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Field Hockey. Friendly Match
          Hardship Is Not A Competition: Supporting Our Farmers Doesn’t Mean We Can’t Support Our Neighbours      Cache   Translate Page   Web Page Cache   

With all of NSW now drought declared, and other states fast heading in the same direction, calls for more support for farmers is welcome. But slashing spending to help neighbours we’ve abused for decades is not the way to get there, writes Hayley McQuire.

I support Australian Farmers. What I don’t agree with is the constant argument about “Why are we giving so much in foreign aid yet not supporting our farmers?”

This is a common theme that arises whenever there are a group of Australians in crisis.

“Why are we giving so much in foreign aid while there are so many homeless? Why are we giving so much in foreign aid while our old people are on a horrible pension? Why are we giving so much in foreign aid when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People…..”

Okay, admittedly, it doesn’t seem to appear when First Peoples are in crisis. But for the record, the majority of our Foreign Aid budget is spent with our neighbours in the Asia Pacific.

Let’s keep in mind our history with countries in this region.

A large amount of our aid goes to our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea, with $546.3m allocated in the 2017-2018 budget.

The Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. (IMAGE: Drew Douglas, Flickr)

Every ANZAC Day we celebrate our partnership with Papua New Guinea and how they saved our arse on the Kokoda Track. However, we conveniently forget the fact that PNG was under Australia’s colonial rule as one of our territory’s up until 1972. We conveniently forget how Australia has exploited PNG for their natural resources (here’s looking at you Rio Tinto Bougainville Copper Mine).

Australia also gives aid to other Pacific countries like Vanuatu ($69.8m in 2017-2018) and Solomon Islands ($146m in 2017-2018).

So, I guess some are forgetting the time Australia STOLE people from their homes and forced them into indentured labour and built an entire sugar industry off the back of black bodies.

I sho...

          Puerto Galera Diving      Cache   Translate Page   Web Page Cache   

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When I arrived at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I was quickly whisked away by a van that took me to a ferry en route to Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro. Just a few hours later, I was escorted to my room at the Atlantis Resort and immediately asked if I would like to dive that afternoon.

My response, of course, was yes.


Shore Diving

The memory of that long journey (flight, car and boat ride) faded away as I immediately began a shore dive right off the resort’s beach. I barely had my head underwater when my guide tapped on his tank to show me something in the seagrass, only five feet deep. On the edge of a tube-dwelling anemone was a bright red-spotted candy crab crawling into the center of the anemone, amongst its iridescent white tentacles.

Before I even finished taking photos of the crab, there was more tapping, and I saw two tiny flabellina nudibranchs. Pretty soon I discovered that the waters around Puerto Galera were teeming with nudibranchs, with over 700 species of every color and sizes identified in the Philippines. These first two nudis got plenty of camera time before I realized I’d been underwater for almost fifteen minutes and hadn’t moved more than twenty feet from shore.


My guide was eyeing me impatiently, as he had plenty more to show me. At the end of my first dive there were pipefish, baby frogfish, flying gurnards, sea moths and lots of pretty anemonefish. We weren’t completely out of the water yet, and I was asking when our next dive would be.

Boat Diving

The next day, we took a small boat about ten minutes away from the resort to a site with moderate current, known to bring the critters out. We back-rolled off the boat, and almost directly below us in the black sand was a pink hairy frogfish using its lure to try and catch dinner. We swam over to an area with more coral and we found an adult male blue ribbon eel and nudibranchs everywhere.

The Philippines make up part of the Coral triangle, which is basically the rainforest of the ocean. From the northern Philippine Islands to the eastern Solomon Islands, and to Indonesia in the west make a geographic triangle, with waters the richest in species on Earth. For divers this means non-stop action. Pair that with some spectacular dive guides and every dive will be a treasure hunt.

Ribbon Eel

Most of the diving found close to shore is muck diving or black sand diving. Although coral seems sparse, many of the ocean’s oddities can be found such as skeleton shrimp, wonderpus, frogfish, and cuttlefish. Not far offshore, plenty of coral reefs can be found with healthy hard and soft corals, and lots of fish including some of the bigger stuff like sharks, eagle rays, and mantas.

One morning, we took an hour boat ride across the channel to Verde (green) Island for some strong current drift dives. We were met with crystal blue waters and brilliantly colored reefs with pink and purple soft corals that seemed to have been painted all over the wall. We flew alongside the current, passing purple and pink soft corals, and several black and white banded sea snakes joined us for a bit of the ride. We saw Lionfish hunting off the reef, and some lucky divers even spotted a blue ring octopus on the wall.

Night Diving

Back at the resort I had a tough decision to make: to skip the night dive and indulge in some of the Philippines' famous San Miguel, or go for a night dive. I chose to head out out for one last dive after dinner to see how the beachfront would transform at night.

Harlequin Crab

I was not disappointed. In the seagrass we found a tiny bobtail squid, a snake eel with just his head sticking out of the sand, and a tiny juvenile lionfish. Moving deeper towards the black sand, we saw a stargazer completely buried in the sand with just his eyes and mouth looking back at us. The list went on and on.

Holding off on that San Miguel was worth it, but after a warm shower there was nothing better than relaxing next to the water, looking up at the stars, and chatting about our amazing dives over the local brew. For the more adventurous, there is plenty of nightlife just beyond the resort, but for me the plan was getting some sleep and freshening up for more diving. I had to get up early if I wanted to fit five dives a day in! But it’s totally worth being completely exhausted after such a long day of diving.

Further Reading

On Seahorse Love

Pescador Island - A Small Island Full of Surprises

Spacy Night dives - Discover Underwater Fluorescence

The Kasai Wall

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