Feature Writing

Inside South Australia

I was  involved in a Brand SA project throughout 2016, sharing good news stories from the Limestone Coast for the Inside South Australia website.

Photo by Ockert Le Roux http://www.oxenburg.com

I was so lucky to have the opportunity to write about people I seriously admire, including photographer Ockert Le Roux, whose striking images are not only luring tourists to the region but inspiring locals to explore their own backyard. Brian and Benedetta Wagner from Wagner’s Rose Nursery at Kalangadoo, vegan cook Leah Franklin from ‘just frank’, and the uber successful Generations in Jazz music festival (which is on again from May 5-7, 2017) also feature on the website. 

The 90 x 40-metre tent housing last year’s 6000-strong crowd was the largest big top South Australia has ever seen.

Labour of Love – Australian Period Home Style

Step back in time to Australia in the 1890s, and the bold era of boom style classicism design…

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Extravagance, exuberance and even recklessness were the order of the day, as the nation toasted a post-depression period full of promise. When you add love to the equation, anything is possible, as evidenced by this exquisite country mansion completed in 1896 as a wedding gift to a lucky bride. An entrance hall with removable doors should you wish to dance…

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Delicate hand-painted stained glass specially delivered from Melbourne, sash windows so high that you could step straight outside, plus many more fine details for this farmer’s wife-to-be.

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The besotted groom wanted to leave a lasting impression, and the property remains as breathtaking as ever thanks to a couple of modern-day cupids who believed in the fairy tale. My story on this incredible country Victorian property appears in Volume 10 of Australian Period Home Style magazine.

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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

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.

SA Gardens – ‘Ellora’, Wrattonbully

Wrattonbully, in South Australia’s Limestone Coast, is serious wine country – local grapes were selected for the latest vintage of Penfolds Grange! Gardens also flourish in these fertile soils, however they’re fairly sparse in number, making the stately property ‘Ellora’ something of a head-turner.ElloraTucked beyond an exquisite stone wall on a long, empty road, Ellora commands a strong presence among its paddock surrounds. Ellora-2My story on ‘Ellora’ is in the May 2015 edition of SA Life magazine. BTW the owners also make fabulous wine!

James Nagorcka profile in Outback Magazine

Outback Magazine is celebrating its 100th issue!

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Long-time contributor John Dunn sums up the essence of this hugely popular publication in UP CLOSE:

“It’s been the aim of its writers to answer the call by noted historian C.E.W. Bean, who long ago lamented: ‘The truth is that there exists inside coastal Australia a second Australia of which most people know very little’. If Bean were alive today and able to read the 100 issues of Outback, we hope he’d think we were filling that gap.” – John Dunn

I am so privileged to also write for this magazine. It has given me an opportunity to meet and be inspired by some truly amazing people, like James Nagorcka (also profiled in this edition). After building his own tractor on his property just outside of Hamilton, Victoria, this unassuming Aussie farmer won contracts with US giant John Deere. “We’re as far removed from over there as you can imagine, but it certainly got them a machine much quicker than if they were developing it and building it themselves,” he said. Well worth a read!

James and June Nagorcka

James and June Nagorcka

James Morrison’s Academy of Music is where?

James Morrison could have chosen anywhere in Australia to set up his musical academy devoted entirely to jazz. He settled on South Australia’s largest regional city – Mount Gambier.

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Photograph by Marcus Jones

I interviewed James about his bold new venture for the February 28 edition of SAweekend magazine, and he shared his view on why this country location offers the best learning environment for students: “In a big city, there are too many distractions, but if you move away from home, particularly to a place where almost everyone else doing the course is also ‘away’, then there is an immediate momentum towards forming a community. When class ends for the day, instead of all going their separate ways, the students can hang out together and maintain the jazz atmosphere. It’s not that there is nothing else to do – it’s that the hippest thing in town is the academy.”

Click here to read the article in my portfolio.

James is fabulous interview talent, and I love his re-telling of a conversation he had with this year’s artist-in-residence from LA, Jeff Clayton: “He is a professor at five universities in the US, including UCLA, and has absolutely no reason to leave America to go anywhere, but when we talked about it, he said ‘This is the place that I want to teach, I want to be there…now where is it exactly?’” It’s the new Aussie home of jazz!

 

Poetry on a Plate in Bourke, NSW

The most memorable meals often happen during travels, and the poetry dished up on a plate in Bourke, NSW, was no exception. I was passing through with my family on the way home from Cape York, and the editor of Outback magazine asked us to stop to investigate Andrew Hull and Sarah Goulden’s unique recipe for success – beef casserole, lentil stew and lemon-curd tart served with a generous helping of poetry and music at Kidman’s Camp.

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From April – October, up to 100 campers line up here for a welcome reprieve from ‘yet another barbecue’.

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“We didn’t want to make a generic product, and because the stories and food are original and local, it makes a whole experience out of it,” Andrew says. “It’s not just turning out a meal from a canteen; it’s a real event.”

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Outback Cover copy