Eurobodalla protesters move in on Member for Gilmore

The Eurobodalla wing of the Refugee Action Collective held a protest today at the office of local MP Ann Sudmalis.

The action was lead by Moruya’s Bernie Richards who has almost 20 years experience with the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration, including time as a Senior Investigator with the People Smuggling Strike Team.

“I used to go to Christmas Island, Broome, Port Hedland etc to do an initial analysis of people arriving by boat to see where they had originated from and whether they had any claims for protection,” Ms Richards says.

“I’ve interviewed hundreds of refugees who made it to Australia by boat when investigating people smuggling organisations.”

Posted by Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla on Tuesday, 22 August 2017

 

The death earlier this month of thirty-one year Hamed Shamshiripour near Lorengau on Manus Island prompted today’s protest action.

“This is the latest in a long line of tragedies in the offshore detention regime for which the Australian Government must be held responsible,” Ms Richards says.

“Many of Hamed’s friends on Manus and in Australia, including myself,  appealed to authorities for treatment for his serious mental health problems. That treatment was not provided.”

The Guardian Australia published a letter on August 9 from the chief medical officer of Australian Border Force,  Dr John Brayley, who twelve months earlier had indicated his awareness and interest in Mr Shamshiripour’s deteriorating mental health.

Questions remain around the Iranian refugee’s death, self-harm and foul play are both being suggested.

After four years in detention on Manus what doesn’t seem to be in dispute is Mr Shamshiripour’s mental state.

ABC journalist Eric Tlozek, who says he knew Mr Shamshiripour wrote, “He [Mr Shamshiripour] became increasingly isolated and desperate. I last glimpsed him alive when I drove through the centre of Lorengau town last month.”

“Then, last week I watched his body being loaded onto an aeroplane. He was leaving Manus Island, but not the way anyone wanted,” Mr Tlozek wrote.

The Guardian reports of, “Shamshiripour’s chaotic presentation, erratic and unpredictable behaviour, and unstable state…the subject of repeated entreaties from health professionals during his time on Manus.”

Ms Richards says even people within the local Manusian community knew that Mr Shamshiripour needed mental health attention and had also appealed to authorities.

“I was personally sent photos of his body. As an ex-police officer, there are indications that Hamed’s death may not have been suicide and this really needs to be investigated independently, Ms Richards says.

“I ‘spoke’ to Hamed quite a few times on Facebook Messenger when he was healthy and not suffering from mental health issues. Once his situation deteriorate and he became more unwell, it became more difficult to connect with him.”

Hamed Shamshiripour who was found dead on Manus Island earlier this month after four years in detention. Source: The Guardian Australia.
Hamed Shamshiripour who was found dead on Manus Island earlier this month after four years in detention. Source: The Guardian Australia.

Those gathered outside the Nowra office of the Liberal Member for Gilmore today feel Australia is responsible for Mr Shamshiripour’s death and argue that the Turnbull Government has a duty of care that is being ignored or forgotten.

Tension seems especially high on Manus at the moment as the Australian Government moves to close the detention centre by the end of October. It seems the future of many of the 803 refugees housed there remains unclear, a deal with the Trump administration to settle detainees in America still unresolved.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla believes the publication of the fruity Trump-Turnbull phone conversation suggests that safety and refuge for the 1,200 people on Manus Island and Nauru is false hope.

“Refugees are being placed in a more dangerous and untenable situation,” Ms Richards suggests.

“Further tragedy is inevitable unless the Australian government pursues a humanitarian policy and brings those on Manus and Nauru to Australia.”

Today’s group of 20 – 30 protesters tried to speak with Ms Sudmalis but were told she was out of the office on other business.

“Sadly we have found that our local member is just not listening or doing the work that she should, despite at least two years of trying to engage with her,” Ms Richards says.

“At her last village stop in Moruya,  Ms Sudmalis expressed shock that there were children still in detention, despite us repeatedly flagging this as an important issue.

“We have provided factual information to her on more than one occasion, but she ignores any approaches we make,” Ms Richrads says.

As at June 30, the Department of Immigration reported 42 children in the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla suggests close to 130 other kids are living in the community on Nauru.

“That’s lives left without proper health care, education, or safety, and Ann Sudmalis as our local member of parliament presides over that,” Ms Richards says.

About Regional spoke with and emailed the office of Ann Sudmalis for comment on Monday ahead of today’s protest, no response has been received.

The group says it will also be presenting its concerns to the Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, and Mike Kelly, the sitting Labor member for the neighbouring seat of Eden-Monaro.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla protesting today outside of the Member for Gilmore's office. Source: RAC Eurobodalla Facebook
Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla protesting today outside of the Member for Gilmore’s office. Source: RAC Eurobodalla Facebook

“Both the Liberal – National Government and the Labor Party continue to peddle the misconception that they have stopped the boats and that mandatory detention has resulted in deterring people and stopping people smugglers,” Ms Richards says.

“Those detained on Manus and Nauru are in effect the human hostages of this approach, losing their lives and their human rights as a result of such a deeply warped policy.

“Australia has had a successful past of settling refugees. We can seek to solve problems, draw on our past successes and just evacuate them before there are more deaths or injuries,” Ms Richards pleads.

The Refugee Action Collective has raised over $17,000 in the Eurobodalla to date for emergency legal and medical responses on Manus.

“Regional people have big hearts,” Ms Richards says.

“We see the value of mateship, of a fair go, and how we are actually connected, by virtue of our Government’s actions, and our tax payer money being spent on locking up people and breaking human rights.”

Thanks to About Regional members – Cathy Griff, Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran, Kym Mogridge, and Rosemary Lord for supporting local news and stories.

 

 

Podcast 17 – Gabrielle Powell and the People of the Sun

Gabrielle Powell is one of those familiar faces around Bega, but she has just had an experience that took her way beyond her Pedan Street base.

For almost 11 years Gabrielle has been the manager of the town’s Women’s Resource Centre.

With long service leave in her sails, Gabrielle took off for Malawi in South East Africa, a country of 18 million people bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

There are no banana lounges or pina coladas with this getaway, Gabrielle was there for two months as a mentor to an artist’s co-operative.

A basket maker herself, Gabrielle had to put her art on the back seat, it was her management, admin, and leadership skills that were put to work with ‘People of the Sun’.

I got talking to Gabrielle about this experience of a lifetime just a few days after she returned…

or listen and subscribe via Audioboom, bitesz.com, or Apple Podcasts/iTunes.

Thank you to the About Regional members that made this podcast possible – investing in local stories.

People like Julie Rutherford Real Estate at Bermagui, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre at Merimbula, Deborah Dixon, Robyn Amair, and Patrick Reubinson.

Photos used in the slideshow from Gabrielle Powell and People of the Sun.

Thanks for listening.
Ian

Tathra made taiko drums head west to the beat of Japanese tradition

Luke Hamilton and Chris Korvin - Taiko Drums Works. By Ian Campbell
Luke Hamilton and Chris Korvin – Taiko Drum Works. Photo: Ian Campbell

Twenty-four Japanese drums hand crafted in the salty air of Tathra are being delivered to Western New South Wales today.

“We often stop work to watch whales breach and blow their spray,” Luke Hamilton says.

Luke and Chris Korvin are both drummers with the Bega Valley based Stonewave Taiko but have branched out to create their own taiko making business.

Taiko Drum Works was born out of Stonewave’s need for more authentic instruments to practice and perform on.

“Stonewave started playing on tyres wrapped in duct tape because we didn’t have any drums to play on,” Luke says.

Vertical slats are cut to the right angle and glued, forming the body of the drum. By Ian Campbell
Vertical slats are cut to the correct angle and glued, forming the body of the drum. Photo: Ian Campbell

Taiko is Japanese for drum, performances date back to the sixth century, where they were used as part of Japanese festivals and rituals – which is still the case today.

“Every little town has a taiko group,” Chris explains.

The drums also have a history of being taken into war and used to communicate announcements and motivate soldiers.

“David Hewitt, the leader of Stonewave had one made by a master, and he said – you can take this drum a part and have a look at it. So we did,” Chris says.

“We copied one drum and David played it and gave us the thumbs up and said keep going.”

Tape holds the timber slats in place while the glue sets, sanding and shaping will follow. By Ian Campbell
Tape holds the timber slats in place while the glue sets, sanding, and shaping will follow. Photo: Ian Campbell

Chris and Luke have been getting together twice a week to make more drums, outside of that Chris is a dentist and Luke works in Waste Services at Bega Valley Shire Council.

“I’ve been a model builder since I was eight, so I have good fine motor skills,” Chris says.

Luke describes himself more as a tinkerer, which perhaps undersells his skills.

“My main interest has been in metal work and forging and making knives,” Luke says.

Taiko in the drying room after being oiled. By Ian Campbell
Taiko in the drying room after being oiled. Photo:Ian Campbell

In recent months the pair’s taiko making has become more than a hobby that simply supplies Stonewave.

“We’ve been working on an order for 24 drums for a community group called Moorambilla Voices in Western NSW, our drums are spreading across the country which is really exciting,” Luke says.

“They are being split up initially to go to three different schools as part of the MAXed OUT group.”

For 12 years Moorambilla has been building ‘musical and cultural excellence’ from their home base in Tamworth.

The group’s vision is a cracker:

Moorambilla Voices celebrates life’s incredible possibilities.

We empower children and youth to think big and dream wide as they participate in our exceptional yearly choral programs incorporating Taiko, Dance and visual art.

We offer children the rare and valuable opportunity to connect with artists of the highest calibre – composers, musicians, choreographers and visual artists to co-create outstanding works for performance that celebrate the rich culture of this region to standing ovations!

We provide a unique chance for young people in remote and regional communities to share their creative selves in an environment that celebrates capacity. Like our rivers in flood – our creative capacity is powerful, breathtaking and immense.

Participating children come from schools at Brewarrina, Bogan, Nyngan, Bourke, Cobar, Coonamble, Gulargambone, Dubbo, Gilgandra Narromine, Trangie, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Collarenabri, Warrumbungle, Coonabarabran, Dunedoo, Baradine, Warren, Wellington, Tamworth, Orange, and beyond!

The MAXed OUT Company is geared towards high schoolers with a focus on taiko.

This delivery of drums from the other side of the Great Dividing Range has been funded by a Government grant and will add to a small pool of instruments that are currently being shipped from school to school for rehearsals and performance.

Raw hides are used so that the markings on the animal shine through. By Ian Campbell
Raw hides are used so that the markings of the animal shine through. Photo: Ian Campbell

Luke and Chris beam as they detail the process they have gone through over the last eight months to fill the order.

Both explain that taiko making is a family business in Japan passed down through generations over hundreds of years.

Standing in their Tathra workshop, with the smell of eucalyptus turps and tongue oil thick in the air, I sense that both men have approached this traditional craft with the same respect and reverence as a young Japanese apprentice.

“These skills are kept closely within families,” Chris says.

“Finding out how to do this is not easy or straight forward.”

Both dream of being able to visit a taiko workshop in Japan one day.

Getting ready to lace up the taiko. By Ian Campbell
Getting ready to lace up the taiko. Photo: Ian Campbell

A range of materials have been used to fill the Moorambilla order, including red deer hides from Western Australia and cow hides from Tasmania.

Raw hides that are soaked in water overnight are the preference so that the unique markings and colouring of the animal are visible on the surface of each taiko.

“The drum is a hide stretched over a metal ring, ropes put tension on the hide, you can change the pitch with different tension on the rope,” Luke explains.

The timber used in the body of the drum adds its own characteristic.

“The thickness and the way the timber has been worked and shaped results in a different tone or pitch as well,” Luke says.

“And we have looked for Australian timber that is close in density and performance to traditional Japanese timbers,” he says.

Plantation Paulownia from Coffs Harbour and West Australian Jarrah have gone through the workshop and a rare sample of Red Cedar from Brogo.

“Brogo Woodworks at Tanja, a friend of ours, had a piece of cedar that was sitting in his workshop covered in dust and rat shit for twenty-five years, he generously sold it to us,” Luke smiles.

Stonewave Taiko by Ben Marden
Stonewave Taiko in action. Photo: Ben Marden from Stonewave.com

Outside of Japan is anyone else making taiko drums?

Chris believes other performance groups are making their own.

“But not on this scale or with this professional finish and quality,” he rightly boasts.

The craftsmanship and materials are reflected in the price, drums range between $1100 and $1800, plus up to $35 for a pair of Japanese drumsticks known as ‘bachi’.

Taiko Drum Works at Tathra is here to stay beyond Moorambilla, Luke and Chris have worked hard to understand this art form in every way and have developed their own systems and work flows – know how they keep close to their chest like an old Japanese master.

The finished product, ready for Moorambilla. By Ian Campbell
The finished product, ready for Moorambilla. Photo: Ian Campbell

 

This story was made with the support of About Regional members, Cathy Griff, Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, and Maria Linkenbagh. Thank you!

 

Colouring for change in Cooma, lead by local teens

Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell
Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell

High school students from Cooma have combined with a locally based, online fashion house in a colourful approach to tackling family violence.

The idea of a workplace ‘Colourathon’ is being trialed at Birdsnest in Cooma, with female students from Monaro High School preparing to launch the idea nationally in November.

New ‘Colourathon for Corporates’ kits come packed with everything a business will need to host their own event, broadening the community response to family violence.

Artistic change maker, Big hART is leading the collaboration under the banner of ‘Project O‘.

“Project O is a national program we run with young women aged 12 to 15, assisting them to build new skills and capacity and to learn how to be change makers,” says Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director.

Project O started in the ‘family violence hotspot’ of North West Tasmania and has since been rolled out to Cooma, Roebourne WA, and Canberra.

“A colourathon is a colouring-in arts marathon,” Genevieve explains.

“An arts endurance event, where every hour of colouring-in is sponsored and raises money for trauma therapy services for young children fleeing violence and needing crises care.”

Jane Cay, 'big bird' at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell
Jane Cay, ‘big bird’ at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell

A colourathon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on November 30 will help launch the corporates kits being developed at Birdsnest by the twenty young women from Monaro High School.

The Project O crew are hoping businesses will buy a kit as a team building or social responsibility exercise while raising money for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

“They roll out a play based therapy program in women’s shelters,” Genevieve says.

“The average age of a child fleeing violence is two and a half years old, through the fundraising we provide training in play based therapy which helps children who can’t talk or express their feelings like adults.”

The add on to Big hART’s Project O initiative for the Monaro girls is the opportunity to be mentored by the innovators and entrepreneurs that make up Birdsnest – winner of the ‘Best Online Customer Service Award’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards in 2015 and 2016 and BRW Australia’s 8th ‘Best Place to Work’ for companies with 100 employees or less in 2015.

Former IBM e-business consultant, Jane Cay is ‘head bird’.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to realise that they can create change even when they are young and at school,” Jane says.

Students have been embedded in Jane’s company for a ten week period, mentored by staff in event management, product development, publicity, design, logistics, and a range of other business skills.

“It’s a massive company and it’s amazing that we are able to have workshops here,” says Brooke, one of the Project O students.

‘We are so lucky that we have this experience, to meet all of the staff and learn new things from them,” Brooke’s friend Georgia adds.

Both students say they have also been surprised to learn about the issue of family violence.

“It does happen in Cooma, I didn’t think it would happen in Cooma, it’s been a shock to me,” Georgia says.

“I hope this [The Colourathon] will show people that it is happening and it needs to stop,” Brooke says.

“Hopefully we raise money to help them [children] get through it and find more support through play based therapy,” Georgia adds.

Aside from the benefit to the community through programs like Project O and the Colourathon, Jane Cay believes it makes good business sense for corporates to get involved.

“People need to come to work feeling nurtured, and they need to look after themselves in order to be of service to anyone – whether that’s in the workplace or to their families,” Jane says.

“If the family environment is not a safe and nurturing place it’s very difficult to then come into a work place without that very basic foundation that humans need to operate.”

 

Thanks to About Regional members, Jeanette Westmore, Claire Blewett, Fay Deveril, and Fiona Cullen for supporting local story telling.

 

 

Postcard 3 from Timor Leste – Balibo and Ego Lemos. By Tim Holt

I wake before 6am to the sounds of the Sisters and the congregation singing during early morning prayers. The beauty of their voices and harmonies is mesmerising, an absolute joy to experience…

 

The day dawns overcast, hot & sticky. The temperature hovers around 34 degrees during the day dipping to just 24 overnight. So I have no complaint about the cold shower on offer, it provides much-needed relief.

Breakfast is just after seven (corn flakes, egg, bread rolls, sliced cheese, jam and those delicious sweet little local bananas) and as we gather with the Sisters and the young acolytes something special is brewing.

Could be the Bega Valley, the hills of Timor Leste
Could be the Bega Valley, the hills of Timor Leste

One of the Sisters has a guitar and they launch into a joyful song. It is the birthday of one of the young trainees and she is moved to tears by the singing, a gift of flowers and a small present. The realisation that this young woman has grown up in poverty, that this little birthday celebration is one that she has probably never experienced before, is very moving. As she stands we all file by to greet and hug her, the tears are rolling down my cheeks.

Tonight Dave has arranged for us to meet up with Ego Lemos, permaculturist, singer, songwriter of renown in Timor Leste. If you’ve seen the 2009 film Balibo you’ve heard his haunting song of the same name, or perhaps you were in the audience in the Candelo Town Hall in 2012 when Ego performed there.

This morning though, Balibo itself beckons.

There are four of us in the Toyota for the journey – Jose, Dave, Augus, and me.

The 130 kilometres is about a four-hour drive from Dili mostly along the coast towards the border with Indonesian West Timor.

We take to the chaotic early morning Dili traffic fueling up at one of the local service stations. Diesel is around 79 cents a litre. That I think equates to about $1 Aus. There’s a steady stream of motor scooters lined up at the petrol bowsers, out on the roads it often seems there are more motor scooters than people in Dili.

Young people and scooters, a familiar site in Timor Leste
Young people and scooters, a familiar sight in Timor Leste

What is so striking here in Dili and across Timor is the youth. Everywhere you see the vibrancy of young people, children, young families. Imagine a country where 42% of the population is under 15 years, 62% under 25, more than 90% under 55! You ask, why so young? Where are the older people?

You ask, why so young? Where are the older people?

Well there’s the life expectancy of 65 years for men, 69 for women. Then there’s the Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999, during which time the lives of up to a quarter or more of the population were lost.

Timor Leste is one humongous lump of rock, and there is no shortage of the stuff. Rocks are used in just about every construction, for house footings, roadside drainage, and retaining walls, even the pots that Jose makes.

On this the northern coast of the island the steep hills rise rapidly to the mountainous interior. Those steep hillsides are much denuded and eroded, the soils seemingly very poor. No doubt firewood collection for cooking has decimated much of that vegetation. Along the roadsides are bundles of crisscrosses dried sticks of firewood waiting for collection and sale in Dili or other towns.

We pass several salt farms along the coast, small household farms that produce salt using traditional methods. A series of ponds allows the seawater to evaporate, the salt brine is collected and dried using firewood and boilers. The salt is then bagged and sold by the roadside.

We stop at a roadside stall at Tibar for water, then Loes for coffee. Rich black coffee from one of the roadside kiosks.

Next stop is Balibo.

Just out of Loes, Jose stops to pick up one of the students he has been encouraging, so now we are five.

It’s early afternoon when we arrive at Balibo, just ten kilometres from the border with Indonesian West Timor, we pull up on the road leading up to the Fort.

I have mixed emotions as we walk up the driveway towards the entrance. The Fort is some four hundred years old, and it is the site the Balibo Five were filming from when the Indonesian forces landed in Balibo.

The Fort and surrounds have been transformed into a restaurant and tourist destination with accommodation.

We order lunch – pumpkin soup at five dollars U.S a bowl for Dave and myself, Nasi Goreng for Jose, Augus and Nicolaij at ten U.S dollars per serve. Jose is not impressed. And with good reason. These are not prices the average Timorese can afford. Wages here typically three to five dollars a day. Certainly there are higher wages for government and corporate workers but that is not the norm.

Jose sees the Fort as part of Timor Leste’s history, a place for all Timorese and not a place exclusively for tourists and wealthy locals.

The 400 year old Fort, steeped in history but beware of the bill at lunch.
The 400-year-old Fort, steeped in history but beware of the bill at lunch.

From the Fort, we wander down the hill to Balibo House and Museum where we meet Michele Rankin.

I’m humbled by the commitment of people like Michele and those from the Balibo House Trust. They are truly inspiring people. Michele has her two daughters visiting from Brisbane during the school holidays.

Balibo House was the last refuge of the five Australian-based journalists, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters who were murdered by Indonesian troops in 1975. Fellow newsman Roger East was murdered seven weeks later as he investigated the deaths of his five colleagues.

Balibo House Trust was established by the Victorian Government in October 2002, it has since been handed back to to the people of the Balibo district for use as a community learning centre.

As we prepare to leave Balibo there is one site I don’t have the stomach to visit.

Amongst the Timorese it is known as the ‘Kissing House’.

Heather from the Balibo House Trust explains to us that it was the place where the bodies of the Balibo Five were dragged to and burnt after they were shot.

Heather says she has heard two explanations about the origins of the name ‘Kissing House’ – both equally brutal and point to the depraved actions of the Indonesian forces over many years.

The souls who have been murdered here still move in this space and perhaps guide the good work that now takes place in their memory.

The mission of the Balibo House Trust includes:

  • Promoting early childhood education through the Balibo Five Kindergarten.
  • Developing skills through the Balibo Community Learning Centre.
  • Creating employment and income through tourism at the historic Balibo Fort and Balibo Fort Hotel.
  • Fostering awareness of the relationships between Australia, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia.
  • Maintaining a permanent memorial to the five journalists murdered at Balibo in 1975 and to the Balibo people murdered during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste.

From Balibo back to the border town of Batugade is about a 40-minute drive and we decide to take a closer look at the border crossing into Indonesian controlled West Timor.

The border crossing at Batugade is busy with trucks, buses, SUV’s, motorbikes and even the TNI – Indonesian Special Forces, who are taking advantage of the shops selling drinks and food on the Timor side.

The Australian Embassy in Dili
The Australian Embassy in Dili

After a short break at the border, it’s time for the long drive back to Dili for our much-anticipated meeting with Ego Lemos.

Apart from a few sections, the roads back to Dili are pretty good.

The late afternoon is hot and despite this being the dry season, storm clouds have been building. As we near Liquica the storm breaks, a fierce torrential downpour makes the winding sections of road more treacherous.

Back in Dili, Dave and I have time for a quick change of clothes and another application of DEET. The Mosquitos here carry malaria and dengue fever, so the daily ritual of the DEET spray is an essential precaution.

For us, long shirts, pants, and footwear, particularly in the evening guarantees the nasties have little-exposed flesh to attack. But they’re sneaky little buggers. Back home in Bega, I’m used to a tiger moth buzzing sound as a warning, but not here, these critters attack in silence. Thankfully the spray seems to work.

It is now after 7.30pm but it’s a fairly short drive to Ego’s home in the Comoro district of Dili, where we have been invited to share a meal with his family.

What an evening it is – food, wine, conversation, and song. The evening meal of traditional dishes is delicious. A soup of local corn and meat, rice, steamed greens and spicy dried small fish as an entree. And don’t forget the chili!

The evening meal of traditional dishes is delicious. A soup of local corn and meat, rice, steamed greens and spicy dried small fish as an entree. And don’t forget the chili!

With food, wine, and song, the conversation turns to the possibility of pulling together a Timorese choir to come to the Bega Valley and beyond in 2020.

Bringing a choir from Timor Leste to Australia is not new for Ego Lemos.

2012 saw the debut of Koro Loriko, a Timor-Leste choir formed by Ego Lemos and Victorian based arts advocate group – The Boite.

Singers from all over Timor-Leste worked with the Melbourne Millennium Chorus, a ten week rehearsal period culminated with a grand performance, in the Melbourne Town Hall.

Ego also tells us about a school permaculture camp he’s leading in Maubisse towards the end of next year.

It is to be five days of workshops for around two thousand local students. The conversation suggests that perhaps there could be a choir workshop as well, with the choir that’s formed coming together with community singers from Melbourne and the Bega Valley for a tour of Australia. Perhaps in 2020!

Dave and Ego also get talking about Ego’s appearance at the Cobargo Folk Festival next year.

Ego Lemos is an inspirational singer, song writer, and performer, perhaps best described as the Paul Kelly of Timor Leste. He talks of plans to spend two months in Australia around the time of the 2018 Cobargo Folk Festival – exciting plans indeed.

It’s getting late, Jose takes a call from the Sisters at Fatuhada who are wondering when he will return us to the convent!

Time though for a few more songs with Egos’ 72-year-old mum on the harmonica, and some conversation about permaculture.

A dedicated permaculturist, Ego founded the country’s first permaculture centre, Permatil.

He also founded a highly successful sustainable agriculture network, HASATIL, both of which still flourish today.

At the beginning of this year, Permatil signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government to take over the schools garden program.

Inspired by Australian’s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, permaculture is now part of the school curriculum and a compulsory subject in all schools nationwide! A remarkable achievement and another bond to Australia.

With plans for next year and the formation of a choir still bubbling, it’s time to head for home.

For now, it’s back to Fatuhada, my head swimming with Timorese songs and the friendships formed with these wonderful people.

Words and photos by Tim Holt

Catch up on Postcard 1 and Postcard 2, thanks to About Regional Members – Kelly Murray, Shane O’Leary, Olwen Morris, and Oh’Allmhurain Films for supporting local story telling.

About Regional Memberships are open now to individuals and families, community groups, and businesses.

Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.

Tilba Milk takes the next step with Woolies at its side

Tilba Real Milk - 100% Jersey. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.
Tilba Real Milk – 100% Jersey. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.

Major investment at Tilba Milk is underway as the artisan dairy company steps up to meet demand for its products, including a new contract with Woolworths supermarkets.

Bottling and labeling machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars has just arrived from the United States and is waiting to be installed at the historic ABC Cheese Factory on Bate Street, Central Tilba.

The site has been a hub for the local dairy industry since 1891 but under the ownership of Nic and Erica Dibden new life and opportunity has been injected into the building, the industry, and the community.

Another chapter is unfolding.

Building on the success they’d had at a smaller site in Bodalla over the six years prior, in 2012 Nic and Erica set out to expand their mostly cheese and yogurt business on the Tilba site using milk from their Jersey herd down the road.

However the buzz around their fresh, unhomogenised, cream on the top, Jersey milk has flipped the equation, 80% of the business is now milk.

Nic Dibden, on the job milking in the dairy. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.
Nic Dibden, on the job milking in the dairy. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.

“When we first set up the Tilba factory we put in a very small, very labour intensive milk filling machine which requires five or six people to stand around filling, capping, and carting milk,” Nic explains.

“That has worked fine, but our sales have continued to grow, this new machine will fill, cap, and label one bottle each second, with two to three staff.”

Between the factory and their lush farm, 22 people are employed and Nic believes more jobs will be created.

The new bottling machine will activate a different part of the factory, freeing up space for increased cheese production.

“Staff that have been bottling milk will move across to cheese, in fact we might need more staff,” Nic says.

A relationship with Woolworths has also been building. The supermarket giant has stocked Tilba Milk at its Bermagui outlet for the last two years, but in recent weeks the Dibdens have started supplying the Narooma and Bega supermarkets as well.

New bottling and labeling machinery is ready to install. By Ian Campbell
New bottling and labeling machinery is ready to install. By Ian Campbell

Butcher shops, small independent supermarkets, cafes, fruit shops, and delis have been the only go to place for Tilba Milk customers up until now.

“We supply about 200 stores from Eden to Nowra, and then Bowral, Mittagong, and into Canberra,” Nic says.

“60% of our business is in Canberra.

“We’ve never really gone out chasing stores, it has been consumer driven, consumers go in and ask stores to stock our products,” he says.

The new deal with Woolies was a long time in the making and adds an extra 1000 litres of milk each week to the business.

Nic says Woolies approached them and have been great to deal with.

Woolworths like everybody else that sells food, wants safe food. So although we are audited by NSW Safe Foods, Woolies have their own independent auditing system which we had to pass, and that takes time,” he says.

The door is open for further growth with Woolworths but sustainable, manageable growth is important to the way the Dibdens approach their business.

Tilba Milk, now in Wollies at Narooma, Bega, and Bermagui. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.
Tilba Milk, now in Wollies at Narooma, Bega, and Bermagui. Source: Tilba Real Dairy.

“We have no intention of trying to conquer the world, we want to continue to produce a very good product and look after our staff and look after our community,” Nic says.

The financial security that comes with supplying a business like Woolworths is a key part of the Dibden’s drive but they are also mindful of the existing commercial arrangements that have been apart of their development.

“When we go into new stores we have tended to get new customers, it has made very little difference to existing suppliers in the same town, they have their loyal customers who support them,” Nic says.

“In any town that we go into we have a non-exclusive supply arrangement, for us to supply to one store in one town is uneconomic.”

In doing a deal with Woolworths, the Dibdens had to consider the controversy around $1 a litre supermarket milk.

“We have always gone into our stores at the price point that we are at, with no thought of competing against dollar milk,” Nic says.

“Dollar milk is a disaster for the dairy industry ultimately and you get what you pay for, dollar milk has been stripped, but I fully understand people buying dollar milk.

“But if you want to buy our milk it will be at the correct price point, that’s the way we operate,” he says.

The Tilba Real Diary farm, with Little Drom in the background. Source: Tilba Real Dairy
The Tilba Real Diary farm, with Little Drom in the background. Source: Tilba Real Dairy

Most of the core ingredient at the centre of the Tilba Real Dairy business comes from a Jersey herd approaching 300 at the Dibden’s farm, which sits in the shadow of Gulaga on the Princes Highway.

“We continuously grow our cow numbers to stay ahead of the production curve, but at some point we will have to take on more farms if we want to grow the business,” Nic explains.

“I am very much hoping we can find people who might start up a new operation, it has to be 100% Jersey milk of course, that is our brand.”

With spring creeping into the air and the busy tourist season approaching Nic is hoping specialist technicians from New Zealand will have the new bottling and labeling machines installed and working at the factory in the coming weeks.

“This has been a steep learning curve,” Nic says with a smile.

 

Thanks to About Regional members Kym Mogridge, Patrick Reubinson, Pam Murray and Julie Rutherford Real Estate for supporting local story telling.

Want to become an About Regional member? Click HERE to learn about the perks and benefits.

 

 

 

Head garbos point to new opportunities in the local ‘war on waste’

Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

‘Head garbos’ across the region have welcomed the supermarket ban on light weight plastic bags but are looking to new opportunities and challenges in their ever present ‘war on waste’.

Woolworths and Coles were tripping over themselves in announcing the news last week, both committing to a phase out of single use bags over the next 12 months.

Shoppers will be asked to bring their own bags or be charged 15 cents for a heavier weight, reusable plastic bag.

“This will significantly change the number of bags going to any landfill or transfer station,” says Mandy Thurling, Rescouse and Waste Manager for Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

In the Eurobodalla, Amanda Jones, Council’s Manager of Waste Services says, “This is great news, keeping problem waste from entering the environment.”

While also welcoming the action, Toby Browne, Waste Services Manager for Bega Valley Shire Council has signaled a need for further change, “It’s a move in the right direction but definitely more needs to be done to reduce packaging and other soft plastic waste.”

Environmental groups have been campaigning for a plastic bag ban for decades, and while some states and towns have imposed restrictions, the ABC TV series “War on Waste” seemed to inject new momentum into the national discussion.

Clean Up Australia estimates six billion plastic bags are handed out every year, with just 4% recycled.

Let loose in the environment they choke, smother, and tangle wildlife.

The supermarket ban doesn’t go far enough according to Clean Up Australia, who continue to lobby the Premiers of New South Walse, Victoria, and Western Australia for an out right ban.

“Hopefully more commercial premises will come on board and ban the bag,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

Given their ‘last for forever nature’ all three South East councils will have to continue to manage plastic bags and soft plastics into the future.

A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Apart from taking up tip space, the Eurobodalla’s Amanda Jones says, “Plastic bags at landfill sites get caught by the wind and need to be managed by catching them in litter fences and manual litter picking.”

Toby Brown is frustrated by plastic bag contamination of other waste streams at his Bega Valley facilities.

“When they contaminate recycling and organic waste streams, they must be manually removed,” he says.

With that Amanda Jones jumps in.

“Please don’t put your recycling in plastic bags!” she says.

“The bags don’t always fall open to allow recyclables to be sorted.”

The recent introduction of  REDcyle bins at Coles supermarkets in Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla, and Cooma is part of the equation Mandy Thurling is hoping locals might take up.

REDcycle bins not only take plastic bags but the soft plastic wrapping and packaging many products come smothered in.

REDcycle askes you to do the scrunch test, “If it’s soft plastic and can be crunched into a ball, it can be placed into a REDcycle drop off bin,” their website says.

The material collected is transformed into a range of products including street furniture, decking, and bollards by Replas.

“Council is always looking at the next step in reducing waste to landfill, this could be by reducing all soft plastics and finding alternate recycling avenues for this material,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

In the Eurobodalla, where Council runs their own recycling facility the ‘war on waste’ is reaching new heights.

Crushed waste glass is starting to be used instead of quarried sand in road construction projects.

The sand substitute has just been tested in Murray Street, Moruya where 63 tonnes of the local product was used to install new drainage culverts and reconstruct the road.

“The crushed glass has proven to be a viable product to replace sand in concrete mixes,” Council’s Works Manager, Tony Swallow says.

“It does need to be treated differently to bedding sand but our crews are happy with the performance,” he says.

Around 30 tonnes of sand like substance is produced each week at the Materials Recycling Facility in Moruya; glass represents 40% of the 5,200 tonnes of recyclables collected in the Eurobodalla each year.

“The savings to our environment and Council’s materials budget are significant,” Mr Swallow says.

Polystyrene is the other win in the Eurobodalla’s waste war.

Known for making a mighty mess, up until now polystyrene had taken up valuable landfill space at Surf Beach and Brou.

The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

With a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Authority, Council has installed a thermal compaction machine at its Surf Beach facility.

“The process reduces the volume and turns polystyrene into a hard white substance,” Mr Swallow explains.

“Our contractor is shipping it to China where the material is made into items like picture frames.

“What has made this such a success is that we have supplied local businesses that have a lot of polystyrene packaging with metal frames and wool bales to easily collect the material,” Mr Swallow says.

Council estimates the move will save them $100,000 worth of landfill space each year, with other savings spinning off to local electronic businesses and supermarkets in reduced waste disposal fees.

Bega Valley Shire is looking to do more with waste and is currently developing a waste strategy.

“Our key areas are likely to be addressing food waste recycling and improving local economic opportunity in recycling and resource recovery,” Mr Browne says.

“It’s great to see business making meaningful change in response to community concern. Change creates opportunities.”

At the start of July, Snowy Monaro Regional Council introduced a fully commingled recycling service for the Cooma kerbside collection area

“This allows locals to place recyclable items in the yellow lidded recycling bin,” Mandy Thurling says.

“There is no longer a need to separate paper and cardboard into the black crate.”

Council is now considering giving households a larger capacity recycling bin – more room to recycle.

The action, appetite, and ideas that swirl in this discussion points us in the right direction and into a better position to win the ‘war on waste’ locally.

*Thank you to About Regional member Tim Holt for his contribution to local story telling.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

 

 

Podcast 16 – Cooma’s Charly Thorn, the talk of the town.

Cooma's Charly Thorn (on the right) with one of her models and creations at Canberra FashFest 2016. Souce: Canberra Times, taken by Martin Ollman.
Cooma’s Charly Thorn (on the right) with one of her models and creations at Canberra FashFest 2016. Souce: Canberra Times, taken by Martin Ollman.

Welcome to About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

This podcast is brought to you by Julie Rutherford Real Estate at Bermagui, Doug Reckord, Wendy Gorton and Shan Watts – thanks for your support.

About Regional Memberships are now open and come packed with perks!

Charly Thorn is the talk of the town, not only in her home town of Cooma but also on the other side of the world in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Charly is a young fashion designer, not long out of high school, learning her trade and so much more at Birdsnest Cooma.

FashFest 2016 in Canberra was her big break and has led to a spot on the catwalk for Charly’s garments at Vancouver Fashion Week in less than 9 weeks.

Cooma has been helping Charly raise the money she needs to get there.

Since Charly and I spoke on a cold Cooma day, she has also been invited to show at LA Fashion Week in October.

As you are about to hear, Charly has all the ingredients for success…

Or listen and subscribe via AudioBoom, Apple Podcasts/iTunesor Bitesz.com

You can stay in touch with Charly via her Facebook page.

Your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are always welcome, just click on the contact tab.

Thanks for your interest, see you out and about in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

Feminism forum looks for local relevance and perspective

Join the forum on July 26, everyone is welcome
Join the forum on July 26, everyone is welcome

An open forum later this month is looking to find a local perspective and relevance around ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’.

It’s a topic that I instinctively pull away from but strangely am drawn to at the same time.

The women who lead these discussions continue to throw up modern experiences I struggle to identify with but none the less are experiences that I accept and am keen to understand.

This inaugural forum has been organised by the Bega Valley based ‘Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

“At Mnemosyne, we have had many discussions about the term – feminism,” organiser Jodie Stewart explains.

“We have all had difficulties defining who we are in relation to a movement that has produced so many definitions of womanhood. We continue to search, to probe and to speculate.”

Perhaps I am not alone in the push and pull of Feminism?

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, who were the goddesses of inspiration in literature, science and the arts. The story of Mnemosyne and her Muses centres on the skill and storytelling of oral cultures and the power of memory.

Locally a group of woman has taken inspiration from the Greek goddess and used her name to form a writing and discussion group, known as the ‘Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

Those behind Mnemosyne the group/journal describe themselves as, “A feminist collective made up of PhD candidates, undergraduate students, creative writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, historians, and librarians.”

Jodie Stewart. Source: Facebook
Jodie Stewart. Source: Facebook

“Our aim is to help raise the voices of women on the South Coast of New South Wales and to amplify them through the publication of the Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal,” the group’s website says.

To date, their writings have lived in the digital world, but the group is working towards a print edition of their ‘muses’.

Member, Noe Lumby says, “Our journal will reveal the stories, opinions, research and creative work of all south coast women.”

For any men still reading this, you are invited and welcome to Mnemosyne’s July 26 forum in Bega.

Mnemosyne hopes to foster a chorus of voices and men’s voices are an important part of this discussion,” Ms Stewart says.

“We have invited a young local man to be a part of our panel, Tas Fitzer, who stood as a candidate in last year’s local government elections.

“A range of experiences and insights are an important part of an open forum on contemporary feminism. All are welcome and we encourage everyone to come along,” Ms Stewart says.

Other panelists include Dr Annie Werner, Indigo Walker, and Lorna Findlay, with the discussion chaired by Ms Stewart, who is a PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Bega.

Dr Annie Werner is head tutor in the Faculty of Arts at the Bega campus of UOW. Her current research addresses the sexual and social challenges of living in a non-reconstructed post-breast-cancer body.

Indigo Walker is the founder of local business Topsy-turvy Intimates which makes underwear out of recycled materials. Indigo also represents the new generation of feminists and women’s social justice advocates.

Lorna Findlay is a feminist historian who studied law in Melbourne in the 1980s and then worked in the field of domestic violence.

Lorna’s research interest lies in the development of second and third wave feminism. She hopes to investigate the similarities and shared beliefs that remain and whether feminism has lost its political voice.

In speaking to About Regional, the forum’s chair is expecting some interesting discussion influenced by the forum’s rural setting.

“Like the rest of the country, there is still much work to be done here in South East NSW,” Ms Stewart says.

“At a practical level we need more women in leadership positions in our community and more women making decisions that affect other women.

“Only 7% of general managers and CEO’s in our area are women. According to the Bega Valley Shire’s ‘Social Issues Paper’.

“Women are also under-represented in higher paying jobs and over-represented in underpaying jobs,” she says.

“This has a significant impact on social justice outcomes for women in our community.”

The panel ready to talk feminism.
The panel ready to talk feminism on July 26 at UOW Bega.

While acknowledging the influence a female Mayor and a female General Manager of Council will have in the Bega Valley, Ms Stewart believes challenges still exist.

“It’s an important step forward and an important part of social and cultural change, but there remains a significant barrier in terms of social attitudes and pervasive gendered expectations,” Ms Stewart explains.

“Women are still funneled disproportionally into ‘caring roles’ both inside and outside of the workforce because these roles are still seen as inherently female,” she says.

Sexism and the equality issues that forged the feminist movement decades ago are still relevant now in the Bega Valley according to Ms Stewart.

“Sexism is the elephant in the room,” she believes.

“Sexism is institutionalised and is part of the everyday experience of being a woman, compounded when you are Indigenous, a woman of colour, if you are part of the LGBTQI community or a woman with a disability.

“In our community, it is still advantageous to be a white male,” Ms Stewart.

There is much of what Jodie Stewart talks about that I don’t understand or can relate to, I am one of those white males after all which no doubt blinds my judgment.

There is clear evidence though from those walking in different shoes that something needs to change, which gets my attention and opens my mind.

The ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’ Forum is on Wednesday, July 26 at the University of Wollongong, Bega from 5pm-7pm – a local opportunity to be part of a bigger discussion that is being led at a national and international level by writers and commentators like Clementine Ford and Jane Caro.

Mnemosyne: South Coast Women's Journal
Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

Light refreshments will be provided and entry is by gold coin donation, all funds raised will go towards the publication of Mnemosyne’s first hardcopy edition.

RSVP to southcoastwomen1@gmail.com by Monday 24 July or book your free tickets online at www.mnemosynejournal.org/events

Disclaimer: About Regional is Media Partner for the ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’ Forum.

About Regional will be recording the forum for later publication.