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How sustainable is your weekly grocery shop? These small changes can have big benefits

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michalis-hadjikakou-129930">Michalis Hadjikakou</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carla-archibald-283811">Carla Archibald</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ozge-geyik-1402545">Özge Geyik</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/pankti-shah-1547393">Pankti Shah</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>You might think eating more sustainably requires drastic changes, such as shifting to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/vegan-diet-has-just-30-of-the-environmental-impact-of-a-high-meat-diet-major-study-finds-210152">vegan diet</a>. While a plant-based diet is <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-023-00795-w">undeniably</a> good for the Earth, our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352550924001945#f0025">new research</a> shows modest changes to your eating habits can also have significant environmental benefits.</p> <p>We assessed how food products on Australian supermarket shelves stack up against key environmental indicators, such as carbon emissions and water use.</p> <p>We found swapping the most environmentally harmful foods for more sustainable options within the same food group, such as switching from beef burgers to chicken burgers, can significantly reduce carbon emissions – by up to 96% in some instances.</p> <p>The last thing we want to do is take the pleasure away from eating. Instead, we want to help consumers make realistic dietary changes that also help ensure a sustainable future. So read on to find out which simple food swaps can best achieve this.</p> <h2>Informing sustainable diets</h2> <p>The environmental impact of foods can be estimated using an approach known as a <a href="https://www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(19)30128-9#:%7E:text=In%20this%20Primer%2C%20we%20introduce,cycle%20of%20a%20product%20system.">life-cycle assessment</a>.</p> <p>This involves identifying the “inputs” required along the food supply chain, such as fertiliser, energy, water and land, and tracking them from farm to fork. From this we can calculate a product’s “footprint” – or environmental impact per kilogram of product – and compare it to other foods.</p> <p>Most studies of environmental footprints focus on the raw ingredients that make up food products (such as beef, wheat or rice) rather than the packaged products people see on shelves (such as beef sausages, pasta or rice crackers). Of the studies that do focus on packaged foods, most only consider a fraction of the products available to consumers.</p> <p>What’s more, a lot of research considers only the carbon emissions of food products, excluding other important measures such as water use. And some studies use global average environmental footprints, which <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaq0216">vary significantly</a> between countries.</p> <p>Our research set out to overcome these limitations. We aligned environmental footprints with the products people find on supermarket shelves, and covered a huge range of food and beverage products available in Australia. We also included many environmental indicators, to allow a <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2120584119">more complete picture</a> of the sustainability of different foods.</p> <h2>What we did</h2> <p>Key to our research was the <a href="https://www.georgeinstitute.org.au/projects/foodswitch">FoodSwitch database</a>, which compiles food labelling and ingredient data from images of packaged food and beverages. It covers more than 90% of the Australian packaged food market.</p> <p>We combined the database with a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652623029748">mathematical method</a> that sums the environmental impact of ingredients, to quantify the footprint of the product as a whole.</p> <p>From this, we estimated the environmental footprint of 63,926 food products available in Australian supermarkets. We then simulated the potential benefits of making “realistic” switches between products – that is, switches within the same food category.</p> <h2>Our findings</h2> <p>The results show how making a small dietary change can have big environmental consequences.</p> <p>For a shopping basket composed of items from eight food groups, we simulate the benefits of swapping from high-impact towards medium- or low-impact food products.</p> <p>Our analysis assumes a starting point from the most environmentally harmful products in each food group – for example, sweet biscuits, cheese and beef burger patties.</p> <p>A shift to the medium-impact foods for all eight items – such as a muffin, yoghurt and sliced meat – can lead to at least a 62% reduction in environmental impact. Shifts towards the most sustainable choice for all items – bread, soy milk or raw poultry – can achieve a minimum 77% reduction.</p> <p>This analysis ends at the supermarket shelves and does not include additional food processing by the consumer. For example, raw meat will usually be cooked before human consumption, which will expand its environmental footprint to varying degrees, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-020-00200-w">depending on the method used</a>.</p> <p>See the below info-graphic for more detail. The full results are available in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352550924001945">our study</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="sR5yB" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: 0;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/sR5yB/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>What next?</h2> <p>Many people are looking for ways to live more sustainably. Insufficient or complex information can fuel confusion and anxiety in consumers, <a href="https://theconversation.com/reducing-eco-anxiety-is-a-critical-step-in-achieving-any-climate-action-210327">leading to inaction or paralysis</a>. Consumers need more information and support to choose more sustainable foods.</p> <p>Supermarkets and retailers also have an important role to play – for example, by giving sustainable products <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07439156211008898">prominent shelf placement</a>. Attractive pricing is also crucial – particularly in the midst of a <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/cost-of-living-crisis-115238">cost-of-living crisis</a> when it can be difficult to prioritise sustainability over cost.</p> <p>Government interventions, such as information campaigns and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07439156211008898">taxing high-impact products</a>, can also help.</p> <p>Food labelling is also important. The European Union <a href="https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/circular-economy/eu-ecolabel/product-groups-and-criteria_en">is leading the way</a> with measures such as the <a href="https://docs.score-environnemental.com/v/en">eco-score</a>, which integrates 14 environmental indicators into a single score from A to E.</p> <p>Apps such as <a href="https://www.georgeinstitute.org/projects/ecoswitch">ecoSwitch</a> can also <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020024000268?via%3Dihub">empower consumers</a>.</p> <p>The diets of people in developed nations such as Australia <a href="https://theconversation.com/sustainable-shopping-want-to-eat-healthy-try-an-eco-friendly-diet-89086">exert a high toll on our planet</a>. More sustainable food choices are vital to achieving a <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT">sustainable future for humanity</a>. We hope our research helps kick-start positive change.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/234367/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michalis-hadjikakou-129930">Michalis Hadjikakou</a>, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sustainability, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering &amp; Built Environment, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carla-archibald-283811">Carla Archibald</a>, Research Fellow, Conservation Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ozge-geyik-1402545">Özge Geyik</a>, Visitor, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/pankti-shah-1547393">Pankti Shah</a>, PhD student, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-sustainable-is-your-weekly-grocery-shop-these-small-changes-can-have-big-benefits-234367">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Food & Wine

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Dutton names future Aussie towns for nuclear power plant locations

<p>Peter Dutton has unveiled a series of locations where he wants to build nuclear power plants if he wins the next federal election. </p> <p>The leader of the opposition has pledged to build at least two nuclear plants between 2035 and 2037 if the Liberal party is elected, with another five on the list to be constructed at a later date. </p> <p>The locations include Gladstone in Queensland, the Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley of NSW, as well as Lithgow in the NSW Central Tablelands, Loy Yang in the La Trobe Valley, Victoria, Callide in Queensland, Muja in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia.</p> <p>The proposal would see the nuclear power plants owned by the government under the same set up as entities such as the Snowy Hydro scheme, in a bid to focus on alternative energy solutions and remain committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.</p> <p>Despite Dutton's enthusiasm about the pitch, treasurer Jim Chalmers slammed the idea as “economically irrational” and “fiscally irresponsible.”</p> <p>“Peter Dutton’s nuclear negativity is economic insanity, pure and simple,’’ he said on ABC radio. </p> <p>“Nuclear takes longer, it costs more, and it will squander Australia’s unique combination of advantages. It is the worst combination of economic and ideological stupidity. </p> <p>“It is economically irrational, it is fiscally irresponsible. And it means if it’s implemented, Australia would fail that grab these vast economic and industrial opportunities with a net zero transformation in the most effective way."</p> <p><em>Image credits: DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Editorial/Shutterstock</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Quiet beach town offering $450k job with free house and car

<p>A picturesque beach town in Western Australia has found a creative way to bring jobs to the area: by offering a range of enticing bonuses. </p> <p>The town of Bremer Bay, south-east of Perth, is desperate for healthcare providers to join the small town and have offered a range of persuasive perks to a doctor who would be willing to leave a big city for the job in the regional location. </p> <p>Bremer Bay is next to the Fitzgerald River National Park and nearly 40 minutes away from the closest town. Currently, they only have one temporary doctor; the next permanent GP is in Albany, almost 200 kilometres away, and the town is looking for the "Swiss army knife of doctors" to step up.</p> <p>According to the job listing on Seek, the successful applicant will be granted a rent-free five-bedroom house and a four-wheel drive, on top of a salary of up to $450,000 a year.</p> <p>"Live rent-free in a scenic location, experiencing the true essence of rural Australia," the advertisement reads.</p> <p>"We offer a competitive 70 per cent of Billings or a generous Salary, based on your preference. In addition, you'll enjoy the convenience of a beautiful new 5-bedroom home and 4X4."</p> <p>Applicants must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and be willing to train as a rural generalist.</p> <p>According to the <a title="Australian Institute of Health and Welfare" href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Australian Institute of Health and Welfare</a>, people living in rural and remote areas have higher rates of hospitalisations, deaths and injury compared to city-dwellers, while also having poorer access to primary health care services.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"WHY?!": Disbelief as "Best Aussie towns" crowned for 2024

<p>The top ten Aussie towns to visit in 2024 have been revealed, with some locals surprised to see their hometowns at the top of the list. </p> <p>Each year travel experts at Wotif release the top spots to visit across the country, narrowing down destinations based on the platform’s data index of accommodation affordability, quality and traveller feedback.</p> <p>This year’s top 10 list featured a number of regional towns over coastal escapes, with Bendigo in Victoria taking out the top spot. </p> <p>The small Victorian town, home to plenty of paddock-to-plate cafes, vintage trams and the famous regional Art Gallery, has been praised by visitors for its cultural experiences, and lively food and beverage scene.</p> <p>Also making the top 10 list are Katherine in the Northern Territory and Coober Pedy in South Australia, alongside Broken Hill and Bathurst in New South Wales. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3RO7pDycQX/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3RO7pDycQX/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Wotif.com (@wotifcom)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Despite their top ten rankings, one savage local commented on the official top ranking video on social media writing, "Have ya’ll ever been to Katherine &amp; Coober Pedy? Because they aren't on anyone’s top 10 list," while one confused Bathurst local simply asked, "Why?"</p> <p>Wotif travel expert Sarah King said trends of heading away from the coast this year indicate a demand for “inland educational experiences”, meaning the top 10 towns in this year’s awards feature a diverse mix of regional towns not typically included in “best of” listings.</p> <p>“Aussie travellers are driven by a curiosity to experience the world around them and it’s fantastic to see that pursuit of discovery leading many to find culture close to home,” Ms King said in a statement.</p> <p>Check out the entire top 10 list below. </p> <p>1. Bendigo, VIC</p> <p>2. Broken Hill, NSW</p> <p>3. Stanthorpe, QLD</p> <p>4. Katherine, NT</p> <p>5. Bathurst, NSW</p> <p>6. Tanunda, SA</p> <p>7. Griffith, NSW</p> <p>8. Stanley, TAS</p> <p>9. Exmouth, WA</p> <p>10. Coober Pedy, SA</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Aussie town becomes the hottest place on earth for one day

<p>A small town in regional South Australia has broken records amidst the relentless heatwave slamming Aussies, by being named the hottest place on earth for a whole day. </p> <p>Marree, located 589 kilometres north of Adelaide, is home to fewer than 100 residents, with the town acting as a service centre for the large sheep and cattle stations in the northeast of the state. </p> <p>Locals sweltered through record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, with temperatures of 46.4ºC making the tiny town the hottest place on the planet for the whole day. </p> <p>According to online world temperatures site <a href="https://www.eldoradoweather.com/climate/world-extremes/world-temp-rainfall-extremes.php?extremes=World#google_vignette" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">El Dorado Weather</a>, Australia took out not just the Number 1 spot, but was also home to the top 15 hottest places in the world, with cities and towns in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales also making the list. </p> <p>Five Aussie states cracked temperatures of over 44ºC according to the Bureau of Meteorology, with the extreme weather to continue over the weekend. </p> <p>Other than Victoria and Tasmania, every state has been issued an official extreme weather warning, with senior meteorologist Miriam Bradbury saying on Monday that heatwave conditions were not likely to start easing until “early next week”.</p> <p>With the worst of the heatwave expected to hit on Saturday, people are being urged to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, to wear sunscreen, sunglasses and hats and stay hydrated.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Google Maps</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Liam Neeson filming new movie in tiny Aussie town

<p>The quaint, gorgeous historic Victorian town of Walhalla is gearing up for its moment in the cinematic spotlight as it gets set to become the backdrop for Liam Neeson's upcoming blockbuster sequel, <em>Ice Road 2: Road To The Sky</em>.</p> <p>Yes, apparently, the road to the sky involves a detour through rural Australia. </p> <p>Residents of Walhalla received a letter announcing the impending movie magic, and it's safe to say they're experiencing a mixture of excitement and confusion akin to trying to follow the plot of a Christopher Nolan epic.</p> <p>According to reports, the filmmakers are turning Walhalla into a bona fide Nepalese village. The town's Star Hotel and surrounding areas are getting a makeover to mimic Kodari, Nepal. Now, if you're wondering where Walhalla is on the map, don't worry, you're not alone. Even the residents seem a bit perplexed, with one local commenting online, "Interesting that this is going ahead at the height of our tourist season." Because, naturally, when you think tourist hotspots, you think Walhalla.</p> <p>But fear not, dear residents, for the filmmakers have assured everyone that after their Himalayan escapade, Walhalla will return to its original heritage colours. It's like the town is getting a cinematic spa day, complete with a paint job.</p> <p>Filming is set to take place at two main locations: the intersection of Main Rd and Right Hand Branch Rd and the top of Churchill Rd above the Fire Station Museum. And oh boy, get ready for some action, because the letter states, "During the filming period, there will be stunts involving large vehicles, special effects and prop gun use."</p> <p>Walhalla, known for its scenic beauty and historic charm, is about to witness the fusion of Hollywood glitz and Nepalese grit.</p> <p>Of course, not everyone is on board with this Hollywood invasion. One local expressed concern about the impact on other businesses in town, suggesting, "This would have been much better slotted into the quiet time in August." Clearly, they're not buying into the idea that summer is the best time for a Nepalese makeover.</p> <p>But fear not, skeptics! Another resident pointed out that the influx of up to 200 crew members per day will be a boon for local shops. "What a great thing for the area," they declared. And who can argue with that logic? Imagine the crew swarming the pub, devouring schnitties and downing pints of Carlton lager. This could be the most Aussie-Nepalese fusion experience since Vegemite momos.</p> <p>As the charming town of Walhalla braces itself for the coming storm of movie magic, we can't help but wonder: Will Liam Neeson's next iconic line be, "I will find you, even if I have to navigate the treacherous roads of rural Australia"? Buckle up, Walhalla, because the road to the sky might just be a detour through down under.</p> <p><em>Images: Visit Victoria / Netflix</em></p>

Movies

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Fishing town inundated by plague of rats

<p>Communities along the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland have been inundated by a plague of rats, with the rodents washing up along the shores in the thousands. </p> <p>Locals and tourists have shared videos of rats washing up on the beaches of Karumba, a popular fishing town that is struggling with the "plague".</p> <p>One local resident took to Facebook to share their experience, writing, “We headed down for our nightly fishing expedition to find the beach littered with washed-up rats.”</p> <p>“We are unable to fish off the beaches at the moment due to the number of them and the smell.”</p> <p>The same local described dead rats floating in the water or washing up on the shore, with those animals that survived looking a little worse for wear. </p> <p>Kerry D Fishing Charters owner Jemma Probert told <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/qld/rat-plague-hits-fishing-town-in-queenslands-north-rocking-confidence-in-vital-tourism-industry-c-12652482" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>7News</em></a> the smell of the dead and dying rats was “horrible”.</p> <p>“They are jumping into the water and trying to swim but end up drowning and washing back up on the beach leaving a horrible smell,” she said.</p> <p>Experts say that the influx of rats to the state is due to consistent rainfall, and the subsequent increased crop harvests, as the rodents have flocked to the area looking for food.</p> <p>According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the rat population has been steadily increasing since 2021, with the plague of mice and rats slowly heading north to more tropical climates. </p> <p>“Mouse populations have reached plague conditions not seen since 2011,” CSIRO researcher Steve Henry said.</p> <p>“This is largely due to favourable climatic conditions which have created optimal conditions for mice to breed.”</p> <p>Locals have also shared their theories on the influx of their rat visitors, with many speculating that ecent bushfires in the area may be causing the mass exodus of rats leaving burning bushland.</p> <p>“This happened back in the ’90s here in Karumba,” one local said. “They came ashore after (we) had fires in the area.”</p> <p>Locals are worried the unwelcome visitors may have a detrimental effect on the local tourism industry.</p> <p>“I have no idea why they are here but I hope they go quickly as this is not nice for tourists,” Probert said.</p> <p>“They have tried to crawl onto our boat while we are fishing with customers on board and we have had to flick them off with a stick.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Entire town in mourning as Daylesford crash victims identified

<p>The town of Daylesford is in mourning just days after the <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/news/news/there-were-bodies-everywhere-five-people-dead-in-horror-pub-crash" target="_blank" rel="noopener">devastating car crash</a> that claimed the lives of five people, as the victims have been identified. </p> <p>Pratibha Sharma, her husband Jatin Chugh, and her daughter Anvi were enjoying the last of the weekend at the Royal Hotel in Daylesford when a white BMW SUV crashed into the beer garden on Sunday evening. </p> <p>Sharma and Chugh died at the scene, while nine-year-old Anvi was flown to hospital but did not survive her injuries and was later pronounced dead. </p> <p>The family were joined by their friends, Vivek Bhatia, 38, his wife, and their two kids at the pub. </p> <p>Vivek and his 11-year-old son Vihaan were both killed in the crash, while the 36-year-old woman, and a second son, aged six, were taken to hospital for their injuries.</p> <p>The driver of the BMW, a 66-year-old man, was taken to hospital and treated for shock and minor injuries and is expected to be interviewed by police when he is fit enough to answer questions about the crash. </p> <p>Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said it's believed that none of those killed were locals, but were all tourists visiting the popular town.</p> <p>In the wake of the tragedy, Hepburn Shire Mayor Brian Hood has told of locals' "remarkable" actions after the crash, as the town is reeling from the devastating incident. </p> <p>Speaking to <a href="https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/mayor-describes-daylesfords-pain-after-deadly-crash/0cddcf2d-cf2d-4aaf-a16f-5d8aa6e9b189" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>A Current Affair</em></a>, Hood praised locals for jumping into action in the aftermath of the unprecedented disaster.</p> <p>"People immediately leapt into action, doing what they could before the emergency services arrived," Hood said.</p> <p>"It was a remarkable reaction, it would have been a terribly confronting sight."</p> <p>"Injuries were severe, I understand, so people showed a lot of bravery, a lot of courage in helping fellow humans."</p> <p>"We don't, fortunately, experience these sorts of accidents around here," he said.</p> <p>"Our main concern is the health and wellbeing of the community, the mental health in particular...this will hit hard."</p> <p><em>Image credits: A Current Affair / Courtesy of the Bhatia family</em></p>

Caring

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"It was beautiful": Rare rainbow cloud stuns small farming town

<p>The locals of a small farming town in Western Australia have been delighted with the sighting of a rare rainbow cloud. </p> <p>The colourful weather phenomenon appeared above the town of Goomalling, about 130km northwest of Perth in Western Australia, on Tuesday morning.</p> <p>Jenni Shaw was at her family-owned business when she got a text from a friend instructing her to look up at the sky. </p> <p><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: abcsans, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif;">"We all went out the front and had a look and there was some bright, rainbow-type clouds in the sky that we hadn't seen before," she </span>told <em><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-10-24/rainbow-cloud-iridescence-irisation-delights-wheatbelt-community/103016928" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ABC</a></em><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: abcsans, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif;">.</span></p> <p>“It was beautiful,” she said.</p> <p>“But we were a bit like ‘why is that like that? Should we still be outside looking or not?’”</p> <p><iframe style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Flang.lefroy.7%2Fposts%2Fpfbid02h2HTyVYSVda8NkewrireTWPS4P6wKTnuJxhBWfkNhbxGn3QzHweELRNFQczM8GsPl&show_text=true&width=500" width="500" height="645" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>Ms Shaw said the rainbow-coloured cloud was visible for just a few minutes.</p> <p>"It was not there long, just long enough for us all to get some photos," she said.</p> <p class="paragraph_paragraph__3Hrfa" style="font-size: 16px; box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1rem; font-family: abcsans, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif;">Jessica Lingard from the Bureau of Meteorology said rainbow clouds, known as cloud iridescence, form in the same way as rainbows - when sunlight diffracts off water or ice crystals in the sky.</p> <p>"It's quite a rare phenomenon to catch in person," she said.</p> <p>"It's the perfect storm of conditions: the sun's at the right angle, the clouds are not too thin and not too thick that they're being blocked out, and the sunlight has just created this spectacle of coloured light."</p> <div data-component="EmphasisedText"> <p>"It's an absolutely stunning photo."</p> </div> <p>Lucky local residents said it wasn’t the first time they’d seen the special clouds in the area.</p> <p>“I have seen clouds like this a few times in my travels, mostly in the Wheatbelt,” Jill Lefroy wrote on Facebook. </p> <p>“Pretty awesome seeing a rainbow with no rain!”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Entire town bans annoying influencers from entering its borders

<p>In the serene hamlet of Pomfret, Vermont, an extraordinary decision has been reached to combat the overwhelming presence of influencers and tourists who have inundated the town's peaceful streets.</p> <p>This picturesque countryside haven, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, has taken the audacious step of barring entry to all influencers and tourists.</p> <p>Pomfret, nestled in the heart of New England, has long been a magnet for visitors seeking to capture the exquisite autumnal tapestry that paints the town in warm, rustic hues – a perfect setting for their coveted "fall" photographs.</p> <p>Vermont, as a whole, typically draws more than 13 million tourists annually, and Pomfret, with its population of a mere 916, has witnessed a significant influx during the autumn months, particularly September and October.</p> <p>While the town has a history of welcoming tourists, the character of these visitors has undergone a profound transformation in the last half-decade. Gone are the days of nature enthusiasts and out-of-town guests staying at cozy local bed-and-breakfasts. Pomfret is now attracting a new breed of visitor: the social media luminaries eagerly hunting for content to grace their online profiles.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">‘Christian Girl Autumn’ influencer Caitlin Covington announces she is going to Vermont in October to take her annual Fall photos. 🍂 <a href="https://t.co/nZjRCWvPIE">pic.twitter.com/nZjRCWvPIE</a></p> <p>— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) <a href="https://twitter.com/PopCrave/status/1703840317907021849?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 18, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>Mike Doten, a resident whose family has deep roots in the area, humorously dubs this emerging group "TikTockers" and cites them as the catalyst behind this drastic measure.</p> <p>Cloudland Road, a narrow, unpaved stretch renowned for its spectacular views of picturesque farms, rolling hills and vibrant foliage, was once a tranquil destination for nature enthusiasts. However, it has now become an internet sensation and a must-visit spot for "leaf-peepers" across the state.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this newfound fame has brought a series of issues in its wake. The new wave of tourists is often described as rude, disrespectful, impatient and selfish. They go to great lengths to capture the perfect photograph or video, often disregarding the impact on those around them.</p> <p>Local farmer Cathy Emmons recounted an incident where an influencer trespassed onto private property, erecting a makeshift changing booth and emerging in different outfits for her selfies. There have also been reports of tourists casually invading farms and helping themselves to produce, with one individual spotted plucking tomatoes from Cathy's farm.</p> <p>Another resident recalled a particularly unsettling incident when a drone hovered just feet above his head during an evening dinner with his family. In a separate incident, a tourist parked illegally in a resident's driveway and, astonishingly, used the garden shed as a makeshift toilet.</p> <p>The surge in tour buses and cars has caused gridlock on Pomfret's narrow roads, rendering them impassable and obstructing the movement of emergency vehicles. In response, the local council issued a memo announcing road closures to motor vehicle traffic from September 23rd to October 15th, specifically targeting Cloudland Road in Pomfret and the entire length of Cloudland Road in Woodstock, both heavily frequented tourist areas.</p> <p>Furthermore, the town has implemented temporary parking restrictions, signage and barriers. The memo cited concerns related to safety, environmental impact, aesthetics, and overall quality of life, emphasising a comprehensive effort to address these issues in collaboration with residents, local government partners and through communication on various information platforms.</p> <p>These traffic mitigation measures will also restrict access to the famed Sleepy Hollow Farm, a private residence that has become a hotspot for influencers seeking the perfect selfie backdrop. In response to these challenges, local residents have launched a <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-cloudland-road" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GoFundMe campaign titled "Save Cloudland Road"</a> to raise funds for road closures and traffic enforcement during the autumn season.</p> <p>The campaign's description highlights the surge of Instagram and TikTok-driven tourists, many of whom derive income from sponsorships and have transformed a private residence on Cloudland Road into a sought-after social media photo destination. The influx has led to overcrowding, accidents, damage to roads, gardens, and private property, as well as confrontations with residents.</p> <p>Can the community surrounding Cloudland Road, in partnership with the towns of Pomfret and Woodstock, restore tranquility, safety and civility to their cherished enclave? Their plea is clear: to regain peace for the families who call this idyllic corner of Vermont home.</p> <p><em>Images: GoFundMe / Instagram</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Top End tourism surge after massive search for fake Aussie town

<p>In an absolute boon to Top End tourism, it appears that Google users have been working overtime trying to locate a little slice of Northern Territory paradise known as Agnes Bluff and its nearby neighbour Mia Tukurta National Park. Why, you ask? Because they're convinced it's the next hidden holiday hotspot. But here's the catch: it's completely made up.</p> <p>This newfound obsession with Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park is all thanks to Amazon Prime's latest hit series, <em>The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart</em>. People have been binge-watching the show and drooling over the stunning landscapes, causing Google searches for these places to shoot up like a rocket on a sugar rush. </p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/northern-territory/google-searches-surge-for-agnes-bluff-an-aussie-town-that-doesnt-exist/news-story/59f00cc1e89074de0e6464c0072ae4b8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a>, Google searches for Agnes Bluff skyrocketed by a whopping 1640 per cent between July and August in Australia, and then another 40 per cent in September, all thanks to the series. And it's not just our fellow Aussies on the hunt for these mystical places – folks from Spain, Canada, the UK, the United States and Italy are also joining the imaginary treasure hunt.</p> <p>Can we blame them for trying to uncover these hidden gems? After all, in the show, Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park look so darn spectacular that even the Loch Ness Monster might want to visit. But chin up, dear travellers! While you can't exactly book a one-way ticket to Fantasyland, you can still visit the real-life locations that inspired the series.</p> <p>This show was born from the creative genius of Aussie author Holly Ringland, who drew inspiration from her time living on Anangu land in Australia's Western Desert. In her news.com.au interview, she said, "To know people are Googling these places I fictionalised feels like a shot of joy straight to my heart – I don't know that there could be a greater compliment given to my writing." </p> <p>So, where was the series actually filmed? Well, it turns out they filmed all over Central Australia, including places like the Alice Springs Desert Park, Simpsons Gap, Ooraminna Station, Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge – just to name a few.</p> <p>And that crater that had everyone drooling? It's called Tnorala, or Gosses Bluff, and it's a mere 175km from Alice Springs.</p> <p>In fact, search interest in Gosses Bluff crater has hit a 15-year high in Australia, increasing by a whopping 500 per cent in August alone – so, it seems like people are genuinely eager to find their own piece of Alice Hart's world.</p> <p>Now, if you're wondering about the burning question that's on everyone's minds, it's this: "What is the crater in <em>The Lost Flowers for Alice Hart</em>?" And let me tell you, Gosses Bluff, or Tnorala, is the crater-du-jour.</p> <p>But here's the best part – this place is absolutely real; it's not a mirage or a figment of some writer's imagination. You can actually go there, touch it (not the crater itself, though), and breathe in the stunning views. Sure, you can't frolic inside the crater, but there are viewing points that will have you oohing and aahing like a kid in a candy store.</p> <p>And so, while Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park might be the stuff of dreams, Gosses Bluff is the real deal. So it could be  ime to pack your bags, grab your camera and get ready for an adventure that's so real, it'll make your Google searches feel like a distant dream. </p> <p><em>Images: Prime Video</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Is it okay to kiss your pet? The risk of animal-borne diseases is small, but real

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-mclean-1351935">Sarah McLean</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>Our relationship with pets has changed drastically in recent decades. Pet ownership is at an all-time high, with <a href="https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/media-release/more-than-two-thirds-of-australian-households-now-own-a-pet/">a recent survey</a> finding 69% of Australian households have at least one pet. We spend an estimated A$33 billion every year on caring for our fur babies.</p> <p>While owning a pet is linked to numerous <a href="https://www.onehealth.org/blog/10-mental-physical-health-benefits-of-having-pets">mental and physical health benefits</a>, our pets can also harbour infectious diseases that can sometimes be passed on to us. For most people, the risk is low.</p> <p>But some, such as pregnant people and those with weakened immune systems, are at <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/specific-groups/high-risk/index.html">greater risk</a> of getting sick from animals. So, it’s important to know the risks and take necessary precautions to prevent infections.</p> <h2>What diseases can pets carry?</h2> <p>Infectious diseases that move from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases or <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html">zoonoses</a>. More than <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3668296/#B18">70 pathogens</a> of companion animals are known to be transmissible to people.</p> <p>Sometimes, a pet that has a zoonotic pathogen may look sick. But often there may be no visible symptoms, making it easier for you to catch it, because you don’t suspect your pet of harbouring germs.</p> <p>Zoonoses can be transmitted directly from pets to humans, such as through contact with saliva, bodily fluids and faeces, or indirectly, such as through contact with contaminated bedding, soil, food or water.</p> <p>Studies suggest <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500695/">the prevalence of pet-associated zoonoses is low</a>. However, the true number of infections is likely <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/11/3789">underestimated</a> since many zoonoses are not “<a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/notification-of-illness-and-disease">notifiable</a>”, or may have multiple exposure pathways or generic symptoms.</p> <p>Dogs and cats are major reservoirs of zoonotic infections (meaning the pathogens naturally live in their population) caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. <a href="https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/topics/rabies">In endemic regions in Africa and Asia</a>, dogs are the main source of rabies which is transmitted through saliva.</p> <p>Dogs also commonly carry <em>Capnocytophaga</em> bacteria <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/index.html">in their mouths and saliva</a>, which can be transmitted to people through close contact or bites. The vast majority of people won’t get sick, but these bacteria can occasionally cause infections in people with weakened immune systems, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/signs-symptoms/index.html">resulting</a> in severe illness and sometimes death. Just last week, such a death <a href="https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/tracy-ridout-perth-mum-dies-11-days-after-rare-bacterial-infection-from-minor-dog-bite-c-11748887">was reported in Western Australia</a>.</p> <p>Cat-associated zoonoses include a number of illnesses spread by the faecal-oral route, such as giardiasis, campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and toxoplasmosis. This means it’s especially important to wash your hands or use gloves whenever handling your cat’s litter tray.</p> <p>Cats can also sometimes transmit infections through bites and scratches, including the aptly named <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html#:%7E:text=Cat%20scratch%20disease%20(CSD)%20is,the%20surface%20of%20the%20skin.">cat scratch disease</a>, which is caused by the bacterium <em>Bartonella henselae</em>.</p> <p>Both dogs and cats are also reservoirs for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10122942/">methicillin-resistant bacterium <em>Staphylococcus aureus</em></a> (MRSA), with close contact with pets identified as an important risk factor for zoonotic transmission.</p> <h2>Birds, turtles and fish can also transmit disease</h2> <p>But it’s not just dogs and cats that can spread diseases to humans. Pet birds can occasionally transmit <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis/">psittacosis</a>, a bacterial infection which causes pneumonia. Contact with <a href="https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/pet-turtles-source-germs">pet turtles</a> has been linked to <em>Salmonella</em> infections in humans, particularly in young children. Even pet fish have been linked to a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/fish.html">range of bacterial infections</a> in humans, including vibriosis, mycobacteriosis and salmonellosis.</p> <p>Close contact with animals – and some behaviours in particular – increase the risk of zoonotic transmission. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19398275/">A study from the Netherlands</a> found half of owners allowed pets to lick their faces, and 18% allowed dogs to share their bed. (Sharing a bed increases the duration of exposure to pathogens carried by pets.) The same study found 45% of cat owners allowed their cat to jump onto the kitchen sink.</p> <p>Kissing pets has also been linked to occasional zoonotic infections in pet owners. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298380/">In one case</a>, a woman in Japan developed meningitis due to <em>Pasteurella multicoda</em> infection, after regularly kissing her dog’s face. These bacteria are often found in the oral cavities of dogs and cats.</p> <p>Young children are also more likely to engage in behaviours which increase their risk of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/specific-groups/high-risk/children.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fhealthypets%2Fspecific-groups%2Fchildren.html">getting sick</a> from animal-borne diseases – such as putting their hands in their mouth after touching pets. Children are also less likely to wash their hands properly after handling pets.</p> <p>Although anybody who comes into contact with a zoonotic pathogen via their pet can become sick, certain people are more likely to suffer from serious illness. These people include the young, old, pregnant and immunosuppressed.</p> <p>For example, while most people infected with the toxoplasmosis parasite will experience only mild illness, it can be life-threatening or <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/what-are-the-risks-of-toxoplasmosis-during-pregnancy/">cause birth defects in foetuses</a>.</p> <h2>What should I do if I’m worried about catching a disease from my pet?</h2> <p>There are a number of good hygiene and pet husbandry practices that can reduce your risk of becoming sick. These include:</p> <ul> <li>washing your hands after playing with your pet and after handling their bedding, toys, or cleaning up faeces</li> <li>not allowing your pets to lick your face or open wounds</li> <li>supervising young children when they are playing with pets and when washing their hands after playing with pets</li> <li>wearing gloves when changing litter trays or cleaning aquariums</li> <li>wetting bird cage surfaces when cleaning to minimise aerosols</li> <li>keeping pets out of the kitchen (especially cats who can jump onto food preparation surfaces)</li> <li>keeping up to date with preventative veterinary care, including vaccinations and worm and tick treatments</li> <li>seeking veterinary care if you think your pet is unwell.</li> </ul> <p>It is especially important for those who are at a higher risk of illness to take precautions to reduce their exposure to zoonotic pathogens. And if you’re thinking about getting a pet, ask your vet which type of animal would best suit your personal circumstances.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210898/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-mclean-1351935">Sarah McLean</a>, Lecturer in environmental health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, Professor of Microbiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-it-okay-to-kiss-your-pet-the-risk-of-animal-borne-diseases-is-small-but-real-210898">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Try these tricks the next time small talk becomes unbearable

<p><strong>Real talk</strong></p> <p>Bonnie Todd runs 250 food tours a year – a job that puts her in contact with hundreds of new people every week. Food-lovers come to her for an introduction to local tastes and flavours. And a large part of what keeps her guests satisfied, and willing to recommend her business to others, is the personal connection she makes with them.</p> <p>“I try to get past the small talk and general recommendations pretty quickly,” says the 42-year-old. “It’s all about finding common ground within the group, and trying to make it a unique experience. So I’m always asking questions. And when I find that spark of commonality, I dig into it.”</p> <p>The practice is key to Todd’s approach because, unlike many tours, hers require people to sit together sharing food and drinks. When groups don’t gel, or never get past the “Where are you from?” stage, what should be a stimulating experience can turn into an awkward and draining couple of hours.</p> <p>We’ve all been there: trapped in a superficial exchange that bounces aimlessly from one meaningless topic to the next. It can make you never want to step foot into another party again. But don’t despair: there are some tactics that can help you turn boring small talk into an energising conversation.</p> <p><strong>Put yourself out there </strong></p> <p>Improv performer Natalie Metcalfe’s job is to keep a scene going – to create an exchange that’s compelling for both the people involved and for a live audience.</p> <p>“In improv, it’s all about offers,” she says, referring to the act of bringing new information into the dialogue. Through these back-and-forths, the relationship between the characters is established and that kicks things off. “It’s the same thing in a regular conversation. You’re constantly making offers to see if you and the person you’re talking to can connect.”</p> <p>An offer in real life can be as simple as complimenting someone on what they’re wearing, and asking them about it. You can try sharing something you recently learned, or an interest you’ve just developed, creating an opening for the other person to ask you a question. Or, you can describe a relatable problem you’re having – a noisy neighbour, a plant that’s not thriving, a question of etiquette – as a prompt for advice, or some cooperative troubleshooting.</p> <p>One of Todd’s go-to approaches is to share a personal story of her own that relates to the other person’s experience. “If I find out someone has been to a place I’ve travelled, I’ll tell them an anecdote about what I did there, and ask them to share their own story.”</p> <p>Of course, putting yourself out there can sometimes feel scary, even when you’re not on stage. But Misha Glouberman, who runs a course called How to Talk to People About Things, says taking that leap pays off.  “A lot of the time in conversations, there’s something we’re interested in, but there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to take the risk of revealing it because we think it might be boring or inappropriate.” But the result of following those internal cues of fascination has the opposite effect, he says. “People like learning about other people’s interests. So be more open about yours, and a little more curious about theirs as well.”</p> <p><strong>Be inquisitive and listen </strong></p> <p>Radio interviewer Terry Gross once said, that the only icebreaker you’ll ever need is, “Tell me about yourself.” Instead of asking a pointed question like “What do you do?”, this type of open question gives someone a chance to offer up a topic they might be more excited to discuss.</p> <p>“Talking about yourself is really pleasurable. It activates the exact same hormone in your brain as sex,” says Celeste Headlee, the author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. “Another tip you can take from neuroscience is that if you start a conversation by allowing someone to feel good about themselves, then they’ll be more open to new ideas and new thoughts for the rest of the conversation.”</p> <p>Of course, upping your curiosity quotient needs to be paired with actually paying attention to the answer. “Listening is hard for homo sapiens. It’s not something our species does easily,” says Headlee.</p> <p>Indeed, people often start crafting their response before the person they’re talking to has finished speaking. Or they’ll get distracted, thinking about an email they forgot to answer. Since a great conversation is by definition a two-way street, these habits have the effect of ending one before it can even begin. Intentional listening, on the other hand, is a key to an empathetic, engaging dialogue.</p> <p><strong>Use disagreement wisely </strong></p> <p>According to Headlee, one of the other things that gets in the way of a meaningful conversation is the all-too-human need to be right. “A really common mistake is the ‘well, actually’ response,” she says, referring to that deflating moment when a person lets their need to correct you about a small detail you’ve just mentioned get in the way of continuing a story. “Google has made this worse,” she adds. “You’ll say, I went to the hotel with the largest patio in the entire world, and while you’re still talking, the person is already on their phone looking to see if that’s actually true.”</p> <p>But while trivial arguments can be an obstacle to a good conversation, Glouberman points out that differences of opinion can also help propel a chat into richer territory. “We assume that the world is just as we see it, that we see it directly,” he says. “But of course all of psychology and neuroscience tells us that’s not the case.”</p> <p>A respectful disagreement, if the other party is open to it, is a great opportunity to enrich your view of the world by understanding someone else’s.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/uncategorized/try-these-tricks-the-next-time-small-talk-becomes-unbearable" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Relationships

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Coles praised for helping small town through cost of living crisis

<p dir="ltr">Coles has been praised for the innovative way they are helping a small Aussie town to combat the ongoing cost of living crisis. </p> <p dir="ltr">The supermarket giant has started contributing to a community pantry in the coastal town of Ulladulla, 200km south of Sydney, which gives struggling locals basic grocery staples.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Little Free Food Pantry in Ulladulla was set up by local woman Coralie Smith and her mother Melissa, who were on a mission to reduce food waste, while also give back to their community as the cost of living continues to take hold. </p> <p dir="ltr">The motto "take what you need, give what you can" is plastered along the top of the pantry, set up outside the local scout hall, designed for people to help themselves to food to feed their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the food in the community cupboard has been donated by the local Coles supermarket, which provides a range of baked items, meats and fresh produce daily.</p> <p dir="ltr">Woolworths has also contributed items to the pantry every week, while also being topped up by generous locals. </p> <p dir="ltr">One local woman named Michelle has been using the service for almost three months. </p> <p dir="ltr">Before the pantry was established, Michelle was only able to afford to eat just one meal a day. </p> <p dir="ltr">"I'm working three jobs because of the high interest rates and the cost of living," she told <em>Yahoo News Australia</em>. "When I collected my first hamper all I could do is cry".</p> <p dir="ltr">The first time she was offered food she felt extremely "overwhelmed" but "now I'm definitely eating more, and am able to keep up with my mortgage and bills".</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Facebook / Shutterstock</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Queensland MP pleads with Taylor Swift to bring her tour to town

<p dir="ltr">When international music sensation <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/music/taylor-swift-s-massive-news-sends-aussie-fans-into-a-frenzy">Taylor Swift announced her international tour dates</a>, most Australian fans fell into one of two categories: delighted or devastated.</p> <p dir="ltr">For while the star was answering the prayers of thousands and bringing her Eras Tour down under, she was only set to play in Sydney and Melbourne, leaving a number of other major cities out of the loop. </p> <p dir="ltr">And while most took to social media to share their heartbreak, some even <a href="https://www.change.org/p/get-taylor-swift-to-brisbane">launching a change.org petition</a> to bring her their way, one Queensland MP and Swift superfan opted instead to share his heartbreak with reporters down in Canberra. </p> <p dir="ltr">Andrew Wallace, who joined the Swiftie ranks thanks to car rides with his daughters and a soundtrack courtesy of the singer-songwriter’s impressive catalogue, also seized it as an opportunity to beg Taylor to reconsider her tour dates, and bless Brisbane with her presence.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Interestingly, there is about a week in between her three concerts in Sydney and two concerts in Melbourne. That is the perfect opportunity,” he pointed out. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Taylor, I’m asking you, begging you, I’m pleading with you. I’ll get down on my knees if I have to. Please come to Queensland. There are so many Swiftie fans in Queensland. I am one of them.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As he went on to note, addressing “the guys at Frontier Touring”, it wasn’t clear why Queensland had been left out, as “it’s the first time Taylor will be visiting Australia and not Queensland.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Wallace wasn’t the only one with strong feelings on the matter either, with Sports Minister - and fellow Queenslander - Anika Wells dropping by the press conference to announce that it was an “outrage” to be excluded, and Taylor should know that all too well. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, Wallace wasn’t going to hold it against Taylor, promising that their love story would continue as “no one would ever be able to develop ‘Bad Blood’ between myself and Taylor Swift. It just would not be possible.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He even went on to dedicate <a href="http://andrewwallacemp.com.au/taylorswift/">an entire section of his own website</a> to the cause, where he reiterated that he was “the dad of four daughters, and I’m an unashamed Swiftie. And I’m a proud Queenslander who knows that thousands of fans are disappointed to see Queensland left off the Eras Tour map.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m calling on Frontier Touring to extend Taylor’s tour to Queensland – and particularly to the Sunshine Coast, the heart of Queensland’s Swiftie population … we know that a visit to the Sunshine Coast would mean the world to tens of thousands of Queenslanders who think the absolute world of Taylor Swift.” </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Facebook</em></p>

Music

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Mayor chimes in on one town’s 30-year cat ban

<p dir="ltr">When residents of Halls Gap, Victoria, were first handed a cat ownership ban in 1993, they were not immediately onboard with the scheme. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, according to now-Halls Gap Community president David Witham, in the three decades since the rule was imposed, most have come around to the idea.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ban - which would see anyone caught with a feline face a fine of up to $100 - first came into effect as part of the region’s move to protect the sanctuary of the Grampians Ranges, an area also known as Gariwerd. </p> <p dir="ltr">Similar restrictions aren’t anything new in Australia, with a number of other Victorian councils having placed their own 24-hour curfews on cats, but Halls Gap’s ruling is one of only a few to go so far as to ban ownership entirely.</p> <p dir="ltr">Halls Gap is situated in the Grampians National Park, in the heart of a place that is also home to some of Australia’s most known and most threatened species. The ban served as an attempt to protect those species, which included the likes of vulnerable flora and fauna, including bandicoots and gliders.</p> <p dir="ltr">And while the ban was introduced late in 1993, and was incorporated into the Northern Grampians Shire Council’s local laws, no-one can say for certain whether or not it has had any effect.</p> <p dir="ltr">The impact of domestic cats on native wildlife is well documented, with a study previously revealing that over 340 million native animals are killed by them each and every year. </p> <p dir="ltr">And so, many believed that Halls Gap might have seen such figures drop for the area over the course of the three decades, but that was not the case. </p> <p dir="ltr">Since the restriction was introduced in 1993, no formal survey - by either local or state government - has been conducted, so any potential success remains an unknown factor.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, Mayor Kevin Ewert - who joined the council 10 years after the cat ban came into effect - told <em>ABC</em> that it “must be working”, as there weren’t many cats lingering around, and that the locals couldn’t have minded too much. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Because of the myriad of native animals that  are living [in] the Grampians, I think most people probably think it’s a good thing,” he added. </p> <p dir="ltr">But as Witham noted, the area’s signage for the ban had come under fire a number of times, with vandals setting their sights on their controversial canvases. </p> <p dir="ltr">There was still hope for the future of their ‘project’, with Witham also mentioning that “the most recent time the shire have put the cat free zone signs back up - they're still up, which is promising.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty, Facebook</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Six towns you recognise from every movie

<p>Think you recognise that film location? Think again. Filmmakers have a long history of using classic “small town USA” locations for their imagined communities or substituting other cities to stand in for more famous (and expensive) locals – often with a bit of digital trickery on the side.</p> <p><strong>Kanab, Utah</strong></p> <p>If you’ve ever seen a movie about the Wild West, then you’re familiar with Kanab. Hollywood discovered the small town just north of the Arizona border way back in 1924 and classic films like Stagecoach, Union Pacific, Buffalo Bill and Fort Apache were all filmed here, as well as the TV series The Long Ranger and Gunsmoke. It’s the quintessential cowboy town and enthusiastically embraces its movie heritage with memorabilia displayed just about everywhere and even a Kanab Walk of Fame.</p> <p><strong>Wilmington, North Carolina </strong><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p> <p>This coastal city of less than 100,000 people is sometimes referred to as “Wilmywood” in recognition of the 300 or so films and TV series that have been shot here. Frank Capra started the trend in 1983 when he filmed part of Firestarter in the town and since then movies as diverse as Weekend at Bernie’s, Cape Fear and The Jackal have all made use of the mild climate, ocean views and picturesque scenery. There’s a good chance that your kids (or grandkids) were fans of the 90s teen series Dawson’s Creek, which was also filmed in the town.</p> <p><strong>Vancouver</strong></p> <p>It’s a bit of a Hollywood secret, but the Canadian city of Vancouver is used as a stand in for lots of American cities, from New York to San Francisco and everywhere in between. Production costs are much lower than in the United States and directors have found that the city and its surrounds can pass for plenty of places south of the border. Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, the Scary Movie series, Juno, I, Robot and Rise of the Planet of the Apes are just a few you might recognise.</p> <p><strong>Astoria, NYC</strong></p> <p>Everyone has heard of Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York City, but how about Astoria? This small Queens neighbourhood frequently stands in for its more famous cousins in some of the most iconic gangster movies of all time. Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and Serpico were all filmed here and you can have a drink or a meal at one of the real establishments that feature in the movies.</p> <p><strong>Budapest, Hungary</strong></p> <p>Want a top-notch European location without the hefty price tag? Then head to Budapest. The eastern European capital has stood in for Moscow, Munich and Buenos Aires in all sorts of films. While undeniably beautiful, Budapest’s skyline and monuments aren’t as recognisable as many European cities so it is easier for filmmakers to be elusive about the destination. The city has starred in A Good Day to Die Hard, Evita, The Raven and Underworld.</p> <p><strong>Taipei, Taiwan</strong></p> <p>When filmmakers want a generic Asian backdrop, they are increasingly turning to the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Traditionally, cities like Bangkok or Hong Kong would be used but savvy filmgoers are becoming familiar with what these cities look like so it is harder to pretend. Local boy Ang Lee shot his Oscar winning Life of Pi here as well as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Expect to see many more films featuring Taipei – Martin Scorsese is shooting there right now.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Travel Tips

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Aussie town offers $20,000 for people to move in

<p dir="ltr">An outback Queensland town is so keen to get new residents that it’s offering people $20,000 to move in.</p> <p dir="ltr">The catch? You’ll have to live in the middle of a partial desert.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new scheme aims to grow the population of the Quilpie Shire, located 1000 km west of Brisbane and close to the Northern Territory border, by 20 per cent from around 800 residents to 1000.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We were the first council in Outback Queensland to introduce such a policy, and it was a huge success – we had interest from all around Australia as well as globally from the US, India and Ireland,” Quilpie Shire Council CEO Justin Hancock told the <em>Western Times</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our new $20,000 grant will cover most of the price of their land if they build and live on it.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Shire council first introduced the Home Owner Grant in 2021, with the initial limit of $12,500. But the rise in land value led to an increase in the grant as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">“You would be hard pressed to find a better deal anywhere in Australia,” Hancock said in 2021.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Depending on the cost of the land chosen, it can equate to us essentially giving land away,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The original grant has already resulted in seven blocks of land sold on a new estate that’s developing the town’s south.</p> <p dir="ltr">People who receive the grant will have to build a home valued at less than $750,000 and live in it for at least six months, with the grant limited to new homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Quilpie Shire’s economy is mostly based on farming and mining, with some of the world’s largest deposits of boulder opals.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are two small supermarkets in town, a regional hospital, a couple of schools, and a few culinary options offered at the Imperial Hotel and Old Empire Café.</p> <p dir="ltr">For those who require travel, there are two weekly flights which connect Quilpie with Brisbane.</p> <p dir="ltr">Quilpie Shire mayor Stuart Mackenzie has said that despite a recent baby boom with some of their existing residents, they hope to see new people move in to help them support their goal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As a friendly community we look forward to welcoming any new residents into the shire,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: news.com.au, Leon O'Neil</em></p>

Real Estate

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Unlikely winner of Aussie Town of the Year

<p>The winners of the 2023 Aussie Town of the Year Awards have been announced by Wotif.</p> <p>The winner was the NSW border town, Albury.</p> <p>According to Wotif, Albury was a no-brainer to snatch the top spot.</p> <p>"Perfectly situated at the foot of the Aussie Alps and on the banks of the Mighty Murray River, Albury is a top pick for foodies, nature lovers and adventure fans.</p> <p>"With incredible outdoor experiences, awesome wineries and bars, excellent restaurants, and some of the best galleries, museums, theatres and festivals around, it’s a must-visit.”</p> <p>The Wotif Aussie Town of the Year Awards is now in its sixth year, and it recognises trending Aussie destinations for the year ahead based on a Wotif data index that scores the towns by lookiavng at "accommodation affordability, quality, and traveller satisfaction.”</p> <p>Bundaberg, Queensland, and New Norfolk, Tasmania, also landed in the top three.</p> <p>"Bundaberg is the ideal base for exploring the Southern Great Barrier Reef, and with plenty of accommodation in the region, with an average daily rate of $162, it’s one of the best places to be in Queensland this year," a Wotif spokesperson said.</p> <p>For those not well acquainted with the Tassie town, New Norfolk is the third oldest settlement in Tasmania. Wotif describes it as "a charming township with a rich heritage, dotted with eclectic antique stores, historic buildings and green hops fields.</p> <p>"Just a short drive from Hobart, it’s the perfect destination for a short getaway.”</p> <p>The 2022 awards saw Launceston, Tasmania, at the top of the list.</p> <p>2023 Wotif winners:</p> <ol> <li>Albury, NSW</li> <li>Bundaberg, QLD</li> <li>New Norfolk, TAS</li> </ol> <p><strong>4. Port Lincoln, SA</strong></p> <p>Arguably the foodie pick of the year, this coastal town is renowned for being ‘the seafood capital of Australia’. It’s in one of the largest, protected natural harbours in the world, offering ocean adventures, wildlife experience, quality seafood and beautiful wines.</p> <p><strong>5. Ballarat, VIC</strong></p> <p>This town offers countless cafes, restaurants and bars with clever menus showcasing local produce and brews.</p> <p><strong>6. Merimbula, NSW</strong></p> <p>This region had sky-high reviews, with many focusing on the town’s friendly staff and relaxing accommodation.</p> <p><strong>7. Toowoomba, QLD</strong></p> <p>The calendar year highlight of this town is the annual Carnival of Flowers, which attracts visitors from around the globe.</p> <p><strong>8. Dunsborough, WA</strong></p> <p>Visitors can walk through native bushland and wildflowers to be welcomed by a coastline of gorgeous turquoise bays before heading underground to see the remarkable cave systems.</p> <p><strong>9. Orange, NSW</strong></p> <p>Although a rural community, it offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Orange is the ideal location for couples, families or friends looking for excellent accommodation and relaxation over a long weekend.</p> <p><strong>10. Echuca, VIC</strong></p> <p>The floods harshly impacted this town, but thanks to resilient tourism operators, from wineries to hotels and restaurants to museums, they are back on track and ready to welcome visitors.</p> <p>Three-day stays are all the rage</p> <p>Wotif data reported that three-day-stays prove to be the new go-to for domestic holidays, with demand for Wotif growing more than 30 per cent in 2022.</p> <p>"Looking to the year ahead, almost half of Aussies (49 per cent) plan to take short trips of up to 3 nights, with many wanting to explore their own state. 44% per cent of Aussies simply prefer short weekend trips, while another 44 per cent are making this decision for financial reasons, as the rising cost of living impedes household budgets.”</p> <p>“By all accounts, Aussies remain committed to travelling locally in 2023,” says Wotif Managing Director Daniel Finch.</p> <p>“While cost considerations are top of mind for everyone this year, it’s clear travellers are not deterred and instead are prioritising accessible, experience-rich getaways. We know 29 per cent of Aussies are open to travelling to new destinations this year to keep costs down, and we hope by spotlighting these deserving destinations, all of which are extremely accessible, the awards inspire Aussies to explore and connect with regional destinations beyond the typical tried and tested.”</p> <p><em>Image credit: Getty/Shutterstock</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Australia’s top towns revealed

<p dir="ltr">A study has compared 752 small Australian towns and crowned the 36 at the top of the pack. </p> <p dir="ltr">The study was <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/australias-best-towns-kiama-margaret-river-shoalhaven-among-the-top-places-to-live/news-story/695405e2e1787d67e64a93495a6cb8e6">published by <em>The Australian</em></a>, and saw demographer Bernard Salt consider criteria such as unemployment, diversity, median income, technical skill, and education across the 752 towns in his mission to declare the best of the best in each Australian state and territory. </p> <p dir="ltr">More specifically, Salt looked at towns that: </p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Earn more than $1,282 per a week household median income</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Less than 5.1 per cent unemployment</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">More than 15 per cent attained university education</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">More than 36 per cent with technical (trade) skill</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">More than 12 per cent workforce owner/manager</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">No less than 14 per cent born overseas</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">At least 17 per cent volunteer</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">At least 14 per cent provide unpaid care e.g., for example to a relative</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">More than 59 per cent have no long-term health condition</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">More than 6.5 hours per a week in unpaid domestic housework</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Salt’s findings revealed a town in each state and territory that was “drawn from a list of 36 finalists that survive most of the filters”, and ultimately declared to be a step above the rest. </p> <p dir="ltr">For Queensland, Tamborine Mountain came out on top. </p> <p dir="ltr">For the Northern Territory, it was Nhulunbuy. </p> <p dir="ltr">For South Australia, Mount Barker. </p> <p dir="ltr">Western Australia, Dunsborough. </p> <p dir="ltr">Victoria, Bright. </p> <p dir="ltr">Tasmania, Legana. </p> <p dir="ltr">And last but not least, Kiama took the trophy for New South Wales, as well as bragging rights as “the standout overall.” </p> <p dir="ltr">“In the modern era, say the 2020s and beyond, I think that small-town Australia, as well as big-city Australia, needs skills, training, entrepreneurial energy and a measure of diversity to deliver opportunity to residents,” said the founder of The Demographics Group.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What this exercise shows is that across the continent Australians want more or less the same thing when it comes to living in a small town,” Salt went on, “proximity to a capital or major regional city; a tree-change or a sea-change environment; or, better still, all three criteria jammed within a single location offering views and amenity.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The Australian people have spoken through their collective responses to the census,” he concluded. “Sea-change, tree-change, big-city access and a place of their own within which they can potter about and steadily make improvements, while also volunteering, caring, and making a contribution to the local community. That is the essence of small-town Australia.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And of course if you disagree with the metrics and the logic of how the top towns were selected, then you are free to <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/top-towns">jump on to the website</a>, access the model, switch around the metrics and come up with your own version of Australia’s top towns. Hours of fun for the demographically inclined.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty </em></p>

Domestic Travel

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