harder to act”.

“People are less willing, I think, to make an effort to action those opinions because they’re fired up online and that seems like enough,” she says.

Social media has also become a breeding ground for bullying, hate speech and cancel culture. Sabrina prefers to take conversations about issues that are important to her offline.

“I don’t think anyone is ever kind online because it’s so impersonal,” she says.

“I try to engage in the discussion outside of social media because I think it’s more impactful, more helpful, productive, and leads to greater change.”

Sabrina’s passion for making a positive contribution through conversations and action is the reason she chose a degree in social work.

“The goal for my career is to walk away and say that I’ve changed even just a small fraction of our society for the better,” she says.

Jacqueline also has mixed feelings about social media — even as the founder of a tech start-up that’s developing a social media platform for kids in hospital with rare diseases that prevent them connecting with others.

“It’s important these children are able to talk to people who can empathise with them,” she says.

However, her own early experience with social media was not positive.


Jacqueline Stark (second from the right), pictured in high school, was born in the year 2000. (Supplied: Jacqueline Stark)

“In year 7, girls were saying things online about me and that got fed back to me by others,” she says.

That experience helped Jacqueline build resilience and awareness of the downsides of social media.

“I’m not a huge poster and I’m unwilling to share every detail of my life,” she says.

Her experience informs the social media platform she is developing as she believes some social media companies have little motivation to stop cyber bullying, “especially when they are looking to make a profit”.

Terrorism and racism

Ryan was only one year old when the September 11 attacks happened, but he’s experienced the flow-on effects of racial profiling and discrimination.

“Sometimes, I’ll just be walking down the street and people will shout out, ‘you don’t belong here’,” Ryan says.

He remembers one incident clearly. He was 15 years old and crossing the road outside his house. A man standing nearby shouted “Go back to Afghanistan!”

“I was like, what would push you to say that? You have no idea where I’m from and I’ve done nothing to impede upon your freedoms,” says Ryan, whose background is Indian and Sikh.

Following the 2014 Lindt Café siege in Sydney Ryan was afraid to go into the city.

“I didn’t know how people would react,” he says.

“I thought people would be frightened and I didn’t like the idea of being frightening to someone.”

Australia is the most multicultural it’s ever been.

According to the 2016 census, nearly half of Australians had either been born overseas, or one or both parents had been born overseas.

“People are becoming more accepting,” Ryan says, “but social media scare campaigns, and the fear that leaders like Trump have created, mean that the stigma surrounding us still exists”.

“To them it’s just a conversation, but to us it really hurts because it’s not something I’d expect to hear about myself.”

Terrorism has also hit close to home.

Curtis Chen was shot dead in Parramatta in 2015, just a mere 20-minute walk from Nandini’s home.

“I was in this little bubble, it’s all fine,” she says, “then all of a sudden something happens so close to you”.

The shooter was a 15-year-old school student, and the police called it an act of terrorism.

“I think that was really shocking as well, that someone my age could do something like that,” Nandini says.

The future

There are many predictions of what the world will look like in 2020 and beyond.

If they are accurate, humans will arrive on Mars in 2020; robots will be increasingly used as assistants, therapists and even friends; and you will no longer need a device to access the internet because you can access it directly through your brain.

But how do people born in the year 2000 feel about the future?

Nandini is hopeful about continued progress for women’s rights and gender equality.

“Growing up, I remember thinking, what’s so different about a man and a woman that we should get paid less?” she says.

But she believes society is now addressing these issues and her career goal is to work for an ethical company that empowers women, promotes equality and a sustainable future.


Sina Aghamofid, a student and mental health advocate, says participating in the climate strikes is something he’ll never forget. (ABC News: Karen Tong)

Sina has already seen a shift in attitudes around mental health.

“I work in a primary school and the kids nowadays talk about mental health quite openly and are seeking support,” he says.

“When I was in primary school, I didn’t even know what mental health was. I didn’t know what anxiety, depression, or any of those things were.”

Jacqueline is mostly optimistic about the future.

“I think the way we’re dealing with issues and able to adapt, I think that’s just getting better and better.”

She cites improved mortality rates and longevity, more people having access to electricity, and a decline in global poverty.

“In reality we’re living in the best world at the moment,” she says.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

It’s cooler and calmer, so why can’t we put these fires out?


Every day, new stories about how people and wildlife have been impacted by bushfires across Australia emerge.

And with so many fires burning across multiple states, there is no sign of them abating.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has emphasised that it will take weeks to put out these fires, even with several days of milder weather forecast for the most affected areas.

But why is this the case, and why can’t more be done on days of lower temperatures and little wind?

Dry, changeable conditions

In the past, firefighters could be confident that a fire would eventually run up against wet ground or plants, which would slow its progress.

Without dry fuel, it would founder and die.


Equipment similar to common garden tools can be used to remove fuel from a fireground. (Supplied: NSW RFS)

But this fire season has come amid a period of severe drought and unprecedented weather conditions, driven by climate change.

That means both drought and strong, gusty winds in combination.

Brian Williams, who has worked as an RFS volunteer and professional firefighter for more than 50 years, said the weather patterns were making it impossible to extinguish the large blazes burning in multiple locations.

“I’ve never seen fire burn so quickly — because we’re in such a dire drought there is no moisture on the ground,” Mr Williams said.

“And that means when a fire runs through it doesn’t lose any energy in igniting fuel in front of itself. It just keeps picking up speed and growing bigger and higher and faster and hotter.”

Waterbombing only works in some areas


Waterbombing can be of limited use in some conditions. (ABC News: Nathan Morris)

Viewed from the ground or via videos from the scene, waterbombing planes appear to be dropping mammoth volumes of water onto the fires.

But several factors impact their efficacy, including the fact that the water usually fails to fall any further than the tree-tops, when dropped on fires burning in wooded areas.

“Our eucalypts are such a big heavy tree, we have heavy canopy, lots of leaf and lots of branches and the water will just not penetrate through,” Mr Williams said.

“By the time the water hits the canopy, it’s a very, very mild amount of water hitting down onto the ground.”

As a result, any waterbombing efforts are directed towards those areas where firefighters are trying to protect property.

Where the Shark Creek fire has been burning in northern NSW, it’s a little different.

There, the fire has been burning in peat underground and waterbombing has only managed to suppress the fire for a few days at most.

“We just can’t put enough water out there [in] large-scale waterbombers, even the supersize waterbombers — they can’t carry enough water,” Mr Williams said.

Fighting fire with fire: backburning makes a blaze bigger


A fire burning at Monastery in Penrose, NSW, on January 10. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The main strategy used by firefighters now is to manage the edges of each fire, Mr Williams said.

“Because of the sheer size of them, you just cannot get in and put them out,” he said.

When weather conditions ease, backburning is a key tool.

“I think this week we’re forecast to have some very good days, so that gives the opportunity then for planning to go ahead, for getting in and back-burning as much as possible, to try and contain it to hard roads,” he said.

“And that may be along the Kings Highway or major forestry trails, and that then prevents large fire runs on those real, hot windy days.

“If we can take fuel away we’re making the fire bigger but we’re reducing the possibility of the fire breaking containment lines.”

Backburning is conducted on days of milder conditions around the edges of active fires and is different to hazard reduction burning, which is done during colder seasons to mitigate risk once it becomes hotter.

But hazard reduction burning has not been effective in every case, due to the catastrophic conditions, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said last week.

“We’ve had plenty of reports in the recent emergency of the fires just racing through areas that had had hazard reduction burns. There was very little effect from having hazard reduction burns being done,” he said.


The fires’ impacts have been felt by people and wildlife alike. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Firefighter safety

Fires are indiscriminate about where they burn and often find their way into inaccessible places.

This season’s unpredictability meant that was even more of an issue for those battling each blaze, Mr Williams said.

Many fires have been burning in places that are either short on escape routes, or in areas of tough terrain where the risk of injury is high.

“Firefighter safety is paramount,” Mr Williams said.

“We have a rule and we go out to fight fires to save people’s lives — and the general public and the firemen’s lives comes before anything else.

“Going into these remote areas, we know we can get in, but if you look at the worst-case scenario, a weather change, can they get out safely?”


The safety of firefighting personnel is the main priority for authorities, Mr Williams said. (Supplied: DFES incident photographer Evan Collis )

Instead, they focus on breaking the fire down into manageable sections, favouring those parts that are more easily accessible by way of paths such as fire trails.

“We look at areas that we can attack and try and, with planning, break the fire down into grids that you work on,” he said.

“They’re the areas that you attack when the conditions are right, so you can try and mitigate fire spread in those parts of the fire.”

Ensuring personnel get the rest they need is also a consideration for authorities.

Mr Williams said all personnel, including firefighters, would be suffering from fatigue after so many weeks of bad weather.

Long-term heavy rain is our best hope


Bushfires burning in heavily wooded or high areas of forest can be inaccessible for firefighters. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

The message from fire authorities is clear: only heavy, consistent rain will put an end to these megafires before the bushfire season ends.

Even in the Tallaganda National Park, where the blaze first started in November, flames and embers still sometimes flare up.

“We just need a couple of weeks of constant rain,” Mr Williams said.

Bushfire Science Associate Professor Geoffrey Cary of the Fenner School of Environment and Society agreed, saying the drought was a key factor in the scale and ferocity of the fires.

“A key reason these bushfires can’t easily be extinguished during milder fire weather is the severity of the drought combined with thousands of kilometres of the perimeter,” he said.

He said the previous three years of low rainfall had exacerbated those conditions.

“Australia experiences extensive drought from time to time. Notable for this drought is that winter rainfall has been at very low levels for the last three years and its during this period that moisture content typically recharges,” he said.

“What is critical is the capacity of fire agencies to extinguish fires during milder weather conditions to limit the extent of the area burned.”

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

One of Australia’s ‘first families of wine’ McWilliam’s enters administration after 141 years


One of Australia’s ‘first families of wine’ has gone into administration as declining business performance and a changing wine market force family-owned McWilliam’s to seek outside assistance.

Key points:

  • Founder Samuel McWilliam planted his first vines in the NSW Riverina in 1877
  • The winemaker has also had a long presence in the Hunter Valley with its Mount Pleasant estate
  • The current McWilliams chairman says “evolving market dynamics” and “capital constraints” contributed to a decline in business

The company traces its history back through more than 141 years and six generations of family ownership in the Riverina district of southern New South Wales, although it has also had a major long-term presence in the Hunter Valley wine region through its well-known Mount Pleasant estate.

However, the venerable label has fallen on hard times, voluntarily calling in administrators from KPMG to seek buyers or investors to finance the company’s continued existence.

“We are in the initial phase of the administration process where our priority is to undertake an immediate assessment of the business and its operations,” KPMG partner Gayle Dickerson said in a statement.

“The company will continue to operate as normal and we are working with the McWilliam’s family with the support of its employees while we work hard to try and preserve one of Australia’s oldest winemakers.”

It was 1877 when Samuel McWilliam planted his first grape vines on the outskirts of Corowa in the Riverina, and 1917 when JJ McWilliam planted the famous Hanwood estate vineyard near Griffith, with the company exporting wine overseas since 1935.

The company gained a foothold in the Hunter Valley by purchasing the Mount Pleasant estate in 1941, which is particularly renowned for its semillon and shiraz wines.


The first vines for McWilliam’s were planted in 1877, but “evolving market dynamics” have been blamed for its demise. (Supplied: Wikimedia Commons)

McWilliam’s former chief winemaker and current company chairman Jim Brayne said the board had “not made the decision to enter voluntary administration lightly”.

“A number of factors contributed to a decline in business performance, including evolving structural market dynamics and capital constraints.”

Mr Brayne said the winemaker’s management and board were working with the administrator to try to achieve a “positive outcome for all involved”.

The administrators said they were looking to find either a buyer or investors who can finance the company’s ongoing operations.

“We are seeking expressions of interest to recapitalise or acquire the group to take this heritage brand forward in the future both locally and globally,” Ms Dickerson said.

“There are significant wine assets in the Riverina district and the Hunter Valley, long established distribution channels and relationships with global international distributor brands.”

Aside from selling its own wines, McWilliam’s is the Australian distributor for global brands including Taittinger, Mateus, Henkell and Mionetto.

The administrator said all creditors and other key stakeholders will be contacted directly and will meet for the first time to discuss the company’s future on Monday, January 20.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australian shares, US futures rebound after Iran says it doesn’t want war


The Australian share market has closed lower, but pulled back from steeper earlier losses, after Iran’s foreign minister said its strikes against US forces in Iraq “concluded proportionate measures in self-defence” following the US killing of an Iranian general.

Key points:

  • US officials have confirmed rockets have been fired at the Al-Asad and Erbil airbases in Iraq, which host US forces
  • The Australian share market and US stock market futures fell sharply on the initial news
  • Markets recovered some of those losses in the afternoon as the Iranian foreign minister said “self-defence measures” had “concluded”

In an escalation feared by markets, US officials this morning confirmed rockets had been fired at the Al-Asad and Erbil airbases in Iraq, which host US forces.

US stock market futures initially fell sharply in response to the news, with S&P 500 and Dow Jones futures both falling as much as 1 per cent.

The Australian share market has also took a hit, with the ASX 200 also down close to a per cent at its worst.

Tokyo’s Nikkei initially fell more than 2 per cent, while New Zealand’s main index also lost more than 1 per cent.

However, US futures recovered in afternoon trade, after Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the regime had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defence” and did “not seek escalation or war”, while adding “but will defend ourselves against any aggression”.

External Link:

@JZarif (Iran's Foreign Minister): "Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

Australia’s share market followed the recovery in US futures, closing just 0.1 per cent lower for the day at 6,818 for the ASX 200 index.

Gold was the major beneficiary of the tensions, having jumped around $US35 an ounce this morning to around $US1,610/ounce as investors sought safe havens amid fears of an escalating conflict between the US and Iran.

That briefly took it to a fresh Australian dollar record price of $2,351.86/ounce.

However, the precious metal eased back to $US1,592/ounce after the Iranian foreign minister’s tweet was seen as lowering tensions.

Oil prices have remained elevated, however, with Brent crude still more than 1 per cent higher at $US69.08 a barrel, although it had risen further in earlier trade.

Aussie dollar back below 69 US cents

The Australian dollar has fallen back below 69 US cents and is weaker against a basket of currencies, as the US dollar rises after America’s trade deficit fell to a three-year low.

By 5:13pm (AEDT) the local currency was worth 68.7 US cents.

The currency had traded above 70 US cents at the very start of the new year, but has tracked lower over the past week.

Stronger economic data out of the United States contributed to the Aussie dollar’s decline against the greenback overnight.

Market snapshot at 8:15am (AEDT):

  • ASX SPI futures +0.04pc at 6,767, ASX 200 (Tuesday’s close) +1.3pc at 6,826
  • AUD: 68.65 US cents, 52.35 British pence, 61.61 Euro cents, 75.53 Japanese yen, $NZ1.03
  • US: Dow Jones -0.4pc at 28,581, S&P 500 -0.3pc at 3,237, Nasdaq -0.03pc at 9,068
  • Europe: FTSE 100 -0.02pc at 7,573, DAX +0.8pc at 13,226, CAC -0.02pc at 6,012, Euro Stoxx 50 flat at 3,419
  • Commodities: Brent crude -1pc at $US68.21/barrel, spot gold +0.4pc at $US1,571.75/ounce

Amid the US-China trade dispute, US imports fell and exports rose in November, while the closely-watched goods deficit with China tumbled by more than 15 per cent.

The US services sector strengthened, with data showing an improvement in non-manufacturing business activity.

However, it was not only a stronger US dollar that hurt the Australian dollar. Domestically, analysts have begun to weigh up the economic impact of a devastating, and ongoing, bushfire season.

On Tuesday, the ANZ-Roy Morgan weekly survey of consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in more than four years.

“A drop in confidence at the start of the year is unusual and almost certainly reflects the impact of the catastrophic bushfires over the weekend,” said ANZ’s head of Australian economist David Plank.

ANZ’s monthly indicator of job advertisements fell 6.7 per cent in December, with economists also blaming the impact of the bushfires.

“Based on previous major natural disasters, such as Victoria’s Black Saturday fires and Queensland’s 2010-11 floods, the current bushfires could see a short-term negative impact on employment,” said ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

This Norwegian-flagged supply vessel answered fire-hit Mallacoota’s SOS

Mallacoota 3892

As smoke lay thick and heavy across Mallacoota, an unfamiliar vessel came slowly into view.

Key points

  • The Norwegian-flagged supply vessel normally services gas and oil platforms
  • It brought food and water for the 4,000 people stranded there and diesel to power generators
  • The crew cared for the sick and elderly until HMAS Choules arrived to evacuate the stranded people

It was much larger than the fishing boats and yachts usually in the area and it was not the much-anticipated Navy.

On New Year’s Eve, without fanfare, the Norwegian-flagged supply vessel Far Saracen arrived at Mallacoota answering an SOS call from Victoria’s emergency services.

Its crew of 14 Australian and Kiwi seafarers were the first to reach the town via the water.

They brought much-needed supplies to the thousands of locals and tourists huddled on the beach sheltering from the fire wreaking havoc on the town.


People sought refuge at the Mallacoota waterfront as bushfires closed in on the town. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

Bringing 30 pallets of food, water and — with the power to the town cut — much-needed diesel for generators and CFA tankers, it was there to help.

“They arrived on scene days before the other services with a crew of 14 Aussie and Kiwi sailors,” said Chris Nairey, in a post on Facebook.

It was another day before the defence force arrived to begin one of Australia’s largest peace-time evacuations.


HMAS Choules evacuated people trapped in Mallacoota after the fires. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

The vessel, usually used to deliver cargo to gas and oil drilling platforms, had been redirected from the Esso gas fields at Golden Beach.

It was one of two boats the gas company sent in response to the unfolding natural disaster.

Supplies were taken ashore before the Far Saracen became a temporary home for the most vulnerable until the Navy arrived.


Pallets of water and food were delivered to the 4,000 people stranded in the town. (Facebook: Chris Nairey)

“They worked tirelessly looking after sick people, the elderly, infants, even special needs teenagers,” said Mr Nairey.

Chris Nairey, a Victorian police officer, was also helping those who were stranded, spending a week on the boat. He said the crew “worked around the clock to keep us going”.

“They fed us, they gave us beds,” said Mr Nairey.


The Far Saracen was met by fisheries and police boats to ferry the supplies to shore. (Facebook: Chris Nairey)

“They maintained our [police] boats and kept an eye on them while we slept.

“This was the most organised and professional workplace that I have ever seen.”

Mr Nairey, who is not a fan of social media, said he put up the rare social media post to ensure the captain and the crew’s work did not go unnoticed.

“Their family and friends need to know how good they are at what they do and what they have done for the town of Mallacoota,” he said.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the crew of the Far Saracen also made a large donation to the Mallacoota Wildlife Centre to help with the recovery effort.

Final Mallacoota evacuees board ship

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of around 200 people boarded the HMAS Choules in the final Navy evacuation from the town.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there were still some people in Mallacoota who had registered for evacuation but were not able to board the ship, who would be flown out by helicopter instead.

Across the state, firefighters are working to put in place about 1,500 kilometres of containment lines around bushfires in a bid to reduce their spread when conditions worsen on Friday.


Firefighters were working on containment lines around the Green Valley fire near Jingellic, NSW. (ABC News: Ashlee Aldridge)

Rescue crews have also been able to get access to most remote East Gippsland communities which had been cut off by the fires, with some supplies delivered to the three which remained isolated.

Power has also remained a struggle for bushfire-hit towns, with around 3,100 people without power across the state’s bushfire zones at 4:00pm.

Those who wish to help communities affected by the bushfires are being urged to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, which has been set up by the Government in partnership with Bendigo Bank and the Salvation Army.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said there had been reports of fraudsters exploiting goodwill by posing as bushfire victims or charities in cold calls and doorknocking and urged the community to only donate to the official fund or registered charities of their choice.

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Killing of Iranian general should have happened ‘years ago’, Donald Trump says

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

In his first comments since the surprise assassination of one of Iran’s top military generals, United States President Donald Trump says Qassem Soleimani should have been taken out “many years ago”.

Key points:

  • Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US strike in Baghdad on Friday
  • Mr Trump said the Iranian general was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans
  • A UN human rights expert has called on the body to investigate the killing

On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed the killing in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.

The US carried out another air strike on Iran-backed militia in Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least five people according to officials.

The White House said in a tweet that General Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.

Why the killing of General Soleimani is such a big deal
The death of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani is a watershed moment, even in the long and bloody history of Middle East conflict.

The US also maintains that General Soleimani was responsible for multiple attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past several months.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump claimed General Soleimani was responsible for killing and wounding “thousands” of Americans, and was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people” without further elaboration.

“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” he wrote.

“They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”

External Link:

@realdonaldtrump tweet: ….of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!

The US strike has provoked fears of retaliation against the US from Tehran and its allies in the Middle East.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD was increasing security at critical infrastructure points throughout the city.

“Our world changed last night,” he said.

“We are now potentially facing a threat that’s different and greater than anything we have faced previously.

“Over the last 20 years, this city, more than any other, has suffered the results of terrorism.”

“We’re in, at this point, a de facto state of war between the United States of America and Iran.”

Why America and Iran hate each other
They haven’t had formal diplomatic relations for decades, and at times appear on the brink of war. But why?

Officials said there is no specific, credible threat against New York City at this time, but that the city remains the top terror target in the country.

Hours after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the US embassy in Baghdad urged all its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.

On Friday, US citizens working for foreign oil companies in the southern Iraqi city of Basra evacuated the country, the oil ministry said.

The Pentagon took steps to reinforce the American military presence in the Middle East in preparation for reprisals from Iran.

The US is sending nearly 3,000 more troops to the Middle East ordered by Mr Trump, defence officials said.

In Iran, a hard-line adviser to the country’s supreme leader who led Friday prayers in Tehran likened US troops in Iraq to “insidious beasts” and said they should be swept from the region.

“I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into a night-time darkness,” said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

‘A more dangerous world’

Video: Video released on Friday showed the aftermath of the strike on Qassem Soleimani.

(ABC News)

When asked about the strike, France’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio that “military escalation is always dangerous”.

“We are waking up in a more dangerous world,” she said.

She indicated that urgent reconciliation efforts were being launched behind the scenes.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his foreign minister were reaching out to “all the actors in the region,” she said.

Russia and China expressed similar concerns, with both states warning about the strike’s escalation of tensions.


Soleimani’s killing triggered several anti-US protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (AP: Mukhtar Khan)

However, the United Kingdom and Germany have expressed their qualified understanding for the US strike.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the strike as “a reaction to a whole series of military provocations for which Iran bears responsibility,” pointing to attacks on tankers and a Saudi oil facility, among other events.

“We are at a dangerous escalation point and what matters now is contributing with prudence and restraint to de-escalation,” she said.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassem Soleimani.”

“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate,” he said. “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

Attack ‘most likely violates human rights law’


Agnes Callamard has called on the UN to investigate the US’s unilateral strike. (Reuters: Jose Cabezas)

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions wrote on Twitter that the Trump administration’s actions were “most likely unlawful and violate international human rights law”.

“To be justified under international human rights law, intentionally lethal or potentially lethal force can only be used where strictly necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life,” she wrote.

“In other words, whoever targeted these two men would need to demonstrate that the persons targeted constituted an imminent threat to others.

“An individual’s past involvement in ‘terrorist’ attacks is not sufficient to make his targeting for killing lawful.”

How likely is a US-Iran conflict? US-Iran tensions are on the rise. Here’s what that could mean for Australia, the region and world oil prices.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed yesterday that General Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack” without giving further details.

“He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent,” Mr Pompeo told CNN.

However, Dr Callamard said claims of self-defence were “unlikely” to meet the test of legal extrajudicial killing as “the test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’.”

External Link:

@AgnesCallamard tweet: The statement fails to mention the other individuals killed alongside Suleimani. Collateral? Probably. Unlawful. Absolutely.

She has called on the UN to use its muscle to investigate Washington’s actions.

A UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply concerned with the recent escalation”.

“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” the spokesperson said.

External Link:

@AgnesCallamard tweet: There is no more pressing time for the #UN and its leadership to step up than now. But this statement does not bode well. You have the legal tools and the platform. Please use them. @UN @antonioguterres #WWIII


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘A priest but no church’: Coptic Christians build own church and it’s drawing people to this regional town

Port Macquarie 2444

Nermin and Marc Kamel used to travel more than four hours to attend a Coptic Orthodox church in Sydney.

Key points:

  • The St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Coptic church was built in a project led by local surgeon, Moheb Ghaly and opened in Taree in 2017
  • Previously, members of the Coptic Christian community on NSW’s mid-north coast had to travel to Sydney to worship
  • Dr Ghaly and his wife, Fay, were the first couple to be married there and say that the church has drawn others to the region

That was the closest Coptic church to their home on the New South Wales mid-north coast, and for them it was important to still attend mass on at least some Sundays.

“We used to go to Sydney every two to three weeks which is a long way to travel — the kids used to get exhausted,” Ms Kamel said.

That was until their local Egyptian Coptic Christian community rallied and built a church in Taree, about an hour south of Port Macquarie.

The project was led by Egypt-born local surgeon, Moheb Ghaly, who provided much of the financial backing and has an OAM for his service to medicine.

“The priest at present was ordained in 2014,” he said.

“We said, ‘We have a priest, we need a church’.


Ornate wooden carvings and paintings were shipped from Egypt to decorate the Coptic church in Taree. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

“The community rallied together, we bought the land and got money for the building and then it was all done.”

The church even features ornate wood carvings and paintings which were shipped from Egypt.

“The timber around the altar was carved by monks in a monastery in Egypt and was shipped here in a container and then we hired a trailer … it was very heavy,” Dr Ghaly said with a laugh.


Women worship in Taree’s Christian Coptic Orthodox church. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

Theodora Rizk, who was born in Egypt and came to Australia when she was 12, said the creation of the church helped her embrace both her Egyptian and Australian identities.

“If it wasn’t for the community support we wouldn’t have a church,” she said.

“It’s home for us, it’s belonging, this is where we belong to, it’s another piece of Egypt, it’s who we are, it’s history, it’s a lot of things.


Taree’s Coptic Orthodox Church has fostered a strong sense of community and friendship. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

“It’s important for children to embrace their culture, we love Australia, it’s our first home of course, but it’s important for the kids to know where they come from and the history they have.”

Church draws people to the region


The singing of traditional Coptic hymns was a feature when the St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Church opened at Cundeltown in 2017. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

The church opened almost three years ago, in March 2017, and since then the congregation has grown and the church, named St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th, has also drawn more people to the area.

“It has grown, and more people are moving to the area and some other Orthodox people come from different backgrounds too, like Russian or Lebanese,” Dr Ghaly said.

“We have people come from Forster and Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

“Mass is every Sunday, it has brought people to the area.

“They enquire and say, ‘Oh there’s a church there, ok we will take the job and go there’.

“I know pharmacists who have made a decision based on that, and doctors who have made that choice based on that.”

Australia’s religious diversity increasing


Coptic Christians in Taree are delighted to have their own local church, previously travelling to Sydney congregations. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

Australian Bureau of Statistics spokesperson, Andrew Henderson, said there had been a rise over the past few decades of people identifying as having ‘no religion’.

“There’s been some quite significant shifts going on, if we go back to our very first census in 1911, 96 per cent of Australians reported as Christians, in the 2016 census it’s 52 per cent,” he said.

“Over time there has been a steady increase in people stating ‘no religion’, for example in 1986 we had 13 per cent, and in 2016 that had risen to 30 per cent of the population.”


Dr Moheb Ghaly (left) was a driving force behind the construction of a Coptic church in Taree. (ABC News: Port Macquarie)

Australia’s religious diversity is increasing however, and one group which has risen significantly over the past few decades is Christian Coptic Orthodox.

“One of the big drivers around the diversity is our immigration patterns and we see the rise in other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism,” Mr Henderson said.

“The first time we specifically recorded Coptic Orthodox was in 1991 and it was just under 10,000, whereas in 2016 it’s just shy of 30,000, so a really significant increase over time in that group.”

Community ties and a special wedding


Taree’s Coptic Church plays a big role in the local Egyptian community and has drawn people to the region. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

The creation of the Taree Coptic church was a labour of love by the local congregation, driven by a steady faith.

A visit to the church highlights strong ties and friendships, the sermon in Arabic, and moments of solemn prayer, are mixed with smiles and embraces, and a social gathering afterwards.

In a lovely extra chapter, Dr Ghaly and his wife, Fay, have also become the first couple to be married in the church.

“It was the first and only wedding in the church,” Dr Ghaly said.

“I saw this church come from the ground up, it’s a dream come true, it was unbelievable.”


Dr Moheb Ghaly OAM led the push for the Coptic church and said its opening at Cundletown was ‘overwhelming’. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

Ms Ghaly said it was a special congregation.

“I think for such a small town for us to get together and spend some time with each other on a Sunday, we all look forward to it, and Sunday school is an important feature of the day and some of the adults, we all prep and organise for the kids,” Ms Ghaly said.

“For the adults its spirituality, it’s faith, it’s a lovely community to be part of.”

Ms Kamel said her family loved now having the Coptic Orthodox church less than an hour from their Port Macquarie home.

“The kids are very happy here, they make friends, they come to the Sunday school and they get connected to our traditions, which is important to us,” she said.

“We are glad to have each other here, we are here for each other all the time.”


Sundays are a time of connection for the congregation, with a social gathering after the mass. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

America and Iran are teetering on the brink of war. This is why they hate each other

United States

America and Iran have despised each other for decades.

The hostility intensified in 2019, reaching a fever pitch yesterday as the Pentagon ordered an air strike that killed Iran’s most powerful general Qassem Soleimani.

But where does the bitter tension between the two nations come from?

Oddly enough, it began with the British in the Middle East during the first part of the 20th century.

It’s a story about oil, the Cold War, the jostling for power in the region, and a hostage crisis with a diplomatic impact “somewhere near” that of 9/11.

Oil, the Soviets and ‘a menace to Western interests’

Before World War II, Britain essentially dominated Iran’s oil industry through what was then called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

But the war left a greatly weakened Britain in its wake.

“Its economy was pretty devastated, and it came to rely on some of its overseas facilities and programs to a greater degree,” says Malcolm Byrne, deputy director for the Non-Governmental National Security Archive based at George Washington University.

“And its most expansive area of interest was Iran … so it depended quite a bit on that.”


Britain once dominated Iran’s oil industry. (Getty: Morse Collection/ Grado)

Around the same time, the presence of Russians in northern Iran was becoming a critical issue for the US.

“North-west Iran was very much the line drawn on the mountains between the West and the East, between the United States and Soviet Union,” explains Anoush Ehteshami, professor of international relations at Durham University.

“And the Soviet Union’s refusal to leave Iranian territory opened up new concerns about what became known as Soviet aggression.”

Under a US “containment strategy”, he says, the Shah of Iran was entrusted to keep that barrier, and also “make sure that oil continues to flow”.

But that began to unravel when Mohammad Mosaddegh, a “strong nationalist figure”, became Iran’s 35th prime minister in 1951.


Mohammad Mosaddegh (fifth from right) nationalised the nation’s oil fields. (Getty: Bettmann)

Mosaddegh believed Iran, not Britain, should own and control the country’s oil.

“That was the clincher, the critical point,” Professor Ehteshami says.

In 1951 Mosaddegh nationalised the oil fields, and Washington saw red.

Professor Ehteshami says the leader was seen as “a menace to Western interests”.

“It is in that context that Britain and the United States begin to plot to ensure that his government is short-lived,” he says.

The CIA plans to overthrow a ‘demagogue’

In 1952 the British were expelled from Iran, and diplomatic relations ground to a halt.

The next year, the CIA mounted a covert operation to overthrow Mosaddegh.


Demonstrators march during riots in Tehran in the wake of the coup. (Getty)

Osamah Khalil, a historian at Syracuse University, says there is some debate over whether the plot was about “a fear of communism” or “the issue of oil”.

While the US didn’t believe Mosaddegh was a communist, he says, it saw him as a “demagogue” whose reforms could “create instability that would lead to the rise of the communist party in Iraqi”.

The other theory is that the coup was “really about the control of Iran’s oil resources”.

“These two may not be mutually exclusive,” Mr Khalil adds.

“If Iran were to fall to communism, this would open up the broader Persian Gulf to communist influence and threaten the world’s major oil resources.”

Listen to the episode On Rear Vision, Annabelle Quince traces the history of the tense relationship between Iran and America.

Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St Andrews, says though there was a “Cold War narrative in the background”, the coup had a “very hard-nosed corporate aspect to it”.

“The Americans had a fairly sophisticated network already in Iran, prepared really for Cold War reasons,” she says.

“Basically they had set up a network of agents and others that were there, meant to be, in case of a Soviet attack.

“They then turned this network against the domestic government.”

Mobs were paid, police and soldiers were bribed, and the prime minister was driven from office. The Shah of Iran was reinstated.

A staunch ally

“After Mosaddegh is overthrown, the United States now takes a major interest in Iranian oil, in a way that they didn’t have before,” Mr Khalil says.

“In this consortium that’s created after the coup, the United States now takes something in the area of 40 per cent of the profits.”

Mr Byrne says the Shah “clearly felt he owed his remaining in power to the US”, and the Americans in turn felt they now had a loyal partner in the region.

Over the years, the US pumped a lot of money into the Shah’s regime, and he was promoted in the Western press as a staunch ally. The Shah even received an honorary degree from Harvard.


The Shah of Iran alongside Queen Elizabeth at Victoria Station during a state visit in London, in 1959. (Getty: Popperfoto)

“By the late 1960s, early 1970s, the United States decides effectively, because it’s bogged down in the war in Vietnam, that it really can’t maintain its interests around the globe,” Mr Khalil says.

In what became known as the Nixon doctrine, the US effectively deferred to local allies to contain the Soviets.

The Shah and Iran became “the regional policemen for the Persian Gulf”.

At the same time, coinciding with increasing oil prices, Iran started importing arms from the US at a massive scale.

“The Shah is buying all kinds of advanced weapons from the United States, his defence budget increases something like 800 per cent over four or five years,” Mr Khalil says.

“At the same time that’s causing a lot of instability in Iran economically. There is high inflation, there’s a big push from the rural areas into urban areas, there’s a lot of dislocation”.

The Shah was also becoming increasingly repressive.

“This is effectively an autocratic police state. Those who spoke out were often arrested or tortured. If you were lucky you got out,” Mr Khalil says.

Much of that was pushed under the rug by the US, which had come to rely on the Shah, Mr Khalil says.

Through the latter part of the 1970s, opposition to the Shah’s rule increased dramatically.

The turning point

Mass protests eventually erupted into a revolution in 1979, and the Shah fled to America.

“Things begin to unravel very, very quickly and the Americans are left between a rock and a hard place,” Professor Ehteshami says.

“Whether they support this transitional government of Shapour Bakhtiar that the Shah had put in place, or whether they try and reach out to the opposition and therefore undermine the government of Iran.”


Demonstrators burn pictures of the Shah outside the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. (Getty: Kaveh Kazemi)

Iranians then began to demand the return of the Shah, so he could be prosecuted.

“I think this is the turning point in the worsening relations,” Professor Ehteshami says.

“The Americans are honour-bound to come to the rescue of an ailing, ill ally of decades, and as they do, then we begin to see the Iranians take a much, much harder line.”

‘Somewhere near the impact of 9/11’

The American reluctance to return the Shah caused outrage, and led to a hostage situation at the US embassy.

Some 400 armed students took 52 diplomats hostage, demanding the return of the Shah, who was undergoing cancer treatment.

The crisis lasted for 444 days.

“From then on, this sense of suspicion has never really gone away,” Professor Ehteshami says.

“Iranians now are convinced that America is against the revolution and that they are doing anything and everything it can to undo the revolution.”


The British and US flags are burned outside the former US embassy in Tehran in 2014, marking 35 years since Islamist students stormed the compound. (Getty: Atta Kenare)

Mr Byrne says it is hard to overstate the impact of the hostage crisis, which “sent shudders throughout the American public”.

“It might not have been as great an impact as 9/11 but it’s somewhere near there,” he says.

“We lost our big ally in the region. The Soviets seem to be taking advantage of all this.

“But then on top of that there is the undeniable breach of international law and moral and ethical behaviour of … going into sovereign territory and [taking] innocent civilians, as they were seen, hostage.”

During the 1980s, the war between Iran and Iraq isolated Iran from the international community, most of whom were supporting and even arming Iraq.

In the 1990s there were attempts on both sides for some form of dialogue, but they didn’t amount to much.

How likely is a US-Iran conflict? US-Iran tensions are on the rise. Here’s what that could mean for Australia, the region and world oil prices.

In 2001, when the September 11 terrorist attack devastated the US, Iran again reached out.

“The Iranian population are very much in sympathy with the Americans here. Iranians are very keen to highlight that their brand of Islam, Shi’ism, had not unleashed this terror on American soil,” Professor Ansari says.

“But that didn’t really cut much mustard with the Americans, and the Americans began to brush all Muslims as antagonistic and hostile.

“And again, very soon after that, President Bush invades Afghanistan, and two years later in March 2003, the new doctrine of pre-emptive strikes and Bush’s allies in the administration begin to talk about Iran being the next target.

“And this is terrifying, sitting in Tehran, and it is made much, much worse when President Bush declares that Iran, Iraq and North Korea are this so-called axis of evil.”

From Obama to Trump

During the Obama administration, a nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, including America.

“When a more accommodationist approach is taken, as we saw under Obama in the second term, it opens up a window for the reformists to emerge, and that’s effectively what we get when we get the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Mr Byrne says.

The US has since withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, and adopted what Mr Byrne calls a “more confrontational approach”.

“Not just in terms of rhetoric but of openly adopting a regime change policy by the Trump administration,” he says.

“It’s again weakened the reformers in Iran, it’s allowed the hardliners to basically say ‘we told you so, we told you they couldn’t be trusted’.”


President Donald Trump announces the withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. (Getty: The Washington Post)

Professor Ansari says “of course there are moderates in Iran” — but a lot of them are in prison.

“Those moderates were crushed,” she says.

“Power at the moment is invested in the Supreme Leader and with the Revolutionary Guard and these are really the two axes that operate.”

Professor Ehteshami says there were three fundamental reasons for Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal.

The first? Internal pressures from “people in his administration [with an] inherent hostility towards the [Islamic] Republic”.

The second, he says, is that Mr Trump is “incredibly hostile to anything that the Obama administration achieved”.

“And if this was President Obama’s biggest achievement internationally, then Trump was bound to go after it and to dismantle it,” Professor Ehteshami says.

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Rear Vision puts contemporary events in their historical context, answering the question: “How did it come to this?”

The third factor, he says, is pressure from the region itself.

“When Trump comes to power, the Arab spring is turned into an Arab winter. There are bushfires in Syria, in Libya, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Yemen and elsewhere in the region,” he says.

“America’s interests are endangered, and Iran is seen by America’s allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, as the main beneficiary of Arab uprisings.

“And the more Iran is involved in Syria, the more it is involved in Yemen, the more it supports the Shias in Bahrain and inside Arabia and in Iraq, the more fearful and hostile America’s allies in the region get. And while they felt that Obama did not have a listening ear, in Trump they found a willing ally in not just containing Iran but to try and roll back Iran’s influence.

“And so when you get those three, inevitably Trump’s strategy of an aggressive reaction to Iran wins the day.”

So where to from here?


President Vladimir Putin has a strategy for Iran and sticks to it, says Professor Ansari. (Getty: Mikhail Svetlov )

Professor Ansari would like to see people in the West “taking the problem of Iran much more seriously”.

“I think people should focus on the issue of Iran and say where do we want to be in 10 years’ time, where do we want to be in 20 years’ time and how are we planning to get there?” he says.

“Our problem in the West has been that largely we’ve tended to be very reactive, we haven’t really had the patience to deal with this as a strategic issue, which I have to say the Russians do.

“I mean, the one advantage of Putin, as unpleasant as he is, is that certainly for those rulers in the Middle East is he seems to have a strategy and he sticks to it, whereas the West seems to be at sixes and sevens about what it’s planning to do and doesn’t really have a plan.”

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘They don’t pay real money out’: Geoffrey would lose $160 in 10 minutes from his phone

Sydney 2000

It took only a few weeks before Geoffrey Pelham became hooked playing games on the Big Fish Casino app where he would spend $800 in a matter of minutes.

Every day, the 58-year-old would spend at least an hour playing virtual slot machine games on his mobile phone.

“They give you free chips when you first sign up to suck you in,” the Perth-based fly-in-fly-out miner told the ABC.

Once the chips ran out, he had to start paying.

“I used to pay $160 for 80 million chips and then lose it all in 10 minutes,” he said.

All up he said he spent thousands on the game and won nothing in return.

“They don’t pay real money out. All you do is win virtual chips,” he said.


The app-based games simulate casino games such as blackjack, roulette and slot machines. (ABC News)

Market growing as gambling declines

Games like Big Fish Casino are not traditional gambling — they’re part of an unregulated grey area known as “social casinos”.

The app-based products simulate casino games such as blackjack, roulette and slot machines but players can never cash out their virtual chips for money.

While social casinos are relatively new, it has become a multibillion-dollar industry.

Australian are the world’s biggest gambling losers per capita, losing more than $1,200 every year.

According to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Australian spent a total of $25 billion on gambling in 2017-2018.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Dr Christopher Hunt from the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment Clinic said social casino games appeared to be increasing rapidly in Australia, while participation in traditional forms of gambling was declining rapidly.

“Some of these games are being played by people in their spare time, like on the bus or on their way to work,” he said.

“A lot of companies that have previously focused on traditional forms of gambling are moving into more internet-based and social media types of gambling.”

In 2017, Australian gaming giant Aristocrat bought the Seattle-based Big Fish Games digital arm for $1.3 billion.


Geoffrey Pelham says he would sink $800 in a matter of minutes buying chips. (ABC News)

Legal grey zone

Online casino games are illegal in Australia but social casinos fall into a grey area.

They are classified as entertainment so are not subject to any gambling regulations.

Independent Federal MP Andrew Wilkie wants that changed, and said he would push the Federal Government to act this year.

“This is gambling and anyone who tries to tell you it’s not is wrong,” Mr Wilkie said.

“In my opinion, these should be regulated in Australia in exactly the same way as mainstream online casino games and that’s to ban them.”

Aristocrat refused to comment, instead referring the ABC to the International Social Games Association (ISGA).

ISGA chief executive Luc Delaney argued social casino games were “purely for entertainment”.

Mr Delaney said despite heavy scrutiny in recent times, no new regulation of social casino-themed games had been adopted — either under gambling or consumer protection laws.

“That’s because casino-themed social games offer no opportunity to win money, or anything of value.

“Video games, including social games, fall under a range of consumer protection regulations as do all forms of digital entertainment, which we believe is appropriate.”

Geoff still plays the slot machine games using free chips Big Fish Casino occasionally gives him.

But he says he never pays to play any more.

“I’m glad I saw the light a couple of years ago.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Can Morrison live down his George W Bush moment?


Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The damage was estimated at $US100 billion, and more than 1,000 people are thought to have died.

When it struck, US President George W Bush was on vacation on his ranch in Texas. The two days it took for him to decide to cut short the vacation and return to Washington was a disaster of a different kind.

It was not just a political disaster for Bush, but a disaster for public confidence in the agencies responding to the storm.

Blame games erupted between Washington and state and local authorities about why the response was so slow.


A decision to publish this picture of George W Bush surveying some of the Hurricane Katrina damage from Air Force One backfired badly. (Reuters: Mannie Garcia)

A decision to publish a picture of him surveying some of the damage from Air Force One backfired badly.

“That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.

“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Some analysts say Bush’s reputation never recovered.


Protesters give the thumbs down to US president George W Bush’s motorcade in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Reuters: Lee Celano)

As people yell at the Prime Minister when he visits their devastated communities, or howl for his blood on social media, the story of Bush’s failure to immediately recognise a catastrophe and the urgent need for leadership it represented tells us what problems are created by Scott Morrison’s perplexing failures of political and policy judgement in recent weeks.

People are frightened and angry. Some have lived through a fire or just faced the anxiety of trying to evacuate family through massive traffic jams.

Video: Scott Morrison forces Zoey Salucci McDermott to shake his hand in Cobargo

(ABC News)

They may have faced shortages of food and fuel and/or several days without power and communications.

Such people tend to lose their faith in the capacity of governments to comprehend, let alone respond, to a crisis like this that is likely to continue for at least some months.

Nobody cares about Morrison’s problems

A Prime Minister who clearly felt on the backfoot after his trip to Hawaii spent several days defending that decision and then too much oxygen defending how much preparedness was already in place, and protesting too much that he was but a servant of the states.

Nobody cares about the Prime Minister’s problems when their house is under threat, or they feel their lives are in danger. They want to know what is being done to help them.

Video: A group of Cobargo residents vent their anger at the Prime Minister.

(ABC News)

Morrison’s language has gradually started to reflect this: a press conference in Bairnsdale on Friday saw him talk more, for example, of the Federal Government’s role in rebuilding East Gippsland.

But the scale of this ongoing catastrophe — which on Thursday saw the one of the biggest peacetime evacuations in our history — and its likely length, means the Prime Minister and his Government will be daily confronting the realities of climate change in their response, however much they continue to choke on the words.

How climate change has impacted the world since your childhood
Global warming is already changing the world before our eyes — let’s see what has happened in your lifetime, and what’s in store for your future.

These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians, not something that we can put off to the future.

To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.

For starters, that poses big problems for all those glib “meet it and beat it” responses to climate change questions by Morrison and his ministers.

It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget.


It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget. (Supplied: DELWP Gippsland)

And politically, all the accounting tricks with emissions and targets, and boasts about meeting international targets in 2030, don’t mean anything to anyone here anymore.

Parroting references only blocks the focus

Realistically, if our climate change “debate” was able to be weaned off whatever hallucinogenic drugs it has been on for the past decade, it would wake up in 2020 facing a very different balance of demands.

Yes, the ongoing war about reducing emissions will continue. But perhaps now equally important and urgent are the difficult policy and leadership questions about adapting to climate change.

How spending $200 a year could help prevent climate change
On average, Australians are willing to chip in an extra $200 a year to prevent climate change. It turns out that money could go a long way.

The parrot-like references to “meeting and beating” targets has been very effective at blocking any real focus on what policies the Government claims are actually driving this emissions reduction miracle without any pain to anybody.

When you look, it turns out that the policy cupboard is pretty bare. The Government’s quarterly figures on what has driven emissions lists figures without any real obvious help from government policy.

For example, in the most recent report released late last year, one major factor helping drive an emissions estimate that had been revised down was “the agriculture sector — due to floods in early 2019 and the ongoing effects of the drought”.

Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday that what the Government is focused on is “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations, recognising that we are, as a planet, seeing climate change and we need to be part of the global solution, which we are”.

“We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure there is a smooth transition across the economy. But in the most cost-effective way,” he said.


Josh Frydenberg said the Government was focused on “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations”. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Really, Josh? It’s just on 18 months ago that you appeared at the National Press Club in your then capacity as environment and energy minister.

Even then, doing something about emissions had to be snuck in to the entrails of a policy pitched as driving energy prices down while increasing energy reliability: the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

Politicians need the fortitude to stand up

The NEG, despite its limited ambitions, received widespread support.

“Governments at all levels and parties of all persuasions must put ideology aside and work together to put the national interest first,” you said that day at the Press Club.

“The National Energy Guarantee is our chance to secure a lasting consensus. We must not miss this opportunity to deliver a more-affordable, more-reliable and lower-emission energy system for Australia.”

Except your party did.

In its place, you put a range of Mickey Mouse policies like the Climate Solutions Fund which purchase miniscule amounts of reductions through things like forestry sequestration that will take decades to have any effect.


These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians. (Unsplash: Markus Spiske)

And you are relying on things happening like the take-up of electric vehicles which your party so cheerfully slagged off at the last election.

The real test, however, may not be on what the Government does on cutting emissions, but on how it leads us to confront the sorts of brutal adaptations current events show us we now face: not just the immediate effects of disasters, but the questions they raise like building standards, towns that governments will not able to afford to rebuild, and communities that have run out of water.

These are decisions which various levels of government will have to make together and support each other on.

And have the fortitude to stand and explain to people, not simply walk away.

Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘It’s tough’: Nick Kyrgios breaks down in tears over bushfires, leads Australia to ATP Cup win

Brisbane 4000

Nick Kyrgios sent Australia on their way to a maiden ATP Cup win over Germany before breaking down in tears as he talked about the nation’s bushfire crisis.

Australia v Germany

  • Nick Kyrgios (AUS) def Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
  • Alex de Minaur (AUS v Alexander Zverev (GER)
  • Chris Guccione / John Peers (AUS) v Kevin Krawietz / Andreas Mies (GER)

The Canberran had just defeated German world number 35 Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), pounding down 20 aces along the way, which will see him give $4,000 to the bushfire appeal, as he has pledged to give $200 per ace for the summer.

But when he was asked about it in his post-match interview, the 24-year-old Australian shed a tear.

“I don’t really care about the praise too much,” Kyrgios said.

“We [tennis players] got the ability and the platform to do something, my home town is Canberra and we’ve got the most toxic air in the world at the moment, that’s pretty sad.

“It’s tough, sorry,” Kyrgios said as he broke down.

External Link:

@ATPCup: "It's pretty sad, it's tough. @NickKyrgios speaks about the bushfires in Australia after his win over Struff in #Brisbane.

“It’s all going to all the families, firefighters, animals, everyone who is losing homes, losing families — it’s a real thing. It’s bigger than tennis.”

Kyrgios had earlier broken Struff down in a dominant display to give Australia a 1-0 lead in the tie.

He kicked off his own serving for the match with an ace and was praised by team captain Lleyton Hewitt for the display.

“Nick came out and played fantastic right from the start, unbelievable serving display,” Hewitt said.


Nick Kyrgios was not shy of trying some trademark acrobatic shots in his ATP Cup match. (AP: Tertius Pickard)

Kyrgios displayed his usual flair for dramatic shotmaking, even if his attempt at a tweener failed to clear the net, while De Minaur displayed great heart.

The 20-year-old Australian roared back from one set to love down to beat world number seven Alexander Zverev for the first time in five meetings.

De Minaur looked to be on the ropes after dropping the first set but he managed to doggedly hold on, saving three of four points in the second set to force a tie-break which he took 7-3 as Zverev’s serve faltered.

External Link:

ATP Cup tweet: .@NickKyrgios secures #TeamAustralia's first-ever #ATPCup match win def. Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 7-6(4). #AUSGER #Brisbane

The German star had experienced issues with his serve late last year, specifically at the US Open and it again hampered him in his first match of 2020 as he coughed up 14 double faults for the match, half of which came during the second set.

It was in many ways a capitulation from the German, who destroyed a racket after seemingly having had De Minaur on the rack, when leading by a set and a break at 4-2 in the second set.

But De Minaur channelled team captain Hewitt in his hey day and dug deep, forcing Zverev to put him away, and when he held serve to be 3-4 down, the Aussie captain told him he was “in this match”.

The Australian world number 18 managed to get the break back from the German world number 7 and took the second set in a tie-break.

Zverev, fighting his own mental demons, waned and the Australian only got stronger and roared out to a 4-0 final set lead before eventually taking the match and the tie for Australia with a 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) 6-2 victory.

De Minaur then revealed post-match that he was spurred on by the haunting memories of a 2018 Davis Cup singles loss to Zverev, where the Australian had led two sets to one before losing in five.

“The win is definitely up there for me,” De Minaur said.

“I had a battle that was in the back of my mind from my Davis Cup debut where a tough five set match got away from me, so this one feels great.

Chris Guccione and John Peers then made it a 3-0 sweep over the Germans, with a 6-3, 6-4 doubles win over Kevin Krawiets and Andreas Mies.

Australia will next play Davis Cup finalists Canada on Sunday, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas’s Greece 3-0 earlier on Friday in Brisbane.

The top team from all six pools, plus the two next-best teams, will progress to the quarter-finals in Sydney later next week.

The new team tournament features matches in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

In other ties on Friday he United States were surprise losers, going down 2-1 to Norway after Casper Ruud beat John Isner in three sets and the doubles pairing of Ruud and Viktor Durasovic beat Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 in a match that went to a deciding match tie-break.

Belgium had a clean sweep over Moldova 3-0.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Son of fallen firefighter, dummy in mouth, receives his dad’s bravery award: Australia’s bushfire crisis in pictures


As bushfires continue to rage across swathes of Australia, harrowing scenes of apocalyptic red skies have become embedded in the national consciousness.

But for all of the devastation there has also been a resounding resilience, from fire-affected communities through to first responders and those they leave behind.

While the battle is far from over, with authorities warning conditions could worsen into the weekend, these are some of the photos that have captured the heart of the crisis to date.

Fallen firefighter farewelled in moving tribute


A funeral was held for Geoffrey Keaton on Thursday. (NSW RFS)

It was the heart-wrenching moment a young boy, still sucking his pacifier, was forced to farewell his father for the last time.

The son of Geoffrey Keaton, a volunteer firefighter who was tragically killed last month, received a posthumous medal for bravery honouring his dad.

Mr Keaton and his colleague, Andrew O’Dwyer, died when their fire tanker rolled after being hit by a tree in Sydney’s south-west less than a week before Christmas.

Dressed in a miniature Rural Fire Service uniform, little Harvey was awarded a posthumous Commendation for Bravery and Service by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at Mr Keaton’s funeral on Thursday.

Child steers family to safety


Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday. (Supplied: Via Twitter @Nic_Asher)

The striking image of a young boy steering his family to safety through blood-red skies garnered headlines across the country — and for good reason.

Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday.

Ms Marion said she was taking the photo “to record our story for our family”.

But the image has since been shared across news sites and newspapers as a dramatic visual of the impact the fires are having on Australian towns.

Community spirit is alive and well


Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA). (Facebook: Erin Lehman)

As emergency services race to save properties across Victoria and New South Wales, and authorities warn conditions could worsen into the weekend, those in fire-affected communities have been quick to show their gratitude.

Mallacoota resident Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA), while those in Tahmoor, in New South Wales, left a “little message to all the bombers in the sky”.


A thank you message left for NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers in Tahmoor. (Facebook: Beau Bromley)

“The conditions those pilots are flying in all day and the RFS on the ground you are all legends,” wrote Beau Bromley, who took the photo of a thank you message scrawled across a rooftop.

“And once this is all over [you] deserve more than one beer.”

The story hits closer to home

Matt Roberts, a photographer for the ABC, took these photos of his sister’s property, which was lost in the fires.
(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

ABC photographer Matt Roberts is used to being behind the camera, but he couldn’t have anticipated his family would soon be a part of the story.

While covering the aftermath of the fires in Quaama on New Year’s Day, Roberts discovered the burnt remnants of his sister’s home.

“My kids loved visiting. I found her late today,” he tweeted, alongside before and after shots of the property.

“Her young family is safe but unsure what to do next.”

Emergency services don’t stop for the holidays


Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country. (NSW RFS)

While the vast majority of Australia may have come to a standstill to enjoy the Christmas festivities, fires unfortunately don’t play by the same rules.

Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country.

They appear to have taken the predicament in their stride, however, with one crew from NSW opting for a chainsaw instead of a knife to cut a gingerbread house.

Australia’s wildlife fights to survive


A kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month. (NSW RFS via Adam Stevenson)

Australia’s fauna may be renowned around the globe, but it’s made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom, while a kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month.

“My last day of the decade felt like the apocalypse,” photographer Matthew Abbott, who captured the kangaroo’s escape, tweeted on Wednesday.

“Been covering the Australian bushfires for the last 6 weeks, but haven’t seen anything like yesterday’s fire that decimated the town of Conjola, NSW.”

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom.
(The Guardian)

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Would you be prepared to be turned into compost when you die?


In Australia, interment in a cemetery or a churchyard has been the most common choices for in-ground burial.

Over the past 20 years, though, burial has become a less accessible and more costly option for many people.

This is because increasing numbers of deaths have created a boom in demand for burial plots and cemeteries are fast running out of space.

Since the 1950s, cremation has gained in popularity. But, although a majority of Australians who died last year were cremated, it is far from sustainable.

Each cremation releases about 50 kilograms of CO2 as well as toxins into the atmosphere.

The Australian way of dealing with death clearly needs to change, but arriving at solutions is a far more complicated matter.


Each cremation releases about 50 kilograms of CO2 as well as toxins into the atmosphere. (ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons)

Some people believe composting burial might provide one answer. Also known as “natural organic reduction“, composting burial is the brainchild of Katrina Spade, CEO of alternative burial company Recompose.

The process involves decomposition of the corpse in soil — but not within a traditional cemetery.

How does it work?

The first step in the process of composting burial is to place the body into a vessel containing a mix of soil, wood chips, straw and alfalfa.

As decomposition begins, microbial activity creates heat. This speeds things up and eliminates germs from the mix.

When a city runs out of space
As our cities become more congested, Kate Ryan and Christine Steinmetz argue it is time to rethink where and how we bury our dead.

Over time the body is transformed into soil — around 760 litres of it. A portion of this soil will be returned to relatives for scattering, to make a memorial garden, or to use in public greening projects.

A pilot interment program conducted by Washington State University showed the process takes about four weeks.

This is a big difference to traditional burial. It can take up to hundreds of years before a grave can be reused.

The state of Washington recently legalised composting burial.

The next step is implementation and Recompose has paired with architecture firm Olson Kundig to design the world’s first facility for composting burial in Seattle. It has 75 vessels.

If these are reused every four weeks, the facility could process about 900 burials per year.

How does the cost compare?

These recent developments pave the way for its possible introduction in Australia. However, many questions remain to be answered.

Is it really a more affordable or sustainable option than traditional modes of bodily disposal?

What’s the greenest way to deal with your body after you die?
About 70 per cent of Australians are cremated and the rest buried, but there are other options. So how do the environmentally friendly options stack up?

In 2019, Australian Seniors’ Cost of Death Report found the average cost of a basic burial is $8,048. A basic cremation costs $3,108 on average.

However, the cost of an individual burial depends on where you live. Exclusive beachside locales command the highest prices for burial real estate.

And, if you’re an Australian pensioner with no savings who has lived your whole life in the inner city, you’re going to struggle to afford a burial plot in your neighbourhood.

When the Recompose facility opens in 2021 in Seattle, composting burial will be on offer for about USD$5,500 ($8,000) — about the same as a basic traditional burial in Australia.

The costs might come down if the practice becomes widespread.

However, the technology is likely to be covered by patent. This means licensing agreements would limit its adoption.

So, in the short term at least, composting burial is likely to be marketed towards those on average to high incomes.

Honouring the dead

Perhaps the main benefit of composting burial is the flexibility of having remains that are not attached to a traditional grave site.

If you want to be buried in a particular place that holds personal meaning for you, but don’t mind being decomposed in a building, composting burial may allow this to happen.

An artist’s impression of the proposed decomposition vessel in Seattle.
(Olson Kundig)

Of course, local bylaws that govern the disposal of human remains in public places will continue to play an important role.

Related to this is an underexplored potential for composting burial businesses to partner with government, private industry, non-profit organisations and local councils to create memorial parks where “human soils” might be interred.

A drawback to this could be squeamishness in the community about playing frisbee on top of grandpa.

A greener alternative

Another potential benefit of composting burial is its sustainability. Founder Katrina Spade claims a metric ton of CO2 will be saved every time someone chooses composting burial over traditional burial or cremation.

When seen in this light, composting burial makes more environmental sense than cremation. But, just like buying organic fruit, sustainability comes at a premium.

The case for a natural burial
Pam Thorne spends a lot of time contemplating her deaths. She is battling cancer and has already decided a natural burial is “definitely the smartest option” for her.

Beneath the practical considerations of space, cost and sustainability are the less visible questions about change and community resistance to burial practices that are new and confronting.

It will take a lot to abandon traditional mourning practices that celebrate ideas of permanence, attachment to the grave and the notion of the loved one resting in an earthbound coffin.

There is hope, though, that composting burial will gain in appeal as a way of maintaining these important connections to traditional burial.

By respecting each person’s desire to be returned after death to a place of their choosing, composting burial offers an intriguing and sensitive alternative.

Emma Sheppard-Simms is a PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania’s School of Architecture and Design. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Locals confront PM in town where father and son perished in bushfire


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been confronted by angry residents in the bushfire-hit town of Cobargo in New South Wales.

Key points:

  • Scott Morrison said Australians should have confidence in state emergency services and show “patience” and “calm”
  • Anthony Albanese is arguing that Australia needs to have more ambitious emissions-reduction targets
  • One person told Mr Morrison he should be “ashamed of himself” and he had “left the country to burn” during a tour of the burnt-out town of Cobargo

Two people died near the Bega Valley town when it was hit by a raging bushfire early on New Year’s Eve.

Visiting the town on Thursday to meet emergency services workers and offer his support to bushfire victims, the PM found himself confronted by a group of angry locals.

One person told Mr Morrison he should be “ashamed of himself” and said he had “left the country to burn”.

“You’re a mutt ScoMo,” they yelled.

“I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment,” Mr Morrison told the ABC after the confrontation.

“That’s why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself [and] offer what comfort I could.

“I understand the strong feelings people have; they’ve lost everything. There’s been a lot of emotion … and I understand that emotion.”

Mr Morrison’s visit came as authorities warned conditions in the NSW and Victorian firegrounds on Saturday could be as bad as those on New Year’s Eve.

Video: Scott Morrison responds to the hostile reception he received from some in Cobargo

(ABC News)

New South Wales will enter a state of emergency on Friday morning as tourists are ordered to get out of a 14,000-square-kilometre area between Nowra and the edge of Victoria’s northern border.

Many evacuees are struggling to find fuel while there are long queues outside supermarkets and shops.

Across the border in Victoria, the Navy has been called in to help evacuate the town of Mallacoota, which was ravaged by fires on New Year’s Eve.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and eight people are known to have died.

Mr Morrison is set to meet with the National Security Committee of Cabinet on Monday to discuss the ongoing response to the bushfire crisis.

Asked whether his response to the crisis was adequate, the Prime Minister said now was a time to remain calm.

“This isn’t about prime ministers, premiers, mayors, politics, it’s about the people that need the help and the resources on the ground,” he said at a briefing in the fire-ravaged town of Cobargo.

“That’s the only thing that has my focus and attention.”

‘We cannot control the natural disaster but what we can do is control our response’

Video: Scott Morrison said the Cabinet's National Security Committee would meet on Monday.

(ABC News)

Earlier Mr Morrison told the public the best way to respond was “the way that Australians have always responded to these events” and to have confidence in state emergency services.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

“What we are saying is we cannot control the natural disaster, but what we can do is control our response,” he said.

“What we can do is support those who are out there putting themselves at risk by showing the patience and the calm that is necessary.”

However, he did confirm the National Security Committee of Cabinet would meet on Monday to address “contingencies” required for the current fire season “as well as the longer-term response and some issues we have identified to consider amongst premiers after the fires”.

“We are considering every option because we know the fire season still has a long time to run and particularly now as we are calling in more ADF [Australian Defence Force] assets to deal with this,” he said.

Growing climate concern

The bushfires have already proven a lightning rod for concern around the warming climate and more criticism of Federal Government policy exploded on Thursday.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the bushfires were “certainly not business as usual” and as a national emergency, the situation should prompt a more ambitious response to emissions reduction.

“Here’s the contradiction in the Government’s position — they say, ‘Oh, well, we’re just 1.3 per cent of [global] emissions, therefore we don’t have a responsibility to act, it won’t really make a difference’,” he said.

“But the truth is that if everyone says that, of course, no-one will act.”

Video: Mr Albanese said Australia had a responsibility to act on climate change.

(ABC News)

At a press conference in Sydney, Mr Morrison defended his Government’s response to the fires and pledged to “meet and beat” Australia’s emission reduction targets.

He highlighted the Federal Government’s role in supporting those affected through disaster relief payments and the deployment of defence force assets.

And he reiterated the need to find a balance between a “vibrant and viable economy, as well as a vibrant and sustainable environment”.

“The suggestion that there is a single policy, whether it be climate or otherwise, can provide a complete insurance policy on fires in Australia, well I don’t think any Australian has ever understood that was the case in this country,” he said.

Young Liberals in climate push

A call for a fresh approach to emission reductions emerged from within the Coalition’s support base on Thursday.

The NSW Young Liberals called for a “policy framework” that provides more certainty in the market and encourages investment in more efficient technology — including incentives for businesses and households to reduce their emissions.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison said no single policy can provide “a complete insurance policy” on fires in Australia. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and action on climate change,” said NSW Young Liberal president Chaneg Torres.

“The Young Liberal movement fully supports the Prime Minister and believes he is doing a really good job at the moment, he’s doing his best.

“But from our point of view as young people, we see it as particularly pertinent to us and we just want to encourage the Government to be thinking about the future generations.”

Last month, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean broke ranks with his Liberal colleagues in Canberra, demanding more action be taken on climate change.

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Documents reveal ‘extreme and ill-advised’ secret plan to take land along the Ghan line

Darwin 0800

Federal cabinet documents kept secret for 20 years have revealed plans to create new laws to take land from Aboriginal people in the way of a proposed 1,400-kilometre rail line through the Northern Territory.

Key points:

  • The newly released documents show criticism against the Ghan plan
  • Aboriginal groups said the move would be unfair to traditional owners
  • Papers also show statehood plans were in advanced stages 20 years ago

The ambitious rail line, taking freight and the Ghan passenger train between Australia’s southern and northern ports in Darwin and Adelaide, was eventually built without the laws pressing ahead.

But the cabinet-in-confidence documents from 1998, publicly released on Wednesday, show that then-prime minister John Howard had offered a green light to “introduce legislation to provide access to Aboriginal land along the route of the railway if there is a genuine and immediate need”.


Documents show Mr Howard was in favour of introducing the controversial legislation. (Andrew Sheargold: Reuters)

The documents also show both the then-federal and CLP Northern Territory governments were prepared for a fight with Aboriginal groups over the matter.

“It is likely the legislation may attract criticism from Aboriginal interests to the extent that it is perceived to diminish the rights of Aboriginal land owners,” the papers read.

“There may also be a risk of attempted constitutional challenge to the legislation.”

The papers showed that Mr Howard considered the rail link a “project of national significance” and confirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment of $165 million to the line, 20 per cent of which ran across Aboriginal land.

“The NT Government has indicated it is experiencing difficulties with obtaining access to Aboriginal-owned and claimed land along the proposed route of the railway and this could significantly delay or prevent construction of the railway,” the papers read.

Proposed laws slammed by ATSIC

The proposed laws to take land were slammed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) as “unnecessarily extreme”, “very unfair” and “ill-advised”, the documents show.


The contingency plan to acquire Aboriginal land was never enacted. (Tim Wimborne: Reuters)

“ATSIC does not support the recommendation to draft Commonwealth legislation to enable the NT to acquire all interests in land along the proposed route of the railway,” it reads.

“It is very unfair to Aboriginal traditional owners, who have not been consulted about this proposal, and will potentially be denied the ability to negotiate a fair agreement with the NT.

“[It] is an unnecessarily extreme response to the situation … [it] will provoke a strong negative reaction from Indigenous interests across Australia, and will renew public controversy over land rights only weeks after the Wik legislation has finally been settled.”


The 2004 journey was the first time in Australian history a passenger train crossed the continent from south to north. (Anna Sleath: ABC)

NT historian Alex Nelson said there “was no love lost between the land councils and the Northern Territory government of that time”.

“It was a major feature of Territory politics, was this divide between black and white essentially, and for much of that period … of self-government up to the end of the century, it worked in favour of the CLP,” he said.

The rail line eventually proceeded after an agreement was reached between the NT government and Aboriginal traditional owners, with the link between Alice Springs and Darwin completed in 2003.

In February 2004, the Ghan arrived in Darwin for the first time to great fanfare.

Statehood plans well-advanced by 1998

The documents also revealed how advanced planning was to create Australia’s seventh state.

Prime Minister Howard had voiced his “in-principle” position “that statehood should be granted to the Northern Territory subject to terms and conditions to be determined by the Federal Parliament”.

Why isn’t the Northern Territory a state?
We rifled through the NT’s weird and wacky history to see if we could get to the bottom of the ever-present question: Why isn’t the NT a state?

Among the conditions being debated, the papers show, were the ownership of uranium resources, how many senators should be allocated to the region, and whether the Ashmore and Cartier Islands should be incorporated into the federation’s newest state.

The future financial situation of the fledgling state was also taken into account.

“The granting of statehood should avoid imposing any additional financial burden on the Commonwealth,” the documents read.

A new state constitution for the Northern Territory had also been drafted and was contained in the newly-released cabinet papers, which ruled that Aboriginal customary law would be recognised as “a written law of the state”.

One year after Howard’s commitment, a statehood referendum held in the NT failed to garner the support of Territorians, with more than 51 per cent of the population voting against the proposal.

There has never been a second referendum held on the matter.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

New treatment for ‘silent’ heart attack survivors could make hearts stronger and repair scar tissue


People who suffer “silent” heart attacks could make dramatic recoveries under a new treatment that could also revolutionise the repair of scar tissue throughout the body, researchers say.

Key points:

  • A study at the University of Sydney’s Westmead Institute of Medical Research is using protein therapy to help repair scar tissue
  • The treatment is being developed for people who don’t know they’ve suffered a heart attack
  • Researchers are carrying out the study on pigs and have to induce heart attacks in them before injecting them with protein

A study of pigs given protein therapy after heart attacks found it lifted the animals’ chances of survival by 40 per cent.

The protein, derived from human blood, also made the damaged heart tissue grow back stronger and better able to carry blood vessels, according to the paper published in US journal Science Translational Medicine.

Associate Professor James Chong, from the University of Sydney’s Westmead Institute of Medical Research, said the findings were “really exciting” given how little modern medicine could do until now to “change scar for the better”.

“There’s a subset of patients that I treat quite regularly who either didn’t know they were having a heart attack or had a delay coming to the hospital,” Professor Chong, who led a team of researchers from across Australia and New Zealand, said.

“They live with very damaged hearts from a very large heart attack and they don’t have a lot of hope.

“There’s not many treatments that can regenerate the heart function, and we found that this protein therapy almost did that.”

Professor Chong said researchers hoped to commercialise their findings to begin human trials.

Irreversible damage from undetected heart attacked

The successful trial used pigs — which have hearts of a similar size to human hearts and beat at a similar rate — comes after more than a decade of work that began with mice and the assumption that researchers would use stem cells.

Instead, the breakthrough involved the protein known as rhPDGF-AB (recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor AB), which was grown in a laboratory dish and fed to pigs intravenously over seven days.


Repaired heart tissue in a pig under the microscope after protein therapy. (Supplied: Westmead Institute of Medical Research)

Professor Chong said while there were good current heart-attack treatments, this offered hope for many who suffer irreversible damage from undetected heart attacks.

In those cases, the scar tissue is weak and can lead to heart failure, with few drugs able to help.

“Most people are surprised that heart attacks often don’t feel like pain in the normal sense,” he said.

“It’s a chest discomfort or most commonly, people describe a heavy weight on their chest, sometimes it’s only arm discomfort or neck discomfort.

“So because of that, they don’t go to the hospital quickly, so we can’t restore blood flow to that section of heart and then that region of the heart dies.”

The study found a measure of heart function, left ventricular ejection fraction, was up 11 per cent in pigs that received rhPDGF-AB.

Professor Chong said it was possible the protein could regenerate other kinds of scar tissue, with implications for burns victims and those with other kinds of organ damage.

“Scar is seen as the bad guy quite often, and we can’t do a lot to make scar better, but scar is the way that most organs repair,” he said.

“People will know if you cut your skin, you get a scar forming and if you take a big gash out of your skin then [that] scar doesn’t heal that well.

“So if we could give something that creates a better scar, it could be potentially used for things as diverse as skin wounds, kidney scarring, liver scarring.

“[Those are] all possibilities that need to be tested. But we were very excited about what we found in the heart.”

The study found the protein therapy can also lower the chance of sudden death from dangerous heart rhythms known as ventricular tachycardia, a leading killer among those who have suffered heart attacks.

“That’s a big thing,” Professor Chong said, adding it could provide an alternative to implantable cardiac defibrillators.

“We are very encouraged about that as well and we’re doing specific studies to look at the mechanisms of that.”

Heart attacks induced in pigs

Like much medical research, the study raised issues around ethical treatment of animals.

To study how the pigs recovered, the researchers first had to induce heart attacks in them before injecting the protein into their veins.

Pioneering animal rights philosopher Peter Singer is among those who have said that harming animals for medical research that could save the lives of many people can be justified ethically if there is no alternative.

“Animal research is something that we need to do in medical research. We don’t take it lightly,” Professor Chong said.

“I’m a cardiologist, I treat humans and I try and create treatments for my own patients and before I come up with something, I need to know that it’s going to be safe.

“I don’t want to give it to my grandmother, [or] my mother, without knowing that it is safe.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Thousands of Australian expats face tax slug


Australian property owners living overseas have until the end of June to sell their homes if they want to avoid big capital gains tax bills.

For decades, Australians living abroad have been able to claim the capital gains tax (CGT) exemption on the family home.

Key points:

  • The Federal Government saw the controversial law pass through the Senate in early December
  • The change means thousands of Australian expats could be up for hefty capital gains tax bills
  • Tax experts argue the measure is draconian and may force expats to return to Australia and sell their homes before June 30

This exemption was available so long as the home was rented out for no more than six years at a time.

But in early December the Federal Government finally passed through the Senate its $581 million plan to change CGT arrangements for people living overseas.

The law basically eliminates the CGT exemption for Australian expatriates that has been in place since September 20, 1985.

It means that potentially thousands of Australians will be hit with capital gains tax if they sold their property while a resident overseas, and the tax bill will date back from the time the owner purchased their home, not the point at which they moved overseas.

For someone who purchased in the late 1980s, that could mean a hefty tax bill.

But under the law, foreign residents who already held property on May 9, 2017 will be able to claim the CGT main residence exemption, if they sell their property on or before June 30, 2020.

Policy’s ‘tortuous’ pathway towards becoming law

The changes, first flagged in the 2017-18 federal budget, had received much criticism from the expat community and their advisers, causing the Federal Government to delay the proposed measures until after the election.

But Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC News in July that proposed change “remains our Government’s policy” when asked if it would still proceed.

Expats could face big tax bills
A possible change to the capital gains tax main residence exemption for Aussies overseas has expats worried.

KPMG tax partner Mardi Heinrich said the policy measure’s pathway through the parliamentary process had been “tortuous”.

“The impact will fall on Australians living overseas currently, or in the future, who sell their Australian main residence while living overseas,” Ms Heinrich said.

“It will also apply to foreign nationals who buy a home in Australia to live in while working here, which they then sell after returning to their home country.”

“Furthermore, it will impact Australians who ordinarily live overseas and have their main residence overseas, but who come to reside in Australia for a temporary period.”

The Tax Institute’s senior tax counsel Bob Deutsch called it an “outrageous piece of legislation”.

“No one knows how many people are likely to be affected by these draconian measures, but it will certainly be in the thousands,” he wrote in a blog that he shared with ABC News.

“If we are genuine in wanting to build an agile, innovative workforce we have to do better than this.”

Atlas Wealth Management managing director Brett Evans said a high number of Australian expats would get caught out because many won’t be aware the previous six-year temporary absence rule was no longer applicable.

“In our daily discussions with Australian expats, very few people are aware of what has been proposed,” he said.

Exceptions for certain ‘life events’ apply

The Federal Government made some amendments to its original 2017 proposal that provide taxpayers with exceptions based on certain ‘life events’ such a terminal medical condition, death or divorce.

“The hardship relief will only apply where an individual has been a foreign resident for a period of six continuous years or less, and only in very limited and unfortunate circumstances,” Ms Heinrich said.

It would also be available if the resident moves back into their home before putting it on the market, she said.

Main tax changes individuals need to know
ABC News examines the main tax changes for individuals that the major political parties are proposing.

RSM Australia associate director, tax services, Tracey Dunn told ABC News the exemption was unclear in the case of a divorce.

“The legislation and the explanatory memorandum are silent on the impact on Australian tax residents who obtain the ownership interest in a dwelling from a former spouse who subsequently becomes a foreign resident,” Ms Dunn said.

She said if the property is not transferred in accordance with Tax Act, and the spouse transferring it is a foreign resident at the time of the transfer, the Australian resident spouse will only be eligible for a partial main residence exemption on the later sale of the property.

Meanwhile, the foreign resident transferring the property will be ineligible to claim the main residence exemption relating to their period of ownership and the ‘life event’ will not be covered by the Act, she said.

“This is an absurd outcome, particularly considering the dwelling may have been the family home for the entire period of ownership,” Ms Dunn said.

Taxpayers may have not kept records dating back to 1985

Robyn Jacobson, senior tax trainer at TaxBanter, who had been campaigning against the law, said despite the amendments based on certain life events, major problems existed.

She said the biggest issue was that most people had not kept adequate records about expenses related to property purchases that may date back to the late 1980s.

The taxes you owe when you die don’t go away
Australia doesn’t have a death tax, but someone has to pay your bills after you die

“The issue is that in calculating the capital gain it [the law] is based on the original cost base,” she said.

“And in many cases adequate record keeping will have not been maintained and people will not be able to establish what their cost base is,” Ms Jacobson added.

“This includes not just the original purchase price, but acquisition costs, holding costs and improvements to the family home.”

Ms Dunn was also concerned that many taxpayers would not have retained CGT records to properly work out their cost base.

“The Government repeatedly ignored calls to allow for a market value uplift for foreign residents on exiting Australia,” Ms Dunn said.

“Unless the Commissioner of Taxation uses his administrative powers to enable former residents to estimate the cost base of their property on a reasonable basis, many former Australians may be unfairly ‘over taxed’,” she said.

How the law change may apply

To demonstrate how the law change would impact expats, Mr Deutsch gave the example of a fictional couple, Elizabeth and Barry, who purchased a home in Melbourne in Elizabeth’s name on April 1, 1991 for $1.2 million.

In January 2019, Elizabeth gets offered a senior position in a bank in England on an initial two-year contract but renewable by joint agreement.

She accepts and the couple leave for England in April 2019, while renting out the property on a one-year lease.

High Court rules tax debts can be shifted between spouses
A High Court case has found that a tax debt of one spouse can be shifted to another during a divorce property settlement.

The job turns out to be a perfect fit and Barry has also found a job in England, so the couple decide to stay there permanently.

On April 1, 2021, the Melbourne property is sold for $4.6 million.

“As a result of the law, if Elizabeth is a foreign resident at the time of sale, which is likely on these facts, she will, quite absurdly, be denied the benefit of the main residence exemption,” Mr Deutsch said.

He said her capital gain based on one of two ways of assessing it, would be $1.8 million ($4.6 million minus $1.2 million reduced by 46.67 per cent).

An alternative, he said, would be for Elizabeth to have come back to Australia and re-establish her Australian residency for the sole purpose of allowing her to sell her property free of a CGT liability, or at the very least a reduced liability.

But he said this posed a “logistical nightmare” and raised a further question as to whether general anti-avoidance rules may apply.

“The scheme gives rise to a tax benefit in the form of an exemption which would not have applied but for her manoeuvre,” he said.

“All this can leave some advisers to expatriates like Elizabeth in quite some quandary as to what exactly is the best advice to give in such cases,” Mr Deutsch said.

“In addition, as Elizabeth will be taxed on the capital gain calculated using the original cost base, she will need to have kept accurate records of her purchase.”

He said this was unlikely given her property purchase dated back to 1991.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australia’s only underground hospital was built out of necessity — but never used

Mount Isa 4825

As World War II inched closer to Australia, miners in Queensland’s north-west volunteered their manpower to dig and fit out Australia’s first — and only — underground hospital.

Consisting of four tunnels, and only a stone’s throw from Mount Isa’s actual hospital, the underground structure was the town’s back-up plan should it be bombed like Darwin.

The threat was real, considering Mount Isa had its mine and plenty of valuable minerals nearby.


The tunnels are not far from Mount Isa’s actual hospital. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)

While the subterranean hospital was never utilised for its intended purpose, weekly drills involved staff relocating patients to the tunnels in preparation for an actual attack.

A maternity section and bassinets were in place, as was an area designated for emergency surgeries.

The tunnels began collapsing in the late 1970s but were repaired and have been open as a tourist attraction in 2001.


Ramona Markowski is one of the hospital’s many volunteer guides. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)

Knowing the history

One of the hospital’s many tour guides is Ramona Markowski, who has been volunteering for about four years after she moved to Mount Isa from the United States.

She said its “fascinating” story was a unique part of Australia’s history.

“It is the only underground hospital we have in Australia,” she said.

“Even though it was never used as a hospital, the nurses would come here after their shifts to sleep because it is so much cooler in the tunnels than it is outside.

“When it was built, the threat to Mount Isa seemed very real as the copper mine was seen as a strategic resource of great value to the Japanese.

“Reacting to the perceived risk of air raids, the director of the regional district hospital, Dr Edward Ryan, contacted the superintendent of the mine who offered the services of his company and his chief underground foreman to design and construct a series of tunnels to serve as an emergency underground hospital site.”


A collection of instruments and bottles found during the excavation of the hospital. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)

Building on their own time

Ms Markowski said local miners volunteered their time and completed the work in just two weeks between March and April 1942.

“The miners drilled, blasted and mucked out a series of four tunnels,” she said.

“Three run parallel to each other and the fourth intersects them, creating a capital E shape.”

“They had their supplies down there, the surgical tables were in place, and they did their drills every week — they were ready,” she added.

After the tunnels collapsed and two fires had burnt through them, a university team came to Mount Isa to reconstruct the hospital and, using wartime photos, replicate its original layout.

Now, tourists can walk through and see the incredible sight of an entire hospital system sitting in the side of a hill.


The hospital is full of historically accurate furnishings. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The one question every female sport presenter has been asked


Fifty sport journalists walk into a bar.

They all happen to be women.

They all have one question they are asked more than any other.

“Do you even like sport?”

Previously, I thought I was the only one. That it was just me, constantly quizzed and queried about the latest news across every code and league — international and domestic — as though one small stumble or error was proof I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Apparently, it’s far more universal.

Recently, I travelled to the US on a fellowship with the State Department to meet other women in this crazy whirlwind of an industry.


I met sports journalists from all around the world. (ABC News: Georgie Tunny)

While I never thought Australia was excessively progressive — especially its media landscape — in comparison to some of the stories I’d heard from my colleagues, we’re the Usain Bolt of equality.

Front runners.

Slapped. Ignored. Cut off

By comparison most of the women I was travelling with were “the first” or “the only” women in their respective newsrooms and commentary boxes.

In Australia, the likes of Debbie Spillane, Kelli Underwood and Mel Jones broke the ground I now glide across.


Kelli Underwood was the first woman to call AFL on television and radio. (ABC News)

But most of my new friends have had to fight incessantly to be heard and taken seriously.

And while I can relate, I’ve never had my microphone turned off mid-broadcast because “women don’t commentate”, like the delegate from Bangladesh.

Unlike the woman from Nigeria, no national coach has ever turned down an interview with me because he “doesn’t talk to women”.

I’ve also never had to enclose a bikini-clad photograph of myself with my application for a World Cup posting, as my new friend from El Salvador did.

Nor have I been slapped across the face by a footballer playing for the Algerian national team because he had an issue with my publication.

A new era? Sort of
It’s never been a better time to be a woman in sport, if you don’t mind the sexism, writes Kate O’Halloran.

In the #MeToo era, rally cries for women’s empowerment and equality are loud. And yes, they’ve been echoing in the sports media for years.

But perhaps they should be louder. More targeted. More concentrated. More veracious.

Because I met 47 women, from 47 different countries, whose voices have grown hoarse.

They are sick of being judged for the way they look.

They are beyond frustrated at having to work harder and longer than some of their male counterparts, just to be considered “credible”.

They are impatient for the presence of women in power positions.

But they are ever hopeful things can change.

How many female coaches can you name?

I have been fortunate in my career to have had both men and women lift me up and tear me down.

I have not had special treatment and I would never expect it.

We’re constantly told in Australia, “You can’t be it, if you don’t see it”. And off the back of this, we’ve seen the deserved rise and recognition of our female athletes, including most recently the FFA’s historic equal pay scheme for the Matildas and Cricket Australia’s new maternity leave policy.


The Matildas have consistently out-performed the Socceroos on the world stage. (Supplied: Paul Smith)

But how many female coaches can you name?

Now, how many of those coaches oversee traditional “men’s sports”?

It’s not only the sport journalism arena where a woman’s perceived use has a structured limit. It’s backstage, too.

There are hundreds of men and women working tirelessly behind the scenes of the biggest clubs and the largest news organisations at a national and international level.

My point is you’re likely to only know the male names.

And that’s as heartbreaking as it is frustrating. Because it’s the fans who miss out when you don’t have a diverse group of voices championing and speaking for our wide sport offering.

Remember the delegate from Malaysia

My time in America has taught me that while there is always strength in numbers, progress is slow.

There’s no easy fix.

In fact, the most rational — and infuriating — solution is time itself.

Any kind of substantive, lasting change for the women I met is reliant upon wider cultural shifts.

For instance, my friend from Sri Lanka’s latest conundrum was how to convince her boss to send her on assignments when it would cost more than her male colleagues.

Not because she needed extra time or extra resources. But because a separate security team must travel with her to ensure her personal safety. At all times.

And don’t get me started on the additional budget and time required to get women in broadcast jobs up to a “presentable” standard.

The yearning for recognition and change is nothing new — from both a professional and personal perspective. But it was bloody nice to see each woman I met had survived similar battles. We’re a resilient bunch.


The trip to the US was eye-opening for many reasons. (ABC News: Georgie Tunny)

So, on the bad days, no matter what gender you may be or industry you work in, remember the delegate from Malaysia.

On her first day working as a sport journalist for her newspaper, her male colleagues took bets on how long she would last.

The longest was a meagre 12 months.

I’m proud to say she’s been a thorn in their sides for 22 years. And plans on digging deeper for another 22 yet.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Canberra chokes through hazardous smoke, as ACT records worst-ever air quality

Canberra 2600

As south-eastern Australia continues to burn amid the bushfire crisis, smoke has crossed the Tasman to shroud New Zealand, and Canberra has recorded unprecedented smoke pollution.

Key points:

  • Canberra’s air quality index is 23 times the hazardous rating, rivalling some of the worst in the world
  • Heavy smoke from the NSW and Vic bushfires is also blanketing New Zealand
  • The ACT Government says it is the worst air quality ever recorded in Canberra

Canberrans woke up to a new year with air quality more than 22 times the hazardous rating.

Smoke from the NSW South Coast bushfires blanketed the capital overnight, with Canberra’s south the hardest hit.

The 2:00pm air quality index reading in the ACT’s southern station at Monash was 4,650 — more than 23 times the hazardous level of 200.

But the poor conditions did not stop at the border. Many parts of south-eastern Australia are also blanketed in smoke as fires rage on across NSW and Victoria.


Satellite imagery showing the south-east drift of smoke from Australia to New Zealand. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology )

In Batemans Bay, where hundreds of homes and structures are believed to have been lost, the concentration of smoke particles in the air was nearly double that of Canberra.

External Link:

Getrochelle "his is smoke from the fires in Australia. Since the rain began the smell has become worse. If you have ever been in a burnt or smoke damaged building, that’s what it reminds me of out there today"

Goulburn, to Canberra’s north, also suffered poor air quality overnight with the air quality index hitting 2,075 at its worst.

NSW Health has set up special air quality monitoring stations in regional areas to monitor the effects of the bushfires.

But the impact is stretching beyond Australia, with those across the Tasman also noticing heavy smoke.

The huge cloud of smoke generated from the fires has travelled some 2,000 kilometres and blanketed New Zealand’s South Island.

Forecaster Tuporo Marsters from New Zealand’s MetServices said a strong north-westerly wind was blowing the smoke, which had reduced visibility to 10 kilometres in some areas.

“It’s appearing as an orangey haze across Christchurch and places like Timaru,” he said.

“It’s quite amazing.”

Mr Marsters said a cold front moving up the South Island was expected to gradually thin out the smoke-laden air.

Twitter user @getrochelle woke to heavy smoke over Port Chalmers in New Zealand, saying she could smell the smoke from Australia in the rain.

“Since the rain began the smell has become worse. If you have ever been in a burnt/smoke damaged building, that’s what it reminds me of out there today,” she posted.

Canberra readings off the charts

In the ACT, other air quality stations recorded ratings of 3,436 at Civic and 3,508 at Florey.


The smoke turned the sky orange over Dunedin, New Zealand, with Twitter user @BeneHoltmann capturing this striking image. (Twitter: @BeneHoltmann)

ACT acting chief health officer Dr Paul Dugdale said the air quality was the worst ever recorded in the capital.

“It is in the highest range that we go up to … and in fact it was out of range overnight on one of our smoke detectors,” he said.

“It went off the scale on the small particles.

“It’s certainly extremely smoky as anyone can see looking outside.”

How to battle the ‘airpocalypse’
The message from authorities is simple: stay indoors and limit your exposure. But while that might work for a day or two, what happens when it becomes the new norm?

By 11:30am visibility remained extremely low and people in affected areas were advised to avoid outdoor activity.

“No heavy exercise outdoors — it’s not the day to start your New Year’s resolution with a morning jog,” Dr Dugdale said.

For those going outside, Dr Dugdale recommended wearing a P2 mask, which filters out small PM2.5 particles.

“A P2 mask will help reduce smoke intake into your lungs, but they can be a bit tricky to fit,” he said.

More bushfire coverage:

“The ordinary surgical masks probably don’t do anything particular for your health, but if it feels better and some people are finding comfort from them, then I’m not about to discourage that.”


The shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra were eerily empty as smoke blanketed the water. (ABC News: Niki Burnside)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Child steering family to safety becomes face of Australia’s bushfire crisis

Mallacoota 3892

A Mallacoota mother, whose photo of her 11-year-old son fleeing bushfires has been splashed across news websites and front pages, says she had no idea how much impact it would have when she took the photo.

Key points:

  • Ms Marion and Finn left in a boat with her other son and the family dog
  • They escaped on a power boat to Goodwin Sands with other families
  • Thousands of people had gathered on the shore taking refuge from an approaching bushfire

Allison Marion took the photo of her son Finn driving a boat to safety after the sky in the far-east Victorian seaside town turned blazing red on Tuesday.

The striking image of Finn showed him steering the boat as it carried Allison, her other son Caleb and the family dog, away from the shore of the popular holiday spot to shelter on Goodwin Sands.

Ms Marion said her family made the escape on to the water with a group of other residents after enacting their fire plan as fire hit the town, causing what residents described as total devastation.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

She said she was taking the photo “to record our story for our family”.

Video: Man films video from boat off Mallacoota coastline

(ABC News)

But the image has since been shared across news sites and newspapers as a dramatic visual of the impact the fires are having on Australian towns like Mallacoota.

Thousands of people were gathered at the Mallacoota boat ramp as fires threatened the town on Tuesday.

Finn’s image featured on the front covers of The Daily Telegraph and The West Australian.

Ms Marion said she was proud of how her family and her community pulled together in the emergency.

“Both my boys are little legends, they were very calm,” she said.

“Finn drove the boat and my other son looked after the dog in the boat and [I am] very proud of both of them.

“We were lucky enough to be with a group of other people from Mallacoota and other families who assisted us and we followed them out to Goodwin Sands where we located for the day and there were a lot of Mallacoota people sheltering.”


People seek refuge at Mallacoota Wharf on Tuesday. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

Fortunately for Ms Marion, once she headed back to the shore and returned to her house she found her home and her street were saved from the disaster.

But her thoughts remained with those in the township who lost homes in the blaze.

“Our street escaped the fire somehow, however, I feel for many people in our community who have lost their homes. It’s just truly saddening,” she said.

She said it was comforting to be with other members of her community the moment disaster hit the town.

“I couldn’t thank those other families enough for letting us go with them out there and we’ve all sheltered together out there and our boys had some friends out there and we were all able to support each other,” she said.

“Mallacoota is a special place to live and there’s very special people and I’m sure the community will come together.”

Video: Thousands of residents on standby at Mallacoota beach as fire front approaches town

(ABC News)

With higher temperatures forecast for Saturday, Ms Marion said it was important residents stayed on high alert.

More bushfire coverage:

“I do think everyone still needs to be vigilant with the hotter weather coming — potentially the winds going back to the north,” she said.

“We certainly need to be vigilant and support each other and continue to look out for properties and lives.

“And I think that is the most important thing, that everybody is safe.”


This house in Mallacoota did not survive the blaze. (Facebook: Jason Selmes)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Recycling when there are no yellow-lidded bins in sight

Broken Hill 2880

Recycling requires more motivation in the outback, where there is not a yellow-lidded bin in sight.

Key points:

  • Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not widely available across remote and regional Australia
  • Plans to introduce recycling bins in Broken Hill had been stalled due to “significant” costs
  • Some people travel 500kms across the border to visit a Broken Hill bottle yard to claim 10 cents a can

If you want to recycle in Broken Hill, you have to make a trip to the local bottle yard or drive to the tip at the edge of town and sort glass, cans, plastics and paper into separate skip bins.

For some, a recycling trip to the tip is a weekly routine, but the council’s general manager, James Roncon, said the town still had “a way to go”.

“There’s probably not a strong recycling culture in Broken Hill; certainly not as strong as we would like it to be,” he said.

Cost of kerbside recycling an obstacle

Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not available in a significant number of communities in remote and regional Australia.


Residents of Broken Hill can take their recycling to the tip and separate the items into bins. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

According to a 2018 report by the Department of Environment and Energy, 91 per cent of Australian households had access to a kerbside recycling collection.

But 123 local government areas (LGAs)— almost a quarter of the total number of LGAs across Australia — offered no collection or recycling service at all.

Each household in Broken Hill has a green waste bin that is collected with the contents added to local landfill as a cover to suppress dust.

Mr Roncon said kerbside recycling for containers, paper and cardboard was something Broken Hill locals would “love to see” but it would come at a “significant” cost, so plans to introduce recycling bins and collection services for the town had been stalled.

“The people that are proactive about wanting to see kerbside recycling become less enthusiastic when you ask them if they are prepared to pay for it,” Mr Roncon said.

Recycling for cash


Adrian Channing took over the bottle yard from his father. He says there are 13,000 crushed cans in each bundle. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

After 35 years running the local bottle yard in Broken Hill, Adrian Channing said he knows most of his customers by name.

“It varies — I’ve got people on the old-age pension, I’ve got some P-platers in the yard,” he said.

“It’s not just one particular demographic of person that does it. Everybody does it.”

Some customers travel long distances to earn their 10 cents a can.


The crushed cans and smashed glass are carted away by a local freight company to recycling centres in Adelaide. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

Mr Channing said he sees people who journey almost 500 kilometres south from the Queensland border to deliver their recycling to his bottle yard.

“Our average amount of cans or bottles per customer is about 600 units,” he said.

He said the “only way” to encourage people to recycle was by offering a financial incentive.

Before the NSW Government-run ‘Return and Earn’ scheme was introduced in December 2017, he was processing less than half the number of items he is now.

“Money’s hard to come by nowadays I suppose. Everyone’s doing it a bit hard, so any money they can put in their pockets is a good thing,” he said.

Recycling creates jobs in rural town

The nearest town to the east of Broken Hill is Wilcannia. There is little between them but a seemingly never-ending desert-scape either side of a lonely 200-kilometre stretch of highway.

Before Wilcannia had its own recycling facility, some locals would drive out to Broken Hill with their cans and bottles.


Kevin Cattermole holding a poster he designed about Wilcannia’s Return and Earn scheme. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)

“It was an inconvenience, really,” said Kevin Cattermole, who oversees Wilcannia’s Return and Earn shop.

The Wilcannia recycling shop was opened as part of the Aboriginal Communities Waste Management Program — run with the NSW Local Aboriginal Land Councils and funded for four years through the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health.

Mr Cattermole said the positive impacts of having a recycling station in town were many.

The streets are cleaner, children have a chance to earn pocket money, and new jobs have been created for locals.

“It’s a couple of days’ employment for the boys … and that keeps them out of trouble and [they earn] a couple of extra dollars for themselves,” Mr Cattermole said.

Senior project officer Tash Morton said the next phase of the waste-management program was building a local recycling facility for plastics.

They will build a machine that shreds plastics so they can be made into new products, like mobile phone cases, tiles, pots, and reusable cups.


Tash Morton speaking to school children visiting her recycling stall at the Wilcannia careers fair. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)

But for now, Ms Morton said “everything was ending up in landfill”.

“All these great resources that could be recycled are so far from recycling centres that it’s not economical for these councils to collect them,” she said.

“In towns like this, it’s about what can we do to process the waste here.”

She said her role was to support locals to get their own sustainability initiatives off the ground and to run workshops about waste at the local school.

“The ultimate aim would be a cleaner Wilcannia and the kids growing up in a town knowing that waste is a resource and they can keep it out of landfill and reuse it,” Ms Morton said.

Learning recycling habits early in life

Preschool teacher Katie Bassett-White is encouraging a stronger culture of recycling in Broken Hill by teaching the town’s youngest residents to be mindful of how they dispose of their rubbish.

The children at Alma Bugdlie preschool collect cans that they exchange for money to buy stationery.


Jarrah, Zhandar and Avril are learning how to recycle with their teacher, Katie Bassett-White. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

There are at least 10 small wheelie bins dotted around the school with different coloured lids to indicate what should go in each of them.

“We like to make it as easy as possible for the recycling to happen,” Ms Bassett-White said.

“The visual reminder of having a bin close by helps to encourage the environmental responsibility.”

Recycling may take more effort in a place like Broken Hill, but she said that did not make it impossible.

“I know it would be a lot easier if there were the bins that they have back on the coast, but we don’t have that so it’s just a different sort of planning, that’s all,” she said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Secrets of how Russian attack helicopters came to Australia revealed 20 years later


Darwin’s waste dump seems an inglorious full stop to an exciting story involving Russian helicopters, mercenary special forces soldiers and the fall of a prime minister at the brink of a military revolt.

Key points:

  • A cabinet time capsule reveals concern from the Australian government over PNG’s military acquisition
  • Russian-made military helicopters purchased by PNG were diverted to Australia due to security concerns
  • The helicopters ended up in the Darwin tip

But the events that led to two Mi-24 gunship choppers being secretly buried in the hazardous waste section of the Shoal Bay landfill have largely been a mystery — until now.

Cabinet papers from 1998 and 1999, released by the National Archives, go some way to explain these curious events.

Australia’s northern neighbour Papua New Guinea was having trouble quelling the separatist movement in Bougainville, which had developed into a full-blown conflict that eventually cost tens of thousands of lives.

Frustrated by failed attempts to have rebel leader Francis Ona attend peace talks, PNG Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan took the remarkable decision to contract British-based private military consultants Sandline International to help quash the secessionist movement.

The $50 million deal, signed in January 1997 to the horror of the then Howard government, would have seen foreign mercenaries flown in to destroy the Bougainville rebellion, using second-hand military equipment.

But two months later, on March 27, 1997, Australia agreed to a request from the PNG government to accept custody of the gear bought by PNG from Sandline.

“The PNG government was concerned about the delivery of the equipment to PNG in the uncertain political circumstance that prevailed at the time,” then defence minister John Moore wrote in his confidential cabinet submission.

That was an understatement.

Sir Julius was facing angry public protests and a mutiny from his army. The Sandline affair precipitated the end of his prime ministership by June and the resignation of several ministers.

But Australia became the reluctant custodian of two Russian Mi-24 gunships built in 1983, armed with machine guns, plus two Mi-8 transport helicopters (built in 1972-73, cabinet was informed) and associated ordnance.

This included, Mr Moore told cabinet, ammunition, air-to-surface rockets, rocket fuse, signal cartridges and initiators.

It was quite the cache.

All of it had been delivered to RAAF Tindal, near Katherine, by a Sandline-chartered Antonov-124 aircraft.


The Russian-built Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters arrived at RAAF Base Tindal in 1997. (Supplied: ADF Serials Message Board)

But what to do with it?

Cabinet was advised that the machine guns and rocket pods attached to the helicopters were classified “weapons of war” and could only be stored on defence property.

But a defence inspection of the ordnance in December 1998 found that the rockets and fuses were the main concern. The rocket motors were “suffering significant cadmium corrosion”, according to a cabinet note, making them a toxic hazard to anyone who came in contact with them. Their safety could not be guaranteed after December 1999.

On May 1, 1999, Bill Skate, who had replaced Sir Julius as PNG PM, announced he had reached an settlement with Sandline. PNG would pay the company $US13.3 million in four instalments over 12 months and all un-delivered equipment would be deemed the property of Sandline.

The then Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer was told PNG waived any ownership of the helicopters, the ordnance, the rocket pods, ammunition and everything else.

Cabinet wanted destruction of the ordnance but wanted Sandline to chip in half of the $32,000 cost, which was eventually agreed.

That left the not insignificant matter of four Russian helicopters that were taking up some valued space inside RAAF Tindal, a sensitive military base.

Cabinet considered charging Sandline for the inconvenience, on the hope that it “would increase the pressure on Sandline to find an acceptable buyer or to abandon the helicopters”.

The cabinet papers reveal patience was running out with Sandline and its mercenary ways.


The helicopters deteriorated severely during their 20 years at the Tindal RAAF base. (Supplied: ADF Serials Message Board)

“Notwithstanding the legal delays and some negative publicity, Sandline has done well out of its foray into PNG,” Mr Moore told Cabinet.

“When the PNG government has paid its final instalment under the contract, Sandline will have received a total of $US31.3 million for its services.

“Considering the small amount of assistance and materiel that PNG received in return, it is likely that Sandline’s profit on the deal was a healthy one.”

He noted that the company’s retention of the helicopters’ ownership demonstrated Sandline’s intention to further profit on the deal.

“Except possibly for spare parts, the helicopters are not a particularly good buy,” the minister wrote.

But the whole episode had left cabinet with a sour taste.

“Sandline’s controversial reputation, especially through its involvement in PNG and Sierra Leone, means that the Australian government’s dealings with the company will be subjected to extra scrutiny,” Mr Moore warned cabinet.

“It would be preferable not to publicly release the details of our discussions with Sandline until the issues are resolved.”

In the end, a buyer for the Mi-24 attack helicopters could not be found.


City of Darwin’s executive management of waste and capital works, Nik Kleine, at the tip used to dispose of the helicopters. (ABC News: Jano Gibson)

The possibility of a new home at the Darwin Aviation Museum was abandoned when it was discovered the Soviet-era choppers were riddled with asbestos.

In July 2016, the helicopters were placed into a shipping container and quietly taken to the Darwin tip.

There they were buried. One last journey only recently uncovered.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Fears of a meltdown: Inside cabinet’s secret preparations for the disaster that never happened


The dawn of a new millennium made New Year’s Eve 1999 a party like no other.

Key points:

  • Previously unseen cabinet papers have been released after a two-decade wait
  • It was feared the ‘millennium bug’ could take down international markets
  • Cabinet was warned of chemical or nuclear attacks on the Sydney 2000 Olympics

But as people across the country celebrated, the nation’s treasurer was alert to the threat of the unknown.

“There was a level of anxiety that the financial system would collapse, people thought maybe computers would not work or airlines were going to drop out of the sky,” Peter Costello recalls.

“We had a situation room in the Reserve Bank because our financial markets would be the first affected and we would be able to see whether or not the payments system of the world had crashed. And so I was getting reports out of this situation room at 12.15, 12.30 on New Year’s Day, you know all quiet, all quiet, nothing seems to have happened.”

Y2K, or the millennium bug, was a computer flaw feared to cause chaos when the date switched over to the year 2000.

Cabinet papers from 1998 and 1999, released by the National Archives, reveal concern extended from doomsday preppers through to the highest levels of John Howard’s government.


Federal treasurer Peter Costello feared the millennium bug may have brought down global payment systems. (Alan Porritt, file photo: AAP)

While Australia was considered to be well prepared, then-foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer and trade minister Tim Fischer warned of possible overseas breakdowns in areas like banking, transport and essential services.

“The Y2K problem poses potential international security risks in relation to reduced security and integrity of major weapons and weapons systems (including nuclear weapons) and civilian nuclear facilities,” they told cabinet in early 1999.

Mr Downer and Mr Fischer also warned some of Australia’s major trading partners were behind in their preparations and that countries could face “serious and widespread internal unrest” if government systems collapsed.

“At this stage we judge that high levels of Y2K-related difficulties are likely to occur through most of Asia and Africa, as well as areas of central Europe, South America and the Pacific.”

At home the government was focused on limiting public panic, with cabinet agreeing to a national communications strategy to “stimulate public confidence and minimise personal hoarding”.

“Recently, various media articles have highlighted actions of individuals who are taking extreme measures to insulate themselves from total community breakdown caused by Y2K failures,” defence minister John Moore and communications minister Richard Alston told cabinet later that year.

“Actions such as stockpiling food, fuel and large amounts of cash could have serious implications for industry, community functioning and public safety.”


Cabinet deliberations involved John Howard, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer. (Alan Porritt: AAP Image, file photo)

Terrorism, reputational fears as Olympics approached

Public safety was also at the forefront of ministers’ minds as the government prepared for the biggest event Australia had ever hosted — the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 1998, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assessed the overall security risk of the Games as “medium”, concluding that while the threat level was low, the level of harm to life, property and Australia’s international standing would be high were an attack to occur.


The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games prompted extensive cabinet deliberations. (AAP: Julian Smith)

Cabinet paid particular attention to the risk from nuclear, biological or chemical threats, with the attorney-general and defence ministers warning the likelihood of an attack could change quickly.

“A serious conflict or incident might lead to the release of constraints presently imposed on state-sponsored terrorist groups or incite individuals or extremist groups to attempt an attack,” they said in a secret document marked Australian Eyes Only.

“It is difficult to assess the intentions of cults and individuals, particularly as the Olympics coincide with the end of the millennium. As Aum Shinrikyo demonstrated in Japan, these groups may be drawn to horror weapons to further their cause.”

Another cause for concern was the coverage from thousands of international media representatives travelling to Sydney for the Games.

“As Atlanta has learnt, unless the international media are appropriately handled and serviced, particularly the unaccredited media, major damage can be done to the reputation of a city and a nation,” the minister assisting the prime minister for the Games, Andrew Thomson, told cabinet in 1998.

The following year, his successor Jackie Kelly pointed to the topics that could attract most attention.

“There is no doubt that many overseas media … will be receptive to protest actions by indigenous and environmental groups, advocates for the homeless (the market for low-cost housing in Sydney is expected to become particularly tight at Games time) and other disaffected groups,” she reported.

“The media strategy will therefore need to include a strong emphasis on the positive efforts the government is making in these areas.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Here are the big centenaries you might be hearing about this year


Now that it’s 2020 and we into its third decade (or close enough for the sticklers), we’re starting to see how the 21st century is shaping up.

But in its previous iterations, the ’20s have been a massive time of change —from the economic spikes and seeds of war in the 1920s to the first pilgrims setting off to America in the 1520s

That means there are some big centenaries coming up that you might hear more about this year.

Let’s take a look back at some of the defining moments.



In 1920, the US passed the Nineteenth Amendment, enshrining the rights of women to vote. (Wikimedia Commons: Ladies’ Home Journal)

The hallmarks of the “Roaring Twenties” were (initially) economic growth and prosperity, as the wartime devastation of the previous decade gave way to social, artistic and cultural change.

At the turn of the decade, the national Country Party of Australia (now known as the National Party) was formed, while the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (which would later become Qantas) was founded in Winton, in Central West Queensland.

Across the pond, the United States passed the Nineteenth Amendment, enshrining the right of women to vote, while a nationwide ban on the production, important and sale of alcohol was imposed (and we all know how well that turned out).

Further abroad, Soviet Russia and the Democratic Republic of Georgia signed the Treaty of Moscow, recognising the latter’s independence, while the Mexican Revolution came to an end when military leader Pancho Villa surrendered after reaching a peace agreement with interim Mexican President Adolfo de la Huerta.

Other notable moments in 1920 include:

  • Bloody Sunday (November 21, 1920): 32 people were killed in one of the most significant events to take place during the Irish War of Independence.
  • Wall Street bombing (September 16, 1920): 30 people were killed and hundreds more were injured following a bomb blast in the Financial District of Manhattan. The case has never been solved, although historians believe Italian anarchists may be responsible.
  • George Polley, who earned the moniker “the human fly” for his uncanny ability to scale buildings, was arrested after climbing up the Woolworth Building in New York — which was, at the time, the world’s tallest building.


Though George Polley was caught, Harry Gardiner (pictured), also known as the Human Fly, continued to operate. (Wikimedia Commons: Evening public ledger)


From scientific breakthroughs to new frontiers, the 1820s was truly a decade of exploration, discovery and change.

The year started with a shakeup for the British monarchy after 59 years with the death of George III, now the third-longest reigning monarch on January 20. His eldest son George IV (who had been Prince Regent during his father’s decline) ascended to the throne.

The Essex, an American whaler and the real-life inspiration for Moby Dick, was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in the southern Pacific Ocean in 1820, forcing its 20-man crew to fend for themselves.


The Essex, an American whaler and the real-life inspiration for Moby Dick, was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. (Wikimedia Commons: Nantucket Historical Association)

After reaching land, the men suffered severe dehydration and starvation — and reportedly resorted to eating each other. The remaining survivors were rescued some three months later.

Speaking of people with no limbs, the Venus de Milo, now one of the Louvre’s star attractions, was discovered within the ancient city ruins of Milos during the same year (though it is believed to have been made by the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch in the 2nd century BC).


The Venus de Milo, now one of the Louvre’s star attractions, was discovered within the ancient city ruins of Milos. (Wikimedia Commons: Jimmy Wee)

British explorer Edward Bransfield claimed Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost part of the Antarctic Peninsula, for Britain.

Other notable moments in 1820 include:

  • Danish scientist Hans Christian Oersted became the first person to identify electromagnetism after watching a compass needle.
  • The Royal Astronomical Society, which would later honour the likes of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, was founded in London.
  • Robert Gibbon Johnson, an American farmer and judge, reportedly proved that tomato was non-poisonous by biting into one on the steps of a courthouse in Salem, New Jersey (although there are various doubts around this claim).



Calico Jack was captured and sentenced to death. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ahoy, me Hearties! Or rather, goodbye, with 1720 marking the end of the “golden age” of piracy.

Infamous captain John Rackham, otherwise known as Calico Jack, and his two female crew members, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, were captured by pirate hunter Jonathan Barnet and swiftly sentenced to death in Jamaica.

Though he was ultimately hanged, Read and Bonny won stays of execution after claiming they were pregnant.

Elsewhere, England was hit with its own wave — the “South Sea Bubble”.

The South Sea Company was founded to take over most of Britain’s unconsolidated national debt, but it didn’t quite go to plan. Share prices were massively inflated, before the English stock market crashed, creating a notorious economic bubble that ruined thousands of investors.

Other notable moments in 1720 include:

  • The Great Plague of Marseille reached French shores, killing a total of 100,000 people.
  • Edmond Halley, from whom Halley’s Comet was named after, was appointed the second Astronomer Royal in Britain.
  • The Royal Cork Yacht Club, credited as the first yacht club in the world, was founded in Ireland.


At the turn of the decade, the Mayflower set sail from England to what we now know as the United States, carrying more than 100 English Puritans — making this year its 400th anniversary.

Though bound for Virginia, stormy weather and navigational errors forced it off course, and the Pilgrims ultimately landed in Massachusetts, founding the first permanent European settlement.

Other notable moments in 1620 include:

  • Astronomer Johannes Kepler’s mother was arrested for witchcraft and imprisoned for 14 months


At the turn of the decade, the Mayflower set sail from England to what we now know as the United States. (Wikimedia Commons: William Halsall)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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