Tathra businesses “pop-up” after fire destroys livelihoods

Karen Levido in her pop-up salon in Cabin 88 at Tathra Beachside. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Karen Levido in her pop-up salon in Cabin 88 at Tathra Beachside. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Flames that destroyed three Tathra businesses in late January have generated a renewed sense of entrepreneurship and community spirit.

It took no time at all for the inferno to claim Bliss Hair Stylists, Tathra Laundromat, and the Tathra Cellars Little Bottlo on the evening of January 23.

Dramatic live footage of the flames was all over social media, a shock for locals and holidaymakers who turn at the busy intersection without a care, headed to the beach below.

The site is also home to the century-old Tathra harbour masters residence which wasn’t damaged in the blaze. The building that was destroyed, and now sits as blacked rubble, was designed in keeping with the look and architecture of the historic residence next door but only dates back to the early eighties.

That aside, the history the town has with the people who own the businesses inside is deep and on show now as the families involved look to restore their livelihoods.

Fire destroys Karen's hair salon Bliss at about 6 pm on January 23 2018. Photo: Supplied.
Fire destroys Karen’s hair salon Bliss at about 6 pm on January 23 2018. Photo: Supplied.

Karen Levido has been a hairdresser since she was 15. Her salon Bliss has been a fixture at the top of Beach Hill for 12 years.

“The place was looking spico, we did it up five years ago and it was looking just the way I always wanted – it was a mix of retro and modern,” Karen says.

“We had a great little vibe, people would pop in and get talking, it would turn into a party.”

Karen finished a bit early the day of the fire. A girlfriend called her just before 6 o’clock to alert her that something was happening.

“All we could do was stand there and watch it burn down,” Karen says.

Insurance will help Karen get going again in the long run but a community fundraising effort was launched a couple of days after the fire to help get Bliss back on its feet in the meantime.

So far $1,200 has been raised to help replace the equipment and supplies lost, while other local hairdressers have donated salon furniture and bits and pieces.

Karen and her apprentice Chant’e Connolly were also offered a “pop-up” salon in one of the caravans at Tathra Beachside and started cutting hair again ten days ago.

“Cabin 88 is perfect, there is more space then you think,” Karen laughs.

“I really needed to do something ‘now’ and Carmen at Tathra Beachside is so generous and thoughtful.”

In the last 24 hours, one of the other businesses lost to the blaze has also announced plans for a temporary pop-up shop.

“The place was looking spico, we did it up five years ago and it was looking just the way I always wanted," - Karen Levido. Photo: Supplied.
“The place was looking spico, we did it up five years ago and it was looking just the way I always wanted,” – Karen Levido. Photo: Supplied.

Writing on the Tathra Cellars Facebook page, David ‘Croc’ Little says, “It’s been a ‘little’ different to a normal February but things are progressing.

“We cannot thank the community enough for its support and the well wishes that are constantly flowing in. Really does make you love being part of such a wonderful place.

“We will be opening a Tathra Cellars ‘Pop Up Shop’ shortly,” he writes.

“As with all things in this day and age, there is a process to follow so we ask for your patience in the short term. We will keep you posted as to an opening date and location as things progress.

“Looking forward to catching up with you all soon!” Croc writes on Facebook.

Reflecting on her experience, Karen gets emotional talking about the community support that has helped get her going again so quickly.

“I really have been blown away,” Karen says.

Three business were lost in the fire of January 23, two are getting back on their feet again. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Three business were lost in the fire of January 23, two are getting back on their feet again. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“I am so appreciative of my clients who have followed me here [Cabin 88] and everyone who has given – in all sorts of ways, it’s really humbling.

“People are so kind, it’s nice to be reminded of that,” Karen says.

Appointments at the pop-up Bliss can be made via Karen’s mobile number (the number is available from the post office and newsagency) or the Bliss Facebook page.

“I have a strong sense that when things like this happen, there is opportunity in it,” Karen smiles.

“Things happen all the time to people and you’ve got two choices, lie down and give up or move on and try and figure out the next step.”

The investigation into the fire continues. While it started in the laundromat, its cause is not yet known.

*About Regional content is supported by, Tathra Beach House Appartments, Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Kiah Wilderness Toursand Four Winds at Bermagui.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Unique Jindabyne love story inspires wedding venue

Lake Jindabyne. Photo: Tourism Snowy Mountains.
Lake Jindabyne. Photo: Tourism Snowy Mountains.

A Snowy Mountains couple brought together by a sense of respect and fairness has been in Canberra pitching their property overlooking Lake Jindabyne to same-sex couples looking to tie the knot in 2018.

Every love story is unique and Anton and Bibi Wiesmann, owners of the Panorama have their own tale to tell, one they shared at the Canberra Wedding Expo over the weekend.

“There is much to celebrate in 2018, with many same-sex couples planning to mark their love and relationship with marriage,” Anton says.

“There is some magic about the Panorama that allows people to be themselves, it’s a space that brings people together, but also allows for people to retreat for some time out.”

Bibi and Anton’s own relationship was built around social activism, equality, and fairness – the very themes that won out in the discussion around same-sex marriage during 2017.

Exposing slavery in the shrimp trade in Thailand was the mission that sparked their love.

Anton, born and bred in Austria, was working for the United Nations out of Bangkok.

“But nobody would talk to me, I am a white looking researcher, the cultural barriers were hard to break down,” Anton says.

“Until I started working with Bibi. She was recommended to me and started opening doors, building trust, and translating for me, she helped make it very successful work.”

Their final report was presented to the U.S Congress, where American retailers were put under pressure to support a more ethical shrimp supply chain.

“Thai shrimp farms were going to lose business unless they cleaned up their act,” Anton says.

“People were being trafficked from Myanmar and Cambodia and totally exploited, I believe that is starting to change.”

With Thai-born Bibi completing a Masters in Business Admin, and Anton keen to travel less, the pair spent six months in 2014 looking for an accommodation business to take on.

“We travelled Australia and did over 15,000 kilometres looking at hotel after hotel and then we came to this place – absolutely magic,” Bibi says.

“People come, share a meal, have a party, enjoy the big view from the balcony, ride a bike, go kayaking – it makes me happy to see that.”

Owners of the Panorama at Jindabyne, Anton and Bibi Wiesmann. Photo: Supplied.
Owners of the Panorama at Jindabyne, Anton and Bibi Wiesmann. Photo: Supplied.

Bibi and Anton’s own love story drives their vision for the Panorama – a place where people of all backgrounds are welcomed and invited to come together and celebrate love and friendship.

“Marriage is a fusing of two families and I just love seeing it all come together,” Bibi says.

*This article was first published on RiotACT

New stable complex at Sapphire Coast Turf Club builds racing industry

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.
Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.

A new horse stable complex has opened at Sapphire Coast Turf Club, north of Merimbula, a move that is seen as being key to growing the racing industry on the Far South Coast.

Turf Club President, Robyn Bain believes the $270,000 development allows local trainers to kick-start their business and offers travelling trainers somewhere to safely and securely house their horses.

“One of our difficulties is the tyranny of distance, trainers from the north, south, and west need somewhere to put their prized possessions,” Robyn says.

The new stables opened in time for the $430,000 Bega Cup weekend and were full on the first night, with 14 horses bunking down in the purpose-built bays.

The Turf Club is aiming to have them full at every race meeting.

The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Horses from Moe trainer Russell Cluning were the first to roll in the sawdust of the new facility. “I’ve sent photos to everyone in my network letting them know how good this is,” Russell says.

“We are on the road for 6 hours and you need to know you have a comfortable place for your horses when you arrive.

“And we’ll make a bit of a holiday of it, knowing the horses are safe we’ll go and stay at Tathra or visit Merimbula,” Russell says.

The new stables are the latest action to come from the Club’s strategic plan which has been rolled out over the last 5 years.

Completed project include new female jockey change rooms, a kangaroo proof fence around the track, shade sails for spectators, new fridges and solar panels, and track improvements.

“The thing that has triggered all this growth is that we have more race meetings from Racing NSW, we now have ten TAB meetings a year and one non-TAB meeting a year,” Robyn says.

“A TAB meeting means that whenever someone in Australian or South East Asia places a bet on a horse that races on our track, we get a percentage of that.”

An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.
An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is working in conjunction with Moruya Jockey Club, and Shoalhaven City Turf Club at Nowra to secure 44 meetings a year between the three clubs.

“That will mean we are racing every two to three weeks and will provide opportunities closer to home for the local industry,” Robyn says.

Rewards from the work already done are flowing through – prize money for a race is now locked in at $20,000 minimum, which is attracting a higher class of horses.

“Five years ago our turn over was $1 million, today it’s $2 million and the majority of that money goes back into the local area,” Robyn says.

“The track costs about $300,000 a year to maintain, that’s a lot of agricultural products we buy, and we are now employing ten people.”

Money aside, there are good times in local racing that Robyn Bain is also keen to acknowledge.

“People have fun out here, it’s relaxed, the kids have got a jumping castle, mum and dad can sit down on the grass, chill out and talk to their friends – four hours of bliss,” Robyn says.

“People are happy!”

Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the continued support of Racing NSW, there is one more big-ticket item on the to-do list, six to seven hundred thousand dollars worth of track lighting.

“Before and after daylight savings, if you are coming out here to train your horse it is pitch black dark at five o’clock,” Robyn says.

“We can’t allow horses and people on our track without at least 200 metres of ambient light.

“And in this part of the world a lot of our trainers are part-time trainers, so they’ve got full-time jobs. Not having lights here to train at night is a real handbrake,” Robyn says.

The next race day at Sapphire Coast is the Merimbula Cup Tradies Race Day on March 9.

Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.
Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.

*About Regional content is supported by, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, 2pi Software, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, and Bronnie Taylor.

*The story was first published to RiotACT

Tathra’s Hobbs Corner empties out signalling a back to work

Canberra's Stuart Howard, the last to leave Hobbs Corner at Tathra this summer. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Canberra’s Stuart Howard, the last to leave Hobbs Corner at Tathra this summer. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The last camper in Hobbs Corner for the summer of 2017/18 has pleaded for Tathra’s ‘unspoilt’ character and environment to be protected as he adds his own chapter to Tathra’s history.

This has been Stuart Howard’s eighteenth summer camping just across the road from Tathra Beach.

“I just love the place, it’s a bit more laid back than Merimbula,” Stuart laughs.

Campers start to arrive at Hobbs Corner in the week leading up to Christmas. By Boxing Day its 32 grassy sites are usually full.

Having campers in Hobbs Corner says summer holidays are here, in the same way that cricket on the radio does or cicadas calling at dusk.

Tathra’s more formal campgrounds are usually enough to cope with the town’s flow of visitors, but during the summer school holidays, the extra spaces at Hobbs Corner are called in to play.

Stuart was determined to be the last to leave this year, that happened last week. In the same way that campers arriving at Hobbs Corner says “holidays”, campers packing up says “back to work”.

Slowly folding away his tarps, tents, and camp kitchen, Stuart speaks of the friendships renewed and extended over the previous three weeks.

“Three other families come up from Victoria and we camp together, this is where I met them,” Stuart says.

“You end up knowing everyone, and you watch everyone’s kids grow-up, mine included. My bloke is 16 now, he first came here when he was three months old.”

It's a slow pack up for Stuart, who is a plumbing and gas inspector for the ACT Government. Photo: Ian Campbell.
It’s a slow pack up for Stuart, who is a plumbing and gas inspector for the ACT Government. Photo: Ian Campbell.

People have been coming to Hobbs Corner to holiday since the early 1900’s. A “good road” constructed to access the steamers at Tathra Wharf meant that getting to Tathra Beach was easier than most.

According to long-term locals Ron and Doreen Stafford, Hobbs Corner was named after Bemboka shopkeeper Nick Hobbs.

“He used to set up there [Tathra] each Christmas, just on the left at the bottom of Beach Hill,” Ron remembers.

“And he built a wood-fired oven at his campsite, probably illegal but he got away with it.”

Ron and Doreen remember Nick Hobbs as a “likeable character”.

“He would have been the mayor of Bemboka if Bemboka had a Mayor,” Ron chuckles.

When his son Jack took over the business, Nick bought a house in Tathra, “He never had to camp again,” Ron says.

Local historian Jim Kelly adds to the story.

“The little house on the beach, just south of the surf club, used to be a little grocery store in summer for campers,” Jim says.

“And Mrs Caddy would set up a small hut and sell billy cans of hot water for threepence. She also sold ice creams from a canvas ice bag for as long as the ice lasted.”

Big grassy campsites at Hobbs Corner. Photo: Tathra Beachside.
Big grassy campsites at Hobbs Corner. Photo: Tathra Beachside.

Stuart is back at work this week as a plumbing and gas inspector with the ACT Department of Environment and Sustainability, but his history with Hobbs Corner looks set to continue next summer.

“We’ll bring the boat next year,” he says.

“But please, don’t wreck this place, just leave it the way it is.

“Sensible development please, it’s such a great place, it would be a shame to see it wrecked and over commercialised,” Stuart pleads.

Hobbs Corner will fill up again at Easter. In the meantime, Tathra’s population of kangaroos will have control, part of the unspoilt charm Stuart points to.

*About Regional content is supported by Tathra Beach House Appartments, Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Kiah Wilderness Tours, Phil Martin, Amanda Dalziel, Debra Cushion, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Tim Holt, Robyn Amair, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Shan Watts, and Doug Reckord.

*This story was first published on RiotACT

“Keep going and see what comes” – Bombala’s Sandy Lewis

Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell

Sandy Lewis is putting down roots again. After a life living in all parts of Australia, this Army brat from Western Australia has settled in Bombala, with a sense of fate guiding her hand.

Mind you Sandy says she is still West Australian to her core.

“Dad was SAS (Special Air Services), so it was an interesting childhood – 16 schools,” Sandy remembers.

“When dad left the Army after Vietnam we moved up to Karratha, that was heaven on earth, that was it for me, I was never a city kid again.”

Sandy’s life is a jigsaw of experiences that all combine to shape the life she is now building in southern New South Wales.

Overseas travel to places like Iceland and Mexico are part of her story, “I like to go to places that are a little bit different,” Sandy says.

This short biography of Sandy’s life starts forty plus years ago. After abandoning study and a career in art and graphic design, Sandy’s aunt bought her a ticket to Melbourne on the Indian Pacific.

“You can’t be taught to be an artist and I just knew I didn’t have it,” Sandy says.

“Melbourne was the big smoke and I wanted to learn the hospitality trade so that I could travel.”

And so began a life that has followed opportunity, adventure, and a spirit of community.

Twelve years of family life in Canberra are at the core; two children with her first husband  – a boy and a girl, now in their mid to late thirties.

“When that marriage broke up I went back to the Pilbara licking my wounds,” Sandy says.

Time as housekeeper and cook at the Forrest families historic Minderoo Station was next.

“Yeah, I saw Twiggy a few times, not fond of the lad, bit of a spoilt boarding school brat,” Sandy laughs.

Fencing, roo shooting, and work on a fruit plantation all in North West WA followed before time on the iconic Hamersley Station.

“But that was after Lang Hancock, it was fantastic, Hamersley Gorge was our swimming hole,” Sandy says.

The Australian Army Reserve is mixed through these years, with Sandy taking up a position with the Pilbara Regiment.

“The motto of the Pilbara Regiment is ‘Mintu wanta’, which is a Western Desert Aboriginal dialect for ‘always alert’,” the Army website says.

Its work involves surveillance operations throughout the North West of Australia.

“It was a pretty incredible experience, sometimes we got to try stuff out even before the SAS or Commandoes did,” Sandy says.

And then there’s a car accident 10 years ago, Sandy is shy about having her photo taken, self-conscience of facial reconstruction surgery only she can see.

“I failed to negotiate a corner and sadly I totalled my 1952 Plymouth,” she says.

“No seat belts so when I saw that there was no way out, I ducked, straight into the glove box.

“I spent 10 days in an induced coma, two and a half weeks in ICU, a trachy in my throat all that time.

“Then a further 2 weeks in a general ward. There were a further 5 or 6 operations and much dental work. I am one lucky lady,” Sandy says.

It was love and husband number two that got Sandy back on the East Coast, the pair spending 12 months travelling in a 10 tonne D Series Ford truck across the top to Queensland.

Learning the Bombala region's history is part of Sandy's new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Learning the Bombala region’s history is part of Sandy’s new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“There was a bedroom in the back and two Harleys and off we went,” Sandy laughs.

A magnificent house and tropical garden on the Atherton Tablelands was the next focus.

“We had in the meantime bought a bush house in Gulf Country, 600k’s up and inland from Cairns, old gold country.”

The bush home served as Sandy’s retreat when her second marriage broke down, but the heat and humidity become too much.

“I was basically living in an air-conditioned room during summer with my dogs and a TV – that’s not a life,” Sandy says.

“I was walking the dogs at 9 o’clock at night so I could breath and their feet didn’t melt.”

Having an eye for vintage design, Sandy bought an old caravan, packed up the dogs and headed south, with no real plan or intention.

“I had a wonderful time just cruising down and ended up in Queanbeyan so I could spend Christmas [2015] with my son and granddaughter – light of my life.”

“Ten days in Queanbeyan in a sardine can had me heading to the coast through Bombala,” Sandy chuckles.

“It was January the third when I arrived [in Bombala] it was raining and I was so tired, I pulled into the caravan park, and then woke up to the most glorious day.

“I walked the dogs around the river walk and I was just hooked,” Sandy beams.

Chatting with others in the caravan park inspired Sandy to investigate Bombala a bit deeper and longer than her usual three-day stay.

“I came over to the information centre and there was a guy working here named Peter Mitchell,” Sandy says.

“I said to Peter- I’ve heard that it is pretty affordable here, could you tell me some more?

“And he said – I am actually thinking of selling my cottage, come with me.”

Sandy fell in love with the place and a cuppa at closing time sealed the deal, by April Sandy and her five motorbikes and two dogs were moving in.

Having sold his house, Peter’s job at the Bombala Information Centre came up and before too long Sandy had picked up where Peter had left off.

“When I found out I’d got the job I cried,” Sandy says.

“I was a blow in, I thought a local would get the job.”

A sense of pride and purpose had been restored for Sandy after a difficult break-up.

“My son knew Bombala a bit because he’s a mad keen fisherman, but I didn’t really know Bombala at all,” Sandy says.

Two years on and just about to turn 61, Sandy is enjoying being close to her granddaughter in Canberra, as well as the coast and the snow.

“Skiing is not like riding a bike,” Sandy chuckles.

Sandy says a stubbornness and a determination to “make it work” has guided her life and it’s twists and turns, a sense of “keep going and see what comes.”

Her travels and agility are now being used to guide, inspire, and welcome fellow travellers, a role Sandy seems to revel in.

“And I’ve needed to immerse myself in the region and get to know it – I love that,” Sandy says.

Researching the skeletons in Cathcart’s history has been a highlight

“And my own house, it was a grocers store, built in 1865,” she says.

“I like being kept fascinated, I am like a dog with a bone, learning more and more about this area.”

Locals and visitors can see that and have started throwing Sandy questions to research and explore.

Part of her mission is to also remind locals of the riches around them.

“When I was living in the Pilbara, I backed on to Ningaloo Reef – I never went to Ningaloo Reef, that’s nuts, I was on its doorstep for years,” Sandy laughs.

“But the thing is, there are fifteen hundred people in this town that don’t need me, but I need them.

“I am too old to be a local now, but there is such a great sense of community here, you’ve gotta get involved and try and give back and meet like-minded people,” Sandy says.

Sandy works most Mondays and Saturdays at the Bombala Information Centre, the museum next door is part of her work and passion, drop by and see where a conversation will take you.

Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps
Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps

*About Regional content is supported by Julie Rutherford Real Estate at Bermagui, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Sprout Cafe and Local Produce Store in Eden, Jeanette Westmore, Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran AKA Oh’Allmhurain Films, Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson, Kate Liston-Mills, Fay Deveril, Shane O’Leary, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, and Jenny Anderson. Thank you.

About Regional sold to Canberra based media company

I’ve got some news about the future of About Regional that I want to share with you if you are reading this then you have been part of this journey with me and supported the growth and development of this new platform for the stories of South East NSW.

This week Canberra digital news and opinion platform RiotACT finalised the acquisition of About Regional which includes my ongoing full-time employment. About Regional is now part of a growing umbrella of news and storytelling platforms owned by Michael McGoogan and Tim White.

The move is another solid step in RiotACT’s ambition to become the primary source of digital regional news for people in Canberra and its surrounds.

RiotACT co-owner Tim White says About Regional fits perfectly with the company’s vision.

“RiotACT is on a mission to cover the local issues that matter, and Ian’s values and track record fit nicely. We look forward to empowering the communities he knows so well,” Tim says.

The last two years of About Regional have been a terrific rollercoaster, your support and encouragement as a member has been key and I will be forever grateful.

I started this knowing the power and importance of local stories, being able to take that further with the business know-how and ambitions of Tim and Michael is great for my family and great for the region.

“Those connections between Canberra, the coast, and the Snowies are well known, having Ian come on board adds new energy and adds to the growing formal networks being laid down through local and state government, tourism, business, and education,” Tim says.

About Regional will continue to evolve and build its own online presence under the RiotACT umbrella, with relevant stories from Batemans Bay, Bega, Merimbula, Cooma, Jindabyne, and surrounds also finding a home on other RiotACT platforms.

I am excited by the potential this partnership represents to the communities of South East NSW.

Michael and Tim are well-known to the Canberra business community. Their reputation and success with companies such as Allhomes and Uber Global speaks for itself.

I am hooked on their vision to revolutionise digital regional news, we have a shared passion to see local news succeed and prosper.

Since taking over RiotACT in August 2016, Tim White and Michael McGoogan have built the site into one of Canberra’s leading digital news and opinion outlets, with more than 150,000 unique website visitors each month.

Tim White is the former CEO of Allhomes and the driving force behind its $50 million acquisition by Fairfax in 2014. Michael McGoogan is a serial tech entrepreneur and the founder of UberGlobal, one of Australia’s largest cloud service providers which was acquired by MelbourneIT for $15.5 million in 2015.

Michael says,“I am looking forward to working with the people, businesses, and industries of South East NSW to secure a prosperous and colourful future for all involved.”

It’s onwards and upwards for About Regional, the stories of this region are about to be taken to a bigger audience and I look forward to sharing the next step with you.

Thank you, your support has created this opportunity for my family and this region.

Cheers
Ian

New citizens formalise their place in Bega Valley community.

Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell

Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.

Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.

I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.

Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.

Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.

Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.

Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.

Cobargo's Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell
Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell

“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.

With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.

“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.

Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.

“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”

India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.

Bermagui's Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Bermagui’s Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.

“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.

“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.

Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.

“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.

While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.

“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.

“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Merimbula's Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell

Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.

“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.

Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.

“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.

As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.

Wolumla's Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Wolumla’s Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.

“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.

The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.

“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.

“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”

Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.

*About Regional content happens through the support of members – thank you to The Crossing Land Education Trust at Bermagui, 2pi Software, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Fiona Firth, Scott Halfpenny, Bruce and Julie Williamson, Sue Hill, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison, and Kerry Newlin. Thank you!

Paul, forced to walk home from hospital at 2am, told it won’t happen again

Step 4 - chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Paul had to stop after chest pains returned near Glebe Lagoon in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A Bega man who was told to walk home from South East Regional Hospital (SERH) at 2am says his confidence in the local health service has improved.

Paul’s outrageous story drew a strong response from the About Regional community when it was first published in late November.

He had already made an official complaint about his shoddy treatment but was yet to receive an explanation or apology. In the days that followed the publication of Paul’s story, he was invited to a meeting with new hospital chief, Wendy Hubbard.

“She apologised for what had happened and told me new systems were in place to stop it happening again,” Paul says.

Paul is not his real name. In sharing his story Paul didn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and asked to remain anonymous. He did however want to see change and a better standard of care for the community that has been his home for 20 years.

It seems he has achieved that.

It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell
It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul’s story starts with chest pains after dinner one Sunday evening in early September, after a day of feeling funny he and his partner called for an ambulance.

After five hours in care, Paul was told he hadn’t had a heart attack but was suffering from angina. By that stage, the hospital clock was saying 1:30 am and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP as soon as possible.

“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.

Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.

“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.

No other option was offered – no bed, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.

“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.

During the four-kilometre walk home, Paul had to stop on the path at Glebe Lagoon when the chest pains returned.

Thankfully he made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.

South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital. Photo: SNSWLHD

When I initially published Paul’s story the Health Service pointed to the lack of a taxi service in Bega as being the issue.

“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours,” the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group said.

While accepting that transport is an issue across South East NSW, the community reaction to Paul’s story and the heartless government response has prompted a rethink from the Health Service, with many people reporting similar tales of being stranded by a system that seemed to not care or understand life in a country setting.

In a subsequent statement to About Regional, a spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed that in the future patients will be offered an overnight stay in the hospital to help manage transport issues.

“To avoid similar incidents arising in the future Emergency Department (ED) staff will be able to raise potential patient transport issues with the After Hours Nurse Manager,” a Health spokesperson said.

“[Staff] will talk to the patient and consider any options, including an offer to stay overnight.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson said, “On December 15 the SERH on-site Carers and Relatives Accommodation will be opened, which will provide a further option for people in a similar situation.”

Paul says he feels vindicated and trusts that this won’t happen again.

“I appreciated the apology Wendy offered and I got a sense she is working to make things better,” Paul says.

“It seems there was a lack of understanding by agency and locum staff on duty the night I arrived.”

Under new District Cheif Executive, Andrew Newton further operational and cultural changes have been flagged inline with the review initiated by the NSW Health Minister.

Confidence in the sparkling new facility and some of its staff has been shattered on the back of a raft of issues since the hospitals opening in early 2016.

A few finishing touches before Friday's grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell
A few finishing touches before Friday’s grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell

The Carers Accommodation that opens on Friday is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate people’s trust.

Like so many things, the construction of this building has been driven by community fundraising coordinated by Bega Valley service clubs but embraced by people and organistaions around South East NSW, as well as State and Federal Governments and big business.

An 18-bed facility for carers is the full vision, six motel style rooms with their own ensuite will open on Friday representing stages one and two.

The community is invited to look through the new building between 2 and 5pm.

Paul is not surprised that the community has stepped up the way it has around his story or how it has rallied around the need to build carers and relative accommodation for a hospital that services communities from Batemans Bay to Jindabyne to Mallacoota.

He hangs on to the blanket he was given on that cold September night as a reminder that systems and bureaucracy are meant to serve people.

*About Regional content happens because of the financial contributions of members, thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Bronnie Taylor, Fiona Firth, and Scott Halfpenny.

Lifeguards on Tathra Beach this February need your financial support

Tony McCabe & Kiama Thatcher from the Australian Lifeguard Service patrolling Tathra Beach in 2016. Photo Sarah Chenhall, Sapphire Coast Tourism.
Tony McCabe & Kiama Thatcher from the Australian Lifeguard Service patrolling Tathra Beach in 2016. Photo Sarah Chenhall, Sapphire Coast Tourism.

For the last 3 summers, businesses in Tathra and Bega have worked together to fund a beach safety program that has kept the famous red and yellow flags flying on Tathra Beach during February.

Our golden strip of sand has been the only beach south of Ulladulla with a 7-day-a-week lifeguard service during the final month of summer.

To build on the reputation Tathra has with grey nomads and young families at this magic time of year, the Tathra and District Business Chamber is once again seeking financial support from local businesses and organisations to keep the flags flying in 2018.

“February is a big month in Tathra, many young families and retirees are attracted to our beautiful beach after the busy school holiday period,” Chamber Vice President, Rob White says.

“The feedback from holidaymakers is always terrific, it’s clear that people come to Tathra during February because they know our beach is patrolled, this extends our summer and gives Tathra a point of difference,” Rob says.

Locals know that February is the best time of year on our beaches, daily temperatures are similar to January, but the water is warmer and the winds lighter.

Lifeguards employed by Bega Valley Shire Council keep watch over beach goers Monday to Friday during the summer school holidays, complimenting the outstanding volunteer effort each weekend from Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.

“But once school goes back after Australia Day the Council service stops, leaving visitors to our town and members of our community at risk,” Rob says.

“Council considered working with us to extend their service into February to take the pressure off the community fundraising effort, but we have been told they don’t have the budget.”

The Chamber is now hoping to raise the $13,000 needed to keep professional life guards on Tathra Beach, Monday to Friday from January 29 until February 23.

Secretary of the Chamber, Carmen Risby says the results speak for themselves.

“The extended beach patrols on Tathra Beach during February last year meant that lifeguards were on hand to perform 14 rescues,” Carman says.

“Our stats show that lifeguards kept watch over approximately 6200 people on Tathra Beach during weekdays last February.”

Businesses who take part will receive significant media exposure, and generate tremendous goodwill within the local community.

Thank you to the businesses who have already made a commitment – Tathra Big4, Tathra Beachside, Tathra & District Business Chamber, Tathra Beach House, Tathra Beach Bowling Club, Bendigo Bank, and Tathra Hotel. More are needed to keep the flags flying.

Please contact Rob White at Tathra Beach House Apartments for further information on becoming a business or organisation sponsor – rob@tathrabeachhouse.com.au or phone 6499 9900.

 

#Sponsored content

About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom – what a great day in Bermagui!

The first About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom landed in Bermagui this week, based out of Julie Rutherford Real Estate we uncovered some of the untold stories of this town.

Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia dropped in to share her plans for a deli and cooking school…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is in #Bermagui upstairs at the harbour at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.This time chatting to Kelly Eastwood about her new deli and cooking school.Drop by with your story between now and 2pm.CheersIan

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

Longtime Bermagui fisherman Allan Broadhurst talked about his life on the ocean…

Can't come to #Bermagui and not talk to a real fisherman! Here's one – Allan Broadhurst.The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.Drop by with your story before 2pm.Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

The team at Marine Rescue Bermagui reinforced my longheld view that “the hills around here” hide some interesting people…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom moves to Marine Rescue Bermagui, chatting to Alec and Richard.What's your story? Drop by Julie Rutherford Real Estate before 2!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

And then there’s Bruce Frost, a life of volunteering, beekeeping and managing MS, one of the region’s great men…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is at Julie Rutherford Real Estate, upstairs at #Bermagui Harbour until 2ish. Drop by and share your story.Chatting to Bruce Frost right now talking volunteering, beekeeping, life with MS, and who knows!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

What a great day! The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom will happen again in 2018, somewhere in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian