News

On the write side of the road

Cherie Moselen talks to two local poets about shared geography and an award that puts them both on a prestigious literary map.

WHAT are the odds that two Warrandyte poets who live on the same road would win the same major poetry award, one after the other?

Somewhat doubtful, given the Melbourne Poets Union (MPU) International Poetry Competition annually sees 300-400 poems narrowed to a shortlist of a dozen or less.

Chance is a fine thing, but artistic skill is most likely the reason residents John Jenkins and Carmel Macdonald-Grahame are hot property as the 2013 and 2014 winners of this high profile competition*.

It’s a good thing I manage to interview them together as neither are the type to toss accolades on their own literary bonfires.

Carmel is glowing about rising stars like Eltham writer Lisa Jacobsen, who has been published in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, the UK and the United States. (One of Warrandyte’s treasured Grand Read performers, Lisa also won the Adelaide Festival John Bray Poetry Award last year and was shortlisted in four other national awards.)

However, she makes no mention of having two poems recently longlisted in this year’s fiercely contested Ron Pretty Award.

“It’s a remarkable achievement on the back of the 2014 MPU win and recent publication of her first novel by University of Western Australia Press,” John Jenkins says, filling me in on Carmel’s successes, but waving away any attempt I make to talk about his own as an award-winning poet and celebrated writer of over 20 books published in various genres.

There are more than a few literary triumphs between the two, and while both allow awards establish credibility and garner peer recognition, their value to each seems to lie in the confidence they generate: that the work was on the right track.

“Sometimes I revisit old writing that I’ve abandoned and resuscitate it, because I feel there is still something vital there and a particular competition might be a likely place for airing it,” says Carmel. “It gives me an endpoint and makes me finish the unfinished work, which is a reward in itself. It’s an added bonus if it wins.”

John agrees: “I often persist with a piece of writing, drafting and redrafting, and the formal appreciation means the extra work was worth it. It validates the process – I’ve sent it off to a competition and the judge liked it, the piece is finished and it’s as good as it can be.”

However, Carmel says she is “chuffed” about winning this particular award.

“Part of the pleasure with the MPU prize was being able to follow in John’s footsteps a little, as we’ve occasionally worked on poetry together. Also, the Melbourne Poets Union is a special point of connection for me,” she says.

“When I moved to Victoria seven years ago, it was through this ‘union of poets’ that I found out what was going on in Melbourne for writers.”

“Of course, now I have an abundance of artistic connections virtually at my doorstep, many of whom come together from time to time at the Grand Read.”

Her mention of The Grand Read – a Warrandyte Festival event, in its 18th year – launches John onto a topic he is happy to talk about and is clearly fond of.

“We have a wealth of literary talent in our shire, an embarrassment of riches really, and Warrandyte is lucky to have a fantastic annual event in which to celebrate some of them.”

“There’s lot’s of lovely food, and drinks at the bar, which gives The Grand Read an enjoyable and festive buzz,” he says.

“Every year there are special guests, some with international reputations, so the literary quality of the work is very fine. But there’s never anything stiff or stodgy about it. MC Jock Macneish sets exactly the right tone and the readers are great performers of their own work, so there’s a dimension of entertainment.”

He adds: “Diary readers, certainly anyone interested in writing, should come along and be prepared to be surprised and delighted by a great night out.”

Both Carmel (as an organiser of the event) and John will be appearing at Warrandyte’s Grand Read, upstairs at The Grand Hotel at 7.30pm on Tuesday March 24.

For more information about the event, contact Warrandyte Neighbourhood House on 9844 1839 or email info@warrandyteneighbourhoodhouse.org.au

*John’s 2013 MPU winning poem is titled When he read the poem in the room above the stairs. Carmel’s 2014 MPU winning poem is titled Wreck.

Doncare produces iMatter app

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 12.34.52 pmSOME people may find it hard to realise the warning signs of a potentially violent partnership at first. Young or old, no one is immune to the psychological predatory behaviour that domestic violence abusers use to isolate victims before subjecting them to more physical abuse.

Unfortunately, when family and friends try to intervene they are pushed away because the victim is in denial about their situation: their judgement clouded by emotion.

As is common in abusive relationships, the victim may experience feelings of shame, intimidation and fear, compounded by the isolation from support networks that generally accompanies domestic abuse.

To combat this, local Manningham counselling service Doncare has developed a revolutionary new app called iMatter, which takes the perceived judgement and pressure out of identifying and accepting that one may be in a harmful relationship.

The app is designed to help young people recognise the early signs of abusive and controlling behaviour and empower them to avoid and leave unhealthy relationships.

iMatter includes images, quizzes, videos, a diary and links to information about domestic abuse services in every country in the world. It also includes positive messages designed to encourage resilience and self-esteem in young people.

The project is managed by Youth Foundation facilitator Katherine Georgakopoulos and Doncare’s placement student Jo Maddock, who both oversaw the launch of the iMatter app on February 14 by Australian of the Year and anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty.

“These types of relationships aren’t always as obvious as a black eye or split lip, so it is vital victims are empowered to deal with psychological abuse as well,” Rosie says.

“I think throughout our communities, at any age, we’re learning it’s not just about physical violence,” she said. “Violence is also psychological, which includes verbal. It’s not just about physical harm, it’s far more complex than that.”

Batty said it wasn’t until she was 40 that she finally realised the psychological and physical abuse wasn’t her fault, proving the importance of young people being able to recognise the warning signs early.

Recent Australian research has revealed that 22% of women under the age of 20 have experienced intimate partner violence and what’s even more concerning is that many young women misinterpret behaviour like extreme jealousy and controlling tendencies as signs of love and affection. From these figures it is clear that an app of this kind is long overdue and the creators have already seen an overwhelming response.

Doncare director Carmel O’Brien says, “We hear again and again from young people that they are putting up with things in relationships that are really very disrespectful and sometimes frightening.”

Working closely with domestic violence victims, the Doncare team is aware that young women feel they are rarely warned about the very fine line between controlling behaviours and abuse. The app also promotes self-esteem and confidence, as Batty believes low self-esteem can lead young women to enter and remain in damaging relationships.

“If you’re approaching a relationship when you have no self-esteem, you’re most likely to enter into a toxic relationship,” Batty said. “It will not get better, it will wear you down and will reduce you to a very low point.”

Her most important message? “If (the relationship) doesn’t feel right, get out of it. Get out.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au

In an emergency, call 000.

The iMatter app is available at iTunes and Google play stores.

Calmer waters for Melbourne Hill Rd

A SOLUTION to Melbourne Hill Road’s drainage issue could become the benchmark for other ecologically sensitive catchments within Manningham.

An epic struggle by residents for sustainable, cost effective stormwater management has inspired a new approach by Manningham council.

Although originally set to enforce an unpopular and costly scheme for localised flooding issues in the catchment, after sustained community campaigning council engineers are now considering alternative solutions.

Council has obtained a $50,000 grant from the state-funded Living Rivers Program (a previously unexplored option), which will be matched from council coffers to provide a $100,000 budget. This will allow investigation of more environmentally sustainable stormwater management possibilities in the troubled catchment.

Consulting engineering group BMT WBM has been appointed to conduct this feasibility study, which is planned for completion by the end of May.

Council has also undertaken a more consultative approach to management of the issue. Formalised in a ‘Terms of Reference’ document instigated by the community representative panel, this approach is an effort to bring more open and informed discussion around the issue.

Highly regarded strategic environmental engineer and president of Stormwater Australia, Andrew Allen, was a welcome new addition to the recent reference panel meeting.

It is expected Allen, who had been seconded from Manningham council to the office of Living Victoria during much of the original resident/council debate, will add his considerable depth of knowledge in sustainable flood mitigation to the project.

Cr Sophy Galbally, who has continued to campaign for a balanced solution to flood management in the catchment is satisfied with the progress so far.

“I was pleased to meet the senior executives from BMT WBM at the recent reference panel meeting where residents, council engineers and ward councillors were able to convey the issues they hope this study may be able to address. I sincerely hope the consultants’ report, which is welcomed by all, will provide council with innovative and sustainable options for all areas in need of flood mitigation, particularly in the Mullum Mullum ward,” Cr Galbally said.

Residents’ spokesperson Peter Noye told the Diary: “The representative panel stand committed to a more environmentally sustainable and economical outcome. We thank the councillors for voting towards seeking a more cost effective and sustainable alternative.”

The next community meeting on the Melbourne Hill Rd issue will be held at Warrandyte Uniting Church, Taroona Ave tonight (March 10) at 8pm.

VIDEO: Warrandyte chooks

The Diary checks out some chooks and their owners to see what has Warrandyte buzzing about free-range chickens … and a few ducks!

Setting a wonderful eggs-ample

Warrandyte chicken“YOU must never run out of eggs,” is the common response when people know you have chickens.

However, for many Warrandytians, it’s not about the eggs. There are so many delightful reasons for having chickens, with eggs being a bonus.

Adjoining neighbours Adata and John share several chickens between their homes with a mobile coop made from the frame of an old barbeque, a shipping box and pallets. The result is a cleverly designed home for Scarlet, Darling, Lucy, Beautiful Girl, Belina and Bob that for the past two years has been moved from home to home on a roster basis.

If one family is away on a holiday, the other family is able to care for them.

“When you rent, it’s hard to ask a landlord for permission to build a permanent structure,” says John. “This way we can have chickens and share them with our friends.”

Emil, Marcel, Nell and Natalia all help with caring for the chickens, including collecting the eggs, putting them away at night and topping up the water, especially on hot days.

“They all have different temperaments and personalities,” says Agata. “They are curious and adventurous and a little cheeky sometimes by trying to get into the veggie garden.”

Mother of two, Natalie, from North Warrandyte has converted an old cubby into a sweet little home safe from foxes for her Rhode Island Reds – Poeey, Twinkles, Sparkles and My Chicken. Laying well means they often have more eggs than they need and either swap the eggs for other produce with friends or give them away.

Natalie and husband Ben’s aim is to upgrade the coop by designing a way for them to eat more grass which improves their Omega 6 balance.

Warrandyte chickens“Having chickens is calming. You start pottering and realise you are part of the circle of life and reconnecting with the fundamentals of living,” says Natalie.

Lynda not only has chickens but a number of charismatic ducks, the boss of the roost being Barry. They all live together in the Taj Mahal of coops that has been added to and improved over the years to accommodate the chickens and ducks as well as keep out the foxes.

“I’d recommend digging well down into the ground with your wire, at least 500mm to keep them out and I’ve also concreted part of the coop floor to keep out the rats,” says Lynda.

“Wasps aren’t too much of a problem if I avoid putting out too many food scraps.”

With both the chickens and ducks as good layers, Lynda used to sell her freerange eggs at work as they were in such demand – as Julie Quinton quickly discovered at our local IGA supermarket after banning caged hen eggs and stocking only freerange.

Currently, Daphne is broody and has been sitting on the duck eggs for a while, which will probably hatch in the next few days.

In the meantime, 5kg Barry is quite the stud with his harem of stunning white companions Daphne, Lulu and Lizzie.

On the side of a hill, facing north and overlooking the Yarra, lives an eclectic family of chickens.

Annette Lion has owned chickens and ducks for 14 years.

“Each duck has their own personality,” says Annette, as a collection of Bantams, Light Sussex and Pom Pom Heads saunter free around the garden.

With names like Carlotta, Bluebell and Nessie it’s easy to see why Annette’s daughters Luna and Mikaia enjoy having their chickens around.

They are so tame, they’ll even sit on their heads.

We couldn’t find Speckles but she turned up later in the day, having been gone for 10 days. Annette found her sitting on 12 eggs!

It’s obvious that the bonuses of owning chickens is not just the eggs but showing children where food comes from, how to care for them, how they can produce great fertiliser for the garden and the sheer entertainment of watching their antics.

Warrandyte chickens

If you’d like to share your own chicken stories, please tell us at the Diary by emailing info@warrandyte diary.com.au

VIDEO: See our chooks story on Diary TV at warrandytediary.com.au