Spring was busting out all over when Jan and I left Melbourne about a week ago. On our second last day we went birdwatching in the Long Forest Reserve and were rewarded with finding a White-winged Chough sitting on her super cool mud nest. Couldn’t get a picture of her out of the nest so I have included a sadly ordinary pic of a few Choughs foraging near Esk in Queensland.
Chough society is pretty hard-core, incorporating child abduction, enslavement and deception into their lifestyle.
I have pillaged Wikipedia for the following facts about Australian Choughs.

“The white-winged chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos) is one of only two surviving members of the Australian mud-nest builders family, Corcoracidae, and is the only member of the genus Corcorax. It is native to Southern and Eastern Australia and is an example of convergent evolution as it is only distantly related to the European choughs that it closely resembles in shape, and for which it was named.
“Nesting and breeding is communal, all members of the family helping to raise the young – a process that takes several years, as young birds must learn the art of finding food in the dry Australian bush. Larger families have a better chance of breeding success: so much so that given the opportunity choughs will kidnap the youngsters of neighboring families in order to recruit them to the team: the more helpers the better!
“All members of a family take turns to incubate, preen, and feed youngsters, and all cooperate in defending the nest against predators. However, the juveniles, who are highly inefficient foragers, have been observed to engage in deception; they bring food back to the nest and make to feed nestlings, but instead wait until unobserved, and then eat it themselves. This behaviour disappeared when food sources were artificially supplemented.There are three main threats to young choughs: starvation; predation by nest-robbing birds, particularly currawongs; and sabotage by neighbouring chough families anxious to protect their food supply by restricting competition. Larger family groups are better able to deal with all three threats.” — source Wikipedia

Same story, settlers—miners. Painting by Jacky Green, artist and indigenous activist, Borroloola. 2012 (Private collection)

“The painting is about how we are tryin’ to pull up the mining companies from wrecking our country.
“We live in this country. It belongs to us. We tryin’ to stop them from wrecking our country.
“In the bottom left of the painting are the miners entering our country. First they come with their ‘agreements’, but they override us; they still come, it doesn’t matter what. Then they come with their dozers.
“Lined up on the edge of the river are Aboriginal people ready to drive the miners out of our country.
“It’s not the first time that we have had people invade our country. It happened, first time, back in
the 1870s when white explorers with their packhorses started moving through our country, looking
round to see what was there. Aboriginal people were watching them from a distance, staying back,
not wanting to be seen. Others were ready to spear them. “You can see this story in the bottom right
hand side of the painting. Above this is a group of Aboriginal men at the foot of the stone country.
“They have been watchin’ what is going on and talking about what to do, how to protect our country.
” Nothing has really changed since whitefellas first came into our country. First time it was horses and now bulldozers.” — story from Jacky Green.

News of sadness and survival in Australia’s Deep South comes from Tonia Cochran at Inala Nature Tours and Country accommodation, Bruny Island, south-west of Hobart. Tonia wrote late last week:
” Dawn is a road-kill orphan. I found her dead mum last Saturday so we’ve had her just over a week. She’s thriving and I am (just) surviving the 3 hourly feeds. The team is helping during the day and Tom, Emma and Sue are all great wallababy mums. I’m doing the night shifts as I head out on tour at the end of the month and then get to palm her off on the others so they can lose sleep for a while! We’re expecting more babies in every day- that time of year.
“Coincidentally, we made the “big time” in the local Tasmanian paper yesterday. Online link as follows: http://news360.com/article/258099412# . Maybe it may make people slow down and stop hitting wildlife… you can always dream I guess!”
Every year thousands — perhaps tens of thousands of wallabies and kangaroos — are killed by vehicle strike on Australian roads. It’s not always possible to avoid a collision but driving a little more slowly and carefully in known macropod areas helps. And when it does happen, the caring and thoughtful motorist will check to see if it’s a mum with a Joey in the pouch. Many Joeys survive the smash to die of exposure or starvation. If you find such an orphan Joey wrap it up, keep it warm and look in the phone book for animal care folk or take it to a veterinarian.
Here’s hoping Dawn makes it and we hear more of her story.
Check out the scene at Inala on their website:


Blackfellers buggering around whitefellers, where’s the off button? By ERWIN CHLANDA

p2152-Zoellner-Gerritsen-2By ERWIN CHLANDA

The answer from two academics to the question posed by the Strehlow Conference 2014, Where to from here? is not what most people would be happy to hear.

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These comments by non-indigenous academics really do need to be taken seriously in looking at the big picture of the relationship between white and black in this country. The continuing active and passive resistance to white hegemony is ignored in public policy debate. Governments wielding big sticks, of whatever form, are just not going to establish strategies that deliver better outcomes for indigenous Australians.

White Fellas Work Like White Ants, Jacky Green 2014, Waralungku Arts
I call this painting ‘White fellas work like white ants’ because it tells the story of how white fellas force their development projects on us and our country.
On the left of the painting is the white fella bulldozer pushing over what he thinks is just a tree. But it’s not. It’s a sacred site tied in with the songlines that run through our country. Above the bulldozer is a white ant. White ants destroy things.
On the right of the painting I show how white ants attack and kill healthy trees. The white ants find the weak spot, like a decaying root, they get in there and slowly start eating the tree from the inside out until they kill it.
This is what white fellas do to us, Indigenous people, when they want to get us to agree to one of their development projects. They find the weak ones in our cultural groups. They look after them. They use them to sell their plans, and to tell us there will be jobs and goods things for the development project.
This way of working always causes conflict amongst our people. It starts to eat away at our cultural groups and communities from the inside out, just like white ants do.
When they pick us Aboriginal people off and separate the weak ones from our cultural groups they killing them and our culture. I symbolise this in my painting by the body hung by the neck in the tree. The person is separated and isolated from the cultural group and might as well be dead.
White fellas they just work like white ants.
— picture and story from Jacky Green.

People of the Deep North: Jacky Green is a Garawa-speaking artist, activist and cultural warrior from Borroloola in Australia’s Northern Territory. He was born in 1953 in a creek bed on Soudan station in the Northern Territory where is father was working at the time. School was the bridle and the blanket, learning on the pastoral stations. He was taught traditional Law by his grandfathers, father, uncles and other senior kin. His early life was spent working as a stockman on pastoral stations in the Gulf Country.
His extensive knowledge of the Gulf Country and its peoples was developed through ceremony, song, hunting, fishing and gathering, and travelling through Country with the old people. For the past thirty years he has worked tirelessly with the Indigenous peoples of the Gulf; fighting first, to get country back in Aboriginal ownership, and then to protect and care for it.
In 2005, he, along with other Garawa and Waanyi people, started the Garawa and Waanyi/Garawa Ranger groups to care for over 20,000 square kilometres of ancestral land, and to create meaningful work in a remote and challenging region with few employment opportunities.
He says he started painting to get his voice out.
“I want to show people what is happening to our country and to Aboriginal people. No one is listening to us. What we want. How we want to live. What we want in the future for our children. It’s for these reasons that I started to paint. I want government to listen to Aboriginal people. I want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us and our country. I want the government and mining companies to know that we are still here. We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t dead yet. We are still here, feeling the country.”
He works through Waralungku Arts in Borroloola and has exhibited at two solo shows in Melbourne (2013) and Sydney (2014) as well as a combined show in Sydney (2014) with Yanyuwa and Garawa artists Nancy McDinny and Stewart Hoosan. His artworks are held in numerous and private and public collections.
(Thanks to Jacky and Sean Kerins for this bio).

If the environment has become Australia’s enemy, fossil fuels are its best friend once again. Two months after it struck down the carbon tax, the government forged a deal with a fringe party led by a mining tycoon to repeal a tax on mining profits. It appointed a noted climate-change skeptic—yes, another one—to review its renewable energy targets. Surprise: He’s expected to slash them. Independent modeling in a study commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and WWF-Australia finds that the cuts to renewable energy won’t reduce Australians’ energy bills. They will, however, gift the country’s coal and gas industry another $8.8 billion U.S.

Australia’s environmental movement has been overthrown. (via dendroica)

“The Saudi Arabia of South Pacific”.. Follow link to Slate website.

Millions of migratory birds that fly tens of thousands of kilometres between their homes in Australia and Siberia are facing annihilation as development destroys the vital feeding grounds they rely on during their epic journeys, a Deakin University avian expert has warned. Director of Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology Professor Marcel Klaassen has joined a growing chorus of leading scientists alarmed by a sudden and dramatic drop in the number of shorebirds finally arriving in Australia after their legendary flights across the globe. “The rate of decline among some of these bird species is such a dramatic drop in numbers as to be truly depressing,” Professor Klaassen said. “For instance, the rate of decline in numbers of one of these, the Curlew sandpiper, is a staggering 10 per cent per year which means they face extinction within a decade,” he warned.