Max Opray

Freelance Journalist & Morning Editor for Schwartz Media


Multi-award-winning journalist with bylines in The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Australian Associated Press, VICE, the Olympic News Service, Earther, The Smith Journal, The New Daily, and InDaily. Writes a daily newsletter for Schwartz Media. Contact via [email protected]



the Guardian
Revealed: Rio Tinto's plan to use drones to monitor workers' private lives

In the remote Australian outback, multinational companies are embarking on a secretive new kind of mining expedition. Rio Tinto has long mined the Pilbara region of Western Australia for iron ore riches but now the company is seeking to extract a rather different kind of resource - its own employees, for data.

the Guardian
How Australia's 'white gold' could power the global electric vehicle revolution

"Where are you going to find experienced lithium miners? That's like finding unicorns," laughs James Brown, the managing director of Western Australian resources firm Altura Mining. Brown is the next best thing. Hailing from a family five generations deep in coal mining, the burly Queenslander never imagined he'd be applying his expertise to digging out a key building block of a low-carbon economy.

the Guardian
Tourist boom for ayahuasca a mixed blessing for Amazon

Seated beneath the domed ceiling of a ceremony hall in Peru's Sacred Valley, Martin (not his real name) picks some fruit out of the communal bowl. "Basically, I confirmed what I've always known anyway - plants are sentient and self-aware, far more than we realise," he says, before biting down into an apple.

the Guardian
The giant is coming: the true cost of Amazon to retailers and workers

Down Dandenong way, on the outskirts of Melbourne, Amazon is staking out a beachhead for the invasion. Strategically located near freeway connections to Australia's busiest cargo seaport, the US$465bn retail superpower's cavernous new fulfilment centre is gearing up to house hundreds of thousands of products shipped in from all over the world.

The Saturday Paper
Blue-Light Districts

Deanna tells me she hesitated before climbing inside. "I had to ask if they'd cleaned it," she explains, queasily. "It wasn't too bad I guess." At the salon she used to visit every week, the 21-year-old Adelaide student never had to worry about the hygiene of her solarium bed - it was thoroughly wiped down after each customer.

The Saturday Paper
Peter Ridd and the climate sceptics

Dismissed by James Cook University, climate sceptic Peter Ridd sued for unfair dismissal and won. Now, he's touring the globe, and being feted for insisting the Great Barrier Reef is fine and the science behind claims to the contrary is broken.

The Saturday Paper
Angus Taylor's bioenergy plans

About 20 years ago, fourth-generation West Wimmera farmer Steve Hobbs was sorting out his deceased grandfather's belongings when some photos inside an old shoebox caught his eye. They were of the family farm back in the 1920s, grainy black-and-white snapshots of thatched haystacks and teams of horses working the land.

Devouring waste: how insects can feed a circular economy

This isn't speculation, but something that is happening here and now. A prime example is Dutch insect ingredient company Protix, which has just unveiled a €35 million commercial-scale production facility in the town of Bergen op Zoom that upcycles food waste into sustainable protein for a range of animals, including for fish, chicken, and pets.

How circular solutions can sustain Spaceship Earth

As the world pauses to celebrate 50 years since Neil Armstrong's small step for man, giant leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, just as important as setting foot on the moon was the perspective the Apollo program provided of our home planet.

The weather business: Wind Prospect

The year was 1999 and Michael Vawser was based out of Bristol in the UK, working as an engineering manager for a tiny renewable energy firm called Wind Prospect. This story was originally published in CityMag Issue 12 alongside a Small Business Survey featuring three other local players in the renewable energy space - Zen Energy, Tindo Solar and Consolidated Power Projects.

Salvage City

The success of Adelaide's new small bar movement is often credited to liquor licensing changes and the enthusiasm and hard work of venue owners. But few people know about the salvage yard in Wingfield that's making a significant contribution to the city's transformation.

Beer from above

For over a century the red brick tower of the Central Market has loomed over Grote Street, but nobody quite knows why. Now, a design competition could give it purpose. It is not clear if the iconic three-story Federation Free Style tower structure that sits in the north eastern corner of the Central Market has ever been used for anything.

'Disgusting Is the Least I Can Say'

Three weeks ago Hamid Kehazaei nicked his foot. Nothing serious, unless that is you happen to be jammed inside a seething tropical detainment camp.

The New Daily
Faces of Gallipoli: men of history

Nine young faces, nine remarkable stories. Pictured (below) together at a training camp in Egypt before deployment, these scouts of the 10th Battalion were some of the very first to row their boats into the death-trap of what would come to be known as Anzac Cove.


the Guardian
The end of coffee: could Australia save the world's beans?

If a future of relentless fires, droughts, superstorms and rising sea levels makes you feel like you need a strong caffeinated beverage, there is some bad news: climate change is coming for the world's coffee beans.

Anti-bikie rush "reeks of ineptitude": criminologist

The State Government has been slammed for rushing anti-bikie laws through parliament late last week, just months before three parliamentary inquiries into organised crime legislation are due to be completed.

the Guardian
Most voters support transition to 100% renewable energy, says Australia Institute

Battery storage technology has the potential to reshape not just the energy and transport sectors but also the upcoming Australian federal election, according to a new report. The Australia Institute report Securing Renewables: How Batteries Solve the Problem of Clean Electricity includes polling indicating that 71% of Australians would be more likely to vote for a party that supported distributed small-scale solar and storage.


The Saturday Paper
Global lockdown as virus spreads

Australia is just one of dozens of countries to impose tight new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, as a sharply rising death toll in Italy and Spain serves as a warning to the world. In the space of 24 hours, the Spanish death toll doubled to 288 on Sunday, and Italian fatalities rose by 368 to a new total of 1809.

The Saturday Paper
Record heat combines with record bushfires

The record-breaking national heatwave is set to combine with forecast 100km/h wind gusts to fan bushfires across the country today. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has issued "extreme" fire warnings for the Sydney, Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges, with 100 fires burning across the state.

The Saturday Paper
Race to escape fall of Kabul

The Taliban has assumed control of Afghanistan’s presidential palace, as the US and Australia scramble to evacuate hundreds of people before the country is completely overtaken.

The Saturday Paper
Melbourne free at last

Melbourne free at last Melbourne residents erupted in cheers at 11:59pm on Thursday, with people flocking to pubs, restaurants and hairdressers to celebrate the reopening of the world's most locked-down city.


The Guardian
Tony Abbott's South Australia problem: on the front line of the Coalition's war to win back votes

Perhaps the red line was crossed. After unemployment surged past 8% in South Australia last month - well above the relatively steady 6% national rate - the federal government's emergency plan swung belatedly into action: send a plethora of cabinet ministers to Adelaide for three days and announce a range of measures to help save the economy they themselves gutted in the first place.


The Saturday Paper
ABS unemployment figures overlook the hidden jobless

Sleeping rough on the streets of Adelaide, Aimee Rose didn't feel like she counted for anything. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), it seems, was inclined to agree with her. Despite being jobless and periodically homeless for most of her teenage years, Rose did not meet the official definition of what it is to be unemployed.

The Saturday Paper
Exporting Australia's offshore detention policy

They took Sayid away in a yellow Corolla. It was late 2015, and the 26-year-old IT support worker was returning home from his job at the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan when he was abducted off the street by Taliban militants.

The Saturday Paper
BHP Billiton's Brazil disaster a year on

When local surfer Leonardo Zorzal paddles out into the mouth of Brazil's Rio Doce, he brings a few Australian brands along for the ride. He sits atop a surfboard equipped with FCS Fins, and wears board shorts marked by not one but two antipodean companies - designed by Billabong, stained a toxic hue of red by BHP Billiton.


Circular economy solutions for e-waste: headphones as a service

One circular economy solution is to develop product-as-a-service models like that adopted by Dutch headphones startup Gerrard Street . Instead of selling customers headphones which are thrown out as soon as they break, adding to our e-waste problem, Gerrard Street leases the headphones as a service.

the Guardian
Kate Grenville interview: why perfumes are making you sick

The Australian author Kate Grenville was on a book tour for her 2015 novel One Life when she started noticing the headaches. "I was having them virtually every day," she says. "From hotels I was staying in, taxis and planes I was riding in, and also from my readers - unfortunately.

the Guardian
Family, air quality and a strong business case: the coal executives defecting to green energy

Australian clean energy activists might have recognised some strangely familiar faces joining their ranks of late - those of their greatest adversaries in the coal industry. Coal sector executives have been quietly switching sides to chase the lucrative profits up for grabs in green energy and - welcome or not - the experience they bring could prove vital to the increasingly desperate race to avert cataclysmic climate change.

The New Daily
Firefighting footage shows world how it's done | The New Daily

Ben Wilson had never seen anything like it. Hurtling up through the Adelaide Hills on the back of a fire truck directly into the region's worst bushfire conditions since Ash Wednesday, the 24-year-old Country Fire Service volunteer gaped at flames he described as hundreds of metres high, reaching up so far they licked the clouds.


Stephen K Amos - What Does the K Stand For?

Marching onto stage armed with a clipboard and a stern look, Stephen K Amos is not messing around. Like a snarky bureaucrat assigned to some remote backwater, Amos informs the "village" of Adelaide that he'll be testing out new jokes for the "real" show, a process that involves reciting gags from the page, ticking off the ones that get laughs, and angrily dressing down the room for not appreciating the rare misses.

the Guardian
Adelaide Fringe: six talked-up shows you have to see

The second-biggest fringe festival in the world has once again seized Adelaide by the scruff of the neck and shaken this city to life. Like a supersized village fete, the Adelaide Fringe delivers an all-encompassing catharsis you won't find at the eastern seaboard festivals that are drowned out within Sydney and Melbourne's bristling cultural calendars.