ACspresSO: Coffee with conviction

Create another chance. It’s the tagline and ethos of the Australian Community Support Organisation, more commonly recognised as ACSO. It also applies to their latest social enterprise.

At the entrance of Victoria Street (the Hoddle Street end) the bright green of the mural that adorns the external wall next to ACSO’s offices, guides you towards the door of the aptly named ACspresSO.

We sat down with ACSO’s jack-of-all-trades and community re-integration dude, Tim Giles, to get the run down of the new venture.

ACspresSO has been set up as a café that provides hands-on training, work experience and access to paid job opportunities for ex-offenders in the Victorian community.

“We recognised and identified that we have a group of people that are coming out of prison and they really never enter community life as maybe you and I know it,” Giles said.

“They come into the community, they engage with centrelink, their corrections officer, a doctor. They rarely have the opportunity to access employment, become socially and economically included.”

The idea for the social enterprise had been in the back of the ACSO CEO’s, Karenza Louis-Smith, head for a number of years.

With their hands already on the perfect site, it was just a matter of time, preparation and obtaining philanthropic funding, before the idea became a reality.

Candidates for the training program are chosen through a fairly selective process that targets those who will benefit the most, with different levels of the traineeship offered based on experience.

Since opening its doors just over 3 months ago, ACspresSO has currently seen six participants successfully complete the course with a few of those going on to further their studies.

“You can see the pride that they take in responsibility for something when they have rarely had that opportunity in the past,” Giles shared.

The goal for the first year is to see 36 participants through the program, changing their lives by supporting them to build skills and gain confidence to gain economic independence and community connectedness.

“It’s designed to provide people with the skills, a reference, with the qualifications that they need to be competitive with others who are trying to enter the mainstream hospitality workforce,” said Giles.

“We want our clients not to be dependent on a welfare type employment opportunity for the rest of their lives. We want them to be supported and given confidence, qualifications they need to progress into paid employment”.

With the success from the program that they have seen so far, ACSO are keen to replicate the model elsewhere to continue on their quest to create another chance for many many more.





Nick Cave Dapper And Dangerously Grand

By Clareo O’Shannessy

The well dressed man himself invited us to slip into a world of debauchery. Beckoning us with its many forms while he confessed ‘anyway I told the truth and I’m not afraid to die’, “The Mercy Seat” Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

His fans began in the early punk days of The Boys Next Door. Others swoon at his tender love ballads. Some are just new to the scene and want to witness the Melbourne icon that is Nick Cave. Wherever your interests began, Cave didn’t disappoint when he performed another sell-out show on Thursday at The Plenary, Melbourne.

His audience were like pilgrims. An exodus of fans vacated their seats as the show started. They were trying to get the original Nick Cave experience. Once their bodies laced together in the standing room, front of stage, they waited expectantly. Hands were outstretched, seeking the musical touch of this man.

But Cave would not call himself a preacher. No, instead he told musical tales about the existence of those we liken ourselves to and many of those whom we would normally distance ourselves from. Including such a conglomerate of humans, allowed us to be aware of all walks of life. See above quote.

And the show continued. The atmosphere was built with misty blue spotlights. Band members illuminated as if they were a part of a dreary landscape that clear light had forsaken. Nick sauntered across the front of the stage, surrounded with an incandescent

aura him as if the clouds had parted, revealing a divinity, dressed in a black suit with an open white shirt and a shot of black hair tucked behind his ears. Dapper and dangerously grand.

His first song, “We Real Cool” enthralled the audience and encouraged more into his brethren at the front of stage.

Cave leapt into one of his twisted anthologies of despair, playing solo on the piano with “The Weeping Song”.

It was guaranteed he’d cry out about dark creatures and satirical personalities while punctuating each new verse with a signature move, the Nick Cave jolt. A floating finger swayed to the crowd warning them of worldly injustices. He was tainted and happy to share it.

But Cave was not a selfish player, he shared the limelight with his great friend, Warren Ellis. Nick referred to him as Wazza. Wazza was positioned full beam and they encouraged each other through playful banter. Wazza swapped between flute, violin, electric guitar and piano accordion. Truly a talented friend, Cave later saying ‘What can’t he do?’

The night’s entertainment strengthened my interest in Nick Cave. Ever since my brother played me “Into My Arms” many years ago, I wanted to learn more about him. After two visits to Nick Cave: The Exhibition at The Arts Centre in Melbourne in 2008, I was captivated.

The concert was a triple delight. Outstanding music, the lyrical prowess of Nick Cave’s poetic notions; then his presence. It engulfed us all, from those leaning across the stage, to those up closest to the clouds.

The songs swept on and enlivened the audience with their variety and brilliance. “Higgs Boson Blues”, “From Her to Eternity”, “Water’s Edge” and with Wazza on the bell for a combined effort ringing out “Red Right Hand”.

Nick lulled the crowd with  “Love Letter”. When he sang, ‘we make a little history, baby, every time you come around’ in “Ship Song” a nostalgic lip was bitten. I careered off into my imaginative stratosphere.

“Into My Arms” arguably a crowd favourite. Followed up with “Jubilee Street”.

The half hour encore including “The Lyre of Orpheus” and “Breathless” was uplifting.

As my brother and I walked out into the Melbourne night, we were in good spirits and wilfully tainted by the legend we had just witnessed.

My Footy Game Experience by Hanan Ashak

I was given tickets to the footy and I took my cousin and three of my friends with me. We had a great time. I was the only one who was watching footy live for the first time because we don’t really have footy from where I come from (Finland). We had to find the right gate, there was a lot of people and fans playing outside before the game started. We got to sit wherever we wanted to. My cousin Majak Daw plays in North Melbourne and I was really happy to see him play for the first time. I would definitely go watch a game again.

Screamers, Stat Machines and An Over Enthusiastic Dad

footy trading card and text edited BEST

Written and drawn by Clare O’Shannessy

Although most people go to an AFL game to watch the professional athletes, me, while I enjoy the game, the skill and the competition, its the spectators I find very entertaining. I think there’s a whole spectrum of AFL supporter types. Here’s a brief list which I witnessed in the crowd when I was a spectator at a recent AFL match.

The ‘Screamer’, no not the guy who’s spectacular at taking marks, but the ever-keen fanatic screaming from the crowd. This type is obviously more informed on the players, rules and game than any official person involved.

There’s the ‘Merch’ Kings/Queens’. Whether it be the wild headdress decorated with their team’s colours, or their special member’s edition footy socks, there’s no question as to who they support. They can be found singly or in packs throughout the crowd, passionately parading their colours.

The ‘Mutual Supporter’, the kind that claps every goal (for both teams) and says ‘I’m not here for the rivalry but for the love of the game.’ They’d then offer you a hot chip and a look at their footy record.

You will find the ‘All-knowing Knitting Nanna’ who refers to all ‘her boys’ by their first names, sharing her remarks when looking across the top of her glasses. She snacks on her home-made delights, keeps cosy with a rug and sips on a warm beverage straight from the tartan print thermos. She’s a hardcore fan in her own way.

Then there’s the ‘Stat Machine’: constant supplier of statistics of the most unusual and very specific kind. Forever engaged to the commentary plugged into his ear quoting stats as they’re generated from the pros, saying to anyone in earshot: ‘Did you know…’

And everyone has to start somewhere, so there’s the ‘New Recruit’ to the game.
This person makes regular enquiries into the tactics, game play and specific questions about ‘why can he do that?’

Sometimes people can’t be typified as anything other than family. Like mine.

Roars can be heard coming from my father who is now upstanding from his seat exclaiming: ’That’s my boy Chappy!’ No relative, they’ve never even met, but my enthusiastic dad feels a connection to the number 3 footballer for Essendon Paul Chapman. He loves his footy.

There are also the rivalling friends/partners, the screaming kid, the confused international guest and the retired player reliving his personal football highlights; enjoying his hassle free position in the stands.

Many other types fill the stadium but these are the ones I chose to select this time.

And what type might I be, you wonder? I get carried away too, but as a country girl who grew up in a footy-focused community how can I help but get excited! I’m there, cheering and pumping my fist along with the rest of them eager to see my boys bring home the flag.

Welcome To Burundi Rhythm

Written by Clare O’Shannessy

I had awoken to an alarm that morning and donned an African head scarf as I left for the Burundian Independence Day celebrations. I swiftly made my way to the South Melbourne Town Hall. Upon arrival I asked a friend as to when I could expect the proceedings to begin. His answer was simple, ‘Oh we’re on African time now buddy’.

And from that moment on I knew I was going to experience an afternoon of warmth and camaraderie played to a festive beat on that day of celebration in July.

A spirited young African man takes to the stage to address the Burundian people and their friends. He is the leader, the President of the Australian Burundian Community of Victoria, Mr Fablice Manirakiza.

At the age of 21 years, Fablice has spent the last 7 of those in Australia. Although he still considers Burundi to be his homeland, he gladly sings the Australian National Anthem and the Burundian National Anthem while both flags are displayed with him on stage, side by side, prominent and proud.

When I asked Fablice’s nephew and second half of their hip hop duo, FLYBZ, Young G-Storm about his perception of his president, he said he saw him as a ‘big brother’.

He also said that Fablice has lots of ‘patience and potential’ in the mature way he conducts himself in his elected position. And, as Young G quite simply said, he ‘promotes love’.

Such great responsibility may be difficult for the average man of Fablice’s age however Fablice is no average young man.

Growing up in Burundi, he was orphaned at age 8 and forced into a battle of which he did not choose, becoming a child soldier at 11 years.

One day when he was in school the rebel army came and took him along with the other tall boys, giving them a bag of rice, a gun and some pellets thus declaring them child soldiers.

Luckily he escaped after a few weeks and made it to a refugee camp.

Since arriving in Australia he has collectively formed FLYBZ and works part time. He works under a scholarship at Multicultural Arts Victoria and studies International Business at RMIT University.

He is a very busy, happy man living a balanced life. Or in his own words from the FLYBZ  song Child Soldier, featuring Paul Kelly, ‘my life is a wonder, because I have found the freedom in a land down under’.

Fablice works hard in his role. He could be seen throughout the day’s merriment engaging with many of the performers while they were on stage and directing them behind the scenes.

He was rapping with Young G, leading the drummers in a ceremonial extravaganza, joining the Black Roots band and dancing along with a female dancing duo too. He is a man of many talents.

However it was the males drumming that shone through as the brightest performance of the day.

From my front row position, I watched the men huddled at the back of the stage. They then crouched behind their massive hand-painted, home-made drums. Fablice was the centre of attention, positioned centre front holding two wooden drum sticks, arms poised, waiting.

There was a silent moment, a pause for effect. And then with the first strike of the drums they ignited!

They wore their national colours of red, green and white; surging as sweat glistened on the  Burundian drummers exerting all their power into the resounding rhythm of those iconic drums.

There was a rotation of drummers as they moved amongst themselves. Some advanced to the front of the stage cracking their sticks and revving themselves up.

Then all at once the drumming builds and the men shout as those at the front jump and thrust their hands and feet away from their body in a synchronised movement. This happens many times with different jumpers, different drummers and different rhythms.

Eventually Fablice makes the call for the closing sequence and the crowd are left applauding in awe.

Although the men may have energised and invigorated the crowd it was the women who brought flow and elegance to the audience.

Women play very important roles in the Burundian community as well. Evelyn Mibura, a senior female member, was described by her son, Young G, as ‘an important person in the (Burundian) community… a director, a mentor’. She was ‘so proud of the women’ at their Independence Day celebration.

Her contribution and preparation for the day went far beyond caring for her immediate family. She directed the women’s dance group in rehearsals and performance, and could be seen encouraging them and keeping the beat by clapping in time.

She was also one of the main cooks for the day’s special Burundian feast which was delicious!

There were delights for all the senses and the aroma of spices filled that bustling room. People queued and their eagerness to try the food was only overtaken by their genuine compliments later passed between diners.

Evelyn stood out as a great role model for the young members of the Burundian community and all who attended.

As the day wound down and the performances passed the harmony and connectedness grew and blossomed.

Fablice sang a final song in the Kirundi language and I got up and danced with all the other enchanted celebrators feeling a part of something that goes beyond the tangible. A new friendship had been nurtured.

When asked what kind of impression he wanted non Burundian people to get from the day, MC Belthrand Habiyakare said he ‘hopes that through the songs, through the music, through the enthusiasm … people got an idea of what Burundi (is) and all the circumstances Burundi has gone through’.

‘When My Words Fail, I Believe Music Speaks’

There are only quiet murmurings that can be heard across the ground floor as the artists and participants collectively go about their art making in Artful Dodgers Studios in Collingwood. In walks a young aboriginal man with an eager smile as he makes a direct line for the piano waiting across the room. Once seated, with great care and respect, he raises the lid of the piano exposing the keys of abundant musical opportunity. He strikes a chord and releases his abounding talent through the harmony of instrument and voice. What comes out of his being can only be described as a lifetimes enrichment from a man who has grown up on a plentiful musical diet of George Jones, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Elvis Presley and Stevie Wonder. As the musical starvation is relinquished it is not only a build up of creativity that is released but tears too. He is in his element.

Lawrence Austin Junior is a 22 year old Noongar and Gunditjmara man. As a singer songwriter born in WA, Lawrence came over to Melbourne to make it big. He writes songs about strength and the importance of being able to forgive and forget for his debut album due to be released later this year. Lawrence says he is doing it for ‘his people’; a diverse group, collectively those who connect with him culturally and musically.

This young man is looking towards the future, hoping that his experiences with hardship will assist him to mentor young musicians.

Lawrence’s family helped him by leading by example. He remembers sitting on his grandfather’s lap while he played country and western songs. Also the large gathering of family at Christmas where melody and music were the cohesive key as they sang and played by the ocean of Western Australia.

Even to this day Lawrence always gets ‘nan to give the ok on a song before I sing it’.

Lawrence is a regular attendee of Artful Dodgers Studios in Collingwood. It is here that his passion for music is expressed through the mentoring of Jesse Sullivan and Jesse Hooper (Killing Heidi, The Verses) in the music and recording studio on premises.

As with many attendees of these wonderful studios, Lawrence has experienced hardship and is trying to overcome his adversity through his music. But he does not stand alone in his battle, staff from the studios and also his family are supporting him along the way.

This has led him to be confident and true to himself, saying ‘there will be no lies in my music’. And the strength that he has obtained from his difficulties has opened up a enriched sense of self, proclaiming he creates music that says ‘stand outta my way’!

He is a deeply emotional young man with the insight that we need to ‘get rid of this heartache we all feel inside ourselves…through compassion and support’ which he believes can be found in music.

Lawrence is a truly talented young man who’s passion is infectious and his confident respectful attitude towards music and life are admirable.

However he is still humble and saves the most important message for his music, saying ‘when my words fail, I believe music speaks’.

Lawrence will be performing Friday 11th July at Federation Square at 1pm as a part of NAIDOC Week. Come along to support this rising star.

Click this link to hear one of Lawrence’s original songs ‘Oh My God’


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