Cataloguing a history of Adelaide’s quirks and characters

The colour and personality of Adelaide is projected through its people – and veteran local journalist Mike Robinson is capturing tales of our most memorable, though often unlikely characters, in a curious new website.

AdelaideAZ presents an alternative history that currently spans more than 1700 cultural identities and incidents that Michael has been compiling for the past three years, and went live at at the start of this year.

This epic labor of love, funded independently by 70-year-old Mike, ranges from the origins of Humphrey B. Bear to Adelaide’s electric light cricket competition, through to unraveling Outback legends of the Marree Man and the Nullarbor Nymph.

As Mike describes it, the website is designed to present a compendium of Adelaide identities, innovations, incidents, idiosyncrasies and issues – dissecting the point where folklore meets history.

AdelaideAZ publisher Mike Robinson showing his state allegiance.

“These are stories that are dear to us, but tend to be forgotten over time or pass into the annals of myth because they sit outside of a sober history volume,” says Mike. “I think they are important and worth recording because they are the stories of Adelaide Zeitgeists.”

While Mike has long toyed with compiling a history of this type, it only took shape about three years ago, once he began working with South Australian company JABA Multimedia and designing a flexible website platform with that company’s Adrian Adams and Atanas Athanasov that can accommodate mushrooming content growth and versatile possibilities for links between items.

“I think the links at the bottom of stories on AdelaideAZ are crucial to how this website works, because they connect vertical and horizontal threads of Adelaide and SA culture in the context of past, present and future,” says Mike.

“If you’re curious, like I am, and you like to explore, then you get rewarded by following those links.”

Young aviator Charles James Melrose, from a wealthy SA pastoral family, was called “the next (Charles) Lindbergh”. His fame, as a handsome heart throb, rivalled Errol Flynn’s. Melrose set world flying records over three years before dying in a crash at 22. The SA parliament were suspended in respect at his death and 100,000 mourners attended his state funeral procession in Melbourne. Image courtesy State Library of South Australia.

The text explores how a small city is often mistakenly perceived as a backwater, while shining a light on extraordinary content patterns running through a tapestry of 125 A-to-Z categories.

These include Outback, Regions, Sport, Education, Environment, Childhood, Television, Theatre, the wide-ranging Oddities section – and the space to include more, as Mike sees fit.

A fan of history, Mike is familiar with many of these stories through working for more than 40 years in local journalism, having risen from his cadetship at the Port Pirie Recorder to be assistant editor at Messenger newspapers.

He especially came to relish collating vignettes and anecdotes about Adelaide’s weird and wonderful, through writing several popular nom-de-plume columns as Ray Light, Aloysius O’Mahoney for The City Messenger and Bill King for The Sunday Mail.

In fact, Mike’s frustration at the lack of context explained in much modern journalism led him to create the AdelaideAZ website.

The AdelaideAZ homepage.

“All of this information is already there on the internet in some shape or form, but the threads have not been pulled together,” he says. “That’s what I’m doing – providing the links to build a complete story that embraces the whole of our culture.”

The key to his website’s appeal is tight writing. Mike limits each entry to 300 words, and is currently striving to complete about four new entries each day – from Don Dunstan’s effort to hold back a tidal wave from the balcony of the Pier Hotel at Glenelg, to a young Kamahl being hired by Rupert Murdoch to sing at an early News Limited Christmas party.

He has delved deep into the state’s origins and archives to spark ideas for AdelaideAZ inclusions, with some of Mike’s favourite characters including Vaiben Louis Solomon, who was SA Premier for only seven days in 1899; and the Birks family, famous not only for chemist’s shops and a department store (which later merged with Sydney’s David Jones stores), but also for part-funding the creation of a utopian socialist settlement in Paraguay called New Australia in 1893.

William Bragg, Nobel Prize for physics (with his son Lawrence) winner in 1915, was nurtured by, and fully involved in, his life in Adelaide (including marrying Gwen, daughter of South Australia’s polymath genius Charles Todd). His love of sports included lacrosse and he organised and captained the North Adelaide club, pictured at Victoria Park in the 1880s, with Bragg standing third from left. Image courtesy State Library of South Australia.

Mike concedes that there’s still a long way to go with the AdelaideAZ website, suggesting that he’s perhaps only a quarter way through his intended catalogue of stories.

He envisages that the website will be a work in progress for many years to come – and says he’d welcome the input of other volunteers to get this enormous task done.

However, they’d need to adopt the consistent tone of Mike’s gentle, playful humour which is at play throughout the stories, ensuring an entertaining and engaging read through this unique take on local history.

“Yes, the humour is an important part of AdelaideAZ, because being able to have a chuckle at ourselves is an undeniable South Australian characteristic,” says Mike.

“We are quirky – and proud of it.”

Born and raised in the then-bustling railways town of Terowie, J.P. McGowan became a pioneering Hollywood actor, director and occasional screenwriter and producer from 1910. He is the only Australian life member of the Screen Directors Guild (now Directors Guild of America). A feature of his prolific film output was railway-themed serial melodramas, including one that debuted a young John Wayne.


Adelaide the true star of Aussie film The Flip Side

Four lead characters sit outside North Adelaide’s The Kentish pub sipping on Coopers Sparkling Ales in Australian comedy drama The Flip Side.

The scene is a snippet of life in Adelaide, and it’s unfolding in cinemas across the country.

Co-written and directed by South Australian creative Marion Pilowsky, the charming film was shot in 35 locations across the state in just five weeks.

Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, Hahndorf,  gets screen time, as does the famous palm tree-lined Seppeltsfield Road in the Barossa Valley.

Drama unfolds at the Brukunga Mine in the small Adelaide Hills town and waves crash on screen at a beach along Horseshoe Bay.

“It means everything to me that I was able to create this film here in SA,” says Marion, who was born in the UK before emigrating to Australia at the age of three with her family.

“It feels completely truthful, my DNA is in the work, it’s where I’ve grown up. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else.”

Ronnie, played by SA actor Emily Taheny, at Barossa Bowland.

The Flip Side is Marion’s debut feature film, produced by her own Adelaide-based Corner Table Productions in association with the SA Film Corporation, Screen Australia and 20th Century Fox.

SA actor Emily Taheny – whose hometown is Warooka on the Yorke Peninsula – plays the lead role of Ronnie, an Adelaide chef who sparked a love affair with English actor, Henry (played by Eddie Izzard).

But Henry goes back to the UK, breaking Ronnie’s heart in the process.

Five years later Ronnie is coupled up with Jeff (Luke McKenzie), when Henry visits Australia again, but this time with French assistant girlfriend Sophie (Vanessa Guide).

Henry and Sophie stay with Ronnie and Jeff for a few days, but the time spent together leaves Ronnie wondering what could have been with the one who got away.

It took Marion about four years to write the script with co-writer and partner Lee Sellars, who Marion says brought truthfulness to the male perspective of the story.

Eddie Izzard plays Henry in film The Flip Side.

She points out The Flip Side is a comedy drama rather than a romantic comedy, and that her intention was to reflect women’s lives on screen.

“It’s a comedy drama and it’s about how women work out where they are in their lives and giving themselves permission to be happy and finding their own state of grace in the kind of complicated lives we live as modern women,” Marion says.

About 70 South Australian cast and crew were employed for the film, shot at locations including Callington, Port Adelaide, Macclesfield, Happy Valley, Croydon, Semaphore Beach, Tonsley, Adelaide Airport and Clarence Park.

“I always like location in film … I like having the environment of where the characters live front and centre and I don’t apologise for that.

“So this is an Adelaide couple who live in SA and I wanted it to be very specifically about that.”

SA’s landscapes haven’t only unfolded on the silver screen as a result of The Flip Side hitting theatres, but they’ve also been shared across social media too.

While filming in Elizabeth, Vanessa Guide, the French actor who plays Sophie, snapped an image of a garden outside a unit in the northern suburbs and shared it with her 36,000 Instagram followers.

“She posted this photo of a classic Australian native garden with beautiful flowering natives,” Marion says.

“I asked her, ‘where is that!’ and she pointed across the road.”

While The Flip Side is Marion’s first feature film, she has made six short films and built her career in the realms of film financing, film sales and consultancy.

Growing up in Adelaide, Marion moved to the UK at the age of 27, living between London and Sydney for the next 20 years of her life.

In 2012 she returned home to Adelaide with a desire to create her own work, knowing that it had to be done here at home.

“I really believe in writing what you know and being in a place that you’re really connected to,” Marion says.

“The greatest benefit of working here is that it’s so easy logistically and physically … everything is within an hour, the actual making of the film and moving large groups of people around is a lot easier than Sydney or Melbourne.”

Marion admits the film industry is a tough gig to crack and that “any film that gets made now is literally a miracle”.

But she says the energy of SA’s creative industries is promising for the local film sector.

“I think we’re in a moment of great productivity and great positivity,” she says.

“It feels like a very good time to be a filmmaker in SA.”

Read more stories about South Australia’s creative industries 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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Inside Adelaide’s laneways: Gresham Street

We recently kicked off a series here on Brand SA News to explore the hidden gems of our city – the laneways of Adelaide.

They are the veins of the CBD, pulsating with life and energy, and the place that many businesses – including bars, cafes and restaurants – call home.

Exploring these hidden locations has become a favourite pastime of locals and visitors alike, so we thought it timely to start casting a spotlight on each of them.

First we explored and brought you the best of our west end friend, Bank Street.

Next up: Gresham Street.

Gresham Street may not be the most famous of Adelaide’s laneways, but it’s the go-to location for locals in the know.

Connecting North Terrace to Hindley Street, it’s home to a few key hot spots to eat, drink and play, as well as some striking artwork by one of Adelaide’s best-known street artists.

Let’s take a stroll down Gresham Street and discover what it has to offer…

La Buvette is a slice of Paris in Adelaide.

La Buvette Drinkery

This chic wine and aperitif bar is a little bit of Paris in the heart of Adelaide.

Understated yet sophisticated, it lives up to its name (‘La Buvette’ loosely translates to a bar you frequent for wine and snacks with friends).

The wine list has both local and French natural varieties and the menu features authentic specialty French bites.

Bibliotheca is a bar for book worms.

The Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange

Books and booze – could there be a better combination?!

The Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange is a small European-style bar focusing on spirits from around the globe, classic cocktails and books.

Lots of books. Find a cosy spot and curl up with a cheese board or charcuterie and enjoy a chapter or two.

This laneway watering hole is all about moonshines, blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll.

Mississippi Moon

Created as a homage to the old-world dive bars of south-west America, Mississippi Moon offers a variety of premium spirits, beers and wines.

Its strong southern Americana feel carries all the way through from the décor to the specialty cocktail list – moonshines, whiskeys and sours – and the blues, jazz and old rock ‘n’ roll music played.

A childhood pastime can be revisited at Empire Pool Lounge.

Empire Pool Lounge

Having recently moved from its previous location of 17 years in the west end, Empire Pool Lounge now calls number 2 Gresham Street home.

Combining both social and competitive play with great music in a relaxed atmosphere, Empire Pool Lounge is something of an Adelaide institution.

With areas for hire, Empire is perfect for after work drinks, parties or simply meeting up with friends.

Vans the Omega brings colour to the streets.

Street art by Vans the Omega

Internationally renowned street artist and Adelaide local, Vans the Omega, was commissioned by Splash Adelaide – an initiative from the Adelaide City Council – to make lesser known pockets of the city more vibrant.

And so, Gresham Street was chosen as the location for this portrait of Adelaide fashion and lifestyle blogger, Sonia Bavistock (AKA Sonia Styling) … yes, me!

Quite the privilege to have been painted by one of our state’s most talented artists and immortalised on the side of a building along Gresham Street.

Header image courtesy of SATC, featuring La Buvette and Bibliotheca.

Sonia Bavistock is a fashion and lifestyle blogger and also has her own social media management and copywriting business. Sonia is passionate about all things South Australia and can often be seen dining out with a glass of wine in hand.

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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Adelaide ranked in top 10 for world’s healthiest cities

Adelaide has been ranked among the top 10 healthiest cities in the world.

The southern capital was ranked as the eighth healthiest city on the planet by online home rental platform, Spotahome, while Amsterdam, Netherlands, took top spot, followed by Oslo in Norway.

Adelaide and Perth which came in at 10th spot were the only cities outside of Europe to make it to the top 10.

Spotahome ranked a total of 80 cities across the world based on 10 health-related criteria including annual sunshine hours, life expectancy, work-life balance, air and water quality and annual holidays.

Adelaide scored 6.31 out of 10.

Earlier this year The Economist ranked Adelaide as the world’s fifth most liveable city for the sixth time in a row.

First female director appointed to Art Gallery of SA

The Art Gallery of South Australia has appointed its first female director in its 137-year history.

Brisbane-born Rhana Devenport will step into the role in October, after moving on from her place as director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand.

She is replacing Nick Mitzevich who is now leading the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Rhana, who was this year appointed an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the arts, is the first woman to take on the director’s role in the art gallery’s history.

The announcement comes just days before the Art Gallery of SA’s exclusive exhibition Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay wraps up on Sunday, July 29.

The paintings are from the renowned collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and chart the revolution of Impressionism, a 19th Century art movement known for its vibrant techniques and colour.

Claude Monet, Water lily pond, pink harmony, 1900, oil on canvas, 90 x 100 cm; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. © Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt.

The Art Gallery of SA says the impressionist exhibition, featuring masterpieces by famous artists Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and Pissarro, among others, is on track to break the gallery’s record for ticketed attendances.

The previous record is 124,000 attendances, set by The Chinese Exhibition in 1977.

The Art Gallery of SA attracts more than 800,000 people per year.

Rhana brings with her 25 years’ experience in collection development and exhibition presentation across a number of national and international platforms, with her career allowing her to forge significant connections with artists, donors, benefactors and sponsors.

“I am deeply honored by this appointment, the Art Gallery of SA has forged an excellent reputation for its ambition, its outstanding collection, and a dynamic exhibitions program,” she says.

“I am thrilled to be leading this strong and innovative cultural organisation into the future.

“Great art museums are the heart of great cities and reflect how a city considers itself in the world and how it contributes to self-discovery, empathy and shared knowledge.”

The Art Gallery of South Australia’s new director Rhana Devenport.

Art Gallery of SA chair Tracey Whiting describes Rhana as an international arts leader.

Rhana’s arts history includes being the director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand and leading the development of the Len Lye Centre.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says Rhana brings a wealth of experience, leadership acumen and a genuine commitment and understanding of the role art plays in people’s lives.

“SA has a proud history of championing the role and contribution of women across all sectors of our community – from politics and Indigenous affairs, to science and the arts – and this appointment continues that legacy,” he says.

Rhana will relocate to Adelaide with her husband, multimedia artist Tim Gruchy.

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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Leading property developer Jamie McClurg on shaping Adelaide’s skyline

It’s a Monday afternoon and 46-year-old property developer Jamie McClurg is sitting in Commercial & General’s seventh floor boardroom, towering over some of Adelaide’s most prominent landmarks.

Admiring bird’s eye views of Adelaide Oval, Parliament House and Government House, the I Choose SA ambassador says people around the world look at our city with nothing but envy.

“South Australia is a place that will come of age in the next decade,” Jamie says.

“South Australians are smart people. They demand smart options that will enhance our community and job opportunities for our children and, as one of the best places to live in the world, our opportunities are endless.”

As executive chairman of one of Australia’s leading property developers, Commercial & General, Jamie has a solid grasp on the infrastructure that has helped shape our city.

Jamie McClurg is an I Choose SA ambassador for infrastructure.

His Adelaide-based property development and investment agency has developed and owned some of Adelaide’s big infrastructure projects from the SA Police headquarters to the sky high office tower at 50 Flinders Street.

The value of the projects Commercial & General has completed, as well as those currently underway, is $2.1 billion.

The company works across healthcare, industrial, office, residential and social infrastructure projects, and chances are if you’re an Adelaidean, you’ll recognise almost all of them.

Commercial & General is gearing up to build the last standout piece in North Terrace’s biomedical precinct.

Complementing the architecturally renowned South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) the second instalment, SAHMRI 2, will be home to the first proton therapy unit in the southern hemisphere.

Housed in a three-storey bunker in SAHMRI 2, the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research will allow doctors to directly treat cancerous tumours with minimal damage to healthy tissue.

The treatment will make a world of difference to people – particularly children – with tumours close to vital organs.

In 2017 Jamie travelled to Boston in the US, to see the effects of proton therapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“It will change lives,” he says.

“While SAHMRI 2 is a piece of infrastructure, at the end of the day it’s an opportunity to cure cancer for kids … that’s something to be more excited about.”

An artist’s impression of SAHMRI 2.

Designed in collaboration with Adelaide-based architect Woods Bagot and other local and international agencies, Jamie says the $320m SAHMRI 2 building will complement, rather than compete, with the first.

“SAHMRI is iconic; we don’t want to repeat it because that won’t do it justice,” he says.

“It’s very important that we do it well to finish off the precinct because it’s the last missing tooth.”

Construction on SAHMRI 2 is expected to commence in 2019.

Another of Commercial & General’s current projects is the $300m Calvary Adelaide Hospital on the corner of Angas and Pulteney streets.

It is the largest single construction contract by the private sector to unfold in Adelaide’s CBD in the last 20 years.

However, Commercial & General’s impact on the city of Adelaide goes further than the large buildings that scrape its skies.

More than 3000 jobs have been, or will be, created in projects that are currently under construction.

“I try not to think about it like that because that’s a lot of families,” Jamie says.

“I started off this business just wanting to move some dirt, have some fun and earn a living like anyone else.”

Jamie’s rise to the top of SA’s property development scene started from humble beginnings.

Commercial & General executive chairman Jamie McClurg on site at the Calvary Adelaide Hospital.

Raised by Irish immigrant parents, he grew up in the northern suburbs, going on to obtain a construction degree at the University of South Australia.

With his father in the real estate industry, Jamie says a career in property was inevitable.

Working on construction projects across the country, he set the foundation for his own business in 1997 while still working for another company.

Alongside business partner and university classmate, Anthony Catinari, the pair created Commercial & General “from nothing”.

Now Commercial & General employs a team of 51 at its Adelaide office, with plans to expand its SA workforce by a dozen this year. It also has offices in Melbourne and Sydney.

The company recently partnered with ASX-listed property giant Dexus, creating the Healthcare Wholesale Property Fund. With seed assets of approximately $340m, it has an anticipated potential pipeline of about $445m.

Jamie says SA’s population and its “humble talent pool” make it the perfect place for investors to do business.

“In a state that is the size of ours, the opportunities are endless,” he says.

“South Australians have always been known as being unique people and world-beaters.

“If you learn to do it here you can apply it to anywhere around the planet.”

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

New face at the helm of Adelaide’s historic Popeye

Adelaide’s renowned Popeye river cruise business is taking a new lease on life.

The Popeye, which has entertained thousands of locals, tourists and even royalty over the past 83 years, is being handed to the next generation.

Owner Tony Shuman has owned The Popeye since 2011 and is now handing operations to his daughter Bianca, 23, who is injecting “refreshed energy” into the business as its new managing director.

The Popeye managing director Bianca Shuman unveils the brand’s new logo.

“Bianca is the new generation, she has new and hip ideas, a fresh feel and I can’t compete with that,” says Tony.

“It’s her turn, she’s got the smarts.”

The Popeye fleet includes three boats that take passengers along the River Torrens between Elder Park and Adelaide Zoo, and has long been considered a treasured family outing for many South Australians.

The boats also host functions, parties and high teas put on by fellow SA business, Lady Green’s High Tea.

Bianca says she hopes to introduce new stops along the river, including near the weir and Adelaide Oval to make the most of crowds attending AFL games and major concerts.

A stop is also in the works at The Popeye shed and Lounders Boatshed Café near Victoria Drive.

Approval is being sought for a permanent liquor licence while an online booking system has also been introduced.

Tony Shuman, left, has owned the small business since 2011 but plans to head into retirement.

A new logo and branding concept was inspired by the “art deco” style of the 1930s, when The Popeye was launched in Adelaide.

“The whole feeling with the new logo was keeping it modern but also going back to the start in the 1930s,” Bianca says.

“We would like to have that reflected in the style of our staff uniforms as well. To dress up a bit would be nice.”

Bianca says that while The Popeye has become an Adelaide icon, she wants to see more people on board.

“The Popeye, it’s very Adelaide and people almost don’t notice it because they’re so used to it going past every day. It would be great to get more people on,” she says.

“It’s about half tourists, half locals on board at the moment. During school holidays there’s a lot of kids and young families, and grandparents taking grandkids to the zoo.”

Zoos SA CEO and I Choose SA ambassador Elaine Bensted, left, with Bianca Shuman and her mother Lidija.

Tony Shuman and his wife Lidija have also run the paddle boats (small watercraft propelled by foot pedals) along the river since 1991.

He says past customers have included Madonna, Michael Bublé, English comedian Russell Brand and international tennis champions.

Over the years Tony says he has faced many business challenges as new infrastructure around the riverbank precinct takes shape.

However, he says the CBD’s growing population means more people are out and about.

“There are more people living in the city, the city itself has had real population growth over the last 20 years,” Tony says.

“It’s more of a university city as well – younger people out there doing things.”

The Popeye cruises along the river in March 1954. PHOTO: State Library of SA, B 74433/78.

Popeye 1 was launched on the River Torrens in 1935 by Gordon Watts.

Popeye 2 came along in 1948 and three new jarrah hulled boats were introduced some time later, taking the fleet to a total of five.

Keith Altman took over the business in 1962 and also introduced the paddle boats to the river.

Popeye 5 hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip during their visit to Adelaide in 1977. PHOTO:

In March 1977, The Popeye had a brush with royalty when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a trip during a visit to Adelaide.

In 1982 the wooden boats were replaced with three new fibreglass models and officially launched by then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

The Popeye, which was officially declared an official State Heritage Icon in 2011, employs 14 people.

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

Cemetery CEO brings empathy and light to the darkest of places

For most of us, death is something we think about only when we are forced to. For Janet Miller, it is her reality every day.

Janet is the CEO of Adelaide’s Centennial Park Cemetery, where she can combine her strengths of commerciality and compassion.

She’s heard all the jokes – it’s a dead end job, deathly boring – but since taking up the role two years ago, Janet says she has discovered a new perspective on life now that she is dealing with the business of death.

A qualified accountant, Janet held several senior corporate positions, including as chief operating officer and then CEO of Perks Group, and then heading a major law firm before discovering her calling at Centennial Park.

While she loved the thrill and challenge of the corporate life, and was clearly good at it, Janet felt something was missing, something with more meaningful.

“For me, I need to have a strong sense of commerciality, but I also need a job to be tempered by compassion and empathy – I need those in equal measures,” she says.

“There are two elements to this job, so I get all of the challenges and complexities of the business and then I get all the warmth because all of the people who are drawn to this industry have that warmth and compassion.

“We are a commercial enterprise – we have to be because we have 150,000 people buried or memorialised here and we’ve made a promise to those families that we will look after this park forever and to do that takes money.

“We are owned by local government so I’ve got that overlay, and we provide a community service, so I’ve got to balance all of those things.

“When I tell people I worked at a cemetery there is often silence and tumble weeds and I have to say, ‘it’s okay, it’s a great job and I love it’.”

Centennial Park CEO Janet Miller says is a place for loved ones to reflect and remember.

Janet says there is a misconception that cemeteries are gloomy, creepy places but she describes Centennial Park as a beautiful space that feels like the Botanic Gardens.

Spread over 40ha, the park boasts 30 individually designed gardens and memorial areas, three chapels, the Jubilee Complex for functions and even a little island, Springbank Island, complete with frangipani trees, ducklings, birds and lush plant life.

Plans are also underway for a new café and a small playground.

“Funerals are becoming less sad and more of a celebration of life, so the days of people wearing black to funerals, we are seeing much less of that and often a family will want people to come in a certain bright colour as they pay tribute to the person’s life, remembering the good times and the fun things that person did,” she says.

However, Janet is realistic about a cemetery being a place of sadness and of saying goodbye to loved ones – but she emphasises it also needs to be an inviting, peaceful spot to linger, reflect and remember.

“Whilst we cater for people looking for a memorial or final resting place, we are here for the living,” she says.

“We cater for the deceased but we need to be a place where people want to come and feel really proud and happy that this is the place they’ve chosen for their loved one.”

When it comes to emotions about death, Janet says we don’t need to fear it, but understand it as a natural part of life.

One thing that has become clear since taking up her current role is how little people plan for their funeral.

“So few people communicate what they want for their funeral,” she says.

“We never know what is around the corner, and there is a superstition that if you talk about your funeral it will somehow bring on an early demise, but the more we can normalise the conversation, the better we are making inroads there.

“We are trying to make it as natural as possible because it’s such a natural element of life and it doesn’t need to be feared or hidden away or taboo. It is so important for people to be super clear with their family about what they want.

“We have a little book here called ‘My Life Book’, and it’s full of questions about you – it creates a record of what you would like your funeral service to look like.

“People hope they’re doing the right thing for their deceased loved one but they’re not really sure. We did some market research and 90% of people said the number one thing that is important about a funeral is not the cost, it was making sure they had captured the final wishes of the person who had passed away.

Janet says 70% of people choose cremation over burial, and Centennial Park also caters for a variety of cultures and ceremonies, including the Hindu community.

In their culture the eldest male in the family traditionally places the deceased loved one on to the funeral pyre.

To simulate this, the cemetery has a “load insertion button”, which can be pushed to gently load the coffin into the cremator.

“This role is absolutely fascinating and so different from my previous roles,” Janet says.

“I would never go back to the corporate world, this is just wonderful.”

Your guide to WOMADelaide’s market scene

Will you be one of 90,000 festival goers who dance the world away in Botanic Park at this weekend’s WOMADelaide?

The four-day open air festival is back from March 9–12, but aside from the beats, street theatre and visual artists, be sure to check out WoMade, a South Australian-only design market featuring some of the state’s best creators.

The market will showcase fashion, homewares, accessories and goodies designed and handmade locally.

WOMADelaide is one of the strongest instalments in Adelaide’s Mad March period, as almost half of attendees are interstate visitors, delivering $15.1m to the SA economy.

So do your bit in choosing SA by stopping by WoMade.

Stallholders include Bluebell Design, the Butcher Byrd, Colour This. Design and Print, Delilah Devine, Hello Cactus, Hey Reflect’o, Julie White, Naomi Murrell, One Thousand Lines, Renee Damiani Jewellery, Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez, Squink, Wonder What You Were and Wrappa Reusable Food Wraps.

Here’s our top six WoMade picks:

1. Julie White 

Adelaide-based artist Julie White creates these beautiful bold and original silk scarves and specialty socks inspired by native flora and fauna, deserts and the sea.

She recently gained a Master’s in textile print at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art and her label is renowned in Adelaide fashion circles for its individuality and colour.

Julie White’s new Gone Troppo collection will have you missing summer. Big time.

2.  Naomi Murrell

Spots, soft pinks and sailboat stripes are aplenty in Naomi’s new fashion collection Paradiso.

She’s been designing clothes, jewellery and accessories since 2009, working out of a small studio on Ebenezer Place in Adelaide’s CBD.

The accessories, which include earrings, rings, necklaces and bangles, are delicate and feminine with a bright and bold twist.

3. Renee Damiani Jewellery

Just looking at Renee Damiani creations will make you feel happier.

The playful, bold and original jewellery pieces are guaranteed conversation starters and once you purchase your first pair of earrings it’ll be hard to stop.

The jewellery line is handmade from Renee’s Adelaide studio from a mix of hand-dyed plastic tubing, PVC, acrylic, plastic bubbles and polymer clay.

4. Hey Reflect’o

Finally, safety is stylish!

Hey Reflect’o is a funky cycling safety gear designer, creating vests, caps and bag covers to ensure riders can be seen when pushing pedals.

Just look for the fluorescent stall.

5. The Butcher Byrd

These leather pieces are handcrafted by Adelaide’s Sasha Carroll and made in SA from start to finish.

From soft travel bags to structured old-school backpacks, The Butcher Byrd pieces are examples of craftsmanship at its finest.

Think trusty leather satchels, totes and purses that last more than just the weekend – but a lifetime.

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6. Wonder What You Were

These one-of-a-kind eco-conscious accessories are festival gold.

Designed in SA, handcrafted using recycled textiles and made in Cindy Choua’s home studio, these earth-friendly clutches and zippered pouches are essential for carrying your coins, festival passes, lippy and other essentials.

Many of the fabrics are vintage inspired, mixed, and clashing – exactly how it should be at WOMAD.


Can’t wait until WOMADelaide to check out an array of local artists and makers? Head to Shop South Australia, Brand South Australia’s online marketplace.

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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Speedcast: there’s no better place for us than SA

Mike Kenneally is a senior executive at Adelaide-based Speedcast and says there is no better home for the leading global communications company than South Australia.

He says that over the past four years the business has acquired a handful of other companies, boosted its revenue and is now a world leader in high performance communications for government, maritime, defence, mining, oil, and gas sectors.

“If you looked at where we were four years ago to now, it’s chalk and cheese,” Mike says.

“We have a much larger revenue, we’re a much bigger company, and we’re much more strategic.”

As the largest provider of remote communications and IT services in the world, Speedcast’s services are delivered via a global network of more than 70 satellites and more than 40 teleports worldwide.

Mawson Lakes in Adelaide’s north is home to a sophisticated anchor station facility that connects Speedcast’s clients to the rest of the world.

Speedcast acquired state-of-the-art teleport infrastructure from NewSat in 2015 and has since installed more infrastructure, employed more engineers, and experienced “healthy” revenue growth.

Mike says the Mawson Lakes-based teleport is “one of the biggest and most strategic from a military point of view”.

“The anchor station contains a whole lot of antennas that are pointed at different satellites and we connect all the clients of those satellites to the rest of the world,” he says.

“The location (of the teleport) is extremely strategic because we can cover all of the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East from Adelaide, we’re right in the middle of it all.

“We’ve supported Australian government initiatives in the Middle East and in our own region,  providing comms to soldiers in the field. Any sort of communications they want, we can provide.”

In 2017 Speedcast was awarded a contract to provide mission-critical remote communication services for the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Australian Antarctic Division.

The service allows individuals in Antarctica’s harsh climate to communicate with the outside world and in the event of an emergency.

Mike says Speedcast has upgraded the satellite technology in the Mawson, Davis and Casey bases in Antarctica, quadrupling their data throughput.

“Certainly it’s been an interesting challenge and we’re expanding the roles of some of the people here and in Perth (another of Speedcast’s hubs), but the responsibility for the project rests with the team here in SA,” he says.

“One of our guys (from SA) has been down to the ice for a couple of weeks to actually do the conversion, which was pretty exciting for him.”

In a more recent leap forward, Speedcast won a $184m contract with the National Broadband Network (NBN) Co to deliver enterprise-grade satellite services.

“The NBN up until now has been a consumer level service but they are ready to expand it and offer services to business … and clients in mining, oil, gas, defence, and maritime,” Mike says.

He says Adelaide’s climate makes it the perfect city to host satellite communication networks for use by the defence sector, among others.

“The weather here is perfect for us because satellites operate best in clear sky conditions, we’re geologically stable, politically stable and we have excellent communications infrastructure,” Mike says.

“We also share a border in some respects with the US, which you wouldn’t immediately think but for US clients who want to connect using (station in) Adelaide, they can connect without going over anyone else’s territory.”

Despite Adelaide being an important hub for Speedcast, it has 1300 employees worldwide, the majority of them engineers.

The company has two sites in Adelaide, one in Thebarton and the other in Mawson Lakes.

Mike says Speedcast is “looking to expand its role” in the nation’s naval shipbuilding plan, including the $35 billion Future Frigates to be built in SA.

He says that with the state secured as Australia’s defence epicentre, over coming decades will come a drive in growth and optimism for local start-ups.

“I think we’re seeing recent wins by a lot of companies and a decision to continue shipbuilding-related activities here,” Mike says.

“That will have a spin-off for SA and businesses are sensing that optimism, which hasn’t been there for quite a while.”

Mike has a background in technology, satellites and defence-related projects and says he’s glad he can remain in the industry from his home state.

“The changing technology now makes it possible for people to work from anywhere but still be engaged in the sector and I think that’s a fantastic thing,” he says.

“It means that people don’t have to move away for their job.

“It also means there are new opportunities for new start-ups to capitalise on niche opportunities and operate from here … they don’t have to go and live California to do it.”

I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.