The Book is Here!

The MIPIK book features 25 local stories which celebrate the skill, tenacity, courage and bloody good yarns of our Coffs Coast community.  All profits from the sale of this book go to CanDo Cancer Trust which provides assistance to local cancer sufferers and their families.  Local stories helping local people!


Local Stories helping Local People

Life can dish up unexpected challenges and sometimes we need a bit of help to meet those challenges.  The CanDo Cancer Trust provides financial support to patients and families attending the North Coast Cancer Institute.  It's a way for our community to lend a helping hand to friends and neighbours facing tough times.

We are delighted that our local stories will be helping local people.  You can lend your support by buying a book or attending the live show.

Join the Fun

Gai Newman

Diversity and Inclusion

Tucked behind the Coles Supermarket on Harbour Drive are the timeworn cottages that house the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre.  Many of us would not know that this unassuming place exists.  Yet the Centre provides free legal and tax advice, community computers, a disability arts group, mentors for men, a homework group… whatever it takes to give a leg up to the people in our community who are disadvantaged.

Fifty-five year old Gai Newman, the woman at the helm of the Neighbourhood Centre, is equally unassuming; in fact she’s downright shy.  But her shyness is hidden from most by her resolve, a dogged belief that our community needs to be inclusive.

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Mike and Jan Gumbley

Second Time Around

Mike and Jan Gumbley, from Marian Grove Retirement Village in Toormina, were both working at Orara High when they met almost 3 decades ago.  Both were divorced, Mike was 55 and Jan 46 - their relationship offered a second chance at love.


I was standing in the doorway of the teachers aid room (at Orara High), sunning myself.  Mike had been in with the principal having a bit of an altercation. As he walked out I said, “How many beers did you say you were having at lunch time today?” He turned round, came back and said, “What are you doing for lunch?”  That was it!

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Tim Hyland

A Young Man with a Plan

Tim Hyland doesn’t fit my mental picture.  My memories of 18-year-old boys involve pimples, tattered jeans, fast cars and drinking.  The young man who strolls over to my table at Café Urban is neatly dressed, with a mop of brown curls, a confident gait and a firm handshake.  Only his shy smile hints at his age.

Appearances are one thing, but when Tim starts to talk about life, plans and the game of golf I realise that either boys have changed in the last thirty years or this man is not your average 18 year old.

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Allan Sparkes Reprise

This doesn't happen very often, but this week I crashed and burned on the profile I had planned to publish.  So I thought I would republish a personal favourite - the story of Allan Sparkes, a Coffs Harbour cop who is one of only 5 people to be awarded the Cross of Valour.

I first met Al in March 2012 and was captivated by his story of heroism in the line of duty and incredible courage in overcoming debilitating mental illness.  In fact his journey was so interesting that I submitted an idea to Good Weekend magazine and wound up re-interviewing Al, with his wife Deb, for the regular weekend column The Two of Us.  That column was read by a publisher at Penguin Books, who also recognised a great story.  She contacted Al and asked if he had ever thought of writing a book about his experience.

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Tonia Fitzcosta

A People Investigator

Tonia Fitzcosta grabs my hand and pumps it up and down vehemently, proving far stronger than her petite frame would suggest.  She grins and says in a broad Cockney accent, “So what’s this most interesting person thing all about then?”  I can tell this is going to be an interesting interview. 

At the outset she tells me, “I came to Coffs Harbour really by mistake.” After an hour it becomes obvious that Tonia has fallen into most aspects of her life if not by mistake, then certainly without much planning.  Yet, at 44, this mother to 14-year-old Lily and team leader of the Junaa Buwa Centre for Youth Wellbeing says she is exactly where she is meant to be.

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Tom Powell

Parables from the Red Dust

Tom Powell looks like Buddha.  This is what I think when a very large Aboriginal man opens the door to his Coffs Harbour home.  Once I have listened spellbound to the story of his journey from the small regional town of Narromine to the development of the Red Dust Healing program, I feel the Buddha likeness goes beyond appearance.  Tom Powell is a spiritual teacher.  And even the story of his life provides us with parables – lessons on how to live better and stronger lives.  Enjoy and learn, dear reader.

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Marg and Stefan Bruggisser

Portrait of a Marriage

Marg was a single mother of two when she met Stefan Bruggiser , a sculptor recently arrived in Coffs Harbour with a determination to focus his energies on his art.  Their 30 year relationship has been far from traditional, but it has worked.  "The sum of us was more than they parts," they believe.

Tell me about when you first met.


I was working with the Arts Council, shepherding patrons into a performance at the Jetty Theatre.  My plan was to go home as soon as the show started, and that would be one less night of babysitting.

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