Columns

Will Coronavirus cure our Affluenza?


AUSTRALIA’S PER CAPITA carbon footprint is usually among the largest in the world, though over the last three months the Coronavirus lockdown has caused a dramatic reduction.

With the easing of restrictions, our carbon emissions will rise again substantially.

Yet there is growing recognition that we should treat recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, wasteful consumption and unsustainable growth, and make our society cleaner and greener.

This issue is especially important given the need to drastically reduce our emissions by 2030.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2019, to prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year to 2030.

Emissions reduction is of course dependent on making an effective and urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Government spending aimed at achieving economic recovery should be directed at investments that facilitate that transition, while at the same time creating jobs and business opportunities.

Reducing emissions is also closely tied with reducing consumption — a crucial issue for affluent countries like Australia, whose consumption of resources far exceeds what ecologists regard as sustainable.

To reduce consumption, we need to make lifestyle changes.

And on this topic, I can recommend a favourite book that I re-read recently: Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss (Allen & Unwin, 2005).

Affluenza (subtitled When Too Much Is Never Enough) is about overconsumption and waste in the Australian context, and causes us to question our expectations, the way we live, and how much we consume.

The book’s central premise is that Australian society, like other rich societies, has become addicted to overconsumption driven by aspiration, resulting in high levels of personal debt, overwork, stress, obesity, hoarding, and extensive waste.

The book examines overconsumption in its many forms, such as:

Buying more food than we need, which then gets thrown out.

Our demand for increasingly larger houses since the 1950s, while the average number of occupants has decreased.

The purchase of household goods that we don’t really need.

The popularity of large 4WDs despite the safety hazards they pose and their poor fuel economy.

According to the authors,

“People afflicted by affluenza have an insatiable desire for more things.

Although our desire might have no bounds, our capacity to use things is limited: there is only so much we can eat, wear and watch, and a house has only so many rooms we can usefully occupy.

The difference between what we buy and what we use is waste.”

In regard to food waste, for example, the authors refer to a, then recent, survey showing that Australians threw away $5.2 billion worth of food and drink in 2004.

The situation has not improved since then.

The most recent Rabobank Food Waste Report has found that Australians wasted $10.1 billion on food in 2019, up from $8.9 billion in 2018, making Australia the fourth-worst food waster per capita in the world.

The authors do not advocate that “we should build humpies and live in self-satisfied deprivation”, which they say would misconstrue the purpose of their book.

As they explain.

“It is not money and material possessions that are the root of the problem:  it is our attachment to them and the way they condition our thinking, give us our self-definition and rule our lives.”

Affluenza challenges us to think about and avoid overconsumption, of which we’re all guilty to a greater or lesser degree — a very timely challenge in the wake of the Coronavirus upheaval as we return to the “new normal”.

Jeff Cranston is a member of local climate change action group WarrandyteCAN.

If you’d like to become a climate change hero, join them.

They are on Facebook at:
facebook.com/warrandytecan

Further tax update on working from home


WE ARE ALL living in a period of great uncertainty.

There is a barrage of, almost daily, statements and articles about new government assistance to individuals, employees and business, plus regular updates aimed at clarifying or adding to earlier information releases.

If you are working from home either under instruction from your employer, or running your own business out of home then this month’s column should be of interest to you.

If you have not read the April column titled COVID-19 Tax Update on Working from Home, may I suggest you read that in conjunction with what follows, a copy of the column can be found on my website.

The new fixed rate per hour method

In a media release on April 7, the ATO announced a “temporary simplified method (or shortcut method)” to make it easier for individual taxpayers to claim deductions for additional running expenses incurred, such as additional heating, cooling and lighting expenses, as a result of working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Based on this announcement and further details in the ATO release entitled Working from home during COVID-19, updated on April 15, 2020, the ATO advised it will allow individuals to claim a deduction for all home office running expenses incurred during the period from March 1 until at least June 30, 2020, based on a rate of 80 cents for each hour an individual carries out genuine work duties from home.

This is an alternative method to claiming home running expenses under existing arrangements, explained in my April edition article, being 52 cents per hour for heating, cooling, lighting and office furniture depreciation.

What is covered in the new
80c per hour option?

The new 80c per hour method is designed to cover all of the following running expenses associated with working from home and incurred from March 1, 2020:

  • Electricity and gas expenses
    associated with heating,cooling
    and lighting the area at home
    which is being used for work
    purposes.
  • Cleaning costs for a dedicated
    work area such as a home office.
  • Phone and internet expenses.
  • Computer consumables such as
    printer paper, ink cartridges and
    stationery.
  • Depreciation of home office
    furniture and furnishings such
    as an office desk and chair, filing
    cabinets and bookcases.
  • Depreciation of home office
    equipment such as a computer,
    printer and scanner.

Advantages of using the
80c per hour method

Under this method whilst separate claims cannot be made for any of the above running expenses, which could be substantial, the advantages of using this method from March 1, 2020, are as follows:

  • No record keeping is required
    other than a record of the number
    of hours you have worked from
    home as a result of COVID-19
    such as timesheets, diary notes or
    rosters.
  • There is no requirement to have a
    separate or dedicated area at
    home set aside for working such
    as a private study.
  • Multiple people living in the
    same house could claim under
    this method at 80c per hour
    excluding school students of
    course.

Implications of not electing to use the 80c per hour method

You may elect to continue to use the 52c per hour method that was available from July 1, 2019, but that rate will only apply to running expenses for heating, cooling, lighting and furniture depreciation from the above list.

Unlike the 80c method, you will still have to undertake an analysis of the work related percentage of all of the remaining running expenses.

You will have to continue to maintain records of expenditure and retain all supporting documents as well as a time usage diary.

If you elect to use neither method, then you will have to resort to the actual expenses method for all expenses which is explained in detail in the April edition article, and have a dedicated work area or study set aside for work purposes.

If you are working from home only due to the consequences of COVID-19 you can’t claim occupancy expenses such as mortgage interest, rates, insurance, land taxes or rent.

Implications for the preparation
of your tax return

Regardless of whether you use a tax agent or prepare your tax return yourself, if you have, or will have, spent significant time working from home, you have to decide which of the three methods of claiming home office expenses you will elect to use for the period from March 1 to June 30 2020, and which of the two methods, 52c per hour or actual expenses method for the prior eight months.

If you elect to use the 80c rate you or your tax agent must include the note “COVID- hourly rate” in your tax return.

A word of advice

For many of you who have, or will have, spent a considerable amount of time working from home, it may well be worth devoting your time to:

  • Documenting the hours you have
    worked at home for work related
    purposes, or as a requirement
    from your employer or in
    running your own business from
    home.
  • Recording and filing all necessary
    supporting documents relating to
    allowable home office
    deductions.
  • Working out the percentage split
    between private and work related

portions of jointly incurred costs.

Armed with this information you or your tax agent should then be able to determine which of the three methods will deliver the greatest deductions for the eight months to February 29 and the four months June 30, 2020.

The ATO will be anticipating a significant increase in both the number and the amount of home office expenses claims for 2020 and consequently you can expect a much higher level of scrutiny of your claim.

The content of this article is not intended to be relied upon as professional advice and should not be used as such.

If you have any questions you should consult a registered tax agent.

Further information on claiming work related expenses and the Covid-19 Government Assistance to Business and Individuals updated to March 30, 2020 is available on our website.

Brian Spurrell FCPA, CTA, Registered Tax Agent. 

Director, Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd 

P O Box 143 Warrandyte 3113.

0412 011 946

www.ptasaccountants.com.au

 

 

Emotional Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic


AS WE ARE FACED with increasing boundaries in our normal day to day life and as isolation and social distancing are required to flatten the growth rate of COVID-19 many people will find themselves struggling with their emotions.

It is really important that we, as a community, look out for each other; especially the elderly, the vulnerable, those with asthma, compromised lung capacity or auto immune problems.

But it is equally important to be considerate to other members of our community too, those who live alone or have no family.

There are many people out there who already struggle with isolation from their families and friends; especially those who live with depression, anxiety and stress.

If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them; if you know someone who lives on their own, no matter what age, reach out to them; if you need to make a trip to the shops, offer to help do the shopping for them; check in with them, make a phone call or a video call, give them a “virtual” hug, you might be their life saver.

Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations or perceived threat, and currently Australians and other nationalities around the world are under threat from the COVID-19 virus.

This anxiety ranges from the sense of uneasiness to increased worry or fear, to severe panic.

It is important that if you are feeling heightened feelings of anxiety to seek help; to talk to a friend or a member of your family, ring a counsellor or call a hotline.

These feelings may include “fear of this situation”, that “this situation is really bad” or that you “can’t cope with this”.

In extreme cases your behaviour may become uncharacteristic, like being aggressive, restless or irrational.

We have all seen some of these responses on television where people have been fighting in the supermarkets.

Your counsellor will be able to help you manage your thoughts, assist you with some relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.

Families who find themselves in isolation will inevitably struggle with the close proximity in which they are having to live.

Extended periods within the same four walls will no doubt lead to some form of conflict.

“Effective coping strategies can transform a conflict into a problem that can be solved mutually” (from Learning to cope with conflict and violence: how schools can help youth by Susan Opotow and Morton Deutsch, inLearning to Cope: Developing as a Person in Complex Societies, edited by Erica Frydenberg).

So, it is time to be even more considerate to one another, give each other some space and if possible, come up with constructive systems that promote positive outcomes.

Avoid situations that might increase tensions and anger.

While getting angry is a normal human emotion, so long as it is managed well, it should not cause a problem.

Anger can range from slight annoyance to severe rage, and it is these heightened feelings of anger that need careful consideration especially when having to live in close proximity, confined to your home.

Anger, in extreme cases, can lead to violence and if you are at all concerned about your own anger or that of someone close to you, it is important to reach out and get help.

Isolation can lead to other mental health issues, and prolonged isolation can lead to feelings of being “trapped” or “cabin fever”.

When you are confined to a small space or restricted against your will in your own home it is possible that you can begin to feel irritable and restless.

These are claustrophobic reactions to being confined and may occur if you are faced with self-isolation or if there is a total quarantine lockdown.

Keeping yourself motivated is important, finding constructive things to do is helpful and reading a good book or playing an engaging game will also be advantageous.

Contact a friend for a video chat, or simply pick up the phone and talk to someone; tell them how you feel, that you feel like you are going to go crazy, reach out and share these emotions, once shared, they are halved.

We live in a community that cares, be there for one another, it might be your turn to need help next time.

Stephanie Foxley is a Warrandyte based counsellor who offers face to face and online counselling services. Medibank, Bupa, Police Health Fund and Doctor’s Health fund accredited. Member of ACA and CCAA, Provisional member of PACFA

Mobile: 0407 921 122

Email: newlifehealingspace@gmail.com

 

Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080

Beyondblue Australia: 1300 22 4636

Lifeline: (Crisis Support) 13 11 14

Headspace: (12-25 years) 1800 650 890

Health and Human Services: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

Could your heart hold your answers?


HAVE YOU ever given thought to when we talk about emotions, why we talk about our heart so much more than any other parts of our body?

We don’t say your words hurt my liver or kidney;” we blurt out, “you hurt me”, “you hurt my feelings”, which means you hurt my heart.

Let’s explore this further.

Science has finally caught up with what the ancient people and mystics have always believed; that our heart is more than just an organ that pumps blood throughout our body.

In ancient history, we discover the heart is at the centre of all spiritual traditions.

As we dig deeper into many sacred texts, they often refer to the heart as the place where God and spirits dwell.

Most religious traditions talk about the heart not just as an organ but that it also feels, ponders, and remembers things.

It can even access information beyond our logical understanding.

We also now know the heart has its own brain.

As we look further into ancient cultures, we discover a theme:

in Taoism/Confucianism, the yin-yang symbol represents heart-mind;

in The Bible, the word “heart” appears over 1,000 times;

in Christianity, the cross and the heart are united;

in Catholic theology, the sacred heart of Jesus is the most used Catholic devotion.

In today’s world, the Dali Lama sums it up nicely:

“Never give up. No matter what is going on. Never give up. Develop the heart. Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart. Be compassionate not just to your friends but to everyone. Be compassionate. Work for peace in your heart and in the world. Work for peace. And I say again. Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.”

It all makes sense when you give it some thought.

So how did we lose the heart soul connection, where did it go?

Dr Joe Dispenza states in his book Becoming Supernatural:

“In the 17th century, during the early years of the scientific revolution, French philosopher Rene Descartes argues that the mind and body were two radically distinct substances.

Through this mechanistic view of the universe, people began to view the heart as an extraordinary machine.

The mechanism of the heart as a physical pump began to overshadow its nature as humanity’s connection to an innate intelligence.

Through scientific inquiry, the heart slowly ceased to be recognised as our connection to feelings, emotions, and our higher selves.

It has only been through the new science of the last few decades that we have begun to reconcile, understand, and recognise the true significance of the heart both as a source that generates electromagnetic fields and as our connection to the unified field.”

Find your self

Are you ready to try a little test?

Get your finger and point to you, yourself.

Now, where did you point?

Most people will point to the heart or chest area.

Is that a coincidence, or is this because our heart is connected to our spirit?

Find your heart

To reconnect with your innate being, your soul and heart, you can do some of the following:

Meditation

Yoga

Church or religious services

Time in nature

Time around children and pets

And focus on your heart and allow yourself to gently breathe in and out and allow positive feelings to radiate within it and around it.

When you quieten the mind, the heart will speak to you, the voice may be quiet, or it may be booming.

It’s that intuition you have.

You may say “my heart”, or “my gut” says yes or no.

Learn to reconnect and trust it.

Listen to your heart

In his book, The Heart’s Code, Dr Paul Pearsall, talks about a young girl who had a heart transplant.

After the successful transfer, the young girl started to have nightmares.

As the heart came from a young girl that was murdered, her dreams were taken seriously.

Her dreams were so accurate, that it led to the capture and conviction of the murderer.

Remember when the head and heart take opposing sides of an issue, don’t decide until they align, or you listen to your heart.

By doing this, you will reduce the “I should have listened to my instincts, heart or gut.”

If you feel lost, disconnected, hurt, anxious, remember to stop the mind chatter, by switching your attention to the heart and doing things that bring you to a state of calm, and ease helps.

If the condition moves beyond normal, seek professional help.

 

Do drop in (the art of spontaneity)

TURNING THE calendar over from January seems a bit like firing the starters pistol at an athletics track.

The moment it turns; the cruisy, lazy days of January start to fade from my memory, the prompts on my calendar no longer visible, and the days ahead fill with routine and to do lists that require the skills of a hurdler.

But before it fades completely I want to grab hold of a few moments and set them firmly in place.

One in particular was from our annual family trip to Tasmania to see my mum.

Typically, we don’t venture far from Mum’s place, instead we just slow down, enjoy long walks on the beach and a few too many serves of hot chips and ice-creams after swimming in the ocean.

But this year we added a little something extra and took off for a few days to the Tasman Peninsula, primarily known for its main attraction, the Port Arthur Historic Site, and some incredible rock formations at Eaglehawk Neck.

We skipped Port Arthur and its busloads of tourists and instead found spectacular beaches, captivating scenery and a remote gin distillery that makes Butterfly Gin — a deep blue gin that turns pink when tonic water is added.

Perfect really.

It was an impulsive escape, and we just happened to be the lucky family that got the last available room on the entire peninsula that weekend — staying at Pirates Bay (how fun does that sound?) — one of the aforementioned beautiful beaches.

The peninsula is host to amazing walking tracks, many taking you to cliff tops that make you feel giddy as you look over the edge at powerful waves that crash the rugged coastline beneath you, and small seaside villages that offer magnificent views.

Doo Town is one of these villages.

A tiny seaside town of shacks at the south end of Pirates Bay, it is famous for its quirky house names.

A tradition that started in the 30s, when Hobart architect Eric Round named his shack “Doo I”.

His neighbour quickly replied with Doo-Me and a friend followed up with Doo-Us.

The tradition still continues today with most of the town’s shacks having “Doo” names, such as Dr Doolittle, Toucan Doo and a favourite of mine, Doo-write, and then there is Doo-lishus, the food van at the nearby Blowhole.

The hunt was on for the best name.

And then we happened upon Doo Drop Inn and I firmly announced that was the winner for me.

I love it when people drop in.

It doesn’t happen often and of course you can be caught unawares, but it makes my day when a friend just drops in because they were “in the area” or “had a few minutes to spare”.

But it is rare, perhaps a thing of the past, a habit of bygone days when neighbours and friends just dropped in for a cuppa.

According to my research, which involved the very scientific face to face conversations with local friends and a social media post, I’m of a rare breed myself and most do not like a drop in.

I was shocked.

It seems the drop in has been replaced by invitation only, with busy lives set up to take the blame.

I wonder how much the pressure to have things in order adds to it, and of course, the Instagram images of beautiful homes feeds the inadequacy many feel in relation to housekeeping and home decorating skills.

One research participant said, “I need a few days’ notice, so I can tidy up, bake, make the house look nice and make sure there is a bottle of wine in the fridge.”

My oh my — that sounds more like a fancy dinner to me, and unfortunately her sentiment was echoed by many others.

And to that I say stop this madness.

What are we doing to ourselves that how our homes look is more important than having an open door?

What are we doing that our lives are so busy that we must schedule every visit, every cup of tea with a friend? 

Here’s the challenge — stop the styling, stop setting ourselves up for perfection, just let go and instead breathe deeply of the friendship and spontaneity of a friend at the door — they didn’t come to see your house.

Perhaps be the one that drops in on friends, maybe it’s time to start a revolution and bring back the drop in.

As an extrovert I love to see my friends, any time of day and night, and I am happy to be distracted, to discard any task for a conversation.

So if you need somewhere to practice — doo drop in.

Sunshine, freedom and a little flower

GARDENING

IT HAS BEEN a sad month of November as we learn news of the ravaging fires up north and the decimation of our beautiful country, farmland, National Parks, the wildlife, birdlife and other critters.
It brings to harsh reality the dangerous place we live in.
We rely on Mother Nature to look after us, and for our neighbours to be aware and watchful of how they tend their gardens, their cigarette butts and just their consideration of others in general.
December 1 is the time when panic sets in on when we last cleaned out the gutters, is our fire plan in order and have we cleared flammables from around the house.
We look in admiration at the CFA as we drive past the station, knowing they will have our backs when we need them.
Are we leaving out water bowls for the birds and animals?
It is amazing how many native animal sighting there have been this year.
How many are frequenting our gardens and river.
It makes
me laugh when someone comments on Kevin the Kookaburra who arrives on their balcony waiting for tidbits and someone else comments that “this is not Kevin” but their kookaburra Harry.
My water lillies are showing their faces out of the murky water of my old copper near the front door.
They flower year in and year out. Just a single simple plant.
I love how the birds come to admire themselves in the water while they are drinking.
Try popping a little chunk of manure in an old piece of stocking and weigh it down in the water with an old brick.
This is all I do to fertilise my waterlily.
It thrives on the neglect.
A little bit like my orchids.
I pull my blinds open in the morning and just spend a couple of minutes taking in all the plants that come to peer in the window.
The salvias, struck from tips put into the ground this time last year, are now two feet high and flowering.
The clematis and Pierre de Ronsard roses entwining each other — clamouring over a rusty old arbour.
The euphorbias, an old reliable in the garden, are flowering profusely, the Jerusalem Sage a pop of yellow and always covered with bees.
Poppies that I have never planted have decided that they will come to stay; probably brought in with bird droppings.
The scent of the lemon blossoms, mock orange, the scented verbenas and the roses of course, waft through the window on the morning breeze.
The day will always be a rush but this is the few minutes of peace we can have.
Moments to plan. Moments to contemplate life and its ups and downs.
The vegetable patches are looking a bit forlorn this year. We have the lettuce, spinach, peas and beans, tomatoes, basil, fruits and herbs.
Still all doing their thing even though they have been neglected this year.
There is nothing so humbling as finding the plants flowering and fruiting even though no one will be there to witness it.
December is a time to batten down the hatches as we prepare for the predicted heat waves and scorching north winds that will dry out the garden.
Hopefully you took my advice last month and got on top of the mulching, trapping the moisture underneath it in preparation with the dry months ahead.
Make sure your taps, hoses and buckets are all in position.
That there is a bucket collecting water in the bottom of your shower, ready to be tipped on the plants closest to the house.
Remember to wander around the garden in the afternoon snipping off the dead heads of the annuals, perennials, roses and lavender — make pot pourri with the cuttings.
It is not too late to plant seedlings in the vegetable garden.
Beetroot, lettuce, parsley, peas, pumpkin, silverbeet and radish.
Cistus is a great plant to plant out now.
It is a Mediterranean native from Italy and Greece.
They love sunbaked soils and are drought tolerant.
Always remember the plants with grey leaves or spiky small leaves are an indication that they like arid conditions.
Salvias, the perfect example; rosemary, lavender and catmint others.
Maybe hunt down the beautiful pink rosemary and the white lavenders.
Or catmint (nepeta) “Six Hills Giant” that will grow up to a 70cm high and one metre across.
Remember that basil, lavender, and catnip are all plants that mosquitoes can’t stand, while other varieties, like lemon balm, are best crushed up and applied to skin for a natural insect repellent.
Gift giving?
Packets of seeds are always a beautiful gift, as are new gardening gloves.
Or of course a pair of secateurs.
Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas surrounded by your garden and those that love you.
Wishing you peace in the new decade, and a garden that always blooms.

Working with Gen Z – when you a clearly not one!


I am not even fully awake yet and I can feel the glowing rectangles of text burning into the back of my mind, beckoning me to come hither.
While I was sleeping, a few of the Gen Zs on my work team were up late, buzzing away in our group messaging space and now, while they sleep, their silent chatter calls to the rest of us.
It is a strong, invisible force that pulls me towards the screen.
Though there are no visible signs alerting me to their existence, the battle to ignore them is exhausting.
It’s been going on for months — and most days they win.
Before I’ve even put the kettle on I am scrolling through kilometres of text messages and emoji’s: the occasional ‘thumbs up’ and, of course, the ever present yellow circle faces with puffed out cheeks and red heart shaped eyes.
My mind fills with a whirl of responses and frustration and, by the time my family join me in the kitchen, the joy of the new day has already been washed away.
Navigating the work space via an online chat app requires one to be ‘switched on’ at all times.
If you miss a few hours of “conversation” it can take almost as much time to catch up.
Instant messaging is the way it works with this team, and their friends, and they are comfortable with it.
I, however, am struggling to speak their lingo.
Gen Z have grown up in the digital age, social media and mobile devices are a natural part of life.
In a face-to-face meeting recently I was told I had been coming across as unfriendly and somewhat abrupt.
As the conversation continued it became clear that my lack of emoji use had something to do with it.
I have been a user of the colon-close-bracket-smiley-face for years now, and I’ve even branched out to the semi-colon when I want to spice it up a little, but apparently my lack of puff cheeked golden orbs is sending its own message.
Emoji – those small digital images used to express an idea or emotion within text messages are important in some circles and if you get it wrong it can mean more text messages to establish the original meaning.
Try sending a ‘happy face’ by accident and see how long it takes to right the wrong, and as far as working out when to use the halo-wearing, sweating or sunglass wearing faces… well, when you do, can you let me know?
This experience has me wondering if instant messaging really does belong in the work place.
Perhaps it does – it just needs boundaries.
In our everyday life, we use texting regularly to make plans, ask questions and resolve queries like “what time will you be home tonight?”
However, it often seems to take longer and feels to me that it is a step backwards in communication.
Standing around typing and waiting for the response seems to be a waste of time and a missed opportunity to connect.
The question also sits unresolved and keeps our minds preoccupied while we wait for a reply.
These messages can often also lend themselves to miscommunication.
You can’t hear the tone of voice, and most often punctuation is not used, so the meaning can be misconstrued.
Here’s an example:
After numerous texts back and forth with a colleague there was still no resolution or plan to move forward on an issue.
The hours between a text and its response seemed to drag.
What could have been resolved in a few minutes over the phone took days.
Eventually I sent a text suggesting a phone call within business hours, estimating in would only take about 20 minutes to resolve the issue.
Eventually, with a little bit of fuss and a message to let me know how much my request was an inconvenience, the call took place and as predicted, the matter was resolved within the timeframe given.
Wrapping up the conversation I decided to ask a personal question, something like, ‘How are you going with all this?’ and instantly I regretted it.
What followed was a torrent of words telling me I was wasting her time and that she “doesn’t do phone calls”.
Suffice to say, communication between the two of us remained stilted for the remainder of the project.
So tell me, when texting is the default, and a phone conversation is often seen as time wasting, and unwelcome, how do you establish friendships over multiple short messages?
Perhaps the answer really does lie in the face of an Emoji.
Anyway, I’m off to my other job, where we work face to face and talk to one another across the office.
At lunch time we might walk to the bakery together and chat about our weekend.
Later, I’ll head home and possibly catch me some different kind of Zs.

 

Wait for it…. here we go…


MY GOOGLE Calendar informs me there are 30 days in September, but if you listen to Mike Brady there is only one day I’ll want to remember.
Do I really want to listen to a man who also wants me to get in there and fight?
Probably.
It just so happens that yet another lot of school holidays fall in September.
Fighting is surely the order of the day? Let us chart a typical day in the September holidays.
You wake up and it’s warm and sunny, by the time the offspring wake up, clouds have formed, the wind has sprung up and for goodness sake it’s started to pour with rain.
Excellent, we are now all trapped inside.
Wait for it… here we go…
“Mum, he just used all the milk so I can’t eat breakfast — I’m starving.”
Door slams.
Looks like I won’t be eating either.
Different door gets banged.

“Mum, she’s just gone into the shower, I wanted a shower”.
Of course you do.
You haven’t wanted to for the last three days whenever I’ve asked you to, but now that one of the three showers in the house is occupied, it’s imperative that you wash.
And apparently it has to be that shower.
Distressed screaming spews forth from a bedroom.
Wait for it… here we go…
“Mum, he’s stolen my phone charger”.
Really? A day ago, I had a charger and a fully functioning pair of earbuds.
Currently, I possess an empty wall socket and a white cord that has the left ear bud hanging on by the merest of threads whilst the right one is MIA.
As the caterwauling increases, my one manky earbud that’s hanging on by a wire fails to block out the incessant noise adequately enough.
I devise an escape plan.
With all of them too busy hissing at each other to notice me, I grab the car keys and sneak out to the garage.
Except, where there is meant to be a car, there is large empty car sized space.
School holidays — car service — of course.
Shoulders slumped, I drag my defeated butt back into the house and commit the most fatal of parenting fails.
“If you lot don’t stop fighting, I’m banning all electronic devices”.
Wait for it … here we go …
Complete silence as three sets of eyes unite, turn and bore into me like laser beams.
It’s only 9am.
It’s only day one.
It’s not the first time that I wished I drank coffee.
Or gin.
Or the perfect combo of the two.
Espresso martinis.
Backing away from the combined advancing force of three wi-fi-less teenagers, I feebly offer up a packet of Uno cards and my treasured childhood limited Australian edition Monopoly set, complete with Bourke Street before it was a Mall and Telecom before it became Telstra.
By some unspoken sibling super power, they have me surrounded, pluck Monopoly from my trembling grip and start to set up the board on the breakfast-less dining room table.
Game on.
I’m ready to get in there and fight, fly like an angel and show them my might.
I’m not called Cazaly for nothing.
I dazzle my treasured offspring with my entrepreneurial 1980s property developer style, snapping up properties, building houses and opening up the odd hotel.
Too busy congratulating myself on using the experience that only comes with being on the earth longer than all three of them combined, I make the typical Gen-X mistake and ignore the crumbling infrastructure.
I have failed to invest in the utilities and railway stations.
My portfolio slumps.
I find myself trapped like a commuter approaching Hoddle Street on the Eastern Freeway at 8:30 in the morning.
A few more poor rolls of the dice and I’m in and out of jail often enough that I could be cast for a recurring role in Wentworth.
Filing for bankruptcy, I realise I’m not called Cazaly at all and the crowd is definitely not on my side.
Without me to gang up on, the teenagers turn on each other.
The noise gets louder and louder.
“If you lot don’t stop fighting, I’m returning all electronic devices”.
Wait for it… here it comes…
High fives all round and
“Hey, have you seen the latest skittles Tik-Tok?,” as they clamber around each other’s phones.
Walking out the door to embark on my seven-kilometre round trip to IGA to get milk for my breakfast, it strikes me that Mike Brady was both right and wrong.
There really is that one day in September, but I truly do not want to remember it.
My Google calendar was also correct about there being 30 days, thankfully only half off them are in the school holidays.

Soak it up while it lasts

THE DAYS HAVE been short, and the landscape has been at perhaps its most hydrated.

The sky seems drab, but quite literally, soak it up while it lasts!

Before you know it, we’ll be back to dust and searing heat.

For the naturalist in mid-winter, things can seem uninteresting.

Many animals are tucked away in hollows and burrows and the “higher” plants (trees, grasses, flowers, etc) are at a standstill.

However, a whole different slice of biodiversity has been doing its thing this month.

The trick is just knowing how to spot them.

The large “flushes” of mushrooms may have passed, but the fungi are by no means silent.

Turning a clump of soil or leaf litter may reveal fine white hairs — hyphae — the roots of the fungi.

As these are highly sensitive to drying out, winter is their time to break down all of last season’s organic matter and cycle it back into soil.

Springing from the soil after a good drink are the ferns.

Their fronds emerge as coiled bundles known as fiddle heads, for their resemblance to the end of a classical string instrument.

Thriving in low temperatures, there is a clear connection between ferns and trees.

The canopy trees shield out the harsh sunlight of midday, whilst allowing the gentle, angled light of dawn and dusk to nourish the fern.

Often at sunrise and sunset, you will see a small beam of light, with a fern waiting in just the right spot to take full advantage.

The mosses and lichens too revel in the wet, and those fuzzy banks of moss play host to other species with their high moisture content, whilst simultaneously smothering out the weeds.

These will continue to drip out water for many months to come, helping those heavy rain periods nourish the landscape for a longer period.

With water so widespread, life is good for our amphibious friends, the frogs.

Their habitat is at its greatest extent at this time of year.

Small dams and even dips/trenches in the landscape may be full of water now, but not so in summer time.

As the summertime grasses are drowned by water, a host of macro-invertebrates — water bugs — move in to feed on the decaying grass, triggering the beginnings of the freshwater food chain.

Without fish to eat their tadpoles, and nice small, tadpole sized meals swimming about, these little puddles are the perfect place for frogs to complete their life cycle.

Such water logged soils, when combined with high winds prove the down fall of many trees at this time of year.

Some healthy giants, but also many smaller dead trees that lost the race for top spot.

If you’ve had such an event at your house/your local bit of park, look out for weeds that may germinate in these areas come spring.

As if this didn’t make life hard enough for the poor possums, with very few moths about, many possums subsist only on the odd gum leaf in winter.

Our wildlife doesn’t truly hibernate like bears; however, many possums enter a low energy state or “torpor”, sleeping deeply but still waking nightly for a little snack and a stretch.

Winter is when a hollow in a dead tree becomes prized real estate.

As the inside of the tree rots it releases heat, much like a compost heap, just enough to keep a hollow a little warmer than the outside world.

The first few acacia flowers signal an explosion just around the corner.

More subtle signs of spring appear in the form of orchid leaves appearing on the ground surface, and various lilies putting out some foliage ready for the spring time delight.

So, chuck on your favourite trench coat, some good boots and get out in the bush while it is still full of life’s most precious element — water.

Ian Hawkins is a local ecologist, operating his own small business, Magpie Ecology.

When will I receive my 2019 tax assessment?


THERE ARE two significant changes this year that may delay the time when your tax return can be processed and assessed.
If you are anticipating a tax refund, then be prepared for the refund to hit your bank account later than you may be expecting.

The Impact of Single Touch Payroll Reporting (STP)

Commencing  July  1 , 2018 , employers with 20  or  more employees have been required to report their payroll details to the ATO on a real time basis each pay period.
Employers with less than 20 employees may have voluntarily elected to adopt this real time reporting system.
Employers will have until July 31, 2019 to finalise their STP data for the 2018/19 financial year, with that date to change back to July 14 each year subsequently.
So how might this change affect you?
If your employer has been reporting under STP you will no longer receive a Payment Summary (also previously known as a Group Certificate) but instead will be replaced by an Income Statement that you will need to access through your myGov account or your tax agent.
For the current year only, you may not be able to access this information until as late as July 31. Furthermore, consistent with prior
years, other pre-fill data including dividends, interest, share disposals, and private health insurance cover details are progressively uploaded on to the ATO systems and may take time to be finalised.
If you receive income from trust funds this information is often not available until late September.
From July 1, 2019 STP reporting will be extended to include all businesses with employees other than family businesses comprising only family members as employees, who may report on a quarterly basis together with the lodgment of their quarterly BAS.
Furthermore, if proposed measures announced in the 2019/20 Federal Budget become law, from July 1, 2020, STP data collected by the ATO will be expanded and shared with other Commonwealth agencies to ensure individuals receiving Government benefits are paid their
correct entitlements.

The Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LAMITO)

Taxpayers with taxable incomes below $37,000 have for many years been entitled to a non-refundable Low Income Tax Offset (LITO) of $445 phasing out to zero at a taxable income of $66,666.
In the April 2019 Federal Budget t h e C o a l i t i o n G o v e r n m e n t foreshadowed the introduction of a new additional tax offset (LAMITO) to provide additional temporary nonrefundable tax relief to low income earners and also encompassing a new level of temporary tax relief to middle income earners to be available for the 2019 to 2022 income years.
At the time of writing this column, this foreshadowed legislation is yet to go before Parliament, but current undertakings from the Opposition suggest that the legislation will be supported.
N e v e r t h e l e s s , t h e b u d g e t proposal could be subject to some amendments in order to pass through both Houses of Parliament.
Should the legislation as outlined in the budget pass unchanged then individuals with a taxable income under $37,000 can expect an additional non-refundable LAMITO of $255 making a total LITO and LAMITO of $700.
The amount of the L AMITO increases for taxable incomes above $37,000 to reach a maximum of $1080 at a taxable income of $90,000, thereafter reducing at the rate of 3% of the excess taxable income over $90,000.
If your tax return is processed and assessed prior to the proposed LAMITO legislation passing through both Houses and receiving Royal Assent, your tax return would subsequently need to be amended by the ATO to accommodate the impact of the LAMITO on your 2019 assessment.
This therefore is the second reason you may choose to delay lodging your tax return until after July 31 or later until the LAMITO tax offset becomes law and ATO systems are updated to accommodate any changes from the proposed legislation as outlined in the Budget.
Please remember both of the tax offsets explained above are nonrefundable.
This means that you must have incurred a tax liability and either paid PAYG tax instalments through the year or your employer has withheld PAYG tax from your wage or salary during the year.
If not, then the tax offsets will be an offset against your unpaid tax liability reducing the tax payable on your tax assessment.
If your employer has withheld tax sufficient to cover your tax liability, the tax offsets will reduce (offset) your tax liability thus producing a tax refund.
If you use a tax agent to prepare your tax return, the above factors may explain why your tax agent chooses to delay lodging your tax return this year until all relevant pre-fill tax information is available to download into your tax return and thus avoid the added expense of having to lodge an amended return.

The content of this article is not intended to be used as professional advice and should not be used as such.
B r i a n S p u r r e l l F C PA , C TA ,
Registered Tax Agent, is Director
o f Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd.
PO
Box 143 Warrandyte 3113.
Mobile: 0412 011 946

bspurrell@ptasaccountants.com.au,
www.ptasaccountants.com.au

The season of insects, moths and fungi

PERHAPS MY favourite cyclic event of the naturalist calendar was the mass emergence of the rain moths.

It was usually an April phenomenon after the late summer storms had swept across the city and began to break the drought of summer.

Mists returned to the river valley and the steadier rainfall of March and April would refresh the earth and kick start the ecological processes that had laid dormant over Summer.

It was then that the rain moths would appear at an outside light that had been left on.

Hundreds of them, in a display of dazzling diversity.

There were heliotrope moths, twin emeralds, Clara’s satin moths, geometrids, white satin moths, granny’s cloak moths and many, many species, big and small that I could not put a name to.

The mass emergence of the rain moths provided a guaranteed food supply, a rich source of protein for the local birds essential for their late winter breeding cycle.

This critical food resource would give them an advantage over the spring/ summer migrating birds coming to the Yarra Valley.

Sometimes there would be the huge wattle goat moths that were as big as small birds.

Moths, whose caterpillars would chew their way through black wattle trees before entering the ground to emerge when the rains softened the earth enough for them to dig their way out.

Sometimes there would be great numbers of Bogong moths that would be blown off course on their trek to the mountains of the Great Divide where they historically were gathered and eaten by the local First Nations Peoples.

However, I haven’t experienced the rain moth emergence now since 2010, the year the Millennium drought broke.

Before that I recorded it in 1997, the year the Millennium Drought begun.

Twice in over 22 years instead of something that was an every-year event.

The drop in rainfall across the Yarra Valley has curtailed these critical ecological events.

It is not just moth numbers that are reduced, it is across the whole spectrum of insects.

The fall in insect presence gets mentioned in Field Naturalist Club newsletters.

People notice their car windows don’t get covered in insects on long summer drives.

Entomologists worry about it.

The fall in average rainfall that we are experiencing is also affecting the prevalence of fungi which — like the rain moths — would generally begin showing on mass around April in the old rainfall patterns.

Fungi are important to all life on many levels.

The majority of plants require a mycorrhizal relationship with fungi by which the fungi facilitate plant growth by breaking down nutrients in the soil and making them available to plants.

They influence the well-being of human populations on a large scale because they are part of the nutrient cycle in ecosystems.

They naturally produce antibiotics to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, limiting their competition in the natural environment.

Important antibiotics for human use can also be isolated from fungi.

When we talk of biodiversity, the numbers of species are dominated by insects and fungi.

Of all the known species in the world, vertebrates have 2 per cent of the species, plants 11 per cent, insects and invertebrates 43 per cent and fungi 44 per cent of the total species.

Species diversity is one of the greatest stabilizing influences on our planet.

A diverse ecosystem is a stable ecosystem.

The protection of biodiversity is one of the three core objectives of the Australian National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Future.

Conserving biodiversity is vital for maintaining our quality of life and our standard of living in the long term.

“So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to disappear, humanity would not last more than a few months.

Most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would crash to extinction about the same time.

Next would go the bulk of flowering plants and with them the physical structure of most forests and other terrestrial habitats of the world. The land surface would literally rot.”

—Wilson-The Diversity of Life

Let’s Celebrate Simon Wonga Day on May 24


I HAVE WRITTEN before about how Simon Wonga developed a plan for the survival of the Kulin people in the 1840s.
This was for them to learn agricultural and stock mustering skills in order to establish an economic base in the new world they faced.
Wonga organised the last ever Kulin Nation corroboree in 1852 and gave his people the opportunity to play all their traditional games and thereby say goodbye to tribal life.

I have also told the story of how Wonga Park got its name, in tribute to Wonga’s stock mustering skills and charismatic leadership.
He was a great man, and to me Simon Wonga stands alongside Sir John Monash as the two greatest Victorians in our State’s history.
Perhaps you might agree with me when you hear a brief account of how he secured a government grant of land to establish Coranderrk Station at Healesville in 1863.
It was an achievement against all odds that showed his strategic brilliance.

Wonga’s father Billibelleri was Headman of the five Kulin tribes from 1836 until he died in 1846.
Wonga was then 25 and had been groomed for leadership.
Not because he was Billibilleri’s son, but because his innate ability, character and knowledge made him the standout choice.
However, Wonga did not feel he was ready, so in 1846 the leadership passed to Billibelleri’s younger brother Berberry.
When the government approved the establishment of an Aboriginal Reserve at Pound Bend in October 1850, Wonga decided he was ready for leadership.
Berberry willingly stepped aside and Wonga then began activating his plan.
Unfortunately, gold was discovered at Warrandyte in 1851 which compromised the viability of the Reserve at Pound Bend.
A new Reserve was consequently declared at Woori-Yallock, only for gold to be found there as well.
However, the meagre gold at Warrandyte and Woori Yallock was soon vastly overshadowed by the discoveries at Ballarat and Bendigo.
Curiously, the Ballarat and Bendigo gold discoveries turned out to be an advantage to Wonga’s plans.
With workers deserting their employment and flooding to the goldfields, it inadvertently drove up Aboriginal work opportunities and wages.
Wonga was therefore able to get contract work for Aboriginal people on farms up the Plenty and Yarra valleys.
Wonga in fact won the contract to build the first public house in Warrandyte.
It is a pity his name is not commemorated in some way at the present day Warrandyte pub.
With the disbandment of the Native Police in 1853, William Barak joined Wonga at Wonga Park, where they met the Reverend John Green who had arrived in 1858.
The three of them were to develop a most fruitful relationship over the next sixteen years.

In February 1859, Wonga received information that a settler in the Upper Goulburn had abandoned his run.
Wonga knew it was prime land, so he led a deputation of Elders to see the Aboriginal Protector William Thomas.
The deputation also included my great-great-grandfather’s friend, Murrum-Murrum.
Thomas got approval for them to claim the land, so Wonga, Barak and others left Melbourne, to establish Acheron Station in March 1859.
They were later joined by Reverend Green and others from Woori Yallock.

Over the next two years, Wonga and the Kulin people made a great success of the venture, but they were ultimately cheated out of the land by neighbouring squatters Hugh Glass and Peter Snodgrass.
Glass, a land speculator, was the richest man in Victoria and Snodgrass a Parliamentarian, so draw your own conclusions.
The Kulin were forced onto bleak and inhospitable land near Cathedral Mountain, where people started dying like flies.
So in early 1863, Wonga, Barak and Green led the remnants of their group across the Great Dividing Range, via the Black’s Spur Songline, to present day Healesville where they claimed land there.
Wonga had learned his lessons well.

The demise of Pound Bend, Woori-Yallock and Acheron had shown him he would get nothing from the parliamentarians.
So he went over their heads. On May 24, 1863, which was Queen Victoria’s birthday, Wonga led an Aboriginal deputation to Government House.
They presented gifts of woven baskets, artefacts and possum skin rugs to Sir Henry Barkley for ‘The Good Queen Mother’ and the just married Prince of Wales.
Then Wonga presented a petition for the land at Coranderrk.
Immediately afterward Sir Henry summoned the government leader and told him in no uncertain terms that if the grant of land was not made immediately, ‘the Queen would not be happy’.
The result was that a month later the land grant at Coranderrk was duly approved.
Over the next decade Coranderrk became socially and economically the most successful Mission in Australian history, until Wonga died in 1874.

So to me, May 24 is not Empire Day, it is Wonga Day and it should be fittingly celebrated as the start of Reconciliation Week each year.

On being the last one left at the movies


Films take us places we have never been, even if it’s for just a few moments, offering us a window into the wider world, opening our eyes to new wonders.

They entertain us, they offer hope and inspire us, they challenge us and broaden our perspective.

Films take us inside the lives of people different from ourselves and take us to places different from our everyday surroundings.

Why, only recently, I was flying over rooftops in London, transported back to 1935.

I had been dropped into a world of beautiful costumes, fabulous music and dance and some clever lines delivered by handsome actors at just the right moment.

Along with the beautiful sets and a chance to revisit a classic, watching Dick Van Dyke dance up a storm again at aged 91 was sheer brilliance.

Going to the cinema, sitting in a darkened theatre, we are left alone to travel to those places, until often, all too soon, it’s over.

The transition is often abrupt as lights come on and people start to move.

They murmur and stretch and turn on their phones, they scratch around in bags looking for keys and stand up, dusting the popcorn from their laps and loudly share their opinions.

Meanwhile, the music invites us to linger on the edge of where we have been, and the long list of names and acknowledgments continues down the screen.

First, of course, are the names of the stars of the show, appearing in a fancy font, one by one, as does the director’s name and a few other special people.

Then the long list of names with job titles rolls while the music continues and the theatre empties.

But I stay seated, often to the frustration of my other half.

I am not quite ready to go back to my ordinary, I like to stay and I like to read that long list of names.

To find out where it was filmed, and how many units were set up in different locations and which townsfolk need to be thanked.

To see just how many people worked in the art department, on costume design and make-up, and how many stunt performers, camera crew and lighting technicians made the leads look so good and by the way, what even is a ‘grip’?

And then there’s the production babies.

In the credits of Toy Story, Pixar began the custom of listing the names of babies born to anyone involved in the film during production, paying homage to the length of time a crew spends together and the personal relationships established over the period of production.

What we consume in under 120 minutes takes years and a multitude of people to produce, and the credits are the signifier.

Let’s go back to Mary Poppins.

It took over 500 people to bring us that single opportunity of simple escapism.

There were the usual stars and of course a few street urchins, 26 leeries (lamplighters) and one ‘handsome man’, there were 32 in the make-up department, over 130 in the art department and I lost count on the camera and lighting crew.

And though filmmakers often add in a little reward for those that choose to watch the credits, I know that as I read those names I am, in just one small way, acknowledging the work of a large group of talented artists and craftspeople.

Birrarung stories: Just how long have aboriginal people been here?


BEFORE THE 1940s it was thought that the arrival of Aboriginal people in Australia only dated back 2,000 years.

In 1940 this arrival date was dramatically extended when the Keilor skull was unearthed and dated at nearly 15,000 years.

However the skull was in the upper sedimentary levels of the Maribyrnong River Gorge and by 1971, radiocarbon dating had pushed the date of the lower sedimentary layers back to 31,000 years.

In every decade since, the date of human occupation of Australia has inexorably marched backward as new scientific techniques have been developed.

The problem though, is that scientists get attached to the theories and techniques of their own particular discipline.

Certain ideas get entrenched with religious conviction in the scientific community and then in the general public.

For instance the technique of radiocarbon dating originally had a validity level of only 40,000 years, but with technological advancement is now 50.000 years.

That is, the radiation decay in a C14 molecule is such that every 5,730 years its radioactivity decreases by half.

Ultimately you get to a situation when a half of stuff all is still stuff all.

This means that the oldest artefact measured by radiocarbon dating always came out at 40,000 years, regardless of the fact that it might have been 80,000 years or even 180,000 years.

So from this imprecise scientific method, a myth developed that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for 40,000 years.

This is still the most quoted figure, even by Aboriginal people.

The point is, if you ask the question ‘Well, if Aboriginal people arrived here 40,000 or even 50,000 years ago, how did they get here?’

The obvious answer is: ‘They arrived by boat during an ice age when the sea levels were lower.’

Well, if that is right then the sea levels were right for migration into Australia around 70,000 years ago.

This is an interesting figure because about 75,000 years ago Mount Toba, a volcano in Sumatra erupted.

It was a catastrophic event that almost wiped out life in the Northern Hemisphere.

The toxic pollution would have been a great motivator to migrate southward into Australia, which was not affected.

However an arrival date in Australia of 70,000 to 75,000 years ago conflicts with the popular ‘African Eve’ theory.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research, which traces ancestry through the female line, puts migration out of Africa at 60,000 years ago.

The big problem with such research is that every time a woman has no daughters, her genetic history disappears, because her sons cannot pass on her mtDNA.

This means that the age of African Eve is constantly moving forward as female genetic history disappears. The same flaw also applies to male Y chromosome dating.

New research in fact now shows that there was indeed migration into Australia around 75,000 years ago.

However there is also mounting evidence that Aboriginal people were already here.

Another window for migration at the time of low sea levels occurred about 105,000 years ago, but various new techniques put the antiquity of Aboriginal occupation significantly longer than even this.

In 1985 Australian palaeontologist Gurdip Singh drilled a 72 metre core sample at Lake George in NSW and analysed the pollen and charcoal layers.

He found that the charcoal deposits at a certain point became so regular, that it could only be explained by deliberate human activity.

In other words it was due to Aboriginal firestick farming.

Singh estimated this date as 120,000 years ago, and created a storm of controversy amongst conservatively minded academics.

However his findings were replicated by core samples in North Queensland which pushed the date back to 140,000 years ago.

Since then, thermoluminescence techniques have pushed the date of ochre paintings at Kakadu back to 150,000 years ago.

This is a really interesting coincidence of dates, because at this time there was a 20,000 year window of opportunity for migration into Australia, due to the lower sea levels of an ice age.

So it now seems likely that Aboriginal people first migrated here at least 150,000 years ago.

As marsupial animals cannot communicate diseases to humans they found themselves in a disease free environment, and apart from the marsupial lion (the Dooligar), they had no predatory competitors.

So within 10,000 years of arrival, Australia was fully colonised and Aboriginal people had begun systematically managing the environment by fire.

However you will still see the culturally blind assumption in academic texts that Aboriginals were just using fire to hunt animals, rather than as a sophisticated tool of land management.

Terra Nullius still insidiously influences our thinking.

If firestick farming was going on 140,000 years ago then it was underpinned by a systematic knowledge base.

That knowledge base was of course the totem system, within which all knowledge was integrated to serve ecological purposes.

2019: Time for a climate resolution?

THE START OF THE New Year brings fresh hope, potential and the promise of good deeds.

It is a chance to slip out of the shackles of the past 12 months, shake up some old habits — and get started on some new ones.

If the past year has left you feeling frustrated, infuriated and keen to push for climate change action make 2019 the year you throw some climate change resolutions into the mix.

Hungry for ideas? 

Here are our top five picks from the Climate Council’s climate action toolkit:

Make your vote a climate vote

2019 is a Federal election year in Australia — and a chance to make a real impact on climate change.

Contact your Member of Parliament (MP) and let them know that climate change will be an election-deciding issue for you.

For Menzies this is Kevin Andrews.

You could do this by attending WarrandyteCAN’s #Fridays4Future protests (every Friday at 4pm outside his office), calling his office or writing him a letter.

Install rooftop solar, or switch to green energy

Two million (and counting) Australians are now harnessing the power of the sun to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution and take control of their power bills, by installing rooftop solar.

And when paired with battery storage, rooftop solar can deliver clean, reliable, renewable power 24/7.

Alternatively, if you’re not in a position to purchase solar panels, you could consider making the switch to a clean energy provider, who will purchase renewable energy on your behalf.

This is also a great way to bring down greenhouse gas pollution and invest in renewable energy. 

Check out the Green Electricity Guide at: bit.ly/2G9QiJm for help picking a provider.

Move your money, so it doesn’t support the fossil fuel industry

Do you know where your personal finances are invested? 

Many banks, super funds and share portfolios invest in fossil fuel projects.

Making informed choices about where to invest your hard-earned cash, will put pressure on financial institutions to do better.

And thankfully, there are a lot of options out there for banks and super funds that support renewable energy and the environment.

To find out where your bank stands see: bit.ly/2HB9twp.

To find what future your super is funding see: superswitch.org.au/

Change the way you travel

Transport accounts for 18% of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution, adding 100 million tonnes to the atmosphere every year.

On emissions, transport is second only to electricity.

While a credible national policy is needed to tackle transport emissions, there are actions you can take to reduce your transport emissions, including: avoiding unnecessary travel, especially air travel; choosing cleaner alternatives to car travel; and encouraging your workplace to support cleaner transport.

Join the movement to Stop Adani’s mega-mine

Adani’s coal mine will contribute to cooking our climate, wrecking our reef and draining our water.

We must #StopAdani and move beyond coal.

We would love you to join us (join our local Warrandyte group or one of the other 160 local #StopAdani groups).

Our national movement so far has stopped public and private funding to the mine.

Every month we hold peaceful protests, meet with politicians, send letters and postcards to MPs, door knock our local community, attend local markets, and hold trainings and film/information nights.

There is an activity for everyone and all are welcome!

Charlotte Sterrett is a member of local climate change action group WarrandyteCAN. If you would like to become a climate change hero, join us. 

We are on Facebook at: WarrandyteCAN

An Ode to JC’s Birthday

Paddling through the Yarra

In a holey old canoe

Hitting rocks below

Whilst fighting off a ‘roo

~~~~~

Tiger snake swims by

Hissing Christmas songs

It’s time for summer holidays

And I’m in my boardies n’ thongs

~~~~~

Oh! Jingle bells, my red bin smells

It wasn’t picked up last week

It’s Christmas time in Warrandyte

40 degrees and my goon-bag’s sprung a leak, hey

~~~~~

Jingle bells, jingle bells

Christmas time is grouse

Oh what fun it is to ride

‘cross the bridge to Nanna’s house

~~~~~

Asphalt’s getting hot

Melts the soles of shoes

An echidna’s getting prickly

He deserves a chilled beer too

~~~~~

All the clan is there

Sitting by the river

Christmas Day the Wazza way

Even Wombats are ruining their liver.

~~~~~

Oh! Jingle bells, my compost smells

The outdoor table is set

It’s Christmas in Warrandyte

And the rain’s on its way I bet, hey

~~~~~

Jingle bells, jingle bells

Kookaburras stole the goose

A dozen ales and a few chilled wines

And Granny’s getting loose

~~~~~

Come the afternoon

The adults have a doze

The prawn heads start going off

And burn the hairs of my nose

~~~~~

The snoring has slowed down

It’s finally time to go

Except Auntie Pain-in-the-arse

Decides we need the annual photo

~~~~~

Oh! Jingle bells, recycling bin smells

The kids have spat the dummy

It’s Christmas in Warrandyte

The ham’s given us an upset tummy, hey

~~~~~

Jingle bells, jingle bells

Christmas time is ace

Oh what fun it is to stagger home

Completely off your face.

~~~~~

Internet’s back on-line

And the bridge is working fine

Despite Santa losing his sleigh

On the round about

~~~~~

It’s the Warrandyte community way

To help the poor fella out

Use my old tin bath for his sleigh

And wrangle a flock of cockies for the flight

~~~~~

Oh! Jingle bells, my septic tank smells

I should have connected the sewer

It’s Christmas night in the ‘Dyte

Where the sunset’s a ripper sight, hey

~~~~~

Jingle bells, jingle bells

Christmas time is worth the fuss

Oh what fun it is to ride

On an uncrowded 906 bus

A right (royal) pain in the arse


The excitement was palpable.

Not since Kanye stopped taking his meds and popped into the Oval Office wearing a MAGA cap hugging The Donald, had the media been in such a frenzy.

The princeling and Megs were coming to town.

Yep.

The Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton, Baron Kilkeel a.k.a. Prince “The royal ranga” Harry of House Windsor and his matrimonial mate, Meghan of Mad House Markle had landed on Australian soil.

Treated to such mundane Australian stereotypical adventures like cuddling a koala at Taronga Zoo, cuddling some cute kids in a drought affected area, cuddling a cute lifeguard at Bondi, avoiding the cuddles at Government House from Republicans and climbing some random bridge in Sydney.

The highlight of the Royal visit was yet to come.

Wait. Hold up. What?

The highlight was yet to come?

His royal Fanta-pants and the TV star could barely contain their excitement over their adventure further south to Victoria.

The Duchess had been combing the internet for some local designers and had settled on a lovely tie-died trouser suit from the St Andrews market.

Meanwhile Our Royal/Duke/Earl/Baron/Ginger Ninja was frothing over the prospect of cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of the Eighth Engineering Wonder of the World.

The real reason for the Royal visit had been revealed.

The beaming newly weds were here to flick the switch on the Research Road and Kangaroo Ground Road intersection traffic lights.

Shining a beacon of light and hope over improved traffic conditions, symbolising the greatest reunification since David Hasselhoff glued Deutschland back together.

The crowning glory of the you-beaut, wider-than-two-utes bridge.

Turns out, things didn’t quite go to plan.

In fact, the proverbial wheels started to fall off the Royal Caravan and accompanying media circus as soon as the bloodnut and the world’s favourite American divorcee’s plane landed at Melbourne Airport.

“Sorry your Royal Highness, but the Tullamarine Freeway is at a standstill after an accident,” announced the unwitting Uber driver who’d got the fateful call.

“No problems, we have the common touch, we’ll catch the Airport Link train to the city,” replied no-fuss-Harry.

“Er, sorry, but er, that hasn’t been built yet,” stammered someone official.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to catch a world-famous Melbourne Tram,” Harry graciously answered.

“Er, sorry, but er, the tram won’t get you to Warrandyte and the connecting Doncaster Rail Link hasn’t been built yet,” stammered someone official.

“Happy to jump in a helicopter,” responded Harry, smile starting to slip.

“Er, sorry, but er, Warrandyte is a no-fly zone.

“Every time a helicopter flies over the area, the Warrandyte Business and Community Facebook page goes into meltdown, taking up the entire 24kB/s bandwidth leading to all telecommunications to cease, water pressure to drop and the recycling bin not to get picked up for two weeks!,” stammered someone official.

Shaking his head, our trusty Rusty Duke, whispers to his lady: “Maybe we should just let this lot become a Republic”.

Across the airport’s long term carpark a voice boomed “Hey mate, you need a lift to Warrandyte?” as two muscly legged black-and-green-lycra-clad blokes pedalled furiously towards the royal party.

“Jump on, we can dink you there,” our two wheeled heroes added.

“That would be lovely,” replied the Duchess, now very pleased she had chosen the tie-died pant suit.

The cut making it easy to mount a bike and the tie-die covering up all evidence of mud splatter.

As our Warrandyte Mountain Bike Club heroes pedalled their precious cargo into town, our ever inquisitive kissed-by-fire sixth-in-line-to-the-throne exclaimed in wonder.

“Where are all the people?”

“Er, sorry, but er, the bridge is closed.

“No one can come south, so they’ve all gone to Eltham to get their morning coffee, smashed avo and groceries,” stammered someone official

“But aren’t we here to open the bridge?

“Don’t I get to cut the ribbon?

“Don’t I get to flick the switch on the traffic lights?” replied our copper-top, all but rubbing a bald patch on the back of his head.

“Er, sorry, but er, the bridge is nowhere near finished, we have some traffic light poles but they aren’t connected to anything, there aren’t any switches yet and no one has ordered the ribbon,” stammered someone official.

“But wasn’t is all supposed to be finished by fire season, I mean after, I mean September?” replied the Earl of Dumbarton, understanding dawning on him, he had actually found the dumb town he was Earl of.

“Er, sorry, but er, we had delays with… and…and…and…” droned on someone official.

“Well, I’m pleased to announce that the Duchess of Sussex is pregnant.

“Maybe the bridge will be completed by the time our child has come of age and they can do the grand opening,” replied the proud father to be.

“Er, sorry, but er, wait. What. Hold up. That’s a brilliant idea. It might almost be finished by then,” stammered someone official.

The More Things Change

The Diary’s researchers have taken a peek into the archives to see what was happening in Warrandyte a century ago and guess what they found?

Hawthorn and Camberwell Advertiser Friday, October 18 1918, Page 4.

WARRANDYTE NOTES

About 100 returned wounded soldiers were entertained at luncheon and afternoon tea on Sunday, October 13.

The display inside the hall was most inviting, the tables being stored with the choicest of edibles, tempting in the highest degree and sufficient to satisfy the most exacting of epicures.

As the soldiers arrived they were all directed into the hall, the weather being wintry, and a gusty wind prevailed. Among the visitors was Mr Pearson, who has been such a prominent figure in this particular mission of conveying them to the different centres of attraction.

After luncheon, they sallied forth to see as much as they could of the little village and to gather the beautiful tinted leaves which at this season of the year are the glory of the bush.

One young fellow who had undergone six or seven operations on the table of the operating theatre, and was the wonder of the medical faculty, came sauntering back from his ramble looking happy carrying a little forest of green leaves, and pleased with the thought of taking a touch of nature back with him to gladden the hearts of those left behind.

The topic, however, was not of Warrandyte or its possibilities, but General Pau, who was to visit the hospital next day, and to them the prospect was a highly interesting one.

About four o’clock the cars began to move away, the occupants being none the worse for their outing, but much benefitted by the fresh air. Mr W. Aird, formerly of Ringwood, catered for the guests, and after the visitors had departed those who remained behind were invited by Mr Aird to partake of what refreshments were available, which was done ample justice to.

The whole of the arrangements were under the supervision of the Warrandyte Patriotic League. A welcome home was tendered on Saturday evening, October 12, by the residents of Warrandyte to Corporal George T. Clarke, better known as “Bobby”, who had seen four years’ service right through from the peninsula to western Europe.

He was the pioneer of the little town to enlist, and sailed on October 19, 1914. Corporal Clarke has been three times wounded, the first occasion being at the landing at Gallipoli.

On arrival in the township, he was given an ovation by the school children, and the reception in the evening was a hearty one, some of his mates from the 8th Battalion carrying him shoulder high. Being a general favourite, he was made the recipient of warm eulogiums.

Mr A. Aird congratulated him on behalf of those present on his safe return, which was endorsed by Sgt Thompson, of the 8th Battalion, and others.

Corporal Clarke responded in simple language, and expressed his pleasure at the welcome given him.

Cheers were given again and again for the guest of the evening. Items were rendered by Queenie Robertson, Francey Sloan, Mr Archie Clarke (a brother of Corporal Clarke), Mr J. Cooke, and Miss A. Mullens. Mr Woodford Smith (violin) and Mr A. Aird (piano) supplied the musical programme for the evening, and Mr C. Jones acted as M.C. Dancing was kept up late, and a most enjoyable evening spent, refreshments being provided gratis by Mr and Mrs Aird.

But the saddest of all was the homecoming to that vacant chair, for the mother who had said farewell and bade him “God speed”, had passed away during his absence.

Perhaps the blow had been softened, as not long after he had departed he had received the news that his mother had died suddenly, which came as a great shock to her many friends, but only he alone could the feel the full significance of his loss.

Articles in “The more things change” sourced through the National Library of Australia’s online archive Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/

image courtesy of Warrandyte Historical Society website.

War, climate change and our future


ON MAY 8 1970, Melbourne witnessed a then unprecedented event: a demonstration of around 100,000 people in Bourke Street against the Vietnam War.

In all, some 200,000 people protested throughout Australia that day, sending a powerful message to the government that the tide of public opinion was turning against Australia’s involvement in the war.

Nearly 33 years later, on February 14 2003, there were again massive protests throughout Australia – and elsewhere in the world – against the proposed invasion of Iraq.

Estimates of the numbers at the Melbourne rally alone ranged between 100,000 and 200,000.

I remember marching down Swanston Street to Federation Square and being stunned by the vastness of the crowd.

Fast forward to 2018, and we’re now facing a crisis of a very different kind.

A crisis that can fairly be regarded as the greatest in human history – climate change.

Throughout the world, average surface temperatures are rising.

Globally, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001, with 2016 ranking as the warmest on record.

This is one aspect of what we call “climate change”, but the term also refers to a broader range of changes that are happening to our planet.

These include rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic, and shifts in flower/plant blooming times.

They also include weather events of increasing severity and frequency, like cyclones, droughts, and floods.

The effects of climate change are everywhere to be seen:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is dying largely as a result of increased water temperatures due to global warming.
  • Low-lying nations, particularly small island states, face inundation as a result of rising sea levels.
  • With increased temperatures and frequent heatwaves worldwide, there is increased evaporation of water which provides fuel for storms, exacerbating extreme weather events like cyclones or hurricanes, especially in tropical regions.
  • The melting of the cryosphere (frozen water in the polar ice caps and elsewhere) means that we’re seeing not only sea level rises, but also the exposure of dark ocean waters, which absorb more sunlight than ice – heating the ocean more and speeding up a relentless cycle of melting and heating.

The international Paris Agreement, supported by world scientific opinion, has recognised that the situation we face is one of urgency:  we need to take drastic measures to limit average global temperature rises to a maximum of 2oC (since the start of industrial times) — and pursue efforts to limit the average increase to 1.5°C — if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of dangerous climate change.

Given the great weight of scientific opinion and that our planet’s future is at stake, it’s not unreasonable to expect our politicians to show strong national leadership on the need for urgent, effective action on climate change.

However, leadership has been sadly lacking on this issue.

Instead, the climate crisis has become mired in short-sighted political expediency, climate denialism, and party politics — including the destructive Liberal Party in-fighting that recently caused the (second) downfall of Malcom Turnbull.

In the absence of proper political leadership, the pressure for urgent climate action needs to come from the community.

The People’s Climate March in Melbourne in November 2015 was attended by an estimated 60,000 people.

But we should be seeing far bigger demonstrations in our streets calling for urgent climate action, on the same scale as the one against the Iraq War in February 2003, if not larger.

For various reasons, however, this has not yet occurred.

Climate change has crept up on us gradually, especially over the last 50 years or so.

The adverse effects of climate change are worsening, but they’re occurring intermittently over an extended time-frame of years and decades.

Most of the time, our weather conditions appear normal and the urgency of the climate situation is not readily apparent to many people in the community.

Unlike the threat posed at times by war or terrorism (for example, by the looming invasion of Iraq in 2003), climate change does not present the same sort of imminent and tangible threat that people feel they can do something about, such as by taking to the streets in protest.

Part of the problem in getting people to accept the need for urgent climate action arises from the process of psychological denial, whereby people choose to deny the existence of unpleasant realities in spite of the evidence.

Likewise, the climate change problem is so huge that many people feel overwhelmed and powerless to do anything about it.

So they “switch off” and opt to do nothing at all.

The key challenges for the climate action movement are to engage with the community to a far greater extent, and to understand and overcome the barriers to widespread popular support for urgent climate action.

The proposed Carmichael (Adani) coal mine and rail project represent an excellent focus for community engagement.

In the face of the climate emergency due to the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, the federal and Queensland governments are ardently supporting and facilitating the Adani mine, which will be the world’s biggest coal venture.

WarrandyteCAN condemns the recklessness of both these governments, and urges everyone to do what they can to support the Stop Adani campaign.

WarrandyteCAN would like to know what readers of the Warrandyte Diary think about climate change and asks them to take part in the following poll:

Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.


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Tasmania’s temptations

I asked our resident Tasmanian expert Anna, a Tasmanian herself, how best one should spend a lazy few days on the beautiful Apple Isle.

If you are a foodie and love the outdoors, it will be hard not to resist her recommendations.

Upon arriving at Launceston Airport, collect your car and travel about 10 minutes to your first stop.

Enjoy a winery tour, tasting and lunch at Josef Chromy Wines, a state-of-the-art winery located near Launceston. Surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens and vineyards, the winery offers a range of cool-climate wines, delicious food and warm service.

Start by walking in the vineyard and learning about the estate’s high-tech winemaking process.

Sip some samples served by a friendly wine expert then head to a two-course lunch paired with wine.

It’s the perfect way to explore Tasmanian wine country. Head o for a beautiful drive looping the vineyards and providores on both sides of the Tamar Valley.

Exploring the Artentwine Sculpture Biennial on o er over October and November 2018.

Next day drive to Cradle Mountain, roughly a two hour drive.

On the way keep an eye out for Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Café.

This place has an unending supply of raspberries and raspberry menu items.

Stop in, if only to buy some chocolate covered raspberries. is is important.

They are fantastic and will be perfect for an evening at Cradle Mountain Lodge with a good glass of red — I promise.

Spend your time in Cradle Mountain taking in the beauty of this amazing National Park.

The park contains an extensive network of walking tracks to suit everyone’s tastes.

A day walk map should be purchased from the visitor centre if you want to go on any day walks.

Start at the visitor centre will also provide tailor-made advice to match your walking needs with the tracks available.

Strahan is a harbour-side village with a dark and fascinating convict past set on the edge of the World Heritage listed Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

Strahan is full of stories from the days of convicts and pioneers toughing it out in Tassie’s “wild west”.

Strahan is also the departure point for the West Coast Wilderness Railway which do a half day tour journeying deep into Tasmania’s rainforest.

A scenic road trip will see you in Hobart for a city sojourn to end your gorgeous getaway in Tasmania.

What are you waiting for?

Our travel expert Carolyn is the manager of Warrandyte Travel and Cruise.

Email her at — carolyn@warrandytetravel.com.au