A Love Letter To Lismore

image courtesy ABC News

Less than a week ago, we heard reports that Cyclone Debbie was brewing in far north QLD. Days later, the rain began sheeting down. By Thursday afternoon, the Lismore roads were drenched. I was getting SMSs from school and ballet to take care driving home, and that floods were predicted.

3am that night, the Lismore flood levee broke, and the water rose,

and rose,

and rose.

It reached 11.5m, which is a record high.

Water cascaded down the streets of the Lismore CBD. It flooded shops, cafes, schools, offices, homes.

The town was devastated. Brown, muddy water filled the streets, like an oversized, miserable swimming pool no one should ever swim in.

Even when the rain had stopped, the water filled the streets for days.

We only live about fifteen minutes up the road, but we were completely fine. Well out of harm’s way.

Yet Lismore, our dearest neighbour, lay sodden, drenched and distraught. People had lost so so much.

I was born in Lismore. My girls were both born in Lismore. We owned our first home in Lismore. And I spent the first few months of parenting life walking the streets of Lismore, carrying my baby in a hug-a-bub. I didn’t love the hill I had to climb in thirty degree weather. But I have always had a soft spot for Lismore.

When we moved from Lismore, to be closer to friends and family, my love for the town only grew. Spending days in Lismore op shops and cafes were my favourite. I loved the Lismore Star Court Arcade. The vintage shops. I loved Polli and The Blackbird. I loved Shoppe One 17 for quality kitchen supplies. I loved my hairdresser at The Boys. I loved the weekly farmer’s markets. I loved the carboot markets.

And I still do.

Over the last few years, there has been a burning optimism in Lismore. More and more cafes and restaurants have opened. Less and less shops are empty. And shops and cafes are not unlike those in gentrified Melbourne areas, if not better, because they are authentic and unpretentious.

And I keep coming back to Lismore for more of this authentic, and unpretentious vibe. Lismore doesn’t really try to be anything it’s not. What it is, is a vibrant and warm community. It’s people who love and appreciate the town. It’s people who embrace diversity. It’s creatives. Entrepreneurs. Hard working people.

Now my daughter is at school in the Lismore area, I’ve been looking at real estate there. The more time I spend there, the more I love the community.

And then came the floods…

The amazing thing, is that the moment the flood inundated the town, people drew together, and became stronger. Immediately, there were people offering accommodation, food, supplies, clothes, and help to clean.

Some people made music in the streets. My brother’s friend, Tom Papworth, made a sign “Running Low On Chicken Nuggets: Request Airdrop“. He was joking of course, but the humour was in good taste, and was needed.

The moment water was drained from the streets, almost everyone I know did something to help. People gave up work to help clean houses and businesses. The Lismore Helping Hands Facebook group is fast growing. It has gained another thousand members since I last looked. The Edge Fitness gym in Alstonville banded together to collect anything and everything from Alstonville and surrounds, which could be donated. Friends cooked warm meals for people who have lost everything. And my brother and his partner delivered chicken nuggets for Tom.

I haven’t been into the town yet. What I hear is that the streets are broken, and debris is everywhere. I’ve heard that interiors are caked in mud, and structures are destroyed. I’ve heard buildings smell like car oil and fuel.

I’ve also heard that businesses are already re-opening, only days after the flood. Supported by volunteers, Lismore people are getting back on their feet again. Slowly. It will take time, and maybe for some, full recovery is not possible.

My heart goes out to Lismore, where my heart first began, and will keep bringing me back. Lismore, we love you. And you will rise again.

Welcome to Wonderplace :: The Arty Party Lismore

Before moving to Lismore in 2009, I read in the paper that Lismore had the highest number of professional artists per capita in Australia.

If you were at the first Arty Party, held at Spinks Park behind the Lismore Regional Gallery yesterday, you’d believe it.

At about 10.45, the Arty Party was declared open, and hoards of children and their families milled through the arched gateway, into the Arty Party wonderland. And what a wonderland it was.

arty party

We wandered along the pathway, which was lined with creative activity fodder. Piles of bamboo and fluoro lycra for tee-pee building…


little book nooks for reading and dreaming…

book nook arty party

artyparty7_book nook

a giant loom and hoola hoops set up for weaving…

arty party yarn guerrillas



colour piles on a stage for performance…

arty party colour show

artyparty9-colour show

a paper caper tent for creating…

paper caper tent arty party



and an area for making music and dancing…



Clever percussionist Greg Sheehan {who I have seen on Playschool} lead the children in body percussion. Gorgeous Marissa from The Cassettes showed the children some funky dance moves to 80s dance classics. I was so impressed how quickly the children picked up the choreography!

Just about every child I know from the area was there. The sun smiled down on the festivity. Maybe the sun thinks celebrating creativity is a particularly good thing to do.

I am so proud Lismore pulled this off. I hope – I know – it will be the first of many Arty Parties to come.

What fun school holiday activities have you had in your area?

: : 5 Things You May Not Know About North Coast NSW

I have the privilege of being a local to one of the most visited and desirable locations in Australia.


Visitors will enjoy the clean sand and crystal clear water of the beaches. They will no doubt walk up to the famous Byron Bay lighthouse, and sit at the main beach headland at sunset, watching people juggle, seagulls nick chips, and people play bongos. Someone might even try and sell them an affirmation.

But, like any place, there is always a back story.

I was born in the area, grew up inland and returned to the Byron Bay surrounds to raise my children. This place is my soul country. So I will let you in on five secrets.

Kiva Spa

Hidden in the back streets of Mullumbimby is a beautiful Balinese style bathhouse. The Kiva Spa is essentially a backyard, but it’s decked out with two spa baths, a plunge pool, a sauna and a place to enjoy a quiet cup of tea. You can also indulge in a massage and pamper in one of the private rooms. Kiva is so reasonably priced and so divine, I wish I had more excuses to go there.

1 McGougans Ln Mullumbimby, NSW 2482

Baby Sesame Children’s Boutique

Tucked away, above the fish shop in Lennox Head, is the sweetest children’s shop I know. It’s called Baby Sesame, and is run by a gorgeous woman called Koralina. Koralina carefully selects high quality, unique and often handmade children’s items from around the world to sell in the store. It’s like a magical universe up there.

Shop 9, 80-84 Ballina Street Lennox Head

Northern Rivers Seafood

There are a number of fish shops around, which makes sense as this is a coastal region. But the best by a long shot is Northern Rivers Seafood in Ballina. They have so many fresh seafood options, and it never smells fishy, which is a good sign. As is the queue of customers streaming out the door. Every week, we buy 500g of smoked salmon offcuts there for $10. It is ridiculously good value, and is literally the bulk of both my childrens’ protein.

480 River Street, West Ballina
6686 2187


When I was growing up, Lismore was a town we typically avoided. It was hot. Unpleasant. I don’t know – just one of those places you only go when you have to. Now, I look forward to going to Lismore. It has such an eclectic community. There are a number of herbalist dispensers and alternative food stores, like Fundamentals. There is the best hairdresser in the Southern Hemisphere. There are so many great coffee places – our favourite is The Republic of Coffee Espresso Bar, tucked down a little alley off Keen Street.

There are also clusters of tiny, interesting shops run by artisans and fashionistas. One of the best clusters is the Star Court Arcade, which runs off Molesworth Street. Little Polli and The Blackbird is one of my favourite shops in the arcade. It makes me feel like I am in wonderland. I have picked up quality second-hand clothes from Etika, also down the arcade.

Lismore hosts a number of regular markets. The Lismore Maker’s Markets are held on the first Saturday of every month at The Con on Keen Street. On the first and third Sunday of every month in the Lismore Boot Markets, held in the car park of The Square. It is one of my favourite markets in the region – it’s almost a flee market. There are also three weekly farmers’ markets – the Rainbow Region Organic Farmer’s Market on Tuesday morning at the showground, the Lismore Produce Markets, held Thursday from 3.30pm on Magellan Street and the Lismore Farmers’ Markets at the showground Saturday morning.

Like my parents did when I was growing up, I still do a large portion of my shopping in Lismore, mainly from Pacific Bulk Foods on Magellan Street. Bulk buying has completely transformed our family’s eating and shopping habits.

White’s Beach, Broken Head

It’s been a while since going there, but one of the most beautiful, tucked away spots of the region is White’s Beach, just south of Broken Head beach. You need to drive down Seven Mile Beach Road, which is a rough, dirt track, find a sketchy park, and then trek through rainforest to reach the beach. But the trek is worth it. The beach feels like a paradise – so secluded, and private, with white white sand, and crystal clear water on a good day.

Are there any secrets you can reveal about your region?

Come by and join in the conversation on Facebook or connect on Twitter.

One One Four Lismore

I love Lismore. I really do. Living there with a crying baby, on a hill, in the middle of summer was not my idea of happiness, but coming back to Lismore for a mooch is fun. The Melbourne in me, who craves good coffee and interesting back alley shops is satisfied by what Lismore offers.

We went for a mooch and a bulk food shopping day last Friday, and stumbled upon One One Four, a new hole-in-wall on Keen Street.


Image ImageI like what these guys are doing. Good coffee, yummy lunches and desserts. So, for just $10, you can get a regular coffee, a take-away or have-in meal, like stir-fry pork belly, or pork meatballs with noodles, and a ‘snack’ – a selection of brownies, smartie cookies, baklava…Increase to $12 for a large coffee. It’s more than even we can consume. And if you know us, you will know we always go for the extra large portion.

The food and coffee came our super quick, served on eco-friendly disposables, like banana palm plates with wooden cutlery. The coffee was Lavazza, but good.

In Melbourne fashion, we sat on crates in the arcade.

My godmother told me when I tree-changed from Melbourne, I could satisfy my cosmopolitan cravings by jumping on a plane. As it turns out, I don’t have cosmopolitan cravings. I like country life, yes, but I find that our region offers almost everything I miss about Melbourne. Except excellent Vietnamese. But maybe I just don’t know where to go.

I have the best hairdresser I have ever had, for instance. More on that in another post.

Lismore is one of those places you have to get to know to appreciate. One One Four is just one little Lismore secret I can reveal, for all those interested in coming to Lismore one day.

One One Four is at 114 Keen Street, Lismore

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.