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.
Karen Levido has been a hairdresser since she was 15. Her salon Blisshas 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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
RiotACTco-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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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 – email@example.com or phone 6499 9900.
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
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
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