Larrikin locals and low-flying cockatoos

By jessica bellamy

Two towns down, and one to go…welcome to Deniliquin!

And what a friendly welcome. Deniliquin is a much larger town than Hay but with similarly lovely locals and a huge range of activities to get newcomers engaged in their community. Deni also boasts the most incredible fiery red sunsets frequented by huge roosts of cockatoos who gather in congress at 7.00pm every night to screech that day's news, then get spooked by my eavesdropping, then fly away home over my head, a little too low for comfort just by the way.

On Day 1 in town, I ran a master class at the Deniliquin Writers Group in town. We started talking about the instruments we play, and before I knew it, one of the friendly locals, a poet and flugelhorn player, invited me to go to local band practice that night and play the spare tuba.

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I had a fantastic night meeting local musicians, some of whom have been in this band since the 1950s, and I realised just how quickly you can be made to feel at home in an outback town.

I also got an insight into some of the quirky personalities that make this part of Australia so interesting, after reading the Deniliquin Creative Writers book “More Legends and Other Larrikins”. For example, there was a lady featured in the book called Pam Ayton who would travel around town on a pony-drawn cart in stilettos and paint faces on ducks for fundraising.

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But it's not just larrikin locals and spectacular sunsets here.

This week I was also introduced to my core class at Deniliquin High, class 10B. B in this context is for Boys; a whole class of 20-something boys. It’s a particularly funny “fish out of water” (or perhaps "vegetarian out of Enmore") experience to teach a class of only boys, whose hobbies include: shooting, fishing, fixing up cars, riding motorbikes, helping Dad on the farm, and so on. I’ve realised my list of hobbies (“theatre, cheese, other peoples' dogs”) is pretty limited by my city context.

I've encouraged the boys to write about these hobbies, featuring details that they might never have considered to be noteworthy, because to people who don't live the same lives as them, these perspectives are fascinating.

And this is really what the Outback Story Generator is about. Sharing the experiences of 10B far and wide – to other regional communities with their own context, and to city Australia without access to any of these sorts of stories.

In my time at each school I’ve visited, it has been a pleasure to share creative writing techniques and methodologies with my students, so that they can continue writing about and passing on their unique lives and perspectives.

This time next week, the stories from all three towns will be online, for each town to share with one another, with wider Australia, and with the world.

I can’t wait to introduce these voices far and wide.