World first seismic sound experiment conducted off NW Australia

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has conducted the first real-world seismic experiment to determine the effects of marine noise on fish and pearl oysters.

The experiment, using the seismic vessel the BGP Explorer, surveyed two sites off the northwest of Western Australia over ten days. The experiment, which has taken the collaborative efforts of more than 100 people 12 months to design and co-ordinate, could help to clarify some of the issues around marine noise.

AIMS Project Science Leader Dr Mark Meekan said the experiment was unique.

“It is the first time anyone has had a dedicated seismic vessel to look at the effects of seismic energy on pearl oysters and on fish,” Dr Meekan said.

“This is an enormous piece of research, the answers are not going to apply just to Australia, they’ll be important internationally.”

Seismic surveys are used to produce images of the various geological layers and their location beneath the earth’s surface. The seismic vessel tows an array of air guns that use compressed air to produce acoustic energy. Sound waves penetrate the seabed and, depending on the depth and characteristics of the geological layers, are reflected back at different time intervals and intensity.

The reflected sounds are captured by a series of very sensitive hydrophones (underwater microphones) towed behind the seismic vessel. Analysing the time of arrival and characteristics of the reflected sound waves provides valuable information about the geological layers.

The study is looking specifically at pearl oysters (Pinctada maxima) and red emperor, which are a commercially important indicator species for other demersal fish.

The researchers tagged 390 red emperor and are tracking the fish via an array of 96 acoustic receivers as well as using BRUVS© (Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems) to document their movements before, during and after exposure to the seismic sound.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development acting regional manager Ellen Smith said looking into the effect of seismic activities on demersal fish was important because their abundance and biodiversity is an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.

“We want to find out if fish change their behaviour and leave the area, stop spawning, hide or return to normal,” Ms Smith said. “If we know how demersal fish react we can manage our fisheries appropriately to ensure long-term sustainability.”

With the support of the Pearl Producers Association and the Paspaley Pearl Company the AIMS study also set out more than 10,000 pearl oysters in groups of about 1200 at different distances of up to 6 kilometres from the seismic vessel operation.

“This experiment is important because we need to understand the nature of the risks associated with seismic testing and pearl oysters at Eighty Mile Beach,” Pearl Producers Association chief executive Aaron Irving said.

More information on the project can be found at:

New funding for family law services to support women to recover financially after separation

Women will be the major beneficiaries of a major funding boost for family law services and initiatives to help women establish economic security after ending a relationship as part of the Coalition Government’s Women’s Economic Security Package, announced today.

“Women are more likely than men to experience financial hardship after separation, especially those women who have experienced family violence and they may not have the financial or other means to access services, lawyers, and the courts to resolve their family law disputes,” Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer said.

“The Coalition Government is delivering practical measures to help give women greater choices about their lives and to build financial security for themselves and their families. But we must particularly ensure that we assist those women and their children who may be experiencing family and domestic violence.”

“This package of measures will assist and encourage women, including victims of family violence, to pursue safer, faster, and fairer parenting arrangements and property settlements after separation and will assist them to obtain economic security for themselves and their children,” Attorney-General, Christian Porter said.

“Without appropriate supports and assistance, women may be more likely to agree to inequitable settlements to avoid the stress and cost of going to court, or to abandon their property claims altogether.”

Victims of family violence will benefit from new ongoing funding for Legal Aid Commissions to support the ban on direct cross-examination by perpetrators of family violence. The funding, initially $7 million over three years, establishes the new Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme.

Under this Scheme, Legal Aid Commissions will be funded to provide legal representation to parties subject to the ban on direct cross-examination in the Government’s Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018, which is currently before the Senate.

The Bill will protect victims of family violence in family law proceedings by banning direct cross-examination in certain circumstances, requiring that cross-examination be conducted by a legal representative.

Legal representation under the Scheme will be available to all parties who are subject to the ban on direct cross-examination – the usual legal aid means and merits tests will not apply.

“The Family Violence and Cross-Examination of Parties Scheme provides funding certainty for victims of family violence and ensures that their perpetrators will never be able to directly cross-examine them in future,” the Attorney-General said.

The Government has worked closely with and thanks National Legal Aid for its important assistance to accurately cost the Scheme and has followed the information and advice from Legal Aid to ensure that it is well designed for victims of family violence and fully funded.

The number of cases and parties likely to utilise the Scheme was informed by recent research conducted the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

The AIFS research indicates that the Scheme would apply to up to an average of 134 matters per annum in the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Government has allowed for a 20 per cent increase on these AIFS figures, to account for a possible increase in the number of victims of family violence willing to proceed to trial once the Scheme is in place.

As required under the Bill, the legislation will be reviewed after two years and will include an analysis of the costs of providing legal representation under the Scheme to inform its ongoing funding requirements.

As a result of this funding, the Government looks forward to Bill being considered and passed in the Senate in the final sitting fortnight this year to provide certainty to victims of family violence that their perpetrator will never be able to directly cross-examine them in Court.

Further measures being funded from 2019-20 under the Package include:

  • $31.8 million in ongoing funding to existing Commonwealth-funded specialist Domestic Violence Units and Health Justice Partnerships across Australia, with an expansion of these services to include financial advice, counselling and literacy services. This will ensure that these important and effective services can continue to provide legal and social support services to victims of family violence.
  • $50.4 million in new funding for family law property mediation services:
    • $13 million each year will be provided to the 65 Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) across Australia, on an ongoing basis, to help families reach agreement about splitting their property after separation and keep them out of court.
    • $10.3 million will be provided to Legal Aid Commissions for a two year trial of lawyer-assisted mediation in each state and territory. Using a more relaxed means and merit test, the trial will support families with asset pools of up to $500,000 (excluding debt) to resolve their property disputes with the help of experienced legal aid lawyers.
  • $5.9 million in new funding for the federal family courts to conduct a two year trial of simpler and faster court processes for resolving family law property cases with an asset pool of up to $500,000 (excluding debt). Additional court Registrars will be appointed to help separated couples prepare consent orders to be lodged with the court, and a short-form process will be used if the case needs to be decided by a judge.

An estimated 31,850 couples across Australia are expected to benefit from access to property mediation through FRCs and Legal Aid Commissions each year. The Government has been funding FRCs to support families to resolve disputes about children since 2006. This additional funding will allow FRCs to expand their mediation services to include property disputes as well.

“Property cases make up more than half of all new cases filed in the Family Court, and over a third of all new family law cases filed in the Federal Circuit Court, each year,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“Faster resolution of disputes through mediation and streamlined court processes will reduce the backlog of cases and delays for women and families.”

Currently the same process applies whether the property pool in dispute is worth $10,000 or $100,000. This one-size-fits-all approach is adding to the time, cost and stress of many separating couples. The streamlined process being trialled under the Package will reduce legal fees, leaving more in the property pool to be distributed between the parties, and free up court time to deal with more complex family law matters.

By facilitating faster decisions for families, this new funding supports the Government’s proposed structural reform of the family law courts.

The measures respond to recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs’ report: A Better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence, and proposals under consideration by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Review of the Family Law System.​​



Andrea Demetriades, Rose Matefeo and Susie Youssef

ABC in association with Screen Australia and Create NSW are pleased to announce filming is underway on the new season of Jungle Entertainment’s Squinters, the acclaimed, hit comedy series that celebrates the comically mundane ritual of the daily work commute.

Created by Trent O’Donnell (No Activity, The Moodys) and Adam Zwar (Wilfred, Lowdown)Squinters season 1 was embraced by critics and audiences alike, becoming ABC iview’s most watched comedy of 2018.* Season 2 picks up with Aussie distribution company ‘Kosciusko’ taken over by an American conglomerate. Under new management, our travellers have new jobs and for some, new passengers along for the ride. Over six episodes, we learn intimate details of their lives, relationships and struggles, as they navigate their new workplace.

A star-studded line-up of new cast includes Stephen Peacocke (Tina Fey’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Wanted), Claudia O’Doherty (Judd Apatow’s Love (Netflix), Inside Amy Schumer), Justine Clarke (House Husbands, The Justine Clarke Show), Genevieve Morris (No Activity), Anne Edmonds (Get Krack!n), Bert LaBonte (The Book of Mormon) and the beloved Ernie Dingo. They join returning cast Logie Award-winner Mandy McElhinney, Sam Simmons, Andrea Demetriades, Wayne Blair, Justin Rosniak, Jenna Owen, Christiaan Van Vuuren, Susie Youssef and Edinburgh International Comedy Festival 2018 winner, Rose Matafeo. And still to be announced…a major American female comedic talent has been cast as the new CEO.

“Like Marlon Brando, my favourite acting involves remaining seated the whole time, so this is a dream role for me,” says new cast addition Claudia O’Doherty.

While fellow newcomer Steven Peacocke says, “The scripts are some of the best stuff I’ve read in ages. Thrilled to be a part of the series.”

From Chloe Rickard and Jason Burrows, the Executive Producers behind the international titles Mr Inbetween and No Activity, the behind the scenes talent line up continues to impress with the team of directors including Trent O’Donnell, Amanda Brotchie, Erin White, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Adele Vuko.  Writers include Adam Zwar, Kodie Bedford, Ben Crisp, Lally Katz, Becky Lucas, Mark O’Toole, Anita Punton, Michael Ward and Joel Slack-Smith.

Squinters season two is currently shooting in Sydney and LA, to air on ABC and iview in 2019.

Production credits: Jungle Entertainment production for the ABC. Production investment from Screen Australia, in association with Create NSW.  Created by Trent O’Donnell and Adam Zwar. Executive Producers Chloe Rickard, Jason Burrows, Adam Zwar and Trent O’Donnell. Producers Chloe Rickard, Lauren Elliott and Johanna Somerville. ABC Executive Producers Rick Kalowski and Andrew Gregory.



Writer of comedy series Gnomes, Tegan Higginbotham / Photo by Carlo Zeccola

Screen Australia has announced over $400,000 of Story Development funding for 16 projects including feature films, television and online series. The slate includes a musical comedy about moral corruption in the advertising industry called The Agency, a comedic horror Gnomes centered on grudge bearing garden gnomes in a fictional regional town, and a thought-provoking feature film Misfit to be produced by Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).

“The new development guidelines have now been in action for five months. We drastically reduced eligibility barriers and will now fund projects for any screen platform. We’ve had a fantastic response from the industry and the number of applications we’re receiving per week is steadily increasing,” said Nerida Moore, Head of Development at Screen Australia.

“As well as innovative and exciting projects from established practitioners, we are starting to see new and emerging voices from around Australia coming through. In this funding round I’m particularly delighted to see so many emerging female writers.”

Of the 16 projects receiving funding 11 projects were funded through the Generate fund, two through the Premium fund, and three were funded through the legacy development program (which is no longer operational).

Among the projects funded for development are:

  • Blood Sisters from Mad Dan Productions: An adventure/drama series for online set in Far North Queensland. This thriller follows three teenage girls on the run, bonded by death and united by truth. Blood Sisters has a strong writing team led by acclaimed writer and Story Producer Anthony Mullins (The Strange Calls), along with Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road TV Series), Daniel Mulvihill and Madeleine Dyer. Madeleine and Daniel co-wrote and produced the 2017 online series Sexy Herpes. Stephen Corvini who has worked on dramas including Safe Harbour and Hyde and Seek is on board as executive producer with Enzo Tedeschi (Airlock).
  • Breathing Sea from Midwinter Films: A period melodrama set in a remote Australian coastal town in the 1930’s and 40s. The feature film is told as an unfolding mystery shifting between two time periods and follows a couple of fifty years, Marta, a Jewish Immigrant and Jack, an Australian fisherman and solider, who are confronted by death and challenged by a past secret. Producer Bridget Callow-Wright and director Priscilla Cameron are joining forces once again after The Butterfly Tree which was selected to screen at Toronto International Film Festival in 2017.
  • Finding Sanity from Sandcastle Studios: A feature film about the true story of the man who risked his life to discover the world’s first treatment for mental illness. Dr John Cade was a young Australian doctor who defied the medical establishment to stir up a miracle that changed the world. This biographical drama is based on the book of the same name by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore. BAFTA-winning screenwriter Mike Bullen who created and is executive producer on Cold Feet is attached as executive producer and AWGIE-winning screenwriter Chris Cudlipp will write and produce this uplifting film.
  • Gnomes from The Two Jons: A character driven comedy with a supernatural twist. The series is written by writer, comedian and actress Tegan Higginbotham (Oddball) and Paul Verhoeven (Steam Punks), with script editing from Marieke Hardy (Laid). Richard Kelly (Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell) and John Molloy (Molly) will produce alongside Joel Kohn who will also direct. Joel created the series, which is inspired by his viral short film Gnomes Attack.
  • Misfit from Made Up Stories: A feature length drama written and directed by emerging writer and director Luci Schroder whose short film Slapper was selected to screen at Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The film follows Heidi, a woman who suffers intensely from trauma-triggered, dissociative identity disorder, and her experience navigating life as she falls through the cracks in a system that is not designed to support her. The film will be produced by Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson and Steve Hutensky who are currently working on the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed crime novel by Jane Harper, The Dry.
  • Splitters from Arcadia: A feminist conspiracy feature film exploring sexism within the cosmetics industry. The all-female creative team comprises of producer Lisa Shaunessy (Killing Ground), executive producer Alexandra Burke, script editor Joan Sauers and writer and director Brooke Goldfinch. Brooke wrote and directed the multi award-winning short film Red Rover and was the recipient of the 2016 Lexus Short Film Fellowship making the short film Outbreak Generation, which was also produced by Lisa Shaunessy and Leonie Mansfield.
  • The Agency from Ambiance Entertainment: An outrageous musical comedy set in a trendy advertising agency, focusing on an artistically-stifled jingle writer Sebastian, his eccentric co-workers and his seemingly endless client list, as he battles for authenticity in a world of facades. The writing team is led by co-creator Joel Slack-Smith (Orange is the New Brown), and includes Emmy Award-winning British writer Roger Drew (The Thick Of ItVeep).
  • The Gathering from Asphodel Films: A six-part teen drama series about a group of disillusioned teens who discover they have been chosen to battle a centuries-old evil simmering within their small town. The series is an adaptation of the successful novel of the same name by author Isobelle Carmody. It is written and directed by Nicholas Verso (Boys in the Trees) and co-written by Craig Irwin, who worked with Nicholas on the fourth series of Nowhere Boys. Kodie Bedford is on board as a writer and recently co-wrote for the teen drama series Grace Beside Me and critically acclaimed series Mystery Road.

Funding approvals for feature films are listed here 

Funding approvals for television and online are listed here 

Funding approvals for titles funded last financial year including The Breathing SeaSplitters, and Finding Sanity are here 

Charges laid over alleged sexual assault of two young girls – SCC Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad

A man will face court today charged over allegedly sexually assaulting two young girls in the Lake Macquarie region.

Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation following reports an eight-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl were sexually and indecently assaulted by a man known to them.

Following further inquiries, detectives, with the assistance of Australian Border Force (ABF), arrested a 59-year-old man at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay about 2.15pm yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

During a search of the man, investigators seized electronic devices and several USB drives.

He was taken to Day Street Police Station where he was charged with two counts of indecent assault person under 16 years of age, and aggravated sexual assault – victim under the age of 16 years.

Police will allege in court the man sexually and indecently assaulted both girls at a property in the Lake Macquarie area in January 2018.

The man was refused bail and is due to appear at Central Local Court today (Tuesday 20 November 2018).


Women in court on pursuit, fraud offences – Port Stephens-Hunter

Police have charged two women with 29 offences following an alleged crime spree across the Port Stephens – Hunter Police District during the past week.

Officers will allege the two women, aged 24 and 27, stole numerous vehicles across the district by posing as interested buyers for vehicles advertised for sale online.

On Thursday 15 November 2018, the women allegedly stole a black Mazda 6 from an address in Bolwarra Heights.

Police will allege that vehicle was used in multiple alleged offences including failing to pay for fuel at a service station at Nabiac yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

Later that same day, the Mazda6 was found damaged on Viney Creek Road, West Tea Gardens; a short time later, a Toyota Hilux was stolen from a home further down the same road.

Police established a perimeter around Viney Creek Road and saw the stolen Hilux travel past. Officers activated warning devices and attempted to intercept the driver but she failed to stop as directed.

A pursuit was initiated with the vehicle followed north on the Pacific Highway; however, due to erratic driving the pursuit was terminated.

Members of the public contacted police to report the driving of the Hilux which enabled police to resume the pursuit when they came across the vehicle on Failford Road, Darawank.

The pursuit continued through Tuncurry and Forster where the women were arrested when their ute was forced to stop due to heavy traffic on the Forster Bridge.

Police arrested the two women and took them to Maitland Police Station where they were charged with a string of offences including steal motor vehicle, police pursuit – not stop – drive manner dangerous, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, aggravated break and enter, drive motor vehicle during disqualification period, having goods in custody suspected of being stolen, and shoplifting.

They were refused bail and will appear in Forster Local Court today (Tuesday 20 November 2018).

Large crowds expected for Newcastle 500, racegoers urged to plan their trip

NSW Police are urging racegoers to plan their trip ahead of time and travel safely on the roads as large crowds are expected for the return of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.

A high-visibility police operation will be in place from Thursday 22 November to Monday 26 November 2018 in Newcastle, for the finale of the Supercars Australia Championship Series.

General duties officers from Newcastle City Police District and across Northern Region, assisted by specialist police, will focus on road safety as well as anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence.

Northern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the event has become a calendar highlight for the City of Newcastle, with over 150,000 spectators expected to visit over the weekend.

“Our number one priority is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to safely enjoy this family-friendly event without disrupting the local community,” Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

“Police will be out in force over the weekend targeting speeding, drink-driving, mobile phone and seat-belt offences, to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely.

“Motorists are urged to drive to the conditions and allow extra travel time as there will be heavy traffic and delays on major and local roads, particularly as crowds arrive on Friday and Saturday, and leave on Sunday and Monday,” Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

Centre for Road Safety Executive Director Bernard Carlon said speeding, drink and drug driving, and fatigue remain the biggest killers on our roads.

“We want everyone to travel safely this weekend, so if you are driving, don’t speed and take a break if you’re feeling tired, and never, ever drive if you’re affected by alcohol or drugs,” Mr Carlon said.

For all special event traffic information, including road closures, special event clearways and live traffic reports, visit:

Further information about the event, including venue maps, transport and parking availability, can be found at:

Man charged over alleged aggravated sexual assault of woman in the Hunter region

A man has been charged by Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad over the alleged aggravated sexual assault of a woman in the Hunter region in September.

Earlier this month, detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation after receiving reports a woman had been sexually assaulted by a man she met on social media.

Following extensive investigations, a 30-year-old man was arrested by detectives at Ryde Police Station just after 4pm yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

He was charged with aggravated sexual assault-inflict actual bodily harm on victim.

Police will allege in court that the man attended a home in the Hunter region on Sunday 30 September 2018, and sexually assaulted a 26-year-old woman.

The man has been granted strict conditional bail to appear at Burwood Local Court on Monday 10 December 2018.


Greater choice for Australian women: Women’s Economic Security Statement 2018

The Coalition Government is delivering practical measures to help give women greater choices about their lives, build financial security for themselves and their families, and grow the Australian economy.

Over the past few decades, Australia has taken great strides in improving women’s economic independence and security.

There are more women in work than ever before, with a majority of the more than 1.1 million jobs created since the Coalition came to office taken up by women; this year has also seen women’s participation in the labour market reach record highs – in October 2018, the women’s participation rate was 60.5 per cent; and the gender pay gap is moving in the right direction, down to a record low of 14.5 per cent.

But despite this progress, some problems still persist. Women are likely to earn less than men; they are likely to work part-time at over twice the rate of men; and at retirement age there is a 42 per cent gap in their superannuation balances.

The Women’s Economic Security Statement is built around three key pillars: participation in the workforce, better earning potential and economic independence.

That is why the $109 million Statement is focussed on assisting women at many different points of their lives, in different parts of Australia, and in different circumstances.

It will help equip them with the tools and support they need to make the best choices about their future.

Whether it is boosting entrepreneurship in girls and young women, bringing business together to help reduce the ‘flexibility gap’ and gender pay gap, expanding the parents who can access parental leave payments and the period the payment is taken, or supporting women in their darkest hour with access to the funds they need to escape domestic violence, the Coalition Government is focused on supporting Australian women.

The Women’s Economic Security Statement won’t just give women and their families’ greater choice, it will also grow the Australian economy.

When women do well, their families do well, and our economy and nation prospers.

The Women’s Economic Security Package ($109 million over four years)
Building on strong foundations

The Women’s Economic Security Package is built around three pillars:

  1. Workforce participation
  2. Earning potential
  3. Economic independence

Measures to increase women’s workforce participation
($54.8 million over four y ears):

  • reinstating the Time Use Survey, a contemporary evidence base to measure women’s economic security
  • improvements to Workplace Gender Equality Agency systems to enhance Australia’s gender equality data and reduce the cost of reporting for business
  • establishing the Reducing Barriers to Work Forum
  • increasing flexibility in the Paid Parental Leave system and extending access through changes to the work test
  • supporting regional employers through the Career Revive initiative to develop action plans for their business to attract and retain women returning to work after a career break
  • providing scholarships for women in economics and finance through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program

Measures to improve women’s earning potential
($18.6 million over four years):

  • an expansion of the Curious Minds program
  • establishing a Future Female Entrepreneurs program in partnership with the private sector
  • creating a new grants program, Boosting Female Founders, to ensure women can access the finance they need to achieve their entrepreneurial goals

Measures to support women’s economic independence
($35.6 million over four years):

  • providing Specialist Domestic Violence Units and Health Justice Partnerships, including for financial support services
  • extending early release of superannuation for victims of domestic and family violence
  • expanding the No Interest Loan Scheme run by Good Shepherd Microfinance to women experiencing family and domestic violence
  • funding legal assistance to ensure victims of family violence are protected from direct cross-examination by their perpetrators in family law matters
  • improving the visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings
  • providing family law property mediation
  • establishing a new Small Claims Property pilots program


Today, the Leader of the Opposition has written to the Prime Minister urging him to agree to a bipartisan taskforce, led by the Attorney-General and Shadow Attorney-General, to create a National Integrity Commission.

At the beginning of 2018, Labor announced our plan to legislate for a federal anti-corruption body. All year, the Government has ignored our requests for cooperation.

This issue should be above politics. The time has come for the Liberal and National parties to support a federal anti-corruption body.

A bipartisan process would help ensure the complex consultation and design work can be completed swiftly, and a body established as a priority.

In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in government and Commonwealth institutions. The Liberal Party’s chaos and division have further eroded Australians’ trust in politics.

Labor welcomes the support of members of the cross-bench for a federal anti-corruption body. This provides an opportunity to secure broad parliamentary support to establish a National Integrity Commission before the next election, if Scott Morrison and the Liberals finally come on board.

Mr Morrison delayed the Banking Royal Commission by voting against it 26 times. He should not let his arrogance and stubbornness get in the way of a National Integrity Commission.

Mr Morrison should learn from his mistakes, and join with Labor now so we can work on this issue together.

We are prepared to work with the Liberals, but we will not wait for them.

If Mr Morrison continues to block a National Integrity Commission, a Shorten Labor Government will deliver it.

A copy of the letter can be found here.