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A warm welcome back to the theatre for Visitors

REVIEW

IT IS A GLORIOUS return to the stage at the Mechanics’ Institute as Warrandyte Theatre Company presents Visitors by Barney Norris.
Nerves were frayed a little as the already-COVID-delayed opening night was threatened by yet another setback in the form of a massive thunderstorm, and its companion blackout, in the hours before curtain call.
However, the storm passed, and we were welcomed into the theatre, with a gentle, poignant, witty production, about love, family, relationships, and aging.
The auditorium was thoughtfully, socially distanced with café style seating, with candles at each couplet — there was no bad seat in the house, even with additional release of seats as the lockdown rules eased.
The deft hand of the Director, Grant Purdy, guided the four performers to weave a beautiful, if heart-aching tale, taking us on a journey through the light and shade of our autumn years.
Some cast members are well-known to audiences, and others are new to the Warrandyte stage.
Carol Keating, as Edie, spends almost the whole two hours on stage, where we watch her slide slowly into dementia.
We are with her through the ebb and flow of her battle with her deteriorating mind, as her adoring husband (played by Reg Ellery) supports her as best as he can as his own body begins to fail him, and he battles to keep the family farm running.
As the dysfunctional, distant son, Stephen, Don Nicholson nails his character as a man who doesn’t fully understand how to relate to people.
The ensemble family perfectly paints the prickly relationship formed when parent and child don’t see eye-to-eye, especially when it comes to life’s big decisions.
But the biggest bouquet must go to newcomer Meg Davies, she gives a masterful performance, transitioning from awkward interloper to tender carer and then turns on a dime to unleash her fury as a woman scorned.
The simple set, the understated lighting and uncluttered audio (with the well-choreographed squeaky floorboard a standout moment) supported the beautifully written script and thoughtful direction.
Visitors runs until December 10, so head to trybooking to scoop up a couple of the few remaining tickets of the 2021 season.
WTC returns for 2022 with Follies Goes off the Rails in March, a season of One-Act Plays in May, Blackbird in July, the long-awaited Calendar Girls in September, before Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge in November.

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Tax implications of receiving COVID-19 financial support

THIS MONTH WE will turn our attention to Government grants, payments and stimulus programs that have delivered desperately needed financial support for individuals and businesses impacted upon by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

There has been such a complex array of support measures and reliefs that we have never experienced before and therefore have no prior experience or knowledge of how or whether these benefits are taxed.

JobKeeper (from March 30, 2020 to March 28, 2021)

JobKeeper payments are assessable as ordinary income to businesses that were eligible to receive the payments.

As the JobKeeper payments must be on-paid to all eligible employees, the payments, even if in excess of an employee’s normal wage will be a deductible expense to the employer.

In the hands of employees, the JobKeeper payments received will be assessable income and will appear as salary or wages, or an allowance or top up on the employee’s income statement or payment summary.

If you are a sole trader who has received JobKeeper payments the receipts will be reported as business income at the label “Assessable government industry payments” in your personal tax return at item P8 Label G or H.

If your business is a partnership, trust, or company, you need to report JobKeeper receipts in your business tax return at item 6 Label Q.

Cash Flow Boost (from March 12, 2020 to September 30, 2020)

Irrespective of whether your business operates as a sole trader, partnership, trust, or company, if your business received cash flow boost credits they are treated as non-assessable non-exempt income (NANE) and do not need to be included in your business tax return and neither is GST applicable.

Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payments to individuals

This payment was announced on June 3, 2021 in response to the May/ June 2021 Victorian lockdown and was designed to provide weekly assistance to eligible individuals be they full time, part time, or casual workers who have lost hours of paid work due to state imposed health restrictions.

How much of the Disaster Payment an individual receives will depend upon factors such as the location of the applicable health order, the period the individual is claiming for and the hours of work they lost.

On August 9, 2021, the Government passed legislation retrospectively making these payments NANE income, tax free in the hands of the recipient.

TIP: If you received such payments in June 2021 and have already lodged your 2021 income tax return, make sure the ATO makes an appropriate adjustment to your tax return if you included this income as part of your assessable income.

Victoria COVID-19 Economic Support Measures (BCAP)

The Victorian Government’s Business Costs Assistance Program provides grants to small and medium business impacted by public health restrictions.

Top-up payments announced since July 28, 2021 are jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.

The first round of the Business Costs Assistance Program provided targeted support of $2,000 to businesses that were most likely to have incurred direct costs as a result of the Circuit Breaker action during February and March 2021, and is no longer available.

The Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two was launched in June 2021 with an expanded list of eligible sectors compared to the initial program, offering payments of $2,500.

In July 2021, the Business Costs Assistance Program Round 2 July Extension was launched to give businesses that that had not previously applied for the program, or had since become eligible, the opportunity to apply for an initial payment of $4,800.

Both the Business Costs Assistance Program Round 2 and the Business Costs Assistance Program Round 2 July Extension are now closed, but recipients are eligible for a series of subsequent automatic top-up payments.

Note: Businesses must be registered for GST and Business must operate in an eligible sector listed in the list of eligible ANZSIC classes in order to be eligible.

These payments are income tax free and GST free.

Victoria Small Business COVID Hardship Fund

On July 28 it was announced that a new fund would be set up to pay grants of $20,000 to small businesses that:

  • had an ABN and was registered for GST on and from July 28, 2021,
  • suffered a reduction in turnover of at least 70 per cent for a two-week period since May 27, 2021,
  • have been ineligible for other Victorian Government COVID-19 support packages launched on or after May 27, 2021,
  • have an annual Victorian payroll of up to $10 million in 2019–20.
  • It has been confirmed that this grant payment is tax free.

Business Cost Assistance Program Round 4 — Construction

This program will remain open until 11:59pm on November 9, 2021 or when funds are exhausted, whichever is sooner.

One-off grants of $2,000 are for eligible non-employing construction industry businesses, and one-off grants of $2,800, $5,600 or $8,400 are for eligible employing construction industry businesses, based on payroll size and to qualify:

  • Must have a worksite located in metropolitan Melbourne, the City of Greater Geelong, Mitchell Shire or Surf Coast Shire.
  • Must have incurred direct costs because of restrictions in place between September 21 and October 4, which have not been partially or fully recovered.
  • Must not have been able to operate remotely between September 21 and October 4.
  • Must not have received a Business Costs Assistance Program Round 2 or Business Costs Assistance Program Round 2 July Extension payment or Small Business COVID Hardship Fund payment
  • Must be in the list of 26 eligible ANZSIC classes.
  • Must be registered for GST on and from September 24 2021.

It is also assumed these grant payments will be declared to be tax free.

Please refer to the Business Victoria Grants and Programs for further details on all available Victorian Government COVID-19 business assistance, particularly if you are seeking commercial tenancy relief or are a sole trader or microbusiness working for yourself or have one to two employees with an annual turnover of less than $75,000 and are not eligible for Victorian Government COVID-19 business support grants.

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.

Brian Spurrell B A, B Com, Dip Ed, FCPA, CTA, Registered Tax Agent. Director, Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd

PO Box 143 Warrandyte 3113 0412 011 946

www.ptasaccountants .com.au

Transformation close to home

Meeting with remarkable trees

REMARKABLE TREES is a monthly reflection on the old, the sacred, the mysterious and the poetic.
Although some of our travel distance restrictions have been lifted, when I first put pen to paper for this month’s tree, my best option was to stay close to home.
While wandering around the garden and contemplating on trees as a reflection of life, I noticed a large one previously very much taken for granted, like something you grew up with that became part of your furniture.
It is a Sweet Pittosporum (pittosporum undulatum).
Local from south-eastern Queensland to north-eastern Victoria, sweet pittosporum is considered a pest species in Manningham and neighbouring LGAs.
Despite this, the fine specimen on my parent’s property has been growing for 50 years now.
Over the years, all its offspring have been removed as they can spread rapidly via the digestive tracts of birds who enjoy its berries.
So what is it about sweet pittosporum that suits this particular time?
Adjusting to “COVID life” during the last two years and being a mindfulness meditation practitioner, there has been endless opportunity to reflect on my thoughts and attitude towards others.
Recently in group discussion, we agreed we have felt challenged by vax versus anti-vax, mask versus no mask, those who appear to throw caution to the wind and consequently initiate yet another lockdown, and more recently, protests spattered with anger and violence.
I am quick to disapprove initially, because like many, I am a bit fed up.
Following up with my friends however, I am startled.
Some of them have charged headlong down the conspiracy road.
Others insist on the dangers of vaccination and produce “evidence” to support this.
Some have been abusive because I chose to vaccinate while others who have well-considered their choices and taken responsibility for them could not have been more respectful of my own.
Certainly, life can deliver surprises.
In pondering with the latter friends, we ruminated on attitudes that seem to be manifesting in the world at large; the polarising divisiveness that omits a certain kind of poison into society that excludes all who differ in belief.
Hence my attention is drawn to sweet pittosporum.
Somewhere in my learning I adopted the belief that pittosporum was poisonous.
I believed it omitted a toxin that prevented other plants from growing. I thought the leaves were poisonous when in water, preventing all pond life from thriving.
In considering this, I realised I could have been wrong all along, and that what mattered was to find recent, well- presented, peer-reviewed research done by qualified people.
In pursuit of this, I find that sweet pittosporum indeed has a substance some other native plants don’t like, but has no more poison than any other tree that absorbs nutrition from soil such that nothing else can easily grow underneath it.
Instead, I find it is the protective shade of its dense, dark green canopy that discourages other plants from taking seed.
As a tree, it presents a conventional, storybook shape of being broader than it is tall.
It’s laurel-like leaves are thick, strong and glossy, and as it expands with the energy of spring, the tips manifest as swirls of bright, enthusiastic freshness.
While in bloom, it expresses a profusion of creamy, bell-shaped flowers that fill the breeze with the sweet, heady perfume.
The bees respond, and beckoned by curiosity, I lean into the hum of honey production and the busyness of the bee world in action.
Later in the month I can expect clusters of bright orange fruits that reveal a sticky red interior with black seeds — a food source for birds and mammals.
Far from being poisonous, it unfolds its benefit to others and proves to be as much a part of the bigger picture as any other tree.
So here is the interesting part.
Some authorities declared it as not noxious in Victoria while others state it is a significant environmental weed, which returns me to opinions that I’m sure most of us have had around all things COVID.
I’m guessing we all have opinions about who or what is noxious or significantly pesky in our society.
But come closer to home.
In asking me to check in, this fine- looking piece of sweet pittosporum garden furniture, makes me consider again and again what my own thoughts and actions create in the world.
In disapproving of those with different ideas, I run the risk of categorising them as a toxic pest and therefore unbeneficial to society.
In resisting them, I mirror the very resistance I disapprove of, thereby becoming complicit in the divisiveness I don’t want.
This supposedly-toxic tree on my home ground presents the challenge of our times; to question fully our opinions and reactions and to act with the utmost integrity, care and skilful means regarding our values and the society we want to create.

Jennah is captivated by the quiet presence of trees and is currently training to facilitate Forest Therapy.
If you have a favourite tree you’d like to share, please email her jennahmrose@outlook.com

Classic Movies: The Day the Earth Stood Still

A MAN COMES down from the Heavens with a message of peace for all mankind.
He lives amongst us as a simple carpenter.
When the powers that be reject his message, he begins to perform miracles to get their attention.
The authorities become afraid and murder him.
An angel opens up the place where his body lies and on the third day he lives again.
He ascends back to the Heavens, promising to return again when the world is ready to hear his message.
Sound familiar?
That is in a nutshell the story of the Day the Earth Stood Still – perhaps made more relevant to more secular audiences when the visitor (Klaatu – Michael Rennie) comes down from the stars in a spaceship (more believable to some than an immaculate birth) and wants to address the United Nations with his message/warning that the world needs to come together to survive.
While he waits for his answer, he lives in boarding house under the name of John Carpenter (Get it? Lives amongst us as a carpenter?).
He befriends a widow, Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray).
His fearsome sidekick, a robot named Gort that speaks in tongues, is his Angel helper and waits on the spaceship until he is needed.
John Carpenter teaches Helen to speak the immortal words “Klaatu berada nikto” and instructs her to give the message to Gort in the event of anything happening to him.
The United Nations rejects his message of Peace and togetherness, so Klaatu warns that he will give them a demonstration of his powers at noon the following day.
And sure enough, right at that time, the power goes off around the world.
Well, that gets everyone’s attention and even the US military become afraid of him.
As he addresses the world, a nervous soldier panics at the sight of his next gift (we will never know) and Klaatu is shot dead and his body stored in a military warehouse.
Mary goes to an offline Gort and utters the message as she was taught.
Gort comes on line immediately, goes to the warehouse and rolls back the doors, emerging with Carpenter’s limp and lifeless body.
He takes him back to the spaceship and Klaatu emerges next day, hale and hearty.
He announces that the world is not yet ready to hear his message and we have all missed our chance, but if we’re good he promises to return one day when we need him most.
Then the spaceship takes off from the Whitehouse lawn and Klaatu ascends back into the Heavens.
This 1951 version of the film is one of the most seminal sci-fi stories of the canon.
The 2008 version starring Keanu Reeves has amazing special effects, but only a fraction of the impact of the low-budget 1951 story.
In fact, when the almighty powers of Klaatu are released in 1951, we are in a lift and see little of the chaos assumed to be going on outside, aside from a few stalled cars.
In 2008 we see it all, plus a raging and angry Klaatu, but somehow, we remain unchanged and disinclined to mend our ways.
Gort, the 1951 robot/angel of the story, has been listed as one of the top five giants of all time.
He is portrayed by Lock Martin, who was actually seven and a half feet tall.
At the time of making the film, the message of Peace was not popular with the government while it was engaged in war with Korea.
Robert Wise, who directed the film, said that it was virtually impossible to obtain any help from the military at that time in the way of tanks, artillery or even uniforms.
So soon after World War Two, peace was already a bad word.
The film begins with Klaatu’s spacecraft circling the earth at unbelievable speeds before landing on a baseball field in Washington, being tracked on WW2-style big table maps with tokens pushed along by long sticks.
With the recent release of the now-famous “tic-tac” UFO footage, the similarities in the accompanying soundtracks are quite marked.
What would happen if a spaceship landed on the lawn in front of Parliament House these days?
Would we immediately assume hostile aliens?
Or would it presage peace on earth?
How many aliens would end up on Manus Island?

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The Warrandyte Pentathlon

MUCH ADO

By KATRINA BENNETT

2021 WAS PROVING to be a rollercoaster ride to rival the Tower of Terror or Arkham Asylum. Superheroes no longer had to live in Batcaves or steer clear of kryptonite. Nor was Hollywood necessarily on the Gold Coast. Those Hemsworth boys had made sure that Byron Bay was taking that dubious title, attracting micro-influencers like mice plagues to a grain silo. No longer were billionaires content to stand at the urinal together and swing their little fingers. No, they had to fly into space in crafts shaped like their underpaid and overworked minimum wage employees got together and said “Let’s design a ship that truly represents what we think of our boss”. Some people were lucky enough to escape the icy clutches of Melbourne’s winter and head north during the school holidays. They were awarded an extra 14 days off, isolated in their house with boutique bottle of gin, their mates Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and Disney+ passwords, and a few bonus Covid tests for their efforts. The snow lovers weren’t neglected either. After missing the entire 2020 ski season, 80 per cent of Warrandyte’s population threw on their roof racks, dragged out the rusty snow chains and added alpine diesel to the fuel tank. Then they remembered they had bought a new petrol car, with different size wheels and a wider roof. The kids had grown, the adults hadn’t lost their iso-gut and the Warrandyte Secondhand Facebook page broke the internet as ski gear was traded with the same ferocity and lack of understanding as BitCoin. I still have 15 pairs of skis, 19 pairs of boots, 38 ski jackets, 29 pairs of pants and 29,000 non-matching pairs of mittens if anyone is still interested.
Victoria entered Lockdown 5.0. Muscle memory kicked in. No need to panic buy, no need to exercise more than two hours a day, we could ignore soaring petrol prices; we weren’t going more than five kilometres from home. This lockdown had an entertainment bonus that the previous four didn’t. The Olympics. Who doesn’t love an opening ceremony that at best is three hours too long and at its very best is full of weird interpretive dancing and disturbingly bewildering characters? It was my time to shine. I could dazzle my disinterested offspring with my encyclopaedic knowledge of absolutely nothing. Eyes went blurry from uninterrupted screen-time, thumbs blistered from incessant googling and I acquired a strange mottled hue to my skin as I slowly morphed into an unwashed coach potato. Turns out quad skulls is a rowing race not a Russian drinking game and the Coxless fours isn’t just a boat without any males in it. But the real revelation was the kayaking and canoeing. What a sport, there had to be more steel in their abs than in the reinforced concrete of the course. As I gaze out at the murky waters of the Yarra River, I briefly consider that this could be the sport for me. I mean, sure it would take a bit of work to transform from a mouldy couch potato to a well-oiled French Fry, I’m scared of water and by the time I’d got my act together I’d be eligible for the aged pension. Not impossible but I reckon I’d be more likely to win a Tattslotto draw that I never bought a ticket in. Lucky I’ve got the Modern Warrandyte Pentathlon to fall back on. A collection of five events that require the cunning of a fox near a henhouse, the speed of a kookaburra at a barbie and the patience of a horse at an anti-lockdown rally.
Event 1: The Duck Race
Twelve ducklings whose parents have left them unattended in your pool, need to be rescued and returned one-by-one to the negligent Mum and Dad. Time penalties are given for any ducklings lost to a circling wedge-tailed eagle or if contact is made by the attacking Drake, who hasn’t worked out you’re actually trying to help.
Event 2: The NBN Modem reset
When the power goes out it’s a race against time to reset the modem and get the wi-fi up and running before any teenagers emerge from their caves complaining the live gaming stream has dropped out. This a sport that requires precision timing. Too quick and you blow a fuse in the box and you’ll get lost in a telco call centre queue never to be heard from again. Too slow and hell hath no fury like an internet-less teenager, they can move lightening quick when they want to.
Event 3: The Skatepark Challenge
The quickest to run over to the fish and chip shop, order and take delivery of your minimum chips, six fried dim sims and a bottle of Gatorade. Run back to skatepark, consume, drop all rubbish on the ground and run for the bus stop. Time penalties incurred for being yelled at by an adult before getting on the 906 and disqualified if called out by an outraged member of the Warrandyte Community and Business Facebook page.
Event 4: The Mountain Bike slalom
The course runs along the river from Stiggants Reserve to the Stonehouse. Obstacles include dogs off lead, toddlers released from their pram and irregular groupings of baby boomers who drift like brown’s cows when you startle them. Bonus points for dog poo-less tyres at the finish line.
Event 5: The Double Scull
Simple — a pot and shot at the Grand Hotel. There are no rules and everyone’s a winner. The perfect end to a gruelling Modern Warrandyte Pentathlon.
But now Lockdown 5.0 is over; the roller-coaster ride continues with 6.0. The Gold Coast may still not be Hollywood, but it is now the home of the 2032 Olympics, the games that no one else wanted. And you can’t

Nine twisted tales of love at WTC

The spotlights are back on at the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute, as Warrandyte Theatre Company presented Love/Sick, as collection of short plays. As we hit the streets, the production still has a week to run, so we have resisted the temptation to spoil the twists in the tail.

By BRIONY BOTTARELLI

JOHN CARIANI, actor/playwright and great observer of the human condition, brings to the stage a contemporary play about love in the form of nine vignettes, more specifically, nine ten-minute plays. But as the title Love/Sick suggests, it is also about dysfunctional love. It is a poignant portrayal of nine different relationships with the common thread of love or the lack of it. All the characters within this quirky, compassionate, funny, sad, devastating, but uplifting and very insightful work, reflect all that is encompassed within modern relationships. Although the characters are dealing with serious issues, they are presented to the audience in a comedic and palatable way. Clever, clever, clever! Not only the script, but the directors, the innovative and interchangeable sets, costuming and the transition from one play to another. I could not select one actor over another for their performances, they were all brilliant. Each actor played several roles, but their characters were never confused. If I had to sum up the whole production was polished and professional.

By DAVID HOGG

THIS VERY CLEVER and entertaining play by American playwright John Cariani brought to us by the Warrandyte Theatre Company (WTC) marks the next step forward in what will hopefully be a return to live theatre with full audiences. The Company had taken great care to comply with COVID restrictions, and the 25% capacity audience was seated in small groups booked at separate tables cleverly candle-lit. The first and last weeks were a sellout, with only a few tickets remaining for the middle week as we go to press. Love/Sick consists of nine funny and unconnected vignettes about the many dimensions of love. We were treated to an evening of superlative acting by the talented cast of eight, most of whom were familiar faces. Each act involved two people, and whilst most involved a male/female relationship one included a gay couple and another a lesbian couple. The plays themselves revolved around totally dysfunctional couples and throughout these acts I had a mental urge to bang the characters’ heads together. We could all see where they were going wrong, as they mostly portrayed the insensitivity of one partner to the feelings of the other, usually and ashamedly insensitivity of the male to the needs of the female. Yet despite our concerns with the annoying plots, in every case the acting was brilliant. To review each vignette would take too long; however, I must single out the Singing Telegram act for special praise. Lochie Laffin-Vines succinctly captures the part of a Singing Telegram Man who is reluctant to deliver his message. Simone Kiefer plays Louise, the recipient of the message, who is anticipating a proposal from her boyfriend. When she learns the actual contents of the message she portrays amazing versatility, turning quickly from the absolute joy of having the performer arrive to abject misery when she realises the message. David Tynan and Lisa MacGibbon are the accomplished directors. Lighting is excellent, as usual, and special mention must be made of the simple minimalistic set with a very cleverly designed doorway which can be turned to show a blank wall, an interior door, an ornate front door, or completely laid on its side to form a double bed. Thank you, WTC, for a most enjoyable night. Next up on the WTC stage will be Visitors by Barney Norris which runs in August. The long-awaited Calendar Girls by Tim Firth will finally be coming to our stage in late September. And the much-loved Follies returns in late November.

Thinking positive about Climate Change

MY NAME IS Amari.
I’m a 13 year old girl who has been invited to write about climate change from the perspective of a young person, on behalf of WarrandyteCAN, our local climate action group.
I want you to know that I, and many of my peers, feel anxious about climate change, and I would like to share how we can manage to work towards a better future.
Knowing that we do have the solutions to fix climate change is inspiring .
And as you read this, even more solutions and ideas are forming.
All we have to do is use them.
Many friends I know fear climate change.
Every time I hear someone talk about climate change, global warming and the environmental risks facing our future, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Some people don’t even believe in climate change.
I’ve seen climate change deniers that seem to be connected to the interests of big and powerful corporations —some of the greatest polluters and carbon emitters in our country.
Instead of trying to help, it’s easier for them to pretend that climate change is a myth.
But if you look at the facts, it’s undeniable and already starting to impact our world.
I recently finished reading a book called A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jaquette Ray.
It went into detail about how climate change affects your wellbeing.
In one of the earlier chapters, a few students were asked what they saw in the future.
When they said that they couldn’t see anything, they thought they needed to try harder.
Whereas they later realised they were trying, but genuinely could not see anything.
And this isn’t restricted to just those students who were surveyed; people all over the world feel the same, including me.
I found I’m often thinking about what has to be done instead of recognising what we have done.
I would like to share that I am starting to feel more hope when I hear of big businesses making changes and taking responsibility for their emissions.
Although we have a lot to do, there is so much good, and we should recognise the good.
Energy use is one of the biggest causes of carbon pollution, with 35 per cent of total carbon emitted to create electricity according to the National Greenhouse Accounts.
I am happy to say many Australian retailers are taking responsibility for the environment and changing to renewable energy.
Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings have committed to being 100 per cent renewable in the next four years.
This would have sounded far-fetched only a year ago but is now fact.
Momentum is building quickly, and it is so exciting to be part of this change. Some people have this excuse that we don’t have the technology to fix climate change.
Maybe this was once true, but not anymore.
We do have the technology.
Some people have these excuses that it’s too expensive but in reality, it’s cheaper.
I recognise that it’s not just big businesses and governments that need to act.
In our own lives, we can all be doing things to make a difference.
We can fix our mistakes.
We just need to move fast.
Because every day is one day closer to a disaster we can’t fix.
We can all do simple and small things to help.
You don’t need to be the hero and change the world.
Some people might want to help but don’t know how.
Feeling overwhelmed won’t help them.
So, inspire people and lead by example.
Remember to congratulate yourself and the work you do, no matter how small.
Also, make it fun.
Maybe organise something with your friends or get in touch with a local action group.

Amari Larratt is a supporter of WarrandyteCAN, a Year 7 Secondary School Student and a Warrandyte Resident.
To learn more about WarrandyteCAN find them on Facebook: facebook.com/warrandytecan

Mental Health

VALUES are at the core of self.
Understanding your values helps a person decide what is most important in their life.
Being able to identify those values is a little bit trickier, because values can be influenced by so many different things and it can be hard to recognise which are our values or those of someone else.
In general, values are related to the way in which we decide to live and work.
Our values should determine our deepest priorities, without any outside influence.
However, being influenced by outside sources happens whether we like it or not and these can impact our actions, unintentionally or intentionally, changing the way we behave or the way we live or the way we work.
When we live by our own values, we tend to be happy, content and relaxed.
Satisfied even.
When we move away from our values, by outside influences perhaps, we become unhappy, anxious and stressed.
We feel uneasy.
Living by our values is very important for our mental health, once we understand what our deepest personal values are, we are able to assess if we are living by them, or if we need to change the way we are functioning.
It is also important to understand that over time, our values may also change, depending on our life circumstances, but core values never leave us.
If you are thinking that that sounds like a contradiction in terms, you are right.
The point is, we have a set of core values that are at the centre of our being that are usually pretty sound, and yet some of our other values don’t have such strict boundaries and may alter as life develops, as we enter relationships, have children, develop our careers and so on.
What was important in the past, may not be so important now.
Values are the principles by which we live our lives.
Our earliest values are dictated by family, friends and relationships.
But as we grow and mature, we are able to fully identify and develop our own set of values.
Take a moment to think about your own values, perhaps make a list of them.
Where did those values come from, who influenced them and more importantly what influenced them?
Determining your values can be as simple as thinking about the things that have had a positive influence on your life, things that have made you happy, that make you feel safe, that you are proud of, et cetera.
Once you start thinking about your values, it is easier to understand your core values, the things that matter most, that are unwavering.
Sometimes it is hard to live by our values, because life throws curveballs at us that might try to knock us off track.
This is normal, it is how we react to these curveballs that is important — once we have identified our core values, handling difficult situations becomes less stressful.
For instance, identifying the direction in life we wish to take, making important or life changing decisions or knowing how to act in awkward situations becomes easier.
Being true to yourself is living by your core values.
These core values are the foundation for a strong and healthy, happy life.
If you cannot or have not identified your values, then how do you know when you have violated one of them?
Usually, it is because you have a deep sense of unease, you feel sick in the stomach, you become anxious or feel guilty or even shame.
Essentially, when we have identified with our values and live by them, we experience a deeper sense of happiness and peace of mind, we function better and become more productive, creative and respected.
It is important to remember however, that not everyone shares the same values.
Respecting your own values as well as other people’s values is important.
Remaining non-judgemental and respectful to other people’s values is an attribute that is worthy of being on everyone’s list of values for a more harmonious existence.

Stephanie Foxley has lived and worked in the Manningham district for over 20 years.
Now relocated to Queensland she offers online counselling services via Zoom.
Medibank, Bupa, Police Health Fund and Doctor’s Health fund accredited.
Member of ACA and CCAA and PACFA
Mobile: 0407 921 122
Email: newlifehealingspace@gmail.com
Website: www.newlifehealing.com.au

Beyondblue Australia: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: (Crisis Support) 13 11 14
Headspace: (12-25 years) 1800 650 890
Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
Health and Human Services: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

Why do smart people make dumb decisions?

WE WOULD think that anyone with a high level of intelligence would run through all the scenarios and then make the best choice, right?
Indeed, they often do, but something may have happened to them where making the right decision becomes complex, and they cannot choose the correct response at that moment, which is annoying for them and the people wanting an answer.
You can probably recall a scenario where you asked someone a simple question: do you want a cup of tea or coffee? or what do you want for dinner? or can you do this small extra project/task that must be completed within a tight deadline?
This added pressure to make another decision or do one more thing can cause a person to get into the flight, fight or freeze, get angry, storm out, cry, walk away, quit or some other irrational response.
They have no capacity left even for simple things at that moment.
Think of how many decisions you or they make in a day.
The bigger decisions may be more obvious, but do not overlook all the small ones.
On reflection, we may discover the person was in a state of overwhelm, fear, stress, or anxiety; therefore, they did not have access to the complete resources in their mind to choose wisely.
When people are in these states, the mind can experience confusion, a foggy brain, numbness, cannot interpret a simple question, and cannot think rationally or clearly.
They feel pressured as someone needs their attention and response now, which is next to impossible for them to do easily.

Living or working in a constantly stressful environment

Henry J Kahn, MD says it is easy to forget that stress is one of your body’s warning signals that tell you something is out of whack.
“If you ignore those signals, especially your emotions, you could become so accustomed to the stimulation of stress, ongoing tension and strain that stress can start to seem normal. When many people in a particular environment are stressed, they can create a climate that makes it more difficult for anyone to see his or her own stress clearly.
When you have a whole culture pushing high performance, sometimes people don’t want to admit it or address it.”
Mr Kahn notes some coping skills people use to help the mind and body cope with stressful events., which may not be beneficial in the long term such as: holding their breath; take substances such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco; misusing medications; eating the wrong foods; or going extra hard at the gym or playing sport.
“These substances and actions may become a part of your everyday life even when not stressed because we are also creatures of habit or addiction,” he says.

Physiological stress responses

We can experience a physiological stress response by a perceived or actual threat to our safety or well-being.
We literally cannot think about anything except get to a safe place; our mind responds to the actual or perceived fear.
If a snake is in your backyard and you, your children, or pets are near it, and you have a fear of snakes, you may go into flight or fight or freeze response — an actual fear.
If you are at work and hate it there, have an enormous workload, dislike your boss, and they are ringing you, and you haven’t completed the job due to a ridiculous workload or timeline, you may go into a perceived threat for the security of your job.

Chemical responses in the body

Often, we can manage short-term stress, and some people thrive in a stressful environment; however, prolonged exposures can perpetuate cortisol dysfunction, inflammation and pain.
The body triggers the sympathetic nervous system and produces a chemical response to cope with the situation and releases cortisol to prepare for survival mode and have the safest and fastest possible outcome for you.
Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory and helps to trigger glucose reserves for energy and modulate inflammation.
It can stay in our body for up to 12 hours, just from one significant event.
Multiple events throughout the day will keep topping up the cortisol —so when will your body recover?

Discover resilience skills to improve well-being

Breathing Techniques: Breathe in a way that triggers your parasympathetic nervous system to release all the good happy hormones to balance the body.
Slow, deep breathes into the heart or chest area
Diaphragmatic breathing techniques
Discover some great breathing technique by Heart Math Institute, Wim Hof, Patrick McKeown and James Nester.
Meditation: A variety of methods takes us into a state of mediation, such as gardening, swimming, yoga, Thai chi, sitting still, knitting, breathe work, reading a book et cetera
Self-Talk: Learn to be kind to yourself. Often people will beat themselves up for not having answers, think they are worthless and so forth.
Stretch and Exercise: Remember to include the physical body to help with the flow of blood and energy in the body.

Coherence vs Relaxation

When you are relaxed, you do not necessarily want to run a 100m sprint or have a tennis game with a strong competitor; however, being in a coherent state, it’s more of an active, calm state and perfect for a run or sports game, work environment and making smart, effective decisions.
If you find yourself not coping as well as you once did, you can download a free ebook, 12 HeartMath® Tools for Reducing Stress and Staying Balanced
www.heartmath.org/resources/downloads/12-heartmath-tools

Maree Zimny is a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP and HeartMath®
Certified Trainer and Quantum Frequency Coach.
Specialist in Anxiety, Stress and Communications
0403 325 858
www.facebook.com/thereliefcliniconline

Majesty by the side of the road

WELCOME TO Meeting with Remarkable Trees.

I have borrowed the title from Thomas Pakenham’s book that reflects on the character of the old, the sacred, the mysterious and the poetic through 60 of his favourite trees.

Unbeknown to many, trees serve us way beyond the comfort of shade on a hot day or ascetically pleasing additions to a garden.

Through 17 products derived from trees, they provide for over 5,000 of our daily commodities from mobile phone screens (cellulose acetate) to strengthening concrete (lignin).

Because of this, mono-culture plantations are a massive global industry predominantly operated by multinationals in collaboration with governments.

Our world forests are under threat and with the climate in crisis, attention is due.

On the flip side, much is now being discovered about the importance of diversity in old-growth forest and how trees communicate via a vast underground network.

Interest is growing, and trees, just like us, are becoming recognised as deeply fascinating individuals wholly reliant on their environment for survival.

In my experience, fostering a relationship with the trees based on curiosity and connection has been a necessary step towards creating personal climate-crisis solutions rather than being overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

I want to share this journey with you by seeking out and presenting the bold, the beautiful, the humble and the dignified in the Manningham’s community.

Do you have a tree favourite tree in your own garden or a tree you are fond of in your area?

Please email me at the address below.

I’d love to connect with you and hear your story.

There is no set criteria.

Large, small, young or old, character is all that matters.

Let’s celebrate Manningham’s forest.

By way of introduction then, meet March’s beauty.

Just down from the corner of Park Road and Feversham Avenue in Park Orchards, resides a tall and elegant eucalypt, who has taken an approximate 150 years to reach maturity.

At a distance she is well-balanced, neither thick in canopy nor thin, but just enough to see her graceful arms reaching up.

As I approach, a delightful mess of shredded skin crunches underfoot.

Her girth is furrowed with age-old protective layers, and looking up, her formidable branches carry the elegance and colour typical of early Victorian paintings: dark shadows highlighted with soft, silvery greys.

Creamy smoothness that merges into the blue-green tone of the canopy.

There are cavities emerging from some of her branches; a borer making a home, or larger hollows resulting from a branch felled by stormy weather.

Residing in deep time, it will be decades before any such borers outdo the tree.

Meanwhile,larger hollows provide nesting sites for our native parrots, cockatoos, and owls.

(On that note, if you need to trim or remove a tree, consider the possibility of providing a nesting site.

The hollows take decades to develop and a good arborist can advise and trim your tree accordingly).

In all, this Faversham resident presents a lovely impression of the many unique characteristics of Australia’s eucalypts.

As I watch and listen, I ponder what the breeze would do without long, slithery greenery to play with.

How would our days be without wind in the trees, and what would stories be without the touch of leafy whispers?

To share your favourite tree, email jennahmrose@outlook.com.

Jennah is captivated by the quiet, unassuming presence and of trees.

She is currently training to facilitate Forest Therapy and working towards a PhD about how we relate to the natural world.

Protecting our green wedges

GREEN EDGE
WarrandyteCAN

SOMETIMES I THINK of Melbourne as a vast living organism, growing ever larger, slowly spreading across the surrounding countryside and devouring everything in its path.
No one can stop Melbourne growing, and the best that governments can do is to control its growth and try to ensure that it is sustainable.
Melbourne’s 12 green wedges, including the Manningham and Nillumbik Green Wedges, are a good case in point.
These are non-urban areas lying outside Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary that have been designated for the protection of natural and rural values.
They contain a mix of low-density uses including farms, parks, water catchments, cultural heritage sites, and residential land on large allotments.
The policy of protecting green wedges from inappropriate development is set out in all planning schemes covering metropolitan Melbourne.
Green wedges are a product of the great foresight of people like Rupert Hamer, Minister for Local Government in the late 1960s and later Premier of Victoria.
According to Hamer, in planning for the growth of Melbourne:
“Nobody could happily contemplate a future metropolis of seemingly endless suburbia spreading out to infinity.”
“The future planning of Melbourne should take account of the surrounding countryside as a vital part of the metropolitan environment.”
Hamer’s vision for containing Melbourne’s urban sprawl was reflected in the 1971 report entitled Planning Policies for the Melbourne Metropolitan Region, which supported the establishment of urban growth corridors separated by “green wedges of open country protected from urban development”.
Fast forward to 2021, and the need for green wedges is stronger than ever in the face of climate change and rising average temperatures.
Green wedges, along with increased greening of areas within the Urban Growth Boundary, serve to absorb carbon and to mitigate the urban heat island effect.
Moreover, as the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, has noted, the importance of these areas will only increase in the future as climate change impacts where crops are grown and the green wedge and peri-urban areas are relied upon more to grow food.
Green wedges also provide vital recreational resources for Melbourne’s population and greatly contribute to our quality of life — a refuge from the concrete, asphalt and traffic of suburbia.
It is not surprising, however, that over the decades since they were established, Melbourne’s green wedges have faced significant threats from those eager to open up these areas for development.
In recent years, the Manningham Green Wedge faced such a threat by way of the Manningham Council’s proposed amendment to the Manningham Planning Scheme known as Amendment C117.
That proposal involved (among other things) changes to the Scheme that would have allowed more commercial and tourist development in the Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ), which covers most privately-owned land within the Manningham Green Wedge.
However, an independent panel appointed by the State Government recommended against those changes and instead put forward its own version of Amendment C117 aimed at preserving the status quo.
As the Diary reported in February 2019, the Panel concluded that “the broader policy position to support more tourism in the Green Wedge is contrary to sound planning and runs counter to the purposes of the RCZ.”
In September that year, the Planning Minister decided to accept the panel’s recommendations and adopt its version of the amendment rather than Council’s.
The State Government is currently undertaking a project aimed at deciding how it can best protect Melbourne’s green wedges.
At this stage, it is considering submissions received from stakeholders and community members, and is due to provide a report about this in mid-2021.
WarrandyteCAN strongly supports the protection and preservation of our green wedges, especially as they represent an important part of our response to climate change and are vital for Melbourne’s sustainable future.

Now is the time to create some healthy habits

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Let’s hope 2021 is a successful year in your chosen endeavours after the turmoil and instability of last year.
Personally, it was tough for me as I am sure it was for many of you.
Besides losing my studio in Warrandyte, I lost my way and didn’t feel I had a real sense of purpose.
I found it a challenge to function day-to-day, finish tasks, and wound up isolating myself more.
This led me to a path of what I’d call self-destruction where I’d fall into bad habits.
I struggled for motivation; I was staying up too late, therefore sleeping in too late.
I was drinking more alcohol than normal and just generally partying too hard.
My body and brain were not functioning as they should.
They were real “groundhog days” just accumulating until things got back to some normality.
I can’t afford to lose sleep nor over-jam my schedule.
I need to keep up with those good habits for the sake of my heart, mind, and physical health.
I believe this is the same for everybody.
When you’re stressed or emotionally distressed, your heart is one of the first organs in your body that will feel the pain and react.
But here we are in February 2021, we are back working hard, kids are now at school, holidays are over, so I thought I’d share some healthy habits with you.
There are so many of them, but I thought I’d give you five that will hold you in good stead this year and beyond.

  1. Get a morning routine that suits you

How you start your day really matters.
The way you approach a morning determines what mood you’ll be in that entire day.
If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, rush to get dressed, skip breakfast or shove something in your mouth and rush to work, you’ll most likely feel rattled for the day.
A morning routine will help you ease into your day and start off on the right foot.
If you have had a goal to have more time in the mornings, start in 15-minute increments.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier each day until you are happy with the time.
More time in the mornings means more time and attention to work obligations and people you care most about.

  1. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day

Don’t just grab another cup of coffee — get up and move.
Have a PT session, do a fitness class, lift some weights, go for a jog followed by some stretches.
It is great for your body and mind. Just 30 minutes of walking, five times a week, may help keep the blues at bay.
And if you can’t do it all at once, short bursts help, too.

  1. Organise your home or workspace for 15 minutes

15 minutes of cleaning a night (or morning, whichever works best) will add time to your life.
Your home should be your oasis.
A clean place is vital for stress management.
I just let my place build up with untidiness, clutter, and dust, I just could not face cleaning it.
It affected my mood and motivation.
Make sure all the dishes and washing are put away and the beds are made in the morning.
Shower before bed and enjoy fresh sheets on the bed, it really does make a difference.

  1. Develop your evening routine

An evening routine can consist of reading, Yoga, meditation, cleaning and organising, or doing an exercise.
Winding down is critical for mental health management.
Three hours before bed might be the time you want to start allowing your brain and mind to relax.
Your evening routine can entail anything that promotes peace and serenity.
If something relaxes you and gets you prepared for bed, do that.
To make a health goal into a habit, set a time to stop working.

  1. Keep a journal

This is something new for me, but I love the idea and think it’s really helping me.
It can be done in three to five minutes.
Try logging what you accomplished each day and what you need to do the next.
Create a comprehensive outline showcasing how much you have achieved and what else needs attention.
You will be amazed when you realise how much you’ve done in a day and hopefully will stop being so hard on yourself.
I am ridiculously hard on myself, unnecessarily so, and it’s unhealthy for the heart and mind.
This journal writing saved me in a lot of ways.
I’m now ready to make 2021 my most successful year ever and I hope it will be for you too.
Yours in good health, Chris.

Chris Sharp is a Personal Trainer at Advance Fitness-Doncaster East and can be contacted 0419 553 058

 

Words of wisdom from the river

LOCKDOWN had taken its toll.
Starved of words and stories but definitely not starved of calories, I found my letter tank empty.
A Scrabble board with no tiles.
Although it appeared my jar of clichés was overflowing.
Vacantly staring at my laptop, I am hoping a half page story would miraculously appear across my screen.
The only things less likely on my laptop were getting a virus, catching fire or getting smashed by massive hailstones from hell.
Oh, wait up.
Yeah, nah, it is 2020, that is probably going to happen.
Instead of wallowing in my own wordless stew, I wander out the back gate for a restorative stroll along the Yarra.
It starts with no more than a very low gentle whisper.
“I could help you.”
I glance around to see where the voice came from.
“Over here,” comes a gentle gurgle.
Perplexed I turn to the river.
“Yes, that is right.
“I have got some stories to tell you,” burbles the water flowing over a rapid.
Glancing around, I check for people in white coats waiting to haul me away.
“Why would I believe you?
“The EPA says you’re full of sh&%,” I reply.
And while that may be so, who am I to kick a gift horse in the mouth.
In fact, I thought the probability of me being able to kick anything post-COVID without pulling a hammy was statistically insignificant.
Pulling up my favourite rock to sit and ponder, I let river wisdom wash over me.
Literally.
High rainfall coupled with Upper Yarra Dam works has led to said rock being submerged.
So now not only am I conversing with a river, but I am doing so with a very wet bum.
“You know what?” asks the river.
“I love flowing past and people watching.
“Humans can be quite odd.
“Present company most certainly included.”
As one, myself, the Yarra and my soggy pants gaze at the opposite bank bearing witness to:

River Visitor Category 1

These visitors will only be observed during the day, mid-week and in packs of three to four couples.
They BYO picnic tables, chairs, automatically-refilling plastic red wine glasses and have empty shopping bags tied to the table — one for rubbish and one for recycling.
At least two, small, fluffy, white dogs will be observed comfortably snoozing in their owner’s laps, occasionally interrupted by outbursts of laughter and colourful language when the photo of the prized grandchild that they spent 20 minutes locating, magically disappears from the smartphone screen.
Never to be seen again.
Generally found in the perfectly scouted flat but shaded area, because after 70 plus years of the Aussie sun, these wily visitors are sick of spending half their superannuation at the dermatologist.

River Visitor Category 2

Turning up early afternoon on a sunny day post-exam, joyfully shedding school uniforms to run into the river, theses visitors will invariably live to regret their decision three hours later.
Calculating their departure to coincide with when they should have been leaving school, these TikTok Generation students hurriedly attempt to reapply crumpled filthy mud streaked dresses and school shirts over beet-red shoulders.
These “old enough to want independence but too young to realise potential consequences” mid-teens express horror on their sun-fried faces as they wonder how they can possibly explain losing a bra and one sock at school to their parents.

River Visitor Category 3

Arriving anytime from 3pm onwards, the group will swell as members turn up one, two or three at a time.
At no time will the gender ratio be even.
This peculiarity will lead to constant peacock preening and galah screeching behaviour.
Muscles colourfully covered in ink will be strong enough to carry whole slabs of Great Northern, four packs of Spritzers and minimum chips to the river’s edge.
Once the final inflatable flamingo has been popped on a jagged rock our intrepid visitors are so exhausted, they can barely crawl back to their utes.
There is no way they could possibly pick up the empty bottles, shredded cardboard packaging or sad flattened flamingos before they float through the tunnel.

River Visitor Category 4

Abundant anytime during the day, any age, and every gender.
Characterised by active wear, a takeaway coffee in hand, phone in the other and dog lead in the… oh wait… dog somewhere in the general vicinity.
Outrage is genuine.
Shock is real.
WTF!
There they are walking along the river track minding their own and everyone else’s business when a snake has the audacity to cross their path.
Their path.
The path that has been put in smack bang, right in the snake’s territory, somewhere between their snake house and snake food.
Quick, someone call the snake catcher
Not the one that never wears a shirt.
The other one.
Now where has that sod gone?
I did not have time to get an out of focus photo to put on Facebook.

River Visitor Category 5

“These are my favourite river rats,” announces the river suddenly.
“Which ones?” I reply startled
“These three walking into the water now.
“I like to move rocks around and submerge trees to try and trick them into slipping and getting their school bags wet.
“Imagine their parents face when this lot have to pull dripping laptops and phones out.
“There would not be enough rice in the world to fix that mess.”
Quickly retreating towards my back gate, I whisper over my shoulder, “The only reason these three walk home through the river is because I told them I am way too busy and important to pick them up.
“Now raise your water level a little to slow them down.
“I need time to make it look like I am busy and important before they reach the back door.”

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.

 

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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