Mark Hughes- A foundation of Support

There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

It’s a sunny August morning in Hamilton and we’ve stopped in to catch up with Mark Hughes.

We have a chat about beanies, gratitude, the Kokoda trail and a magic ball.

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There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

Mark grew up in the town of Kurri Kurri before moving to Newcastle to play for the Knights. He now resides in the beachside community of Merewether with his wife Kiralee and their 3 children.

“I love living in Newcastle,” Mark says. “It really does have that big community feel.”

Mark played for the Newcastle Knights from 1997 until 2005, and played for the NSW State of Origin team in 2001, thus making Mark a celebrated Novocastrian.

After seeing a doctor about recurring headaches, in 2013 at the age of 36, Mark was diagnosed with brain cancer. An emotional journey that brought his family and community close together, banding for support.

Mark and Kiralee subsequently began the Mark Hughes Foundation. The foundation partners with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), raising funds to help find a cure for brain cancer. In January 2016  The Foundation appointed a Brain Cancer Care Nurse within the John Hunter Hospital.

“The Brain Cancer Care Nurse is focused 100% on the brain cancer patients at John Hunter Hospital,” Mark informs us. “A great support for patients to have a nurse that is committed to their condition.”

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The Foundation has raised over $250,000 through the MHF Beanies for Brain Cancer fundraiser, hosted the Magic Ball with over 600 local participants, organised charity auctions, received donations from numerous local families and businesses and has even had Paul “The Chief” Harrigan going on the national TV program Im A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to win $50,000 for the cause.

The response from the community is a massive source of inspiration for Mark, Kiralee and the MHF who work tirelessly to offer support for brain cancer patients and their families.

Sitting on the sunny deck of Mark’s Hamilton office, we talk about the importance of the foundation, “Our biggest goal of course is to find a cure – but we are also aiming for more awareness of brain cancer,” Mark says. “Brain cancer is the biggest killer of people under 40 – more than any other cancer – and we need more attention to this in the media and more funding for research.”

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Mark and 17 others recently completed a Kokoda Trail “Coast to Coast” challenge: riding 130kms from the Northern tip of Papua New Guinea to the track, trekking the 100km trail and then riding another 70kms to Port Moresby.

“It was physically and emotionally challenging – yeah it was hard,” said Mark, “but I was also inspired to be with those 17 others and raising $150,000 for the foundation.”

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Mark Huges on the Kokoda Trail. Picture by James Brickwood for Fairfax.

Since beginning his journey with brain cancer, the overwhelming story of support for Mark and the Foundation is what really stands out.

The Newcastle community, and national community too, reaching out with assistance and funding.

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Here at Villager Property, Mark’s foundation is very important to us, especially for our Villager Rod, who donates $500 from every sale commission (currently totalling $3,000) to MHF in honour of his nephew, a young brain cancer survivor.

“We have great support from the community,” Mark tells us, “and I do tackle every day as it comes – but I am very lucky and I am very grateful.”

www.villagerproperty.com.au

Surf & Certainty

While surfing has always been a big part of life for Bede, so has his connection to people.

From friendships to teaching, and now volunteering, which is one of his biggest missions.

“Do you like children?” Asked a Career’s Advisor.

“Take them or leave them. Preferably leave them,” answered Bede.

While a morning surf at Caves Beach every day was a certainty, an RSI injury 6 weeks out from completing his trade in Carpentry, left a 22 year old Bede Thoroughgood with a lack of direction. 

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With some slight persuasion, Bede was showing up for his first shift at the local preschool.

A day full of engaging, supporting and encouraging 3 – 5 year olds.

A massive shift in direction. 

And he loved it.

Although only rostered on for 3 days a week, Bede found himself turning up daily.

“I just loved it. If the surf was no good, I’d be back to help out at the preschool.”

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It wasn’t long before Bede was studying for his Teachers degree. In the first 12 months he received the Ralph Basden High Achiever Award.

“I’d never been really academic,” Bede tells us, “But when you find something you love, it all becomes so natural.”

During his degree, an emotional trip to the Stockton Centre would again change the path Bede was travelling. A passion for teaching students with disabilities emerged. 

Bede has been a commited teacher for local children with disabilities ever since. 

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Villager Ben met Bede and his wife Bronwyn when they moved to Newcastle, helping them to find the perfect home to raise their 5 children and also with their investment property portfolio. 

“Growing up in Valentine I never thought I’d be a town clown”, but i couldn’t have hoped for a better place to live and raise our family. I love living in Hamilton –
wild horses couldn’t drag me away”

Many years after his property purchases, a great friendship continues between Ben and Bede. The pair surf together regularly and Ben’s 2 daughters think Bede’s Donald Duck impersonation is world-class comedy. 

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While surfing has always been a big part of life for Bede, so has his connection to people. 

From friendships to teaching, and now volunteering, which is one of his biggest missions. 

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And just like in his career, life steered him in this direction.

In 1992, as a glass of water slipped out Bede’s left hand, he spun his right hand around and caught the glass but in the process twisted his spine, resulting in a prolapsed disk which left him partially paralysed from the waist down.

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“The first thing I asked the Doctor was when I could surf again. “You’re joking right? Was all he said to me.” 

Through a long period of rehabilitation, getting back in the water reamined Bede’s goal.

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This twist of body, became twist of fate as he found himself involved with the Disabled Surfers. 

“They needed volunteers and while my back wasn’t yet fully recovered to be lifting right out of the waves – there was plenty for me to do.”

Disabled Surfers has around 200 volunteers and are always looking for more – from surfers to cooks, supervisors and helpers. 

“I understand how incredible a day in the surf is, for both mind and body, when you are feeling constrained.”

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Bede completed his training at Blacksmiths Beach in 2010 and by 2013 became the Hunter President of the Disabled Surfers Association.

“It’s great to spend the day helping kids with disabilities have a surf, while the whole family spend a day at the beach together – something that without volunteers, is near impossible for some families to do” 


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“Volunteering gives you the opportunity to lose yourself and you become a better person in the process,” Bede says. 


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“Yes, I’m passionate about it, but I do get paid. I get paid in smiles.”

Now his mission within the association is building a bigger and better future, with more volunteers and traveling events to places like Stockton Beach and Fingal Bay. 

A testament to committing to your passion and finding a way to live it. 

“I said to my son recently,” Bede recalls, “If you are getting up in the morning and doing what you do because you love it, then you’ll always have work.” 

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To find out more living a life you love in Newcastle, contact Villager Property.

An Adventure in Apothecary

A journey through this establishment takes you from drinks that taste like life in a glass, to food in bowls that feel like a hug from Nanna.

Villager often grab lunch at Apothecary Kitchen on Tudor Street.

BTW it’s a cafe – not a compound chemist.

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People walk in and around this Hamilton Cafe like you casually walk around your own home.

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Most give a smile and nod to Ben, the owner.

“Hi Ben – a few packages today,” calls the Postie.

“Morning Ben,” says a local, stopping by for her porridge.

“Hey Ben!” Call 2 small children and their baby-wearing mum as they come in to collect the weekly compost bin from the kitchen.

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Originally from Perth, Ben came to Newcastle with his partner Kate many years ago,and have since become much loved locals.

Ben and Kate raise five children in the family friendly community of Hamilton.

 Ben founded the ever-growing Hamilton Running Dads group which has competed in many local events and serves to be a community for like minded local fathers.

Their lucky kids, along with Ben and Kate, are up early every Sunday morning – crates in hand – to pick the weekly stock from the Newcastle Farmers Markets.

“I think it’s really important to support the locals and to know where our produce comes from.”

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Loves local?  Yep. Locally loved? Definitely.

Working his way through a tourism degree at a local establishment, it was in hospitality that Ben found the opportunity to reach people, create things and design a life that was authentic to him.

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Being a father of a busy family, he is passionate about the importance of healthy, affordable meals.

But being Ben, the cafe has a twist – which is where the “Apothecary” comes in.

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Originally, local apothecaries’ concoctions of herbal remedies were sought for medicinal help, a precursor to the modern science of pharmacology.

But with the power of food and nourishment, Ben is taking the name “Apothecary” back -right here in Newcastle.

Ben’s kitchen creates magic food.
Healing food.

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Food that is alive.

Lactococcus lactose and Leuconostoc mesenteroides cultures are the centre of our kitchen,” he tells us.

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A journey through this establishment takes you from drinks that taste like life in a glass, to food in bowls that feel like a hug from Nanna.

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Bubbling Kombucha made from a huge gut loving 4 year old scoby, is flavoured with lemon myrtle this week but the next batch will be whatever seasonal produce Ben has invested in.

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Bens custom Ginger beer and Kombucha dispensery

The homemade ginger beer, that bursts with sweet earthy comforts, comes from a ginger ferment made right in the shop.

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Housemade Ginger Beer Ferment

The yoghurt that adorns the oats for breakfast is cultured from the “waste milk” from the previous days coffee froths.

The compost is collected weekly for a local community garden.

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Vegetarian curry

The left over buttermilk from the creme fraiche goes into the next days vegetarian curry.

A symbiotic harmony.

Experiments being tinkered here, boundaries being pushed there.

An  Apothecary Adventure.

To find out more about local life in Hamilton and Newcastle, visit Villager Property to start living the life you love.

A Culture to Create In…

“There are no guarantees – with art, life, business – none. But that consistently pushes me to get to the next step”

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It’s no secret that Newcastle is a hyper-creative community: take a walk around our own Darby Street from our eagle’s nest at the Newcastle Art Gallery to the public art installations along the street (including the giant headphone sculpture), all the way to the Community Garden across the road from Villager Property A scene full of painting and design.

Villager caught up with local artist Jess Kellar to talk all things Newcastle art scene.

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Jess runs Jess Kellar Art from studio  754 in Hunter Street. A large warehouse where a community of Newcastle creatives can each work their respective magic.

“The best thing about our studio,” says Jess, “is the view from the rooftop, where I am most of the time, working on my latest projects.”

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Local girl Jess has always had a passion for creating and feels lucky to be a Novocastrian where such a passion could be nurtured.

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She has had shows at Cooks Hill Gallery, exhibited at Lane Cove Gallery, The Royal, Muswellbrook Art Prize and recently performed and collaborated with Hannah Bertram at Newcastle Art Gallery for the 2016 Dust Project.

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“Newcastle is a vibrant community for artists,” Jess tells us. “There are a lot of creatives here: from musicians to designers, architects and artists. We are all in a very supportive and understanding space where we all just give it a go.”

Through writing for the Newcastle Herald, Jess has been able to work closely with many musicians in Newcastle. She is also the resident “live artist” for Groovin’ The Moo.

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Jess has worked with Arts Health for MS patients holding workshops and has also branched into “bio-art”, spending time with scientists at HMRI and producing collections from this experience which hung in the hallways of John Hunter Hospital.

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Jess’s style is high energy. When painting she uses strong rich colour and high contrast. In her sketches of Newcastle, the deep charcoals contrast with pure whites.

“Neutral isn’t my specialty,” she laughs.

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While already quite accomplished, Jess is finishing her Bachelor of Fine Art at Newcastle University and was recently the recipient of the 2016 William Fletcher Foundation Scholarship.

And in the true spirit of a Villager in our community she pays this forward by mentoring High School students in many of Newcastle’s public schools.

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“There are no guarantees with art, life, business. None. But that consistently pushes me to get to the next step.”

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The next step for Jess, working from her studio at 754, is to follow her passion in sketching and interpreting the city of Newcastle. The Rooftop Series is a timely project for the city and we are super excited to see the completed works.

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To learn more about living in the creative community of Newcastle – contact Villager Property

 

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Little Cravings

Eric feels Carrington is a destination. Just outside the city – its edgy – in more ways than one.

As you wander down Young Street in Carrington, the funky sounds and irresistible smells coming from the colourful restaurant at Antojitos almost levitate your body and carry you over to the menu. Homemade tortillas and salsa, tasty simple food.
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Eric Flores had always thought about starting his own business, and he knew it would somehow involve food.

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With a background in commercial real estate, he has helped numerous others begin their own journey as business owners, and his own is now flourishing.
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Eric grew up in California where he was emerged in Mexican street food culture. Mexican food is simple food. It’s not fancy, just good.
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It was at the California Polytechnic State University where Eric met Newcastle girl, Kristy.
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Kristy had moved to California on a Basketball scholarship. She would soon become his wife.
The pair came back to Australia and have since made Newcastle their home, with their growing family in tow.
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Its here that the dream of owning their own establishment has become a reality – With Antojitos.
Antojitos literally means “little cravings” and is Mexican slang for street food.
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Why Carrington?
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Eric feels Carrington is a destination. Just outside the city – its edgy – in more ways than one.
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Antojitos clients always so they feel so relaxed, and thats what Eric wants here.

A simple, casual , non-pretentious vibe and its this atmosphere struck a chord with the locals.

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There is a place for cafes here in Newcastle and surrounds to stretch the boundaries.
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But the all important Question for the Villagers was this; how do we pronounce it?!

Eric laughs “An-To-He-Toes”
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However you want to pronounce it, this funky little place in Young street is a wonderful addition to the Carrinton landscape.
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Eric thanks the community which has been so supportive, The locals really want to see people succeed here.
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And just a hot tip… next time your in town – do yourself a favour and order the Mexican Hot Chocolate.  DELICIOSO!
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