We Are Yarra

Wren, Abbotsford

“I think more restaurants need vegan options, it just makes sense. That way shops would get more business and more people would be able to participate in Melbourne’s foodie culture. I mean, Melbourne’s already pretty good when it comes to vegan options, better than Brisbane definitely. At least, if you walk into a restaurant [in Melbourne] they can make stuff vegan for you on request, and they understand what you mean when you say ‘vegan’. And the food being made vegan doesn’t compromise on its quality. In Brisbane, there’s not as much creativity when it comes to vegan food – it’s all just salads. People are quick to assume that vegan food is just generally bland, but it’s nice to see that that assumption is being challenged here. People are giving veganism a go, and that’s really refreshing to see.”

The Abbotsford Convent comes alive in pictures

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.

The Abbotsford Convent houses at least one hundred artists, writers, creatives and wellbeing practitioners. This studio belongs to Asphyxia, an artist and writer who draws and paints exceptional dolls. Many of the artists welcome visitors, so knock on the door and say hello. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli
Artist Ralf Kempken has expanded his studio over the past few years as he increases the size of his artwork. Predominantly consisting of children’s faces and landscapes of Melbourne’s CBD, you may have seen his artwork installed around the Yarra. Read this YR article for an in-depth look at Ralf’s work. Photo: Catlin Matticoli
Ralf is working on his latest three-layered stencil artwork depicting the iconic Collins Street landscape in Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Australian Government bought the Convent off a developer in the 1990’s. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Contemplative Garden is regularly maintained by gardeners and landscapers. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Abbotsford Convent has a calming aura about it. There are endless hidden spaces to sit alone or in company. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
The Convent started out as a safe place for nuns and girls in the late 1800’s. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
There are now hundreds of tenants that occupy the offices, workshops and art spaces on the ground. These rustic legs were made by fibre artist Wendy Golden who has a studio in the convent. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
At its peak, the Convent housed 1,000 women and children on its fully self-sufficient property and farm land. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
While walking through the Abbotsford Convent, you will find a few of these money boxes requesting funding. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Stone pillars. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Every nook is covered in art. This photo was taken in the ladies toilets beside popular pay-as-you-feel restaurant Lentil as Anything. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
A handful of catering companies are located inside the Abbotsford Convent. One of them set up this fantastic table setting for a wedding held the same afternoon this photo was captured. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.
Art installation found inside the Convent, hanging from an old staircase. Artist unknown. Photo: Caitlin Matticoli.

Written and photographed by Caitlin Matticoli

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

 

One souvlaki to rule them all

After a night out on the town, some would say, nothing on earth compares to a big, fat, greasy souvlaki.

Fitzroy’s Brunswick street is home to some of Melbourne’s best venues, for an evening out and the subsequent 4 am souvlaki that follows.

Four shops near the corner of Brunswick and Johnson Streets dominate Fitzroy’s souvlaki game, each bringing a special style and flavour to one of the world’s most loved hangover cures.

At the Yarra Reporter, we have selflessly sacrificed our Saturday morning to talk to locals and comprehensively taste test each souvlaki to answer once and for all which is best!

Lambs on Brunswick, located at 314 Brunswick Street, serves your traditional, no frills souvlaki with a choice of home made sauces.

Richmond local and late night souvlaki enthusiast Lucas Anderson said Lambs on Brunswick is your best bet for a late night feed.

“Lambs is my favourite spot, the guys in there are super efficient and always send your food out fast.”

“My only issue with lambs is that sometimes I find they char their meat slightly too much,” Lucas said.

Of the four shops on Brunswick street, Lambs sits right in the middle value wise with a souvlaki starting at $11.

The Real Greek Souvlaki at 315 Brunswick Street offers a slightly more upmarket souvlaki, as well as an array of moreish sweets and treats including homemade baklava and kataifi.

The Real Greek Souvlaki is slightly more expensive than Lambs with standard souvlaki’s starting at $12.

Real Greek Souvlaki. Photo: Joseph Regan

However, Fitzroy locals Jacob Friest and Andrea Crocco believe the one dollar premium is entirely justified.

“Of all the shops on the strip Real Greek easily has the most appetising spread – all the food looks really fresh and you can tell everything’s hand-made.”

“Out of the four, Real Greek is the place to go,” they said.

Chubbys Kebab, Pizza and HSP might be the best value on Brunswick Street, with the going rate for a souvlaki at a measly $9.50, but regular Chubbys’ customer and Fitzroy local Adam Crew said that there’s a clear reason the souvlakis are the cheapest on the strip.

Chubbys kebab, pizza and HSP. Photo: Joseph Regan

“At the end of the day Chubbys is cheap and nasty, it’s the kind of place you go late at night and it tastes good at the time, but you pay for it the next day.”

“In saying that I think they have the best bread on the strip, particularly the Turkish bread,” Adam said.

Souvlaki King at 311 Brunswick Street also serves souvlaki’s starting at $11, however locals know that this isn’t value-for-money.

Lucas Anderson said that of the four shops on the strip, Souvlaki King is easily the most forgettable.

“Souvlaki King is alright, but it’s not the first place I would be going, in fact it’s probably the fourth,” Lucas said.

All four souvlaki shops on Brunswick Street are open until 5 am, so if you’re ever feeling so hangry you could ‘squirrel grip’ your brother we at The Yarra Reporter would recommend The Real Greek Souvlaki.

Written by Joseph Regan

Subsidised solar anyone?

Residents Yarra wide will soon have access to subsidised solar panels through the Yarra Energy Foundation’s ‘Solar Bulk Buy’ program.

The program’s expansion comes after a successful trial in the neighbouring suburb of Richmond where there were more than 300 expressions of interest and solar capacity within the suburb increased by 10-12%.

The bulk buy gives residents access to market leading rates by aggregating suburbs of people and making a single discounted bulk purchase.

Yarra Energy Foundation acting chief executive Dean Kline said the program’s expansion will make solar power more accessible and affordable.

“The solar bulk buy, planned for early 2018, will give all Yarra residents the opportunity to purchase high quality solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes or businesses at market leading rates.”

“This is the best option for homeowner’s eager to invest in solar power. The program’s scope means that we are able to demand quality materials with bulk purchase discounts.”

“This process makes it easy for households to make the move towards solar power because we organise everything from finding quality manufacturers, to overseeing installation and even project managing if required,” Mr. Kline said.

Solar powered panels installed as part of the program are predicted to have paid for themselves after five to eight years and PV systems are guaranteed for at least 25 years.

Saint Marys House of Welcome in Fitzroy received an eight kilowatt (Kw) solar PV system last September and business manager Kathy Hogarty said the donation makes a huge difference to their bottom line.

“Our services like hot showers, a warm place to relax and freshly prepared meals demand considerable electricity use and the solar panels save us about 10 to 12% on our monthly electricity bill.”

Solar piping can be used to heat water without gas or electricity. Photo: Joseph Regan

“That equates to around $2500 a year, which is enough money for us to provide meals to the homeless for a month.”

“The installation itself was quite seamless and a sideline to that it brought a level of awareness both to our organisation and the community at large where by people consciously thought about their own energy use,” Mrs. Hogarty said.

Doctor Jacek Jasieniak Monash university’s director of Energy Materials & Systems Institute said solar power is the most viable renewable energy option for those living in metropolitan areas.

“About 16% of Victorian households have solar power, which equates to about 400,000 homes. It’s a popular renewable energy option for metropolitan households because it is among the cheapest available and only limited by roof direction and size.”

“The average household uses between 20 – 25 kWh per day. To produce enough solar power to meet these energy demands a household would need 17 – 21 high powered panels at the minimum.”

“While it is unlikely that typical metropolitan houses will be able to go off grid, there is no impediment for local generation on a smaller scale that is used, passed back to the grid, or stored in a local energy storage system,” Dr. Jasieniak said.

Registrations for the Yarra Energy Foundation’s solar bulk buy are expected to open early 2018, for more information click here.

Written by Joseph Regan

New Laws Leave Cyclists Flat

New road rules are set to redefine Victorian arterials for both cyclists and motorists from the 1st of July.

The laws give riders access to all bus lanes across Victoria unless otherwise signed and include $476 on the spot fines for cyclists caught using their phone.

These changes bring cyclists into line with all other road users and are designed to streamline the prosecution process with police issuing on the spot fines, rather than charging riders through the expensive and time-consuming court process.

Changes to the bus lanes come following a five year trial on two of the Yarra’s busiest arterials, Hoddle Street and Johnston Street. The trials found that allowing cyclists bus lane access increased rider safety and reduced traffic congestion.

Acting Minister for Roads and Road Safety John Eren says that the new legislation will make Victorian roads quicker, and easier for everyone.

“Safety is our top priority – that’s why we’re investing in separated cycling paths and updating the road rules to move riders away from high volume traffic lanes.”

“These are common sense changes aimed at keeping people safe on our roads,” Mr. Eren said.

However, Val Nagle from the Yarra Bicycle Users Group believes that giving cyclists access to bus lane’s is only a start and much more should be done to improve rider safety.

“These changes are window dressing, cars going down these roads are travelling at 60 kms an hour and any cyclist who has any awareness of their own safety doesn’t ride down a road with a bus lane in it,” Mr. Nagle said.

Bus/Bike lane on Hoddle Street. Photo: Joseph Regan

“Personally, the only bus lane I use is the one on Johnson Street and that’s spooky enough as it is, there’s so many bikes and cars moving in an out, particularly between Smith Street and Hoddle Street, that it’s just too tight.”

“No cyclist likes using bus lanes, its dangerous but it’s the lesser of two evils, it’s like the choice between Stalin and Brezhnev.”

The new on the spot fines have also caught the ire of cyclists with many feeling the new law is unnecessary.

“I can understand the argument that there should be one sort of penalty for everyone operating a vehicle on the roads, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen one person out on their bike having a text.”

“This is not a real issue for cyclists, it’s just a law for laws sake,” Mr. Nagle said.

Distracted road users are a danger to themselves and others. Photo: Joseph Regan.

However, Chief Scientist – Human Factors from the Australian Road Research Board Professor Michael Regan believes that any legislation that encourages people not to use their phones while commuting will reduce road trauma.

“In terms of crash risk, the latest studies suggest that if you talk on the mobile phone while driving you increase your risk of having a crash by two times. If you are texting on a phone your risk is roughly multiplied by seven.”

“Using a mobile device while riding takes your eyes off the road, mind off the road and hands off the road, so I would say that in many ways using a mobile phone while riding a bicycle is more dangerous than in a vehicle,” Prof. Regan said.

A full list and further details on the new laws are available on the VicRoads website.

Written by Joseph Regan

Faces of Yarra

Linda, Abbotsford

“I opened Maison de Linda salon around 4 months ago on Victoria street. I was studying French at school and I am deeply into this culture; the films, history, design and art. The place itself has a little bit of Parisian sophistication mixed with vintage. I wanted to establish a place on Victoria street that not only speaks of me, but also becomes ‘home’ for some of my customers, where they will feel comfortable, free, relaxed and ready for new beauty adventures. We are all aware of the way we look. Sometimes we have days we dislike ourselves and feel down. My job is to bring out the best in people, make them feel more confident and special.”

Photography by Alexandra Gorbunova