Dear readers, it has been some time since we have posted a blog.
Although we have been missing in action online we have still been having some adventures. For example, Tracey was in Norway for three months doing some creative research into her ancestry. Her project Waters of the Past has resulted in some wonderful collaborations and connections. The project was also presented in a number of exhibitions and symposium, such as Balance UnBalance 2017 and RIXC Open Fields 2017.
Tracey’s project was also featured in the Drammen newspaper. Please don’t ask for a translation 🙂
We had an amazing time in Norway, the highlight of this was our fjord journey up the west coast to Tromsø – more on that later 😉 Here is some teasers:
This year we don’t plan to go too far from home ground. We have lots of short trips planned and we look forward to sharing with you some of the great places we enjoy here in the Australian Alpine region – better known by Aussies as ‘the high country’.
We will publish a new article from us each month as well as feature some guest writers. Contact us if you would like to submit something for publication.
Today’s place is a little gem on the south coast of NSW with a great name – Mollymook. I first remember visiting Mollymook, when I was about 20. Not long after moving to Sydney, I travelled there for a long weekend. I remember it was a wonderful journey: a girlfriend had borrowed her boyfriend’s old VW Combie and we cruised our way down the coast on the old Princes Highway, singing along to Fleetwood Mac on the way.
The Australian Traveller website gives Mollymook a great writeup and also has some clues about how the place got its name:
It’s thought that the name Mollymook is a variation on “mollymawk”, the slang name sailors use for a type of albatross (from the Dutch mallemugge, meaning “foolish gull”.
We stayed overnight with some friends in Ulladulla and then spent the next day at Mollymook beach. I remember thinking at the time, that this beach was very beautiful and great for swimming and bodysurfing. Here is a blurb from the Visit NSW website:
Mollymook Beach is one of the South Coast’s most popular beaches. This golden stretch of sand has ideal conditions for experienced surfers, body surfers and anyone keen to learn how to surf.
Mollymook has more recently become famous as celebrity chef Rick Stein has a restaurant there – Bannisters. This restaurant is famous for fabulous seafood with an incredible ocean view. I haven’t been there yet, but it would be wonderful to experience this place.
Today’s post is a feeble attempt to try and catch up from over three months of not writing. The bad habit of missing days started with a day here or there but now I find that I haven’t written for weeks. There is really no excuse, perhaps except that I have been caught up with a number of art projects, which should count for something 🙂
My subject today is the place I live, the capital city of Australia, Canberra. As an attempt to make up for missing 84 posts, at the end of this post are 84 places worth visiting around the region, some of which have already been written about. Although it is a numbered list, it is not a list of best to worst, it is only as list of places as they came to mind.
Last week Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory was determined the best place in the world to live, according a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Canberra led the regional ranking while Australia topped the overall country rankings, followed by Norway.
The OECD ranked 362 regions of its 34 member nations in its survey. Seven areas were assessed: Health, Safety, Access to services, Civic engagement, Jobs, Education, Environment and Income.
One of the things I love about living in Canberra, is the many bushwalking trails both in Canberra and in the region. Only yesterday, we walked up Mt Majura, to do some exploring as part of a project I am developing for Long Time No See? On our way back down the mountain we came across some other walkers who were doing the Centenary Trail, having walked from Parliament House. This trail certainly looks challenging and perhaps something to pursue.
Day 73: Barmah National Park, Yorta Yorta Country, Australia
Today I go back to thinking about interconnecting stories, cultures and worlds. One of the ways I have been influenced to think about the connectedness of place, identity, culture and life has been through my experience with First Nation Peoples. In an earlier post I talked about Yorta Yorta Nation and the work that this community has done with scientists.
For example, one project titled A monitoring program to determine the watering requirements of floodplain populations of the southern pygmy perch, Nannoperca australis, in Barmah-Millewa Forest focuses on the pygmy perch, an endangered species found in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The summary text on the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre website states that:
The pygmy perch has undergone a dramatic decline in NE Victoria over the last 15 years (now ‘Vulnerable’ (VIC) or ‘Endangered’ (NSW). Despite this species’ attractive appearance, its ecology is poorly understood.
This project is a great example of how scientists have had the good sense to engage the people who have lived in this area for 60,000 years. Like the ecology in which this particular species resides, there is a larger story here, one that connects through the food chain and through time.
When I think about the connectedness of our world and of our part in it, I am drawn to consider more deeply the role of knowledge. In our society, expert opinion is usually assuaged to formal knowledge, the learning and research of institutions: ‘book’ learning. This I believe is a blinkered view, one that removes the other types of knowledge that is embedded in sharing stories, oral histories and lived experience. However, the research I have seen through my connection with the Yorta Yorta Nations, demonstrates how linking in the environmental knowledge of the First Nations peoples brings about a more robust and complete picture of the land.
Other academic researchers do not seem to be so aware. For example, this post, titled Be the protector of my species recently published on the La Trobe website does not acknowledge any of the vast research that has already been done on other fish species in the Murray. What seems to be an even bigger omission is to talk about the surrounding environment as a great ‘supermarket’ without acknowledging the land management practices of the Yorta Yorta and neighbouring nations over thousands of years.
GIS ontologies comprise categorised labels that represent lived contexts, and these ontologies are determined through the shared worldviews of those labelling spatial phenomena for entry into GIS databases. Although Western ontologies and spatial representations reflect Western understandings of human experience, they are often inappropriate in Indigenous contexts. In efforts to be represented in courts and land management, Indigenous groups nevertheless need to engage Western spatial representations to ‘claim space’. This paper examines what GISs are and do and shows that GIS technology comes with strings attached to the myriad social contexts that continue to shape the field of GIScience. We show that Intellectual Property Rights Agreements can sever and control these ‘strings’; the agreement between the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and university researchers reframes GIS from a technology of erasure to a technology of opportunity that enables Indigenous groups to define their own engagement. The visual and narrative outputs will contribute important understandings of the environmental crisis facing the Murray–Darling Basin and connect older and younger generations through knowledge sharing.
This paper covers some very interesting ground (pardon the pun) and looks to how GIScience needs to address the social constructs in which the science operates. By using an example of how researchers have worked with the Yorta Yorta Nation, the article explores some highly relevant topics, such as how community-based and participatory mapping can have positive social benefits and contribute to community empowerment. The conclusion of the paper argues that “GIScience is a fundamentally relational praxis that always expresses particular world views through its immersion in social relationships.”
writing and art depicting the land before Europeans changed it
anthropological and ecological accounts of Aboriginal societies today, especially in the Centre and north
what plants tell of their fire history and habitats.
Bill Gammage also acknowledges that because this text focuses on the whole of the continent, he did not draw many sources directly from Aboriginal people. This was because he was drawing a picture of the land and its history from the European context and did not want to make presumptions. He comments that:
I had neither the time nor the presumption to interrogate people over so great an area on matters they value so centrally.
In Gammage’s case, the fact he is drawing from other forms of knowledge (writing, art, plants plus anthropological and ecological accounts) one step removed from direct consultation with Indigenous Peoples, serves to strengthen his argument that indeed Australia was not a virgin wilderness. His proposition is that the land was managed in a sophisticated and holistic way and that once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend to their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to bushfires.
I often reflect on how different Australia would be if Europeans came to this country to learn about the land and not to impose values from another hemisphere; which have wreaked so much damage on the land and its plants and animals. One only has to think of the Cane Toad to realise that lack of foresight and common sense that has been used. No one thought about the bigger impact that Cane Toad would have, thinking only of getting rid of the beetle that was destroying the sugar cane. Now, the Cane Toad has invaded most of Australia’s north and there is no way to stop it. It destroys ecosystems in two ways – by eating everything in it wake and killing everything that tries to eat it, as it has poisonous flesh. Short term solutions without thinking of long-term effects – this seems to be the only answer.
But I am no scientist and it would be foolish of me to try to engage in a scientific discussion about the peculiarities of an introduced species and the vulnerabilities of a threatened species. For me, I think there is an urgent need to think differently about how we still compartmentalise the world; believing that one event is removed from another to start to see the connections between our behaviour and the impact that it has. The Yorta Yorta and other First Nation communities all over the world have managed to care for their environment for thousands of years by acknowledging and respecting the delicate balance of the ecology. Liz Bentley states in her article The Earth is a Sentient Living Organism
The strong Gaia hypothesis states that life creates conditions on Earth to suit itself. Life created the planet Earth, not the other way around.
This quote reminds me that as living beings our impact on our earth doesn’t have to be passive. By opening our eyes and learning about the places where we live from the people whose culture extends back for thousands upon thousands of years, we can actively learn how to repair some of the damage done and improve the environment for all living things.
Day 72: Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia
I am writing about Kangaroo Island as it is both a beautiful place and it also reminds me of a wonderful journey we did at the end of 2012, where we travelled along the Great Ocean Road to South Australia. We spent some lovely time with my uncle (and regular contributor) Garry Benson and then headed to Kangaroo Island for a couple of days. We then stopped back to see Garry, catching up with friends and then made our way inland across Victoria. On the way we stayed with some other dear friends for New Years Eve, before heading back to Canberra.
This trip was not only a journey across new landscapes, it for me was also a journey of inner discovery, not just about myself but about learning by sharing time with people I love. Anyway I digress, back to Kangaroo Island. Mr Wikipedia says:
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It is in the state of South Australia 112 km (70 mi) south-west of Adelaide. Its closest point to the mainland is Snapper Point in Backstair Passage which is 13.5 km (8.4 mi) from the Fleurieu Peninsula.
To get to Kangaroo Island (or KI as it is affectionately known), you catch the SeaLink ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. SeaLink operates two large, modern vehicle and passenger ferries, SeaLion 2000 and Spirit of Kangaroo Island. The journey takes about 45 minutes for the 16km crossing and there are some great views of both the mainland and KI coast on the way. The ferries are well equipped with a fully licenced café and free wifi.
KI is an incredible place, there are many amazing natural places to see: The Remarkables, Admirals’s Arch and Vivonne Bay are a good start. Seal Bay is also spectacular as you can see up close Australia’s third largest colony of Australian Sea-lions. Also, there is a lot of other wildlife not easily found in other Australian settings any more, for example we saw Koalas, which are sadly becoming a rarer sight.
What is also great about KI is the local produce, there are a number of wineries and KI is also known for its delicious cheese.
One aspect of the history I found intriguing is that the island was deserted by the local people thousands of years ago. The island’s name in the local language means “Island of the Dead”. Mr Wikipedia says:
Known as Karta (“Island of the Dead”) by the mainland Aboriginal tribes, the existence of stone tools and shell middens show that Aboriginal people once lived on Kangaroo Island. It is thought that they occupied it as long ago as 16,000 years before the present, and may have only disappeared from the island as recently as 2000 years ago.
M.H Munroe documents a mainland Aboriginal dreaming story which tells of the Backstairs Passage flooding:
Long ago, Ngurunderi’s two wives ran away from him, and he was forced to follow them. He pursued them and as he did so he crossed Lake Albert and went along the beach to Cape Jervis. When he arrived there he saw his wives wading half-way across the shallow channel which divided Naroongowie from the mainland. He was determined to punish his wives, and angrily ordered the water to rise up and drown them. With a terrific rush the waters roared and the women were carried back towards the mainland. Although they tried frantically to swim against the tidal wave they were powerless to do so and were drowned. (M.H. Munroe, Karta: Island of the Dead – Kangaroo Island http://www.austhrutime.com/karta_island_of_the_dead.htm)
It a story that is cloaked in mystery and one we will never know for sure. I would love to learn more about this history and the people who lived on KI. When you are on the island you get the feeling that it is a place of many stories and of many secrets.
We stayed two nights in the American River area, but could have easily have stayed longer in KI and camped on other parts of the island. The township of Kingscote is also well worth a visit, with lots of galleries and cafés, it is well set up for tourism. Kingscote is situated on the shores of Nepean Bay, has lovely views of the harbour and is home to about 1,800 people. I hope one day to travel back to KI as it is a place that inspires and intrigues me.
Manik Organik is a great spot, offering delicious whole foods from the cafe, natural skin care, alternative health therapies, arts, dance and cooking classes and our favourite form of tropical torture – yoga.
There were three types of yoga classes on offer while we were here – Bali style, Hatha and Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow. We did the Bali and Hatha classes and enjoyed both, for different reasons. The Bali style was quite different to other classes we have done in the past and the first class was very challenging. The second class was a bit easier, finding that our bodies were willing to stretch a bit more. Mangku was also a wonderful teacher and we promised him next year that we will be better. He is also a traditional Balinese Hindu priest and healer – here is some information from The Power of Now Oasis Yoga website.
Jero Mangku comes from a long line of traditional balinese hindu priests, his life is truly an offering. He began teaching yoga over 5 years ago, and is certified by the School of Sacred Arts here in Bali. He always brings strong elements of Joy, Peace, and Harmony as well as Effort and Discipline into his yoga classes. Drawing from a deep knowledge of spirituality, body work and a life of practice, his classes are very popular with locals, expats, and tourists alike.
Here is Mangku in some pretty amazing poses.
What we found was really nice way to spend a morning was to go to yoga class and then tuck in some yummy breakfast from the cafe. Here is a picture of the fruit and muesli plate – delicious!
Given we are already planning our trip for next year, it looks like some more yoga will be in store – the challenge will be making sure we keep going once we get back to the cold of Canberra.
Nyuh Kuning (Yellow Coconut Village)
For the 10th year I’m home – at blessed Alam Jiwa in the traditional Balinese woodcarving village of Nyuh Kuning. It’s just a short walk through Monkey Forest to Ubud, the world-famous arts and crafts capital of Bali.
Surrounded by shimmering rice fields with a view of sacred Mount Agung, the village is a showcase of traditional Balinese culture. Alam Jiwa translates as ‘the soul of nature’ and is a total of eleven beautiful two and three-story stone ‘apartments’ running along the border of the rice paddies.
The owners of Café Wayan, Ibu Wayan and Pak Ketut have created an ambience reflecting the beautiful nature of Bali. The secluded setting of the six Alam properties in Ubud and a hotel in the Gilis all feel like retreats – yet also a connection to interact with Balinese culture.
It’s just a short walk from Alam Jiwa to the Monkey Forest, the home to over 300 macaque monkeys. The Balinese believe these monkey to be spiritual beings who are protective guardians of the temple ‘Pura Dalem Agung’. They have free reign in the village of Nyuh Kuning.
The overwhelming feeling of staying at Alam Jiwa is being part of a family. On arrival I’m always greeting with a huge vase of tropical flowers with a typical message ‘Welcome home to Garry Benson’. I know the staff and their families, and to see their eager faces and smiles when they welcome me back are wonderful.
My hour long morning daily walk in Nyuh Kuning village is always a buzz. After 10 years I know a lot of the locals who smile & wave and sometimes chat. Just one of the paved streets about half a kilometre long had a total of 126 different sculptures.
Each Balinese compound has its own temple dogs or guards, but the outstanding one for someone with a mudbrick house is this one. Beautiful stone mosaics, and dozens of small sculptures embedded in the walls.
The village is intentionally ‘house proud’ and the villagers vie with each other to have the most beautiful entrances. The main streets of the village abutting Monkey Forest are all paved and decorated, with a soccer field, a temple complex and local school. It’s almost a model traditional Balinese village and a wonderful place to stay, to walk around and enjoy the numerous restaurants etc.
It’s amazing that this traditional woodcarving village has such a wonderful array of stone sculptures, carved wooden doors and offerings, a constant joy to crazy photographers like me!
Day 53: Nightcliff Markets, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
When I first moved to Nightcliff in 1977, there was only one market – at Rapid Creek on a Sunday. Over the years, many other markets have popped up: Mindil Beach, Parap and then one opened in my home suburb of Nightcliff about ten years ago. The Nightcliff Market is situated at the Progress Road shops, nestled under the trees, making it a cool respite from the midday heat.
It is a slightly smaller market than Parap, with more emphasis on craft, as well as a few food stalls and some plants and fresh fruit and vegetables. While we were there, we had another lovely juice from the same stall as the one from Parap Market (a lot of stallholders do Parap Markets on Saturday and Nightcliff on Sunday). We also bought a gorgeous painting, from an artist from Utopia, whose work I had admired last time I went to Darwin. I will write about her work in a later post. I also bought some beautiful Frangipani Oil perfume from Viva la Body, a local skincare and fashion house. They make beautiful things and also do wonderful gift packs, which they will send on your behalf.
Here are some random pics from the market on Sunday. I just love seeing so many different varieties of orchids, they are so beautiful and a feast for my eyes as they do not grow very well in the cold Canberra climate.