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Yarra Reporter’s farewell

Yarra Reporter is no longer being updated, with the project officially winding down from January 2017.

We would like to thank all of our writers, contributors, readers and passer-byers.

We’re thankful to our loyal readership over this journey, and incredibly proud of all of the stories our journalists have written about people living, working and playing in the City of Yarra.

Our final thanks goes to the City of Yarra for funding and believing in Yarra Reporter’s vision. We hope that you have had many years of happy reading, and continue to enjoy the archive of our stories here 🙂 

SLAMMING THROUGH THE SHAME: POETRY AS ACTIVISM

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Judith Rodriguez performing at The Owl and Cat Theatre Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

“One of the great shames and sorrows of our time is the situation on Manus Island” Ann Shenfield, PEN Writers in Prison Convenor and poet said.

Ann is one of many poets that perform at Melbourne’s burgeoning and diverse poetry scene. It is also a hub for activism, particularly for the current crisis on Manus Island.

“I am angry about Australia’s continued non-compliance with its U.N. Charter obligations to asylum-seekers. I am ashamed of the government’s bribery of other nations to host detention camps for which Australia is totally responsible despite its lies on this subject” PEN Melbourne Committee member and poet Judith Rodriguez said.

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Judith cites that the death of Reza Barati (a “death by medical neglect”) countless suicides, abuse and “illegal detention” as an absolute tragedy. Photo: Brendan Bonsack

Brendan Bonsack, a poet and photographer, currently runs “Melbourne Spoken Word” at 3CR Community Radio Station. He believes the situation at Manus Island demonstrates the xenophobia running through Australian society.

“How far is my government prepared to take this calculated cruelty, and if I let them get away with it now, couldn’t it just as easily happen to me?” Brendan said.

Poetry is an effective medium for activism because it strikes an emotional chord that immediately provokes intense reflection and critical thought.

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“Poetry is about connecting with the audience on a human level and hopefully evoking something from them” Sharifa Tartoussi, host of Griffinspeak and poet, said. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

“Poetry promotes human connection, and a lot of activism is essentially an appeal to empathy, so poetry is ideal tool in an activist’s arsenal” Brendan said.

At its core poetry is simple and lies in a tradition used by civilizations for years. Poetry has a primal and familiar resonance.

“Poetry is a storytelling medium” Sharifa said.

“It is brief but memorable” Judith said.

Poetry has yet to attract legal repercussions or media backlash.

“Poets try to find the kernel of truth behind circumstances. One could add that poems, rarely, in this country, attract charges e.g. of defamation” Judith said.

Yes, poetry is evocative but it can also be a coping mechanism for bystanders that feel hopeless and helpless.

“It is a kind of counter-narrative, so, writing through a lens of kindness, or love, perhaps as a reassurance to myself that these people are still alive” Brendan said.

Moreover, poetry can be easily and quickly distributed, be it, through physical spaces, online spaces or traditional performances.

“A poem can be read anywhere, posted online, pasted on a wall, written on a pavement, flown on a banner, stuffed into the letterbox of your local MP” Brendan said.

Indeed, many poets have personally experienced an audience’s physical reaction to their poetry.

Sharifa, Judith and Brendan say that many audience members have told them about their emotional response to a performance.

“The audiences will often vibe off of you when they realise that you are authentic” Sharifa said.

“Audiences generally express agreement, sometimes enthusiasm. And people tell you later they remember a reading of THAT poem” Judith said.

To hear the poets of Yarra rally against the crisis at Manus Island, tune into Melbourne Spoken Word at 3CR on Thursday mornings 9.00am, 855 AM on your radio. Alternatively, these sessions can be streamed at http://3cr.org.au. Check the Melbourne Spoken Word website for more details and information on other poetry events http://melbournespokenword.com/events/

We Are Yarra

Wren, Abbotsford

“I think more restaurants need vegan options, it just makes sense. That way shops would get more business and more people would be able to participate in Melbourne’s foodie culture. I mean, Melbourne’s already pretty good when it comes to vegan options, better than Brisbane definitely. At least, if you walk into a restaurant [in Melbourne] they can make stuff vegan for you on request, and they understand what you mean when you say ‘vegan’. And the food being made vegan doesn’t compromise on its quality. In Brisbane, there’s not as much creativity when it comes to vegan food – it’s all just salads. People are quick to assume that vegan food is just generally bland, but it’s nice to see that that assumption is being challenged here. People are giving veganism a go, and that’s really refreshing to see.”

Pop-up poetry cafe: a birthplace for flourishing poets

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Poetry Cafe, held at North Carlton’s Afro Hub, is a beautiful space that transforms undecided and inexperienced voices into standout performers.

The pop-up poetry cafe, happening on the second Saturday of every month, is simultaneously a performance space, social space and patisserie.

Creator and poet Jehnet Kaya (Jay for short), also known as Ms Millie, could not attend Melbourne’s poetry events because of her five-year-old son. Taking matters into her own hands she created a safe and inclusive space for community members to share their poetry and indulge in home-cooked sweets.

“I figured I could just get the poets to come to me,” Jay said.

The performers and audience experience a range of emotions. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

The strength of Melbourne’s poetry scene lies in its close-knit and caring community.

“The poetry community is paramount. It’s so important on so many levels for poets. The poetry community gives – it gives comfort, support, assurance and assistance,” Jay said.

At the event, cheers and encouragement can constantly be heard in support of the performers.

“I get to listen to people perform for the first time and see them gain their voice and see their confidence climb,” Jay said.

Jay hosting Ms Millie’s at Afrohub. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Cafe has been a stepping stone for many, but also for Jay herself. Encouraged by those around her, she began performing her personal poems for the first time.

Even as a child, she remembered having a penchant for food. Merging her Turkish and African American ancestry to influence her bite-sized culinary delights, Jay’s sweets are a standout to be anticipated at each pop-up poetry event.

“I’ve always had a love for sweets and poetry so I figured I could combine two of my favourite things together and make it a thing, and people responded really positively,” Jay said.

“The influence of sugar either in the form of cake or syrup drenched baklava has carried over into my adult life,” Jay said.

Ms Millies Pop Up Cafe Facebook page is punctuated by delicious and evocative descriptions of food. Consider options “varying from honey pistachio cheesecake to sweet potato pie, orange marmalade cake to cherry pie”. They fire up the imagination and materialise as a picture perfect reality.

Jay’s personal favourites are her banana cream pie and sticky date cake. She calls them her “favourite dishes” and cites the influence of her father’s African American family.

Jay has big plans for the future, hoping to expand the pop-up event into Melbourne’s first “poetisserie” – a hybrid of a patisserie and a poetry space.

Ms Millie’s next event is on the 11th of November from 7.00 pm. Click here for all the information.

Written by Devana Senanayake

We Are Yarra

Kevin, Collingwood

“I know a lot of restaurants, but I never eat at any of them. There’s only one place, Toto’s on Lygon Street. It’s an Italian restaurant, but they serve food from a lot of countries, so I always go there for my meals between deliveries. This is not my lunch though! This is my breakfast. It’s late, yes. Today has been a very busy day. Saturdays – everybody’s ordering food on Saturday.”

Photograph by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

We Are Yarra

Lisa Currie, North Carlton

“I went to the marriage equality rally with my mum. She’s always been pretty open-minded.  She’s been finding out more about the movement and equality, and she’s really getting into it now. We’ve been having some really great conversations about things lately. I was curious, so the other day I asked her if she gave my brother a talk about consent, like she had given me a talk on safety and sexual assault. She said “no” because she didn’t think she’d need to. She didn’t assume her son was going to hurt anybody. Nobody wants to assume that of anybody.”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

The Abbotsford Convent comes alive in pictures

The Abbotsford Convent is a rich artistic treasure nestled in suburbia. Spread over 16 acres, it was once identified as the biggest religious institution in the Southern Hemisphere. It now boasts a diverse artistic aura and is a breath of fresh air in the midst of a gentrified pocket of Melbourne.

The Abbotsford Convent is currently undergoing huge renovations to improve its image as a cultural hub. According to the Abbotsford Convent Foundation Business Plan, only 60 per cent of the Convent’s buildings, grounds and gardens are presently usable. In 2015, the Federal Government announced that the Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF) would receive a challenge grant of $2.68 million from the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) to renovate the 3600 square metre building and surrounding land, according to the Abbotsford Convent website.

The photos that follow walk you through the Convent’s invaluable artistic community, home to artists, art galleries, educational workshops, markets and much much more.

The Abbotsford Convent houses at least one hundred artists, writers, creatives and wellbeing practitioners. This studio belongs to Asphyxia, an artist and writer who draws and paints exceptional dolls. Many of the artists welcome visitors, so knock on the door and say hello. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli
Artist Ralf Kempken has expanded his studio over the past few years as he increases the size of his artwork. Predominantly consisting of children’s faces and landscapes of Melbourne’s CBD, you may have seen his artwork installed around the Yarra. Read this YR article for an in-depth look at Ralf’s work. Photo: Catlin Matticoli
Ralf is working on his latest three-layered stencil artwork depicting the iconic Collins Street landscape in Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Australian Government bought the Convent off a developer in the 1990’s. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Contemplative Garden is regularly maintained by gardeners and landscapers. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Abbotsford Convent has a calming aura about it. There are endless hidden spaces to sit alone or in company. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Convent started out as a safe place for nuns and girls in the late 1800’s. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
There are now hundreds of tenants that occupy the offices, workshops and art spaces on the ground. These rustic legs were made by fibre artist Wendy Golden who has a studio in the convent. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
At its peak, the Convent housed 1,000 women and children on its fully self-sufficient property and farm land. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
While walking through the Abbotsford Convent, you will find a few of these money boxes requesting funding. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Stone pillars. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Every nook is covered in art. This photo was taken in the ladies toilets beside popular pay-as-you-feel restaurant Lentil as Anything. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
A handful of catering companies are located inside the Abbotsford Convent. One of them set up this fantastic table setting for a wedding held the same afternoon this photo was captured. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Art installation found inside the Convent, hanging from an old staircase. Artist unknown. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.

Written and photographed by Caitlin Matticoli

Faces of Yarra

Clair, Burnley Gardens

“It is a beautiful day today. Actually, I came out here to mark all these notes because I decided it’s too gorgeous out to be sitting in my office. But this is a pretty gorgeous green space year-round too. It’s always lovely to sit here and watch the birds mucking around. A lot of people think so too, it seems. Lots of people who work around here are out here eating their lunch every day. People come out here on weekends too, but if you work here I’m sure you’re not around if you can help it!”

Photograph by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Mattresses no longer a landfill burden

According to recent studies by Blue Environment Pty Ltd, Australia has now become one of the biggest producers of green house gases and produces more waste per capita than the US, Canada and New Zealand. Australia is also ranked the twelfth highest waste generator out of the 35 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD).

The same report also shows that levels of landfill waste in Australia have been rising faster than the national birth rate. In the period between 1996-2015, the Australian population rose by 28%, however, waste generation increased by 170%, resulting in waste growth levels of 7.8% a year.

While levels of landfill waste are growing at a concerning rate, Australia’s recycling recovery rate of 60% is the third highest out of the other OECD countries. This is due to better incentives that prohibit unsorted waste going to landfill, better use of advanced waste processing technologies, and in part due to higher waste disposal costs.

However, in Victoria, large volumes of landfill capacity in close proximity to Melbourne provide relatively cheap access to landfill disposal and has resulted in competitive landfill markets.

Furthermore, there are a limited range of resource recovery technologies in operation, resulting in lost opportunities to recover used materials.

The TIC Group is a mattress recycling company based in Melbourne who recognise the importance of waste reduction and are one of the only major mattress recycling companies in Australia.

“We’re the second company to do this outside of the Netherlands. We’ve automated the process of deconstructing the mattress, however, it’s Dutch technology,” said TIC Group CEO, Michael Warren.

“We collect mattresses from all over Melbourne and about 3000 mattresses a year from the City of Yarra. We deconstruct the mattresses, the steel is sent off to be shredded, and we recover the foam and turn it into carpet underlay.”

“We recover about 75-80% of the mattress, which would otherwise go to landfill,” he said.

Michael says that this is just the beginning and that the company hopes to increase the number of mattresses recycled.

“We started from scratch 4 years ago and in July we processed just over 10,000 mattresses. The growth has been quite steady and we think we’re still just scratching the market in terms of what’s available,” said Michael.

Mattress parts being recycled. Photo: TIC Group.

“Every mattress we divert from ending up in landfill is around 0.75 of a cubic metre, so we are diverting around 100,000 cubic metres from landfill, but not only that, we are also doing resource recovery and recycling many different materials,” he said.

As waste levels continue to increase year on year the conversation concerning environmental damage has fast become a hot topic. Australian radio and television comedian, Craig Reucassel, explored the impact of waste in Australia in a three-part series aired on the ABC earlier this year –  War on Waste.

Craig’s campaign gained a lot of traction in Australia, with his #BYOCoffeeCup tram video going viral on social media. His aim? To change behaviours and show people the lasting impact of waste on the environment.

Speaking to Craig about his campaign, he told The Yarra Reporter that: “Overall I’m very pleased with the response. There’s been a huge increase in people using their own [coffee] cups. There has been a 690% increase in KeepCup sales – that was the last figure. It has also helped supermarkets in using less plastic bags.”

“The mattress waste reduction by the TIC Group is very much so a worthwhile project. Due to their size [mattresses] are a difficult part of the waste stream, there are a lot of resources in there. It’s definitely a positive.”

“Matresses are a huge litter object, you see them dumped a lot on the side of the roads … They are an issue we might look at in the future,” said Craig.

Disposing of dumped and littered items not only poses an environmental threat, it also comes at a high financial cost to local governments and other agencies.

Between 2012 and 2013 the City of Yarra’s Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2014-2018 reported spending $5,500,000 cleaning up litter and dumped objects, and recycling.

Environmental assessments have shown that for most materials, recycling results in net savings in energy and reductions in green house gas emissions. The Waste generation and resource recovery in Australia report also shows significant savings in water use and the equivilant of 1.5% of Australia’s total emissions, due to resource recovery.

The increase in levels of landfill have had a negative impact on the environment, which is why campaigns advocating waste minimisation, such as the War on Waste, and the work of companies like the TIC Group are important in helping to increase recovery rates and reduce landfill.

For more information on the TIC Group and their work head over to their website here.

Written by Deniz Karaman