The Junction University student journalism from Australia, NZ and the Pacific. Thu, 03 Oct 2019 06:00:53 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 150612437 Water donations flow for the Darling Downs Thu, 03 Oct 2019 05:58:54 +0000 The area is experiencing its worst drought on record and the Granite Belt, which encompasses Queensland’s southern border, have entered strict water conditions that allows one person only 100 litres of water per day.

Gold Coast Rotarian Sharyn Watson decided to help the drought-affected communities by starting the Water for the West project, to supply drinking water to communities in the Darling Downs, and got her Hope Island Rotary Club involved.

The Water for the West project aims to assist drought-stricken towns by providing clean drinking water, as well as water for cooking, washing and flushing toilets.

Initially aimed at supporting local schools who had almost run out of clean drinking water, such as Applethorpe State School, the project quickly expanded to include people in all drought-affected parts of the area.

“The Rotary Club of Tenterfield Granite Belt are distributing the water to schools and people in the area who are really struggling with purchasing water,” she said.

“We’ve had amazing support and generosity from transport companies in Brisbane and a lot of those funds donated are now being used to provide transport to get water out to those regions [in the Darling Downs].”

Ms Watson said she started the Water for the West Facebook group in August and said she had received a huge response from people wanting to help.

She said the number of people in the group had grown rapidly, with the page getting more than 6000 likes.

“We’ve added some really awesome players to the team that have really helped take this project to the next level.”


Water restrictions in Warwick

The town of Warwick has entered tighter water restrictions, limiting people to only 100 litres of water per day. Photo: Ben Harden


There are more than 21 different drop-off points from the Sunshine Coast through to Brisbane and the Gold Coast where people can donate water, and Ms Watson said she was thankful for the amazing support she was getting from the community.

Donations of bottled water (600ml water bottles and 10L containers) are being collected, as well as monetary donations to assist with sending tankers of water to the affected areas.

Ms Watson said the project had also raised awareness of the plight of the drought-affected communities, which was almost as important as the water deliveries themselves.

“We’ll keep raising awareness about the drought in the Darling Downs and getting more donations and sending them out there.”

Southern Downs Council Mayor Tracy Dobie said her community was very grateful fellow Australians cared enough about them to take action.

“I don’t know what other word I can use to describe it, our community is filled with gratitude,” Ms Dobie said.

“The wonderful donations by residents from Queensland and all over Australia actually are meaning that those rural residents don’t have to buy water,” she said.

“One of the issues for them, and for many in the rural sector on rural properties, is that they have no income at the moment because of drought,” Mayor Dobie said.


Water for The West donations

Water donations collected by the Water for The West campaign is distributed to the affected communities of the Granite Belt. Photo: Courtesy Water for the West


“Here we live in our little pocket of the world and around us people care enough to donate it and it’s heart warming,” she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced earlier this month that the Queensland government would provide water funds for the drought and fire-affected Southern Downs.

The Premier, who visited the drought-stricken community of Stanthorpe earlier this month, said in a statement the government had allocated enough funding for infrastructure and the ongoing cost of carting water for residents until 2021.

“My government will help the Southern Downs Regional Council ensure Stanthorpe’s residents have a secure drinking water supply until 2021,” Ms Palaszczuk said in the statement.

“These emergency funds will cover $2.4 million worth of water infrastructure, as well as costs to cart water,” she said.

“Around 34 truckloads of water per day will be carted from Connolly Dam to Storm King Dam, while it’s needed.”

“That’s an estimated $800,000 per month to cart 1.6 million litres of water in each day.”

“With bushfires following the prolonged drought, Stanthorpe will not be left to battle through this alone.”


Toowoomba dairy farmer

The ongoing drought has left Toowoomba dairy farmers without feed and water for their livestock. Photo: Ben Harden


Ms Palaszczuk said if the drought lifted and the wet season delivered enough water, then the carting would no longer be needed.

Mayor Dobie said she welcomed the announcement and said she was appreciative of this essential funding for emergency water and carting cost.

“This is a great relief, because we have a big region, we don’t have a lot of money and having to pay for emergency water on top of the other burdens of just having such a low income at the moment, has meant that our residents have been very worried,” she said.

“The funding provided by the state government means that there will be no need to implement a special levy or utility charge to our community.”

“The last thing we wanted to have to do was borrow or place any additional charge onto our residents, and the fact that the Queensland government has agreed to meet 100 per cent of our funding submission is absolutely fantastic.”

For information about where you can donate water, visit the Water for the West Facebook page or

Ruin photography embraces history and decay Thu, 03 Oct 2019 03:29:22 +0000 Ruin photography is essentially a fascination with urban decay. The photos look at buildings in the post-industrial world that have been abandoned and forgotten, are often dilapidated and, ultimately, are falling into ruin. Some of these buildings were once beautiful and extravagant, and the photography captures a sad sense of faded glory and despair. Some were enormous in scale and heavily industrial and utilitarian to begin with, and the photography captures an almost seedy and embarrassing sense of waste as outdated technology is left to rot.

Ruin photography also has the added sense of taboo, as photographers sometimes access the buildings illegally.

But ultimately, the allure of urban exploration has to do with the quest after how to get into a location, the curiosity of what will be found inside and the aesthetics of decay.

Queensland based underground photographer Vic Ortice has a passion for ruin photography.

Mr Ortice, who works under a pseudonym, takes photos in locations around Brisbane, the Gold Coast and in New Zealand of what could be described as “modern ruins” or “urban decay”.


Ruin photography

Ruin photography has garnered critics, who’ve described the trend as “fetishise the aesthetics of decay”. Photo: Vic Ortice


When it comes to scouting for ruin photography locations, Mr Ortice said he found vacant properties, especially government properties, were best, because they usually “leave a lot behind”.

He said the appeal of ruin photography for him was in the exploration of history through the buildings he photographed and their state of decay.

However, Mr Ortice said he had an alternative theory as to why people are interested in viewing images of ruins, and said he believed it showed the planning failure of private and government contractors.

“Surprisingly, a lot of people are interested in beating the system and sharing the government’s corruption, through wasting taxpayers’ money that gets puts in facilities that are never complete or that just become outdated,” he said.

The HBO television mini-series Chernobyl, which was released in June this year, has also helped spark interest in ruin photography.

Slovenian travel agents have reported that interest in the HBO series has led to surge in the number of visitors to the exclusion zone, which is estimated to increase from 75,000 to more than 100,000 people this year, according to The Slovak Spectator.

It is not really surprising that the abandoned city of Pripyat and Chernobyl gained a lot of attention from photographers, including English photographer Darmon Richter.


abandoned infrastructure

The images of abandoned infrastructure are one of the draws that attract people to ruin photography. Photo: Vic Ortice


Damon Richter is a travel writer and photographer who runs travel journal The Bohemian Blog.

Mr Richter said there was some times an unseen, contrived side to the photographing of ruins that the public didn’t perceive.

He said in his experience, the contents of buildings were often rearranged, resulting in an artificially created shot.

“This happens at pretty much every well photographed ruin in the world,” Mr Richter said.

Though Mr Richter said it was not the way he did things, he knew the practice was common among photographers.

“I know one certain high-profile ruin photographer who will spend as much as half a day rearranging the furniture inside an abandoned building for a single shot, and then sell those images under the claim that everything is just as they found it,” he said.

Mr Richter said this reconstruction of reality was especially the case in Pripyat.

He said it would be “naïve” to believe that the photographs taken inside the abandoned buildings there would give an authentic story.

Instead, Mr Richter said the audience should view these images as “a piece of art”, as they represented the photographer’s perception of the moment.

“No captured image can ever be unconditionally truthful,” he said.

Ruin photography also attracts amateur photographers and curious viewers, who usually share photos on platforms such as websites and social media.

These platforms allow users to join groups where they can post and access images with information regarding another element of fascination with ruin photography, which is the way the photographs document history.


Ruin photography

Darmon Richter said the interior shots of buildings could look completely different to the way the buildings were left or how they look now. Photo: Vic Ortice


American-born Jon Anderson administers a 38,000-member Facebook group that uploads images of abandoned places in Australia.

Mr Anderson said his fascination with ruin photography started with an interest in his family history.

He said after the death of his father when he was young, he began to research his family and discovered that his grandfather had owned gold mines in the Mojave Desert in North America.

After initially being told he’d never be able to visit the mines due to the site now being located on land belonging to China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, Mr Anderson was eventually given permission by the army to tour areas of family significance at the base.

“On my second visit, I showed my guide a photo of my aunt and grandmother next to an old cabin in a canyon, and he said he knew where it was,” Mr Anderson said.

“ [A] couple hours later I had my photo taken standing almost exactly where my aunt stood some 70 plus years earlier.

“This connection had a real impact on me,” he said.

“It wasn’t just an old cabin, it was part of my family’s history.”

Mr Anderson used the images of ruined buildings shared with the group to learn about the history of Australia.

One group who see the merit in the preservation and documentation not just of ruins, but of buildings in general, are architects.


Ruined buildings

The images of ruined buildings taken by ruin photographers can provide an alternative history of Australia. Photo: Vic Ortice


Architecture and ruins have a notable intertwined history, with the documented fascination with ruins beginning during the 18th century.

Adolf Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, released an essay called “The Theory of Ruin Value” in preparation for Germany’s hosting of the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Karine Dupre, an associate professor of architecture at Griffith University, said in modern architecture this fascination with ruins was still present.

During her work as an architect she designed a new build that had a heritage-listed Roman wall on the property that the owner wanted to cover up.

Ms Dupre said she was able to convince the client to see the value of the wall “otherwise he would’ve… destroyed it”.

Ms Dupre said she believed older architecture was often seen as an obstacle to the building of “new age” structures on the Gold Coast.

She said old beach shacks were often demolished to make way for new developments, an attitude she described as “problematic”.

The Gold Coast had no heritage register until 2010, and Vic Ortice said in his experience most places on the Gold Coast got demolished “very quickly”.

As well as an architectural fascination, Ms Dupre said there was also an emotional aspect to opposing the destruction of these buildings, because their destruction means we lose the “traces of people” who were there before.

“When something so tangible disappears, you feel that this is the last traces of those people… so it is very emotional,” she said.

Sanctuary provides safe haven for women Thu, 03 Oct 2019 03:25:50 +0000 The five-unit facility, which is located on the northern end of the Gold Coast, is managed by Queensland domestic and family violence support organisation, DVConnect.

Queensland developer Halcyon came up with the idea to build Bella’s, in collaboration with DVConnect and listed property group Mirvac.

Working alongside Halcyon and Mirvac, who funded the land, build and design of the facility, were 90 South East Queensland tradespeople, who contributed goods and services to the project.

Once completed, the $1.67 million facility was then donated to DVConnect, who now manage the referral system and operational logistics of housing women and children at Bella’s Sanctuary.

The facility is designed to allow women and children to access independent living while rebuilding their lives.

Sophie McCashin from DVConnect said building a facility of this kind on the Gold Coast was made possible through private funding, which was an Australian first.

“We believe it is an Australian first in terms of the first time [the] corporate and community sector have partnered together to provide a solution to the problem around domestic and family violence specific to housing,” Ms McCashin said.

“We’re pretty proud of it.”

DVConnect CEO Beck O’Connor said the first tenants for Bella’s had been confirmed, with more women and children set to move into the facility in coming weeks.

“This is a new venture for DVConnect, so we needed to put everything in place, and we needed to work with, particularly refuges, about what the referral process was going to look like and how we would actually go through a selection process for people who were going to be moving into the property,” Ms O’Connor said.


Halcyon project director Marie Cone and managing director Paul Melville at the launch of Bella’s Sanctuary. Photo: Courtesy DVConnect/RDW Photography


“We’ve just got someone who will be moving in and we’re very excited, a mum and her young bub will be moving into the facility, and then it’s full steam ahead from there,” she said.

Like many women and children who have left homes due to domestic violence, Bella’s first tenant has already spent time in a refuge.

Sophie McCashin said this would be the case for most of the women referred to Bella’s.

“The majority of women and children we would be placing at Bella’s would most likely already have gone through the refuge system because, again, this isn’t a refuge model, it’s a bridging accommodation model, so that secondary step,” Ms McCashin said.

Beck O’Connor said bridging accommodation and transitional houses, like Bella’s Sanctuary, were important for helping women rebuild their lives before moving into fully independent living.

“It’s a different option and it’s a mid to long-term option,” Ms O’Connor said.

“Refuges are around emergency accommodation, so that’s obviously where we’re managing a critical and emergent need, whereas this is actually where women have the opportunity to slow the pace down a bit and to have a place that’s secure for a longer tenancy,” she said.

“So they can start to rebuild their lives, re-establish or establish a connection to community, to give time for kids, for their children to be settled in schools, and also to have some breathing room to access the services they need to do that.”

For many individuals, refuges are the first point of call when escaping domestic violence situations.

While refuges are for duration of need, women still need suitable housing options post-refuge, which can be difficult to find.

“Refuges in Queensland are basically for duration of need for that individual client or for that woman, so there wouldn’t really be situations, or it wouldn’t be common for there to be situations, where a woman leaves refuge without having somewhere set up or somewhere more sustainable to go,” Ms McCashin said.

“In saying that, because there’s such a high demand for refuges, there really needs to be more options post-refuge.”


Bella’s Sanctuary is a safe haven for women and children who have left domestic violence situations. Photo: Courtesy DVConnect/RDW Photography


Last year, DVConnect housed 3300 women and children in refuges across Queensland.

They also placed 4000 women and children in Queensland motels because the available shelters were full.

National charity Mission Australia works to reduce homelessness and assist disadvantaged families and children.

Their latest report “Out of the shadows: Domestic and family violence, a leading cause of homelessness in Australia”, found domestic and family violence was one of the main reasons women and children became homeless in Australia.

This is partly due to a lack of accommodation options for individuals leaving domestic violence situations, with the report citing a need for more housing options including crisis and transitional accommodation, like Bella’s Sanctuary.

Mission Australia’s report also found a need for better supported options for independent living, including social housing, affordable private rentals that are accessible to people escaping violence, and support services to assist people to find and maintain a tenancy.

Jaquelin Plummer from Mission Australia said this would require more corporate funding and commitment from the government.

“Corporate funding is important to meet local need in relation to housing and homelessness, and it will take everyone in the community to end homelessness,” Ms Plummer said.

“However, meeting the scale of need across Australia for social and affordable housing requires commitment from all levels of government… [and] action from the government is critical to responding to domestic and family violence, and resulting homelessness,” she said.

Sophie McCashin said this was one of the reasons why having a facility like Bella’s Sanctuary on the Gold Coast was important.


Bella's Sanctuary Gold Coast

Transitional houses act as a secondary step post-refuge, giving women time to rebuild their lives and look for long-term options. Photo: Courtesy DVConnect/RDW Photography


“There’s limited access to affordable housing at the moment across various parts of Queensland and particularly in the Gold Coast, which is why Bella’s provides a different option,” Ms McCashin said.

Beck O’Connor said the lack of affordable housing was one of the reasons they were hoping to have more transitional houses built for women across all parts of the state.

“That would be our hope, because it’s that next step beyond refuges,” Ms O’Connor said.

A transitional housing facility like Bella’s Sanctuary can fill that gap, providing a stepping stone, post-refuge, for women and children before they access longer term, sustainable accommodation.

Beck O’Connor said they were hoping to use Bella’s as a template for future projects and to see more corporate organisations get involved to help women and children affected by domestic and family violence.

“This first 12 months is really important, it’s how we put the template together so we can look to replicate this,” Ms O’Connor said.

“I think that giants like Mirvac and Halcyon have really put down the challenge to other major corporations to say ‘look what can be done’, that’s what’s really exciting about all of this,” she said.

“There’s a real groundswell at the moment across Queensland for corporates wanting to become involved in this kind of work, in real and tangible ways, so I think in terms of a template, this is really inspiring.”

Kids’ sports program caters to all abilities Thu, 03 Oct 2019 03:21:00 +0000  The program, which is called the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program, began its first season in 2016 after several years of planning, with just 30 children, aged between five and 17.

Now, in 2019, the program has reached 90 athletes and more than 100 volunteers.

What is perhaps most unusual about the program is that it was the brainchild of Gold Coast local, 20-year-old Alex Wells, who was just a 14-year-old high school student when she first came up with the idea.

Ms Wells said she started the program because she noticed there was a gap in sporting programs for children with disabilities on the Gold Coast and wanted to fix that.

“I decided there needs to be more programs so everyone can be included and play sport, because it is such a fundamental part of society and learning, and health,” Ms Wells said.

“Sport was such a massive part of my upbringing, it didn’t feel right that other people didn’t get that opportunity to play sport,” she said.

“We had our very first season in 2016, and that was after about a year and a half [of] planning, so in that year and a half of planning we spoke to politicians and other programs for kids with additional needs.”

The GCISP season runs from April to September, with sessions taking place once a fortnight in Ormeau at the Lutheran Ormeau District School (LORDS), which is the school that helped Ms Wells plan and implement her idea for the program when she was still a student there.

Ms Wells said she started developing the program when she was 14, with the encouragement of her principal.

“One day, when I told my principal about this idea, it was kind of an off the cuff comment, and she was like ‘why you don’t do it’,” Ms Wells said.


Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program participants

Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program participants play over under ball as well as variations of sports such as basketball and soccer. Photo: Courtesy Lisa Wells


The GCISP is one of the only Gold Coast based programs that offers children with disabilities a chance to learn and play various sports, including cricket, soccer, and basketball.

Ms Wells said the activities at the GCISP also focused on developing fine and gross motor skills.

“[The athletes] definitely love cricket, but we also play basketball [and] soccer,” she said.

“We do a lot of fine and gross motor skills, so throwing balls into hoops, or throwing and catching tennis balls, skipping and Hoola-hoops, and lots of games, especially with our junior teams, they love playing over and under ball, and playing with the parachutes,” she said.

“It’s all about having fun for them and making sure they are still developing those fine and gross motor skills, because its physical therapy for them, but they don’t actually know it.”

Ms Wells said they had children with a range of conditions taking part in the program.

“We have some children with cerebral palsy, some with autism and ADHD,” she said.

“Some kids don’t have… [a disability], but they might have been bullied in sporting teams, and are very shy and don’t have any social skills, so they come to the GCISP and are made to feel welcome, and then they grow those skills in confidence and leadership and teamwork, so they can go on and move to other sporting teams.”

Donna Alexander has two children participating in the program, and said she first came across the GCISP on Facebook.

“I have two children, one is 12 and he is, I guess, as normal as normal can be, and I have Riley, who is 10, and has autism,” Ms Alexander said.

“I just thought it was a great way to get Riley out of the house,” she said.

“At that time, he was a little bit addicted to the iPad, so I thought ‘let’s get him off the iPad and into sport’, and both Brock and Riley actually do it [together].”

“It was good for Brock to engage with other kids with disabilities, and just get out there and have fun with Riley.”

Ms Alexander said she had noticed the impact the program had had on both her boys.

“Brock has a better understanding of different abilities now, whereas Riley, when he first started, he didn’t want to participate at all,” she said.

“Now he will engage, he will wait, like turn-taking, he is better at that now, and sharing, and actually participating,” Ms Alexander said.

“Last fortnight, I saw [Riley] kicking the soccer ball and actually engaging,” she said.


The Gold Coast Inclusive Sport Program

At the end of each year, the GCISP runs presentation day, where athletes are treated to a BBQ and volunteers are thanked for their hard work. Photo: Lisa Wells


One of the interesting things about the GCISP is the age of the volunteers, who are mostly school-aged children from LORDS.

“One of the best parts of our programs, it that around 95 per cent of our volunteers are high school students,” Ms Wells said.

“They are giving up their Saturday every fortnight for a few hours to come down and bond here, which I think is incredible.”

“We know that our athletes get along better with other young people, so we are seeing a lot of bonding and friendships developing between the volunteers and athletes, which is really nice to see.”

GCISP volunteer 16-year-old Couper Galea said he first starting volunteering when he was just 11 years old.

“Alex is a close family friend and she pitched the idea to me, and I liked the idea of helping kids with disabilities play sport,” Mr Galea said.

“As a person who does quite well at sport, I love giving back in helping [the athletes] achieve what they want in terms of sport [skills],” he said.

“It’s definitely taken away stereotypes of what people with disabilities are like as you get really close to the kids and get to know them more.”

Mr Galea said the program had certainly changed his outlook on helping people.

“When the participants first come to the program, within two weeks they’re very happy, so the reaction you get out of helping them is positive,” he said.

“[There was] this boy… he was non-verbal, but he showed expressions of joy and feelings and all that through grunts or gestures, and at first, he didn’t want to do anything,” Mr Galea said.

“Within two to three fortnights, he was just so happy and joyful, and having a go and getting involved.”

For more information about the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program, visit their Facebook page.

Climate activism votes with its feet Thu, 03 Oct 2019 03:17:38 +0000 The recent School Strike 4 Climate on September 20 was a particularly striking example of escalating climate activism, not least because the movement itself is barely 13 months old.

The September strike drew 300,000 protesters Australia-wide, as supporters left school and work to call for immediate action to combat the global climate crisis.

This was not the first School Strike 4 Climate event held this year, but it gained twice as many protestors as the first strike in March, making it one of the largest in the nation’s history and representing just a fraction of the four million people assembling for the cause across 161 nations around the world, from India to Iceland and Cape Town to Christchurch.

All in all, it was a powerful showing, and not bad for a movement that began after one Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, staged a protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish (parliament), holding a sign that read “School strike for the climate”.

First year university student Oscar Delaney was one of 30,000 to join School Strike 4 Climate in Brisbane.

Mr Delaney said he had been involved in various climate action movements over the years due particularly to his concern over the disproportionate impact of climate change on developing nations.

“I’m very worried about the prospect for all our futures, and I think political activism like this is one way to challenge climate change,” he said.

“I think it’s great that we get a say not just through voting – I can’t vote yet because I’m seventeen – and I think protest and activism is an important way of having our say in politics,” Mr Delaney said.


Extinction Rebellion action in Brisbane

A speaker rallies protesters to make their presence felt at an Extinction Rebellion action in Brisbane on August 5, 2019. Photo: Courtesy Heather Tichowitsch


And School Strike 4 Climate isn’t the only initiative taking it to the streets of Brisbane in the name of climate action.

The local branch of the equally new global group known as Extinction Rebellion (ER) are also making their presence felt, although they prefer more confronting strategies of non-violent direct action, which include activists blocking road access with their bodies, or attaching themselves to infrastructure.

Extinction Rebellion supporters also marched at the September 20 event as, despite their differing tactics, both groups agree on the need to communicate the existence of a climate emergency, the urgent need for change, and the need for a swift and just transition from coal to renewable energy.

Senior law lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, Dr Erin O’Brien, said activism groups made clear decisions on what tactics they would or wouldn’t use to bring attention to their cause, factoring in the symbolism of the act as well as what options were available to them.

“The acts of groups like Extinction Rebellion, where they’re disrupting society or disrupting people going about their daily lives, are very consistent with their message that climate change is an urgent problem, and that we need to stop what we’re doing and address it,” Dr O’Brien said.

“The reality for climate change campaigners is they’ve been trying for decades to get politicians’ attention to change policy, but have been unsuccessful, so they have to look now at what is left to them to do; what tactics can they use now if insider lobbying is failing, if signing petitions hasn’t worked, if sending letters to MP’s hasn’t worked?,” she said.

“Maybe the only thing left is civil disobedience.”


Extinction Rebellion action in Brisbane

Police forcefully remove protesters blocking roadways in the CBD and make more than 70 arrests at an Extinction Rebellion action on August 5. Photo: Heather Tichowitsch


A major civil disobedience action carried out by ER in August was disruptive but forewarned, and despite 70 arrests for obstructing traffic and contravening police orders, it remained peaceful.

Regardless of the peaceful approaches undertaken by climate protesters, some media commentators and some politicians have taken a strong verbal stance against these popular movements, in some cases seeking to enact new legislation limiting the possibility for public action.

Columnist Gemma Tognini wrote in The West Australian that kids were being used as “pawns in climate wars”.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes warned that students missing school to strike for climate change action would be breaking the law.

But Resources Minister Matt Canavan was perhaps the most outspoken about the issue, telling 2GB he wanted children in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas, “which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world”.

“The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue,” Mr Canavan said.

But despite the divided opinions and even the prospect that striking during school hours was breaking the law, students and their supporters still turned out in droves for the September 20 protests around the country.


School Strike 4 Climate Brisbane

Young climate activists brandish signs as they walk down Grey Street in South Brisbane, during the School Strike 4 Climate on September 20. Photo: Athena Zelandonii


Australian National University science communications researcher Hannah Feldman said young people had a history of taking to the streets to support causes they were passionate about, but said School Strike 4 Climate had one crucial difference.

“The biggest change that I’ve seen is the demographic has shifted to be much younger, and much more inclusive of younger voices than we’ve really seen before,” Ms Feldman said.

“I think young people are routinely underestimated in how intelligently they can talk about these issues, and the key demographic of people organising this, they’re going to be voting in the next election,” she said.

“We allow 16 year olds to do a whole myriad of things in society,” Ms Feldman said.

“Younger than that they can work, they can participate in public life, they can make decisions about their own bodies, why is it that climate change is suddenly where things fall over?”

Those 16 year olds marched through Brisbane with their friends and family on September 20 as news helicopters hovered overhead and cardboard signs were repurposed as shade umbrellas.

Activists of all ages chanted their support for ‘Climate action, now!’, brandishing their banners with pleas on behalf of the trees, the air, the seas, the animals, and even the unborn.

“Koalas don’t have air conditioning”, one sign read.

“If turtles paid taxes you’d care”, another read.


School Strike 4 Climate Brisbane

Around 30,000 Brisbane School Strike 4 Climate protesters made their way across the Victoria Bridge to Musgrave Park on September 20. Photo: Athena Zelandonii


In spite of politicians from the local to the federal level urging children to say in school rather than strike for the day, Dr O’Brien said the strikes were a clear example of people using the only tactic available to them.

“Young people can’t vote, they can’t run for office, and they have limited financial capacity to vote with their wallets and engage in boycotts, but what they can do is strike en masse and say ‘we are the next generation of voters and we care very passionately about this issue’,” she said.

While the next School Strike 4 Climate has yet to be announced, Extinction Rebellion’s Hannah Doole has been busy organising the International Rebellion Week from October 7 to 11, where the movement will continue to utilise a strategy of non-violent direct action.

“The lobbying that we’ve seen lead us up to this point has continued for the past 30 years or so, and hasn’t created the changes that we need for a safe or even habitable planet in the next century,” Hannah Doole said.

“The vast majority of Australians recognise climate change as a catastrophic risk and are willing to sacrifice something for it; the next step is to provide them with something to sacrifice in order to force that change,” they said.

Extinction Rebellion activists take part in disruptive actions well aware of the illegalities involved, and Dr O’Brien said this was for a clear purpose.

“It says ‘we’re drawing a line here, we are willing to be arrested for the sake of this cause’, and it really elevates the urgency of the issue,” she said.

There are several instances of successful direct action in Australia, where perhaps the most well known are those against the Franklin Dam in the early 1980s, or the more recent Bentley fracking blockade in northern New South Wales.


School Strike 4 Climate Brisbane

School Strike 4 Climate activists chose messages from the bleak to the humorous to call for urgent climate action. Photo: Athena Zelandonii


And like these movements, Hannah Doole said they believed ER’s power lay in its grassroots nature.

“We’re not going to see our salvation from a democracy that allowed the exploitation of this country… we’re going to find a solution from outside… empowering communities to speak out against what’s happening,” they said.

Dr O’Brien said activism offered important and valid tools to affect societal norms and influence policy change, and said we were lucky to have them.

“We have a robust democracy and a representative democracy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need activism and resistance,” she said.

“We still need to have very public conversations about political issues, and if we feel that politicians aren’t addressing them, then activism is a way to put those issues on the agenda.”

As grassroots as they come, School Strike 4 Climate started with just one girl, half a world away, with a simple request: “Listen to the scientists”.

That one action by one girl sparked an international movement, giving people around the world the feeling of hope that simple actions can make a difference.

University student Oscar Delaney said he felt privileged to live in a democracy, and said this left Australians with a responsibility to act.

“I’d like to think that politicians are interested in what we have to say and care for our thoughts and opinions, and hopefully they’ll listen and take [that] into account in their policies,” he said.

Textile artist shares passion through teaching Thu, 03 Oct 2019 03:01:48 +0000  Ms Leon, who has a Diploma of Fine Art, specialises in textiles and screen-printing, designing everything from wraps and shawls to lingerie and bridal wear, using a natural plant dye method on different fabrics.

She said over the past four years she had been working with a group of Indigenous women through a TAFE supported program called “Our Happy Women”.

Ms Leon said the women in the program were taught the art of textiles and how to produce original artwork.

“So, for the past three to four years, I have been working with this awesome group and they have learnt a variety of textile techniques, including shibori and indigo dyeing, screen-printing, lino-printing on paper and fabric, plant dyeing, silk painting, fibre-reactive dyeing, weaving, candle making, and some hand-built ceramic techniques,” she said.

YWCA cultural community engagement facilitator Amelia Bolt, affectionately known as Auntie Mim, coordinates the Our Happy Women group, working alongside Ms Leon and teaching the students the power of creative art.

“I coordinate a program initiated from the Communities for Children Program that is called ‘Ngalingah Mijung Dubai’s’, which translates in the Bundjalung language to ‘Our Happy Women’ that seeks to empower Aboriginal women through creative arts,” Ms Bolt said.

The ‘Our Happy Women’ group

The ‘Our Happy Women’ group learn to use natural plant dye on various different fabrics including cotton and silk. Photo: Anne Leon


The classes, which are held weekly in Goonellabah, New South Wales, aim to bring the students together to connect on a cultural level and to create their own art inspired by Ms Leon.

External projects often stem from the student’s hard work in the form of art exhibitions, fashion shows and cultural exchange tours.

Ms Bolt said the lessons had the potential to give the women in the class the confidence they needed to achieve their own success.

“These classes benefit the women through empowerment, increased confidence, increased self-esteem, and, for some, even the ability to believe in themselves enough to start their own businesses,” she said.

Ms Bolt said working with Anne Leon had been one of the best parts of her career to date, and had helped to mould her as an artist.

“Working alongside Anne has been one of the highlights of my working career,” Ms Bolt said.

“Anne has taught me so much, not only in the arts industry, but a lot about myself and who I am as an artist,” she said.

“Anne has the ability to pass on her knowledge in a gentle way that enables the learners to grasp a hold of what we would call gold nuggets that Annie gives away to us.”

Ms Leon has had a long career that has given her the chance to work with a lot of different artistic mediums.

She said she had been making and designing bridal wear for the past five years, using the remnants of bridal bouquets to create unique natural plant dye designs to commemorate the occasion.


Bird flags Anne Leon

Anne Leon specialises in silk painting, screen printing and natural plant dyeing, including her Fabulous Flying Fish flags for Swell in 2013. Photo: Anne Leon


“I started making scarves from the bouquets of brides, as a lasting memento of the day and was asked to go into partnership with two sisters [Pip and Jane] who are now marketing the concept,” Ms Leon said.

“I have also made bespoke wedding and bridesmaids dresses to order, usually with the incorporation of plant-dyeing or to the taste of the customer,” she said.

Ms Leon’s most recent artistic success was a large-scale hand-crafted kimono, which was displayed as part of the two week long Swell Sculpture Festival on the Currumbin beach front from September 13 to 22.

The kimono sat proudly amid more than 50 large-scale sculptures, which were strategically placed among the natural setting of Currumbin Beach.

The annual Swell Sculpture Festival attracts more than 275,000 visitors each year, giving participating artists the opportunity to showcase their skills to a large audience.

Ms Leon said her large-scale kimono was inspired by the substantial amount of waste contributed by the world of fashion.

“This piece was called Bojagi Kimonoand is my response to the proliferation of waste in the fashion industry,” she said.

“This giant kimono, made from scraps and samples of Indigo and Shibori, are a response to this waste and proliferation of landfill.”


Flying Fish Anne Leon

Anne Leon is no stranger to the Swell Sculpture Festival, having displayed artwork at the festival in both 2011 and 2013. Photo: Courtesy Anne Leon


Ms Leon said this is not her first successful submission to the popular Swell Sculpture Festival, having previously contributed work to the festival in 2011 and 2013.

“This is my third time in the Swell Sculpture Show,” she said,

“My first entry was in 2011, where I erected 30 flags screen-printed with birds and called it Trans Migration.

“The second entry, in 2013, was a school of 12 fish flags, hand-painted, printed and sewn, and also erected on the beach, called Fabulous Flying Fish,” she said.

Ms Leon’s husband Graham Porter (Potts), an artist himself, has been collaborating on projects with his wife since 2004, and said their first collaboration was a sizable project for a hotel in Fiji.

“Our first collaboration was in 2004 when we designed uniforms for the Shangri La Resort in Fiji, using Fijian tapa prints,” Mr Porter said.

“It was a massive job, we were designing uniforms for every department, from the front of house staff to the janitors,” he said.

Mr Porter said his favourite collaborative project with Ms Leon was a series of murals in Kingscliff.

“We painted several murals over several weeks and managed to keep it together,” he said.

“It was very different to working with fabric, so we both really enjoyed it,” he said.

“I’d paint the murals and Anne would come along and polish it all up.”

“She was like the icing on the cake.”

Mr Porter said being married to a fellow artist had its benefits, especially when it came to the complicated creative process and finishing a project.

“She will always tell me to stop when I need to stop,” he said.

“If I’ve been working on something for too long, it starts to look bad; that’s when Anne steps in and tells me that it’s finished.”

Anne Leon is already planning her submission for the next Swell Sculpture Festival, and plans to use recycled materials wherever possible.

“I feel it would be great to re-use the structure I had made to support the Kimono, and weave a giant dream catcher, or something from recycled junk,” she said.

Bandit fights for precious habitat Sat, 28 Sep 2019 00:06:30 +0000 WHO would have thought that one shy platypus in danger would lead to 10 being sighted in a single visit to one of South-East Queensland’s most beautiful locations, less than 90 minutes north of the state capital, Brisbane?

A platypus swimming freely in Obi Obi Creek.

by Debra Harrip
A platypus swimming freely in Obi Obi Creek.


What’s a platypus?
platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an elusive, semi-aquatic, monotreme (egg-laying mammal) with a duck-like bill that doubles as a specialised sensory organ, webbed feet with venomous spurs plus a dense, fur coat that protects it when it dives under water. Because these much-loved Australian native mammals burrow, shelter and lay their eggs in the sides of creek banks, they are particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation, litter and pollution.

When an elusive platypus recently surfaced with a rubber band around her torso, local Maleny resident and photographer, Neil Andison successfully captured an image and posted the distressing sight on the Maleny & Surrounds Chit Chat page on Facebook.

This prompted local wildlife carers to look at how to potentially capture and remove the band from this platypus.

But their efforts were unsuccessful.

The platypus was monitored but this was a difficult situation because these shy creatures are very difficult to capture and, when removed from their own environment, tend not to fare well.

After identifying her as a female, Neil named the platypus Bandit.

Bandit the platypus with a rubber band around her neck

by Neil Andison
‘Bandit’, the platypus, was originally seen in Obi Obi Creek with a rubber band stretched around her neck.


Her predicament triggered a special Clean Up Australia Day Event, co-ordinated by local resident Jo Turner.

There are two kinds of people, there are the people who think that’s this is everybody’s else’s problem or there are the people who
see a problem and say I can do something about that …”
Jo Turner, Maleny volunteer

An enthusiastic group of local volunteers scoured riverbanks, bushland and creeks, removing debris and litter from this otherwise unspoiled environment.

Volunteers scour bushlands as they clean up the environment around Obi Creek at Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

by Debra Harrip
Volunteers scour bushlands as they clean up the environment around Obi Obi Creek at Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.


Jo explained that organising these clean-ups had helped her connect to her community and helped many others connect as well.

“There are two kinds of people, there are the people who think that’s this is everybody’s else’s problem or there are the people who see a problem and say I can do something about that, so if everybody did a little something that would be very powerful,” Jo said.

Less than six months later, with three clean-ups since completed, local residents have been richly rewarded.

Up to 10 platypus have been sighted traversing the again-pristine waterway, along with other wildlife that call the lush bushland and creek-side area home.

Where was Bandit sighted?
Bandit was seen in the Obi Obi Creek, which wends its way through the lovely Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny, Jo Turner’s and Neil Andison’s hometown. While the entire Sunshine Coast Regional Council accounts for well less than 0.1 per cent of Australia’s land area, it contains more than 10 per cent of the nation’s known plant species, more than 25 per cent of its known mammal species, and more than half of its known bird species.

Neil Andison has worked alongside Jo and seems to have a knack of spotting these elusive creatures, so much so that Maleny locals have dubbed him “the platypus whisperer”.

Neil Andison, standing beside an information board, is passionate about keeping the Obi Obi Creek clean.

by Debra Harrip
Neil Andison is passionate about keeping the Obi Obi Creek clean.


Neil routinely sees numbers of this shy monotreme on his walks and is always keen to share insights into these elusive mammals.

“One of the reasons I am so interested in platypus, is that this gives a good indication of the health and beauty of the creeks and river systems,” Neil said.

“People need to understand that these are rare and unique creatures that we have on our doorstep and instead of dropping that cigarette or piece of paper, people should put them into their pockets or throw them into the nearest bin. That’s my ethos. That’s what I do.”

Hear Neil speak about why it’s improtant to look after platypus habitats in this video.

Since her initial sighting, Bandit’s rubber band has dislodged and she is free to roam once more.

However, because platypus ferret around the bottoms of creeks looking for food, the consequences could have been dire had her rubber band been caught on a log or other debris.

Water pollution and climate change
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the amount of pollution – whether it be found on beaches or in waterways – only magnifies the effects of climate change. As air temperatures rise, so too will water temperatures, and they will do so even more rapidly in smaller bodies of water. This reduces the level of dissolved oxygen in the water, placing more stress on fish, insects, crustaceans and other aquatic animals, including platypus.

Visitors to Obi Obi Creek and its surrounds have the power to reduce pollution in and around waterways by remembering a useful saying: take only memories, leave only footprints.


A street map of the Maleny area showing where the Obi Obi Boardwalk is located

If you want to watch out for platypus at Maleny, there’s a special viewing platform along the Obi Obi Boardwalk. Platypus can be seen throughout the day but early mornings and dusk are best, however, you have very patient. Don’t forget your camera!


Words: Debra Harrip
Images: Debra Harrip / The Argus; Neil Andison
Video: Debra Harrip / The Argus


Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.

Eager volunteers help clean up environment Fri, 27 Sep 2019 23:02:43 +0000 EVERY year more than eight million tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans.

That startling figure was contained in a 2016 report, “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics”, produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in conjunction with the World Economic Forum.

The report predicts that, at our current rate of plastic production, the equivalent of five garbage trucks worth of plastic will spill into the ocean per minute within three decades.

“By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than sealife”
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation

At that rate, just imagine what the world and its oceans might look like in 100 years’ time.

Air and environmental pollution are today recognised as some of the biggest contributors to climate change around the world.

A volunteer collects plastics and other waste at Nudgee Beach.

by Micah Coto
A volunteer collects plastics and other waste at Nudgee Beach.


Because of this, a wide cross-section of groups and organisations are collaborating to clean up the environment wherever possible.

One of the more prominent bodies doing this work is Sea Shepherd, an organisation founded in 1977 by one of the original members of Greenpeace, Paul Watson.

The distinctive Sea Shepherd logo.

by Trina McLellan
The distinctive Sea Shepherd logo.

With its distinctive skull over a crossed shepherd’s crook and trident, Sea Shepherd says its main goal is to work towards creating a better future by cleaning up the planet and fighting to look after wildlife and endangered species in the oceans.

Using a fleet of marine vessels, Sea Shepherd patrols oceans, collecting rubbish and deterring potential poachers from illegally hunting and entrapping endangered species and wildlife.

Its other initiatives include cleaning up along shorelines, with its Australian arm hosting multiple beach clean-up events every month around Australia.

Sea Shepherd's Stuart Donald briefs a group of volunteers ahead of the Nudgee Beach clean-up

by Micah Coto
Sea Shepherd’s Stuart Donald briefs a group of volunteers ahead of the Nudgee Beach clean-up.


But these events would not be possible without the help of community minded volunteers who scour foreshores, collecting and properly disposing of plastics and other rubbish.

At times what is discarded can be quite surprising, according to Stuart Dawson, who has volunteered with Sea Shepherd Australia since 2017, organising clean-ups in South-East Queensland.

“… largely, the pile contained plastic items – discarded containers, ropes, floats and wrappers – that had worked their way onto the sand and into the mangroves”

Stuart recently convened a clean-up at Nudgee Beach, marshalling about 50 other volunteers who, together, collected nearly 250kg worth of rubbish.

Volunteer returns carrying a discarded rubber tyre and bag of plastic debris after scouring the beach in search for debris that was dumped or washed ashore.

by Micah Coto
Volunteer returns after scouring the beach in search for debris that was dumped or washed ashore.


Their haul included 1,500 pieces of broken glass, 5 “sharps” (medical instruments that have the potential to cause injury or harm) plus several tyres together weighing 45kg.

Plastic, glass, aluminium cans and other waste collected at Nudgee Beach in Brisbane during the Sea Shepherd clean-up

by Micah Coto
Plastic, glass, aluminium cans and other waste collected at Nudgee Beach in Brisbane during the Sea Shepherd clean-up.


But, largely, the pile contained plastic items – discarded containers, ropes, floats and wrappers – that had worked their way onto the sand and into the mangroves.

Around the nation, many Australians have participated in Clean Up Australia Day, which is hosted annually by local communities.

This event has become the nation’s largest community based environmental event.

Clean Up Australia began in 1989, after experienced sailor Ian Kiernan had the idea to clean up his own backyard and was inspired to start making a difference in his hometown, Sydney.

For the previous 40 years, Ian had been a competitive yachtsman and, in 1986, he completed a solo circumnavigation of the world.

During that journey, he became appalled by the amount of pollution he found floating in the ocean.

This inspired him to take action leading to the first event, Clean Up Sydney Harbour, in 1989 that saw more than 5,000 tonnes of rubbish picked up by 40,000 volunteers.

A Sea Shepherd volunteer carefully picks through aerial roots in the Nudgee Beach mangroves

by Micah Coto
A Sea Shepherd volunteer carefully picks through aerial roots in the Nudgee Beach mangroves.


Since the beginning of Clean Up Australia, more than 365,000 ute-loads of rubbish have been cleared out of the environment by volunteers, a legacy of which the late Ian Kiernan would be justifiably proud.

“It is crucial that organisations have community support, because it takes every person to make a difference.”
Sea Shepherd’s Stuart Donald

Today, Australian volunteers in this and other groups are putting as much effort into preventing rubbish from entering the environment as they are removing the rubbish that is being left behind.

“The goal is to make every day a clean day,” Sea Shepherd’s Stuart said.

“It is crucial that organisations have community support, because it takes every person to make a difference.”

Volunteer mum placing gloves on young daughter

by Micah Coto
A mum places protective gloves on her daughter ahead of the Sea Shepherd clean-up at Brisbane’s Nudgee Beach.


One of Sea Shepherd’s Nudgee Beach volunteers, Zita, said all people had to “make an effort” to improve the environment.

A new mum, Zita expressed concerns about her baby daughter’s future and hoped that more people would start doing their share, so that her child could have a cleaner future.

Hear Zita’s explanation for joining in the clean-up in this video.

Remnants of a plastic bag entangled in aerial roots of mangroves at Brisbane's Nudgee Beach

by Micah Coto
Remnants of a plastic bag entangled in aerial roots of mangroves at Brisbane’s Nudgee Beach.


On land and inland there are efforts, too, to improve degraded environments across Australia.

… there are more than 5,400 Landcare and associated Coastline groups, making this the largest volunteer environmental management movement in Australia

Back in 1986, a state-based Landcare was launched by then Victorian minister for Conservation, Forest and Lands, Joan Kirner, and then president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Heather Mitchell.

Three years later, the National Farmers Federation’s Rick Farley and the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Phillip Toyne successfully lobbied the then prime minister Bob Hawke, who backed the foundation of a national Landcare body.

With help from government, the private sector and local communities, today there are more than 5,400 Landcare and associated Coastline groups, making this the largest volunteer environmental management movement in Australia.

“So much more can be done if we are able to engage the entire community.”
Landcare Australia website

On its website, Landcare Australia acknowledges that its people “are its greatest asset”.

Although, efforts to date have been noble, it adds, “so much more can be done if we are able to engage the entire community and not just those who are already passionate about the sustainability and productivity of our land”.

Many of Australia’s urban communities today also have active Bushcare groups, volunteers who meet regularly to help maintain the health and biodiversity of local bushland, wetlands and riparian areas alongside waterways.

These groups work on council and state-owned lands – in partnership with Landcare and Coastline – on specific, small-area projects.

It’s people like Stuart and Zita – and organisations like Sea Shepherd, Landcare and Bushcare involving thousands more like them – who prove it is not hard to get involved and do something positive about issues affecting the planet.


Words: Micah Coto
Images: Micah Coto / The Argus; Trina McLellan / The Argus
Video: Micah Coto / The Argus; Marissa Lim / The Argus


Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.

Textile waste enters circular economy Fri, 27 Sep 2019 20:58:40 +0000 WHILE concern about the carbon footprint of heavy manufacturing is widely discussed, less focus has been on contributions from textile wastage and production inefficiencies.

Some consumers donate clothes to op shops, thinking this is the best and most eco-friendly option. Others simply discard clothing when they no longer have a use for it.

Asthma Foundation volunteers at the foundation’s Coorparoo op shop sorting through donations to see what can be sold, what will be exported or what will go to landfill.

by Stephanie Spencer
Asthma Foundation volunteers at the foundation’s Coorparoo op shop sorting through donations to see what can be sold, what will be exported or what will go to landfill.


Perhaps few realise that textile waste contributes to climate change through the release of methane gas during decomposition or CO2, carbon and other chemicals when burned.

According to textile researchers working in Asia, there are ways to reduce the carbon footprint throughout the entire life cycle of textile products.

“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned”
Ellen Macarthur Foundation

Writing in the Fibers and Polymers journal, they say one of the promising ways to minimise the carbon footprint of textiles is to either recycle any waste, instead of depositing it in landfill sites, or to recycle textile products when they are no longer being used.

Operating in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has as its primary mission to “accelerate the transition to a circular economy”.

It works with business, government and academia to “build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.

“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned,” the foundation notes on its website.

Asthma Foundation Brisbane regional manager Matthew Thurecht.

by Stephanie Spencer
Asthma Foundation Brisbane regional manager Matthew Thurecht.

Asthma Foundation Brisbane regional manager Matthew Thurecht said, if there was a significant amount of damage to a product – such as a large number of rips, tears or stains – it would be “very difficult” to recover or reuse the item.

“Then we start coming into the realm of illegal dumping. That’s when we’re starting to talk about items that really … are unable to be re-purposed.”

That, he said, was where the real costs would start mounting up for charities. That, and trying to manage illegal dumping at their premises or in and around their collection bins.

St Vincent de Paul executive officer, transformation and commercial operations, Susan Goldie said her organisation had quantified the impact on its bottom line.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to re-sell everything that the public donates to us,” Susan said.

“In fact, we are doing some research at the moment to really drill down into this detail, but we estimate that only about 25 per cent of clothing which is donated to us is able to be re-sold.”

Open charity bin with contents spewing outside, a good portion of them unable to be recycled

Charities need to sort through donations to remove items not suitable for reuse. Illegal dumping outside donation bins is also a costly complication for those not-for-profit bodies.

Charitable organisations are able to profit through recycling initiatives, such as selling textile exports, scrap metals and extracting resources, for example, pulping books.

“We receive a lot of clothes through donations which are not suitable to be sold in our shops,” Susan explained.

“We sell them to overseas markets where they are sold in developing countries.

“Unfortunately, these textiles may ultimately end up in another country’s landfill over time.”

But there is only so much charities can do, given it is neither their responsibility to recycle and dispose of society’s waste nor, in most cases, do they have the funding or personnel to do so.

Perhaps there is hope that, in future, younger Australians will act on the need to reduce textile waste.

Griffith University Queensland College of Art student Rose Hocking re-sews old items.

by Kahlin van der Borgh
Griffith University Queensland College of Art student Rose Hocking re-sews old items.

Rose Hocking, a 21-year-old university student has alternative ways to live an eco-conscious lifestyle and her ethos is to re-purpose her old clothing.

“I try to repurpose clothing by embellishing things through hand stitching or patching, sometimes cutting and re-sewing old items to make new ones,” Rose explained.

“If the items aren’t of great quality anymore, I try to use the fabrics for household items (such as) cleaning cloths, or just save some of the fabrics to use for patching.

“Repurposing clothes benefits me as it enables me to create a new item out of an old one and will encourage me to use them for longer, which then limits my purchasing of new clothing.”

While alternatives to donating clothing are available, ultimately consumers need to be reusing what has already been produced in an effort to “close the loop”.

The phrase refers to the process of extending a garment’s lifecycle through re-purposing, re-manufacturing or recycling the item to ethically produce a new item.

Ideally, the garment does not have an end-of-life date and, instead, is made into a constantly changing renewable resource.

Seljak Blankets is an Australian company that’s leading the way to a circular textile economy with the creation of sustainable products.

Working alongside her sister, Karina, co-founder Sam Seljak explained the process of creating their sustainable, merino wool blanket company.

Seljak sisters, Karina and Sam.

Supplied by Seljak Blankets
Seljak sisters, Karina and Sam.


“Karina and I were inspired by the circular economy, the school of thought that rejects the ‘take, make waste’ linear model that society mostly uses,” Sam said.

Instead, she explained, Seljak embraces a model where things are built to last and to be re-used, but also to be re-manufactured at the end of its life.

For instance, Seljak blankets use waste as a resource, so the company is not contributing to the demand for virgin fibres.

“We collect blankets from our customers when they no longer want them and remanufacture them into more blankets,” Sam said.

“The recycled (mostly woollen) fibres become short when you chop them up, so we use polyester in our blankets for the short fibres to grab on to.

Sam said the polyester particles are melted first into pellet, then back into fibres that can be interwoven with the yarn.

“Our blankets contain 70 per cent minimum of recycled merino wool, but the (remainder) is just a combination of polyester and whatever else is on the factory floor,” Sam explained. “This could be alpaca hair or, sometimes, cotton.”

Although donating clothes to – or buying from – op shops is an ethical, environmentally friendly choice, before they surrender items, people need to consider whether the garment is of high enough quality for reselling.

If not, could the item be repaired, used for cleaning or some creative project, or, perhaps, given to a family member or friend?

Should consumers need to purchase new textiles, supporting ethical, closed-loop businesses is one way to help reduce waste.


Words: Kahlin van der Borgh
Images: Kahlin van der Borgh / The Argus; Stephanie Spencer / The Argus


Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.

Who is ready to fight for Pacific nations? Fri, 27 Sep 2019 07:15:32 +0000 ALL over the globe people are starting to stand up for climate action.

From massive school strikes in 2018 and 2019, to the smaller but just as disruptive Extinction Rebellion protests, the climate justice space is expanding fast.

With Australia set to experience some of the more severe effects of climate change in the coming few decades, it is hardly a surprise that people are taking to the streets and joining local climate action groups in droves.

However, if the nation looks to its Pacific neighbours – who are already experiencing damaging effects of climate change – who is fighting for them?

Pacific Climate Warriors’ Lisa Baker just before speaking at the September 20 School Strike for the Climate gathering at Brisbane's Musgrave Park.

by Katie Rasch
Pacific Climate Warriors’ Lisa Baker just before speaking at the September 20 School Strike for the Climate gathering at Brisbane’s Musgrave Park.


A global climate movement known as 350 is calling for countries to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels below the safe level of 350 parts per million by replacing the use of fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy.

Its Pacific branch, the Pacific Climate Warriors, is a grass roots climate justice group based across 15 island nations.

Pacific Climate Warriors' Lisa Baker and Lisa Viliamu stand ready to address the protest crowd at Brisbane's Musgrave Park at the second Student Strike for the Climate.

by Katie Rasch
Pacific Climate Warriors’ Lisa Baker and Lisa Viliamu stand ready to address the protest crowd at Brisbane’s Musgrave Park at the second Student Strike for the Climate.


It fights for an end to the fossil fuel industry and to have its voices heard in the wider climate debate because its communities who are facing the brunt of the change.

“I think it’s funny how Australia doesn’t think we are experiencing climate change, because we are, just not as severely.”
Pacific Climate Warriors Brisbane co-ordinator Mary Harm

The Pacific Climate Warriors are active right across Australia, pushing to humanise and diversify the fight for climate justice.

Mary Harm is the Brisbane co-ordinator of the local chapter, which she described as community organisers who are passionate about preserving culture and tradition.

She spoke about the relevance of the climate movement here in Australia.

“I think it’s funny how Australia doesn’t think we are experiencing climate change, because we are, just not as severely,” Mary reflected.

Mary Harm is the Brisbane co-ordinator for Pacific Climate Warriors.

Image supplied
Mary Harm is the Brisbane co-ordinator for Pacific Climate Warriors.

“The bushfires, extreme hot summers – that’s climate change. The language being used in the mainstream isn’t acknowledging that.

“If the Pacific is experiencing (the impact of climate change) now, Australia’s not far behind.”

Her comments align with the 2017 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which said that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and to increase further if it reaches 2°C.

When asked about Australia’s involvement in the Pacific climate fight, another climate warrior, Sailoto Liveti, made an interesting observation.

“(Pacific communities) never leave anyone behind and that’s what I believe Australia should be like,” Sailoto explained.

“Being our neighbour, and being a part of our community, means they should help us.”

Sailoto also cited Australia’s reliance on coal exports as another reason for concern.

He said that because Australia had the resources and power to prevent further crisis for its Pacific neighbours, it had a responsibility to do so.

In August, Sailoto attended the Pacific Leadership Forum on the behalf of another organisation and, he said, the meeting’s outcome had been assuring and optimistic.

“They will continue to survive, there’s no question, they will continue to survive, and they will continue to survive with large aid assistance from Australia … (they will continue to survive) because many of their workers come here to pick our fruit.”
Then Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, in Wagga Wagga

At the forum, leaders engaged in 12-hour discussions in order to release a statement and communique about climate change in the region.

Several changes were made from the original document, at the insistence of Australia, including the removal of all but one mention of coal power.

Sailoto said the decision to remove almost all references to coal from that document was disheartening.

Sailoto Leviti

Image supplied
Sailoto Leviti is a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors Brisbane and recently attended the Pacific Leaders Forum in his home country of Tuvalu.

And Pacific leaders – including the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Elene Sopoaga, and Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama – also expressed their disappointment at the final communique.

While the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was in Tuvalu for the forum, his Deputy – at the time acting Prime Minister– Michael McCormack dismissed those criticisms from the Pacific leaders.

In mid-August, The Guardian reported the acting PM’s controversial remarks made at a business function in Wagga Wagga: “They will continue to survive, there’s no question, they will continue to survive, and they will continue to survive with large aid assistance from Australia … (they will continue to survive) because many of their workers come here to pick our fruit.”

Sailoto said he felt “disrespected” when he heard of Mr McCormack’s comments.

“My initial response was so much frustration,” Sailoto said. “I definitely view it as a sign that our Australian Government is not taking the plight of our people into consideration.”

After the forum concluded in Tuvalu, Mr Bainimarama called Mr McCormack’s comments “very insulting and condescending”.

While the Deputy PM later apologised for his words, others saw it as another sign of Australia’s disengagement on the issue of climate change.

“I think it’s very important for us to bring that sense of community, bring that spirit of the Pacific, to the climate movement.”
Mary Harm, Pacific Climate Warriors

However, the reason Pacific Climate Warriors has taken action in Australian communities is in response to this perceived disengagement.

In Australia, the face of the climate activism is still undeniably a white one, so an increase in diversity of voices can only make the movement stronger.

“Indigenous people have always told stories and it’s a way of preserving culture,” Mary said.

“It’s like de-colonising the climate justice space as well, doing it our way.”

Sailoto echoed this sentiment.

“I think it’s very important for us to bring that sense of community, bring that spirit of the Pacific, to the climate movement … so, that way, we don’t get lost in – for lack of a better word – the colonial framework that activist spaces currently run within,” Sailoto said.

Pacific Climate Warriors are instead encouraging a reframing of climate change discussions.

They believe people are not responding fast enough to the science, the statistics and the evidence, so they hope that telling their stories will encourage people to think of the human faces behind the data.

Pacific islanders, from political leaders to grass roots activists, are calling for drastic action on climate change.

And the Pacific Climate Warriors are trying to humanise this fight and bring it to Australia where they can enact real, concrete change.

“The momentum, the science, the resources are all there, it just needs that tick of approval to happen,” Mary concluded.


Words: Katie Rasch
Images: Katie Rasch / The Argus; supplied


Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.