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Australia: Armed with a bright green beetle, these Darwin children are weeding out a serious ecological threat

Armed with a bright green beetle, these Darwin children are weeding out a serious ecological threat

Budding young entrepreneurs Jack Barker and his sister Kelly have come up with a unique plan to tackle the spread of one of northern Australia’s most serious weeds — and make some money while doing it.

During the school holidays, the pair from Darwin’s rural area collected a bright green beetle that can be found lurking along the stems of the spinyhead sida, a weed introduced into Australia last century.

«I have always been dreaming of starting my own business,» Jack, 12 years old, said.

«I didn’t know that these bugs were worth $2 each.»

Jack and his 10 year-old sister have sold 150 beetles to neighbouring land owners who are battling to control the 1.5 metre sida plants, which grow rapidly during the Top End wet season.

The beetle is a native of north America called Calligrapha.

Experts from the CSIRO and NT government agencies discovered in the 1980s it was the weapon they needed to contain the spread of sida in the Territory.

Since 1989, the beetle has been released in hundreds of locations across the Top End under a biological control program.

The sida does not have a natural predator and it tends to quickly dominate native plants, preventing livestock, which do not eat it, from grazing on grass.

Jack Barker and beetle

Chinese prospectors who used its tough stems to make brooms are thought to have brought it to the Territory in the early 1900s.

Today, the invasive plant is common in the Darwin, Katherine, Gulf and Victoria River regions.

«Anywhere where you have cattle or horses, it’s really common,» Michelle Franklin from the NT government’s weed management branch said.

Jack said he and Kelly put their collected beetles in 50-batch containers and sold them for $100.

He said the beetles quickly got to work once they were released.

«After a few weeks, you can actually see the stick of the old sida plant,» he said.

Jack Barker and Sally Isberg

Jack Barker, pictured with his mother Sally Isberg, shows some sida that Calligrapha beetles have been eating.(ABC News: Peter Lacey


According to the government’s weed management branch, the beetle reduces sida density from 22 plants per square metre to six over a year in some areas.

Jack and Kelly’s mother, Sally Isberg, said she was proud her children were selling and farming beetles and improving the environment.

«We have actually noticed the beetle population completely decimated our sida weeds crop, which means we haven’t had to spray with chemicals and that’s just a fantastic solution,» she said.

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Australia: Unplaced Western Cape pupils caught in middle of MEC and activists spat

Unplaced Western Cape pupils caught in middle of MEC and activists spat

Cape Town – Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) dismissed claims by the Education MEC Debbie Schäfer that they were unwilling to help resolve the school admissions crisis.

The groups said Schäfer must fulfil her responsibility to develop long-term solutions to the yearly admissions crisis instead of making false claims about them.

In a statement, the groups said last week, Schäfer claimed that EE had not provided the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) with “any verifiable data” on the number of pupils in the province who had not yet been enrolled at schools.

“This is most unfortunate as we (the WCED) had hoped to have assistance in this regard,” she said.

EE and the EELC said they wanted to put it on record that Schäfer’s comments were false.

«At the start of every year, there are thousands of learners who are unplaced at schools in the Western Cape, and in anticipation of this we wrote to Schäfer on October 23, 2020, to raise our concerns and to ask about the WCED’s plans for the placement of learners for 2021.»

They said their two organisations stressed the need for the WCED to develop well-thought through, clear plans to address the yearly crisis, and that Schäfer’s response to their letter was dismissive and did not provide a plan.

Schäfer said the list provided by the EELC contained no ID numbers or Centralised Educational Management Information System (Cemis) numbers, and in one instance, not even the surname was provided.

She said no phone numbers were provided for the parents of 10 of the pupils, preventing the department from accessing the required information to place pupils.

«There are further concerns – a 30-year-old ‘learner’ appears on the list, for whom the parents allegedly applied to a primary school. A 6-year-old is listed as needing a place in Grade 5. One child is 4 years old – not even of school-going age,» said Schäfer.

She said most tellingly, for 28 learners, the parents stated that they never applied for a school, and for a further 14 pupils, they did not respond to the question as to whether and where they had applied

«It is not clear how a learner can be unplaced if they have not even applied for a place in a school. Yet EELC claims they are unplaced,» she said.

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Manifestación contra la violencia sexual en Australia

Manifestación contra la violencia sexual en Australia

Miles de australianos manifestaron el domingo en Perth contra la violencia sexual que afecta a las mujeres, primera movilización de una campaña nacional para reivindicar una ley de igualdad de género, en momentos en que Australia se ve sacudida por acusaciones de violación contra responsables políticos.

El lunes, más de 40 manifestaciones serán organizadas en todo el país, en particular delante del Parlamento en Camberra, donde recientemente hubo acusaciones de agresiones sexuales.

En febrero, una ex colaboradora del gobierno, Brittany Higgins, afirmó que había sido violada por un colega en la oficina de la ministra de Defensa, Linda Reynolds, poco meses antes de las elecciones legislativas de 2019.

En su momento, Reynolds acusó a su excolaborada de mentirosa, pero recientemente se disculpó.

El Attorney-general (principal consejero jurídico del gobierno), Christian Porter reveló que se lo acusaba de violación de una adolescente de 16 años en 1988, acusación que rechazó categóricamente.

Según los medios de prensa, la víctima de esa violación se suicidó en junio pasado.

Ante la creciente presión de la opinión pública, el primer ministro Scott Morrison anunció que va a recibir a una delegación del movimiento.

“Actualmente, la cuestión de las violencia contra las mujeres continúa siendo una gran prioridad de mi gobierno”, declaró Morrison a la prensa.

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Australian universities offer rebates to foreign students stranded overseas due to the coronavirus

Australian universities offer rebates to foreign students stranded overseas due to the coronavirus

As Australian universities gear up for another academic year amid a global pandemic, some institutions are offering fee rebates for foreign students.

More than 140,000 enrolled international students were unable to study at Australian campuses after the Federal Government imposed border restrictions last year, according to data from Universities Australia (UA), the peak body for the sector.

Australia’s international border restrictions are expected to stay for the remainder of the year, as it’s still unclear if the vaccines approved so far prevent virus transmission. It is also unclear how effective they will be against new coronavirus strains.

The tertiary sector has been hard hit by the pandemic, with 2020 seeing a raft of cuts to staff and courses, and this trend is unlikely to reverse in 2021.

And as many international students currently studying Australian courses online may not set foot in the country for many months, institutions are coming up with ways to keep students from switching to courses in North America and Europe.

‘It’s very disappointing’

University of Wollongong

Indonesian student Naufal Muhammad Zavier was set to spend his last semester of study in Australia at the University of Wollongong (UOW), until last March’s international border closures made that impossible.

Mr Zavier has instead been doing classes with UOW online and has received a 10 per cent reduction on his overall tuition fees as a result of the move to remote learning.

The university also awarded him an international student scholarship which equated to a further 30 per cent reduction in fees.

«Due to the pandemic, my parents’ source of income as freelancers was also affected … UOW was also very generous by allowing us to pay the tuition fee through instalments,» he said.

UOW is just one of several universities offering incentives to international students to stay competitive.

«International students can still fly into the UK and Canada for face-to-face studies,» Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), told the ABC.

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Descubren un nuevo arrecife de coral en Australia, el primero en 120 años

Descubren un nuevo arrecife de coral en Australia, el primero en 120 años

El hallazgo se enmarca en un estudio en el que participan geólogos, biólogos y ecólogos marinos de diferentes universidades, entre las que se encuentra la de Granada.


Un equipo internacional de científicos coliderado por la Universidad de Granada ha descubierto un nuevo arrecife de coral en la Gran Barrera de Australia, el primero en 120 años, y avanza en el trabajo de campo con un buque que se extenderá hasta el próximo 17 de noviembre.

El investigador de la Universidad de Granada Ángel Puga colidera una campaña de investigación geológica y biológica que se desarrolla en aguas de la Gran Barrera de Arrecifes (GBA) de Australia, el mayor arrecife de coral del mundo.

Se trata de un proyecto en el que participan geólogos, biólogos y ecólogos marinos de diferentes universidades y centros de investigación australianos que mantiene la campaña de trabajo con el buque oceanográfico R7V Falkor activa hasta el próximo 17 de noviembre, según ha informado la Universidad de Granada en un comunicado.

El equipo en el que trabaja Puga, del departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología de Granada, se ha adaptado al contexto de la actual emergencia sanitaria y mantiene el trabajo de forma remota.

En este contexto, los investigadores del proyecto internacional descubrieron este pasado 21 de octubre un nuevo «arrecife separado» de 500 metros de altura sobre el fondo marino y cuya parte más somera, de unos 300 metros de largo y 50 metros de ancho, se sitúa a unos 40 metros de profundidad.

Gran diversidad de organismos bentónicos y peces

Este nuevo arrecife es el primero que se descubre en la GBA en los últimos 120 años y, además, según las imágenes logradas hasta el momento, cuenta con una gran diversidad de organismos bentónicos y peces. El objetivo principal de la campaña consiste en estudiar el medio marino profundo a lo largo de la península de Cape York, situada en el extremo más septentrional de la GBA y que es una de las regiones más remotas y aisladas de Australia.

Los ambientes marinos profundos en esta región son «un gran desconocido» para la comunidad científica, pues la única información existente procede de datos dispersos obtenidos por otros buques científicos durante su paso por estas aguas.

«En lo que llevamos de campaña se han realizado algunos descubrimientos muy interesantes que auguran varios años de trabajo para los científicos», ha explicado Puga, que ha puesto como ejemplo que los investigadores han logrado cartografiar completamente el deslizamiento submarino SwainSlide, un gran movimiento de tierra.

El comprender cómo se ha originado este gran movimiento submarino y las causas que lo han desencadenado tienen un gran interés científico, ya que los eventos catastróficos de este tipo pueden generar tsunamis que afectan a la costa en cuestión de pocas horas.

Además, los investigadores han observado un rico ecosistema marino tanto en el borde de la plataforma continental como en ambientes marinos profundos sobre las paredes y fondo de los cañones submarinos.

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The case for Australia to step up in Southeast Asia

The case for Australia to step up in Southeast Asia

A policy brief by Hervé Lemahieu, Director of the International Economy Program at the Lowy Institute, published by The Brookings Institution.


Australia shares significant overlap of geographically-derived interests with the emerging middle powers of Southeast Asia. The resilience of developing Southeast Asia functions as the protective membrane for Australia’s own prosperity and security.

Navigating a path through U.S.-China competition and forging constructive ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors are among Australia’s most pressing foreign policy priorities. And yet, misaligned expectations have complicated the potential for a broad-based consensus needed to sustain Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the region. This is often driven in both directions by a failure to understand, or simply the urge to gloss over, fundamental differences in identities, temperaments, priorities, and alignments between Australia and its Southeast Asian counterparts. Such differences will require concerted efforts to manage.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Canberra should prioritize an outward-looking and ambitious Indo-Pacific strategy rather than risk withdrawing into a pessimistic and defensive regional posture. Australia’s strategic circumstances, while critical, are also dynamic. They create an opportunity to rethink, reorder, and step-up regional diplomacy. Australia will have to re-engage the middle powers of Southeast Asia on their own terms, as well as look for ways to bridge strategic priorities in its two closest geographic theaters.

This can be done by committing to a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy for Southeast Asia in addition to aid efforts already underway in the South Pacific. Succeeding in its minilateral and multilateral ventures will also require a clearer differentiation in Australia’s Indo-Pacific objectives: building a strategic and military counterweight to China through strategic partnerships, on one hand, and cooperating with a more diverse set of middle powers in shoring up the rules-based regional order, on the other.

Australia should continue to support Southeast Asian countries in building regional balance in the ways they do best. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) emerging economic architecture may well prove to be the most consequential multilateral hedge against Beijing’s asymmetric economic clout. Canberra should also facilitate and deepen cross-regional linkages between Southeast Asia and the Pacific. This will help to diversify the international relations of Pacific island nations and minimize the risk that they become overly dependent on China.

Download the full policy brief from the Brookings website, or via the button above.

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Australia’s Bushfires Burned an Area Twice the Size of Florida. Climate Change Means That’s Just the Beginning, a New Report Warns

Australia’s Bushfires Burned an Area Twice the Size of Florida. Climate Change Means That’s Just the Beginning, a New Report Warns

The bushfires that scorched vast tracts of Australia in late 2019 and early 2020 were just a glimpse of what’s to come as global temperatures rise, a landmark report made public on Friday warned.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which was commissioned by the Australian government, says that global warming over the next 20 to 30 years is inevitable, and Australia must adapt to further changes to the climate.

“Australia will have more hot days and fewer cool days. Sea levels are also projected to continue to rise,” the inquiry, led by a former chief of the Australian Defense Force, a former federal court judge and a climate policy expert, found“Tropical cyclones are projected to decrease in number, but increase in intensity. Floods and bushfires are expected to become more frequent and more intense.”

Climate activists say they are hopeful the report will help break the country’s deadlock on climate reform—and spur a government that had been largely ambivalent on the issue into action.

“Climate change is real, climate change is affecting all of us and it’s time for urgent action,” says Greg Mullins, the former fire chief of New South Wales. “It’s time for the government to listen.”

Although fires are an annual occurrence on the continent, last season’s apocalyptic blazes, known as the “Black Summer” fires, burned up to 83 million acres, an area twice the size of Florida. The report’s findings come as fires rage on America’s West Coast. More than 90,000 people were urged this week to flee their California homes as Santa Ana winds fueled fires. Already, it has been a record-breaking fire season in the U.S., with wildfires tearing across parts of California, Oregon and Washington.

Australia’s last fire season was one of the worst on record, too. More than 30 people died in the blazes, including at least nine firefighters. More than 400 people may have been killed by smoke pollution from the fires, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. More than 3,000 homes and many other buildings were destroyed, and one researcher, in a widely shared figure, projected that as many as 480 million animals have been killed or would die in the state of New South Wales—where Sydney is located—alone.

The authors did not urge specific action to reduce Australia’s green house gas emissions—most of the report’s 80 recommendations revolved around practical ways to improve Australia’s natural disaster response. Mullins, who is also a councillor at the non-profit Climate Council, says the report makes a stronger statement on climate change than he expected. “It calls for mitigation across all sectors,” says Mullins. “I take that as code for the government must be serious with your policies on climate change.”

A quick search shows the phrase “climate” used 355 times in the 594 page document (in 67 of those instances the phrase “climate change” was used.)

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