Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management

Sacred mountain handback

What began as a bold experiment ~ handing over control of two national parks in New South Wales to traditional Aboriginal owners a decade ago ~ is today being hailed as a landmark act of reconciliation.

In 2006 the NSW Government formally handed back Gulaga and Biamanga National Parks on the far south coast to the Yuin people, because of the significant cultural sites they contain and the living links to local Indigenous groups.

Gulaga, which was previously formally known as Mount Dromedary, is an imposing 823-metre mountain rising near the coastal town of Narooma. Biamanga National Park includes Mumbulla Mountain, further south in the Bega valley.

To the Yuin people, Gulaga is known as the Mother Mountain, and has always been a woman’s place. It includes sacred sites where Aboriginal women would retreat for storytelling, ceremony and childbirth.

Meanwhile Mumbulla was a traditional men’s mountain, and contains initiation sites where boys would become men of the Yuin tribe.

The Board of Management Chair for Gulaga, Iris White, said the park was a “beautiful” and “spiritual” place.

The energy the Yuin people have harnessed from Gulaga mountain took a very practical form when they successfully lobbied the NSW Government for traditional ownership back in 2006. Biamanga Board chair Paul Stewart said it was the culmination of decades of struggle for legal recognition of Indigenous links to their land.

“I’m just so happy to put something back,” Mr Stewart said. “Something 10 years ago that we used to drive past and say to our kids, ‘that’s ours’ … now we have got the chance to manage it.”

Traditional ownership of the national parks areas means they are managed in very different ways to other parks. For instance, a recently released Plan of Management allows Indigenous owners to close the parks to public access for cultural purposes such as initiation rites. It also allows for the possibility of traditional fire management and hunting on site.

National Parks area manager Preston Cope said those land uses required a rethink for their agency. “There are a lot of native bush tucker foods around this park,” Mr Cope said. “In a normal park, it would be illegal to collect plant material, but in this park if you’re an Aboriginal owner and you get permission from the board, then you can come and do that. “Guns cannot be used ~ they have to use traditional methods for hunting.”

Under the joint management arrangement, decisions about the running of the parks are made by the two boards, and implemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. “One of [the board’s] aspirations is for developing tourism on the park,” Mr Cope said. “If we were managing the park without Aboriginal owners involved, it would be a much more straight-forward business. We have to have everybody in agreeance with how the cultural heritage will be interpreted, and to do that, requires a fair bit of work that we wouldn’t normally do.”

However, all parties agree that traditional ownership of the two sacred mountains has led to a cultural revival, especially for young people who are now learning their culture.

Re-post ~ Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management | ABC News

Read more ~ National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW Management Plans

Uniting Communities becomes Australia’s first carbon neutral charity

Uniting Communities is carbon neutral

Uniting Communities have become the first registered charity in Australia to receive certification under the Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program.

Uniting Communities provides a range of community services including aged care, alcohol and drug support and mental health counselling.

The Carbon Neutral certification follows a five year commitment to significantly reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint. The project, named Towards Carbon Neutral, was spearheaded by a steering committee that oversaw policy, strategy and progress. A working committee continues to be responsible for developing emissions reduction initiatives.

“Uniting Communities committed to our Carbon Neutral program in 2010,” said Chief Executive, Simon Schrapel. “Becoming carbon neutral makes sense for our organisation; we have a strong moral compass and research tells us that climate change will most affect people in our client base ~ the elderly, socially disadvantaged and people on lower incomes.”

Their actions to become carbon neutral included:


  • Reduction in waste to landfill through more effective management of recyclable and organic waste
  • ‚ÄúY-Print‚ÄĚ campaign ‚Äď staff commitment to reduction in printing and paper consumption


  • Lighting upgrades to energy efficient LEDs
  • ‚ÄúSwitch off‚ÄĚ campaign ‚Äď staff commitment to lowering emissions through switching off power sources when not in use, including PCs, lights and air-conditioning
  • Energy reviews of sites via the Green Hub program through the Conservation Council SA
  • Energy reduction reviews by our Uniting Communities Energy Workers


  • Transition of company fleet to hybrid petrol-electric vehicles
  • Purchase of carbon offsets for fleet vehicles through CMI Toyota
  • ‚ÄúDrive Green‚ÄĚ campaign to encourage staff to develop more fuel-efficient driving habits and purchases
  • Joined Adelaide Carpool to encourage car sharing for employee commuting

And lastly, the purchase of Australian Gold Standard Carbon offsets to bring emissions to zero.

“It‚Äôs a tremendous example of a locally based company taking leadership and ‘walking the talk’ to reduce emissions and transit to a low-carbon economy,” added Shrapel. “We are hoping other businesses will follow suit and take up the challenge and opportunity to become carbon neutral.”

Uniting Communities will continue ongoing implementation of building energy efficiency upgrades and further emission reductions through its procurement policies, such as converting the company fleet to diesel electric.

Re-Post ~ Australia’s first carbon neutral charity¬†| ProBono

Read more ~

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

Uruagay Renewables

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint and lowered electricity costs ~ and all without government subsidies.

The country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez, says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, Méndez says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

As a result, energy investment ~ mostly for renewables, but also liquid gas ~ in Uruguay over the past five years has surged to $7bn, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP. That is five times the average in Latin America and three times the global share recommended by climate economist Nicholas Stern.

‚ÄúWhat we‚Äôve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,‚ÄĚ M√©ndez says. ‚ÄúThe construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.‚ÄĚ

There is still a lot to do. The transport sector still depends on oil (which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix). But industry ~ mostly agricultural processing ~ is now powered predominantly by biomass co-generation plants.

Méndez attributed Uruguay’s success to three key factors: credibility, as a stable democracy that has never defaulted on its debts so it is attractive for long-term investments; helpful natural conditions with good wind, decent solar radiation and lots of biomass from agriculture; and strong public companies which are a reliable partner for private firms and can work with the state to create an attractive operating environment.

Re-Post ~ Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy | The Guardian
Read more ~

Farmer attitudes to climate change across generations

Climate change farmers

Farmers could be considered the sentinels of climate change; they are more attuned than most to long-term changes in weather patterns.

However many of them are yet to be convinced that man-made climate change is real, arguing that floods and droughts are cyclical and extreme temperatures are nothing new.

It is a view some younger producers are now challenging and they are reshaping their farming practices to suit the changing climate.

Josh Gilbert takes climate change very seriously, chairing a group of young activists trying to raise awareness of the challenges farmers face as temperatures become more extreme.

“When I first started seeing things on the farm, whether it was drought, or just the seasons not matching what they should’ve been, it’s really hard to deny it’s actually happening,” he said.

Recently the Gilberts have been adjusting the genetics of their cattle to make them even more drought-tolerant as their way of adapting to climate change.

Josh recently crowd-funded his way to Paris where he attended the United Nation’s Climate Change conference, COP21, to learn more about renewable energy and to send a strong message to world leaders.

In another example of the generational change taking place, Melissa Brown took over her father’s vineyard in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region 20 years ago.

Ms Brown did not like her dad’s heavy use of water and chemicals, and she noticed that warmer temperatures meant grapes were ripening earlier and vintages were getting shorter.

To adapt, she converted the entire vineyard to organic production methods.

That decision did not sit well with her father, Paul Buttery, who does not believe in climate change and thinks weather patterns are cyclical. “I’m very sceptical,” he said.

Ms Brown said there had been some awkward conversations, however eventually Mr Buttery decided to take a back seat in the running of the vineyard.

Re-Post ~ Farmer attitudes to climate change across generations | ABC Rural
See more ~ Farmers on frontline of climate change | SBS News

Human… and¬†Kind

Human and Kind

A study by the Common Cause Foundation has revealed two transformative findings about humankind.

The first is that nearly a super- majority of the 1,000 people they surveyed ~ 74% to be precise ~ identify more strongly with unselfish values than with selfish values. This means that they are more interested in helpfulness, honesty, forgiveness and justice than in money, fame, status and power.

The second is that a super- majority ~ 78% of respondents ~ believes that others are more selfish than they really are. In other words, they have made a terrible mistake about misreading other people’s minds.

A review article¬†in the journal Frontiers in Psychology points out that our behaviour towards unrelated members of our species is ‚Äúspectacularly unusual when compared to other animals‚ÄĚ. While chimpanzees might share food with members of their own group, though usually only after being plagued by aggressive begging, they tend to react violently towards strangers. Chimpanzees, the authors note, behave more like the¬†Homo economicus¬†of neoliberal mythology than people do in the real world.

Humans, by contrast, are ultra-social: possessed of an enhanced capacity for empathy, an unparalleled sensitivity to the needs of others, a unique level of concern about their welfare and an ability to create moral norms that generalise and enforce these tendencies.

Such traits emerge so early in our lives that they appear to be innate. In other words, it seems that we have evolved to be this way. By the age of 14 months, children begin to help each other, for example by handing over objects another child can’t reach. By the time they are two, they start sharing things they value. By the age of three, they start to protest against other people’s violation of moral norms.

So why do we retain such a dim view of¬†human¬†nature? Partly, perhaps, for historical reasons. Philosophers from Hobbes to Rousseau, Malthus to Schopenhauer, whose understanding of¬†human¬†evolution was limited to the Book of Genesis, produced persuasive, influential and catastrophically mistaken accounts of ‚Äúthe state of nature‚ÄĚ (our innate, ancestral characteristics). Their speculations on this subject should long ago have been parked on a high shelf marked ‚Äúhistorical curiosities‚ÄĚ. But somehow¬†they still seem¬†to exert¬†a grip on our minds.

Another problem is that ~ almost by definition ~ many of those who dominate public life have a peculiar fixation on fame, money and power. Their extreme self-centredness places them in a small minority, but, because we see them everywhere, we assume that they are representative of humanity.

Misanthropy grants a free pass to the grasping, power-mad minority who tend to dominate our political systems. If only we knew how unusual they are, we might be more inclined to shun them and seek better leaders. It contributes to the real danger we confront: not a general selfishness, but a general passivity. Billions of decent people tut and shake their heads as the world burns, immobilised by the conviction that no one else cares.

You are not alone. The world is with you, even if it has not found its voice.

Re-Post ~ Human and Kind | Common Dreams
Read more:

Starfish completes workshop series for UNE student organisations

Gowing engagement student workshop

Starfish has successfully completed the research, design and delivery of a series of workshops to strengthen UNE student organisations. The overall purpose of the series was to enable office-bearers to create more dynamic, resilient, and enjoyable clubs, groups and societies ~ which in turn aimed to further enrich the student experience and amenity at UNE. The workshop series was commissioned by UNESA.

The workshops covered the below areas and were attended by some 52 students from around 45 organisations.

  1. Governance Essentials
  2. Efficient, effective & enjoyable: the well-run club
  3. Financial & money matters
  4. Growing Engagement

It became clear during the course of preparing the workshops that there is a distinct lack of publicly available and relevant resources for student organisations. Despite considerable desktop research there were no libraries of common manuals, templates, guides or check-lists for student organisations found. This is despite the fact that there are hundreds of universities globally and thousands of student organisations.

As a result, Starfish has now created and collated a range of relevant materials, including:

  • Reference materials including manuals, videos and research
  • Lists of relevant organisations
  • Workshop Presentations, including the recordings of each workshop
  • Student organisation health-checks
  • References for template policies, procedures, tools and systems

Electronic copies of the workshop presentations and above materials are available on request via Adam Blakester (see Starfish Associates for contact details).

Welcome Bob Neville & Community Regeneration

Bob NevilleStarfish is pleased to welcome Bob Neville as our newest Associate.

Bob is one of Australia’s longest serving Economic Development Practitioners and is passionate about small communities and the micro-economy.

Bob has identified, tested and documented a Natural Science for Small Community Regeneration ~ resulting in the Community Gold Program which supports community and economic development with the untapped ‚Äėseed-ideas‚Äô that exist in every small community.

Community Regeneration is focused on the small ~ small communities and the small seeds which stimulate their regeneration and genuine sustainability. The micro-economy ~ that is, the day to day real productivity spending of individuals, families and micro-to-small business ~ accounts for (in Australia) 84% to 100% (in many rural communities) of all enterprise, employment and spending (after excluding government).

Simply put, if a community’s micro-economy is in decline, so too is the whole community. And so the reverse is also true.

You can find out more about Bob’s work at the Community Regeneration website.

Future threats to humanity

A recent study has found that many people are seriously concerned that our existing way of life will end within the next 100 years.

Web Link ~ Read the research paper here: Public perceptions of future threats to humanity and different societal responses: Across national study by Melanie Randle and Richard Eckersley

Rockin’ the road to Paris

The UNFCCC Newsroom has presented a new entry as part of their series of Climate Songs for Paris COP 21. The song “Set the World right Again” was submitted by Alan Atkisson.

Alan Atkisson is an author, consultant, speaker, and executive trainer with a focus on sustainability. He mainly works as a strategic advisor, speaker, and author on sustainability, but he has also been writing songs and performing professionally as a singer-songwriter for over thirty years. He finished writing this song in 2009 when he was working as a consultant to the UN Secretariat, building support for ideas that could accelerate the spread of renewables to developing countries.

Climate change has taken up a large part of Alan’s work since the 1980s as he has had the opportunity to talk to many scientists about it. He grew more and more worried and in 1990 he wrote a dark-humor song called ‚ÄúDead Planet Blues.‚ÄĚ

Twenty-five years later, the message of ‚ÄúSet the World Right Again‚ÄĚ is much more optimistic.

Web~link: Climate Song of the Week for Paris