Astrotourism … a new frontier

On the Weekend Explorer for ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, I recently explored space and rediscovered my memories of Skylab and discovered observatories, big dishes, astrotourism towns, astronauts in Carnarvon, emus in the sky and starlapse wonder by local photographer, Dan Paris.

Listen to the link below to learn more about Astrotourism and some really good music but really bad space jokes:

And for a mesmerising starlapse above Mount Augustus and other great Western Australian sites, go to @danparisphotography

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures in Mirrabooka

The Shaping Futures Mural

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I discussed Mirrabooka. While it was sad to have to phone in for the show, rather than the scheduled Outside Broadcast at Mirrabooka Square, it was a good opportunity to share with listeners just what a great community and range of activities, and food, can be found in Mirrabooka.

Mirrabooka is only around 12 kilometres north of the Perth CBD.  At its core is a population that makes it one of Australia’s most culturally diverse areas with more than 50 nationalities calling Mirrabooka home.

Mirrabooka doesn’t have an iconic pub or historical landmark and there isn’t a drawcard that is likely to feature on a postcard but that’s not what a hidden treasure is.  A hidden treasure is something you need to discover that you value and want others to value.

I haven’t spent enough time in Mirrabooka to know if cultural diversity is what best defines the community but I know from growing up in a small regional community and working in regional communities across Western Australia what to look for when I’m trying to find a heartbeat, searching for a soul and finding stuff to do.

Let me tell you a little story of a recent Mirrabooka experience.  My son Tom and I visited a local treasure last weekend, the Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant.  It’s run by a family and we met the father who greeted us and the daughter who served us and here’s the point;  when we left an hour later we knew all about the family who worked in the restaurant, we knew that the restaurant is named after a town in Ethiopia that is renowned for its churches that are cut into the rocky ground and often joined by tunnels and trenches.  We learnt about Ethiopia’s great coffee, the amazing national dish which is a bread called injera and filled with the health benefits Teff flour and we even had a discussion about Ethiopia’s former Emperor, Haile Selassie.  Here was a family filled with passion for their homeland and their new land.  That’s a hidden treasure.

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

Mirrabooka is part of the Bush Forever Project, that seeks to protect significant plant and animal populations in the Swan Coastal Plain.  The Bush Forever Conservation Area in Mirrabooka is a beautiful 130 hectares of banksia and wallaby filled wilderness that you can walk through and feel connected to, even though it’s bordered by major roads, including Reid Highway.  Like its famous cousin Kings Park though, it’s big enough to not hear the traffic and small enough that you won’t get lost.

Beautiful Banksia’s in the Bush Forever Project

Mirrabooka has a Harmony Art Trail that celebrates and is inspired by the different cultures that live in Mirrabooka. 

Murals abound throughout the area including the Harmony Mural on the walls of this shopping centre, featuring Indian style Mandalas which traditionally signify unity and across the road from the shopping centre is the famous Shaping The Future mural, first painted by artist Steve Cross nearly 30 years ago and given a facelift just a few years ago.  Shaping The Future features faces from many backgrounds, including Syrian, Filipino, Greek, Vietnamese and Aboriginal.  The central character is the laughing face of local legend and Noongar Ballardong Elder Doolan-Leisha Eatts.

The Shaping Futures Mural

Mirrabooka is held together by a community that comes together and does stuff well.  There are regular community markets but it’s more than a place to find some cheap toys for the kids or some plants for the garden.  The stallholders are encouraged to participate in a program run by Mercycare and the City of Stirling to learn how to run a stall like a business; including customer service skills, hygiene when preparing and serving food and marketing what is being sold.

Finally, Mirrabooka has an ongoing program that has flourished since it was launched by the City of Stirling and the State Government.  The Mirrabooka Library resources and the people who work there are treasured by the community. In 2017 the Mirrabooka Community Hub was launched with a range of services that focus on youth development, multicultural women’s health, craft clubs and newcomer tours but it’s the Innovations Lab I want to tell you about this morning.

The Innovations Lab is a space that provides resources for community members to explore new technologies, invent new technologies and make community connections through the exploration of ideas in the world of 3d printing, laser cutting, computer coding, making robots and opportunities through the use of Virtual Reality and using bananas to make keyboards and play tunes on it using an electronics kit called Makey Makey.

Visit Mirrabooka and enjoy a bushwalk, a cultural art trail walk, great local markets with lots of craft and food, great food from a range of very authentic and passionate cafes and restaurants and try out your skills in the Innovations Lab and keep an eye out with what’s always happening in the Mirrabooka Regional Open Space which has regular events that include lots of family activities including animal farms and you wouldn’t believe it … even more local food.

If Mirrabooka had one of those number plate slogans that regional communities love to have it would have to be, “A community thrives here” or maybe “We have lots of food”.

Exotic, authentic and exciting food at the Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant and many other culturally diverse restaurants throughout Mirrabooka

Just Urbane: Just dolphins. Real dolphins in the real wild, all in my backyard.

I’m glad they didn’t start singing, “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

A special story in Just Urbane about my dolphin experience in Rockingham makes the adventure available on both sides of the Indian Ocean in hard copy; Just Urbane magazine in India and Have A Go News Newspaper in Western Australia. Add to this the websites for both of these publications and I’m really excited to get some big reach on this unique experience.

Enjoy the link below to the Just Urbane version of this story and in an earlier post on this website you’ll find the Have A Go News version. Read them both!

And congratulations to Have A Go News for reaching a circulation with the newspaper of 80,000 and to Just Urbane for a circulation of 70,000. Two great reads available every month on both sides of the Indian Ocean.

Have A Go News Newspaper: Dolphins Play More Than Us

Open the link above and enjoy reading about my experience with Perth Wildlife Encounters down at Rockingham, swimming with dolphins in the wild. Real dolphins in the real wild.

Have A Go News now has a circulation of 80,000 hard copy newspapers and can be found in recreation centres, local councils, community centres, libraries and government agencies throughout Western Australia. Their website is very cool as well.

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures explores suburban war memorials and services.

Chris Parry, Jo Trilling and Molly Schmidt, presenting and producing Hidden Treasures for ABC Saturday Breakfast

When I was a boy growing up in Narrogin the old men and women in my community had been soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War I. They had been Prisoners of War on the Thai Burma Railway and they dropped supplies to the soldiers on the Kokoda Track.

Attending the Narrogin War Memorial on for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service was all about watching the glowing orange line of cigarettes being drawn on by the old fellas, followed by raking coughs.

It was all about being quiet, and being a small gathering. It was about taking the time to remember, for as Lord Byron wrote, “There are deeds that should not pass away and names that must not be forgotten.”

On ANZAC Day across Western Australia there will be over 70 services but there are many more memorials than that across our suburban and regional communities.

For a special Hidden Treasures program, we looked at the smaller memorials and services throughout our community. Acknowledging the popularity of the big services at Kings Park and Fremantle, I’d like to suggest some of the special places for smaller crowds that might interest you.

Wadjamup Island holds a beautiful service on Thompson Bay. A predawn ferry ride in the darkness from the mainland to the island, watching the sun rise over Perth on the distant horizon and imagining the troop ships departing Fremantle for foreign shores and enjoying a hot gunfire breakfast after the service is one of Western Australia’s very special ANZAC Day experiences.

Above: Wadjumup Island ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Thompson Bay

Ocean Reef in the northern suburbs is a spectacular memorial with a 6 metre high arch that focuses your attention on the horizon out to sea. It’s located at Bat Harbour Quays in Ocean Reef.

The Sandakan Memorial in Kings Park is tucked away behind the Kings Park Tennis Club and remembers the more than 2400 Prisoners of War, including 137 Western Australians, who lost their lives at Sandakan and on the three death marches in 1945. Just a little walk away from the memorial are three plaques for the Dorizzi brothers, Herb, Tom and Gordon. These three were brothers from Toodyay who lost their lives at Sandakan and on the death marches.

Above: Memorial Plaques for the Dorizzi Brothers from Toodyay

North Fremantle has a very poignant memorial on Queen Victoria Street. In 1901 North Fremantle was admitted to the Western Australian Football League. In World War One, half the team was killed. With the loss of the entire forward line, the ruckman, ruck rover, fullback and other players, the team never played again.

Above: North Fremantle War Memorial on Queen Victoria Street

Finally, the ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn, built in a day for a returned serviceman in 1916, is open over the ANZAC Day long weekend. It’s a great opportunity to visit with your family and remember that paying tribute to our fallen and those who have served is just part of the ANZAC story. We also reflect on the lives and communities at home who lost loved ones and whose lives and communities would never be the same again.

Above: ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn

Visit your local memorial, discover one in a distant suburb and learn their story and place in our community.

Lest we – or anyone – forget.

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures of Mount Hawthorn

Over the Easter long weekend, the Hidden Treasures program for ABC Saturday Breakfast discovered Mount Hawthorn. If you missed it, just look up ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast and look for the April 3 episode, scroll the sound bar to nearly the end and you’ll find me having a great chat with Roanna Edwards.

Just to the north of the CBD, Mount Hawthorn is a suburb with big streets full of big green trees and big wide laneways where kids have built their own skate ramps and bike jumps.

The attraction of Mount Hawthorn as a hidden treasure is not just that there’s a lot to discover, it’s that it’s successfully gone full circle.  Like most old suburbs of Perth, it had a town centre feel about it when it was first established but over time it just became part of the rat race, an almost annoying need to slow down as you made your way along Scarborough Beach Road. Once again, it asks you to slow down like you would have done in the old days and discover the old and the new.

Let’s start in the green streets of Mount Hawthorn and discover some bus stops and a little cottage that was built in a day while a crowd cheered and provided food and drinks for the builders.

ANZAC Cottage in Kalgoorlie Street, was built in a day in 1916 by the local community for a returned serviceman from Gallipoli, Private John Porter. Work started at 3:30am on the 12th of February 2016 and at 5pm the final touch, raising a flag at the front of the house with the letters ANZAC embroidered on it, was achieved at 5pm. 

On nearby ANZAC Road and up Kalgoorlie Street, have a look at the bus stops that have been transformed into tributes to the Vietnam War and the Gallipoli campaign, complete with murals and sandbags. 

Now let’s take a tour along Scarborough Beach Road in Mount Hawthorn from Braithwaite Park on the western end of the suburb, to Axford Park on the eastern end of Mount Hawthorn’s retail heart.

Braithwaite Park is one of those parks that back in my day I would have called a theme park.  In my day a playground had a stainless steel slide and an old milk crate for parents to sit on and watch you burn yourself on the slide.  This park has Perth’s best version of a flying fox and it’s called the cable ride.  It’s about 40m long and perfectly exciting for wide eyed children discovering the thrill of speed for the first time.  There is a nature play area with rocks to scramble over and tunnels to run through and shady barbeque areas that make this one of the best known kids party locations.

Next stop is one of the reasons why traffic stops along this strip.  With a quirky shop front on Scarb Beach Road and with an entrance up a little laneway is the Art Garage. 

From its grimy and greasy past as a mechanics garage to its central role in supporting local artists, inspiring young minds and developing community spirit, the Art Garage hosts exhibitions, runs workshops including ones for these school holidays.  Learn to draw, make soap, do some pottery, indoor plant design or turn up in your favourite 70’s outfit and learn how to do macrame. Over Easter, stop by and have a look at the wire sculptures by artist Jan O’Meara which include a full-size mare and her foal.

As you walk towards the shopping strip, keep an eye out for the street art and murals including my favourite, the wombat, which isn’t using his legs because he’s flying along with a pair of bat wings.

For anyone old enough to remember what main streets used to look like before malls and shopping centres, fill your nostalgic heart by looking up at the Tredways Shoes sign.

If your nostalgic heart is still beating from the Tredway Shoes sign you’ll find trestles of old vinyl records being sold out the front of a local shop that sells books and records inside.

The iconic Paddington Ale House is our next stop and is the beating and boisterous heart of Mount Hawthorn.  From relying on a sports bar and those always after a big night, these days it’s more about meals for families, date nights and all of it in an environment of refurbished history.

Now we’ve reached Axford Park – Named after a World War 1 local soldier who won the Victoria Cross and lived in Mount Hawthorn. It’s a small park with a big heart.  There is a memorial to those who have lost their lives in war and a wall of remembrance and twice a year the City of Vincent hosts an ANZAC Day service and a Remembrance Day service, supported by local schools who lay wreaths and sing the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand.

In summer, Axford park hosts food trucks on Friday nights and throughout the year in the adjacent carpark you can discover the Provedore Markets, Perth’s best market for imagining you’re in Italy.

So next time you’re wondering where to go for a day trip, give Mount Hawthorn a go. Lots of history, lots of activities, lots to eat and drink and a lot to like.

ABC Saturday Morning Breakfast: Hidden Treasures Stays Close to Home at … East Perth!

Why would anyone go to East Perth unless they had a meeting at the Education or Health Department or maybe the ABC? It was It was a fair question a few years ago but it’s outdated now.

Not many hidden treasures around Perth can claim world class sporting and iconic sporting facilities, a farm, opportunities for kids to get chased by swans and also the home the national broadcaster. Plus a bit more.

Our discussion about all of the attractions and activities to be found in East Perth is all the more remarkable because East Perth is only 3.3 square kilometres and we didn’t even get to touch on the amazing Perth Mint or Wellington Square intergenerational playground and Stolen Generation Place of Reflection.

Pic above: One of the best hills in Perth for box sliding. Grad a cardboard box (mango and avocado cartons are the best) and get inside and push yourself down this grass knoll until you roll sideways and fall out. Then run back up to the top and do it again.

Pic above: From the studios of the ABC to Claisebrook Cove trickles the Claise Brook and along the way are the turtle shell sculptures, popular with ducks for a rest and for kids looking for the challenge of jumping on their backs.

Pic above: East Perth Cemetery was the first cemetery established by the Swan River Colony in 1829. Many of the settlers who are buried here died of typhoid and tuberculosis. It’s a great example of an authentic and tangible history that can be found in a capital city.

We began our discussion about East Perth with a description of the WACA, the affectionate name for the Western Australian Cricket Association home of cricket. When I took this photo, with thanks to the guard at the gate who let me in, the ground was empty but the memories for me were so clear I could hear the crowds. From Ashes victories and Perth Scorchers heroics to watching my son Tom even play on the ground in Milo Cricket this ground doesn’t need to have a game on or a crowd in the stands to make me smile. I just wish my name was up on that list of great Western Australian cricketers.

Top Tips For Enjoying Western Australia

As published by Have A Go News, Western Australia’s most popular newspaper.

I’m always really excited to be published by Have A Go News. This newspaper is popular not just because of its content but because of the people who work on it with such passion to produce an issue every month.

Find your copy of Have A Go News throughout Western Australia in libraries, leisure centres, council and government offices and other community centres.

Just Urbane: Trekking the Sandakan Death March Route

As published by Just Urbane

This story is a about one of the most physical and mentally challenging and exhausting adventures I’ve undertaken … twice. The story is about trekking the Sandakan Death March route and about the story of those 1945 events. With luck, you can read download a PDF above, view the pics below or you can call in to your favourite newsagency in India or subscribe to Magzter, the biggest online site for magazine subscriptions.

Special thanks for my understanding of the Sandakan events, and for supporting my efforts to promote the story in Western Australia, must go to Military Historian Lynette Silver and Tham Yau Kong from TYK Tours in Sabah.

ABC Radio: Hidden Treasures

On ABC Saturday Morning Breakfast with Ro Edwards, listen in as we explore Hidden Treasures of Perth. We’ve explored the past and present of historically significant Guildford, the remarkable world-class aquatic adventures of Rockingham and the small but jam packed full lifestyle of East Perth. What’s coming up next? Let me know if there’s a special place in your neck of the woods that we can talk about.

Pics below: ABC Saturday Morning Breakfast (pics by Matilda Parry)