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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 Check the Melbourne Spoken Word website for more details and information on other poetry events


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 🙂 

Family Violence in Yarra

Yarra families that are victims of violence are lacking places of refuge and support, according to an online advocacy group run by the Socialist Party.

The Facebook group, We Need a Family Violence Support & Service Hub was created in December last year after the council released a statement on its website in the same month citing a 24.5 per cent spike in family violence reports over the previous year in the City of Yarra alone. This statistic was derived from the Crime Statistics Agency Victoria earlier this year.

The report was even more alarming because the average increase in family violence reports across Victoria was 10 per cent. The group was one of the key drivers of the investigation run by the Royal Commission which released a report in December last year stating five safety hubs will be built across Victoria, with just one of those five to be built in Melbourne.

Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly, a key member and spokesperson of We Need a Family Violence Support & Service Hub said they lost the battle when trying to turn the council-owned property at 152a Hoddle Street into a domestic violence refuge and resource centre. Cr Jolly said that the decision was a “slap in the face” to survivors of domestic and family violence in the area.

He also said that there is a possibility that the council will use the property, located opposite the Collingwood Town Hall,  for units and other housing development. Jolly said that the Yarra council’s main concern is money, but assures the public that he will “keep banging away” in tune with the new budget due to be released in August.

Annie Douglas from Women’s Health in the North (WHIN), a council-funded organisation and full member of Domestic Violence Victoria told the Yarra Reporter that she didn’t know about the refuge centre issue, but the increase in family violence reports isn’t necessarily negative as it may demonstrate that the ongoing funding and support of the Yarra Council is helping survivors of family violence be more confident in seeking help.

“It’s really hard to say what has caused the increase. Generally, it can be attributed to increased confidence in the system, an increase in media attention and public understanding that [family violence] is not a ‘private matter’. It is simply not acceptable.” Douglas said.

Douglas, who is the health promotion officer focused on prevention against violence and gender equity, said that WHIN developed a Building a Respectful Community strategy, for 2017 – 2021.The strategy, supported by the state government and backed by a further 26 organisations was released last Friday, and aims to help combat violence using a strategic partner approach with its supporters, Douglas said.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is providing core funding for the strategy, that many major organisations in the City of Yarra and others in the north-metro region are supporting. Cr Jolly said that any strategy or resources are a step in the right direction, but reiterated that he still hasn’t given up the fight to fund more places of refuge.

Fitzroy library showed its support of WHIN’s strategy by facilitating a talk by Fitzroy Legal Service on Wednesday, July 12 in an attempt to educate the public on their rights when faced with family violence. The talk was part of  Know Your Rights, a series of regular sessions held at libraries accross the Yarra, presenting legal information for communtiy members. 

Fitzroy Legal’s community development officer, Jennifer Ward, said that having better access to information surrounding survivors’ rights empowers them to make better choices.

Ward said the main aim of the talk was to target vulnerable people who may not already have access to services.

The City of Yarra is “diverse and full of new migrants,” said Ward, and this is why the service is committed to providing good quality legal information to those who may not have the tools to know their rights and options.

Cr Jolly said that 152a Hoddle Street is continuing to be discussed as becoming a potential safe hub.

Written by Caitlin Matticoli

Domestic Violence in Australia

We all would like to have a happy life in place that everything is treated fair and no discriminative. However, there are some people have used their power to persecute other people, especially some men who commit violence on their friend or family. This has shown on the Domestic Violence Statistics taken by Department of Families, Housing and Community Affairs Fact Sheet 2 Women’s Safety in 2005.

  • Half a million Australian women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months.
  • More than a million women had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male current or ex-partner since the age of 15 (some women may be counted twice if they experienced both physical and sexual assault).
  • 37.8% of women who experienced physical assault in the 12 months before the survey said the perpetrator was a current or previous male partner and 34.4% said the perpetrator was a male family member or friend.  Most incidences of physical assault against women in the 12 months prior to 2005 were committed in a home (64.1%).
  • 33.3% of women had experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • 19.1% of women had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
  • 12.4% of women had been sexually abused before the age of 15, compared with 4.5% of men, between 1996 and 2005. There was an increase in the reporting of sexual assault to police from 14.9% to 18.9% between 1996 and 2005 and there was an increase in the reporting of physical violence to police from 18.5% to 36%.
  • 64% of women who experienced physical assault and 81.1% of women who experienced sexual assault still did not report it to police.  The proportion of women aged between 18 and 34 who reported experiencing physical violence has decreased but the proportion of women who reported experiencing physical violence after 45 increased over the same period.  The percentage of women who reported that their children had witnessed partner-related violence either from a current or ex-partner was lower than in 1996.

So, what should we do to solve this problem to help women not to get abused or assault by their men? How can we help them to have a good life if they unluckily live with a violent male?

If you require support on any domestic abuse issues please contact National Sexual AssaultFamily & Domestic Violence Counselling Line 1800 737 732

By Johnny Nguyen

Victoria Street in Richmond should be cleaned

Melbourne is famous about Victoria Street, because it has many restaurants with different nationalities such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Lao, Italian, Greek and Indian. The street is very dirty in the evening as it has been littered by people. It has caused the street losing its beauty and culture.

Along on the Victoria Street, we can read many slogans of language representing for our country‘s policies, It is a multi-culture country, people speaking their own language makes up a beautiful rhythm with smells from grilled beef in mint leaves, Noodle Soup of Beef, Country pancake, Mongolian beef, Curry goat, sweet and sour soup with Murray perch, fish with pepper and fish sauce, chicken drilled with garlic cinnamon powder, Pizza margherita, Lamb souvlaki coming from Restaurants.

The characteristics on Victoria St are people seem to have a habit to littering on the street after have a smoke or when they no longer need their plastic bags instead of put the waste in the bin. They are free to litter cigarette butts, used bags, good wrapped papers on the pavement without noticing to people around. Sometimes, these people may treat you as a ‘monster’ if you remind them. It causes the respected people to be embarrassed.

If we look carefully on the walls or doors in the front of shops, we can also read the sentences or graffiti. Incidentally, if tourists stop by this street, they will have a bad feeling about our people because of dirty meaning words or sentences graffitied on the front of shops. It makes beautiful aspects and culture that this street has built up for ages to be smoked in the air. It seems to not to be noticed by shoppers or city of yarra.

So, what should we do to clean this?