Monday, November 20, 2023

As old as the hills and as young as tomorrow - an unexpected insight into a hidden regional Australia

On a short regional road trip to Victoria, I stumbled across something unexpecteda nod back to my past and a taste of an Australia as old as the hills and, at the same time, as young as tomorrow. At a local food and wine festival I encountered Dark Emu dark lager, a collaboration between renowned author Bruce Pascoe and local brewery, Sailors Grave, which uses the seeds from the native grasses Bruce has been reintroducing after hundreds of years.

This week I’ve been in Inverloch in regional Victoria. While we were there we went to the Village Feast, organised by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and joined the crowds eating, drinking and listening to music. For the last three years the Festival has been expanding into Victorian regional areas and this year it was the turn of Inverloch.

The Sailors Grave Brewery stall at the Inverloch Village feast.

The local produce was terrific – what's not to like about cheese and wine, especially when it's particularly likeable. Chef and presenter Adam Liaw was there, looking every bit as personable as he comes across on television. 

Where the Snowy meets the sea
On our first night on the road we stayed at Marlo, where the once mighty Snowy River meets the sea. When the man behind the bar at the Marlo Hotel where we stayed – Trevor – heard we were going to the food and wine festival, he told us to check out the Sailors Grave Brewing stall and say hello to his missus Kate.

'It turned out that Dark Emu dark lager is a collaboration between Bruce Pascoe and Sailors Grave Brewing and uses the seeds from the native grasses Bruce has been reintroducing after hundreds of years.'

It sounded like a good idea, so on the day of the Festival I tracked them down. I was impressed to see that the stall had a Dark Emu dark lager and gave it a try – I like a dark beer and it was very good. The name of the beer sounded familiar, so I asked about it. I couldn’t have been more delighted and impressed by the answer.

Dark Emu in a cup
We had driven past the brewery premises in Orbost but it turned out that it had relocated to Mallacoota. Mallacoota is where renowned author Bruce Pascoe lives. I know him from my years managing the Australian Government program that supports community languages centres all around Australia that are maintaining and reviving their ancient languages – the languages which are unique to Australia. Bruce is on the committee of First Languages Australia, the national body that helps support this work. 

Dark Emu dark lager - as old as the hills and as young as tomorrow.

It turned out that Dark Emu dark lager is a collaboration between Bruce Pascoe and Sailors Grave Brewing and uses the seeds from the native grasses Bruce has been reintroducing after hundreds of years.

That was not what I was expecting when I booked for the Festival – or stayed in Marlo – but it added a whole other dimension to my trip.

PS I've also found out that Sailors Grave Brewing are now making plum puddings from the grain – how fabulous is that?

© Stephen Cassidy 2023

See also

Returning to reading – finding the best of all worlds
‘It’s a strange time we live in – but then, has any time not been a strange time. I often think that there is no way on Earth that I would ever want to live in an earlier era, before medicine was so developed, when the average life expectancy was in the mid 30s, when life for most people was a short spell of drudgery punctuated by poverty and fear. I’m making the most of it. Lately I’ve started to balance my fascination with the easy-earned opinion of the online universe with a return to reading writing, as distinct from glancing at jotting’, Returning to reading – finding the best of all worlds.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.

The whole picture – an arts and cultural policy for everyone and everything
‘After a hiatus of ten long years Australia finally has a new national cultural policy that maps out what the current Albanese Government plans to do in support of Australian culture and creativity. At first glance the new policy appears to be an arts policy, rather than a broader cultural policy, but on closer scrutiny it is connected to far wider initiatives. Part of a series of three articles that consider different aspects of the cultural policy, this second one is about the connection between the policy and broader social and economic features, such as the cultural economy and First Nations economic development. The first one looks at the policy generally and outlines some of the major components it will deliver. The third article looks at the boost to the national collecting institutions which collect and safeguard Australia's cultural heritage,’ The whole picture – an arts and cultural policy for everyone and everything.

Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture
‘A recent regional road tour through Victoria to South Australia showed how a focus on arts and culture is a pointer for how regional centres can take a path other than slow decline. It also showed how a small country on the edges of the mainstream can become a global design force by staying true to its language, locality and culture – the things that make it distinctive in a crowded, noisy marketplace dominated by big, cashed up players’, Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture.

Regional Australia recognised as Bendigo named City of Culture
‘It’s been apparent for some time that regional centres and smaller cities and towns can be interesting and creative places and that cities that have missed out on the benefits of globalisation in the era of neo-liberalism can be brought back by community action and imagination. It’s certainly not happening everywhere but it’s true of many lucky regional towns and cities and some suburban and outer suburban areas – witness Sydney, where it’s increasingly clear that the excitement never really stopped at the edges of the inner city. The regional rollout of interesting keeps on happening’, Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds.

The long hard road of regional revival – putting arts and culture through its paces
‘I’ve always been interested in the broader effects of arts and culture – the ripples that spread out through a community and often change the future, sometimes subtly, sometimes in very drastic ways. You can see it really clearly in smaller communities, even though it happens in all communities, no matter what size. Unfortunately what’s often missing in all the analysis of economic and social problems in regional and remote communities is the importance of culture. Tenacious social problems flourish when morale is virtually non-existent – and morale depends on a positive sense of self and community. The long hard road of regional revival really puts arts and culture through its paces – but it delivers’, The long hard road of regional revival – putting arts and culture through its paces.

The island to the North series
Celebrating the ties between large and small islands, my original island home and the vast Pacific Ocean that laps and links them.

The island to the North – a nearby foreign country
‘Sitting by a roaring fire in a wintry pub in Tarraleah I found Tasmanians liked to call Australia “the island to the North”. We are neighbours but sometimes I wonder if I am behind enemy lines’, The island to the North – a nearby foreign country.

The island to the North – disappearing worlds
‘Islands are easily overlooked – Tasmania is an island that periodically disappears off maps, sometimes there, sometimes not, at the edge of consciousness, at the end of space’, The island to the North – disappearing worlds.

The island to the North – turning the map upside down
‘Our geography teacher taught us about the Australian fear of the Yellow Peril, ready to pour down from Asia and inundate the almost empty island to the South’, The island to the North – turning the map upside down.
 
The island to the North – the islands to the North East
‘The awkward relationship between Tasmania and the island to the North is not the only clumsy relationship between islands in this part of the world. The history of the ties between the island to the North and the islands of the Pacific is even more troubled.’ The island to the North – the islands to the North East.
 
The island to the North – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic 
‘When Australia finally ceased to be a rabble of competing colonies and instead became a nation comprising a rabble of competing states and territories, it still seemed possible that New Zealand might join the new Federation. Both New Zealand and Tasmania have long been an afterthought for the island to the North. But lots of mountains, clean water, high quality untainted produce, dramatic landscapes and acres of ocean all mark Tasmania as suitable for New Zealandership. It’s a partnership waiting to happen. It’s clear that the future for Tasmania lies with New Zealand, the islands to the East rather than the island to the North. In a form of Federation in reverse, Tasmania should join its neighbouring islands to make New Zealand three islands instead of two – the North Island, the South Island and the West Island. New Tazealand forever’, The island to the North – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. 
 
Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture
‘With arts and cultural support increasingly under pressure, arts and cultural organisations and artists are trying to find ways in their own localities to respond and to help build a popular understanding of the broader social and economic benefits of arts and culture. Much work has been done in Australia and internationally to understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture. The challenge is to share and to apply what already exists – and to take it further’, What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture.
 
Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet
‘The recent exhibition 'Piinpi', about contemporary Indigenous fashion, has a significance for Australian culture that is yet to be fully revealed. The themes covered by the exhibition are important because they demonstrate the intersection of the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant’, Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet.
 
Saving the farm – recognising Indigenous languages part of salvaging community
‘The end of the year – after a bumper 24 months of disasters – is a time of closure. Many things have changed and many more will change – hopefully mainly for the better. In particular people who have made major contributions to Australia creativity and culture are moving on from their roles to take up new interests or interests they have been too busy to pursue. This is particularly the case in the arena of First Nations languages, where the recognition amongst Australians generally of the importance of languages and culture is part and parcel of salvaging community – for everyone’, Saving the farm – recognising Indigenous languages part of salvaging community.
 
Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week
‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week. 

The language of success ­– recognising a great unsung community movement
‘What is especially significant about the Prime Minister, in his Closing the Gap address, recognising the importance of Indigenous languages is that this is the first time a Liberal leader has expressed such views. It’s exciting because for progress to be made it is essential that there is a jointly agreed position. This moment arises from the tireless work over many decades of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language revivalists – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history. By their hard work they have managed to change the profile of Indigenous languages in Australia. Unfortunately the address reinforced the tendency of government to overlook the success stories that are already happening in local communities and look for big institutional solutions. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a missed opportunity’, The language of success – recognising a great unsung community movement.

Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come
‘The inaugural Victorian Indigenous literary festival Blak & Bright in February 2016 was a a very important event for Australian cultural life. It aimed to promote and celebrate a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. It raised important questions about how the movement to revive and maintain Indigenous languages – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history – is related to ‘Australian literature’. Australian culture as a whole is also inconceivable without the central role of Indigenous culture – how would Australian literature look seen in the same light?’, Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come.

The Magna Carta – still a work in progress
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

The hidden universe of Australia's own languages
‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia's own languages.

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