It’s a giant grass that many Australians would be familiar with seeing, but not so familiar with eating.
When properly prepared, Bamboo is nutrient-rich, and is in fact a staple of many Asian country’s diets.
Big Heart Bamboo founder, farmer and entrepreneur Becky Dart is forging a new industry on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast—growing, cooking and preserving bamboo to eat.
“Bamboo is the world’s largest grass which is absolutely fascinating,” Becky says.
“From a time when we used to have megafauna it’s one of the remaining large species we have on the planet and one of the oldest plants in the world. It’s got very ancient DNA.
“It is highly nutritious, and has been revered as the gift of the gods in many Asian countries and it’s revered as a delicacy.”
Becky Dart is taking on the mantle of her father Durnford Dart who established one of the first bamboo farms in Australia in the 1990s.
“My Dad started this farm when I was about four years old, I did plant a few of them with my mates,” she says.
“I’ve got a photo of me planting these plants when I was four or five and now they’re 20 metres tall and going to live for another 200 years.
“The water consumption you need is negligible. It grows super fast as most people are aware. And then it’ll be bringing down the carbon while regenerating the soil.
“One of my favourite things I always say is that cats and cane toads can’t climb bamboo. That’s two species that are really messing up our wildlife in Australia but because of the shape of the bamboo cats can’t get in and around it.”
More than 240 species of bamboo still thrive on her dad’s property, at Belli Park in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
She also does tours for tourists wanting to make their way through the bamboo cathedral maze and see first hand how a bamboo farm operates.
As I drive in to meet Becky through a cathedral of thick bamboo more than ten metres high, I’m amazed at how Becky can prepare a food that by all initial appearances seems inedible, and transform it into a delicacy that is highly prized by foodies and restaurants around the country.
Becky’s innovation was recognised as a finalist in the Innovation category for the Weekly Times Coles Farmer of the Year Award 2021.
“I’ve learnt now just to be like the bamboo,” she says.
“If the wind comes just bend. Some days are for growth and other days are for putting your roots down. Bamboo has become my muse. That was a big epiphany for me a few years ago.”
Her dream now is for Big Heart Bamboo to take off in export markets and ship nationwide. She hopes to get her own kitchen on the property and combine it with a wildlife sanctuary.
See you all in a couple of weeks beautiful Wandering Journo tribe! Don’t forget if you love what I do—share it with your mates!
With Reconciliation Week 2021 in Australia drawing to a close, Streets of Your Town speaks to trailblazing Aboriginal entrepreneur and proud Wiradyuri man Birrunga Wiradyuri.
Birrunga is the co-founder and principal artist of the aptly titled and multi award winning Birrunga Gallery & Dining, in Brisbane.
He’s overcome the challenges of COVID to become the only Indigenous-owned and operated commercial Cultural hub in Meanjin, otherwise known as Brisbane.
“When you get down here there’s no ambient noise,” he says.
“It’s the only place in town like that. It’s a bit of an oasis away from everywhere else.”
He invites us all to visit his gallery during Reconciliation week and beyond, to come and listen to his stories and the stories of his people.
“I’m Wiradyuri, my home area’s around Bathurst,” he says.
“Our sacred mountain down there is Wahluu.
“My family lore is storytelling which was taught down on the Murray around Albury Wodonga. And my personal lore is the law of the sky.
“My totem is the sky. I was named after my great grandfather Birrunga. In my case it goes back to a creator, an ancestor around the area whose law is the sky.
“The reality is it never starts or finishes like everything else.”
The first aspect of Yindyamarra, Wiradyuri central lore, is “to do slowly”.
“Which means you consider rather than react, to be polite, to be gentle, to honour, and respect, but you have got to do all five at once. So you don’t get to fudge and just do the convenient ones.
“That underpins and informs everything we do, every aspect of business personal life, professional, spiritual, everything, family, community the whole lot. And we’re one of three businesses in this area at least, who hold our cultural currency high and we never let it descend.
“The norm is for black businesses to operate in the mainstream you’ve got to be less black, rather than more black. So your cultural stuff needs to sometimes disappear.
“We work in non-linear time. When you hear about Murri time or Koori time it’s usually in derogatory terms. But it’s a thing. And it’s because we work when the time’s right. Not when we’re meant to be there.”
He’s also helped established the statewide Independent Indigenous Tourism Operators of Queensland.
“Truthtelling is an incredibly important part of what we do. What we do here, what we do in tourism, what we do in our day to day,” Birrunga says.
“So every opportunity we get to do that astutely offers us the opportunity to build relationships and sometimes that leads to alliances and often if not all the time it leads to a shift in perception.”
As well as being an accomplished artist of international renown, some of the work of which Birrunga is most proud happens inside prisons.
“As I understand it there hasn’t been another civilian black fella who gets to wander around,” he says.
“We work with what’s best for everybody, what’s most useful for everybody inside the wire on every given day and that’s the staff as well as the fellas doing time, whoever’s doing time.
“We just chip away at it slowly. The kids are really up against it. Our focus in that regard is the people that our young men look up to are the fellas in community, and through colonisation there’s this ridiculous thing coming up now where fellas anticipate ‘doing time’ as part of coming of age and they want to get the big one out of the way first. All this entirely unnatural introduced stuff that’s killing us.
“So if we have senior men who come out and don’t go back in, and are serious individuals…that’s what we’re working at. It’s a really long game.
"As Wiradyuri I work six to nine generations forward, and six to nine generations behind. It means that what I do today if in six to nine generations time the penny drops then that’s time well spent. It takes the ego out of it.
“It’s a long game. We’re a long game people. All this quick fix, instant gratification bullshit, it just doesn’t work for us.”
In other good news
Hopefully you’ve all heard how the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) has been extended to September 2023—hooray! As you know I’m an advocate for the DRC employed through a great organisation called Speaking Up For You (SUFY) to help people with their submission. I can’t tell you what a relief it is especially with COVID still wreaking havoc to have a bit more time to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get information from as many people with a disability and their carers and families as possible.
Would you like to make a submission to the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) but don’t know how?
Think you should contribute your lived experience to the Disability Royal Commission but wonder if it’s big enough?
Wondering what the Disability Royal Commission is really all about?
Then feel free to contact me just by replying to this email or send me a message at email@example.com. I’d love to give you some more information about it, and how you can take part.
The six Commissioners at the DRC want to hear your stories of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation as someone who has a disability, or cares for someone with a disability. They’re doing this with the aim of enabling systemic change to the way people with disability are treated in this country.
And if you need help, there are advocates like me who can help you put your story together. It’s important your story is heard so that the DRC has as broad a picture of life for people with disability in Australia as possible.
You don’t need a degree to do it, you don’t even have to write it. You can write a short poem, or a 20,000 word document, or anything in between. You can even record your story on your phone and send that in as a submission. We’ve had a couple of artworks submitted. It’s all up to you and how you feel it is best to tell your story.
Now that the DRC has been extended until September 2023 there is time for you to have your voice heard.
Behind the scenes
Thanks for your understanding all during my podcast hiatus these past couple of weeks. I was producing a lot of work for a lot of people, and had a bit of podcast burn out. But Birrunga is fabulous, so I’m stoked to be back with such a fascinating episode.
Some of the other podcasts I’ve produced include these two episodes of The Gender Card podcast for the Gender Equity Research Network. Who knew that midwifery had such a political history! This was a firecracker!
And I really enjoyed breaking down the Federal Budget 2021 in this episode of The Gender Card- kicking off with the classic line from Professor Susan Harris-Rimmer—“just calling it a women’s budget doesn’t make it so”. Indeed!
One of the best parts of Reconciliation Week for me is that it kicks off on my birthday!
I’m so proud of that because while there are many days in Australian history of which I’m not proud, on May 27 1967, Australians voted to change the Constitution so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would be counted as part of the population, and the Commonwealth would be able to make laws for them. It’s shocking to realise that until that day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not recognised as part of the Australian population. But thankfully more than 90 percent of Australians voted yes to change the Constitution. That high yes vote was recorded in every state and territory, making it one of the most successful campaigns in Australia’s history.
The dates for Reconciliation Week are the same every year—starting on the anniversary of the successful 1967 referendum and ending on Mabo Day, June 3, which marks the momentous High Court victory overturning the legal fiction of terra nullius, or “land belonging to no-one”, and honours the legacy of the man behind it, Eddie Mabo.
While Australia’s history of blackbirding is becoming more well known and understood, there are many local histories that are only now coming to light.
A garden and gathering place nestled peacefully next to the Caboolture River at North Harbour just north of Brisbane, stands as tribute to the kanakas, or South Sea Islanders, many of whom were brought against their will from islands throughout the Pacific, to become labourers at the Moray Field plantation.
Today their descendants, known as Australian South Sea Islanders, gather at this place to remember their ancestors, and pay tribute to the backbreaking work they did with little recompense, to establish Queensland’s agricultural prosperity.
Daniel Awiyawi is one of them.
“Kanakas worked and built a sugar mill right in this property,” Daniel said.
“A lot of South Sea Islanders get upset if you call them a kanaka. And I say it’s because they don’t understand the meaning. It means a hard working man, hard working women and children. It’s hardworking people who get out and do the job and not complain about it.
“It’s something to be proud of. You can call me kanaka all you want. I’ll just lap it up.”
It’s estimated more than 62,000 South Sea Islanders were brought to Australia to work as indentured labour on farms between 1863 and 1904.
In 1867 the first 50 kanakas arrived at Moray Field from the islands of Emae, Ambrym and Mare.
Daniel hopes by speaking about this history on Streets of Your Town podcast, that more people will get a better understanding of blackbirding in this region, and how many islanders were deceived into coming on those ships to Australia.
“My grandfather from my mother’s side was taken from Elizabeth Bay, him and two of his brothers Andrew and Jacob, they were taken from there, tricked to get on the ship,” he says.
“They moved from there to the mouth of the Caboolture River which was Beachmere, they loaded all the food they needed, and from there they moved up the Caboolture River to Post Office Creek. They unloaded them there to a house, there was a big Moreton Bay Fig Tree there, that’s where they built their house.
“After that I talked to the owner that owned that place they went across the river, the mill and everything else, the distillery the family stayed there and they’ve got photos of it. They always remember that place there, if they played up a bit they were put in a holding cell.”
The conditions the islanders were expected to work in were very poor. They cleared the land with their hands and cut sugar cane with cane knives, and were paid a pittance for their labour.
“If they weren’t satisfied with some milk and rice they were put in the cell until they agreed to work. Some escaped, some were brought back, some didn’t,” Daniel says.
“(It was the) first time they’d encountered sugar cane, but they met it head on and did the work that was required of them.
“The kanakas even today they work on the railways right throughout Queensland.”
Daniel invites anyone who would like to learn more about the heritage of South Sea Islanders at North Harbour to contact him by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he will gladly meet you at the shed at the Australian South Sea Islander gathering area, and tell you more about ghost stories and history of the area.
Behind the Scenes
Those of you who have been following this Wandering Journo for a while will know this isn’t the first time I’ve done a story on this chapter of Australia’s history. It’s one I really hope more Australians can learn about, to know the truth about how our nation was established.
Here’s a link to the radio documentary I did for ABC’s national current affairs PM program a couple of years back that won a silver and bronze trophy from the New York Festivals Radio Awards. From here you can listen to the audio or read the transcript:
Also I more recently did an update with former federal MP Brian Courtice up at his farm Sunnyside just outside of Bundaberg for Streets of Your Town podcast. He’s had to come to terms with the farm’s blackbirding past before his family took it over. Brian thinks there are 50 Pacific Islanders buried on the property in unmarked graves, but has only found the graves of 29 of those people. That graveyard is now heritage listed.
Thanks as always for your support my Wandering Journo tribe!
If you’d like to meet more everyday incredible Australians, subscribe and listen to the back catalogue of Streets of Your Town, including series 2 The Journo Project, on Apple Music, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And let me know by hitting reply to this email if there’s a topic or someone you’d like me to cover for Streets of Your Town.
If you value and enjoy the stories I provide, please consider supporting The Wandering Journo with a monthly or annual sponsorship. It doesn’t come with extra benefits or privileges, other than a heartfelt thank you and some cool merch, but helps me find the stories that matter that aren’t being told elsewhere.
Every contribution however big or small, helps me fill up the tank of Mildred the cantankerous kombi to get out into this wide brown land of ours and keep bringing these important stories to YOU.
And don’t forget if you like what you hear please review and rate Streets of Your Town on your podcast provider, or share this email with your mates and encourage them to join my Wandering Journo tribe of supporters at the Streets of Your Town website: https://soyt.substack.com/
And now an extra Easter bonus for you my loyal Wandering Journo tribe!
I was lucky enough to interview fantastic Aussie muso Katie Noonan over the weekend and thought she would make perfect listening for those of you driving home from your Easter break, or to give you some beautiful music to soothe while you have an extended Easter break at home. Wherever you are this Easter, I hope you enjoy listening to Katie Noonan. She was a lot of fun in this interview! And I’ve given you a beautiful preview of the remarkable music that AVÉ (Australian Vocal Ensemble) produces in this Streets of Your Town podcast. Just sit back and soak up the heavenly sounds of AVÉ. Katie's creativity truly knows no bounds.
Katie Noonan launches AVÉ
Australian singer extraordinaire Katie Noonan is refusing to let the Covid-19 pandemic get in the way of her dreams.
This incredibly prolific musician has produced 20 albums, and won five Arias for her endlessly innovative body of work, from leading the Queensland Music Festival as artistic director, to putting a jazz spin on 80s classics in her last album The Sweetest Taboo.
Now Katie is giving audiences the chance to hear Indigenous songs and newly commissioned Australian music alongside late Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces as part of the eclectic repertoire of her new Australian Vocal Ensemble, or AVÉ.
This week the group is in final rehearsals before their big debut in Brisbane this coming Saturday April 10 at the Queensland Convervatorium Theatre at Southbank, before going on tour around Australia in September.
AVÉ sees Katie joined by three internationally renowned artists in Mezzo-Soprano Fiona Campbell (Perth), Tenor Andrew Goodwin (Sydney) and Baritone David Greco (Sydney).
“Fiona has just flown from Perth and thank goodness she’s already got an exemption (from quarantine), she’s from WA where it’s pretty hard core,” Katie says.
“Andy and David are from Sydney so they weren’t too worried—I mean everyone was worried in the lockdown. But because Brisbane did so well we’re here, we’re excited.”
AVÉ—or the Australian Vocal Ensemble—is an elite chamber ensemble of international excellence, and with the support of generous philanthropists, will become Australia’s first professional classical vocal quartet.
I was lucky enough to speak to Katie in a break from final rehearsals before AVÉ’s debut in Brisbane on Saturday April 10, before touring around the country in September.
I put to Katie that the definition of optimism in these challenging times would be starting a new arts institution in the midst of a pandemic.
Katie says she might call it “obstinate stupidity”, but she’s determined to play her part in reviving the arts sector that has been devastated by Covid-19.
“I think we make world class art here in Queensland,” she says.
AVÉ has been a dream of Katie’s since she was a little girl singing in school choirs, and with her brother, opera singer mother, and jazz crooner father.
“I love making sounds with other voices I think it’s integral to the human experience,” Katie says.
“I think we come into the world singing—some may call it screaming—but I call it singing. That’s usually the mother and baby at once.
“Homes used to have pianos in them and pianolas and radios and the wireless and also we all used to go to mass every Sunday and sing together and so I think it really is an integral part of being human and I miss it. I think we all miss it actually.
“So I’ve been wanting to sing with singers who are amazing for many years and I thought a vocal quartet—there’s something special about the quartet it’s a very intimate setup, so there’s nowhere to hide. Everyone is their own instrument.
“There’s nothing to rely on other than our inner pitch and voices.”
You can catch AVÉ at the quartet's launch concert at the Queensland Conservatorium Theatre at South Bank this Saturday April 10 from 7pm, or by grabbing a copy of their album when it’s released in August, or at the quartet’s national tour in September.
Katie will also play with the Katie Noonan trio including her son Dexter on drums at the Imperial Hotel at Eumundi on April 24, and you can catch her doing a reunion performance with her brother Tyrone and all the original members of their iconic Brisbane band george to perform the complete double platinum album Polyserena in celebration of its 20th anniversary, at Brisbane’s Powerhouse from Thursday May 6 to May 8.
Coincidences that make you listen again
You might remember my interview with Mel Manley at the Imperial Hotel at Eumundi a few weeks back. That’s where Katie will be playing—small world, hey!
Now that Brisbane is released from yet another Covid lockdown, I wanted to release this podcast to you, my Wandering Journo tribe, straight away so hopefully you have some company on your trip if you’ve hit the roads and the onslaught of traffic escaping the big smoke and heading to the coast for Easter—that great Australian tradition.
While I was in Adelaide recently for the city’s world renowned fringe festival, it was wonderful to see the city buzzing again in the aftermath of the Covid-19 devastation on the region’s all important arts sector.
All the little theatres throughout the city were full of innovative creativity and people happily walked through alleyways underneath glittering lights as they made their way from one show to the next. Seeing people fizzing with excitement in this post-Covid world just set my heart alight.
One of these little productions I stumbled upon absolutely blew me away, “Happy Go Wrong” by Andi Snelling. Keep an eye out for the show coming your way later in the year as she is planning to tour this emotional roller coaster ride as much as her health allows.
This one-woman show takes you from the heights of elation, to the depths of despair, with clowning, performance art and rollerskating—much in the same way as Lyme disease has totally upended this performer’s life.
“I really have gone to the brink and come back, which is of course in the show,” Andi says.
“There’s a real sense of literally clawing my way back out of a deep dark pit.
“Even now I still have phases where I’m very unwell still, so it’s still an ongoing thing that I navigate. I have to set aside, on average, two to four hours every day to undergo medical treatments, just to be functional. That’s still my reality.
“It’s very normalised for me, so it can sound shocking to other people, but it’s become just a part of my acceptance, I suppose.
“That’s not to say there’s a resignation, because I am working towards full recovery, and I believe that’s possible for me, but it’s that, I know that the more I just accept this is part of my life, the happier I am, basically. The happy in the wrong, which is the point of the show.”
I interviewed Andi after her sellout season of Happy Go Wrong at Adelaide’s Bakehouse Theatre. We sat at a peaceful cafe at Henley Beach overlooking the endless waves, and talked about how she has turned around one of the most devastating periods of her life into this incredible show.
Andi has been a performer and creator her whole life, making her onstage debut before she was even born inside her Mum’s tummy while her Mum featured in a dance concert.
But she had to build her life and identity again from scratch, and is still unravelling on stage and off, the ramifications this tick-borne disease has on her existence. The disease forced her off stage for three painful years.
“It feels like a microcosm that represents the macro of what has happened in my life over the last five or so years as I’ve gone through a life-changing chronic illness journey with Lyme disease,” Andi tells us on Streets of Your Town podcast.
“I seem to surprise even myself that I am really able to go there every single performance, even to the places that may seem a bit dangerous emotionally.
“It was important to me to create something with elements of the abstract that gives me a distancing from myself, and this is why as well, the character of Lucky the French angel, he sort of acts as narrator, Greek chorus, wink, wink with the audience throughout, is a really vital role that allowed me to have that distance, to look back on the experience I’ve gone through and to be able to comment on it, and make sense of it, I suppose.
“That allowed for that distancing, because my health is my number one importance in my life now, and that includes my mental health, so I take that very seriously.”
She hopes that when people see Happy Go Wrong, that they can also see the beauty in their own struggles.
“I think about the term healing a lot, and I feel like it’s just an ongoing long process for me, and the show has been a crucial part of that,” she says.
“In fact, I would say it was a turnaround point when I started working on this show. It just started giving me a different perspective and making me realise I can actually do something with all of this crap I’ve gone through, that can be put out into the world.
“It has ended up reflecting the experience of so many people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and even frankly, just other human experiences, because I’ve had people come up to me who don’t have chronic illness or disability, but who’ve just said, “I feel like I do know your story, because I’m still a human with invisible struggles going on inside me,” because everyone has invisible stuff going on. There was a certain point where I realised this show is actually very universal.”
Andi particularly enjoyed being part of the great big Adelaide hug that is Mad March every year—the city’s world renowned Fringe Festival.
“Oh, it is magic. It is a magic time of year in Adelaide. It really is,” she says. “There’s not a lot of festivals, especially in Australia, where the festival overtakes the whole city.
“We don’t really get that in Australia. It doesn’t really happen with Melbourne Fringe, or Sydney Fringe, or other Fringes, or even other festivals in the way that it happens here with Adelaide Fringe Festival.
“The whole town actually knows about it, and you can strike up conversations with random people in shops and that, and they’ll actually genuinely want to know about your show. People ask me for a flyer here in Adelaide!
“It’s been probably one of the best seasons that I’ve had in a show of my life, actually, if I really think about it.
“It sort of ticked every box and dream that you would want to achieve as a performer. Every show sold out. There were standing ovations, five star reviews. I got some awards. Just mind-blowing, but even all of that stuff aside, I think what you’ve just said is what I appreciate the most as well, is that sense of a bubble with the audience. I really felt that every single show.”
Well this sets a new record—it’s a triple dip newsletter! Three poddies for the price of one!
First…my big news is that my Indigenous Fire Practices documentary podcast that I produced for Griffith Review earlier this year has been picked up by the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS)! You can listen in by tuning into one of their affiliated radio stations all around Australia. Just go to this link and you can find the radio station closest to you: https://nirs.org.au/category/locations/
You might remember I did some news reading for NIRS late last year from the amazing studios and working with the incredible team at Brisbane’s 98.9 FM — Murri Country. You can listen in there or any of the other stations in the NIRS network from 6pm on Easter Monday to hear my Indigenous Fire Practices story go out far and wide.
This week I also released a new podcast for those interested in the findings of the recent Aged Care Royal Commission, called The Ageing Equation podcast. While the federal government is a bit distracted with other issues right now, the aged care sector is grappling with how to implement the more than 140 recommendations from this report, which exposed widespread problems in the sector including abuse. You can listen to The Ageing Equation podcast featuring myself and aged care consultant Safdar Ali with the first episode through this link:
What else I’ve been up to
This week I managed to somehow scrape in seeing the utterly fabulous show Come From Away at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, just before lockdown again caused chaos. You can see my comments and some pics on my Facebook page.
Now that the sultry Brisbane weather is finally turning into something cooler and perhaps slightly resembling Autumn, I am spending more time in Mildred the Cantankerous Kombi on little story gathering trips away. You can always get in touch with me with your story ideas if you know someone or something that would make a great Streets of Your Town podcast—it’s as simple as hitting reply to this very email!
Thankyou, my ever-loyal Wandering Journo tribe, for helping to keep independent journalism alive by supporting my endeavours.