A Future of Love

Usually, my posts are centred around music, writing and urban farming, but today is an exception. Most of you won’t be aware that I studied Sociology and Political Science, and worked for a time as a policy analyst for a Tasmanian politician.
With all the things that are seriously wrong with my country at present – our horrific treatment of legal asylum-seekers, our federal government’s head-in-the-sand attitude to climate change, our appalling and disrespectful bullying towards our neighbour Indonesia – I am heartened and inspired by this news story.
In this lecture, our current (alas, soon to be past) Governor General, proposes an Australia that I want to live and participate in.  
The full article, from ABC’s Radio National, includes audio from the speech.
This week, a momentous piece of legislation was passed into law in Tasmania. It is no longer a criminal offence to have an abortion in this state. And further, anti-abortion activists will not be able to protest directly outside clinics.
In recent times, there have been attempts to pass other forward-thinking bills in Tasmania, enabling death with dignity and same sex marriage, but sadly,  these were defeated. And now, with parliament concluded for the year, we approach a state election in early 2014 that will likely see a return to conservative state government, similar to the Abbott-led federal picture.
But nevertheless, Bryce’s speech has given me hope. Yes, it’s idealistic to suppose that we as a nation will all willingly embrace a republic, or even same sex marriage but surely we are prepared now to acknowledge the right of women to be treated with equality in our workplaces and in the choices we make in our lives.
I long for the day when I can celebrate with my friends and family our status as a republic, our rights to choose for ourselves what we do with our bodies, aren’t institutionally or financially discriminated against because of our gender and can marry whoever we love if we want to.
That’s a future that I can live with.

Friendship, Fire & Counting Our Blessings

My father used to say there are some things that happen in life you should never question. Just accept them, run with it and be quietly grateful.

This is a story about one of those times…..


Malcolm Battersby with remains of bush behind his house

Friday 4th January 2013 and I was at home in Hobart. My gorgeous new Seagull guitar arrived (subject for another post I think!) and I immediately rang my musical partner-in-crime and fellow Fringe Dweller, Mal Battersby.

We were gearing up to have a rehearsal down at Mal’s lovely house in Murdunna the next day and we had gigs to prepare for. For overseas readers, this map might make things clearer.

Tasman & Forestier Peninsula

Tasman & Forestier Peninsula

It was a very hot day – record high temperatures (41.8 C/107.2 F) A grass fire started at Forcett, on the way down to Mal’s. Throughout the day we sent texts, both a bit on edge but fairly confident. Early in the afternoon Dunalley bridge closed (the only road access to the peninsula) and I heard stories from friends that Dunalley township was evacuating.

About 3pm things started to get a bit more uncertain and just after 4pm, Mal sent this picture through on his phone….

"Mmm" (Mal's caption)

“Mmm” (Mal’s caption)

Mal had his car packed just in case and told me when he took this, he was having a cup of tea with a neighbour. The wind was pushing the fire front across the ridge (left to right across frame) and they were safe – but then the wind turned……

In the next few minutes all hell broke loose and all I can do here is relate my end of it – Mal’s story is his to tell.

There was another phone call, trying to find out from ABC Radio what the latest update was. It wasn’t good, I remember screaming at him over the mobile to leave and leave now, and him saying the local police had turned up urging everyone to evacuate south to Nubeena, where an evacuation center had been set up.

Another call from down the highway five minutes later that he was on his way, safe and had all his guitars with him. And then once he’d arrived at Nubeena, the text I’d been dreading – “house gone”.

The next 24 hours were simply awful, being stuck in Hobart and feeling so helpless. There were fires to the north of Hobart as well, and the city was covered in an acrid pall of smoke.

Mt Wellington, Hobart from my back door

Mt Wellington, Hobart from my back door

So many people started to contact me, trying to find out what was happening with Malcolm, his instruments, home and recording gear. I was a little overwhelmed by it all – but found a positive way I could help finally! – I started posting Facebook updates on Mal’s situation so that our many friends would know as much as I did.

There was no power down at Nubeena to recharge phones and limited mobile phone reception (I later found out that only one phone tower survived the fires!) so there was no contact from Mal for 10 hours. During this sleepless first night I have to acknowledge the support of WHUM Radio in Indiana US. They chatted to me over Facebook throughout the wee small hours and kept me sane – thank you!

The next few days were a rollercoaster – stories of miraculous escapes and utter devastation across the Tasman Peninsula – but also now at Bicheno on the east coast and the north and north west. With the fire north of Hobart as well it felt like our entire precious island was on fire and I was helpless. I played my guitar, tried to sleep whenever I could, kept my mobile phone permanently on and constantly listened to ABC Local radio for the fire updates – and kept adding to my Facebook page with any tiny bit of news I could glean.

One of the things about a small place like Tasmania is that I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t impacted – we all had someone (or multiple people) who had been directly affected. I was devastated to find out an old friend and fellow musician Joff, lost all his guitars and amps in the fire up at Bicheno. I also spent time tracking down one friend especially who hadn’t been heard from since the Murdunna evacuation order had been given. I found him eventually thanks to diligent friends and Facebook!

Sunday 6th January 10:40am – a text from Malcolm I never thought I’d get “Great news, my place saved”

Not ashamed to say I wept like a baby – after 2 days of thinking he had nothing but what was in the car this was unbelievably good news. And of course, the outpouring of similar sentiment to my Facebook update was awesome – I think we all collectively cried for joy.

Tuesday 8th January 7:36pm – Then finally the message we’d all been waiting for, “Home and I can’t believe the devastation with my little house standing. Car port copped it and all garden flattened as well as neighbours’ places…… ”

Mal's house - safe!

Mal’s house – safe!

By Thursday I had my car boot crammed with LED lanterns, batteries, a gas tabletop cooker and butane gas bottles, little luxuries like good coffee & tea, top line tinned meals and soups an amazing array of chocolate, biscuits, cheese and crackers, bourbon and multiple car chargers for mobile phones (now distributed around the community). Thanks to Tasmania Police, I was able to drive down with two friends in the first civilian convoy and get to Mal’s.

The big thing for all of us was the random nature of the fire. One side of the road was fine – across the road was carnage. The damage is so indiscriminate.

Looking east from Arthur Hwy near Dunalley

Looking east from Arthur Hwy near Dunalley

As we approached Dunalley, we could see a fire still burning to the east. And on the approach from Dunalley into Murdunna, we drove down into the smoke and the silence. Not a bird to be heard anywhere……

For those of you who haven’t been through this kind of disaster (and I sincerely hope you never do!) it’s hard to describe what it does to you. The trivial things go out the window, the friendships you have are deeper and more meaningful. And “now” becomes critical because in the end it’s all we really have.

So, we won’t question – we will treasure every moment and be quietly grateful

Finally back on the verandah

Finally back on the verandah

Kudos to Tas Police, Tas Fire Service and ABC 936 Hobart. You are all wonderful. Over 20,000 hectares burnt and not a single life lost!

Here are links to media Malcolm’s done since he got back home:

The Australian (my favourite!) The Age, The Mercury & ABC Television

Finally, if you have the money spare please consider a donation to the Red Cross Fire Appeal. So many more people are much worse off than our Malcolm!

Next time something not so dramatic, so stay safe and don’t be afraid to tell people you love them.

Deb xxxxx

Northern Road Trip

Sheffield Spring

A couple of weeks ago I had a brilliant time doing the roadtrip thing up to Launceston and further to Sheffield. The weather was typical Tasmanian spring – balmy and warm to torrential rain, thunderstorms and snow in the space of three days!

Chris Ball

Had a great catch up with old friends at the ABC in Launceston and did a pre-record of an interview for their Drive program with Hilary Burton. I don’t care to think how many years it’s been since I last caught up with Andrea and Chris – of course we haven’t aged a day…… We talked about my current projects – the solo album “The Woman On The Edge Of The World” and The Fringe Dwellers’ debut outing “After Time” and I played a few songs from both.

Andrea O’Connor

Sadly, Hilary took ill the next day and the interview didn’t go to air as planned but they put it up on the ABC Northern Tasmania site in their blog section – along with some gorgeous words from Chris. I’m sure I’ll be heading back up north soon and will revisit the ABC studios! After a quick catch-up in town with my beautiful son I had a great night with Launceston friends Matt Sertori and Michaela Young (aka Butterscotch Pony). Matt’s latest venture is a new magazine “Spleen” which is about to hit Tasmanian streets but I’ll talk further about that in a future post.

Friday came around with unrelenting rain throughout the morning, so I trundled on up the extremely wet highway to Sheffield and the gig. It’s been years since I’ve been through this part of the state and I definitely recommend it to anyone – visitor or resident. Despite the rain, it’s a beautiful part of the planet and Sheffield in particular is really geared towards tourists and travelers.

After a beautiful lunch at the Blacksmith Gallery (the home of Skwiz) the rain stopped, the clouds parted and out came the sun again – just in time for me to take my new camera (Wayne) out for a stroll. Sheffield is billed as the town of murals, and they hold an annual festival that brings mural artists and tourists from all over.

One of the murals in the main street

The murals are interesting and varied and even though many weren’t to my taste I think it’s brilliant to find a town in rural Australia that has a park dedicated to such an artform. Also quite a few of the shops have embraced the form and it makes for a much more interesting streetscape. It’s also one of the friendliest towns I’ve visited. Locals were happy to help, provide directions – and bargains! There’s a fantastic op shop just off the main street, where everything is bargain price and the staff are lovely.  Only 23kms from Devonport on the north west coast, I highly recommend the detour if travelling on the ferry from Melbourne.

Meanwhile, it was time to get back and set up for the gig….. and of course,

Audience moving in and drying off!

weather closed in again. This time there was thunder, lightning and torrential rain, and still people braved the elements! I met some great folks that night and reacquainted myself with a few more! I ended up playing for over two hours, telling stories and having a really lovely time. I really wish I could have transported the venue and the audience down to Hobart. There really aren’t enough listening venues – and audiences to match – anymore.

Doing my thing. Photo by Greg Eyre

They are one of the things solo artists adore, people who want to hear the songs! Allen Stott who organises the gig on behalf of the Friday Night Folk mob does a great job. In fact, everyone involved was wonderful to me and I thank them all sincerely. I was billeted out to Dianne whose property is at the base of Mt Roland. She and her son were so hospitable….. there was even good coffee in the morning! And because it’s Tasmania and springtime, there was also snow on Mt Roland!

All in all, a really great weekend away – going to have to do it again soon!

Mt Roland

Debra Manskey – Tasmanian singer songwriter still hits the high notes. – ABC Tasmania – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Hey everyone,

This is a lovely article on the ABC Northern Tasmania blog written by the most articulate tech in the country – Chris Ball. I’ll be writing a blog of my own in the next few days….. with less photos of me in it!

Wherever you are, enjoy!


Debra Manskey – Tasmanian singer songwriter still hits the high notes. – ABC Tasmania – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

In the ABC Northern Tas studio

Upcoming Events!

Hi friends,

Just a quick reminder that I’ve got a solo concert coming up next Friday, 28th September at Skwiz Cafe & Gallery in Sheffield, Tasmania. I don’t get up to the north of the state often enough for my taste and I’ve heard nothing but brilliant things about the venue and the organisers. Details here.

For those of you able to attend I’ll have copies of The Fringe Dwellers‘ album “After Time” available plus high quality MP3’s of my solo album “The Woman on the Edge of The World”  – so bring a USB and grab some music!

In conjunction with the Skwiz concert, I’m doing an interview and playing a few songs on ABC Northern Tas. This is going to air at approximately 5:30PM Friday 28th Sept Australian Eastern Standard Time – that’s +10 UTC to the time zone savvy. Thanks to the magic of the Internet this broadcast will be able to be heard by anyone anywhere!

It’s really cool to think that friends & family as far away as Broome, Singapore, Manhattan and  London are planning on listening in. If you’re interested in hearing me babble, here’s how!

Make sure you’ve got the right time – I use the World Clock at Time & Date, it seems the easiest.  Go to the ABC Northern Tasmania website and find the “Listen Now” tab (on the right hand side) and there you go! I’m performing on the Drive Show.

Meanwhile, I’m taking my new camera (Wayne) on the road with me and I’m sure to have lots of new photos to share once I get back home. I’ll leave you with a new pic courtesy of the very talented Hailey Gearman, Hobart photographer and all-round great gal!