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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

After Yasi Blog Tour - Finding the Smile with June Perkins

Living in a land which boasts as many natural disasters as natural wonders, can result in the worst of times and perversely, the best of times. Ex-resident of Far North Queensland's Cassowary Coast, June Perkins, is no stranger to both phenomena.

Cyclones are not uncommon in this neck of the rainforest however how their impact affects the lives and livelihoods of those in their wake varies as violently as their magnitude. In After Yasi - Finding the Smile Within, a deeply absorbing collage of images, anecdotes and post-Yasi survivor profiles, Perkins captures the very essence, the profound spirit of recovery.

After Yasi distills the stubborn tenacity and resilience of neighbours and friends, loved ones and indeed the entire community into a stirring visual tribute of them struggling to regain normality after an acutely abnormal interruption to their lives.

Instead of being a somber exposition of loss and destruction, After Yasi allows hope to permeate through every page thanks to the simple, heart-felt recollections of those who survived it first hand and Perkin's unerring ability to capture offbeat and spiritual moments on film.

Today we discover more about the lady behind the radiant smile and how she crafted this beautiful tale of resilience.

Welcome to Dim's Write Stuff June.


Who is June Perkins? Describe your artistic self.

I’d describe myself as optimistic, searching, caring about community and family, working across genres and open to creative experimentation.

After Yasi centres on the journey of recovery post a traumatic event. Why was it important for you to capture and record this journey?

It was a way of contributing to the wider community recovery using creative, emotional and imaginative resources I already used in everyday life but that I could put at the service of others.

You write from the heart in an appreciably fluid and honest way. What motivated you to produce After Yasi in this format?

I wanted to capture the event and process of recovering afterwards in a way that led you into the situation of after the cyclone gently and subtly, even though the reality of it was physically, socially and economically traumatic for people.  It was important to cover it in a way that wasn’t the same as newspaper or historical  society type coverage but was more about how people’s hearts are affected and healed after such an event.

I wanted to use an e-format to make if affordable to view the colour photographs and encourage people to look at the online blogs, and films as well as experience that text and images of the book.

What message are you trying to convey?

That the recovery from trauma can be enhanced in so many ways but the artist/writer/musician can play a unique role in that process.  Everyone has their own way of recovering and growing from an experience like this too and I wanted to capture that diversity – so gardening and sport are in there too.  Individuals and communities can create initiatives that make a difference to people going through recovery and these can draw on their own unique talents.

I have been particularly moved by a friend Melinda who has gone onto help others in Philippines, (using music and her other talents with business mentoring) who have been through cyclones and me and others from that area want to find ways to assist with or collaborate with her as she does this work.

What do you enjoy more, capturing visual and emotional moments on film or in stories with words?

In the process of After Yasi I developed a great love for short documentary and would like to pursue this more in the future.  I still love writing but film is a very powerful medium because people forward speak for themselves.  I am amazed at how accessible this form is, with the rise of digital SLRs which also capture video and cheap editing programs.  

The desire to make a film can make it happen once you have a few basic skills, and ABC Open helped me a lot with gaining confidence to just go for it.  It’s not about having expensive equipment it’s about respecting  and understanding your subject and making sure you collect your sound and visuals well enough that someone can watch it and become engaged in the story you discover.

I loved making the short film with Pam and Joe Galeano as I could capture their personality quite differently to a paper account.  

They were both so relaxed and natural as they shared their stories of the same cyclone night.  I screened portions of this film at a presentation at the Queensland Museum and it was cool hearing people laugh because the relationship with Pam and Joe came through so strongly in the piece.  He was trying to look after the farm and she just wanted him to be safe.  I edited them speaking the same event alternating and it was actually quite humorous, even though the event was quite heavy.

You yourself have recently relocated from FNQ. Do you ever picture yourself returning? Why so or why not?

I would definitely return to visit people or undertake some sort of creative project but am not sure I would return there to live.  Part of that is the climate doesn’t completely suit an ongoing chronic health condition I have.

We’d been thinking about leaving before the cyclone for my children’s opportunities to study in the city and because I was finding it hard to secure regular work but we ended up staying to assist in the recovery process.  My husband was a local school teacher very concerned for the well- being of his students doing year 12 in the year the cyclone struck.  He didn’t want us just to abandon ship, leave and get on with our lives in another place.  

Many people simply couldn’t stay after the cyclone, and leaving worked well for them but I am glad we stayed though as we had people who knew what we had been through all around us and we could support each other in the recovery process.  I think we may have been even more traumatised had we moved away and not seen the community in a much happier place.

What remains in our hearts always is the strong sense of community.  Since we left we have had visitors from the area catch up with us in our new home.  They are now family.

The After Yasi story is a balanced narrative told mostly through the observations and recollections of those affected directly by it. Was it difficult for you and them to relive their ordeal, or was it more of a cathartic experience for all concerned?

I began with interviewing people I knew quite well, and gradually that became people I didn’t know very well or at all.  I didn’t specifically ask them to relive their ordeal, but more to tell me about the photograph that I captured them in.  This was usually a community recovery event like a concert or clearing their yard with a chainsaw -all proactive attempts to get on with life.

Out of cyclone rubbish, I made an anchor ~ Christine Jenkins
The photographic trigger was helpful in unlocking a positive experience amidst all the uncertainty in the years after the cyclone.  Interestingly some wanted to write or talk about the cyclone and did find it cathartic.  My family found the experience of working with ABC Open to tell our our story on film was cathartic.  

I particularly enjoyed interviewing my youngest son, who was keen to have his own digital story of what we went through during the cyclone, that will be a precious family keepsake.

Has Yasi heightened your fear of cyclones and natural disasters or reinforced your ability to deal with whatever life throws at you?

The biggest thing cyclone Yasi did for me was to teach me you just have to go for it in life and live your dreams, care about others and never ever give up if you have to make a change.  Good things will nearly always come out of challenges if you are determined.  In my case it was developing online stories and films for ABC Open and making many close friends I might never have had.

I certainly feel compassion for anyone in the world when I hear of cyclone warnings know the potentialities of what can happen. But I’ve learnt whilst you can’t always control if a natural disaster will come your way you can control how you respond to it.  

I might not now live near a cyclone area, but the Brisbane storms can get pretty interesting.  I had some friends say to me after the last severe one (their house and whole suburb was extensively damaged and they were out driving in it to get home.) .‘Wow we just had a small taste of what you went through.  Now we think we really understand.’  I felt pretty calm through it all as it wasn’t as scary as the cyclone we had been through, but was a bit concerned as my son and his Dad were trying to get home from cricket training.

They have a copy of my book and have read it and many of my online works. – I hope my book made it a lot easier for them as it mostly covers the time after you have been through something like this. 
There are many in the world still recovering decades after events, as the tsunami ten years on accounts show, and they went through far more than the people of the Cassowary Coast.  Yet, even out of this disaster have come some amazingly optimistic and inspiring stories, such as some orphans of that event now doing work to fund orphanages in tribute to the locals who helped them find their way home.  Having a hope and strength but also being allowed to grieve what you lost is important in all recovery from trauma.


After Yasi, what’s next for June?

I’d like keep telling stories through film, photography and writing.  I am looking for stories that pull at my heart strings and motivate me and others to become even more caring to others.  I’d like to become better and better at this by working on the crafts and meeting some people who live these stories. I might even take some courses to learn more about sound editing and production.
I am interested in writing and creating things for a children and young adults audience and am working on these skills as well.

Now more than anything I’d like to gain or create regular work or that can not only help me contribute to society but to my family’s economic well-being (and pay for an insurance policy).  It’s important to look after your own family as well as the community and not do one thing at the expense of another.

Wise words. Thanks June for your beautifully considered insights. I for one look forward to reading and viewing more of your work. If you feel the same way, stick around for the rest of the After Yasi tour. Have you endured a traumatic event and emerged a more resilient person because of it? We'd love to hear your story, please leave a comment or two.

Best comments for each blog will be given special prizes, either a free copy of the ebook or a choice of a signed print of one of the photographs from the book.


The After Yasi Blog Tour includes visits to:

January 27  (Tuesday) Karen Tyrrell http://www.karentyrrell.com/
January 28 (Wednesday) Dimity Powell – interview /http://dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/
January 29 (Thursday) Charmaine Clancy http://charmaineclancy.com/
January 29 (Friday) Michele DeCosta  https://micheledacosta.wordpress.com/
Jan 30 Jedda Bradley– interview https://www.facebook.com/jeddabradleyartist
Jan 31 (Saturday) Carol Campbell http://writersdream9.wordpress.com
Jan 31 (Saturday) Gail Kavanagh  (review) http://gailkavanagh.com/blog/
Feb 1 (Sunday)Owen Allen Place Stories http://owen59.wordpress.com/
Feb 2  Ali Stegert (Monday)  http://ali-stegert.com/
Feb 3 (Tuesday) ABC Open (to be confirmed) http://open.abc.net.au
Feb 3   Melinda Irvine (interview) http://businessonblue.com.au/
Feb 4 (Wed) wrap up and thankyou blog from June https://pearlz.wordpress.com



You can find sample pages of the ebook here:
And purchase the book here:
Feel most welcome to attend from wherever you are in the world, the online launch February 3rd
See the facebook page: The Launch Link: 

11 comments:

Matilda Elliot said...

What an insightful and compassionate person you are June! Reading this interview allows us to share in your very personal journey in a unique way, just as After Yasi does. Great questions and very considered responses that should be inspirational to all. Cheers, Matilda.

DimbutNice said...

Hi Matilda, thank you kindly for popping in and reading June's interview. She is a delight to speak with and a pleasure to interview. I gained much from reading her book as well. Cheers Dimity

Ali said...

Such an interesting lady! I am inspired by her calm, creative ways! Thanks, Dimity for this great read.

DimbutNice said...

G'day Ali, you're very welcome. You've summed June up in one. :-)

Carol Campbell said...

This was an in depth interview which more fully introduced us to June. She has little snippets about herself in the book but I feel that I know her even better now!! Nice to meet both of you here and in this way!

Karen Tyrrell said...

Congrats June, in the launch Of After Yasi.
Just loved reading your insightful interview here.
And getting to understand what drives you.
Thanks Dimity...
Cheers,
Karen :)

DimbutNice said...

Lovely to hear from you also Carol. Thanks for your comment. You are right; it is always revealing and refreshing learning more about a person we admire.

DimbutNice said...

Ta muchly for popping by Karen. Great tour so far isn't it? :-D

June Perkins said...

Thanks Matilda, Carol, Ali, Karen, for taking the time to visit Dimity's interview. There are so many ways we can use writing and art to be of service to others and for our own healing. I love that so many poets and children's authors have an agenda that goes well beyond 'making a living' and is part of their process of being in the world. Of course I love reading best seller too, but there are many ways to contribute to community through our writing.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great interview Dim! And congrats on your book release June, enjoying seeing your posts pop up everywhere :)

DimbutNice said...

Cheers Charmaine. As you know, June is a gem to know and talk with. This was a truly pleasurable experience. Feels a long way since my first goulish interview with you hey? :-P