Why a Dutch cardiologist calls Adelaide’s health research hub home

During the first week Dr Johan Verjans arrived in Adelaide to start a new job as a cardiologist he picked up the phone to search for more work opportunities.

“I had noticed one of the best computer vision groups in the world is actually based in Adelaide,” the cardiologist says.

He rang its chief to talk through opportunities in the health space and found the group receptive to his ideas – so receptive that he has now been named its deputy director Medical Machine Learning.

“Research is exploding in the artificial intelligence space, in Adelaide we have a clear advantage, with leading groups,” Dr Verjans says.

Dr Verjans believes the new job at the Australian Institute of Machine Learning complements his existing work list. This includes being a member of the heart research team at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a practising cardiologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The latest task is about building a bridge between clinicians and engineers in a bid to make groundbreaking discoveries to improve health. Dr Verjans believes this interest in using artificial intelligence to advance health care could have worldwide ramifications.

Cardiologist Dr Johan Verjans is also deputy director of the Australian Institute of Machine Learning, and is on the heart research team at SAHMRI. Photo by JKTP.

“I think my best achievement will be in staying optimistic and working hard to facilitate this for the whole research family,” he says with a laugh.

It has already been a busy morning when the Dutch doctor answers the phone to talk about his move to Adelaide. He has already met with a potential project collaborator for the Australian Institute of Machine Learning and held a clinic for heart patients in the morning.

Dr Verjans says the hospital’s cardiac department has a wealth of information that can be fed into projects where machine learning can then improve the care for heart patients.

He is already involved in one project to use existing data from ECG (electrocardiogram), biomarkers and artificial intelligence to see if computers can help give better feedback in deciding when a patient can be safely sent home.

The talented cardiologist says Adelaide has a lot to offer in the health research field and that he and his wife, Yvette van Eenennaam chose to move from The Netherlands for both job opportunities and the state’s lifestyle.

Yvette has also won a key role in promoting health research in the city after she was appointed as the first general manager of Adelaide BioMed City after it was launched last year.

BioMed City is a partnership between SAHMRI with its more than 600 medical researchers, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the state’s three universities.

“It’s hard to find that whole package like it is in Adelaide in other places, with liveability, ambition and world-class research,” Dr Verjans says.

The Australian Institute of Machine Learning is one of six research units at Adelaide University and Dr Verjans is among more than 100 researchers involved.

It’s a highly specialised field, but in simple terms, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that enables computers and machines to autonomously learn how to do complex tasks without being overtly programmed.

Computers are fed examples of data and information so they can look for patterns and help make better future decisions.

Yvette Eenennaam and Johan Verjans chose to pursue their medical careers in Adelaide over other leading health research cities.

Adelaide’s research unit is already recognised as a frontrunner in defence, creating algorithms for driverless cars, robotics and has helped push a medical device from SA-based LBT technologies to FDA approval.

“I’m thinking it will be a job growth area in Adelaide,” Dr Verjans says. “We’re really looking for solutions and at the moment we are only scratching the surface.”

Having Dr Verjans’ input is a coup for the state. His varied career also includes being chairman of the Dutch medical students and being a member of the federal board of the Royal Dutch Medical Doctors Federation.

A few of his Dutch students have actually followed him to Adelaide to pursue new opportunities “one worked with me as a student in Utrecht and now is here in Adelaide working”, he says.

Before he left for Australia Johan was also Chairman of Young@Heart, representing Dutch Early and Mid-career Cardiovascular Researchers on behalf of the Netherlands Heart Institute and Dutch Heart Foundation.

Both Dr Verjans and Yvette believe they have made a sound decision moving to Adelaide in 2017 with their two daughters aged seven and five.

“There’s so much more potential in this city and it’s relatively unknown what the city has to offer,” he says.

“Some people choose cities and jobs for wrong reasons, when I had job offers in Amsterdam and Sydney, we chose the liveable city.”

Dr Johan Verjans is Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador.

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Meet the civil engineer helping build one of the world’s most challenging tunnelling projects in Himalayas

Bineshian Hoss’ career as a civil engineer has taken him to the four corners of the globe. One city, however, captured his heart. Adelaide became Bineshian’s adopted home nearly a decade ago… and the place he returns to in between his overseas engineer postings.

After more than 20 years working in design and construction roles, his latest position would challenge even the most experienced engineer – constructing a 300km length of tunnels in India’s Himalayan range.

Rumoured to be the highest railway bridge in the world, the J&K Railway Project is also the largest project ever recorded in India, connecting the Jammu and Kashmir regions across the mysterious, untouched majesty of the Himalayas.

The early stages of the project, which includes 103 tunnels and 62 bridges, have an estimated 15-year completion date – four of which, Bineshian has been central part of as head of consultancy and engineering with Swiss company, Amberg Engineering.

“Most areas don’t even have road access, so the evolution of the project is slow. It has to be. India is new to tunneling, both in knowledge and infrastructure. It’s maturing as the years go on, thankfully,” Bineshian says.

Tunneling is now considered as much science as it is art, and within the “young fold Himalayan Mountains”, there’s a high degree of rock strata through which the tunnel is being bored.

“Road accessibility, geology of the Himalayas, potential landslides, and insurgency constantly plague our momentum,” Bineshian says.

He is part of a revolving team of dozens of engineers working on the J&K Railway Project. As it stands, the completion date is loosely set for 2024 and is “certainly not a project for the faint of heart”.

Bineshian doesn’t fall into this category, always embracing the next journey his career takes him.

Originally Iranian-Australian, Bineshian admitted at The University of Western Australia to complete a Masters and Doctorate in Civil-Geotechnical Engineering.

An invitation to keynote at an industry lecture in Hahndorf introduced him to life in Adelaide. This spurred an immersive research period where he explored Adelaide’s key industries, economy and easy travel to countries he’d frequented.

“I liked how central it was. And given I have a young son, its safety and friendliness was important, too,” he explains. “It needed to fulfil all those lifestyle perks, while still being easy for me to travel in and out of.”

Shortly after this, Adelaide became Bineshian’s new home.

“I believe it’s the best city in Australia. The weather is perfect, the people are friendly and respectful of their community. It’s like no other city I’ve been to before,” he says.

Civil engineer Bineshian Hoss, right, is now working on the USBRL project – one of the most challenging railway projects in the Himalayas.

Bineshian has lived in Aberfoyle Park. Nowadays, he returns every quarter, given the demanding nature of the J&K Railway Project.

“I have to be on the ground in India a lot, especially over the past four years. But, Adelaide is still my base,” he says.

Bineshian’s long-term plans are to return to Adelaide full-time.

“There’s a lot of movement in the city and I believe the transportation sector will be next, particularly with infrastructure,” he says. “Every time I return home, there’s a new building in development. I’d love to be one of the local engineers they turn to when we need bridges, highways and tunnels.”

Bineshian is one of the growing number of expats who keep Adelaide within reach. The lifestyle is the shared consensus regarding the gravitational pull of Adelaide.

He believes developments in South Australia’s transport industry could position Adelaide as “the world’s best city” – an optimistic title, he acknowledges, but one he truly believes.

And we know who will put up his hand to pioneer a project with such vision and to fulfil his dream, of course… to live and work in Adelaide.

The Hello From SA network is sharing the stories of SA expats from around the world. Do you know a South Aussie living, working or learning abroad? Get in touch via the Hello From SA Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

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Mother’s Day: SA’s top chefs share their favourite family eating spots

Mother’s Day is approaching on Sunday, May 12 – a chance to spoil the greatest women in our lives. What a better way to show your appreciation by treating Mum to a meal out at one of South Australia’s dining establishments – and supporting local jobs and producers along the way! Brand SA News contributor Vanessa Keys hunted down some of our state’s top’s chefs to discover where they’ll be taking their family this Mother’s Day.

Georgie Rogers is head chef at East End Cellars.

“Mum and I love driving out to regional restaurants and making a day of it. The Lane at Hahndorf is a favourite – the view is spectacular and Jimmy’s (head chef James Brinklow) food is always a delight.

We also go to Mum’s local pub The Kentish a lot – their smoky paprika hummus with ground lamb is amazing. For brunch, I recommend the scrambled eggs at Hey Jupiter. They’re light and creamy – definitely the best in Adelaide.”

Georgie Rogers of East End Cellars.

Nikkita Wood is the pastry chef and manager at Comida. She also runs catering business A Place at the Table.

“I prefer to stay home on Mother’s Day and avoid the crowds. I usually do a brunch spread with Mum’s favourite goodies from the Adelaide Central Market – Fleurieu Milk yoghurt, KI honey, fruit from House of Organics, pastries from Dough, Brillat-Savarin triple cream from Smelly Cheese, plus my homemade granola and jams.

As a family, we love Sukhumvit Soi 38 on Pulteney Street – the flavours are incredible and the dishes great for sharing. For Sunday lunch, we head up to Terroir Auburn in the Clare Valley. Dan and Annika have taken over the café next door to the restaurant and the food is top notch.”

Comida pastry chef and manager Nikkita Wood, right, with her mother and sister.

Jeffrey Trotter is head chef at the Hagen Arms, and Five O’Clock Somewhere.

“One of our favourites for brunch is Pane e Latte. Order the breakfast carbonara – the baked spaghetti gives it the perfect crunch – and the paccheri al ragu di polpo, which is hands down the best octopus ragu in Adelaide, if not Australia.

For dinner, we love Parwana – they have three menus that they rotate throughout the week. Bring your own wine – their BYO charge goes to the homeless. And for Sunday lunch, Casa Carboni in Angaston is a must. (Owners) Matteo and Fiona make you feel like family, and everything is prepared fresh with produce from the Barossa markets. You feel like you’re in a tiny Italian village.”

Jeffrey Trotter of the Hagen Arms pub in Echunga.

Jodie Zerna is head chef at My Grandma Ben.

“This Mother’s Day I’ll be cooking at My Grandma Ben and hopefully giving all the mothers a day off! We don’t dine out a lot as a family – we tend to have barbecues and bring a plate to share – but when I visit my sister in Christies Beach, we always get fish, chips and tabouli at Champion Takeaway. Ask for the fresh flake – they catch it themselves.

For a cheap lunch, we head to Pho Minh in Mansfield Park – order the pho with oxtail, tripe and tendon. And for brunch, the spicy ramen at Black Dog Gallery in Tusmore is a must (and great for a hangover).

If we’re feeling fancier, we head down to Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale for local SA seafood and something green from their kitchen garden.”

Jodie, right, with her mum and sister.

Luke and Anthony Savas run Pan & Vine.

“We usually spend Mother’s Day at Yiayia and Papou’s (grandparents) house. Mum will serve her signature dish – Moroccan chicken – with Yiayia’s homemade apricot jam marinade.

When we go out, we head to Shobosho and order the roast leek and the kingfish sashimi with yuzu dressing. For brunch, we love the Exchange Specialty Coffee – the Wallace sandwich with avocado, pancetta and chipotle mayo is an institution.”

The Savas brothers of Pan & Vine in Kent Town.

Caitlin Duff runs Sibling café.

“Sibling’s open on Mother’s Day, so we’ll spend the morning there and then head to Mum’s for afternoon tea – this is a special one as it’s my first as a new mum.

For Sunday lunch, our go-to is Fino at Seppeltsfield. There’s eight of us siblings and partners all with varying preferences and they never skip a beat in accommodating us all.

As a family, we go to Goodness Coffee Co in Aldinga every single day (sometimes twice) because their coffee is so good. And we love to drop into My Grandma Ben at Plant 4 Bowden when we visit The Lost Loaf to pick up our bread order. Order the roo stack – it’s delicious and ethical.”

Nathaniel Morse and Caitlin Duff at Sibling café.

Kane Pollard is head chef at Topiary.

“For a relaxed family meal, we head to the Stanley Bridge Tavern. They have a great wine list and tasty small plates – the hummus and wedges with house chilli jam are both great.

For brunch, we love Acacia at Henley Beach. Do the tasting menu – (chef) Duane does an incredible job of piecing flavours together that push you a little out of your comfort zone. We also recently had breakfast at C.R.E.A.M, which was pretty impressive. The donut breakfast sandwich felt a little wrong but so incredibly right at the same time. I had it with a side of buttermilk fried chicken – delicious.”

Kane Pollard, left, of Topiary in Tea Tree Gully.

Feature image: The Lane, Adelaide Hills, SATC.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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After 12 years away, I chose to move back to SA – here’s why

In the winter of 2016, I started thinking a lot about moving back to Adelaide, the city where I’d been born and raised. I’d left in 2007 at the age of 21 and moved to Sydney, swapping my shared workers’ cottage that was spitting distance from the Adelaide Central Market for a two-storey terrace in Darlinghurst with walls so mouldy that they quickly consumed all the pictures I naively hung on the walls.

I wanted to work in the media, and Sydney was the place to do it. I lasted in the Darlinghurst sharehouse for another six months, and then lived on my own and loved it. At holidays, I’d come home, always visiting the same places: Amalfi, the Wheaty, Lucia’s, Coriole, Henley Beach. The city felt comfortable and safe, like an old friend who didn’t really change that much but it was okay, because they were always there for you.

Vanessa Keys, pictured in Milan, moved back to SA recently after more than a decade living away from home.

In 2012, I started plotting my next move: London, a city that my sister had moved to a year prior. I’d never been but that was okay, because everyone spoke English, right? Plus, I told myself, I’d be perfectly happy just working in a pub. (Reader, she was not perfectly happy working in a pub.) It was not love at first sight: I struggled to find a permanent job, a decent flat, functional flatmates. Simple tasks were a constant battle.

But with each year came better work, and with better work came better money, and with money came travel and restaurants and proper winter shoes and share houses with just one mouse instead of the whole measly family. Our friends were our family, and we all worked very hard but we played very hard too, and sometimes it felt like we’d tricked the system, like we’d found a way to be young and have fun forever. If someone had told me they’d invented a way to freeze time, I would have gladly cashed out my life savings.

I’d been spending Christmas in Adelaide since I’d moved but when I went back in 2015 the city felt different, or maybe I’d just been too in love with London to notice. Side streets I’d not known existed had born cosy bars and everywhere I looked there were new cafés and restaurants. I noticed First Fridays, innovation hubs, underground radio stations. I bumped into people I knew and didn’t hate it, and not one person asked me what school I went to. The wineries felt closer, the beaches sandier. How was wine this cheap?

Vanessa and her partner Aaron at The Bluff, Encounter Bay.

When I returned to London, missing the sun, I realised that what I’d come to love about London wasn’t the allure of the big city but the community of the small neighbourhood that I’d come to call home. Age changes what you need from a city, and as much as I would have loved to stay 30 and live in Hackney forever, I knew London had an expiry date. I thought briefly about returning to Sydney but the enormity of the city no longer appealed.

Over the next year, things started to fall into place: my friend and I decided to start a business together, and we decided that business would be in Adelaide, and I met my partner, who Googled ‘living in Adelaide’ many months before I asked how he felt about leaving the city that he’d been born and raised in. (He said yes.)

If I make it sound easy, it wasn’t. I was nervous about what a life in Adelaide would look like, and knew my partner would be homesick, just as I was. Working for yourself is hard, and even harder in a city where you don’t know anyone. I worried about being bored, about my partner being bored, and not being able to fly to Europe for a long weekend (I know, I know).

Vanessa, right, and her business partner Lizzie at Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills.

We’ve been back for five months now, and what our life looks like is this: we pay half as much rent than we did in London for an apartment on the city fringe with views of the Adelaide Hills. The noises that I hear at night are not mice, and we don’t have to worry about our boiler breaking. Boredom hasn’t even crossed our minds. We enjoy Adelaide Fringe shows, new restaurants, wine bars, beaches, wineries and galleries. I still can’t believe it only takes 40 minutes to get to a sandy beach. Europe is no longer on our doorstep but that’s okay, because Hobart, New Zealand and Asia are.

Curiosity abounds: people want to know what we’re doing, why we’re here, how they can help. We’ve both fallen hard for the community that Adelaide fosters and the drive and energy that small business owners have. There’s so much pride that comes from living in a state that supports local trade. And, unlike London, you don’t need as much money to have a good life. Everything feels a little easier.

I’ll be forever grateful to everyone that stayed, to those people that banged on the table for change, and even more so to the people that made that change happen. I can’t wait to be a part of what happens next.

Read Vanessa’s Brand SA News stories here.

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Mallee Park Football Club breeds outstanding AFL talent

Port Lincoln may be world-famous for its seafood, but the Eyre Peninsula city is also a major exporter of football talent.

Mallee Park is home to the nation’s most successful indigenous football club, producing 13 AFL players to date. The club’s honour board is a who’s who of incredible talent, with Eddie Betts, Byron Pickett, Graham Johncock, and Shaun and Peter Burgoyne among those to have worn the green and yellow vest.

“I was there every single day of my life growing up – to be able to play with your cousins, your brothers and your best mates was everything,” Shaun Burgoyne tells Brand SA News.

Mallee Park Football Club in Port Lincoln is renowned for exporting AFL talent.

Now a four-time premiership player who has notched up 360 AFL games over 19 seasons at Port Adelaide and Hawthorn, Burgoyne still rates Mallee Park’s first Under 17’s flag among his sporting highlights.

“It was a pretty exciting time for me because I was 11 years old and got to play with Byron Pickett and my older brother Peter, who were both five years older than me, and then in 2004, we all played together in Port’s first AFL premiership,” he says.

Formed in 1981, the Mallee ‘Peckers’ have also claimed 16 senior flags – although club president Jack Johncock tips the tally would be higher if they didn’t keep losing players to the big league.

“We would have won probably another 10 if we had all of our boys home,” he grins.

So is there a secret to the Peckers’ success?

Crows star footballer and former Peckers player Eddie Betts, centre, trains with the team in Port Lincoln.

“If I knew the secret I’d get some more AFL players!” Jack laughs. “The reality is that the indigenous community is football-mad; as soon as the kids can hold a footy they’re kicking it around, and they pick up the skills pretty quickly. Indigenous kids are renown for good hand-eye co-ordination and peripheral vision, and they’re very athletic. Put all of that together with a bit of fitness and they come out alright.”

Leonard Wells, the nephew of Collingwood midfielder Daniel Wells, is widely considered the next Mallee Park draft prospect, with Ronald Carbine junior also showing star potential.

“Every year, some of our kids go across to our SANFL zone club Norwood, and with a bit of luck we’ll get another few playing AFL,” Jack says. “The best thing about it is that they don’t forget where they came from – they always come back to visit.”

Mallee Park Football Club Under 11 2018 Premiers … could it be the next generation of AFL talent?

Jack’s own son, former Adelaide Crows defender and all-Australian, Graham Johncock, returned home after 13 AFL seasons and coached the Peckers to two premierships in 2015 and 2016. Other players remain heavily committed at the top level, and their old Mallee Park teammates are their biggest supporters.

“Shaun Burgoyne has played 360 AFL games, Eddie Betts just clocked up his 300th, and four of the boys have played at the highest level representing Australia,” Jack Johncock says.

“They’re personal achievements, but they’re also the club’s achievements and we’re really proud.”

The Mallee Peckers play their first game for the season against Marble Range on Saturday, April 27.

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Jamestown’s one-armed shearer defying the odds

Josh Talbot may shear sheep with only one arm, but he gets the job done with twice the determination of most.

Learning to shear again at industry speeds with one arm isn’t the first time the 27-year-old has defied the odds and proved doubters wrong.

At the age of 16 Josh was driving when he misjudged a corner and his car rolled into a tree, the force of the crash throwing his body out of the car.

He died twice on the scene and again on the way to hospital. His mother Roslyn, an ambulance officer, was the one called to the scene.

“She reckons she had a feeling when they were driving out, like something was wrong, and as soon as they pulled up she saw the car and she knew. She did what she had to do,” Josh says. “They reckon every bone in my chest got broken.”

Josh Talbot, 27, defied the odds when he learnt to shear with one arm after surviving a horrific car accident at the age of 16.

Enduring horrific injuries, Josh spent two weeks at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a coma and eventually woke up to find his right arm had been amputated from the shoulder.

The first thing that came to mind was the threat to his shearing career, something he had pursued from the age of 13.

But while Josh was still recovering in hospital, his brother-in-law – also a shearer – went to the sheds and tried shearing a sheep with one arm tied behind his back to test how difficult it could be.

Two weekends after being released from hospital, Josh was back in the shed and giving shearing with one arm a crack.

“I wasn’t supposed to, I was still bandaged up, but I went out and shore my first sheep. There were a few laughs, but you can always learn something new.”

Now 11 years on from the accident, Josh shears between 80-90 sheep a day, dragging the sheep into position with one arm and holding it between his legs.

He says although he eventually learnt to shear “the same as everyone else” he faced doubt by some farmers who thought he would be unable to keep up to speed with one arm.

“Nobody would give me a go at their shed for a long time until I got my name out there that I could do it,” Josh says. “I’ve always had a bit of an attitude like ‘check me out, see what I can do’. If you want to do something just do it, have a go. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail, get up and have another go.”

“The few people that did see me do it were mind-blown. It wasn’t until the first Jamestown Show after my accident when I sheared a few sheep for demonstrations to raise money for breast cancer, and so many people turned up to see it.”

Josh Talbot says once shearing gets in your blood, it’s hard to walk away from. Photo: Josh Talbot Facebook.

Now Josh shears around several areas in regional SA, and also participates in a number of speed shears and demonstrations at country shows and events. In March he took part in the Blades of Glencoe Shearathon in the South East that raised money for support service Beyond Blue. Josh is also fond of using blade shears, a traditional technique using hand-operated scissors.

“I haven’t done a lot of blade shearing, there’s not a lot of places in Australia that do it with blades anymore,” he says. “But when we go to a shed I’ll ask the farmer if I’m allowed to do it with the blades because it leaves a little bit more wool on and doesn’t get down to the skin like a hand piece does.”

Josh has shared videos of himself shearing with one arm on Facebook, attracting international media attention and praise from social media users stunned by his determination and speed.

But he admits that some of his videos have also attracted negative comments by some social media users concerned for the animals’ welfare.

“I got a lot of negative stuff, from people who don’t know really know the industry,” he says. “They reckon I was too rough, but you can be the best shearer in the world and still nick the sheep.

“The way I shear, I have to do a lot more with my legs, but none of my weight is on the sheep. When they’re not kicking, that’s when a sheep is comfy.”

Josh describes shearing as not a job, but a lifestyle and says it’s something he could never give up.

“It gets in your blood and once you’ve got the bug it’s hard to walk away from,” he says. “The people you meet along the way, you have a laugh and such a great time. Once you’ve met someone in a shearing shed you are friends for life.”

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Yorke Peninsula’s Fat Farmers tackle big issues

It is Friday morning and parked in the main street of Maitland, Yorke Peninsula, outside of what was once the local footy club, are half a dozen farm utes.

Stepping out of one is farmer Ben Wundersitz, but this morning he has swapped his dusty work boots for sneakers and gym clothes – not his normal get up.

Ben, along with a growing number of other South Australian farmers, is on a mission to look after his number one farm business asset – himself and his family.

He is a founding member of the Fat Farmers initiative, aimed at promoting physical and mental health in rural communities.

Fat Farmers founding member and Maitland farmer Ben Wundersitz running on his Yorke Peninsula property.

What started in 2012 as a network of just three local farmers has grown to include about 190 males and females across many parts of regional SA.

“Fat Farmers, it’s probably not the most politically correct name but at the time we thought that’s what we were,” Ben says.

Often working alone for long hours, farming is a tough gig, and Ben says taking on the family farm business often coincides with looking after a young, busy family, and also ‘retiring’ from team sports such as footy – which can mean a loss of a social connection.

“Blokes often start to wear the brunt of the family farming business in their 30s-40s,” he says. “What exercise does for the body alone, that’s well-documented, but just to get out and have a chat to mates about the weather, what’s happening with the kids or whatever is just so beneficial.

“You can go to the gym feeling crap and two hours later you just come away feeling like a different person. It’s not just about farmers, Fat Farmers is for everyone – male and female – it’s really about rural communities.”

Fat Farmers brings rural communities together to help promote a healthy lifestyle.

These days, Ben’s local Fat Farmer’s group in Maitland meets twice week, in addition to a local personal training session once a week. The local gym is in the old footy clubhouse, where most of these farmers were once meeting for a beer on a Saturday night.

“Thankfully for us, our town had a gym, and we’ve helped make it socially acceptable for blokes to go to the gym because that’s not always the way in a small town,” Ben says.

“Ironically, the gym is across the road from the local pub too, so slowly but surely we’ve changed sides and it’s become quite the norm going to the gym. We’ll now do a gym session and then be leaning on the bar of what was the old footy club, having a coffee and a chat afterwards.”

Fat Famers groups gather regularly in communities across the state, not just for gym sessions, but also cycling, walking, swimming, and running, often with families joining in.

Fat Farmers CEO Sally Fischer says the group is also involved in fun runs across the state.

The next generation – Edwina and Harriet Marshman from the Lower North Fat Farmers team at the City to Bay in Adelaide.

The group is now also involved in the Healthy Workers Across Industry Incentive – in collaboration with Grain Producers SA – showing the direct correlation between exercise, productivity and injury prevention.

For Ben, Fat Farmers has had a lasting impact.

“I’ve lost about 8kg or so, I couldn’t run before I started this. Now I’m running 12km in the City to Bay every year and most of us are maintaining a level of fitness year-round,” he says.

“But the social impact is the big thing – anything you can do to improve the health of local communities is a good thing, we’re losing far too many rural men particularly, to depression and suicide.”

Feature image: Some of the Fat Farmers crew Darren Stock, left, Pete Dutschke, Ben Wundersitz, Sam Johns, Bill Moloney and Nick McCauley at the Maitland gym.

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SA’s brightest medical minds dedicate careers to saving lives

Many of South Australia’s brightest medical minds, steering global innovations that save lives, belong to those who also show the greatest compassion.

Professor Tim Hughes – Cancer Theme Leader at the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Consultant Haematologist in the Division of Haematology at SA Pathology – has dedicated his career to fighting chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), a disease that proved fatal for most people diagnosed 20 years ago.

Now, about 80% of those who are diagnosed survive.

A profound connection and sense of devotion to those suffering with CML has driven Prof Hughes to find answers that can help those he has formed intimate bonds with during their treatment journey – and the results of his research breakthroughs have been outstanding.

“In the 1990s, I could never accept that a lot of my patients were dying. They would be doing OK on treatments for five or six years, and then die. I went to a lot of funerals. If that doesn’t motivate you to find a solution, I don’t know what will,” he says.

“Now, the results have been incredible. I get to meet the children of CML patients – and the grandchildren of patients. That has been one of the great pleasures of my work.”

Prof Tim Hughes has dedicated his career to fighting chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Motivation drove Prof Hughes to unlock one of the most significant discoveries in the history of leukaemia research – the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Outlining his methods with TKI therapy has ensured a system that can measure affected cells in blood more accurately, enabling a more detailed analysis of specific cancer-fighting drug development.

“It’s quite a remarkable change that we’ve seen in a short period,” he says, “but there is still a way to travel to beat this disease.”

Currently, Prof Hughes estimates that 80% of patients with CML beat the disease; of these, two thirds will remain on therapeutic drugs for the rest of their lives, but most importantly about 30% of patients can finish taking drugs for therapy and remain in remission.

His lingering concern is that 20% of patients still die of CML-related causes, and that drugs used for therapy are not ideal indefinite solutions. Recently, Prof Hughes’ team based at SAMRHI has pioneered a process to get patients off their TKIs, although this has significant adverse side-effects.

“We now need to take another big step. We made early leaps in fighting CML as the result of big collaborations, but the important work now is developing next generation drugs that are even more targeted and effective in beating the cancer.”

Prof Tim Hughes is Cancer Theme Leader at SAHMRI.

CML currently affects about 3000 patients a year in Australia, but the global impact of this disease is more alarming. By 2040, there are projected to be over three million people with CML worldwide, so Prof Hughes says a concerted global effort towards finding a complete a cure is imperative.

The iCMLf (International CML Foundation, for which Prof Hughes is the chairman) is making efforts to accelerate co-ordinating pockets of international research, to forge stronger collaborations between teams across the world that are separately making significant CML research developments. However, Prof Hughes says independent funds are required to speed this process.

As a result, and to mark 10 years of the iCMLf, Prof Hughes is part of a major fundraising and promotional event in late October – an expedition of 25 people, being a combination of doctors, researchers and several CML patients (some who are still taking drugs to suppress the leukeamia), that will climb to reach the 5800m summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

“It’s a pretty clear message that we are all working together to reach the pinnacle,” says Prof Hughes. “For the Mt Kilimanjaro climb, we’re working outside our comfort zone – and that’s an appropriate metaphor, too. Without effort and commitment, you don’t achieve your goal.”

Prof Tim Hughes trains for a fundraising expedition up Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa later this year.

Over Easter, Prof Hughes walked the Great Ocean Road in Victoria as a training exercise, and he is busy appealing for donations towards the iCMLf fundraising goal of $100,000. He says this sum will keep supporting the application of CML advances from developed countries to developing nations. He has already seen great progress in Africa and India through 10 years of the foundation and hopes new funds will accelerate the process.

In October 2017, Prof Hughes won the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence for his work on CML, but he’s far from content with having played a major role in discovering a life-saving treatment. He now wants to beat the disease completely, and believes it is within reach.

“In 1993, I came to Adelaide to work specifically on this area of cancer research because I saw what was possible,” he says. “Now the ultimate result is tantalisingly close. I believe the pinnacle is within sight.”

To find out more details about Climb For A Cure, and to pledge financial support, visit the iCMLf website.

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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New York tales of a South Australian expat

‘Producer’ on paper, but self-proclaimed “Jill of all trades”, South Australian expat Rebecca Gill lives, loves and learns in New York City… where hustling is a religion and apartments are smaller than most Adelaide kitchens.

It’s a small price to pay when chasing your dream – and New York has “always been it” for Rebecca. Her journey began in 2010, when she left Adelaide to fulfil her dream of working and living abroad. Bali was the first stop on her one-way ticket, having accepted a position as media manager for an NGO that had set-up there, during a recent rabies outbreak on the island.

While worlds apart from her previous roles a journalist at The Advertiser, working for an NGO in Asia set her up for the string of non-profits she’d go on to manage in New York, including Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Aside from her tiny Manhattan studio, Rebecca is “living the dream”, in every sense of the phrase. She runs a production company, ReAgency, with her BFF Jayde Lovell. Initially, the pair launched as a science-leaning PR agency but, given the administration’s anti-science agenda, they’ve unintentionally morphed into a late-night-style political talk-show, with a comedic undertone.

SA expat and NYC producer Rebecca Gill on set.

Rebecca creates branded content for universities and environmental organisations, and has just wrapped up post-production on her first documentary. She spends most of her time overseeing video production, rubbing shoulders with other content creators in Manhattan’s YouTube space.

“I feel like I’ve done a hundred different jobs and I’m a million years old. Even in New York City, I call myself a producer but I juggle lots of roles,” Rebecca laughs. The New York way, perhaps.

Adelaide remains a calm, grounding yearly refuge for a much-needed change of energy. Rebecca admits her perception of Adelaide being “mortgage, kids and bathroom renovations” has changed over the years.

“Adelaide isn’t just the suburbs,” she says. “It’s a cool city with a thriving arts scene and a great quality of life. There’s a bazillion other things going for it, too. I really just needed to look harder.

“You can live the creative life anywhere… you just have to find your people. I thought I had to get to a big city to try and be the person I wanted to be.”

Rebecca sees Adelaide as a diverse and bustling small city, similar to what her New York friends perceive it to be – “beaches, wine, cool little eateries, diverse people and the Adelaide Fringe, of course”.

As the years pass in New York, her affinity for simplicity grows – like hanging out with her folks in their backyard as relatives file through bringing different brands of sauvignon blanc. “A backyard is something I never get to enjoy in Manhattan,” Rebecca says.

Working out of NYC, Rebecca Gill rubs shoulders with other content creators in Manhattan’s YouTube space.

Regardless of how expensive it can be to fly home, Rebecca enjoys visiting home yearly. “It’s my physical release, coming home,” she says. “An undeniable surge of happiness, that goes something like, ‘oh God, thank you for this peace and space”.

Her family lives only a couple of streets (“blocks”, in Rebecca’s adopted language), from the city. Having attended Grange Primary School and Henley High School, the beach has always been symbolic of her childhood.

Rebecca says she is lucky enough to work with a tight group of Aussies.

“Jayde is constantly playing Crowded House, Matt Corby and Vance Joy, so that always triggers memories of the nearly 30 years I spent in Adelaide,” she says.

When posed the question that’s most common at family Christmas lunches for almost all SA expats, ‘will you ever return to Adelaide?’, she replies ‘hell, yeah!’ in true Aussie spirit.

Among her long list of reasons for one day returning home, a desire to raise future children in Australia is a big one.

“(In the US) Even those lucky enough to have insurance can get slapped with a $40,000 hospital bill, just for giving brith,” Rebecca says. “And who wants to raise a baby without their mum around?”

Home living space is another reason to one day make the journey home – she winces when thinking about what can get in Adelaide for the price of her monthly Manhattan rent.

“My toilet is basically on top of my kitchen,” Rebecca says. “One day, I’d love to live in those rambling old farmhouse-style homes in Adelaide, with a red brick exterior, giant old trees, a rosebush and hardwood floors.

“And of course, to be close to my parents. They’re both vegans, who kayak, cycle and are 7am joggers. And me? I’m a true New Yorker now. I eat out every night, my oven doubles as shoe storage, and ‘exercise’ is climbing subway stairs.”

The grass isn’t always greener. At least, not every season.

Today, though, Rebecca’s just enjoying the here and now… working on projects that ignite her. Like many others who leave Adelaide to embrace their opportunities, Rebecca has an important narrative to tell. Specifically, that life isn’t linear and more often than not, the real adventures are waiting for you in life’s zig-zags.

As part of Brand South Australia’s recently launched Hello From SA network, we’ll be sharing the stories of SA expats from around the world. Do you know a South Aussie living, working or learning abroad? Get in touch via the Hello From SA Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

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5 day trips from Adelaide you can do by public transport

Brand SA News journalist Vanessa Keys has recently returned to South Australia after more than a decade living interstate and overseas. Since being back on home soil, Vanessa has revisited some of the state’s best attractions, beaches, parks and boardwalks, all by public transport! She shares her top five SA day trips below.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Adelaide is that you need a car to see all the good stuff. This is absolutely not true – and I speak with confidence, having recently moved back to Adelaide after a 12 year hiatus, sans car. I haven’t driven in a decade and my London-born partner is yet to learn, but this hasn’t been a barrier to falling in love with South Australia. In the last four months, we’ve picked strawberries at Beerenberg Farm, hiked through Morialta Falls, picnicked at Port Willunga, swam at Moana, walked along towering cliff tops in Hallett Cove, and more.

Here’s five car-free ideas for getting out of the city:

1. Moana Beach and Port Willunga
It’s only 35km south of the city, but Moana’s stretch of golden sand, sloping dunes and gentle surf gives it a bona fide holiday vibe. After you’ve spent a few hours soaking up the sun, catch a bus through vineyards and paddocks to picturesque Port Willunga. This beach is a real beauty: long expanses of white sand and cliffs that shield swimmers from the wind. When hunger strikes, order from the kiosk at The Star of Greece – you can get grilled Kangaroo Island whiting for a fraction of the price that you’d pay inside at the restaurant. They have an epic wine list, too.

Getting there: Take the Seaford (SEAFRD) line from Adelaide Railway Station until the last stop, Seaford. Walk south along Griffiths Drive for 20 minutes until you reach Moana Beach. To continue to Port Willunga, leave the beach and walk eight minutes to Commercial Road. Take the 750 bus from stop 89 until you reach stop 109 at The Esplanade. To return, catch the 750 outside The Star of Greece to Seaford, and catch the train to Adelaide Railway Station.

Whiting, chips and salad from The Star of Greece kiosk.

2. Morialta Conservation Park
Lace up your walking shoes, grab a hat and pack a picnic: Adelaide’s best bushwalking spot is a speedy 30-minute bus ride from the centre of the city. Morialta Conservation Park is set around a narrow gorge, framed by three waterfalls and bound by steep ridges and cliffs. There’s trails for every age and ability, from families with strollers to experienced hikers. And don’t forget to look up – we spotted eight koalas and a kookaburra on our last visit.

Getting there: Catch the H30 bus from stop I1 on North Terrace, and get off at stop 26 on Morialta Road. Take the path past the playground until you reach the First Falls car park – all the hikes start from there.

A furry friend spotted in the treetops at Morialta Conservation Park.

3. Port Adelaide
Once an industrial harbour, Port Adelaide’s colonial buildings are now home to an eclectic mix of theatres, artist spaces, bars and restaurants. From the train station, it’s an easy 15-minute walk to the wharf, where you can admire the heritage-listed buildings (historic Hart’s Mill is a highlight) and enjoy a coffee at Folklore Cafe, where every table has a view of the water.

Seafarers can climb aboard the Dolphin Explorer, a cruise that travels along the Port River through the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, while landlubbers might prefer to discover the Port’s history at the Maritime Museum, the National Railway Museum or the Aviation Museum. Hungry? Make a beeline for the renovated Port Admiral Hotel. Order a pint of their house lager – The Port Local – and the crumbed mac and cheese croquettes. Trust me on this one.

Getting there: Take the Outer Harbour (OUTHA) line from Adelaide Railway Station to Port Adelaide.

Explore the Port’s history along with the collection of funky street art, cafés, pubs and artistic spaces scattered throughout.

4. Hallett Cove boardwalk
Suspended above spectacular cliffs, the Hallett Cove boardwalk is a signposted walk that follows the coast between Marino Rocks and Hallett Cove. You can begin the walk at either end, but if it’s hot and you fancy finishing with a swim, I recommend starting at Hallett Cove (check out the glacial pavements along the northern cliff tops) and walk south past Marino until you get to Seacliff or Brighton beach – after that long walk, the water feels so good.

Getting there: Take the Seaford (SEAFRD) line from Adelaide railway station and alight at either Marino Rocks or Hallett Cove beach.

Take in impressive views along the Hallett Cove boardwalk.

5. Hahndorf and Beerenberg
The quaint German village of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills has everything a day trip requires: a hearty breakfast (try the homemade crumpets at Udder Delights), wineries (Landhaus do generous tastings for $5 a head), bakeries (Otto’s is legendary) and more German bratwurst and pretzels than you can shake a stick at. After you’ve finished perusing Main Street, walk 450m south until you reach Beerenberg Farm. Here, it costs $4 a head (12 years and under go free) to pick berries until your heart’s content. Cap off the day with a gin flight and produce plate at Ambleside Distillery – and don’t worry, the bus stop is within stumbling distance.

Getting there: Catch the 864 along various stops in the CBD, including Currie Street and Pulteney Street, continuing your trip through Stirling, Aldgate, Bridgewater and Verdun, until you reach Hahndorf. Visit Adelaide Metro to plan your journey.

Pick your own strawberries at Beerenberg Farm.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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