Social media, the ‘bikini bridge’ and the viral contagion of body ideals

The ‘bikini bridge’ phenomenon 
caught on quickly because it reflected the cultural expectations 
placed on women’s bodies.

What happens when you combine a cultural obsession with thinness, a bit of organised propaganda and a catchy hashtag? Enter the “bikini bridge”: the space between the bikini and the lower abdomen that occurs when bather bottoms are suspended between the two hip bones.

On January 5, 2014, anonymous internet trolls on 4chan, an imageboard website, launched “Operation Bikini Bridge”, a campaign aimed to garner buzz and popularity for a little-known term (first coined on Tumblr in 2009).

4chan is an anything-goes community notorious for sharing intentionally offensive content and hacking the attention economy. Operation Bikini Bridge did just that. The plan was to “create propaganda parading the ‘bikini bridge’ to be the next big thing” and target people who had body-conscious predispositions.

We studied the evolution of the campaign, analysing over 10,000 #bikinibridge tweets. The campaign began with a barrage of propaganda from troll accounts. Within a week, 63% of #bikinibridge tweets were one-off posts from existing Twitter users.

Operation Bikini Bridge was outed as an internet hoax within days of its launch, but the damage was done. Online users and media outlets had already succumbed to the prank.

Image from Twitter, author provided

How body ideals spread through social media

Trends such as thinspiration and fitspiration provide insight into the darker side of how social media shape attitudes to women’s bodies. However, what is less understood is how body ideals are communicated through social media and gain traction.

Our recent research analysed the viral spread of the bikini bridge. We identified four factors that contributed to its notoriety.

Firstly, it was a simple, singular body goal: the term “bikini bridge” offered catchy mass appeal as something that users could strive to achieve. As Riley tweeted (1/7/2014, 9.34pm):

Y is having a #bikinibridge suddenly 2014 news? Please, I was obsessed w/ bikini bridge before it even had a name.

Secondly, it did not matter if the notion of a bikini bridge was real or fake – it was believable as it drew on innate cultural beliefs about how a woman’s body should look. As Chrissy tweeted (1/10/2014, 1.46pm):

You can’t blame the Internet for a body image culture that already existed #bikinibridge

Thirdly, the bikini bridge was accelerated by other online communities, such as pro-anorexia groups and online pornographers, who leveraged the bikini bridge hashtag to spread their own messages. As pro-ana user Ashley tweeted (1/12/2014, 8.05pm):

Perfectly concave #thinspo #bikinibridge #hipbones

A ‘bikini bridge’ image from Twitter. Author provided

Finally, online users helped further spread the bikini bridge trend by voicing conflicting opinions about it – creating a very public conversation. For example, BridgesAreBest tweeted (1/7/2014, 12.06am): @FeministGroup

This is a movement for feminists, by feminists. Free your body. It’s your choice. Embrace the #bikinibridge.

In response, FeministGroup tweeted (1/7/2014, 12.08am):

No way! The #bikinibridge craze is the new thigh gap – telling young women their worth is based on their lack of body size. Not ok!

An image from Twitter. author provided

Hashtags, social media and body idealisation

In a culture in which people, especially women, turn to social media for information and social cues about their bodies, the bikini bridge has paved the way for a variety of hashtag-driven body ideals to emerge. Since it, we have witnessed the rise of #hotdoglegs, #thighbrow and #underboob.

Social media platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter provide visual and verbal representations of body ideals and associated motivational phrases. Moreover, they allow the speedy propagation of information to a large group of users, creating an ideal environment for the emergence and dissemination of trends.

Hashtags play an important role in this. Traditionally employed to help people sort, find, organise and share content, hashtagging has transitioned from a functional tool to a cultural genre.

Research has found that time spent on social media is associated with increased body surveillancedisordered eatinginternalisation of the thin idealheightened body consciousness and shameappearance-based comparisons and the reproduction of gender stereotypes and ideologies of attractiveness.

Body ideals as viral sensations

The bikini bridge phenomenon caught on quickly because it reflected the cultural expectations placed on women’s bodies and what is seen as culturally valuable.

Prior to the bikini bridge, societal norms already suggested that women should be conscious of their stomachs and hips. The difference is that nowadays social media users can create an entire body image phenomenon through a series of keystrokes and branded, catchy nicknames.

Online body image trends like the bikini bridge reward women for achieving a single body part, rather than focusing on overall health and well-being. Hashtags move cultural messages beyond generalised ideals of body perfection, such as being thin, and toward singularised versions of body perfection, such as attaining a “bikini bridge” or “thigh gap”.

Such simplistic, social-media-driven body ideals create a disturbing new set of pressures for young women.

This article was co-authored by:






Listen To Older Voices – Hannah Sky: Part 3

 Welcome to Listen To Older Voices, 
a program produced by Rob Greaves for Uniting Melba and podcast 
through the Toorak Times and Tagg [Picture Left to right - Rob Greaves,
Kath Holten - Team leader Melba & Hannah Sky
Listen To Older Voices presents the stories, views and opinions of our older citizens. It is predominantly in a life & times format, with interviewees reflecting upon their lives from earliest memories. An underlying principal of the program is to promote the concept of positive ageing, reinforcing the principle that older people have & continue to make a valuable contribution to both their local & wider community.

In this final program on the Life and Times of Hannah Sky, she continues to talk about her experiences working with the Listen To Older Voices program in its early years and the work needed to get the program off the ground including the incredible contributions made by many people. Hannah also talks of some of the powerful examples of people interviewed by herself and her co-worker Jacey Hall.

As we listen to Hannah we understand the amount of work that went into building a solid foundation for this program which has now run for over 1,000 consecutive programs and, how her work has provided a platform by which the program has grown. Listen To Older Voices has continued to provided a voice for older people to promote positive ageing and provide a mechanism by which their stories and contributions to this country can be shared.

Click to hear Hannah Sky – Part 3

Previous LTOV Programs can be accessed clicking on this icon – 


[Listen To Older Voices receives funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Commonwealth Home Support Program Program]

Sunday essay: the art of the pinch – popular music and appropriation

 The Rolling Stones performing in Hamburg during 
the ‘No Filter’ European tour: the band’s legacy is entwined with the 
pioneers of black American music. Morris Mac Matzen/Reuters

Everything old is new again. Today the Rolling Stones release On Air, a collection of much-bootlegged BBC live studio broadcasts taped for a variety of programs between 1963 and 1965. The remastered set provides a rare glimpse of the young musicians playing to order the songs that defined their early hybrid sound and telegraphed – much like The Beatles – their love for African-American music.

The recently restored archival recordings map their transition from astute performers of seminal black American blues and roots music to legitimate codifiers of its (mostly white) bastard offspring. From I Can’t Be Satisfied to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, from Route 66 to 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Full circle, full steam ahead.

The release of these archival recordings, following on from last year’s bristling Blue & Lonesome set and the recent nostalgia-laden #NoFilter tour are a reminder of how entwined the band’s legacy is with the pioneers of black American music. From their Delta roots to their electric spirit animal offspring – Chicago and West Coast blues, Stax and Motown soul and early Sun and Chess rock ‘n roll – the old masters had cast a wicked spell over the young lads from Dartford. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the saccharine radio programming Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had grown up with in the 1950s in which appropriating another person’s culture and creative output had turned an artistic endeavour into a form of soft-manufacturing.

Music production became a lucrative industry with straight-edge white performers like Bill HayleyPerry Como and Pat Boone cutting sanitised versions of Little RichardBig Joe Turner and Fats Domino records when the original renditions were still fighting their way up the pop charts. As Richard explained in the Chuck Berry documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll:

Then here come Pat Boone. The white kids wanted mine, ’cause it was real rough and raw, and Pat Boone had this smooth version. And so, the white kids would take mine and put it in the drawer and put his on top of the dresser. I was mad. When Pat Boone covered my record, I was mad, I wanted to get him. I said, ‘I’m goin’ to Nashville to find him’.

Cultural appropriation in a musical context doesn’t have to be at the exclusion of the original artist or the culture from which they carved their path. Pinching musical phrases and stylistic approaches – when done thoughtfully and with a desire to connect with the original work’s unique properties – has always been a part of the art making process.

And yet, as artists like the Stones and the Beatles have demonstrated, it should not be a closed circuit. It should manifest itself as a social and artistic conversation across languages, across media, and across generations – a form of cultural exchange. Although, as Keith Richards discovered when working with Chuck Berry in the late 1980s, getting it right ain’t always easy. There is inevitably a price to pay, and Richards more than anyone knows the score. For every lift, there is a link to the past – a debt owed and a palm to grease. With every lick comes a nod and a cheeky wink.

A medium of social exchange

The production of culture is very much informed by the technology that enables it. The Philadelphia and New York disco movement, for instance, were as much a technological evolution as a dance floor phenomena. Legendary DJs such as Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan would isolate, cut, loop and layer sounds using reel-to-reel tapes to create extended remixes to maximise a track’s dancefloor credentials.

In much the same way, hip hop culture helped facilitate the emergence of the remix as a technological act via turntablism, scratching and later sampling. Inevitably, pinching the break or the intro or a signature moment and re-purposing it would evolve into an art form. By dropping musical fragments into new material arrangements, disco and hip-hop DJs from the Bay to the Island devised an accessible production methodology that would translate seamlessly into the post-analogue world.

Producers like Danger Mouse (The Grey Album) and The Avalanches (Since I Left You) and mash-up artists like Girl Talk (Feed the Animals) and Tom Caruana (Black Gold) are the millennial cut and paste inheritors of this practice.

The digital remix not only accelerated modes of cultural exchange but made possible an almost infinite splintering of sub genres and associated sub cultures. What makes hip hop culture so important – and this is analogous to the Stones – is that in the beginning, DJs like DJ Kool Herc borrowed from music that was not only underrepresented on mainstream radio, but was made by revered funk and soul artists – the so called “the sacred crates. Kool Herc championed records by James Brown, The Jimmy Castor BunchCymande (UK), The Incredible Bongo Band and Baby Huey & The Babysitters.

Music is also a medium of social exchange, we can see (and hear) this in the evolution of not only disco and hip hop but also in Jamaican sound system culture of the 1950s. Sound clashes were inherently socio-political events organised as mass gatherings around big speakers and big sounds and big ideas. In essence, a sound clash was a competition between sound system crews who marshalled speaker stacks, often on the back of trucks, spinning imported American R&B records and later dub plates of exclusive Ska and Rocksteadymixes. It was sonic warfare. DJs and MCs – like Count Machuki and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd – became local superstars who cultivated their own sounds. From Jamaican Sound System culture we can mark the emergence of brand new sonic techniques like scratching (Lee “Scratch” Perry), beat boxing (Machuki), the break (Kool Herc) and the remix (King Tubby).

These musical innovations became statements of Caribbean identity. Like African and Cuban rhythms that migrated to the Americas, these sounds became migratory too, travelling with West Indian migrants to the UK, leaking into the sonic palette of predominately white groups such as MadnessThe Pretenders, The Specials, The Police and of course The Clash. These would later mutate into more distilled contemporary forms such as Dub, Jungle and Drum & Bass.

A cultural awakening

The release of On Air by the Rolling Stones is indicative of a recurrent theme of the group not only appropriating African American musical stylings, lyrical patterns and performative techniques but pointing audiences to the source. Whether it be in the mimicry of Chuck Berry guitar phrases, the jungle rhythms of Bo Diddley, the vocal mannerisms of Jimmy Reed or the lyrical misogyny of Sonny Boy Williamson, the band has always worn its passion for the source material like a badge of honour.

The Stones’ breakout tours of the US and Europe (1967-72) are indicative of this dogged commitment to the form. They stacked their support act packages with African American artists such as Taj Mahal (1968), Ike and Tina Turner (upon whom Jagger is rumoured to have based his raunchy stage persona), BB King (1969), Buddy Guy (1970), and Stevie Wonder (1972). As Guy remarked recently

They were bigger than bubble-gum … when they came to America, they recognized some of the greatest musicians that I had admired – Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf – and let America know who we were. They let white America know what the blues is. We owe those guys all the thanks in the world.

The American tours of the early 1970s took place in a politically charged atmosphere of racial division, sexual awakening and inter-generational conflict. A time when white American audiences were still reconciling with the notion that culture was a form of identification, of exchange, a mode of storytelling rooted in race, identity, faith, sex and – after Dylan via Guthrie – politics.

It was also a period of cultural awakening, as a rich lineage of African American music – which had given the world fiercely original artists such as Robert Johnson, Billy Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Chuck Berry – was now being commodified for new audiences by a new industry and a new genre of musical expression.

An open source ‘cookbook of rock’

The musical tool kit the latter artists laid bare – open tunings, a swinging back-beat, bending notes, long form improvisation, call and response, vocal phrasings, urban storytelling, spiritual empowerment, stage theatrics and of course overt sexual bravado were all mutated into this musical progression.

Bands like the Stones, The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, Cream and later Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead appropriated many of these elements to design an open source Cookbook of Rock – flexible enough that it would facilitate decades of experimentation and manipulation, yet well-enough defined so that it would require devotion and authenticity to pull off a lick with your chops and dignity still intact.

Bo Diddley, the original “guitar slinger” – and by his own admission, “the man” – was one of rock and roll’s true technical innovators who has a very different take on this.

Speaking to the New York Times in 2003, he made it quite clear who were the beneficiaries of this process: “I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob”.

Accusations of appropriation have, of course, dogged Led Zeppelin, with several claims that they lifted song parts and lyrics without accreditation or acknowledgement (although a court cleared the band of plagiarism in relation to Stairway to Heaven in 2016). The argument they proffer in their defence, that the pinch was more like a sample and that the result was a considerable transformation of the original, is consistent with the conceit of musical appropriation as an artistic prerogative. Yet it would seem that Zeppelin were more brazen than most.

Cultural forms as fashion accessories

The brashness of Page and Plant displays a degree of insensitivity and perhaps white privilege that lies at the heart of the contemporary cultural appropriation debate.

We have seen recently – from bindis at Coachella to American Indian regalia at Burning Man – how racial and cultural forms have been commodified and trashed as fashion accessories to serve bizarre notions of connectedness, freedom and belonging. Most prominently, this is exploited by art directors and marketing departments to window dress pop music by highly visible major label music acts who probably should know better in the Twenty-Teens.

Indian and Hindu culture gets the full treatment in the ethno-confused art direction of Coldplay and Beyoncé’s promo clip for the song, Hymn for the Weekend, that portrays Indian stereotypes – like “levitating gurus, slum dogs, and throwing coloured powder” – in a manner that, according to Rashmee Kumar, stifles critical thinking about India’s social and political climate.

Coldplay’s video romanticizes Hinduism to further exoticize India as a westerners’ paradise unsullied by harsh realities.

We see this time and again in the mish-mash of Asian referencing in productions featuring Major Lazer & DJ Snake (India), Iggy Azalea (India, again) and Katy Perry’s bizarre appearance as a Geisha at the American Music Awards.

Epitomising this trend is John Mayer’s video clip, Still Feel Like Your Man, a musical performance he confusingly labels “disco dojo” and “ancient Japanese R&B”. Although the clip is emblematic of this creative clumsiness by major artists, the music press at the time went along for the ride. Rolling Stone magazine called the clip “colourful” while Billboardmagazine repeated Mayer’s mixed Japanese metaphor, adding that the Mister Whitmore directed clip is “decorated with kimonos, dancers in panda bear costumes, swordfighting and bamboo trees” despite the obvious contradiction that Panda bears are traditionally from China.

Music journalist Touré cuts to the chase saying Mayer is “not racist, he is dumb on race”. In just one tweet Touré calls out Mayer’s ill-informed approach to not only the video’s production design but even the song’s origins, which evidently have more to do with Katy Perry’s old shampoo bottles than the origins of global Asian culture. The West’s colonial view of the East however has always been perverted, as Malek Alloula wrote in The Colonial Harem back in 1981, the Orient

has fascinated and disturbed Europe for a long time. It has been its glittering imaginary and its mirage.

Pop culture is the messiness between the concentric orbits of personal identity and collective history. When appropriation is done well, with a quest for knowledge or to seek out an emotional core or a narrative truth, this messiness can create new meanings and new partnerships. It might even construct new narratives and spawn new beginnings.

When it is done in an ill-informed, shallow, tokenistic manner, it only serves to perpetuate tired yet stubbornly persistent colonial, racial and patriarchal stereotypes.

An informed practitioner

Jagger and Richards are not alone in their quest for authenticity and musical integrity. Many productive relationships were forged between African American musicians and their British disciples in the Sixties. Studious artists such as The Beatles, Eric Burdon, Ray Davies, Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Peter Green well understood the burden of institutional oppression and the insult of segregation that framed the Blues narrative. Eric Clapton in particular, when not flirting with radio schmaltz, has spent a large part of his career trying to perfect the performance stylings and musical arrangements of artists such as Freddy KingRobert Johnson and Lowell Fulson.

Listen for instance to Clapton’s extraordinary vocal performance and brutal guitar playing on his late career electric blues covers album From the Cradle.

In the swinging London of the Sixties, Clapton’s chariot swung low, he understood better than anyone the importance of cultural exchange – of being in the moment, of finding the sound, of going deep. For Clapton, the moment had to be real. He devised his own version of the power-trio band format after seeing the Buddy Guy trio tear up a club in London in 1965.

A year later, at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the roles were reversed when he witnessed the Hendrix phenomena first hand. At the bequest of manager Chas Chandler, Hendrix was invited to jam with Clapton’s new outfit, The Cream. However, Hendrix’s incendiary version of Killing Floor shocked Clapton so completely that he retreated backstage, later confronting Chandler with the immortal line: “You never told me he was that fucking good.”

Clapton was knowledgeable enough, however, to understand the lineage back to Buddy Guy and to Otis Rush and the rarefied realm within which these artists operated. Like Clapton before him, Hendrix’s brief London period was very much about research and experimentation. He grabbed what he could – sounds, rooms, gadgets, people, the air itself – to create the colours he saw in his head and by doing so blowing everyone’s mind in the process.

Keith Altham a writer for the New Musical Express at the time, remembers Hendrix as

a magpie. He would take from blues, jazz – only Coltrane could play in that way – and Dylan was the greatest influence. But he’d listen to Mozart, he’d read sci-fi and Asimov and it would all go through his head and come out as Jimi Hendrix.

Today, if Hendrix were to be studying his Masters at the Melbourne Conservatorium, we would call him an informed practitioner. Back then he was a seasoned professional working in relative anonymity in the hotbed of London with the support of Misters Clapton, Chandler, Jones and McCartney.

Today, magpie extraordinaire Bob Dylan – rock’s first poet Laureate, pirate, cowboy, the joker and the thief in the night – has spent the last two decades reverting to the ramshackle rhythm and blues template of the old masters. His Never Ending tour has become a quest for authenticity via a re-imagining of his back catalogue through the DNA of rhythm and blues. Purists take note.

So, it comes down to this notion of being informed and knowledgeable about the origins of cultural idioms that are being appropriated that defines music making and performance. Its evolution is an often lawless and contested process of cultural and technical mutation – a hack of the circuits, a pinch of the code.

In the first instance, something has to be identified as being worthy of emulation or adaptation, and in turn, something then has to be gained from the act of appropriating it. The art form must evolve, diversify, move forward, or – as the case is with Hendrix – take a giant leap into the future.

This essay was written by:
Image of Mitch GoodwinMitch Goodwin – [Curriculum Design Lab, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne]






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Permission to laugh? Humour without risk of danger and offence would be an emaciated thing

 When does parody spill into insensitive cultural 
appropriation? While Chris LIlley is probably OK to appropriate the upper 
North Shore culture of Ja’mie (pictured), he’s on dodgier ground with  
Jonah from Tonga. Princess Pictures, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

We live in an age of rising gelotophobia; not, in case you are wondering, a fear of ice-cream, but a fear of laughter. It can, it seems, be terribly destructive to laugh at anyone for a range of reasons, and one of the hottest of those is cultural appropriation. The agelasts (those who never laugh; in old Australian “wowsers”) often seem keen to use the wonders of social media to howl down anyone who dares to laugh at other cultures.

The wowsers have a point, at least some of the time. Blackface inscribes (as we say in humanities departments) unequal and oppressive racial power relations. It does so even if entered into innocently as “just a joke”. Humour polices taboos and deploys stereotypes, including those of cultural difference. So perhaps it should be banned or at least strictly licensed.

If that doesn’t sound right to you, it is probably because you also sense that laughter can be a source of pleasure, understanding, and human connection. The following was not said by Plato, or Seneca, or Cicero, or some other pompous, serious classical git:

Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.

It was written by a comic playwright, Terence, more than 2,000 years ago, near the start of his Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor) and it means something like (“puto” remains hard to translate): “I am a man: I consider nothing human alien to me.”

How’s that for cultural appropriation? Did he check with the Han Dynasty Chinese, of whom he may have been vaguely aware, or the contemporary Indigenous Australians, of whom he’d have known nothing? It looks like a rash call. I can certainly imagine the more sanctimonious of my students writing it off with the critique from which there can be no return: “It’s not OK.”

Humour is one of the most durable ways of bringing people together, through the intimacy of shared laughter and understanding. Laughter is a distinctive feature of humans and it has evolutionary as well as social origins.

It is a human pleasure and a social glue, but it has also, for a very long time, thrived on cultural appropriation and distortion. We laugh with, but in doing so we often also laugh at. The Athenian comedian Aristophanes makes fun of the Spartans and their funny accents in several of his 5th century BC plays. While records do not go back any further, he is unlikely to have invented the technique.

Satire uses cultural stereotypes to ridicule its targets, and I’m not inclined to accept that only wealthy, ageing east coast American men are allowed to appropriate the verbal and cultural trappings of Trump (though Alec Baldwin does it with a certain furious intimacy). Parody, one of the most ubiquitous comic and satirical techniques, functions by imitation with comic distortion. It appropriates accents, gaits, wardrobes, words, and anything else it can think of, almost always in a judgmental way.

When we agree with the judgment, we are amused, and join in the apt anger or disgust for the person or group parodied. Nine times out of ten, “That is just not funny” does not mean “That is a badly-executed joke” so much as “I don’t agree that you should be laughing at that”. Then the equally lame response comes back: “Can’t you take a joke?” The result is more Punch and Judy than Socratic dialogue.

A fairly clear way to bring some order to this confusion is to distinguish between laughing up and laughing down. In modern Australia and other Western nations, we are generally OK with laughing up at people or groups who are relatively more powerful. When it comes to politicians, this licence to ridicule the powerful becomes an almost universal civic duty.

Laughing down is generally thought to be “not OK” these days, though it’s a fairly recent and not universally accepted attitude. Con the Fruiterer (played by the not-very-Greek Mark Mitchell) has been on screens advertising the virtues of fruit as recently as 2010.

The late, great John Clarke always set his sights on the rich and powerful, but his equally great contemporary Barry Humphries has mostly been kicking down since middle-class Melbourne housewife Edna Everage blustered on stage during the Melbourne Olympics.

More recent “hard cases” are Sasha Baron Cohen and Chris Lilley. Both are talented private schoolboys who make fun of the social and moral ineptitudes of those below them in the class system. They often do this in racialised and culturally insensitive ways.

Context always matters, and Cohen is a little outside my field to comment on cogently. I don’t feel I can judge precisely whether Borat works for his various audiences more as celebration or defamation of Kazakh culture, though I have my suspicions.

On Lilley I’m prepared to be more definitive. He is probably OK on this ethical test to appropriate the upper North Shore culture of Ja’mie, because she is an upper caste hypocrite, though the gender politics set one’s nerves jangling. He’s on decidedly dodgier ground with Jonah from Tonga because it is clearly kicking down from Barker College to a troubled, migrant child in a troubled Western Sydney high school.

Of course, making these sorts of distinctions doesn’t stop Lilley from being funny in both roles. The trouble with humour is that you “get” it at the emotional end of cognition. You don’t assimilate it rationally to a carefully adumbrated ethical framework.

It seems to me that you can and should disagree ethically with some jokes, but it’s a big step further to insist that they simply are not funny, and a very big step beyond that to deny them a right to exist.

Humour without the risk of danger and offence would be a very emaciated thing. Humour helps build the robustness it requires of its victims, and when that occurs short of belittling brutality that is often a very good thing.

In our pursuit of a world that is safely and entirely OK, must humour be cleansed of its original sin of cultural appropriation and insensitivity? Are comedians welcome to make us laugh, as long as they don’t make us laugh at anything that doesn’t belong to them? Can an Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman never walk into a bar again unless complex multiple-citizenship conditions apply?

Is that fair?

It would certainly be laughable.

This article was written by:

Robert Phiddian – [Professor of English, Flinders University]





This article is part of a syndicated news program via


Triple J did the right thing, we need a new Australia Day

 January 26 is just one date that represents the 
dispossession of Australia’s First Nations.

The decision by ABC Triple J to move the Hottest 100, its popular musical countdown, from January 26 has reignited the smouldering controversy about Australia Day. The radio station has moved the 2018 poll from Australia Day to January 27 after a listener survey. On January 26 the station will broadcast events such as citizenship ceremonies and the cricket, ensuring “the Hottest 100 and Australia Day get the coverage they deserve as separate events”.

In his response to the decision the federal communications minister, Mitch Fifield, insisted that there was “nothing controversial about Australia Day” but announced that he would be sending a formal complaint to the ABC board.

Fifield is mistaken. The date chosen for Australia Day is highly controversial and increasingly contested, as the over-flowing response to the station’s decision underlined. Young people in particular are troubled by it and it seems appropriate that Triple J has responded by choosing to separate their countdown from Australia Day.

Two things are at stake in discussion around Australia Day: the day and the date. They are almost always conflated. Supporters of January 26 seem to think critics of the date are against the idea of a national day and are by definition lacking in patriotism; that their behaviour exhibits a spirit of manifest disloyalty.

But this seriously distorts the motivation of the increasing number of Australians who want to be able to celebrate the nation on an alternative date. They say yes to the day but no to the date.

The date

The confusion of the two was illustrated in a poll taken earlier this year and reported in Fairfax. More than seven out of ten respondents declared that Australia Day was important to them but less than half of them were able to correctly name the event that was being commemorated. Only 43% identified the first landing at Sydney Cove on January 26 1788.

One in five chose the arrival of James Cook on the coast 18 years earlier in 1770. One in six picked the anniversary of federation (January 1 1901). Seven percent thought the national day marked the signing of a treaty with the first nations (we don’t have one). Almost as many thought it was the date when Australia ceased to be a British colony (it’s not clear when this happened) and 2% believed it commemorated an important battle in World War I.

There are other pressing questions about January 26. For those patriots who want to celebrate the coming of the British two other days would be more appropriate – January 20 when the whole fleet had finally arrived in Botany Bay, or February 7 when the first governor Arthur Phillip read the proclamations before the assembled expedition and formally annexed the colony. This was the defining moment when, in the words of the First Fleet chronicler Watkin Tench, the British “took possession of the colony in form”.

What are we celebrating?

What happened on February 7 1788 brings us to the central point of contention about celebrating Australia Day and the arrival of the British. The British illegitimately claimed two things: sovereignty and property (sovereignty is about law and government; property about land ownership).

In doing so they were behaving in a manner which was contrary to practice then several generations old in North America and to both international and common law as they were understood at the time.

The 18th Century settlement in the American colonies was accompanied by the signing of treaties with the first nations and hence to gain sovereignty. The new American government was negotiating treaties when the First Fleet was on the high seas and continued to do so during the early years of New South Wales. The British never signed treaties with Australia’s First Nations. This is the basis for current discussions around a treaty.

But the more aberrant British behaviour was the decision to give no recognition to Aboriginal property rights and to proclaim that every inch of land became the property of the British Crown.

This was not what happened in America. It had no support in international law. Nor was there any justification in the common law, which strongly defended the property rights of the subject against the Crown. How it was possible for Aboriginal people to become British subjects at one moment and then lose all their property rights has never been explained in a judicial sense.

Up until the Mabo Judgement in 1992, which for the first time recognised native title, it was possible to avoid facing the enormity of British behaviour. But once the High Court declared that the First Nations were both in possession of and legitimate owners of their ancestral lands the game was up. The legal problem for Australia’s British colonists was that without a treaty there was no clear definition of how and when sovereignty passed from the first nations to the Crown. Nor was there any satisfactory explanation of how the First Nations could be legitimately dispossessed.

Questions to answer

At Sydney Cove the British government carried out one of the greatest expropriations in modern history. They stole the traditional lands of hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people across half a continent without any thought of compensation. That they did so in ignorance allows for no effective exculpation. How many of the convicts, transported overwhelmingly for theft, would have employed that defence if the law had so allowed?

This leaves us with several inescapable questions. Why do so many Australians want to commemorate an act of egregious injustice?

And why fail to recognise that it predetermined the great tragedy that unfolded over the whole continent for generations to come?

And why think the appropriate manner is the heedless hedonism thought appropriate for a summer holiday?

Is there any comparable situation anywhere else in the world? I think not.

It raises that difficult question of whether mainstream Australians really think first nations’ people are our countrymen and women or not. It seems that in relation to our national day we have the choice of identifying with the predatory British imperialists or with the Aboriginal people who struggled to defend their lands, their lives and their way of life against what fast became overwhelming odds

Clearly what is needed is a new national day. Ideally it would commemorate the political and social achievements of modern Australia. I think this could be May 9, the date in 1901 when the first federal parliament house was founded in Melbourne. But we could keep January 26 and completely remodel it to do two things.

We could commemorate the First Nation’s patriots who died fighting for their country and remember also the convicts who were also victims of British Imperialism and who did so much of the work to found both New South Wales and Tasmania.

This article was written by:

Image of Henry ReynoldsHenry Reynolds – [Honorary Research Professor, Aboriginal Studies Global Cultures & Languages, University of Tasmania]





This article is part of a syndicated news program via


Indigenous cultural appropriation: what not to do

 A souvenir stand in the Canary Islands 
displaying boomerangs (on the right).

The words made me cringe at first with their echoes of an old, racist song made famous by Rolf Harris. “I am sick of buying my grandchildren woomeras that won’t throw a spear, boomerangs that won’t come back, and bullroarers that don’t roar,” said Bob Katter in a recent submission to parliament.

I don’t even know if boomerangs were ever meant to come back. Maybe it was coincidental when they did, but I’m pretty sure returning is not the boomerang’s primary purpose from a First Nations perspective.

Still, there was serious intent behind Katter’s submission on the production of fake Australian First Nations art. Today, up to 85% of art sold through tourism markets as First Nations souvenirs is fake and imported. Lost revenue from this major income stream has a harmful effect on everything from self-determination and cultural maintenance to families and communities.

In introducing a bill making it illegal to sell fake Indigenous art, Katter has re-ignited attention to artistic appropriation and rip-offs. But the stereotyping, disrespect and blatant theft of First Nations culture happens in many fields. The one that especially gets to me is hippy, New Age, non-Indigenous spiritualisation of our heritage.

For instance, WTF is a didjeridu massage? Yep, “didge therapy” is a thing. Apparently, paying to have someone blow a didjeridu over your body is reported to provide relief for a wide range of joint, muscular and skeletal-related pain as well as promote accelerated healing in various forms of bone trauma.

Seriously! On hearing about this practice, many of my mob have suggested a preferred area of the human body where such “therapists” might concentrate on shoving their didjeridus.

A didjeridu is applied to someone’s head in Vancouver, Canada.
A didjeridu is applied to someone’s head in Vancouver, Canada. Michael Kwan

This appropriation shows a serious lack of understanding and respect of protocols. The need to find/discover one’s self via the culture and heritage of a different people is nonsensical to me. Here are some other areas of irritation and appropriation that would make us cry if we didn’t have such a deadly cathartic sense of humour.

Identity and connection

I know this is a very sensitive area of discussion because of the stolen generations, but don’t try to relate to me by announcing some new-found “distant” connection or relation to a First Nations person.

For example: I know a First Nations person, I have an Aboriginal friend, my niece/nephew is married to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, my neighbours were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, or I dreamt my identity and I feel an affiliation/spirituality with First Nations culture … Big deal!

This doesn’t make you black because proximity is not a valid criterion. It’s commonly known that identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander is complex and there’s much more involved. It’s a lived experience.


Sis. Sista. Bro. Bala. Deadly. Gammon. Cuz. Oh it’s just torture to my ears. I’m not your sis. You’re not my bro. Do you really know when to use deadly and gammon/gammin? I’m not your cuz.

Seriously stop trying to use and steal colloquial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language. It doesn’t sound cool, it sounds ridiculous. So in case you missed it … Take a look at ABC Black Comedy: Black White Woman Part 1.

The look

Just as proximity can’t identify you, the overindulgence in First Nations colour and adornment won’t bring you any closer to being donned with a traditional name, or get you acceptance into a nation/clan.

Appropriating First Nations tattoo designs, braided hair, overuse of spray tanning, collagen lips, red-black-and-yellow everything doesn’t make you blend in. You just stand out like a wanna be First Nations queen of the desert.

Knowledge and education

That’s right, someone told you a Dreamtime story somewhere, or you read it in a book written by a non-First Nations academic or writer, from a non-First Nations perspective … so you know more about my own culture, language and heritage than I do.

Oh yeah and you’ve driven your campervan around Australia engaging in Kumbaya campfire singalongs and numerous appropriated versions of the song Guri Ina Nami. Plus, you’ve been to the Northern Territory where the “real” black fullas are … Whatever!


The yidaki (didjeridu) has got to be one of the most appropriated items of First Nations heritage and culture. Originating from Arnhem Land, its use is widespread and, apart from busking white women and men commercialising and making careers out of playing this instrument, a more recent offensive practice is its inclusion in the New Age healing and health industry.

A didge player at Portobello Market in London.
A didge player at Portobello Market in London. Genial 23/flickr

The exploitation of First Nations art, culture and heritage continues to be rife. Appropriation has become so commonplace that it has even infiltrated the practices of our own First Nations artists, e.g. copying another nation’s visual arts style and design and producing artefacts and materials that originate from that nation.

For whatever reason this is done – a disconnection from identity and culture, for financial and material gain – it saddens me and leaves me with a sense of loss that we can’t discern between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation, but that’s another story.

This article was written by:
Image of Angelina HurleyAngelina Hurley – [Lecturer in Indigenous Literacies, Victoria University]






This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Listen To Older Voices: Hannah Sky – Part 2

 Welcome to Listen To Older Voices, a program produced by 
Rob Greaves for Uniting Melba and podcast through the Toorak Times 
and Tagg.
Listen To Older Voices presents the stories, views and opinions of our older citizens. It is predominantly in a life & times format, with interviewees reflecting upon their lives from earliest memories. An underlying principal of the program is to promote the concept of positive ageing, reinforcing the principle that older people have & continue to make a valuable contribution to both their local & wider community.

This is part 2 of a 3-part program featuring the Life & Times of Hannah Sky who was the first producer of the Listen To Older Voices program. We learn that Hannah was a teacher at the last “strap school” in the state of Victoria where she took a stand against the practice. It would not be the last stand she would take on behalf of people who were underrepresented or could not speak for themselves

In this program Hannah continues to talk about her early life with stories of what it was like in a boarding school but, we also learn about Hannah’s work when she grew up, work largely in community development and how she was a key player in the development of the Melba Community program, where the Listen To Older Voices would be born some 19 years ago.

Click to hear Hannah Sky – Part 2

Previous LTOV Programs can be accessed clicking on this icon – 


[Listen To Older Voices receives funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Commonwealth Home Support Program Program]

Sunday essay: why grown-ups still need fairy tales

 Edmund Dulac’s 1910 illustration of 
Sleeping Beauty. Wikimedia images

For as long as we have been able to stand upright and speak, we have told stories. They explained the mysteries of the world: birth, death, the seasons, day and night. They were the origins of human creativity, expressed in words but also in pictures, as evidenced by the cave paintings of Chauvet (France) and Maros (Indonesia). On the walls of these caves, the paintings, which date back to around 30-40,000 BC, tell us myths or sacred narratives of the spirits of the land, the fauna of the regions, and humankind’s relationship to them.

A hyena painting found in the Chauvet cave.
A hyena painting found in the Chauvet cave. Wikimedia images

As humanity progressed, other types of stories developed. These were not concerned with the mysteries of the meaning of life but with everyday, domestic matters. While they were more mundane in the issues they explored, such tales were no less spectacular in their creativity and inclusion of the supernatural.

These smaller, everyday stories, combining the world of humans with fantastical creatures and seemingly impossible plots are now classified as fairy tales or folk tales. Such tales, originating in pre-literate societies and told by the folk (or the average person), capture the hopes and dreams of humanity. They convey messages of overcoming adversity, rising from rags to riches, and the benefits of courage.

Fairy tales are also extremely moral in their demarcation between good and evil, right and wrong. Their justice references the ancient tradition of an eye for an eye, and their punishments are ruthless and complete. Originally for adults (sometimes for children), fairy tales can be brutal, violent, sexual and laden with taboo. When the earliest recorded versions were made by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, the adult content was maintained. But as time progressed and Christian morality intervened, the tales became diluted, child-friendly and more benign.


Picture of Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham
Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham. Wikimedia images


Despite these changes, it is apparent that fairy tales are still needed today, even for grown-ups. In an uncanny, sometimes inexplicable way, we consciously and unconsciously continue to tell them, despite advances in logic, science and technology. It’s as if there is something ingrained in us – something we cannot suppress – that compels us to interpret the world around us through the lens of such tales. And if we are not the tellers, we are the greedy consumers.

‘Fairy tale’ princesses and ‘wicked witches’

The 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, for example, has been cast – like her life – as a fairy tale. Throughout the year, she has been commemorated in articles with headings such as “a troubled fairy tale”, “beyond a fairy tale”, and “just another fairy tale”. While these articles have endeavoured to deconstruct the familiar narrative, they have not been entirely successful.

Prince Frederik and Princess Mary.
Fairy tale wedding? Prince Frederik and Princess Mary. Jerry Lampen/Reuters

The notion of a fairy tale princess has also characterised the coverage of Princess Mary of Denmark and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge. Even after 13 years of marriage, our own “Aussie princess” is described as living a fairy tale, evident in 2017 media stories with titles such as “Princess Mary and Prince Frederik’s fairy tale royal romance”. Likewise, Kate, once a commoner, now a princess, has featured in articles titled “Prince William and Duchess Kate’s fairy-tale love story” and “Kate’s Most Royal Fairy Tale Gown (To Date)”. As the titles of some of these stories show, they also feature the mandatory prince charming (William), or the prince who is revealed to be not-so-charming after all (Charles). Others extend the fairy tale formula to include wicked stepmothers (Di’s real life stepmother) and wicked witches (Camilla).

Is such recourse to fairy tales merely a media stunt to sell stories packaged in an easily consumable, gossip-laden snack box? Or, do these stories reflect that deep-seated compulsion of ours to tell and, in turn, to listen to stories? The answers are “yes” and “yes”. But let’s forget the media’s role and look at the more interesting latter point.

Many fairy tales began thousands of years ago, the age depending on the tale itself. Beauty and the Beast has its origins in the story of Cupid and Psyche from the Greek novel, The Golden Ass, from the second century AD.

painting of Cupid and Psyche
Jacques-Louis David’s 1817 painting of Cupid and Psyche, the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast. Wikimedia images

In this tale, the beautiful Psyche is visited at night by an invisible lover – hearing only a voice – whom she is led to believe is a monster. While recorded by the novelist, Apuleius, the story is almost certainly much older; perhaps having its origins in myth and ritual, and handed down by word of mouth.

The research of Dr Jamie Tehrani has unearthed an early date for Red Riding Hood, which he has traced back to at least 2,000 years; not originating in Asia, as once believed, but most likely in Europe. Other tales studied by Tehrani have been dated to as early as 6,000 years ago.

Fairy tales are excellent narratives with which to think through a range of human experiences: joy, disbelief, disappointment, fear, envy, disaster, greed, devastation, lust, and grief (just to name a few). They provide forms of expression to shed light not only on our own lives but on the lives beyond our own. And, contrary to the impression that fairy tales always end happily ever after, this is not the case – therein lies much of their power.

They helped our ancestors make sense of the unpredictability or randomness of life. They repeated familiar experiences of unfairness, misfortune, bad luck, and ill-treatment and sometimes showed us how courage, determination and ingenuity could be employed even by the most disempowered to change the course of events.

Arthur Rackham’s Jack and the Beanstalk Giant.
Arthur Rackham’s Jack and the Beanstalk Giant. Wikimedia images

Jack and the Beanstalk, for example, tells how a chance encounter with a stranger (an old man who provides magic beans) can bring about terrible danger (meeting a giant) but also terrific good fortune (acquiring a hen that lays golden eggs). The tale also celebrates how a poor boy can make the most of an arbitrarily dangerous situation that could have gone either way – being eaten or becoming rich – through his bravery and his intellect.

Fairytales also celebrated unexpected good fortune and acts of kindness and heroism, thereby reinforcing – even restoring – our faith in humanity. As tales of the folk, they not only entertained, but reflected the turmoils and triumphs of the lower classes, and enabled them to fantasise about how the “other half” lived.

Cinderalla and social criticism

But tales of kings, queens, princes and princesses – of which there are many – are not only a means of mental escape for the poor. They are also a means of social criticism.

19th century engraving of Gustave Doré’s Cendrillon - Cinderella.
19th century engraving of Gustave Doré’s Cendrillon – Cinderella. From Dore’s 1864 edition of Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals, originally published in 1697. Wikimedia images

In Cinderella, as recorded by Charles Perrault, the two stepsisters may have every material possession imaginable, but their cruelty renders them grotesque. And, of course, the lowly Cinderella triumphs. In the German version, Aschenputtel, recorded by the Brothers Grimm, the fate of the stepsisters is very different. Whereas Perrault’s version has the kindly Cinderella forgive them, the Grimms – clearly working from another tradition – describe how they have their eyes plucked out by pigeons!

Such stories of fantasising about a royal life and simultaneously despising it may have functioned as an emotional release similar to the ancient Greek experience of catharsis (the shedding of anxieties through watching outrageous tragedies and obscene comedies).

Taking the fascination with Diana’s life as a fairy tale, for example, we still employ the cathartic release of the genre to interrogate her and, for those of us so inclined, to find some meaning in the Di phenomenon. From the romantic courtship, to the wedding of the century and that dress, to motherhood, glamour, betrayal, heartbreak, divorce, alienation and a new love cut short by an early death.

Photo of Diana on her wedding day in 1981.
Diana on her wedding day in 1981. Mal Langsdon/Reuters

Some, of course, have criticised the warm, fuzzy emotionalism that has sprung from the fairy tale of Di’s life. If it is not to your liking, there are more robust tales with powerful messages of resistance and resilience. In tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Donkeyskin, the young protagonists are persecuted and abused by predators.

There is much to complain about in these tales from a politically correct or feminist perspective. They are violent and subversive: Gretel pushes a witch into an oven and in Perrault’s version of Donkeyskin, a king wishes to marry his daughter following the death of his wife. But they are more than narratives of abuse. They are also about courage and ingenuity on the part of the young survivors.

Miwa Yanagi, Gretel 2004, gelatin silver print.
Miwa Yanagi, Gretel 2004, gelatin silver print. Collection of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art Courtesy of the artist and Yoshiko Isshiki Office, Tokyo

Donkeyskin, variants of which are extant in English (Catskin) and German (All-Kinds-Of-Fur), champions the bravery and inherent goodness of the young heroine who dresses in the skin of a donkey and leaves the palace in order to escape her father’s desires. Her subsequent life as a servant, filthy, humiliated, reviled and renamed “Donkeyskin” by her fellow servants, never crushes her soul.

Within the fantasy and the convenient appearance of supernatural assistants or a romantic ending, both of which feature in Donkeyskin, these stories are powerful reminders that evil exists in the world in the form of human beings – but it is not definitive or unconquerable.

Contemporary reworkings

With the publication of the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales in 1812, artists and illustrators were the first interpreters of fairy tales. Visual responses have ranged from famous works by Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac to Maurice Sendak and Jan Pieńkowski.

More dissident responses have included the photographs of Dina Goldstein, whose Fallen Princesses series (2007-2009) is an astute response to the Disney princess phenomenon of unattainable, debilitating images of femininity and romance in bowdlerised versions of the original tales. Here, Goldstein critiques the superficiality of the princess stereotype, reminding us that it is as facile for children as the Diana fairy tale dream is for adults.

Before Goldstein, photographer Sarah Moon also challenged the dilution of fairy tales in the modern west through her provocative (sometimes banned) interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. In this powerful rendition, Moon takes her child reader back to the original and raw meanings embedded in the tale through her exploration of the theme of the human predator in the symbolic guise of the wolf.

Moon’s decision to return to the terror and drama of the Grimms’ version is testimony to the need to challenge the dilution and contamination of the tales. Even the Grimms were guilty of adding and subtracting to the material, particularly when it came to the insertion of overt Christian morality. Equally if not more so, the Disneyfication of fairy tales has stripped them of the power and the pain to which Moon returns.

Writers and poets have also responded to the tales and, like Moon, have regularly sought to return them to their once formidable status. Women authors in particular have created powerful, sometimes heartbreaking – but always real and truthful – new versions.

Among the thousands of old tales in new clothes is the literature of second wave feminists, including the suite entitled Transformations (1971) by renegade poet Anne Sexton, who takes the domesticity of the original tales and mocks, ridicules, cherishes and – literally – transforms them. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979), a magnificent collection of retellings of famous fairy tales, is full of female empowerment, sensuality and violence in a tour de force that both reinstates the potency of the stories and re-imagines them.

Novelist, poet and essayist, Margaret Atwood also transforms the originals. Her response to The Girl Without Hands, which tells the story of a young woman who agrees to sacrifice her hands in order to save her father from the devil, in a poem of the same name is a profound meditation on the continuation of both abuse and survival.

The fairy tales first preserved by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm – retold, bastardised, edited, annotated, banned and reclaimed – belong ultimately to the folk who first told them. And the folk continue to tell and retell them. Closer to home than the Black Forest, a new show at the The Ian Potter Museum of Art contains work by international and Australian artists, including Tracy Moffatt and Sally Smart. The show returns – once again – to fairy tales to express social concerns and anxieties surrounding issues such as the abuse of power, injustice and exploitation.

Dina Goldstein, Snowy 2008 from the Fallen Princess series.
Dina Goldstein, Snowy 2008 from the Fallen Princess series. digital photograph Courtesy of the artist

Fairy tales are, indeed, good to think with, and their retellings shed light on cultural, societal and artistic movements. Both children and adults should read more fairy tales – both the original and the transformed versions, for they are one of our cultural touchstones.

All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed, is on from Thursday 23 Nov 2017 to Sunday 4 Mar 2018 at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne.

This essay was written by:
Image of Marguerite Johnson Marguerite Johnson – [Professor of Classics, University of Newcastle]






This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Celebrate Social Inclusion Week at Merry & Bright on Sunday 26th November, Deakin Edge

Merry & Bright, the School of Hard Knocks final concert for 2017 is presented on Sunday 26 November from 2pm at Deakin Edge. This concert takes place in Social Inclusion Week, an annual initiative, which was created in 2009, by the Founding Artistic Director of the School of Hard Knocks Dr Jonathon Welch AM.

Jonathon said “I founded Social Inclusion Week to connect local communities, to build and strengthen relationships and networks.” Merry & Bright does just that. Conducted and compered by Jonathon, Merry & Bright also features Liane Keegan, one of Australia’s great legends of opera, XL ARTS, the Choir of Hard Knocks, THECHO!R and the Footscray Yarraville City Band, conducted by Phillipa Edwards!

“The School of Hard Knocks has been built on the amazing work and support from our participants, volunteers, friends and wonderful guest artists.” Jonathon explained, “we want to recognise and celebrate that!! It is just such a joy to bring everyone together for these concerts and events now, and throughout the whole year!”

“We also have our wonderful 350 massed voice choir singing in Merry & Bright. The massed choir is drawn from choirs in the School’s Absolutely Everybody choral program, including the Voices of Casey, Latrobe Valley Community Choir, Voices of Frankston, Choir of Opportunity, Voices of Alfred, Western Health Singers and All Together Choir. Our Absolutely Everybody Brisbane choir, conducted by Melissa Gill, will also be visiting from Queensland to be part of this concert. A wonderful community of singers.”

“We would LOVE everyone to connect, or reconnect, with us at Merry & Bright! 2017 has been a huge year of growth and success for the School. We are so very proud of our achievements and all our programs. Proceeds from this concert will help us to continue the wonderful work of the School supporting the marginalised and vulnerable in our community.”

Tickets are just $25 for adults, $20 concession, $15 U18 and $75 family for a family of four. Book through or at the door from 1.30pm.

Listen To Older Voices – The Life & Times of Hannah Sky

 Welcome to Listen To Older Voices,  
a program produced by Rob Greaves for Uniting Melba and podcast 
through the Toorak Times and Tagg.
Listen To Older Voices presents the stories, views and opinions of our older citizens. It is predominantly in a life & times format, with interviewees reflecting upon their lives from earliest memories. An underlying principal of the program is to promote the concept of positive ageing, reinforcing the principle that older people have & continue to make a valuable contribution to both their local & wider community.


This is the first part of a 3-part program on Hannah Sky. It was originally aired in August 2008 to celebrate the 500th LTOV Program. Hannah was the original producer of Listen To Older Voices and over these three programs we will learn something about Hannah, and her work in helping to establish this amazing series that just celebrated its 1000th program.


Part 1 focuses upon Hannah’s early years from her birth in 1965 and as we track through those early years we learn about her and her family in a most informative and entertaining way

Click to hear Hannah Sky – Part 1

Previous LTOV Programs can be accessed clicking on this icon – 


[Listen To Older Voices receives funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Commonwealth Home Support Program Program]