HighCast 031 – Louise Jensen

Louise is a highlands local and advocate for Global Care Africa. She is running a fundraiser to build a home for 50 children in Tororo, Uganda.

Louise had her “soundtrack” or pivotal moment at Christmas 2017 when she learned the story of Caroline from Tororo, Uganda. Orphaned before she turned 10, Caroline was sold by her brother to a man at age 13 . She ran away, fell into drug use and was pregnant at age 19 to a man she didn’t know.

At the age of twenty-six, Caroline began taking in orphans. Now, she and twelve children (11 orphans) live in a three-bedroom home.  Louise is fundraising to support development of a home for up to 50 children and is on a mission to raise $100,000 to do so.

Louise’s story is as empowering as Caroline’s. She has really discovered herself through helping others. She is inspired and determined to achieve her target and seems to have found a purpose and mission she is passionate about.

I said to Louise after recording that her story is probably my favourite. I’ve had favourite and most funny podcasts, but Louise’s story is the best to date. I said on the podcast that I was a bit jealous of the joy she appears to have found. I was telling a bit of a fib, I find excitement in finding stories like Louise’s and I hope that others can find inspiration from her.

Louise is supported by many others across the highlands and wants to offer special thanks to Monica Williams from Robertson who has already funded a well in Tororo Uganda and is a raffle and fundraising extraordinaire.



HighCast 030 – Scott Hogan

Scott Hogan, President of Southern Highlands Off Road R/C Car Club was guest on HighCast 030.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical about how interesting the story might be. I was wrong! Scott is building a wonderful club for, and built by, community. It’s a family club about participation and belonging and has inclusiveness at it’s heart.

It was fascinating to learn about the R/C cars, the categories of racing and how the club has built it’s own track from scratch.

My favourite part of the conversation revolved around Scott’s passion to bring creativity and excitement to life through toys! He is part of something bigger than himself and is facilitating  learning and personal growth in the process.

Another wonderful story about cool things happening in the highlands. I’m so glad that I pursued the conversation and didn’t let my initial skepticism get in the way. If I had, I wouldn’t have learnt what I did today and met another great community member.

Thanks Scott.



HighCast 029 – Zac Hulm + Richard Vines

On a beautiful, if a little windy, day in the highlands I welcomed Zac Hulm and Richard Vines into the studio. Zac is Community Engagement Manger and Richard CEO of Rare Cancers Australia, a charity which advocates on behalf of and gives support to Australians suffering from rare forms of cancer.

Today’s podcast was incredibly humbling. I was subdued during my preparedness activities and during the podcast. I was presented with the opportunity of perspective and reflection when talking about people who are far less fortunate, health wise, than myself.

Richard’s wife and Zac are cancer survivors. They are personally invested in their journey and are passionate and articulate promoters of their cause. We talked about cancer, their work and how their work impacts them and their team personally. I was in awe of the work they do, especially with children.

I met Zac at the dentist and got to talking about how they run a national charity from Bowral. The rare cancers team are a great example of the fantastic work that can be done from our neck of the woods with a little know how, passion and some digital innovation.

I hope you enjoy the podcast.



The numbers 1 – 9 – 5 – 5 have been a repetitive theme in my life this week.

On Saturday at Bowral Parkrun I ran a time of 19:55. It was the first time I had run under 20 minutes for over three months and quite unexpected considering I hadn’t run under 20:30 in that same time period. Saturday was one of those days as a runner everything just clicked. I got my eating and my sleep right, and in hindsight I’d probably been working up to a fast run for a while and on Saturday everything just fell into place.

Running a 5 km race in under 20 minutes is an achievement for any amateur runner. Consider running at 90 per cent of your capacity for the duration of the run. Consider the physical and mental stresses this puts on you and one can comprehend why it’s not an easy task. Every time I run under 20 I feel fairly exhausted afterwards but also pumped that I’ve pushed my mind and body to the achievement.

Also this week I added Hilltop Hoods to some of my music streaming services. I forgot how good they are. I loved Aussie hip hop and even gave it a crack myself for a little while. Hilltop Hoods song 1955 is one of my favourites. It’s catchy, witty and has a good narrative. I had the song on repeat for a while at work whilst I was seeking inspiration.

In support of the theme of 1955 by Hilltop Hoods I feel like I’ve been transported back to that year and beyond today when I read of the opening speech of new Australian Senator Fraser Anning who called for a ‘final solution’ to Australia’s ‘immigration problem’. He has been widely condemned by most but there are some Australians who have supported his comments.

Whether or not Australia has an ‘immigration problem’ is a healthy debate for a democracy to have. It’s important for us to have nuanced and considered discussions about population, community, economy and environment all of which are impacted or enhanced in some way by immigration.

Senator Anning’s comments are not nuanced or considered, rather distasteful at best and don’t add anything to his argument. They inflame conversation and stop debate. It’s a shame that important discussions like immigration are hampered by careless words and ignorant thoughts. I want my elected officials to be better than this. I hope you do as well.

I hope we don’t slip back in time and can continue to have constructive debate, but if we do, I for one welcome my 1955 overlords..!

I stopped drinking for a year and now I’m going longer…

In July 2017 I decided to take a break from drinking alcohol.

I had commenced training in road crash rescue in my local State Emergency Service (SES) and I decided I wanted to take the responsibility seriously and make sure I was always available. So I thought, I’ll stop drinking for a couple of months to ensure I was always there for my community and for my team.

I wasn’t a problem drinker, but like a lot of Australian men in their 30’s I’d given booze a good shake. Additionally, I was also starting to look at myself and my relationship with alcohol, and was wondering when I was going to start taking things a little more seriously and have a real crack at life.

A couple of months went by. It was a little difficult at first but I was training hard at SES, working hard, and I started a new exercise regime. I therefore had enough to motivate me and push me through the boring Saturday afternoons where I would habitually open a beer whilst I watered the lawn or cooked a BBQ.

A couple of months turned into six and I was really starting to notice weight loss, energy increases and mental and physical wellbeing.  I wasn’t thinking about alcohol at all and I thought to myself, why not do a year…

It was around the 9 months point that I started to tell people of what I was doing. Up until then, I just stopped drinking. I didn’t tell anyone, not for any particular reason, it was partly because I didn’t know what my plans were and I didn’t want to commit to something I wasn’t going to achieve, so after three quarters of a year, I was confident of success, and told people. I would recite the above to people when they asked why…

I sailed into a year easily and immediately my mind turned to drinking. Violently and with a force I had not anticipated. My god, I craved it, I dreamt about it. Everywhere I looked booze reoccupied my thinking. It was at this point I decided I’m going to keep going…

This time, like last, I don’t have any expectations about how long I will persist. I still maintain that I may drink again one day but it’s not in the foreseeable future. That’s mainly because I have so much momentum now that I have built whilst not drinking and I feel as though drinking will burst that momentum. It’s not about not drinking, it’s about the success I’m having without drinking. Positive reasons are so much better than negative.

I learned some lessons along the way:

  • Exercise, particularly intense cardio and lifting heavy weights is as good as any beer I have ever tasted if not better. Particularly early in the morning followed by a shot of espresso before work. It sets up your morning to be super productive.
  • Achievement and momentum is addictive. The more you achieve, the more you want to and it grows and flows from there. If you’d told me a year ago I’d have started a podcast and be on an entrepreneurial journey I would have laughed at you.
  • I used to watch what I ate and was weight conscious but now I can eat (within reason) pretty much whatever I want and I don’t really worry anymore. Instead of alcohol I’ve decided to treat myself with sourdough on the weekends.
  • I have more energy and enthusiasm than I have had in the past 20 years. Combined with better sleep, going to bed early and generally being keen to wake up and discover the world. I’m almost a new man.
  • I have more money and time, and I use that to have a better relationship with my children. I thought I was a pretty good father but I’m almost super dad now… I say yes more often and when I’m with them I’m more present and engaged.

The next point is not a dot point. It’s important and a real lesson for us all.

Somewhere in my life I lost joy. I lost creativity and excitement. In some ways, alcohol, gave me a fleeting glimpse of what I had lost and offered moments of relief from the humdrum and monotony of life but it wasn’t real.

I recently had someone I trust and I respect tell me that I’m the most serious person they’ve ever met. I found that interesting because over the last couple of months I’ve developed a feeling that I remember from when I was younger, a feeling I haven’t felt since I was a teenager and it certainly isn’t a feeling of seriousness…

It’s a feeling that includes a sense of wonder, excitement at what the day might hold, the opportunity for discovery. It’s that feeling that you get when you’re reading a really good story and it feels like the stuff that movies, great pieces of art and music are written about. At the moment, I feel that, and I can tell you that no beer ever tasted that good and probably never will.

In the immortal catch phrase of r/stopdrinking IWNDWYT.

HighCast 028 – Jade + Craig Whatman

Today Jade and Craig Whatman were guests. They are 5th and 4th generational dairy farmers respectfully and owners of Mayberry farm which they are trying to save from the grips of low milk prices and drought.

The Whatman’s have 170 years history dairy farming in the highlands. They represent a generational transition that has seen the number of dairy’s drop from 263 to 8 over the past century or so. They have significant cultural and production heritage invested in their endeavors.

It was sad to hear of their plight. How deregulation and changing climates have resulted in serious deficiencies between farm income and expenses but at the same time exciting to hear their story and their plans to manage their challenge.

They have big plans for the future. Not only do they want to save Mayberry but contribute to other farmers in the district. They’re thinking beyond that to change.org solutions to the wider agricultural issues facing the nation.

Today’s conversation is a great example of wider, world issues playing out in the highlands. Our ability to adapt and build sustainable futures is a problem for all of us not just the Whatman’s. They are feeling the pinch now, how long before we all take responsibility, and as a society, begin the conversation about transforming our cultures to embed sustainability and resilience.


HighCast 027 – Dr Troy Myers

An interesting and fun conversation today with Dr Troy Myers. Troy is a paleontologist who specialises in marsupial mammals dating back 25 – 35 million years ago.

The time scales in which Troy works are incomprehensible to a lay person like me. The breadth and depth of his scientific knowledge is incredible and his ability to jump from geology to biology and climate science makes him a fascinating person to talk to.

My favourite parts of the discussion focus on discovery. The joy and pursuit of discovery seem lost on many today. The ability to learn something new and to translate knowledge to others seems as necessary now as it has ever been. I hope that somewhere a young person might listen to this podcast, to Troy, and think maybe a career in science, maybe paleontology, is for them.

Troy practices paleontology from the highlands and is an example of a community member pursuing a passion many may not consider relevant to the highlands but he’s doing it. You can follow Troy’s escapades or begin your own this weekend by heading up to Mt Gibraltar and looking through the piles of rock there 😛

Between heart and head

I had a short reflection this week when I read a story about Clarke Gayford, partner of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who will stay at home to look after their six week old daughter when Jacinda returns to work.

My first reaction to the story was disappointing to me personally.

As I read the headline and opening paragraphs, unexpectedly,  I felt sorry for him. I felt as if, somehow, through this action he was less of a man and had less value, and that his partner, not him, was fulfilling the role of protector, securer and bread winner. I felt in a weird way emasculated as if something wasn’t quite right, not just with the story but with our world.

I was dismayed at this feeling…

I consider myself quite progressive, innovative and open to new ideas and ways of living. I (quite reasonably) think that men should be able to do what Clarke is doing, so I really was taken back by my feeling. It was immediate and visceral, not hateful or perpetual, but significant enough for me to take note, to ponder why I felt the way I did and to write about it here.

I don’t have time, space nor skill with the written word to fully convey my thoughts in this blog however I consider it pertinent to express how I feel about topics such as this for two reasons:

  1. To identify that there can be different notions of reason between the heart and the head. I don’t know why I felt like I did but it’s important to acknowledge that I felt it and to consider it as part of a nuanced and rational discussion about what it means to be a man and to be human.
  2. Reasoned and considered discussion, particularly by men, for men, about such topics tends to ignore feelings. We’re rational creatures who want to solve problems and this conflict between feelings and reason is not often considered as part of a discussion. It’s important for men to reconcile this divergence in character through honest and open discussion, if we continue to ignore it we will perpetuate the stereotype of Homer Simpson and “dumb but funny man” on almost every commercial.

So today, I’m starting it. I’m admitting that I felt something that I’m not proud of, that makes no sense to my rational brain, but I felt it.

What does that mean about being a man in modern times?

How do we as men engage in nuanced and considered discussion openly and honestly when to admit such feeling is not necessarily politically correct?

How do we find courage to admit the way we feel about the evolution of masculinity and roles in modern society challenging?

Most importantly, how do we rise to the challenge and find that balance between heart and head so we can continue to provide that ever so masculine of ideals of protection and security to our partners and children as a stay at home dad or any other role we play in this complex and crazy world..?

I don’t have many answers to the above but I’m willing to consider and discuss…


Complicated and confounding ideas

After my conversation with Ozzie last week I began thinking about films that inspired me, films that invoked hope and that conveyed meaning. I thought back to my youth to Star Wars, BMX Bandits, the Goonies and other classics that are part of our vernacular if you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.

On the weekend I was tired after Bowral Parkrun and needed some time to chill with the boys and be entertained. I came across Never Ending Story in our DVD collection. I put it on and straight away I was transported to a world of fantasy and grand narratives.

Ozzie and I talked about inability to convey message and meaning in today’s media landscape of 60 second videos, and correspondingly, how time is necessary to express nuanced and complicated ideas. Never Ending Story deals with death and sadness, coming of age and confidence, and lack of meaning in our lives. You can’t relay difficult concepts and thoughtful messages in a snap chat video or three minute “extended” news feature. It takes time and creativity to express such complicated and confounding ideas, particularly to children but to adults as well.

It’s not just immediacy and attention, I feel as though we’ve forgotten the art of story telling. Of conveying value and meaning between us and across our cultures through story. I don’t know whether it’s us or story tellers who are to blame (let’s face it, it’s us, we “don’t have time for it”} but it feels as though somewhere we forgot about purpose and replaced value with consumption.

Perhaps I’m reading into it way to much and all I want and need is to be entertained for a short period between unpacking the dishwasher and putting clothes on the line. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, in those moments between normalcy that I can watch or listen to something a little more thought provoking than who danced on a ninja warrior whilst cooking their grandmothers block…

HighCast 026 – Ozzie Fikri

Today was my most fun podcast to date with highlands local and owner of Highlands TV Ozzie Fikri. I laughed genuinely hard today, I hope you enjoy the podcast as much as I did recording it.

Ozzie is a great story teller, he is funny and charismatic and understands the importance of message and meaning in his work. Our conversation ranged from his journey, to his work and his dreams for the future.

We talked about two feature films he has in mind. I really hope that Ozzie gets to make them. It would be a real achievement to have a man, who started making TV just because he wanted to, create something that has potential to entertain and inspire all around the world.

In the of the conversation I caught myself talking about common themes: meaning, the importance of nuance and conversation. These themes are coming up frequently in the podcast. I’m lucky to be able to explore them with fantastic locals like Ozzie.