Coula Pagagis and Judith Coghill

Coula Pagagis and Judith Coghill
Mary Kay Rauma

I was five minutes into my interview with Coula Pagagis when her phone rang. She told me her good friend Judith Coghill would be joining us. Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and suddenly an interview with one became an interview with two.

Coula, a retired nurse, and Judith, a retired secondary teacher, became quick friends after meeting at a social event arranged by their apartment building. Coula explained, “We are both fully embracing retirement,” but not resting on their laurels. The two were drawn to living in Southbank for its Arts Precinct that both of their apartments overlook.

Fittingly, their schedules are packed with arts events, their favourite being the NGV Art Readers program where members gather in a small group to discuss essays and discussion points about current exhibits. The last discussion they attended about Picasso and the strong women that influenced his work is their favourite to date.

The two also share a concern for the natural environment, sustainability and artificial light at night (ALAN) pollution. Coula, actively involved in the International Dark-Sky Association of Victoria (IDAVic), is focused on addressing the many issues surrounding Victoria’s replacement of amber-colour 2000K lamps on roads and public spaces with 4200K LEDs – a conversion that is five times more damaging to the environment.


“The blue-violet short waves of 4000K LEDs cause of spectrum of issues in humans, animals and plants and a range of adverse environmental and ecological effects. In humans, it disrupts our circadian rhythm and the life cycles of plants and animals.” She pointed out a tree beneath a 4000K LED lamp – “Its leaves never change. While those outside of the lamp’s reach follow seasonal transitions, that tree remains unchanged.”


An article in Harvard Health, Blue light has a dark side, states that research shows the blue-violet component of LEDs may contribute to the causation cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The problem is particularly prevalent in Southbank where most of the population lives in high rises, many adjacent to commercial buildings where LED lights remain on 24/7, causing high levels of ALAN emissions. High rises around City Rd in particular are faced with this issue illustrated by a photo Coula took from her apartment at night—a residential high-rise in darkness next to a fully-lit Herald Sun office tower.

Coula reflected on her childhood in North Queensland where the stars shone brightly in a dark night sky. I asked if giving up a night sky was a trade-off of living in the city. “There are solutions to the problem. Warm light is less intrusive and commercial buildings can shut their lights off where they aren’t needed at night. It doesn’t have to be this way.”


MaryKay Rauma is a founder of Southbank3006 a not-for-profit community and advocacy group focused on connecting residents and improving the liveability of Southbank. To receive information about an upcoming forum on artificial night light pollution join SB3006 for free by clicking here. •

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