In this week's Bundaberg Now podcast we hear from former local journalist Paul Cochrane, who has produced a podcast series on the Childers Backpacker Hostel fire. We also hear about native bees, meet the new art gallery director and get an update from Bundaberg Regional Libraries.
Here's the transcript of our weekly podcast for 4 June 2020. Please check against delivery.
Michael Gorey 0:08
Hello and welcome to the weekly Bundaberg Now podcast. I'm Michael Gorey from Bundaberg Regional Council. And this week we've got a packed programme of local news information and features. We'll hear soon from former local journalist Paul Cochrane. He's produced a podcast series on the Childers Backpacker Hostel Fire, which occurred 20 years ago this month. We'll hear about native bees and what's happening at the Bundaberg library.
But first, here are the news headlines.
Traffic lights will be installed at the intersection of Branyan Drive, Dittman Road and Avoca Road to improve safety. The Council engineering assessment found traffic lights will be more effective and cheaper than a roundabout.
Bundaberg Region residents may be eligible to strengthen their homes with grants now open through the Household Resilience Programme. Applicants must live in a house built before 1984 and pay one quarter of the cost to an approved contractor.
Bundaberg region Mayor Jack Dempsey is encouraging local people to buy local and stay local, now that Coronavirus travel restrictions have been eased in Queensland. Here's Wendy Simpson from Ace Hardware in Gin Gin, talking about why it's important to shop local.
Wendy Simpson 1:28
As a business, it keeps Peter and I both employed. We make lots of friends, we meet new people, people come and go, we help the community. They bought the stuff if they're in unable to, we'll step up and help them with their small jobs, especially the older people.
Michael Gorey 1:46
Joining me now is Bundaberg Region Mayor, Jack Dempsey. Jack, how do you think the Bundaberg Region has fared during the COVID-19 restrictions?
Jack Dempsey 1:54
Well, it's great to be here with you Michael but it's certainly has been really tough in some areas, especially hospitality and tourism, my heart goes out to those operators, and I hope they've been able to bunker down and get through with help from all three levels of government, deferral of bank loans, and that type of financial assistance, but some sectors certainly have been impacted more than others. And a few industries have actually done well on the other side, including groceries, transport and technology. But overall, Michael, I'd say the Bundaberg Region will come out of this better than any other regions because we have such a diverse economy in such a great, connected community.
Michael Gorey 2:39
Last week, you launched a ‘Buy Bundy Region' social media campaign. What do you hope to achieve through that?
Jack Dempsey 2:45
We want to be more connected and we want people to support local businesses. A lot of people were forced to go online for shopping during a lockdown and we understand that, but as things slowly get back to normal we need to encourage local people to support local businesses and shop locally. It's something we can all do to help with economic recovery. Buying in the Bundaberg Region keeps money circulating in the local economy. And it also supports local employment. We all benefit from this and by working together, we can obviously get out of the COVID rut that's been in our homes to protect us from our health to now get back into supporting those local businesses.
Michael Gorey 3:29
What else do you think can be done to help kickstart the local economy?
Jack Dempsey 3:33
Well, Michael, I'm really optimistic and positive about the future, as always for the Bundaberg Region. We have major developments underway such as Macadamias Australia, and their processing facility and tourism outlet, which is on track for completion by the end of this year. On Sunday, the premier announced the easing of restrictions for travel within Queensland and this certainly will help tourism operators to start operating again. We know Bundaberg's the best place to live, work and enjoy as a family in tourism. So I encourage everyone in the Bundaberg Region to support our local tourism industry. Go to a local holiday park, spend the weekend in Woodgate, Gin Gin, Childers, or on our beautiful coastal areas. Take a short holiday if you can and explore our beautiful Bundaberg region. And make sure you tell your mates ‘come back to Bundaberg, support the locals and enjoy a piece of our paradise!'
Michael Gorey 4:31
Thank you Mayor Dempsey, positive as always.
Beau Jackson 4:34
Next we're joined by Paul Cochrane, formal local journalist who covered quite a significant moment in the region's history, The Childers Backpacker Hostel Fire, which occurred 20 years ago this month. Over the coming podcasts we're going to hear snippets from Paul's adventures recording this podcast and how he felt recording these stories paid a fitting tribute to those that were lost in the fire and those who have survived.
Paul Cochrane 5:08
Well, thank you very much for having me. And thank you also to the Bundaberg Regional Council for its ongoing support of this project. I think it's a really important story to tell that so many great people who played such a significant role in I guess the the full story of Childers particularly. Your CEO Steve Johnston and your current Deputy Mayor, Bill Trevor, who of course, those two men played such a key role at the time.
Bill was obviously the Mayor of the then Isis Shire Council and Steve was the CEO of Isis at the time and and I think it's a it's a great thing that those two men are still in elected positions and administration positions at the moment because the legacy of Childers twenty years on to me is still as strong as ever. I remember turning up that morning and just the eeriness – it was a really cold and foggy morning actually but seeing backpacks just so shellshocked and standing on the side of the street in white blankets and really trying to take in what just happened.
I do remember, I've got a very vivid memory of doing a radio interview across the road there was a public telephone box and remember mobile phones weren't necessarily a big thing back then and Keith O'Brien is one of the British survivors who's actually featured in this podcast was sitting there and he had on a an op shop suit, and a tie that he'd been given the night before – obviously they got out with no clothes so there was some interesting outfits getting around in the early hours immediately after the fire – and giving Keith even just the small change that I had in my pocket and encouraging these backpackers to call home, touch base their loved ones and I guess that strikes me so much is that the isolation, the pure feeling of helplessness of walking out of that building and having nothing to your name, coming to a foreign country and feeling so alone.
So, I guess the way that the Childers' community wrapped its arms around, that those survivors gave them a collective hug and still continues to give them that collective hug twenty years on is such a tribute to the town and the leadership at the time. And that's a really strong memory.
But we're also going through that building a couple of days later, I was working for Channel 7 at the time, and my cameraman and I were taken through the building and to walk through the rubble and I have these memories of seeing numbers spray painted on the walls, and particularly under some of the bars that were on the windows.
And I remember, I did ask the question what it was and of course, those numbers represented where bodies were found and just such a vivid, horrific memory to see and something that you really can't unsee. And a really graphic reminder of what those young men and women must have gone through in their struggle to try and get out. It is – haunted is a strong word, but it's certainly sat with me for twenty years, and I know a lot of the people I've spoken to in the podcast, you know, have very similar feelings. And there was a memorial a couple nights after the, after the fire, it's absolutely easily the saddest room I've ever been part of.
And in, you know, in a strange way, it felt like, we all knew each of those 15 people who lost their lives in that in that building that night. And it felt like we all knew the 69 survivors as well. It was just such overwhelming collective grief in that room. It's such a strong vivid memory, that you know, I'll never really let go of it. It was a powerful occasion, very moving. And, you know, it's something I've spoken about a fair bit in moments when I felt compelled to open up about Childers, that memorial service is certainly a moment that I come back to.
Beau Jackson 9:09
Thanks, Paul. It's always interesting to hear the local history come to life and I love the passion you've shown to really do justice to this tragic event and pay homage to those who have passed. Next, we're joined by Libraries team member Stephen Harris. He'll be taking us through some digital literacy skills and information about libraries in COVID.
Stephen Harris 9:36
Hello, I'm Stephen Harris, the Information Services Librarian at Bundaberg Regional Libraries. Today I'd like to talk to you about digital literacy and COVID, and how people might be affected by both of these issues. Firstly, let's look at digital literacy. What is it? Well, it's a person's ability to find, evaluate and compose clear information through the use of digital platforms. What does that mean?
Well, really, it's just how familiar you are with using digital technology. Stuff like computers, smartphones – sometimes they're not that smart – iPads, or tablets, essentially a whole range of gadgets that we use to find information, useful entertainment, and keep in contact with our family and friends. People who are not familiar with technology can be excluded from a whole range of activities that others may benefit from. There's a whole bunch of reasons for this disparity, or digital divide, as it's called. Anything from a lack of interest to fear of technology can inadvertently cause a disparity.
And as the world becomes more digitally dependent, these individuals can very quickly get left behind. COVID-19 has been an example of how we can quickly become cut off without digital connections to the world. When the stores ran out of toilet paper, people went online and started buying their toilet paper there. If you didn't have that online connection, you were at the mercy of the supply chain. So with a lot of stores being forced to shut, people started buying a lot more things online.
Another aspect of the lockdown was the sudden rise in the use of video calling. There was a dramatic increase in the use of Zoom and Skype to video chat with family and friends. Now you've got to remember both Zoom and Skype are free. Without the know-how and desire to use these computer applications, you're paying for phone calls on your plan, and that can add up over time. Other trends we are seeing is remote working and distance learning. Online courses have become very popular.
But if you don't have a computer at home, you can't join in. And this could place economic pressure on parents. Online interactions have seen fitness programmes transition to the screen, as well as online concerts taking place with regularity. Anyone in the world can join in. At the library, we have online chess lessons and over 60 per cent of participants are from overseas. COVID has demonstrated that we need to be able to rapidly transition to a digital environment. And as we do so, it's critical to think of those who may take longer in that transition and what we can do to help that transition take place.
Beau Jackson 12:49
Thanks, Stephen. Next we have Rod and Rebecca, talking about what's happening in Arts Bundaberg space.
Rod Ainsworth 12:56
Hi, I'm Rob Ainsworth, Manager Arts and Cultural Services at Bundaberg Regional Council. Today I'm joined by Rebecca McDuff, who's recently been appointed our new Gallery Director. Rebecca, congratulations on the appointment. Can you tell us a little bit about you, the work you were doing before and a bit about your vision for the galleries?
Rebecca McDuff 13:13
Thanks, Rod. I'm must say I'm really excited to take on this new role as Gallery Director for Bundaberg Regional Galleries. I've had a long association with the art scene in the Bundaberg Region. My mum is actually a well known regional artist and I think I've been attending gallery openings since before I could talk. I've been in the role of Public Programmes Officer for the Galleries since 2014, and some people may may know me through that role.
It's a role that I've absolutely loved. In the past five years, I've developed programmes such as Wednesday Art Walkm, The Craft Crowd, Artist Workshop series, and I've been involved in curating exhibitions for children such as The Neighbourhood Tree and Arty Farty's Portrait Gallery. I also do have my alter ego Dottie Lottie, who provides art adventures for our littlest art lovers and I think it's probably more well known than me in the community now.
Before I was at the Gallery, I worked as a psychologist and managed community projects for the State and Federal Governments, but I've always had a love for the arts. And when I started doing arts projects back in 2010, and then finally got my job here in 2014, I felt like I'd come home. So as you can tell, I'm really passionate about the community and I want to see our Gallery celebrate the richness of our arts history.
We have an amazing array of talented artists, with ties to our Bundaberg region, and my vision is to embed these stories into our exhibition schedule. I also want to see us weave First Nations stories into our schedule and work more closely with our First Nations artists. And in the end, it's all about community. I want people to love the arts, to feel like the gallery is their space, to see the arts as part of the everyday and recognise what amazing richness it gives to everyone.
Rod Ainsworth 14:39
So with the government's restrictions slowly lifting, we're obviously planning a relaunch soon. Can you tell us what we can expect?
Rebecca McDuff 14:46
Absolutely. Like everyone, as you said, we've had to shut our doors through the last few months, but we have actually been really busy behind the scenes getting ready to open again. We plan to open on the 28th of August with an amazing array of exhibitions across our five gallery spaces. And these exhibitions celebrate that rich arts community that I spoke about before. Firstly at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, in Gallery One in the Vault, we have the exhibition titled Found!
This is curated by well known regional artist Adrienne Williams. And this exhibition has a wonderful mix of local artists and significant Australian artists from further afield such as Joe Furlonger, Robert Brownhall, John Honeywell, the list goes on. The thing that binds them all together is that they work in their studio alongside a studio animal. Maybe a dog, may also be a cat, fish, budgie, whatever animal it is that provides them with the company, because let's be honest, being an artist can be quite isolating, particularly in these recent last few months.
What I love about this exhibition is that Adrienne has woven so many stories into it and is also complementing it with an art trail that will wind itself throughout our region. So that's Gallery One in the Vault, Rod. Upstairs in Gallery Two, we've been working with the Department of Main Roads so an exciting new collaboration for us to look at an exhibition about the history of our Burnett Traffic Bridge. Most of us probably drive over that once or twice a week – more if you live over the North side of Bundaberg but it's actually got this really interesting history and Main Roads approached us a few years ago to actually develop an exhibition about that to celebrate because it does have a very significant anniversary happening this year.
And then at CHARTS, I'm actually curating a new exhibition out there for the Childers Arts Space called ‘Art as an Act of Optimism'. This is actually works that artists and the community have produced in isolation, and that have shared back with us at the gallery. And so this is going to be a wonderful community project.
And I think it just aligns so beautifully with everything that's happening in the other gallery spaces. We really wanted the gallery to open again with a bit of a bang. And so we wanted to make sure that there was strong exhibitions and that they actually were ones that would resound with the community and I feel that that's what we've got an offer when we open on the 28th of August.
Rod Ainsworth 16:45
Absolutely. Well I know that we all can't wait for those doors to be open. We look forward to sharing more with you soon. Thanks everyone, till next time!
Beau Jackson 16:53
Next we have Zane Norris from Alexandra Park Zoo, talking about their latest addition. Thanks for chatting with us today Zane, the zoo recently had some exciting news about a new exhibit – what animal has come to the zoo?
Zane Norris 17:07
So we've got a native bees hive that was donated to us by Wide Bay Stingless Bees. It was rescued instead of being cleared and knocked down and then brought here to us. And the species name is Austroplebeia australis.
Beau Jackson 17:21
What does the beehive actually look like?
Zane Norris 17:25
So it's a section of a hollow log that's standing upright, and when you do get a chance to come into the zoo again, it'll be next to the turtle enclosure when you first walk in.
Beau Jackson 17:35
Why did the zoo want to include native bees in its collection of animals?
Zane Norris 17:41
Because they're really important for the local environment. Because their numbers are getting less and less as they starting to clear and urbanisation and they're really important pollinators for native trees and crops.
Beau Jackson 17:51
You mentioned the species of the bee – these are stingless bees aren't they?
Zane Norris 17:57
Yeah, so these guys, they're completely stingless. There's about 1700 species of native bees, and there's 12 of these are stingless that live in large social colonies like this. But this species can defend itself by just giving you a nibble, but it can't sting like your European honeybee.
Beau Jackson 18:16
Can you tell us a bit more about the bees? What colour and size are they, what do they look like?
Zane Norris 18:21
So these guys are only about four mm, and they're about the weight of a grain of sand. They're black with four cream markings.
Beau Jackson 18:32
How many bees are actually inside the hive?
Zane Norris 18:35
So there should be about 5000 bees in this particular hive and it makes about a kilo of honey per year but the zoo is not going to harvest it because it would affect the bees and we can't put a viewing panel in it would also affect the bees. But you can see them come and go from the entrance, which they seal up overnight.
Beau Jackson 18:57
Wow. And when are they most active?
Zane Norris 19:00
So yeah, they're definitely most active during the day and they prefer the warmer time of the year. They're not so active when it's less than 20 degrees.
Beau Jackson 19:09
Do the bees travel far to find pollen or nectar?
Zane Norris 19:12
Well, this species of bee can go about 500 metres. So to forage for all their nectar so that means all the plants in the gardens in the zoo and out in the park but also all the way to Buss Part in front of the Civic Centre can be pollinated and the art gallery gardens as well. So they're really important.
Beau Jackson 19:35
What do you like most about these bees?
Zane Norris 19:38
I like the fact that they're native and they're local. They found all along the Queensland coast. And they're completely harmless and they do such a vital role even though they're so small.
Beau Jackson 19:51
When the zoo reopens, do you have any tips on what visitors can look for when visiting the exhibit?
Zane Norris 19:57
So when you can go back into the zoo, you won't be able to get right up and close. But you can see from a distance and you can definitely see them come and go from a very small entrance, but you'll definitely be able to see them. And as you walk yourself around the park and the zoo, have a look at the flowers and see just how important the native bee's little roles are.
Beau Jackson 20:17
What's something that people who are listening can do to help native bees in their backyard?
Zane Norris 20:23
So if you want to you can plant some native flowering trees such as Grevillea or Callistemon. So these are not only really bright and colourful for your garden, but also really important for the native species. And if you happen to accidentally cut down a tree or knock it over or see something like that, you can contact Wide Bay Stingless Bees and they'll help you out.
Michael Gorey 20:46
Thank you Zane, for that interesting segment on native bees. We hope you enjoyed listening to today's programme, and that you join us again next week for more news and information from the Bundaberg Region. Goodbye, for now.