November 29 - December 5, 2020: Issue 476


The Outback Mermaids On Variety's Resurrection Run 2020

The Outback Mermaids - Beryl Driver OAM, Neelica Raffel and Indy Leigh Griffiths (at back).

Beryl Driver OAM commenced her 22nd Variety Children’s Charity Bash on Sunday November 15th, and her 23rd Bash overall. Joining her were first-timers in Scotland Island’s Neelica Raffel and Elanora's Indy Leigh Griffiths who, together, were the ‘Outback Mermaids’ as part of the Variety Resurrection Run, a six-day charity car event that raised $330,000.00.

This was a tour de force of rural New South Wales - with 40% of the journey on true car bash dirt roads.

The Variety Resurrection Run wasn't just about fun (although it was definitely that) it was also about working together to support kids in need. Last year Variety (in Australia) made a difference in the lives of over 85 thousand children.

When we started planning this event we weren't even sure it was going to be allowed to go ahead but this incredible result for kids made all the work by entrants, officials and staff worth it. 

On Sunday 15 November 84 Bashers and 4WD Adventurers left Newcastle on the Resurrection Run. This one-off event was established as an opportunity for enthusiasts to still get out there for a drive with their mates. Variety organisers were ecstatic with the enthusiasm with which the car touring community responded. It was incredibly clear at the start line Variety staff weren’t the only ones excited to be back out on the road, taking much-needed tourism dollars into regional NSW and raising funds for Variety.

Beryl spoke this week about the Resurrection Run sharing that one her favourite experiences along the way were the dinner on the lawn at the 'Back O'Bourke Exhibition and Conference Centre' at sunset because that sunset, overarching those below, was spectacular.

A Race Day held at Bourke was another favourite as it was so much fun. Held on a dirt track, Bashers either dressed and ran as horses or entered the 'Fashions on the Field' competition, with is being won by John and Mel Redwin in their 101 Dalmatians outfits.

''Mel and John also won the Spirit of the Bash for the Resurrection Run,'' Beryl said, ''Every day Mel dressed in a themed 'Cruella' outfit with John as her able sidekick - they were a scream all week - and just wonderful.''

''The Horse Race was so funny too - there were three horses in the centre enclosure and these followed the 'human horses' and raced alongside them down the track and then even went back t run beside the stragglers. Hilarious.''

Race Day was held at the track the Back O’ Bourke Picnic Race Club re-established in 2014, holding their first race meeting on Easter Sunday 5th April 2015 after more than a decade of no racing in the small outback town and was the first Picnic meet since 1969. The race day was held in honour of racing identity Harry Hart and was aptly named the Harry Hart Memorial Cup Race Day. The day was a huge success for the club and has been described as one of the best race days in Bourke.

The Club was awarded Best Picnic Race Club of the year and Most Outstanding Race Meeting in 2015 by the Western Racing Association (WRA) and was a finalist in the Country & Provincial Racing Awards. This was a huge feat for a brand new committee who put together a fantastic day in only a few short months. The Club cemented their success by hosting another successful race day in 2016. The races coincide with the Back to Bourke Reunion held over the Easter Long weekend which draws many visitors to the town and includes various activities such as wool bale rolling in the main street, mud run, long table dinner and a ball on the eve of the races, which has now become a regular annual event. 

As to whether Neelica and Indy enjoyed it, it seems they are now hoping to do more 'B to B's, and, even though Beryl had to do some of the driving on the real dirt roads that comprised much of the core of this Variety run until the girls were used to it, but they then took to driving in all that dust. The littlies met along the way were a favourite of Neelicas':

photo by Sallymae Baily

Mark Barlow and Marc Christowski with their car, The Jungle Brothers, and a few car-enthusiastic students!

Indy was thrilled to find that John Williamson was part of the Resurrection Run in his 'True Blue' car.  Just before the RR commenced the National Film and Sound Archives announced that 'True Blue' has been inducted into the Sounds of Australia of the National Film and Sound Archives. What a great tribute to this song that has made such a significant contribution to Australia and become a favourite of Australians young and old, both at home and overseas. Performed at many of Australia’s most important events, it’s a well-deserved recognition in John's 50th year and coincides with the release of the new lyric video of ‘True Blue’, produced by Warner Music, along with other lyric videos of his most popular songs, to celebrate the milestone of John’s 50 years in the industry starting with when he wrote his first song, the all-time favourite, ‘Old Man Emu’ and the June 19 2020 release of JW 50 - Winding Back 1970-2020.  

John Williamson AM sang this and other songs at the closing night festivities and Indy went from getting a photo with his True Blue car to one with the Australian icon himself.

''Such a lovely man and a long-term supporter of Variety,'' Beryl said this week, ''He talked about how this year has affected Variety and also a song he'd penned at Springbrook (south-east Queensland) while in isolation earlier this year that's all about Covid.''

''Indy was thrilled to meet him.''

Outback Mermaids with True Blue, the car, at start

Indy and the man himself at the final night dinner

Mr. Williamson's Winding Back Tour, with some dates postponed this year, reconvenes in 2021 across the country, and with some Sydney dates, although we notice August 2021 is 'empty'. People may not realise that John, AM, has been a part of the B to B Variety car runs for a looooooooong time now and 'True Blue', the car, is likely to be spinning along a dirt track all the way from New South Wales to Queensland in the first 10 days of August 2021. 

The 2021 Variety Bungarribee (Cowra) to Bakers Creek (Mackay) Bash is not a race or a rally, it will be a drive in the Outback with 300 new mates. The original Aussie motoring event will run August 1st to 10th, 2021 and take Bashers all around this beautiful country, exploring dirt roads, bush tracks and visiting parts of Australia most people never get to see.

And yes, our Palm Beach Mermaid, recently an Outback Mermaid, is planning to go - more on that next year!

The fellow Outback Mermaid girls were a huge hit with fellow Bashers, Neelicas' 'bikini t-shirt' had some ladies in the outback in stitches apparently, especially its 'rear view', while Indy was the 'darling' of this tour - everyone loved her!

Outback Mermaids in non-traditional bikini attire

Neelica and Beryl!

Another highlight for Beryl was catching up with Christopher 'Burra' McHughes who, as a youngster, was among the first groups of children to be part of the Bush to Beach initiative that brings kids from the bush to South Narrabeen SLSC every Summer. Burra visited in 2007. He says the experience “opened his eyes to what is possible.” 

Burra is a proud Murriwarri Ngemba Yuwaalaraay man from Brewarrina, and years after his first taste of the sea, he’s not only an accomplished photographer and founding member of the NSW Rural Fire Service’s first Indigenous State Mitigation crew in Brewarrina and Bourke, but also an inaugural Bush to Beach Director.

Burra with Stuart Telfar and John Williamson

“It took me a while to realise the impact Bush to Beach has,” says Burra. “I was a kid from the bush who all of a sudden found myself exposed to totally new experiences and a different environment from what I was used to. 

“The program is so important to the community here. It’s giving kids a reason to stay in school and providing opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had. There are some unfortunate pathways for young Aboriginal people, but I’ve always embraced the good opportunities that have been there for me.

I don’t see myself as role model, although a lot of kids and community see me that way. I want to bring them along and teach them that they can be part of both worlds – they can have an identity with Aboriginal culture but still be a part of the mainstream.” 

Burra has been a Director of Bush to Beach since earlier in 2020.

Jack Cannons AM, Founder of the Bush to Beach, met the late Aunty Joyce Doole and other Aboriginal Elders in Brewarrina (far north west NSW) in the early 1990s through local fundraising and volunteering initiatives. In early 2000, Joyce and Jack had a conversation over a cup of tea that sparked the idea for Bush to Beach. They connected over their shared passion for learning and shared concern about truancy preventing local kids receiving a proper education.

“Education is the only way that young people can grow and survive.”  says Jack Cannons AM.

Since 2006, with support of the South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club, Bush to Beach has facilitated an annual trip for children in Brewarrina and surrounding communities to visit this place – a 12-hour bus ride away – as a reward for good school attendance and behaviour. The program enables the young people to learn new skills, build confidence and experience an environment totally unlike the one they’ve grown up in. 

“Kids in the outback don’t have the same opportunities as kids in the city. I wanted them to see what else is out there, enjoy new environments and meet new people.” Jack explains

Since the program began, over 600 children from north west NSW have attended a Bush to Beach camp. The program participants must attend school throughout the year to take part and, as a result, Brewarrina and surrounding areas have reported a reduction in truancy.  Find out more at:

''Burra had to race off as there was work to be done - I do hope they roll out lots more of the ways he and his people do these hazard reductions, they're so much better for the landscape and the wildlife that lives in these places they do the burns.'' Beryl said.

Elyse Cole went in the 3 Little pigs car 'Hamlet' with Sallymae Bailey with the 'MerPigs' and Outback Mermaids swapping rides between their two cars and having a few shady picnics along the ways.

The 'MerPigs' catch up with a near relative along the tracks

Along the ways they saw fields filled with just harvested hay, a giant solar farm, went to the Parkes 'Dish', and spent time beside a Blue Tree in the Hunter Valley. 

The Blue Tree Project aims to encourage people to start the difficult conversations and open up if they are suffering from depression and/or anxiety. By spreading the paint and spreading the message that "it’s OK to not be OK", we can help break down the stigma that’s still largely attached to mental health.

There are now 604 Blue Trees across Australia.

Begun by Kendall Whyte, who lost her brother Jayden to suicide in 2018, a story shared at his funeral of him painting a blue tree with a special friend on the family's grain and sheep farm in Mukinbudin inspired this journey. One of Jayden's best mates then painted a tree blue in his memory but also as a way to help raise awareness and start the conversation among his friends of mental health. That photo was shared on Facebook and before long it went viral, with people sharing their own blue painted trees.

"It was such a grassroots, organic growth and we thought maybe we could help stop other families having to go through what we were," Kendall says.

"The Blue Tree Project was born, it's been a short amount of time but we've seen more than 600 trees painted and registered that we know of, they've spread far and wide across Australia and even overseas in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and America."

These days it's almost impossible to drive through rural Australia without seeing a blue tree and knowing the importance of it and that's the entire aim of the Blue Tree Project. These are a visual reminder and a way for regional communities to break down the barriers, in order to help people feel like they can open up and their community is a safe space to do that.

"We are quite lucky in these regional communities that they are quite close, but the stigma is also so real that people still struggle to speak up and let their friends or loved ones know that they're having a hard time," Kendall explains,  "The statistics show that those in regional and rural areas are twice more likely to take their own lives, that's a horrific stat given that in 14 to 45-year-olds suicide is the leading cause of death. We've got to work a lot harder to break down those barriers and it is slowly happening, you can see the younger generations being a bit more willing to open up."

From 2021, the project's focus will be on the prevention space, using education to make sure people don't get to that crisis point.

Find out more at:

The Outback Mermaids also took plenty of opportunities along the way to get images of potential retirement cottages or 'signage' they liked:


A final highlight, as there are far too many to list them all here, was a great big classic red Rolls Royce being driven by Drew and David, who live down the Shoalhaven way. Apparently the boys will be reverting or alternating with their old car as cruising along smoothly in something that doesn't break down or rattle all over those outback roads didn't provide the excitement and 'fun' they have become accustomed to.

As anyone who regularly checks the weather maps, and has seen temperatures in the high 30's in these areas already this Spring, it was hot, darn hot, so checking into places with pools at the end of each day provided some welcome rehydration after each dusty road.

Some more 'photos from the road' - and the places the Variety Resurrection Run visited included- Photos by and courtesy of Sallymae Bailey, Neelica, Indy and Beryl and Justin Worboys Photography (Newcastle).

Day 1. Sunday 15 November: Newcastle to Merriwa to Dubbo

The Start will also be at McDonald Jones Stadium from where we head out into the upper reaches of the Hunter Valley to find our first lunch stop in Merriwa where lunch will be provided by the local Rotary Club. It’s a small rural town located at the western extremity of the upper Hunter district beside the Merriwa River. It has an easy rural charm being primarily a service centre for the surrounding properties. The afternoon run sees us arrive in Dubbo where dinner will be at the Dubbo RSL. Dubbo is a major regional service centre located on the Macquarie River at the intersection of the Mitchell and Newell Highways. The area is known for its wheat and wool production, but the major attraction is the excellent Western Plains Zoo, a model zoo where animals roam freely in large open areas mostly protected from the public by deep moats.

Some of the dirt roads the girls travelled along - note the change in colours:

Day 2. Monday 16 November: Dubbo to Girilambone to Bourke

We gather at the Dubbo Showgrounds where the local Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) will benefit from our stay there by providing our breakfast. Our morning run drops us in Girilambone where the local school’s P&C will profit by providing our lunch. The long, straight Mitchell Highway from Nyngan to Bourke runs through this tiny village. There’s a dead railway line, a general store and a few houses. It is sleepy and often passed by people who barely register its existence. Yet it is here that the body of Helena Kerz, murdered by the notorious killer Jimmy Governor, was brought to and buried. This happening is immortalised by the movie, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. Our afternoon run takes us to into the Variety Bash’s beginnings, Bourke, where Dick Smith started the very first B to B Bash back in 1985. We’ll dine out at the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre which brings to life the story of Outback New South Wales.

Day 3. Tuesday 17 November: Bourke to Louth to Cobar

We assemble at the Bourke Jockey Club’s track where the local Rotary Club will raise some much-needed funds for their town’s projects by supplying our breakfast. It’s also Race Day and you will be the horses in the first-ever Bourke Variety Gold Cup event! Dress up for The Fashions In The Field as we are sure there will be a marvellous prize for the winner! 

Fashions in the Field winners

Some 'horses'

MerPigs Sallymae and Elyse on Race Day with a bookie named 'Dodgy' in background

Outback Mermaids - photo by Justin Worboys Photography

And the winner is.... - photo by Justin Worboys Photography

The whole crew - photo by Justin Worboys Photography

After the fun of a ‘day at the races’ we head on down the Outback dirt road to Louth for lunch at the famous Shindy’s Inn. Shindy’s Inn is a unique, Australian hotel and sits on the banks of the Darling River. In the great tradition of Australian Outback pubs, it’s a wonderful place to spend some time. From there we head down the road to the old copper mining town of Cobar. Found at the crossroads of Barrier Highway and the Kidman Way, you’ll discover a fascinating town that’s rich in mining heritage and natural attractions. Tonight, is a ‘Free Night’ to dine anywhere in town to share the Variety love around this unique location.

Eight kilometres South of Cobar, on the Kidman Way, is the site of Peak Gold Mines. The original Peak Gold Mine was opened in 1896 and in 1906 was purchased by the Great Cobar Copper Mining Co. At this time, underground mining only proceeded to a depth of approximately 90 metres.

At the Peak a viewing platform enables visitors a closer view of a modern-day working mine site. Peak Mines has also developed the "Golden Walk" which takes the visitor past the "Conqueror" mine shaft and the remains of an old stamper battery, Circa 1890's. The stamper, used to crush gold bearing ore by the original operators, is located at the present Peak Gold Mine site. A working model of a similar battery stamper is on the first floor of the Cobar Heritage centre in the gold room.  - from Visit NSW website

Royal Hotel at Mount Hope - 160k's south of Cobar - this pub was established in 1883

Day 4. Wednesday 18 November: Cobar to Lake Cargelligo to Parkes

The Rotarians of Cobar will gather to provide our breakfast before we head off to Lake Cargelligo and lunch by the lake provided by the ‘Down the Track’ group. Down the Track exists to support disengaged and at-risk youth, promote engagement and self-esteem and reduce youth crime. They achieve this by providing these youth, 90% of whom are Indigenous, with training, education, employment pathways and community connection. Without the support of Down the Track, these youth are on a downward spiral of continual disengagement from their communities and positive life opportunities. We are delighted to help them in a very small way. Lana Masterson, is the Program Manager. Dinner will be in Parkes and you have the chance of self-selection for dinner with another ‘Free Night’ for you. We are sure you’ll select a nice ‘dish’ for your mains!

Day 5. Thursday 19 November: Parkes to Wellington to Mudgee

Parkes Showground is the gathering spot for breakfast where the local ‘Show Society’ will provide the brekkie so they can earn a ‘bob’ to spend on their refurbishment plans for some of their older ‘show’ buildings. From there we wind our way through the old gold mining town of Peak Hill on the way to Wellington for lunch hosted by the Wellington Race Club. Wellington is a service centre in the heart of beef, sheep and wheat country. It is also driven by a growing wine industry and tourism. The town’s centrepiece is Cameron Park which has been recognised as one of the most attractive public gardens in rural New South Wales. Then onto another beautiful NSW town, Mudgee, where once again there is a “Free Night’ to select some fine food washed down by the region’s magnificent wines. Mudgee is set on the banks of the pretty Cudgegong River, and still possesses all the character of its 19th century past. Mudgee offers something for every kind of RR traveller.

Day 6. Friday 20 November: Mudgee to the Hunter Valley

Our final day and again we gather at a Showground where – once more – the fabulous Rotary members of the area will come together to make available our breakfast before we head off for our last little bit of dirt as we aim for the finish line in the Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s major wine regions, with a viticultural history dating back to the early 1800s. Known for varietals such as Semillon and Shiraz, it’s home to numerous wineries, including world-renowned brands and family-run boutique operations. No need to stop off for lunch as there will be snacks available after we cross the finish line at the Crowne Plaza in Lovedale. Enjoy the early afternoon arrival which gives you a little chance to visit some wineries before we gather for our final night dinner at the Ben Ean Winery in nearby Pokolbin.

The Outback Mermaids - Beryl Driver OAM, Neelica Raffel and Indy Leigh Griffiths (at back).