MonthJune 2020

Val Johnson – Bonjour and G’Day

Strathnairn Arts
90 Stockdill Drive, Holt, ACT
Gallery 1 & 2 | 2 July- 26 July 2020
Online at

This exhibition features paintings from Val’s recent travels in France and outback Australia. The paintings show the contrasting aspects of Val’s travels. Each place has its own identity – the soft purples and greens of France, and the reds and oranges of outback Australia.

Barbie discusses Bonjour and G’Day with Val Johnson
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Sharon Field – Dead Leaf Dreaming | vignettes

A solo exhibition of new works
Suki & Hugh Gallery, Bungendore
Saturday 4 July to Sunday 19 July 2020

Online from Wednesday 1 July.

These vignettes are small, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a particular insight into the character of plants and insects and their settings in the bush.

Barbie speaks with Sharon Field about the exhibition

Sharon will be in the gallery on Saturday 4 July between 1 & 4 pm for a chat. On Sunday 5 July between 10 am and 1 pm she will share her technique with visitors in a casual demonstration.

Image: Sharon Field, watercolour and graphite
Image credit: Rob Little Digital Images.

Jane Godwin – When Rain Turns to Snow

Lothian, an imprint of Hachette, Australia, 2020

Between the beautiful cover artwork of Allison Colpoys lies an equally beautifully told story of the adolescent search for identity, family and connection.

Jane Godwin tackles many issues of social significance in this book including the difficult question of social media and its potentially dire effects on its users. Trolling, shaming, the sharing of inappropriate images, exclusion and manipulation all come under scrutiny.

Jane Godwin talks to Barbie about When Rain Turns to Snow
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Josephine Moon – The Cake Maker’s Wish

Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books,  Australia, 2020

This book is beautiful both outside and in. Set briefly in Richmond Tasmania and then mostly in the imaginary village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds, the story is deeply rooted in a sense of place.

In fact, it is the search for her place in the world and for a family she feels she has always lacked, that drives our heroine Olivia, a cake maker, to apply to be part of a social experiment aimed at the economic revitalisation of this small dying community.

Barbie speaks with Josephine Moon about The Cake Makers Wish
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PLATFORM – multi-sensory mobile art space

Live online festival  at
2pm – 8.30pm 27 June 2020

Eastern Riverina Arts presents PLATFORM, a space purpose-built within a modified shipping container. Configurable as a sensory space, chill-out area, exhibition space or small stage, throughout the course of an event, festival-goers can visit Platform to engage the senses or take some time out in a calming environment.

Barbie speaks with Scott Howie about Platform
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MIRKA – A revelatory exploration of the astonishing life of Mirka Mora

Jewish Museum Of Australia
26 Alma Rd, St Kilda, Victoria
Opening December 2020

The Jewish Museum of Australia: Gandel Centre of Judaica, in collaboration with William Mora Galleries, presents MIRKA – the most expansive survey of work by the late Mirka Mora (1928–2018) ever shown, and an intimate, previously unseen view into her rich and fascinating personal history.

Marking its first major showcase since Covid-19 lockdowns, the museum will re-emerge to illuminate the life and work of an artist whose seminal influence on Australia’s art and culture is undisputed.

Barbie speaks with exhibition curator, Elini Papavasileiou
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Canberra to come alive with sounds of driveway music

Musicians and singers of all levels
2pm – 2.20pm on International Make Music Day, Sunday 21 June 2020
Patios, balconies and driveways across Canberra region

International Make Music Day began in France in 1982 as the Fete de la Musique. It is now held in more than 750 cities in 120 countries, with millions of musicians participating.

MusicACT director Daniel Ballentyne, says that ‘Our live music culture has experiences a huge negative impact with the necessary response to COVID-19. We want live music to become and essential part and a marker of our COVID-19 response.’

More information is available at and

Music at the Artists Shed

88 Wollongong Street, Fyshwick
Sunday 21 June from 2-5pm.
Grace Notes and Daniel McFeeley

Grace Notes are three women who sing beautiful harmonies in songs from many genres

 Daniel McFeeley is the creator of witty, thoughtful, unpredictable music – often all three at once! He plays a variety of music from foot stomping rhythms to lilting melodies.

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Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai – The Giant and the Sea

Lothian Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Australia, 2020

This beautiful work begins with sweeping views of the sea and the sand and the tale of a giant who keeps watch.  The giant’s message to the girl is that the sea is rising due to a ‘machine’ in the city. Unless it is turned off the oceans will rise, and everyone will drown.

Predictably and reflecting our sad reality, the people do not listen to pleas to shut down the machine, but rather they glorify and worship it – and disaster ensues. Short term salvation by the compassionate and wise giant leads only to further disaster.

Barbie talks to Trent Jamieson about The Giant and the Sea
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Felicity Harley – Balance and other B.S.

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020

Felicity Harley will be known to many as the founding editor of Women’s Health magazine and of as well as for her appearances on commercial breakfast TV and the ‘I Support Women in Sport’ campaign.

A mother of three small children, she continues to lead a busy professional life and has turned her attention with this book to the widespread feeling of stress and being overwhelmed experienced by women, especially the millennials and Gen X/Gen Y-ers.

Felicity Harley talks about Balance and other B.S.
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Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick – On a Barbarous Coast

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020

This is historical fiction, but rather than an account of what we know from Cook’s journals, it is a- re-imagining of his voyage up the eastern coast of Australia, which has the Endeavour shipwrecked near what is now called Cooktown and a small party of survivors making it to shore.

What we know from our currently recorded history is that Cook and his crew spent 47 days in ‘Cooktown’ in 1770 after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef, the ship undergoing repairs and finally making port in Batavia in October of that year.

Barbie speaks to Craig Cormick about On a Barbarous Coast
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Karen J Carlisle – Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire

Kraken Publishing, Australia, 2020

Aunt Enid is an unusual heroine in today’s popular fiction. She is in her seventies and is a protector of the world against evil, against the intrusion of other damaging and wicked worlds into ours.

I am not usually a reader of fantasy and so this was a good introduction to the genre – I applaud the author’s adoption of the older woman as her central and active crusader figure.

Barbie speaks with Karen J Carlisle
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Krystal Hurst: ACT finalist in Telstra NATSIAA 2020

Museum and Art Gallery, Northern Territory

For the second successive year, Krystal Hurst is the ACT’s entrant in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

She is one of 67 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists selected to exhibit in the 2020 NATSIAA) Australia’s most prestigious and longest-running Indigenous art awards.

Barbie speaks with NATSIAA finalist, Krystal Hurst
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Sandie Docker – The Banksia Bay Beach Shack

Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House, Australia, 2020


The cheery cover of this book belies its dark themes. Don’t for a minute imagine you are picking up a frothy beachside romance here. While there is love of all sorts, and indeed romance, in this story, there are also family and community secrets and lies, the sway of power and privilege and the inherent and deeply rooted racism of Australian society.

Sandie Docker skilfully wraps all of this in a story that holds us captive to the last page with the tantalizing unravelling of one big secret and its myriad offshoots.

Barbie speaks with Sandie Docker about The Banksia Bay Beach Shack

This is the story of generations of women. Our main protagonist is Laura, an investigative journalist from the city. The death of her grandmother Lilian and the discovery of an old photograph are the catalysts for Laura’s expedition to Banksia Bay, determined to uncover the truth about events that took place between 1961 and 1964. Sensing the need for stealth, she use the cover story of producing a travel article to hide her intent.

She finds there a small tight-knit beachside community in the off season and a local surfing culture which borders on religious. Her efforts first to identify the people of the photograph and then fit them together into Lilian’s life and the stories she has been told meet with constant obfuscation and obstruction.

In coming to know some of the people of Banksia Bay, Laura also questions her own duplicity and agonises about whether telling her own truth will help uncover the secrets of the past, so well held through decades.

As this story switches from the sixties to the present, the author reminds us of the privilege endowed by power, wealth and position – both Lilian and her husband Richard come from that echelon. Virginia, her Banksia Bay annual summer holiday friend, and Yvonne, Virginia’s life-long friend, come from a distinctly other side of the tracks.

Thrown into this is the local power structure – the police officer and his son have the power and the bully’s heart needed to crush those less influential. And at the bottom of this heap is the Greek migrant family and the gentle Costas, whose dignity and acceptance of the way of the world are heart-breaking.

As I write this piece, it is Reconciliation Week in Australia and we are acutely aware of our systemic and deeply rooted racism as a society – indeed our very presence in this place testifies to a colonial history of the 18th century  which lingers into our present. Waves of immigrants over decades have felt the resentment of the occupier to the ‘stranger’, the interloper, the foreigner – and this book is set in the era when waves of European migrants fled the devastations of WW11 in search of a better life, only to be called names and denied acceptance.

As one who was a teenager at the time of the historical past in this book, I find much that resonates in the beach and surfing threads of this tale. There was and continues to be a mystique around surfing well beyond the ken of those of us who splash about in the shallows and enjoy walking on the sand. Reluctantly, Laura agrees to surf lessons and after many failures she manages to catch some waves.

She also manages to catch on to what it is she is missing in her life. It is this union with nature and the unspoken, the irrational perhaps, that in the end allows Laura to find herself at home.

And all this in a beachside romance? I don’t think so. What a great read this is, the third of Sandie Docker’s novels, each taking small towns as their milieu. Having grown up in what was at the time a small coastal town, the author evokes this sense of place perfectly. She has written what she knows, and knew, and she convinces us utterly of this reality, this memory of a golden time that nevertheless had darkness at its core.

I’ll be searching out her back-catalogue and await with interest the new book due out in early 2021.