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Sydney’s eastern beaches VS The Red Centre – Alice Springs; A media entrepreneur’s perspective and experiences

Sydney’s eastern beaches VS The Red Centre – Alice Springs; A media entrepreneur’s perspective and experiences, By Greg Tingle - September 2015

(Draft in progress. Editing required)


Maroubra Beach Bondi Beach Alice Springs Northern Territory Outback Australia Australia

Bondi Business Lunch - Bondi Chamber of Commerce

From saltwater and breakers, to red dust, and return to the Maroubra Beach and Bondi Beach connection

Like many of you, I love nature, open spaces and learning about the world we live in.

This is my true tale of an outback adventure facilitated by a chain of events, relationships, business, work / life balance elements and more.

Firstly, its’s great to be back on Sydney’s beaches, where I have a modest home office at Maroubra as well as a business base at Bondi. Yes, I am fortunate. In fact, in my line of business the world is my office, much like a police officer you could say. No, I’m not a copper, but rather a media agent and internet publisher, with a background in journalism and marketing, and I’ve been in biz for over a decade, with my fair share of ups and downs – mainly ups. I’ve a survivor and veteran of sorts in the media business, still rolling, years after many media businesses had shut their doors. Many people have asked me over the past few weeks… what brought you back to Sydney? The answer is a combination of things – the ocean, business, the entertainment and media business, and of course, good friends and family reasons. It feels so right to be back on the east coast. Thank you Bondi and thank you Bra (Maroubra).

Most of my life I have lived in beautiful places. Grew up at Newport Beach on the northern beaches of Sydney, a patch at Kurrajong in Sydney’s north west, moved to Maroubra Beach, then to Bondi Beach, out to Alice Springs in the red centre of Australia, and now back to Maroubra. No complaints at all about the beautiful places I have called home. Maroubra and Bondi rate big time.

It was 7 months ago when the time was right to check out Alice Springs, having lived at Maroubra Beach again for the lucky third time. The decision was not a rushed one… I was fairly fresh out of a relationship with a lovely woman, business was down considerably, and my favourite uncle had been telling me about ‘The Alice’ for years, having lived and worked there for over a decade. Bill had been training me on some software he’s involved in via TeamViewer, and the next step was to meet up in person and put the training into practice in a business sense. I accepted his business proposal re a technology project for a major transport company in the region, and a few weeks later I was assisting in the asset management for a major Australian transport and mining operation, where the balance sheet would often go up or down $100,000s on a daily basis.

Alice Springs is big, yet a small town, as it was described to me dozens of times. The population is in the 28,000 region, and appears to be shrinking on a weekly basis. Locals half joke that the place may resemble a ghost town in 5 or 10 years, unless there are some major positive changes on the way. NT unofficially stands for “Not Today, Not Tomorrow”, if you follow my lead. The locals got it right. You read about Ayers Rock and the healthy tourism sector, but what you might not know is that The Rock is 400kms + down the road, so that’s at least a whole day round trip if Uluru does it for you. Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman quietly snuck into town only days before I left the region, only to then trip out to Ayer Rock, which probably doesn’t need his star power and buzz factor as much as ‘The Rock’, but you can’t blame ‘Our Hugh’ for wanting to do the fly over Uluru.

You also may not read anywhere else that Todd Mall is very quite as a general rule, unless you are visiting the fortnightly markets. Todd Mall is pretty quiet most of the time, except once a fortnight when the markets are on. Some locals affectionately named Todd Mall ‘Todd Morgue’, since many times during the week the mall is pretty dead. There’s no other way to put it. You get the daily group of tourists going through, then there’s off, and it’s back to the usual eerie like quietness. The annual Alice Springs Show and Camel Cup was noticeably quieter this year than in previous ones, so I am told, but the shows were enjoyable none the less. The Lighting Festival certainly wasn’t quite, rather the contrary. It’s actually an AFL based festival that sees dozens of Australian Football League games played at Trager Park over a few weeks. What locals, tourists and local law enforcement also discovered was that a number of misguided youth brought some trouble to town with the festival, which resulted in a considerable amount of rock throwing at cars and general mischief making. Shop owners also expressed their feelings that the football festival also brought an increase in crime to the region. For some, the rock throwing and series of break-ins and dramas in town in that period was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they soon joined the masses that had been exiting the sometimes sleepy town once and for all. Don’t get me wrong, Alice Springs is beautiful, but it’s not for everyone. Most only stay in town for a few days, while some fall in love with the place and settle down for good. From personal experience I can relay that most media and entertainment types will not stay there for any great particular amount of time. Sydney and Melbourne are Australia’s hubs for those industries and its likely not going to chance for decades, if not hundreds of years. I do believe that road trains full of livestock and mineral resources will still pass through Alice Springs via the Stuart Highway in a hundred years, but I’m not sure what else. Think ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ meets Australia (the movie), which a strong slant to Baz Lurman’s flick, rather than George Miller’s production. I hope I’m not being too harsh, but the area is not exactly vibrant and thriving, rather the contrary.

Back to Sydney - I recently attended an impressive ‘Spotlight on Tourism’ business forum presented by Roy Morgan Research, and while it was educational, interesting and an outstanding snapshot of tourism in Australia, the numbers on report graphs do not tell the whole story of the economy or business health in Outback Australia, or that of the significant social issues. For that you have to meet the people and listen to business owners and operators, the social workers – you get the picture.

Something that was fairly surprising to me about Alice Springs was the relative ease that one could “get a job” (or a work project), if they wanted to. I was of course doing my work project for the transport firm, as well as keeping my media company going. On the encouragement of my uncle I had a good look at the business and work opportunities around town. Having knocked on about 200 doors and spent a week researching various jobs in the region via the internet I also scored myself a role as Advertising Executive for a major Australian newspaper in the area. So, a typical day entailed walking Red Dog (Bec) and Blue Dog (Hassy), suit up and pound the pavement (and sometimes red dust) hustling business for the newspaper, return to the home office, and then hit the computer for the transport company. Essentially, I was doing 3 jobs, however this was not truly reflected in their respective remuneration packages. Anyone who knows me well is aware of my strong work ethic, passion, drive and ethics in business. Within 3 weeks I believe that I signed up any business that was going to sign the dotted line. I also wrote up various news stories for the town, which most of them found a home on my own Media Man website in the ‘Heard It In The Alice’ section. This I had total control over, as opposed to having to go through the regular editorial process that occurs in a suburban newspaper, (such as this one you’re reading today).

A couple of the more interesting characters I met with in ‘The Alice’ would have to include Andrew Langford, a white (Caucasian) Didgeridoo performer who also runs the Stars Of Starlight Theatre in Todd Mall. I see Andrew as one who helps bridge the gap between white and black Australia, while performing the instrument he loves, while also telling stories of the dreamtime which were told to him via the elder Djalu Gurruwiwi in Arnham Land. Andrew’s currently looking for more gigs outside the Alice Springs region, as the current economic climate there is such that he has to explore performance opportunities outside his base in Todd Mall. Then there’s Thomas Mack who I affectionately nicknamed ‘Gumleaf Mafia”. Thomas grows and decorates businesses with plants and decorations. He also falls into the eco entrepreneur category. “Gumleaf” has recently returned to Bryon Bay (as far as we know, or he may have gone walkabout into the dreamtime). He is the latest in a long string of business folks who have completed their tree change, in return for a sea change. Power couple Lee “The Barber” and Sarah (tattoo artist and graphic artist) also returned to their native UK, but not before Sarah completed some impressive graphic art for The Alice Online – a side project of mine. Yes, I do enjoy some moderate business dealings with these above folks as you may have guessed.

Back to Sydney, and some of the positive experiences, differences and other observations I have made. Firstly, I don’t have a mild skin rash anymore from the harsh and dry climate in the NT, and don’t get me started on the hard water you endure while having a show outback. I literally was waking up in the middle of the night such was the power of the Alice Springs itch. Fortunately I discovered coconut cream and a range of Indigenous based heath and skin creams that settled my skin down eventually.

On a business level, there’s many more businesses in Bondi, Maroubra, and of course in Sydney as a whole, that have some budget for marketing, promotions, media, internet campaigns and the like. Promotions and advertising dollars are pretty thin in ‘The Alice’ and it was like trying to get blood out of a stone, with the other problem being that the giant “stone”, Ayres Rock, wasn’t even in Alice Springs. Many flights from Sydney and Melbourne go direct to ‘The Rock’, and don’t even stop at ‘The Alice’ these days. Sydney is noticeable faster paced than all of the NT. They don’t call them ‘Sydney City Slickers’ for no reason. I don’t like the increased in traffic, but I love the increase in the amount of switched on business people who are looking to do good business. It was also interesting to be told many Sydney based entertainers, celebrities and business folks that they are looking to move away from past media agents and promoters in Sydney, and that they are interested to come on board with myself. “Too much hype and not enough substance” has been a typical statement on a number of promoters and media types in Sydney. Looks like their loss may be my gain. It’s nice to be missed, in any event.

Some of my most recent positive dealings in Sydney have been with various Chamber of Commerce groups, as well as with media companies such as the one that owns this newspaper. Hey, it’s true so I’m saying it.

Chamber of Commerce organisations and tourism authorities are right on the ball in Sydney. All of my experiences with the likes of Bondi Chamber of Commerce, Maroubra Chamber of Commerce, South Sydney Business Chamber, Royal Morgan Research and Tourism Australia / Destination New South Wales have been nothing but positive. Even when I was still in ‘The Alice’ I contacted the Bondi Chamber and Amy returned my call, and was friendly, professional and glad that I had initiative the contact. Kudos to Karen and her team at South Sydney Business Chamber. Wonderful business networking event at AttracTivity Entertainment, based at Alexandria. Great folks, top games, a fun environment and delicious food. Look them up. Roy Morgan Research monthly business forums also continue to impress, and well done and thank you to Gary Morgan and Michele Levine who were receptive to my business and media ideas, as well as listening to some strange but true stories of my time in Australia’ outback. They were even up for photographs, whereas the NT Tourism big wigs clearly did not want me present in their meetings. They wouldn’t even take my $100 to become a proactive member. Sadly, while in Alice Springs, Tourism NT never got back to me, despite my numerous follow ups to them. NT Major Events appeared to have a serious lack of resources and / or desire to have contact with journalists and media types in the region. On the 3 occasions I called the major events company the suitable person was always “at lunch” or in the field. The office never returned the phone call or emails, so to me, it's little wonder that Alice Springs tourism and business is not doing so well. My documenting these issues in ‘The Alice’ probably won’t go down so well with the NT government, but hey, someone has to tell the truth. This is a lack of accountably and interest from many government types in the region to anything about the business issues there. Dozens of business owners and residents in the region confided in me and told me the real deal, which tells a bit of a different story that what you may read in a government issues press release – no surprises there. Some Alice Springs based folks told me that the region is ran by “Dyke Mafia” and “Lesbian Mafia” as well as “Man Haters”. Hey, they said it, not me. I’m just relaying the message to the masses via a suburban Sydney newspaper. Many of the tourism body heads in the NT were not receptive to the local business folks, be it media, retailers, tourism operators. There are big problems there across the board, and Roy Morgan or the famed National Broadband Network are not going to rid the deadwood and inherent problems rural Australia currently faces.

On the subject of politics, how can we not give a pat on the back to MP Malcolm Turnbull for catching public transport to say money while also helping maintain the public’s trust. “No Bull” Turnbull does not have quite the same affection towards helicopters or limo’s, as did the former speaker, BB. Accountably in local and state government – most welcome indeed. Still, I must thank NT Chief Minister Adam Giles for having the courtesy and gumption to meet and speak with me, rather than giving a stone wall treatment. MP Giles may not be Australia’s most popular politician at the moment, but at least he actually meets and speaks with members of the public and business community. Yes, MP Giles and some of his political team were out in force at The Alice Springs Camel Cup. As you would expect, it’s still open season on Australia’s politicians, whether they are based in the outback or in the capital cities. If MP Giles current leadership challenges continue for too long in the outback he may even like to follow my lead and trip over to the east coast for a sea change. Nothing like some new territory to campaign in MP Giles.
Before wrapping up, I want to especially thank the Bondi and Maroubra community for welcoming me back to the region with welcome arms. From the Bondi crowd to the boys (and girls) at ‘The Bra’ (Maroubra), you have been awesome. It’s also been wonderful to reconnect with the Sydney business community. I also want to publicly thank all of the nice and good people I met while I did Alice Springs. I almost miss the town, but I don’t really miss the very slow business place there. I sure miss Blue Dog and Red Dog at the trucking yard, but they have a dozen other owners who will feed and walk them, but perhaps not with quite the same love and attention I gave them. Those dog’s helped make each day much more enjoyable in the red centre than what it would have been otherwise. Still, now I have the ocean, seagulls and have been reunited with long-time friends and associates back in Sydney and I know it my heart that I made the right decision to return to the ocean.

I am also hopeful that my heartfelt and honest account of life and business either entertainers or even educates you – the reader. Writing it has been somewhat therapeutic, and can only be topped by spending time with an ocean goddess or a surf and beers with the local crew.

If the powers that be ever do a remake of the iconic movie ‘A Town Like Alice’ I think I may have a yarn or two to contribute. Likewise, I’m also prepared to share some more of my experiences with tourism and business forums who are willing to listen to someone who has been at the coalface and in the trenches of Alice Springs and Northern Territory business, as well as making waves from time to time up and down the east coast of Australia and beyond.

Highlights so far after my return to Sydney’s eastern beaches:

Catching up with everyone, of course

Coffee at Speedo’s, Bondi Beach, Chalk Espresso Bar (sporting some great new artwork by Sarah) and Zebra Cafes, Maroubra Beach, BB’s and Morningshot Espresso.

Beach Breaks Carnival at Maroubra Beach

And They’re Racing AJC exhibit at Bowen Library, Maroubra Junction (still running)

Freezing swims at Maroubra and Bondi Beach

Heated pool swims at Easts and Maroubra Seals

Bondi Markets

Seeing thousands of prosperous businesses in the area

Reconnecting with Bondi Chamber of Commerce, South Sydney Business Chamber, Maroubra Chamber of Commerce and Roy Morgan Research

Knowing that on any given night there are dozens of events to attend

… and even dealing with local newspaper editors and journalists. I missed you, I really did as they say at The Oscars)

*the writer is the director of Media Man and Greg Tingle Promotions



Bondi Icebergs

Bondi Chamber of Commerce

North Maroubra Surf Riders


Australian Securities Exchange

South Sydney Business Chamber


Roy Morgan Research - Future Of Business Tourism

Coogee Pavilion

Beach Breaks Festival, Maroubra Beach


Maroubra Beach community


with Andrew Langford, The Didgerdoo Show Outback



Hiking the MacDonald Ranges


Mounted Police, Alice Springs


with Adam Giles, Northern Territory Chief Minister


ABC Radio, Alice Springs Show


Alice Springs Inland Raceway


with Thomas Mack, eco entrepreneur and organic food farmer


with Alice Springs Showgirl winner


Lasseters Hotel and Casino - Alice Springs Health Club

CEO SleepOut, Alice Springs


Red Hot Arts Centre, Alice Springs


Australian Blue cattledog, Hassey


Walking Hassey and Bec



Hiking above Ellery Creek Big Hole


with Indigenous Australian artists, Todd Mall, Alice Springs


R.M. Williams themed semi trailer - mobile retail outlet