A salesman walks into the jungle . . .

Going native: Rob Henry with the Mentawai indigenous people.Rob Henry was born on April 25, 1981.
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But he stopped celebrating the day about 10 years ago, when he moved into the forest to live among the indigenous people on the Mentawai Islands, about 150 kilometres off the coast of West Sumatra, Indonesia.

A former magazine advertising salesman in Melbourne, he moved to the Mentawai Islands in search of a more meaningful life. At first, he took a job filming surfing guests at Pit Stop Hill, the closest thing to a resort for westerners in Mentawai.

Despite the sensational waves that have made the isolated region a drawcard for the international surfing community, Henry was not drawn to the sea. Rather, he was curious about the native culture, and soon left the resort to live among the locals.

“I’d go around and start living with the community, try to get an understanding of this sense of freedom, this happiness, this glow,” Henry says in a telephone interview from his caravan near Bendigo,Victoria, where he is currently living.

“It made me wonder, what do they know that we don’t know . . .”

Henry’s pursuit of an answer to that question led him to move deeper into the forest to live with traditional Mentawai tribes people for eight years. Ashe assimilated in just about every way –resisting their tradition to take brides when girls reached puberty – he eventually realised how much their culture was at risk.

He learned the language, adapted to the diet and the pace of life. He immersed himself in the Mentawai’s old tattoo culture (“I pretty well have a suit now,” he says.)

Henry had kept his camera equipment when he went native, and filmed hundreds of hours of the basic tribe life in his earliest days. As he became more native, he filmed less, feeling it was intrusive.

“I wasn’t filming at all near the end [of time spent there],” Henry says. “That was to do with me feeling such a part of the community and the life, it would be hard to disconnect from that moment, to have to snap out of that moment.”

The difference between the dependence the native people living in the village had on western society and the independence of the declining number of native people in the forest made an impact on Henry, and formed the seed of his documentary film, As Worlds Divide.

The film explores the Mentawai culture and what is at risk. It also provides a platform for discussion about preserving the nature culture.

When Henry returned to Australia, he found himself connecting to online conversations with young Mentawai people who had attended university and were keen to help protect the Mentawai culture.

Henry becamea key player in Indigenous Education Foundation, an organisation he helped create with Mentawai people to help them find solutions to saving their culture.

The goal is to raise $1million to kickstart an action plan for the Mentawai. The strategy includes building a cultural centre, publishing a Mentawai dictionary and developing an eco-tourism model.

“To be honest, we’re just scratching the surface, there’s a longway to go,” Henry says.

The project could help more indigenous populations than just the Mentawai, he says.

The world surfing community has embraced the project, with 39 showings across seven countries already, drawn by the tagline Watch afilm, save a culture(#wafsac).

As Worlds Divide screens at Merewether Surf Club on Friday, July 14 at 7pm. For more details:

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Pushing drama limits

Pushing boundaries: Amy Wilde, actor and member of Two Tall Theatre. Picture: Jonathan CarrollWhen Two Tall Theatre present Age of Consent at the Civic Playhouse on July 19, they will compose yet another chapter in the short but colourful life of this controversial production.
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The sixth play written by Peter Morris unravels the thoughts of a shrewd and tawdry stage mum blinded by the glitter of an imaginary but irresistible gold. Her monologues are interweaved with those of a young boy wrestling with guilt, notoriety and the dye cast by his criminal instincts.

Their stories continue to pose essential questions about themes previously considered too sensitive for a playwright to touch. Encircling these discussions has been a broader issue about media, the theatre and where best to draw the line between them.

It is a debate not lost on but rather welcomed by director and Two Tall Theatre co-founder Patrick Campbell. The sensationalist media culture that this play first examined in 2001 is more familiar to audiences today and, in an age of digitisation and social media, even more relevant.

“That is what really intrigued me about the play. The frenzy feeding industry of the tabloid newspaper,” Campbell says.

That the imprisoned teenager Timmy is in one scene prevented by his social worker from reading a tabloid, is symbolic of a society that should see itself reflected in the news that they consume.

“Social media and reality television are now just extensions of that newspaper” Campbell says. The only difference today, he observes, “is that we carry the news around in our pocket. We open our phones up and there it is – the Kardashians over and over again.”

When single mother Stephanie appears on stage in The Age of Consent, it is easy to imagine her inhabiting the celluloid and celebrity-obsessed world of today.

“She would sell anything to get on reality television” Campbell says of the character. The reality for her character throughout the play is that the line between promotion and exploitation is invisible even when, for the audience, it is often painfully apparent.

For actor Amy Wilde, who plays Stephanie, the efforts the character makes to balance herself on this moral tightrope can be as enjoyable to watch as they are uncomfortable to observe.

“The beauty of Age of Consent is that you will be entertained, but also be left with some serious questions” Wilde says. “As a mother, Stephanie is the product of her own upbringing. Although most people may not agree, I think she does what she thinks is best.”

Two Tall Theatre isan impressive artistic collective. Established in 2015 by Wilde, Campbelland actor and director Pearl Nunn, the companyhas quickly distinguished itself in the Newcastle theatre scene by anuncompromising commitment to material that swims defiantly against the mainstream. From a darkly comical apocalypse to love and subordination in a Cambodian prison house, their productions boldly examine adversities and celebrate those who strive to overcome them.

Amy Wilde Age of Consent, it was an obvious nod to the talent and professionalism of the company and their refreshingly inventive approach to production.

Even more impressive is Two Tall’swillingness to dive a second time into waters that most other Newcastle theatre companies would run a mile from.

“We know we are pushing boundaries” Nunn says, “but the amazing thing is that the dangerous and darkest stories can still be the most powerful. We want to tell people the tales that never get told.”

For Wilde, the challenge ahead lies not so much in pushing boundaries, but removing the boundaries altogether.

“If Newcastle can show that this is the kind of theatre they appreciate, then hopefully other smaller companies will be supported like we have been,” she says.

Age of Consent, July 19-22, Civic Playhouse

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Ten good things to do in Corner Country

1.Visit Cameron’s Corner What it’s all about … the writer at the meeting point of three states.
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This, of course, is what Corner Country is all about — the marker where three states, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, meet. There’s not much there but its lure is almost magnetic, and the pub serves the essential cold beer.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service office in Tibooburra has an interesting enough display that includes the original marker placed at the Corner in 1880 by John Cameron, a surveyor with the NSW Lands Department.

2.Walk a bit along the dingo fence Australia’s dingo fence … longest fence in the world.

At more than 5600 kilometres, the dingo fence is the world’s longest, stretching from Queensland’s Darling Downs to the Great Australian Bight.

It comes very close to Cameron’s Corner and runs virtually along the NSW-Queensland and NSW-South Australia borders for some 650 kilometres.

3. Take in the view of the Jump Ups The Jump Ups … stunning remains of an ancient mountain range.

This is flat, very flat, country so it’s a surprise to come across an escarpment, known as the Jump Ups, in the eastern part of the Sturt National Park. The view of the remains of this ancient mountain range is stunning.

4. Have a cleansing ale at the Family Hotel, Tibooburra Tibooburra’s Family Hotel … an arty place.

The walls of this otherwise completely normal outback pub are lined with paintings by the likes of Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale and Howard William Steer. The hotel was usedas a base while the artists painted the surrounding countryside and, indeed, Pugh was an absentee landlord from 1988 to 1994.

The hotel owns the cabins that are across the road which provide very comfortable accommodation.

5.Watch for wildlife as you’re travelling Plenty of wildlife … kangaroos on the road to Cameron’s Corner.

It’s not quite the Serengeti Plain during the Great Migration, but the proliferation of kangaroos and emus makes for spectacular viewing as you drive the Outback roads around Tibooburra and Cameron’s Corner … and also provides plentiful reason to take great care, especially around dawn and dusk but at just about any time of day, particularly when it’s not overly hot.

But there’s plenty else to see, too — eagles, lizards, feral goats, horses, bustards and a proliferation of many other birds such as the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo.

6.Drive to the lookout at Tibooburra Easy to see where Tibooburra gets its name … an Aboriginal word for ‘heap of boulders’.

Tibooburra is the closest town of any size to Cameron’s Corner and it is speculated that its name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘heap of boulders’. There’s certainly plenty of evidence for that assertion if you take a drive to the nearby lookout which provides spectacular views of the town and surrounding desert country.

7.Take a break at the Packsaddle Roadhouse The Packsaddle Roadhouse … a handy watering and lunch stop.

The Packsaddle Roadhouse is a handy watering and lunch stop on the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra. It features an interesting range of historic — and sometimes not so historic — artefacts. I was particularly taken with the collection of well worn cockies’ hats.

8.Scratch you head at the Tool Tree Why oh why … spanners hang from a clothes line.

You’ll inevitably ask “Why, oh why, did they bother to do that?” but the ‘Tool Tree’ — essentially a discarded collection of spanners welded to a clothes line — and its smaller offspring, the ‘Baby Tool Tree’, do provide a talking point and a definite reason for stopping near the corner of the Silver City Highway and the White cliffs Road.

9.Grieve a little at Poole’s grave No Inland Sea here … James Poole’s gravesite.

Explorer Captain Charles Sturt was so convinced that he’d find the fabled Inland Sea that his expeditionary force contained a couple of sailors, but all he found was desert and futility. In 1854 he and his party were forced to camp for several months at waterhole they named Depot Glen.

Sturt’s second-in-command, James Poole, died shortly after the party finally left Depot Glen. He is buried nearby.

10. Spend an hour wandering around the Golden Gully Mining Site The Golden Gully Mining Site … classy reconstruction of an 1800s mining site.

There are plenty of historic relics on display at this quite classy reconstruction of an 1800s mining site. The explanatory plaques are well done. Best visited early morning or just before sunset, when it isn’t too hot.

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Banks close as protesters step up fight

Banks close as protesters step up fight SHUT: Protesters gather outside the Commonwealth Bank’s Hamilton branch. Picture: Brodie Owen
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SHUT: Protesters gather outside the Commonwealth Bank’s Hamilton branch. Picture: Brodie Owen

SHUT: Protesters gather outside the Commonwealth Bank’s Hamilton branch. Picture: Brodie Owen

SHUT: Protesters gather outside the Commonwealth Bank’s Hamilton branch. Picture: Brodie Owen

SHUT: Protesters gather outside the Commonwealth Bank’s Hamilton branch. Picture: Brodie Owen

TweetFacebook#knittingnannas & others tell @CommBank#nonewcoal! #StopAdani#nocsg#coalbank. Bank CLOSED, #4thewin!! 😂 pic.twitter南京夜网/iseRqsdc81

— KnittingNannasNewie (@KNAG_HunterLoop) July 5, 2017Newcastle Heraldsome had travelled to the city from Interstate to join the protests.

“The Commonwealth Bank hasn’t pulled out of supporting Adani, and that’s very problematic,” she said.

“There is a great risk to the Great Barrier Reef.”

The public order and riot squad was sent to Newcastle for the protests, but maintained only a visible presence as specialist police remained inside the car when observed by the Heraldshortly after 11am.

Words of truth outside Commbank, ‘Stand for our reef, stand for our land, stand for our people. For our common wealth’ #StopAdani#CoalBankpic.twitter南京夜网/weV26vheAo

— Zianna Fuad (@zifuad) July 5, 2017

The Commonwealth Bank said it decided to close the branches for customer and staff safety.

“Commonwealth Bank believes people have the right to express their views as long as they do so in a peaceful manner in compliance with the law and common standards of courtesy,” the bank said in a statement.

“We are disappointed that the protest activity in Newcastle had been planned to fall below these common standards.”

The bank denied it had been approached by Adani to finance the new mine.

Ms Smith said of the bank’s decision to close the branches: “We’re disappointed CBA didn’t front the criticism.”

The protests come after a man and a woman were recently arrested at the Kooragang Island coal loaders after allegedly trespassing.

The protesters unfurled abanner on the coal pits with a message for the Commonwealth Bank.

There were no arrests in Wednesday’s protests.

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Tom Holland reveals what’s under his Spider-Man suit

Tom Holland has revealed he could only wear a G-string underneath his Spiderman costume. Photo: Chuck ZlotnickBeing an actor can be downright humiliating.
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Hollywood up-and-comer Tom Holland has dished the dirt on what he had to endure while shooting some ofSpider-Man Homecoming’smost pivotal scenes.

The British actor toldShortListall he was allowed to wear underneath his Spiderman costume was a G-string. After all, the iconic red and blue outfit doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

“They brought them in on my first day, like, ‘Here are your thongs,” he said. “I had serious misgivings – would my arseholeever be the same again? But I had to get used to it. Even though I was thinking, no way, no way!”

But what Holland had to wear underneath the costume wasn’t the most uncomfortable part about the costume – far from it.

For starters, there was the question of how to stay hydrated on set. As fans of the Marvel comics and movies will know, Spiderman’s mask completely covers his mouth.

Despite the discomfort caused by wearing the suit, Holland said it was an honour to wear it. Photo: Sony

A clever crew member eventually figured out how to feed a plastic tube through the mask’s eye socket so an assistant could squeeze water in Holland’s mouth when the studio lights were starting to get too hot.

But, staying hydrated presented a new problem: How to go to the toilet when you’re dressed head to toe in an “unbelievably uncomfortable” piece of art without any visible zips.

Tom Holland in a scene from ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. Photo: Chuck Zlotnick

“You have to completely disrobe and then put a dressing gown on … you can’t walk around in just a thong, can you imagine?” Holland said. “And then you race across the lot to the toilet then come back, get into it – it’s such a mission.”

However, the news isn’t all grim, with the 21-year-old pointing out the awkward bathroom adventures were all worth it in the end.

“Any discomfort is immediately outweighed by the privilege of wearing it,” he said.

The pay cheque, and big boost to his career, also wouldn’t have gone astray. To date, theSpidermanfranchise has webbed more than $4 billion at the global Box Office.

Spider-Man Homecominghits cinemas on July 6.

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