There are no golden rules on how to decorate a garage or shed. Over the last two years I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed into many man spaces and have witnessed all sorts: the meticulously clean, the organised chaos, themed to a particular passion, practical, logical and the ever popular ‘work in progress’.
Whatever the category, the best man spaces are unquestionably those that reflect the owner – all while providing the required getaway space.
Jason Kimberley has a garage that is lined with… well… bits and pieces of everything. There are trinkets, achievements, souvenirs, photos, books, representations of a moment in time and more. So much in fact that it’s hard to get your head around everything when you first see it. It is, however, the perfect representation of the man and his life: someone who has been willing to work hard, seize opportunities and continually keep his eyes open for new adventures. He is a man who seeks new experiences, and records them in the best possible way.
While Jason is currently busy growing his online environmental education resource Cool Australia, there is a long list of adventures that have taken him to this point.
“My whole life has been a series of events or moments,” says Jason, “as probably evidenced by my garage!“
“I think many of them have come from natural evolution – both in and out of different things for a period of time. There are people who always have an idea of what is coming up and where they want to be – and I think that’s fantastic – but I’ve never really been able to work that way. You hear a lot about five or 10 year plans; my plan is to simply be alive!”
“I’ve always been happy to give most things a go and try to enjoy the adventure on the way. I left school and went to the Northern Territory to work on a cattle station and then picked fruit at a mango plantation in Queensland. I came back to Melbourne and worked on a building site and got enough money together to backpack around the world for a year and a half.”
After returning to Australia, Jason worked in the warehouse at the iconic clothing brand Country Road, which led to a higher position in wholesaling. A shift to the family business (Just Jeans) followed with different roles in both Sydney and Melbourne.
It may almost sound a little transient, but it clearly provided a great amount of experiences that many people don’t get at such a young age.
“I even had a period where I renovated houses and, although it was quite successful, it wasn’t for me. So I started looking for the next challenge – which, like most other things, seemed to naturally evolve.”
That ‘next challenge’ was the highly rated and very successful Veludo Bar and Restaurant in St Kilda, which Jason started with a friend. It quickly became a St Kilda icon.
“We found this derelict site in Acland Street and thought it would be a great space to open a restaurant. So we cleaned it all up and put in a restaurant upstairs and a bar downstairs and had great fun. We ran that from 1995 to 2000 and put in a huge amount of effort so it got to the point that it could basically run itself – and that gave me the opportunity to pack up life and travel around the country with my wife Caroline.”
As anyone would do on a great travel adventure, Jason took a mountain of photos and came home with some extraordinary shots. On the advice of a friend, he decided to do something with those photos and created a book called Australia Exposed, which sold more than 10,000 copies. That evolved into a travelling exhibition where Jason’s young family was able to move around with the collection spending time in the likes of New York, Los Angeles and Singapore.
“The experiences from the trip around Australia were amazing in their own right,” says Jason. “To be able to share that with others through the book was brilliant, and then to take that a step further with the exhibition was more than I could have imagined. We sold some of the images along the way and that paid for a lot of the expenses – and ultimately we had even more adventures travelling around the world, this time with our children.”
A second photography book came a number of years later following a trek in Antarctica with good friend Peter Hillary (son of the famous Sir Edmund Hillary) and old school mate Jason Veale. Antarctica: A Different Adventure also sold more than 10,000 copies, and – perhaps not surprisingly – led to the next adventure in life.
“There was a moment for me sitting right here in this garage,” explains Jason. “I was researching the book on Antarctica and I just kept coming across more and more information that I thought was quite frightening. Too many things have been happening around this planet in a manner that are just not sustainable.
“Some of it sounds like a cliché, but the truth is stranger than fiction: there are fishermen who are putting pressure on the Southern Ocean eco-system by netting krill (the basis of the food chain), which is turned into pellets to feed to cattle, which are grazing on cleared Amazonian rainforest, so they can be turned into burgers, for people who could probably don’t need another burger…
“It’s crazy – but someone is making a dollar so it keeps going on. I’d been to Antarctica and had a story to tell, but it seemed there was also an opportunity to tell a greater story about our natural world and how we are trashing it.”
The most important element in Jason’s mind was that it needed to be told to future generations.
“When I started understanding how we are exploiting our natural world at an unsustainable rate I felt that this information needed to be shared. If you can educate the next generation, then the world becomes better equipped to deal with this in the future.”
The result of this thinking was Cool Australia: an online resource that educates children for a sustainable future through creative and accessible information. With more than 150,000 children currently engaged it is an unquestioned success. Jason describes it as “an extremely satisfying start” and there are ambitious plans to take the concept further and reach even more children.
“With Cool Australia, our aim is for every kid to leave school with a clear understanding of what our natural world is, what is does for us and what we risk if we continue to treat it like its ‘business as usual’,” he says.
“We put the challenges in front of the students, they investigate solutions and work out how they can get involved in creating better ways to do things. A lot of that comes from storytelling and the use of video, photos and fun facts – not learning statistics and technical information purely from a text book.”
There’s a lovely symmetry with Jason’s approach to this work and his previous endeavours. Clearly he appreciates the value of storytelling and imagery to communicate a message – whether that is a holiday adventure or a crucial message about our planet.
“I think a lot of people need to remember that the health of our planet determines how we live, so – if for nothing other than selfish reasons – we should aim to look after it so it can look after us.
“Part of the aim is to give enough information for the child to work it out for themselves. If you just tell them numbers and statistics they will often struggle to remember or get much from it, but if they feel like they’ve come to the conclusion themselves then they take ownership of that information.”
Jason’s always mindful of the need to engage them on a creative, personal and local level. As such, he has involved a number of experts to ensure Cool Australia is as good as it can be and runs it with a solid corporate structure – not that the garage is completely forgotten.
“We have the odd brainstorming session out here,” he says smiling. “I obviously have a proper office for meetings and day to day work, but sometimes you need the relaxation and the surroundings to bounce ideas off each other.
“I just love this space generally. When you think about it, the great part about the typical ‘men’s space’ is that it’s not ‘prime real estate’ in the house, so no one has any great reason to go there – and that means you have peace and quiet when you need it.
“I’ve got everything I need here. There’s an internet connection if I want to do some work, there’s music, good surroundings, and a swivel chair next to the fridge so I can reach round for a beer without having to get up…
“To be fair, it’s also gained a reputation as a place to go after a party for a few extra drinks and maybe a dance… So I guess you’d say it truly is multi-purpose!”
And so – with this condensed explanation of Jason’s life so far – the eccentric collection that makes up his garage suddenly makes perfect sense.
He begins to pick items out, each with a brilliant anecdote attached.
There’s a slightly blurry photo outside an airport with Sir Viv Richards: “I’d always wanted to meet Viv – he was my hero as a kid. I was in the West Indies following the cricket tour, but it took until the flight home to finally run into him. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite meet my expectation … best left at that I think…!”
He picks up a small piece of brightly coloured rope: “That is a piece from the last climbing rope that Sir Edmund Hillary bought and passed down to his son Pete – and when that got a bit old for climbing, he cut it up into pieces for various uses. This particular bit was part of what held the sled to my back harness in Antarctica.”
Equine fans would automatically be drawn to a familiar looking trophy sitting between miscellaneous items: “Yeah – that’s the VRC Oaks Cup from 2002 when I had a 10% share in the filly Bulla Borghese.”
Then there is a clay ornament made back in school days, plenty of Sydney Swans memorabilia, a number plate from the year-long trek around the country, bits and pieces from travelling, hiking, climbing, exploring, and every other element of his life thus far.
You could spend days looking through everything and listening to the stories attached but, ultimately, it is simply inspiring to see someone who clearly puts such a value on the experiences he has had in his life. Too often people find it easy to stick everything in boxes or – worst still – just throw it out, but this is a great display of memories.
“It’s always growing and changing,” he says. “I suppose it’s really just a collection of trinkets from my life. Nothing more than that.”
But when you always try to get the most out of life and are willing to jump in the deep end more than once… well, it’s a pretty impressive collection of trinkets.
The Cool Australia Project
Cool Australia was conceived by Jason Kimberley following an eco-epiphany in Antarctica in 2005. He returned armed with a renewed appreciation of the foibles of humankind and the responsibility we all have to ensure the preservation of our natural environment.
Jason recognised the need to provide our next generations with relevant and engaging information about our natural world. He identified our education system as the most important and effective medium for connecting with kids and recognised our teachers as the appropriate ‘voice’ for Cool Australia.
Complete units of work and learning activities can simply be downloaded from the Cool Australia website and taken straight into the classroom.
Learning activities are year level specific, from foundation to year 10 and linked to Australian curriculum standards. These include physical, personal and social learning. Discipline-based learning as well as interdisciplinary learning is also addressed.
Cool Australia promises to make learning about our natural world exciting while making the teacher’s role easier.
It brings sustainability into the heart of the curriculum by incorporating themes such as Energy, Water, Waste and Biodiversity into learning activities and units of work and aims to empower students to construct their own vision of a positive future.
Cool Australia is for all teachers, especially those who thought that sustainability was not in their brief or was too big to tackle.
If you wish to know more or get involved visit www.coolaustralia.org or call 1300 853 810.