This New Year’s Eve I strolled down my inner Melbourne suburban main street for a casual dinner with friends. And I was grateful I could. I’m grateful for my year, for my Christmas, my home and my family. I’m holding onto that gratitude with both hands knowing that others are fighting for those very things, with no other option but to.

‘With half the nation burning it doesn’t feel very festive’, my friend rightly observed of New Years.
It didn’t. It doesn’t. I’ve been glued to social media for the past week/s reading as many updates as I can about what our communities are facing, not just about Victoria but New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. For me, their losses are triggering. For them, it’s devastating over and over.

To think that despite systems and information, despite plans and resources, often it comes down to human nature and Mother Nature. There’s only so much you can control in the moment, only so much you can do in the moment.
Voraciously reading stories of terror and of bravery, of loss and of hope, of continuing flames and exhaustion, of togetherness and blame, this is an Australia we’ve seen glimpses of before, peeking out from previous fire seasons and summers across the state, the nation and the world.

But not like this. The anger in the fires, in those hungry flames seems beyond anything that should be endured with no real end in sight. It feels dramatic. It is dramatic. These moments are very real. No matter how we got here, it should be a rallying time with little thought to politics and pettiness. It should be about people, of doing everything possible now in this moment to help them help themselves.

The media are telling their story; community members are also telling their own. It’s hard to brush aside the hate and the opportunists in social media to get to the heart of what the community and the emergency management personnel are going through. There’s enough time for more blame. We’ve seen it before and it will come again, rightly or wrongly. It’s right to ask questions about how we get out of this. It’s right to ask how we mitigate the chance of being here again.

There are people with answers – that’s not me. Like many, I just have opinions.
But it’s not right to accept that this is the new normal. Based on that, it’s not right to change nothing and to wait for it to happen again. It’s not right to admit defeat. Our communities – those who have lost and those who may still lose – deserve better than that. This New Year must bring something better for them.  And for us.

Tech start-up Third Aurora has a little something special on the market with an augmented reality App testing the boundaries of technology with more than 500 wineries from across the world so far.

Winerytale takes a real wine bottle and via a smartphone app displays the winemaker’s own video, audio, images, text and sound to create a rich and memorable experience.

Capitalising on the augmented reality boom, the Geelong and USA based entrepreneurs have big plans and a lot of talent as well as 500 plus wineries on board current field trials pushing technological and enterprise boundaries.

The technology behind the Winerytale App is designed to work on any wine label, using artificial intelligence (AI) to scan and recognise labels, and augmented reality (AR) to showcase the wine’s backstory by beaming it from an imaginary space inside the bottle.

The platform is purpose built for mass adoption and accessibility to any winery wanting to take advantage of a brand marketing and sales future that will undeniably involve augmented reality.

It’s a bit mind boggling and a lot fascinating seeing it in action.

App Managing Director and Co-Founder of Third Aurora Dave Chaffey brought me on board a few weeks ago to talk through the strategic communication and content development needs for Winerytale.

Though I didn’t know my AI from my AR at first, it’s been a pleasure to go down the technology and marketing rabbithole and come back up with strong messaging and successful industry-focussed media takeup.

Understanding business objectives and pulling apart and strategizing communication and content needs aligned with that is one of my favourite things to do.   Best of all is the chance to learn new things alongside digital marketing gurus. It’s been incredible to be involved close to the ground up of a talented new business testing products with possibly unlimited potential in the right markets.

I may have extensive experience in internal and external stakeholders, but as I explore my new hustle as a small business owner of a boutique communications agency, building and maintaining relationships with new – and existing – clients takes on a vital note.

What’s important to me is what’s important to them. I listen, ask questions, pull things apart in my mind and put them back together again before settling on what the job is.

What is needed is not always what a client is prepared to commit to, and I find it important to be clear about the output, and the potential outcome while being respectful of how deep someone wants to go.

I’m an options person, a problem solver and a thrifty Virgo and so far I have found a way to deliver winning outcomes within set parameters.

Judged by feedback, direct sales, media take up, brand awareness and statistics. But most of all, judged by the ability to have tough conversations, have a laugh, celebrate the wins and catch up over a coffee.