Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie – The Curiosities

Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette, Australia, 2021

This wonderfully gentle book reminds us to see ‘wonders and possibles’. Inspired by the author’s personal life, her experience of having a child with Tourette Syndrome, the book pays quiet homage to diversity of all kinds, to divergent thinking and the many ways people can see the world. It is about knowing and accepting that we are not all the same and that these differences make us better as a society.

Zana Fraillon talks to Barbie about The Curiosities
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Ngununggula Regional Gallery opens

Opening exhibition: Tamara Dean – High Jinks in the Hydrangeas
12 October to 17 December 2021
Entry Pavilion Commission: Megan Cope and local Aboriginal Community – Dreamtime Stories

Located within Retford Park, Ngununggula is a new Regional Gallery in the Southern Highlands, NSW. Ngununggula means ‘belonging’ in the traditional language of the Gundungurra People.

Barbie speaks with Megan Monte and Melena Stojanovska from Ngununggula Regional Gallery
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Italian Film Festival, Canberra

Palace Electric Cinemas
17 November to 12 December 2021
Tickets including e-ticket bundles now available

This year’s ST. ALi Italian Film Festival will begin with the Australian premiere of Daniele Luchetti’s The Ties (Lacci) which opened last year’s Venice Film Festival. It’s a sumptuous marriage in crisis drama spanning several decades.
A 4K restoration of Roberto Rosselini’s classic Rome, Open City  is the festival closing film. Conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II in Rome, this is part of the Rossellini Retrospective presented by the Italian Cultural Institute Sydney alongside AmoreJourney To ItalyPaisan and Stromboli.

The program will also feature a celebration of Italian screen goddesses Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale with some of their most loved performances in Marriage Italian Style, Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell and The Leopard.

The Centrepiece selection is recent winner of the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, To Chiara (Jonas Carpignano. It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl from Calabria, whose family life starts to unravel when she discovers her beloved father may have criminal ties.  

This year’s Special Festival Presentation is acclaimed Nanni Moretti’s latest film Three Floors. Featuring a tremendous ensemble cast, the film traces the disparate lives of three families who reside in the same apartment block in Rome’s stylish Prati neighbourhood.

Jacquie Byron – Happy Hour

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

What a very cheering novel this is, albeit dealing predominantly with the issue of grief after the loss of a long-time dearly beloved spouse. Jacquie Byron has captured that universal but at the same time highly individual response to unbearable loss with affection and humour in the character of Franny Calderwood.

Jacquie Byron talks about Happy Hour
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Sarah Bailey – The Housemate

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

This is a suspenseful crime thriller with an investigative journalist as its protagonist. Oli Groves is a new character for the author, known for her Gemma Woodstock trilogy. She’s an old-school print media journalist who believes in thorough research and well crafted long form articles.

Barbie speaks with Sarah Bailey about The Housemate
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Chris Hammer – Treasure and Dirt

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

What a cracker of a crime novel this is, with multiple intricate story lines to follow, a rich assortment of distinctly quirky characters and themes of abuse, power and justice hanging heavily over a vast and dusty landscape. With Treasure and Dirt, Chris Hammer, yet again, proves himself to be a master of his craft.

Chris Hammer talks about Treasure and Dirt
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Belconnen Arts Centre – Positive Poster Lab 2021

Gungahlin Arts’ Positive Poster Lab invites people to slow down, connect and stay creative by making a poster with the message that they most need to hear. Poster makers can share their work on the project’s Instagram page @PostivePosterLab until the end of this year.

The project is open to everyone – from professional artists to those who haven’t picked up a pencil since primary school.

Local artists Sally Holliday and Tom Campbell have created a series of prompts and video tutorials to get people started with the creative process.

The artists will also be running a free virtual working session on Sunday 17 October from 10am-11:30am.

Information and registration at:

Joanna Nell – The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital

Hachette, Australia, 2021

As with Joanna Nell’s three previous books, this one focusses on the ageing woman, on society’s attitudes to them and their own needs and strengths.

In this case, however, there is the added lens of a young character in the person of Chloe,17 at the start of the story, and on a Duke of Edinburgh Award placement at the hospital cafeteria run by the commanding Hilary Halliday and her jovial if often chivvied assistant, Joy Grainger. These two ladies are in their seventies.

Joanna Nell talks to Barbie about The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital
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Steve Matthews – Hitler’s Assassins

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2021

Hitler’s Assassins is the second book in Steve Matthews’ trilogy (book 3 upcoming). Steve was inspired to write this series by experiences with Polish friends and his own visit to Auschwitz. The works are focussed on Hitler and lesser known aspects of the Nazi regime during World War 11.

Barbie talks to Steve Matthews about Hitler’s Assassins
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Harry Laing and Anne Ryan – Rapperbee – Poems to Give you a Buzz

Ford St Publishing, Australia, 2021

Harry Laing’s poetry and Anne Ryan’s illustrations marry perfectly in this collection, exuding energy and a delight in the wonders of the everyday. Indeed, the poet’s intent is to ‘normalise’ poetry, to make it an easy, accessible vehicle for ideas, observations and feelings.

Barbie gave Harry Laing a buzz to talk about Rapperbee
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Karen Manton – The Curlew’s Eye

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Cover design: Christa Moffitt
Map: Mika Tabata

This book is a masterpiece of atmospheric evocation, a family tale exploring the need to acknowledge our pasts in order to be whole.

Greta and Joel, our central characters are complex individuals, a couple joined it seems by their need to constantly move on and a capacity to allow the other not to speak of things – until they return to Joel’s family home in the Northern Territory to renovate the property for a tourism project. It is then that the past itself takes on a character role and insists on disclosure. The revelation of Joel’s secrets ultimately leads to Greta’s unveiling as well.

Barbie speaks with Karen Manton about The Curlew’s Eye
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Film review – Disclosure

Available on DVD and streaming platforms
85 mins, rated MA 15+ (strong sex scenes, course language)

The 1994 Hollywood film Disclosure was about allegations of workplace sexual harassment. This 2020 Australian film has a related theme: how the parents of a nine-year-old boy deal with allegations of sexual assault made by their neighbours’ four-year-old daughter, Natasha, against their son, Ethan.

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Artists Society of Canberra – 80th Spring Exhibition 2021

  • Deferred to February 2022

In a major achievement for a Canberra arts society, ASOC presents its 80th Spring Exhibition. This annual event is usually a vast exhibition of works by local and regional artists across a variety of mediums with members eligible to enter four works each.

Barbie speaks with ASOC president Peter Van Rens and convener of the exhibition, Dee Copeland.
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Gunning Arts Festival going online again

30-31 October 2021
Online at

Due to the risk posed by COVID-19 in regional communities, GAF is once again online.

Events are currently being scheduled and you are invited to keep up to date on the GAF website.

Highlights include:

  • The popular online Art Exhibition sponsored by Derivan is back and everyone can vote for their favourite artwork in the People’s Choice Award.
  • You are invited to join Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM, the mother of contemporary dance in Australia, for a virtual lunch, and to be uplfted by her presentation about her work creating dance in Nature.
  • There will be two interactive live Zoom art and craft workshops. Participants will be sent everything they need for the workshop beforehand and then can create their work of art in a Zoom group with live feedback from tutors.
  • Gunning Arts Festival has initiated a very successful SnapWrite Facebook group, where locals post picture stories that capture living in the beautiful Gunning region. A highlight sample of these will be selected and made available on the GAF website. Professional audio recordings of selected FlashWrite stories will be posted.

The Gunning Arts Festival is supported by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal via its Tackling Tough Times Together program and is proudly sponsored by Bailey’s Garage, BJCE Australia, Upper Lachlan Foundation, and the Upper Lachlan Shire Council.

2021 ACT Publishing Awards postponed until February 2022

Shortlist on 31 January, winner announced 25 February 2022

The ACT Publishing Awards awards recognise and celebrate Canberra-region works published by small presses as well as self- published titles.

The final date for submissions will be announced once there is a clearer understanding of Canberra’s COVID-19 restrictions in the coming ensurethat all entrants have an appropriate amount of time to safely drop off their entries.

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