/ 9 min read

Cancelled festivals, childcare deserts and low-emission milk

Cancelled festivals, childcare deserts and low-emission milk
A still from the film Queen of Begonias by Scotty So screening at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
On this page
Anna Rogan
Anna Rogan Tallarook, Victoria
Share this post

Cancelled festivals, childcare deserts and low-emission milk. Welcome to Galah Weekly, our newsy newsletter keeping you up to date with regional headlines that matter, plus other delightful things from life beyond the city.

Regional news round-up

The party is over

After 16 years, the Tasmanian museum Mona has announced its summer Festival of Music and Art (FOMA) has ended. “Maybe the end started at Covid,” said Mona owner and founder David Walsh. “Maybe it’s because the last festival was a poorly attended artistic triumph. But those aren’t the reasons I killed it ... I’m addicted to building, and my addiction got out of hand. Some things have to go before I’m too far gone.” Mona had previously announced a much reduced program for its winter festival, Dark MOFO, this year. Mona announcement.

A raft of major regional festivals has been cancelled recently, including Splendour in the Grass due to “unexpected events” (full story), Groovin the Moo due to “insufficient ticket sales” (full story) and the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle, which is pausing to “reassess” (full story). Meanwhile, other regional festivals are introducing creative solutions, such as ticket subscriptions to secure funding and shore up sales (full story).

Last week the Federal Government announced an inquiry into the nation’s live music industry. The chair of the Communications and Arts Committee, Brian Mitchell, said the industry was “facing considerable operational challenges”, particularly after Covid. Media release.

In an effort to support the floundering industry, the ABC’s Triple J has announced the return of its popular One Night Stand, which takes some of Australia’s biggest musical acts to a country town. The ABC has partnered with Music Australia to revive the event, which will raise funds for the industry charity, Support Act (full story). 

Newsletter partner

Regional Australia Bank. We take pride in calling regional Australia our home. We live and breathe the local spirit, from small businesses to big dreamers. Truly customer-owned, it’s our mission to empower regional Australians by investing back into our communities. Your financial wellbeing and stability matter most to us. When you grow, our region will, too. We will stand beside you through life’s ups and downs and together we celebrate the good that money can do.

Learn more about the Regional Australia Bank story.

Childcare deserts

A report released this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that nearly 50% of people living in regional Australia, and 85% of people living in remote areas, are located in “childcare deserts”. Some experts suggest that the lack of childcare services is exacerbating teacher shortages, nurse shortages and a lack of housing and health services. Full story.

Meanwhile, a private medical centre in Broken Hill has created its own solution, opening a staff creche in a bid to attract qualified professionals. Full story.

Hydrogen hub 

Gladstone is one of the largest bulk-commodity ports in the world, and has long been a centre for industry, energy, engineering and advanced manufacturing. So it makes sense that the region around the central Queensland city is at the forefront of new clean-energy projects, including Australia's largest hydrogen electrolyser manufacturing facility, which opened this week.  

Mayor Matt Burnett said the facility cemented Gladstone's place as Australia's hydrogen hub. "Everywhere around the world, whether it is Japan, Taiwan, or here locally, everyone is talking about Gladstone and central Queensland in terms of hydrogen production and renewable energy," he said.

The new facility will produce machines (hydrogen electrolysers) that use electricity to split water into its component parts (hydrogen and oxygen) in order to extract pure hydrogen to use as energy. It’s the first stage of Fortescue Energy's Green Energy Manufacturing Centre. The next stage will add a 50-megawatt facility called PEM50, which will allow the centre to use hydrogen electrolysers to produce green hydrogen—a clean energy source that uses no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases—for local and export markets. Full story.

Sugarcane biofuel

Speaking of clean energy, Australian scientists have now mapped the entire sugarcane genome, allowing farmers to grow the crop for other uses, including biofuel, and giving hope to Australia’s struggling sugarcane industry. Full story.

Underground wastewater plan

Mining giant Glencore has submitted plans to the Queensland Government to dispose of waste water by injecting it into the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest underground freshwater reservoirs in the world. Glencore maintains that the plan is completely safe. However agricultural industry advocates, graziers and communities say that injecting any substance into the basin could contaminate the water and affect water pressure across the basin, which supplies more than 180,000 people in inland Australia. The government will announce its decision in May. Full story.

Supermarket code

Supermarkets could be forced to reveal the markup they place on fresh food and the price they pay farmers, if the recommendations of a Federal Government-commissioned review of Australia’s voluntary Food and Grocery Code of Conduct are accepted (full story). Both the National and Greens parties say the recommendations don’t go far enough—they’d like supermarkets to be forced to sell off stores and assets if their market power is unfairly inflating prices or blocking competition. Full story.

The recommendations are among the first changes prompted by multiple inquiries into supermarket pricing and competition (full story), so you can expect plenty more news to come.

World's first low-emission milk

Tasmanian dairy producer Ashgrove has launched the world’s first commercially available low-emission milk. Ashgrove’s dairy cows are fed a supplement called SeaFeed, which helps lower their production of methane gas. The resulting low-emission Ashgrove Eco-Milk is available in Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets across Tasmania. Full story.

Return of a rare rodent 

A native rodent once thought extinct has been spotted on a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory. The critically endangered central rock rat was previously known to live only in West MacDonnell National Park (Tjoritja), and its recent appearance has given hope to researchers that other populations might be found. Full story.

This week's newsletter is sponsored by Regional Australia Bank

Tell us about it

The town where I live, like many in regional Australia, is a known childcare desert. Local daycare centres have two-year-plus waiting lists and most schools don’t offer after-hours care. Every Thursday one of my local friends drops her eldest son at daycare before waiting at the office with her youngest son to see if any of the kids in his room will call in sick so he can take their spot. Another local mum I know, a nurse who’d like to work more than she does, has her twin boys on a 40-strong waitlist for a daycare room that has space for just eight kids. Meanwhile, a school in our region resorted to creating a special pre-prep program so they could hire a teacher who couldn’t find childcare for her pre-prep child.

We’d love to hear what accessing childcare is like in other parts of rural and regional Australia. What lengths are you going to to access care? How is it affecting your daily life and work? Tell us about it, we wanna know. Comment on this article on Galah Digital or send an email to newsie@galahpress.com

Galah goss

We bought a hotel

The first instalment of our newest monthly column We bought a hotel landed in Galah subscribers’ inboxes on Friday. In it, ex-tech executive Neil Varcoe charts his adventures in Carcoar, population 271, as he transforms an old building into a boutique hotel, finds his place in the small community and misses his wife and two children back in Sydney. Read more.

Talk therapy

Annabelle recently allowed the insightful Chantal Corish to have a good rummage around her psyche for The Rural Psychologist podcast, and their conversation was released this week. Chantal’s rummaging revealed some real gems from Annabelle about fear, failing fast and doing what you love. You can listen here.

You can’t spoil a good thing

New dates and locations have been added to the list of special Galah book events happening across regional Australia. On Mother’s Day (Sunday 12 May), join Annabelle for a long lunch in an old sailing shed overlooking Pittwater in Avalon, NSW, hosted by Bookoccino. Read more

If Mum can’t make it to Avalon, may we suggest a beautiful Galah book-and-magazine bundle to temper her disappointment? I’d say it would be spoiling her, but in the words of my nana “you can’t spoil a good thing”. Buy a bundle for Mum here.

What's on

Sunset 1923 by Hans Heysen. Image: Benalla Art Gallery Collection.

Light Shines, Shadow Falls

Benalla Art Gallery has assembled a selection of landscapes from its collection by two of Australia’s finest watercolourists, Hans Heysen and Matthew James MacNally. The Light Shines, Shadow Falls exhibition is a celebration of both artists’ mastery in rendering the Australian countryside, and the atmospheric shifts across the day as the sun rises and sets. See it at the Benalla Art Gallery, Vic, on 17 May-28 July. Read more.

Queen of Begonias

Scotty So’s new video work, Queen of Begonias, employs humour, sincerity and campness in his tribute to the Begonia Queens, who were a feature of Ballarat’s Begonia Festival from 1953 to 1993. Queen of Begonias is screening at the Art Gallery of Ballarat until 28 April. Read more.


School holidays aren’t over for young Galahs in NSW so we have more ideas to keep them occupied, starting with a wondrous world where science, nature and magical realism take centre stage in the Understory outdoor theatre in Lismore Botanic Gardens until 28 April. Read more

Spaghetti Circus

Adventurous kids can join multi-day workshops in all things circus, including hula hooping, tight roping and juggling, at Spaghetti Circus in Byron Shire, NSW, until 18 April. Read more.

In the flock

Kara Cooper with her Gough Whitlam greeting card.

Kara Cooper, designer and artist

Interview by Emma Hearnes

High in the NSW Blue Mountains, in the historic village of Mount Victoria, designer Kara Cooper runs Mount Vic and Me—a whimsical studio and retail space that has been captivating visitors since 2013. The fabulously quirky shop overflows with Cooper’s art and designs, plus an assortment of home and fashion accessories, greeting cards, retro thrifted finds, wallpaper, and fabrics, alongside work from fellow Australian designers.

You must meet a lot of regional creatives through your studio. Do you have a favourite?

I love them all but I really admire Shani Nottingham at Rare Pear Studio in the NSW central west. Shani is a friend of mine and a powerhouse creative. What that girl can do! I’d love to do one of her watercolour workshops. Her line drawings are so detailed and her work with bread tags is such a beautiful way to repurpose waste.

Editor’s note: The next Galah magazine, Issue 10, features Sharni, and we agree: her bread-tag artworks really are beautiful. Watch this space.

I was tagged in a reel with Chat 10 Looks 3’s Annabel Crabb drinking from a mug featuring one of my designs. Albo has visited our studio shop, and I have letters from lots of the politicians I created caricatures of. I have a card from Bob Brown, who loved his tea towel likeness—I think it’s one of my favourites. 

Tea towel by Kara Cooper, approved by Bob Brown.

Any recent op shop finds you’re proud of? 

I found a great pair of laced leather ankle boots with a pointy toe and a Cuban heel recently—very steampunk. I also just picked up a huge black taffeta skirt with wild ruffles in every colour.

What's a story you tell yourself? 

I’m constantly reminding myself of the stories of other designers and businesses who have faced hardship and come out the other side. Running a small business is hard right now. I have no ideals to be wealthy, but to be able to create while reliably supporting my family would be a dream.

One last thing

Turtle talk

On Sunday I took the kids down to our neighbour’s farm to hear Graham Stockfeld from Turtles Australia talk about the freshwater turtles living in our ’hood. There’s a lot that scientists don’t know about freshwater turtles: how long they live (at least 50 years); where they go in winter (Stockfeld says they just don’t like AFL); or what triggers their nesting and laying habits (maybe rain). What scientists do know is that turtle populations are declining across vast areas of Australia. 

One of the most powerful vehicles for better understanding the secret lives of endangered animals such as freshwater turtles is citizen science. Landholders and people living in remote and regional areas play a particularly important, boots-on-the-ground role when it comes to collecting data.

Straight after the turtle talk, I downloaded the TurtleSat app on my phone, so the kids and I can record the findings of our turtle-spotting expeditions*. But if you’re not lucky enough to live on turtle country, there are plenty of other citizen science projects you can get involved in, some you can even do from your couch.

Australian Museum citizen science projects include frogs, fishes and microfossils (read more); CSIRO projects include crystals, ants, snakes and spiders (read more); or browse 646 projects on the Australian Citizen Science Association’s project finder to find the perfect mission (read more).

*Current turtle sightings: 0. But we remain hopeful.

What’s new(s)?

We’d love to hear about the news, events and people that should be making the headlines in the Galah Weekly newsy. Share what’s new(s) in your neck of the woods with us at newsie@galahpress.com