Year: 2016

I’m dreaming of a light Christmas

This Christmas, instead of running around like a turkey with an aversion to stuffing, I’m going to be channelling my inner John Farnham. I’m going to “take the pressure down”. In my household, with two small kids and two working parents, we’re pretty busy most of the time. At Christmas we’re even busier, with Christmas parties, preschool graduations and no end of end-of-year gatherings. That is part of what makes this the most wonderful time of the year. It’s spending time with people we love, celebrating our achievements and remembering how much we have to be thankful for. Of course, there’s also gift giving and feasting on holiday foods, as well as the cultural or religious traditions your family adheres to. But if all these events are going to make it onto the calendar, and if I’m going to make it to January with any calm left, then something will have to give this year. I’ve decided I can’t do it all, and I don’t have to. Our family is doing a Secret Santa for the …

Kevin Hogan | Politician

Kevin Hogan is a busy man. I meet him over morning coffee on his way to a radio interview, before he heads into work during a week when he’s not in Canberra. The Federal Member for Page has a lot of ground to cover, representing an electorate that goes from the QLD border to just north of the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour. For 20 weeks each year, Kevin is in Canberra attending parliament, and for the rest of the time he’s in the electorate. “This is seriously a 7 day a week job” Kevin says. On weekends there’s always an event to attend or a cause to support, but it’s also the time when a lot of people manage to speak with him. “They’re busy during their work week as well, so they can’t ring me up or come to see me, so it’s at those weekend community events that people do get access to you,” Kevin says. Kevin grew up in the regional town of Port Augusta, South Australia, before studying Economics at …

Creative writing: It’s all in my mind, and it’s glorious!

I’m mid-way through a creative writing course. On the surface it’s all about creating characters, getting to know what they know, and imagining situations in which they might have things happen to them. In reality it’s about me paying money to give myself permission to skive off to the home office for several hours a week and, in the words of author Matt Nable, “make s@%t up.” And, may I say, it’s wonderful! I’ve never been particularly interested in creative writing up to now. My study, my practice and my work has been grounded in reality. My go to sources of material have been facts and real events ever since I first fell in love with the feature articles in the Good Weekend as a teenager.  I thought creative writing was for ‘other people’. I hated it in high school. I excelled at English essays, but flunked at tasks involving imagined situations. As part of this course, I’m learning that writing and thinking creatively is just a skill to be taught and learnt like any other. I reckon there are two main …

Gary and Pam Lovell | Leaving as locals

When Gary and Pam Lovell first came to Clunes in 1978, Bangalow Road was still a stock route for farmers taking their cattle to the dipping yards. “Old Billy Noble used to drove 100 head of cattle down there with his dogs, and no-one blinked an eye,” Gary says. The couple married in 1980, when Pam was just 18. “She was a child bride,” laughs Gary. “He was nine years older than me. Still is,” Pam teases. “Funny that!” replies Gary. “I was a… what do you call ‘em? Cradle snatcher? But we’re still here.” They both chuckle.  Gary knew the area from visiting on surfing trips with a mate from Sydney. “One thing led to another and Pam said she was going to do teachers college and I said, ‘well there’s a good one up the Northern Rivers.’ After finishing her studies Pam taught in Kempsey for a few years before returning to Clunes and retraining as an Indonesian teacher. She has just finished at Eltham Public School after 27 years there, and still …

Paul Kelly takes on Shakespeare | Byron Writers Festival 2016

Paul Kelly has a new album out, Seven Sonnets and a Song, a collection of William Shakespeare’s works set to music. Coincidentally, or maybe not, this year also marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and we can’t stop talking about him. Paul Kelly, himself an author as well as a musician, was recently at the Byron Writers Festival to discuss the way that art can outlive the artist, and you’d hardly find a more fitting example of artistic longevity than the great playwright himself. Kelly’s love affair with Shakespeare began in 1976 when he put down a $5 deposit on a collection of the bard’s comedies and tragedies at a bookstore in Melbourne. It would eventually cost him $34, a hefty sum in those days, equivalent to around 20 percent of the average weekly wage. Kelly has made a career of collecting words and stories, including poetry, and he encourages the audience to get into reading poems, saying it doesn’t have to be difficult. “You only need one from a poet and you put it in your …

Writing as Salvation | Byron Writers Festival 2016

The smell of menthol wafts from the sodden woodchips lying in the muddy grass. You can’t escape the wet, it’s coming up through the soles of boots, and down from the heavens. If the punters at a writers festival needed another reason to stay indoors and read books, the weather at this year’s Byron Writers Festival would’ve been a good one. Thumbs up then, to the record number of attendees at the event, adorned with raincoats and gumboots, scarves and beanies, braving the latter stages of a mighty low-pressure system hovering just off the coast. I spent a lot of the festival in volunteer mode, fundraising for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, rattling the can and handing out brochures. It was my virgin volunteer experience, and I absolutely loved it! You should’ve seen me, smiling away, wedging myself into people’s conversations with the utmost charm and enthusiasm. The foundation has been the official charity of the festival for the past three years, and it was heartening to see so many people keen to donate their leftover …

The Buckleys | Musicians

Musical talent runs deep in the Buckley family. Mick, Sharon and their four youngest children have recently returned from the USA, where their family band, The Buckleys, played shows in Nashville, wrote songs with Grammy-nominated country music songwriters, and met with record labels. They played at the famous Bluebird Café, on the same stage where Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift have trodden. “For them to get invited to play there, that was cool, man,” says Mick. Sisters Sarah and Molly are out in front on guitar, mandolin, ganjo and vocals, while brother, Lachlan, plays bass and dad, Mick, keeps time on the kit. “We’ve been around instruments our whole life,” says Molly. “We’ve always been writing songs,” ads Sarah. The US trip was a dream come true for the girls, who love country music. “When I was 12 years old, I was going to get to Nashville by the time I was 16,” says Sarah. “So everything in the last 4 years has been leading up to that.” Lachlan prefers ‘70s and ‘80s rock and …

Thomas Rehbach | Educator, Carer, Hitchhiker

Thomas Rehbach has been a preschool educator, an administrator, a respite carer, a teacher, a courier, a soccer coach and referee. He’s lived in the area long enough to see kids he’s taught now becoming parents and teachers themselves. Tom was born in Australia to German parents and grew up in Rosehill. At age 9, Tom and his brother went to live at Dunmore House, a boys’ home in Pendle Hill. “We got into enough trouble that we had a choice to go to one of two boys homes,” Tom says. It’s a time he remembers favourably, being part of a large family unit with children of all ages. “I think that was the best thing that ever happened to us. I don’t hold any animosity towards my mum for making that choice.” After hitchhiking from Sydney to Cairns a few times in the early 1980s, Tom came back to the Northern Rivers and never left. He met his partner, Gail, through Clunes Preschool when they both had sons who were attending. The couple live …

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Neighbours. You can’t really choose them, but you can choose your neighbourhood. You can try to surround yourself with like-minded people, with those who share your same values or mowing habits, but in the end it’s still a bit of a lottery. Where we live can affect so many things besides which corner store we frequent, or where our kids go to school.  It can determine our level of community interaction, who our children play with and how many lemons we don’t need to buy. It can even shape our notions of hospitality and how we welcome others into our world. The house our family lived in for 7 years was down the end of a road, in a part of town where none of our friends lived, and hardly anyone dropped by unannounced.  The only surprise visitors we had were our parents. If people were coming over, I had invited them. I rarely worried about keeping the bathroom clean or having an emergency supply of biscuits in case someone wanted a cup of tea. …

Jim Richardson | Teacher, Librarian, Environmentalist, Volunteer

The son of a dairy farmer from McKees Hill, Jim Richardson started his education at a one-teacher school at Clovass. Since those early years, he has been fortunate enough to take advantage of the educational opportunities that came his way. They eventually led him out of rural New South Wales, to the city, and the wide world. Fast forward to the 1970s, and Jim was a scholarship student at university in Armidale. Originally aiming to become a marine biologist, Jim realised he wanted to be involved with education, so decided to become a science teacher instead. During university, Jim had been to the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973, and it made an impression on him that would shape both his professional career and his environmental outlook. “I was right into this concept of needing to educate yourself and to free up education, do whatever courses you can as long as they don’t cost too much money”, says Jim. Contracted to take up a teaching post after graduating, Jim ended up in Bathurst, where he taught …