SEO makes business blossom

There are a thousand ways to help your business grow. From social media marketing to personal referrals, they all play their part in getting your name recognised and being the first provider on people’s minds. But some methods outstrip others for just how effective they are — none more so than quality SEO. Just ask Kerrie, floral artist and owner of Bloom & Bush.

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Kerrie is no slouch when it comes to making Bloom & Bush a success, working hard and consistently to grow her Mornington Peninsula business, designing her own website and building a strong following on Instagram. However, Kerrie believed there was more she could do to increase her visibility and secure more bookings. 

Kerrie explains: “I reached out to Kelly from Social Panda almost a year ago to get further insight into how SEO could help with greater visibility in the marketplace. Kelly offered practical and easy suggestions that I could implement immediately along with an SEO campaign to boost my ranking.”

After just 10 months, Kerrie reflects on her results: “For me, Social Panda’s SEO service has been a game-changer and the thing I most credit with gaining traction as a new business. I can confidently say that 80 per cent of all my inquiries are from search.”

Social Panda’s clients are committed business owners of cafés, online shops, trade services, creative pursuits and even corporate training programs. Contact Kelly today on 0419 112 334 to talk about how SEO can support the success of your business. 


T: 0419 112 334  


E: [email protected]

Ninja tackles 31 burgers

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As I write this on National Cheese Burger Day, it’s only fitting that professional eater Riley Murphy has picked up 10 cheeseburgers to celebrate the holy day and shared the glorious stack on his Instagram. It’s just a normal day for his food-blogging alter ego Chompamatic, or The Chomp as his fans chant at competitive eating competitions.  

You’d think he’d be over burgers for the time being after smashing 31 burgers in August as part of the Frankston City Council’s Burger Off event. He scored the sweet gig of being the ambassador for the event.

“I think initially nobody actually considered one person could eat all 31 burger specials in 31 days,” said Riley. “But I guess after some brief research into my Instagram and Facebook pages, the event staff realised I was the real deal and if anyone could do it, it’s me.” 

The Chomp was assigned the mission of trying all of the burgers during August. The winning burger was voted by the public, with a chance to vote given with every purchase. The winner of Burger Off 2019 was Nature Café Bar (above) for its vegan Stayin’ Alive burger — in fact, the cafe sold 239 of the promotional burgers.

“Their vegan burger was absolutely incredible and I’ll never forget the amazing experience I had enjoying this ridiculously flavoursome burger, which was purely 100 per cent plant-based,” said Riley.

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We asked Riley to pick his top five burgers from the event and — no surprise — it was an incredibly difficult task. We’d have thought a burger a day would have been the harder part. So many of the special burgers were downright amazing in their own unique ways, but we squeezed his favourites out of him, so grab you appetite as we jump in.

Frankston Waterfront Restaurant served up The Reef and Beef. The contrast of juicy beef with the melt-in-your-mouth calamari and secret sauce made this burger an absolute delight to enjoy. The OPT Beef Burger by One Pear Tree was a classic basic cheeseburger that was made to absolute perfection — every element was flawless. Simple, yet so satisfying. At the Sands Hotel, Riley tried the Miss Piggy. It included four kinds of pork — pulled pork, pork belly, bacon and pork crumble — with a refreshing Asian slaw and secret Hoisin sauce so damn enjoyable that he went back for a second.

“The Cheeky Squire’s The Squire was gourmet as far as burgers go,” said Riley. “The very best top-shelf ingredients and intensive culinary design went into creating this burger. A deluxe and premium experience from start to finish. German engineering at its finest was the Das Brat from Trims Restaurant. They somehow managed to combine every classic German flavour together on a burger, which even came served on a pretzel hybrid burger bun that they actually make themselves in store.”

Besides the delectable bounty of burgers, the ultimate highlight for Riley was being able to discover some truly amazing food right in his home town of Frankston. Riley was absolutely blown away by some of the quality burgers he found at places he didn’t even know existed before the Burger Off event. Hosting a Burger Crawl was a thrill as well, designed as a casual get-together for an entire afternoon of eating burgers with locals who shared a mutual love of one thing: burgers. They stopped by three participating Burger Off venues that were all a little different, and tasted the burger special at each venue. 

“It was a pretty standard afternoon for someone like me, but it proved to be quite a challenge for normal people to keep up with my appetite.” 

Let’s flash back to our article last month surrounding Just Fine Food reopening its doors on Saturday, September 14, as the Vanilla Slice Café and its planned celebrations including an eating competition. You see where we’re going with this? Riley joined a line-up of competitive eaters and eager amateurs to see how many of the rich slices they could eat in 10 minutes. It was a messy event, with Riley taking out first place by eating 11 of the huge vanilla slices in 10 minutes. All hail the Vanilla Slice Champion, pictured left! 

For the past year, Riley had to up his training as he prepared to compete in the 2019 Australian Ninja Warrior, above, that aired on Channel 9. It was ridiculously tough and made harder considering his lifestyle is built on a solid foundation of burgers and pizza. He found himself working three times as hard as he endeavoured to keep his weight down while still building strength during his training sessions that would go for two and a half hours. The feeling of stepping on to that stage for the very first time still sparks emotions in Riley when we ask for his highlight from the Ninja experience.

“Seeing all of the bright lights, the hundreds of people in the audience, the cameras, my loved ones on the sidelines, and just reflecting at that very moment on how far I’d come to chase my dream of making it on to Australian Ninja Warrior,” said Riley.

Ninja Warrior and competitive eater — how’s that on the resume?

For burgers overloaded with cheese and giant pizzas, make sure to stop by Riley’s Instagram @chompamatic and follow him on Facebook.  


Veterans’ cricket a hit on the Peninsula

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Who said growing older meant not wanting to get out on the field and catch a ball? Maybe have a bat too or hit a four? The bones may ache a bit more as a 60-plus member of the community, but the passion for a sport you have always played or followed doesn’t necessarily diminish. In fact, your commitment may grow even stronger.

Mornington Peninsula Veterans’ Cricket Club president Ian Rowland lets us in on what cricket means to him and his fellow players now that they are classed as ‘seniors’. He explains: “Most of us who are playing are ex-cricketers and some of us haven’t played for 30 years and have taken it up again. I like to describe the Veterans’ Cricket Club as a sporting Men’s Shed. It’s a great place for retired guys to come and hang out, participate in a game they love and get involved socially. The first game of over-60s cricket was played in Brighton in 2003 and was organised by John Hammer, who organised many games around Melbourne. There are now 25 veterans’ clubs across Victoria. Our first team formed 10 years ago and was founded by Laurie Hindle, who is a life member. So is his wife Glenda. The wives have a great time socialising and getting to know one another too.”    

The Mornington Peninsula Veterans’ Cricket Club doesn’t have a home ground. Players had been putting bat to ball at Graydens Road Oval in Moorooduc before recently setting up digs on the main oval at the Mornington Cricket Club at Alexandra Park, which Ian and his fellow cricketers are really enjoying. Ian continues: “We’ve been lucky to successfully secure sponsorship from Mornington businesses and our home games this year will be played at Alexandra Park. We play a 16-game season and currently have 20 players, many of which are over 70 years old. Some of the current club members have played in the Australian over-70s team. Last year our club was the most successful of the 23 clubs playing veterans’ cricket in Victoria, winning 12 of their 16 games.”

Some of the guys playing with the Mornington Peninsula Veterans’ Cricket Club have a lot of time on their hands. Playing cricket with mates twice a week, 52 weeks a year fills in the gap while offering physical activity and travel too. Ian concludes: “Everyone gets a go and we don’t have an official ladder, although we do get serious about the national championships. My wife and I have met hundreds of new friends and have travelled overseas. I’ve played in South America, South Africa and the UK. It’s just great.”

If you’re interested in giving it a go, give Ian a call on 5975 1683. Everyone is welcome.  

Home-grown music made with bite

Jade Nye, Jemma Purcell and Em Boon: “We are all pretty theatrical”

Jade Nye, Jemma Purcell and Em Boon: “We are all pretty theatrical”

Want to see an all-girl band that delivers thumping, gypsy-inspired soul-jazz and then some? Then get along to see The Love Bitez, whose vocals, percussion, double bass, sax and piano accordion tunes take you on a ride through American blues and European flamenco to land on the Mornington Peninsula with a serious swagger of theatrical shenanigans thrown in for good measure. 

These girls love what they do and do it well. Singer/bassist Jemma Purcell is a classically trained opera singer who studied at the VCA. Jade Nye brings her jazz-educated sensibilities to the group with vocals, sax, keyboard and accordion while Em Boon hammers home the beat with her punk-inspired drumming technique and sings backing vocals too.  Worth a look? Then listen to this. Jemma explains: “Jade and I met at a blues jam session. We clicked straight away and had a great improvisation collaboration, and it was clear we had a musical chemistry we wanted to explore. When Em joined, we knew we had something good. We are all pretty theatrical and love playing to an audience. We have our own characters on stage we morph into and are influenced by world and flamenco music, which is really all about the chord progressions and rhythm. The resulting sound is sultry and organic.”

Music is in the blood of these three young women. Jemma ventured off the musical path for a while but has returned with a vengeance and Jade and Em are as passionate about producing original sound as ever. There’s nothing cookie-cutter here. All three bring their own unique flavour to a line-up where cabaret performance, great musicianship and a determination to connect with the audience through their art comes into play. It’s gotta be harmoniously real, folks.

Jemma continues: “Jade and I write the songs but we love covering some of what we think are great tunes as well — songs from Lady Gaga, Nancy Sinatra and Nina Simone. We throw them all into the mix. We thrive on audience participation and want to get everyone up and dancing to the ‘gypsy caravan’ beat. I have lived in India and Spain and have been greatly influenced by those places, while Jade and Em bring their own love of world music with them. We all live on the Peninsula and love it, but we love roaming around too. We’ve played a bunch of live gigs from the beginning of the year and are looking forward to lots more over summer.”

So if you’re up for a rip-roaring musical journey through the world and want to hear hypnotic-quality, funked-up music, get online to see where they are playing next or catch some of their songs on Facebook. And take a bite. 


Walking the line with Tex Perkins

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The man in black is back bigger and better than ever with the 10th anniversary of his show dedicated to all things Johnny Cash. Tex Perkins is coming to the Frankston Arts Centre on October 8 to bring his own brand of remarkable rock’n’roll crooning to a show that sees him slip on the boots of a legend and jump into his Ring of Fire. The Cruel Sea, Beasts of Bourbon and Tex, Don and Charlie and The Dark Horses frontman reckons the show is even better than it was all those years ago when it won the Helpmann award within the first 12 months of life. Tex has grown into Cash’s persona while bringing a heavy dose of his own stage presence into the fold and the result is brilliant.  

We are chatting over the phone as the skies roll across his vision in thick smoky swirls. He’s perched on his car in northern NSW where the fires are taking hold. Tex continues: “Yeah, looks like the fires are getting closer. I think they are around 60km away so if the wind changes . . . You know, it took some time to get comfortable with playing Johnny. The show is scripted and I’m used to just singing and going with the flow on stage in a band, but I’ve really grown to love it. I’ve put a lot of myself into it intentionally and unintentionally. Ten years on and it’s become part of me — and it’s a good fit. I spend a lot less time worrying about remembering lines now and just feel my way through it. I’ve a deep respect for Johnny Cash’s career and love his songs so they are easy to sing. This could be the last time round, though. Ten years may be a good way to end it. We’ll see.”

Tex has five children and is a grandfather to a one-year-old girl. He explains: “Funny, hey? I’m still knee-deep in parenting. I’ve got a six and nine-year-old so I can still smell those nappies! But I still have the drive to perform. I used to get myself into a state when I went on stage; got really worked up and thought I had to be someone I wasn’t. I always needed a drink and then I’d end up injuring myself. It’s not like that now. The thing I love about this show is it unveils Johnny’s almost split personality. He was this conservative family guy and yet this drug-taking and drinking wild man. That’s not an easy life.”

I take the opportunity to ask him if the man in black reminds him of himself. He replies: “It was hard as a rock’n’roll performer in the ‘80s and ‘90s. You’re expected to be this wild man on stage but be able to switch it off and leave it on the stage. It’s the balancing of the duality of characters and it’s undone many a performer. You know, you can’t take that shit home, but I still occasionally slip up.”

The Man in Black – The Songs & Story of Johnny Cash covers Cash’s life from birth through to death. It’s a story of love and redemption and a man’s career that still stands the test of time — much like Tex’s own. He concludes: “I’ve found out lots about Johnny and myself as the show’s evolved. Stories of what did and didn’t happen. I never hear the stories about me. It’s all you lot gasbagging. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?”

Sometimes there’s a fine line between fact and fiction, Tex, so maybe it’s not the last time we’ll see you playing the man in black, either. Wait and see, readers. Wait and see.


Groovin’ with the Moo

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Frankston South psychology student Molly Wainwright has an angelic voice, meaningful lyrics and guitar skills to be envied. Molly — or Sunny Moo when she’s on stage — has just released her EP and we couldn’t be more excited. We caught up with this passionate 23-year-old singer/songwriter just before a gig to delve deeper. 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 
I'm Sunny Moo. I'm an acoustic singer/songwriter aiming to share my music and mental health journey with those that might need it. My roots in music trace right back to when I was dancing around to my father's country music as a kid, but my journey in writing and performing original music began just a year ago.

When did you first discover your love for music? And did the guitar come first or the singing? 
I've had a strong passion for music since I was very little, but it came out solely in shower singing sessions ‘til I was a lot older. After going through a hard time in my late teens, I grabbed a guitar and decided I needed a healthy outlet for my feelings — and voila! The journey began. It took years of confidence-building and practising before I could show anyone, but eventually I got the courage to show the world my stuff and Sunny Moo was born.

How would you describe your sound? 
It's got a folky sound without quite being folk, an indie feel without being fully indie and a country vibe without quite being country. I'd say my sound is a mixed bag that sits somewhere in the middle.

Do you write your own songs, and if so where do you draw your inspiration? 
Yes I do. My inspiration has ranged from my heartbreaks to my favourite TV shows and everything in between. I find my writing helps me capture and remember the beauty in life, even at the worst times, and reminds me to search for a silver lining.

Congrats on your EP coming out late September. What can we expect? 
Woo-hoo! Thank you so much; I'm so excited for everyone to hear it. The EP features five original songs. The title track, Blue Box, is about the cult classic show Doctor Who and David Tennant's regeneration. It's a lot of fun. Some heartfelt songs circling around heartbreak, betrayal and moving on follow the title track. “That’s a strange mix,” I hear you cry. Trust me, the regeneration thing fits the heartbreak theme — just ask any Doctor Who fan.

Where’s your favourite place on the Peninsula to perform? And how do you find our music scene here? 
It'd have to be Panda in Blairgowrie. From the moment they greeted me with “Why didn't you bring your puppy along?” I was in love. Nothing beats getting to serenade dogs all day. I've been absolutely loving the Peninsula music scene. I've made so many new friends along the way and every single gig has been a beautiful experience.

What do you find most rewarding about what you do? 
The feeling I get when someone says they relate to my lyrics or my story is indescribable and probably the most inspiring part of this whole journey. When I get to meet the people who struggle like I do, who get to tell me their own stories of triumph and beating anxiety, it all becomes more worth it and I myself get tougher in my battle against my fears. 

Where do you hope to be in five years? 
Wherever I am I hope I'm still sharing and creating honestly and openly. Ideally, this will be on stage with a bunch of like-minded humans singing along with me, but if it's not like that, that's OK too. I'll keep writing and playing no matter what happens. 

To hear Molly’s out-of-this-world sounds, check out @sunnymoomusic on Instagram.

A no-fuss man of compassion and faith

Photos from  A Lot with A Little,    by Tim Costello, published by Hardie Grant Books; RRP $45; available in stores nationally.

Photos from A Lot with A Little, by Tim Costello, published by Hardie Grant Books; RRP $45; available in stores nationally.

Someone who has dedicated his life to social justice and global poverty has come to live on the Mornington Peninsula. Well, just shy of it. The new man about town in Frankston has been enjoying his anonymity — lunching with his wife Merridie in the food court, living the bayside life with the rest of us. These past 12 months has seen the Rev Tim Costello AO merge into the streets of a town that prides itself on being the gateway to the Peninsula without much fuss, but after speaking with him on the phone for an all-too-short time due to his other commitments, you can tell that’s how he rolls. He’s just written his memoir A Lot with A Little, published by Hardie Grant Books, and will be guest speaker at the Mornington Peninsula & Frankston Writers & Book Festival on Saturday, October 19 (see page 86). Now that’s the way to open a writers’ festival!

Tim’s voice is devastatingly human and resonant with visions of things that others of us wouldn’t dare look squarely in the eye. His work as chief executive of World Vision has taken him to parts of the world where children’s lives are over before they begin and impoverished just doesn’t begin to describe how some of our fellow human beings exist. He still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder since having left the position in 2016. Tim explains: “I’ve spoken openly about this. I’ll be giving a speech somewhere and then out of nowhere I’ll see an image of someone who is destitute or a woman who has just been raped and I just start crying. People think ‘Oh, what is he crying for? What the heck is he doing?’ But those things stay with you. My faith has got me through, although it has taken me a long time to realise that I can’t do everything and you have to hand over and surrender, to trust that there is something bigger.”

Tim grew up in Blackburn with parents who shaped his future. He remembers forming a social conscience from the earliest days, partly because of his parents but also because he was “made” that way. “I would bring home stray kids and the kids from the orphanage and Mum would just welcome them in. I wholeheartedly believe in the Christian faith’s understanding that Christianity is good news for the poor: the widow, the orphan, the stranger. The modern-day interpretation of stranger is the refugee. This book took a little longer to write than the others — about three to four months. I had to wait until my father passed before it was possible. He had a huge influence on me — so much so that I didn’t realise how much until he was dead. There are always things that you choose not to say. All biographies are an act of deception.”

To say that the Mornington Peninsula is lucky to have a man of such great compassion living within the fold is an understatement. This Baptist minister, who was born in 1955, has visited every human disaster that has occurred over the past 15 years and will not be silenced on serious issues such as gun control and gambling and how they affect our fragile lives. Tim continues: “America’s blind spot is guns. Ours is gambling. We might think that gambling is not as lethal, but we are wrong. The gambling industry has spread this myth that it’s Australian to gamble, and how is it that an adult product such as gambling is allowed to be targeting our kids? It just doesn’t make sense.” 

There is so much more of this 2006 Australian of the Year’s life I would like to explore but the gig is up. This UN speech-maker and international debater on reconciliation, substance abuse and climate change must away. Pick up a copy of A Lot with A Little to find out more about this activist man of faith, or get along to the writers’ festival to understand what it means to have compassion and faith.  


Kids create posters for peace

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Each year 600,000 young people throughout the world participate in the Lions Clubs International Peace Poster Competition. For the past three decades, children around the globe have been entering this incredible art contest, which gives them a chance to express how they feel about world peace in a unique and creative way.  There’s also a peace essay contest, which gives visually impaired kids a chance to be part of this global competition.

The theme of this year’s competition is Journey of Peace, and the Lions Club of Rye is putting its might behind Rye Primary School with the kids being part of this exciting contest. Children turning 11, 12 or 13 by November 15 are eligible to participate, but are only allowed one entry of their own creation. Three-dimensional entries are not accepted, and there’s a judging process that moves from club to district, multiple district and on to an international level before the grand prize winner is announced out of 24 finalists. The grand prize winner receives a trip to an award ceremony where he or she receives a $5000 prize. 

The annual Peace Poster Competition aims at providing opportunities for the self-development, education, contribution, and achievement of young people. Lions Club of Rye president Gael Harvey explains: “This competition is not only about promoting peace throughout the world and international understanding, it is also about increasing self-awareness and improving attitudes towards each other. It encourages youth to perform at their best, acknowledges their positive efforts and achievements and generates self-esteem so they can meet further challenges. All participants will receive a certificate and the winner or winners will move on to the next level. How exciting would it be if one of the kids from Rye Primary School went on to win? The first round will be judged by three Rye artists and takes place on October 24. Two winners may be selected to move on to the next stage and four children will receive highly commended awards.”

What an innovative way to get our young people thinking about peace, and perhaps a great way of sharing the message with the rest of the community. To find out more about the Lions Clubs International Peace Poster Competition, log on to

Dredging opens port to bigger ships

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Since the completion of the channel dredging program in November 2009, larger ships have been calling at the Port of Melbourne, providing several advantages to everyone. The capital invested in the ships, the fuel used, the crewing costs and port charges are all lower for one ship than two carrying the same quantity of cargo. Any drop in operating costs reduces the cost to importers, which leads to savings for consumers. Pollution of the atmosphere by one large engine is also less than from two smaller engines.

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Recently, records have been set for the largest container ship into the port, but deciding which was the largest depends on how this is measured. The record for the ship with the greatest length to enter Swanston Dock goes to the Archimidis, but the Xin Fei Zhou, which berthed at Webb Dock outside the river, was longer. The ship with the largest gross tonnage is the MSC Elma (gross tons is a measurement of the volume of the ship) but the Maersk Skarstind is the largest by deadweight tonnage (deadweight is a measurement of the mass of the cargo a ship can carry). Both measurements are made using a specific formula. 

Maersk Skarstind also has the largest container capacity measured in TEU, or twenty-foot-equivalent units. A standard container is 20 feet long, though a large number of containers are 40 feet long. Ten years ago the largest container ships coming to Melbourne carried around 4000 TEU, which is less than half the capacity of Maersk Skarstind.

The details of the four ships are:

Archimidis 318m length 43.2m beam 89,776 gt 103,717 dwt 7943 TEU 

Xin Fei Zhou 335m length 42.8m beam 90,757 gt 102,379 dwt 8528 TEU 

MSC Elma 299m length 48.0m  beam 96,816 gt 110,103 dwt 9411 TEU

Maersk Skarstind 300m length 48.0m  beam 93,702 gt 111,614 dwt 9472 TEU

We are also seeing larger capacity tankers. In 2009 the record was around 80,000 metric tons but it has now reached 129,868 metric tons.


President, Peninsula Ship Society

T: Maurie Hutchinson 9787 5780

E: [email protected]

The Peninsula Ship Society meets at Hastings Yacht Club on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 10am. Visitors always welcome.

Charley gets a kick out of singing

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How many owners can say that their dog is the mascot of a football club? Leanne’s five-and-a-half-year-old cavoodle Charley has talent to boot. Three years ago, when her son, Harry, was playing in the Mount Martha under-11s home game, Leanne was watching with Charley in tow as the boys were singing their club song outside the rooms. Just like that, Charley began howling. Now she sings along to the club song every time without fail, with Harry holding her up in the huddle at every Sunday match of the season. She’s an AFL girl at heart, though, and doesn’t lend her vocals to any other songs — unless it’s Happy Birthday, and even then she doesn’t give it her all. She’s saving her voice for the big game.

With curls for days, her coat doesn’t shed so she’s able to secure her spot on Leanne’s bed. At 40cm she’s large for a cavoodle and has the temperament of a cavalier. Charley is loving, gentle and with her little white socks she’s ready for the stage at a moment’s notice. She’s a lover of the limelight, and it even progressed to modelling when Leanne’s business moved to a new shop. 

“While we were fitting out the new shop at Nepean Optical Rosebud, we had her sitting in the front window sunbaking and watching people walk by,” said Leanne. “She began to attract passers-by who would then come in to pat Charley and chat to us. It was great for business.”

You could say she’s a people pooch because she isn’t a fan of other dogs. Leanne suspects that if she got a new four-legged brother or sister her nose would be severely out of joint because she’s become too used to being smothered in love and not sharing an ounce of it. After Leanne’s husband built Charley a kennel that matched their house, she proceeded to show off her inner diva and never set a paw in it. Why would she want to live in the little house when she could have free run of the big house? She’s a got a point there. 

This 12kg little lass loves a nice roast lamb — just not the oven. Once, when Leanne was cooking, the smoke alarm went off and Charley freaked out and legged it out of the kitchen. To this day, Leanne can’t put the oven on without Charley disappearing until she hears her family sit down for dinner. Swimming is something else she’s not too fond of; however, she’ll happily enjoy the scenery at the beach. Charley jumps on the kayak and proceeds to enjoy the views while she’s chauffeured around, or joins in on a fishing trip — as the lucky mascot, of course. 

One day Charley found herself accidentally locked out of the house during a day with gale-force wind. Despite a gate being blown open and providing her with a chance to escape, she stayed at her post on the porch guarding the house. She knows she’s got it too good with Leanne and her family to ever consider legging it.

Check out this little legend singing on Instagram @charleysergejew 


Let your feet do the talking

Neil Zouaoui and his wife, Tara, are taking part in a five-day hike to raise money for brain research after Neil’s stroke 12 years ago.

Neil Zouaoui and his wife, Tara, are taking part in a five-day hike to raise money for brain research after Neil’s stroke 12 years ago.

Suffering a stroke at the age of 24 would send anyone into despair and shock. But for Neil Zouaoui it was even more challenging because to this day the now 36-year-old Mount Martha resident hasn’t been given a medical explanation of why it happened. The unknown was and is still concerning. The care he received was second to none, yet only knowing a clot formed and not knowing why has sparked Neil to raise money for brain research. 

“Thankfully, Neil made a full recovery from his stroke, but there are many others out there who have not, which is why we were inspired to take on this challenge and contribute to the wonderful work of both the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland  and Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation,” said Neil’s wife, Tara.

This month, Neil and Tara will weave their way along the country’s most iconic tracks as part of the National Fire Industry Association Patron’s Annual Walk to raise funds for the QBI and GMRF. The event runs from Thursday, October 17, until Monday, October 21. QBI is focused on unlocking the mysteries of the brain to understand and treat diseases including stroke, dementia, motor neurone disease, anxiety, and depression, while the GMRF intends to investigate and integrate new and innovative treatments and interventions to enhance the health and well-being of veterans and their families.

“If there’s anything I can do to give back, I’ll do it in the hope that in the future there can be someone in my position who is able to be informed of what caused their stroke,” said Neil. “It is very important to me. It’s a matter very close to my heart.”

In preparation for the five-day hike, Neil jokes that they’re just going in hoping that age will be on their side. But in reality, Tara attends the gym regularly while Neil plays soccer three times a week and is one of the head coaches at Mount Martha Soccer Club. Neil was also an avid soccer player when he had his stroke 12 years ago — fit and healthy when, without any warning, he suffered a stroke in the middle of a supermarket. He was told that an area of his cerebellum, which co-ordinates and regulates muscular activity, was dead, yet the brain is so remarkable in that it creates new pathways around the damaged brain tissue. He’s a very lucky man and has gladly taken part in trial testing when asked. His recovery period was eight weeks, and now he’s fully recovered. 

Neil and Tara will be joining a group of seven other determined hikers, including Afghanistan veteran Commando Tim Thomas. They’ll tackle the 50km journey along the Great Ocean Road, letting their feet do the talking as they continue to raise much-needed money for QBI and GMRF. Together, the hikers have already reached their goal of raising $150,000 but will endeavour to smash their goal even more for the good cause. 

The small group, bound by a desire to raise awareness, will be led by Aurora Adventures. Together they’ll hike approximately 10-15km a day over the spectacular route through national parks full of tall forests, coastal heathlands, wild rocky shores and windswept clifftops. It’s a gruelling track that presents amazing views as nature will unfold in front of them at every step.

Neil and Tara would appreciate the community getting behind them to assist with their goal of raising $3000. Donate at


Narelle wins for the environment

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Narelle Debenham is a Frankston resident who for many years has been passionate about enhancing the education of kids and their families by involving them in their natural environment. Between implementing innovative award-winning environmental educational programs and writing for Mornington Peninsula Magazine and other media, she’s also focused on raising the profile of environmental projects to inspire the community to do the same or similar. It comes as no surprise that she’s just been announced as the recipient of the Dame Phyllis Frost Award 2019. 

What made you start volunteering?

Volunteering was an integral part of my childhood. My grandparents and parents dedicated their time, talents and energy to make a difference in their communities. Volunteering together as a family to contribute to our community also helped develop a personal sense of pride and identity and gave us causes to care about as children. Volunteering is so rich and diverse. Even the smallest individual acts of kindness help to bind our community together.  I love being a member of our local neighbourhood. There is so much reciprocity across the generations and for multiple causes.  The value of this volunteerism to our community is priceless. Each day l see so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

What volunteer groups and organisations are you currently a member of and work in support of?

JOTE community garden, Frankston Beach Association, Kananook Creek Association, Junior Landcare, FHS community, mentoring pre-service teachers from Monash University, Local Teachers Environmental Friends network run by council. I am lucky that l have been able to combine my passion for the natural environment and education of young people to give my life great purpose, both in my work and community life. A huge thank you to the rangers in the Frankston Council coastal and parks management teams who have been very welcoming of and huge advocates for my work over more than a decade, and other local departments, organisations and management of both public and private parks, gardens, nurseries and natural spaces, such as the late Dame Elisabeth (Murdoch)'s Cruden farm, who have provided a platform for me to help facilitate opportunities to turn public intent into action.  Too many to name; you know who you are. This award belongs to you too.

Did you ever expect this award? What were your first thoughts when you heard you’d received it?

I attended the awards night as l had nominated one of the members of my Natured Kids Junior Landcare group, eight-year-old Oscar Baldaccino, because of his amazing work by one so young to save the helmeted honeyeater. I was also there because one of the rangers on the Frankston coastal management team had nominated Natured Kids for the collective work we had done over the years as volunteers, helping revegetate the coastal dunes at Keast Park in Seaford to help the threatened swamp skink, for beautifying the Kananook Creek trail and participating in numerous citizen science projects such as the backyard bird watch, the Wild Pollinator Count, annual frog watch, beach litter audits, seashell surveys and the feather map of Australia. Both Oscar and Natured Kids received Highly Commended awards on the night for our efforts. It was a shock to hear my name called out to receive the Dame Phyllis Frost Award because l do believe there are countless people deserving of recognition, many of whom have also been my teachers and mentors. l accepted the award in recognition of all those people past and present who have also devoted their time and energy to mentor the young emerging environmental advocates who follow us, instilling important values and demonstrating how to love and care for the natural environment.  

What does this award mean for you? What’s next on your agenda? Do you have a five-year goal?

I am passionate about the importance of educating young people in our natural environment, teaching them to value traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous wisdom and to care for our country: the land, fresh water, and the sea around Port Phillip Bay. It is critical we facilitate regular opportunities for our young people to link in with skilled mentors, empowering them to contribute to their communities in meaningful, conscious and purposeful ways, as long-term custodians of their nearby nature. I feel this award has added value to my voice.  l intend to continue encouraging people to connect with, contribute to and care for the natural environment and to link in with and learn from their local environmental volunteer groups. (There is) so much current environmental angst; the best antidote is action. I hope to spend the next 10 years creating partnerships with kindergartens, schools, universities and communities in support of more outdoor teaching and learning experiences encouraging environmental advocacy. 

Narelle’s Natured Kids outdoor playgroup starts on October 9 and runs for 8 weeks. Families interested in sharing in the outdoor adventures can email [email protected] for details. 


Shower show out of this world

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Naked-eye objects to observe when looking up at our southern skies this month include Venus and the bright star Spica, which appear close together on October 3-5. On the 4th, Jupiter will appear close to the waxing moon, followed on the 6th with Saturn near the waxing moon. Towards the end of the month we will see Mercury, Venus and a crescent moon together in the sky, and on October 31 a waxing moon appears close to Jupiter.

The highlight this month, though, is the Orionid meteor shower. Orionids are active every year in October, this year peaking on the night of October 21. At its peak, there are potentially up to 20 meteors visible every hour. Orionid is the second meteor shower created by debris left by Halley’s Comet during its 76-year journey around the sun; the other is the Eta Aquarids in May. Halley’s Comet itself will next be visible from Earth in 2061.

Orionids are named after Orion because the meteors seem to emerge or radiate from the same area in the sky as the constellation (see Sky Map). You don't need any special equipment or a lot of skills to view a meteor shower; all you really need is a clear sky and lots of patience. For optimum viewing, find a secluded spot away from the city lights. Once you have found your spot, make sure you are comfortable, especially if you plan to stay out long — meteor watching can be a waiting game!

On Friday, October 4, the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold its monthly public stargazing night at the MPAS Observatory at The Briars in Mount Martha, starting at 8pm. For more information, bookings and a map, visit the society’s website at

NERIDA LANGCAKE, Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society

Indigenous foodstuffs flourish from earth to sea

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Did you know there’s an incredible range of Indigenous plants growing from coast to coast across the Mornington Peninsula? From high on Arthurs Seat to the shoreline, Indigenous edible fruits and flowers flourish, bursting with nutrition and flavour. But you have to know where to look and what to look for. 

Indigenous educator Lionel Lauch from Living Culture explains: “Indigenous culture plans seven generations ahead to ensure there will be enough for those who follow. Our culture on the Mornington Peninsula dates back to over 100,000 years. Indigenous people were the first villagers to make bread from crushed native seeds like millet and kangaroo grass and are therefore the oldest bread-makers in the world, dating back at least 30,000 years, which was well before the Egyptians. Implements like grinding tools have been found on archaeological digs. We made ‘kitchen cupboards’ in trees and stored our grain for up to a year in watertight spaces within their trunks and in miniature huts. Our Indigenous flora is delicate and can be easily damaged, so it’s not advised to go off looking by yourself.”

From pigface growing along the coastline with its purple/pink flower and kiwifruit-tasting edible fruit to black wattle seeds tasting like sesame seeds and growing wild on Arthurs Seat, the food supply across the Peninsula is plentiful. Lionel continues: “The edible sap from the black wattle tree, which represents the elders, was used as bubblegum or jelly, while the bark can be crushed up and used as a medicine for digestion problems and open wounds. The tree is also used in smoking ceremonies and the wood is used for tools. Then there’s the witchetty grubs that live in the tree — the beetle larvae in the trunk and the moth larvae in the root. You can either eat them raw or cook them, and they are packed with protein. The cherry ballart, which represents children, has a stone fruit where the pit grows on the outside. It is high in antioxidants. Indigenous people have been making energy drinks from the manna gum’s sweet sap for generations.”

Our First People’s deep connection with their environment and surrounds is boundless. From smoking eels coated in oil in trees in Red Hill to kitchen middens dotted along the back beaches, hunting and foraging techniques that focus on forward thinking have been passed down through the generations with the understanding that there is enough if enough is all you take. With respect.


Tips for a scary yet safe Halloween

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Halloween seems to be gaining momentum in Australia as it continues to get bigger and bigger every year. Large retail shops have costumes for sale, there’s huge sales on chocolates, sweets and treats in supermarkets, and of course decorations galore! Then of course there’s the constant pressure from children pestering their parents to take them trick or treating.

Honestly, it’s a little daunting, the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door to get some lollies. It’s an expedition, but well worth it when you get some quality bonding time with the kids. Whether it’s taking on an art and craft project or buying one so they can dress up as their favourite superhero, dressing up is always fun, even for the big kids!

If you haven’t celebrated Halloween before, never fear — or do; it’s kind of the point — we’ve got your go-to guide on getting into the spooky spirit.

If you’re planning on trick or treating, why not ask your neighbours if they are ‘doing’ Halloween this year on Wednesday, October 31. Why not help each other out, and print out a pile of brief letters, complete with a large image of a colourful pumpkin. Explain that if they’re participating they can hang the pumpkin image up on their mailbox, so if there’s no pumpkin your neighbours will know not to disturb you. 

Most importantly, organise some friends to join your children and of course a chaperone to hit the streets in search of goodies. 

Make sure you collect a stash of lollies ready for the ghosts, goblins, witches and fairies to collect. Wrapped treats are best, and nut-free is even better — think gummy worms, sour coke bottles and lollipops. Or perhaps some fruit! 

Check that your doorbell works, put up a decoration or two and have an outdoor light on if you’ve got one. And don’t forget your costume too! A onesie is always a great last-minute lazy costume to wear.

If your ideal Halloween is sitting inside watching scary movies in the dark with a bowl of popcorn and sugary treats, that’s OK too. Search through Netflix or dig out the DVDs and get ready for a frightening night in.  

And a movie night wouldn’t be complete without some Halloween-themed treats. Try your hand at baking creepy treats. Whip up some ghostly strawberries, blood splatter cookies, and chocolate mud pies with sour worms while you dance to classics like Thriller by Michael Jackson, the Ghostbusters theme or Heads Will Roll by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Or take it to the next level and learn how to carve a jack-o’-lantern! 

For Halloween festivities, we can’t go past Sk8house’s Halloween party. It’s on Saturday, October 26, from 6-9pm at 3/2 Amayla Cres, Carrum Downs. In addition to prizes for best-dressed, it will be a night full of music, fun and games. It’s $12 entry and $3 for skate hire. You’ll have a night to be remembered as you boogie the night away to the Monster Mash, Time Warp and more.

If you get dressed up, please tag us on Instagram @mornpenmag. We’ll share our favourites! 


Daniher’s Drive motors into Mornington

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Inspiration, determination and admiration are all words applied to FightMND campaigner Neale Daniher and his amazingly loyal band of ‘beast-beaters’, who join him each year to raise money for FightMND through the famous Daniher’s Drive. And this year you have the chance to join them for a one-night-only opportunity in Mornington.

While the Big Freeze MCG ice slide is for the big names, this community-based event features nearly 100 exotic and traditional cars and 350 participants. It’s putting the ‘fun’ into fundraising on a very serious subject, and is made up of a mix of those who have seen the devastation of motor neurone disease up close with family, and the massive extended Daniher clan and former AFL greats especially from Neale’s time at the Demons and the Bombers.

Daniher’s Drive continues to raise millions of dollars to fight MND and this year may see it close in on a total of $10 million since inception.

Now in its fifth year, the four-day Daniher’s Drive will set off from Werribee Zoo and travel through Ballarat, Wangaratta and Marysville before descending on the Mornington region over the weekend of October 12-13. And in a rare opportunity this year, you can join in the fun of the final night’s celebrations, when the party will really rock.

Grab a table, book your tickets, help the cause and join the crew for the Heroes and Villains-themed night at Mornington Racecourse on October 12. Help FightMND ‘beat the beast’! For more information and bookings, go to

Seaside fest shells out a foodie spectacular 

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At every turn a different ‘kitchen’ will present itself by the Frankston Pier this month at the fourth Seaside Street Food Festival, where tastebuds will be dazzled by something sweet or savoury in the four-day global street food festivities. 

Rich, culinary experiences from Greek, Italian and Portuguese cuisines through to Americana are just some of the flavours to be enjoyed from almost 50 vendors across the four days. A handy Where the Truck Passport will be available for $20, which will give you entry to the festival plus $50 worth of foodie delights from participating vendors.

The vibrant setting will be joined by roving entertainers, rides and an outdoor cinema screening family-friendly flicks that will keep the little ones entertained. Games by the beach will range from giant Jenga and Connect Four to a weather-permitting almighty water fight. 

According to Frankston Mayor Michael O’Reilly, the partnership with Melbourne food sensation The Food Truck Festival will draw foodies to enjoy diverse cuisines, craft beer, wine and cider. “The Seaside Street Food Festival has become a household name in Frankston and each year it continues to increase visitation, highlighting the city as a destination for events and food-based experiences,” he said. 

Festival brand marketing and PR manager Hannah Godlevsky said attendance had reached 45,000 previously. “Frankston has everything an event requires: the sunshine, the beach, the relaxed, laid-back vibes of a beachside community,” she said.

The festival on the Frankston Waterfront will be Halloween-friendly at its opening on Thursday, October 31, from 5-10pm and will be open from 11am-10pm on the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Entry is $5, with children under 12 admitted free, including a free face painting. 


Leroy’s boots are made for walking

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Life can be challenging when your child is just that little bit different. Mornington Peninsula residents Lauren Christie and her husband Craig know what it’s like to make multiple trips to the Royal Children’s Hospital with two small children in tow and repeatedly strap on your small son’s ‘boots and bar’ before he goes to sleep. 

Lauren’s book, Leroy’s Boots, was first published in 2015, then re-published in October last year with additions. It tells of her family’s journey from club foot diagnosis to what life looks like for Leroy today. It’s not a sad book; in fact, it is an uplifting tale about what happens when you are loved and supported and how a little boy’s unbreakable spirit wins the day. She explains: “We were first told about Leroy’s club foot at our routine 20-week scan, but we didn’t tell anyone about it. Our first appointment at the Royal Children’s Hospital was when he was five days old and casting his right foot began on that day. It went from his right foot right up to his groin. We went into the hospital every week to change the cast for seven weeks. That’s how we began family life with our new addition.”

Leroy is just shy of seven now and has had multiple castings, multiple surgeries and plenty of nights when he didn’t want to strap those boots on. He’s also had a life of multiple physio visits and relapses, but one thing is clear: this young man has become a resilient and free-flowing individual who has travelled this club foot road with dignity, humour and determination. Lauren continues: “The whole process has shaped his personality. He just gets up and does everything he wants to. He plays basketball, rides a bike and runs with his cast on. Nothing stops him, even the pain. He’s always keeping up with his older brother, Jack. He completed the Dromana Primary Fun Run in his plaster cast. He did the first lap with me pushing him in the wheelchair and then told me he wanted to run. So he got up and ran. His diagnosis doesn’t define him, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.”

Leroy’s Boots can be found in numerous schools or you can go to to get a copy. It’s also catalogued at the National Library of Australia. Profits have been donated to Aussie Clubfoot Kids, Miracle Feet and the RCH. Find yourself a copy to read about a small boy with big dreams and a club foot that won’t slow him down. This is a celebration of being different yet the same, one’s spirit and the power of love.


Angel’s wings prove a godsend to those in need

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Peter Moran never had a desire to fly a plane. After running a thoroughbred horse farm on the Peninsula for 35 years with his wife Janet, it was only during a holiday in the Kimberleys that it all changed. Peter became concerned he wouldn’t get time to experience everything he yearned to during his limited time away. Upon booking a charter flight, he got his first taste of flying in the co-pilot’s seat next to a 21-year-old pilot who told him, “You’re not bad; you should learn how to fly”. He never looked back.

And I can see why. When we take off smoothly from Tyabb airport in his Cessna 172, the view from up above is like no other. We remain at an ideal distance from the ground to observe the characteristics of the coast, lush hinterlands, and plentiful expanses of water. It’s a surreal experience from the co-pilot’s seat as I embrace the almost 360-degree view that leaves me speechless. With an effortless landing in the four-seater aircraft, I can now appreciate why the patient’s nerves are quickly put at ease with Peter’s expertise, and of course his friendly demeanour. It’s exhilarating, and I can now understand his addiction. 

Peter’s gone from strength to strength since trying his hand at flying in 2007. Just like that, at 55 he discovered a passion for flying and became a private pilot. In 2011, Peter’s friend and soon-to-be mentor Craig Toole introduced him to Angel Flights. Established in 2003, Angel Flights Australia is a charity that co-ordinates non-emergency flights to assist people to have convenient access to specialist medical treatment that would otherwise be unavailable to them because of their distance from treatment, high travel costs, or because they are simply too unwell to travel. Since its beginning, many thousands of flight missions have been completed. While the planes’ fuel is paid for by donations, pilots must pay for their own aircraft, maintenance, personal costs, hangarage, insurance, access fees and more.

It's ever so easy to talk to Peter, so we discuss the countless times he’s encountered patients fighting against the odds, where the cost of travelling a sizeable distance on top of everything else is just all too much. He recalls a woman with a six-week-old baby who was travelling from Lakes Entrance to the Royal Children’s Hospital for regular appointments. It was a gruelling three-day return trip because she stopped frequently to feed her newborn and check in with her other children she’d left at home with her partner. Enter Angel Flights. With Peter at the controls, her challenging journey turned into a remarkable six-hour return trip. After forming a bond with her over countless trips, Peter was invited to the child’s first birthday. Another of Peter’s fond memories is of a patient who gained an extra year with their family thanks to experimental treatment and Peter’s assistance. It’s beyond heart-warming the difference Peter made to their lives, and many others assisted by Angel Flights. The convenience of air travel changes people’s lives more than you could ever imagine — and it’s not just the patient but their family and friends as well. 

“It hits home how big you are in their life,” said Peter. “You have no idea the difference you can make to these people’s lives. I keep in contact with many patients as you really get to know each other during the flights. A friendly face helps nerves too. Once, when the weather meant it wasn’t safe to fly, I put up a patient for the night as he was just too unwell to travel even by car. He’s much better now, and whenever I’m in his town of Mallacoota he offers a lift to whoever may need it.”

Earth Angels do their work on the ground, transporting patients to and from the airport to their house or treatment centre. Together with Angel Flights they cut the trip time down so patients can get their treatment and ultimately stay alive. These volunteers are with them at their worst and most challenging times. There are a few other Angel Flights pilots operating out of Tyabb, and if they’re anything like Peter, we’re sure all of their patients will have their minds put at ease thanks to the pilots’ friendly demeanour and abundant kindness. 

Peter is a busy man. When we first got in contact with him through a friend who’d said “He might not be interested as he’s too modest”, Peter was busy donating blood. The farm’s still on the scene and Peter is often making appearances as a guest speaker where he shares his personal stories of how Angel Flights has changed people’s lives. And he’s got 158 Angel Flights under his wing. ‘Busy’ is an understatement. 

After training in the US, Peter co-purchased his plane with fellow pilot and friend Rowan Miller. Together, they explore Australia by air. It’s become more of a ‘where have we not landed’ instead of ‘where haven’t we been’, and after beginning these flying holidays in 2009, there’s no sign of stopping. He’s gone from being someone with no interest in flying to this — and every aspect of it is remarkable. 

Angel Flights relies solely on donations and fundraisers. To keep Peter up in the air and giving his time to others in need, visit for more information or to donate.

Words and photos by KATE SEARS

Give a dog a home

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A Langwarrin family is staggered by the number of unwanted animals awaiting adoption. “When we decided it was time to welcome a dog to our family, we were blown away by just how many gorgeous unwanted animals were in need of loving homes,” Sarah Guenther said. “It feels good to know that our decision to adopt a rescue dog means that we’re not inadvertently supporting unethical puppy farms.” 

Allison Brown from The Lost Dogs Home said the shelter was passionate about finding the right homes for the countless unwanted pets found wandering, seized due to poor treatment or surrendered to its shelters each year. “Every animal has a right to live in a loving home, and it is our mission to ensure the right pets are matched with the right people,” Allison said. 

Lost Dogs Home staff will be at Frankston Council’s Pets Day Out on Sunday, October 13, to answer questions about adopting and owning a pet. The council runs an annual ‘adoption lottery’, covering the purchase price and first-year registration costs for the first 15 animals adopted from the shelter. 

The Lost Dogs Home has more than 70 animals awaiting adoption — each desexed, microchipped and vaccinated. Visit

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