News Archive 2016 

Outback Elvis Book CoverWheat, sheep or Elvis Presley? Rural Australia has had to change its tune

Regional Australia is struggling.  Even the largest towns in regional New South Wales are juggling diminishing populations and difficult economic times, despite moving on from the dreadful drought years.

There is more to rural Australia than agriculture, and most places have shifted away from the mass production of agricultural commodities towards the marketing of rural lifestyles and landscapes. Farming becomes valuable as scenery.

City people can be tempted for weekends away and old-fashioned farm stays have evolved. But that works most easily for NSW coastal towns – like Berry and Kiama – that are within striking distances of capital cities. More distant inland places have had to work a little harder to diversify.  Orange is one of the towns that have led the way in terms of change. An enormously successful FOOD (Food of Orange District) festival has drawn in city crowds and tempted some to remain. At the other end of the state, the Tamworth Country Music Festival has grown every year and been a massive boost to regional income.

But it is probably even smaller towns that have benefited most from festivals. Most successful of all has been Parkes, otherwise a transport centre on the wheat and sheep plains. In January, Parkes celebrated its 25th anniversary of the Elvis Festival.  The whim of a handful of townsfolk, the festival began in a tiny way in 1993. Parkes citizens were doubtful – what had Elvis to do with rural Australia? But the local newspaper, the tourism office and the rugby club got on board, and the festival boomed.

Once it lasted barely a weekend. Now it lasts five days. Two hundred people came to the first festival – now there are 20,000, almost twice the town’s population. Accommodation is booked five years in advance, home hosting extends to nearby towns like Forbes and even Orange, and tents overflow on Graceland on the Green.

The festival brings in more than A$10 million, employs many people, and has enabled even improbable local businesses to prosper. Read more...

 This article was originally published in The Conversation, January 10, 2017.

Chris Gibson and John Connell and are the authors of Outback Elvis: The story of a festival, its fans and a town called Parkes, which has just been published by New South.

Greener Cities Healthier Lives 300 by 200New adventures in population wellbeing and environment research

The idea that green, open spaces can promote mental wellbeing is not a new one. But just how much green space is needed to keep people healthy and out of hospital? Does the amount of green space in the neighbourhood have an effect on pregnancy outcomes, on a child’s academic scores, on their overall health?

Dr Xiaoqi Feng and Dr Thomas Astell-Burt are leading a research project designed to find out exactly how our surrounds influence our health, for better and for worse. "Rapid urban expansion sees many benefits, like the increasing availability of different types of food, books and technologies – but with that comes drawbacks such as the increase in traffic and air pollution, both of which are major public health challenges” says Dr Feng.

It's important we look at the infrastructure and resources available to make all of our neighbourhoods liveable and health-promoting; not just the expensive ones.  Read more...

This article appeared in UOW's The Stand, December 19, 2016.

Photo (right): Dr Xiaoqi Feng and Dr Thomas Astell-Burt. Credit: Paul Jones

Caroline Picton Recovery CampWhat happens when the professional doesn’t sit across from the client, but works and learns with them?

What if we viewed mental health in terms of lived experience, instead of statistics. Or if we see humans as … humans, and focus on their strengths rather than their illness? An Australian-first Recovery Camp is doing exactly that, immersing students with people with mental illness to create an environment where therapeutic relationships can be built from the ground up.

Given mental illness affects one in four people, this type of camp - which is beneficial to all parties including carers and the community - provides therapeutic milieu, research and placement opportunities, and could go a long way to help people with an enduring mental illness on a road to recovery.

Now in its fifth year, Recovery Camp has been life-changing for participants, offering an environment where consumers feel supported, understood and valued, while at the same time delivering vital training for the next generation of health practitioners. Read more...

This article featured in UOW's The Stand, December, 2016.

Photo (right): Caroline Picton is a Registered Nurse who did her Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) on Recovery Camp. Credit: Paul Jones

Shark nets don't enclose swimmers – they catch and kill sharks

Shark netNew South Wales Premier Mike Baird has announced a plan for a six-month trial of shark nets off the beaches of northern NSW. This would extend the state’s shark net program from the 51 beaches currently netted between Wollongong and Newcastle.  The announcement was triggered by a recent announcement of a surfer receiving minor injuries after being bitten by a shark at Sharpes beach near Ballina.  The decision marks a turn-around in Premier Baird’s position on sharks. For over a year he has acknowledged the importance of addressing the issue, and has adopted a measured, long-term, non-lethal approach to managing shark hazards. Specifically, the NSW government has, in the last year, allocated funding and resources to non-lethal strategies including surveillance, research and education.

Killing sharks has been highly controversial in Australia in recent years, and in NSW shark nets have been a focus of ongoing, highly polarising debate. Read this article written by Dr Leah Gibbs in The Guardian on October 14, 2016.  

The original article appeared in The Conversation, October 13, 2016.

Photo credit: iStock 

WA Beach FlickerWhy are we scared to get in the water? 

Global Challenges researchers, Dr Gibbs, together with Dr Andrew Warren, based in UOW’s Australian Centre for Cultural and Environmental Research (AUSCCER), have been studying cultural perceptions and policy approaches towards sharks. The research was, in large part, prompted by a spate of shark fatalities that occurred off Western Australia in 2011 and the response amongst both the public and that state’s government towards the danger of sharks.

In the past 18 months, the issues have further crystallised on this side of the country, as towns in northern NSW grappled with what seemed to be an increasing presence of sharks in the water and a rise in shark-inflicted injuries. Dr Gibbs and Dr Warren spent time talking with ocean users in WA in the wake of the 2011 attacks and found that humans and sharks are largely able to co-exist without incident.

Of the 557 people they surveyed, close to 70 per cent had encountered a shark or seen a shark while in the ocean. The findings of their work were published in Marine Policy.

Read more on The Stand by India Lloyd, August 20, 2016.

Photo credit: Sunova Lifestyle Photography/Flickr 

New laws for the high seas: four key issues the UN talks need to tackle

New laws for the high seasThe new laws about to be agreed, under the existing UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, will aim to improve the current fragmented and industry-based governance of the high seas. Universal, coherent and sustainable regulations will be crucial to protect wildlife in the waters beyond national jurisdiction.

On the high seas, conserving wildlife will have a host of knock-on benefits, from climate stability to sustained productivity of fisheries and other ecosystems.

With so much value in the oceans, this new global agreement is urgently needed to safeguard marine biodiversity in areas that are currently under-protected. These threats include climate change, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, noise, existing offshore mining and new activities such as marine geoengineering. The cumulative effect of these threats calls for caution in industrialising the deep.

UOW researchers Prof Robyn Warner, Harriet Harden-Daives and Genevieve Quirk guide us through the untapped potential of our great oceans.

Read the original article in The Conversation, September 14, 2016.  

Photo credit: iStock

The world watches closely as international tribunal rules on the South China Sea

Clive Schofield The HagueLate in 2015, Professor Clive Schofield (pictured right), Leader, Sustaining Coastal Marine Zones, stood in the Great Hall of the Peace Palace in The Hague providing testimony on one of the most significant international law of the sea cases in decades.

The hearing, before an Arbitration Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), was held at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands and was set to rule on maritime disputes in the South China Sea that have been brewing for decades.

Professor Schofield, appearing as an independent expert witness in the case between The Republic of the Philippines and The People’s Republic of China, knew the stakes were high. His testimony had the potential to influence the nature of maritime claims and conflicts for generations to come.

Read more on The Stand, written by India Lloyd.

Dementia Friendly Kiama project wins WHO award

WHO Award Dementia Friendly KiamaThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised the efforts of Kiama council’s Health Plan and in particular the Global Challenges Dementia Friendly Kiama Project.

Kiama councillor Kathy Rice received the award at the seventh Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities at Wonju City, South Korea on 31 August, 2016.

“The presentation of the award before 500 international delegates has also extended the worldwide recognition of the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project." said Ms Rice.

Read original article by Brendan Crabbe, Kiama Independent

Photo credit: Kiama Independent 

Fishing, not oil, is at the heart of the South China Sea dispute

South China SeaContrary to the view that the South China Sea disputes are driven by a regional hunger for seabed energy resources, the real and immediate prizes at stake are the region’s fisheries and marine environments that support them.

It is also through the fisheries dimensions to the conflict that the repercussions of the recent ruling of the arbitration tribunal in the Philippines-China case are likely to be most acutely felt.

It seems that oil is sexier than fish, or at least the lure of seabed energy resources has a more powerful motivating effect on policymakers, commentators and the media alike. However, the resources really at stake are the fisheries of the South China Sea and the marine environment that sustains them.

Read the original article, August 16, 2016 in The Conversation.

Photo credit: iStock 

Unlocking Australia's Deep Sea Potential

Professor Marcel JasparsUOW hosts international workshop on biodiscovery in the deep-sea.

More than 25 researchers from Australia, New Zealand and the UK descended on Wollongong on July 21, 2016 to discuss the untapped potential of Australia’s deep sea.

Bringing together a range of experts, including lawyers, biologists, chemists and policy specialists, the interdisciplinary UOW Global Challenges workshop focused on how deep-sea exploration could support the development of new drugs, help inform approaches to conserve deep-sea ecosystems and advance Australia’s blue economy.

Workshop organiser and leader of the Global Challenges project ‘Drugs From The Deep?’ Harriet Harden-Davies said the deep-sea is the largest biosphere on the Earth yet it remains largely unexplored.

“Australia has the third largest marine jurisdiction in the world, with the largest number of endemic marine species. More than 25 per cent of deep-sea natural products described have been discovered in our waters. There’s huge potential for drug discovery and use in other biotechnology products.”

The workshop attracted prominent scientist Professor Marcel Jaspars (pictured), who recently established the Marine Biodiscovery Centre at the University of Aberdeen in the UK. 

Business Briefing: Trouble in the South China Sea

South China Sea from Hong KongChina is on the defensive after an international court ruled it had no claim to historic rights to resources within its so called “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea.

This decision is the latest in a long running dispute between the nations that border the South China Sea over ownership of the islands in the sea and maritime jurisdictions.

Professor Clive Schofield, Leader, Sustaining Coastal and Marine Zones within the Global Challenges Program explains the reason for the dispute is not only sovereignty but also economic, as the area provides much of the fish consumed in South East Asia. Although he is doubtful of the claims of the estimates of oil and gas in the South China Sea (due to lack of exploration).

The area is also of great importance economically to Australia, due to the amount of resources and other trade shipped through the area. Positioned between China and the United States, Australia is in a tricky situation, as this latest ruling won’t resolve the ongoing tension in the area.

Jenni Henderson, Assistant Editor, Business and Economy, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation, 13 July, 2016. Read the original article.

Photo credit: South China Sea from Hong Kong by Joe Chen | Flickr (cc) 

Last reviewed: 28 June, 2017