Small communities represented on new Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Lynley Miners. Photo: Keva Gocher ABC Rural
Lynley Miners. Photo: Keva Gocher ABC Rural

Small towns have made their presence felt after the first flush of counting in the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election.

Just over 10,200 of yesterday’s votes have been counted at this point, with 11 new councillor positions to be decided from a field of 27 candidates.

Former Bombala Mayor and grazier Bob Stewart has polled the most votes with 1,447, followed by Adaminaby livestock carrier, Lynley Miners (1,364), and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart from Jerangle (948).

Former Cooma – Monaro Mayor, Dean Lynch who has over seen the operations of the merged council for the last 16 months as Administrator says he’s happy to see the election come and democracy restored to the region.

“My biggest concern was representation for the smaller areas, and you can see that’s not going to be an issue now,” Mr Lynch says.

“I am a little bit worried about the lack of female representation in the results at this stage,” he says.

Bombala’s Anne Maslin is the highest polling woman with 243 votes which puts her in thirteenth position over all – outside the 11 member council.

Postal votes and preferences will come before the poll is declared and the final results are known.

Under the counting system used for local government elections in New South Wales, each candidate must reach a quota of votes to be elected, preferences follow and are distributed according to the voter’s instructions on their ballot paper.

“You get the total number of voters and then dived it by 12, one more than the new Council needs, to work out the quota,” Mr Lynch explains.

“Going off previous elections I think the quota will be around 930 votes.”

Preferences help candidates who don’t reach the quota in the first round of counting get elected.

Bob Stewart. Photo: Town and Country Magazine
Bob Stewart. Photo: Town and Country Magazine

Bob Stewart believes it might not be until Tuesday or Wednesday before all 11 seats in the new chamber are decided, he is hopeful a flow of preferences from himself and running mate John Last will get Anne Maslin elected.

Mr Stewart, a passionate critic of the merger process says he is humbled by his result and is looking forward to getting back to work.

“I will be putting my hand up for the Mayoral position,” Mr Stewart says.

“We’ve gotta make sure there’s equity down our way, the merger process for council staff in Bombala has been very unfair.”

“We don’t need it [Council] to be centralised towards Cooma so that Bombala loses out on jobs, we must try and protect jobs for the social and economic benefit of our smaller communities,” the former Bombala Mayor says.

Mr Stewart says he is also keen to address recent extra charges on utility costs like water and waste, he says he’ll be asking for a report to Council early in the term.

Speaking to About Regional while loading livestock on to his truck, Lynley Miners has mixed feelings about being elected to Council.

“The truth is I didn’t want to stand now, I am too busy with my own business, but now is the logical time, it’s a fresh start being the first council,” Mr Miners says.

Being a truckie, Mr Miners says he’ll be taking a particular interest in the region’s roads and better infrastructure.

“A lot people think we are going to be able to fix theses things over night,” Mr Miners says.

“We’ve got a three-year term and the first 12 or 18 months will be taken up with learning and trying to get sorted with whats been done during the administration period and get the ship steering straight.”

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Despite his high personal vote Mr Miners says he won’t be standing as Mayor in the near future, preferring to leave the job to people with more time and experience for now.

When asked to reflect on the merger process between Bombala, Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River Shires, Mr Miners is hopeful people can move on

“It will hang there for a bit, but once people get to the table if they want to strive to make this better, it can’t be about us and them, it’s done, it’s happened, it’s time to move on,” Mr Miners says.

Dean Lynch will remain Administrator until the first council meeting on September 26 when the new Mayor is elected, says he has been working hard to tidy up loose ends and set the new council up for success.

The election marks an end to Mr Lynch’s nine-year career in local government, he says the last 16 months have been some of the most challenging times.

“I always knew pulling this together would be a poison chalice, but I love local government and I love this area,” he says.

“Some of the social media comments have been hard for my family but I’ll stand behind all the decisions I made, I feel like I’ve given the new council every chance possible to be good.”

Mr Lynch is delighted James ‘Boo’ Ewart appears to have been elected.

James Boo Ewart voting in Saturday's election. Photo: Facebook
James Boo Ewart voting in Saturday’s election. Photo: Facebook

“Boo has been around Council meetings with me for the last four years, he’s always wanted to be on Council, it’s great to see him get in without the need for any alliances, a fresh start is just what this council needs,” Mr Lynch says.

“The new council needs to get out and meet with communities right around the area

“My advice for the old and the new, they just need to get around and meet everybody before they rush in and make decisions,” Mr Lynch says.

When asked about his future, the former Cooma-Monaro Mayor says they’ll be a holiday with his wife first.

“The most exciting thing, I am the chair and a director of the Country Universities Centre and we are rolling those out right across the state at the moment, that’s my passion.

“I’ve had various offers, but I just need to take a step back for a while,” Mr Lynch says.

To keep track of the progressive election results head to the website of the NSW Electoral Commission.

 

*Thanks to About Regional members, Simon Marine, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Nastasia Campanella and Thomas Oriti for supporting local story telling.

 

 

Fire danger signs – Who changes them? What do they mean?

Fire Danger Ratting signs, part of the landscape in South East NSW. Photo: Ian Campbell
Fire Danger Rating signs, part of the landscape in South East NSW. Photo: Ian Campbell

The truth behind the workings of the region’s ‘Fire Danger Rating Signs‘ isn’t as colourful as I’d hoped.

However, it is another indicator of the commitment and dedication of the Rural Fire Service in South East NSW and a reminder of the devastating potential that exists in the environment we live in.

Where ever I travel these signs of green, blue, orange, and red catch my eye, a marker of dry times and wet times, and different geography. There is something universal about them, like a pot hole on the main street – every town has one.

And so simple, clear, effective – survivors in a high tech age.

When I started to see their arrows change and move up a notch or two with the changing season I was reminded of a long held mystery. Who changes them? How do they change? Never have I seen one being changed.

Asking that question of locals on Facebook prompted a range of creative answers.

Mixed with obvious affection for this service, it was suggested different mythical creatures, along with squads of ninjas, and ‘invisible people of the dark’ were all responsible for this very public but seldom seen work.

After at first suggesting goblins, trolls, and pixies changed the signs, one of the region’s fire chiefs revealed the secret.

Community Safety Officer, Marty Webster. Photo Ian Campbell
Community Safety Officer, Marty Webster. Photo Ian Campbell

Marty Webster is the Community Safety Officer with Far South Coast Rural Fire Service, he told About Regional that the signs change as a result of information from the Bureau of Meteorology.

“We get the ratings through and then we hit the pagers and one of our dedicated volunteers goes out and makes the change to the sign,” Marty explains.

“It happens when ever there is a change to the rating, typically over the winter months they’ll stay on low – moderate, moving into spring is when they start fluctuating, and over summer they can change daily.”

Marty says each RFS brigade is responsible for the signs in their patch, and often it’s the volunteer that lives closest to the sign who will go out, undo the padlock at the back of the pointer and move the sign accordingly.

Behind the Fire Danger Rating signs. Photo: Ian Campbell
Behind the Fire Danger Rating signs. Photo: Ian Campbell

When it comes to working out which of the six fire danger ratings the arrow will be stuck to, a range of factors are taken into account.

“Humidity, wind speed, temperature, and the state of the fuel – quite a complex algorithm that the Bureau does for us,” Marty says.

Each step along the way points to the predicted intensity of a bushfire if one was to start on that day.

“So at Low – Moderate, fires under those conditions will be fairly easy to contain,” Marty explains.

“At Very High, fires can be really unpredictable and there is a significant risk of house losses.

“Severe is where we hit Total Fire Ban, and then we move up to Extreme and Catastrophic, by the time we get to Catastrophic we are basically saying – no houses are designed or prepared well enough to withstand fire under those conditions,” he says.

What is of some comfort is that those days at the high end don’t come out of the blue and tend to be forecast days ahead.

“Certainly at Very High I’d be really encouraging people to look at their level of preparation,” Marty says.

The Community Safety Officer suggests that people use the fire danger rating signs as part of a Bush Fire Survival Plan.

“They are really valuable trigger points, so for example on a day of High Fire Danger people should start monitoring the RFS website more closely and as the fire danger rating increases or the situation changes other actions and decisions can be initiated,” Marty says.

The official bushfire season started on September 1 through the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla meaning fire permits are now needed. Landholders on the Monaro and in the Snowy Mountains have until October 1 before permits are needed.

Call your Local Fire Control Centre for advice.

 

*Another local story made with the contribution of About Regional members, thanks to Maria Linkenbagh, Tabitha Bilaniwskyi-Zarins, Jeanette Westmore, Fiona Cullen, and Kiah Wilderness Tours.

Tathra’s Eddie Blewett returns to Canberra – we’ve got ya back Eddie!

Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell
Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell

In September 2016 Tathra’s Eddie Blewett stole Question Time in the Federal Parliament.

Eddie travelled to Canberra with his mums Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson and other Rainbow Families asking MP’s to stop the plebiscite on same sex marriage and to have a free vote in Parliament.

Among the politicians they met was deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, who took up Eddie’s cause with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Question Time that day.

“He said to me and I quote, ‘Why should people who barely know us make an assumption on our families and vote on how we can live?” Plibersek said as Eddie and his mums watched in the public gallery above, as reported by Fairfax.

“Can the Prime Minister explain why Eddie should have to put up with a campaign by people who have never met him, telling him that there is something wrong with his family?,” Ms Plibersek said.

Twelve months on for Eddie and the issue is still unresolved and the hurt continues.

Eddie is returning to Canberra next week, hoping to meet with the Prime Minister.

Earlier last month, Eddie wrote to Malcolm Turnbull:

I am Eddie Blewett (14 years of age).

In answer to a question in Parliament on 13 September 2016 you referred to me by saying:

“We all welcome Eddie and his parents to the House today. We are pleased that he is here. Eddie will understand that everything we do here in this parliament is designed to ensure that Australia becomes an even better place for him to grow up in and realise his dreams.”

One of my dreams is to have my same-sex parents given the same recognition as other parents in Australia. I believe giving equal recognition to all families will make Australia a better place.

I shall be coming to Canberra with my family and others to help with the ‘Yes’ campaign.

During my visit, I should be grateful if I could meet with you and offer support for your own ‘Yes’ campaign, especially for country towns.

Eddie has given voice to the impact this ongoing debate has had on him and his family.

In Canberra, last year he spoke of being bullied around this debate, and a sense of fear and dread he lived with.

“People were saying stuff about my family – that it’s not normal, it’s not right,” Eddie told Fairfax.

Communities across South East NSW are invited to join Eddie when he returns to Canberra on Tuesday (September 12, 2017) hoping to meet with the PM.

Tayna Plibersek, Mike Kelly (Eddie’s local MP) and their colleagues will meet with Eddie, and perhaps kick the soccer ball. Families and people of all back grounds are also invited to join Eddie and his family and friends in Canberra.

Bring a picnic lunch to share on the lawns of Parliament House and your soccer boots if you are keen for a game.

We’ve Got Ya Back Eddie – Tuesday, September 12 @ 10:00, meet in front of Parliament House.

Postcard 4 from Timor Leste – Natarbora. By Tim Holt

Lunch -delicious small redfish with a chili basting, rice ice in banana leaves and a thermos of black coffee. Photo: Tim Holt
Lunch -delicious small redfish with a chili basting, rice ice in banana leaves and a thermos of black coffee. Photo: Tim Holt

Wednesday dawns, I’ve woken early to the deep throated chanting from the nearby mosque that melds into early morning prayer and song from the Catholic Sisters at Fatuhada.

Ahead lies the 150 kilometres to Natarbora, it doesn’t sound far, but from Dave’s experience, it will be a long and painful trip. This morning though we are feeling somewhat reassured that conditions have improved.

Last evenings conversation with Ego had intimated that the road was now “really good” and our journey would take far less time than in the past.

I have visions of smooth tar and an easy run to Natarbora.

First task of the day though is to collect two sewing/overlocker machines that Augus and I will share company with in the back of the Toyota. The machines are for the sewing group at Uma Boco and had been requested by Nikolas Klau, the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste coordinator in Natarbora.

With the machines, our bags, guitar and other instrument cases, it’s a tight squeeze for Augus and me in the Land Cruiser troop wagon, but hey, the road ahead will be smoother than a …!

With Jose at the helm we head out of Dili east along the coast towards Manatuto, the road is mostly good, but well before our lunch break, it deteriorates.

As we climb over the coastal hills the road can only be described as appalling.

We stop for lunch at one of the seaside food stalls, delicious small redfish with a chili basting, rice ice in banana leaves and a thermos of black coffee. I could get very used to this!

The Manatuto School Garden - a 'blooming success'. Photo: Tim Holt
The Manatuto School Garden – a ‘blooming success’. Photo: Tim Holt

Ego Lemos had invited us to check out the Permaculture school garden at Manatuto primary, so we take a minor detour to have a look at their progress and to take some photos. And it is impressive, despite being winter and the dry season.

From Manatuto we head over the mountain and the interior to the south coast, the vegetation changes along the way.

It is the dry season and everywhere on the north side of the island, it is dry, very, very dry. Vegetation is sparse, the steep hills brown, the rocky soil exposed by the predation of goats and the never-ending cycle of firewood collection, only to be further eroded by the torrential downpours of the wet season.

The bare dry hills of the north. Photo: Tim Holt
The bare dry hills of the north. Photo: Tim Holt

The transformation southwards through the mountains is dramatic, increasingly lush and tropical.

The air is moist and cooler, the humidity bearable. The sheer beauty of the mountains as they rise and fall into beautiful valleys is simply breathtaking.

Since we arrived in Timor it has been overcast, thick and humid and always a smoky haze – everywhere the acrid smell of wood fired cooking.

Here through in the interior, it feels like a different world.

The tropical lushness of the south makes of a nice change. Photo: Tim Holt
The tropical lushness of the south makes for a nice change. Photo: Tim Holt

One thing that can be said about the roads in Timor Leste is that they will one day be very good.

But not now. Across the country, all the major roads are being rebuilt, and not just a kilometre at a time.

All the way along the coast, thru the interior to Natarbora on the south side of the island, construction workers are doing major drainage works – massive drains with concrete and stone retaining walls the entire length of the road.

I lose count of the new bridges, there must be thousands of metres of concrete being poured.

It is labour intensive, backbreaking work. The Chinese have the contacts for the road reconstruction program in Timor Leste, some hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are Timorese amongst the road gangs but it seems there are mostly Chinese workers and I have little doubt that this is a cause of tension for the unemployed here.

I’m told the Timorese working as concrete labourers are paid five dollars a day!

Chinese road crews are a common site. Photo: Tim Holt
Chinese road crews are a common site. Photo: Tim Holt

While this work continues, the road surfaces have yet to be prepared. In the Toyota it’s like traveling on bumpy, corrugated, vibrating roller coaster. My body and the two sewing machine/overlockers will be requiring some restorative adjustment when we reach Natarbora.

About twenty kilometres or so out of Natarbora as we pass yet another construction crew we get a heart warming surprise.

Several of the young construction workers are Timorese, and as we pass they recognise Jose and the white Toyota.

“Hey…Bega Valley…Bega Valley,” they yell, waving and smiling.

After almost nine hours traveling on what must come close to being one of the worst roads in the world, nothing could have raised my spirits more.

It speaks volumes to the vision and dedication of Jim and Moira Collins and the Bega Valley Advocates. It’s a humbling moment for me to appreciate just what that ongoing commitment and friendship means for the people here in Natarbora.

Jose Da Costa, his partner Lucy and their eldest daughter Moira, named after Moira Collins, pictured here with husband Jim. Both founding members of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste. This photo hangs on Jose and Lucy's wall.
Jose de Costa, his partner Lucy and their eldest daughter Moira, named after Moira Collins, pictured here with husband Jim. Both founding members of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste. This photo hangs on Jose and Lucy’s wall. Photo: Tim Holt

Late afternoon and the storm clouds are gathering if it’s at all possible the road deteriorates even further.

The several kilometres before the Uma Boco intersection was fantastic, but the road into Uma Boca is still the worst bit of the worst road in the world!

When we arrive at the Franciscan Convent, Nikolas Klau and his son Brian are there to meet us.

Brian had spent a year in the Bega Valley, attending the Sapphire Coast Anglican College and he was keen to catch up and reminisce with Dave.

Dave Crowden with Brian Klau who spent time at Sapphire Coast Anglican Collage in Bega. Photo: Tim Holt
Dave Crowden with Brian Klau who spent time at Sapphire Coast Anglican College in Bega. Photo: Tim Holt

We’re not the only guests at the convent and over another typically delicious Timorese dinner prepared for us by the Sisters, we meet several health workers – Basilio Martens and Jose de Costa, who are visiting several of the communities in and around Natarbora.

After dinner, Jose and Augus head off to spend the night with friends in Uma Boco, Dave and I retire to our rooms. I fall to sleep to the sound of rain.

Thursday and it’s wet, and it’s a fuller load in the Toyota this morning, Nikolas has joined us for the school visits, so there are five of us in the wagon plus the two overlockers. The first task of the day is to unload the machines at the resource centre for the sewing group.

Today we visit three schools, Uma Boco Kindergarten, Junior High School and Ametalaren Primary. The musical experience with the children at all the schools we visit over the two days is an absolute delight, so enthusiastic and joyful.

Experiencing the conditions, the paucity of resources and the challenges the teachers face is sobering. There are no computer rooms, or libraries, the classrooms are basic and in need of repair. The teachers share one staff room. The only books in the “library” we saw are textbooks for the students and teachers.

Despite this, the teachers and students are just so enthusiastic. As Jose says, “Education is number one for the future of the Timorese,” and this is where the Advocates have put all their emphasis.

Several years ago the Advocates set up a resource and training centre for the professional development of teachers and the community.

The advocates also support trainee teachers thru scholarships that enable them to study a Bachelor of Education at the Baucau Institute, East Timor’s main teacher education facility.

So far 43 teachers have graduated from the professional development program, another five are doing their teacher training now and a further four graduated at the beginning of this year (2017), they are now completing internships in Natarbora.

The significance of the support the Advocates are giving in this area cannot be understated. It is a huge contribution and deserving of far more support, both financially and on the ground.

Dave Crowden, Tim Holt and the kids and teachers of Uma Boco Kindergarten
Dave Crowden, Tim Holt and the kids and teachers of Uma Boco Kindergarten

Mid-afternoon we pay a visit to Carlos to see if he can be persuaded to play a leadership role in the choir project I mentioned in postcard three.

Carlos was a member of Koro Loriko, the Timorese choir formed by Ego Lemos that came to Australia in 2012 to perform at the Melbourne Millennium Chorus and Boite Schools’ Chorus concerts.

Carlos is now married with a small family and making a living as a builder.

We while away an hour or so with Carlos singing and playing a few tunes.

Music does not pay the bills for his family in Timor, despite Carlos being a prodigious talent. It seems a great shame that his tunes are unlikely to ever reach a wider audience.

It’s around four in the afternoon now as we make our way back to the Uma Boco Resource Centre, where the sewing group is in action.

There are patterns from the Advocates and quite some excitement with the delivery of the overlockers.

Dave and I are warmly welcomed by the group and presented with some beautiful examples of their work to bring back to Bega.

It’s also an opportunity the setup and test the PA, mixer, and amp that were donated by the Advocates for concerts and performances.

It doesn’t take long before one of the lads pulls out a guitar. We turn on the mics, while Dave fiddles with settings on the amp and mixer and before you know it there’s plenty of voices singing a few of Ego’s songs and a Bob Marley tune or two.

You can never have too much fun here with a guitar and some willing voices, but it’s time to let the sewing group do their thing, so we pack up the gear and head back to the convent for the evening.

Our evening meal is shared with Basilio and Jose from the health team.

After dinner, I fall into a long conversation with Basilio about the health teams work.

Basilio is the team leader and their focus is on a disease that he describes as the “forgotten disease.” Lymphatic Filariasis, also known as Elephantiasis.

It is a parasitic infection caused by worms transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

Basilio is confident the disease will be eradicated in Timor Leste by 2020.

In ASEAN countries only Indonesia and Timor Leste are reporting cases, but it is here in the south and around Natarbora that the disease remains prevalent.

Ironically it is the wet and lush conditions that favour the district’s agriculture that also provides ideal conditions for both the nematode worms and mosquitos.

The eradication program is being funded thru an aid program being sponsored by the government of South Korea.

Dave with Health Team Leader Basilio Martins (black shirt) and Jose de Costa. Photo: Tim Holt
Dave with Health Team Leader Basilio Martins (black shirt) and Jose de Costa. Photo: Tim Holt

Friday morning and there’s early rain, but it clears before breakfast to reveal bright blue skies as the heat builds.

Today, Nikolas will visit Abet Oen Primary and Junior Secondary School. The school gardens are impressive.

Our final school visit is to St Francis School, also with a fabulous school garden.

The beauty of these gardens is that they are adjacent to the classrooms, so they become very much part of everyday activities.

The music session with senior students was particularly enjoyable with Brian Klau, a student here, playing Dave’s guitar and leading the students in song.

St Francis School Garden. Photo: Tim Holt
St Francis School Garden. Photo: Tim Holt

The music continued into the night with an invitation to dinner with Nikolas and his family. Sitting around with Jose, Angus, Nikolas and his sons – listening to them laugh, play and sing together you just know that this country has an enormous future.

Saturday dawns and it’s time to say farewell to this wonderful community and the Franciscan Sisters. Each morning I have watched as several of the Sisters head out for their early morning errands on their Honda motor scooters, in full habit with helmet and thongs. Wish I had a photo for you!

Dave and I bid farewell to the wonderful Sisters who have fed us so well, we say our goodbyes to Nikolas, Brian with the promise of a return next year, our luggage stowed aboard the Land Cruiser, along with bags of local produce that Jose is taking back to stock the family larder for the months ahead.

Three bags of the local specialty – Natarbora popping corn and a surprise passenger that I don’t discover until we are halfway to Dili – more about that next time.

Today we will take a different route from the way we came, heading along the coast to Betano, then travel thru the interior via Same and Maubisse.

We will stop at Betano. A significant site in the history between both our nations – more in postcard 5.

Words and pictures by Tim Holt

Catch up on Postcard 1, Postcard 2, and Postcard 3 in Tim’s postcard series from Timor Leste.

 

Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.

 

*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 

 

 

 

Where will the rainbow flag appear next in South East NSW?

The rainbow flag flying high at Cobargo Post Office this week before 'the bosses' stepped in. Photo: ABC South East Facebook
The rainbow flag flying high at Cobargo Post Office this week before ‘the bosses’ stepped in. Photo: ABC South East Facebook

A rainbow flag flying high above Cobargo Post Office this week seems to be part of a growing trend, with friends of About Regional also keen to raise the colours of gay pride in a show of support.

The rainbow flag has been a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and advocacy since the late 70’s.

San Francisco artist and activist Gilbert Baker is said to be responsible for the original design, which made its debut in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

It has been suggested that Baker may have been inspired by Judy Garland’s song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

The ‘Flag of the Human Race’ is also said to have played a role, with its five horizontal stripes of red, white, brown, yellow, and black.

Thirty volunteers are believed to have hand-dyed and stitched the first two rainbow flags.

In these contentious days leading up to the Turnbull Government’s postal survey on same sex marriage, the licencees of Cobargo Post Office were ordered to take their flag down by Australia Post. Management deciding the organisation should be seen as neutral on the issue, given the role they will play if the high court challenge sinks.

“It’s fantastic to hear that children are asking questions and talking about it,” David Wilson, licencee of the Cobargo Post Office told the Bega District News.

“And on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had much older, conservative people come in to give us their support too.”

Cobargo Post Office has been one of a number of key community buildings around Australia to fly the rainbow flag in the last week, including Waurn Ponds Police Station near Geelong in Victoria.

“We are supporting the message as police that you have the right to be proud of who you are — your sexuality or gender identity does not change this,” Acting Senior Sergeant Jane Boyd told the Geelong Advertiser.

The City of Hobart is another, Lord Mayor Sue Hickey told the Hobart Advertiser that the rainbow flag would fly over the Hobart Council Centre until there is marriage equality.

“You should not be discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or sex,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We raised the rainbow flag as a sign of solidarity with our LGBQTI community.”

In Western Australia, the City of Vincent just outside of Perth, last week decided to fly the six colours of the flag above its HQ in “celebration of Vincent’s cultural and social diversity and welcoming spirit.”

Mayor Emma Cole says, “We believe it is important for Vincent to demonstrate our strong support for residents who identify in the LGBTI community and who could be negatively impacted by the upcoming non-binding marriage law postal survey.”

“We also want to visually show that our community stands for equality, diversity and human rights and that our Council is committed to marriage equality.”

Staff at the council will also have the option of wearing “Vincent loves love” shirts,  street banners will also fly through the town centre.

With this growing momentum, some South East locals have asked About Regional where they can source their own rainbow flag.

Mogo was my first thought.

Leah Milston’s store ‘Milston Past and Present‘ has been a colourful head turner on the Mogo business strip since December 2005. All sorts of flags are pegged out the front to catch the breeze every day, distracting the passing highway trade.

“Australian, Aboriginal, Eureka and hippy flags are my most popular,” Leah says.

But with people keen to ‘show their colours’ Leah has ordered more and will post out rainbow flags to friends of About Regional.

“I have traditional rainbow flags, rainbow heart flags, peace flags with a rainbow back ground, I have just sold one to a lady from Cobargo,” Leah says.

“I agree with marriage equality but don’t like the idea of the survey.

“Because we could still end with the legislation remaining the same.

“I know some people are scared of change but this is about human rights,” she says.

Leah’s rainbow flags sell for $15, plus a little bit for postage, or Leah says she will post three flags to the one address for free. You’ll catch her on 4474 5708 or milstons2536@gmail.com

If the rainbow flag is available from other stores across the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley and Snowy Monaro please let me know.

*This story was made with the support of About Regional members – Debra Cushion, Amanda Stroud, JoSaccomani, Shane O’Leary, and Tathra Beach House Appartments. Thanks for supporting local news and discussion.

For more on marriage equality locally click HERE.  In October 2016, during Mental Health Month Leah Milston wrote of her journey for About Regional, click HERE for more.

 

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 Tuesday morning 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

Hall of Service to take soil from 65 South East locations

NSW Governor, David Hurley collects a sample of soil with members of Narooma RSL sub-branch looking on. By Ian Campbell
NSW Governor, David Hurley collects a sample of soil with members of Narooma RSL sub-branch looking on. By Ian Campbell

Soil collected from sixty-five war memorials across South East New South Wales will be featured in a new state memorial honouring First World War veterans and their hometowns.

The Office of Veterans Affairs is overseeing the program, which is collecting soil from almost 1,700 WW1 enlistment locations for an art installation in what will be known as the Hall of Service at the revamped Hyde Park memorial in the centre of Sydney.

An artists impression of what the Hall of Service will look like when complete in 2018. Source: anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au
An artists impression of what the Hall of Service will look like when complete in 2018. Source: anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au

Narooma is one of 15 Eurobodalla locations identified for the program, and one of the first local spots where soil has been collected. NSW Governor, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley who visited the Shire this week was the one to do the honours.

Other South East locations include:

Adaminaby

Batemans Bay

Bega

Bergalia

Bermagui

Berridale

Bibbenluke

Bimbaya

Bodalla

Bombala

Bredbo

Broadwater

Burragate

Candelo

Cathcart

Central Tilba

Cobargo

Colinton

Conjola

Cooma

Craigie

Dalgety

Delegate

Dignams Creek

Eden

Eurobodalla

Jerangle

Jindabyne

Jervis Bay

Jingera

Kameruka

Kanoona

Kiandra

Maharatta

Merimbula

Michelago

Milton

Monaro

Moruya

Myalla

Narooma

Nelligen

Nerrigundah

Nethercote

Nimmitabel

Numeralla

Pambulla

Quaama

Rock Flat

Rockton

Rocky Hall

Roasedale

South Pambula

South Wolumla

Stony Creek

Tathra

Tilba Tilba

Tomakin

Towamba

Ulladulla

Wagonga

Wolumla

Woodlands

Wyndham

Yatte Yattah

Linda Hurley chats to Narooma school kids about life in Government House. By Ian Campbell.
Linda Hurley chats to Narooma school kids about life in Government House. By Ian Campbell.

When complete, memorial visitors will be able to learn about each location via their personal digital devices.

The information presented will include details on the soil collection, the names of enlistees who gave that location as their home address, and maps showing the local area and its surrounding memorials and schools.

The simple soil collection program forms part of a $40 million enhancement of the memorial marking the centenary of World War 1.

Works are on track for opening on Remembrance Day 2018, which will bring to life the original 1930’s vision for the space and include a second water feature and new educational areas.

NSW Governor, David Hurley told About Regional, war memorials like this are a reminder of the strength of service and sacrifice for current day service women and men and of the history they are a part of.

His Excellency believes the new Hall of Service will be stunning and emotional…

This story was made with the assistance of About Regional members Wendy and Pete Gorton, Amanda Dalziel, Phil Martin, and Olwen Morris – thank you for supporting local story telling.

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!