Which Celebrity Chef is lending a hand to save children in Cambodia from trafficking?

TV Celebrity Chef, author, naturopath and all-round good soul Janella Purcell first learnt about the charity, Connecting Hands, when they contacted her to see if she could contribute to their celebrity cookbook.

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

‘It’s a really beautiful book. They did a great job with that. People love cookbooks and it looks really pretty,’ she said. The book was launched last November and includes recipes from a range of high profile chefs, including Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Poh Ling Yeow, Pete Evans and Marion Grasby.

But while most people would think they’d done enough by contributing a recipe, Janella has gone above and beyond in terms of helping Connecting Hands in their mission to help free children and women from trafficking and give them a future.

The Food for Life Cookbook

The Food for Life Cookbook

Since the book was published, Janella’s involvement has escalated to the point where she’s just returned from a trip with the Connecting Hands team to Cambodia, plus she hosted a cooking workshop in Sydney yesterday where all funds raised from ticket sales went to the charity as well.

Janella was keen to go to Cambodia so she could see for herself how Connecting Hands’ latest project – building a teaching cafe in Cambodia – was progressing.

The idea is that, once completed, the cafe will give the girls training in hospitality, employment with on-going jobs, and a safe place to live.

The Connecting Hands message - excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

The Connecting Hands message – excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

For Janella, it was an unforgettable experience.  ‘A lot of people just put their heads in the sand over this, because it is a really hard issue to look at. I love what Connecting Hands is doing – the practicality of it. This cafe is really going to make a difference.’

When the cafe is finished, Janella says she’d like to return to Cambodia, possibly for three months, to help train the girls in hospitality. I asked her why she was so passionate about the cause.

‘Where do you start?’ she said. ‘What’s the difference between those young girls and our own children? I mean, we’re all the same. I believe in equality and injustice really upsets me at every level. They’re not being given a fair chance and that’s just appalling. And no one really wants to know about it – it’s all too hot for them to touch and I’m not scared of those sorts of things.’

Like myself, Janella wants to know why governments aren’t stepping in to do more. ‘The sexual trafficking of children is actually one of the biggest money-spinners on the planet. It makes more money than anything else. I don’t really understand why we don’t hear more about it. That’s a lot of money and a lot of children.’

‘It’s a really hard issue and I think a lot of people just want to pretend that it isn’t happening. Why else could it be?’

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

The title ‘celebrity chef’ is something Janella thinks first began with the success Masterchef. In her view, she’s really a naturopath who’s also a foodie. Still, she has been on TV continuously for fifteen years now, (Channel Nine – Mornings with Kerri-Anne Kennerley; Channel Seven – Good Chef, Bad Chef, and Channel Ten – Biggest Loser) so she’s well and truly earned the title.

Now living in the Hinterlands in Byron Bay, Janella runs clinics near home and in Sydney. She regularly writes magazine articles and her diary is packed with media commitments. But it’s her work in the clinics she finds most rewarding. ‘Consulting clients, one on one. It’s really beautiful, I love that work,’ she said. ‘I deal with all sorts of health issues, from cancer and libido-immune deficiency issues to fertility and skin problems.’

Can naturopathy really address all these complaints? ‘Of course,’ said Janella. ‘We make people better. It’s not that hard. For so many people, it’s a matter of taking chemicals out of your life – from your food, your skincare, your cleaning products. So many people become well once they do that. Chemicals are causing so many problems in our life. And then take out all the processed food from your diet.’

Janella’s top tip for natural skincare is the Pure and Green organic range. She also prefers to buy organic wine. And while it’s her preference to go organic generally, it’s not something she’s fanatical about.

After our chat, I was starting to feel quite exhausted. How does she keep up the pace, fitting all these commitments into her life? But wait, there’s more!

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

Janella is also working on her own TV show. It’s a show focusing on eating food without using meat and refined foods, but still making meals that are beautiful to taste. (watch this space!)

AND she’s working on her next book. It will be called Whole Foods for the Whole World, with recipes for every age, from babyhood to the elderly.

AND she’s shooting a TV commercial for OxFam about awareness about food waste.

Little wonder she has been named in the top 40 inspiring women in Australia, in Prevention Magazine. 

If you’d like to do just a little something to help Connecting Hands, here’s a couple of ideas. You can still purchase the cookbook by going to the charity’s website at http://connectinghands.com.au

And you can buy tickets to Connecting Hands annual fund-raising dinner, at which I will be MC. It’s in St Kilda at The Great Provider on Saturday, October 19th.  I’d love to see you there!

Why this is something you should add to your Weekend TO DO list…


It’s pretty simple really. If you go along to the Cambridge Studio Gallery in Collingwood anytime between now and June 1st, you’ll be a winner in more ways than one.

(1) You’ll get to see a brilliant art exhibition by famed painter OTTO BORON. 

(2) Your visit is very likely to help the BUILD FOUNDATION in their mission to help underprivileged children in Cambodia.

(3) You may possibly BUY a piece of art that will be a wonderful investment – and if you can’t afford one, then a raffle ticket for just $10 may end up sending a masterpiece your way.

I was asked along on Wednesday night to officially ‘open’ the ART FROM THE HEART Exhibition. Set in the light and airy Cambridge Studio Gallery, I was mighty impressed by Otto Boron’s collection. It’s easy to see why his work has been highly acclaimed over the years, winning many awards including Otto being named Victorian Artist of the Year, twice.

Cambridge Studio Gallery

Cambridge Studio Gallery

Kanyaka Ruins - $1300

Kanyaka Ruins – $1300

This exhibition is bold and expressionistic; a combination of images ranging from portraits of children in Cambodia, to derelict, deconstructed buildings abandoned in Australian rural landscapes.

I think you can see a touch of Cezanne, Picasso and even Fred Williams influences in some of these pieces and I truly believe they will make for a great investment, because they are so modestly priced.



Termite Landscape, Northern Territory - $3500

Termite Landscape, Northern Territory – $3500


Territorial Geese - $3500

Territorial Geese – $3500

Reflection - $3500

Reflection – $3500

Children of Cambodia - $4500

Children of Cambodia – $4500

Rice Carrier - $1200

Rice Carrier – $1200

Robert Lee, President of the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria spoke on the night, highlighting Otto’s achievements and explaining how Otto’s work, with its strong textures and images, presents an often-poignant view of the world.

I was delighted to meet with Otto on the night and learn we had a couple of things in common. One – we’ve both worked in TV. Otto was in fact head scenic artist at the ABC for twenty years. Two – like Otto, I also prefer working with oils when I paint. And he gave me a couple of great tips about texture too. (This will only interest any aspiring artists out there – but if you like working with a palette knife, Otto says he has a better idea. He buys firm but flexible plastic strips from Bunnings – in the paint section of the store – to get thicker strokes. I’m heading there tomorrow.)

Robert Lee, Otto Boron and me

Robert Lee, Otto Boron and me

He might be into his seventies, but this Italian-born painter (Otto migrated here in 1959) is still as productive as ever. He says his ability to paint quickly comes from the pressures of working in the TV industry. Ah ha! I get that…

Not only exceptionally talented, he’s also a generous soul. Fifty per cent of all works sold will go to the BUILD FOUNDATION, helping disadvantaged children in Cambodia.

Otto’s daughter, Tania, is part of the BUILD FOUNDATION which began five years ago. Headed by Mark O’Connell, it started out sending volunteers on trips to Cambodia and is now involved in a five-year-project, which is halfway to completion. The project involves the building of a Community Development Centre, which includes a medical centre, classrooms, vocational training building, a library and agricultural areas.

Tania Boron and Mark O'Connell from the Build Foundation

Tania Boron and Mark O’Connell from the Build Foundation

What’s really impressive is how much BUILD has been able to achieve – funding all this through its own fund-raising efforts. Congratulations guys, for doing such an outstanding job – changing the lives of so many people for the better!

And congratulations to Otto Boron and the Cambridge Studio Gallery for putting together such an inspiring exhibition.

Now, here’s the artwork you could win if you buy a raffle ticket before June 1st. So for a mere TEN DOLLARS you could win this painting, worth $1600!!! Get along to the gallery and put your hand in your packet for a worthy cause.

'Rundown Farm Shed', the painting in the raffle, worth $1600

‘Rundown Farm Shed’, the painting in the raffle, worth $1600

Cambridge Studio Gallery
52 Cambridge St
Collingwood Victoria 3066 Australia
Hours of operation:
Wednesday – Saturday
11:00am – 5:00pm
(03) 9486 0169






Big Ideas – Telling the World’s Stories

As a journalist, I was naturally drawn to the Melbourne Writers Festival event, ‘BIG IDEAS — Telling the World’s Stories: What happens when the Journalists Leave?’ Likewise, so was Melbourne’s public and journalistic community, with the session at the BMW Edge being a sold-out event.

Margaret Simons

Chairing the panel was award-winning freelance journalist Margaret Simons, who is also the Director for the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University and the author of ten books.

The focus was on how media reporting is changing in a world where our tools of communication are better than ever before. How is journalism being influenced by social media and the blogosphere? What impact is the ability of people to tell their own stories, through Facebook or Twitter, having on the news?



Special guest of the night was US scribe Andy Carvin, best known as the world’s leading Twitter journalist – although he tweeted last night ‘Don’t’ call me a Twitter journalist’  — even though he’s famous for using Twitter as a news-breaking device.To demonstrate the immediacy of the social networking tool, Carvin tweeted throughout the session – and still seemed to keep up with the questions thrown his way.

Panel discussion: 'Big Ideas - Telling the World's Stories'

Panel discussion: ‘Big Ideas – Telling the World’s Stories’

Carvin is currently employed as the senior strategist for US public service radio broadcaster NPR. He’s also the founding director of the Digital Divide Network, which has an online community of more than 10,000 internet activists in more than 140 counties. He uses his twitter community to help with research when he’s out in the field, with information such as tracking aeroplane routes and shipping times.

Carvin’s Google Plus profile reads ‘I tweet revolutions’. So what is the most important story he’s broken with Twitter?

Andy Carvin

Andy Carvin

I think it depends how you define that,’ he said. ‘I was one of a handful of people who really forced a lot of people on-line to really pay attention to what was going on in Libya and also kept an eye on Syria while everyone’s eyes were off the ball. So in the grand scheme of things, I think my collective work was most important in Libya and Syria.’

‘In terms of specific stories, I was one of the first people to raise questions about the Bloggergate girl in Damascus when she was kidnapped a year ago in June.

(if you’d like to read more about this, go to storify.com/acarvin  )

Another story involved several Arabic news sites claiming that Israel was secretly supplying weapons to Gaddafi. ‘With the help of my Twitter followers we were able to prove, almost within a matter of minutes, that the evidence they had only proved they had access to what are know as star-shells or elimination rounds which light up the sky at night, ‘ said Carvin. ‘The only evidence they were using was a six-pointed star on these munitions and we found evidence of that symbol going all the way back to World War One, as the standard symbol and so it had nothing to do with Israel.  Nonetheless, many Arabic news services were running with it.’

For now, Carvin is taking a break from journalism to write a book about his experiences.

Margaret Simons took matters beyond the actual reporting of stories to ask,  ‘What is the media failing to do?’ For instance, she said, they will sweep like a pack on a story in a foreign country, put a certain issue in the spotlight and then depart so that the problem is again forgotten and communities are left to fend for themselves.


Dominic Frigugilietti

Dominic Frigugilietti

Domenic Friguglietti, Head of ABC International Development which supports Asia Pacific partners with communication development programs, talked about the progress they’ve made in Cambodia. Slowly but surely, starting from a grassroots level, they’ve made progress strengthening media operations there and implementing new projects.

‘The citizen-journalist relationships in Cambodia are very important,’ he said. ‘We’ve been encouraging talkback radio, starting with a pilot in an environment more open to change. So you start softly and build your way up to topics such as the HIV epidemic and human trafficking.’

He said they’ve also made progress in Papua New Guinea, where domestic violence has been a huge issue. ‘We’re tapping into citizen and social media and how it can be used a a dual tool. We ran a campaign last year called ‘Use Your Voice’. It worked because we got someone who confessed to being involved in domestic violence in the past, to speak out against it and lead the campaign. It’s about utilizing and harnessing the power of communication and we’re only just learning about that now. But at least in PNG and Vanuatu, there’s a lot more freedom in the media.’

So given the views of the panel, it would appear we need both approaches – one immediate and one long-term – to tackle different types of BIG ISSUES worldwide. For Carvin, when there’s an IMMEDIATE CRISIS, it’s about encouraging as many people as possible to get up to speed with the ability to impart information quickly through tools such as Twitter, and for Friguglietti the key to tackling SOCIAL ISSUES is sustaining long-term relationships and providing a constant presence.