Posts Tagged ‘Biloela’

Jambin floods

My brother’s home isolated by flood waters

The older I get, the more I suspect happiness is linked to low expectations.

I expected nothing from yesterday’s birthday, had planned nothing in the aftermath of floods and other dramas, and yet 24 hours later I’m still aglow from the unexpected pleasures it brought.

A romantic dinner with hubby the night before… Great Italian with the kids last night. A call from an old pal – celebrating a 43 year friendship that’s still going strong. Another from my brother – hearing his voice on the phone after a tracheotomy tube had prevented him from speaking for a week was the most joyful of birthday presents.

All six of my brothers remembered, even the one on night shift in cyclone-torn Central Queensland. Such great blokes, and lord knows, they all had more important things on their minds.

The 42 people evacuated by helicopter from flood-devastated Jambin included one brother, his wife, their daughter and granddaughter, and another nephew and niece.

Water surrounded my family’s homes in Biloela and Jambin, but didn’t make it inside, thank the high heavens. Chooks and dogs survived, but not the four black snakes my brother killed while clearing debris from around his front steps.

A neighbour across from my Mum admitted panicking as the rising waters turned the surrounding streets into canals. ‘Oh, I wasn’t worried,’ said my 84 year old mother. ‘I’ve been through this before.’ And she has. More times than most. Despite power failures and unreliable telephone coverage, she somehow managed to send me a beautiful bunch of flowers, bless her.

The floods of the 1970s made an enormous impression on me as a teenager and decades later featured in my first novel Dust‘Silently, like a thief, the flood had crept up on us, stealing our land, our paddocks, the path to our back door, our bottom step.’ This year, the flood waters made it two steps higher.


Me during my Suzi Q phase

Back in the 70s, I was a Suzi Quatro-obsessed teen.

And in a strange twist of fate, as the flood waters recede yet again in Central Queensland and the indomitable folk begin yet another clean up, I’ll be reliving that teenaged obsession.

A good friend has surprised me with tickets to Suzi Quatro for my birthday – and try as I might to keep my expectations low, they keep bubbling up.

Can the Can, baby, we’ll be Devil Gate Driving tonight!Quatro, Suzi

I learned to shoot and drive when still in primary school, but now need smelling salts at the thought of my own children accessing the same opportunities.

This Christmas is a big Bongers Fest at my brother’s property outside Biloela. A forty-strong gathering of the clan complete with cold room, camper trailors, and you guessed it, guns. ‘Slug guns,’ my brother clarified after a moment of dead air on the phone line. ‘For the kids.’

And his twelve-year-old wants to teach our ten, twelve and seventeen-year-olds to drive. Good grief, when did I become such a scaredy-cat?

My brothers are jaw-droppingly competent. If they want a tennis court, they will excavate, laser-level, underlay, bitumenise, fence and illuminate an obscure corner of central Queensland to rival centre-court Wimbledon. When they shoot a black snake, a crater in the parched earth is the only evidence of its passing.  When they do a job, they do it properly.

No doubt they have passed on competence and high-level skills in vehicular control and the safe discharge of firearms to the next generation. I can’t claim to have done the same.

Thirty years in the city has made me soft. I now solve problems with a mobile phone, a keyboard and a credit card. I probably couldn’t hit a barn door, let alone an icecream bucket, with a slug gun. But I have  inherited the determination that made my father pull his finger out of the dykes and carve out a corner of a hard land half a world away from his own.

Come Christmas-time, I am happy to relearn the lessons of my youth and teach my kids, if that’s what they want.  But, if they want to stay in the pool, or watch the Boxing Day cricket, that’s fine by me too. 😉

May you all enjoy a bang-up Christmas, wherever that may be, with all the peace and blessings of the festive season

Chris xx

24 October – Toowoomba

English Teacher’s Association of Queensland Seminar, “Wining away the afternoon with Christine Bongers” (wonder who’s driving me home?)

Image_SchoolArts_HR22 June

International stage and screen luminary, the actor and playwright, Bille Brown will launch my novel Dust at Riverbend Books, Bulimba on 22 June.

Like me, Bille was born and bred in Biloela. Like Dust, his new play The School of Arts, is set in the landscape of our youth.

The good old Bilo network – kickin’ it for Queensland’s 150th anniversary!


25 June

TLC Books at Wynnum-Manly is hosting an author event to launch Dust to bayside book-lovers on Thursday 25 June from 6pm. For bookings: click here or phone 07 33935130.

14 July

Dust will also enjoy an industry launch as part of the opening night festivities for Voices on the Coast, the youth literature festival run by Immanuel College and the University of the Sunshine Coast. Click here for more details on opening night or here for the full program and booking forms for school groups.

23 July

Watch this space! Plans are afoot for the much-anticipated Biloela launch of Dust. Queensland Heritage Park and the Banana Shire Council Libary are on full alert. My spies tell me it is safe to return to my old alma maters at Jambin State School and Biloela State High (after thirty-plus years, surely all is forgiven?) Stay tuned – more details as they come to hand!

Tell people you’re from Jambin and you get a lot of “Wear the fox hat” responses  (if you need to ask, just google it).

I sometimes attempt to triangulate it, saying “It’s up the road from Dululu, not that far from Goovigen and the nearest airport is Thangool.” But if I really want to be helpful, I mention the nearest Big Smoke twenty minutes up the road … Biloela.

Few people outside the State of Queensland can pronounce it correctly – Bill-o-wheeler – but in 2009 the place may be on more lips when its little mate Jambin, finally hits the literary stage.

My novel Dust, set there in the early 1970s, is coming out in July. The same month that Jambin, population about 20, makes an entrance in the QTC production The School of Arts, as part of Queensland 150th anniverary celebrations.

The play stars and is written by Biloela’s best-known contribution to the cultural firmament, legendary thespian Bille Brown.

The man has proved that coming from a patch of Brigalow 600 kilometres north-west of Brisbane is no impediment to an internationally-acclaimed theatrical career. With UQ buddy Geoffrey Rush, he has tread the boards with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and London, and gone on to share stage and screen with Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons, Jamie Lee Curtis and John Clease.

Now home to grace the local stage and screen once again, Bille Brown is making his own mark on the literary landscape.

I was in the audience at the 2007 Brisbane Writers Festival when this Shakespearian legend gave an extraordinary public reading of his short story, Playing with Fire – a childhood in Biloela, published in the Griffith Review. A heart-achingly funny coming-of-age story, it recreates 1960s Biloela with an eye for telling detail and a heart full of emotion.

It is a fascinating literary preview to The School of Arts, the play he wrote, set in rural Queensland in 1967, and my own novel, Dust, which is set in the  Biloela district in the early 1970s. 

That landscape of my youth resonated with such clarity that it became a character in the novel and inspiration for its title. I hope that with Dust’s publication during our State’s 150th birthday celebrations, I’ll be able to talk of that setting without quite so many quizzical looks: “Wear the fox hat?”

May 2009 realize your dreams and shine brightly on you all. 🙂