Tag Archives: Australia

CELEBRATING AUSTRALIAN FILM AT THE ANNUAL VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL

As a proud Aussie stuck here in Canada, it’s frustrating not being able to go home, hang out with my family and meet up with friends in the film industry over these past 15 months of Covid travel bans. But I always have my eye on what’s happening in the Down Under film and television industries and unashamedly admit to being obsessed with Indigenous superstar Aaron Pedersen (pictured below, left) whose performance as Det. Jay Swan in the film Goldstone is nothing short of Oscar-worthy! It just so happens Goldstone was filmed in the outback town of Winton, in the state of Queensland, as was his award-winning tv series, Mystery Road, based on his character Jay Swan, first introduced to us back in 2013 in the original film, Mystery Road, written and directed by Ivan Sen.126961990_10164102171740478_5870466753728279799_nWinton is also home to the newly opened Australian Age of Dinosaurs, a massive outdoor exhibition of the bones and fossils of extinct creatures that once roamed the country…imagine Jurassic Park without the scary man-eating beasts! It’s also the birthplace of the world’s leading int’l airline, QANTAS and where the song Waltzing Matilda was first performed some 100 years ago.  But it’s the unique cultural experience of watching movies under the stars – and boy those southern hemisphere starry skies are fantastic – that will be drawing me back home next year  to join film lovers, filmmakers and film media to the VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL.Royal Theatre Winton Image - Photographer Alan MathiesonThe opening feature film this year (June 25th) is the much-anticipated documentary about Australia’s legendary leading Indigenous actor, David Gulpilil (below – photo by Miles Rowland), who is now battling cancer yet has kept working as much as his health allows. Other films include June Again, starring award-winning actress of screen, tv and stage Noni Hazelhurst, and Rams starring another favourite actor of mine (and great wine maker, too) Sam Neill. The full festival programme, tickets and related events available online at: www.visionsplendidfilmfest.com 

I had the opportunity to chat online with Festival Director, Mark Melrose, who told me all about the Festival’s history, the stars who have attended and all the exciting Festival related activities…and of course, how to get there.

Congratulations on the upcoming Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – please tell me a little about the genesis or inspiration for the festival, who was Butch Lenton, how long it’s been running and why Winton for a film festival location considering, in colloquial terms, it’s back o’ Burke, beyond the black stump and up Woop-Woop (i.e. the middle of nowhere!)  Vision Splendid was the brainchild of Clive Kitchen, a local businessman. He started discussions in 2013 with the then Mayor of Winton, Butch Lenton, following the success of the film, Mystery Road. In June 2014, the inaugural Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival took place, and it has grown ever since.Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 1 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiLenton was the major driving force behind Winton being what it is today. He had the vision to push for films to be made here on location and the drive to make it happen – sadly he is no longer with us to see how the Festival has grown – it’s a testament to his hard work in creating a film-friendly town that will ultimately create a new industry for Outback Queensland. There are several reasons Winton is the home of the Festival, but mainly it’s due to the fact several feature films and TV series have been shot there in recent times, including The Proposition, Mystery Road, Goldstone and Total Control. Its unique landscapes and vast open spaces cannot be replicated in a studio.

How has COVID-19 impacted the festival and what precautions are you taking to ensure audience safety this year?  Of course, COVID-19 has meant more precautions and risk mitigation elements have come into the festival. The 2020 Festival was postponed, thankfully not cancelled, until September as we found a window to push on with the event. Thankfully we did, as the event resulted in the best of the Festival’s short history with a 36% increase in crowds from 2019. The COVID safety plan included reduced capacities in the theatre and Town Hall, cleaning of the venues between each screening, all tickets being pre-purchased and not available at the door, contact tracing via ticketing and QR codes, and social distancing markers on the ground for queues. These elements will be in place again this year.

Since the Festival’s inception, which attending filmmakers or celebrities have caused major excitement with media and audiences alike?  There have been several filmmakers and celebrities that have caused a ‘stir’ in the media and audiences, including Ivan Sen (director/writer) and actor Aaron Pederson for Goldstone, Michael Caton and Mark Coles Smith for Last Cab to Darwin, Gyton Grantly for Beneath Hill 60, Margaret Pomeranz for David Stratton: A Cinematic Life, Roy Billing as the Festival Patron, Steve Le Marquand for Locusts, and Nicholas Hope for Book Week.last cabDr. Greg Dolgopolov is the Festival Curator and Creative Director and he kindly answered a question for me: How do you choose which films to showcase and what forgotten cinematic treasures to celebrate?   As the Creative Director, I am tasked with selecting and curating around 50 films each year –documentaries, shorts and feature films. These are mainly new films but every year we feature some classics – either silent films that are brought back to life with live musical accompaniment or films celebrating a significant anniversary. The guiding principle for the festival is that the films have to be Australian and sometimes that could include a film that has an Australian involvement, such as a film directed by an Australian but produced elsewhere or a foreign film that stars an Australian actor. Majority of the films are made in Australia and the Festival features a selection of the best available films made recently. The other guiding principle is that the films need to engage a mainstream audience. That means that we are looking for great crowd-pleasing films. I tend to program a few ‘testing’ or art house films as one thing that I have learnt over more than 15 years of curating is that you can never predict what audiences will like and that there are clearly different audiences for different films.

I try to curate in a representative manner capturing different communities and different ideas. The Festival tries to be democratic but not in some crazy quota system but just the best films possible across genres, themes and ideas and I do tend to lean towards outback stories featuring the Australian landscape as part of the drama largely because of where the Festival is located. The origins of the Festival were in presenting Mystery Road in 2013 in the town where most of the filming took place, so the Festival is very connected to the films that have been shot in the Winton area and regional Queensland more broadly. The Festival is intensely committed to drawing new productions to the region and in developing new and emerging filmmakers. Every year about eight new short films are made during the festival by the next generation of filmmakers, and we are confident that when they start helming major productions and need a rugged outback location or a remote rural community, they will come straight to Winton.EZGihnLWkAI4mx6Curating Australian ‘cinematic treasures’ is an art form in itself – sometimes it’s a films’ significant anniversary that justifies its inclusion in the program. Sometimes it because we are featuring a digital remastering of a classic or because one of the Festival guests is bringing their new film and we want to highlight their body of work in the program, so audiences can get a taste for what they have done in the past. Getting a sense that the selection was right by judging the mood in the room is incredibly satisfying as a curator, as well as bringing people together to discuss what they have seen in more robust ways than they would at a standard cinema experience.  That is the great thing about Winton – there is that time and opportunity to have a yarn with others about your experiences and we have a strong group of regulars who are not afraid to voice their opinions and that is just great for the dynamics of having a little festival in the middle of nowhere, but that continuously draws such huge crowds every year.

Back to Mark….The festival also actively involves film students from Griffith University Film School (GUFS) and the University of NSW (UNSW). How do they participate and why do you think it’s important for them to get hands-on experience at the festival level?  Having students involved is immensely important for a number of reasons: they request to travel to Winton for a two-week Outback Filmmaking Bootcamp where they create a short film in two weeks in an extremely remote region. This allows the students to experience the highs and lows of filmmaking – what it means to make a film without all the creature comforts available in the big cities; the highs of creating something seen by an audience in a short period of time; and getting used to working in groups of people across disciplines.  From an economic point-of-view for Winton, there are 60+ future filmmakers in town who now know about the locations and what Winton has to offer and potentially will make a feature film there in the future. The town opens its doors to the students, filming in houses, workplaces and the main streets. They are immersed with Indigenous Culture working closely with the Koa Aboriginal Corporation on the importance of the land and historical significance. The students are also volunteers for the festival and get some experience as to what it takes to put a festival together….and the need of volunteers to make it all happen.film studentsThe town of Winton has been the location of some of the most exciting films and TV shows, including one of my favourite films, Goldstone (directed by Ivan Sen and starring the great Aaron Pedersen) – what does Winton offer incoming productions apart from long days of great natural light and friendly people?  There are exciting things in the pipeline for Winton that, should they fall into place, will offer more incentives to shoot in this unique location. It already has the spectacular outback vistas, the town setting, the friendly people, but in 6 months time, we hope it will have two or three more major developments to bring in more filmmakers and cement the industry here in the Hollywood of the Outback.Winton Sign - Photographer Peter LikHow difficult is it to reach Winton from, say, Sydney or Brisbane? And what sort of guest accommodations can be found for overseas festival visitors?  It’s not that difficult to reach Winton, it just takes time. There is only one flight a day from Brisbane into the town of Longreach and from there Winton is a 2 hour drive (177km). There is a bus that departs Brisbane daily and a train that departs Brisbane for Longreach twice a week.  There are several hotels and motels including the North Gregory Hotel (where Waltzing Matilda was performed in public for the very first time over 100 years ago), and the Outback Motel to name two. There are also four caravan parks if that is how you are traveling.via airhotelGood luck for this year’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – is there anything else you’d like to share with international film fans?   Thank you. We are excited to be able to operate during these bizarre times, however, we do miss our international friends. We can’t wait to open the borders and welcome you back  for (hopefully) next year’s Festival.  If you’re a filmmaker looking for somewhere different to make a film, check out Winton. We don’t call it the Hollywood of the Outback for nothing!Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 2 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiThanks to photographers Alan Mathieson and Maree Azzopardi for the amazing shots of previous Festivals. I’m sending my best wishes to Mark, Greg and all the wonderful volunteers and folks of Winton. I can’t wait until I head Down Under next year. There are so many activities for all the family including a daily kids club, “breakfast with the stars” each morning, local Indigenous storytellers and there are even silent movies being shown, too. Let’s not forget there’s great food and drinks as well as shopping – you gotta take home some great Aussie outback souvenirs!  If you can’t make it to Winton this year, I’ll see you there in June of 2022!Winton

“WILD AT HEART” TAKES READERS ON AN EXCITING RIDE WITH 3 AUSTRALIAN BRUMBIES & 1 BRAVE HORSEWOMAN

Having all this Covid lockdown time to explore online stories from home (Australia), I was thrilled when I came across a Facebook post announcing the launch of an exciting new book, Wild at Heart, by French-born Aliénor le Gouvello, who undertook an intense and challenging solo journey stretching an extraordinary 5,330kms from Healesville in Victoria (the s.e. corner of the country) up to Cooktown in the tropical far north of Queensland; she had three horses that were once wild brumbies (the Aussie equivalent of mustangs) as her only  companions.151677445_3743509249096164_5844396051903961977_nThroughout her grueling trek across some of Australia’s most spectacular terrain, Aliénor battled both isolation and the harsh elements, but she forged a close bond with her horses Roxanne, River & Cooper, as well as experiencing unexpected life-changing discoveries. Surrounded by wildlife that included deadly spiders, snakes and crocodiles, she also suffered tropical illnesses and injuries but pushed on to complete the ride and join an exclusive club of those few who have triumphed before her. Her sturdy bush horses all live with her now in peaceful  retirement on her cattle station in outback Queensland.59788288_2167293760051062_5017374520239980544_nAs a child, Aliénor dreamed of travelling and having adventures around the world. When she decided to take on the Bicentennial National Trail – Australia’s longest non-motorized, self-reliant trek – she had already completed a horseback trek in Mongolia as well as a sidecar motorbike expedition across Asia and Europe from Siberia to Paris. At the time of making the decision to mount up and trek the breadth of Australia, she was working in an aboriginal community near Uluru (the giant red monolith in the heart of the country) in the Australian Central Desert. She had recently fallen in love with Australia’s wild brumbies and hatched a plan for her most ambitious solo expedition to date; the adventure would also draw attention to the plight of Australia’s wild horses. The horses were originally brought in with the settlers, helping build the country and even taken with the troops to fight wars abroad; they are part of the country’s heritage and culture. Australia now has the largest population of wild horses in the world. They have adapted to all sorts of environments and can be found all across Australia. Their plight has been controversial in the media when the government has resorted to aerial culling as a mean to manage their population, a cruel method that leaves horses to bleed to death for days. Alienor’s trek was dedicated to bring a light on these very resilient horses and promote better management of them.  These tough equines were perfectly showcased in The Man From Snowy River movie from back in the 80s – if you get a chance, do watch it and witness some of the most exciting horse chases ever recorded on film.29572387_1613619402085170_1085232860379005776_nAs Aliénor said in a recent ABC television news interview about her book, “It was the longest and most challenging trek I’ve done so far but also the most rewarding and amazing experience I have had with horses,” she said. “I pushed my limits further than I could have imagined, you discover strengths you didn’t even know you have.”  Wild at Heart tells of her physical and mental challenges of being a lone traveler and having to be so self-sufficient along with caring for her horses along the deserted track but the book contains some spectacular photographs, courtesy of world-renowned adventure photographer Cat Vinton.

Since her book launched last month, she’s been busy attending bookstore meet-n-greets (yes, Australia has mostly come out of Covid lockdown and gatherings are permitted) and giving numerous media interviews; in fact, Aliénor has become something of a “folk hero” and a champion of the brumbies.165438475_3828394140607674_6649526619257448360_n 169076026_3845201365593618_8839215924954813680_nInternational sales of her book are available from the Book Depository website (yes, they ship around the world):  https://www.bookdepository.com/Wild-at-Heart-Alienor-le-Gouvello-Cat-Vinton/9781922419200
Watch for my article/review in the June issue of THE RIDER newspaper (www.therider.com) and you can follow Wild at Heart on on social media at:  www.facebook.com/wild.at.heart.australia

WILD AT HEART
By Aliénor le Gouvello, Photographs by Cat Vinton
Format: Paperback | 288 pages
Publication date: 30 March, 2021
Published by Affirm Press, Mulgrave, VIC, Australia
ISBN10 1922419206
ISBN13 978192241920022310472_1447770742003371_766571780966721878_n

AUSTRALIA’S FANFORCE TV TO PRESENT 2ND ANNUAL “VIRTUAL INDIGENOUS FILM FESTIVAL” NOV.11-15

Over the past 6 months of Covid quarantine and isolation here in Toronto, I’ve spent a lot of time online getting reacquainted with my homeland of Australia, its film and TV industry, its leading players and cultural ambassadors – yes, as you can already tell, I’m homesick and can’t wait to board a QANTAS jetliner and get my butt back Down Under. My quest for Aussie content took me to Amazon Prime, AcornTV and other streaming platforms, resulting in binge-watching shows like Water Rats, City Homicide, and the feature films and tv series of Mystery Road…the common thread being star Aaron Pedersen (pictured below) who has captured my heart and imagination. Behind-the-scenes-shot.-MYSTERY-ROAD-THE-SERIES.-Aaron-Pedersen.-Photo-John-Platt.36310144-e1526434876208The award-winning indigenous actor has led me to more in-depth research of the state-of-the-art for indigenous filmmakers, writers, directors and I was amazed at the depth of talent currently working in Australia. So why don’t we know about them up here in Canada and the U.S.? Lack of distribution deals? The assumption that other countries wouldn’t understand the specifics of cultural heritage and Aussie politics? I remember back in the 80s, Australia’s “new wave” of filmmaking ignited worldwide interest with such classics as My Brilliant Career, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli (pictured below), Man From Snowy River, the int’l commercial hit Crocodile Dundee and TV mini-series such as The Thorn Birds that made Bryan Brown a huge int’l star. But these were all told by and for the “new” Australians, the white population. gallipoliI remember watching Walkabout (1975) featuring a young aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil, but his character sadly ended up rather badly. Where were all the positive cinematic images of indigenous actors and their stories?  Were there any indigenous actors or filmmakers? We never saw them on TV or in the cinemas. I’ve been away from home a long time and as I plan my return as soon as Covid allows, I’m comforted in the knowledge that this previous lack of inclusion is being addressed now thanks to the brilliance of directors such as Ivan Sen, Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair and Warrick Thornton, and actors like Pedersen, Deborah Mailman, Ernie Dingo, and the now-legendary Gulpilil who remains a great presence on screen. I’m excited to be introduced to even more talent this coming week thanks to the 2nd annual Virtual Indigenous Film Festival and I encourage all film fans to join in online to celebrate the creativity and educational opportunities presented. Here’s all the info you need…..fanforceFANFORCE TV, the new Australian community-based streaming platform presents the second Virtual Indigenous Film Festival from the 11th of November till the 15th of November as part of NAIDOC* Week 2020. The festival will present award-winning Australian Indigenous films followed by live Q&A discussions and audience participation via Live Chat. *National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week events are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. [#NAIDOC2020 #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe ]

FANFORCE TV is showcasing 5 virtual events including film screenings of In My Own Words, The Song Keepers, The Flood, Wik vs. Queensland and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.   The-Song-Keepers-Naidoc-Thumbnail In MY Own Words Westwind-Naidoc-Thumbnail Wik-Vs-Queensland-Naidoc-ThumbnailTickets for the individual virtual screening events are $6.99USD with an all access pass available for $19.99USD. For more information visit:  fanforcetv.com  
There is also an exciting lineup of guest speakers and expert panelists involved throughout the week including filmmakers’ Erica Glynn (In My Own Words), Naina Sen (The Song Keepers), Dean Gibson (Wik Vs Queensland), Victoria Wharfe Mcintyre (The Flood), Ben Strunin (Westwind) and Keri Tamwoy (Mayor of Aurukun). More guests to be announced!mma9255-stills-master_2 mma9288-stills-master_3FANFORCE TV uniquely enables audiences to ask questions and discuss topics in real time with the guest speakers and community leaders via live chat and live streaming features. “We are thrilled to have a special screening of The Flood as part of VIFF and NAIDOC Week” says Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, writer/director/producer of The Flood. “Our film was born from a unique collaboration and tells a highly emotive, provocative and revisionist story about our nation’s history, it is fitting to showcase the film in an equally unique way via Live-streaming with a public discussion. This Q&A will be cracker and we are looking forward to some passionate, hard hitting and insightful comments and questions from the audience.”The-Flood-Naidoc-Thumbnail THE FLOOD IMG_0349The Flood will follow its VIFF NAIDOC Premiere with Cinema screenings across Australia and New Zealand (and hopefully the rest of the world in early 2021). Dates to be announced shortly.

FANFORCE TV acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this page may contain images or names of people who have passed away.

I encourage you all to expand your understanding of Australia – its people, its cultures, its history….and its inspiring Indigenous filmmaking community. naidoc-logo-300

THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP IN TORONTO BRINGS “DOWN UNDER” FASHIONS & ACCESSORIES TO N. AMERICAN SHOPPERS

Many years ago, when jones’ing for a little taste of home, I found THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP at one of the big expos in Toronto and ever since then, I’ve been a fan as well as a customer.  Owner, JOHN KEATING (pictured below) has been carefully curating his catalogue of coats, jackets, hats and all sorts of other accessories and treats for the North American market for 40yrs and this year, due to Covid, has taken sales online.johnI recently spoke with John about the challenges of taking his business from the popular in-person sales booths at agricultural and downtown shows and expos, and he assured me that his Aussie products are still available and people can call to place orders, allowing him to chat with each purchaser and find exactly what they want or need. Contact details are at the end of this story.  I recently asked John a few questions about THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP and he kindly shared his story with me….

What inspired you to import the Australian-style clothing and accessories?  We were very inspired by the success of the Australian tourism campaigns in North America in the 80’s, probably due to the influx of Aussie films and the overwhelming popularity of Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee). It was very evident that people had become intrigued and aware of the practicality, quality and style of the authentic Aussie oilskin clothing which was well-suited to the N. American lifestyle and outdoor pastimes.croc dundeeWhen/where did you first open the Australian Shop as a bricks-and-mortar location and how do you manage sales now that you’re an online only store?  Our Australian clothing business started some 40 years ago, primarily frequenting various shows and exhibitions including provincial Highland Games, Border Collie dog shows, sheep shows, horse shows, The British Show, the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows International Equestrian Show and the Canadian National Exhibition. Now, due to Covid, 2020 has seen a loss of public events so we’ve focused more on online sales which are progressing favourably.duooverlandDid movies like Crocodile Dundee and The Man From Snowy River (pictured below) from the 80’s help boost sales?  Sales were tremendously boosted once the Australian “new wave” of films hit North America. The Australian theme of the Canadian National Exhibition (the country’s annual expo of products and fun-fair held in Toronto) also did much to feature Down Under fashions, foods, lifestyles and tourism. They certainly highlighted the Akubra hats and oilskin coats.snowy river movieApart from clothing and hats, do you sell any other Aussie products? Currently, we have a great carry-all bag which is great for weekends or even daily work chores and laptops. Plus we are very proud to offer Aboriginal crafts such as boomerangs and didgeridoos, although we don’t offer lessons for those! One of the most famous and esteemed didge players is Indigenous musician David Hudson so you can search YouTube for his performances as well as lessons.7502-BRN-ONE_1-B (2)

didges

Do you sell and ship across Canada AND the U.S.?  Yes, we ship across Canada and the U.S., as well as overseas. Everything is based on weight and size of package. During Covid, deliveries may be slower than usual so if you’re buying as gifts, please allow enough time to arrive for that special day.

What do your find are the most popular items?  Our oilskin coats, jackets and vests are always the big sellers. The world-famous Akubra hats worn by many Aussie outback folks are always in demand, too.cowboy coat and hathats_akubra_snowyYour customers are not just horsey or farm folks, right? Urbanites who love the outdoor lifestyle also order from you and I guess dog-walkers are also frequent customers?  The outback or drover coats and jackets are always in style – something about the rugged image of the Aussie mate, be it a man or woman, is always an attractive factor. Businessmen and women can also be seen in downtown centres around the world in the fashionable and durable oilskin coats.

What’s so special about Australian oilskin clothing?  The oilskin material is produced in Australia. This increases the quality of the clothing. It’s a material that wears very well, is rain resistant and offers protection from the wind as well.  For many years, we sold the clothing at the annual Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair here in Toronto as well as major dog and horse shows and rural exhibitions across Canada – we even journeyed to Scandinavia to showcase our clothing.short oilskin jktIf you’d like to learn more about The Australian Shop and see John’s full catalogue, visit the website: www.australian-shop.ca and you can follow the Facebook account: www.facebook.com/australianshopto  and Instagram:  @australianshopto

Thank you for supporting a Canadian small business!

1033BL_MAIN_WEB

That’s not a hat, mate…THAT’s a hat!

AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR CAPTURES OUTBACK TALE OF BETRAYAL AND REDEMPTION IN 1ST NOVEL “SPLINTERED HEART”

Over the past several months of Covid isolation and lack of film or tv production activity (i.e. potential clients), I’ve had lots of spare time to explore websites and news feeds from my homeland, Australia, and getting more and more homesick in the process. Thanks to viewing some fabulous films and TV shows on Aussie streaming platforms as well as Amazon Prime/Acorn TV,  I discovered Down Under’s favourite leading man, Aaron Pedersen (pictured below), star of Mystery Road the movie (featured at the 2013 Toronto Int’l Film Fest) and the subsequent TV series of the same name (the second series is currently airing in Canada on Acorn TV, part of the Amazon Prime service).pedersenHaving binge-watched 2 of his previous tv shows Water Rats (1996-2001) and City Homicide (2007 to 2011) and the Mystery Road movie sequel, Goldstone, I admit I’ve developed a huge crush on this handsome indigenous Aussie actor, so I joined a fun Facebook group made up of his most devoted fans, one of whom, Linda Dowling, is an award-winning successful author. Linda’s first 2 novels are currently available via Amazon Books, and I’m thoroughly engrossed in her first one, Splintered Heart, which takes place during the 60’s, an era when I myself was growing up in the bush just outside of Perth in Western Australia. So many references resonated with me but you don’t have to be an Aussie to fully appreciate the story, the heroine of the tale or the heat and vast emptiness of the outback. Dowling writes with great descriptive flair – I can almost hear the mournful call of the crows and feel the exhausting heat of the sun as I turn each page.new coverThis first book in Linda’s Red Dust series is set in the 1960s – teenager Lisa O’Connor is growing up in a brutal family environment living in the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. Abused and forsaken by those she should have been able to trust, Lisa is sent away to the notorious Parramatta Girls Home for ‘reform’ (this was, in fact, a real place which has thankfully since closed). While captive there, she experiences  the depths of human depravity and sinks even further into despair. Luckily for Lisa, she’s rescued from this abhorrent life by her childless aunt who takes her to live at a remote sheep station (i.e. big farm in the middle of nowhere) in outback New South Wales. Lisa finds herself in a world that is different to anything she has known before, and she falls in love with the homestead, the harsh outback landscape and the Aboriginal culture. With the help of her aunt and uncle, two female Aboriginal elders and Billy, a very special young Aboriginal man, Lisa’s splintered heart and broken spirit begin to mend.  Lisa’s determination and desire to overcome her horrific beginnings tell a saga unlike any other – both horrifying and inspiring, this is a book you won’t be able to put down.Linda DowlingThe award-winning, #1 bestselling author (pictured above) grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. During her childhood, Linda spent most of her time in rural areas and has continued to enjoy life in areas with natural surroundings. Her own aunt, a wonderful horsewoman, taught her a great deal about horses, riding and the outback and it was during her vacations with her aunt that Linda herself fell in love with the vast outback plains and the culture of the local indigenous population, their stories and their unique but simple way of living.  In her professional life, Linda has established and managed four medico-legal firms, including her own. During the course of her career, she has been involved in reporting on coroner-centric matters and inquests. She has also worked with the NSW Police State Crime Command Centre and in various Royal Commissions where she was exposed to the worst of human nature; she has drawn upon her professional and personal experiences while writing her Red Dust novel series, but the stories are a work of fiction and do not depict any person, living or dead.

Linda has already received many positive reviews and kudos direct from the readers, including:

A compelling read. Prepare to laugh and cry, this book will truly evoke a powerhouse of emotions. Steeped in culture perseverance and the unbreakable spirit of a young girl in 1960’s Australia.  Mary

I absolutely loved this book – an easy read that was hard to put down. A disturbing revelation into the brutal experiences occurring in the girls’ home in the 60’s and then a warming and uplifting transition to life in the outback and an interesting insight into our indigenous people. Looking forward to the next chapter.  Sandra

Wow! This book was an intense read. The author writes about the harshness of family life in general that many people living in Australia grew up in the 60’s thru 80’s can relate to. While the storyline itself was heart wrenching and a lot darker than anything I have experienced in my life, it left me thinking about the events affecting those in the book and the racism experienced by Aboriginals long after I had finished the book.  International Amazon CustomerIBA Book Award Finalist (3)

Splintered Heart is available in soft-cover and Kindle versions on Amazon so why not buy yourself a great gift for Christmas – order Linda’s book now!

TONIGHT! Australian singer ALI HUGHES brings her “Leonard Cohen Koans” tribute concert to Toronto for 1 night only.

After 10 days of rehearsals, media interviews, celebrity schmoozing at a film festival and enjoying all the touristy stuff that Toronto has to offer, Aussie singer ALI HUGHES will take the stage tonight at Hugh’s Room to introduce her critically acclaimed 90-minute show featuring the songs and poetry of Canadian music icon, Leonard Cohen.ALI_271061685190_2452038624806523_1181734640604413952_nThe legendary singer/songwriter known for his sensual vocals left us nearly 3 years ago and Ali’s interpretations of songs such as Chelsea Hotel #2 and Suzanne will intrigue, engage and soothe the listener. Ali recently recorded a 4-song EP from the show with her long-time Aussie band (Ali & the Thieves) titled Tea & Oranges and these will be available for sale and autographing after the show tonight.20190527_132147 20190527_13215620190527_153559For the past 2 nights, Ali has performed at Hugh’s Room, opening for friend and fellow singer, Jane Siberry (below L) for whom she has sung back-up on Jane’s tours. Tonight, Jane graciously presents “Leonard Cohen Koans” and Ali Hughes who takes centre stage.with Jane SNBA finalists The Raptors may be playing on home court tonight but if you’d rather experience this tribute to one of Canada’s greatest artists by one of Australia’s most unique performers, we look forward to welcoming you….

Hugh’s Room is located at  2261 Dundas St. West (416-533-5483). Show starts 8:30pm
Tickets available at the door $45.00 (come early to ensure best seats)AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpg

FAREWELL TO THE KING…OF CRICKET!

I’m heartbroken….my sports hero has retired from international tournaments and I doubt I will get the chance to ever see him play in person.  Kumar Sangakkara, the legendary Sri Lankan wicket-keeper and batsman has become one of the greatest ambassadors of cricket, a sport most North Americans don’t understand or sadly don’t even care about. So please consider this fan-girl blog a quickee intro to Cricket and to one of its most exciting players ever to take the field.

000_DV1762576Cricket is a team sport played in countries that were once part of the British Commonwealth including Australia, South Africa, the West Indies, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, India…and Sri Lanka, and it’s faster than baseball. And as a female fan with a healthy respect for sports machismo, it has some of the sexiest and handsome players – you can actually see what they look like which makes watching them run, catch, bat and bend over so much more enjoyable, especially watching Sanga on TV!!!

thCAX132AZ 2014 SangaKS4But regardless of my hormonal reactions to the man (!), Sangakkara has brought a new level of skill, passion and commitment to the game and he has become a role model for millions of young men and women around the world who play & love cricket. He’s been the ultimate team player for his country’s national team, as well as his regular season team(s) – I remember watching him play for Sunrisers Hyderabad (part of the Indian Premier League, or IPL) a couple of season’s ago, where he played with such determination and flair. (below)

970489_474519795951820_1618334376_n thCAH1U50Z

This month, during the ICC World Cup of Cricket tournament played in Australia and New Zealand, I’ve watched Sanga play the matches of his life batting 4 back-to-back centuries (100 runs) and taking countless wickets against opposing teams, setting both batting and wicket-keeping records. The quarter-final game between Sri Lanka and South Africa was expected to result in more glory for the SL team and Sanga, but the fates dealt a cruel blow and the Sri Lankans couldn’t get their gears in motion – they went down ingloriously to the underdog Proteas team (SA). But the South African players, the crowds in the stands, the media and his teammates cheered as Sanga and his best mate and fellow SL player, Mahela Jayawardene, who also chose the World Cup to retire from competitive cricket, left the field.

10996384_10153110462542114_2136538099059404616_n18TH_SANGAKKARA_2345174f10659414_10153110437882114_4730005518579715330_nI watched the match live on the internet then again on TV when the highlights were played back late last night.  I can’t imagine watching cricket now without seeing my Sanga, but he took to social media to share his feelings and thank the fans:

· 3,324,435 Likes
Hi Everyone – I just wanted to say thank you for all your messages of support during the World Cup. We are all disappointed with the loss to South Africa. We played poorly and South Africa were deserved winners. Strange to wake-up this morning as a former ODI cricketer, but it’s been a great honour and privilege playing for Sri Lanka during the past 15 years. At the end of the day, I am very fortunate to have enjoyed a long career playing with and against some great players. Thanks for all the encouragement and support over the years. Cheers, Sanga
2015-03-01t060449z_67625914

590_Del6232270Having retired from the T20 International tournaments after Sri Lanka’s exciting WT20 win last year, Sangakkara is expected to play his final Test series against India in August, after which he will retire from all forms of international cricket. So we’ll have just one more brief opportunity to see Kumar in action, and although he encourages his fans to look to the future and not dwell on his departure, I know we all feel the same: farewell to the King…long live the King!

2015-03-08t103007z_82383033