Monthly Archives: January 2010

The First Review Is In!

Australian Bookseller and Publisher have reviewed Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) and awarded it 4.5 stars out of 5. Yippee!  Here’s the review …

Find Your Tribe (And Nine Other Things I Wish I’d Known in High School) (Rebecca Sparrow, UQP, $14.95 pb, ISBN 9780702237720, March)

“Rebecca Sparrow would’ve been good to know in high school. Find Your Tribe is an important and upliftingbook that will entertain even the most sceptical teen. Sparrow demonstrates her eloquent style and talent for simple, clear prose to impart to her readers the truth––and the humour––about years seven to 12 in a book they will actually enjoy. Her advice is so smart and universal that I found myself taking notes to apply to my own life. Educators, parents and counsellors alike will immediately identify the value of not only Sparrow’s advice, but the accessible manner in which it is presented. Pull-quotes and dot-point summaries make Find Your Tribe the perfect book for low attention chapter-skimmers. The advice is aimed mainly at girls; the prose is targeted toward a younger audience but is direct, and not patronising. Sparrow’s The Girl Most Likely dealt with similar issues as Tribe and has not only been successful in print, but will shortly be adapted into a movie. Find Your Tribe is the accessible nonfiction equivalent and should be considered by anyone working with teenagers.”

Rebecca Butterworth (née Whitehead) is a bookseller and writer and lives in Melbourne

Sunday Mail Column 24 January 2010

You know what I miss? Mixed tapes. (Insert pause as I reminisce about making slightly lame mixed tapes full of Bangles, Eurythmics and WHAM tunes)

Today it’s easy to make a playlist. There’s no hard work involved. I’m eye-rolling as I type. But back in the primitive 80s, you had to hover over your cassette deck ready to pounce on the play + record buttons as soon as Paul Young’s “Common People” started.

And nothing said, “I love you” like a mixed tape complete with handwritten notes of all your favourite songs. It was the ultimate act of intimacy and a pretty easy way to tell if your par amour was the one. I remember one friend insisting she couldn’t possibly date someone who didn’t “get” the genius of Bros (suffice to say her dating pool was rather small).

If you want to skulk down memory lane, listening to your old mixed tapes is as effective as flicking through a photo album. In ’88 my perm and I spent many angsty hours listening to Aretha’s Natural Woman as I pined over a boy called Gavin. That year’s mixed tape was less Bananarama and more Aretha and Dusty Springfield and, okay, Air Supply.

We forget how powerful music – both listening to it and creating it – can be in our lives.

Felicity Baker is the Program Director of Music Therapy Training at the School of Music at University of Queensland. Felicity explains to me that music therapy is the creative use of music within a therapeutic context. It can help everyone from newborn babies to your ninety-year-old grandmother, children with disabilities or who have experienced trauma, people with mental illness including those with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, drug abuse, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder, people with brain injury and older people with dementia, degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, and those with cancer.

In short, music heals.

I ask Felicity for an example of how music therapy can work and she tells me about a man who had received a head injury and was no longer able to verbally communicate.

“He was able to use a spelling board to write short sentences,” she says. “In our first music therapy session he wrote a song to his wife to tell her how he was feeling and how much his life with her and their young baby meant to him. I played and sang the song to the wife as they sat together, held hands and cried.”

Felicity and her colleagues are conducting a study with couples – who live at home – where one spouse has dementia. Their study shows couples how to use music strategically and effectively so they increase the amount of meaningful time spent together, sharing enjoyable experiences. Couples interested in participating in this free program and who live at the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast or Brisbane should call Felicity on (07) 336 53740 or 0415 615327.

Stationery makes me happy.

Lookey, lookey at what I just bought. Lovin’ it. I hate to quote You’ve Got Mail (That film was pretty to look at  but I’m sorry there are deal-breakers  in relationships like, I don’t know, say the  guy RUNNING YOUR DEAD MOTHER’S BOOKSTORE INTO THE  GROUND … I think Meg Ryan should have staple-gunned Tom Hanks’ head in that film). Anyway.  Here’s the quote I always think of:  “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.”  By the by, Shop Around The Corner (the 1940 original movie on which YGM is based) rocks. Happy Friday.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Do Love George …

But, I have to say, I saw Up In The Air on Saturday night with my friend Nic and I was a little let down.  I mean it’s good but some people are predicting it’ll be regarded as the “film of the year”. Um, big call people.

There was lots to like. Really. It’s an enjoyable film. You won’t leave muttering rude things about George and Jason Reitman and wishing you’d seen It’s Complicated (nothing against that film – I haven’t seen it and I like pretty much anything that involves Meryl Streep). But.  I found Up In The Air a tad depressing. And really, I don’t think it comes near Juno or Thank You For Smoking (both of which rocked).

But it’s always good to go to the cinema and see something that doesn’t involve a SNL comedian and/or a cliched ending. And this film had me thinking about it for a number of hours afterwards. And I guess I was trying to debate the validity of the choices Ryan makes. And what? Do I need to feel upbeat every time I leave a cinema?

So what’s my point? I dunno. I don’t think I have one. Sorry about that.


In December I was wandering around Borders and found a little orange box full of classic Penguin book covers.  You know, The Great Gatsby, The Odyssey, Wuthering Heights — that type of thing. So I bought the little orange box, took it home and decided to turn it into this: (thank you to the Framing Corner at Toowong).

Of the 28 books pictured, I’ve only read about a third if that … maybe a quarter. Who am I kidding? I’ve read two: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which I loved) and A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

Now I’ve just gotta work out where to hang the sucker.  I’m thinking in our dining room. Then my friends and I can sit around talking about how we are definitely going to read more of the classics … before we all go home  to our beds and read Twilight. Again.

(Actually I read Twilight and I was a bit “eh” about it.  Bella needs a personality transplant). Right? RIGHT? The books I most love to re-read are probably The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank and Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido.

Ava on the other hand is happy for me to read her Meg and Mog on loop.  Until I go just a little tiny bit mental.

Maybe this month I will attempt to read The Big Sleep.

Sunday Mail Column: Suicide Mission to Become Real Again

The promises are tantalizing.  Meet your neighbours. Get your life back.  Stop self-procrastination.  Improve your relationships.

One little thing can deliver all that? You betcha. Best of all there’s no cheesy bikini clad after shot.  No chemist in a white lab coat talking about meal replacement shakes. No life coach with super white teeth trying to convince you to part with $2000 so he can tell you how to be a winner.

Nope. This thing is free. It delivers on its promises of an improved life. And many are predicting it’ll be the biggest trend of 2010.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. This little baby promises to log you off. Or as they put it, kill off your social networking alter egos.

Go to and in the push of a button you’re removed from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and from all those online friendships you’ve been trying to maintain with people you hardly know while you ignore your family. (Remember those people? The real live people you bump into in the kitchen while texting from your iPhone?)

Imagine being released from the shackles of all those time-sucking, mind-numbing, life-wrecking social networking sites that oh, about nine million Australians (me included) are using. One click and you get your real life back.

I think social networking addictions are like any other addiction in life. Some use alcohol, others food or eBay or sex (hello Tiger Woods) or illegal drugs or Facebook or Red Rock Deli Lime and Black Pepper Potato Chips (that’d be me).  We’re filling some kind of hole in our souls but using Facebook to heal a wound in your spirit is like trying to fix a leaky roof with fairy floss. Never gonna work.

One guyI know became so addicted to Facebook his relationship imploded.  Hispartner felt he was spending all his time on there and sharing way too much information.  And hands up who’s creeped out hearing that people are announcing deaths, accidents and births on Twitter?

Even the Queen of social networking, singer Lily Allen, recently turned her back on it all. In an interview with Grazia magazine, she said, “I just had this revelation that Facebook, blogging, all those things were becoming a total addiction. I’d be with my boyfriend or my mum and they’d have just got half of me … We’ve ended up in this world of unreal communications and I don’t want that. I want real life back.”

Smart girl.

Update No. 2 –

For any Sunday Mail readers who would like to donate to but who either don’t have internet access or a creditcard, you can still donate!  Send a cheque for $10 made out to “” and mail it to:

Tara June Winch


Woollongong University

2500 NSW Australia

Meanwhile, here’s another update from Tara …

Dear Supporters,

Thank you, donations to support our Ambassador Fatima Bhutto’s flagged projects in Pakistan and Ambassador Bejan Matur’s flagged projects supporting Kurdish women and girls in Turkey have reached over $7,000 in a couple of months. With response and support from a dinner party, bombarding Facebook friends, the great words from Rebecca Sparrow, and our friends at Mappin&Webb, London – we were able to have a clear financial impact and garner knowledge for a future with our regions.

I am so pleased to unveil the collection of’s projects on March 8, 2010 from Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia and a few more of our world’s great countries, where women and girls need our support to nurture now, and the future.

Please keep spreading the word, we still need support!

Yours, and in peace,

Tara and Lila – who turned 4 in Larkana, Pakistan

Sunday Mail Column: Smart Thinking

It was the last thing I expected to find.  Two nights before Christmas in a backyard in the suburbs amidst the noise and fairy lights and is-that-Jim-dressed-as-an-elf? mayhem of a friend’s party I found a little bit of inspiration.  I found a real live role model.

Brissie bloke Tony Smart is best known for his popular Smartmen range of men’s skincare.  You know, moisturisers and shaving gels – that kind of thing. But it’s Tony’s other role that got us chatting.

You see Tony is a stay-at-home dad to three boys. His wife is Robin Bailey – host of 97.3FM’s Breakfast show. So Robin does the full time work gig and Tony juggles stay-at-home parenting duties and the demands of his own business. Gee, sounds familiar.

So Tony tells me what its been like being Mr Mum for the past ten years. There’s been the fish-out-of-water nature of it.  The big burly bloke trying to navigate his way through mothers’ groups and playdate protocol. The challenge of making school lunches and organising play dates for your toddler without looking like you’re trying to hit on the mothers’ group mums.

But the bit that really grabbed me was the mini- revolution Tony has started.   Tony Smart is doing what many thought was impossible. He’s getting dads into that traditionally female domain:  the school tuckshop. Suddenly dads are buttering pikelets and handing out fruit salad at his kids’ primary school.

It started innocently enough. Tony decided he wanted to have a go at tuckshop duty. (Well, his boys wanted him to do it since it automatically means they get ice-blocks at lunch.)

“As it turned out I was the first dad anyone could remember volunteering in the tuckshop … I’m sure they gave me the simple tasks first up to see how I coped!”

That one experience planted the seed.  When the tuckshop convener bemoaned how hard it was to find new volunteers, Tony suggested a “Dad’s Day”.  The event took on a life of its own.

The Principal started promoting “Dad’s Day” on Assembly.  The event was advertised in the school newsletter. Teachers pledged to buy their lunches from the dads on the big day.  And suddenly security guards, financial planners and advertising managers were signing up to cut sandwiches, sell poppers and be a part of their kids’ school for – in some cases – the first time.

“I think it was the first time ‘disc brakes and footy finals’ were mentioned while preparing ham and cheese sandwiches! But we managed to do the second biggest money take thanks to all the hype. But the highlight was the beaming smiles from our kids as they bought their friends up to the counter to meet the tuckshop dads. ”

(And, not to waste an opportunity, Tony picked the fathers’ brains for more ideas for his Smartmen range!)

Too often we go role model hunting in the wrong places. Like Hollywood. Or Suncorp Stadium.  Sometimes the best role models are just next door –  starting mini-revolutions in the suburbs.

The First Sunday Club: Update From Tara

Hi OneThousand Supporters

I held a medical camp at the civic hospital in Larkana yesterday! It went so well… Many extremely poor people live here in rural Sindh province, Paksitan, so the need for glasses was huge! We finally have a market and way to make a permanent partnership with the self-prescribing glasses! So happy. All the staff were very excited also… such a great 1st day of the year…

So far we have funded 4 main projects:

An Afghan refugee camp school, 80,000 rupees to build a library and chemistry desk. Tables for teachers and more chairs for students. We have also got a local Plastics Company onboard to provide a playground. 20,000 refugees will benefit from the school and public library and the playground. They are now permanent partners on and will receive constant funding.

A community run school aimed at girls in Lyari, Karachi. They will benefit from a computer lab and a teacher for one year. Locals are helping to paint the room also. They will receive 100,000 rupees and are permanent partners. 700 students will benefit from this lab.

Bombasa Tuition Center, in the worst area of Karachi for gang violence will now have a library, two battery run generators for power and mats to sleep and sit on, as many women and children use this space as a safe house also. We will have a teacher here also teaching Urdu and English. They are permanent partners with 2000 women and children use this facility. 80,000 rupees is a starting point of funding.

A girls orphanage in rural Karachi, 106 girls will have a higher education fund, to help them through college and university, if they chose. The girls will also have access now to extra tuition. They are now permanent partners with 80,000 rupees

We have also supported the Womens Jail in Larkana, Panah House – womens refuge, Civic Hospitals in Karachi and Larkana for elderly men and women.

We leave Pakistan to head back to the Kurdish region in Turkey tomorrow. It has been a successful trip and we look forward to creating more partnerships and signing more Ambassadors throughout 2010.

Thank you all for your support,

Tara June Winch


Fatima Bhutto

Ambassador for Urdu Pakistan

Sunday Mail Column for Sunday 2 January 2010

Here we are with a fresh, shiny year in front of us.  A year plump with possibility. A highway of perfect days ahead. The truth is we’re standing in the middle of a golden opportunity.  Readers, I have an idea.

This year I want to bring more meaning to my life, be a part of something good. I want to help bring about change. So this year on the first Sunday of every month I’m going to ask you to join me in donating $10 to a specific cause. It might be global one month, local the next but once a month I’m going to ask you to find just $10 and give it to an organisation to help them make a difference.  Ten dollars is a small amount but it’s enough to change a life.

Maybe only ten readers will join me. Maybe 100,000 readers will get on-board. But I think as a group – no matter how big or small – we can have an impact. Lets see the good we can do with ten bucks.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof recently said,  “The best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls.”

So with that in mind I’m kicking things off with – an organisation dedicated to bringing literacy resources to women and children in some of the world’s poorest areas.  It was started by my dear friend and award-winning Australian writer Tara June Winch. As an Indigenous Australian herself, Tara knows that teaching a woman to read can change her future more than any other type of aid.

“I read about a woman in Mosambique, who said ‘If you cannot read and write then you are always afraid’,” says Tara to me over email. “It’s true. To not be literate – not just practically, but socially, emotionally, economically, to not be able to engage or navigate your world – you are compacted. You are diminished. You are afraid. Literacy stays forever. People are stronger for it. It gives people life and hope to help themselves.”

Tara is working with established charities on the ground in Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan. She’s visiting orphanages, jails, community centres and refugee camps aiming to liberate women and children by giving them the gift of reading and education. She’s also partnered with Oxford Physics Professor Joshua Silver who has developed AdSpecs (  – corrective eyewear for people in developing nations. As Tara says, if you can’t see, you can’t read.

One hundred percent of the money we donate will go towards fitting women and children with AdSpecs, as well as buying them books and other educational resources.  Tara is in Pakistan at the moment and she’ll report back – with photos – on specifically how our donations are changing lives.

With just $10 we can change someone’s future. Please come with me on this journey. Join me in this First Sunday Club. Donate $10 at