Faces of Yarra

Sarah, Collingwood

“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.”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

AAIS: A Place for Integration, Community and Faith

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.

Inside the Albanian Australian Islamic Society’s Mosque (North Carlton) on Open Day Melbourne. Photo: Devana Senanayake

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.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Faces of Yarra

Jacob Hapeta, Fitzroy

“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!”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Who Loves: The new kids on the block set to change the Melbourne party scene

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.

The following photos were taken at Who Loves‘ third event at Less Than Zero on the 5th of August 2017.

The Who Loves crew (from left to right) Denis, James, Dajana and Andre.


Keep up to date with Who Loves’ upcoming events on their Facebook page. The next one is happening this Saturday at 3 pm, head here for all the details.

Photographs and words by Deniz Karaman

The dog days are not over

In 2016 it was estimated that there were more than 24 million pets in Australia.

The shift towards higher-density housing in urban areas, particularly in the City of Yarra, is the biggest threat to pet ownership in Australia.

Unsuitable homes and strict body corporate rules that exclude pets in multi-dwelling developments are threatening the viability of pet ownership in Australia.

With almost two in five households owning a dog in Australia and with their population rising by 600,000 from 2013 to 2016, dogs are an important member of many Australian families.

One of Yarra’s neighbouring councils, Hume, conducted a feasibility study highlighting the health and wellbeing benefits associated with owning a dog.

These include:

  • Pets are shown to greatly increase the quality of life for the elderly;
  • dog walkers are more likely to experience social contact and conversation than those that walk alone, and
  • dogs motivate their owners to walk more often and meet recommended levels of physical activity.

Of the City of Yarra’s 89 parks, 30 are ‘dog-friendly’.

Dog-friendly parks are open spaces where people and their dogs can recreate together with other people and their dogs.

A visit to Rushall Reserve in North Fitzroy showcases the benefits of pet ownership and dog-walking in the City of Yarra.

Labradoodle, Benji (left) and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sheryl on leash on the way to Rushall Park. Dogs must be kept on-leash on shared pathways. Photo: Nicholas Nakos
Sheryl is permitted to be off-leash when at least 10 metres away from playgrounds or sporting fields. Photo: Nicholas Nakos
Parks offer owners the chance to teach dog obedience. The Northcote Obedience Dog Club, in Alphington Park, is an example of an organised, professional obedience club operating in the City of Yarra. Photo: Nicholas Nakos
A regular walk is vitally important to a dog’s health. Obesity in pets is associated with osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance. Photo: Nicholas Nakos
Recreation makes dogs happy. They enjoy checking out the sights and smells of outdoor spaces. A dog without sufficient exercise can become easily bored and destructive.

Urbanisation shouldn’t deter Yarra residents from owning a pet. With a multitude of open spaces within the community that are dog-friendly, the benefits for owners and dogs alike are truly worthwhile.

Written by Nicholas Nakos

The Future of Brunch

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 Reunion and 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 Worldsums it up best: “brunch isn’t just smashed avocado and eggs on toast anymore”.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Controversial Melbourne artist, Lushsux

Melbourne street artist Lushsux is recognised for his large murals on streets, walls and other structures.

He goes without a name to keep anonymous and with a following of 210,000 on Instagram, his work speaks for itself.

Lushsux is considered the first meme artist on social media.

Trending memes are constantly created on social media based on popular events and issues that happen in the media. Lushsux makes a comical meme out of the trends and paints them.

He started painting murals around Melbourne and now travels the world working on murals based on trending events on social media.

He has painted famous A-list celebrities and politicians such as Kim Kardashian, Kanye, Donald Trump, Seinfeld, Kesha, Kin Jong Un, Kanye and Bill Nye.

Early this year a mural of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump was painted on the corner of Victoria Street after Schwarzenegger responded to Trumps climate move creating controversy between them. Photo: Zathia Bazeer
An uncomfortable encounter between Jerry Seinfeld and singer Kesha during a red carpet interview, where Kesha asked Seinfeld for a hug and he awkwardly denied it, sent social media into a frenzy. Memes of the moment were made in a comical sense on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Photo: Zathia Bazeer


A mural of the supreme leader of North Korea wearing street clothing was a comical take of Kim Jon Un who is renowned as a serious leader. The work also used the pun of his supreme leader status with him drawn wearing the brand ‘Supreme’. Photo: Zathia Bazeer


Bill Nye was interview by Marco Morano about his controversial views on climate change where he claimed he didn’t believe in free speech. A mural was painted days after the event. Recently the mural has been spray painted with comments criticising the artist Lushsux by calling him Banksy (another street artist). Photo: Zathia Bazeer


A mural of Andrew Bolt appeared after he got attacked on the streets by two men that may be linked to Antifa (a leftist group). “Lefties get a left hook” was added to make the mural comical and focus on the fact that Bolt punched one of the attackers. Photo: Zathia Bazeer.

By Zathia Bazeer

Faces of Yarra

Nina, North Carlton

“I was in a science course last year, but it wasn’t for me. We worked with bacteria in labs. Basically, we put them in a petri dish and watched them grow. Or not grow. I’m studying animation now and really enjoying it … I want to go to America once I’m done with my course, because a lot happens there, and it’s good to be in a place where things happen. I mean, there are tech studios here that do work for Marvel, like computer generated effects and stuff, but it’s hard to get started here, I think. In America, it’s easier to jump right into the industry and get some great experience. And then, you know, when I come back here, I’ll get to do some more work.”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Darebin Council hoping to ban ‘No’ same-sex marriage campaigners

Darebin Council in Melbourne’s north is attempting to take heavy-handed action to silence ‘No’ proponents on the issue of marriage equality.

Independent councillor Susan Rennie and her colleagues are set to vote on an emergency motion next week to ban ‘No’ campaigners from using council facilities.

In an interview with Neil Mitchell on 3AW last Monday Cr Rennie said: “We won’t allow council spaces to be used by groups campaigning against marriage equality.”

“We will make those spaces available to local LGBTIQ organisations so that they can organise activities that support the community and marriage equality,” Cr Rennie said.

A recently married couple (Credit: Flickr)

Darebin Council is offering free venue hire for locations including  Northcote Town Hall and Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre for ‘Yes’ campaigners.

Venue hire rates in Darebin Council vary, but can be up to $2000 per day for some locations.

An online petition seeking to counter Darebin Council’s proposal has achieved more than  2,000 digital signatures so far. 

The Good Governance Charter of the Darebin Council is comprised of six principles, one of which is equity and inclusion.

In endeavouring to achieve equity and inclusion, the council’s charter proposes the council is “responsive to and inclusive of Darebin’s diverse community needs and aspirations.”

The council’s services and resources are also said to be “equitably distributed”.

Cr Rennie and her counterparts are choosing when and how to invoke their charter and this is to the detriment of the marriage equality debate.

The Darebin Council is attempting to censor the ‘No’ campaigners, but has little justification to do so.

Cr Rennie told Neil Mitchell that she wrote to local church groups to outline the “potentially harmful impacts of campaigning against marriage equality.”

She went on to make unsubstantiated claims that she has seen no evidence that ‘No’ supporters of the marriage equality campaign will do so with decency.

Neil Mitchell then asked, “have your local churches been indecent in their campaign?”

“No, not at all. They’ve actually been quite silent and we’re grateful for that,” Cr Rennie said.

Regardless of individual council views on marriage in Australia, in seeking to achieve equality, Darebin Council is acting in a divisive, unfair and ironically inequitable manner.

Robert Gibson, a member of the gay community who works in the City of Yarra has called the intentions of the Darebin Council as “a travesty of democracy”.

“They are showing a lack of tolerance. Tolerance is the key. That is what my community wants,” Mr Gibson said.

The Darebin Council’s stance aligns with recent hatred and vitriol received by prominent Australian people and corporations, who are ‘No’ campaigners.

Australian tennis champion Margaret Court has experienced the intolerance of the gay marriage movement.

Ms Court, a Grand Slam champion turned Christian pastor, famously voiced her opinions against gay marriage earlier this year when she said that gay people were “aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take”.

She openly criticised Qantas, saying that she will avoid flying with the Australian airline due to its public support for gay marriage.

The hysteria around Ms Court’s statements prompted outrage, with calls for Melbourne Park Precinct to change the name of Margaret Court Arena.

Similarly, there have been attempts to trash the reputation of the beer company Coopers Brewery, because its product appeared in a short Bible Society video debate about gay marriage between Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie.

Social media went into a frenzy and accused Coopers of being a catalyst for homophobia by letting its product feature in a debate about gay marriage between two politicians.

In a knee-jerk reaction, instigated by the gay community, bars and restaurants began to throw out all of their Coopers stock, boycotting the South Australian brewer.

The high-profile examples of Ms Court and Coopers Brewery demonstrate the issue of intolerance against those who are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Similarly, Darebin Council has demonstrated its double-standard in its advocacy for a diversity of community views this week by ostracising a subsection of their community from engaging in democratic, fair and peaceful campaigning.

“Excluding an argument categorically is dangerous and completely nullifies the position of the council,” Mr Gibson said.

Darebin Council’s meeting to discuss their proposals will be held on Monday 21st of August at 6 pm. The meeting is being held at the Darebin Civic Centre 350 High Street, Preston, Victoria 3072.

Written by Nicholas Nakos and Deniz Karaman.

Yarra Council “stripped” of power following Australia Day controversy

Last Wednesday, the Yarra Council unanimously voted to no longer recognise Australia Day, receiving political backlash.

The council’s decision follows months of consultation with the local indigenous community.

In addition to its refusal to celebrate Australia Day, Yarra Council is lobbying the Federal Government to change the date of Australia Day and implement communication plans to help people understand the indigenous community and its experiences.

The council had previously been warned that any push to cancel citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day would be seen as “a significant breach of the citizenship protocol”, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke said.

Mr Hawke said, “the Federal Government wouldn’t tolerate councils using citizenship ceremonies to campaign against Australia Day being celebrated.”

“I am surprised and disappointed that the City of Yarra has chosen to pursue this divisive approach,” Mr Hawke said.

The council was not expecting the federal government to follow through with its threat to ban the council from holding ceremonies.

“It’s unnecessary and an overreaction. We asked for a discussion but he has chosen to act instead. It’s a shame,” City of  Yarra Mayor, Amanda Stone remarked in an interview with The Age.

Cr Stephen Jolly said, the council would not stop anyone from celebrating January 26 as Australia Day.

“It’s not North Korea here, you know. We are a small council. If the City of Yarra decides to call it January 26 … that does not stop the vast majority of people in the council area calling it Australia Day. No one is going to jail because they are having an Australia Day barbecue,” Mr Jolly told The Age.

Harsh consequence came from the federal government’s view that Yarra Council’s decision serves to divide the Australian people on a day intended to unite the population, with attacks coming from all angles.

The ABC has reported that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remarked that “an attack on Australia Day is a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity”. He went on to further describe the change as “utterly out of step with Australian values”.

Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy also expressed his displeasure with council members, calling on the state government to “sack this rabble” if the council is unwilling to focus on its real job of addressing issues at a community level.

The Age quoted Victorian premier Daniel Andrews saying, “I think we get the balance right [on Australia Day]. We respect the traditional owners of our land, but we then get on in a really unified way.”

In the same story, former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott is quoted as referring to Yarra Council as a “mad lefty council”.

Though the Australian Government considers The Yarra Council’s stance as active and reductive, others believe that the celebration of Australia Day ignores the persecution and discrimination suffered by our indigenous population in the years since.

Australia Day has been a recognised national holiday since 1994 and celebrates the arrival of British ships on our shores in 1788, prompting members of the indigenous population instead to refer to the date as “Invasion Day”.

For many indigenous Australians, Australia Day isn’t a day for celebrating. It signifies the beginning of exploitation, destruction of a culture, abuse and separation of families and extreme social control.

The celebration of Australia Day is considered to be divisive as it marginalises the indigenous community, who see the day as an event that instigated unfortunate events.

In a piece written for The Guardian, actor and writer Nakkiah Lui said: “I refuse to celebrate, and every Australia Day my heart is broken as I am reminded that in the eyes of many, I am not welcome on my own land.”

In the future new Australian citizens in the Yarra community will be required to attend ceremonies performed by neighbouring councils or the Department of Immigration.

Though responses at a state and federal level have been largely negative, other local councils around Melbourne have displayed similar positions on the significance of Australia Day.

The public has taken to twitter and social media to voice opinions on the matter.

The Yarra Council tweeted the news yesterday and received a range of reactions from the public.

Some members of the public believe the decision made was questionable. It has been reported in mainstream media that the City of Yarra commissioned a survey of nearly 300 non-indigenous people who were in the council.

According to the most recent populus survey conducted by the ABS in 2015, the Yarra municipality housed almost 90,000 residents and only 0.33% of residents have changed the rules of the entire municipality.

Delta Preston, Benefit Officer from Mercy Health in Richmond, said that the council’s decision to not celebrate Australia Day on January 26th is “ridiculous … it creates more division than inclusion,” she said.

Victoria, a local Salvos worker congratulated the Yarra Council for the move, saying that, “if it will keep the peace between non-indigenous and indigenous community members then it’s a good thing.”

James Moffat, who works in Abbotsford doesn’t support the change of date and said that the issue is tricky.

“No matter which way you go on this topic, you’re going to piss people off. I just think it’s crazy to change the date of a celebration that’s been happening forever,” he said.

Written by Zathia Bazeer, Alice Wilson, Caitlin Matticoli.