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I'm a nomadic mama with four lovely daughters. We're travelling Australia in a small housebus — meeting inspiring people, learning lots and re-thinking everything. I feel passionately about travel, good design, alternative education and conscious parenting.

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11 August 14

Some places just feel so good! What all our campground-finder tools and detailed maps can’t tell us is the energy of a place and how we’ll be received. Each parking spot, campsite, caravan park or home has a different impact on us — some are repellant while others encourage us to linger longer.

Camping at The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
At The Channon, our peaceful view in the morning is across the valley where a small herd of cattle are keeping the grass from growing out of control.

So when we drove into The Channon Village Campground on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t really know what to expect. Handily located adjacent to Coronation Park where the craft markets are held every second Sunday of the month, I saw little more than parking spaces adjacent to the tree-lined 30-metre-wide driveway that leads to a private residence. But it’s so much more than that!

Camping at The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
We choose a site adjacent to an established fireplace and close to the amenities block. Later I move the bus to keep its solar panels charging.

Camping at The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
At $10 per adult per night — including water, toilets and (cold) showers — this is an affordable campground for our family! Many other places charge for children and an unpowered site costs us around $50/night.

Camping at The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
A camp-kitchen sink is out the back of the amenities block. I particularly appreciate the availability of a recycling bin which allows us to properly sort and dispose of our rubbish.

Hugh and Nanette Nicholson, The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
The campground is owned and operated by Hugh and Nan Nicholson who live at the residence on-site. The welcoming ambiance of this place is largely due to their friendly nature where every interaction is a pleasure!

The campground is an easy walk to into the village, and I often saw Hugh or Nan cycling past. They brought us vegies from their garden and stopped to share stories with us. I later heard from a friend that Nan was a significant force at the Bentley blockade, and she and Hugh have written books on local rainforest trees.

Brioni feeding a horse, August 2014
Brioni takes some fresh treats down to Solly the horse. Soon after we arrived, Nan informed us that the animals were friendly and invited us to interact with them.

Delaney playing lego, August 2014
The girls set up our tent as a playzone and spend hours playing with their small collection of lego — using head-torches to continue even after dark!

Aisha playing with fire, August 2014
The girls love having a fire at night again! There's something so compelling about watching the flames dance.

Koala with baby on its back, The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
One afternoon, while simply enjoying the scenery, I turn my head at a noise and discover a mama koala climbing a nearby tree!

Koala with baby on its back, The Channon Village Campground, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
It's very special to encounter a wild koala so close — and with such a cute baby!

The appearance of the koalas was exciting enough to notify everyone — Hugh, Nan, all my girls and the other Brisbane-based unschooling family camping nearby! We crowded around, taking pictures, until — after kindly posing for a decent length of the time — the mama koala climbed into the obscurity of the very top branches.

Later, Calista was buoyed by her visit with the horse and asked politely if she could ride her. I passed on Calista’s request to Nan and later was called out of the bus by the girls excitedly calling that Delaney was riding the horse! Solly is an old, placid horse and was an excellent introduction to horse-riding for my girls. (I’m still wondering if I’m going to get away without having at least one horse fanatic among my daughters…)

Delaney riding a horse with Nan Nicholson, The Channon, August 2014
Delaney — being the most enthusiastically vocal — receives the first ride. After that, the girls reasonably take turns in order of age — an example of effortless self-organisation.

Calista riding a horse with Nan's help, August 2014
With Nan to talk her through the feel of the horse under her legs, Calista soon relaxed into the ride.

Brioni riding a horse with Nan, The Channon, August 2014
After Brioni mounts, Nan explains that she can hold onto the reins or onto Solly's mane. Even the short lesson in mounting the horse was valuable, and I appreciate how effortlessly our children gain a range of experiences while we travel.

The Channon Village Campground has a lot to offer travellers, and appropriate off-road parking for big rigs is only a fraction of its attraction. When we drive back to camp at The Channon again, it’s hard to say what will be the greater draw — the peaceful campground, the handy location to the markets or the effervescent company of our hosts!

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10 August 14

On the second Sunday of the month, a sleepy village in northern NSW comes alive with an extraordinary selection of hand-made or home-grown artisan items. The Channon craft market is legendary for the eclectic range or products on show and makes a terrific weekend outing for anyone living within a two-hour radius (which includes the Gold Coast and Brisbane).

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
First established in 1978 as a "Make it, Bake it, Grow it" market, the stallholders are still predominantly those with hand-made or home-grown items.

I’ve been hearing about The Channon markets ever since we first started fulltime travelling in 2010. We haven’t been in the region at the right time until today, and I was interested to see how such a long-standing affair is operated, especially in contrast to other, smaller markets the one like at Nimbin.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
By noon, the adjoining paddocks are filled with visitors' cars. A $2 parking fee covers the cost of leasing the privately-owned parking space from the neighbours and pays for over a dozen local workers who keep the market tidy and well-run.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
The stalls are situated around the perimeter of the oval of Coronation Park.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Pony rides take children across the oval and back again.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Each market-day, a different local charity sells food from the official concession stand.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
The busy playground precinct is ringed by families sitting on blankets, resting from the shopping and catching up with friends.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Visitors to the markets are both local residents and out-of-towners. It takes about an hour and a half to travel to The Channon from the Gold Coast, making it a great outing for city-folk.

Many of the stallholders have been participating in these markets for years. The non-profit market organisation held to a strict “Make, Bake or Grow It” policy until 2012 when they started allowing stall-holders to sell some goods other than what they had made, providing that the non-handmade/home-grown component was less than 25% of the stall’s stock on offer. A few stalls offer second-hand products, but the majority of them showcase the region’s wonderful artistic talent. Have a look.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Felted creations unlike any we've seen elsewhere.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Hand-made timber items.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Hand-spun wool (with more on the way).

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Fresh juice while-you-wait.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Custom ceramics (orders taken for special requests).

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Innovative, beautiful products — like these mosquito-coil holders.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Products on display from the tray of a custom Vee-Dub.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Hanging plants with a twist.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Handicrafts of all varieties.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Bags and hats made from recycled truck tarpaulins.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Food stalls set up in the shade.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
An eclectic mix of music from buskers.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Face-painting for all ages.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
A trailer-load of sugarcane is slowly mulched into sweet juice.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Bonsai for sale with the expert grower on hand for personal advice.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
Spray-free fruit and vegies direct from the producers.

After 3pm, the market starts packing down, and the crowds subside. Those who’ve driven here from the city for the day get back in their cars and make their way home. And that’s when the locals come out to play, with a drum circle that sets a beat which entices others to dance until whole families are playing and dancing around the rainbow tent.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
An informal drum circle provides the focal point for the free dancing.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
A brass/wind trio adds random snatches of melody.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
An improvised percussion set adds depth.

The Channon Craft Markets, second Sunday of the month, The Channon, northern NSW, August 2014
The drummers will continue until it gets too dark.

I knew that The Channon markets were exceptional with the quality and variety of hand-made goods, but I didn’t expect the atmosphere of the drum circle at the end. Children danced alongside their parents, drummers took turns on the skins, everyone was laughing and smiling. Perhaps a visit to The Channon markets is worth it just for this — free entertainment where your enjoyment is limited only by your own inhibitions!

Super moon in the trees, August 2014
As the Super Moon rises above the trees, the drumming dies off and the last players take their djembes home. The oval falls quiet — for another month at least — and the village returns to its slumber.

The Channon craft markets are next open on September 14, but you can keep track of the dates here. If you’re inclined to enjoy shopping for something different, it’s a great place to come. Otherwise come for the fun atmosphere and free dance-party in the afternoon — you won’t regret the experience!

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9 August 14

I love to encourage my children in their individual interests by introducing them to inspirational, satisfied adults who may — in time — morph into role models or mentors. As soon as I saw the paintings of Jo Frederiks featured in the compelling opinion-piece Confessions of a Vegan by Sam De Brito, I knew that here was a woman with whom Brioni could relate.

Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
When she greets us at the door, I immediately feel Jo Frederiks' warmth. She has been a vegan for twenty years and retains the fresh-faced beauty common among those who eat a plant-based, whole-food diet.

With a desire to use her artworks to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspire others to change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, Frederiks has ruffled more than a few feathers as her pictures reach a larger audience through social media. Complaints on her Facebook page have meant that Frederiks has been forced to censor her own publicity in order to keep her FB account active.

Painting of cows going to the slaughter dressed as Jewish holocaust victims at a concentration camp, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 201
Some of Frederiks' paintings draw parallels between the treatment of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime and the exploitation and oppression of animals. Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a Holocaust survivor who was sent to Dachau, wrote in his memoirs: "I believe as long as man tortures and kill animals, he will torture and kill humans as well — and wars will be waged — for killing must be practiced and learned on a small scale."

In today’s loose society of gross images, near-universal misrepresentation of truth and violence-saturated media, are her pictures so offensive? Art is supposed to elicit an emotional response, and Frederiks’ works certainly do that. She portrays the roles of multi-national corporations in food supply, the raw realism of animal cruelty, the symbolism of the mass slaughter of millions of animals and the sentience of animals who are conscious beings.

Live animal exports painting, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Live-animal exports from Australia have led to thousands of animals dying in transport, with no guarantee of cruelty-free processing for those still alive when they reach their destination.

Animal activists and vegans may understand the concepts, but I needed an explanation of some of Frederiks’ symbolic pieces. As we looked through the works, Jo shared her passion for animal-activism and her stories of growing up on a working cattle station in rural Queensland and how that affected her relationship towards animals.

Botched execution of a steer by a ranch-hand, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
As part of a working cattle-ranch family, Jo was expected to help with mustering, branding, de-horning and chopping off chunks of their ears (for identification and ear tags). At thirteen, she witnessed the terror of a steer after its execution was botched by an axe-wielding man. "The sad thing was," she explained, "he had a loaded gun next to him but preferred to use the axe to finish the job. He wanted to save the cost of a single bullet."

Brioni reading a book, August 2014
After initially assessing Jo's paintings, Brioni ran back outside to our bus to retrieve a book of her own pictures and one on endangered animals. She wanted to show Jo a picture she's drawn that depicts "animals with feelings".

Many of Frederiks’ paintings were drying from a coat of laquer or a belated signature, and her most valuable pieces are currently being framed off-site, but she kindly let us look through the paintings and drawings that were still sitting around her home.

Paint brushes in a studio, August 2014
The art supplies are packed away tidily as Frederiks concentrates on other, less creative tasks at the moment.

Painting of an emaciated African child sitting in a fast-food tub, wearing another fast-food icon as a headband, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle
Frederiks' paintings are stacked against the wall of the storeroom adjacent to her sunlit studio, awaiting packaging and transport to the art gallery.

Painting of a baby with headphones displaying corporate logos, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Entitled "The Lies Begin Early", this painting symbolises the aggressive marketing that faces even the youngest Australian.

Painting depicting orang-utans and all the common supermarket products that contain palm oil from unsustainable sources, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free l
As consumers continue to purchase products from companies that use palm oil from unsustainable sources, the habitats of jungle animals — such as orang-utans — are irreversibly destroyed.

Day-old chicks in a KFC tub, spitting out meat through a grinder, painting by Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Chicks that have been identified as male are an automatic casualty in the poultry industry, and we who purchase any chicken products are complicit in their mass slaughter.

Painting of Lady Justice hanging alongside slaughtered animals, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Lady Justice hangs from a wire reading "violent ideology" alongside slaughtered animals for whom "justice" is often completely disregarded.

Painting of a cracked and bleeding Planet Earth with a huge knife and fork, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
This painting of a cracked and bleeding Earth particularly catches Brioni's attention and imagination, so we discuss the possible meanings and how it makes her feel.

Painting of a skull and cattle head with a knife and fork, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
In others of Frederiks' paintings, the imagery is more obvious.

Painting of an evening gown made from the carcasses of small animals, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Haute couture — when manufactured from the carcasses of small animals — doesn't look as good as that made from their skins, although the outcome for the animals remains the same.

Painting of the cat named Double Trouble, by Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
This painting was based on a photo taken at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Double-Trouble — this cat — was subjected to experiments which required surgeries on her ears, skull and brain, some of which happened without proper anesthetic.

It’s a horrible story, and this is only one account that has been publicly exposed. If interested, you can read the details here on PETA’s site.

Painting of a woman branded as 269, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
A woman is branded and earmarked as 269 — the number signifying she is destined for slaughter. In June 2013, animal activists in Israel rescued Calf 269 from its pen and later publicly branded themselves with "269" in solidarity with the re-homed animal. The 269 movement has spread around the world as others have used the number to identify themselves as animal activists.

Drawing of a rabbit in a slaughterhouse, as photographed by Jo-Anne McArthur, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
The photographs of Jo-Anne McArthur are an enormous inspiration to Jo Frederiks. She takes McArthur's photos — shot on site at slaughtering houses — and draws or paints the images, capturing the realism of the animals' suffering.

Painting of a chimpanzee and burning rainforest habitat, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Based on another of Jo-Anne McArthur's photographs, this elongated painting is simply realistic, but no less devastating.

More compelling photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur supporting animal activism are viewable online. Browsing through them is an education in itself.

Picture of a packaged baby, as sold in a supermarket, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Fredericks' drawing "When will it stop?" pleads for humanity to change the way we think about animals and our disregard for their suffering and deaths.

Picture of a cow being cut up for a fund-raising barbecue while the same animal-welfare group collects donations, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyl
Frederik has translated this sketch into a full-sized painting. It highlights the hypocrisy of animal-welfare groups that openly sacrifice one group of animals in preference for another.

Drawing of a chimpanzee, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
"When will humans get it?" Is the chimpanzee asking the question, or is it Jo Frederiks? And if we decide who is asking the question, does it change our answer to it?

Picture of a horse, Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Many of Frederiks' earlier pieces are stunning images of animals, showcasing their inherent beauty. Some of these will be on display at the exhibition too. All the artworks will be for sale.

Birds escaping the cage, painting by Jo Frederiks, vegan artist, animal activist, using art to raise awareness of animal suffering and inspiring change to a cruelty-free lifestyle, August 2014
Two brilliant birds escape their cage.

Frederiks’ exhibition The Animal Holocaust will be at the Gold Coast’s RQAS Art Gallery from September 19-26. Her favourite quote from Gary Smith summarises the ethical vegan’s position as portrayed intensely in Frederiks’ body of work:

“When you share what you have learned with your friends and family members — who you deeply respect and love — they show indifference at best. You feel like you have come upon a genocide everyone is trying to hide and ignore. And you can no longer participate and no longer keep quiet. And then you are painted as militant, extreme, judgmental.”

As part of a family that incorporates a passionate vegan, I hear a variation of this message often. Brioni avoids contact with leather, fastidiously reads the labels on new foods and keeps her food utensils separate from those of her non-vegan siblings.

Although a vegetarian, I don’t feel the same passion for animals that Brioni displays, but I still find veganism compelling for ethical, environmental and economical reasons. After recently watching Forks over Knives, rather than asking myself “why is Brioni vegan?” my question has become “why aren’t I a vegan?”. The health benefits of whole-food veganism are impossible to deny.

Artists like Jo Frederiks and independent souls like Brioni allow themselves to feel such compassion for animals that they simply cannot consider eating or using their products. I wonder if one day I will be brave enough to make such a bold, loving move, too.

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