Australia’s brave fire, police, ambulance and emergency services volunteers and workers, along with Defence Force personnel and reservists and overseas personnel, will be eligible to receive a medal in recognition of their service and sacrifice during the current bushfire season.
The National Emergency Medal will be awarded to eligible emergency responders who have given sustained or significant service during the 2019-20 bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while his priority was to help people and communities rebuild and recover from the bushfire disaster, it was also important that recognition was given.
“Today as we reflect on what makes our country the best place in the world, we also honour those Australians who have battled this devastating fire season, many of whom will be on fire grounds today protecting our communities from danger,” the Prime Minister said.
“The response to the bushfire situation has been unprecedented with thousands of volunteer and paid responders working around the clock, day and night, week after week to protect property and save lives.
“Their courage has been extraordinary, and it’s a spirit which we must honour and celebrate this Australia Day and one which we will now formally recognise through the National Emergency Medal.
“We will continue to do whatever it takes to support fire affected communities right across Australia to help them rebuild, recover and become even stronger.”
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said while the detailed criteria for the National Emergency Medal will be determined in the coming months after consultation once the current crisis has passed, it is important that we acknowledge the extraordinary efforts and the sacrifice of our emergency services volunteers and personnel.
“It is fitting we honour our emergency service personnel and volunteers for their selflessness, bravery, courage and sacrifice - Australia thanks you for your service,” Mr Morton said.
The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), agreed to a recommendation from the Morrison Government that the 2019-20 bushfires be declared a nationally significant emergency for the purposes of the Medal.
The National Emergency Medal recognises service in response to a nationally‑significant emergency. Events must be declared by the Governor-General under the National Emergency Medal Regulations 2011, including specific criteria for the award.
At the conclusion of the ongoing response to the bushfires, the National Emergency Medal Committee will provide further advice, as required under the Regulations, to enable the formal declaration of the Medal for the 2019-20 bushfires including the specific criteria for eligibility.
The National Emergency Medal was established in 2011. More than 15,000 medals have been awarded to responders and volunteers to the 2009 Victoria bushfires that included Black Saturday and the Queensland floods that occurred over December to January 2010-2011, including Cyclone Yasi.
As Australians, we belong to an ancient land with a story that spans 60,000 years.
From the oldest continuing culture in the world, to our most modern chapter; all drawn on the sweat, struggle and courage of millions of ordinary citizens.
We are a people who prevail. Not through luck or chance or fortune, but by our efforts and our willingness to stand by each other. That’s why I’m so hopeful.
From the ancient to present day – we have attracted people from around the world to our shores to create our distinct and diverse culture.
Australia has had a difficult summer.
The horrific and unprecedented bushfires have claimed 33 lives – including nine brave firefighters – and destroyed over 2900 homes, with more than 10.4 million hectares burnt out.
It is an unprecedented environmental disaster, devastating ecosystems and wildlife, already suffering from prolonged drought, and exacerbated by our changing climate.
Such heartbreak defies words, and our love and thoughts are with every Australian impacted, especially those who have lost family and friends.
Yet in the worst of times, we can see the best in our country: the Australian volunteer spirit has shone this summer.
We’ve witnessed heroism, grace and generosity from Australians everywhere. A groundswell that this Australia Day calls us to reflect on our beautiful continent – and the unique way we look after each other when threats and challenges arise.
Our volunteering spirit recognises that being an Australian is about what you bring to the country.
We know that being Australian is about making a contribution, rather than taking one.
It’s about knowing that the rights and rewards of being an Australian are exceeded only by our individual responsibilities to our nation to make it even stronger.
So much of our nation’s character resides in the strength and vitality of thousands of local communities working together. A sum greater than its parts. In turn, these communities are dependent on the strength of the families and individuals who live alongside each other and support one another.
This unrelenting fire season, our volunteer fire services and emergency services volunteers have led the way. Their courage has been extraordinary, even as they grieved the loss of mates and colleagues.
On top of this, many have kept up the effort despite losing their own home or suffering property damage.
It’s a spirit which we must honour and celebrate this Australia Day.
Behind every volunteer there is a story of service and dedication.
One NSW volunteer firey Alex Newcombe was in the thick of it just 12 weeks after a kidney transplant. His donor was none other than his wife Kate – a fellow firefighter in the same brigade.
Our volunteers have been joined by the Australian Defence Force, with almost 6500 men and women assisting our fire efforts. For the first time in our history, the Government has enacted a compulsory call-out of the ADF Reserve Brigades with about 3,000 Reservists.
One of those called-out was Lieutenant Kynan Lang from the 10th/27th Battalion. On the day the call came through to be part of Operation Bushfire Assist, Kynan was at home, shattered because he had just been told he’d lost his uncle and cousin in the Kangaroo Island fires.
Lieutenant Lang didn’t blink when he got the call. He packed his kit and joined the deployment to Kangaroo Island.
It’s what Australians all over have done all summer long, rallying behind each other with courage, sacrifice, generosity and resilience.
Like the more than 150 truckies who formed a convoy to bring supplies and smiles to Buchan and Omeo in East Gippsland.
Among them were cattle farmers, diesel mechanics, tree loppers and beekeepers.
They were dubbed an “army of angels”.
Also on the road was a group of Muslim men from Auburn, who loaded their ute with 30kg of sausages and drove six hours to cook a barbecue for the devastated community of Willawarrin in northern NSW.
And the Sydney to Casino XPT train made a special unscheduled stop one day in Rappville to deliver five-gallon drums of lollies for children.
Communities have also welcomed those in need with open arms.
Cricket ovals, showgrounds and community halls across Australia have become evacuation centres. Churches and RSL clubs are offering shelter and meals. The CWA, Lions, Rotary, and Apex Clubs are all lending a hand.
At the Queanbeyan Showgrounds, scores of people from the Snowy Mountains and the south coast are being supported. Donations have rolled in: prams and phone chargers, toys, DVDs and home-cooked meals. Teenagers have turned up with hot pies after their Saturday holiday jobs and the local pound offered shelter for pet dogs.
Australians, wherever they are, are putting up their hand and donating generously: millions of dollars have been raised for charities including the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to provide food, fuel and cash.
Small businesses are pitching in too – using general stores as collection points, opening early to give victims clothes to wear, offering water or meals to fireys, and baristas donating their tips. We’ve seen many big businesses playing their part – Telstra, for example, paying the mobile phone bills of firefighters, and Qantas has been flying firefighters and equipment to fires for free. All the big businesses are contributing.
The children of this country are simply fantastic: running cake stalls, sending love and encouragement and shaking down their parents as well. One nine-year-old sent me her $10 holiday pocket money and asked if I could get it to the families who lost homes.
On a quiet street in Port Douglas, Queensland, two young boys set up a lemonade stand to raise money.
The local police intervened, but only insofar as to move them to a more “strategic” location – right next to a roadside breath-testing site.
After clearing their tests 50 drivers were served lemonade before the supply ran dry, with $380 raised. Our country’s kids are incredible, and it gives me such confidence about the future.
In Gippsland, the owners of an Indian restaurant have been cooking thousands of free meals of curry and rice for bushfire victims.
In Bega in NSW, a Sudanese refugee offered his own home to a family that was sheltering overnight in an underground car park to escape falling embers.
While back on Kangaroo Island, a pair of teenage cousins gathered frightened and injured koalas into their car, echoing efforts by wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity WIRES and others who have come to the aid of fauna across the country.
Meanwhile, our business leaders, sportspeople and entertainers are doing what they do best: Andrew and Nicola Forrest, Celeste Barber, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Chris Hemsworth, Kylie, Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios and The Wiggles among those who are fundraising or digging deep.
And as a Government we will do whatever it takes to support those communities and businesses hit by these fires. Right now we are providing immediate financial assistance to those that need it, while our $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund will help communities to recover and rebuild.
We will continue to support all Australians in their time of need, and whatever it takes means just that.
Everybody has been touched by what has happened – and we have witnessed 25 million acts of bravery, generosity and kindness. That’s what we celebrate today: the good-hearted people that make us Australia.
Our willingness to generously support each other is a reflection of the gritty practicality that has always been part of our national character.
And that is what our national volunteer spirit serves: our communities, and the families and individuals they comprise.
No country is perfect and none have a perfect history. But we have goodwill and generosity, and strive to help each other out.
This is the greatness of Australia, and the strength of Australia – the way we treat and take care of each other.
It is why, when tragedy strikes, we can look to the horizon and emerge a stronger nation.
In the midst of our country’s struggles this is the character that we celebrate and honour today.
Happy Australia Day!
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia.
With students returning to school next week, parents of children who have had contact with a confirmed case of novel Coronavirus are being urged to keep their children at home and monitor for symptoms.
NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant explained that any child who has been in contact with a person confirmed as having novel coronavirus must not attend school or childcare for 14 days after the last contact with the infected person.
“14 days represents the internationally recognised incubation period for the disease,” Dr Chant said.
“After this time the child is considered to be not be at risk of infection.”
Students who have travelled to Wuhan and Hubei during the school holidays can return to school but should be carefully monitored for symptoms of coronavirus infection.
“The most common symptom is a fever,” Dr Chant said.
“Other symptoms include, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.”
Anyone who exhibits these symptoms should be isolated immediately from other people and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to Hubei or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should immediately isolate yourself from other people. Contact your GP or your emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard explained that NSW Health has processes in place to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia.
“Advice about not attending school would be provided to these close contacts,” he said.
There are currently four confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in NSW. All cases had travelled to Wuhan, China or had contact with a confirmed case in China.
Parents with concerns can contact their local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice or visit the dedicated NSW Health information page at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
NSW Department of Education has issued guidance to all NSW Schools, which included information to guide school staff in the event of a child becoming sick.
The NSW Government has today requested that children who have visited China in the past two weeks not attend school or childcare services until 14 days have lapsed from their date of departure from China.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said although the risk to children is very low, the NSW Government has taken this step as a precautionary measure.
“I’ve been advised that it’s not medically necessary, but the NSW Government has acted in line with community expectations to ensure the safest possible environment for our students,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The internationally recognised incubation period for the coronavirus is 14 days, so this is the logical timeframe to ask students to refrain from attending school. After this time, there is no risk.
“Advice about not attending school has already been provided to any close contacts of confirmed cases.”
The Commonwealth Department of Health has confirmed that all passengers disembarking from planes from China are being given comprehensive information about coronavirus in both English and Mandarin.
NSW Health has been contacting passengers who were on the same planes as confirmed cases to provide appropriate advice and has processes in place to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia.
Ms Mitchell said the Department of Education has issued guidance to schools and childcare services across NSW on protocols in the event of a child becoming sick.
“Although the risk remains very low for children, we believe it is the right thing to do to take this extra step and will continue to update the community with advice,” Ms Mitchell said.
There are currently four confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in NSW. All cases had travelled to Wuhan, China or had contact with a confirmed case in China.
Parents with concerns can contact their local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice or visit the dedicated NSW Health information page at:
Anyone who develops a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to Hubei or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, should immediately isolate themselves from other people, contact their GP or local emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222.
KATE WASHINGTON MP
LABOR SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
NSW Labor has welcomed the successful passage of its Bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the Legislative Council this afternoon – in a shock defeat and humiliating rebuff for the Berejiklian Government.
Labor’s Bill passed 18 votes to 16 and must now come down to the Legislative Assembly in two weeks time.
Shadow Minister for Environment Kate Washington said she was overjoyed at the result.
“Under Gladys Berejiklian, NSW is the only state to not ban single use plastic bags,” Ms Washington said.
“The only people that are now standing in the way of a ban on single-use plastic bags in NSW are Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro.
“This is the third time this Bill has been introduced by Labor. We are hoping it will be a case of third time lucky.
“Labor will be campaigning around the clock with environmental groups across this state to make it happen.”
Ms Washington noted that a week ago Environment Minister Matt Kean told Question Time that he supported banning single use plastic bags.
“Some 50 million plastic bags end up in our oceans and waterways every year, so we have to ban the bag. But we also need to encourage people to reuse and recycle the bag.”
Environment Minister Matt Kean, Hansard 18 September 2019
“So far Matt Kean has been all talk – now we need to see action,” Ms Washington said.
“It’s clear Matt Kean knows this has to be done – his job now is to deliver the votes of Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro who have blocked progress at every turn.”
A legislative ban on single use plastic bags is supported by the National Retailers Association as well as NGOs such as the Boomerang Alliance.
Globally it is estimated that 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic ingestion or entanglement.
About 180 million bags enter the Australian environment every year, including 50 million plastic bags entering our waterways and oceans.
A new project in Northern Australia will focus on how Australia can better protect and rapidly respond to the growing global risk of emergent infectious diseases which can spread to humans through animals and insects.
Increased surveillance of wildlife, improved disease monitoring, and more extensive field-based sampling are some of the initiatives being targeted by the new project, which is a collaboration between James Cook University (JCU) and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
Northern Australia is at increased risk of infectious diseases found in South East Asia because of its close proximity to Asia, potentially providing a gateway to the rest of Australia.
RIGHT: A CSIRO scientist at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).
Australia’s susceptibility is also increased because of global mobility, growing trade, increased urbanisation leading to human encroachment into wildlife habitats, expanding agricultural development including the rise of peri-urban farming, as well as environmental and land use changes.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews welcomed the collaboration between two of Australia’s leading biosecurity research organisations to protect Australia from the growing threat of zoonotic diseases.
“This collaboration will create an integrated northern and southern research capability that will be pivotal in helping to strengthen Australia’s preparedness and response to emerging infectious diseases,” Minister Andrews said.
Dean of the College, Professor Maxine Whittaker, said it is estimated that 75 per cent of infectious diseases in humans originate in animals, and the frequency of such transmissions has been steadily increasing over time.
“The global annual incidence of zoonotic infectious disease outbreaks has increased by more than 300 per cent since the 1980s,” Professor Whittaker said.
“This worrying trend is now seen as a global and national health security risk, with recent global outbreaks include Ebola virus disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
LEFT: The Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger mosquito
Bringing together world-class capabilities from the north and south of Australia, the program will connect JCU’s College of Public Health, Medicinal and Veterinary Sciences in Townsville with two CSIRO facilities: the Australian Tropical Sciences and Innovation Precinct (ATSIP) in Townsville and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.
JCU and CSIRO will share knowledge and training opportunities to foster an agile team of experts able to respond rapidly to emerging infectious disease events in the future.
The CSIRO Board met in Townsville this week and welcomed the announcement. CSIRO Chair, David Thodey AO, said CSIRO’s wide-ranging expertise, broad geographical footprint, and commitment to collaboration can connect knowledge and research capability from Northern Australia to Victoria for the benefit of the whole country.
“We’re well-known in the Townsville community for our partnerships to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef, but the challenge to help safeguard Australia from biosecurity threats is equally important,” he said.
“We can’t solve this biosecurity challenge alone, that‘s why collaboration with our long-standing partner, James Cook University, is crucial in strengthening and integrating Australia’s national biosecurity response capabilities.
“Our Townsville team aren’t just experts in biosecurity and environmental science, they’re Townsville’s front door to the whole of the national science agency, from energy to space, manufacturing to agriculture, and many others – whatever challenges Australians are facing, we’re here to help them solve.”
MEDIA CALL: 10am, Friday 30 August, JCU
Media are invited to film and photograph laboratories and hear from Minister Karen Andrews and representatives from James Cook University and CSIRO at 10am on Friday 30 August 2019.
James Cook University, Townsville
Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) building (Building 48)
1 James Cook Drive, Douglas, QLD
First floor lab.
Map here. Please wear closed-in shoes.
Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
Australia has considerable emerging infectious diseases research capabilities at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) based in Geelong, one of the most sophisticated laboratories in the world for the safe handling, containment, diagnosis and research of animal and zoonotic diseases.
James Cook University
James Cook University has extensive experience in addressing the risk of infectious disease spread between animal and humans, and across the borders throughout tropical regions. Work includes vector control; disease monitoring, containment and prevention to protect animals and humans against potential zoonotic disease outbreaks; human behaviour; animal and human health services responsiveness to zoonotic infections; and modelling the influence of changes (environmental, people and animal movement, land use, antimicrobial treatment effectiveness and climatic) upon disease spread.
A mega tunnel boring machine has broken through a rock wall at North Sydney and entered the biggest underground cavern built so far on the Sydney Metro project.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance today welcomed mega borer Wendy at the new Victoria Cross Station 25 metres below ground.
“It was just over two months ago TBM Wendy broke through at Crows Nest and now she has already made it to the next stop in North Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“TBM Wendy has tunnelled 4.5 kilometres from Chatswood in eight months and only has another 1.7 kilometres to reach the edge of Sydney Harbour at Blues Point.
“This is incredible progress on the next stage of Sydney Metro which will take the North West Metro, under the harbour, through the CBD and on to Bankstown.”
Mr Constance said Sydney Metro is Australia’s biggest public transport project and will deliver turn-up-and-go Metro train services to 31 stations along a new 66 kilometre railway.
“Wendy is one of five boring machines busy excavating 15.5 kilometre twin railway tunnels to help deliver more metro rail services as quickly as possible,” Mr Constance said.
The huge cavern at Victoria Cross is 40 per cent bigger than both the cavern being built at Barangaroo and the cavern built 25 metres under Castle Hill on the new North West Metro.
TBM Wendy will spend about three weeks undergoing maintenance before being re-launched to complete the last 1.7 kilometre section of the 6.2 kilometre tunnel between Chatswood and the edge of Sydney Harbour.
Extreme climate events are exacerbating the impact of climate change in Australian marine ecosystems causing, in some cases, irreversible change underscoring the importance of adaptation and innovative solutions in the marine environment.
Researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have for the first-time collated published works by leading researchers of climate impacts around the whole of Australia’s coast to reveal that around 45 per cent of our coastal marine ecosystems have suffered from the impact of climate extremes.
The study was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Marine heatwaves, heavy rainfall from tropical storms, cyclones and droughts have all played a role in fundamentally changing our coral, kelp, mangrove and seagrass communities.
RIGHT: Some bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The length of coast impacted by extreme climate events in the last decade is more than 8000 km, almost four times the length of coastline impacted by the much better known Gulf of Mexico oil spill,” lead author of the study Dr Russ Babcock said.
“Corals, kelp, mangrove and seagrass ecosystems provide important habitat and food for thousands of biodiverse marine creatures, plus make vital contributions to the biotic productivity and resource economy of coastal habitats and nearby towns and cities.
“We’ve already seen major climate events rock these marine food webs and create changes that will take decades to fully recover from.
“Some of them are potentially irreversible.”
The CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere research team have studied events like the 2011 Western Australian marine heatwave, the 2016 and 2017 back-to-back coral bleaching events and major cyclones like Cyclone Yasi to paint a full picture of the accumulated impact of extreme climate events.
Ecosystem modelling approaches have also been used to reveal the likely scale of these impacts into the future.
They found that ongoing human-induced climate change, such as gradual increases of sea surface temperature, are exacerbated by extreme climate events which leave most marine organisms and habitats unable to acclimatise or adapt in rapidly changing habitats.
CSIRO Senior Researcher and paper co-author Dr Beth Fulton said that if extreme climate events occur more often and are more intense marine habitat recovery is unlikely to occur.
“Our modelling indicates that the average recovery time for major species groups is around 10 to 15 years. If climate shocks happen more often than this, then ecosystems may never fully recover,” Dr Fulton said.
Different types of extreme climate events can also happen concurrently or one after the other, creating additional pressures for marine ecosystems.
“In February 2011 Cyclone Yasi destroyed swathes of seagrass meadows along the north Queensland coast. When the associated flooding reached the sea the turbid and nutrient rich waters blocked sunlight preventing growth of any remaining seagrasses,” Dr Babcock said.
Dr Babcock and colleagues have been working across Australia’s marine ecosystems to understand climate impacts and strategies for effective adaptation.
“Adaptation responses will be required at species and ecosystem scales,” he said.
“Our research, for example in developing new methods for restoring coral reefs, may be one way to help maintain ecosystems.
“We have developed industrial scale methods to harvest coral spawn, grow it out in at-sea aquaculture systems and redistribute across damaged reefs.
“This is one example of a flexible and adaptable strategy that can be used to help reefs recover in the short term.
“But in the long-term adaptation efforts will need to be coupled with efforts to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases that drive climate change.”
Climate impacts on four major marine ecosystems
Coral habitats are home to more than 83,000 animal and plant species, and are susceptible to diminishing water quality, overfishing, construction, warming oceans and ocean acidification.
Between 2011 and 2017 coral reefs along thousands of kilometers of Australia’s west and east coasts were affected by four separate coral bleaching events. Mortality of corals in WA was as high as 90 per cent in some places while in the north of the GBR average coral cover declined by around 50 per cent.
Kelp forests are important marine habitats and sources of food, kelps are threatened by overfishing, eutrophication and climate change.
During the 2011 Western Australian marine heatwave several species of kelp became locally extinct depriving important fishery species of habitat, they are unlikely to recover in the foreseeable future
Seagrasses stabilise sediments, store carbon, feed turtles and dugongs and provide habitat for fish, invertebrates and birds, many of which are economically important.
Following the 2011 Queensland floods and seagrass loss there was a marked rise in the number of turtle and dugongs found stranded which has been linked to the decline in food availability.
Mangrove ecosystems support fish and fisheries in northern Australia through providing shelter and a stable substrate for plants and animals, as well as protecting low-lying coastlines.
During summer 2015-16 over 1000km of mangrove forest died around the Gulf of Carpentaria, home to one of Australia’s most valuable fisheries, leaving this otherwise pristine ecosystem severely damaged.