In the cool space of “Maximo of Mparntwe” I wander …

Comment on Step into this song of praise by Fiona Walsh.

In the cool space of “Maximo of Mparntwe” I wander as if amongst friends – the birds and plants who “people” my backyard, Alice streets, our wider country.
Mike’s luminous photos evoke diverse memories, facts to clarify, new biological insights and many grains of sensory delight.
“Ah, there’s the precious golden puff of Callitris pollen I once saw in a reverie of grief.”
“Was it a silk tent or communal bag in which he photographed those itchy grub caterpillar pupae?”
“Where’s Maximo in that billowing fabric of birds?”
“All those cute woodswallows huddled for warmth in a frosty morning.”
Walking home, I pass the Office of Northern Development. I imagine its images of cleared parched ground, highrise buildings looking inward, corridors of bitumen and concrete, oil developments and more.
The consequences of such “progress” typically kill and displace the animal and plant characters that Mike shares with us.
I hold onto the hope offered in his images, Adrian’s soundscape of our lands, Maria’s partnership and those who wisely funded their exhibition.
I will contribute to a crowd-fund so his books can inspire new generations.

Recent Comments by Fiona Walsh

Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: it’s not over yet
Of course the Aboriginal flag must fly on ANZAC hill (aka Atnelkentyarliweke). In my view, it should so as to:
– show respect to the modern Aboriginal population that those who are Other Australians live amongst
– remind us that the lands of Alice Springs were occupied and cared for by thousands of generations of Aboriginal people before European colonisation
– recognise we all live on or nearby legally-determined native title lands
– acknowledge the Aboriginal people who have died on the slopes and surrounds of Anzac hill
– honour the Aboriginal servicemen and women who died in defence of Australia and their country

These are sufficient reasons for the Aboriginal flag to continuously fly on top of a hill that is a sacred site, a memorial site and a major focus for locals and visitors. Both symbolic and practical actions are needed in Alice Springs.
The link to a petition is here –

No-brainer # 2
There are many reasons why I love trees especially River red gums.
This recent burn is less than 400m long and 100m wide but about 38 River reds have been damaged (more than “several”).
My adoration is unfortunate as it hurts deeply to walk amongst the carnage of amputated limbs.
Some of those trees were older than my great great great grandfather and certainly each of us.
These trees overlooked explorers, pastoralists, cameleers walk through Ntaripe (aka The Gap) and the Ghan line built.
Yes, a few River reds may re-sprout. But some wear scars from more than five fires. They are tiring.
Over the past few days, the fire brigade bravely poured more than 3,000 liners of water into one of several trees they’ve treated. But its roots, heartwood and sapwood still burn today.
It will soon fall down dead too. If you have trees nearby – pull the buffel grass weeds away; be careful with fires. Don’t burn other people’s country. Please look after this country.

They must be joking!
‘Rabbit With Yellow Mustard’ and a ‘Camp Oven Court’ seem a suited combination. See an excellent recipe from Milner Meats and a comment on earlier article that the courthouse reminded reader of a camp oven. Perhaps when Adam Giles’ government are celebrity chefs they could cook and eat that rabbit on the top floor. All in all, a costly insult to current and future Central Australians and our townscape.

In the company of birds: Iain Campbell
Mike’s and Kieran’s reflections have each brought to life a little of Iain Campbell’s life journey and works. Thank you. I never met or knew Iain in person but his artworks I admired for their ironic reflection on this town within our country. I can see his passing leaves a space within and amongst friends and colleagues.

Extreme variability: local climate change right now
Thank you for your comments. It is important for scientists, and all of us, to recognise the variety of opinions and interpretations on this topic. Many issues emerge from the prior comments, but here we can respond only to those about data selection, data durations, local trends vs trends elsewhere in inland Australia, and publication.

In relation to ‘cherry-picking’ (aka selective use of data, @ de Vries and @Richards): Our project was a collaboration with a group of CLC rangers at Santa Teresa. Thus we analysed data that were collected by long-term weather stations as close as possible to Santa Teresa – including Alice Springs. Trends in climate across the entirety of inland Australia were not within our project remit.

We collated data on nine variables for three locations. Only Alice Springs had data for all nine variables. Hermannsburg had the longest near-continuous data for total annual rainfall over 124 years. The trend for increasing rainfall events described in the article appears to be consistent for Alice Springs and Santa Teresa, but the duration of records are shorter. Additional to rainfall, there were upward trends in the Alice Springs data for maximum winter temperatures and maximum summer temperatures, but no obvious trend for minimum summer and winter temperatures. However, the number of frost days also trends upward. 

To our knowledge, these are more finely grained collations than done by BOM or other agencies (@ de Vries). Our data do warrant publication (@ de Vries), but unfortunately this is unlikely in the short term. Two of the four CSIRO scientists involved have been made redundant as a result of the cuts to CSIRO environmental research and arid zone research. The remaining two scientists are required on other projects. We could supply the graphed data on request for others who would like with work with them. We encourage you to look at the community report downloadable here:” rel=”nofollow”>

In relation to the question of whether the Santa Teresa-Alice Springs-Hermannsburg findings are applicable to other areas of inland Australia, we did a brief analysis of rainfall, but not temperature, for five additional arid zone locations further west and east of Alice Springs. As @ de Vries suggests, Boulia (620 km ENE of Alice) shows no discernible trend. However, Leonora (1,400 km SW of Alice) shows average annual rainfall has risen by 44% over the period 1898-2013 (statistically significant). Leonora experienced increased inter-annual variability during 1940-1980, when increasing rainfall becomes apparent, but rainfall variability has since reduced. Wiluna (1,410 km W of Alice) also shows a 37% increase in annual rainfall average 1899-2016.

BOM data for these and any other weather stations can be obtained from, and examined and analysed by any interested reader. BOM maps of climate trend across Australia can be viewed at

The map of trend in average annual rainfall for the period 1940-present indicates how increasing rainfall has been occurring from Alice westwards, whilst inland Queensland has experienced no trend at all. The geographical pattern in positive trend is mainly in summer and autumn rainfalls. It partially results from tropical cyclones carrying heavy rainfalls further inland and more frequently than in the past.

All this said, our interest was to bring attention to trends within Central Australia. More importantly, our concern is with the capacities and opportunities for people within Central Australia to cope with changing climate conditions.

Dr Fiona Walsh and Dr Ashley Sparrow

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