Marketing modernising today’s music industry.

July saw music industry students flocking to the CollArts building on Brunswick St for an event organised by The Push and CollArts for its FReeZA Summit 2017.

An estimated 150 students from all over Victoria attended the summit, which facilitated workshops and talks by music industry professionals like Paige Cho – Head of marketing for the Melbourne born company ‘Bolster’. Based in Collingwood, with an additional office in Brooklyn, New York City, Bolster has worked with big music acts like Flume, Queens of the Stone Age and Angus and Julia Stone.

The Push, a not for profit youth music organisation based in Victoria and established in 1986, mentor youth interested in breaking into the music industry. The Push hosts a number of educational events and programs to inspire young people to get involved in music.

Jeanine Orr, head of finance and administration of The Push said it acts as an “advisory centre for CollArts and Youth Central (a state government support website for youth aged 12-25)”. The FReeZA committee and events are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cho, 30, puts her success within the notoriously difficult music industry down to having raw passion and a mind for good business.

Her talk at the summit on Friday July 14th, to a room of young CollArts students, encompassed the importance of advertising on Facebook in the music scene. She boasts an 11-year successful career within the music industry.

“I started out completing a psychology degree after high school but, at 19 I decided I wanted to get into the music industry,” She told The Yarra Reporter.

Cho started out as a music journalist and her passion and hard work ethic quickly got her gigs writing for Beat Magazine and MTV.

Paige Cho, head of marketing at Bolster. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli

She sympathises with the next generation of young people trying to get into the marketing and event planning industry and thinks it’s definitely not as easy as it used to be.

“I was lucky to land a position in marketing; after freelancing for various music publications I kind of just fell into it.”

“My psych degree has been useful [and] my advice to those who want to get into the industry is [to] keep learning and finding ways you can up-skill because that’s what’s going to give you the advantage over someone who hasn’t.”

Cho told students at the talk to get acquainted with photography, photoshop, finance and the legalities of the industry because while marketing for the music business is fun and exciting, you still have your work cut out for you if you want to make it big.

“Based on how much Facebook’s campaigning nuances have changed over the years, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to start in the marketing industry from scratch at the stage it is now,” Cho said.

The push pop up shop flyer. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli

Cho gave students important tips on boosting posts and streamlining demographics and also shared the importance of making sure accompanying images are as bright and clear as possible.

Written by Caitlin Matticoli

A Celebration of Diversity at the Cocoa Butter Club

The Cocoa Butter Club’s second event celebrated, entertained and educated the audience about the talent of Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour (QTIPOC) with a night of music, dance, acrobatics and performance art.

Held at the Melba Spiegeltent on the 26th of July, the themes of Aboriginal sovereignty, structural discrimination and racial dynamics were seamlessly stitched into the night.

Originally from London, the Cocoa Butter Club’s website describes it as a “roster of queer performers of colour” with a mission to “moisturise a thirsty club scene [through] representations of the other in everything from neo-burlesque to poetry, live music and voguing”.

Organiser Dani Weber praised the diverse talent presented during the night.

“The strength of the Cocoa Butter Club lies in diversity – the diversity of genres and the multiplicity of talents that people of colour have. Our existence is real. We are loud and talented,” she said.

“Attendees don’t have to be people of colour, but they need to be willing to enter a space where they will be supportive to the mission of the night, to centre Indigenous [people] and people of colour,” Dani said.

Roseanne Chalker performed a series of stunning acrobatics, using only a cloth hung from a hook and her body. Her gravity defying display of strength, artistry and ingenuity transgressed physical boundaries. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

The Melba Spiegeltent had undergone an interesting transformation for the event. Rather than rows of seats, circular tables decorated the space.

The night’s main singers Mama Alto and Kandere were a standout.

Mama Alto circled around like a shimmering diva, stepping onto the stage as if making a mistaken stop from the 1940s.

Mama Alto soared, particularly as she hit the piercing high notes of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Moreover, she educated the audience about the achievements of people of colour in theatre. She applauded last year’s Tony Awards, which had awarded all four major acting awards to people of colour for the first time in its history.

Kandere was composed of two pacific islanders: Lakyn Tarai and Wahe Kavara. Their set included a mishmash of breathtaking beats, distorted vocals and some heated dance moves.

Caption: Drag king, Justin Teliqure, stole the hearts of the audience. His suave dance moves projected his irresistible charm. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

Next, a performer embodying  Mother Nature made an appearance. Surrounded by a cacophony of nature, she flipped the coin on conceptions of normalcy and encouraged the audience to unpack their thoughts about gender and sexuality.

Her performance reinforced that members who identified as non-binary, transgender or gender diverse had every right to belong.

Throughout the night MC’s, Nayuka Gorrie and Davey Thompson, educated the audience about the controversies and racial discrimination faced by Aboriginals.

The MCs also reminded the audience about the recent deaths of Elijah, Dr Yunipingu and Lynette Daily. A sense of loss resonated through the night.

The Cocoa Butter Club gave a voice to the QTIPOC community on their terms. With the voices of this community often hidden or ignored, the event portrayed their beauty, agency and authority.

The next Cocoa Butter Club event is to be held at a yet to be announced date in October. Stay tuned to get the exact dates.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Residents seek justice following ‘Pattern of Negligence’

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.


Ranko Cosic says the first time Minister Foley visited Atherton’s residents was when they took refuge in the Town Hall following the March 29 fire. Photo: Ranko Cosic

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.

Written by Alice Wilson 

Faces of Yarra

Jules, Collingwood

“I’m just meeting a friend of mine for lunch, we haven’t seen each other in a while. We used to make music together; he’s a writer and singer and I play, mostly bass and electric guitar. We’ve had gigs all over the place, you know, Melbourne’s a pretty artistic city. It’s not like Brisbane or Sydney where everything’s a lot more straight. Like artists in Sydney do it for the love, but in Melbourne – because the creative industry is more stable – you can easily do it for the money. I have so many friends in Melbourne who make art professionally or write and have other jobs. Sometimes you have to think there’s an advantage in having a less stable artistic industry because there’s more to rebel against, because nobody’s ‘gonna’ look down on you here for saying, ‘Oh, I wrote a song!’. They might in Sydney. Those artists have that shared sense of purpose in their work. And that purpose can be really powerful.”

Photograph by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

A helping hand since 1946

The Coolibah Centre in Fitzroy, the first senior’s citizen centre in Australia, is doing things differently and providing socially isolated and vulnerable senior members of society with vital life skills.

Events and activities such as barista classes, table tennis tournaments and competitions involving the CEO are a part of daily life and are also crucial in maintaining the fun loving culture at the centre.

Open since 1946, The Coolibah Centre is part of the not for profit organisation, The Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Program co-ordinator, Marica Cindric, told The Yarra Reporter that “we identify each member’s need and then try to help from there.”

“For example, some need help with their shopping, some with healthy cooking and others with cleaning.”

“The main aim of the centre is to help vulnerable older people to become more independent than they currently are, so that they can live in the community that they love for as long as possible.”

Members of the centre hail from all walks of life, with some coming from dysfunctional families where they were not given an education, and many suffering from addiction or dementia – this is where the Coolibah Centre steps in to offer a helping hand.

Art by the senior citizens at the Coolibah Centre. Photo: Deniz Karaman

The centre takes a holistic approach to helping its senior members by arranging a number of different events and activities, such as cooking and gardening classes, advice and education on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, physical activities that range from table tennis tournaments to walking groups, and arts and crafts programs.

“The centre is more than just a social centre, it’s a place where you invest in health and well being. It’s about building healthier and happier people, which in turn, has a larger overall benefit to society,” said Marica.

A ‘family atmosphere’ is crucial in the running of the Coolibah Centre to ensure every member who joins becomes happier and more independent.

“Some changes are immediate, some take longer, it depends on the individual’s goals, but there’s always an improvement,” said Marica.

“We want our members to have a direct input, for example, our CEO teamed up the senior members for a table tennis tournament, it’s a community endeavour and staff regularly get involved in member events.”

The Coolibah Centre is open six days a week and on any given day, between 25 to 45 senior members access the programs and activities available.

For more information on the Coolibah Centre, click here.

Written by Deniz Karaman

Neighbourhood watcher: Judy Ryan’s war on drugs

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.

Judy’s work has brought her into close contact with victims of drug abuse and their families. Photo’s: Judy Ryan

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.

To become involved or find out more about RVSDS visit its website or Facebook page.

Written by Alice Wilson


Hana Assafiri: fighting hostility through social justice

Hana Assafiri, founder of Speed Date a Muslim, is building bridges through social justice platforms.

Speed Date a Muslim is Hana Assafiri’s way of responding to the hostility of social injustice. Her platforms and forums are built on the “principle of social justice and practical application, enabling, employing and empowering women,” she says.

Hana Assafiri was born in Melbourne and relocated to Morocco when she was four. She then went to Lebanon, her mother’s home country.

“Are you of Moroccan background?” I ask her.

“I am somebody who dances around categories,” she responds.

Assafiri doesn’t appreciate it when people “put you in a box. I am mindful and aware [however] I reject all categories.”

“My heritage is Moroccan,” she eventually says, explaining that her mum is a mix of Lebanese and Syrian heritage.

“We are a hybrid.”

At the age of 12, she came back to Melbourne with her family. Leaving Lebanon for Australia in her teenage years was difficult, but it was unavoidable due to the outbreak of the civil war.

When asked how it was growing up with an ethnic back ground, she replies, “I felt the difference [growing up], it can be cruel.”

“[Getting] made fun of [as a kid] and what makes you different became something you get teased about.”

Assafiri had difficulty speaking English as a teenager so she stopped speaking at school.

“My teacher thought I was mute,” she says with a smile.

Not wanting to be made fun of and be targeted by other kids at school, Assafiri would go home and practice English in the mirror.

“When we learn English like that [it is easy] to impersonate,” she expresses.

Assafiri explains that the hostility or racism coming from children is almost innocent and “now fast forward, that hostility is inside the system,” she says poking fun at the differences.

“[We have a] Prime Minister speaking about multi-culture diversely,” she says.

Her forum, Speed Date a Muslim is a way of responding to the hostility.

“This is a social justice platform.”

Assafiri’s day is busy left, right and centre, filled with work at two places all week. In addition to releasing a cookbook, she is the owner of the Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy and the Moroccan Deli-Cacy in Brunswick.

Photo: Zathia Bazeer

Speed Date a Muslim has been operating for the past year and allows Muslims and non-Muslims to have a chat with each other and break down barriers.

Assafiri stresses the importance of being aware of what is going on in the community, whether it’s social or political hostility.

“We became aware of the hostility and plurality [and so] our strategy is unconventional. Offering an opportunity to engage with [Muslims at] Speed Date a Muslim.”

Assafiri explains that the platform is not a chance for people to speak on Islamophobia, but instead a space for conversation, to talk out our differences and learn about each other. Speed Date a Muslim allows people of a community to be humanised when it has been separated and made to feel scared by the media or government.

“Women find empowerment inside Islam,” she says and this is a chance for everyone to speak on common ground. Speed Date a Muslim is a place where women can feel safe – and strong.

Assafiri has found purpose and meaning based in her platforms and events of social justice.

“Each person has something to do, some discover [their purpose] earlier. For me, my thing is social justice, [that is where] I find life’s meaning.”

When asked why that was her answer, “the why is … is [because] it is inevitable [but it’s] where I find passion and meaning,” she responds.

Written by Zathia Bazeer.