From Anne in Adelaide, Australia: towards the Centre.

Wheels from a bygone era

Travelling north from Adelaide you are heading towards the Outback … often called the Red Centre of Australia. It gets dryer and dryer the further you go. Yesterday, we travelled 300 km north to the region of Mount Remarkable. Our group of 20 belong to a field geology club. The main interest is geology but they also look at the flora and fauna.

It’s the first time this year that we have been able to travel. so, there is an added excitement to this nine day journey of ours. Because of COVID-19 there were extra steps in organising this trip. We all submitted statements about our recent movements and possible exposure to infected people. If we had cold or cough symptoms during the last week before departure, we were asked to have a COVID-19 test.

For those who are interested in geology, we are travelling along the Adelaide Geosyncline. This is a geologist paradise: a unique area with some of the oldest animal fossils ever found – the Ediacara fauna – as well as many other interesting exposures.

A thinning and stretching of the earth’s crust 800 million years ago caused troughs to form. Since then complex geological activity deposited material into the trough. Ice ages, rising and falling of seas, buckling of the land masses, life flowering and dying, all have all left their mark on this landscape.

Bungaree Shearing Shed

We drove through fields of half-height wheat, yellow fields of canola and pastures filled with sheep and their tiny lambs to arrive at Bungaree station for morning tea. Bungaree has been in the family for six generations. It was established in 1841 by the two Hawker brothers, shortly after the first colonists arrived in South Australia. The station was originally 267 mi.² in size. Since then it has been divided and subdivided. The original Homestead and 22 stone buildings remain. The station became famous for the breeding of Merinos. Once upon a time, they farmed 100,000 sheep and had 50 full-time shearers. It was a veritable village on the edge of the settlement of South Australia.

The Bungaree Homestead

One of the family showed us around their historic shearing shed which is still used for their current flock of 7000 sheep. Tourists are returning to Bungaree to stay in their historic accommodation and their refurbished shearers’ quarters. The station is also a popular venue for weddings. At the top of the hill is a quaint stone family church and within it it is a family memorial to a recipient of the VC- Major Lanoe George Hawker who was awarded the VC in the Great War before dying in action in 1916.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/major-lanoe-hawker-vc

Amongst the olive trees

(In the centre of every little town we have passed there is a memorial for those who fell in the First World War.)

For a long time it has been said that Australia “rode on a sheep’s back“. Farming in South Australia seems to me to be a balancing act. The choice of land and the choice of what you farmed made you a fortune or broke you. This is a harsh country and the struggles of the first colonists is written on the land. Driving north, you see abandoned, crumbling stone cottages along the road.

Wirrabara’s silo art

We carried on north to the tiny town of Wirrabara to see the newly painted wheat silos. Across Australian disused silos are being creatively decorated.

We are now staying in cabins in the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park in the shadow of Mt Remarkable.

Throughout the park there are old eucalypts with deep holes. For ten years, the owners have encouraged brush-tailed possums to inhabit these gum trees. Every evening at dusk, the possums are fed slices of carrot. A tap on the tree trunk and the possums wake up to carrot time. Many have joeys. As I walked back to our cabin after dinner at the local pub, every tree had a little large-eyed grey possum lump, waiting for treats.

Happy possums!

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: who told whom, what, when?

May 28. OR – Please, read your emails.

South Australians have been rather pleased with their daily Covid-19 report. ZERO new cases today. In the last month we have had 2 cases. However, the last case on 26 May has caused a minor media storm.

Apparently, a woman arrived from the UK into Melbourne and went into quarantine – as all arrivals have to. However, after 7 days she was allowed to fly to South Australia. The story was that she was given exemption for ‘compelling family reasons’ and made an emergency dash to be at the bedside of her dying parent. When she arrived into Adelaide she was tested and found to be positive for Covid-19. Now all the woman’s contacts on the plane etc have to isolate.

At first our Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, said she had not been told the details of the woman’s arrival by the Victorian authorities (blaming them). A short time later Spurrier had to apologise saying that they had received the email but had not read it!

‘We really need to review our processes.’ She said that it was ‘easy to overlook an email’ and that such failures were not only a problem in our state but were a ‘national issue’.

‘I’m running a response to a pandemic. I don’t have time to feel embarrassed,’ Spurrier added. I liked that neat comment but after all, this failure might result in deaths.

This comes against the background that there is a developing irritation between states in Australia as to who has kept their borders closed and why. Victoria State has the most new cases (10 overnight) and no one wants to bring in more community spread – little as it is.

It appears that a failure to read emails and check on critical procedures is a common failing at the moment and causing considerable harm. The cruise ship, the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock in Sydney Harbour on 19 March. Somehow checks between the ship, NSW health and harbour authorities failed to make certain that the ship was free of infection. 2,700 passengers disembarked without being checked and they spread the virus around: 22 died, 100’s were infected. There is now a criminal investigation into the matter.

This story of failure continues. In West Australia (WA) a live-export ship, the Al Kuwait, from the UAE was allowed to dock at Fremantle with the intention of taking on board 56,000 live sheep destined for the Middle East. This is a terrible trade and has resulted in sheep dying in large numbers due to heat stress and conditions in these floating hell holes. Furthermore, the humane treatment of the sheep on arrival in the Middle East is not easy to manage (understatement).

Now they have found that 6 crew members are infected with Covid-19 on the Al Kuwait. The WA Premier went into attack mode, arguing with the Federal Minister of Agriculture as to who was told what, when.

The issue gets more complicated, as these livestock carriers are not legally allowed to leave Australia after May 31. This is because the ship would arrive in the Middle East during the summer and previous cases have resulted in distressing images of sheep dying from heat stress being shown in Australia. And it takes really ghastly images for any change in this business to take place.

So – money talks – our Federal minister of Agriculture, David Littleproud, (lovely name that!) has said that an exemption might be granted by the ‘independent’ regulator so that the ship can sail with a June departure date. Littleproud also said the shipment – all that meat – is worth 12 million AUD. So, for money, the sheep with suffer the heat. Meat is important after all.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-27/live-sheep-caught-up-in-coronavirus-outbreak/12290198

In these 3 cases it was a failure of processes, standards and checks that are in place and meant to be protecting us.

These are the failures we know about. I fear that they will not be the last.