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You can’t turn off a tree

You can’t turn off a tree
Splendid Fairy Wren by Pete Cromer
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Anna Rogan
Anna Rogan Tallarook, Victoria
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Plus buried bodies, black panthers and an update on bird flu. Welcome to our newsy newsletter keeping you up to date with regional headlines that matter, plus other delightful things from life beyond the city.

Regional news round-up

You can’t turn off a tree

Australia's largest cannery, SPC, announced plans this week to reduce production of canned fruit due to declining demand. The company, which has been processing fruit in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley for more than 100 years, told regional fruit growers that it would be cutting its intake of peaches and pears by 40% in the upcoming season. An SPC spokesperson said, "The average Australian household is under pressure, and customers are purchasing alternative products imported from countries such as South Africa and China, where the cost of production is lower."

Coles and Woolworths' own-brand canned fruit is up to 75% cheaper than comparable products from SPC. Both supermarkets’ own-brand labelled preserved fruits include products made in China and products made with a mix of imported and Australian fruit. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics also appears to support SPC’s statement that imported products are more popular with consumers, with preserved fruit imports into Australia increasing more than 105% in the last 10 years (full story).

Fruit Growers Victoria manager Michael Crisera said the announcement will mean tough decisions for regional farmers, “Growers are thinking, ‘I can’t turn off a tree for a year’. It’s a conundrum … are we better off just ripping them out." Crisera said import tariffs could be one way to protect the industry, adding “The government also needs to help us promote Australian-grown produce. Otherwise we're going to potentially lose an industry, and there won't be an option to ever buy Australian canned products" (full story).

Galah subscriber giveaway 

The only thing better than reading your next copy of Galah is reading it inside a stylish new Homecamp Tipi Tent. All subscribers to the magazine will be in the running to win a Homecamp 3.5 m 3- to 4-person Tipi Tent valued at $995. The Tipi Tent is made of double-stitched UV, mildew, water and flame-resistant canvas that is lightweight but extremely robust. With two doors for cross ventilation and a quick Ezi Pitch set-up, it’s the perfect tent for any outdoor adventure. Subscribe to be in the draw

Flakey start to the ski season

Australia’s ski season officially opened last weekend but just one ski-on chairlift operated across the country’s regional snow resorts (full story). The slow start follows a disappointing season end for 2023 which saw the worst snowfall in Australia in 17 years and early closures across all resorts. According to meteorologists and researchers, climate change means less snow will soon become the norm in Australia (full story).

End of an era at Jabiluka

A long-running campaign to protect Jabiluka, the site of one of the world’s largest uranium deposits, has achieved a significant win this week with the NT government issuing a two-year reservation order to prevent mining and exploration at the site. 

Mining company, Energy Resources Australia (ERA), was granted a mining lease at Jabiluka in 1991 but ceased development at the site in 1998 following significant opposition from the local community and Mirrar traditional owners. ERA’s lease at the site is set to expire in August this year, but in March the company applied to have the lease extended for a further ten years to protect Jabiluka's cultural heritage. The reservation order limits what ERA can do at the site until a decision is reached on their lease (full story).

ERA CEO Brad Welsh said the company had, "Protected the cultural heritage at Jabiluka for almost two decades," under the current lease which gives ERA veto rights on any future development at the site. The Mirrar traditional owners are opposed to the lease extension. "ERA says it wants to protect our cultural heritage at Jabiluka. The best way of doing that is to include it in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park where it belongs," said traditional owner Corben Mudjandi (full story). 

Buried bodies at Mackay Hospital

Historians, researchers and the local South Sea Islander community in Qld are calling for works to pause on a new ward at the Mackay Base Hospital so a search for remains can be conducted. The remains of thousands of Pacific Islanders who were brought to Australia to work on sugar cane farms around Mackay between 1852 and 1904 are unaccounted for. Letters written by Mackay Hospital’s surgeon in 1884 suggest they may be buried in the land surrounding the original hospital site. Building works are set to begin next week with Queensland Health yet to confirm whether it will pause the project and conduct the search (full story).

What’s new with bird flu?

A lot, actually. Since a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza was detected in Australia in late May, bird flu has now been detected at five poultry farms in Victoria, and an estimated 1 million chickens have been euthanised so far. Fewer chickens means fewer eggs and Australian supplies have dropped by an estimated 850,000 eggs per day (full story).

Coles, a major retailer of Victorian eggs, has announced a 2 dozen buying limit for customers in all states of Australia except WA (full story). However, the peak body representing egg producers, Australian Eggs, says supply is not at risk (full story).

There are also fewer eggs heading overseas with Japan and the US just two of “several countries” that have temporarily banned imports of Victorian eggs (full story). Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president, Danyel Cucinotta claimed the current outbreak could cost the poultry industry millions, saying, "Unfortunately this is going to be an ongoing threat for not only eggs but the chicken meat industry in Australia" (full story).

Finally, there’s been more than a little confusion as government agencies and producers attempt to slow the outbreak’s spread. Last week, a number of Victorian producers were ordered to hold all eggs for at least 28 days from the first recorded case of avian influenza in May—but the order was reversed after just 7 days (full story). Meanwhile, chicken farmers across Victoria who have temporarily locked up their flocks to prevent the flu are unsure as to whether they can still label their products as free-range, with advice from the ACCC unclear (full story). 

Tracking granddad

Two Victorian farming brothers, James and Paul Diamond, couldn’t convince their 91-year-old grandfather to give up his work on the farm so they invented a new way to keep him safe. AirAgri is a mobile app that uses special software to create digital property maps, track farmers as they work, provide automatic safety alerts and notifications, and reduce accident response times. “The good thing about this device is it was essentially created for our 91-year-old grandfather to click in and charge next to his hearing aids,” said Paul Diamond. AirAgri works even when there’s no mobile reception, and 300 farmers have signed up for the app so far (full story).

Editor’s note: if wonderful inventions from talented regional Australians are your jam, may we suggest Galah Magazine Issue 10? It’s full of inventions of all kinds and you can pre-order it right here.

Galah subscriber giveaway 

All Galah magazine subscribers go into the draw to win a Homecamp 3.5 Tipi Tent, valued at $995. Prize drawn after 15 July.

Galah goss

With Galah Issue 10 locked and loaded, editor extraordinaire Helen has flown the coop and is taking a well-deserved break. Issue 10 will soon be winging its way across the country, and if you haven’t organised a copy, you have until midnight on Tuesday, 18 June, to pre-order or subscribe if you’d like free shipping and $10 back in your pocket.

Subscriptions are perfect if you’re forgetful like me and appreciate being able to put purchasing decisions on autopilot. Turns out Mum was wrong all those years when she said laziness doesn’t pay because Galah subscriptions also come with wonderful extras, including: 

  • Online access to Galah’s back catalogue of magazine stories and regional travel guides.
  • First dibs on new releases of Galah goodies and early access to Galah events.
  • Annabelle’s fortnightly email full of regional ramblings, reflections and recommendations on what to watch, listen to or read next.
  • The chance to win a Homecamp 3.5 m Tipi Tent, valued at $995. 

Galah Issue 10. Invention

What’s on

Yvonne AUDETTE Born: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1930 'Harbour lights, Cantata series' 1968-69 oil on composition board 75.4 x 90.9 cm [board]; 79.0 x 94.4 cm [frame] Gift of Yvonne Audette, 2005 2005.14 Benalla Art Gallery Collection © Yvonne Audette / Copyright Agency 2022
Harbour Lights by Yvonne Audette is on display now at Benalla Art Gallery.


Drawn from the Benalla Art Gallery Collection, Nocturne presents 40 works by 24 leading Australian artists. Spanning all media, the exhibition explores multiple interpretations of the theme ‘nocturne’, specifically focussing on the scenes, sounds, and movements ‘of the night’ at Benalla Art Gallery, Vic until 2025. Read more

Theft and return of cultural materials

Join Rodney Carter, Djaara CEO and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, to learn about the profound significance of the return of Dja Dja Wurrung cultural materials to Country. Carter will be joined by Dr Jocelyn Bardot, Australian National University, for a discussion about Dja Dja Wurrung material that travelled to Paris and back over 140 years ago, and the phenomenon of ‘World’s Fairs’ during this intensive period of dispersal of Aboriginal cultural materials. La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo Vic, 6 July. Read more

Cottesloe Unveiled

A brand new gallery has officially opened at Cottesloe, WA with the gallery’s inaugural exhibit: Cottesloe Unveiled. Curated by General Manager and Principal Curator, Miranda Brown, the exhibit marks the opening of the gallery space with a showcase that celebrates Cottesloe’s local artists, landscapes and culture. Catch Cottesloe Unveiled at Linton & Kay Gallery, Cottesloe, WA until 11 July. Read more.

In the flock

Pete Cromer working (not eating a frog) photographed by Mark Cromer

Pete Cromer, artist

Interview by Emma Hearnes.

Living and working by Lake Colac in Eastern Victoria (Gulijan Country), Pete Cromer is a contemporary Australian artist inspired by wildlife. Less rendered realism and more abstract celebration of the vibrancy of animal life, Cromer’s bold collages, paintings and sculptures burst with colour and texture. In this week’s In the Flock, Cromer talks insects, imagination and eating that frog.

Have you always had an affinity with animals?
As a child I was more obsessed with mythical creatures, to be honest. They still get my imagination running wild, and I’d love to explore mythical creatures creatively one day.

Speaking of imagination, what sparked yours this week?
Two things. The first was a huge Imperial Jezebel Butterfly in my garden. It was spectacular to watch. The second was (and always will be) the moon. She’s been looking very impressive in the night sky of late. I find the night sky to be such a good washer of stress—it helps me put life and work into perspective. 

Besides the Jezebel Butterfly, what creatures have been absorbing your attention lately?
Insects of all kinds. For the last decade, my focus has been on Australian birds, but of late I have been getting into the world of invertebrates—and it is next level. There are some fascinating bugs here in Australia with wild colours and unique skills. It's a massive landscape to absorb, and I am loving it. 

What do you find hard as an artist?
I’ve often got to remind myself to ‘eat the frog first’. I’m so good at putting things off and placing the challenging tasks down the bottom of the list. Sometimes I need to stop and tell myself to take on the difficult tasks first, so that everything afterwards will be a breeze and I can enjoy it. This goes with life just as much as work.

One last thing

Big cats, echidnas and cassowaries

Big cat sightings are a big deal in regional Australia, and this week, a video of a suspiciously large black cat seen near Ballarat went viral online (full story). Rumours of wild felines prowling the country are nothing new. Australia’s big cat mythology dates as far back as 1836, according to folklorist and historian Dr David Waldron. Theories on where these animals come from and what they are range from the plausible (feral cats can grow to surprisingly huge proportions) to the absurd (escaped circus animals and exotic pets have been breeding for generations to create wild populations of big cats across Australia) (full story).

Just as absurd as black panthers in Ballarat was a confirmed wild animal sighting made by marine biologist Dr Nicolas Lubitz that hit news headlines this week. Dr Lubitz was tagging marine creatures near Orpheus Island, east of Ingham in North Qld when he restrained a tiger shark that seemed a little unwell. The shark proceeded to vomit up a whole, completely intact but very unalive echidna in what Lubitz describes as a “one in a million” event (full story). I once saw an echidna walk across the beach at Point Leo in Victoria to have a swim in the ocean, not quite a “one in a million” sighting but still pretty special.

To finish this week’s wild critter news, in North Qld, the state Department of Transport and Main Roads has completed the build of a highly anticipated cassowary bridge across the Bruce Highway between Innisfail and Tully. The bridge was due to be delivered in 2020 with a budget of less than $10 million but took an additional four years to complete with costs blowing out to approximately $40 million.

The bridge was designed to link critical corridors of cassowary habitat and prevent road accidents involving the endangered and extremely large bird, but Veterinarian Graham Lauridsen, a member of the Wet Tropics Management Authority's Cassowary Recovery Team, says the final outcome leaves a lot to be desired.

“As it stands, the ramp [on the bridge] is very steep and a cassowary would struggle to get up and down the ramp and the western side. Part of the problem with cassowaries is that we can't teach them to go over the bridge and down the other side. They habitually travel where they have always travelled,” Lauridsen said (full story).