Early one afternoon in late November 2019, I left Canberra as it was bathing in a sepia haze of bushfire smoke to drive back towards my home on the south coast of New South Wales. As I headed east, past dried-out farm country with paddocks the colour of sand and stands of brittle eucalypts throwing bark, a fierce wind whipped up a fog of dust and smoke so thick I needed headlights. The smoke could have been coming from anywhere – there were more than 60 fires burning across NSW that week.
In Braidwood, a country town about halfway between the national capital and the coast, I pulled over because I had an appointment to do a phone interview for a story I was working on for this magazine. I was writing about the extraordinary bushfire season already unfolding, one that had started unseasonably early, in Queensland in late winter, before moving into northern NSW in spring, with devastating consequences.
Dealing with sea-level rise when private property is at stake
Around 10 years ago, upon retirement, Dr Brett Stevenson started spending less time in Sydney and more in a house he owned in a town 200 kilometres south – the beginnings of the classic Australian sea change.
The region he came to is called the Shoalhaven, the kind of place where if someone says they live a stone’s throw from the coast they’re probably not exaggerating. Nearly every town there starts adjacent to a beach or clings to the edge of an estuary – evidence of the Australian ethos that the closer we live to the coast, the better.
Stevenson wanted to contribute to his new community, so he volunteered to sit on some of the local council’s natural resources and coastal management committees. He’d spent more than a decade working in policy for the New South Wales department of the environment, and before that with the state’s Environmental Protection…
15th June 2018
A retired judge has backed calls for more drug rehabilitation centres in the bush, warning addicts in regional areas are too often thrown behind bars.
John Nicholson SC served as a New South Wales District Court judge for more than a decade and regularly presided over sittings in Dubbo, where drug-related crime is high.
When sentencing offenders, Mr Nicholson told Background Briefing there were times he had no choice but to impose a jail term.
”I had to take an option that was much less pleasant, but still within the appropriate boundaries of sentencing, and that might be custody,” he said.
ABC Radio National Background Briefing
Sunday 17th June
A community in regional NSW is pushing for a different approach to how it handles drug-related crime.
While politicians have promised a drug court to divert offenders into rehabilitation, very little has been done.
In this Background Briefing investigation reporter Bronwyn Adcock speaks to community leaders in the city of Dubbo who are fed up with drug addicts having no other option than to be sent to jail.
“The most frustrating thing is that everyone gets out there for Australia Day, there’s so much controversy, but April 29 comes around and there’s just silence.”
It’s a windy autumn day, and Rodney Kelly is slumped over a wooden picnic table at the Bermagui headland, on the far NSW South Coast. He is trying hard not to be broken by the events of the past two years. “Sometimes I want to give up. And I don’t know why, I just can’t.”
From his seat, Kelly looks out across the wind-chopped ocean, where 248 years ago Captain James Cook sailed on his way up the east coast of the continent. Nine days after passing this point, the British explorer arrived at Botany Bay, and he and his party made first contact with Aboriginal Australians – Kelly’s ancestors.
Over the final few months of his life, 31-year-old David Wotherspoon, an inmate at Cessnock Correctional Centre in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, increasingly believed that prison officers were plotting to kill him: poisoning his food and sending toxic gas into his cell. To protect himself, he barely ate or slept, and armed himself with a “shiv”, a sharpened screwdriver.
In mid March 2013, after months of private torment, he asked to see the mental-health nurse at the prison’s clinic. He was tired and drawn – he’d dropped 7 kilograms – and agitated. “I’m not sick, I know I am not sick,” Wotherspoon told her, continually checking the door, watching for prison officers, worrying he would be overheard. He told her about the plot against him, and about his weapon. “Don’t be afraid, miss. I won’t be using it on you. It’ll be for one of those ones who…
Inside Story, August 2017
Originally published in the Griffith Review
Nowra showground is a ten-minute walk from the centre of town: past Best & Less, Jolly Olly’s Discount Variety Store, the Postman’s Tavern and the Bowling Club, along a wide, tree-lined residential street. The gateway is a towering, seven-metre-high sandstone structure with four entrance archways, topped by parapets and crenellated towers, built just after the second world war. A life-sized bronze statue of a soldier, added after the war, stands in front of the gate. He’s depicted without rifle or helmet; as local historical material explains, “His country’s freedom secured, but forever on alert to safeguard the future.”
ABC Radio National Background Briefing
25th June 2017
He warns we’re facing an infestation of radical clerics, and he’s called for Islamic schools to be shut down. But Mohammed Tawhidi has a mysterious history that sits awkwardly alongside his new image as reformer-in-chief of Islam in Australia.
28th February 2017
It’s often prescribed as a solution for those struggling with the lack of affordable housing in cities like Sydney: just move to the country.
However, those people living on low incomes in coastal regions of NSW are faring just as badly as city dwellers as they hunt for an affordable roof over their head.
ABC Radio National ‘Background Briefing’
26 February 2017
An Australian town rises up against homeless people who set up a tent shantytown at the local showground. Bronwyn Adcock reports on a big city problem that’s come to Nowra on the NSW south coast.