I wish to respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Dandenong Ranges, the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation and their Elders past and present. I recognise their deep relationship with the land that continues today, and I respect their cultural heritage and beliefs.

Hi, I'm Gareth

I grew up in the Dandenong Ranges, also known as ‘The Hills’ and ‘The Dandenongs’. As kids, my friends and I spent our spare time exploring the neighbourhood, searching for fun, wild food and adventure. Every year, we picked chestnuts to sell at the entrance to Sherbrooke Forest, near Belgrave. Autumn was an exciting time of the year when the chestnuts were ripe. We loved the thrill of picking those shiny brown nuggets!

Gareth Vanderhope Junior Fiction Author Standing in dry grass at Sherbrooke Forest

Below is a photo of my friend Marcus and I weighing and bagging our freshly picked chestnuts.

Kids weighing and bagging chestnuts approx 1979

In my late teens, I started recording nature sounds and was fascinated by the music that emanated from the Australian landscape. 

Through a love of sound, film-making and storytelling, an opportunity arose to work at a sound post-production studio in Melbourne called Soundfirm. My first big task was to catalogue the sound library. Imagine a room filled from floor to ceiling with reel-to-reel tapes containing every sound imaginable from films such as Mad Max, Strictly Ballroom and Young Einstein. There were even punch effects from Raiders of the Lost Ark! Sorting through the sounds was like discovering lost treasure. I remember one time I threw a tape away because it contained nothing but hiss. I realised later it was the valuabe sound of an empty room. Whoops! Who would have thought there was such a thing?

Between 1989 to 2002, I worked on over 38 feature films, including Lorenzo’s Oil, Shine, Babe 1 & 2, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, The Dish, Dark City and The Quiet American. I was lucky enough to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for the films Shine and Moulin Rouge and an Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Shine.

In 2002, I embarked on a big adventure to Northern NSW to study natural medicine at Southern Cross University, followed by a masters degree in nutrition and dietetics, majoring in public health nutrition at Griffith University. Over the past ten years, I’ve worked in many areas, including Indigenous health promotion, integrative family practice, drug rehabilitation and tertiary education.

There’s tremendous value in holistic approaches to health, where traditional knowledge and the social and physical sciences work together to inform safe and effective practice. Our health is not only shaped by our personal choices, but also by the physical, cultural, social and political circumstances of our lives.

Writing and illustrating The Hills Kids was a labour of love, created to share childhood memories of growing up in The Dandenong Ranges., where truth was stranger than fiction.
 
The book places the reader front and centre in the action, in a timeless space, with hints of the 70s and 80s. Through humour, action and thrilling drama, the story explores how the environment and community shape children’s health and behaviour. Above all, The Hills Kids is crafted to entertain young readers. It’s a laugh-out-loud menagerie of madness that fosters empathy, compassion and reflection.
 
It’s clear that reading is life-enhancing for kids and families. Research confirms that reading for pleasure improves creative thinking, emotional intelligence, concentration, empathy, literacy, vocabulary and numeracy.
 
This junior fiction adventure novel for kids aged 8 to 12 aims to inspire children to read, create and explore. Adults may also enjoy the story by revisiting childhood through the imaginary world of The Hills Kids.

View of The Patch from a high spot in Kallista, the Dandenong Ranges, Australia