I Write

Show + Tell

A few months ago, I stumbled upon new website Show + Tell, the brainchild of Monty Dimond and Brooke Campbell (read my interview with Monty here, where she explains the inspiration behind the website). I loved it instantly – its rawness, freshness and realness appealed to me.

So, naturally, I was thrilled to have a little piece of writing appear on there recently.

Check it out here.

Show + Tell

Stay tuned for more!

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Wine Day Trips and Where To Eat in Melbourne…

Melbourne Restaurants

If you love Melbourne, you’ll enjoy my latest blogs for Forbes Travel Guide…

Melbourne is renowned for its world-class food — the strong influences from various cultures shine through in its restaurant offerings. From European and Cantonese flavours to a 19th-century mansion serving contemporary Australian fare, there’s no doubt taste buds will be pleased with this city’s eats…so where are my top five restaurants? Find out here.

and

When you think of wine regions around Melbourne, the famed Yarra Valley, an area peppered with vineyards and postcard views, is usually the destination du jour for locals and tourists alike. But, if you prefer venturing off the beaten path, the following trails and regions are well worth exploring. So where to go? Click here for my unique wine trails.

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My First Forbes Travel Guide Blog

As you may know, I’ve kicked off a new gig as Forbes Travel Correspondent and my first blog went live over the weekend.

Enjoying Summer’s Last Hurrah in Melbourne outlines my favourite ways to spend time in the city sun. Coming up, there will be a blog on my favourite rooftop bars in my favourite city. And I’ve also started answering destination questions about Melbourne – feel free to join the conversation or message me a question.

Summer in Melbourne

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When You’re Pregnant, Everyone Has An Opinion

First published in Onya Magazine, February 6th, 2013.

It’s interesting being a pregnant woman.

Suddenly, everyone* has an opinion on your body, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, eating and drinking.

Don’t eat poached eggs. Don’t eat ham. Steer clear of coffee. Watch those steps. Don’t lift that. Don’t do this. Don’t try that.

This morning, I heard Chrissie Swan’s tearful and heartfelt admission about struggling to quit smoking while being pregnant.

“Over the last year I have taken up a habit I thought I kicked for good years ago, smoking the occasional cigarette, in total secret and never more than five a week. I never told the chippy (her partner) or my friends I’d taken it up again and I’m not sure I ever would have come out of hiding and acknowledged I was addicted, but this week a pap photographer snapped me smoking a cigarette whilst alone in my car and I knew it was only a matter of time before it became public.”

I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of Chrissie’s admission and I won’t get into a debate about it. One tweet this morning was enough for me to realise that some people are all black and white, unable to see the grey. The very same people are full of their own contradictions, but somehow fail to see them. And I refuse to argue with people like that because their blinkers and attitude bother me. Immensely.

I wish Chrissie all the best in quitting her smoking habit – for good. As someone who has never smoked, I have no idea how hard it is to quit, but I have a huge amount of respect for her addressing the issue in the way she did, without making excuses. I’ve got no doubt she’s an amazing mother. And instead of beating her down, I hope we can find ways to support her, and others in similar situations.

When you’re pregnant, people don’t just have opinions on what you should do and eat, they’ve also got opinions on how you should look. I’ve been told everything from, ‘wow, you are huge’ through to, ‘you don’t look pregnant at all!’ At over six months pregnant, I do look it. But I think I look exactly what I’m supposed to look like at this stage of my pregnancy. No two bodies are the same, so it makes sense that no two pregnant bodies are going to be the same. There’s no right way to look. And often, when we’re presented with an image of pregnancy, it’s not an accurate one: a model parading maternity clothes with a belly bump clasped around her waist is not an accurate depiction of a pregnant woman. Kudos to the magazines and online stores that use real, pregnant women to showcase their fashions and wares.

I don’t buy ‘women’s magazines’ (I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork) but I was flicking through the latest issue of Woman’s Day this morning, and I saw this:

Post-Baby Bodies

And I instantly thought, ‘fuck you, Woman’s Day.’ Perhaps the caption ‘they’re in no rush’ was meant in a positive way: ‘Hooray, they’re in no rush to be super slim, how refreshing!’ but I’m not so sure it was.

The focus on women’s bodies post-pregnancy (or any time at all) is not healthy. It’s not constructive. It’s not even important. Where is the focus on health? On happiness? On a happy heart and mind? Why don’t you publish that, Woman’s Day?

I’ve met pregnant women obsessed with their size. Obsessed with exercising and following a strict eating regime. I’ve read countless pieces of information in websites and books explaining what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. That it’s not necessary to eat for two. And it isn’t – rather, as your pregnancy progresses, so too does the need for you to up your calorie intake.

I don’t eat much junk food. I cook a lot of meals at home. I eat a well-balanced, varied diet. I love fresh food. Fruits and vegetables and grains. Some days, I eat pretty much the same as would I would pre-pregnancy. On others, I’m ravenous every two hours. I listen to my body and feed it regularly – as and when it needs it.

Seeing your body change when pregnant is quite incredible – it’s amazing, but it’s also frightening, at times. The last thing pregnant women need to be told is how pregnant they look. I can’t bend down in the shower to shave my legs properly; do you think I need anyone telling me my belly is growing?

It’s not the right or the responsibility of anyone to pass judgment, comment or advice onto pregnant women. Perhaps an obstetrician, or a GP, when approached and questioned, but it’s not up to you or me.

Eating a sandwich with fetta the other week, my lunch companion questioned whether I should be eating that particular type of cheese. Drinking an iced coffee the other day, the waitress wondered aloud whether it was ok for me to be doing so.

Um, what?

I know being pregnant means being slightly more cautious with certain foods and environments, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live. Or eat. In fact, I’d go so far as to surmise that our obsession with eliminating so many food types is half the reason we have a generation of children walking around allergic to every second food group.

I spent half the summer scoffing prawns and fresh seafood. I’ve eaten camembert. And prosciutto. And I don’t need the pregnancy police telling me how or what to eat. I buy good quality, fresh food and I won’t take policing from someone who defrosts their dinner in a microwave every night.

I’m much more concerned with being healthy, strong and happy. And my focus – and that of the pregnancy police – should be directed towards parenting and raising well-adjusted, empathetic, educated children, rather than worrying about the contents of my sandwich.

*Usually strangers.

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My Problem With Faux-Aussie Pride Brouhaha

First published in Onya Magazine on January 25th, 2013.

I’ll be honest straight up; I’m not particularly fond of Dick Smith.

I appreciate his intense keen attitude when it comes to supporting Australian made products, and the way he encourages others to do so, but there’s something about his products, something about his marketing style that really gets up my goat.

I try and support Australian businesses where and when I can. I like shopping local; supporting the people that live in my street and run my local stores. But I also understand that sometimes, it’s not always possible to do so. I’m ok with that. I’m realistic. And I don’t really go around making bad puns trying to talk people into changing the way they shop.

As someone who really tries very hard to buy Australian made and owned products, I can declare that I’ve never bought a Dick Smith product and I never will. Because I think the man’s a dick.

And I have a real problem with the faux-Aussie pride brouhaha that some companies and businesses feel the need to push onto consumers. We don’t want it and it’s not working.

I don’t want my peanut butter to be emblazoned with the Australian flag. Or the name of my morning spread to be some awful play on words. I don’t want a company to market at me using outdated, colloquial, racist jargon. And I’ll go out of my way to completely avoid and never support such companies that do.

Do we really have to shove the fact that products and items are Australian made in consumer’s faces? I’m all for a small ‘Made in Australia’ tag, not a problem, but in 2013, do we really still need to keep the occa Aussie stereotype alive?

People aren’t buying it.

The Australian products I buy aren’t screaming “AUSSIE MADE! HERE’S A FLAG! AND A KANGAROO! WEARING A CORK HAT! WITH A SOUTHERN CROSS TATTOO! OZZIE OZZIE OZZIE, OI OI OI!”

Mostly, the products I buy just so happen to be made in Australia. From items in my pantry to products in my bathroom, they’re lovely; gorgeous packaging, encasing a product that works and one that I like, that just so happens to be made in Australia. No fuss, no fanfare, no bullshit.

That’s the type of support I’d like to see our Australian companies getting; support for creating products that are good and that people like. Not support for purely being Australian made, as though that somehow grants them unlimited access to our wallets.

This Australia Day, say no to the faux-Aussie pride brouhaha. Sam Kekovich can stick his lamb up his clacker, Dick Smith can suck a big one and anyone believing that a cheap Australian flag made in China makes them any more Australian than the next person can sign up for my head assessment program.

None of that is what being Australian is about. 80% of the messages we’re fed – via the news and morning programs, newspapers and online columnists – in the lead up to this Australia Day have missed the point entirely.

It’s not about sticking a Southern Cross tattoo on your face once a year. It’s not about buying products that assault your eyeballs. Or perpetuating silly ideals imposed upon us by a select group of outdated bigots.

It’s about compassion. Empathy. Kindness. Celebrating our resilience, our spirit. Showing support for those who are having a tough time; through migration or bushfires, a rough trot or a shitty start to the year. Being Australian isn’t about embodying the image the media is feeding us; if it was, I’d be on the first plane out of here.

It’s about acceptance, not tolerance. Learning from our mistakes, not creating new ones. Opening up our back gates and inviting our family, friends and neighbours to celebrate – whether that’s with a BBQ, dumplings, curry or koftas. It’s about learning from the many cultures that make Australia so unique, not celebrating a singular idea of what our culture is supposed to look like.

I know there’s more to us than the image we’re currently being presented with. And you know it too.

Happy Australia Day. Celebrate with pride for all the good things this nation is truly about, and all the change that’s yet to, but will, come.

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I Do, I Write, Press

Oh, looksy, it’s me!

I’m very, very thrilled to announce some exciting news… I’ve got a new writing gig and it’s with a company and publication I admire and respect greatly; Forbes.

As of, oh, well, now, I can add Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent to my bio. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ll be writing about (one of) my favourite cities in the world, Melbourne. Blogging, answering questions and providing expert advice.

You can view my profile here.

Sandi Sieger, Startle/Forbes Expert, Travel Correspondent

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Pregnancy Is Not A Disease

First published in Onya Magazine on December 12th, 2012. 

You may know because I’ve told you, or because a little while ago I blurted it out across social media, but if you don’t, here’s my very special news: my husband and I are having a baby.

Finding out I was pregnant was an incredible moment; excitement, joy, anticipation, wonder and incredible happiness all rolled into an emotion so strong it made my stomach do back-flips and my eyes run with water for about half an hour.

My husband Kaz and I hadn’t been trying for very long. As in we started trying in mid-August and were four weeks pregnant in mid-September. Having heard of and read about so many couples who struggled for such a long time – or continue to struggle – we feel incredibly lucky and blessed for it to have happened so fast for us.

For the most part, my pregnancy (so far) has been wonderful. I had two weeks where I felt slightly nauseous – a kind of hung-over, dead-headed feeling that was only lulled by food or naps. I had some light bleeding, at around the 10 week mark, which was frightening and nerve-wracking, and despite the ‘threatened abortion’ diagnosis I received in the emergency ward, ended up being quite ‘normal’ – a large number of women will experience similar symptoms in early stages of pregnancy. I’ve discovered that having a Rhesus negative blood type means I need to have a few injections over the course of my pregnancy, to avoid any complications for future pregnancies.

Despite these small hiccups – hiccups that are incredibly mild compared to what some women go through – I have had quite a smooth run. I’m 17 weeks into my pregnancy – a few weeks shy from the half way mark – and I’m feeling good. Really good.

Waiting to cross the 12 week milestone felt like an eternity; now the weeks seem to be flying by.

I’m not anxious about any aspect of pregnancy; I haven’t had any freak-outs and I’m prepared to tackle whatever hurdles and challenges we’re faced with as and when they hit us. The thing with pregnancy is that there are no guarantees – at any point – and you have very little control over how or what you experience. I believe there’s no point in stressing or worrying over things that are out of your control, but let me tell you, if you’d like to stress, there’s probably no better time to than during pregnancy. Books, magazines, websites and people will tell you all of the things that can go wrong and all of the reasons why. If you allow it to, it can seriously overwhelm you.

I like being informed. I love reading, learning and knowing what’s happening to my body and baby each week. Name a pregnancy book and there’s a very good chance I’ve already read it.

But here’s a tip; don’t Google anything. Particularly if you’re concerned or worried about something. The Internet is full of advice and many an answer… from unqualified people. Just because someone has had a baby – or ten – does not mean they know what they are talking about. Every pregnancy is different and not all symptoms or issues are alike. My advice would be to speak to your obstetrician, GP, midwife, phone Nurse On Call, your health fund’s support service, a hospital or all of them at once; just don’t Google.

In saying that, there are a couple of reputable websites out there. Baby Center Australia and Essential Baby are two that I have found to be handy and well-balanced with solid advice. If you must Google, do so wisely.

My attitude towards my pregnancy is very much the same as my attitude to life; roll with the punches, enjoy the journey, be happy, be positive, make good choices and seize the day.

I’ve quickly realised that I don’t control my body anymore; it controls me. I need to feed and nourish it regularly and provide it with time to rest when it tells me it needs some.

I’m not stressed about my body changing. It will do what it needs to do. I’ve got a belly going and it’s kind of wonderful. I don’t fit into many of my clothes. Every day I notice a slight change and it’s all exciting and new. I might feel differently if I was experiencing ill health but fortunately I’m not, so my experience is lovely. I can do everything I did before I was pregnant, except bikram yoga, but I’ll be back there when I’m ready.

If I put on extra weight, it’ll just take me some extra time to lose it. I’m eating sensibly, like I always have, but I’m certainly eating more, because I’m hungry every few hours. I’m not obsessed with watching my calorie intake (how anyone can do this during pregnancy is beyond me) and I’m not on a strict exercise regime. I walk, I stretch, I have some days where I do more than others.

I’m not writing a birth plan, because I don’t really plan. I mean, I’ve never even written a business plan, or a list of goals. So my birth plan is this; have a healthy baby. I’m not ruling out or being gung-ho about anything. I’d like to have a natural birth but I’ll do whatever is required to deliver a healthy baby. I have no idea of my pain threshold, what kind of labour I might experience, or what complications might pop up along the way. Writing a birth plan seems like a jolly good waste of time to me. My obstetrician knows what I’d like to have happen, but also knows I won’t bite his – or any midwives – heads off if it doesn’t.

I’m being very picky and choosy with the advice I’m taking on board. Let’s be honest; all types of people can and do have children, but it doesn’t make them all intelligent, empathetic, loving people who think, feel and live in the same way you do. My sister-in-law is like my baby bible – after four kids and working in childcare, she really knows all the tips and tricks. I trust her and her advice. And yes, of course I have her on speed dial.

I’ll listen to anyone with regards to pregnancy and parenting and I’ll read a lot, but ultimately I’ll get through and stumble and survive and raise this baby in a way that’s in keeping with the values my husband and I have and the kind of people we are.

We love babies. And kids. When you’re pregnant, people love to tell you that your life will never be the same again. And some of them mean it in a way that implies you’ll never be yourself, or step out of the front door again. I’m not sure if some of these people are slightly intellectually challenged, or incredibly lazy or disorganised, but I’m tipping most people expecting a child know their lives will never be the same again.

And I don’t want my life to ever be the same again. I want my life to be multifaceted. I can’t wait to start a family with the man I love. I can’t wait to have a child to love, and raise, and teach, and enjoy life with.

I’m not romanticising parenting; I know it will be hard. Challenging. Tiring. I know there will be moments where I feel like tearing my hair out. Where I wonder how I’ll survive. Where I just want some beautiful, wonderful sleep.

But Kaz and I wouldn’t have decided to bring a child into the world if we weren’t prepared to have it disrupted, interrupted and turned upside down. We want that.

We don’t think children are annoying, we don’t believe having a child means you can never function as a human again, we don’t believe our own dreams have to be put on hold and we certainly don’t believe a baby will be the end of our living lives.

This is what I know to be true, more than anything else:

Pregnancy is not a disease. It’s not permanent. And I am not the first or last person to experience it.

I hope you will continue to join me as I share my experience – I’ll be honest, as always.

This is going to be fun.

Image credit: Kathryn Sprigg

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Why Generation Y Won’t – And Shouldn’t – Settle

Previously published in Trespass Magazine

I once read the opening of one of those ‘let’s bash Gen Y’ articles and it started something like this: ‘They’re hip, smart-talking, brash and sometimes seem to suffer from an overdose of self-esteem. And if there’s a generalisation to be made about young Generation Y people, it’s that they don’t like waiting. With an iPhone in one hand and soy latte in the other (not to mention the iPod earphones surgically attached to ears) they are ambitious, demanding and apparently born to rule. Right now!’

I nearly fell off my seat. Excluding the surgically attached iPod earphones, everything else mentioned seemed to fit the bill; I think I’m hip (without intentionally intending to be so, of course), I certainly don’t lack self-esteem, I can be brash and actually prefer to get straight to the point, and I definitely don’t like waiting. I have an iPhone, however I tend to prefer long macchiatos over soy lattes. I’m incredibly ambitious, fairly demanding at times, and love the idea of ruling the world.

I’m Sandi. And I’m from Generation Y.

Without a doubt, we are the most complex generation ever. We lead a life of contrasts and contradictions. We are avid supporters of the environment and recycling, but still buy ‘Balance’ and ‘Fiji’ water with gusto. We support human rights, but would have no problem flattening a fool in a moment of road rage. We’re overscheduled and gadget-ed up to the nines, but constantly crave a quiet holiday in an idyllic location. We reject multi-nationals but are the most brand conscious generation ever. We are the most educated generation yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but will job hop as much as we bed hop. We’re either running at full pace, or strolling along.

For many Gen Ys, there is no such thing as a weekday or a weekend. There are just days. Very few of us have the kind of careers that end at 5pm on a Friday. There is always work to take home. Thinking to be done. Or work to slot in with post-graduate study. We elect to have random days off – like a Tuesday, because we wake up in the morning and see the sun shining and decide it’s the perfect day to hit the beach. We have our fingers in many pies, and as a result, don’t get too many ‘nothing’ days. But stimulation? Gratification? We’re never out of it.

Friendships, for a Gen Y, are as important as family. Television shows like Friends, Sex and the City and Seinfeld may not have featured characters from our generation, but they did feature one common lesson; family sometimes won’t be there, but friends always will. Being the generation with the most experience in family breakdowns, is it any wonder we are more peer orientated?

My family is, by far, the most important thing in my life. It’s just that we, the Gen Y crew, view our family as a combination of flesh-and-blood actual family and friends. Where other generations have always separated the two, my generation combines them. Your friends, by default or choice, become a part of your family.

Generation Y is many things – educated, tech-savvy, ambitious – but there are many things we are not – selfish, thoughtless, inconsiderate, unreliable.

I recently read a ‘letter to the editor’ in Melbourne’s Herald Sun describing us as, “a self-destructive bunch that value idiotic and anti-social behaviour. Completely self-obsessed, they have no concern for their community and are an utter drain of social resources.” Pardon? I am much more of a gain for this community, and country, than a drain. Let me assure you of that Mr.Tom, who writes into newspapers with wild, unfounded statements and generalisations. I, like so many other people that make up Generation Y, have nothing but respect for our community. So much so, that we work incredibly hard to create businesses, programs and events to keep our communities alive.

Generation Y is often accused of having no work ethic, shunning responsibilities and throwing money into the wind. I’ve often retorted that people need to have a strong, hard look at the world we grew up in before questioning us – terrorist attacks, unstable economies and nations, natural disasters, the explosion of technology and the digital age – to understand why we may feel that life is fleeting and simply made up of moments to enjoy.

We, the children of Baby Boomers, have learnt a great deal about what we don’t want our lives to become. We’ve seen our parents work in jobs and get slapped in the face after twenty years of service, with not so much as a thank you. Do you blame us for job hopping? We are accused of being spoilt – for not working under a certain pay figure, or under certain conditions, and for quickly leaving a job if an employer bullies or bothers us. If that is what constitutes being spoilt, then I am. I work hard, but I won’t do it for peanuts. I refuse to be unhappy at the end of each day; moan and whine about my job, and then rise the next morning to do it all over again. If my boss bullies me, not only will I leave, I’ll give him or her a mighty good verbal spray on the way out. I know that I am talented and smart enough to get a job elsewhere. If that’s being cocky, or having an “over-dose of self-esteem”, then I am guilty of that. I am guilty of belonging to a generation that values themselves. That takes pride in their abilities. And that refuses to settle.

Generation Y is one that travels the globe and soaks up its beauty. One that wants to see the world and be a part of it. A generation that has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. That wants to know what’s happening from Australia to Zimbabwe. We’re more tolerant of people, races, ethnicities, sexualities and choices than any generation ever before us. We’re curious, honest and have so much to offer the world, it should, and someday will, actually startle you. We’re not the biggest generation – children of the 1980s and 90s were born at a time of rapidly falling birthrates – but we’ve certainly got get-up-and-go.

So, my dear Gen Y-ers, despite what all the reports may say, despite our own contradictions, and individual complexities, never stop believing what will always be true; that you can change the world. That moments really are the only things that matter, so make them matter. That, at any point in time, we are one tiny speck in an enormous universe, and that universe awaits our knowledge, passion and skills. That we may job hop, or bed hop, and that’s our choice. Settle, if you want. Don’t, and do not.  But always aim for blissful happiness. Have your cake and eat it too. And, when questioned on anything, always answer with the only and best response – “Y not?”

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Why Is It So Hard To Believe That Social Media Can Spread Positivity?

First published at White Echo, on March 8th, 2012. 

The Internet, and social media, can often take quite the beating.

Every few days, traditional media outlets – TV, radio and newspapers – are full of reasons, opinions and case studies as to why social media is a scourge. I’m not being dramatic either – every couple of days, guaranteed, something negative is bandied about relating to social media.

Let’s be clear; there are complex issues associated with the Internet and social media.

What’s frustrating, however, is that not often enough are the benefits and the good associated with social media given attention. Not often enough are the majority of social media users – responsible, positive, active people – given the respect they deserve.

To continue reading, click here

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Why I Started The Melbourne Writers’ Club…

First published at O&S Publishing on February 27th, 2012.

Last January, I was sitting on the couch, laptop resting upon my knees, searching for some sort of writers’ group – a collection of people in Melbourne, my hometown, that shared a love of writing and words, and caught up every now and again to talk about that very love.

I wanted to find such a group because I love chatting with likeminded people; I like sharing stories and ideas, and I find inspiration in people – their insights and experiences, their journeys and choices.

My search, however, wasn’t terribly successful.

To continue reading, please click here

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South Australia, Sieger Style: Introduction

First published in Onya Magazine, on February 23rd, 2012.

A week before Christmas last year, my husband Kaz and I spontaneously decided that we would road trip to South Australia, just after New Years.

The conversation, that took place whilst we he was driving and I was in the passenger seat, fiddling on my iPhone, went something like this:

Kaz: I really want to go away somewhere these holidays.

Me: Ok. Where?

Kaz: I don’t know, somewhere near the beach.

Me: How about the holiday house?

Kaz: Nooooooo. I want to go somewhere different.

Me: Different, different, diff…what about Adelaide?

Kaz: Hmm. Why Adelaide?

Me: Because I’ve never been anywhere in South Australia.

Kaz: I haven’t been since I was a kid…

Me: We could drive there!

Kaz: Yes! Where would we stay?

Me: Near the beach!

Kaz: Which beach? What would we do?

Me: I’m sure there’s an app for all this!

Three days later, we’d booked a unit by the beach in Glenelg for a week.

Two and a half weeks later, at 4.30am, with 87 espressos pulsing through our blood streams, we jumped into our car and hit the road, ready for the long journey ahead.

On the road, somewhere in South Australia…

What I discovered during that week in South Australia – a week spent by beautiful beaches, visiting the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills, the cities of Adelaide and Port Adelaide, and lots of tiny towns in-between – was that half of what I’ve ever heard about it (boring, dull, a place with nothing to do) was utter rubbish.

I learnt that South Australia is home to some of the best food and wine in the country, if not the world. That it’s actually far more switched on, in many areas, than my home state of Victoria, or other states I have visited in Australia. I learnt that the people of Adelaide are lovely. That they’re not afraid to support their local industries and businesses, in fact, they do so proudly. I learnt that Adelaide isn’t at all that different from Melbourne and that its wide and diverse program of events, and its focus on arts and culture, in fact rivals it.

And I learnt that if I had to or chose to live anywhere else in Australia, I’d probably pick it.

Join me over the next five weeks as I deliver a day-by-day (weekly column-by-column, for you) breakdown of my time in South Australia – the things I did, ate, saw, enjoyed, experienced, as well as all the things I learnt – Sieger style.

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The Wheeler Centre Gala

Taking the lead from George Bernard Shaw, who claimed ‘It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society; it is belief’, The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne opened the 2012 year of programming by dedicating their annual tradition to the thorniest and most topical of themes: belief.

I was there, and wrote about the evening for O&S Publishing.

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The Most Incredible Man I’ve Ever Met…

First published in Onya Magazine, on January 27th, 2012. 

A couple of years ago, I interviewed an incredible man – Siegmund Siegreich. Siegmund, or Sigi, was a Holocaust survivor. He was 15 years old when Germany invaded Poland – 15 when he was placed into a concentration camp. The next six years of his life were spent enduring endless humiliation, beatings, starvation, serous illness, not to mention seeing family members and friends killed, shot, and left for dead right in front of him. When I sat to talk with him, at 88 years of age, the pain of his ordeal – one that he managed to survive – was evident every time he spoke about it. He, along with his wife and two daughters, cried their way through the interview.

It was one of the hardest but most incredibly special moments of my life. Made more so by the fact that Sigi was probably the biggest gentleman I’ve ever met – he was so kind, graceful and intelligent. He was humble and proud and strong.

His book, The Thirty Six, written almost six decades after his time in war-torn Poland, changed my life. I read it almost entirely in one sitting. I cried, nearly threw up, felt rage, felt sadness and felt love. I often think of what I learnt from that book, and I often think of Sigi, and his gorgeous face, and the love he had for his family.

I thought of Sigi today. As a man who lived through every horror imaginable, I wondered what he’d think of the protests in Canberra yesterday, and the burning of our flag. I wonder what he’d think of so much hate being spouted – from protestors and commentators alike.

Sigi was a man, who was only a boy, when he saw his father die. And his mother. And uncles. And aunts. And cousins. And neighbours. He was a boy who had to sleep through the bitter cold, in a lavatory shed, in his own faeces, where the stench of urine penetrated his every pore. I won’t even go into the torture he was subjected to. To type it would make me sick. Of the Holocaust, he said, “People may think the world knows enough about it, but to understand the enormity of it all would shake humanity to the end of time.”

When I asked Sigi if he hated the Germans for what they did to him and his family, he replied and said, “No, I do not. You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…

“I have seen the devil in men, I have seen my family members shot, I have seen them smile, wave and walk off, never to return, I have been starving, frightened, frozen, petrified…but I have seen the beauty in people. I have felt love and I know there is good in the world…

“Hate is a waste. We just must never forget what has happened, so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

In 1971, Sigi migrated to Melbourne, with his wife and both daughters, sponsored and backed by a friend of his.

“We finally set down roots in a truly free and democratic country, where our family has prospered and multiplied.”

Now, I’ve got no doubt the Aboriginal community are in need of more assistance – more help, support and education.

And we’ve somehow wound up in a place where no one can offer a suggestion or a thought without being branded as a racist, or radical.

I’m not a racist. I’m not radical. I believe in equality, and fairness, and in doing what’s right.

Taking land off the Aborigines was not right. Stealing Aboriginal children was not right. There are so many things about our Australian history that are not right – I spent an entire year in Year 12 studying everything about Australia, and in many cases shaking my head.

But I also know that the actions taken by a minority in Canberra yesterday were not right. Nor was the action of burning the Australian flag. I am reminded of words I heard from Sigi, “You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…”

And I think how true that is.

I am sorry for what happened to every Aboriginal when white colonial men settled this country.

I am also sorry for Sigi, and everything he endured, and did for decades and decades afterwards. I am sorry for what his children endured, and continue to. And what his grandchildren endure, and will continue to.

I am also sorry for my parents, who migrated to Australia at such a young age and had to endure years and years of racism, bullying, misconceptions and harassment – all because of the sound of their surname and the contents of their lunch box.

My parents never gave up. They never gave in. They made something of their lives. They gave me and my brother and sister a life, and a very good one. They taught us to be equal and fair and to do what’s right.

Sigi never gave up. When every single thing in his life went against him, when everyone he loved was taken away from him, when he was buried face down in a dirt pit, hiding under the body of a dead Jew to avoid being shot himself, he did not give up. When he was made to dig his own grave, he did not give up. He fought and gripped onto life because he knew that life was worth living.

Australia – the country and its people – never offered any sympathy, or compensation, or assistance to my parents. They didn’t do so for Sigi and his family, either. And I’m not drawing comparisons between racism in a Richmond primary school and the Holocaust, I’m drawing a point; that maybe, perhaps, it’s time someIndigenous people got up, stood tall and proud and made a life for themselves. A life in a country that can offer them so much, a life in a truly free and democratic country.

I imagine that doing so will be difficult. Painful. Frightening. But there are many people who have done it before, including people from their own race. And I’m not suggesting some Indigenous people forget, or leave behind, or move on from the past; I’m suggesting they use it to spur them on to do great things and build the life they so very much deserve.

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I Write

Australia Day – Not Just Another Day

First published in Onya Magazine, on January 25th, 2012. 

I’m in the business of celebrating Australia every day. Being Editor-In-Chief of this magazine means I see, do, taste and feel so much of this great land every day of the week. So when I sat down to think about the meaning of Australia Day, I was a little stuck. It’s just another day, after all.

Sure, there’ll be a lot of stereos beating to the sound of Triple J’s Hottest 100. There’ll be a lot of barbeques sizzling with snags and steaks, and tops being twisted off bottles, and corks being popped. There’ll be Australian flags emblazoned on windows and cars and tattooed on the shoulders and backs of the citizens of this country. But what about it should matter?

I’m not sure that I can offer a brilliant, all-inclusive answer. I know that many people baulk at the Australian flag and despise it as a symbol of celebration. That vegetarians don’t really care for Sam Kekovich or his lamb ads. That middle-class Australia loves to point the finger at bogans and tut. That we are not a Republic. That we have a history – a flawed, problematic history. I know all that. And I know many other people do to, and they refer to it, and laugh at it, and bring it up as a means to rip apart all the good things there are about this country, and the people that inhabit it.

And there are so many good things. So many beautiful places, and wonderful, lovely people, and talented artists, and creative ventures, and sporting achievements, and medical geniuses, and innovative educators – so many people so devoted to greatness.

And that it’s the people that tut and vomit opinions that really need to think about Australia Day and its meaning. Because it’s not just another day. It’s a day to celebrate and honour our country.

I’ve always admired Americans for their unabashed love for their country – the way they hold their hand to their heart and honour their flag. Perhaps there is something we can learn from them.

Australia is a young country. One that, might I add, considering its youth, has not only kept up with but surpassed most other countries in the world in most industries. There’s not that many of us and we’re really good at what we do – period.

Australia may have made wrongs, but it has also made many rights. The time has come to stop focusing on the past – we must now focus on the future.

We may be jovial, and a country of larrikins, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud. It doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful. It doesn’t mean we can’t wave a flag in seriousness.

Our core – of mateship, and loyalty, of humour, and intelligence, of inclusion, and culture – should be a marker of solidarity and celebration – not separation.

The thing I’ve realised is that I may celebrate Australia every day, but not enough other people do. It’s theiropinions and generalisations and complete ignorance that hold them back from seeing Australia clearly.

So, to be clear, we live in the best country in the world – one that values so many things that other countries do not, one that is caring and loving, one that is stunning and inspiring, one that we should be proud of. And, most definitely, one that we shouldn’t have to keep defending or defining.

Wave your flag proudly this Australia Day, turn the music up, eat your sausage in bread with sauce, feel the sand beneath your toes, rub red dust off your face, wear your bikini down the street with thongs on your feet, laugh, clink glasses with friends, soak in the views and say thank you; that not only can you do all of that freely, but that you can do it proudly.

Happy Australia Day.

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Miranda Kerr – It’s Not Her, It’s Us

First published in Onya Magazine on December 1st, 2011. 

Over the past couple of days, Miranda Kerr’s image, and our perception of her, has been questioned online. An article published in New York Magazine has spurred on a couple of other articles, suggesting and finger-pointing accusations at Miranda Kerr.

So we’re clear, this is not one of those articles. I will not link to them – if you’d like to read them, may I suggest tracking them down yourself.

The general gist of them is that Miranda Kerr is a vacuous, hypocritical idiot, one that is deceiving us.

If Miranda Kerr is lying to us, it doesn’t faze me. Because even if she’s a ball of lies, her faux-message is better than so many true and honest ones presented by models and celebrities alike.

Miranda Kerr is a wife, mother, model and businesswoman advocating a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. She’s a daughter and a sister, with a wholesome image.

My question is: what’s the problem with that?

I’ve not seen a photograph of Miranda Kerr falling out of a cab at 3am, high off her head. I’ve not seen one picture of her sans panties dancing on a podium at a nightclub with the remnants of coke lining her nostrils.

I’ve not seen her drunk behind the wheel of a car, or being abusive, or advocating bitchiness or sensationalist rubbish.

If the biggest problem we have with Miranda Kerr is that she is promoting self-love, a healthy body image and positive thinking, with some family values thrown in, then we really do have a problem.

To continue reading my article, click here

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