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 — a place also known as ‘The Hills’ and ‘The Dandenongs’. As kids, my friends and I spent most of our spare time exploring the neighbourhood in search of fun, wild food and adventure. Every year, we picked chestnuts to sell at the entrance to Sherbrooke Forest, near Belgrave. I always looked forward to autumn, when the chestnuts were ripe, and loved the excitement of picking the shiny brown nuggets! 

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

This 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 recorded bird songs and other sounds of nature and was fascinated by the music that emanated from the Australian landscape. 

My love of sound, film-making and storytelling led me to a job working 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, Young Einstein and 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 useful sound of an empty room. Whoops! Who would have thought there was such a thing? 

As I gained more experience, I created environmental soundscapes and worked on film soundtracks. I discovered that sound was a powerful tool for storytelling. Not only could it provide story cues, like footsteps of a person approaching, it could also affect the rhythm and style of the film, increase the realism and sense of depth within the images, shift the audience’s focus of attention, and most importantly, influence people’s emotions.

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.

Bright Red Crimson Rosella Zooming Through the Sky

In 2002, I embarked on my next big adventure by packing my bag and heading to Northern NSW to study natural medicine at Southern Cross University. I also completed 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, tertiary education and clinical supervision. I’ve also written a course in health promotion that I have taught over the past four years.  

I value holistic approaches to health, where traditional knowledge and the social and physical sciences work together to inform safe and effective practice. In accord with health promotion principles, I believe that prevention is better than a cure. Our health is not only shaped by our personal choices, but also by the physical, cultural, social and political circumstances of our lives.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN MY STORY

I’ve had a life-long ambition to produce and direct films. Three years ago it seemed like becoming a film-maker was a fantasy. Life was too hectic, the challenges too great. Just when I thought my dream was slipping away, I got home from work late one cold winter’s night. I was exhausted and spiritually distressed. I needed to find a way to bridge my creative past with my present life, while still being able to pay the bills. Then it dawned on me: I don’t need expensive film crews, big budgets or fancy equipment worth millions of dollars — all I need is a pen and paper. Words can stimulate the imagination to create anything, and I can write anywhere, anytime! 

From that moment, I’ve written almost every day. And three or so years later, here I am about to complete my first children’s novel. I’m excited about this book because it has enabled me to create a world of adventure, fun, comedy and mystery for kids to enjoy. The world of a child’s imagination is the most incredible place.

As a parent, I’m concerned that too much screen time may be limiting our children’s creative and intellectual powers. Kids need to exercise their imagination for optimal brain development. Reading for pleasure improves creative thinking, emotional intelligence, literacy, vocabulary and numeracy.

My upcoming children’s adventure novel is designed to stimulate the imagination by using key words that trigger images, atmospheres, sounds, smells, textures and sensations.

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