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Sunday’s farmer solidarity march for human rights, not race

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – In the one week it took to organise Sunday’s mass march through Brisbane in solidarity with South Africa’s embattled farmers, four more were brutally murdered.

For many in the crowd of over 1,000 people marching from Roma Street to Queensland’s State Parliament House on Sunday, the march was personal. In our group of five, one had recently attended the funeral of an Eastern Cape relative brutally tortured. The elderly woman, a stalwart in her rural community, died of injuries too graphic to relay. Her housemate succumbed to equally severe injuries, and her husband was left for dead – beaten, bound, burnt and gagged. He miraculously survived.

My farm connection has more romantic roots. I spent the first few years of my life living on an agricultural college in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. I later attended the local school, and my boarder friends all came from surrounding farming communities. My German-descent friend, Ute taught me to ride horses on her parent’s farm. My grandfather had been a Karoo farmer, and my dear late dad worked in agriculture all his life. As a child, I learned that drought meant tough times for farmers. I learned that when shop potato prices were low, the ‘poor farmers’ were getting nothing for theirs. I gained an appreciation for the growers of the produce that landed on our plates and the hard slog it took to get it there.

Today, there is nothing romantic about being a white farmer in South Africa. Drought and low potato prices pale into insignificance when lives are at stake. Of course, no one can ignore the fact that farmers are not the only victims of crime. In fact, for my friend directly affected, attending the march was more about standing up for human rights. “I see this as a human rights march, not a political or racially motivated march. I stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered through violent crime,” he said.

And yet, it is hard to overlook the stark reality that white South African farmers appear to be systematically targeted. There is no politically correct sugar-coating of the increasingly depraved, torturous details of farm murders.

Figures of exactly how many have lost their lives are often refuted, but there are a reported 74 murders from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. Figures escalate weekly.

Repeated stories of women raped in front of their young children don’t make for pleasant dinner conversation. Nor does the story of a 12-year-old boy scalded in a hot bath and his throat slit after both parents were brutally slaughtered. Or of a two-year-old toddler being shot dead. It’s more comfortable to avoid reading news feeds or to skip the unimaginably bloodied, gory pictures posted on social media. Far easier to bury our head in the sand. The march, whatever the practical outworking, at least showed sorely lacking support for the silently suffering minority. It also was an opportunity to say thank you to politicians such as immigration minister, Peter Dutton for hearing their plight.

Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution – Andrew Laming, LNP representative for Bowman

As one of the organisers, Arno Nel said: “Violent crime is rampant in all communities in South Africa. Attacks on farmers are racially oriented, whites in particular in these rural areas face persecution perpetuated by the ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ slogan (by EFF’s Julius Malema and government commitment to take farmland without compensation). This has left white minorities fearing for their lives … We are deeply aware of the privilege of living in this country and hope to extend the same to our farmers.”

Andrew Laming, the LNP representative for Bowman, was equally impassioned. He spoke about being alerted to SA farmers’ plight after seeing an 87-year-old farmer beaten beyond recognition on his social media feed. ”Today, one month ago, I was just another politician vaguely aware what was happening, and then a thread popped up, and the story behind the photo had to be shared. Since then it has been shared ten times every minute 24 hours a day—once a second in every country that has Facebook.

“Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution,” he said.

Independent crossbench senator Fraser Anning, was equally supportive. He said he was behind solutions to give white South African farmers preference for refugee visas, calling violence towards white farmers in the country a “genocide”.

“The ‘Kill the boer, kill the farmer’ slogan promoted by parliamentarians has left white minority groups fearing for their lives.”

© Lois Nicholls 2018

Perth will also host ‘A March for South Africa‘ on Sunday, April 8 at 11:45 AM – 1:30 PM UTC+08 Cnr Barrack St & St George’s Terrace, Perth WA 6000

Bronwen Healy

“Off the Cuff” with Bronwen Healy, Founder of HOPE Foundation

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA―As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Hope Foundation, Bronwen Healy’s mission is to help women wanting to be free from addiction and/or the sex industry. A former heroin addict and sex worker, Bronwen established and launched the charity in 2007 to help other women transform their lives. Bronwen set up the Hope Haven―a drop-in space for Hope Chicks under the Foundation’s umbrella. She drives a program of fundraising, events, counselling and services, including the development of a high school-based program, Every Choice has a Consequence. She took time out of her busy schedule to chat with JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … snuggling up on a couch or hammock and reading for hours on end.

My first job was … in my mum’s friend’s milk bar when I was 11, stocking shelves and making milkshakes (I was saving up for a double tape deck to make mixed tapes with! It was 1986.)

My most annoying habits are … I asked my kids … they said “repeating yourself” but I told them that’s only because they require encouragement to do things, sometimes more than once. Haha.

A clear childhood memory is … holidays at Tootgarook on the Peninsula in Victoria … BEST memories.


Bronwen’s visible transformation from heroin addict (pictured left) to brand new woman, free from addiction (pictured right)

What makes me really nervous is … not a lot does, to be honest.

The best advice my parents gave me was … dream BIG dreams and do them.

If I wasn’t a Change Agent and Story Teller, I’d be … a script-writer/film director.

I’m most thankful for … the second chance at life that God gave me back in 1999, and for my 3 daughters.

My favorite meal is … Thai food – any.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … cleaning the house, like the ‘full-vacuum-and-sweep-and-scrub-the-bathroom’ kind of clean.

A book I love is … the Bible – it is my favourite. Living word that changes my life every day …

A song that resonates is … Amazing Grace.

My ‘happy place’ is … the couch, hammock, resting.

My most embarrassing memory is … my first kiss …

My hidden skill is … cooking, I love to cook!

If I was a dog, I’d be a … Cavoodle, because our dog Max is one and he is the BEST and he is SO loved!!

It’s a bit corny, but I love … candlelit dinners.

I’m most at peace when … my kids are happy and content and/or when I am in God’s presence.

Country I’d love to visit … France―I am going there on my honeymoon one day (when God brings my future husband across my path … )

Favourite quote … “If you can dream it, you can do it” – Walt Disney

Connect with Bronwen:

Hope FoundationTwitter: @bronwenhealy

Make a Donation here

Other “Off the Cuff” guests

“Off the Cuff” with visionary, Tich Smith

COTTONLANDS, KZN―Former Natal rugby player and cricketer for Natal and South Africa, Tich Smith and his wife, Joan, are the founders of Lungisisa Indlela Village (LIV) in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. LIV  is a place of hope and restoration for orphaned children and continues to transform young lives in a mighty way. Tich shares his human side with JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … reading the Bible and spending time with my grand-children.

My first job was … packing books at Adams Book Shop for R60 per month.

My most annoying habits are … speaking harshly to other people when I don’t really mean it.

A clear childhood memory is … scoring my first 100 in a cricket match when I was seven.

What makes me really nervous is … preaching the Word of God.

The best advice my parents gave me was … to treat others how you would like to be treated.

If I wasn’t a visionary, I’d be … dead.

I’m most thankful for … God’s saving grace and mercy upon my life.

My favourite meal is … fish, salad and rice.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … people who are so perfect, thorough and pedantic but I know I need them more than anything.

A book I love is … Father To The Fatherless: The Charles Mulli Story and Out of the Black Shadows: The Amazing Transformation of Stephen Lungu

A song that resonates is … ‘Jesus, you are my friend’ (sung by the children at the Village).

My ‘happy place’ is … LIV Village.

My most embarrassing memory is … going into the record books as one of the few first class cricketers that got a ‘pair’ and only faced one ball.

(A ‘pair’ in cricket refers to when a batsman is dismissed without scoring in either innings)

My hidden skill is … don’t have any …

If I was a dog, I’d be a … Labrador.

It’s a bit corny but I love … my wife, Joanie.

I’m most at peace when … I’m in the quiet place with my Father (God).

Country I’d love to visit …  Australia.

Favourite quote … “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” – Mother Theresa



Mother Theresa

Karl Faase

‘Off the Cuff’ with Karl Faase, CEO of Olive Tree Media

SUTHERLAND, NSW, AUSTRALIA — Karl Faase is a well known Australian Christian communicator, media presenter, leader and social commentator. He is the CEO of Olive Tree Media, through which he produces programs of excellence for Christian media and local church use internationally. He chatted to JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … Watching sport on TV and eating Kettle chips – it might also involve a quality glass of red wine.

My first job was … Bank clerk and teller in Lithgow NSW, working for Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (CBC Bank).

My most annoying habits are … retelling pointless stories of minor sporting experiences or achievements to my wife who is not interested but I tell her anyway.

A clear childhood memory is … living on the farm in country NSW just outside Tambar Springs, my dad was a farm hand and we lived on the property. I remember having a day off school and sitting in the cabin of a harvester for the day.

What makes me nervous is … dealing with technology (phones, computers etc) when my IT specialist son is not around and I am not patient enough to wait to get him to do it. Always ends in tears, usually mine.

The best advice my parents gave me was … don’t chase after what looks like success. Just be yourself and do what you love (my interpretation of the many comments they made that pointed to this phrase).

BonhoefferIf I weren’t a Christian communicator, media presenter, leader, and social commentator, I’d be … either a company CEO or have a career in politics.

I’m most thankful for … my wife Jane, three wonderful kids and 3 grandchildren & another on the way. Truly blessed.

My favourite meal is … Great Italian pasta dishes.

A book I love is … too many to narrow down to one – but a brilliant recent read, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … waiting patiently – for anything.

A song that resonates is … not a whole song just a phrase “a thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains, should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace” (From The Inside Out – Hillsong).

My ‘happy place’ is … There are several for me. One of my favourites is playing on a quality golf course late in the afternoon as long shadows are cast across stunning fairways and greens. This highlights the contours of manicured fairways in beautiful afternoon light. It also helps if I am playing well!

My most embarrassing memory is … A number of years ago I was asked to do an introduction to a speaker. She was a good friend, respected leader, and speaker who at the time was in her late 60’s. I thought I had a very clever introduction but, in the end, it came over as sexist and ageist, I still cringe when I think about it.

My hidden skill is … being able to recount the number, length, par, shape and difficulties of each golf hole on a course I have played more than once.

If I were a dog, I’d be a … perhaps a Bloodhound — a dog on the trail of a scent and relentless in pursuit.

It’s a bit corny, but I love … anthemic worship songs played and led by skilled, Godly musicians.

I’m most at peace when … one of the places of peace for me is actually very strenuous. Riding the magnificent mountains of Europe (Pyrenees, French & Italian alps). Stunning scenery and just toil away in the quietness by myself with my own thoughts and taking in the beauty of the mountains.

The country I’d love to visit … Nepal.

Favourite quote … “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Connect with Karl:

JN’s past “Off the Cuff” Guests

Bedside Tale

I advertised my ‘entire bedroom’ for sale on Gumtree. It now resides 15 kilometres away in another suburb with a delighted new owner.

By ‘entire bedroom’ I mean queen sized bed frame, bedside tables and table lamps. My husband was slightly puzzled when I began moving everything out of our bedroom but agreed that the bed had to go. The jarring creaking from the dodgy frame was grating his nerves too. We never loved it enough to fix. After the delivery, he was uncomplaining that he had to sleep on the floor that night. Or that the entire contents of his bedside drawers were now unceremoniously dumped into a basket on his side of the mattress. He’d done it all before.

Our first bed was one of those parental hand me downs. That finally went to the tip after moving countries and living way past its sell by date. The second was a brand new ensemble that saw us through 14 years and three children until it started to bulge in all the wrong places and quite frankly, lose its bounce.That one was finally discarded during a council curbside collection which I thought was the perfect opportunity to get rid of our old ensemble base.

We slept on our lumpy old mattress on the floor for a while, and I searched in vain for an affordable alternative. In desperation and without much forethought, we eventually bought a family member’s ‘hardly-slept-in’ bed. They failed to mention that it squeaked rather profoundly every time the unsuspecting sleepers rolled over. After a lick of white paint, it looked part French country, part rustic beach shack but there was no denying it was a farce. Even with a makeover, there was no hiding its unspectacular bulk furniture warehouse roots. A new mattress made it slightly more comfortable but no less robust.

We tolerated the bed for years until the very moment when I woke up one morning and decided the bed and co. had to go.

I dressed it rather beautifully complete with decorative cushions and even included the accompanying side tables (second-hand, a testimony to my foray into French linen chalk paint). In generous act, I threw in the colonial style table lamps to compensate for the squeaky bed.

By the looks of things, I undercharged. A dead giveaway was the deluge of calls I received minutes after listing my bedroom for sale. The first caller was happy to buy unseen. She even insisted on paying me right then and there. For $140, who wouldn’t?

So the sale was done and the new bed and accompaniments ensconced in a delighted new owner’s home. My bedroom became hers.

The search began for a new and final bed. The timing, as it happened, was perfect. ‘Solid wooden queen-sized bed frame’ was all that the online ad offered. It was love at first sight. One hundred bucks later and we had sealed the deal.

We collected the frame that same day after a 40-minute drive. A bevy of energetic children of various ages greeted us and their laid back dad brought up the rear. He grinned as he explained he and his wife were upgrading to a king-sized ensemble solely to accommodate the nocturnal visits from their four young charges. Their old bed had been a gift from the children’s grandmother, so parting was bittersweet. I loved that it was loved.

Back home our grand new bed was ceremoniously assembled. It was a bed with substance. Sturdy and solid as the ad inferred. It had a few minor marks and knocks etched into the solid legs and bed head. It told the story of busy young children, family and life. A bed built to last – a bed that would sit quite comfortably in an old farmhouse.

The first night’s sleep was sound as the bed. Not even a gentle creak. Even the morning view outside was more profound from its lofty height. I rather think it’s going to be a keeper … definitely a bed tale with a happy ending.

Jessamy Owen is a freelance writer for JournoNews.

Off the Cuff with Debbie Kirsten

‘Off the Cuff’ with Author, Deborah Kirsten

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — Author, Deborah Kirsten’s autobiography, Chai tea & Ginger beer was penned from her unique experience as the wife of international cricketer and coach, Gary Kirsten. A sought after motivational speaker, Deborah lives in Cape Town with her husband and three children. She reveals some candid gems with JN.

My secret pleasure is … A big slice of lemon meringue pie, a good ‘chic flick’ (romantic comedy) and my journal.

My first job was … I guess that would be teaching Sunday school at the age of about thirteen (but of course, that was unpaid). My first paid job was waitressing in a restaurant.

Author, DEBORAH KIRSTEN with husband, GaryMy most annoying habits are … My husband would have a field day with this question. He would definitely say never hanging the car keys on the key hook. (It completely mystifies him why I bought a special hook for keys and then never hang the keys there). Other annoying habits are my tendency to accumulate clutter and my inability to pass up a good bargain!

A clear childhood memory is … Crossing a flooding mountain river stream with my family. We all linked arms to support one another. I learnt a lot about life that day and the strength of a family when they stick together and support one another.

What makes me nervous is … Driving on a cliff edge or through a mountainous pass. Having had a few bad car accidents, cars generally make me nervous. Also, watching my sons play rugby.

The best advice my parents gave me was … In everything put God first and He will direct your steps.

If I weren’t an author, I’d be … My trained profession is a primary school teacher – I love teaching. But if truth be told I’ve always dreamt about being an actress or a singer.

I’m most thankful for … My relationship with Jesus, my husband, my children, my extended family and my girlfriends.

My favourite meal is … Without a doubt, lamb chops and crispy fresh vegetables… and maybe cheesecake to finish it off.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … I have tried and tried to substitute green tea for ordinary tea or coffee – but I just can’t. It really is quite revolting.

Debbie Kirsten's three favourite books

Books I love … Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Traveling Light by Max Lucado and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Songs that resonate … Lifesong by Casting Crowns

and Better Together by Jack Johnson

My ‘happy place’ is … Our little cottage on the banks of the Breede River. It is far from the city with only the sound of the birds. When we go there, life is lived simply – there is no TV and no cell phone reception. The kids play in the mud and the water. We all fish and have good wholesome family fun time together.

My most embarrassing memory is … Thinking how ‘super cool’ I used to try and act as a teenager when attempting to impress boys.

My hidden skill is … Fishing and playing marbles (my sons always boast to their friends that I used to beat all the boys at marbles when I was a kid – it’s quite true!) I also fancy myself as a bit of a ‘handyman’.

If I were a dog, I’d be a … A golden retriever … definitely not a poodle or a yappy little thing. I’d also be sure to demand a bath once a week.

It’s a bit corny, but I love … The part in the movie when the guy kisses the girl. I always get goose-bumps and all teary. The boys in my house think it’s hysterical … but secretly I know they love that part too!

I’m most at peace when … I’m in a space where I can feel the tangible presence and love of my Father God. This is often in nature and away from the noise of the city. I am also incredibly peaceful when I’m with my beloved husband and my three children – anywhere on planet earth.

The country I’d love to visit … I would love to visit Thailand.

Favourite quote … “I am but the pen in God’s hand, He is the Author of my story” – Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa1 (1)

Connect with Deborah

Chai tea & Ginger beer Facebook Page



Benham Brothers

‘Off the Cuff’ with the BENHAM BROTHERS

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA — Acclaimed North Carolina real estate entrepreneurs and former professional baseball players, David and Jason Benham have achieved untold success in their sporting careers and property ventures. Today the duo live out their faith by helping people from all walks of life in the areas of leadership, work, family, and culture. The twins shared their lighter side with JN.

My secret pleasure is …

Jason … eating peanuts and chocolate chips late at night
David … chocolate chip cookie cake with white icing (addicting!)

My first job was …

Jason … mowing lawns with my brother
David … taking out the trash for my neighbor in Dallas ($.10 per bag)

Updated 10th March 2018 – From the NRB, Eric Metaxas has a delightful interview with David and Jason as they discuss their new memoir, “Miracle in Shreveport.”

My most annoying habits are …

Jason … taking small sips of water while I eat – I just can’t stop
David … I don’t like to step on sidewalk lines

A clear childhood memory is …

Jason … riding big wheels with my brother in Kentucky – we were 3
David … when Jason and I threw rocks at cars!

What makes me nervous is …

Jason … thinking about my kids growing up in this culture
David … getting warmed up before a competition workout

The best advice my parents gave me was …

Jason … bloom where you’re planted
David … read the Bible from cover to cover every year

If I weren’t an entrepreneur, I’d be …

Jason … a professional movie critic
David … a Military commander

I’m most thankful for …

Jason … the wife God gave me – I don’t deserve her
David … my wife

My favorite meal is …

Jason … ribeye steak, sweet potato, green beans, caesar salad with anchovies
David … Ribeye steak (medium rare), sweet potato, mushrooms, salad

I know it’s good for me, but I hate …

Jason … drinking Kombucha
David … Apple cider vinegar (with the Mother)

A book I love is …

Jason … Jude – small but powerful
David … How Now Shall We Live, by Chuck Colson

A song that resonates is …

Jason … I Remember L.A. by Celine Dion

David … We Will See, by Gateway Worship

My ‘happy place’ is …

Jason … at home on my porch swing with my wife while our kids play outside
David … in the gym working out

My most embarrassing memory is …

Jason … farting on a blind date!
David … kicking a hole in the gym wall during a basketball game

My hidden skill is …

Jason … I’m a killer DJ – I can get people on the dance floor pretty easily
David … I love to interior design/decorate

If I were a dog, I’d be a …

Jason … Boxer
David … German Shepherd, to stop the bad guys

It’s a bit corny, but I love …

Jason … watching chick-flicks with my wife
David … romantic, heartfelt music

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.32.30 pm

I’m most at peace when …

Jason … I’m sitting with my wife and my kids aren’t arguing!
David … reading my Bible after a workout and a shower

The country I’d love to visit …

Jason … Italy
David … Italy

Favorite quote …

Jason … “I’d rather have bad breath than no breath at all” – my father-in-law, Frank Cantadore


David … “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering” – Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt






Sean McDowell

‘Off the Cuff’ with Sean McDowell

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CALIFORNIA ― Dr. Sean McDowell is an Assistant Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. He’s a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular, young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities, and conferences. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Stephanie, and the couple has three children. He chatted with JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

My first job was … Resident Assistant in college

My most annoying habits are … biting my nails

A clear childhood memory is … going to the Final Four championship with my dad

What makes me nervous is … turbulence on a plane

The best advice my parents gave me was … to stay faithful to my wife and love my kids

If I weren’t a Professor and Youth Worker, I’d be a … sportscaster

I’m most thankful for … my family

My favorite meal is … spaghetti and meatballs

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … stretching

Henry Nouwen

A book I love is … The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen

My ‘happy place’ is … Home

My most embarrassing memory is … misstating some words in a speech. I was supposed to say “peanut” but, well, something else came out

My hidden skill is … ping pong

If I were a dog, I’d be a … I would never be a dog. I’d be a cheetah

It’s a bit corny, but I love … 80s music

A song that resonates is … Faithfully by Journey

I’m most at peace when … I’m with my family

The country I’d love to visit … Ireland

Favorite quote … Anything by John Wooden, such as, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”


Sean McDowell

Connect with Sean

Sean’s Books


YouTube Channel

Facebook Page


A Bone to Pick with Paleo

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — The beleaguered Pete Evans of paleo persuasion might just have an ally on the far-flung side of the world. His name is Professor Tim Noakes and I truly believe he and Pete should chew the cud, so to speak.

The renowned Cape Town based professor you see, is also under public scrutiny for his dietary views. He is a great protagonist of the Banting diet (very similar to Paleo but says yes to a little dairy). Sugar is pure evil. He’s also the author of The Real Meal Revolution. His original notoriety, however, was gained from a heavyweight book he once wrote, The Lore of Running.

Noakes’ recent media scrutiny stems from his complete backflip when it comes to his former high carb teachings. He’s been pretty vocal about his new high fat, low carb diet. He, like Pete has been publicly bashed by dieticians and worse, fellow Cape Town University academics. The public is also fed up, judging by a reliable source of scandal, Facebook.

Years ago, every running enthusiast I knew loaded with pasta pre-race because the professor told them to. They devoured his heavy tome and in pursuit of running excellence, ensured they followed his diet plan to the last pasta shell.

I was one such devotee, particularly when it came to pre-race diets and training plans. If Professor Noakes said it was true, so it was. He was a renowned sports scientist after all – not to mention a participant of 70 marathons and ultra-marathons. And now, all these years later, he has come out and said sorry, I was wrong. You know that bit where I said: let them eat pasta? Well, they should have eaten steak instead.

But really, is that enough? Just sorry? Sorry doesn’t quite cut it for the thousands of well-meaning runners who hosted hundreds of pre-race pasta parties.

Most deserving of a special apology, however, is the old man of the road, Wally Hayward. A former Olympian, he won the infamous Comrades Marathon five times (a gruelling 90 kilometres).

He completed his last Comrades just shy of eighty-one. His secret? Legend had it that he consumed a rather generous pre-race steak. Everyone thought he was slightly unhinged at the time. What would an old man know about diet anyway? What about carbs? How the tables turned. A decade or so later, steak became hero and carbs were unceremoniously dumped.

Coming back to Pete, while he and family did look marvelously healthy on their recent Current Affair plug, I couldn’t help thinking what sort of food recollections his sweet children will have.

My nostalgic food memories include ravenously devouring freshly baked white bread sandwiches oozing with butter and marmite. Will beetroot cake evoke the same warm and fuzzies?

The bone I have to pick with both Pete and the venerable professor, I might add, is that both diets are ever so slightly self-absorbed. Not to mention time-consuming. Pete’s bone broth, for example, not only involves a commitment to drink, but it requires pure fortitude to make. A health nut friend tried it for a while and seemed to spend her life shopping for organic chicken carcasses and bones. Note, organic. Sustainably farmed. Not any old chicken and beef bones would do. And they had to simmer for hours before the real goodness could be flushed from said bones.

Anyone who can keep this ritual up forever deserves a medal. More importantly, they must be well-heeled. To truly follow the diets, one must preferably buy organic. My dear husband who is slightly on the gullible side with the odd food fad, is currently dabbling in Paleo. By dabbling I mean he’s cut out sugar and is drinking sludge. It started when told by a friend that berry and kale breakfast smoothies kept him alert and super-charged. Not any old berries, mind you, they had to be organic because ordinary blueberries were ‘doused with pesticides’.

Turns out organic berries are exactly double the price of their non-organic cousins.

The same applies to anything given the ‘organic’ blessing.

The real good news to emerge from all of this is that finally, my chocolate stash is quite safe. For now, it seems I can indulge in my daily fix all by myself. It may be short-lived. If history repeats itself, I give Kale Man two weeks max.

And as for Paleo Pete et al, I would take them with a hearty pinch of salt. Just make it Himalayan.

© Copyright Lois Nicholls 2015

Patrick Siebel

‘Off the Cuff’ with Luxury Africa’s Patrick Siebel

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA—Fancy an extravagant and indulgent African adventure? Luxury Africa takes a sumptuous slant on ‘going bush’ with its bespoke, high-end service and insider knowledge of the top safari spots in Africa. Owner, Patrick Siebel chatted to JN.

My secret pleasure is … Driving a really fast & responsive car on a twisty but scenic mountain pass.

My first job was … Church Administrator at Glenridge Church International.

My most annoying habits are … Being pedantic about how things should look or are how they should be executed.

A clear childhood memory is … Skiing down a run on my own, straight up to a restaurant where I ordered something to eat. Davos, Switzerland – aged 4.

What makes me really nervous is … My kids being in a situation where they are not able to stand up for themselves.

The best advice my parents gave me was … You need to be able to sit on the side of the road with a beggar, yet just as effortlessly be able to have tea with the queen.

If I wasn’t a tour-operator, I’d be … an architect.

I’m most thankful for … God’s amazing undeserving love for me.

My favorite meal is … Sushi-Rainbow Roll Reloaded at Willoughby’s Cape Town.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … exercise & watching what I eat.

A book I love is … The Shack by William P. Young.

A song that resonates is … Amazing Grace and What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong).

My ‘happy place’ is … Piloting a light aircraftit puts me in an immediate good mood!

My most embarrassing memory is … My mother suggesting that for a fancy-dress gymkhana at primary school, that I dress up as a scuba-diver (not sure how that related to the equestrian world but I agreed). Anyway, on the day when I put the wetsuit on she had brought to boarding school, it was so tight that I could not mount my steed. Instead, I had to lead my horse around the parade ground. Everybody just packed up laughing.

My hidden skill is … Being able to speak fluent German.

If I was a dog, I’d be a … Golden Retriever.

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It’s a bit corny, but I love … Having an afternoon nap on a weekend, after a long lazy lunch.

I’m most at peace when … I am in the presence of the Holy Spirit whilst worshipping God.

The country I’d love to visit … Antarctica.

Favourite quote … “We rule with the heart of a servant, we serve with the heart of a king” by Bill Johnson.

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Oil Spills No Tonic

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—When a day starts off really badly, I sometimes feel the most sensible option is to go straight back to bed. I say this with conviction as this week, I had not one but two major mishaps before the day had even properly begun.

First, I filled the steam iron with tonic water. Yes, tonic water. Should have drunk the gin and gone back to bed. The ironing board is permanently set up in the garage for easy access and ironing on demand. Tellingly, it is not a pastime I enjoy. The tonic water had been sitting there for some time, right next to the spare fridge that tends to freeze up. I only recalled later that I had removed the frozen bottle of tonic water some months earlier.

Hurrying as usual, I grabbed a shirt and eyeing the tonic water bottle, proceeded to top up the steam iron. Seconds later, an aroma best described as burnt toffee, wafted through the room. The iron then began spewing caramel-coloured liquid all over my clean shirt. Careful not to raise the alarm, I quietly rinsed out the caramel water and was rather relieved that the iron didn’t seem to have suffered any lasting damage. I simply retrieved a fresh shirt and continued as normal. As it turned out, it would take a tad longer to rid the iron of caramel residue.

Next I decided the slight ‘misfiring’ of my car engine was certainly an oil deficit. I know nothing about cars. As one of the three girls growing up in a household, I wish I’d listened when my dear dad was doing his seasonal oil change. The only technical car word I recall was ‘sump’.

I headed for the car and in my defense, this was probably one occasion where my family should have taken notice of what I was saying. I cheerily announced to no one in particular that I was “going to fill up the car with oil”.

As I later learned, you fill up a car with petrol and merely ‘top up’ with oil. That’s why there’s a marker on the dip stick. It’s meant to indicate when to stop. I filled it up like a kettle.

I felt quite emancipated until I drove my son to the bus stop and noted a slow trail of smoke wafting from the bonnet. Too embarrassed to stop, open the hood and pretend to know what I was looking for, I waved my bemused son and his mates goodbye and left under a cloud, as it were.

Still reluctant to reveal to the rest of the family that I may have permanently damaged a very valuable mode of ‘uni’ student transport, I did the next sensible thing after searching the entirely unhelpful car manual. I quietly Googled ‘what happens when you overfill a Yaris with oil’.

Good old Google – seems other dummies have done it too. Most of the commentary was not too encouraging. Engine damage ‘could’ result, said one. Another bright spark suggested sucking the excess out with a tube. This was the practical option I chose. I cut off a short length of garden hose and proceeded to suck. Surprise, surprise. There’s an obstructive metal plug that prevents such pastimes.

The only other alternative was draining the oil by locating that pesky little sump. Google called it a ‘sump plug’ and again, there are people out there in cyberspace looking for theirs too. I tried squeezing my head under the car to search for said ‘sump plug’ but the low carriage clearance was a little prohibitive.

Note to manufacturer: Make allowance for head under car. The obvious solution was to jack the car up. It was only now that my husband fortuitously lifted his head from his very important document and asked what the heck I was doing. Close call. It could have been a beautiful climax to a catastrophic morning – Yours Truly found squashed under the car, head positioned inches from the sump plug. Strangely, the car righted itself. Engine seems fine.

The heartening aspect of being ever so slightly dippy is that there are others out there with similar traits. I was relaying my dramas to a very trusted friend who, unlike many sensible people, can totally relate to the slightly offbeat episodes that plague me. In other words, things that don’t happen to the average ordinary person. Bless her.

She doesn’t, for example, ask why I didn’t just call RACQ. Or: did I not know that the tonic water was tonic water given that it was in a tonic water bottle? Near the fridge. As a fellow and perhaps a far nuttier nutter than myself, she always comes up with a far more rewarding story. For example, I told her about our Golden Orb spider that had taken up residence, complete with the resplendent web, in the inside corner of the front windshield. Unlike most families who would possible screech in unison and remove or squash the spider, it remained there for two days because no one wanted to break its beautiful web. That’s not normal.

My friend, whom I’ll call Sally, on account of work colleagues regarding her as the picture of efficiency and normality, didn’t flinch. Just that week she had had a run in with a different sort of creature. She had pulled on her jeans in a hurry, noting that they were a little tight from a recent indulgent holiday. While seated in the car with her family she felt something wriggling near her thigh.

With great difficulty and hysteria, on account of her constricting pants, she managed to grab hold of the wriggling creature while frantically sliding her other hand down her jeans.

Screeching, she revealed to all that she thought there was a cockroach in her jeans. With great difficulty and hysteria, on account of her constricting pants, she managed to grab hold of the wriggling creature while frantically sliding her other hand down her jeans. “I pulled out a gecko,” she said, deadpan. Of course, she did. Better than knickers. She’s done that too.

She’s also been party to her husband’s car careering into the fence of an unsuspecting family’s home. Police were called. When my car rolled down the hill sans handbrake, it was only a gentle incline, so it simply ramped the curb, scared the daylight out of a man walking his dogs, and stopped by itself. While it’s always comforting to have someone with whom to share such stories, there are times I’ve wondered about some familial link.

My mother did, after all, once hurriedly open the left-hand double garage door to reverse her car, forgetting she was parked in the right. It’s the only time I ever recall hearing my dad use the F-word. I’ve also pondered whether these quirks are not perhaps part of something more sinister. Like the dreaded ‘A’ word of the early onset kind. Seen the movie, Still Alice, read the book.

It does seem, however that I’m off the hook. I read an article recently that said the reason we lose our keys, vacantly put the shoe polish in the fridge or fill up our steam irons with tonic water (Ok, no one else has actually done this), is that we have too much going on in our brains. We have passwords, work agendas, school pickups, teacher interviews, texts to send, finances to juggle, emails to read, people to phone, stuff, stuff, stuff all going on in our overloaded grey matter. It’s no wonder we sometimes have a short circuit.

After some reflection, I decided that what the experts were really saying but were far too politically correct to reveal, was in fact that nutty was the new normal. I’m sticking with that.

© Lois Nicholls June 2015

Photo courtesy:

ugly fruit and veg

Ugly Fruit and Veg – bring it on

BRITAIN–Jamie’s done it again – taken the road less traveled when it comes to food and exposed that lo and behold, consumers in Britain and surely elsewhere, have no problem buying what he terms ugly fruit and veg.

Tons of fruit and vegetables deemed not perfect enough for consumers is dumped each year or turned into animal fodder. At one Norfolk farm he visited, up to 10 tons of imperfect vegetables were dumped a week. As Jamie pointed out in his Food Revolution series, this is perfectly edible fruit and vegetables, with exactly the same nutritional value as its prettier peers, it’s just a bit more gnarly and quirky than its commercially acceptable counterparts.

Testing his theory about ugly fruit and veg

To test his theory that consumers were not averse to buying deformed vegetables, he placed cameras at a particular supermarket and viewed customer reaction to the not so perfect vegetables which were marked 30% off. To his delight, consumers bought with gusto – they understood that not all vegetables grown are perfect and they were definitely not repelled by their appearance.

I sincerely hope he starts a revolution, particularly with many families struggling to put fresh fruit and vegetables on the table. It starts with major suppliers. What large supermarket chains are failing to get is that not all consumers want picture perfect carrots. Ask any organic grower. Consumers are more informed than they’re given credit for. Many of us grow our own veggies and know that the tastiest tomatoes, for example, are not always the prettiest.

‘Beautiful on the Inside’ ugly fruit and veg

asdaTo prove his point, in January this year, Jamie approached the UK chain, Asda to test his theory and launched his ‘Beautiful on the Inside’ range. It’s working – consumers are buying. And why shouldn’t they? In a survey, 65% of people said they would buy the ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables and 75% said they would if the produce was marked down.

I would choose wonky any day. As a child, I remember pulling out carrots from my mum’s garden that were downright comical. Often, at least three roots curled around each other in a carroty embrace – quite unlike the straight as a pin packaged carrots in our supermarkets. They were eaten anyway. Potatoes often had extra knobs on them and the insect nibbled bits of cauliflower or broccoli florets were simply cut out.

Most of us are fine with a little imperfection. And if ugly fruit and veg comes at a reduced cost, even better. Best of all, our farmers could get a lot more value out of a crop rather than having to dump perfectly good fruit and veggies simply because it didn’t make the supermarket grade.

Jamie, I salute you. I, for one, will be first to sign up for the “ugly” fruit and veg revolution.

Bring on the gnarly, the discarded and disenfranchised produce.

Their time has come.

© Lois Nicholls 2015

Carrot image credit: Twitter

The Menace in Tennis

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA―The Australian Tennis Open is finally over and after weeks of serious television overload, this tennis tragic will not be going near the box for a while―well, at least not until the French Open.

Together with the rest of Australia and the world, I’ve enjoyed every minute of this Grand Slam competition. However, one aspect of play has left a niggling bad taste―the sanctioned on court antics of certain players. Call me old fashioned, but smashing a racket on court and hurling expletives isn’t behaviour that should be applauded.

Firstly, my practical mother side is thinking: That’s one expensive racket―perhaps it could have been donated to some poor up and coming player or even better, auctioned off for charity. And then, there’s the confused realization that not everyone seems to find this behaviour shocking. The tantrum player in question is one of Australia’s up-and-coming tennis stars, Nick Kyrgios. He’s a really likeable guy off-court but someone needs to tell him it’s not right to smash rackets and use vile swear words when things go wrong. Kids are watching.

Are we so politically correct that not even umpires have the balls to admonish bad on court behaviour?

The normally outspoken commentator, Jim Courier did allude to the fact that the racket smashing incident should have been reprimanded but no-one mentioned it wasn’t quite cricket to swear―all the time. What really confused me was that Nick’s own mother later excused his behaviour with a smilingly indulgent explanation that: ‘How else was he meant to get rid of his frustration on court?’ or something along those lines. How indeed? Wash his mouth out with soap for starters. And are we so politically correct that not even umpires have the balls to admonish bad on court behaviour?

I’m wondering whether it’s open season for swearing simply at the Australian Open. Perhaps Australians are known to be a nation that doesn’t mind the odd swear word so players let rip. And it’s not an age thing. Kyrgios may be young and have a lot to learn from greats such as the always-poised Federer and Nadel, but Murray? Well, he should know better. Sunday’s Men’s Final against the composed No 1. Seed, Novak Djokovic had him in top form. Murray swore all the way through―he was having a f***ing field day.

His talented artist fiancé Kim Sears doesn’t mind the odd expletive either, it seems. She was caught on camera mouthing what appeared to be: “F***ing have that you Czech flash f***” during Andy’s tense match against No. 7 seed, Tomas Berdych. Looking at the slow motion footage, it didn’t look as though she was saying: “Well done, darling, you get him!” The press immediately loved her and some bright spark newspaper sub-editor came into his own with the headline: ‘Kim Swears’.

Kim’s father was equally forgiving. Dear Nigel Sears, proudly joked afterwards that his daughter: “always had a potty mouth—gets it from her mother of course”. And just in case we thought Kim herself may have been mildly repentant, she defiantly donned a sweatshirt with the words: ‘Parental Advisory. Explicit Language’ boldly emblazoned for cameras to see at last night’s final. Her point? “F**k off, I’ll swear as much as I like.” And the Tweeters adored her for it.

Again, perhaps it’s an age thing but I remember my mum saying that even the most beautiful girl or handsome boy can suddenly become rather unappealing when ugly expletives emanate from their mouths. Kim is certainly a beautiful girl. I commented on exactly that many times until she swore at Tomas.

I once asked a respected tennis coach what he thought of the grunting, screeching, swearing and racket throwing that seemed to be part and parcel of today’s professional tennis. He believed the fundamental problem lay at grassroots level.

Coaches should be teaching up and coming players that it’s not OK to smash your racket, screech or swear on court.

“Coaches should be teaching up and coming players that it’s not OK to smash your racket, screech or swear on court. They should refuse to coach them until they behave. Only then will they learn that on-court bad behaviour is unacceptable.”

A last word of caution: Wimbledon and its imminent royal entourage is coming up too. Please clean up your act before then players, because Her Majesty, the queen will certainly not be amused.

© Jessamy Owen 2015

A House of History

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—The humble simplicity of a quaint little wooden cottage in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Kelvin Grove belies its illustrious roots with the source of its building material from one of the world’s densest woods, Darwin stringy bark milled in Napranum, Cape York and salvaged from vast mining tracts in the area.

The home’s owner, environmental scientist, Mark Annandale helped run the saw mill in Napranum, Cape York. Western Cape York traditional owners had previously set up a venture, Nanam Tawap Ltd with Queensland Government which included operating the sawmill, a masonry block plant and sand quarry.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove_Shoot_2-3

Under conditions of their lease, mining companies can mine the area with the proviso that existent timber can be cut before mining begins. Approximately 1000 hectares of forest is cleared by Rio Tinto Alcan prior to mining operations each year. Without milling, invaluable wood is burnt and lost for good as this is the cheaper, quicker option.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove_Shoot_2-16

Mark’s idea to build a home from wood salvaged from Cape York has been four years in the making. “I wanted to build a recycled house and carted around 45 tons of wood looking for an opportunity to build for four years. It took two semi-trailer loads and a loader to transport it.”

By then, the wood was well and truly dried out and ready for use. “Most posts were too heavy to lift so had to be rolled on the ground – each comes from a tree some 200 years old,” he said.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove-16

There’s been a fair amount of curiosity from passers-by in the tree-lined suburban block where the two-bedroomed wooden house has been taking shape over the past eight months. It’s been a long haul, with builder, Craig Riddle of Aaron Building and his son, Zachary overseeing the age-old method of post and beam construction with an expressed hard wood frame.

Carpenter, Darren Smith had his work cut out for him as handling this rare hardwood was not an everyday occurrence and construction was often challenging. Some joints took up to five and a half hours to cut and chisel in order to fit two large pieces together. The pieces of timber were too big and heavy to ‘trial fit’, and had to be cut correctly within one to two millimetres, allowing for the natural features like twists and bows.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove_Shoot_2-12

Taking this type of care cutting the joints allowed two pieces to be joined together, and not impose unnecessary tension that might distort the structure. “This also favoured the building, that it would remain straight, square and level. The special joints meant steel plates and bolts were not required to connect these large timber pieces together,” said Craig. Instead, 25 millimetre dowels were used to secure load bearing Mortise and Tenon joints.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove-1

All material used in the construction was hardwood which included posts and beams, floor joists, wall and roof framing. Even the timber for the window manufacture and door joinery, carport decking, chamferboard cladding and tongue and groove flooring all came from the same logs. The only digression was plywood used for the wall and ceiling linings.

The end result is a beautiful, lovingly created home that sits comfortably alongside neighbouring Queenslanders. The natural insulation means it’s warm in winter and cool in summer and isn’t reliant on costly heating and cooling. Best of all, there is history and longevity in the solid beams and trusses – each with its own rich patina and story.

“It will be here for way over 100 years and definitely won’t rot or blow away – and if it floods, it can simply be hosed down,” says Mark.

Hope amidst the heartache of Ebola

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIAWhile the Ebola crisis sweeping through West Africa is easy to ignore, a Brisbane woman has refused to turn a blind eye. She has started a charity for an orphanage in Sierra Leone that will bring hope to innocent orphans who have become the tragic fallout of the deadly virus.

Jane Shakespeare is a feminine, blonde, slim, yoga-loving graphic designer, wife of IT consultant Jeremy and doting mum to 13-year-old Harry. The family lives in a comfortable, tree-lined suburb of Brisbane with their lovable pooch, Holmes and enjoy all the comforts hard work in their adopted country of Australia has brought.

The family moved from England in 2007 for Jeremy to take up a new job with his company and the family fell in love with the sun-drenched beaches of Australia and the friendly, laid back lifestyle of Brisbane. The contrast between life in West Africa’s Sierra Leone and this lush little pocket of Brisbane is extreme. Yet Jane maintains a soul tie with this war-torn and more recently, Ebola-ravaged country.

Inexplicably, it was while living in the quaint, historic town of Warwick, England – that she had her first introduction to one of the poorest countries on earth. While studying for her economics degree at Warwick University, Jane became interested in micro-credit and the impact it had on women’s lives. She was put in contact with an organisation called One World Link which already had ties between her home town of Warwick and Bo Town in Sierra Leone. The country had been through a brutal civil war during the Nineties and thousands of young men were murdered. Women had become the backbone of their society and increasingly, the only hope for their children’s education and future.

St Mary's Children's Home 2

“They basically had a very powerful influence on the country as so many of their men were killed in the civil war. It was important for them to have skills to support their whole family. Their little businesses meant the difference between them being able to educate their children and sinking into a cycle of poverty,” says Jane.

Her university agreed to sponsor Jane’s trip to Bo Town, Sierra Leone and in February, 2006, she spent two weeks visiting women’s groups interviewing individuals and discovering how they managed to support their families. In spite of the apparent poverty, Jane witnessed how women eked out a living simply by being given a small kick-start loan. Back in England, she didn’t forget these resourceful women and immediately set about encouraging her friends, colleagues and community to donate sewing machines.

“I placed an advert in the local Leamington Spa/Warwick paper asking for non-electric sewing machines to be donated to send out to the women’s groups I’d come across. It was obvious to me that if the women had their own sewing machines they could make their own fabrics into garments to sell, cutting out the middle man. This allowed them to earn more money for the groups. I sent the sewing machines out in a container with other materials that were sent over by One World Link in Warwick. I thought I might get 20 or so but ended up collecting 176 which was quite overwhelming,” she says.

I was so concerned about the home’s long-term survival that I subsequently offered to set up a website so people could donate

While in Sierra Leone, Jane had also met Father Peter Konteh, founder of St Mary’s Children’s Home, an orphanage in Bo Town, Sierra Leone. He was also president of the Desert Flower Foundation that fights against genital mutilation of young women, a practise still rife in parts of Africa. Fr. Konteh later traveled to England and the two became good friends. So much so, that Jane and Jeremy began the process of adopting a young girl from the orphanage.

“At the time, I was having problems falling pregnant but the international adoptive procedure was very complicated and expensive, I realised we could do far more to help many children, not just one, by sending money to the orphanage. It was the only way I knew how to help. I was so concerned about the home’s long-term survival that I subsequently offered to set up a website so people could donate.”

SMCH Photo

Little did she know how important her gesture would become. In March, 2014, the Ebola virus disease outbreak took hold of West Africa. Starting in Guinea, it spread across land to Sierra Leone and Liberia and by air to Nigeria and again by land, to Senegal. According to the World Health Organisation, it was “the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak” since being discovered in 1976. Sierra Leone was not left unscathed and soon became ravaged by the devastating disease.

As at 24th December 2014, WHO estimates Ebola has claimed the lives of close to 7,588 people, although more realistic figures are believed to be more than 12 000. As at 27th December there have been more than 2,366 confirmed deaths in Sierra Leone. Again, these figures are always far higher, given the remoteness of some affected regions and the fact that many of the dead are buried without cases being reported. The number of orphans grew to thousands and Father Konteh relayed the problems his orphanage was experiencing. Their resources were stretched to capacity and raising money became increasingly urgent.

While the orphanage was supported by donors, grants and contributions from organisations such as the Healey Foundation in New Jersey, Jane felt powerless to help. She realised that the only way to assist was to set up an Australian-based charity and raise awareness here. Through her constant interaction with Fr Konteh, and hearing first-hand how shocking and far-reaching the impact of Ebola had become, she knew the more money raised, the more children could be rescued. “My objective was to show ordinary people around the world how they could help in their own small way.”

WHO estimates Ebola has claimed the lives of close to 7,588 people

She began posting haunting, confronting images about the Ebola crisis on Facebook, giving a face to those impacted by its cruel cycle. Often, her passion was met with cynicism and occasionally, open hostility, especially when she started campaigning for governments to step in. She refused to give up her quest and slowly, the message seemed to be getting across. Yes, the disease was on another continent, but it was a world problem, not one that could simply be dismissed. The Australian government was slow off the mark, but help began trickling in.

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The more she spoke about her relationship with St Mary’s, the more people took notice and before long, Jane even had fellow yoga class members offering to donate. “I was overwhelmed by the generous hearts of everyday Australians,” she says. “All I wanted was to get some of the orphans off the street and into a happy, safe environment where they could be educated. Every little bit helps towards that goal.”

As if this wasn’t enough to take on board, Jane’s heart had capacity for far more. While visiting Bo, Sierra Leone, she had also encountered Josaya Bangali, who had written poems revealing his sentiments about the 10-year civil war that had destroyed his country.

“I made a promise to him that I would put his poems into a book, get them printed and sell them on his behalf. In 2008, I did a graphic design course, set myself up as a self-publisher and got 500 books printed. I currently sell them for $20 AUD each or £10 GBP each and send 100% of the proceeds to Josaya. I also created a website to sell his books but I’ve found that it’s easier to sell them by speaking to people.”

Children at SMCH

Her relationship with Josaya didn’t end there. He happened to have a daughter, Manjia, a community nurse in Sierra Leone who expressed a desire to further her nursing studies in a developed country. Jane was her contact with the Western world. Again, this slight, big-hearted, adoptive Australian woman stepped in to help.

“I helped her apply to the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and she received on offer to do a Bachelor of Nursing degree. To do so, she would need funding and a sponsor, something that was proving increasingly difficult to facilitate. “

It all could have ended there, but Jane sat down with her family and discussed the possibility of financing Manjia—paying for her studies and opening their home to her while she completed her three-year degree. After careful thought, the family decided to offer sponsorship—a move that was not without its concerns and difficulties.

“It was not a case of this wealthy, spoiled family deciding to do their bit. We’ve had to make sacrifices,” says Jane. That included inviting Manjia’s young son to come and live with them too.

“In the course of our communication, (hampered by dodgy internet connections), I discovered that Manjia had a two-year-old little boy, Kingsley, and I just couldn’t let her leave him behind so he’s coming too,” she smiles.

That’s if they can get in the country at all. With the understandable hysteria surrounding Ebola, (Australia has banned all travel from Sierra Leone), for now, Manjia’s plans are on hold. It’s taken nine months of jumping through hoops, visa applications and other red tape and they are not quite over the line, particularly with the indefinite ban imposed. However, Jane is confident it will all eventually work out. And she hopes her story inspires others that everyone is capable of contributing, no matter how small the steps are.

“It is inspiring to think we are capable of reaching out and helping in whatever little way we can. I consider myself an average person—not particularly special—all I did was to help the only way I knew how,” she says.

SMCH-logoTo donate, contact

Organisations such as the UK-based charity, Street Child estimate ‘an excess of 20,000 children’ have already lost their primary care giver to Ebola. ‘And clearly that number is growing daily’.

Feature photo – Jane, her son Harry and husband, Jeremy

Photos courtesy of St Mary’s Children’s Home Charity Facebook Page

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“Off the Cuff” with designer, Laurence Humier

LaurenceMILAN, ITALY―Multi-talented Belgian architectural engineer, Laurence Humier works as a designer, providing services and products in the field of industrial design, communication services and education. She recently launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for The Alchemist Matter Kit, an educational tool that enables children from 5 to 12 years old to create DIY matter. She chats with JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … to soak in my bathtub.

My first job was … a flower seller.

My most annoying habit is … being stubborn.

A clear childhood memory is … the night movie Friday’ at my grandparents’ house.

What makes me really nervous is … the authority.

The best advice my grandparents gave me was … do what you like in life.

If I wasn’t an industrial designer, I’d be … an actress.

I’m most thankful for … having very great friends.

My favorite meal is … tomato spaghetti.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … jogging.

A book I love is … 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

A song that resonates is … Dancing in the Dark.

My ‘happy place’ is … in the arms of my love.

My most embarrassing memory is … when I lost the test paper of my students.

My hidden skill is … that I have strength in my arms.

If I was a dog, I’d be … Laïka―the Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space!

It’s a bit corny but I love … receiving gifts.

I’m most at peace when … I feel loved.

Country I’d love to visit … Brazil.

Favourite quote … “after the rain comes the sun.”

Rain and Sun

Leaning Towards Christmas

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—The tree is up and our feral feline has already been seduced by its baubles and bling and attempted to climb its fake Canterbury pine branches and make off with the flashing star.

He made the same ascent last year with, pardon the pun, catastrophic results. He snapped the top clean off resulting in an eternal leaning due to two taped stakes connecting the tree top to its piny nether regions.

Admittedly, this leaning does give the tree a certain authentic ‘I was harvested on a particularly blustery winter morning’ appearance. Instead, it was made in China with the only real similarity being that, this one, like its genuine counterpart, has a definite shelf life.

This Christmas, I fear, will be its last. The rest of the Christmas decorations have also taken on a rather forlorn air, mostly because the chief festivity officer, namely my daughter, has taken off to Europe. She’s enjoying a bracing start to a European winter while we begin the slow melt into summer.

While we may not have all the trappings of a picture book Christmas, an Aussie Christmas has one definite advantage: Sunshine—lots of it. We can take full advantage of nature’s own energy source and go mad with solar lights. That’s if they’re not all snapped up by greedy solar shoppers. There never seems to be enough to go around. I managed to salvage the last bucket of white icicle lights (irony there) at my local supermarket which I proceeded to excitedly drape over our entrance wall. They showed great promise until I realised they were six metres long and the wall was twelve. Half the wall looks dazzling but the fun stops there. Reindeer

To make up for the lack of lighting, I hung up last year’s wreaths made from my old passionfruit vine and sticks I found in the bush. Rustic festive charm is the general theme. I also had a couple of wooden reindeer lovingly crafted by my husband. However, these seem to have landed up in the fire pit when a certain teenager insisted it was too late to gather his own wood when friends were arriving ‘any minute’. All that remains of Rudolph is his log head and a rather faded red bow.

All that remains of Rudolph is his log head and a rather faded red bow.

Shopping at Christmas is universally manic. Each year I resolve to avoid the mayhem by adopting the clichéd yet sensible ‘shop through the year’ approach. It never works. I know without a doubt that with a week to go I will be the vague shopper pacing the lofty, festooned and fake marbled hallways of my local shopping mall.

I will be the wild-eyed woman manically humming ‘Jingle Bells’ with mounting hysteria. And unfortunately, I will have only myself to blame. If the truth be told, weeks ago, I specifically went to buy a particular someone a Christmas present only to be drawn like a magnet to the sale rack of a rather enticing clothes shop. It ended right there.

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I do, however, have a rather canny and last ditch trick up my sleeve. It’s called online shopping. That’s if I haven’t already missed the deadline. Let me check … oops, one week to go. So online it will bein the cool comfort of my own home, a glass of festive cheer on hand.

I will cleverly avoid the onslaught of shoppers, sweaty Santa’s or sneaky sale racks. Sounds blissful. All that remains is the food shop which will include a tray of luscious, sun-kissed Bowen mangoes. Instant sensory, festive euphoria has to be the sight of these golden nuggets nestling in air-conditioned comfort on the kitchen counter.

Then and only then will I be perfectly set for an Aussie Christmas.

Let the joyful countdown begin …

Wishing you all a blessed and bountiful Christmas!

© Lois Nicholls 2014


‘Off the Cuff’ with Lyle Shelton

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — A journalist by profession, Lyle Shelton initially worked in rural journalism as a roving reporter in Queensland and then Victoria. In 2000, Lyle was elected to Toowoomba City Council. He was re-elected in 2004 and unsuccessfully contested the 2006 Queensland state election. After a short stint as a political adviser in federal politics, Lyle was appointed in 2007 as Chief of Staff at the Australian Christian Lobby, based in Canberra. He served in this role for six years before being appointed Managing Director in May 2013. He led the ‘No’ campaign during Australia’s 2017 same-sex marriage survey debate. In February 2018, he resigned from ACL to join the Australian Conservatives as federal communications director. He chatted to JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … red wine

My first job was … shovelling chook manure

My most annoying habits are … singing in the presence of others

A clear childhood memory is … sitting on my dad’s lap while attempting to steer the tractor

What makes me nervous is … speaking to people who do not agree with my values

The best advice my parents gave me was … it doesn’t matter how poor you are, you can always keep your shoes polished

If I weren’t Federal Communications Director for the Australian Conservatives I’d be … a journalist

I’m most thankful for … my wife Wendy

My favourite meal is … Thai cashew chicken with coconut rice

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … cucumber

A song that resonates is … ‘Working Class Man’ by Jimmy Barnes

A book I love is … The Great War by Les Carlyon

If I were a dog, I’d be a … Staffy / Kelpie cross

My ‘happy place’ is … my BBQ area

My most embarrassing memory is … spilling red wine on the white shirt of the president of the Downs Club

My hidden skill is … composing Tweets

It’s a bit corny, but I love … my RM boots

I’m most at peace when … I’m out jogging

The country I’d love to visit … Belgium

Favourite quote … “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Martin Luther King Jnr

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Picture credit: Peter Ristevski

Wendy Francis

‘Off the Cuff’ with Wendy Francis

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Wendy Francis has many strings to her bow. She is Queensland Director of the Australian Christian Lobby and is the ACL spokesperson for the rights of children and women. In 2018, she was appointed Director of the Centre for Human Dignity. She is also a tireless campaigner against sexual exploitation. Professional experience includes managerial positions at Griffith University and Queensland Baptists. She was also Executive Producer of the Lord Mayor’s Carols in Brisbane for eight years. In addition, Wendy is a Director and Board Member of Samaritan’s Purse Australia and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a board member of Queensland Family Council, the Queensland Alliance for Kids and the Australian Marriage Forum. Wendy regularly travels to countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and Cambodia to oversee projects which seek to rescue women and children from sex slavery and to work on literacy projects amongst rural women. Her husband, Peter Francis, is Vice-Principal of Malyon College in Brisbane. They have been married for 38 years, have three married children and ten grandchildren. She chatted to JournoNews.

My secret pleasure is … I’m actually really good at keeping secrets!

My first job was … working as a manager’s assistant in the National Bank of Australasia – now NAB – I was a good typist, so had to help out the real estate next door when they needed contracts typed up!

My most annoying habits are … not putting things back in the same place, or not putting them away at all!

A clear childhood memory is … hiding coins in a hole in an old neighbourhood fence with my best friend. There was a little shop at the end of our street and my mum would send us down to buy milk or bread and she would say we could keep the change. So we would hide it there and wait until we had enough to buy some lollies together.

What makes me nervous is … snakes! I hate them – can’t even look at them in a book or on the TV screen.

The best advice my parents gave me was … to seek after the truth and be a teller of truth.

If I weren’t Qld Director of ACL I’d be … a top lawyer – even a judge! And I would be a good one!

I’m most thankful for … my family – my parents, my husband, my children and my grandchildren.

My favourite meal is … grilled salmon with sweet potato mash and garden salad.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … taking any tablets – I’m sure it’s psychological, but I just can’t swallow pills very easily – I gag!

A book I love is … Riven Fetters by Sallie Lee Bell. I first read it when I was a very young girl and it had a big impact on me then – I still love it.

A song that resonates is …I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack – And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance … I hope you dance!

My ‘happy place’ is … anywhere family is, but my favourite places with family are either home, or the beach.

My most embarrassing memory is … buying a Mark Holden single (back in the days), and being asked by Mark Holden himself (who happened to be in the shop) whether I wanted it signed, but not recognising him … He did end up signing it when he explained who he was.

My hidden skill is … that I make an amazing lemon meringue pie.

If I were a dog, I’d be a … Golden Retriever – a bit clumsy, but very loyal, and would never hurt anyone intentionally

It’s a bit corny, but I love … Sandra Bullock’s humour – she would be on my list of who I’d love to have for dinner.

I’m most at peace when … I’m with my husband at the end of a day and we get time to just talk.

The country I’d love to visit is … Antarctica

Favourite quote … “Nah” – this was Rosa Parks‘ response to the police officer who demanded she move from her seat on the bus because she was coloured and a white man wanted to sit where she was sitting. I love it – No! we will not bend to injustice.

Rosa Parks

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For the love of Toyota

WE’RE ALL SET for our annual camping holiday and in the midst of it all, our trusty Toyota Prado circa 2000, perhaps in a covertly defiant act of consolidation with Toyota’s workers, has decided to give up the ghost.

It hasn’t entirely broken down, but personally, the air-conditioning suddenly only working on number four-speed and sounding like a tractor is tantamount to giving up the ghost. We are in the midst of a Queensland summer, after all. We have a rich history with our workhorse. It has endured the craters of Fraser Island tracks, several camping trips to remote areas of Moreton Island and Stradbroke Islands, a few family road trips to Sydney and more.

It has also pulled lantana out of our creek, bears the scars of my then three-year-old daughter’s artistic swirls with a disco ball on the tinted windows. It has been hailed upon, scratched by overhanging trees, dodged kangaroos … and all the while, its air-conditioning has soldiered on, giving us a reprieve on those long, hot trips.

The good news is that a new fan will fix the problem. The bad news is that the spare part will not arrive before we leave. Alas, cramming a family of five plus camping gear into my little run-around Yaris will be impossible. The family announcement that we will be travelling three hours to our destination trapped inside what boils down (no pun intended) to the bowels of a tractor engine has not been met with great glee by our teens. My attempts at reminding them all that this is the stuff of which memories are made, has fallen on deaf ears. Visions of National Lampoons Vacation come to mind …

We have attempted a little humour – even suggested we hire the preposterous sign language imposter from Mandela’s memorial because we certainly won’t be able to hear each other speak. A friend suggested loud music but we’re not talking gentle white sound here, we’re talking full-throttle tractor!

I am painfully reminded that perhaps I am not destined for car comfort. Years ago, as a young reporter, I also happened to drive a Toyota – an old green Ute nicknamed The Green Mamba. It was fairly trustworthy if it were not for the passenger door which flew open when I went around corners. My safety mechanism was a belt tied around the passenger handle and I’ll never forget the look on my colleague’s face when I forgot to tell her to hold on.

My love affair with Toyota’s, however, endured. It turned out South African thieves liked them too. I optimistically bought a Corolla which was stolen in broad daylight outside my work one morning even with steering wheel lock firmly in place.

So I changed to Datsun’s – one of which was bright orange Datsun 120Y nicknamed ‘Fanta Spew’ for obvious reasons. So popular was that one that I had locals hopping off buses at stop streets and begging me to sell.

I finally gave in and sold before it was stolen and bought another Datsun in a less conspicuous colour or popular model. Thieves gave me a reprieve of three months before they stole that one. I had a flutter with an Opel Cadet and a Renault as thieves apparently didn’t like those, and then finally acquired the love of my life, a vintage Datsun Sunny 1000.

While not exactly a getaway car, it was quaint, quirky and a match made in heaven. It was faithful right up until it caught fire while I was driving. A passing cyclist helped put out the flames but I’m afraid, that my last encounter with my adorable vintage car.

I felt as though I had come home when we settled in Australia and bought our Toyota Prado. Here was a  reliable car that would not be stolen in this safe-haven and could possibly outlive the dog. And it looked set to do that at just over 270 K on the clock and not missing a beat – until the air-con fan died, that is.

All I have to say is Toyota, please don’t go!

There’s one happy camper that still needs you …

© Lois Nicholls

This article appeared in The Courier Mail, 25th December 2013

I can't be your Facebook friend. i just can't

Time to Cull Celebrity Campaigners

One of life’s most basic lessons is never to assume. Check your facts. And never, ever assume you can win your audience with arrogant self-importance.

Hillary’s leftwing press failed dismally in this regard. And so did she. What both parties assumed was that everyone believed their spin. That eloquent words shape a nation’s attitudes. That Hillary’s fraternizing with Hollywood was lauded. And Hollywood was even more misguided. The ordinary people clearly didn’t care when singer Katy Perry stood up and in a spectacularly condescending manner, dictated who people should vote for.

What must have come as a crushing shock is that she just wasn’t that important. What Katy did … or said, just didn’t cut it. Similarly, people did not care when Beyonce and Jay-Z ran a free concert (which, incidentally, they only half-managed to fill) and Hillary embraced them with gushing rhetoric. The sexist, racist trash that emanated from Jay-Z’s mouth should have been enough to turn off the most avid Hillary supporter but that aside, again, why do these celebrities in their opulent bunkers not get it that the world does not generally give a toss. When did they start believing their own press? Just because Vogue endorses a Kardashian doesn’t mean the world takes note.

And just like badly raised children unaccustomed to not getting their own way, post-Trump victory, many of these same celebs had a toddler tantrum.

Emotional intelligence was severely lacking. Many expressed a desire to flee to Canada. Not Mexico, mind you. Too risky. Canada obviously sounded more comfortable. As far as I know not a single celebrity has left yet. They’re throwing tweeting tantrums because this is the first time they’ve had to deal with the fact that beyond their privileged lives, no-one really cares. Tweeting – and encouraging riots is their mature response. Saluting democracy? I think not.

And Lindsay Lohan? A recount? This is your carefully considered opinion? Miley Cyrus, who claimed to care passionately for women’s rights was another star campaigner.  Hard to take someone too seriously when they’re pictured cavorting on stage with a giant blow-up penis. Or riding nude on a wrecking ball. Somehow I don’t see young girls aspiring to be just like her. Not once have I heard my own daughter express any vague adulation. Miley can sing, yes, but it ends there. And Hillary was happy to be endorsed by her? And assumed the masses would listen? Big mistake.

While celebrities have perhaps behaved with scant regard to maturity, mere mortals have acted no better. The most wanton and immature threat of which is; “I can’t be your Facebook friend anymore. I just can’t.” Sounds unbelievable until you realise that it’s really happening. A friend’s American relative did just that, daring any of her Facebook friends to show their hand. If they didn’t, it hinted at their Trump allegiance and for this, she would defriend them. Shocking but true. I can only be your friend if your opinions mirror my own. Free speech at its best.

Eating humble pie when things don’t go your way is tough. But it’s the mature thing to do. It reveals true character and resilience. I applaud you for doing just that. One of a handful of pro-Hillary supporters, Australian journalist Joe Hilderbrand, admitted the ‘Lefties blew it‘.

Politicians would do well to follow suit. Take Australia’s Labor leader, Bill Shorten. Perhaps he’s regretting calling America’s new president ‘barking mad’.  In fact, at the precise moment (delightfully caught on camera) when he heard the ‘barking mad’ Trump had the top job, his expression mirrored my son’s when he realizes his younger brother has beaten him to last night’s leftovers. Crestfallen. A sense of total betrayal and disbelief. How could he? Or in Bill’s case, “What do I say when I eventually meet this guy face to face?” Here’s the thing, Bill, every single human being is flawed. You should know. Perhaps you should acknowledge this publicly.

Not that Trump will be without his regrets. A serial motor mouth, he needed to put a lid on it plenty of times. This campaign turned darned ugly. And I’m sure encouraging wife, Melania to grace his customized Boeing 727 in a GQ magazine spread 15 years ago is among his regrets. Not to mention hers. Melania may reportedly speak five languages, but the nude shoot featuring her languishing on fur with little but diamonds to hide her well-honed form, has definitely come back to haunt her.  And the nightmare will return every time she tries to get too serious. I don’t suppose it was even a vague consideration that she would one day be America’s First Lady when she suggestively bared all. What to do? Perhaps give a deep and meaningful Vogue interview on ‘things I regret’. A message to young girls perhaps? I’m sure her press will put a positive spin on it.

Just don’t expect this ever so slightly cynical old hack to believe a word.

© Jessamy Owen 2016


‘Off the Cuff’ with Wordsower, Tom Meyer

Redding, CA – American author and speaker Tom Meyer can recite twenty books of the Bible including the entire book of Revelation. He travels the country teaching the skill of Bible memorization, having learned the ancient techniques from Jewish rabbis and Christian monks in Jerusalem. He shared some of his lighter moments with Journonews.

My secret pleasure is … Watching anything with Tom Selleck.

My first job was … Working in a baseball card trading store.

My most annoying habits are … Being too punctual.

A clear childhood memory is … Being born again.

What makes me nervous is … Letting someone else drive.

The best advice my parents gave me was … Walk by faith, not by sight.

If I weren’t a Wordsower, I’d be … Doing something in Hollywood.

I’m most thankful for … The Lord Jesus Christ.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … Going to the dentist.

A book I love is … The Sacred Bridge.

The Sacred Bridge - Tom Meyer's favourite book

My favorite meal is … Steak.

My ‘happy place’ is … Being with my wife and three kids.

My most embarrassing memory is … Like Peter, denying once that I knew Jesus.

My hidden skill is … Knowing baseball facts.

If I were a dog, I’d be a … Pitbull.

A song that resonates is … Oh the deep, deep, love of Jesus

It’s a bit corny, but I’d love … To sail around the world.

I’m most at peace when … I am memorizing the Scriptures.

The country I’d love to visit … Turkey.

Favorite quote … The just shall live by faith.

The just shall live by faith - Tom Meyer's favourite quote

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Tom’s Method for Memorizing Scripture

  1. Prayerfully select a verse
  2. Divide the verse into several lines so that the number of words in each line acts as a memory aid. Begin lines with prepositions if possible (with, for, in, etc.)
  3. Write out the verse just like you’ve divided it. Include the number of words in the right-hand column
  4. Speak the verse as you write it out
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’ve memorized the verse
  6. Move to the next verse.

JN’s past “Off the Cuff” Guests