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On Creating Authentic Spaces Full of Verve and Vitality with Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke

Image: Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke. Photography by Hugh Stewart.

This is an extract from the introduction of Arent & Pyke: Interiors Beyond the Primary Palette by Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke.

We can still remember the feelings one particular suburban Sydney backyard stirred in us. Standing amid its myriad greens, we were transported to another place, even time. This garden could have been a fictional wonderland or the grounds of an Italian villa, such was its enchanting quality. Part of this magic stemmed from the owners’ deep connection to what they had created, and part came from the house’s connection to its surrounds. The building and landscape seemed beautifully entwined.

Our response as designers was to enrich those connections, and in a decorative sense the incorporation of green was a natural choice. But the significance of that colour extended beyond the decorative – it became woven through the built-in elements in an evocative layering of hues. The variegated greens of a checkerboard terrazzo floor brought a sense of nostalgia and an other-worldly mood to echo that of the garden. Deep green joinery ensured the very fabric of the house resonated with this tranquil yet vibrant tone. We painted the walls a misty green that blurred the division between interior and exterior, and the treatment of colour in this house became an immersive experience, as alive with feeling as the shifting canvas outside.

For us, to talk about colour is to talk about memory, but also meaning, energy and emotion. To write a book that references colour in its title is to discuss so much more than a choice of floor tile or paint finish for a wall, although these have their place here too. It is part of a larger and deeply nuanced conversation that we have been engaged in for years. And it begins with the concept of joy.

Everything we do is to create visceral joy – that inner thrum of delight where instinct speaks over intellect, heart over head. A beautifully designed space has the power to generate a sense of belonging, comfort and freedom that uplifts your spirit. We believe that power extends even further – a space that fills you with joy can transform how you live.

While it may sound very ‘big picture’, for us this belief is grounded in rigorous attention to the smallest details. The objects that tell our stories, the colours that call to our senses, the materials that evoke certain moods – all these play a vital part. But even more than that, our focus is on the day-to-day experience of people’s lives. We are constantly thinking about the reassuring rituals and intricacies of domestic life – where people make their tea and coffee, where they prepare school lunches, where they place their bags when they get home. We are also deeply interested in the places of connection – where people sit to unwind, to gather, to entertain – and the way people engage with one another in their own space.

Fifteen years ago, when we formed Arent & Pyke, no one was really talking about how design made you feel. The focus was on aesthetics and the debates were around trends – old school versus new school, minimalist versus decorative – yet there didn’t seem to be enough interest in how a design could impact your life. Or how a house could be lovingly crafted for the unique lifestyle of a family.

From the start, our approach has not been concerned with trends or generic solutions but rather the dynamic, spirited, colourful and very personal appeal of real-life spaces – the sort of spaces we would like to live in. When we met, we recognised that we shared the same energy and entrepreneurial drive, and the same passion for life – not only the life we wanted to create for ourselves, but the life we wanted to create for our clients. Our intention was to create authentic, meaningful spaces full of verve and vitality that lift the spirit and nurture the soul. It still is, and today we share that vision with our team and our extended network of collaborators.

While ‘emotional connection’ and ‘wellbeing’ have become industry buzzwords, we are proud to be leaders in the conversation that now revolves around them. For us, wellbeing and joy are intrinsically linked, and we believe there is much to be learned in terms of the impact great design can have on our lives. We’re keenly aware of how much our environment affects our sense of wellbeing, and we want to offer people the best way of living, creating healthy, low-impact homes that help them thrive.

Now, more than ever, that seems essential. Since we started our business, we have witnessed a shift in values to a more inward-looking focus that is literally closer to home – to our local community, our friends and family. Never has the safety and comfort of home been more important, or the need to create joy at home more necessary to strengthen, nurture and
replenish us before we look outwards again.

Writing this book has been a chance to reflect on the path of Arent & Pyke – not only how far we have come but also what we want to bring to the future. We are delighted to share our philosophy, our approach and our designs in these pages. For us, the building blocks of a project are not the bricks and mortar but the intangibles that make up our ethos as a business: the transportive and immersive roles of colour, the creation of joy and forging of an emotional connection, the character and spirit of a house – its heart and soul – and that special alchemy that occurs when it all comes together in a unique, magical blend. These ideas are the touchstones of our studio, and the projects we have selected here illustrate how we express those ideas and bring them to life.

We hope that viewing our projects through this lens gives them an extra dimension and prompts a different way of thinking about the spaces we live in. We have never been interested in decoration for decoration’s sake – for us, a design should go beyond beauty and function to achieve a timeless, uncontrived quality that ensures a house belongs to those who live in it.

This book explores the rich physical aspects that we know colour can bring to interiors. It ventures into a surprisingly evocative spectrum of soft and subtle shifts in tone but, further than that, it taps into the emotion of
design. When a home is brought to life through the colour, character and spirit of its different elements, everything is enriched and all the senses are engaged for a full, joyous living experience.

The experience of joy can be both immediate and far-reaching. It can be as simple as feeling inspired by the colour on a wall and as wonderfully complex as the way a well-designed space can enrich your life.



It sounds simple – we want people to feel happy in their home. But behind this is a deep understanding of the complex psychology of space and the lifestyle and personal journey of each client. We harness all the elements we work with – colour and pattern, material and textile, light and art, line and form – to individually shape each special space.

Home should be a place of nurturing and nourishment. It should be a sanctuary of peace, comfort and security where you feel grounded and free to be yourself. Crafting that place is about fostering an emotional connection and a sense of belonging. Your heart space. Creating visceral joy is at the heart of all our work. Our focus on how a space feels begins with an appreciation of how people experience living there. Home is the place for recharging and relaxing, and with this in mind we consider both the spaces for interaction and those for reflection. We focus on where people come together, such as the kitchen, living and dining areas. This is where all the action happens and where some of the most joyous moments occur. For us, the kitchen is far more than a functional zone and we strive to make it a warm, vibrant place to congregate, rich with colour, character and tactile pleasure. In the same way, the bedroom is more than somewhere to sleep. It is also a place for repair and recharging, so we design it as a true retreat
zone and emotional balm.

Joy and wellbeing are intertwined, and for us a happy home is a healthy home. We want to craft living spaces that soar with feeling and feed the soul. Creating a room that sings with colour sounds simple, yet the emotions it sparks are far from it.



The meaningful role colour can play in bringing a space to life is a continual source of inspiration for us. We weave colour through the entire fabric of a house at every stage of the design process. Even then, the placement of one last richly hued accessory or artwork can be the element that draws the whole design together. The influence of colour is ongoing and we never stop thinking about it.

We use colour as a device to evoke particular moods and shape the experience of a space, playing with its look in different light to soothe or energise, nurture or revive. We use it to unify spaces, linking new parts of a house to old ones, or crafting a connection between interior and garden. Our approach is not to add a ‘pop’ of this or ‘block’ of that – for us, the greatest power of colour lies in its immersive effect, a painterly quality that envelops you so its presence is felt as much as seen. Adding a soft pink tint to the walls of a room can give it a rosy glow that transforms the room – and the feelings it provokes.

Our focus isn’t necessarily on the bright and bold colours, although these have their own significant impact. The softer, nuanced tones of the tertiary palette, whose language lies in delicious words like nougat, butter and olive, can unlock the door to a world of emotions. We work a lot with colour combinations, exploring the way different hues interact – room to room, piece to piece – to conjure up an entirely new sensibility. At the heart of it all is our desire to elicit a response, and whether we use colour to create harmony or contrast, it is always with the intention to lift the spirit.



The character of a home comes from the elements that reveal its personality and tell its story, from architectural lines and forms to cherished family pieces. Sometimes our design is responding to a story that is already there, such as with heritage buildings. Here, we try to distil the essence of the house’s character and meet that in the contemporary language of detail and joinery, subtly referencing the mood of the past while reflecting the client’s lifestyle for the future.

At other times we are helping clients to create a new story. Incorporating their own belongings – a favourite artwork, a souvenir from their travels – helps us do this. Not everyone has these to begin with, so during the design process we encourage clients to think about objects in a new way, beyond their decorative or functional role and in a more emotive realm. The story of an interior grows richer, more authentic and more interesting when personal, meaningful elements are woven into it. In this way, the design choices made today can become potent new memories in the future.

One of the most natural and pleasing ways to bring character to a space is through the process of ageing. It might be an old timber table that shows the knocks and cuts acquired over the years, or the faded upholstery of a favourite chair, or a brass doorknob that reveals the frequent attention of human hands. The nicks and patinas are tangible marks of the passage of time and the rituals of life and as such are imbued with meaning. It is one of the reasons we love working with materials like timber, terrazzo and marble – the connection they offer us to nature and its inevitable cycle
brings a strong sense of comfort. To us, a home that reflects the beauty of time passing and the ephemeral nature of things is a celebration of life well lived.



We want to create homes that are full of spirit and hum with life to reflect the lives of their owners. Much of our work involves imbuing spaces with energy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be lively and vigorous. Different spaces call for different moods, and crafting those moods involves using a range of elements from artworks to the modulation of light. Scale can be a persuasive tool here – we might introduce smaller pieces and more of them, or opt for fewer pieces in a larger scale to make a room feel calmer.

Along with colour, we use pattern to enrich the spirit of a space. We are particularly fond of asymmetric, organic lines that take their cue from the natural world, breathing life into a design, relaxing formal layouts and promoting a sense of ease. And for us, pattern is as much about the inherent details of materials as it is about fabric. An abstract print on a bedhead can lend a playful quality, but the swirls of figured marble, the mix of colours in terrazzo and the pleasing grain of timber also bring their own dynamic and offer the comfort of their tactility. The sensory experience of a home is part of its appeal and we are constantly considering these elements for our clients – how a cushion feels to hold, how a floor feels to walk on. We literally feel our way around each project.

A spirited home is a joyful home, and we believe that central to this is a lighthearted sense of design that exists beyond the practical and purposeful. Home is not the place for the symmetrical and stitched up or the overly formal and tightly wound. We like to incorporate touches of whimsy and optimism purely for their beauty and the happiness they generate. A dreamy wallpaper print, the cheeky form of a chair, an unexpected artwork – these are the moments in a house’s life that surprise and delight.



Where you drop your bag when you get home, where you make your coffee, sit to read, hang your bathrobe – we delve into and delight in these intricate, important domestic details. We take a deeply empathetic approach in working with our clients, listening to and learning from them, and putting ourselves in their shoes so we can deliver a personal understanding of their lifestyle. The resulting design should feel familiar and intuitive, uniquely crafted to suit the people who live there. Rather like a magician’s sleight of hand, it should feel effortless in its experience without revealing all the planning and work behind it.

There is another layer to this magic. We believe there is an alchemy at play in the best of spaces, where all the elements – volume and texture, light and colour, architecture and object – combine to create something truly special that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a holistic synergy we strive for, considering all these elements together throughout the design process. Added to this are the intangibles – the eliciting of emotions, the building of character, the injection of spirit. The evocative blend of things you can see and things you can feel – this, for us, is the alchemy of joyful design.

Arent & Pyke: Interiors Beyond the Primary Palette by Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke is available now.

AU $80

Posted on December 15, 2022
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Read an Extract from The Conversation’s Latest Book of Essays: Long COVID should make us rethink disability and the way we offer support to those with ‘invisible illness’

Marie-Claire Seeley
University of Adelaide

This is an extract from 2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege, a collection of essays brought from The Conversation.

Australia has only a handful of specialists familiar with managing what happens when the nervous system can’t properly regulate the body, as sometimes occurs with long COVID. While long-COVID clinics are being set up, there are no government-funded clinics for this type of nervous system dysfunction, and private waiting lists are now long.

From the outset, long-COVID sufferers faced the same prejudice experienced by patients before them who sought assistance through Centrelink and the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the effects of post-infection conditions. Disability insurance schemes worldwide are driven by definitions and checklists that allow non-medical workforce to assess and approve candidates for support services, but those with ‘invisible illness’ rarely meet these criteria.

If we are to manage the tidal wave of impairment and disability bearing down on us, policymakers must heed the warnings that have been sounding for the past two years. We’ll need to rethink disability and support.

First warnings

In November 2020, data later published in The Lancet were presented to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. The researchers warned of persistent symptoms after COVID, including fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, palpitations, chest pain, depression, insomnia and headache. The colloquial term ‘long COVID’ was soon coined. Varying iterations of the name followed (including ‘COVID long haulers’ in the United States). Many clinicians use the more scientific descriptor ‘post-acute sequelae of COVID-19’.

Long COVID is not a new phenomenon. Various post-infection illnesses have been documented in the medical literature for decades. And such conditions bear a striking resemblance to each other. First, an individual is knowingly (or unknowingly) exposed to a pathogen (a virus, bacterium or other microorganism). An acute illness of varying degrees of severity ensues before a partial or complete recovery. But following ‘recovery’, a broad range of symptoms emerge. And these lead to functional decline – in other words, they stop the sufferer from doing the daily activities they would normally be able to do.

Two of these conditions, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome, appear closely related. And their symptoms look a lot like long COVID, too. Both seem to affect more women than men, and additional immune problems are often present.

These similarities support the theory these illnesses result from a hypervigilant immune system. This creates an immune response that inadvertently causes damage to the fragile autonomic nervous system (which regulates the body’s normal functions, like heart rate and blood pressure) while attempting to rid the body of the invading pathogen. However, there are a plethora of other theories and more investigation is needed.

An old stigma

Lack of understanding about these syndromes is reflective of the broad stigmas attached to them – the idea they are psychosomatic and involve the mind and body. The origin of these stigmas can be traced to a series of publications in the latter half of the twentieth century that addressed outbreaks of illnesses after exposure to unknown pathogens.

In 1970, the British Medical Journal published an article by two psychiatrists who had reviewed the case notes of 198 patients from the Royal Free Hospital in North London, where an outbreak of an unknown pathogen had occurred fifteen years prior. The authors determined the disease had no identifiable organic origin and was therefore likely to be caused by ‘epidemic hysteria’. This conclusion was partly justified by the high proportion of women among those infected with the illness.

Publication of this theory in a pre-eminent scientific medical journal gave credence to what became an enduring narrative. The result has been a chronic lack of interest and investment in these debilitating invisible illnesses, which can render people unable to work or participate in society.

A question of definition

The burden of these systemic failings now weighs heavily on a society faced with a worldwide tsunami of post-COVID conditions. And it goes some way to explaining the collective shrugging of shoulders by health authorities when it comes to providing answers for sufferers.

Estimates of how many people infected with COVID go on to develop long COVID vary from 5 per cent to 40 per cent. The large variance is a result of the initial absence of a consistent or unifying set of diagnostic criteria.

Recently the World Health Organization provided a definition of post-COVID conditions. It includes those with a history of likely or confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) who experience lingering symptoms for longer than two months, which are unexplained by an alternative diagnosis. Defining the illness allows clearer characterisation of who is affected. Long COVID is now known to affect any age group and may be unrelated to initial infection severity. This evidence prompted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to detail an ominous warning about post-COVID health problems that ‘can last weeks, months, or years’.

Multiple case series and observational studies have now identified a high burden of nervous system dysfunction in long-COVID patients. Several studies, including one published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, demonstrated that up to 95 per cent of long-COVID patients also meet the international criteria for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. This syndrome can cause lightheadedness, brain fog, fatigue, headache, blurred vision, palpitations, tremor and nausea. These symptoms are often incompatible with carrying out normal daily tasks, which explains why unemployment and disability are high among postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome patients, despite their young age.

The next wave

Back in March 2021, the American Autonomic Society released a statement warning of the rising presentations of patients to autonomic specialist referral centres with symptoms of post-COVID postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Of particular concern was the insufficient number of physicians familiar with this type of dysfunction to treat the condition. This situation is mirrored in Australia, where only a handful of specialists are familiar with managing such complex cases.

Contrary to popular medical opinion and widely held beliefs, effective therapies exist for underlying conditions like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which is prevalent in long COVID. Early intervention is key. Treatment needs to be fully explored and implemented before disability support services can be sought.

Time to listen

Our health systems need to absolve themselves of past sins and pay attention to the overwhelming voice of the current sufferers of long COVID and those with other post-infection syndromes or invisible illnesses who have endured decades of medical neglect. Treatment options need to be made available and multidisciplinary teams need to upskill to manage these conditions.

A redefining of what it is to be disabled needs to be explored. Most importantly, these definitions should not be tied to a single cause but to the manifestation of symptoms that culminate in the disability.

2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege is available now.

AU $32.99

Posted on December 14, 2022
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The Contemporary, Textural and Colour Oriented Work of Yvette Coppersmith

Image: Artist Yvette Coppersmith. Photography supplied by artist.

This is an edited extract from Artists at Home by Karina Dias Peres.

It has been said that to capture the essence of someone else, you first need to capture the essence of yourself. With a career spanning over twenty years, Melbourne-based artist Yvette Coppersmith has experimented widely with various subject matter, including still life, figurative and abstract paintings, yet she still feels a strong pull towards exploring self-portrait. During her early childhood, Yvette watched opera and ballet DVDs. She also studied and drew faces from magazines. Later on, she began depicting friends, family and herself. The direction of her early process led her towards photorealism and portraiture, and after finishing high school, Yvette started at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne. She highlights that photorealism wasn’t particularly on-trend at the time but, despite going against the grain, she was recognised for her unique style and received a commendation award for her graduate exhibition. Her paintings for that exhibition were all portraits of women and included a self-portrait, a portrait of her grandmother Ida and another of her great-aunt Basia; three full-length portraits to scale, which were hung level with the floor so the viewer could meet the subject at their actual height.

During the first decade of her practice, Yvette mainly relied on photographs, life models and herself as source material to create oil paintings; these foundational years brought discipline and focus, a period in her career she ironically calls ‘slave to the image’. Sitters often included public figures who have made contributions to our society, such as Rupert Myer, the Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts, and Gillian Triggs, former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. It wasn’t until 2009 that her taste in painting started shifting to process-driven work and abstraction, welcoming more tactile and textural qualities. Yvette works predominantly in oil on linen, and occasionally on primed jute. The layers of paint are mixed with linseed oil (and sometimes sand) to create her signature bold texture.

Image: Self-portrait with Dove, 2017 Oil on linen, 50.5 x 40.5 cm.
Image: Self-portrait with Gladioli, 2018, Oil on linen, 102 x 87 cm.

‘When I began painting my self-portraits, we didn’t have smartphones and social media was not part of our experience. There was a perception that you must be a narcissist to be making images of yourself, and self-promotion wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now. For centuries, artists have understood the image of the self is a construct, and a useful one to position oneself in society. Self-portraiture is a space where you can be your own imagined self,’ she says.

Yvette recalls studying make-up books by Kevyn Aucoin when she was around eighteen, and experimenting with contouring and creating images of herself. She took photos with an old film camera in 2000, and the first digital camera she purchased in 2004 had a flip-around screen to better frame compositions as references for her paintings. Ironically, she thought, ‘wow, if everyone knew about this, they’d take better photos of themselves’, never expecting the global explosion of selfies. In the past few
years, she has worked from a mirror, which is a different method from taking a snapshot. She explains that the light and detail working from life is an advantage, but poses are more limited.

In 2018, Yvette won the Archibald Prize awarded by the Art Gallery of NSW for her painting Self-Portrait, After George Lambert. After being a finalist four times, she is one of ten female artists to have won the prestigious prize in 100 years. The winning self-portrait was initially supposed to be a portrait of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. When Ardern wasn’t available, she thought she could still draw inspiration from her, as a call to action to inspire women and the next generation of progressive leaders.

Image: Self-portrait after George Lambert, 2017Oil and acrylic on linen, 122 x 101.5 cm.

‘Women artists are part of the rebalancing of the masculine/feminine energies at play in the world. The abuse of women and of the planet are connected. Australia has a leadership crisis in the face of a climate crisis – this isn’t a time to lose hope but to spring into action. The calling out of these injustices must continue, and the momentum and desire to ignite change as a collective is gathering,’ she says. Yvette sees a space for activism in some of her portrait works, not with protest but utilising the ability of art to connect to the human, to beauty and joy. She believes the role of a contemporary portrait painter is to take this tangible quality and position each person far beyond their media or social media platform.

You were one of only ten women to win the Archibald Prize in 100 years. What does it mean to be a woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry?

It is important to acknowledge how far we have come in the perception of women artists. The first woman to win the Archibald Prize was Nora Heysen back in 1938 and she dealt with a vastly different industry. At the time her counterpart male artists commented: ‘A great artist needs
all the manly qualities of courage, strength and endurance. I believe that such a life is unnatural and impossible for a woman.’ The media headlines about her were: ‘Girl painter is also a good cook!’ Thankfully my experience has been full of opportunities, and it is heartbreaking thinking how women artists throughout history made it against all odds. So yes, we are a very lucky generation in some ways but the fight for gender equality is still ongoing because patriarchy is structural.

Image: Displayed on the shelves in Yvette’s lounge room are two of her works: Self-portrait and Wave Abstraction in Blue and Green. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Did you have any female role models growing up that influenced your career?

Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking for their strong female characters were good role models as a kid. Julia Ciccarone, a Melbourne artist who became my mentor the year I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). We met up and visited each other’s studios a couple of times, and that was a nice way to ease the transition from university to solitary art practice. My mum, Renee Coppersmith, who worked from home on her own business as I grew up. She has been a role model for working her own hours, being her own boss, and the hustle. I know how hard she found it juggling motherhood and work, and I am so grateful for having such a generous parent. I don’t think I could divide my time like she did without feeling resentful at the sacrifice.

As an artist, what is the best lesson you have learnt along the way?

I used to overwork to meet all my commitments, and in the past couple of years it became apparent, perhaps due to some burnout, I had been putting my relationship with painting ahead of my relationship with myself. We hear a lot about self-care, but it wasn’t in my consciousness until recently that to establish a viable career as an artist, you also need to prioritise rest and sleep.

The solitary nature of working as an artist has taught me self-reliance. I value quality time connecting with people, but I have also come to realise that the only relationship that lasts a lifetime is with yourself. As women we
have been raised to feel like we are not enough without the romantic relationship, the right body, and all the right stuff – it’s taken the past couple of years to recognise how embedded those concepts were, and into a sense of wholeness in myself.

Image: Detail of Yvette’s studio, which is adjacent to her home. Leaning against the wall is Afterimage No 1. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Can you name some of your favourite Australian artists?

Grace Crowley, Grace Cossington Smith, Nora Heysen, Ralph Balson, Margaret Preston, Rah Fizelle, Hera Roberts, George Lambert, Hugh Ramsay, Max Meldrum. Also Teelah George, Oscar Perry, James Drinkwater, Jake Walker, Lottie Consalvo, Sam Martin, Sanné Mestrom, Michael Georgetti, Eleanor Louise Butt, Tsering Hannaford, Diena Georgetti.

Is your home aesthetic a reflection of you as an artist – contemporary, textural and colour oriented?

My furniture is all neutral: grey marble table, timber sideboard, linen bench seat. I can change the colour scheme by rehanging pictures. At th moment there is an emerald green theme. If I could change my house I would add more wall space and have more art on display, including more of my childhood paintings.

Image: Yvette’s kitchen. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Artists at Home by Karina Dias Pires is available now.

AU $ $59.99

Posted on December 7, 2022
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A Short History of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Read an Extract From The Conversation’s Latest Book of Essays

Bronwyn Carlson
Macquarie University

Lynda-June Coe
Macquarie University

This is an extract from 2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege, a collection of essays brought to you by The Conversation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains the names of deceased people.

Often, people think about the Aboriginal Tent Embassy as something historical, dating back to the 1970s. But it should also be thought of as the site of the longest protest for Indigenous land rights, sovereignty and self-determination in the world.

In fact, this year, the Tent Embassy celebrates its fiftieth continuous year of occupation. Demonstrating its significance to Australian history, it was included on the Commonwealth Heritage List in 2015 as part of the Old Parliament House precinct.

In this momentous year, it’s worth remembering how the Tent Embassy came to be, and acknowledging what it has stood for since its erection in 1972 – and the significance it still has today.

Aliens in our own land

The Tent Embassy began its public life on 26 January 1972. On that day, Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Bertie Williams and Tony Coorey left Redfern and drove to Ngunnawal Country (Canberra), where they planted a beach umbrella opposite Parliament House (now known as Old Parliament House). They erected a sign that said ‘Aboriginal Embassy’. With them on that day was their driver, Tribune photographer Noel Hazard, who captured the event in a series of photos.

The term ‘embassy’ was used to bring attention to the fact Aboriginal people had never ceded sovereignty nor engaged in any treaty process with the Crown. As a collective, Aboriginal people were the only cultural group not represented with an embassy. According to Aboriginal activist and scholar Gary Foley, the absence of an Aboriginal embassy in Canberra was a blatant indication Aboriginal people were treated like aliens in their own land.

Initially, the protesters were making a stand about land rights following then prime minister William McMahon’s speech dismissing any hope for Aboriginal land rights and reasserting the government’s position on the policy of assimilation. The Tent Embassy was therefore a public display of our disapproval of, and objection to, the policies and practices of the government.

It has since become an acclaimed site of our continued resistance to the continuity of colonial rule.

Demands of protesters

Police who were patrolling the area at the time of the Tent Embassy’s erection asked the protesters what they were doing outside Parliament House. They said they were protesting and would do so until the government granted land rights to Aboriginal people. The police were said to have responded, ‘That could be forever.’

As it turned out, it was not illegal to camp on the lawns of Parliament House, so the police could not remove the protesters.

Later, on 6 February 1972, the members of the Tent Embassy issued their list of demands to the government. The demands were clearly about our rights as Aboriginal people to our homelands, regardless of the fact cities were now built on the land or mining companies were interested in the bounties within. Compensation was called for in the instances where the land was not able to be returned. There were also demands for the protection of our sacred sites.

While the McMahon government cared little about negotiating with the protesters, the leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, visited the Tent Embassy and publicly proclaimed a promise of Aboriginal land rights under a future Labor government. There was widespread support for the Tent Embassy from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allies across the continent, and indeed the world.

Media attention also grew as it became obvious the Tent Embassy and protesters were not going to move on. Other Aboriginal activists joined the embassy, including Foley, Isabel Coe, John Newfong, Chicka Dixon, Gordon Briscoe and many others.

Forced removal and revival

The government was not too keen on being reminded Aboriginal people were demanding rights, so it amended the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance to make it illegal to camp on the lawn of Parliament House. This gave the police the authority to remove the protesters.

The ordinance was but a few hours old when police attempted to forcibly remove the embassy. They did so to the roar of the crowd chanting ‘Land rights now’. A violent confrontation with police ensued.

On 12 September 1972, the ACT Supreme Court ruled against the use of the trespass laws, and the Tent Embassy was temporarily re-erected before being removed again the following morning. Then, at the end of 1972, the Coalition government led by McMahon lost the federal election to Labor Whitlam was able to keep his promise in part – he did give the land title deeds to the Gurindji people. This was captured in the historical photo by Merv Bishop of Whitlam pouring a fistful of dirt into Vincent Lingiari’s hand.

While this iconic image has become a demonstration of what might be possible, the work of the embassy is not yet done. Land rights across the continent have yet to be fully achieved.

The Tent Embassy was re-established in 1973 and remained until activist Charles Perkins negotiated its removal pending the enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976. In the ensuing years, it occupied several other sites around Canberra, including the site of the current Parliament House. In 1992, it returned to its original site on the lawn of Old Parliament House to mark the twentieth anniversary of the original protest.

Eleven years later, much of the Tent Embassy was destroyed by fire in a suspected case of arson. The police once again attempted to remove protesters from the site under orders from the federal government’s National Capital Authority.

An enduring symbol of protest

Today, the Tent Embassy remains on the lawns of Old Parliament House as a reminder of the successive failures of subsequent governments to address the demands for justice represented by the embassy and its people. As Foley reflects in his history of the embassy:

That it has endured for [five] decades as a potent symbol rejecting the hypocrisy, deceit and duplicity by successive Australian government is a testament to the refusal of large numbers of Aboriginal people to concede defeat in a 200-year struggle for justice.

Nowhere else in the world have we seen such longevity around a site of protest. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is an impressive achievement that demonstrates the tenacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our continued fight for the reclamation of our lands and sovereign rights as First Nations peoples.

2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege is available now.

AU $32.99

Posted on December 6, 2022
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Three Day Trip ideas from ‘Dog Trip Sydney’

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The idea that the dog is humankind’s most loyal companion is, perhaps, one of the greatest universal truths, shared among many nations and cultures.

Read on to discover three dog-friendly day trips from Dog Trip Sydney that are sure to inspire you to create unforgettable memories with your canine companion.

1. Centennial Park

Image by Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Distance from CBD
3 km
Car parking
Grand Dr, Centennial Parklands
Leash On/Off
3.5–9 km loop
2 hrs

129 m
Picnic area
Suitable for

Often overlooked by Sydneysiders who don’t live in the Eastern Suburbs, Centennial Park is a living, breathing treasure situated within close range of the CBD. Acting as the city’s ‘green lungs’, the 189-hectare park is home to an impressive variety of native birdlife (such as black swans, superb fairy-wrens and corellas) and flora (including figs, eucalypts, paperbarks and banksias) – as well as exotic plant species like evergreen oak trees from the Southern USA and Bismarck palms from Madagascar. Typical of the grand parks established in the Victorian era, the public garden’s large expanses of lawn and grassed fields are surrounded by umbrageous Moreton Bay figs and punctuated by ponds, creating idyllic settings for daydreamers. In the dog-friendly areas of the park, joyous fur-balls are free to bound after one another off-leash.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Centennial Park was officially opened in 1888 by Sir Henry Parkes – an English immigrant of humble origins turned powerful political figure and NSW premier – fulfilling his dream of creating a ‘people’s park’. Sir Henry had recruited unemployed workers to help in the construction of the park, selling land along the edge of the proposed site in order to pay their wages. Not everyone shared Parkes’s idyllic vision, however. In the 1960s, a statue of Charles Dickens was stolen from the park – it was recovered forty years later, without its head (‘Please, sir, I want my head …’).

For growing bodies and minds, a romp through the elaborately named Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is a must-visit destination. The site is designed to encourage children to connect with nature by mixing action and education, and two-legged whelps can cavort in treehouses and frolic through water jets.

Witnessing all the people and pups enjoying this vast green space, the ghost of Sir Henry Parkes must be smiling (and, maybe, enjoying the irony of a man with his surname establishing a public park).

2. Glebe Foreshore Walk

Image by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Distance from CBD
3 km
Car parking
Chapman Rd, Annandale
Leash On/Off
4.5 km return
1.5 hrs

45 m
Picnic area
Suitable for

The Glebe Foreshore Walk links more than 27 hectares of open public space, the legacy of a four-decades-long campaign for public access that was fought and won by local residents and the Glebe Society, which was established in 1969 to support the cause. Here the urban waterfront tangles with its industrial heritage, rusty cranes and defunct power plants mingling with prime harbour views and magnificent trees.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The suburb of Glebe is located on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation. In 1789, the colonial government granted the land to the Anglican church. Up until the 1970s the area was an industrial zone, dominated by timber yards, and modest workers’ cottages can be seen nestled between the suburb’s grand old Victorian terraces and Federation houses. The foreshore has long been used for recreation, with century-old sporting facilities for cricket, football and rowing still in use today.

The walk starts as you enter Jubilee Park, with an opportunity for off-leash activities at Federal Park, located just to the south across Johnstons Creek. Next to Federal Park lies Bicentennial Park – still featuring its original plantings of Canary Island date palms and Moreton Bay fig trees, which tower over a historic cricket pavilion and oval. There is a playground for the kids, too.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Continuing north, you end up in the eastern part of Bicentennial Park before ambling east along the Rozelle Bay foreshore. Further east along the shore is Pope Paul VI Reserve, with a divine view of Sydney’s trinity of bridges: Anzac, Glebe Island and Harbour. This reserve commemorates the first-ever papal visit to Australia in 1970. These days dogs bound about off-leash, sniffing each other with no signs of Catholic guilt whatsoever.

The next leg is Blackwattle Bay Park, which completed its transition from industrial to recreational use in 1983. Boasting picnic and barbecue facilities, it is the perfect place to spend some time. Dogs are also allowed to roam freely here. A notable relic from the past is the heritage-listed Bellevue Cottage – built in1896 and designed by the renowned architect Ambrose Thornley Jnr, who also designed the grandiose, Italianate Glebe Town Hall. Thankfully, it is now a cafe filled with sinful culinary temptations.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

As you approach Wentworth Park, Sydney Fish Market comes into view (or smell). Stick around fora seafood feast – or take the road less travelled to Glebe Point Road for a taste of some bohemian culture

3. Cooper Park

Image by Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Distance from CBD
4 km
Car parking
26 Bellevue Rd, Bellevue Hill
Leash On/Off
2.5 km loop
1 hr

43 m
Picnic area
Suitable for

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Lying within the verdant valleys and flourishing fractures of Cooper Park you will find a mix of natural wonders and layers of Indigenous and European history. As you descend vegetation-laden staircases into the steep gully that was formed by volcanic activity dating back to the Jurassic era, it’s hard to imagine that moments ago you were in the urban jungle.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

At the time of European colonisation, and for millennia before, at least two clans of the Eora nation – the Gadigal and the Birrabirragal – lived off this land, and their engravings and sacred sites are scattered around the park (the exact locations are held in confidence by the Aboriginal community). In the early 1800s, industrial baron and former convict Daniel Cooper began acquiring land in the area. In 1913, his relative, Sir William Cooper, agreed to a long standing government request to give a part of this land to the public, and it was declared a public park in 1917.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The park’s stone steps, bridges and amphitheatre were constructed in the 1930s as part of a Depression-relief work scheme. Unique stone-like grottoes pepper the park, while a kiosk, playground and tennis courts provide food and entertainment for visitors.

Walking through this 18-hectare urban greenspace, you will be bombarded with exquisite sensory experiences. The creek runs through the centre of the park, following the vein-like volcanic dyke that cuts through the ancient rock. More than 220 native plant species compete with 160 exotic ‘weed’ species. Grey gums, smooth-barked apple gums and red bloodwoods are plentiful on the ridges. In the gullies, Australian rosewoods, native figs and lilly pillies grow abundantly. Currawongs, wonga pigeons, tawny frogmouths, possums and the very local Cooper Park skink also thrive in this urban oasis. Protect them by keeping your dog on-leash in the park’s natural areas – your hound can go wild in the sportsground adjacen to Suttie Road between 4.30 pm and 8.30 am.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

A relic of Aboriginal habitation can be found just north of Bellevue Road, in the form of an engraving of a fish in a rocky overhang. Images of a ship and male figures are engraved on a large flat rock in the north-eastern section of the park, and two charcoal figures are located on the wall of a small rock shelter between the tennis courts and residential area within the park.

The park features short trails that link to one another, so embrace being lost in this magical, timeless landscape before resurfacing.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Dog Trip Sydney by Andrew Grune & Evi O is available now.

AU $34.99

Posted on November 23, 2022
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Defend Your Immune System with These Plant Medicine Recipes by Erin Lovell Verinder

Image: Erin Lovell Verinder. Photography by Georgia Blackie.

You may have heard whispers of the healing abilities of plants. Perhaps your grandma used to prepare sage-leaf gargles for a sore throat, fresh aloe vera was applied to a knee scrape, or when a tummy ache set in, ginger tea was made and served. These traditions, likely passed down through many generations, always seem to hold a magical quality, a soothing, familiar essence. This is the spirit of traditional plant medicine.



2 teaspoons elderberries
2 teaspoons echinacea root/flowers/leaf
1 teaspoon rosehips1/2teaspoon ginger pieces
1/2teaspoon cinnamon chipsmanuka honey (optional)


Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10–20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sieve, and enjoy

The Guardian

An antiviral powerhouse, blended to create a strong defence in the face of viral presentations, whether that be a cold sore or a viral cold. Licorice, lemon balm, echinacea and St John’s wort combine to soothe tension and calm the heightened stress response that often underlies a weakened immune system.


1 teaspoon dried St John’s wort flowers/leaf
1 teaspoon dried echinacea leaf/root
1/2 teaspoon dried licorice root
2 teaspoons dried lemon balm leaf


Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10–20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sieve, and enjoy.

Image: The Plant Portal by Erin Lovell Verinder. Photography by Georgia Blackie.

The Plant Portal by Erin Lovell Verinder is available now.

AU $24.99

Posted on November 22, 2022
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Take a Look Inside ‘Tamara Dean: A Monograph’

In Our Nature is a site-responsive body of work that Tamara Dean staged in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty botanic gardens for the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. It was the first time she overtly used her photography to vocalise her despair over the impact of climate change.

This series was her way of drawing attention to the fact that humans are a part of an interconnected ecosystem, and that, if we continue to destroy it, we will ultimately meet the same fate.

Read on to view some of the images from In Our Nature, as featured in Tamara Dean: A Monograph.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in Spring, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Elephant Ear (Alocasia odora) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Passage, Willow Forest (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Colony, Willow (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Dusty Miller (Senecio viravira), Western Wild Garden in Winter, 2018, Tamara Dean.
Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) in Summer, 2018, Tamara Dean.
Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Fallen Willow (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Hollywood (Auranticarpa rhombifolia) in Winter, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) in Summer, 2018, Tamara Dean.

Tamara Dean: A Monograph is available now.

AU $100

Posted on November 8, 2022
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Beauty Manifesto: an Extract from ‘Super Bloom’

The following is an extract from the introduction of Super Bloom by Jac Semmler.

Photography by Sarah Pannell.

My Heart Lives in My Garden

My heart lives in my garden. In the garden I know who I am – my family, my history, my loves and losses, and my dreams for the future. The practice of gardening and tending plants has nurtured my relationship with the landscape and helped me form a sense of place and identity. There is a wholeness I feel being with plants in the everyday. It is a source of sustenance, strength, freedom, care and calm, and boundless creative expression. Learning about plants and how to nurture them together as a meaningful community within the garden is ever fascinating

It has always been plants for me. I grew up on a farm in a rural region of south-eastern Australia. I have rich memories of being a country kid immersed in the beauty of bushland and family gardens. These tough gardens, created by my grandmothers and aunts, were wonderlands of rural beauty.

In time I pursued a career that was filled with the outdoors, panoramic landscapes and big skies, but the practice of tending plants was missing. I made a career change to train and work with plants. My passions pulled me towards it and I found a new way of working that feeds a deep hunger for beauty and belonging.

Plants have become an all-encompassing part of my intellect, life and work. Gardening is my art practice as well as my life teacher. Through plants I have found a rich community to be part of. When I garden, I can feel in my hands the generations of plantswomen that came before me.

There is an everyday, heroic quality to flowers and foliage and the immersive experience of growing something with care. The relationships we forge with plants connect us to something deeper. The act of tending flowers and absorbing their beauty provides immense satisfaction and a wonder in the ‘super bloom’.

A super bloom is a natural phenomenon in which plants flower in such profusion that they transform the landscape, bathing it in colour. When a super bloom arises, it is a miraculous sight. Plants bloom with a maximum abundance of flowers and colour, applied in giant brushstrokes across hills and plains.

Every individual flower has a ‘super’ quality. Flowers are heroic in their fine details as well as big blooming events – flowers hold layer upon layer of beauty within them. There is the wonder of the bloom but also beauty in the bud, the foliage, the fading flower and in the structural seed head, down to the unique detail of the seed.

There is wonder in the lifecycle that plants transition through, the seedlings grow to maturity, the flowers bloom and fade. Like us, plants are growing despite the prevailing conditions.

Flowers are evocative, drawing up fond memories or creating experiences as you see and share these plants. Flowers call for our attention and presence to enjoy beauty in a hectic world.

The practice of caring and tending plants also calls to something heroic within each of us. As we find ourselves within the garden, be it a single planter or a large garden bed, we experience nature and the microcosm surrounding plants. We are part of something bigger. The metaphors and human lessons that gardens and plants have for us are rich.

Time with plants can feed us. It is an honour to witness the seasons and to be part of the process of nature in a garden. When I feel overwhelmed or angered by the modern world and a society seemingly full of injustice, coming home to the garden makes me whole. It is a source of energy to meet the elements. This deep joy is available to us all.

Image: All flowers have a ‘super’ quality. Photography by Sarah Pannell.


This book is a guide to beauty in the garden. In this modern world, we hunger for beauty. We are beauty seekers on an endless quest to find and surround ourselves with it. We have an innate appetite for the wonder in nature, for holding flowers in our hands and tending plants. Natural beauty nourishes something deep within us. It is in our hands to tend and cultivate.

Image: beauty is in our hands to cultivate. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Let’s think about plants and gardening from the perspective of beauty rather than pure practicality alone. This book offers tools and techniques for cultivating a heart-felt space of your own. You do not need permission or expertise to begin – we all start somewhere. Gardening is about being part of the process and, most importantly, the pleasure you feel. This book is a call to garden in any way you can – through curious and inquisitive gardening, growth happens.

Every plant has its own beauty. Pause and let your eyes drink up the colour, texture and structure of any plant. Reach out and touch the texture of a leaf. Feel the softness of a petal against your palm. See the kinetic movement of foliage in the breeze. Listen to the sound it makes. In these moments, the world slows down around you and you feel whole. Natural beauty provides a deep source of sustenance.

To cultivate resilient beauty you just need to be open to change and the parameters of the natural world: consider what you love and think about how you can bring that to your space. It will not always be ‘perfect’, you will not always get it ‘right’, you will kill plants – I do –but it will all be alright.

There is no right way to garden. It is a personal pursuit of pleasure. All gardens are worthy and wondrous. As we garden through small heartbreaks and great wonder, watching plants thrive and decline through the seasons, we are in partnership with ourselves and nature.

Gardens are personal places. They are cultivated from something within you. Nurture your own personal heartland, a space in which to create your own expression of beauty. Your heartland allows you to bravely become the maker of the beauty, announcing what you love and what you want to see more of.

There is so much more. Do you want a garden that blooms throughout the year in your favourite colour? Do it. Do you want to grow a collection of Pelargoniums to enjoy their diversity of flower and foliage? Do it. Do you want to grow flowers whose scent reminds you of past pleasures? Do it. Growing gardens which connect you to different places and past homes? Do it. Any starting point is a creative gateway. Find your way in. Seek out the plants that will meet your desires.

The women in my family – my beautiful grandmothers and their mothers before them – grew gardens of resilient flowers in harsh climates. They grew what they loved and what flourished. Their gardens were their heartlands. It wasn’t an exercise in fashion – it was unique and heartfelt.

Image: the boundless pleasure of cutting handfuls of Delphiniums. Photography by
Sarah Pannell.

Maximum Plants

I am a maximalist: maximum plants and maximum beauty. I do love them so and I am always discovering more. Plants are so darn fascinating and meet the needs of my hands, heart and intellect. Happiness for me is when every corner of the garden is packed with plants and I am surrounded by foliage and flowers.

My gardening practice is plant-driven, and I gain so much joy by sharing plants with friends, family and community. With a bit of consideration and experimentation you can find brilliant plants for all parts of the garden in all climates. It is a process of bringing plants together to provide all-season delight.

I like to jam plants together in every corner of my garden. The more I add, the more opportunity there is to observe how they grow and relate to one another in an endless learning process of consideration, practice, trial and error. It is a home laboratory, a plant lab filled to the brim with flowers and foliage.

Nature has taken the reins in parts of the garden as plants happily self-seed. Sometimes it feels like I am more of a curator than a gardener, pulling and transplanting seedlings and choosing what will be allowed to rampage and what will be moved elsewhere.

What Will it Mean for You?
It could be filling pots with velvety Flannel Flowers (Actinotushelianthin) and delighting in their soft petals, before carefully collecting their seeds to share with friends.

Or you might replace your unusedlawn with a glorious explosion of Sunflowers, taking armfuls of thesehappy blooms to your loved onesand always having an abundantdisplay on the table.

It might mean growing the grasses and wildflowers of the bushland from your childhood in an abundance, or establishing a community of roses that echoes your grandma’s garden, or allowing Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) to run rampant through the garden, trailing up walls and into every corner to form a verdant and lush jungle.

Wild gardens sparkle with a chaotic and loose energy that allows me to feel I am at play and that there is unlimited room for wonder and the unexpected. I find the space to be free. The generosity of gardens and gardeners knows no bounds.

Some creative ideas in the garden may not always bloom. It is no secret that, like all gardeners, I have killed many plants on my gardening journey. However, with so many plants in play there are more moments of glory than failure. Growing maximum plants creates bold beauty, and this book is a guide to big-hearted gardening.

Image: maximum plants climbing walls and extending across surfaces.
Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Pleasure and Practicality

The act of gardening is the fruition of design, ideas and curiosity. It is both practical and a creative expression: planning and implementing until your space comes to life with the dynamic of the plants you have worked with. Gardening is growing and tending now what will bloom in the seasons to come. It is simply and intentionally tending a plant. Don’t let ideas on whether you are a ‘gardener’ hold you back. You can do it. Just start.

Image: The joy of nurturing flowers. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

I often find myself staring at flowers in my garden. I meditate on their blooms and settle into their beauty. Pleasure abounds and time passes in these simple and precious moments in the garden.

Too often gardens are defined as a list of chores. We talk of ‘maintenance’ and ‘management’ of the garden, that gardens take a lot of work, with seasonal jobs to do. We describe them as a ‘labour of love’. But the practice of cultivating beauty goes beyond duty. In finding your heart in your garden, it may no longer be work. If it is ‘too much work’ and not enjoyable or satisfying, perhaps change how you are gardening. How can you enjoy the pleasure of gardening first and foremost? There is a deep-seated joy to be found as you tend your pleasure garden. Trends will come and go but pleasure is endless.

Image: the wonder of being immersed in a garden of your own making. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Super Bloom by Jac Semmler is available now.

AU $90

Posted on October 26, 2022
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10 Glorious Photos from ‘Ocean Pools’ by Chris Chen and Marie-Louise McDermott

Fly along Australia’s rocky surf coast and you’ll occasionally see brilliant beads of blue cut into the rock platforms. These humble yet treasured saltwater sanctuaries are what we call ocean pools.

Read on to view 10 magnificent photos from Ocean Pools.

Mettams Pool

Photography by Daniel De Giosa.

Avoca Beach Rock Pool

Photography by Chris Chen

Black Head Ocean Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Forster Ocean Baths

Macmasters Beach Rock Pool

Newcastle Ocean Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Palm Beach Rock Pool

Canoe Pool

Photography by Chris Chen

The Bogey Hole

Photography by Chris Chen

Bronte Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Ocean Pools by Chris Chen and Marie-Louise McDermott is available now.

AU $59.99

Posted on October 26, 2022
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The Story of Bolin Bolin: Read an Edited Extract from ‘Plants: Past Present and Future’

Photography by Joshua Ranftl.

Landscapes are, in large part, defined by their plants. At the global scale, plants define Earth’s biomes (environments characterised by particular climates, plants and wildlife, such as grasslands, forests, deserts, etc.). At the continental scale, they define ecoregions and ecosystems. Plants are at the core of life as we know it. They fix the almost inexhaustible energy that thunders down to Earth’s surface from the Sun into a form that makes it accessible to all life on Earth. They are truly remarkable. Without plants, we would have no food or oxygen. In many ways, the success of our species depends on a successful relationship with plants. It is through plants that we humans manipulate and shape the world around us. It is through plants that our people care for Country. It is through plants that we made this continent. And it is through plants that we will rescue Country from its mishandling since the British invasion.


To begin to get a picture of the past, we need look no further than the city where I have lived most of my life: Narrm (now known as Melbourne). The Narrm of today is a radically different landscape from what it was under the custodianship and management of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung/Bunurong. Where today there is a concrete jungle surrounded by what feels like an interminable urban sprawl, there was once a landscape of vast wetlands and grassy plains focused around where Birrarung (now the Yarra River) met the sea. This whole region was a high-production environment where fresh water, salt water and land met. A system in which the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung/Bunurong managed more than 150 species of grass, twenty-four species of rush and sedge wetland plants, more than 180 species of birds (including culturally important species such as magpie geese, brolgas, swans, ducks, emus and bustards), more than twenty species of fish and eels, and two species of freshwater crayfish. It is no surprise, then, that within five years of first ‘discovering’ Narrm, more than 20,000 British and other settlers had flooded to the area, along with more than 700,000 sheep.1 Like much of this continent, the British capitalised on what was a deliberately curated and managed landscape, while giving absolutely no credit to the people who created it.

figure 3.1: Map of Bolin Bolin Billabong and surrounds, drawn in 1837 by the surveyor Robert Hoddle.

Further up Birrarung lies a series of billabongs (also known as oxbow lakes) of significant importance to Wurundjeri people to this very day. Billabongs form when sinuous rivers on broad, flat floodplains suddenly change course and leave behind an often horseshoe-shaped lake that was once part of the river. These wetlands continuously form and slowly fill up, eventually becoming part of the floodplain. One of these sites, Bolin Bolin Billabong (Figure 3.1), was the meeting place for hundreds of Wurundjeri for months at a time, where they would feast on eels, fish and other products of their careful curation of their Country. So important is Bolin Bolin Billabong that it was the site chosen by the Wurundjeri as their preferred place to settle while attempting to negotiate an agreement with the British authorities after invasion. This request was rejected, as the British desired the productive land for themselves.

Today, Bolin Bolin feels like a forgotten ruin in the inner suburb of Bulleen, a suburb which derives its name from the billabong itself. A busy thoroughfare of trucks and traffic bustles past the site continuously. The water has a bright orange tinge and the mud a deep black colour that reflects a wetland heavily polluted and starved of care. Giant branching beal, or river red gums, dot the shore, relics of a former time, when Country was more open. Now, these giant bicentenarians are crowded underneath by shrubs and young trees jostling for space and light. This new generation will grow tall and straight, not having the luxury to spread wide in open Country, free from competition. Further towards Birrarung, the sound of the passing trucks fades and kookaburra laughs can be heard, kangaroos glimpsed among the dense weed-infested shrubbery. Happy strollers frequent the paths, walking their dogs in what they no doubt think is the bush, much as it was before the city grew too big.

While Bolin Bolin is forgotten to most, it is not forgotten to the traditional custodians. To them, it is as important as ever. It is through this place that I first collaborated with the Wurundjeri. I had previously learnt how important this and other remnant wetland sites were. I had also heard of how they were working towards rewatering the billabong to improve its health, as it is currently starved of connection to Birrarung by the heavy regulation of water in the Birrarung catchment – ‘Starved from its mother’, as Wurundjeri elder Uncle Dave Wandin eloquently and accurately puts it.2 I offered my tools to the Wurundjeri to see what secrets of the past were stored in the sediments of Bolin Bolin. After all, this place was a veritable supermarket. A jewel in the landscape. After talking with Wurundjeri on Country at great length, it struck me how important this place is and how the overgrown and polluted state of the site was like a wound for them.


My work lets me step back through time in any given place. Wetlands are a portal to the past. Think about all the stuff you breathe in: smoke, dust, pollen, chemicals, bugs, bacteria, and so on. They are all released into the atmosphere and mixed around until they eventually settle on the ground, on your skin, on top of your fridge, under the couch … you name it, if an object sits around long enough, it will start collecting atmospheric information. Ever been out to the garage, poked around and blown the dust off that old wooden chest, a collection of National Geographic magazines or a vinyl record? You, in effect, are removing information that has collected day after day, year after year, waiting to be read. Given the right tools, you can read that book. That natural archive.

Natural archives abound out in the world. They include the sea floor, stalactites and stalagmites, tree rings, bogs and, last but certainly not least, lakes. Lakes are ideal sources of environmental data, gathering information from the atmosphere, depositing it deep underwater and preserving it for thousands or even millions of years. This is a story waiting to be told. A story that gives us a glimpse into the past. A window through time.

So, on a boiling hot day in January 2019, and with a crowd of keenly interested Wurundjeri, I set to work extracting a sediment core from Bolin Bolin Billabong. This involved constructing a pontoon, which was then floated to the centre of the billabong. From this platform, I could carefully drill down into the bed of the billabong, taking a sample of the layers of sediment from beneath the water. I am always somewhat nervous when coring. Not only because everything I do in the laboratory after this point is dependent on getting it right at this stage, but because I know I am unearthing someone else’s story. I know, when working on this continent, that Country was cared for and that I will be, in some way, glimpsing into that care and into the lives of the people who cared for that Country. This time, it felt like I had the weight of the past and the present Wurundjeri with me.

Around six hours – and some six meters of sediment and river gravel – later and the job was done. I had in my care the entire history of Bolin Bolin Billabong, from when the river changed course to make the billabong through to that hot January day. After two years of pandemic interruptions and tedious, time consuming lab work, Bolin Bolin’s secrets were revealed. And never could I have imagined the story it would tell. The power it would provide the Wurundjeri and all Aboriginal people. The power to be believed. The data produced by the very Western scientific system that has disempowered our people for centuries. Data to back up the knowledge of our people. That this is, and always will be, Aboriginal land. True to form, Bolin Bolin is indeed a special place.


Bolin Bolin Billabong is quite young, having formed in the mid to late 1700s. This could come as somewhat of a surprise until you realise that rivers are always evolving. The present-day Bolin Bolin Billabong is one of more than fifty billabong features still visible along this section of Birrarung and lies adjacent to a larger and more ancient billabong under what is now the playing fields of an exclusive private school. Immediately after forming, the vegetation around Bolin Bolin Billabong was a fern-rich rainforest dominated by myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii). That’s right. Rainforest. Right within the lands of the Wurundjeri, there was rainforest. The closest rainforest to Bolin Bolin today is 30 kilometres away in the mountains to the east of Narrm, whose surrounding environment is considered unsuitable for this rainforest type today. In the past, there was enough rainforest growing along Birrarung that when this billabong formed, the rainforest was able to move in and capture the site almost immediately. Another interesting feature of this period is the absence of any flooding for more than twenty years while the rainforest surrounded the site.

Rainforest in Victoria is now almost exclusively restricted to the high country, in areas protected from fire. It seems that, unlike the past 180 years under British control, the Wurundjeri were able to manage fire on Country in a way that allowed rainforest to persist near sea level in Narrm. This should not be a surprise, given the ample evidence from across the continent of Aboriginal people actively protecting fire-sensitive plants via our detailed and sophisticated manipulation of fire and its influence on the structure and connectivity of fuel. It is this fine-scale management that makes Aboriginal-managed landscapes more diverse than unmanaged landscapes. It is the detailed knowledge of plants, landscapes and fire that this continent was built with.

figure 3.2: A summary diagram of the palaeoecological data from Bolin Bolin Billabong. The data include charcoal fragments as an indicator of fire, pollen types as indicators of plant types and material deposited by Birrarung flood events. These data are shown as a percentage of a base sum of terrestrial plant pollen types. Key points through time are shown on the right.

What happened next in the story of Bolin Bolin Billabong is, in my humble opinion, the most noteworthy and important offering from the sediments I gathered. Within twenty years the Wurundjeri had removed the rainforest surrounding the site with fire. It is clear that there was still rainforest nearby, but it was deliberately and systematically removed from around Bolin Bolin Billabong. Immediately following the removal of the rainforest, Bolin Bolin Billabong experienced regular flooding from Birrarung. The opening up of the vegetation at the site, the manipulation of what plants were growing there, allowed floodwaters into the site more readily (see Figure 3.2).

This act is a powerful one – and a powerful statement. Aboriginal people deliberately altered the landscape to suit them. Cool temperate rainforests, while containing some useful resources, are generally poor in commodities. Billabongs connected to rivers via regular flooding, however, are incredibly rich in resources. Eels and other fish need connection to rivers and waterways to complete their life cycles, while regular flooding brings nutrients and sediments that are critical for the health of the entire landscape. The speed at which the Wurundjeri acted to convert the new billabong to their preferred state indicates a system of management that was reflexive and reactive to the constant addition and removal of billabongs within the floodplains of Birrarung; a system in which people were continually working to maintain productive and predictable Country.

We have little understanding of how the arrival of our people influenced the landscape of this continent. This is in part because it was so long ago that there is very little oral or physical evidence to draw on. We don’t even know when our ancestors arrived here, only that we have been here long enough for more than 3000 generations of people to have lived and worked on Country. Long enough for ‘forever’. We do, however, know that we have worked with fire through much of our traceable history, and that humans have used fire for more than 1.5 million years. A large part of this time has been devoted to using fire deliberately to modify landscapes by inserting more grass. Today, many Indigenous and local people continue to use fire for this exact purpose.


Grass is at the heart of the story of the country now called Australia. If one thing can be said to bind all human endeavours prior to the industrial revolution (and likely since), it is that humans depend on grass. Increasing the grassiness of landscapes is at the core of most of our landscape management. Grasses produce the grains on which the world is almost entirely reliant, and they form the food of almost all the animals we consume. And as evidenced at Bolin Bolin Billabong, a shift to a more grassy landscape can also activate and help bring renewed life to local waterways. This deliberate manipulation of Country using grass has occurred throughout human history, and for tens of thousands of years on this continent.

Thus the first impressions white people had of this land were entirely based on plants, and on grass particularly. The south-east parts of our country were so reminiscent of the manicured English countryside that almost every written account was full of superlatives describing the scene as a ‘gentleman’s park’ containing some of the ‘finest meadows in the world’.3 Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country, surrounding what is now known as Port Phillip Bay, where I have lived most of my life, was described as ‘enchantingly beautiful’ with ‘extensive rich plains … having the appearance of an immense park’.4 Yet, unlike the ‘gentleman’s parks’ in England, which were intensely curated estates, our Country was deemed to be ‘natural’. In that same passage, the author concludes that Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country was ‘a lovely picture of what is evidently intended by Nature to be one of the richest pastoral communities in the world’5 (emphasis added). Of course, this was no happy accident of nature. The Indigenous peoples of this continent were working the land, but in a very different way to what the British could understand.

In the (apparent) absence of evidence, humans fill in the gaps using their understanding. This understanding is wrought from our ontology or ‘worldview’. The British saw our lands, but they did not see us. Having long since lost their connection to fire on the journey towards their idiosyncratic type of agrarian system, developed on incredibly fertile soils in a remarkably stable climate, they did not have the skills required to read our Country managed in this way. They could not see past the missing fences and farmhouses, or the absence of familiar farming equipment. Worse, however, is the fact that these biases were compounded with other even more harmful and pernicious misconceptions: primarily, deep-seated and deeply flawed beliefs in European racial superiority.


1. In conversation with Uncle Dave Waldin.

2. Jack Banister, ‘Beneath Modern Melbourne, A Window Opens into Its Ancient History’, The Guardian, 26 December 2019, <>.

3. James Boyce, 1835: The Founding of Melbourne & the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2011.

4. Boyce.

5. Boyce.

This is an extract from the latest title in the First Knowledges series, Plants: Past, Present and Future. The chapter this excerpt is taken from was written by Michal-Shawn Fletcher.

Plants: Past, Present and Future by Zena Cumpston, Michael-Shawn Fletcher & Lesley Head is available now.

AU $24.

Posted on October 12, 2022
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Discover Koonya Glass House

Image: the standalone pavillion was designed by Thomas Bailey from Room 11 as a space to inspire contemplation, rejuvenation and the seeding of new creative endeavors. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Koonya on tukana/Tasman Peninsula

Koonya Glass House is a stand-alone space – in the sense both that there are few places like it, and that it is a space designed for no other purpose than the pursuit of creative endeavour. The building is an enormous glass and steel box, entirely transparent and exposed to the scenery of Koonya. Here, Jonathan Kneebone, founder and creative director of international and independent collective The Glue Society, escapes his office life in Sydney and Wellington to replenish, and develop creative art and directing projects.

Jonathan’s introduction to Tasmania was less than positive. He remembers arriving in Australia from his home in England – an industrial town, fifty kilometres north of London – and the state being presented to him as the butt of a joke, rather than a destination worthy of attention. However, as someone always attracted by the underdog, he was intrigued by this.

Image: the modern glass cuboid breaks down the distinction between indoors and out. Photography by Jonathan Kneebone.

On that first trip, Jonathan spent Christmas in Tasmania. He visited all the usual tourist destinations, including Port Arthur, and decided to drive back to Hobart the long way, around the Tasman Peninsula. It was a dreary, rainy afternoon, but he felt an immediate affinity with the landscape. ‘I wouldn’t say I had the sense that I had been here before in a previous life – it wasn’t that strong a feeling –but I did feel a fairly intense connection.’ Many years later, when Jonathan was scrolling real estate websites and looking for somewhere to potentially spend weekends and holidays away from his Sydney office, he came across an advertisement for land at Koonya. When he visited the site, he realised it was the place he had fallen in love with on that first trip – on the road to Port Arthur, just beyond Eaglehawk Neck. He took it as a sign and made an offer immediately. When the adjacent site came up for sale, he felt it might be wise to be his own neighbour and bought both lots, amounting to 100 acres.

Koonya itself is a tiny spot on the map – a place you might pass through on the road to somewhere else, rather than a destination. And yet the locals have given it its own culture, with an annual garlic festival at the local village hall that is growing in popularity with visitors from interstate. When Jonathan first arrived at the site, he felt it was a place of which he would never tire. The landscape humbled him, which was part of its appeal: ‘I think it had a magic which is hard to express, but something that I felt I would love to share with friends and colleagues – with first-time visitors – to open their eyes to something that might bring out a quiet awe. I can honestly say, that feeling never diminishes.’

Image: expansive glazing provides the living space with uninterrupted views over timtumili minanya/Derwent River. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Jonathan wanted a Tasmanian architect to build a pavilion devoted to creative rejuvenation, in addition to a separate dwelling. He discovered Room 11 at the local state architecture awards. The firm had a presence at the awards, but Jonathan felt they weren’t getting the recognition their work deserved, and he approached director Thomas Bailey. In another coincidence, it emerged Bailey had had his eye on the very same plot at Koonya. It was a happy collision of creative minds and the team worked together to create three separate buildings: a house, a pavilion and a folly. The results are spectacular in every way.

All three buildings are remarkable all-encompassing sensory experiences, but the stand-alone pavilion is the centrepiece. Arresting in its minimalism, it comprises four glass walls and two parallel planes of equal area overhead and underfoot. This modern glass cuboid sits in stark juxtaposition to the undulating environment of the Tasman Peninsula. For Jonathan, the structure provides a reminder of everything that should be important: connection to nature; connection to self; and the chance to refocus, recharge and rearrange perspectives. ‘As an entity, it celebrates everything that is essential and nothing that is not.

Image: the comforts and amenities of day-to-day home life are eschewed in favour of open spaces that facilitate connection with nature. The pavilion has the ‘elemental’ feeling of a shack. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Local merges with international in Koonya Glass House, recalling Jonathan’s own movement between global cities and regional locations. On one hand, the building references the grand visions of American modernism, recalling architectural masterpieces such as Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House, and the minimalist art of Donald Judd. At the same time, Thomas Bailey was influenced by the humble Tasmanian holiday shack and his personal connection to the area, where he spent time in his youth.

Tasmania’s traditional shacks were typically lightweight, with little distinction between inside and outside. Bailey’s decision to create a single glazed box, set beneath a larger roof form, was one way to recreate the open ‘elemental’ feeling of the shack and the indoor–outdoor space of the verandah. Extensive glazing with minimal detailing was used to break down the barrier between inside and out, preserving the perception of unbounded openness. The glazed walls are also openings, capable of sliding back to create a single vast verandah. This openness to the environment, and the sense of envelopment in the surrounding landscape, was purposeful: the design brief was to provide a place for channelling artistic inspiration and creative impulse. Bailey consciously avoided replicating the comforts and amenities of day-to-day home life, connecting instead with the vitality of the natural world. The building is not intended to entirely protect from exposure to the elements. It is this openness – owed to both regional and international inspiration – that Jonathan channels to open up new perceptions and possibilities.

Image: The Glass House pavilion functions as a creative workspace, separate from the main house, but with its own sleeping quarters partitioned off from the living area. Photography by Adam Gibson.

For a creative like Jonathan, the spaces provide an extraordinary sense of calm in which to dream, invent, think and simply be. The Glue Society works with a team of collaborators across the UK, Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand to produce diverse creative projects, from online entertainment and commercials, to creating art exhibitions and installations, site-specific sculpture, experiential projects, writing, film directing, and publishing Creativity magazine. Jonathan divides his time between Koonya, Wellington and Sydney, where he has another, much smaller, residence. Living between places gives him a sense of balance, with each providing a different function and role. He finds that even when he is in Sydney, he benefits from having the Tasmanian dwelling: ‘I can occupy it in my mind – and visit it. And I would say I miss it when I’m not there.’

Jonathan believes the Tasmanian environment has an immediate impact. ‘There are some places you travel to that feel incredibly different the instant you set foot in them. Tasmania is one of those places. It forces you to behave and act differently. You react to the weather, the space, the air, the smells, the sounds – and it immediately impacts your priorities and rearranges them.’ He believes the landscape determines the people, the culture, what matters, and what doesn’t. It provides something that everyone needs: the permission and space to be more ourselves.

Image: The glazed walls are also openings that slide back to create a single vast verandah. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Jonathan finds Tasmania encourages creative people to express themselves, whether through food, culture, art, music, photography, or ways of living, bringing creativity and expression to the fore and opening people up to ideas, experiences and attitudes. ‘And, perhaps, this is a fairly recent thing for Tasmania to have recognised about itself,’ he says.

‘I love that sense of independence – people are able to do things for, and be, entirely themselves. Not for attention or praise or wealth – but for personal satisfaction, the ability to share and be generous, and to do justice to the opportunities they create.’

This is an extract from Tasmania Living: Quiet, conscious living in Australia’s south.

Tasmania Living by Joan-Maree Hargreaves and Marita Bullock is available now.

AU $70

Posted on October 7, 2022
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Meet Jessi – an Extract from ‘Surf Life: Women Who Live to Surf and Create’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit


Over the past ten years Jessi has been exploring her family’s history. After discovering her Wiradjuri ancestry she was overcome with a grounded feeling. ‘There was a generation of my family that were able to pass as white so they were able to leave the mission and move to Sydney to find work. So basically if they could deny being Aboriginal, they could get a job. My family didn’t identify as being Aboriginal, but my nan knew so she passed it on to my aunty and my mum. My Aunty Lisa has picked it back up, and is trying to put all the pieces back together from what was lost through that period of time. It’s been a slow journey, but one thing that I’ve learned is that it is already part of who I am, it’s part of my spirit.

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

Part of Jessi’s journey as a Wiradjuri woman will be returning to Country at some stage, when the timing feels right. She has travelled across her ancestral land while heading north on many surf road trips but has yet to stop and connect. She’s slowly preparing to take a trip out to Country and spend time there. Probably even take canvases and paint. Jessi’s Aunty Lisa is an artist and when she was young Jessi would ask her to paint something for her. Aunty Lisa’s response was to push Jessi gently to take up painting herself. It took a few years but Jessi eventually started to paint. The motivation to pick up the paint brushes came when she was working in residential care with high risk youth. When Jessi started working there, she was exposed to a lot of violence and trauma. So art became an outlet for her. She tries to paint based on what she’s feeling in her life at the time and to use Wiradjuri language to speak about it. Jessi has been learning to speak Wiradjuri and the immersion in her painting style and connection to Country has led her to title her paintings in that language. She paints most days, creating commissions or works for herself. ‘I think there was a part of me that was scared to do it, because I think I knew that it would almost unravel parts of me I wasn’t ready to unravel.’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

Since birth Jessi has always been deeply connected to the Birpai Country where she grew up on a farm in Bonny Hills on the mid-North Coast, New South Wales. Her father was a keen surfer so she and her sister were either in the ocean or at home making jumps to fly their bikes into the dam. Her love of where she grew up prompted her to find out more about the Indigenous history of the area. ‘There’s a headland you can walk up that looks over one of the beaches called Sharky’s Beach. From there you can see Dooragan Mountain, which is also called Big Brother Mountain, which is part of the Dreaming of Birpai. I love walking out there. But when it was colonised, they massacred all the Birpai people from that area, off the cliff there. It’s called Grants Headland and the beach below is called Grants Beach, but we call it Sharky’s because at the bottom there’s grey nurse shark breeding grounds. When they massacred the Aboriginal people off the headland, there was a food source for the sharks. But no one knows the story. We don’t get taught that stuff growing up because no one wants to talk about it. Whenever I walk up there, I can feel the spirits in those black cockatoos that live up there; I got this tattoo because it reminds me of the area I feel connected to.’

Jessi’s warm nature and her love of connection and community feeds into her observations of surfing. She believes there needs to be a lot more compassion for people who are learning because everyone was learning at one point. ‘We’ve all had really kooky moments where we’ve done something stupid. I surf with a bunch of women of all levels and when we’re out in the line-up, it’s fun. There’s a heap of fun energy, even if it’s the shittiest waves, everyone’s having a good time.’ Jessi feels sorry for a lot of the guys who are learning to surf because she doesn’t think they have the same opportunity to just enjoy themselves. How refreshing would it be to see a group of male beginners in the line-up laughing and goofing around? Jessi’s advice to any beginner surfer is not to challenge yourself too early and to stay in your comfort zone. ‘You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Don’t feel you have to go big, or go home. I think the two most important things about surfing are having fun and being safe. Enjoy being in nature. You’re connected to something way bigger than yourself that you will never probably fully understand. But that’s the beauty of it.’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

This is an extract from Surf Life: Women who Live to Surf and Create.

Surf Life by Gill Hutchison and Willem-Dirk du Toit is available now.

AU $49.99

Posted on October 6, 2022
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Discover 8-Yard House: Read an Extract from ‘Reclaimed: New homes from old materials’

Image: Front facade in white reclaimed brick with grey-painted timber. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

LOCATION: Melbourne

ARCHITECT: Studio Bright


Image: Reclaimed white bricks from the facade form a balustrade. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Architecture office Studio Bright used reclaimed bricks, lightly bagged and painted cream, to create a sense of history at 8-Yard House, a new build in suburban Melbourne. ‘I like it that non-architects are not sure if it’s a new or an old house,’ says architect Melissa Bright. ‘Maybe that’s connected to the material choices we made.’

Situated on a street full of single-fronted Victorian houses, the house previously on this site was poorly built, with a number of badly handled additions, and could not be adapted. The challenge for the architects was to create a new house in an old street that still felt like it was part of the neighbourhood.

Image: The front living room has rich, dark interiors with an old wood-burning stove. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

The first step was to organise the volume on the large site. One priority was to catch northern sunlight, another was to not overshadow the neighbours. Rather than separating the site into only two zones – a house at the front and garden at the back– the outdoor spaces were divided into a series of courtyards and gardens that were distributed along the length of the site.

In all, there are eight outdoor spaces, or yards, of different sizes, which gives rise to the name of the house. The owners wanted a pool, but if it had been put in the backyard it would become the focal point, and more space would be taken up with pool fencing. Instead, the pool was brought forward, and it stretches along the northern side of the house.

Image: view from the garden to the sunken living room, with reclaimed brick inside and out. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

At the front of the house, a perforated brick wall screens a small outdoor courtyard created outside the main bedroom on the northern side. Another small courtyard was created further back, towards the middle of the house, on the southern border. At the back, a partially paved garden is bookended with another structure – a two-storey studio and garage – that faces the back alley.

Reclaimed brick is an important part of the design. The front facade has a skin of solid brick on the first storey above the ground floor, which is clad in grey timber. At the top of the facade, a circular form in brick protrudes above the roofline, echoing the semicircular shape of the ornate Victorian plaster facade of the house next door. On the northern side of the facade, the brick forms a perforated screen that conceals the small front courtyard off the main bedroom.

Image: One of the smaller ‘yards’ is a courtyard off the dining room. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Inside the house, reclaimed bricks are used as interior finishes alongside timber in the living room and kitchen. The kitchen island is made with brick, with curved brickwork forming recesses for knees under the stone bench. Outside, the brickwork is omnipresent. The pool and the green courtyard gardens are all set against a backdrop of cream brick. In the outdoor spaces leading from the pool to the back garden, a series of outdoor courtyards is separated by brick beams that create a material connection above head height between the exterior brick walls and the house itself.

At the front of the house is an intimate living area lined in dark timbers and brick. It looks almost like a library or an old-fashioned sitting room. ‘In some ways this is our new “old” house part,’ says Bright. The front bedroom is the same, and floor-to-ceiling curtains create a sense of cosiness and dark cocooning.

Image: The sunken living room is surrounded by greenery, with gardens on the side and to the back. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

After this section, the house really opens out. A sense of connection is achieved by the distribution of space and connection to the outdoors. The kitchen space is separated from the side garden by glass, then a couple of steps lead down into a sunken living space with views to the garden on two sides.

Upstairs, the kids’ bedrooms are set out in a row. Desks are built into the corridor to draw the kids out of their bedrooms so that, while they are doing homework or on their computers, they are sitting side by side in a more social space. A large rumpus room with a TV on this floor opens to the rooftop garden, again encouraging socialising and providing a connection to the outdoors.

Image: The house reveals itself in layers of reclaimed brick. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

8-Yard House shows that, even with a new build, a sense of history can be created through the intelligent use of materials. This house could easily have been built with new brick, but it would have had a totally different feel – one that was more monolithic and less rich. The selection of reclaimed brick has given this house a coherence that meshes perfectly with the focus on nature of the eight outdoor yards, and the cream paint contrasts wonderfully with the green planting throughout.

Image: The pool has been placed at the side so it doesn’t dominate the rear garden. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Reclaimed: New homes from old materials is available now.

AU $65

Posted on September 26, 2022
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What Makes a Botanic Garden? Read an Edited Extract From ‘Evergreen’ by Tim Entwisle

Image: Tim Entwisle and proclamation. Oil on canvas. Portrait by Hadyn Wilson.

Gardens botanic(al)

My visit to Padua was at the start of a seven-week holiday in Europe with my wife, Lynda, part of a three-month break from my job as director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. It was time to recharge and refresh, but also to do a little writing if I could find the inspiration. In the prospicient timescale of botanic gardens, I was, after four years, still a newbie in my job. My best known accomplishment so far was a ‘chainsaw massacre’ of fig trees in Sydney’s Domain. I was doing regular radio interviews and publishing occasional pieces of writing about plants and gardens, but this was at the start of my career as a botanic garden director. Early enough to not be obsessed with legacy, but late enough to be a little cocky about the importance and value of botanic gardens. By 2008, I’d been working in botanic gardens continuously for eighteen years, plus another nine months during a gap year in my university studies.

In Padua, I was being tested not by an oracle but by a novel [Robert Dessaix’s Night Gardens]. And I was up for the challenge. I had plenty of time on my hands, both on the slow train to Milan as well as over the weeks ahead. It was a chance to take stock and to return to Sydney better equipped to spruik the wonders and wherefores of a botanic garden. First, of course, I questioned the facts and the logic [of Dessaix’s arguments against botanic gardens] that’s what scientists do. We’ve all picnicked in one of our gorgeous Australian botanic gardens, so while it may not happen in Europe, where even walking on the grass is discouraged, it does happen. As for views and vistas, let me just list one: the unforgettable spectacle of the morning sun on Table Mountain, seen from Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in Cape Town.

A museum? Well, my friends in the museum world are jealous of me because a botanic garden display changes each day as flowers open and leaves turn, and because every sense is engaged when you walk through our gate. Museum-like at times, but far more than that. I will grant the author his point about botanic gardens generally not being ‘produce gardens’, although later that same year I did eat a botanic garden. It was near Seoul, in the Republic of Korea, and the director of the private Hantaek Botanical Garden treated us to a meal of leaves and flowers picked fresh from his property.

As for god’s creation, I’m not qualified to talk to that, but I can say every botanic garden I’ve visited so far has a rather different objective, mostly allied to intrinsic beauty, science or conservation. Earlier in Night Letters, Dessaix writes about how we now seek paradise in untouched wilderness rather than in ‘the miniature mirroring of God’s perfection’. In Australia, he notes, ‘the Garden of Eden is sought in the rainforests of Far North Queensland and the deserts of Central Australia, not in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne, however idyllic they may be’.

Having moved from Melbourne to Sydney six years earlier, I was disappointed with this adverse comparison to my old workplace. In any case, again I would admit Dessaix has a point, of sorts. It’s true that nature devoid of overt western influence (to try to be precise with my words) is considered more Edenic or ‘natural’ these days than a western construct such as a botanic garden. In this sense, a botanic garden is more like an art gallery, or museum, or library. Yet it is, or at least can be, much more than all of them.

The problem, as I saw it on my way to Milan, was our inability in the botanic garden world to express why we existed, particularly in the 21st century, other than as a historical curiosity. That was my takeaway from reading that chapter of Night Letters. None of us running botanic gardens thought we were re-creating Gardens of Eden. Beautiful places for sure, but not some kind of utopian garden free of weeds and sin. The plants in a botanic garden do more than provide a bountiful or beatific backdrop. I wanted to unravel this further and find ways to express it through my own botanic garden in Sydney. To capture the essence of a botanic garden if I could, then preach that message from my pulpits – on radio, in magazines and through the design and planning of botanic gardens. And the influence of these public institutions should extend well beyond their fences, into the planning of urban green spaces and through to the care and protection of nature across the precious planet. There was work to do!

But first a confession. I too had low expectations of the botanic garden in Padua. Not due to concerns about paradises lost, or the intrinsic value of a landscape constructed by humans, but because I had only a week before in Florence seen a botanic garden in decline, achieving little more than being there. It was not enough, to me, for a botanic garden to be old and worthy. Not enough to have a few old trees and some Latin names affixed to plaques. Not enough to simply open the gates.

Even keeping those gates open was a struggle for some of the botanic gardens I visited, or tried to visit, in Italy that year. In the country where the modern botanic garden began over 450 years ago, most gardens seemed surprised to have a visitor in the 21st century. In Milan I went to the Orto Botanico twice but although advertised to be open it was shut both times. In Pisa, the garden was only open in the mornings, and I arrived after lunch. The botanic garden in Florence was open but difficult to find, hidden behind a forbidding high wall with an unlikely doorway. Rome was a little different, and more welcoming, but hardly drawing crowds away from the nearby ancient ruins and oddly positioned street fountains.

I couldn’t yet articulate my agenda for botanic gardens, but I knew what I didn’t like: ugly, dull and poorly curated gardens relying on their longevity for credibility. Visiting Padua restored my faith in the history and heritage of botanic gardens as something that could be nurtured and combined with other ingredients to create a good botanic garden. But what would make a great botanic garden, and the ‘World’s Best Botanic Garden’? That was the slightly tongue-in- cheek but deliberately provocative title of a talk I prepared on my return to Sydney. I wanted to explore what makes one botanic garden better than another. Indeed, what makes a garden a botanic garden? And most importantly why does it matter? Today.

Clearly the whole concept, or project, has been a successful one. While the modern botanic garden began in Europe, it soon spread with Europeans into the invaded and colonised world. The earliest outside Europe was most likely a 16th-century medicinal garden in the Portuguese colony of Goa, in what is now India. The Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, famous for its avenue of towering royal palms, was established in 1808 and is the oldest in the Americas.

Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere there was Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden in Mauritius, established in 1736, or more formally as a botanic garden thirty-one years later. The East India Company’s Garden in Cape Town began as a vegetable patch in 1652, but by 1680 had risen to become that city’s botanic garden – a role superseded for the last century by the spectacular Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, at the foot of Table Mountain. Australia’s first botanic garden was established in Sydney in 1816. A year later, Bogor became the site of Indonesia’s first botanic garden.

Botanic(al) gardens were slower to take root in North America. The first (in Washington and St Louis) were opened in the 1850s, unless you accept the claim of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia to have been a botanic garden since 1728. And while there is a long tradition of ornamental gardening in China, the first gardens that could be described as botanic were not seen until 1860 in Hong Kong, and then 1929 in Nanjing.

Evidently, it can be difficult to determine what makes a botanic garden and when a garden becomes botanic. Most will be a little less ‘botanic’ in their early years even if established as such right from the start. The simplest definition of a botanic garden is perhaps that offered up by the International Association of Botanic Gardens in 1963 as a garden ‘open to the public and in which the plants are labelled’. That just won’t do today, compounded by the first element being only partly true in places like Italy. There have been attempts to expand that definition to include all the functions of a modern botanic garden, but these end up as a long list of attributes such as scientific research, plant collections, sharing of information with other gardens, exchange of seeds, education programs and, yes, public accessibility and plant labels.

My own preferred and self-crafted definition, at least before I headed to Italy in 2008, was ‘an inspiring landscape of documented plant collections, where every plant and setting has a purpose’. Typically, that purpose is for science, conservation or learning, but it may be equally for health or, let’s say, philosophy and culture. Anything really. This places the distinction between a botanic garden and a garden on its plants and the way they are arranged to fulfil a clear intention, and usually more than sheer beauty (although that helps).

I realise this definition is a little hazy around the edges. Surely, you argue, a local park has an oak tree to give shade and a rose to provide pretty flowers for a few months (and, less purposefully, an ugly, thorny stump for the rest of year). It’s a matter of degree. In a botanic garden the plant species, its source, its biology and ecology, and the story we tell about it are of utmost importance. In a good botanic garden, we tell many stories, and I want to share the best of these with you in this book.

Oh, and I’m your perfect guide by the way. Not just because I’ve headed up two of Australia’s major botanic gardens and held a senior role in the famous Kew Gardens of London, but because I’m an algal expert and wannabe journalist who started university to major in maths and physics. After more than three decades working in and exploring botanic gardens, I still feel like an outsider looking in. That means that I, like you, still have a sense of innocent wonder and anticipation.

Let me explain.

This is an edited extract from ‘Evergreen’ by Tim Entwisle.

Evergreen by Tim Entwisle is available now.

AU $39.99

Posted on August 15, 2022
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Discover Planchonella: Read an Extract from ‘The New Queensland House’

Planchonella House is a climate-responsive villa immersed in a luscious rainforest.

Planchonella House

Edge Hill, Cairns
Jesse Bennett Studio

Completed – 2014
Project type – New build
Total site area – 4818 m2
Internal area – 245 m2
External area – 35 m2
Number of residents – 2
Number of bedrooms – 3
Number of bathrooms – 2

Planchonella House is built on the land of the Yirrganydji people

Location plan

Two curving concrete slabs create the form of the house, with full-height glazing in between.

The architectural setting

The Australian Institute of Architects launched the National Architecture Awards in 1981 and the program’s highest award for residential architecture is named in memory of the mid-century Melbourne architect and critic Robin Boyd.

In the first two decades of the awards program eight Queensland architects received this prestigious gong. More than half of these houses are located on the sunshine Coast and this exemplary cluster are predominately homes designed by the architects for themselves, including the ground-breaking Tent House by Gabriel Poole (see page 294) and the Pie residence by Geoffrey Pie (see page 294). The urbane D House by Donovan Hill (see page 292) was the first Robin Boyd winner from Queensland in the new century and in 2015 Jesse Bennett Studio’s Planchonella House in the tropical north of the state was recognised.

Bennett is the youngest architect, to date, to be awarded this honour. This enigmatic, climate-responsive villa is deeply immersed in the lush landscape hinterland of Edge Hill, a suburb of Cairns and the location of the city’s botanic Gardens. This is a distinguished work of residential architecture and an enthralling statement about the future direction of its author’s collaborative practice.

A low timber bench against the servery offers the perfect place to perch and relax.
A high level of craft is evident, with most joinery elements handmade by the architect/owner.
Rather than the usual flyscreens, curtains can be drawn across windows to protect against insects.
The bathtub is at the edge of the structure, creating the feeling of bathing high up in the trees.

The lived experience

Architect Jesse Bennett moved from Brisbane to Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north with his wife Anne-Marie Campagnolo in 2010. While the couple were in the region visiting Anne-Marie’s family, the allure of the majestic tropical rainforest intrigued Jesse. Having grown up on a farm three hours’ drive from Cairns, Anne-Marie was more familiar with the extremity of the climate and landscape in this part of the world – but was similarly inspired by the prospect of building a home that genuinely embraces its unique tropical setting.

During Jesse and Anne-Marie’s family visits to Tropical North Queensland, Jesse was struck by the way many of the farmers would gather in the timber sheds for a beer or a cup of tea. shaded and breezy, these structures are akin to cool undercroft spaces. Jesse designed the couple’s new home, Planchonella House, taking cues from these simple sheds. Double the area of the floor plate it hovers above, the roof amply protects the internal and external spaces from the harshness of the sun. Breezes pass down the mountain through the wet foliage and are cooled, even in the thick humidity of the summer months, before passing through the home, from back to front.

The harshness of the wet tropical weather dictates the climatic response, but it’s the embrace of the forest’s immensity that creates the home’s calming ambience. ‘You open the kitchen window and the energy of the forest is in your house,’ says Anne-Marie. Floor-to-ceiling glazed walls give way to unobstructed views to the surrounding landscape from every room, allowing the proven benefits of biophilia to permeate the home. It’s a miniature world of delight and escapism.

Every room features floor-to-ceiling glazing, allowing for unobstructed views to the rainforest.

Architect — Jesse Bennett Studio
Project team — Jesse Bennett and Anne-Marie Campagnolo
Engineer — Kel Bruce Engineers
Interiors — Anne-Marie Campagnolo
Photographer — Sean Fennessy

Longitudinal Section
Ground Floor
Floor Plan

The New Queensland House by Cameron Bruhn and Katelin Butler is available now.

AU $70

Posted on August 4, 2022
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Extract: Towards Zero Hunger; Seed Production and the Future of Food Security

One day in 1803, although no one knows exactly which day, the human population reached one billion. It had taken our species a few hundred thousand years to arrive at that number. From there, it took just 115 years or so to double it. By 1960 we had reached three billion. Then, in just over fifty years, we hit four billion, then five billion, six billion, seven billion. That last milestone was reached on31 October 2011.

The number of people on the planet is now fast approaching eight billion, and a recent study in the British medical journal Lancet projects we’ll peak at just shy of ten billion in the year 2064. Of course, some economists wonder if the global dip in births caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might mean that the worldwide population will max out at a slightly lower figure, bringing a population inflection forward by several years. In any case, a lot more people are coming to the global dinner table, so we’re going to need a lot more food.

According to a 2018 report by the World Resources Institute, there’s a substantial shortfall between the amount of food currently produced and the amount of food we’ll need to feed all the newcomers: 7400 trillion calories to be exact. Put another way, we’re going to need to produce around 50–60 per cent more food. And the thing is, we’re not even feeding everyone adequately now. Make no mistake, we’re doing far better than we were a few decades ago. Between 1970 and 2015, undernourishment in developing countries declined from nearly 35 per cent of the population to 12.9 per cent, according to Our World in Data. And the global prevalence of hunger fell from 13.3 per cent in the year 2000 to 8.8 per cent in 2017. These are good trends, obviously. But that still leaves a lot of people who are hungry and undernourished.

It is for this reason that, in 2015, the United Nations set among its Global Goals for Sustainable Development an ambitious target of ‘Zero Hunger by 2030’. Unfortunately, a recent analysis by the UN’s own Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests this target is unlikely to be met, either by 2030 or anytime soon after. The problem, the report explains, is that although hunger incrementally decreased over decades, around 2014 this steady progress ground to a halt and since then hunger has been gradually increasing. By 2019, almost 9 per cent of the global population was undernourished, equating to around 690 million people. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only served to exacerbate food insecurity. Further analysis by the FAO has revealed that the prevalence of undernourishment reached 9.9 per cent during the first year of the pandemic, meaning that roughly one in ten people in the world were not getting adequate nutrition. The FAO projects that instead of reaching zero hunger by 2030, if current trends continue, by that time there will most likely be 840 million undernourished people in the world.

For a person facing food insecurity, it’s not just a matter of acquiring sufficient daily calories but also of getting access to adequate nutrients. Food insecurity, whether caused by crop failures or wars, has an enormous impact on diet quality. Where diets narrow to the point of undernourishment and malnourishment, health problems arise – often cruelly so. It has been estimated that over 340 million children across the world are currently deficient in micronutrients. In addition, around 22 per cent of all children under the age of five suffer stunted growth. They are not just a bit shorter than the average height for their age. Rather, stunted children are more than two standard deviations below where they should be on the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards chart. Many of these same children – around forty-five million of them – are also wasted, meaning they are profoundly underweight. The impacts on health and development are devastating. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that nearly half of all deaths of children under age five are due to undernourishment. Although crop failures play a role in famine, malnutrition and undernourishment, there’s certainly far more to it than that. Plenty of food is produced for human consumption every year, more than enough to feed everyone in the world. Yet one-quarter to nearly one-third of that food is wasted. This happens not only in many households but at multiple points along the global food supply chain.

To be honest, the term ‘chain’ really doesn’t provide the right visual analogy here. The global food supply is a dizzyingly complex system which is impacted at local, national and international levels by myriad  trade and distribution networks, government policies, the behaviour of corporations and regulatory bodies, the mercurial prices of imports and exports, and political unrest and military conflict, as well as epidemics and, indeed, pandemics. Among these factors, conflict stands out as a particularly egregious cause of food insecurity. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which was founded in 1985 by the United States Agency for International Development, keeps a close eye on acute food insecurity throughout the world. Currently, there are four countries on FEWS NET’s ‘highest concern’ list  – Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia  – comprising millions of people requiring humanitarian food assistance. Each of these crises largely has been either caused or exacerbated by protracted conflicts, where fighting – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes deliberately  – has disrupted food distribution or made it difficult to plant and harvest crops in the first place. Extreme weather events and other climate-related factors often serve to make matters worse, with drought in some areas or too much rain in others causing delays in planting or crop losses. When this happens, it becomes difficult for farmers to provide even small amounts of hunger relief within the greater context of war.

This brings us to the figurative and literal root of the global food supply: plants. Their diversity and availability has enormous knock-on effects that are felt throughout the world. They provide most of the food that the world consumes, trades and fights over. Moreover, plants come with some very specific conditions for growth and survival. To get an idea of the future of food security, it’s essential to understand just how much the global food supply depends on a precariously narrow range of plants.

There are around 435,000 land plant species in the world, but humans can’t eat most of them. A few years ago, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew embarked on a study to better understand the scope and scale of edible plants and found that there are just 7039 plant species that are fit for human consumption. There are a few mosses and lichen on the list, but the overwhelming majority are vascular plants, most of which are seed-bearing. Altogether, these edible plants come from 272 plant families, but the spread isn’t even, with many edible plants concentrated in a small number of plant families, such as palms and grasses. Cereals, after all, are grasses. We get cocoa, okra and many other foods from the mallow family. There’s also the mustard family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and, of course, mustard. The daisy family gives us 251 edible plants including lettuces, sunflower seeds and artichokes. Top prize goes to the pea family, which presents us with around 625 edible species.

Of course, what humans can eat and what we actually do eat are two  very different things. According to the aforementioned researchers at Kew, of those 7039 edible plants, only 417 are food crops – that’s just 5.9 per cent. Furthermore, only around 250 plant species have been fully domesticated since agriculture became all the rage back in the Neolithic. Today, 90 per cent of humanity’s caloric intake comes from only fifteen crop plants, with just three – wheat, rice and maize – accounting for around half of our calories globally. As far as bottlenecks go, that’s a doozy.

We can see this reflected in seed production. Some projections suggest the global crop seed market could reach more than US$80 billion by 2025 and will continue to grow with demand. In line with our global caloric dependency, wheat, rice and maize account for around half of global seed production. Seed production plays a critical role in the global food supply. After all, most crops rely on seeds for propagation. Seed supply is itself complex and extensive, full of trade networks and a bewildering level of international distribution. In a recent statement from the International Seed Federation, an industry organisation of seed producers, its secretary-general, Michael Keller, explained, ‘Today there is no country that could fully supply farmers with seeds of their choice solely from their own production.’ In other words, every crop-growing country depends to some extent on seeds from somewhere else. And so, at any point in time, including as you’re reading this right now, shipments of seeds are crossing borders, oceans and continents. It is, effectively, human-mediated seed dispersal on a global scale. Producing such large amounts of seeds across many different parts of the world mitigates the risk of crop failures in any one location, but it still entails a reliance on a mere handful of plant species, and this makes us extremely vulnerable to food insecurity, especially in the face of a changing climate.

So, how did we get here?

Beginning around 12,000 years ago, humans narrowed their dietary diversity, gradually shifting from numerous wild, edible plants to a dependence on a much smaller number of domesticated species, and much of this took place during the relatively stable climate of the Neolithic. Nevertheless, even among that narrow cache of domesticated plants, there was still a reasonable amount of genetic diversity thanks to the many and varied locally adapted species.

For farmers, this came with benefits, explains Charlotte Lusty, who is the head of programs and genebank platform coordinator at Crop Trust, an international organisation that aims to preserve crop biodiversity. ‘If it was too hot, some varieties would die. If there was a fungus, only some of the individuals would be affected,’ she tells me. So, too, with drought, frost or flooding, says Lusty. ‘There would always be an individual there who would be resistant.’ Farmers recognised that diversity brought resilience, she adds. ‘They didn’t want uniformity because it was risky.’

Of course, the plants didn’t all flower and fruit at the same time, which is a problem if you want to harvest everything all at once. If that was the aim, then planting a field with a monoculture of a more bountiful variety of wheat, for example, provided some advantages, enabling both high yield and mass production – undeniably useful for feeding a lot of people at once as populations began to rise. There appeared to be a trade-off: you could mitigate the risk of crop failure with higher plant diversity and make do with lower yields, or you could reduce plant diversity for a shot at bigger harvests and wear the higher risk that came with that. Neither was ideal for a burgeoning global population, and by the middle of the 20th century it seemed agriculture would soon reach a breaking point.

Back in the 1950s, when the global population was fast approaching three billion, there were many grim projections about the capacity of agriculture to keep up with the demand for food. Those concerns were well founded. Even before the start of World War II, the global population was veering ever upwards, but it was after the war that birth rates really took off. By 1950, in addition to the famed post war ‘baby boom’ in places like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, the world’s most populous countries  – China and India – began experiencing an exponential population boom that would ultimately see the addition of billions more humans before the turn of the millennium. But the food supply wasn’t keeping pace. By the early 1960s, global cereal crop production was around 750 million tonnes per annum, which was not enough to feed the coming influx. At the time, it seemed there was no way to avert a global famine. Bleak predictions warned that ‘hundreds of millions’ would starve within the space of a generation. Yet, this never happened. What changed? Well, weirdly enough, our crops got shorter.

Recall that plants spend a lot of time divvying up and redirecting resources – nutrients, carbohydrates, water. Reproduction, especially seed growth, is resource-intensive, so when the time comes, the plant directs much of its resources that way. But it can only sacrifice so much because the rest of the plant still needs energy to grow and live. Plants, of course, have many different traits, and the maintenance of those traits require energy input: maybe it’s a thorny defence mechanism or a particularly showy flower, or it might be the upkeep of a hard, woody trunk or the endless molecular negotiations between root cells and soil microbes. For plants that grow tall, there’s a lot of quiet work involved in stem growth, including all the plumbing and structural support that ensures the plant doesn’t topple under its own weight. For long-stemmed cereal grasses, like wheat, rice and maize, it’s not good to be both tall and top-heavy. Yet, the top is where the grains grow, all those endosperm-filled seeds that sustain us. And so it was that humans had cultivated cereal plants that grew tall but which, in being tall, had limits on the quantity of grains they could produce without the plant buckling under its own weight. This problem, which plant breeders and farmers call ‘lodging’, makes harvesting very difficult and leads to substantial crop waste. So, even though the first half of the 20th century had seen the development of industrial processes that enabled large-scale fertiliser production, just throwing a whole bunch of fertiliser on the world’s cereal crops wasn’t helping as much as hoped. It turned out that high-fertiliser regimes cause cereals to grow too quickly, leading to weak stems, which made the lodging problem worse. In a sense, the real problem, and the source of all those fears of global famine, was gravity.

The solution began to reveal itself in Japan in 1935 when a plant breeder by the name of Gonjiro Inazuka took a short-strawed native Japanese wheat called Daruma and crossbred it with high-yielding varieties of American wheat. The result was a new wheat variety called Norin-10. Not long after World War II, Orville Vogel, a plant breeder at Washington State University, acquired samples ofNorin-10 and used them to develop a high-yielding dwarf variety of winter wheat. This was good progress, but it wasn’t of much use to farmers in warmer climates. Then, in the early 1950s, some of Vogel’s new lines were sent to Norman Borlaug, who was breeding rust-resistant wheat at what would later become the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. Intrigued by Vogel’s new wheat variety, Borlaug began crossing it with Mexican varieties that grew well in the local climate. His work led to the first high-yielding semi-dwarf wheat that grew well in tropical and subtropical climates. It had short, strong stems and produced large numbers of tillers, which are the protrusions on which the wheat heads grow. It not only produced more wheat heads, but each head also produced more individual grains than before.

Though neither Inazuka, Vogel or Borlaug knew it at the time, the  success of this venture hinged on the presence of Rht genes which had been passed down from the Japanese Daruma wheat. It’s now known these genes reduce a growing plant’s response to gibberellins, those very same hormones involved in seed development and germination. The presence of Rht genes resulted in wheat with shorter, stronger stalks yet far more grains. Importantly, this wheat didn’t ‘lodge’. Moreover, while Borlaug’s new wheat variety also grew in warm climates, because it did not require exposure to cold temperatures in order to flower and produce grains, farmers could produce two crops each year instead of one. Borlaug shared his wheat with countries in Central America, South America and South-East Asia and, as a result, crop yields went through the proverbial roof. In Mexico alone, grain production doubled within seven years.

Meanwhile, a similar story was unfolding in rice breeding. In the1960s, production of domesticated O. sativa was averaging around 4 tonnes per hectare, but this was not keeping pace with demand. Again, the key to success lay in interfering with gibberellins. In rice, it all started with a Chinese variety of dwarf indica rice, Dee-geo-woo-gen. It turns out that Dee-geo-woo-gen possessed a mutation in a gene called sd1. Normally, sd1 plays an important role in the production of gibberellins in plant cells. Mutations in sd1 can throw a spanner in the works and the plants don’t produce enough gibberellins  to grow tall. Dee-geo-woo-gen was used by plant breeders to create shorter, stronger, yet high-yielding varieties of rice, and these went on to be the basis of numerous commercial varieties grown in the tropics and subtropics, as well as in temperate areas.

Another advancement came not long after the first semi-dwarf rice varieties were bred. Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping discovered that heterosis, or hybrid vigour, was possible in rice. It’s a phenomenon in which the offspring of two very different plant parents are much more robust and productive than either parent. This had been researched and exploited in other crops, such as corn, but it was not thought possible in rice until Longping’s discovery. Achieving heterosis was tricky at a large scale because, unlike those other crops, rice is self-pollinating. The tiny flowers have the male and female parts so close together that it’s essentially impossible to pollinate an entire field of rice plants with pollen from another variety. But Longping was determined  – he had seen first-hand people dying of starvation during the Great Chinese Famine in the early 1960s, and he wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. He searched for years for a rare mutant that would make cross-pollination possible, and in 1970 he finally found one on an island off China’s southern coast, in a strain of wild rice. A mutation had rendered it unable to make its own pollen, but the female reproductive structures were working just fine. Without that rice’s own pollen to get in the way, large-scale hybridisation suddenly became a lot more feasible. Longping and his colleagues used this as the basis of a breeding system that led to the extensive production of new, high-yield, hybrid rice varieties that displayed hybrid vigour. The result was a 20 per cent increase in annual rice production, which has had an enormous impact on global food security.

The arrival of high-yielding dwarf cereals in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s ushered in a world of cereal crops that not only produced more grains but were also structurally more amenable to mechanised harvesting, making large-scale cultivation easier. This era in agriculture has been called the Green Revolution because it resulted in global food production that kept up with, and even exceeded, the demands of a swelling population of humans, as well as a growing population of livestock used for dairy and meat production. It irrevocably changed farming, and the surface of the planet along with it.

This is an extract from The Age of Seeds by Fiona McMillan-Webster

The Age of Seeds by Fiona McMillan-Webster is available now.

AU $34.99

Posted on July 24, 2022
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Learn How to Pickle Rainbow Chard With Lucy Mora

Rainbow chard (also known as silverbeet) is frost tolerant and can be sown all year round, making it a perfect choice for those in the southern hemisphere unsure where to start with their own kitchen garden.

Read on for a recipe for pickled rainbow chard from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora.

Image: rainbow chard (also known as silverbeet). Illustration by Lucy Mora.

Pickled Rainbow Chard

Makes 2-3 medium preserving jars


Pack washed chard into sterilised glass jars along with dill and garlic.

Put 250 ml (1 cup) of water in a medium saucepan and add vinegar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar and salt has dissolved.

Carefully pour the hot brine over the chard. Let jars cool to room temperature.

Seal jars and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Use within 3 months.


3 cups rainbow chard stalks, chopped

2 large sprigs of dill

1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced

250 ml (1 cup) water

250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar

1 tsp black peppercorns

1tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp kosher salt or any salt without iodine

1 tsp granulated sugar

The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora is available now.

AU $45

Posted on July 6, 2022
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Three of our Favourite Projects from Neeson Murcutt Neille

Neeson Murcutt Neille: Setting Architecture is the second in a series of monographs that recognises the work of Australia’s most exciting architectural practices, urban designers and landscape architects.

Neeson Murcutt Neille demonstrate a deeply empathetic approach to making architecture, one that is integrally connected to landscape, history, identity, culture and place.

Read on for an edited extract from the book showcasing three of our favourite Neeson Murcutt Neille projects.

Castlecrag House

Photography: Brett Boardman

Designed by Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin in the 1920s, Castlecrag is an idyllic residential suburb of native landscapes and views across Middle Harbour. The Griffins’ intention was for a model residential community that created a sympathetic relationship to the natural environment. The house is a response to this intention, to the natural beauty of the site and to the memories of the owners themselves.

The Griffins aimed for an immersive experience with nature and the project works to provide this sense of immersion. The site has three natural features of note – a sandstone outcrop that shields the house from the street, views down to Sugarloaf Bay and Castle Cove below, and an adjacent angophora-filled bush reserve. From within the house, with its raw concrete and stone materials, the surrounding landscape and views animate the interior realm.

Photography: Brett Boardman

Beyond the lovely sound of rain on a tin roof, the acoustic signature of a room is a keenly felt spatial quality that can be shaped through form, scale and material. Sound connects a family spread across multiple levels in a house, sensing each other’s presence through the peal of footsteps on a delicate steel staircase.

A sports hall is ‘tuned’, dampening the space acoustically to allow for one-to-one interactions, teaching and assembly, while maintaining the bright sound of spectators – essential to the atmosphere of competitive sport. A beachfront public room is shaped like a cone shell, which, untempered, amplifies ambient sound. The room’s inner surfaces are wrapped in a holey ply cushion to soften the acoustic for community gatherings.

The clients have had a long association with this site, as the house was built by one owner’s grandfather. As a result, particular components of that house were retained for their connection to the past, including a chimney and surrounding fireplace joinery – protected during construction – and the marrying of new and old brickwork was left exposed. The outermost side walls reflect the width of the old house and are controlled by designated setbacks, while the interior spaces follow the natural contours of the site and rotate outwards towards the rocky outcrop. The result is a pinwheel plan – room to the rock, room to the bush, room to the view – with these shifts occurring at each level.

Prince Alfred Park and Pool

Photography: Brett Boardman

Located at the edge of central Sydney, Prince Alfred Park has history as a public reserve dating back to 1865. Up until 1954 it was a venue for public events and so the intention for this project was to reinvigorate the under-utilised 7.5-hectare park and upgrade a tired public pool, as well as the park’s history as a site for recreation, social events and sporting activities. A belief in the sacred quality of green space in inner urban areas drove the design and, as a result, the experience of the landscape is rendered equally important to the built form.

The strategy was to give the park a new spatial and ecological sensibility without erasing its Victorian roots. Designed as a piece of folded terrain and through close collaboration with landscape architect Sue Barnsley, a new 1000-square-metre pool building has a green roof of native meadow grasses that connects to the parkland. The building, 6 metres deep and 120 metres long, is both intimate and monumental, scaled to the swimmer and to the city. A continuous cantilevered roof edge, ceiling and rear wall are lined with delicate white tiles reflecting the light and giving a liquid, shimmering quality. Two earthen mounds define the space of the outdoor pool enclosure and connect to the park, while blue-coloured stripes accentuate the project’s topographic quality, softening the distinction between building wall, pool concourse and bleacher. Seen as a collection, the variously transparent wire mesh fence, yellow umbrellas, toddler shade structure, oversized tree seat, coloured trigeneration chimneys, palm trees and mound slide bestow a playful character and become follies within the park.

Coastal Garden House

Photography: Brett Boardman

Bronte Beach has a palpable spatiality – a room in nature with walls of sandstone and then a leafy gully just behind. Resonating with these shapely cliffs and the greenness, this project – with its brief for a ‘large house’ – led instead to an alternative strategy for a ‘large garden’. In part determining the siting strategy, a sandstone rock ledge cuts diagonally across the sloping corner site. The main house sits in the corner of the upper portion like a cupped hand, with a cabana, terrace and pool held in the lower portion sustaining life in the garden. Archaic and cave-like, the house feels like a reoccupied ruin engulfed in a garden.

In this project, garden and house merge: one extends into the other in continual exchange.

Neeson Murcutt Neille by Anna Johnson & Richard Black is available now.

AU $59.99

Posted on July 6, 2022
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How to Grow Blueberries + Recipe for a Blueberry and Almond Cake

Winter gardening is a good time to see the bare bones and rethink certain parts of your garden. There are always a few hours in the day that are enjoyable to be out in the garden in winter, but the nicest part is taking your boots off and coming in to sit in front of the fire.

Read on for an extract from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora to find out how you can grow your own blueberries this winter (plus a delightful blueberry and almond cake recipe to make with them).


Sow winter, spring

Harvest summer, autumn

Growing time 8-10 weeks

Space between plants 75 cm

Pots yes

Aspect full sun

Soil pH 4.0-5.0

Frost tolerant yes

Companions basil, thyme, rhubarb

Dislikes Blueberries prefer an acidic soil, so any plants that like a pH above 6 won’t be a good companion.

Brightwell – sweet, high yield
Sharpblue – high yield
Bluecrop – deciduous, sweet

Plant in the winter for a summer crop, spacing plants around 75 cm apart. While blueberries are self-fertile, co-planting more than one variety will help improve pollination and yield. You can buy blueberries in pots.

Test your soil to check the soil acidity. Blueberries need a pH reading between 4 and 5. If it is higher than that, add granular sulphur to the soil (this is best added a few months prior to planting). Till into the soil and water in. Used coffee grounds are a good addition. Add compost and manure and use mulch to cover.

Feed your blueberries in spring with an azalea fertiliser. Keep your patch well-watered. Remove any dead or diseased branches before the plant comes into leaf in spring. Reduce all the branches by a third to do two-thirds if it has reached its full height (usually after 4 years).

Leave fruit until fully ripe, as it won’t continue to ripen once picked.

Blueberry and Almond Cake

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 22 cm cake tin.

Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl with a whisk.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs with an electric beater on medium for five minutes until the mixture becomes pale and increases in volume. While the mixer is still running slowly, pour in the melted butter and oil. Add the almond extract. It should look thick and glossy.

Bake for 35-40 mins. Poke a skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean it’s ready.

Let the cake cool before turning it out into a cake plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve with thick cream.

For 8

4 eggs, lightly beaten

200 g sugar

50 g vegetable oil

70 g butter, melted

1 tsp almond extract

375 g blueberries (you can use frozen)

Icing sugar (for dusting)

Thick cream to serve (optional)

Dry ingredients

175 g almond flour

85 g all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

This is an edited extract from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora.

The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora is available now.

AU $45

Posted on June 29, 2022
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The Perfect Winter Dessert: Cardamom Poached Pears

Image: Robyn Lea.

My mother always made these poached pears on cold winter nights. I love to serve them following a heavy meal – the fruit provides a sweet and mellow finale to a feast, while the red wine sauce makes this a robust and comforting winter dessert.

Serves 6

Juice of 2 lemons
6 pears, ripe but firm
1 bottle hearty red wine
300 g brown sugar
Juice of 2 oranges
Seeds from 20 g cardamom pods (crack the pods to remove the seeds)
2 bay leaves
Crème fraîche, double cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking: 40 minutes

Add half the lemon juice to a bowl large enough to hold all the pears.

Put 200 ml water and all the ingredients except for the pears into a large pan. Gradually bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely. Once the poaching liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and allow to gently bubble away for 5 minutes, so that the alcohol evaporates.

Peel the pears (leaving the stems on), and trim 5 mm from the bottom of each one so that it can stand up. Put each prepared pear in the bowl of lemon juice as you go, coating it in the juice to stop it turning brown.

Holding each one by its stem, gently lower the pears into the poaching liquid, then add the bowlful of lemon juice and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pears with a sheet of baking parchment, pushing it down flat to the level of the liquid and pears. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and transfer the cooked pears to a plate, standing them upright on their trimmed base. Set to one side.

Continue to simmer the poaching liquid, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve, discarding the cardamon seeds and bay leaves, and then return it to the pan. Add the pears to the pan and coat them in the thickened sauce.

Serve the pears warm. Place a tablespoon of your cream of choice in the centre of each serving bowl, before standing the pear on the dollop and drizzling with some of the sauce.

This recipe is an extract from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.

A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness is available now.

AU $65

Posted on May 26, 2022
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A Field Guide to Foraging for Wild Fennel + a Delicious Wild Fennel Seed and Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Wild fennel is harvested extensively all around the world. It is highly regarded in various cultures for its flavour and beneficial qualities. This is the same species as the fennel you find in the supermarket; however, the latter variety with its swollen bulb has been bred for mass cultivation.

Photography: Hellene Algie.

Wild fennel is a master of adaptability, growing proficiently on disturbed land; for example, on the side of the road, on demolition sites or along train lines. It is essential to check whether the area to be harvested has been affected by local pollutants and run-off.

It is quite common to see elderly southern European migrants harvesting this plant from unkempt areas of suburbia. Wild fennel is the classic plant that a Greek yaya will make her family stop the car for, before proceeding to harvest it straight from the roadside. In fact, several sources here in Sydney have told me the same story about a yaya scolding her fully grown son, employed by the local council, for his part in allowing the local wild fennel colony to be cleared. Is it really that problematic if a corner of the park grows wild fennel? Let the wild plants be part of our landscape, helping to create care and connection.


leaf, stalk, flower, pollen seed, shoot


Wild fennel is a green, leafy, perennial herb. It can grow up to 2.5 metres high and 1 metre across. Extensive plant colonies – ‘fennel forests’ – are often seen growing in the wild. The plant is very easy to identify, the key being the scent: unmistakeably aniseed.


Fig. 1 Foeniculum vulgare. Illustration: Mirra Whale.

Leaves and stalks (Fig. 1, ii)
The leaves have a fine, feathery appearance, and when crushed they also smell like aniseed. They range in length from 5 centimetres up to 20–30 centimetres and always envelop the stalk with a white ‘sleeve’. Wild fennel has ribbed stalks that become broader towards the base. Unlike the cultivated variety, this plant does not produce a sizeable bulb.

Flowers and seeds (Fig. 1, i)
Fennel will produce a vibrant display of yellow flower clusters (umbels) in summer, which turn green when transforming into seeds. The individual flowers are only a few millimetres wide, but the size of the umbels can range from a few centimetres to 20 centimetres across. It is quite common to spot dried-out, light-brown seeds on the plant, as they remain for months after forming. Wild fennel seeds can vary in flavour according to where the plant is growing. Some are sweet, while others can be bitter. Wild fennel is a great example of a plant that should be approached from a caretaker perspective. When you locate a cluster growing in good condition and yielding sweet greens and seeds, look after it, become its caretaker, and the colony will reward you with good-tasting produce forever more.

Fig.2 Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds. Photography: Hellene Algie.


All parts of the wild fennel plant are completely edible, from the base to the seeds. Its leaves are best eaten when very young. I love to pull out the new shoots as they form at the nodes of the stalks, peel off the layers to get to the juicy core and enjoy a sweet, crunchy and so delicious wild treat. Older leaves can be used as a garnish or chopped up and cooked with other vegetables. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavouring in cakes, bread and stuffing mixes. They are commonly used in mukhwas, a colourful Indian snack served after a meal to freshen the mouth and aid digestion. They can also be sprouted and added to salads, brewed in refreshing and calming teas, or used as ingredients in cured meats such as Italian salami and sausages. Fennel pollen is prized by chefs as a garnish, fetching high prices in the hospitality industry. I mostly use the seeds, which I harvest in autumn/winter and preserve for use throughout the year. They make it into my pickles, soups (see a recipe below) and, occasionally, baked goods.


Fennel as medicine has a long history. Revered worldwide, it is most commonly used as a calming tea for complaints to do with the digestive system. Although the entire plant can be used in various remedies, the seeds are the most medicinally active part. Used as a tea, it is also a known remedy when infants are suffering with colic. I make a tea with the seeds when I, or my loved ones, suffer from indigestion. Lightly crush the seeds in a mortar to crack the casing, and then add a teaspoon of the crushed seeds to a teapot of boiling water. Let the tea rest for five minutes and serve tepid.

Photography: Hellene Algie.

Wild fennel seed and pumpkin soup

Recipe by Marnee Fox.

Serves 6


1 whole butternut pumpkin, de-skinned and chopped into small chunks
1 brown onion, chopped
1 L chicken-style liquid stock (we use an organic, vegan, ‘chicken’ style stock as it gives the soup a very rich flavour)
2 tbsp wild fennel seeds
250 ml sour cream (leave out for vegan)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh fennel shoots or flowers for garnish, if available


1. Place the pumpkin, onion and stock in a large pot and cover with enough water to just submerge all the pumpkin chunks.
2. Bring to the boil, then add the fennel seeds.
3. Simmer on low heat until the pumpkin is very soft.
4. Add sour cream, season with salt and pepper, then blend with a stick mixer.
5. Garnish with fresh fennel shoots or flowers if available. Store for up to 3 days in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months in a sealed container.

This is an extract from Eat Weeds by Diego Bonetto. Recipe by Marnee Fox.

Eat Weeds by Diego Bonetto is available now.

AU $49.99

Posted on May 26, 2022
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Interconnectedness and the Celestial Emu: an Extract from ‘Astronomy: Sky Country’

Look in the space between the stars, what do you see? 1

Viewing the world as interconnected is core to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems and communities. As such, it is not only inappropriate but also impossible to truly learn about Indigenous astronomy without learning how the sky relates to the land, which all makes up what Indigenous peoples call Country – as captured by the Bawaka Country group in a 2020 paper:

Country includes lands, seas, waters, rocks, animals, winds and all the beings that exist in and make up a place, including people. It also embraces the stars, Moon, Milky Way, solar winds and storms, and intergalactic plasma. Land, Sea and Sky Country are all connected, so there is no such thing as ‘outer space’ or ‘outer Country’ – no outside. What we do in one part of Country affects all others.2

The story of the Celestial Emu exquisitely illustrates the holistic nature of Country and Indigenous knowledge systems.

On a moonless, cloudless night, away from the streetlights’ orange hum and the confines of tall buildings, the dazzling speckled infinite awaits. If you’re close to town, you might see vast darkness with the occasional twinkle. But if you’re far enough away from town, you will no longer see the dark but instead be overwhelmed by the light – point sources dancing and shimmering, performing an astonishing display in the vastness of the cosmos. It’s here we get to know the sky in all of its complexities and subtleties. No one knew this better than the First Astronomers.

During the late southern summer, the Milky Way’s dominating light takes prominence over the entire night sky. As each day passes and winter approaches, the daylight reduces, and as the length of night grows, so too does the Milky Way’s presence in our skies. Among the bold, bright discs of light dwell pools of darkness. These uniquely shaped dark gaps are framed by a dazzling stellar spectacle. The combination of light and dark creates an undeniable feature with which nothing else in the observable sky compares (Figure 2.1). Different peoples see various creatures or places emerge from these features, each with its own meaning. To some, it is a big rip across the sky. To astronomers, it’s an entire galaxy shrouded by space clouds, behind which hides a supermassive black hole. The Wardaman people of the Northern Territory see the Milky Way as the Rainbow Serpent, accompanied by the Sky Boss and Earth Lady.3 The Yolŋu people of north-east Arnhem Land see a crow.4 For many Aboriginal nations, from east coast to west and from the Top End to the south, it is the Dark Emu (Figure 2.2).

The Dark Emu has many names. It’s sometimes referred to as the Celestial Emu. In Gamilaraay it’s called Gawarrgay, and its Dreaming tells us of dhinawan, with ‘Gawarrgay’ referring to the featherless, ceremonial Celestial Emu and ‘dhinawan’ referring to the land-dwelling, flightless bird.

figure 2.1 and 2.2: The Dark Emu (or Celestial Emu), a dark sky constellation visible in the Milky Way, as seen over Australia during the winter months.

These Dreamings are of particular importance to the Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi as the dhinawan is the nation’s totem. The Dreaming connects the dhinawan’s breeding cycle and its movement across Country, mirroring the movements of Gawarrgay across the sky.

In the months of April and May, Gawarrgay sweeps across the entire celestial sphere, legs and neck stretched out as though running. Kamilaroi man Ben Flick describes its positioning:

Just under the Southern Cross, you’ll see a dark spot. That’s the
head of the emu. In front of him is, of course, his beak, and as you
follow it down, you can see his neck in the dark spots of the Milky
Way. It comes right down to his body. You can see his legs and a
couple of eggs underneath.5

At the same time, on the land, the female dhinawan are chasing the males for breeding. After May, the dhinawan’s gawu (eggs) appear. These are early days for the gawu, before the embryos have had time to develop. The male dhinawan sits on the gawu, protecting the young. The dhinawan is important for Gamilaraay males, as the Dreaming teaches young men about their role in looking after the children in community, as the dhinawan look after the gawu.6 This is the best time for gawu to be collected, but people should only take what they need and leave the rest. If they wait too long in the season, the burrgay (emu chicks) form in the gawu. People should not disturb these gawu as the new generation of dhinawan is taking shape. In the sky, Gawarrgay’s legs disappear as he dives toward the horizon, signalling that the male dhinawan is sitting on the gawu on the land. The Celestial Emu is signalling to the Gamilaraay people to stop hunting as the eggs are now in incubation. As Flick describes it, ‘At that certain time of year, it’s time for us to go out and collect emu eggs. We go out into the bush, always leaving some eggs for next year and for generations to keep going.’7 Burrgay is also the Gamilaraay word for this time of the year (July), further illuminating the animal’s importance to Gamilaraay people and the culture’s holistic nature.

As the year progresses, Gawarrgay changes form and appears as a featherless emu crossing Country. Finally, in November, only the body of Gawarrgay remains, signalling that the dhinawan are currently occupying waterholes. Gawarrgay’s shortened form signifies to the Gamilaraay people to move across Country to access the same reservoirs as the dhinawan, but also to protect them from being overused and destroyed by the thirsty, cheeky dhinawan. When Gawarrgay reappears in February, people start moving from their summer camps and the waterholes to their winter camps. Just a few months later, the annual cycle of Gawarrgay, the dhinawan and the Gamilaraay people repeats.

Analysis of sixty-eight ceremonial grounds by cultural astronomers Dr Robert Fuller and Dr Duane Hamacher and CSIRO astronomer Dr Ray Norris found that the alignment of the Celestial Emu in the night sky throughout the year relates to the positioning and directionality of emu engravings on the ground.8

The sky knowledge connects to the food knowledge, which connects to the seasonal knowledge. It is relational, practical and cyclic. Through an Indigenous lens, everything is connected. This mirroring is a core belief for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We see it in the Dreaming of Gawarrgay and the land dhinawan. Similarly, in Gamilaraay, Bulimah or Sky Camp is positioned behind the Milky Way, where camp sites, tribes and ancestral places reside.9 Same same but different. This mirroring is so essential to life on Country that it is immortalised in Country. The Big Warrambool is a flood plain located in southern Queensland that runs down to the Barwon River in New South Wales. The water plains of the Big Warrambool reflect the sky above and the land below, acting as a portal between land and sky. This place of Country holds further significance to the Gamilaraay people as it is seen as the start of their Country.10 In Victoria on and around Dja Dja Wurrung Country, a similar place is known in which a large pine tree acts as a portal intertwining people on Earth to the sky world, much like the Big Warrambool does for the Gamilaroi.11 The interconnected nature of Indigenous knowledge means Indigenous astronomy is never just about astronomy.

This is an extract from the latest in our First Knowledges series, Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli.

1 Participant 6, quoted in Robert S Fuller, Ray P Norris & Michelle Trudgett, ‘The Astronomy of the Kamilaroi People and Their Neighbours’, 2013, arXiv:1311.0076 [physics.hist-ph], p. 6.
2 Bawaka Country, ‘Dukarr lakarama: Listening to Guwak, Talking Back to Space Colonization’, Political Geography, 81, 2020, p. 2, < j.polgeo.2020.102218>.
3 Hugh Cairns & Bill Yidumduma Harney, Dark Sparklers, H Cairns, Merimbula, 2004, p. 59.
4 For example, see Dawidi Birritjama, Cat and crow legend [bark painting], 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, < collection/works/IA42.1960/>.
5 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the
Sky with Ben Flick’ , Western Local Land Services, YouTube, 25 March 2014, <>.
6 Rosie Armstrong Lang, private communication shared with Karlie Noon, July 2021.
7 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the Sky with Ben Flick’ .
8 Robert S Fuller, Duane W Hamacher & Ray P Norris, ‘Astronomical Orientations of BORA Ceremonial Grounds in Southeast Australia’, Australian Archaeology, 77(1), 2016, pp. 30–7.
9 Fuller, Norris & Trudgett, p. 9.
10 Lang, 2021.

Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli is available now.

AU $24.99

Posted on May 3, 2022
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A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and the Celebration of Life: read an extract from Marion Halligan’s new Memoir

Image: Marion and Lucy in 1966. Photography Photography © Marion Halligan 2022, taken by Graham Halligan

Words for Lucy

My daughter Lucy died on 10 November 2004, in the morning, at the age of thirty-eight. She lay on her bed for a sleep, with her cat beside her, and her heart stopped. It was, I like to think, a death of her own manner and choosing, though I doubt she did this consciously. My business is words. I put these together, my words, hers, other people’s, in celebration of her life and of our grief for her loss of it, and ours of her. Not all the words are about her, but they are all for her.

Love is so important to us. We so much need it. We can’t do without it. What we don’t realise at the beginning is the price it comes at. When we kiss the lover, when we marry the beloved, when we nurse the child, there is such perfection, such joy, we do not know the cost that is beginning to be incurred, and the paradox that the greater the love the greater the price. Though, I do think a child often comes with fear; fear skulks through the wide open door of joy, it casts its shadow and a little shiver chills us, even if we don’t entirely recognise  it. Until the day of reckoning comes.

The price is loss. I have lost my husband, and my daughter. As I write these words in 2004 – it’s not that date any longer, this book will have been eighteen years in the writing, such things don’t come easily, you have to wait for them – I have a son, I have a new husband. I am building up further dreadful debits and may one day be asked to pay them. I say to my son, Make sure you don’t die for a long time, and he promises. But he can’t be sure. John, the husband, is several years younger than me, and very fit. But one of us will lose the other, one day.

You could choose to live without love and then there never would be loss. But who would want to do that?

Love equals loss. But it takes a while to twig.

I see my son James becoming aware of such things. He pays attention to me, I am his only close relative left. When I die there will be nobody at all of the generation before him, he will occupy that rather chilly eminence of the oldest in the family. There is an uncle by marriage, no aunts, some younger cousins who are all quite attached to one another but not in close contact because of geography, and it is much the same for his partner, she has a lot of cousins but not nearby. He is hanging on to me, and I am supposed to hang on to myself. But I sniff the air of mortality.

At the end of 2016, as we were waiting for his son to be born at seven o’clock the next morning, James informed me that I had to live another twenty years to see my grandson into adulthood. Mm. I doubt that is going to happen.


Memoir | 2021

This memoir isn’t very chronological. It doesn’t start at a beginning and go through to an end. As you might imagine a photo album, beginning with birth, through babyhood, being a toddler, school, growing up, and so on and on. No, time and memory seldom travel together. When I wrote my family saga novel Lovers’ Knots I was interested in getting the content of a saga without the massive proportions, and I came up with the image of a box of photographs. You pick them out at random, and so the story is told. This memoir is another such box of snapshots. You find your own way through the story, from random details. That said, it does begin with Lucy’s birth.

Tasting the air | 1966

When Lucy was born she tasted the air. She had a round little golden head – later doctors said she was jaundiced but when she was born she was golden, and very pretty, with smooth cheeks and no wrinkles or jowls. She lay in her crib on her back, put out her tongue and tasted the air. Very thoughtfully, as though she was testing this new medium that she found herself in. Quite voluptuously; she was offering herself a sensuous experience.

She seemed quite healthy then, though tired after a long labour, from early one morning to about three o’clock the next. It was another day before they decided she had a problem, and took her to the premmie nursery and put her in a thing called a Crown Street 10 box, which was a five-sided cube of a kind of perspex, a bit bigger than her head, into which oxygen was fed. That was when the doctor, who was a practising Catholic, said, If you believe in having babies christened, then christen this one. We didn’t believe in it, but we did christen her. Maybe to keep terror at bay; we knew what his words meant. It seemed important that some small ceremony should mark her short life. The archdeacon who had married us came from the church of St John’s, a church much older than Canberra, belonging to the nineteenth-century homestead of Duntroon, and baptised her. Perhaps he thought we were afraid of her getting lost in limbo.

The premmie nurses decided she wasn’t any good at breastfeeding and got her on to bottles, with my milk expressed. When James was born he did exactly the same thing, he choked and gagged and couldn’t take the milk. I was heartbroken, and suddenly back in that terrible time when we thought Lucy was going to die. I panicked, and wept, it was all happening again. But then a wise nurse looked and said, The poor little mite is being drowned. She made me lie on my back so that the milk did not flood out and make the baby choke, and we did that for a good twelve months. I organised myself so I lay on the sofa or the bed, holding a book in one hand, the same arm cradling James, the other hand holding the nipple so he could suck comfortably. We spent vast amounts of our days, and at first nights, lying around like this, having a lovely time.

And I realised that if Lucy hadn’t been in the premmie nursery, or if there had been a nurse wise in the ways of feeding babies, we would have worked out that Lucy’s problem was not that she couldn’t suck, but that she was being drowned, and so choked. She could have been breastfed. It is one of the sorrows of my life that she wasn’t. I think she needed to be, I think she might have been less anxious in her childhood and adult life if she had had that long loving comfort. It might have given her a useful bulwark against the fearsomeness of 11 hospitals and medical procedures. A suckling baby lies, and dozes, and drinks a bit, taking just as long as anybody will let her. But a bottlefed baby, there it is, drink up, all gone, that’s it. And other people want to do it. They like to think they are helping you, but it would be better if they did the dishes, and left this important task to you.

I am not a person given to regrets. I know they are pointless, what has happened is, it cannot be undone. But I cannot stop myself regretting that Lucy was not breastfed. For my sake, of course, the convenience of it. But I would not still regret that, forty years later. It is the comfort and the cosseting, the long lazy times spent in this milky haze of mutual delight, that I am so sad she missed.

At three weeks old she was flown to Melbourne, to the children’s hospital. It was thought that I shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for me. The cardiac physician did not think the breastfeeding mattered, he said that she would be better off staying with bottles. Until then I had thought that as she got older and stronger perhaps she would be able to cope with it. No, he said, you are only distressing yourselves. He was wrong, I know now, we could easily have done it. My milk drying up was one of the most agonising things ever to happen to me. I was ill for some time. And it wasn’t just the physical response, it was sorrow for the loss of something that I believed was so essential for the both of us. Physically, Lucy thrived on bottles. But I think that, psychologically, she missed out.

The specialist in Melbourne (the Canberra GP had wanted Sydney, the pediatrician Melbourne; the senior man won, which was harder work for us over the years, since Sydney is much easier to get to) looked at her and said, Well, she has got a pretty funny heart, but she’s okay, she’s managing. We’ll keep an eye on her, that’s all. He did that, for nine years, and then she needed her first open-heart surgery. These days they would have done it much earlier and it might have all worked better, but that is not something one can dwell on. The very 12 best was done, it was all quite pioneering, she was one of the oldest patients with her condition, the others hadn’t survived.

Dr Venables, the cardiac pediatric physician, was able to make a more precise diagnosis than the funny heart. She was born without a pulmonary valve. This meant that when her heart pumped blood to her lungs there was no valve to close and keep it there. Her heart compensated, pumped extra hard to make up for what gushed back. But  the result was an enlarged heart, and a very much enlarged pulmonary artery, so her lungs were compromised by this. The solution, to fix in place a tanned valve, in this case a pig’s, was considered better left until she was as big as possible, since it wouldn’t grow with her. It had to be replaced when she was twenty-one because it had calcified; apparently this is normal, teenagers produce a lot of calcium. The second time it was a tanned human valve. The valves worked well, it was the much enlarged pulmonary artery that was the problem.

When she was born, my husband had two nuns in his class. He was a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra at the time. Oh, Graham, one said, I see you have named your daughter for two child martyrs. Lucy Beatrice. Of course that wasn’t our intent, we liked the names for their beauty and meaning.

This is an extract from Words for Lucy by Marion Halligan.

Words for Lucy by Marion Halligan is available now.

AU $32.99

Posted on April 13, 2022
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The Arniano Painting School

Image: ‘View of Hamlet from Arniano’ by William Roper-Curzon. Oil on gesso board.

It was over a drink at a pub in West London that William Roper-Curzon and I decided to try to host residential painting holidays at Arniano. William is a painter, who trained in London at the City & Guilds and, later, the Royal Drawing School. I first met him when he was preparing for a large solo show of his drawings to be held in central London, and it was (platonic) love on first speaks.

William is a hilariously funny raconteur and masterful story-teller. He has a seemingly endless arsenal of anecdotes, which have whoever is lucky enough to be with him doubled over with laughter within minutes. Aside from his company, it was easy to fall in love with his dynamic figurative and landscape paintings, all highly expressive, with strong rhythm of line and confident mark-making.

From 2010, William was often travelling on art residencies, searching for exciting places to paint. I sometimes followed to visit, which took me to Scotland, the southernmost tip of Ireland and northern Tuscany. But he also went much further afield, to Buenos Aires, California and New York. These trips, which often lasted months, were usually preceded by a greedy farewell dinner with friends and family, which I would gladly throw for him at my mother’s house in London.

It was over our drink in early 2014 that he described Arniano from his perspective as a landscape artist, and made me immediately believe that we should try to share the place I love most in the world with other people. He described what I had never been able to articulate myself – that what makes Arniano special for a landscape painter is the two types of view: ‘You have the huge vistas, the 360-degree panorama of the Tuscan hills, which are so rich in opportunity for the painter. But you also have these very intimate scenes, of beautiful plants in the garden, and the structures of the cypress trees planted by your father. It’s a mix of formality with raw nature. There is an underlying pink colour that comes through from the earth there, as well as seemingly endless sky. You are so high up that you are soaring above the valleys, and you can look down on everything before it spreads up again towards Montalcino and the mountain.’

William also had a great love for the house, feeling that ‘its ability to make anyone feel welcome’, as well as the total peacefulness, contributed to an atmosphere conducive to painting. ‘It’s incredibly quiet, there is no noise, no interruption, and a great sense that you can wander for miles to find any little area to paint. It does take you back in time there – you could be in medieval Tuscany, you would hardly know the difference.’

Image: William looking out towards Montalcino at twilight. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

The concept behind the courses was that we would marry my ability to cook and host with William’s talent for imparting his knowledge of and passion for painting. Rather than creating a painting boot camp, the idea would be to ensure that students of all levels could confidently grow into their artistic ability through his charm, sense of humour, enthusiasm and encouragement. While a five-day painting course might not impart the technical ability of Rembrandt to a beginner, it would be enough time to teach our guests to use oil paints, to really look at a landscape in a manner that would make it possible to translate what they saw to canvas. In the case of experienced painters, the course would afford them the time and space to focus on an entirely new view. Either way, we wanted to curate a week in which people could be artistic, appreciate their surroundings and crack on with painting while not having to worry about feeding themselves – hopefully, making them feel well looked after and a bit spoiled along the way.

We decided to do a test run with some of William’s family – as he is number eight out of ten siblings, there were plenty to choose from. The week was fun, but chaotic and exhausting, as we had absolutely no help. I cooked, cleaned, made the beds and even modelled for paintings, but we loved it, and it was a fantastic learning curve. From an art perspective, it was a hit, and it was wonderful to see the garden dotted with people immortalising parts of my father’s garden and the view that I had always taken for granted.

While we learned so much from our guinea-pig gang, there was still a long way to go. That group had consisted entirely of friends or relations, who knew each other well and so fitted into our house-party format easily enough. We would now have to host up to twelve strangers, who would be eating together three times a day and painting alongside one another every day for a week. Kind and curious friends, relatives and godparents came to support us, and we learned with each course how to improve. But without an established reputation, it is difficult to persuade people to spend a week in an unknown house in the middle of Tuscany, with total strangers, being taught by an as-yet untested art instructor.

We advertised in The Spectator, we put flyers up in London art schools and galleries, and we asked the Royal Drawing School to send PDFs of our flyers out with their newsletter, which they kindly did – William being an alumnus and having taught in their foundation year. Finally, by 2016, following a surprise mention in the Financial Times and later features in various other publications (including The New York Times, Tatler, Vogue, The Daily Telegraph and House & Garden), we no longer had trouble filling the house, and have since welcomed guests from all over the world: the US, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Best of all, we have made an extraordinary number of truly great friends

The Landscape

Image: The valley between Arniano and Montalcino, with Monte Amiata looming above, at sunset. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

A peculiar attribute of the landscape surrounding Arniano is the ever-changing light. Early in the morning, there is an extraordinary mist that sits in the valley and interweaves through the hills, allowing just the tops to show above the smoky clouds. These changes bring with them new moods and shadows, drawing our painters to different views and areas of the garden throughout the day. By the evening, everything has altered again, and there are often intense sunsets, bringing silhouettes from the trees and much darker, richer, olive colours.

William encourages our painters to work on two or three paintings at any given time – going back to each one at the same time of day, on each subsequent day, in order to capture the subject in the same light. When the wind picks up, which can happen at around midday and into the early afternoon, he encourages everyone to carry on, professing that ‘it is part of painting outside … you have to learn to be in nature, to absorb it – it will make a better picture.’ Being a committed outdoor painter, this is also William’s philosophy when it comes to painting in the rain – which, on the rare days when we have downpours, perhaps half our guests will heed, while the other half scuttle indoors to draw a still life. ‘Sometimes rain is great,’ he says. ‘Often, if it’s raining on you, you will get a fabulous light and these dramatic clouds, and somewhere else in the landscape, a whole drama unfolding in front of you. You learn to be instinctive, to get things down quicker, to try to capture the feeling of being in it and experiencing it.’

An obvious feature of the Tuscan landscape, which begs to be drawn or painted, is the olive trees, which unfortunately are also famously difficult to translate to canvas. ‘Olives are hard to paint because they are dense as well as airy,’ says William. ‘I always tell my students that it’s like trying to paint a shoal of fish. It’s incredibly difficult. It’s a commitment, but once you get into it, and realise that it isn’t one mass of leaves the same size, that perspective plays its part – the leaves which are closer to you are bigger, and the further away ones smaller – it’s very worthwhile. As with any challenge, it becomes satisfying once you’ve resolved it, but it’s definitely not easy.’ Having surmounted that first hurdle of painting at Arniano over the past six years (to the point where he could ‘paint olives in my sleep’),William finds that it is the horizon that draws him back again and again. ‘Somedays you see a ridge, and then others you think, “Oh my god! There’s a whole other town I never knew was there. It looks just like a medieval Italian painting.” There is a never-ending change of light and endless possibility.’

An important thing to remember when looking at a landscape and composing a view to paint is the foreground. ‘You may see a beautiful view and want to paint it, but the whole reason why it’s beautiful is what’s leading up towards it. People tend to forget about the thing that is right in front of you to help balance it out. Painting is all about balance. A ridge that is miles away, without the surrounding context, doesn’t have the same impact as what you are actually seeing.

Painting with Oils

Image: Three palettes with oil paint mixed on them. Photography by Robyn Lea.

Oil painting has such an illustrious history, and so many famous names are associated with it, that attempting to paint with oils as a beginner can be a much more daunting prospect than it need be. Doubtless, it is a faff. It’s messy, the paint takes a long time to dry and you need the right kit as well as space in which to set yourself up. But it also brings a huge amount of freedom and room to experiment. You can change things, work things out, and build up layers of colour and shapes. As William puts it: ‘Oils are great because you can fill a large area very quickly, but equally you can wipe or scrape them off if they’re not right. Each mark is less of a commitment than with, say, water colours. The different density of the colours with the mediums means you can make a colour almost transparent, or really thick, and certain colours are more transparent than others. Often the very dark colours, like ultramarine and some greens, are very rich colours, but also very transparent. If you add a warmer colour, they become more opaque and dense. Equally, because there is so much freedom provided by oil paints, there are a lot of things to think about. It can be daunting, but for the better, as you have more to play with and to experiment with, to find out what your style is like.’

As with cooking, painting with oils becomes less daunting every time you do it, as your confidence grows and you get used to the feel of the paints, the brushes and the medium. By the end of the week at Arniano, we always hope that everyone has done something they are proud of, at the same time as having figured out their own way of doing things. William tries to teach in such a way that everyone comes up with their individual style of painting. He disapproves of hard and fast rules, and dislikes the idea of anyone leaving Arniano and simply going on to paint like him. He wants each student to be able to do it on their own, to go home and enjoy it.

The start of the week is focused on finding something that each student is interested in painting. William will walk the students around the garden until they find a subject that captivates them. Quite often, if he sees that a student is good at doing close-ups of plants during the first morning of charcoal drawing, he’ll set them up in front of the fig tree with some nice, dark shadows behind, and ask them to paint the pleasing, interlacing fig leaves. Sometimes a student might not want to paint the landscape at all, but would rather stay indoors to paint one of my mother’s ceramics. These people are usually those whose knowledge or natural interest lies in design. Even so, this exercise often leads them back into the garden to have a go at landscape, because they feel more confident attempting to paint ‘shape’ and ‘form’ outside having had a practice run at capturing a Granada bowl in the kitchen.

Because the guests have just under a week – it is a rarity to have time and space where you can focus purely on oil painting – William’s philosophy is that everyone should just get on with it, and procrastinating is sharply discouraged. After an initial morning of charcoal drawing together, to get everyone’s eye in and to get them to think about composition, everybody is dropped in at the deep end and told to start painting. Although it’s only a week, it’s a lot to absorb in a short amount of time, and everyone is exhausted by the end, having done a lot of work.

Starting a Painting

Image: an easel with an oil painting in the garden at Arniano. Photography by Robyn Lea.

Before you start painting, you will need the following:

  • a minimum of three round-headed and three flat-headed sable brushes for oils
  • non-toxic vegetable-based medium, or turpentine
  • linseed oil
  • a basic set of oil paints, which includes all the primary colours
  • a large tube of white, zinc and/or titanium (very useful)
  • any additional tubes of paint in colours that capture your imagination (we love French ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, Venetian red, cadmium red, crimson alizarin, burnt umber, raw umber)
  • primed boards to paint on – you can prime wood boards yourself by coating them with white emulsion, or buy ready-primed from any art store (we order ours from the wonderful art suppliers Zecchi, in central Florence).

The key to enjoying the process of painting is to set yourself up fully at the beginning, to make sure you are comfortable and to have everything you need. You should also have some cloths for wiping your brushes, and two pots of medium: one pot of pure medium, for cleaning the brushes, and another pot containing half linseed, half medium, to add a little gloss to the paint. Some people prefer a drier finish and omit the linseed – this can also be beautiful. It is entirely down to preference and personal style. Regularly cleaning your brushes is imperative, in order to keep your palette clean and the colours distinct. William is strict about everyone cleaning their brush in-between changing colours – the result of not doing this can be a dreadful grey mush.

The next thing is to make sure that everything is in its proper place. For instance, if you’re right-handed, arrange your easel to your left, so that you have your right hand at the view and your palette in front of you (and vice versa if you are left-handed). If everything is in its proper place, then you won’t have to keep moving around. Simple, good habits such as these make a huge difference.

Once you are set up, look at the view and decide on a colour palette (a set of dominant colours), before mixing these up using different colours to achieve the one colour you are after. At Arniano, the landscape has a lot of pinks, rich greens, blue skies and sulphur-coloured clouds, but it isn’t necessary for the colours to be realistic. It’s how colours work next to one another that is interesting, as they can have an amazing effect on each other. If you mix your colours thoughtfully before you start, you can create a tension between them. You can also dive straight in, without having to fastidiously mix as you go along. If William sees that someone is struggling with choosing colours to commit to canvas, he will open one of our artbooks and choose a painting by, for example, Gauguin and say: ‘I want you to make those colours and apply them to this view.’ This stops people fixating on capturing the exact colours as they see them, and helps them to learn to play around with colour and to gain confidence.

The best way to get started is by squinting your eyes. You will be able to see the rough shapes within the landscape, as well as the darkness and the light, and how they interact, without being distracted by the details. Once you have determined these elements, quickly block them in. By getting rid of as much of the white on the canvas as possible, you are setting the story. A ‘blank canvas’, so full of endless possibilities, can actually be upsetting. Once you get some paint on it, it won’t freak you out so much, and you can keep building up the detail and begin tweaking. William believes that the main thing for beginners to overcome is a tendency to get too precious about a painting, which can lead to procrastination. This can be fatal, as anxiety about what to do, or what not to do, will remove the pleasure from the process. Painting is purely for oneself – a way to feed your own soul, no one else’s. When a painter dithers, or hangs back, William will appear with barks of, ‘Just slap it on, it doesn’t matter.’ The beauty is that you can always start a new one if you hate the end result.

William’s advice to anyone who is starting out with oil painting is to be brave and to keep doing it, to try to get into the habit of painting as often as you can – every day if that’s possible, or even once a week. Be as consistent as you can, and keep looking at the works of other artists, at works that you like for their composition, colour palette or technique. It’s not cheating to do that. Quite the opposite. You are doing it for inspiration, to see what clever things people come up with that you really like, and that you would like to emulate.

This is an extract from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.

A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness is available from 29 March.

AU $65

Posted on March 23, 2022
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Three Ways That Fungi Can Save the World


Fungi have a range of natural abilities that we can use to heal damaged habitats. This is known as mycorestoration. Scientists can leverage fungi’s ability to decompose, and engineer it to break down pollutants in the environment, particularly xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are chemical substances that have been introduced by humans and do not exist in nature, such as pesticides, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and drugs.

Pioneering a new field of science is challenging and takes time, money and grit. But extraordinary circumstances need extraordinary solutions – and fungi can provide them

Image: Joana Huguenin. 


Earth is the only known planet within our solar system that has bodies of liquid water on its surface. This clear liquid is one of our most precious resources, but water supplies are limited. Less than 1 per cent of the water on Earth is accessible and fit for consumption, and this is currently shared between households, agriculture and industry. Over 97 per cent of Earth’s water is too salty and 2 per cent is fresh water locked away in groundwater, glaciers and ice caps.

In the last 100 years, the world’s population grew four fold as the world’s water consumption grew six fold. The industrial age and modern plumbing have made way for water consumption at rates that were never possible before. This efficiency, coupled with an increase in demand for water, has resulted in global scarcity.

Flushing the toilet or running the washing machine creates wastewater that is not reusable until it is treated. Roughly 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is left untreated and allowed back into our waterways, putting the health of our water ecosystems at risk. Even in developed countries, wastewater is not properly decontaminated due to outdated treatment plants, sewage overflows and ineffective household sewage treatment systems. The source of untreated wastewater is difficult to pinpoint, as it originates from a range of sources, which often include agricultural and stormwater run-off.

A promising example of an affordable and feasible solution is mycofiltration. This process uses fungal mycelium as a biological filter to capture and remove contaminants from water and soil. Depending on the fungal species, mycelium can even eat through and digest pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and petroleum products. If you peer at fungi through a microscope, you’ll see that the cells of mycelium are about 0.5–2 microns wide (for comparison, a strand of human hair is 50 microns wide). Mycelium grows as interconnected cells that resemble a netted fabric.

Armed with this knowledge in the 1970s, Paul Stamets imagined that this fabric of interconnected cells could become a biological filter. He tested this hypothesis on his waterfront farm, installing large sacks filled with substrate inoculated with mycelium of the garden giant species (Stropharia rugosoannulata) around water basins. The sacks formed a netted barrier to catch contaminants as water passed through. This mycofilter cleansed the water, resulting in a 100-fold drop in coliform levels – the bacteria that is present in the digestive tracts of animals and found in their waste. The mycofilter successfully reduced fecal matter in the water, alleviating the downstream impacts of contaminated water. This finding was later investigated and confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A mycofilter can be as simple as a hessian burlap sack filled with wet straw and wood chips, and inoculated with mycelium. It is inexpensive and simple to set up. Also, the small size of the mycofilter means that it has minimal impact on ecology and can be installed around sites such as farms, urban areas, roads and factories. Having a mycofiltration system in these areas can help decontaminate wastewater before it makes its way back into our waterways.

Image: an Oyster Mushroom is able to process and neutralise bacteria such as E. coli. Illustrated by Joana Huguenin. 

Mycelium is known for its insatiable hunger for organic matter. Specifically, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is able to process and neutralise bacteria such as Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli), working with its mycelial membrane to filter out microbial pathogens from contaminated water.

Tradd Cotter, mycologist and owner of the company Mushroom Mountain, runs workshops on setting up mycofiltration systems. ‘We’re using a cage that looks like a crab pot, that can be refilled with wood chips. It’ll last for a year or two. And if the cage stays put, it can be emptied out and refilled with new wood chips.’ Mycofiltration is a young science and commercial applications are scarce, but this has not stopped property owners from experimenting with this fungal capability.


Forests cover one-third of the land on Earth and their diverse habitats are home to 80 per cent of the world’s (known) plant and animal species. As for humans, billions of people in rural communities rely on forests for food, shelter, medicine and water. Forests are also a vital player in the effort against climate change as they act as a carbon sink– they absorb, or sequester, large amounts of carbon dioxide and store the carbon in their wood. Old-growth forests are particularly critical, because their roots have extended deep into the soil for centuries and sequester extra carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to manage today’s rising temperatures.

Yet deforestation – legal and illegal – continues. Aside from permanent losses of biodiversity, deforestation sets off a domino effect of land degradation impacts, including increased erosion, reduced soil fertility and piles of wood debris. Unfortunately, the standard treatment of this ‘waste’ is incineration. This releases additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroys the potential for the nutrients from the wood to be recycled back into the soil. This calls for sustainable forest management practices. One of these is mycoforestry – the use of fungi as a forest and soil builder.

Wood debris in forests can be chipped into smaller pieces, then inoculated with native saprophytic fungi species to speed up the decomposition process. This redirects vital elements and nutrients back into the soil for use by the rest of the forest. Fungi also produce glomalin at the hyphal tips, which is what fungi use to store carbon. It’s a sticky substance that binds together soil particles and builds soil architecture. This aerates the soil, helps water and nutrient retention, and regenerates impacted habitats.

Along with forests and oceans, soils also act as an invaluable carbon sink. Research found that mycorrhizal fungi in boreal forest islands in Sweden hold up to 70 per cent of the total carbon stored in soils. This means that trees connected to a mycelial network absorb carbon from the atmosphere and then transfer it into the mycelium for storage. Fungi play a critical role in regulating the global climate.

Mycoforestry was put into action in Colorado by Jeff Ravage, North Fork Watershed coordinator for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and researcher at Denver Botanic Gardens. In 2016, he and his team of researchers set up two test sites in Denver Mountain Parks. These sites had been logged and abandoned, leaving 30 centimetres of waste wood spread across the entire forest floor. Ravage’s team recruited the help of wood-rotting species Pleurotus pulmonariuson one site and Morchella angusticepson on another.

Over five years, fungi in the first site consumed the wood chips and created 5 centimetres of topsoil – organic, mineral-rich soil from which seeds germinate – with a few centimetres of partially decomposed organic matter on top. Before this, the ground was just gravel with dust. The second site exhibited a slower rate of seeding, decaying 75 per cent over two years. The team will be treating this site with a second inoculation in 2021 to further investigate the results.

Image: Jackie Money

Want to get started on your own mycoforestry project? Watch out for a paper from Ravage, who wants ‘to create useful tools and distribute them freely, because we don’t have enough time left for somebody to figure out how to make a profit on saving the planet. We’re not out to create a patent,’ he says. ‘How can we patent nature?’

Mycoforestry remains an experimental forestry practice conducted by environmental groups and volunteers. Replenishing the soil in forests, improving soil fertility and increasing forest ecosystem resilience is of both ecological and economic interest. A greater uptake of mycoforestry by forestry management groups, logging companies and council decision-makers will move the science forward and protect the future of forests.


We may not see it, taste it or feel it, but we are entangled in an array of environmental toxins. Microplastics in waterways, nanoparticles in the air and noxious chemicals in soils were all introduced by human activity and have become accepted as invisible causes of illness and death. Contaminants and pollutants are abundant in our air, water and soil, all around the world.

Traditional methods of remediation, such as disposal into hazardous waste facilities, incineration and chemical treatments, are expensive, energy-intensive and only move the contamination to someone else’s backyard. We urgently need to find more permanent solutions to clean up the mess we’ve made on Earth. Many scientists have turned to mycoremediation, the use of fungi to decontaminate the environment. After all, fungi are nature’s decomposers and this strategy has been effective for Earth for over a billion years.

In forests, a major source of nutrients is from fallen trees, released as the trees break down. Their sturdy trunks are reinforced by lignin, a complex material that binds together the building blocks of wood. Only fungi can excrete enzymes powerful enough to decompose lignin. Luckily for us, the bonds in lignin are similar to those in petroleum, pesticides, plastics, dyes and a range of other toxins, which means mycelium can disassemble the hydrocarbons present in a wide spectrum of toxins. In particular, saprophytic fungi varieties called white rotters, such as oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms, are relatively easy to grow and love molecular decomposition.

Image: Paul Vallier

In 2016, Fungaia Farm, a mushroom farm in California, used oyster mushroom spawn to remediate gallons of diesel fuel that had spilled from a storage tank. They removed the contaminated soil and placed it between layers of fresh straw and burlap that were inoculated with oyster mushrooms. The mycelium got to work. As it fed on the petroleum, hyphae threaded throughout the crevices of the oil-laden soil. Later testing showed that all contamination was reduced to a non-toxic level and some soil was even oil-free, allowing the land to be reclaimed for landscaping.

Levon Durr, the owner of Fungaia Farm, has noted that the project wasn’t without its mistakes and he has since published a report to aid grassroots practitioners. Another diesel spill was discovered in 2020 and the Fungaia Farm team hopes to detoxify the soil using mushroom spawn once again. But convincing landowners to try mycoremediation is challenging. ‘It can cost US$15,000 for one remediation treatment on site and it quickly adds up because it’s a biological process and may need multiple treatments over the course of a year to get the soil to a non-toxic level,’ says Durr, ‘compared to paying US$45,000 once-off to dig up the contaminated soil and haul it away.’

Conditions are also difficult to control in these outdoor projects. It may be cold and rainy one month, but dry and hot the next. If temperatures are too high, the piles of soil and burlap can turn into a compost heap and kill the mycelium. Controlling for a myriad of variables on the field takes patience and resilience. Fungaia Farm continues to educate and produce mushroom spawn to cultivators for food production and mycoremediation projects.

Mycocycle, founded by Joanne Rodriguez with Peter McCoy as chief science officer, is pioneering a new industry: using fungi to divert waste from landfills. They are remediating waste from roofing, asphalt and chemical manufacturing industries. As the mycelium consumes waste and binds it together, Mycocycle creates new materials from the process. There is strong interest from manufacturers in these industries for a cost-effective and sustainable waste-treatment solution. The challenge Rodriguez faces to scale up mycoremediation ‘is the lack of interdisciplinary backgrounds to move these discoveries out of the lab and into real world treatments’. To combat this, Mycocycle launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2020 encouraging people to join the cause and accelerate change. McCoy is also the founder of MYCOLOGOS, an online education platform for all things fungi.

This is an edited extract from The Future is Fungi by Michael Lim and Yun Shu.

The Future is Fungi by Michael Lim and Yun Shu is available now.

AU $49.99

Posted on March 18, 2022
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Recipe for a Persian Love Cake

Image: Sara Kidd

The Vegan Cake Bible teaches you everything you need to know about making incredible plant-based cakes. In this easy-to-follow book, author, pastry chef and vegan cake queen, Sara Kidd, shares her vast knowledge of the science behind vegan baking and how to make foolproof creations every time.

Read on for Sara’s vegan recipe for a Persian Love Cake.

Image: Sara Kidd

Legend has it that a Persian woman wanted to make a prince fall in love with her, so she created a cake laced with a love spell. I think it worked because every bite of this Persian love cake brings romance. Aromas of cardamom and rose are kissed with a tender almond cake crumb and the surprise of pistachios. It’s truly a cake for lovers. It will fill you with desire and maybe wanting a little more … cake.


Makes 1 x 20 cm (8 in) single-layer cake  Serves 12

170 g (3/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar 

60 ml (1/4 cup) rosewater

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon lemon extract or flavouring

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon plus 2 tablespoons of juice

80 ml (1/3 cup) plain soy milk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

200 g (11/3 cups) plain
(all-purpose) flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

55 g (1/2 cup) blanched almond flour

125 g (1 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar

chopped pistachios and dried rose petals, to decorate

Prep time: 20 mins

Bake time: 35–37 mins

Decoration time: 10 mins

Skill: Easy

Method: Mixing

Sweetness: Medium but with a hint of spice

Texture: Soft crumb

1 ⁄ Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F) conventional. Grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) springform cake tin with baking paper, then grease again and dust with flour, tipping out the excess.

2 ⁄ Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave on High in 10-second bursts.

3 ⁄ Transfer the melted butter to a bowl, add the caster sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add 3 tablespoons of the rosewater, the vanilla bean paste, lemon extract and lemon zest and stir until completely combined.

4 ⁄ In a separate small bowl, stir the soy milk and vinegar together until the mixture thickens, then add to the melted butter mixture, stirring to combine.

5 ⁄ Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt, xanthan gum and ground cardamom into a large mixing bowl, then stir in the almond flour.

6 ⁄ Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.

7 ⁄ Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, then transfer to the middle rack of your oven and bake for 35–37 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when gently pressed.

8 ⁄ Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

9 ⁄ To make the glaze topping, place the icing sugar, lemon juice and remaining rosewater in a bowl and stir until completely combined.

10 ⁄ Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and decorate with pistachios and dried rose petals, as desired.

Baker’s tip: You can add less cardamom if you’re not a fan of this spice.

The Vegan Cake Bible by Sara Kidd is out in April 2022.


Posted on February 10, 2022
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Two Salads to Add to Your Recipe Repertoire

Image: Serge Philippi

Salads are so versatile: healthy and inexpensive meals that can be thrown together using endless combinations of ingredients and a little creativity.

Dressed up or pared back, a salad can be as simple as tossing a few green leaves in a bowl or served as a main meal packed with vegetables, grains or your choice of protein.

Read on for two quick and healthy ideas from Salad by Janneke Philippi.

Basil salad with polenta balls

Golden yellow fried polenta balls, stuffed with olives and rocket (arugula), are the stars of this salad. Feel free to make them a few days in advance and keep them covered in the fridge.

Image: Serge Philippi

Pre-prep: 40 minutes
Waiting: 3 hours
Prep: 15 minutes


125 g (41/2 oz) polenta
3 tablespoons pitted
black olives
handful of rocket
handful of grated
90 ml (3 fl oz) extra-virgin
olive oil
6 small tomatoes
1 large bunch of basil
1 spring onion (scallion)
1 lemon
olive oil, for frying
handful of young lettuce
1 tablespoon capers

Cook the polenta in 1 litre (34 fl oz) of water according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Roughly chop the olives and rocket. Mix the olives, rocket, parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil through the polenta. Leave the polenta to cool for 30 minutes. With wet hands, roll the polenta into 24 balls. Place on a tray and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until extra firm.

Halve the tomatoes. Pick the basil leaves and tear or roughly chop. Thinly slice the spring onion and cut the lemon into wedges.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Fry the polenta balls for 8–10 minutes, until golden brown all over; be careful as the hot oil will spit!

Mix the lettuce leaves with the basil, spring onion and capers. Divide the salad among four plates. Place the tomato on top of the salads and drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil.

Arrange the polenta balls over the salads and serve with the lemon wedges for a fresh accent.

Spinach + Butter lettuce Salad with chicken poached in coconut milk

I like to make this salad in the spring and summer, when fresh young peas are sweet and crunchy. Poaching the chicken in coconut milk keeps the salad light and fragrant. You can serve the chicken warm over the salad or leave to cool in the poaching liquid so that the meat remains tender.

Image: Serge Philippi

Prep: 30 minutes + cooling


400 ml (131/2 fl oz) tin coconut milk
1 chicken stock cube
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lemongrass stalk
200 g (7 oz) fresh shelled peas
2 shallots
1 bunch of coriander (cilantro)
100 g (31/2 oz) butter (Boston) lettuce
100 g (31/2 oz) baby spinach
2–3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1–2 teaspoons chilli flakes

Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan along with 400 ml (131/2 fl oz) of water, the stock cube and the chicken. Bruise the lemongrass stalk and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and gently poach the chicken for 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the poaching liquid to lukewarm or room temperature.

Cook the peas for 8 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool. Slice the shallot. Coarsely chop the coriander.

Arrange the butter lettuce leaves, spinach, shallot and peas on four plates. Slice the chicken (reserving the poaching liquid) and place on the salads with the coriander.

Strain the reserved poaching liquid and spoon it generously over the salads as a dressing. Drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the coconut and chilli flakes to taste.

Salad by Janneke Phillipi is available now. Photography by Serge Phillipi.


Posted on February 2, 2022
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The Japanese Art of Repair

Modern Japanese culture, though progressive technologically, still celebrates and supports the lives and work of craftspeople. The makers themselves are fiercely proud of the long traditions of their crafts – whether in woodwork, wire, ceramics, glass, paper or textiles – and see great importance in carrying these traditions into the future. They often feel called to their chosen medium and take satisfaction in knowing their work will live on past their own lifetime.

The makers often use modern equipment and materials, but many also follow traditional methods and work with simple tools that have been passed down through generations. Each artist has their own style, but all are passionate, dedicated and truly inspirational.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repair, specifically the repair of ceramics. In its truest and traditional form, it is a profound and powerful art based on the philosophy that something is more beautiful because it has been broken and repaired. Mio Heki devotes her working life and her artistic heart to this skilled conservation technique, which uses urushi (a tree sap) dusted with gold.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

Mio’s small but beautifully appointed atelier is located in a north-western suburb of Kyoto. It includes an area where she displays her work – which extends to lacquerware jewellery and lacquer objects – a drying cupboard and her work table. The table is short-legged, like traditional Japanese dining tables, so she can sit on the floor while she works. She says she feels most grounded working this way.

After majoring in the traditional craft of lacquering at Kyoto City University of Arts, Mio worked in a studio that restored temple ornamentation. In that role, she learnt more about kintsugi and was asked to repair a sacred temple bowl. Working on the bowl, she immediately felt that this type of work was her calling. It is a calling that has become a profession, one which now includes teaching kintsugi in Kyoto, as well as in cities including Paris and Amsterdam.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

Mio finds it very special to be able to fix and restore a piece that has been loved and respected, saying she ‘hears the voice’ of the thing in her hands. ‘It is being present and conscious of the object, of how it was loved by the  person, of the hands that made it. It is always being sure not to change the artwork’s shape from its original form, but to fix and add gold, thus showing great care to its ongoing life as an object.’

The practical work of kintsugi is long and repetitive, as well as requiring dexterity and patience. Mio feels that her art practice has benefits in her daily life; the process has become like a meditation to her. She shows great respect to her tools, believing that they are sacred and deserving of special
care. She has made many of the implements herself, cutting and planing cypress spatulas to mix the urushi, for example, and built racks to hold the tools between uses. In her spare time, Mio is studying traditional tea ceremonies, and she reflects that her love and care of her tools is in keeping with the reverence shown for the equipment used in a tea ceremony. In both instances, tools are cleaned at every point, and kept organised and in good repair, honouring their important part in the ritual.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

Mio shows equal respect to the materials she uses the urushi; the (real) gold, in fine powder form; and the jinoko and tonoko, the clay-type powders used for mixing. They are cared for in honour of nature and its limited resources; no part is wasted or discarded.

With the drying process taken into account, repairs can take up to a year to complete, depending on the intricacy of the break or chip and the size of the object. With good humour, Mio says that most days consist of ‘painting, sanding, painting, sanding – but that is okay, it takes time to make something beautiful.’ A vessel repaired by Mio will not only hold, as she attests, ‘the soul of the maker and the owner’ but also the spirit of this talented and thoughtful woman who joins fracture lines and sprinkles them with gold.

Utsuwa is available now. Text and photography by Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson.


Posted on February 1, 2022
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Garden Inspiration from The Planthunter

Georgina Reid is an intrepid hunter of stories, plants and ideas. In The Planthunter, she uncovers the exceptional and ordinary ways people around the world find truth, beauty, purpose and connection through the act of gardening.

The Planthunter is a visceral and seductive celebration of life in the garden. It’s for the plant curious, the plant killer, the plant lover, and everyone in between.

Whether you’ve got a large garden, a small courtyard or a merely a windowsill, this selection of photos from the book will have you inspired to get you hands dirty and connect with nature.

LOCATION: Bibbenluke, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

LOCATION: Bibbenluke, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Chippendale, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Hepburn, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Whitford, New Zealand
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Artist Bill Henson’s backyard in Northcote, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Woodend, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: San Jose, USA
Photography by Daniel Shipp

The Planthunter is available now.


Posted on December 21, 2021
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Colour & Pattern Play with Anna Spiro

Anna Spiro has long been hailed as Australia’s most original and creative interior designer. Her globally adored aesthetic is unapologetically maximalist and a paean to comfort; her devotion to the craft of working with pattern on pattern on pattern – combined with her intuitive layering of colours, objects old and new, art, books and foraged treasures – creates spaces that sing with individuality.

I have always been drawn to colour and pattern, and believe injecting both into a room can spark an instant sense of joy. Used well, they give an air of individuality and help create rooms that are full of energy. Layering a bold, multicoloured throw on the end of your bed, or selecting an array of mismatched cushions for your lounge room sofa, can be simple but effective ways of uplifting a space and making both you and your home feel fabulous and refreshed.

As the title of this chapter suggests, at its heart, the use of colour and pattern should be all about play. I love to experiment with colour, to push the boundaries and put interesting combinations together into a unique palette. Bucking at anything normal and coming up with something extra-ordinary is what gets my heart racing every single time. Whether you’re mixing and matching period furniture with more modern elements, challenging expectations with daring colour and pattern combinations, or boldly covering a room head-to-toe in one pattern – walls, sofas, armchairs, cushions … everything – be confident and just do it!

Colour and pattern are everywhere in our daily lives. From an interesting colour palette in a streetscape, to a wonderful old wallpaper or luxuriously patterned vintage dress, inspiration is all around – you just need to open your eyes to it. Take photos of the combinations you see, make a note of those you are most drawn to, and use these as the starting point for putting together an interesting colour and pattern palette for your home.

One of the biggest secrets I can share for creating a home full of pattern and colour, is that colour can be the one ingredient, if used properly, that holds everything together. The way I unify seemingly mismatched furniture and patterns is by repeating or referencing colours from a similar palette within the space, even if those colours are unusual or otherwise unexpected.

Whether you love warmer or cooler tones, there must always be a balance when putting together colour and pattern. Choose an array of patterned and plain fabrics in your selected palette to use on various pieces in a room. Consider how much pattern you are happy to live with. If you prefer a more toned-down look, I suggest covering larger pieces of furniture in plain or ditsy fabrics (i.e. with small, irregular patterns), and covering accent pieces such as armchairs, ottomans and scatter cushions in bolder, more multicoloured patterns.

When I build schemes using colour and pattern, I often think of them as a big jigsaw puzzle. You have to make sure that each element works collectively in a cohesive yet interesting way, and fit the pieces together to create a wonderful overall result. Consider layering traditional florals with more modern geometric patterns, stripes or checks, and using a mix of large, medium and small pattern scales. Sometimes a clashing element, such as a bold multicoloured geometric pattern in a slightly ‘off’ colour, can be just what your room needs to conjure the unexpected. I like to look for patterns that I haven’t seen used very often. This is part of the reason that I love to use antique textiles to cover ottomans, bedheads and cushions, or even as tablecloths or hanging works of art on a wall. Often one of a kind, these textiles add a special, cosy feeling to any room and often end up being pieces that are cherished for the rest of our lives.

Don’t be afraid of colour and pattern. Embrace them and incorporate them into your home, even if you start with just one room. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop, as it is super addictive once you start. Combining colour and pattern is the foundation to creating a comfortable home that is full of interest, happiness and unique style.

A Life in Pattern is available now. Text by Anna Spiro and photography by Tim Salisbury.


Posted on December 17, 2021
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Discover the Magnificent Kingdom of Birds

Working for years in his studio and in the field, internationally acclaimed photographer Tim Flach has portrayed nature’s most alluring creatures alertly at rest and dramatically in flight, capturing intricate feather patterns and subtle colouration invisible to the naked eye.

The result of much patience, precision and persistence, Birds features more than 130 extraordinary photographs. Read on to discover five of our favourite images from this awe-inspiring book.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

Kite Jacobin Pigeon.

Like all other crested pigeons, Jacobin pigeons carry a specific mutation in a gene called EphB2. This gene regulates the development of placodes, the little disks of tissue on the skin of an embryonic bird from which their feathers will emerge. In ordinary pigeons the gene is active at the bottom of the placode, which instructs the feathers to grow down the neck. The mutation, however, causes EphB2 to switch on at the top of the placode, instructing the feathers to grow up the neck instead, effectively turning them upside down to produce a crest

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

Victoria Crowned Pigeon.

These regal birds are the largest living pigeons in the world, tipping the scales at a whopping 5½ pounds (2.5 kg)—six and a half times heavier than a feral pigeon and nearly the weight of a chicken. The males become extremely territorial during courtship and vigorously display their exquisite crowns in the hopes of establishing dominance and winning a mate. The young pigeon pictured above is just twenty-one days old, and still molting into his juvenile plumage. Only after he has finished growing will he replace these feathers with his impressive adult plumage.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

Miniature Crested Duck.

These birds have been bred for centuries to enhance their crested appearance, but the dominant allele that lends these birds their comical crowns can also be lethal, with embryos that receive two copies of the crested gene invariably dying while they are still developing in the egg. To avoid this, breeders usually cross crested ducks with another breed, which preserves the dominant crested trait in half of the resulting offspring, and completely prevents the excess mortality associated with pure-breeding.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

Inca Tern.

For these comical-looking birds, an exquisite handlebar mustache is more than a fashion statement—it’s an advertisement of good health. Like all other birds, these terns can only grow out their plumes while molting, an extremely energy-intensive process during which they sequentially replace all of the feathers on their bodies. This allows them to use the unique facial feathers to assess the fitness of prospective mates: since growing a pair of long ornamental feathers requires a surplus of food, birds with longer mustaches are better at feeding themselves and are therefore likely to be better at raising young.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

American Flamingo.

Unlike many other gregarious birds, flamingos, pictured here in a group, or “flamboyance,” are also unusually cooperative breeders: rather than defending just their own newly hatched offspring, the birds gather their ungainly, flightless young together in a creche, which is then defended by just a few designated guardians. This innovative day-care system frees the rest of the adults to spend their entire day foraging, allowing the birds to gather more food and feed more mouths without increasing the risk of predation.

Birds is available now. Photographs by Tim Flach and text by Richard O. Prum.


Posted on December 14, 2021
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Life at the Edge

Water features prominently in the collective memory and national identity of Australia. From long summers spent building sandcastles and learning to swim, to the sheer immensity and wild beauty of cliffs and dark oceans, our status as an island nation is inescapable. Life at the Edge is a photographic celebration of Australia’s crystalline waters – its coastlines, inlets, lakes and rivers. Hear the river rushing past, smell the salty ocean air, feel the slimy rocks, and exult in our collective yearning for bodies of water.

Bremer Bay, WA
Photography by Caro Telfer
Caloundra, Queensland
Photography by Andrew McInnes
Barwon Heads, VIC
Photography by Paidi Flynn
Watermans Bay, WA
Photography by Kellie Baldwin
Dungog, NSW
Photography by Clare Seibel-Barnes
Sydney, NSW
Photography by Arni Mangahas
Coalcliff, NSW
Photography by Leah-Anne Thompson
Hamilton Island, QLD
Rosalie Dibben

Life at the Edge is available now. Edited by Jo Turner.

AU$ 59.99

Posted on November 30, 2021
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Life As A Circle

Architecture at the Heart of the Home by Jan Henderson and Dianna Snape, is the home of Australian residences at the cutting edge of design, comfort and aesthetics. Each of these architectural houses gravitates towards a centre, a special space that becomes the very heart of the home. This might be a room, a window that frames a panoramic view, or a pool that reflects the sky overhead. In this extract, dive into the crystalline beauty and circular motifs of Caroline House, designed by Kennedy Nolan.

Photography: Dianna Snape

Caroline House sits in a wide, tree-fringed street close to Melbourne’s CBD, in a suburb noted for showcasing Victorian and Edwardian houses.

This architectural project is a seamless merging of old with new. The addition of contemporary entertaining spaces and a main bedroom suite complement the alterations to the original worker’s cottage. Black steel-rimmed windows dominate the interior in both large and small sizes, and circles are a leading design motif throughout the home.

Although the footprint of the house is compact, there is an easy flow through the space that enhances family life. This home positively drinks in the light that filters through its windows. Shadows fill the rooms, dappling the floors, walls and ceilings with constantly changing patterns throughout the day and early evening.

Photography: Dianna Snape

The outside is always visible through the windows and sliding glass doors that frame the enclosed garden and landscaped entertaining areas and bring the outside in to create an expansive space.

At the back of the house, beside the open-plan family room and kitchen, is a circular pool that is almost as large as these rooms. This is the heart of this home. It reflects the exterior architecture and the ever-changing sky – on hot summer days, the cool and welcoming water transforms into a shimmering looking glass, and when winter arrives, it reflects the gathering clouds overhead. This is where the family gathers, where parties occur and solitary moments are spent. It can be a place of tranquillity after a busy day, or a loud and raucous part of the home that hosts a gaggle of children as they splash and swim.

Although the pool beckons on hot summer days, it is the interior of this home that provides protection and sustains everyday life. It has been designed with great care and with attention to every detail. Here, the ordinary is anything but.

Photography: Dianna Snape

The original front rooms of the house have been retained and renewed, but inside the new addition everything changes. Past a stairway and the small garden into the public areas, this is a destination worth the walk. This new open-plan space, comprising living, dining and kitchen, is defined by light and outside views. A black steel fireplace suspended from the ceiling and the placement of a curved sofa complete the look of sophisticated luxury. There is also a dining table and chairs, and an island bench in front of the integrated kitchen appliances.

The interior colours are warm. Cappuccino, cream and white enhance the blocks of bold colour, such as the muted forest green of the pleated steel staircase that rises majestically from the ground to the first floor.

Photography: Dianna Snape

While circles dominate the design and are almost everywhere, other geometric patterns have also been used. In the kitchen, small cream rectangular tiles line the splashback and cover the tall, round extractors above the stove and the base of the marble-topped island bench. The sliding doors to the garden feature square panes of glass outlined with black steel.

Upstairs, curved joinery wraps around the walls of the study – this area is an anteroom to the main bedroom. Off the bedroom is an ensuite and a small balcony, and when the balcony door is open, birds can be heard chirping in the trees below.

Photography: Dianna Snape

This is a home of great comfort coupled with infinite style. The interior decoration, at times whimsical, is beautifully formed. It is a home for grown-ups and children, an individual or a crowd, and there are circles everywhere to embellish the design.

While the architecture is a dichotomy of the monumental and the discreet, the pool is the visual focus. It is central to the life of the family who live here. As the water reflects the changing colours and forms of the sky above, it mirrors all that surrounds it. Caroline House is a magical place to live in and for a family to thrive in. It is, on all levels, unique and a home of stature.

Photography: Dianna Snape

Architecture at the Heart of the Home is available now. Text by Jan Henderson and photography by Dianna Snape.

AU$ 59.99

Posted on October 26, 2021
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What Makes a Home One’s Own according to Anna Spiro?

No one does colour or pattern quite like interior decorator Anna Spiro. Globally loved for her unique ability to bring together interesting fabrics, antique furniture and art, she has built a tremendous career over the past twenty years. In her new book A Life in Pattern, Anna offers up a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, showing how the very best interiors come from following your own path. In this extract, she answers the question: what makes a home one’s own?

Photography: Tim Salisbury

This is one of those questions that I come back to time and again. Home should be a place of normality and familiarity, of comfort; a place that wraps you up and makes you feel safe, warm and happy. Home is where you can create your own world – and what makes my home mine is completely different to what makes your home yours.

So, how do we create a place that we truly adore and cherish? The things we love, collect and arrange within our home make it feel like ‘us’. Without them, a home can feel empty and soulless. I have been creating a home that I love ever since I left my family home in my early twenties. Yes, I have lived in a number of houses since then, but much of the furniture, art and other bits and pieces that I have collected have stayed with me. These elements have travelled with me on my journey and I have reworked them into my various houses. They are kind of like old friends; a new house feels more like a home the moment I put my old friends inside it.

Photography: Tim Salisbury

I have worked with a number of clients who have entered the later stages of their lives – their children have left home and they are at the point of downsizing from a large family home to an apartment or townhouse. One of the most common things I notice when such clients come to me is that they are not ready to let go of their things – objects that they have loved, that have been familiar to them for their entire lives in some cases. Often, a couple’s children will push for them to move the old furniture on and start from scratch, but I almost always advise the opposite. For one, I understand that getting rid of those treasured pieces can be like losing an arm or a leg. Moreover, by incorporating some of those special old items into the new home, while mixing in some fresh new pieces, we can create a sense of familiarity that makes transitioning to a brand-new place that bit easier.

Photography: Tim Salisbury

Anna Spiro: A Life in Pattern is available now. Text by Anna Spiro, images by Tim Salisbury and design by Penny Sheehan.

AU$ 90.00

Posted on October 26, 2021
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A Redfern Oasis from The City Gardener

In The City Gardener, Richard Unsworth takes us on a journey through urban spaces that are lush and blooming with creative expression. As our concrete jungles continue to grow in both size and density, the cultivation of green sanctuaries inside city limits has never been more important. In this extract, Unsworth showcases the innovative design and immaculate execution of a garden in the inner-city suburb of Redfern.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

Redfern is an exciting and diverse suburb sitting at the southern end of Sydney’s CBD. Like other inner-city suburbs, it has a working-class history. However, over the years it has become gentrified as property prices have grown and young professionals flocked there, wanting to live within walking distance of the city. I bought my first house in this colourful suburb and, after leaving Darlinghurst, Garden Life had its second home here on busy Cleveland Street for more than eight years.

Its densely packed terrace houses have mostly been renovated to provide their owners with modern conveniences and better connections to their rear garden spaces, which, like those of Paddington and other inner-city areas, can be rather small and confined.

This project was no exception. The traditional cottage was originally a small single-level dwelling just 4 metres wide. Beyond the original frontage, the renovation by BKH architects added another level and a single large room at the rear of the house, which connects beautifully to the rear garden.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

The client is a prominent Sydney florist and he approached us to help him with his garden renovation. Working with flowers all day long is his life, so when we first started talking about the garden, the subject of blooms was way down the list. Overall, our brief was simple. He was keen to see greenery, lots of it, in all different forms, as well as grow some herbs, hang out his washing and keep a few fish. Apart from that, he left the direction to us. We discussed creating a ‘jungle madness’ of contrasting planting. I’ve always been drawn to a rainforest environment and love the stillness that comes with being surrounded by dense greenery, moisture, coolness and fresh, oxygenating leaves. 

When designing a garden in a confined space, we usually exercise restraint. We are careful not to overcrowd and work to avoid appearing cluttered. But the client wanted absolute abundance, so we had the opportunity to play with all kinds of textures and foliage forms without being concerned it would look too crammed. We put constraint to one side and started to think about what we could pack into a space measuring just 9 by 4 metres.

In terms of structure, we inherited minimalist polished concrete that flows seamlessly from inside the house out into the small rear yard. The same material continues up into wide steps connecting the upper level, which is only marginally larger than the lower. On the upper level, we needed to create a practical floor that you could stand or sit on, but wanted something soft and unobtrusive when viewed from the lower level. We went with large amoebic-shaped bluestone pavers, mass planted with kidney weed and native violets to grow over all the edges.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

The three boundary walls needed to disappear to create a feeling of more space, so these were painted in a deep charcoal colour. Dark boundary walls always help bring planting into the foreground and the plant colours are intensified as a result. The light conditions in the little garden are very mixed. Much of it is in shade for a lot of the time from surrounding trees and neighbouring foliage, although some parts are open to the hot western sun in summer. The planting we selected had to be shade tolerant and very adaptable to hot sun when necessary.

While the garden was to be densely planted, it was still important that the form of each individual plant could be seen. So we made sure that we didn’t put similar foliage types together, but rather created contrast. For example, we placed tall, ribbon-like leaves of iris behind small, round forms of silver plectranthus. A large stainless steel tray was submerged at the rear of the garden and filled with water plants and fish. We added a small fountain and submersible light.

Our client liked the idea of mirrors to visually expand the space. They can work well in small gardens to trick the eye, help bounce light around and reflect foliage, but it’s important to consider what they are reflecting. It needs to be something worthwhile rather than simply an opposing wall. We designed a large mirror that consisted of a grid of smaller panes and placed it at the back of the garden so that it would reflect the foliage and water surrounding it. Mirrors are most effective when the edges disappear into the planting. Climbers work well in softening the edges, whether they are loose and twining on wires or attaching themselves tightly to the surrounding walls. What’s important is to have a mirror bedded into greenery.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

When it came to planting, we wanted interesting foliage that worked well together, creating a cohesive feel and addressing practical concerns. Privacy was an issue from adjacent houses so we added a clumping bamboo sitting next to the mirror at the rear and subtropical foliage such as elephant ears, philodendron and dwarf cardamom. 

On the walls we planted creeping fig and star jasmine to green up the boundaries, as well as huge staghorn ferns. Cactus and succulent forms were included in the planting mix and they sit surprisingly well with the more subtropical plants, giving the garden a certain edge. Some of these sun-lovers work well in shady, dry gardens, including foxtail agave, orchid cactus and variegated snake plant. 

Over the years, when our store was around the corner, our client curated a collection of interesting vintage pots and vessels. It was a good opportunity to fill some of these with quirky specimens and place them around the perimeter. Their strong forms add personality and character, and softly define the spaces around the foliage.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

This garden works because there is a pleasing balance of both hard and soft landscape. The wonderful minimalism and clean lines of the raw concrete and the wide stairs stretch out the width of the yard and contrast with the abundance of greenery. The negative space of the built form is just as important as the foliage, as it provides the structure. When viewed from inside, the surround of the bifold doors acts like a frame for the artwork of the garden beyond. The finishing touch is a mirror ball hanging high above the dining table in a flowering gumtree, ensuring that every day is a disco, come rain, hail or shine.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

The City Gardener is available now. Text by Richard Unsworth and photography by Nicholas Watt.

AU$ 49.99

Posted on October 11, 2021
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Our favourite works from Richard Travers’s Hilda

Born in Ballarat, Victoria, Hilda Rix Nicholas held her first solo exhibition in Paris in 1912. On sale were drawings made in Morocco earlier that year. The French state bought one of them, Grand Marché, Tanger, for display in the Musée National du Luxembourg. Hilda’s career was launched. She was twenty-eight years old.

Hilda: The Life of Hilda Rix Nicholas champions the Australian artist’s life and work. Even more significantly, this fascinating book illustrates a wonderful truth: out of adversity can come great beauty.

Below we share some of our favourite artworks in a gallery exclusive to T&H subscribers.

Une Australienne, 1926. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Picardy Girl, n.d. Private Collection.

Moroccan Loggia, 1912-1914. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Two Women in the Market Place, Tangier, 1912-1914. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

The Monaro Pioneer, 1922. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

The Studio, Paris. n.d. Private Collection.

Howard Ashton, 1948. National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Hilda: The Life of Hilda Rix Nicholas is available now. Text by Richard Travers, artworks © The Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas 2021 and design by Jenny Zimmer and Jenny Bolis.

AU$ 65.00

Posted on October 1, 2021
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Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong: an extract from The Conversation’s new book

No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion is the ten-year anniversary collection of essays that put The Conversation on the map. Together, these fascinating essays chart the course of the world over the past decade. 

In the extract below, Post-doctoral Fellow Rachael Dunlop discusses and dissects six common myths about vaccination.

Recently released government figures show levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming reignition of ‘the vaccine debate’.

Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.

Those who claim there is a ‘debate’ will cite a series of canards designed to scare people away from vaccinating, but if you’re not familiar with their claims, you could easily be convinced by anti-vaccine rhetoric.

What is true and what is not? Let’s address just a few of the common vaccine myths and explain why they’re wrong.

1. Vaccines cause autism

The myth that vaccines are somehow linked to autism is an unsinkable rubber duck. Initiated in 1998 following the publication of the now notorious Lancet paper, (not-a-Dr) Andrew Wakefield was the first to suggest that the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism.

What he didn’t reveal was that he had multiple conflicts of interest, including that he was being paid by lawyers assembling a class action against the manufacturers of MMR, and that he himself had submitted an application for a patent for a single measles vaccine.

It eventually unravelled for Wakefield when the paper was retracted in 2010. He was struck from the medical register for behaviour classified as ‘dishonest, unethical and callous’ and the British Medical Journal accused him of deliberate fraud.

But once the idea was floated, scientists were compelled to investigate, particularly when it stood to impact public health so dramatically. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence to show there is no link between vaccines and autism comes from Japan, where the MMR was replaced with single vaccines mid-1993. (See ‘Japanese study is more evidence that MMR does not cause autism’ by Andrew Cole.) Guess what happened? Autism continued to rise.

After this door closed, anti-vaxxers shifted the blame to thiomersal, a mercury-containing component (not be confused with the scary type that accumulates in the body). Small amounts of thiomersal were used as a preservative in some vaccines, but this never included MMR.

Thiomersal, or ethyl-mercury, was removed from all scheduled childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like with the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.

Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines, which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism. (See Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, editors Kathleen Stratton et al.)

Yet, the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving several vaccinations and, also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.

2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore

It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as smallpox have disappeared.

India recently experienced two years without a single case of polio because of a concerted vaccination campaign.

Australia was declared measles-free in 2005 by the World Health Organization (WHO) – before we stopped being so vigilant about vaccinating and outbreaks began to reappear.

The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the current measles epidemic in Wales, where there are now over 800 cases and has been one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR vaccination following the Wakefield scare.

In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success, leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget just how serious these diseases can be.

3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated

Although this sounds counterintuitive, it’s actually true, but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work, as anti-vaxxers will conflate it. Remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and vaccines are not a forcefield. So, while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated against, disease severity and duration will be reduced.

With pertussis (whooping cough), for example, severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) occur almost exclusively in the unvaccinated.

Therefore, since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be vaccinated, but, critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term effects than those who are completely unprotected.

4. My unvaccinated child should be of no concern to your vaccinated one

Vaccination is not just a personal issue, it’s a community responsibility, largely because of a concept known as ‘community immunity’. This describes a level of vaccination that prevents epidemics or outbreaks from taking hold and spreading.

Some people question the validity of this concept, sometimes referred to as herd immunity, but the impact of it breaking down can be easily observed in places where vaccination levels fall dangerously low – take the current measles outbreak in Wales, for example.

The other important factor about community immunity is it protects those who, for whatever reason, can’t be vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated. This includes very young children, immunocompromised people (such as cancer sufferers) and elderly people.

5. Vaccines contain toxins

A cursory search of Google for vaccine ingredients pulls up a mishmash of scary-sounding ingredients that to the uninitiated can sound like ‘franken-science’.

Some of these claims are patently untrue (there is no anti-freeze in vaccines) or are simple scaremongering (regarding the rumour of aborted foetuses, in the 1960s some cells were extracted from a foetus to establish a cell line that is still used in labs today). Some of the claimed chemicals (and, remember, everything is made of chemicals) are present, but are at such low levels as to never reach toxicity. The simple thing to remember is the poison is in the dose – in high enough doses, even water can kill you. And there’s fifty times more formaldehyde in a pear than in a vaccine.

Also, if you ever read the claim that ‘vaccines are injected directly into the blood stream’ (they’re not), be sceptical of any other claims the writer is making.

6. Vaccines will overwhelm kids’ undeveloped immune systems

The concept of ‘too many too soon’ was recently examined in a detailed analysis of the US childhood immunisation schedule by the Institute of Medicine (see The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies). Experts specifically looked for evidence that vaccination was linked to ‘autoimmune diseases, asthma, hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive disorders’, including autism. The researchers confirmed the childhood vaccination schedule was safe.

The number of immune challenges (between 2000 to 6000) that children fight every day in the environment is significantly greater than the number of antigens or reactive particles in all their vaccinations combined (about 150 for the entire vaccination schedule).

The next time you hear these myths about vaccination, you’ll hopefully have some evidence up your sleeve to debunk them.

This is an extract from No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion, edited by Alexandra Hansen and available now. Text by Rachael Dunlop, Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. Originally published on 26 April 2013.

AU$ 29.99

Posted on September 30, 2021
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Welcome to The Plant Clinic, a love letter to living vibrantly

Last year we were blown away by the love we received for herbalist and nutritionist Erin Lovell Verinder’s debut title, Plants for the People. So many readers had been seeking a modern approach to using complementary medicine and Erin expertly answered their calls with an evolution of herbal-medicine books of the past.

Erin’s new venture The Plant Clinic is a revolutionary guide that delves deeper into the restorative potential of plant medicine, helping to manage and diagnose over 100 health concerns. The book features 150 recipes for teas, tinctures, syrups, salves, vinegars that promote healing across vitality, immunity, detoxification, the gut, hormone health, mums and bubs, hair and skin, emotions, mind and spirit. Erin’s empowering words are underscored by herbal wisdom and amplified by Georgia Blackie’s ethereal photography.

Get a feel for this essential guide with the introduction to the book, extracted exclusively for our Thames & Hudson community.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Healing is no joke. It can be uncomfortable, messy and all-consuming, and it is certainly a nonlinear undertaking. The journey of healing is much like the metaphor of peeling an onion: healing lies within every layer, and as we peel each one back, we get closer to the heart. In uncovering the layers, we begin to change our perceptions and expressions of ill health. We awaken to see the patterns, the stories, the feelings held within ourselves.

As a clinical practitioner I witness all sorts of presentations, revelations, breakdowns and breakthroughs. Throughout any given week in clinic, there will always be a myriad of lovely clients sitting in front of me sharing their health stories, ranging from longstanding chronic conditions to acute complaints. I have learnt that my own health challenges and experiences have shaped me as a practitioner, and my ability to understand, guide and hold the space for others moving through their health challenges stems directly from my own experiences.

Years ago, I personally went through a terrifying chapter of burnout. I had been moving fast in many aspects of my life; emotionally I was frayed, physically I was weary. Changes needed to be made in my life. I felt the nudge of a physical symptom, yet I did not fully listen in. I have learnt the hard way that we often do this; as a coping mechanism, we ignore the messages of our bodies. Perhaps we cannot quite look at it or we aren’t quite ready to hear it. We look away, wipe our hands of it, dust ourselves off and keep going. For me, this was a grave misstep.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

My physical symptoms hit me like a bus. Literal waves of panic shook my body, yet my mind was still. Waves of anxiety washed through me. I was feeling out of my body, sped up and shaky. Cortisol rushes consumed me, and I really could not do much to keep them at bay. I went down allopathic treatment paths, with no answers and no solutions. I had no choice but to listen to my body, to make changes and to allow myself the space to heal.

Although the six Pillars to Thrive (p. 16) are age-old essentials, this is when I truly grasped the importance of these practices. In my own darkest moments, I dived headfirst into these practices to heal my body. I drank the water it was thirsty for. I balanced my blood sugar with nourishing food, eating with determined consistency to anchor my body. I connected to nature and let her fill me up everyday, swinging in my hammock under the trees and sitting in my garden. I moved my body ever so gently when I was able. I listened to my internal self-talk, adjusting each self-limiting thought with nothing but love and gentleness. And I rested. I rested so much; I cleared my calendar. It was not easy, but I knew I needed to. Healing demands a level of surrender, and surrender takes a whole new shape when you really face the true meaning of the word.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

I leant heavily on plant medicine during this time, following my own plant protocols morning, day and night. Adaptogenic-rich herbals such as ashwagandha and rehmannia reshaped my internal stress response. Nervine-rich herbals such as passionflower, oat straw and skullcap helped to ground my nervous system. They were potent calmers of the cortisol rushes. They brought the light of hope with swift improvements and feelings of resilience returning. I got better very quickly. Within three months. This may seem like a long time, but when you are at rock bottom, a return to full vitality within three months is its own kind of radical.

While this experience truly brought me to my knees, it also offered me incredible insights and cracked open my life in a really wonderful way. I set a new pace, I now honour rest and know my limits lovingly, I lead with my heart and have learnt to not overextend myself. The whole breaking down to break through concept is quite literally the epitome of my (albeit messy) dance with burnout. Working with the plants allowed me to get to the very root of the issue. There was no shortcut or quick fix. I was worn so thin that I had to build from the ground up. This was deep healing.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

In the Clinic

Unsurprisingly, I work with many burnt-out people. It is a natural side effect of our times, a modern epidemic of sorts. We have strayed far from the rhythms of nature, from a time when the simple rising of the sun and the setting of the moon were our compass. Instead, we wake to alarms and live our lives with various forms of technology dictating our daily movements and schedules. How can we all keep up?!

It’s an incredible thing to watch clients return from the brink of brutal burnout with the assistance of restorative herbs and the Pillars to Thrive (p. 16). Often, one particular symptom, like poor energy, for example, improves with gentle interventions (such as herbs and rest), meaning fewer energy dips in the day; then sleep deepens, and gradually vitality is regained. This is the process of healing; one element affects another, and the pieces of your inner puzzle unite.

One client had been dealing with chronic bloating for a long time. She had tried every diet, had seen all sorts of medical specialists and undertaken invasive investigations with no results or improvements. After years, she turned to the plants. We discovered that her chronic digestive bloating was more a reflection of her internal emotional landscapes. Her response to stress was an inability to digest, a classic irritable bowel syndrome–like symptom. Once we had set up a herbal treatment plan – such as the Bloating Protocol on page 148 – to lean on, incorporating digestive herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm and fennel to calm her belly and her stress response, we had an incredible breakthrough. When her awareness shifted to working with plants to support her process, she transformed her bloating woes.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

My own plant path has been an example of science and spirit finding their way back to each other. I am a Bachelor-level herbalist. My training was heavily clinical and science-based – involving the study of botany, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, symptomatology, pathology and biochemistry of the body – alongside the sweet song of herbalism. However, when I embarked on the path of natural medicine as an eager teenager, my first learnt system of healing was energetic healing, with its esoteric view of health. Since then, I have also dedicated years to my nutritional medicine studies, learning about the therapeutic benefits of food and the power in edible nourishment. I have merged my years of study and training with my years of clinical experiences, witnessing countless breakthroughs in my clients’ ill health, working with them in restoring true health. What I am most certain of, is that you deserve to hold all of the tools that are needed to decode the messages being sent by your body and being.

Choosing the plant path takes us deep into the riches of traditional folk medicine and ancestral herbal therapeutics. We return to the old ways, marrying time-honoured approaches with contemporary practices and forging new ways to work with plants to heal our bodies and beings. The roots of herbalism run deep, and it is about time we found our way back to working with the plants to heal.

This book is not intended to replace individualised professional advice on healthcare and wellbeing, nor is it is intended to treat, diagnose or cure. It is recommended that you consult your naturopathic practitioner, herbalist or GP when seeking healthcare support; health runs deep, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, when working with plant medicine, it is advisable to consult a herbal materia medica to become familiar with any cautions or contradictions which may be applicable to your situation. Please be aware that some pharmaceutical drugs and plant medicines can interact in unintended ways, so it is essential that you gain advice from your health care professional if you are already taking any prescribed medications.

This is an edited extract from The Plant Clinic, available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and design by Noah Harper Checkle.


Posted on August 29, 2021
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The dazzling world of Fiorina & Francesca Golotta

In her latest book A Room of Her Own, author and photographer Robyn Lea captures the hearts and homes of twenty extraordinary women around the globe. Whether they be artists, designers, makers or curators, these women have a common ground when it comes to new ways of thinking, and of course, daring to lead creative lives.

In this extract, we put the spotlight on two of our Melbourne-based favourites from the book: jewellery designer Fiorina Golotta and photographer Francesca Golotta. Read on for their chapter and find out how you can win a copy of the book and a pair of Fiorina Jewellery’s coveted logo earrings.

Photography: Robyn Lea

Ensconced in her bedroom in suburban Melbourne, threading shark’s teeth and shells onto string to make herself a necklace, seven-year-old Fiorina Golotta embarked on a small creative project that marked the beginning of her life’s work. Two years later, while accompanying her father, Tony, on a trip to his native Italy, the fate of her subsequent creative career was effectively sealed. The European history, architecture, art and jewellery she saw there made a profound impression, and the wildly contrasting aesthetic she found at Bangkok airport en route – ‘Everything was shiny: mirrored beads, gold flowers and jewellery … it was phenomenal’ – was equally intoxicating. By her tenth birthday she was fully accessorised in her own jewellery designs.

Not long after, Fiorina’s younger sister Francesca had her own creative epiphany. On his forty-fifth birthday, Tony was given a coffee-table book, Italia Mia, featuring photographs by 1950s film-star-turned-photographer Gina Lollobrigida. Francesca pored over its pages of Italian street scenes and interiors and, encouraged by Fiorina, was soon experimenting with photography.

Photography: Robyn Lea

As Fiorina grew older, her creative work became inextricably linked to her sense of self. The handcrafted jewellery and talismans she made were not just objects of beauty and self-expression, but also tools of resistance. Tony, raised in poverty in conservative postwar southern Italy, wanted his children to pursue academic paths and corporate careers. So he saw his elder daughter’s creative impulses as an expression of rebellion. Fiorina agreed. ‘To be creative was a point of rebellion, an escape, an expression and  a statement,’ she explains. ‘Jewellery made me feel uplifted, and it gave me an identity and an immediate shield.’ It also exposed her to other ethnicities and cultures beyond the scope of her traditional upbringing, such as Native American groups, whose wisdom  and protection she sought.

Fiorina left home at eighteen, a decision her parents did not welcome. Armed with freedom and independence for the first time, she discovered a different side of Melbourne, though was soon ready to move further afield. After throwing herself into a world of diverse ideologies and the underground music scene in New York City for a year, she returned to Australia and settled in the village of Kuranda in far-northern Queensland. There, she lost herself in a cathartic period of experimentation and self-development. Her new routine included working in an African bead shop, which offered her an informal education in tribal jewellery. ‘African beads are not just decorative – they have a deeper cultural value. They are also religious, and some of them contain prayers,’ she explains.

With a new sense of confidence in her creative needs and direction, fostered by several years of travel and exploration, she returned to Melbourne to study jewellery-making and started sharing a workshop in Little Collins Street. It was around this time that the sisters’ parents divorced. ‘It led us all to new paths,’ says Francesca, ‘and forged instant freedom. It meant we were no longer as engaged in the deep-rooted traditions of the Italian community.’

In 2003, when their father was terminally ill with cancer, Fiorina and her work were featured in a prominent magazine. A family friend visiting the bedridden Tony  presented him with a laminated copy of the story. It was a defining moment of public recognition of Fiorina’s work that made him incredibly proud. Similarly, the night before the hanging of Francesca and their brother Maurice’s joint exhibition in 2002, they felt their father’s enthusiasm. Francesca remembers: ‘We were decorating these little icon frames we had made and nailing coins onto them that Fiorina had given us. Dad was going through chemotherapy at the time and feeling very unwell, and suddenly he came alive and insisted on showing us how we should do it.’ As the exhibition opened, another chapter was coming to an end. There was not only new-found peace between Tony and his daughters but a celebration of all they had created.

Photography: Robyn Lea

In 2008, Fiorina and Francesca triumphantly opened Fiorina Jewellery on High Street Armadale. Its ornate golden doors open to an interior dotted with velvet chairs and antique mirrors, interspersed with polished cabinets displaying a magical array of handmade pieces. The walls feature Maurice’s artwork and Francesca’s photography.  The workshop upstairs is the heart of the atelier, where all the jewellery is made. Tiny drawers are filled with a kaleidoscope of coloured gems and stones, and the collage-style decor includes evidence of Fiorina’s travels, influences and interests.

Francesca’s ability to be both the creative sounding board and the practical voice in the business continues to guide her sister, and Fiorina believes the differences between them are as important as their similarities. ‘We’re different people, and that’s probably why it works,’ she explains. ‘Franca is a true Renaissance woman, she’s romantic. I’m very fiery in comparison, and I learn from my mistakes afterwards. My aesthetic is more tribal and rustic, hers is more elegant and refined.’

Photography: Robyn Lea

These days, working with specific stones and materials continues to feed Fiorina’s sense of wellbeing. ‘The stones have power,’ she says. ‘It’s about finding something that elevates you, something that helps you get through the day, the month, the year, the decade.’ She finds the properties of stones potent: ‘They give me the clarity needed to have the right thoughts, which lead to the right actions.’

Colour is also a significant driver in her life and work: ‘I am attracted to certain colours for specific reasons. It’s something I instinctively draw upon.’ Turquoise is one example. ‘Since my teens, I have been drawn to the traditional culture of people from those Native American nations that wear their hair long and employ turquoise jewellery, feathers and breastplates in their traditional dress, which gives them power and protection.’ Similarly, the jewellery of the ancient Etruscan, Greek, Byzantine and Moghul cultures and traditional Art Deco aesthetics fascinate Fiorina. Her spiritual life is fed by these ancient cultures as well as Buddhism, mysticism and Rastafarianism. ‘An appreciation of alternative ideologies has allowed me to embrace different ways of life, giving me creative freedom and providing  a path forward.’

Looking back, Fiorina is philosophical about her upbringing: ‘I believe you come into your family for a reason. My reason was about empowering and protecting people through what I do – through my jewellery.’ Along with her prolific creative output, her rebellious tendencies also prepared her well for tackling the sometimes ruthless world of business.

Together, the sisters have created much more than a jewellery store. It is a focal point for like-minded women, a place they can go to feel inspired, adorned and understood. It has also provided Fiorina with an anchor: ‘I think rebellion has been a curse and a blessing in the same breath. It steered the ship for a long time. The joy of creating and the response from my community, family and friends are now the primary driving forces in my life.’

This is an extract from A Room of Her Own, available now. Text and photography by Robyn Lea, design by Ashlea O’Neill.


Win a fabulous A Room of Her Own prize pack!

Images © Robyn Lea photography and Fiorina Jewellery

To get into the Spring spirit, we’re giving away a copy of Robyn Lea’s beautiful interiors book ‘A Room of Her Own’ as well as a pair of logo earrings from beloved Melbourne jewellery store (headed by two of the inspirational women featured in the book), Fiorina Jewellery.

Simply click here to enter the competition and agree to sign up to our e-newsletter for your chance to go into the draw to win this prize pack.

Competition closes Wednesday 15 September. Open to AU and NZ residents only.

Posted on August 27, 2021
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A Meditation on Wellbeing, from Recipe for a Kinder Life

In Recipe for a Kinder Life, the inspirational cook Annie Smithers shares her wisdom on living a gentler life, and forging deep connections with the natural environment, the community and the self. She discusses the significance of balance and rest for personal wellbeing in the extract below.

Another huge step I have taken in protecting my mental health is embracing the notion of choice, understanding that no one forces me to do all the things that I do. All the decisions that I make are mine to take responsibility for. In the past, I might have blamed outside influences if I felt that I was working too hard; now I have a strong sense of what is enough or too much, and if I choose to do too much, I must accept all that comes with that. As an employer, a partner, a step-parent, a member of a community, there is always the opportunity to show, not tell. Leading by example, and being a communicative person, allows others to observe my way of finding balance and assess whether there is anything in it that could make their own life more comfortable.

All this striving for, and reflection on, a better balance so I can sustain myself to achieve all I want to do in all the spheres of my life is one reason that I have come back to observing the eight-hour day. The hospitality industry is infamous for its mistreatment of workers and its long and unsociable hours. It has become very important to me not to expect any of my employees to work more than an eight-hour day. This should hardly need explaining but, in any case, it is clear that it allows people to make their own choices and arrange their lives to suit their needs and wants. It means that if they wish to take on a second job, they can; if they wish to go home and garden, they can; if they wish to go home and sit in front of the telly for the evening, they can. From experience, I know that it is often difficult to tell your boss that you are working above your capacity and/or outside your designated work hours, and I am equally aware of the effects of too much work on the body, the mind and those around you.

This also ties in with how we manage the restaurant-related devices. As we run a very small team at du Fermier, we tend not to answer the telephone during lunch service. This is so that we can completely devote ourselves to the customers in the room. It also means that we can return messages in an unhurried manner later in the day, making sure that the customer at the end of the phone is now the absolute focus. Answering emails is done in a similar manner. We have a manual system that we like to think offers a personal-service touch, but I am sure that some of our patrons would love us to answer messages and emails twenty-four hours a day. I can’t expect the people who work with me to take on this responsibility and deal with customers at all hours of the day and night, given that I won’t myself. The division between work, leisure and sleep has become very blurred. I, for one, do not think that this is a positive. In embracing a more sustainable approach to life, how we operate at a personal level, with our own resources, is at the core of our existence. Sustainability is not just about using the earth’s resources more responsibly; it is about better using your own.

Sleep is, without doubt, a very important part of my day. Making the decision a few years ago to stop operating the restaurant in the evening has been absolutely revelatory for my personal wellbeing. I have never been a night person; I am happiest tucked up in bed and ready to go to sleep when it’s dark. The hours that I sleep change seasonally: I often sleep more in winter and less in summer – a little like the animals in the yard. The geese, the goats and the chickens all run to a clock that is not based on hours but on daylight. It seems to be a pattern that I am following more and more as I spend a greater amount of time caring for them and working outside in the garden. It is as if their needs and mine are becoming very similar.

The surprising (or maybe not) result now if I don’t get enough sleep, or even rest, is not pretty. Tired, irascible, perfunctory Annie is no fun for anybody, especially me. This is screamingly obvious when the side effects of not enough rest and sleep include weight gain and systems failure in various bits of my body. As the pace of this modern world keeps getting busier, it is up to each and every one of us to decide how much to commit to the external forces at play, how much we engage with them, where our priorities are, and to try to find a place for ourselves that fits with our personal, financial and relationship values.

After thirty years of living in the country, I am trying not to become a stranger to the needs of city and suburban folk. I imagine that smaller-scale gardening, long walks and various forms of exercise replace the chores of farm life. And I imagine that reading, theatre and dining out are much higher on the agenda than they are for me, which exposes the nature of balance. For each of us, no matter where we live, our location enables us to find the day-to-day rhythm that suits us best in that environment.

This is an edited extract from Recipe for a Kinder Life, available now. Text by Annie Smithers and cover design by Daniel New.


Posted on July 27, 2021
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Still Life as storytelling: a look at Amber Creswell Bell’s latest book

Following Clay and A Painted Landscape, Still Life completes Amber Creswell Bell’s genre trifecta of artful gems that champion remarkable Australian artists. The book looks at the styles, subjects, visions and philosophies of more than forty contemporary Australian artists. To give you a feel for this incredible book, check out our gallery featuring the work of some of the artists featured as well as their perspectives on the genre.


SL359, 2016. Oil on linen, 122 x 153 cm. Collection of AGNSW, Bulgari Acquisition.

‘Perhaps still life is more accessible with it’s traditionally domestic subjects and therefore considered a more ‘democratic’ genre, sitting more comfortably with ideas of the classless society we imagine that Australia is.’


After Lunch, 2002. Unique woodblock print (watercolour on Stonehenge cotton paper), 72 x 62 cm. Photo by Greg Weight.

‘I have always been interested in recording or interpreting my surroundings in a visual way. I almost feel I haven’t properly experienced looking at something if I haven’t observed it and tried to create either a picture from the subject or responded to it.’


Peonies in Sunlight, 2013 (detail), oil on linen, 91 x 71 cm. Artwork courtesy of Robert Malherbe and photo by Jenni Carter.

‘All paintings, including still lifes, should feel erotic.’


Still life under Leplastrier Nude, 2020 (detail). Acrylic on Belgian linen, 150 x 150 cm. Artwork and photo courtesy of Zoe Young.

‘There’s a certain tension in setting up, where I tend to get so frustrated with the tediousness of finding the composition and mixing the paints that by the time I put brush to linen, I’m about to burst.’


Autumn Pastoral, 2020. Oil on board, 50 x 60 cm. Artwork courtesy of Lucy Roleff and photo by Kim Landy.

‘I feel that the endurance of the still life genre has to do with its relative anonymity compared to more figurative work.’


Wine Bottle, 2017 (detail), oil on linen, 82 x 62 cm. Photo by Mim Stirling.

‘A collection of objects, no matter how mundane, tells a story. They are like a little world; you can get lost in them.’


Pink Magnolia, 2016, oil on board, 45 x 60 cm. Artwork and photo courtesy of Tsering Hannaford.

‘What I love most about painting a still life is creating a sense of order in life, if only on the canvas. I strive to create a sense of tranquility and calm in my pieces in the midst of a busy and bustling life.’

Still Life is available now. Text by Amber Creswell Bell and design by Ngaio Parr.

Front cover: Tsering Hannaford, Yellow Magnolia, 2018. Oil on board, 60 x 45 cm. Courtesy of the artist.


Posted on June 15, 2021
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Autumn Letters, from Reading the Seasons

Reading the Seasons is a book for our times, showing how literature connects us to ourselves and others. Get of taste of the genuine friendship between the authors, Germaine Leece and Sonya Tsakalakis in this extract from the book.

My life is like the autumn leaf

That trembles in the moon’s pale ray;

Its hold is frail – its date is brief,

Restless, – and soon to pass away!

From ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’ by Richard Henry Wilde [1]

Hello, Germaine, on the first day of autumn – and it’s 38 deg!

Here are a few lines that I read today. I like to start the day with glittering language and thoughts. And I read them aloud, much to my children’s chagrin. One day they’ll look back fondly?!

Love Sonya

Dear S

Such beautiful lines, thank you. I must say, our friendship has given me much more understanding about the power and importance of poetry in daily life. It also reminds me of an eighty-something male bibliotherapy client I saw last week. You would have loved him.

His father recited poetry to him throughout his childhood, and in the past couple of years he decided he wasn’t reading enough poetry so he started a group. Wine and cheese accompany the monthly poetic conversation on the beach. He was such a character, saw the books on his bookshelves as his lifelong friends and used words such as ‘charm-struck’. I didn’t want the session to end, I was so charm-struck myself.

While talking about his ‘friends on the bookshelf ’, he reflected that he hadn’t read enough female authors in his lifetime and wanted to rectify that. (I imagine you are swooning now!) I decided to give him a prescription filled with female authors that illuminated his different chapters to help give a fuller shape to his own story. I couldn’t resist starting with Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy when You Could Be Normal?, as we have discussed before, required reading for any book lover! He told me that as a teen he put his trust into books rather than people to make sense of the world, and that brought to my mind Winterson writing about ‘[falling] into books … I put myself inside them for safe keeping’. While my client and Jeanette have nothing else in common about their families or their lives, I hope the image of two teenagers on different sides of the world in different decades finding comfort and anchoring inside the pages of books creates a nostalgic reading experience for him.

I ended with a bit of fun. He is a fan of Wodehouse, so I thought I would aim for a similar era and comedy-of-manners style … I chose EM Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, as she always makes me laugh and I love the sharp, observational gaze she puts on the upper class living in Devonshire between the wars. I think I read somewhere that it was semi-autobiographical and that she wrote the diaries as a ‘gentle joke’, but at the same time she manages to shine a feminist light on the domestic sphere of English country life. Her husband is always reading the Times newspaper and going to sleep, and she spends much of her time ‘sacrificing truth to demands of civilisation’! I’m not sure he will relate as well to Delafield’s character who, when she feels ‘that life is wholly unendurable’ decides ‘madly to get a new hat’, but I hope he will savour the wit and irony of the writing.

He reminded me how much I enjoy sessions with older clients who choose to use the time to reflect on their reading lives and map how it has changed over the decades. There’s something about witnessing someone’s backstory that creates the same wonder within me as words between covers. I remember another client who, in her seventies, told me our session had helped her understand that by recollecting the different books she had read throughout her life, she could trace her evolution of self. She added that having this quiet time and being asked questions about the ways reading had affected her life had allowed this realisation to occur. I found that particularly powerful. The importance of time to reflect. How do you enjoy working with older clients?

I had better leave it here, as your autumn poem reminds me, the day is soon to pass away and dinner needs preparing.

G x

Dear G

I have to tell you, I read that letter a few times. Not just because I was thrilled by ‘charm-struck’, but also to bask in a cascade of my reflections on working with older clients. In an oblique way. My bibliotherapy career began in aged care, where I ran communal reading circles. Within these milieus, poems and short stories were read aloud, creating a container for the sharing of reflections, memories and personal stories evoked by the words on the page. A fifteen-minute short story can be stretched out to an hour. On one occasion, we were reading Gogol’s eccentric gem, ‘The Nose’. 

Actually, it’s positively absurd! How else would you describe a story where the protagonist finds his nose in a loaf of bread that later parades haughtily on the streets of St Petersburg? And to make matters more intriguing, it features a snuffbox. Suddenly, the normally reticent Edna recalled her child-hood fascination for her grandmother’s rosewood snuffbox, which sat on the mantelpiece. And from there she launched into vivid memories of her grandmother, concluding at the end that she had completely forgotten about that snuffbox, ‘hadn’t thought about it for decades’. That is what I love about reading aloud, the vivifying of the text. The original story or poem serves as a launching pad for other stories, contained within, awaiting to be heard and enjoyed. Aspects of the self embedded deep within seem to be awakened. Especially wonderful are older folks’ stories, an homage to Judith Wright – again!

Seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones.

Seventy years are hived in him like old honey … [2]

Stories are as precious and coveted as old honey. During that session there was a lot of animated banter about childhood fascinations … places, things, that held a special allure which would probably be overlooked by the eyes of a grown-up. Wishing to continue on that theme, I chose the unique persiflage of Saki’s The Lumber Room for the following week. It’s a hilarious story about a mischievous little boy who, with inventive flair, gets into the room from which he is banned by his austere aunt, and finds it filled with wondrous curiosities. You can’t help but come away thinking that whatever punishment, which no doubt will be dished out to him afterwards, would be worth it. Absolutely worth it! Suddenly there were recollections of places where kids were forbidden because it was the ‘good room’.

And even more interestingly, the places where children were allowed; spending hours outside till you were called in for dinner, being part of the ‘street tribe’ or roaming to nearby paddocks and creeks. One reader who grew up on a farm lovingly recalled waking up at six every morning to milk the cows, and riding her pony to school with her siblings. And refashioning the silk saved from the parachutes used in the war to make bloomers. I know – there is upcycling for you! She believed she had a beautiful childhood, there were always people around, places to discover.

So, when you talked of the importance of time to reflect when older, it also gives those of subsequent generations a space to revel in stories of times past. A type of validation for a life lived that may otherwise be forgotten. S x


[1] Richard Henry Wilde extract from ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’, in A Library of American Literature, Volume: Literature of the Republic, Part II, 1821–1834, eds Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson (New York: CL Webster, 1891)

[2] ‘Judith Wright extract from ‘South of My Days’, in Collected Poems (Sydney: HarperCollins, 1994)

This is an extract from Reading the Seasons: Books Holding Life & Friendship Together, available now. Text by Germaine Leece and Sonya Tsakalakis and cover design by Nada Backovic.


Posted on June 1, 2021
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How to mix patterns at home: an excerpt from Jungalow

Jungalow: Decorate Wild is artist, designer and author Justina Blakeney’s ultimate guide to designing wildly creative interiors. Filled with all of Justina’s tips and tricks, the book will show you how to make bold choices with color and pattern, how to take cues from nature, how to authentically glean inspiration from their heritage and travels, how to break rules, and all the other paths to truly begin to decorate wild. In this extract, go outside your comfort zone and learn how to mix patterns at home.


Patterns often present a complex mix of color, texture, scale, and motif that might seem difficult to harmonize with the rest of the décor elements in a space. Patterns compete for attention; will they drown out the more mild-mannered pieces in a room? You might love a wallpaper with a bold pattern, for example, but what if it doesn’t work with your furniture or drapes? Maybe just painting the walls is the safer choice. Don’t go out like that! Mixing patterns isn’t as hard as you think.

Three very different bold patterns work together in this reading nook because they share the same black and tan color palette. Meanwhile, blocks of solid yellow create contrast and provide breathing room.

In my vanity area at home, I mix very different patterns together. It works because the airy gold-andivory wallpaper provides breathing room while the bold blue stool acts as a wild card.

Different patterns don’t have to look alike to look good together, as long as they echo each other in some respect. Here, four contrasting patterns are harmonized by a shared color palette or graphic elements. The colors of the
velvet chair’s zigzags reflect both the warm earth tones of the rug as well as the cool teal of the botanical wallpaper. The doors are harmonized with the chair not by color, but by their shared chevron pattern. When patterns are wildly different from each other, they don’t compete and you can use an overarching color story to make them work together.

Patterns with similar color palettes echo one another and can be combined
easily, without fear of the results looking over the top. In this bedroom, a patterned dresser, rug, and planter are unified by an analogous color story.

Nearly every element in this bedroom has a pattern. The graphic rattan headboard and the colorful quilt are large patterns with contrasting colors that pop against the small patterns that read as solids, such as the subtle stripes in the wallpaper and bedding.

Jungalow: Decorate Wild is available now. Text by Justina Blakeney and principal photography by Dabito. Originally published by Abrams Books.


Posted on April 13, 2021
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How to Build a Strawflower Hanging Wreath, from Field Flower Vase

Braid fresh flowers into a hanging wreath for a party — then let it dry and leave it up all year!

Image: Chelsea Fuss

A hanging wreath adds a sense of playfulness to a room and is, of course, perfect for a little party or special occasion. This fresh-to-dry project can be made with just-picked flowers, but it’s also a great way to use up ones that are on their way out — blooms that are wilting but still have pliable stems can be braided and will dry nicely.

Bay leaves, gomphrena, and strawflowers are especially good choices for an arrangement like this one, as they’re all very long-lasting and dry well. The colours of strawflowers feel almost unreal (in the best way!) and bring a sense of whimsy to the project. This wreath is light enough that it can easily be suspended from a ceiling hook, in part because it’s made without wire. Stems of millet and statice give it stability, and the braided strawflower stems keep the blossoms in place. These braiding and weaving methods can be applied to wreaths of all sorts. A hanging flower wreath is a focal point, so you won’t need other large arrangements or elaborate styling. Here, I hung the wreath over a table covered in pink linen and added modern ceramics, tiny arrangements, and a few scattered flower petals.

You will need :

  • 8 stems of small bay leaves
  • 25 stems of strawflower
  • 3 to 5 stems of common millet or pampas grass
  • 5 stems of statice
  • 5 stems of gomphrena
  • Florist’s twine or string, for hanging


  1. Gather your ingredients at a wholesale flower or farmers’ market. Once home, set them out in bunches on your work surface, and remove the leaves from the strawflower stems. If the flowers have been in water, be sure to remove any debris or excess leaves from the stems and let them dry out before working with them.
  2. Create a base with the millet and statice, working with a few stems at a time.
  3. Curve them into a wreath shape, spacing the blooms at intervals and twisting the stems around each other to secure.
  4. Braid bunches of strawflower together, just as you would hair, alternating between three and five stems per bunch. Once braided, weave the bunches of strawflower into the wreath base, adding more statice for security if needed.
  5. Fill in the wreath with bay leaves between each bunch, then weave in gomphrena between the stems.
  6. Create a hanger by tying lengths of string or twine to opposite sides of the wreath. Display away from direct sunlight, if possible, or it will fade quickly.

This is an edited extract from Field Flower Vase, available now. Text and photography by Chelsea Fuss. Originally published by Abrams Books.


Posted on March 10, 2021
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Read an early extract from Jonathon Drori’s Around the World in 80 Plants

Discover the origins of coffee in this early extract from Around the World in 80 Plants, the sequel to Jonathon Drori’s bestselling Around the World in 80 Trees.


Coffea arabica


The little evergreen coffee tree began life somewhere near the forested mountains of southwestern Ethiopia, and its broad, elliptical leaves with crinkled edges, shiny and dark above and pastel-pale underneath, still prefer the shade. In full flower, coffee is a spellbinding but ephemeral joy; for just a couple of days, thousands of delicate white blossoms with a light fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine can festoon a single tree. The smoothly oval fruits ripen to pillar-box red; their thin layer of edible flesh tastes of watermelon and apricot and surrounds a pair of deeply grooved seeds that are the familiar coffee ‘beans’. Coffee’s bright, sweet fruit have evolved to attract monkeys and birds, which ingest them, remove the pulpy parts of the fruit and excrete the seeds intact. Mercifully rarely, such beans have been gathered and sold as a luxury; for example, Indonesian kopi luwak coffee – considered by aficionados to be especially ‘smooth and earthy’ – is the, ahem, ‘product’ of Asian palm civets, which are often caught and traded for this purpose. Otherwise, all cultivated coffee is harvested by human hand; the fruit don’t suit mechanical harvesting because they don’t all ripen at once.

More than 1,000 years ago, thanks to genius or good fortune, boringly unscented beans that had been separated from their fruit and husks were roasted, pounded and added to hot water. The resulting fine-flavoured, stimulating yet non-alcoholic brew spread via Yemen throughout the Islamic world and the Ottoman empire. The story goes that in about 1600 coffee’s association with Islam caused Vatican officials to dismiss it as ‘Satan’s latest trap to catch Christian souls’, but Pope Clement VIII supposedly tried some and gave coffee his blessing because it would have been ‘a shame to let infidels have sole use of it’. What a charmer!

By the mid-seventeenth century coffee houses were popping up around Europe, and in London especially they became places for men to discuss business and politics, in contrast to the chocolate houses (see
page 71), which were more light-hearted and welcoming to women. Over the centuries, many cultures have developed coffee rituals, sustained by beguiling paraphernalia and nerdy choices of grind and provenance. Ethiopia has a particularly elaborate ceremony. Amid wafts of incense, beans are freshly roasted over glowing charcoal and pounded at the table with cardamom or other spices. The resulting intense, dark drink is served with … popcorn. It’s a delightful experience for those fortunate enough to live within reach of an Ethiopian café, but perhaps not just before bedtime.

The coffee tree didn’t develop caffeine for our benefit. When its leaves die and drop, their caffeine leaches into the soil, impeding the germination and growth of competing plants, and it is also a defence, sometimes a lethal one, against various insects and fungi. It is therefore surprising that coffee and even some unrelated citrus plants put caffeine in their nectar, which, after all, is meant to reward insects for ferrying pollen to other plants. It turns out that the merest dash of caffeine, below the threshold that bees can sense, helps them to remember the plant, making them more likely to return to it. The flowers shrewdly dispense just enough caffeine to be pharmacologically active but not enough to be bothersome.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Asian production of Arabica coffee was wiped out by a fungus: coffee leaf rust. Groves were replanted with ‘Robusta’ (Coffea canephora), which was immune, and although it has a harsher taste than Arabica, it is now widely cultivated. Existing coffee strains are at risk once more, from climate change and the new pests and diseases that come with it, but there is scope for breeding new varieties. There are more than 120 wild species of coffee, most of them in tropical Africa. They have fascinating flavours and contain differing amounts of caffeine, and some of them tolerate heat and drought, or cope with different soils or plant diseases, yet most are themselves threatened by climate change or forest loss. It feels unfair that much of the burden of protecting this vital source of genetic diversity for one of the world’s most valuable commodities should be borne mainly by African nations.

Around the World in 80 Plants will be available on April 15. Text by Jonathon Drori and illustrations by Lucille Clerc.

AU $39.99

Posted on March 3, 2021
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Lose yourself in Philip Hughes’ landscape paintings

Painting the Ancient Land of Australia is artist Philip Hughes’ love letter to our continent. Depicting deep varicoulored mines, broad rolling plains, vast imposing landforms and exquisite calm bays, his paintings are breathtaking portrayals of natural landscapes and human interventions. As reflected throughout the book, they are unique in that they are informed and inspired by maps and aerial photographs.

Enjoy a look at some of the works featured in the book below.

Illustration: The Terraces of Tom Price Mine, 2005. Philip Hughes

Illustration: Lake Eyre, Shore, 2012. Philip Hughes

Illustration: Fraser Island, 2020. Philip Hughes

Illustration: Kangaroo Island, 2020. Philip Hughes

Illustration: Beside Butler Island, 1983. Philip Hughes

Illustration: Gosse Bluff, 2020. Philip Hughes

Painting the Ancient Land of Australia is out now. Text and illustrations by Philip Hughes and design by Claire Orrell.


Posted on February 10, 2021
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‘Iso’, ‘boomer remover’ and ‘quarantini’: How coronavirus is changing our language

Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

People love creating words – in times of crisis it’s a ‘sick’ (in the good sense) way of pulling through. From childhood, our ‘linguistic life has been one willingly given over to language play’ (in the words of British linguist David Crystal). In fact, scientists have recently found that learning new words can stimulate exactly those same pleasure circuits in our brain as sex, gambling, drugs and eating (the pleasure-associated region called the ventral striatum).

We’re leximaniacs at heart and, while the behaviour can occasionally seem dark, we can learn a thing or two by reflecting on those playful coinages that get us through ‘dicky’ times.

Tom, Dick and Miley: In the ‘grippe’ of language play

In the past, hard times birthed playful rhymes. The 1930s Depression gave us playful reduplications based on Australian landmarks and towns: ‘ain’t no work in Bourke’; ‘everything’s wrong at Wollongong’; ‘things are crook at Tallarook’.

Whenever we face the possibility of being ‘dicky’ or ‘Tom [and] Dick’ (rhyming slang for ‘sick’), we take comfort in language play. It’s one thing to feel ‘crook’, but it’s another thing to feel as ‘crook as Rookwood’ (a cemetery in Sydney) or to have a ‘wog’ (synonymous with ‘bug’, likely from ‘pollywog’, and unrelated to the ethnic slur ‘wog’).

Remedies may be found in language’s abilities to translate sores into plasters, to paraphrase William Gouge’s 1631 sermon on the plague. New slang enables us to face our fears head-on, just as when the Parisians began calling a bout of late-18th century influenza ‘la grippe’ to reflect the ‘seizing’ effect it had on people. The word was subsequently taken up in British and American English.

In these times of COVID-19, there are the usual suspects: shortenings like ‘sanny’ (hand sanitiser) and ‘iso’ (isolation), abbreviations like BCV (before coronavirus) and WFH (working from home), as well as the compounds ‘corona moaner’ (the whingers) and ‘zoombombing’ (intrusion into a videoconference).

Plenty of nouns have been ‘verbed’ too – the toilet paper/pasta/tinned tomatoes have been ‘magpied’. Even rhyming slang has made a bit of a comeback, with Miley Cyrus lending her name to the virus (already end-clipped to ‘the Miley’). Some combine more than one process – ‘the isodesk’ (Or is that ‘the isobar’?) is where many of us are currently spending our days.

Slanguage in the coronaverse: What’s new?

What is interesting about COVID-lingo is the large number of creations that are blended expressions formed by combining two existing words. The new portmanteau then incorporates meaningful characteristics from both.

Newly spawned ‘coronials’ (corona + millennials) has the predicted baby boom in late 2020 already covered. ‘Blursday’ has been around since at least 2007 but originally described the day spent hung over; it’s now been pressed into service because no one knows what day of the week it is anymore. The official disease name itself, ‘COVID’, is somewhere between a blend and an acronym because it takes in vowels to make the abbreviation pronounceable (CO from corona, VI from virus and D from disease).

True, we’ve been doing this sort of thing for centuries – ‘flush’ (flash + gush) dates from the 1500s. But it’s never been a terribly significant method of coinage. English professor John Algeo’s study of neologisms over a fifty-year period (1941–91) showed blends accounting for only 5 per cent of the new words. Linguist Tony Thorne’s impressive collection of over 100 COVID-related terms has around 34 per cent blends, and the figure increases to more than 40 per cent if we consider only slang.

Not only have blends become much more common, the nature of the mixing process has changed too. Rather than combining splinters of words, as in ‘coronials’, most of these corona-inspired mixes combine full words with parts of others. The ‘quarantini’ keeps the word ‘quarantine’ intact and follows it with just a hint of ‘martini’ (and for that extra boost to the immune system, you can rim the glass with vitamin C powder). Many of these bubbled up during specific times of the pandemic – ‘lexit’ or ‘covexit’ (the strategies around exiting lockdown and economic hardship), ‘coronacation’ (working from home) and so on.

Humour: From the gallows to quarantimes

Humour emerges as a prevailing feature of these blends, even more so when the overlap is total. In ‘covidiot’ (the one who ignores public health advice and probably hoards toilet paper), both ‘covid’ and ‘idiot’ remain intact. There’s been a flourishing of these types of blend, including ‘covideo party’, ‘coronapocalypse’ and ‘covidivorce’, to name just a few.

Clearly, there is a fair bit of dark comedy in the jokes and memes that abound on the internet, and in many of these coinages too – compounds like ‘coronacoma’ (for the period of shutdown, or that deliciously long quarantine sleep) and ‘boomer remover’ (used by younger generations for the devastation of the baby boomer demographic).

Callous, heartless, yes. But humour is often used as a means of coming to terms with the less happy aspects of our existence. People use levity as a way of disarming anxiety and discomfort by downgrading what it is they cannot cope with.

Certainly, gallows humour has always featured large in hospital slang, with diagnoses like GOK (‘God only knows’) and PFO (‘pissed and fell over’). For those who have to deal with dying and death every day, it is perhaps the only way to stay sane. COVID challenges us all to confront the biological limits of our own bodies, and these days humour provides the much-needed societal safety valve.

So what will come of these creations? The vast majority will fall victim to ‘verbicide’, as slang expressions always do.

This is one of the fifty essays from 2020: The Year That Changed Us edited by Molly Glassey and co-published with The Conversation. Available now.


Posted on November 23, 2020
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Breath meditation: essentials from High-Grade Living

Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell are best known as the powerhouse team behind The Broad Place, a global school for creativity, clarity and consciousness. Now, they have released their first book High-Grade Living, a modern guide to wellbeing. Here we share an extract from the book focusing on one of the pillars of meditation: breath meditation.

We recommend learning meditation in person with a teacher, rather than from a book. However, you can get started on your own with a beginner’s style of meditation that is widely used, where the breath is the focal point.

Even though we’re breathing all the time, we often forget to breathe deeply and properly in the course of our day. Breath meditation helps us centre ourselves and become completely aware and present.

Image: Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell

Putting into practice

First, get yourself into a comfortable seated position. Sitting still is very important for this technique, so finding a way to sit comfortably is key.

Ideally, you should start breath meditation by sitting cross-legged on the floor, with your back straight. Some find it helpful to sit on a cushion to raise the buttocks off the ground and allow the legs to fall gently forward.

However, you may find that while sitting on the floor without a back support, you slump your back and shoulders. It’s important to have a straight back, so we recommend sitting on a chair to begin with if you need that extra support. Experiment with both methods and find what works best for you.

Once seated, ensure that the spine is straight, the chin gently tucked in and the shoulders relaxed. Rest your hands comfortably and gently in your lap.

Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Your breaths should be light and easy, and gradually become longer in length.

Your breath is your guide during this meditation and it is what you come back to as an anchor for the busy mind.

Image: Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell

Now move your focus to place your awareness on the lower belly. In Japanese practice this is known as the hara. Focus your mind intently there and breathe into this space. The belly should expand with each breath in and contract with each breath out. Each time you are distracted by thoughts (which will be constantly), this is the space you come back to.

As you concentrate on your breaths, the mind will dash about, the body will distract and surrounding noises will pester you. Don’t worry; this is normal. When you find yourself distracted, simply come back to the breath. How does it feel in the body? Are the breaths long and slow, or are they shortening naturally? Bring your awareness back to the hara and your attention back to the breath.

Repeat this practice once or twice a day for 15 minutes. Routine is very important and will ground your practice.

Image: Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell

This is an extract from High-Grade Living, out now. Text and images by Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell with design by Arran Russell.


Posted on November 23, 2020
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An introduction to Songlines: The Power and Promise

Songlines is the first in the First Knowledges series of six books that will give an in-depth understanding of Indigenous expertise in six areas. The second and third books on Design and Country will be published in 2021.


If Indigenous art forms such as song, story, dance and ceremony are so similar and so effective in cultures around the world, why aren’t we using them in contemporary Western education? Why can’t we all benefit from Indigenous techniques for learning and storing knowledge?

The answer is simple: we can. All Indigenous knowledge techniques reflect the way the human brain stores information – the way your brain stores information. So why not use these knowledge methods alongside the techniques you already have? You don’t have to give up writing or technology. You don’t have to give up anything to add to your toolbox of memory aids and learn from the knowledge technologies that Indigenous cultures have been perfecting for millennia.

It’s time to go beyond learning about Indigenous cultures and start learning from them. If you start incorporating some of the ideas in this book into your personal knowledge system, you will experience the power of Songlines.


Almost all human knowledge is now available on the internet – you just have to search for it. So why bother memorising anything? This worrying question is asked far too often.

Firstly, you can’t look up something if you don’t know it exists.

Secondly, as you burrow down to specific information, you can’t connect it to the bigger picture. Creativity – the way to see things in new ways and construct new ideas – depends on being able to see and understand from different directions. If you don’t have various forms of knowledge in memory, how can you identify new patterns and ideas? All you are capable of doing is regurgitating the information that has already been neatly written and indexed for you.

Thirdly, how often do the knowledge keepers in every society have to make decisions based on what they know, without the time to go and look it up? How would you feel about a doctor who had to look up every symptom you mentioned? Or a policeman who had no idea what the law stated? Or a singer who knew none of the lyrics without an autocue?

Fourthly, if you want to go to the higher levels of thinking that we educators talk about endlessly in education – analyse and synthesise, hypothesise and theorise – then you have to analyse, synthesise, hypothesise or theorise about something. Otherwise, your new  thinking is meaningless. By grounding your knowledge, literally, in Songlines, you have a firm knowledge base on which to build ever more complex layers of understanding.

And finally, your brain is a muscle. Like every other muscle in your body, it will slowly atrophy if you don’t use it. Looking up information and regurgitating it does not exercise your brain at all.

All knowledge is based on memory, and all memory is prompted by cues. One of the great gifts on offer to us from those who understand Songlines is how to set up those cues and push our memory just that much further to a capacity we have never experienced before.


Like the Songlines that never end, the promise of this book is to open you up to a new way of understanding and a new way of knowing and being Australian on this continent. As an Australian, you too share a kinship with the First Peoples. We are all beneficiaries of the deep history of this continent and its long human occupancy stretching back thousands of generations. Immerse yourself in this legacy. It is a shared history in a shared country.

Elders from the Songlines exhibition who are custodians of the Seven Sisters Songline are very clear about why all Australians need to know about the Songlines. As they say, if you want to share this country with us then you need to know your stories beyond the last couple of hundred years. If you want to truly belong to this country, as Australians, you have to know your story about this place, this continent and its creation: ‘We are here to teach you your stories, not just to share ours. Without the deep stories you can’t take root, you will only ever be a transplant.’

The elders are not talking about sharing their stories; they are talking about telling you your stories.

Understanding how the Songlines work as a framework for relating people to each other and to place will give you the key to belonging. Learning how to integrate the dual knowledge systems from the first and second Australians will give you access to a third archive and with it, power over knowledge.

Songlines divulge powerful lessons about what it means to be human and to live on this earth. They offer us the promise of connectivity to each other and our planet in a fragmenting world.

This is an edited extract from Songlines: The Power and Promise by Margo Neale & Lynne Kelly, available now. Series editor Margo Neale and cover design by Nada Backovic. Ebook also available.


Posted on November 11, 2020
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Performing for Princess Diana: An extract from Soar

Ballet great David McAllister’s memoir Soar: A Life Freed by Dance is filled with enchanting stories from his life on and off the stage. In this edited extract from the book, he shares one of his most memorable experiences as a dancer for The Australian Ballet, performing for Princess Diana in 1992.

Image: Ronald G Bell/The Australian Ballet archive

In early 1992, The Australian Ballet was preparing to head to London for its thirtieth anniversary celebrations. The company travelled first to Italy, where we performed outdoors at the Nervi Festival, before heading to London for a season of Coppélia at the Coliseum theatre in the West End. There was some anxiety that a strike in France would prevent the sets and costumes from arriving in time, but mercifully they got there and the show could go on. Miranda Coney – a fellow principal whom I had known back in my Perth City Ballet days when we were children – and I were to dance the leads in Coppélia for the Royal Gala in front of Princess Diana. It was incredibly stressful. The dress rehearsal had been a disaster, I think in part because I couldn’t stop thinking about performing for the princess, a known ballet lover and one of the most stylish and beautiful people in the world. I was terrified of putting in a bad performance.

The next morning, with the show that night, I woke up vowing I was not going to be nervous but excited. I came to the theatre determined to enjoy myself hugely – it was the most effective way of dealing with my own expectations as well as those of the other dancers and the company’s management. If I can get through winning Bronze at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow, I told myself, and not for the first time, I can get through this. A security sweep through the theatre before the performance made us even more aware of our royal guest.

From the minute the curtain went up, it was one of the few shows in which I can honestly say I don’t think I put a foot wrong. The entire company was on fire that night. Everything just seemed to happen effortlessly; I even started taking a few risks with steps – and they paid off. Miranda was so much fun to dance with and I felt like we had a real connection – the whole performance was a joy and one of the best nights of my life.

At the end of the show, after the curtain calls, Princess Diana came up on stage and we were presented to her. She was absolutely radiant – a vision in a long peach and cream gown to her ankles, and so much more beautiful than even the best photographs of her. I was completely overwhelmed, and when she came to talk to us I was a tongue-tied mess. I can’t even remember what I said, but I doubt any of it made sense. I went back to the dressing room thinking I had just blown my special moment with the most famous woman on the planet. I knew some of us were being invited to a function after the performance, so I made a pact with myself that if I saw her there I wouldn’t gibber like an idiot; I would talk to her like a normal human being.

After we changed back into our civilian clothes, we were taken to St James’s Palace, where a few of us had been chosen to mix with British high society – including royalty. Miranda, artistic director Maina Gielgud and I were there along with some other dancers from The Australian Ballet, including Colin Peasley (who had performed as Dr Coppelius that night), Jayne Beddoe, Vicki Attard and Lisa Bolte. We all thought we would be at a table with Princess Diana, but it turned out she was on another table, with a seat next to her that was occupied by a revolving circuit of people throughout the night. I was on a table with some charming people from Chanel and was having a great time. Just before dessert, Lady Potter, one of our generous patrons and the host for the evening, came and asked me if I would like to have five minutes with the guest of honour. I was sitting next to the princess before Lady Potter could finish her sentence. As luck would have it, this was precisely as dessert was being served, which, according to protocol, meant I couldn’t be moved along until the plates had been cleared.

We had about fifteen minutes together while she grappled with her peach sorbet (that was actually served in the shape of a peach) – it was so frozen she asked for a knife to cut into it, and we both spent the next few minutes trying to hack into it, in vain. The princess immediately made me feel at ease, like we were old friends. We talked about her dancing, her favourite ballet (Romeo and Juliet), Chanel shoes and our performance, which thankfully she liked. It was all a little surreal. Who would have thought that a daggy little kid showing off on a septic tank in suburban Perth would one day have dessert with a princess?

This is an edited extract from Soar: A Life Freed by Dance, out now. Text by David McAllister and Amanda Dunn, cover image by Greg Barrett and cover design by Daniel New.


Posted on October 22, 2020
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A beautiful Spring menu plan from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen

We are so lucky to be able to share with you a Spring menu plan curated by the ever so talented recipe creator Héloïse Brion. This collection of recipes is taken from her new book, Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, named after her widely loved food and lifestyle brand. Together, they form a delicious four course French feast that is sure to impress your next dinner party guests.

Rosemary-Rhubarb Cooler

Makes 4 cocktails

Photography by Christophe Roué

Active Time 5 minutes

Cooking Time 5 minutes

Infusing Time 15 minutes


  • 600 g young, pink-stemmed rhubarb, divided
  • 1½ cups (300 g) superfine sugar
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) water
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary with flowers, divided 2 lemons, preferably organic
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) vodka
  • Large ice cubes
  • About 2 cups (500 ml) sparkling water


  1. Wash the rhubarb and cut 500 g into small pieces, and the remaining 100 g into 4 large pieces for garnish. Place the small rhubarb pieces in a large saucepan with the sugar, water, and 3 rosemary sprigs. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil for 5 minutes to make a syrup. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and place 2 tablespoons of syrup in each of 4 glasses.
  3. Top the syrup in each glass with the juice of ½ lemon and 3½ tbsp (50 ml) vodka.
  4. Add 4–5 ice cubes and a splash of sparkling water per drink. Stir to combine.
  5. Garnish with pieces of the remaining rosemary sprig and rhubarb before serving.

Cheese Shortbreads

Makes about 30

Photography by Christophe Roué

Active Time 10 minutes

Chilling Time 1 hour

Cooking Time 15 minutes


  • 1 stick plus 1tsp (120g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced
  • 1 3/4 cups (200g) shredded mature cheddar
  • 1/2 cup (50g) grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
  • 12 pecan halves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheeses, cayenne pepper, flour, and a pinch of kosher salt using your fingertips. When the dough comes together, shape it into a large ball.
  2. Divide the dough in two and shape each half into a log with a diameter of 6–7 cm. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the chilled dough logs into 0.5 cm slices and place on the baking sheet.
  4. Top each slice with either a pecan half or a small sprig of rosemary or thyme, lightly pressing them into the dough, and bake for 15 minutes. While the shortbreads are still warm, sprinkle them with kosher salt and pepper. Let cool and serve.

Green Bean Salad with Hazelnuts and Parmesan

Serves 4

Photography by Christophe Roué

Active Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 kg green beans
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp crushed toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 handfuls arugula
  • 1 handful shaved Parmesan
  • 1 handful dried cranberries or blueberries
  • A few arugula or amaranth sprouts (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Blanch the green beans in generously salted water for 5 minutes.
  2. Plunge the beans into a large bowl filled with ice water. After 1 minute, drain and dry the beans.
  3. In the base of a large salad bowl, prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the mustard, vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and hazelnut oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the green beans, hazelnuts, shallot, and dried cranberries or blueberries to the salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle the salad with the arugula, Parmesan, and amaranth sprouts if using.

Onion Quiche

Serves 4-6

Photography by Christophe Roué

Active Time: 20 minutes

Chilling Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 quantity savory pastry dough with thyme (see recipe p. 25)
  • 7 onions (a mix of yellow and red), thinly sliced 1 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pan 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 pinches ground cumin
  • 1 handful grated Gruyère cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Prepare the savory pastry dough with thyme leaves as indicated on page 25. Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the onions in a large saucepan or Dutch oven with the butter, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 32-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and pre-bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the crust from the oven and spread the mustard over the base in a thin layer. Distribute two-thirds of the onions evenly over the mustard.
  5. In a bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the cream and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the onions in the tart crust and sprinkle with the grated Gruyère. Scatter the remaining onions over the top and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the filling is set and the crust is golden.

Franou’s Lemon Pie

Serves 6-8

Photography by Christophe Roué

Active Time 20 minutes

Chilling Time 2 hours

Cooking Time 35 minutes



  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated or superfine sugar
  • 3½ tbsp (50 ml) water or milk
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour 1 pinch salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 tsp (125 g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced, plus more for greasing the pan
  • Generous ½ cup (80 g) toasted pine nuts


  • 2 large lemons, preferably organic
  • 1 stick plus 2 tbsp (5 oz./150 g) unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup (4½ oz./130 g) granulated or superfine sugar
  • 3 small eggs


  1. To prepare the pastry dough, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar in a bowl, then whisk in the milk. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Work in the egg-sugar mixture, followed by the pine nuts, until the dough just comes together in a ball. Shape into a round, flatten the top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 33-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. To prepare the lemon curd filling, remove the zest from 1 of the lemons in strips, using a vegetable peeler; juice both lemons and set the juice aside. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the zest, and blanch zest for 5 minutes. Drain the zest and return it to the saucepan. Add the butter and cook over low heat until the butter melts. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs together. Whisk in the lemon juice, followed by the melted butter. Pour into the saucepan and set over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and has slightly thickened; this could take up to 8–10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil or it may split. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1½ hours. Spoon the chilled filling into the baked crust, smooth over the top, and serve.

This is an edited extract from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, out now. Text by Héloïse Brion with photography by Christophe Roué. Originally published by Flammarion.


Posted on October 21, 2020
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Meet the dwarf star: an extract from The Secret Life of Stars

The Secret Life of Stars is a fun and accessible introduction to the many remarkable personalities in our galactic family. From renowned astrophysicist and Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador Lisa Harvey-Smith, the book guides you through the most extreme and confounding members of the Galaxy’s vast, varied and really quite weird stellar brood.

In this extract from the book, Lisa delves into the strange and fascinating existence of dwarf stars.

Stars appear in a vast range of sizes, with most being smaller and cooler than the Sun. The smallest burn their hydrogen more slowly and therefore have much lower temperatures. You can tell a lot about a star from its colour. Hotter stars give off more blue light, and cooler stars tend to the red. It’s similar to how hot gas-cooking flames are blue, whereas cooler candle flames are red. Counterintuitive, huh?

By looking in great detail at the colours of stars, we can tell precisely how hot they are, what chemicals they contain, and how old they are. We can even predict their future as they go through the ageing process.

Before we go on, I should fess up that the names of star categories make no logical sense whatsoever. From the coolest to the hottest stars we call them M, K, G, F, A, B and O, with numbered subcategories from 0 to 9. Uh-huh …

There are also subcategories for luminosity (how much light a star puts out) from 0 through to VII, in Roman numerals, just to be fancy.

Adding to the confusion, all small and average-sized stars are called ‘dwarf stars’. Only the very rare and very large stars are called ‘giants’ or ‘supergiants’. There are no ‘regular’ stars.

At this point I’d like to apologise on behalf of astronomers everywhere for this ridiculous situation – astronomy is littered with strange historical naming schemes. But there we have it.

Our Sun is a G2V star, somewhere in the middle of the jumbled alphabet soup of stars. B and O stars, at the top end of the scale, are humongous, gluttonous giants that explode in a shower of sparks when they come to the end of their life. In contrast, M and K stars are cool and steady types who live long and interesting lives. From now on, we will call these M and K stars ‘red dwarfs’.

Red dwarfs have only about a tenth to one half the mass of the Sun, and are only half as hot. They are smaller in physical size, too, and decidedly dimmer (although not lacking in intelligence). These stars are capable of great feats of physics – they still burn hydrogen into helium to produce vast amounts of energy in their core – but because they are smaller, there are far fewer nuclear reactions and their output is decidedly more puny.

Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky Way, with the faintest M-dwarfs making up more than 70 per cent of stars in our universe. Despite that, we never see them. I mean that literally. We don’t see any of them. At all. Ever. We didn’t even know that red dwarfs existed before the invention of the telescope, because they are too faint to see with the naked eye. Imagine that! Every star you can see is part of the 30 per cent minority.

As slow burners, these stars live extremely long and varied lives. Not only does their reduced rate of nuclear fusion extend their life, but also their enhanced internal mixing causes fresh hydrogen fuel from the outskirts of the star to be transported to the engine in the middle. As such, we predict that red dwarfs can live in excess of a trillion years.

As adolescents they can be active and sparky. In this gregarious stage of their lives they are often characterised as ‘flare’ stars. Rather than being a regrettable 1970s fashion statement, this moniker actually describes a stage of intense variability in the life of lower-mass stars where they quickly erupt – explode, even – for a few minutes before relaxing back to their regular demeanour as if nothing had happened. Flares from young red dwarfs are 100 to 1000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. As red dwarfs age, they cease this nonsense and increasingly potter their way through life, with age slowly ripening and changing their character.

Stars of all sizes form when gravity pulls together materials in interstellar clouds of gas. Red dwarfs are the littlest stars, just slightly larger than Jupiter, and are the smallest member in the official category of stars. But there are also some almost-rans, plucky hopefuls who tried but just missed the cut-off for full stardom. These battlers, called brown dwarfs, live out quite different lives to other stars.

With core temperatures of below 3 million degrees Celsius, brown dwarfs are simply not big or hot enough to turn hydrogen into helium via nuclear fusion. They can, however, manage other nuclear fusion reactions involving chemicals called deuterium and lithium. These reactions don’t generate as much heat as hydrogen fusion, so the surface temperatures of brown dwarfs are generally below 800 degrees. They emit almost no visible light: if you looked at one close up, you might just see a dim purple-ish glow.

Brown dwarfs weren’t discovered until 1995, because the only way to find them is to use infra-red detectors. Once astronomers built a telescope powerful enough to see them, we could finally make out their slight warmth in the icy cold of space.

Lisa Harvey-Smith

The Secret Life of Stars is out now. Text by Lisa-Harvey Smith, illustrations by Eirian Chapman and cover design by Philip Campbell Design.


Posted on October 1, 2020
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A recipe for blueberry-rhubarb jam

If anyone knows a thing or two about jam, it’s Jessica Koslow. After the success of her first book Everything I Want to Eat, the owner of beloved LA restaurant Sqirl is back with The Sqirl Jam Book. This home cook-friendly book features a collection of Koslow’s signature recipes for jams, jellies and preserves. Think fig jam with red wine, roasted honey apple butter and yuzu marmalade with honey. Not sure where to start? Give this delightful blueberry-rhubarb jam a go.

Photography by Scott Barry

Blueberry-rhubarb is the first berry jam that we made at Sqirl after marmalade season, a riff on a Southern classic. An iconic jam for me because it’s what Sqirl’s all about — taking a classic and turning it on its head.


  • 1,000 g rhubarb
  • 1,000 g blueberries
  • 1,200 g (6 cups) sugar (60% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
  • 40 g (2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) lemon juice (2% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)


  1. Prepare your plate test by putting a few saucers in the freezer.
  2. Cut the rhubarb into 6 mm slices; they should all be about the same size for even cooking. Set aside.
  3. Put the blueberries in a blender and puree until smooth: Start with a little bit of the blueberries and blend on low speed as you add the rest of the berries and increase the speed.
  4. If you have more or less than 2,000 g rhubarb and blueberries (we use 50% rhubarb and 50% blueberries), you can figure out how much sugar and lemon juice you will need by using the following formula:
    • Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.60 = grams of sugar
    • Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.02 = grams of lemon juice
  5. Combine the blueberry puree, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a jamming pot. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring frequently. When the rhubarb is softened, about 14 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to smash it; you’re going to be stirring a lot because the fruit needs to disintegrate, release liquid, and eventually melt into the blueberry puree. (It won’t fully break down — it’s okay to have some chunks.)
  6. Turn the heat back up to high and cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Use a spider or fine-mesh skimmer to skim off any scum. Dip the spider into a bowl of water and shake off any excess to clean between skims.
  7. Reduce the heat to low, then smash the rhubarb again with a potato masher for a minute. Turn the heat back up to high and continue to cook, stirring and skimming as necessary, for another couple of minutes, until the jam is thickened, the texture is homogenous, and the temperature reaches 101°C, about 25 minutes total. Perform a plate test.
  8. Spoon a little of the jam onto a frozen saucer. Put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, then slide a finger through the jam. It’s done when it parts and you see a strip of clean saucer. If it isn’t set, return the pot to the heat, stir constantly, and test again after 1 to 2 minutes.

Photography by Scott Barry

This is an edited extract from The Sqirl Jam Book, out now. Text by Jessica Koslow with photography and design by Scott Barry. Published by Abrams Books.


Posted on September 18, 2020
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How to Grow Beetroot With as Little as a Windowsill

There is little more satisfying than growing something you can eat. The joy of picking a ripe tomato, digging out a wonky potato or ripping off some fresh basil leaves is spring’s very own drug.

Claire Ratinon is an organic food grower who once grew food for Ottolenghi’s kitchen. In this extract from her first book, How to Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving the House, Claire demystifies an Australian favourite: beetroot.

As a child, I only ever tasted cooked supermarket beetroot. It was always a bit soggy and sour, and made all that touched it bright pink. Suffice to say, it was not my favourite. But as a grown-up vegetable fancier, I find my love for beetroot is constantly expanding. I’ve come to appreciate its earthy sweetness, and I adore the colours and tastes of the more unusual varieties, such as ‘Choggia’, with its concentric circles of magenta and white, or golden beetroot, which is a bright, warm yellow in appearance and flavour. You can also eat the highly nutritious leaves, although take only a few at a time or your beetroot plant will stop growing.

Photography by Ida Riveros

You can sow beetroot seeds indoors from early spring, plant them out 4–6 weeks later and harvest by early summer. Sow seeds every few weeks if you have the space, for a regular supply. Seeds sown in mid summer will yield roots that can be kept into winter, as long as they’re harvested and stored before the first frost.

Getting started
Beetroot seeds benefit from being soaked before sowing so put your seeds in a glass of water for 24 hours. Plant a couple of seeds in each module, as they grow well in a little group. Each seed is actually a cluster of seeds with the potential to produce a few germinated seedlings, so thin the bunch down to four or five strong plants while they’re still small. You can also sow directly into the final container. If you’ve used modules, transplant the seedlings while they’ve got two sets of leaves per plant: they won’t appreciate being moved once they’re bigger.


Beetroot doesn’t need a huge container, and you can plant one cluster of seedlings in a 5-litre pot with a diameter of 22cm. If you grow the plants close together, you will still get a harvest but the roots will be on the small side.

It’s important not to let your beetroot plants dry out or their roots will become woody, so be generous when you water, especially in hot, dry weather.

Beetroot grows best in a sunny position, but it can tolerate some shade as long as it has had a strong start in life, with adequate light.

Beetroots are vigorous growers and will benefit from feeding when grown in pots. A fortnightly feed of liquid seaweed or comfrey will support the plants to grow and roots to develop.


Your first beetroot harvest can arrive as early as two months after sowing, when the root is the size of a golf ball. At this stage you can also harvest the leaves and cook them as you would spinach. These early harvests will be the sweetest and most tender. Gently twist off the largest roots and leave the remaining ones to keep growing, harvesting them as you want to eat them. Just don’t let them get much larger than a tennis ball, or they’ll be tough and less delicious.

How to Grow Your Dinner: Without Leaving the House is out now. Text by Claire Ratinon and cover by Rita Platts.

Posted on September 10, 2020
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What matters now: a gallery from Human Nature

Humanity has reached a pivotal point in time. Human Nature brings together twelve of the world’s most influential photographers to show us why. With compassion and empathy, their extraordinary images and the stories behind them help us to understand what matters now for humanity and the planet.

Get to know the different photographers featured, some of their work from the book and their views on the Age of Anthropocene.

Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist with a focus on underwater environments and marine wildlife and is a lecturer on exploration, photography and conservation. His work has been featured in many publications and he has produced over twenty-five stories for National Geographic magazine.

‘The decisions that we make today are going to determine the future of this planet, and the future of our species. It’s a time for truth; it’s a time for science and storytelling and journalism to work together collaboratively. The stakes have never been quite so high.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Brian Skerry.

Frans Lanting

Hailing from the Netherlands, Frans Lanting is a renowned photographer and naturalist whose work has frequently appeared in National Geographic, where he served as a photographer-in-residence.

‘Nature can help us overcome the effects of climate change in a much more effective way than anything else. If we invest in nature, in protecting nature as habitats, as forests, as lungs of the planet, then we can save species that are dependent on those habitats.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Frans Lanting.

J Henry Fair

Based in New York City and Berlin, J Henry Fair creates imagery and media to explain the science of complex environmental issues.

‘What we see in these pictures are the hidden costs of mining; the detritus from the production processes that make the things that we buy every day, whether it’s electricity, bread or the soda cans we throw away on the street. We are complicit, but it’s a complicity of ignorance.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © J Henry Fair.

Paul Nicklen

Paul Nicklen is a Canadian photographer and marine biologist specialising in the polar regions and their wildlife.

‘Change is happening. A little too late and too slowly, but it is happening and that’s what gives me hope. We know that there’s no other option but to fight for this and I think we are going to win. There is hope everywhere around us.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Paul Nicklen.

Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography, founding the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues.

‘This lack of commitment to community, this lack of care for the other, is absolutely at the heart of the environmental issues we are confronted with. Inequality and climate change are the two biggest issues that we’re facing.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Cristina Mittermeier.

Brent Stirton

Brent Stirton is a South African photographer and a senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specialising in documentary work covering global topics including health, the environment and conflict.

‘It’s almost suicidal in terms of our civilisation’s thinking on these issues, but a lot of that’s because people are simply in the process of surviving, feeding their families. Conservation is almost considered a luxury, when it should be a necessity.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Ami Vitale

Ami Vitale is a photographer, filmmaker, writer and explorer who tells stories about our fragile relationship with the natural world.

‘We all have the capacity to get engaged and use our voices to make a difference. The messenger matters just as much as the message itself. Each of us can be a powerful voice when speaking to the people in our lives.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Ami Vitale.

Steve Winter

Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades. He specialises in wildlife and particularly big cats.

‘If we can save the ecosystems and these animals’ habitats, we can help save ourselves. That’s my mantra: if we can save big cats, we can help save ourselves. We don’t have a choice; we either save the planet or we perish.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Steve Winter/National Geographic.

Tim Laman

Tim Laman is a field biologist, wildlife photographer and filmmaker.

‘It’s hugely important for climate change that forest stays as forest – all that carbon that’s in there – and the birds of paradise are flagship species that can focus people’s attention on conserving New Guinea’s forests.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Tim Laman.

George Steinmetz

A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine, George Steinmetz’s work has examined subjects ranging from global oil exploration and the latest advances in robotics, to the innermost stretches of the Sahara and the little-known tree house people of Papua, Indonesia.

‘Over the years, my work has turned me into an accidental environmentalist. I never set out to be an advocate for our planet, but I think that if people know more about an issue, they can make choices that will lead to solutions. Our individual choices add up.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © George Steinmetz.

Richard John Seymour

British photographer, designer and filmmaker Richard John Seymour uses photography and film to explore the connections between cities, economies and landscapes in an effort to draw attention to the political, environmental and social issues that stem from human-made environments.

‘In the last fifteen years we’ve produced half of the plastic ever made and in the last twenty-five years we’ve emitted half of the CO2 ever emitted in the history of humanity. Since we’ve had the information that we’ve needed to change our habits, we’ve massively done the opposite.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Richard John Seymour.

Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer, speaker, author, conservationist and the 2018 National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

‘Human beings are the ones that hold earth’s fate in our hands. We really do need to pay attention and look these animals in the eye. Hopefully then people will decide whether or not the future of life on earth is worth it.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

This is an edited extract from Human Nature, out now. Text edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, copyright © Blackwell & Ruth.


Posted on September 1, 2020
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An Extract from Max Allen’s Intoxicating

Intoxicating is award-winning journalist Max Allen’s personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history, glass in hand. In the book, Max uncovers ten of Australia’s most famous – and most surprising – drinks, sharing anecdotes about each.

In this edited extract, Max discusses his first forays into cider and home distillation, from the chapter ‘Peach Cyder’.    

I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Bristol, in the heart of England’s West Country, epicentre of traditional cider production. As a teenager living in London, some of my first experiences of alcohol came in the form of big plastic bottles of cheap Woodpecker Medium Dry cider bought underage at the local off-licence. Then, travelling around the West Country in the late 1980s, I discovered the real thing: farmhouse scrumpy, stuff of legend.

The revelation came in a crumbling 16th-century pub called the Three Tuns in Hay-on-Wye, a little town famous for its bookshops and literary festival, just over the Welsh border from Herefordshire. Saggy wooden benches by the smoke-blackened inglenook, an ancient shillings-and-pence slot machine in one corner, and an even older landlady tending the tiny bar.

When I asked for cider, instead of reaching for the hand pump on the bar or a bottle from the fridge, she rummaged around in the gloom and hauled out a plastic gallon container of cloudy golden liquid. This was scrumpy, made by a local farmer using nothing but freshly pressed apple juice and wild yeasts and time.

‘Be careful,’ she warned, as she poured out a pint. And she was right: with its huge, sharp aromas of pulpy windfall fruit and its furry taste of tough, brown apple cores strewn across a barnyard, this was a deeply challenging explosion of agricultural flavour. I think it might also have had mild hallucinogenic properties. I was hooked.

I first made cider in my backyard in Melbourne in 2011. I’d found a small orchard full of old apple varieties just a few blocks from my house, in the grounds of Rippon Lea, the National Trust–owned Melbourne mansion built by merchant and politician Frederick Sargood in 1868. Like many grand estates established on the outskirts of Australia’s emerging capital cities in the late 19th century, Rippon Lea was originally surrounded by farmland. Much of that country is now covered in suburban houses, schools, cinemas and the ABC’s old Gordon Street studios where my mum worked with my wife’s parents in the 1960s. But in the 1980s, one corner of the estate near the original 1860s stables was converted to an orchard that now boasts over 130 varieties of heritage apples and pears, including Golden Pippin and the classic cider variety Kingston Black.

I’d heard that the gardeners at Rippon Lea had harvested enough fruit to make cider by netting some of the trees to stop the local flocks of lorikeets munching the crop. So I contacted the head gardener and asked if I could gather enough of what was left over – those few apples still clinging unscathed to higher branches, the unbruised windfalls lurking in the grass below – to make a demijohn of cider myself.

Photography by Riley Allen

Not owning any cider-making equipment at that time, I crushed the apples in the most rudimentary way by bashing them to a pulp with a block of wood in a bucket. Then I borrowed a winemaker friend’s old basket press, wrapped the apple pulp up in parcels of shade cloth, put them in the press, slowly squeezed them and filled a glass demijohn with golden-brown sticky syrupy juice.

At this stage, according to all the modern cider-making manuals I’d read, I should have added some safe, reliable cultured yeast from a packet. Instead, I did nothing. I walked away and waited for nature to take its course. I wanted to do what the farmer who made that scrumpy in Hay-on-Wye had done and just let the wild yeasts on the apple skins and flesh and stalks and pips, in the air, on the press, do what yeasts do naturally: turn sugar into alcohol.

Nothing happened at first. The juice just sat there. But then, after a few hours, up from the depths of the murk emerged tiny pinprick bubbles of carbon dioxide: a definite sign of microbial activity. Fermentation had started. The wild yeasts were getting to work.

As I watched those little bubbles slowly rise, I felt another strange and profound feeling of connection with the generations of people before me who have marvelled at this seemingly miraculous process. And not just the cider makers: the winemakers and brewers, all those innumerable human beings who, for thousands of years, long before scientists identified yeasts and bacteria as the living organisms responsible for fermentation, have simply trusted in the mystery to produce a delicious drink.

I’ve made my own cider each autumn almost every year since that first fermentation epiphany. I’ve bought my own small-scale cider-making equipment. I’ve crawled around on my hands and knees in the mud and damp grass under apple trees foraging for windfalls in the Goulburn Valley. I’ve scrambled over gates and fences to reach fat ripe apples on wild roadside trees in Coonawarra. I’ve made friends with orchardists on the Mornington Peninsula who have old heritage varieties: proper cider apples like Kingston Black, almost-forgotten English apples like Sturmer Pippin, unfashionable Australian apples like Sundowner.

Each year I’ve brought my motley harvest back home and dragged my crusher and press out of the garage and invited friends and family, reluctant teenagers and eager neighbours, to help me make cider. And after the crushing and pressing, we’ve all sat down for a meal and opened bottles of last year’s batch and celebrated the season.

I now take bottles of my cider with me when I travel, to share with friends or to pour for winemakers or brewers or other, professional cidermakers. Sometimes people even say they like it, which makes me feel proud – and connected, as though the annual autumn West Country rituals are echoing in my own creaking basket press.

Photography by Riley Allen

Intoxicating is out now. Text by Max Allen and cover design by Josh Durham.

Posted on July 31, 2020
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At Home in a Strange Land

Landscapes of Our Hearts is an epic exploration of our relationship with this country. From distinguished research scientist and award-winning writer Matthew Colloff, the book asks the question: ‘If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?’

In this extract, Colloff discusses the importance of responsibility in the pursuit of belonging for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Photography: Jackie Money

Most Australians have connections with more than one place, whether they are Indigenous people or descended from 19th-century European settler-colonists or more recent migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. We value and maintain our cultural identity. For many Australians, the expression of culture singles them out as ‘different’ from other Australians and creates the tension between integration into ‘the Australian way of life’ and the multicultural plurality of modern Australian society. For example, the children of Greek migrants who refused to go with their parents and older relatives to large group barbecues and picnics in parks because they regarded such an event as ‘woggy’; in other words, it represented their involvement in a cultural activity that would identify them as migrants to other Australians.1

But there is no contradiction between citizenship and cultural diversity. Attempts by politicians and populists to construct and promulgate ‘a national identity’ have tended to be unsuccessful. Sociologist Robert Van Krieken writes, ‘Political and cultural citizenship do not necessarily coincide – it is possible to be defined legally as a citizen, but still remain an outsider, with the rules governing the transition from one category to the other remaining obscure and elusive.’2 I would argue that the process of transition from one to the other often begins with developing a connection with this land and the process of place-making.

Are we all strangers in our own land, trying to make a home wherever we find ourselves? For Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent whose families have been here for several generations, they may have been born in one place, grown up in another and live as adults somewhere else again. For many Indigenous Australians, their ancestors may have been forcibly removed from their lands, their grandparents or great-grandparents raised on a mission or an Aboriginal reserve many hundreds of kilometres away, and their parents may have moved from place to place to find work, as Stan Grant’s parents did, all the while trying to stay in contact with the diaspora of their kin.

For many of us migrants, the idea of referring to Australia as my country carries with it a deeply felt sense of ambivalence. This tension emerges not only from the cultural connections with the countries of our birth but also an unease about whether we have such a right, considering this land was taken by invasion and dispossession of its Indigenous peoples during the one hundred and forty years of the Frontier Wars. As Henry Reynolds wrote: ‘It was only by forgetting that white Australia was able to overlook the violent foundation of the nation.’3

Historian Peter Read sums up the tension as follows: ‘how can we non-Indigenous Australians justify our continuous presence and our love for this country while the Indigenous people remain dispossessed and their history unacknowledged?’4 Some of us make our place and feel a strong sense of belonging accordingly. We feel we have a right to belong. Others of us feel no such right. Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Belonging is a deeply personal journey, travelled by multiple routes. There was nothing in the citizenship interview and examination that I took in 1996 on how to go about the process of belonging. The only mention in official documentation on citizenship is the statement that volunteering can be a great way of increasing one’s sense of belonging to the Australian community and that, ‘You can walk the desert or the shore, the mountains or the rainforests. Every step you take is a step closer to belonging to this vast and vibrant land.’5 Indeed. A route to belonging through volunteerism and tourism. Were it that easy.

For some, claiming continuity with Indigenous people and the environment as part of our non-Indigenous heritage is a means of achieving a sense of belonging. In an interview with Peter Read, environmental historian Tom Griffiths stated: ‘Aborigines and environment: these are the two great historical revolutions of our generation. Writing both into Australian history allows you to reach back beyond the moment of invasion and draw you into deep time as part of our own inheritance. We should discover the continuities.’6

Griffiths’ perspective echoes the need to reconcile a sense of attachment to place with the history of environmental and cultural change. With this need comes a set of responsibilities to ‘a vision of a morally and environmentally integrated Australia’, in which the relationship between humans and the environment is one in which people ‘share its past and provide for its future’. Yet can non-Indigenous Australians legitimately claim to belong to deep time while Indigenous Australians remain dispossessed and governments continually seek to obstruct practical processes of reconciliation?7

Perhaps one way for non-Indigenous Australians to think construc­tively about these vexed issues is not just to focus on assumptions about rights of belonging, but on their responsibilities. Simply put, if our sense of belonging is to be gained through a continuity with deep time history, then we have an equal responsibility to Indigenous Australians, ourselves and our shared environment to do what we can to achieve reconciliation. We might start by considering and adopting elements of the ancient environmental knowledge, values and rules of Indigenous Australians that they observe and we do not. Perhaps this might form a basis to begin to shape our common future in more sustainable ways.8

If there can be no lasting or legitimate sense of belonging without a sense of responsibility to the land and each other, then here’s the challenge, as articulated by Tom Griffiths: ‘If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep past, then we must ask the non-Aboriginals to share responsibility for its mistakes. If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep future, then we must ask the Aboriginals to share in its responsibility.’ Idealistic and difficult this may seem in practice, but the alternative is worse; a business-as-usual continuation of what we have already done: ‘the mere expropriation of past and future’.9 If we can acknowledge the past, reconcile the present and nurture the future, then perhaps all Australians, one day, may truly find a place we can call home.


1     Denis Byrne, Heather Goodall & Allison Cadzow, Place-Making in National Parks: Ways That Australians of Arabic and Vietnamese Background Perceive and Use the Parklands along the Georges River, NSW, University of Technology Sydney and Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, 2013, p. 17.

2     Robert Van Krieken, ‘Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism: Models of Integration in Australia’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 46, no. 5, 2012, pp. 500–17.

3     Henry Reynolds, Forgotten War, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2013.

4     Peter Read, Belonging: Australians, Place and Aboriginal Ownership, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 1.

5     Department of Home Affairs, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, Communication and Engagement Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Canberra, 2018, pp. 17, 41.

6     Read, p. 178.

7     Read, p. 181.

8     Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Change the World, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2019; ‘Can Indigenous Thinking Save the World?’ Late Night Live, Radio National, 16 September 2019.

9     Read, p. 183.

Landscapes of Our Hearts is available now. Text by Matthew Colloff, cover photography by Louise Denton Photography, and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.


Posted on July 1, 2020
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Making Colour Visceral: How Paint is Made

From one of the world’s most respected paint-makers, David Coles, Chromatopia reveals the stories behind fifty striking pigments. In this extract, Coles discusses the extraordinary process through which paint is made.

Photography by Adrian Lander

This book has looked at the origins of historical and contemporary pigments, but pigments are hardly ever used in their raw form. To be usefully employed as a colour, billions of individual grains of pigment must be glued together with a binder. This is, in essence, how you make paint.

Throughout history, people have found ways to permanently ‘fix’ colour to create lasting images of the most exquisite beauty. For instance, the binding of pigments in Neolithic cave paintings was probably serendipitous; cave walls containing silicas or limestone trapped the pigment and locked it to the surface over time. Since then, we have discovered a host of sticky, adhesive materials in nature that could hold pigments in place. Some of these earliest binders are still used by artists. Gum arabic, the water-soluble sap of the North African acacia tree, makes watercolours; and beeswax, collected and refined from hives, makes encaustic (molten wax) paint.

Mixing pigments with different binders successfully converts them into a material for uses as diverse as house paints, plastics, writing inks, automotive coatings, paper and – of most interest to me – artists’ paint.

In my role as a master paint-maker, I make oil paint, which are by dispersing pigments in a ‘drying oil’ such as linseed, walnut, poppy or safflower oils. Linseed oil is by far the most important and widely used drying oil. When drying oils absorb oxygen they convert from a liquid into a hard, permanent coating. Pigments can be bound with very small amounts of oil. This means that oil paints contain much higher amounts of the pigment than watercolour or acrylic paints. For artists, this gives the paint a physical feeling. The paintbrush is literally pushing around dense, coloured pastes.

Photography by Adrian Lander

So how do we make our paint? Our first task was to source a high-quality linseed oil. We selected ours after sampling dozens of products from suppliers all over the world. We were looking for a clean, straw-coloured oil that was free of natural impurities. It had to have a good drying rate and minimal yellowing as it aged. Eventually we chose exceptional bright, clear oils made in Holland and Germany.

Next comes the selection of the pigments. There are so many manufacturers of pigments that the choice seems overwhelming. We hunt out pigments that have qualities equal to their noble intended use: they must be as lightfast as possible, chemically stable and exhibit colour qualities of benefit to the artist. The vast majority of pigments do not meet our needs. They are built for larger, more commercially important industries and have been tailored for industrial applications.

To select our pigments, we go through a long period of investigation. We select colours of interest, research the chemical construction of the pigment, and assess its suitability for artists’ paint before requesting samples for laboratory trials. The anticipation of opening a sample box and seeing a new pigment for the first time, in its raw unadulterated form, is exhilarating. There is always the nervous hope that the promise held out by this new pigment will be borne out, that its potency will not dull, and that its colour will not be lost when it is mixed with the binder. Backwards and forwards go the experiments – working out the right amount of pigment to add to the oil and correcting for undesirable qualities. Like a chef honing a new dish, small, delicate changes in the recipe can lead to dramatic differences in the finished product.

Photography by Adrian Lander

When we are ready to make the paint, the linseed oil is weighed out into 60-litre heavy-duty stainless-steel bowls. All of our manufacturing equipment and surfaces are stainless steel. The equipment is kept meticulously clean to prevent any chance of other colours contaminating the purity of each new batch.

Stearate, a wax-like material that is essential to the wetting and stability of the paint, is weighed and added to the oil. The bowl is secured in a planetary mixer and large, powerful motors slowly rotate the blade through the wax and oil mixture.

Next, another steel bowl is placed on the electronic scales, ready for the pigment. Even after all these years, opening the bins of pure pigment is a ridiculously breathtaking assault on the eyes. The pigment is scooped out, weighed and added slowly to the oil. There are no short cuts. Adding all the pigment at once would make incorporation impossible. The liquid oil allows the individual grains of colour to slide over each other. The physical shape of pigments means that, without this lubrication, they would drag over each other, causing extraordinary resistance, reducing the mixing action and – as happened once very early on – breaking the very expensive blade of the mixer.

The slow churning of the paste begins. Over the rumbling of the mixer’s motor, you can hear delicious slurping noises as the blade methodically drives through the mixture. As the dry pigment is gradually incorporated with the wet oil, it changes from an incredibly thick batter into what looks like an enormous vat of vividly coloured butter.

This process can take as long as four hours, but it is not the finished paint. Under close inspection, vast quantities of the pigments still cling together rather than being individually coated. This is where the triple-roll mill comes in.

Photography by Adrian Lander

A triple-roll mill is at the heart of paint-making. At its most basic, it is three horizontal granite rollers that each run at different speeds and spin in alternating directions. The paste is scraped out of the mixer’s bowl with a baker’s blade and dropped into the hopper. Each giant dollop makes a delicious slap as it plops onto the rollers below. The paste is drawn down into the tiny space between the rollers, again and again. With each pass, the space is narrowed to more aggressively separate the pigment particles. If you have ever used a pasta-making machine with its two rollers forcing the dough through the small space between them you can understand the paint-making process. Just as the roughly made dough cannot pass through the narrowest setting first, so the pigment-paste must be passed through the mill rollers multiple times. It’s just that our mill is like a pasta-machine on steroids, with three rollers rather than two and a massive motor to drive the material through. For soft pigments such as zinc white only three passes are needed, but the synthetics can take up to nine passes. Synthetic pigments are very difficult to prize apart: their incredibly small size and specific shape mean they have to be painstakingly teased into dispersion.

The paint-maker must be constantly attentive to the vagaries of milling. Rollers heat up under the friction of pigment particles, which alters the size of the roller gap, and the fluidity of the oil is affected by changes in ambient temperature. Also, pigments behave differently from one batch to another. This is especially true of the natural earths, which vary in their mineral make-up depending on the part of the seam the earth was dug from.

Photography by Adrian Lander

Towards the end of the paint-making process, we take samples of the paint and test it for quality. Historically, paint-makers would rub the paint between their thumbnails – a simple but surprisingly delicate solution to feel for the grittiness of unmixed pigment. Nowadays we use a precisely honed stainless-steel gauge to check the quality of dispersion.

But we are still not ready to sign off on the product. Two extremely thin films of the freshly made paint are applied to paint-maker’s cards. One daub is the pure paint. The other is the paint mixed with a specified amount of titanium white.  By placing the card next to one from a previous batch of the same colour, we can ensure that every time we make the paint it has identical colour, tinting strength, tint colour and undertone to all previous versions.

Only after the paint has passed these tests is it approved for packing. It is hand-filled into collapsible aluminium paint tubes, labelled with hand-painted swatches of the individual colour, boxed and shipped to studios around the world.

Chromatopia is available now. Text by David Coles, photography by Adrian Lander, and cover design by Evi. O Studio.


Posted on June 17, 2020
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Recipe: Speckled Beetroot Sourdough

There’s no better time to settle in to the ultimate, feel-good luxury of making homemade bread, and this Speckled Beetroot Sourdough is worth settling in to.

Whilst all the recipes in How to Raise a Loaf are suitable for beginners, this recipe should be attempted once you’ve already made your first basic loaf. The recipe for a basic loaf, as well as kneading and folding tutorials, are all included in How to Raise a Loaf. You’ll also find a step-by-step guide to making and using your starter. Head over to Laurence King’s Instagram story here to watch how we make our starter.

Speckled Beetroot Sourdough

With a distinctive appearance and earthy aroma, this is a real show-stopper, and a perfect, hearty accompaniment to winter soups or stews. Beetroots are a rich source of antioxidants, and also give the dough an unforgettable pink colour, which fades in the oven, leaving speckles in a classic open crumb.

Photography by Ida Riveros


· 200g starter
· 10ml (2 tsp) olive oil
· 180ml warm water
· 340g strong white bread flour
· 7.5g (1½ tsp) fine salt
· 150g fresh beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
· rice flour or semolina, for dusting

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the starter, olive oil and warm water together until the starter has dissolved.

Photography by Ida Riveros

2. In another bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add this to the wet mixture and mix well with your hand, then add the grated beetroot and mix until the beetroot is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Wet your hands, then pull, fold and rotate the dough 8—10 times, so that it forms a ball. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

4. Repeat Step 3 twice so that you’ve worked the dough three times and it has rested for a
hour in total.

5. Dust a proving basket liberally with rice flour or semolina. Wet your fingers, work them around the bottom of the ball of dough and gently transfer it to the proving basket, keeping the seam upwards.

6. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove. Depending on the temperature and the activity of the yeast, it may take three to six hours to gain about 50 per cent in size.

Photography by Ida Riveros

7. When the loaf has proved, preheat the oven to 230°C (210°C fan)/gas mark 8, with a heavy baking tray or baking stone on the middle shelf, and add a source of steam. Turn the loaf out of the proving basket onto the heated surface, cut it twice across the top with a sharp blade or scissors, then place it in the oven.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210°C (190°C fan)/gas mark
and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the loaf is done and sounds hollow on the base
when tapped with a fingertip.

9. Leave to cool on a wire rack before eating.

Photography by Ida Riveros

This is a recipe extract from How to Raise a Loaf, published by Laurence King Publishing, $25, available here.

Posted on May 11, 2020
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My Bedroom is an Office: Joanna Thornhill on your Interior Design Dilemmas

When My Bedroom is an Office was published in March 2019, we had no idea it would be so relevant over a year later. Now, Joanna Thornhill reminds us that even if your office is just an outdoor table at the end of your bed, it’s still worth making it a space you are happy to spend the day in.

No one wants to stare at a messy workspace at the best of times, least of all when dozing off in bed at the end of the day. But if the bedroom is your only viable space to set up shop, however small the available area, if you’re savvy and organised you can create a spot that functions as a place of productivity without causing nightmares.

For the workspace itself, think about repurposing a piece of furniture that will fit the aesthetic of your bedroom. A bureau or secretaire can work brilliantly, and you can just shut the hatch when you’re not using it. A simple writing desk, console or even small dining table can be a good option, but try to make a raised platform for your monitor (perhaps just a shelf resting on two wooden battens) to ensure that it sits at the correct eye level; you can tuck your keyboard under this when it’s not being used. If your table has no drawers, a basic fabric skirt fixed around the top can hide a multitude of sins, from printers to power cables.

Left: Hiding in plain sight can be a good approach for the bedroom office. Through the use of cute accessories, charming vintage furniture and a pretty overall aesthetic, this study spot is a chic addition rather than an unfortunate eyesore.
Right: An ingenious fold-down wall desk can work wonderfully in a tiny space. A purpose-built unit allows you to keep your laptop and a few other essentials hidden away, while a wall-mounted drop-leaf table or a drop-leaf butterfly table would do a similar job.
Below: Natural materials can offer the perfect counterbalance to a tech-filled study space. Paired with simple floral cuttings and touches of greenery, this work nook looks the opposite of corporate. Clever, subtle tech, such as the lamp that incorporates a wireless charging base, allows the desktop to remain relatively cable-free.
Image © Tiffany Grant-Riley / 91 Magazine

Since space will no doubt be limited, think laterally to make the most of your work nook. If your desk is in an alcove, this can offer the ideal spot to add shelves for storage, but otherwise a ladder-style leaning desk unit may be most efficient, or even a modular shelving system incorporating a desk. Soften the appearance of work paraphernalia such as box files or ring binders by covering them with fabric or wallpaper swatches that tie in with your room decor, and be creative with storage – why not keep archived paperwork in a small vintage suitcase, for example, or stack your printer paper in an old wooden fruit crate?

An ugly office chair will never enhance any bedroom, so consider working from a more visually pleasing dining chair or even a padded stool. If this is your full-time workspace, however, a proper computer chair is best for your body, so shop around for an aesthetically pleasing one (they may be few and far between, but they’re out there). If you’ve already got a bog-standard one, try covering it with a chunky throw when it’s not in use, or make fitted covers in a charming fabric to give it a more homely feel.

Joanna Thornhill
Joanna Thornhill, author of My Bedroom is an Office. See Joanna’s Instagram takeover here

If you’re up for a DIY challenge, try converting a cupboard or wardrobe into a bijou office. Add a deep shelf across the whole space at desk height, place additional shelving above for storage, tuck your printer underneath and simply shut the door when you’re done.

My Bedroom is an Office

This is an extract from My Bedroom is an Office, published in March 2019, by Laurence King Publishing, $29.99, available here.

Posted on April 27, 2020
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Alice Oehr’s wonderful world of cake: a gallery

The Art of Cake is illustrator, designer and artist Alice Oehr’s playful ode to cake for its devotees everywhere. Through her distinctive, quirky style, she captures cake as an art form that satisfies not only our taste buds but also our eyes and imagination.

Learning about the history of fifty cakes adored across the globe is like the sweet escape you didn’t know you needed. We’ll take a bet here and guess that you don’t know the story of the Cannoli, the origin of the Éclair, or the scandal behind the Sachertorte. Alice covers them all with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy. The Art of Cake also features six of Alice’s own homespun recipes to keep you busy and baking.

Take a look through our gallery of six of our favourite cakes from the book: the humble carrot cake, the controversial pavlova, the dainty strawberry shortcake, the strikingly layered red velvet cake, the elegant éclair and finally the alluring black forest gâteau.

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The Art of Cake is available now. Text and illustrations by Alice Oehr and design by Ashlea O’Neill

AU$24.99 / NZ$29.99

Posted on April 8, 2020
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The beginner’s guide to brewing medicinal plants

‘Often the easiest approach is the most potent.’

Learn the difference between teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews with master herbalist Erin Lovell Verinder’s guide to brewing medicinal plants. Find this extract in her new book, Plants for the People, alongside her accompanying recipes for brews to aid immunity, digestion, vitality, and sleep.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews have been in use for as long as plants and people have been kin, and are four of the most accessible ways to work with plants, dried or fresh.

Essentially, infusions, decoctions and sun brews follow the principles of tea, but they are amplified in the medicinal sense. Medicinal teas are made by steeping the plant material in boiling water for a quick 10–20 minutes. Follow with a simple strain and sip mindfully.

An infusion involves longer steeping in boiling water, for a gentle extraction and activation of the plant material. It is best used for the softer aerial parts of a plant – think flowers, leaves, buds and berries. Bear in mind that there are some plants that prefer a cold-water infusion as their delicate properties are sensitive to heat. Infusions extract the volatile oils, vitamins and precious enzymes of medicinal plants, so be sure to cover the infusing concoction to trap all of these beneficial elements. Infusions can be 20–30 minute brews or left for 4–12 hours to deepen the medicinal impact.

A decoction is used more for the woody parts of plants – think roots, rhizomes, seeds, twigs, bark – which require more time and amplified heat to liberate the medicinal constituents. A decoction calls for a slow, covered boil, around 20–40 minutes.

A sun brew is simply an infusion made by combining dried or fresh herbs with filtered water, sealing and popping out in the sun to brew for a day.

A golden principle of medicinal teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews is that they are best used straight away. As water is their base, there is no preservative present and we want to avoid any mould formation. However, infusions can be kept for up to 24 hours; sun brews and decoctions can be refrigerated and will stay active for around 48 hours.

A Guide to Brewing Medicinal Plants

Herbal Teas

Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sleeve, and enjoy.


Add the plant material to a heatproof mason jar, fill with boiling water and infuse for 3-4 hours minimum, or leave overnight to deepen the strength. Simply strain out the herbs with a fine-mesh sleeve and sip throughout the day. Infusions make a perfect iced tea; however, if you desire a little warmth, you can gently heat on the stove.


Simply add your hardy herbs to a saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Allow the concoction to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, then strain and enjoy!

Sun Brews

Spoon the herbal blend of your choice into a glass jar, generally filling around half the jar with fresh plant material or a quarter of the jar with dried plants. Fill to the brim with cool water, pop on a muslin top or lid to keep the bugs away, and leave out in a sunny spot to imbue the brew with warmth.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00

Posted on March 17, 2020
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A Q&A with plant whisperer Erin Lovell Verinder

Photography by Georgia Blackie

‘Plant medicine is your birth right.’ This is the mantra of Erin Lovell Verinder, a fully qualified and much-loved Western herbalist, nutritionist, energetic healer, mentor and educator. Her first book, Plants for the People, draws on ancient wisdom with a modern approach to medicine. Inviting you to return to the roots, this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to using plants to restore wellbeing. We chatted to Erin about her journey to discovering the healing realms of the plant world and inspiring others to do the same.

Where did your passion for naturopathy, healing and the plant world begin? 

I have felt a deep sense of belonging amongst nature for as long as I can recall. When I think of my childhood, I think of the height of the Eucalyptus trees in the park nearby and the fragrant smells of summer. The plants made an early impression on me.

I was enamoured with all things esoteric and mystical and began studying energetic healing (crystals, reiki, kinesiology, colour therapy, sound healing, breath work) at 16 years old I was not your typical teenager, that’s for sure! Training in the healing realms for many years taught me so much about the spiritual, mental and emotional bodies, and I really yearned to know more about the physical body. This is when I began training in Naturopathic medicine – forking off into deeper studies in Western Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Medicine, graduating with my bachelor’s degree as a Herbalist and Nutritionist. I loved learning about how plants hold an embodied power with a deep affinity for our bodies, and how ultimately nature’s way is the greatest healer.

Tell us a bit about your naturopathic philosophy. For you, what does it mean to be a true naturalist?

To me, being a true naturalist means walking the plant path – there are many ways to do this! I walk this path dedicating my life to working with plant medicine, by choosing to live amongst wild nature and by doing my very best to be a woman in tune with nature in all of her glorious facets.

I guide people to shift their health stories and thrive with the assistance of plant medicine as a gateway to radically awesome health. I have been working within the field of healing for 21 years now, with a strong focus on my clinical practice with clients, bridging the gaps between naturopathic and nutritional medicine, grass roots herbalism, and intuition. Much of my mission is to assist and educate people on the generous healing nature can offer us all, in combination with honouring and listening in to our bodies and beings. This is my holistic approach to health and healing and my naturopathic philosophy.

Photography by Georgia Blackie
Photography by Georgia Blackie

What does a typical day for you look like at home in the Byron hinterland?

I rise with the sun, mornings are slow and soft, and include breakfast at home with my husband around the kitchen table. There is always a meditation, pottering in my herb garden, a beach swim or a bush walk (communion with nature). We work from home, which affords us a lot of freedom and comfort. My days are full of mentoring, clinic, writing, or creating in some way. I make a commitment to take breaks, with a pot of herbal tea under my big pecan tree often. All work is switched off by 5pm, and as the sun sets and the yin of the night ushers in, there is always a nourishing home cooked meal, a sleepy time tea, conversation, candlelight, books, calm music and then in bed by 9pm.

What about a day in the clinic?

The days in my clinic are full and seem to zoom by. I follow my daily rhythms and set my hours with clients and mentoring around this. For me, being in practice for many years has given me a lot of opportunity to refine what works best for me as a clinician and space holder. As much as it is key to activate your intuition when working with people’s health, it is a very heady job that demands a lot of mental focus! I need it to feel paced, with little breaks, nourishing snacks and meals in between, and plenty of time with each client or student to fully be present for them. I keep my mornings chill, and although I sometimes work until late in the evening with clients, I am sure to switch off and give myself space to decompress. For this reason, I keep a lot of supportive foundations in place for myself to be able to do my work with clarity and confidence. It is an incredibly rewarding job to witness people get better and improve their health outcomes with natural interventions and plant medicine support. Truly it never ceases to amaze me that this is the work I get to do and offer.

Plants for the People is the perfect guide for plant medicine aficionados and those who have just started out on their plant path. What would your main piece of advice be for the beginners about to delve into your book?

To start with what resonates, which plant/s jump out to you in the Materia Medica section? Which recipes sound good to you? Start with what you are drawn to the most; the plants and recipes that stand out to you are usually what you may be needing the most.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?

It is very hard to choose one. I do really love the Elderberry elixir recipe, which is super delicious and a great staple to keep in the fridge to support immunity.

What’s next for you?

This year is big, bold and bountiful for me! I will be promoting the book in three counties, travelling, continuing to work with clients and mentoring in my clinic, building my digital offerings and writing more.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00

Posted on March 11, 2020
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Jonathan Drori takes us Around the World in 80 Trees

Trees are one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. From India’s sacred banyan tree to the fragrant cedar of Lebanon, they offer us sanctuary and inspiration – not to mention the raw materials for everything from aspirin to maple syrup.

Jonathan Drori’s bestselling book, Around the World in 80 Trees, is now available in paperback. In this extract, we take a closer look at something local, the Jarrah, and then journey to Iran to hear about the origins of the pomegranate.


Eucalyptus marginata, Western Australia


Jarrah: a name that sounds quintessentially Australian. The word comes from the Nyungar language of the continent’s far southwest. In pre-colonial times, there were millions of acres of jarrah forest on the leached soils of what is now called the Darling Plateau. It is a majestic tree, easily 40 metres (130 feet) high and its trunk 2 metres (6 feet) across, with rough, very dark-brown bark. Gloriously fragrant flowers, miniature white starbursts, festoon the tree in clusters of ten or so, attracting bees, which make a distinctively malty, caramel-flavoured honey from its nectar. Jarrah is the linchpin of an important and complex forest ecosystem, home to unspeakably cute marsupials with names to delight any Scrabble player: the numbat, the potoroo, the quoll and the quenda.

Jarrah trees are long-lived – at least 500 years and up to a millennium or more – if they get the chance. British colonists quickly saw the value in the rich red jarrah wood, which was immensely strong and resistant to rot, insects, wind and water. It was eagerly taken up for shipbuilding and harbour pilings. When convicts arrived en masse from 1850, the fl ood of cheap labour meant that jarrah could be exported across the British Empire to feed its insatiable appetite for railway sleepers and other durable infrastructure such as telegraph poles, wharves and even tea sheds. A network of steam-powered sawmills and railways sprang up to extract the timber.


On the other side of the world, Londoners were trying to work out
what to use to pave their roads, which by the 1880s were hectic with horsedrawn traffic. Stone blocks and cobblestones were deployed on substantial sections of main roads, but they were expensive and caused horses to slip and skitter in the city’s frequent rain. Tarmac, known then as macadam, would still need another few decades of development before it was robust enough. Then there was wood. Softwood deal and pine paving from the Baltic had advantages over stone: it was much quieter, more easily swept and kinder to horses’ hooves. But those woods wore and rotted quickly, and would soak up the swill of equine urine and ordure and, under pressure from a heavy wheel, squirt it out at passers-by. Unsurprisingly, then, when jarrah wood was exhibited in 1886 at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London and advertised as a durable paving material, there was immediate interest. It turned out to be extraordinarily hardwearing, losing only 3 millimetres (1∕8 inch) a year on busy roads. Lasting decades and blessedly non-porous, it was popular with man and beast alike. By 1897, despite the huge shipping costs and distance, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) of London’s busiest and swankiest streets had been clad in Australian jarrah wood – millions and millions of blocks, mostly laid over concrete. Back in Australia, the huge demand spawned many competing and unregulated jarrah-wood companies. Competitors repeatedly dropped their prices to gain orders, to the point that in 1900 Australian jarrah was being sold in England for less than vastly inferior woods brought from nearby Sweden. It was a lucrative but ludicrously unsustainable business; the forests could never withstand such rapacious exploitation. Despite the rapid forest loss, it wasn’t until the end of World War I that laws were introduced to manage more sensibly the trees that remained. And while asphalt replaced wooden paving blocks soon afterwards, the demand for jarrah timber for construction work never went away.

Aside from a few spectacular protected areas, most of the jarrah forests are gone now, felled for timber or to make way for agriculture and mining. What is left is at risk from global warming and the cascade of complex changes that come with it. The fungus-like organism Phytophthora cinnamomi is causing deadly dieback, and in summer there are increasingly frequent droughts and heatwaves. The original unbridled exploitation of jarrah and the depletion of its fragile ecosystem coincided with the demise of Nyungar culture. The remaining jarrah is again in danger, this time from climate change, to which we all contribute and by which all cultures are threatened.



Punica granatum, Iran

Pomegranates feature frequently in writings from ancient Egypt and classical Greece, in the Old Testament and Babylonian Talmud, and in the Qur’an. Their abundance of seeds and juice consistently link the fruit to fertility. The ancestors of the cultivated pomegranate grew several thousand years ago in arid, hilly regions between Iran and northern India, and today’s cultivars still prefer hot days and cool nights. Small, many-branched trees of 5–12 metres (16–40 feet), with shiny leaves of deep green, they are long-lived, perhaps to 200 years. Pomegranate flowers are a sight to behold. Distinctive calyxes, protective layers around the base of each flower, form sturdy funnels from which crumpled petals burst exuberantly in lurid shades of scarlet and crimson.

Pomegranate flowers

Pomegranate fruit range in colour from yellow with a blush of pink to burnished rose or even maroon. They have a tough, leathery skin, ensuring the fruit last well after picking; historically, they were a refreshment taken on long journeys. Inside, held within a spongy cream membrane, are hundreds of seeds, each within a juicy sarcotesta (a swollen seed coat), ranging from translucent pink to deep purple. The turgid grains interlock satisfyingly with one another – a triumph of efficient packing – and the juice within each one is delectably sweet, tart and mildly astringent. These are ample compensations for the dry woodiness of the seeds and the dilemma, for some, of whether to spit or swallow.

While fresh pomegranate fruit, juice and cordials are widely available from the western Mediterranean to south Asia, the Iranians have truly embraced pomegranate culture. Specialist stalls stock juice from different cultivars. Mounds of seeds – fresh, dried or frozen – are ready to be sprinkled on top of juice or ice cream, sometimes with a pinch of thyme. In autumn, fresh juice is boiled until it thickens into dark-brown molasses, a key ingredient of khoresht fesenjan, a chicken and walnut stew. And of course, Tehran has the requisite annual pomegranate festival.

Pomegranates have a reputation for health benefits. Traditional uses for diarrhoea, dysentery and intestinal parasites are long established, and the fruit contains antioxidants that are likely to be beneficial; some gung-ho anti-cancer and anti-ageing claims, however, require better evidence. But perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss the psychological benefits of a fruit whose consumption requires our undivided attention.

Pomegranate fruit

Jonathan Drori is a Trustee of The Woodland Trust and The Eden Project, an Ambassador for the WWF and was for nine years a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Society of London, and a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. In 2006 he was made CBE. You can read his full biography here or listen to his TED talks here.

Jonathan Drori

This is an extract from Around the World in 80 Trees. Text by Jonathan Drori and illustrations by Lucille Clerc.

Around the World in 80 Trees paperback edition, published March 2020, by Laurence King Publishing, $24.99, available here.

Posted on March 3, 2020