‘Our waste, our responsibility’: Federal Budget’s $250 million step up

I wrote this for Clean Up Australia after this year’s Budget announcement.

Last Tuesday’s Budget, although short on environmental measures, included some good news – an extra $250 million to update Australia’s recycling infrastructure. 

Turning waste into jobs

Clean energy and recycling were listed as one of six priority areas for manufacturing in the next 10 years. Treasurer Josh Frydenburg framed the measure in terms of creating 10,000 jobs and helping the environment. He said the improved infrastructure would stop more than 600,000 tonnes of waste ending up in landfill. Improved infrastructure would help the industry to sort, process and remanufacture paper, glass, plastics and tyres.

By 2024, the plan is to spend $190 million on the new Recycling Modernisation Fund and $24.6 million to improve waste data and reporting.
Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley called the measure ‘A once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity.’
Australian-made recycled products in government infrastructure projects compulsory. ‘All of these actions continue to encourage at best a closed loop system. If we are serious about transitioning Australia to a circular economy, then emphasis must be given to the design of products’, she said. 
Josh Frydenberg quoted Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the August 2019 ban on exporting our waste – plastic, paper, tyres and glass – ‘it’s our waste, it’s our responsibility’.

So what can you do to take responsibility and help close the recycling loop? 

Clean Up Australia’s National Packaging Targets include to have 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in use by 2025 and 50% of recycled content included in packaging. To truly close the loop, we need to grow the demand for recycled materials. Take a look at our guide to buying recycled and Step Up by buying recycled.

To win a medal at the 2020 Paralympics, just train like crazy and then try your heart out. Oh, and make sure no pandemics shatter your plans

I interviewed Ella Jones, Paralympic contender, in 2019. Now the games are postponed to 2021.

Ella Jones’s selection to represent Australia at the World Para-swimming Championships after only three years as a swimmer is evidence of her extraordinary persistence.

The 18-year-old has never let conforming – or her disability – get in the way of success.

Three short years ago, Ella Jones would not have picked herself as representing her country in an international swimming competition. In April she got the news that she’d made the Australian Dolphins team.

The teenager is heading for the World Para-swimming Championships in London in September, one of nine new members of the 34-strong squad.

A good showing in London will see her in line for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The achievement is all the more extraordinary as Ella, who has cerebral palsy, only began swimming at age 15.

“The most exercise I’d done before I started swimming was running after the ice-cream truck,” she said.

“If you’d told me as a chubby 15-year-old I’d make the world para championships, I’d go yeah, righto.”

Ella’s mum, Sharon, persuaded her to try swimming because she needed something to do.

“I was being a right 15-year-old ratbag, every parent’s worst nightmare,” Jones said.

“I’d tried other sports but nothing really clicked.”

She’d had a go at swimming at 14, in a class with six-year-olds near her home in western Sydney. After a few lessons, the instructor told Sharon that she was never going to be a very good swimmer.

Sharon was having none of it and took her to the pool at Springwood in the Blue Mountains. Nick Robinson, who specialises in coaching kids with disabilities, spotted her potential. He arranged with Sharon to train her.

“From the first session I knew she had the ability to go all the way,” he said.

She’s lost 23 kilograms since then. Sitting at the side of the pool in her gym training gear, her blonde hair piled on top of her head, she looks every bit the athlete.

As well as swimming, losing the weight meant cutting out daily trips to the fish and chip shop with her school friends.

“I was so unfit,” she recalls.

“When I got to the end of 25 metres I would hang over the edge, absolutely dying.”

She can now swim five or six-kilometre sets for hours each day and fits in several gym sessions a week. Since her selection for the Dolphins, she has added weekly strength and conditioning sessions with a trainer with who specialises in training athletes with cerebral palsy. She’s had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

For one thing, conventional school had to go by the wayside. She signed up with the TAFE Pathways last year but has had to let that go too.

“I was really struggling to get it all done; struggling to get help. When you train by yourself and you’re doing all your schoolwork by yourself, you want a bit of human interaction,” she said.

She’s now completing a bridging course to study midwifery at university.

Her biggest sacrifices, however, have been social. The bubbly and gregarious teenager finds missing out on birthday parties and the like can be isolating but it’s the everyday interactions she misses most.

“It’s the little things, teenage normalcy stuff like going to the pub for the first time,” she said.

Because of her heavy training schedule and swim meets, Ella didn’t have her ritual first night in the pub until three months after her birthday.

It’s given her wisdom beyond her 18 years.

“You definitely lose friends, she says, ‘but the ones that you lose are the ones you don’t mind losing. I realise now that they weren’t friends anyway. You have to grow up really quickly, but it’s totally worth it.”

Her drive is extraordinary.

Her coach Nick said, “Of every swimmer I’ve had, there’s none that wants to give more time and effort than Ella. I’ve seen her lie on the edge of the pool, shaking like a leaf, not able to move.”

Ella is one of triplets with Daniel and Georgia, and also has an older brother, Joshua. The family is sporty. Mum Sharon and Dad Chris were keen netball and soccer players, and her siblings have followed in their footsteps. They’re close-knit and like to get together with their extended family.

“We don‘t have to do anything big, as long as we’re together,” she said.

“We’re all a little bit crazy and so it’s a lot of fun.”

Her family never treated her differently because of her cerebral palsy, for which she is hugely grateful.

“They’ll have a joke about it, and that’s really helped me to be okay with it and take the piss out of myself.”

Early childhood was tough at times. Her mum would stretch Ella’s legs each morning so that she could manage to get out of bed and get ready for school. Teachers aids would help her move around, but this didn’t stop her being shoved down the stairs on one occasion. Girls didn’t want to play with her because they thought her cerebral palsy was contagious.

“I didn’t have my own understanding of how CP affected my body, so how could I explain that to another kid? I thought you can’t catch CP. If that was the case my brother and sister would have it right now. I was obviously different and got picked on a bit.”

Ever wise and resilient, she adds, “But hey, I think maybe everybody’s got a story like that. I don’t think it was specifically because of my CP.”

Ella’s classification for the para-swimming is S8, for swimmers with full use of their arms and trunk and some leg movement because of how CP affects her, she swims freestyle and backstroke and finds breaststroke too painful on her legs.

Freestyle is her strongest stroke, as she’s predominantly arms-based.

“I lack spatial awareness below my waist,” she said.

“When I ‘m in the water, if I’m not looking at my legs I have no idea where they are.”

Her starts and turns are the same as for an able-bodied swimmer, but she doesn’t get the same distance and thrust from them. Although cerebral palsy affects everybody differently, one of the characteristics of swimmers with CP is that they fatigue easily. Tiredness increases clonus, a neurologically induced muscle spasm that causes shaking.

In London, Ella will swim against only those in the S8 class for the first time.

In Australia there are not enough para-swimmers to hold separate events in each category, so places are determined by times swum. The closer a swimmer gets to the world record in their classification, the more points they win. She’s the only competitive S8 swimmer in Australia and the only female S8 on the team.

For the first time, Ella will swim a race where the winner is she who hits the wall first.

“After a race, I physically can’t hold myself up,” Jones said.

She has a wheelchair waiting for her at the end of the pool, which she uses to get herself over to the warm-down pool.

“I’ll shake for a little bit, and then I just put on my fins, plop into the pool and do my warm-down. And then I’m pretty much good again.”

That’s a good summation of Ella’s approach to life. Train like crazy and then try your heart out. Have the help you need close to hand, fall down in a shaking heap when you need to, and then get up and just keep on going until you win.

Why nobody loves having their writing edited

We’ve all seen the spelling and grammar police at work on social media. They take delight in pointing out your ‘mistakes’, genuine or not. No wonder we don’t really love having our writing edited.

In a social media post recently, a political organisation’s press release appeared with every ‘error’ circled in red (including some things that were not wrong). The aim was to show how stupid the organisation is, and so to discredit everything it does.

In the comments, people expressed their joy at these mistakes. The self-appointed ‘grammar police’ felt entitled to hold others to account, the English teachers were confident they knew right and wrong. The writer had failed an invisible test. Even though the grammar police and the teachers didn’t have it all right either, they shamed the publicity officer who’d sent out an imperfect press release.

People jump on mistakes with glee. Editing the press release would have avoided all this. But too often, people don’t have their work edited by a professional because it feels like having their errors and shortcomings pointed out – sometimes publicly.

I get it, I’m a writer as well as an editor

As a writer as well as an editor, I really do get it. You know the feeling – you’ve paired up with a workmate to edit each other’s reports for the industry event. As your revised document pings into your inbox, your stomach clenches. You open it, dreading that it’s going to come back streaked with red – a typo or two you missed despite spellcheck and a rework of that metaphor you thought was pretty spot-on.

You feel like your work is being marked by the teacher

It’s like having your school essays marked. The teacher has found you out and given you a C+ when you were quite sure you deserved an A. You can almost see the red pen scratching around every error. You feel disappointed in yourself, stupid, wrong. Your colleague’s opinion of you just dropped a notch or seven. How could you have not seen that misspelled word? How did you get the name of your own department wrong?

Making an error doesn’t make you stupid

You’re not alone. Nobody really loves being edited. But being human, we all make errors. And that doesn’t make you stupid. We all have tics in our use of language, words we can never spell and a tendency to overuse terms or expressions. You know the jargon, so you forget that your reader might not. You’ve worked on it for so long that it you can’t imagine it being any other way. A good editor helps with these things. And, depending on the level of edit you’ve asked for, we can do so much more than just pick up errors.

An editor wants you to succeed. The right editor will love what you do. You’re the expert on your subject. We learn so much from you. We want to help you to make your work the best it can be.

We bring our years of studying grammar and style, structure and form to our work. You bring your expertise in your subject. We have revised reports, blog posts, articles and white papers across multiple topics, from frothy entertainment pieces to serious academic works. Editors are the gardeners of the written word. We’re there to landscape your writing and pull out the weeds that smother your ideas and stop them from blooming.

An editor is here to help you

Editors are not there to judge your writing. We think you’re brilliant. After all, you’ve done your research and you know what you’re talking about. We respect you as the expert on your subject. We’re there to work out where your structure could be better, where to cut or change things to make your writing clearer, when to fact check and when to change a tense or the spelling of a verb form. We’re there to make your work clear and suited to your reader.

So don’t choose somebody that makes you feel like an errant schoolkid. Use a professional editor who provides a comprehensive editing service so that your structure, content, language, style and presentation are the best they can be and do the work you want them to do for your readers. Because in the end, they are the ones that matter.

Writing True Stories


Patti Miller has created the complete guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative nonfiction

Great cover design!

People who have attended Patti Miller’s highly rated memoir-writing workshops have recommended this book to me to me more than once. I’ll admit to not having read it cover to cover yet. But I want to approach it like a course in creative nonfiction writing and work through it systematically.

Writing True Stories grew out of writing workshops the author ran at Varuna, the Writer’s House in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. And this shows in its practical approach, as it is written as a series of workshops, covering sources, voice, structure, narrative and style and editing.

Take the masterclass

Part Two consists of masterclasses that extend the skills in the first part. It deals with genre: memoir, creative nonfiction, essay and more. The last (brief) chapter is about publishing. Miller writes about commercial publication and self-publishing and how to present your work to agents and publishers. Although there’s a lot more that could be said about publishing, that’s best left to a another book.


A reading list and a page of useful contacts rounds out Writing True Stories. I can’t wait to get started on honing my skills before I get my project, now at the research stage, underway.

Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower?

A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon

By Steven Poole

We hate it, we laugh about it, and then sometimes we hear it come from our own mouths. The horrible jargon that was once confined to office life slowly ekes its way into everyday language. So ‘leverage’ started in high finance, and now it’s everywhere. The first time I heard somebody say they’d ‘reached out’ to a colleague, I was alarmed; now I think I might have said it in a meeting, once. I’ve created a list of alternatives for some of the worst words.

An A to Z of unbearable jargon

I bought this book because I do find office jargon unbearable. I also love a good laugh, and this provides an A to Z of amusing entries. Here’s one of my favourites.

Going forward helpfully implies a kind of thrustingly strategic process, and moving forward perhaps even more so – even though none is likely to be made as long as the work-day is made up of funereal meetings where people say things like ‘going forward’.

Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower, p. 91

The alternatives to ‘going forward’, ‘in future’ or ‘from now on’, don’t have the implication that the slate is being wiped clean. Using them might sound rather like owning up to a mistake. ‘We won’t charge dead customers in future’ has a different ring to it.

If you write in your job, get your hands on this book. Every time you want to use a tired office cliche, such as bandwidth, leverage or deliverables. You’ll find an alternative. Or if you work in an office and want to know what a brown-bag session is, or what they really meant by saying they would ‘open the kimono’, look it up.

Then circle back to me with your favourites.

Mark Tredinnick’s Little Red Writing Book

There are many books, courses and workshops that teach writing. I’ve found many of them inspiring, motivating and full of great tips. For my money, this book is the best.

I’d advise anybody who wants to write better to sign up for a face-to-face course in the first instance. In Sydney, Writing NSW and the Australian Writers’ Centre both offer excellent courses on a range of genres, both creative and for business purposes. Varuna in the Blue Mountains has wonderful literary programs. In any face-to-face course, you’ll benefit from the interaction with other writers as well as from the course content.

Great add-on to a face-to-face course

The Little Red Writing Book is a great add-on to any writing course. And if you can’t do a course in person, it’s an extremely good substitute. It’s approach is that good sentences are the basis of all good writing. Any writing, from business reports to scripts for your podcast, starts with sentence construction. Clarity is vital, style is everything.

Tredinnick writes both clearly and poetically, so working through The Little Red Writing Book is a joy. It has plenty of writing exercises (do them!) and examples, and processes to help you get your writing project out of your head and into shareable form.

There are six chapters. Try setting yourself the goal of working through one chapter a month. By September you will be a much better writer, guaranteed.

The Little Red Writing Book has a sibling: The Little Green Grammar Book. Catch up on everything they should have taught you in school.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

by Mary Norris


I bought this book because a copy editor wrote a 200+ page book and it made the New York Times bestseller list. And because through it I learned that there is an Apostrophe Protection Society with a really ugly website and a chairman. And I can’t resist an editorial style guide.

Mary Norris is a copy editor with The New Yorker, and has worked there since 1978. She turns her vast, enviable experience into a funny and fascinating encounter with language. In her investigation of why Moby-Dick is hyphenated, she describes ‘…that immortal hyphen, stuck like a harpoon in Melville’s famous title…’. She has a whole chapter devoted to profanity, called F*ck This Sh*t. Sometimes you need to know how to handle that stuff.

I love her approach to language: precise, but not pedantic. I learnt so much about the origins or words, the uses of various arcane punctuation marks, and what a dream job working at The New Yorker is, and had a whole lot of fun doing it.

PS: Her new book, Greek to Me  will be published in April.

8 things an award-winning author can teach you about being a writer

Mark Brandi is the author of the award-winning novel Wimmera, described by one reviewer as ‘a dark and disturbing story from a substantial new talent’. It’s both a crime thriller and a coming of age story, set in rural Victoria. Recently he discussed what it’s like to be an author at a wonderfully relaxed session at Varuna the Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains.

Picture of cover of Wimmera by Mark Brandi

Wimmera by Mark Brandi

1. It’s true: write what you know.

This maxim holds if you want your work to be the best it can be. Wimmera’s closely observed reflection of small-town life feels all the more real because the author grew up in rural Victoria. He captures both how free this life is for kids, who can go yabbying and stay out until dark; and how claustrophobic it is for adults when the world closes in on them. He also draws on his experience in the criminal justice system as an advisor to the police minister, and the experience of his three brothers, all of whom work in the police and justice system. But remember, you don’t have to have experienced every single thing you write about either.

2. Find a way – and it might be unconventional.

Mark gave up a full-time job as a policy advisor, enrolled in a writing course and – wait for it – WON $50,000 ON MILLIONAIRE HOTSEAT!* And by guessing the final answer! He could have ignored the entry form his brother sent him, but instead, without telling anybody, he applied for this most unlikely source of literary funding for his new life as an author. He doesn’t suggest you give up your day job, but the point is to make it happen if you’re serious about being an author. Find an hour a day or a couple of hours at the weekend. Join that writer’s group. Apply for those residencies that will give you some time out to focus on your writing.

3. Use the support and inspiration that’s out there.

Attend courses and writer’s festivals. Take a look at everything Varuna has to offer, from one-off events to fellowships. Two residential fellowships at Varuna helped Mark to develop the manuscript for Wimmera. Join Writing NSW. See what the Australian Writers Centre has on offer.

4. You can start with a short story.

Mark’s book began as a short story called To Skin a Rabbit (click to listen to the RN audio version).  Two of the main characters in the novel continued to haunt him after he had written the short story. He pursued them, and Wimmera is the result. Often aspiring writers are told to focus on either novels or short stories as their demands are so different. Break the rule. If finishing a short story will inspire you to get that novel out, go for it!

5. Enter competitions and awards.

If nothing else, it will give you the discipline to work to deadlines and get your writing finished. You may even win! Plus, you will attract interest from publishers if you are shortlisted. When Mark won the 2016 Debut Dagger, publishers contacted him. But…

6. Get used to rejection.

Don’t take it personally. Use any feedback you get to learn and to improve your writing. Mark submitted his book to different publishers and programs and got plenty of what he described as ‘nice rejections’. Some of them contained useful feedback, which he took into account as he reworked Wimmera. Instead of regarding rejection letters as negative, consider what they have to say and try to act on the feedback. Publishers may say no for a range of reasons, and many of them have nothing to do with the quality of your work. Keep going.

7. Enjoy the editing process.

I know, it can feel a bit like the teacher got out her red pen and pointed out all your errors, but editors bring perspective and loads of experience to your work as well as fixing your grammar and punctuation. Mark described how an editor researched and corrected details in a scene in which he described a cricket match on TV in the background to a scene in Wimmera. You can be sure one reader will be an expert in almost anything you write about and errors undermine the quality and credibility of an author’s writing. I recently read a book which had the name of one of my uni mates spelled incorrectly. It’s not hard to check that. My reaction was to wonder what else in the book was inaccurate. A good editor will fact check everything as well as look at the broad scope of your work, switching between a sweeping overview and a microscopic focus on detail

8. Revel in being an outsider and an introvert, if that’s what you are.

Mark was from the only Italian family in town. School was tough and he was bullied and excluded. But, as he said it, the excluded tend to be sharp and thoughtful observers. Use what you see and hear around you every day to inform your characters and your stories. Mark does this so well, conveying how children cannot and do not understand adult motivations, how the adult world is inscrutable to his characters in boyhood, and using this point of view to drive the narrative in Wimmera.

Varuna The Writers' House in Katoomba

Varuna Writers’ House

I learned so much from Mark Brandi’s generous sharing of his experience at Varuna’s Open House Day. There were other sessions, including one that explained Varuna’s programs and included a speaker from the Australia Council who fund writers and writers’ organisations. Above all, it inspired me to stop dreaming get back to my desk and write. I hope these 8 tips help you do the same.

*Writer Melissa Lukashenko also won big on Millionaire Hotseat. Read about it here.