How do your eating habits measure up?

News @ CSIRO

food groups image 1500x752Do you you think you eat enough vegetables to shame a goat? Does your self-restraint when it comes to curly fries make you a smug dinner companion? Or are you an unabashed chocoholic, throwing caution to the wind when it comes to all things cocoa? We all feel varying amounts of guilt and pride about what we eat, but how often do we make an honest assessment of our diet and think about what we could do better?

Well, now’s the time with our new online assessment tool that allows you to measure the quality of your eating habits. Introducing the Healthy Diet Score (HDS).

The HDS is a simple validated scoring system that we hope will help individual Australians measure the nutritional quality of what they eat. The score has been designed to measure whether a person is achieving the food recommendations from the Australian Dietary Guidelines for healthy…

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Crawford Fund Conference

As you may already know from previous posts, earlier in the year a group of UWS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security students attended the annual Crawford Fund Conference. We were luck enough to be supported by the Crawford Fund during this trip. The fine people from Crawford even allowed our students to create videos by interviewing delegates during the event. These videos explore issues of Food Security that the students have taken a particular interest in during their studies.

Crawford Fund Conference 2014

On 26-28 August UWS hired a bus and headed off to the Canberra for the Carwford Fund’s Parliamentary Conference. We were joined by 12 of our Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security students who were challenged by Crawford and UWS to document the event. We asked Sophie Hession, one of the students in attendance, to give us a few highlights of the event.


A few weeks ago, I was lucky to be one of a group of BNSc Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security students that attended The Crawford Fund’s 2014 Annual Parliamentary Conference.   Having attended the Crawford Fund NSW Forum earlier in the year, we had learnt about the upcoming Annual Conference which was to have a focus on ‘Ethics, Efficiency and Food Security: Feeding The 9 Billion, Well.’ This sounded very intriguing and we all expressed an interest to be able to attend. Over the next couple of months, April, Chris and Therese worked very hard to arrange for us to go!

So on the afternoon of 26th August, myself, and a group of students, accompanied by Therese, April and Chris, piled into a minibus and a couple of cars to trek off to Canberra for the Conference. We were all excited to spend the next couple of days at Parliament House and The National Library attending the conference.


We arrived that evening and a few of us went to a local Dumpling house and enjoyed a delicious feast. It was a great welcome to Canberra! We all headed to our accommodation and got an early night’s rest as we were to be up early the next morning for the first day of The Conference at Parliament House.

We arrived at Parliament House and spent the day hearing from a range of speakers on such topics as agricultural research, food waste, the upcoming increase in the Asian demand on Australian production, agriculture economics and biofuels. It was a very interesting day, with the talks by Mr Luke Chandler and Ms Rachel Kyte being highlights for me.

During the day we were asked by the uni to conduct and record and interviews with some of the speakers and guests. This was a great way to be able to approach these people with and an ice-breaker and be able to ask some questions. It was a fun experience and great to be able to chat with different people within the industry.


After the day at Parliament House, we moved to a nearby venue for drinks that were hosted by RAID. RAID stands for Researchers in Agriculture for International Development and is a network for those researchers. It was nice to have a drink and relax after a day of presentations and also a great chance to network with the other attendees. After dinner and a gelato stop, we headed back to the accommodation for some much needed rest.

The next morning, myself and another student Justin, were lucky enough to be invited to the Parliamentary breakfast. We headed back to Parliament House and listened to a talk by Dr Laurent Zessler who is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Director.

After the breakfast we headed over to the National Library to attend the Scholar’s Day. The day began with an inspiring speech by Dr Catherine Bertini who, amongst other things was the former director of the UN World Food Program. We then heard some great stories from researchers who had volunteered overseas and again had the chance for some networking. The afternoon was then spent listening to a live debate, which got a little heated at times and was great to watch!

So after a great couple of days we piled back into the minibus and headed for home. We had learnt a lot from the presentations, networked and met new people, and had a fun time on our short trip to Canberra. A big thank you to Chris, Therese and April who made the trip possible.

A crazy year and a week out bush

Hello everyone, my name is Francis Arias. I’m a 22 year old from Glenmore Park in Western Sydney and I’m a second year Agriculture student at the University of Western Sydney – Hawkesbury Campus. I stated my degree half way through 2013 and was one of only a couple of students to start my particular degree that semester so I didn’t really know what to expect. Straight away I met the other guys studying agriculture and we became great friends and a great team.

In 2014 we were fortunate enough to be joined by the guys in charge of the renewal of Agriculture at UWS, Therese McGuillion, April Brown and Chris Vella. They were just what our group needed! They helped us with anything and everything, from scholarship applications to gaining work experience and everything in between.

This year has been stressful, busy and tiresome. But I would not change a thing, because it has also been the best year of my life so far. I have been involved in events and programs that I didn’t even know existed. To give a short list, the four things that stand out most about it are my work experience at UWS Farm, SELP program, travelling to Canberra to attend the National Crawford Fund Conference and undertaking work experience at Local Land Services in the Central Tablelands of NSW.


UWS Farm: I have had the privilege of working with a great bunch of people in the Hawkesbury UWS farm, where I got to do many tasks that I believe many Agriculture courses are now missing. Over the last year I have been able to experience first hand what manual labor on a property means and learnt everything from fencing to drenching and vaccinating to spraying. Rain, hail or shine, trusty farm hand Clem Wahl was there to make sure I didn’t bludge or break anything or anyone.

SELP Program: During the Spring semester I was fortunate enough to have Therese phone me up like a telemarketer and very skillfully convince me to sign up for the Social Engagement and Leadership Program at UWS. Once it started and I got to see just what an amazing thing I got myself involved in, I felt really bad for not thinking about signing up earlier. I got to work with one of my fellow Agriculture students as well as students from a variety of fields such as Business and Medicine. All the students selected to do SELP were given different businesses to work with, and we were fortunate enough to get assigned the Youth Food Movement, where we got to meet the founders and CEO’s, Alex Iljadica and Jo Baker. For the next 10 weeks we worked on developing a business plan to see if a YFM chapter would be viable at UWS. To do this, we had to take surveys and talk to students. After the program was finished my fellow Agriculture colleague, Damien continued work with the YFM we are now very close to starting a UWS chapter.


From left to right: Francis Arias, Peter fitzsimons, Barney Glover (UWS Vice Chancellor), Damien Balzer

National Crawford Fund: In August 2014, the Team and I, drove down to Canberra for a few days to attend the National Crawford Fund Conference, where topics of the world’s future food security were discussed. We got to meet the researchers and Heads of State behind it and it was a very cool experience. We all stayed at ACU for that week and I was even fortunate enough to receive an award, the “Big Foot Award”, for accidentally stepping on a very attractive American researcher who I had been joking around with the guys all day saying that I would ask for her number. Very awkward experience, still not as awkward as Justin Whittle being escorted out by security… Twice. Or Jarrod Willemse dropping what seemed like a never-ending supply of paper and pens down the main staircase of Parliament House. All
in all, it was a great experience which put me in contact with a lot of young people who are also interested in International research.


From left to right: Francis Arias, Justin Whittle, Megan Hounslow, Sarrah Corner, Ashley Harkin, Jarrod Willemse

Week at LLS – Mudgee: During the intra session break in the Autumn Semester, I was fortunate enough to spend a week working with Brett Littler, the Livestock officer at Local Land Services in the central tablelands. It was an awesome week filled with farm visits, workshops and driving; lots and lots of driving, seriously I travelled around 3000km that week! During this time, I got to visit great places in rural NSW, like the Liverpool Plains, Liverpool Ranges, Tamworth, Oberon, Rylestone, Dundoo (Or Dunny Doo for the locals), Bathurst and Mudgee of course. I learnt everything from fat and muscle scoring to pasture improvement and weed identification. It was an awesome week!

There are so many other things that my course has allowed me to do. I would need more than one blog to write about,,, “nobody got time for that”, and to be 100% honest, I don’t really like typing, I’m more of a hand writer, so I’m just going to list the ones that I can remember.

  • Hawkesbury Agricultural College Lunch at Parliament
  • Sydney Crawford Fund
  • School Engagement Programs
  • One Mile Dinner
  • Hawkesbury River Farm
  • YFM

I have now been accepted to go on exchange for a year to Montana State University in Bozeman. I am very excited for the year ahead. And, if 2014 was interesting, then, I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for me and the rest of Agriculture at UWS.

Sustainability in action

Brewongle Environmental Education Centre

A fantastic video from the students of Main Arm Public School on the north coast of NSW. They have been completing the sustainability action process as part of the Climate Clever Energy Savers program run by the NSW Environmental Education Centres. Here at Brewongle we have just approved grants for many Western Sydney Schools who submitted some excellent proposals to save energy in their schools.

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Fair Food Fair

You may have noticed that here at UWS Hawkesbury our Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security students put in a huge effort in term of both their curricular and extracurricular work and Mega Hounslow is no exception. Megan is a first year student who has just piloted a food focused fair for national volunteering week at the Hawkesbury Campus. Inspired by her motivation and commitment, we asked Megan to give us a few words about what led her to hosting this amazing event. 

IMG_3411Clear and sunny, with a light little breeze playing in the air, it was a perfect day for our recent Fair Food Fair held at the Hawkesbury campus. A day full of laughter, much chatting, information exchanging, freebie giving, and of course- food.

The fair was held as a part of volunteers week, an initiative backed by the Academy, which is how I got involved. As a student in the advanced course of Natural Science- specialising in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security we were encouraged to be a part of this week, and to host events at our respective campuses as part of the celebrations.

And so I put up my hand, albeit a bit timidly, to coordinate the fair at Hawkesbury. Then with the help of the lovely April Browne and Chris Vella, put an appropriate agricultural twist on the event. And so the Fair Food Fair was born. Kudos to Francis Arias for the awesome name.


It was a great day, a resounding success, with a good number of students and academics coming to eat and talk their way through what we had on offer. There was our exhibitors, Ozharvest, the Hawkesbury community kitchen, Hawkesbury Helping Hands, UWS’s Greenthumbs club and Youth Food Movement branch, as well as an info stall for the Academy. And then there was the food, oh yes, the food was popular (unsurprisingly): sausage sandwiches of meaty and veggie kind, rice paper rolls, spicy vegetable soup, black bean cupcakes, brownies and tea cakes. Plus a wheelbarrow full of oranges, fresh picked from the orchard. Amazing stuff!


Food is so important, it deserves to be in the spotlight, as the fair accomplished. But it needs to be an everlasting unceasing beauty of the stage. Food integrity, from paddock to plate and every mouth and waste-line, needs to be upheld. This is my passion, my verve, which pushes me in my studies of agriculture.

No real background in agriculture or anything food-ish, a child of suburbia and microwaves, its here i find myself at UWS Hawkesbury running Fairs about the importance of food. And I love it.

The Fair Food Fair may just be a prototype for the next bigger and better event. Stay tuned.

(Massive thanks to all who made the day possible, everyone who helped out, the exhibitors and all who attended.)

Megan Hounslow


Stage 6 Agriculture Resource

Earlier in the year UWS hosted its first Teacher Industry Placement, engaging local teachers in some of the current research at UWS’ School of Science and Health. Our participating teachers were David Randall from Richmond High School and Adam Kerr from Blaxland High School.

While on this week long placement (during their holidays no less) these committed teachers worked with Dr Zhonghua Chen and his team and spent time at UWS Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE).

During their placement Dave and Adam created a resource for Stage 6 Agriculture, Elective 1- Agri-food, fibre and fuel technologies. This resource is now hosted on HSC Online and provides current, leading research adapted by expert teachers. This resource takes Dr Zhonghua’s research and makes it accessible and relevant for students and teachers.

The resource can be accessed at the following link: