Anya Brock

Inspiring Exports

Last Updated: 17 Dec 2014
Sophie Raynor

West Aussies making waves here and overseas


Having conquered the streets of Perth, Anya Brock's striking, geometric animal murals have made their way across the Nullarbor to take the streets of Sydney by storm.
If you've wandered the streets of Bondi lately, you would be hard-pressed to overlook Anya's depictions of zebras, flamingos and girls' faces.

Since opening a Sydney fashion store last year, her work has featured in the streetscape and in bars and boutiques. And she says the busier she gets, the more selective she can be. "I feel pretty happy about not having to just take anything, which a lot of people feel they have to do," she says. "It's quite a luxury."

Anya first started gaining international recognition with her New York debut – as a winner of the 2012 Stoli competition, which she notes as one of her best achievements. She admits that big-scale murals are her greatest creative 'markers' because they are so recognisable – the massive zebra on a wall of Fremantle establishment Ootong and Lincoln is a case in point.

The self-taught painter had always pictured a career in fashion. After having her own Perth label for six years, she scored an internship to work in London with Christopher Kane and Richard Nicoll, returning to Perth two years later in 2011. In a light-bulb moment, she escaped all this. "I realised I was happiest when painting, not being dictated to (by) what everyone else expected – being able to be myself. So I was like, 'Screw this, I'm going to paint'."

Anya's secret to creativity? It is all about finding a balance. "You have to factor in time for doing your own stuff that doesn't necessarily get seen, but makes you happy. It doesn't have to be commercially viable – but it satisfies creatively."

She finds balance in her own personal tropical paradise – the Copacabana property that she owns in NSW. "I want to spend time there and be surrounded by all this amazing foliage and rainforest," she says. Watch out for Anya's tropical-bird depictions coming to a wall near you.

Sophie Sheppard


One of Australia's most successful 'plus-sized' models, Sophie Sheppard, is living the Big Apple dream and carving out a future for curvy models the world over.
The 25-year-old Bicton beauty never thought modelling would be an option, let alone a career. But her portfolio – featuring campaigns from around the globe, including the cover of Vogue Italia – attests that she was very much mistaken.

As well as being signed globally with Bella Models Sydney, Wilhelmina NY, Okay Germany and Milk London, Sophie continues to grace campaigns in Australia, recently fronting the Myer summer campaign and the fashion-forward 17 Sundays. But people are taking notice for more than just her pretty face – her willingness to speak out has made her an unofficial spokesperson for aspiring plus-sized models. "It's about being a role model for young girls, to show them that you can do whatever you want, regardless of size," she says.

Sophie had never even heard the term 'plus-size' when she was identified on a Perth street as a potential talent when still a Year-11 student. "Because I wasn't a size 0, or didn't have the typical model body type, I never considered modelling to be something I'd ever do."

After working in Perth for a decade, Sophie was offered a contract with Milk Management in London. Farewelling her family – including brother Brad, a West Coast Eagles player – she set off for an international adventure, heading to London and then New York. There, she was offered contracts with every agency she met with – including Ford, which represents some of the highest-profile clients in the business (think Christy Turlington and Bar Refaeli). This led to major career milestones including the cover of fashion bible Vogue Italia.

"It was a dream come true," she says of the experience. "It's one of those things that models everywhere dream of – the day you get that call – but realistically never believe will happen."

Sophie says high fashion worldwide is resistant to using models who are not stick-thin. They may use a plus-sized model every now and then as a "token" but more for "shock value" than as a norm. However, she adds, "It's slowly changing, and there are girls breaking down these boundaries every day – so I can only hope the industry will get more diverse as the years go on."

Mad Kids


Fifteen million YouTube hits in a weekend is a stat any A-lister would be pleased with, but it's just the beginning for Perth production company Mad Kids.
Founded in 2013 by long-time friends Henry Inglis, Matt Lovkis and Lauren Elliott, Mad Kids is quickly making a name for itself, with the video Set Yourself Free racking up that 15 million in its debut weekend in February 2014. Though it followed the group's successful Central Institute of Technology advertisement It's a Snap (which has three million views and counting), Lauren admits the trio wasn't prepared for success.

"There's no magic formula for making something 'go viral', so you never know what to expect when you release something," she says. "We produce videos we think are funny, and just hope they connect with an audience."

That audience is expanding rapidly, thanks to some well-timed help from the ABC and ScreenWest. The funding body awarded the group a Hyperlink grant to produce their first webseries, The Legend of Gavin Tanner, which aired earlier this year, and the ABC commissioned The Write Stuff, three short comedy sketches written by the group, for its iView comedy series Fresh Blood. There's international interest as well.

"We've been blown away that we've been able to garner so much interest in our videos worldwide," says Henry. The group now has a US agent, and is looking to break into that market in 2015. "We'd love to produce a comedy series for the US next year," says Lauren. "We're also working closely with the ABC to develop a number of half-hour comedy pilots, and recently secured ScreenWest funding to produce our first animated comedy series." Though the group has big ambitions, their main goal long-term is to work with other people who share their comedic styling. "We all have very similar taste in comedy," says Matt. "That's really important in terms of sharing a common goal and belief in what we're making."

Kimberley Heberley


After her stint as support act for Samantha Jade, singer Kimberley Heberley is stepping up as headliner, thanks to a recent gold-medal winning turn at the World Championships of Performing Arts.
You could forgive 21-year-old Kimberley for taking a breather between applying for the competition in June 2013 and flying out to Los Angeles in July 2014 (her acceptance into the prestigious championships followed months of rigorous screening, interviews and assessment). But thanks to a work ethic that belies her age, Kimberley spent the months before her international debut honing her craft through intense workshops and vocal training sessions. Oh, and there was that tour – Kimberley was selected as Samantha Jade's only WA support act for the pop princess' April 2014 Westfield tour.

"It was so inspiring to support such an incredibly talented and well-respected Australian artist," Kimberley says of the tour, which she considers one of her career highlights. "She sets a great example for all aspiring musicians, especially those in the pop music industry."

As a pop vocalist and pianist, Kimberley often invites comparison with Samantha, as well as singer Delta Goodrem, whom Kimberley acknowledges as an inspiration when she started learning to play at seven years of age.

The instrument is now central to Kimberley's original music. "If you can just sit down and sing with the piano and nothing else, and it still has that emotion and power, then you know you have done your job," she says. "That's how you know it's a great song."

Developing her songwriting skills is a priority for Kimberley, who hopes to release an album of original material in early 2015. She was due to fly to Melbourne in late 2014 to continue writing and producing: while she was the only WA artist at the World Championships to perform original material, she is still looking to improve on her repertoire. It's a drive that will give her as good a chance as any of achieving her most ambitious goal – to follow in the footsteps of a global pop icon.

"Dreaming big would be the heights and hysteria of Taylor Swift status," Kimberley says. "Selling one million records in a week. Going number one in eighty countries around the globe. World tours. Screaming, dedicated fans."

But more important than chart success, Kimberley admits, is challenging herself
creatively. "Central to this would be inspiring others, making incredible music, being a credible and well-respected artist, and working to the best of your ability."

Robert Drewe


History-making author Robert Drewe draws inspiration from his home state yet again in a new memoir about life's little oddities.
Robert Drewe's latest tome, titled Swimming to the Moon, is an anthology of his weekly columns for The West Australian, where he began his writing career as an 18-year-old cadet journo. Wry and reflective, the columns touch on daily habits and bizarre goings-on – past subjects have included the Perth Zoo, dining-out habits, and trendy vegetables.

"I like writing about absurd day-to-day stuff," Robert says. "It keeps you in touch with what's going on around you – if you're writing a historical novel you're absorbed in the past, but writing a column you can write about yesteryear, or yesterday – absolutely everything."

And Robert almost has written about everything. A prolific novelist, he is perhaps best-known for his 1996 novel The Drowner, which made Australian literary history by scooping every state's Premier's Literary Prize.

The ink is barely dry on Swimming to the Moon but already Robert has broken the back of his next book. Another novel – he alternates between fiction and non-fiction writing, "to keep the interest up" – this latest work will draw its inspiration from the history of his family and his Irish ancestry.

Readers of Robert's column will be familiar with his fondness for personal history, and in particular, reflections on an adolescence spent in WA – the subject of his first two volumes of memoir, The Shark Net and Montebello, and a source of frequent inspiration for his weekly observations.

"It's at the core of who I am and what I do, really," says Robert, about his fascination with WA, and its presence in his work. "It's deeply embedded in my psyche. It's my big subject."

Though he now lives in the eastern states (a move made in 2005 "to get more writing done") you can be sure Swimming to the Moon won't be Robert's last foray into writing about WA. "I can't leave it alone," he says of the state. "It features in most of what I do. And I expect it will remain that way."

Tony Ayres


With several feature films behind him, multi-award winning writer, director, producer and showrunner Tony Ayres is poised to start work on the highly anticipated first-ever adult supernatural series for the ABC.
The former Freo lad knows a thing or two about feature films – he's won a slew of awards for films such as The Home Song Stories and the 2013 adaptation of Tim Winton's The Turning – but these days he only has eyes for the small screen. His work on hit SBS and ABC series The Slap, Nowhere Boys and Bogan Pride scored him awards and nominations at the AACTAs, Logies, BAFTAs and International Emmys, and his latest work-in-progress promises to be equally compelling. Glitch, which started filming last October, is a six-part supernatural drama for the ABC about a small country town in Victoria in which people who have been dead for up to 200 years return to life. "Television has been a revelation for me, especially in the last decade or so," he says. "I think it is indisputable that the quality of television has skyrocketed in that time, and that most of the best drama in the world is now on smaller screens."

Regardless of the medium, one thing that's consistent in Tony's work is an ability to elicit a powerful emotional response in his audience. "Those things that make you feel something tend to stay in your mind for longer and affect you more profoundly than things which simply entertain," he says. And his trophy cabinet is proof of that: his first feature film Walking on Water premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002, and won the Teddy Award along with five AFI awards; his 2007 feature film, The Home Song Stories picked up more than 20 international and Australian gongs.

Tony credits much of his creative work to his early years. "Childhood was
a key theme," he says. The Home Song Stories, for instance, is based on his mother, "a wild and larger-than-life character" who takes her own life, just as Tony's mother did when he was just eleven years old. Drawing on his own experience as a gay Chinese Australian, he says the 'outsider' is another recurring theme. "I feel more sympathetic to the plight of other outsiders,"
he says. "I feel an emotional connection with those issues."

So, what's next for the high achiever? Along with Glitch and a few more book adaptations, an overseas career boost may be in order. "In terms of career goals, I'm starting to look overseas, seriously, for the first time." We have no doubt the rest of the world will welcome him with open arms.

Richard Pestell


Richard Pestell's sixth (yup, sixth) patent means the oncologist and University of Western Australia graduate, together with his team, can now identify and treat cancers earlier.By analysing the protein levels in cells around tumours, they will be able to determine at an earlier stage its cancerous potential and treat existing tumours in a less invasive way.
This work, and Richard's role as a leader in the medical community, made him a candidate for the Advance Global Australian Awards, which recognises the entrepreneurial efforts of high-achieving Australians.

Receiving the Biotechnology Award at the 2014 ceremony, Richard told the crowd that cancer had touched him personally. "My best friend when I was six died of a form of leukemia, and both my parents passed away from cancer," he said. "So, a lot of my aspirations have been about not getting mad, but getting even."

His work to even the score with the disease has seen him publish more than 600 papers – research into the molecular structures of cancers, to develop preventative approaches to treatment – and pioneer an innovative diagnostic tool called ProstaGene, that circumvents the need for invasive prostate biopsies in more than 98 per cent of patients. Richard is widely considered a world leader in the global oncology community for his innovative approach to treatment – conducting research as both a clinician and entrepreneur to develop novel ways of fighting cancer.

That leadership has been recognised with positions heading up the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research, as the founding director of the Delaware Valley Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, and at the Kimmel Cancer Centre, where he's worked since 2005. Though the majority of his work has been conducted overseas, Richard is grateful for his Australian education. "There are extraordinary schools and universities in this country which are second to none," he told the Advance audience earlier in 2014. "I firmly believe that the schools and universities of Australia are the key cornerstone of Australia's future."

Ian Small


The world is struggling to meet the pace of population growth, but 2014 WA Scientist of the Year Professor Ian Small says a solution is closer than we think.
Listed by New York based mass-media outfit Thomson-Reuters as one of the world's most influential minds, scientist Ian Small is working towards global sustainable agricultural production and food security. The former Premier's Fellowship winner moved to Perth in 2006 and established the world-renowned Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology at UWA. Now chief investigator at the centre, he attracted more than $57 million in funding and led his team on ground-breaking discoveries.

With the earth approaching its absolute limits, and the population squeezing natural and agricultural resources, improved plant productivity – salt-tolerant plants in particular – is key to future sustainability.

"One of the problems in Australia is salinity," he says. "We can now grow wheat that is more (salt) tolerant." Other major breakthroughs include helping breeders to produce hybrid plants – the combination of two plants to produce a single crop that better suits a particular environment.

Professor Small says plant energy biology – the energy that plants capture from light – is the "same energy that we harvest as food or fuel, so our research is relevant to the agricultural industry and the forestry industry as well." And, because many of the energy processes that occur inside plants also occur inside the human body there will be applications in the future of medicine, too.

Within the next two decades the professor hopes to be able to "design plants from scratch". "The amount of information we need to process is not that much more than what you need to design a new car," he says. "It's just the way the parts fit together is a bit more complicated and a bit less ordered." Still, he's confident that it is achievable – in theory, at least.

"We should be able to sit down and be like, 'Right, we need a wheat crop in this area, and this is what we need for these conditions'. Then we can basically just design and construct it."


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