Big Moo’s fame cashes in for Limestone Coast charities

An enormous pet steer has become South Australia’s most unconventional animal fundraiser with his owner using his sizeable star power to boost the coffers of local charities.

Three years ago, the 186cm-tall Big Moo was peacefully eating grass in a Glencoe paddock in the South East before an online story questioning whether he was ‘Australia’s biggest steer’ shot him to international fame.

Suddenly, owner Jo Vine and her pet steer were thrust into the spotlight, invited to appear on national television shows Today and The Project and even scoring celebrity visits from Dr Chris Brown. However, the Vines were inundated with requests from people across Australia who wanted to witness Big Moo’s sheer size for themselves.

The 186cm-tall Big Moo, a steer that has the condition gigantism, uses his star power to raise money for local charities.

“Every day we get people asking if they can come and see Moo,” Jo says.“There are big steers around, but Big Moo has something special, he just loves people. We feel like he belongs to everybody.”

An enterprising Jo devised a highly unconventional way to give Big Moo’s multitudes of fans the time they deserved, while helping support local charities. Enter the Cow Pat Lottery and Moo View days.

Big Moo’s bowel movements have become hot property in Jo’s entertaining Cow Pat Lottery, where people buy a patch of land and patiently await the outcome. A poo by Big Moo in the right patch determines the winner.

“He generally has a great sense of timing,” says Jo, with a laugh. “But last time he took three and a half hours to poop. Everyone had packed up and gone home.”

Tv personality Dr Chris Brown is one of Big Moo’s many celebrity fans. Photo: supplied.

‘Moo View’ days, where as many as 100 people pay a small fee to wander through the Glencoe paddock to grab a selfie with Big Moo for the family album, are also held a few times a year.

Through their efforts, the Vines have raised thousands of dollars for Mt Gambier’s Riding for the Disabled group, which horse-lover Jo says does valuable work for the local community.

“I wanted it to be local. I’m a horsy person and I really believe in what they do,” she says.

The Vines have also donated money towards the Heart Kids campaign by Georgie Guess, a young Mt Gambier woman with congenital heart disease.

Three years on, Big Moo’s fame shows no signs of flagging. The affable nine-year-old steer now has 2500 fans on Facebook, has spawned his own hat line and has also picked up sponsorships from animal health businesses to manage his health problems.

Caption: One of Big Moo’s many young fans gets up close and personal with the giant steer. Photo: supplied.

Big Moo’s size is due to gigantism, a condition caused by an overload of growth hormone by the pituitary gland, and his continued growth causes stress on his joints. Once Big Moo stops enjoying it, Jo said her beloved steer will be retired from public life.

“It’s all about him. He loves the attention and engaging with people but we always know when he’s done. We love him to bits and we want what’s best for him,” she says.

Don’t mention the word ‘sausages’ around Jo, who says the steer she hand-raised from a small calf will live out his life peacefully at Glencoe.

Being custodian of a famous bovine has its moments though.

A midwife at Mt Gambier Hospital, Jo says there has been more than one woman huffing and puffing on the delivery table to look up and exclaim, ‘I know you – you own Big Moo!’

“The steer is famous,” she laughs, “I’m just the midwife.”

A Moo View day, where Big Moo is the star of the show. Photo: supplied.

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The man who took on Mt Gambier’s tower in the clouds

As a mobile travel agent, Ben Deering’s office can be anywhere with Wi-Fi and a laptop, so why not make it on top of a mountain?

Mt Gambier’s Centenary Tower had been closed for two years when Ben volunteered to become its caretaker shortly after relocating to the regional city from Melbourne with his young family.

“I kept asking people why such an iconic building wasn’t open; you can’t leave it shut!” he said. “In the end, I had to put my money where my mouth was and agree to take it on myself.”

Ben Deering took over Mt Gambier’s iconic Centenary Tower two years ago and it’s since turned into a busy tourist attraction. Photo by Ockert le Roux.

Opened in 1904, the tower was built to commemorate 100 years since Mt Gambier was first sighted and named by Lt. James Grant aboard The Lady Nelson. Every morning, Ben takes an invigorating hike up the volcano slope to raise the flag signalling that the castle in the clouds is open.

“It’s a beautiful spot to stop and contemplate life; if you got sick of this view, I think you would need a bit of a hug, because this is pretty good,” he says.

After 14 months at the helm, it’s clear that Ben’s unique brand of energy has brought the 114-year-old landmark back to life, with visitors from across the globe soaking up the epic view of the surrounding crater lakes and beyond.

Stunning views from the top of the Centenary Tower.

“Some come up here and say they have been in Mt Gambier for two hours, and others say they have lived here for 20 years and have been meaning to get up here,” Ben says.

Word-of-mouth is proving invaluable, but social media has been another critical tool to boost visitation, with Ben’s Centenary Tower Instagram page attracting a growing number of followers.

“Instagram is a very visual platform, and we have a lookout, so that’s a great synergy, and I also have the advantage that I’m sitting up here for hours and can wait for the right light,” he smiles.

The Centenary Tower offers panoramic views of Mt Gambier and surrounds. Photo by Ockert le Roux.

Earlier this year, a dedicated group of 34 yoga buffs saluted the sun rise during a dawn yoga session at the tower, while an enthusiastic group of photographers often visits to capture incredible images of the night sky. Ben has also recently teamed up with a local chef to trial private balcony dinners.

“The view is the mainstay, but I’m trying to do a few experiential things around it,” he says. “I’m a volunteer who charges $2 for an adult a $1 for kids, so there is no marketing budget and you are forced to be creative.”

During the tower’s quiet patches, Ben dons his other travel hat, booking itineraries abroad for corporate clients in Adelaide and the eastern seaboard.

“I’ve spent the best part of the last 14 years sending Australians overseas, so it’s funny that I’m now also selling ‘local’, but it’s a familiar dichotomy bouncing back and forth between the roles,” he says. “I really just think it’s about getting people to live rather than just be alive.”

The tower is open when the flag is flying. Photo by Ockert le Roux.

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Mundulla sculptures on show

When the Mundulla Show committee introduced an acquisitive sculpture prize as part of its competition line-up, long-time show supporter and Tatiara District councillor, Liz Goossens, became concerned that it wouldn’t catch on.

“We sent out letters to lots of well-known sculptors, but got a bit worried that no one was going to enter,” she says.

Liz raided a friend’s shed and collected a ute-load of steel before setting to work on some creations of her own.

“We’ve been brought up exhibiting all our lives; mum and dad taught us that if you don’t have people entering and getting involved, then you don’t have an event, so it’s definitely in my blood,” she says.

“I didn’t know how to weld, but you could enter anonymously, so I figured no-one would know it was me if they weren’t really up to scratch.”

Sculpturist and Tatiara District councillor Liz Goodens.

Liz’s secret didn’t last long when she was awarded first, second and third place. She used her prize money to buy a new welder, and has been sculpting ever since.

As part of the competition rules, the winning sculptures remain in Mundulla as public artworks, and many now feature along the walking trail on the common land surrounding the picturesque Limestone Coast town.

Originally intended for grazing, the area spanning 110ha is now a popular recreational space widely used by residents and visitors, and sculptures of birds, butterflies, snails, kangaroos, emus, frogs and flying ducks are a big drawcard.

“There’s even fairies and lots of other small things that kids love; you might come across a bird up a tree – it isn’t always obvious, as a lot of them blend in with their surroundings,” Liz says.

With her own backyard overlooking the trail, Liz frequently adds to the collection, often collaborating with long-time Country Fire Service volunteer Brian Wiese.

One of the creations along the walking trail.

“Although I know what I’m trying to create, I often don’t know the engineering side of it but Brian’s really practical, and I love his ‘we’ll be right’ attitude,” Liz says.

This year’s theme for the show sculpture prize is ‘The Wheels of Time’ and Liz’s creation is still evolving. She’s also trying out black forest cake recipes after the council CEO challenged the elected female members to a show bake-off. Meanwhile, Mayor Graham Excell and the male councillors are vying for the best West End beer cake.

“It’s all a lot of fun,” Liz says. “While other country shows are struggling, we’ve always had a really strong indoor section, and I think it’s because Mundulla has been innovative and moved with the times.”

The Mundulla Show is held every year on the first Saturday of March in conjunction with the Moot Yang Gunya Festival. For more information, visit

The walking trail features sculptures of wildlife and other abstract creations.

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Limestone Coast’s Lifeboat program a lifesaver for community mental health

On a Tuesday evening at Mt Gambier’s City Hall, men and women are chatting on couches as sunlight streams through the windows.

At mental health support group Lifeboat SE, formality is noticeably absent. There are more than a few laughs. You can speak if you want to or just listen.

Here, everyone’s story is different. Some have lost a family member, others have been through divorces, dealt with failing businesses or struggled with post-natal depression.

For Matthew Brookes, the public face of the Lifeboat SE group, these meetings are a way for people to break the ice about a deeply private subject.

Lifeboat SE meets every Tuesday at Mt Gambier’s City Hall. Photo by Kate Hill.

From personal experience, Matthew understands how difficult it is to ask for help when you’re in the grip of anxiety or depression.

“It’s a fact that one in five people will experience mental health issues at some stage but a lot of people just don’t want to talk about it,” Matthew says.

With a relaxed mantra of ‘come and chew the fat with a mate’, the group is taking a community approach to a serious issue affecting regional communities – mental health.

A couple of years ago, life crept up on Matthew Brookes. A change of management at work left him uncertain and mulling over his future.

Then having to deal with being first on the scene of a fatal car accident was closely followed by a scary incident close to home – he rolled the car with his wife and three children inside.

Mt Gambier man Matthew Brookes is a founding member of Lifeboat SE. Photo by Kate Hill.

Although no one was injured, it was a shock for the 52-year-old, who confesses he ‘shut up shop’ and stopped talking to his family and friends, instead just wanting to sleep away the day. Stress and worry developed into anxiety and depression.

“I thought I was big enough and ugly enough to handle anything that was thrown at me, but it just got on top of me,” he says.

For a bloke who freely admitted he ‘wouldn’t walk into a meeting’, he knew he needed something else to keep him on track following more traditional forms of treatment.

A group of people began to meet up regularly and the concept of Lifeboat SE began to take shape. The group takes an early intervention approach by helping people manage stressful situations before they become a breeding ground for bigger problems.

The support group is open to all … no matter occupation, gender or circumstances. Photo by Kate Hill.

They talk about the importance of sleep, exercise, socialising, having hobbies and taking care of yourself.

As Matthew says, “there’s no captain on a lifeboat, it’s just a crew of people surviving together”.

“We want to give understanding to the community that it’s okay to talk and give them some tools to understand what’s going on and how to support each other,” he says.

Recovery is different for everyone and Matthew knows he’ll be managing his condition for years to come. When he feels low, he’ll head out camping with his family, take a long walk or catch up with another Lifeboat member for a beer and yarn.

“Everyone’s ride is different,” he says. “It takes a whole community to look out for each other.”

To find out more, visit The Junction or Lifeboat SE’s website.

If you or someone you know is going through a tough time call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

It’s all about the talk: Lifeboat’s meetings are a place for conversation. Photo by Kate Hill.

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Sink or swim gin bid floats

You simply can’t bottle incredible South Australian experiences. Or can you?

Divers who plunge into the pristine depths of Kilsby Sinkhole in the Limestone Coast will soon be able to toast their adventurous spirits with a glass of Sinkhole Gin crafted from the limestone-filtered water.

Brothers Graham and Ben Kilsby are the sinkhole custodians taking immersive experiences to new levels in partnership with gin-loving friends Stuart Edwards and Kris Hamilton.

The Kilsby Sinkhole is world renowned as one of the best sinkhole diving spots. Photo by Ockert le Roux.

Long-term fans of home-brewing, the four mates saw an opportunity to create SA’s newest craft gin with a distinct local flavour.

“We thought how amazing it would be to use the water from the sinkhole – the purest water in Australia – to make the gin,” Ben says.

Tucked away on the farming property that has been in Ben’s family for four generations, the 65m-deep Kilsby Sinkole is rated among the world’s best cave-diving sites due to its exceptional water clarity.

The four men behind the Sinkhole Gin. Photo by Kate Hill.

Diversifying into eco-tourism was the first exciting move for the prime lamb producers, with up to 2000 visitors from around the globe now flocking to their property 15km out of Mt Gambier each year.

Now, they’re poised to make a splash in the drinks trade after 12 months of dedicated research.

“To a gin lover, the whole experience from aroma to palate is paramount and we got very involved in the whole process,” Ben says.

Designed to champion the Limestone Coast region, the gin takes its main flavour profile from muntries – a tiny native cranberry, or ‘emu apple’, which grows wild along the rugged coastline.

A bird’s eye view of the Kilsby Sinkhole. Photo by Ockert le Roux.

“It’s got a type of rhubarb-apple crumble flavour to it, and we’ve also added local honey, a little juniper, lime zest, lemon myrtle – we’ve got almost 20 ingredients each playing a role, and the result is something that is fresh and floral and unique to this region,” Ben says.

In order to guarantee future batch consistency, the Kilsbys have now planted a muntrie crop of their own surrounding the sinkhole. Yes – they’re thinking big, spurred on by Limestone Coast locals who immediately threw their support behind a sink or swim crowdfunding campaign on Pozible, raising close to $30,000 towards the venture.

“If the interest wasn’t there, we would have scrapped the idea, but the first batch has already been pre-sold and we’re expecting delivery prior to Christmas,” Ben says. “It’s going to be a really fun gin to put on the table.”

The Sinkhole Gin.

Pre-orders are now flowing for batch number two, with restaurants and bars also lining up for stock. A limoncello characterised by the bold, robust flavours of local farmhouse lemons is also in the pipeline, but the ultra-pure water will always be the hero ingredient.

“This is just a really fun way for us to be able to celebrate our natural attractions in a completely different way, to a completely new market,” Ben says.

“The Mt Gambier region is known worldwide in diving circles, but people as close as Adelaide don’t realise what assets we have beyond the Blue Lake, so we think this is the perfect pairing.”

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Industry in focus: Craft industries

Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft 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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The rise of Mt Gambier’s Metro Bakery and Café

Two years ago, Mt Gambier’s Metro Bakery and Café was named the nation’s best bakery/patisserie at the Restaurant & Catering Association Awards.

Toni Vorenas heard the whispers from the crowd as the unsuspecting squad of South Aussies walked on stage.

“Everyone was saying ‘What’s Metro? Where on earth is Mt Gambier?” she laughs.

Just ask any Limestone Coast local and they will point you in the direction of this main street eating institution in the heart of the Blue Lake city.

Expect queues; the business now takes up five premises in order to cater for demand.

Aside from the lure of the baked treats and goods, Metro Bakery is a vibrant and quirky hotspot for wall art.

“When we opened at the end of 2009, it was my husband Theo’s dream to have a little coffee shop,” Toni says.

“We started from scratch and had no hospitality experience – Theo was a mechanic and I was a teacher – and we had a single room with one table, one coffee machine and five sandwiches on the menu.

“Now, we’ve expanded into the two shops beside us and one behind, added a bar, two commercial kitchens and an outdoor dining area.”

There’s also a second smaller venue, A Slice of Metro, at the eastern end of town, for customers on the go.

A former deputy principal, Toni counts many of her students among their 44 staff, but Metro has also attracted talent from much further afield, including three Filipino pastry chefs who have worked in Paris, Dubai and Sydney’s Star Casino.

Metro Bakery and Café owner Toni Vorenas with some of the delectable sweet treats.

“We advertised all over Australia for chefs without success, so then we turned to an immigration company,” Toni says.

“We are so lucky – they came with enormous skills and they are teaching them to our local kids.”

The Metro ethos is ‘one family’, and the staff are incredibly close. Toni and Theo have nurtured the sense of camaraderie with their strong focus on wellbeing.

“Last year we paid for yoga lessons, and this year we funded 10 weeks of boot camp; it’s not just about knock-off drinks, and that’s the old teacher in me,” Toni says.

“They have become one another’s closest friends.”

Desserts almost too good to eat. Photo by Frank Monger.

The sense of family extends to the customers, many of whom visit daily for a coffee fix, meal or take-away sourdough loaf.

Metro is the regular meeting spot for book clubs, park runners, mothers’ groups and live music fans, with a growing number of performers stopping by on their travels from Melbourne to Adelaide.

They all contribute to the Metro vibe, which Toni and Theo sum up by the Greek word ‘Kefi’.

It’s a vibe so powerful that many staff, including Toni, have the word tattooed on their skin, such is their devotion to this magnetic place they have created.

“Kefi means spirit and passion for life – that moment when you let go of everything that isn’t important and embrace everything that is – family, life, love, and joy,” Toni says.

“That’s what we encourage here.”

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Coonawarra families co-produce region’s most expensive wine

What started as a late-night conversation between two wine families who share a common distant relative has evolved into the most expensive wine yet produced from Coonawarra – and it sets an innovative new benchmark for elite wine output from the region.

The Redman and Balnaves families are already renowned for producing world-famous wines, but their decision to join forces and produce a wine that celebrates their common ancestor William Wilson (he’s fourth generation winemaker Dan Redman’s great-great-great grandfather) represents a first.

The release of the 2016 William Wilson Shiraz Cabernet on Saturday September 1, selling for $300 a bottle, combines elite grape parcels to produce a style once called claret, and regarded as a distinctive Australian wine signature.

“It was an idea we had before the 2016 vintage – to make a very special wine that could be released to celebrate the 200th anniversary of William Wilson’s birth, but sometimes simple ideas don’t turn out so easy,” says Doug Balnaves with a wry grin.

While Scottish-born Wilson was a famous horticulturist – and the lavish garden beside his Petticoat Lane cottage in Penola inspired Coonawarra’s first grape grower, John Riddock – trying to confirm accurate records of Wilson’s birth has not been so easy, with Doug finding three different dates in two countries.

“Let’s just say the wine is an appropriate celebration of William Wilson’s life,” he says.

To build this iconic wine blend, cabernet fruit comes from 46-year-old vines on Balnaves’ vineyards, while the Redman’s shiraz is from 85-year-old vines on a patch they call The Last Row.

“Both fruit parcels were identified as ideal for this blending project, even before they had been picked,” says Dan Redman.

The Redman and Balnaves families share an ancestor, William Wilson.

The hunch proved right, although it took a while to decide on the wine’s final recipe; the winemaking team initially thought shiraz would account for three quarters of the blend, but after blending trials it became 55% shiraz and 45% cabernet.

What results is a deliciously rich, nuanced wine, eminently drinkable now, but with the structure and intensity that will allow it to age gracefully in the cellar for at least 40 years.

“It’s not a contrived wine,” says Doug Balnaves with a note of pride. “The fruit is exceptional and the quality shines through. It’s a rare thing for a wine to exceed our expectations, but this one has.”

While this was designed as a one-off project, the results have been so encouraging that the winemakers have already secreted away parcels of grapes from the 2018 vintage in the hope of making another Redman/Balnaves blend, although nothing is yet confirmed.

The Redman and Balnaves families have collaborated to produce Coonawarra’s most expensive wine.

“The first my dad knew about us possibly doing it again was when he saw the team I’d hired to hand-pick shiraz from the Last Row block,” says Dan Redman with a sheepish grin.

“If I hadn’t noticed a few extra expensive oak barrels in the inventory, I probably still wouldn’t have been told,” says Doug’s daughter Kirsty Balnaves with a smile and a weary shake of her head.

“The truth is, this project has excited both families. It’s a rare thing to achieve something so exceptional.”

Due to its limited volume, with only 250 dozen produced (shared equally between the two family wineries), 2016 William Wilson Shiraz Cabernet will only be available at each winery’s cellar door or online.

To celebrate the launch of this special wine in grand fashion, the Balnaves and Redman families will be hosting a William Wilson event beside his headstone in the Coonawarra cemetery as part of the Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations in October, with haggis to eat and bagpipes providing the soundtrack to accompany a wine tasting.

Check for details.

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Millicent’s Mayura Station a cut above the rest

A beef producer from the state’s South East has won top honours in Delicious magazine’s National Produce Awards.

Mayura Station at Millicent on the Limestone Coast won Best Product From the Paddock for its full-blood Wagyu beef, as judged by a panel top-heavy with some of the country’s most respected chefs.

“We’re over the moon,” says Mayura’s owner, Scott de Bruin. “But it’s almost as if we had an unfair advantage. We’ve got the rolling green hills and, it being the Limestone Coast, beautiful soil full of calcium, which is just what growing animals need.”

Mayura, founded in 1845 as one of the state’s first pastoral leases, came under the stewardship of the de Bruin family in the 1980s and the first Wagyu herd was imported from Japan in 1998 by Scott’s father.

Mayura Station owner Scott de Bruin.

At first they focussed solely on producing breeding stock, but Scott soon realised there was an opportunity to do more, so he bought some cattle from his father and started his own breeding program, focussing on the production of prime beef.

His hunch paid off when he took some samples to Adelaide. Mayura Wagyu first appeared on a menu at The Grange, headed by iconic SA chef Cheong Liew, and its popularity just exploded from there.

“Consistency has always been the key for us,” says Scott. “There’s a lot of science behind delivering a product with the best possible flavour and texture.”

The cattle go through a carefully regulated management regime to maximise the quality of the meat. The final stages of feeding, at what Scott calls the Mayura Moo Cow Motel, include some unusual ingredients; e.g. chocolate.

The stock are fed chocolate during the final stages of feeding.

“Yep, chocolate,” he confirms. “Usually factory seconds – Kit Kats are a favourite. It gives the meat a genuinely unique flavour that’s instantly recognisable.”

“Traditionally beef production is focussed on rapid growth at the lowest cost,” Scott continues. “But at Mayura our focus is on quality – slow, steady growth, which gives the beef a fine texture and a beautiful mouth-feel.”

Their hard work has certainly paid off, if the number of awards Mayura has received over the years are anything to go by.

Mayura Station is a major employer and tourism drawcard in the Millicent area, particularly since opening The Tasting Room, an award-winning on-farm restaurant that showcases prime cuts of export-grade Wagyu, matched with a range of top quality local produce and “museum wine vintages” from around the region.

“We’ve always had a strong emphasis on locals supporting locals,” says Scott. “Through our Wagyu Experience, Head Chef Mark Wright introduces diners to some of the delicious but lesser-known cuts of beef, matched with the best local ingredients and wines.”

For the record, Scott’s favourite cut of Mayura Wagyu is the Zabuton – a small fillet named after the Japanese pillow that it resembles – grilled over charcoal.

“One of the great things about good quality Wagyu is that nearly every cut is a grilling cut,” he says. “A couple of minutes each side and it’s ready.”

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Annie’s Story keeps lost language and local culture alive

An Aboriginal elder from South Australia’s Limestone Coast is reviving the lost language and culture of her ancestors by launching a unique ‘talking book’ for children.

Annie’s Story; Growing up Strong on Boandik Country honours the incredible life of Annie Brice, the great-grandmother of the book’s author, Aunty Michelle Jacquelin-Furr.

Born around 1849 at an Aboriginal campsite in Penola, Annie was the daughter of a Boandik woman from Mt Gambier.

Her father was a freed convict from Van Diemen’s Land who worked for Penola founder, Alexander Cameron, on his sheep station.

Taught to read and write by Cameron’s niece, Mary MacKillop – who went on to become Australia’s first Saint – Annie’s life was also richly-coloured by dreaming stories, hunting, gathering, cultural protocols and other traditional ways of living.

Michelle wears a possum skin cloak she made with her family. Symbols on the cloak’s underside show the life of Annie using universal symbols common to many Aboriginal nations throughout Australia.

Michelle Jacquelin-Furr first recorded Annie’s fascinating story with symbols burnt into the soft skin of a striking possum fur cloak similar to those once worn by the Boandik people.

Her new book adds another chapter to her family’s fascinating geneaology; written in English and translated into Bunganditj by Michelle’s daughter, Brooke Joy, readers can also listen to an audio version spoken in the native language by scanning the QR codes that appear on each page.

Michelle says it is important to hear words once used fluently by Boandik people brought back to life.

“The isolated communities in Central Australia and WA have kept their language, but here it all stopped (after European settlement) and they lost their culture,” she says.

“It’s important that we start reviving the language, so that we can make the young ones more confident and proud of their past.”

Michelle would like to see Annie’s Story used in every SA school as part of the curriculum, and she has been sharing her book in classrooms across the Limestone Coast since it was launched as part of NAIDOC Week 2018.

Michelle shares stories with local school students.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Because of her, we can!’, recognising the essential role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in communities, families, and the nation’s rich history.

Mother of 13 children, Annie Brice, is part of this incredible legacy.

“This proud Boandik woman grew up on the land, cared for country, and passed on cultural knowledge and stories while also working and bringing up a family most of her life as a single parent,” Michelle says.

“Without her strength, resilience and fighting spirit, her descendants would not be here today to share her courageous story and keep Boandik culture alive.”

To order Annie’s Story,

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Small online venture boxing up luxury on Limestone Coast

With her impeccable style, bubbly personality and passion for sparking joy, Katie Fox is a Mount Gambier woman on a mission to deliver happiness to the world – one luxe gift box at a time.

The popular make-up artist’s new online business Little Pink Fox ticks every box on the ultimate pampering wish-list.

Her distinctive pink packages filled with her own vegan body whip, hand-poured soy candles, crystal earrings and sparkling wine recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Limestone Coast’s inaugural eNVIes live pitch night hosted by Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI)

Katie Fox at Flinders University’s New Venture Institute eNVIe awards.

Katie says the program handed her the tools and connections to refine her business model and broaden market reach.

“Joining this accelerator program was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my business; I learned so much, the guidance from the teachers and mentors was truly amazing, and the classroom camaraderie from everyone who went through the program was fantastic,” she says.

After 15 years working in fashion, the style guru switched her career focus to professional make-up and hair styling, and promptly became one of the Limestone Coast’s go-to girls for special events and photo shoots.

It was while working behind the scenes at weddings when Katie came up with the idea for her latest business venture.

The bridesmaid gift boxes feature candles, sparkling wine, jewellery and other wedding preparation essentials.

“I have worked on hundreds of weddings, and I have seen stressed out brides struggling to find the perfect gift for their bridesmaids, and I thought ‘I could do this – I could create the ultimate gift box for bridesmaids,” she says.

After launching last Christmas, she quickly realised the growth potential despite some strong competition.

“In a market this size, there is always room for unique, beautifully packaged gifts; Australians spent more than $11 billion on Christmas presents last year and attended an estimated 119,000 weddings, but it’s husbands and commercial businesses who have also embraced the click and send concept,” Katie says.

“Everybody wants the easy way to purchase the perfect gift.”

Katie Fox runs her own online gift and accessories business from the Limestone Coast.

Buoyed by positive feedback, Katie is now exploring wholesale markets and extending her range.

A Happiness Box is among the products in the pipeline, complete with inspirational cards and a short book containing tips on how to sustain a positive mindset.

Katie is planning to pay it forward in the community which has thrown its support behind her, and will donate part of the proceeds to Lifeboat South East, a group for people suffering stress, anxiety or depression.

The next NVI program intake is in September/October. Click here for more information.

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