Category Archives: Australia

Accessible art

I’m a real Philistine when it comes to modern art; basically I don’t like it. But I do love these:

The screenshot above is of a mural painted on a blank wall! It comes from blogger, MyOBT [MyOneBeautifulThing]: https://myonebeautifulthing.com/2020/06/09/patrick-commecy/

MyOBT is well worth a visit as Donna has heaps more photos of these incredible murals to show you. Oh, and they’re all done in France.

As soon as I saw the French murals, I was reminded of the siloart springing up here in Australia:

Very different styles, and yet the images are both beautiful and playful. They invite viewers in, and I think they’re wonderful. Here’s the link to the siloart website: https://www.australiansiloarttrail.com/

If you know of any other artworks like these, please tell us about them in the comments.

cheers
Meeks


Private Health Insurance in Australia – who needs it?

Disclaimer: I have just cancelled my private health insurance after almost 40 years. I will try to be unbiased as I present the facts that led to this momentous decision, but some bias is inevitable.

For Australians under 40, and international readers who know nothing about our hybrid health care system, I’ll start with a very brief overview:

The scheme [universal health care] was created in 1975 by the Whitlam Government under the brand Medibank, and was limited by the Fraser Government in 1976 to paying customers only. The Hawke Government reinstated universal health care in 1984 under the brand of Medicare. Medibank continued to exist as a government-owned private health insurance provider until it was privatised by the Abbott Government in 2014.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_(Australia)

Note: The government owned Medibank provided private health insurance in direct competition with private health insurers.

In 1999, the conservative LNP government led by John Howard brought in the Private Health Insurance Rebate Scheme. Depending on your age and income, the government will rebate 30% of the cost of your health insurance premiums. This rebate is subtracted from your health insurance premiums so you only pay for the remainder. This is the ‘carrot’ part of the equation. If you don’t take up health insurance by the time you hit the age of 30, you will pay 2% more whenever you finally do take up health insurance. This is the ‘stick’.

The purpose of the Private Health Insurance Rebate Scheme was ostensibly to relieve the pressure on public hospitals which are run by the states using funding from the Federal government.

When the rebate scheme was first introduced, premiums were relatively low and the private cover was a true ‘safety net’. In the 20 years since then, premiums have crept higher and higher while the payout for procedures and treatments has shrunk. This is true for both for-profit and not-for-profit health insurers.

As someone with a pre-existing medical condition, I’ve had basic hospital cover for almost 40 years. For most of those years, my premiums ensured that I could be treated in a private hospital by the specialist of my choice without long waiting periods or astronomical out-of-pocket expenses.

That all changed today when I finally realised that my basic hospital cover only did one thing – it allowed me to have my own specialist:

  • in a public hospital
  • in a shared ward
  • after I’d gone through the standard waiting period for public hospital treatment.

The following shows exactly what my private health insurance covers:

Apologies for the poor quality of the graphic but I wanted you to be able to see the whole thing. Every item with an ‘R’ next to it has ‘restricted’ cover only. This means that my private health insurance would only pay a miniscule amount [above and beyond what Medicare already pays]. Dialysis for chronic kidney failure, insulin pumps and weight loss surgery are not covered at all.

I don’t have kidney failure or diabetes or weight problems, but I can see at least five things I may need as I age. Sadly, with my basic private health insurance cover, I’d end up having to pay for them out of my own pocket anyway.

For me, the crunch came when I realised that I was already a [free] public hospital patient, but I was paying for the privilege.

Clearly, the hospital cover I had was next to useless, but when I looked at the levels of cover that would give me a proper safety net, I discovered that a) even some of the top plans didn’t cover me for everything and b) even if they did, I couldn’t afford them.

The sad truth is that I can barely manage to pay the $71.50 per month for the basic hospital cover I have/had. $71.50 doesn’t sound like much – it’s under $20 a week – but when you live on the age pension, $20 makes a difference. Wasting it on private health insurance that covers me for nothing is crazy.

So today I stopped being crazy and joined the ranks of Australians giving private health insurance a big miss. These Australians include young people on government support, older Australians on government support, and a growing segment of our population surviving in the GIG economy. In short, all those people who can’t afford the kind of health insurance that actually provides value for money.

So who’s left then?

I’m not sure. The table below is from the government website:

The income categories are shown across the top and indicate that under 65 years of age, all rebates cut out above $140,001 for singles and $280,001 for families. Taking bracket creep into account, that’s not a huge income by 2020 standards.

This may be my bias showing, but I am feeling rather ripped off. I’ve been a good girl and paid my premiums for years, but it seems as if the only ones benefiting from the 30% health insurance rebate are the health insurance companies themselves.

As the health insurance rebate is being paid from our taxes, I can’t help wondering whether we wouldn’t be better off if the rebate were abolished, freeing up all that money for the public health system.

Meeks


ISBN in Australia

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In this section you will learn how to purchase a private ISBN in Australia.

ISBN in Australia

Thorpe-Bowker is the official agent for ISBNs in Australia.

To purchase one or more ISBNs, start by going to the Thorpe-Bowker website. Their web address is:

https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/

On the Thorpe-Bowker welcome page, click the ‘Sign in/Register’ option located in the top, right hand corner of the screen:

On the next screen you have the option of signing in or creating a new account. Click the blue ‘Register’ button:

You should now see an option for ‘I am a new customer’:

Below it, there is a message from Thorpe-Bowker saying that new customers will have to pay a one-off fee of $55 before they can purchase an ISBN. This is a relatively new fee and meant to cover the setting up of your account.

As Thorpe-Bowker is the only company selling ISBNs in Australia, there is now way of finding a better deal. Those who only intend to sell through Amazon’s standard distribution channels may prefer to use one of their free ISBNs instead.

Those who wish to purchase print copies from the Australian branch of IngramSpark [located in Melbourne] will have to purchase their own ISBN as the KDP ISBN is only valid for KDP.

To continue, click the blue ‘I am a new Bowker Customer’ button.

Next up you will be asked to fill in a registration form. This is pretty standard with mandatory fields marked with a red asterisk. One of those fields is ‘Organisation Type’.

If you’re a self-publisher, don’t worry. Click on the small arrow next to ‘Organisation Type’ and you will see a drop down list which includes the option for ‘Self Publisher’ :

Click the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ button for promotional material and then complete the registration process by clicking the green ‘I Accept – Create My Account!’ button.

Once your registration is complete, return to the Thorpe-Bowker website and click Buy ISBNs & Identifiers on the main screen. Then select ‘Buy ISBNs’ from the drop down list:

Note: the option for ‘Buy ISBNs in Bulk’ will take you to a login screen for ‘VIPs’ who may buy ISBNs in their hundreds.

Next, you will be shown a page of sales options. Select the option/product of your choice by clicking the appropriate ‘Add to Cart’ button:

Bowker will display a summary of your order:

Click the blue ‘Checkout’ button.

The Checkout is fairly standard except for the fact that the only payment option appears to be Paypal:

This is rather misleading as there is, in fact, an option to pay by credit card, but you do it as a Paypal ‘Guest’.

Click the ‘Submit Order’ button and you will be shown the following screen:

To pay with your credit card, click the ‘Pay with a Card’ button.

You will now see a Paypal screen something like this:

Fill in the required details and complete your purchase.

You will now be returned to Thorpe-Bowker and a summary screen:

Note: you are under no obligation to take the survey.

To assign your new ISBN, click ‘My Account’ as shown above and select ‘My Identifiers/ISBN dashboard’ from the menus.

Assigning an ISBN to a book

You should now be looking at a screen that displays information about your ISBN[s] :

The screenshot shows a number of ISBNs, all of them unassigned – i.e. not yet linked to an actual book.

To link an ISBN to your book, click ‘Assign Title’ opposite the ISBN you wish to use.

Note: once assigned, ISBNs cannot be re-assigned.

You will now have to enter information about the book assigned to that ISBN:

The first thing to note before you begin filling in the Bowker forms is that you only have to enter information in the fields marked with a red asterisk, such as ‘Book Title’ above.

The second is that you do not have to upload the cover of your book at all.

This is important because you will need an ISBN before you can finalise the cover of your book. It is needed to generate the barcode provided by both KDP and IngramSpark. These barcodes are generated for free so you only have to purchase barcodes from Thorpe-Bowker if you intend to publish with a company that doesn’t provide a barcode.

Finally, the default view is Basic – i.e. only the most commonly used fields are displayed:

If you need to enter details not shown on the Basic view, you may wish to change to the Advanced view which contains all available fields.

Book Title

To begin entering information about your book, click in the field marked ‘Book Title’ and type the name of your book. This is a mandatory field.

Medium

Medium refers to the book’s material composition – i.e. whether it is a print book, an ebook, or an audio book.

Select ‘Print’ from the drop down list.

Format

Format refers to the type of print book – i.e. hardcover or paperback.

Select ‘Paperback’ from the drop down list.

Subjects & Genres

Subjects & Genres refers to the category of book you intend to publish. You can select two genres, but only one is mandatory.

Select the most appropriate genre for your book from the drop down list:

Authors & Contributors

Contributor 1 is the author. As an Individual, the author’s full name and suffix may be entered, but only the ‘Last Name’ is mandatory.

Type your Last Name and as much other information as you wish to enter.

The next mandatory field is ‘Function’. It refers to the role the Contributor played in the creation of the book. The only checkbox that needs to be ticked is that of ‘Author’.

When to add another Author or Contributor

As a general rule:

  • If you co-authored a book with another author, then that author’s name must be listed as a second Contributor.
  • If you supplied material to an anthology, then all the other authors of that anthology must be listed as well.
  • If the anthology was commissioned by an editor, then the editor’s name must be listed.
  • If you wrote the text for an illustrated book – for example, a children’s book – the the illustrator must also be named as a Contributor.
  • If the book was originally written in another language and translated into English, the translator must be named as a Contributor.
  • If, however, you hired an editor to ‘clean up’ the book and a designer to create the cover, you do not have to name them as Contributors.

Sales & Pricing

There are four mandatory fields in this final section: Publication Date, Target Audience, Title Status and Book Price.

Publication Date

As the ISBN is needed in order to publish the book, there are two possible ways of interpreting this field.

  • the publication date is notional – i.e. a date in the near future when you intend to officially publish the book, or
  • it refers to the original publication date of the book. For example, let’s say you publish a non-fiction book in 2010. Ten years later you revise and update that book and publish it as a second edition. Each edition of a book requires its own ISBN, but the publication date of the book points back to the publication of the first edition.

Clicking the Help icon produces this explanation from Bowker:

Target Audience

Unless your book is specifically designed for one of the listed targets, click the option for ‘Trade’. Trade refers to trade paperbacks and is the general purpose classification.

Title Status

Clicking the small down arrow opposite this field causes a drop down list to display:

‘Active Record’ is the status of any book that is [or soon will be] for sale.

Note: if the book is not due to be published for a substantial period of time – e.g. a year – ‘Forthcoming’ would be more appropriate.

Book Price

As a self-publisher, you may want to vary the price of your book for marketing purposes. Or you may sell it to a number of different market places with different currencies/price points. For all these reasons, you do not want to be tied to one price in Bowker’s records.

Click the option for ‘Write for info [No set price or free] as shown:

When you have finished, click the green Submit button.

Bowker will display a congratulations screen and that will be that. If you click on My Identifiers, you will now see your book linked to the ISBN.

You can now type the ISBN into the Copyright page of your book and submit it to KDP or IngramSpark for the barcode on the cover.

Note: Be sure to copy the ISBN for your book exactly as it is shown, including hyphens.

Log out from Thorpe-Bowker.

In the next section we will look at the National Library of Australia, Legal Deposit requirement.

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30% Withholding Tax

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In this section you will learn about the the 30% US Withholding Tax, and how Australian Self-Publishers can get the tax reduced to 5%.

30% Withholding Tax

All authors who sell their books on Amazon.com are subject to a 30% Withholding Tax. This tax is automatically deducted from their earnings by Amazon.

Authors living in countries that have a Trade Treaty with the US, such as Australia, can apply for an exemption that reduces the tax to 5%.

If you are eligible for this exemption, KDP will send you an email explaining about the Withholding Tax. At the end of the email there will be a link to a page where you will be able to complete the tax exemption forms.

Requirements

Australian authors will need an Australian Tax File number.

On the tax exemption page, you will be asked to consent to filling in the form electronically.

You will also be asked to consent to providing an electronic signature for Form W-9. The electronic signature does not require any arcane graphical knowledge. You simply type your name and then click a button that confirms you are who you say you are.

Filling in the forms

A few things to remember about these forms:

  • You are completing the W-9 form as an individual so you can leave questions relating to businesses blank.
  • ‘Beneficial Owner’ refers to you as the owner of the work.
  • When you are asked if you have a TIN, answer yes as this is your Australian Tax File number.
  • You will be asked to type your ‘Australian TIN’ in the box provided. Type your Tax File Number exactly as it appears on your Tax File Number certificate.
  • For the US Persons Test, you should click the last entry which says ‘None of the above’.

Once these forms have been completed and submitted, Amazon can reduce your Withholding Tax to 5%.

In the next section we will look at purchasing an ISBN in Australia.

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National Library of Australia, Legal Deposit

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The information in Part 3 is tailored specifically for Australian Authors. In this section you will learn about the legal requirement to deposit a copy of your book with the National Library of Australia.

What is ‘Legal Deposit’?

It is a legal requirement that Australian authors deposit one copy of every book they publish with the National Library of Australia, within one month of publication.

For more details, please visit the National Library of Australia website: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/how-to-deposit

The National Library of Australia accepts both print and digital formats – i.e. paperbacks, magazines, maps etc and ebooks. Given the cost of printing a book and posting it, self publishers with both a print and a digital version of their book may wish to deposit only the digital version. To do so, contact the library and ask for the deposit to be digital only.

How to deposit Print material

Send printed material to:

Books
Legal Deposit
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

Journal, magazine and newsletter issues
Australian Serials
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

Sheet music
Music Acquisitions and Cataloguing
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

Maps
Maps Acquisitions and Cataloguing
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

How to deposit Digital material

To deposit your ebook, go to the National Library of Australia home page: https://www.nla.gov.au and select ‘Legal deposit’ from the Using the Library/Services for Publishers sub-menu:

This will take you to the Legal Deposit screen:

Click the bright red ‘Deposit Now’ button. This will take you to the National eDeposit [NED] website: https://ned.gov.au/portal/

Here you can:

  • Make an edeposit
  • Manage your account
  • Create an account

You do not have to create an account with the NED, but if you are likely to self-publish more than one book, it would make sense to have one.

Selecting the type of ePublication to deposit

Click the ‘Make an edeposit’ button.

You should now be looking at a screen that asks what type of ePublication you want to deposit. The two options are : Monograph and Serial.

Monograph is defined as a publication that usually has an ISBN. Examples given include books, series of books, maps etc. Serials have an ISSN and include magazines and newspapers etc.

Monograph

Select ‘Monograph’. A drop down list will display. Select ‘Book/books in series’ as shown:

After specifying the type of publication you wish to deposit, the screen changes to show the upload option:

The NED will only accept the following file types:

  • .epub
  • .pdf
  • .mobi

Note: NED does not accept Word documents.

Find the digital version of the book you wish to deposit and wait until it uploads. Depending on the size of the file, this could take a few minutes:

Next, you will be asked to upload a digital copy of the cover of the book:

Note: the file format of the cover cannot be .pdf. It must be in either .jpg, .jpeg, .tif or .tiff file formats.

Once the cover has finished uploading, click the ‘Next: ePublication details’ button at the bottom of the screen:

ePublication details

The next screen requests information about the publication itself. You will have to enter the title of the book and, as owner of the intellectual content, you will have to enter your name:

‘Owner type’, ‘Given names’ and ‘Last name’ are mandatory. ‘Owner role’ and ‘Birth year’ are optional but it wouldn’t hurt to identify your role as the ‘Author’.

You can also add another owner by pressing the green ‘Add another owner’ button located under ‘Owner type’.

Other information

As with Thorpe-Bowker, you are asked for the publication date. Enter the year in which the book became available for sale or download [if free].

The only other tricky question regards the ‘Edition Statement’. Again, this only applies to books which have been published before. This is the explanation offered by NED:

Click ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ as the case applies.

ISBN

Next, you are asked whether the book has an ISBN:

If your book has an ISBN, select the ‘Yes’ option and then type in the ISBN…but with no hyphens this time.

When you have finished adding information, click the ‘Next: Access Conditions’ button located at the bottom of the screen.

Access conditions

This section refers to how much of your book you allow the public to access, and under what conditions:

Confirm that you have the legal right to set conditions for your book and then decide how much access you will allow.

If your book is available for sale, the two options circled in orange probably strike the best balance between your commercial rights and the purpose of the legal deposit.

Publisher details

As a self-publisher, you will have to enter your own contact details, including name, address, phone and email.

At the bottom, you are asked if you want to create a user account. If you tick ‘Yes’ you will have to enter the standard registration details, but at least you will never have to enter them again.

If you don’t want to create an account, click the ‘Next: Review and submit’ button located at the bottom of the screen.

Review and submit

This screen details the information you have entered in all the previous screens. Right down the bottom is a checkbox:

Ticking the checkbox grants permission for ‘NED Member Libraries to use and manage deposited content as outlined in the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Notice’.

Tick the checkbox and then click the green ‘Submit your edeposit’ button to complete the process.

Legal Deposit in State Libraries

Legal Deposit also requires that you deposit a copy of your book with the library of your home state. https://www.nsla.org.au/legal-deposit-australasia

If you only have a print edition of your book, you will have to send a physical copy to the relevant state library.

If you also have an ebook version of your book, you may request to deposit it instead of a physical copy:

Depositing the ebook with NED ensures that it is available in all states.

Best of luck with your publishing, now and in the future.

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The hailstorm turns Warrandyte green, not all of it good

The hail storm that ravaged Melbourne, and in particular, Warrandyte, was so furious, it literally stripped the branches on the exposed side of the gum trees and piled the debris all over everything. That debris, which is highly flammable, now carpets my block and that of all my neighbours. Cleaning it up is a nightmare.

These are the in-progress pics of the Great Clean Up and the fresh green grass that’s growing up from underneath. Clearing the area directly around the house and the fire fighting pumps has been my first priority:

The concrete and metal pump house with waist high berm in front
Step 1, rake, rake and rake some more
In the background is the corrugated iron, walk-in bin we made

There’s a bit of green pretty much everywhere, but the lushest green is on the terraces near the house where grey water from the laundry has soaked in, keeping the grass from completely drying out. The melted hail, and the good rain that came after, did the rest.

The largest terrace was created from the clay and rock excavated for the site cut. The site cut is literally a flat spot dug out of the slope of the hill to make space for the house.

The pic below shows the set of field stone steps leading down from the top terrace to the ‘orchard’ area. Much of the debris came from the steps themselves and the banks on either side:

Field stone steps

And finally, a close up of the ‘bin’ we made out of star pickets and left-over corrugated iron sheets.

The walk-in ‘bin’ for the debris

The inside measurement of the ‘bin’ is 1.5 x just under 3 metres, so it’s big. Even so, it’s about 1/3 full already and may not be big enough to contain all the debris from the house area, let alone the rest of the block. We can make it a bit bigger, but I don’t want to bring such a huge heap of flammable material any closer to the trees [in case a bushfire goes through and turns it into a bbq].

Once the bin is full, I’ll close off the front, plant a sprinkler on top and keep everything moist until the fire season is over. Gum leaves don’t compost very well so I may have to burn them off in bits over winter. Joy.

Thanks to my neighbour’s house acting like a shield, the hail didn’t cause as much damage in the front as in the back. If we’re lucky, and nothing bad happens before Easter, I may be able to get rid of most of the debris in front via the weekly green bin. It’s not very big, but as I don’t have a trailer or even a car that could tow a trailer, I have no other way of getting rid of the green waste.

Thanks for your great generosity, Nillumbik Shire Council. <<biting sarcasm>> One of the richest shires in Victoria gave us one extra green bin collection to help us reduce our fuel load. I’m sure it bled their coffers dry.

Anyway, time to take up my trusty rake and get back to work.

cheers

Meeks


Hail storm turns Warrandyte white

Warrandyte was hit by the mother of all hail storms yesterday afternoon [January 19th, 2020], and I have to admit, we were scared. The roof is corrugated iron, and the hail stones, some as big as golf balls, sounded like machine gun bullets trying to smash their way in. And that’s without the thunder and lightning adding their bit. And it just wouldn’t stop.

Mogi [dog] was shivering like a leaf and Golli [cat] was yowling in terror. The Offspring and I just stood in the kitchen, peering out at the devastation and muttering ‘I don’t believe this’.

These are some of the photos I took once the worst of the storm had eased:

Mist rising from the hail
Mist starting to roll up the hill

As odd as it may sound, the humidity after the hail storm was intense, and the temperature was actually warm, so the layer of icy hail stones created a mist that became heavier as it flowed up the hill towards the house. Very strange.

Hail piling up against a window
Hail piling up against the back door

Just realised that some of the hail was bigger than your average golf ball! Those are full sized bricks on the side of the last picture, yet look at the size of some of those hail stones by comparison!

The corner of the deck showing how much hail had piled up

We never get snow, but I found myself having to shovel hail stones off the deck as if they were snow. And this, in the middle of one of our hottest summers…wtf?

A very large terracotta pot, embedded in hail stones

We’ve since learned that Warrandyte was pretty much at the epicentre of yesterday’s storm and suffered quite a bit of damage. In low lying areas, some of the houses suffered broken windows and flooding. And every car left out in the open, is now pockmarked with dents.

Personally, we took very little damage. The Offspring’s car is dented, and one small tile broke on the small side deck, but other than that, we came through the storm surprisingly well. It’ll take me forever to rake up the carpet of shredded leaves and branches covering the ground, but my baby apples survived, and I’d harvested most of the apricots already, so I think we’ve been very lucky.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a pic of the apricot cake I made two days ago. It’s garnished with apricot compote, and all the apricots came from my own tree. Can’t complain. 🙂

Bon appetit 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Drones instead of fireworks!

In a recent post, I raged about Sydney staging New Year’s Eve fireworks when so much of Australia is burning. This is a fantastic alternative for New Year’s Eve 2020 and beyond:

My thanks to Carol Cooks 2 for bringing this amazing video clip/technology to my attention.

cheers

Meeks


Windows

Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but windows are the weakest link in our homes. Because they’re fragile. Because they break.

It seems like such an obvious thing now, but I remember how shocked I was when an expert pointed out that the inside of our homes is the driest place on earth. Once a window breaks, even one ember is enough to burn the house down from the inside out.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet how many of us have adequate protection for our windows?

When I built my house in Warrandyte, I had to put metal mesh screens over all the windows that could be opened. But my house has double barrel windows where the top pane opens but the bottom pane is fixed. The top pane is protected by the required metal screen [basically an ordinary fly wire screen but made of metal]. The bottom pane is not.

Now, imagine a bushfire scenario. The wind is howling, and the gums are dropping branches large and small. One of those branches is blown towards the house and slams into one of my windows. The top pane may remain intact, but what of the bottom pane?

Yes. Exactly.

I solved my window problem by investing in fire resistant shutters. These shutters cover the entire window area, top pane, bottom pane and the wooden frame. They look like this:

The shutters roll up and down inside the frame [like vertical sliding doors] and are rated to protect the windows for about 20 minutes. That’s the length of time it usually takes the fire front to pass.

The regulations have been tightened up a lot since Black Saturday, and I believe that new houses in fire prone areas must have toughened glass instead of ordinary glass. But what of existing houses? As far as I know, there are no regulations about retrofitting toughened glass to houses built before 2009.

Does that mean there is no danger to those houses? Of course not.

If you live in a bushfire prone area, please think hard about your windows, and what you can do to protect them.

Stay safe.

Meeks


Bushfire 31/12/2019 – update

Just a very quick update to tell you that Malacoota is okay, thanks to a southerly cool change. Unfortunately, the wind change that is now pushing the fires away from the township of Malacoota is putting other small communities at risk. There have also been about twelve new ignitions in Victoria [my state] caused by lightning strikes. The battle continues.

May all the courageous people fighting these fires stay safe until we finally get enough rain to put these fires out for good.

Meeks


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