‘I was in the bushfires on New Year’s Eve down in Batemans Bay. After the fire went through, we ended up in an evacuation centre. I found myself in a situation where I had no control over what was happening to me, it wasn’t safe for me to return to where I’d been, and I couldn’t leave. Immediately after the danger had passed there were some basic services that came in to ensure we had food, water and accommodation – even if it was the floor of the town library which turned out to be one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had after that day!

‘When the pandemic hit, I started to see what was happening in hospitality with so many people losing their jobs one by one overnight.

‘I had just closed my restaurant late last year so here I was with this premises, and I thought, there is something I can do here – let me see if I can raise some money and get some people to help me.

‘For me, it’s kind of been this reverse experience. I thought I can provide part of what I received during the bushfire crisis in this scenario by just using what I have here and what other people will support me with to do this.

‘We’re doing free food every Friday for anyone who needs it. There are many industries where people have lost work in a short space of time – hospitality, retail, travel, education – there are so many sectors that are affected. We have beautiful volunteers who prepare and serve the food and we have an incredible amount of support from suppliers.

‘There is this whole interesting idea of charity versus community. What we see here is community coming together to share the abundance that exists within that community. It’s interesting because I think people might not feel like they can take charity or they qualify for it… but everyone at a time like this, and actually always, should be able to tap in to the resources of their community to help them when they need it. That is like the ultimate equation of abundance – there is always enough.’

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‘I actually feel quite guilty because I’m having such a great time travelling around, living in my car and meeting all these lovely people. Everybody who stops to talk to me is a nice person. Not all the nice people stop. Sometimes they don’t feel comfortable approaching someone sitting on the street and some of them are busy and that’s fine.

‘I try to make sure that people know that I’m alright. I actually make enough money selling my scarves to get by.

‘One thing that’s changed over the years is that we’ve become more of a cashless society. I’m thinking of going to Officeworks and seeing if I can get one of those portable EFTPOS machines but I have to upgrade my phone. That’s my problem. I’ve got a stupid phone – all it does is make and receive phone calls and send texts.

‘It’s alright though. One of the things I do is I’ll suss out if there is an ATM around the corner. That also gives them a bit of a cooling off time.

‘I’ve actually said no to a couple of people because I can see it in their eyes, they’re buying a scarf out of pity and I don’t want that. Their scarf will be put in a drawer and not worn and not loved. I want people to wear them and enjoy them. If they’ve got to walk 20-30 yards and go to an ATM and get money and come back that gives them thinking time and they might think, ah, I don’t want that and they can walk the other way and not have to walk past me again.’

‘We try to make really positive upbeat music so we can share good energy with people. We never intended it to be like that but the feedback that we started getting when we started performing goated us in to really creating a safe positive space through our music so people could express themselves openly and not worry about things that don’t really matter.

‘We just want people to feel like they’re either in love or they are loved and that they can express that love through dancing or singing along or just being a part of a group of people who are focused on the same thing.

‘In society as it is, it’s almost like built-in to be shy and to watch yourself, but the fact is that we’re all on the same planet. It sounds so cheesy and I know people have said it in more elegant ways but we’re like one consciousness and we should stop and experience that together sometimes. Music is our language of doing that but you can see that in art or theatre or anything. We just choose to bring people to that realisation through music.

‘I’m part of a 12-piece hip hop soul funk band called The Regime who get pretty active in the Inner West. If we’re not gigging, we’re busking.’

‘In the last few months of her life she aged 20 years in two months. It was really hard to see her deteriorate like that and not be able to do something about it. My mum battled different cancers for 10 years. She beat it twice and then it returned as a metastisised cancer in 2012 and was considered terminal. She was on a trial medication for around a year that had similar effects to chemo. That did slow things down but in the end it was just a slow deterioration. I think that’s the really horribly fascinating part of it is the way that it begins so innocuously. In the beginning it’s just a bit of pain and you almost wouldn’t even know there is too much wrong but then it’s like a slippery slope.

‘I was 23 when she passed. It was traumatic – the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. In a way I think that I kind of died that day with her and a new me was born. I really feel fundamentally different from the day before that.

‘Starting Busk for a Cure was a way to fill some sort of existential purpose as I was slowly watching my mum pass away from cancer. I love busking – it’s one of my favourite things to do. It’s so humbling and nobody ever needs to stop and listen or give you any money yet they do. I think there’s something so pure about it because you know they’re giving purely because they like your music – there’s no ulterior motive.

‘I know my mum would be proud. I just wish I could show her who I am now.’

‘As long as I can remember I’ve seen people cry and grieve and celebrate life by singing and dancing in the name of a person’s life.

‘I’m Tokelauan Fijian – my mother’s Tokelauan and my father’s Fijian. Both sides have quit similar mourning processes but on my Fijian side the whole mourning process is 100 days. On my Tokelauan side it’s 10 days.

‘I found out my nanna passed away when I was 17 and I was on a plane from Australia and thrown in to 2 weeks of planning, organising, crying, cooking, singing, dancing, praying with my family from 7am to 4am, 10 days in a row.

‘Sitting with her body and my family for ten days – actually sitting and talking to her and holding her and seeing that it was real; there was no tangible life left in her – that really helped me.

‘In my mother’s culture, when you begin the mourning process you have these things called Leos – each community or family member that’s connected to the person who’s passed away will come together with their family and present to the immediate family of the person who’s passed away gifts, prayer and song.

‘So many people came to my nanna – it was leo after leo after leo. Each time we did a leo, I grieved again – even when I thought I had nothing left in me.

‘If you know the songs and dance, you get up and join in – even if it’s not your family. The power of the call of community and the call to celebrate was so revealing for me because it was really my community and my family saying you’re not alone.

‘Going through that entire experience really slapped me in the face because it taught me about the importance of sitting with death and sharing your grief. It also taught me the importance of celebration for a person’s life.

‘You share everything throughout the process – there is no hiding; there is quite literally nowhere to go away and just be private. It can be very overwhelming too but I personally found a lot of comfort in it.’

‘On the last day we put him in the sunroom and we listened to Triple J and talked and that. I went home about 6 o’clock at night and we got the phone call at 4 o’clock in the morning and were told to come to the hospital. The nurse stepped out to stop us from going straight in to the room and told us. I got to see him and I gave him a kiss and all that and it was very peaceful but I wasn’t expecting it. It’s weird because there were other times during his illness that I was expecting it. The hardest things at those times, like when he had pneumonia so bad he was in intensive care for three weeks and had tubes down his throat and that, I had to realise that you can’t keep them alive for yourself. You’re not the one lying there with tubes down your throat – you can’t expect them to live for you. So I actually said to him, and I don’t know whether he heard me or not, I said, “Don’t stay alive for me.”

‘We were together for 15 years and 9 months. He made me who I am today without a doubt. And he made a lot of people. I think love, it can get you through things but also it’s very, very special. I don’t know that a lot of people will have what Goose and I had. Luckily, at the time, I knew I had it.’

‘They (Department of Education) told me in later years I wasn’t to hug the children and I said, “Well, it will be a long day before I can’t hug somebody.”

‘I can’t stop children from coming up and hugging me. I said that I won’t stop hugging them. I never did.

‘You know all children, doesn’t matter which ones they are, they all need love. You have to give it to receive it. I doesn’t matter how much their mums and dads love them, you can always give them a little bit more because everybody needs love and you can always do with a little bit extra of that.

‘Children are so hungry to be loved. That’s all most of them wanted – to be understood and loved. Because that’s the real main thing in life. Nobody listens much you know – they talk but a lot of people don’t listen to you, you know?’

‘Two weeks ago I went back to the doctor and they said they’re not going to treat me anymore. They said I’d had enough radiology and enough chemotherapy and I still had it so I don’t know…

‘I feel quite active though. My lungs are good and my kidneys are OK. And I really don’t feel like it you know – to be saying goodbye just yet.

‘I was Preschool Cook at Australia Street Infants School in Newtown. I started off in 1973 only for a week or two while I filled in for someone. At the end of the next week, the Principal came down and said I can have the job. So I stayed there as Preschool Cook for 39 and a half years. In that time, I cooked over 7,000 meals for the children and I cuddled them every day.

‘I was made redundant in Xmas in 2012 – it was really stressful. Not long after that I was diagnosed with cancer.

‘They reckon I might last until Christmas but that’s about all. And that was a “might”. They said it depends on how much it grows and how much I deteriorate. Last week was pretty tough because I really don’t want to say goodbye just yet. I find it very hard.

‘I still get kids and adults coming up to me in the street. It feels very good. It’s hard to remember them because they change so much from when they’re little but they come up and say, “Miss Fay, I gotta give you a hug!” and that feels very good.

‘I don’t expect anything in return because you do what you have to do. I was working and everything and I did it all for the kids. I just loved them so much.’