The cats eating Australia.

Cats are eating Australia alive. Cats kill millions of native animals every year and one region has introduced a plan that may well save many adorable Aussie animals from death or extinction.

Cats are estimated to kill about 1.5 billion native animals per annum in Australia. This destruction is the work of domestic cats, stray cats and feral cats. All of these cats are derived from pet cats, as feline species have never been native to Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1994 only 26% of domestic cats were confined both during the day and night. This means 74% of cats where roaming happily, hunting and destroying native wildlife. In the same year, 42,126 cats were dumped on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Only 3% of the cats were reclaimed and 74% were put down.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright.

Chantel Benbow is an ecologist, and some would say a hypocrite. She owns a cat and lets it roam free at night around the streets of inner Sydney. Her cat does wear a bib developed by Murdoch University, and utilised widely in the Eurobodalla Council region on the NSW far south coast. The bib claims to distract the cat from the prey, and to stop 81 per cent of cats from catching birds, 45 per cent of cats from catching mammals, and 33 per cent of cats from catching lizards and amphibians.

Not 100%.

That said, Benbow still advises:

“If you want to have a pet cat, keep it indoors because they are hunters. They are beautiful, they are cute and fluffy but they will kill something.”

This is why the Australian Capital Territory has introduced a policy that could save thousands of native Australian animals.

The policy requires all new pet cats obtained after July 1, 2022 to be contained indoors or in a cat run. It does, however, allow cats acquired before July 1, 2022 to roam free if their owners do not live in a new Canberra suburb. These cats can happily kill native wildlife every day and night. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Another law change allows cat owners to walk their cat on a lead, which is actually prohibited, not just odd. This applies to 17 designated cat containment suburbs in the territory. Cats will also have to be registered, just like dogs, under the new law.

The maximum penalty for breaching the law is $1,600.

Politicians announcing the new law boasted that the ACT is a leader in cat containment.

“The ACT government wants to minimise the impacts of domestic cats on native wildlife by reducing the number of feral, unowned and semi-owned cats through more de-sexing, improved domestic cat welfare and management practices, better ways to identify lost cats and reunite them with their owners,” Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Every year, free-roaming but owned Canberra cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs.

The ACT is not the first region to introduce some form of ban on pet cats in order to save Australia’s wildlife.

The municipality of Knox in Victoria has introduced a 24-hour cat curfew on all domestic cats to come into effect on October 1, 2021. Cats must be confined to their owner’s property at all times and the new law was established for one primary reason; to protect native wildlife.

Owners face fines for failure to comply, and the rationale for the law also sites general nuisance and safety for cats. However, it is not difficult to read between the lines of the government document and determine the primary motivation for the move.

The council in Melbourne states that there are “…currently over 6,500 cats registered with Council.” Even if each cat kills only one native animal per day, that municipality will lose 6,500 native animals every day. In the space of a year…

The law should have been introduced long ago. It should be nationwide policy.

The municipality of Knox trialled the curfew in 2020 and more than 86% of residents are said to have supported the continuation of the program, including cat owners themselves.

Opponents or critics of the curfew might also argue that it is not necessary because they put a bell on their cat’s collar to alert wildlife. Their cats then roam guilt-free. Blue Mountains City Council, which administers a large area surrounded by national park, claims:

“Bells on collars don’t always work. Cats with bells can learn to stalk prey silently,” and

“…native animals don’t associate the sound of bells with danger.”

Other Australian communities have also introduce such a ban. Mount Barker near Adelaide implemented a similar law in 2019. The law proposed penalties for cats found roaming freely between 8pm and 7am, and a limit of two cats per property. The community lobbied for the law after becoming sick of domestic cats defecating on people’s properties, fighting in gardens and killing wildlife.

Similar laws aimed at protecting wildlife have also been trialled or implemented in Gawler, Adelaide Hills, Marion and Campbelltown in South Australia. The law in Gawler included a provision to ‘seize, detain and destroy’ any cat caught roaming within its boundaries if the animal isn’t claimed by its owner within three days.

Various forms of cat curfews are also being considered in locations such as Yarra Range Council in Victoria and Wollondilly Council in Sydney. Interestingly, a councillor from Wollondilly Council, Simon Landow, was quoted as saying that the plan had been met with great support, but that the rules had no teeth unless the state government enacted similar legislation.

Mount Barker, Knox and many of the regions mentioned above feature residential areas which adjoin an area of bushland or open space, where native wildlife can still be found. If that wildlife is to survive, a cat curfew must be implemented across the nation.

Image: david_g_bevan_writer

Australia’s brilliant plan to dominate world Rugby.

Australia will win every Rugby Union World Cup and international game for eternity thanks to a masterful plan guaranteed to fill its teams with the world’s best talent.

Rugby Australia and the Australian government will force Pasifika people to desert their homelands and live in Australia, where they will have no choice but to play for the Wallabies and local Super Rugby teams if they wish to continue enjoying the game they play in heaven.

“We’ll drown their homes,” declared a spokesperson for the government and rugby authorities.

“We’ll continue to drive climate change which is raising sea levels and inundating low-lying Pacific Islands from which most of the world’s best Rugby Union players originate.”

The spokesperson then went on to congratulate Rugby Australia and the current LNP government for forcing so many players from countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to play for Australia and for Australian Super Rugby franchises.

Many Pasifika players grew up in Australia after their families were forced to seek greater opportunities in the land Down Under, either due to climate change or due to international trade and foreign policies. As residents of Australia, they cannot make these countries into rugby superpowers. The recent success of Tonga in Rugby League suggests these countries could dominate rugby union.

“Without our Pasifika players we would never win a game, at international level or representative level. That’s the reality of international rugby union,” continued the spokesperson.

“The beauty of this plan is that it’s so easy. We just have to continue doing what we’re doing. Keep burning and exporting coal, keep suppressing renewable energy and electric cars, and continue to be the country with the world’s largest per capita carbon footprint. We can simply continue massive land clearing and approving new coal seam gas and coal mines, because this all ensures that ice caps melt and flood low lying islands.”

“When ScoMo talked about a gas-led recovery, he wasn’t talking about the recovery of our economy, he was talking about the recovery of Australian rugby union.”

The plan will guarantee a steady supply of big, strong, fast, agile and skilful players into the Wallabies and Super Rugby teams, and will replace the students of private schools who traditionally played representative rugby in Australia. The same private school boys who become resource company employees and executives, kings of cattle, conservative politicians and directors of financial institutions which invest in fossil fuel companies.

Those behind the plan also hosed down suggestions that players with Pasifika heritage could still be eligible for Fiji, Samoa or Tonga courtesy of their ancestry,

“You can’t play for a country that’s underwater.”

Drowning Pacific Islands could also force many people to emigrate to New Zealand instead, but those behind the plan expressed little concern at this outcome, stating:

“The All Blacks don’t need any help.”

Image: Stephen Tremain

Crime Busters

A torrent of furious comments flooded the Pitchfork Facebook page.

“No more crime.”

“Fight dirt and crime.”

“Crime-free homes!”

“Live crime free,” cried the residents, who were sick of the crime spree sweeping their city. Sick of inaction. Sick of endless break-ins, vandalism, graffiti and theft – and scant arrests.

“Don’t tolerate crime any longer,” and so it continued, until the vitriol fomented into calls for action. Someone soon set a date and time to take back the streets and do what the police couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Members unleashed their despair at the regularity of the crimes, the brazen nature of the offences and the age of the perpetrators.

“Bloody kids, get away with murder…”

“I blame the schools. Too much black-armband history.”

“Not enough grammar and spelling!”

“Bring back the cane!” they ranted.

“Yeah, and too much greenwashing, nuthin’ wrong with good ol’ Chalk and Talk!”

As a teacher, Andrew was well aware of the limitations of Chalk and Talk, and he had no desire to engage with the latest social media hysteria. Nor did he need to. He heard the contorted philosophy of the Pitchfork parents through his students, and knew the vigilantes were planning to purge the city on this particular Saturday night. Thus, he locked himself in like a grumpy neighbour on Halloween.

Alas, on this night of nights, Dickens by candlelight was not enough to distract Mr Mitchell from the frenzied commotion on the street. He tiptoed through the darkness and peeled open the front door. He peered through the security grill and was summarily shocked, because he was blissfully unaware of chats that had occurred deeper inside the web since the first call to arms.

Bold claims were made, shared, liked and reposted.

“It ain’t neighbourhood watch,” they boasted, “…this is war!”

As users shared tips on acquiring actual pitchforks and other weapons, one post would dramatically change the course of the ‘street cleaning’ operation.

“Crime Busters” read the post, with a link which promised everything anyone would ever need to rid their life of crime forever. Credit cards were extracted and crypto accounts activated. Crime Busters sold out of stock in minutes.

That one comment explained Andrew’s utter disbelief as he peaked through his CrimSafe into the floodlit street.

The angry mob were rampaging through the streets, but instead of brandishing pitchforks and other weapons of war, they were armed with branded buckets, soaps, sprays, rubber gloves, brushes and assorted cleaning products.

“No more crime,” they yelled.

“Fight dirt and crime!”

“Blast away the scum”

First thing Monday morning, Jayden was summoned to the Pitch Palace at Brilliant Brands and Concepts.

“It’s a rare privilege for a junior to lead a campaign, Jayden, so tell me, have you heard of spell check?” asked his boss, in a tone reminiscent of Jayden’s high school English teachers.

The boss motioned to Jayden’s elaborate storyboards.

“Remind me, what is the name of our client?”

“Oooh,” Jayden finally clicked.

“Grime Busters”

Image: Luis Villasmil

Owning the rainbow.

When you see a rainbow, what do you think of?

Rain and sunshine. Refraction of light. A pot of gold or the full spectrum of colour?

Or do you think of the LGBTQI+ community?

Many people throughout the world probably think of the LGBTQI+ community, and this is the genius of owning the rainbow. The LGBTQI+ community has appropriated this great and beloved natural wonder as its own symbol to express everything that their community represents.

The rainbow permeated the successful social media campaign which eventually legalised same-sex marriage in Australia. The campaign asked the public to do everything from contacting their local politician, to wearing rainbow coloured laces for a day, to hanging a rainbow flag out their window to show support for the cause. The campaign worked, and it was successful it could almost be taught to future activists as an example of how to harness social media for a social cause – and it was all underwritten by the rainbow motif.

How did this happen?

US artist Gilbert Baker popularised the rainbow flag as a symbol for the gay community as far back as 1978. The San Francisco artist was apparently urged to create a symbol of gay pride by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.

The different colours in the rainbow flag are associated with diversity and all have distinct meanings for people within the LGBTQI+ community. While the flag itself may have evolved since 1978, it is still a famous symbol of the LGBTQI+ community and a was a stroke of marketing genius on behalf of Baker.

Interestingly, the rainbow flag was also utilised to unite people during the Reformation, as far back as 1525. It was also suggested as a symbol of the Armenian Republic movement, the Cooperative movement, the Peace movement, Indigenous rights in the Andes, Basque nationalism, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and the Patriots of Russia political party. But how many people throughout the world would associate the rainbow flag with any of these movements? And how many of those people would automatically think of the LGBTQI+ movement?

It is a stroke of marketing genius. So much so that every time many people see a rainbow, they will consciously or subconsciously associate it with the LGBTQI+ community, just as people associate a yellow M with a certain fast-food restaurant. Better still, rainbows cost nothing and are thus free advertising.

Every time a local council paints a rainbow on a public staircase, people will think LGBTQI+

Every time a local council flies rainbow flags, people will think LGBTQI+

Every time the sun shines after rain, people will think LGBTQI+

Image: Mateus Campos Felipe

Do you love wombats?

Wombats are cute and cuddly, furry and funny. They waddle their fat little bodies in and out of their burrows and give birth to impossibly cute babies. They’re some of the cutest animals on the planet. Some might say they’re as cute as koalas.

They’re also under threat.

Mange is one of the biggest killers of wombats. The mange mite buries itself under the wombat’s skin triggering extreme itchiness which makes the wombat scratch, causing open wounds and scabs to form.  These become infected, the wombat loses condition, becomes dehydrated, malnourished and slowly dies. The good news is, it can be treated.

The Wombat Protection Society of Australia is working to eliminate that threat. WPSA is a national non-profit organisation created to raise awareness and money in order to provide wombats with immediate protection from harm. We enhance quality of life, fund projects that develop and protect suitable habitat and provide sanctuaries for Australian wombats.

Mange is considered to be the major health issue impacting wombat welfare. It is caused by the parasitic mite sarcoptes scabiei, and the society has brought attention and action to this issue by encouraging and supporting research and collaboration in the treatment and prevention of mange in both free living and in-care wombats. For more information, contact WPSA at mange@wombatprotection.org.au

You can help

Wombat rescue programs operate throughout Australia, and many are staffed by volunteers. You could perform one of the following volunteer roles:

Field visits

Volunteers and full-time staff visit wombat habitat and establish and maintain wombat flaps. The flaps are placed in front of the wombats burrow and every time the wombat brushes the trap, liquid medicine is emptied onto the wombats back. This kills the mange.

The medicine is also administered via a scoop, like a scoop used to retrieve a golf ball from the water. Volunteers scout the wombat when it is out of its burrow, and approach it like an assassin. Instead of killing the wombat, they get close enough to pour the medicine on its back, then chase it to its burrow to check on the condition of the flap.

How fast is a wombat?

There’s one way to find out.

Let’s not beat around the bush (well, not yet). It’s not glamorous work, it’s quite physical, and it can be quite confronting. Seeing a wombat with mange is a horrible sight. Some people might be affected by it, and some may never be comfortable with it. If so, perhaps another role might suit you better.

DIY

Wombat flaps need to be constructed. At the moment, many are scraped together with donated or recycled materials including plastic take-away containers, vegemite jar lids and open for inspection signs. Someone with construction skills and a desire to save these beloved animals could create a more sturdy, permanent design for a wombat flap – you could do it all in your shed.

Administration

Administration is a large part of wombat protection, and can include any of the following tasks:

Website design

Data entry

Rostering

Letter writing

Grant requests

Social media marketing

Report collation

Event organisation

Education and teaching

To volunteer in an admin role, you don’t have to live near wombat habitat in order to help, in fact you don’t even have to leave the house. There are roles you could perform from the comfort of your loungeroom.

For further information and to find out how you can help protect these lovable creatures:

http://www.wombatprotection.org.au

info@wombatprotection.org.au

0448 087 994

Images: University of Tasmania, Getty Images, Australian Reptile Park, Paul Looyen

Who should lead a nation?

There are two types of leaders: boring administrators and inspirational heroes.

Who would you prefer to lead your country?

Personally, I want a boring administrator to lead my nation. Boring administrators fulfill the role of a national leader, which is to essentially ensure that schools are funded, rubbish is collected, hospitals are staffed and trains run on time. It’s a boring job, best performed by boring people. Politicians are public servants and the highest ranking politician in the land is the highest ranking public servant in the land. A highly-paid and famous public servant, but still a public servant.

Unfortunately, too many world leaders have forgotten this, and have succumbed to the temptation to be seen as strong, charismatic, brave heroes.

Politicians do paperwork. Ultimately, that is their job. They review current policies regarding public services. They draft new policies and negotiate to have them implemented. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum will strive to have their world view reflected in policy, but ultimately all of them are administrators.

That’s not to say politicians are boring per se. They can be as exciting and interesting as they want in their free time. They can front alternative rock bands, make funky art, do extreme sports or whatever they want, as long as they remember that when they are performing their role as a politician, they are supposed to be boring.

Brave, inspirational, strong and charismatic leaders struggle to combine substance with their style.

Donald Trump epitomises style over substance. His substantial fortune funded a slick public relations campaign which won him the election and kept him in office. He deliberately positioned himself as a strong, charismatic leader making bold statements to persuade impressionable voters to elect him. It worked. He even coined the phrase ‘Fake News’ to drown out the voices of reason, the voices of the boring administrators who offered the electorate statistics, facts and objective information gleaned from the boring paperwork they had done in their role as public servants. Trump reigned as a populist leader who was apparently strong and brave, and did nothing to serve the public. If you vote for strong leaders, you risk creating another Trump.

In Mexico some years ago, people vowed to vote for Enrique Pena Nieto because he is ‘muy guapo’, or very good looking. Perhaps not the best reason to vote for a president. It worked, though, and he became president, but few people would nominate Mexico as a land of public service efficiency.

Leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the UK and Scott Morrison in Australia have also fallen into the Trump trap. They posit themselves as strong, courageous leaders who can improve and protect their country, but forego the boring administrative tasks required of a leader.

Scott Morrison is called ‘Trump Lite’ and famously displayed his organisational incompetence during the recent Australian bushfire crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the damaging floods. A boring administrator would have saved many Australian plants and animals, homes and people’s lives.

Morrison also makes endless statements claiming to ‘stand up to’ fellow world leaders in times of crisis. He famously attacks China when his popularity wanes and pretends to be courageous towards the emerging superpower. The statements increase his popularity among gullible, impressionable voters (and the racists) who demand inspirational, brave leaders, but they are not the wise words of a skilled administrator addressing the country’s largest trading partner. A boring administrator would treat China appropriately, and protect Australia’s economy and exports.

Brave, strong charismatic leaders often need an enemy. They will often create one to appear strong, and this can manifest as real life conflict.

Morrison’s predecessor also succumbed to popularism. Former prime minister Tony Abbott flaunted his impressive muscular physique honed through daily exercise, and implied that it was central to his ability to run the country. Yes, it was impressive for a man of his age, but do you need a six pack to manage tax rates? He also promised to shirt-front Vladimir Putin at a world leader’s summit, before eventually shaking his hand and smiling. Not only did he fail to deliver his promise, he also placated voters who expect a leader to be physically strong and brave, rather than boring and intelligent. He also forgot that you can’t shirt-front someone who never wears a shirt.

Putin is himself a strong, charismatic leader. He poses endlessly in photos boasting of his physical virility and prowess. He portrays himself as a strong leader and he eventually believed his own hype. Experts attribute his invasion of Ukraine to his ego, and his desperation to be seen as a strong leader, in the vein of a conqueror determined to restore the glory of Russia and the former Soviet Union. If you vote for strong leaders, you run the risk of creating another Putin.

Strong leaders keep us safe.

This is a popular belief and refrain. Proponents point to leaders like Winston Churchill as examples of charismatic and brave leaders who protected a nation during times of war. Yes, a brave leader might guide us through a war, making rousing speeches of courage and resilience, vowing to face the enemy anywhere at any time, even on the beaches. But a skilled administrator, a boring public servant, could prevent us from going to war in the first place.

“She’s got no balls.”

You’d hope not, because then she wouldn’t be a she – but that’s a different discussion. The quote comes from an acquaintance discussing candidates in an upcoming local election, made in reference to the incumbent female representative. The conservative, middle-aged man believed the woman wasn’t strong, brave, confident or aggressive enough to lead their region.

Why?

They didn’t say. They just believed she had no balls. Clearly they expected a leader with as much style as substance, perhaps even more of the former. They didn’t want a boring public servant.

Media darlings

Modern politicians must exist within the modern media landscape. They must present well and this will force all of them to consider ‘optics’ before and during their political term. However, many politicians prioritise optics too greatly and neglect their duties. Only voters can prevent leaders from concentrating too heavily on optics and instead force them to dedicate themselves to their work.

Next time you consider who to vote for in an election, ask yourself:

Does charisma staff hospitals?

Does charisma care for the elderly?

Does charisma improve children’s literacy?

Does charisma make the trains run on time?

Does charisma keep wages high?

Does charisma create employment?

Also remember this:

Boring politicians do their job and let us get on with our lives.

Boring politicians are not noticed, except when they make mistakes. When the trains don’t run on time, hospitals are understaffed, school children are left without teachers and roads are full of potholes, politicians are noticed. They shouldn’t be. They should administer our nations and regions and remain in the background.

Boring politicians avoid the headlines. Boring politicians resist the lure of fame, they ignore the temptation of the perfect soundbite or witty retort at their opponents.

Boring politicians are more efficient. Thus, you spend less time dealing with their departments, and more time enjoying your own life.

Image: Aditya Joshi

Have You Seen This Man?

Authorities and welfare organisations are attempting to identify and locate a man seen wandering Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs pleading with local sporting clubs to become their no. 1 ticket holder.

The man is believed to have grown up in the region and is described as Caucasian, middle-aged, chubby and bespectacled, who is ‘…otherwise unremarkable aside from an affixed smirk which is equally arrogant and condescending”

The desperate man was first sighted in Bondi Junction wearing a Sydney Roosters jersey and baseball cap. Witnesses say he ordered a beer at Artie’s before approaching club bosses, muttering,

“How good are the Roosters!” and demanding to be made the club’s no.1 ticket holder for season 2022 and beyond.

The dejected figure was then seen in Kingsford a few hours later in cardinal and myrtle, claiming to be best friends with Rus. He ordered a beer at Henry Morris Bar and demanded to be made no.1 ticket holder of the Rabbitohs.

Stories of similar sightings throughout the East then emerged.

“Yeah, that’s the guy we saw a while ago,” confirmed club bosses at Randwick Rugby Union Club.

“Dressed in our jersey and scarf, ordered a beer and forced everyone to shake his hand. Kept saying; ‘How good are the galloping greens’ then said Campo’s gonna have a great season, and asked if the Ella brothers were all fit. We felt sorry for him until he demanded to be made no.1 ticket holder, then we showed him the door.”

Beasties stalwarts recounted their own tale of the listless wanderer.

“Seen some strange things at footy clubs, you know, boys will be boys, but this was bizarre. Decked out in full playing kit, even the shorts – not pretty – strolled into The Field and ordered a beer and insisted on meeting a board member. One of our execs decided to humour the poor guy, but when she introduced herself, he scoffed and demanded to meet a ‘real’ board member. That’s when our props did some lineout practice and dumped him on O’Sullivan Road.”

Authorities also received complaints about the unwelcome intruder from the Waratahs, Sydney Swans and Sydney FC, as well as Sydney Coastal Junior Cricket Club.

Sydney Coastal staff immediately contacted police after the man appeared at a junior competition saying,

“I know Dave Warner and Kaja, Kawi, Kijawa…you know, the foreign bloke.”

“We made it clear we want nothing to do with him – I mean, we’ve got kids at this club.”

Law enforcement and mental health experts have not identified a precise cause for the behaviour, which began in the lead up to the most recent federal election. Police are also investigating a possible link with an eerily similar case at Shark Park in early 2016.

Image: Craig Greenhill

First published in The Beast magazine, March 2022.

When Emily Watts rides she starts a conversation.

Emily Watts is a young Australian cyclist with ambitions to reach the top and to inspire people in the process. She recently won the best young rider category at the Tour Down Under and rides for a team with a mission to advance women’s sport and promote positive mental health among the wider community.

Emily’s cycling career began on the quiet roads of Hartley on the edge of the NSW Blue Mountains, and the 21-year-old is now a familiar sight on her long, lonely training rides whenever she makes it back home.

While the dream of world championship and Olympic success dictates Emily’s strict daily routine, she is acutely aware of the need to ensure her general wellbeing and holistic development. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Education / PE Teaching at the University of Sydney and teaches swimming part-time, and is looking for a well-rounded World Tour team to join in the future.

“I’d like to ride for Canyon Sram or Trek Segafredo, because they seem to have the same values that I have. Each individual rider in the team is supported and they look like they enjoy being in the peloton, and it’s important for me to ride for a team with the right atmosphere.”

Emily is a General Classification rider with Knights of Suburbia, a team which actively promotes the wellbeing of its riders and the general community.

“KOS is a team with a strong meaning behind it. We’re a competitive cycling team and we race to win, but we’re more than that. The team was established with the specific goal of providing opportunities for female cyclists who don’t have the financial resources or other resources to race full time.

It’s also part of a community with a strong focus on supporting people through mental health struggles, and the values of the team align with my personal values. Everyone in this team is supported and this is something that I really enjoy about racing with them.”

KOS is aligned with the Love Me Love You Foundation, which promotes positive conversations about mental health and helps people through those challenges in life. The group runs social rides from Melbourne to Mt Isa, with the goal of bringing people together to remove the sigma around mental health and to promote wellbeing.

It also creates an extra element for the members of KOS.

“Riding for a team like this does carry more responsibility. The way we carry ourselves, the way we speak in public and the way we conduct ourselves is very important because when we pull on the jersey, we’re not just representing ourselves but also a community and the team which has a purpose. When we ride, we’re advocates for LMLY.”

Emily has also faced mental health issues in her own life, from specific challenges in elite sport to negotiating adolescence. As recently as January her mental fortitude and flexibility was tested.

“At the Tour Down Under, I was road captain on stage 1, which was a new responsibility for me. Normally I get pretty stressed before a stage, but this time I had to stay calm for the sake of the team and relax into the race.”

It worked, as Emily won the stage in a sprint against riders from some of the world’s best teams.

She also overcame challenges during high school.

“I went through mental health issues, some which affect all teenage girls going through high school like identity, and high academic expectations.”

Emily’s dedication to sport, and her passion for cycling, also caused some issues, even in a sports-mad nation like Australia where sports stars are adored.

“Some students saw my sport and dedication to cycling as bizarre and I was seen as a bit of a weirdo. There was definitely an aspect of tall poppy syndrome. It might also have been because I developed a greater sense of maturity than the average teenager, because when I was in high-school I was already racing and training with cycling squads and many of them were adults.”

“Or maybe it was just jealousy because I was beating the boys in the cross-country races.”

As a future secondary teacher, Emily is also very aware of mental health issues in teenagers, and in particular the impact of social media, especially because today’s elite athletes are required to have a presence on social media. They use social platforms not just to communicate with fans, but to promote themselves, their sport, their team and especially their sponsors.

“I’m very aware of the dangers of social media and how it affects young people. What matters is the way we use social media, and not putting everything on it, and being careful about what we see. For teenagers, it’s vital that they learn how to self-manage.”

Being a female athlete also forces Emily to spend more time on social media than she otherwise might.

“It’s also a bigger part of the sport in the women’s peloton because there’s not as much coverage of our races on TV or in the media in general. We need to be active on social media to get our story out there and to try to attract support for ourselves and our teams, and even for a foundation like LMLY.”

Images: Getty Images, Knights of Suburbia

One element missing from Australia’s secondary schools.

The majority of Australian secondary schools are missing practical environmental sustainability projects. The same projects are increasingly prevalent in Australian primary schools.

The projects include compost bins, organic gardens, nature play areas or native gardens. Very few secondary schools in Australia allow teenage students to get their hands dirty and experience practical environmental projects.

How do I know?

I’m a secondary school teacher. I’ve taught full-time or part-time in many different secondary schools throughout Australia and I’ve seen very few practical environmental sustainability projects in any of the schools.

Why?

Secondary students learn environmental education, so why don’t they have the chance to put this theory into practice?

Crowded curriculum

Yes, the Australian secondary school curriculum is very crowded and education authorities seem determined to cram even more topics into it every year. Yes, schools would need to find a time and space to include practical environmental activities, as well as finding qualified teachers to deliver them. However, projects such as compost bins do not need to be taught in a specific subject at the expense of other topics.

Students can use compost bins when they eat. They can fill compost bins at recess and lunch time to dispose of organic food waste. Students would need to be taught which food scarps can and can’t go into the bins and their use would need to be monitored, but most teenagers should be smart enough to learn how to correctly us compost bins. Many already use them at home. The food waste can then be added to soil to create earth, especially if the school has some kind of native garden or organic food garden. Students could lead the project which converts the food waste to soil.

In my experience, the only secondary schools conducting this sort of program are Steiner schools or specific environmental schools.

Lack of space

Yes, inner-city and urban secondary schools are restricted by the lack of physical space in the school grounds. This in itself, however, can be turned into a learning point. How do we create a sustainable project in such a small space? How do we colectively solve the problem? Teenagers can be more adaptive and creative than many people think. Also, many of the same teenagers are likely to live in high-density areas when they leave school, so school is a great time for them to learn about how to create a sustainable project in restricted space. Urban sustainability is a growing movement, and many people have found practical solutions to this problem. It is possible.

Money

Yes, government schools in Australia are underfunded. That said, government primary schools manage to access funds for compost bins and other resources required for practical environmental projects. Can secondary schools do the same. Private schools certainly don’t lack money – when will they spend it on environmental resources?

Are teenagers too old?

Many primary school students are involved in environmentally-friendly projects on a daily basis. Many primary schools have compost bins, where students from Kindergarten to Yr 6 place their food scraps, after being educated on which food waste can go in compost.

Some primary schools even have separate rubbish bins in their classroom, and students are encouraged to avoid putting any items in the waste bin. It can even become a source of pride for the class to produce ‘zero waste’ on any given day or week. Of course, students are encouraged by incentives, but it has been successful in many schools, and some primary schools now produce very little waste for landfill, instead sending it to recycling or to compost. The compost then nourishes the school’s own organic garden.

Why can’t this be done with teenagers?

Teenagers are surely more able to distinguish between landfill, recyclables and organic waste. However, it is unusual to see a compost bin in any Australian secondary school.

Teenagers are more suited to practical environmental projects. They are old enough to design, plan and prepare a project, and old enough to create the project with their bare hands, with appropriate supervision. Teenagers could realistically create a native plant garden or organic garden from scratch.

Why should they?

Children will inherit the planet we are now shaping. They are also just a few years from becoming the decision makers in the world.

Do you know why?

If you’ve read this far, and you know why practical environmental projects are scarce in Australian secondary schools, feel free to get in touch. Better still, if you know of secondary schools which are doing this, and you know how to convince other schools to do the same, let us know.

Image: Element5Digital

Waverley Council Launches the SITTY 2 Surf.

Waverley Council has paired up with Randwick Council to launch the SITTY 2 Surf initiative and guarantee uncrowded waves to the surfers of the Eastern beaches.

SITTY 2 Surf actively promotes a burgeoning trend sweeping Australia’s eastern seaboard. Beautiful young things don their favourite bikini, boardies or wetsuit, and carry their surfboard to the beach, before taking myriad selfies and posting to Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok or Youtube (SITTY), without ever dipping a toe in the water. SITTY Surfers merely exploit the image of surfing to attract and impress online followers.

“SITTY2Surf is an exciting initiative through which both councils will keep SITTY Surfers out of the water,” began a joint statement.

“It addresses the scourge of overcrowded waves, which is an unfortunate side-effect of living in paradise, and it works in the following way.”

“Councils have installed fibre-to-the-shore superfast broadband at surf beaches for real time uploads, encouraging SITTY Surfers to pose anywhere on the shoreline, except between the red and yellow flags. In addition, cloud seeding will ensure endless blue-sky days, and the water will be treated with a bright blue dye like the ponds at fancy golf courses, to create the ultimate backdrop.”

“Trucks will start delivering sugar-white sand from Hyams Beach, and giant fans will be installed at surfing beaches to create wind-blown hair. They also offer the added bonus of providing permanent offshore winds.”

Keeping SITTY Surfers on the sand reduces the likelihood of surf rage and has been established to coincide with the reopening of Australia’s borders, which is sure to lure hordes of international surfers back to beaches such as Bondi.

Council also explained that a team of stylists, makeup artists and brand consultants will be on hand at every beach except Clovelly and Coogee to prettify the Bondi beauties and the smooth-chested Cariocas from the land of Samba. As a result, the only people left in the water will be crusty old men on longboards, bodysurfers, and those of us who long ago accepted that we are not Instaworthy.

SITTY Surfers can use the SITTY2Surf App to check who currently has the most followers and wins priority to the best patch of sand. The app will also carry a daily list of trending hashtags, as well as advice on who we must StandWith on any given day.

Via the app, councils will also have the power to remove followers from the accounts of any SITTY Surfer caught entering the water and actually surfing a wave.

“In this way, SITTY 2 Surf will be more effective than a threat from a Bra Boy, and will deter more surfers than a beach full of blue bottles.

First published in The Beast magazine, April 2022.