An oasis of fun in Perth’s happening heart


THE PLACE

This inner-city suburb is a crucible of all things cool: vibrant nightlife, vintage shops, splashy murals, hole-in-the-wall cafes, art galleries and theatres and that custodian of Perth’s rich Asian heritage, Chinatown. Its proximity to the city notwithstanding – the CBD is a five-minute walk away – Northbridge feels suburban with its tree-shaded streets and predominantly low-rise buildings – some of them heritage-listed. But stroll through it and you’ll find urban curiosities aplenty, along with busy construction sites signifying the precinct’s burgeoning expansion.

THE SPACE

This is the first purpose-built DoubleTree by Hilton in Australia, and I can sense the welcome before I’ve entered the hotel, for there’s a seamless flow between the glass-doored lobby and the pavement where I’m dropped off. Inside the modern cubist structure is a reception area managed by sociable staff and filled with geometric artworks and furnishings. The centrepiece is a vertical louvre-style partition behind the main reception desk, popping in primary colours and setting a playful tone for the rest of the 206-room establishment. The outdoor pool floats three floors above Northbridge, offering swimmers a view of the CBD skyscrapers. It’s also a pleasant spot in which to sit with a coffee or a cocktail. Gym goers get a view of both the pool and the skyline from the fitness centre set behind a wall of glass on the same level.

THE ROOM

The splashes of colour in the lobby follow me upstairs to my “king panoramic” room, where a muted canvas of blond wood and taupe walls and furnishings is vivified with another kaleidoscopic artwork and a carpet spattered in a tessellating mosaic of pink, brown and blue. My room faces east, offering a view across Northbridge towards the Swan River and the Perth Hills rising gently in the distance (Hilton Honors guests can use their smartphone as a room key). The bathroom is sleek, with just a hint of geometrical colour, and is stocked with Crabtree and Evelyn products; the shower cubicle’s glass wall ensures the view isn’t obscured while I bathe (discreet guests can activate an inbuilt blind). I sleep undisturbed on the cloud-like “sleep experience” bed and, waking early next morning, watch the sunrise from the squishy comfort of my bed.

THE FOOD

Tucked off the lobby is James St Bar + Kitchen, an urbane, open-kitchen concept that’s a bistro and bar rolled into one. It’s a pleasant space to hang out in with its brass counter lamps, mid-century-style furniture and tessellated tile floor, and I get the impression it’s frequented by locals as much as guests. Chef Kevin Garcia’s menu focuses on Western Australian produce and reflects the modern Australian palate; you’ll find a chicken parmigiana here alongside lamb koftas, soy-brushed salmon with Asian slaw, kangaroo loin and tempting share plates and tapas. The drinks menu offers a comprehensive selection of beers, ciders, spirits, mocktails, cocktails and selected wines from WA along with bar snacks. Breakfast is the usual fare, served with a modern twist and health-conscious flair. A simplified version is served in the Executive Lounge, which is accessible to Hilton Honors members and guests staying in an executive room.

STEPPING OUT

It’s a pity I’m here for business not leisure, given DoubleTree by Hilton’s handy location in the city’s buzzing cultural heartland. The Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Perth Cultural Centre (its refurbished Western Australian Museum is due to reopen in 2020) are a five-minute walk away, the State Theatre Centre a mere two minutes. Strike out in any direction and you’ll find a quirky eatery (try Old Shanghai, fitted with retro Chinese decor and serving Asian eats hawkers’ centre-style; 123 James Street, Northbridge; 0405 363 518). Or head to Yagan Square, a new development at Horseshoe Bridge named for Perth’s fabled Noongar warrior and composed as a vibrant gathering centre. Here you’ll find native gardens, green spaces, eateries, markets and public art including a towering sculpture of Yagan himself. I’m headed to a conference at the Perth Convention Centre – beside the newly-developed Elizabeth Quay – and though taxis and public transport are plentiful, it’s a pleasant 20-minute walk from here.

THE VERDICT

The hotel’s jazzy personality and vibrant location make it the ideal bolthole for travellers who want to be close to the action and energised by their environment.

THE ESSENTIALS

Fully flexible rates in a king guestroom start at $155 a night including breakfast. See perthnorthbridge.doubletreebyhilton.com

HIGHLIGHT

The signature warm choc-chip cookie served at a check-in.

LOWLIGHT

Wi-Fi is complimentary only in the lobby, restaurant and public areas – unless you’re a Hilton Honors member, in which case it’s comprehensive.

Catherine Marshall was a guest of DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Northbridge and Tourism Western Australia



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Return to a bush oasis, one year after the fires


Each of us in our small party, made up of friends and their various connections, stakes out a claim on our allocated patch of dirt and sets up a colourful collection of camper trailers, tents and swags. Six of us take half an hour to assemble the shade pergola as the sun beats down on our heads.

East Gippsland is a popular beach holiday spot.Credit:Eddie Jim

Personality traits come into clearer focus here than in everyday life as we set up temporary kitchens, bathroom and living space in our primitive outdoor setting. The interaction between couples highlights the strengths and flaws in our own relationships. Those who are predisposed to early rising, vigorous hikes and swimming in breathtakingly cold water goad those of us who sit happily in old tracksuit pants, relaxed and braless, doing nothing.

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Pathways lead to the beach at Cape Conran through the gnarled branches of scorched banksias. People are spread out along the white sand. There are warning signs about strong currents, unexpected drop-offs and the unpatrolled beach. The sea is clean, clear and cold, and everyone emerging from it makes the same gasps of pleasure at its refreshing restorative beauty.

A long boardwalk, damaged by the fires, wraps around the cliffs, running up and down like a roller coaster, past red boulders, sandy coves and rockpools. Middens stand testament to the history of the Gunaikurnai, the region’s first people, who gathered here to feast and add mussel shells to the 60,000-year-old piles.

More than 4400 animal species were affected by the Victorian bushfires.

More than 4400 animal species were affected by the Victorian bushfires.Credit:Joe Armao

The 2020 fires burnt about 1.5 million hectares of land throughout Victoria, much of it in the largely remote south-eastern corner of the state. More than 4400 animal species were affected, including 215 rare and threatened species. Fifty per cent of native animal habitat was lost. The absence of the possums, that in previous years have sat beside our camp chairs like pet dogs and tried to bust into our food stores at night, is noticeable. There are fewer birds and the sound of the kookaburras laughing at us in the early morning has gone.

There are fewer birds and the sound of the kookaburras laughing at us in the early morning has gone.

There are fewer birds and the sound of the kookaburras laughing at us in the early morning has gone.Credit:Dean Ingwersen

The restoration of Cape Conran National Park continued throughout last year, beginning with the arrival of the Australian Defence Force in January. Chinook helicopters, with their distinctive double chop-chop sound, joined fire-fighting helicopters in the smoky skies.

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Fijian troops joined the Australian contingent soon after, clearing roads, building bridges and making new fire breaks. The Fijians charmed the local community with their daily ritual of harmonious song, adding a welcome layer of joy to a traumatic time. The visiting soldiers performed a beautiful Isa Lei – a farewell song – for the Orbost and District community before they went home.

Other organisations such as the Department of Land Water and Planning, VicParks and Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation worked hard to regenerate the area and make it safe for us to camp again. We are grateful to all of them for restoring access to this beautiful place.

Susan Murphy is a freelance writer.

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How the Trump border wall sapped a desert oasis dry



A newly built section of the US-Mexico border wall lines the entire southern edge of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, where a crucial spring system was drawn up for construction. (Jerry Glaser/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/)

Amidst the towering saguaro and pronged organ pipe cacti of southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, a 30-foot-tall fence snakes through the vegetation, shadowed by a barren strip of land that’s been carved into the mountainsides. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a flurry of activity in these borderlands, particularly in the area’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. In the last months of the Trump administration, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) construction crew has been dynamiting and drilling their way through nature refuges and cultural relics to make room for the new border wall. A 30-mile-long spine of steel poles filled with concrete now chokes the monument’s southern edge. Mixing the raw materials for this structure requires a lot of water—some 84,000 gallons a day, by CBP’s own estimates—a dwindling resource that’s being siphoned from the already arid landscape.

The 450 miles of border wall in sections of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas have already required more than 971,000 tons of concrete, according to CBP. (About 10 percent of that called for new construction; the rest replaced existing structures.) The demand for water, alongside historic droughts in the West, has had a colossal impact on the surrounding ecology of largely public and tribal lands across the Southwest, which scientists and Indigenous communities fear may take years, if not decades, to reverse.

In 2019 wall contractors began relocating saguaro cacti out of the construction zone on the behest of the Department of Homeland Security.

In 2019 wall contractors began relocating saguaro cacti out of the construction zone on the behest of the Department of Homeland Security. (Jerry Glaser/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/)

Near Quitobaquito Springs, located in Organ Pipe, only 600 feet from the border, locals have documented CBP diverting water from the same aquifer that feeds the springs. “Contractors have pumped tens of millions of gallons from a deep aquifer that has what hydrologists call ‘fossil water,’” explains Randy Serraglio, who monitors endangered species and their habitats for the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation nonprofit. “It’s water that was laid down thousands of years ago. The aquifer is not easily replenished by the scant rainfall we get now, so the damage is essentially permanent.” Once around 2 feet deep and covering up to half an acre, hydrologists and ecologists estimate the pond at Quitobaquito dropped 15 inches during the summer of 2020, and the spring’s flow reached an historic low of 5.5 gallons per minute this past July.

The ecological impacts may be severe. The Quitobaquito pupfish and Sonoyta mud turtle, both classified as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), reside in the spring and nowhere else in the country.

Quitobaquito Springs is a small but deep network that naturally replenishes a pond at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It's also a religious site for the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Quitobaquito Springs is a small but deep network that naturally replenishes a pond at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s also a religious site for the Tohono O’odham Nation. (National Park Service/)

Almost 300 miles away at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, in the Sky Islands region of southern Arizona, the boggy marshes, tumbling waterfalls, and tree-lined riverbanks of the lush 2,369-acre wetland provide a green oasis within the dry Chihuahuan Desert, thanks to the Río Yaqui watershed.

“A big part of the wall cuts through the heart of the region, which is home to jaguar, ocelot, black bears, mountain lions, and more” says Louise Misztal, executive director of the Sky Island Alliance, a science nonprofit that works to preserve the forested mountains in the borderlands.

Because animals migrate to areas that historically provide them with a water resource, such as the San Bernardino Refuge’s natural ponds, nearby CBP drilling is of particular concern to Misztal, who’s worked as a biologist in the state for more than a decade.

With new wells 8 miles from the spring, which pumps water to ground level, necessary water pressure has dropped during construction. USFWS officials have resorted to manmade pumps to help the pressure return to normal.

Water in several ponds at the refuge—home to endangered fish and rare butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats—dropped to an extremely low level, then disappeared completely, according to USFWS documents leaked to the Center for Biological Diversity in summer of 2020. Citing data gathered between November 2019 and June 2020, USFWS employees warned of the impact of drilling groundwater from wells within a 5-mile radius of the refuge, but the warnings went unheeded.

CBP contractors drew millions of gallons of groundwater from a well just 1.5 miles from the site. As soon as CBP began removing huge amounts of groundwater from the aquifer, the pressure in the system began to fail, “exactly as predicted by scientists,” Serraglio says. “Some ponds dried up and endangered fish and plants, such as the Yaqui catfish and Yaqui beautiful shiner, were killed.”

The threat extends to rivers, too. A segment of the wall has been constructed through the San Pedro River in Arizona, changing the waterway’s hydrology. “There’s not a lot of surface river,” Misztal explains. “Up until now it was a free-flowing river, but they’ve put in a bridge and infrastructure.” The extent of the impact on fish species—such as the endangered Gila chub, the speckled dace, and the Sonora sucker—is not yet entirely clear, Misztal adds, but it will without a doubt change migration and spawning habits. In addition, wildlife that depend on the river as a resource may find their water source has dried up. Monsoons typically recharge low-flowing sections during the summer, but the water may no longer fill up as it once did.

What’s more, the wall construction extends through a region that’s facing its worst drought for 1,200 years due to climate change. Arizona, specifically, has seen record-low rainfalls and snowmelt, and experienced more triple-digit temperatures than in any other year. “Springs and streams are already critically stressed in many places, so the massive pumping is even more damaging,” Serraglio says.

A spokesperson for CBP says that the agency “regularly consults” with tribal governments and wildlife departments to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources. “Regarding water resources, CBP continues to coordinate with federal land-managing agencies to monitor and evaluate potential groundwater impacts potentially associated with border-wall-system construction,” they added.

However, the Real ID Act of 2005 allows the Department of Homeland Security to supersede existing laws, including the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and an executive order which requires consultation of tribal governments.

At Quitobaquito Springs, for instance, wall engineers pulled a noticeable amount of water from the O’odham Nation’s sacred pond and also blew up Monument Hill, a site containing some 10,000-year-old artifacts of Apache warriors.

“Construction unearthed pieces of body remains of our ancestors, which now have to be reburied,” says Christina Bell Andrews, district chairwoman of Hia-Ced, a subset of the O’odham Nation.

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Serraglio contends that we don’t yet know the full damage of tapping natural wells and drilling new ones. “The situations at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in far Southeast Arizona and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southwest Arizona are probably the most egregious, but there are others,” he adds.

Both Serraglio and Misztal agree the incoming Biden administration needs to take immediate action to survey the damage that’s been done, and prioritize restoration to reverse the damage caused by wall construction. Andrews is co-authoring a letter requesting immediate action. “Joe Biden can stop the construction on Day One, and he must do that,” Serraglio says. “Every day that he waits, this tragedy will continue to unfold in the borderland.”

Biden told reporters last August he would not build “another foot” of border wall, but has yet to address the damage already done. Whatever his plans, Andrews emphasizes the importance of consulting with the O’odham people in how to remedy the destruction. The Trump administration has already secured more wall contracts, largely in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, complicating Biden’s plan to stop construction.

One way to bring back the ecological and hydrological balance of the borderlands would be to restore the San Pedro River to its original free-flowing state, Misztal says. But in terms of replenishing the springs, she doesn’t know if there’s an easy fix. “Some resources will be changed forever,” she says. “At Quitobaquito, the groundwater is extremely old, and the next 10 years of rain aren’t going to be enough to restore it.” And, although she adds that nature is resilient, the future of the desert’s water sources is less certain.



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MCG goalposts head to AFL oasis in Northern Territory desert community Santa Teresa


All eyes will be on Traeger Park in Alice Springs this weekend for an AFL match between Melbourne and St Kilda.

But 80 kilometres down the road in the remote community of Santa Teresa, a remarkable project is nearing completion.

With the support of the Melbourne Football Club, the Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG, Santa Teresa residents are transforming their once dusty football oval into a lush, green paddock.

The green oasis in the middle of the desert is a sight to behold, but it wasn’t always this way.

It used to be rocky and dusty.

Local players say when you hit the ground it was pretty hard, but now it will be much safer on the grass.

This is what the oval looked like before the grassing project.(Supplied: Melbourne Football Club)

Atyenhenge-Atherre Aboriginal Corporation CEO Susie Low said the whole town was invested in getting the job done in time for next football season.

“You’d think it would be quite boring but they’d just come and watch it. And then seeding was something people got very excited about.”

A football oval covered in grass with goalposts at the end
The new oval at Santa Teresa is greener and safer with grass.(ABC Alice Springs: Oliver Gordon)

Complex irrigation

Matthew Cavanagh is the groundskeeper in charge of the project.

He oversees a complex irrigation system that uses heavily filtered local bore water.

He also makes sure the local brumbies that roam the desert stay off the fresh green grass.

A man stands on a green grassed oval
Matthew Cavanagh is the groundskeeper trying to keep this patch of grass green.(ABC Alice Springs: Oliver Gordon)

Melbourne Football Club has been visiting Central Australia for more than a decade, and has formed a close bond with the town of Santa Teresa.

CEO Gary Pert said the idea to green the oval came from conversations with people in the community.

“About five years ago we were talking to the community leaders and we said, ‘How can we help?’, and right across the board they said we’ve got an oval that’s clay and gravel, and we have 200 kids playing on it in bare feet.

What followed was consultation with the Northern Territory Government, widespread fundraising and lots of planning.

Now the oval is 80 per cent grassed, and teams are set to start playing on it next year.

“It was a dream, and now we’ve got it, and we’re starting to see this grassed oval where the kids with their bare feet can run and jump on the oval and play the game.”

A man stands on a grassed oval
Donovan Mulladad plays for the local footy team and is excited for the season ahead.(ABC Alice Springs: Oliver Gordon)

Bright future

But greening the grass is not where this revamp ends.

Traditional owners and Santa Teresa residents have used their money to install lights as well.

The four brand new light posts illuminate the entire ground.

Donovan Mulladad, who plays centre for local club Ltyentye Apurte, said that’s making playing at night a whole lot easier.

Ms Low said the mission would be complete when a large delivery from Melbourne arrived with some key infrastructure for the oval.

“The MCG are giving us their goalposts, so we we’ll have the Melbourne goalposts here at the Santa,” she said.

“We think it’s going to be bigger than Melbourne. Watch this space.”



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Oasis’ rarely seen 1994 Glastonbury performance added to BBC Festival repeats line-up


A rarely seen performance from Oasis will be made readily available for music fanatics on BBC iPlayer, after the 2020 Glastonbury Festival was cancelled.

The band’s 1994 Glastonbury set is to be added to iPlayer’s channel dedicated to the Festival – joining the likes of Ed Sheeran and The Stripes.

Steve Lamacq dropped the good news on his BBC Radio 6 programme today.

The set’s highlights will also form part of BBC Two’s The Glastonbury Experience Live, hosted by Jo Whiley and Mark Radcliffe, on Friday 26th June, from 8:30pm to 10pm.

Between 10am on Thursday 25th June and 1am on Monday 29th June, fans will be treated to some of the Festival’s biggest and best performances from its 49 shows.

The rarely seen set will be shown on iPlayer

This means fans will get to see the Gallagher brothers perform on stage together again – after their famous 2009 bust-up that split the band.

Liam and Noel have an ongoing feud – and aren’t showing signs of warming to each other again.

2020 was set to mark the 50th anniversary – but amid coronavirus, had to be cancelled.

Ed Sheeran

Florence and the Machine stole the show in 2015

Programming for The Glastonbury Experience will also include full length performances on iPlayer, BBC Two and BBC Four from Adele, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Coldplay, David Bowie and others.

Ed Sheeran in 2017, Christine and The Queens in 2016, Florence and the Machine in 2015, and LCD Soundsystem’s Other Stage set in 2016 will all be included.

More acts are still to be announced, but acts alongside Oasis’ 1994 include:

These will all be available for 30 days on iPlayer after broadcast.

For more info you can head to: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2020/glastonbury





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