Adrian Hanks – Psychophonetics Therapist

Interviewed by Prue, edited by Mick.

“… we had a swim in the ocean in the middle of July … and that completely sold us.” – Adrian Hanks

1 Intro pic

Oh my goodness. I have just come back from interviewing Adrian Hanks and had so much fun with him and his wife, Arleen, that my attempt at keeping our chat to two hours was an epic failure. Arleen cracked me up with her version of events on how she and Adrian got together – she was adamant she wasn’t going to have a relationship with him. She had already had two husbands and wasn’t planning on a third. Eh hem! Together their stories are amazing, but Adrian’s in particular is so varied he had me continually back tracking, trying to keep up with what he has done in his life.

Our chat started over a water filter, of all things. Well, not exactly a water filter, but an alkalising system. This gadget sat on the kitchen bench and told you, complete with mock Japanese/American accent, the ph level of the water you were about to consume. Apparently, novice alkaline water consumers should begin their experience on a pH level of 8.5, graduating to level 9.5, the optimum level, after a couple of weeks. Talk about fast track high achieving – I like it. The reason for this graduation is apparently due to the detoxification qualities of alkaline water. If the novice water drinker starts on 9 it could give them a bit of a toxicity rush… it’s too intense. But once the body detoxes a bit, one can graduate to level 9. Woo hoo. As it turns out, Adrian sells these systems… and there I was thinking he was a plain old psychophonetic therapist…

Formerly from Armidale (approximately 500kms north of Sydney), I asked what brought them to this beautiful neck of the woods? 
Well, we had a swim in the ocean in the middle of July … that completely sold us. Think about it… Armidale and ocean??? …and Armidale in the middle of July? Actually what really happened was Arleen was running a week-long course in Tweed and we decided to check out Byron on the way home. After that dip in the ocean, we were almost convinced to move here.

Arleen is originally from Cape Town in South Africa, and when we married (in 2005) and moved to Armidale, it was a bit of an affront for her. She never liked the place. Basically we were there because my kids were there. So when we proposed moving to the Byron area, three of them moved with us.

What, you have more than three?
Yes, we have six between us. You know… blended families and all that.

2 Family picsArleen’s mother (Granny) with Adrian (is it me, or could she pass as Adrian’s mother?), and Arleen with Timeeah – one of the six kids

Crikey, six kids! And only three came to Byron. What did the others do?
Well, Arleen has two kids and I have four. One of Arleen’s, Travis, lives in South Africa with his father, and the other one, Timeeah, lives with us. She’s 12, but moved to Australia with Arleen when she was five. Travis is about to come and visit us for a month because he’s just finished year 12 and is taking a gap year. In the past he has come and stayed with us twice a year. I have Solomon who is 24. He has just come back from being deployed in Afghanistan…

So he’s a soldier? That appears to me to be quite a contrast to how you have lived your lives, given your earlier mention of Rudolph Steiner. Were all the kids educated in the Steiner system?
Yes, and Solomon was the first. He was my intro to Steiner, but he’s always had leadership qualities and he’s taken that through to the army.

What would Rudolph Steiner have to say about producing a soldier?
I think he would say it’s his Karma. It’s his passion, it’s his mission.

As a father, how do you feel about it?
My take is… I support him to follow his life’s journey… I support and follow him but I don’t have to like his choices. I also see the army as an initiation for him. It takes courage to go to deployment.

Oh absolutely. We could obviously talk at length about what it is like to have a ‘child’ deployed but there are three others to cover here, so, back to the other kids…
So the next one is Alexander, who just had his second child and my second grandchild.

Whoa, a grandfather twice and not yet 50! How does that feel?
Interesting, because for a while I struggled with what to call myself, then I spoke with a good friend and she asked, ‘Why don’t you own it’? You know, own the title of being a grand dad and call myself ‘grand dad’. I couldn’t argue with that, so I’m really stepping up to the plate with the ‘grand’ aspect of my life.

Then there’s Oliver. He’s just finished year 12, then Genevieve who’s 16. All the kids have lived with us at some point, but predominantly with their mother.

Ok, so you moved to Byron Bay, did you have anything in place on the business or home front?
Well, first up we found a house on Friday Hut Road, closely followed by studio space in Byron. Then we put the kids into Cape Byron Steiner School.

What did you need a studio for?
We offered a range of healing modalities- counselling and psychotherapy, life alignment and massage.

2 Office details
Office and studio details

Wow. Who did what out of all that?
We both did Psychophonetics. Arleen is the life alignment practitioner and teacher and I’m the massage therapist.

So tell us a bit about Psychophonetics and Life Alignment
Yehuda Tagar founded Psychophonetics at Persophone College in South Africa… it is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner .

It’s a form of coaching, counselling and spiritually based psychotherapy. The essence of the work is working with sound and movement (if needed), hence phonetics. For example, if a client came to me because he/she felt they were struggling to move forward, we would ask them to describe visually how it feels, we call it a gesture… we ask them to gesture the feeling of the experience with their hands and/or full body. Then we might ask them to step away. We call that ‘enter, exit and behold’ so you enter into the process, then you step out of it, take a look at it and observe it. This is beholding it. Our role is to help people find their passions and restore their full potential.

6 Playing the didjThe master didjeridoo maker, and player, carrying out some healing work.

I’ve steered away from counselling to some degree and stepped up coaching with Conscious Life Development Foundation. I have put all the work I do under one umbrella ie my mens work, my eco soul bush experience and coaching and counselling. As you know Prue, I have a regular monthly newsletter which usually discusses a particular topic, for example, endings and new beginnings.  We support local businesses by posting free ads and we do an events page as well. I also do a book review and a people profile.

Wow that sounds like a lot of work. Do you do it solo?
Yes, but I also encourage and accept other peoples articles.

And you also have a blog?
Yes, called ‘The Boy and the Cake’ which is about Little Adrian and Master Adrian. It’s a take on how we can easily get pulled into the emotions, reactions and actions from – if you like – the needy inner child. Through stories I share how I have personally overcome those challenges.

7 CakeThe boy… and the cake… Adrian, you haven’t changed a bit!

So it seems you eat, breathe and practise what you preach?
Yep, I try very much to walk my talk.

I also have a book coming out in mid 2013 entitled ‘Where Am I Right Now’. It’s part personal development, part life story, and it also has exercises and tips on how to stay present and reach one’s full potential.

I understand this is your second book because you self published a kids’ book a couple of years ago.
Yes, that’s ‘Wendy and the Fairy Ring Secret’ which I distribute through my website and locally in Byron Bay at outlets such as, Natures Child and Essentially Byron. My second book however, has been picked up by a publisher, which is really exciting.

8 WendyThe author with his first book, ‘Wendy and the Fairy Ring Secret’ – what an achievement.

Seven years down the track, you are clearly set up in business and in home life. What then are the joys of living in this area and what are the challenges?
I love the warmth, I really love it. And I really love living in Bangalow… it has a different energy to Byron and the village atmosphere in Bangalow is really gratifying. In this area there is always something to do whether it’s music, plays, workshops, the beach, bushwalking, snorkelling… there’s just so much.

And the challenges, do you have any?
I think working from home instead of a regular nine to five work place is challenging… although I don’t see what I do as work – more a passion and vocation – living in a holiday and beach environment does make it challenging to focus and requires a fair bit of discipline. For example, when I go down to Byron for a meeting and see the beach, it takes some discipline not to stay.

Oh yes, I’m sure we all get that. But hey, you hold your meetings in cafes, that surely aint all bad? Do you have a fave?
Yes, it’s either at Utopia in Bangalow or Why Not in Byron – they make the best LSD (Latte Soy Dandelion). I also love the Conscious Café in Byron. They are organic, dairy and soy free… and their salads are phenomenal… the colour, the taste, everything. If Arleen and I go out for lunch we struggle to go past the Cardomon Pod and we like The Balcony for their tapas. You can always get good vego with tapas.

Do you eat out much?
No, mainly at home.

I have discovered working from home entails preparation of three meals a day. Do you ever tire of cooking like I do?
Well, we have a live-in cook… everybody calls her Granny. Her name is Eileen, and she’s Arleen’s mother, and she cooks five days a week and we cook on the weekends. Sunday is often pizza night … I was a baker in a former life.

9 garden pics
Adrian has also studied Bio-Dynamic Agriculture… is it any wonder his veggie patch is thriving? And check out  where the path leads to…
5 shed pics… to his shed… complete with pool. Some shed! I’m sure there are thousands of blokes out there with massive shed envy.

What style pizza base do you do?
I have my secret pizza… it’s one word. Basil! When I make my dough I add basil… generally thin bases and tonnes of garlic.

Whats your fave combo topping?
Slices of tomato, with fresh basil leaves tonnes of sea salt, so the toms soak it up and plenty of garlic and cheese.

So you are total vego… where do you get your protein from?
Eggs… and the natural proteins in organic vegetables.

I am so jealous of Adrian and Arleen with their live-in cook – what an amazing arrangement. Lucky them. There was so much more to explore with these two warm, open, honest people, like Adrian being a master didjeridoo player and maker, how Arleen is Adrian’s psychotherapist (how scary would that be, living with your psychotherapist???!!!) and the story of how Adrian wore down the very adamant Arleen and married her. Perhaps there will be a part two? Thank you Adrian for your time and enthusiasm… it was a complete joy.


Not Very Byron!

Post by Prue with thanks to Fiona Hunter

“As there were so many of them I resigned myself to locking ourselves on the property for the night, rather than draw further attention.”

You may remember our interview with Fiona Hunter back in 2011… well, at a recent haircut appointment with Fi, I learned of her horrendous New Years Eve. It was jaw droppingly horrendous and I felt very strongly that it needed to be heard. Reluctantly Fi agreed and provided the following account of her 2013 New Years Eve  in ‘paradise’.

As residents of Melaleuca Drive (near BP Ozigo), we are naturally concerned about the threat of bushfires. This threat was close to being realised on New Year’s Eve.

Our lovely neighbours kindly let friends of friends – young people from Sydney I believe – camp on their property for a couple of days over New Years. Access to this paddock was via our road. Harmless enough, you would think, until this road was posted on facebook as the place to camp for New Year.

At 6.45am on New Years Eve I drove to town and counted ten vehicles parked along the road. As it is often a campsite for two or three vans/cars, I accepted the inevitable increase in number for this time of the year.

On the drive home I pulled over and spoke to four girls, mentioning that the rubbish around their vehicles was really bad and I hoped they would take it with them. I also pointed to the evidence of a bushfire along our road, caused by a camp fire in November. I expressed my safety and rubbish concerns in a polite manner.

Thirty minutes later I ventured into work along the bike path. As the path was crowded, I needed to (respectfully) ring my bell on a few occasions to navigate my way through the layers of people. It wasn’t fun being told to f..k off and ride on the grass. Lovely. Nice way to start my day.

When I returned home late that afternoon, our road was full of cars and people sitting around drinking. The amount of rubbish was increasing. A young man, about my stepson’s age, yelled out ‘Hey you in the red dress…show us your tits’, much to the amusement of all. It was unpleasant and upsetting to say the least.

I told him to pick up his rubbish and leave our road and continued my ride home.

As there were so many of them I resigned myself to locking ourselves on the property for the night, rather than draw further attention. It was too late to do anything else.

The next day the lovely neighbours and I spent a long time cleaning the road. They were definitely not to blame for the situation that arose. A lot of people had rubbish to deal with… we overfilled a backhoe.

The situation that scared me the most is best highlighted by the attached images…

tent fire_02 tent fire_03

… a gas canister in the middle of a mattress with the tent all burnt out. This was so dangerous and I wonder if anyone presented to the hospital with burns from that event.

I am apprehensive about what might happen on the Australia Day weekend as the majority of the cars had QLD number plates. Will they be back for that weekend? My partner is not coming away with me on a planned trip as we fear they will be back, and if we are not home, who knows what will happen. I don’t have all the answers but I would definitely like to see barriers on our road to avert a potential fire disaster.

Fiona Hunter

Shaz the other half of Baz – Fruit & Veg

Interview and pics by Prue. Edited by Mick.

Very Mick and I first moved to Sunrise Beach back in 2002 where we were amazed at what you could buy at the so called ‘fruit and veg’ shop known as Ozigo’s, near the BP. Apart from your bog standard types of milk and bread, it stocked a huge variety of sourdoughs, gluten free spelts, kamuts, etc, stuff we had never heard of.  On the adjoining shelves sat handmade soaps, incense, buckwheat flours, and everything in between. Formerly from Melbourne, we used to lovingly mock the quirky stock necessary to cater for the average Byronite.

After 12 months we moved to hillside Suffolk and assumed we would lose our quirky, local shopping experience. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to discover a funny little fruit and veg shop at the caravan park opposite the golf course – it had no signage but was parochially known as Crosby’s, apparently the name of the former owners. It wasn’t long before we came to know the new owners, Shaz & Baz.

Shaz with her other half, Baz.

These two managed to surpass the old Ozigo shopping experience with their higgledy piggledy, make shift shop that stocked EVERYTHING. The shop was tiny, with customers climbing over boxes and each other as they surveyed the overstocked shelves. Friendly, tolerant smiles exchanged as customers unintentionally nudged and bumped their way around the two tightly packed aisles. They queued patiently at what was apparently the check-out, a piece of bench the size of a postage stamp, as the incredibly friendly staff juggled weighing and packing the purchased goods.

Two years ago, Shaz and Baz moved from the Crosby location to a far bigger premise, and as luck would have it, it’s at the end of our street! We now have a massively stocked ‘pantry’, literally a stone’s throw from our kitchen. We have watched what was an empty, soulless, mothballed shop, stocked with last year’s vegies and week old bread and run by unmotivated tired owners, morph into a buzzing thriving shopping haven with shelves filled to the brim… everything a reasonable cook could wish for and all served with the usual warmth and friendliness that is Shaz & Baz. We are blessed… and this cook even loves the prices!

I recently met with Shaz who shyly requested if daughter Dani could also attend the interview. When I enquired as to why, she replied very coyly, ‘I’d just feel more comfortable’. No problem, but was surprised how shy Shaz really is, especially since Very Mick and I are in the shop up to 3 times a day. My first question was a no brainer…

How does someone so shy work 12 hours a day dealing with the public?
I don’t feel so shy when I’m working. I guess I can hide behind the role of serving people.

How many daughters could work with their mothers all day, then book regular date nights with her – both leaving their boys (Luke & Baz) at home. Clearly Dani and Shaz are incredibly close

You are always smiling, polite and happy  are you sure theres nothing in the vegies youre not telling us about?  Don’t you tire of the public and the constant demands of we punters?
Well, I guess I would if everyone wasn’t so nice and lovely. We really do have very nice customers.

I’m guessing you must hate socializing then?
Yeah, well, work is my social life. I certainly don’t need one outside of business hours.

Are you aware of the sense of community you have created by moving your business into hillside Suffolk?
I guess… you see people chatting here all the time. We’re aware how we’ve changed it but we were also aware of the potential… the change was inevitable. And we benefit from the community as well. For example Mel, who lives across the road, she lets us know if we’ve left lights on or if there is anything she feels we should know about. She has our phone number, and we have hers, so I can call her if ever I’m here at night by myself and need company. And Sardia over the back is the same…  we’re not just a business next door, we’re their neighbours.

It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done, but we wouldn’t have done it without the help of Dani and Luke. (Luke is Dani’s loooonnng time partner. They met at primary school.)

Notice BoardYet another sign of the sense of community Shaz & Baz have supported.

How did you get into this line of business?
Baz was doing wholesale fruit & veg and used to deliver to the caravan park shop (Crosby’s). He came home one day and suggested buying it… yet another one of his crazy ideas… but we all agreed. (We, being Dani, Luke, Shaz & Baz’s son Aaron – who initially worked with them until he moved interstate) Initially I kept my job at the nursing home (St Andrew’s in Ballina).

You actually live in Wardell. Was the driving from there to Byron ever a concern?
Not really… it’s better than driving in Sydney.

Who could argue with that? When did you live in Sydney?
I was born in Sydney and met Barry when I was 18. He was born in Lismore, but grew up in Bonalbo, a tiny town west of Casino.

What did you do in Sydney?
A million jobs… we owned a gift shop for a little bit, we did courier work and Barry was a car salesman at one stage. We moved up here when Dani was five. Barry wanted to come back to the Northern Rivers area and we thought it was a good place to bring up kids. We worked for ten years in a variety of jobs before going into the business at the Caravan Park. We were there for ten years before purchasing here in Beech Drive.

How has the shift in location affected you and the business?
It’s a lot busier here. The shop is open longer but we do the same hours as before… 60 hours per week.

Santosha, Amanda and Joal
These pics were taken on a Thursday when the shifts cross over for an hour and all staff are on board to help with the deliveries. Amanda top, Santosha left and Joal right.

Does everybody work 60 hours?
No. Santosha works five days a week, Dani and Luke do five six-hour shifts and one 12 hour shift

And Baz?
He’s doing all the behind the scenes things like going to the markets and ordering… and we’ve got a few hundred chickens… so he packs the eggs.

Baz and his eggs
Baz and his eggs

Gosh, that’d be a job in itself, wouldn’t it?
Yeah, there’s a lot to do… change their bedding, keep the feeding up, but it’s good because all the scraps from here go to the chooks.

Now that ‘s sustainable living! Is that something you guys are concerned about?
Oh, definitely. We also installed all those solar panels on the roof when we moved here.

Dani & Luke are about to go on a European holiday so how do you structure things when key people are away?
(Dani laughing, says… Shaz doesn’t get a day off! ) We’ve got really great staff and we’re taking on another guy who will take over Luke’s role while he’s away.

Is that the market gig?
No, that’s Barry’s job. He goes up once a week and we get deliveries five days a week. Baz loves going up. It’s his day out of Byron… he has lunch and keeps up with his market contacts… that’s why we can do the specials we do, cos he knows a lot of people and maintains those relationships.

Independent grocers are notorious for high mark ups, yet you keep your prices down. Why don’t you follow suit?
We don’t believe in doing that. Byron Bay has so many beautiful products and whilst some of our supplies come from the  Brisbane markets, we also stock a lot of local products and believe everybody should be able to try them… so we do our best to make them affordable. Like the Brookfarm muesli… it’s normally sold for $25 plus, but we sell it for $20… it’s beautiful muesli and really popular.

Some of the popular produce sold at Baz & Shaz's
What type of salt would you like? And the spices on the shelves to the left are not even half the choices we have.

Has the lolly aspect of the business changed things? Does it annoy you serving all the kids?
No… they’re mostly good. We have had to ban a few so that keeps the others on their toes. We do get lots of kids from the skate park asking for glasses of water and wanting to use the phone to call their parents after skate accidents.

What do you love about living and working in Byron/Suffolk?
I love being able to walk to the beach and seeing people I know. Everybody is so friendly… especially here in Suffolk. We went to the pub recently to watch the Rabbitos play and some of our customers came up to say hello and invited us to join them… it was really nice to see them outside of the shop.

What are the challenges for you living/working here?
Hmmm… I ‘m trying to think…

So what’s your fave restaurant?
It use to be Hot Rock but it’s closed now. The food was great and the owners are lovely. We felt really comfortable there. We have lots of others we love but we also supply a lot of the restaurants with wholesale… so they’re all equally great (she says chuckling).

And your favourite shop?
Well, we don’t shop anywhere else so it has to be ours! But for clothes and other needs we always shop locally because we have so many businesses that support us.

The team
Leaving the shop unattended, we had to make our team shot snappy. In descending order: King of the egg castle, Baz, followed by Luke, Joal, Santosha, Dani, Amanda and shortie Shaz.

It took some doing to drag Shaz away for this interview but is it any wonder when she devotes 60 hours each week to satisfying the culinary callings of Suffolk Park. Energy is a thrashed word in Byron Bay, but if you want to experience the best of it just pop into our Beech Drive ‘pantry’. Shaz, Baz, their kids and staff (Santosha, Joal, Amanda and newbie, Joel) exude a fun, fabulous energy, a commodity Woollies can only dream about… old style, friendly service where nothing is a problem and every effort is made to accommodate patrons’ needs, no matter how Byronian. Through passion and a work ethic that would make Kevin Rudd jealous, this humble family’s investment has created a heart and soul hub in a suburb where there was none. We, and all of our Suffolk neighbours, are immeasurably grateful.

Peter Westheimer – Musician

Interviewed by Prue; edited by Mick

“To perform and share my music in a contemporary arena like Splendour is a total honour.” – Peter Westheimer

From a seven year old novice violinist to leader of the Victorian Youth Symphony Orchestra, to a degree in Medicine, to political street theatre performer, to writing and performing in bands, to composing music scores for film and TV, to a term as a councillor in the Byron Shire… Peter Westheimer’s list of achievements just goes on and on. Check out his website and you will get my drift. Also check out his latest project on youtube Tranzworld Express. Wow!

I met with Peter on a seemingly rare sunny day in Brunswick Heads for a coffee and a chat that lasted for as long as his bio. Clearly there was a lot to cover. Starting with the usual Very Byron question of ‘When and why did you come to the Byron Shire?’

Peter Westheimer

I came to Byron because I was interested in alternative culture, spirituality, and a hankering to reconnect with the land and country. I had grown tired of suburban Melbourne and after spending time in the warmth of Indonesia, studying Tai Chi and meditation, I chose to live in a warmer climate. When friends mentioned Mullumbimby I jumped on a train in 1974, not long after the Nimbin Aquarius Festival, and got off at ‘Mullum’. I eventually moved here in 1978 and after twelve months bought into an MO (Multiple Occupancy) near The Channon .

What did you do once you made the move?
I gained knowledge about the bush and building, and immersed myself in music full time. I wanted to venture beyond my classical music background so I tried Rock and New Wave… started playing in bands, writing and singing. Technology was beginning to emerge so I could put my music into the public arena myself, without a record company. I produced my first EP called ‘Laminex Lovers’ and it happened to get quite a lot of airplay on Triple J (Double J then). Then I enrolled in an Audio Engineering course at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).

You already had a degree in Medicine. Wow, you must really like studying?
Not really. I was well and truly over it so I didn’t sit any of the Audio Engineering exams.  I wanted the knowledge, not the qualification. I even rebelled against reading music scores.

So did you ever practice as a doctor?
Yes, until five years ago I practised part time in the fields of occupational health rehabilitation and in the legal side of medicine.

Was it a good time in your life?
Yeah… Medicine gave me an income to support my music. I practised for about nine years and in that time bought a house, renovated it and built a home studio. I was also doing a lot of composing for TV and film in Sydney. One day a director friend did a video clip to one of my tracks and it was nominated as one of the Top 10 Australian video clips of 1985 by the producer of Rage – Mark Fitzgerald.

In 1992 you were also invited into the ‘Musicians As Artists’ publication. How did that come about? Do you also paint?
For my 1992 album ‘Transition’, I painted a canvas to reflect moods and concepts of each track and launched the album in an art gallery restaurant. A friend of a friend was putting the publication together in Los Angeles and he had a spare spot. He thought it would be good to have an Australian inclusion… a case of right place, right time.

Book - Musicians as Artists

What an amazing experience. You share equal space with legends… John Lennon, Carly Simon, Ron Woods, David Bowie… the list goes on. If you are struggling to read the above list of legends, click here for a clearer image… it really is a spin out.

Peter’s paintings appeared along side legendary names like John Lennon, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Ringo Starr, in the publication Musicians as Artists

So the creative process… when did you become aware of creating intuitively?
When I was a Med student I lived in a share-house near Melbourne Uni… lots of people would come through the house and we’d jam (me on the violin) and I soon realised I could create original music pretty easily. When I was in the right space, without getting too esoteric, I kind of channelled it. I use feeling and intuition for making music… I’ve rebelled against formalities of form and genre.

How do you get into the right space to create?
I simply spend time in my studio, or wherever, with the tools of songwriting… a laptop, good headphones, small mixer, decent speakers and good software.

I essentially do jam sessions with multi-track recorder software and overlay tracks… endlessly experimenting, adding and subtracting and ultimately honing  the sounds. For my current album, Tranzworld Express, I brought in Amir Paiss on Persian Santoor, and Parissa Bouas on vocals.

The creative splash of this album happened a few months after my mother died and I felt the need to look inside for a while. I took off across Europe for two months where I spent a lot of time on trains. It was then that I wrote Tranzworld Express… hence the strong train theme.

Publicity for Tranzworld Express

Interestingly, there is a train theme running here also – you arrived in the area by train and you are Vice President of TOOT (Trains On Our Tracks) … the local action group trying to get the Byron train running again. Have you always been a politically active person… is that why you became a councillor?
I‘ve been political since I was 21. At Uni I lead a protest about the way medical students were being treated. I also did a stint of funded political theatre. I was in a group called the The Portable Players, which was funded by the Australia Council and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.  We were paid to perform plays that questioned the establishment from an informed, and probably wholistic perspective, although that word was not in my lexicon then! I was also involved in street performance… protesting against the Vietnam War. When I came to this area I became involved in a variety of issues. In ‘92 I was part of the Suffolk Park Progress Association and we successfully took developers and Byron Council to court for over-development. I was also part of the Club Med push (a successful protest against Club Med building a resort in Byron).

Protestin for TOOT and Club Med
LEFT: TOOT lobbyists campaigning for reinstating the Casino to Murwillumbah train. Pic courtesy of toot RIGHT: Protesting against the Club Med development. PIC courtesy of John McCormick

I decided to run for Council because I was involved in so many local political issues I figured I may as well be on Council full time where I could be better informed and potentially have more influence on what was going on in the Shire. I also wanted to take a break from my music and be more involved with people. I had put out an album the year before I got onto Council… it was like a sampler, or taster for music to be synchronised in films, so it could do its thing in the background while I focused on my role as councillor.

What were some of the key things you hoped to achieve?
I wanted to support creative industries. I wanted to protect and enhance the environment… particularly biodiversity. I wanted to be a voice on Council to get trains back on our tracks, to build more cycleways and for public transport development throughout the Shire. I supported a Byron by-pass, but only if it was in conjunction with a Park and Ride system.

What was your greatest achievement as a councillor?
Getting the Mullum Civic Hall restored. It wasn’t part of my platform but I took it on as part of a personal initiative. It wasn’t the only thing I did but it took a good part of the four years I was there. The effort I had put in to make the restoration happen was enormous and the relief of its completion was very emotional. I am currently completing a stint as chairman of the Hall’s board of management, trying to introduce air conditioning, a portable stage, solar panels, improved acoustics, Internet capability and improved audiovisuals. Council staff obstructed these improvements when I was a councillor.

Was being a councillor a thankless task?
No, a lot of people thanked me. Some even gave me a hug. Generally I found it a positive experience. Not so much the hugs, but more the privilege of being a representative of such a vibrant, creative community. I have thought about running again but it is all-consuming… too many dealings with mediocre bureaucrats, too much mundane reading and too many sweet biscuits at too many meetings… and it’s stressful. You get paid the equivalent of the New Start Allowance… that’s a problem for many people who might consider being a councillor.

Do you think Australia is over-governed?
Definitely, Prue. My model would scrap the State Government tier and have larger regional councils answerable to the Federal Government. Too many local decisions are not understood and overridden by State bureaucracy. That sucks when your driving motivation for being on Council is your passion for the area.

Election Ads

Given Council elections will be in September this year, what advice would you give to a new, successful candidate?
Make the most of your first term. Choose two or three key areas in which you want to achieve something because as a councillor you are pushed laterally all the time… and be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time reading material that’s not your core interest. Be positive, responsive and gracious with all the amazing people in this Shire. I did feel it was a privilege to be voted in… to have that amount of support. It was a great feeling.

One of the reasons I wouldn’t return to Council is I have found another vehicle, in the form of my music, to express myself politically. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been asked to perform at Splendour.

Do you consider it an honour to be invited to perform at Splendour?
Yes, absolutely. To perform and share my music in a contemporary arena like Splendour is a total honour. My show is evolving… it incorporates contemporary issues into the lyrics and partially fulfils my desire to speak out. For example, one track I’ll be performing is called ‘Change Now’. People don’t like change but the lyrics are all about it. Another track is called ‘Peace Dance’, which proposes if life is a dance then we might as well dance for peace.  I’m also singing about 100% renewable energy. I feel there is now a positive, achievable solution to this issue, so it’s worth trumpeting.

When are you performing?
I’m performing twice… at 9pm on the 27th and 28th July on the Temple Stage at the Global Village. The show will include videoclips of each track, costumery, masks and vocal overlays.

Bringing it back to Byron… is there anything else you like about living here?
I love the creative and political community and the extraordinary coastal and hinterland beauty. I do a lot of land and ecological restoration and I find every day I’m nurtured by this environment. It helps give meaning to my life. I like Byron, Bangalow, Mullum and Brunswick Heads for the urban fix, the people-part of life. I feel very fortunate. Generally I like the climate, except for summer…  it’s a bit hot.

Where in the Shire do you currently live?
I live on the land not far from Mullumbimby. It was pretty much all cleared when it was bought. I have been revegetating large sections of it… restoring the wildlife corridors with tree plantings and bush regeneration.

Are there any aspects about life here you find challenging?
One thing I still find challenging here, and why I remain politically active, is the terrible public transport. I grew up with good public transport in Melbourne and I have seen how effective it is in Europe… I’ve seen how disempowering the lack of transport is, particularly for the elderly and youth. I remain really passionate about that… hence my involvement in TOOT.

I am also guarded against rampant over-development. As beautiful as the Northern Rivers is, there is still a lot of degradation, and it is in our own interests, as well as tourists, to preserve and improve the natural attributes of this jewel in a challenging and challenged world.

What are your thoughts on tourism?
Tourists are inevitable… the question is how we manage them. The pressure of 1.5 million visitors a year on the Shire’s infrastructure is enormous. We don’t get enough financial support to accommodate the influx. I see good public transport as an essential.  A tourist bed tax would work too, if the State Government would allow it. They did it for the Sydney Olympics.

In the context of development, how do you see Byron Shire in 20 years time?
We are still operating under a 25 year state regional plan that started about 6 years ago. That plan sees neighbouring Shires ear-marked for growth, whereas Byron is not. We will still develop, I just hope sustainably… for example, where people aren’t so reliant on cars. I am optimistic that in 20 years time the Shire will be better than it is now more vegetated, cleaner rivers better transport and clean air.  However the newish NSW Liberal/National coalition could threaten the rural/village mosaic. We will need conviction councillors who are prepared to speak up for environmental protection, enhancement, and sustainable development.

Finishing up with some lighter questions… what’s your favourite local eating place?
Lulu’s (Mullum) for healthy and hearty food… The Poinciana (also Mullum) for ambience and the Top Shop and The Balcony for Byron ambience.

Do you have a favourite shop?
I’m a real fan of the markets. I go to the Mullum Farmers’ Market often. I like Santos and Edens Landing in Mullum for organic foods.

What’s your locals’ tip for tourists?
Oh, you must do the walk from the Pass to the Lighthouse via Little Wategos and stop in at either The Pass or Lighthouse Cafés… and Broken Head track from the caravan park is sensational for coastal views.

Cape Byron arial imageThis gorgeous arial image of the lighthouse (that has been graffitied by Prue – apologies Craig) is courtesy of Fotografx Photography, contact Craig Ching 02 6680 7977 Top: The sensational views from the Broken Headwalking track

What’s your favourite thing to do in the Byron area?
I love walking in the hinterland bush and on the beach and having coffee with friends… and my music gigs… pretty simple really!

Simple huh? Well I should think so… with such a long list of achievements, I would be exhausted and seeking simplicity too had I achieved so much! Thanks again Peter for your time, it was incredibly generous, inspiring, somewhat overwhelming and a complete pleasure to meet you.

Nicoletta Revis – Republic of You

Written by Prue; Edited by Mick; Pics taken by Melinda and edited by Prue

“It’s about defining who you are… and whoever you are is ok!  I try to run this moral thread through the whole business… encouraging people to accept who they are.”– Nicoletta Revis

We first had contact with Nicoletta via email, however, one sunny day at the Top Shop we noticed a young woman sitting on the lawn, coffee in one hand, smart phone in the other and little black pooch loyally by her side. The latter caught Prue’s eye, whilst the phone chatter caught Melinda’s ear who quickly assessed the young woman was actually working – she was doing the social media marketing for a business. Naturally interested in all things social media, we patted the pooch and got chatting to its owner, only to discover she was in fact the Nicoletta who had previously emailed us. What a surprise.

Nicoletta and her very cute pooch Darby (Doo)

Two weeks later we reconvened to discover much about this young, social media savvy, vibrant, infectiously enthusiastic, business woman. Continue reading

Ric Richardson – Inventor


“According to my wife, I am only one notch up from the chooks… although, the chooks are pretty high on her list of priorities… so I feel quite privileged”.
– Ric Richardson

Ric at home and doing his best to maintain number one position in the pecking order!
This gorgeous pic is obviously courtesy of Ocean Road Magazine where you can see more pics taken by Brian Usher.

Ric Richardson is an inventor and writer of patents, but rather than try to explain exactly what that is, you’ll be better off checking out his blog where you will no doubt be blown away And for those who don’t know, he and his company Uniloc  have been in a legal battle with Microsoft for umpteen years over the unauthorised use of one of Ric’s inventions… your classic David and Goliath battle. The good news is, ‘David’ won the battle, reaching an out of court settlement with Microsoft. Congratulations Ric. Continue reading

Very Byron? Very Mullum!

Words by Melinda –  Image by Prue

Well as everyone knows in Byron… it’s obligatory to read  The Echo classifieds each week. Why? Well we just do! It’s the place to find out who’s in town to offer some new fandangle healing help, who’s just left (in the heavenly fashion) for greener pastures, who’s offering a good deal in rental (sadly this is rare these days), and who’s offering a job that is marginally more interesting  than the usual retail, hospitality and bookkeeping options! So it was with great delight to find this ad in the ‘positions vacant’ section for a Market Parking Manager at the Mullumbimby Farmers Markets. The thing is… I’m just not sure why they need someone to have knowledge of recycling, composting and worm farms whilst directing traffic???? But hey… it is Mullm after all.