All posts tagged gold coast

  • Bite Magazine story: ‘Here To Help: Refugee dentist Dr Hooman Baghaie’, September 2017

    A cover story for the September 2017 issue of Bite, a magazine for Australian dentists. Excerpt below.

    Here To Help

    In high-achieving refugee dentist Dr Hooman Baghaie, Iran’s loss is Australia’s gain

    'Here To Help: In high-achieving refugee dentist Dr Hooman Baghaie, Iran’s loss is Australia’s gain' story by Andrew McMillen for Bite Magazine, September 2017. Photo by Richard Whitfield

    When he was 12 years old, Dr Hooman Baghaie’s family left their comfortable, middle-class life in Iran behind. This decision by his parents was made out of love and sacrifice: as members of a religious minority, they had experienced discrimination and persecution. The last slight was when their eldest son was denied entry to a college for gifted children after his father, Zia, had volunteered to the school’s administration that the family were followers of the Bahá’í faith. Suddenly, Hooman’s academic gifts were seen in a different light.

    There was no place for Hooman there, his parents were told, despite his excellent results on the entry exam. Nor was there a place in Iran for the Baghaie family, who had tired of this persecution. They knew there would only be more hurdles for their bright children in Iran, and they knew that other Bahá’ís had been jailed because of their religious affiliations. The eldest son’s rejection mirrored an earlier disappointment experienced by his mother, Betsy, who was expelled from medical school in 1988 on the basis of her faith. Like mother, like son.

    Yet it was in thumbing through her copy of Gray’s Anatomy that the seed for Hooman’s career was planted. Within a decade, the Iranian-born refugee would be safe and secure in Australia while immersed in studying oral health, and later dentistry, while on a path to fulfil the inclusive, community-minded spirit on which his faith was based.

    The family’s path to Australia was not simple or easy. They left behind two houses, two cars and his father’s well-established career in refrigeration engineering. The five of them—Zia, Betsy, Hooman and his two younger sisters, Helya and Hasti—spent nine months in limbo at an apartment in Kayseri, Turkey. They were asylum seekers, and on arrival, Zia went to the United Nations office to explain their situation. After carefully reviewing their case and confirming the truth of their allegations, the Baghaie family were awarded humanitarian visas to Australia, since Betsy had family members who lived in Geelong.

    Now 26 and living on the Gold Coast, Hooman Baghaie tells this story over cups of Persian tea and a plate of walnut biscuits. He lives in a high-rise apartment building in Southport that overlooks the ocean, and each morning, his bedroom is lit by a spectacular sunrise. Two days per week, he works as a dentist at a small clinic in Helensvale; during the remaining weekdays, he attends nearby Griffith University while studying his first year of a degree in medicine.

    His interest in the oral cavity has widened since he completed a Bachelor of Oral Health at the University of Melbourne in 2011, then moved north to dedicate himself to a Bachelor of Dental Science, which he completed in 2016 as a valedictorian at the University of Queensland. After medicine, he plans to specialise in maxillofacial surgery.

    Newly married in 2017, Hooman shares the Southport apartment with his wife, Maya, who works as a nutritionist. The pair share their Bahá’í faith and are devoted to fulfilling its tenet of improving the lives of others: she by advising people on their diet, and he by tending to their oral health needs. Theirs is a service-oriented partnership that looks outward, and asks: how can we help?

    To read the full story, visit Bite Magazine. Above photo credit: Richard Whitfield.

  • The Weekend Australian Review story: ‘The Hardest Hit: Bliss N Eso and Johann Ofner’, May 2017

    A feature story for The Weekend Australian Review, published in the May 13 issue. Excerpt below.

    The Hardest Hit

    Since a tragic incident during the filming of a music video, hip-hop trio Bliss N Eso has changed its outlook on life and music

    'The Hardest Hit: Bliss N Eso and Johann Ofner' story in The Weekend Australian Review by Andrew McMillen, May 2017

    On Monday, January 22, a 28-year-old man named Johann Ofner left his home on the Gold Coast to go to work in Brisbane. Muscled, tattooed and quick to laugh, Ofner was thrilled by the role he had landed as a stuntman in a music video for an upcoming single by Sydney-based hip-hop trio Bliss n Eso. He called his friend and business partner as soon as he was picked for the part, and learned that his hulking presence was required for a scene ­involving a poker game that is disrupted by armed robbers.

    Ofner’s life was large and full, with key scenes, achievements and affirmations posted to his Instagram profile, where he had 19,000 followers. Many people knew him as Yogi, a nickname that had stuck with him since high school. An actor, athlete, stuntman and co-owner of a fitness training and lifestyle clothing business named AMPM, Ofner had recently recorded an appearance on the Nine Network television program Australian Ninja Warrior. It had not yet been broadcast, but he quietly hoped it might serve as the key to unlocking another level of his flourishing career in front of the camera. Ofner’s seven-year-old daughter, Kyarna, was an extrovert keen to follow in his athletic footsteps, as her own Instagram profile — set up by her dad — showed.

    The music video appearance was for a song titled ‘Friend Like You’, the second single from Bliss n Eso’s sixth album Off the Grid, which this week went to No 1 on the ARIA charts. Built on a message about being able to rely on the support of your loved ones during tough times, and a powerful vocal hook by American soul singer Lee Fields — “Is there anybody out there feeling like I do?” — its optimistic motif was in ­harmony with the trio’s overarching lyrical themes. Such positivity has long since struck a chord with Australian audiences: Bliss n Eso’s previous two albums both debuted atop the ARIA album charts in 2010 and 2013, and both achieved platinum certification of more than 70,000 sales. The group’s last major national tour was seen by more than 55,000 fans across the country.

    After a week-long production, the video’s final scenes were being filmed downstairs in a Brisbane city bar called Brooklyn Standard. From the closed set, Ofner posted media on his Instagram of the weapons that were being used in the poker robbery scene. “Our Asian gangster props today!” he wrote alongside a video of the firearms in their packing case.

    During the afternoon, however, troubling reports emerged. Later, detective inspector Tom Armitt addressed media gathered near the bar and announced that a man had died as a result of wounds to his chest. Soon his identity would be confirmed as a 28-year-old stuntman who lived on the Gold Coast. Johann Ofner would not be coming home from work.

    To read the full story, visit The Australian.

  • The Vine live review: Big Day Out Gold Coast, January 2014

    A festival review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Big Day Out 2014
    Metricon Stadium & Carrara Parklands, Gold Coast
    Sunday 19 January 2014 

    The Vine live review: Big Day Out Gold Coast, January 2014, by Andrew McMillen. Photo credit: Justin Edwards

    I love music.

    That’s about the most banal opening sentence to a live music review that you’ve ever read, but it’s worth dwelling upon a little here at the outset.

    Music has been a huge part of my life and identity for as long as I can remember. I am obsessed. If I’m not listening to music on speakers or headphones I’m thinking about it, humming or singing a melody, or learning how to play songs on guitar. It occupies my every waking moment. I love music and the Big Day Out has been a consistent, reliable lightning rod for that cause since I first attended in 2005. I’ve only missed one year (2010) since. As long as they keep booking excellent lineups, I’ll keep walking through these gates on a Sunday in January.

    Today heralds a shift in venue for the Gold Coast event, from the usual Parklands to a football stadium and its surrounds. It works well. The arena and its grandstands are where the main stages are housed; elsewhere, three big tents for the smaller acts. There are no problems getting around. Full credit to the organisers here, because to let loose tens of thousands of people in a new environment and to keep it all running smoothly is a remarkable feat indeed. We festival-goers are a fickle lot, generally quick to criticise an event’s logistical shortcomings, but today there’s literally nothing to bitch about. Amazing.

    When reviewing shows I tend to keep an air of bookish distance from the source material. In the past I’ve been the guy near the sound desk with his arms crossed, nodding his head and occasionally tapping a foot; always an observer, rarely a participant. As of today I’ve thrown all that shit out the window in favour of embracing the obvious: dancing. Clearly my past self is an idiot because this is a total revelation: I haven’t ever had this much fun at a festival.

    The first act to loosen my limbs is Toro Y Moi, about whom I knew nothing prior to wandering in under the Red Stage tent and finding myself in the funky soundtrack to a spy film. I especially enjoy the contrast between the studious-looking guitarist, with sensible haircut and collared shirt, against the rock-dog bassist with shaggy long hair, shades and singlet. Earlier, Bluejuice brightened my day with sunny pop songs, shiny gold Freddie Mercury outfits and good humour. And I’m the kind of arsehole who thinks that The Drones soundchecking sounds better than most rock bands in the world, so it’s no surprise that I award their set today full marks. I’m up against the barrier for the first time at a Drones show and it’s a nice change to see how the songs work up close.

    Guitarist Dan Luscombe thanks us for opting to see them over Tame Impala at the main stage, joking that at least a few people think The Drones are the better option. One band writes pop songs about elephants, among other topics; the other opens with a depressing eight-minute narrative about climate change and how fucked humans are as a species. (Not too many teenage girls seeing The Drones, I note.) I love both bands and I’m glad that I catch Impala’s tailing pair of ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, the latter being an incredible wash of sound that proves that Kevin Parker wasn’t fucking with TheVine when he told us that the band recently found a new way to finish their set.

    For the full review and photos, visit The Vine. Above photo credit: Justin Edwards.