Give unique gifts this Christmas

The gift of the gaffe

YOU rush to the nearest fair trade store and scour the shelves until your eyes fall on the most dazzling, hand-carved yerba mate set imaginable.

“She’ll never expect this,” you think in triumph, imagining your tea-drinking friend’s excitement as her friends gush over its inlaid zodiac symbols and debate where it should sit on her otherwise slightly drab kitchen bench.

It’s a bit pricey, which is a bit of a thrill; but to make sure you whack $10 on a card promising to buy a Sudanese farmer a goat in her name.

How you have given wings to a modest request for a nice herbal tea sample….

Why, oh why, do we keep getting present-buying so dreadfully wrong?

Well, according to researchers, it’s because givers and receivers have such different expectations about the exchange of a gift that we’re almost programmed to make a hash of it. And the harder you try, the more spectacularly you’re likely to fall – particularly in public.

In their fascinating shakedown on gifting gaffes, psychologists Jeff Galak, Julian Givi and Elanor F Williams say there are no less than seven common factors pushing people towards disaster.

It’s like the Grinch wrote the rule book:

• The first is aiming for a gift that dazzles the recipient, giving you a warm glow as you hand it over, but leaving them deflated and wondering what the hell to do with an inscribed gourd.


• Here’s a pop quiz: Would you gift a modest bouquet of roses in glorious bloom, or a slightly larger bouquet still in bud? If you reached for the instant thrill of a blooming bouquet, please join the rest of us at the back of the blooming class. Seriously, people would rather get a down payment on a top-quality Rolex and save up for the rest themselves, than have a cheap knock-off foisted on them. They’re happy to wait for quality.

• Just because you’re not there to share the exhilaration of free fall doesn’t make skydiving any less of a gift. The three psychs say often people avoid “experiential” gifts because they don’t have quite the thrill at handover and require a bit more knowledge about the recipient. But their research shows most people would rather a great memory than an inflatable Jesus.

• Don’t try to surprise your friends; they asked for a herbal tea sample because that’s really what they want.

• Your friends and family won’t love a half-baked gift any extra because you used sign language to bargain with a lama in a cave at the top of a mountain to get it – even if it cost all the tea in China. They don’t value your effort or wallet, they just want something useful.

• Just because your friend shops at a particular store regularly doesn’t mean they’d adore a gift card from that store, when a Visa card that could be used in any store is much more likely to give them a thrill.

• And that goat for a farmer? You might think it a potent symbol of your relationship and how you value your friend’s noble side, but behind the polite smile they’re really wishing you’d spent $10 on some goats feta and a pack of crackers.

All aboardie

BOARDIES made from plastic bottles are making their way to Fremantle beaches this summer with the launch of South Beach Boardies.

Founder Kirsten Lopez (pictured) says quality swimwear is an important step in preventing microplastics from flooding our oceans.

“Most swimwear lasts a season and then start to degrade which puts microplastics into the ocean,” Ms Lopez says.

“To have the qualities that we seek in swimwear – lightweight and fast drying – currently the best performing fabrics are synthetic.”

 “We use recycled fabrics instead of virgin polyesters – they have a 53 per cent lower carbon footprint to manufacture and they help reduce the planet’s plastic pollution problem.”

Mrs Lopez says plastic has been on her mind since witnessing the crisis on Cocos Island where she grew up.

“I was researching sustainable eco-friendly fabrics and what we can do with plastics to reuse them into various things, not just fabrics. But at the same time I was also looking for a pair of cool board shorts so I combined the two.”

The boardies come in men’s, women’s and unisex kids’ designs with only 150 shorts being made of any one pattern.

Mrs Lopez says the unisex design was another way to tackle the waste crisis.

“I wanted them to be able to be passed down from brother to sister – it’s really important to not just throw things away and buy new stuff.”

The boardies are made using eco-friendly dyes in China which Mrs Lopez says has one of the most “progressive recycling industries.”

She encourages everyone to make a few changes this Christmas.

“Shop responsibly, acquire clothing second hand, use reef-safe sunscreen, buy less and instead invest in high-quality, ethically made items – if a garment is ridiculously cheap, usually both the workers and the environment are being screwed.”


Christmas gifts with a difference


Tjyllyungoo – that’s the traditional name of Lance Chadd – hails from Bibbulmun country down south and has links to a little-known but extraordinarily important aspect of post-colonial Noongar art. His uncles Allan Kelly and Reynold Hart were members of the Carrolup Mission who achieved extraordinary but fleeting fame in the 1950s. Encouraged by a sympathetic headmaster, the children of the mission were encouraged to explore their creative side, and the results were so impressive their works toured Europe to great acclaim. Their legacy of realism is carried on through Tjyllungoo, who says his works are an expression of unity with the land rather than an argument about who owns it. Find his collection at

Sandra Hill also has a Carrolup connection; about 25 years ago she got sick of people dissing Noongar art as inauthentic and organised a seminal exhibition at Mandurah. She asked for some Carrolup works so the natural progression of Noongar art could finally be understood. Suffice to say it caught people’s attention and a number of careers were launched. Since then Hill has added a swag of exhibitions, collections, awards, public artworks to her CV. But she’s never stopped producing her awesome collectables, and we spotted some beauties at Mossenson Galleries:

While we’ve tried to go direct to artists, we couldn’t go past Japingka Aboriginal Art in Fremantle’s High Street. What they don’t know about art in the most far-flung pockets of our deserts just isn’t worth knowing. Not only do they ensure Indigenous artists get a fair reward for their effort, often they fly them thousands of kilometres so you can get to meet them. For some serious art investment, they’re the go-to:

Cultural tours

Walter McGuire’s a deeply respected Noongar elder who’s been working in the cultural field for more than 30 years, so joining him on a tour of “Elizabeth Quay and beyond” is bound to give you a deeper understanding of our history and the significance of this land. Mr McGuire does cleansing smoking ceremonies redolent with the smells of the bush. This ancient ritual is accompanied by traditional songs and their interpretations, sung in the local Noongar dialect. Catch him at

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, sign up for a tour with Ngarluma/Yindjibarndi man Clinton Walker from Ngurrangga Tours of Karratha. We can’t guarantee that a day trip with Clinton to the Burrup Peninsula won’t leave you utterly depressed over our treatment of priceless rock art, but chill out with a couple of days down in the Millstream-Chichester National Park where you’ll see reminders of Afghan cameleers from our earliest exploration of the North West. Find Clinton at

Something in between

Justin Martin’s a newcomer to the scene, setting up Djurandi Dreaming two years ago. But with one granny being famous artist Joan Martin and his other Theresa Walley, he’s got art and cultural cred. Yamatji/Noongar, Justin grew up on country chasing yorga (kangaroo) and listening to his great gran’s Dreaming stories. He’s now sharing some of that with tours of Perth, Rockingham and Lake Walyungup, and workshops for kids and adults. His dot and line artworks are lush and sensuous. Book a tour or snag a painting at

THE Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre near the Round House in Freo has a modest gallery, but courses worthy of a boast. For the Noongar dry season Birak, there’s jewellery making, community canvas painting, children’s storytelling and an art class with jazz great Lois Olney (pick up her CD Red Earth Blue Sky for $20). It’s all through January, so perfect for an “experiential” Christmas gift. The gallery supports only Indigenous artists. Check out the bright thongs and wine cooler bags featuring karlkurla (or silky pear) images from Vattessa Colbung of

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