Tag Archives: Australia

Our Australian Christmas 2016

Christmas was filled with sun, sand and happiness and lovely gifts.

We caught up with so many family and friends and Jason, Karen, Tahlia and Caxton were here for a very special Christmas morning.  A night boat trip around the canals to see the Christmas lights was a highlight.


 Christmas morning the sun shone through the window and the seagulls made a racket hoping there would be some interesting treats later in the day. They were not disappointed. Santa bought bikes and under the tree were toys and games. Wrapping paper was quickly torn away to reveal hidden treasures.

xmas-2016  family-xmas

Boxing day both our sons and daughters -in-law were with us plus Alan’s sister, Betty, John , Carol-Anne and Margaret.


We cut the cake from my Book Launch. At the book launch on the 11th December Wendy Dunn presented me with a fantastic book-shaped cake with the front cover of Something Missing proudly displayed on top. I couldn’t bear to cut it so froze it to share with my Queensland family.gold-coast-family

New Years Eve we were caressed by the last rays of the evening sun and joined other families sitting on the sand to watch the sun slowly sink beyond the blue waters of Port Phillip Bay. Later, jet skis dashed past, well out of the way of the many swimmers enjoying the welcome coolness of the water. Children played cricket until it was too dark to see the ball while others enjoyed the swings, slides and other activities at the beach-side Keast Park foreshore playground.

In the darkness at home we lit a brassier filled with pine cones, ran along the sand waving sparklers in either hand and popped party poppers. The multitude of  colourful streamers covered our outdoor deck.

img_1962  caxton-sparkle

How wonderful to start a brand new year. It feels like opening a special new book with empty pages just begging for some interesting events to be recorded.

May 2017 be a year of fun, good health and happiness.  With fingers crossed we all made New Year resolutions. Hopefully they will last…at least until February.


Happy New Year to all fellow bloggers.

May all your writing dreams come true in 2017.

Acknowledging women artists,Winifred Knights and Clarice Beckett

‘The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray’.

This quote from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” certainly applies to me. I make plans, constantly, but so often life intervenes. However, I am back in the land of the living with my email address finally restored (after a week of tearing my hair out negotiating with #Telstra) and my book contract with MadeGlobal on the way. Fantastic!!!  I can’t wait to get ‘Something Missing’ up and running. No wonder this blog is a tad late. However, I tend to believe that it is better to be late than never.

The submissions editor at Madeglobal, while we could still email each other, sent me a link to the Winifred Knights exhibition at the  Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. After seeing the paintings online I immediately wanted to fly to London to experience this exhibition in all its glory. However, airfares to London are far too expensive for a brown rice writer in Australia. At least these works of art are available to everyone via the internet. Reading Winifred Knights’  biography instantly reminded me of Clarice Beckett. Both women artists died in their forties and both struggled for their art to be recognised within a male dominated society.

English born Winifred Knights and Australian, Clarice Beckett are two amazing artists. Their obvious talents as painters was often overlooked during their lifetime.

The overall patriarchal opinion of the period appears to have been that there had never been a great woman artist and there never would be because women had not the capacity to be alone (seen as the key to creative living and central to having an authentic inner life).

Both Knights and Beckett were continually put down by the critics and sold little during their all too brief lifetime.


Winifred Margaret Knights (1899–1947) was a British painter. Amongst her most notable works are The Marriage at Cana produced for the British School at Rome, which is now in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and her winning Rome Scholarship entry The Deluge which is now held by Tate Britain. Winifred Knights’ style was much influenced by the Italian Quattrocento and she was one of several British artists who participated in a revival of religious imagery in the 1920s, while retaining some elements of a modernist style. (Wikipedia)

She was born  on the fifth of June 1899 in Streatham, London and died on the  seventh of February 1947 in London (aged 47)

Well known for her distinctive style of dress, Winifred Knights usually wore a stylised version of nineteenth century Italian peasant costume;  a loose ankle-length skirt, plain buttoned blouse, wide brimmed black hat and coral necklace and earrings. Several of Winifred Knights paintings include self-portraits. In The Marriage at Cana, she depicts herself wearing her distinctive outfit.


Clarice Majoribanks Beckett (1887 – 1935) was an Australian Tonalist painter whose works are featured in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia,National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.(From Wikipedia)

Clarice Beckett in the garden

She was born on the twenty-first of March 1887 in  Casterton, Victoria, Australia and died on the seventh of July 1935 at Sandringham, Victoria, Australia (aged 48)

Click here for Clarice Beckett’s biography. 

In 1914-16 she took lessons in drawing from Frederick McCubbin at the Melbourne Gallery School but then chose to study under Max Meldrum. Constantly encouraging, though often fiercely critical, Meldrum regarded Clarice as a very gifted artist. Clarice Beckett’s personal life remains something of an enigma; her dedication to her art, and her refusal of several marriage proposals pitted her against her family’s traditional view of a woman’s role in society.

She was twenty-seven years old when she finally attended art school; her father refused to allow her to set up a studio in the family home, where, as an unmarried woman, she remained all her life, and thus bore the full load of caring for her ill and ageing parents. Beckett’s bleak domestic life was compounded by the hostility of art critics, and at times, her own peers, who misunderstood her distinctive approach. Despite these circumstances Clarice Beckett was driven to be an artist, and each day at dawn and dusk she could be seen in the suburban streets around her home; most often on Beaumaris Beach, paintbrush in hand, absorbed in her painting. She managed to exhibit her work annually over a ten year period. Clarice exhibited usually with Max Meldrum’s other students, however, very few of her paintings were sold in her lifetime.

Nearly forty years after Beckett’s death, around two thousand of her artworks were discovered in a shed on a property in rural Victoria. Many of these paintings were rotted and torn, and unable to be identified or restored. Rosalind Hollinrake, who is a curator, former gallery owner, and Beckett’s biographer, helped salvage the artworks, and began to piece together the life and work of one of Australia’s most unique landscape artists.

Today Clarice Beckett’s posthumous reputation grows as her vision of modern urban and coastal Australia is acknowledged  by contemporary painters, with her works now held in over four of the country’s major public galleries. I saw an exhibition of her work at the McCallum Gallery , Langwarren Victoria. Amazingly evocative work. Loved it.

Clarice Beckett. 'Morning Ride' Nd

While painting the wild sea off Beaumaris during a big storm in 1935, Beckett developed pneumonia and died four days later in a hospital at Sandringham[5] She was buried in the Cheltenham Memorial Park. She was only 48 when she died, the year after her mother’s death.

Clarice Beckett. 'The Red Bus' Nd

Currently I live fifteen minutes away from where Clarice Beckett died. When my city bound train approaches Cheltenham Station I glance out the window and gaze at the neat rows of headstones of what I have always called the Cheltenham Cemetery. In future I will always wonder which headstone belongs to Clarice Beckett.

I am passionate about recording the stories of women. There are so many stories of amazing women yet to be told because,

 ‘Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes’. 

My second novel, ‘Something Missing’ is about two women in two countries (Australia and America). It’s based on my thirty-five year  pen-friendship with and older American poet from USA. In 1975 we met when camping in Outback Australia. It is a story for women and about women, growing up, growing old, of love, lies and reconciliation.

What Happened at Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve, Victoria Australia

May we never forget what happened at Coranderrk Reserve. 

barak (2)

Winter in Victoria. Every Saturday at 5am, I still dream I will throw snow chains in the back of my car, grab my skis and head for Healsville and the the cross country skiing at Lake Mountain. I love driving through the tall mountain ash forest near wild dog creek, over the black spur into a pristine world of white. The air crisp and clear, the only sound the swish of my skis and the gentle plop of snow falling from trees.

On the way home I deliberately divert down piccaninny lane (piccaninny means an Australian indigenous child) and slowly climb to a fenced area surrounded by tall trees. Opening the gate I quietly stand by Barak’s grave and gaze over rolling green hills towards where Coranderrk once was a thriving community. In the past, Coranderrk was a government reserve for Australian Aborigines in the state of Victoria between 1863 and 1924, located 50km north-east of Melbourne..

S0mething in the sound of the wind in the grass and the gently sighing of trees keeps drawing me back time and time again to this place. There is a sense of longing I can’t explain. I always knew some facts but I didn’t fully understand what had happened here, so when I had the opportunity to see the play Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country based on actual transcripts from the  records of the 1881 Government Inquiry into self determination, I could not resist.

King William

William Barak (1824-1903), Aboriginal spokesman, variously called ‘King William, last chief of the Yarra Yarra tribe’ or ‘Beruk (white grub in gum tree) belonging to the Wurundjeri Willum horde whose country lay along the Yarra and Plenty Rivers’. This is from his official biography

William Barak, by Florence Fuller, 1885

With his Gippsland-born first wife Lizzie, he was among the first group of Goulburn Aboriginals who settled at Acheron in 1859, hoping to have the area reserved. After much official indecision Coranderrk, near Healesville, was gazetted and he settled there permanently in 1863, in a ‘neat little cottage and garden, most tidy and comfortable’. Barak worked for a small wage on the station farm and acquired a few horses. Further schooling and religious instruction were undertaken; he could read but not write. He was baptized, confirmed, and took a second wife Annie ‘of the Lower Murray’ (Lizzie died before 1863) in a publicized Presbyterian ceremony in 1865. The fate of his family was typical of the time; two infants died of gastro-enteritis, David and Annie of consumption. When he married Sarah (Kurnai) on 7 June 1890 he was the oldest man at Coranderrk and only full-blood survivor of his tribe.

Following the reservation of the land, Barak and the Kulin together with the first managers, John and Mary Green, enthusiastically embarked upon the task of making Coranderrk their new home. Their vision was to make the station fully self-supporting.

However,soon vested local interests began to agitate to move Barak and his people off this land, and so began a sustained, sophisticated campaign for justice, land rights and self-determination.  In collaboration with white supporters, the Kulin people used the legal and political system to force a Parliamentary Inquiry.

In the late 1870s when management of Aboriginal affairs came under vigorous public criticism Barak emerged as a respected spokesman. Until his death he was the acknowledged leader at Coranderrk and a liaison between officialdom and the native population.

His petitions and public appearances were important spurs to action, especially the government inquiry of 1881. Barak outlined a plan for autonomous communities under Coranderrk’s first manager, John Green:

‘give us this ground and let us manage here ourselves … and no one over us … we will show the country we can work it and make it pay and I know it will’.

Lisa Hill’s excellent review of the play and the book Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country from La Mama Courthouse Theatre Carlton Victoria Australia can be found at ANZlitlovers blog


Lisa says the play is unique because it’s based entirely on transcripts from the 19th century paper trail of an heroic struggle for Aboriginal self-determination.  Having been dispossessed of their ancestral lands by European settlement, a small band of survivors from the Kulin Nation petitioned the colonial government for a land grant to set up the Coranderrk Reserve.  There they created an award-winning farm and an impressive settlement.

The outcome of the Inquiry?

In the short term the inquiry marked a clear victory for the Corranderrk community, for they succeeded in publicly exposing and preventing the Board’s underhanded plans to close down Coranderrk. John Green was never reinstated as manager as they requested, but the despised Rev. Strickland was dismissed and living conditions improved. Finally in 1884, Chief Secretary Graham Berry ordered that Coranderrk should be permanently reserved as a ‘site for the use of Aborigines’. It was a short-lived victory, however. In 1886, the Victorian Government passed the infamous ‘Half-Cast’ Act, designed to push so-called ‘half-cast’ men and women off the reserves and facilitate their assimilation into the white population. The 1886 Act caused the breaking-up of families and separation of the younger, literate, generation from their Elders. As a direct result, Coranderrk was eventually closed in 1924.

Barak and the Coranderrk community’s fight for self determination should never be forgotten. Finally I am beginning to understand the sense of longing I feel when I stand on that high rolling hill in Healsville.

It’s a story every Victorian should know.

Many thanks to Jason and Karen Whitting for supplying the tickets and to Lisa Hill and Maureen Hanna for accompanying me. An excellent, thought provoking play, good company and plenty of strong coffee. What a great way to spend a Sunday in Melbourne


Asylum Seekers and Refugees Recipe Book

Asylum seekers and refugees have a wealth of culture and many recipes to share.


They also need all the help they can get and many ethical people are finding ways and means to promote their cause. Ilura Press have published Every Bite Takes You Home and Lisa Hill’s wordpress post at ANZlitlovers is a review of the book Breaking the Boundaries, Australian activists tell their stories,

Breaking the Boundaries

Edited by Yvonne Allen and Joy Noble the book, Lisa’s blog, and Every Bite Takes You Home are an interesting exploration of the refugee crisis and all cast a positive light on the asylum seekers/refugees debate.

Last  Wednesday I went with Mairi Neil to the Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton, Victoria, Australia to help Ilura Press celebrate their publication of their fabulous story/recipe book. I was delighted to see that all profits go directly to assist asylum seekers and refugees via the organisations, Stand Up, ONDRU, and Foundation House .

Every Bite Takes You Home invites us to share in the journeys of sixteen remarkable asylum seekers who have found a home in Australia. Each person’s unique story, blended with the memories of their favourite recipes and traditions, reminds us that food can unite us all, generating acceptance and understanding across diverse cultures and societies.

David Manne – Executive Director RILC said, “These are intimate accounts of remarkable resilience, courage, and survival—giving a powerful voice to those who have so often been rendered voiceless in our community.”
Sabina Hofman and Christopher Lappis of Ilura Press are the most ethical people I have ever known. What an amazing experience it was to have them publish my novel, Pickle to Pie. They produced a high quality book I was proud to hold in my hand. They have carried on their tradition of quality and attention to detail in Every Bite Takes You Home . Any home owner would be proud to have it grace their coffee table. 


The authors of this beautiful book are Gaye Weeden & Hayley Smorgon with photography by Peter Tarasiuk & Mark Roper

“All the elements combine: the stories, the portraits, the photos of food, the recipes, the layout and design, to produce a book of heart and soul.”
Arnold Zable – Author; President of International PEN Melbourne.


All author and publisher profit from the sales of the book will be donated to STAND UP, ONDRU, and FOUNDATION HOUSE to directly assist asylum seekers and refugees.

After tasting some of the recipes last Wednesday I can’t wait to try some on my family. Australia has gained so much from the influx of people from different countries and the result has been the inclusion into our menus of many culinary delights from many nations, ie  Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Asian to name a few. In my youth it was meat and three vegetables at most meals and spaghetti came in a tin. Now fresh pasta, ravioli, rissotto and spaghetti bolognaise, along with many exotic Asian dishes are regular favorites at the family dinner table.    Let’s celebrate our Australian cultural diversity and welcome asylum seekers and refugees with open arms.


Caring vs Curing

An email arrived from Susan Bardy, a fellow PhD friend from Adelaide. It bought back so many memories of an unexpected friendship and an exciting conference in Illinois USA.

small susan 1

Susan Bardy is a palliative nurse devoted to the care of people who are nearing the end of life’s journey. Her thesis, Caring vs Curing is being published by The Australian Theological Forum and is available at a reduced price via the order form below. Knowing Susan it will be an empathetic, thoughtful and excellent book, not only interesting to read but one you will want to keep in a prominent place on your bookshelf .

Caring vs Curing
ISBN 9781925309300
Name: _________________________________
Institution: ______________________________
Address: _______________________________
____________________ Postcode: ______ Country:______________
Telephone: _____________________________
Email: ________________________________
􀂉􀀃I would like to order _____ copies (PRE ORDER PRICE AUS $20
until 30 May)
(+AUS $6 Postage and Handling)
TOTAL AMOUNT: _______________
􀂉􀀃I enclose a cheque/money order made out to ATF Ltd
Or Charge my 􀂉􀀃Master Card 􀂉􀀃Visa
Card Number :
Expiry date: / 3 digit security code:
Return form by fax or post:
PO BOX 504, Hindmarsh SA 5007
Ph: +61 08 8232 2093
Fax: +61 08 8223 5643
Email: hdregan@atf.org.au

keynote address

When I was studying for my PhD in epistolary fiction at Swinburne University  in Melbourne we were expected to attend and present a paper at two overseas and two national conferences. When I heard of an amazing conference to be held in Illinois USA, I knew I had to attend. However, no one else was going and I ‘d never been overseas on my own before.  My mind raced through all the ‘what ifs’ until a friend gave me Susan Bardy’s email address saying, ‘She is a wonderful woman, a marathon runner, who is a nurse and is also studying autoethnography’. I contacted her and we hit it off immediately. We agreed to meet for the first time at the conference at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

Illi Union   IMGP0425

As per usual I was trying to travel on a shoe string. The fares alone to the USA cost a fortune but because all the USA university students had gone home for the summer break , for a pittance I could stay at the university student village.

The trip to the conference meant I had to travel with only carry on luggage from Melbourne to Los Angeles, catch a domestic flight to Chicago and straight onto a flight to the twin towns of Urbana-Champaign in Illinois. After travelling nonstop for 35 hrs I arrived about 6 pm only to find myself at a tiny airport with no way of getting to my accommodation. The only taxi was quickly grabbed by weary travelers and I was saved by a friendly couple who gave me a lift to the student digs. They even let me use their mobile phone to ring security to come and unlock the front door and let me in.

To say that my room with shared bathroom was sparse was an understatement. There was nothing in the room apart from a bed and mattress. No jug or even a blanket. Later, I managed to borrow a blanket from the security guard. However, I did have the bathroom to myself because the room next door was empty. The view from the window was lovely but I would have killed for a jug to make a cup of coffee, or to pour hot water over two minute noodles.


The next day was free for me and a treasured writing friend and her husband took me out for the day to lunch in a house in an Amish Community.

cindy & Tom drive

I knew Susan was arriving later that evening but we hadn’t worked out where or how to catch up with each other. When my friend took me back to where I was staying in Hendrick House we pulled up behind a taxi. I just knew it was Susan as soon as I heard her deep Australian voice.  We were inseparable from then on.

susan and glen

The email that arrived said, ‘I must come over to see you sometime in the year. I Imagine we will talk until the cows come home’

Professor Ian Maddocks my palliative care examiner noted that my writing should be widely read as it’s value is in bringing ‘new notice’ to my message that would bring added knowledge for all health professionals and carers. In fact by giving talks to community groups I found that the community at large benefits from knowing what to expect.I stress how quality of life can be enhanced with care that is holistic no matter how close any one is to end of life. My idea in doing the PhD was to share what I learned over 20 years in caring for people with life threatening illnesses. The books are going achieve that I think.

The books are in final print at present and the order forms are the way to get them now. After publication it will be online. I will keep in contact with you and let you know developments.

It has been a long time between drinks. I wonder how you are and what
you are up to these days? I am now a member of Rotary International through my local club and I speak with local clubs about palliative care.

My book is being launched in Adelaide on May 22nd 2016

Congratulations Susan. 



More Than Four Seasons?

Next week it is Easter. The shops are filled with chocolate eggs and bilby bunnies.


Already the Australian days are cooler and soon, on the 31st March, all Victorians will turn back their clocks one hour and embrace daylight saving. Of course this will put my time at odds with our family in Queensland. Queenslanders argue that they have enough daylight as it is, so their time stays the same. However, all states in Australia agree that the continent has four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

However, the first Australians understood that this continent has more than four seasons. Daylesford Nature Diary: Six seasons in the Foothill Forests is based on the six seasons Aboriginal communities used to understand the changes occurring in the flora and fauna around them. Tanya Loos, Daylesford naturalist and local newspaper columnist, lovingly illuminates the world within and around a Wombat Forest bush block – from that mysterious bonking at the bottom of the garden to why there are suddenly so many green parrots in late summer.




Acutely observed, the Daylesford Nature Diary reintroduces the six seasons for Victoria’s southern foothill forests in all their splendour.

Part What Bird Is That?, part Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, the 36 tales of nature contained in the Daylesford Nature Diary are insightful in the knowledge they impart, while whimsical in tone.

Starting with early spring and heading round to winter, Tanya provides a series of sketches of the birds, plants and animals putting in an appearance each season. Not simply the rare and endangered, but those you might commonly expect to catch sight of from the back door.

Gently threading her way, Tanya instructs us on how the natural order of things is attuned to the rhythm of the six indigenous seasons. Life beats to their pulse.

The diary also includes a full colour, beautifully illustrated wheel calendar by Anne Mason of wall poster size as a reference and guide


All my life I have enjoyed regular camping visits to the area known to me as The Grampians, now referred to by their original indigenous name, Gariwerd. I love every inch of these beautiful mountains, in particular a scary outcrop called The Jaws of Death. Two ledges of rock cantilever over a massive drop to the valley floor below. How could any man, woman or child resist testing their courage?

At the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre is featured the six seasons of Gariwerd.

Six distinct weather periods are recognised in the Gariwerd seasonal cycle. These are genuine seasons that relate to climactic features as well as referencing environmental events such as plant flowering, fruiting and animal behavioural patterns.
For thousands of years, the lives of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung have been intimately linked to this seasonal cycle.
Understanding the land through seasonal observations was once essential to survival. Today the cycles are a vital tool and contribute to the management of Gariwerd.


sixseasons-ballambar (2)   sixseasons-chinnup (2)

sixseasons-gwangalmoronn   sixseasons-kooyang (2)

sixseasons-larneuk (2)   sixseasons-petyan (2)
By understanding the six seasons, you can begin to understand Gariwerd and its people.

This morning I struggled into my wet-suit and plunged into Patterson Lakes for my early morning swim. It was cold, darn cold and I decided that from now on I would either kayak or bike ride until  warmer days arrived. But whether I wait six seasons or four for warm weather to return, I really don’t mind. Every season has its beauty and I love them all.