When Online moves Offline – What do we choose to do?


In August 2018 I made a post on social media titled #smallbusiness isn’t the only thing that gets done in #ballina – more detail soon. @ Ballina. This was on the morning I was attending Ballina Local Court in relation to a Personal Violence Order (PVO) that I had applied for myself.

It stemmed from phone calls made to me personally by a person that wasn’t known to me at the time. This person had a lot of information about me and what I was doing, which isn’t difficult considering I live somewhat in the public eye. He would disclose no information to me about himself, a blocked caller ID, no name or location but he called me a number of times within quick succession in mid June 2018.

So why go and apply for a PVO some may ask. These calls were targeting my recent talks and community project ‘Police Are People’ as well as my long time close friendship with Serge Benhayon. The nature of the calls included a number of threats including; “I’m coming down and I’m gunna break your f#@king pretty jaw” and “You’re f#@king gone” as well as continual comments like “You’re just a f#@king grub, a slime bag”. From this you could say it’s self-explanatory why I took out the PVO, which is true but for me what was also important was highlighting the way this was done and used.

We live now in a world that many people post their lives online which connects us with friends, family and others. Some use this as a way to ‘stay in touch’ while others use it as another means to harass, menace and threaten people. We have filters for this and usually there is an acceptance of sorts for people carrying any style of public profile that they have to be prepared to wear a certain amount of harassment due to their choice of work or service. I admit once being apart of the belief that this is ok or ‘normal’, but now I can see that no matter who you are, what you are doing or what you have done there is no place for anyone to target people in anyway, let alone using communication devices or social media anonymously or in any way as a medium to vent at others.

From my experience I knew this incident was one initially I would need to action myself and so I took detailed notes in my phone of what was said straight after each call. Because there was a number of calls I also was able to allow others to witness what was being said. With the notes I had made I was also able to call on the community around me to identify the person, which then allowed me to apply for a PVO and also assist me in my report to the local Police. This did shake me up for sure due to the severity, intensity and anonymity of the calls and what was said. I found that once I applied for the PVO and also reported it to the Police I was more settled in the knowledge that something was being done and more so that I had taken steps to ‘answer’ the menacing and threatening way this was done.

The result so far was that I was granted the PVO for 12 months with the defendant not appearing in person but having a legal representative present and consenting to the order. The Police investigation is still underway and if needed I will update further with that outcome.

I felt to write and post about this for a few reasons. One of them being that we can’t just talk about what we see needs to change, when the opportunity knocks in any way we need to answer it and take it to the highest place rather than sitting back and accepting what we know inside us isn’t true or ‘just’. That no matter who you are or what you do or what you have said or done no one has the right to harass you, no matter how they justify or dress it up and the world of anonymity needs to be addressed strongly. If you are taking the steps to comment or call someone personally in this way then they have a right to know who you are and what your agenda is.

For me it goes beyond coward to sit behind a communication device and threaten, menace and or harass people. If you have witnessed or been impacted in this way I would strongly recommend reporting it to the Police and to anyone else you see that can take action. After all, if we don’t make a stand at this point then in time to come where will the ‘norm’ stand and how far do we let this go?



Defamation action Brisbane – defendant Esther Rockett – Part 1

In December 2016 I commenced proceedings in the Queensland District Court against Esther Rockett. I took this action together with Caroline Raphael in what I saw was the next step in standing up in our community in response to something that I knew was a complete lie.

defcourt copy

Since 2012 Esther Rockett and Lance Martin together have attempted to re-write history and ‘expose’ something in me that has apparently lay hidden in my then previous 45 year of life. Apparently hidden from the entire community in Casino and surrounding Northern Rivers where my family has been in business for almost 80 years, hidden from my employers, friends and work colleagues that still hold me in high regard, hidden from the NSW Police Service and their selection panels and processes where I commendably served for 13 years, hidden from the Australian Legal System where I was required to produce and give evidence, hidden so well that apparently I don’t even know about it. I am saying this all obviously because this is so hidden that the fact is, it is simply all-untrue.

What started out as Lance Martin now Riley Martin  not being able deal with his former wife leaving him and in that moment a choice from him to not look at what his part was in the on and off again relationship but to go out and blame another. That ‘another’ was Serge Benhayon, a highly regarded practitioner, author, businessman, presenter, father, grandfather, friend and community leader. All Serge Benhayon could be found guilty of was being a supportive practitioner to a then traumatised lady but Lance Martin set his sights not on dealing with his issues with life but put focus on the man that was possibly showing him all the points where he should be walking. So first started an online anonymous hate campaign by Riley and soon to be Esther Rockett that has now been going for 6 years. Esther Rockett is currently being sued in 2 different States for defamation in relation to the way she has used social media to ‘attack’, menace and harass Serge Benhayon, myself and those linked to Serge Benhayon, in anyway she can.

So enter my case when in 2016 I stood for election in the Ballina Local Government Area (LGA). I had been in business in the area for over a decade and my family had numerous businesses in the area for over 80 years. I had seen some unusual and at times confusing decisions in the LGA and surrounds. After numerous in shop and on the street conversations ending in people saying to me, “You should be on Council” or “You should be in Politics” I decided the time was right to take the step into Government in this way. Enter Esther Rockett who was, not known to me personally at all, had little knowledge of the Ballina LGA, had never stepped foot in any of my businesses, didn’t know my family and yet made it her focus to throw as many dramatic and outrageous stories into the social arena as she could in order to see me not be able to be elected. This attack formed the basis for my decision to sue Esther Rockett for defamation in the Queensland Courts. Many people, including some Councillors and Council staff and other community leaders supported my decision and stated they would have been more surprised had I not given the nature of theses public ‘attacks’ from Ms Rockett.

Much has been made and said of my decision to run for Council and yet the truth lies in the fact that this was just a natural progression for a man that has always seen the decency and care in people around him as one of the most important values. So will I ‘run’ again? It is most likely, given what I have learnt over my life and more so what I have learnt since stepping officially into the area for the first time.


When you see qualities and values that you hold dear being eroded on any level you know it’s time to step deeper into our community to have them upheld.

My civil defamation case against Esther Rockett is still currently running in the Brisbane Courts, more updates will follow.


Our perception of life – is it true or a comfortable reality?

We all have feelings and thoughts that come from those feelings. Feelings like “I need more time” or “I need sometime alone” or “I just need the world to slow down or stop” or “give me a break” or even “I definitely need to be kinder to myself” this here at the first point you have felt and thought something is the time to bring this to yourself, to truly feel it. So when we try and work out what the thought means or how we should apply it we get another feeling and thought. This plays out and goes on and we can call this ‘life’ as we know it. We have a bunch of feelings and thoughts floating around and we are reacting to them in our own way but as long as we are getting things done we are happy, right? Well have you or we ever clocked the quality of how things feel first and then equally clocked the thoughts that come thereafter? Or do we just adopt an almost automated mode that goes into getting the thought done? Check now, what is the quality of your thought? What are you saying to yourself at this point, and is it true? Are we truly open to what we have felt or has our internal thought patterns been allowed to kick in and override what the feeling simply was? Yes, bring this to yourself and not wait for the space that never appears. Right here is our choice to make the space to feel and then not solve but allow our selves to feel, you need not even move a muscle. How we see ourselves and then our view of life comes from where and how we move next from this ‘first’ feeling.

So it matters not WHAT you are doing, if you are up, down or sideways, what matters is the quality or the WAY you are with everything that you do.

So at any point you have a feeling or thought or anything, in place of judging where the thought fits or adding to a perception, simply appreciate what you have felt. In other words, appreciate that you have felt something. So often we can go into self-critique or try to understand what it means and work it out but by simply, at the first point you have felt something appreciate just that. It could be in the form a saying it to yourself or more powerfully you could allow your body to settle and truly breath, accept and allow yourself to feel what is truly there and appreciate every part. The best way to appreciate is by the quality of movement. It’s the way we are and move that counts and this brings forward how we perceive life to be and so appreciating yourself in every movement, in every detail will allow you to see more and you will be aware of more feelings because you have nurtured them at the first point.

If we keep shutting down what we feel then our perception of life will hold the same path. If we appreciate everything as a feeling no matter the flavour, then this will directly impact what we allow our eyes to see.

Like now, we can dismiss this and what we have felt from reading this, make a judgement, compare, critique, ignore etc etc or we can appreciate the feeling that comes from what we have just read and start the ball rolling the other way. After all, it is ‘us’ that controls how things are we just aren’t appreciating that we can already see it.



What is it with trains? My family were big on trains; my grandfather, father, uncles and great uncles all worked on trains. Some were drivers, guards, signal men and station staff and all enjoyed their time on the trains. But what is it about trains that makes us remember something? I hear stories when my family gets together about life with the trains; it has a different feel to it and seems warm and very friendly. The way it is spoken of is a way of transport that brought a lot of people together in a way that seems to invoke something deeper… Some may say it’s been lost now but the memory and feeling still remains.

As a family, we visited the Tenterfield Railway Museum a few weeks ago and it was like stepping back in time. It was like stepping into someone’s home that you knew they really loved and cared for. We were actually stepping into an old railway station with old trains, equipment and memorabilia but there was tangibly something more you could see, smell and feel. We stayed for hours and I contacted one of my family members, my father, to explain what I was seeing. In that moment, the conversation touched on what he remembered and my mother also joined in. The memories and experiences brought me to an awareness where I felt there was more to it than just what I was seeing in front of me and I could remember my childhood experiences, experiences that I was now also seeing my children see. It was more than just nostalgia or the old days, this was a real experience; a real feeling that wasn’t only from days gone by but was still alive in the museum and conversations had. But what was it?


When my father detailed his experiences and when it was brought together with what I was seeing in my children in the museum and feeling myself, I could see that what was still ‘alive’ in the museum was a person-ability, a relationship that went beyond a simple mode of transport. It was a time when people took the time to take more care, have more respect, not only for things but more importantly for relationships. It wasn’t that this ‘time’ or era wasn’t without its problems as well and I am not saying that, more that in this era or in this quality of transport was a relationship. A relationship that hadn’t moved or been lost because these trains were no longer on tracks. In fact, it was a quality of relationship that transcended eras and time, and it seemed all else. The quality of relationship that was in this past era in trains and in my parents that I could recognise was also sitting in front of me in the children at play in the museum.

So, what was it about trains in this past era that lit people up in such a way or quality that even years later within a museum it still could be found, even if on the outside you weren’t looking for it? Let’s go further as my father explained: he was a train driver and when he was travelling around the countryside many people would wave at the train, they would stop what they were doing and come out of their houses or even cars and simply wave at the train. At times, it was the same people coming out of their houses time and time again with no less enthusiasm each time. Each time the driver would sound the horn, there would be smiles all round. The stories went further as my father told of how when he used to drive into a particular local town, he would sound the horn near our auntie’s house which would be a sign for her to put the kettle on. The drivers would stop at the station nearby and walk to her house for lunch, to then return to the train and drive on. These stories are told with such fondness, such regard, that you are warmed physically inside at reflection and part of you pictures what this was like. So what was it about trains, that you could still see in a retired station and still get from a retired train driver?

For me it was the relationships, a relationship between people, a time to truly connect.

image2Sure it had the physical look of a train but it was a signal or a way to bring people together, an excuse almost. You only need look at how older trains were designed, they were designed for people to interact, to stop and take time to chat and catch up. This is what trains gifted us, a time and space for the world to go by and for us to connect. While some trains and drivers have passed us by, the feeling and or connection still remains, and strongly at that. You only need visit Tenterfield Railway Museum or speak to a retired train driver and you will see, things may pass us by or come and go but what remains is our connection to each other. A connection so strong and real that if it’s lost or not in your awareness you need to slightly touch it for it to be felt and alive again. Whether trains return or not isn’t the point, it’s the feeling we had and still have just under the surface that we need to return to.

It’s not about bringing back or living in another era, it’s about returning to what is true, a connection that goes way beyond the physical, the one we are all from.

The older generation – Why do we leave them alone.

I went to visit a friend, an older member of our community who was in hospital the other day for no other reason than to say hello. As I walked through the hospital, I saw some familiar faces and some not so familiar and yet they were all very warm and friendly. I looked through the wards and saw a lot of sick people, and many were alone and elderly. I remembered growing up and hospitals were a thing people avoided unless they were sick or had to go and visit someone. As I was walking, I was considering why this was the case. Why avoid a place where there are so many people who are there waiting to see you…?

In my family, I was blessed to have a couple of my close aunties as nurses and they were both always very warm, welcoming, helpful and caring. It wasn’t because they were nurses, as this was just how they are as people. I have known my family doctor my whole life and the man is just a gem; it’s always great to catch up with him, and I actually look forward to going to see him. In my businesses, I come into contact with many people and we have many doctors, nurses and other medical staff as customers and they are all such warm and caring people. I would say most are ready to help you regardless if you are in or out of hospital. As I was walking through the hospital that day, nothing was making sense. If nearly everyone I know that works in the medical professions are so warm and caring, and if the people in hospital all appear to be waiting to see you and most were elderly, then why do we leave them alone?

As I sat down to speak to my friend, others in the room joined in on the conversation. We then had a doctor, nurse and another ward staff join in and pretty soon the room was alive with laughter and conversation. I didn’t stay long but the impact was great and I walked out of the hospital feeling fresher than when I walked in. Pretty soon, my friend was out of hospital and now comes and visits me in my businesses and we have all got to know her family as well. We don’t talk about the day in the hospital directly but you can sense the respect that has grown from that point, like the care that was shown for each other as people is now alive around us.

I can see that little moments can make big changes in how you see people and the world.

Our elderly are just older people and if we leave them alone then we all miss out on the wisdom they have already lived. The hospital isn’t a place to avoid but simply another place where there are people and if you look around, most that are actually in there are some of the warmest and caring people around. I take more time than before around the elderly people I see as I know they have lived a part of life that we can all learn from.

When we come into this world we are met with such care, warmth and patience and so it makes sense that when we are in preparation to leave that the same value and respect is there.

I’m no longer leaving our elderly alone and nor am I avoiding visiting my dear friends, family, colleagues and people I know in hospital, as I have realised they are waiting to see us and my experience now is almost the opposite to what it was before.


My working life, when did it truly begin?


I grew up in a small country town, a town I still live close to and visit regularly. My family have lived a long time in this town and have had many businesses and roles there. Some of my family still live there and run businesses. I run four businesses now and with my children growing up, they are working more in my businesses which has lead me to reflect on – when did I start work and what did it look like?

I remember my first job working after school in a butcher’s shop, which is still the same business now, run by the same man. I use to clean up to help a butcher close. I would wash dishes, floors and cabinets and did a lot of scraping of things, especially the fat off the floor. It wasn’t a pretty job but I remember feeling it was great to be working and getting a taste for life out of school, I was 12.

I always held this as my starting point for work, I thought this is where I officially ‘started work’, but then I considered it more… I was always helping out around the house. I remember pleading with my Dad to mow the lawn and that was at an age I wasn’t even strong enough to start it. I remember pushing my parent’s car out of the shed to wash it every chance I got. I loved working and no one had to ask me to do it, any chance I got I was working. It was a routine in our house like many to have chores, like washing and wiping up the dishes, putting away clothes, sweeping floors etc. I would do these but no one ever asked me to mow the lawn or wash the car etc., however I would plead to be able to do it, little did my parents know I would have done extra chores to do other work like this. I saw this as an extra responsibility, extra support for us all and plus there was a satisfaction in seeing it done when you had just felt to do it and not to have been asked or told.

I remember school holidays for me were full of work. I would go truck driving with my cousins, work in my uncle’s motorbike and pump shop and serve petrol at my cousin’s petrol station. There was always some work to do that I would put my hand up for. No one had to encourage me, it was naturally how we lived and naturally how my family was. My parents are both great people and workers, in fact my entire family are known for their great work ethic but there was no pressure for me to live up to this. I was more than happy to work because for me it seemed so natural from so young and I guess it came from a sense of independence. There were always things to do and I loved being active around people. Everything I loved about work was the fact that you were always around and learning about people. I remember when I was older my mother showed me a baby photo of when I couldn’t even walk and I had a cloth in my hand and I was wiping the wheels of one of our family cars. It’s ironic that now I own and run a car detailing business. How does someone so young pick this up so naturally? You watch the people around you and do what they do, and it is equally about how strong this influence is on you from so young. Consider me as a baby polishing car wheels to me now as a 44 year old man continuing the same thing…

It made me wonder, as I know now and remember the pressure on young people to know what they want to do or be or to work. As I said, I remember this pressure but at the same time it wasn’t a huge step into work or a pressure in that sense because I was always working. Working like I did built a part of me that when it came to leaving school or changing jobs or finding work, I wasn’t shy, put off or under pressure. It simply felt like it was the next thing to do and in other words, I had already been working and living it and so I wasn’t starting something that could be daunting – I was simply continuing what I had already built. There was a great support network around me and yes I mean my family, but the whole town was like this. Most shop owners in the town had young people of all different ages working with them. The young people weren’t just sitting around, they started like I did; cleaning floors and mopping out. It wasn’t the type of work necessarily that was important but more the experience that was gained. I was a very shy child and working while at school gave me an opportunity to explore more relationships where I was seen in a different light. Working gave me an instant respect for myself, for others and from others, after all, I was doing what adults did in a child’s body and people respected anything I did.

Fast-forward to today, where my children are now working in our businesses and things have come full circle. I can see the great opportunity that supporting children to have a taste of what work is like brings, and allows them to continue to walk into as they grow. It’s not a – leave school and now work situation. We have many ‘juniors’ working with us and watching some of them develop has been an amazing experience, and some are now able to virtually run the front of the businesses at young ages. I can already see how this supports them and everyone; it allows children to grow into the world naturally, without the pressure to start work at a certain age.

As a society we do put too much pressure on children to be something and then at other times we just leave them to be and it seems when things are at there best we supporting them to grow. Remember when you couldn’t walk? It was one step at a time and your parents were there for that step no matter how long it took you to master it, encouraging and appreciating any part you did, showing people what you were doing and no matter what always simply celebrating you. Work is no different, it starts early and you take it one step at a time and we should encourage and appreciate it any chance we get. What is work and what was work for me, work was always about and around people, it wasn’t a chore but more a support for everything around me. To me now I can’t define work as work and if I look back to when it all started work was about many things but the main thing it was always about was being with people.

True Community – where has it gone?


Today while driving a bus as a part of a community group I am involved in, a couple of young people included me in a conversation about what they had seen happen earlier. They included me by speaking loud enough for me to hear but didn’t make it a direct conversation to me. They were speaking about an altercation between a young man and a couple of young women.

At first I just listened as they were talking about what had happened, while at the same time I could feel a choice; do I get involved or do I just listen and pretend like they weren’t letting me know for a reason. A voice was there, “You don’t need to do anything, just pretend you didn’t hear it, they weren’t talking directly to you after all.” With that voice, there was a feeling deep down, a feeling that something wasn’t right. A feeling that confirmed I knew this, I knew what to do and there was plenty I needed to say around this. As I touched on this feeling, the voice said again, “You don’t know these young people, who do you think you are, you’re not their parent.” Then the deeper feeling was there again, “These are just people and you can support here, don’t step back.” With that I spoke, I asked more questions and some of the young people that don’t normally speak up were talking into the group. After a while, I was given a great sense of what had occurred and from there I mapped out a response and asked them all how it felt. They all agreed with the approach and from there I made some calls and arranged some meetings. On the next trip, I let them all know what had happened and the outcomes of the calls and meetings.

While this didn’t necessarily solve the problem or fix the situation, I could see that the young people were settled. They had been listened to, they had been seen and heard. Further to that, they had been trusted and someone had stood with them and supported them. You could say it was no big thing and I know people do this every day, but what was evident from this for me was that this is how I grew up, it was what I knew when I was younger, it was part of my community and yet – I don’t feel it as strong or as obvious as it once was. For me, it’s time to bring these parts of the community back – where we watch out for each other. Not solve problems or get involved in people’s dramatic circumstances, but listen, meet and support consistently, and then by virtue of this; continue to build and deepen the relationships, not just leave people to do things alone, or leave people we can see obviously need support.

The next time you get this feeling and you have a voice that is saying something different, my advice would be to stay with the feeling and let the voice go. The feelings I have I remember from long ago, I remember walking the steps, every step, I remember a time when the way we took care of ourselves then took care of everyone else, when people didn’t just walk by situations that they could see ‘weren’t right’.

The more we retreat into our own worlds, even though life is busy, the less we are able to see the bigger parts that are at play.

In truth, you can’t take care of just yourself or your family without this going out further and similarly you can’t take care of everyone without having that equal care for yourself or your close ones. The care we naturally are can’t be held under one roof or in one body, it will always need to be expanded out. The next time you get an opportunity to support or offer someone something, don’t just leave it there, be aware that once you have activated it in one part of your life, it will need to be equal everywhere.

While the voices come and go and for some reason they always seem to say the same flavoured thing, “Don’t get involved, don’t say anything, don’t do anything, you’re too busy etc.” – that’s a lot of don’ts. In that flavour, do we stand back or do we get involved? What are we really protecting by not adding our voice to situations we can see don’t support others? Are we truly too busy or in the ‘don’t’ world, or do we know that our choice to speak up at that point will soon after need the same care to be shown in our own close relationships? In other words – we hold back for a very personal reason, we don’t get involved in things or speak up because we don’t want the reflection this will bring to us.

True community hasn’t been lost or eroded by generations of the past as we may say or believe, we simply turn away from it now, but it’s always been there we just need to activate it.

Who’s time is it?


Ever since I was young I was always struggling or juggling with time. I was either regretting how it was passing or wishing it would end. It’s funny how it changed. When I was younger it was mostly in the regret of it passing, I would want the day to never end. As I grew older it became the rush and wishing mostly that the day or the week would end. Of course this would depend on what I was doing because it seemed how you were with time would change depending on what you were doing. Mostly if you were at work then you would want it to end but then as soon as you were on a day off or on holidays, then you would want it to never end. This struggle with time continued throughout my life and I thought it was normal and never sat back and considered anything different. I knew one thing though, there seemed to be never enough time.

I remember working and the days would go really long and it would appear as though time had slowed down. Yet then you would have a day off and it appeared the clock had sped up. How was the same clock going slower and then faster? I never considered this more deeply, what was happening to the clock? Or was it something I was doing, after all – there is always only 24 hours in the day? Even looking at these questions now I am still caught at times by time, but it can’t be the clock because the second hand always goes the same pace and there is always the same 24 hours in the day. So what has changed, what is different? It is my perception of time and not time itself that changes. If you were like me and still haven’t fully grasped this then consider this, – no matter where you are or what you are doing at 4pm, it will still be 4pm. On the clock, it doesn’t read 4pm when you are sitting at 2pm and likewise when you think we are ahead of time it doesn’t hit 4pm when you are at 5pm. So we can never truly be behind or ahead of time but always in time. So the only thing changeable in this way is our perception, how we see ourselves in time. A good read for more around this is Time, Space and all of us, Book 1 – Time. To give you a preview,

“Time does not move us. We are moved or are constantly moving by the anti-clockwise movement of our planet Earth. It is the planet and not time that produces what we call ‘daytime’ and ‘night-time’. What we call time, in this particular reference to movement, is nothing more than an indicator of where we geographically are in relation to the Sun.”

Serge Benhayon, Time, p. 67

So what has changed for me, or more importantly, what is continually changing for me? My perception of time and . It has nothing to do with time itself but as I said before, more about my relationship to it or my relationship with how I am. As has been presented to me by a great friend Serge Benhayon, my struggle with time is about what it reflects to me, what it is asking of me. So if I get to a point in time and haven’t lived to that point who or how I truly feel to be then there is an angst or a tension. We relate this to time but as I said it’s about our relationship and not the clock itself. So how have I got more time?, I have deepened my relationship with how I am feeling at each point in time. The more and more I do this, the more time and hence space opens up. But from what is now obvious, it’s not necessarily that I have more time in how we perceive it, because the clock actually never changes.

It’s from my relationship with how I am and not how much I do that time has opened up.


A Submission to the Senate – Shark Inquiry.


3 March 2017

Committee Secretary

Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications

PO Box 6100

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3526

Fax: +61 2 6277 5818


Dear Sir or Madam:

RE: Submission to the Senate Inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures

To give you some background, at the 2011 census there was 39274 people in the Ballina Local Government area with this number increasing at peak summer times with tourists. Ballina’s name originated from is not entirely certain. Some believe it was named directly after the Irish town of Ballina, although a more likely source is a Bundjalung word, “bullinah”, meaning “place of many oysters”.

Ballina is situated at the mouth of the Richmond River on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, and boasts some of the most beautiful surfing beaches and picturesque headlands on the east coast of Australia. With the most popular beaches being Shelly Beach which is a patrolled beach, also Lighthouse Beach, Seven Mile Beach and the Shaws Bay Lagoon. The township itself of Ballina sits on the northern bank of the Richmond River and is bordered by North Creek and a canal, in fact making Ballina an island.


We are a very active Chamber of Commerce board and consistently offer in our actions that businesses and the community are one and the same. There is no delineation between the two as anything that happens to one will have an impact on the other, as you would appreciate. We are looking to address parts ‘g’ and ‘h’ of the ‘Terms of Reference’, namely the impact of shark attacks on tourism and related industries; and any other relevant matters. As you can see from what we have given you above the importance of how this or anything water related impacts on our community are very real. What we have seen and discussed as a board has been generally the lack of communication between key stakeholders, the government and related governing bodies.

It’s not to say there has been no consultation or communication but the quality of those two in terms of our area and this issue has been lacking true depth and clarity.

By no means do we see or are we saying that we don’t all care about what has happened and what is going on with this issue. Contrary to this, we see that everyone cares deeply but we also acknowledge there is some areas we can improve.

Included in that are, it appears everyone at times works individually or in disregard of each other. We feel a more collective approach where the community is supported ongoing and not just while an incident is in focus or appears in the media would go a long way into instil more trust for us all. With respect also, this parliamentary enquiry could be seen as a continuation of this in that we only learnt of this enquiry from a phone call to our office by a local media outlet at the 11th hour. This is not to be critical of any one body or stakeholder but more give general consideration that any shark mitigation and deterrent measure needs not only get a result but equally consider what best supports the area it is to be implemented in. The Ballina area was left for quiet sometime without adequate support or measures to deal with what is a very public problem.

To give one example, the changing from a local helicopter company in favour of another non-local company to spot sharks from aerial patrols. Our Chamber made representations at the time about Air T&G and how they were both awarded and commended for their actions during and after some of our shark incidents. Often patrolling our beaches at no cost and heavily discounted cost as part of a community service for a long period of time without being asked. Only for the tender to be awarded to another company who at the time didn’t have the infrastructure or knowledge of the local company. We could be accused of a bias given that Air T&G is a member of our Chamber but this isn’t about a promotion but more about highlighting how some decisions have not been including or even considering fully what the local area is saying and to some they don’t make sense. Given that this decision and many similar actually impact again and further on a community that is already suffering from the adverse impact of a number of major incidents. Decisions like this actually draw out or delay both the healing and recovery of an area like ours.


There could have been also a more proactive role from the Government and Government agencies in the media as an ongoing support for our local community. While we appreciate the visits and support we have had we all realise that incidents like this tend to flavour people’s perception of an area. The Government could be and could have been instrumental in supporting our area further, obviously with respect to the families and the people that have been attacked, with such things as releasing the real statistics of shark attacks in Australian waters, updating the general public on what is going on with also a focus on what else the region offers to bring a balance to what people are seeing, supporting businesses impacted directly with funding, loans, advertising etc.

We also did a survey through our members in late 2015 with mainly the tourism based businesses and surf industry businesses recording and experiencing downturns. But as we have said if there is a part of any area under impact then it will affect everyone. Significantly all respondents took the time to indicate that they would like to see a “more positive coverage of the Ballina Coast & Hinterland as a holiday destination including promotion of the many other diverse offerings the region has available.”

Ongoing we would like to see both financial assistance to businesses and the town as media support in the future promotion of what is still a very great, beautiful and family business operating area. This could be done by way of a special grant to a partnership between the Ballina Shire Council and Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry for local and interstate media promotion around ‘where Ballina is now’ through things like https://www.discoverballina.com.au/visit/ and television.

Warmest regards,


Ray Karam – Board Member
Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry https://www.ballinachamber.com.au/ info@ballinachamber.com.au/

The G2W Festival – a Role Model for the community.



On the 22nd of January 2017 we saw the presentation of the third instalment of The Girl To Woman Festival in Lennox Head NSW. My wife Sarah Karam and I have been involved in different ways with the festival for the past three years and so it’s been great to track the difference and the success. There is a small team of volunteers behind the festival that have kept in touch all year to bring what is a truly unique and possibly a one of a kind festival to our local area.

What is different about this festival, is as G2W Festival Host and main sponsor, Natalie Benhayon from Esoteric Women’s Health says –

Our Festival is about empowering young girls and women as they transition through to womanhood. They’re exposed to a lot through platforms like Instagram, fashion magazines and music clips, but the more we build confidence in their own expression and natural beauty, the less they need to follow what’s ‘out there’.”

Being a parent of young girls and a supporter of women in the community in general, it made sense for me to play an active role in a festival of this value. What is different for me is the quality in which the day is presented. With respect to other festivals and community events, I have seen there is a push to organise the day and that it’s important to have a ‘draw card’ to bring people in. The G2W Festival has made the draw card the quality of community connections and relationships and not anything else. This doesn’t make the day exclusive or only available for some on the day, but open to the whole community the whole year around.

What I have taken from being a part of this festival, is that it is organised by people who are active within the community we live in; teachers, practitioners, business owners and everyday people, using the feedback they get from their relationships in the community to shape or direct the festival to be one that is specifically for the community we live in. How often do we sit back and see something go on within our community or even within our four walls that we don’t like the look of and yet because of our busy lives or other things going on we don’t address it like we know we should? This G2W Festival brings us back to the point where we all play our part in what the community represents and don’t just leave it for someone else to address or for tomorrow.

One thing that was evident from the start of the organisation through to the festival end was that this wasn’t a festival brought to the community for them. It was a festival that may have been organised by a few, but was very much the voice of us all. We already look forward to being a part of and planning the G2W 2018, watch this space as they say and as I say stay in touch with the community around you.

The Belle Central and Nourish will be hosting a few G2W events throughout this year after hours, so keep your eyes out as they are currently being planned, with events and dates to be released soon.