Pooh Bear’s Corner on the Kings Highway between Canberra and Batemans Bay has been delighting travelers for decades, and it would appear that something similar is being created on the Monaro Highway just out of Cooma.
In recent weeks, extra teddy bears have been slung into the hollow of an old Ribbon Gum northwest of Nimmitabel.
The first teddy; a koala, appeared in June last year, but in the opening weeks of 2018 two more have been added, perhaps by Canberra families escaping the capital for a summer holiday on the coast.
Is this the start of something? A new Pooh Bear’s Corner?
The original, west of Batemans Bay, sprung up in the 1970’s.
Crookwell potato farmers David and Barbara Carter are credited with creating the landmark, which sits in a cave next to a rainforest of tree ferns on Clyde Mountain.
The Carter’s apparently saw it as a clever distraction for their young children during the regular run to their holiday home at Rosedale. Other families have been stopping to leave their own teddy bears and soft toys in the cave ever since.
Who is behind the Monaro version remains a mystery, and whoever it is has gone to a bit of trouble. This one sits 10 metres off the ground and takes more effort than Batemans Bay’s Pooh Bear Corner.
Ladders have perhaps been used, or maybe there’s a weight on the end of a rope to hold the teddy in place?
The boy scout in me is curious.
This lone Ribbon Gum was already catching people’s eye long before the first teddy appeared in mid-2017.
As discussion bubbled about the appearance of that koala, regular travelers spoke of the tree’s “presence” in their journey.
Sherri Cooper wrote on the About Regional Facebook page: “My Mum and I were doing weekly trips to Canberra for cancer treatment a while back and we could never find a safe spot to pull over and take a photo when the pink and red bark was at its most spectacular.”
Beth Krncevic wrote: “The twisting branches and changing colours of the bark is what inspired me to start painting and why I have so many gum trees at my home.”
“Beautiful gum tree, always wondered who lived in the hollow. Friday afternoon on my way to Merimbula I must say I was shocked and had a little chuckle to myself, most unexpected resident,” wrote Bev Dobson.
As the colours of this landmark tree change from pink, to red, to green, to steel grey, with the approaching cold season perhaps the next wave of holidaymakers will add new residents to the ancient hollow it carries – the National Parks and Wildlife Service estimates hollows of this size take between 100 and 200 years to form.
Travellers watch on with interest, not just at the weather-beaten bark anymore, but to see who and what will take up residence next.
Politics is part of every country show. There is the tongue-in-cheek variety between Jersey and Friesian dairy farmers, between sheep and goat graziers, and between dressage horses and motorbike clubs, but room is always made for the “more serious” variety, the politics that normally takes place in a parliament house or council chamber.
In fact, country shows provide one of the few unfiltered opportunities to speak directly to our leaders.
January, February, March is show season in South East New South Wales and has been for 145 years, from Moruya Show to Bega and Cooma, the region’s politicians make a point of attending, an army of party faithful at their side with marques and billboards marked in party colours and slogans.
The Bega Show last weekend offered some respite for the region’s federal representatives, who seemed happy to be free of Canberra and were looking forward to a week were their own sex lives were a talking point.
“It was like a bowl of sweet and sour Chinese,” Labor’s Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro says.
“On one hand we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations, and on the other we had the other business [Barnaby Joyce affair] going on,” Dr Kelly says.
The Turnbull Government was represented at the show by new NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan, who has just completed his first two-week parliamentary sitting.
Senator Molan has been described as the Stephen Bradbury of politics. Listed as the seventh candidate on the NSW Coalition Senate ticket at the last election, the former Army General finds himself in parliament as a result of the Section 44 citizenship saga that claimed Nationals Senator Fiona Nash.
Like Dr Kelly, Mr Molan did not want to offer direct comment on the Barnaby Joyce affair or his own recent brush with the media where he was criticised for sharing a Facebook post from the far-right group Britain First.
“What may surprise everyone is that the Government is getting on and doing its job,” Mr Molan says.
“For example, the Minister for Veterans Affairs introduced a Bill last week which he called Veteran Centric Reform,” Mr Molan says.
The Government’s Veterans Affairs website says, “Veteran Centric Reform [is] to provide the veteran community with a greater standard of service through reform of business processes and culture.”
Reflecting on the work of parliament and other matters that might have been missed in the buzz around Barnaby, Dr Kelly points to the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Last week, the Committee handed down its Review of the listing of Islamic State Khorasan Province and the re-listing of al-Murabitun as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.
In a nutshell, their report concluded: “Islamic State Khorasan Province and al-Murabitun continue to meet the definition of a terrorist organisation.”
Perhaps not a front-of-mind issue for showgoers over the weekend, but Dr Kelly who sits on the Committee insists that it demonstrates that politics is more than the scandal and combat we see presented in the media.
“It’s [the Joint Committee] a very bipartisan mechanism, we really do focus on the interests of the country, keeping our people safe and defeating terrorists. There is no politics there,” he says.
The red of the Labor tent sat side by side with the blue of the Liberal tent over the three days of the Bega Show.
Often the different party members could be seen standing on neutral ground discussing the issues of the day or their show winning dahlias.
Passers-by were invited to raise concerns and issues, offer a view on parliament’s current agenda, or find out what’s going on for themselves.
“That’s what we are here for,” Dr Kelly says.
“Sometimes it’s good for people to just get things off their chest, I’ve learned as a Member there’s a lot of therapy you can provide by just being a decent listener.”
This grassroots demonstration of our democracy survives in a political landscape that thrives on extremes and conflict, and one that highlights difference rather than similarity. It’s a style of politics that sits comfortably alongside the giant pumpkins, decorated Arrowroots, and chainsaw racing of the show.
“And I am only new, I am not across the local issues, I am here to learn,” Senator Molan says.
Show season rolls on this weekend with the Canberra Show, followed by Delegate, Dalgety, Cooma, and Bemboka on March 11.
Head along not just for the sideshow clowns or a pony ride, but ready to see your local politician – the invitation is there to talk to them.
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?
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
Show winner, Fiona Scott suggests apple jelly and is generous enough to share her secrets.
“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 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)
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup caster sugar
5 apples – peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup caster sugar
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.
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.
Sharon White, a singer-songwriter from Sydney, remembers coming to Cooma as a kid on holidays.
Her powerful voice sitting on a milk crate in front of the fish and chips shop on Sharp Street called me over from the big trees of Centennial Park.
Stopping to listen I realised there was more to this little lady with a cane.
The lyrics she sings speak of love, loss, hurt, recovery, and release.
“She’s got a story to tell,” the couple next to me says to each other.
Sharon didn’t win any of the awards that day – the fact that she is alive seems to be Sharon’s prize.
“I write all my own songs, and events like this are good for original material,” Sharon says.
“There are a few people here playing covers, and they’ll probably get the people in, but my stuff is personal.”
Sharon says she comes from a musical family.
“My great-grandmother was Sydney’s second-best opera singer,” she says.
“I’ve got her voice.”
Dame Nellie Melba was the only voice better than her great-grandmothers according to Sharon.
“I just do what I do because I love it,” Sharon smiles.
“I write about life experiences, everything that happens in my life, I’ll probably write a song about talking to you!”
At the suggestion that music might have a healing effect in her life, Sharon pulls a pink, polished gemstone from her pocket with the word ‘healing’ engraved across its surface. A lucky stone that pushes her on.
“I lost my brother and I sort of lost myself for a little while, I was messed up, too much alcohol,” Sharon starts to explain.
“And my son said to me one day – if I lose you, I’ll have no one, so I said okay, I’ll fix myself up.”
The song “I am Gonna Fly” from Sharon’s homemade album “The Naked Truth” was born of that time.
“I sing that song now with a smile because it’s now a recovery song, it gives me strength and I think of my son and brother,” Sharon says.
“It makes me go on.”
The walking stick that helps Sharon cart her amp and guitar around Cooma’s CBD is a reminder of a car accident that almost claimed Sharon’s life, another time when music played its healing tune.
“I don’t even know it [music]’s there, I just do this,” Sharon says.
“I come up with songs all the time, it feels good to create something that wasn’t there before.”
Another song “I am Going to Nashville” points to where Sharon hopes her music and a few coins in her guitar case will take her one day.
“In Sydney, I can make about $300 in three hours,” she says.
While it was a fella from Ballarat and a bunch of kids from Narooma that claimed the big prizes at the Australian National Busking Championships, Sharon says the festival has been a great opportunity to share her music.
“It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, I’ve already won – I have my life and I have my songs,” Sharon says.
Sharon has auditioned for the upcoming season of the TV talent show “The Voice”, she’s waiting to hear if she has made it through to the next round.
Cooma will be cheering you on Sharon!
*This article was originally published to Riot ACT
Cooma fashion designer Charly Thorn says she is happy to be sleeping in her own bed again after plying an international catwalk but is hungry for more.
India is the next stop for this ambitious 18-year-old.
The opportunity to leave her Snowy Monaro home was forged at FashFest in Canberra this time last year, an industry scout spotted Charly’s talent and offered her a spot at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada – if she could raise the money to get there and create a spring/summer collection.
Cooma turned out to make sure the opportunity didn’t pass her by with a fashion show fundraiser held earlier this year to supplement Charly’s savings while working at the town’s Thai restaurant and at the online fashion house Birdsnest.
In Vancouver, Charly’s designs were the first to stride out before an audience of media and international buyers – Charly was the opening event.
“It was such a thrill, seeing my creations walk down a runway together as a collection,” she says.
“It was exhilarating after all that work to get there.”
New York was added to the travel schedule, her youth and ability the ticket.
“I grabbed an awesome opportunity in New York, there was a day at Parsons School for Design, which is where I have always wanted to go, my dream school,” Charly says.
The collection Charly presented in Canada was a mix of her two homes – Hamilton Island off Queensland’s tropical coast and Cooma, a stone throw from Australia’s highest peak and coldest temperatures.
Since she was a baby, Charly’s year has been split between the families snow business – Village Ski Hire in Cooma during winter and another life and business on Hamilton Island in the warmer months.
It’s a lifestyle that gave birth to, until now, an unlikely connection – holiday time resort wear meets Merino wool, an idea that attracted positive coverage from fashion bible Vogue.
“It was a real contrast for people and challenged what they think of when they think wool – lots of beachwear, very floaty – a juxtaposition that puts wool on the beach or beside the pool,” Charly says.
“It works though, wool is so breathable, it’s really nice to wear, and at the end of its life when you throw it out it’s not going to hurt the environment.
“To be able to showcase Australian wool, alongside other natural fibres like linen and silk, on an international stage is awesome,” Charly says.
The colour and cut of the cloth wasn’t the only point of interest in Charly’s travels, the 18-year-old’s passion for the Monaro’s fibre lead to conversations at Parsons around the marketing and production of wool.
“It was really interesting to see the comparison between the Australian wool industry and what America wants to make of their wool industry.”
“America is talking about localising wool, not just production on local farms but also the milling, dyeing, and manufacturing side of the business in local factories.
“I really hope Australia follows that trend, because at the moment once wool leaves Australian farms it goes to China to be dyed and go through a fabric mill, and then we buy it back from them for manufacturing,” Charly explains.
“It’s really tricky to track wool once it leaves the farm.
“Food has already done it, people want to know where their products come from,” Charly says.
Still coming down off her high, Charly is considering her next move.
“To be in the middle of all those creatives is what I live for,” Charly says.
“So I’ve applied for a couple of international scholarships, and to colleges and universities here, I am just waiting to hear back.”
In the meantime, work as a trainee at Birdsnest has opened a door to travel to India in December.
“Every year they visit their suppliers and I just said can I come with you? I’ll pay my way, I just want to come and watch,” Charly says.
The experience in Vancouver and New York has left her hungry for more and it’s impossible not to believe 2018 will be the start of so much more for Charly Thorn and her homespun unique inspirations.
“Seeing my designs come to life on the runway will drive me to do it again and again.”
My car sits in the driveway at home covered by dust day in day out, rain is the only thing that gets my Subaru sparkling. A couple of hours at Cooma MotorFest on Saturday (Nov 4) is not going to change that but it has left its mark.
Brilliant blue Monaro skies backed the hard work of the Cooma Car Club and other local service groups; it was a magic day, not just for rev heads but for anyone that appreciates hard work, style, colour, and nostalgia.
This bi-annual event raises money for local charities and draws around 3000 people to Cooma Showground, not to mention car, truck, and machinery clubs from Canberra, the Far South Coast, and southern Monaro.
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 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.”
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
High school students from Cooma have combined with a locally based, online fashion house in a colourful approach to tackling family violence.
The idea of a workplace ‘Colourathon’ is being trialed at Birdsnest in Cooma, with female students from Monaro High School preparing to launch the idea nationally in November.
New ‘Colourathon for Corporates’ kits come packed with everything a business will need to host their own event, broadening the community response to family violence.
Artistic change maker, Big hART is leading the collaboration under the banner of ‘Project O‘.
“Project O is a national program we run with young women aged 12 to 15, assisting them to build new skills and capacity and to learn how to be change makers,” says Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director.
Project O started in the ‘family violence hotspot’ of North West Tasmania and has since been rolled out to Cooma, Roebourne WA, and Canberra.
“A colourathon is a colouring-in arts marathon,” Genevieve explains.
“An arts endurance event, where every hour of colouring-in is sponsored and raises money for trauma therapy services for young children fleeing violence and needing crises care.”
A colourathon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on November 30 will help launch the corporates kits being developed at Birdsnest by the twenty young women from Monaro High School.
“They roll out a play based therapy program in women’s shelters,” Genevieve says.
“The average age of a child fleeing violence is two and a half years old, through the fundraising we provide training in play based therapy which helps children who can’t talk or express their feelings like adults.”
The add on to Big hART’s Project O initiative for the Monaro girls is the opportunity to be mentored by the innovators and entrepreneurs that make up Birdsnest – winner of the ‘Best Online Customer Service Award’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards in 2015 and 2016 and BRW Australia’s 8th ‘Best Place to Work’ for companies with 100 employees or less in 2015.
Former IBM e-business consultant, Jane Cay is ‘head bird’.
“It’s such a great opportunity for them to realise that they can create change even when they are young and at school,” Jane says.
Students have been embedded in Jane’s company for a ten week period, mentored by staff in event management, product development, publicity, design, logistics, and a range of other business skills.
“It’s a massive company and it’s amazing that we are able to have workshops here,” says Brooke, one of the Project O students.
‘We are so lucky that we have this experience, to meet all of the staff and learn new things from them,” Brooke’s friend Georgia adds.
Both students say they have also been surprised to learn about the issue of family violence.
“It does happen in Cooma, I didn’t think it would happen in Cooma, it’s been a shock to me,” Georgia says.
“I hope this [The Colourathon] will show people that it is happening and it needs to stop,” Brooke says.
“Hopefully we raise money to help them [children] get through it and find more support through play based therapy,” Georgia adds.
Aside from the benefit to the community through programs like Project O and the Colourathon, Jane Cay believes it makes good business sense for corporates to get involved.
“People need to come to work feeling nurtured, and they need to look after themselves in order to be of service to anyone – whether that’s in the workplace or to their families,” Jane says.
“If the family environment is not a safe and nurturing place it’s very difficult to then come into a work place without that very basic foundation that humans need to operate.”
Thanks to About Regional members, Jeanette Westmore, Claire Blewett, Fay Deveril, and Fiona Cullen for supporting local story telling.
Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.
“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.
“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”
Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.
“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.
“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.
Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.
“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.
“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.
Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.
“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.
“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”
The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.
Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.
“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.
“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”
But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.
“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.
“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.
“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.
Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.
“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.
Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.
“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”
“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.