From Milingimbi to the Dandenongs: introducing Stanley Gawurra


Post by Gareth Hart.

This Friday at the Skylark room in Upwey, you are in for a real treat. A rare treat. The kind of treat that in a years from now you will either:
a) be ranting to your friends how you were there when it all began; or
b) be kicking yourself for not being a part of something so special from the start.

I am referring to the incredible voice, musicality and performance of Stanley Gawurra. A gifted musician with a talent for storytelling, Gawurra performs deeply felt and intimately connected songs.


Gawurra is an indigenous musician from Milingimbi, in North East Arnhem Land. In 2015 Gawurra won the ‘Pop’ award in the Northern Territory Music Awards, and this accolade has skyrocketed his career. His debut album, Ratja Yaliyali followed this success and was launched earlier this year. Releasing an album in this overly competitive creative landscape is difficult enough, so it must be remarked upon when this is met with critical acclaim, the 4.5 star review kind of acclaim, from none other than Rolling Stone. According to Rolling Stone ‘like fellow Yonglu artist Gurrumul, Gawurra commands attention regardless of backdrop.’

According to Gawurra, “Ratja Yaliyali translates to ‘Vine of Love’, meaning a thread of love that keeps everything connected. When Yolngu people hear it they feel the spirit in their hearts. If they have a problem or feel gloomy, they listen to Ratja Yaliyali as it touches them and builds their spirit making them stronger and brighter.”


Earlier this year, Gawurra moved from Milingimbi to the Dandenong Ranges, where he continues to hone his craft and focus on his career as a musician. What a gift we have with a talent such as this on our back doorstep.

Gawurra recently joined Clare Bowditch on 774 ABC Melbourne, and this is a great introduction to Gawurra’s story and his music. Have a listen here:

Gawurra will be supported by Alice Skye, another gifted indigenous songwriter making waves on the emerging music scene. This will, quite honestly, be an incredibly special night.

Be there, this is the early stages of a big career for this man.
You have been warned.

For more info on Gawurra, see:
Tickets for Friday’s gig can be arranged via: (03) 8288 2204

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Cr Fiona McAllister

Mayor and Mother: An insight into Cr Fiona McAllister

Cr Fiona McAllister

Post by Gareth Hart.

I recently read in the Leader that the Mayor of Yarra Range, Cr Fiona McAllister is about to take a leave of absence – as she is about to give birth to her new child. Two things struck me deeply about the article. Firstly, that the deputy Mayor, who will step up to assume Mayoral responsibility in Cr McAllister’s absence, is not being remunerated for her time in this role. (See full article here).   I will not make comment here, as it is clearly obvious what should occur in this situation.

Secondly, I was intrigued to discover how one of the most prolific leaders in our community, our Mayor, seemingly finds a balance between her professional and her personal lives. So, at 4:15pm on her last afternoon in the office until 1 month’s maternity leave, the Mayor graciously agrees to talk with me about exactly this (as if Cr McAllister wasn’t busy enough!)….

I get the sense that you are very active in the community; so, broadly, how do you balance your personal and professional lives?

Like a circus acrobat at times! I think the secrets to success are the level of family support. Certainly, the support I get from my husband and my children in their willingness to be a bit of blend between the personal and the council lives.

There are things as a family that we make conscious choices about where the line is, where the family time is and I need to make sure that I lock that in so that we do get that family time. There is a lot of middle ground where essentially I am performing my Mayoral role or councillor duties and the family are a part of that. Everything from speaking at Dawn Services to Citizenship ceremonies.

So, where possible, I include my family in that. I have to say, the feedback I get back from the community broadly around that, is really positive. People love the fact that they get to meet my husband and my children. A significant proportion of what I do is in the evening, and it’s trying to, where possible, make sure that these things are later in the evening to avoid impact on family. So we have our dinner together and those sort of things.

It’s chaotic at times! And I’ve given up on trying to maintain a tidy house, and those sorts of things, but it’s a happy, great experience for the whole family I think….mostly!

I guess you are saying that you try to make wearing these two very important hats (Mayor and Mother) an inclusive thing.

Yes. I think that’s it. It isn’t like when you are in a professional role where you do prioritise, because this is a public role, a community advocacy role, a representative role. You are a very public figure, and you can’t say ‘I don’t have that hat on at the moment’ you just can’t. That’s my personal philosophy about it. When I ran for council I understood that our lives would change, and my husband supported that, in fact encouraged it. For the term of council you can’t flick a switch. But again, you find ways to draw the lines.

Yarra Ranges mayor Fiona McAllister

I had a conversation with an artist yesterday, about the inability to ‘switch off’ that part of your brain, because creativity is a part of you. Do you feel the same about your role as Mayor?

Yes and no. I think for me having children is the best switch off method you can have! People often say ‘how do you do it [be the Mayor], whilst having children’ and I would say ‘how do people do it without children!’. Because if I went home and it was just me and my husband, it would be very hard to switch off, but I go home and I have a grizzly or happy little 2 year old, and a 10 year old wanting help with homework. In many ways, it is such a happy balance and a happy return to reality, that I have to say in many ways it can be my sanity: in not have space to mull over political things or community issues. For me, context makes a big difference, and I love the time I have with my children, and I have to be there 100%.

Do you see a synergy between your Mayoral duties and parenthood?

[laughs loudly]

They are very different roles. The thing about any public role is you have to have the passion, the commitment, it’s about the people, it’s not about what I want it is actually about what the broader community wants. Is that the same as being a parent? In some ways I suppose it is. IN some other ways it’s not. Being a parent is about what needs to happen.

What sort of Yarra Ranges would you like to help create for your children to grow up in?

In so many ways we have a wonderfully engaged community, and I would really like that to be part of forever in the Yarra Ranges. I would like my children to feel that they are part of making decisions about what happens in their lives and what happens locally. So I think that is really important. I live in the rural part of the municipality, we moved there 8 years ago because we loved it! And I would like my children to have that choice when they grow up: that lovely mix of great communities and small towns, environment, but still with good services and infrastructure. I think that is a real priority, getting that balance right. Being able to still access good education, sporting opportunities and all those sorts of things. I think that’s really important.

But you know, communities that are vibrant, that aren’t declining because we are trying to lock them up, keep them as they were 100 years ago. So it is really about trying to get that balance right.

Alive and progressive communities? Yes, absolutely.

Mayor Fiona McAllister in the community

Has motherhood had an effect on, or made you more aware of particular community values or needs?

I think every stage in our lives does. There are lots of things I have done, whether that be a parent or involvement in different community groups or meeting people with particular needs, just being a counsellor has opened my eyes to a whole lot of new issues and needs.

I would say for every counsellor as they go through different stages they are exposed to and their eyes are open to different and new things as well. So being a parent is no different to that.

Is there something you would specifically like the community to know?

We have an incredibly diverse, passionate and engaged group of people who live in the Yarra ranges and I love that. I am really thankful for that. I speak to some of my colleagues in other Councils where they hold council meetings where only 2 people turn up. We [Yarra Ranges] rarely have council meetings where less than forty will turn up! I love the fact that we live in a place where people care. So, if there is a message to the community, it is Thank You for that. Certainly, as a councillor, it keeps the fire in the belly and the passion there. It reminds all of us why we are here.

Yarra Ranges Mayor Fiona McAllister

Justine Walsh – a musical journey

Post by Zoe Amber.

Earlier this week Zoe Amber spent a few hours hanging out with Justine Walsh in Sherbrooke Forest. Armed with her camera, Zoe was able to capture a beautiful series of photographs that equally tributes the beauty of the fern laden environment, and the infectious free spirit of local musician Justine Walsh.

Zoe: How does where you grew up and where you live now affect your music?

Justine: Well I grew up in the hills just east of Perth, constantly having nature around me and being able to get out into it whenever I liked was wonderful. Especially as a teenager living in a full house, it was necessary for me to get my space and time to myself. There were quite a few creative types up in the hills, so the friends I made helped inspire my art and music making.

Zoe: What kinds of ideas and things are you working on (musically speaking) at the moment?

Justine: At the moment I am exploring how to flesh out the bones of many years’ worth of songs I’ve written. It has taken me a long time to put energy into my own songs and not just let them sit in a book anymore, and I have some very talented and special friends who are helping me on that journey. I’ve also been collaborating with some producer friends, and am very excited by the outcome… 2014 is going to be a big one! I am also looking forward to the Belgrave Buskers Festival that is only a few weeks away.

Zoe: For those readers who haven’t been to the Belgrave Buskers Festival before, what is it all about?

Justine: The festival has been running since 2012. It is a melting pot of local music that happens throughout various venues in Belgrave.  The best way to find out more is to come along on February 22nd from about 11am. The festival is a great celebration of live music and strengthens the network among emerging and established artists and industry professionals.

Zoe: What other budding artists do you love?

Justine: To be honest I am really bad at looking for new music, so most of the time I rely on what my friends provide me… And often it is their own music! So I guess Mulder, Owen Rabbit (who is one half of Mulder), Nia Black, Harmony Byrne, Ella Ruby… also some bands & artists I have met through tiffany bishop COLLECTIVE such as Disasterama and Connor Blake.

Zoe: What are your plans for the Belgrave Buskers Festival this year?

Justine: I am applying to perform and also to busk on the main street. I put on a poetry night at last year’s event and it went great but I think it has all happened so fast this year that there’s no time to promote or organize. Just going to take it easy and enjoy the day.

Zoe: Are you a full time musician or do you have a 9 to 5 job as well?

Justine: I am a full time artist. I play at least 1 gig every week and have various other artistic pursuits… it can be hard at times but it is a labour of love.

Zoe: What has been your best performance experience so far?

Justine: Oh, I don’t know… performing at Sooki has been quite incredible! I have played a few gigs there and they’ve all been awesome – there’s something magic about that place. Also performing at End of the Line festival last year was phenomenal. I got up on stage with Mulder during their set too which made me really happy!

Justine will be playing at Sooki Lounge on the night of the Buskers Festival Saturday 22nd February supporting Matt Dwyer’s Little Big Band. To find out more about Justine Walsh click here or listen to her music here.

Food? Culture? Community? YES PLEASE!

Post by Amy Middleton.

When I meet someone who is passionate about art and food, I know I am onto a good thing. Add calm confidence and an ethical conscience and I have to write about them!

Daniel Rigos is both an artist in the Hills, and the head Chef at Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford Convent. Lentil as Anything is a unique not for profit community organisation where customers are encouraged to ‘pay as they feel’ for the food they eat. Customers give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule. (Preach it!) As well as creating amazing food, Lentil is involved in a number of community projects that bring food, community and culture together. Whilst Lentil welcomes donations and relies on their volunteers to maintain a sustainable model, it is also a very well run business that attracts great chef’s and produces an incredible fusion of Indian, Asian and middle Eastern food.

Daniel joined the Lentil team three years ago after traveling the world. He arrived back in Melbourne, needed a job and the rest is history. As well as being a generous hearted chef, Daniel is also an artist. His paintings draw inspiration from the landscape, they blend together elements of impressionism, abstraction and the surreal. His painting process is fluid and dynamic, as the paint is built up slowly in numerous subtle glazes. Life in the kitchen can be chaotic and Daniel described his studio practise as a way to slow down and be in control. When talking about living a balanced life Daniel said, “I love the freedom a creative life gives me. Every day is different and that is important to me.”

For those of you who feel inspired to create a delish treat, Daniel has shared one of his favourite recipes with us…. Yummy!

South Indian Coconut Chutney
This chutney is usually served with South Indian and Sri Lankan breakfasts such as dosas (savoury fermented rice and lentil crepes) or idlis (fermented and steamed rice dumplings).

2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (including roots), washed really well to get rid of dirt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 inch ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 medium onion, roughly chopped
1-2 fresh green chilli, roughly chopped
Spice powder
1 tsp split urid dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
Tempering spices
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
Dash of hing (asafoetida)

Soak coconut with water until just covered by water (it will absorb all the water in about 10 minutes)

Put the urid dal in a small pan and toast until it has turned a pinkish brown colour. Take out and toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Blend in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until totally smooth.

Using a blender, blend this spice powder with the soaked coconut, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion, chilli and a little salt until well blended. Add a little more water to help the blending if necessary.

In a small pan heat the coconut oil or ghee until hot. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 15 seconds – they should splutter if the oil is hot enough. Once spluttering add the cumin seeds and the curry leaves and cook for another 15 seconds. Add the hing and then immediately tip the oil into the blended chutney.

Season the chutney to taste with salt and lemon juice. It should be strong and flavoursome and very lemony.

Note: You can omit the spice powder if you are in a hurry or don’t have a spice grinder.

To see more of Daniel’s work head to, or meet him in person at the Dandenong Ranges Open Studios on the 3rd and 4th of May.

Kathleen Snowball – start of the line


Post by Adriana Alvarez.

Kathleen Snowball is a very busy lady. Along with Josh Collings she was the Music Co-ordinator for the ‘End of the Line’ festival last year and with 200 plus musicians on board, it was a mammoth task. But co-ordinating large music events is just another day at the office for this seasoned professional.

Music has always been her passion. She is a singer, both as a solo artist and, until recently, with her band ‘The Snowball Effect’ that played a lot of jazz, blues and soul locally.

She works exclusively locally at the moment. She grew up in the hills and studied at the local high school, where she gained a Certificate in ‘Music Industry Skills’ as part of her year 12 studies. The industry course gave her insight into many different aspects of the music industry. Not only covering performance but also the practical aspects of how to manage the business, how to promote yourself and negotiating with APRA (The Australasian Performing Right Association), the less glamorous but important behind the scenes work.

After finishing high school Kathleen wanted to get some industry experience and was lucky enough to land a job at Ruby’s lounge. “It was a great experience,” says Kathleen. “In the seven and a half years that I worked there I gained first hand music experience working with some great bands and learning on the job.” Organising a lot of openings allowed Kathleen to negotiate contracts and see how writers and musicians work. She expanded on that knowledge and applied it to help artists move forward.

On top of this experience Kathleen also has a background in security, having worked as a National Operations Manager for a large security company, Executive Security Solutions. With 250 staff across the whole of Victoria and Sydney, they managed a lot of major events. This gave her an understanding of how the back end of events management works. The control tent, logistics, rostering and occupational health and safety, which are very important considerations at events.

Because of her extensive knowledge Kathleen has decided to start her own fledgling company, Snowball Productions. With a vast range of connections within the music industry her aim is to work on events big or small from private parties to corporate and community events. Snowball Productions could facilitate a band at your party or give advice on how to co-ordinate an event.

Her service also includes managing bands and visual artists. Having worked in the industry Kathleen says, “I know that people get burnt a lot. It’s really important for visual and performing artists to be represented properly so they’re pricing themselves accordingly and getting a fair deal.” Having a middle man is a good way to go about that. It’s all about making sure artists are being paid what they deserve.

This year she’s been involved in a number of local events. She assisted in co-ordinating the music for the Belgrave Lantern Parade, has been involved with the Tiffaney Bishop Collective, was a judge at the Belgrave Buskers Festival, plus she ran Reverberation Hills Culture Festival at Ruby’s last year. All of which have kept her very busy. With so much experience under her belt she’s sure to get Snowball Productions flowing in no time.

To get in touch with Kathleen email her at