The Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem, once lived almost as far north as Sydney, but is now found in only a 60 by 70 km area north-east of Melbourne. The animal, named after a museum taxidermist, returned from the dead when it was “rediscovered” in 1961. Now it faces extinction again due to a dramatic decline in habitat. Reliant on big old trees to sleep in and smaller ones for food and transport, the tiny marsupial is threatened by fire and a contest for trees with Victoria’s timber industry, which clear-fells somewhere around 1000 hectares a year of its ash habitat, mostly for pulp and woodchips. While the industry is in serious decline due to lack of supply, it is providing jobs in regional Victoria, particularly the Latrobe Valley, which badly needs them.
The government of Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states in Borneo, plans to build a string of hydroelectric dams and industrialise with the power. But the next of the planned dams, on the Baram River, threatens the land and homes of 20,000 indigenous people. A group of local activists have been blockading the proposed dam site for two years, and in October 2015 marked the anniversary with an international event – the World Indigenous Summit on Environment and Rivers.
A sad but hopeful look at the language situation in the Roper River region, in the Northern Territory, made by Ngukurr local, Ngandi man and Language Centre worker Grant Thompson and me, with and for Ngukurr Language Centre. Screened on ICTV (Indigenous Community Television) in early 2015.
A network of craft workers horrified by the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers has raised well over $10,000 to support them at a series of weekend markets in Melbourne’s inner north. Organisers say the Creating A Welcome initiative came out of a desire to do something practical and overcome feelings of helplessness about federal policies. The ‘craftivists’ held their fourth market on Saturday 6 December 2014 at the Northcote Uniting Church, which is supporting them, with all takings to be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
In early 2012 the Australian Homestay Network, which ran a placement system for international students, launched a program that would see Australian households host asylum seekers released from detention in their homes. A return by the Gillard government later that year to a policy of offshore detention in the Pacific meant that the scheme would be short-lived.
In the 18 months to April 2012 around 4,000 asylum seekers – including 1400 children – were transferred from detention centres into community detention. Following the failure of the federal government’s “Malaysia solution”, refugee support groups were gearing up to help house hundreds more being released from detention each month. Amongst the programs being rolled out was one which saw private households open their homes to asylum seekers.