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More Indigenous doctors aim to close Australia’s health gap

Vinka Barunga was born in the Worrara tribe of the Mowanjum Aboriginal community in the remote town of Derby in Western Australia. As a child, she witnessed disease and suicide amongst her people, which made her resolve to one day become a doctor and help break this cycle of suffering. She is one of six, the largest cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students, to graduate in Medicine/Surgery from the University of Western Australia this year. Australia has fewer than 300 Aboriginal doctors, but things are gradually changing. Vinka is determined to be the first full time doctor in the town of her birth, situated around 2,400 kilometres north of the state capital Perth in the Kimberley region. It is the gateway to the state’s resource rich north, surrounded by mudflats on three sides, with two distinct seasons.

Australia's No to Prohibit-Nukes Resolution Triggers Debate

As the curtain falls on 2016, the year that marked the fifth anniversary of Fukushima and the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disasters, sending a sombre reminder of the devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences of these weapons of mass destruction, the resolve to free the world of nuclear weapons is stronger than ever before. The United Nations Resolution A/C.1/71/L.41, which calls for negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination”, was adopted at the 71st session of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on October 27, 2016 with 123 members, including nuclear North Korea, voting in favour of taking forward the multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, 38 voted against and 16 abstained. Australia, once a champion of nuclear disarmament, chose to oppose the Resolution even as the continent country’s nearest 26 neighbours in the Asia-Pacific voted in favour alongside African, Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Grass enzymes could raise rice, wheat output

Australian researchers see potential for increasing yields of staple crops like wheat and rice by transplanting into them enzymes taken from the common panic grass (Panicum spp.). Lead researcher Robert Sharwood from the Australian National University (ANU) says, “We are aiming to enhance the growth and yield of crops by transplanting more efficient forms of the rubisco enzyme into them. We found considerable variability in the efficiency of rubisco from different panic grasses that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to enable its conversion into carbohydrates under a wide range of temperatures.”

Protests in Australia Against Adani Coal Mining Project

The Adani Mining Pty Ltd is confident of commencing construction of the Carmichael mine by mid-2017, which will be Australia's largest coal mine, despite growing concerns and protests from environmental and indigenous groups that it will jeopardise the Great Barrier Reef and Aboriginal heritage. There were protests in Melbourne and Townsville, where Adani announced that he will set up the headquarters of the project. These groups are calling on the Australian government to invest in solar energy rather than coal, while the proponents for the mine say it will create jobs and boost the local economy. The Adani Group is also planning solar projects in Australia with a capacity of 1,500 MW within five years. The coal projects are yet to reach financial closure.

New HIV vaccine strategy targets body’s mucosal sites

A recombinant rhinovirus (common cold virus) used along with an injection of DNA-based vaccine can activate the immune system against transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) via mucosal sites, say researchers in Australia. Results from a mouse model trial may help develop effective mucosal HIV-1 vaccines in the future. Unlike previous vaccine trials, the new approach offers protection at mucosal sites — vaginal or rectal — that are most likely to encounter the virus first.

Want to smash the pay gap? Here’s why it requires collaboration

Elizabeth (Libby) Lyons has been director of the WGEA for just over a year now, so it’s a good time to take stock, particularly given the recent figures showing the gender pay gap hasn’t altered much and is currently at 16.2 per cent. But Lyons is a pragmatist. “The pay gap has hovered between 15 and 19 per cent for the past two decades. We need to be realistic; it’s not going to change overnight. My focus is on working with employers to create a sustainable momentum for change,” she says.

From Kannada rock to Sufi gospel: India puts its soft power on show in Australia

Cultural diplomacy is putting a positive spin to the India-Australia bilateral relationship and also enriching the Australian economy. The first ever Confluence Festival of India in Australia, touted as one of the largest ever foreign cultural festivals to be organised in the continent country, rolled out 25 productions showcased over 70 different events at iconic landmarks across seven cities. For decades, India's soft power potential has remained largely untapped, but the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has been focusing on raising India’s profile in the international arena through cultural diplomacy.

Joining the dots

In the grainy red sand, Anangu Aboriginal artist Sarah Dalby, 42, glides her fingers to draw a collection of symbols to demonstrate how the Aborigines have been passing knowledge about their land, culture and traditions from one generation to the next. It is a warm spring afternoon in Yulara, the resort town in Australia’s Red Centre desert, and I am in the town square for a 90-minute Maruku Arts dot painting workshop. Dalby draws concentric circles, linking them with lines to depict a journey from one place to another. She then etches crescent-like shapes, representing men and women squatting on the ground, and envelopes them with more symbols that embody desert flora and fauna.

Oswals seek a fresh start as legal drama ends

Indian industrialist couple, Pankaj and Radhika Oswal, have left Australia perhaps never to return, after settling a multi-billion-dollar legal stoush with one of Australia’s leading banks, the Australia and New Zealand [ANZ] Banking Group. The commercial settlement, the terms of which are confidential, reached on September 22 resolves the A$2.5 billion claim made by the Oswals against ANZ over a dispute about the receivership and sale of Burrup Fertilisers Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Burrup Holdings Limited, in 2010. It has cost ANZ over A$200 million, tens of millions in legal fees and a dent in its reputation. In a statement, ANZ announced that the net pre-tax impact of the settlement will be reflected in an additional provision charge of approximately A$145 million to be taken at the Full Year 2016 results.

Body's own cancer-busters

In recent years, researchers have made significant strides into finding a cure for cancer, which claim 8.2 million lives annually. Cancer immunotherapy, which relies on harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight malignant cells, is the new frontier for treating cancer alongside the conventional therapies—surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Globally, more than 100 clinical immunotherapy trials for a whole range of cancers are underway.

Polio survivors face new disability

With polio now occurring in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — investments in medical aid and healthcare now deemed urgent for polio survivors as they battle the onset of the post-polio syndrome (PPS) decades after first contracting the disease. The first Australasia-Pacific Post-Polio Conference held in Sydney (20-22 September) discussed the treatment options focusing on neurological and biomechanical decline due to PPS in ageing polio survivors as well as the challenges of preventing and treating severe deformities in young polio survivors mostly in developing countries who will need help for years to come.

Business communication: How to say what you actually mean

‘The medium is the message’ said media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Clear, concise and convincing writing is the key to driving home the message whether it is writing an email, a staff review, a project report or a business proposal. But in the world of 140-character Twitter and paperless offices, effective and persuasive business communication is found wanting – and human resources is among the worst culprits. 

Zika outbreak in Singapore alarms region

Seventeen new cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in Singapore were confirmed on 6 September by the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH), raising the tally to 275 cases since the outbreak on 27 August. The sudden spike in one of the cleanest countries in the ASEAN region has raised concerns of possible spread to its densely populated neighbours although local transmission of Zika by the Aedes aegypti mosquito has been reported in Indonesia and Thailand.

Uluru Diary: Pitjantjatjara Pit-stop

Australia conjures images of sea and surf, but it’s in the sun and sand of its red centre desert that I discover the country’s spiritual heart. Uluru (Ayers Rock), along with Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), has been part of the traditional belief system of Australia’s first people. The ochre-tinted inselberg stands tall in the vast arid landscape, linking the country’s indigenous Aboriginal past to our present and the future. As the plane begins its descent to the Connellan airport, a glimpse of Uluru’s famous silhouette evokes a sense of awe. The winter sun on the tarmac is comforting as unhurried passengers make their way into the small airport to a pleasant ‘Palya’ or welcome. A relief from the intense security screenings one has to endure at most airports in our post-9/11 world.

Experts eye universal vaccine before next Zika outbreak

Some of the world’s leading experts attending the 16th International Congress of Immunology say the Zika epidemic will be gone in four years but it is still urgent to get a safe and effective vaccine. “We think that the Zika virus will be around for three to four years and it will probably disappear and then reappear in people being born after that, who will be susceptible again. So there's an urgency to have a vaccine for women, who may get pregnant during this four-year time. We have to be very quick,” says Jorge Kalil, head of Brazil’s Butantan Institute and president of the International Union of Immunological Societies.

HIV increases risk of age-related diseases

While combination antiretroviral therapy has meant that people with HIV can live longer lives, research shows that the virus makes fundamental changes to the immune system by increasing the risk of developing age-related conditions. “What we are now realising is that HIV as a disease is really a disease of inflammation. We are able to control the virus, but what remains are the immune dysfunction and dysregulation in patients that are leading to the diseases of ageing such as cardiovascular diseases, bone disease, cancer and diabetes,” Alan Landay, chair of the immunology and microbiology department at Rush University Medical Center of Chicago, in the United States, tells SciDev.Net.

Children in `clean’ environments more prone to allergies

As the world faces a dramatic increase in allergic diseases and asthma, scientists are pointing to the importance of good bacteria in ‘dirtier’ environments. Mark Larché, the Canada research chair in allergy and immune tolerance at McMaster University in Ontario, believes the rise in allergies may be associated with the developed world’s obsession with cleanliness. He says part of the explanation for allergies is that some children grow up in an environment that is too clean for their immune system to properly learn which substances to attack and which to ignore.

Researchers tackle advances in immunology

Immunology today is at the forefront of clinical therapies for diseases from cancer to Zika, providing new hope for global health. This is the key message from the 16th International Congress of Immunology (ICI) which opened Sunday (21-26 August) at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted by the Australasian Society for Immunology and the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS). More than 4,000 delegates from 70 countries are in attendance to discuss new research and developments in the field of immunological science.

Neil Perry: I view Australia as part of Asia

Neil Perry, the pioneering Australian chef, has been a defining contributor to how the world perceives modern Australian cuisine. It is in Rockpool, at his iconic fine dining restaurant located in the hub of Sydney’s financial district, that I meet him on an unusually balmy autumn afternoon. The dining room is abuzz with men in dark suits on a business lunch, a young Korean couple, perhaps on a life-changing date, an Italian family raising a toast to the parents’ 50 years of togetherness, and a group of women engaged in animated conversation, all relishing the exotic aromas wafting from their plates. The wood décor bathed in mellow light radiates warmth. A friendly waiter ushers me up the stairs to The Balcony Room, where I meet Perry, with his trademark ponytail, in a crisp white shirt and black suit. He is excited about launching his Burger Project in the new St. Collins Lane luxury precinct in Melbourne. I can’t resist stirring the traditional Sydney-Melbourne rivalry. Perry appeases with his disarming smile.

First ever Online atlas mapping oceans’ benefits

The Atlas of Ocean Wealth is out — the world’s first-ever book mapping the benefits of ocean ecosystems to assist governments and businesses make informed decisions and investments for the sustainable growth of coastal and marine resources. Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet, supporting a global seafood economy that accounts for US$190 billion yearly and provides for protein needs of 17 percent of the population. But research shows that fish catches are declining, ocean temperatures are warming, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are threatening coastal habitats. A project of the environmental non-profit group The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the atlas compiles spatially explicit information on the benefits of coral reefs, marshes, mangroves, seagrass meadows and oyster reefs. “Think of bundles of ecosystems generating bundles of benefits,” says TNC senior marine scientist and atlas co-author Mark Spalding about the book’s purpose to inform planning for economic development and conservation.

Vivid Sydney: Dancing Lanterns

The advent of winter coincides with Sydney immersing in the warm glow of one of the world’s largest festivals of light, music and ideas. Vivid Sydney, the annual 23-day festival, is showcasing 90 light installations from 23 countries, including India. Mumbai-based artists Vikas Patil and Santosh Gujar have a lighting sculpture named DNA, featuring 24 moving coloured light tubes that continuously spiral around a common core to form a DNA structure. “DNA is an integral part of every ‘being’ and we thought lighting could be an ideal way to represent it. When the DNA is decoded, it creates a barcode of colours. There is an immediate connection to lighting and that’s why we decided to make it our central theme for the sculpture,” says Patil, an architect and lighting designer.

I don’t become the writer, I inhabit the writer’s words: Ann Goldstein, Elena Ferrante’s translator

Ann Goldstein is probably the only translator in the world whose fame comes anywhere close to the writer being translated. That’s because she is the brilliant and celebrated translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, a collection of four books that have taken Europe, the UK, the US and now the rest of the world by storm and are set for Television adaptation. Goldstein, whose name on a book adds credence, is the hugely accomplished translator of Italian literary works by prominent authors, besides Elena Ferrante, Jhumpa Lahiri, Primo Levi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italo Calvino and Alessandro Baricco. She heads the copy department at The New Yorker and she is a recipient of PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In Australia as a guest of the Sydney Writers’ Festival she spoke to Neena Bhandari about her passion for Italian language, the challenges and future of translation, and the surprising international recognition Ferrante's books have brought her.

Healthcare for world’s adolescents wanting

Global health and development policies must focus on the 1.8 billion young people aged 10 to 24 years to reap a triple dividend that will benefit these adolescents today, into their adulthood and the next generation.  “This is the largest generation of adolescents that the world will ever see. Close to 90 per cent of them live in low- and middle-income countries,” says George Patton, chair of the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing which launched a report in London last week (10 May) to draw attention to the issue. “If we make the right investments in their health and wellbeing, they will bring ‘demographic dividend’ for the world. If we fail to make investments, there is a risk these adolescents will become a disengaged, lost generation, which will lead to huge social disruption, poverty, mass migration and civil unrest,” Patton tells SciDev.Net


Safer areas for Pacific health centres, infrastructure

Frequent extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones are inflicting significant damage on the health and public health infrastructure of South Pacific island communities. A study on the impact of cyclone-triggered flash floods on the Solomon Islands in 2014, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (18 April), provides graphic evidence of the risk of acute injuries, infectious disease outbreaks and mortality facing island populations worldwide due to extreme events related to climate change.

Resistant starch tested as infant health booster

A dash of starch added to baby food could be a cost-effective way of reducing infant mortality due to malnutrition and diarrhoea.  A joint team from Flinders University, the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Malawi is testing the gut bacteria in African babies below 12 months to see if they have the bacteria to ferment resistant starch, a fibre component present in everyday diet.

India Australia FTA long overdue: FM

The sooner the India-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is signed, the better, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while addressing the ethnic Indian media on Wednesday at the Shangri-La hotel in Sydney's central business district. When asked if signing the FTA was a priority for his government and if the FTA would address services and make material concessions to attract Australian companies to operate and partner in India, Jaitley told Business Standard, "This is at the negotiations stage; therefore, it is not fair for me to comment. It (FTA) was a priority even when the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) was here in 2014. He (Modi) wanted this to be done in 2015. So, we have already crossed the deadline. The sooner the better."

Improved prosthetic sockets save time and costs

Biomechanical engineers have successfully completed clinical trial of a new technology to make artificial limbs accessible and affordable for thousands of accident and landmine victims in developing countries. The team led by Peter Vee Sin Lee from the mechanical engineering department of the University of Melbourne fitted 70 patients in Vietnam with prosthetic sockets using pressure cast (PCAST) technology.

3D technology in the fight against ovarian cancer

Inexpensive 3D models that replicate cancer cells can be the key to finding effective and affordable treatment for ovarian cancer, which has a worldwide annual fatality rate of 140,000. Researchers at QUT [Queensland University of Technology] in Brisbane are using three-dimensional models, whereby cancer cells are floated in a culture that is meant to replicate the ascites that accumulates in the abdomen of women with ovarian cancer, to find better treatment outcomes.

Immune Cells from tissues & organs can fight off infectious diseases?

Researchers have discovered “the molecular machinery” to create novel immune cells, which has the potential to transform how vaccines of the future are designed, and improved vaccines in turn have the potential to curb the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza, HIV, malaria and herpes. The study led by Dr Laura Mackay and Professor Francis Carbone identified that specialised immune cells – tissue-resident memory T cells – live in a wide range of tissues and organs including skin, lung, brain, kidney, liver, salivary glands and reproductive organs rather than in the blood, and they are key to protecting against infection. 

Climate change will exacerbate non-communicable and infectious diseases in the Pacific Island states

Climate change poses the most significant threat to human health in the small low-lying, densely populated Pacific island nations, which have the least ability to adapt to such risks. According to two recent studies by the WHO, Pacific Islanders are facing major health risks from non-communicable and infectious diseases which will be further aggravated by climate change. “Increasing temperatures will reduce local harvest, compelling islanders to rely on imported, processed and calorie-dense food, and discourage physical activity. These will aggravate the incidence of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes and hypertension, which are related to obesity, poor diet and limited physical activity,” says Rokho Kim, a lead co-author of both studies and environmental health specialist at WHO’s regional office for Western Pacific in Fiji.

Australia’s Luxury Ecolodges: Unwind in Style 

Australia often evokes images of spiders, snakes and sharks, but tucked away in its unique landscapes are some of the world’s premier eco- lodges offering ultimate luxury. From the World Heritage Listed rainforests and reefs to pristine coastal and outback destinations, the discerning traveller is spoilt for choice. Equipped with all the bells and whistles, providing visual and acoustic privacy with limited house guests at any given time, these luxury eco-lodges adhere to the highest sustainable standards. 

This plant may help rice survive long droughts


A grass native to Australia and New Guinea may provide the genetic key to enable tropical crops such as rice and chickpea to withstand the effects of climate change and still produce high yields. As frequent and extreme weather conditions threaten global food security, results from glasshouse trials being conducted at the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities have shown that the grass, Tripogon loliiformis, regenerates when hydrated even after drying out during prolonged droughts.

Why Australia must not sell uranium to India?


As the Australia-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement awaits ratification by the Australian Parliament, civil society, environment and disarmament advocates caution that sale of uranium to India would fuel a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine Australia’s strong credentials as an exponent of nuclear safeguards policies. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Australia has expressed grave concerns regarding the weak safeguards in the Agreement, the poor safety record at Indian nuclear facilities, and the implications of the Agreement for the nuclear non-proliferation regime. This is the first time the Australian Government would be selling uranium to a country that is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Call to put health on the climate change agenda

`Our Climate, Our Health’, a global campaign kicked off on October 12 in more than a dozen countries to unite the health sector under one banner in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference this December. “The campaign is calling on health professionals to communicate and understand the profound impacts that climate change is having on human health, to help communities adapt to the worst of these effects, and to propagate the health benefits of mitigation,” says Nick Watts, coordinator of the London-based Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) which is spearheading the campaign

Will speedster Brett Lee bowl them over with his teacher act?

One has seen him in action on cricketing fields around the world, in commercials on our television screens, and heard him sing alongside Asha Bhosle. This October, internationally renowned paceman Brett Lee makes his debut on the silver screen as the leading man in the Australian romantic comedy, unINDIAN. The A$4.5 million film funded by the Australia India Film Fund [AIFF], which premiered Wednesday at the Hoyts cinemas in Sydney’s prestigious Entertainment Quarter next to the Sydney Cricket Ground, showcases the clash of cultures as Will [Brett Lee], a teacher who introduces migrants to Australian English and culture, falls in love with Meera [Tannishtha Chatterjee] a successful divorced executive and single mother 

The Jungle Book: The Reef and the Rainforests

Nestled between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range of mountains on a long narrow coastal strip is the city of Cairns, the gateway to two UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Great Barrier Reef and the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest on earth. This cosmopolitan city’s close proximity to Asia has made it an international tourist hub. It is worth a stopover either on the way in or out of Australia. The city centre lined with mangroves and mudflats, and the Esplanade, stretching along the city’s foreshore, have plenty to do for the young and old from children’s playgrounds to designated exercise and barbeques areas. The Esplanade Lagoon is a good place to cool off from the steamy heat of the Tropics 

Who will pay the price for Australia’s climate change policies?

Rowan Foley has spent many years as a ranger and park manager, caring for Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park Aboriginal lands in the spiritual heart of Australia’s Red Centre in the Northern Territory. He has been observing the effects of soaring temperatures and extreme weather events on his people, residing in some of the hottest regions of the country. “There are hotter and more frequent fires. Salt water intrusion is leading to less fresh water. This is impacting on Indigenous traditional owners of the land, who have contributed the least to Global warming”, says Foley, who belongs to the Wondunna clan of the Badtjala people, Traditional Owners of Fraser Island and Hervey Bay in the state of Queensland.

India needs to focus on its polio survivors

The Indian Government, Non-Governmental Organisations and the larger community must invest in rehabilitating millions of polio survivors facing new physical, social, cultural and economic challenges.  India was certified polio-free by the World Health Organisation on 27 March 2014. Polio immunisation has been a great success story of public-private health partnership, but now we need to replicate this to improving the lives of people living with polio. Unlike the developed world, millions of polio survivors in India are still very young. They will need treatment and support for many more years to come. Doctors, orthotists and physiotherapists need to be trained to recognise and manage the debilitating effects of Post-Polio Syndrome [PPS]. It is also time to count and document the number of polio survivors and the problems they are facing today

Pacific Island countries want a world without Nuclear weapons

As political conflicts magnify in the Middle East and North Africa with the spectre of brutal violence from terrorist organisations like ISIS, and the Ukraine crisis reignites the Cold War between the United States, its NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] allies and Russia; it is imperative that nuclear-armed and non-nuclear states together work for total elimination of nuclear weapons. The risk of use of nuclear weapons, by deliberation or accident, leading to total annihilation looms large more than ever before. Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries have been at the forefront of global efforts to implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which represents the only binding multilateral commitment to the goal of complete disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states. But the Ninth Review Conference of the NPT, from April 27 to May 22, which has three main pillars – non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy – overwhelmingly reflected the views and interests of the nuclear-armed states and some of their nuclear-dependent allies.

The novelty of being an Australian diplomat of Indian heritage in Israel

Devanand `Dave’ Sharma is the Australian Ambassador of Indian heritage to Israel. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Dave, as he is popularly called, moved with his parents and twin elder sisters to Sydney just before his fourth birthday. His paternal grandfather had moved to Trinidad (West Indies) in 1908 from Pali village in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh. His father, youngest of nine siblings, was born in Trinidad while his mother is a fourth generation Australian. His parents met as students at Kings College in London. From the UK, they moved to Canada and then to Australia. Sharma, 39, spoke on Skype to Neena Bhandari from his home in Tel Aviv about growing up in Australia, of the Indian Diaspora in Australia and of being a diplomat in a country that almost always stirs extreme reactions.

Papua New Guinea Reckons With Unmet Development Goals

As Papua New Guinea celebrates 40 years of independence, 2015 marks a defining year for the largest Pacific Island nation, set to record 15 percent GDP growth this year. However, unless the government tightens up its policies, the country will likely fail to achieve any of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) despite making significant progress in the past few years. Against this backdrop, IPS correspondent Neena Bhandari sat down with Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, to discuss the U.N.’s role in PNG’s development agenda.

Designed in Australia, Made in India

Growing up on a farm in Hunter Valley amidst corn and watermelons in country New South Wales, Julie Lantry would watch her mother, grandmother and aunt sew, knit and crochet. She would sit beside them and sew her doll’s clothes and paint her bedsheets. Her love for textiles and design was instilled at an early age. She was introduced to Ayurveda by her beautician and naturopath, who used Ayurvedic creams and herbs. She went on to graduate in fashion design from the Sydney Institute of Technology, which boasts leading fashion designers such as Akira Isogawa, Nicole Zimmermann and Lisa Ho as its alumni. She worked with small and medium designers, picking up the ropes of evolving a product from the drawing board to the retail shelves. 

Indian-born Pancreatic researcher is 2015 NSW Woman of the Year

Pune-born, Sydney-based internationally-renowned pancreatic cancer researcher, Professor Minoti Apte is conducting pre-clinical studies with the aim to create a new combination therapy that will stop cancer cells working with normal cells. This will help improve treatment outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients, who currently have a five year survival rate of just six percent. Professor Apte was awarded one of Australia’s highest honours, the Order of Australia Medal [OAM], last year for her service to medical research, tertiary education and the Diaspora and this year she has added another prestigious award to her bouquet of accolades – the Premier’s 2015 New South Wales Woman of the Year. 

Plateful of Memories

The apple weighs heavy in my bag as my eyes fall on the billboard displaying strict quarantine restrictions at Adelaide Airport - `Fruits, Vegetables and Plants prohibited in South Australia. Fines apply’. I promptly retrieve the ripened fruit and discard it in the designated food bin in the arrivals hall. The state prides itself for its clean, green, fresh produce, zealously protecting its farms, orchards and vineyards against fruit flies and pests. This has encouraged a continual evolution of artisan producers from seafood and grain-fed meats to cheese and chocolates.

New Zealand robustly defends Nuclear ban

The small Pacific island country of New Zealand has punched above its weight in the international disarmament debate. For nearly three decades it has pursued an active nuclear free policy, banning entry of US warships carrying nuclear weapons or propelled by nuclear power into its ports despite being part of the ANZUS Treaty. NZ, along with the United States [US] and Australia, was amongst the three original signatory governments to the ANZUS treaty, a trilateral framework for security arrangements and cooperation, which came into force in 1952.

Aboriginal Businesses stimulate positive change in Australia

Roy Roger Gibson, an indigenous Kuku Yalanji elder, would watch thousands of tourists and vehicles trampling his pristine land while working on the sugarcane fields in Far North Queensland. His people were suffering and their culture was being eroded. The native wildlife was disappearing. He dreamt of turning this around. It took 20 years to bring his vision to fruition, but today the Mossman Gorge Centre is a successful indigenous ecotourism business in the world heritage-listed Daintree National Park in Queensland, Australia. 

Sydney Siege: Copycat attacks feared

The Christmas tree stands tall in Martin Place, the heart of Sydney’s government and financial district. But the focal point this festive season had been the floral memorial, a few blocks away, where a lone gunman had taken 17 people hostage inside the Lindt café on December 15th. Terror had struck home. The news spread like bushfire, consuming the world’s attention. Suddenly, for Australians, the realisation had dawned that despite the distance, the island continent country was not immune from terrorism.

Aboriginal knowledge could unlock climate solutions

As a child growing up in Far North Queensland, William Clark Enoch would know the crabs were on the bite when certain trees blossomed, but today at 51 years he is noticing visible changes in his environment such as extreme climatic conditions, frequent storms, soil erosion, salinity in fresh water and ocean acidification. “The land cannot support us anymore. The flowering cycles are less predictable. We have to now go much further into the sea to catch fish”, said Enoch, whose father was from North Stradbroke Island, home to the Noonuccal, Nughie and Goenpul Aboriginal people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who comprise only 2.5 per cent (548,400) of Australia’s nearly 24 million population, are part of the oldest continuing culture in the world. They have lived in harmony with the land for generations.  “But now pesticides from sugarcane and banana farms are getting washed into the rivers and sea and ending up in the food chain. We need to check the wild pig and turtles we kill for contaminants before eating”, Enoch told IPS.

Indigenous survivors aspire for a world free of Nuclear weapons

Sue Coleman-Haseldine, a Kokatha-Mula Indigenous woman, was about three years old when the United Kingdom began conducting Nuclear weapons tests in Australia’s Monte Bello Islands, off the Western Australian coast, and Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. The 12 major tests, conducted between 1952 and 1963, contaminated a huge area, including Koonibba, the place where Sue’s family and larger community lived. “There were Aboriginal people living in the region when the tests started. Many people died and became sick in the immediate test areas. The first atomic bomb called “Totem 1” spread far and wide and there are stories about the “black mist” it created which killed, blinded and made people very sick”, said Sue, who remembers elders in the community telling her about the healthy life of hunting for wild game and collecting bush fruits prior to the Tests.

Camping in luxury at Chhatra Sagar

Tucked away from the opulent destinations of the maharajas that once ruled the Princely state of Rajasthan, Chhatra Sagar offers a unique opportunity to connect with oneself and nature in its myriad forms. Perched atop a century-old dam, this luxury resort has 11 east facing tents that overlook a lake with the grasslands and farmland in the backdrop. The sunrays shimmer shyly into the tent, gently waking me from my deep slumber. I watch the lake water mirroring the morning’s dramatic hues from the comfort of my bed, sipping hot cardamom flavoured tea. In the airy dining hall, overlooking the lake and fields, a banquet of cooked breakfast awaits us. The sound of cutlery is muffled by the loud chatter of a flock of parrots nesting on the nearby tree. As we bite into hot paranthas with home-made indigenous Kair (Capparis decidua) pickle accompanied by Chhach [Buttermilk], a Kingfisher lands on the railing only a foot away. Undeterred by all the attention, its eyes are fixed on its prey somewhere in the muddy waters of the lake below.

Modi’s charm offensive in Australia – diaspora ecstatic

He came, he saw and he conquered. (Venividivici) is how many in the Australian-Indian community would sum up Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s, four-day Australia visit. India has suddenly caught the imagination of Australians with people amazed at the following India’s leader commands. The Australian print and electronic media has been filled with news of an Indian Prime Minister coming to its shores after 28 long years. The coverage has surprised many, given that in this post G20 week, besides Modi, three other heads of state - Chinese president Xi Jinping, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande – have stayed back for bilateral talks. Most can’t imagine an Australian PM receiving such a ‘rock star’ welcome in lands afar as the kind accorded to Modi by the Indian diaspora in Sydney. 

Australia seeks closer trade ties with India, energy sector a priority  

With India becoming the largest source of skilled migrants, people to people links are spearheading vital business, trade and investment ties between the two countries.  “There are around 400,000 Australians of Indian origin and I pay tribute to the significant contribution they make to our country. Modern Australia is unimaginable without them”. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Business Standard. In 2012-13, India was Australia’s largest source country of migrants with an outcome of 40,051 places or 21.1 per cent of the total migration programme, up from 29,018 in 2011-12. Mr Abbott, who had spent three months living in India in the early 1980s, said he was looking forward to working with the Indian Prime Minister and he had invited the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, to visit Australia and to the G20 summit being held in Brisbane this November.

Asia looks to Innovation to achieve Sustainability

Innovation in the fields of renewable energy, food production, water conservation, education and health will be crucial for the developing economies of Asia to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs, which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are slated to expire in 2015, are aimed at fostering economic growth, environmental protection and ending poverty by 2030. “As economic growth rises in Asia, more concentration is going into value addition and innovation is the principle vehicle for that,” Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Dr. Francis Gurry tells IPS. 

Indigenous communities say education & funding key to fighting HIV/AIDS

Marama Pala, hailing from Waikanae on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, was diagnosed with HIV at 22. The news of her diagnosis spread like wildfire in her tight-knit Maori community. That was in 1993 but even today, she says, there is a “shame and blame” attitude surrounding HIV, which disproportionately impacts the region’s indigenous population. “If you are HIV positive, you are seen as ‘dirty’, as someone who must be a drug user or a prostitute. Our people are not seeking help because of this stigma, discrimination and criminalisation – the fear of being charged, hunted down, ostracised or put in jail,” says Pala, who, together with her Pacific Islander HIV-positive husband, runs the INA (Maori, Indigenous, South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation. 

Women take the wheel in Australia's trucking sector

Growing up on a farm in the resource-rich, rugged landscape of Western Australia, Mel Murphy would often dream of driving the mammoth trucks that went whizzing past her property. Today, the 38-year-old drives a FH 540 Volvo truck and is amongst a growing number of women who are boldly entering Australia’s massive mining sector as truck drivers. Accounting for over 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Australia’s resource sector – primarily iron ore, coal, uranium and gold – is one of the largest in the world, but when it comes to employment equality the industry falls short, with women making up a mere 15 percent of the mining workforce.

After Eradication: India's post-polio problem  

As India celebrates three years of being polio free there is an urgent need to invest in medical care for the thousands of people who made the most of life after having had poliomyelitis but are now facing the debilitating post-polio syndrome (PPS).1 2 PPS describes the sudden onset of muscle weakness or fatigability in people with a history of acute paralytic poliomyelitis, usually occurring 15 to 40 years later.3 Many thousands of polio survivors experience muscle weakness, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, intolerance to cold, and difficulties in sleeping, breathing, or swallowing.4

 Australian-Indians keenly await Indian PM’s visit - after 28 years!

There is a sense of anticipation amongst the Australian-Indian Diaspora as the countdown begins for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four-day, four-city Australia visit next month. It has been 28 long years since the last Indian Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1986, when the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Bob Hawke, was at the helm. Much has changed in the past nearly three decades. The number of Indian origin Australians has swelled to around 400,000 and India has become the largest source of skilled migrants. Hinduism and Punjabi have become the fastest growing religion and language in Australia and the two-way trade between the two countries has grown in value to A$15.2 billion in 2013. 

No-Nuke Australia Thwarts Nuclear Free World

Australia has been expressing support for a nuclear weapons-free world, but documents obtained by disarmament advocacy group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), reveal that the Australian Government sees the increasing international focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as "rubbing up against" its reliance on the United States nuclear weapons. ICAN has obtained declassified diplomatic cables, ministerial briefings and emails under freedom-of-information laws, which show that the Australian Government plans to oppose efforts to ban nuclear weapons. 

Sacrificing the Reef for Industrial Development

Mining and port development coupled with decreasing water quality along Australia’s north-eastern coast are threatening the continent’s World Heritage-listed tourist drawcard, the Great Barrier Reef. An assessment report of the reef by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said the lack of “firm and demonstrable commitment” by either the Australian federal or the Queensland state government to limit port developments near the reef “represents a potential danger to the outstanding universal value of the property". Spread across an area of 348,000 square kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef includes about 2,500 individual reefs and over 900 islands and is home to breeding colonies of seabirds and marine turtles, snubfin dolphins and the humpback whale.

The clock is ticking on Koala conservation

Australia’s iconic marsupial is under threat. Formerly hunted almost to extinction for their woolly coats, koalas are now struggling to survive as habitat destruction caused by droughts and bushfires, land clearing for agriculture and logging, and mining and urban development conspire against this cuddly creature. In the past 20 years, the koala population has significantly declined, dropping by 40 percent in the state of Queensland and by a third in New South Wales (NSW). The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates that there are between 45,000 and 90,000 koalas left in the wild.

These Women Know Their Assailants

Lynette Edwards (not her real name) grew up watching her mother being beaten by her partner each night. In high school, Edwards began associating with bullies, thinking this would protect her from being abused; but when she turned 16, two male acquaintances raped her. At 21, her partner threw her through a glass window, which resulted in several lacerations including wounds on her head that needed stitches. Another time he slashed her lip, which still bears a scar. “Violence was, and possibly still is, rife in the country towns of Victoria and one lived in fear of being killed as boys and men were armed," Edwards, 57, told IPS.

First India-China joint venture in Australia sets up edible oil refinery

The first India-China joint venture in Australia, Riverina Oils and Bio Energy Pty Ltd (ROBE), has developed a 170,000-tonne oilseed crushing and edible oil refining plant with an investment of A$150 million (around Rs 830 crore) in Wagga Wagga, 470 km south-west of Sydney in New South Wales (NSW). The plant will also produce 105,000 tonnes a year of vegetable protein meal for use in the Australian poultry, dairy and animal feed industry. The project has created 80 direct jobs, 200 construction jobs, and over 500 indirect jobs, besides contributing significantly to the local economy. 

ICAN Australia shows the way to Abolish Nukes

Even as the nuclear-armed countries continue to amass new warheads and build and modernise ballistic missiles, bombers and submarines to launch them, the campaign for nuclear abolition is growing from strength to strength. International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ (ICAN) Paper Cranes Project – symbolizing support for nuclear disarmament – is urging governments to begin negotiations on a global treaty banning nuclear weapons this year. More than 190,000 paper cranes have already been delivered to world leaders, and messages of support have been received from the Secretary-General of the United Nations and amongst others national leaders of Australia, Afghanistan, Greece, Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, Mozambique, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Mining Benefits Fail to `Trickle Down'

With South-South trade on the rise and growth in emerging economies set to outstrip production in industrialised countries, the international mining sector has been quick to follow global trends. In recent years, significant mining activity has moved from the developed to the developing world, with the latter’s share of global trade in minerals increasing from less than one-third in 2000 to nearly half in 2010. A landmark 2012 publication by the International Council on Mining and Metals states that there have been huge investments in recent years in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia, which are likely to escalate in the next 10 years. 

Rising Inequality Could be Asia's Undoing 

While developing Asian countries have experienced robust growth – lifting living standards and reducing poverty – increasing wealth is fuelling income disparities and inequality, posing a major threat to the region’s stability, warns the Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s flagship report released Wednesday. The Manila-based ADB’s 2012 Asian Development Outlook says if the spoils of growth had been more evenly distributed, another 240 million people in the 45 countries that make up developing Asia would have moved out of poverty in the last two decades. Inequality widened in the three most populous countries – the People’s Republic of China, India, and Indonesia—which have been key drivers of the region’s rapid economic growth.

Australia-NZ pact falls short of abolishing nukes 

Australia and New Zealand have entered into a scientific and technical cooperation agreement to strengthen detection of nuclear explosions under the framework of the international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and work together to promote a permanent and effective ban on nuclear weapon tests.

Just Desert 

On the surprisingly uncrowded Jodhpur–Jaisalmer highway that runs parallel to a vast, empty landscape, slowly the sand dunes become visible and one spots an occasional camel foraging on the indigenous Khejari tree, and goats standing on their rear legs to reach the green leaves of the Vilayati babul. In the middle of this stretch, almost equidistant from the historic desert cities of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer, lies the boutique resort Manvar, which means hospitality.

Young Asylum Seekers Arrive to ‘Nightmare’ Detention

When Hussain Akhlaqi (17) arrived on Australian shores 11 months ago from Indonesia, on a boat carrying over 100 other asylum seekers, he was immediately placed in the Christmas Island immigration detention centre. Ali Mohammadi (17) from Afghanistan, and Mujtaba Ahmadi (18) from Iran, also endured a risky journey by sea only to meet the same fate.

Australia to tap Indian IT firms for expertise 

The perception of India as an outsourcing hub for ICT has been dispelled and Australia will now be looking at India for its innovative strengths and expertise in the industry, says Jackie Taranto, the organiser of CeBIT Australia and Managing Director of Hannover Fairs Australia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the global trade group company Deutsche Messe AG.

Asia: Dangers of Extended Nuclear Deterrence

With India and Pakistan testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles this April, close on the heels of North Korea's unsuccessful test launch of a long-range rocket, a new report by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy says it is Asian strategic mistrust that is holding back nuclear disarmament. According to Lowy’s director of the international security programme and principal editor of the report - Disarming Doubt: The Future of Extended Nuclear Deterrence in East Asia, Mr Rory Medcalf, the nuclear disarmament push in Asia had stalled, owing to the region’s tangle of strategic mistrust.

Hungry sands no more 

Not long ago, the remote communities in Jaisalmer district eked out a living from a single annual crop of millet (bajra), dependent on the mercy of rain gods. The 48 degree centigrade heat of the harsh summer sun, frequent sandstorms and no water posed a major challenge for survival. Droughts and the spectre of camel and livestock bones strewn on the sand dunes was a common phenomenon. But the advent of the Indira Gandhi Canal Project (IGNP) in the mid-1980s transformed the landscape and its inhabitants. Assured availability of water for drinking and irrigation turned the once barren fields of north-western Rajasthan into fertile farms, yielding two crops a year. “Now we harvest wheat, cluster beans (Guar), mustard, groundnut, cumin and gram,” says Hasam Khan, Sarpanch of Hamir Nada ki Dhani in Mohangarh panchayat, 75km from Jaisalmer. 

Tourism Goes Indigenous 

As today’s conscientious travellers seek authentic experiences with the people of the lands they visit, tourism can be a vehicle for preserving ancient cultures, while socially and economically empowering marginalised or remote indigenous communities. At the first Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference (PAITC) held on the traditional land of the Larrakia people in Darwin, Australia from Mar. 28-30, participants noted the rising demand for indigenous tourism and the need to ensure sustainable and equitable business partnerships that respect indigenous intellectual property rights, cultures, traditional practices and the environment while simultaneously enriching visitor experiences.

Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Reveals U.S.’s Unbridled Corporate Agenda

The 11th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) talks concluded in Melbourne Friday, with member states suggesting the negotiations had made significant progress but civil society groups reiterating concerns that the United States' corporate demands could undermine social, economic and environmental policies. "We do know that global corporations are pushing hard for the inclusion of provisions that benefit companies, but not necessarily workers and communities," Gerardine Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), told IPS.

Cuisine from the arid earth

Traditional western Rajasthani delicacies are fast becoming a gourmet's delight in India and abroad. In fact, no Marwari feast is complete without the ‘exotic' Sangari, cooked as a dry subzi or with gravy. Of course, Sangari, the fruit of the versatile Khejari (Prosopis cineraria) tree, indigenous to the vast Thar Desert, has provided nutrition and nourishment to the local communities over generations. As the sun rises on the eastern skyline, Chunni Bishnoi, 65, begins milking her three buffaloes and three cows in the outer courtyard of her ‘pucca' house, shaded by the thorny Khejari trees that grow thick and green in the villages of Guda Bishnoiyan and Khejarli, 22 kilometres and 26 kilometres, southeast of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Guda Bishnoiyan, spread over 36578.4 bighas, has a population of 8,434, while the cattle here number around 6,000.

Mid-day meals fortify Rajasthan's kids

As the clock chimes 11 am, Neetu Yadav, 10, and her classmates’ eyes turn expectantly from the blackboard to the school gates. As the roar of the approaching autorickshaw carrying their Mid Day Meal (MDM) grows louder, the 35 students at the government-run Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Ghanchiyon ki Gufa, Saraswati Nagar, erupt into a loud cheer. Jodhpur, located in the vast Thar desert of western Rajasthan, is the state’s second largest city, with a population of around 3.68 million, according to the 2011 Census. The city prides itself on its educational institutions and the average literacy here is 81.56 per cent – with female literacy registering 73.93 per cent. Impressive figures, given that average literacy rate in the state is 67 per cent.

The lost mothers of Rajasthan

India contributes to about a quarter of all global maternal deaths and maternal mortality has a direct impact on infant mortality. What role do nutrition and social practices, like early marriage, play in this grim tableau? For some answers, I visit the dusty village of Jhakaron ki Dhani, which lies 25 kilometres from Jodhpur in western Rajasthan. One of the first women I meet, Shamu Meghwal epitomises the health problems that many young women in her community experience. Married at 13, she had her first baby when she was 15. Now 25, she is the mother of four and has just lost her husband. She is visibly anaemic and complains of chronic weakness including back and abdominal pain. In Jhakaron ki Dhani, early marriage and motherhood is certainly the norm.

In the Thar desert, nurturing camels can provide food security 

The once sleepy cities of the Thar desert are undergoing rapid change. With industrialisation further eroding rural livelihoods, promoting camels by utilising their milk in the marginal drylands of Rajasthan can go a long way in ensuring food security for desert communities. The versatile 'ship of the desert', which provides milk, meat, wool and transportation for the locals - and India's Border Security Force - has long survived the harsh conditions of its unforgiving habitat. In fact, if nurtured, the Indian Dromedary camel is one species that can best sustain itself under changing climatic conditions and growing water scarcity.

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