Diggings 12 Dec 2020

Australia has an ugly legacy of denying water rights to Aboriginal people. Not much has changed

Golding Dec 2020

Water management in the Murray-Darling Basin has radically changed over the past 30 years. But none of the changes have addressed a glaring injustice: Aboriginal people’s share of water rights is minute, and in New South Wales it is diminishing. Under colonial water law, rights to use water, for example for farming, were granted to whoever owned the land where rivers flowed. This link between water use and land-holding remained in place until the end of the 20th century. As a result, Aboriginal people, whose traditional ownership of land (native title) was only recognised by the Australian High Court in 1992, were largely denied legal rights to water.


 Victoria just gave 2 billion litres of water back to Indigenous people. Here’s what that means for the rest of Australia

Mitchell River

For the first time in Victoria’s history, the state government has handed back water to traditional owners, giving them rights to a river system they have managed sustainably for thousands of years. The two billion litres of water returned to the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) this month means traditional owners can now determine how and where water is used for cultural, environmental or economic purposes. The decision recognises that water rights are crucial for Indigenous people to restore customs, protect their culture, become economically independent and heal Country.



In Sydney, a Cafe Serving Aboriginal Food Brings Comfort and Challenges

For Hrabinsky, preserving indigenous cuisine requires restoring Aboriginal peoples’ relationship to traditional foodways and ecosystems. As a student, she studied horticulture, then worked as a park ranger. But she felt disconnected from the community. “When I was a ranger, I didn’t really get to work with a lot of traditional owners on their land,” says Hrabinsky. (Traditional owners are the indigenous residents and stewards of specific regions across Australia.) “For me, it just didn’t quite fill the hole inside.”


Calls for royal commission as report details allegations blueberry farmers pay workers $3 an hour

The New South Wales north coast is alleging systemic wages theft and intentional worker underpayment by unscrupulous labour hire firms.

Yet another report on how Australia exploits migrant labour.


Scientists race to find wild, ancient bananas to save the popular fruit from climate change

Scientists are racing to find and save the living ancestors of modern-day, cultivated bananas that grow in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. These wild bananas have genes capable of protecting one of the world’s most popular fruits from climate change, pests and diseases. However, deforestation and fires are destroying tropical forests across the South Pacific, and scientists say there is a risk of losing both the ancestors and the possible future of commercial bananas.


Deciphering diet from blood and urine samples

To achieve greater objectivity in nutrition research, which has historically relied on self-reports of what subjects eat, scientists are turning to biomarkers in bodily fluids that reveal details about a person’s diet. Much of the work to this point has involved screens to identify novel markers for specific food items (or even for how those foods are prepared). In some cases, researchers have begun to use markers identified in these screens to correlate diet with health risks.



Coon’s rebranding dilemma: polishing a brand name to stay out of controversy

Previous owners of the Coon brand, Kraft and Dairy Farmers, resisted demands for a name change on the grounds the association with an American racial slur for African Americans was mere coincidence, with the cheese being named after its American creator Edward William Coon, who patented his method for making it – known as “Cooning” – in the 1926. Australian dairy manufacturers began making cheese using Coon’s methods in the mid-1930s. In keeping with a common branding strategy at the time, the cheese was marketed using the name of its creator. It is not known if that decision was made with knowledge the word had by then been in use in the US as a derogatory term for African Americans for a century.

I ate the brand often when I was young without making any connection to the derogatory meaning of the word. If I thought about it at all I just assumed it was the name of an Australian company. I appreciate that it’s a marketing dilemma and that what is lost in re-naming is the link to the process and its creator. But re-branding has happened successfully before and there may even be some cache in acknowledging good intent in the name change.


No-kill, lab-grown meat to go on sale for first time

Cultured meat, produced in bioreactors without the slaughter of an animal, has been approved for sale by a regulatory authority for the first time. The development has been hailed as a landmark moment across the meat industry. The “chicken bites”, produced by the US company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.

No matter what they are made of they  are still forgettable.


Another farmed salmon mass breakout in Tasmanian waters stuns Huon Aquaculture

Salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture is investigating another unexplained incident that allowed an entire pen of fish to escape into the ocean off southern Tasmania. The company says 130,000 salmon escaped through a “significant tear” in a fortress pen in Storm Bay on Wednesday morning. Early last week, the company lost more than 50,000 fish when a pen caught fire in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, melting part of the structure.

Sabotage? I’ll be watching further developments closely.


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