Eurobodalla and Bega Valley locals say “Stop Adani”

Eurobodalla locals gather on Congo Beach near Moruya. Photo: supplied
Eurobodalla locals gather on Congo Beach near Moruya. Photo: supplied

South East locals have been part of national protest action against the Adani coal mine proposed for North Queensland.

Protesters turned out in forty-five locations from Adelaide to Bondi to Bunbury over the weekend.

Locally, Eurobodalla 350 estimates around 250 people attended their protest at Congo Beach on Saturday, holding placards to spell out #STOP ADANI.

“We demand the federal government halt Adani’s enormous proposed coal mine,” spokesperson Allan Rees says.

In Bega, a colourful group marched through town on Friday and gathered in Littleton Gardens.

Organiser Sue Andrew sees the Adani mine as a litmus paper issue for a globe preparing for a climate change future.

“I feel now more than ever we have to unite to stand up against the fossil fuel industries and other extractive industries if we are serious about addressing climate change,” Ms Andrew says.

The Indian based Adani is seeking a billion dollar government loan to build a railway line linking its proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port on the Great Barrier Reef.

Once complete, Carmichael would be Australia’s largest coal mine, with six open-cut pits and up to five underground mines, with a lifespan of between 25 and 60 years.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the ABC the project will bring new jobs to communities like Rockhampton, Towsnville, Charters Towers, Mackay, and Claremont.

“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she told the ABC

The Queensland Premier is also confident environmental concerns have been heard.

“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine,” she said.

Allan Rees says those that gathered at Congo on Saturday are angry that taxpayer dollars might be used to subsidise something “so destructive”.

“Adani’s mine may be far away, but the Eurobodalla can’t escape the climate change caused by burning that coal,” Mr Rees says.

“Australia has enormous reserves of coal which we must keep in the ground if we are to halt climate change.

“Climate change is here and is harming our agriculture and fishing.

“Beekeepers tell us how gum trees are blossoming at the wrong time, orchardists have lost trees from extreme heat, graziers and fishing people tell us how the climate is changing and harming their livelihoods,” Mr Rees says.

Bega locals march thorugh town with their marine puppets. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bega locals march through town with their marine puppets. Photo: Ian Campbell

Local fears also extend to the future of the Great Barrier Reef itself if the mine goes ahead with Bega protesters carrying a series of handmade marine creatures along Carp Street and into the town’s civic space.

“We know the Great Barrier Reef is highly endangered already and any further development or shipping would only increase the destruction of this incredible ecosystem,” Sue Andrew believes.

The exact number of jobs the $22 billion Adani investment will create is disputed, Adani claims 10,000 however the Land Court of Queensland has put the number at closer to 2,600.

That same court deemed the development could go ahead but added a number of new environmental safeguards.

While accepting new jobs are important for regional communities Allan Rees suggests the jobs created by the mine are floored and points to new jobs in greener industries.

“We have to support communities which currently rely on coal to have new industries to employ people,” he says.

“State and federal governments must develop programs to change to wind and solar, batteries and hydro, as well as energy efficiency.

“Australia has to give up coal mining and change to a renewable energy economy,” Mr Rees says.

“We should be retrofitting homes and businesses with insulation and using better designs for new buildings.”

Debate has been renewed on the back of a Four Corners investigation that aired last week on ABC TV.

“Adani has been exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program as damaging people’s health, the livelihoods of farmers and fishing people and the environment in India,” Mr Rees says.

“Adani is using foreign tax havens and has a corporate structure that would allow them to minimise tax paid in Australia.

“The former Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that it was almost beyond belief that the Australian Government would look to provide concessional loans and other taxpayer support to facilitate Adani Group’s coal mining project,” he says.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sees huge potential in the mine going forward – should it be built.

“It will generate, over the course of its life, an enormous amount in taxes and in royalties, revenues for state and federal ­governments,” he told The Australian back in April.

Adani has suggested it will break ground on the mine site before the end of this month with the first coal produced in early 2020.

The billion dollar loan from the Federal Government’s National Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) remains undetermined.

However, News Limited has reported comments by Adani chairman Gautam Adani saying, “The project will be funded by internal accruals, NAIF and foreign banks.”

Bega’s Sue Andrew is positive people power will prevail.

“There is so much opposition. It is not viable; economically, ethically, or environmentally,” she says.

It is really a no-brainer, why not spend the proposed billion dollars from NAIF on building renewable energy infrastructure and thousands of sustainable jobs and show our commitment to our children’s future?”

Those behind the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley protests are committed to further action.

 

About Regional content is supported by the contributions of members. Thank you to Julie Klugman, Cathy Griff, Kate Liston-Mills, Shane O’Leary, Jenny Anderson, and Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui.

Podcast 19 – Eurobodalla Youth Forum

Some school holiday listening this time around.

During Local Government Week recently, Eurobodalla Shire Council made space for the youth of the shire.

Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.

One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.

Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.

Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.

While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.

Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.

Click play to listen here and now…

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

For support or more info about the issues raised in this podcast check in with the Eurobodalla youth services directory or drop by one of the Shire’s popular youth cafes in Narooma and Batemans Bay.

About Regional is supported by the financial contributions of members, including Jill Howell, Max Wilson, Sue MacKinnon, Geoff Berry, and Four Winds at Bermagui – who have just released the program for next Easter’s festival, 60 artists, 10 ensembles, 26 performances, 10 stunning locations, over 5 days starting in late March 2018. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.
Cheers
Ian

Research about Aboriginal society is not news to this Moruya audience

Kangaroo Grass bread. By Toby Whitelaw
Kangaroo Grass bread, made and shared by Bruce Pascoe at Southeast Harvest, April 1 2017. Photo by Toby Whitelaw.

News this week that Aboriginal people reached Australia at least 65,000 years ago won’t come as a surprise to those who saw Mallacoota based writer Bruce Pascoe speak in Moruya last April.

Research out of new excavations of a rock shelter at the base of the Arnhem Land escarpment in the Northern Territory has pushed back estimates of human arrival on the Australian continent.

The shelter, known as Madjebeben has been described as the earliest evidence of humans in Australia.

Chris Clarkson from the University of Queensland told ABC Science that the new date would have a big impact on our understanding of when humans left Africa and moved through South- East Asia.

One of the artifacts unearthed is the world’s oldest known ground-edge axe head, one made by grinding rather than flaking. The full story has been published in the journal Nature.

Bruce Pascoe spoke of such evidence to a captivated audience during his lecture at Southeast Harvest at Moruya Showground in April 2017.

Bruce is a man of Bunarong and Yuin heritage, and the author of the acclaimed book, “Dark Emu“. Based on the diaries of early European settlers, in the book Bruce makes the case that Australia’s original inhabitants designed and constructed sophisticated irrigation systems and cultivated vast areas of land.

He dispels the idea that Aboriginal people were simple hunters and gatherers before European settlement and points to evidence of a civilisation that can legitimately be described as pioneers of agriculture, architecture, and engineering.

Speaking to Awaye on ABC Radio National, Bruce said he was excited to hear this latest news.

“I am very hopeful, hopeful that we can continue this conversation,” Bruce says.

“This is a fabulous continent, the continent wants to talk to us, it’s been trying to talk to us, and white Australia has been deaf to it.

“Now today when we see this news, maybe we can start to listen, maybe this is one of the ways we turn the corner,” Bruce says.

Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla and Moruya filmmaker Toby Whitelaw have made Bruce Pascoe’s Southeast Harvest lecture available to all…

Thanks to About Regional members, Amanda Dalziel, Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins, and Amanda Stroud for supporting local stories.

Over $5 million for local cycleways including Bega to Tathra link

The long-awaited Bega to Tathra cycleway is set to become a reality with $3 million set aside in the NSW Budget this week.

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said, “I am so excited to confirm the funds to build this important project.”

“This will not only better connect two of our great communities it will also provide a fantastic tourism driver and give the region a further economic boost.”

The money will go to Bega Valley Shire Council to work with the community and stakeholders to design, plan and construct the much-anticipated path.

The Bega – Tathra money was the largest part of a big splash of cash for local cycleways.

Other money announced by NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet included:

  • $2 million for a shared pathway from Rotary Park in Merimbula to Merimbula Wharf.
  • Construction of 660 metres of shared path in Moruya along Bergalia Street.
  • Construction of almost 500 metres of shared path in Narooma along the northern end of McMillan Road.

The champagne corks were popping as Doug Reckord, the Secretary of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Committee shared the news with his dedicated group. Click play for more.

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

Eurobodalla Citizens Jury – $100,000, 86 recommendations. Worthwhile?

Is Council spending your money on the right things? If not, what should it change?

That was the question put to the Eurobodalla Citizens Jury, a group of 28 randomly selected residents.

Starting in June 2016, the Citizens Jury reported back to Council in December making a wide range of recommendations from business development to land use to the role of the arts in the community, including:

  • Ensure that the potential for a performing arts base is considered in the redevelopment of the MacKay Park precinct.
  • Investigate revenue opportunities through use of waste facilities to generate income and or energy source, e.g. incorporating methane collection; recycling of plastics into a viable resource.
  • Continue and further develop collaboration with Aboriginal people and use of traditional land care techniques.
  •  Council recognise that the Jury supports the consistent application of the LEP and other environmental strategies and plans, such that green belts and riparian zones are protected.

The Citizens Jury project cost around $100 000 but was it worth it?

Yes, but it was not without its problems, according to Moruya juror Kate Raymond.

“The Citizens Jury was definitely worthwhile, it gave us all a good sense of what Council did and what kind of decisions had to be made every day,” Kate says.

However, the Jury struggled with the complexity of the task and was heavily reliant on Council staff to provide them with information.

“We came to realise that the question was just too broad, and we really couldn’t answer it,” Kate explains.

“How are we supposed to know if Council is spending enough money on roads, rates, and rubbish? What do we have to measure it against?

“We were briefed, but we only got Council’s perspective, and they said, ‘We’re doing the best we can with the money we have’. We had to take their word for it,” Kate says.

The Jury members also struggled to achieve consensus on issues.

“Even if some of us thought Council was spending too much on something, we’d never be able to reach consensus on it because it’s a group of 28 people with different priorities,” Kate says.

“For instance, some people wanted much more paving and guttering in the Shire but others disagreed because they thought it was less important for a rural shire. That’s just one example!”

It’s a point Deputy Mayor Anthony Mayne isn’t surprised to hear.

“By definition, a jury is a group of people who consider information and then reach a binding decision about it,” Cr Mayne says.

“Although the Jury deeply engaged with the issues presented to them, they weren’t expected to come to a unanimous agreement about them.

“To call it a ‘Jury’ does little to advance or promote the positive benefits of this project,” he says

Kate Raymond also believes the jury struggled to understand the role of Council.

“There were some jurors with quite extreme views about what Council does [views that] were simply outside what we were meant to be talking about,” she says

“I think the New Democracy Foundation (the Jury facilitators) did a really good job though.”

“Overall, I still think it was worthwhile,” Kate says.

Critic of the Citizens Jury project, Paul Bradstreet, took a keen interest in the process and observed a couple of Jury meetings.

Paul represents the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association (ERA).

Not a juror himself, he argues that the Jury wasn’t able to consider new ideas for the Shire.

“The Shire needs new ideas, but Council remains stuck in the same old patterns because it’s easier than dealing with new things,” he says.

According to Paul, citizens with innovative ideas were directed to make a submission to the Jury, but the Jury couldn’t consider them.

“For instance, the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association had ideas that we wanted to put to Council, especially following the [Council] elections in September,” Paul says.

“The ERA had a couple of councilors elected on our platform issues, so we know our ideas are relevant, but we weren’t being given a chance to express them.

“The Citizens Jury was set up as a public relations, rubber stamping exercise, where Council gets to hear that they’re doing a great job,”  Paul says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council says that new ideas and submissions from the public were included in the Jury project.

A Council spokesperson says, there were 39 submissions from the community, and the Jury considered all of them carefully.

“Although the Jury project was primarily set up to look at how Council currently spends its money, it did consider new ideas, for instance, a community ‘think tank’ activity to run as part of Local Government Week and investigating a mobile library service,” the spokesperson explains.

Kate Raymond agrees that the Jury considered new ideas, but was somewhat ambivalent about Council’s response,

“For instance, our report recommended (p.9) having an agricultural officer in Council, to supercharge the outcomes from the Rural Lands Strategy,” Kate says.

Council’s response was, ‘We will look into this’ and if there is grant funding available (p.32) they’ve told us they will investigate options.

“Does this mean Council is actively looking for grant funding for this position? What does investigating options mean? That’s unclear,” Kate says.

Council’s spokesperson says the Citizens Jury worked well and achieved the goal of providing feedback on how Council spends its money.

The jury made 86 recommendations, 76 of which align with the Draft Delivery Program 2017-21 and the Operational Plan 2017-18. These two documents inform upcoming Council spending in the immediate future,” the spokesperson says.

“We [Council] also realised that there’s quite a lot of confusion in the community about the three tiers of government (local, state and federal) and their respective roles. So we’re working at getting some information about this out there.”

Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook
Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook

The Deputy Mayor believes it was a worthwhile process.

“In the modern world of social media, to see 28 people deeply engaged and enquiring of any number of issues over a sustained period of time is to be applauded,” Cr Mayne says.

“These were volunteers, paid a small allowance to give up seven nights and many hours of reading over several months to listen, wonder, seek, exchange, explore and debate a variety of matters before finally presenting their outcomes to the Councillors”.

So, will the Eurobodalla see another Citizens Jury?

“Council has developed a Community Engagement Framework and the Citizens Jury will remain something we can use when appropriate,” Council’s spokesperson explains.

“The jurors provided significant amounts of their own time and Council is appreciative of that.”

Words by Fiona Whitelaw, Moruya

*Fiona contacted a number of other jurors for this article but Kate Raymond was the only one to take up the opportunity.

*Featured videos produced by Eurobodalla Shire Council before and during the Jury process.

The next step in the Eurobodalla’s local food economy. Have your say here!

The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.

“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.

“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”

In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.

Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.

“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.

“It’s a movement whose time has come.”

The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.

Since 2009, when the community organisation Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) started working towards its mission of ‘growing the growers’, locally grown food has become easier to access.

The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.

The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.

An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.

“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.

“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”

The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.

Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.

If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.

Local Harvest in the USA lists over 24,000 family farms on their website who are part of a CSA arrangement.

Local Harvest believes the element of shared risk creates a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’.

Their website says, “Some CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.”

However, they say the idea of shared risk creates a sense of community between customers and farmers.

“If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli,” the Local Harvest website says.

“Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their customers and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.”

There is a yin and yang to that shared risk though. When the season is powering and a bounty or surplus of produce is created those involved with a CSA benefit.

In that situation, recipes are swapped to add some variety to the way abundant veg can be used in the home kitchen, that produce can also be preserved and used out of season.

Where a supermarket supply chain might struggle to cope with a surplus, the CSA model summons peoples creatively, extending the harvest and reduceing food waste.

As part of a Eurobodalla based group keen to establish the CSA model here, Kate Raymond says, “Consumers increasingly demand to know more about where their food comes from and how it was grown,”

Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“Joining a CSA can answer their questions. A CSA connects the consumer to the grower in a very direct and transparent way,” she says.

To test the idea locally, a number of vegetable growers in the Eurobodalla are currently undertaking market research into the viability of establishing a multi-farm CSA program.

“This is significant, as it’s a symptom of a local food economy that is outgrowing the perception that local food is a niche enterprise and is in fact becoming a bona fide industry,” Kate says.

The next phase in the Eurobodalla’s agricultural heritage is well underway.

Click HERE to take the local survey and add your thoughts to the market testing that’s underway.

Moruya festival harvests a new cultural relationship

Proud Wanbunja man Bindarray Jiibiny, by Toby Whitelaw
Proud Walbunja man Bindarray Jiibiny. By Toby Whitelaw

As is often the case, food became more than just a belly filler at the weekend’s Southeast Harvest Festival in Moruya.

A locally made blue cheese and leek tart at the opening event on Friday night was memorable, but more so were the new understandings and relationships that emerged between two cultures conflicted by a past of racism and brutality.

Held over a day and a bit, the Festival was a collaboration between a white fella and a black fella organisation that extended way beyond the traditional Welcome to Country, and by doing so they perhaps have shown the way for others when it comes to greater engagement and reconciliation.

This partnership between Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) and the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council has been described as one of ‘walking together’ in the lead up to this celebration of local food and growers.

“A lot of organisations in this area think that our culture has died, but it is still alive,” Lee-anne Parsons, the CEO of the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council said.

“We are trying to be out there and share our culture, and I am just so proud that SAGE has come over and approached Cobowra,” she said.

John Newton, author of ‘The Oldest Foods on Earth’ was perhaps one of the first ‘white fellas’ to feel it.

John Newton, author of The Oldest Foods on Earth. By Toby Whitelaw
John Newton, author of The Oldest Foods on Earth. By Toby Whitelaw

“I’ve spoken in a few places around Australia in the last six months about this book I’ve written, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a community of Indigenous and European Australians that are so…working together,” John told the Festival.

“I think the mistake that white fellas have made for over 200 years is telling Indigenous people what to do rather than asking them what they want,” he said.

The main day – Saturday, started with Walbunja man, Bindarray Jiibiny conducting a smoking ceremony in front of the pavilion at the Moruya Showground.

Bindarray invited people to walk through the smoke in order to dispel negative thoughts.

Cultural performances with the town’s children followed, Bindarrey explaining the paint and decoration that covered his body, and the moves of each dance represented the landscape and the animals of his country and the values of peace, unity, and harmony.

Moving undercover, out of the bright sunshine and sitting side by side, was an exhibition of Aboriginal and European farming tools curated by the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Moruya and District Historical Society.

Award winning, Mallacoota based, Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe, telling the crowd that history is fascinating no matter who’s it is.

Bruce Pascoe. By Toby Whitelaw
Bruce Pascoe. By Toby Whitelaw

As the author of the acclaimed ‘Dark Emu’, Bruce detailed the evidence of Aboriginal agriculture and society prior to the arrival of Arthur Phillip and his cargo of convicts in 1788.

“We invented civilization, we invented art, we invented bread, we invented the first ground-edge stone axe,” he said.

He urged his captivated audience of ‘foodies and bloody hippies’ to share their experience at the Festival.

“Otherwise we stay the same,” Bruce says.

“It’s no good if you don’t take people with you, you can’t have knowledge if you don’t share it,” he said.

His words were then reflected in the act of ‘breaking bread’ with the crowd of around 200 people that packed into the stuffy pavilion.

The single loaf of bread was made of flour milled from hand ground grains of native Kangaroo Grass, following an Aboriginal recipe that dates back 36,000 years.

Kangaroo Grass bread. By Toby Whitelaw
Kangaroo Grass bread. By Toby Whitelaw

“Which is 17,000 years before anyone else on Earth thought to ground grain into flour,” Bruce said.

According to Bruce, the sense of ease and interest that unfolded around the market stalls of local apples, mullet and pumpkin soup at the Southeast Harvest Festival, wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.

“Thanks to organisations like this…the Australian mind is changing,” Bruce proclaimed.

Jasmine Williams is the Aboriginal Arts Officer with South East Arts and is often called on to liaise between Aboriginal artists and event organisers.

“Like many white fellas, Aboriginal people are also really keen to share knowledge and break down barriers with non-Aboriginal people,” Jazz told About Regional.

Bruce Pascoe suggests making a pot of tea as one way of starting a relationship, Jazz also believes building a personal connection is key.

“Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing, or overstepping your mark – be genuine and honest,” Jazz said.

“Understand that Aboriginal people have been tokenised and taken advantage of  in the past.”

Her advice is to involve Aboriginal people and artists early in the organisation of an event.

“The worst thing you can do is leave it until time is running out and the budget is spent.

“This happens a lot in the South East, and Aboriginal performers are often left feeling like a last minute thought, undervalued and exploited,” Jazz said.

It’s a point echoed by Land Council CEO, Lee-anne Parsons.

Lee-anne Parsons, CEO of Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council. By Toby Whitelaw
Lee-anne Parsons, CEO of Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council. By Toby Whitelaw

“Our elders use to say that it (culture) was a secret, and you can’t tell’em (white people) all that because then it will become an industry…and you don’t see too many rich Aboriginal people on the South Coast do you?” Lee-ann chuckled.

In the final session of the Festival, Bruce Pascoe said, “What I have learnt here is that it is possible for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to work together.”

“I constantly go to festivals like this where there are no Aboriginal people, and I ask about it and the organisers say – oh we invited them but they didn’t come,” he said.

“People will not come to an invitation unless they know who you are, and you have to forgive Aboriginal people for not being sure of their welcome.”

In a fateful twist, Lee-ann believes the necessities of our shared future will force better relationships between the different cultures.

“We are all in hard times now,” Lee-ann said.

“All the environmental problems that are happening around the planet, we all need to be a part of caring for our country.”

 

Helpful resources from Jasmine Williams: Bega Valley Shire Council, Aboriginal Protocols and Guidelines and  Oxfam Australia Cultural Protocols

Thank you to Toby Whitelaw of Toby Whitelaw Design for access to his audio recordings and photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social justice the X-factor in Merimbula’s Joseph

Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his dreamcoat
Roll up, roll up for Joseph and his Dreamcoat

There is a certain civic duty sometimes that pushes you to attend a local event. Things only happen when people step up to make them happen, and in a regional community you want to see those people and their events succeed – people turning out is key.

What a buzz, what a bonus when that local event blows your mind!

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ on stage now at Twyford Hall Merimbula will do just that.

As happens in small communities you will recognise many of the faces taking on this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic – which only serves to heighten the emotion around this production’s success.

I took my seat in row 11 blind to the story.

Joseph is the favourite of Jacob’s 12 sons, jealous brothers conspire but Joseph lands on his feet as the Pharoah’s 2IC because of his ability to see the future through his and other people’s dreams.

David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra
David Willis out front of his red hot 10 piece orchestra

It’s a big cast with close to 50 people either on stage or part of the polished, big sounding orchestra lead by David Willis.

Music is a constant, with no spoken word – all song, including an Elvis-inspired tune from the Pharoah.

Sitting at my desk now some hours after the curtain was pulled across the stage and the tunes are still going around in my head – ‘Go Go Go Joseph.’

The local vision for this show started three years ago on the back of a successful production of ‘The Sound of Music’ where director Shaun Wykes and actor/singer Hayley Fragnito first met.

“I just love the music,” Hayley says.

“And I am a bit of a softy for family, happy feel good stories.”

Joseph was the first of the many Lloyd Webber and Rice musicals to be performed publicly, with the premiere in 1970.

It has since traveled the world as a major musical but it is estimated that over 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups have staged their own show.

Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.
Hayley Fragnito as Maria in The Sound of Music.

Dreamcoat Production’s version at Twyford Hall has all the polish and professionalism of this year’s big touring production through the UK, North America, and New Zealand but it has an X-factor born of its regional roots.

“This is a not-for-profit show and the money raised is going to be donated back to our local community,” Hayley says.

Proceeds from the two-week season will go to the Sapphire Coast Advocates for the Social Justice.

“We have been hearing stories from John Liston who plays Jacob in the show and who is heavily involved with the Advocates,” Hayley explains.

“He’s coming along and saying, ‘Today I helped this homeless couple, the lady was eight months pregnant‘ and this is where the money from the show is going.

“The moment the cast realised that, it’s amazing how much more they are willing to give.” she says.

Hayley is a school teacher at Wolumla who took time off term four to help make Joseph happen, she is a constant on stage as the narrator, her presence and voice shines brightly next to the colours of the show’s famous coat.

Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehersals
Jesse Zammit as Joseph during dress rehearsals

Moruya’s Jesse Zammit is the one wearing the coat, his commitment to the role is perhaps another of this production’s magic ingredients.

Attending rehearsals meant a four hour round trip twice a week for Jesse in the 10 weeks leading up to opening night.

“There’s a big cocktail of motivations,” Jesse says.

“There is such a community spirit and a love for art and creativity, and to be involved with these people just reinvigorates your desire.

“I think that’s missing a bit in the world, I think commerce is trying to strangle art and so just to see a community say, ‘It’s not about the money, it’s just about doing it because we love it’ is so refreshing,” Jesse says.

Jesse and Hayley are friends from ‘way back’ and Hayley was determined that Jesse would be Joseph. Jesse and his busy artistic life were reluctant at first until Jesse had a dream – spooky considering the role dreams play in the life of his character on stage.

“I’ve always believed in dreams, I am a bit of a nutter in that way, I think dreams do have a message,” Jesse explains.

Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall
Waiting in anticipation at Twyford Hall

So after initially saying ‘a polite no’ to Hayley and avoiding repeated attempts to bring him on board, Jesse was convinced to take on the role after a dream in which he saw Hayley’s disappear at not being able to find another Joseph.

With time on his visa in the UK winding down, the show’s director Shaun Wykes returned home to do the show, again at Hayley’s instance.

Shaun says he has been enamoured with Joseph since he was three years old when his sisters returned home from a production in Sydney and performed their own version for family.

“It has been an honour to bring this show to the town I grew up in and see it flourish on stage with this incredible cast and crew,” Shaun says.

While reflecting on the power of being involved in community theatre Shaun says a strong connection to people and place develops.

“You appreciate people’s time and how much effort they put in and you see good in the world,” he says.

Tweleve year old Luca Yi as Benjamin
Twelve-year-old Luca Yi as Benjamin

A strong feature of the show is the cast of young performers and singers from local high schools and primary schools. These teenagers and children do us proud, their involvement ensures that relationships like the one between Hayley, Jesse and Shaun continue to be formed.

A special shout out to 12-year-old Luca Yi from Bega who plays Benjamin, the youngest of Joseph’s band of brothers. Luca takes on the song ‘Those Canaan Days’ leading his more grown-up cast, with the audience cheering loudly .

“The people coming up to you after the show and the joy on their faces, when you can give that sort of a gift to people – it’s awesome.” Hayley beams.

Dreamcoat Production presents ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat‘ at Twyford Hall Merimbula until December 4. Click HERE for ticket details.

*Author and family attended at their own expense.

The power of a simple homemade meal By Leah Milston

Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace
Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace

Years ago when my children were small and I was very depressed, a friend arrived on my doorstep with a homemade meal.

I had gone from an energetic high to a motionless low.

I always managed to look after my children but everything took so much effort and time.

My friend was concerned about me, she had a sense I wasn’t well in the way friends know. She had no idea of or experience with what I was going through but thought a home cooked meal would be useful.

She was so right.

The fact she offered no advice and was honest about not knowing what I was going through, was such a relief from the well-meaning but ill-informed advice that I had been receiving from other people.

She made me feel so cared for – and what a relief to know that I could feed my family that night without worrying about what I was going to cook.

It’s a gesture that touched me and one I have tried to pass on; seeing someone in need and trying to think of something practical to do for them.

It can be just sitting with a person, folding laundry, bringing in firewood, taking children to school, feeding a pet, or going to the shops.

We don’t need to understand fully what someone is going through in order to help them.

When someone is ill it can be hard to know what sort of assistance is needed and even hard for the person who is unwell to know. So if you want to help – start with the simple stuff.

For me, when I was sick I felt I was so isolated, so alone, like no one understood.

When I received that home cooked meal all of a sudden I was not forgotten or alone, I was given strength to get through another day, a day closer to wellness.

During Mental Health Month there is much emphasis on what the individual can do to maintain their own mental health.

The importance of diet, plenty of exercise, being connected to the community, positive ways of thinking, coping with a stressful life by using meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy – all are seen as important parts to promoting mental health.

I am adding something new, an idea from author and philosopher Shannon L Alder:

“When the “I” is replaced by “We” illness becomes wellness.”

We all have the potential to make such a difference in someone’s life, and all it can take is a small gesture like a delivered homemade meal…or writing an article and sharing your experience.

Don’t be afraid to be the ‘we’ Shannon Alder talks about.

 

About Leah…

Leah Milston was diagnosed as being Bipolar over 40 years ago.

She says she spent the first 16 years living in denial, the next 16 she describes as ‘reluctant’ but for the last 9 years Leah has embraced the way she is wired.

So much so Leah is now a voluntary speaker for Beyondblue and was previously a voluntary rural ambassador for Black Dog Institute (2007-2010) and regularly writes articles and speaks on radio about mental health issues.

She is also a representative on the Eurobodalla Health Services Community Representative Committee.

Since 2005  Leah has been the owner, manager and personality behind Milston’s Past and Present in Mogo. The shop has enough order and enough chaos and quirkiness (just like it’s owner) to make it a  wonderful place to browse.

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

Click here to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!