Profile on Rural Woman of the Year Sarah Powell

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Picture courtesy Outback Magazine

I was privileged to profile Australia’s Rural Woman of the Year, Sarah Powell, for the Dec-Jan issue of Outback Magazine.

Sarah came to the judges’ attention after developing a Champions Academy leadership program which promotes regional strength and resilience for future generations by creating a culture of mentoring within sporting clubs.

But friends and colleagues like Shelley Evans-Wild have known all along that she is a shining star: “She is an awesome communicator – so unassuming, yet she diplomatically presses buttons and is a troublemaker in all the right ways as she doesn’t shy away from the questions that need to be asked,” Shelley says. “You’re held to account, but it’s done graciously, and somehow you’re smiling about it. Who does that at her age? She is quite an amazing young woman – she is a lighthouse that doesn’t know she is a lighthouse.”

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The real story behind the Oddball movie

How low can a fox go? In Warrnambool, the depths are quite extraordinary. The coastal town’s Middle Island little penguin population plummeted from several hundred seabirds to single digits during the 2004-05 breeding season, and foxes were to blame; they had been swimming across from the mainland for a feed. Furious locals declared that the annual massacre had to stop, but how to outwit a cunning fox? Ask a chicken farmer.

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Local poultry expert Alan ‘Swampy’ Marsh had been having enormous success using Maremmas to protect his free range chooks, and suggested sending a dog across the channel to guard the penguins. The idea ruffled a few feathers, for it was a world-first, but Swampy’s dog, Oddball, passed a four-week trial with flying colours – the island has been fox-free ever since. I shared the tale in the Dec-Jan issue of Outback magazine, while the story of the penguin protectors has also made it onto the big screen, with the movie Oddball directly inspired by the Middle Island Maremma Project.

Picture courtesy Roadshow Films

Picture courtesy Roadshow Films

Legend of the Lakes Hillclimb – Mt Gambier

My first motor sport publicity job was quite literally an uphill battle – Mount Gambier’s Legend of the Lakes Hillclimb. The unique event saw cars racing within a volcano crater, conquering the 1.4-kilometre circuit with 16 sharp bends in under 51 seconds – incredible!

Photo: Turn8Photography

Photo: Turn8Photography

Mount Gambier’s Peter Gazzard continued his domination of the mountain path after edging out long-time Victorian rival Kevin Mackrell by just five tenths of a second to claim his seventh title in 10 years.

Wrattonbully triumphs at Limestone Coast Wine Show

If you love red wine, South Australia’s Wrattonbully wine region collected six trophies at the 15th annual Limestone Coast Wine Show, with a further two trophies going to varietal wines featuring Wrattonbully fruit.

Photo by Marcus Jones

Photo by Marcus Jones

As part of my role managing publicity for the event, I worked with Rob Tremelling to produce a series of video clips during the trophy presentation feast. We interviewed judges and winners, and loaded the clips onto YouTube the following day.

The complete collection of videos appears on the Limestone Coast Wine Show Facebook Page.

Greater Hamilton – Instructional Video

The Southern Grampians Shire has developed an incredible online resource to help current and future investors discover the land use possibilities of Greater Hamilton. I worked with RT Images to create this instructional video which demonstrates how to use interactive digital maps to investigate growth potential according to soil type, climate, commodity or location.

What a Waste – Recycling Videos

I am an enthusiastic and committed recycler, but after working with Marcus Jones from Film It All to produce a series of five clips for the City of Mount Gambier, I discovered that I, too, have been getting it wrong. For starters, bottle tops are too small to be recycled, and should be disposed of in general waste. Who knew!

The videos are designed to give the community an insight into what happens to waste and recyclables once thrown away, and reflect the council’s strong commitment to improving environmental sustainability.

The clips also provide information and best practice tips for waste, recycling and organics disposal, with bin audits giving audiences a realistic look at the typical contents of a household bin. They can be viewed on the council’s website, The City of Mount Gambier YouTube channel, and on screens at the Civic Centre.

Border Inn Hotel’s Rebirth – Outback Magazine

The ‘closed’ sign had been on the door of Apsley’s historic Border Inn Hotel for more than two years when a group of locals figured it must be their shout. While the small farming community in Victoria’s far west had adjusted to the loss of its general store and fuel station, the pub was a different story; the town was missing its social hub.

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Just over a year ago, a 23-strong syndicate of locals brought the 165-year-old business back to life.

“We didn’t know each other particularly well, and when you first get a group of people together, it takes a while to find where you belong, but we soon worked it out because it never would have got up and running unless everyone rolled up their sleeves and got into it,” says cattleman-cum-publican Noel Ogilvie.

“People ask how we make it work, but we have made an effort to make it work because we are passionate about it,” says fellow farmer-shareholder Simon Robinson.

What does it take to get a beer in Apsley? Twelve farming families, a retired stockbroker and a ‘sold’ sticker.

What does it take to get a beer in Apsley? Twelve farming families, a retired stockbroker and a ‘sold’ sticker.

My story on this community-minded mob appears in the October/November 2015 edition of Outback Magazine. Amazing cover!!

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Flinders Merino – Outback Magazine

There are few similarities between outback South Australia and Hong Kong, but a group of wool growers have found a common thread by sharing the journey from the sheep’s back…

Source: Flinders Merino

Source: Flinders Merino

To the clothes rack.

Source: AWI Ltd

Source: AWI Ltd

During a field trip to Hong Kong, the Flinders Merino group was astounded to discover that the final year fashion design students at the Polytechnic University’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing didn’t use wool in any of their garments, so they offered to sponsor one of their annual fashion shows in the hope of encouraging such an influential market to take on their product. The ‘Flinders Merino Australian Tour Scholarship Award’ gives winning design students an opportunity to travel from Hong Kong to the Flinders Ranges to experience the life of a wool grower in a journey beyond the bale.

Source: Flinders Merino

Source: Flinders Merino

“When we were over there, we recognised that one way we could make wool very desirable to use in fashion design was to tell the story of where it’s from, and by bringing them here, we can give them the whole story – the family, the sheep, big skies, big pastures – it’s a good story to tell.”  – Julia Clarke, Pamatta Station.

It’s a Crocodile Dundee-type tale triggered by drought; transport a group of city slickers to the bush, and watch them fall in love with the landscape by spinning the ultimate yarn.

Source: Flinders Merino

Source: Flinders Merino

My story on this unique ‘student exchange’ appears in the June/July 2015 issue of Outback magazine.

Source: Flinders Merino

Source: Flinders Merino

“And what always amazes me is that they are so overawed by it all; they all love a lamb, but it’s also the first time many of them have been in a rural area and we will often find them sitting close together – they’re so used to being in a city environment, and it takes a long time for them to understand that sense of space that Australia offers.”  – Julia Clarke

Say Grace Café & Larder

Well, isn’t this food for thought:

graceWords of wisdom from Safe Grace Cafe & Larder in Casterton, Victoria.

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Owner, Penelope Farquharson, could see potential in this tiny country town with its main street layered in history and fit for a film set.

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Her store has become a destination for ladies who lunch, farmers, footy players…and freelance journalists like me, with a healthy appetite and a trained eye for a great story.

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Penelope’s story is in the June 2015 edition of Australian Country Style magazine.

Blades of Glencoe Video Clip

Woolsheds are generally tucked away on farming properties, but the beauty of the Limestone Coast’s Glencoe Woolshed (circa 1863) is that it’s located in the middle of the town, and is open to the public.

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In its heyday, around 53,000 sheep were shorn here annually.

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The National Trust of SA recently hosted ‘Blades of Glencoe’ at the woolshed, with several thousand people turning out to see the art of blade shearing. Robert Tremelling and I were enlisted to create this short video of the event. It was so wonderful to see the old building brought back to life…

https://youtu.be/9Ztp3Yy7u0M