Port Germein Gorge – Its blood flows again

I first posted this on August 31, 2014 when the Gorge Road reopened. Yesterday marked the start of devastating Bangor Fire back in 2014. Six years on and fire continues to ravage our beautiful country.

Bangor Fire

The Bangor fire, like other significant bushfires in South Australia including Wangary, Ash Wednesday and Kangaroo Island (those of 2007 and of 2019 and are ongoing), will become etched in people’s minds with stories shared about community spirit and the tireless efforts of CFS firefighters.

This from the CFS Website: What started as a small fire about 25 kilometres north-east of Port Pirie had the next morning expanded to what was described by firefighters as an area “the size of two football ovals” in an area of inaccessible and difficult terrain. Firefighters worked in shifts around the clock for 14 days before the Bangor fire was declared ‘Contained’ on 30 January and ‘Controlled’ on 6 February. Two days later with the onset of winds and hot temperatures the fire broke control lines in the south western corner and threatened the townships of Laura, Wirrabara and Stone Hut, and the small community of Beetaloo Valley.

31 days after it started, after burning more than 35,000 hectares, the Bangor fire was again declared as ‘Controlled’ on 14 February.  While 5 houses were destroyed, dozens were saved. A number of sheds were lost, with extensive damage sustained to fencing, and at least 700 sheep perished in the fire. 24 injuries were recorded but none serious, most involving smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions that crews were working in.  Many CFS veterans are hard-pressed to recall a similar incident requiring such a sustained commitment of firefighting resources.

These are my words…..

Nature is a splendid thing. The regeneration and rejuvenation of the Port Germein Gorge and the Southern Flinders, following the devastating January fires, is remarkable.  

Just yesterday, as I drove north towards the Southern Flinders Ranges and as the Bluff came into view, the scars of the January fires were more apparent.  The starkness of the Range took on the appearance of leather in need of nourishment.  The type of leather of old boots, old boots which had walked too many miles and endured too much sun. 

With the final days of the winter sun high in the sky the scenery is distinguished.  I am confident the vista will respond to nourishment, by way of moisture and care, just as old boots would. The country needs rain. 

As I turned due east, off the Augusta highway and climbed the gentle rise of the foothills, I wasn’t quite prepared for the brightness of the sun as it shone through, not filtered by the leaves that prior to January were once on the majestic gums. 

As I meandered through the gorge I stopped along the way to capture images of the landscapes around each bend.  As I stepped out of the car and onto the newly paved road my shoes stuck to tar, not quite set.  The distinctive smell of bitumen and gravel filled my nostrils.  As I walked down an embankment the scent was soon overpowered with the perfume of damp earth, eucalyptus and Flinders Range wattle blossom on the ether. 

A pair of Galahs foraged in freshly spread straw and earth, a manmade mattress to support new growth and hold the topsoil in place. I listened to their chatter.  All at once a chorus of bird songs rang out like a symphony and a blue crane flapped its wings in time as it took off, startled by my presence.  

I am told that for those who entered the gorge and its environs only days after the fires that the silence was deafening.  No bird songs because there were no birds.  No mammals, lizards or other life to speak of.  However, if one looked in a discerning fashion, small buds and shoots were already appearing on scorched florae. Whilst the threat of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ threatens the world in general, here for the moment, nature was in fine song.  

Now a day before spring, the first anniversary of the devastating fires is nearer than the original event of January this year.  It wasn’t just the evidence of the destruction of the fires which was striking but the signs of erosion caused by the torrents of water which descended upon the parched and charcoaled landscape.   In a peculiar twist of fate it was the equally devastating rain which did eventually quell the immortal monster of a blaze, enabling control to be taken by mortal men and women.

Wild oats now grow high, sentries to resilience, dangerous fuel for a hungry fire yet to be born. The air is warm, too warm really.  Are we ready for the next fire danger season?  

For those of you living in our beautiful regions, have you prepared your property?  Do you have a plan in place? I know many who do.  For those who do not….three words should motivate you to be at the ready.  Prepare. Act. Survive.   

Blessings be bestowed upon those who have not stopped rebuilding nor grieving.

Never rest, never take for granted our beautiful surroundings or the unforgiving climate in which we live.

Footnote: Special mention to the contractors and volunteers who have all contributed to the rebuilding of this important artery in the Southern Flinders Ranges. 

Some incredible footage of the painstaking and environmentally-sensitive repairs can be found at this link:

http://dpti.sa.gov.au/newconnections/article?item=499

A stillness on the ether

A new year, a new decade and a stillness on the ether.

A decade of tumultuous change and personal growth is about to draw to a close.  I am feeling a sense of calm wash over me.  It is surreal and profound.   My soul is finding a new peace and it makes me smile.  Truly smile.

Now is not a time to rush nor pre-empt what the future holds but rather it is a time to let nature takes its course, to stand still and be patient.  It is a beautifully natural course.  Naturally beautiful.

I love retreating to my sanctuary, to immerse myself in the elements.  I love exploring the environment, natural and built.  Just days ago, drifting in my kayak under the Moonta Bay jetty, I simply observed. 

I watched swallows at home in the timbers above me, their quiet voices echoing, their nests precarious.  I was entranced by the movement of the tide as it swirled around the pylons leaving imperfect yet perfect patterns on the surface.

Just below the surface, clinging on for dear life a colony of limpets, their shells glistening, caught my attention.  I can so relate to these tiny marine molluscs at home in these temperate waters.  I looked at the hard shells and thought about my own weathered exterior and the virtual armour I have created over the years to protect the softness beneath.  It is so much more than a veneer; it serves as a shield when my vulnerabilities bubble to the surface.  It has served me well. It will continue to serve me well.

I think about the connection that this tiny creature has with its host, in this case an aged and weathered pylon, a once living tree and I think about my connections.  I think about relationships that ebb and flow and I consider the pace of life and I wish for it to slow – to find that stillness, to be present.   I think about how the softness of the creature rests upon the smoothness of the timber, akin to skin on skin.  The thought brings comfort and peace.  It’s equally maternal and romantic.

I think about the elements that surround me, embody me and support me, support life.

Earth – I adore the connection I make with the earth when I walk upon the sand.  I don’t try to mask my aches and pains; they remind me I am very much alive.

Water – The coolness, the colours of sapphire blue and emerald green.  The shapes that dance in the depths, the creatures that inhabit that mercurial place. Mesmerising.

Fire – Our life-giving Sun at it rises and when it falls beyond the horizon.  Fire in the sky.  Fire in my belly. Fire in my heart.  Each burn brightly.

Air – I breathe deeply, consciously, I fill my lungs with pungent salty air and then I exhale.  Slowly. Deliberately.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  I feel connection.

Space – I truly get a sense of the vastness of our world when I look beyond the terrestrial.  The night sky is my place of solace.  Either in the darkness of a moonless southern sky, where the planets, stars and constellations are beacons to travellers or when a gibbous moon enchants those who gaze upon it is this place, this space that captivates me.

I am ready to dance into a new decade and my dance will commence with a stillness.  I recognise to achieve this stillness I am required to surrender the past.  I have done it before, and I will do it again.  To surrender is to be wise and courageous. 

A stillness on the ether.

Let it be.

Down the road of food security – A wicked problem

Note:  This piece first published 1/4/13:  http://www.dianahmieglich.com.au/easyblog/entry/down-the-road-of-food-security-a-wicked-problem

In March 2018, South Australia saw a shift in the political landscape with a changing of the guard and the installation of a Marshall Liberal Government. Will we see a shift in the actual landscape? The heat really is on and each of us should be concerned about food security. 

My words from 2014  – A blog is always in transition. The information I publish today might not be valid or accurate in the future.  Content, sources, information and links may change over time. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Fact or fiction?  The distinction is yours to draw…

On Friday March 28 Julian Cribb, author and science communicator, delivered a keynote address at the Yorke & Mid North Regional Sustainability Forum in Port Pirie. He opened his address by declaring to those assembled that meeting the 21st Century food challenge is a ‘wicked problem’.  “Be in no doubt” said Mr Cribb, “we are facing the greatest challenge in human history. ”

That challenge you ask?  Put simply, it is how to feed ten billion people through the peak in human population, without famine or disaster.

I believe it is time for a new ‘crop’ of politicians to consider a view far beyond the next political cycle and make decisions, many of which will be hugely unpopular and immensely difficult, in order to deliver food security for our state, our nation and our planet.

Sadly, I also believe that this issue will be far more difficult to even start to overcome, as I am yet to discover a Government or a world leader who has the answers and the political will to shift the course on which we are headed.

To meet the growing world demand to feed our rapidly expanding population we need to think differently about food; how we produce it and how we consume it.

Regrettably we missed an opportunity in September 2013 Federally, as it would appear that the current Federal Government has not demonstrated any traits of forward-thinking in terms of food security.

Locally, South Australia has recently seen the Weatherill Labor Government returned to office, with the backing of regional Independent MP Geoff Brock, to form a minority government. Perhaps we can influence policy and effect change, in terms of climate change and food security, now that the regions are back in the limelight. The greater challenge will be how to make this important issue of food security popular.

Food security has become a significant geopolitical issue in recent years.

I have made reference to this in earlier blogs and again I will quote from an article written by student Alyce Johnston for the South Australian Globalist Magazine in 2012.

“According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, food security occurs when people have both physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences.

“This definition is more relevant to people in the developed world, as opposed to those living in developing nations who are more concerned with survival, rather than nutrients or dietary preferences.”

Research shows, when people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty, their diets change. In China, meat consumption has tripled in the past 15 years, meaning more grain is needed in order to feed their livestock.

With increased production comes an increased cost of that production, including the cost of oil. When oil prices increase, the demand for biofuel grows and food prices also go up. According to the World Bank, five million hectares of cropland were used for biofuels rather than food production between 2005 and 2008.

Pressures on water resources and agricultural land have contributed to food security worries and high food prices. Climate change will continue to exacerbate this issue globally. Nations such as China and Saudi Arabia (who is particularly vulnerable in terms of food security) have found a way to secure their future food supplies through the use of foreign land.

Oxfam predicts as much as 227 million hectares of land in developing nations has already been sold or leased to foreign investors since 2001, with half of this land being in Africa. To put that figure into perspective 227 million hectares is about 90% of Western Australia.

We know that foreign agricultural purchases have occurred in Australia, but the exact details of these foreign land deals are widely unknown and that troubles me.

There is evidence of corruption by governments of developing nations. In 2008 the Cambodian Government leased rice fields to Kuwait and Qatar in return for $600 million dollars in loans, while the United Nations World Food Program delivered $35 million dollars’ worth of food aid to the impoverished Cambodian people.

Food security, or rather ‘insecurity’ is real.

Land acquisition in foreign nations, commonly referred to as ‘land grabbing’ has become a way for developed nations to secure their food supply.  It is not unreasonable nor scaremongering to suggest that future conflicts will not be fought over the fossil fuel we need to run our economies but rather food ‘fuel’ we need to nourish our very being.

Mr Cribb said: “While food demand will double by 2060, scarcities are emerging of almost all resources to satisfy it.  This challenges us to rethink food itself and how we produce it, and to create diets and foods for the future which are safe, healthy, and nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet.”

I cannot agree more.  So how and where do we begin?  Really, we should have begun many years ago but we have not taken past warnings seriously.

A case in point is the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. Read more here: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html

For the record this significant warning hardly rated a mention in the mainstream media at the time and now 22 years on not much has changed.

What can you do you ask?  If you weren’t able to make it to Mr Cribb’s Keynote address on Friday you can read his presentation here: http://www.yorkeandmidnorth.com.au/resources/publications/.

Along with this there is much other reading to do.  If you do make time to read and reflect and you come away with a sense of urgency and you want to act, then do take action.

Act with conviction and in good faith.  Act with passion and a desire to leave this planet in a better state that it is now. Start a conversation with your neighbour, your work colleague, your local MP.

A wise man once told me to stay on my soapbox!  I can guarantee that I will.

Step up, not back. Cannabis Law Reform in South Australia

Increasingly, even though we have a legal framework to access Medical Cannabis, there are still significant challenges for health consumers in finding safe and affordable patient access pathways to Medical Cannabis.

Access to Medical Cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by Commonwealth and State red tape.

Punitive measures rarely work, if at all.

Every day people are being forced to turn to the alternative (black) market to access cannabis for medical purposes. In doing so, they run the risk of being caught breaking the law in growing their own; or sourcing product of an inferior quality.

A Marshall Liberal Government wants to legislate to raise the maximum penalties for Cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000.

It believes that this is “keeping penalties in line with community expectations.”

How wrong can they be?

Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, has stated that there “lots of support across senior ranks of police for Medical Cannabis.

So why is then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement?

Personal narratives are powerful instruments of change. Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.

You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

So, don’t raise your voice, improve your argument and lobby for Cannabis Law Reform which will benefit not harm our communities.

After you leave here today – continue the conversation – and tell your story to your local Member of Parliament.

Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University quotes Cicero in getting his message across “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to

“The health of the people should be the supreme law.”

We must let science and those with lived experience to ultimately inform evidenced based Medical and other Cannabis policy.

Oils ain’t Oils – Teresa McDowell

About the author of this piece:  Teresa is on a mission to empower people to harness the hemp life and lead a healthy living.  At the forefront of the movement since 2006 is Founder and Hemp Living Advocate, Teresa McDowell.  Since making her first, and most popular product, Skin Soothe, in Mt Barker, South Australia, Teresa has transformed her hemp skin care range into a brand with passion and purpose.

Oils ain’t Oils

Much has been shared in the media over recent times regarding hemp oil or ‘medical cannabis’.  For many people confusion remains around the differences between cannabis oil and hemp ‘seed’ oil.  Today I will endeavour to clear up some of that confusion.

Cannabis oil (sometimes referred to as ‘hemp oil’) is extracted from the flowering head and leaf of the cannabis plant.  Tinctures and oils made up of high THC (tetrahydrocannabidoids) and CBD (Cannabidiol) oil are used medicinally to treat chronic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, pain etc.

Medicinal cannabis is only legally available through prescription and access is currently very restrictive in Australia.   More needs to be done to allow sufferers quick, affordable and safe access.

CBD oil (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid) is also scheduled as a class 4 drug leaving sufferers with no option but to go through the lengthy TGA process via a GP willing to support them.  There is necessarily no guarantee however of a successful outcome.  The current process, in my view, is morally bankrupt given this healing herb has no toxic or hallucinogenic side effects.  I would remind our regulators and legislators that one of the fundamental principles of medicine is ‘do no harm’.   What harm are we doing as a society when nature is criminalised?

Hemp ‘seed’ oil is a dark, golden-green oil cold pressed from the industrial hemp seed and doesn’t contain any of the psychotropic properties of medical cannabis. It has very low levels of THC, down to 0.3% with a maximum of 1%.

Akin to a health supplement (such as fish oil) it may help prevent conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and auto immune diseases by limiting the inflammatory process.

With the perfect balance of omega 3, 6 & 9 essential fatty acids (EFA’s), hemp seed oil is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds which is beneficial when dealing with degenerative diseases caused by inflammation.

A nutritional powerhouse, hemp seed oil is rich in essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, D & A.  Healthy fats (EFA’s) and plant-based proteins help maintain heart health, lower blood cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

Hemp seeds and oil are now legal to consume in Australia with regulations enacted on November 12, 2017.  This finally brings Australia in line with the rest of the western world and Aussie consumers can now enjoy the health benefits and delicious treats hemp foods offer.

Hemp Hemp Hooray!

More here: http://www.hemphemphooray.com.au/

The Breakwater (first published February 2016)

Introduction: 

The Narungga people have always lived on Yorke Peninsula. Their country extends as far north as Port Broughton and east to the Hummock Ranges. Their neighbours were the Kaurna of the Adelaide Plains and the Nukunu to the North, with whom the Narungga would meet for trade and ceremony. Their expertise at fishing was admired by many of the early European settlers.

The first European settlers in this area were Joseph (Curley Joe) Simms and his wife Blanche who arrived in the early 1860’s.  The area known to the early Europeans as Glencoe was later, and still is, known as Simms Cove.

Curley Joe began fishing at the time copper was discovered on the Yorke Peninsula and in the families that arrived, Curley Joe had a ready market.  All seven of Joe’s sons became fishers (he and Blanche had 11 children).  Over the next many generations numerous Simms’ boats were commissioned and when not at work were anchored in Simms Cove.

For those of you reading this piece and have seen my photography captured in the place I refer to as ‘my sanctuary’ would be familiar with an iconic part of the Simms Cove-Moonta Bay landscape.  It is known as the breakwater.

This remnant timber has fascinated me for years so I set out to learn more.

I took the time to sit and listen to a remarkable local and extraordinary man, a descendent of Curley Joe, Ben Simms.

Ben is in his 84th year.  Ben has been many things in his life, a writer, a poet and a horse trainer but it is his affinity with the sea and fishing which is striking.

I was compelled to write these words after spending an afternoon in Ben’s company.  These words are my take on the ‘Sentinels’ at the bottom of the cliff at Simms Cove –  the remnant timber, the Breakwater.

These words are written from the perspective of a tree, a tree destined for life beyond its native forest, and are dedicated to Ben.

The Breakwater 

I grew from a seed and put down my roots in nutrient-rich heavy, clay soil.   I grew tall and straight and stood shoulder to shoulder in a forest of my kin.  My home, my sanctuary is on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

I am already 200 years old and I am the keeper of secrets.

It is spring and I’m adorned with a flourish of rich creamy flowers, native bees work busily in my canopy. I hear the crack of a stock whip in the distance as the cloven hooves of bullocks’ crash through the understory. The bullocky calmly encourages his team of beasts to ‘walk-on’ but not with a word but rather with nurturing actions.  A small band of sinewy, keen-eyed men mark my brethren for felling and I am targeted too.

I feel the bite of the saw rip deep into my bark and my flesh.  My scent, my blood, the smell of what they describe as turpentine is heavy on the ether as my leaves are crushed.  It is matter of some time until my remnants and broken spirit is heaved onto the flatbed dray and my journey begins.  “Walk-on”, the bullocky gestures.

I am a tree – I am supposed to stand sentinel for the term of my life but I am now moving. I am being moved.  I am moved.

Days later I reach a harbour, it’s bustling.  Hemp lines hold a cargo vessel alongside a makeshift wharf. The loading begins.

I am manhandled into the hold and wedged between my kin – we are heading to South Australia.  The journey around the rugged coastline is uneventful.  Spring turns into summer.

The activity at this port of Wallaroo is lively and hurried.  Steamers and majestic sail boats sit high on the tide.  The construction of a wharf is underway and farther down the coast, the construction of a jetty. The year is 1872 and the port is Moonta Bay.

I am surplus to requirements…or am I?  Have I been hand-picked to provide a safe haven for a fishing fleet?  Is this my destiny?

My length has been reduced now and I’m rolled, hauled and then suspended over a cliff and painstakingly lowered to a sandy resting place below.  Fishers are now also lumberjacks and engineers, they start to design a haven, a breakwater.  They get to work.  I am to be the centre piece.  There are more than thirty pieces of my kin now implanted in a watery bed.  I listen to the fishers and workmen as they recount their embellished tales.

I am the keeper of secrets.  With every passing day I add more to my vast chapters of knowledge and understanding.

I have served my purpose well and I have now seen many seasons. The tides ebb and flow, the ferocious sou-westerly gales gnash at my very being but I remain steadfast.

On calm clear nights I bear witness to the intensity of the celestial landscape.  I see black velvet scattered with precious gemstones.  Diamonds, rubies and large magellanic cloud are suspended in the vastness of space.  The Southern Cross pointed out by alpha and beta Centauri hangs.  I wonder how many navigators have gazed upon the crux – a welcome escort to those seeking direction or comfort.

I have afforded shelter to the Challa, the Rum-Runner and many other vessels over the years.   From time to time cutters, anchored in the deeper cooler water off-shore renew their rigging and chain.  The heavy chain, now compromised by the elements of salt and water are brought to my watery forest.

I am wrapped in chain and for a moment in time I am connected to my fellow sentinels.  It is said this is to add strength to my purpose.  I disagree. The sea soon erodes the chain and it disperses into the sea, fragmented and broken.  I remain steadfast.

I have been a bystander as skippers and deckhands, their backs braking and muscles burning with the sheer weight of their bounty finally get their prized catch to the top of the cliff.  Their catch is destined for market and so the next part of the journey begins for fish and fisher.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

Young lovers meet at dusk at the base of the cliffs when the tide is near high.  The lovers embrace and collide with passion, they are alone.  They believe there are no witnesses to their unbridled desire.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

I am weary; my years now number more than I care to count.  I’m weathered, I’m windswept but my surface is smooth.  No splinters, no shards which might catch and rip at a cloth.  A pacific gull, not long past its juvenile years, extends its wings and stretches.  As it does, its talons dig into me so it can maintain a steady balance.

I feel no pain but I do feel pleasure.  I feel the connection with another living creature.  It is comforting and gives me comfort to know that the majestic seabird picked me to perch upon.

You may think I am dead remnant timber soon to be lost to a watery grave but I am alive.

I live in a sanctuary and I offer sanctuary. I am part of an irreplaceable history but importantly I am very much part of the future.

I am the keeper of secrets.

Welcome

Hello, nice to see you…

While you are here, take your time to sift through theses pages where I have written about issues which move me.  Many things inspire and motivate me, more often than not it is people and it is places.

I believe strongly that without our environment there is no economy. I am  proponent Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp, I advocate for stronger regional communities through regional development and I am a proud supporter of Australia becoming a Republic.

I  believe that securing our food and water into the future is not something we should hope for but rather something we should strive for and that we should allow science and research to drive innovation and economic growth.

I often retreat to the sanctuary, my sanctuary, of the beach at Moonta Bay to find peace and equilibrium.

My frown lines are borne out of concern and sometimes fear and sadness; and my ample laughter lines are from living, loving and being hopeful.

Dianah