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.
“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!”
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.
“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.
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.
“I’m here to learn English because I need it back home in Colombia, and it’s cheaper to learn a language in a new country than to study it in a school. When I can speak and write well in English, I can study back home. But it’s hard to speak to people around here. When I’m working, people don’t speak to me a lot. They just take their food, say thank you, and that’s all. And I’m working a lot because we need the money. There’s very little time to go out to speak to people.”
The Albanian Australian Islamic Society (AAIS) mosque is situated in a blink-and-you-might-miss nook in North Carlton. This stands as an interesting metaphor for the seamless integration of the Albanian Muslim community into Australian life.
The AAIS is a religious space that aids cultural assimilation and provides education for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It has wholeheartedly contributed to the formation of the Yarra’s rich and multi-layered identity.
At an early age, Vahid’s family migrated to Australia. His parents hailed from the coastal Ulqin (pronounced Oullchin).
“I was actually born in Rome (Italy) where my parents resided in an estate mainly for European refugees and migrants planning to travel abroad,” Vahid says.
“My parents and I (11 months old at the time) boarded the Italian ship named Galileo, which was on route to Australia, and after a 30-day voyage by sea we docked at Port Melbourne on December 3rd, 1970. This also happened to be my very first birthday,” Vahid says.
Vahid and his family are no strangers to cultural shock and ennui. Shortly after they arrived, his family joined the AAIS.
On being asked about the best method for combating alienation, he prescribed socialising.
“Such activities bring you closer to other people in the community, it creates an environment for individuals to interact and meet with other people, then gradually friends can be made,” Vahid says.
The AAIS’s social activities and educational programs encourage people to group together. As a result of the interaction, they learn from one another and move to achieve goals that benefit the larger community.
In 1997, Vahid joined the AAIS Executive Committee as a volunteer.
Some of the society’s standout events include the annual Kid’s Bayram Eid Carnival and Bayram Eid Dinner Celebration. Eid, also called the “Sacrifice Feast”, is a Muslim holiday celebrated worldwide.
Both of these events fall on an important day of the Muslim calendar and are particularly loved by the Albanian Muslim community.
Vahid recalls the 2003 Building and Renovation project. The project aimed to restore the beauty of the Albanian Mosque and also expand to aid the increasing number of attendees. This is a brilliant example of an ambitious vision that ensued due to the support provided through the collectivised AAIS community.
Donations and time contributed by volunteers played a massive factor in the success. Moreover, dinners and BBQ’s helped raise funds. Vahid calls this a triumph for his community and a brilliant exposition for general society.
“I can still recall the sense of happiness we all felt when the project was finally completed,” Vahid says.
Vahid became president of the AAIS in 2006, initiating the successful set up of The AAIS Youth Center. The center has a café, social corner, sports facilities, recreation area and educational space.
Vahid claims that the biggest achievement is the bloom of multigenerational interaction – a true rarity in these isolated, technology fuelled days.
“We have kids, teenagers, parents, and grandparents all visiting The AAIS’s Youth Centre and spending their time there together,” Vahid says.
The AAIS have laboriously worked to conserve the Albanian Muslim faith, language, and tradition and have initiated multicultural relationships in the Yarra area.
The Albanians are very hospitable people – they are quick to welcome you in and accommodate you in their community. This is also reflected in their interactions around non-Muslims hoping to be exposed and educated about their culture.
“Being a good host – be that to a member of the family, a friend or even a total stranger – is held in high regard in our community,” Vahid said.
“The AAIS has always supported harmony and social cohesion among all members of the community. As a society, our doors are open to others from various backgrounds,” Vahid says.
The AAIS is open to school tours, public events and interfaith collaborations such as the Friendship Walk that aims to form cross-religious friendships.
“I believe that many people in the Yarra have enjoyed their experience at our society and also had a pleasant time meeting community members and learning from one another,” Vahid says.
The AAIS is a cultural institution that has aided assimilation and celebrated the richness of the Albanian Muslim community.
“I’ve been playing on this spot for thirty years now, started in 1987 with a bunch of mates. We were in a group called The Fist – because there were five of us. I still see two of them, sometimes. One guy lives out in Warnambool. Last time I saw him was two years ago, back when I still had a car. Can’t bother with a car nowadays, not in this city. We got trams and buses and I don’t have to travel too far to get anywhere. I used to play all over the city, but now I’m mostly around here. People know me here. I’m out here every weekend, sometimes during the week too. I have a bit of free time now, which is good. Gotta take the dog out for walks!”
When a group of 20 something music enthusiasts get together to throw parties, changing the sound of Melbourne usually isn’t their main aim.
However, Who Loves event organisers Denis, Dajana, Andre and James have finally pursued their dreams of creating their idea of a perfect party, and are doing things differently when it comes to throwing good events.
The idea for Who Loves formed when the foursome met one night at a party and discovered that they had the same intentions to run their own events and change the party scene in Melbourne.
Denis Khassapov, one of the Who Loves founders, has already made a name for himself running parties at Prahran’s unique nightclub and pawn shop, Pawn & Co.
“I always wanted to run my own parties, but the right people with the same ideas never came around,” he said.
“One day I was at my friend Alex’s house party, DJing, and Andre came over to me and he really liked my music, and when he was playing I really liked his music.”
“After that, we randomly bumped into each other at a DJ competition called Your Shot. We just got chatting and somehow got thinking that we should start our own parties. We both mentioned that we wanted to run our own events and that’s how it came about.”
Who Loves currently run one party per month, getting their inspiration from the events they had been to and replicating a similar vibe.
“We got a lot of our ideas from the house parties we went to and all the doofs we used to go to, we just wanted to throw parties with a similar vibe to that,” said James.
“We want to create a different, deep house sound and be recognised for it. No one really plays that kind of music, and we just wanted to play the music we’re into, so we thought let’s try to bring that kind of doof environment to a monthly event.”
In order for the parties to be accessible to everyone, the group decided to run their events during the day from 3pm to midnight.
“Our aim is to throw good parties, attract good people and create good vibes, a place where everyone can just hang out and have a good time,” said Denis.
“We want to attract all different types of people and make it accessible to those who may just want to listen to a few tunes during the day, or for those who want to come to a pre party somewhere before they go out,” said Dajana.
“We end our parties early because we don’t want people to leave when they’re completely drained. We want people to leave at an early time still buzzing from the good vibes and leave thinking, ‘Wow that was incredible’ rather than ‘I’m really tired’ and then forgetting about how good the party was,” said Andre.
While Who Loves currently throw one party a month, the group have high ambitions to grow their name.
“Maybe in the future there will be a Who Loves record label or even a Who Loves music festival,” said Andre.
“Our aim is to create a unique sound that people recognise as Who Loves. We want to create parties that people gravitate towards,” said Denis.