Buddy benches and reflection ponds are just a couple of the bright ideas Bombala students have come up with as part of their studies into playground design.
Students from St Joseph’s Primary School have just presented a range of thoughtful and captivating 3D playground models, paving the way for future playground construction in Bombala.
Following months of hard work, their final playground designs have been pitched to staff from Snowy Monaro Regional Council – Major Projects Manager Linda Nicholson, and Recreation and Property Technical Officer Jane Kanowski, as well as family and friends.
“All the students should be very proud of their efforts,” Linda says.
The students designed and built a playground space that incorporated elements of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all ages and abilities – community gardens, slides, handball courts, picnic areas, and bright, colourful equipment, were all part of their vision.
“The designs are very exciting, it was a pleasure working alongside the students – a great community partnership,” Linda says.
A number of valuable skills were picked up along the way, including team work, communication, public speaking, engineering, and building.
A terrific example of project-based learning.
Council staff presented students with a certificate of achievement for their outstanding efforts.
The students will continue their involvement throughout the design and construction of an all-abilities playground in Bombala during 2018.
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
European Carp have been using the warmer water temperatures of spring to move across the Snowy Monaro, bringing their destructive ways into new habitats.
Since the 1850’s, Carp have been spreading out into low land waterways like the Murray-Darling Basin, but in the last ten years, these ferals have been moving into higher elevations, places once thought too cold for them.
Carp were introduced to Australia in an attempt to imitate a European environment – some nice cheese and wine could have done the job!
Despite being a native of Central Asia, carp are extensively farmed in Europe and the Middle East and are a popular angling fish in Europe. Eating carp is also a Christmas tradition in some cultures.
Carp in North America and Canada are also considered a significant pest.
Cooma Region Waterwatch Coordinator, Antia Brademann has eaten carp but doesn’t recommend it. Her interest is working with the community to build knowledge and share information and use it as part of locally tailored control programs.
“Carp have a temperature trigger, so as water temperature gets to 20 degrees, that’s their spawning trigger, they need (and indeed love) that nice warm temperature,” Antia says.
Cooler water temperatures have perhaps slowed the pest’s progress across the Snowy Monaro, that is no longer the case with carp fanning out through the Upper Murrumbidgee River Catchment including the Bredbo and Numeralla Rivers, Cooma Creek, and into Canberra.
“They are moving, looking for suitable spawning habitat, “Antia says.
Locally that habitat looks different to what has been considered normal or ideal carp spawning areas – off stream wetlands, like those of the Lachlan River system, where large amounts of water gathers in shallow areas.
“In the Upper Murrumbidgee, we don’t have those big off stream wetlands, so we weren’t sure what the ideal spawning habitat looked like locally,” Antia says.
“Unfortunately from Carp Love 20 over the last three years, we are finding that carp spawning locally is opportunistic and variable.”
A 6kg female can lay up to 1.5 million sticky eggs, attaching them to submerged vegetation or rocks in shallow water where they wait for a male to fertilise.
“We think that carp in this part of the world might have a number of spawning runs outside the traditional October to December window, because of the variability of local temperatures during spring,” Antia explains.
“And in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, carp spawning is unlike the spawning of any other fish.
“You are listening for vigorous splashing, it will be very noticeable,” she says.
Fishing clubs at Numeralla and Bredbo have also been important players in the citizen science underway.
“We’ve found schools of carp that are less than 10cm long in Cooma Creek which tells us that’s a nursery habitat,” Antia says.
“By recording all these sightings and the anecdotal information, we are starting to build a picture of what’s happening in our catchment.”
Apart from scientific satisfaction, those taking part are also encouraged with free Carp Love 20 t-shirts!
Sadly, carp are now the most abundant large freshwater fish in some areas, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin. They have contributed to the degradation of large sections of natural aquatic ecosystems.
The NSW Department of Primary Industriespoints to the species destructive feeding practices leading to increased turbidity which in turn reduces light penetration, making it difficult for native fish that rely on sight to feed.
“Carp have this way of eating called, mumbling,” Anita says.
“They tear-out a bit of mud, and they suck out the macro-invertebrates and algae, and then they expel that mud out of their gills.”
Reduced light decreases plant growth, while suspended sediments smother plants and clog fishes’ gills.
Anita describes them as “ecosystem engineers” who undermine river banks to create the shallow sludgy environment they prefer.
But carp aren’t the only creatures responsible, poor catchment management practices by people have had a more substantial affect, carp have been clever and have been able to move into already degraded environments and build a lifestyle.
Many native species, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish were already in decline before the introduction of these ferals into Australian waterways.
The presence of carp in terms of competition for food and the damage they inflict on freshwater habitats makes it difficult for native fish to re-establish.
In the man-made world, carp are also famous for choking water pumps and swamping irrigation channels.
The mapping of carp hotspots across the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment is important for understanding behaviour and identifying opportunities for control.
The annual Mud Marlin (AKA carp) Fishing Competition run by the Numeralla Fishing Club is a great example of the control effort to date. Over the 13 years of the event, thousands of carp have been fished out of local waterways and disposed of humanely.
Similar events have also been held at Bredbo and Cooma.
Carp warriors across the Snowy Monaro are now gearing up for the next phase in their attack – the carp herpes virus, which will bring on a “carpageddon” according to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“Research from the CSIRO over the last eight years has looked at all sorts of different fish species, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans – the only thing that gets disease from this virus is the common carp.”
The $11 million program will culminate with the release of the virus towards the end of 2018, the aim is to reduce carp density below levels known to cause environmental harm.
The NCCP is about to undertake a community briefing session flagging a possible local release. South East Local Land Services is co-hosting a session at Goulburn Soldiers Club on Monday, December 18 from 6-8pm.
In the meantime, Antia Braddeman is calling on the community to continue making their contribution.
“Certainly if I am fishing I would not put a carp back, if people do catch carp we just ask that they humanely dispose of them,” Anita says.
“We are certainly finding out some interesting stuff about carp through community reports and observations, which helps with the control programs to come.”
Download the Feral Fish Scan App HERE to add your sightings to the database.
*About Regional stories happen because people become members – thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison and Kerry Newlin, Julie Klugman Jeanie and David Leser, Maria Linkenbagh, Jenny and Arthur Robb, Nigel Catchlove, and Cathy Griff.
The roadworks at Dignams Creek, south of Narooma are a real talking point for motorists negotiating the Princes Highway at the moment – the scale of the project is epic.
Twenty-five large pieces of machinery are currently onsite supporting the work of 80 people, who during August, September, October shifted 100,000 cubic meters of earth.
At one point in your journey north or south, you end up in the middle of the worksite under the control of high-viz lollypop people who are dwarfed by the massive wheels and earthmoving blades cutting a wider, safer, straighter roadway through what was once a lush floodplain and a forest of eucalypt and tree ferns.
“This section of road was identified by the State Coronial Inquest 10 years ago as having a very real need to be upgraded,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says.
“In that 10 years there have been 26 accidents on this section of highway and unfortunately one life has been lost.”
The end result of this $45 million upgrade will be a widening of the current highway for about 800 metres leading into two-kilometres of new roadway built to current highway standards. There will also be new bridges erected over Dignams Creek and Dignams Creek Road.
“The narrow approach to the bridge and the twists and turns of the road where built to standards that are 70 years old,” Mr Constnace says.
“Modern-day traffic travels quicker and there are more heavy vehicles on the road – it’s important we get on and fix roads like this.
“To see the project progressing now is very pleasing,” he says.
The signs you whizz past on either side of the road point to competition in mid-2019.
In the run-up to Christmas 2017, extra hours have been added to the work schedule, a move welcomed by residents keen to see the finish flag fall.
Crews are now working 6 days a week including Saturdays from 8am till 6pm.
John Cursley and his partner Maggie live 200 metres from the new section of highway, “It’s dusty and the noise at times is quite disrupting, but in defense of them [York Civil Road Engineers] they have tried to address the problem,” Mr Cursley says.
“They changed the beeper on the reversing trucks to a squawker.
“These trucks don’t seem to ever go forward,” Mr Cursley laughs.
Paul Munro and his partner Sally are 100 meters away and pump drinking water from the creek, “Our pipes and basins have been turning blue,” Mr Munro says.
“I think it points to a change in the pH and acidity of our water.
“We’ve been here over 30 years and its the first time we’ve seen these signs,” Mr Munro says.
Rising water levels downstream in the salty Wallaga Lake might also be influencing the water table and makeup of the Munro’s creek water.
Mr Munro doesn’t believe the water is toxic or harmful and has consulted the project’s environmental officer.
“Somethings changed, but there is a lot happening in the catchment – dust, earthworks, new drainage, so its hard to know where the change has come from, we’ll be keeping an eye on water quality,” Mr Munro says.
Both men also have concerns about flooding while works take place, worried what will happen if an East Coast Low forms and drops a lot of rain while the ground is open and exposed.
“The quicker they get the job done the better,” Mr Cursley says.
“It is what it is, we just have to see it out,” Mr Munro says.
Andrew Constance says he is particularly grateful for the input and understanding of local residents.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put community safety first, and I am confident the end result will address all concerns,” Mr Constance says.
“Look this work needed doing, the bridge is too narrow and the corner too steep,” Mr Cursley says.
Motorists will be moved to a new 800-metre temporary road at the northern end of the project from Monday November 27 until mid-2018, and work will be put on hold between December 16 and January 8 in order to keep holiday traffic moving.
“And motorists need to remember there are 80 people working on this site, and they need to go home to their families each night,” Mr Constance says.
“So please drive with patience, observe the reduced speed limits and traffic controls.”
*About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members, thank you to – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, Jenny Anderson, Ali Oakley, Julia Stiles, and Patrick Reubinson.
“They’re actually a colony of several animals, all with specialised functions – feeding, catching prey, and reproduction.
“Fascinating!” Kerryn says.
According to the Australian Museum, the Bluebottle is a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals known as zooids, and come from the same family of life that includes coral and sea anemones.
“The zooids are dependent on one another for survival.
“The float (pneumatophore) is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.
“The tentacles (dactylozooids) are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps (gastrozooids).
“Reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, another type of polyp,” The Museum says.
Generally speaking, northerly winds bring Bluebottles onto local beaches.
“There have also been some pretty big seas lately,” Ms Wood says.
The Bluebottles famous float can grow to over 15cm, it’s job is to sail the colony across the ocean surface capturing the breeze with its aerodynamic shape. A degree of muscular contraction in its crest gives the Bluebottle a sense and skill similar to a holidaying windsurfer.
“The float may project either to the left or to the right; the left-handed forms sail to the right of the wind and vice versa,” The Australian Museum explains.
“Thus, if the sailing angle of one form leads to its stranding on the shore, the others sailing to the opposite side of the wind may escape.”
A neat survival trick that maintains the population even when Far South Coast beaches are blanketed in dried and popping specimens.
Food and reproduction drive life and Bluebottles have some impressive tools to call on.
Their stinging tentacles drift downwind for up to one metre capturing food in their wake, responding swiftly to the presence of food, they twist and tangle prey, and “become all mouth” to digest their meal.
A range of enzymes are deployed to break down proteins, carbs, and fats across a menu of small crustaceans and surface plankton.
Reproduction is another impressive Bluebottle trick that helps it’s species survive on the high-seas.
Bluebottles are hermaphrodites, they carry female and male parts.
“Awesome, I love that so many marine creatures are hermaphrodites,” Ms Wood says.
“And sometimes they’ll wash up on the beach with a variety of other really beautiful ‘blue’ animals like Glacus atlanticus or the Blue Sea Dragon – also hermaphrodites.
“The Glaucus atlanticus actually eat blue bottles and ‘steal’ their poison, making them even more poisonous!” Ms Wood says.
All this is very interesting but from a human perspective, avoiding the stingers and knowing what to do if stung is front of mind during a day at the beach.
“Avoiding north-east facing beaches in those conditions might help families dodge Bluebottles,” Mr Edmunds says.
“The best treatment for a sting is hot water, a shower as hot as you can without burning does the trick.
“And if hot water isn’t available ice is a good alternative in relieving the pain after you have washed the tentacles away,” Mr Edmunds advises.
“Swimming at a patrolled beach this summer will ensure that first aid is close at hand from lifesavers.”
And be aware beachcombers, as thousands of Bluebottles lay shipwrecked on local beaches the toxic mixture they use to immobilise and digest their prey is still active and can sting you, however the contractions that trap their marine victims becomes inactive.
Bluebottles are awesome, the sting they can inject into a day at the beach instinctively demands our respect, but so to should their survival skills.
*Become a member of About Regional and support local news and stories, thank you to the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Linda Albertson, Julia Stiles, Ali Oakley, Rosemary Lord, and Simon Marnie.
*Large elements of this article originally appeared on Riot ACT.
Bombala’s Ron and Lexie Milliner have worked hard, smart and with passion all their lives, they are now moving towards a kind of retirement that will keep them busy, but see them enjoying the spoils of their labour.
Six months ago they all but wound up their long-running earth moving business.
“We wanted to dismantle things while we still had our marbles, although some say I lost them a long time ago,” Ron laughs.
Negotiations continue around the sale of their beloved “Crystal View”, which had been HQ for the family and the business. Most of the trucks and machines that were once parked on the property on Gunningrah Road are gone, sold at auction back in May.
“We built the business up to a point where we had just over 60 registrations – trucks, trailers, utes, and machines, and now after the sale, we are down to about 10,” Ron says.
“I’ve still got a granite rock quarry and I make road base and sell all sizes of granite stone -from 20mm to rocks as big as this lounge we are sitting on.
“We are hoping to expand and sell wall and landscaping rock to the coast.”
It’s hard to imagine Ron not driving trucks and machinery, it’s his boyhood dream – trucks and music.
“When I was a little kid I wanted to own trucks and bulldozers and play Slim Dusty music,” the 71-year old says.
“And to a certain degree, I’ve managed to do that.”
Ron beams as he talks about his two and half-year-old great-grandson playing in the Milliner quarry.
“He’s doin the same thing I used to do as a little kid – load little rocks into his little dump truck,” Ron says.
Married for 53 years, Ron and Lexie have three children, seven grandkids, two great-grandsons, and another two due in January.
The pair met while working at the old Harold Golberg department store in Bombala.
“Lexie worked upstairs in the accounts department,” Ron remembers.
As a founding member of the “Bombala Knit and Knatter Group”, Lexie has been busy knitting baby blankets for the new arrivals on top of her regular crafty generosity.
The Knit and Knatter girls get together often at Bombala’s famous Cosmo Cafe, making woolen blankets for the charity Wrap With Love.
“We sent 100 wraps away in August, I’ve lost count how many we’ve done over the last eight years,” Lexie says.
Apart from keeping the home fires burning, Lexie has been key to the businesses success, often called on in the early days to move a truck when Ron needed an extra pair of hands.
Both fondly remember family barbeques in the bush when their children were young. Precious family time while Ron was working a 13 day fortnight harvesting and carting logs, building up the business.
At aged 25, it was the forestry industry that gave the Milliner’s their break in the 1970’s.
“We had no money when we got that first contract, and I remember getting that first cheque from the Eden Chip Mill for $6500, I’d never seen so much money,” Ron says.
“We built the business up from there, trading up to new machinery, three steps forward and 2.99 back.
“But as we were going along we could see we were losing more and more forestry areas to National Parks.
“There were about 40 contractors in those days,” he says.
Recognising the decline in forestry, Ron and Lexie started to diversify their business and moved into earth moving.
In 1992 they took over the local concrete plant from the cash-strapped Bombala Council.
“Forestry started pulling names out of a hat and I didn’t want to go like that or get to that stage so I took a small package from the government and that helped us move on.”
Logging, earth moving, and concrete were all part of the business for a few years before the Milliners finally got out of forestry in 1995.
“It was important to have a diverse business so that we could cope with the rise and fall, there was something going all the time,” Ron says.
Milliner machines have worked on some to the region’s big projects.
“But nothing was too small for us,” Ron smiles.
Reflecting on his 50-year career, this boy from Mount Darrah who trapped rabbits and sold turnips as a lad points to Bombala’s new softwood processing plant as one of his biggest jobs.
“On one day alone we did 75 truck and trailer loads,” he said.
“We worked on the Eastern Gas Pipeline that came through in 2000, we did clearing work out on the Hume Highway in the nineties getting it ready for the road to go through, and more recently we worked on the big new electricity substation at Cooma – some interesting jobs.”
In winding up the business at Crystal View, Ron and Lexie considered moving to the coast for their retirement years but instead, they opted to become “townies” building a new home in the community Lexie was born and breed in.
“Ron was too frightened a tsunami would get him, so he said – I am staying on top of the mountain,” Lexie chuckles.
Family and friends invited to Crystal View will be familiar with the large performance space Ron had created to share his love and skill for music. Lexie’s warmth, humour, and hospitality an important ingredient to the party.
“In a smaller way we’ll still do it here in the new shed,” Ron suggests.
“We could hold 6o or 70 people at Crystal View, here we might be able to fit 20 or 30.
“The last concert we had out there, there were a few tears, but nothing lasts forever, everything comes to an end Ian,” Ron says.
With self-funded recordings to his name and countless gigs in dozens of country halls with his family band, Ron still has musical ambitions and a need to celebrate music and its influence on people.
“I’ve got an old peddle steel guitar, its about 30 years since I’ve played it, so I am going to try and get that cranked up,” he says.
Ron and Lexie say there have been many sleepless nights during the history of their business as they managed the various twists and turns but more so in the last 12 months as they worried about the fate of the dozen or so employees that were part of the business.
“Everyone of those people now has a job,” Ron says with relief.
“We’ve had some good men over the years, one of the things I am happiest about is that we gave dozens and dozens of young fellows their start.”
Ron, Lexie and I chat at the end of a long day, Ron is dirty, bleeding and in bright orange hi-viz having just knocked off. If he wasn’t chatting to me he’d be having a beer – I am regrettably polite and knocked back the earlier invitation to have one.
Lexie is surrounded in cream and orange wool finishing another wrap, comfortable in her deserved new home, talking of perhaps taking a bus trip holiday.
Their daughter Leanda has just left and promised to return for coffee in the morning.
This is a rich family, but not because they have just cashed in their life’s work.
“I am a wealthy man Ian, my family stuck together, the business and our music is a big part of that,” Ron says.
*About Regional content happens because of the support of members – thank you to the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Doug Reckord, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Bronnie Taylor, Amanda Dalziel, and Tabitha Bilaniwsky-Zarins.
After two days in Natarbora we’re once again on the road, and pass a sign that is a reminder of Timor Leste’s national symbol and why it’s unwise to swim in the ocean or the coastal streams and waterways.
Our troopcarrier is fully laden for the long journey, luggage for the four of us, Dave’s travelling guitar, three bags of the local specialty – Natarbora popping corn, and a surprise passenger that I don’t discover until we are halfway to Dili.
Along the way there are strange squeaking noises every time I adjust my position in the back of the carrier. Somewhere before Maubisse though, from behind the bags of corn emerged a chook destined for Natarbora.
Our return to Dili will take us along the coast to Betano, a significant site in Australian and Timor Leste shared history.
The ship was blown up and scuttled after it could not be refloated. On December 1 1942, HMAS Armidale was sunk by 13 Japanese aircraft here while attempting to evacuate Australian and Dutch soldiers and deliver a relief contingent.
There is no memorial, no plaque, no monument, nothing that gives an inkling of the events that took place here in WW2, only the rusting remains of HMAS Voyager.
The ruins of a Portuguese Fort are a crumbling reminder of the occupations Timor Leste has endured, survived, and risen above.
It is only when we visit the memorial at Dare on Sunday, the day before we leave Timor that the impact of the events here at Betano hit home.
From Betano to Dili the roads represent the best and worst you can imagine.
Between Maubisse and Aileu the recently sealed sections are as good as any in Australia, and the scenery is spectacular. There is no doubt this place will be seen as a mecca for motorcycle touring and cycling enthusiasts in years to come. For the latter though you will need to be very fit!
The tourist potential is yet to be realised, however, it could well secure the economic future well beyond any gas and oil income.
The challenge will be to see that “development” be in keeping with the environment and culture of the Timorese people, and have the ownership of local communities.
Late afternoon and we stop for coffee at Aileu, the renowned Maubisse coffee, and it is good. We are now 2-3 hours from Dili, taking a new section of road that will take us out of the mountains alongside the Comoro River.
Once completed, like much of the road network it will be fantastic, but not now.
We arrive in Dili a little after 6pm and spend the evening with Jose, his family and good friend Carlos.
Some welcome relaxation after hours on the road, with food song and wine. I had almost expected our “surprise passenger” to make an appearance as part of the evening meal, but our feathered friend was perhaps destined for a long and productive life in a backyard henhouse.
Carlos works on an oil platform in the Timor Sea and shares songs in Tetun and stories of life on the platform with us. He earns good money in Timorese terms and has taken on board Jose’s philosophy of sharing his good fortune in helping others.
After a night of merriment and reflection of our time in Natarbora it’s back to Fatuhada for some well-earned rest.
It’s Sunday, and Dave and I walk to Dili Harbour via the back lanes.
The streets have been swept, but the acrid smell from wood smoke cooking and the odour of the grey water that runs in open drains lingers.
Across the harbour the smoke haze blurs the horizon to the north, east and west along the coast.
An elderly man is sifting thru the piles of garbage carrying a bag of plastic detritus, a broken pushbike wheel his prize.
The main drag along the harbour here is lined with official buildings embassies, residences, and tourist accommodation, their grandeur stands in stark contrast to the homes and conditions in much of the Comoro district and the poorer suburbs of Dili.
Back at Fatuhada there’s been some concreting work underway to repair the carpark at the convent. A crew of about eight or so young fellas assisted by some of the trainee Sisters are spreading a thin layer over already broken concrete and rumble.
They had poured some narrow strips the day before to act as a level and rough formwork and were now filling in between.
It is hot, humid, tough, heavy work for the young Sisters carrying buckets of stones.
As an old concreter, I haven’t the heart to tell them that their all hard work is unlikely to be a success.
Lunch is another feast with the Sisters, chicken, steamed greens with chilli and spices, rice and noodles followed by those delicious little sweet bananas, mango, and pawpaw.
Located on the original site of the 1969 memorial, the refurbished Fatunaba Memorial School was officially opened along with the Dare Museum and Cafe on Anzac Day 2009.
The view is spectacular, but we are not here for that. For me it is deeply emotional. The sacrifice and bravery of the Australian and Timorese during the invasion and occupation by the Japanese is palpable here.
Forty thousand Timorese lost their lives after the Australian troops were evacuated in 1942. Forty thousand killed by the Japanese troops as retribution for helping the Aussies.
Tears fall, I weep unashamedly.
Both anger and shame for our failure throughout the 25 years of the Indonesian invasion and occupation to return the care our countrymen were shown in WW2 and our more recent greed as a nation over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.
We owe these people a great debt.
So it is with it is with a heavy heart that we wind our way back to Dili to visit the Santa Cruz cemetery and the grave of the resistance leader Sebastião Gomes. He was executed on October 28, 1991, by the Indonesians.
A memorial service details the circumstances, “On 28 October, Indonesian troops had located a group of resistance members in Dili’s Motael Church.
“A confrontation ensued between pro-integration activists and those in the church; when it was over, one man on each side was dead.
“Sebastião Gomes, a supporter of independence for East Timor, was taken out of the church and shot by Indonesian troops, and integration activist Afonso Henriques was stabbed and killed during the fight.
“Several thousand men, women, and children walked from the Motael Church to the nearby Santa Cruz cemetery.”
At least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators were shot and killed by Indonesian troops at the Santa Cruz Cemetery.
Our last night in Dili is here and we’ve been invited to spend the evening with Lorenzo and family at their home in the Comoro district. It is another wonderful gathering with of food, song and conversation.
We had met Lorenzo on our first afternoon in Dili and after the events of today, it was a delight to meet again.
After dinner, I had the opportunity for a long conversation with Anderius Tani.
Anderius grew up in the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse in West Timor, the eldest of five sisters and two brothers. His parents are subsistence farmers, surviving only on what corn, rice, and livestock they grow.
The only way to pay school fees for their large family was to sell livestock, beef, chicken or cows.
Growing up during the Indonesian occupation school was compulsory, and Anderius says they received a good education. He completed his senior secondary school during the UN transition. In 2001 Anderius had to leave his family and community in Oecusse and move to Dili to further his studies, and it was here that he and a number of other young students were supported by Jose.
Anderius and Jose had grown up in the same village and that friendship and support made all the difference while studying at the University of Timor Leste in Dili far from home.
The same is true for the many others Jose continues to support today.
Despite the challenges of those years, Anderius graduated in 2007 with a Diploma of Electrical Engineering, and in the years since then, he returned to study public policy and management. A scholarship saw him spend three years in New Zealand graduating with a Bachelor of Development Studies and International Relations in 2015.
In between work and study Anderius married and has a young family to support. Those years in New Zealand away from family were hard and lonely for him.
It is a remarkable achievement coming from such humble beginnings, Anderius talks of achieving what his family had hoped for. They are undoubtedly a very proud family.
After returning from NZ he worked for the UN on development programs but has since branched out into consultancy.
Currently, he is working on the Dili to Ainaro road project.
For Jose, the education Anderius and Lorenzo (studying engineering) have received is the key to his country’s future and they are all passionate about nurturing and supporting others to achieve the same goals.
Before our evening together ends the conversation turns to the challenges ahead from Timor Leste.
Timor is a patriarchal society and that can be confronting, when experiencing the depth of that tradition for the first time.
Anderius though is passionate that it must change. He says the older generation has to accept that young women need the same education and opportunity.
That change is underway with such a young and increasingly educated population. Many marry and have children at a very young age, however, restricting that potential.
Health, education, water, sanitation, unemployment – there are many, many issues.
Dave and I talk of our experiences on the roads, noting our concern that the road improvements underway might lead to rising speeds, coupled with the lack of seatbelts and the use of mobile phones that the country might see fatalities and spiraling injuries in road accidents.
Monday and our final breakfast with the Sisters at Fatuhada. Delphina has given us several kilos of coffee beans from her home district of Maubisse to deliver to friends she made in Tathra during her stay earlier in the year.
With our bags packed we load them for the last time into the Toyota and say farewell to the Sisters.
We still have quite a day ahead of us before catching the late afternoon flight to Darwin.
First is a visit to the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum, but we are to be disappointed, it is not open today!
However, there is still much to do as we have a meeting with Ego Lemos at the Permatil Office to discuss the Permatil schools camp to be held towards the end of October 2018 in Maubisse, and arrangements for Ego’s visit to Australia for the Cobargo Folk Festival, now likely to be a tour of some several months taking in the Permaculture Convergence, and of course more discussion around the formation of the Timorese choir to visit here in 2020.
It is also a chance to tell Ego about our visit to the school gardens in Manatuto and Natarbora. Ego’s passion is to see agriculture across Timor Leste based on Permaculture, and that is no pipe dream. The traditional farming practices are already in tune with those principals and the landscape is certainly not readily suitable for broadacre agriculture.
A final meal on the waterfront with Jose and Augus, and an hour or two at Jose’s home before we drive to the airport.
Jose talks about education and for Jose education is number one. It is the key for such a young country. Yet there are difficulties that are hard to imagine in a country like Australia.
Language is one.
The textbooks and curriculum have been written in Portuguese, yet only 45% of the population speak Portuguese. Despite that it was declared the official language following independence.
So, the difficulty for teachers is trying to teach students in a language neither understands.
Tetun is the indigenous language that everyone speaks, though there are many dialects, Bahasa Indonesian is also widely spoken, and English is also in favour. Portuguese is not, certainly among the young and increasingly educated.
However, textbooks are being translated into Tetun, but it will take time for that to work its way through the education system.
Anderius says for his generation and those following Portuguese is dead.
Tetun, Bahasa and English are the languages of choice. So, this is a people that will be fluent in three languages, perhaps some lessons there for Australia!
Mid-afternoon and it’s hot and muggy, and it’s time to head to Dili Airport for the long flight home, a final journey through Comoro and a farewell to friends well made.
We check our baggage in, our paperwork is stamped for departure, we sit outside the airport with Jose and Augus for the last time.
If our plans fall into place Dave and I will return next year, for the moment I watch a group of young Timorese men resplendent in red shirts and caps emblazoned with the Timor Leste flag heading to Australia as part of a training program.
The Airnorth flight takes off just after five, heading south to Darwin over the island nation.
The skies are clear, unlike our arrival eight days ago, and the spectacular beauty of Timor Leste is revealed below framed by blue skies and a setting sun.
We land in Darwin around eight in the evening and meet an old acquaintance of Dave’s.
In 2014 Rob Wesley-Smith and his brothers received Timor Leste’s highest honour, The Order of Timor Leste, in recognition of their efforts to help the country after the Indonesian army invaded in 1975.
Rob was meeting another long-time aid worker returning from Timor Leste, Ros Dunlop.
Ros is one of Australia’s leading clarinettists/bass clarinettists, and along with Martin Wesley-Smith, one of Australia’s leading composers and long-time supporter of East Timor, both toured and performed in East Timor in 2002.
We shared a pleasant warm and balmy evening together on the now tourist wharf at Darwin Harbour, with memories of 1975 and the long struggle for Timor Leste since.
With a beer or two, the traditional Aussie fair of fish and chips (Barramundi), there’s another surprise for us when long-time Bega Valley identities and founders of Magpie Music, Tony and Marianne Haid spotted us. They were in Darwin on a road trip around the top end.
Back to the airport for the red eye flight (12.45 am) to Sydney arriving at Mascot around 6.30am.
After breakfast and coffee at around 8.30, we board the flight to Canberra. What a chilly welcome that was too our nation’s capital – grey suits, white shirts, worn out faces and laptops, chillier than the -3 degrees we were told it was.
Another three hours and we’re back home in the Bega Valley. Familiar faces and warm embraces and a very excitable black dog welcome.
“These groups are specialist travel salespeople who will now understand our region better, this experience will help them sell our region,” says Anthony Osborne, Executive Officer of Sapphire Coast Tourism.
The three local famils hosted by Destination Southern NSW were part of a group of six tours that sprung from a trade event on the Gold Coast run by Tourism Australia, and follow on from famils to the Snowy Mountains in May and June with 26 participants.
“Two of the groups travelled to the South Coast from Sydney, the other from Canberra,” Mr Osborne says.
Eurobodalla Tourism Marketing Coordinator, Kerrie-Anne Benton, says the agents loved their South Coast experience.
“Nature, nature, and more nature, that’s why the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts were selected for these familiarisations,” Ms Benton says.
“And with flights into and out of Canberra and Singapore now, a gateway for travel has emerged connecting our region to the world.”
The Jindabyne based, Gang Gang Tours acted as chaperones on two of the three local tours.
“I had eight lovely ladies from the USA, front-line travel agents who will take this experience home,” says Gang Gang owner, Janine Becker.
“Out of the eight, seven hadn’t been to Australia before,” Ms Becker says.
“One of the agents told me people are wanting to get off the tourist trail, which is our region’s big selling point.”
Aside from teaching them about us, these opportunities also serve as a learning experience for local tourism bosses and operators.
“It was interesting to hear about travel patterns in other countries,” Ms Becker says.
“Workers in the U.S only get two paid weeks of leave a year, which means the average holiday runs seven to ten days.
“European countries tend to get four weeks paid leave, so they have longer holidays and have a great opportunity to travel to regional areas overseas,” she says.
Ms Becker doesn’t think the international market will be the biggest part of the Gang Gang business model, but she is keen to grow its influence.
“This experience will help us target our marketing better,” Ms Becker says.
The other point that emerged was that in most cases, international markets travel outside Australia’s peak periods and in some cases in the heart of our off-peak season.
In the year ending June 2016, the Eurobodalla welcomed 28,000 international visitors – 20% from the U.K, 15% Germany, and 11% from the U.S.A
“Australia continues to see growth in international visits while the domestic market is static, it’s a no-brainer for us to focus some resources on building this market, and we have extra funding this year from Bega Valley Shire Council to tackle that challenge,” Mr Osborne says.
“We need to develop more experiences around our unique selling points. Nature and the coast are the number one reasons international travellers come to Australia and we have that in spades.”
A simple campaign to rid Bega’s Littleton Gardens of dirty cigarette butts is working, as spring takes hold and new growth claims its place.
Volunteer Gardener’s Geoffrey Grigg and Marshall Campbell erected handmade “Bin Your Butt” signs throughout the garden three weeks ago.
“We’ve seen an 80% reduction in the amount of cigarette butts littering the lawn and garden areas,” Geoffrey says.
“The number of cigarette butts being dropped or left behind was starting to get people down and make it hard to use and love this space, and cleaning it all up was a big part of our work.”
The recent addition of the Aboriginal ‘Biggah Garden’ prompted the action.
“This is Yuin Country and we need to treat it with respect,” Geoffrey says.
“The response from smokers has been very positive, no one has raised a concern or issue, once you point it out to people you start to see a change.”
The volunteer green thumbs would love to see the same response spread across the town.
“Everywhere you go you find cigarette butts, we just need to be more mindful of our actions,” Geoffrey says.
New signs will be displayed in the Garden shortly to update the message and maintain the momentum, and Council will soon add designated ‘but out’ bins to existing garbage bins.
With one problem solved the next is being tackled – bindies!
“It’s a big job, but we’ve been pulling them out by hand and trying to avoid the use of chemicals, this is a food garden after all,” he says.
A big crop of various edible greens are thriving in the spring sunshine throughout Littleton’s garden beds – lettuce, spinach, warrigal greens, lemon balm, and coriander, a donation from Bega Valley Seed Savers.
“People are invited to take a few leaves for lunch or dinner, that’s why the plants are here, just carefully pull leaves off from the base or stem so that the plant can keep growing,” Geoffrey says.
“As the weather warms up people will start to notice tomatoes and basil come through, and it won’t be long before we are eating strawberries.”
Geoffrey and Marshall tend to the garden each Wednesday and Thursday and invite people to stop for a chat.
“If you have any questions about the plants, how to pick them, how to cook with them, or if you have plants and time to donate, let us know,” Geoffrey says.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council
‘Briny’ the young, male koala rescued by a Wapengo oyster farm last week was yesterday released back into the wild.
Chris Allen, Threatened Species Officer at the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) said the koala had made a good recovery in care at Potoroo Palace and yesterday clambered up a tree on a property north of Tathra.
“Briny, named by locals in recognition of his saltwater experience and after one of the people who rescued him, threw a few longing glances over his shoulder before scurrying high up into the tree,” Mr Allen said.
“He has recovered well from his ordeal last week where he was found clinging to an oyster bag in Wapengo Lake.
“When rescued he was found to be dehydrated but otherwise in a pretty good state of health considering his ordeal.
“This is only the second time a koala has come into care in the region in the past 20 years as the population is so small and widely scattered.
“That the local community could rally so quickly in so many ways to save the life of this animal is a testament to its commitment to support the recovery of these koalas,” Mr Allen said.
The successful rescue, recovery, and release of this animal is very much thanks to Wapengo Lake oyster farmers Brain and Carol Orr, who pulled Briny from the water into their boat, wrapped him up until he stopped shivering and took him to the Bega Veterinary Hospital.
Vets and the carers at Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary were exceptional in the way they provided quick treatment and closely cared for Briny through his recovery.
Mr Allen also said, “Thanks goes to the locally based koala surveyor Mark Lems who enabled the selection of an appropriate release site in koala habitat close to the rescue site and near other koalas.
“And the local landholders who have welcomed Briny onto their property that is managed under a voluntary conservation agreement.”
Work to better understand and protect the remaining koalas on the NSW Far South Coast continues.