Starfish Foundation receives Tax Deductible Donation Status!!!

Tax Deductible staus Yeah !!!!

In hugely exciting news, after nearly five years of negotiations, Starfish Initiatives is incredibly pleased ~ as well as incredibly relieved ~ to announce that the Starfish Foundation has been officially listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations ~ which means we are now able to receive tax deductible donations.

This is a very significant development for rural, regional and remote sustainability work ~ both ours and others.

Many of Starfish’s leading edge sustainability initiatives have generated significant interest with private philanthropists and grant-making foundations. However, only tax deductible charities, as we now are, can directly receive funding from these important supporters.

In addition, Starfish will now be able to incorporate public fundraising campaigns into our work where they are a good fit.

Thirdly, it is important to highlight that the purpose of Starfish Foundation is to raise and donate funds for rural, regional and remote sustainability work in all its forms ~ that is, over and above supporting Starfish Initiatives alone.

We passionately believe that Starfish Foundation will play an important role in addressing the funding short-fall for rural, regional and remote sustainability work.

Starfish Foundation

Over the coming months we will make plans for a formal launch of the Starfish Foundation. This launch is likely to coincide with some major announcements and fundraising campaigns for new sustainability initiatives we’ve been quietly working hard on in the background.

Lastly, we would like to acknowledge and thank the many people and partners who have contributed to this fantastic achievement, particularly:

  • LegalMinds for their seemingly tireless and open-ended generosity in working on a pro-bono basis with Starfish’s application for well over five years
  • Starfish’s Board of Directors, who have worked hard to adequately resource our work during this incredibly extended start-up phase without the authority to fundraise
  • Josette Wunder from The Earth Welfare Foundation who made pivotally important representations to the Australian Government on our behalf
  • The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal for supporting Starfish’s work over the last year ~ particularly Farming the Sun ~ with a Regional Donation Account
  • Representations made on our behalf by our Federal Members of Parliament (New England Electorate where Starfish’s registered office is situated) ~ Barnaby Joyce and Tony Windsor
  • Ultimately, the approval of our registration by Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment.

Queensland rural business increases diversity, and profits

Kalresh carrots

Kalfresh is a multi-million-dollar business at Kalbar, an hour out of Brisbane in the fertile Scenic Rim. It grows, packs and markets carrots, pumpkins, onions and beans for domestic and export markets.

Managing director Richard Gorman changed hiring practices and the business culture after some questions about the diversity of his management team made him realise the company was being held back because of the lack of women at the senior level.

“Our management team, all men. Our board, all men. Anyone who had any say in anything, it was all men,” he said.

To address the problem he tapped into a pool of labour he had never considered; the tertiary-educated women married to Kalfresh’s managers and growers.

“We had some of the most talented people we could possibly ever hope for who in their professional world would be on enormous wages. We had it all right in front of us.”

Five wives agreed to work part time for the company on a special project. The team, which had decades of experience in corporate and government jobs, included a business consultant, a banker, a Walkley award-winning journalist, an events manager and a teacher.

They were asked to solve one of the company’s most vexing problems: vegetable waste.

“It’s extremely frustrating, you’re looking at a perfectly good item that might have been 10mm too short or it’s bent,” said Mr Gorman. Kalfresh grower Ed Windley said it was “not uncommon for the bottom 15 to 30 per cent of your crop at times to get the chop, and that just kills the whole economics of what you’re doing”.

“Feeding it to cows, which is worth just $50 a tonne, is the last resort so for us, so to be able to value add any of that is a big plus for the company. As a grower it means more money in your pocket,” said Kalfresh’s agricultural director Rob Hinrichsen.

The women proposed investing in a $3 million processing line to value add the seconds for the pre-cut bagged vegetable market. They researched consumer trends, designed the packaging, planned an advertising campaign and signed Woolworths up for a trial.

The trial was a success and Woolworths now stocks the Just Veg range of carrot shred, circles and sticks in QLD, NSW and Victoria, with plans to expand to other states.”The emergence of pre-packaged fruit and veg in the last five years has been phenomenal,” said Woolworths’ head of produce Scott Davidson.

Tracey Rieck, who runs a vegetable farm with her husband Mick, said many farmers would be surprised how much value can be added to what the industry now calls “ugly veg”.

“It’s a smaller part of our whole crop but the return is insane,” she said. The seconds, which were worth between $50 and $100 a tonne as stock food, are now worth $5,000 a tonne, five times more than the premium bagged carrots which are worth $1000 a tonne.

Mr Gorman’s wife Alice said the pre-cut vegetable market was booming. “15 per cent of Australians buy a ready-to-go meal twice a week,” she said. “They use the supermarket as their fridge so they have less stuff at home, and they shop for what they require on a daily basis.

“They don’t like waste so they buy smaller amounts, and they’re time poor so often they’re looking for an easy but healthy option.”

Rob Hinrichsen said he’d been involved in the company for over 20 years and “I’ve never actually seen that sort of smooth transition over a 6 or 8 month period. It’s been sensational.”

Mr Gorman said: “It’s just another way diversity fixes problems.”

Re-post ~ Kalfresh: Qld rural business turns carrot problem into profit by increasing diversity | ABC

See more ~ Landline | ABC

e- change is new sea change


Fast broadband helping Australians to embrace the lifestyle dream. A new ‘e-change’ movement is projected to have city folk heading to country and coastal towns in search of a better lifestyle and super connectivity, according to new research by Bernard Salt.

The Super Connected Lifestyle Locations Report commissioned by NBN Co identifies more than 600 Australian ‘lifestyle towns’ which are expected to harness fast broadband to allow residents to work from home, minimise commute times and increase their quality of living.

Key findings from the research include:

The rise of the lifestyle town ~ Ranging in size and location, the lifestyle town offers more affordable properties which often have scenic views or additional space to spare. These towns are also mostly found within a commutable distance of a capital city. The search of ‘lifestyle happiness’ was listed as the main reason (72%) for Australians making the move to these locations, with ‘the cost of living’ also listed as a key factor for almost a third (31%) of those surveyed.

Access to fast and reliable broadband is vital to the ‘e-change’ age. When making a move to the country or the coast, having a reliable Internet connection is considered by those surveyed as most important for providing access to health services (76%), followed by being able to remain close to friends (68%) as well as enabling access to leisure activities (67%) and employment opportunities (65%).

Reducing commute times can improve lifestyle satisfaction ~ Around 1 in 6 (16%) Australians surveyed are unhappy with their lifestyle due to work commute times. However, nearly one-in-five of those who have made a sea-change report being much happier with their work-life balance than those who have not. It’s also estimated approximately 400,000 Aussies have already cut down on their commute times by working from home, with predictions this will grow to be more than a million workers in the next decade.

Baby Boomers lead the way ~ Over the last five years, 1 in 5 Australians surveyed over the age of 55 sold-up and relocated to coastal retreats. The reasons given by this cohort for making the move include the pursuit of ‘a better living environment’ (65%), ‘a slower pace of life’ (55%), ‘housing affordability’ (29%) and ‘escaping from traffic’ (15%).

Author of the Super Connected Lifestyle Locations report, demographer Bernard Salt said: “While many of us may be experiencing a post-summer-holiday lull, this research suggests the dream of packing-up your home and living in a coastal or country town may not be so far away.

“We are witnessing a quiet lifestyle revolution in suburban Australia. The fusion of a relaxed lifestyle in tree-change and sea-change locations combined with super connectivity provided by the nbnℱ network, is giving people even greater scope to take greater control of where they live and how they work.

“I predict a cultural shift or ‘e-change movement’ which could see the rise of new silicon suburbs or beaches in regional hubs as universal access to fast broadband drives a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation outside our capital cities.”

The ‘e-change zones’ include:

  • NSW ~ Armidale, Byron Bay, Kiama & Queanbeyan
  • VIC ~ Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Creswick
  • QLD ~ Cairns, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast
  • TAS ~ St. Helens, Triabunna, Cygnet
  • SA ~ Victor Habour, Kangaroo Island, McLaren Vale
  • WA ~ Mandurah, Busselton, Geraldton
  • NT ~ Howard Springs

Access to the NBN network is scheduled to reach almost one in four Australian homes and businesses by June 2016, with new construction work set to be complete or underway across 1,500 communities and suburbs over the next 12 months. There are currently around 1.7 million premises around the country which can already connect to the NBN network, with every Australian set to have access by 2020.

Read more ~ Super Connected Lifestyle Locations Report | NBN Co

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

Rammed earth wall keeping the top end cool

Long rammed earth wall

Composed of 230m of simple, natural materials, this earthen structure may look unassuming, yet it is actually the longest rammed earth wall in Australia. Built to accommodate cattle workers during mustering season in the scorching Western Australia outback, the eco-friendly formation represents a shift in the approach to architectural design of this sort. Built by Luigi Rosselli Architects and tucked into the edge of a sand dune, this “Great Wall of Australia” is a brilliant example of simple, eco-conscious design.

The wall is constructed primarily using iron-rich, sandy clay obtained from the building site and gravel from a nearby river, which are bound together using water from a local bore.

This ancient technique forms the exterior façade, that is then built into a sand dune which forms the rear and roof of the building. Simple in theory, this results in a structure that naturally stays cool, even in the intense heat of the outback.


The continuous building contains twelve earth-covered apartments, separated by angled verandas to maintain privacy. Designer Sarah Foletta creates an interior space with a minimalistic yet liveable style, and a central hub on top of the wall provides a place for residents to meet and socialize.

Roof lght

It may seem decidedly elementary, yet this natural, energy-efficient approach towards housing development will save time, money, and resources. The design has been acknowledged by Australian Institute of Architects, and hopefully represents a shift towards similarly eco-friendly architecture in the future.

Re-post ~ Eco friendly “Great Wall of Australia” Naturally Protects Residents from Sweltering Heat | My Modern Met

Invitation ~ Help build the new economy through activism, enterprise and social change

AELA Conference Banner

Today’s economy is built on the foundations of a global industrial and financial system with immense productive capacity, however the extractive nature of it has created extreme income disparity and social injustices as well as wrought devastation on the natural world.

There is an increasingly spirited debate about the need for a ‘new economy’, which has fertile and important implications for the legal and philosophical foundations of the current system.

What are different generative visions for this ‘new economy’, and how achievable are they? How can we re-imagine work, exchange, money, care, law and our relationship with the natural world through the prism of a new economy?

The Australian Earth Laws Alliance and the University of NSW are organising an important conference to explore the dimensions and future prospects of building a ‘new economy’.

New Economy Conference 2016
Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 August 2016
Glebe Town Hall, Sydney

The two-day conference will bring together activists, social entrepreneurs, economists, academics, lawyers and regulators, to discuss, showcase and weave together the explosion of experiments that are bubbling up around peer-to-peer initiatives, commoning, maker movements, sharing, buen vivir, collaborative economies, solidarity economies, localisation and cooperative movements.

Over two days, the conference will tease out the connections and tensions between these movements, with an eye to the practical lessons for projects and politics. The conference will include an interactive plenary session on Day 2, which will enable interested participants to co-design a Charter for a Coalition for a New Economy.

The call for participation opened on the 21 April  and closes on 30 June 2016.

All prospective participants  are invited to be creative with their proposals. Although some speakers have been invited in advance, the final program will depend upon what you submit. It will be crafted with an eye to the practical lessons for projects and politics, including a plenary session on ‘The City as Commons’ (exploring how different projects and ideas intersect with each other) and a second plenary exploring the idea of an Australian New Economy Coalition (whether for political advocacy, policy development or networking purposes).

The guiding question for the Conference is ~ How can we re-imagine work, exchange, money, care, law and our relationship with the natural world through the prism of a new economy?

The following types of participation are invited:

  • Panel discussions ~ between 20 and 40 minutes long (please contact us first by email to discuss your ideas about panel discussions)
  • Papers ~ presented for up to 20 minutes
  • Short performances or interventions ~ 5 to 10 minutes
  • Mini-workshops or facilitated games ~ up to 40 minutes
  • Posters

Finally, the program will also include time for open-space sessions.

To prepare your participation proposal, please use the Conference Template, which can be downloaded here and email to

Find out more ~ Conference Website

Floating solar solution for Lismore Community Solarfarm

In an exciting and unexpected turn of events, a floating solar solution is now going to be used for the East Lismore Community Solarfarm.

This change has been made at the sewage treatment plant to overcome the site limitations and maximise opportunities to expand the size of the solar array in the future ~ particularly given Lismore City Council’s plan for 100% renewable energy.

We think it’s wonderful that our prospective community investors can now consider what is an even more pioneering project, together of course with the high profile solarfarm planned for Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre.

Here is an example of what the floating solarfarm may look like:

The two community companies for the projects ~ Lismore Community Solarfarm (Goonellabah) Pty Ltd, and, Lismore Community Solarfarm (East) Pty Ltd ~ have now been incorporated. These are the legal entities which will raise the funds for the two solarfarms, by offering shares for investors. In turn, once the investment offers are fully subscribed, each company will loan the funds to Lismore City Council to build the each of the solarfarms (Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant).

A constitution for each of the companies has been fully executed and will be available on the Farming the Sun website in due course.

For this establishment stage of the community companies, Starfish Initiatives is the sole shareholder and has appointed Executive Director, Adam Blakester, as the sole director. Starfish will surrender their share, and Adam will resign as Director, as the community investors become shareholders and in turn nominate to be directors at the each company’s first General Meeting after the investment offers are completed.

The offer documents, formally known as an Offer Information Statement, are being submitted to Norton Rose Fulbright, our legal partners, for final review and is expected for Launch by late May all going to plan.

As these community energy investments are a private offer, it will be only be made available to those parties who have signed onto the Investor Pledge. As at today, 136 people have signed the Investor Pledge. We would greatly welcome your interest as well! You can add your name to the list here.

The funds raised by private investment will be lent to Lismore City Council to build the solarfarms. In the event that there are any excess funds remaining, the terms of the loan provide that the Council may utilise these funds for other projects identified within their 100% Renewable Energy Master Plan.

The tenders to build the solarfarms are being conducted by Lismore City Council. These are now live!  These tenders will run in parallel with us releasing the investment offers to raise the funds for the two projects.

The tenders can be accessed via Lismore City Council’s Tenderlink. For more information, contact Lismore City Council.

In addition to all of the above good news and progress, Starfish is incredibly pleased and grateful for confirmation of a major donation from Diversicon Environmental Foundation. Diversicon’s donation will enable us to cover the full establishment costs for the two Lismore Community Solarfarm projects ~ Australia’s first community-funded and Council-operated projects of this kind. iversicon join with our other financial partners ~ NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, Lismore City Council and The Earth Welfare Foundation.

While this cash funding is essential, it is important to also recognise the substantial pro-bono investments being made by our other partners ~ particularly Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright ~ which in total value are greater than our modest cash budget.

Starfish expresses its sincere gratitude to these Project Partners for their trust and investment in our collective vision and work.

The Farming the Sun collaboration is now working on the following priorities:
1. Finalising the private share offer after legal advice is received
2. Signing the loan agreements (between the two community companies and Lismore City Council)
3. Establishing administrative and financial systems for the community companies
4. Launching the Private Investment Offers

Useful links ~

Find out more about Lismore Community Solar ~

Read more about the floating solarfarm announcement ~

They wanted to share the tools in their garage ~ Now, everyone can

Sharing their tools

When Thomas was moving his family from Portland, Oregon, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, he started his housing search by looking to locate near a tool library in his new town. But where he eventually settled—northeast Minneapolis—there was none. His new neighbourhood was filled with a lot of older homes ~ and a lot of renovation projects. In a lucky turn of fate, Thomas’s new neighbours introduced him to Zachary, a fellow tool enthusiast who also wanted to start a tool library. They both knew friends and neighbours who needed equipment to make their home improvement dreams come true.

So they put the word out: send us your tools.

They couldn’t have predicted the tide of tools that people donated ~ and the swell of interest in the new idea. It took nearly a year, but the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library opened on May 2, 2015 with enough funding for a year, staff for the library, a logo and website, a dedicated space and an inventory of tools from its first tool drive. And still, the donations keep coming.

In some ways, starting a tool library is all about stopping waste. Says board member Carolyn Collopy: “So many people buy tools for a specific project and after the project is finished, never use them again. A lot of resources go into making tools that sit in people’s homes and garages gathering dust. The tool library allows people access without the burden of expense and storage. Like it says on our website, ‘Access Over Ownership.’”

She continues, “The tool library also connects people. We help people who have skills to share meet their neighbours who need the knowledge or confidence to take on a home repair project.

The tool library is a living example of how our communities are stronger without all of the stuff that our society perpetually pushes us to purchase and throw away.”

In less than a year, it had almost 200 members and an inventory of more than 1,000 tools. People are coming out of the woodwork to learn more and join ~ not only people from his neighbourhood but also from all around the city and even the neighbouring city, St. Paul.

“I have seen some really exciting projects come to fruition,” Thomas said. “I am happy to be a part of people finding success. That’s why I got involved in starting a tool library in the first place.”
Making the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library a reality is part of a broader vision on the part of the whole neighbourhood Its founders want to support their city in becoming more vibrant and resilient.

They believe they can make their city better by reducing waste; connecting neighbours with neighbours; building the city’s sharing economy; creating inspirational spaces for collaboration; and serving as the kind of resource that allows the community to withstand tough environmental and economic challenges.

It’s a grand vision, but it’s rooted in the most practical of values: access for all; a focus on sharing; a belief in community space; and person-to-person connection.

The tool library has grown so quickly that it’s already looking for a much bigger space.

Thomas dreams of expanding the library’s offerings to other kinds of household equipment, like sewing machines and kitchen gadgets that people need for special recipes but don’t use often. “There are so many possibilities,” he added.

The tool library movement is spreading all around the world. “Libraries of Things” are cropping up across the United States, from Portland to Denver to Berkeley. It’s part of a bigger DIY and sharing movement that has spilled over into repair cafes, where people can bring items in to be fixed instead of throwing them away.

The movement is thinking big: some of the biggest players, like iFixit, have created The Repair Coalition to formally advocate for our right to repair our Stuff.

Re-post ~ They wanted to share the tools in their garage, now all of Minneapolis is in on it | Story of Stuff
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