Sunday 14 July 2024

12,000-year-old GunaiKurnai ritual passed down 500 generations may be world’s oldest archeologically documented ritual


IMAGE: The Conversation, 6 January 2021

To the best of my understanding, Cloggs Cave formed in the Middle Devonian & sited 72.3m above sea level, is on the country of and under the cultural care of the Krauatungalung clan of the GunaiKurnai nation.

Nature Human Behaviour, 01 July 2024:

Archaeological evidence of an ethnographically documented ritual dated to the last ice age

Bruno David, et al

In societies without writing, ethnographically known rituals have rarely been tracked back archaeologically more than a few hundred years. At the invitation of GunaiKurnai Aboriginal Elders, we undertook archaeological excavations at Cloggs Cave in the foothills of the Australian Alps. In GunaiKurnai Country, caves were not used as residential places during the early colonial period (mid-nineteenth century CE), but as secluded retreats for the performance of rituals by Aboriginal medicine men and women known as ‘mulla-mullung’, as documented by ethnographers. Here we report the discovery of buried 11,000- and 12,000-year-old miniature fireplaces with protruding trimmed wooden artefacts made of Casuarina wood smeared with animal or human fat, matching the configuration and contents of GunaiKurnai ritual installations described in nineteenth-century ethnography. These findings represent 500 generations of cultural transmission of an ethnographically documented ritual practice that dates back to the end of the last ice age and that contains Australia’s oldest known wooden artefacts.

Determining the longevity of oral traditions and ‘intangible heritage’ has important implications for understanding information exchange through social networks down the generations. This can be achieved by tracking the origins and transmission of ethnographically known cultural practices through their associated material culture. However, understanding the issue of transmission has been fraught with difficulties. People often re-interpret and re-inscribe what they observe with new knowledge, altering the original information along the way (the hermeneutic process). Additionally, exposed material evidence can be seen for generations after a site’s construction, leaving it open to copying and re-interpretation under changing cultural contexts. One way out of this dilemma is to discover archaeological materials that could not have later been seen and copied, but that rather needed to have been passed on through intentional information exchange, such as through formal or familial education and training. In this Article, we report two examples of one such set of cultural materials from GunaiKurnai Aboriginal Country in southeastern Australia. Each consists of a wooden stick made from a Casuarina sp. tree stem. Each stick had been trimmed by cutting or scraping off smaller twigs flush with the stem. Each trimmed stick was smeared with fatty tissue. It was then placed in a low-temperature miniature fire, which burnt for a very short duration of time. The two installations were made deep in a secluded cave that was never used for everyday occupational activities. In each case, the miniature fireplace and its trimmed wooden artefact was rapidly buried by accumulating sediments at the Pleistocene–Holocene transition and remained in situ until they were archaeologically excavated in 2020 CE, preserving the installation’s structural integrity in the process. Such wooden artefacts and their fireplace installations were previously only known from local nineteenth-century ethnography, but have now been archaeologically found dating back to the end of the last ice age, as reported here.

The examples we document here are testimony to the endurance of cultural practices and oral traditions unaffected by complications of visibility and copying. According to nineteenth-century GunaiKurnai ethnography, the ritual practices involving the construction of such installations took place in secluded locations. Additionally, their key wooden components normally decayed within a few years or decades, preventing them from being regularly seen by the broader population and copied over extended periods. Furthermore, the archaeological wooden objects were juxtaposed to or smeared with fatty tissue from animals or humans when they were used, matching ethnographic practice. This association of the artefacts with fat would have remained invisible to the naked eye and is thus not amenable to copying. The suite of factors contributing to the survival of both the installations and their wooden artefacts provides unparalleled insight into the resilience of GunaiKurnai narrative traditions and the passing down of knowledge. These artefacts, along with ethnographic evidence, demonstrate the transmission of ideas and practice over a timespan of 12,000 years.

The excavation methods used in this study are reported in Methods. All stages of the research comply with all relevant ethical regulations including the Australian Archaeological Association and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Codes of Ethics. This research was requested and led by, and undertaken with the participation of, the GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the study site. At the corporation’s request, the ethical protocols for this partnership research were formally written into a memorandum of understanding checked for ethical compliance and co-signed by the GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and Monash University on 23 October 2018.....

Cloggs Cave contains a number of archaeological features characteristic of GunaiKurnai ritual installations and practices. The following ritual features date to various times that together span some 23,000 years, indicating that the cave has been used for a range of ritual activities over this period of time: (1) a stone arrangement occurs at the back of a shallow recess towards the rear of the cave (the alcove). (2) Up to 80 cm above the floor of this recess, on the alcove’s low ceiling within human reach, many of the stalactites were artificially broken. Uranium–thorium ages for the bases of ‘soda straws’ (stalactitic filament regrowths) growing on the broken stalactite stumps indicate they started growing between 120 ± 30 and 23,230 ± 300 years ago, signalling that the stalactites had been broken within the period of confirmed Aboriginal presence in the cave, which began by ~25,000 cal BP (calibrated radiocarbon years before 1950 CE). (3) On the floor adjacent to the stone arrangement is a large patch of powdered (crushed) calcite. (4) A portable grindstone with traces of crushed calcite crystals, dated to between 1,535 and 2,084 cal BP, was excavated 8 m away near square P35 (refs. 13,14). (5) One hundred fifty-eight broken soda straws and crystal quartz artefacts were found in the excavations in squares P34–P35 and R31 (ref. 15). Nineteenth-century GunaiKurnai ethnography, along with current GunaiKurnai knowledge holders, identify these objects as bulk (pebbles) and groggin and kiin (crystals). Each of these object types was documented to hold ritual power and to have been used to perform magic and medicine. (6) A fully buried standing stone, around 2,000 years old, was excavated in square P35 (refs. 13,17). (7) Despite the presence of tens of thousands of bones from small vertebrates (from natural deaths, mainly from owl roosts), there are no vertebrate animal food remains in the excavations. (8) Local ethnography and current GunaiKurnai knowledge document that caves such as Cloggs Cave were never used for general occupation in GunaiKurnai Country; the lack of archaeological food remains in such caves is consistent with the ethnography. Rather, the caves were the retreats of mulla-mullung, powerful medicine men and women who practiced magic and rituals in secluded places.....

The full report can be downloaded at:

ABC News article of 2 July 2024 can be read at:

IMAGE: ABC News, 2 July 2024

Friday 12 July 2024

On 9July 2024 UN experts declared famine has spread throughout Gaza strip


A malnourished Palestinian baby is held while receiving treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Deir Al-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, June 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem


UN experts declare famine has spread throughout Gaza strip

09 July 2024

GENEVA (9 July 2024) – The recent deaths of more Palestinian children due to hunger and malnutrition leaves no doubt that famine has spread across the entire Gaza strip, a group of independent experts* said today.

Fayez Ataya, who was barely six months old, died on 30 May 2024 and 13-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi died on 1 June 2024 at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died on 3 June 2024 in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. All three children died from malnutrition and lack of access to adequate healthcare,” the experts said.

With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern Gaza.”

The experts said the death of a child from malnutrition and dehydration indicates that health and social structures have been attacked and are critically weakened. “When the first child dies from malnutrition and dehydration, it becomes irrefutable that famine has taken hold,” the experts said.

We declare that Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza. We call upon the international community to prioritise the delivery of humanitarian aid by land by any means necessary, end Israel’s siege, and establish a ceasefire.” [my yellow highlighting]

When a 2-month-old baby and 10-year-old Yazan Al Kafarneh died of hunger on 24 February and 4 March respectively, this confirmed that famine had struck northern Gaza. The whole world should have intervened earlier to stop Israel’s genocidal starvation campaign and prevented these deaths,” the experts said. “Thirty-four Palestinians have died from malnutrition since 7 October, the majority being children. Inaction is complicity.”

The experts: Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; George Katrougalos, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Barbara G. Reynolds (Chair), Bina D’Costa, Dominique Day and Catherine Namakula, Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Thursday 11 July 2024

So how are we all feeling about life right now? *a rhetorical question*


via X/Twitter 10.07.24

So how are we all feeling today? Short answer is — nobody knows for sure what Australia's collective mood is.

However the statisticians tell us that most of us feel out families are "worse off" than they were last year and are not expecting to see "good times" anytime soon.

Many of us are still in the dumps about the cost of living. We are not spending up big and that is reflected in business turnover.

We are doing what Aussies always do in tough times — we gamble a little bit more chasing the rainbow of a home of our own or a car that isn't falling to bits. 

Low income families are sometimes having to borrow from family or friends to meet household utility bills, despite small government subsidies for residential electricity.

While the average Internet subscriber is still spending 10 hours a week on entertainment streaming services, it seems quite a few people are now switching to advertising-supported content streaming as a way to shave a few dollars off the weekly budget.

When it comes to looking at economic activity and consumer confidence statisticians rarely mention homelessness or food poverty. The sad fact is that homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity are as entrenched as they have ever been and are exacerbated by the sustained rising prices we have experienced for the last two years.

However, Australians statisticians are generally a grounded mob making measured comment. So after reading their reports no-one is yelling from their bedroom windows that the national economic sky is falling on our heads — except Peter Dutton.

Australian Bureau of Statistics media release published 10 July 2024:

Reference period: May 2024

Business turnover in trend terms rose 0.2 per cent in May according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Robert Ewing, ABS head of business statistics, said: “The pattern we have seen in recent months continues as the business turnover 13-industry aggregate remained flat in May.

In seasonally adjusted terms, most industries either fell or were flat which resulted in the 13-industry aggregate falling 0.6 per cent.

Softening the fall, we saw larger rises in Arts and recreation, up 2.8 per cent, and Information media and telecommunications, up 2.6 per cent.”

The Arts and recreation growth was driven by an increase in gambling activity. Information media and telecommunications was driven by the Publishing (except internet and music publishing) subdivision as demand for generative artificial intelligence continues to grow.

While over at Roy Morgan Research om 9 July 2024:

Finding No. 5920

ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence drops 2.3pts to 79.0 after End of Financial Year (EOFY) sales finish up; buying sentiment indicator has largest weekly drop so far this year

ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence dropped 2.3pts to 79.0 this week after the End of Financial Year (EOFY) Sales period finished at the end of June after the buying sentiment indicator suffered its biggest weekly decline so far this year – down a net 9% points from a week ago.

Looking longer-term, Consumer Confidence has now spent a record 75 straight weeks below the mark of 85 and is a large 5.7 points above the same week a year ago, July 3-9, 2023 (73.3), but is now 2.8 points below the 2024 weekly average of 81.8.

A look at Consumer Confidence by State shows the index was down in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia but virtually unchanged in Queensland.

Views on personal finances compared to a year ago were slightly worse off this week while views on the Australian economy’s performance going forward were virtually unchanged.

Current financial conditions

Now under a fifth of Australians, 19% (down 1ppt), say their families are ‘better off’ financially than this time last year compared to 53% (up 3ppts) that say their families are ‘worse off’.

Future financial conditions

However, views on personal finances over the next year were virtually unchanged this week, with under a third of Australians, 31% (unchanged) expecting their family to be ‘better off’ financially this time next year while another 35% (down 1ppt) are expecting to be ‘worse off’.

Short-term economic confidence

In addition, only 8% (unchanged) expect ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next twelve months compared to 36% (down 1ppt), that expect ‘bad times’.

Medium-term economic confidence

Net sentiment regarding the Australian economy in the longer term was virtually unchanged this week with 12% (up 1ppt) of Australians expecting ‘good times’ for the economy over the next five years compared to just over a fifth, 21% (up 1ppt), expecting ‘bad times’.

Time to buy a major household item

  • There was a big dip to net buying intentions this week after the End of Financial Year (EOFY) Sales finished up with just over a fifth, 21% (down 4ppts), of Australians saying now is a ‘good time to buy’ major household items (the biggest drop for this indicator so far this year) while a majority of 51% (up 5ppts) say now is a ‘bad time to buy’ major household items (the largest increase for this indicator so far this year).

  • The net result was a movement of 9ppts towards ‘bad time to buy’, the biggest net move down for this indicator for nearly 18 months since early February 2023 after the Reserve Bank raised interest rates for the first time in 2023.

ANZ Economist, Madeline Dunk, commented:

"ANZ-Roy Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence dropped to its second lowest level for the year. The decline was driven by a 9.0pt fall in the ‘time to buy a major household item’ subindex, following the conclusion of end-of-financial year sales. This was the largest weekly fall in the subindex since February 2023. There was also a 4.7pt drop in ‘current financial conditions’.

Across the housing cohorts, confidence declined most for those paying off a mortgage, perhaps due to talk about the possibility of an RBA rate hike in August. Confidence also fell for households that own their homes outright, while it was broadly stable for renters."

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence & Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot announces 26 Safe Places will be provided in Tweed Shire


Assistant Minister for Social Services Assistant, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence & Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot has announced that the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program will provide 26 Tweed Safe Places in Tweed Shire.

This emergency accommodation for women is part of the Albanese Labor Government commitment of $100 million over five years up to 2026-27 to continue the Safe Places program through the Safe Places Inclusion Round begun in 2023.

This initiative is part of the Government’s investment in women’s safety and the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.

More emergency accommodation and support for women and childrenexperiencing family and domestic violence

9 July 2024

Joint with:

The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

Minister for Social Services

Member for Kingston

The Hon Justine Elliot MP

Assistant Minister for Social Services

Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence

Member for Richmond

The Albanese Labor Government is committed to improving accessibility and availability of emergency accommodation for women and children experiencing family and domestic violence.

Under the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Inclusion Round, 19 new projects will be funded to deliver around 720 new safe places across Australia over the next three years, as a result of successful grant applications.

The Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program provides a capital investment to fund the building, renovation or purchase of emergency accommodation to support women and children in circumstances, where staying safely at home is not possible.

Around 4200 women and children are currently supported each year by Safe Places sites with temporary housing, and also case management and additional supports while accessing the services.

The Safe Places Inclusion Round supports the Government’s program of reform to improve women’s safety under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.

Any women and children experiencing violence, regardless of background, will be able to access the new emergency accommodation. However, the projects will have a focus on improving inclusion and access for First Nations women and children, women and children from CALD backgrounds and women and children with disability.

This will be achieved through dwelling design and/or other specialised, accessible and culturally safe supports. The grant round also prioritised projects in locations with high unmet demand to help ensure victim-survivors can access emergency accommodation where and when they need it.

Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth said ensuring women and children have safe, secure emergency accommodation to turn to is vital when experiencing family and domestic violence.

Family and domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness and housing uncertainty for women and children across Australia, and we know there is an increased demand for emergency accommodation,” Minister Rishworth said.

We are funding the delivery of around 720 new safe places, which will bring the total number of emergency accommodation places delivered under the Safe Places Program across Australia to around 1500 once projects are completed.

The new projects will have a focus on improving inclusion and access to support for First Nations women and children, women and children with disability, and women and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who we know can face unique challenges and barriers to accessing support when experiencing violence.”

Projects will be funded in each state and territory and were selected for funding through an open competitive grant round. All projects are expected to be complete and delivering services by June 2027.

Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot said it was important anyone experiencing or fleeing domestic violence had a safe place to go.

Anyone experiencing family or domestic violence should have access to a safe place, where they can connect with specialised services and supports that effectively meet their needs,” Assistant Minister Elliot said.

Along with states and territories we are committed to ending violence against women and children in one generation through our investments under the National Plan and this investment will help to progress this goal.”

For more information on the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program visit the Department of Social Services website.

If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via, or text 0458 737 732.

Feeling worried or no good? No shame, no judgement, safe place to yarn. Speak to a 13YARN Crisis Supporter, call 13 92 76. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit

Tuesday 9 July 2024

NSW Government Reconstruction Authority is seeking community feedback on the draft Disaster Adaptation Plan (DAP) Guidelines.

The NSW Reconstruction Authority is currently seeking feedback on a set of draft guidelines to improve how we plan for and reduce the impacts of disasters in NSW.

The draft Disaster Adaptation Plan (DAP) Guidelines explain our approach to the preparation and implementation of DAPs across NSW and align with the State Disaster Mitigation plan.

We know that successful disaster adaptation planning requires a coordinated, place and community-centred approach. The process outlined in the guidelines for the development of DAPs provide an opportunity for us to work together to enable more effective disaster risk reduction. We cannot achieve this independently.

DAPs will draw together hazard risk information, community insights, and existing plans to reduce natural hazard risks in a defined geographic area. These options might include mitigation infrastructure such as flood levees or sea walls, changes to planning controls on development in certain areas or investing in evacuation capacity upgrades to local and state roads.

The Reconstruction Authority is committed to playing its part, but we know local and regional actors are best placed to make local and regional decisions about the kinds of solutions that we need.

This consultation is about making sure the DAP model and process work for councils, State government agencies, critical infrastructure providers and the community and understanding what the RA can do to help successfully implement it.

Based on the feedback received through this consultation the guidelines will be finalised for release later in 2024.

Together we can chart a course to a better prepared NSW.

Public consultation on the draft Disaster Adaption Plan Guidelines officially started on Monday 1 July and is to finish at 5pm on Friday 23 August 2024. 

A HAVE YOUR SAY webpage has been created which includes an online survey which can be found at at:

Read the draft Disaster Adaptation Plan Guidelines (PDF 6.87MB)

Read a 4 page overview of the draft Disaster Adaptation Plan Guidelines (PDF1.18MB)

Read draft Disaster Adaptation Plan Guidelines frequently asked questions (PDF 185.48KB)


NSW GovernmentMedia Release:

Major milestones in disaster recovery for Northern Rivers

Published: 4 July 2024

Released by: Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces

Australia’s largest disaster adaptation project on the Northern Rivers has moved into its next phase, with tailored home assessments available to make homes more resilient against flooding.

Under the Home Raising and Home Retrofit stream of the $790 million Resilient Homes Program approximately 370 homeowners have been identified as eligible for home raising or retrofit.

A key recommendation of the NSW Flood Inquiry, home raising reduces risk by raising homes to reduce the frequency of potential flood related damage, while home retrofits reduce risk by refurbishing homes to better withstand flooding.

The NSW Reconstruction Authority (RA) is working with leading architect for flood resilient design, James Davidson from JDA Co, to establish the program and develop guidance for home raising and retrofit work. After receiving their free in-home assessment report, homeowners can appoint their builder of choice to deliver works suitable to their home to make it more resilient to future flooding.

Eligible homeowners will be granted up to $50,000 for a home retrofit and $100,000 for a home raise with a dollar-for dollar co-contribution between the RA and homeowners, up to a maximum of $100,000 for retrofits and $200,000 for home raising.

In addition to this program, the highly anticipated North Lismore development has been announced as the latest site to be released through the $100 million Resilient Lands Program and will deliver around 85 home sites.

This follows previous announcements at East Lismore, Goonellabah, Brunswick Heads, Casino and Lennox Head, with more than 2,800 housing sites now in the planning pipeline across the Northern Rivers.

North Lismore will be master planned and developed in consultation with the community, taking into consideration the site’s environmental, biodiversity and cultural significance.

As part of the supporting infrastructure program, to assist primary producers, up to 100 drains that support agricultural properties across the Northern Rivers are being repaired and cleaned out through the $5 million Northern Rivers Agricultural Drainage Reset Program.

Vegetation build-up presents a serious problem with large drains unable to channel water away from the land.

The program will drive long-term resilience and ensure farmers and communities are better equipped to withstand and recover from future floods. It is being delivered by the RA in partnership with Soil Conservation Service and in cooperation with local councils.

The recovery program is being informed by feedback from the community and the Northern Rivers Community Leaders Forum which was established 12 months ago.

Between August 2023 and January 2024, the RA doorknocked more than 4880 homes across seven LGAs. Pop-up information offices continue to be an important conduit between the RA and the community, with more than 4,339 visitors as of late June.

These changes are expected to lead to better outcomes as the region moves into medium to long-term recovery phase from the 2022 floods.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:

What we’re doing in the Northern Rivers is not a simple rebuilding exercise – we’re making significant long-term changes to where people live, how we plan for climate change and how we mitigate future disasters.

As part of our commitment to disaster mitigation, there’s already been significant progress with the Resilient Homes Program, but there is still more to do.

As of June 28, 788 buyback offers had been approved and 656 offers accepted, which represents an 83 per cent take-up rate.

Today we’re announcing that North Lismore is the sixth site for more homes through the Resilient Lands Program and there are more to come.”

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said:

During our many visits to the area we have seen the community working together to maintain the unique identity of the region and the strong desire to build back better.

We established the community leaders forum to guide decision-making and local engagement is informing projects supporting flood recovery efforts and making communities more resilient.

Across the region a wide range of projects are underway including improvements to evacuation routes which will provide better access for emergency workers and supplies during disasters.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery Janelle Saffin said:

As chair of the Community Leaders forum I am enormously pleased to see input from that group included in announcements like today.

Feedback from the community has helped the NSW Reconstruction Authority to develop a more people-friendly, place-based approach to determine eligibility for key programs like the Resilient Homes Program. That is a good thing.

Repeat visits by my parliamentary colleagues show the reset is progressing in the Northern Rivers and the NSW Government is in this recovery for the long haul.”

Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg said:

I am pleased that the NSW Government agreed to Council’s call for a ‘reset’ a year or so ago and developed a more community centric approach that has seen the pace of our recovery pick up, although as we all know. We still have some way to go.

"I welcome the announcement on North Lismore that will allow disaster-affected families to build new houses or relocate their existing timber home. The commencement of the Raise and Retrofit program will also be very welcomed by the community.”