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Voting for change with our hip pocket

PURCHASING TRENDS change what’s available on the shelves of supermarkets and we all cast our votes every time we buy something.

Where demand lies, supply follows

If our spending can shape the market, then we consumers can change the world.

Sometimes becoming more eco conscious is simple, as certain actions align with some of our other social values or preferences.

But sometimes they don’t, very few people will give up everything they love for the planet, but most of us do want to do something — that’s a great place to start.

Last month I explored the consumption of animal products, and the heavy environmental impacts of that industry.

I understand that reducing meat consumption seems unfathomable to some, so this month let’s look at some of the simpler things we can do to be kinder to the earth and benefit the future of humanity.

Where does your food come from?

Many of us already like to source fresh produce that is grown locally, as we prefer to support our local businesses, and the Australian economy.

Home vegie gardens, local farmers’ markets and food co-ops are thriving, with more and more people also wanting to avoid foods sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.

A side benefit of locally grown produce is that the reduction of transport required to deliver produce (known as “food miles”) also reduces carbon emissions.

Energy use relating to refrigeration of fresh fruit and veg is also reduced or eliminated by buying from local farmers — eating what is “in season” within our regional climate is a great way to keep it local.

Food wastage is a major source of methane emissions from landfill sites; composting food scraps can be a great way to nourish your vegie garden, while reducing these emissions.

Importantly, compost needs to be turned every week, to allow oxygen in; If not, methane-producing microbes become active in anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions, just as they do in landfill.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

After years of this mantra, most of us are pretty good at recycling our rubbish, the biggest issue is often working out what should and what shouldn’t go into the recycling bins (look this up on the local council website).

But we are still not so great at reducing consumption, or reusing things

Apart from excess packaging, we don’t often consider wasted resources when we purchase.

How often are we really going to use that thing? If not very often, we could consider hiring or borrowing one locally instead.

Perhaps we can buy a second-hand one, then pass it on afterwards.

Unlike some other parts of the world, Australia has not fully jumped on board with the sharing ideology of “collective consumption” yet, despite Time Magazine calling it one of the 10 ideas that will change the world.

This concept will reach the Uberesque critical mass at some point soon and we will see a great leap forward, with an online platform for local sharing economies within the next few years.

Let’s be honest, there are times when we — women at least — just feel like a bit of retail therapy, we can avoid the “fast-fashion” industry, and seek out a unique piece (or bag full) of pre-loved clothing at the Op Shop, or on the Warrandyte Secondhand Page.

When we recycle clothing, we reduce the energy and water consumption, pollution and land-clearing impact of the textiles industry.

Rather than encouraging wage exploitation of people in developing countries, which is usually the method of producing “cheap” clothes and appliances for mass consumption, we can instead give that money to charities through op-shopping.

You are not just a number

Western capitalist society is not designed to encourage this sort of consumer.

The ideal citizen seems to be one who spends all their hard-earned cash in our retail economy, constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Life becomes an endless pursuit of happiness, chasing your tail hoping the next purchase will give you that satisfaction you are longing for.

But material things very rarely bring lasting fulfilment; how quickly the “new car” or “new phone” feeling wears off these days!

We have seen powerful ethical swings effect real market change, for example through the mass boycotting of cage eggs.

Conscientious consumers are now prepared to spend more for better treatment of animals; many people choose recycled or sustainably sourced paper to avoid the destruction of our native forests, or elect to support renewable energy ahead of coal power.

More and more of us are taking responsibility for the future — and the more numbers creating demand for a higher standard, the more the market will supply that standard.

Where to start?

We mere-mortals do struggle to adjust our behaviours, like remembering to take our green bags into the supermarket.

How about practicing other things that can prompt us to reduce waste, like getting a quality refillable pen, a nice drink bottle, and some rechargeable AA or AAA batteries?

Check out how good you feel and for how long after spending $100 at the op shop.

Grow some organic vegies at home, picking as you need avoids waste and gardening is good for our health by reducing stress levels.

Consider borrowing that random tool rather than buying one next time — I’ve just joined Peerby, and hope that you locals hit me up for a lend of any of the excessive “stuff” I have.

I find that purchasing consciously and congruently with the future I want, brings me a greater sense of fulfilment than anything I might purchase for a short-term gain.

For more information on how to lighten your carbon footprint, get on board the Victorian Governments new “Take 2” program.

Timely tax tips – getting ready for June 30

JUNE IS THE month when our minds turn to tax and the obligation to lodge our tax returns, which brings to mind Kerry Packer’s memorable claim, “I pay what is due and not a penny more.”

The purpose of this column is to assist you in adopting the same philosophy which you are perfectly entitled to do, providing you understand the important difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Tax evasion is acting contrary to the law and incurs severe penalties, whereas tax avoidance involves working within the law to avoid paying more tax than you need to.

So what do you need to understand in order to implement Kerry Packer’s advice?

Claim all deductible expenses

Make sure you claim all expenditure incurred in the tax year that is tax deductible.

This will require you to keep either paper (invoices, receipts etc.) or electronic records that contain date of expenditure, description and amount.

Bank statements and credit card statements may suffice if they contain sufficient identifying information.

Alternatively download the ATO myDeductions App and use it to record your deduction records on to your mobile or tablet.

This App is suitable for use by individuals and sole traders.

Work related expenses totalling less than $300 do not require supporting documentation but you will be expected to have a reasonable basis for arriving at the amount you are claiming.

This may apply for example when claiming laundry of uniforms or protective work clothing.

Claiming all expenditures such as donations, work related expenses, business and investment related deductions etc. can be quite complicated, so give consideration to using the services of a registered tax agent whose fees and your travel time to visit are deductible.

Your tax agent will also be able to advise you on the appropriate records you will need to claim the deductible component of motor vehicle, phone, computer, home office expenses, laundering of uniforms and protective clothing, self-education expenses and depreciable assets etc.

Use timing to increase deductions

We have probably all heard the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This equally applies to tax by bringing forward deductions into the current year and reducing your tax liability for the current year rather than waiting a further 12 months or more before you claim the tax saving from the deduction.

Deductible expenses such as insurance premiums should be timed to fall due in June rather than any other month of the year.

The same goes for depreciable assets that are deductible such as computers, rental property depreciable contents, and particularly tools, plant and equipment and motor vehicles used in a business.

If you donate to charities, school building funds etc. give a thought to making these donations in June rather than earlier in the year, reducing the time period between the cash outlay and the receipt of the tax deduction benefit.

Delaying receipt of
assessable income

Timing benefits can also be accessed by delaying the receipt of income until July rather than having it paid to you in June.

This strategy could be applied to timing the sale of investments that are likely to trigger a capital gain where there are no offsetting capital losses available.

Wage and salary earners entitled to a year-end bonus may be able negotiate payment in the first pay period in July rather than the last pay period in June.

Sole traders selling on credit could consider delaying invoicing for work done in June until early July.

Tax saving and impact on
cash flow

The income and deductions strategies explained above whilst reducing your taxable income will have a significant impact on your cash flow if you are entitled to
a refund and lodge your tax
return early.

Example: A sole trader on an otherwise taxable income of $60,000 brought forward the purchase of an item of plant costing $15,000 from July to June which is fully tax deductible being under the $20,000 cap for a small business.

She also delayed billing customers for work done in June until July 1 amounting to $6,000 thereby reducing her taxable income by $21,000 to $39,000.

With tax levied at $0.34 per dollar in the range from $37,000 – $87,000 her tax saving and increased cash flow would amount to $7,560 including a low income tax offset of $415.

Tax-free gift of up to $500

Your homework is to Google “Super Co-Contribution” to discover whether you are eligible to receive your free gift.

Disclaimer:

The content of this article is not intended to be used as professional advice and should not be used as such. If you have any questions you should consult a registered
tax agent.

Brian Spurrell – FCPA CTA, Director

Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd. 0412 011 946

Gardening as an art form

A rusty bucket of daffodils, a vintage copper insert filled with water and waterlilies, or an old turquoise bowling ball nestled amongst the arctosis.

Garden art can cost you anything from the petrol it takes to drive around checking out garage sales to thousands of dollars spent at a gallery or nursery.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common quote but nothing is more true than what people see as “art” in the Warrandyte Garden.

Rust lends itself perfectly to the Australian bush backdrop that our properties are surrounded by.

Gums, bursarias, wattles, native grasses and shrubs all huddling around an old piece of metal, the natural tones of the setting sun on gum leaves compliment the brown, orange and black tones of the rusted metal making it a natural addition to the garden.

Looking at the garden art entries at the Melbourne Garden Show this year gives you some ideas of how we can adorn our gardens.

From mosaics, to carved limestone blocks, the barbed wire balls, to plastic chairs painted with zebra stripes burrowing into the ground.

Swimming pools, fish and frog ponds show reflections of the trees above and the autumn leaves floating on the surface add tranquillity to the scene (except for the pool boy/girl who swears at the inconvenience of having to scoop them out).

The rusted barb wire fences bordering properties give us a sense of days gone by but rolled into balls become “art” with a $100 plus price tag.

Rusty fire pits are all the rage and now is the perfect time to invest in one.

A fire and a glass of wine in the garden in the evening is one of life simple joys.

Cane baskets, gum boots, kettles, fire grates, buckets, baking tins, all become receptacles for bulbs and succulents.

Allowing art to spill down stairs, to be clustered under trees in a huddled group waiting out the winter when they will then burst forth into floral tributes.

Water features add the element of movement and noise to a garden or courtyard echoing the sounds of the Yarra river, a drawcard for birds, bees, insects and frogs to your garden.

Vintage gates that lead to nowhere nestled at the bottom of the garden and used as trellis in vegetables gardens, long sticks tied together to form tee pees for climbing beans and peas, tomato frames in jaunty colours in clusters, old screen doors with the wire stripped out leaning against walls — all are the perfect frameworks to hide an eyesore in the garden, to create the illusion of depth or make the garden feel bigger and more interesting, to divide the garden into rooms or to add height to the newly planted garden.

So remember to find original pieces, try not to buy the commonplace “art” but think outside the box and see what you come up with.

Garden benches, garden chairs, hammocks or a simple swing invite visitors to sit a while in the garden, to contemplate the plants, smells and sounds, to be a child again.

Now is the time to look out for environmental weeds.

These include agapanthus, asparagus fern, bluebell creeper, cape broom (Genista), Cootamundra wattle, cotoneaster, English ivy, holly, weeping willow, Japanese honeysuckle, pampas grass, and Spanish heath to name a few.

They spread too easily by seed and cause destruction in bushland and forested areas by smothering native plants.

Autumn and winter is a time to flick through gardening books and think of other alternatives for these plants in the garden.

Plant evergreen trees in May. the soil is warm and with the autumn rains we have been having the soil is moist and easy to turn over.

Evergreen trees can be planted now acacias species, eucalypts, jacaranda, malaleuca, peppercorns, camellias, michelias.

Remember a hole dug to plant a tree should be at least twice the size of the root ball.

Don’t be stingy when digging a hole, never try to jam the trees roots in a hole that is too small especially when you have purchased bare rooted trees.

Remove the plant from the pot and gently tease out the roots, place a hand full of slow release fertiliser in the hole a, place the tree in the hole and replace the soil making sure the soil is good quality.

With feet or hands firm down the soil around the plant and water deeply. Make sure you mulch to help conserve moisture in the soil.

To avoid “collar rot” make sure the mulch is not resting up against the trunk of the tree.

If you are planting kangaroo paws remember they like to be planted in a mound slightly above the ground to ensure perfect drainage.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime — be a gardener.

Ponderance

The first Saturday of the month is always marked on the calendar: **MARKET**

I don’t want to miss it, but often do and I’ve been known to harbour that disappointment for several hours upon realising the day or time has passed.

All other plans for the day are made around this all-important trip to the market.

I phoned a couple of friends, set up the rendezvous point and we met, with kids in tow, to wander along the river.

I’m sure most readers have enjoyed the market walk so I will not go into details of stalls and stallholders, sights and sounds.

You know it well. But this particular market trip stands out amongst others.

We set off with the idea that the children, four of them, aged between six and nine, would be happy souls, wandering under gum trees with money in pockets and the promise of frozen yoghurt to spur them on if they grew weary.

We had visions of children skipping through the dust under a canopy of gum trees, happy to be beyond walls.

It didn’t take long before this vision of ‘free range’ had turned into the dusty reality of hot and grumpy children, and the coffee van seemed to be an ever moving mirage, just out of reach.

Our dreams of being earth mothers wandering by the river were fading with each utterance from the mouths of our babes.

We didn’t walk the full stretch of the market last month, although we did make it to coffee, run into friends and join the queue at the frozen yoghurt van.

As we headed to our cars we laughed at ourselves, we are just not the earth mother type.

 Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused – Proverb 

In the weeks since this market trip I have been pondering the idea of “the absence of annoyance”, a phrase often linked to the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’, pronounced ‘hue-gah’, that is described as the philosophy of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

The “absence of annoyance” is a place in which we can reside between ease and effort. Where gritted teeth are replaced by a calm breath — an eternal yoga session.

Grace seems to be the key to this place of residence, grace in movement, in thought and in response.

Effort is required, but, as in all things worthwhile, the more I practice this mindset, the easier it is becoming.

I observed our household one afternoon, I sat back deliberately and listened to everyone interacting; I heard in them what I hear so often in myself — annoyance.

I listed the things that annoy each of us all regularly: the dog that is underfoot as we work in the kitchen, is also the dog that greets us when we walk in the door and sleeps at the feet of the one that is burning the midnight oil; the child that causes me to grit my teeth is also the one that hangs on for a longer cuddle at the end of the day; the dishes left on the dining table are evidence that someone has stopped awhile and been at home rather than rushing out the door.

We don’t want to take away the things that are annoying us, for life would be lonely, that I am certain of, instead I choose the absence of annoyance.

Next, I decided to tackle rush.

The idea is not new, I know, but it’s new to me.

Deciding not to rush to the next task but instead to stay focussed on what is at hand, is, I can honestly report, keeping my heart rate down a little.

This insight came after spending time with my 23-year-old daughter recently.

We had gone supermarket shopping together and I heard myself say in so many different ways, hurry up; I used “come on”, “let’s go”, “you go get this, I will get that”, “let’s get this over and done with,” and other phrases that maybe you have used too.

We rushed, we sighed impatiently at the queue at the checkout, (how dare everyone else be shopping at the same time we are), we loaded and unloaded, then moved on to the next thing in our day.

Later, I reflected on the shopping trip and realised that it was more about spending a few hours with her than getting the job done.

We don’t shop together very often, actually we don’t do a lot together these days.

I was thinking over how that time could have been different had I switched off ‘rush’, all that was needed was a little tweak.

So next market day my friends and I will meet up again to grab a coffee and wander – with kids in tow – I’ll let you know how it goes.

Songlines in Warrandyte

When British settlement in Australia began in 1788 the colonists were essentially blind to Aboriginal technology. The manicured environment they saw had been carefully shaped by constant burning off and it looked for all the world like an English gentlman’s estate. However, it was nevertheless thought of as the “natural” state of affairs. These misapprehensions permeate our history books and continue to influence our thinking right up to the present day. So in this sense we have been brought up to be virtually blind to many aspects of our Aboriginal heritage.

It is exactly the same situation with Aboriginal trade and travel routes, which are known as Songlines. The reason they are called Songlines is because the landmarks, ecological features and creation stories along each route were coded into a song. Aboriginal people had to learn hundreds of these songs that had verses patching into each other, thus enabling them to diverge at any given point onto a different trail and a different song.

These Songlines criss-crossed the whole of Australia with the important travel routes covering many hundreds of kilometres. These major Songlines were even coded celestially, so that the various landmarks were represented in the constellations. For instance, one such celestially coded Songline goes from Alice Springs to Byron Bay.

Now just pause and think about this for a minute. Why would people from Alice Springs want to travel to Byron Bay and vice versa? The answer is both simple and stunning.

People from the central desert wanted to go to the far east coast to witness the local people working in co- operation with dolphins to catch fish. Every dolphin was known by name and responded to their name in working as a team to drive shoals of fish to the shore. Aboriginal people would net the fish and then share the fish evenly with the dolphins. On the other side of the ledger people from the far east coast of Australia wanted to travel to the central desert to see the majestic Uluru for themselves.

When settlers first arrived in Melbourne in 1835 they simply got on their horses and in their carts and started spreading out into the hinterland. They of course followed the ridge lines, valley lines and easy contours that seemed to be remarkably free of trees and offered convenient travel routes. These Songlines then became established cart tracks and were progressively gravelled then bitumenised.

So while Melbourne itself was established on a surveyed one mile square grid of north-south and east-west roads, all the meandering roads out of Melbourne were originally Aboriginal Songlines. If you take an aerial view in your mind’s eye, you can see all the main roads radiating out of Melbourne: Geelong Road, Ballarat Road, Calder Highway, Sydney Road, Plenty Road, Heidelberg Road, Maroondah Highway,

Dandenong Road and Nepean Highway. They were all originally Songlines, but are not recognised as such, and our kids at school are not taught this part of our heritage.

It is in fact quite easy to identify Songlines and being on the Yarra, Warrandyte has an abundance of them. You can for instance be certain that any shallow rapids area on the Yarra was the point at which a Songline crossed the river. The street where the Police Station is situated is one such place where the Songline taking you to Research crossed the river to follow the Research-Warrandyte Road. Barely a couple of hundred metres further up where the bridge stands, is where the Songline to Kangaroo Ground starts. Take a trip along the Kangaroo Ground Road and see how it follows the ridge line and gives you 360 degree views. It is of course also a Songline.

Another good example is Tindals Road. Take your kids along it and enjoy the panoramic vistas to the east and west. Tell them, “Hey kids, this is an Aboriginal Songline, You know this because you can see for miles.” Originally the Tindals Road Songline branched off from Doncaster Road to follow Old Warrandyte Road. It then went past the Donvale Christian College, followed the ridge line and dropped down into Pound Bend. However, it is now bisected by Warrandyte Road where a cutting has been put in.

Much of Warrandyte Road itself was also a Songline. The route followed the ridge line as it does today past Warrandyte High School, but the original Songline then followed Melbourne Hill Road. With a little bit of thought it is relatively easy to identify the original route of these Songlines by seeing where cuttings and diversions have been put in.

So if you have any information that could help to map these local Songlines and restore knowledge of this part of our heritage, please let me know.