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Bamboo vs Cotton vs Hemp

By | Environment | No Comments

I am often asked from where I source my inspirational stories. Is it from my worldly, educated grasp of current affairs? My uncanny ability at reading people, or maybe my remarkable knowledge of science, arts, animals….…and….stuff? Well I know what all of you are thinking right now… it’s all a bit unreal, you’re feeling out of your depth, awe swamping your senses as you contemplate what mind blowing event started me down the path of writing this article. In answer I have just one word..


Yes undies! In my annual trek to find that elusive spectre… a pair of underpants that would not ride up, not pinch, keep me cool in this hot humid weather and not burn too much of a hole in my budget, I found myself encountering again and again a question that I had in the past barely given consideration.

Cotton versus bamboo?

As I delved further into this never ending pit trying to extract the science from reams of marketing blurb, I found my quest became one not merely of fashion and comfort but also one pertaining to greater issues such as sustainability and the effects on environment.

Fashion is one of the largest industries in the world and has always been plagued in controversy, from human right issues relating to child exploitation in third world countries, too low wages, to excessive pollution caused by chemical runoffs from factories. Fast, cheap, mass-produced fashion, mostly consisting of cotton mixed with synthetic fibres is quickly becoming one of the largest pollutants today. Often finding their way into our waterways and landfills, these too readily disposable synthetic products take over 200 years to breakdown.

Price has always been a factor in determining which products we buy, but with climate change rearing its ugly head in daily news coverages, more and more people are looking for natural alternatives, with the cost to environment being an important determining factor. Synthetic clothes may be cheap but they are not environmentally friendly. With this in mind there has started much debate over which natural fibres are the most sustainable.

Cotton has always been the most popular natural fibre and is often boasted as being the cheapest to produce. But cotton is generally heavily subsidised by governments to keep its price down. Cotton though we love it, however has a staggering cost to our environment. It takes 20,000 litres to produce one kilo of cotton, which in layman terms is one tee shirt and a pair of jeans. Cotton also requires an excessive use of pesticides which often end up finding their way into soils and water tables. Another issue is that the plant itself on harvest is dug up from the root making pesticide infiltration and soil stability an even greater problem. Cotton however is the toughest of the natural fibres being discussed in this article.

Bamboo on the other hand requires minimal water and can be grown in the most diverse of environments. It is also self-sustaining as it grows fast and is harvested from its base, leaving root systems established and soil stable. Bamboo also has other amazing advantages such as its ability to minimise carbon dioxide and produce 35% more oxygen than trees. The bamboo plant is indeed a remarkable thing to grow, but how does it measure up in producing environmentally friendly fabric? Much of the argument against bamboo is the chemical usage required to breakdown the incredibly tough stalks into the sludge required to run it through the spinnerets to create the thread for fabric. The process is quite extensive, but it must be noted that this is the same process used to breakdown cotton and wood for making rayon. The bamboo fibre is the weakest of our three and is usually strengthened with cotton.

Hemp, our final plant under focus, requires more water than bamboo, but significantly less than cotton. Hemp can produce two and a half times more fibre over the same acreage as cotton. It grows fast and requires little to no pesticides. Its large and complex root systems also remain intact during harvest thereby minimising soil erosion. Hemp also does not require the extensive chemical treatment to reduce it to fibres. It is however a very tough, coarse and strong fibre that limits its use in the making of clothing. It is a much more suited to producing tougher and more durable items such as bags and tea towels.

Providing they are not mixed with synthetics, all three are totally biodegradable.

So what does all this mean?

Buying 100% cotton though cheap, soft and natural has strong environmental and sustainability issues that cannot be ignored. The mix of this with synthetics is also becoming an environmental nightmare.

Buying 100% bamboo would see you spending more for a soft natural fabric that, because of the weaker fibres, may not last as long as cotton.

Hemp is great for bags but too tough and coarse for clothes.

In short we need all three of these natural products and we need to reduce our reliance on synthetics. Cotton being the softest yet strongest natural fibre is needed to boost the durability of bamboo. It’s cultivation however should be environmentally controlled so it is grown in regions with excessive water and not in areas where waterways are unnaturally diverted to meet the crops extensive water needs. Cotton use should also be restricted in areas where hemp can be substituted.

As consumers we drive the markets, our choices have the ability to change even the biggest of industries. Being more conscious of our decisions and buying will influence the way things are made. Anything we do to get back to more natural fibres and reduce the synthetics in our fabrics is a positive move. I ended up buying 96% bamboo 4% viscous underwear which are incredibly soft and durable, though not exactly cheap. It is hoped the durability and comfort will over time make up for the price.

Your choice may have been different, but as long as we all go into making our purchases with eyes wide open I think the world will be a better place, don’t you?


Cashless Debit Card

By | Local Life | No Comments

The cashless debit card is currently being rolled out in the Hervey Bay Area to a select group of 6000 people under 35 years old who receive welfare in the forms of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowances (job seeker), Parenting Payment (single) as well as Parenting Payment (partnered). The cashless card has been controversial from the day it was started, but trials are proving that by limiting access of welfare cash payments by creating a debit card that does not allow the purchase of alcohol and access to gambling that the lives of both individual and families are improving.

The card’s success in other communities has shown a decrease of welfare payments being used for alcohol and drug use and a increase of welfare benefits actually being spent to improve the family. Independent evaluations have also found increased motivation to find employment as well as improved financial management.

Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher said members of the community in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region stand to benefit from the success of the Cashless Debit Card trial. 

“Independent evaluation shows that the Cashless Debit Card is working. People are spending more money on their family welfare than on alcohol, drug abuse and gambling,” Mr Fletcher said.

“I am confident that the Cashless Debit Card can support the community to address social issues such as high youth unemployment and intergenerational welfare dependence in the region.”

It is important to note that welfare payments do not change in value with the new system, though they are now disbursed differently with 80% being made available on the cashless debit card and 20% being deposited as normal into bank accounts. This 20% can basically used as cash.

It can be used at most retail outlets (except liquor stores and gambling establishments) that have eftpos facilities. It is however limited by the product being purchased. In stores that sell both mixed goods ie food and alcohol, the card will not accept the purchase of the alcohol. If eating out in a café, restaurant or pub that sells alcohol, the debit card can be used to purchase the meal but not the alcohol.  The card can be used to pay bills via BPay. It cannot be used to withdraw cash. It may also have limits in purchasing some gift cards. You can also shop online at approved websites. To check out which ones go to the indue website www.indue.com.au/dct/merchants/approved and you will find all approved websites.

Those that have their rent paid via Centrecare can continue to do this as usual.

Once issued with a cashless debit card you remain in the scheme even if you leave the area. It is only when you turn 36 or your financial circumstances change then you will be removed.

There has been a mixed reaction to the card since its inception, arguments against creating a ‘nanny state’ being one of the greatest. But this is a difficult issue that cannot be solved overnight. The cashless debit cards have been issued in communities that have, as Mr Fletcher says: “Put their hands up for this initiative because they were determined to tackle the scourge of

welfare-funded drug, alcohol and gambling abuse in their communities – and their courage has been rewarded.”

The card offers the user all the freedoms of a normal card with the exception of withdrawing cash, using it to gamble or buying alcohol. Everyone still has cash access to 20% of their money.

It will be interesting to see how well the roll out goes in Hervey Bay and review the ongoing study results as to the benefits this has given to those in the program. If you need any further information please contact The Department of Social Security on 1800 252 604 or go to

If you need help activating your card please go to the new Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre shopfront at 4/55 Main Street, Pialba. This shopfront is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4.30pm (excluding public holidays).

For further information about evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card, please visit the Department of Social Services website.

New Species of Dolphin found of the Fraser Coast

By | Environment | No Comments

Story by Kelsey Corcoran
Photos provided by Paul Aurisch

Next time you see a dolphin in Hervey Bay, take a good look because it could be the newly-named Sousa sahulensis.

Local marine biologist Yvonne Miles said our local humpback dolphin is actually a different species to other humpback dolphins. She said it had been identified as a third species, so had been renamed from Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin to its Latin name, Sousa sahulensis.

The discovery was made by researchers who came to the Fraser Coast to conduct studies into dolphins a few years ago.

“There was a young lad who came and did some work for the Southern Cross University and was looking at dolphins in the area,” Yvonne said.
“It was noted that this dolphin in Australia didn’t have a prominent hump compared to those which are more easterly.  After looking at that, and looking at the mouth, the research and team counted the number of teeth and realised the number was different as well.  Their dorsal fin is central, its one-third of the body and their beak is quite big, and they have a prominent melon, which is a very different head shape to a dolphin.  They realised that the species perhaps didn’t belong to the family they had put it in.”

So Yvonne joined the team when they went out to take some DNA samples. Using a dart they took a small sample of skin. Unfortunately, people on the beach had seen them ‘shooting’ the dolphins in Tin Can Bay. The incident made the news and it was reported that they had been killing dolphins. Yvonne said it was all eventually straightened out. Importantly though, when the tests came back they realised that the dolphins were from a different family and they had to restructure the family tree.

The humpback dolphins which were found in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean were then split into three species – the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, the Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin and now the Australian Humpback Dolphin or Sousa sahulensis.

Yvonne, who is the managing director of the international marine mammal observation organisation Scanning Ocean Sectors, spoke about the newly-named species during a lunchtime wildlife talk at the Fraser Coast Regional Library. She travels the world observing and monitoring marine mammals and training others to do the same.

During the talk, she also spoke about the threats to coastal marine animals. She said they faced habitat loss and degradation, being caught as bycatch, water pollution, damaging underwater noise, vessel traffic, overfishing of their prey and some pitfalls from wildlife tourism. She described dolphins as ‘children of the sea’ and said they had complex family relationships.  The females don’t reproduce until they are eight to ten years old and are strong enough to give birth. They are pregnant for about a year and then look after the calf for two years.

Yvonne described a scene she’d witnessed where hundreds of dolphins greeted a whale with a newborn calf. She said the mother whale and calf were circled by the massive pod of dolphins which appeared to be welcoming the newborn, and singing to it.

She said that if anyone found a marine mammal washed up on the shore or in distress, you should contact RSPCA or Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast.

Steampunk makes a home on the Fraser Coast

By | Local Business | No Comments

If you haven’t heard the term ‘steampunk’ before, or not sure what it means, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

If you have seen Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Greatest Showman’ or one of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies you would understand the style of dress. Edwardian costumes with plenty of gadgets and imagination thrown in for good measure.

And if you’ve caught yourself thinking, “That jacket’s awesome!” or “I’d love an excuse to wear that dress,” then you could soon be in for a treat.

Steampunk Persona is a new business which aims to satisfy those looking for a style that is a bit out of the ordinary, and in some cases, straight out of the movies.

Operating out of the Wandering Teapot at Stockland Hervey Bay, it’s a social enterprise that provides period and steampunk clothes and accessories, often seen these days in blockbuster Hollywood movies and pop videos.

But it’s a style that is all about imagination, quirkiness and fun! Sometimes it’s nice to ask: “What if?” In this case, what if I could wear that Edwardian Jacket with my latest edition phone and still get away with it?

Well now you can, according to Steampunk Persona’s owner and operator Maggie John.

Huge steampunk events are held around the world attracting many people keen to show off their costumes and fantastical creations. One such event is the Goth/Steampunk Picnic in the Park in Germany which attracted about 20,000 visitors last year from as far away as Argentina, Australia, Peru and Japan.

Maggie said the Fraser Coast was an undiscovered treasure for steampunk enthusiasts with the potential to host similar large-scale events.

“Queens Park in Maryborough is the perfect location for a steampunk event. This park has a Victorian-era bandstand, a model steam railway and even the Mary Ann, a full-size replica steam train which carries passengers through the park.

“The displays are fabulous, visually stunning and well crafted. We’re about to get even more of them with the Mary Poppins Festival fast approaching and new displays opening soon in Maryborough.”

Maggie said fabulous venues like Maryborough’s Bond Store and Hervey Bay’s Historical Village provided great photo opportunities for steampunk enthusiasts.

“For Dr Who buffs there’s even a time machine at the Bond Store! An imaginative interactive display sure to spark the interest of even the most casual observer.

“A fun way to learn about history is to adopt a steampunk persona. Become a fictional character and learn more about the history and environment surrounding that person.

“As a region, we work very hard to promote our history. Fashion has a way of turning full circle, so with all our history and story trails we believe the Fraser Coast is set to become one of the coolest and most fun places in Australia.”

Our coal mining and engineering history, paired with local events and existing promotions such as the time cannon costumes, the Mary Poppins festival, the Historical Village and the Heritage Markets make this region the perfect home for steampunk in Australia.

Visit us at Community3 Stockland Hervey Bay or contact us via the Steampunk Persona FaceBook page.

Easter treat recipes

By | Recipes | No Comments

Carrot patch cupcakes

This cupcake batch gives a whole new meaning to carrot cake.

You will need:

    • Chocolate cupcake mix (any will do)
    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
    • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Oreos (remove the cream)
    • Strawberries
    • White chocolate melts
    • Orange food colouring.
    • Piping bag
    • Kitchen utensils
  1. Follow the instructions on the cupcake box and leave to cool.
  2. While cupcakes cool prepare the icing: melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat and gradually add cocoa powder. Stir until smooth and thick.
  3. Remove from heat and place in a medium-size bowl. Let cool slightly.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla alternately with the powdered sugar to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer until you have the consistency you desire.
  5. Using a knife, cut a hole in the centre of the cupcake for the strawberry.
  6. Ice the cupcakes around the hole.
  7. In a ziplock bag crush the oreo biscuits.
  8. Sprinkle the Oreo crumbs around the hole to create a dirt look.
  9. Place the white chocolate melts in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in intervals of  20 seconds stirring between until melted. Add orange food dye and mix well.
  10. Dip the clean, dry strawberries in the melted chocolate up to the leaves. Let the excess chocolate drip off and place on a lined tray.
  11. Place excess melted chocolate in a piping bag and drizzle chocolate over strawberries for texture.
  12. Place strawberries in the fridge to set.
  13. Once set place strawberries in the cupcake hole and serve.

Recycled Easter Bunny Planters

By | Crafts | No Comments

Recycled Easter bunny planters

This craft is lots of fun but will require adult supervision and assistance.


You will need:
  • Acrylic paints
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter or knife
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sharpie
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bottle
  1. Using a sharpie mark out where you want your ears to be. (this might take some planning)
  2. Cut the top of the bottle off with a box cutter or knife. Adult assistance is needed.
  3. Using scissors cut along the lines that you just drew and continue around the bottle so you are left with a pot with ears.
  4. Using your paint and brush paint the body the colour you want. Leave to dry and repeat until you have enough layers.
  5. Once the final layer has dried it’s time to add the features. Paint the insides of the ears and the face.
  6. Fill your planter with potting mix and add flowers.
  7. Leave in a sunny spot and water regularly.