We Are Yarra

Kevin, Collingwood

“I know a lot of restaurants, but I never eat at any of them. There’s only one place, Toto’s on Lygon Street. It’s an Italian restaurant, but they serve food from a lot of countries, so I always go there for my meals between deliveries. This is not my lunch though! This is my breakfast. It’s late, yes. Today has been a very busy day. Saturdays – everybody’s ordering food on Saturday.”

Photograph by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

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

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

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

Human toe stolen from Canadian bar serving human-toe-cocktail.

In a mining town in northern Canada, an alcoholic beverage exists, which is aptly known as the “Sourtoe Cocktail”.

The menu item, being less of a cocktail and more of a shooter, has only two ingredients, whiskey and… you guessed it, a mummified human toe.

In what seems to be a set of absolutely true events, the human toe was recently stolen by a man from Quebec, likely for notoriety amongst his peers, but also quite possibly for a number of other sinister and horrifying reasons.

Legend has it, a ‘rumrunner’ lost his toe to frostbite in the 1920’s while transporting barrels of booze to Alaska during the prohibition; he then preserved it in alcohol and left it in a Cabin where it was discovered some 50 years later.

No one knows why the unnamed rumrunner would have attempted to preserve the toe, as Replantation – the medical term for limb reattachment – wasn’t a thing until the 1960’s.

Luckily for the Sourdough Saloon, a questionable character by the name of Captain Dick Stevenson discovered the toe in the 70’s while cleaning out an old mining cabin. Bringing it back to town, he used the toe to concoct the “Sourtoe Cocktail”, and created what could be the first ever drinking game; daring those brave enough to take a sip. 

Downtown Hotel/Facebook

The case of the missing toe, was for obvious reasons, international news. In Canada, a nationwide police hunt was underway last week, while the bar itself was offering a reward for the safe return of the stolen toe.

Just four days into the investigation, with pressure mounting, the criminal-mastermind, sensing he may have one foot in the grave, mailed the toe back to the Sourdough Saloon, along with a handwritten apology.

Phew.

Unsurprisingly, the bar’s “toe captain,”  Terry Lee, had told the Global News that they were furious as “toes are very hard to come by.” However, it did come to light that they have several mummified toes making the rounds at any given time.

In fact, the likelihood of the stolen toe being that of the unnamed rumrunner from the 20’s is slim to none, putting a real dampener on the wow-factor of the story.

Although, the knowledge that the toe has been replaced several times, once because it was accidentally swallowed by a patron, does bolster its overall appeal.

Unlike most stories in the news this one ends on a happy note for all involved, except of course for those who have donated their toes.

I think we can all agree that the “Sourtoe Cocktail” would be well suited to a number of establishments in the Yarra.

By Tiyana Matliovski  

Urban Campfires exhibition showcasing new art at NJC

The City of Yarra is home to a multitude of emerging and established artists, continually producing powerful and engaging bodies of work. And with the launch of the 2017 Urban Campfires exhibition at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood, many of these artists get the chance to tell their stories alongside each other.

Changing up every six months, the Urban Campfires exhibition calls for artworks produced by artists in Yarra to reflect the exciting diversity of the area, while simultaneously providing a great location for amateur and professional artists to showcase their work.

Community Engagement & Communications Coordinator at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Ann Strunks, says that many of the benefits of the exhibition are quite subtle.

“Urban Campfires may seem a crazy way to give people a say in justice,” she said, “but art is a very powerful form of communication, and it’s another way we listen to the heartbeat of Yarra.”

The NJC is a holistic justice centre, according to Strunks, where you will find a multi-jurisdictional court, treatment agencies, community-based crime prevention teams, defence and police prosecution teams.

“Our court goes a step further than the average Magistrates’ Court as we give people on the downward spiral of offending the treatment services and support they need to turn their lives around,” said Strunks.

In addition to the NJC’s commitment to solving the problems associated with criminal behaviour, the NJC openly supports everyone in the community. Urban Campfires is just one other way they are making Yarra a more welcoming and safe space.

“Over the years, newly arrived asylum seekers have shown incredibly moving work [for the Urban Campfires exhibition], exploring the search for home and peace, and people living under the shadow of Alzheimer’s have crafted work that’s explored how the mind works when thoughts are as ephemeral as butterflies,” Strunks said.

“And of course, a lot of artists create art that’s simply exuberant, particularly the children from local schools and playgroups. The NJC is probably the only court to display art made entirely of cotton buds, sparkles, and ice-cream sticks!” she said.

The 2017 exhibition launching in April is produced by BANH Inc., a community support service for the most disadvantaged in the City of Yarra.

Leading the exhibition is Curator Laila Costa, who is aiming to show artwork that really explores social justice issues.

“I am always on the lookout for edgy, kooky and envelope-pushing art,” she said.

Although the exhibition is going strong, with more than a couple of extraordinary past exhibitions, Costa would like to widen the scope to include more community engagement and experimental projects.

“There are so many possibilities to reach out and collaborate to make creative works that inspire, educate and increase well-being,” she said.

The NJC is Australia’s only community justice centre and is showing that this innovative way of tying community interests closely to a justice system is helping community members in a big way.

“I would like there to be many more Neighbourhood Justice Centres rolled out across the country as it deals with justice in a progressive and innovative manner. The data and statistics prove it works better than the traditional justice system and all sectors of community benefit,” Costa said.

To find out more about the Community Justice Model, head here. The NJC provides a ‘Reflections on Practice’ piece, which, the website says, will “explore the flexibility and transferability of community justice.”

To check out the Urban Campfires exhibition, head to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood. The current exhibition will run for a further 6 months.

Written by Roxanne Fitzgerald.

Collingwood’s Easey’s takes dining to another level

A train commute home may have you dreaming of beer and burgers, but what if I told you you could have the burgers and beer in a train carriage? It may not be moving, let alone taking you closer to home, but it will take you to an elevated dining experience.

Perched five stories above the ground in Collingwood, Easey’s train carriage restaurant and bar – open since May 2015 – has fast become a must-do Melbourne attraction, and for more reasons than just the epic city views.

Easys-4
Photo: Anna Madden.

The trains are masterpieces in themselves, covered with colourful graffiti artworks on the outside and decked out like an old-school American diner on the inside.

Co-owner Jimmy Hurlston said he wanted to celebrate graffiti’s influence on Melbourne.

“The trains are kind of the holy grail of graffiti,” he explains of the Hitachi trains.

“Graffiti was always traditionally done on walls but graffiti writers through New York decided that the best way to spread their message was to paint on trains because then they travel all around the city.”

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Photo: Caitlyn Leggett

That trend spread to Melbourne when graffiti was becoming more prevalent in the mid ’90s and early 2000s. It was around this time that the Hitachi trains were being decommissioned, and considered rare and special for graffiti artists to tag. They also held special significance as a ‘real Melbourne train’, with most being built in Newport.

“What we really wanted to do was celebrate graffiti as opposed to street art because there is a fairly distinct difference between the two of them. Graffiti is a rebellious thing, it’s an expression, and graffiti writers don’t get paid,” Hurlston says.

“Without graffiti there’s no street art and without that then people don’t get paid an exorbitant amount of money to paint murals and paint pretty pictures that everybody wants and that Melbourne has become so famous for.”

When the trains were being installed, Hurlston invited some of the most prolific Melbourne taggers of the time to come to Easey’s and do their thing. The artworks are updated regularly.

“The paintings change a lot. Like the streets it changes all the time,” he says, admitting they are due to be updated soon.

Aside from the fact that the whole building is a gallery to showcase graffiti art in itself, Hurlston hopes to open a gallery for graffiti artworks in the same building, with the first exhibitions soon to be announced.

Easys-2
Photo: Anna Madden

“It’s very Melbourne. Melbourne celebrates street art and that’s why a lot of people come to Melbourne -it’s become one of Melbourne’s biggest tourist attractions,” he says.

Whether you come for the street art or to dine in a train carriage, it’s the only place like it in the world that is open to the public. Shoreditch – a hipster neighbourhood in London – is the only other place you’ll find train carriages on a roof, but they host a studio for a street artist instead. Yawn.

The restaurant takes up one of three train carriages sitting on the roof of the purpose-built building. Easey’s is the only carriage running all the way through, with the other two being split in two and hosting showrooms, offices and boardrooms.

Come for the trains but you’ll stay for the food, with mouth-watering burgers becoming their specialty.

When Hurlston wanted to celebrate Melbourne he didn’t just mean the artworks.

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Photo: Caitlyn Leggett

“I’m born and bred in Melbourne and this was an opportunity for me to celebrate all of the things I love about the city,” he says.

With an appreciation for the classic fish and chip shops, the restaurant put its own spin on things with the most famous burger being one that contains potato cakes and dim sims.

“It’s my little ode to the fish and chip shop whilst trying to progress it and change it,” he says.

An already-busy Easey’s means booking a table is encouraged, and with big plans ahead for this unique space, the crowds will only get bigger.

Now you have an ‘easey’ choice for your next dinner outing. Pun intended. Guaranteed, it will be the most delicious train journey of your life.

Check out Easey’s here.

 

Written by Caitlyn Leggett