Well-managed refugee resettlement can be win-win in rural areas

Refugee advocate Ataus Samad from Multicultural Queensland’s Advisory Council believes that, with the right support and incentives, refugees and migrant workers can be resettled into rural and regional areas, for the benefit of all concerned.

 

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Sweet potato farmer Jean Ntakarutimana and his family, who are happily re-settled in Gracemere, QLD.

 

Jean Ntakarutimana and his parents on the farm with their new employer, Eric Coleman

 

This was certainly the case for Jean Ntakarutimana who struggled to find work and settle into Australian life after being transferred from a Tanzanian refugee camp as a teenager. Ntakarutimana now works on a sweet potato farm in central Queensland, a move which has been so successful that he has now brought his extended family to live and work with him.

 

“We’re happy to be here, the rent is cheap, everything is easier,” Mr Ntakarutimana said.

 

The arrangement has also brought benefits for Eric Coleman, the owner of the sweet potato farm, who enjoys the happy nature and hardworking ethos of the family.

 

“I think the best thing about Johnno and his dad is they come from an agricultural background, so it’s not actually foreign to them but I think the employment agencies are probably running them into places like Brisbane and trying to get them jobs in an environment that’s totally foreign.”

 

He would like to see employment agencies put more time and funding into providing English lessons, driver licences and tickets to make the prospect more attractive for potential employers.

 

Ataus Samad agrees:

 

“If we want to develop our regional and rural areas, we need people. We need to create an environment that will encourage people to settle,” he said.

 

By working closely with refugees and migrants, as well as with employers, Mr Samad has been able to successfully transition groups of refugees into rural life using an employment-first approach.

Re-post ~ Refugee resettlement in regional Australia brings success but needs more incentives by By Inga Stünzner on ABC News

Queensland and Northern Territory lead the way on racist place name changes

Both Queensland and the Northern Territory have made moves this month to review and change place names which could be offensive and hurtful to Aboriginal people.

 

Ten racist place names in northern Queensland will be re-named. Infographic: Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

 

In May Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines responded to community concerns about one place name by removing it from its databases. This sparked a departmental review which identified nine other place names which will be changed.

The Northern Territory has quickly followed suit, with NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner asking the place names committee to carry out a review and make changes where necessary. Minister Gunner has also publicly committed to more inclusive signage including Aboriginal place names as well as their frontier history versions.

 

“It’s very clear to me that we don’t have a proper inclusion of the first people in our very basic culture. And I want to work on that,” he said.

 

Jonathan Richards, who is an adjunct research fellow in history at the University of Queensland, believes that the argument for changing place names, as well as removing statues of pro-slavery figures, is clear cut. He believes that some people’s desire to maintain offensive historical names and monuments is partly due to a reluctance by Australians in general to acknowledge the truths of colonial history. He believes that telling the real stories behind names such as ‘Murder Creek’ and ‘Skull Hole’ is critically important.

 

“”I think certainly there are statues and place names that it’s fine to keep, but I think people really need to stop and think, ‘How would they feel?’ You wouldn’t for a minute have a statue of an enemy, yet Aboriginal people are constantly being told to get over it.”

 

University of Queensland race relations research fellow Fiona Barlow believes that the name changes may improve Aboriginal people’s health.

 

“There’s been multiple studies now that have shown that repeated exposure to everyday racism has negative effects on our health and wellbeing… Renaming these places… sends a symbolic message about what we value as Australians and it could have a genuine positive affect on health.”

 

Read more ~ Racist place names in Queensland’s north to be wiped off maps by Meghna Bali in ABC News

Read more ~ Northern Territory commits to changing racist place names by Stephanie Zillman in ABC News

Give electric power tools a fair go

A NSW philanthropist has come up with and ingenious way to share her passion for renewable energy. Zeromow gives people, including those who work with power tools every day, the chance to try out an array of battery powered garden tools, including a fully electric ride-on lawnmower. 

 

Non-road spark ignition engines and equipment (NRSIEE), which include mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers and outboard motors, are not subject to the same controls as on-road engines such as those found in cars. They can therefore be significantly more polluting. A government fact-sheet points out that:

 

“a two-stroke leaf blower used for one hour can produce as much hydrocarbons as 150 cars over the same time.”

 

For this reason high-emission NRSIEEs are banned in many other countries.

Sally Perini, who lives in the foothills of Sydney’s Blue Mountains, set up Zeromow after falling in love with electric cars and switching in order to ‘walk the talk’ and reduce her impact on global warming. Sally was then inspired by Mike Vaughan who set up Enviromowing in Brisbane, which is a mowing service powered entirely by electricity (including vehicles and equipment).

Sally hopes that by allowing other gardeners and landscapers to try her electric tools ~ which she charges from her own solar panels or another source of renewable energy ~ she can help fast track the changeover to the quieter, more efficient lithium-ion battery equipment and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released.

Sally Perini is also one of the philanthropists who has donated money to Starfish’s earthfunerals initiative, which has allowed us to establish our first Natural Burial Ground. We are honoured to be in such great company!

Re-post ~ Fossil fuels and Australian tools: It’s time to go fully electric by Sophie Vorrath for One Step Off The Grid

Costa Rica setting the bar for sustainability

Costa Rica has broken its own record for sustainable energy production and had another UNESCO Biosphere Reserve declared within its borders, all before the end of July 2017. Phew!

Aiming to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021, Costa Ricans have set themselves high standards in sustainability. Over the last 30 years they have already achieved producing around 93% of their energy from sustainable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power. However, in the first six months of this year they upped that figure to an impressive 99%!

Adding to the year’s environmental achievements, The Savegre River, an area of great biodiversity in the Zona de los Santos, was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Biosphere Reserves are areas dedicated to exploring how sustainable development might practically work by ‘combining core protected areas with zones where sustainable development is fostered by local dwellers and enterprises’. The naming of this new reserve means that Costa Rica is now home to a total of four Biosphere Reserves.

 

A pair of Cappuchin Monkeys laze happily in the Savegre River Biosphere Reserve. The area is home to 54% of the mammal species native to Costa Rica, 20% of the country’s flora and 59% of its birds. Image – Paradise Products

 

According to the Costa Rica Tourism board, tourism has had a huge part to play in encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices at all levels of society. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) encourages entrepreneurs to think sustainably and rewards their efforts with a five-leaf system which can be displayed on their publicity materials, setting them apart from other businesses.

 

Re-post ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Market Watch

Read more ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Newswire Canada

Population concentration in major cities is more extreme in Australia than elsewhere

A new map graphically illustrates how Australia’s population is massively biased towards major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

“Australia has a weirdly large share of big cities for its size.”

 

In fact, an analysis carried out in the year 2000 showed that Australia had a greater share of urban population living in cities of over 750,000 people than any other major country, and that it has very few small cities for a country of its size.

This trend has continued, according to the latest census data, which shows that populations in major cities are still growing nearly twice as fast as elsewhere. This is despite the many potential benefits of life in smaller, regional cities such as cheaper house prices, less congested roads and greater life satisfaction.

The transport issue is something of a conundrum for city planners, as in most major Australian cities sufficient infrastructure was not put in place before development and high land prices made it a much more difficult proposition. Decision makers are now left wondering whether investment is worthwhile now, before things get even worse, or whether internet-led developments such as remote working and internet shopping will give people all the benefits of a city life wherever they are and mean the end of the big city boom in decades to come.

 

Re-post ~ Clever Aussie map raises serious questions by Jason Murphy on News.com.au

Massacre map will force Australians to re-examine our country’s roots

Researchers at the University of Newcastle are attempting to gain a clearer picture of events during the frontier wars by gathering evidence of massacres of Indigenous people which are seldom discussed and have never made it into most history books.

 

 

Lead researcher Lyndall Ryan and her team are going right back to explorer and settler records and using Indigenous oral history as their sources. Their strict criteria for inclusion in the map, and the difficulty of finding accounts due to the fact that the perpetrators usually covered their tracks well, means that their estimates are conservative. Nevertheless, they estimate that more than 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed in massacres or conflicts between 1788 and 1930 in Queensland alone.

The map was released on the 5th of July and will be added to over time. The researchers hope that others will contribute to the project so as to build the most accurate picture possible of the events during the frontier wars, changing the way this period of Australian history is understood and taught. However, Ryan acknowledges that this will be confronting, both for the researchers themselves and for the Australian pubic, who may not wish to face up to this brutal version of their country’s history.

 

“I would like to hope that over the next five or 10 years there will be a much wider acceptance that this was a feature of colonial Australia, and it will change the way we think about Australia,” she said.

 

Re-post ~ Map of massacres of Indigenous people reveals untold history of Australia, painted in blood by Calla Wahlquist in The Guardian

Climate change leads to huge infrastructure cost on Torres Strait island

The economic costs of rising sea levels due to climate change are beginning to hit home as a $24.5m sea wall is completed on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The small island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea has been suffering the effects of land erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels for years. At one point it was feared that its 350 inhabitants would have to be permanently evacuated. However, in 2014, under the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, the Australian Federal and Queensland governments pledged a total of $26.2 million to help the islands deal with the crisis.

$24 million has now been spent building only one seawall on Saibai and, whilst this sea wall is expected to protect the community and its livelihood for 50 years, it leaves little money for infrastructure on the other 5 islands in need of protection. Preliminary talks to try and secure more funding are now underway.

However, with sea levels rising by millimetres every year, inhabitants of the other islands can not afford to wait for beaureaucracy. They are at risk of losing land and culture in the very near future, despite adaptation plans which are being developed. This is especially true for the narrow coral island of Poruma, to the south of Saibai.

 

“Time is very critical in terms of getting some work underway so we can actually protect and combat erosion at Poruma — Poruma doesn’t have time to wait,” said Torres Strait Mayor, Fred Gela.

 

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The old, damaged sea wall on Saibai Island.

 

Sabai Island’s new seawall. which cost nearly $25 million and is a harbinger of the huge costs climate change could bring to governments and taxpayers worldwide.

 

Queensland Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said that the Palaszczuk Government’s $12 million contribution to the Torres Strait Seawalls Project demonstrated their commitment to improving communities in regional and remote parts of Queensland.

 

“These are Queenslanders facing real risks to their homes and livelihoods as a result of the impacts of climate change, so to be able to provide a long‐term infrastructure solution is a great win for this community.”

 

However, it remains to be seen if government will remain so committed and optimistic as the inevitable economic costs of climate change continue to rise.

 

Read more ~ Saibai islanders celebrate new $24.5m seawall to fight rising ocean levels in Torres Strait by Emilia Terzon for ABC News

Read more ~ Minister Scullion: Saibai Island Seawalls ready to hold back the tide on indigenous.gov.au

Why the Paris climate deal is not enough without economic de-growth

Whilst the Paris climate deal has noble aims, it is based on shaky assumptions, according to a recent article in the Guardian. To genuinely put ourselves on a trajectory which avoids the economic crisis that climate change will force upon us, we need to embrace purposeful economic de-growth. 

The Paris climate deal relies upon data and ‘pathways’ modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The emissions cuts agreed upon in Paris will not sufficiently limit climate change unless the ‘negative emissions technologies’ the IPCC models rely upon are successful. Unfortunately 80% of the models are based upon BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) which is a technology which has not been proven at scale and which is being increasingly discredited by scientists.

This reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ has come about as the IPCC attempt to appease politicians and big business. Original IPCC models, which did not assume humanity’s ability to pull large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, required the slowing and reversing of economic growth in a way which would have been hard for those benefiting from the current economic model to stomach.

However, these original models, based on what we currently know to be possible, clearly called for economic de-growth.

 

“De-growth might sound scary, but it’s really not. All it means is easing the intensity of our economy, cutting the excesses of the very richest, sharing what we have instead of plundering the Earth for more, and liberating ourselves from the frenetic consumerism that we all know does nothing to improve our wellbeing or happiness.”

 

Humanity is now faced with a choice: to choose controlled economic de-growth or to allow the economic crisis which is sure to arise from climate change to choose us.

 

Re-post ~ The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth by Jason Hickel in The Guardian

Read more ~ In defense of de-growth: opinions and minifestos by By Giorgos Kallis, edited by Aaron Vansintjan

News in indigenous languages helps Aboriginal Australians connect with the world

The theme of this year’s NAIDOC week was ‘Our Languages Matter’ and to prove the point an ABC News article showcased three Indigenous translators who bring the Australian and International news to their language communities in their own language, through the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS). 

This adds huge value for Aboriginal people in areas where English may be their fourth or fifth language and may never be spoken at home. Hearing the news in their own first language enables people to connect with the issues facing the world at large.

 

“It helps them understand the news better when they hear it in their language — it gives them a better understanding of what it’s about.” Says Tyrone Holmes, who is a Kriol interpreter for AIS.

 

Tyrone Holmes says that reading the news in Kriol helps his community and others stay up to date with issues which affect them. He feels proud to keep the Kriol language strong as it is an important part of many people’s identity.

 

Nadyezhda Pozzana is from the island community of Galiwinku in East Arnhem Land and speaks five languages. She translates the ABC news into Ylongu Matha. “Even the elders and the senior members of my community say, ‘We listen to the radio more now because now we know what’s being said and what’s happening in the day-to-day national and international news.'” She says.

 

Maggie Burns grew up learning Warlpiri and Pintupi-Luritja from her mother and is fluent in both. One challenge is that some English words cannot be directly translated, but for Maggie another challenge is that some of the news she must translate is about such horrible events. However, she believes it is important for her to continue doing her job so that people can understand what is going on in the world. “I am very privileged to know how to speak my language and that’s a gift so it’s very important to me.”

 

Re-post ~ NAIDOC Week: News in Indigenous language enables understanding of local, global events by Mark Rigby on ABC News

Regional Cities Are Small But Great

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is challenging the common misconceptions about rural cities through its Great Small Cities initiative. With a growth rate four times that of major cities and and and economic output on a par with that of Finland, encouraging investment in regional cities could provide huge economic benefits to Australia as a whole.

 

 

4.5 million Australians live in a network of 31 regional cities across Australia and these cities are a vital part of the Australian economy. The RAI plans to work with city leaders, governments and the Australian public to encourage policy which will make the most of the opportunities presented by regional city economies.

They take a two pronged approach. Firstly they aim to bust the myth that it is only worth investing in metropolitan cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. Secondly they have developed a blueprint for investment in City Deals to ensure that regional cities will be investment ready.

The Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Accelerator Program seeks to support regional businesses

If investment is successful, Australia’s ‘hidden metropolis’ of 4.5 million people spread across 31 regional cities has the capacity to produce $378 billion in output by 2031.

The Great Small Cities Initiative emphasises that regional cities are just that: cities, rather than the small rural towns revolving solely around agriculture that readily spring to mind when most Australians hear the word ‘regional’. However RAI are also keen to point out that regional towns often have less congestion, pollution and extreme property prices than their metropolitan counterparts.

In order to show the real demographic and skills base of regional Australia, RAI have teamed up with LinkedIn to examine the skill mix in five regional cities and how connected professionals are within, and outside of, those cities.

Read more ~ Great Small Cities – Regional Australia Institute