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Tathra businesses “pop-up” after fire destroys livelihoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Feral fruit between Coast – Cooma – Canberra, delicious and part of history

Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The drive between the Far South Coast, Cooma, and Canberra is dotted with sites that make your mind wander.

Dilapidated railway bridges, decaying wildlife, rows of rural letterboxes, and sparkling solar farms, all inspire thought and question for the mindful traveller or curious passenger.

Right now, mixed with the scenic vistas on this 240km stretch of road is a more seasonal point of interest – apple trees heaving with fruit. Red, yellow, green apples bending branches to the ground.

There are dozens of apple trees growing in the harshest of conditions parallel to the highway and old railway line. At some points in this golden landscape, this native from Central Asia is the only show of green life.

How did they get there?

Are they any good to eat?

Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Growing alongside the Snowy Mountains and Monaro Highways is not the managed orchard environment I thought apples needed – perhaps I’ve watched too many pruning videos on YouTube and forgotten that apples are a tree like any other with their own wild force of nature!

While apples are the dominant feral fruit, you’ll also notice peach, plum, and pear trees.

Bega Valley Permacultrulist Kathleen McCann has a few theories to explain this roadside fruit salad; one of which is that she believes some of the trees date back to the horse and cart days.

“People did grow fruit trees and plant tree shelters at some of the stops they made on their journey,” Kathleen says.

“Often you can see tree cover, lone pines, and fruit trees in the oddest places along our highways, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These are where the horse or carriage needed to stop for lunch or for the night.

“In the days of horse and carriage, people were only able to cover 10 to 20 kms per day, depending on the weight they were transporting and the terrain they covered. Remember everything was a dirt track and ungraded in those days,” she says.

Often these apple trees are the only "green" in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Often these apple trees are the only “green” in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Apple and pear cores, plum and peach seeds, discarded by travellers are also part of the story according to Kathleen.

“You can spot fruit trees along the railway track as well. These were definitely tossed out the window as a passenger finished their prized fruit and have germinated where they fell,” she says.

“These trees have existed in the elements all on their own and are therefore very hardy.”

Our green thumb also believes birds and animals have been a factor in spreading the trees.

“Stone fruit especially could have been carried quite a distance if the seed was swallowed by a cow or horse. Apple seeds could have been carried by birds and deposited in droppings,” Kathleen says.

Weeds are spread in similar ways and are a significant problem to the region’s landholders, however, despite not being a native, the apple trees aren’t considered a pest.

“The apples certainly aren’t a problem for us,” says Brett Jones, Vegetation Management Officer, Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

“The Biosecurity Act deals with weeds which have a direct impact on the areas social, economic and environmental values, which the roadside apples certainly don’t.

“If they were identified as harbouring pests like fruit flies, then they might cause some concern but I’m not aware of any negative impact,” Brett says.

Far from it, it seems a whole variety of species are enjoying this wild harvest – birds, kangaroos, cattle, flying foxes, and humans.

Friends of About Regional report using the apples in all sorts of recipes.

Former Canberra girl, Renee Griffiths O’Reilly says, “They are cider apples so very tart and ideal for making cider. Juice them then add winemakers yeast or alternatively make apple pies with a lot of sugar.”

Akolele local, Deborah Taylor suggests an old-fashioned apple dessert: “Baked apples – cored and filled with a mix of currents, raisins, sultanas, zest and juice of two oranges, butter and brown sugar too if you want to be indulgent”, she writes.

“Bake until soft. Serve with yoghurt or cream. Leftovers are great for breakfast with muesli and yoghurt.”

People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.
People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Show winner, Fiona Scott suggests apple jelly and is generous enough to share her secrets.

“It’s a bit fiddly but a good way to use apples that aren’t perfect,” she writes on About Regional Facebook.

“Cut up 2 kilograms of apples into fours, skin, core and all. Put into a big pot, like a stock pot with 1cm of water in the bottom.

“Bring slowly to the boil and simmer the whole mess until soft. Cool, then (the vital step) pour the whole lot into a muslin lined colander over a large bowl.

“A clean old cloth is fine if you don’t have muslin, just rinse well so the detergent remnants don’t make the jelly taste like Cold Power!” Fiona suggests.

“Leave overnight for the juice to drain. DO NOT SQUEEZE the leftover apple, compost it or the jelly will be cloudy.

“Measure the juice and put into the stockpot and bring to the boil. Add 40% equivalent in sugar, i.e. 1 litre of juice to 400 grams sugar.

“Stir the lovely pink mess until the sugar dissolves and continue boiling until it tests as set.

“I put a teaspoon of the juice onto a cold plate and when it is cool give it a push with my finger. Highly scientific! If wrinkles form like skin the chemistry is right for the jelly to set,” she writes.

“Pour into sterilised jars, cover with a clean cloth until cool, then cap the jars. Don’t put the lid on too soon or condensation from the cooling jam will make the jelly go mouldy.

“All that effort will give you several jars of the loveliest, clear pink and slightly wobbly apple jelly.

“Now you know all my jam making secrets,” Fiona confesses.

Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.
Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.

Sprout Cafe in Eden builds its weekly menu around what is seasonal and what is local, and the first apples are starting to come in from growers.

Elaine O’Rourke in the kitchen at Sprout is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake, and has shared the recipes with us!

Vegan Apple Loaf (Gluten Free)

1 ½ cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
½ cup Nutlex
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Vanilla
½ cup almond milk
2 apples – peeled, cored and diced

Beat Nutlex and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar until creamy, add apple sauce, vanilla and milk.
Mix in flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Mix the remaining 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar with the apple sauce and stir half the apples into the mixture.

Pour into a loaf tin approx 23cm x 13cm
Sprinkle the remaining apples on top.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20 – 35 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Apple Crumble Cake (Gluten Free)

Crumble:
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar

Apple Filling:
5 apples – peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Base:
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk

Make crumble by mixing flour, baking powder and sugar together and rubbing in the butter.

Make the filling by cooking the apples until soft and cooling.

Make base by whipping butter and sugar together, adding the egg, flour, baking powder and milk.

Spread base into a lined pan or tray, top with filling mixture and sprinkle topping over.

Bake at 180 degrees for 40 – 50 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean and sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell
Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell

Like the weather-beaten shearing sheds and chimneys without a house that dot the Snowy-Monaro countryside, the apple trees that grow in this soil are also a throwback to another time.

These tough local specimens of one of the world’s favourite fruits will be ready for harvest come late February – early March. Find a safe spot to pull over, grab a bag, and be a part of their ongoing connection with travellers.

*About Regional content is supported by, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Sprout Eden, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg, Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, and Geoff Berry.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Unique Jindabyne love story inspires wedding venue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This article was first published on RiotACT

New stable complex at Sapphire Coast Turf Club builds racing industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“People are happy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The story was first published to RiotACT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local historian Jim Kelly adds to the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This story was first published on RiotACT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Regional sold to Canberra based media company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers
Ian

New citizens formalise their place in Bega Valley community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain calls on us to “Advance Australia”

Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council
Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council

Through her Australia Day address, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain has tried to advance the conversation about our national day.

“With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country,” the Mayor told the 200 people gathered in Littleton Gardens this morning for the Shire’s official Australia Day ceremony.

An hour after the Bega ceremony concluded a Survival Day event was held in Bermagui, reflecting the undeniable loss many Aboriginal people feel on January 26.

The Bega Valley was split in two, and those overwhelmed by the debate went to the beach.

Communities divided or not engaged on our national day – surely this is not healthy?

Rather than waiting for Federal leadership on the issue, perhaps the people of South East NSW could lead the way and create an event that truly unifies and inspires all Australians.

It’s a conversation the Bega Valley’s Mayor seems keen to have and lead…

To address you on a day such as this is a tremendous honour and something I have spent a lot of time thinking about.

Australia Day is an event that generates conversation and thought, and rightly so. Thank you for being here to consider my thoughts.

There is a sigh of relief that comes with being Australian, our country is truly blessed in natures gifts and the beauty of our people and way of life is rich and rare.

The people we honour today with an Australia Day Award remind us that being Australian is active citizenship.

People like Dane, Junee, Ron, Shaun, Geoffrey and Marshall are people within our community that point the way. They inspire us and remind us of the power we each have within our hands and heart to shape this land that is girt by sea.

I am so glad you are here today to share in their wisdom and experience, and perhaps ask yourself – What can I do to Advance Australia? How can I respect and support the people, environment, and way of life we celebrate today?

Today we also stand up and cheer as new Australian’s join our ranks and deepen our proud multicultural heritage.

Twelve people will today become Australian citizens, people from across the seas to share our boundless plains. The stories of these people and the talent they bring make us stronger.

Central to our time together today is a history that spans one of the oldest living cultures on the planet as well as European settlement and exploration.

Australia Day is a history lesson that presents a range of ideas and experiences to consider; stories that take in the full scope of our country’s history and human emotion.

How these shared and at times conflicting histories sit side by side and are remembered is an ongoing dialogue for our community and important work for us to do so that in history’s page, every stage, does Advance Australia.

As different and conflicting as those histories are at times, there are often shared values and ambitions that rise to the surface as those histories are shared.

At our core, we are a nation of people who value being Australian and what that means to us and says to the world.

It’s freedom that comes as easy as the next breath, a celebration and acceptance of different cultures, an emphasis on friendship, a spirit that has a go, a sense of fun, and an empathy that steps up when we see a need.

A successful nation has been built on these lands over many thousands of years, each chapter adds something new, each chapter has its own challenges, and each chapter calls on us to help shape the next.

So in 2018 I encourage you to mark Australia Day however feels right to you, remembering all that we have to be grateful for, all that we have in common, and the future we all create together.

With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country.

Happy Australia Day!

Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain

The increasing hurt and frustration around Australia Day damages the potential and delays resolution, while ever it continues people will run from any organised event, the only people attending will be those at the extremes of the discussion, the rest will opt for a swim and a good book, and Australia Day will become just another public holiday when it could be so much more.

The leadership shown by Cr McBain this morning is perhaps the start of something better, let’s get the local discussion going now and not wait for next January to roll around.

Always interested in your thoughts.

Ian

 

*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council and acted as MC for Australia Day 2018 in Bega.

 

Podcast 21 – A lesson in the art of rock balancing with Michael Grab

Today’s conversation is with Michael Grab.

Michael’s rock balancing art stops the world dead, and in the same way that breathing just happens, your mind automatically asks, “How the hell does he do that?”

The gallery of photo and videos on his Gravity Glue website is extraordinary.

Canadian born Michael has been on the Far South Coast of New South Wales over summer, bringing his brand of land art to Picnic Point and Goalen Head, a magic bit of coastline between Bermagui and Tathra.

His work defies gravity, at least how the rest of us understand gravity, but Michael seems to have an ability to tap into and read this invisible earth force – something he describes as “gravity glue“.

How does he do it? Press play and find out…

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

 

A shout out to those who support local storytelling – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, and Kiah Wilderness Tours.

Thanks for listening.
Ian