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.
Brunch has shaped Melbourne’s cultural identity. The terms brunch and Melbourne have become synonymous, ringing bells that conjure picturesque platings that people salivate over on Instagram and Pinterest.
Due to its popularity, the concept is being rapidly reproduced in other parts of the world (check out St Kilda Cafe in Iowa, USA).
Interestingly enough, consumer demands have changed in tandem. People are on the hunt for clean, healthy food that is locally, seasonally and sustainably sourced. They are also on the lookout for a diversity of flavours.
“Breakfast or brunch out didn’t even rate a mention in the first edition of The Age Good Food Guide in 1980. But we’ve made up for lost time. Now, Melbourne-style brunch, with restaurant-level table service and plating, high-quality coffee and sleek architect-designed interior, has become an export commodity,” Roslyn Grundy, co-editor of The Age’s The Good Food Guide 2018, said.
Grundy said, that in late 2015, US Michelin-starred chef Grant Achatz was so impressed by the local brunch scene that he decided to add some elements to his restaurant in the Big Apple, the Aviary.
Moreover, blogger of Never Too Sweet For Me, Daisy Wong said her “family and friends who live overseas always tell me how much they want to come and brunch with me.”
“Melbourne style institutions are opening up in Hong Kong, London and New York,” Wong said.
Darian Szyszka, owner of Reunionand Co stated that his café has a strong commitment to ethical farming and transparency.
“We are proud to support local Victorian suppliers that help deliver their vision of food from farm to your plate,” Darian said.
At Reunion and Co. seasonality is incorporated into meals. On top of this, the Richmond cafe meets the demand for ethically sourced and raised proteins such as eggs and meat. Not surprisingly, its best sellers are the fresh green salads and seasonal vegetables.
Darian’s recipe for success is simple. Obtain fresh, transparent produce that is then properly cooked.
“We do what we do really well. People understand the difference in their palates. They are also political – they like to know where their food comes from,” Darian said.
“Food sourcing and farm to plate scenarios are bound to rise as people become more educated about ethical sourcing and locally produced food. It is really important to support local farmers and not import our supplies from overseas due to cheaper prices,” blogger Daisy Wong said.
Lisa too voices the rise of sustainability in brunch. She has noticed eaters to be “savvy” and applauds the ban of takeaway cups.
Similarly, self-professed food nerd and University of Melbourne PhD student, Sophie Lamond echoes the inclusion of sustainability as a core value. She also has a controversial prediction about the type of protein used.
“On our plates this might look like more protein from insects and more sea vegetables as sudden shocks could mean sharp price rises in grains, fruits, and nuts,” Lamond said.
Nola James, freelance writer and cafe reviewer for The Age’s Good Food charts the rise of other cultural influences.
“Our love affair with Asian-style breakfasts will continue to grow, too, expect more congee, more bonito and more kimchee across the board,” James said.
Similarly, Grundy echoes the popularity of a variety of cultural influences.
“Brunch might be congee, pho or kedgeree as much as hot cakes or french toast,” Grundy said.
Another area that has gained prevalence in the Melbourne brunch scene is the Middle Eastern cuisine. Richmond’s Feast of Merit provides sumac, Turkish delight, tahini, Persian feta and isot chermoula. Similarly, Carlton’s Babajan is influenced by Turkish cuisine. The menu provides a beautiful blend of rose, cardamom, dukkah, sucuk, smic and za’atar.
With a strong focus on sustainability and a mishmash of international flavours, Lisa, Melbourne based blogger of Lisa Eats World, sums it up best: “brunch isn’t just smashed avocado and eggs on toast anymore”.
It’s been four months since 200 residents of Fitzroy’s Atherton Gardens, a housing estate located at 125 Napier Street, were forced to flee their beds in the early hours of March 29 when the sixth floor of the high-rise housing estate was set ablaze.
Now residents are seeking justice for a catastrophe that they say could have been avoided and are seeking legal advice in an attempt to resolve issues with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Following the fire, the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) released a report damning the Fitzroy Housing Office, citing a lack of duty of care and mentioning several faults. These included a lack of smoke alarms and sprinklers and the build-up of combustible items – like a mattress that started the blaze, that had lain for weeks on the building’s sixth floor, despite residents’ complaints.
The Fitzroy Housing Office has announced they will be accepting all of the MFB’s recommendations, and Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley has announced the changes will be applied to all 44 public estates across Melbourne.
But according to one resident, the fire is just one in a series of incidents that Minister Foley and the Department of Health and Human Services, of which Fitzroy Housing Office are a branch of, have to answer for.
Ranko Cosic has been a resident of Atherton Gardens since 2001, and is fed up with what he describes as a “pattern of negligence” on the part of the DHHS and the Fitzroy Office of Housing.
He says that in the 16 years he has lived in the building, there have been no fire drills or inspections to ensure all smoke alarms were in working order, but he says this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A terrorist threat, rampant drug use in common areas and instances where the DHHS had taken nine months to address complaints regarding unstable or unsafe tenants are just some of the issues Mr Cosic has brought to the attention of the DHHS and Fitzroy Housing Office. His appeals went as far as the Premier himself, but he says his complaints fell upon deaf ears, and that the neglect goes further than just the Fitzroy Housing Office landing at the doorstep of Minister Foley himself.
“Since his election, the Minister did not come to our estate until the day of the fire,” Mr Cosic says of Minister Foley, who he believes to be uninterested in his position as housing Minister and unwilling to police the performance of his subordinates.
“Everything rots from the top; it starts at the head and transfers through the whole body. I have reported very serious matters to Minister Foley and it all gets ignored,” Mr Cosic says.
He also recalls personal experiences of harassment and attempted character assassination at the hands of the department, which he feels came about in an attempt to silence his efforts to improve living conditions for himself and fellow residents.
Mr Cosic remains defiant however, declaring he’s “not going to lay down”.
Fed up, Mr Cosic reached out to Yarra City Councillor Stephen Jolly, whom he describes as an ‘integral part’ of the legal battle: “I’m fortunate Steve is there, because who else would fight? I haven’t seen anyone else.”
Like Mr Cosic, Cr Jolly is tired of the pattern of neglect shown by the DHHS and Fitzroy Housing Office, who he says have ignored their residents for years, “and it’s taken a fire and media publicity [and the] threat of legal action for them to do anything”.
While Mr Cosic rallied 30 fellow Atherton residents, Cr Jolly recruited key stakeholders and legal counsel.
He hopes the class action will lead to changes within the department, whose behaviour he labels “dangerously incompetent.”
“It’s outrageous the way the residents are treated … the only time the Department is efficient is when you fail to meet your rent,” he says.
Residents of 125 Napier St are seeking a formal inquest of the fire, along with achieving a successful means of communicating their issues with the Department and working towards having these issues addressed.
Mr Cosic admits his hopes for the outcome of the legal proceedings are “lofty” and go beyond monetary compensation. He says he would like to see the Fitzroy Housing Office “purged”, and Minister Foley, whom he describes as “inept” removed from his position and replaced with “a minister who does care about private housing, who will go to the estate”.
Cr Jolly agrees with Mr Cosic, saying of Minister Foley, “I think he needs to go”.
Mr Cosic says for him, it’s not about the money, but social justice, and with the aid of Cr Jolly, he will continue to fight his cause until he sees justice done.
On first impression, Ash Mclerie resembles your typical Melbournian DJ. Namely, he’s quirky, nonchalant and hip. However, unlike many other DJ’s, his music career kicked off in a religious context: at church, being the child of a pastor; born and raised in a deeply religious family.
He is an energetic character flittering from one place to the other, his curly brown locks bounce up and down around his head each time he moves. He wears a cheeky grin and curls a strand of hair around his finger as he speaks. “What’s the time?” he asks. “Two thirty”, I reply. “Time to see the dentist!” he yells back. Funny? check. Cool? Check. Charismatic? Check check check.
He’s already played at festivals like Strawberry Fields and Rabbits Eat Lettuce, and has appeared at famed Melbourne venues such as Brown Alley, Revolver, Billboard, Tramp Bar and Railway Hotel Brunswick. He is fast making a name for himself as one of Melbourne’s up and coming DJ’s, and his passion for music flourished in an unlikely setting.
Ash discovered his love for music at the tender age of eight years old, mixing music at his local church.
“I was doing sound for the church, I was the guy at the sound desk. That’s when I got into music, but even before that I was fascinated by it. Church helped me to progress to what I do now and I branched off into electronic music.”
“My dad is a multi-instrumentalist, he’s been doing music since we were kids at church,” he says.
But his religion still plays a role in his life and he believes that his talent for music is God given.
“I feel as though God has given me musical talents.”
Ash says that he wants to use his music to help people, and is pursuing DJ’ing as a full-time career.
“My goal with music is to change people’s lives around the world, to make them feel a certain way: happy.”
“Music has opened me up to a lot of opportunities, it’s helped me get through hard times, and it’s shown me my potential and given me purpose. It’s shown me that anything is possible. I want to pass that on to others,” he says.
Ash’s good friend Ilan Riback describes Ash’s relationship with music as “inseparable from his character”.
“Ash lives and breathes music, it’s what we all know him for. Some people are known for their sense of fashion or love for animals, with Ash, it’s always been music.”
“A lot of our friendship is built around and based on music. We bond over music and spend most of our time at gigs, it’s actually a really important aspect of our friendship.”
While Ash currently works as an electrician, he eventually wants music to be his full-time career.
“When I’m at work I’m constantly thinking about music, but I’m never thinking about work when I’m doing music.”
As the conversation draws to a close, it is very evident that Ash has a special relationship with music, more so than enjoying a few tunes after work in order to unwind. For Ash, music is a lifestyle and has been the defining feature of his life.
Whether or not he will produce music for a living in the future, it’s safe to say that Ash will be making some noise around the Melbourne music scene, if only to one day become one of its most loved DJ’s.
“The Liberal Party endorsing Court as their keynote speaker was worse than broadcasters airing her views. It was more endorsement for her,” he says.
Ali Hogg, convenor of the Equal Love campaign describes Mr Wallace’s involvement as “lifesaving.”
“He organises a lot of the sound and stage aspects of our rallies. His background in event management has helped us tremendously with our campaigns,” Ms Hogg says.
His expertise in sound and the stage was cultivated in his teenage years, where he chose to forgo admission to the prestigious Melbourne High School in favour of the performing arts focused Northcote Technical School.
“I did my orientation at Northcote Tech and fell in love,” he says.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Ballarat University, he worked as an actor in stage shows and created a children’s touring theatre company, Jumpin’ Theatre.
From the moment you meet Judy Ryan her passion for the neighbourhood she fondly refers to as ‘my village’ is impossible to ignore. “I just love this grungy area; I love walking out of my front gate and going ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen today.'”
As it turns out, this love of spontaneity has proved a valuable asset for Judy’s involvement with her neighbourhood and has led her to become one of its most valued members.
The seventh of eight children and hailing from Wangaratta, Judy is driven by a need to feel connected to those around her.
Warm and bubbly, it’s not hard to feel connected to her. “I just love knowing people,” she says with a shrug.
“Having lived in the country, I was very involved in the community … my parents were very involved – we’ve always had a sense of getting your energy from the community.”
So when Judy and her husband John settled in Abbotsford five years ago, the first thing she did was seek out a place for herself in her new neighbourhood.
“One of the things I wanted to do was create community for myself.”
She began by volunteering as a mentor with Yarra Community Friends. Then there was a stint in the Abbotsford Convent’s choir. But Judy’s greatest act of community involvement began last year in July 2016.
It was a typical Melbourne Sunday she says; cool but clear, not a cloud in the sky. Judy was on her way out and in the laneway behind her home, a young man lay overdosed on the concrete.
This has become so common that Judy is often afraid to leave her home – not out of concern for her own safety, but for the wellbeing of those she refers to as her ‘regulars’: the individuals using her laneway as their own injecting facility.
Upon leaving to meet me, she explains, there was someone using her laneway to inject. She has become so involved in the lives of addicts her GP has advised her to be vaccinated against hepatitis.
Not one to be passive, Judy reached out to her council and after failing to get results, decided to run herself as a single-issue candidate. She received more than 600 primary votes, putting her on the map and on top of various organisations’ contact lists.
After being inundated with emails from interest groups across the Yarra, she noticed one from Victoria Street Drug Solutions.
Judy picked up the phone and arranged to meet them the next day, and became involved instantly. Her first order of business was to instil her community values into the organisation, which she did by changing the name.
Judy is now secretary of Residents for Victoria Street Drug Solutions (RVSDS) – a community-led initiative campaigning for the introduction of a supervised injecting facility into the community.
After touring Sydney’s Kings Cross injecting facility, Judy decided “I want one of these in my backyard” and began the push along with RVSDS’s other members: “I just felt the residents didn’t have a voice”.
RVSDS has become that voice and Judy is its loudest member. “We often call Judy the Erin Brockovich of North Richmond. She’s really helped bring a spotlight to what is going on here,” says Penny Francis of North Richmond Community Health.
“She is genuine, generous and has true community spirit – around her kitchen table strangers become friends,” says Kylie Troy-West, one of Judy’s fellow RVSDS members. “There’s that sense of dedication to her community and the drive to act in their benefit.”
When our conversation turns to the addicts there’s no bitterness or judgement, only maternal concern, and an empathy coming from personal experience. Having lost two nephews to heroin addiction, Judy is no stranger to the suffering families affected by drug abuse. She believes, if they had had access to a supervised injecting facility they would have been saved.
After our meeting, Judy takes me on a walk around her neighbourhood; we visit local injecting and dealing hotspots. It’s a tour Judy has conducted many times with various politicians and journalists to highlight the need for injecting facilities, “I like people coming out to see for themselves,” she says.
“Education is key,” she tells me, and the streets speak for themselves. Stepping into one commonly frequented car park, we witness someone shooting up. Syringes and cotton swabs litter the ground.
“Imagine overdosing in a place like this,” Judy reflects as we stand in the falling rain, among piles of rubbish and muddy puddles. But she’s optimistic RVSDS’s efforts will end that possibility: “I’m so full of hope,” she tells me.
Judy doesn’t want recognition or credit for her efforts, but her dedication shouldn’t go unrecognised. Since becoming involved Judy has put her life on hold.
She still works three days a week at a school in Brighton, but it’s clear her work with RVSDS is her true passion, and she is determined to see her project through, “mum would say ‘you should never die wondering'”.
It’s clear that though Judy may be keen to return to her everyday life, she has no plans of quietening down until she’s achieved a better environment for all of her village.
Residents of Victoria Street Drug Solutions will hold their inaugural March to Stay Alive on August 27 in anticipation of International Overdose Awareness Day to raise awareness and funds.