I grew up in the South West of Western Australia in a farming community of around 4000 people. Located in wheat, sheep and now canola country with the main industry being the export abattoir. My father was managing the local newspaper and the print shop, which at that time was still using antique lead set printers. I used to play in the scraps of remaining bush and in creeks of the area. We traveled on winter Sundays to regional football games where I played and wandered in other towns’ scraps of bushland. I also used to play in my grandfathers shed and scrap yard where he produced functional, if not aesthetically pleasing tools, trailers and other “stuff”.
I saw there was little opportunity in my hometown and left for Perth as soon as I finished high school where I completed a Certificate in Art and Design and then 2 years of a sign writing apprenticeship. I worked in various sign factories, learning industrial painting and printing processes, plastic fabrication, shop fitting and sign manufacture.
A rainbow of pollutants washed down the drain and labels reading “This product causes cancer in laboratory animals” made me aware of the extreme toxicity and waste of the sign manufacture process. We worked for large shopping malls and property developers and I learned the basics of how these industries worked by creating an illusion of perfect to lull people to buy stuff they don’t want or need. Expensive signs and shop installations that are still in new condition are replaced in five year cycles under Shopping Mall contracts to maintain this perfect space, resulting in the consumption of large amounts of resources, chemicals and landfill.
Vast areas of very diverse and unique Perth ecosystems are converted to large block suburbia rapidly, with no thought to community, transport, or the rich natural environments. We were installing billboards featuring cute animals to sell land that only months earlier was where these (now dead) animals lived. The profit margins on coastal property has led development to wipe out most of Perth’s amazing coastal ecosystems.
During this period I lived in share houses amongst a great community of artists and designers. We did not have televisions and I spent most of my spare time painting, sculpting and reading books. I was more interested in the design rather than the manufacturing of signs which are designed by graphic designers and ad agencies, not by signwriters. I quit my apprenticeship to study graphic design and multimedia at the Western Australian School of Art Design and Media (WASDM) while continuing to work in the sign production industry. WASDM is a great melting pot of graphic design, industrial design, film, multimedia, fashion and fine art.
The campus included an amazing well stocked library of art and design books and I also began reading many psychology and marketing books. Research in this area taught me lessons on how my brain can work to focus in certain areas such as creativity, as well as influence others.
After completing my Diploma of Graphic Design and Multimedia, I partnered with Daniel Florido to create websites under our company Dvize Creative. My sales and business skills were primitive and the market in Perth at the time favored large design companies, so we made some great websites but did not eat very well. After a year, I moved to Melbourne where the commercial design industry is more dynamic and utilises freelancers and small studios.
In Melbourne, I started freelancing commercially and began getting involved in activism and community projects. I was learning more from the community projects because our projects had a shortage of skills which forced me to learn more aspects of campaigning and producing marketing materials including the technical aspects of website development. I am able to experiment and push more boundaries with design, technology and social media with community projects than I can with conservative clients who are paying by the hour. I was working on marketing strategy and advertising for commercial brands and products while also applying these skills for political/environmental campaigns and events.
I started the project FutureAustralia in 2000 that became Australia’s largest directory of positive social change websites. I was also working with various community web, IT and media collectives, learning about group collaboration and digital politics, which deepened my understanding of information control for power and the information freedom movement.
In 2002 I moved to the UK, where we worked in sales, staying in various towns in the UK and Ireland for a few weeks at a time, while also traveling and visiting as many museums, art galleries, castles and culture as possible in Western Europe. Recently I was also fortunate to travel in Latin America, allowing us to experience a greater depth of their art, culture, history and politics.
After returning to Melbourne from Europe, I freelanced for under Dvize before I joined with Dan Atkins who was starting up a corporate consultancy called Sustainable Business Practices (later rebranded to be Business Shaper). Working with Dan allowed me to learn a lot about the general corporate business community as well as being involved in the massive international movement attempting to influence business to change for the better.
This brings the story up to about 2008. Yes I have to do an update.