Michael Edwards: selling fragrance, settling confusion Reply

By Rachel Alt

Michael Edwards: the fragrance experts’ expert. Photograph courtesy of fragrancesoftheworld.info

Michael Edwards: the fragrance experts’ expert. Photograph courtesy of fragrancesoftheworld.info

“We’re not selling perfume,” Michael Edwards tells an assembled crowd of Sydney fragrance industry executives, as they scribble notes madly, “we’re selling confusion.” When Mr Edwards speaks, the fragrance industry listens. He’s right about the confusion. With 1,500 new fragrances on the market every year, buying perfume has become an exercise in fear and frustration. It takes a very special talent to be able to help people find what they want.

Mr Edwards was called ‘the perfume experts’ expert’ by the late Evelyn Lauder, a Vice-President of Estee Lauder. He has dedicated his life to making the world of perfumes accessible to everyone and, in doing so, has carved out a reputation for equality and fairness in the industry. There is no-one he has not, or will not, speak to about perfume – from overwhelmed interns, to artisan perfumers to product managers at all the major fragrance houses.

“I would love to tell you that my work is that of genius, but it’s really just evolved by accident,” he says at a Sydney Perfume Lovers Meetup group.

Michael Edwards grew up in “deepest Africa”, in Malawi, playing with the servants’ children under the shade of the tamboti tree, with its sweeter-than-sandalwood scent. White families in Malawi, at least those who could afford to do so, would “keep their dogs at home and send their children away”, he says. And so he began his formal education at age seven when he attended boarding school in London.

As a young man in the 1960s, he was hired as a product manager in the toiletries marketing department of a fast-moving consumer goods company. He says of the time “the 1960s were a really ‘go-go’ time. We could do things so much faster. It was an age of marketing, anything was possible.” More…


Finding Katherine: a life worth living Reply

by Rebecca Cleaver

Katherine Cummings enjoys a second chance at happiness.

Katherine Cummings enjoys a second chance at happiness.

The saddest day of Katherine Cummings’ life was the day she decided not to kill herself.

At the time, she was 51 and happily married with three young daughters. She was rising to the top of her field as Head Librarian at the Sydney College of the Arts. And she had a close-knit circle of lively, well-connected friends.

There was just one problem. Katherine wasn’t living as Katherine: she was living as a man named John.

For as long as she can remember, Katherine has known she was a woman. As a young boy, John would take every opportunity to sneak into his sister’s room and dress up in her clothes. This was in the 1930s, before the phrase “sex change” was widely known. Yet Katherine was never in any doubt that she did not want to be a man.

“People say to me, how did you know you were a woman inside? Well, it was simply that I felt this is what I should be doing. And I had felt it as long as my memories went back.”

But things weren’t that simple. Coming of age as a transgender in the 1950s necessitated a kind of double life. Perhaps that’s why, even now, Katherine is so full of contradictions.

On the one hand, John was the epitome of a traditional family man, and Katherine still holds many of those values dear. She wears three rings on her ring finger: her own wedding band from when she married, her mother’s engagement ring, and her father’s wedding band.

“Promises mean something to me,” she says, gesturing to her wedding ring. “When I put this on, I said I won’t take it off in life.” More…

Guang Yang: A typical Chinese student with untypical life attitude Reply

By Yu Tan

Guang Yang followed in family footsteps to Australia. Photography by Yu Tan

Guang Yang followed in family footsteps to Australia. Photography by Yu Tan

Like many other Chinese students who choose to further their studies in Australia, Guang Yang, 23, decided to embark on a new adventure after he completed his bachelor degree in English at Chi Zhou University.


He is now in his second semester studying postgraduate journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney. While he says life in Australia is not easy, he describes it as “full of fun and challenge”.

“To be honest, the reason I chose English as my major in college was to set a good foundation for my further study abroad,” he says.

In fact, it is getting more common for Chinese students with good English skills to seek higher education in English-Speaking countries. Australia has been a hot choice in recent years for beneficial policies and flexible academic requirements; the number of Chinese students in Australia has doubled in the past few years.

“Except for me, almost everyone in my family had been to Australia before; in addition, one of my aunts is a teacher in Queensland. You can imagine that everything I heard about Australia is complimentary so it was really hard for me not to choose Australia as my destination,” Guang says.

It is not easy for a foreign student to adapt to a new environment, he says. Language and cultural differences are the most common problems that most Chinese students worry about. However, what really bothered Guang was the driving in Australia, “All vehicles keep to the left side of the road, and it really bothered me as we all drive to the right side in China.” But other than that, he really likes the people here, saying friendship is “simpler” with “not so much scheming against each other”.

But racial discriminations against Asian students – still seen in the news and real life – is difficult. Although Guang has not yet been involved in these issues, unfortunately some of his friends and classmates have suffered from this problem. More…

A direct line of communication from the twittersphere to God Reply

By Joan Henson

Father Rod Bower has clear line of communication. Photograph by Kaye Harrison

Father Rod Bower has clear line of communication. Photograph by Kaye Harrison

When an Anglican priest with a social conscience becomes news, the public pays attention.

Father Rod Bower is the Anglican priest in Gosford whose church billboards first went viral on social media when he quoted God directly. God said that Christians should “get over” the fact that some people are gay, he had posted.

Since July last year, he has fielded a steady stream of interview requests. The Independent, Salon, and the ABC’s 7.30 have cast him as the popular, rebellious rector.

Bathed in the light of St Mary’s stained glass windows, Rod lets out a belly laugh. He isn’t the only priest who opposes the incarceration of kids in detention, or the only Christian advocate of marriage equality. The average Australian is politically moderate, so where’s the controversy?

Rod says he sometimes feels “a fake” compared to Christians being persecuted overseas as he works from the comparative luxury of his Gosford parish.

The recent media hype around Rod doesn’t begin to capture what would constitute the most courageous ideological fight of his life. More…

Sydney Fringe: Stitching together a community Reply

by Maria Nguyen-Emmett

A crafty time for all. Image courtesy CEHPL used under Creative Commons licence.

A crafty time for all. Image courtesy CEHPL used under Creative Commons licence.

It might be called the Sydney Fringe Festival but there’s nothing marginal about the festival’s intent: to bring together a city, so easily caught up in its own hustle and bustle, and remind its residents they are all part of the one community.

It’s a community, according to Festival organisers, that is brimming with a creative, artistic and vibrant soul.

In its fifth year, the 2014 Sydney Fringe Festival features almost 300 productions ranging from musical theatre, cabaret, poetry and films to comedy, dance, music and visual arts.

And despite its “underground” beginnings, many of this year’s events reflect the underlying themes of community, engagement and belonging.

They are themes pertinent to a city with a population edging 200,000 – many of whom, in a town so busy, bright and shiny – can often feel isolated, disconnected and alone.

Kerri Glasscock, the Festival director, believes events such as these play an important role in helping people connect with each other.

“I think it’s beneficial for everyone to participate in cultural activities, if nothing else than to reach out and connect with their communities on a different level,” Ms Glasscock says.

“Today, we’re all so attached to our screens and we work long hours and can often feel very isolated, so any opportunity for people to get amongst their community and connect with their neighbours or people who have like-minded interests is beneficial.” More…

All the world’s a stage Reply

by Lucy Rennick

Dean Carey, founder of the Actors Centre. Photograph courtesy of Mr Carey and the Actors Centre.

Dean Carey, founder of the Actors Centre. Photograph courtesy of Mr Carey and the Actors Centre.

Dean Carey’s is not your average classroom.

“Are you on? Are you ready for something to happen?” he asks a class of around 20 students standing in a circle, most of whom aren’t wearing any shoes.

Wide-eyed and expectant, these students are not only ready, but are willing to affect change. And so begins a two-hour acting class at Actors Centre Australia in Leichhardt, a dramatic arts training facility for aspiring actors founded and directed by Mr Carey.

There are no whiteboards here. No notebooks, no uniforms and not a single bad attitude to be found. Instead, a light-filled theatre auditorium with polished floorboards, thick stage curtains, and an air of palpable positivity. No movement is too exaggerated, no volume too loud. Swearing? Hell, even Mr Carey himself throws a few swear words around here and there. At acting school, anything goes.

There’s an inescapable energy flowing through the whole building. It’s electric and infectious, manifest in spontaneous bursts of song and dance emanating from students in the hallways. Following Dean Carey through his school as he stops to greet everyone passing by, it’s clear that he himself is the energy source. He’s effectual and magnetic, with an open spirit reflected in a soft face that’s almost childlike, despite his 54 years. A natural extrovert, Dean Carey is on this earth to be seen, heard and, evidently, to impart wisdoms to young, aspiring actors who may not have had the same kinds of opportunities if ACA had never opened.

He describes the atmosphere at the Actors Centre as vibrant, inclusive, playful, responsible but not indulgent. “We believe in the power of theatre as a transformational agent, for audiences to be reminded of their humanity. We hope audiences walk out of every show feeling better having been involved.”

The school itself is the product of Mr Carey’s experiences as a young actor in training.

“I was taught so badly, with tactics of fear and competition and obligation. The relationship I had with teachers was that they were the experts and we were the idiots, and that was the overarching paradigm we were in. No good creativity can come from that idiot/expert relationship.” More…

Seeing the neighbourhood from a child’s perspective Reply

by Samuel Jones

Child's perspective

When a child leads the way, a neighbourhood takes on a new perspective. Image by Niels Linneberg used under Creative Commons licence

What would happen to Redfern without children? That’s the question being asked by The Walking Neighbourhood, a project that’s running guided tours of Redfern with a difference; the guides are children.

The Walking Neighbourhood was conceived by Lenine Bourke, who has collaborated on artistic projects with diverse communities and young people for over 15 years. It premiered in Brisbane in 2012 and has expanded as far as Finland and Korea, before coming to Sydney. The tours showcase Redfern through a child’s eyes, highlighting local landmarks that are important to them.

The Walking Neighbourhood, produced for Art & About Sydney, is part of this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival. The event is promoted as “proving that there are ways for children to feel safe while being out in public, walking, meeting shop owners, pedestrians, and developing a sense of themselves”.

A guided tour of a prominent inner city suburb may sound like an unusual way to spend a warm spring day, but at least 50 people have arrived to take the afternoon’s tours. Each one starts and ends at the 107 Projects, a new multidisciplinary arts space in the heart of Redfern, funded by the City of Sydney’s Accommodation Grant Program.

Project Manager Jennie Bradbury has seen the benefits of the program, in particular for the children. She says conducting the tours gives the children “confidence and helps them to stand up for themselves”.

Ms Bourke agrees. “The majority of children feel more confident in their ideas, speaking to an audience, walking around busy roads and more comfortable talking to adults and strangers,” she says, adding that “the Redfern kids are a savvy group.”

At the 107 Projects, participants are treated to a didgeridoo performance before being introduced to the guides, and invited to take part in activities devised by the kids. These include naming the superpower they’d most like, such as flying, invisibility and x-ray vision. The introduction concludes when participants select which tour they’d like to take, each one is unique and mapped out by the child. More…

Curing Catherine: how a penniless Scottish lass became a fertility guru Reply

By Hannah Southcott

A potent mixture of Chinese herbs, dietary supplements, lifestyle adjustments and exercise as recipe for health and well-being. Photograph by Bridget Colla used under Creative Commons licence.

A potent mixture of Chinese herbs, dietary supplements, lifestyle adjustments and exercise as recipe for health and well-being. Photograph by Bridget Colla used under Creative Commons licence.

Armed with a steaming cup of rosehip and hawthorn tea and a china bowl of almonds, Catherine Chan is ready to talk about the extraordinary journey she made from an impoverished Scottish immigrant to being one of Australia’s leading alternative fertility specialists.

Catherine was born in Scotland to a Scottish father and a tough Italian mother. “Actually I was conceived in Italy,” she says, a mischievous twinkle in her sapphire blue eyes.  Her Glaswegian father, William Beattie, worked as a boilermaker and welder to support his family, but even when there were only four children, times were tough. It was the post-war era and there just wasn’t much food to go around. “We were all on rations. Everyone was really poor. My brother used to get beaten, because he’d go with this ticket to the shop to get the rations for mum and the guys would wait on him and pounce on him. He learnt how to run, my brother George.”

When Catherine was eight, her family travelled to Southampton and boarded a ship bound for Australia. Mrs Beattie was pregnant with twins during the voyage. The family settled in Queensland and Catherine’s dad went to work in the mines.

With a growing family and very little money, the Beattie kids were often sent out by their mother to gather what food they could find. The children stole fruit from the surrounding farms and went yabbying in the local waterways.

Catherine learnt from a young age to be somewhat of a chameleon with her accents. “We didn’t want to be known as wogs, so we would quickly adapt to the accent of the Australians,” she says and then switches to a Scottish brogue mid-sentence. “I can change even now and I can be a real broad Scot.” More…