Rage against the dying of the light

Rebel yell: Rebel elders Trevor Williams, CJ Ellis, Vic Linane and Kath Morton are recording stories around the theme of rebellion as part of the innovative program linking old and young. Picture: Jeremy Bannister
Rebel yell: Rebel elders Trevor Williams, CJ Ellis, Vic Linane and Kath Morton are recording stories around the theme of rebellion as part of the innovative program linking old and young. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

BALLARAT'S CJ Ellis led quite a wild and exciting childhood.

As a young 'un attending St Augustine's Orphanage in Geelong, he was in the school band as drum major, played football and even wrestled.

But it was his talent as a boxer that earned him a range of state championship titles in his early teenage years.

"I was taught boxing by one of the Christian brothers who taught me extremely well," the now 75-year-old recalled.

"At age 13, I won the western district championships, the country championships, the Victorian championships and I was the first junior to become champion in the Golden Gloves.

"Boxing taught me the art of self-defence. Not as a fighter but as a boxer. It was a source of encouragement for me."

Mr Ellis is one of many senior citizens in Ballarat whose life was, and continues to be, filled with excitement, adventure and rebellion.

His story will be amongst several set to feature as part of a new project called Rebel Elders which aims to remind the wider community that older residents also lead wild and exciting lives.

Presented by the City of Ballarat, the project asks participants to recall personal stories related to the theme of 'rebellion'. The stories are recorded and put to music and dance with the project culminating in a public performance.

City of Ballarat positive ageing development officer Rose Young said the theme of 'rebellion' was quite fitting to Ballarat.

"The idea of 'rebellion' seems quite appropriate for Ballarat, relating directly to the Eureka Stockade," Ms Young said.

"We can discover how people relate to rebels and then talk about mischievous, rebellious events in their own lives - anything from childhood to adulthood."

As well as engaging Ballarat's older citizens, Rebel Elders will bring on board the city's young artists who will compose music designed specifically for each participant's story.

Independent Castlemaine choreographer Michelle Heaven will then design movement pieces to be performed alongside the music and stories.

Rebel Elders artistic director Rose Turtle Ertler said the final performance would be staged during Senior Citizens Week in October.

"I did something similar to this in Melbourne last year and really just loved hanging out with the older citizens and listening to their stories," Ms Turtle Ertler said.

"I have a soft spot for the elderly people and my mum is getting to 80 years old which makes me realise how unheard they are in the community."

The Maldon artist said the project would not only bring together the community's older citizens in a creative venture, but would bridge the gap between seniors and younger residents and break stereotypes that typically surrounded the elderly population.

"I was inspired by a Human Rights Commission report which was about the image of elderly people in the media. In movies and television they're seen as grumpy, sick, dull, lazy and a nuisance and it's just terrible," Ms Turtle Ertler said.

"I want to remind people of what wild and exciting lives they have."

Another of the project's participants Trevor Williams said his story of rebellion suited Rebel Elders perfectly.

The 72-year-old, who regards himself as a non-conformist, said he spent most of his life opposed to authority.

"I liked the idea of rebellion because my own life has been full of it," Mr Williams said.

"As far back as I can remember, I have been opposed to the authority that surrounded me."

Mr Williams spent a lot of his life travelling the globe, visiting countries including the UK and Canada, in search of like-minded 'alternate thinkers'.

"At school and when I started work, my thoughts didn't coincide with my fellow workers and their thinking was very different to mine," he said.

"They all played sport, they married, bought a house in the suburbs and I thought it was all a load of crap.

"It became evident to me that I didn't fit in anywhere, but there were people in Europe who were more like me and when I went over there, I felt at home."

But not all the participants have stories of rebellion taken from their childhood days.

Kath Morton, 86, said she was the perfect child who was afraid of rebelling in any way.

It was only later in life that she felt confident enough to voice her opinion and raise awareness about topics considered taboo, especially refugee-related issues.

"I was pleased when I heard about this project because I really am a rebel," Ms Morton said.

"I can talk to my friends but this is an open space and an opportunity for me to express myself which is something I haven't had before.

"It's good to spread the word that you can rebel and I'm pleased to do it for my own sake."

Although the project is currently in its preliminary stage, Ms Turtle Ertler said she was excited for the end result.

"It's interesting to listen to other people's stories. It can be a challenge for the participants and brings them out of their comfort zone but it's going to be a lot of fun," she said.



- To engage with Ballarat's older community

- To engage with creative young people and build their confidence

- To bring together two generations in a supportive environment

- To break down stereotypes of senior citizens and demonstrate their wild and exciting lives

- To create high-quality and inspiring art that is professionally executed


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