Columns

Wild women

Two women

THIS STORY BEGINS somewhere around the middle of the last century.

One bright, spring day, two women alighted from the train at Ringwood station with the aim of walking and botanising their way to Warrandyte.

Although there were some rewarding Indigenous plant finds along the way,  it was when they finally reached the corner of Tindals Road and Warrandyte-Heidelberg Road, they found a hill top of extraordinary wildflower complexity.

Jean and Winifred bathed in the glorious richness of Indigenous plant biodiversity.

Jean Galbraith was a gardener, writer and long-time champion of Australian native plants.

When Jean’s book, Wildflowers of Victoria, appeared in 1950, it was the first accessible field guide published on Victorian flora.

Combining botanical knowledge with evocative descriptions, her writing skills made her field guides accessible (Encyclopaedia of Women and Leadership).

Winifred Waddell shared these interests and skills and co-wrote the book Wildflower Diary with Jean and Elizabeth Cochrane in 1976.

Jean and Winifred petitioned the local council with the assistance of local residents to buy the newly discovered site and set it up as a Wildflower Reserve.

Dorothy Rush assisted with raising funds to fence the Reserve.

I found the Tindals Road Wildflower Reserve in the early 1980s and spent many hours there identifying the wildflowers using my very worn-out copy of A field guide to the wild flowers of south-east Australia (1977) written by Jean Galbraith.

However, the Reserve was in a sad state, and threatened to be over-run with weeds.

Through the Friends of Warrandyte State Park, we petitioned the local Doncaster Council, and Val Polley and I met with the Engineer John Prince about getting some weed work done there.

I pointed out a cactus that I knew had been dumped in the reserve several years ago.

John responded wonderfully and decisively and soon had a botanical survey organised which was completed by Ecology Australia.

The report in particular noted the invasion of the Reserve by introduced weedy grasses, Quaking Grass and Panic Veldt Grass in particular, which were threatening the survival of its Orchid populations.

But which way forward from here?

Bushland management or ecological horticulture (where ecology meets horticulture) as it was becoming known, was in its infancy.

The first Course in Ecological Horticulture in Victoria was run in 1982 at Latrobe University.

It was only in the previous decade that National Parks managers had accepted that fire was an intrinsic part of management.

There was much to learn.

To be a practitioner of ecological horticulture, an enormous amount of knowledge is required.

For a start, there are the 400 or so plants that consist of the local Indigenous and introduced flora, their growth periods, flowering patterns, physiological dynamics, their response to weather and management actions.

What long term strategy does one employ to remove the weeds?, what tools, what techniques?

What planning and coordination skills are required for this new profession?

 

Enter another two women

Systematic observers of the natural environment the Bradley sisters, Eileen Burton Bradley and Joan Burton Bradley, observed in NSW during the 1960s attempts to control weeds by slashing and clearing resulted in rampant weed regrowth, and they formulated an alternative strategy.

The sisters were keen gardeners and hand-weeded where they walked, doing less than an hour a day and being careful to replace the bush litter which — they believed — contained the seedbank for new growth.

They waited for the bush to regenerate.

They developed the three principles of the Bradley method of bush regeneration: work outward from less infested to more seriously infested areas; minimise disturbance, and replace topsoil and litter; allow regeneration to set the pace of the work.

Selected hand-tools were the only implements permitted.

The Bradley’s opposed the use of chemicals and criticised the controlled-burning programme begun in 1971 by the State’s Forestry Commission (Australian Dictionary of Biography).

It’s one thing to have the basic principles of ecological horticulture, quite another to be able to look at a piece of bushland that is a complex matrix of the ecological functions of people, plants, soils, seeds, wind, weather, insects, fungi, birds, mammals and fire, and devise a strategy to heal the land and to be able to work on country and peel back the degradation that has occurred through weed invasion, tree clearance and neglect.

 

Then two Warrandyte women

Jane Pammer, a keen gardener had spent a year in Japan as a horticultural exchange student, before working in ecological horticulture with Save the Bush.

Then during the recession of the 1990s, lead a Green Corps Team through the L.E.A.P. employment programme at the then Doncaster and Templestowe Council.

Jane successfully applied for the permanent position in bushland management working with the Council in their Parks and Gardens Unit as Certified Gardener — Bush Regenerator.

Jane was managing the day to day work in the Manningham managed reserves: Warrandyte Walk, Tindals Wildflower Reserve, Zerbes Reserve, Mullum Stage 1, 100 Acres and others.

Jane began a systematic programme of weeding and observation keeping a diary of work completed in each site.

Jane’s tight control of ecological maintenance programmes, re-visiting each site on a 10 week rotational schedule, quality control and conscientious thoroughness, brought back the bushlands from the brink of oblivion, rescuing our priceless natural heritage.

Today, Tindals Road Wildflower Reserve is an absolute credit to Manningham.

This year in particular, it has produced an exceptional flowering display that has brought many people the simple and profound joy of bushland magic.

This was something that could hardly be imagined in 1985.

Manningham has been a civic leader in municipal environmental programmes over the past 25 years; with a range of integrated programmes to assist residents protect our natural heritage, as well as its own management of bushlands for which it has responsibility.

The ecological horticultural work along the Yarra River below the village called Warrandyte Walk, is the best example of environmental restoration of riparian (waterway) vegetation along the entire length of the Yarra River.

It is by far more successful than anything agencies or other shires or Councils have achieved.

Manningham should be extremely proud of that achievement.

It is also a tribute to Jane for her dedicated vision and skills.

In the most difficult of vegetative zones, they have produced a world class result.

Many walk past the native grasses and shrubs without actually appreciating the difficulties of the site and the vision and skill required to unearth and maintain its intrinsic qualities.

Sharon Mason was an intrinsic part of the bushland management journey with Jane. Sharon for most of this time has led a Bushland Maintenance Crew of skilled ecological gardeners to implement Jane’s programming and to join in the discussion, development and refinement of Jane’s programme of bushland rejuvenation.

Together, they implemented an incredibly successful operation.

Jean Galbraith put her money where her mind was and donated the land to establish the first wildflower sanctuary in Victoria in 1936, in Tyers, in the LaTrobe Valley — the first privately donated reserve in the State of Victoria.

The Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists recorded an extensive list of flora in the Reserve in 1967, but over time, many species were impacted by weed invasion and a loss of interest in maintaining the site.

This changed in 1999 when an enthusiastic group of residents in the Tyers township formed to resurrect the Reserve and highlight its botanical and historical significance.

Winifred was responsible for securing the first wildflower sanctuary at Tallarook, Victoria, in 1949.

Throughout her nearly 70 years of garden writing, Jean wrote about all aspects of garden-making but remained an indefatigable champion of Australian flora, ignoring fashions in plants, and like Winifred, Eileen, Joan, Jane and Sharon, kept working in the wild garden that she loved.

You made the tough decision to move on, what now?


By Aaron Farr

SEPARATION, divorce, matrimonial settlement.

No matter what term you use, taking the huge step to leave your spouse or accepting that they have left you is an emotionally stressful and unsettling time.

It is even more so if you don’t know which way to turn or who can help you.

It is a very lonely time.

From seeing this regularly, daily in fact, I can assure you that this is temporary and a whole new chapter of your life awaits you… but first, let’s face the matter head on and protect you — together.

There are a number of aspects of a separation when we look at it from a legal angle and I will cover some of these below.

But before I do, the most important thing is you and (if applicable) your children’s safety.

Sadly, following separation, it is not uncommon for raw emotion to get in the way of what should be an amicable arrangement.

Sometimes, this can end up in you or your family being concerned for their safety.

To be clear, there is nothing a lawyer can do to ensure your safety from an immediate perspective.

This is a police matter and they can assist you ensuring your safety and protection.

An Intervention Order is relevant here and is a court order usually applied for by the police on your behalf.

Unfortunately, this process is sometimes abused and you might find yourself on the receiving end of one.

Navigating the law and process of both applying for (either with the police or on your own) or receiving one is something a lawyer can assist with once the immediate safety concerns are dealt with.

An Interim Intervention Order may be put in place promptly and then the Final Intervention Order may be granted following a legal process.

An Intervention Order can affect you in a number of ways from a criminal record, reducing work prospects, suspending your firearms licence and having your firearms confiscated, and of course, it can affect your Family Law Matter.

The term divorce is thrown around in society as being used for any kind of finalisation of a marriage.

The first comment to make is that whether a couple are married or in a de-facto relationship, the legislation is essentially mirrored.

When dealing with a separation of a married couple, divorce (in a legal sense) is isolated to the divorce order which, without sounding insensitive, means you are not legally still married and you can now marry another person if you so wish.

This is completely separate to any financial or children’s matters.

When it comes to the process, we always advise parties to finalise the financial and/or children’s matters first as once a divorce order is granted, time limits commence which may affect your financial matters.

When dealing with any financial matters, you need to know what you would be entitled to if the matter were to progress to court.

I know…the dreaded word “court”.

At Rush & Hampshire, we do everything we can to keep you out of court as the legal and court fees will likely exceed the gap between the parties’ offers.

The vast majority of matters settle either between the parties or their lawyers.

In saying that, in some matters there is no other option than to issue proceedings but this is not done lightly and we clearly set out the possible costs involved.

Sometimes this is a strategic move but in some matters we must strap in for the long haul due to a difficult party.

Once you know what you would receive at court in a financial settlement, you will be equipped to negotiate, either yourself if you feel confident enough to, or alternatively, we can act on your behalf in this respect.

If your matter is in the vast majority then once negotiation has been completed between the parties, either with or without lawyers, and you have agreed on a settlement, we can assist you to draw up the appropriate paperwork.

In order to protect yourself moving forward, there are two ways you can settle your financial matters.

Firstly, if both parties have lawyers, a binding financial agreement may be drawn up.

There are strict rules on how these must be completed by the parties and it is important that the document and the process of executing it complies with legislation and case law to avoid it being open to an application to be set aside.

Secondly, and more commonly used either when neither of the parties are represented, one party is represented or both parties are represented, is consent orders.

Consent Orders are an application to the court with the orders the parties have agreed to be made.

The court will then ensure these comply with the legislation and case law and if approved, they are sealed in chambers.

This means there is no appearance or court hearing required.

It is important that the consent orders and application is drawn correctly to ensure there is compliance with the legislation to minimise the chance of it being rejected.

Children’s matters are completely separate.

The media and TV/movies may have you referring to this as custody.

A number of client’s prefer to keep the children’s matters separate from the financial settlement and either stick with the status quo or amicably work towards a mutual informal agreement.

Children’s matters can be addressed as part of the consent orders if the parties wish but similarly to if the parties cannot agree, there may be certain circumstances where the only option is to proceed to court.

Again, due to the costs involved, this is a last resort.

Regardless of whether you wish to address the children’s matters as part of your separation with solicitors or not, you need advice to ensure you understand what your rights are so you can proceed to obtain a just result.

The child’s or children’s best interests are paramount in all matters.

On a side note, you also need to be aware of the child support ramifications of your children’s arrangements.

Family Law is a very involved area of law and very distinct to all other areas.

Every matter is different and unique and therefore there is no “one size fits all”.

It is important you know your legal position and are guided through the practical aspects of your matter so you can get a just or good result.

 

At Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors, we generally meet with you for an initial consultation and then assist you moving forward based on your needs following discussing the options with you.

We tend to relate this to a smorgasbord; we present it and you choose which meal you want and then we can tailor it for you.

Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors are still available full time, working from home as most of us are of course, due to the current restrictions.

We can arrange a time to meet you via telephone or video conferencing.

Feel free to call us to see how we can help you.

If you wish to phone us and reach our voicemail, please leave a message as we are prompt in our responses.

Alternatively, you can send us an email but please include your phone number as we will need to call you to discuss your requirements.

Aaron Farr is the Principal Lawyer at Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors, 163 Yarra Street

Telephone: (03) 9844 4646

Email:
legal@rushandhampshire.com.au

A framework for surviving the challenges of COVID-19


By BRIAN SPURRELL

THIS MONTH’S article moves away from the customary focus on tax tips and tax information and is dedicated to my readers who may be struggling to cope with the pressures and uncertainties we are experiencing under the ravages of COVID-19.

Resilience and wellness are key concepts I explore in the holistic life-planning sessions I usually hold with my clients.

Good financial planning is about having a holistic approach, and the lessons we learn from holistic life-planning can be applied to surviving the challenges of COVID-19.

The tasks we face of surviving both the financial and health impacts of COVID-19 are more likely to be successful if we focus on and accept the importance of building up our resilience and our wellness.

Resilience and wellness

I will define resilience as simply the degree of willingness to overcome obstacles.

Resilience develops from the knowledge and experience of how to cope in spite of setbacks, barriers or limited resources and the ability to bounce back when things do not go to plan.

It also requires good mental health, sustained positive emotional strength, good physical fitness and physical health.

Obviously, there is no magic drug to take in order to develop resilience, but developing a history of surviving challenges helps.

Those who have coped with disasters, such as the loss of their home through a bushfire, the death of a child or life partner, or overcome severe physical or mental disabilities, will understand what resilience is.

Those who have survived wartime and recessions/depressions will also understand the importance of resilience.

Wellness could be viewed as a pathway to — or the process of — becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.

Once achieved, it is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing supported by beliefs, principles, and values that give meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives.

Walking the road

As is the case with world wars, financial depressions and recessions, bushfires, droughts, floods and plagues, we can be certain that it will end, so instead of asking “how long will it take?” we should be asking “how can we manage the journey?”.

There is only one road out, and we are all on the same road, but how we walk this road is important.

We can walk it reactively, or proactively.

If you choose to travel reactively, you will sit and wait and when the situation affects you in whatever shape or form, you then react to it by borrowing money, calling your accountant, calling on a friend or family member, visiting a medical practitioner or a psychiatrist or simply panicking.

If you choose to travel proactively, you will be thinking ahead, planning what outcomes or goals you want, thinking through how you are going to get there, and when and how it will occur.

Planning in proactive mode

Most successful businesses and entities have a plan or a budget.

How else could you know how you are tracking if you do not have a plan to compare your actual outcomes against?

So, now let us apply these concepts to the family unit, couple or individual level.

In many other areas of our life; holiday, bushfire, household budgets, we often have a plan in place to maximise the outcome.

Regardless of whether you plan, or live from-day-to-day, if there was ever a time to be planning ahead, it is now.

Emotional health plan

There is a strong likelihood you or a member of your family may experience a bout of depression or a sense of helplessness, experience the loss of your job or business, a breakdown in a relationship, children not coping with home-based learning, or it all just getting too much to deal with.

Are you going to wait until the situation reaches crisis point, or will you work on a contingency plan?

Even just a list of health professionals, support services such as Beyond Blue or your GP, along with their contact details, may suffice as a plan.

Talking through your feelings and concerns with a trusted friend or family member is usually a positive starting point, as you are acknowledging that you have a problem, that you are willing to talk to someone about it, rather than just internalising your pain and retreating to within yourself.

There may also be things you could plan to do to assist in reducing stress levels either in your person or your household, such as walking your dog, or offering to walk your neighbour’s dog, or even considering buying a pup to nurture.

Other alternatives you may consider in your plan might be taking up yoga, meditation — or even a relaxing massage.

The important thing is to have thought ahead in “what if” mode, and recorded some notes and discussed it with your partner, family or friend.

You may also keep an eye out for Stephanie Foxley’s monthly Mental Health column or Maree Zimny’s Wellness column.

Physical health plan

It is widely acknowledged that there is a strong connection between physical health and emotional health.

A regular cardio work-out seems to kick in the endorphins which can relieve stress and produce feelings of wellbeing.

In my case, I have found on the days I have a one hour workout first thing in the morning that I am cognitively sharper and better equipped to deal with the more challenging mental demands of the day.

I have observed over the years a number of people who have experienced major emotional traumas and have taken up walking or jogging, even running in marathons as a means of coping with their depression or loss of self-worth.

I strongly recommend you put together a physical exercise plan that embraces a range of exercises including cardio.

You may have to be more creative while confined to home by using substitute objects to facilitate certain exercise routines.

You may also wish to check out Chris Sharp’s monthly Fitness column for some great ideas.

Human contact plan

Stage 4 restrictions are challenging and the drastic change in lifestyle can exacerbate feelings of aloneness and isolation which can impact on our emotional health.

It is therefore important to use the digital and visual media such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom to regularly stay in touch.

Plan to contact family and friends at regular times and do not be reluctant to discuss how you are coping with everyday challenges.

Sometimes, comforting exchanges between family and friends that are experiencing similar challenges can be just as therapeutic as a visit to a psychologist or counsellor.

Financial plan

Finally, we need to address the most challenging aspect of surviving COVID-19 and that is finance.

When we refer to finance in this context, it embraces the income you earn from employment, your business, your investments, plus your access to borrowed funds through mortgage loans, and other forms of bank finance, credit card and pay later finance, and assets you own that could be sold to release funds such as investments, superannuation, financial support from family, friends, your community and the government in the form of pensions, JobKeeper, JobSeeker and numerous other types of support currently listed at dhhs.vic.gov.au/financial-support-coronavirus-covid19.

Once again, I hope you will choose to travel proactively and prepare a financial plan for your household and for your business if you have one.

The greater the uncertainty we face, the more crucial it is to plan ahead rather than wait for financial disaster to hit you unexpectedly, with no pathway to guide your financial decision making.

A good financial plan should enable us to project where our financial resources may be sourced from and how much we may need to fund our projected expenditure.

Available financial resources are what fuels our daily activities and needs in the same way as petrol or diesel fuels your travel needs.

If you run out of fuel your vehicle grinds to a halt.

The same drama can occur in your home if you run out of access to financial resources, so your financial plan in this time of great uncertainty should take top priority.

A useful starting point if you do not already have a personal or household budget in place is to go on to the ATO website (ato.gov.au) and look for the personal living expenses comprehensive worksheet (NAT 72959-12.2015).

Alternatively, for an excellent and more sophisticated budget planner with the option of using an excel based spreadsheet go to moneysmart.gov.au/budgeting/budget-planner.

Tips on preparing a budget

Select the most appropriate time frame, weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending upon your pay period or most convenient period for estimating your cash flows and convert all income and expenditure amounts to the equivalent amount per period.

Access the last 12 months bank statements and credit card statements and any other necessary supporting documents in order to build a record of past actual income and expenditure for the time period chosen.

Sort your expenditure items into those that are essential or unavoidable and those that are discretionary.

Use your historical data as the starting point in estimating your budgeted amounts for the first period of your budget.

Ask yourself whether the historical amounts are likely to be repeated or not, and note why your estimates are expected to differ e.g. now working from home or children are learning from home.

Amounts received or paid quarterly or annually etc., will need to be entered into the period they are expected to be received or paid so your net cash flow will vary up or down each period accordingly.

Structure your budget to take you through to December 31, 2020 at least and subsequently extend it to March 31, and finally June 30, 2021.

There is a lot of merit in monitoring your actual monthly receipts and payments against your budget estimates and where necessary revising your estimates for future periods so that your finance plan becomes a living plan.

Preparing a personal or household budget is important because it will inform you — ahead of time — when you may be able to bank surplus cash flow to cover future commitments, or in the absence of cash reserves to draw down on, allow you to plan forward, proactively, and work on where the additional cash can be found, be it selling down shares, seeking additional paid work, cutting out certain discretionary expenditures, or discussing your financial needs with your bank, instead of just taking a punt on providence.

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

It reflects insights I have gained from my experience as an educator, small business owner, practicing accountant and custodian of my parents’ and grandmothers’ respective recollections of surviving the privations and challenges, resulting from two world wars, the Spanish flu epidemic and the 1930s depression.

Their stories have left me with a deep appreciation of how resilience and wellness are so essential for survival when the unknown overwhelms our consciousness.

Brian Spurrell FCPA, CTA, Registered Tax Agent.

Director, Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd

0412 011 946

www.ptasaccountants.com.au

Paintings Reimagined


AS PART OF a craze sweeping the world, students at Warrandyte Primary School have been reimagining famous paintings at home.

Students Clem, Zara, Hunter, Tilly and Phoenix present here their versions of some of the world’s most famous paintings, see if you can guess which work they have reimagined.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

End of financial year tax reminders


THIS MONTH’S column draws your attention to a number of issues that may be relevant for you at this time of the year, when your mind turns to getting your information ready for tax time.

There are a few changes this year that have implications for the preparation of your personal income tax return.

These changes include income from JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments, termination or redundancy payments and deductions for work related expenses such as home office expenses, car expenses, uniform/protective clothing claims, changes to phone and WiFi usage, depreciation deductions and claims for super contributions using the catchup-up opportunity et cetera.

Whilst some of these issues, such as making superannuation contributions and claiming home office expenses, have been covered in earlier editions of my column, you may find preparing your own tax return this year more challenging than in prior years.

Furthermore, the ATO has warned of increased audit activity particularly in the areas of claims for concessional super contributions and work related expenses, given the significant impact of COVID-19 on employment and working from home.

It may therefore be an appropriate time to consider using the services of a registered tax agent to prepare and lodge your 2020 income tax return and relieve you of the challenge of coping with these changes.

A further benefit of using a tax agent is that you may delay lodgement of your return as late as May 15, 2021.

If you expect to have a tax liability and are struggling financially, payment can be delayed until your assessment issues, or even later if your tax agent negotiates a payment plan for you.

You should of course engage a tax agent’s services prior to October 31, 2020 to take advantage of the agent’s later lodgement date.

 

Accessing your Income Statement or Payment Summary

If your employer is reporting payroll information each payday using Single Touch Payroll (STP), they are no longer required to give you a payment summary.

You will instead receive an Income Statement which you can access through the ATO online services via myGov, once it has been marked as “Tax ready”.

Most employers with 19 or more employees have until July 14, 2020 to finalise their payroll data whilst those with less than 19 employees have until July 31.

The tax office will send a notification to your myGov inbox when all of your income statements are “Tax ready”.

If you have earned interest on bank accounts or investments or have shares that are paying dividends or received distributions from trusts you should delay lodging your tax return until all information needed to complete your tax return available through the ATO Online services has been accessed.

Likewise, if you are using the services of a tax agent, they also will not be able to complete your tax return until all pre-filling information is available from their software or online services for agents.

Although you may be eager to lodge your tax return or have it completed and lodged by your tax agent, it may cause you further inconvenience and cost if subsequently additional information becomes available necessitating the preparation and lodgement of an amended return.

 

COVID-19 income support reporting

  1. a) JobKeeper payments
    If you are an employee and your employer received JobKeeper payments for you as an eligible employee, the reimbursements received by your employer are included in your gross salary and reported at Item 1 in your tax return.

If you are self-employed and operating as a sole trader, eligible JobKeeper payments you have received will be included in your Business Income at Item P8 of your individual tax return.

  1. b) JobSeeker payments

If you were in receipt of JobSeeker payments this is assessable income and will be included in the information available from the ATO Online services through myGov and must be included in your tax return at Item 5 — Australian Government Allowances and Payments.

  1. c) Cash Flow Boost

If you are a sole trader with employees and were fortunate enough to be eligible for the cash flow boost, these payments are classified as non-assessable non-exempt income and are not included in your tax return.

Yes, that is true!

  1. d) More good news

If you missed out on buying depreciable assets over $30,000 and less than $150,000 by June 30, 2020, the good news is that the Government has extended this generous allowance until December 31, 2020.

  1. e) Not so good news

The ATO has increased its focus on the tax gap of $8.4 billion between what individuals not in business are paying compared with what they should be paying if they fully complied with the tax laws.

Yes, that is correct!

As a result, the ATO has implemented several key initiatives to reduce the estimated tax gap for this taxpayer group, many of whom prepare and lodge their own tax returns.

These include amongst others:

  • increasing the quantity and quality of the data the ATO collects (particularly through the ‘I’ return).
  • helping taxpayers and their tax agents correctly report income and deductions up front, using prompter messages, emails and letters to alert them early where amounts reported on the return are unusual compared to similar taxpayers.
  • taking firmer action to address non-compliance among higher-risk taxpayers and agents including additional audits in areas driving the tax gap.

 

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

Brian Spurrell FCPA, CTA, Registered Tax Agent, is Director of Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd. PO Box 143 Warrandyte 3113. Mobile: 0412 011 946

Email: bspurrell@ptasaccountants.com.au  Web: www.ptasaccountants.com.au

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