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Gungahlin records a warm, dry April.

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Gungahlin''s unofficial weather Guru - Darren Giles
The WORD on the Weather .
by Darren Giles
Gungahlin Weather Centre
www.gungahlin.net

Gungahlin records a warm, dry April.

Weather conditions across Gungahlin during April were generally warm, partly cloudy and dry.

Nights were cool, with an average minimum of 8.3 degrees; well up on the average of 5.2 degrees recorded during April 2006. The warmest night for the month occurred on April 4, when the temperature was a mild 12.5 degrees, while on April 26, it dropped to a colder 4.3 degrees.

Days were generally warm and partly cloudy, with an average maximum of 21.7 degrees; up on the 18.3 degrees recorded last April. The highest temperature for the month was a warm 25.8 degrees, on April 3, while on April 27 cloudy skies and drizzle combined to keep Gungahlin’s maximum temperature to just 15.9 degrees.

Winds at the Weather Centre averaged at just 1.9 km/h during April, with the strongest gust for the month 38.6 km/h from the NW, recorded on April 29.

After some promising signs towards the end of March, Gungahlin recorded just 29.7mm of rain during April, over 6 days. The majority of this total falling in the final days of the month. In fact, no rain fell in Gungahlin for the first 21 days of April. Proving just how dry it has been over the past few years, the 29.7mm recorded made it the wettest April in Gungahlin since 2000.
Falls in other parts of Canberra were similar, with 27.6mm recorded at Canberra AP, 34.0mm at Tuggeranong and 38.2mm at nearby Tidbinbilla. Gungahlin’s total rainfall so far in 2007 stands at 113.3mm, down slightly on the 129.6mm that fell over the same period last year.

Around Canberra – April 2007

Gungahlin: ave min: 8.3; ave max: 21.7; low temp:4.3; high temp: 25.8; rain: 29.7mm.

Canberra AP: ave min: 7.8; ave max: 22.1; low temp: 3.6; high temp: 26.5; rain:27.6mm.

Tuggeranong: ave min: 7.6; ave max: 22.0; low temp: 2.9; high temp: 27.4; rain: 34.0mm.

Tidbinbilla: ave min: 7.0; ave max: 21.1; low temp: 4.5; high temp: 26.5; rain: 38.2mm.

Canberra’s May outlook: Current indications are for warmer than normal conditions to continue well into May. Daytime temperatures should average at around 17 degrees, and nights at 4 degrees. There are promising signs on the rainfall front, with Canberra set to receive at least 50mm of rain during May.

Darren Giles
Gungahlin Weather Centre
www.gungahlin.net

Fair Trade in Canberra

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If you want to understand Fairtrade, now is your chance. You can find out what all the fuss is about in Fairtrade fortnight from 28 April to 13 May. From the consumer’s perspective fair trade is about how you choose to spend your money; it’s your opportunity to help growers and producers who find it hard to participate in large global markets. From the producer’s point of view, fair trade helps achieve a sustainable livelihood and can help alleviate poverty.

Fairtraders can now be recognized by the Fairtrade logo that marks their products. Oxfam Shop is one of Canberra’s leading suppliers of certified Fairtrade products, but Oxfam Shop has sold fairly traded products for over 20 years continuing its committment to economically marginalized producers and crafts people across the world. The Fairtrade certfication label is independent verification that a product has been produced and traded in accordance with Fairtrade standards and Oxfam Shop in Canberra sells a broad range of commodities including coffee, tea and chocolate, rice and quinoa as well as soccer and rugby balls that all carry this label.  Countries represented include Peru, Thailand, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka Colombia, New Guinea and East Timor. Oxfam shop however also works with communities of crafts people who are part of a network of producers called the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT). Oxfam is a member of this organization which is committed to: fair trade, transparency in business practices, ethical workplaces, EEO, concern for people and their environments and education about and advocay of fair trade. Craftspeople marketed by IFAT and Oxfam come from a broad range of countries and include, Indonesia, Peru, Gahna, Bolivia, Inda, Nepal and Madagascar. One of the most successful relationships for Oxfam Shop in Canberra is with Batsiranai Craft Project in Zimbabwe. Many Canberra customers have bought a “Twin Doll” from Zimbabwe.  These twins are handcrafted cloth dolls retailing for $29.95. This investment has a double fair trade benefit. The purchase of one doll here provides meaningful employment and training to women economically marginalized in Zimbabwe. In addition to this however, another doll is made and given to a handicapped child in that community. This project is a great example of alternative and fair trade at work. It is also a great reminder of the social and emotional benefits of doing business in a way that puts people first. Oxfam shops in Canberra are located at 112 Alinga St, Civic (Sydney Building) and Level 3 Westfield Belconnen.

The Four Life Stages of a Family Business

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THE FOUR LIFE STAGES OF A FAMILY BUSINESS

STRATEGIES TO SURVIVE AND ARRIVE AT EACH STAGE

Australia’s premier organisation for family businesses, Family Business Australia (FBA) says it is essential for family businesses to understand where they are at in the life cycle of their business, so that they are able to put the appropriate strategies into place for its future sustainability.

ACT Chairman of FBA and owner of Urban Contractors, Mick Burgess, says a family business generally experiences a progression of four different life stages, or growth cycles, as it passes through the generations. These life stages may occur smoothly as the business progresses from one generation to the next, however, the life cycles may also be repeated if adequate attention is not given by family members of any generation to planning.

The typical four life stages of a family business include:

1. Survival
o this is the initial stage of any family enterprise and is characterised by the struggle for financial stability
o the business is typically owned and operated by a single person or a couple
o the business represents the majority of the owners net worth

2. Stable
o characterises an enterprise that is still owned and managed by one person or a couple
o has a stable product and customer base
o has been profitable for a number of years
o the owner has begun to build net worth outside the business but its principal bank guarantor is still the owner

3. Professional
o an enterprise in this phase has taken a fundamental step in a new direction
o ownership is spread among siblings or relatives who, although all involved in the business, understand the distinction between their ownership and their management responsibilities
o fairly dramatic growth is led by a blend of family and non-family managers
o wages are still the main revenue source for family participants
o they are no longer the principal bank guarantors for the business.

4. Institutional
o the business is still privately held but now has a mix of family and non-family shareholders
o family members may or may not be involved in management as their talents and interests dictate
o a board of directors will almost certainly contain family members, however t will also have management and independent representatives
o dividend income is the principal revenue for family members but they also have significant net worth exclusive of their family business stock interests
o preserving the businesses capital structure and avoiding tax dilution during future generational shifts in ownership are now the focus of the family shareholders

For further information on planning the life stages of a family business and FBA go to www.fambiz.com.au

Where to from here?

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Canberra Business Council
By Dr Neil Primrose

Canberra has done very well from the information and communications technology (ICT).

Driven by the Australian Government strategy in the late 1980s of improving efficiency by putting a computer on every desk, and then boosted by its outsourcing of all ICT services, the Canberra high technology economy was born and has boomed. New firms came to town. Redundant public servants found local competition tougher than they expected and were forced to turn to markets outside Canberra for their services.

Canberra’s export of high technology and services was launched, riding on the back of demand from defence and the security sector

The effective partnership between the ACT Government and the ICT industry, along with the ANU, at NICTA and the City West precinct is an example of what can be done when interested parties work together.

But ICT is now a maturing technology.

Where do we go from here to sustain the continuing growth that we need to afford to maintain our city and our lifestyles?

Complaisancy is not an option. Comfortable as it might be to rely on the present mix of jobs, we will lose people and an opportunity to other centres in Australia and overseas if we rely on our past successes to sustain us into the future.

Numerous enquiries and conferences have dealt with innovation and creative cultures. Kate Oakley’s visit last year put the issue squarely on the public policy agenda. But progress hasn’t been sparkling. Everyone seems to be waiting for someone to do something.

Identifying the future drivers of our economy is primarily a task for the business community.

In the past, we/ve waited for governments to do that for us.

However, it’s business investors that have the most at stake in assessing where new markets will develop. It’s business that are best at assessing the investment risks. It’s business leaders that make sure their investment pays off.

Governments and community groups have a role to play, as partners. Theirs is the task of ensuring that the right conditions exist for business to thrive and for the wider community to benefit from that.

In an economy where government is still the biggest business in town, the buying behaviour of both the Australian and ACT Governments has a significant effect on the competitiveness of business in competition with other regional centres and the metropolitan capitals. We need their co-operation.

In particular, we need a business-aware ACT Government. That’s not to dream of WA Inc. That would be bad for everyone, including the business community. We need political leaders and public servants who understand how business operates, how crucial it is to the lifestyles of everyone in Canberra and who are committed to provide a legislative, regulatory and policy conditions that supports private sector growth.

The Canberra Business Council, with its kindred organisations, is leading the work to identify what next wave of innovation might be that will fit with Canberra’s unique characteristics and situation.

Executive Director bowing out

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Canberra Business Council
After more than five years in the job, Canberra Business Council executive director, John Miller is leaving to take up a new post as the executive director of the Master Builders Association of the ACT.

In making the announcement, the Council’s chairman, Mr. Craig Sloan said, “The Canberra Business Council has been extremely fortunate to have had the benefit of John’s energy and commitment over the past five plus years. He has made an outstanding contribution to the Council, its members and the business community at large during this time. Whilst we are losing John’s services his new role means that there will be a continuing relationship with the Council and his experience will not be totally lost.”

“The Council is undertaking some significant changes and John’s departure will provide an opportunity for a new person to arrive at a time when they can have an early influence on the shape, future direction and activities of the Council as a result of the changes. It will also mean that the new executive director will enter the role with the Council in a strong position in its relationships with key stakeholders,” said Mr. Sloan

The Council’s major work over the past couple of years has been around their Action Agenda Report: Eyes on the Future, including promoting Canberra as an international city, meeting the challenges of skills shortages through the establishment of the ACT Skills Commission and the push for new convention centre facilities for the National Capital.

Outgoing executive director, John Miller said, “Obviously I am looking forward to my new role at the MBA and all the challenges that go with that. Equally, I depart with a heavy heart believing the Council to be entering an exciting new stage in pursuing necessary and important objectives in having Australia and the world recognizing Canberra as an international city and, including the region, recognizing this area as an economic growth centre.”

“Despite lots of challenges we continue to see Canberra and the region grow but it can be better and it should be made a whole lot easier for the benefit of the entire community. If we want to prosper as a community it means that business needs to be able to perform. To do that they need to understand what the vision is for the future, have confidence in terms of the planning and regulatory environment, and be able to access people. In my time at the Council the “Live in Canberra” campaign has been a highlight of how government and business can work together with common objectives in mind.

“I have been very fortunate over the past five years to have met and worked with so many good people from the private sector as well as the public sector and those within the political world. I look forward to that continued contact and developing those relationships to see a stronger Canberra and region,” concluded Mr. Miller.

Rhyme Time

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Choons for Charity
With 9 hours of music, 2 stages and 24 acts, Rhyme Intervention is back in 2007, bigger and better then ever.
The ANU Bar will play host on Saturday 19 May to the hip hop charity gig, which hopes to better the $3600 raised last year for The Cancer Council ACT.
It’s shaping up to be a huge event, with festivities starting at 3pm, and carrying on until 12am. For those keen to kick on, the official after party will be held at Transit Bar.
Revelers should head to the beer garden stage to see the freestylers in action, and to take in the graffiti demonstrations, which will happen throughout the afternoon. The demonstrations are fully supported by the ACT Parks and Places Government Department, who have been working with local graffiti artists and the Police and Community Centres to promote legal walls for these artists to express themselves. Rhyme Intervention is a great opportunity to promote these schemes, and to showcase some local talent.
The inside stage will provide space for the 20 odd crews who will be performing throughout the event. The artists are all highly supportive of the cause, and are performing for free, with most also paying for their own travel and accommodation. It’s a great opportunity to experience what Australian hip hop is all about.
All proceeds will go to The Cancer Council ACT, helping them to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in the ACT region.
Tickets are $25, and available at the door (over 18’s only) or at http://nurcharecords.com/tickets.htm
For more information go to www.myspace.com/rhymeintervention07

Heart and Soul of entertainment in Canberra

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Canberra''s Heart and Soul!
A review of Casino Canberra.
By Peter Cursley

Casino Canberra, long recognised as one of the better destinations to take visitors or friends for a special night out, has re-vamped its entertainment, dining and gaming services to offer something for everyone. Better yet, it’s amazingly good value.

To start with, live music is back, and big time. Experience the best live musicians Canberra has to offer, who have been handpicked by Ian McLean, the Director of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. You’ll hear world class jazz, sultry Latin, or sizzling swing, all free of charge.

The live entertainment is staged just next to the Main Bar, with a superb range of beers, wines, cocktails and spirits on hand, plus the restaurant nearby. It’s a great place to relax and unwind with sensational live sounds. Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 11pm.

Next there’s The Party Pit, located near the Live Music at the Main Bar. A great place to get into casino gaming, it offers some great new games (like Three Card Poker) as well as casino classics, like Blackjack. It’s designed as a fun, welcoming place with no pressure and lots of friendly staff. And for all us social players, games like Roulette start at just $1 a bet. How good is that? That’s not too far from a decent gaming machine bet, it’s a lot more social and the odds of winning are better too.

Of course, you’ll want a good value meal if you’re heading in for a night on the town, and the new approach by Casino Canberra caters for that as well.

ACES Buffet in The Grill Brasserie offers tremendous value and a wide range of delicious options ever Friday and Saturday evenings. Just twenty seven dollars fifty (or twenty five dollars for Casino Club members) ACES Buffet really has to be on your list of favourites. You can select from a range of great entrees, move into mouthwatering mains, and there’s a dessert layout to die for. Bookings are recommended as this buffet has become extremely popular.

Lastly, for all of us who have been watching the Poker Tournaments on TV, there’s a place to try your hand at the game for real.

Casino Canberra has opened a new, expanded poker lounge featuring more tables and more chances to play. To play Texas Hold ’em, as seen on TV, a great way to start is by entering one of our regular tournaments. Full details at the Poker Pit or at www.casinocanberra.com.au

So that’s the new approach fro Casino Canberra; it’s warm, welcoming, great fun and one of the best value nights out in town. It’s no longer a place just for serious gamers, but a place where everyone is welcome and catered for. Put it on your list as a must visit and you won’t be disappointed.

Canberra Jazz Pizzazz?

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Photo by Eric Pozza
In the dusky light of candles and fake chandeliers the ensemble of ANU Jazz school lecturers and local musicians tentatively arrange their instruments amongst conversation and tinkling of cocktails. Occasionally they speak into each others ears whispering in-jokes and encouragements-a little ritual it seemed.

It’s jazz night at the Hippo Bar, a corridor shaped venue where patrons hugged the corner of the noir-esque setting. As the septet began playing energetic grooves, the audience chatted and continued to talk throughout the performance. The quiet appreciation displayed by some frontbenchers wasn’t adopted by the rest. Soon Miroslav Bukovsky, School of Music lecturer, trumpeter and leader for the evening, muttered into the mic “all the people here who are talking, can you just piss-off”, but no one seemed to care.

Canberra it seemed was a cultural loop-hope in appreciation of jazz. As metal-heads mosh, ravers dance and popster’s sang-along, casual jazz goers are left simply to, well, talk. This attitude raises an important question within the community: what was proper modern jazz etiquette?

It was an issue 23-year old Niels Rosendahl, saxophonist and ex-School of Music student, thought was important to audiences. “If we were playing in Melbourne it [would be] better,” he said. “The band will be introduced, we’ll all get up and there’s a talking area out the back. Here there are people who want to listen, but they’re overcrowded by the general public who just want to drink cocktails and sit and talk.”

To jazz hipsters it may be sophisticated back-ground music to a cosy atmosphere, but for young players like Rosendahl, jazz is their life. Although for some experienced musicians a talking crowd is part of the job sometimes.

“People do tend to talk a bit,” says Mike Price head of the Jazz area at ANU, who has been teaching guitar in the faculty since 1990. “But at the same time I’ve seen people play up there who are really high level, and people don’t talk that much.” Price has played with his trio-the Mike Price Trio-at the Kurrajong hotel every Friday for the past 10 years, aware of his keen fans. “There’s a committed bunch of people who come each week, who just sit down and listen to it, week in week out.

It’s debatable whether Canberra jazz falls solely upon the School of Music and the few dedicated venues, such as the Hippo Bar, or its listeners for its mild success. Musicians find it near impossible to rely on performing for financial support, which drives them to other avenues for income, like corporate functions and restaurants. Inevitably it restricts creativity that is seen in committed venues.

“Almost every ‘performance’ gig that I’ve played in Canberra results in the venue staff asking to turn down the volume when people can’t talk over it,” said Rosendahl. “You really want to do it for the love of it, but that passion is sometimes hard to keep ignited when you’ve got a really disrespectful audience.”

It’s difficult to answer if this is inheritably a Canberra trait, as jazz nationally has been through some tough times. In 1998 the strategic Jazz development plan boasted to increase recognition of jazz nationally, and make it “increasingly possible for Australian jazz musicians to build financially viable careers in jazz.” It failed following its release, subsequently crippling Australian jazz.

Dr Richard Letts, Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia, points out his theory as to why it failed. “I can only speculate about why the plan was not adopted. Reasons might include an unwillingness to accept ideas that come from outside a state, and the antagonisms between states at the time. My personal impression was that there was some lack of openness to the possibilities.”

Never the less grass roots associations like SIMA (Sydney Improvised Music Association) and Jazzgroove that were born from the aftermath provided musicians the support they needed. Ex-ANU students flocked to Sydney or Melbourne to take full advantage of the organisations that helped in getting gigs and release CD’s.

As Graduates of the Music School rarely stay in Canberra and usually go aborad or move to greener pastures, committed scholars of Jazz and enthusiastic Canberra based students (like Niels) help establish a rapport in Canberra jazz.*

“It’s getting better. It’s not the best environment, but it’s got potential,” says Rosendahl.

Price hopes that eventually jazz will be seen like European classical music- a respected art form- to shake off old views held 30 years ago and stabilise the serious nature of the music. “We want to see jazz music seen as the art music that it is. We’re keen to see our art form being taken that seriously, because it should be. It’s that good.”

And still has no problem with chatty listeners? “In terms of the audience in Canberra, I really think they’re great, yeah, they’re great. Sometimes they talk a bit-no problem.”

* (Niels Rosendahl now lives in the UK)

Photo taken by Eric Pozza (www.canberrajazz.net)

Darklands by Heidi Yardley

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Great Escape 2007, mixed media on paper, 28 x 28 cm
Darklands by Heidi Yardley

Moments in time exploring the sharp contrasts between Australia’s harsh landscape and the ‘sensibilities’ of English culture is the intriguing theme woven into the drawings and paintings in Darklands, an exhibition opening on 4 May.

Darklands is artist Heidi Yardley’s first solo exhibition at Stephanie Burns Fine Art. Exploring what it means to grow up in Australia with English heritage, the exhibition does not aim for literal interpretation but rather a series of fragments and associations frozen in time.

Darklands illustrates how humans are trapped in the confinement of their own making. Bush fires, native animals, the desert, and Aboriginal culture exist in parallel outside of the Western suburban bubble, with its houses and swimming pools. The British sense of decoration-overly ornate furniture and interiors that look like a Queen’s palace-are somehow out of place in Australian surrounds but safe when compared to the rough terrain of the outback. Australian icons can have dark undertones-the dingo reminds us of the Chamberlain case, the kangaroo looks more like an icon than a live marsupial, and an ominous rock formation reminds us of the school girls who mysteriously disappeared in ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. The images, which deliberately reference the 1960’s and 70’s, enhance a feeling of the retrograde and look like precious photographs that jar our memories.

Drawn using a technique of building layers of pastel and charcoal on primed paper, the images start with erasure, working into the dark ground. The effect enhances the sensation of memory and loss, as if the drawings were disappearing before they ever began. The lines from the Edgar Allen Poe poem, as quoted by Joan Lindsay in ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, apply to
Darklands: “All that we see and all that we seem.Is but a dream.A dream within a dream”

This is Heidi’s first solo exhibition with Stephanie Burns Fine Art. The artist lives in Melbourne and was born in 1975. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting at Monash University (1995) and Honours in Drawing at RMIT (1999). Heidi has taught at The Melbourne School of Art and Swinburne University. She has three times been a finalist in the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship and has held many solo exhibitions since 1998 and participated in a large number of group exhibitions since 1996. Heidi’s wok is held in numerous collections, including the BHP Billiton Collection, Methodist Ladies College Collection and the Australia Felix Foundation. It is also found in private collections in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Chile, and London.

Exhibition-Darklands by Heidi Yardley

1 May to 26 May 2007

Gallery details

Address: Stephanie Burns Fine Art, Shop 2, 25 Bentham Street, Yarralumla Shops (through the Post Office or via the back lane)
Hours: Tues-Sat 11am-5pm
Info: Directors Stephanie Burns and Stephen Hooper (02) 6285 2909
info@stephanieburns.com.au
Web: www.stephanieburns.com.au

Panta Rei Fusiondancing

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Panta Rei
Panta Rei recently moved to Canberra, to start a series of Panta Rei Fusiondancing classes at Gorman House, Braddon.

Panta Rei is a phrase that sums up the philosophy of Heraclitus, who lived around 500 BC in ancient Greece. It means “everything flows”, indicating that everything is constantly changing. Applied to dancing, it means that there are no fixed steps, but that movements smoothly flow into each other, as the dancer is inspired by the music. For more on Heraclitus, see:
http://optionality.net/heraclitus

Panta Rei, the dancer, set out to design choreographies along this philosophy, as well as costumes that emphasise flow, such as veils and wide skirts with lots of flamboyant colours. Panta Rei has been a teacher for most of her working life, teaching many different subjects at many different schools, but her real passion has always been with dance. She studied classical, modern and ethnic dance with various dance specialists in Europe, the US, New Zealand and Australia. Eventually, she combined the various styles into a whole new type of dance, fusing elements of African, Spanish-Gypsy, Asian and Middle Eastern styles and merging them with more modern dance, resulting in spectacular choreographies, costumes and rhythms.

Having built up her dance-school in Brisbane over several years, Panta Rei now brings her dance background and experience to the Canberra community.

No dance experience is needed to join. Panta Rei fusiondancing offers a great way to get fit and stay in shape in a friendly and supportive environment, to dance without pressure and to make new contacts. Nobody is judged and there are no mistakes, only “little variations” that help towards each dancer’s self-development. You can wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing; perhaps you can tie a scarf around your hips, but definitely bring a smile along.

A series of new classes starts at Gorman House, cnr Batman St & Currong St (B block), Braddon, on Fridays from 18th of May. Classes cost $15 each.

The 6:15 pm class, Dancing to Worldmusic, is very relaxing and sociable without pressure to memorise steps.

The 7:30 pm class, Choreographies, works more towards learning choreographies.

For more details, see:
http://pantarei.org

Contact Panta Rei at:
fusiondancing@gmail.com
Phone: 0405 638910
PO Box 855 Civic Square ACT 2508

Local science student goes global

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Jessica Saunders at the National Youth Science Forum
By Jessica Saunders
My thirst for knowledge and passion for science recently got me selected for an international science forum in South Africa for a month in June. A year 12 Canberra Girls’ Grammar student, I was selected from 300 attendees at the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in January to be one of six youth representives at the National Youth Science Week in Pretoria, South Africa.

With five peers, we will trek the Kimberley region before flying to South Africa for the three week study tour. In the Kimberley’s we will gain an understanding of our own country, before journeying to South Africa, a vastly different country and culture.

At the South African science week, I will learn about science through lab visits, guest presenters and forums. I look forward to discovering science on a global level, discussing the issues that are pertinent to youth around the globe and those I will I hope to bring back a taste of South Africa’s science and culture to my community, that they too might benefit from the experience.

We will also have an opportunity to travel and see the sights of South Africa, on our own initiative. This is seen to be important in the eyes of the NYSF, as it encourages students to develop themselves personally. “All of the best scientists I have known are those who are well-traveled and culturally informed,” says NYSF Director, Geoff Burchfield.

Before heading off in late June, I must first raise $8,000. My family and I greatly appreciate the sponsorship and donations from local businesses and Rotary Clubs to date. I am inspired and excited.

For more information on me and possible fundraising assistance please visit www.nysfjess.com or email me at 2377@cggs.act.edu.au or the National Youth Science Forum Office at nysf@nysf.edu.au

Thanks in advance.

Canberra's inconvenient Truth – a consumers concerns

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Canberra drying up
Canberra’s inconvenient truth is the revelation from ACTEW that inflows into our storage dams have dropped by over 90 per cent and the Federal Minister for Water, Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion that a 20 percent reduction in rainfall could reduce river in-flows by up to 65 percent.

With stage four water restrictions just around the corner, the water2water debate so far seems disinterested in discussing the inconvenient truth of water loss due to climate change and bushfire regeneration.

In 2003 the ACT Government warned that as a result of the Firestorm, the Cotter catchment could be reduced by between 25 and 50 percent. The ACT Government also said in the same year that Canberra had more water then it did under the previous Water Resources Management Plan.

Three years on, we now have less water and within the next three to five years the combined impacts of climate change and catchment regeneration will commence their spiralling impact of reducing Canberra’s potable water resource.

The Ngunawal Native Title Claimant Group recognised this approaching water crisis and developed a water conservation plan to cut Canberra’s domestic water consumption by replacing tap washers with pressure reduction tap valves (saving 24 percent), converting ALL single flush toilet cystine’s to dual flush (saving up to 7 percent) and installing water efficient showerheads (saving around 8 percent). The plan also seeks to introduce ‘time zone’ water pricing to better target demand management by discouraging the use of water during times of high evaporation.

Sadly, enlarging the Cotter Dam and filling it with treated sewage effluent simply does not make sense because the Cotter Catchment of 146 billion litres is set to loose up to 65 percent of its water resource. The addition of between 9 or 11 billion litres of treated sewage effluent may only a drop in the bucket when compared to the expected resource loss of around 95 billion litres some time in the not to distant future.

Canberra’s other inconvenient truth is that with a growing population, water consumption could still be around 65 billion litres which when combined with environmental allocations of 45 billion litres and an infrastructure loss of around 32 billion litres, means that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that Canberra is facing a severe water supply crisis.

The spending of $350 Million Dollars to store and harvest an additional 9 or 11 billion litres of treated sewage effluent with an annual cost of around $11 million, simply does not make sense when compared to the Tennent Dam option that accesses an additional 96 billion litres of natural water with cheaper pumping costs then the enlarged Cotter Dam.

To register your support for the Ngunawal water conservation plan, a plan that can save more water then level five water restrictions, simply e-mail ngunawal@ballallaba.org.au and say YES PLEASE, making sure to leave your contact details.

Terry Kiernan
Water advisor to the
Ngunawal Native Title Claimant Group

The Smart Capital in the Clever Country? Maybe not.

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“Hey, g’day! How y’goin?” A familiar greeting. But this was not in Australia. This was off season in a quieter part of southern China, a couple of years ago. While getting a buzz from the unexpected reminder of home, we were only a little surprised. Anyone travelling around Asia over the last 20 years will have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of young Australian backpackers making their way around, very often to remote regions. The 3 week adventure bus tour of yesteryear has been superseded by a few months, or longer, of roaming, working, lazing, and more roaming, usually with friends.

No longer just silent observers of the exotic, these travellers happily share the privations of the developing world, and relish the close contact with the locals. China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand seem to be the hot spots for young Aussies, some becoming semi-permanent residents, joining or starting a business there. Many are checking-out the world before starting their university studies or while taking a break from them. This is a smart, curious and adventurous group.

Now, a question. How many of these young people in, say, China, are fluent, or near fluent, in Mandarin? I don’t know either, but our observations suggest very few. Although they’re having the time of their lives, imagine how richer the experience would be if they could chat easily with the locals. How many educational, cultural, business and career experiences do they unknowingly pass in their travels because they cannot speak the local language?

Sure, some have studied an Asian language for a year or two at university, which, though useful, normally gives them little more than the ability to engage in small talk. Compare that with German or Swedish tourists here, virtually all of whom can speak fluently in English on any topic you care to raise. Ok, English is an international language, but this has made it too easy to ignore the changing nature of the world. China is now a major economic power and a cauldron of opportunities for young people with the mix of essential skills to seize them; one of which must be the language.

We noted with mixed feelings the announcement by the Prime Minister during his visit to Vietnam in November 2006 that Chinese is now the most widely spoken foreign language in Australia, “An illustration,” he said, “of Australia’s natural, comfortable and permanent part of the Asian region”. Alas, this has little to do with our education system. Most of the speakers of Mandarin and Cantonese in Australia bring these languages with them as immigrants and visitors, and have little support in the formal school system to encourage their children to maintain and develop these valuable linguistic skills – or become literate in Chinese.

How is the education system in the ACT responding to the growing importance of Asia, particularly China? Its report card does not look too good. The number of students studying Mandarin in government schools has fallen from over 1,000 in 2001 to 550 in 2006. And many of the current students are in fact native speakers studying here as international students!

The reduction in Mandarin programs at school level in the ACT has probably been influenced by the abolition of the Federal Government’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) program in 2002/3. But it is also symptomatic of the generally low status of languages other than English in schools. A telling example of this is the absence of any reference to learning to communicate in another language in initial versions of the ACT Department of Education’s new curriculum framework currently being trialled. One wonders how this is possible given that languages are supposed to be one of eight key learning areas in Australian education.

All Ministers of Education declared their commitment to promoting languages in a national statement issued in 2005. This statement made clear the immense importance of learning another language – from contributing to general intellectual and educational development and helping promote social cohesiveness to enhancing employment and career prospects; not to mention the advantages of language skills for the country – strategically, economically and internationally. Also, research clearly shows that learning another language can help students improve their literacy skills in English!

Why is the ACT, a diverse, widely travelled, well-educated and affluent community, not leading the way in Australia? It is time to take positive steps to overcome the problems that have beset language programs in the past – lack of quality teachers and programs, little continuity within schools or between primary and secondary programs, and little integration with other areas of the curriculum or with the resources out there in our community in the embassies and homes of the 13% of ACT residents who speak a language other than English with their families.

What is needed is a long term and comprehensive plan that will build on the Territory’s strengths and equip the young people of the ACT with the languages skills they will need in the social and business world of tomorrow. English alone is no longer enough. Learning at least one other language should be an integral part of the education of all young people in the ACT.

We will need to decide which languages to focus on, but Asian languages, particularly Chinese, should be one priority. As the former head of the World Bank said in Australia recently “we must invest in an Asian future”.

The ACT used to lead Australia in many areas, including its education system. It can again show leadership by adopting a far-sighted language policy that will pay handsome dividends, not only to future generations of Canberrans, but to all Australians.

Len Waugh
Vice- President, Association for Learning Mandarin in Australia Inc (ALMA)- a non-profit community group – see http://alma.anu.edu.au for details

Getting into Alpacas

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Fiona and friends!
Fiona Vanderbeek
When I left England in 2001 I was in my early-40s, enjoying a career in London, living in a beautiful old house in glorious English countryside and driving a nice car. I also had an Australian husband, who yearned to return home; I took the plunge – we packed our lives into a forty foot container and moved to the Southern Highlands of NSW.

We spotted an advertisement for a seminar on alpacas; by the end of that weekend we were hooked! At this point I couldn’t tell straw from lucerne and had never owned an animal larger than a cat. We were extraordinarily fortunate to find ourselves in an area abounding in experienced alpaca breeders, who made us welcome and gave huge practical support as we selected our foundation animals and dealt with our first births.

Now we have joined with four of those studs (Alpacapena, Earthwise, Elysion and Pacofino) to form the Southern Highlands Alpaca Alliance, and will be holding our first “Alpaca Basics” day in June. Our aim is to help those contemplating entering the world of alpacas – be it as the owners of a couple of endearing lawnmowers on a few acres, or for those planning to enter a rapidly expanding rural industry on anything from 25 to 250 acres.

Six years after leaving England, I work full time running Birrong Suri Alpacas. It has not always been easy – we have lived with drought and been threatened by fire. My brain is kept fully functional as we work on the continuous genetic improvement of our herd, and my physical fitness far exceeds anything I ever achieved in a London gym. Would I swap my old clothes and dusty ute for an air-conditioned office and a shiny car – not for anything.

If you would like your Alpaca Questions answered through The Word, or would like to attend “Alpaca Basics” contact Fiona Vanderbeek on (02) 4878 9310 or email alpacas@birrong.biz