Musician, winemaker share experiences


IN my articles so far about taking that study tour down to the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, I have discussed how women have been vital in setting up enterprises or heading organisations that work to protect women and children who may be caught up in a conflict with a male guardian.In this article, I will tell you about two women, professionals in their own right.Firstly, I will describe our meeting with a female musician who is using her songs to promote awareness on the issues faced by the indigenous people of Australia, the Aboriginal people as well as the Torres Strait islanders.Then, I will share what we learned from visiting a female winemaker who operates her business with the help of her relatives.

Winemaker and businesswoman Kathy Drogemuller welcoming student participants to Paracombe Wines in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Musician teaches students to play the ukulele
Apart from the day activities, where the Papua New Guinean and Cambodian students took part in, there were night sessions as well where our supervisors or special guests spoke to us about different topics. On Saturday, April 17, we had a night session at Victor Harbor where indigenous female singer-songwriter Nancy Bates spoke to us about her work.Bates is not only using her musical skills to build a career, she also teaches others, including female prisoners, how to write their own songs.She introduced herself to us by saying: “I am from the Baaka country (Darling River area in New South Wales). I am from the Barkindji nation, and in the local dialect Baaka means river.”She said she came to Adelaide (in South Australia) 20 years ago with her daughter and with almost nothing.“And I wasn’t playing music then,” Bates said. “But over the last 20 years I guess I have found music in that time and I started writing music.”She said she was fortunate to have travelled with the famous indigenous musician Archie Roach, as he was on his tours around Australia.“And I have been writing more and more songs,” Bates said. “And I also teach ukulele and song-writing in Adelaide’s women’s prison.”She told us some stories about the struggles of indigenous women in prisons and how some of those experiences motivated her to write songs. Bates also handed out ukuleles and taught us how to play a few chords on the instrument and then to sing a song in a local dialect. She was a good teacher and even though most participants had no musical background, they tried their best to learn three chords on the ukulele and sing a song.

Meeting a female winemaker
On Sunday, April 18, we passed through the Adelaide Hills. We stopped for a time at the Mount Lofty House, a five-star hotel, and situated about 15 minutes fromAdelaide. We spent some time there and I had coffee while others got their own drinks.We later went further north and entered the place where Paracombe Premium Wines are made. A company brochure states that the name Paracombe originates from the Little Para River whose headwaters originate in the area and “combe” refers to a steep, narrow valley. The whole surrounding area that we passed to get to the main buildings in the farm was filled with vineyards.Kathy Drogemuller, who started the winery with her husband, welcomed us to their property.She told us that back in the 1980s she was working in marketing while her husband (Paul) was an Australian Football League player.The two then decided to buy the property that they are currently operating from.“There was a bushfire in 1983 and the owners then, who were operating a dairy farm, put up the place for sale,” Drogemuller said. She said when they took over they planted a vineyard and made wine in the back shed.Using her experience in marketing and public relations, Drogemuller visited hotels and families she knew and asked if they would be interested in buying their wine bottles.That was how they began, they started small but then slowly grew more vineyards, bought more farms and also worked with other farmers to buy their grapes and use those to produce the drinks in their now state-of-the-art winery.The whole family is involved in what they do here at Paracombe Premium Wines, Drogemuller said.Their adult son is now helping in their business while their daughter, who is currently doing something else, has promised to join the family business soon. In her talk, Drogemuller also stressed that they have respect for the environment and try to use practices that are eco-friendly.In this country, bushfires are common and can force a successful business into bankruptcy.“The 2020 bushfire was 1.5 kilometres from us,” Drogemuller said. “A few years ago, the fire stopped 1 kilometre away.”Fire preparedness is key in these parts, she said. In one of their brochures, they said: “We care deeply about the environment and being sustainable. We’ve taken important steps to minimise our impact by establishing a water recycling program and multiple solar panel systems on our winery roof.”Drogemuller also showed the students the winery, where the fermentation process occurs and the products are stored. After all the talk, she offered us bread, cheese, some meat and wine. (For those of us who do not take wine, we drank water.)Drogemuller told the students that they have to be inspired to start something like this.Additionally, they have to have faith in their dreams, themselves and God.

How the surrounding area looks from where the main buildings of Paracombe Wines are. – Pictures by THOMAS HUKAHU

Ending the tour
Finally, we ended our tour in the city where we had dinner at Sparkke at the Whitmore, in the city.Kari Allen, the founder and owner, spoke to us about how Sparkke and its products were created.After the talk we had dinner.But just before dinner, some students asked me to say a word of thanks on behalf of the student participants to our tour leader, the assistants and even the driver for helping us complete the tour.I did so, stressing that we have to be careful that some habits we may have picked up growing up in cultures where we are taught to be aggressive with words or actions.For males, that could be part of trying to show our masculinity, but that may not be the appropriate way to do things all the time. We must step back and look at ourselves, at our habits.It may be that we may have to also change to be better in interacting with and getting along with people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour.In my evaluation report that I sent to an officer with Australia Awards here in Australia, I said that should such a tour like this with a similar theme be arranged in the future, I would happily sign up to be part of it.I thanked the organisers for the tour as well.I said that I gathered a lot of information and learned that we, in developing countries, need to provide more help for women who are either victims of gender-based violence or who are unfairly treated by their employers.I have also learned how a small idea (by a woman) can be worked on to develop successful enterprises, like the Play Pouch or ParacombeWines.Even though our first morning at Victor Harbor and Goolwa was wet and chilly, the weather during all our days was favourable for us and that made our time really enjoyable.
Personally, I found the tour very educational and extremely motivating.

Next article: My ukulele story