In a world of mass-produced fast fashion, West Australians are increasingly turning to new initiatives to give their clothes a second life.
West Australians are increasingly getting behind clothes swaps, outfit hiring and upcycling
It comes amid concerns about the environmental impacts of fast fashion
On average, each Australian throws out about 23kg of clothes a year
With each Australian throwing out more than 20kg of textile waste a year, some individuals, councils and companies in Western Australia are trying to reduce the amount of clothes being sent to local landfills.
Among the initiatives taking off in WA is trading garments through community clothes swaps, hiring outfits rather than buying them and upcycling or re-fashioning old clothes.
WA style counselor Ciara Lowe-Thiedeman said the second hand economy was booming.
“The number of people interested in these kinds of initiatives, in second-hand, in understanding how to get the best garments at the best price and how to keep things in circulation and how to earn money from your bad decisions as well – is hugely on the rise,” she said
“Teenagers and young people are hiring much more often because hiring is also much more affordable.
“Lots of people are doing it, it’s becoming rife and I applaud it.”
Ms Lowe-Thiedeman said she was glad to see people moving towards greener fashion choices at a time when many were still embracing mass-produced, low-cost clothes known as fast-fashion.
“I think slowly but surely we are becoming more aware. [But] we’re not becoming aware fast enough,” she said.
“We’ve got this rise of little industries, you know, your clothes swaps, your second-hand shops and your op shops – because they’re making money off peoples excess or people’s bad mistakes.”
WA councils lend a hand
The Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council, which handles waste for several Perth councils, started holding community clothes swaps in an attempt to stop textiles ending up in landfill and recycling bins.
Waste education coordinator Isabelle Marie said it was about getting more people interested in re-using garments and breaking down the stigma of second hand clothes
“People always proudly tell us when they’re wearing something that has come from the swap,” Ms Marie said.
She said the swaps were becoming more popular.
“From the very first swap, when we’re looking at our numbers, we have started to see them increase,” she said.
“More people are aware and more people are attending.”
It’s ‘cool’ to thrift and upcycle
However, the rise in popularity of these new thrifty initiatives had not dimmed visitation to local op shops.
Good Sammy chief executive Kane Blackman said stores were full of people buying clothes for themselves and even re-working them for a profit.
“It’s very cool to thrift right now,” he said.
“We’re seeing about 30,000 Western Australians coming into our stores every week.
“People come in and they see opportunities in some clothing, to make a small amendment, to make it into something new – we’re seeing a great demand for that.
“Some of them do upcycle it and a number of people do sell those items online. So we’re creating secondary employment for people across the state.”
Mr Blackman said people were becoming more socially aware of the impacts of textile waste.
Textile waste rotting away in landfill
Data from Australia’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water showed the average Australian bought 27kg of new clothes each year and discarded about 23kg into landfill.
Curtin University School of Design researcher Dr Anne Farren said that it was “a massive amount” of textile waste to deal with locally.
“If we are all producing that level of waste and we just look at the WA situation, we’re getting up to around 60 million tonnes of garment waste produced in WA,” she said.
Dr Farren said anything that could be done to stop textile waste going to landfill was fantastic.
“A lot of the textile waste unfortunately doesn’t break down … synthetic material often has a plastic component to it and they just take forever to break down,” she said.
The sun dips in and out from behind the clouds, lighting up the water of Beechworth’s Lake Sambell in bright patches.
Clusters of people in colorful lycra stand around chatting and laughing, making minute adjustments to their bikes.
Beechworth, in Victoria’s north-east, is hosting round six and seven of the Victoria Cyclo-cross Series.
And while the organizers and participants of the event are grateful for the sunshine, inclement weather won’t put them off.
The alternate name of the event is Mud Wars.
Cyclo-cross is described as a cross between road cycling, mountain biking and steeple chase.
Race organizer and member of the Beechworth Chain Gang Adrian Rodda said it originated as a winter sport in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“I saw a race where they were riding in the snow,” he said.
“They’re hard people who do cyclo-cross, that’s for sure.”
Despite the sun, the twists, hills and ditches of the course are already muddy.
Riders will try to get through as many laps as they can during an allocated time.
“You’ve got to race across grass, which can turn into mud, and then you’ve got to jump over planks, and then sometimes you’ve got to carry your bike on your shoulder and run up a hill or stairs,” Mr Rodda said.
“There’s a bit of everything in there.”
Getting back on the bike
This is the first time in three years the cyclo-cross event has been able to go ahead in Beechworth, due to COVID-19.
“Last year, we had great registrations, but, unfortunately, a week out, we went into lockdown again,” Mr Rodda said.
“We’re just glad to be able to get people up here, get back on course and have some fun.”
Bronwyn Johns has traveled from Melbourne for the event. She said she was thrilled it was happening again.
“The race, the sunshine, the town — I’m quite happy to be escaping from the city,” she said.
“The course is fun, especially with the lake in the middle, hopefully, no-one ends up in it.”
Sarah Turnbull has been racing cyclo-cross for about four years.
She said it was a great way to stay active and get outside during winter.
“I think Beechworth, in particular, is one of the best races,” Ms Turnbull said.
“It’s a nice welcoming community. It’s not really just about the race. It’s about the whole event.”
Ms Turnbull said it was a very family-friendly event, with her five-year-old going to come down later to watch.
For Mr Rodda, this is just one part of building the rapidly growing cycling community in north-east Victoria.
Work is almost complete on a mountain biking trail between Beechworth and Yackandandah.
Gravel riding tracks have been opened up around town, and mountain bikers flock to the region for challenging climbs.
The Beechworth Chain Gang is also running a junior ride program, teaching kids how to ride mountain bikes.
Mr Rodda said, at times, they have had about 70 kids turning up on a Thursday afternoon to learn how to ride.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see these kids that have gone through the program getting involved and racing and performing really well, but also just getting around town on bikes and loving that bike culture,” he said.
Mr Rodda said events like these also brought benefits to the town, attracting crowds for the whole weekend.
“People are coming from Melbourne, people are coming from Sydney, from Wagga, from Shepparton, from Bendigo, from all over the place, and they come into town, and they stay and visit businesses and support accommodation,” he said.
“There’s huge benefit for our area to have these events, without a doubt.”
It’s all about community
As the first race gets underground on Saturday, the atmosphere is lively and electric.
One rider has Lizzo’s About Damn Time playing from a speaker attached to his bike.
People stand in groups all around the undulating course, banging on cowbells, yelling out encouragement — and good-hearted insults — and handing out lolly snakes to passing riders that are starting to droop after their third or fourth lap around the course.
Tam Stevens and Beth Jackson, who both rode later, were keen to get into the spectating, too.
Ms Jackson took part in her very first cyclo-cross race only a few weeks ago and loved it so much that she decided to come up for the Beechworth event.
“Other cycling events are not nearly this community friendly. There’s not the music going, the atmosphere, heckling,” she said.
“This is fun. It’s really refreshing,” she added after breaking off to cheer a rider up a particularly steep incline.
Ms Stevens said the event enabled them to get to know the people in the community.
“You start to learn their names, you start to get your group, and you find there’s always someone you can talk to and laugh with,” she said.
Round 7 of the Victoria Series Cyclo-cross in Beechworth is on August 14.
Baby corals have been successfully spawned and grown for the first time by an Australian farm in a process that could one day help restore the Great Barrier Reef.
Monsoon Aquatics has recorded the first spawning of a coral species at its Bundaberg aquaculture facility
The worldwide aquarium industry is reportedly worth $4 billion
Commercial industry could lead reef restoration of the Great Barrier Reef
Monsoon Aquatics operates Australia’s largest dedicated land-based coral farm at Burnett Heads near Bundaberg, where the company recorded the first spawning event of Homophyllia australis last November.
Almost 10 months later, the company has been able to grow baby corals in captivity, hailing the spawning event with success.
“That’s a species of coral which is basically only found from around Pancake Creek up to the Whitsunday area and Swains Reef, and so it’s unique to this southern Great Barrier Reef area,” company director Daniel Kimberley said.
Craig Humphrey from the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s national sea simulator said it was a “significant achievement”.
“If there’s a decline in the reef… these things could be bred in captivity to supply the market,” he said.
From the reef to the aquarium
Monsoon Aquatics is one of 39 active license holders in Queensland’s commercial coral fishery who can target a broad range of specialty corals to be sold to aquariums and hobbyists.
According to Queensland Fisheries, there was 100 tonnes of coral harvested from the Great Barrier Reef in the 2020-21 financial year.
“If you were to look at the reef as a whole, it’s a fraction of what’s out there,” Mr Kimberley said.
“The worldwide aquarium industry is worth over $US4 billion.
“A lot of that product is coming out of Indonesia and Vietnam and Tonga and Fiji and places like that, so there’s still huge scope for Australia to grow in that space.”
Mr Kimberley said successfully spawning and growing corals in captivity would mean a reduced reliance on harvesting wild corals.
“It’s about producing corals for our current ornamental market beyond what we can take from the wild, what we can harvest under quota,” he said.
The life of coral
Footage shows the coral releasing eggs which are then fertilized and develop into larvae before eventually growing into baby coral.
“They start morphing into essentially what looks like a little slug, and that little slug will float around in the water column until it senses the particular substrate and habitat where it wants to settle,” Mr Kimberley said.
“It will then go to the bottom, stick onto the rocks, and then start to form its first mouth and tentacles and become a coral.”
Coral spawns around the same time every year in both the wild and in captivity.
“It’s the change in water temperature, day length and the phase of the Moon, so in general it occurs just after a full moon in November and December,” Mr Humphrey said.
A report by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) found there has been a rapid recovery of coral on the Great Barrier Reef from past storms and bleaching events, but it has come at the expense of a diversity of coral species.
Mr Kimberley believes commercial enterprise should be leading reef restoration projects, and spawning coral in captivity was the way of the future.
“The really exciting thing for us is that it’s the first steps towards habitat restoration. And one day being a part of the solution to replant the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Kimberley said.
“I think to drive these changes in these restorations… it needs to be commercially viable and driven by industry.”
Mr Humphrey says researchers are exploring it as a possibility.
“If you do culture them in a lab or in aquaculture setting, how do you get them out to the reef? And how do you retain them within the reef,” he said.
“There’s a whole range of research being undertaken in all those areas.”
A rural fire brigade captain was driving through a forest in northern New South Wales when a flash of color caught his eye.
He was compelled to investigate and was thrilled to discover it was a vintage Bedford fire truck.
The 1960s vehicle had belonged to the remote Bellbrook Rural Fire Brigade, west of Kempsey on the Mid North Coast, and was used by what is believed to be Australia’s first all-Indigenous Rural Fire Service crew.
Bellbrook Brigade captain Adam Hall said it was an exciting find.
“Captain of the Newee Creek Brigade in the Nambucca Shire was driving through the Tamban State Forest,” Mr Hall said.
“Through some trees he noticed a little flash of red and saw an old fire truck and as firefighters tend to do, he got a bit excited, and he went and had a look and as he got closer, he saw Bellbrook was emblazoned on the side.”
The Bellbrook Brigade launched a public fundraiser so it could purchase the vehicle from the collector who had acquired it- the truck has now been moved from that property back to Bellbrook, with big plans for its restoration.
Mr Hall said the truck was supplied to Bellbrook in the 1970s and became the primary truck used by an all-Indigenous branch based at the local Thungutti Aboriginal community in the early 1990s.
“We have a very rich history of Indigenous participation in the brigade here and the truck ended up as the truck that was used by the first all-Indigenous fire crew,” he said.
“We believe it was the first all-Indigenous fire crew in the country… so rebuilding it is very important for the community, for our Thungutti people here as well, and helping to bring some pride into our little village.”
Special memories of Indigenous crew
The truck held special memories for Bellbrook Rural Fire Brigade member Ray Quinlan. His late father Eric was part of the original Indigenous crew.
“It means a lot, my old man used to be out all the time in the fire brigade… I just used to always say, ‘I want to come’,” he said.
“I just want to keep following his footsteps.
“Looking at all the old photos of him back in the day in his fire brigade suit, it just makes me real proud of him and I want to make him proud of me.”
Bellbrook Brigade member Elwyn Toby also remembered seeing the truck in action at the Thungutti community.
“It was great to see our Indigenous leaders step up and have a go,” he said.
“It inspired me as a child, watching our uncles and aunties jump on the truck and become firefighters.”
A different era of firefighting
Bellbrook Rural Fire Brigade deputy captain Gerard ‘Chunk’ Wade recalled serving on the truck in the 1980s.
“I remember standing in the back, and there’s not a lot of creature comforts of safety. You had a bar to hang on to and off you went into the fire,” he said.
“It was just a blast from the past just to see it come back to Bellbrook. It’s just a piece of history, I think that it’s just gold.”
Big restoration plans
Thanks to social media, there have been offers from around the country to help with the truck’s restoration.
“I expect it will take two to three years to get it somewhere near its former glory, at which point we hope to be able to go to schools and to shows and rusty iron rallies, that sort of thing and just show it off and put Bellbrook on the map,” Captain Hall said.
“We are only a very small, fairly isolated village here and it’s nice to be able to show the rest of the world who we are.”
Bringing community together
Bellbrook’s current truck now also has ties to the region’s Indigenous heritage, featuring an artwork created by Mr Toby, who works as a local cultural arts teacher.
“The artwork is recognized for our local Indigenous population in Bellbrook and the wider community,” he said.
“In the blue you have the fire truck, then water around the truck… the symbols in the yellow are people.
A south-east Queensland artist has been hunting for matchboxes — but the only fire she is interested in lighting is a creative spark.
Sharks leaping into a waterspout, penguins mingling with nuns and a space shuttle gliding over the Sydney Opera House show some of the stories inside Marlies Oakley’s mind.
The German-born Bundaberg woman creates miniature stories inside matchboxes using a cut and paste collage technique, then joins the boxes together to create large voyeuristic artworks.
“Every matchbox is different,” Ms Oakley said.
“They consist of a background, with a few other elements within the matchbox for a 3D format. All collage and hand cut.”
Ms Oakley began working with collage after her home and business were devastated by the 2013 Bundaberg floods.
Her early works involved cutting postage stamps to create large-scale portraits and the process helped calm her mind.
Working with matchboxes was triggered by a more recent stress — COVID-19 lockdowns.
“A couple of years ago, I got a big box of matches at the Tender Centre,” Ms Oakley said.
“I forgot about them, but then I opened them up during COVID lockdown and I thought, ‘Oh, what can I do with them?’ and I started to collage them.”
Each matchbox contains its own “weird” or “quirky” tiny tale and when linked they represent the common feelings of isolation and disconnection during lockdowns.
“They are all their own stories because during COVID we have all got sort of inside our own homes and cocoons and nobody went out,” she said.
“We started to think inside our own box.
“I love them all, I just giggle when I see them.”
Matchboxes strike interest
The artworks have captured the attention of galleries, with Ms Oakley claiming several art prizes for her works including the prestigious Martin Hanson Memorial Art Award and ‘Highly Commended’ Lethbridge Gallery Small Art Award, two years in a row.
Her 2022 entry ‘Thinking Inside the Box (cubed)’ is 462 matchbox stories linked to form a cube.
The cube took Ms Oakley about a week to create, in a process she describes as a “memory game” where she surrounded herself with images she had cut.
Creating the stories is a mindful practice for Ms Oakley but it is cutting the small images from op-shop books and magazines that has been the most helpful in calming her mind.
“For hours I’m just cutting things out,” Ms Oakley said.
“Even if I don’t glue in a day, every night, even in front of the telly, I’m cutting things out — it’s part of my life now.
“I had a holiday for three weeks and I didn’t do it and at the end I thought, ‘I need it, I miss it’. I go into my own little world and cut and glue.”
An expensive venture
Sourcing the matchboxes is one of the only downsides of Ms Oakley’s creations, with many shops no longer stocking them.
And they are not cheap.
“It’s quite expensive to find the old matchboxes,” Ms Oakley said.
“But I found a really good supply at a major hardware store — I don’t know if they use them for barbecues or whatever, but you can still find them.”
She removes the matches and places them into a large jar, which she may use in an artwork in the future.
Ms Oakley’s artwork ‘Thinking Inside the Box (cubed)’ is currently on display the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery as part of the HERE + now 2022 exhibition, which runs until November 13.
If you walk into a playground and start to sing “There’s a bear in there”, chances are someone else at that playground will join you with “and a chair as well”.
For 56 years, Play School has taught Australian children and their families games, stories, songs and craft ideas.
To mark 90 years of broadcasting, the ABC has been asking Australians to share what the organization has meant to them over the years through Your ABC Story.
A common story has emerged of how Play School has made generations of Australians feel safe, happy and educated.
“As a young child, my first television experience was being allowed to watch ABC, Play School being one of the shows I adored,” Jade said in her submission to Your ABC Story.
“When my younger brother was born in 2001, my love for Play School was reignited and I loved watching the show with him. This is when we would bond, watching hosts such as Jay, Rhys and Georgie.
“I now have had a daughter of my own and cannot wait to share with her this incredible show.”
Play School was first broadcast by the ABC on July 18, 1966, as a copy of the BBC’s Play School program, and it is the second-longest-running kids TV show in the world.
While the program has changed over the years to reflect Australian society, key aspects have remained the same.
Liz Giuffre, senior lecturer in communications at the University of Technology Sydney, says this is part of the program’s ongoing appeal.
“There’s something very familiar about Play School. Of course the presenters change… but you do have the old staples of Big Ted and Little Ted,” Dr Giuffre said.
For many parents, watching Play School with their kids can make them feel more connected, as they are sharing something they loved from their childhood.
“I grew up with the ABC watching Play School and felt a sense of pride when my son was watching it when he was little,” Michael wrote for Your ABC Story.
“I just love that I watched Play School as a child and am reliving all the fun games, songs and characters again with my daughter. So many generations have gained so much from this fabulous show,” Rebecca wrote.
The familiarity of the program format brings “dual comfort”, says Dr Giuffre, as parents know the program is comforting for the kids with familiar faces and activities, and it can also bring back memories of happy times for the parents.
For Tara, Play School was her “safe place.”
“Watching Play School as a child helped me to escape, particularly during story time,” Tara wrote.
“For half an hour a day, I could see what kind and safe adults were like.
“It was an experience of comfort in an otherwise very chaotic childhood.”
Dr Giuffre said this comfort factor was why Play School was so important during lockdowns, as a place to bring familiarity and reassurance to children and their parents.
And while Play School does not usually mention what’s going on in the world at the time, because wars and politics are “problems for the adults”, Dr Giuffre said she was pleased to see them make the Handwashing Song special segment at the start on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Something like COVID, it did affect those children… it did change what they were able to do, and [Play School presenters] had roles to play,” she said.
“We’ve never had something that has hit us all so immediately and for so long. There was nobody who wasn’t affected.
“I was so grateful that [Play School and the Wiggles] they were there because it felt like we could work together with them.”
Teaching little kids and their parents
Play School is an educational program at its core and many Australians have been helped to learn their numbers, colours, and days of the week by watching Play School.
“Play School gave me hours of entertainment and the clock segment taught me how to tell time on an analogue clock!” Tayla wrote to Your ABC Story.
The program has also helped many, both young and old, with learning English.
“I was eight years old and didn’t know a word of English,” Steph wrote about moving to Australia as a child.
“I watched Play School for one year to learn the days of the week and much more.
“I came home crying most days because of the language barrier, but Play School was always there to cheer me up.”
“My French husband arrived in Australia in 1990 with barely a word of English,” Meredith wrote.
“He would hurry home from his language classes in time to watch Play School. The simple and repetitive language helped him learn not only English, but Australian.”
While Play School is written by people with expertise in early childhood education, the presenters are actors, musicians and comedians who usually do not have an educator background.
Alanna wrote that she grew up watching Play School when it was in black and white.
When she was studying to become a teacher, Alanna worked on an assignment comparing early childhood TV programs.
“One of the differences being that Play School was shot in one take. Minimal room for error,” she wrote.
“All the presenters brought their own style and personality to the table.”
The joys of being a presenter
Many of the Play School presenters have gone on to have successful careers outside of the program, but there are a few favorites from over the years that are mostly known for their Play School roles.
Benita Collings was the longest-running presenter, appearing in 401 episodes over 30 years, with John Hamblin in second place with 357 episodes and 29 years.
“It’s one thing that I’d love to go back to now if they had great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers on,” Mr Hamblin told the ABC’s Overnights program in 2016 to mark Play School’s 50th year.
“As soon as I walked into the studio where we were doing the auditions, there were all these colored blocks and toys and things and I thought, ‘This is great’.
“They’re going to pay me to do this. I really enjoyed the whole thing.
“It’s the one job that really meant something to me…because it was doing some good.”
Play School continues to be broadcast on ABC TV and across digital platforms such as iview and the ABC Kids App, and as long as it keeps kids and their parents feeling safe and entertained, there is no reason why Play School won’t be here in another 50 years’ time.