Having spent 24 years in regional radio, most recently as Regional Content Manager and Breakfast Presenter at ABC South East, in 2016 Ian launched a new endeavour.
About Regional is a fresh platform for local stories, information, and ideas.
Ian is keen to build on his passion for regional communities and his desire to see them thrive.
About Regional covers online, social media and podcast; a true celebration of the colour and perspective of country people.
Thousands of local legends around Australia have just been told they will carry the Queen’s Baton through their community in the run-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – 19 locals are among them…
Peter Anderson, Malua Bay
Robert Blake, Malua Bay
Darren Browning, Tomakin
Ann Brummell, Batemans Bay
Anthony Fahey, Dalmeny
Leah Hearne, Lilli Pilli
Sharon Himan, Moruya
Tracey Innes, Longbeach
Andrei Kravskov, Sunshine Bay
Helen McFarlane, Sunshine Bay
RubyRose McMath, Batemans Bay
Merle Morton, Wamban
Brad Rossiter, Surfside
Amanda Smith, Broulee
Cheryl Sutherland, Moruya
Kate Butterfield, Bermagui
Helen Hillier, Eden
Lynne Koerbin, Merimbula
Dane Waites, Pambula
Nominated by their peers for achievements and contributions to their community, these batonbearers have been chosen because they represent the spirit of the Commonwealth and inspire others to be great.
Bermagui’s Kate Butterfield is a former police officer managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she started the Run Brave initiative to raise awareness of the benefits of running for those struggling with mental health issues.
She has created a fun, supportive, and encouraging environment for people of all fitness levels to complete a five-kilometre event across Australia in 2016, fostering community spirit and raising money for Lifeline.
Its an initiative that is growing in popularity, all participants benefit from improved physical and mental health through connection with other like-minded people, at all stages of fitness.
Surfside’s Brad Rossiter is part of the relay with Kate, he says just being nominated was an honour.
“And then to be selected to carry the Baton through Batemans Bay is tremendously humbling,” Brad says.
“Congratulations to all our local batonbearers.”
Brad will cover his 200 metres on two prosthetic legs. Brad is a dual organ transplant recipient (kidney and pancreas), is legally blind and a double leg amputee as a result of type 1 diabetes.
He shares his deeply personal and inspirational story daily promoting general health and well being and organ donor awareness.
As the founder of ‘The Eurobodalla Renal Support Group & Organ Donor Awareness’ Brad is a tireless community worker.
Launched at Buckingham Palace in March this year, the Queen’s Baton carries a message from Queen Elizabeth II, in it she calls the athletes of the Commonwealth to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.
Currently traveling through Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, the Baton starts its Australian journey on Christmas Eve in Brisbane, dropping in on major events, iconic landmarks, and children’s hospitals during the summer school holidays before switching to a traditional relay in Canberra on 25 January.
From Nowra, the Baton Relay arrives in Batemans Bay on Tuesday, February 6 for a community celebration at Corrigans Reserve, before taking off to Tasmania
“The wonderful people selected for this special task have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others,” Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes says.
“Some have accomplished great feats and others are working towards realising their dreams.
“This will be a rare and unforgettable experience and I encourage everyone to share the excitement and get behind the Relay when it comes to Batemans Bay in February.”
More information about the local celebration will be released before the end of November.
*Content contributions from Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Small, fragile, and very precious communities of koalas scattered in the forests between Bermagui and Tathra are not only opening doors to their own survival but also the survival of their cousins around our continent.
“Oh it’s just lovely, it’s a beautiful bit of footage, lovely that people are able to see it,” Chris smiles.
“I chatted with that person [who took the video] and in fact, it was just near the Aragunnu turn-off.
“He was just driving along the Bermi – Tathra Road, six o’clock in the morning, and here was this koala,” he says.
East of this spot is Mimosa Rocks National Park, on the western side there’s a bit of private property, then the newly created Murrah Flora Reserve.
According to Chris, there have been four or five sightings in this area, with one koala in poor condition rescued and returned to the wild healthy.
“That is one of the few points where koalas are crossing the road,” Chris says.
“Probably dispersing eastwards from the maternal home ranges we have identified in the Reserves.”
This is a really important stretch of road if this small population has any chance to grow in numbers, as Chris says, – “Every animal counts.”
“Slow down a bit, particularly at night,” Chris pleads.
Since that video emerged (and as I write this) another close encounter koala experience has emerged.
The Bega District News is reporting that a koala was found floating on an oyster bag at a lease in Wapango Lake, south of Bermagui yesterday morning.
Oyster farmers Coral and Brian Orr told the BDN they went out to flip their oyster bags when they spotted the koala’s head floating just above the water.
They pulled the bag in and the koala hurried under the hull of the boat to take shelter, the BDN reported.
Speaking to About Regional, Chris Allen says the koala is now resting at the Potoroo Palace wildlife sanctuary near Merimbula and will be monitored for a few days.
“It’s a young male, dehydrated and a bit skinny, but otherwise seems ok,” Chris says.
While koalas have been making the news lately it doesn’t mean the population is growing. Numbers are still small, in his 7o odd years, Chris says he has only seen five or six.
Our growing knowledge…
The fact that we know about these koalas and that management practices and response protocols are in place is a testament to a community-based effort that has a sense of magic about it.
Part of the initial drive to investigate this population came from forestry workers and local residents.
Since 2007 people from a range of agencies and backgrounds have literally been on their hands and knees on the forest floor looking for koala evidence – scats (droppings) mainly.
“I get terribly excited about finding koala poo,” Chris laughs.
That work has triggered higher level scientific research that is shaping future koala management in South East New South Wales and beyond.
“Since the 1960’s koala numbers in these coastal forests have been shrinking, and shrinking from the north,” Chris says.
“There were koalas north of the Bermagui – Cobargo Road, in Wallaga Lake National Park and Naira Creek, and on the northern side of Bermagui River, and gradually those numbers declined.”
Research has suggested that the decline has continued southwards – until you hit the Murrah River. South of the river that ‘hands and knees’ bush survey work points to a population that is at least stable and has been so over the last decade.
Sydney University has added its weight to the investigation looking into the secrets of this southern population.
“The way that’s done is that any time we find fresh koala poo we send it off to Sydney Uni and they are able to extract DNA,” Chris explains.
Genetic mapping is a part of the information recorded but so too is a snapshot of disease.
“What has come out of that research is that to the north of the Murrah River animals are carrying chlamydia but to the south – they’re not,” Chris says.
Explaining how and why that is the case remains unresolved, the results of this work are very preliminary.
“The koala is described as a chlamydia rich organism, the population is often carrying several different strains,” Chris says.
“Clearly some populations have a higher level of resilience.”
Chris believes the isolation of this southern population might be a factor in its survival which makes the management of their landscape more critical.
“We’ve picked up evidence of four perhaps five females breeding, we know where their home range areas are, ” Chris says.
Wildfire and climate change the big threats…
Habitat destruction has been one of the issues facing koalas across Australia, these particular Bega Valley marsupials received some respite from the NSW Government in March 2016 when the forests they were living in were protected from further logging with the creation of the Murrah Flora Reserves – taking in what was the Murrah, Tanja, and Mumbulla State Forests, and the southern section of the Bermagui State Forest.
“Almost certainly the greatest threat this population faces now is a major wildfire,” Chris says.
“We’ve been through a research project with the University of Melbourne where they’ve run what’s called fire simulation modeling,” Chris says.
The results highlight the likely progression of fire through this landscape, pinpointing areas for fuel reduction work. In turn, the threat to koalas as well as human life and property is reduced and the capacity of an effective response in the event of a wildfire is improved.
“Koalas can be very good neighbours,” Chris laughs.
The board managing the Biamanga National Park, which is made up of traditional owners, are keen to take on that key role of reducing the fire risk.
“For many years they have wanted to introduce a cultural burning program and I strongly support this,” Chris says.
“The way they see it is on two levels, one is to make an ecological contribution and [two] to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people to be working back on country.
“Within it [cultural burning] is the idea of small, low-intensity, patch burns, small terms just working over a long period of time,” Chris says.
Aside from fire, climate change is the other looming threat to these precious creatures – it’s change that is literally turning the koala’s stomach.
“It’s fairly clear that increased carbon dioxide levels are actually reducing the palatability of eucalypt foliage,” Chris says.
The fear is that the pressure of climate change on local forests will cut the number of suitable feed trees available.
“These koalas are widely scattered because there are only relativity few trees providing adequate nutrition,” Chris believes.
Increasing the number of suitable species like Woollybuott is another ‘rod in the fire’ of this conservation project.
“Woollybuot is really struggling to regenerate,” Chris says.
Thirty small research plots have been established throughout koala country where a range of bush regeneration techniques are being trialled – one of them is the use of seed balls.
“Seed balls are made up of the seed of the target species, clay is mixed with peat mulch and Cayenne pepper,” Chris smiles.
“The Cayenne pepper is the magic ingredient that stops ants and other critters eating the seed.”
A solid clay ball is the result which sits in the bush waiting for good rain.
“Now it’s a question of monitoring and seeing what is most effective in encouraging the regeneration of Woollybuot and other preferred browse species,” Chris says.
Using this research in conjunction with cultural burning; regenerating burnt areas is the long game.
This relatively small forest holds big potential, not just for the survival of the koala according to Chris but so many other species.
“If we can’t hang on to our koala populations we are in big trouble,” Chris says.
“This population is a real litmus test as to what we can do about koala conservation nationally, this is a nationally significant effort.
“This is not just about koalas, the conservation initiatives that flow around the management of koala populations are conserving a whole lot more,” he says.
The success of this work so far has been the amount of knowledge collected and cooperation around better and more careful management of these forests.
It’s understood that the NSW Government will release its NSW Koala Strategy before the end of November.
A whole-of-government approach Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton hopes will stabilise and start to increase koala numbers around the state.
The work of Chris Allen and dozens of other locals have contributed to that process – advice that gives the koala a fighting chance.
While the survival of the koala is the main game, this locally based 10-year project has already had a big win. Its magic has seen a coming together of community will, good science, and politics.
“This is a population on the brink, it’s the last one we’ve got here in the coastal forests of the Bega Valley, let’s do what we can, we owe it to them given their history,” Chris says.
South East locals have been part of national protest action against the Adani coal mine proposed for North Queensland.
Protesters turned out in forty-five locations from Adelaide to Bondi to Bunbury over the weekend.
Locally, Eurobodalla 350 estimates around 250 people attended their protest at Congo Beach on Saturday, holding placards to spell out #STOP ADANI.
“We demand the federal government halt Adani’s enormous proposed coal mine,” spokesperson Allan Rees says.
In Bega, a colourful group marched through town on Friday and gathered in Littleton Gardens.
Organiser Sue Andrew sees the Adani mine as a litmus paper issue for a globe preparing for a climate change future.
“I feel now more than ever we have to unite to stand up against the fossil fuel industries and other extractive industries if we are serious about addressing climate change,” Ms Andrew says.
The Indian based Adani is seeking a billion dollar government loan to build a railway line linking its proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port on the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the ABC the project will bring new jobs to communities like Rockhampton, Towsnville, Charters Towers, Mackay, and Claremont.
“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she told the ABC
The Queensland Premier is also confident environmental concerns have been heard.
“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine,” she said.
Allan Rees says those that gathered at Congo on Saturday are angry that taxpayer dollars might be used to subsidise something “so destructive”.
“Adani’s mine may be far away, but the Eurobodalla can’t escape the climate change caused by burning that coal,” Mr Rees says.
“Australia has enormous reserves of coal which we must keep in the ground if we are to halt climate change.
“Climate change is here and is harming our agriculture and fishing.
“Beekeepers tell us how gum trees are blossoming at the wrong time, orchardists have lost trees from extreme heat, graziers and fishing people tell us how the climate is changing and harming their livelihoods,” Mr Rees says.
Local fears also extend to the future of the Great Barrier Reef itself if the mine goes ahead with Bega protesters carrying a series of handmade marine creatures along Carp Street and into the town’s civic space.
“We know the Great Barrier Reef is highly endangered already and any further development or shipping would only increase the destruction of this incredible ecosystem,” Sue Andrew believes.
“Adani has been exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program as damaging people’s health, the livelihoods of farmers and fishing people and the environment in India,” Mr Rees says.
“Adani is using foreign tax havens and has a corporate structure that would allow them to minimise tax paid in Australia.
“The former Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that it was almost beyond belief that the Australian Government would look to provide concessional loans and other taxpayer support to facilitate Adani Group’s coal mining project,” he says.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sees huge potential in the mine going forward – should it be built.
Adani has suggested it will break ground on the mine site before the end of this month with the first coal produced in early 2020.
The billion dollar loan from the Federal Government’s National Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) remains undetermined.
However, News Limited has reported comments by Adani chairman Gautam Adani saying, “The project will be funded by internal accruals, NAIF and foreign banks.”
Bega’s Sue Andrew is positive people power will prevail.
“There is so much opposition. It is not viable; economically, ethically, or environmentally,” she says.
It is really a no-brainer, why not spend the proposed billion dollars from NAIF on building renewable energy infrastructure and thousands of sustainable jobs and show our commitment to our children’s future?”
Those behind the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley protests are committed to further action.
Melbourne based artist Samantha Sommariva AKA Misklectic and her portrait of performance artist Mossy is the winner of Australia’s only youth portrait prize, the $10,000 ‘The Shirl’.
The Shirl is the little sister event to The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award that also attracts a significant cash prize. Both prizes are supported by the Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s patron Peter Hannan in memory of his mother’s commitment to portraiture.
Renowned contemporary multimedia artist Tony Albert was judge for the second ‘Shirl’, selecting Misklectic from a field of 29 finalists from across Australia.
“The winning work is a video, a collaboration between two artistic friends and offers an amazing insight into each other’s practice and the way in which these two people respond to each other,” Mr Albert says.
“It’s a very challenging idea of what a portrait is and can do, and explores some of the most challenging social issues of the moment.”
In the artist’s statement accompanying the work, Misklectic explains.
“In this work I have been given the privilege of translating Mossy’s spoken work poem into a digital portrait,” she wrote.
“It has been an opportunity to demystify and humanise the concept of a trans-woman and to show the complexity of her identity, be it objectified, demonised, hyper-sexualised in all of her vulnerability, beauty and strength.
“Through our intimate exchange via the lens, this work contains visual symbols that reference our historical collaborations and celebrates our friendship, how we have influenced each other’s work and our artistic growth,” Misklectic wrote.
Click play to watch the winning work…
The winner of THE SHIRL National Youth Portrait Prize 2017 CONGRATULATIONS!!! MISKLECTIC AND MOSSY 333I’m Heredigital video3 m 18 s Our friendship started in art school, our early experimentation was Mossy’s first exploration in performative movement which she states was a prolific moment in her coming into woman hood and comfort in her body . Since then I have watched Mossy flourish on the stage and through our on going collaborations. In this work I have been given the privilege of translating Mossy’s spoken work poem into a digital portrait. It has been an opportunity to demystify and humanise the concept of a trans-woman and to show the complexity of her identity, be it objectified, demonised, hyper-sexualised in all of her vulnerability, beauty and strength. Through our intimate exchange via the lens, this work contains visual symbols that reference our historical collaborations and celebrates our friendship, how we have influenced each other's work and our artistic growth.Renowned contemporary multimedia artist Tony Albert was judge for the second ‘Shirl’, selecting Misklectic from a field of 29 finalists from across Australia. “The winning work is a video, a collaboration between two artistic friends and offers and amazing insight in to each other’s practise and the way in which these two people respond to each other,” Mr Albert said. “It’s a very challenging idea of what a portrait is and can do, and explores some of the most challenging social issues of the moment.” Tony was the 2017 Sulman Prize judge at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has been an Archibald Prize finalist for the past two years, in addition to being one of the most sought after and influential contemporary artists working in Australia.
Twin brothers from Merimbula have crafted a musical about one of the best-known and most influential women in the world, but its just one of a number of productions launching in 2018 for the Willis boys.
‘Oprah the Opera‘ will open in San Francisco during the second half of 2018 and charts the life of America media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist – Oprah Winfrey.
Geoff and David Willis have been making music together for decades.
The decision to write a musical about Oprah came over a cup of coffee, buoyed by completing their first musical “The Great Houdini’ six years ago.
“Oprah is a one-woman show with a band and gospel choir,” David says.
The brother’s work is a true collaboration, Geoff writes the music and lyrics, David writes the script.
“She [Oprah] has opened up her life in a huge way, from abuse as a child to the most successful woman in America,” David says.
“There is so much there, a lot of comedy, a lot of heartaches, it’s a really entertaining show and people really love it when they’ve read the script.”
Click play to hear the full conversation with Geoff and David Willis…
Initial planning for the show is underway now, including casting.
Starting out in 1000 seat theatres in San Fransico, David and Geoff are creative consultants to musical director Gregory Cole and will relocate to the U.S closer to showtime.
“We’re excited because it will be an all-black cast and it will be a gospel choir of 50 or 60,” Geoff explains.
“There aren’t a lot of shows that are written for African Americans [cast members].”
The twins aren’t sure if the lady herself knows about the show yet, they have only been able to get as close to Oprah as her personal assistant, but she will be receiving an invite to opening night in July/August next year.
Both David and Geoff are natural showmen and play a range of musical instruments as well as sing. They are well known for pulling a crowd whether it’s on one of their regular cruise ship tours of the Pacific or Atlantic or in the many concert halls that dot the hills around their hometown of Merimbula.
Their signature tune ‘Me and My Shadow’ is always a hit.
“Being twins, we understand each other very well,” Geoff says.
In shaping their music the pair will often work apart in order to challenge their creativity.
“When we wrote ‘The Great Houdini‘, I actually went to the Gold Coast and spent a few years there,” David says.
“We thought it was a good idea to be away from each other, but it’s amazing how things tied up.
“He [Geoff] would write a song and we wouldn’t discuss it, I would write the script, and the words in the song and the script tied in,” David smiles.
“It’s a twin thing!”
The Great Houdini was the first musical the pair worked on – 16 years in the making, hard work that is now paying off.
“It’s a huge show to put on, we have just met with producers in New York and London, and we are looking at staging that later next year,” Geoff says.
The pair became mesmerised by the legend of the great magician as 10-year-olds after seeing ‘Houdini’ the movie starring Tony Curtis, twenty years later they felt compelled to write a musical about their idol.
“Dave wrote the script over a 16 year period, and I wrote 60 musical pieces for the show,” Geoff says.
“It had to be perfect,” he says.
The story starts in modern day New York at a Houdini exhibition and works backwards.
“Dave describes it really well as – music, magic and mystery,” Geoff says.
In trying to explain why it is that two Merimbula creatives have stage shows launching a million miles from home, David and Geoff believe there is a sense of confidence missing from the Australian entertainment industry.
“There is a bit of frustration that we are not being accepted by Australian producers,” David says.
“We’ve been to producers in Australia about our shows, and [the impression we’ve been given is that] if it is a success overseas they would probably say, we’ll do it here,” he says.
There is one success closer to home the Willis boys can crow about, and one their Bega Valley fan base can travel to easily.
Next April the production steps up a notch and will take to the stage in Canberra at Llewellyn Hall featuring the Canberra Youth Orchestra.
It’s a narrated children’s story in the style of ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
David and Geoff have worked with well-known funny man, Tim Ferguson, of Doug Anthony All Stars fame.
“Tim is the writer and has worked very hard on the script and he is the narrator, he is a lovely person to work with,” Geoff says.
“The Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras are also interested.”
Geoff has composed all 27 orchestral pieces, while David has prepared all the educational material for the production.
The show tells the story of a 10-year-old girl called Billie who makes friends with real live Australian dinosaurs and together they defeat school bullies.
Despite their growing success far from the shores of Merimbula Lake, both men seem to relish and value their stage work at home.
“We live in a beautiful town, and we are very much appreciated by the people here,” David says.
“I was the conductor of the Sapphire Coast Concert Band and Geoff was the conductor of the Big Band and we only gave that up at the end of last year because of these other projects.
“And of course recently we did a show with Frankie J Holden and Michelle Pettigrove, which was a huge success and raised money for raked seating in the new Twyford Theatre.
“We are happy being here, we love living here,” David says.
About Regional, is a new place for the stories of South East NSW, made possible by the contributions of members, including – Sprout Cafe Eden, Kaye Johnston, Nigel Catchlove, Therese and Denis Wheatley – thank you!
Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.
One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.
Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.
Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.
While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.
Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.
Months of training and fundraising have come together for fourteen lads from the Bega Valley and Eastern Victoria competing in the Launceston Soccer Tournament last weekend (Sept 22,23,24) in Tasmania.
The group of thirteen-year olds came from Bega, Merimbula, Eden, and Mallacoota, playing in the sky-blue jersey of the Far South Coast Soccer Association (FSCSA).
It’s been somewhat of a tradition for the local association who have sent an under 13’s rep side to the far-flung competition for over 20 years, however this year is the last for the time being.
Coach Toby Willington was pleased with his team’s efforts.
“It was great for the boys to come up against some tough competition, they learned lots that will benefit them and they handed out a few lessons of their own,” Toby said.
“They can be very proud to come away with two wins from four starts.”
The ‘Coasties’ finished second in their pool and came up against the Hills Hawkes from Sydney in the playoff for third spot.
The Tassie rain and wind was coming in sideways at kick-off, with the Coasties first to score. An evenly contested match played out with the Sydneysiders two ahead early in the second half.
The Hawkes managed to hold off a spirited charge late in the game to down the Coasties 4 – 3.
“These boys love their soccer and have had a ball playing in such a big competition,” Toby said.
Toby who was part of the winning 2012 Under 13’s Coasties side in Tassie interrupted his HSC preparations at Bega High to coach the side.
The Launceston Tournament attracts teams from New South Wales, Victoria and across the Apple Isle.
“In our 27th year we’ve attracted a record number of entries, which augurs well for the future of our beloved sport,” Dale Rigby, President of the Northern Tasmanian Junior Soccer Association said.
The trip south was only made possible through the generosity of the local community who supported the team’s fundraising efforts.
“The boys want to thank everyone who bought a raffle ticket or made a donation, we couldn’t have done this without you,” Will Roberts, Coasties Captain said.
The connection many local families have with ‘The Tassie Trip’ was evident during the team’s fundraising, with mums, dads, nannas, and grandpas buying tickets in 2017 because in years gone past it had been their kids on the street selling raffle tickets or chocolates.
FSCSA Rep Convenor and Under 13’s Manager, Craig Howker said it has been a big decision not to go to Tassie in 2018.
“Interest in soccer across the Bega Valley is growing, and we want to support more girls and boys playing at that higher level,” Craig said.
“The fundraising will continue, but we’ll be investing that money in better equipment and training, and creating more opportunities for teams from under 12 to Seniors to represent our region.
“We have some great local talent, and the Association is keen to back these kids and see them succeed,” he said.
The Under 13’s Coasties will return home in time to complete in the Karl Posselt (KP) Cup at Merimbula’s Berrambool Oval this coming weekend (Sept 29, 30 & Oct 1).
Now in its ninth year, the KP Cup is geared towards under 12’s and under 13’s boys and girls, and usually attracts around 30 teams from NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania.
The tournament recognises the outstanding contribution of Karl Posselt to the development of youth soccer not only at the Merimbula Grasshoppers, but also with Football NSW.
“The KP Cup is a huge effort for the local soccer community, but so worthwhile, thank you to all those helping out this weekend,” Craig said.
Local writers group Mnemosyne posed the question – ‘Is feminism still relevant?’
A lively discussion followed.
Your host will introduce you to the panel and the meaning of Mnemosyne.
The discussion doubled as the launch of a new local journal. The Kickstarter fundraising campaign runs until the end of September hoping to turn the journal into a reality.
You are about to find out more.
Your host is Ph.D. student, Jodie Stewart who has just been awarded the Deen De Bortoli Award for Applied History from the History Council of NSW for her work and research around the Bundian Way, and ancient Aboriginal pathway linking the Far South Coast and the Snowy Mountains of NSW.
Eddie’s friends (including my family) had agreed to meet at 10am on the grass in front of the big flag pole.
We were a diverse mix of country people, kids and adults, including a Vietnam vet, a school teacher, retired police officer, a Canberra Raiders fan, two Registered Nurses, a retired steel worker, and an arts administrator, to name a few.
All there to say, this issue is important to people beyond just ‘the gays in the village’.
The plan was to set – a picnic and a game of soccer, like any family might and see what happened.
The convoy that travelled with Eddie that day numbered around 20, not large in number but our aim was to help those with an ability to pull a crowd get a message out – vote YES.
Using the group’s Bega Valley soccer connections, a bundle of spring loaded corner posts and witches hats were borrowed to mark out a field.
A rainbow flag was gaffer taped to one of the fences attracting the interest of patrolling members of the Australian Federal Police, who made sure we knew it was a no-no but turned a blind eye with a wink of support.
Our soccer field looked great, as did the picnic rugs and assortment of nibbles and baked goods. Mind you no one was hungry – nerves suppressed any craving for one of the Anzac biscuits on offer.
Eleven o’clock arrived quickly. We had high hopes and a sense something great was about to happen, but we didn’t know what was going to happen at the same time.
Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek had agreed to meet and we hoped the media might tag along – as overwhelming as that felt.
All involved were keen to protect Eddie from potential ugliness, the Canberra press pack comes with a reputation and Eddie had a taste of that last time round.
He was nervous but kept pushing though. Having a ball to kick with his mates was key and he knew he had something valuable and important to say.
We’d worked with Eddie on a statement to read to the media if they showed up, rather than being bamboozled by questions left and right.
The first sign of what was to come started to emerged from between the marble columns of Parliament House.
A cameraman from Fairfax was the first, a scout to make sure everything was ready for his media comrades.
A lectern was positioned with Parliament House and our soccer field in the background, and as if they appeared from the Aladdin’s lamp, the Opposition Leader and his Deputy were mingling at the edges of our picnic rugs.
Anzac biscuits were offered as the number of MP’s streaming down the path increased, cameramen and journalists manoeuvring around our morning tea.
It was hard to say and no one counted but our group ballooned to 50, 60 or 70 people.
Ms Plibersek spoke first, “We know that households across Australia will be receiving their survey papers in the coming days,” she said.
“And we are here to urge people to fill their papers in straight away.”
Bill Shorten was next, “Australia’s modern families come in all shapes and sizes, I think it’s long overdue for the law to catch up with the way in which millions of Australians are already constructing their lives,” he said.
“Today the survey goes out, about 600,000 of the 16 million surveys will be posted today.
“Tick the ‘Yes’ box and we can get this done before Christmas.”
Mr Shorten then introduced Eddie to the media pack.
Eddie had continued to tweak his statement over breakfast that morning, the nicely typed one pager replaced by his own hand written thoughts.
With many of those assembled blubbering quietly (Ms Plibersek included) – Eddie nailed it.
“People who know my family, know that there is nothing wrong with us.
“We play soccer in the winter and volunteer for the surf club in the summer,” he said.
“I have two parents, they love me and they love each other, all couples and all families deserve the same respect and value.”
#Tathra's Eddie Blewett talks to the media pack at Parliament House, Canberra with Bill Shorten MP Mike Kelly MP, and Tanya Plibersek, asking #Australia to get this done and say YES for Rainbow Families.Ian
More mingling and private discussion followed (the soccer game resumed) as well as one on one media interviews and photo requests.
Eddie, Neroli, and Claire handled it all with grace. The support of local media at home the day before helped with that – Fairfax, ABC South East, Power FM and 2EC, all recognised Eddie’s courage early and helped build confidence and momentum.
At about 12:30 we got our patch of grass back, mind you, we’d been sharing it from the very start with a large group of people wearing yellow and practicing Tai Chi. There must have been at least 50 of them highlighting the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China (note to self, find out more one day).
At 1:30 Ms Plibersek said she would take Eddie’s message to the floor of parliament in a session that runs before Question Time known as ‘Ninety Second Member Statements’.
Buggered and hungry for shade (we’d come prepared for Canberra cold not sunshine) we moved inside for coffee ready for 1:30.
Having half undressed to pass through security we took our green seats in the public gallery of the House of Representatives just as Ms Plibersek rose to her feet…
Earlier today, the Leader of the Opposition and I met with three very special people. Eddie Blewett, and his mums Claire and Neroli – from Tathra, NSW.
I had hoped that since they were last here, about a year ago now, that the Parliament would have done its job and legislated for marriage equality.
Sadly, the Prime Minister has delivered a ridiculous $122 million postal survey instead.
None of us wanted it, but we’re determined to win it.
We’ve already seen the vitriol that Malcolm Turnbull’s postal survey is inflicting on LGBTI Australians, their families, and friends.
I know that the next few weeks are going to be tough for young people like Eddie, and for his mums.
But today we say, we stand with you. We’ve got your back.
Ballot papers will be arriving in people’s letterboxes over the coming days.
I urge people to fill out their ballots, and post them back as soon as possible.
I urge people to vote yes.
I’m voting yes, for families like Eddie, Claire, Neroli’s.
I’m voting yes for the person I’ve never met – a young person in a country town who might be struggling with their sexuality.
I’m voting yes because I want to live in country that supports equal rights for all its citizens.
I asked Eddie this morning if he had anything he’d like me say for him in the Parliament.
“Voting ‘yes’ takes nothing away from anyone, but voting ‘no’ will take something away from me and my mums.”
On the way home, we heard about our day on ABC Radio’s PM program, and some of the group were home in time to flick between the various TV news bulletins between 6 and 7:30pm, most featuring Eddie.
A week on I am left appreciating the power people have when they speak up and share genuine experience. I think we all knew that to be the case as we travelled up the Brown that morning but it was terrific and reassuring to see it at work.
Eddie, Claire, and Neroli made this on going discussion real. Real for politicians who will ultimately decided the future of same-sex marriage, real for the media who are no doubt bored of covering this issue, and real for the 16 million ordinary Australian’s who are casting judgement.
What I also love is that country voices carried weight in the city that day, and perhaps our ‘countryness’ was part of our appeal – we represented a group of people who hadn’t been heard.
Most of all I love that my kids stood shoulder to shoulder with their friend Eddie. They saw the power of thoughtful, respectful debate.
“Dad if people can just see Eddie’s face when they fill in their ballot paper, then it’s been a successful day,” one of my boys said.
As an aside, there has been no acknowledgment from the PM to date, Eddie’s invitation to meet with him stands, this isn’t political for Eddie and his family – this is life.
Thirty-two IT students from Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula were in the audience to hear Ms Carlson suggest that the technology behind Amazon Web Services allowed a regional community like the Bega Valley to develop a ‘Silicon Valley’ element to the local economy.
“They [students] are so important, they are the most important aspect of what we all do day to day,” Ms Carlson said.
“Which is creating an environment for job creation, which at the same time creates economic development opportunities for local communities.”
Speaking directly to the busload from Pambula, Ms Carlson said she wanted them to get the skills and opportunities they needed to come and work for Amazon.
“Amazon paid for the bus to get the kids to Canberra, it was so fantastic,’ Liam O’Duibhir from 2pi Software says.
Amazon is now the worlds largest provider of ‘cloud computing’.
Bega based Liam explains that Amazon AWS allows big companies and agencies to manager high volumes of online traffic.
“Amazon started out selling books, in setting up the systems for that they become very good at what are called ‘server farms’ or ‘virtual data centres’,” he says.
“So if you get a spike in traffic you can have a thousand new virtual servers created in a couple of seconds, its elastic, it just expands as opposed to building your own physical stand-by servers ready to meet increased demand,” Liam says.
At the extreme end, the crash that happened around the 2016 Australian Census is a good example of the problem this technology helps avoid and manage.
Google, IBM, and Microsoft also operate in this space using similar technologies.
Liam and 2pi Software were in Canberra to share in the love from Amazon as part of their work with students at Lumen Christi.
The recognition came after a visit to the Bega Valley by Amazon in August, meeting with businesses and organisations like Bega Cheese, the University of Wollongong, Bega Valley Shire Council, and Federal MP Mike Kelly, exploring ways regional enterprise can take advantage of cloud computing.
“They didn’t assume we were dumber because we live in the country, they even came to the Into IT Code Night and met the kids,” Liam smiles.
The lifestyle and environment of the region is a key driver in the budding relationship between Amazon and the Bega Valley.
“Canberra based Amazon staff are already coming here to go fishing, they get it,” Liam says.
“But this isn’t a token affair, they see the Bega Valley as a showcase for what this technology can do for regional areas.
“Brian Senior, from the AWS team in Canberra speaks strongly of their interest in exploring what can be done here, and if it is successful, replicating it in other parts of Australia, and potentially back in the US too.”
Time is now being invested working out how Amazon, 2pi, and local school students can build this Silicon Valley future in a landscape that has traditionally supported dairy and tourism.
One thousand local tech jobs in the Bega Valley by 2030 is the vision, which is supported by Into IT Sapphire Coast, a community based interest group supported by 2pi that holds weekly Coding Nights, Gamer Dev Jams, and Hackathons – as an outlet for local youth with a flair and passion for tech, computing and the creative arts.
“For the last seven years we’ve been building the skills and community needed to work in the Amazon AWS space locally,” Liam says.
Springing from the trip to Bega and conference in Canberra, more formal educational opportunities are now being investigated between TAFE, the University of Wollongong, and Amazon.
“These opportunities broaden the choices for our young people,” Liam says.
“This is not just about NAPLAN achieving students, in our industry its not always the person with first degree honours in computer science that drives it forward.
“It’s often the the guy or girl who failed their HSC who is so driven that nothing stops them,” Liam says.
Bega Valley based virtual server farms catering to global and local enterprises are the fruits of this growing relationship.
“We are looking to validate the rasion d’etre of Amazon, which is to free you from the tyranny of geography.”
“That’s a powerful message for regional Australia as a whole.”
Senior Amazon staff will visit the region again in October to take the discussion further.
“This a very good time in the Valley and we mustn’t let it stop,” Liam says